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 a Coffee Roaster Becomes the Heir to the Pharaoh by Using Guns & Steel * New Reviews for COFFEE ROASTER, GUNS & STEEL, and HEIR TO THE PHARAOH * First Impressions for HANGING GARDENS, ASHES EXPANSIONS, and GROUND FLOOR * Essen is Coming!

Milena Guberinic
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Hi Friends!


This week went swimmingly well, despite my having to work over the weekend and stay up until well past 3 am two nights in a row...surprise, which is late even for me! I don't think I was able to put in the same Things turn out especially fine when you are swimming in games to play before Essen! Things are going to get extra crazy afterwards and I can't wait for that craziness to descend upon us!

I'm definitely getting more excited about Essen! If you missed the memo, the word on the street is, I'm going . It will be Peter's and my first time there and we can't wait to see some of our favorite designer and publisher and most of all, our BGG/board game internet friends! Anyway, that's the update! Happy gaming happiness! heart

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What's New?




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The Overview


Coffee Roaster is a bag-building solo game in which you attempt to roast coffee beans to perfection! The goal for each bean type is shown on its bean sheet and includes a target roast level (i.e. the total added value of the beans in the cup at the end of the game) and target flavor (i.e. the target flavor tokens to be included in the cup at the end of the game). You will also want to ensure a consistent roast, indicating a skill, and a pure roast, lacking undue smoke, burnt beans, or bad beans.

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At the start of the game, you select either 1 (for a mini game) or 3 (for a full game) types of green coffee beans to roast over the course of the game. You take the bean sheet for the bean you've selected and fill the bag with tokens with tokens that represent various characteristics of the bean you are roasting. Each bean starts with a certain number of green beans, which have a roast value of 0, a certain number of hard beans, which taken an extra step to start roasting, a certain number of moldy beans, which must be removed, a certain moisture level, which will dissipate throughout the roasting process, and aroma, acidity, and body tokens, which can be used to perform all kinds of roasting magic!

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The game comes with two boards - a roast board and a cup board. You will use the roasting board during the roasting process and the cup board during the cup test, which is the final evaluation of your roast.

To start the game, you will place the turn disc on the space that corresponds to the moisture content of your beans. Each turn, you will

a) Advance the turn marker to the next space

b) Pull the number of tokens from the bag shown on the current space of the turn marker

c) Roast the beans in the following manner:

* Moisture evaporation - Remove any moisture tokens you have drawn from the game. This represents the moisture escaping from the roast. With each evaporation step, the amount of moisture falls and the concentration of beans increases.

*Use immediate effects - Place tokens on the left half of the board to activate their effects. This is optional and includes things like using a 1-roast bean and a 0-roast bean to acquire a wild flavor token, using flavor tokens to remove all the burnt bean and reject beans you have drawn from the game, drawing 2 additional tokens, redrawing 2 tokens, or drawing 5 tokens to remove 2 from the game and return 3 to the bag.

*Use flavor effects - There are 3 flavor effects in the game - concentration (which is activated by the body token), preservation (which is activated by the acidity token), and dispersion (which is activated by the aroma token). Concentration allows you to combine two beans, adding their roast values together to create a new bean. Preservation allows you to select two bean tokens to return to the bag, thereby saving them from the final step of the roasting process. Dispersion allows you to break one bean token into two lower-level tokens.

Once you use a flavor effect, you must place the token on the right half of the roast board. Once you have placed both required flavor tokens, you will acquire a unique effect token to place on the cup board. These will help you during the cup test.

*Increase the roast level
The final step of the roasting step is to increase the level of each bean drawn by 1 (or 2 if in the "crack" stage of roasting).

d) Finally, you return the tokens to the bag.

At this point, you can choose to keep roasting your beans or to complete the roasting process and move onto the cup test, the final stage of the game.

During the cup test, you remove tokens from the bag, one by one, either placing them into the cup or onto the tray. Only tokens in the cup are taken into consideration during the final evaluation. If you have acquired any unique effects, you will use them now. Unique effects include adding a roast-level 3 bean to your cup, adding sweetness to your roast, allowing you to draw two and select one token when placing on certain spaces in the cup, allowing you to redraw 2 tokens, or giving you an extra tray for throwing away unwanted beans.

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Board used for cup test


At the end of the game, you will score for
a) Roast points - Add the total value of all beans in your cup to come up with a roast score and gain as many points as shown for that roast level on your bean sheet
b) Flavor points - Gain points for having flavor tokens shown on your bean sheet in your cup
c) Skill points - Gain points for having 3 or more same-valued beans in your cup
d) Negative points - Lose points for having hard beans, burnt beans, smoke, or reject beans in your cup and for failing to get any flavor tokens in your cup or having fewer than 10 tokens in your cup.

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The Review


Played prior to review 4x






1. SUPER cute!
Adorable Japanese art is adorable! It's also highly functional, with the illustrations describing the entire process very clearly.

2. Unique, well-integrated theme
Coffee Roasting! The only theme that could potentially outdo coffee making for me would be cheese making! Not only does Coffee Roaster have a cool theme, but that theme is integrated into the gameplay very well. Each bean type comes with a backstory that fleshes out its origin and actual flavor and roasting profile of the bean, which is reflected in the initial composition of the token bag. And the roasting process comes alive through the iterative drawing and redrawing of bean tokens and trying to decide when to stop roasting and start testing. As you take your green beans from their high-moisture/raw state to their cooked state, they become more concentrated and the decision of whether to keep on roasting or stop becomes increasingly risky. Because your beans might burn. Or they may become too smoky. Or they may go beyond their ideal roast level...Coffee roasting is a precision process and you certainly feel engaged in a precise, delicate operation while playing this game.

3. Two options for play time
There are two ways to play Coffee Roaster, so you can adjust the game to your availability. If you have 10 minutes to play a game, you can play a quick single roast. A nice bonus is that you don't have to sacrifice challenge for play time; Coffee Roaster can be just as challenging in its 10-minute format as it can be in its full format depending on the level of difficulty of beans you select. You can choose from a large number of Beginner, Advanced, and Expert beans even for the short version of the game.

Even the full game only takes about 30-40 minutes, so I don't think it would take undue effort to fit a game of Coffee Roaster in anyone's schedule. It takes less time than watching a TV show!

4. High variety and challenge makes for high replay value
Coffee Roaster is so full of beans that it will take you many sessions to reach caffeine saturation. Between the 22 different beans, each of which provides a unique roasting challenge, and the double-sided game boards, which each provide a different level of difficulty, you'll have plenty of reason to keep coming back for more! I just want to roast all the beans!!!

5. Grows with you
Coffee Roaster is one of those games that was cleverly crafted to grow with you. The game boards are double sided, with one side allowing you to dispose of more unwanted tokens onto the trays during the cup test than the other, thereby allowing you to more easily satisfy the target levels and bonus scoring requirements. There are also 3 different difficulty levels for the beans themselves and the differences are salient. The higher difficulty levels are definitely more challenging, either due to a higher proportion of hard beans or less leeway in the number of flavor tokens you will be able to use to gain unique effect tokens to make your cup test a little easier.

6. Probabilities are fun! And so is the decision making in this game!
Coffee Roaster is a game of statistics. Just like any bag-building/deck-building/pool-building game, you are working to ensure that the probability of drawing the most desirable tokens falls in your favor when it comes to take the final test. There are three chief ways to manipulate probabilities in this game - the immediate effects, the cup test effects, and roasting time.

Because you know the exact starting composition of your bag and have a very specific target roast and flavor profile you are trying to achieve, you know what you need to have remaining in your bag at the end of roasting in order to ensure you draw a perfect cup. Each drawing step of the game brings with it a new opportunity to either physically remove unwanted components from the bag or to indirectly remove flavors you don't want by using their effects.

Early in the game, it can seem like you aren't doing much because your beans are green and not subject to the manipulative abilities of the flavor effects. As a result, you don't really have a choice between using immediate effects and flavor effects. If you use anything, it will have to be a flavor token's immediate effect. But as your beans roast, the number of tiles you draw increases and the number of options you have available to you increase. There are a relatively large number of cup test effects to gain and it can be challenging to determine the best ones, as this decision will depend not only on which effect you find most attractive, but also on which flavors you want to remove from the bag and which flavor effects would most benefit the beans you've drawn. For example, it might be a good idea to save a flavor token that requires you combine two beans into one if you have nothing but 2-value beans in front of you because the resulting 4-value bean would just burn at the end of the round.

Coffee Roaster is a game of probability and risk management. You know the starting characteristics of your roast and you know what you want it to look like at the end. Having more tokens in the bag than you will draw means that you have to try to calculate the likelihood of drawing the exact configuration of tiles you want in 10 tokens by drawing 13 (with the advanced cup board's tray) or 14 (with the basic cup board's tray) tokens.

7. Luck pushing is fun!
It would be a lie to say you are completely in control in Coffee Roaster. There is a good dose of luck thrown into this bag of beans, but instead of generating frustration, it creates a good level of excitement, as it should when this luck is well balanced by aspects of the game that are under your control.

And luck is somewhat under your control because you can push it through roasting time. Whether to continue roasting past cracking and introduce smoke into your blend and when to proceed to the cup test are both under your control. If you know your bag still contains moisture or hard beans or smoke or 0-roast beans in your bag or other things you want to ensure you don't end up drawing during the cup test AND you know you have some well roasted beans you could end up burning, you have an exciting choice to make! Do you keep roasting to try to get the crud out of your bag and risk taking on burned beans or exceeding the target roast level?

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. Solo only
The only legitimate complaint I could come up with for Coffee Roaster is that it can only be played in solo mode. I'm not really one for playing games by myself. As much as I enjoy strategy, control, and predictability, I enjoy the human element in games. I enjoy the intelligent competition and opposition. And even the collaboration to be found in cooperative games. However, Coffee Roaster is special enough to make me want to tell Peter to do his own thing for a bit while I attend to my coffee beans. And at 10 minutes, it's actually something I can take out while he's in the shower or something.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Final Word


Coffee Roaster is a fun-filled caffeine-infused challenge that will challenge your stats skills. If you like a good mathy puzzle with a bit of luck thrown it, this one is sure to hit all the right notes. And Coffee Roaster has you covered whether you have 10 or 30 minutes to commit to bit of solo fun! I really love this game and intend to keep on playing it, even if it will force me to push Peter aside for a few minutes.

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


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From gallery of milenaguberinic


Guns and Steel! I must say I have no interest in guns and steel is something I think of as central to my life only in the form of kitchen utensils and structural materials, but I do like a good multi-use card game and this one looked pretty good.

The Overview


Guns and Steel (and Guns and Steel: Renaissance) is a civilization-building, hand-building, multi-use card game in which you use your starting hand of cards as resources or effects in order to acquire additional cards that will provide both additional resources/effects and VP from a card pyramid and claim wonders when you satisfy certain conditions.

All cards in the game are double sided - each has a development side and a resource side, with the development side providing an effect and the resource side providing a resource.

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Resource side

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Development side of starting hand


Each turn, you will go through the following phases:
1) Resource phase - Play one resource card in front of you (back side of a card)

2) Development phase - Play one development card (front side of a card) and activate its effect. Civil cards (green) aid in production, giving you additional resources or allowing you to flip previously played development cards face-down. Tactic cards (blue) help you play additional attack cards or activate other attack cards. Attack cards (red) are used to attack other players by comparing your military strength to theirs. Opponents can respond to attacks by playing any number of cards bearing a response icon to increase their military strength and avoid incurring the penalty imposed by the attack.

3) Purchase phase - You may buy one civilization card from the supply if you have the right combination of resource cards in front of you to pay for the civilization card. Cards from the bottom of the pyramid can be purchased by paying the resource cost shown on the card, while cards above the bottom row require that you play either 1 or 2 additional resources of any type, depending on how many cards are situated directly underneath.

4) End of turn phase - If you have 0 or 1 cards left in hand and you are playing Guns and Steel on its own, you must first check whether you satisfy the requirements of any wonder card. If you do, you must claim it. If playing with Renaissance, this step is modified, as wonders in that version of the game require that you place a cube of your color onto the wonder at the end of any turn that you satisfy its condition, rather than only when you have 0 to 1 cards left in hand. Then, in both versions of the game, you take all face-up cards in front of you back into your hand and may choose to retrieve any number of face down resource cards. Otherwise, you keep playing.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


The game ends at the end of a player's turn when
a) The last wonder card has been bought,
b) The last space age card has been bought, or
c) If playing with Renaissance, when one player has 15 culture points.

Your point total is the sum of all VP shown on cards you own, wonders you have claimed, and, if playing with Renaissance, culture tokens you have acquired.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Wonders are flipped over to their pretty side once claimed


Renaissance


Renaissance is a stand-alone expansion that is played the same way as the base game, but adds the elements I described above. It can also be combined with the base game for extra variety.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Culture - VP that can be gained by playing certain cards


The Review


Played prior to review 8x






1. Beautifully illustrated and incredibly well produced
Peter has a rating system for card quality. His gold standard are the cards in the game League of Hackers by Moaideas, which is the same company that produced Guns and Steel. He says those things were like credit cards. Guns and Steel cards aren't quite at the credit card level, but they are very thick. And the illustrations are superb.

2. Interesting hand-building mechanism
I love the hand-building mechanism in Guns and Steel. Rather then building a deck of cards, you are building a hand of cards that allows you to chain effects the way YOU want them, rather than the way the random card draw allows. And I love that! It gives you a great sense of control.

3. Tense hand management and tableau management element
The hand-building is enhanced by the fact that you cannot retrieve your played cards/purchased cards until you only have 1 or 0 cards left in hand. This forces you to make strong, strategic plans every time you are faced with a full hand of cards about which cards to play when and which cards to play as resources and which to play as effects, well as how to best chain and combine those. Some effects allow you to flip previously exhausted resources, allowing you to take double advantage of them. Others allow you to flip cards you've played face down as resources to trigger their effects and surprise your opponent.

Of course, you want to try to make the most of every hand of cards, but because you aren't required to take back into your hand cards you've played face down as resources, you can build somewhat longer term plans for your cards. And because many wonders trigger for conditions met when you are reclaiming cards, you often want to accelerate this reclaiming process.

4. Tension in racing to acquire the wonders (and/or culture when playing with Renaissance)
Wonders are key sources of points in this game. And because one way for the game to end is for the last wonder to be purchased, you are essentially in a race to collect the most wonders. To an extent. VP can be gained from cards and through culture effects of played cards when playing with the Renaissance, but wonders can be generous sources of points that are incidental to everything else you are doing.

In the base game, wonders can only be claimed during the reclaiming phase, meaning that you are generally focused on maximizing the frequency with which you can take this step. This means you generally avoid buying cards you don't need and focus on doing everything in the way prescribed by the wonders to maximize your chances of being the first to claim them.

When playing with Renaissance, you have to satisfy the conditions of a wonder 3 times in order to claim it, adding further interest to the race element. Your cubes are limited, so you have to focus your energy on satisfying one or two wonders at a time. Do you try to outrace your opponent(s) or stick to one of your own?

5. Good replay value when playing with both sets together
Although individual sets of Guns and Steel may have limited replay value (see below), together, they create a rich and varied ecosystem to explore. When playing with both sets, the card pyramid you build contains a random assortment of cards from both sets, so a different combination of card effects will be available in any given game, challenging you to create the best combinations to efficiently satisfy wonder requirements or collect culture.

6. Culture and interactive effects in the Renaissance set add a lot to the game
One of my major problems with the base game of Guns and Steel is the power of the military strategy. Military cards allow you to steal wonder cards from other players and wonder cards and card VP are the only two sources of VP in the base game. And because all the cards in the game are the same every time, each game of base Guns and Steel seems to devolve into a race for military. I like options. And Renaissance provides options. Culture is a brilliant addition to the game, as it takes some of the focus off of militaristic conquests of opponents and provides another way to a) make points and b) bring an end to the game. Rushing culture can be an effective strategy.

The interactive effects in Renaissance also add a lot to the game, creating some tense tradeoffs. These effects give you a bigger benefit in exchange for giving a benefit to your opponents. And timing when to play these in order to minimize the benefits you give your opponents adds another element to your round's planning.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. Mean!
There are many very nasty, cut-throat effects in this game and if you are sensitive to that, you should stay away. Take that is definitely present in full force. Obviously, military cards are the most brutal in this regard, allowing you to go so far as to STEAL a wonder that your opponent has worked very hard to acquire.

soblue 2. Either set alone is limited in replay value
When playing either the base set of Guns and Steel or Renaissance by itself, the cards available for purchase will not vary from game to game. Their location may vary slightly within a single row of the pyramid, but their vertical location in the pyramid will always be the same. The only truly meaningful element of variability are the wonder cards, but there are only two of each, so game-to-game variety remains low.

soblue 3. Military in the base set seems to be overly powerful
Military effects in the base game of Guns and Steel seem to be overly powerful, as they allow you to steal wonder cards from other players and wonder cards and card VP are the only two sources of VP in the base game. Combining the two sets resolves this complaint, as described above.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Final Word


I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Guns & Steel and Guns & Steel: Renaissance. I was expecting to find a good multi-use card game, but I was not expecting to find a great one. And this is a great one. I love the difficult decision points generated by the double-sided cards, the tense hand/tableau management, and the race for wonders.

If I were to recommend one set to get, it would definitely be Renaissance due to its enhanced depth of strategy and somewhat more balanced military. But if you are really interested in the game, the full two-set experience is a must! I just hope the publisher continues to put out expansions for this game because both Peter and I are in love with the system!

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart heart (For Guns & Steel + Renaissance)


From gallery of milenaguberinic


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The Overview


Heir to the Pharaoh is a two-player auction game in which one player takes on the role of the Egyptian God, Bast, and the other of the Egyptian god, Anubis.

To set up the game, the base of the pyramid is placed so that it covers at least once space on the river. Then, animal magic tokens are placed on the board so that they are at least 2 spaces apart. A deck of monument cards is shuffled and the top 3 cards revealed with a monument token on top of it.

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From gallery of milenaguberinic

Monuments


You start the game with a nearly identical set of bidding cards. Numbered 1 through 10, the bidding cards have the same values in both players' decks, but they differ in the symbol they show, with the sun breaking ties.

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Each round, you use your bidding cards to place secret bids on action cards (God cards). Then, you use the God cards to perform the actions shown on them in numerical order. The player who won the bid for the card is the only one who will get to execute the action.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Actions include placing monuments on the board, placing your tokens on said monuments to claim ownership of them and score points, placing your tokens on a sun track that wraps around the board to score one (or two) points immediately and score twice the value of your longest unbroken chain at the end of the game, gaining animal magic cards you can use to gain special abilities in future bidding rounds, gaining monument cards you can score immediately in a set-collection fashion. One action card is special because it does not allow you to perform an action each round. This is the pharaoh card and it determines which player will get to contribute to the building of the pyramid on the board. Each player will place a bidding card under the pyramid each round, but the pharaoh card will only score every second round. The player who has the highest valued bidding card total will get to build a level of the pyramid and score points for doing so, with higher levels being worth more points.

At the end of the action phase, you will exchange the cards you used in the bidding phase with your opponent and go through the same bidding and action execution process.

The game ends after 8 rounds, at which point you gain points for the monuments you own, the contribution you made to building the pyramid, any remaining animal magic cards, and your longest unbroken chain of tokens on the sun track.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Review


Played prior to review 5x






1. Beautifully and uniquely illustrated and superbly produced
This could simply be a factor of my ignorance, but I've never before seen a game as richly and adorably illustrated as this one. And with as unique a theme! This may not be the most thematic of games, but the ornate illustrations, papyrus effect, and host of painted wooden pieces bring the essence of the theme to the table.

2. Tense and incredibly clever auction system
The auction system in Heir to the Pharaoh is incredibly clever. When you first start the game, you have no idea how to appraise the various God (action) cards, so you have to make your initial bids based on a) your knowledge of your opponent and b) the strategy you want to pursue. The fact that you exchange the cards you've used for bidding with your opponent at the end of each round means that as the game progresses, you have more knowledge about your opponent's hand of cards. For example, you may find yourself holding both 10-value cards or both 1-value cards. This knowledge becomes your power during the bidding process. This interdependence between players is quite compelling.

3. Many routes to victory
Heir to the Pharaoh is a rich game that gives you plenty of strategic and tactical options to pursue. Each God card has its own focus and each focus is unique and distinct from the others. You can try to collect sets of monument cards with Ptah. You can try to create a long chain of sun tokens for in-game and end-game scoring with Ra. You can try to strategically place and claim monuments, or you can try to build the highest (and highest scoring) levels of the pyramid at the center of the board.

It's unlikely you will get away with perfectly pursuing any one of these strategies unmolested because this is a two-player game and every disadvantage your opponent can bring unto you is an advantage he brings to himself. You are in a constant war for dominance over each and every element of this game, so determining when it is most important to try to gain control over a particular element or try to ensure you retain control over it during the auctions is particularly exciting.

4. Good replay value and gets increasingly more interesting the more you play with the same opponent
Heir to the Pharaoh improves with time and particularly so with time spent with the same opponent, which makes it perfect for couples. As you become familiar with the way your opponent appraises certain actions and deals with bidding on cards he desperately wants, you'll be better able to use that information to bid effectively. Heir to the Pharaoh is a mind game and mind games get deeper and more interesting over time. Once you become familiar with your opponent's general tendencies, you can start asking the really interesting questions. How do you surprise your opponent? How do you think your opponent will try to surprise you?

From gallery of milenaguberinic


soblue


soblue 1. May be a bit difficult to fully understand initially and may therefore first appear to be more overwrought and random than it really is
Heir to the Pharaoh features multiple disparate elements and it can be difficult to keep in mind how all those elements work when first learning the game. As a result, the game can seem like it has a bit too much going on at first. One thing that tripped Peter up repeatedly when we first started playing was the fact that the player who gets to place a monument in a given round may not be the same player who gets to claim it for final scoring. The animal magic cards can also seem completely random at first. And the multiple scoring methods can be a teensy bit overwhelming. However, after a few rounds, or at most a full game, these things start to flow and make sense. The functions of the various gods and the order in which the actions are executed becomes intuitive, as certain actions (claiming a monument or a monument card, for example) are dependent on other actions having been executed before (the monument being placed). And once you've played the game a few times, you know what you can expect from the animal cards. Their effects become much more predictable as you become familiar with them and the way your opponent's mind works. Knowledge of your opponent's hand and the relative value of various scoring options for him can help you determine which animal magic card MIGHT get played. Though it never disappears, the sense of randomness generated by these cards definitely diminishes a bit with experience.

soblue 2. Some rounds can be discouraging
Some rounds just won't go your way. No matter how much mind reading and card counting you do, you will have rounds during which your opponent will get to take all actions and you will get to take one. And that can feel less than great. However, this action deficit in one round will inevitably be offset by the relatively "better" bidding cards you will receive from your opponent to use in future bidding phases. I think it's important to keep that balancing factor in mind, but the discouragement inherent in repeatedly losing out on action after action may turn some people off the game. It certainly frustrated Peter.

Board Game: Heir to the Pharaoh


Final Word


Heir to the Pharaoh is an interesting game. From the theme, to the artwork, to the pieces, to the myriad of ways to achieve victory, to the stunningly brilliant 2-player auction system, this game does everything very well. That said, it isn't a game that will appeal to everyone. It demands that you be able to tolerate some blind bidding frustration, at least in early stages of playing and in the early stages of the game. However, the interdependence the bidding system creates between players is so interesting that I would recommend visiting the game a few times even if you do find it frustrating at first.

MINA'S LOVE METER heart heart heart SOME LOVE


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter's favorite God! Ptah!


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First Impressions




Ashes expansions round two! (If this is a mystery to you, check out my previous post for the other two expansion decks ).

I finished with deck construction when Peter and I abandoned Magic: The Gathering, so I was pleased to find that the Ashes expansions would be released in a pre-constructed deck format. This expansion format gives me plenty of variety and options for playing the game without having to commit a crazy amount of time to deck construction and tweaking and all that jazz. I love doing that stuff, but I don't love the time commitment it requires.

On to the decks! This week, we tried the Frostdale Giants deck and the Roaring Rose deck.

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The Frostdale Giants deck is all about building giant monster creatures with lots of life and lots of power. These things get so big that they can pretty much take a phoenixborn down in one or two blows. The conjurations are made particularly impressive by the fact that one of them is a spell that makes your giant monsters bigger. Yep, a SPELL conjuration!

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From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Roaring Rose deck is funny. It's a great all-round deck, but it has a clear focus on milling. On delaying and milling. It also has a great focus on pretty pretty flowers! The key to my game was the death strike effect, which kept Peter's monstrous, growing creatures at bay despite the fact that the actual creatures with the effect were puny. I have always appreciated the power of a good death touch and in this deck, it's also a great looking death touch!

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Leo and his conjurations

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From gallery of milenaguberinic

I call this, the "banana flower bird"

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Can you tell how obsessed I am with this deck yet?


***




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Ground Floor is an older economic simulation that I was interested in trying because I've always wanted to be a CEO. Actually, that's a lie. The LAST thing in the world I want to be is a CEO. I don't do corporate anything. The truth is, I had a good experience with another of David Short's games, so I decided to give Ground Floor a chance, even though the theme is not my favorite thing ever. It is something that appeals to Peter though and I do enjoy building things, so I had hope.

In this game, your goal is to create the biggest, most productive, and most prosperous organization by spending your time, as the CEO, to train new employees, create and operate new departments, produce goods, and compete to sell those goods on the volatile market.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


Ground Floor is not a complex game, but it is a challenging one. It can be very difficult to balance income and time, the two main resources in the game, because they are inversely proportional to each other. Plus, money can be hard to come by through selling goods because the number of buyers depends on the market card revealed for that round...and sometimes, it's very bad. Over and over and over again...

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I really enjoyed the building elements in the game. I enjoyed the fact that you start the game with a unique specialization. I enjoyed adding various floors and functions to my company in an effort to increase the ease of gaining money or goods. And I enjoyed trying to build a good combination of tiles to ensure I could maximize points at the end of the game.

That said, I did not think that it made for the best two-player game. Many of the actions on the main board would have been far more interesting with more players, as they are based on majorities or similar things that work much better with more players.

Both Peter and I enjoyed our first experience with Ground Floor, so we will definitely be playing again.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***




From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Hanging Gardens is an older game and one I received in the most recent TABSCON math trade. In this game, you draft cards into your ever-growing garden tableau that depict a variety of buildings and empty land spaces in an effort to join similar buildings together. You can't build buildings on top of the table (i.e. they must be placed on top of existing empty land spaces), so you have to puzzle out how to arrange your cards for maximum flexibility. Once you have joined at least 3 similar buildings in a single block, you can claim a scoring tile. The more buildings you join together, the greater the number of choices you will have when it comes to placing your scoring markers on them to claim scoring tiles. Some scoring tiles provide an escalating number of points for collecting similar tiles and others provide bonus points for having complete sets of like tiles.

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This is a very simple game that can be played in about 30 minutes with two people. Possibly even less after a few games. The game ends when the entire deck of building/land cards has been exhausted, and though the size of that deck seems somewhat daunting at first, the pace of the game is so rapid that the deck runs out quite quickly. There's a very nice puzzly element to chaining similar buildings together. And when playing with only two players, four cards are open for drafting in each round and each player acquires one per turn, so you are able to make a bit of a plan for the cards you acquire. And you know I like my planning. You also have to decide whether to score 3-building groups or wait until you've acquired something larger in order to increase your options and potentially increase the number of scoring tiles you can acquire in one shot. And then there's the temptation to grow your building groups to gigantic proportions in order to increase your ability to break them in two and effectively use them twice. And once you've dealt with all the building options, you have to decide which scoring tiles to collect, ensure you don't collect too many of one type, and ensure you collect synergistic combinations of scoring tiles.

Peter and I enjoyed The Hanging Gardens. It's a fast-playing, light game that doesn't involve too much brain power, which isn't always a good thing for me, but this one seems to offer enough to warrant another visit or two.

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***


What's Not So New But Still Exciting?


Above and Below
I love Above and Below! In fact, I love it so much that I kind of regret not giving it a fourth heart. I will have to go back and adorn it with a little more red cuteness signifying emotional devotion and admiration and all that weird gushy stuff.

We decided to try playing with the Islebound characters because we liked the idea of having another scoring option. Most of the crossover Islebound character give you points for collecting specific goods. I created a mighty fishy cavern! It must have been quite stinky! I had the fishing lady from Islebound, so, of course, I kept hoarding all the fishy caverns! Peter kept adventuring, trying desperately to find something of value underground. He also kept making up his own stories while reading my adventures to me! In one adventure, an old cloaked man was stalking me...I have no idea where he gets his stories! But it was amusing nonetheless! Close game and good times!

I would highly recommend adding the Islebound characters to your Above and Below games...if you have them, that is. They add a little extra focus to the game, encouraging you to pursue certain goods and wait to dump them into your resource track until you have already collected a bunch of different goods. Very nice!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Factory Fun
Factory Fun is a mind-twisting puzzle and this week, it twisted my mind in all kinds of pipe-obsessed ways. I had a serious problem with pipes in this game, going through all kinds of loops in a desperate effort to get everything tied together. There were SO MANY pipes in my machine! And it was all for naught. Peter QUADRUPLED my score, which was incredibly hilarious. I just kept laughing through the entire game because my machine kept becoming increasingly impressive looking and yet it just kept pushing me backwards on the scoring track! I was crying from laughing so hard!

I've been told that laughing is not the typical reaction to this game. In fact, some of my Twitter friends said they were so infuriated by it that they wanted to burn it or tear it apart or execute all manner of unholy punishment unto it. So, even though I love this game and find it fun and sometimes hilarious, don't allow yourself to be seduced by my potentially delusional affinity. I think this is definitely a try before buy situation for most people.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter

From gallery of milenaguberinic

[i]Mina=insanity


Magic: The Gathering4x
Magic! We played with the Jace vs. Vraska duel decks. The master assassin, Vraska, was all kinds of handy against Peter's creature-heavy blue deck (Creature-heavy blue!? I KNOW! WEEEEEIRDO!). I was determined to max Vraska's loyalty and win through the Assassins' victory condition, but that didn't happen. I kept having to sacrifice her just to destroy Peter's peskiest permanents before finishing him. Each game we played with the duel decks was INCREDIBLY close, and tense, and fun...

And then Peter brought out his own black Legacy deck. That thing is so insanely broken, it's not even funny. Here's the deal. Ornithopter (0-to-cast 1/1 flyer) + Kjeldoran Dead (3/1 that regenerates but requires you sack a creature when it comes out; hence the free Ornithopter) + Icy Manipulator (artifact that taps target creature). This is basically Peter's ENTIRE deck. There are a few other broken-y little things like Demonic Tutors, but this is the main thing and he had like 3 of those darn skeletons out by his third or fourth turn. And the manipulator. It was quite impressive. Of course, I died in record time, but all manner of fun was had.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

Peter stuck this on my Viper. Not nice. But best flavor text ever!


Arcane Academy
Arcane Academy continues to entertain! Unlike the final MtG game, in which I got totally plowed, this one went my way. Sometimes, when playing Arcane Academy, Peter gets seduced by all the shiny action tiles and forgets to score some assignments. That's what happened in this game. Peter plowed. I win!

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We all need a bit of magic in our lives

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Scythe
This week, I got Crimea and Peter got the Rusviet faction. I had board 3 and he had 4. Final scores 74 to 55 for Crimea. That's for the stats fanatics . It actually seemed to be a very close game for most of the time we were playing. Until I pushed Peter out of the factory and placed my final star in the same turn. Thanks to the Rusviet ability to move from a farm they control to the factory, Peter could have easily taken the factory back, but that didn't happen. Peter wasn't quite ready for the game to end.

From gallery of milenaguberinic

This is my view whenever we play anything. Jackie sticking her head on the game and screwing up Peter's side of the table and then shoving her head under the table every time I try to take a picture

From gallery of milenaguberinic


City of Spies: Estoril 1942
City of Spies! There was some bumping on the rocks and one spy may or may not have been lost to the cliffs, but that's top secret information!

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Some gambling is about to happen at this casino!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


51st State: Master Set
When they are equipped with Huge Machinery, Mutants are capable of accomplishing many dramatic feats of scoring board sprinting! Peter got to the heavy machines before I did, but I somehow got to the finish line first.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Hyperborea
Hyperborea is one of my favorite games, but it isn't one I've thoroughly reviewed. Because it is getting an expansion at Essen, I've decided to finally write a review for the base game along with the expansion once I have it.

I totally cheated in this game, so I don't think a recap would be of any use, but I'll tell you how I cheated, so you don't do the same thing. I drew the red faction (I really must look up their name one day...) and Peter drew the yellow. I picked the power that allows you to use one fewer cube to activate a TECHNOLOGY card with a killing ability. Yeah. TECHNOLOGY! I proceeded to use that power to activate every killing ability with one fewer cube...including the ones on my player board. Take my word. That's broken. I think poor Peter wanted to cry after that game.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Fields of Arle
THE EXPANSION IS COMING! THE EXPANSION IS COMING! We had to play the game!

It seems I am in horrible pain at least once a week and this week, it was the night we played Fields of Arle. I was cruising through the game, doing things with no mental math (math=power ) and got to the final round only realize that I had ZERO 15-VP buildings and that I couldn't satisfy the end-of-round peat requirement DESPITE the fact that I had two peat remaining on my board and two peat boats. ??? Who fails to satisfy the meager and easily-procured end-of-round demands in Fields of Arle!? Who!? Apparently, I do. I somehow won by one point, but both our scores were relatively low (114.5 and 113.5). Peter even demanded a recount because he really wanted to win. And given my state, he was pretty certain he did win. He counted and told me we actually tied. And then he counted again and found that my original count was correct. I'm not sure why it was necessary to count 3 times, but ok . I do make arithmetic errors on occasion... The highlight of this game was definitely my missing peat. Too funny.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

I will fight to death for that 10-VP wagon!


Colony
In this game, I became a tweaking gambler! I love the tweaker and I do everything in my power to get it ASAP whenever it's in play. I did that this time. Only I got both!

With my aversion to randomness, the gambling den seems like something I would steer clear of on the best of days, but for some reason, I took it in this game. And I used it! It's actually a pretty neat building. You place dice from your warehouse on it prior to rolling your three for the turn and if any of your rolls match the dice in the gambling den, you get to keep the dice you put in the gambling den in the first place AND you get an extra of that number from the supply. It's like a risky dice cloning lab! I had fun with it. And I think it actually helped me win the game because it was super close. When Peter started collecting fallout shelters at an alarming rate, I had to respond by taking some out of the supply for myself. And because you need 4 like numbers for a fallout shelter (in addition to a 6, of course ), the gambling den's cloning ability can be super handy...and risky. I only lost everything once , so maybe I'm lucky?

From gallery of milenaguberinic

My tweaking gambling operation

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Peter's tableau


Terraforming Mars
Last week, we played the longest game of Terraforming Mars ever. This week, we played the fastest game of Terraforming Mars ever! I played with the green corporation, which had plant income. That made me very good at oxygenating the place. And Peter was doing some sort of heat thing. In the end, I only had TWO blue cards in my tableau, which is incredibly surprising given the fact that I've found it very difficult to manage the effects of all my blue cards in ALL our past games. This game can play out very differently every time.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


The Voyages of Marco Polo + The Voyages of Marco Polo: The New Characters
My very favorite thing to do in Marco Polo is travel. I love visiting all the places and dropping my trading posts everywhere! This week, when I saw Wilhelm von Rubruk in the character mix, I snapped him up immediately! Many of the city cards on the board produced money, so I wasn't worried about getting von Rubruk's two extra trading posts placed on the board. And I succeeded! That made me happy. It always does. Am I alone in this? Travel=happy?

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Mansions of Madness! I AM SO LOVING THIS GAME! Last week's blip was entirely the result of my crazy headache. And guess what!? Peter loves Mansions now too! Yay! He actually said he thinks it should receive some sort of award for the app integration. I agree.

Equipped with lots of courage and a little bit of knowledge, we set out of to take over Innsmouth...or at least escape from the darn place! I decided to be the athletic running girl and Peter was the shovel guy. I am so bad at names! We knew exactly what we had to do to escape Innsmouth, so we went and did it and then realized we couldn't finish the game without a key piece of information. And then I went mad. Like really bonkers. I was so bonkers that I was obsessed with spreading the truth! Because the truth is out there! It is! And, of course, I failed to do that. I only had one piece of evidence at the end of the game. We escaped Innsmouth, but I didn't have enough evidence. If Peter's evidence counts, we did win. But we felt like winners either way. Getting out of this game alive is a miracle!

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


Kings of Air and Steam
We played Kings of Air and Steam with the official market crash variant, in which all market tiles are used and a random selection appear over the course of the game. When the value of one good would rise above $8, it drops down to $6.

This variant creates a bit of uncertainty in the game. It makes it so that you cannot rely on all goods being of equal value in the final round. While I didn't find that to be problematic (in fact, I found it to be a rather appealing feature of the game, enhancing the planning element), I was eager to try this spiced up version. And I liked it. Peter did not. He prefers the more predictable version. Go figure.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic

I like this paper money


***


Fresh Cardboard


1. Kingdomino - Preorder for Essen pickup! Peter and I enjoy light, 15-minute tile-laying games with a bit of challenge and this looks like it fits the bill nicely!
2. New York 1901: Goons of New York - Another Blue Orange pre-order! We love our NY1901 and more NY1901 is always a good thing, even if it is a tiny expansion. I also pre-ordered the painted figures because painted figures are awesome!
3. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition – Recurring Nightmares: Figure and Tile Collection + Mansions of Madness: Second Edition – Suppressed Memories: Figure and Tile Collection - I ordered these from BoardGameBliss and they are in! And thanks to my friend, Elton, I now have them in my hands!!! YAY! THANK YOU, ELTON! heart
4. Ticket to Ride: Märklin - I like the Nordic version of TTR (unlike the base game map) because it adds a bit more decision-making to the game and the map is tight enough to create some bumping into each other even when playing with only two players. I've never played Marklin, but it adds even more to the game with the transportation mechanism. I received it in a trade and cannot wait to play! I'll make it a priority for the weekend!

At this point, I realize that I am running very behind on my Essen preparations. There are so many things to pre-order and so many things to track. I will do better next week! I have no more time! surprise

***


Next Week


Look forward to Hanamikoji, Planet Defenders and Cat Town! I'll also be playing my freshly arrived copy of Cry Havoc! I can't wait because the first time we played was with four players. I'm very curious to find out how much the game changes when played with only two.

From gallery of milenaguberinic


From gallery of milenaguberinic


***


heart THANK YOU FOR READING! heart



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