New to you June 2013 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in June 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
Videogames New To You June 2013
Videogames New To You July 2013
Other Great Monthly Lists
New to you a year ago Jun 13 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in June 2013
New to your kids - New Lease of Life - Gaming with your kids in June 2013 Holiday Edition
Your Most Played Game (and more): June 2013
What games did you acquire in June 2013
Movies You Watched in July 2013
Board Game: Hanabi
[Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:277]
== NEW GAMES ==
Hanabi - 1 play -
I've heard a lot of good things about Hanabi, so when some friends came round for dinner and brought their new copy, I was stoked to finally give it a try.
I'm a huge fan of co-operative games, and I quite like deduction as a mechanism, so this should be a good fit for me, but I usually prefer more theme in games, and Hanabi is a pretty abstract card game with a pasted on fireworks theme. That said I did enjoy our one play of the game and I am keen to give it another try. (Actually really wish we'd had time to play a second time)
Board Game: Troyes
[Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:68]
I don't design games, I play them!
Troyes. Plays: 1. Rating: 8.
I am very surprised to see Troyes as the best new game! Not that it’s a bad game, it’s actually pretty good (hence my 8), but I had thought and hoped that I would play something even better.
Troyes is a great dice game, probably only second to Castles of Burgundy! The reason why these games succeed in my book is that the luck of the dice is greatly reduced! In CoB even more so perhaps, as higher numbers are probably better in Troyes, but there are lots of options to change and manipulate your dice rolls which is awesome. Lower numbers might actually be quite good too, especially in the end, as the other players won’t buy your dice, while you can still buy their high dice all while also changing your own low dice to higher numbered dice if you’ve got the influence. This influence mechanic was integrated very well and I liked how you need to balance money, influence and victory points!
There are a lot of very good mechanics; how you fight against the black cards, how you push other players’ meeples out of the buildings and thereby getting extra dice yourself, how you buy dice from your opponents, how you pass and can get extra money etc. One thing I liked a lot was the secret objectives, but I don’t think they are going to have a big impact on the pointscoring; I would guess everybody always gets at least 3 points and probably the full 6 (if I remember correctly). The variety because of the fact that only 9 cards are used in each game means that the game has great replayability.
Troyes was much simpler than I had thought and heard everybody say. The rules really aren’t that difficult. Personally I thought the artwork is ugly, but I don’t really care. I am looking forward to the next time Troyes is getting on the table!
7 Wonders: Wonder Pack. Plays: 4. Rating: 8.
Before June, I had only played 7 Wonders twice since last November. It’s a very good game, but I thought it needed something fresh. Along comes the Wonder Pack, and while it “just” adds 4 (arguably 3) new boards, it’s a great expansion! It made me play 7 Wonders 7 times in June, and 4 of these were with the new wonders. I have played games with only the news wonders and games where only my opponents or I played with the new ones, just to see how the interaction was. It was great!
I have tried all of the wonders, and I think I like Abu Simbel and The Great Wall the best. I think it’s a great idea that you can build the Great Wall in any order you want, so you have a lot of options in the game and can adapt to the circumstances. The downside is, of course, that the wonder doesn’t give you any VP, and I think it’s a little too punishing (after all, it’s most likely 10 VPs you need to get somehow, but then again, maybe you can win that from the mask symbol or the military etc). Abu Simbel is a great wonder when playing with the Leaders expansion; I love that you can transform leaders you don’t need anymore (those which doesn’t give endgame points) into actual VPs!
Stonehenge is a good wonder too, though I don’t like (though it’s thematic) that you need to focus a lot on stone. The new edition of Manneken Pis is probably slightly better, and I’m not talking about the removal of the beer which I don’t care about at all (it was a funny gimmick). I’m talking about the fact that you now need to pay the exact same ressources as your neighbours must do, so now you cannot get 14 VPs or such from your neighbours for the three manufactured (grey) ressources.
All in all, this is a great expansion for fans of 7 Wonders. Sure, it’s not as must-have as Cities, as it “only” adds variety and not new mechanics, but I still think it’s essential.
Through the Ages. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
I finally got to play Through the Ages – this was probably the game I was anticipating the most to get on the table! I loooved the Civilization computer games, and in general like civ games, so my expectations for this game were extremely high! However, even though it was a very good game, my first play didn’t convince me that it was such a good game I had hoped it would be. Mind you, I did like it very much, and I do think it was almost impossible for the game to live up to my expectations. But I did not think I would only rate it a 7.5… The main reason for this rating is this: time consumption! The game takes 3½-4½ hours, and that’s too much for me considering the enjoyment I get out of the game. I could play 2-3 other great eurogames in that time span!
There are other reasons for my somewhat low rating. The two biggest reasons, besides the length, are the fiddlyness and especially the emphasis on military which seems too important to neglect.
To elaborate on the first one, all of the little round discs are hard to pick up, and you constantly need to move them back and forth! There is a lot of upkeep you need to watch your step tread carefully in order to avoid mistakes. While the fiddlyness was a little annoying, it wasn’t part of the gameplay. What is, is the importance of military, and that was definitely what I disliked the most.
I was told that military was important, but not THIS important! If your opponent(s) start building military units, you simply have to follow, because if you don’t you are going to get smashed! And the need to build an army is a shame I think… But I guess that without the military aspect, the game would be too much multiplayer solitaire. Furthermore it felt a little odd that military isn’t really that important in the last round (unless a war has been declared earlier etc). Regarding war, military strength is even more important as you cannot use defense cards! In my second game I won by 70 points, and I probably got half of them due to a couple of wars…
Furhermore, the game is highly strategic but also features a lot of tactical elements (as the card row, which was fantastic!), and I think the random card draws spoil this mechanic somewhat, especially as you can draw a lot of useless military cards.
After my ramblings about my issues with the game, I need to talk about the good stuff! It’s awesome to control your own little civilization! The management concerning feeding your population, keeping track of corruption, planning your actions and keep a balance between military, culture and science is brainburning but fantastic! While your race isn’t unique at the start of the game, it quickly turns into one. The wonders and Leaders work very well too and are a big part of why your civilization feels unique. I have my favorites among them, and there are also some cards I would certainly not buy, but again, it’s situational and I’m sure they are balanced. I was pleasantly surprised that a civilization game like this actually works without a map, which was one of my biggest concerns. Finally, the bonus cards you reveal after the game add tension as there are some final hidden bonus scoring cards which can shake things up!
After considering the good thing and the bad things, I cannot give it a better rating. It’s a good game, but 1½ hour per player is too much and is the reason that it’s not a game I always want to play. As said, I can play 2 or perhaps even 3 very good eurogames in the same time. It’s a shame, and while I don’t mind the occasional long game, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer my games to last less than 3 hours.
I dived right into the full game with 2 other, very experienced players. I managed okay and was actually close to winning, which I was surprised to see considering all of the mistakes and sub-optimal decisions I made. My second play was against another inexperienced player, and once again the military played a decisive factor. I am eager to play the game again, but if it continues to have these “problems” (length, fiddlyness and importance of military), I’m not really sure what to do. Anyway, my next play will probably be against my wife, and I’m going to play it with the rules without military and see what happens. And after that I am going to try the advanced game again a few more times before I make up my final conclusion. I can’t wait, because I love the idea of this game and I want to love the gameplay too!
Last Will. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
This game surprised me; I had heard about it but thought I wouldn’t care much for it. But after having played it twice I must say that it’s a quite clever game. The theme is funny, but it’s not like it hasn’t been done before (Go For Broke). The playing time is short, though you still feel you accomplish something when you’re building your tableau. I like how the game can end in two ways but most likely will end in round 5 or 6 if playing with the standard 70 gold. It’s very cool that you can start with more or less money which will change the strategies about which buildings to buy and how many etc. as you might play all 7 rounds before determining a winner.
It’s a card game, and as such there are some killer combos. But even if you start with one and get a headstart, you can definitely still make a comeback and make a good combo yourself. And even without a good combo it is possible to win, which I actually did in my second game in which I instead focused on manipulating the market and get a ton of extra actions.
However, speaking of extra actions, this is probably where the game disappointed me a bit. The “extra action” cards which come out in round 1 or 2 are huge no-brainers to take almost no matter what other cards are available. An extra action in each round for the rest of the game is just too powerful I think. In both of my games the winner was indeed the person who took such an action card as his first action…
Still, the game was overall very enjoyable and I would gladly play it again. Hopefully I am going to try it with 5 players to see what impact it has on the game. The different combos and the animal cards you can use for extra money and how you can let your buildings become dilapidated were all nice touches to the game.
Asteroyds. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
Asteroyds is a game very similar to RoboRally. However, to me (and I know I’m in the minority here), Asteroyds is probably the better game. It fixes my issues with RoboRally that RR is too long, requires 5-6+ players to be fun and that you can be screwed by the cards you are randomly dealt.
On the other hand there is more interaction in RoboRally, at least when playing with a lot of players. In Asteroyds there is none, as every player can occupy the same space, so your actions don’t depend on what the other players are doing. This means the game is a little solitaire and feels more like a puzzle on time – but this isn’t really a negative to me. And it certainly isn’t to my wife, who loved this game and requested that we played it again immediately afterwards.
Personally I love the tension of the timer; without it there obviously wouldn’t be a game, at least not a fun game… It only takes like 20-30 minutes to play a scenario which is great. The rules even come with various scenarios and suggestions that you make up your own, even your own rules! We haven’t done so yet but will do in the future.
FITS – 4 x expansions. Plays: 4. Rating: 7.
I am just going to list the 4 FITS expansions under one list (so far I’ve tried the official expansion by Knizia and the 3 unofficial expansions by Ted Alspach). I LOVED these expansions! I have played all of the expansion boards except for 2, and I loved every single one of them. They are much harder than those in the standard game. I love the maps with letters, those with shapes/figures and those with tons of -10 and -5 points spots. You need to be very skillful compared to those in the original game. However, with map number 16 you can plan a lot, but I feel that if you get tiles in the wrong order, you are punished a lot, more so than you are in the original maps.
One thing to notice is that you cannot buy the expansions maps but have to download and cut them – and the sizes don’t match the original boards! So you have to cut slightly differently and then it works (more or less), but it’s still a little annoying. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the expansion boards make a casual game much better!
Antike Duellum. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I’m a fan of the rondel mechanic, and this game didn’t let me down. Now, when writing this I haven’t tried the game a whole lot (only twice), so I cannot give great strategic advices, but like all of my other comments in this list it’s my first hand impression. Now, this game is a eurogame, but it is very confrontational as you most likely will have to attack each other a few times during the game in order to win. While I did like the sound of that, the actual combat was rather boring (a simple 1:1 kill ratio). In general there wasn’t much combat going on, but that might just be because we played the game casually without focusing a lot on combat (as my wife hates very confrontational games) - at least not until the end in the first game, by which we HAD to focus on military in order to destroy temples so we could get the last achievement. In the second game, on the other hand, I attacked a lot in the beginning and expanded like crazy, so my two games have turned out very differently which is a good sign.
Strategically I need to mention that it might be smart to get a temple quickly and put it in a marble city so you can get a good marble production so you can build more temples and put them in other cities so you can get even more ressources! This seems like a good move, and while it did happen in my first game, I tried a different strategy in my second game; I focused on gold early and that helped me to seal a very easy victory (9-5). So I think you need to test various strategies. However, this is probably another quibble I have with the game; there really aren’t many strategies you can pursue… You cannot concentrate on a specific thing; you need a little bit of everything. So it’s not like in Mac Gerdts’ Navegador in which you can focus on exploring or factories etc.
The technologies are cool and I liked that the first player to get a technology also gets an achievement, but that player has to pay around twice as much as the other player! This was a good balance. However, it seems as if some of the technologies are much better to get as fast as possible. Again, it depends on the specific game, but I think that in general the technology which grants you an extra resource each time you produce is going to be bought rather fast. The ship improvement too as it’s pretty cheap and the extra movement for ships allows you to get the “control seven sea areas” achievement card rather quickly, and probably lets you occupy the good sea areas with extra ships so your opponent is going to have a hard time getting the other (but still, I cannot imagine one player getting both of these cards, so eventually the other person is going to get it). Now, this might just be a groupthink and eventually I will learn a lot of clever play, but this is what I feel right now. Oh, I also need to say that while the cards add some randomness, it’s not much, and the cards are pretty weak and don’t make that big of a difference.
The game is somewhat long, but definitely not too long as other people have said; both of my games have lasted an hour. The last achievement can take a while to get (which was the case in the first game, but in the second, in which I dominated, it went rather quickly as I constantly had an advantage – not sure if there was a snowball mechanism going on, which I certainly don’t hope. Further plays will tell - and there will be more plays as I was pleasantly surprised by this game.
2 De Mayo. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I am not a wargamer, but I own this, Twilight Struggle and Command & Colors: Ancients (yes, I know they aren’t full-scaled wargames). I am a eurogamer by heart, but I think I would enjoy the occasional wargame – at least that was what happened with this game.
What I liked about this game in particular was the asymmetric nature of the game! This made the game very unique. The French possess so many units and therefore have the upper hand regarding military strength, but on the other hand they are not that mobile and cannot move from an area containing a Spaniard etc. (though the French can get a good control of the game if they manage to capture area 14/15/16). Furthermore, the victory condition was very cool! The French need to focus on obtaining all three of them, while the Spaniards “just” need to prevent the French from achieving one of them. It’s not easy, though, as the Spaniards are almost constantly on the defensive!
The game plays very fast and is a good little mini-wargame, and I think it will shine with more knowledge of the action cards. These cards are a good idea and are pretty varied, and it’s a good rule that you cannot hold a bunch more than your opponent. My only problem with the cards was the “random discard” card of the French. In both of my games (I have only played the Spaniards, so I want to play the French soon!) I had two useless cards and two very good cards in my hands, so this card can really have a big impact on the outcome of the game (I did lose my second game because I didn’t have access to my starting card as that was randomly discarded). Oh, and one final thing about the cards. Personally, I would probably almost always choose to start with the artillery card as the French, so that your unit in zone 10 doesn’t risk getting killed which make the Spaniards closer to achieving victory (especially if they get the card which makes them win if they have killed 3 instead of 4 French units). The other card about moving 5 units is very strong, no doubt about it, and I don’t think the French will be able to win a lot of times if they don’t get it during the game.
In general there is some randomness regarding what you draw, and some cards might be useless once you draw them. Still, for a very quick game like this it doesn’t bother me much!
GIPF. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.5.
While I like the Gipf-series games I don’t love them. The same is true for this game which started it all. But while I don’t love it, I still think it’s a very good two player abstract games (in general I’m not a huge fan of abstracts, so a 6.5 is pretty good). GIPF is so elegant! It’s a relatively quick GIPF project game, just like Tzaar (Yinsh is a good game, but I do think it can take just a little too long compared to Gipf/Tzaar or even Dvonn).
The two different ending conditions are great as you need to balance, and my first two plays have ended due to both conditions. I liked how you basically just need to get 4 in a row, but it’s so much deeper than this; you need to think a lot about how to push your pieces to form a row or how to push your own or your opponent’s pieces in order to destroy his or her plans! I really liked how you can permanently take out some pieces belonging to your opponent by clever play with 4 in a row if they are directly connected to your row. I think you need to play it with the rules which includes the GIPF pieces for a much deeper game.
Yedo. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
Yedo is one of the few lucky games that get hyped a lot! A lot of times I think the hype is justified (Terra Mystica comes to mind), but this is unfortunately not the case with Yedo. It’s not a bad game, but it’s not a great game either – exactly like my rating shows. Let me explain why I think this is the case.
The major reason Yedo does not get a better rating is length. It takes around 2½-3 hours to play depending on the experience and number of players – and for such a light game (only slightly harder than Lords of Waterdeep), it’s waaay too long! Would you play a game of Lords of Waterdeep which took almost 3 hours? I doubt it. Even 2 hours would be too long, and I only think you can get it played in 1½ hours with 2 players – which is definitely not the right number of players for this game. Yedo would be much better if it ended after 8 rounds instead of 11, but that would obviously mess with the balance of the game, so I don’t recommend to house rule it this way.
Furthermore, it’s a little too random, especially if you play with the Shogun rules as they can screw you over so much you cannot even comprehend it! There is still a lot of luck involved even in the geisha rules; the weapons you draw, the random quest cards (which doesn’t seem particularly balanced, especially the black ones), the bonus cards and the action cards – you almost always draw from them blindly even though you can take actions to see/manipulate what comes up next. The black quests don’t seem balanced; you can draw some which gives you 3 VPs and other which gives you 10 or 14 VPs (if I remember correctly). This is a very big difference especially as you often just draw the top card. Anyway, the four different difficulties of the quests is a very good idea and one of the things I liked the most. I did notice, however, that the green cards are often espionage, the yellow theft etc., and this is very important to know as some bonus cards refer to this. Furthermore it’s extremely important to know what kind of stuff the black cards need – and I noticed that two of the four annexes are almost always used! This is very important as there is always one annex less than the number of players… The limited amount of annexes and geishas is another good idea as it adds some tension as you cannot be sure if you will get them or not!
Yes, as you can see there are elements of Princes of Florence (the auction and the limited amount of specific items you need), and lots of people have said that it reminds them of Lords of Waterdeep. However, I don’t really mind this, and to be totally honest I don’t think Yedo reminds me much about LoW; yes, it’s a WP game and you complete quests, but that’s basically it… The quests aren’t even completed in the same manner (you need to spend an action doing it), and you need to collect a bunch of different stuff, and you actually keep most of the stuff once you complete the quest. There is also a bonus half (which was a very good idea!), so I don’t think “Lords of Waterdeep” on steroids is quite spot on.
Another thing I liked about the game was the auction aspect in the beginning of each round. I liked the auction best with 2 and 3 players as you bid on an entire area and pick afterwards. Personally I think the black spots are too good as they give you 2 VPs each round you win an item there, so you can earn 10-12 VPs throughout the game which is quite a lot. Sure, the other spots are also very good, and an extra worker is almost always handy in WP games! But this is actually where Yedo is different than most other WP games (except for Tzolk’in I think); an extra worker is not always good because of the limited amount of useful spots to activate (and you can also lose the extra workers due to events and because of the watchman).
The fact that there seemed to be so few good action spots felt a little odd. There often weren’t any meaningful action to take, even with 2 players! It seems like such a crappy action to change the cards compared to other actions! Sure, you can manipulate and take the top card from the deck you have changed the order of, but the other players also know this and might take the card. And it is almost pointless to change the three weapons etc. as all are going to be revealed and available during the next round… The only reason I would ever do it is if I had no other thing to do or if I really needed to know if an item or specific card would be among the top three cards, because then I would be able to place a bid on it during the next auction phase. Still, it doesn’t seem like a good action…
Two aspects of the game which looked great on paper did not work. The first one was the watchman. In our first game with four, none of us got in trouble and it was very rare that the watchman arrested us because we planned for it and because there aren’t a lot of action cards which moves him forward and mess with your opponents’ plans, which is too bad! I had thought the watchman would be a great mechanic, but in reality he didn’t do much in any of my 3 plays. The second aspect is the trading… It didn’t work, and especially not with 2 or 3 players! Part of it is because you need to be in a specific spot along with the other player you want to trade with, and part of it is because you don’t want to help your opponents too much. Also, as you aren’t allowed to say what the cards you want to trade do, nobody believes anybody (yes, I know you can also trade other stuff like weapons and coins and geishas, but besides weapons that’s often not that interesting).
The end game bonus scoring wasn’t that big of a deal as you can probably score 12 points maximum or so, but will most likely score a lot less… Still, I have to say that I loved the bonus cards as they added some uncertainty and tension to the final scoring! And speaking of the endgame, the alternative endgame condition (the “kill the shogun” quest) was great! It can really mess with your plans, or even better your opponents’ plans! On the other hand I think it grants you too many VPs considering this fact; nobody but the owner of the card has planned for it, so people can get screwed.
Some final, minor concern about the game is that the board is very big – probably too big as you don’t use half of it, it’s really just flavor… Speaking of flavor; while the art is beautiful, on the other hand it melds with the background and it can be hard to see which actions you can actually make at the various places. Yedo was a decent game, but due to the length vs. the light gameplay it is not a game I would suggest to play all the time.
Battlestar Galactica. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.5.
To tell you the truth, my first game of Battlestar Galactica should probably get a lower grade simply because I had never tried it before and I played against some hardcore pros who had played it tons of times before and knew all of the cards and good moves etc.! I was the only cylon and perhaps I didn’t make the best choices throughout the game as I didn’t fully grasp the best strategy as a cylon on my own! My enthusiasam about the game was hampered even more as I was thrown in the brig before my second turn (though I have to say that I had some extreme bad luck, as I would only be accused if two red cards turned up from the destiny deck which was statistically highly unlikely – guess what happened… Oh, and it didn’t help much that I was the second cylon as well after the sleeping phase.
Despite all of this I found the game to be okay, and it definitely has the potential for a higher rating. I am sure, though, that I am never going to be a huge fan of this game and rate it 9-10 – it goes on way too long! We were 6 players (2 newcomers) and it took 4½ hours which is too much! 2 hour would be perfect.
Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.5.
The 4 actions cylons could take were interesting and I think they offer the cylon player a lot more powerful decisions. Furthermore, I was told that in the basic game you just remove enemy ships after each jump, which I don’t understand at all, as it would be a much easier game because of that rule. The new rule seemed better.
It is hard to rate this expansion as we didn’t include all of the expansion modules and because I hadn’t tried the basic game on its own before
Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus Expansion. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
This expansion might actually be the better, but in my first playthrough it wasn’t used much and it didn’t provide a lot of interesting elements for me as a cylon. I do think my impression would change in future plays, because some of the actions definitely seemed very powerful, especially the action in which you can move forward a jump for just 2 cards! The group I played with had houseruled it to 3 cards which I think was a good idea. The spot where you can execute a player also seemed interesting. It is hard to rate this expansion as we didn’t include all of the expansion modules and because I hadn’t tried the basic game on its own before
Thunderstone. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
I only played this once and it definitely requires a few more plays before I can finally say that I don’t like it – but this was, unfortunately, my first-hand impression. I am disappointed as I really wanted to like it and perhaps replace Dominion (I don’t play a lot of deck-building games), but after my first, and only, play with 2 players, I’m not convinced.
Normally I don’t care about the theme, but I think the theme of Thunderstone is better than the theme of Dominion (which is virtually non-existing). The concept about killing monsters in the dungeon sounded awesome. However, even though the theme is better, I think Dominion is better in almost every other way. You thought there was a small amount of interaction in Dominion? Well, try Thunderstone! In the basic setup there is only a single card which affects your opponents… Perhaps this has changed in the expansions, or perhaps other cards in the base set allows for more interaction – I certainly hope so as it felt almost like playing solitaire! Granted, we were only 2, but this wouldn’t change with more players – all it would do was for the game to last longer – something I definitely don’t think this game needs! I think it takes too long considering the enjoyment I get from this deck-building game compared to other games in the genre.
Further complaints of mine are that you don’t really want to attack in the beginning in order to avoid clogging your deck with poor cards (though some monsters have an ability you can use). I think you need to spend too much time in the village or simply resting in the beginning, something I wasn’t fond of. Regarding the monsters, if you draw some strong monsters in the beginning, you might have a hard time get going (and nobody wants to remove it so the other players can attack the other monsters more easily). I did like the special abilities and how different the monsters were, though. Finally, I didn’t understand why you have so much gold available each turn, but the cards cost so little – and you have only one buy?! It felt very weird to have 8-9 gold in your hand and a single card when almost every card had a cost of 3-4-5 gold…
One thing I really liked about the game, at least in theory, is the level-up mechanism and the experience points! To me, this is the only reason why I would like to play Thunderstone again. Personally I had too much xp in the end of the game as it was more beneficial to attack instead of upgrading your cards; but I hadn’t noticed that the level 3 heroes grant you 2 VPs, so I guess that would have changed my decisions. The xp mechanic made the game feel like the computer game Diablo or something like that, at least on surface; you have crappy gear, you slay monsters, you get xp, you buy better stuff and is therefore able to kill bigger monsters.
Yggdrasil - Asgard. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
Asgard does not improve on Yggdrasil. It adds something else, but it doesn’t really make Yggdrasil better, it just gives you more options. It is a fine expansion and I think you should get it if you like Yggdrasil. I’ve heard lots of people say that Yggdrasil is a very hard coop – that is definitely not my experience, but then again I mostly play it with 3 which is definitely easier than with 6.
I like almost all of the trance powers (though Heimdal’s is a little lame as it’s just his basic power). While you want to go in trance to get the benefit for all of the gods, you actually don’t want to be in trance a lot or with a lot of players on the same time as you cannot attack the enemies while you’re in trance! It’s a good balance. Asgard also makes Hel harder to fight which I think is a good thing.
Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
My introduction to this game couldn’t have gone any worse game wise! I had the worst luck ever, it was insane to watch. However, I found it amusing because it was so crazy, and I definitely want to play this game again. I had some bad luck when discarding/”sprinting” through my deck, I only drew flutes and 0 star chits, and twice I rolled a double cross and wounded myself (and I’m not counting the tons of times I rolled misses and crosses; I literally think I only made like 4 hits in total throughout the game…)
Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game: Sudden Death. Plays: . Rating: 6.
Now, as I played my first game of BB with 3 guys who had played it quite a bit before, we included the expansion. As such, I cannot completely compare it to the base game as I haven’t experienced the base game on its own. Still, my impression of this expansion is very good! We played with 3 of the new factions (I played the humans from the base set) and we included the new star players and new footballs. Regarding the footballs, I think they add a lot to the game and are making it more varied and better. On the other hand, I (and the other players) thought that the Undead faction seemed too good compared to the rest – I would like to know what the consensus is here on BGG.
Top-a-Top. Plays: 7. Rating: 6.
I bought a used copy of Top-a-Top for a small amount of money as I wanted to introduce it to my family, whom I think would like it. Fortunately, they did! It’s a lot of fun to scream out the sounds of animals or imitate a native American or slap the fly (or the poop, which a lot of people somehow do!) or play the trumpet or say good morning etc.! There is almost always a player (sometimes more) who does something completely differently than what you’re supposed to do, leading to lots of laughs!
However, the actual gameplay doesn’t work; each round, the person who reacts the slowest gets the tile (the goal is to be the person to get rid of all of your tiles first). In theory this is an easy rule and should not cause problems, but in reality it is extremely hard to say which person who reacted slowest… Of course it’s obvious sometimes, but most of the times we really cannot say who reacted slowest, and then we kind of have to vote or leave it on the table for the next round (in which case we might experience the same problem). This is kind of sad, as I want to like the game mechanics and not just the funny grimaces and laughs it produces. I have to add that, after 7 plays, my enjoyment has vanished somewhat as we are much better now, so we rarely make mistakes; and as we don’t, we end up going to guess who reacted the latest which isn’t fun… Oh, and I have to add that new players will always lose against players who have tried it before.
Still, it’s easy to explain and play (although new players will definitely be crushed as they cannot remember what each of the tiles do), and you can even make up your own rules to make it harder or even funnier, and as my younger siblings like it I am going to keep it. It’s very rare that I play a game 7 times in a month, but it is a filler, and it’s decent.
Tikal. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
While I think Tikal was a decent game, it did show sign of its age, and while I would play it again I don’t need to own it. I think it’s an unforgiving game for new players, who will have a hard time playing well in this game; at least that was what happened in my first game. We were two new players against an experienced one, and looking back we made a ton of bad decisions (but I was actually close to winning; I still don’t understand how)! It is not wise to have a lot of people standing in remote areas, and the importance of a new camp around the middle became quite obvious after our first play…
What was good about Tikal was that it was a rather fast and didn’t have nearly as much AP as I had heard. The best part of the game was probably the “3” person as that guy can really mess up your opponents plans! The ability to lock a temple was quite neat too as was the spatial element; while it wasn’t the main part of the game, clever placement of the drawn tiles is essential to win. But this was perhaps one of the major downsides of the game; the luck of the draw.
Finally, I didn’t like the rule about how you can trade a treasure chip with another player in order to complete a set, but the other player cannot trade the other way… Yes, I do realize why this rule is there, so you don’t swap back and forth, but I still think that yet a lucky draw of two similar treasures early in the game gives you an advantage, especially if somebody else draws the last treasure of that kind.
Augustus. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
I was told that this was just like Bingo but with a roman theme… I don’t know why I even agreed to play after this introduction! Well, I guess it’s because I love to play new games (as you can see in my previous threads from 2013), but damn I was sceptic! However, it turned out to be a decent game – and I actually think it is going to win Spiel des Jahres! It seems like it has the right level of complexity for this award.
Yes, you do randomly draw chits from a bag, so there isn’t a TON of strategy involved... But there is much more than in real bingo. When you get a match, you can only choose to place it on ONE of the “numbers” (roman items in this game), so you need to choose wisely (or rearrange them). You need to do this, because what you’re trying to do is to filling out boards (just like in bingo). You get VPs for this, so you don’t just win once you have completed a board; a player triggers the game-end once he has completed 7 boards, but that doesn’t mean he is going to win!
First, you count your VPs for your board, and then you count your VPs for your bonus objectives. Which objectives, you ask? The objectives which make the game acceptable, I answer. These general objectives are what make the game decent enough to play; the first player to complete 3 pink/green/brown/senators or one of each get some VPs, and then the others cannot gain these even though they also complete 3 tasks. So there is a race to be the first one! Also, there are objectives you get when you complete tasks; there is one for 2, 3, 4 and 5 completed objectives if I remember correctly, and you can only choose one of these the moment you complete the number of tasks – if you choose the one for 2 completed objectives, you cannot gain a higher one, so you don’t get as many VPs. Again it’s a race to get the higher bonus objectives, and I guess this is why I did find the game okay and not absolutely terrible which I had feared! It was perhaps slightly too long considering the amount of brainburning it involved (i.e. none), but I wouldn’t reject to play it again a few times over the next decade.
Powerboats. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
The last couple of months have shown that I actually like racing games. Not that I love them, but I like them more than I would have thought I would do. However, whereas I liked Das Motorsportspiel, Asteroyds, RoboRally and Ave Caesar, Powerboats fell flat.
The first round was pretty funny, but after that round it’s exactly the same you do in the next two rounds… Of course, the buoys are placed in different places along with the starting/finishing line, but it is still the same concept. It’s different than Ave Caesar and Das Motorsportspiel as it is three separate minigames (without the time element of RR and DM), and I don’t think this concept is suited for a game with a playing time of an hour. It’s simply too repetitive. Furthermore, to me, the scoring system doesn’t work. In our game, the last placed player after the two first rounds (he still had 0 points), were actually capable of winning the game if everything worked out if I remember correctly… This seemed rather odd; yes, it’s a catch-up mechanism, but still! What’s the point that you can play very well in the first races and lose everything in the last simply because it grants so many points compared to the first two races?
I did find the mechanic about how you speed up and down depending on which dice you keep/add/discard neat. As you can keep your previous rolled dice, the luck is somewhat mitigated, which is great, but luck is definitely present. Maybe the game would have been better if you just played a single race, but on the other hand I guess it would lose something else, and the game could definitely be decided by chance or unfortunate circumstances. Because of the too repetitive gameplay, considering the length, Powerboats wasn’t a hit. I do suspect the game will be better with more players as I guess more players = more chaos = more fun (as in Das Motorsportspiel and other racing games).
Wooly Bully. Plays: 3. Rating: 5.
I wanted to love this game, but it was a big “meh” (or perhaps “bah”?) for me. I love games with spatial elements such as Taluva and Carcassonne etc., and while I did enjoy to place the pieces, the game really didn’t work!
First of all, the hidden color is a very good and clever idea in theory, but in practice it doesn’t work as you quickly find out who is who. Second, it’s a lot of fun to place the tiles in Carcassonne, but in this one there are a lot of impossible designs (like a forest on the other side of a city), so it is impossible to place tiles if your opponents know this and try to obstruct your gameplan – which they should. Often you can’t complete your own pasture because of this (at least if you want your pasture to be somewhat big so you have a chance of winning), so you need to be very lucky by drawing the right tiles… And often this tile simply doesn’t exist, despite the doublesided tiles (which was a good thing). What wasn’t a good thing was that you need to hold all of your tiles in your fist, which is impossible, especially as you get more and more tiles throughout the game and because you need to flip the tiles… Not handy! Yet an issue with the game is the hunter and wolf tiles! If you are lucky to draw some wolves and hunters you have a huge advantage as other people don’t have the option to threat (or protect) your pastures bordering a forest… And even if you don’t want to use them as hunters/wolves, these tiles have 4 animals on the back which can be very handy.
Finally, I think that the 6 points you get if you are the first to pass can be a big deal as 6 points is quite a lot in this game. Of course, on the other hand you cannot influence the game from then on, but you are probably just going to say it once you realize you cannot get a bigger pasture (oh, and in my play two os us passed almost simultaneously, but the player who said it 0.1 second faster got three points more – not cool). I did try the 2p-variant and I don’t think it was better or worse.
7 Wonders: Esteban. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.
The idea is quite neat; how many times have you hoped to play two cards from the same hand of cards? A lot, yes! Now it's possible for the owner of this promo card once a game.
However, while the card can be pretty good under certain circumstances (probably in age 3 when you have for instance a good guild and the Palace), I think it's way too expensive for what it is; for 3 I would buy it most of the time, for 4 I would consider it and buy it sometimes, but never for 5. It's just too expensive conpared to the other cards which cost 5 or even 4; Ramses lets you build guilds for free, Amyitis gives you 2 VPs for each stage of your wonder, which probably translates to at least 4-6 points, Kleopatra gives you 5 VPs for 4 gold etc.
I am probably always going to include it in the mix just for added variety, but I probably won't buy the card myself unless I play the wonders Abu Simbel or Rome. I think the other promos for 7 Wonders are better. So that's the reasons why I have only rated Esteban a 5.
Mini FITS. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.
I bought this game because of the small box. I hadn’t tried FITS before, but I got to buy the original FITS a few days later and actually played that first. That was a good decision, because if I had played Mini FITS as the first one, I would have sold FITS right away…
The main reason for this is that there are only two maps… Seriously, what were they thinking?! This is outrageous – it would be so easy to have made 5-10 additional maps! With 2 (poor) maps, the replayability is extremely limited. As if this wasn’t enough, the production quality is quite poor. The only advantage Mini FITS has over the original is that the box is so much smaller, but the original FITS is so much better (especially with the official and the unofficial expansions) that I cannot ever see myself playing Mini FITS again.
PuzzleWar. Plays: 1. Rating: 2.5.
There are several great, Danish game designs! Marcussen’s Clash of Cultures and Merchants & Marauders come to mind. Let’s just say that this game does not fit into this category…
If you like puzzles, you will like this… Yes, it’s that bad. Okay, to be fair, there is more to it than just laying down pieces in the slot where they fit, because here the pieces fit in various spots. You get a ton of points if you can put them in spots which are surrounded by other pieces on all 4 sides and less if you only place them next to a single piece etc. Furthermore, there are some “Puzzlewar” spots on the map. When you place a piece there, you can draw a card from a pile. The usefulness of these cards isn’t that great, although with 2 players there is a card which lets you skip your opponent’s turn, so you can place two pieces at once, meaning you can set yourself up for a big play. But overall the cards aren’t really that interesting, and it doesn’t help that they are very unbalanced; some cards lets you draw an extra piece, some cards let you draw three. So a person who gets some lucky draws will have an edge.
The rulebook suggests that you can end the game when getting to, for instance, 200 points. I think this rule is a must… The game drags on forever when playing without it, and in the end I just wanted the game to end so I placed down my pieces without really looking at them or see what pieces my opponents had (which you probably have to do in order to screw your opponent over or not setting him up for a big play). I think this says all you need to know about my “enjoyment” of the game that I just wanted it to be over…
Sudoku – Verdrehte Streifen. Plays: 2. Rating: 2.
I had bought this game along with Verdrehte Blöcke (see below) for what I thought was a bargain ($3). This price turned out to be at least $3 too much… This game was not exciting at all! I do like to solve the occasional Sudoku, but this one removes all the fun. Furthermore, it was way too easy, so it only gets a 2 as I really cannot see myself playing this again. It is definitely not as bad as the other Sudoku game I played, Verdrehte Blöcke:
Sudoku – Verdrehte Blöcke. Plays: 2. Rating: 1.5.
This game ranks as my worst gaming experience in years… It takes way too long for what it is! I can only see people complete this game in 15 minutes if they get lucky with how they start their first few turns; because in the beginning it’s not that hard, but when you finally think you have the correct solution, one single damn piece suddenly won’t fit! So now you basically have to start all over as every previous laid piece (at least so it seems) cannot lie there after all…
My wife hated it and stopped playing before we were done! I don’t think this has ever happened before, so that says a lot… I insisted that there HAD to be a game somewhere, so I tried it solo (which I think is the only way to play this game by the way; it feels like it’s made for solitaire but comes with 4 copies of the tiles so you can play with your friends. However, after you introduce this game to them, they won’t be your friends any longer). My findings were disappointing – there was no game to be found. I’m a sucker for tile laying games, for deduction games, for some games with minimal interaction etc., and I do solve a few Sudokus now and then (mostly “then”), but this game outright sucked. There was nothing to be happy about! This is perhaps my worst gaming experience since I started playing more seriously in 2011… It is not broken, so it doesn’t get a 1. But, to me, it almost defies description of a game…
Love the world.
While I continued exploring and enjoying the 18xx family of games in June, I also had the chance to play a couple of unrelated titles. One of those took top honors as best new game of the month.
Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
(image credit: chillusmaximus)
For me, this was a case of love at first sight. I can remember seeing a front page thumbnail image of the game back in 2011 and idly wondering what it was. I clicked through to the gallery and was blown away. The game is thoroughly beautiful in an understated way. There's a large mounted map of Honshu Japan, colored in muted sepia tones; dozens of huge chunky wooden blocks (maybe 40mm x 20mm x 20mm?), which are painted black and gold and stickered on one face with Japanese heraldry icons; and two decks of large cards showing the same iconography as the blocks. The whole package just looks handsome and elegant, with an antique Japanese flavor.
Then I started to read about the game's relatively modest length and complexity (for a wargame) and interesting and somewhat novel mechanics (the blocks and cards work together to create two levels of uncertainty about an opponent's disposition and abilities).
Within half an hour of first hearing of the game I'd pre-ordered it.
The setting is historical Japan in 1600. The warlord of Japan has died, leaving a five-year-old heir. In the resulting power vacuum, war broke out between forces loyal to the child and those seeking to seize power.
The rules and components interact elegantly, providing a clean-playing system where players can concentrate on strategic movement and objectives. There are sudden death victory conditions (capture the child heir or kill the opposing leader). If those aren't achieved before the turn limit is reached, victory is determined by each player's end-game control of castles and resource locations.
The use of blocks to hide the identity of a player's pieces (until revealed) is a well-established device (think Stratego or Hammer of the Scots), but Sekigahara adds a wonderful wrinkle. In order to actually use a block in battle, you must hold and discard a card matching the block's faction. This creates an interesting hand-management problem and provides a lot of scope for bluffing and surprise. An imposing eight block army might be a paper tiger if the player doesn't hold enough matching cards.
I've only played once so far, and I'm sure that there are deeper subtleties that will come out through further play. I'm really looking forward to trying it again! (I'm optimistic that I'll convince my wife to try it. It's length, weight, and overall feel are on a par with A Few Acres of Snow, and we've had a lot of fun with that.)
1889: History of Shikoku Railways
(image credit: Cole Wehrle)
I like it when a game provides different scenarios, maps, and minor rules variations. You can learn the rules once and then play different iterations of the game, each presenting a different setting and strategy (e.g., Age of Industry).
I finally realized that this is exactly what's going on in 18XX. It's a game system. Once you've learned the rules of one fairly vanilla 18XX title, you'll know 80-100% of the rules for any of the other titles.
1889 was my first "full" 18XX experience (the games I tried previously are all toned down introductory games). This meant a little added complexity to the rules, but nothing overwhelming given that we already knew the core system.
But it also meant longer playing time. In our first play, we went 4.5 hours, which was about an hour longer than I would have liked. Towards the end, my wife and I were just getting too mentally tired to play well or get as much enjoyment as we had earlier in the game.
But we played again yesterday and got it down to about 3.5 hours (not counting a lunch break), and none of us were mentally tired afterward (we went on to play a quickish game of South African Railroads). The main reason for the quicker play was probably our increased level of experience with the system. We just had a much better handle on what we were doing (both mechanically and strategically).
The other thing that really helped was a player aid that I'd thrown together before we started. It was just a glorified multiplication table, but it cut out about a half-hour of tedious calculation and re-calculation of dividend payouts.
[1889 was also the first print and play game that I've ever built (details of my experience are in this blog post)]
1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight
(image credit: Mike Hutton)
I had read that 1860 was one of the few 18XX games that play well with two, so I was very interested to try it out at that number (a lot of my gaming is 2p with my wife).
Why shouldn't 18xx games play well with two? Because they're share ownership games. Player's don't own companies outright; they own a percentage. And the benefits that players reap from their investments are proportional to their investment. If I own 40% of a company, and the other two players each own 30%, I don't have a strong interest in pushing that company forward. Every time it pays out, the proceeds are split 40-30-30. With only two players, this could become even more pronounced (and binary). In every case, the relative benefit of a company could be a small margin of its value. This could flatten the whole game, reducing opportunities for decisive gain. This is especially likely in "standard" 18xx rules, where player ownership is capped at 60%. This means that every company could wind up in a 60/40 split.
How does 1860 deal with that? It eliminates the limit on share ownership. Players can own up to 100% of a company. This opens the door to establishing exclusive or strongly lopsided interests in a company, restoring the incentive to push that company's development.
The game also has a much tighter map and tile set, creating good opportunities for blocking companies out of valuable locations. That, combined with the 100% ownership discussed above, led to much sharper wrangling over the board, as we both tried to maximize "our" companies, while screwing over the opponent companies.
(One other wrinkle for those familiar with 18xx: you can sell the director's share, meaning you can walk away from a company entirely. This means no loot and dump, which might otherwise cause too great a swing in a two-player game .)
We had a good time with it, but it was long! We started at around 4:00pm on a Saturday and played until 10:00 (with an hour-long dinner break). We left it set up overnight and finished up on Sunday morning. All told, it probably ran about 6.5 hours. That would be far too long to do in one sitting, but broken up over two days it wasn't bad.
(image credit: Siromist)
This is a simplified introductory 18xx game, themed around ancient Greek exploration and economic development. Railroad companies have been replaced with "countries" and shares in those company-countries are replaced with "merchants." Trains are now ships, which still feature numerical values to indicate operating range. As with other 18xx titles, the technological advancement of the train-ships serves as a game clock, triggering phase-changes that affect game conditions.
The track-laying part of the game has been abstracted. Rather than placing (and later upgrading) hex tiles with track drawn on them, each company-country places wooden disks onto the board. This creates a path that their train-ships can follow to produce revenue (which is withheld or paid out as dividends based on share-merchant ownership).
The game is pretty good, both as a stand-alone game and as an introduction to 18xx concepts. The components and graphic design are quite nice. But if you plan on playing it, you should definitely watch a video walkthrough and download a rules summary. The rules are not well organized for a new learner.
South African Railroads
(image credit: msaari)
This was the first Winsome-published game that I've played. The bits were charmingly chintzy, though it was a drag to keep bumping the two-piece map out of alignment.
It's a network development share ownership railroad game (surprise!), with an action selection mechanism that reminded me of Chicago Express. It isn't overly complex, though it's a little difficult to see what you should be doing to win.
In my first play, I invested too heavily in a company that got boxed into a corner and spent the rest of the game stagnant (and grumbling -- to the point that my wife kicked me under the table, never a good sign).
The second play, I was determined to avoid getting trapped, so I stayed out of the corners. About a third of the way into the game, I realized that I had a slight lead, so I started pushing the game clock forward, forcing dividend payments as often as I could (the game plays until the sixth dividend is triggered). This created a bit of a rich-get-richer cycle and I rode that wave in for the win. (Notably, the same company that had gotten me trapped in my first play was again cut off very early in the game. I think there might be a design issue there.)
It's an interesting design, with poor production quality. A lot to think about and it doesn't outstay its welcome (unless you're trapped in a corner).
While I'm likely to continue trying new 18xx titles for the next few months (I'm almost done building 18GA and am eagerly awaiting receipt of 1825 Units 1-3), I can feel that obsession loosening its grip slightly. I expect that new euros will be back in the mix soon.
Two new games this month.
The first game was Würfel Bohnanza, which I bought because I like Bohnanza. This on the other hand didn't have that much in common with it's card game ancestor and thus fell rather flat. Not bad, but nothing in there to make us exited either.
The second, and the better of the duo was Down in Flames: Aces High. It was a bit confusing at first, but I think we got everything right by the end of the game. This game have been sitting on my shelf unplayed for 5 years! Not any more.
[edit: fixed spelling]
Four new games for me this month.
Dungeon Lords was easily the best. A bit long, but a nice planning game and a funny theme. Rating: 8
Village - Decent game, but a bit pedestrian. Hard to find the right strategic balance in your first game, might be better on further plays. Rating: 7
Power Struggle - Not quite sure what to think of this, felt a bit outdated. Again, might improve on further playing. Rating: 6
Rise of Augustus - Not my knd of game. Too light and too much luck. Rating: 5
Board Game: Indigo
[Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1040]
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
3 plays 2 players
Easy to learn, beautiful components, some interesting decisions (but no real brain burn) and over quickly. On first playing, this route building game appears more accessible than Ta Yu, deeper than Tsuro, and less vindictive than Metro. My non-game-playing spouse was happy to play a second game immediately after the first. It will be interesting to see how much lasting appeal this has, but the elegant way 2-4 players are handled may give this some longevity. Reiner Knizia has gone out of fashion here on the 'Geek - perhaps because he is focussing on games with broader market appeal - but Indigo is undeniably enjoyable if not too taxing. A close run thing with Las Vegas for my game of the month, but this wins by nose for spouse appeal.
2 plays 5/4 players
At first sight, this game appears almost too simple - roll dice, place dice, win money. But only a few throws in, and both the tactical and strategic depth of this game becomes apparent. I loved the way options narrow as the round progress. Tons of player interaction with lots of screwage - but its only dice. This game had flown under my radar, but I really enjoyed my plays. The variant (with 4 players) when you also roll neutral dice changes the game up very well too. Its the sort of design I see working well with gamers and non-gamers alike.
The Witches: A Discworld Game
1 play 4 players
Played a demo copy of this at Sydney Toy and Game Expo (and wrote a session report). Martin Wallace's dungeon crawler set in the Discworld universe. Strong theme and simple gameplay (move and roll) clearly aimed at the Pratchett-fan market for whom the Discworld game was too complex. Cackles galore with the various nods to the Prachett books. I enjoyed my play tremendously, but not sure how much play it would get with either gamers or non-Pratchett afficionados.
1 play 4 players
A deck-builder with purpose. Its not Dominion (thank goodness), but better. Very solid theme to this game, with interesting combat phase at the end of each play. Great opportunity for bluffing and/or psyching our your opponents. The card abilities and powers (and the battles) match the theme perfectly. One can almost hear the blizzard conditions in this post-apocalyptic world. Its doesn't make the Best "New to Me" this month because of the high luck element in scavenging for supplies (I lucked out by drawing valuable med kits very early on which effectively put me into an unassailable lead before the halfway point of the game) and lack of variety in the cards. For me this is one of the unspeakable sins of deck builders. Suck people in with good - but incomplete - gameplay and then gouge them for expansions. I probably won't buy, because I could get hooked on this one.
Age of Reason
1 play 4 players
Re-implemented version of Struggle of Empires. But I have never played Struggle of Empires. Lots to think about in this game, particularly in the bidding for alliances at the beginning of each of three rounds. Indeed, I felt that the outcome of the game (3.5hours long) was largely determined by this auction phase. In all three rounds we ended up 3 against 1, with the one player effectively a sitting duck target for the last 2-3 turns in each round. Couldn't help but feel this would be better at higher player counts where any likely imbalance wouldn't be as severe. Nevertheless, some interesting ideas here, but would probably only play again with more than 4 players.
1 play 2 players
Only played it once with two - which may colour my views. I thought it was a interesting little stock holding game, requiring a bit of planning to build up routes, deliver goods, buy stocks and then take dividends. What stock you can buy, good you can move, track you can build or dividend you can take is entirely dictated by the dice you roll on each turn.The winner is entirely decided by cash at the end of the game, so grabbing those dividends is the key. With two players, we both had to diversify in stock (more as a defensive move) and we each ended up holding largely the same stock +/- one share. Thus the game was tight, but almost too evenly balanced. With only one path to victory (dividends from companies) I am not sure about the replayability. The components are OK - but there are not enough money tokens with the game. The game took about 45 minutes and, although I enjoyed my play, I won't be buying it. If I want a simple but deep stock/train game I would go for Paris Connection or Chicago Express/American Rails.
Last Call: The Bartender Game
1 game 4 players
A pattern matching game where you are trying to fulfil combinations of drinks (colours) on the cards you hold by moving drinks (colours) around on the table in front of you. The game seemed very dependant on the initial cards drawn. In my one game, I went out with my cards before any else had fulfilled any orders. And I am pretty sure it wasn't my good play. Beautiful components but very average gameplay.
A Fistful of Penguins
1 game 4 players
Roll dice, make combos, score VPs. Even the cute animal theme (and great acrlyic penguin pieces) couldn't save this game for me. Could be helpful in teaching young kids basic maths, but I have moved on from that.
Board Game: Guildhall
[Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:719]
[Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
I played 6 new to me games this month and this one was my favorite. I would rate this an 8.
I also really enjoyed Biblios (rated 8), Kemet (rated 7), and 30 (rated 7).
2 of the games that were new to me I didn't enjoy: Chupacabra: Survive the Night (rated 4) and The Sinking of the Titanic (rated 2).
It was a bit of a "light" month for us as far as new games go.
The cream of the crop was Viticulture. I saw this one being played quite a bit at Geekway to the West and decided to pre-order and pick it up as soon as it became available. Got it played three times this month and we weren't disappointed. It's a lovely worker placement game of running your own winery. The game is a bit tighter with 2/4/6 players(we played both 2 and 4), just because of the limited spots, but it wasn't enough that it made us dislike it, the person that complained the loudest about it in the 4 player game ended up winning as a matter of fact. Cards are an important part of the game and overlooking them would definitely be a huge hinderance. Weight wise it's right around Stone Age I would say, maybe a bit heavier. Most important about the game is that my wife loved it, the theme is right up her alley. First game took a bit longer than it should, but we'll blame that on the two bottles that got imbibed while playing. Three plays in June.
The biggest hit with my daughter this month was Indigo, a fun tile laying game in the same vein as Tsuro, instead of trying to get your opponents off the board though, you are trying to guide the gems off the board to your stash following the paths that are laid down as the game progresses. Really nice components and a fun light game that we can break out and play quite a bit and quickly. 6 plays in June.
Our monthly game group introduced me to three new games this month, but not a lot to write up about them since I only got one play of each of them in. But I quite enjoyed each of them, with the winner being Vegas Showdown, might be one to add to our collection sooner or later. Also played River Dragons(good fun family game) and High Society.
Qin-Picked this up from a BGG auction and got two plays of this in with my wife. I think that adding another player would definitely make it a bit more competitive but we enjoyed it enough to keep around. 2 plays in June
Ligretto-Just a fun obnoxious game to play every now and then. Need to grab a couple more colors to bump it up to 6 players or just get some new random decks of cards and go for more. 3 plays in June.
Kingsburg-Played a three player game with my wife and daughter with my wife winning. I'm not really sure how anyone felt about it, including myself. The battles at the end seemed too easy, but then again, we were rolling high for help. 1 play in June.
Ghost Stories-The game seems to be fun and the challenge is definitely there, I just need to get this to the table when everyone wants to pay attention more, our 2 plays ended way too quickly. 2 plays in June.
Clubs-Trying to introduce my daughter to climbing card games and we started with this one. It's actually quite fun and it could be a lot more fun with more people. 1 play in June.
I think that is it for June, was a pretty good month as far as new games go and hopefully I counteracted those "no new games in June" folks.
Hopefuls for July:
Board Game: Arimaa
[Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1945]
There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
For the first time in my 5+ years of participating in this list, I have a tie for Best New Game! Coincidentally, both are 2002 games.
Best New Games (Tied!):
Arimaa (Aamir & Omar Syed, 2002) 9.5/10
Chess is one of my Top-10 games and I enjoy abstracts. This game was specifically inspired by the computer vs. human chess challenges, and was designed to be hard to learn for a computer. It's really unlike any other abstract I've played, and I can tell immediately with one play that it is impressively deep. Imagine if when learning Chess, you're just taught the movement rules and left to discover the strategy on your own, rather than being taught strategy from the beginning as most books do. Here is my opportunity for such an experience! I had great fun falling upon various defensive and offensive nuances to the push/pull/trap-door dynamics of the game. There are already strategy books out there on the game, but I will avoid them until I fall into a major rut; until then I look forward to exploring the intricacies of this game on my own.
I played the Z-Man edition, which I absolutely love. The pieces have a nice classy look, and while just looking at them they look like they might be like some of those light flimsy plastic chess pieces, when picking them up they turn out to have an unexpected weight and heft to them. Nicely produced edition.
This game deserves to come back into print.
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, 2002) 9.5/10
Carcassonne was my entry to both modern boardgames and BGG, and is still in my Top 10. I've never been that into checking this version out, because I always assumed it was just kind of a re-theme. But, they don't have the original on Yucata so I tried this one out. It's so much more than a re-theme! It's like it takes the basic framework or premise of Carc, but changes the rules so much that it plays like a totally different game. You've got added tension of incomplete structures at the end (hints of Inns & Cathedrals but applied globally), and the meadows ("farms") are completely transformed due to different wild game and the offensive power of tigers. There's also the small stack of bonus tiles that give you some cool new fire-power and encourage you to finish other people's forests (hints of Traders and Builders but with bonus power twist). Rivers ("roads") are made much more powerful thanks to the presence of fish, and to fishing huts, and I like the tension of having fewer meeples to put out (5).
I do like Doris Matthäus's art on the original better than Johann Rüttinger's on Hunters and Gatherers, so I knock it 0.5 for that down to 9.5 (I rate vanilla Carc 10), since the aesthetic finished landscape is an important element for me.
But, this game's rules and strategy are so different and interesting, it absolutely deserves a spot on my game-shelf next to the original.
Sad to hear this one is OOP but I hope that it is only a temporary thing due to the RGG/HiG divorce and that Z-Man will come out soon with their own reprint.
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My only new game in June was a really good one, Belfort. I had been wanting to play this for awhile. It's an area control & worker placement game where you can build areas on the board based on the cards in your hand, and as you build the cards, they give you abilities. For example, the library lets you draw more cards, while the pub gives you more workers. The artwork is just fun and I would certainly recommend this game to others.
An average month for new games. Nothing outstanding, a few good titles, only one game I didn't enjoy at all. Ginkgopolis gets the crown this month.
Game of the month
Ginkgopolis: (1 play)
Players develop a city where each building basically grants VP's, other building tiles or resources. Each turn, all players simultaneously select one out of their four cards to perform one of three actions: plan (use a building or building spot), urbanize new areas, overbuild existing buildings. Beside direct scoring of VP's, players can gather VP's via building up their own tableau of scoring cards (the cards of overbuilt buildings) or by majority scoring of areas in the city.
Ginkgopolis is very non-intuitive and mechanistic. This makes it a hard sell for everybody except the hardened eurogamer. It doesn't help that the spatial city building part is conflict-heavy which probably aided its rather positive reception on BGG. It didn't make too much of a splash on this side of the pond though. I like the combination of simultaneous action selection and multidimensional gameplay including a spatial component but I doubt that it will have much longevity. Georges' second best title so far behind Troyes. His other three designs Royal Palace, Carson City and Tournay all have fallen through with me.
Rise of Augustus: (1 play)
Each player has three cards in front of him. Each card shows some symbols. One player draws a chit with a symbol out of the sack. All players can put a worker on a corresponding symbol. When a player has completed all symbols on a card, he shouts out Bingo... ahm, Ave Caesar! The cards give points and most of them also special abilities. To add interest there are a few achievements awarded to the first player to fulfil them.
An enjoyable light family game that manages to take the suspense of the bingo lottery and make a real game out of it. It suffers a bit from repeated breaks in the game flow when players complete a set and think longer what replacement card to take. This doesn't fit with the otherwise crisp gameplay. Due to the simultaneous gameplay it's playable with 6 players but take care that all players are concentrated or it will outstay its welcome. My play was marred a bit by one player constantly talking with another player and making all of us wait for his placement.
GOSU: (1 play)
I didn't have any interest in Gosu on its release. It was forced on me when it was sold off ridiculously cheap in a bundle with the Kamakor expansion. So I ended up with a goblin-themed combo-building game. Each characteristic alone normally is enough to make me wary.
Gosu nonetheless passed the play test. I enjoyed my first play of this tableau builder. Trying to build something useful from the dealt cards is an interesting enough task. There's plenty of combos to be discovered. It helped that it was with two players only. This way, the targetted attacks aren't bothering and the downtime trap of unexperienced players repeatedly sifting through the discard pile or other players' tableaus isn't too deep. Still, 75 unique cards make learning this game a challenge and require a lot of reading until the cards are better known.
This is where Gosu falls short. A dedicated group and much effort would be needed to reach a satisfying level of play. Until then, players will stumble through their turns slowly. Gosu's potential remains locked. Race for the Galaxy had a similar challenge. An excellent AI helped me to climb the learning curve high enough. Also, gameplay is so great once you're up there that enough other players are available. Three years after its release it's safe to say that Gosu didn't have enough impact to overcome the hurdle any card-driven tableau builder faces. RFTG or the newer Seasons do the same thing better leaving no room at the table for Gosu which otherwise is a perfectly workable but just ok game.
Qwixx: (1 play)
Such an easy game, such a short rule and we still managed to mess up the game end condition. The game ends when the second of four rows gets locked. We missed that a player only can lock a row when he crosses the last box (either on a 2 or a 12). Playing with this rule probably makes the game better.
Still, from the 2012 short dice games, I prefer playing Zooloretto: The Dice Game or Keltis: Das Würfelspiel instead. Qwixx' principle of one roll for all players doesn't satisfy me. Having a bad roll when it's your turn is too decisive.
R-Öko: (1 play)
A quick card game filler with a fun enough mechanism for a short game but ultimately not for me. The game ends when a player takes the last card from one of the four stacks. This card can be worth five points if that player already got another card of this colour. The winning player in our five-player game had seven points. Kind of disappointing to see how important this last action is and not enough influence in preparing for it. Probably better with fewer players and might rate '6' then.
The Manhattan Project: (1 play)
Always start feedback with the positive: Manhattan Project features great artwork. Ok, so much for that.
Too bad, that the gameplay is only feasible for Ameritrash lovers. Manhattan Project is one of the worst cases of crossover games that nullify 80% of euro-mechanism based gameplay by adding one core element of direct player targeting that severely punishes successful players. Better don't stand out, don't build anything too obviously efficient. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to be the first loser as you have a large target cross on your forehead. Alien Frontiers suffered from the same design decision.
The single remarkable element of the Euro core is the decision when to take back workers although most of the time players just do it when they have none left. This mechanism was implemented in a far superior way in Tzolkin a year later.
This was a huge month for me and new games. A trip to a FLGS game night, Origins, and a few purchases certainly provided a boost to get the summer gaming off to a great start!
There have been a number of worker placement, action selection games added to my wishlist over the past six months. It is fast becoming my favorite type of game. At Origins this month my purchase came down to Tzolk'in and Village.
I chose the latter as general concensus to those we talked to is that both are great games, but Village was probably the easier to grasp which was music to my wife's ears.
My first play did not disappoint. I find the theme of this one to be well integrated into the choices, actions, and mechanisms of the game. We felt the pressure of managing the time (life span of our generational meeples) and labored over what were the best choices to ensure our family left a significant enough legacy to win the game. It was close. Fun game. Looking forward to playing this one more in the coming months (Tzolk'in will have to wait).
Feld has proven to be my wife's and my favorite designer. This one has been on my Wishlist for some time. I found a copy at a vendor booth at Origins making it an easy first buy of the con (it would have been doubly sweet had Notre Dame also been available).
As my wife puts it, playing a Feld game is easier if you think of it as a combination of mini-games. Macao has a unique Action Cube selection mechanism tied to each round's dice rolls and a personal windrose mechanic that rotates and points to the Action Cubes (AC) in your personal supply that allows you to claim goods tiles, move ships, improve player turn order, activate cards, convert to Gold Coins (GC) or Prestige Points (PP).
My wife and I both enjoyed our first play and agree that it rewards additional plays each providing additional insight into the cards, combinations, and cube selection choices.
I've heard a lot of buzz about this one so was excited to give it a try during an opportunity to spend an evening at Gateway Games & More in Eastgate. It easily exceeded my expectations and I can see how this light, yet intriguing co-op is hitting a lot of tabletops. Players have a hand of cards that they cannot see and give/receive limited clues to each other to meld cards of like color in sequential order (1-5) the best they can to receive a score (rating) for their collective fireworks display. We
scored 17 pts in our 4p game. On my Wishlist, and would have been a definite buy at Origins, but I didn't find it. So I'll look for it again at Gen Con, it will be a good Game Night, family night, and travel game.
The Resistance: Avalon
I picked this up hoping it would be a nice Game Night starter/finisher for a larger group. We took it on our annual camping trip and managed to get 5 of us to play the first game. We learned a bit how it is suppose to work and picked up a 6th player in the process. Learned a little more and picked up a 7th player for our third game before it got to dark to keep playing. Everyone liked it enough to be willing to play in again in the future and some mentioned how much they liked the game and saw its potential in the days to follow. Nice.
Love Letter, another popular game right now, also saw the table in my evening at Gateway Games & More. I thought it felt like a quicker version of Citadels in its role selection (sans the building). For the most part the game play was going over my head or though it unprocessed, as turns were happening too fast for me as the newbie who hadn't had enough exposure to the logical relationship between the cards rendering me an insignificant factor and easy target in the game. An interesting deduction based, micro-game. Not sure if my gaming group would like it, or get it... but I'll let the experience simmer for a bit and see what happens when I see it on a shelf for the first time.
This was our last game played at Origins before we called it a day. In the back of the Vendor Hall was an area where attendees could play any of the Origin Award Nominee games for free, which was really a nice touch to the con (not sure if they did that in previous years or not). My wife saw Kingdom Builder and asked what it was all about so we sat down and gave it a whirl.
It would have been nice to have someone familiar with it to teach us the rules and get us started. My girls were getting tired and irritable, which made it difficult for me to read quickly and absorb the general game play. We figured it out about half way through and finished quick enough. I'm sure additional plays would be more interesting and would ultimately reveal its deeper strategies but the game did not offer enough depth for us. It probably would have been a buy earlier in our gaming journey, but for the first time ever all three of my girls said the game was too simple and/or not interesting enough to hold there attention, there are better games in our collection they would rather play. Okay.
My youngest daughter's game purchase selection at Origins which we played on Father's Day three times. It was admittedly better than I expected given the meh reviews of Fluxx in general of many on BGG. Now it wouldn't be my game of choice, but an occasional, casual play with friends and family would certainly be welcomed.
My youngest daughter's play choice at Origins in the Rio Grande Games room. I had wanted us to try Tzolk'in to see if/when we would buy it, however both copies were in play with a full group waiting. So we sat down and gave this silly, fun, family-oriented tile laying game of randomly drawing a tile and placing it in someones play area in attempts to build a completed monster for points and additional completed minions for points for every tile containing an eye. We played to quick plays and had some laughs but not the type of game that fits in our collection at this season of our lives.
King of Tokyo: Power Up!
We added this to our collection at Christmas, but after playing the base game at Origins in order to win the promo monster, Space Penguin, the girls' intereste was renewed to play it when we got home. At which time we added the promo cards we got at the show and broke out our expansion and experienced the unique Evolution Card decks that go with the various characters.
I was pleasantly surprised. I had high hopes which were dampened a bit by meh revivews on BGG (something about not adding much to the game), but we found it added enough that we would definitely consider including it in future plays. (NOTE: Our promo monster will be mailed to us as they ran out at the show.)
My oldest daughter chose to buy an expansion for Dixit chosing Quest and the group of three promo cards the Asmadee booth was offering with purchase. We played these cards exclusively and found it refreshing and challenging to have new cards. I'm sure having a wider variety to mix together will breath new life into this game as the original 84 cards we had were good, but felt stale early on as they have been seen multiple time in our half dozen plays.
I'd been waiting for this one for a while since I fell in love withNapoleon's Triumph by the same designer. After a lot of uncertainty, it was Kickstarted earlier this year. Upon its (early!) delivery, I busted it our with my usual wargaming partner in crime. How was it? Very cool. Like NT, it is a unique and very challenging ruleset, but it is worth it. The gameplay is highly evocative of combat in the era, offers tons of very interesting decisions, and the board and other components are striking.
It was definitely a month of long-awaited games. Besides Guns of Gettysburg, I also got my 2013 Winsome Games set and immediately gave Continental Divide a try. Six players was probably too many, but it did live up to the praise the Bay Area Winsome folks were heaping on it. It is fresh and chock full of interesting choices, not least among them the question of how many shares to issue and what to par them at. Very much looking forward to more.
Finally got and old Winsome expansion for Age of Steam on the table. Age of Steam Expansion: Poland was decent enough. Pretty vanilla expansion.
Speaking of Winsome expansions, Colorado Midland: Mayors got to the table. It was in last year's set, but it's been tough to get folks excited. I really like the timing and incentive tweaks added by this pretty simple rules change.
Tried out Auf Achse. This was uninspiring. I can imagine how it was good in its day. And it might make a nice family game intro to pick up and deliver. But I don't see it getting much more love.
The very coarse scoring in Cyclades made for a pretty tight little game. And I like the auction for turn order/roles. But, ultimately, I felt it was a bit too much clutter that made it seem tough, not the choices themselves.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter – Das Würfelspiel was fine. Eh.
Taluva was a game I'd been looking forward to for a while. First play seemed hypertactical, but I can imagine that with more plays it might fall into my multiplayer abstract sweetspot.
Iron and Oak was, alas, very boring. But that may be because I only had one ship in a three ship scenario. Not anything I need to play again unless folks that know my taste start telling me I should.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
This was an interesting little game.We did think it was odd thematically that trucks couldn't share a space but we decided it was because of a treaty to prevent another flare-up of the Great Trucker Wars. This game offers a lot for replayability with a modular map.
Felinia doesn't look like much based on the box but it turned out to be a neat little set collection type game. It's not a great game but it has some nice ship pieces and offers a lot of options.
Board Game: Hanabi
[Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:277]
Johannes cum Grano Salis
"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
Just three new games new to me in June, but a fourth is ongoing via PBEM and the winner is already decided, so I'll add it to June because...well, it's my list item.
Hanabi is fantastic. I've already been warned about groupthink, conventions, replayability, blah blah blah. I played it 2p with my wife, who really liked it, and I played it both 4p and 5p yesterday and today. It's a total delight. I don't dislike cooperative games, but a lot of them are just group solitaire. This one is not. It's simple and a complete joy. Even if I bump into (re)playability problems eventually, they are not looming just around the corner. Uncovering what your conventions are is part of the game as well, and I can get enjoyment out of that as well. Failing at this game is in some ways more fun than succeeding. I really am thrilled with it.
And I have a funny story about playing it yesterday. I was doing a 5p game with 4 new players. We were just a few minutes into the game before one guy put his cards down, logged onto Amazon from his phone, and bought a copy. As he was buying it he said "crap! Only two copies left!" Which meant that another guy across the table put his cards down and grabbed his phone, and there was a race to buy them (one guy had one-click ordering turned on, you see). In the end, both bought their copies. And when a second game was being played later last night, someone else logged on to buy it and the price had gone up by 4 dollars since morning.
Coup was a lot of fun. It's hard to describe it as anything other than a Bluffing Game. So you have a bunch of cards, and each card has a role on it. Each player is dealt two. On your turn, you can perform an action, and each role has a different action: take a certain amount of money, assassinate a character, remove influence from another character, block and action, etc. But you don't actually need to have the role card in your hand to perform it. So you can just bluff your way through the game as each player tries to figure out what two cards are actually in your hands. If another player calls your bluff and you don't have that card, you lose influence. If they call your bluff and you do have that card, then they lose influence. Last man standing. It was light, but quite fun. I don't own a copy, and am unlikely to buy the reprint/retheme, but I'd play it again.
I liked Saboteur just fine, but during one game when I was the traitor, I never drew a map card and just had to wing it. It was fun. Don't need to own it.
1846 has the reputation of being 18xx: The Eurogame. And it's easy to see why: the game has a draft for the initial private auction, which makes for a variable opening, and also removes an opaque part of an 18xx game. The companies and bank size all scale with the number of players, the stock market is not nearly as aggressive as it is in 1830, and the game is rather snowballish, which seems to be a common enough feature of Tom Lehmann-designed games. I liked 1846 way more than I thought I would. It's recognizable as an 18xx, but the fairly standard 1830 strategy simply does not apply. All track lays cost money, it's incremental capitalization, the trains are different (there are x/y trains, where you can go through y total cities and count the most profitable x cities for your route), you can do partial withholdings, and you have multiple jumps since the stock market is linear (i.e., your stock can advance more than one space to the
left right depending on how much higher your dividends are than your current stock value). It feels a bit like Baltimore & Ohio that way, since B&O rewards consistent advancement over huge early gains, so sometimes you're deliberately passing on $60 to take a &40 city, just so you can add the $60 city next turn and take advantage of the multiple jumps. I don't know if "calculated progressionalishness" is a useful term, but I'll start there. Despite it being very different than my usual 18xx taste, I'm happy to have it in my Deep Thought order, and will look forward to getting my own copy.
Circus Grandioso might be my second favorite discovery so far in 2013. I've already played it 6 times, and given the short play time I expect it to get a lot more play. (And, notably, it's gone over well enough with my various gaming groups to continue being played.)
The only other new-to-me game I played 6 times was a new prototype of mine.
There are two games I played for the first time which were interesting enough to try twice in succession - DrachenSchatten and Say Bye to the Villains - but neither is on my "need to play a third time" list.
I didn't play any of Battle of LITS, Meins!, or The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet a second time, though I could have - none really captured me, but none was bad.
There were a few recurring themes in the new games I played this month – some had a co-operative aspect, a few featured monsters of a sort (kobolds, gremlins and goblins) and many of them were light, quick games. Here is what I thought of them, in descending order of preference:
Super Dungeon Explore
After braving through the assembly of the miniatures and the less-than-optimal rulebook, I finally managed to get this game played. Sure, I botched the rules in my first game in the process (reading the FAQs and rules summaries on BGG is a must), but the group I played with enjoyed it nonetheless. The fact that they were huge fans of Japanese RPGs may have helped. SDE is a cool hack-and-slash game where one or more players play the band of heroes who gang up against the evil (or just misunderstood) Consul.
There’s quite a bit of strategy for both sides, as the combination of heroes matter a lot, and the Consul has to carefully consider the formation of attacking monsters. Also, expect a lot of yelling when dice rolls don’t go your way. There’s a nice variety of heroes, although the Consul gets only 1 set of monsters, which means the player who plays the Consul needs to rotate to keep things fresh.
OK, so this game hardly makes me feel like a Japanese pyrotechnician, but I have to admit that the ability to see the hands of other players, yet unable to see your own hand, is a brilliant mechanism. Hanabi really encourages players to trust their teammates, and read in between the lines of clues – is my teammate telling me that this is a green card for a reason? This game heavily depends on the group to make it work – it’s easy to break the game by insisting on a secret code or if players can’t keep straight faces. It’s also frustrating if you have a poor memory, which would lead you to forgetting the clues given previously.
The Resistance: Avalon
It’s the Resistance trying to be more like Werewolves with the inclusion of special roles. Plot cards in the original Resistance tended to be very swingy, so the special roles introduce a bit more predictability. I only played a 6-player game with Merlin and the Assassin, and the two roles balanced themselves perfectly, with Merlin knowing everything but being unable to say it directly. I’m terrible at bluffing games such as these because my gut instinct is almost always wrong, but I enjoy the paranoia that ensues. Also worth noting is that you could probably play this with the base Resistance by simply marking certain cards with the special roles.
No Good Gremlins
This is a PnP filler game worth constructing as it has a rather polished design and graphics which rivals that of commercial games. In this game, players construct rockets and launch them to gain VP. At the end of a each round, a Gremlin card is revealed, and if two of the same Gremlins appear, they consume all rockets made of a specific material. Also, whenever a player launches a rocket, he or she attracts the attention of a wandering gremlin, who can be bribed to activate special abilities. Building a more tactical and complex game around the push-your-luck mechanism found in Unnamed Object sounds like a bad idea, but No Good Gremlins pulls it off surprisingly well, especially with regards to the double-edged wandering gremlin mechanism.
If No Good Gremlins resembles Incan Gold, then Qwixx is a glorified Can't Stop. Players roll dice each turn, make two combinations from the roll and cross those combinations off their personal score sheet. Even when it’s not their turn, players may cross off a specific combination rolled by other players. It sounds simple, but the trick is that there’s an order to the numbers crossed off, and players can’t backtrack on the list. Just like Can’t Stop, Qwixx mixes a little tactics into a series of continuous gambles with some growing tension (and frustration) thrown in for good measure as the score sheet slowly fills up. A pretty bit of brainless fluff to kill 20 minutes.
This is a lesson that video reviews are essential for me to grasp how a game works. I got this game after reading a few written reviews because it roughly matched what I was looking for: a game with secret objectives and a little chaos. While I have only experienced this with 2P, it left me cold – the part where the robot is built felt dull, and then the fighting part threw most of the strategy out of the window. The game comes with a neat looking controller, but deciding how the robot turns and which side of the opponent it attacks can mess with your head. While I did prepare myself for a chaotic game, Goblins Inc. felt disjointed and had a mismatched complexity-chaos ratio.
Kakerlakenpoker is essentially a series of small bluffs. Take a card from your hand and pass it face down to an opponent while stating which beastie it is. Your opponent either says that he believes or doesn’t believe you, and flips the card over. If he was right, you’re penalised and if he was wrong, he’s penalised. Alternatively, your opponent may peek at the card and then pass it on to another player. Thankfully, as more cards are placed face up, players have a bit more information to work with to call on another person’s bluff. While I’m ambivalent towards pure bluffing games, what pulls Kakerlakenpoker down is that the game can really drag in playing time.
Ghooost! is a bit like a climbing game where players have to play cards onto a stack, and the cards played must be equal or higher in value than the previous card played. If they can't, then they pick up the entire stack. There are several power cards which add to the complexity, but also give room for tactical play. To finish your round, you need to clear your hand a stipulated number of times, which is no mean feat, since every time you clear your hand, you reveal a random card from your personal deck. This means that the game can take a long time as streaks of bad luck can see players repeated picking up the entire stack. Strangely enough, finishing first doesn't give you the most points. Between the mildly interesting concept, fiddly rules and long playing time, this is a rather mediocre offering from Richard Garfield.
Chromino is a light tile-laying game. Just place your tiles adjacent to the growing board of tiles in such a way that at least two squares on your tile match 2 colours of the adjacent tile. The first player who clears his or her hand wins. There are very few, if any, real decisions to be made in this game as players have no control over how the board will look like by the time it’s their turn. As a consolation, it’s quick and forms a pretty mosaic by the end of the game.
I had to double check my data I have on games played because I couldn't remember if four games were played this month or last. It looks like the four in question where this month, and I added in two more so I'm well ahead of where I want to be in terms of playing new games for the year.
Fun quick filler. Hardly any real decision making at all in the game. I got smoked in the game as two of the players had runs of 8 brains. I like where the expansion tries to take the game. It would kind of nice to see a more fleshed out game via more expansions. A 6 for now.
Sushizock im Gockelwok
Classic Knizia in its simplicity. It's definitely on the lighter side of strategy but still in the meaty filler side of things. I also got third in this as well. I do believe the scoring was rather close though. I have it at 6.5, but I can see a possible bump with some extra plays.
This is a very tight scoring multiplayer abstract. The final score between three players was a point with me again in last. This is due to players partly or fully sharing areas where the gems are scored. There could be complaints about being limited to playing a single tile and some apparent randomness with where the highest score gem starts off moving, but I think it mostly falls in something you have to plan for and helps with repeated plays. I haven't played Tsuro yet to see which is better, but this feels rather solid. 7 for now.
Lord of the Rings
Final Knizia for the month. "To Hell and back again." No kidding. It all starts out nice and fine, but it is a game about attrition and it comes across as more unforgiving than In the Year of the Dragon since the punishment in the game is handled out randomly versus being laid out. We drew tiles very badly and failed on our quest about 2/3rds of the way on the track for the final area. The game is easy to pick up and rather enjoyable. It is one of the better co-ops I have played. 7.5
I think I found the meta game for this more interesting than the game. One player I have found out seems to be the type that if a game has 1% screwage in it, they will squeeze out 2%. This meant they played the assassin role quite a bit. While I and another player talked about taking it away so the one player couldn't use it, I went about my way and played what I thought I should. In the end on my final play I decided to finally use the warlord ability and destroy a providence. In the end that one move broke a potential tie and I won. The player who went for screwage? Last. 7.5. This could definitely go up as we played longer the depth slowly came out.
Bought for $9 via an auction here last year. It is from 1966 and smells like it. I used poker chips for a solo multiplayer game. The good news is it never really felt long which is nice. One player won based on having their company get merged and owning the only stock in the company(newbie error on my part). This allowed them to dump their earnings into new companies and horde stock. Slowly American Hotels started to swallow a number of companies and the one player used their earnings to keep buying AH's stocks since they had the most income to use. By the time the game ended the player got a $30K swing for the number of stocks and being a primary stock owner.
I didn't know what to expect, but was rather impressed. Any turn where you place a tile in no man's land fells partly wasted. I would have liked more freedom in selling stock at any time but that's minor. I can see using this game as a gateway to other financial based games, but I'm not 100% decided where I would go. An 18XX game sounds awesome until you try to convince people to play it. Initial thought was 8, but I'll have it at 7.5 for now. I definitely will be playing this again.
This was one month that games were harder to rate than usual. Even trying to rank my new to me for the year has Acquire over LotR even though I feel LotR is a better designed game. The more I play games the more I realize how empty ratings are after single plays anyway.
A good month for me again, 9 new games and one that I had only played on iOS before.
RIO de la PLATA
Only 2 of my new games this month were from my own collection, so I picked this as my favorite. A great euro with some wargame elements to mix it up. Mostly it's a worker placement game where you are developing a city (Buenos Aires). It's got some nice twists, like the buildings are communally owned and anyone can use them if they have a house adjacent to them. Some buildings produce resources, some just produce veeps and increase the value of the districts they are in. Some of the buildings are massive projects which require the actions of many workers to complete over several turns.
The big twist is that the city is periodically attacked by either natives or pirates. One of the players takes the role of attacker (each player will be attacker once in the game) and proceeds to try to destroy buildings and kill workers. The combat is luckless and fairly abstract and can be kind of AP-inducing. Many veeps can be awarded to both the attacker and the defenders during the combat, so this part of the game can be crucial.
Only played with 3 players, so will be looking to try it with 4 or 5 soon as I bet it will be much more fun that way.
I had not heard of this one before, but it was a lot of fun and I will be hoping to add it to my collection. I like the auction for actions aspect and the jockeying for position in the city quarters. Pretty uick playing with enough depth to make it interesting. Great production quality too.
The PRINCES of MACHU PICHU
I'm a fan of Mac Gerdts' games, especially Antike and Hamburgum, but had not had a chance to try this one out before. I enjoyed the play of the game well enough but was disappointed by the end game scoring and the seemingly random aspect of the gold value of the scoring cards indicating who would get to triple there veeps in one of the winning conditions. After more thought, I realize that these scoring cards are deviously clever in that they will push you toward one of the winning conditions to best score points. I'm afraid I will not get enough chances to fully explore this aspect of the game, but would welcome the chance.
AGRICOLA: All Creatures Big and Small
I've been getting less interested in Agricola over the last year or two but decided to buy a copy of this 2-player reduced version to give to my girlfriend as she had expressed interest in it. We played it twice and I found it rather enjoyable. Not as tense as Agricola for sure, but fun in a more light way. Certainly easier for us to get to the table with its shorter play time. Seems to be more up my alley than Le Havre: The Inland Port.
Excellent light filler. I had heard some good things about this and was glad to try it out. A little light on the strategy and heavy on the card luck, but what do you want for a filler? Filled the role admirably.
SEASONS of the SUN
A dice based abstract with some similarities to Balloon Cup. Roll your 3 dice (with one reroll of any number of the dice) and place them on your side of one of the scoring markers. The markers have varying values and some are won by the highest total and some by the lowest. Markers are scored when each player has placed his dice on his side. Play until are markers are claimed. Simple enough but quite fun. My friend Paul had made his own copy and it doesn't look like it was ever produced professionally. I bet it would be even more interesting if you tried it with more than two players.
Another game I had never heard of. A fun game reminiscent of Ubongo but with a timer and cooperative play between pairs of players. Would like to play again, but doubt I will look to add to my collection.
ROMANS GO HOME!
Light, chaotic card game. Might have a bit of depth but I'm not sure I enjoyed it enough to dig deeper.
LONDON CABBIE GAME
A British game from 1971. Pick up and deliver passengers, hope for a good tip. The map of London is quite complex and you better watch out for the one-way streets. Quite a bit of trouble locating the various destinations and pick up spots as none of us were very familiar with the geography. Fun enough and as an ex-cab driver I was keen to give it a try. But it outlasted its welcome by about 20% and we were all glad when it finally ended.
Nice little auction based filler from Knizia. I have played it a bunch of times on my iPod, so this gave me an advantage over my opponents and I practically outscored them all combined. I'm glad to have finally played it IRL and it will be something I recommend in the future when a filler is appropriate.
Elk Grove Village
I tried the No New Games For Me challenge for June and failed on day 1.
Crude: The Oil Game was the best of the 4 new to me games for June. I like tile placement, dice rolling and economics. This one has all of that. I had tried for years to seek out a play of McMulti and was happy to Stronghold Games reprint this one and allow me a chance to play it.
There is a bit of luck with the dice rolling and the good news is you get to "root" for your immediate neighbors to roll certain numbers to help you. The economic aspect of the game - buying and selling in the domestic and foreign markets is pretty neat, as is the pricing mechanism in the middle.
I am not quite sure how many different paths to victory there are, but I would like to play a few more times to find out if liquidating your equipment is the only way to win the game after you've been lucky enough to raise cash through the marketplace.
Merkator is a game that I had seen a gaming buddy bring to my FLGS for a few weeks in a row and when I had a chance to join in on a game I took it. I like to help my gaming buddies get their games played - especially when they are eager to teach me. Having Uwe Rosenberg as the game designer also was of interest.
We actually payed this one twice back to back in the same session which I really like to do - it's already set up, we all know how to play, repeat - wish it would happen more often. Anyway we played 4 player games and it clicked for most of us after a few rounds into the first game. This is a game about synergy and capitalizing on your bonus cards or just good options on the board. Picking up and then selling goods is the basic theme. Fulfilling higher contracts (sales) is how you score more points. Our games both triggered by that darn "punch board" where when you reach the end of a row, you might lose a good in a certain column of your marketplace. That got a little old, but adds "randomness".
I noticed that it did play solo as well and is supposed to be pretty good as a solo game. If I owned it I might try that out.
Quarantine is a game that I pre-ordered from Mercury Games due to a BGG news piece. Give WEM another sales credit.
I like tile placement games and I am ok with action point allowances which are both a big part of this game. In this game you are managing a hospital - treating patients (which is your currency), adding rooms - both treatment rooms to earn more currency AND speical rooms which give your hospital something to distinguish itself from other facilities and give a special power or ability. Every round you draw 4 patients and/or greysles (disease). You can add patients to any players hospital line and normally you add the greysles to other players hospitals. The greysles spread to adjacent rooms with special speedy spreading through completed nurses stations so be careful how you expand. You than get 4 actions each round - you can "bank" up to actions each round if you desire for a future round.
The way that special rooms are purchased is pretty innovative. As an action you set a contract. You pick a special room tile (or both tiles if playing with 3 or 4 players). You set at least 2 cubes on the tile as the market price for that tile. The person who sets the contract price does not add that tile to their hospital immediately, rather they add it to their hospital as the first thing they do next turn. All of the other players can spend one action to purchase the special room by matching the cub quantity and color that the contract setter made. If a player buys the tile, then the contract setter gets a bonus action marker. If both tiles are purchased before it gets back to the contrat setter, then they will have received 2 bonus actions and also gotten their 2 (or more) cubes which set the price of the special room back to them. It is a balancing act of setting the price correctly for what you want to achieve - get that room, get special tiles, etc. If no one buys the tile at the price the contract setter made and after adding the tile to their hospital a tile remains - then that is the price going forward for that woom and no one gets a bonus action marker whwn it is purchased.
The game end triggers = either when the bag runs of cubes to draw OR ALL of the treatment and special have been purchased.
The 3 four player games I have played have pretty low scoring (usually 15 points +/_ 1 wins), because you score 1 point for every 2 cured patient cubes, 1 point for every completed nurses station, 1 point for each special room and 1 point if you end the game with no patients in your line. I think this would be a great game to introduce newer gamers too as well.
My only complaint is that the game can bog down with AP. If repeated plays speeds up game play, then I see my 6 rating going up. Otherwise it just feels a touch long for 100-120 minutes where my games have clocked in at.
If you see it on the game table, try it out.
Ascending Empires is a title that I heard a buzz about at Origins 2 years ago, but never saw it hit the table at my FLGS so I kind of forgot about it. One of the people I heard buzzing about it 2 years ago said - "Ah, flicking is not my thing, and that game has plenty of it." Normally I seek out Zman titles, but 2 years is a long time to consider this seeking it out.
Anyway, I got recruited to play this while still in the parking lot of my FLGS. Glad I did - I enjoyed the dexterity element and once we corrected a few rules early in the game, it all made sense. The 2 veteran players both trounced the newbies, BUT I look forward to a rematch. I can see playing this game 2 to 4 times a year for quite a while. I would seek out my own copy, BUT the secondary prices are a bit high AND 2 of the guys I would most likely play with own their own copy already.
Army of Frogs
The aMAZEing Labyrinth
Here endeth the presentation.
Board Game: Qwixx
[Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:678]
Qwixx. It's as simple and quick to play as you get. Yet here is a real treat of a game. It's a dice-fest race game with no downtime (you can always make a move on other people's turns), a few decisions (should I take the 6 now or hope for a 7 soon?), and a load of groans and shrieks as the wrong or right dice get rolled. It's over in minutes and most will want to be playing again and again as it has that addictive nature to it. Whilst Hanabi is a more thoughtful and interesting game, I see this one taking the SDJ as it plays perfectly to the German family gaming phenomena, a cultural aspect of German lives I wish we had in the UK.
TurfMaster. Six of us had an evening at the races this month. I had been trying to get a copy of this for years as games which take 8 are few and far between. Turfmaster is a real gem, especially when you get to the tension of the brutal hurdles race with many opportunities to fall at the fences. Really straightforward rules too, surprising given the depth of strategy on offer. It was great fun too with little downtime for so many players and a real sense of the race developing. There was bunching on the corners, early leaders running out of energy, late surges from the back...all of Racing was there in the game, with the exception of betting and the sweat of the horses.
Peloponnes is an interesting auction game where you buy buildings or agricultural developments in order to build your engine. When your engine is going strong you feed your expanding population with ease. If not then you'll be losing population to famine. It plays fast which is necessary as the game is really based around a single mechanism and an hour is just the right amount of time.
La Boca is Make 'n' Break with a 2 player partnership element built in. If you have Make 'n Break and you love it then this is for you as it gives more of the same but different. If you think M'n'B is merely OK then don't bother with this. If you have not played that game then check this out if you like pattern recognition and building with blocks to match that pattern. The complication here is that two of you are building the same thing from opposite angles. As with Make N Break, as a competitive game it is flawed in that some of the designs are much easier to build than others so the luck of the card draw is significant. But treat it as a fun dexterity work-out and there is much to enjoy.
Saboteur is another game which I sought out due to its capacity for high player numbers. It is good in a Resistance sort of way. Though the ability to be a quiet Saboteur is fairly limited. Fun, but rather unsubtle and fairly blunt.
A great game gets even better.
The Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion makes Hansa Teutonica even classier if that were possible. And I didn't think that that was possible. I love Hansa Teutonica dearly, and now I love it that little bit more. It may be moving toward a very rare 10.
Board Game: Kemet
[Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:77]
Fernando Robert Yu
Kemet = 4 Plays
This was a game that I recommended my gaming buddy Kent to get. These days I have a tighter leash on my collection, and so when it became available at our FLGS I asked Kent to add it to his collection instead of that copy getting bought by someone else. I am very glad to say that my advice was spot on as we found out that it is a GREAT game to play. The action is fast and furious, and playing it is made better by the good looking components! The different power tiles and different paths to victory will make me request this a lot on many a game session!
Love Letter = 4 Plays
My copy FINALLY arrived, and it too did not disappoint! A very nice card game of deduction and bluffing, it has been received well by my family and the people at the FLGS. Lots of game in this 16 (20 with the cheat sheet) card item packed in deceptive looking red bag! I also replaced the boring wooden cubes with more appropriate heart shaped beads from my wife’s craft box, for better thematic feel!
Jungle Speed = 3 Plays
I finally got to try out this game which came as a reward for backing the DICE TOWER podcast. I’ve just played it with the gals and while it is quite simplistic our sessions have always been very noisy and loud. It is a fun party game which I believe will also be very accessible for my various play groups.
Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 = 2 Plays
I really found the new factions added a lot of fun elements, and I actually rate the expansion higher than the base game. They synergize very well with the original factions, and I hope for more opportunities to discover what these are (I do know that Bear Cavalry + Pirates and Ninja Plants are AWESOME!)!
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Rook City = 4 Plays
I find the decks in this expansion to be VERY thematic, especially the villains and the environments. Mr. Fixer and Expatriette are so-so but the fact that they are essentially regular humans trying to be heroic makes me root for them as the underdogs.
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics = 1 Play
I find that this expansion was not as thematically sound as the previous one, as the decks feel a bit disjointed and do not seem to connect well in terms of story. In addition, I found the Argent Adept and Nightmist to be difficult heroes to play with, as any environment or villain card which removes equipment en masse will severely cripple the abilities of these 2 heroes, as they seem to be REALLY reliant on the proper setup of cards to done in order for them to be effective. More plays are needed with the other decks in order for me to better judge this set.
Only two new games this month for me, one of which I liked. Winner's Circle may be an oldie, but it's a good betting game that's more about bluffing and probability management than anything else. Easy to rate a 7.
The other game was League of Six, a point-scoring euro that's about delivering goods and trading them for victory points, some of which are scored instantly while others are scored at the end. If memory serves, though it probably doesn't, there's a medieval theme. Or maybe that was a different game. It hardly matters. I give it a 4.