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 Kings of Air and Steam Invade an Arcane Academy * New Review for KINGS OF AIR & STEAM and ARCANE ACADEMY * Impressions for COFFEE ROASTER, STOCKPILE, ASHES: RISE OF PHOENIXBORN EXPANSION DECKS, & SPACE STATION

Milena Guberinic
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Toronto
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Games! That is all.

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***


What's New?




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The Overview


Kings of Air and Steam is a movement-programming, pick-up-and deliver game in which you aim to deliver the most valuable goods to the cities that want them while upgrading your air ship and railway network to facilitate that task.

At the start of the game, you will receive a role card, a player board, and matching set of movement cards, as well as an air ship and depot tokens. You will also get $12.

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Movement cards


When playing with two players, the game board is comprised of 3 boards and 3 bumpers. Each factory on the board is populated with one good of its type and players get to build a depot between two cities and place their airships on the same space at the start of the game.

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The market board shows the values of goods and their availability in future rounds. Each round, you will first draw 3 new market tiles, place them in bins on the market board, and increase the price of the good types associated with those tiles.

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Next, you will secretly plan your ship's movement by selecting 4 cards from your movement card deck, placing them in the slots on your player board.

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After this, all players will simultaneously reveal their first movement cards. Some cards have diamonds on them. You must have upgraded your airship to have at least as much diamond capacity as the number of diamonds shown in your movement card or forfeit your action. Turn order is determined by the letters on the cards and proceeds in alphabetical order. The first player must first move her ship the exact number of spaces shown on her card, may pick up or drop off goods to her depot or pick them up from a factory, and may then execute an action. Actions include:

*Building a depot - Pay $4 to build a depot on a link that doesn't have any opponent depots on it or $7 otherwise

*Upgrading your airship - Pay the cost shown to upgrade your airship to the next level in order to increase your ability to play movement cards showing diamonds and increase your airship's capacity.

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*Upgrading your train - Pay the cost shown to upgrade your train and increase the distance over which you can ship goods.

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*Shipping goods - Choose one good type located on one of your depots and ship it to a city that takes that type of good to gain cash equivalent to the current market value of the good type.

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Luxury city!


*Adjusting your route - Move your airship one space.

*Soliciting funds - Take $3.

After everyone has performed all actions, you must pay $1 for each good remaining in your depots and airship and take all your movement cards back into your hand.

After upkeep requirements have been paid, factories will produce goods. Each factory will produce 1 good PLUS 1 good for each market tile on the market board showing that type of good. Then, the current market tiles will be wiped and a new round will begin.

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Factory with good


After 5 rounds, your VP total will be the sum of your cash on hand, 10 x each depot built, 15 for a fully upgraded airship, and 5/15/30 for a train of level 4/5/6.

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The Review


Played prior to review 6x






1. SOO (I've had to cut down the OOOOO in SOO to two because it was blasting people's screens ) PRETTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The PRETTIEST!
Josh Cappel's artwork never fails to impress. Ditto for TMG's production. The production and illustration of Kings of Air and Steam come together to create a unique world that I just want to visit over and over again!

2. Logistics, planning, and competition between players generate many interesting decision points
If you love a good long-term planning and logistics challenge, Kings of Air and Steam just might strike your fancy! My favorite part of the game is planning my ship's movement each round to ensure I can get it to visit as many factories as possible while collecting as many goods as possible and dumping them at depots with easy access to cities that consume those goods. This process sounds relatively simple, but its complicated by the fact that:

a) You are limited to a single action per turn and actions are necessary to upgrade your train, build depots, collect money, and upgrade your shipping. All of these things make you more efficient and better able to both collect goods and deliver them without having to pay your opponent for use of depots that aren't your own.

b) While you are planning your ship's movement, you also have to plan the sequence of actions you will take during the course of the round in order to ensure that you have enough money for future actions or upkeep, that your airship has been upgraded sufficiently to allow you to play all the movement cards you have planned, and that you are actually in control of a sufficiently developed network to allow you to ship. You need depots for shipping, you need money for depots, upkeep, and upgrades, you need upgrades for movement cards and shipping...There's a messy chain of things to consider when determining the order of actions and that order inevitably interacts with your airship's movement.

c) You have to pay attention to your opponent's airship and its possible trajectory. When planning your own airship's movement, you cannot think only of yourself; you also have to consider your opponent, who may be able to beat you to a sweet pile of goods sitting on top of a factory or to a delivery. Movement cards have numbers, which indicate how far your airship will move, and letters, which indicate your turn order. Generally, more movement power = more of the alphabet will get to move before you do. However, this is complicated by the fact that some cards have diamond costs (i.e. demand that your airship has been upgraded to support as many diamonds as you have revealed in your tableau) and can be played earlier in turn order than they would be otherwise. If you are desperate to race your opponent to a particular good, you can use these cards to your advantage. But you always have to keep a close eye on your opponent to determine whether and when this will be necessary.

Kings of Air and Steam is not a mind-blowingly complex or heavy game, but it gives you plenty of chewy bits to satisfy a craving for a good medium-weight logistics challenge.

3. Tense cash-flow management, especially early in the game
One of the main sources of tension in Kings of Air and Steam is cash flow. You need cash to perform virtually any action other than request funds and re-position your ship, but the only way to get a relatively good amount of cash is to ship goods. However, shipping goods isn't always the simplest thing to do because it also demands that you spend some money on depots and potentially train upgrades; so you are faced with a bit of a catch 22 here. Trying to maximize the number of the same type of good at a single trading post in order to make the most of your shipping action is a fun challenge and one that demands weighing efficiency against points and cashflow.

4. Scaled effectively for two
Games with maps can be tricky to translate across all possible player counts, so I was somewhat leery of Kings of Air and Steam. A game that plays 2 to 7 players and features a map can't work well with 2. Right? Wrong! It works very well. In any given session, the map is generated from a randomly oriented collection of individual tiles, the number of which depends on player count. This means that even with only 2 players in the game, the board remains tight and results in a lot of competition over key links. Links that are close to matching factory-city pairs are particularly contentious. Also, the number of links is only sufficient to place about half of your depots at a reduced cost. If you dilly dally early in the game and fail to lock down links you need to get your goods shipped, you will easily end up having to pay the higher cost for each of your depots, meaning that they won't net you as many points as they would otherwise. And if you want to place ALL of your depots, you will definitely have to take the monetary hit from your opponent's depots, even when playing with only one other person.

5. Predictable market for maximum strategy
I know that the Kings of Air and Steam market will make some people squirm, but I love the fact that it is relatively predictable.

There are 3 market tiles of each type and the market value of each good rises up to a maximum of 3 times when its market tile is drawn. There are enough tiles to take each good's value to the maximum and each good will be worth exactly the same amount in the final round of the game. This means that you can strategically hold onto goods that are set to increase in value in the next round or jettison them after a round in order to avoid incurring undue costs for upkeep.

6. SO MUCH variety for super high replay value!
Kings of Air and Steam is super variable! You have 14 different player powers to choose from and 7 unique movement cards associated with each set of powers. The variable player powers and unique movement cards have a great impact on the way you play the game, either focusing your strategy or giving you some flexibility you wouldn't otherwise have. The player powers can have huge effects on your strategy. One power allows you to create new links between cities, allowing you to delay your depot building, another allows you to use your opponent's depots for goods transport without paying them, allowing you to focus your sights on upgrading your train and ship, another gives you control over cities' demand for goods. Combine these ongoing powers with unique movement cards and you have a recipe for significant game-to-game differences. Some unique movement cards allow you to zip easily around the map, while others exchange movement ability for additional actions or effects. Obviously, if you are good at moving around, you'll be able to scatter your depots more widely across the map than you would otherwise. If you have some special action such as being able to move small distances twice and unload additional goods, you will want to plop down your depots at shorter intervals. Whatever the case may be, even the seemingly minor unique movement cards can drastically affect how you build your depot network and when and how far you need to upgrade your train and airship.

The layout of the map and value of various goods changes in each game as well, which necessitates working with a different availability of cash and different levels of need to outrace your opponents to specific goods.

The game also comes with a few variants. One allows you to play a more symmetrical game in which all players have identical ships and no unique movement cards. Another creates randomness in the market by introducing one extra tile of each good type, meaning that certain goods may be more valuable than others even at the end of the game. Whether you want more symmetry or more randomness, Kings of Air and Steam can accommodate your desires.

7. Strategy game that accommodates 7 players!
Although I don't typically play games with more than two players and this point does not apply to me, it may be of interest to some to note that Kings of Air and Steam can be played with 7 players. There aren't too many strategic, non-party games that can be played with this many people!

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Roles


soblue


soblue 1. The airships are a bit too large, but I don't care because they are so awesome!
If you are easily bothered by components that detract a tiny bit from gameplay, you may find yourself bothered by the size of the airships. They are HUGE! The HUMMERS of board game pieces, they just plow right through every little depot that gets in their way. They aren't good at sharing spaces with depots and can result in displacement of the wooden pieces on the board if you aren't careful. I like gigantic things and I like the airships in Kings of Air and Steam, but they won't please everyone equally.

soblue 2. Some powers seem to be better than others
After playing this game a mere 6 times (i.e. with a total of 6 of the 14 different characters), I can't really speak about balance with too much confidence, but there are some characters that I actively avoided when it came to picking which side of my tiles I wanted because they seemed to be strictly inferior to others. For example, one character allows you to merely select which goods a filled up city will want to take on next rather than drawing blindly. This isn't very useful as it often happens that no cities get completely filled over the course of a game. Meanwhile, another allows you to take 5 extra actions over the course of the game! You only get 24 actions in the game, so an extra 5 is significant. Perhaps the utility of the various characters is balanced by their unique movement cards and turn order, but the individual powers seem (SEEM!) to be less than equally useful. That said, this has not detracted from my enjoyment of the game. The fact that I always have a choice between two characters regardless of which tile I draw is enough.

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More roles


Final Word


I must confess that what initially attracted me to Kings of Air and Steam were the giant plastic airships. Like any TMG production, these little touches make the scream, "PLAY ME!!!!!!!!" It just kept screaming at me so loudly that I couldn't ignore it any longer. I had to try it! And it has turned out to be a success both for me and for Peter. This is important to me because it doesn't often happen that Peter and I love a game perfectly equally.

Kings of Air and Steam is our ideal type of game; it is is strategic, relatively non-aggressive (unless you are playing the stealing factions, which you shouldn't if you don't enjoy random meanness), demands spatial planning and efficiency, takes under an hour to play, is medium in weight, and looks absolutely stunning! It might not appeal to those who find pick-up-and deliver games to be tedious, dull, and boring, but both Peter and I love it! So it gets LOTS OF LOVE!

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


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From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




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The Overview


Arcane Academy is a "tile-linking game of magic and wizardry." In this game, you and your friends take on the roles of magicians striving to come out on top in their final exams. You create a tableau of action tiles and activate these to gain will and shards, expand your tableau, activate items, and complete assignments.

At the start of the game, you will receive a slate that features 4 pre-printed action ties. You will also receive 3 shards, 3 will, and 3 assignment cards. Three is the magic number when it comes to setting up this game!

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You will also create a common pool consisting of 4 face-up action tiles and 4 face-up assignment cards in the center of the table.

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Each turn, you must either cast or reset.
*CAST - When casting, you must choose a non-exhausted action tile in your tableau and execute its action, followed by the action of each directly linked, orthogonality adjacent tile. Tiles are considered to be linked when they show complete circles between each other. Then, you must place an exhaustion token on the tile you activated.

Actions include collecting the number of shards and/or will shown, using an item with a "use" symbol and performing its action, completing an assignment by returning the number of shards/will shown to the supply and executing the card's effect, and adding a tile to your tableau.

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*RESET - When resetting, you remove all exhaustion tokens from your tableau and may discard one of your assignment cards to draw a new one from the deck.

The game ends when one player has completed 8 assignments. The round is finished and the game ends when that player has played another final turn. The player with the most VP as shown on completed assignments wins!

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"Item" assignments

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"Spell" assignments


The Review


Played prior to review 7x






1. Cute
Arcane Academy is beautifully illustrated to appeal to a broad audience. It is colorful, cute, and fun and I'm certain the style will appeal to kids and adults alike. The only piece of art in the game I don't like is the "pencils down" card, which looks completely out of place with its muted colors and non-cartoony style, but that is so minor and completely irrelevant given how gorgeous all the other cards are.

2. Short play time
With two players, this takes about 20 minutes to play, which is perfect for a good light-medium-weight game.

3. Simple rules and few components create a surprising number of decision points
Arcane Academy features simple rules and only a few simple components that truly belie the number of decision points in the game. When I first read the rules and saw the pieces, all I could think was, "That's it?" Will this really be a game with enough substance to keep me engaged and interested?

Even though it seems terribly simple, Arcane Academy creates many challenges in puzzling out the most effective layout for your tableau, the most efficient activation order for your action tiles, the best assignments to complete, and the ideal order to do so.

First, you have to think about how to build your tableau. Are you trying to build up powerful one-time actions or actions that you can link to others to provide greater flexibility. Action tiles that give you more "stuff" and more abilities can generally be linked to few other tiles, so you have to consider what you are giving up by adding rich tiles to your tableau. Some assignments even provide points for creating lots of links and others give you points for jetissoning tiles from your tableau. Obviously, you want to build a well-linked tableau in the former case and a tableau that allows you to add multiple tiles to your tableau in one go and activate an item. You always have to consider not only how to best connect your tiles for maximum combo potential but also which abilities you need to best exploit whatever strategy you have adopted based on your completed assignments or assignments you have in hand or can see waiting for you in the public display. In one game, I spent the entire game building a well-linked tableau in preparation for a 9-shard assignment that would give me a point for every completed link. I didn't win that game, but I did complete the assignment, which ended up being worth well over a dozen points. It was quite a satisfying experience, despite my loss.

Next, you have to consider the order of activation. Do you activate a tile positioned at the center of 4 other linked tiles first in order to get a massive action payout or do you go slowly, from the outside in in order to maximize the number of times you get to activate the tile at the center? This all depends on your current needs, the stage of the game, and the layout you have built.

You also have to think about which assignments to complete. Do you want to complete many low-cost assignments and try to rush the game or go for few higher-cost, higher-payoff assignments? You have to either set the pace of the game with your assignments or keep up with the pace of the game in completing them. Their effects and abilities can also influence when you choose to complete them. Some provide effects that are useful early in the game (for example, gaining a shard and will every time somebody rests) and others provide effects that are useful later in the game (for example, adding VP to every item in your tableau or removing a VP from every item in your opponent's tableau).

Finally, when do you burn a turn to reset? You can do this before you've exhausted all tiles in your tableau or you can do it earlier than that if you are desperate to repeat an action you've already fully exhausted. The frequency at which you burn turns to reset your tableau affects your efficiency and ultimate number of turns you have in the game, so using assignments that reset your tableau without burning an action can be particularly important. This is a game of efficiency, so whatever you can do to minimize your reset frequency is what you have to do, whether it be completing a certain assignment, building your tableau in an efficient way, and/or efficiently activating it.

4. Great sense of escalation with a uniquely executed engine-building element
I don't know about you, but I haven't seen many "tile-linking games of magic and wizardry" on the market. In fact, I think this may be the first game of its kind, a game that has you build a tableau by activating said tableau and creating cascading chains of effects. It's quite clever! But more than that, it is incredibly satisfying! Creating synergistic combinations between tiles that allow you to collect a small fortune of shards and/or will and then simultaneously complete an assignment, which may allow you to un-exhaust all the action tiles in your tableau and take another turn to do the same thing!

Going from a bare-bones tableau that doesn't allow you to accomplish much of anything other than take a shard or tile to one that gives you 5 actions in one shot in a crazy, spectacular combo extravaganza gives you an immense sense of power.

Like any great engine-building game, this one ramps up quickly and does so using an interesting and unique spatial puzzly twist! Great stuff!

5. Great race-y tension but not a race - PACING, PACING, PACING!
Arcane Academy features all the tension of a race (i.e. the best part) without being a true race. The end of the game is triggered when one player has 8 completed assignments, so one way to play the game is to simply push the end forward by completing many tiny assignments that require very few resources. You might win, but you might not because many little, low-cost, low-VP assignments can easily be outdone by a few large, high-cost, high-VP assignments. I love the fact that Arcane Academy makes you feel the tension of a race by forcing you to keep abreast your opponent (or at least keep close watch over your opponent and the general pace of the game), while minimizing the sense of doom from failing to be the first to cross the finish line.

6. Very high replay value
Arcane Academy is compulsively replayable. You have a big deck of assignments and numerous action tiles that become available in different quantities and at different times over the course of any given game. Trying to create an efficient and effective tableau out of the unique set of tiles available each turn makes for a different puzzle every time!

What's more, some assignments point you in certain strategic directions, encouraging you to build many connections between your tiles or to build a tableau that allows you to activate them.

7. Two may be the ideal player count for the most control
I had one concern about Arcane Academy after I read the rulebook - randomness; I was worried that the combination of randomly drawn action tiles, randomly drawn assignment cards, and take-that-style card effects would result in an uncomfortably high level of randomness. This does create a fair bit of randomness, but when playing with only two players, that randomness is not so high as to make the game feel like eating random soup.

With two players, you can somewhat rely on having certain public assignments available to you on a later turn and saving gems or will to complete those specific assignments. At higher player counts, you would be more at the mercy of the assignments and tiles that remain after up to 3 other players are done with them, leading to a more tactical game. You may possibly also be subject to fewer "attacks" with only two, but that's really depends on your play group and whether players enjoy ganging up on one person.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. Randomness
I am not typically drawn to highly tactical and highly random games and I don't typically appreciate ANY take-that-style interaction in my games. Arcane Academy features 3 sources of randomness - its randomly drawn action tiles, randomly drawn assignment cards, and take-that-style card effects. Completing an assignment and then drawing a new assignment that is just perfect for your opponent can happen and could lead to some frustration if that triggers the end of the game or allows your opponent to trigger some crazy chain of events. Desecration can be particularly devastating both very early and late in the game, as it essentially nets you 3 bonus actions. If you just so happen to have it available to you early in the game, it can allow you to build a much larger and more powerful tableau than your opponent and larger and more powerful tableaus can be used to activate many more actions before resting, effectively giving you more actions over the course of the game. It's kind of like card advantage; if you have more cards, you a) have more options and b) can do more. Always good.

The take-that style card effects can also be an annoyance when your opponent uses them to undo things you worked to achieve or mess with your plans to achieve something on an upcoming turn. For example, one effect allows you to basically steal 1 will and 1 shard from an opponent, possibly delaying this opponent's ability to complete an assignment. Another removes 1 VP from each of your opponent's item. VPs take some work to add to items.

soblue 2. Negative interaction
If you desperately despise take-that-style interaction, you should beware of Arcane Academy. I was taken aback by the meanness of the game when we first played it because it looks so very nice. Doesn't it!? It's really not. Some assignments allow you to blackmail your opponents, steal from them, and remove VPs they have worked hard to add to their cards. In one game, I added a VP to each of my items by completing an assignment and then Peter proceeded to take them all away on the following turn. If you think that sort of thing will bother you, make an effort to try Arcane Academy before seeking it out. For me, the game's duration makes its cutthroat nature acceptable.

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Final Word


Arcane Academy may look a little like a silly children's game, but it's not! Between building and activating your tableau and selecting the right assignments to complete, the game gives you a tonne of crunchy bits to chew. Highly engaging, fast playing, compulsively replayable, puzzly, and unique, this one is sure to appeal to a broad audience. I could do without the bit of "take that," but I'm more than willing to live with it for the great sense of satisfaction I get from building cleverly positioned links between the tiles in my tableau and then activating them for maximum effect. This is a lot of fun and for now, I can't seem to get enough!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE (With potential to increase.)


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From gallery of milenaguberinic


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First Impressions


Colored by mood, stresses, and physical comforts and discomforts, first-play impressions and this section in general are not the most reliable sources of information. Proceed with caution.




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Coffee Roaster is a Japanese (and Taiwanese-published) solo pool-building game. Your goal is achieve an optimal and consistent roast level and flavor for a specific type of bean by manipulating the contents of a bag representing your roasting beans. The game comes with 22 different bean types and each type of bean starts off with a different raw composition. You fill the bag with each of the tokens indicated on the bean you will be roasting and get going! Each turn, you draw the number of tokens shown by your beans' current moisture level, which falls after each roasting phase. You can use aroma, acidity, and body tokens either to perform special actions that include drawing more tokens out of the bag, trashing bad beans, smoke, or other stuff you don't want in the bag, and gaining an additional wild token. Alternatively, you can use aroma, acidity, and body tokens to combine two beans of a certain roast level, split beans of a certain roast level, or keep two beans from roasting in the current roast phase. Of course, you can only do this to beans you have actually drawn from the bag. At the end of your turn, any beans you have drawn will increase in roast level and you will return everything but moisture tokens and tokens you have removed from the game to the bag. You can stop roasting at the end of any turn, at which point you take a "cup test." You draw up to 10 tokens from your bag into a cup, which represents the full flavor and roast profile of your roasted coffee. You are able to jettison up to 4 beans into a tray if bad beans, hard beans, burned beans, or undesirable flavors show up. You can also use some special powers to further manipulate the contents of your cup if you acquired them during the game. Then, you score your cup for having beans that add up to the perfect roast level, which is specific to each bean, for having consistently roasted beans (more beans at same roast level = more points), and for matching the perfect flavor profile. You lose points for having fewer than 10 beans in your cup and for failing to match the desired flavor profile.

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Super handy player aid

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My second attempt was a successful one!


I'm not one for solo games and haven't played many of them. In fact, the only game I have played solo is Friday and I found nothing to like about it. Unlike Friday, I've found many things to like about Coffee Roaster. Between its unique and well-integrated theme, short play time, huge variety of bean types to roast, ADORABLE and clear and helpful artwork and graphic design, and engaging and tense gameplay, I am in love! The chief draw of this game for me is trying to perfect the roast level and flavor. It's not an easy task, as it involves a bit of luck and a lot of skill. Drawing a combination of burnt beans, smoke, and bad beans at the same time that you have a token you can use to remove them from the game can feel SO GOOD even though it has little to do with your roasting skills. However, the ultimate contents of your bag and the probability of drawing the tiles you need to make the perfect cup are things that are largely under your control. You can influence whether acidity or aroma predominate your beans' flavor profile by using the tokens you don't want to perform associated actions instead of saving them in your bag. You can use actions to keep beans from burning or to create a perfectly even roast level, and you can even influence the outcome of the cup test by selecting tokens to remove from your roast.

Being a solo game, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy Coffee Roaster at all, but it surprised and delighted me by its challenging and clever nature. I can't wait to play again! I WANT TO ROAST ALL THE BEANS! This is an addictive game.

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***




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I backed Stockpile + Continuing Corruption on Kickstarter and received my reward recently. The game looked cute, but I don't like thinking about money or stock markets or any of that stuff, so I was a little afraid I would dislike it. Fortunately, that does not appear to be the case.

In Stockpile, you aim to make as much money as possible by collecting cards that allow you to manipulate stock values, accumulating stocks of lucrative companies, and selling stock that might bankrupt. Each round, you receive some insider information about how one (or in the case of a two-player game, two) stocks will behave at the end of the round, you draw two market cards, place them in turn order in stockpiles, and then bid on the right to take those stockpiles into your hand. You then get a chance to manipulate the market before revealing changes in stock prices. Stocks can split, effectively doubling the number you hold, or go bankrupt, wiping them from your reserve. At the end of the game, the player with the most money and most valuable stock portfolio wins!

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Peter was dealt this guy as his starting character and he dumped him. I simply can't imagine why...

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When we started playing Stockpile, I had a sinking feeling that I would not enjoy it at all. My "gaming achievement orientation" would be one focused on creativity and creation. That is, I enjoy giving form to some tangible, functional thing I can be proud of when the end of the game arrives. Whether that takes the form of a tableau-based engine, a spatial puzzle, or some sort of route or network, I'm happy. I'm typically unhappy with simple set collection or accumulation of stuff with no long-term function. Stockpile gave me the sense that it would be of this latter variety - pure accumulation of stuff that increases or decreases in value. And it was. But unlike most games of this type, I actually did enjoy it. It has a very interesting push-your-luck aspect that forces you to make tradeoffs between saving a stock for potentially higher payoffs vs. selling it to avoid losing everything. Add to this the face-down market cards in stockpiles, which can be little strategically-placed bombs ready to blow up in your face, and you have lots of luck-pushing fun! I also loved the variable player powers. Yes, we skipped to the full version of the game.

I look forward to playing this a few more times and adding the expansion! It adds 4 new modules, the most interesting of which to me is the "Bonds" module. Bonds demand a large early investment but provide interest over the course of the game. They seem like they would create a bit more tension in the cash flow management aspect of the game, which was lacking in our game; we always had plenty of cash on hand.

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***




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Last week, all the Ashes expansion decks I had previously pre-ordered came into stock at BoardGameBliss, so we HAD to pick them up and play with them over the weekend. We played with the Children of Blackcloud and Dutchess of Deception decks and I stuck with the Deception deck, while Peter stuck with the Blackcloud deck, so my thoughts about the latter are limited.

The Dutchess of Deception deck is an aggressive one. Victoria Glassfire easily conjures illusions that are killed as soon as they take damage from an opponent's unit but are quite powerful. Her minions are also able to deal direct damage to opponent units and her spells can turn opponent units into illusions. She is a force!

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Fortunately for Brennen Blackcloud, he also has some spells and units that bypass attacks for damage. He has only a single (albeit powerful) conjuration, but that is more than made up for by 3 different allies that either deal direct damage to units or opposing Phoenixborn or are able to take damage themselves in order to administer even more damage!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


In our games, I destroyed Peter almost unscathed. I kept turning his allies into illusions and quickly taking them out. The fact that he opted not to take his summoning spell into his starting hand in our first game really bit him in the butt when he couldn't consistently recover his ally numbers to keep up. He smartened up in the second game, taking his summoning spell into hand when he realized how few he had. I think Brennen may just be a bit more difficult to play than Victoria. He likes to damage himself in exchange for greater damage to his opponent and that can be a tough line to walk.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


After falling deeply in love with Terraforming Mars (take note, I have updated my rating to ALL LOVE ALL THE TIME ), I wanted to try Space Station, an earlier Fryx publication.

In Space Station, you use cards to build your own space station and fill it with various modules that you can activate and use to out-module your opponents to gain VP at the end of each round.

At the beginning of each round, you draw 10 cards and discard down to 5, gain some fixed income and some variable income that depends on the number of modules of a single type you have built, and gain workers granted by your built modules. Each turn, you either play an event card or module card, paying its cost, activate a module by moving one of your workers to it, or pass.

A round is over once everyone has passed. At this point, you gain a point for each type of module for which you have more functional modules than anyone else. The game ends after 6 rounds, at which point points are once again awarded to the player with the most of each module type.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


When I read through the basic rules for Space Station, I knew it would be too random for me, so we skipped the basic game and went into the "advanced" variant, which is what I described above. The only difference is that in the basic game, you draw 5 cards instead of 10, so you have less control over your fate. Sadly, even with the 10-keep-5 rule, I felt there was far too much randomness in this game. The game contains very annoying and unpredictable event cards that you can use to screw around with your opponents and that your opponents can use to screw around with you. They can be used to destroy pieces of your ship, take away your money, and even prevent any further module cards from being played. They are highly annoying and you never know when they may hit because you have ZERO knowledge of your opponent's hand. I feel like a draft would vastly improve this aspect of the game, providing you with some information about what may be coming your way.

With the ugly bits out of the way, Space Station is a fast-playing card game with an interesting spatial element that I quite enjoy. I love the tension between selecting a module with a cool power vs. one with many connections that will allow you to better grow your station. I also enjoyed the majority race, which actually worked relatively well even with just two players involved in the game. Because you are able to damage your opponent's modules using some events and module effects, you can be quite competitive when it comes to gaining majorities. Because of the player-induced chaos this sort of behavior would induce, I think Space Station may actually be better for me with two players rather than with more. However, I'm sure that many people would find the game more fun at higher player counts for this same reason. We will play it again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


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What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Colored by mood, stresses, and physical comforts and discomforts, individual play sessions and this section in general are not the most reliable sources of information. Proceed with caution.


Terraforming Mars
It seems like we manage to make Mars increasingly habitable each week! This week, we had our most successful terraforming mission yet owing largely to a very slow start for both Peter and me. Neither of us seemed to draw cards that helped accelerate the terraforming process. Instead, we kept building cities and other useless things that only provided points. Mars looked like quite a hospitable place by the end!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Meeple War
Let's add Meeple War to the list of games I just can't do. Perhaps my demonstrable ineptitude has something to do with the war-like qualities of this game. Or perhaps Peter is just extra adept at these types of spatial games of death and destruction. Whatever it is, I seem to be incapable of functioning in this game.

In this session, I decided to make the Catapult my first building because it seemed to be pretty good. Throw meeples across the map? Sure! I built it, but then seemed to use it far less effectively than Peter did. I even had a building that allowed me to replace opponent meeples that had infiltrated my buildings with my own, but that didn't seem to help. I wasn't sure where those meeples should go once the building's defenses were completely filled, but it wouldn't have done me much good even if we assumed they went to my own little pyramid of glory. Peter also found a two-point landscape tile early in the game and held onto it for the duration, while I attempted to navigate my little meeple dudes through thick forests because I wanted to protect myself from attacks. I have trouble effectively evaluating the relative utility of the various buildings. Also, I think more aggression is in order. And clearly, more practice as well.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Magic: The Gatheringx3
I think I can safely say that Friday Night Magic has officially re-become a thing! This week, we played with the Elspeth vs. Kiora decks. Peter was tired, so he took the simpler Elspeth deck. That one relies on a heavy creature-based strategy that doesn't take too much effort to execute. Lots of little soldiers are easy to field and all buff each other to create some big and scary humans. My Kiora deck was a bit more complex, relying on some early-game delay tactics to ensure its late game viability.

Despite the fact that I was confident the Elspeth deck (and Peter) would just out-pace the Kiora one, things didn't turn out that way. I won 2/3 games with Kiora and I loved every second of playing with that deck! It was a hard fight against Peter's horde of synergistic soldiers when he managed to get those little buggers to buff each other, but it was fun to force them back into Peter's hand repeatedly, gaining life every time I put a land into play (twice in a turn in some cases), and fielding some gigantic monsters like the oh-so-sexy Nimbus Swimmer. This deck is totally my style. Delay and then bam!

From gallery of milenaguberinic

DELAY DELAY DELAY

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


Colony
Guess what!? I didn't build my engine backwards this week! YAY! But Peter did!

After an especially poor showing from Peter in a game of Arcane Academy (I doubled his score!), I wanted to play something I was relatively confident he would a) enjoy and b) win. I was right about the first one. I was wrong about the second.

Peter decided to begin collecting the orange scoring cards too early and that blew up in his face when he didn't have enough dice to sustain further acquisitions. I acquired a couple of Fabric Replicators and then went to town on the other buildings that required 4s, which just happened to be good for manipulating dice! It was a sweet deal. I had so much dice manipulation that I was getting exactly what I needed every turn. I ended up with a huge tableau and a hugely inflated ego.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

My final tableau

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Peter's ill-fated Fallout Shelters


Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
We finally decided to venture past the Cycle of Eternity scenario. We dove into Innsmouth. It was not good. It was very not good.

In Innsmouth, we were met with hordes of baddies that just kept chasing us around in circles. We decided to let the place burn and ended up burning ourselves. And by the time we figured out what we had to do to win the game, the game was over.

I felt so drained after this session of Mansions of Madness that I wanted nothing more than to put the game away. I had a caffeine-withdrawal-induced headache and couldn't bear the thought of going through this two-hour scenario for another two hours only to lose again. I felt very discouraged. But the experience stayed with me and I resolved not to let all the losses get the best of me.

My discouragement is simply evidence of the need to play this game for the right reasons and to recognize it for what it is and not wish for it to be what it is not. It is like a movie or exploratory video game in board game form. It's rare to get past higher levels on any exploration-based video games without going through multiple runs and I think that's likely true for Mansions of Madness as well. It seems like you need to do one run of each scenario just to figure out what your objective is and then re-do it to actually execute the mission. I wish that weren't the case because I didn't enjoy running around without rhyme or reason this time around. But that may have been due to the massive headache I was developing while we played. We will play again and I will love it again. I'm sure.

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Baaaad things happened

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Tides of Madness
Both Peter and I were pushing the madness. I ended the game with 8 crazy points and Peter had 7! I won by 2 points! So close! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite 10-minute games!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Imperial Settlers + Imperial Settlers: 3 Is a Magic Number
Ever since playing with the Aztecs prototype at Dice Tower Con, I haven't been able to stop thinking about how much I love this game! At this point, we've played about 50 times and I still want to play more! I can't wait to introduce the Aztecs for some crazy luck-pushing fun! Essen can't come soon enough!

Peter drew the Japanese and I drew the Barbarians. And I instantly knew I was doomed. Of course, the Japanese are not indestructible, but I knew that if I wanted to stay competitive, I had to focus on razing the heck out of them. That's not really my style, but that's what I did. Unfortunately, it took me FOREVER to get my razing engine going because I just couldn't seem to get enough production going to build much of anything. By the I finally had two Dark Chapels going and a Clans House for point production, it was the fourth round already! I somehow managed to claw my way to 75 points, but Peter was about 10 ahead of that. Poor scores and brutal game, but fun nonetheless. I just wish I could have razed a bit more hell.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Roll for the Galaxy + Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition
After Imperial Settlers, Peter suggested we play a game I would win. He knows that I somehow always manage to win Roll, despite the fact that it's a dice-based game.

I decided not to waste any time with any shipping nonsense. The objective tile that gives you 5 VP for using 5 military dice to settle worlds in a single phase was in play and I started with New Sparta, so I focused on military (the theme of the night ). I was all military all the time and I just kept pulling military out of the bag. It was like magic. Peter was shipping dangerously quickly, so I ended the game as quickly as I could. As usual in Roll, I ended up with the win. I don't know what it is about that crazy bag. It just dumped all kinds of goodness on me!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Homesteaders
This was a horrible game of Homesteaders for me. Bleh. I didn't do anything to make points, collecting silly trade tokens with nothing to trade. I only managed to get some gold late in the game, which did help, but not sufficiently to make me competitive against Peter's pile of golden points.

I've really enjoyed my first two sessions of this game and can't wait to play more. Of course, the fact that all buildings are in play every time may limit replay value, but the fact that the order in which you are able to acquire those buildings changes every time may balance that out. That's a question for future sessions.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Spirits of the Rice Paddy
This week, we played our third session of Spirits of the Rice Paddy and it turned out less like the second and more like the first. Our first game felt random and terribly one sided. The second was much more balanced. This third one felt very one sided again. That MAY have been due to operator error on Peter's part, but I think part of it definitely had to do with the fact that I simply drew an awesome spirit card early in the game. The spirit card that provides one animal each round just seems a bit too wild to me...I still don't know what to make of this game.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Scythe
Scythe! And you thought we missed our weekly Scythe session!

I pulled Polania and Peter got the blue Nordic guys. Whenever he ends up with the blue guys, Peter holes up in his area for too long and ends up in pain. This was actually a relatively close game and didn't end in too much pain for anyone.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


BattleCON: Fate of Indines
I received BattleCon: Fate of Indines as a review copy from BoardGameBliss a while ago and STILL haven't gotten around to reviewing it! I want to try all (or at least, most) of the characters in the set before writing about it, so it will probably be delayed a bit longer, but we made some progress this week!

Peter took Burman, who has these crazy Firepower Counters that reduce his power or priority or range when he charges them but can create powerful effects once charged.

I took Alumis. She's a Death Note-like character who draws power from her shadow, using it to influence the power and range of her attacks.

In this game, I played rather stupidly. Peter kept charging his Firepower Counters, taking hits until he was ready to use his special card and then took me out with Dragonflare in one fell swoop! It was not the fault of the game. It was the fault of the stupid Mina player who was charging ahead without looking where she was going. She does that sometimes.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Trajan
I wanted to play something we hadn't played in a while, so we settled on Trajan. Peter decided to go all shipping all the time and developed an IMPRESSIVE tableau of goods cards. It was absolute insanity. Meanwhile, I was pushing military and 9-point Trajan tiles for maximum cheese. It was extra stinky cheese. I don't like the 9-point tiles, but they can come in handy, particularly late in the game.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Such a random collection of stuff

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Evolution: Climate
Last, but certainly not least, we played Evolution: Climate! It was just sitting there on the floor in front of me and I had to give it some love! Peter was going for a foraging long-neck strategy and doing quite well, so I decided to put a wrench in his plans by freezing the place and all around causing havoc with the weather. You can do that with Climate! Intelligence and Migration didn't hurt because those traits allowed me to keep my species fed even with an ever-scarce supply of food. The only threat were carnivores. I was expecting Peter to go all animal on me the ENTIRE time. I added defenses. I kept defensive traits. He never carnivorized me. And sadly, his species died out, never to be seen or heard from again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


[center]***


Fresh Cardboard


This section is going to get very crowded next week, as I plan to actively start making Essen pre-orders. I figure that's the best way to ensure that I don't have to carry piles of cash around with me.

1. Lorenzo il Magnifico - This was my first official Essen pre-order! YAY! And what a game this promises to be! I'm sold based on mechanisms alone (Card Drafting, Dice Rolling, Variable Player Powers, Worker Placement), but add to that the designers' pedigrees and I'm ALL OVER THIS THING! ALL OVER IT!
2. Dreamwell - Beautiful-looking, fast-playing abstract puzzle? Sign me up!
3. Guns & Steel + Guns & Steel: Renaissance - Neato hand-management game! I worry that the take-thatiness of it will detract from the experience, but it is gorgeous! I'm excited to try it!

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Next Week...


I will have a full review for Coffee Roaster and some first-play impressions, or even possibly a full review for Guns & Steel+Guns & Steel: Renaissance! And even more initial impressions!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


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heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart


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From gallery of milenaguberinic

Jackie came to BoardGameBliss with us last Saturday and she discovered her favorite game ever! We might have to pick this one up for her.
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