Mina's Fresh Cardboard

Where I discuss my game buying addiction and love affair with freshly-printed cardboard. I dislike randomness and love high strategy. I play daily with my partner, Peter, who is always ready to win, but mostly ready to lose. Don't worry. He loves it! :)
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In Which Raptors Roar in Oddville for Millenia * New Reviews for MILLENIUM BLADES, RAPTOR, and ODDVILLE * And More!

Milena Guberinic
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Toronto
Ontario
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Hello Everyone!


I hope you had a great week and are ready for a weekend of freedom! And to those of you who work weekends, I am so, so sorry soblue.

To those of you who responded to the poll I posted last week, THANK YOU! heart I've decided to pick a more popular and less popular game to review each week from that list. I had no idea people were so interested in Study in Emerald 2nd ed.! I only bought it because it looked pretty and was on sale .

Now, onto this week's games!



What's New?




Magic: The Gathering was my gateway into the world of gaming. Peter introduced me to it in the early 2000s and we both remained engrossed in it for a long time. At the time, I loved building decks and creating fun, thematic sets, but I did eventually grow tired of it and saw no need to play after discovering Dominion and other modern board games. That said, I was instantly drawn to Millennium Blades! A BOARD GAME THAT SIMULATES THE EXPERIENCE OF COLLECTING AND PLAYING CCG GAMES!? I AM SO IN! Recreate my obsession, Millennium Blades! GO!



The Overview


In Millenium Blades, players take on the roles of players (yes, players will be players in this game) of a collectible card game called Millennium Blades (yes, a collectible card game with the same name as the board game). The game is played over 3 rounds and each round consists of two phases. In the first phase, players build their decks, visit the market to buy common cards, trade stacks of common cards for powerful rare cards, and build their decks and collections in real time. In the tournament phase, players will pit their decks against each other to gain reputation and points if they win.

Each player receives a player board, a character card, flipped to its deck-building power side, one starter deck, 3 cards fromt eh top of the store, and sell markers (as well as friendship cards, if playing with more than two players).




Characters


Blue starter deck


The store deck is set up by shuffling together the core set, 5 expansion sets, 4 premium sets, and 3 master sets and 9 cards are placed face-down in their slots in the store, available to be bought during the deck-building phase. To set up the aftermarket, 2 stacks of metagame cards are shuffled separately and placed on their designated places.



The game is played over the course of 3 rounds and each round proceeds as follows:

*Deck-building round 1
In the deck-building phase, players will receive 30 millennium bucks and 6 cards from the store. An element metagame card will be revealed and this will determine one scoring criterion during the tournament phase, encouraging players to include at least one card with the revealed element in their decks.



Players will have 7 minutes to do any and all of the following actions simultaneously and in any order:

1. Build deck - You can add and remove cards from the deck you will use to duel with others during the tournament.

2. Make a collection - You can add and remove cards from your collection. Your collection must contain cards with different star values that all share the same element or the same type.


Type collection


Element collection


3. Buy a pack from the store - You can use your cash to buy a "pack" (which is represented by a single card) from the store, taking either one of the 9 cards arranged face-down in the store area or the card on top of the store deck into your hand and paying the cost shown.

[imageid= 3051331 medium]


4. Fuse cards to obtain a promo - You can remove 5, 7, or 9 cards from your hand from the game to take a bronze, silver, or gold promo from the store board. These cards are uber powerful and can often be worth building your deck around. But they also get you lots of money by using only a single sell marker, so they can get you some points for cash on hand or allow you to buy more packs from the store later on.



5. Sell a card to the aftermarket - You can sell one of your cards to the aftermarket face-up by using one of your sell markers. You immediately receive cash from the bank for this sale and can get your sell marker back if another player decides to purchase your card.

6. Buy a card from the aftermarket - You can buy any card in the aftermarket that does not have your own sell marker on it.

7. Trade with other players - You can make even trades with other players, using your friendship cards to sweeten the deal. These score the player holding them extra victory points at the end of the game, but they are not used when playing with only two players.

Once the first 7-minute timer has gone off, players repeat the exact same sequence given above for another 7 minutes. The only difference is that they do not get any cash and a type metagame card is revealed.

Once the second 7-minute timer has gone off, players play another 6-minute phase, but they do not receive new cards or cash and do not reveal any new metagame cards. Also, they are unable to sell any more cards to the aftermarket.

At the end of the deck-building phase, players score victory points for their collections and then remove these cards from the game. Of course, larger collections score more points.


Friendship cards (not used under any circumstances when playing with two players)


*Tournament round 1
During the tournament phase, players place their decks into their hands and set their reputation points to 0. Each player sets his accessories and deck box onto their allotted spaces, holding only their single cards in their hands.

On a turn, a player must play a single and may take one action.

Using an action is optional and involves using the effect of an "action" keyword on an accessory or single and then flipping the card face down.

Playing a single involves placing a single face up in the next open leftmost slot of the singles area on the player board.

Cards generally either give you rank points or somehow disrupt your opponent from gaining rank points. Some cards score rank points during the score phase at the end of the tournament for cards that meet certain conditions in your tableau.

After activating all score effects in players' tableaus to gain final rank points, players score victory points for how well they performed in the tournament. The player with the most rank points in the tournament is awarded 21 points, the player with the second-most rank points in the tournament is awarded 15 points, etc.


Deck boxes


Accessories


Some cards and their effects


*Deck-building round 2
Same as round 1

*Tournament round 2
Same as round 1

*Deck-building round 3

Same as round 1

*Tournament round 3
Same as round 1

The game ends after 3 rounds of play, at which time points are added for:
1) Tournament VPs
2) Collection VPs
3) Remaining Millennium $ at a rate of 4:1
4) Friendship card victory points

Playing with two players

There are two variants provided for playing with 2 players, including a "duel" variant and a "turn-based" variant. The duel variant is the closest to the regular version of the game. No points are awarded in this version of the game. Instead of building 1 collection, players may build 2 collections (one element and one type-based collection), but these collections only score reputation points (RP) for the player during the following tournament (10 RP per card). The firs player to win 2/3 tournaments wins the game.



The Review


Played prior to review: 6x (yup, it's a long game, but it's kind of an obsession )






1. Mind-boggling amounts of gorgeous artwork
The first thing that struck me as I opened the box for Millennium Blades was the quantity and quality of artwork in the game. The game comes with giant towers of cards that are covered with unique (for the most part), vibrant, and detailed art. One of the first things that Peter said when he saw the game was, "Wow. Fábio Fontes' hand must have fallen off!" And I agree. There is an absolutely stunning amount of material here!

The game is well produced too! The cards are nice and thick and although the money is made of paper, the game comes with stickers that are used to wrap stacks of this paper cash into wads to simulate the experience of shelling out big bucks for cool promos and card packs! There are simply a tonne of great ideas both in the way this game works and the way it was produced!

2. HUGE amount of content and high replay value
Did I mention the stunning towers of cards that come in this game? Yeah? I'll just say it again to make sure I get my point across. This game comes with hundreds and hundreds of cards that can create hundreds and hundreds of combinations. You will use the same set of "core" cards in the store in each game, but will select 5 of 11 available expansion sets, 4 of 9 available premium sets, and 3 of 8 available master sets to add to that core set each time. I'm no mathematician, but I KNOW that amount of variety would generate a mind-blowing number of possible combinations! Plus, each of those sets is very different in focus and the kinds of powers it gives players from each of the others AND the store deck is so huge that (at least when playing with only two players), you'll never get through it all, so you will REALLY never play the same game twice! That said, I wouldn't suggest trying to re-jig your entire store deck EVERY TIME you play the game because it would be more trouble than it's worth, but the option is there for the dedicated!

On top of that, you have 6 different starter decks and 6 different characters, each of which can be combined in any which way to provide a massive number of gameplay combinations. The characters in particular will affect the way you approach the game and the strategy you take both in the deck-building and the tournament phases, as they have massively important effects in each of these phases. For example, during the deck-building phase, Morrey Caardman will give you $2 extra when you sell a card to the aftermarket and allow you to buy cards from the aftermarket at a $2 discount! This means that you could use him to turn over cards in the market and try to make lots of money points at the end of the game! It is possible to make as many money points at the end of the game as you would make in one tournament, so this can be an effective strategy. Meanwhile, Cardine starts with a random bronze and silver promo and is able to fuse card for at a 1-card discount, so you can focus your strategy around the more powerful and expensive promo cards when playing with her. Each of the characters will give you something to focus on during the deck-building phase and then some synergystic effect in the tournament phase. Together, these effects will encourage you to adopt a different strategy depending on the character you are using.

You also have the metagame cards that will encourage you to build your deck around a different combination of element and type cards in each tournament. The combination of these cards will differ from round to round and from game to game. And the 15 reputation points each of these cards provides during the tournament are not to be taken lightly, as many of our tournaments have ended in 1-point differences! So you will absolutely have to build somewhat different decks every time!

And then there is the slew of variants presented at the end of the rulebook! Don't like real-time games? Try the turn-based mode! Want a bit more power in your deck from the get go? Try the Millennium Accessories draft! Want a little more round-to-round variety? Try the venues variant! There is no need for you to play tournaments in the same store every week! With the venue deck, you can visit exotic locations that change the tournament phase, deck-building phase, or both! And there are still more variants in the rulebook! More is never enough!

Ultimately, if you enjoy this game, you will not tire of it quickly. Guaranteed! There is simply too much great content to explore!

3. Unique theme that is effectively carried by the mechanisms and art/production
Millennium Blades is a game about a game! How cool is that!? But it's not just a game about a game; it's a game about a full-fledged gaming experience! Players become collectible card game collectors and competitors, frantically seeking out powerful rare cards, trading buckets of common cards for less common cards, selling unwanted cards on the market, and gradually crafting increasingly powerful decks. And the way in which this process is simulated in the game closely mimics the way in which this process takes place in real life.

Now, I was never exactly a professional Magic: The Gathering player, but I have played my fair share of the game and am very familiar with the crazy, frantic search for THE ONE super powerful, super expensive, super rare card that will take your deck from good to unstoppable (at least in your mind). I am familiar with trading stacks of cards in for that one super awesome card and with selling cards to make cash to buy other cards; it's a vicious circle! And I am familiar with trying to reduce the bloated, enormous pool of available cards to a manageable, focused selection on which to base your deck. Millennium Blades players have to do all these things during the course of a deck-building phase. They are given a rather large stack of cards they have to reduce to a workable deck and they have to work within the current "meta." They are able to trade cards for other cards, sell cards, and offer other players "friendship." And the fact that all these actions occur in real time means that the obsessive, frantic search for "the one" card that will solve your deck's shortcomings for a set of similarly themed cards that will expand your collection to epic proportions is well conveyed.

The tournament phase also accurately reflects the realities of ccg tourneys, with extra reputation points awarded for working within the current meta. And the fact that the tournament is the somewhat more subdued phase is also reflective of this reality as most of the hard work of building decks and collecting cards is over and all that is left is to test your deck against that of other "champions."

Despite all the jokey references to everything and anything geeky (The Princess Blade, anyone?), Millennium Blades does not joke around when it comes to delivering what it purports to deliver. It says it simulates the CCG competitor life and it really does!

4. Unique mechanisms
Millennium Blades features a unique theme, but the uniqueness of the game does not end there; it is unique from a gameplay perspective as well. Between the somewhat chaotic real-time action in the deck-building phase and the player-versus-player battle tournament phase that involves spatial relationships between cards, Millennium Blades just does everything differently. In what other game are you frantically throwing cash down and grabbing cards from the board in competition with other players, while trying to create a strategic combo chain of cards? In what other game are you able to use your cards for 5 different purposes and have to decide what you're going to do with them under the pressure of the clock? In what other game do you get a giant stack of cards to sift through each round? Yeah. No other game.

5. Super exciting real-time deck-building phase
The deck-building phase is my favorite part of Millennium Blades! I love the fact that it is timed (even though the rulebook says the time limit is a "soft" one) and that players can simply simultaneously perform any actions in any order they like during that time. As I mentioned above, this, combined with the nature of the actions players are taking, makes Millennium Blades quite unlike any other game. It also makes the game feel very exciting!

In this phase, players are all doing everything at once, so there is literally zero down time and everyone is engaged in making the most of their cards at all times. Players are sharing a common experience at the same time, so there is a great sense of connection, despite the relatively isolated exercise they are performing. I'm certain that trades and friendship would further enhance this element of the game, but the simultaneous nature of players' actions is enough to bring it out on its own.

The challenge of making tough choices under a timer also makes the deck-building phase incredibly exciting, particularly because of the MANY different ways in which players are able to use each and every single one of their MANY cards...

6. Multi-use cards!
Much of the tension in Millennium Blades comes from the fact that it is essentially a multi-use card game. You can put a card you receive in your deck, in your collection, sell it to the aftermarket, trade it with another player, or fuse it for a promo. And each card may have an action or effect that you want to take advantage of during the tournament, as well as a type or element that you want to put into your collection as well as a high star-value that you want to turn into cash! Players are faced with a constant dilemma about the best use for their cards and if a time-limit wasn't in effect for the deck-building phase, they could probably spend all of eternity trying to optimally use each card. Of course, some cards will be more suited to certain applications than others. You will probably want to include high-star-value cards in your deck or sell them to the aftermarket (the latter particularly before the final tournament) and use your low-value cards in your collection, but you will have to make some concessions at times. And it is when you are faced with a tough decision between sticking a card in your collection to jump from 16 to 21 collection points or sticking it in your deck to possibly help you win the tournament that true strategic nature of this game comes out. And the best part it, you have to do it all under the gun!



soblue


soblue 1. Resetting the game is troublesome
There are MANY MANY cards in this game. MANY MANY CARDS! And every time you want to re-set the game (i.e. change the composition of promo packs combined with the core cards), you will have to spend A LOT of time removing and sorting the promo packs that were in the game, replacing these with new ones, and thoroughly shuffling the deck, which brings me to point #2.

soblue 2. Shuffling is hard
WOWZERS! The "deck" of cards that makes up the store in Millennium Blades is essentially a tower of cards. I have no idea how to shuffle it other than to take it to our King-size bed and mahjong it.

soblue 3. Takes a long time to play
Millenium Blades takes about 2 hours to play. Our first game went on for about 3 hours, but play time has fallen to that stated on the box since. That said, I'm not sure how accurate the stated play time would be for more than 2 players...I suspect it would take significantly more than 2 hours, given the fact that the tournament phase is not played simultaneously. In any case, you have to be aware that this is a time commitment...well worth it, but a time commitment nonetheless...

HOWEVER, Millennium Blades is flexible, so you could potentially just play a round or two (which we have done) and have fun with it. You don't HAVE to go through the full three rounds of gameplay. Plus, one of the Venue variants reduces the deck-building phase to 10 minutes, with the aftermarket closing at 1 minute. That's half the time for deck-building! We have tried this to great success and found that it not only increased the tension during deck building, but also reduced the play time tremendously...or at least by 30 minutes ...which is enough for time to play a little game!

soblue 4. The tournament phase doesn't involve a lot of decision-making
For all the excitement and thinking and tension of the deck-building phase, the tournament phase feels somewhat lacking. It is still fun to see the deck you have built in action, but there aren't many decisions left for you to make at this point. Of course, you may have to make a few minor adjustments to your plan A depending on other players' actions, but these will be minor at best and most likely already fully planned during the deck-building phase.

soblue 5. Millennium $ assembly is a serious commitment
Project "Assemble Millenium Bucks" took us several days and hours to complete. We are not crafty and quite slow, so this may not be everyone's experience, but we quickly grew impatient with creating stacks of cash and wrapping them in stickers. While some may find this a meditative task, we found it an exercise in drudgery. We had to break it up into 20-minute blocks spanning several days.

Fortunately, the game is perfectly playable without assembling and stickering stacks of Millenium $ and the end result is rewarding enough to justify the effort, but it is an effort.

soblue 6. Rules are not quite as well developed as they could and should be in some places
The rulebook is quite clear about most aspects of the basic game, but the variants in particular are in sore need of clarification. The turn-based mode of the game is a particular sore point for me because it's one of two ways to play the game with only two players. However, the rules that were provided left too many questions for me and the player boards were not built to accommodate this mode as well as the others. We did try this variant, but we quickly realized we didn't know what to do about the after market (i.e. when to clear it) and had to make that part up as we went. The player boards are also not built for this version of the game, which means that it takes even more room on the table than the regular game.

I also found the rules for actions in the tournament phase somewhat unclear; particularly, the order in which action effects and the flipping of the action effects resolved in clashes (i.e. whether the "top" card involved in the clash was the card played to carry out the clashing action or whether it was a previously placed face-up card), and a number of other small things that were cleared up on the forum.

The minor rules gaps aren't a huge problem and don't prevent players from being able to play the game, but I do hope that a clearer set or an official FAQ is created at some point in the near future.

soblue 7. Two players does not appear to be the ideal player count
My gaming sessions are basically limited to the 2-player count, so I NEED games to work well with two players. The 2-player rules for Millennium Blades are featured in the "Variant" section of the rulebook. There are two options for playing with two - the turn-based game, which is itself a variant, and the 2-player dual game. The turn-based game completely changes the Millennium Blades experience, doing away with the real-time, dual-phase nature (i.e. deck-building, card-buying, etc. + tournament) of the basic game, limiting players' hand sizes, and having players take turns buying, selling, playing cards into their collections and tableaus, and scoring their tableaus. While this is an effective way to play the game, it doesn't feature the same level of excitement and "fun" as the basic game (and the rules for it are not exactly perfectly outlined in the manual). And because players are doing everything at once, alternating between playing cards and buying cards, the turn-based mode does it capture the theme to the same extent as the basic game; it just feels a bit unnatural.

Then there is the 2-player duel variant. In this variant, collections do not score points and cash on hand at the end of the game does not score points. In fact, there are no points to be had at all! The 2-player duel variant is simply an RP contest, with the winner of 2 out of 3 tournaments winning the game. Collections score RP that is added to tournament scores. So this is a completely different version of the game and is missing the economic contests that can occur in the 3+ -player game.

I wasn't satisfied with playing Millenium Blades exclusively in the duel and turn-based modes because the duel mode is missing so many elements of the 3+-player version of the game and the turn-based mode is a bit less exciting, so I decided to give the regular version of the game a try with two players (with only friendship points removed and players getting more sell tokens than when playing with 4 players). And it worked. And it was good. Now, I'm 1000000000000% certain that Brad had a perfectly valid reason for changing the rules for 2 players and I'm fairly certain that reason had a little something to do with the distribution of points to be gained from winning/losing the tournaments versus cash versus other point-scoring options. However, we did still have fun with the basic 3+ player rules and had a very tight and exciting game and will probably play this way many more times, even if it's not necessarily the "right" way to play. Millennium Blades comes with so many variants and options that it appears to be robust enough to allow players to pretty much do with it what they like. And that's pretty cool!


Some assembly required...Smells like real money...


Final Word


Millennium Blades was clearly a labor of love for the designer and publisher and represents a most beautiful ode to geek culture. From CCGs to Pokemon to the Princess Bride and Legend of Zelda, you will find all kinds of references and in-jokes here. And when you step away from the details, you will find a game that beautifully encapsulates the experience of being a collectible card game enthusiast. Ultimately, I think that this game appeals to me as much as it does because I am familiar with many of the references and jokes and experiences portrayed in it and I think that it will, for the most part, appeal to others who are similarly inclined. It is frantic and fun and can feel chaotic at times, but it is actually full of strategic and tactical decision points to challenge and engage players. Between the fun and the strategy, I can't see myself parting with this stunning achievement of a game EVER! SO MUCH LOVE! I could play this all day!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE



LOOK! It's my name! Sort of!





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I really love asymmetrical games and I generally enjoy Bruno Cathala designs, so I was quite interested in Raptor. My favorite Cathala games are the Mr. Jack series and Raptor appeared to share some elements with this series of games, which gave me a lot of hope for it...



The Overview


Raptor is a 2-player game about an isolated Pacific Island inhabited by dinosaurs. One player takes on the role of scientist-explorers who want to capture the baby dinos and the other the role of the dino mommy who wants to protect her babies and lead them to safety. The raptor player wins the game if 3 baby raptors have escaped from the board or there are no more scientists on the board an the scientist player wins if the mother has been neutralized with 5 sleep tokens or if 3 baby raptors have been captured.

To set up the game, the 10 center tiles are arranged in a 2x5 grid (all either on their jungle sides or their savanna sides), with the four end tiles arranged on each end. Rocks are placed in each space that does not show a circle. The raptor player first places all of his raptor figurines, placing the mother in one of the two central tiles and each of the babies on each of the remaining tiles. The scientist player places one scientist on a space on each of the 4 end tiles.





Each round, players draw up to 3 cards in hand, secretly select one of those cards to play, and then simultaneously reveal their selected cards. If both cards have the same value, they are discarded without effect. If not, the player who played the card with the lowest value goes first and executes the effect of that card. Then, the other player gets action points equal to the difference in value between the two played cards, without executing his card's effect.

The Raptor player is able to call babies to the mommy raptor, frighten scientists, and recover from being shot by tranquilizers using action card effects. He is able to move the baby raptor, move the mommy raptor, kill scientists, wake up baby raptors, and put out fires using action points.


Raptor action cards


Raptor player aid/player board


The scientist player is able to put baby raptors to sleep, call in reinforcements, adding scientists to the board, move, and set the jungle on fire using action card effects. He is able to move scientists, recover his frightened scientists, put baby raptors to sleep, capture sleeping baby raptors, and shoot at the mother raptor using action points.


Scientist action cards


Scientist player aid/player board


The raptor player wins immediately if 3 baby raptors have escaped from one of the 4 end tiles or there are no more scientists on the board. The scientist player wins immediately if the mother has 5 sleep tokens or 3 baby raptors have been captured.

The Review


Played prior to review: 4x






1. Stunning art and excellent production
Vincent Dutrait + Matagot = AWESOME! Vincent Dutrait consistently produces the most stunningly beautiful artwork and natural scenes, such as the ones in Raptor appear to be his super specialty!

And the dangerous jungle environment is further brought to life by 3-dimensional mountains and detailed raptor and scientist miniatures.

The player boards/player aids were also a stroke of genius, as they provide essentially all the information players need to play the game in one place.

2. Asymmetry generates interest and replay value
I am always drawn to asymmetric games; not only do I simply enjoy feeling "different," I enjoy the replay value that this asymmetry generates. In Raptor, the asymmetric goals and action available to the players (i.e. the raptor wanting to wipe out the scientists or escape and the scientists wanting to capture baby raptors or subdue the mother) generate a huge amount of replay value. Because each player is essentially playing a different game and because familiarity with both sides greatly enhances the playing experience, players will want to play both and to do so numerous times if they want to have the full experience of the game, able to predict and plan for the other side's actions and to most effectively react.

3. Theme comes through
Raptor is incredibly thematic. The gorgeous artwork and 3-dimensional figures and terrain assist in evoking the setting, but the action cards that players play and the actions they have available to them are also steeped in theme. The raptor mommy is able to move in a straight line until she encounters a barrier for a single action point, which replicates her speed. Her babies are slower, so they only move one space per action point. When the mommy gets tranquilized, she slows down and has to spend additional action points to move around. On the scientists' side, they have jeeps that move them quickly around the map and a tranquilizer gun that they cannot immediately refill (I've never shot a tranquilizer gun, but I assume it's not exactly a revolver, so this rings true to the theme for me). Ultimately, every action feels like it was carefully considered and thought through in order to reflect the requirements and consequences it would have in real life.

4. Huge amount of tension and interest generated by unique action system
The most interesting part of Raptor is its action system. If you play a lower-value card relative to your opponent, you get to take the action shown on the card. If you play a higher-value card relative to your opponent, you get a number of action points equal to the difference in the values of the cards played by you and your opponent. Most of the game revolves around trying to decide when your action cards' effects will be most beneficial to you and when pure action points would help you get ahead. And because the outcome of your decision (i.e. whether you get an action effect or action points to spend on the turn) depends on the choice made by your opponent, you are also engaged in a constant dance with the other side, trying to get into your opponent's head and trying to keep track of the cards he has played to make the most effective use of every action card you play.

5. Quick to play
Raptor takes about 20 minutes to play when players are somewhat experienced with the game and able to keep the tug of war going. This is a very reasonable play time for the depth and level of decision making in the game. And the game has that confounding addictive quality, making you want to play as the other side if you've lost with one!

6. High replay value
You have two completely different roles to explore, a huge number of different board setups owing to the modular, double-sided board, and a different tactical challenge in each game owing to the variable order in which you will draw your deck of cards. And there is a lot to learn and explore in this game as well as you become more familiar with effectively playing each side (as mentioned above)!



soblue


soblue 1. Theme
Raptor is a game in which scientists are trying to capture baby raptors and the mommy raptor is trying to help her babies escape to safety. I knew this when I bought it. What I didn't know was how negatively I...and Peter...would feel about the theme. I'm a wimp. But Peter isn't. Peter plays violent and gory video games that make me cringe, but he didn't like the idea of this game either. Yes, the raptor is a big ol' monster, but we still didn't like the idea of trying to separate a mother from her babies, whatever form those babies or that mother may take. I am NOT trying to condem anyone for the choice of theme, but it just doesn't appeal to me personally. I'm sure there will be plenty of people for whom it won't be an issue; I just don't happen to be one of them.

soblue 2. Randomness can be frustrating
Raptor is a card game, so there is some inevitable luck of the draw and in this case, it can cause some serious frustration. When you desperately need some action points and can't get a high-value card or you are forced to play a low-valued card with a useless action because you simply have no other option, it doesn't feel like you performed poorly due to poor planning or poor playing; it just feels like you got screwed over by the game. this is particularly problematic early in the game, as it is perfectly possible for one player to get stuck with very low numbers (1,2,3) and the other to play a 9 and have the run of the board. The raptor is very good at using action points to decimate the scientist's chances early on, so this can be (and has been for us) a problem.

Although never negated, the sense of the game being random does fade with repeat plays, as players get a handle on keeping track of the cards played by their opponent and the cards they have played in order to estimate the probability of a high or low-valued card showing up. Players can also tactically manage their hand to ensure they have some high-valued cards when they think they will be able to get some action points. But that is only true in later rounds and random card draw play too much of a role in affecting the course of the game for my taste.

Final Word


Raptor is a brilliant and beautiful game; it is filled with tension and excitement and interesting decisions and can be played quickly and easily. But it's not for me. I don't enjoy its theme and random aspects; these make it a bit more frustrating than fun for me personally, but I'm certain that many (and probably most) people will absolutely adore this interesting and gorgeous super filler.

MINA'S LOVE METER DISLIKE (Raptor is an excellent game, but I don't like it. Boo me.)




***






The Overview


In Oddville, 2 to 4 players take on the roles of city planners for the great city of Oddville! They use their worker cards to collect resources, money, and building plans and then use the resources they collected to erect magnificent buildings! The player who most effectively positions his buildings in the city to gain the most points wins the game!



Each player receives 4 worker cards and 9 workers of his chosen color. A building row consisting of 6 building cards is created and the remaining building cards are placed in a face-down stack (coin-side up). These building cards are used to represent both coins and buildings depending on their orientation.

When playing with 2 players, 1 of each of the 4 characters from each guild is selected and placed in the display. Then, in reverse player order, each player places one of his workers on the 2-coins space of one resource on the resource board.


Character cards


Each turn, a player must take one of the following two options:

1) Play One Worker Card
To play a worker card, you must select a card from your hand, play it, and declare which ability you are using. You may use only ONE of the following abilities as shown on the worker card you played.

*Obtain coins (you may never have more than 5 coins)

*Obtain one resource by placing a worker on the lowest cost spot on your desired resource and paying coins if necessary

*Obtain one building from the building row by paying the cost shown on the worker card you played (you may not have more than 2 buildings and must discard one if you ever acquire a third)


Worker cards


2) Develop Oddville
To develop Oddville, you must select one of the building cards in front of you, pay the required resources by removing your workers from corresponding resources on the resource board, place the building card in the city (ensuring it is orthogonality adjacent to an existing card and that streets match streets and buildings match buildings), place one of your workers on the building, and activate the effect of that building and all orthogonality adjacent buildings connected by roads. If the placed building has a character symbol, the player takes the character card associated with that guild, either from the display or from another player. He may use the power of that power until he has to give it to another player.



The game ends after one player builds his 6th building. Players score points for the value of each building in the city he has built, points on character cards, and 1 point for each remaining worker on the resource board.



The Review


Played prior to review: 6x






1. Gorgeous, vibrant artwork
This is my favorite What's Your Game? game artistically. The artwork is vibrant and strange and beautiful! The creepy characters certainly make for an odd bunch of helpers, but the buildings create a beautiful landscape on the table when the game is done!

2. Super fast
With two quick players, you're looking at a play time of 20 minutes tops! And that's perfect for the weight and depth of the game. While I wouldn't say that Oddville is a deep game with millions of thrilling decision points, it does have a surprising amount of depth and number of decision points for what is essentially a filler.

3. Lots of tension with many interesting decision points
Because the game ends when one player has built 6 buildings in the city and because buildings are a major source of points, Oddville feels like a race game. And it is a tense race game! Each turn, you have to carefully assess the value of each building in the building row to determine a) its scoring potential given the current situation in the town (i.e. its scoring condition with respect to which buildings have already been placed and in which configuration), b) ease of building (i.e. how many resources it requires), c) the potential benefit it would give your opponent (i.e. whether it would allow him to take a character card away from you), d) the potential bonuses you could get from the building once placed in the town, and e) how difficult and expensive it would be to acquire (i.e. you will have to use your best worker and spend coins to get the building cards closest to the building stack). There is a constant tension between wanting to get the perfect building card and simply making the most of the easiest thing in order to keep pace with your opponent's building. If one player is going for quick buildings, the other really does have to keep up or face losing the game, so players constantly have to assess and reassess the value of each building and action they take.

Most of the choices players make in Oddville are of a tactical nature - short-term and opportunistic. However, that isn't to say the game is entirely devoid of strategic decision-making, particularly when played with only two players. When playing with two players, it is possible to set yourself up for a few turns by taking into consideration the buildings your opponent is holding and places in the town in which they are most likely to get built. You are also able to retain characters you really like and keep their powers if you select the character-granting buildings carefully (i.e. pick one that has no duplicate in the building row or take another of the same type if it shows up in the building row).

You also have some medium-term planning to do when it comes to managing your hand of worker cards (i.e. your action cards). The worker cards range from very weak to very strong and if you want to return them to your hand prior to playing all of them, you have to pay coins, so it's important to optimally time the order in which you will use them to make the most of their abilities.

Despite its simplicity, Oddville offers players plenty to think about. Which buildings do you take? Where do you place them? Do you take resources now to ensure you can get them without paying coins or do you wait until after you have acquired buildings? Which characters should you try to attract? Should you take a building just to ensure your opponent doesn't get it even though it will slow you down? In which order should you play your worker cards to ensure you can do everything you want? So many questions!

4. High replay value, which is at its highest when played with only two players
Oddville comes with 3 character cards in each of the 4 guilds. These characters grant players special powers when recruited and can drastically alter the way players play the game. For example, if you have the Cheater, you are able to flip one of your coin cards into a building card on each of your turns. This means you can focus on using your worker cards to gather coins, which have multiple uses, rather than buildings, particularly if you don't see any buildings you like in the building row. The particular combination of characters available in any given game will affect which aspects of the game are easier (i.e. getting coins or resources or buildings or points) and which are more difficult. And when playing with only two players, you will only use 1 character from each guild, which means you will have many different combinations of characters to explore for lots of replay value.

Replay value in Oddville also stems from the variable building card display, which will change the optimal layout and building pattern in any given game. There are many building cards in the building deck and you will not see all of them in any given game (when playing with two players, at least), so the combination of building cards that is available will encourage you to build differently and try to satisfy different scoring conditions every time.

Though Oddville does not offer a million paths to victory (indeed, the majority of your points will come from buildings you have built, so building fast and often is the name of this game), the huge number of possible building and character card combinations does generate enough variability between games to warrant many repeat sessions.

soblue


I was desperately trying to think of something to put here in order to provide a balanced review, but I just couldn't think of anything. This is simply a wonderful little filler, though it might be too random at higher player counts, as both the building row and the buildings built in the town change the situation wildly between players' turns.

Final Word


Aside from the artwork on the character cards, there is not much that is 'odd' about Oddville. It is a lovely racey city-building competition that can be played quickly and smoothly and gives players plenty to think about in a short amount of time. With tonnes of variety and a beautiful-looking town to gaze upon at the end of each session, Oddville is sure to stay in my life for a while.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE




***



What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Three Kingdoms Redux
Our third game of Three Kingdoms was played with my friend Jamie . Thanks for hosting, Jamie! It was great to finally meet your whole family!

In this game, I decided to switch gears and play as Wu. I had played both our previous games as Wei, who is the most powerful early in the game. Instead, Jamie played as Wei and Peter stuck with Shu.

In this game, I focused on my tribal relations (which is easier to do with Wu than Wei) and ascending the Emperor track (which seems to have become my modus operandi). I also started pumping out army unit points quite early in the game, but Jamie didn't waste much time either! And, surprisingly enough, neither did Peter, despite his reduced general count early in the game. I was counting on military points, but had some trouble getting all my army units fed and paid and ended up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to satisfy them. Now despite my military misfortunes, I DID make it to Emperor! YAY! But Wei was close behind. And Wei won! Wei has won 3/3 of the games we have played so far. However, I do not think that this is a "bug" in the game. I think it is an artifact of inexperience. It seems that the non-Wei players really have to conspire against the Wei player, focusing on controlling their borders with Wei rather than each other and really trying to minimize the number of action space bids that Wei wins.

We have certainly had a lot of fun with Three Kingdoms Redux. It is a game unlike any other I have ever played and its wildly asymmetrical nature is a great contributing factor to its uniqueness. I should be ready to write a full review soon!


My generals


Starting out




Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America
I really love Power Grid! And I love it with two! But you would never know it because I haven't played it once since I started this blog!

Now, I do not think that regular Power Grid makes for the best 2-player game and I don't like the amount of extra stuff that has to be done to deal with the robots expansion. But I do think that the deluxe version rules make the game play superbly with only two players.

In this game, I started off by bidding for the coal plants that produced well. Peter wanted the eco plants and I made him pay up the arse...still not sure why he took them...I guess Peter has to be eco! In the end, he had to take on some radioactivity to power his stuff and he had way more powering potential with his power plants, but I had way more cities in my network, so I ended the game before he could catch up. I love the crazy balance beam of a race this game is!





Patchistory
I am a huge fan of civilization games and Patchistory is an excellent one! It gives me a great sense of building something while managing the multiple resources needed to run a civilization. The tension introduced by blind bidding that goes into a couple of aspects of the game (including for tiles and resolving wars) really kicks things up a notch for me.

In this game, I started off by building up my resource engine, particularly of food. I remember being starved in previous games and not enjoying it, so I made sure I had plenty of food flowing through my civilization. I also had an objective that wanted me to have the most food income and another that wanted me to have the biggest population, so those led me in the wheat belly direction too. I ended up amassing a decent amount of food, but eventually ended up giving it up for Marx, who reduced my food needs to 5! SWEET! Combined with Mandela, who gave me a culture point income for each population, I was unstoppable! Oh and wars didn't hurt either! Because you can use resources to buff up your aggression in this game and because I consistently had more resource income than Peter, I knew I wouldn't have too much trouble roughing him up a little. He actually did quite well despite the odds. He was focused on the general buildings and ended up getting up to 20-culture-point income by the final round! I still won. I think it was about 185 to 170 or so.





51st State: Master Set
51st State Master Set has officially entered my top 10 games of all time! I'm quite confident about how I feel about the game after 11 plays .

In this game, I played New York and Peter got Appalachian. We were neck in neck the entire game! I had a bit of an easier time getting my production going and was able to get some cards that allowed me to turn cogs and workers into grey contact tokens efficiently, but Peter starting pumping out points before I managed to get any good scoring cards that aligned with my production. Peter ended up winning by ONE point! ONE! I still feel like I could have squeeed out a few more points! That's why this game is so good! Now I want to play again!




Dangerous machinery and assembly plant!


Grand Austria Hotel
Peter had such a hard time in this game. I usually win Grand Austria, but he has had some pretty good games. This game did not go his way AT ALL.

The objectives were to have 12 rooms, two columns of occupied rooms, and 4 blue and 3 red occupied rooms. This was probably the source of Peter's downfall. When the emperor track objective is out, Peter usually races for that one and ends up doing quite well. In this game, he decided to neglect the emperor track somewhat and the emperor did not approve. Although neither of us managed to get many end-game scoring staff members at the beginning of the game, I took as many guests that allowed me to draw additional staff members as I could and struck gold with 3 great end-game-scoring staff cards! That cinched the win for me, but Peter's loss of 10 VP for displeasing the emperor didn't help him any. I felt really badly for Peter in this game. He seemed to be working really hard, but ended up getting nowhere. I could sense his frustration at the end. I just hope he agrees to play again soon because I love this game and I know that he does too. But the emperor must not be ignored!





Steampunk Rally
Steampunk Rally had been looking lonely on the shelf, so I picked it up one day this week. Despite odds to the contrary, Peter isn't terribly fond of this game. He likes it, but I think I actually like it more, despite the fact that it is rather random.

I took Lovelace and Peter took Toyoda and it was a crazy race! We made a rules error, assuming that you are not allowed to remove a die from a machine part that allows you to remove a die, which nerfed Peter's Hover Jets. He had a crazy combination of Hover Jets and Boilers and something else, so he was producing lots of blue dice and then using them for motion and removing them. He jumped ahead really quickly, but then went back because he thought that he probably couldn't use the Hover Jets to remove dice from themselves. It was late, so we didn't bother taking the time to look up the rule and Peter ended up one space behind me! I looked up the rule the next day and found that we had played incorrectly, so I'll let Peter have this win! This is a very fun game, but Peter's combination would have destroyed me! I had a rather slow machine and only got one exciting motion card in the entire game! Boo. Still fun!





Fields of Arle
FIELDS!!! OMG! I made my best Fields yet!!! BEST ONE!!!!!!!

I started off by getting the Novice Hut. I had never taken that one before because it doesn't seem all that great, but it was the best of the cheap buildings, so I went straight for it! I also didn't want to bother with the peat cutting space at all in this game because there were two buildings that allowed you to cut peat, so I started to accumulate forests in order to take advantage of the building that allowed me to cut 2 peat for each forest I had! And then I got some horses to take advantage of the building that allowed me to cut peat for all the horses I had! So I was pretty much swimming in peat the whole game. The two peat boats I had also helped me turn that peat into valuable resources that I could turn into even more valuable goods. And I did a lot of shipping thanks to my full barn of vehicles! I ended up making most of my points through the buildings (and flipped forests) on my board. It was so so so so awesome! And ended up making 125.5 points!!! WOOHOOO! BEST. ARLE. YET! That's only about a point or two more than my previous best, but still! I always get excited when I beat my high score in Uwe games! Not sure what happened on Peter's side. But I'm pretty sure he didn't win.




I know, they need eyeballz


Dungeon Petz + Dungeon Petz: Dark Alleys
After Fields of Arle, I wanted to play Dungeon Petz. Peter agreed. But that was not a good thing. Every time we have played Dungeon Petz in the recent past (i.e. in the past two years...not so much when we first got it sometime in 2012), Peter had ended up furious, either at me or the game, or whatever. And this time was not an exception.

We did play with the petz and artifacts from the expansion, but we did not play with the board. I find that it just makes the game unnecessarily long and Peter got really angry at me when we played with it once and he didn't fully understand everything the expansion board allowed him to do (even though he SAID he did shake). Anyway, we were neck in neck the whole game, alternatively winning competitions and selling our petz to the best dungeon lords we could find. I almost had an escapee situation, but managed to get it under control with a couple of armored imps. I really love imp armor because using your imps to catch deviant petz is a little too risky for my tastes; I hate being imp-deprived in the following turn and having to rescue them from the hospital. Although we were doing equally well throughout the game, I screamed into the lead in the final round when I sold one VERY playful and rather angry pet from the legit market space (i.e. 3x multiplier for match score) to a lady who REALLY wanted playful and angry petz and another very playful pet to another lady who wanted playful petz. Play was highly valued in that round and those sales pretty much took me the whole way around the scoring track!

We started playing Dungeon Petz after a couple of rounds of Oddville and the game of Fields of Arle above, so it was already late, but I had no idea Dungeon Petz would take so long to play (we needed a rules refresh, which took some time) and by the time we were finished, it was around 1am. I don't know why that was a problem for Peter that night when it usually isn't, but I guess he was extra tired and cranky and he pretty much stopped talking to me when he realized the time. Boo. He did approve Dungeon Petz despite the fact that I gave him a quicker game as an alternative option. Oh well. He was fine in the morning. I just won't present long-playing games as an option late at night any more. I did enjoy this session of Dungeon Petz and I do want to play it more frequently. Same goes for Dungeon Lords! They were some of my early heavy game loves! Particularly Dungeon Lords! heart







The Voyages of Marco Polo + The Voyages of Marco Polo: The New Characters
Marco Polo is definitely one of the best games from 2015! It delights me every time we play! I got and Peter picked Caprini from the available characters. I really love Nicolao because of all the secret surprise goodies he can get! They're like little presents each round! heart

I selected a challenging route and one that would allow me to hit 4 different cities, but managed to travel very well by staying first in player order for most of the game and collecting lots of black dice. The first city I hit was Alexandria and that one allowed me to use a die to get double its value in coins! COINS ARE SO IMPORTANT! They totally allowed me to zip around the map like a....well...like some sort of thing that zips along every which way at will... Peter really frightened me in the last round when he traded a bunch of camels and silk in for TWENTY points, but I still beat him because he completely failed at his objectives and he didn't complete any more contracts than I did!





La Granja
We were missing some Majorca in our lives! La Granja was the answer! We didn't do very well in this game. I had no sense of direction in this game, switching between market barrows and craft buildings, while Peter was mostly focused on market barrows. I wanted to focus on craft buildings because one of my helpers allowed me to return a delivered good to my farm every time I completed a craft building, but I couldn't let Peter dominate the market, so I had to keep switching. And that killed my plans AND POINTS! I only managed to get 69 in this game and that is sad compared to my previous scores. I think I won by a couple of points, but I didn't feel like I won at all because of my poor score . Boo! Still love this game!




I can roll!



Terra Mystica + Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice

TM is always on the menu! And it always tastes good! This week, we drew the Ice Maidens and Auren, so it was a girl vs. girl battle! I think the two are relatively even, so I didn't exactly want to spend too many VP in bidding. I didn't care which one I ended up with, but I wanted the Ice Maidens just a tiny bit more because it had been a while since I last played with them, so I bid 3 VP and Peter let me take them. He could see that I wouldn't go higher and he didn't want to lose any points.

Although I managed to get ahead and stay ahead in points throughout the duration of the game (assisted by my 1-earth cult bonus tile), I felt like I was lagging behind. Peter had many more workers and was cycling through his power much more effectively than I was and was always close to me in terms of points. I was sure that he would be able to overtake me in the number of buildings and separate settlements built, but he failed. He was ahead on 3/4 cult tracks, but I made so many points for temples over the course of the game that he just couldn't catch up. I miss playing with the Ice Maidens! I like them a lot!





Eminent Domain + ALL EXPANSIONS
We continue to test the Exotica scenarios! This week, Peter got Codebreaker and I got Alien Technophile. For me, that meant I wanted to collect lots of Exotic planets with alien abilities. Unfortunately, I only managed to collect one such planet, but I did collect lots of production planets and 1 planet that allowed me to trade 2 of my resources for points as an action, which was why I decided to go the produce-trade route. Unfortunately, I didn't quite manage to do that quickly enough, which gave Peter plenty of time to amass a large collection of planets and techs. Peter won! But he cheated a little bit because at first, he used his starting tech as though it was a permanent one when it wasn't. I still give him the win.





Alhambra + MARKETS + DIAMONDS + CAMPS + TRADERS
Alhambra! Armand created a brain melting combination of expansions to include in the game for me (see here), but we decided not to try it yet because we haven't tried many of the expansions he included and we played Alhambra around midnight, so we didn't want to go through any new rules...and we certainly didn't want our brains escaping that late at night!

This time, Peter decided to dabble in markets because he finally realized how powerful they could be. Unfortunately, his dabbling skills were not exactly up to snuff and he ended up making his worst Alhambra ever. I did quite well with the traders and built a very nice wall (and it was very nice starting in the first scoring). I also managed to push both Dirk and Peter out of purple buildings, so points! Needless to say, I won. By a mile.




I think these guys really love France!


Factory Funner x2
Factory Funner! We played twice this week and I lost once and WON once!!! YAY ME! But I only won when Peter took the 5-difficulty board and I took the 4-difficulty board. So really, I can only win when Peter takes a more difficult board, which doesn't make me feel all that great. But I did enjoy creating an awesome machine with all kinds of connections between inputs and outputs!





Sanssouci
Sanssouci is making me crazy! I will never get past 100! EVER! I know it may be impossible in a 2-player game, but I will also NEVER stop trying! NEVER!!!

This time, my objectives were close to each other (statue and maze), so I felt pretty good. I find it much easier to complete objectives that are close together than ones that are far apart because you can feed the ones that are close into each other in order to push your nobles down more easily. Although I felt like I was losing the entire time, I somehow managed to pull a win with 84 points. Not 100 and not even close. Boo.



Town Center + Town Center: Beaune / Turku
Ok! NOW we have played every official Town Center map! YAY! We played Turku last night and it was a wee bit more involved than the other maps. The river that runs through the city freezes over in the winter, connecting the buildings across from it during even numbered rounds. During odd numbered rounds, the river is not frozen and the buildings across are not connected. I was planning to use that to my advantage to build a giant residential complex, but it didn't exactly work out. I did still build a giant residential complex, but it was pretty much exclusively concentrated on the north side of the river...I wonder whether I should have put my cultural building on the giant "theatre" space...Perhaps that was a hint... We did have a lot of fun with this map, but the Essen map remains our favorite! That one is a serious brain twister!



Rolling Japan
Woohoo! Won Rolling Japan! No tie this time! I still have no idea what I was doing, but I managed to reduce my X's to 18 from last week's 20. Meanwhile, Peter ended with 19. We both improved...I guess...I quite like this game, but it makes me feel really, really stupid. Putting numbers in rectangles and squares is harrrrrrrrrrd. arrrh



Qwinto
I made a bad Qwinto. I honestly don't know what I was thinking in this game! I stuck numbers here, there, and everywhere. Actually, I was trying to complete rows, but ended up blocking myself. Peter kept taking X's (I only had ONE at the end of the game) and I was hoping that would prevent him from winning...It did not. He managed to complete a row and I blocked myself from being able to do that in 2 out of 3 cases! Boo. I still enjoy every minute of this game!



***


Fresh Cardboard


1. New Amsterdam - BoardGameBliss had an awesome sale this week and I picked this up for $17! I know next to nothing about it, but it was cheap and it is by Jeffrey Allers, who made the great Citrus, so I figured I'd give it a shot.
2. Imhotep - I wanted to try this game before its nomination for Game of the Year, but wanted to try it even more after its nomination. Preordered!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to Scoville and Scoville: Labs! Because Peter must have his pepper game! I'll pick something else too, but I'm particularly excited for Dominion: Empires, which just arrived at BoardGameBliss! So I think we are going to have to make a pickup run this weekend!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING, FRIENDS! heart



My fashion of the week! I love this shirt from Geeky Goodies! In fact, I love it so much, I got one for me and a matching one for Peter! (http://www.geekygoodies.com/)
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