Matt's Board Game Back Room

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JUST GAMING AROUND - New games played and briefly reviewed (no really) [includes Kingdom Builders, Mondo and Die Burgen von Burgund]

-matt s.
United States
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So, this weekend I had a birthday gaming weekend with a few friends. The full list of games played is detailed here:
2012 Birthday Gaming Weekend

However, I wanted to give a tiny bit more detailed impression of the new games I played. My resolution this year is to write more with less, so I'm trying that (although I think I have only partly succeeded on this post). The GL only took me 1-1/2 hours to write (that's fast for me!) but this post (now that I've written more of it) took a bit longer. BUT, I covered a number of games in detail so I feel pretty good about it anyhow.

New games I played this weekend were:

Snapshot: This is a fun puzzly, speed based, tile laying game. You have a board and you are placing tiles that have animals, mountains, volcanoes and landscape types on them. You are trying to create as many complete landscape areas as possible while minimizing unmatched edges, minimizing erupting volcanoes, and maximizing animals. Play occurs simultaneously for all players pulling tiles from a center pile, much as in Galaxy Trucker. After three 7 minute rounds you total each round's scores to see who wins.

Pros: Fast, fun, puzzly. Advanced goals add additional challenges as does the double-sided boards. Nice quality components and nice clean, clear artwork and colors.
Cons: Speed games might not appeal to everyone.

Verdict: This game was great fun and right up my alley. It was fun trying to grab the tiles you need and rush to get them on the board in the time limit, especially with some of the advanced rules. This game has gone directly onto my Wishlist!

Spy vs Spy
Snapshot: Build tunnels from your corner of the board by laying tiles from a hand of 4 tiles to reach bombs on the board and bring them back to your hideout without getting blown up. You can also place spy tiles to block the tunnels of other players. Bombs that blow up send you back to your start. Bombs you get back safely give you something special such as an extra turn or the ability to place another tile.

Pros: An fun game with some interesting decisions, turns are relatively quick and there's a bit of tension when you roll the die to see if you....err, die, when your bomb blows up.
Cons: A bit nasty for a kids game and can be a little frustrating, but not quite enough going to be a standout for non-kid players. Still, something worthy of playing and being entertained while playing.

Verdict: A fun game for once-in-a-while playing as a filler or kids game. If I found it in a thrift store I would probably pick it up if the price was right.

Alea Iacta Est
Snapshot: Roll your dice and place in varying combinations in one of several areas to collect end-game tiles, people tiles and matching location tiles. You can start off small and later bolster your position in each location by adding to your dice. There are also 'pee' colored tokens you collect from the latrine that give you the opportunity to re-roll some or all of your dice.

Pros: Despite the apparently low number of choices of where to place your dice, there's enough to choose from (both due to revealed tiles as well as values of what other players have placed) to make the decisions interesting. The dice are small but good quality, the latrine is fun, and the ability to expand/shrink the play areas for more or less people. There's even an additional area when playing with more players.
Cons: I could see this game wearing out it's welcome if played a ton, but I enjoyed the game play and choices. The artwork is ok and some of the iconography was a bit opaque on the end-game tiles.

Verdict: This isn't at the top of my list to purchase, but I'd likely pick it up if it was available for a decent price.

Snapshot: Over 6 rounds you get 4 cards that show a 9x9 grid and a dot in one square - this is where you can place a building segment in one of the 6 city areas. The cool thing is because each person sits on different sides of the table the card is oriented from your perspective. Well, it seemed cool at first, but it didn't seem to have any actual effect on the game.

After you get your hand of cards you choose 4 building segments consisting of 1 to 4 floors then start placing them into new city squares (based on the dots on the card) or on top of other building segments giving you ownership. You play a card and then place a building segment to start a new building or to put on top of an existing building. After everyone plays their cards, you get points for the tallest building, a point for each building you are at the top of, and the most buildings you are at the top of in each one of the 6 city areas.

Pros: Simple rules, simple components, simple board. The game is interesting with many decisions and tactics to try.
Cons: Very thin theme may turn some people off. Plastic components are difficult to tell overall tower sizes sometimes when comparing buildings.

Verdict: I enjoyed the game and I don't mind abstract games so the thin theme didn't bother me. There were always interesting decisions to make, but sometimes you could definitely get screwed if you got cards you didn't need when you need to react to a certain situation. This forces you to be creative with what you've got but sometimes even that isn't possible. This may not necessarily go on my Wishlist, but I might pick it up for a good price.

Kingdom Builder
Snapshot: First you set up a random hex grid combining 4 of 8 board sides, each with a different special action building. Then, draw 3 of 10 end-game scoring goal cards. These set the stage for the type of placements for your settlements on the board. On a turn, draw a landscape card and follow the placement rules to place 1 of your 40 settlements. You can gain action tokens from the special buildings and use those on your turn in combination with your landscape card to move existing settlements or be able to place more. The game ends in the round when someone has place all 40 buildings.

Pros: Great looking graphics, configurable board and goals setup ensure a different game nearly every time. Interesting decisions once you get your 'engine' going.
Cons: This is another abstract game disguised with a thin theme. Drawing and playing only 1 card seems it could be a bit limiting, especially in the early game.

Verdict: Definitely has a Dominion vibe, but is very different in gameplay as it's more of a puzzle to figure out how to optimize/combo the landscape card you got with the actions available and the end game goals. The thin theme doesn't bother me at all nor does the limited card 'hand'. Reading the rules prior to playing it was obvious to me it was pretty abstract. Some of the more negative opinions kind of made me not want to even give it a try but the positive reviews kept my hopes up. I have to tell you I am very glad I did try it and I really had a great time on my first play. This type of game really works for me and the variety in configurability will keep me interested for a while. I can't wait for my own copy arrives so I can give it another go!

7 Wonders: Leaders
Snapshot: There are 42 white backed leader cards in this expansion that give certain special abilities. The 'abilities' are generally similar to what you get on the regular building cards such as money, military, end-game VPs, and perhaps some other special bonuses. You draft 4 leaders before the main game starts, then play 1 leader at the beginning of each round. So, it basically adds 1 additional card to your tableau each round (1 leader each isn't used).

You also get 1 new civ board and 4 new purple VP cards, plus some 6 coin tokens (you get to start with 3 more coins than in the normal game to help you pay for the leaders).

Pros: The Leader cards can give you some nice bonuses and extra things like more military or more money. The ability to also use the leader cards to build the Wonder is a nice option (or discard for 3 coins)
Cons: The leaders and extra bonus cards add to the setup and play time. However, this was not too significant, so it isn't too much of a negative.

Verdict: I liked the leaders a lot. You get a few more options or have cards to dump into the Wonder at the very minimum without having to sacrifice a building card instead. I'm very glad that I received this expansion for my b-day. I don't think I'm going to feel obligated to use them every time, but it will be nice to throw something different into the mix.

Die Burgen von Burgund
Snapshot: You are building your kingdom by rolling 2 dice then first picking up tiles (set up in areas for selection according to your rolls) to place in reserve (limited to 3 per player at a time) then put those tiles onto the board using another die. Some tiles grant straight points, some have special abilities that let you get more tiles, place tiles, or get money. Some let you pick up goods and change the turn order. You can get money by shipping goods or building mines. Also, money earned can be used to purchase additional tiles from a special area on the board.

Pros: The dice roll mechanic to limit options is interesting and a great take on the worker placement type of mechanic - not quite worker placement, but with similar results. Turns are generally fairly short so downtime isn't too bad. Despite the limited options, there are ways to expand your options such that you usually don't feel too stuck if you plan carefully. Potential for playing 2 to 4 players is also a big plus.
Cons: It IS luck driven with random tile draws and dice rolls for tile selection and this might turn some people off. Components are nice but the tiles are very small with tiny graphics which can be hard to read from across the table.

Verdict: Ok, this wasn't my first time playing, but it was only my 2nd time and it's been at least 6 months since the first play. I'd been biding my time waiting for it to become available and my lovely wife was able to find a copy for me for Xmas (along with the expansion boards, too!).

I love the combos and the variety of options you have with every dice roll. The gameplay overall is about the right length and seems to be well balanced. There is some interaction, but it's mostly indirect as you try to grab tiles needed before other players take them from you (or steal others' tiles before THEY can get them)

I'm really loving this game - I love the look of it and the puzzly nature of it. I like how the dice rolls limit your options, but you can expand your options by using special tokens. There are a lot of tiles and they come out differently every time which helps change things up, especially since not all tiles will come out every time so you need to be opportunistic with what's coming out. And I love hitting a good combo.

Well, that's it for now. Ok, the overall post ended up being fairly long, but each description is shorter so hopefully it's not too much to read through. I'm trying to be more succinct. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm trying.

Now go try a new game that you've got hiding on the shelf, still in shrink, and give it some love!

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