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Gathering Part 1 of All the Games

Steph Hodge
United States
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Well, it's no Ginkgopolis...
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Hia Everyone!

I had the greatest pleasure of attending The Gathering of Friends this year and played 81 games, 50 of which were new to me! There is a TON to talk about, and I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences!



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I made the trek to the Gathering by a 14 hour car ride with Michael who was also driving, so I didn't have to fly and I could bring a bunch of games! On the drive, I ended up playing Tears of a Goddess with Michael. I would read out the options for him to choose and it was a pretty fast adventure. He was making all of the wrong choices and ended up not finding any of the sprouts and died pretty fast. It was really interesting to see him take a totally different path than I originally took. He had a different special ability that he was not able to utilize like he wanted to. I will have to go back and try the final specialization and see if I can do better than my first attempt.

Such a great way to pass time. I think it works really well for a car trip!



The critical first stop after check in: Cold Stone Creamery




Then so many goodie bags!



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YAY! We made it to the Gathering and it was about 8 pm by the time we got to actually sit down and play some games! First up was a new Uwe Rosenberg game called Second Chance. New to me!

This is a roll n write game (flip n write) where you are trying to fill up your board. We all started with a different pattern on our boards. Each round we would flip up 2 cards for everyone to select 1 of them to use on their board. Once you get so far into completing your board, you might not be able to take either option. If this happens, you must try for your second chance by drawing the top card from the deck. If you can use that top card, then you can keep playing. Each player who takes a second chance will get a unique card. If you can't draw the second chance card pattern for your board then you are done. The player who fills their board will win or the player with the fewest empty spaces will win.

Of course, I was flipping those second chance cards left and right. The game actually ended with the deck running out of cards. I was able to fill in the majority of the grid and had the fewest leftover squares. Mwahaha, I won the first game of the con! It is always a sweet victory when I can crush Dan at his own game.







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Dan had another game for me to learn which was Draftosaurus. New to me!

This game recently came out and I was very much interested in it. You get to draft amazingly cute dinosaur meeples! I see googly eyes in my future! It is cool that you can play either side of the board and get a different gaming experience.

In Draftasaurus, you will be drafting dinos into your theme park. The active player will roll the dice and everyone will have to draft a dino into an appropriate area into the park, hopefully creating the sets they are looking for. You will gain lots of points for completing those sets and regions.

I don't think I was hate drafting well enough as Dan managed to win this time, and that is just not okay. Albeit, he had played before, but it still seems wrong!

It is a fairly simple game but I quite enjoyed my time playing. I ended up buying it from Beth at the con! I can't wait to play again and grab some colorful pics!








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So, more from the roll n write category, we decided on playing a couple of games of HexRoller. New to me!

The colors in this game are awesome. I wish there were really colorful dice too. There are a couple of different colored dice which don't mean anything but MAY mean something later if they do an addition or expansion for the game.

HexRoller is a fairly simple game where you are trying to complete as many regions of your board as possible. There are several small goals to work towards as you are filling in the board. Each round you will select 2 different numbers to take from the common dice roll. If there were three 4s rolled, then you would have to use all of the 4s in order to use that number. Ideally, you will fill in the different hex regions on the board and you get to score those. But you will also score for the links you make on your board.

It is a clever game and choosing the numbers to take each round is quite a challenge. It is not always wise to just take the highest values. We had to play 2 times since I did just so poorly the first time. I think Dan managed to win the first game with 71. I insisted we play again, with the alternate board and that time Michael was able to take home the victory with 54. It turns out the alternate board scores a lot less! I think the bonuses are fewer, or we all just played really badly, or we rolled badly. It was rough! I have to say I had a great time playing this one!






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Joe H joined us to play a speed game called Sherlock Express. New to me!

Dan got this game under the impression it was a light deduction game but it is really more of a pattern matching and speed game. Each turn the active player will flip over their top card and it will have 1 feature on it. That will give an alibi to the cards in the middle of the table sharing that feature. This proceeds until there are only 1 or 0 cards that don't have an alibi. You are trying to deduce the cards fast and you want to slap the card with no alibi when there are only 1 or 0 options left. The first player to claim 5 cards will win!

I thought I had this in the bag. I am still master of the speed games, for now though. I had my work cut out for me though as Joe H was able to keep my attention as we ended up tied 4 to 4 and it was a close race. I was able to secure that final card though for the win. I don't know if this game won any of the hearts of the players, but I had a good time playing. Not one I would bring out often enough to keep in a collection though.







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Dan had another game for me to try called Shadow Blocks. New to me!

This is an abstract speed game. Everyone is shown an image of a card with multiple shadows. Players have to use their blocks to create a structure on their boards that will match the shadows. Each image will have 3 shadows but you will create one structure that will create all 3 shadows in order to get a point. You are trying to just complete these structures faster than the last player. 3 people will get to score each round in a 4 player game.

In our game, I thought I would win this easily. If you get ahead though, you will be handicapped with harder cards until players catch up. It was also unfair since I found a card that doesn't work. Well, we studied this card long and hard but the only "workable" solution required a zero-gravity environment. Technicalities, and I blame my loss because of that card.

It was a cute game, and I could see playing it again, but it didn't really hold my interest very long.








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Over the 9 days of playing games, I managed to get in 9 games of Tichu. What more can I ask for?! I love this game and would play it daily if I could find a group to play.

On the positive side, I think I got Michael very interested in the game. We ended up being partners in all of the games and I helped train him. In general, we won 5 of the 9 games! That is awesome!! The first couple we ended up losing because I was being dramatic with my calls as usual. I was able to calm myself and hold back even when I might have wanted to call Grand. Regardless, I still called Grand a bunch since I really enjoy the challenge.

The later the game is being played, the less likely I am to call Grand. I guess my conservative side kicks in the later it is. We had some epic games and some insanely long games due to just bad hands and not scoring many points.

Here are a bunch of pics of the different hands of cards, most of which were Tichu calls. I love this game and will always want to play it!




















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Early the next morning I saw Dominic looking for a game to show off his new KS success Oceans. New to me!

I was hesitant to learn this one since I didn't have fond memories of Evolution. Dom assured me it was different and not as vicious of a game. I get drawn into these games for their artwork alone. I just love the look of this series and I love the ocean creature theme too.

In Oceans, you are creating species which will have up to 3 traits. You are managing a hand of cards and using those cards to upgrade your species. You will only get to feed one of your species per turn, though. What's cool is that other species might be able to trigger off of your feeding. Ideally, you will have cards that benefit from each other and they will be self sustaining. After you feed one of your species, then all of your species will reduce in life. If your species loses it's last life, the species disappears.

I felt like I had no hope to protect myself in Evolution, but in Oceans, I feel differently. Yes, there are still a lot of attacks that will happen in this game. But you can easily defend your species by upgrading their traits to have protection. I didn't have a difficult time finding the protection cards. I didn't feel like I was getting attacked a lot, and when I was attacked, it didn't seem that harmful.

There is a strong engine builder game here and so many combos to create and experiences to be had. There are many different event cards, so you will have a different game each time, considering you only use 2 each game.

There are also deep water cards that have many unique traits. I was still wrapping my brain around the entire game to really utilize the deep water cards, but I saw their value. They cost POINTS in order to play them, so they better be worth it. I didn't get any of them in play until really late in the game and by then it was already over for me. I couldn't keep up with the points the other guys were claiming each round.

There is a lot of strategy packed into this game and every choice you make really matters. This is a game I would definitely want to explore further. It is no wonder that this game did extremely well on KS so kudos to North Star for another success!

Of course, Dom was able to crush us into the ground, which he should since he has played it a couple of hundred times. I was so far in last place and was nowhere near them. I need to up my gameplay!












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Michael hadn't ever played Scythe before!? Well, now was the time to correct that. We ended up playing a 5 player game. We were using Derek's awesome game with painted minis and a crazy centerpiece factory.

It had been a while since Scott and I had played, and Erik was re-learning the game, so Derek ended up teaching. Unfortunately, Michael ended up picking the blue faction. I should have reassigned him to another one because blue is the worst one of them all and I have only had a miserable time playing the game with the blue faction. It was a rough play for sure, but he was able to get the mechanics down and play the best he could.

I was playing green. I have played green before, but maybe only 1 time before. I was collecting a TON of in-game points. Scott was playing red, and he overtook the factory and tons of land. It ended up being a close race between us, and I thought I might actually win this game. Scott ended up winning with 62 and I was 59! It was a close finish for sure. It could have been anyone's game.

Love this game so much, so I hope it will get played again soon. I really miss playing it. I think all the expansions really deterred me from playing it as I am not a big fan of the expansions so much.









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Lexi and Will were looking for a game and they were really interested in learning to play Chronicles of Crime. I knew Scott wanted to play this game too, so the 4 of us sat down for the first case of Chronicles of Crime: Noir.

I had played the tutorial of this game and was familiar with the different actions that were added. Since I felt the expansion really didn't change the base game that much and everyone was learning, it wouldn't matter to them which version we were playing.

It worked out pretty well. Everyone was contributing to the investigation. We were piecing the case together slowly. There were a few standstill moments trying to put the pieces in the right spaces. That is the hardest part of the game. There are no real directions and everything is really open-ended. The smallest details might be doors to the answers we need at the end.

By the time it came to solving the case, we thought we were on the right track and knew everything really well. Not so much. We only managed a score in the 50s (out of 100). We ended up reading all the answers to try and figure out what we did wrong. I still have no idea how we could have gotten some of the answers, so beats me!

I still have fun with this one, but the cases can be long and totally draining. This was definitely one of those cases. Still happy to play this game though and maybe I will get better at it! #unlikely





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I had been wanting to play Subtext since my first 4-player game. This time I got to play with a full table of 8 players.

Okay, I think 8 players is too many. Having only 1 turn to be the active player is not enough. There are also fewer chances that you will get paired with the active player.

In our game, Michael ended up being paired with the active player 4 or 5 times. I never got to be. Most of the rounds had an obvious connection. I thought it would be harder to make the connections but it was still kinda easy to. I think everyone just plays too literally. Joe H was playing really abstract and just would draw a line. Is that a candy cane? Sled? Shoe? He would just respond: yep. Maybe the idea is to be very vague and not obvious about what you are drawing.

I think Joe actually ended up tied for the win that game. Being vague for the win, apparently!

I still love the game, but I think I need to find a group to play with semi-regularly and maybe it will feel different. I think 5 or 6 might be the sweet spot for this game.














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It is possible I like Chili's - the restaurant. I go there frequently to get some yummy chips and salsa.

While going to dinner, there were a couple of games of The Mind that were played.

I am always happy to play The Mind, and it is so easily accessible. You can carry it anywhere and play anywhere.

Michael and I won a 2p game once, and that was easy breezy. It is always so easy to win basic Mind play with Michael.

It is more difficult when you add in Dan and Derek to the picture. We made it through Round 4 or 5 with them before the food ended up coming and we decided to eat. It was neither a win nor a loss since we didn't get to finish playing!

Sad it only ended up being 2 games of The Mind. Should have been 20!




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Perhaps my favorite new game of the con and easily the biggest hit of the con was a new game called Hadara. New to me!

I missed out trying it in prototype form last year, which was probably for the better, since I would have had to wait A YEAR to play it again. This game is brilliant! Light but meaningful civ building game. The gameplay is easy to understand and there are simple steps to follow.

Hadara is played out over 3 eras. Each era has a phase A and a phase B.
In phase A, players will be assigned each of the 5 colored stacks once, taking 2 cards, selecting 1, discarding 1, and proceeding to the next stack. You can either buy or sell the selected card. If you choose to buy it, you have to pay coins but will get a discount of 1 coin per card that you already have in the matching color. If you choose to sell it, you will get a few coins.

Cards that you buy will be added to your tableau. Most cards will have icons for the different resource tracks and you will adjust the tracks accordingly. The tech cards (purple) are special and have different ongoing abilities. These cards really offer you a unique position. You won't see all the cards in a game, so there will be a lot of variety each time you play.

Once all 5 stacks have been depleted, players will gain income based on their income level (yellow). Each player will have the chance to conquer villages based on their military level (red), raiding them for money or settling them for resources. Afterwards, you will have the chance to build statues based on your culture level (blue), which will give you victory points and/or resources.

Then you move into Phase B! This is when players will take turns selecting the top card from any of the discarded stacks that were made in phase A! As before, you will either buy or sell the selected card. This continues until there are no more cards in the stacks. Players will get income again and check for colonies (military) and statues (culture). In Phase B, there is a new feeding step, however. You must FEED. You will have to have enough food (green) to cover the number of cards you have in your tableau. You can't have a civ game without having to have feeding costs at some point. Cards that you can't feed must be discarded. Finally, you will have the chance to buy some medals for end game victory. Money is precious and buying these end game medals are worth it if you can afford it, but it means going into the next round with less money, and getting those extra cards in your tableau might be critical. It is tough to say which is better, but that's what makes Hadara a great game.

You do all of that 3 times and then the game is over. It moves along really quickly and you are constantly making tough choices on which cards to buy or which cards to try and hold out for.

I ended up playing 3 games over the week and 2 of those were back-to-back. We loved it so much we decided to play again!

I had some killer tech cards in the first game, and so I was expecting to see them in the second game, but not so much. I actually didn't even see those cards in the 3rd game either! One of the tech cards gave me a bonus $1 when I sold a card. I loved having that ability and so I was doing pretty well that first game. But Michael ended up winning.

I was frustratingly close to getting my final statue in the second game and was sooooo very annoyed that I couldn't make it happen. I might have actually won the second game had I been able to get that +1 blue advancement. It was a huge bummer. But Michael won the second game as well. He clearly understands how to play. I had the last laugh, however, as I won the third game a few days later.

Really loved my plays of this, and I very much look forward to playing it a lot more. It's fun to plan out in your mind that you know you want to buy a certain green card that you discarded in Phase A so you need to sell this red card for the money you will need to have. There's a lot of thinking going on but it plays so fast and smooth. The bright bold colors make me happy. It really stands out on the table and invites you to play it. I suppose the one criticism I have is the player aids. They are amazing, however, they add one small detail to the back of them that could easily have been put on the front. I don't understand that at all. Nitpicky, but someone mentioned it in ALL of the games we played.

Easily one of the best games of the year! Can't wait for more!














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I need to double check my games of the month but I think I learned like 20 roll n writes. It was a non-stop roll n write fest at the Gathering and I was in heaven. We played another Uwe roll n write called Patchwork Doodle. New to me!

The games are actually pretty similar, just different mechanics on getting to a similar ending. You are trying to fill up your board with polyomino shapes. This game resembles Patchwork with the shapes all laid out in a circle. You will roll the die and this little yellow guy will move around the circle, and you will have to select one of the pieces next to him to use. It is pretty simple. There is some mid-game scoring and some bonus actions you can use to help you make it work better.

Dan was teaching the game to me and Michael as he had played it before. He was saying in his other games it was just too easy to fill in the whole grid, and they were all tied in the end. Well, that didn't happen in our game. Michael and I were going for big areas quickly, but we weren't able to fill in the complete grid by the end, so Dan actually ended up winning - slow and steady wins the race. He did fill up the board for huge end-of-game points.

This game was cute and I could play again, but nothing really wowed me about it. I think I like Second Chance better because there were more choices to be made. They are both good, but I still prefer other roll n writes though.








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Oh a really big hit for me was a small card game called Ohanami. New to me!

I am actually surprised I managed to play it only 3 times. I loved it so much, I wanted to show everyone how to play! Steffen Benndorf, the designer of The Game, brings us a competitive card drafting/laying game.

In Ohanami, there are 3 rounds. At the start of the round, each player will be dealt 10 cards. You will select 2 and pass the rest, select 2 more and pass the rest, and so on. Every time you select 2 cards, you will add them into your tableau. You can have up to 3 columns of cards, and you can only add cards below the bottom-most number or above the topmost number in each column. All of the numbers must be in ascending order once they are placed though. If you play a 30 and then above it a 60, you are eliminating all of the chances to play 31-59 in that column. That might be fine if you have space in the other columns.

There is scoring after each round, but not everything will score each round. Some colors are worth more at the end and some colors are worth more the earlier you acquire them.

It is super simple and easy to play. I loved playing it the three times I got to play. It makes me happy putting all the numbers in order. Situations where you have to decide how many numbers to lock out can be interesting. Like, okay, I will lock this range of 4 numbers, that isn't so bad! But the next card you want to draft is in that range you just blocked out. #typical. I love those kinds of choices. There is a lot of memory to this game if you want to take the time to try and remember the cards you are passing.

It just so happens I won all of the games I played of this! Maybe this is a true calling for me. I think I just understand it well. Winning is not the reason I like it so much, but it is a nice boost for once. Ohanami is on the high end of favorites that I learned during the Gathering. This is on the wishlist! I need to get it!

I wonder if I could combine 2 decks and make it an 8 player game!












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More from the roll n write bunch. We played a game of Rolling Ranch. New to me!

Cute animal dice. Each turn, you'll roll both dice and try to fill in your farm pens on your farm board by drawing the animal from one die on a space that matches the number from the other die. Or you can take the materials from both dice, which can help you build buildings that score you bonus points or gain you special abilities.

Turns out I was the best farmer since I managed to pull out the win in this game as well. I think the other players were just happy it was over. I am not sure this game really won anyone over. It was cute enough though.

In general, it is a pretty standard roll n write. Nothing really outstanding here, but it was good. I would, of course, play it anytime, as I would with any roll n write. I don't think it is necessarily better than others, though I did like it more than Harvest Dice.




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Another game I saw being played all the time was Silver & Gold. New to me!

This is just one more roll n write I got to learn! Silver & Gold comes with little map cards that you can write on, which is super awesome! Everyone starts with 2 maps. Each round, a polyomino shape will be revealed and you have to make Xs on your maps to try and fill in the islands for points. You might get a few bonuses when you fill things in, like a free X somewhere, which is helpful for smaller areas. Every time you fill a map, you will draft a new one from a pool.

Silver & Gold is a fairly simple game to complete as many maps as you can. It is definitely one of the better games in the genre that I learned over the week, and everyone was talking about. It has a nice quality to it.

Michael ended up taking the winners title for this game but Dan was right on his tail only 3 points behind. I was like 20 points behind so it was just not happening for me. I needed to get better islands and have better luck with the polyomino cards. There is some planning to be had in this game and I had a good time playing it. Onto the wishlist it goes!








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Res Arcana has been all the rage on BGG and across social media. New to me!

I had to play it before it was no longer all the rage. I honestly didn't know anything about this game going into it. I knew it was beautiful. The artwork is stunning and the bit tray is a nice touch. A very lovely production.

Res Arcana is an engine-building card game where you are trying to create combos. Acquire resources, use card abilities, attack others, and gain monuments.

You are dealt a set number of cards for the game. These cards are your deck. You will get no more and you will just have to make do with what you get. You will get to choose 1 character to play out of 2 choices. You will want to match your character's ability to your deck of cards as best you can. Your goal is to get 10 points first.

It is supposed to be a fast game, but our game took a million years, or it seemed. Perhaps I should give it another try, and if it shows up, I will. I am also thinking it will be better with fewer people. I could attack people, but otherwise, it felt like a solitaire experience. I wasn't paying attention to what anyone was doing.

I am pretty sure Dave won this game since we somehow let him build up a proper engine and eventually take us over. I was just spinning and getting nowhere all game. There was nothing meaningful for me to do. This has a lot of small actions and small points. I like big actions and big points, so I was a bit disappointed.

I think I would like it better if it played out faster, which I am told it should. Maybe it takes a few games to wrap my brain around. Not sure it is my type of game though.










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I picked out Noctiluca to try out. New to me!

I didn't know much about this game other than the purple box with lots of dice. It is an abstract game where you try and gain dice to match your card patterns for points.

The dice are rolled and laid out on the board. Each turn, you will look at one row or column and grab all the dice of the same value in that line. You can place them on your cards if you have the room for them. If you can't use all the dice then they are drafted around the table for other people to use.

That is basically all there is to the game. You are trying to complete as many of these cards as you can for their points. You don't want to give dice away to other players - that only helps them. Of course, since you don't want that, it really makes for an AP prone game. With so many dice on the board, the options seem endless, and you are just staring at the board hoping to make the best play.

Everyone in my game was just like, okay is this game over yet? No one was really taking the time they should in order to find the best match for their cards, which is fine by me. I didn't know it was going to be so AP anyway.

There was just nothing special about this game at all and I have no idea who ended up winning since I just didn't care. This was just a super boring game. Happy to have tried it but I won't return to play this one any time soon.










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I was ready to play another new roll n write game called Dizzle. New to me!

This was another roll n write hit of the con. I saw it being played a bunch and with good reason.

Dizzle is a dice drafting game where you try to fill in your board the best you can. You can get points by completing columns and rows and other puzzly connections on the game board.

Each round, all the dice are rolled and players will take turns drafting dice. When you draft a die it will have to go on a matching spot next to an already existing die or next to an X space if it is the first die you are drafting. If you have no legal play, you can pass for the rest of the round or try to push your luck by re-rolling all of the available dice. But if you can't make a legal play after re-rolling, then you must lose a die from your board back to the pool of dice for others to then draft away.

Of course I am just terrible at this game. I will ALWAYS choose to push my luck even if there is only 1 die available. I will never choose to stop before I must. Therefore, I always lose my dice. I am never lucky enough to roll a number I need.

I still find the push your luck mechanic very fun. When you re-roll, you are changing the dice that everyone was already planning on drafting. It is definitely an interesting strategy.

In the 2 games I played, I didn't even come close to winning. I was so far in last place. Turns out Michael won both of the games we played. Seems like he knew when to stop, or maybe he was just rolling really well!

What I really like about this game is that it comes with 4 different gameboard "levels", so you get to ramp up the difficulty as you go along. I thought the basic board was okay, and I wasn't itching to play the game a whole lot after the 1st play, but then I learned there were different levels and objectives and I really wanted to try them out. So the second game we played level 2 and I liked it a lot more.

Dizzle is now on my wishlist since I want to see how the other levels will play out. I think I will like it a lot more after a few more plays. I just have a hard time controlling myself and pushing my luck too far.










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Another top hit of this con was The Taverns of Tiefenthal. New to me!

I accidentally stumbled into this one when I was searching the tables for games to play. I was like, "ohhh this looks interesting, I haven't heard about this one. Ohhh, it is by Wolfgang Warsch, of course, it is." Ridic how many games he is just pumping out!

Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal, which translates to The Taverns in the Deep Valley, is a deck building & dice drafting game. You are trying to get the most points from the cards you are claiming. Each round you will roll dice and draft around the table. The dice will be used to serve customers for their money, which you will use to buy cards that will help your intake of customers and services. You might use the dice to upgrade your pub to do similar but permanent features. You are really trying to attract the nobles to your establishment and if you upgrade the pub then you will be gaining those customers, and the more nobles you have, the more points you will get at the end of the game.

This game is cool and comes with a bunch of modules so you can mix and match them for different experiences.

Michael and I took on very different strategies and I managed to have a KILLER turn bringing in like 6-7 nobles at one time. When you claim cards like that they are automatically added to the top of your deck which really helps your pub. Having all the nobles together is actually really great, and was a fine strategy to have on my part. I worked hard to get that one killer turn. Michael was slow and steady all the way and he managed to win 92 to my 91. Nooooooooooooooo! It was definitely a close call.

I am surprised I only got around to playing it the one time. I really wish I had been able to play it again as I really loved my first play. I screwed up a few things and I know I could have won if I played slightly differently. I can't wait to try out the game again with the different modules.








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Picked out a quick game to play called Sushi Roll. New to me!

Sushi Roll is very much like the card game but more random since you are rolling dice. I like that feature, actually. On your turn, you will roll the dice in front of you, draft one, and pass the rest. There are tokens that allow you to steal dice from other players and there are re-roll tokens so you can try to complete that set you were working on. The scoring works basically the same though.

I do think if you like Sushi Go you will enjoy this one. I was glad to play twice since the first game I played was just 2 player and we were learning. Turns out we played slightly wrong - when we taught a larger group, we figured those rules out.

I did like it more with more players so I would suggest playing with more than 2 players. It can be a bit confusing with 5 players though. Whose turn is it? Are they stealing dice? Can we draft our dice yet? Our 5 player game lasted about twice as long as our 2 player game did, so I guess it is beter with 3 or 4 players.

The dice are easily the best thing about this game. BIG CHUNKY DICE! It is super cute and I am sure kids could pick it up easily. I would be happy to play it again but I won't suggest it.










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Dan has been trying to get me to play Vinci for a while. New to me!

I love Small World, and I will give credit to Vinci and History of the World for paving the way for Small World. Vinci plays out similarly to Small World but it is not as elegant. But I absolutely love love love History of the World and prefer it over both Vinci and Small World.

If you know how to play Small World, you basically know how to play Vinci. In Vinci, you will get 2 faction bonuses when you draft a nation/ability so you will get that same randomness you find in Small World.

Vinci ended up longer than I would like and it is wicked ugly. By the end of my play, I was soooo over this game. Dan won pretty handily - maybe since he played before? Maybe I wasn't beating up on him hard enough? I duno, but I was just not invested in the gameplay enough to care.

This is certainly a game I never need to play again. I can't recommend it to anyone - unless you like old cardboard chits. #notforme







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Dan and I had a few minutes to kill so we played a 2 player game of Pearls. New to me!

Pearls is a new, simple, set-collection card game. The bigger the sets you collect in your hand, the more points you will get and possibly bonus points as well. Nothing challenging about this game, and it is more a filler game anyway.

I am glad I got to play with Dan, because that means an easy win for me! I had some major sets that scored a lot of points and I was able to end it with basically no cards in hand. I had the right timing all around so everything was falling into place for me.

Nothing really special with this one but I am happy to play it again if requested. Not one I will request in the future though. Happy to have learned it.







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When I learned there was a prototype to play for a new The Voyages of Marco Polo, I had to play it! New to me!

There are still a few balance issues, but it will hopefully be released at Essen. They still don't know if they are going to make this an expansion or a stand-alone game. It could really be either, but having it as expansion means it wouldn't fit in the base game box with the other expansion. But this might give them an opportunity to make a BIG BOX version for it.

Anyway, the game was being called Marco Polo 2, so they are still working on the name as well. It doesn't matter to me since I wanted to play whatever HiG was showing. They never let me down with their games!

This game still feels like the original game, but there is a whole new board to explore and there is an ever-changing marketplace. There is a new resource: Jade! It is used all over the place now. Players still have hidden objectives to give them the incentive to go certain places on the map, but there doesn't seem to be as much pressure since you will just want to visit as many places as you can to get more points.

There is a new feature with the different sigils you can collect that can give you bonuses and make it easier to move from location to location, but they are working on balancing those bonuses. I am very interested to see what the final product will have.

The way you get contracts has changed from the original. In this version, some location spaces have contracts. You will receive a contract the first time you visit. Afterwards, you can use the contract action to get a contract from any location you have visited. I liked this method a whole lot better.

In my play, Michael was learning the basics to Marco Polo from scratch, which was pretty cool. Nikolai was remembering the basics of the game. We were all figuring out what might be a good path for each of us to take. Of course, there were new mechanics in the game and all-new character abilities, so we were trying to best optimize those abilities. I had an amazing jade ability. Every time I completed a contract, I got a jade, but I also got 1 VP ANYTIME I collected a jade. So I was getting tons and tons of points from collecting jade in various ways. It was awesome and possibly my new favorite character. They are all my favorites - amirite?

I think Michael had the ability to claim a location bonus every time another player collected one. So that tile you get when you first go into a location, like 2 gold or a free move or a bonus die... yeah, he would also gain those things. He was also getting an income of a jade. Dan was playing a traveler character. In the original, it is expensive to place dice but cheap to move along the routes, but in this new version, it is cheap to place dice but expensive to move along the routes. The more dice you use and the higher the values, the further you can go. I felt it was easier to move in this game than the original. Dan was having a very hard time with his character though. Nikolai was getting a TON of resources from his character ability where he got bonuses for each roll he made.

Everything seemed pretty great and I want to play with all the abilities! Our game ended in a pretty close final scoring but I managed to win with 105. Michael was right on my tail with 102! Dan and Nikolai were in the 70s. Needless to say, Michael picked up the game rather quickly and got some great combos early with his player ability.

Can't wait for this one to hit stores!












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We had some time to kill before dinner so we decided to learn Pulp Detective. New to me!

I had been curious about this one since its release at Essen, I think it was. The artwork is interesting and I like trying to solve cases. I really can't say I had any fun playing this one though.

In Pulp Detective, you are given a set of victory conditions, like you might need to find 4 clues and catch the bad guy. You are using dice to match symbols on cards to get the card's bonuses. It is hard to do since you only have a single roll of the dice to try and hit all the matching symbols to secure the bonuses.

This is a solo game at heart and we were playing it 2p as a 1-player game, just alternating turns. It worked fine doing that, and there were other rules for 2p that I am not sure of at this time.

In our game, we didn't even secure 1 clue that we needed. We were really close to getting a few though. With very little luck mitigation, it was really hard to manage. We did get some bonuses which helped us get a few re-rolls, but they didn't end up helping. We tried!

It was just a huge MISS for me. Maybe other people will have better luck, but for the amount of time to learn and play the game, I wish I picked a different title.















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We decided on another quick game to learn called Palm Island. New to me!

This is a small boxed solo game, but there are cards and variants to play with 2 players.

This is definitely an interesting game. You have a deck of cards you are working through over and over and over. I think you go through the deck of cards 8 times and then the game will be over.

Each card has 4 possible faces (top and bottom, front and back), but you are always looking at the top part of the card. At the start of the game, all of your cards are Level 1 cards. As you play the game, your cards can be upgraded by rotating them 180 degrees or by turning them over.

The top card of your deck is always available. Many of the cards will give you resources. When you gain resources from a card, you will turn the card 90 degrees so that the resource sticks out the side, and place the card at the back of your deck. You can have a maximum of 4 tapped resource cards. You can pay costs by untapping those resources, always keeping the resource in position in the deck. Other cards are buildings that give you more and more points as you upgrade them using the resource cards you have on tap.

Michael and I each played the solo game at the same time and compared scores. I ended up winning that game, which was awesome. It is really hard to tell how well you are doing, and there were a few times I ended up losing some resources since it hit the top of the deck and I didn't use it in time!

Palm Island worked really well playing 2p as a multi-solitaire game, and I could easily recommend this for trips. It would be a perfect game to play on a plane. There are other variants you can play with 2 players but I haven't been able to explore them yet. I will be looking to pick this up soon.








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One night we spent 5 hours learning and playing the new Vital Lacerda game called Escape Plan. New to me!

I generally proceed with caution when stepping into a Lacerda game since they are usually not my jam. They often have too much going on for me to enjoy fully. But this game has an awesome theme and I've been curious to try it out. I love the idea of trying to collect all the monies and escape the town. It is a great theme and the production is TOP NOTCH.

I will start by saying that learning from the rules is hard, but once you get going, the game flow is incredibly easy, and I feel like I could go in and teach this game no problem after playing it just one time. Even with my incredibly long first play (which is usually a deterrent for me), I had a great time learning and playing this game. I know it will be a much faster game the next time I play it.

Escape Plan is played over a number of days and turns. You will basically get 9 actions in the game to do EVERYTHING you want to do. There are ways to obtain a few bonus actions, but I only managed to get 1 bonus action, giving me 10 total actions in the game. Every action matters, so plan wisely.

In Escape Plan, you are trying to get around the city to the different areas to claim as much cash as you can before you ultimately have to escape the city. If you don't end up escaping the city in time, then you automatically lose no matter how much money you've collected.

Each player will have a secret goal card that will give them values for each destination if they manage to hit those spaces and collect their rewards. Of course, there are cops roaming the streets, and to leave a location tile, you always have to evade those cops or they go shooting you in the leg. If you get shot, you might have to visit the hospital or clinic to heal up.

There are opportunities to recruit gang members that will help you evade the cops with their distractions. You will also be able to hire allies (putting them "in your back pocket") that will give you special abilities to help you evade, to move cops around, or to get places faster.

Doing bad things will increase your reputation. But reputation can end up hurting you, since players with a lower reputation can move cops closer to your location. You have to watch out for situations like that.

Despite my long play, I had a great time playing this one. We were playing with player abilities. My ability allowed me to easily break into lockers so I didn't need keys - that was awesome. I didn't use that nearly as much as I should have. I was trying to do too much too fast and it all got jumbled. I needed to really focus and I wasn't doing that so well.

I thought I was doing REALLY well and that I might win, so I was a bit sad to learn I didn't win. Michael ended up winning this game with $472,000, and I was actually not far behind with $421,000. Derek managed to grab $262,000, and Doug the Boss had $227,000. It was quite a range of scores. Michael was able to get extra money from having a bunch of allies in his back pocket. My reputation was too high, and I lost a lot of money for that.

There is definitely a lot going on in the game, but it still seems easier to teach than most Lacerda games and falls in line with Vinhos. It plays out faster than his other games too, which is nice. I learned a lot in this first play and I am eager to get it to the table again soon. I had a really great time playing and I know I will like it more and more with each play. This is a really cool game.



















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The BGG Show!!



Stay Tuned for Part 2!

Thanks for following along!

Happy Gaming!!!



-Steph




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