New to you January 2013 => Best new boardgame
New Year => New Games
What new board and card games did you play in January 2013? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
In order to assist with collecting Statistics from these lists, please post an entry with your chosen game of the month, and if possible please use the "insert board game" feature to add other games you mention in your entry.
New To You Metalist 2013
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Videogames New To You (new format)
Videogames New To You January 2013
Videogames New To You February 2013
Other Great Monthly Lists
Movies You Watched in January 2013
New to you a year ago Jan 13 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in January 2013
Your Most Played Game (and more): January 2013
New to your kids - New Lease of Life - Gaming with your kids January 2013
Thanks to a local game convention I was able to get in a few new to me games this month.
== NEW GAMES ==
Libertalia - 1 play -
This was the first of the new games that I played at a game convention early in the month, and it turned out to be quite an interesting role selection game. Players have identical decks of cards, from which a hand of cards is chosen at random... Then all players draw the exact same cards. For the remainder of the round, players choose, from these cards, which role to play. This determines the order in which players get to pick booty, but each card has either a bonus action or gives bonus points, which are either immediate or scored at the end of the round. Consequently, there is quite a bit of screwage as players compete for the bonuses from the cards, and try to prevent each other from scoring those bonuses.
Unused cards in each round were carried over to the next round, so it was possible to differentiate your hand a little bit from your opponents.
One problem with players having identical hands however, was that a lot of the same card were played at the same time... especially if it seemed like the most advantageous thing to do.
Overall it was fun and interesting, with plenty of Screwage.
Strozzi - 1 play -
I picked this up for £8 from a local discount book chain, when they got hold of some overstocked boardgames... but it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. I finally managed to get a game late on the Friday night at a convention, when we found ourselves with 6 players and not a huge amount of time.
It's an interesting auction game, with a similar scoring mechanism as Medici, however with the added 'benefit' that each player has only 3 currency tokens, so there is less of a requirement to calculate how much something is worth to you (unlike in Medici, where you bid with your victory points!)
My copy still languishes in it's shrink wrap however, as we played someone else's copy... I'd probably never be able to sell it now though, as they are "ten a penny!"
Fleet - 1 play -
Another one I played at a convention, Fleet is a card game of commercial fishing, of a similar ilk to San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, where cards serve multiple functions, as boats you can launch, currency you can spend, or, face-down, as captains for your fishing boats. There's an added auction mechanism too, as you all bid for licences for the various types of fish... which allow you to launch their specific boats, and which also give you some other benefit in the game, either allowing you to draw extra cards, or have a discount on purchases etc.
As all three of us were new to the game, we all did all things in the first turn.. bought a licence, launched a boat, added a captain etc. which meant we were getting fish straight away, but had no cards left for later rounds... on reflection, I'd want to save some cards from the first round to be able to buy licences in the 2nd and subsequent rounds, as the bonuses from these proved to be very powerful and if you lost the race for fishing licences it was very hard to stay competitive in the game.
Not a bad card game at all, but I definitely need another play, knowing a bit more of the strategy, to cement my feelings about it.
== EXPANSIONS ==
Power Grid : UK & Ireland - 1 play -
I seem to manage a game of power grid once every 12 months or so, and this time I played it at the local game conventions, with a few of the regulars from my game group. They had just got the new map, so we opted to give UK and Eire a try. There were a couple of interesting rules.. firstly no nukes if you'd only built in Eire.. and secondly you could start a new network on the other island from where you started.
K2: Broad Peak - 1 play -
I had the chance to play this at a game convention early in the month, but as I've only played K2 once before, I'm not sure I'm completely qualified to comment on the expansion. I did really like the fact that there were a number of different peaks and two different ways up from the base camp, so you could traverse the top and come down the other side... indeed you needed to do that to earn enough bonus points to compete for the lead.
I played fairly cautiously, kept both guys alive and only reached the 3rd highest point... however, traversing with both climbers meant I had a good chunk of bonus points and was tied for the lead... just losing the tiebreaker on who got the highest quickest.
I thought Broad Peak was a very good map, and if I owned K2, I would definitely be tempted to pick it up as well.
== YUCATA.DE ==
Targi - 1 play -
An odd worker placement game, in which there is a 5 by 5 grid of cards, made of edge cards where you place your 3 workers, and inner cards, where you place markers at the intersections of your workers. There are rules regarding worker placement however, that make the game quite tight.. only 1 worker is allowed per edge card (as you'd expect) but you also cannot place opposite a worker of your opponent's, and you cannot place on the card where the robber is (which moves around the edge 1 card at a time).
There are 4 resources to manage, available from the edge cards, or from goods cards in the middle, which you use to buy tribal cards from the middle to add to your display... cards in the middle alternate, so if you take a goods card it is replaced with a tribal card and vice versa.
You earn victory points from the cards in your display, and can also trade goods for them using the appropriate worker edge-space.
An interesting little game that I need to play a few more times to really decide if I'm going to add it to the mix of regular games I play.
Love the world.
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
(image credit: Goodsound)
I was not a fan of Trajan, because the need to manipulate the mancala was far more work than play for me. I found it irritating, rather than fun. When I first saw images of Tzolkin, with the interlocking rotating gears advancing workers to new action spots, I was inclined to write it off as more of the same. But the positive reactions that I read, including some that said that the look-ahead planning required wasn't too burdensome, convinced me to give it a go.
I'm glad that I did. It is a brain-burner, but the burn stops just short of being too much for me to enjoy (I had only a minor headache after playing.)
On your turn, you place workers on the gears (paying corn to do so) or remove workers (to activate the power where they're located). Once everyone has gone, the central gear rotates, causing all of the five smaller action gears to rotate one step forward as well. At each quarter mark on the central gear, players must feed their workers (and may reap some rewards).
When placing workers, you must put them in the lowest empty slot of a wheel. You'll pay an increasing premium in corn if you place more than one worker, and another premium if you place workers higher on a wheel than its bottom slot (only possible if the lower spots are already taken).
Action spaces on the gears let you take food or building resources, advance on a tech upgrade track, build buildings or monuments, perform various "trade" actions, get more workers, advance in status in the three temples, or place crystal skulls (!) in Chichen Itza.
It's all intermeshed, almost like gears in a clockwork machine.
I could easily see this being too much for gamers who prefer less advance planning. I could also see it bogging down when played with brute-force calculator types.
But towards the end our first play my wife and I were starting to feel pretty comfortable with the systems. (After we finished, she immediately wanted to play again.)
Overall, this is a very interesting timing game, with lots of little decisions to be made in combination. It's fun too.
The game is also a beautiful production (especially if you're geeky enough to paint your gears ).
One slight downside: this is rough to teach to new players. The basic mechanisms aren't hard to grok, but there are a lot of moving parts that need to be individually explained. It helps that the actions on each wheel are thematically related, but still. It's a big overhead that will make it difficult to play in our game group.
(image credit: olavF)
Rapa Nui is a very pleasant and interesting resource management and share investment card game, themed around pre-industrial Easter Island. It's got a modest depth and length.
On your turn, you play cards to build a tableau filled with woodcutters, hunters & gatherers, priests, and Moai (giant head statutes). The card you choose to play indirectly determines which card type will then activate, providing benefits to players who have that type of card in their tableau.
When a Moai is built, all players need to "sacrifice" food cards. At the end of the game, you get victory points for food cards that you still hold in your hand, with the VP value based on how many of each type was sacrificed (by all players).
So, e.g., if more fish were sacrificed than any other food type, any fish cards in hand will have the greatest game end VP value.
That creates an interesting tension, where you need to spend shares of a particular type in order to make that type of share more valuable at game-end. But by spending those shares, you no longer have them to score.
It's a solid little filler with interesting choices and nice art. Too bad it's German only (though the components are mostly language neutral).
Good stuff with two. Eager to try it with my game group.
(image credit: edbolme)
This is a very clever (and compact) bluffing/deduction/player elimination card game. One of our group (of four) seemed to like it a lot (he's a puzzle fan). Another seemed eager for it to end, from the get go.
Luck plays a strong role, as the cards you are dealt and draw can often set you up for failure or success. There are also lots of opportunities for smart play and drama. I suspect it tilts a little too strongly toward luck for me. Also, I felt it ran a little long.
I'll continue to try it as a filler with different combinations of players (it's super quick to teach).
(image credit: Artax)
Lexio is a climbing "card" game played with chunky bakelite tiles. The tiles are attractive and have a great tactile quality. The game play is interesting, especially as you gain experience with how to exercise more control over the flow of the play.
We had fun with it, but ultimately I couldn't justify keeping such an expensive game in my collection. The play value simply doesn't match its trade value (especially when I can play 3p with a standard deck of cards -- which, tellingly, I have no interest in doing).
(image credit: EndersGame)
This is a strange little two-player card game. The rules are odd, to the point where I don't want to try to describe them. Not difficult. Just odd.
It was interesting and we enjoyed it. The art work is cool (featuring members of different criminal gangs). I expect to hang onto it. I just don't know how to talk about it.
(image credit: rseater)
Silly light area control card game with a dexterity component. You're dropping cards onto the table, into a big overlapping mass, in the hope that at the end of the game, you will have "control" over more scoring icons than anyone else (you control scoring icons if they are in a green "flower bed" area in which you have more of your control icons than any other player -- many of the cards have white "garden paths" that will break up or rejoin the flower beds depending on how the cards fall).
It was just okay, but it fills an interesting niche for the game group.
Board Game: Myrmes
[Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:406]
Plays: 1 with 3
I went into this game with some high expectations. Part of that was due to the fact that some had compared this, mechanically, to Antiquity; another part was due to this being a Ystari title, and I own almost everything they've put out, and enjoy everything I own.
I found the theme to be tightly integrated into the play. Certainly, though there has only been one other ant simulation that I've played (Antics!) they certainly won't get better than this. Beyond the theme there's a very tight system of resource generation and management, not only that but there are a multitude of angles to gaining your vps. Though the sources of those points are few it's the efficiency of your play that will give you the edge.
The central board is really where the comparison to Antiquity comes from. You'll be able to move a pawn across it and in some combination "attack" insects for food and/or points, other wise you sacrifice the pawn to place one of varying sizes of tiles. It's through these tiles that you gain resources and points. I'm not sure that you could compare this central play to anything else really, and that's another reason I like this game as much as I do.
This one seems to scale VERY well and I look forward to many more plays with any number.
Man oh man does this push all of the right buttons for me. It's like Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and Dreamblade were caught in a love triangle. It's minis without the minis, it's mages, and best of all your spell book is no-luck.
Of course there is the matter of luck here: It does have dice, but there's a 2 in 3 chance of doing damage; 1 in 3 that it will essentially be unblockable. Add the various enhancements and augmentations to the mix and you'll consistently deal damage and do well, with some smart tactics and card play of course.
Now, this IS essentially a Living Card Game, just like many systems before it. There will be a ton of expansion content and with the high number of multiples allowed in your spell book it makes it easy to invest more for the sake of building your spell book. That being said: Maxing out the number of copies of all your favorite spells is no guarantee of winning. Indeed it's about the combination of spells and the way you use them that will prove your worth. Easily my favorite part about this system is that the core set, with the recent updates to the starter spell book lists, allows you not only to build all 4 core mage's spell books with a single core set, but those books are REALLY QUALITY BUILDS. That's more than I can say for Fantasy Flight's LCGs, and that's coming from a guy who owns and plays them all.
If you like LCG's, MtG, or any other tactical game even close to similar (Summoner Wars is another fine example) you owe it to yourself to at least buy a core and check it out. I guarantee you'll be hooked.
I FINALLY got around to playing this sister of Imperial. The major changes are:
- A larger board that has more neutral territories. It also allows travel from one map edge to the next, making the map a globe. It still feels tight, however. There just seems to be more granularity to territory control and movement.
- Taxation has been tweaked to a set scale, and I think it makes for a more interesting game.
If you like Imperial I recommend this as "more of a good thing".
Board Game: Hive
[Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:204]
Forbidden Island is perhaps the first "cult of the new" game I purchased as soon as it was released. It just sounded intersting. I later learned that FI was the lite version of Forbidden Island. I didn't feel the need to get it, but people continued to rave about it so it made my Wishlist. My MIL got me the expansion for Christmas so my wife felt compelled to get me the base game so we could play it.
Thus far, my wife hasn't played, but both of my kids have played once with me, otherwise it has been my solo game this month. I have found it to be challenging yet a little boring as a solo game. However, I enjoyed the challenge and was determined to beat the game finally achieving it on my fifth try... on the easiest level. In some games I enjoyed removing cubes a little too much and didn't spend enough time searching for cures. In others, too much time searching for cures and not managing the spread of cubes. Interesting roles which certainly present their share of risks and opportunities which I expect are even more interesting when not playing solo for player interaction.
I like co-op games. I don't mind playing them solo, but I really think Pandemic like others are much more enjoyable when played with others for the shared, cooperative experience. I'm hoping this is a game that catches on with others in my circle for more co-op enjoyment.
The Logo Board Game
A friend brought this to our Game Night and my kids played it and liked it. So they asked to borrow it and asked us to play it the day before we needed to return it. I'm not a big party game or trivia game fan, but this one I will admit was interesting. It tests your knowledge and exposure to all the brands from today and yesterday.
I really enjoy Hive yet only have a few people willing to play. It was my most played game in 2011 (33x). My BIL was moving to a remote location for a couple years job assignment and my wife saw him off with a parting gift... my copy of Hive. Fortunately my wife gifted me Hive Pocket this past Christmas.
I listed this in the expansion section because Pocket includes both the Lady Bug and the Mosquito expansion tiles. This month I had my first exposure to them playing with both at the same time. Consensus was the game is even more enjoyable. The lady bug is a fast top of the hive navigator which drops down into nooks and crannies. The mosquito takes on the ability of any adjacent tile which introduces both defensive caution and offensive pressure. Love it!
TtR Map Collection: Volume 2 - India & Switzerland
We have long enjoyed Ticket to Ride. Last year we played a number of games using the Asia maps included in Map Collection Volume 1. This Christmas I received not one, but two copies of the second Map Collection. These maps seem to cater more to 2-3p games which will suit us just fine as we tend to play more 2-3p games.
We only managed to play the India map for a single play thus far. My wife struggled to grasp the Mandala concept up front and just said "explain it to me after wards." Ironically, she won with both of us scoring 3 mandalas. Me while trying and her unknowingly.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
Completely against my pattern of the last several months, I managed to play ten new boardgames and a couple new expansions this month. What's more, I'm not nearly confident about my ordering (or, indeed, of my rating after a few plays!) of the games I've initially rated a _7.7_. Some of them might move up to an _8_ or more; some of them might fall into the _6.x_ range with a few more plays. Time will tell. Nonetheless, I'll list them here in decreasing order of my enthusiasm of the moment.
New Amsterdam -- (1 play) _8_
(images by hoje & henk.rolleman)
Nearly certainly in first place, we find Nieuw Amsterdam: a brutal, unforgiving, economic snowball game. I really liked it. Yeah, there's a bit of inconsistency in the layout of the two card types (consistent placement of momentary and recurring effects would improve things!) and the lovely chunky houses tend to cover up a lot of information as they go on the board. But the net result is still reasonably clear and very playable. I'd give it a Most ferocious auction game of the month, which isn't at all a bad thing. (Particularly if you, like I do, subscribe to Shannon Appelcline's Auction Grand Unification Theory.)
Keyflower -- (4 plays) _7.7_
(images by huchandfriends & diddle74)
Second place (at least for the moment) goes to Keyflower. I'm susceptible to arguments that the village placement rules are a bit more fiddly than the game strictly needs - and I admit to both messing up tile placements in my first couple games and also not finding the constraints particularly difficult in my latter two. (It seems to be an unfortunate combination of a reasonable "you can't do everything you might want" restriction with a less ideal beginning player tax.) I suppose I should admit that I've only played without the screens: while I'm sure it changes the game, it doesn't appear to lead immediately to paralysis or indecision - and the game that results is pretty tight and compelling. So it wins House rules? Why not!
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by karel_danek & Toynan)
Third place to Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar; I really enjoyed the experience; and more than I'd expected, given a rules read beforehand. I found the game much more about timing (something that was clearer than I'd expected) and less about the worker placement. As to the gears? Not a gimmick. I found myself wanting to buy a copy after play.
Australian Railways -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by modboy & scottredracecar)
I really enjoyed Australian Railways. As the last of the three Early Railways Series games I'd played (I went with publication order: first Lancashire Railways then New England Railways) I found this more entertaining than either of its peers. I fear that the random goods growth of the two earlier titles didn't work for me as well as the "each player randomly chooses a cube, and places it where they see fit" rule does here. The dynamics of track buying (where the government will build anything the players don't want - and possibly an additional track, too) are cool. There's still more randomness than Age of Steam or Steam; it's a lighter and more forgiving system. I'd hope that this one will see more play in future. Minimalist and charming.
We the People -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by henk.rolleman & lizriz)
We the People finds itself in fifth place. It was fun to see some of the original implementations of ideas that I'd first seen in Hannibal and 1989. Sadly, though, as a non-American (ignore the flag; while I live here, I'm Canadian) I can't claim that I find the American Revolution to be a particularly compelling topic. So while the mechanics are clean, and the game interesting, I find I'd still prefer to play one of those other two titles: things where the subject matter is more entertaining for me. Why not more enthusiastic? The failure is mine.
Myrmes -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by W Eric Martin & sleip)
Myrmes was a delightful play. Yet I've a bit of apprehension for the future: it's not at all clear to me how different another game will feel (I recognize that the seasonal die rolls will necessarily be different - but it's not at all clear to me how much they drove the decisions we'd made this time out.) As a result, despite my enjoyment of this game, I'm holding off on buying a copy: it could still happen. Intriguing, but does it have legs?
Scopa -- (1 play) _7.3_
(images by chiesi & Steerpike.Instance)
I found Scopa charming and friendly. I admit my familiarity with historic card games is pretty weak; but this one is one that I'd be inclined to inflict on lovely daughter #1 - who is susceptible to things that use a (subset of a) traditional card deck. We'd not ever played Casino, so the dynamics here were all new. For a game that's been around for 400-odd years, that's amusing. Oldest new-to-me game for the month.
Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan -- (1 play) _7.3_
(images by Rodger MacGowan & angeral)
I rather liked Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, too; even if I played rather badly at first. I'd not yet figured out the combat dynamics when the game began, and only (gradually) came to some modest realization of what the likelihoods were as the game wore along. By which time, my relatively poor choices of the early game were biting me pretty hard. In the end, I'm quite a bit more enthusiastic about this than I am about Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex: in both of those, I didn't feel like the passing of the game gave me any better insight into what was intended (or even possible.) In those games, I made choices, and bad things happened to me; I couldn't tell if it was bad die-rolling or poor decisions. This one was kinder: I could achieve some assimilation with the system, mechanics, and probabilities over the course of the game that helped me assess and revise my decisions. Why not rated higher? I think there's more bluff here than I strictly prefer: the So which stack will you attack? I've got the cards to defend one of them. feature isn't quite something I look for.
Mermaid Rain -- (1 play) _6.3_
(images by Surya & da pyrate)
My play of Mermaid Rain was amusing, but I found myself somewhat unsatisfied by the results. Yeah, I won: that wasn't the point at all. But instead of winning because I'd made excellent choices, or because other had made bad choices, I won because I'd been more fortunate with the draw of the face-down things one is collecting. And since one has no idea what the face-down things that others have collected are until the end of the game, there's very little way to mitigate that randomness. One collects some stuff, then there's the big reveal at the end of the game, where all comes clear. And the victor is randomly assigned, or so it appeared. Smaller correlation between good choices and outcome than I might prefer.
That said, the game is pretty; there's opportunity for cleverness. I think I might force all tokens collected to be displayed face-up for all to see in a subsequent game, though, just to see if that makes the decision-making more interesting.
Express 01 -- (1 play) _5_
(images by W Eric Martin & yakos)
Finally, Express 01. Hey, I have to have something to be grumpy about. This is it. I found the game desperately unclear. Not "Oh, I have no idea what I'm doing" unclear (that doesn't bug me), the other sense: "I have no idea what the game state is from looking casually at the bits." This is one where, in order to make a reasonable tactical decision, one needs to examine six or eight piles of cards carefully to know which cards are available, and which are off in players' hands. In order to make a good strategic decision, you need to be able to pull off some model of the flow of those cards: which are liable to be returned to a pile; which are liable to be played; which held. It's a high grunt-work bar, and not very interesting. I found it Too murky to want to play.
I'd also played two expansions. Both achieve rating scores more indicative of their base game, than the expansion itself. (Which, I suppose, isn't that weird.)
Here I Stand: 2-Player Diplomacy Deck -- (1 play) _8_
(images by ColtsFan76 & Ed Beach)
Here I Stand: 2-Player Diplomacy Deck was cool, even if our play was incomplete. I love Here I Stand in concept: it's a fascinating and compelling period of history (for me) - yet the game is hugely long (and requires a pretty serious committment from six talented players to bring out its best. (A best, I might add, that is completely worth it.)) The 2p deck attempts to provide a lot of that goodness for two players, and in slightly less time.
I'm not completely convinced about the "slightly less time" part. We played about 40% of the way through the game in slightly over three hours. Yes, some of that was the fact that both of us were out of practice: that can be improved. But there's a lot going on here, and it takes some time to play it through. Still, getting the time committment from only two players is a whole lot easier than doing it with 6; I'd hope to get more plays of this one.
Peloponnes: Goat Expansion -- (1 play) _7.7_
(image by bloodeisen)
While I'm inching ever closer to the Carcassonne-like "I've bought too many expansions and can't keep all the fiddly little rules straight" precipice with this one, I have to say that I really enjoyed the rules deltas that Peloponnes: Goat Expansion provided. The goats add interesting decisions to the game; they're cool. I just need to play often enough to keep all the rules in my head!
Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the back-to-Fridays-for-2013 Lunch folk, and the left-coast leftovers of Tom Grant's I've been Diced! gang for some great game experiences.
Board Game: Samurai
[Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:175]
By default, my one and only game played in January happens to be new-to-me. We played 2-player (my daughter and I) and I won with 3 majorities. I liked how the game starts tightening up and speeding up as the board fills. We both like it and I want to play again to give her more chances to adjust her strategy and learn how to play better.
I'm sorry I waited so long to get this. It was on and off of my radar for years!
Board Game: EastFront II
[Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:1303]
[Average Rating:8.03 Unranked]
This month I continued my journey into the wonderful world of wargaming. After last month's less than successful attempts to play Blocks in the East my friend suggested that if I was really interested in an Eastern Front block wargame like EastFront II, why not simply try Eastfront II? Makes sense! It's the definitive block wargame on the subject and with good reason. This game revolves around the German push into Soviet territory in WWII. The game is divided into 6 month scenarios beginning with the surprise attack of the Barbarossa campaign, in which the Soviets were ill-prepared, and ending with the final Soviet push into Poland. Most scenarios play in an extended evening and can even be linked to form a campaign that can cover the entire conflict. The game's elegant mechanisms really give a feel for the tough decisions that the Generals had to face in the conflict. It seems that just the right amount aspects were abstracted in order to allow the players to focus on the tactics in the game.
The turn sequence in the game is fairly straightforward; activate your HQs, mobilize your troops using strategic rail movement or regular movement, perform all combat, update enemy units for supply status. At the end of the month, count up production points, buy and place reinforcements, and rebuild units that are in supply. That's pretty much all there is to it. Similar to most block wargames, each block is single sided which will create a fog-of-war. The units also have "steps", numbers written on the sides of each block which represent the combat strength of the unit.
The true brilliance of this game, in my opinion, is how the HeadQuarters function. When activated, they are played face-up. They can then command any and all units within their activation range, which is determined by the number of steps they have. Any battles that occur within their command range are considered supported and are conducted at full strength. They can also reserve air support for key battles. When battles have been completed, the HQs are reduced by one step in strength and stood back up. This strength reduction represents the supply, munitions, and logistics that have been used in order to perform the push. Also, when initially activated, an HQ can be flagged for "Blitz" command which allows the HQ to command a second move/combat round at the cost of another step reduction. This allows for deep penetration in enemy lines but HQs can only rebuild one step per month. The constant decisions of having to balance HQ supplies and maintaining your front's forward momentum are gruelingly fun.
I find that this game is more about maneuvering your units into key locations and taking advantage of terrain and weather than it is about directly assaulting victory locations, cities, and resources. Blitzing through the enemy lines, enveloping your enemies, and creating small pockets of resistance is far more cost effective than head-to-head conflict. As reinforcements are generally slow to buildup and each unit can only rebuild one step per turn, this becomes a major concern as more time progresses in the scenario. Artillery and air superiority have been abstracted from the game which help to make individual battles play out quickly and allow the game to flow smoothly.
Supply lines are vital to your troops. Units that are out of supply degrade in strength quickly and become less mobile. Obviously, you can also no longer reinforce those units either. Rail lines, spider-webbed all over the map, are critical in carrying supply to your troops. Purchasing reinforcements and upgrades are handled through Production Points which are an abstract sum of your nation's production ability.
Overall the rules and concepts are fairly simple, which allow wargamers and non-wargamers alike, entry into this deep game. There are a few optional rules (chrome) as well, such as sea invasions and paratroopers but they can be introduced as the situation arises and are not available in all the the scenarios. I'm really enjoying and having fun with this game and my failing memory even allows me to play the game solo. I definitely will be playing much more of this game in the near future.
Last month I learned how to play FAB: The Bulge and had a great time with it. I was extremely pleased to be invited to help playtest FAB: Golan '73 with a number of my gaming buddies. I can't say too much about the details of the game yet except that if you're a fan of the series and the mechanisms then you're going to love this one. This game focuses on the conflict that occurred on the Golan Heights in 1973, a conflict that I'm completely unfamiliar with. During the conflict, Syrian forces surprise attacked the Israelis on the Golan Heights, intending to capture as much territory as possible.
In the game, the Syrians begin with overwhelming forces and the Israelis must slow down the attackers long enough for reinforcements to arrive. In many ways this scenario is very similar to that portrayed in FAB: The Bulge but I feel that in this game there are quite a few more options presented to both the attacker and defender in the way of asset allocation. As this is the most modern conflict in the FAB series so far, assets now include; air support ,surface to air missiles (SAMs), and electronic countermeasures (ECMs). So far the playtesting is going well and I'm having lots of fun with it. I'm looking forward to seeing how the finished product will turn out.
In case anyone is interested, check out my post for my "session report" of my first game.
I haven't played many games that were designed specifically for 3 players. The only other one that comes to mind is Maria. I think 3-player dynamics are very interesting and difficult for games to get right. The End of the Triumvirate is one of the games that I'm glad to say has figured it out. In this game, you're a senator of Rome trying to gain control over the Empire. The 3 methods of doing this are through military by gaining territory, political by gaining votes, and competence by raising your military and political skill the most. The game has fairly simple rules but the real fun lies in the interaction between the players. This game is a fine balancing act and all players should be watching what each other are doing in order to ally and intervene on the leader. The problem is that with 3 different possible victory conditions, there could be 3 potential leaders at any given time! In our game I inadvertently held on to the gold that I was generating, which it turns out is a limited resource. As a result, our economies stalled until the other players "convinced me" through military means to spend my money. In the end, I placed second. I found this game to be lots of fun as there's some fairly direct conflict in it and would enjoy playing it some more.
This month we ended off one of our gaming nights by playing a few rounds of Loopin' Louie. I wasn't expecting much from this game, with it being a kids game readily available at Toys R' Us. However, I was pleasantly surprised. As far as dexterity games go, this is a fun one. For more info on the actual game itself, I would suggest that everyone read the BGG entry for the game, which pretty much says it all. A quick warning though. If you have an aversion to player elimination games, you might want to stay away from this one! However, the game plays so quickly that you'll be setting it up for a rematch in no time. I actually enjoyed this game so much that I'm going to pick up a copy of it to add to our collection for Family Game Night.
I'm not too big on abstract games in general and Clans definitely has an abstract feel to it. To begin the game, you are dealt card with a color on it, representing your hidden victory condition. If the color on the card scores the most points at the end of the game, you win. During the game you consolidate huts from different areas of the board in order to isolate a number of huts with empty surrounding territory. The huts then become a settlement and points are scored in various ways. Huts may not move into empty areas, so there's the potential for some indirect conflict as you can cut off some huts, which will become isolated and not score. When nothing on the board can move anymore, the game is over, the hidden victory conditions are checked, and the winner is determined. For me, the hidden victory conditions really make this game enjoyable. If not for that, I would find the game a bit too cry for my tastes. However, you're constantly trying to determine the motives of your opponents' actions. In our 3 player game I managed to do surprisingly well but still only came in second. I did enjoy myself with this game and would play it again.
I didn't even know that Fantasy Flight had created Quicksand until I played it for the first time. This is a racing game where adventurers are trying to race to get to a treasure. Similar to CLANS (see above), the game begins with you receiving a card indicating which color team you need to promote in order to win the game. During the game, you're given a hand of cards with which to activate colored teams of adventurers. Collecting a set of the same color results in you being able to move a team member farther in one turn. The kicker is that the team member you move is based on the color of the cards. So, you could potentially move an opponent's team member into a hazardous area and stall their movement. This was a nice light filler game and we had fun playing it, although I don't think it would be something I would actively search for to add to my collection.
As I grow older, I know that my memory abilities are slowly fading away. I'm beginning to suffer from farsightedness. My hearing is getting worse. But none of these ailments explain away why I suck at Ghost Blitz so badly! In this fairly quick game, there are 5 wooden objects of different colors that are placed on the table. A red couch, grey rat, white ghost, blue book, and green bottle. See? I remembered that from my one play 20 odd days ago. A deck of cards are then placed in the middle of the table and the first card is revealed. Each card has a picture with all five items in it. If the item on the table is represented in the picture in the proper color, the first person to grab that item from the table wins the card. However, if the picture does not contain any of the items with their corresponding colors, then you must choose the color or item from the table that is NOT represented by the picture. Finally, if you choose the wrong item, you must give a card to the player who ends up choosing the right item. At the end of the game each card counts as 1 point. All I can say is ... moo? Before I knew it the game was over and my 2 opponents each scored in the 20s and 30s. I think I ended up scoring a whopping 6 points. I guess my brain is just not wired for a game of this sort. And to top it all off, I'm certain that the white ghost was taunting me all throughout the game.
8 new to me games this month and 2 new to me expansions.
Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York - I traded for this game back in August, and finally got a chance to try it. Unfortunately, we only had three players, so I didn't get to experience all that it had to offer, but it was fun, and a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. An area majority game where everyone's actions are done in secret. Hope to try with four players soon.
Suburbia - Always on the lookout for a board game version of SimCity, this is a fun town-building game, though kind of abstract. This might be more strategical with only two players, but with four, you can't really plan anything in advance, and you just have to take the best of what's available on your turn, which makes it a little luck-based since they may or may not fit your town's strategy. It is still a lot of fun though.
Incan Gold - I've heard a bit about this game here on BGG, and finally getting to play it, this was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. Simple game, but it's a blast when you've got a lot of treasure accumulated and don't know if you should leave the temple or "let it ride".
Escape: The Curse of the Temple - Frantic! This is a great filler, and the time seems to just fly by when you're playing this one. Everyone rolling dice at the same time in order to drop off gems and move from room to room. Only played with the basic tiles, haven't tried any of the curses yet.
Rune Age - Only played the co-op scenario for this one, which is extremely tough. I like how the decks are separate for each player, with cards to buy that complement each other, although that might reduce the replay value on this one somewhat. Will have to try the other scenarios to get a good idea of this.
Shear Panic - This is pretty much an abstract game, where the sheep must stay together (like in Hive) and you use your limited moves to rearrange the herd in certain ways to get points for yourself and hopefully make it tougher for the other players to get points.
Dragon's Gold - A set collecting game where you must negotiate with others how to split the treasure that they helped you get. If you can't come up with an agreement, than you get nothing. It helps to have a good memory to try to remember who has what, in order to keep the other players from getting majorities and scoring a lot of points.
Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery - This game seems to be loved by quite a bit of people, but it didn't work so well with us. It seemed that whoever got a good fighter and/or weapon dominated in the arena and got a lot of points. Although, with our first time, we were bidding on pretty much everything because we really had no idea of what was available or what was good, so it probably just takes more experience with the game.
Bohnaparte - This Bohnanza expansion was a lot easier to implement than I thought it would. It basically adds a map and one extra step to the game, which turns this into a little war game, where the money you earn from planting beans allows you to fund your attacks on different areas of the map. Different areas give you different advantages or powers, and are all worth points to determine the winner at the end of the game. Pretty cool for a change of pace with this game.
The Castles of Burgundy: New Player Boards - These boards are pretty challenging if you play by the new rules and not just use it as a regular board. With the new rules, you can't expand as much as before, so it really makes you focus on getting certain tiles. I liked it, though my wife wasn't a big fan of these restrictions.
It was a good start to the year, with plenty of gaming still to go!
January was actually a good month for gaming - several unexpected opportunities, and I made sure to break out a few new games. On top of that, I'm reporting on a game I've picked up on Yucata.de with at least 5 plays. Here are the new-to-me games for the month, in descending order of preference.
The Golden City
I found this game dirt-cheap at an overstock outlet, and it was definitely worth it - a real surprise. It's light on its surface, but as you play you unlock the strategies inside that make for a satisfying experience.
Players bid and collect pairs of cards to place businesses in the 4 terrain types, with each offering some benefit, such as extra cards, goods, bonus cards, and coins to outbid other players. Each round bonuses are handed out for building in certain areas, and also for having certain goods; and having the most gets you double. The one other challenge is you can't pick up the big points for the inner city unless you pick up one of the keys first - which are found in out of the way places.
This game may lack depth for hard-core gamers, but for most players this is a great little route-builder that moves at a fast pace. I liked it so much that similar games in my collection are in danger of being traded (I'm looking at you, La Strada). One potential downside is experienced players might have a leg up on novices that don't see the possible strategies - I'll be careful in teaching this going forward.
Heimlich & Co.
I recently traded away for an old copy of this game, and I'm so glad I did. It's impressive to see how well the SdJ winner from 1986 still holds up today. The game is based on such a simple concept, and it would work great with families.
This is a simple bluffing game with an ounce of deduction thrown in. Players roll a die and split the movement between the 7 detectives. Once a detective lands on the house with the secret file in it, all detectives advance the number of spaces for the house number they are in - but watch out for the Ruin, which gives negative points! The twist is that each player is secretly playing a detective, so you have to be careful who you move to throw others off the scent.
For an advanced game you can have players write down guesses as to each others' identities at the halfway point. Nice if you're into deduction, but I like the simple core of this game. A fast, pleasant filler for groups of 4 or more.
Cards Against Humanity
I'd heard such good things about this game, I was anxious to try it. And I have to say that much laughter should be illegal. Our friend literally bruised her rib laughing so hard!
The base game is just Apples to Apples, but the cards themselves are a very WRONG sense of humor. The type of humor that offends anyone and everyone equally. So check your PC attitude at the door and sit down for a great time.
The downside here could be replayability. To help with that, the rules offer a number of small variants - we especially liked "Rando Cardrissian." But these will only keep the game fresh for a bit - it becomes clear very soon that you'll want expansion cards.
This one that I learned on Yucata was a bit of a disappointment. While in the original Just4Fun there are a lot of combinations you can choose to play by adding number cards together, here it's just one of six colors. Otherwise it's the same principle - play cards to place pieces, and if a piece is already there you have to play one card more.
So in this version the luck of the draw is much more of a factor. That might not be as noticeable on the first play, but it becomes increasingly clear on more plays. Also I've noticed that with more players a stalemate becomes increasingly likely.
Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
Almost nothing new for January. In fact both of these were played on New Year's Day. Not exactly the start I wanted for my resolution to play all my unplayed games. Oh well, I had fun on the few days that I played games. And, no worries, this will pale in comparison to my February list thanks to Mittencon! As for picking a best for the month, well there were only 2, and the mini expansion wasn't spectacular enough to outshine another gem from Donald X. Vaccarino...
= Android: Infiltration - I like when I can feel the theme of a game while playing, and I love a good push-your-luck game. This one cleverly integrates the 2. Players are futuristic secret agents/spies who are breaking into a facility looking to download data files. The player who escapes with the most data wins. The way the different items allow you to break the rules makes a lot of sense thematically, the things you find in the rooms make logical sense based on the type of room, and more. Pretty much everything in this game was connected well with the theme. We played a game where 3 players easily had a chance of winning and it came down to how much data they had acquired. This was made more interesting because 2 of these 3 players almost didn't make it out of the facility (just barely slipped out using the Executive Elevator.) I loved the fact that the alarm escalates faster and faster, keeping the game fairly quick. I can't say all the reasons why, but I really enjoyed this game, and my father and I found ourselves talking about it for hours afterwards. The only downside I've noticed so far is that the items aren't exactly balanced, so some players might start with a disadvantage based on the items they were dealt at the beginning. I probably should also mention that there are a lot of opportunities to mess with your opponents, so you have to go in expecting that. Thin skins need not apply.
= We Didn't Playtest This At All: Blue Deck - I often struggle to find words to use when talking about the We Didn't Playtest expansions. I mean the base game was already pure chaotic zaniness, and the expansions just add to that. This mini-expansion, which was included in the box with We Didn't Playtest This Either, is a simple stack of cards that sit in the middle of the table and offer players another option if they don't want to play a card from their hand. They sometimes offer nothing of consequence, and at other times they can deliver an instant win/loss. Nothing super exciting is added, but nothing bad either. There are certain moments in the game when you will find yourself with cards that all put you at risk of losing, and it's nice to have something else to do on those turns. I don't see any reason not to play with these frequently in the future. They barely add anything in the way of new rules, so it should be simple to just toss these cards on the table any time we play. My biggest complaint? In this edition, the cards aren't even blue!
Games, games and more games!
Three new games this month, and I can't say I was particularly impressed by any of them. There seemed to be a theme this month - all the three new games were dice-based!
Car boot sale purchase a few months ago, that I finally got to the table, to see if it was suitable for playing with my children. As a game for adults, this wouldn't get a second chance with me - there are far better Monopoly variants. However, my children like dice rolling games, and so I will hold on to it until I get a chance to see if they enjoy it - my 5 year old did watch us play, and did look interested, but it may not be good enough to grab his attention over other games. Roll your dice, see how many points you get, and decide whether to push your luck for more.
Thie game just overstayed its welcome, and with too much downtime. On your turn you basically play Yahtzee against a monster, and if you fail something bad happens. As we discovered, there are significant advantages to dying (in fact, we couldn't win until we realised that - we were all to weak to beat up any of the monsters before that!). Might have been better with less than 5, but even then, 90 mins is too long for a game of this type - and our game went on even longer than that!
Rory's Story Cubes
Not entirely sure how to rate this. Although it's marketed as a "game", there's not really a game in there, but it is a fun activity with kids, and it's very good for them trying to make a story up from the dice they've rolled. My son received it as a birthday present for his 3rd birthday, and although he's too young to tell the stories himself, he loves choosing which dice should be used next when an adult tells him the story, and you can see him try to predict the way the story will go by which dice he picks. My oldest, at 7, has no trouble making up stories. My 5 year old isn't so sure, but made some very good efforts.
A game with a 6.00 average rating (and that includes my rating as well), the best one of the month? Well, yes, although I can’t say I have learned any great games this month, only some quite good ones. Images to be added later.
Sudoku: Duell der Meister
I know any game with Sudoku in the title sounds bad for a true gamer and upsetting to know this game was such a success that there were 100.000 copies sold in its first week of release.
But I must say I believe this is the best SuDoku board game out there.
Both players have 27 tiles (3 sets of numbers 1 to 9) and there are 9 neutral tiles placed on the board. During game, you draw a tile, you play a tile, that's it. And when you have more tiles in a row/column/3×3 square than your opponent, you win that feature. In case of a tie, highest tile wins. The first player to have won 12 features (out of 27) wins the game. The tricky part is what you can see in a handful of other Knizias including Battle Line – you can claim a feature already when you can prove your opponent can't win that feature with the tiles they still have.
And this part makes the game better than any other Knizia SuDoku games - here it's not only 'creating a SuDoku puzzle' but also you use a lot of your SuDoku solving abilities. And you even try to place your tiles in a way that your opponent can't place their last tiles of a given number (as that means losing a round for them).
Of course puzzle-solving is not everyone's cup of tea. But if that's a problem for you probably you won't play any game with SuDoku in the title. As far as SuDoku games go, it's really fine, full of tense puzzle-solving and lots of brain-burning - which fits the SuDoku name fine.
I love Samurai and really like Battle Line, my wife likes Samurai but loves Sudoku and Battle Line, and this game has a little bit of each. So it was a success at home. 7.0
An odd little game, not necessarily the most elegant one even if it’s relatively simple and very fast. It’s a kind of hodgepodge of ideas from several different games, the card placement of Saboteur, the reward system of Blue Moon City and so on. I’m not sure the game is perfectly balanced and I’m almost sure it’s quite shallow, even if you can learn some strategies and good combinations of the action cards. While the artwork is a bit confusing (overcrowded in a King’s Gate way, also the multipliers can be mistaken with the symbols they multiply etc.), the game plays in 30 minutes and for this length it’s quite enjoyable and also feels different from any other game however derivative it might be. 7.0
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Okay, I know it was already too much to rank a Sudoku game #1 but now that you can see I rank Tzolk’in only #3 this month (hey, it’s the gamers’ sweetheart from Essen ’12 and no one can stop it get into the BGG top 25 soon!) you can be sure I’m out of my mind. Yes, in some aspects even I know I’m unfair to this game. It seems to be a well-developed game. But it was such a letdown... Because however cool it looks, it's a very typical excel sheet game (manipulating columns with values until you get the most points possible).
As for the wheels: as a mechanism, they are columns made more usable. I mean, they are simply spectacular forms of columns (the game would also work if you pushed each worker down by one in a column at the end of each turn). So I don't call this a very interesting mechanism, even though it's more usable than columns and looks cool. So what is the interesting part of the mechanism? To me, it's that you EITHER put some workers there OR you take your workers off (and do the actions). This is interesting. But that's it.
The rest is something you can expect from a designer who knows and loves Agricola and Caylus. Nothing really new: familiar ideas (favor track from here, feeding your workers from there, building boring buildings, going up some tracks that score you points and give some in-game benefits), multiple ways to win, also I'm sure it's well-developed and well-balanced, only... I just felt I don't really care.
Besides the lack of interesting ideas, what I really missed was some sense of theme here. You get different looking markers but this game is not more thematic, than, say, Keltis. Agricola has lots of theme. Caylus has theme and cool mechanism ideas. Goa has a great central mechanism. Even Shipyard (another Czech game with lots of rondels, some of which always changes what actions are available for you and what aren’t) has a lot more theme and moving your ships on the river. And I’d play even Shipyard over Tzolk’in again any time. For this complexity a game needs some more theme to remain interesting and entertaining, not to mention some fresh ideas connected to the different scoring possibilities.
So no, I didn’t fall in love with Tzolk’in, however much I wanted to. 6.8
Looting London is a Ticket to Ride-like (which means Rummy-like in a way) card game which clearly has some predecessors in Knizia's ludography (Marco Polo Expedition the board game and King Arthur: The Card Game) combined with some "tricky scoring" which is actually quite usual for him since his earliest years (for example his 1992 games Modern Art and Tutankhamen both feature a version of this idea). It works fine and very fast – it takes 15 minutes to play. For a 15-minute game I think it’s interesting and fun enough. And I guess this game works best with 2 or maybe 3, but we'll see. 6.8
Three-Dragon Ante: Emperor's Gambit
This game has a rather bad color palette (see the game gallery), all the different suits having some different, slightly colored shades of gray – at least the original Three-Dragon Ante (which this one is a sequel and a standalone expansion to) had really different colors for the cards, so it is easier to learn all the effects of the different dragon cards faster there.
Otherwise the mechanism of this game is not bad (which is said to be a bit like Lords of Scotland) but it still has some problems. I find the role of luck too high when buying cards – you buy 3 cards for a price dictated by a randomly drawn card that you won’t even get, so this price can be 1 to 13 (I always bought cards for 5 to 10 “coins” while the only time I saw an opponent buy cards was for 1 coin…). But even this is not as big a problem as the fact that the game can last way longer than it should. During our play it was mentioned that Lords of Scotland lasts 10 rounds; this game lasts until someone doesn’t have any money in the end of a round. As most cards are about drawing cards or getting money – quite often from the player with the most cards – it might happen that you play for hours before the game ends. We played for one and a half hour I believe and it did overstay its welcome. 6.6
Labyrinth meets Pachisi in this no-dice children’s game where you have to make your 4 animals get to the island on the other end of the board, mostly using the rivers that move like roads move in Labyrinth. More thinky than Pachisi, less thinky than Labyrinth, and maybe more exciting than the latter for this age group. I have never heard of this game before so it was a quite pleasant surprise for a children’s game.
Another ghosts/magnets Drei Magier game with some very simple mechanism but a fun look of a big wheel that is turned so there are ghosts that appear and make your pawns jump if they are frightened by these ghosts. It’s not bad, but too easy with 2 and too hard with 4…
Last year I have already mentioned this game which is a tin box of 37 cards and rules for 4 games, suggested age: 4+. Last year I found out only the first game, a very simple shedding game is for 4-year-olds, the other three are for older kids (Top Trumps 6+ and two other Knizia titles for 7+ and 8+). But this January, when I added the compendium to the database I checked the other rules and found out we could play the 8+ game with my 4-year-old – it’s quite similar to Cheeky Monkey (the variant of CM suggested for smallest kids) which we have played a few times since Christmas. So yes, we played it without problem. Then I tried the 7+ game as well (using the variant suggested for smaller kids in this box) which is a kind of Poison-like trick avoidance game and this one was certainly not good for a 4 yrs& 4months old kid yet. Strange age suggestions. Also none of the rules are satisfactory as written: each one of them leaves some questions unanswered. Well, this game is certainly not aimed at gamer groups, although it can be moderately fun for those who don’t know the predecessors.
Easy peasy this month as to what the best game is, and that's with playing a few great new games as well!!
Dominare - 5 Plays - 9/10
Oh Dominare, how do I love thee???? Let me count the ways. I loved this game so much that I bought Courtier and will most likely buy Mercante, and will DEFINITELY buy Love Letters. I got killed game after game at this, and came back for more because it is so brilliant! You pick out your Conspiracy and watch it get defeated turn after turn, as other people play their conspiracy that has a similar path but in such a different way. We have yet to have a game come in at under 2 and a half hours, and I surprisingly have no problem with that. To the point that if you look at times this game has been played in January I am at the #1 spot!!! My friend Jeff (who owns the game) doesn't log his games or he would have the spot!
Lords of Waterdeep - 1 Play - 8.5/10
Yeah I know all the reasons you hate this game. And every reason you don't like it are the reasons I do. I like that it's simple, and relatively basic, and that instead of adventurer figurines I have cubes (actually I would prefer the figurines... you are right here). My bro-in-law, who is a huge D&D geek, loved this game as well. We got the feeling of finishing quests. I get the abstract nature of this game, but the artwork and such still sucked me in. More of this. I cannot believe the great games I have been playing lately. It blows my mind!
Sentinels of the Multiverse - 2 Plays - 7.5/10
I really liked Sentinels. I had played Legendary first (and I know they aren't even close to being the same game, but they kind of feel kinda similar) and prefer Legendary for that reason alone! I think if I sat down with the rule book and figured out the game for myself I would see that it is a better game, and I will play this game almost anytime it is requested... well unless Dominare or Legendary are the other options.
Courtier - 1 Play - 7.5/10
Again a very good game. I like that it plays quicker than Dominare but having a similar feel... It's a very different game, with different mechanics, but for some reason gives me the feeling of Dominare. It's the Tempest setting but I am fine with boiling it down to that essence. Another game I will play very happily. In fact I want to play it more to see how it plays out differently on subsequent plays.
Ricochet Robots - 1 Play - 7/10
A fun little brain burner. It took a little to get into the groove of this, but when we did it sailed along well for the 2 newbies. The veteran sailed form the beginning. It could have gotten frustratingly bad if not for us finally clicking with how to get those robots around the board. I want to find it. Not desperate for it, but a definite "Like to Own".
Shadow Hunters - 1 Play - 7/10
Another decent game. I can even see my rating for this one going up a little. It was easy to get, including the strategy behind the game. We all figured out pretty quickly who each other were. I will gladly get this game out to fill in half an hour at a game night. Although there are better games out there, that scratches the same itch. But that doesn't mean I won;t whip this puppy out again.
I was surprised by just how impressed I was with this game. A description of the rules really does not do it justice, and it needs to be played a couple of times for the players to appreciate the powers of their characters, but, once this is up and running, it is a real battle of wits with a play time short enough to enable a few games in a single sitting.
What is so clever about this game is the imbalance between the sides, and the way that the theme comes to life. The dark side has strength while the light side needs to think laterally and sacrifice pieces in order to protect Frodo. In fact, after my first session of playing this I did the unthinkable and subjected myself to the Peter Jackson films once again so that could understand the strengths of the different characters better, and I am no doubt that this game, taut and lean, is by far the better LOTR experience.
Neither my partner nor I are fully conversant with Middle Earth, but this game does such a good job of drawing in the player that it seems set to stay in our collection and garner many more plays before the year is out. I am hopeful that it might even achieve the impossible and open my other half's eyes to assymetric confrontation games.
An extremely fine game without a doubt, but one which initially turned out not to be right for us. We played two games of this, both of which took quite some time, and at the end neither of us felt very much as if we had been involved in a tussle, nor that we had really had fun. Sad to say, I had no real desire to play this again after twice through.
I felt bad about this, as there is so much support for this game, and the designer is such an active member of the game's pages. I sat down, read many of his posts about the game, cleared up a couple of issues with the rules and we decided to give this a third run through, just in case.
This time we decided to use the full rules, as recommended by Andrew in various threads, as it seemed unfair to dismiss the game without playing it "properly". Even with what seemed like a tiny change (drafting 2 cards out of 16) the game had much more of a narrative and a sense of direction to it and, even in the middle, we remarked that we were enjoying it much more and wholly engaged with the experience, using our growing knowledge to pick moves with more cunning and long-term goals in mind.
We both agreed that we were glad to have played this for a third time, and that there is more to be uncovered. It went, in the space of ninety minutes, from being on the trade pile to being a probable keeper, and is one of the very few games which has earned its place in our collection after such a rocky start, and I will bear this in mind in the future.
To be brutally honest, had Andrew not been so active on these forums, promoting, explaining and supporting his game in such an open fashion I would not have given this a third chance, but, guess what, I didn't want to let him down. There's a moral in there somewhere, but it also didn't help that it was described so often as a cross between Dominion and Race For The Galaxy. For me it is much closer to the latter, but you cycle through your deck only two or three times in the game, making even the small decisions critical. As with so many things, simple pigeonholing does not help.
I am sure that I am still missing critical combos and links between cards, but this game has drawn me in.
This is easily the best game that I have played in January. Been having ongoing battles with my son a few nights. So far he has won a majority of these, but I think the tide is changing.
I liked the way not only each side plays different, but also the different factions/personalities for each side. We've been working through all the decks. Maybe someday soon we'll try the deck building aspect of this which should add another layer of fun.
The best party game for my group would be this. We have some fantastic artists in our group while my stick figures get me by.
Always a good laugh with this one.
A fine month for new games. No disappointments and my initial rating for five of the seven new-to-me-games is a good one. Out of the good ones, I've chosen Village which is the most likely to see repeated plays. Greentown is too mean, Capitol is too old, Il Vecchio feels too old and Catan Geograpies: Germany is too Catan to qualify for the title.
Game of the Month
Village: (2 plays)
Village is a worker placement / action selection game that convinces by solid gameplay coupled with the extraordinary setting of everyday life in a medieval city, i.e. you are not building a cathedral but instead your folks are working, praying and dying. Especially the time mechanism for dying is unique enough to justify yet another worker placement game. Beside that, there are various ways to victory, the game end can be timed by the deaths of workers and there are many small races to be ahead one step of others to make Village stand out from the masses. Rating might increase with more plays.
Greentown: (1 play)
Wow, is this a brainburner. Players don't have many turns but a single turn can easily take five minutes or more when players get caught in their optimization effort. While Greentown can be played by focussing on one's own routes I guess it really shines once players are more familiar with the game and start playing mean. By then it will be clear why this game caters best to the Winsome crowd. Must be most satisfying when players manage to force someone into a move that benefits themselves more than the active player himself.
Il Vecchio: (1 play)
Il Vecchio is an old-fashioned design up to using the most boring of all eurogame themes, renaissance families vying for power in Italy. On their turn, players choose one out of five actions all of which are rather simple. Rarely, I have played a non-trivial game where turns went as quick as here. There's only one breaking feature in the game which is the choosing of special tiles when players introduce one of their meeples on one of the region/Florence tracks. The iconography of the tiles is so diverse and not self-explicable that players will need much time to choose one (out of five or more) because of having to read up the meaning of each single tile.
Gameplay itself reminded me vaguely of a Hansa Teutonica lite. It seems well-balanced as our scores were very close. Maybe too balanced? Once players know the available VP tiles it should be possible to play more focussed to generate the deciding efficiency advantage. Not quite a hidden gem from Essen 2012 but a solid game that's worth more attention than it gets.
Capitol: (1 play)
Capitol is so 2001 but that's not a bad thing. Its two main components area control and auctions are out of fashion but they were popular once and there's no reason why such a game shouldn't be worthwile playing in 2013 anymore. Inherently, there's a heavy dose of conflict as players vie for control of the 9 prefectures. It's a game of forcing other players to commit first through efficient usage of one's own resources to have the last word in majority decisions. As usual for this type of game, players have to choose their battles wisely as the key to victory is investing low for second place and win where you invest highly. The minor details such as three "currencies" and two different shapes of roofs add enough decision space for allowing clever moves. Still a good game today, although play numbers show that Capitol has fallen from grace more than other comparable games from this period such as San Marco or Taj Mahal.
Trivia: The card draw mechanism was recycled in Fifth Avenue, the bidding mechanism in Merry Men of Sherwood.
Catan Geographies: Germany: (1 play)
A nice diversion from ordinary Catan that's even a bit lighter than plain Catan. The fixed map limits replayability. Trading seems less prominent as players always can change 3:1 and don't need a port for it. The game is also a bit shorter as players already start with three points and the landmarks are cheaper to build than cities. It's a bit lower on strategy as the lack of upgrading and the prerogative to build a town / landmark before roads can be continued beyond them reduces alternatives. Except for Settlers afficionados and game collectors there's no reason to own this in addition to Catan. Still a good game though.
Myrmes: (1 play)
While Myrmes is a well-designed game, it's too strategic, i.e. too much long-term engine-building for my liking. It is a pet peeve of mine but it always troubles me when there are certain things you have to do in building up your engine if you want to have success. Here, it seems to be a must to clear out additional levels in your hive early and also to place special tiles on the board to generate resources throughout the game. Don't get me wrong, there are enough other things to consider like the objectives to make this a game worth playing. It's just one of these titles where my subjective enjoyment stays behind it's objective strengths. The awful although usual design for Ystari for the board and tiles doesn't help here.
Fifth Avenue: (1 play)
Fifth Avenue has a lot of deficits which make it one of the least popular Alea Big Boxes. It's a dry auction game, the design is drab, the card colours almost indistinguishable, it's fragile as the game might end prematurely with inexperienced players that only build shops.
But once players get past these hindrances, there's an interesting and unique game waiting. Benefitting from partnerships and setting up the board to your profit is a challenging task. The game's core of delayed multiple auctions in a row is original although it can get exhausting. It's a bit similar to Taj Mahal that you want to be prepared for the coming auctions as well but sometimes you have to win a certain auction for the cost of spending most of your hand which dimishes your chances for the next auctions close to zero.
Still, due to the various drawbacks and the difficulty of getting the right group to play, Fifth Avenue doesn't rise above an ok rating.
Every Man a (K-State) Wildcat!
"Just get that sucka to the designated place at the designated time and I will gladly designate his ass...for dismemberment!" - Sho Nuff.
Solid month. One exceptional game and the others were good.
Campaign Commander Volume II: Coral Sea
How the heck did this one fly under the radar? This is a wonderful system and it works great in this theme.
The mechanics are refreshing. It is some type of hybrid between chit pull and card driven game with a dash of resource management. Most of all, this game will teach you the importance of logistics: to the point that you'll probably re-start your first game really early: not because you screwed up the rules, but because you realized just how little wargames capture this important concept: you aren't keeping a traceable supply line open. You are physically carrying around supplies in order to launch operations.
It uses bluffing and card management as well. The chit play to open the turn is very clever. The combat is also original and fun. One minor gripe that a few folks have is that a couple times per game, you can run into a really big battle that becomes prolonged with dice. But if I spend a long time planning a major operation, I would feel short changed to see the entire battle come down to just one die roll. The battles use a clever chit pull system with a give-and-take, and because these prolonged battles are so rare, it is really not a problem, because it more that pays off with how refreshingly innovative it is.
For more, read my review.
Note: this game is so sweet that I am in the process of creating a VASSAL module for it.
Very cool. Sure the theme won't work (WWI never ended? How could Germany maintain that economically?) but I don't care, because this is Ameritrash and I want THEME, not reality. If I want reality, I'll play a wargame
So what's to like about it? Great plastic! (Mmmmm...plastic!) Selecting packs (leadership, combat, etc) for your characters creates lots of replay options in the same scenario. The board is great. The color coded circles to determine line-of-sight is genius!!! Adding footprints to spaces with increased movement point requirments...genius!
The only less-than-perfect parts are that it can sometimes be hard to tell what spaces are adjacent (couldn't they have connected the spaces?) and the rulebook (2nd edition) appeared to be a mess and confirms what so many say about FFG. It has a few too many chits (blaspheme!) because if you choose the weapon pack, a simple template works better than individual pieces -- at least for pieces that are not transferable, and set-up can take a long time.
But these are minor quables, because this game ROCKS!!!! If you like Earth Reborn, GET THIS GAME!!!
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game:
I played two games of the co-op: one against the Nazis and once against the mobsters. I enjoyed it. It wasn't that difficult, but the mobsters could have made it really interesting if the temple hadn't collapsed on their leader. But I enjoyed the narrative. You could always make it more difficult by changing the amount of fortune required to win or the number on the track required for victory by the board.
I would like to try to the competitive game, but I think there should be a mechanism that allows the board to win and all players to lose, just to add an added touch of drama.
My rating reflects what I played, but I think with a very slight tweak mentioned above, this thing could be even more intense and go higher. Overall though, it was an enjoyable playing experience.
Cold War: CIA vs KGB:
A fun filler. It combines press your luck and card management. The agents add the wild card that gives it the necessary spice.
Exodus: Proxima Centauri
Exodus is an incredible game. Fast playing, continuous forward momentum, battles galore, negotiation and backstabbing BUT with the worst components I've seen in a modern game. To make matters worse the art and graphic design are weak. This game is crying out for Fantasy Flight treatment.
However once you get past that it's incredible. It's almost everything I wanted Eclipse to be, bar the simpler economic system and lack of exploration. At its heart this is a game of fighting and conquering. There's no other ways to score points and this keeps everyone in the same mindset. No one is upset that their peaceful research centric empire was invaded and no lucky tile draws, no lucky chit pulls for VP.
My one complaint is that ship customization adds little to these games in terms of fun but much in complexity. Let's have more negotiation, more exploration, backstabbing, civilization elements or just exploding starts and upstart aliens. With better production quality and a few tweaks this could be a 10.
There are very few euros that are totally awesome but this is one of them. Even if you don't like euros I think this is one worth checking out.
My initial impression was that this was pretty complex but the more I think about it more I think this is a big, dumb game. And I love it! Or it might just be that there is a thematic and logical flow to the game and the designers didn't purposefully obfuscate things with silly resource conversion systems so that I think it's simpler than it really is. Regardless there's plenty of strategy, tactics and tough decisions to keep everyone engaged. There's no take that elements and only a little action and location denial. I do wish there was a second map but the variety of races will keep the game engaging for a while.
Production and theme are wonderfully handled though the box art is less impressive.
Unfortunately my love of big, long games (by euro standards) isn't universally shared so if I do buy this it won't get as much play as I would like.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple & Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Expansion 1: Illusions escape
I don't like cop-ops and this doesn't change my mind. However it is part of that second generation of co-ops that actually allow individual choices rather than having to abide by the prevailing group think. For that reason alone it's refreshing. Only lasting 10 minutes also means it doesn't outstay it's welcome. Illusions makes it a little more interesting and is probably worth having just to increase the game's longevity.
Agents of SMERSH
Having never played a storytelling game before this was interesting and whilst I had fun it's not something I'd choose to play. As such take my opinion with a liberal sprinkling of salt. The decisions on the game map are clearly quite important and the players shouldn't be too aggressive. The decisions in the story segments are much harder to judge. Honestly I never had *any* idea what difference a given choice would make. As such it felt random.
An abstract tile laying game with cool 3D pieces. It's good, not world changing.
A mix of elements I love and elements I don't. The worker movement and how that ties in with the middlemen and activating locations is brilliant. Very interesting system which impressed me. Less impressive were the special power tiles that you receive from placing workers in cities. It felt like getting the right tile combinations decided the game. The tile that allows a person to place two workers instead of one seemed overpowered to receive as a starting power. Better knowledge of the game would probably fix that but it left a bitter taste.
I liked this but my partner didn't and so it won't see the light of day again. I love how the dice rolling and theme make it feel like an ancient gambling game. There's a large element of luck in the card draws that can't always be mitigated but I enjoyed my short time with it.
I went into this with low expectations and nothing I saw changed my mind. It's your run of the mill worker placement euro. It just so happens that your workers die whenever they do anything. It plays fairly quickly as most of it can be done simultaneously. The theme did nothing for me and the presentation/production was good but not great. I don't know why this got so much buzz.
A decent deduction game where Jack is trying to escape the board and each character has a special power. It plays quickly enough and will stick around for a bit.
In order of preference
A pretty solid month of gaming for me. Not a ton of plays, but I did get to try a few games I've been dying to play for some time. My favorite new to me game of the month has to be El Grande. Obviously, the reputation of this game preceded it by quite a bit. I've seen it described as the quintessential area control/area majority game and that is most certainly the case. The gameplay itself is quite simple. Each round starts with players playing power cards to determine turn order and reinforcements to your supply. The more powerful turn order cards have fewer reinforcements, so it balances quite well. After that, players take turns placing cubes by selecting action cards with a certain number of cube placements allowed along with a special power for each card that may or may not be executed. It's an elegant game and incredibly tense. There isn't too much in the way of a catchup mechanism, but people do tend to focus the abilities on the leader, so it balances itself out that way. Some players in the group weren't as enamored with the game as I was, but I really enjoyed it. It's not the most thematic game, but it has a great tension from turn to turn and some interesting strategy. Also, you have to love the Castillo tower. Great component.
Here's a strange game. I essentially view Love Letter as a party game that plays up to 4 players. It has this strange feel like a party game, if played with the right group. It's not the deepest in terms of strategy, but there's some really entertaining deduction and bluffing elements. There are certainly a good number of turns where you have essentially no choice in what card to play from your hand of 2 cards, but the rounds go so quickly no one seems to mind. There's a really good amount of gameplay here and just the right amount of strategy for a game this light. There's really no deep strategy. The game is very tactical and very, very random. That may be why I get a party game vibe from it. There was one round where I got eliminated because a player just randomly guessed my card before I even got a turn, but that sort of random silliness added to the fun for me. Regardless, it's a good time if you have the right group of people. It's definitely not a good game to play with overly competitive people. If you go in understanding the lightness of the game, it's great fun for such a small package. Will definitely have to seek it out.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Another game that's been getting a good bit of hype on BGG and deservedly so. I was actually a big fan of Space Alert despite the fact that I traded it away. The concept is a novel one and it was a very interesting game. Unfortunately, the learning curve was a bit on the steep side if you didn't have a regular group willing to play it. So the idea of another real-time co-op that's simpler and faster was really appealing to me. A co-worker brought Escape in and we gave it a go. The game takes a few minutes to explain and 10 minutes to play. It's 10 very frantic minutes, though. Having a real-time co-op really solves the dominant player issue. The gameplay with the dice was very straightforward and gave you enough in the way of interesting decisions to keep everyone engaged throughout. We only played this once, but I already have my copy on order.
King of Tokyo: Power Up!
Everyone I've played it with has loved King of Tokyo, but without fail, almost everyone asks if the powers for each creature are different. In the base game, they are not, but the Power Up! expansion solves this by giving each creature a unique deck of cards with unique powers. The really nice touch is that to draw a power you need to roll three hearts. Heart rolls early in the game always seemed like a weak point, so this fixes that and adds yet another decision when rolling your dice. The powers are strong enough to be compelling without being game breaking. Overall, a really nice addition to a great game.
Aton presents something that would seem to be a contradiction in terms, an area majority game for two players. I haven't really seen this done very often. The only other game I can think of that does this is King of Siam, but there you don't have direct control over any one faction. In Aton, which I learned about via an older UFBRT video review, you use your hand of four numbered cards to secretly queue up actions. It's deceptively simple and yet there's a good tension to every turn of the game. Definitely one of the more unique games I've played. I really like how you can control the pacing of the game and, to some degree, when scoring rounds happen.
Junta: Viva el Presidente!
Last, but certainly not least, is Junta: Viva El Presidente. A very quick playing negotiation/dice rolling game. We only played this once and I was a bit surprised to find that the Presidente role didn't change as often as I expected. The game plays very smoothly and can be quite entertaining from round to round. It's not the deepest game, but it's pretty fun.
Board Game: Coup
[Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:382]
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Core Worlds--Base Game-- Plays: 1Winner
: The "Least Like a Deck-Builder"
I pre-ordered this way back in 2011, and then promptly never got around to playing it once I received it. I pre-ordered it because it was a deck-builder, but I had a hard time grokking the game from the rules, and I never felt comfortable bringing the game out to try to teach it. This month, I had an opportunity to play it where someone else taught it, and I understood why I had a hard tie figuring it out: There is a lot of stuff going on in this game. So much so that it winds up not feeling like a deck-builder at all.
For one thing, the cards are purchased from a face-up set of at least 12 cards, instead of purchasing from a set group of cards. For another, the currency used here is used to draft, attack, and deploy, so that part of the game is more resource management than deck-building. There's also the issue of having to keep up with energy used to draft a card versus energy used to deploy it, and tracking the strength of your ground and fleet troops among what's in your hand, what's in front of you, and what's available in the drafting area. It's not necessarily complex, but it is a lot to track and keep up with over the course of the game, so it was nice to have someone teach it to us.
Now, everywhere you look -- the Stronghold Website, the game entry, discussions in the thread -- you'll see the game described as a deck-builder, but all of that fiddliness overwhelms the fact that this is a resource management game with a deck-building mechanism. Depending on what you think about deck-building games, this can be good or bad. For me, the game becomes a bit overwhelming for what I expect out of a deck-building game. I mean, even A Few Acres of Snow is more straightforward and accessible than Core Worlds.
The game also takes an extraordinarily long time to play, for what it is. Our first game took 2.5 hours, namely because of the time it took for all the players to read and understand all the cards that were available to draft. You put out at least 12 cards each round, but there have to be at least 6 of each type of card, all of which are shuffled into the same deck. This means that you can have 5 cards of one type, and then draw 15 of the other type before you get that sixth card you need to even out the numbers. On the one hand, this makes the turns last even longer; on the other, it means that one particular type of card overwhelms the game for a little while and you can't really plan for it.
There were other mechanical things that didn't make sense to me -- you have to decide how much energy you want to spend before you see what's going to be available to buy that turn -- and overall the game was just disappointing. If you're one of those gamers who feel that Dominion is more a mechanism looking for a game, then you might find what you want in Core Worlds. If you're the type of gamer who thinks that deck-building should be fast and frantic, look elsewhere. Shoot, if you're looking for a deck-builder, look elsewhere, as this isn't really that type of game at all. I don't even think it should be advertised as such a game, really.
I only played one game of Core Worlds this month, and that included this expansion, but the added parts to the base game from the expansion are easy to pick out, and it's easy to see how they affect how the base game plays. For one, the galactic orders add yet another thing to track in a game that's already packed full of things to track. I'm not sure how important it is to keep up with that (I barely paid attention to it, but I didn't win, either), but I didn't need one more thing to manage in this game.
The expansion also adds some event cards that temporarily change the rules of the game. Those seem to work fine in cooperative games, but I find that in competitive games, they tend to give one player an edge over everyone else. Since there's no way to plan for which one comes out, when they come out, or for how long it will be in effect, they wind up being more annoying than anything else.
The additions make the game even more tactical, and extend the length of the game. Fans of the base game might like it, but me? Pass.
Coup--Base Game-- Plays: 10Winner
: The "Best Poker Face Wins"
I've been really interested in Love Letter since I first heard about it, so when I heard folks talking post-Essen about Coup, I paid attention. It seemed like a similar game (short, with a bluffing element using influence), and while I wondered if they would be different enough to justify owning both, I then remembered that I once owned Formula Dé, Formula Dé Mini, and Formula D all at the same time, and wondered who I was trying to fool.
The gameplay of Coup is about as straightforward and simple as it needs to be. Each player is dealt two face-down character cards and takes two coins. Each turn, players choose an action. Three actions are base actions that don't require a character, but the other five actions are associated with characters. The kicker is that you can take any of those five actions, even if you don't have that character to support it. The game is in the challenges. You can claim that you have a Duke to take more money, but if someone challenges you and you don't have it, you have to turn over one of your characters. If someone challenges you and you do have the character, the challenger turns one of his cards face-up. Character cards stay face-up even after players are eliminated, so you can track which ones are still in play. If both characters of your character are face-up, you're out of the game, and whoever is left with at least one face-down character at the end of the game wins. And that's all there is to the game.
As for how it plays, it should go without saying that if you don't like bluffing games, then Coup isn't for you. If you do, then you'll find a nice, tense game of trying to figure out how to manage the other players based on what characters you have. It's still not a perfect game, though. It seems like your best time to bluff is at the start of the game, when the roles haven't been firmly established among the players, and that as the game progresses, your chances of successfully bluffing someone go down sharply. Near the end of the game, it becomes one where you have to use different tactics to take out your opponents based on the distribution of characters. This isn't a bad thing, but it does mean that it's possible to get into a situation where one player has won the game a few turns before the game actually ends.
That being said, I feel like we haven't really plumbed the depths of how to play all the different combinations of characters, and I do wonder if having a better grasp of how they combine will prevent any known-winner conditions. I'm still not sure how I feel about the 7-money insta-kill part of the game (I understand its necessity, but I'm not sure how much I like it), but right now I'm still very interested in playing the game some more. And until the second printing of Love Letter, I expect that will have to suffice.
I see this on clearance a lot, enough so that I've actually owned this at one point in the past. I wound up selling it off without ever having played it, but someone else in my group has it, too, so the opportunity to finally play it came up this past month. And now I understand why I see this on clearance a lot.
I had a bad feeling about it when, during the explanation of the rules, I heard exceptions (towns have to be at least two track spaces away from other towns, unless, you know, the board develops in such a way as to make it unavoidable), things you have to remember without any reminders from the game itself (if you enter a curve, subtract two from your total movement, and then roll a die and hope to get higher than the result), and rules that just didn't make a lot of sense, thematically (if you stop in a city while carrying a good, you have to drop it, regardless of color, but if you stop in a city while not carrying a good, you can pick one up and hold it until you leave). Then there was the whole luck issue with the die, which seemed arbitrary to me. And the game itself took about 90 minutes, which seemed like way too long a game for what we were doing on our turns.
Another thing that was frustrating about the game is that there were several turns where we just didn't have a good move to play. A lot of the game is not placing a tile in a way to benefit the other players before you get a chance to use it yourself, and if your tiles don't help you in any way, you're just stuck. The game is also slow to develop, since you have to have steam to move, and you can only accumulate steam by spending turns to get, at most, two at a time. It's possible to get four on one turn, but you have to spend steam to get to a water tower, then spend a turn doing nothing but getting those four steam, and then spend more steam to get back to where you can do something useful. It just winds up being more frustrating than anything else.
The game only plays to 13 points, and the game takes about 90 minutes to play (at least, for us it did), so your accumulation will be slow going. If you wind up in a portion of the board where the colors of the goods and cities don't match, then you can expect to spend about 12 turns getting everything you need to complete a delivery. The last time I felt like I was waiting forever to get anything done, I was renewing my driver's license.
This is just a total mess of a game. I could overlook some aspects if it had a better game buried beneath its mechanisms, but all together, there are too many aspects to its design that are working against it. It's not exciting, it's not engaging, and it's just not fun.
Allow me to list a handful of things that I don't like in the games I play:
- Uncontrolled randomness
- Time constraints
Allow me to also list a handful of things that makes Escape such a fun game to play:
- Uncontrolled randomness
- Time constraints
Granted, Escape is more an experience game than a strategy game, but all those characteristics together add up to make a great experience. We lost both games we played, but still had a blast as we tried to keep track of who was in which room, and of course there were many, many times when one of us would shout, "I have a yellow mask!" in the hopes that someone would need it.
The decisions to be made in the game aren't that taxing -- which room to enter, whether to set aside dice or reroll them, who to use a yellow mask if more than one person in a room needed them -- but the game isn't all that much about the decisions. This is a game for a group of friends to play when they just want to do something together and act goofy. And it succeeds quite well at it, I should add.
The soundtrack is good and bad, in that it's very thematic, and the building tension of the music as you're racing to get back to the central room before the door closes adds a lot to the experience, but it's also hard to make out which sounds are necessary and which are superfluous the first time you play. I understand that the website for the game offers a track that removes all but the necessary sounds, and I think that would be a good track to use for the first few games.
So, even if you don't like real-time, chaotic, random, cooperative games, you should give it a go. You just might be surprised.
Get Bit!--Base Game-- Plays: 1Winner
: The "Mindlessly Chaotic? Almost."
This is a game about outswimming your opponents so you don't get eaten by a shark, and it comes with little articulated people whose limbs come off. If you come into this game expecting a deep strategy game, then you're only going to be disappointed. But if you come into it looking for a short, satisfying game of tactics and silliness ... well, you might be disappointed.
In the game, everyone has identical sets of numbered cards, and those cards determine in which order you move up to the front of the line. Any players who play the same number don't move at all, and whoever ends up at the back of the line gets one limb removed from his figure. Once all limbs are gone, you're out of the game, and the last person standing wins.
It reminds me a little bit of Tiki Topple, but it's not quite as thoughtful a game. Tiki Topple is similar in the way that you're maneuvering your pieces in the order, but it's more about getting yourself into a particular position at the end of the round. With the cards you have, it's fun to figure out how to play them to do just that. In Get Bit!, it's more about looking at what everyone else has played and trying to get higher in the order than them. This works pretty well until you realize that any time someone is bitten, or any time a player only has one card left, they get back all the cards they played. Then it becomes a game of wild guessing again.
Like I said above, it's not completely mindless, but it's not exactly well in your control, either. I wasn't thrilled with the game, but I wouldn't refuse to play it again. It moves quickly, and it encourages a lot of silly table talk and roleplaying. It's a fun diversion, so long as you're not looking for something to challenge your brain.
Get Bit!: Pink Robot--Mini-Expansion--Plays: 1Winner
: The "Most Pointless Mini-Expansion
The rules state that this mini-expansion isn't intended to add a seventh player to the game. "Pshaw!" we said, and did it anyway. I mean, it's not like the base game has a delicate balance of complex mechanisms that can be thrown off by adding another element to the algorithm. It's a dang outrace-the-shark-and-each-other game. Besides, otherwise what is this mini-expansion for?
Libertalia--Base Game-- Plays: 1Winner
: The "I'd Play It Again, But I Won't Seek It Out"
The quote for the award above was taken from another player after our first play of the game this month, and it was a sentiment echoed by the other three players in the game. It really sums up our experience, which is a shame, since I see that the game has a pretty good reputation among the rest of BGG. I'm just not sure that there's much interesting happening in the game to make it more than just mediocre.
I do like the way that players are given an identical set of cards at the start of the game, but don't play all of the cards each round. Players will only play six of nine cards, meaning that the three cards that players choose to hold on to for the next round will add some variability into the way that players progress through the game. I also like the way the cards are balanced between taking an action first, and having the first pick at the booty. And even though that's really the heart of the game, the sum just isn't as interesting as the mechanisms would lead you to believe.
The thing is, I can't really put my finger on why it fell flat with us. When we were taught the game, we thought it was only going to go one round, and we all stated that we would have played our cards differently if we knew we were playing for more than that. But even still, it felt like we were having to keep track of a lot of things over the course of the game, and that we had to stop a lot to make sure we hadn't missed something. Plus, even with just three rounds, the game seemed to take longer than I expected it would.
So, the game is OK, and has some decent parts to it, but overall it's just not something that blew us away. Personally, if I want to play a role-selection game with some back-stabby elements, I can get all I need out of Citadels. But if someone else wanted to play it? Eh, sure.
String Railway--Base Game-- Plays: 1Winner
: The "About As Unique as a Unique Game Could Be"
I'm always looking for games that are different from everything else, and when I first saw String Railway a couple of years back, I knew it was something I wanted to play. I DIY'd a copy, but never got around to playing it, and this year I just went ahead and bought the FoxMind version and got it played within a couple of weeks. I think that's proof that the PnP/DIY games are all about the crafting part of it for me.
Anyway, String Railway is definitely different from everything else (save for String Railway: Transport, but that's derivative, so just let it go, OK?), and it's a unique gaming experience. It's a route-connection game, and you draw a card, place it on the play area (defined by various strings), play a string to connect as many locations as you can legally connect (the locations have limits on how many players can touch them, so while you might be able to reach one, you may not be able to connect to it), and score points based on your connections. The game lasts for five turns, and whoever has the most points wins.
The game is more or less dictated by the draw of the location cards, but there are some tactical ways to mess with other players by using them. You can place a one-player station in a chokepoint to force players around the landscape or over your line (all of which cost points), or you can place a station that gives you points whenever other players use it. It still depends on drawing the right stations, but the game lasts for about 20 minutes, tops, so it's hard to get too annoyed with it, especially since you have those options.
This is a game where you don't want to get stuck out on your own, either, since it shares some characteristics with Age of Steam, in that the more players are involved in a network, the more options you'll have on your turn. The way the landscape gets placed at the start of the game might dictate how that develops, but since players have to agree with how it's built, it's not a dealbreaker. String Railway is just a unique game that deserves to be played, and I'm glad that I finally got around to doing so.
Disclaimer: So far, I've only played the solitaire game, but I did try both variants in the box, one to get a feel for how the game plays ("The Sole Architect"), and one to get a slight feel for how it plays with multiple players ("Dalebot"). I did better against the Dalebot than I did all by myself, but I think I made some major mistakes with how I played the Sole Architect variant. I'm going to try that one again at some point.
Anyway, with that in mind, I've enjoyed what I've seen of Suburbia so far. It's a game that hinges on combinations of tiles, but instead of just looking at your own combination, you have to look at the tiles that everyone else is playing, too. For instance, there's a restaurant tile that gives you -1 reputation for each restaurant built after that one, but it's not just your playing area that affects it. If someone else plays a restaurant into their borough, it affects your reputation score. So there's some interaction there, though it's not tremendous.
Suburbia is an engine game similar to St. Petersburg, in that you start out making money, and then shift to earning reputation, which is the game's victory points. You want your borough to make money for you, but you can also create lakes, which can earn you immediate money and take a tile away from an opponent. The game seems to have a passive-aggressive nature to it, and it seems like the game is similar to Age of Steam in that you don't want to make a move just to hurt another player, as you'll hurt yourself just as much in the process. The idea seems to be that you want to hurt someone else and help yourself at the same time.
The game prevents a runaway leader issue in the same way that Age of Steam does, as each time you cross over a red line, you lose one income and one reputation on your personal boards. And the way the personal boards contribute to your overall scores is similar to the way the science and culture points work in Through the Ages, so taking a hit on your personal boards will have a big effect on your total score. The two elements work well together, and create a nice tension, especially since your personal tracks can drop into the negative.
Like I said, I like what I see so far, and I look forward to playing the game with more players. The Dalebot game gave me an idea of what it would be like to play with someone else, but I'd like to play against opponents who can make smarter decisions than the bot. I get the feeling that this is a game where you can plumb its depths further with each game, and I'm curious to see how it plays in the long term.
Suburbia: Essen Tiles--Mini-Expansion--Plays: 2Winner
: The "Not an Entirely Useless Mini-Expansion"
This mini-expansion consists of six tiles, two of which go into each stack of tiles in Suburbia. The tiles all have their own class, and only interact with one another in regards to that class. The immediate effects of the tiles are pretty good (not great, but not the worst, either), but are limited in how they can interact with neighboring tiles because of their class. They can interact in other ways -- the tiles are still building classes that already exist in the game -- but really, their best combo abilities occur when they work together.
This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. Working together, the tiles are insanely powerful; by themselves, they're just good tiles. I think they add a nice risk-reward element to the game, and so long as the games aren't decided by these tiles in future games, I think this will be a nice addition.
: The "Do You Have Any Idea How Hard It Is to Pick a Picture That
Isn't a Painted Gear?"
I'll admit that this game caught my eye last year, but I was also concerned that the game would wind up being more gimmick than game. I held off on acquiring a copy until I could actually try the game, and I'm glad to report that the gears are actually a mechanism in the game and not just something to make it look cool. I'm sure I'm late coming to that conclusion, but there you go.
The gears act as a timer in the game, a tactical means to affect other players in the game, and a vehicle for adjusting worker placement position. Sure, any of those things could have been accomplished without the use of the gears, but the gears make it a lot easier to keep up with the housekeeping in the game. Plus, they seem to be a perfect way to manage workers in a worker placement game.
There are a lot of rules to cover when learning the game, but the iconography on the board does a great job of reminding you exactly what you should do in the game. CGE does a good job of doing that sort of thing (Dungeon Lords is another that helps prevent you from missing something in the turn order), so that's not too surprising. It's nice to see a game that you can almost learn just by looking at the layout of the board, though.
The one thing that might be difficult to remember is that you can either take a worker off or put a worker on, but you can't do both in a turn. We all asked that question or tried to do both at least twice each, enough so that I suggested making a sign to put up each time we teach the game. It's just so tempting to want to do all that at once that it's easy to forget the rule.
Outside of all that, the game is a standard game of collecting resources and converting them to victory points, with multiple ways to do so. There are a lot of choices to make on the board, which means there are lots of strategies to pursue to make points, and it lacks a random element to keep it from being too swingy in one direction (*cough*Agricola*cough*). I haven't delved too deeply into the game to get a sense of what all the options are (we didn't even complete a full game this month), but I liked what I saw so far, and I definitely want to play it again.
The other good news is that someone else in my group picked up a copy, so I don't have to buy it if I want to play it again! Score!
Played ten new-to-me games in January. Two were my own prototypes; I'm pretty happy with how they're coming along.
Of the others, Magical Athlete easily stood out. I'd heard Mark Johnson recommend it on his podcast, and so I traded for it in the Unity Games math trade. With just one play, I don't have a feel for its staying power, but I liked it enough that I will definitely play it again - which I can't say for any of the others.
I would play Ruhrschiffffffffffffffffffffffffffffahrt again if asked, but I don't feel the need to. I am very glad to have played it once. Infinity and End of the Line weren't bad, but didn't excite me.
Panic on Wall Street! was much better than I expected, but not particularly good, putting it on par with High Hand and Myrmes, if a half-step ahead in my mind because of the low expectations and the uniqueness of the game. Boy, could it be a better game with just a little more work...
Pax Porfiriana didn't work for me at all.
Probably a dozen plays of this one, though I'm not sure it has staying power. It's certainly more accessible than Arkham Horror. The game group enjoyed it, and my wife is willing to play it -- that's a good combination.
Rating: out of 10
Also getting play was Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game – Mission Pack 1
This added new life to my solitaire play of Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game, but I don't see myself playing it a year from now.
Finally, a couple of learning games of Rune Age
In fairness, a couple of solo plays of the introductory scenario doesn't give a fair basis for rating the game, but for now . . .
The last 2 months have been interesting for me, as I've been trying out some more direct conflict games, after spending the last 2 years being quite satisfied with indirect conflict Euro games. I have to say I probably am overexposed to direct conflict, and now I need to take a little bit of a break and go back to my friendlier Euros for a while...
Homesteaders - 1 play
We got to demo Homesteaders at our FLGS, and enjoyed our play enough to put it on our wishlist. It plays pretty fast and the resource management feels satisfying. Sometimes I find resource conversion to be annoying (like in Troyes), but here I found it to be fine. I liked how you could convert your resources at anytime, so you couldn't be blocked by others. I also like the way that the auctions were implemented, especially how you still get a "reward" even if you lose the auction.
One thing I'm not sure about is the replay value. Sure, the ordering if the auction tiles are different, but the same buildings are available every game, and I'm not sure if the ordering of the auction tiles are important enough to cause you to try a different combination of buildings once you've established a good set. But for now I think we can get a lot of plays out of this one. I think it will be very popular with my group since it's on the shorter side too. I haven't played with the 2 player rules, so I don't know how well it will work there.
Libertalia - 3 plays
Libertalia has gotten some positive feedback from my gaming group so far. It's a nice, quick, semi-social game with some great artwork. There is not that much downtime because of the simultaneous role selection. I enjoy the second-guessing what other people are going to play and risk-taking aspects. There's also a fair amount of screwage, which my group enjoys.
The cards each round can make for some interesting combos. One round the monkey was out, and there happened to be lots of curses out as well, so there was an exciting curse-passing chain, with one guy ending up with 4 curses (it almost cycled all the way around). Another round saw both the brute and beggar in play, which led to some excruciating tension.
Some minor knocks I have are: 1) The theme isn't that strong. You don't really feel like a pirate when you're playing. 2) Some rounds are boring depending on what cards come out. 3) The scoreboard is slightly hard to read because it spirals inwards. 4) The two player game is not as good.
Android: Netrunner - 4 plays
We gave into the hype and gave Netrunner a try. It's definitely an interesting game experience that is unlike any other game we have. There is a lot of risk management and bluffing on the corp side, and a lot of second-guessing on the runner side.
As I'm sure others have mentioned, I like the asymmetric play and how you have to be in a different mindset to play each side. It has a very tight action/resource economy that I found very difficult as a beginner to manage, and is probably why I haven't enjoyed it as much as others, as I feel like I haven't been able to play a game acceptably well yet, and I've been feeling frustrated at not being able to do what I want to do because of a lack of money.
Overall, I found the mindgames to be quite tense and stressful, so it is a game that I can play only when I'm in the right mood. As the corp, sometimes it gets quite stressful when you know that the runner has the capability to breach your servers, and as the runner it's frustrating when the corp has built up a ridiculous wall of ice that is impossible for you to get past. Of course, you're more likely to find yourself in that situation if you're inexperienced like me.
Sometimes the luck of the draw is a little frustrating, either when you don't draw the cards you need, or when the runner gets lucky when they breach your R&D or HQ. But I think it still fits in with the risk-management aspect of the game. So I guess overall, I'll have to play it a few more times to see if I can start playing well enough for it to click with me.
1960: The Making of the President - 1 play
1960 is another game that I'll need to play a few more times to see if it clicks for me. I like that it's shorter than Twilight Struggle and still retains a lot of the good aspects of it. I found a lot of the events to be more important than in TS. I also like how you have to save cards for the debates and election day phases.
Some things I didn't like were how some turns you and your opponent could just fight over the same issue/state, basically making no progress and wasting your turns. Also, like any card-based game, sometimes the timing of the more powerful cards felt unfair. For example, in the last round right before the elections, my opponent played the card that ignores travel costs and support checks. He was able to take control of a number of important states and cruise to a win.
Washington's War - 1 play
We got to try out Washington's War at a local game day. Sadly I don't think the game really clicked for us. Or maybe it's just wargames in general; this was the first wargame we've tried.
First, I liked the idea of the asymmetric sides, however I found the rules to be too similar and not asymmetric enough, which made it hard to learn and remember. I guess a better description for the rules are not quite symmetric. As an example, the Americans can only place as many reinforcement units as the op card value, but the British can place any number of reinforcements regardless of the op card value. In general, there are quite a few exceptions to the rules for each side that made it a very difficult game to learn (at least for me).
Second, I found the actual gameplay to be a bit too fiddly for my tastes. Having to pick up the general by the base, and also pick up the units but not the PC markers was a little annoying for us.
I did like how the gameplay was fairly short, and there are still interesting decisions to be made every turn. But it was not enough to overcome the fiddliness of the rules and the gameplay.
Castles Of Burgundy: Need to play it more, sure is addictive. I'm now convinced that Feld might be the best Eurogame designer. His mastery of mechanisms, numbers, and victory points just comes together so beautifully. One thing about this game though, it is not quite as light as people make it out to be. There sure are many rules to explain, and I could see it being challenging for a new gamer.
Biblios makes up what it lacks in depth with elegance- its hard to believe that nobody thought of this yet. In short, you draw cards, keeping one, giving one to each other player, and putting one in an auction pile, until the deck runs out. The second half of the game is using gold cards earned to bid on the auction pile, with the goal being the highest total sum to win a color category. Great components, but the board is kind of useless, I leave it out. Good stuff
A neat game, very well made and deserving of the title of a classic euro. I can see this one getting old fast, as there is not a whole lot of variation. The end game was also not particularly exciting, but enjoyable overall.
A game like none I have ever played. You build rails to guide a pedestrian to new randomly chosen destinations, all the while circling sections of the map for points. Other ways to score are to connect symbols or reach the edge of the map. I enjoyed the uniqueness but I thought the end was rather predictable after the first half of the game, and scoring markers remained in relatively similar positions for most of it, but I'd still play again.
With such a high ranking I had huge hopes for this one, but I now believe the ranking is just nostalgia. For such a game, the rules are needlessly fiddly, and the excitement is just not there. Many games end dissapointingly, and too much relies on the dullness of playing the few cards that give you money. Very few cards really excited me in how they added things to the game, and I thought the trace mechanism was kind of floppy. With some different design choices I believe this could have been a great game. All flaws aside, exploring the games many cards and factions is still reasonably fun, so I still enjoy playing when I can. Maybe deckbuilding will provide more strategy.
Blah. After three plays I can see pretty much all there is to the game. Some cards are much better than others and sometimes choices are obvious. This game seems like a very amateur design, something a friend would come up with, but nothing really exciting. The problem is that there are too few paths to victory.