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 We Arrive at a City of Spies via the Nebula Valley * New Reviews for ESTORIL:CITY OF SPIES & VIA NEBULA * First Impressions for CUBA and NATIONS:DYNASTIES * And MUCH More Gaming Goodness!

Milena Guberinic
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Toronto
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Hello Friends!


How was your week? I hope it was better than mine! Mine was...not so good. Too much work and the fierce return of pain in a tooth I just had root canal treated made for an unhappy combination. Add to that construction in units above, below, and beside ours and the constant horrible noise that comes with that construction and you have one very soblue Mina. Have you ever heard a cacophony of drilling concrete in all the walls around you at once? It sounds like insanity. I had very little patience for anything this week. Fortunately, games came to the rescue! Games!

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What's New?




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The Overview


City of Spies: Estoril 1942 is a game about the Portuguese town of Estoril, which was filled with spies during WWII. In this game, you will try to recruit the most powerful and prestigious group of spies by using the spies you have recruited to seduce, assassinate, and spy on your opponents.

The main board is constructed from 6 of 8 randomly oriented location tiles in each game and re-constructed in each round. Each location modifies the general rules of the game in some way.

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All the locations


Each location is home to either a top secret or a visible spy that the player who has placed spies with the greatest strength at the end of the round will recruit into his spy network.

In each game, you will be competing to create a spy network that contains the characteristics. At the beginning of each game, 4 of 12 possible mission tiles will be drawn to show the most valued spy characteristics for that game.

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All the missions


You will start the game with a set of 6 basic spies and 6 (in a 2-player game) cubes.

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Each turn, you will place one of your spies on a space on one of the locations and mark it with one of your cubes. You may only place spies on the outer spaces or adjacent to spies you have already placed. Most locations require that you place your spy face down and have spaces that are marked with "TOP SECRET." One location (the beach) requires that all characters be placed face up. Some spaces also allow you to peek at spies that have been placed on that board or adjacent boards.

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Once all cubes have been placed, each location board is resolved in numerical order. Resolving a location board means turning all face-down spies face up and executing their abilities in order of the numbers of the spaces on which they have been placed. Spy abilities include:

*Assassination - allows you to kill a character from this location and return it to the controlling player's hand

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*Conspiracy - allows you to peek at the top spy in the draw pile and replace the reward character from this location with that spy

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*Nationalism - this spy gains +1 strength for each other flag on this location or adjacent location board with the same flag

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*Seduction - allows you to move a spy from an adjacent location to this location

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*Diplomacy - allows you to choose any spy and mark it with a white cube, making it immune to assassination and seduction

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The player whose spies have the greatest total strength in the location at the end of this resolution process will receive the reward character in that location.

At the end of the round, you will have to discard down to 6 spies in hand, keeping your discarded spies in a pile in front of you.

After 4 rounds, you will add up your VP for:
*The VP shown on the 6 spies in your hand
*Mission tiles you have accomplished by having the most spies IN HAND with required characteristics
*1 VP per discarded spy tile

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The Review


Played prior to review 7x






1. Beautiful with excellent component quality
Estoril: City of Spies is a highly beautifully (and cheekily) illustrated game that captures all the fun and theme of the game. Spy tiles, which could easily have been cards, are made of the same cardboard as the board tiles, which I assume will make everything highly durable. And the graphic design is simple, clean, and fun, like everything else in the game!

2. Lots of round-to-round and game-to-game variability
City of Spies comes with 8 location tiles and 6 are used to create the board each round. These are randomly oriented and populated with a different, randomly-drawn mix of spy characters in each round and each game. This means that you will be facing a different spatial puzzle and different challenges when deciding where and when to place your spies.

In addition, the rulebook presents several variants for playing the game and these inject yet another layer of variability to the game! You can play with secret recruiting agendas in addition to the 4 public ones, you can play with entirely secret missions, or you can award points to both the player in first and second place when awarding mission tiles. While we haven't tried all the variants (and the second cannot be played with two), we have tried and enjoyed the first. It definitely changed the dynamics of the game because not only were we trying to fulfill the open missions on the board, we were also trying to figure out what each other's secret mission was and trying to fulfill our own!

3. A unique spatial puzzle with heavy hand management demands and numerous interesting decision points
City of Estoril is a unique game. At least, insofar as I have experienced, no other game truly feels or functions like this one. It is looks silly and lighthearted and features some relatively simple and easy-to-learn mechanisms. And yet it provides a heavy, puzzly, highly-interactive experience.

First, the game presents you with a spatial puzzle with some limited information. You are faced with an array of location tiles that each have a different effect and a different arrangement of spaces on which you can place your spies. Because you can only place spies on the exterior regions of the "board" at the start and will only be able to place your spies on internal spaces orthogonally adjacent to spies you've already placed, you have to try to position your minions in a way that will allow you to best position yourself and best block your opponent from being able to access the best reward characters. The basic puzzle of blocking and positioning is interesting enough, but that's not where it ends.

Locations and spaces have characteristics that give you even more to think about when placing your spies. Each location has a number and each space on a location also has a number. These numbers determine the order of resolution, with lower numbers being resolved first. Additionally, the player whose character is on the lowest numbered space at the end of resolution wins ties when determining who gets the reward. This numerical ordering of tiles and spaces adds another layer to the basic spatial puzzle, encouraging you to compete to be the first to place in lower numbered spaces. But that's not where the story ends. The higher numbered spaces allow you to peek either at the location's reward character or face-down characters on adjacent tiles, which may pull you towards placing your spy on higher numbers.

But where and when you place your spies will also be determined by their abilities! The numbers on the locations and spaces interact with spy abilities to determine where your spies may be more or less effective in helping you collect the best reward tiles! Nationalist spies, for example, become more powerful if spies of the same nationality are on the same or adjacent locations, so you have to think about how to position all spies of the same nationality you have when placing one of these.

Now, I keep referring to the reward tiles. The reward tiles are spies themselves. They are spies you can add to your spy network. They each have a strength, a VP value, and possibly one or more abilities. Their relative value will be determined a) by the specific missions you are pursuing in any given game, b) by the composition of your current spy network, and c) by the composition of your opponents' spy networks. You will have to take all these factors into consideration when trying to determine which reward tiles to pursue. And then you will once again have to take all these factors into consideration when determining which spies to retain in your hand each round. O

On top of an elaborate spatial puzzle, City of Spies presents you with some very difficult hand management decisions. Particularly when playing with two players, which is a player count that allows you to win a greater number of spies in each round, you will have to make very difficult tradeoffs between desirable spy characteristics for mission purposes, desirable strengths and VP values, and desirable abilities. One spy in your hand may contribute to the requirements of a mission but may not be very strong, another may be strong but have very few points, another may have a double assassination ability, ensuring that you can secure a reward tile from a desirable location in a later round, but he may not be helping you gain any mission majorities. When trying to decide which spies to part with, you also have to take your opponent's spy network into account because your ability to gain mission tiles will depend on having more of a particular ability in your spy network than your opponent(s).

Ultimately, City of Spies is a surprisingly crunchy and tactically rich game. You are faced with a never-ending stream of long-term and short-term decision points wrapped in a unique mix of spatial puzzling and hand managing!

4. Luck pushing fun!
I enjoy the press-your-luck mechanism in games very much and that's true in City of Spies as well. And there is more than one aspect of the game that features some luck pushing. The most obvious aspect is the casino location, where you can place a not-so-strong spy, hoping that the die roll boost will be enough to edge out your opponent. The more interesting aspect comes in the form of the hidden information you have to deal with when placing your spies and using seduction abilities. When placing spies, you are always faced with a choice between placing your spy on a lower valued location space or a higher valued space that allows you to peek at cards. You can place on a lower valued space and hope that you have the most influence or you can place on a higher valued space and gain some intel to help you make some better informed decisions. Deciding when it's worthwhile to take the chance and when and where it's better to gather information makes for an interesting challenge.

Seduction is another aspect of the game that allows you to press your luck a bit. For example, you can try to seduce an opponent's character to your location either with or without knowledge of that character's identity. You can either hope that the strength of the character you are seducing won't be enough to take the majority away from you at your seducer's location or you can use information you gathered during the game to make this decision. These are just examples of some of the situations in which you can choose to take some chances in the game and they inject the game with a sense of fun and excitement.

5. The theme comes through and the game can be a fun history lesson
The City of Spies is filled with secrets! There are secret rewards, secret agents, and potentially secret missions, but if you do a bit of work, you can uncover all the secrets in the city! Of course, City of Spies isn't a historical simulation or an involved, story-based thematic game, but it manages to evoke the sense of intrigue and mystery you would expect a city filled with spies to have.

Plus, all the characters in the game are real historical personages! Take, for example, the famous Yugoslav (yes, this was a biased selection ) triple agent, Duško Popov. He worked for the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, German Abwehr, and MI6 and was allegedly the inspiration for James Bond! Naturally, he has a double conspiracy icon and is rather dashing looking in the game! Antoine S.E., one of my favorite authors is also in the game! Though it may not be an involved, intricate historical simulation, City of Spies nevertheless manages to bring history to life in a beautiful, lighthearted way and I love it for that! I've learned a lot thanks to playing this game!

6. Works well with two players
Being a game of majorities, Estoril doesn't exactly scream of two-player friendliness. However, it does work surprisingly well. When playing with two players, you are able to place more of your spies each turn than you would be when playing with more players, which fills up the location tiles and creates a good amount of competition. I don't think the spatial demands of the game are blunted too significantly by playing with two players.

As for the rest of the game, the hand management is somewhat different when playing with two players because you will generally be able to recruit more spies, giving you more options when determining which spies to retain and which to discard. However, you will be thinking about the composition of only one other player's spy network when trying to make this decision, which may make the decision easier. At the same time, the decision will be better informed and more strategically focused (i.e. you can better determine which missions your opponent is poised to fulfill and which you may be able to better compete to achieve) and this appeals to me.

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soblue


soblue 1. The round-to-round upkeep is a bit annoying and make somewhat laborious by the size of the location tiles
My most significant complaint about City of Spies is the round-to-round upkeep. Location tiles are large and heavy and shuffling and randomly rotating them each round is awkward and time consuming.

soblue 2. Sometimes, turns can take a bit of time
Because you have to do so much mental gymnastics in City of Spies and because there is some hidden information you have to occasionally rely on memory, turns can take a bit more time than I would like for them to take on occasion. Fortunately, this happens infrequently and doesn't cause the game to drag on for an unwelcome amount of time. At least not in our experience .

soblue 3. AT FIRST, it's difficult to remember the location powers, which means some get ignored
Perhaps this has something to do with the placement of the icons that signify location powers (i.e. somewhat behind the location reward character) or perhaps it influenced by the large amount of stuff there is to think about in the game, which diminishes the amount of attention you have left to pay to the locations themselves, but we found it difficult to remember to execute all the location abilities when resolving them, particularly when we first started playing the game. The church, where assassinations are not allowed, has proven particularly problematic for us on a number of occasions and despite the fact that we always put the dice near the casino, we have somehow managed to repeatedly forget to roll them when determining strength. After playing a few times, we have become more familiar with the locations' powers and more aware of them during placement and resolution, but it was a bit more of a struggle than I expected. Fortunately, we still had a lot of fun playing the game through that struggle, so all is forgiven! Simply expect to encounter a bit of a learning curve...

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Final Word


City of Spies is a strange game. It feels somewhat random and uncontrollable at first and looks like a bubbly party game, but it's not. It is a surprisingly weighty (but not heavy!) spatial/hand-management puzzle with just the right amount of theme and fun to keep it from taking itself too seriously. City of Spies surprised me because a) I expected it to be lighter based on the simplicity of the rules and bouncy art direction and b) I expected it to feel familiar and relatively easy to figure out. My expectations proved to be unfounded and the game proved to be much more interesting and novel than I expected it to! Of course, I was expecting to enjoy the game, but I wasn't expecting to find as much in it as I did! Surprises are wonderful! After each session, I grew increasingly appreciative of the impressive number of decision points in the game and as I become familiar with the ways you can create synergies between your spies' powers, I grew increasingly appreciative of the game overall. City of Spies is an exceedingly clever game that may take a few sessions to fully click, but once it does, you'll want to keep returning to this beautiful place over and over again! I sure do! I just can't stop playing it!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart LOTS OF LOVE (LOVE !)


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Overview


Via Nebula is a game about the mystical, mist-covered Nebula Valley that has just emerged from a dark time of being ruled by fierce and frightening fog monsters! As a player, you are tasked with building the most magnificent buildings and towns in the valley to aid its recovery from its devastating past.

To aid in your building endeavors, you will receive two secret building contracts (when playing with two players) and a player board that will have
*4 explorer spaces covered by meadow tiles (you will gain points for uncovering these)
*a storage area for unused resources (you will lose points for these at the end of the game)
*spaces for your craftsmen (who will exploit the land to make resources available to you and other players)
and
*spaces for your buildings (which you will build over the course of the game)

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The main board features
*empty meadow spaces
*exploitation token spaces
*forbidden spaces
*fog spaces
*petrified forest spaces
*ruins

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Each turn, you will have 2 action points to spend on any combination of the following actions.

1) Place a craftsman - Place on of the craftsmen from your board onto a space containing an exploitation token, add the resource shown, and take the exploitation token, as you will receive points for having it at the end of the game

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2) Place a building site - Take one of your building sites and cover a free ruin space

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3) Explore a fog space - Take one of your meadow tiles and place it on a fog space adjacent to a space occupied by another piece/tile of your color or adjacent to another empty meadow space or tile

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4) Explore a petrified forest - Take one of your meadow tiles and place it on a petrified forest space adjacent to a space occupied by another piece/tile of your color or adjacent to another empty meadow space or tile. This action costs TWO action points!

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5) Transport a resource from a meadow to one of your building sites, moving it along EMPTY meadow tiles

6) Erect a building on one of your building sites if the combination of resources on that building site satisfy the combination of resources required by a public contract or a secret contract in your hand. If you have the resources pictured, but have additional resources, you may still erect the building, but you will have to place surplus resources into your storage area and deduct 1 point for each from your score at the end of the game. Carry out the bonus shown on the contract, replace the building site tile with one of your buildings, and place the fulfilled contract on the table in front of you. If you fulfilled a public contract, replace it with a new one from the deck.

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Some public contracts

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[i]Some private contracts


The game end is triggered when one player has built his last building. That player receives a 2VP card and the remaining players get one final turn each.

Points are awarded for:
*Exploitation tokens
*Fulfilled contracts
*Points for uncovered explorers on your board
*The end-game trigger card

Points are deducted for each resource present in your storage area and each resource remaining on the board with your explorers and on your building sites.

The Review


Played prior to review: 7x






1.SO SO SO SO PRETTY! I want to glue my eyeballs to the box! And the bits! And everything in this game!
I cannot get enough of the cuteness in this box! Yes, the candy-colored, childhood wonderland illustrations are pretty and fun, but the unique building shapes for each player take things up a notch! And the insert is perfect! It stores and keeps all components perfectly separated and reduces the time you need to devote to setting up and putting away the game! That means more play time!

I should note that some people may be unhappy with the somewhat thin player boards, but I have no problem with them. The material lies flat and is functional.

2. A great blend of synergy and competition between players
Via Nebula features a fun blend of synergy and competition between players that creates a lot of tension in the game. Every time you send a worker to unlock resources on an expedition, you are unlocking those resources for all players. Every time you create a connection between an expedition site and one of your building sites, you are expanding the potential transport network for resources for all players. And every time you take a resource from another player's expedition, you are benefiting from the resource that will help you build a building, but you are also effectively giving that player a point, as any remaining resources get turned into negative points at the end of the game. Of course, the extent of these benefits will vary over the course of the game; transporting a resource from another player's expedition to one of your building sites when you know that player needed that resource would clearly benefit you more than that player. However, this is more often a very grey area that you will have to consider carefully.

Because there is so much synergy between players in the game, one of the most interesting aspects of the game for me is trying to figure out how much I am helping myself vs. my opponent with each action.

3. Great spatial planning element
I love games that present me with a combination spatial/logistics puzzle. Via Nebula does just that by presenting you with a board populated by a variety of resources and challenging you to determine which are the best locations for erecting which buildings and to build a network to get the right resources to those locations. This challenge is compounded in Via Nebula by the fact that resources you have remaining at the end of the game will incur negative points, forcing you to optimize your selections when placing workers on expedition spaces and placing building sites on ruins.

4. A tense race!
At its core, Via Nebula is a race game. You are racing to be the first to place all your buildings on the board and take the 2-VP end-game card! You are also racing to complete the public contracts with the best powers! As in any race, every action you perform has to be optimized for perfect efficiency! And I love optimizing things for perfect efficiency!

5. SO MUCH thought given to the two-player version! THANK YOU!
FINALLY! A Martin Wallace game that works with two players! NO! A Martin Wallace game that SINGS with two players! This is delightful!
A lot of thought clearly went into ensuring that Via Nebula played as well with two players as with three players as with four players. When playing with two players, you use a special player board that has one extra worker (so you are able to reveal a sufficient number of expeditions to fulfill contracts), full-size building sites (so you cannibalize the available building sites on the board more quickly), and more meadow tiles on your explorers (so you are tasked with the same challenge for reveling explorers as you would be when playing with more players). You also get 2 private contracts and exploitations produce 1 fewer resource, meaning that resources are just as scarce as they would be when playing with more players!

A two-player game of Via Nebula feels tight, tense, and competitive and resources and building sites can be sources of much contention depending on their placement. Thank you Space Cowboys for putting so much thought into the scaling of this game!

6. High replay value
Via Nebula features a double-sided board with two different maps, a large deck of public contracts that will become available in different distributions and at different times in each game games, a number of different private contracts, and a random arrangement of resources on the board. All this variety means that you will face a different spatial optimization puzzle every time you play, that each resource and each ruin space will differ in value in each game, and that you will have to evaluate the desirability of contract abilities against your ability to fulfill them using a different meter each time. All this variability makes Via Nebula addictive and highly replayable!

7. Perfect duration and pace
Via Nebula takes us about 35 to 45 minutes to play, which is astounding given the amount of thinking and planning we do in the game! And because you have only two action points to spend during each turn and the actions you take are simple and speedy, there is little down time.

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soblue


soblue 1. The game looks "nice" but allows you to be a bit mean, which some people may not appreciate
This isn't a negative for me, but some people may not appreciate the fact that you can do mean things in this game. For example, one building contract can allow you to remove a meadow tile from the board and place it anywhere else, which can help you cut an opponent off from being able to access a particular resource or slow him down, effectively demanding that he waste a turn to place another meadow just to get the resource back. This could perhaps help your opponent uncover an explorer as well, so you have to take care to ensure you are only hurting him by doing that.

In general, you are in competition for resources and contract cards and you can both intentionally and inadvertently hurt opponents by beating them to contracts. This isn't a horribly mean game, but there is a bit more meanness than you would expect from the happy illustrations.

soblue 2. Luck of the draw can influence the game, but it hasn't been too significant or frustrating in any of our games
The public contract cards are a source of randomness in the game and can occasionally swing the game in one player's favor or allow a player to end the game prematurely (or rather, earlier than anticipated). In a few games, we have experienced one player completing a public contract only to draw a new one that requires only two items that just happened to be sitting on top of the next player's building site in preparation for completing another, more demanding contract. This may seem unfair, but the lesser contracts provide fewer points and generally tend to be less powerful than the higher contracts, but one does provide an extra action, which is quite important and powerful, as Via Nebula is a race of efficiency and optimization. Of course, this doesn't always (or even frequently) happen, but when it does, it doesn't feel all that great.

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Final Word


Via Nebula is a simple game both mechanically and rules-wise, but rather than suffer from that simplicity, the game rises above it to create a rather complex ecosystem for players to work within. You have to create the most efficient route to get the resources you need to erect your desired buildings and you have to do this while both helping and competing with other players. This game is a tense, tight, and beautiful race that strikes a perfect balance between depth, duration, and complexity. With its simple rules and stunning table presence, it is sure to appeal to a casual crowd, but with its depth and breadth of decision points, it is sure to give seasoned gamers plenty to chew on as well. It's simply satisfying in every way!

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


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From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


First Impressions




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I bought Cuba on sale some time ago and decided I wanted to play it to complement the tropical weather we have been seeing in Toronto.

In Cuba, your goal will be to make the most points by producing resources, selling and buying those resources or upgraded products and goods, shipping, and using resources to build buildings that will allow you to convert them into VPs and will be worth VP themselves at the end of the game.

You start each round with 5 action cards that represent the action you will take each turn. Each turn, you will play one of your action cards and take the associated action. Each action card has a basic ability, a special ability, which can only be taken by one player during each round, and an influence value, which is important for a) determining turn order in the following round and b) voting because this is a democratic Cuba in which you will vote on the laws to take effect in the round!

Most decisions in the game revolve around determining the order in which to play your action cards, determining which buildings to build and where to place them on your player board to ensure you can harvest resources effectively, and determining how to get the right goods and products to ship at the best times.

While I enjoyed my one play of the game, I fear that there simply isn't enough here to make me want to return for more. The decisions are relatively straightforward and the buildings are the same in each game. Also, the buildings feature very simple and obvious "tech trees" and building a building that would benefit your opponent seems generally not an advisable thing to do because that building is a) expensive and b) likely to be useless to you. Perhaps this is just one of those games that fares better with more players. Perhaps it will be helped by the expansion. I do have the expansion and plan to play with that at least once before parting with Cuba. The expansion may add just enough "stuff" to convince me to keep the game. It is an incredibly beautiful game!

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




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Nations is back! I have had the Dynasties expansion sitting on my shelf for...oh about 9 months now. I don't know why it took us this long to get it played because both Peter and I enjoy Nations very much.

The Dynasties expansion adds new civs to the game! MANY new civs! Here they are and the boards are double sided!

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The expansion also adds a couple of new concepts - Dynasties and Turmoil. At the start of the game, you receive two Dynasty cards that correspond to your starting nation. During the game, you may take a Turmoil card to switch your nation's special rule to the rule on one of your Dynasty cards by temporarily reducing your stability by 2 until the end of the round.

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The expansion also adds new progress cards and a new category of wonder - Natural Wonders. You can buy these from the display like normal wonders, but instead of taking architects from the unreliable architect supply, you simply have to spend each of your next turns taking explorers from the general supply until you have fulfilled the requirements of the Natural Wonder.

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In our game, I played with Venice and Peter had Poland. I picked those two because they had the prettiest boards. Neither Peter nor I bothered to engage in any Dynasty-induced turmoil, but we did build some natural wonders. Those are quite nice because they don't really cost you much (other than a few skipped turns) and they can provide some nice bonuses.

I had a very nice combination of powers that gave me bonuses for passing last thanks to my nation's special rule, a wonder, and a leader, which meant that I tried to prolong each round as much as I could. I ended up winning. By a lot!

The new expansion is great! I really enjoyed the new concepts (even though I didn't bother to explore the main one) and the new nations. The expansion adds a lot of variability to the game and Nations is a game that thrives on variability. It is, of course, a largely tactical drafting game, so more variety for drafting is always welcome. I look forward to exploring this further! And Peter does too!

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From gallery of milenaguberinic

I found it so funny that my idyllic village got turned into a penal colony!


***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Mombasa
The last time I played Mombasa was at DTC with Steph and Ron. I was half asleep. It did not go well. This time went a lot better. However, even though I reminded him of all the rules before we started, Peter STILL managed to forget or mistake a couple of things while we were playing. He ALWAYS forgets that the bonus cards you can buy from round to round don't take up a slot! Always! I do it sometimes too and I'm not sure why, but he always looks at me like it's the first time he's heard of that. EVERY TIME! Anyway, I started with Cape Town and was pushing Saint Louis up the entire game, so Peter decided to get into the Saint Louis trade. He kept stealing all the cards with Saint Louis stock from the market! I surreptitiously collected all the cards with Cape Town stock instead and ended up expanding Cape Town in the second-to-last round, which surprised Peter, but he didn't think much of it. I also managed to tie him on the very valuable Cairo, so his only advantage was in Saint Louis. HOWEVER, the stocks weren't the whole story. My diamond track was maxed out and I had buckets of money. Peter didn't have much of either.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Voyages of Marco Polo + The Voyages of Marco Polo: The New Characters
This was such a rough game of Marco Polo! Peter chose Khan and I had no choice but to take Kokochin. I had to take Kokochin because a) I love traveling and b) there wasn't much money on the board. Moscow had a great city card that allowed us to use 2 camels per movement, but I wasn't able to get enough camels to make that worthwhile. Of course, I used it several times over the course of the game, but it didn't end up being as central to my strategy as I thought it would be. I actually ended up using Kokochin's travel ability quite frequently. My goal was to place all my trading posts and complete my 4-city travel bonus and I achieved both! Peter did get the contract completion bonus as he completed way more contracts than I did, but he didn't win. In fact, neither of us won! WE TIED! Technically, I won on the camel-hoarding tie breaker, but I called it a tie. I hate tie breaker wins.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


Steam Works
For some reason, I was really craving Steam Works this week! Perhaps it was the card game exhaustion from the past few weeks that made me want to play with tiles and meeples and worker placement? Perhaps...

I picked Lady Alice and Peter asked for a random dude, so I gave him Sir Tobias. Peter doesn't like Sir Tobias. Sir Tobias is a bit strange in that he gets random machine parts from the top of the deck instead of machine parts from the line unless he uses a Scroll Rack. Peter was quite frustrated until he built that Scroll Rack .

We both did quite well in the point harvesting department, ending up with an even number of points at the end. The difference came down to the fact that I had built more valuable machines!

P.S. We play with our own variant for this game, so things may not look quite as developed as they would when playing regularly.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Scythe
Scythe! This game went particularly badly for Peter who neglected to upgrade his ability to move around the board with his mechs. He had the very unfortunate objective of having ZERO mechs on the board and 7 influence or some such thing. I despise that objective because the mech abilities are so vital to getting anything done in the game. Of course, he was playing with the faction that moves relatively well even without mech abilities, but limited movement for your leader just hurts. I ended up destroying him! Not surprised. I'm sure there are people who can make that objective work, but I am not one of them. Clearly, Peter isn't either.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Terra Mystica
Swarmlings vs. Engineers. Structure bonus for most connected structures built on border locations. The Swarmlings swarmed and the Engineers bombed. That is all. Peter wasn't trying in this game because he was angry at me.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


51st State: Master Set
51st State! It's back, baby! I was so card game-ed out last week that I couldn't even get my favorite to the table! But that was fixed this week!

I drew New York and Peter got the Merchants. I was convinced I'd be destroyed because I had so much trouble getting any sort of production going early in the game. Fortunately, Peter was suffering the same fate, so I had a chance! Peter went for his usual double Pete's Office strategy, but I was having none of it! I quickly ramped up my ability to build things with some heavy machinery and built the heck out of every production-related card I got! Because when they started flowing, they were GUSHING! I ended up with such a huge display that I had to overlap cards! Instead of my usual focused approach, I was building action cards that allowed me to convert every which resource into VP and USING them each round until the end, which only took two rounds really. Peter died. Peter's office went bust!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Evolution: Climate
This was a fun session! Somehow, we experienced zero carnage and zero climate-related deaths! We managed to keep the climate in the safe zone and neither of us developed any species into carnivores, even though I think Peter would have been wise to do so in order to limit my crazy chain of cooperation! I built a 5-animal chain of cooperators, some with foraging abilities, others with long necks, and others with migratory abilities. I was an unstoppable force! I kept flooding the feeding hole with food and Peter did too, but less efficiently. In the end, our scores were actually quite a bit closer than I thought, but I did end up winning, as I knew I would! Cooperation FTW!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Troyes + Troyes: The Ladies of Troyes
I REALLY wanted to play Above and Below last night because the Near and Far Kickstarter was ending and I just felt like something nice and pleasant. Unfortunately, I couldn't find some pieces of the game (I kind of leave pieces everywhere when I'm reviewing/photographing a game and end up losing things occasionally). I also lost the rulebook somewhere . So we couldn't play Above and Below cry. We ended up playing Troyes instead, which is not really a loss because it's a perfect game!

Peter was convinced that I had the money goal the entire game because I kept hoarding cash! And then, when a yellow building that cost 15 bucks for placing a dude came up, I paid the cost and dashed Peter's dreams of knowing what my goal was! I actually had the church cube goal and the red card/palace goal. I got 6 points for both of those by delaying my fulfilling them until the last round. Peter failed at his goals, but it was still a close game! He warded off so many threats!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Mystic Vale
Peter won his first game of Mystic Vale this week! He had an INSANELY luck first turn and managed to get a great card from the middle row and then a Field of Flowers (2 income) in the second turn. By the time I started collecting points, half of them had already been depleted! wow It was my worst game and it also demonstrated some of the crazy swings of luck that can occur. Peter attributed his victory largely to his ability to get that card in his first turn. Of course, you can always expect crazy swings of luck in games like this one, but the one we saw this week was unprecedented in our experience! Madness! Still fun!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The King of Frontier + The King of Frontier: More Buildings!
Woohoo! I won my first game of King of Frontier! In our past games, Peter kept building huge lots with many production spaces, each of which gives you a point. Meanwhile, I kept building buildings, which can be beneficial and provide points, but not nearly as much as huge production spaces! This time, I went with Peter's strategy. I built a giant wheat field and kept using my Villa to consume wheat instead of using cities. That thing came in VERY handy, but I did take a huge risk in trying to expand my wheat as far as I did...Still. Success! Success looks a little phallic...

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Le Havre: The Inland Port
I really wanted to play Le Havre all week, but for some reason, it never ended up happening. I guess we will have to play next week. But we did manage to get a game of the baby version played this week! I do enjoy playing this from time to time. There is a surprising amount of stuff to think about in Uwe's baby games.

I started collecting buildings that provide money and food early on, while Peter focused on brick and wood. Somehow, that ended up working out in my favor and I'm not sure how...I think I just kept building buildings with the highest value with little regard to what they did and then pulled them together with the Wood Factory and Grain Silo at the end...I'm still not sure how I won, but I did. And by 30 points too!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Sanssouci
I saw my friend Jamie tweet about his wife's Sanssouci win and had to resume my attempts at surpassing the 100VP mark in our 2-player games. Of course, I failed. Spectacularly. Actually, both Peter and I made our lowest scores possibly EVER! I was in the 80s and Peter was in the 70s. It was awful! cry But we will keep trying! Next week!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Burano
Peter was mingling with the ladies the whole game, while I was just trying to build and retain control over the islands. Peter failed. The ladies didn't like him. He did compete with me for the islands and other stuff as well, which made my job a little more difficult than it would have been otherwise. He did manage to rake up quite a few points with the bonuses you get for withdrawing connected ladies, but that wasn't enough to catch up to my awesome combo of TWO buildings that each made each of my fish cards worth 2VP at the end of the game. We didn't look up whether it was legal to have BOTH of those, but it was quite a mad situation when I screamed ahead with my little pile of fish at the end.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Eclipse
Eclipse! I suggested Eclipse one day and Peter agreed because it had been so long since our last game.

I played with the Pyxis Unity and Peter was one of the Magellan races. I forgot about the Unity's 4-VP Death Moons and focused entirely on creating a fierce and unstoppable force of cruisers. I had some bad luck with tile draws and fights in the first couple of rounds of the game, getting my first cruiser and interceptor decimated, but I bounced back to dominate my side of space. Peter wasn't having much more luck, but his ships were faster and more powerful. It was a slow game. Had he drawn a tile that would connect to my part of space, he would have been able to easily destroy a good bunch of what I had built. He didn't draw such a tile and I ended up dominating the center of the galaxy with my little cruisers. Game over for Peter.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


La Granja
La Granja is back! We played it weekly for a number of weeks and I grew a little tired of it. I wanted something a little dicey and a little heavier one day, so we decided to play this one! The craft building that provides 2 points for each additional craft marker was available and that was the one I raced to uncover in the first round. After that, I focused mostly on craft buildings, but I had such a great synergy between my Picker (throw out a card for the harvest good shown on it), Gardener (place 1 harvest good with a marker from your pool to use both later as any harvest good), and Wagoner Servant (when you deliver to a craft building, make 1 free delivery to a market barrow), that I ended up doing both! The game went so smoothly for me that I ended up with close to 80 points to Peter's 50 something.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


BattleCON: Fate of Indines
Xenitia vs. Jager. This would have been a total beat down for Peter had I not been using Xenitia. Jager's special cards are very powerful and are fully capable of nearly eliminating an opponent in 3 rounds! And had I not had the auto-healing abilities of Xenitia, I would have been dead in 4 turns! I have no doubt of that! Thankfully, I managed to keep myself alive and ended the game with 11 life! SO MUCH HEALING POWER!

One thing I love about this game is how imbalanced the fighters seem and yet how perfectly balanced they turn out to be! I almost threw Jager out the window after the first few rounds because Peter kept using his one-time-use, high-damage power cards. Once he ran out of that artificial steam, I had a chance to recover and managed to outsmart him in the end!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

So many powerful ladies!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Kraftwagen
angry This game made me soooooooooo angry!!!! SO ANGRY! Peter got an early lead in both engines and car bodies thanks to my unparalleled stupidity and I was unable to catch up. I WAS planning to race around the track and upgrade my engines when he went for car bodies in the beginning, but then he kept researching at the most opportune times and I kept sucking and he ended up having higher bodies and ENGINES! yuk It was a total beat down. I'll give it to him though. I think this was his first win in the game. I guess I was just too tired to pay enough attention. In retrospect, we probably should have just played something lighter.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Limes
To make up for my horrible loss in Kraftwagen, I demanded a game of Limes. Because Limes! I was sour!

I ended up creating some nice farms and capitalizing on all that farmland with watchtowers. I ended up with 65 to Peter's 55. See? That made me feel a bit better about my stupidity in Kraftwagen. Big stupidity.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Imhotep
This was a fast-paced and particularly vicious game of Imhotep! We were constantly sailing ships to block each other from getting to each other's desired locations and one-upping each other on the obelisks. Peter started collecting statues early in the game, which meant I had to keep him out of the market at all costs! Unfortunately, I focused too much of my energy on that and lost quite badly. Boo. Next time! Peter is much better than I am at Imhotep!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Suburbia + Suburbia Inc
Suburbia! It's back! I needed a bit of a break from this game, but I was really craving it this week, so we played! Because Peter is always ready for Suburbia!

I made a huge leap forward in income at the beginning of the game and focused only on getting the minimums for the bonus and challenge. I mostly built culture and commerce, while Peter focused on building residences. Too bad residences don't pay the bills! Also, I kept getting $2 every time he built a residence thanks to my very effective Homeowner's Association! And my EPA Office negated the negative effects of my very powerful, but very costly Water Purification Plant! I had a perfect little suburb. Sure, maybe there wasn't a lot of room for all the people to live, but it was so great everyone wanted to come! Kind of like Toronto. Or Vancouver. Those people are paying exorbitant amounts of money for rent! I feel for them! But I won!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter's suburb

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Mina's suburb


Rolling America
Another roll through America! I did very badly! shake VERY. I made too many dupes early in the game and didn't position things very well, which left me with nothing to do but cross things out in the final two rounds. Very shoddy work, Mina! Peter did a much better job on his puzzle.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Android: Netrunner – 2015 World Championships Runner Deck – Valencia + Android: Netrunner – 2015 World Championships Corp Deck – Engineering the Future - Why are these decks considered "accessories" by the BGG system? I get that they are just alternate arts and full arts of things that have already been released, but they are still legitimate products. Are Magic the Gathering Duel Decks also considered "accessories"? But that's a stupid digression...

Even though we don't really play any more, I still love Netrunner. It's my favorite of the LCG, CCG, ECG-style games and I was excited for these that I e-mailed BoardGameBliss about getting them when I first heard about them. Fast forward to this week and they are finally in stock! WOOHOO! Happiness! I look forward to playing with these!
2. Unfair - This game was demoed at GenCon and will be going on Kickstarter soon. The designer asked me to write a review and I will! A game about building theme parks!? Sign me up! More importantly, sign Peter up! He's super excited by the theme!
3. Magic: The Gathering – Duel Decks Anthology - This is Peter's birthday present. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. No, we are no longer casual or competitive Magic players. We haven't played Magic in years, but Magic is something that Peter occasionally asks to play. In fact, he asked to play for his birthday last year and I flat out refused! I always decline because I just can't be bothered to build decks and I have so many other games I prefer to play, including Ashes! Also, while I believe we still have two or three decks that we haven't dismantled from years ago, I'm fairly certain those decks were built by Peter and I don't like playing with his decks because he usually tries to do something cute and I don't do cute. I do vicious. So yeah. Duel decks are the answer! I'm certain that he will not be impressed by the decks (he usually sticks his nose up at pre-built decks), but he is easily impressed by shiny things and this thing is oh so shiny! Fingers crossed!
4. Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure - Oh this looks so cool! I generally love Rengade Games' games, but this one looks extra exciting! Deck building with some board aspects! Of course, deck-building + board is nothing new, but it looks different here! Pre-ordered!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to The Pursuit of Happiness and more!

***


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