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 Arkwright is Appointed Baron * New Reviews for ARKWRIGHT & BARONY * First Impressions for SPIRITS OF THE RICE PADDY, NEW BEDFORD, and ARCTIC SCAVENGERS + HQ * AND MUCH MORE!

Milena Guberinic
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Toronto
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Hi Friends!


I have some exciting news! For those of you who are interested in spending a wee bit of virtual currency on a wee bit of my logo, I present to you the Mina's Fresh Cardboard microbadge! You can find it by clicking on it here: Microbadge: Mina's Fresh Cardboard fan

I want to thank for making two versions of this badge and going through the very long approval process! Thank you!!! heart

In less exciting news, I had HORRIBLE back pain for most of the week and was in a Robaxecet-induced haze for most of it, so let me know if anything you read below doesn't make sense. I will try to clear it up. For now, big ouch. soblue How old am I anyway!? I didn't think things would start going downhill until at least 40! Are early/mid 30s the new 40s? zombie

This week, I want to give you all an extra special thank you for reading my blog and reviews and encouraging my writing. I love doing this more than anything (except actually playing games, of course) and knowing that you get something out of what I do means more than you will ever know. heart

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***


What's New?




The Overview


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In Arkwright, you take on the role of a 18th/19th-century industrialist (Pennypacker? ), establishing companies, hiring and firing workers, producing goods, selling to locals and/or colonies, and generally doing whatever it takes to create the most valuable portfolio. At the end of the game, your score will be equal to the number of your company's share you hold multiplied by their value.

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The game is set up by populating the job market with workers and populating the time track with economy markers and events. The job market shows the cost you will have to pay for each worker when your factories produce goods and the demand for each product, which limits the amount of goods you are able to sell.

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Job market


The time marker will move from left to right with each turn and from one row to the next from round to round. Each round of the game corresponds to 10 years of time and concludes with a random event.

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The game board also features an appeal track for 4 different types of goods, including bread, clothes, cutlery, and lamps. Four neutral importers are placed on the 0 spaces of the appeal columns for each good and player markers are placed on those same spaces as well.

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You begin the game with a factory board that shows 4 different factory slots - bread, clothes, cutlery, and lamps. You also begin the game with 15 shares in your company and a share value of 10. In the first round of the game, you will add 2 factories with 2 worker lines to your board and pay for them using the money you gain from selling any number of shares you hold at the start of the game. You will then have to set a price and appeal level for the goods produced by the factories you have opened. The sum of these two factors must always be equal to the value of the factory (with quality/distribution modifiers).

You also have 6 action markers, which you will use to take one action per turn, 4 marketing and 4 quality markers, which you will use to indicate improvements in the distribution or quality of the goods produced by your companies over the course of the game, and 16 factory tiles of levels 1 to 4 for each of the 4 different factories.

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You will also receive 4 contract tokens, one for each good, and a harbor mat with spaces for storing goods and spaces for ships you may acquire over the course of the game.

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In addition to the main board, there is also a special marker mat, which contains special action tiles that you can gain when you play certain actions, and there are 12 development tiles, which give you special abilities and which you can also gain when you play certain actions.

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After the first round of the game, during which you will open two factories and select 1 special action marker or development marker, you will start each turn by moving the turn/round marker forward one space and revealing the economy marker for the turn. The economy marker will show how far the neutral importer will move up the appeal track for the good being produced in the current turn. The economy marker will also show how many workers will return to the job market from the fired worker pool.

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After the first round


After this, you will take one action each before your factory will produce the good type being produced this turn. To take an action, you select one of your 6 action markers and place it on the action track, paying any associated costs.

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The basic actions you have available to you are:
1) Build or upgrade factories, paying any associated costs. Set a price and appeal for the goods produced by newly built factories and change the price or appeal of upgraded factories to reflect their new value.

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Factories


2) Take workers from the job market and add them to any factories you have open or your shipping board to allow you to store excess goods. As a bonus, you may also take a special action marker or development marker.

3) Fire workers and replace them with machines. As a bonus, you may take a special action marker or development marker.

4) Advertise your goods, increasing their appeal or price accordingly.

5) Increase the quality of your goods, increasing their appeal or price accordingly.

6) Buy stock. As a bonus, you may take a special action marker or development marker AND you may add a contract to your shipping board.

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Action markers


At the end of each turn, the factory for the turn will produce and you will be able to sell up to the number of goods produced by your factory equal to the good's appeal at the price you have set on your player board. Demand for each good is determined by the number of empty slots on the job market for that good. You can't sell more goods than people want. Your share value will rise depending on a) the number of goods you have sold, your relative position on the appeal track, and c) whether you have sold the most goods.

You will also be able to ship any goods you are able to store in your warehouse and ship using your ships. Each good is worth the cost of the factory that produced it. You lose 1 appeal for each ship you have used.

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Shipping bread


After this, you will have to pay for each worker and each machine that was operated in that turn.

At the end of each round, an event will occur. Events can affect the following round or cause an immediate, one-time effect.

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In certain rounds, you will also have to add workers to any level 1 and 2 factories you have not upgraded in order to modernize them. These workers will increase the costs you will incur each time those factories produce, so upgrading those factories in advance is generally advisable.

The game ends after 4 rounds at which time your score will be equal to the number of shares you hold multiplied by the value of your shares. Of course, you can buy any shares at their final value with any money you hold at the end of the game.

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All the possible development markers in the game


The Review


This review will focus on the Waterframe version of the game. We played Spinning Jenny once and that was enough.


Played prior to review (Waterframe): 10x






1. Engrossing
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Arkwright is "engrossing." This game is so brain consumingly demanding that you have to be fully engaged in the game whether it is your turn or not. When it isn't your turn you have to pay careful attention to whether and how other players adjust the appeal and prices of their goods in order to ensure that you are able to sell as many goods of that type as you plan to sell and to ensure your stock value moves up when you want it to do so. You also have to plan your own turn, calculating the costs and benefits associated with each action you take. Arkwright will demand your full attention whether it is your turn or not, which makes the time you spend with the game speed by. I am always amazed when I realize that Arkwright has vaporized two hours.

2. So much to think about
Arkwright doesn't fool around. It hits you with the heavy decisions right from the start. The first round of the game may be considered a "preparatory" round that deviates from the rest of the game, but it is where you will make many vital decisions that will set your course for the rest of the game. Which factories do you open? Do you open the low-cost factories and try to produce lots of goods that you will start to ship off when supply begins to overwhelm demand or do you open the high-cost factories and try to produce a smaller number of high-valued goods from the get-go? How much of your stock do you turn to cash? Your stock price will inevitably rise over the course of the game, so overselling can be dangerous, but underselling can be just as dangerous because it can cause you to go into bankruptcy early in the game, effectively reducing your share price and number of shares you hold.

And as the game progresses, the decision points continue to mount. Do you upgrade your factories early or do you wait for the last moment? Do you open more factories or do you make do with the two you have, upgrading them, opening new lines to increase production, improving the quality of the goods they produce to increase their value and appeal and marketing the crap out of them? When do you start buying back your stock? Do you buy little by little round by round as it increases it value or do you economize on that action, buying stock in clumps when you can.

You can go in many different directions in this game and each can end in success. The development tiles available to you may guide your strategy by making certain paths easier or more attractive than others, but you are ultimately the architect of your own industrial highway.

There are development tiles that allow you to store goods for free and there are development tiles that increase the amount of money you get from shipping those goods. If you are able to procure this combination of tiles, you may want to focus on some strategic shipping, while trying to stay ahead on the appeal tracks as much as possible in order to ensure your stock doesn't plummet as a result of all that shipping. There are development tiles that allow you to sell extra goods of certain types, increasing the desirability of those factories. There are development tiles that increase the efficiency by which you can enhance the quality of goods produced by your factories and others that increase the efficiency by which you can advertise your goods. Which of these you are able to acquire will affect which you choose to focus on in controlling the appeal and value of your goods.

If nothing else, Arkwright is not lacking in the decision point department. If you want a game that will pull you in a dizzying number of directions, look no further.

3. So much to balance
My second keyword for Arkwright is "balance" because multiple aspects of the game are interdependent or otherwise demand that you make tradeoffs to prioritize one at the expense of another.

First, you have your share value and the number of shares you are able to buy. As the game goes on, your share value will increase with each goods sale. This will make your shares less accessible to buy, but it will make the shares you hold more valuable. To strike the perfect balance, you have to ensure you buy as many shares as you can at the lowest prices possible, while retaining enough cash flow to keep your factories going. Timing is the key to balance here.

Then, you have the appeal and price of your goods, which translate into your ability to sell your goods and their price. Even though you will want to have a high price and the ability to sell lots of goods, you will have to prioritize one over the other because their additive value will always be equal to the cost of the factory with any quality/marketing modifiers. So whenever you upgrade a factory, increasing its cost or increase the quality of goods produced by that factory, you will have to decide whether to increase your ability to sell goods made by that factory or to increase the value of those goods.

Then, you have the worker pool and your factory lines. Managing your workers takes a delicate balance because they cost money. And the more workers that come off the job market, the more costly they become. Adding workers can allow you to produce more goods, but you have to be able to sell those goods, which also increases in likelihood as more workers come off the job market. You can manipulate multiple aspects of the game using the job market, but you have to take care to ensure that the balance falls in your favor rather than in somebody else's.

More balancing can be found in shipping to foreign markets. This process generally gives you more cash with less effort than selling to local markets, but it can take much maneuvering to time correctly. You have to ensure that you produce more goods than you can sell (i.e. that there is either insufficient demand for all the goods that will be sold or that you have sufficiently suppressed your appeal to ensure you area able to store and ship excess goods) and you have to ensure that you have set up the contracts and ships correctly to be able to ship excess goods when the right goods are produced. While you can use ships as you would action markers to perform shipping actions, you only have ships that can ship 2 goods at your disposal in a 2-player game, making this process rather inefficient.

Shipping demands balance for another reason - it causes your share value to fall. Each ship you use causes your share value to go down by 1, meaning that you have to ensure you are selling enough goods to counteract this fall if you want to maintain your share price.

Arkwright is definitely game of delicate balance and trying to strike a balance in the many aspects of the game that demand making difficult tradeoffs is challenging and fun!

4. A great sense of development over the course of the game
Great games take you on a journey; they make you feel like you have gone from one point to another and grown in power and influence over the course of your travels. Arkwright does this beautifully, illustrating the history of the industrial revolution through its rich economic systems and forcing you to grow and develop your factories and diversify your relations with a variety of markets. You begin the game with two low-level factories manned by schlubby grey dudes, capable of producing a couple of goods and selling them to local markets for what seems like pennies and grow into a mega corporation, producing a multitude of high-valued goods you can sell not only to local markets but also to foreign interests. With careful planning, you can even find yourself at the helm of 4 factories that rake in buckets of cash by the end! Moving from a sense of impotence to omnipotence just feels good! And due to the complexity of the game, it feels extra good in Arkwright!

5. Simple in its complexity
Arkwright is a complex game. There is no doubt about that. And yet, there is an underlying simplicity in the system. At its core, this is a game of buying low and selling high. You don't even have to worry about other players buying your stock or messing with your company's value. It should be easy. It should be simple. But it is not. Once you begin to play the game and gain an understanding of how everything works, the game runs smoothly; the movement of the action disc across the economy marker spaces reminds you of all the bookkeeping you have to do each round and you really only have about 6 actions to choose from. If you can past the initial learning experience, the game will quickly become intuitive and you will be able to easily break it down in your head.

6. Works surprisingly well with only two players and doesn't take an unduly long time to play at that player count
I think that one of the main reasons Arkwright works so well with two players is the presence of neutral buyers. As their movement is revealed each turn, these little suckers are unpredictable and add to the number of forces capable of foiling your plans to sell a certain number of good on a particular turn or increase your stock value. Even if you decide not to compete with your opponent on an appeal track, the neutral importer will be there, doing the job for you. They create enough competition to ensure that one player cannot simply run away by remaining uncontested for a particular good.

7. High replay value
Arkwright is a deep ocean of replayability. It takes a game or two to familiarize yourself with the system and once you are familiar, it can take many more to begin to truly play with it. Arkwright isn't an impenetrable fortress, but it is a deep and complex game and thus rewards multiple returns. The more you play the game, the better able you will be to effectively manage and coordinate your production and overseas shipping/local sales and balance your stock price and income.

And if this weren't enough, Arkwright presents you with a mountain of variety through its
*variable and unpredictable economy markers, which change the composition of the job market, the cost of workers, and the demand for goods of various types,
*events, which can change the way each round plays out,
*layout of special action markers, which can change how easy it is to perform certain actions over others, and
*distribution of development markers, which provide special powers that can drastically change your strategy.

And if you ever do get bored of playing the same way, the game comes with a number of variants, from the Spinning Mule to a competitive, open-market variant that allows players to buy each other's stocks.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. The rulebooks are overly verbose, difficult to reference, and missing information
The rulebooks (yes TWO) are full of words. Lots of words. In fact, they are full of too many words. Obvious points are endlessly repeated and important points end up buried in pointless verbiage. This makes it difficult to reference information you want and it makes it difficult to figure out how to play the game upon reading the rules.

Our first game of Arkwright (Spinning Jenny) took much less time to play than it did to decipher the rules and the second (Waterframe) took just as much time to learn again. Arkwright is a far less difficult game than the rulebooks would have you believe.

Another problem we have run into with the rulebooks is that some information appears to be missing. Like not there at all. Either that or it is so well hidden that whoever can find it should get the "Where's Waldo" award. We have been unable to locate information about how certain development tiles work, both in the rulebook and on the internet in general...

soblue 2. The workers are super fiddly to set up and play with and they ROLL! ALL OVER THE PLACE!
I think the board gaming world has come a long way since the advent of the meeple shape. Pawns were cool when they were the only option, but the meeple revolutionized the way we play games. No longer do we need to fiddle with rolly polly rounded pawns that spin in circles and roll off tables. And yet, we do in Arkwright. The GAZILLION meeples that have to be set up and handled each turn and each round due to their coming and going from the job market and each time they have to be handled presents an opportunity for disaster. See, if you knock one of these suckers off, you could end up incite a domino effect and end up with pawns rolling everywhere. Peter has big hands. He does this one a regular basis. I think the workers would have been better represented as meeples or tracks to reduce the time required to set them up and increase the ease of handling. As is, they are threatening little beasts...you never know when they will rebel.

soblue 3. Art is subjective, but the game looks quite unattractive to me
A brown board with some industrial grey pawns and hints of color from the player pieces and factory tiles do not a pretty game make. I fully understand that the art and coloring is evocative of the industrial revolution and the grim and grimy factory circumstances, but it just doesn't appeal to me. I won't call for MORE art or more intricate art because that would simply mitigate the elegance of the clear and effective graphic design, but COLOR! This game makes me crave color!

soblue 4. You are constantly adding and subtracting and making minuscule calculations to determine minuscule cost savings/benefits
To those who dislike games that feature a constant stream of arithmetic, stay away. Arkwright demands that you constantly calculate your income and expenditures and constantly adjust prices and demand and evaluate cost savings of each and every action you take. This game is about 2 hours of arithmetic, so if you're not into that, be aware that Arkwright just might not work for you.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Final Word


Some games are rainbow explosions of joy and love and happiness and color. Arkwright is not one of those games. Arkwright is an explosion of brown and grey accounting. There is little joy and little happiness I feel when playing this game. And yet, I love it. It may not shoot rainbows out of its butt, but it is made utterly engrossing by its mountains of options and tradeoffs on each turn.

I must confess that I hate money. I have never had any interest in finance, accounting, and related matters. And I only really have one reason for working - to support my hobby. Sure, I need food, but I can go without. Board games I cannot go without. Yes, money itself bores me. And yet, the money balancing exercise of Arkwright utterly enthralls. Despite the fact that the theme of the game works against my nature, I love the challenge of trying to balance my factories' production with good quality, I love perfectly timing my contracts, and I trying to buy stock at the best times while retaining enough cash flow to keep my factories running. There is a lot to think about in this game and fans of complex economic games are sure to enjoy it. Despite its brown-grey exterior, Arkwright has a sweet and delicious center if you can stick around long enough to find it. Think of it as the Tootsie Pop of board games.

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


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***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


Barony was designed by Marc Andre, the designer of Splendor. While Splendor isn't a game that I would play outside of its app form, Barony has enough substance to justify its presence in my collection in its physical form.

The Overview


In Barony, you become a Baron, fighting with other barons to become the Duke by deploying armies of knights to extend your territory and building villages, strongholds, and cities.

To set up the game, the board tiles are shuffled and the game board is created by randomly arranging a number of these tiles equal to 9 times the number of players in the game.

The tiles show 5 different types of terrain, including:
*Mountains - one pawn on a mountain precludes other players from entering
*Forests - no cities can be built on forests
*Plains - the most valuable lands
*Fields - the second-most valuable lands
*Lakes (no pawns may cross or occupy lakes).

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You begin the game with a set of pawns, including:
*Cities (5) - built from villages. They keep opponents from entering their space and allow you to recruit knights.

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*Knights (7) - recruited in cities. They move around the map, are replaced by strongholds or villages, and allow you to destroy another player's single knight or lone village when in a pair

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*Villages (14) - built by replacing knights. They can be turned into cities and can be destroyed by a pair of opposing knights

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*Strongholds (2) - built by replacing knights. They keep opponents from entering their space.

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At the start of the game, each player strategically places 3 city-knight pairs on spaces on 3 spaces on the board, keeping in mind that cities cannot be placed on lakes, forests, or on spaces adjacent to another city.

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Each turn, you take one of the following actions:
*Recruit - Select ONE city and place on it up to 2 knights from your reserve or 3 knights if the city is adjacent to a lake (because knights are more attracted to cities with pools!)
*Move - Move 1 or 2 of your knights to an adjacent space. You cannot move your knight to a lake space, a space with an opponent's city or stronghold, a space containing 2 pawns of an opponent, a mountain space containing an opponent's pawn. If you move 2 of your knights into a space containing 1 opponent knight or a lone village, you burn down the village, taking 1 resource token from that opponent or return the knight to that opponent's supply.
*Construct - Replace all or any of your knights on the board with a village or stronghold from the reserve, returning replaced knights to your reserve. For each build, you earn a resource token associated with the territory on which you built.
*New city - Replace one of your villages with a city from your reserve, returning the village to your reserve. When you build a city, you immediately earn 10 VP. You cannot build a city on a forest, a space adjacent to another city, or a space containing an opponent's knight.
*Expedition - Remove one knight permanently from your reserve and place another in a free space on the edge of the game board.
*Noble - Discard a minimum of 15 resources to move forward on the noble track. You don't get any change.

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Different terrains provide different resources


The game ends when one player becomes Duke. Any remaining resource token points (written in silver on resource tokens) are added to scores.

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The Review


Played prior to review: 7x






1. Beautiful
Barony is a vibrant, beautifully-illustrated and produced game, which is something that every game (and especially every abstract game) should be.

2. Simple rules
The rules are simple, straightforward, and well-written and the game is easy to teach and learn. It took me about 5 minutes to explain the game to Peter. That said, there are a few points that can be difficult to keep in mind (see soblue), but they aren't a significant barrier to learning the game.

3. Deep, strategically and tactically rich game
Ok, this is where things get interesting. Barony may make for a simple, straightforward learning experience, but it is anything but simple and straightforward to play.

At the start of the game, you have to carefully consider the layout of the various terrain types to optimally position your starting castles so as to ensure that a) you are able to effectively block your opponent from accessing the most valuable resources and b) you are able to ensure continued access to those valuable resources for yourself. Of course, the game does not make this easy to execute. Your knights, which are the only way you have of moving around the board and one of only 3 ways to block your opponent come in a very limited supply. Over the course of the game, you have to use them to create villages and use knights, along with the mountains/lakes and strongholds to effectively block your opponent from burning down your villages and stealing your resources. As you watch your opponent's moves, you have to weigh the likelihood of his attacking you and the likelihood of your attacks yielding benefits in the form of resources stolen from your opponent or opening up valuable territories for you to build villages or strongholds on.

Your chief concerns in Barony are spatial arrangements of your and your opponent's knights and buildings and the topography of the land. Strategy comes in the form of long-term plans for your cities and tactical considerations come as you respond to your opponent's moves. I personally love thinking about the ever-increasing number of components on the board and I think most players who love a good area control party would enjoy the types of decision points in this game.

4. Optimization and efficiency
Barony is a somewhat unforgiving game. Every move you make has to be carefully considered and efficient. You cannot afford to make any missteps and you cannot afford to lose any resources because you are in a sort of race; the player who manages to amass the most valuable resources the most quickly WHILE carefully managing and protecting them will win the game. Giving resources away by leaving yourself open to attack when you have valuable resources in hand or failing to optimize your movement can lead to failure.

I love games that don't have a lot of room for error and yet have a broad decision space. Barony is like that in its demands for optimization and efficiency and many options for moving your knights and building a variety of buildings to both threaten your opponent's resources and protect your own.

5. Zero randomness
Barony has ZERO random factors. Your ultimate fate is in your hands, so if you fail you have only yourself to blame. Does that sound like a good thing? I guess it depends on who you are, but if you are like me, this sounds PERFECT!

6. Immense replay value, particularly with two players
Barony is incredibly variable! The game comes with 36 territory tiles and only 18 of these are used in any given 2-player game! The territory tiles all contain different configurations of the 5 different land types, so the combination of these that become available in any given game and their layout will demand players adopt very different strategies. In a game with many mountains, you may be able to rely on building mountain villages to create a front your opponent cannot cross. In another without mountains, lone villages would be a soure of liability. In one game, you may be able to rely on the high-valued fields, using their resources to quickly ascend the nobility track, while in another, you may have to retain more lower-valued resources for longer periods of time, which would necessitate more safe plays to protect yourself from attack. In any case, every game of Barony creates different demands by the way the board is initially laid out.

Variability isn't the only source of replay value in Barony. While the game is easy to learn, honing your strategy is anything but. The game definitely rewards numerous returns. After the first couple of games, I felt like I understood the game well, but after 7 plays and counting, I keep discovering new ways to execute my moves and countermoves and effectively use certain actions (the Expedition action, in particular) to optimize my game. Each and every game of Barony we have played has resulted in close scores, so every teensy bit of learning you take away from each session and are able to incorporate into the next can help you greatly.

6. Short play time
With two players, Barony can be played in about 30 minutes. Despite the weight of the decision-making (and the occasional AP), the game proceeds at a brisk pace and is over rather quickly...most of the time. The map layout can somewhat affect the duration of the game either by limiting or increasing your ability to block your opponent, mostly through the arrangement of mountains, but games generally last no more than 30 minutes, which is perfect for an abstract race game.

7. Works very well with only two players
Barony is a very tight, strategic race with only two players. More players would add more play time and more chaos into the game, which are both things I don't care to add to this game. Ad the map scales according to the number of players, so I don't think a 4-player game would be any tighter than a 2-player one.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. Abstract
This is a 100% abstract game. It will not appeal to those looking for a thematically involved experience. This doesn't bother me personally, but it may bother some players because the game appears to be less abstract than it actually is.

soblue 2. Some rules can take a bit of getting used to
The fact that villages and strongholds give you resources but cities give you 10 points was something that presented a bit of a hurdle for Peter initially. He figured that all building actions would be rewarded similarly, but that cities would give you resources and something extra. Well, he figured wrong, but I understand that this rule and several others (such as cities not being build-able in forests) may take a play session to get accustomed to.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Final Word


What initially attracted me to Barony was its appearance. I am not typically drawn to abstract games and Peter tends to despise them, so I generally avoid them. But Barony doesn't look like your average abstract game, so I figured I could sell it to Peter on looks alone. And I was right. Sort of. Because Barony isn't only beautiful; it is also incredibly interesting. The way it demands you balance acquiring resources with using them to ascend the nobility track, the way it urges you to waste no time in getting to the most valuable resources and to use the landscape to help keep them secure, and the way it puts all of this completely and utterly in your control is just captivating. Barony is beautiful in more ways than one and I look forward to watching that beauty grow with the upcoming expansion!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE


From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


First Impressions


Please, please, please keep in mind that these are not "reviews." They are simply first play impressions, which are notoriously unreliable. Proceed with caution.




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I bought Spirits of the Rice Paddy about a year ago. When I bought it, it stunk like some fierce skunky beast, most likely as a result of the glue used to stick the layered player boards together. In fact, it stunk so badly, I considered chucking it. Instead, I decided to keep it around and check the progress of the stink every few months. It finally reached the point that we could tolerate being in the same room with the game for more than a few minutes, so we finally played it!

In Spirits of the Rice Paddy, you take on the role of a Balinese rice farmer trying to build the most prosperous rice farm. You draft "Spirit" cards with special powers at two points over the course of the game and play one card in each round. The cards not only give you special powers, but they also determine turn order, which can be very important as you are competing for a very limited quantity of water, which is necessary for rice to grow. You have to assign the workers and animals at your disposal to build rice paddies, plant rice, harvest rice, and clear weeds and pests. Harvesting rice will give you money depending on its purity and the size of the paddy it came from and money=points. Completing certain objectives will also give you points.

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I did and did not enjoy my first experience with Spirits of the Rice Paddy. The rulebook left much to interpretation and outright omitted information. And if that information was in there, it was poorly placed. Not only was the rulebook not the best at explaining the game, but the game itself felt clunky and unintuitive...which, I suppose, could have been caused by the unclear rulebook. I was also not a fan of the Spirit cards. Again, this could be a factor of my lack of experience with the game, but I felt like some were objectively better than others and one could get lucky drawing the right card at the right time. Even clever drafting cannot undo a super awesome card drawn by one player that is never seen by another.

What did I enjoy about Spirits of the Rice Paddy? I enjoyed the spatial planning of the rice farm, the water management, and the fight over the hotly contested and ultra precious resource of water. At this point, this appears to be a game we will have to play several more times before I am able to draw any conclusions. Sadly, my first impression wasn't the best, but impressions frequently do change after a first play and I can see a lot of potential in this game, so I'm not writing it off completely.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


Arctic Scavengers is a deck builder that is nearly as old as the grandfatherly Dominion, but it isn't one that I had tried before this week. I acquired the 2015 reprint of the base game with the HQ and Recon expansions and left it sitting under my bed for a while. I gave Peter a few choices for games to try this weekend and he picked Arctic Scavengers because he said it sounded like the most exiting one. We ended up playing the base game + HQ because the base game itself seemed a bit too simple.

In Arctic Scavengers, you are assembling a post-apocalyptic tribe of survivalists, trying to come out on top of a new world order. Being a deck-building game, the people you will add to your tribe and the tools those people will use to execute various actions are represented by cards. You begin the game with some basic abilities and improve those over the course of the game. You are able to dig through junk to find tools, recruit new members using food and medicine, draw additional cards from your deck, and fight with other tribes over contested resources.

The game is divided into two distinct phases. In the first, you are performing actions and buying cards. In the second, you are using the cards you did not play for actions/buying to fight over valuable contested resources in a face-down stack. You never know what you can get from that stack, but it is probably something quite good, so you have to make sure you save enough tribe members with fighting abilities to beat your opponent. The twist is that when ties(which can occur even with a difference of 1 power between played cards in a 2-player game) occur, the contested resource goes into the junk pile! The game ends when this pile of contested resources is depleted and the winner is the player with the player with the most tribe member points (present on people cards) in his deck wins.

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE this game! Despite the gruesome and disturbing theme (CANNIBALS!? REALLY!?), I cannot stop thinking about it. I love the tension between using cards for their action abilities and saving them for the fight for contested resources each round. I love the bluffing element that is introduced by the contested resource fights. And I love the varied abilities of the people and tools you can add to your deck. I definitely think the game needs the expansions to make it adequately replayable and I look forward to seeing what Recon will introduce. But I think we will enjoy the base game + HQ a few more times before we dive into Recon!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


I despise the concept of whaling, but New Bedford held the promise of "town building," so I had to try it. In this game, you use two workers to operate and build buildings in the town of New Bedford and to prepare and launch ships into the sea. Each round concludes with a whaling phase in which your ships' relative positions on the whaling track determine how valuable a catch you are able to bring back. Your ships move closer and closer to shore each round and once they reach shore, you must pay for the catch you have brought in in order to turn it into VP. *gulp*

First, let's get the theme out of the way. I don't like it. I knew I wouldn't like it, but I hoped that the game would help me get past that. It didn't. I felt sad playing the game. I tried to think of the "whales" as plankton or rocks or something a little less intelligent and mammalian than whales while we were playing, but the whales were right there staring back at me. Peter quite disliked the theme as well. Don't read this as my condemning the game. It's a fine theme that is unique and interesting and well implemented, but it makes me sad rather than happy and I don't like being sad when playing games.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Now, what about the game? The game itself is fine, but lacking in the innovation department. It is a simple, straightforward worker-placement game in which the number of spaces to be used increases as you add buildings to the town. The buildings themselves have rather lackluster functions that don't appear to synergize to create exciting combos. Rather than adding functions to the game or generating additional way to score points, they just do pretty much the same things that other buildings do. And as new buildings get added to town, the game starts to feel less and less tight, despite the relatively restrictive 2-worker limit; you always have a backup and a backup to a backup if you want a particular resource or action.

What made me excited for New Bedford was the worker placement and town building and yet what I found most interesting about the game was the whaling. Indeed, the whaling is where most of the tension lies. Do you race to be the first to send your ships out to sea to potentially get the best catch early on or do you wait until you've accumulated enough food for your sailors to be fed throughout a longer journey? Do you compete to have the ship furthest out to sea or do you settle for second pick of the catch? Do you send off multiple ships or do you work on one? There is also some tension in balancing your acquisition of buildings with sending ships out to sea because point-scoring buildings can be worth many points, but whaling early can also be quite lucrative.

Ultimately, New Bedford has some appealing features and some not so appealing features, but it's another game that I won't write off after one session. I will have to try it with the expansion to determine whether that adds sufficient challenge and depth to the game to turn some of those soblue into . It is incredibly pretty and I do think it would definitely satisfy those looking for a light worker placement game who are also interested in the historical theme.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Brew Crafters
I played Brew Crafters for the first time at Dice Tower Con with Steph and Ron. And I LOVED it! I had no idea what I was doing at the time and failed to accomplish much of anything with my brewery, but I more than made up for those failures this time! Playing with Peter was a different experience because a) we had a better conception of what we had to accomplish to do well and to be able to pay for all our stuff and b) a part of the game is chopped off when playing with only two players. Now, that part of the game isn't terribly significant and doesn't drastically alter the experince, but it does give you one less thing to think about. Of course, this probably sounds horribly nebulous and meaningless if you haven't played the game and I should probably specify what I am talking about. When playing with four players, you have the option to contribute to common projects and receive certain benefits when they are complete. With two players, you don't have that option. But that didn't bother me at all. I built up an amazing beer factory! And that's my favorite aspect of this game! You really feel like you have built a cool factory with awesome employees at the end. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Scythe
I let Peter be the Rusviets this week and I was the Nordic Kingdom. I thought it would be funny to swap genders for no reason at all. Our very first game of Scythe pitted these two against each other, but I was piloting the Rusviets and Peter had the Nordic Kingdom. This week, I got board 5 and Peter had board 3. I LOVE board 5 because it allows you to upgrade everything very quickly and it seems to have some sort of affinity for me because I keep getting it! I think I had it last week too!

This was an interesting game of Scythe because it was highly combative. I normally avoid fighting unless I'm trying to bump Peter out of the Factory near the end of the game and he generally avoids it too, but I went a little nuts in this game because he was bothering me with all his zipping around the map and collecting tasty expedition loot with Olga. I also managed to get to the max power level very quickly, while he was relatively low. He kept using his power to gain hearts with a Factory card. First, I bumped Olga off the map when he got a little too close to an expedition I was eyeing and then again when she zipped into the Factory with her special power. And that ended the game! I think the only reason that combat worked so well for me in this game (i.e. I got to place TWO stars for being an instigator!) was because Peter neglected his power. He has never done that before and I doubt he will do it again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Keyflower + Keyflower: The Merchants
Keyflower! After hearing about the new Key to the City: London game coming out at Essen, I HAD to play Keyflower again! I love this game and we never play it any more soblue. And even though I wanted to play with the Farmers expansion, we ended up going with Merchants because we haven't played Farmers in too long and forgot how it works. Boo. I hate it when that happens.

This game went very well for me because Peter generally stayed out of my way. He used my buildings several time, which forced me to use his, but he didn't push my bids at all. That killed him. He was hoping that doing his own thing would help him win, but I had completed multiple contracts and has several high-scoring Winter tiles. I doubled his score. I think the problem was that it had been too long for him since or last play and he forgot how powerful the winter tiles could be when you fulfill their conditions exceedingly well. I'm sure he will remember next time . If next time is soon.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Hyperborea
I am back on the Hyperborea train! Woohoo! I am so excited for the expansion and Peter is excited to win! But he didn't win this week. I couldn't lose again!

I drew the blue science dudes and Peter drew the orange guys. I really wish I could remember the names of these races, but I just can't. I will have to work on that. It will be my next self-improvement goal.

Anyway, I decided to go with the Alchemy power for my race because I usually pick the power that simply allows you to draw cubes whenever you generate a science effect and I wanted to try someting different. This was different indeed. I highly enjoyed the flexibility Alchemy gave me. I was effectively able to ignore the long-term consequences of the colors of cubes I was adding to my bag because I knew I could easily change them.

I ended up dominating the board thanks to my movement techs, which Peter didn't bother to acquire until far too late in the game. He was mired in a sea of bogs that led to mountains and forests, so he was unable to move into the center of the board. I kept cranking out cubes and points and completed all 3 game-ending objectives in the final round. Peter had zero. That was too bad because he did so well last time. I guess that means he will just have to try again! More Hyperborea is on the menu!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Ginkgopolis + Ginkgopolis: The Experts
This week, I learned two things. 1) Peter doesn't really like playing Agricola because of Caverna. 2) Peter didn't like playing Ginkgopolis because he was very bad at it. When I suggested we play Gink this week, Peter wanted to refuse, but he felt bad for me because my back was feeling EXTRA stabby that night, so he caved. And he almost won! True to his kooky self, he decided to collect ANY and ALL cards that give you bonuses for throwing out cards. He had only those cards and end-game scoring cards at the end of the game! And it worked! I mean, he didn't win because I created quite the collection of end-game scoring cards and fulfilled their objectives well, but he came close. I had 145 and he had 128 points at the end of the game. He was very surprised by how well he did, but he has been doing very well in Gink recently. I think he forgets how good he has become when I suggest it...

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The King of Frontier + The King of Frontier: More Buildings!
Well, I finally won another game of KoF! I quite stink at this game and Peter keeps winning, which leaves me soblue. This time, Peter didn't get so lucky with the tiles he drew and I was very careful about when I was producing and building things to ensure that Peter couldn't access the buildings I wanted. And the buildings were really tasty! My favorite has to be the one that keeps you from losing points for unfilled spaces at the end of the game. I'm very bad about leaving open spaces on my board and each is worth -2 VP at the end, so that building can be very powerful if you are lazy/stupid/unlucky like me.

Oh! There is one thing I absolutely DESPISE about this game. That thing is the fishing hole. I hate the fishing hole because it is worth 5 VP at the end of the game (which is a LOT) and you get it by randomly drawing it from the stack of tiles. That's just dumb. I drew it, but I still hated it. It is officially banned. I will either replace it with another tile from one of the unused tiles used at higher player counts or just omit it entirely. It's just dumb.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Dominion: Empires
This was the LONGEST game of Dominion EVER! It lasted about an HOUR because of the Dominate event. The Dominate event allows you to spend 14 money to gain a Province AND +9 points! That's amazing! Right!? But how do you get that money!? Well, that's not too much of a problem when there are no fewer than 3 extra Treasure card piles. We had the Capital, Fortune, and Crown piles, all of which increase the amount of money you have to spend. But those cards are rather expensive too and using them effectively and reliably demands that you craft your deck around them and money. Of course, this can take a long time. We avoided buying Provinces when we could early in the game because we wanted the bigger payout. We would buy Fortunes or Weddings or gold when we had lots of money in an effort to get to that 14. And we kept sizing each other up. Is he going to get a Province? Can I afford to wait. Oh it was hilarious. I ended up winning by a mile because I decided the whole Dominate thing wasn't worth it after triggering it once. I just took the points of the Defiled Shrine (of which there were 6 at that point and which Peter failed to take due to his Curse phobic nature ) and bought up Provinces as much as I could. Peter tried to do te same when he realized I was trying to end it. And he did trigger Dominate once as well. But I still dominated!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Seasons + all expansions
Seasons is one of my faves! It always makes me happy! I had no idea what I was doing while drafting. My plan was to make lots of points by summoning tonnes of cards. I had two cards that gave me bonuses for summoning - one that gave me 3 points for each card I summoned and another than gave me an energy token for each card I summoned. So I was just on a summoning and card drawing frenzy the whole game.

Unlike me, Peter actually had a plan. He had a crazy cheese combo with Olaf and 2 cards that allowed him to take Olaf back into his hand. He ended up making 60 points from that one Olaf alone! shake That's my Peter. I still won!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter's cheese

From gallery of milenaguberinic

My non cheese


Burano
Burano continues to enthrall. I love the lady strategy and I really wanted to make it work this time, so I focused almost exclusively on ladies. Peter failed to make it work last time and I wanted to show him that it could be done. He did compete with me on the lady track and he took my favorite building card angry (the one that gives you 3 VP for each building card you have), but he still failed. I ended up winning by about 20 points and I attribute that to some mad lady management skillz!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Castles of Burgundy
I can get REALLY unsafe for work when I play CoB. Like super potty mouth! Peter wants to record or CoB session and show the world how crazy dice make me. Because they do. They make me REALLY crazy.

Anyway, I got a little extra crazy in this game because I didn't get to go first EVER over the course of the entire game. This meant that I was at the mercy of Peter and his tile snatching ways! angry I felt like I was losing the whole game because my top choice of tile kept getting taken before I could take it. And yet I won. And not by a few points. Nope. I won by MANY, MANY points. I ended up at about 220 and Peter didn't even break 200. It was only at the end of the game that I realized how many spaces he had left open. That will teach me to get crazy.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Kingdom Builder
Kingdom Builder is one of those games I wish I could somehow squeeze into my top 10. I honestly don't know why we don't play this on a weekly basis...Actually, I do know. We have the big box and the big box sits atop a stack of other big boxes, which sit atop a shelf. I can't even reach KB. I guess we need to rethink our game arrangement because I want more KB in my life!

In this game, we had a couple of conflicting objectives, with one asking for many separate settlements and the other asking for one huge one. I decided to go for the one big one and that paid off handsomely. Peter ended the game by running out of dwellings, but my final turn gave me just enough time to connect nearly everything!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Magic: The Gathering – Duel Decks Anthologyx3
Last week, I had shiny Liliana and this week, I had shiny Chandra! I did not do very well against Peter's Jace deck. Counterspells are powerful and annoying little devils. They make me want to burn them with FIRE! Playing against the Jace deck reminded me of how much I dislike playing against denial decks. This Jace deck wasn't saturated with Counterspells, but the denial happened often enough to make me .

Also, I am not a direct damage kind of girl, so Chandra wasn't really my style. It was fun to field Chandra and activate her power to swiftly do away with Peter's EVERYTHING in one session, but he counterspelled me to oblivion in the next two. OH well. I may have to tweak this deck with the small collection of cards we didn't sell when we quit Magic or just try to get used to its style...There are numerous aspects of Magic I dislike, but I am loving our return to it! Peter is too! Yay!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Reading flavor text out loud should be mandatory


Agricola
Somebody recently asked me how it can be that I like Agricola more than Caverna and yet we play Caverna more often. I responded that we have played Agricola a gazillion times and Caverna is newer and thus less played. I learned that another reason for our relatively more frequent Caverna sessions is that Peter simply prefers Caverna. I usually give him the option to choose between those and this week, I realized that he ALWAYS chooses Caverna. And he does that because he likes the openness and the "greater opportunities to be creative" in that game. Oh well. We still played Agricola this week!

Peter failed. Peter failed REALLY badly. We were playing with the K deck, which isn't terribly exciting, but I didn't feel like searching for France or the Gamer Deck, which are our favorites. Peter claimed that he had some very poor Minor Improvements and didn't build any of them. I think he ended the game with one Occupation and 2 Major Improvements. And that didn't work out very well because he failed to do anything but produce buckets of food. In fact, he produced so much food by taking the animals and converting them into food he didn't need just to deny me that we ran out of food tokens and had to use the fire tokens from the Farmers of the Moor expansion to replace them! Silly Peter. He blamed me for taking all the wood all the time. I was pretty evil. I managed to stay first player throughout the entire game and would take the wood as soon as six pieces accumulated on the wood space. devil Let's just say, Peter didn't have much wood during this game. But I did! I built a beautiful stone house and had 2 babies and had ALL the animals and STILL DIDN'T BREAK 50! WTF! Peter was incredulous when we calculated scores. He thought I had way more points. Nope, I had something in the mid or high 40s, but didn't break 50. I just hope he agrees to play Agricola again after this session.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Tides of Madness
Guess what!? NOBODY went mad this time! For some reason, that sounds crazy to me! I don't typically gravitate towards the card that gives 13 points for a full set of symbols, but I decided to go for it in the first round of this game. I figured I could make it work for the duration of the game. And I did. EVERY ROUND. And Cthulu made that situation even better! I was really hoping Peter would go nuts because he was taking on madness with a passion, but he didn't. Bleh. Maybe next time. I won by a landslide, which is an unlikely occurrence. I typically lose at Tides of Time/Madness. In fact, I had nearly 90 points this time! I consider that an achievement.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Imperial Settlers + Imperial Settlers: 3 Is a Magic Number
Imperial Settlers! Woohoo!

I drew the Egyptians and Peter drew the Romans. He did quite poorly with the Romans the last time we played and despite complaining about getting his production engine going in this game, he kept cranking out points. LOTS of points. He had two Administration buildings, which would give him a point each whenever he built Roman cards, and he had a Gallows, which would give him a point whenever he razed a card from hand. If you know anything about the Romans, you know that they are raze-y beasts. That made for a very unhappy situation for me. I felt like I was drowning the entire time, struggling to keep up with Peter's "free" points. Eventually, I built myself a building that allowed me to take over one of Peter's point-scoring buildings, but I still felt like I was too far behind to catch up. Miraculously, I ended up with a perfect number of resources in the final round to activate ALL action buildings I had that converted stuff into points and screamed into the lead. I ended up winning by two points! TWO!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Unlikely Egyptian apple pickers


Islebound
Oh this went soooo badly for Peter. So badly. He must have been very tired. I somehow managed to take over the entire map before he had a chance to take over two cities. I honestly have no idea what he was doing, but I think he got a little mesmerized by the mermaids in the water...or something. Better luck next time! Still my favorite Ryan Laukat game!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Signorie
This was Peter's redemption Signorie. The objectives were all about ladies yet again and Peter was determined to make many ladies and marry them off to the best families. And he did well. I made the grave error of spending my men to ascend the book track in the first round and failed to make any upgrades other than the 3-point blue one until half-way through the game. While I accumulated a fair number of points early in the game, the failure to upgrade came to haunt me later when I was unable to collect a sufficient number of tiles in the male rows to score. Peter spent most of the early part of the game upgrading and was rewarded for that handsomely later on. I will have to check myself in future games. It can be very tempting to simply forge ahead without upgrading early in the game, but upgrades are too vital to ignore. Lesson learned.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Simurgh + Simurgh: Call of the Dragonlord
The last time we played Simurgh, we played with the wizard board from the expansion. The extra board made the game incredibly large and unwieldy and I really didn't find much fun in it. This time, we decided to keep the wizards, but play with a different expansion module. We added the wizard powers, which allow you to perform one of two extra free actions every time you place your wizard. I did enjoy this module because it was unobtrusive and yet added a few interesting options to the game in terms of when and where to place your wizard and when and whether to use one of the available wizard powers.

In this game, I was working on adding objectives to the board, while Peter ignored them altogether in favor of in-game points. He had multiple action tiles that provided points for books, so he was all about the education in this game. I tried to make use of his scoring tiles whenever I could and did manage to keep up, but I was more interested in dragons and end-game objectives. And that paid off because I won! I don't think Peter will be ignoring those end-game objectives again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Terra Mystica
Weekly TM! Woohoo! This week, I drew the Halflings and Nomads. I had to bid EIGHT points for first dibs, but I got my Nomads. I didn't feel like being a dwarf.

Peter was doing very well early in the game, keeping up with the round-by-round objectives and raking in points with his darn shovels! shake I felt like I was lagging behind, but then the skies parted and I had an absolutely explosive round! Throughout the game, I was building up my territories to complete 3 towns during the second-to-last round when town building was being rewarded with bonus points! And that's exactly what I did! Three towns in one round! It was awesome! And yes, I did win. I can't let Peter wear my TM crown for too long!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


FUSE
Fuse! It's amazing how easy it is to lose this game! We can't seem to beat the standard game no matter how hard we try. And no, we don't go in for that "it's enough to wipe the bombs from the display" business. No. It's not enough. All bombs must be defused or you lose!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Town Center (Fourth Edition) + Town Center: Essen / SPIEL
In anticipation of our upcoming visit to Essen Spiel, we decided to play the Spiel board for Town Center! And we failed. Horribly. This is the toughest map to play and we hadn't played Town Center in a while, so our failure was inevitable. At least I managed to make some points and power my booths. Peter made lots of money during the game, but that didn't translate to many points at the end since he failed to provide power to his booths! That is the challenge of this map. You can only place power on one side of the map and you get points for placing booths on the other. Funneling that power to faraway booths by connecting them all is very hard. You have to be very wise about the placement of your cultural buildings (what are the red cubes supposed to represented on the Spiel map anyway!?). There is only one solution for this problem; we must play again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


Fresh Cardboard


Clearly, I'm not doing very well on my "no-games 'til Essen" mission. I don't know if I'll manage to go ONE week without acquiring any games.

1. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition - Steph made me do it.
2. New Bedford + New Bedford: Rising Tide - See above.
3. Poseidon - I've wanted to try this 18xx-style game for a long time, but it was never available, so I decided to wait and see. BoardGameBliss finally restocked it and I snatched it up. I don't know how I will feel about this, but I'll keep an open mind.
4. Terraforming Mars - Thank fuzzy for GenCon releases! WOOHOO!

***


Next Week...


Look forward to TERRAFORMING MARS!!!! I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to play this game because a) I love clever card games, b) I love spatial elements and maps in games, and c) I don't think there are enough games that combine cards with maps!

Also, Colony is coming! I just received my copy in the mail and am super excited for its dice manipulation-y goodness!

I will also be sure to post some first impressions for Mansions of Madness: Second Edition!

Board Game: Terraforming Mars


***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart


From gallery of milenaguberinic

What are Chopper's favorite games?
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