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 War Breaks Out During the Kraftwagen's Evolution * New Reviews for EVOLUTION CLIMATE, KRAFTWAGEN V6, and WAR CO. and First Impressions For The Networks, Simurgh: Call of the Dragonlord, and King of Frontier* And Many More Games New and Old!

Milena Guberinic
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Mina's Fresh Cardboard
Hi Friends!

Is anybody still out there? Or are you all wandering the halls of the most glorious of glorious cons in the world? I am so sad I'm not at GenCon because I was planning to go, but my plans were derailed by my pricey tooth emergency right before Dice Tower Con . Oh well. There are other cons .

In other news, Monday of this past week was a holiday here, so Peter and I didn't have to work! You know what that means! GAMES! And Jackie walks! Like us, Jackie prefers indoor games to walks .

What's New?

The Overview

In Evolution and Evolution Climate, you will control a variety of species you will endow with traits to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

The game is set up by placing the climate marker on the "temperate" space on the climate track, shuffling the cold and hot climate cards and drawing one of each to place on its appropriate spot on the climate track. You will then shuffle the trait deck and split it in half if playing with only 2 players. Only half of the deck is used when playing with 2.

This board is an addition in the Climate version of the game

The goal of the game is to have your species eat as much food as possible and to have the most remaining population when the game ends.

Each turn, you will draw 4 cards plus 1 card for each species you currently control. Each player then must select one card in hand to secretly add to the "watering hole." Because each card features a different food value and may or may not feature climate symbols (suns or snowflakes), each card will determine the amount of plant food that will be available during the feeding phase and may cause the climate marker to shift to a new position on the climate track.

After this, you will play cards. With the cards in your hand, you may:
a) discard a card to start a new species,
b) discard a card to increase the body size or population of one of your species, and/or
c) play a card on one of your species as a trait (initially face down until all players have played cards) for a maximum of 3 traits in a 2-player game and a maximum of 4 traits in games with more players.

Some new, climate-related traits

Once you have played cards, you may discard X cards to the bottom of the trait deck to draw X cards (*this is new in Climate).

Then, the trait cards played to the watering hole are revealed and the environment changes. The climate marker moves to a new climate and the event card in that region resolves. Even cards include things like Wildfires (-1 population to species without the burrowing trait), volcanic eruptions (shift the climate marker between hot and cold after feeding), and heat waves in cold climates and cold snaps in hot climates. After this, your species may lose population based on where the climate marker ends up. Each climate shows a body size and a number of sun or snowflake symbols. Each of your species with a body size in the shown range will lose a number of population equivalent to the number of suns/snowflakes. Now, you will add or remove plant food from the watering hole based on the cards there AND based on the climate. Hot climates add to the amount of available plant food, while hot climates remove plant food.

Cold climate cards

Hot climate cards

Now you will feed your species in turn order. When it is your turn, you will take one plant food from the watering hole for each population, modified by any traits you may have, until all players have fed all their species or until the food supply runs out. If you are unable to provide food equivalent to the population level of a particular species, that species' population will fall to the level that was fed.

The above feeding rules apply to herbivorous/omnivorous species you control. Carnivorous species are only allowed to eat the flesh of other species. They do so by attacking species with a smaller body size, whether your own or other players', thus reducing the population levels of these species by one for each successful attack/feeding.

The game ends when the deck of trait cards is exhausted and the player with the most food in his belly and the greatest remaining population wins!

The Review

Played prior to review 7x

1. The most beautiful artwork ever!
Yes, in my eyes, Evolution in all its incarnations features the most breathtakingly beautiful artwork in any game. I adore nature imagery and the color palate used. The elegance of the artwork perfectly complements the elegance of the game.

2. Card game that tells stories
I cannot overemphasize the beauty of the stories this game tells. Perhaps Ignacy should pick this up to publish in Polish because Evolution tells stories like no other Euro game...except perhaps Robinson Crusoe . And Climate only adds to this sense.

Evolution itself weaves intricate stories of adaptation and survival. To me, Evolution perfectly captures the struggle for survival and the need to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Depending on the availability of various sources of food and the adaptations of other species, herbivores may become carnivores, carnivores may become herbivores, and new species may be created or existing ones may die off throughout the course of the game. Keeping a close watch over the environment (i.e. other players' actions) is key to being successful in this game. And as more and more species are created and plant food becomes more and more scarce, adaptations change in value. For example, fecundity (which allows a player to grow the population of the fecund species if there is plant food in the watering hole prior to new plant food being added for the round) may be a very viable way of increasing population early in the game, but will likely become worthless as time goes on. As such, Evolution feels incredibly thematic. The natural rhythm of the game (i.e. the changing landscape) and the nature of the interaction it engenders between players surely contribute to this. I constantly feel like I have to watch my back and try to predict what my opponent is up to in order to a) protect myself and b) make sure I get as much food as I possibly can.

Each of the specific traits is also well connected to what it would allow an animal to do in the natural environment. Of course, Fat Tissue would allow you to store food from one round to another, allowing you to survive in rounds when food is less abundant. Of course, Intelligence would allow you to circumvent your prey's defenses or allow you to find ways of obtaining extra food from other sources. And when it comes to Climate, of course something like Heavy Fur would help your species stay alive in colder climates and hurt you when heat waves arrive.

Climate adds to the general sense of theme in the game by creating an even more richly detailed and realistic environment for species to navigate. Not only do your species have to adapt to food shortages, but they now also have to adapt to climatic shifts, which were a significant driver of the evolution of certain traits. And events provide explanations for these shifts with volcanoes, meteors, and wildfires, among other things.

One of the things I most enjoy about Evolution and Evolution Climate are the stories of the species that evolved and adapted and survived. And Climate weaves an even more richly detailed and intricate story than base Evolution.

3. Simple rules for a very interesting and deep experience
Evolution features simple rules that veil incredibly deep and rich gameplay. It is a card game and it certainly isn't the heaviest game ever, but it becomes quite demanding as players create multiple species with multiple interactions. Indeed, the interactions between species on my tableau are one of the key points of interest in the game for me. Traits like cooperation (which helps adjacent species work together), warning call (which protect adjacent species in a player's tableau from predators), and scavenger (takes 1 meat whenever a carnivore successfully attacks) demonstrate some of the synergies that can develop between species in your tableau.

Climate adds very few rules to the basic game (adding a new phase at which the effects of climate are evaluated), but increases the number of decision points significantly, as you will need to consider your population size, traits, and food card you add to the food bank not only based on other players' species and actions but also based on the climate.

3. Numerous tension-filled decision points generated by multi-use cards and player interaction. Climate amplifies this
There is an endless stream of decision points in the game that all feed into creating a rich and deep experience. Do you limit or flood the watering hole with plant food? Limiting the availability of plant food might be good for you if you're first player and/or have lots of carnivores and/or have lots of long necked foragers hanging around. But limiting it too far might just bite you in the butt. Discarding a card to start a new species or increase population levels might get you more cards and/or food, but it also might leave you vulnerable to carnivores. And it might not help you at all if there isn't enough plant food in the watering hole! Protecting yourself with traits like Hard Shell or Horns or Warning Call might help protect you from other carnivores, but it also reduces the number of trait slots you have, limiting your ability to gain additional food through other traits like Foraging or Long Neck. Discarding a card to increase body size might help protect you from carnivores…but it might not. And when feeding time comes around, there's always the question of the order in which to feed your species. It might be wise to hit up the watering hole before you start attacking with carnivores in order to try to limit your opponent's access to food. But it might be wiser to feed your foragers first to deplete the watering hole because they take two food at once instead of just one.

The fact that each and every one of your cards can be used to assign food to the watering hole, to add traits to your species, to start new species, and to increase the population and body size of existing species means that you will never be short of things to think about. And Climate only increases the number of decision points over the base game by increasing the number of functions your trait cards have and increasing the number of changes your species have to adapt to. Not only is your opponent your rival for food, but he is also a potential source of climatic shifts. As such, you have to keep in mind not only the nature of his adaptations with respect to food gathering (i.e. if he's evolving carnivores that could threaten your species or traits that allow him to circumvent the watering hole), but you also have to keep a close watch over his climatic adaptations that could give you a clue about his plans for the environment.

In addition to increasing the need to pay attention to your opponent's actions to predict the weather shifts, Climate adds new reasons to grow your species beyond simply the threat of carnivores. Because species of different sizes are vulnerable in different environments, you will have to constantly ensure you are able to respond to everything that comes your way by saving traits in your hand and possibly increasing your species' body size. Smaller species will die out more quickly in cold climates while larger ones will die out more quickly in hot climates and you have to use this knowledge to your advantage, both to try to decimate your opponent's populations and to protect your own using the cards you play to the watering hole and the adaptive traits you add to your species.

4. Every game plays out completely differently
There are 17 unique traits you can add to your species in the base game of Evolution and the order in which you gain these and the relative distribution of the traits you gain will affect the path you choose to take in any given game. Climate adds 6 new traits and modifies existing traits to add new climate-related capabilities. New traits include Cooling Frills, which prevent 3 population loss due to heat and work to increase your body size by 2 when determining whether your species can be attacked. As for modified traits, Burrowing, for example, has been modified to prevent 1 population due to heat or cold in addition to its original function.

Although trait cards can be used for multiple different purposes, their trait functions are central to the game and creating synergies between the traits you acquire is what the game is all about, as species without adaptive traits cannot thrive in any environment. So game-to-game differences in the traits you draw at various times during the game will define the way any given game plays out. Many carnivore cards may encourage you to hoard cards that will allow you to circumvent your opponent's defenses and to grow your animals in size. Synergistic herbivore cards may lead you to try to develop cooperative herbivores with protective traits to keep them safe. Whatever the case, the ecosystem will differ in each game and these differences will be highly influenced by the distribution of trait cards in the game.

Climate also adds to the game-to-game differences by giving players the ability to modify the climatic environment in the game. One game may be very cold with a low availability of plant food, encouraging nocturnal cooperative long necks and carnivores to develop, while another may be quite warm with a high availability of plant food, encouraging larger herbivorous populations. Climate-adaptive traits will also change in value in each game depending on the climate events and the relative warmth of the environment. If it's hot, Cooling Frills will be everywhere and if it's cold, you might want to develop some Heavy Fur...but perhaps not if you see a volcano or a heat wave event!

Ultimately, the order and distribution of the traits players draw and choose to play and the nature of the climatic changes and events will completely change the story that unfolds in each and every game.

5. Rather strategic with two
Evolution is a strategic game with only two players. And because it is full of interaction and requires that you keep a close eye on other players, I wouldn't want to play it with more than 2. I think additional players would just add time and chaos to the game. I have enough trouble trying to out-think Peter and trying to keep track of all his species. If there were more people around the table with species that have even more traits than we are allowed to bestow upon ours in a 2-player game, I would just get frustrated with all the craziness that would unfold. So Evolution is a perfect 2-player game for me.

Climate does not change this because when I'm playing with one other person, I have more confidence over my ability to predict and manipulate not only the food, but also the climatic environment. Of course, I can never be certain that the cards I play will have the exact effect I desire, but I can have more of an influence over the climate and preparing for events and climatic shifts than I would be with more players. Some people may prefer the chaos that would ensue with more players, but for me, the game contains the perfect amount of control with two.

6. Climate introduces a couple of rules that reduce the randomness in the game at any player count
Climate adds a couple of important rules to the base game of Evolution that could easily be implemented in the base game as well to reduce the randomness inherent in games that rely on drawing cards.

First, you draw 1 more trait card each turn. Second, you are allowed to discard any number of trait cards from your hand at the end of each of your turns. This means gives you a lot more control over the types of traits that you add to your animals, particularly after the first round. This also allows you to make longer term strategic plans, holding cards for later points in the game if you foresee the environment shifting in a certain direction.

7. You can use Evolution Climate to play the base game without climate-related events or the base game with the Climate expansion
Evolution Climate is both a standalone version of Evolution that integrates a new expansion-like concept into the base game AND it is the base game of Evolution. This version of the game allows you to play the basic version of Evolution by removing climate-related traits, events, and the climate board. So two games in one!

Final Word

Evolution Climate is Evolution perfected. If you have ever had an interest in Evolution and enjoy a deeper, more challenging game, Climate is the one to get! For me, it is perfect thematically and incredibly satisfying as it forces me to think in ways that no other game does. And it allows me to create a happy menagerie of species that I have evolved to persevere through a variety of events and circumstances. At the end of each game, I feel like I have accomplished something huge and important. And I have! I have created species that thrive and survive!

If you have any interest in evolutionary biology, animals, grand stories, or simply love beautiful, elegant, highly interactive card games, I would urge you to check out Evolution Climate! I'm going to have to adapt one of my shelves to keep Evolution Climate at the front and center of it forever!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart heart ALL LOVE ALL THE TIME


The Overview

In Kraftwagen, you will become the owner of a car startup company in the time when cars were coming to maturity in Europe. You will use an action track to select your action each turn and your actions will involve researching powerful technologies that will improve the prestige of your car bodies and engines, gaining workers, gaining car bodies and engines, attracting buyers to the market, and testing your cars in races.

At the start of the game, each player will select a starting bonus tile in reverse turn order. You will start the game with the bonus depicted on this starting tile, 4 workers, and a garage that shows 3 spaces for engines/car bodies and 1 space for your race car.

Starting bonus tiles

The game board is divided into 5 distinct sections, but the central one is the action track. Each turn, the player whose disc is at the back of the track will take an action and continue to perform actions depicted on action markers until his is no longer the last action marker on the action track.

Action track

The actions shown on action markers consist of the following 6 actions, sometimes alone and sometimes in combination.

*Hiring workers
You take 1 worker from your stock and add it to your garage.

You take one of two face-up technology cards. Technology cards may be engineers, who will generally provide some advantage throughout the rest of the game (Porsche, for example, allows you to move your race car an extra space every time you take the grand prix action), engine/body upgrades, which must be manned by workers and which increase your engine/body level for the rest of the game, and instant technologies, which provide various benefits.

*Car Body
You take a car body of the highest level allowed by your techs. You must be able to store this car body in your garage.

You take an engine of the highest level allowed by your techs. You must be able to store this engine in your garage or must immediately replace a lower-level engine in your race car with this new engine.

*Grand prix
You move your race car the number of spaces along the race track shown by the engine in your race car.

You select one of the 4 types of buyers from the market and move him/her to the active side of the buyer pool. You also receive a coin marker from that buyer if one is available. If all buyer slots are filled (and only 3 are available in a 2-player game), you move the marker (which begins at 2 in a 2-player game) one space down.

Each time you take an action, you move the action marker you used to the end of the action marker line.

At the end of each of your turns, you may place one of your cars on the market. To do this, you will take one of the car bodies from your garage, add an engine, and add a worker and place the whole shebang on an available market space. You will then put a price marker on it.

Each round of the game ends either when the buyer marker reaches 0 or when the market is filled with cars. In a 2-player game, the market only has 4 available slots. At this point, each of the buyers is evaluated from top to bottom and each buyer will buy a car that best fits the category he/she is interested. There are buyers who look for the cheapest car, there are buyers who look for the best body, there are buyers who look for the best engine, and there are buyers who prefer prestige, which is abstracted in the game as the number of workers on the car. The player whose car best fits the category desired by each buyer receives the price marker placed on the sold car and ties are broken in favor of the car with the lowest price. Any unsold cars are simply removed along with their price markers.

After evaluating buyers, you will evaluate which player's race car performed the best at the grand prix. The player whose car is furthest ahead gets 7 points and remaining players get fewer points, with the 4th getting 0 points. In a 2-player game, dummy cars are placed on the 3 and 6 spaces of the race track and remain there throughout the game. Additionally, if you have managed to go around the race track several times, you will receive a bonus for having done so.

In addition to gaining points for sold cars and great race cars, you can gain points during the course of each round by completing objectives. There are 10 objectives and the first player to satisfy the conditions shown acquires it. Objectives reward things like being the first to produce a level-4 or level-7 engine, being the first to have 3 engineers, and being the first to go around the race track once and twice, among other things.

At the end of the game, players tally their points and the player with the most wins!

The V6 expansion adds some additional action tiles that change in each round and are replaced once taken.

The Review

Played prior to review 6x

1. Simple, pleasant, and functional art and graphic design
The artwork in Kraftwagen is not the most colorful or vibrant or impressively intricate, but it is perfectly pleasant and fitting of the theme. Like the black-and-white photographs of early cars we see today, the art evokes another time in history very well. Only a few icons are used in the game and these are clear and consistent, making it a breeze to learn the game and (likely) pick it back up after an extended vacation.

2. Tight action economy that generates many tense decision points
Like Cramer's Glen More before it, Kraftwagen relies on an action track that encourages players to very carefully appraise the value of every action that they take and only skip to actions further ahead if vitally necessary. Because skipping ahead on the action track only gives your opponent more actions to take, you may take slightly less attractive actions in order to prevent your opponent from getting double actions. However, if the actions that you are skipping would not benefit your opponent as much as the action you have selected would benefit you, you may want to take it. A good portion of the game is spent evaluating that tradeoff, which changes as the game goes on. Where to land is often a tension-filled decision because what you want and what you don't want your opponent to have will often be mutually exclusive.

3. Number of different routes to victory
The chief way of gaining points in Kraftwagen is through selling cars on the market, but the increase in value of the price at which you are able to sell your cars over time and the availability of alternate routes to accumulating points mean that the market need not be your primary focus in each and every game. There is variety even in market-based strategies, as you can focus on engines, bodies, or workers. You can go for a lowest-price strategy if you can acquire the engineer who triples the amount of money you get for selling low-priced cars. Or you can just go wild and try to flood the market with your crappy cars and hope you get SOMEONE to buy something!

However, this isn't the only way to accumulate buckets of points; you can also build awesome race cars! Upgrading your race car's engine and racing around the track can be a lucrative source of points from round to round, particularly if you are able to make several laps per round. The player in the lead gets 7 points, which can make a huge difference, particularly in a two-player game if your opponent neglects this aspect of the game.

And speaking of racing, you can also race for objective-based bonuses that are also lucrative sources of points. While this isn't necessarily a source of points that is distinct from the others, it is something that you have to keep in mind as you form your strategy. If you have decided to make lots of points through racing, you may be able to get the objective bonus for being the first to make one and/or two laps around the race track, but only if you work on your strategy quickly! The objectives create another race themselves and encourage a razor-sharp focus on certain strategies from the start of the game.

4. So many decision points all over the place
Kraftwagen is tight, tense, and filled with interesting decision points. The action track is the first of these and I described some of the things you are forced to think about there. If I jump ahead to an action I really want to take, will that benefit me more than the actions I've skipped over will benefit my opponent? Which actions will my opponent be able to access easily after my move?

The market is another major source of interesting decision points. First, you are faced with the question of which buyers to add to the market. When you take the buyer action, you gain either one or two points, so you have a slightly higher incentive to take the two-point buyer. However, your decision of which buyer to add to the market will also be affected by your strategy and your opponent's strategy and your foreseeable ability to stay ahead on the demand of the buyer you are placing. If you are working on bodies, but your opponent's bodies are almost as good, you might want to pick a different buyer. Or not, because in addition to deciding which buyer to place, the market also demands that you place a price on your cars. How you evaluate that price will depend on the prices of cars that came before and your judgment of the ability of your opponent to compete with you for the buyers' demands. If you see that you alone are able to produce high-valued car bodies, you could simply race to put the highest price marker on your car. If, on the other hand, you can see that your opponent may be able to compete, you might pick a lower price, to ensure that if he does manage to pull ahead, he'll be able to undercut you for a lesser amount of points/cash.

Between the action track and the market, there are so many things to consider in Kraftwagen. Add to that the difficulty of choosing between two good technologies, the challenge of managing your worker pool, and all the thought that goes into an efficiency of actions needed to be the first to fulfill the objectives in the game and Kraftwagen becomes a surprisingly hefty little game.

5. Variable with high replay value
Kraftwagen has plenty of variability to generate a lot of replay value!

First, the action track is populated by action markers in a semi-random fashion, which creates a different set of choices for the players in each game.

Second, in a two-player game, you will only have the option of taking 2 of the 4 possible starting bonus tiles, creating a different situation for you to work with in each game.

Third, technology cards are randomly drawn throughout the game. Because they are so influential over your strategic direction and your turn-to-turn tactical decisions (i.e. how far you are willing to jump towards the research actions to take them), the order in which they become available can hugely impact the way the game proceeds. If you are able to obtain a lot of engine power and Porsche (+1 move on the race track every time you perform the grand prix action), you will probably want to follow an engine/racing strategy. In another game, a glut of body techs may encourage you to follow a body-based market strategy.

Fourth, the V6 expansion adds to the variability in the game with its unique single-use action tiles! There is absolutely no shortage of variability in this game!

6. Fast paced and fast playing...but not too fast
Kraftwagen moves along at a good clip. Every action you take is short and sweet and rounds can be over very quickly if players are being aggressive by placing cars on the market or quickly populating the market with buyers. A typical two-player game lasts about 45 minutes, which is quite fast for the level of depth, tension, and interesting decision points in the game.

7. Simple and effective changes for 2-player game
The designer and developer made clever changes that make the game feel tight and tense when playing with two players, which is important!

First, the fewer number of slots for buyers and cars in the market creates a tense market situation even with two players. You are able to produce cars quite quickly in this game, which means that rounds can be over very quickly if players are aggressively trying to populate the market as quickly as possible, even when playing with only two players! This limitation also effectively scales the utility of a purely market-based strategy and allows racing to be as (but not more due to the change below) viable as it would be when playing with more players.

Second, the dummy cars on the race track ensure that the player in second place doesn't get the full points for being in second. You have to put a decent amount of effort into racing each round in order to gain any points for that category.

These simple changes that do not require any setup or upkeep-related fiddling over that required for a 3 or 4-player game are effective in generating plenty of competition when playing with only 2 players.


soblue 1. Lots of pieces so a little annoying to set up and tear down
This is a self-explanatory point. There are many little pieces and chits that have to be arranged on the board at the start of each game and re-arranged in each round. This makes the game feel a bit fiddly, but not so fiddly that I would hesitate to play it.

soblue 2. The technologies can make for some swingy situations
If you've read my reviews, you know that I am generally the opposite of a fan of randomness. My only gameplay-related disappointment in Kraftwagen was the way the order in which the technologies are drawn can swing the tides from one player's favor to another's.

In Kraftwagen, technologies provide abilities that are vital to determining your ability to perform actions. Engine upgrades increase your engine power and body upgrades increase the appeal of your cars' bodies (sexy body cars!!! ) and you are basically in a majority war with other players to have the most of these. Some tech cards provide a body and an engine upgrade, some provide doubles of one, and others provide only one of either an engine or a body upgrade. Clearly, some techs are better than others. It can happen that you take a single engine upgrade to catch up to your opponent only to reveal a double one for your opponent's turn.

Engineers are also incredibly powerful and if you reveal an engineer for your opponent that perfectly synergizes with his plans, tough beans! In one game, I was pushing engines and Peter ended up revealing both Bugatti (who allowed me to move on the race track every time I upgraded my race car's engine) and Porsche (who allowed me to move an extra space every time I took the grand prix action) for me to take! Oh and also a bunch of instant actions that pushed me forward 5 spaces each! That allowed me to make the maxium number of laps around the race track and undeniably swung the game in my favor for no reason other than luck of the draw.

The luck of the draw does not mar this game significantly. Kraftwagen is still highly strategic and you still feel like you have full agency while playing. And I do enjoy the fact that the appeal of the available technologies can impact your decisions in interesting ways. For example, if you see two unappealing techs (two single body and/or engine upgrades), you might want to skip over the research action and let your opponent reveal the next, potentially better, technology cards. If you see two appealing techs, you may be tempted to skip over some actions to nab them before your opponent can get there!

Ultimately, this isn't a total negative and I'm willing to take the slightly for all the .

Final Word

Kraftwagen provides a much smoother ride than those antique-y cars must have. It is a game with all the elegance of a classic and is filled with tense and interesting decision points! On our first play, we failed to fully appreciate the tightness of the action economy and the fierce competition it can engender, but we quickly realized how weighty the game actually is. And like most games I love, Kraftwagen is hefty. It doesn't look like it, but it is! It gives you SO MANY things to think about and creates so much tension through the multiple levels at which to compete, including the most attractive actions, buyers, and objectives. The central mechanism of action selection using the action track works as beautifully in Kraftwagen as it did in Glen More and happily produces an entirely different game!

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


This game is not currently available, but will be on Kickstarter soon. I was NOT paid or otherwise coerced into doing this review. I was simply curious and provided with nothing more than a prototype to play. And some bingo chips. Those may have swayed my opinion .

The Overview

War Co is an expandable card game in which your goal is to be the last player with cards remaining in your deck and/or hand.

You will start the game with a deck of cards and 10 energy tokens. Each card is either a machine or a technology. Machines are used to attack and defend, while technologies augment the rules of the game.



At the start of the game, you will shuffle your deck and on your turn will:
1) Draw: You MUST draw up to 4 to 7 cards in hand.

2) Place: You MAY play cards face up and/or face down. If you do so, you will have to pay the energy requirement of the card. The card will continue to consume energy until it is taken off your tableau by an opponent's attack if it is a machine or by you at the end of your turn if it is a technology.

3) Attack: You MAY attack one target with one machine. If your opponent has a machine in play, you must select a machine to be the target of your attack. You declare your attacker and declare which machine you are attacking and win if your attacker's strength is greater than that of your opponent's defender. Some machines can counterattack and others have varying strengths depending on whether they are attacking or defending. If you have won the battle, your opponent will discard his machine from his tableau and discard a card from the top of his deck.

If your opponent does not have a machine in play, you can attack him directly, forcing him to discard 3 cards from the top of his deck.

If 3 rounds pass by and nobody makes an attack, ALL cards on ALL players' tableaus get wiped!

4) Discard: You MUST discard one card from your hand and MAY discard one technology from your tableau.

Attacks are not allowed until all players have had a turn, so the first round will simply consist of playing cards.

The game ends when one player has 0 cards in his deck and hand. The last player with cards in his deck and/or hand is the winner!

The Review

Played prior to review 6x

1. Excellent artwork
I am not drawn to war-related imagery, but I do like space! This game is perfectly illustrated to depict the space machines and technologies of an imaginary future without any superfluous war gore. The artist did an excellent job.

At this point, the graphic design is sparse but functional and works to bring the spectacular artwork and important information to the fore, so I can't fault it for its simplicity. But this is a prototype and the graphic design may not be final anyway...

2. Limitations on your tableau and energy consumption of cards create interesting decision points
This is the most interesting aspect of War Co. for me. Your tableau is limited to 5 mechs and 2 techs at any one time and your energy pool is limited to 10 (unless, of course, you or your opponent have done things to increase or reduce that number and there are plenty of cards that help in that department). Managing your tableau with these limitations in mind can become quite challenging. In fact, you have to be careful about what you add from the very start, keeping in mind the fact that you will not be able to remove machines and replace them with others unless they are destroyed. As your tableau develops and you max out your energy and tableau space, you will have to make very difficult decisions and tradeoffs about which technologies to discard and possibly which machines to send off into battle to die in order to open up space for techs and machines that are more advantageous to your current strategy.

3. Streamlined way of tracking "life" points by tying your "life" with your deck also creates interesting decision points
I love the fact that your deck is your life source in this game. Not only is that a simple and streamlined way of dealing with the "life" situation, but it is also a thematic and interesting way of dealing with it.

I described the ways in which the energy and tableau limitations create a lot of tension when deciding which cards to play and when. The fact that your deck is your life source adds to this same tension. Because you want to keep as many cards as possible for the longest amount of time possible in your deck and in your hand, you generally want to play as few cards as possible to the tableau while keeping up with your opponent's tableau. And you also want to get ahead of your opponent, so the temptation to play more cards and max out your resources and tableau limits is always there! The game creates a strong tension between the desire to play as many cards as possible to get ahead of your opponent and force him to discard cards from his deck and to play as few cards as possible in order to retain them in your deck.

4. Interesting "bluffing" element
In War Co., you are able to play your machines face down or face up. This gives you some control over your opponent's actions. If you have a machine you know will destroy anything your opponent has on the field, you can play it face up to discourage attacks or you can play it face down to keep your opponent guessing and force your opponent to sacrifice a machine and a card from his deck in order to find out. You can't really keep this up forever because you will have to turn your machines face up in order to attack with them, but the ability to play your attackers and defenders face up or face down allows you to play some interesting mind tricks that create a lot of excitement and make for some interesting decision points in the game.

5. Although not perfectly integrated into the game and somewhat difficult to remember, there is a rule to prevent one player from running away with the game
If you get stuck and one player manages to dominate the field, you are able to discard 5 cards from the top of your deck to eliminate one of the cards in his tableau from the game. Although this rule feels a bit tacked on, it does work to keep one player from simply dominating the game and making it unfun for the other, so I appreciate its presence. I just hope I remember it next time I'm in a jam!

6. Decks feel different and multiple decks create replay value
War Co. is a game that comes with pre-built decks that each encourage a very distinct play style and it allows players to explore multiple strategies. Each deck comes with 50 UNIQUE cards, which makes every game feel a little different even when playing with the same deck. Though this may also increase the sway luck of the draw has over the game, things seem to balance out over the course of the game...


soblue 1. Card randomness
This is a card game, so the randomness that comes with drawing cards is, of course, present. At times, there is very little you can do but watch your opponent beat you down. However, the game does provide a number of cards that allow you to search your deck for other cards or manipulate your deck otherwise, so you can increase your chances of getting the cards you want into your hand when you want them by adding these cards to your deck and/or playing them at opportune moments. Most of our games of War Co. have ended in very close scores, so I would say that despite the randomness of cards and despite the fact that you won't be able to do much about your opponent beating you down at times, you will generally find a way to gain control and bounce back.

soblue 2. In the current form, it isn't possible to tell which cards belong to which pre-built deck, which makes it difficult to put them back together if you have taken them apart
I'm certain that the final rulebook will provide a deck list for each deck provided in the game, but I feel like a small icon in the corner of the cards that belong to a particular deck might help that process. I could be alone in thinking that this would be a good idea because I am generally averse to building decks (years of wasting hours and hours on building Magic:The Gathering decks killed this type of deck building for me), so it may or may not be an issue for you. Also, I'm not certain that the graphic design is final at this point, so these markings may or may not be added in the final version of the game.
It has been pointed out to me that the decks do indeed have small letter-based markings that distinguish the decks, so thins is an invalid criticism.

Final Word

Contrary to my usual format, I will not provide a Mina's Love Meter rating for this game because doing that doesn't feel appropriate to me for some reason. But I will say that I think that it is very smart game with a unique theme and glorious art! I loved the interesting decision points and tension generated by the connection between your deck and your life and the limitations imposed by the energy concept. Expandable card games are plentiful and War Co. is part of a densely-populated market, but it does set itself apart somewhat from the rest of the pack through its theme, relatively simplicity, INSANE number of unique cards in each deck, and resource management aspects. And by using your deck as your sole life source! If you enjoy living, collectible, and expandable card games like I do, take a look at War Co. You might like what you see.


First Impressions

King of Frontier is a game that I first saw on Steph's blog. Then I saw it in the BGG Store. But the expansion was sold out, so I didn't want to get the game without the expansion. That is how I think. That is how crazy people think!

King of Frontier is a Carcassonne-like game with a following mechanism. The tiles also resemble those in Walnut Grove and the game feels like one of those simple tile-laying games. But that isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's a great thing because King of Frontier plays much more quickly than either of those games. With two, we have completed each of our sessions (3 thus far) in about 15 minutes.

In King of Frontier, you develop your own little kingdom with tiles that depict mountains, fields, forests, and castles. Mountains, fields, and forests can produce resources and castles can consume wheat produced in fields. However, these regions can only produce and consume if they have been completed (i.e. fully enclosed).

Each turn, you may draw 2 tiles and place 0-2 of them in your kingdom, produce resources in 2 fully enclosed fields, forests, or mountains, have your cities consume wheat for points, or build powerful buildings! Whenever you take an action, your opponent(s) will be able to "follow" and take a slightly less powerful version of that action on your turn. The game ends when the landscape tiles have been depleted, when one player has completed his kingdom, or when the point supply has been depleted. You score points for each production space in an enclosed area, the point chits you gained for consuming, and your buildings. You also gain a 10VP bonus if you manage to completely cover your board! And if you don't, you incur a -2VP penalty for each empty space .

I will definitely be writing a full review for this excellent little game at some point because I'd love to have a week with a glut of KoF sessions! For now, I will say that I LOVE how tight the game feels! Every action you take will give your opponent the opportunity to take essentially the same action, so you have to take care to time your actions in a way that will minimize the advantage you give your opponent! Peter and I have played thrice now and have made errors every time we've played, but we will persevere! We will make proper kingdoms soon!


I backed The Networks on Kickstarter for Peter. Peter was so excited by the theme that he almost backed it in my place. But he didn't shake. Peter was SO excited to try this game that he (yes, Peter) DEMANDED we learn it the night it arrived. I was excited to try it to because it looked adorable, so I wasn't about to refuse.

The Networks is a game in which you become a TV network executive, adding shows to one of 3 prime time slots (8, 9, and 10 pm), placing stars and ads on those shows, and making money and gaining viewers. The goal of the game is to gain the most viewers through your shows and revenue. You will have to spend money to acquire and retain stars and shows and will gain money through ad revenue. And money can be a very good thing to have because creating a focused network that consistently shows comedy or sport or science-fiction shows may allow you to turn your money into viewers later in the game.

Ultimately, The Networks is a simple drafting game in which all the cards to be drafted are visible to all players at the start of each round. This is an interesting concept and one I assumed would make the game feel more strategic than a typical drafting game. And indeed, having this information does make the game feel strategic (despite the fact that some cards are randomly removed every 3 turns in a 2-player game). However, our session lacked the level of tension that I favor in games. Money wasn't very hard to come by and Network cards, which grant special powers, were too plentiful and powerful. A higher player count may increase the tension, but with two, everything felt too loose and easy. For us. This may not be an issue for players who prefer lighter games and intend to play The Networks for laughs (because it is uproariously hilarious) and light strategy. We don't. At least for how long it took to play. I could see myself enjoying this game much more if it took 20 minutes to play, but it took over an hour and that's too much for me for the game's weight in my eyes So sad. But I would still recommend The Networks to those who are looking for something funny with simple mechanisms and a relatively light weight. And perhaps to those who are able to consistently play at higher player counts.


We have been playing Simurgh for two weeks, so the game itself isn't exactly new, but the expansion is! There are so many modules in this expansion, which makes it very difficult to choose one to try. My friend, Steph, recommended the Forgotten Metropolis, so that was the one I picked. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how large the additional board used with that module would make the game. I was having a lot of back pain that night, so I wasn't very happy with having to literally get up every time I had to reach for my wizard and that may have negatively impacted my impression of this particular module. But what is this module about?

The Forgotten Metropolis introduces an expansion board that shows three different Paths of Destiny that move from the wizards' castle to the Dragonlord's Tomb. The module also gives you a "spell" book and allows you to spend the resources shown on the major and minor spells as a main or side action to gain mana points that allow you to move your wizard along one of the Paths of Destiny, gaining points and resources along the way.

When playing with this module, the game can end when one player's wizard reaches the Dragonlord's Tomb.

I did enjoy the ideas in this expansion, but the additional board became too much of a focus in our game. One of the things I most enjoy about Simurgh is its tight and focused nature; you have to choose the best action tiles to play at the best times in the best succession order to gain the most points. If you want to, you can focus on objectives and dragons or on action-tile-based ways of making points. This made the game feel really tight and far more focused and elegant than when playing with the Forgotten Metropolis. Again, my feelings may have been affected by my back pain and frustration for having to reach for that darn board every two seconds, so I will reserve my final judgement for when we have tested the expansion again, but for now, it's not something I would care to consistently include in future games. Fortunately, the expansion contains SO MANY more modules that I won't be left wanting.


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?

Scythe! ALL SCYTHE ALL THE TIME! I could play this daily!

This week, I drew Crimea + Board 1 and Peter drew Saxony + Board 3. I was very aggressive with my movement, getting my moving mechs out immediately and targeting the key points for the structure bonus, which was for structures built next to tunnels. I kept blocking Peter from being able to get anywhere and he kept hesitating on attacks because Gunther doesn't start out with much military power. I got to the Factory quickly and resumed moving around to collect expedition cards, which left that space open for Peter. Because the attacker has the advantage in this game, I knew that I wanted to be the one making the attack in the last round, as both Peter and I were at the top of the power track and I had a 5-value boost and knew he had one too. I also had the factory surrounded with my workers and mechs, so I knew that he wouldn't be able to retaliate easily if I booted him. I booted him. He placed the last star to "stop the bleeding" as he put it and I won! The end. I hope he wins again soon. He did reasonably well the first few times we played but has been getting no love from the game since. He thinks he has problems with area majority/control games, but I think he's wrong because he's actually very good at them in their pure form. Perhaps all the extraneous stuff just distracts him...I don't know. I would really like to help him play a bit better.

Mage Knight Board Game
Mage Knight! It finally happened! It has been way too long. We seem to go through phases of playing Mage Knight consistently and then leaving it. There's no reason not to play MK consistently now that we have the Lost Relic, but I still long for the other scenarios. But we played the Lost Relic anyway because it's one day and one night! Minimal time investment!

Peter was Norowas and I picked Arythea. Arythea was a bit of a mistake. I prefer Wolfhawk for this scenario, but I was fortunate to draw several movement-related advanced action cards during the pre-game draft, so I was able to make do with Arythea's lesser movement capabilities. In fact, I did quite well! One of the cards I drafted was Frost Bridge! And guess what!? The map was filled with lakes! LAKES EVERYWHERE! This blocked Peter out of being able to get to many places, while I was able to move around! And then I uncovered BOTH of the ruined cities on my side of the board during the final rounds of the night just to stick it to him and...well...that was that .

Saint Malo
I felt like dice and we only played Saint Malo once, so I picked it off the shelf.

I started off by sticking lots of storage crates everywhere, hoping to create some sweet sweet money with multiple merchants, but I failed on the "multiple" part. I only managed one, but that was because I decided to focus on churches halfway through the game. I kept getting churches and ended up getting the max church bonus! That killed Peter. I ended up winning despite the fact that I neglected pirates TWICE! This is a great little dice game! I love the spatial element!

Pesky pirates!

Terra Mystica
TM! We missed playing TM last week and had to make up for that early this week! I played with the Ice Maidens. I CAN'T SEEM TO SHAKE THEM! I think TM is trying to tell me something... Peter played with the Cultists. I bid 2VP for first choice and he let me have it. I didn't want to have anything to do with the Cultists since they really screwed me on the cult tracks in a previous game, so I picked the Ice Maidens. I was really hoping to build multiple temples and do so quickly, but failed. I did manage to retain one temple throughout the game and I did get the one earth cult bonus VERY early in the game, which meant that I was pumping out points quite regularly, but the points weren't quite what I was hoping they would be. Oh well. I won by a good margin, but my goal is to manage to retain several temples on the board with the Ice Maidens. I get distracted by other things!

Russian Railroads
Last time we played Russian Railroads (with German Railroads expansion because I refuse to play any other way), I lost horribly and didn't want to play for a while. I was ready to try again this week and abandoned the weak strategy of pursuing the middle rail line I pursued in our previous game. Unfortunately for Peter, he decided to go that way and ended up getting DESTROYED by my upgrade/7 VP per upgrade strategy. I maxed out the top and bottom lines and did a bit of pushing on the middle but only went so far as to obtain the grey and brown rails. I'm starting to think that middle line in German Rails is a bit useless...maybe it has something to do with the two-player game? I don't know, but I don't like it.

But now we have American Rails to look forward to! There will be a new expansion for this at Essen!

Fields of Arle
Even though Fields of Arle is my favorite Uwe game and Uwe is my favorite designer, I have been hesitant to play Fields for the past few weeks. I did so well in our previous two games that I have been intimidated by my own score! And I play to beat my own score...

This week, I decided I had to play. And I did significantly worse than the previous two times, as I knew I would. I immediately took the Farmer's House, which gives you a clay and 1 peat cutting before each November. I really like those buildings because they give you something for nearly no effort for the duration of the game. Although I did fill up my garage with wagons quite quickly and planned to turn myself into a shipping machine, the shipping end of that engine didn't go quite as quickly as planned. I had to do a lot of traveling early in the game in order to fill my wagons with SOMETHING and then ended up with plenty of bricks and timber for building the red 15-VP buildings. I did get to those first and completely filled up my garage with the wagon that came with my Village Church, but Peter ended up beating me to the second one I wanted, so I had to settle for the lesser Lutenburg Castle. That thing didn't fit with what I was doing at all, but 15 points is 15 points. I ended up winning with 120 on the dot to Peter's 100 something...

Glass Road
That wasn't the end of the Uwe fun for the week. We also played Glass Road! I ended up with a board filled with sand pits thanks to a bit of encouragement from the Friends of Nature House and Factory! Thankfully, what I managed to accomplish was enough to get me to 30 points because I wouldn't have been happy had I been under that angry .

My final 5! Why does the Woodcutter look like he's sucking his thumb?

Grand Austria Hotel
I got Peter a cake one day, so he requested we play Grand Austria to carry on with the cake theme. He loves consistency of theme in his day. We played with the day sides of the boards because that isn't something we typically do and I felt like doing things differently.

The goals were a bit funny and Peter and I both immediately gave up on the $20 one. I don't think either of our boards was particularly conducive to collecting exorbitant amounts of cash. Instead, I focused on getting to the 4 red/3 yellow occupied rooms and the 6 filled sections. I actually managed to complete both of those in the same turn with some efficient guest combos and ended up winning despite the fact that my hotel was significantly less full than Peter's. He did only have 1 end-game scoring staff, while I had 2.

Another week, another game of Arkwright! A review is coming! I promise! We keep playing and I keep enjoying, so it will be a good one!

In our previous games, Peter kept taking the Manager who allows you to use the bonuses on your action tiles interchangeably (i.e. you can adjust prices when you have a "take tile" bonus and you can take tiles when you have an "adjust price" bonus). This time, I decided to take him myself. But the first helper I took was the Banker. As soon as I saw him, I knew I couldn't pass him up! I was second at the start of the game and got to pick my tile first and I picked the Banker and kept him for the ENTIRE GAME! The Banker is very nice because he allows you to buy stock and allows you to buy up to two at half price if you put him back into the pool. And I didn't put him back into the pool until the end of the game because I didn't want Peter to take advantage! I used him on my very last turn and ended up with a very good number of high-valued stock! I did do some shipping, but only in the final rounds because I knew I would have a huge stock of EVERYTHING, so I prepared for that in the second-to-last round by getting workers and ships and then did nothing but shipping in the final round! Fun!

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
More Ashes madness! Due to the abundance of card games we have been playing, I felt a little card gamed out this week, but I knew I just HAD to get my weekly game of Ashes played! Ashes must not be missed!

I took Aradel and Peter took Noah again. Peter really enjoys learning the ins and outs of each character before moving onto another, while I like exploring all of them a little more superficially before getting up close and personal with any one in particular. This was my second game with Aradel and I did MUCH better than last time! Peter's pesky Small Sacrifices and False Demons kept getting in my way, but I kept healing from the limited amount of damage he was able to do to me with my Butterfly Monks and ended up killing him off unscathed! Aradel is a power house!

Factory Funner
After a bunch of card games, I felt like playing with pieces. You know, a BOARD game. We had a very short bit of time, so I picked Factory Funner. This is Peter's game, but I have been improving. Last time we played, Peter built a bunch of machines with black outputs (i.e. they can never feed into any other machine) early in the game and totally screwed himself out of being able to do much of anything for the rest of the game. This time, I did that myself. The machines with black outputs are so tempting with their high income potential! SO deceptive!

Peter's win

Rolling America
Holy cow do I love this game!? This is so much better than Japan! SO much! And our scores improved significantly since our last game! I love the amount of control you have in this version of the game and the greater number of decision points given to you by the "guard" and "dupe" abilities in addition to the "color change" ability. Go America! heart

Since I pushed past the 100-VP barrier in Quadropolis, I haven't dropped below 100! I'm very happy about that because I couldn't win for the longest time and now I feel like I will never lose again! I'm sure that delusion will fade...

I went with a monument-park strategy and focused on harbors, residences, and shopping malls for support. I made 20 VP from my monument! And ended up with over 100 VP again! YAY! Oh and I took the shiny new BGG Store promo tile!

Via Nebula
Via Nebula is dangerously brilliant! It may not do anything new, but it does everything well and I love that! I love the tight competition over resources and racey tension! So good!

We played our third game on the "hard" side of the board, which has a number of blocked expeditions (resource spaces), which can make certain resources quite scarce and contentious. That was the case this time! Peter and I kept fighting over things and creating routes to allow us to steal things. I did that a little better and won! But it was a close game! I am so excited to write this review! It's going to get a lot of love!

Mystic Vale
More Mystic Vale! YES YES YES! So loving this system!

This time, Peter was smarter. Instead of populating his cards with fields, he went for more powerful cards that allowed him to build his tableau. As he should. I just happened to do this a little better and a little faster. This time, instead of crazy point difference like last time (10 to about 50), we ended up only about 10 points apart!

I made a bad Qwinto! cry We hadn't played this in so long that I forgot how to do things properly and Peter didn't and cry. He ended up completing two rows before I had a chance to even complete columns properly.


Fresh Cardboard

1. Islebound - I am so excited for this game! I love Ryan's work and the theme and artwork in Islebound appeals to me more than that in any other one of his games. Water always draws me to it...might have something to do with the fact that I am a Pisces. Maybe I was a mermaid in a past life?
2. Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails - I don't like the base game of Ticket to Ride. I was done with that almost immediately. However, I did enjoy Nordic Countries, which I only purchased on a whim this past winter (totally randomly wanted a winter themed game and this was on the dented shelf for cheap). I got the Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania expansion because it seemed rather interesting, but clearly it wasn't interesting enough for me to want to play it yet. wow It has been sitting on my shelf since I bought it. Now comes this shiny new Ticket to Ride with waterways and things and I must have it! More water!
3. Covert - I love Kane Klenko's designs and both Peter and I love the theme! Pre-ordered!


Next Week...

Look forward to City of Spies: Estoril 1942 and a surprise!


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