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 Pursue Happiness in the Mystic Vale * New Reviews for PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS and MYSTIC VALE and First Impressions for HEIR TO THE PHARAOH, TIDES OF MADNESS, and AUTOMOBILES * And More!

Milena Guberinic
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Hi Friends!


I am happy to report that the construction has stopped! YAY! However, my tooth is still being a little monster. Unfortunately, I was very busy with a large project, so I was unable to deal with that little monster this week. shake Teeth. I have no love for you. shake

In other news, Peter and I went to pick up Peter's birthday present from BoardGameBliss on Sunday and they did something wonderful for me without my asking them or having to say anything at all! I can't drive, so I'm dependent on Peter to get to places that are a bit further and BoardGameBliss is one of those. Peter's birthday is today, but we had no time to go to the store during the week, so we had to get his present in advance. I intended to just let Peter know what it was, but not let him play with it until Friday. devil I may or may not be a little evil. Instead, Jeff, who is second in command at Bliss, had the staff wrap Peter's present for me! He read on my blog that I had bought the Magic: The Gathering – Duel Decks Anthology set for Peter's birthday and knew to single out that item and cover it up so that Peter wouldn't know what it was! Brilliant! Thank you, Jeff! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Sometimes, people are just so wonderful! heart

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***


What's New?




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The Overview


In Mystic Vale, you take on the role of a druid clan attempting to restore cursed land to vitality. The cards in your deck represent that cursed land, while the advancements you will add to your cards through the "card-crafting system" represent your efforts at revitalizing that land. The more effectively and efficiently you do this, the more likely you are to win.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


To set up the game, you will take your sleeved 20-card deck and shuffle it. A common set of 9 advancements will be made available for all players to purchase by shuffling level 1, level 2, and level 3 advancements separately and revealing 3 advancements from each stack. You will also be able to purchase Fertile Soils, which are basic advancements that provide 1 unit of currency called mana.

In addition to advancements, Mystic Vale presents you with level 1 and level 2 vale cards, 4 of which are revealed from each deck.

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Vale cards


The game ends when 23 VP run out of the VP supply in a 2-player game and that number increases at higher player counts.

You will start the game with a mana token on its spent side and a deck of cards. Each turn, you will turn over the top card of your deck, place it in your field, and continue to do this until you have two cursed land symbols showing in your field and a third one on top of your deck. You will then choose to either push or pass. If you choose to push, you will place your on-deck card into your field and reveal the next card from the top of your deck. If you now have 4 or more cursed land symbols showing between your field and on-deck card, you have spoiled and must discard all your cards and turn your mana token face up, making it available to spend in a future turn. If you have not spoiled, you can continue to choose to push or pass.

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If you have not spoiled, you count the mana symbols and spirit symbols on your cards and resolve harvest abilities on your cards. Some cards also show VP symbols on their left side and these allow you to take VPs from the supply during the harvest phase. Once you have resolved card abilities, you may buy up to 2 vale cards using the spirit symbols and/or up to 2 advancements using mana symbols on your played cards. Vale cards do not go into your deck. They are added to a permanent tableau and provide either VP or a permanent ability or both. Advancements are added to the cards you have played.

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Level 1 advancements

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Level 2 advancements

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Level 3 advancements

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Crafted card


Once you have completed harvest, you will discard all your played cards and replenish the supplies of any cards that you purchased.

The game ends at the end of the round during which VP tokens run out. At the end of the game, you will gain points for the VP tokens you acquired during the game, the points shown on your advancements, and vale cards. The player with the most points wins!

The Review


Played prior to review: 10x






1. So pretty!
Mystic Vale is breathtakingly beautiful. Yes, the artwork is gorgeous and vibrant, but the transparent cards make the art look even more beautiful than it would otherwise! The transparency gives the art an ephemeral quality and a sense of magic that compliments the mystical theme!

2. So smooth!
Mystic Vale is a mechanically simple and intuitive game. Anyone who is familiar with deck-building will find themselves comfortable with the card-crafting system, which though familiar, leads to some very different decision points (more on that below). Once you start playing, the game just seems to flow like beautiful cream into a cup of coffee. Super smooth. There are no chunky and clunky aspects to impede that flow and even when you manage to negate enough corruption symbols to draw half your deck, the game doesn't feel like it slows down or presents a mechanical hurdle. At least when playing with two players, most likely the best player count (more on this below), you are able to think about your turn even during your opponent's turn, which means the game retains a good sense of flow throughout.

3. Fun push-your-luck element that is uncommon in deck-building games
There haven't been many deck-building games with a push-your-luck element. Flip City notwithstanding, I struggle to think of another game that integrates deck-building and push-your-luck elements effectively if at all. In Mystic Vale, card-crafting gives you some agency over the amount of risk you take every time you push to get more cards into your tableau, particularly later in the game. You have tree symbols that negate corruption and can allow you to play more cards into your field, which can be particularly effective if you also manage to get an Aurora into play (provides a VP for every two cards in your field). However, because you will most likely be tempted to push your luck early in the game, when you have little mana and are desperate for more to get more and better advancements onto your cards ASAP, you will most likely have to take risks, which imbue the game with a sense of fun and excitement. And though this may seem completely random, it isn't because you know exactly how many corruption symbols you have and you know how many have gone through your deck before, so you can calculate the probability of busting with some accuracy even before you go for it. And if you bust? You'll be rewarded with a mana you can use on a later turn, so not all is lost.

I love the balance and agency you encounter in Mystic Vale's push-your-luck system. It makes the game fun and exciting, but not overly random.

4. BRILLIANT card crafting system that presents you with interesting decision points and allows you to build a deck without bloat! NO BLOAT!!!
The decisions you make in Mystic Vale are quite different from those you would make in a typical deck-building game. The fact that you are adding features to a static deck of cards rather than simply adding cards with existing features to a deck doesn't SEEM like it would make for decisions that are all that different, but they are! When you are selecting advancements to purchase, you first have to decide on the one you want and when doing this, you not only have to think about the overall composition of your deck, as you would in a regular deck-building game, but also the composition of the specific card to which you will add that advancement. If you have a card to which you've started adding spirit symbols in your field, you might want to add more spirit symbols to it to increase your likelihood of drawing multiple spirit symbols in one go and gaining those sweet vale cards. If you have a bunch of empty cards and cursed lands cards, do you want to start adding advancements to those cursed lands or to the empty cards to make them a bit more useful? Do you add trees to cursed lands to immediately negate them or to other cards or empty cards to hopefully compound their effects? You are faced with many questions beyond the simple, "Which card do I buy?" you would face in a standard deck builder and those questions arise thanks to the unique card-crafting system.

The fact that you are adding features to cards rather than adding cards to a deck has one additional advantage - no bloat! Your deck does not balloon out of proportion as a result of the cards you are constantly adding to it and you have no need to gain more cards to eliminate the trash you've accumulated. If you are like me, you hate dealing with trash in my deck. It feels tedious and annoying. There's none of that here! Of course, you could argue that the cursed lands are effectively trash that you have to manage by adding trees to your deck, but that trash doesn't lead to dead turns if you are playing effectively and avoiding adding too much of it into your deck.

5. The vale cards are a nice addition with a lot of potential for expansions
The vale cards are another aspect that distinguishes Mystic Vale from a basic deck-building game. The vale cards allow you to build a tableau of synergistic powers that can either increase your mana or spirit symbols, allow you to keep yourself from busting when pushing your luck, or simply increase your points. The tableau-building element added to the game by the vale cards gives you a little something extra to think about both when crafting your cards and when deciding what to do with the symbols you harvest. I described the effect that vale cards have on card crafting in the previous point, but they can also present you with some interesting choices during your card-acquisition phase, demanding that you make tradeoffs between the long-term appeal of special powers and the end-game appeal of points.

6. Perfect with two
I have played Mystic Vale with 2 and 3 players. I haven't played with 4, but I really don't need to play at that count and here's why; Mystic Vale is a solitary game and additional players add nothing but time and randomness to the game. The time part is obvious, but I'll elaborate on the randomness factor. Basically, each time a player takes a card from the display of advancements and vale cards, that card is replaced by a different card, which means that you really have no sense of which cards will be available to you from turn to turn. With only two players, you can reveal the cards you will have available to you during harvest while your opponent is doing his thing and tentatively make plans A and B for the advancements and/or vale cards you will acquire during your turn. With more players, you really can't do that. You'll be stuck simply waiting for your turn and hoping that another advancement you will want will get revealed by the time your turn comes around. Two is the perfect number for Mystic Vale.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Bears' school


soblue


soblue 1. Random soup! But it doesn't taste all that bad
I have a problem with Ascension-style deck-building games. I have a relatively low tolerance for randomness and a card display that is dynamic and changes every time someone buys a card irritates me to no end. I can't stand buying an inferior vale card or advancement only to reveal a super awesome card for my opponent. Nope. I prefer Dominion-style equal-opportunity deck builders in which all the cards available for purchase are equally available to all players.

Mystic Vale is an Ascension-style deck-building game; the display of advancements available for purchase changes every time a card is purchased. HOWEVER, the game mitigates the irritation that rotating card displays typically cause for me by separating the various advancements into levels. Level 1 advancements have similar mana costs and are relatively equally attractive. Ditto for the 2s and 3s. So, unlike Ascension-style deck-builders in which all cards with all kinds of costs and abilities are shuffled together and revealed randomly, possibly leaving you unable to buy a card from the display due to cost restrictions or unwilling to buy a card due to its inferiority after an opponent has taken one or two away, the cards you will reveal from each level in Mystic Vale are relatively even in cost and attractiveness. Now, they aren't the SAME and you may still feel like you got the short end of the stick by buying something not as attractive to you at a certain point of the game and revealing something you and your opponent desperately want (we are ALWAYS fighting for the level 2 teddies), but this feeling isn't as intense as in Ascension-style deck builders.

Now, Mystic Vale has some randomness beyond the unpredictable card display. You have the randomness of the cards you draw from your deck, which can make or break your ability to attain vale cards or put you at a significant advantage or disadvantage if you manage to draw tonnes of mana or little mana in one go. However, this isn't truly a fault of the game. It's simply an artifact of the card game format in which luck of the draw will always play a role.

soblue 2. Card/advancement effects are pretty basic, which may make for limited replay value for the base set for some players
The cards in Mystic Vale have relatively basic effects. They don't allow you to do anything very fancy and the things they do allow you to do don't hold a lot of potential for broad and varied synergies. The fanciest advancements will allow you to discard a card from your field or search your deck for a card and put it into your discard or gain mana or VP for each protector symbol you have placed on the card. These are very simple effects that don't feel quite as inspired or comborrific as they could be. BUT that's ok. I don't see the base box of Mystic Vale as the end; I see it as introduction to a rich system that will grow over time. With expansions, this game will become a deeper, richer experience worthy of many returns. I am certain of it. Without expansions, it is somewhat lacking in advancement/card interactions and synergies worthy of deep exploration. That said, what is in the base box is a solid start and one I have visited many times and still look forward to revisiting.

soblue 3. If you look closely, you can see which advancement is coming next, even when they are placed face down
The transparent advancements make it possible to see which advancements are coming up in the stack if you look closely, which doesn't appear to be the game was intended to be played...or maybe it was? I don't know, but it does seem strange to me that advancements in each stack are supposed to be placed face down when it is possible to identify what is coming up if you look closely enough.

soblue 4. Very solitary
If you are looking for an interactive game, Mystic Vale will not satisfy. There is little reason for you to pay any attention to what your opponents are doing other than to see whether they have taken a card you wanted to take.

This leads to another potential issue, which is the inability to slow down a player who has gotten ahead. Of course, if everyone knows how to play and is at the same level, this will be less of an issue, but it could still potentially pop up due to the random factors in the game.

Final Word


Mystic Vale is first and foremost a FUN game. It allows you to create an engine out of cards in a way that no other game has done before and generates such a sense of tension and adventure as you push through your deck to get that one extra mana or spirit symbol you need for the turn. The engine you create with your cards provides a satisfying sense of escalation, as you go from being unable to buy anything but basic advancements to being able to buy multiple advancements and vale cards and collecting buckets of points on a turn. So despite its somewhat limited strategic space and limited card effects and synergies to explore, I think that Mystic Vale provides an unique, innovative package that just begs to be played! I love it and intend to keep on playing!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE (more love with expansions!)


Board Game: Mystic Vale


Board Game: Mystic Vale


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Overview


In the Pursuit of Happiness, you will build the life you always wanted by taking on projects, buying items, getting jobs, establishing relationships, and raising families. And eventually, you will die. Because death is inevitable. devil

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You start the game with 6 hourglass markers that represent the amount of time you have to perform various actions in each round. You also start the game with a childhood trait that will continue to provide some sort of benefit to you throughout your life.

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The board shows the actions you will have available to you for spending your time each round, the projects, items, activities, partners, and jobs you will be able to add to your life story, and stress and short-term happiness tracks. Getting too stressed can (and will eventually kill you) and acquiring short-term happiness will allow you to move up in turn order each round.

In each game, you will randomly select 2 life goals that will provide bonus points to the player who manages to fulfill the objective on the card(s).

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Pursuit of Happiness is played over a variable number of rounds (dependent on how long you manage to survive) during which you will live through teen years, adulthood, and old age. Each round consists of the following phases:

1. Upkeep
-Advance the round marker, discard all project, item/activity, job, and partner cards from the board and draw new ones to replace them
-If your stress indicator is outside the central section, you will lose or gain hourglass tokens depending on the location of your stress indicator
-Pay upkeep costs for items, jobs, and partners
-Gain 1 stress for each project, partner, or job you have over a TOTAL of 3 and 1 stress for each partner you have over 1

From gallery of milenaguberinic


2. Action
-During the action phase, you will take an hourglass marker (worker) and place it either on one of the available action spaces on the board or a card in your tableau
-If you take an action that you have already taken in the current round, you will have to take 1 stress

Actions include
1) Temp job - Gain 3 money

2) Take project - Take one of the projects on the board, pay the cost, place a marker to indicate the level of the project. Single-round projects allow you to pick any level, group projects allow you to pick any slot, and long-term projects require that you start at the top level and retain the project round after round, using hourglasses to promote your project by paying additional costs over time.

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3)Spend - Take an item or activity from the board and place a marker on a level of your choice, paying the cost.

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4) Get job - Take a job from the board and pay the hiring cost to gain the monetary reward. Some jobs have promotion costs that allow you to move to a higher level of the same job type by paying a lower hiring cost.

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5) Start relationship - Take a partner from the board and place a marker on the date level. You will be able to promote your relationship later by meeting the partner's requirements and paying upkeep costs.

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6) Overtime - Take 2 stress and gain 2 hourglass markers.

7) Rest - Reduce your stress level by 2 but only within the same colored section. The only way to move to a lower section is to gain health through projects.

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3. End of round
-Gain rewards from group projects and remove single-round projects and group projects from play
-Take back your hourglass markers based on your stress level
-Determine the first player for the next round by positions on the shot-term happiness track, with the happiest player getting the first-player token
-Return the short-term happiness indicator to the center

The Review


Played prior to review: 4x






1. Every aspect of the game is infused with theme, allowing you to create some fun story lines
Pursuit of Happiness is a game that truly embraces its theme. If you have ever wanted to play a board game version of The Sims or another such life-simulation video game, Pursuit of Happiness is as close as a board game has come. Throughout the game you spend time on creative endeavors to gain creativity, on studying to gain knowledge, and on interactions to gain influence and then you use the creativity, knowledge, and influence you have gained to do well at your job or to progress further in projects and goals you have set out for yourself. Perhaps "spending" these resources is more gamey than thematic, but the game still manages to make strong, thematically-based associations between "resource" requirements and outputs. For example, becoming a sponsor to a political party requires a bit of influence and a lot of money, becoming a rocket scientist requires a lot of knowledge and some influence and creativity, etc. These connections allow you to make sense of the connections between your various actions and create a viable life story, which is what this game is all about.

2. Double-sided partners and jobs!
Partner and job cards are double-sided with identical requirements and benefits but different names and illustrations. This gives you a sense of ownership and a (superficial though it may be) sense of ownership over the way you live your game life. This element strongly contributes to evoking the theme that is already effectively woven into other aspects of the game.

3. Good replay value for those seeking a BREADTH of strategic options and story possibilities
To those who are looking for a thematic, life-building experience, Pursuit of Happiness will offer plenty of replay value, as the combination of child traits and life goal cards you face will encourage you to adopt different strategies and live a different life in each game.

The life goals are many and varied and each pushes you to play a little differently. In one game, you may be encouraged to "live fast and die young." In another, you may want to pursue a "zen" life, dying with the least stress. In another, you may want to be a hoarder, accumulating the most items. The combination of life goals will undoubtedly influence the strategy you choose to adopt due to the significant VP rewards that you can gain by satisfying those goals.

And there are a number of strategies to choose from in this game. You can collect long-term happiness points by buying lots of stuff and pursuing lots of activities, you can collect happiness by collecting mountains of a particular resource, as resources you have remaining at the end of the game will score, you can collect happiness by having a family and spending time with them round after round, you can collect happiness by participating in and promoting various activities. All of these provide viable ways of converting the basic resources of money, knowledge, creativity, and influence into points.

The child traits will also modify the direction you pursue in any given game and thus add to the replay value, as their benefits will follow you throughout the game. If your childhood trait gives you extra creativity every time you play, you might be inclined to play and pursue an arts job that demands you use your creativity each round. Alternatively, if your childhood trait allows you to ignore partner requirements when promoting relationships, you might want to focus on making points by having a family or having multiple relationships *gasp* (I wouldn't encourage this as I don't think it's sure to sink you into a hole really fast, but hey, whatever makes you happy ).

Ultimately, between the mountains of project, item/activity, job, and partner cards in the game, the life goals, and child traits, you will live a very different life in each game. If you're looking for breadth of strategy and story potential, look no further!

4. Some interesting decision points and neat tension between stress and actions
Stress is the chief source of tension in Pursuit of Happiness and it is my favorite part of the game! Does that say something about me? I love the tension between the desire to get more done in the short term and potentially having less time to spend in the long term. The "overtime" space is a particularly strong source of this tension, as it constantly presents you with the evil temptation to get TWO hourglasses for the turn while taking on two stress. It isn't that difficult to get rid of stress, as many projects, items, and activities will reduce it, but if you really want to get more done in a round, you may not have the time to chase extra projects, activities, or items to reduce your stress, which can make for a tough choice between short-term gains and long-term losses because passing certain thresholds will reduce the total number of hourglasses you have to use in the round. If this happens, the only way you will be able to reduce it again is to gain the oh-so-elusive health, so choosing to pass the stress threshold or even increase your stress by a little can create...well...a bit of fun stress!

5. Short-term happiness
I love the short-term happiness track and the way it encourages you to optimize the order of your actions. The chief function of the short-term happiness track is to determine the first player in each round. However, it also functions to reduce the amount of resources you have to spend on projects. As such, if you want to become the first player in the following round or you simply don't want to waste more resources than you could on projects, you want to make sure you find ways to increase your short-term happiness BEFORE you start working on projects, rather than the other way around.

Deciding when it is worth it to reduce your short-term happiness in order to cycle through the cards on display is also important and interesting. If you are really desperate for a card of a certain type, you always have this option to fall back on, but will the cost of going second always be worth the risk?

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. A little too long and AP inducing
Pursuit of Happiness is a relatively light and simple game but takes about 60-90 minutes to play. And we tend to be quick and decisive. For some reason, we are not quick and decisive when playing this game. Perhaps it has something to do with us getting caught up in the thematic connections between the effects and resource requirements of certain cards, but as much fun as it is to get caught up in that, it ends up irritating me to have to sit around waiting for Peter to take his turn because he's trying to make up a story.

soblue 2. The resource chits are fiddly and unnecessary
We ran out of money in our first game and found the system of using chits for the relatively large number of different resources used in this game to be unwieldy. I think that games with this many resources should just use boards with tracks for each resource.

soblue 3. The resource accumulation and conversion to points isn't particularly exciting
Resources are not difficult to come by in this game. You can get all kinds of resources from all kinds of cards and this just makes the game feel loose and a bit too easy. I prefer games that restrict resource flow and make it difficult to get the exact things you want to convert into points or other things...And the chain or resource to point conversion is a very simple one-step process that just left me wanting more.

soblue 4. The worker placement isn't particularly exciting
This isn't a completely negative point because there is an interesting element to the worker placement (as described in the section), but the whole system is rendered a little loose and lacking in tension by the fact that it is entirely non-interactive. By that, I mean that once you have taken a worker placement spot, your opponent can simply go ahead and take that spot as well, so you have all action spots available to you at all times. I understand why the system was designed the way that it was designed, as this is essentially a game of drafting cards from an open display and the tension of having something become unavailable to you is generated by the fear of having a card taken away by another player. However, the fact that so many of the cards do similar things mean that even this tension is frequently absent.

soblue 5. Breadth of strategy does not equal depth of strategy
In the section, I mentioned that Pursuit of Happiness will make those looking a breadth of strategic possibilities and life stories to experience very happy. Well, breadth and depth are not synonymous and, unfortunately, this game is lacking in the depth department...which, even more unfortunately for me, is what I crave from a game. The game's systems are simply not compelling enough for me to want to explore over and over again. The loose resource accumulation and exceedingly simple, independent chains of resources to points make for such a simple and straightforward experience that simply feels the same to me every time. And despite the breadth of stories and options, the game feels the same to me every time I play for that reason. So, if you are like me and prioritize depth to breadth when determining the replay value of a game, you may find Pursuit of Happiness somewhat lacking in replay value.

soblue 6. In the 2-player version, you see far fewer cards, choices feel somewhat restricted, and randomness increases
With only 2 players involved, fewer cards become available and you cycle through fewer cards, restricting the breadth of options you have available to you each round. Aside from the health-giving cards, which are specifically addressed below, the job cards are probably the best example. You are able to get promoted to a higher level job of the same type as the one you currently have at a lower resource cost. Of course, you gain a lower bonus once, but the resource savings of promotion over hiring are significant. The likelihood of a job of the same type that is one level higher coming up is not too low when playing with more players because you will see more cards in each round and cycle through more cards in each round. With two players, you will only see two cards in each round and only cycle through 2 cards in each round. If one player gets lucky and just happens upon a level 2 job of the same type he has, YAY for him and too bad for his opponent. And if the objective is to have the highest level job at the end of the game, the lucky player's job was just made easier than the other player's for no reason at all.

Of course, if you are unhappy with a particular display, you could always reduce your short-term happiness to cycle through the cards in a display, but doing this could end up benefiting your opponent more than you, it could end up accomplishing nothing, or you could get the card you wanted, BUT you had to spend short-term happiness to do it, which will disadvantage you when it comes to completing projects in the current round and possibly set you back in turn order in the following round. And whenever I execute this cycling business, I feel like I am only replacing randomness with randomness.

All of this just doesn't feel very satisfying to me because I am competitive when I play games. If it isn't the first time I'm playing a game, I am playing to play well. If the game throws a monkey wrench my way at a random time for no reason at all, I'm not going to be very satisfied with it and the level of randomness in Pursuit of Happiness just fails to satisfy.

soblue 7. Where are all the hearts!?
In Pursuit of Happiness, you are theoretically able to improve your health in order to reduce your stress level and prolong your life. There are only 4 cards in the huge deck of projects that allow you to improve your health. This means that they are unlikely to come up, heavily discouraging you from taking on stress that will send you over a threshold you are unlikely to be able to deal with later on. This restricts the strategic options you have. Sure, taking on an extra partner is POSSIBLE, but the stress you would have to take for doing so is simply not worth the trouble, as it won't be easy to sink below a threshold once you've passed it.

This point also ties in with my previous point. With two players, you cycle through so few cards that you are unlikely to ever see one of these elusive heart cards. And if you do see it, the player who is able to get it will be able to effectively extend the game for himself. In some cases, going into old age with less stress will give you extra points, meaning that this luck-based advantage can prove to be an even greater advantage in certain situations.

soblue 8. The options for living the "life you always wanted" are a bit more dull than the life I would want, but I have a wild imagination, so I may not be representative of the general population
Analyst? Civil servant? Dentist? Teacher? Even Rocket Scientist? These are not exciting jobs. These are things I could be or could have been and chose not to be for a reason; they don't interest or excite me.

A garden? A coin collection? A stamp collection? A boat? Again, the items are frequently accessible things you could easily obtain if you so wanted.

The activities aren't much better. Jogging, yoga, political activism...not particularly exciting. These are things I already do or could do. Ultimately, the careers, items, and activities are rather lackluster things that do not make the "life I've always wanted. Give me an astronaut, a professional gamer, a Hawaii summer house, a magic wand, a palace, a sleeve tattoo, a trip around the world, a unicorn...something a little more outlandish, exciting, fantastical. Perhaps I have a more active imagination than the average human, but I don't want to live a boring life in an imaginary game world that I could be living in the real world. I want to live a more exciting life and I want to play in a more exciting universe. But that's me and my fantastic thematic inclinations and not really a problem with the game. If you enjoy The Sims and other real-life simulation games, the options for living your life in this game will likely appeal to you.

Final Word


The Pursuit of Happiness is a great experience. You will live a life and you will die a death and you will experience all kinds of things you could possibly be experiencing in your own existing life or in an alternate life in a parallel universe. This game condenses 80 years of living into a much shorter time frame and in a much more entertaining way, presenting you with choices that are thematically driven and inspired. And yet it doesn't inspire me to continue to play it on a regular basis. Why? Because I chiefly play games for the challenge they present chiefly enjoy overcoming that challenge and learning to more effectively interact with the game's systems and other players over time. Now, I am fully capable of enjoying games that are silly and fun and light IF they don't take very long to play. Case in point is the delightfully funny Foodfighters, which sends me into fits of laughter every time despite its incredibly light weight. It takes 15 minutes to play. A harmless amount of time. While I wouldn't put Pursuit of Happiness in the same weight category as Foodfighters, I would put it in the same category in terms of what I am getting out of the game. Pursuit of Happiness gives me a cute story more than an interesting and innovative system to skillfully and competitively manipulate. Yes, all the mechanisms work together well and are all familiar and satisfactory, but they don't work together to generate a tense or mentally challenging experience. They work together to create a walk in the park. And that's ok. It's a great, fun walk in the park that clearly and effectively captures the designer's vision, but it isn't one I would personally care to repeat very often because it takes far too long for the DEPTH of strategy it provides. For me.

But how can I fault a game for not being what I want it to be? I can't. Pursuit of Happiness may not be a deep game, but it is a good game that does what it sets out to do very well. It provides a light, pleasant, thematic, family-friendly game about building an alternative life that will provide those looking for a breadth of story options with plenty to come back to. Pursuit of Happiness also accomplishes this in a superior way to that its rival, CV, presenting you with a more controlled and coherent system. I have enjoyed the time I have spent with Pursuit of Happiness and even though I won't personally be returning to it again, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a pleasant, light, worker-placement game that effectively simulates a life well lived. To my knowledge, this one is at the top of its class.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart SOME LIKE


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


First Impressions




From gallery of milenaguberinic


I'm not into cars. I'm not into racing. In fact, I despise cars and I despise racing. Both smell and make me puke. Literally (I have vestibular issues and getting into a moving vehicle always demands I use drugs of some sort and cars are the worst offenders). I must confess that I had little interest in Automobiles and I only bought it on a whim when it was on super sale at Coolstuff Inc. on the final day of Dice Tower Con. It was cheap. REALLY cheap. And Peter likes cars. And he likes racing. I couldn't NOT get it.

Automobiles is a bag-building race game in which you become race car drivers, shifting gears, taking on wear, getting help from mechanics and engine upgrades, and making pit stops to fix your car between laps. Each turn, you take 7 cubes out of your bag and those cubes either help you move forward on sections of the track or allow you to buy new cubes or get rid of existing cubes. Your car ends up taking wear each turn and a key part of the game is creating an engine that allows you to both push ahead and efficiently remove wear.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Remember what I said about cars and racing? I tried to keep an open mind and put my biases aside as we dove into Automobiles, but biases are biases; you can't just pretend they don't exist or don't affect you. No. All you can do is recognize them for what they are and affirm that they will affect your perceptions. And they did affect my perceptions. When I saw the track and realized one of us would have to make SEVEN laps around it before the game was over, I felt the same way I feel every time I"m about to get into a car. Sick. I told Peter that I didn't like this game and that maybe we should just stop playing after a round or two. Before we even started playing! And then we started playing. And my car started moving. And it kept moving. And moving. And moving! And I was LOVING the momentum of the game! The thing about Automobiles is that the game allows you to create an incredibly satisfying little engine. Rather than in the usual deck form, the engine comes in the form of cubes. And rather than being gimmicky, the cube system is actually function-driven because it is instrumental in helping you visualize the movement of your vehicle around the track. I loved it!

One thing I will admit is that I don't feel like I am getting the full experience of the game playing with only two players. I can definitely see how multiple cars on the track would create opportunities for blocking and drafting and the need for more creative maneuvering. But I still enjoyed it with just the two of us and the designer is apparently working on an expansion with a tighter 2-player map, so YAY! I will definitely have to write a full review for this one soon!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


I am a huge fan of Alf Seegert's. I adore his masterpiece, Fantastiqua, and am always interested in his projects. Heir to the Pharaoh is his most recent publication and one I happily backed on Kickstarter.

In this game, you will play either as Bast or Anubis, attempting to gain the Pharaoh's favor. You will start the game with a nearly identical set of bidding cards. They have the same values but differ in the symbol they show. The sun breaks ties. Each round, you use your bidding cards to place secret bids on action cards. Then, you use the action cards to perform the actions on them in numerical order. The actions include things like placing monuments on the board, placing your tokens on said monuments to claim ownership of them and score points, placing your tokens on a sun track around the board to score at the end of the game, gaining animal magic cards that you can use to gain special abilities in future bidding rounds, gaining monument cards you can score in a set-collection fashion, etc. At the end of the action phase, you exchange the cards you used in the bidding phase with your opponent. The game ends after 8 rounds, at which point you gain points for your owned monuments and the directions in which they point, the contribution you made to building the pyramid, any remaining animal magic cards, and the sun track.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Bidding cards

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Animal magic cards


I think that this is as close to perfect as a two-player auction game will ever come. The system whereby both players start the game with an identical set of bidding card values but exchange their played cards at the end of each round creates an intensely satisfying synergy between players that opens the gate to a huge number of decision points and strategic options. How high of a value will you need to ensure you can get the action you want? Which actions should I sacrifice to ensure I can get others? Those are the questions that most often entered my head as we played the game. And because the cards I played would go to Peter, I knew I had to walk a fine line in trying to balance the value of bidding cards I played with the value of the actions I was bidding on. I loved the abundance of decision points in this game and look forward to playing again! Though our first visit to the Pharaoh was somewhat marred by our inability to grasp the rules at first, I'm sure the next will go much more smoothly.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


Tides of Time has gone mad! Like Tides of Time, Tides of Madness is a 2-player drafting game in which you try to outwit your opponent by crafting the best combination of cards out of a small, 18-card deck. Unlike Tides of Time, Tides of Madness presents you with a crazy conundrum. Do you draft cards bearing tentacle symbols or do you avoid them like the Cthulhu plague? Tentacle cards are attractive enough on their own, but if you gain the most tentacle symbols, and hence madness, in a round, you can choose to either gain a 4-VP bonus or get rid of one madness from your growing pool of crazy. If you ever reach 9 or more madness, you automatically lose the game, so if you push your luck to far, you could be completely out of luck!

I loved the base game of Tides of Time, but Tides of Madness pushes that game to a whole other level of awesome! The madness tokens open up new strategies, allowing you to collect madness for points or pass madness to your opponent in the hopes of having him bust! In fact, despite his higher overall score, Peter ended up losing the game we played because he just indiscriminately kept taking on tentacle cards! Fun! Especially for me when I drive Peter crazy!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Scythe
No week would be complete without a game of Scythe! This week, it was the Rusviet Union against Polonia! Bears vs. tigers! We're just missing a tiger and we could really cause some damage to Dorothy's psyche!

Peter got stuck with board 1 and I got board 5. This is the combination of death for Peter. I got a great start with my explorations, paying some money to get boat loads of oil. I upgraded the dickens out of my board, deployed all my mechs, and everything else seemed to slide like a butter-covered Slip 'n Slide after that! I ended up at the top of the popularity track with all my stars deployed while Peter had only 2 stars and was at the bottom of the popularity track. He didn't even have the Factory! He moved out of it at the crucial moment! He wasn't counting on my deploying my final two stars in one turn, but that's just how the Slip 'n Slide rolls.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Terra Mystica
No week would be complete without Scythe and no week would be complete without TM!

We drew the Dragon Callers and Chaos Magicians. I bid 4 points for first dibs. I picked the Dragon Callers. shake And then, to make matters worse, I decided to build my stronghold in the first round! shake To get the 5VP bonus. shake Oh, it was so awful. I was starved of resources and power and money and EVERYTHING the entire game and only managed to catch up to Peter (who was doing VERY well avoiding my attempts to cut off his building efforts) when I took the 1-earth favor tile. Even though Peter had the most connected structures, I somehow managed to build my stronghold and sanctuary furthest apart. But he had majorities on all but one cult track. He won by FOUR points! Remember how many points I bid for first dibs? REMEMBER? FOUR! BLEH. Peter wins. Team Peter rejoice.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The King of Frontier
Oh dear meeple people, I just CANNOT do this game! I stink! I've lost all but one time and I've lost all but one time BY A MILE! Yes, there is quite a bit of randomness in the game owing to the Carcassonne-like tile drawing, but I do feel like I"m just doing something wrong. Peter always builds giant fields and the only time I won, I managed to beat him using that very same strategy. This time, he built a giant field and a giant castle very quickly and just consumed the wheat with his castle over and over again until he had piles of points sitting in front of him. Boo. I had a nice building that gave me a point for each tile surrounding it but that wasn't enough...cry Next time...

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Barony
I may stink at King of Frontier, but I am so good at Barony! I did really well this week! Our previous games were always only a few points away, but this time, I won by 25 points! I cut Peter off from my section of the board and harvested all the goodies super efficiently! I really love the optimization in this game! I can't wait to see what Sorcery brings to it! I just hope it's not stuff that will add randomness!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Signorie
Signorie is back! I thought it would be really funny to play Signorie followed by Nippon one night, but Peter was spent after Signorie and didn't want another What's Your Game? game after that. So we played Shipyard instead! As if that's any lighter! Apparently, it's easier for his brain...Anyway, back to Signorie. The final-round goals were 2VP per upgrade and 4VP per city with ladies. I focused on ladies and upgrades (duh!), but I also focused on getting lots of tiles in my king track for the men. To make the ladies work optimally, you have to ensure good cash flow, so my first upgrade was the 3 cash for taking a grey action. I ended up with plenty of cash and plenty of ladies and our cities ended up FILLED with people! We play with a variant in which we knock 2 rounds off the game and we STILL managed to nearly fill all of the cities with people! The highlight of this session for me was that I was able to collect multiple 5 and 4-VP tiles!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Shipyard
Shipyard! Apparently, it's easier on Peter's brain than Nippon!

I decided on my green objective (more ships=more points) very quickly, but couldn't decide on the blue. I had one that gave me points for sails and another for every ship outfitted with a sail, chimney, and propeller set. I ended up settling for the latter because it had greater VP-making potential. Because VPs are what counts!

Peter went for the green doughnut objective and the salad blue objective . Perhaps he was feeling hungry for a midnight snack... His first ship was a monstrosity! It was a full-length ship that was filled with everything under the sun. He made me think that he had the long-ship objective, but nope. Meanwhile, I was having trouble building LOTS of ships and lots of GOOD ships (i.e. ones that have a sail, chimney, AND propeller). I managed to build 3 good ones, but ended up scrambling to put any old thing together by the end. We didn't bother looking it up because it was so late, but I'm not sure it is legal to have a middle-less ship...I did end up winning by a mile, so the outcome would have been the same, but still...I guess I should check now .

From gallery of milenaguberinic

My ships

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter's ships


Roll for the Galaxy
Roll! This was a 10-minute game! Both Peter and I were going for a shipping strategy and ended up exhausting the point pool in only a few rounds. I think we had the lowest collective number of tiles on the table EVER!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Caverna: The Cave Farmers
We didn't play with the promos this time because I was too lazy to lay them out. It was vanilla Caverna. I decided to build up my cavern as usual and made some powerful adventuring dwarves to help me do that more efficiently! The high-level (I think 7 or 8) adventures let you furnish caverns and I wanted to do that A LOT. I started off with a Stone Carver and had every intention of acquiring the Stone Storage later in the game. Sadly, it was not to be. Peter beat me to it! angry Instead, I focused on making lots of wheat to feed my Beer Parlor and collecting rubies for my Treasure Chamber. I did end up winning, but I felt like I didn't have a very happy farm. Not enough animals!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

My cave

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter likes animals


Le Havre
Another Uwe! We decided to play Le Havre around midnight on Tuesday. Perhaps not the best idea, but I wanted to play and it's Peter's number 1 favorite game ever, so I knew he'd be up for it no matter what time of night or day . I can be devious with my game choices devil.

Peter loves making lots of coke and steel and shipping that stuff off and I love building lots of buildings and making points using their powers. And that's exactly what happened in this game. I really didn't want to let Peter have both the coal plant and cokery, but I couldn't stop him. Sadly. I also shot myself in the foot by taking on too many loans early in the game (story of my life soblue) and then taking more loans just to keep repaying those . When I got the clothing factory, Peter thought I'd just keep banging out money for leather and hides (of which I had MANY), but I didn't have time! I didn't pay off my last loan until the last turn in the game and I ended up with ZERO dollars to my name. ALL my points were in my buildings. And I won! Peter was sitting on a pile of cash, but real estate is worth more!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Arkwright
We missed our weekly Arkwright last week, but we didn't make the same mistake this week! Must. Not. Forget. Rules.

Peter built ALL FOUR factories early in the game and actually managed to keep them going for the duration of the game. And he did better than he has ever done in this game! Meanwhile, I focused on bread and shirts, as I started the game with a shirt patron. I decided to make lots of bread and then sell it to foreigners later in the game. That worked out very well. I had a very nice little shipping system going, which grew to be even more effective when I started shipping lanterns too! It was sad to see my stock price going down, but I managed to keep it relatively even around 24 by striking a perfect balance between selling to locals and foreigners. Even though Peter ended up with a higher stock price, I ended up with WAY more stock thanks to all the cash I was hoarding and using to buy stock throughout the game and that ultimately won me the game!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

I find the firing icon so scary! The poor little dude looks like he's getting his head chopped off by that finger! He's shaped a bit like the zombies from A Study in Emerald!


Factory Funner
Woohoo! I won Factory Funner! That's not something that happens often! But Peter had a more difficult board, so I'm not sure my win was really fair. He had to stretch himself really thin and even paid points to extend his board! I'm always astounded when I manage to win this game because I just don't seem to get it...

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Imperial Settlers + Imperial Settlers: 3 Is a Magic Number
I drew the Barbarians and Peter drew the Romans. I always have trouble playing well with the Romans, so I was glad I didn't have to deal with them. I was happy with the Barbarians. I got a crazy people-production engine going early in the game and was hoping to get some of the 3 is a Magic Number Barbarian cards to produce points and coins for my pink and black sets, but it was not to be cry. In fact, when I checked my Barbarian deck at the end of the game, I found the card I was digging for at the VERY BOTTOM of my deck. shake Oh well. I still did incredibly well! Even though it took forever to get my point engine going, I wound up building a lovely Dark Chapel that allowed me to gain 4 points per round, a couple of "1VP every time you raze" cards and double Rabble! I was a razing machine and I was unstoppable! I ended up winning by about 15 points, which was surprising because I thought it would be a lot more. I had a lot more to do each round than Peter thanks to my huge population, but I guess Peter was just very efficient...Whatever. Still won!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

You can do lots of stuff with lots of cards!


Imhotep
This was the worst game of Imhotep for me EVER! It actually made me rather angry, but I was already irritated from a bunch of stuff that happened earlier that day, so I was primed to be irritated by the slightest of things.

In this game, I had zero plan. I mean, you can't really have much of a plan in Imhotep to begin with because it's essentially a purely tactical, reaction-based game, but I had nothing. I kept making stupid decisions, sailing ships with Peter's stuff on them when I shouldn't have, sailing ships to places that would benefit Peter more than they did me...BAH. I just wasn't thinking at all. Or perhaps I just can't think the way this game wants me to think. We have played a number of times now, but I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. I must improve!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Bruges+Bruges: The City on the Zwin
After Imhotep, we played Mystic Vale to calm me down, which worked because I love that game, and then we played Bruges to further calm me down, which didn't really work because the game was playing against me. Peter managed to complete both his canals before I even got started on one (I COULDN'T GET A BLOODY BLUE CARD!!!!!), so he overtook me in the canal department quickly. Fortunately, I had no trouble getting the people majority and then, when he lost all his money on a yellow 6, I managed to overtake him in the prestige track thingy too! YAY! But that didn't make me happy. Peter was still sitting on those statue points for completing his canals! So I pushed to populate my side of town and even managed to complete both my canals and get a person who gave me two points for each completed canal before the end of the game! I didn't make a tonne of points with him, but 4 is 4! I ended with 90 (why not 100!?) to Peter's 80. I still love this game.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Small City + Small City: Player boards Expansion #3 – The Forests
Small City! I picked the park goal and I am SO glad that I did because it saved my behind! I felt very stupid building huge parks everywhere early in the game, but I didn't feel so stupid when I realized that I wasn't acquiring ANY pollution! In fact, I ended the game with under 10 pollution! Although Peter built far more large residential areas, I was able to capitalize on the power of the lady that allows you to overpopulate your buildings for several rounds, which meant that I wasn't too far behind him in terms of points even during the game. And when the time came to calculate the end-game points, I shot ahead while Peter shot backwards! He failed to fulfill his goal AND he had 26 pollution! I think this may have been my best game of Small City EVER with 92 points!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Gold West
We are still enjoying the heck out of Gold West! It's definitely in Peter's top 10 of 2015 and I love it a lot too! It's a great super filler-style game for us because it takes about 30 minutes and yet offers plenty to consider on each turn!

I was going for my preferred contract strategy, while Peter was influencing Boom Town like the mad (I think that Tides of Madness madness stuck with him a bit ) and pushing up the shipping tracks. I was constantly putting my resources in the 3-VP slot, so I knew I maximized my pointage in that department, but I felt like I could have done better on the territory token majorities. Peter ended up taking EVERY majority but one. And despite his crazy Boom Town bonuses, he still lost because I just made a tonne of points by fulfilling contracts during the game!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)
This was the most agonizing game of Puzzle Strike I have ever experienced! It just kept going on and on and on and on! I would crash gems and Peter would counter and he would crash and I would counter and it seemed like the game would just go on FOREVER until I finally managed to get the upper hand thanks to a poor draw on Peter's part. Our game lasted over an hour. That's too long for Puzzle Strike.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


Fresh Cardboard


I am going to try to keep this section as short as possible for the next few months because Essen is coming and I am going! WOOHOO!!!!! *HAPPY DANCE* I will try not to spend my entire paycheck on games for a couple of months so I can spend it all on games when Essen comes! Will I be able to do it? Will I fail spectacularly? Only time will tell... laugh Peter's getting a bit queasy thinking about the influx of games that will ensue at Essen, but I feel like a jumping rainbow jelly bean!!!!

1. Brew Crafters-I LOVED this game when we played with Steph and Ron at Dice Tower Con! I knew I had to have it! And it finally became available again! And I finally have it! YAY! Now I just need one of those handy dandy Game Trayz to hold everything in place. There are so many chits and pieces in this game that the prospect of trying to sort and bag everything is just too daunting for me to even consider. Game Trayz first. Play later.
2. Tides of Madness-I played a prototype of this with my friend Jamie back in April and loved it! I prefer it to Tides of Time due to its slightly higher level of complexity and depth. Can't wait to see the finished product![/thing]

***


Next Week...


I am hoping that my copy of Unfair will arrive sometime next week or today so that I can review it! I'll have another surprise or two, but my copy of Islebound arrived at BoardGameBliss and I have been looking forward to it so much that I can't wait any longer, so it may be the second reviewed game for the week! Go, go Ryan Laukat! (read it like the Inspector Gadget song! ) meeplemeeplemeeplemeeplemeeple

We will also definitely be playing with Peter's shiny new Magic: The Gathering – Duel Decks Anthology! I won't review that because I just won't, but it's pretty and shiny and pretty, so I'll definitely write about the fun we had! Especially Peter! He loves that thing! I'm so glad! Present success!

***


Mina's Love Meter

angry Burn it! - I dislike this game so much that it makes me angry. (I rate these 4 or less on the BGG scale)
Dislike - I don't like this game, but I can see why others like it.
(5 on BGG scale)
heart Some like - I find this game somewhat appealing, but it doesn't really grab me. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this game, but it is unlikely to stay in my collection for very long.
(5.5 to 6.5) on BGG scale)
heart heart Like - I like this game and appreciate the design. I am happy to play this game occasionally when the mood strikes and enjoy doing so.
(7 to 7.5 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart Some love - I love this game. It's not perfect, but it really appeals to me and I will play it frequently.
(7.5 to 8 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart Lots of love - I really love this game. The design really speaks to me. I want to play it most of the time.
(8 to 9 on BGG scale)
heart heart heart heart heart All love all the time - I ADORE this game and can see myself playing it many times and for many years. I would go to sleep clutching it in my arms and want to play it all day every day...only not literally because that would be insane.
(9 to 10 on BGG scale)


***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart
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