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 are Islebound in our Automobiles...Wish Us Luck! We Might Drown! * New Reviews for ISLEBOUND and AUTOMOBILES * Impressions for ASARA and MAGIC THE GATHERING DUEL DECK ANTHOLOGY * Plus More New Games, Gaming, and Photos Galore! And Jackie!

Milena Guberinic
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Games! And happiness! That is all!

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What's New?




I love Ryan Laukat's games. Ancient World and City of Iron were my top two favorites until Islebound walked in and upset that world order.

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The Overview


In Islebound, you will become a trader, conqueror, and/or diplomat in a mystical archipelago. You will travel from island to island, collecting resources, trading those resources for other items, hiring crew, recruiting pirates and sea monsters, conquering towns, and building or buying buildings to add to your capital.

The game includes a mobile archipelago board made up of 4 sea boards and 4 sea ports. The sea boards are double sided, with one side of each being suitable for the "basic" game and the other for the "advanced" game.

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There is also a renown board that shows spaces for event cards, which you can trigger when you find yourself in a corresponding town in order to place your cubes on the influence track, renown cards, which you can trigger by going to Farwold to gain renown points, and crew members.

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The deck of building cards is shuffled and placed separately from the boards, with 3-book, 2-book, and 1-book symbols above the buildings closest to the deck.

You will start the game with a ship board, a ship speed of 2, 7 coins, 3 crew (two with administrative abilities and one with a work ability).

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On your turn, you must move and then may perform one action and any number of free actions.

1) Move
You MUST move your ship on each turn, moving from one island to the next up to the speed of your ship. If you end up in a space with another player's ship, you must exhaust one of your crew members with an administrative ability and indicating this by moving that crew member below deck on your ship board.

2) Actions
*Visit
You may visit the town in which your ship is located and complete its action by paying the entry cost. All towns not under a player's control require that you pay a coin to the treasure map on the renown board. If the town is owned by another player, you pay that coin to the town's owner. If the town's owner is you, you don't pay a coin. Some towns also require that you exhaust a crew member.

Town actions include things like resting your crew, acquiring pirates and sea serpents, using books to place your influence cubes on the influence track, triggering renown cards, acquiring fish and wood, building buildings using their wood/fish resource costs, acquiring renown, acquiring new crew members, and various combinations thereof.

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*Attack
You may attack the town in which your ship is located if the town shows a red banner. You roll a number of dice equal to the number of pirates and sea serpents you have and assign one die to each to determine your attack strength. If you have enough attack strength, you take over the town, return the pirates and sea serpents that helped you to the supply, receive a number of coins equal to the town's strength, and may visit the town if you wish. Some crew members have powers that allow you to exhaust them in order to roll additional dice. You may also use wood to re-roll dice.

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*Diplomacy
You may use diplomacy at the town in which your ship is located if the town shows a blue banner. You remove cubes of your color from the influence track to equal or exceed the influence of the town. Some crew members have powers that allow you to exhaust them in order to obtain additional influence. You then take over the town, gain coins equal to the town's influence, and may visit the town if you wish.

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*Hunt for treasure
Take the coins from the treasure map.

Free actions
You may perform any number of free actions on your turn. These include:
*Event
If your ship is located in a town with an event marker, you may trigger the corresponding event to place your influence cubes on the influence track.

*Buy a building
You may buy buildings from the building row for their coin cost. You must have a number of books equal to the marker above the card you wish to buy.

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The game ends when one player has 8 buildings in a 2-player game. At the end of the game, you get points for
1) Each unspent coin
2) Value of your buildings
3) Special building powers
4) Renown tokens you have gained by moving up the renown track during the course of the game
5) Residual renown on the renown track

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Every time you get to space 7 of the renown track, you gain one of these tokens


The Review


Played prior to review 5x






1. Beautiful, highly functional, and well integrated art and graphic design
What is it about the calming blue waters of Islebound that put my mind at ease and make me forget the world? Ryan Laukat always succeeds in creating a vibrant and immersive world through his art, but in Islebound, he's managed to go beyond this to marry his art, theme, and mechanisms in a three-way union of wonders!

The artwork certainly goes a long way to creating a spectacularly thematic world, but it also goes to work! Ryan has done a great job of creating a graphic design aesthetic that is unobtrusive and integrated perfectly into the art while being highly functional. Despite the relatively large number of symbols in the game, they are internalized very quickly. At least, we barely needed an introduction to what they meant, which may or may not have much to do with our familiarity with Ryan's other games. Either way, this world is not only beautiful but smooth to sail through!

2. So many routes to victory!
Islebound may be Ryan's most strategically involved game to date! Though I have yet to play Empires of the Void, I have played the rest of his games and would put Islebound at about the same level of strategy and involvement as City of Iron, as it presents you with numerous routes to victory and you can choose to follow all, some, or one and do well in any case. Which path you choose will, of course, depend on the arrangement of villages and the assortment of buildings on offer and charting your course for the game based on that information is a key part of the strategy in the game.

So what are these delightful routes to victory I speak of? Well, you can focus your energy on producing books and converting them into renown, you can focus on taking over towns through diplomacy or aggression and hoarding coins/using them to buy buildings to help you collect more points, you focus on chasing after bragging rights for various aspects of your city at Farowld, you can focus on collecting resources to build buildings for both in-game and end-game points...You get the picture. There are many ways to go in this game and many ways to go about any single way. And that gives Islebound enough depth to satisfy the most discerning of

3. A very satisfying route-planning element
I love games with maps. I don't know what it is about planning an effective and efficient route and then executing that plan that makes me so happy, but that's how my brain works. And Islebound gives me a very satisfying map to work with! At the start of each game, you have to survey the lay of the land to determine which strategy would work best. Will you try to take over a bunch of towns through diplomacy first or start with amassing a powerful crew? Will you instead focus on attacking? The buildings that are available at the start of the game will undoubtedly also influence which group of towns you focus on, as they can provide additional incentives for certain actions, such as providing extra points every time you take over a town through diplomacy or attacks or every time you build a building or give you extra resources every time you visit a specific town. Events that will give you influece for later diplomacy actions may also influence the route you select initially and throughout the game depending on their location and required resources. And as the game progresses, your plans will have to adjust depending on the locations of your oppoents and the availability of your crew. As such, when you are making navigation plans at the start of the game and adjusting them throughout the game, you constantly have to cosider a multitude of factors, which makes the process very interesting.

3. Satisfying nature and level of player interaction
As much as I enjoy games that are completely solitary, I do love it when games force me to make plans based on what I think my opponent is going to do or create some form of interdependence between players. In Islebound, player interaction is generated by the fact that a) you have to exhaust crew members if you want to sail to the same location as an opponent (or the same board as an opponent when playing with only two players), b) you must pay an opponent to visit his towns and he must pay you to visit your towns, and c) the game ends when one player builds his 8th building.

The fact that you have to exhaust crew members based on you and your opponent's relative positions means that you have to consider both where you want to head and where you think your opponent is heading, as well as the availability of crew with administrate abilities on your ship and on your opponent's ship when you are planning your route through the archipelago.

The fact that you must pay your opponent every time you land on a town owned by him and that you will get paid every time your opponent lands on a town owned by you means that you should plan to take over towns that would both be most beneficial to advancing your strategy and would be desirable for your opponent to visit.

Finally, the game ends when one player owns 8 buildings, meaning that you have to keep a close eye on the rate at which your opponent is acquiring buildings. Islebound is a funny game in that it doesn't really have a set pace; the pace of the game depends on the rate at which players choose to push the end game forward. As such, it is vital to keep a close watch over your opponent to determine how long the game might last and what your best options are at any given moment based on that.

Islebound is not a directly interactive in-your-face game and I'm glad for that, but it does feature some elements that encourage you to keep an eye on your opponent's movements and strategies, which contribute to the game's demands.

4. Comborrific!
Recognizing and exploiting combinations that will yield maximal points is key to playing Islebound well. And discovering and exploiting synergies between the buildings you acquire and the relative locations of towns on the board/powers of your crew members to make explosive amounts of points is intensely satisfying and fun! In one game, I had a building that would give me a point every time I acquired a building and another that gave me a point and a fish every time I acquired a building, so I just took over Stratic (the town that allows you to use resources to build buildings), spent my money on buildings and then built more buildings for more points. Triggering the renown cards, which will give you point for having achieved certain things over the course of the game, at just the right moment can also yield tonnes of points, which can help you complete events or build buildings, as you gain renown marker bonuses every time you reach 7 points on the renown track.

5. Very high replay value
As I mentioned above, Islebound presents you with a multitude of routes to victory, which means it inherently has plenty of replay value as you can explore each of the ways to win and combine them in different ways in each game. Beyond that, the game has a number of variable setup features, including a double-sided map with different functions for many of the towns on each side, a map that is made up of a random arrangement of tiles, building cards that become available at different times in each game, and renown and event cards that also become available at different times in each game. The combination of depth and variable setup features that encourage different strategies and tactical maneuvers makes every session of Islebound unique.

6. EXPANSION for Above and Below!
Do you have Above and Below? Do you love Above and Below? Do you wish you had more explorers to help with your cave spelunking in Above and Below? Well, Islebound has your explorers! Each of the crew members in Islebound is double sided; one side shows its Islebound function and the other its Above and Below function! Neat!

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7. Brilliant two-player variant included!
We have played a couple of games of Islebound with the basic rules as written and several with the "close quarters" variant, which makes the map feel much more like it would when playing at a higher player count. According to this variant, when your ship ends its movement on the same BOARD as your opponent's ship, you must exhaust a crew member with an "administrate" ability. So instead of only having to do this when you end on the same space, you have to do this when you end on the same space and most nearby spaces. This increases the need to effectively plan your route to include rest stops along the way and feels quite a bit more demanding than when playing with the basic rules. I won't be playing Islebound without this variant.

8. The world is captivating and makes it easy to get lost in the game
The world of Islebound is magical. With its azure waters, nautical theme, and multitudinous options, the game pulls you deep into its waters and leaves you spinning. Because you can do so many things in the game, it is easy to get lost in doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of the other and taking a long time to arrive anywhere. Our first game of Islebound took close to 2 hours for this reason. Both Peter and I were having so much fun exploring the world, collecting crew members, taking over this and that, building a bit of this and that that we completely lost track of the ultimate goal of the game! It was like we had fallen under some sort of delightful watery spell. Since then, we have learned to focus on the goal of the game (i.e. collecting as many points as possible and ending the game at an opportune moment with buildings), but we still find it easy to get lost in this world. And to me, this means that Islebound succeeds at creating not only a deeply strategic game, but also a thematically immersive one.

9. The game allows you to be an equal-opportunity employer...or not
I love it when a game allows me to choose characters with whom I most identify. Islebound does just that! If you browse through the characters in the image in 6, you will notice that they feature an array of races, genders, and species. You want to build an all-female pirate crew? Go for it! You want to have a pirate crew manned by humanoid creatures of unspecified species? You can! The fact that you have cosmetic choices about the makeup of your crew (particularly when it comes to your initial crew) makes the game feel more "fun" than it would otherwise. I get more joy than I thought possible from simply having the option to choose the makeup of my crew.

soblue


soblue 1. There is quite a bit of stuff to set up, but setup and teardown becomes faster and easier after a session or two
Islebound takes a while to play and, at least initially, takes a while to set up. There are multiple boards and chits and things to arrange, which makes setup feel a bit fiddly initially. Once you have played a few times, that process feels a lot less daunting, but it can take a bit of time the first time you play.

soblue 2. Sometimes, combos can seem a bit crazy
As much as the combos in Islebound are satisfying and fun, we have had a bit of trouble with one. Keep in mind that this is a very situational point. Here's the story.

The town of Zilliam allows you to turn fish or wood into books by exhausting a crew member for each. The port town of Thundrake allows you to rest your crew and convert any number of books into two renown points each. The Library is a building that gives you renown points for each book you gain. When Zilliam is next to Thundrake and an easy source of wood is next to that, this combination can provide more renown points in fewer turns than any other point source. The only recourse you have against an opponent who is shooting up the renown track with this combo is to try to end the game as quickly as possible by collecting as much money and goods and building as many buildings as possible. You could potentially try to minimize the damage by blocking one of the towns with your ship or taking over the town to gain coins, but that would only require that your opponent exhaust an extra crew member or pay an extra coin and may not be worth doing. With more players involved in the game, it would be easier for more ships to get in the way, but this particular arrangement of towns appears to be quite powerful, particularly when one player manages to get a Library on his side. In the future, we will avoid placing these two next to each other just to diminish the ease with which the library strategy could be exploited.

soblue 3. With two players, you see fewer buildings each round, which can limit combo-making potential and occasionally lead to luck-based advantages/disadvantages
As I mentioned above, recognizing and exploiting combinations that will yield maximal points appears to be key to playing Islebound well. Many of the synergies that you can create with your strategy lie in the buildings that provide renown points for doing certain things. Above, I mentioned one example in the Library, which gives you points for each book you gain. Now, I think the reason the above combination can be problematic when playing with only two players is that you will see far fewer buildings in a two-player game than you would when playing at a higher player count. In the particular game I described above, Peter acquired the Library on his fist turn and no other cards that provided such easy sources of renown became available until much, much later in the game, which left me at a disadvantage. Now, this only happened once and it was most likely an outlier-type situation, but it did happen. And the situation is easily ameliorated by playing the "sixth building" variant presented in the rulebook, which simply adds another building to the display.

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An all-female crew


Final Word


Peter has a friend. Peter's friend once popped into his mouth what he thought was a chocolate at a dinner party. It turned out to be a piece of rose-shaped bacon. When he realized this, he felt confused. The bacon was delicious, but he didn't expect to taste bacon; he expected to taste chocolate. For me, Islebound was a case of rose-shaped bacon. In Islebound, I expected to find a relatively simple and relatively typical Ryan Laukat set-collection affair. Not that there is anything wrong with that! In fact, I love relatively simple and relatively typical Ryan Laukat set-collection affairs! But Islebound did leave me confused. Sure, it has Ryan's signature artwork on it, but it doesn't feel quite like any of his other games. It is heavier, it is more strategically demanding from the outset, and it features a dynamic spatial element. These are all features I love and crave most from games. Islebound is further elevated by the fact that it is set in a joyful world that comes alive not only through lovely and lively artwork, but also through the game's mechanisms. Indeed, I truly adore everything about Islebound; from the artwork to the route planning to the building synergies to the crazy combos. I simply cannot get enough! Ultimately, in this case, reality trumps expectation and rose-shaped bacon beats chocolate!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart heart ALL LOVE ALL THE TIME (IT GIVES ME JOY!)


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Midway through our first game

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***




I wrote an intro about this game in my previous post, so I'll just re-post it here in case you missed it:

Quote:
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.
The Overview


Automobiles is a cube-based deck-building race game! Each cube color is associated with an ability that allow you to move your car around the track, minimize wear, improve handling, or boost your speed. The goal of the game is simple - cross the finish line first!

To set up the game, you will select either the Monza (advanced) or Daytona Beach (basic) track on which to race. You will then lay the gear and wear cards on the table and select one card of each other color. These cards will describe the ability of each cube color. The cards also have a price and a value. The price is shown in the top right-hand corner and indicates the cost of a cube of that color and the value is the amount of cash an unused cube of that color will give you when buying new cubes.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


You will select a race car and place your car in P1, P2... spaces according to player order. You will also place your lap marker on space 3 of the lap track.

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You will start the game with a bag containing 5 white, 5 yellow, and 2 light grey cubes.

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Each turn, you will draw 7 cubes from your bag and may choose to take a standard turn or an alternate turn. On a standard turn, you go through the following phases in order.
1. Action Phase - Select cubes from your active pile, apply their effects in sequence, and place them in your used pile. Some cubes are associated with effects that allow you to acquire or remove other cubes or move on specific spaces of the track. Others are gear cubes that allow you to move around corresponding spaces of track (i.e. a black cube allows you to move on black spaces and a white on white spaces). You may only move forward and only to spaces connected to your car's current location.
2. Buy Phase - Use any leftover cubes in your active pile as money to buy new cubes from the stock, placing them in your used pile.
3. Car - Move your race car according to the cubes you played for their action effects.
4. Decline - Gain a number of wear cubes depending on the darkest colored section of track onto which you moved.
5. End - Remove all the cubes from your active and used piles and draw new cubes.

On an alternate turn, you cannot use any of the cubes in your active pile or buy any cubes and you cannot move. Instead, you remove all wear cubes from your active pile and proceed to the end phase.

If you cross the finish line when your lap marker is on the final lap space, the game will end at the end of the round. The player whose car has moved the furthest wins the game!

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The Review


Played prior to review 5x






1. Impressive insert and components
Everything has a place and everything is in its place in Automobiles. The insert contains a lidded tray that holds all the cubes in their own separate little compartments. This makes it easy and quick to set the game up and put everything back into place when you're done.

The player aids serve a dual purpose, showing you all the information you need to play the game and acting as an organizer for your active, used, and discard piles.

2. Intensely satisfying sense of building a racing engine
Automobiles is all about the engine. Much like Dominion and its deck-building relatives, Automobiles challenges you to create an efficient and effective way to propel your point engine forward. The points just happens to take the form of a track in the case of Automobiles. You are literally building a vehicle and supporting it with a crew that will both propel your vehicle forward as quickly and efficiently as possible and allow you to effectively dispose of the wear your you will inevitably have to take as you move forward. You have to create both a way to move around all sections of the track as effectively as all others and eliminate all the wear you take on as a result of that movement. You can choose to build an engine that sticks to the exterior parts of the track or uses boosts and engine upgrades that demand you take on lots of wear in order to move through long sections of the track in one go if you can find a way to quickly eliminates the huge amounts of wear you would take. Or you can play it safe and create an engine that doesn't demand you take on as much wear in the first place. What you do is both up to you and the combination of abilities available to you in the form of upgrades. But whatever you do in the game, you will feel the power of your engine. You will feel its strength and you will feel it sputter. You will create, dismantle, and adjust. And you will move forward.

3. So many things to think about on each turn!
In Automobiles, each turn presents you with a set of 7 action cubes. You can use those cubes to execute their actions or you can save them to buy new cubes. How you decide to do this will depend on your position on the track (i.e. your ability to use them for movement) and how necessary it is for you to adjust your engine.

How you use your action cubes to move around the track may seem to be automatic (i.e. if you have a cube of the right color, use it to move forward), but the decision to push ahead is not quite so simple. If you can only move forward one space, it may not be worth it to take on wear. If you are ahead of your opponent, waiting another turn may help you avoid having to take on any wear by drafting on your next turn. And even the order in which you use your cubes isn't entirely clear cut because certain sections of the track allow you to choose between two different gears and on others you may get further ahead using one combination/order of gears than another.

There is also the question of how to allocate the value of your remaining cubes to add new components to your engine. Do you need more ways to eliminate wear? Were you slow to get through a certain section of track because you were missing gear cubes of a certain color? Do you need to just rush to the end of the track because it's the final lap, wear be darned? How you make these decisions will depend on the stage of the race, state of your engine, and available cube powers.

4. The cubes are not a gimmick
When I first encountered Automobiles, I feared that it would simply be a deck-building game in cube form for absolutely no reason. But there is a reason for cubing the fun in Automobiles! In fact, there are two!

First, the cubes are instrumental in helping you visualize the movement of your car around the track as you place each cube on the section of track it is helping you traverse. As you build up to large turns, particularly when actions allow you to draw more cubes from your bag, the ability to keep track of your vehicle's movement in this way becomes very important. Had cards been used, this whole process would take a lot more time.

Second, the cubes are instrumental in helping you plan and adjust your engine over the course of the game. Being able to see the cubes in your discard pile gives you information about the cubes you need to add to your roster and certain actions allow you to manipulate your discard pile by either adding cubes from your discard back into your bag or using the composition of your discard pile to move your car forward.

5. High replay value
The replay value in Automobiles stems from variability and primarily from the variability in the specific functions of action cubes. Each cube color can have one of four different functions and the combination of functions assigned to the cubes will differ in any given game. While in one game, dark grey cubes may be particularly powerful due to the presence of a Diesel Engine that propels you forward equal tot he number of those cubes you have in your discard pile, in another, wear cubes may take on a whole new value as the Pit Team allows you to convert them into more valuable cubes. In one game, you may have multiple options for eliminating wear cubes, while in another you may have only one. In one game, you may be able to draw bunches of cubes to create explosive turns even without moving on darker spaces of the board. You get the idea. The combinations of cube colors you acquire and the actions you have available to you will drastically alter how you play each game.

The replay value in Automobiles is also generated by its double-sided board and option to play up to 7 rounds. While one side of the board is more open to creating a simple, uni-dimensional "deck", the other forces you to create a more varied "deck" through sections of track that cannot be traversed in higher gears. And the option of playing 7 rounds instead of 3 completely alters the demands of the game, increasing the need for long-term strategic planning.

6. Super fast-paced, fast-playing, and quick to set up and tear down!
As I mentioned above, the insert goes a long way to making Automobiles one of the easiest games to set up. The game feels like it sets itself up. The speedy setup carries over to the playing time, which clocks in around the 30-minute mark if playing the basic 3-round game with 2 players. And despite the seemingly long, multi-step turn structure, turns happen very quickly. Plus, while it isn't your turn, you can plan out your entire turn because your opponent can't do much to thwart your plans (at least when playing with 2). This means that you feel engaged and invested in the game even when it isn't your turn!

soblue


soblue 1. As impressive as the insert and components are, the box is too big
I love how the tray that stores all the cubes separately expedites the setup process for the game, but I hate how it wastes space in the box. I think the tray could have been an inch shorter and the box an inch shallower, which would a) make the cubes easier to grab out of the tray and b) reduce the amount of space the game takes up. Space is important to me; I don't have a lot of it and I have MANY games.

soblue 2. When you fall behind, you can see it and that can be demoralizing
Automobiles is a pure race game. It has a track and your position in the race is quite obvious at all times. It isn't impossible to pick yourself back up after falling behind, but in the final few rounds of the game, it can happen that the winner is clear, leaving little incentive for the losing player to do much of anything. Now, this isn't a true problem of the game; this is simply something that comes with the territory of playing a map-based race game. Peter has lost every single game of Automobiles we have played. Peter frequently loses, but he rarely, if ever, loses hope. The complete absence of hidden scoring in race games tends to make him lose hope and that's true for Automobiles as well.

soblue 3. Probably quite different with more than two players
With two players, the map is relatively open and it is almost impossible to block your opponent. With more players, you would have to be more careful and clever with your maneuvering around other cars.

The fact that there are fewer cars on the map also provides fewer opportunities for drafting. This isn't a problem per se, but it is another factor that limits the demands the game places on you to maneuver your car effectively when playing with only two players.

Finally, some of the cube powers are relative to the number of players in the game, providing advantages that depend on your order in the race. Such powers become inherently more powerful and more attractive when more players are involved.

Ultimately, the game works very well and is very fun with two players because building an effective cube engine is so satisfying, but a tighter two-player map that would increase the emphasis on maneuvering well would be a very welcome addition. *And I have heard one is coming...*

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Final Word


You know what happens when expectations are blown away by reality? HAPPINESS! I didn't have great expectations for Automobiles. In fact, I had the opposite of great expectations. I expected to dislike it and fire it because I don't like cars, I don't like races, and I don't like trash in my deck builders. And yet I LOVED Automobiles. Why? Because it combines deck-building and racing in a way that no other game has done before; it gives me multiple effective ways of quickly dealing with the trash in my deck, allows me to build an engine that literally propels me forward with each turn, allows me to adjust my engine and effectively estimate my current needs by visualizing the contents of my deck at a glance, and is colorful and fun! And all in 30 minutes with virtually no down time! Perfect!

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


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First Impressions




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I love Kramer and Kiesling. I love them! I love it when they get together (Palaces of Carrara, Coal Baron, Nauticus, Tikal, Porta Nigra, Cavum etc.) and I love it when they break up and do their own wonderful things (Vikings, Seeland, Seeland etc.). I love them! With all that love, I was convinced that Asara just couldn't go wrong.

In Asara, you build towers of various colors and sizes by playing cards from your hand to various areas of a board. Each area allows you to purchase tower pieces of various colors or to acquire money or to acquire more cards. You play a card and take the area's action. The trick is that each area only accepts cards of a single color, so once a card has been played into an area, newly played cards have to follow suit. If not, you have to play two cards of any color face down as a wild. The round ends when all players have played all their cards, so planning the order in which you will play your cards and the areas of the board that are most important to you is where the interesting decisions in the game lie. Theoretically. Possibly with more players. See, Asara is a veritable snooze fest with only two players. There is no tension and there is no fun. You can see the beginnings of the idea of variously colored pieces that can be gathered at various prices and built into single structures that can also be found in the great game of The Palaces of Carrara and Porta Nigra, but that idea is a bit too lonely in Asara. It just feels like it's missing the game around it. Or perhaps it's just missing a higher player count. Either way, I won't be playing this one again, which is a bit sad because it is a gorgeous game.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


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From gallery of milenaguberinic


You may remember that Peter received the Magic: The Gathering Duel Deck Anthology for his birthday last Friday. And that he loved it! It makes for a great collector's item and would make a great introduction to MtG for newcomers, but the price range precludes it from being the latter. I'm not sure who the intended audience is for this product, but I guess Peter? Retired MtG players who like shiny collectors' items and would like to have some pre-built decks to play around with from time to time? I have no idea, but the duel decks themselves would make for a great introduction to new players.

Anyway, we had a LOT of fun with these decks over the weekend. We played about 5 games in total using the Divine vs. Demonic and Garruk vs. Liliana decks. Even though I won ALL the games we played (WHAT HAPPENED TO PETER!? HE WAS THE MAGIC KING! ), all the games were super close and the decks seemed well balanced. My FAVORITE game of all was the one in which I played Liliana, got her to 8 counters so I could trigger her crazy ability to resurrect all creature cards from all graveyards and put them under my control and managed to get Peter to 0 life with only 1 life remaining on me (which made me wish I just had a copy of Near Death Experience as it allows you to win the game if you have exactly 1 life at the beginning of upkeep). We quit playing Magic when the Planeswalkers made their debut, so playing with them is a fun new experience!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


And just in case you are unfamiliar with or curious about Magic: The Gathering, it is a game in which you take on the role of dueling mages and attempt to reduce the life of your opponent(s) from 20 to 0 by playing lands that provide mana, used to help you play further spells, creatures, and enchantments. Crafting a clever deck that aims to overwhelm your opponent with lots of little creatures or thwart his attempts to cast spells or creatures or assault him with direct damage spells or large creatures that can stomp all over anything in their path is a key component of the game. However, playing with pre-built decks can be just as fun, as we discovered this week. Strangely enough, in all our years of playing MtG, Peter and I never played with any preconstructed decks. Any that we purchased were immediately dismantled and raided for useful cards. This duel deck approach is certainly a departure for us. But it's a fun departure. Perhaps we will re-institute Friday Night Magic at casa de Mina & Peter.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Tides of Madness
I quite dislike octopuses. I don't like the rubbery texture and I don't like the creepy-looking tentacle thingies. Nope, octopuses and I just don't get along. Perhaps that is why I chose to neglect paying ANY attention whatsoever to the tentacles on the cards in our game of Tides of Madness this week. Or perhaps I ignored them because I was hoping they would just score more points for me...Whatever I was hoping was not to be. I went mad.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

My madness on display


Kingdom Builder: Big Box
Kingdom Builder! This is another one of those games that makes me wish I could stretch my top 10 list to 20.

The goals in this game were to build a contiguous diagonal line of at least 7 settlements, to build settlements next to mountains, connect locations, castles, and nomads, and to build all 3 settlements in a straight line each turn. We were playing with the caves, which I love because they create another decision point in the game. Do I stay put or move my settlement to a different board? Playing with caves is almost like having an extra power tile!

Both Peter and I were focused on making the most in-game points we could by building our settlements in straight lines. Peter did a much better job of that and ended up quite a few points a head of me, but I did a better job at the end-game scoring goals and we ended up tied! We must play KB more often! Delightful fun every time!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Hyperborea
I recently learned that Hyperborea will be getting an expansion soon (Hyperborea: Light & Shadow) and that prompted me to get the base game played again! I love this bag-building, cube-pulling, area-control, special-power extravaganza!

I played as the purple ladies and Peter got the red dudes. I did pull the yellow guys but their powers are such a snore fest that I had to Mulligan those suckers and re-draw. And guess what? I got my favorite ladies in the world! I built up a nice little combo with Mining and Mysticism; one gave me 3 points and the other allowed me to draw cubes every time I made points. That helped me create some big moves quickly. The center tile also allowed me to make 3 points per round (i.e. refresh phase), and I ended up getting to 15 points so quickly that I could have ended the game in about 20 minutes. I was collecting techs every round too and started with Outposts, so getting to 5 wasn't a problem. For some stupid reason, I decided to prolong the game a bit, which allowed Peter to snipe my ladies out of their nice positions at the center of the map and allowed him to take over. Greedy Mina. shake I tried to recover, but decided to cut my losses by taking a fifth tech and we ended up TIED. Well, Peter actually won the tie breaker, but don't tell him that.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Fields of Arle
Woohoo! I made my second highest score! 132.5! That's pretty good! And Peter did quite well! He was around 120! I don't know how we managed to do so well so late at night with both of us quite exhausted, but perhaps our brains are just wired to function more effectively when we are only capable of using half of their capacity!

Peter says I am predictable when I play Fields. I had the first player marker for the Spring season and immediately went for the Farmer's House. I guess I am predictable because if one of the basic green buildings is in play, I will ALWAYS take it! What's not to like about getting a free action every November!? Now, contrary to my typical style, I actually didn't completely neglect animals in this game. In fact, I built a second stall so I could reproduce them reliably. I was planning to acquire the 9-point wagon and knew I had to breed a crazy number of horses. Also, rather than focusing on shipping goods, I ended up focusing on building as many buildings as I could as quickly as possible. I guess all that worked out quite well, as I ended up with a great score. Of course, Peter made respectable score too, so yay us!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

All the buildings are gone!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Elysium
I'm usually quite good at Elysium. I was not so good this time. I kept completing family legends, while Peter was more focused on the level legends. He was also focused on the Gathering cards that provide a point for every other family in the same legend. He managed to get nearly ALL of those in a SINGLE legend! It didn't really matter what I did. I made many in-game points by converting cash into VP, but it just wasn't enough to catch up to his crazy Gathering party! I think I simply allowed him to be the starting player in too many rounds...A rematch is desperately needed. By me.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Food Chain Magnate
This week, I learned that it is not a good idea to play Food Chain Magnate on an empty stomach. In fact, it is a very bad idea to play Food Chain Magnate on an empty stomach. The map was basically divided into two areas. Peter picked one and I picked another. I knew I had to compete with him or be destroyed, but I picked the wrong way (or, more precisely, the wrong order in which) to compete. Although the map was divided into two areas in terms of ability to access homes, a central area connected the homes into a single block, meaning that a Marketing Manager could make mailbox ads to ALL the homes. Instead of hiring a Marketing Manager to screw with Peter's ability to serve customers and THEN playing a New Business Developer to compete in his little enclave, I did the opposite and opened a restaurant a) without producing the goods that his people wanted and b) with a Luxuries Manger, who was my chief way of staying afloat. I also made the mistake of neglecting to hire one of those home developer people early enough. Ultimately, this game went to Peter. I need to eat before playing. shake

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
TTA! We played TTA and Food Chain in the same day! And because that game of Food Chain went so horrendously for me and made me very sad, we decided to play TTA without wars and aggression. I really wanted to play TTA but couldn't stomach the meanness, so that was a good compromise.

As usual, I managed to recruit Michelangelo early in the game and collect buckets of points with my happy faces and get away without paying extra civil actions for wonders. That was nice, but as usual, I suffered quite the blow when I lost him. Michelangelo is a funny guy. He gives you a false sense of complacency with your VP-generation engine. And just as you're starting to feel extra smug about all the happy points you've acquired, you lose half the power you thought you had! For some reason, I can't seem to train my brain to prepare for the blow that will ensue when I lose Michelangelo. However, despite the blow I suffered and despite the fact that Peter managed to stay ahead of me in points throughout the game after Michelangelo's loss, I won the game! Why? Because Peter only put ONE age III scoring military card in the military stack! ONE! Oh well. I win!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Dilluvia Project
Peter loves Dilluvia Project, so he decided to class it up with some glass pieces. He bought glass beads online and they FINALLY arrived this week, which meant that we had to play the game!

We were a bit rusty and weren't very competitive about infiltrating each other's territory, but we still had fun. Early in the game, I acquired a tile that would give me 5 coins for every 6-level building I built, so I focused my energies on building up to being able to build at least 2 of those. I also focused on propellers to increase the number of buildings I had and thus my point production. And when I saw the +1 building tile up for auction, I snatched it up immediately! I ended up winning by about 6 points, but I felt like Peter was on my tail the entire time.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Scythe
Peter picked Polania because he loves expeditions. I played with Crimea because I wanted to have a bird...or maybe I was just feeling yellow like the sun. Either way, I was the bird lady.

Peter was doing very well in this game. Although I beat him to the Factory, he ended up chasing me out and managed to hold that fort down until the end of the game. However, I ended up in a higher popularity slot and a more effective arrangement of structures, which gave me a higher multiplier and higher structure bonus respectively! I won, but it was a close game! Peter is getting better!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Via Nebula
Peter won Via Nebula for the first time this week! By ONE point! I knew he was doing very well when he kept building 4-point buildings. I had two 2-point buildings in my private stash and they just weren't attractive enough to build. Instead, I focused on the public buildings, racing to build the good ones ahead of Peter. I wanted the 3-resource Distillery because because we think they are the best. One extra action in a game that is all about efficiency? Yes, please! Peter beat me to that one, but I managed to get a 4-resource one. However, that ended up being the only 4-point building I built! Late in the game, I wanted to focus on ending it asap because I could see Peter building up to yet another 4-pointer. And I took one needless turn that cost me the game! Instead of ending the game, I decided to try to uncover another explorer by placing two meadows. And Peter built a building. I lost by one point. Did I mention that? But I might have lost either way.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

This darn piece of wheat cost me the game angry!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Heir to the Pharaoh
Heir to the Pharaoh! I honestly felt like I was drowning this whole game! I kept missing out on placing and controlling monuments and acquiring monument cards, but I was doing very well on building my cat chain around the sun track and I did manage to build the first 3 levels of the pyramid. And that won me the game in an entirely different way from the one I used in our previous session! In our first game, I dominated with monuments on the board and had only about a quarter of the sun track. Yay for multiple viable strategies! There is a lot more game here than you can see in one or two sessions!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


51st State: Master Set
As you know, I MUST play either Imperial Settlers or 51st State Master Set (or both!) on a weekly basis or I break out in a horrible rash! It's true! I promise! This week, we decided to go with 51st State.

This week, I decided to use Peter's office against him! I was the Hegemony, so I was expecting to raze hell! And that's exactly what I did. Unfortunately for me, Peter was much quicker to get his point engine going. I had a lot of trouble digging out ANY point cards for several rounds, so in spite of my wicked razing abilities and piles of resources, I was unable to do much of anything productive with them until Peter was already halfway to ending the game! But I did catch up! I caught up! In fact, I caught up so well that the game ended in a TIE! TIE!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Voyages of Marco Polo
We played Marco Polo again this week! Peter had to go second, so he got to select his character first. The characters were Rashid (who I despise), Khan Arghum, and Wilhelm von Rubruk. Of course, Peter picked Khan because he is the most exciting! Who can say no to those 6 tasty action cards!? WHO!? Not me. I had to pick Rubruk. Even though I wasn't very excited to play with him, his power fits my preferred travel strategy quite well, so we ended up getting along much better than I anticipated. I went for a route that passed through Karakorum, which had my favorite power ever (2 resources for 1 move)! That certainly helped me dump ALL 11 of my trading posts onto the board for an extra special bonus 10 points! WOOHOO! TRAVEL FOR THE WIN! EVERY TIME!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Mystic Vale
Mystic Vale continues to amuse. I do hope that the expansion comes sooner rather than later so that we don't need to take a break from the game, but for now, we are still enjoying its simple and streamlined charms.

As usual, I went for a big tableau of vale cards, splashing clumps of spirit symbols throughout my deck. I also had a vale card that allowed me to spend 2 mana to use one spirit symbol as another, which only helped to feed the vale-buying bonanza.

This also happened to be the first game in which I stuck 2 corruption symbols on one card, adding an advancement that negated all corruption on that card to balance things out. I don't know why I found it so satisfying to uber-corrupt a card, but I did. I'm strange that way. In the end, I doubled Peter's score, owing mostly to my supercharged vale tableau. It gave me mana, allowed me to buy vale symbols, and gave me a bunch of points. It was a good vale tableau.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Karuba
Sadly, I think I need to hang up my Karuba hat and head for a different filler for a while. We've played this game about 20 times now, so I'm going to attribute that oversaturation to the less than entertaining nature of this particular session. It happens. Board game interest comes in waves. This wave seems to have gone for me. My sister own a copy of the game as well, so I'll be able to play it with her.

Peter beat me to two temples, but I ended up getting ALL my little Indiana Jones dudes to their homes before the tiles ran out and won the game! Yay! Now for a loooooooong break.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Limes
HOLY C*&^! I made 80 points in Limes this week! EIGHTY! We play with the Limes for Pros variant (which you can find on Martyn F's site), which increases the number of scoring possibilities, but I have still never gotten anywhere near 80! I'm pretty sure it had much to do with the wonderful saintly cards I drew. There were so many that were split in two land types rather than four! Those are the best because they allow you to build larger areas more easily! I think Peter ended up below 60, so I guess my monster score wasn't entirely caused by the precious, precious two-land cards.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Roll Player - Remember my ban on getting games before Essen? Yeah. Not happening. I saw this up for pre-order at BoardGameBliss and things happened. I am weak.
2. Colony - A new dice-rolling, tableau-building game! I love rolling dice and I love building tableaus!

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Next Week...


Look forward to something! I'm not sure what's happening with Unfair, but I hope I receive have it and be able to review it before the Kickstarter ends! Customs agents can be very delay-y sometimes shake. As if my board games were dangerous substances!

***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Jackie says, "Have a great day everyone! I'm going to spend it sleeping on mama's chair!"
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