First, to all of you who spent some shiny, precious virtual gold on my microbadge, THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! It is such an honor to see people owning and wearing their Mina badges! I will continue to work hard to make you proud to be Mina badge owners! And thanks to Markus for making the badge happen!
If you don't know what I'm talking about, Mina's Fresh Cardboard now has a microbadge!
Second, I have received a number of messages asking how I manage to play and write about as many games as I do in a week. In order to answer all those questions in one place, I've made a list! A top 10 of sorts in no specific order! So, what is my secret to this board game bliss? It's not much of a secret.
1. I don't sleep much (6 hours tops).
2. I don't eat much and what I do is the same every day because I only cook once a week.
3. I drink A LOT of coffee.
4. I work from home, so I don't waste time traveling from place to place. In fact, I rarely venture far from home base, as cars make me sick. I avoid them.
5. I spend every minute of free time either playing games or writing this blog.
6. I don't have a television and I NEVER watch TV or movies or participate in related sit-and-stare activities.
7. I don't have children.
8. Playing games with only two players takes significantly less time than playing with more players
9. I am a fast writer!
10. MOST IMPORTANT!!!!! I HAVE PETER! Peter is a wonderful man who loves me and lives with me and frequently cleans up after me and is always ready to play games with me. I don't have to go anywhere to play. I can just keep playing until 2 am every night.My secret formula: 2-4 games per night and more on weekends = many games played
So, you see, I am somewhat spoiled and very stubborn. That is how I make as much time as I do to do the board game things I do. I am 100% committed to board games! You could say that I am married to them.
But I am not super human. I get flustered and frustrated and sometimes find it challenging to spin all the plates. I keep on going because that's all I can and want to do. So that's my story. Now, on to the games!***What's New?The Overview
In Terraforming Mars, you will sit at the helm of a corporation competing to be the best developer of Mars by playing cards to increase global parameters of temperature, oxygen, and water and thus increase your terraform rating, which will contribute both to your round-by-round income and final score.
To set up the game, you will place one of your player cubes on space 20 of the "terraform rating" track that runs around the perimeter of the board. You will receive 2 corporation cards and 10 cards from the deck and select 1 corporation card and as many regular cards as you would like, paying $3 for each card other than the corporation card you keep. Your corporation card will show your starting income and a special power you will have throughout the game.
The board shows the surface of Mars surrounded by 2 tracks (oxygen and temperature), a set of 9 ocean tiles, a list of basic actions, and rewards and milestones.
Each round, you will.
1) Change turn order, passing the turn-order marker to the next player.
2) Research, drawing 4 cards and buying any number of them into your hand for $3 each.
3) Perform actions
*Play a card
Cards include events, which have one-time effects and disappear afterwards...
...actions, which stay in your tableau and either have an ongoing effect that takes place every time some condition is met or can be activated once per round to take some sort of action...
...and effects, which are similar to events, but stay in your tableau to provide their tags for the duration of the game.
*Use a standard project on the board to
A) sell cards you have in hand for $1 each,
B) pay $11 to increase your energy production,
C) pay $14 to increase the temperature level and thus your terraform rating by 1 step,
D) pay $18 to place an ocean tile on an ocean space on the board and thus increase your terraform rating by 1 step,
E) pay $23 to place a greenery tile on the board and increase the oxygen level and thus your terraform rating by 1 step,
F) or pay $25 to add a city tile to the board and increase your $ production by 1 step.
*Use the action on an action card that you have played
*Convert 8 plants into a greenery tile, adding it to the board to increase the oxygen level and thus your terraform rating by 1 step
*Convert 8 heat into a raise in temperature and thus your terraform rating by 1 step
*Pay $8 to claim a milestone on the board if you have achieved one of the target levels that include holding at least 16 cards, having at least 3 greenery tiles or cities on the board, and having at least 8 building cards in your tableau.
*Pay $8, $14, or $20 to activate a reward to be presented at the end of the game to the player with the most of a specific type of indicator, including heat production, steep production, titanium production, $ production, or science markers.
4) Produce to gain the resources produced by your player board and the $ produced by your terraform rating and convert any energy you have remaining into heat.
There are some general guidelines for placing tiles on the map. You must place any greenery tiles next to tiles you already own. You must place ocean tiles on areas reserved for ocean. No cities may be placed adjacent to each other unless otherwise specified on a card.
The game ends when oxygen level is at 14%, the temperature is at 8C, and there are 9 ocean tiles on the board.
At the end of the game, you get points for your terraform rating (1:1 conversion), awards, milestones, cards that feature points, and map features (you get 1 VP per greenery tile you have placed and 1 VP per greenery tile adjacent to each of your cities).The ReviewPlayed prior to review: 5xPlease note that this review will focus on the full game and not the "basic" or "standard" or whatever version of the game is considered to be introductory. By this, I mean all cards included in the deck and "advanced" corporations in play and zero starting production beyond that indicated on corporation cards.
1. Unique components and great graphic design
Terraforming Mars features some unique components and a very clear, consistent, and simple graphic design aesthetic that makes the game easy to learn and play. The shiny metallic resource cubes are especially fun! And the fact that they are used to represent ALL resources, which is simply denoted by allocating them to different slots of your player board means that the whole resource fiddling business is made much simpler than it is in many games in which you manage multiple resources. Now, if you are the type of person who is prone to bumping things around, you could potentially end up mixing things up, but this has never happened in any of our games, so I actually see the simplification of the resource system as a positive thing.
2. Very satisfying sense of progression
In Terraforming Mars, you start with a very limited set of resources and generally little to no production of any sort. You have to literally build your terraforming company from the ground up by carefully managing your cash, adding cards to your tableau that will help you gain income or help you produce resources that will allow you to increase vital terraforming parameters to increase your terraform rating and thus your cashflow and ability to retain and add more cards to your tableau and so on...There's a very satisfying circle of life in this game and it means you become increasingly powerful with an increasing number of options each round. Your limited starting income means you are unlikely to perform more than a few actions in the first round. By the mid-game, round go on and on, as you play multiple cards, raise multiple parameters, and activate multiple actions. Going from nothing to a table-eating tableau is quite a lot of fun!
3. An INCREDIBLE amount of stuff to think about each turn
Each turn in Terraforming Mars feels like a hurricane going off in your brain, as each turn is made incredibly intense by the sheer quantity of things you have to consider. At the start of each round, you are presented with a set of four cards and each has some effect you will most likely want, particularly in the early stages of the game. But you can't even keep them all, let alone play them all! Retaining each card costs you $3, which seems like a small sum, but retaining a card you don't really need can mean being unable to play another card one turn earlier or being unable to increase your production as far as you would be able to do otherwise, so every card you keep for the round has to help you in some way immediately or has to show potential in helping you later in the game. And it isn't easy to determine which cards may work well with cards you will acquire in the future, so this process is a difficult one. Do you spend $3 cash to gamble on being able to acquire a bunch of Jovian tags later in the game to make that card that provides points for Jovian tags worth delaying a production increase? Do you simply retain as many cards as you can early in the game to keep your options open or do you ignore cards that don't help you build your engine?
Once you've determined which cards to keep, you have to think about which to play and when. All cards cost money to play and, as I mentioned above, money is limited, so you have to make tradeoffs. Some cards help you increase production, while others help you increase point generation. You want to do both as early as possible, but you generally won't be able to do everything, even late in the game. You have to determine which of the two is most important depending on what your opponent is doing. And even if you decide to do the sane thing of trying to increase your production first, you have to determine which production route to take first. If your opponent is producing energy and heat generation, do you try to compete with that or build up your plant engine?
Some cards also have very specific requirements, allowing you to play them only when oxygen is at 6%, for example, or when temperature is above 0C. This means that you will have to influence these parameters to increase your ability to play these cards asap. And in the case of cards with very specific parameters, you have to carefully time your turns to ensure you are able to play them.
This brings me to the number of actions you take each turn. Each turn, you are allowed to take one or two actions. Taking single actions can help you pace yourself and see what your opponent does before committing to a course of action, while double actions can help you execute moves that demand very specific requirements be met. Playing cards with set oxygen or ocean tile requirements and fulfilling milestones are two examples of times that double actions can be your savior in this game. Your opponent can end up inadvertently increasing a parameter that would preclude your playing a certain card, so when the parameter is one away from being met, you can take a double turn to both increase that parameter and play the card that requires that level.
Racing to the milestones is another thing you constantly have to keep in mind, both as you choose to retain cards and as you play them, as some can help you increase parameters that will aid in your milestone pursuing endeavors. Your opponent is your enemy here and keeping a close watch over him is also important. Of course, just as they can help you fulfill the requirements of certain cards with perfect timing, double actions can help you fulfill milestones. For example, if you are one greenery tile away from fulfilling the greenery milestone and you see your opponent is building up to do the same, you could take a double action to play your final greenery and fulfill the milestone. But you have to manage your money carefully in order to ensure you are able to do that because milestones aren't free!
Each of the cards you have in your tableau also expands your turn-by-turn options by miles, as each card makes certain actions more appealing than others. Some action cards allow you to add animals for points. Others produce animals each time a city is built, increasing the appeal of cities. Others allow you to convert energy into oxygen level (and thus terraform rating) increases.
I could probably write a dissertation about the number of decision points in this game, but I will stop now. There is an exhausting amount of stuff to think about in this game. And I love having an exhausting amount of stuff to think about! If you are like me and love making tradeoffs between multiple appealing options, the options in Terraforming Mars are sure to appeal!
4. Interesting spatial element
I love card games that combine cards with some board-based spatial element and Terraforming Mars does this very well. Though the board doesn't feature a variable layout and certain elements must always be placed in certain spaces (i.e. lakes and certain cities, which can only be placed in their reserved spaces), the way the board develops changes drastically depending on which corporations players have selected, which cards are played, and the order in which cards are played. It would seem that the spatial element would become stale as the static board would develop in the same way, but that is far from the truth. In some games, the lower half of the board will be highly developed and others the upper portion. In some games, you will find strings of cities connected to each other and others you will find cities scattered all over the place.
Placing tiles presents you with many difficult choices, particularly as the landscape develops. Do you place your city next to an ocean for a $2 bonus, limiting your ability to surround it with greenery and maximize its point potential or do you place it away from the oceans and give up the monetary bonus? Do you place your city close to your opponent's city, hoping to limit his ability to capitalize on the VP bonuses afforded by adjacent greenery tiles? Or do you place your city away from your opponent's city in order to acquire some placement bonus? Do you pursue specific placement bonuses as you place lakes or do you try to place them next to other lakes for cash or away from an opponent's cities to limit his ability to gain cash when he places greenery adjacent to his city?
Clearly, Terraforming Mars isn't a mere card game; it is a game that combines card play and tile laying on a fixed board in a clever and engaging way and presents you with a multitude of options when dealing with both aspects.
Terraforming Mars is a very science-y game. And I like science! In fact, Peter and I met at the Ontario Science Center, so you could say I love science!
The science-based space colonization angle to science fiction isn't one that is often adopted in board games. Indeed, most science fiction board games feature green alien hordes or some sort of intergalactic diplomacy, so the theme of Terraforming Mars is certainly unique.
And the sciency theme is relatively well integrated too! First, the cards feature thematically-grounded effects and the actions available to you in the game have thematically sound justifications in naming and cost. Of course, greenery increases oxygen levels. Of course, building a city is going to cost an arm and a leg AND bring you income in the long run. Of course, asteroids will raise temperature (I looked this up. Apparently, there is a theory that the greenhouse gasses produced by the impact of asteroids may have warmed the Martian surface). And of course, you can control the trajectory of those asteroids because you are a futuristic terraforming corp! In fact, the rulebook goes to great lengths to provide justifications for various actions and for the target levels of ocean, oxygen, and temperature you are trying to achieve.
And beyond the card effects and actions available to you in the game, the game makes you feel like you are running a company through the resource-generating engine you create. Trading one form of resource production for another and becoming increasingly rich and powerful as the game goes on.
That said, Terraforming Mars isn't the MOST thematic thing in the world; it doesn't really tell a story, but it puts in a good effort.
6. Variable player powers
I love games that give me a unique starting situation each time I play. Terraforming Mars offers no fewer than 12 different starting situations and related player powers to discover! Each features a different company that is better at doing one thing than the others. For example, the Mining Guild gives you a head start in steel production and increases your steel production every time you place a tile on a map space that provides a steel or titanium bonus. This encourages you to seek out building cards and base your engine on those. It also encourages you to place tiles in the far reaches of the planet. In contrast, Helion allows you to use heat as $. Heat is a resource that becomes relatively useless once the temperature of Mars has reached its target level, so it tends not to be a resource you want to try to produce in the boatloads, particularly since you can acquire it by increasing your energy production. Helion encourages you to see heat differently, not only as a a way to quickly and efficiently increase temperature, but also as an alternative way to increase cashflow. Each and every one of the 12 different companies sets you on a slightly different path and changes the way you play the game, enhancing its replay value, as you discover new ways to play the same game. And that brings me to my next point...
7. High replay value
When you see a static map, replay value may not be the first thing that pops into your head. Fortunately, Terraforming Mars does not suffer in replay value from a static, unchanging map. The sheer multitude of variable player powers, cards and interactions thereof to discover should be more than enough to keep you coming back for more. And if you want to extend the game and add even more possibilities, the game comes with an extended-game variant with even more cards! This is my favorite way to play the game and the version we have played most often, as it allows you to build a huge engine that isn't only good at terraforming, but also great at churning out points in other ways!
1. The two-player game takes as long as a three-player game, which takes as long as a four-player game, which makes the game quite long (i.e. 1.5 to 2 hours)
Although 1.5 to 2 hours does not sound like too much time to spend on a 4-player game, this amount of time does make for a rather long 2-player affair. To give that duration some context, Arkwright takes us 1.5 to 2 hours to play. Agricola takes under 1 hour. In fact, most games take us under an hour. So Terraforming Mars has to be super special in terms of the quality and quantity of decisions it presents in order to justify this sort of play time. For me, it does, but for Peter, it does not.
The reason that this game takes the same amount of time to play across player counts is that the target levels for oceans, oxygen, and temperature are identical across player counts. I feel like they should be lower when playing with fewer players. When playing with fewer players, you have to accomplish the same amount of stuff as you would when playing with more, so you end up with twice the number of played cards and stuff on the table and the board as you would in a 4-player game. As the game goes on, your tableau starts to sprawl uncomfortably and the game starts to feel like a weight you are carrying for no good reason. It just drags. And It isn't possible to easily modify the target levels because many cards require that oxygen, ocean, or temperature levels be at a certain point to be played, so I understand why the levels equal across player counts, but I don't think I like it. That said, we have managed to play the long version of the game (Corporate Era) in 90 minutes (14 rounds), so I am hopeful that play time can come down sufficiently for me to get Peter to play with some regularity. For me, the quality and quantity of decisions I face in Terraforming Mars is sufficient to justify the duration of the game, but Peter still thinks that it takes too long.
2. Spatial aspect would be more interesting with more than just two players involved
The spatial aspect of the game works quite well and is interesting enough with two players. Certain spaces are inherently more attractive for building due to the resource bonuses they provide and they tend to be spaced closely together., which means you frequently have to make some tradeoffs with respect to acquiring those resources to help yourself vs. your opponent and trying to position your cities in a way that would minimize the amount of non-mutually-beneficial greenery he could place. There is certainly some interesting interaction that can happen on the board with only two players involved, but more players would enhance that space, forcing you to consider not only whether it would be worthwhile to assist an opponent but which opponent to assist or hinder when placing your tiles.
3. The card artwork is very strange
The board artwork is generally nice and the graphic design is great, but the card art is just plain strange. Some of the cards feature photographs, others illustrations, and others some combination of the two. It's just a strange smorgasbord of strangeness. It doesn't appeal to me and it doesn't add anything to the experience. I would have a lot more fun exploring pretty, intricate sci-fi artwork as I draw cards than staring at yet another photograph of some random dude's face. Art is a subjective matter, but this art does not appeal to my eyeballs.
4. Card randomness can be a bit annoying
Terraforming Mars is a card game. As a card game, it suffers from the same affliction from which most card games suffer - it can be a bit random. While this isn't necessarily problematic in a shorter game, it can be quite annoying in a game that takes as long a time and brain investment as this one. Terraforming Mars gives you no way to mitigate or manipulate the luck of the draw, as you are given a fixed number of cards each turn and have few ways to draw more. This means that you cannot dig through the deck to acquire the indicators you need to make your engine run better or the scoring cards you really want; you simply have to make do with what you are given. Ultimately, this doesn't destroy the game for me and I do think that the luck of the draw is somewhat reduced by the sheer number of cards you do draw throughout the game, but if you get unlucky and don't draw cards that help you build a resource engine efficiently early or don't draw cards that help you score easy points (animals, for example) while your opponent does, the luck of the draw can be a bit annoying.
5. The game has a strange decision curve
Terraforming Mars isn't like your typical engine-builder in which you have an ever escalating sense of power and an ever broadening decision space. At the start of the game, you can't do much of anything but build up various aspects of your engine - income to increase your ability to retain and play cards, steel or titanium to reduce the amount of cash you have to pay for certain cards, heat to help you increase the temperature and thus your terraform rating, plants to help you grow greenery and increase oxygen levels and thus your terraform rating, and heat to help you in various exploits. As the game goes on, these various forms of income start to take on a life of their own, barreling your terraforming ability forward. Up to a point. When an indicator has reached its maximum, those forms of income can become entirely useless if you haven't saved or seen cards that can help you find other uses for them (and there are FEW such cards). Heat is a good example of a resource that becomes almost completely devoid of use once temperature has been maxed out. Drawing cards that relate to increasing a maxed out indicator also becomes more likely later in the game, so, as the game goes on, you end up with a shrinking decision space...at least with respect to the cards you've drawn. Now, this may be balanced out by the cards you have played in your tableau; you should still have enough to think about when it comes to allocating your resources and making the most of blue cards in your tableau late in the game, but it feels a little strange to be entirely dependent on the luck of the draw when it comes to drawing useful cards late in the game.
This is not a nice game. Keep in mind that you will be stealing and getting things stolen.
7. Can be difficult to keep track of all effects late in the game
Late in the game, you could have a number of effects that trigger when certain things happen and it can be hard to keep track of them all, leading to forgetting to do X, Y, or Z. This can be frustrating. For example, there are multiple cards that take effect when a city is built to provide cash or animals or income increases, there are multiple cards that provide discounts for playing cards of various types or provide cash when you play cards of various types, there are multiple cards that give you a specific resource every time you play a card with a particular symbol...The list goes on. You can imagine how having a number of these different effects could a) slow the game down as you go through your tableau to ensure you have triggered every effect you are entitled to do and b) lead to missing out on effects when you neglect to follow what an opponent is doing. Add to your tableau effects the cascade of effects that can take place when you place a tile on the tableau, including gaining money from adjacent oceans, increasing terraforming parameters, getting placement bonuses, etc. and you have a perfect storm for a bookkeeping mind f*&^.Final Word
Terraforming Mars is not an easy game to review or rate. It is an excellent game and one that is very satisfying to play, but it isn't perfect. At least, it isn't perfect for me. There are nearly as many things I don't like about it as the ones that I do, but the balance falls far in favor of the ones that I do. The high level of game-to-game and turn-to-turn variability, broad decision space, and great sense of evolution and progress towards the ultimate goal make Terraforming Mars something I intend to keep playing for a long time to come.
Now, if I had to liken Terraforming Mars to a food item, which I feel I do for no good reason at all, it would be a kumquat because it features a full spectrum of game flavors. It's a little sour on the outside, as it doesn't look all that appealing...at least the cards don't. It's incredibly sweet and delicious in the middle because the decisions you make are so many and varied and each card pulls you in a different and equally appealing direction as the next and if you're like me, this just makes you smile. And it can be VERY bitter if you get unlucky and fail to draw the cards you want/need while you watch your opponent get the perfect ones. It's like a kumquat in another sense too; it so cleverly combines so many game elements and mechanisms, including card play, engine building, tile laying, and resource management, that it overwhelms the senses! I just love it! Sour, bitter, sweet, and tasty! I'll never get tired of it!MINA'S LOVE METER LOTS OF LOVE***The Overview
In Colony, you will enter a race to build the best colony on a post-apocalyptic earth. By rolling dice, you will gain resources that will help you acquire locations and recruit people, which will increase your influence and help you win the game.
To set up the game, you lay out 6 basic card stacks on their 1.0 sides, as well as 7 randomly chosen variable card stacks. An app will be available in the app stores to help you select sets of variable card stacks randomly once the game is fully released.
You will receive a Warehouse, Supply Exchange, Upgrade, and Construction building in your player color and roll 3 white stable resource dice to place in your Warehouse at the start of the game.
Each turn, you will:
Place all the dice from your Warehouse into your play area.
In a 2-player game, roll 3 white stable resource dice, select 1 to keep, offer the remaining 2 to your opponent who must place the die taken in his Warehouse, and keep the final one. You may roll up to 3 CHIPIs you have to gain 3 unstable grey resource dice.
Activate any number of cards in any order. You may only activate each card once per turn. Your basic cards allow you to construct new location cards and add them to your tableau by paying the resources shown on those locations (this will also give you CHIPIs, which you will be able to use on a future turn to add to the dice in your pool), to exchange any two like-valued resource dice to any other die value, or to upgrade any location. Upgraded locations generally provide more powerful versions of their basic actions and in many cases provide additional points.
You may discard one card to gain a number of stable resources equal to the difference between your score and the leader's score. Most cards give you points, so if you discard a card that provides points, you will lose the ones from the discarded card at the end of the game.
4. Clean up
Add all your newly built cards and return all unused unstable grey resource dice to the supply. Add the VP from your newly built buildings to your current score.
If you have at least 20 VP at the end of your turn, you win the game!The ReviewPlayed prior to review: 6.5x
1. Great insert, game support, and components
Colony is a well-produced and well-supported game. With an app to generate random card combinations and a very handy insert that effectively organizes all the cards, setup takes very little time. Also, I quite enjoy the frosted dice.
2. Compulsively replayable due to the multitude of cards and card combinations
Colony is not the most brainy of games, but its replay value is enhanced by its multitude of variable location cards and the ways you use those location cards to race for victory. Each game will feature a different combination of possibilities for gaining more dice, manipulating those dice, storing those dice, and making points, so you will have to figure out the best combination of those locations to shoot for at the start of each game. In this sense, Colony feels a bit like Dominion; you have a set of options at the start of the game and you have to figure out the best combination of those options that will help you race to victory. Of course, your ability to do that in the order you want to may be hindered by the dice you roll early in the game, so you may have to make more detours and concessions.
Despite not being the brainiest of games, Colony does seem to grow the more you play it. It seems all random at first, but the more you play, the more
3. Great sense of progress and escalation
Colony is an engine-building race game in which you start small and build large. You begin the game with 3 dice and add 2 (in a 2-player game) to that on your first turn. So you have 5 dice and likely limited options based on how those dice have been rolled at the start of the game. You feel impotent and limited and entirely subject to the fickle forces of the universe. And that isn't far from the truth. The choices you face early in the game are relatively restricted to the few dice you roll.
As you add cards to your tableau and upgrade your existing ones, you not only acquire additional dice that will present you with additional opportunities, but you also acquire different ways to use and manipulate the dice you have at your disposal, which increases both the quantity of choices you face and your ability to make them. And as you approach the middle of the game with multiple cards that produce resource dice of various values and you become able to consistently pump out points, you start to feel omnipotent. Nothing can slow you down! Not even the fickle forces of the universe!
I love games that make me feel like I am creating something awesome and Colony does just that!
4. Great combination of strategy and tactics
Colony is a dice game that strikes a perfect balance between strategy and tactics. Each game begins with a different set of location cards that you have to survey to determine which die values will be most useful in helping you acquire additional location cards and thus points. Each location card has a different die value requirement for its acquisition and potentially its activation, so determining which basic locations to pursue in order to help you increase your production of those dice values is vital. Many of the locations (i.e. the orange) that will allow you to most quickly and effectively shoot up the point track feature certain requirements, so determining the die values that will help you meet those is vital. For example, the Infrastructure location gives you a point for each two upgraded location cards, meaning that you will want to find a way to upgrade your cards quickly and efficiently in a game with Infrastructure in play. A Fabric Replicator (which gives you an extra 4-pip die), a Portein Lab (which gives you an extra 3-pip die), and a GMO Farm (which gives you an extra 2-pip die each turn) would help you achieve this. As another example, the Investment Bank increases in value for each set of 1-pip dice you spend on it, so you will want to focus on finding ways to acquire 1-pip dice in a game with the Investment Bank in play. With multiple orange locations, you have to figure out which would be easiest and quickest to pull off. So you have to think about what kind of engine you need to build from the start of the game.
The game also allows you to make some mid/long-term plans by allowing you to store dice from turn to turn using your warehouse, which you are able to upgrade to store even more resources and set yourself up for even bigger moves! Whether you choose to use your resource dice for short-term gains or with a long-term perspective is up to you thanks to this element.
Now, being a dice game, Colony is as tactical as it is strategic, particularly early in the game; you can make all the plans you want, but if you just don't see the dice you want to see and have a limited dice pool, you may have to make some detours along the way to your goals. Piles of variable location cards may become depleted before you can get to them and an opponent may force you to delay a plan with an attack. Early in the game, you may simply have to acquire the locations you are able to acquire just to get an engine going. And that's ok because as the game progresses, your options will expand and you should be able to put your earlier plans into effect.
5. Plenty of options each turn
Colony may be a light dice game, but it gives you plenty of options from the very beginning. Early in the game, you have to determine whether to simply start to build your engine using whatever the dice tell you to use or whether to hold off, storing the dice you have been given, in the hopes of being able to acquire a more location card that fits your chosen strategy. And how do you build your engine? Do you acquire the locations that give you unstable resources? Do you acquire attack cards to help you steal other players' dice? Do you upgrade locations for their enhanced effects and additional point values or do you simply go for raw power, acquiring as many different locations as you possibly can? Or do you do some combination thereof?
As the game goes on and you acquire CHIPIs by building various buildings, your options open up, not only as a result of the dice and actions those locations provide, but also as a result of the CHIPIs you accumulate. Early in the game, with limited CHIPIs, you may choose to either use the CHIPIs you have to help you build your engine more quickly or you may choose to save them for the opportunity to build multiple locations later in the game. However, given the fact that you can only use a maximum of 3 CHIPIs a turn, you have to ensure you don't wait for too long.
Another thing you are constantly thinking about in this game is the supply of variable locations. Particularly the orange scoring locations. These special locations are available in very limited quantities (i.e. as many as the number of players), so if you desperately want one, you have to ensure you race to get it. The only issue is that scoring locations don't help your engine. They simply become lumps of card, sitting on the table and consuming your resources for no good reason. You often have to make some difficult tradeoffs between building up your engine and ability to acquire cards and stalling a bit to acquire a long-term investment.
6. The two-player version of the game may make for a slightly more strategic experience than when playing at higher player counts
This is a review for the two-player version of the game, so this is a positive. When playing with two players, you get at least two resource dice on each of your turns and you are guaranteed to get one resource dice when it isn't your turn. This is 1 more die per turn than you would receive when playing with more players, which means you have a slightly expanded decision space from the start. Additionally, the fact that the 2-player version of the game demands that you reach a higher point threshold to win means you have more time to build and play with your engine and make some decisions with a longer-term perspective.
7. Well balanced by the option to discard locations for resources
Colony is a race, but it isn't a race in which you can fall behind and feel like you have no way to push forward. Strategically jettisoning cards can help you pull ahead if you are behind, as doing so nets you as many resources as the number of points you are behind the leader. This can give you the push you need to acquire that extra point or two and land on the 20-point mark. Because this is a pure race and no extra turns are awarded to players once one has reached twenty, all you have to do is get yourself to that point. In fact, in one game, I NEARLY managed to win the game despite the fact that Peter was 5 points ahead! I abandoned a card that was giving me zero points, got myself some extra resources and pushed to 19! It was an exciting final round! And that is precisely why I love this game! It is filled with exciting moments and decision points and you always feel like you are in the race!
1. No theme
You don't feel like you are in a post-apocalyptic future while playing this game, but that is to be expected going into a light dice-rolling card-acquisition game. Some of the cards have thematic effects, like the Swindler, who allows you to exchange one of your own resources with an opponent's or the Pirate who gambles and does mean things to others or whose crazy temper can blow up in your face. Other than some minor relations between card effects and theme, there isn't much thematic immersion here.
2. Some cards are less exciting when playing with only two players than they would be when playing with more than two players
The trading, attack, and defense cards are relatively less interesting when playing with only two players than they would be with more players. With more players, you can tactically select targets for your attacks (i.e. players who have yet to acquire defense cards or players who are in the lead) and trades. With only two players, your target is always the same and if he acquires a good defense card on the turn after you've acquired an attack, your attacks may only be helping him. Fortunately, the game comes with a huge assortment of cards and if attacking and defending with only two players seems boring to you, you can simply ignore those stacks and choose from the rest. That does limit the selection somewhat, but there is still plenty of choice.
3. It can be a bit annoying to have to count and re-count your score at the end of each turn
This is a specific complaint that is targeted mostly at the Stockpile card. The VP value of this card depends on the number of like resources you have in your warehouse at the end of each turn, meaning that its value fluctuates. This makes for a very annoying counting exercise each turn. You have to stay on top of the VPs you are acquiring and occasionally have to recount them in order to make sure you haven't missed anything, but Stockpile makes it necessary to do this EVERY TURN. If you're like me, you don't like having to count the same darn thing turn after turn.Final Word
I don't like Machi Koro. I don't like Card Kingdoms. I don't like CV. I don't like any number of light, dice and card-based roll-and-see-what-happens games. They just make me yawn. The first of such games I was actually enthused about was Favor of the Pharaoh, an earlier Bezier Games release. Favor of the Pharaoh is exciting and interesting and engaging, despite the inevitable luck of the roll. Like Favor of the Pharaoh, Colony is exciting and engaging and fun! Much more so than any number of its dice-based cousins.
That said, I have a confession to make - I HATED my first play of Colony. In fact, I couldn't even finish our first game. We quit halfway because I couldn't stand how random the game felt. I felt like I was just rolling and seeing what happened and had ZERO agency. A few hours later, after I had gone through a cool-down period, we tried it again and I didn't hate it. And each time I've played it since, I have enjoyed it more because I've come to realize that I do have agency, that I do have strategic and tactical options, and that I am presented with multiple options with each turn. It is easy to become blinded by all the dice and feel like you aren't capable of doing anything when you first play this game, but the more you play it, the more capable you become of restraining yourself, of keeping yourself from simply going with the flow and instead using your warehouse to build up to turns that will work to further your plans. And the more you play, the more capable you become of seeing the interactions between the cards and building an effective engine that won't sputter, but hurl you towards the finish line. Because that is what this game is about. It is about speed, efficiency, and flexibility. And it is about fun! Compulsively replayable, addictively exciting, dice-rolling, engine-building, colonizing FUN!MINA'S LOVE METER LOTS OF LOVE***First Impressions
OMG! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE, Mansions of Madness!? Do you see what has happened here? I am completely and utterly smitten by this gigantic box of plastic and stories galore!
Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a story-driven co-operative game of mystery and horror. Set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, this game puts you in the role of detectives and problem solvers trying to accomplish a variety of missions by exploring haunted mansions, interacting with items and people you find there, and fighting abominable monsters of various types.
The first scenario is supposed to make for an easy introduction to the game. You have to figure out what is happening in this crazy house after receiving a call from the butler and make whatever it is you are supposed to happen happen or un-happen. That sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. We think we know what our objective was after going through the first game, but we fumbled through it, exploring and killing things as they appeared. I was the parapsychologist and my parapsychology skills seemed to only get me killed more easily. I burned myself with candles and fire and all kinds of stuff. I should have been called a pyro-psychologist.
So what is so great about this game? I will review it in the future, but for now, I have 2 points:
1) Aesthetically and intellectually captivating - If you have a great sense of curiosity, this game will devour you. The game breathes life into the story through its mechanisms, the atmospheric app, and its awesome appearance.
2) Excitement - This game is just plain FUN! You never know what is lurking behind the next corner and surprises abound!
Since playing this game over the weekend, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It is like some parasite that has taken over my brain cells. I must go play with it now.***
Galaxy Trucker Missions had been sitting on my shelf for many months before this week. It had so much dust on it that I had to pull our duster out! I finally opened it this long weekend thanks to Rahdo's "Games we want to play more" list. Galaxy Trucker was on it. He reminded me that I want to play Galaxy Trucker more often as well! Thanks Rahdo!
The Missions expansion adds a whole whack of "missions" to the game! Surprised? These missions alter the rules of the game for each flight and may feature various forms of new cargo types and new flight obstacles.
Instead of playing through 3 different missions, as suggested in the rulebook, Peter and I decided to play through the same mission 3 times because it was so much fun! The mission we selected was called "Experiments" and requires that you transport a bunch of new types of cargo in your ship! This cargo is either super fragile, explosive, radioactive, or heavy and affects the movement and destruction of your ship. Fragile cargo falls off whenever pieces around it are destroyed. Explosive cargo blows everything around it up when it is destroyed. Radioactive cargo precludes crew and batteries from being placed around it. Heavy cargo slooooooooooooows you doooooooown, subtracting its weight from your engine strength when you encounter open space. Failing to transport any one type of cargo at the end leads to negative points and succeeding in transporting this cargo gives you bonus points!
In our game, we couldn't find the starting cabins in our BIG box, so we played with a no-starting-cabin variant for our first flight. It was wild. Actually, it wasn't that different from the regular game, but it did demand seeking out crew quarters like mad. After the first game, I found the starting cabins tucked in below a bag of cards, so we kept playing, and getting destroyed, as usual.
Though we have had only a single experience with the missions, I can already see how profound an impact they can have on the game. In our game, all the shiny new cargo was mixed in with the regular ship components and we had to both make sure our ship was properly built and that the fragile and explosive cargo was well protected enough to ensure that it wouldn't lead to crazy chain reactions that would blow our ships to smithereens. We also had to be careful about how much heavy cargo we added to our ships, ensuring we had sufficient engine strength to overcome the inertia of all that weight! And on top of all the building limitations imposed by the new components, we also had to try to include as many different types of these in our ships as possible in order to avoid taking negative points! It was like advanced Galaxy Trucker and it was awesome! I look forward to trying all the missions! This promises to be a HUGE expansion in a small box!
I acquired Edo in a trade because I loved the Maltz's Rococo game. However, I did not love Edo at all.
Edo is an action-selection game in which you use officials to select actions and samurai to move around a map that shows cities and sources of building materials scattered around. Each turn, you use 3 of your action tiles and assign officials to them to take one of 4 actions on each tile. You use actions to gather resources, build buildings on the map, and try to retain control over certain cities.
I have very little to say about this game because it left a very pale impression on me. With two players, it works, but doesn't have many tense or interesting decision points. It just is. I think the interesting aspects of this game largely lie in making the most of the position of various players' samurai on the map when gathering resources and that was lacking in our game. With more players, you may have to make decisions about whether to use your samurai to gather resources or to use the round's special trade action, but with two, you can largely ignore the trade action and generally avoid your opponent's samurai.
It isn't all doom and gloom. Edo does feature an interesting action selection mechanism that demands you make tradeoffs between actions featured on the same tile. You also have to carefully manage your samurai and officials. You need officials to program actions, but you need samurai on the board to actually carry out those actions. You have to hire new officials and turn your existing officials into samurai, so managing this little production line can be interesting.
Unfortunately, I don't think Edo is a game that Peter and I will be playing again, as it just doesn't create a very tense or engaging 2-player experience.***
Last week, we tried New Bedford without the expansion and using the suggested first-game setup. I didn't have many good things to say about the game at that point; it it just felt a little dull. This week, we tried New Bedford with the expansion. It felt quite a bit less dull.
Rising Tides adds new locations to the game, as well as new "Ship's Log" cards that you can choose to add to your "Ship's Log" instead of taking a whale on your ship. These cards are very interesting, as some give you alternate ways to score and certain buildings can enhance your ability to acquire them, as well as their value at the end of the game.
Between the slew of new buildings and the Ship's Log cards, Rising Tides adds a significant amount of interesting content to New Bedford. The fact that Ship's Log cards provide an alternative way to score points and that they give you a couple of extra options when selecting cargo to take on your ships during the whaling phase means that I now feel like the game has a sufficient number of interesting decision points to justify a place in my life for the time being. The new buildings also add some new effects and scoring options that further enhance the experience.
Additionally, I think that our initial session of New Bedford was marred by the fact that we opted to use the suggested first-game building setup. That building setup doesn't make for a very tense or interesting game. Taking a random collection of buildings from the expansion and base game made for some far more interesting combinations. I look forward to playing this game a few more times because I adore looking at it and because I want to experience ALL () the building combinations to see how they change the game!***What's Not So New But Still Exciting?
Hyperborea, how I adore thee! The past three weeks have served as a welcome reminder of just how much I enjoy this game. You have so many tech options and so many ways to develop your bag!
I was very careful with what I added to my bag in this game and ensured I had JUST enough cubes to go through a few perfectly timed complete cycles. I kept my cube generating indicators at the top of their tracks until the end of the game to add those points when the time came and avoided the temptation to over-saturate my bag with useless stuff. The fact that I had a tech that allowed me to make good use of grey cubes certainly helped make me very efficient. I'm sure that had something to do with my acquiring all 3 end-game tiles before Peter had a chance to gain even 1!
The Staufer Dynasty
I had been asking to play Staufer for weeks and Peter decided to give me the chance to do so this week. Yay? Not so much.
First move: Acquire reward tile that allows you to place a worker in a city without using any additional workers. Acquire said reward tile at the city that will score and secure majority by placing your noble in the superior of only two placement spots.
Second move: Acquire reward tile that allows you to place a worker in a any city without paying extra for moving away from the King's city.
Third move: Acquire tile that allows you to move your action marker to the head of its track.
And so it went.
First move: Be stupid.
Second move: Be even more stupid.
Third move: Be super duper sparkletastically stupid!
And so it went.
This game just didn't go my way and part of it had to do with Peter going first, which just left me frustrated for the rest of the game. Somehow, magically (probably due to the sparkletastic third move), I ended up a mere 2 points behind Peter, which made me feel a bit better, but I didn't have much fun. And I only managed to fulfill one goal. I guess we were just rusty, but I didn't have much fun.
Peter won Scythe! I think this is the first time since our first couple of games that Peter actually won Scythe! He had the wolf pack! That's why he won . Actually, I rushed the end game before I had developed a strong enough foothold over the map. I miscalculated timing and ended up losing by ONE POINT! Oh well. Peter was also quite smart about his expansion. Despite the fact that he ended up placing a mere 4 stars on the board, he timed splitting his workers all over the map very well and he focused on outdoing me on the heart track. Of course, that worked. Peter was very happy. He couldn't believe he won Scythe! I will have to try to prevent this from happening again!
I love Queen's Architect! Yep! I really do! I think that the last time we played this game, I wasn't in the mood for it and didn't end up enjoying that session as much as usual, so I put the game on the shelf for a while. This week, I REALLY felt like playing it and was reminded of how much fun I have with it. I love trying to balance my worker wheel and trying to figure out the most efficient combinations of workers to acquire and exhaust.
Peter basically handed me this game. He was really rusty and I was not. I was totally on top of it and raced to the top of the scoring track before he even got three quarters of the way up! It was madness! Fun madness! For me at least. He enjoyed it. He said so. But we really need to play this more often so that it doesn't get blasted out of his brain with all the new stuff coming in all the time!
This game of Islebound went rather badly for Peter. It wasn't horribly, awfully, nightmarishly bad, but it was quite bad. But it could have just been that it went wonderfully, swimmingly, happily for me. I was constantly making efficient routes between the event locations, which meant I was also constantly developing locations. I had a huge amount of territory at the end of the game and all that money went straight into buildings! Of course, that efficiency won me the game!
Arctic Scavengers: Base Game+HQ+Recon
Arctic Scavengers confirmed its awesomeness this week. Our first game was a tiny bit slow, which led to Peter complaining about it, but our second game was super snappy and ended in about 30 minutes. Once you know what you are doing, this game moves along at the speed of Dominion but gives you a tonne more options for each card.
A major complaint of Peter's with this game is the grisly theme. I was afraid it would bother me, but it ended up bothering him. Go figure. He HATES the characters in the below photograph and whenever he receives them, he mulligans them. I have to pick them out of the starting character stack and give him two to pick from the remainder, which doesn't give him many choices.
In this game, Peter was doing the building thing and I was doing the fighting thing. I think I managed to win about 80% of the contested resources, which made for a significant windfall in terms of points. Peter had buildings that produced food and thus allowed him to recruit people more quickly, but my contested resource people were just better!
Mermaids vs. Alchemists. I bid 4VP for first choice and picked the Mermaids. The bonus scoring tile awarded 18 VP for having the furthest connected structures. This was the beginning of the end for the Alchemists. While Peter managed to keep up with point generation during the game, owing somewhat to the 1VP per dwelling bonus tile, which he managed to deny me for the duration of the game, he failed to stockpile sufficient funds to turn into VP at the end and he all but ignored the cult tracks. Also, he stood zero chance on the furthest connected structure thing. Mermaids win!
After 20+ sessions, I'm still nowhere near done with Helios. I had some initial trepidations about replay value, but those have proven to be unfounded. Particularly when playing with our limited-character variant.
As is usual in this game, I went in with all kinds of grand plans and came out with not much to show for them. I acquired the character that gives you points for temples at the end of the game and I really wanted to capitalize on his temple points by combining them with the tile that gives you 4 VP per temple on it and around it, but I somehow only ended up with 2 temples on my board! It is very easy to get distracted in this game.
Magic: The Gathering
Friday Night Magic! Woohoo! It's officially back to being a thing!
This week, we played with an Eldrazi vs. Zendikar combo. I had a bunch of monster creatures in my Eldrazi deck and Peter had a bunch of landfall effects and creature removal in his Zendikar deck. Of course, the king of Magic remains the king of Magic. I was certain my Eldrazi deck would be able to take him down, but I couldn't get it to work and he had no trouble getting his combos to fly. In the first game, I failed to eliminate some of the creatures that were upgradable or had landfall effects early enough (not because I couldn't, but because I was being stupid), which led to my swift demise. In the second game, I decided to be super aggressive, eliminating anything he fielded immediately, which helped me take that win. The third game was a close one. I managed to field some Eldrazi, but Peter simply outnumbered me and killed me off. Bleh. Peter is just better at Magic. I probably would have died every time had I been piloting his deck. Oh well. I just need more practice.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small + ALL EXPANSIONS
We decided to play some baby Agricola after a night of nothing but Terraforming Mars and Colony. Peter gets card gamed out easily and frankly, so do I. Finding a relatively short game that isn't card based is quite the task, but baby Agricola fits the bill nicely.
I am quite terrible at this game and usually lose. Looking at our scoring pad, it isn't uncommon to find sessions in which Peter almost doubled my score. This time was different. This time, I had focus! Peter was trying to bang out cows like a cowboy to make the most of his Cow Stall. That thing requires a minimum of 11 cows to score 4 points at the end of the game. I told him he was delusional and it was mathematically impossible at that point in the game. He ignored math. Oh well.
Meanwhile, I set my sights on simpler goals. I wanted 4 wood to score 4 points with my Log House, I got a Cottage Extension in the first round, which simply gave me 4 points, and I managed to make 5 points from the Manor. Plus, of course, I got myself some nice Stall action. Thankfully, most of my buildings I had also gave me room to keep animals, which meant that I could go crazy with my sheep. Those just kept multiplying! And I ended up with a handsome score of 50+ points despite my minimally expanded farm, while Peter was in the 30s. Finally!
Third game of Brew Crafters! And I love this game so much! The game gives you so many options for upgrading your beer factory and increasing your point-making engine that it makes my head spin! In the best way possible!
In this game, I decided to go for the double-batch brewing system in the first season and that ended up being my only major upgrade the rest of the game. I don't know how I managed to develop as advanced a system as I did in our previous game. I had so much trouble keeping up with the payments and managing everything in this game. I think the brew pub helped me significantly in that game. Also, I didn't hire the "right" help in this game. There were two really good helpers who would have been far more useful than the one I did hire, but I was blinded by the promise of ingredients when I needed them. Bleh. Oh well. I still did relatively well, brewing up all kinds of cinnamon-y beer goodness.
Spirits of the Rice Paddy
This was our second game of Spirits of the Rice Paddy. I wrote about my first impression of the game last week and they weren't entirely positive. My second impression is MUCH more favorable. This will never be my favorite game, but I had a lot more fun with it the second time around. I think that the spirit cards are very powerful, but knowing when to draft which cards can help mitigate imbalances between them.
In this game, I did my best to race for the objectives because I had trouble with that in our previous game and I succeeded! I did very well in that respect! I also managed to control water by retaining control over the first player title for the majority of the game. Peter had a lot of trouble with water despite the fact that he managed to get some of the magic stuff. Too bad. He did very badly...almost as badly as I did in our last game. You have to be very careful both about the values of the cards you draft and when you actually play them. And you have the cards powers to tempt you to do the wrong thing! I find that quite interesting. This is definitely a game that is worthy of further exploration.
We felt like a relaxing game on Sunday afternoon, so we picked Sanssouci. Of course, it turned out to be less than relaxing for one of us. Peter said I took the ONLY tile he could use EVERY TURN for the first half of the game. I think he was exaggerating, but I did have a VERY good first half of the game! I kept plopping tiles down on the bonus point spaces and making 5 or 6 points per turn. I did slow down later, but I still did relatively well. The only problem with my game was that I failed to get any bonuses at the end. That killed it for me. No columns and no rows! And no 100.
Limes! In this game, we had a very good set of tiles come out in close succession. As I've mentioned before, I love the tiles that are split into only two different terrain types because they make it easier to do happy point-generating things like placing them in view of an outlook post while extending a farm or forest. I felt like Peter was making much better use of these tiles than I was, but I somehow managed to come out 1 point ahead! I think. I hope we counted everything correctly!
*Note that we use the Limes for Pros variant provided on Martyn F's website.***Fresh Cardboard
1. Kings of Air and Steam - Clearly, the Essen game buying ban is not working because I bought another game! I love the way this game looks (ahem, Josh Cappel ) and I have wanted to try it. It just appeared in stock at BoardGameBliss over the weekend, so I snatched it.
2. Tiny Epic Galaxies - I was interested in this game the first time it was on Kickstarter, but it looked a little too light, a little too random, and a little too unnecessary for my needs and preferences at the time. With the expansion (Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black) having launched on Kickstarter this week, my curiosity was piqued once again, so I've decided to try the game before I get involved in the expansion business. Will be trying this next week!
3. Shakespeare: Backstage - This was available for pre-order at BoardGameBliss this week, so I pre-ordered it! Shakespeare needs an expansion and I look forward to seeing what this one brings to the game! It is tiny, but perhaps it is a box of tiny awesomeness!
4. Habitats - This actually doesn't count as a violation of my ban on buying games before Essen because it's a Kickstarter project I'll be picking up at Essen! This is a tile-laying game about building habitats for animals and it comes with little ceramic animals! It looks adorable and puzzly and that's good enough for me!
5. Factory Fun + The Hanging Gardens - This is another case of non-violation of the Essen ban. I will receive both of these at the TABSCON math trade! I am excited for the former because Peter LOVES Factory Funner. SO MUCH! I am not too excited for the latter, but it looks pretty and we enjoy fast-playing tile-laying games once in a while, so I'm happy to give it a shot.
6. The Great Heartland Hauling Co. - I can't remember why I wanted this, but I did, so I got it! It's cheap and small and possibly wonderful!
7. Inis - Pre-ordered from BoardGameBliss, as usual! What is it about the pre-order system that is so compulsive!?***Next Week...
Look forward to some galactic action in Tiny Epic Galaxies and some other stuff. I want to play Mansions of Madness all week, but Peter would kill me if I made him do that, so that review may have to wait...or maybe not.***THANK YOU FOR READING!***
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! :)
In Which a Puppy Colony Terraforms Mars * New Reviews for TERRAFORMING MARS and COLONY * First Impressions for MANSIONS OF MADNESS SECOND EDITION, GALAXY TRUCKER MISSIONS, EDO, and NEW BEDFORD: RISING TIDES * And What's My Secret!?
09 Sep 2016
- [+] Dice rolls