New to you September 2013 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in September 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 September 2013
Videogames New To You October 2013
Other Great Monthly Lists
New to you a year ago Sep 13 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only You have played in September 2013
What games did you acquire in September 2013
Your Most Played Game (and more): September 2013
Movies You Watched in October 2013
New to your kids - New Lease of Life - Gaming with your kids in September 2013
== NEW GAMES ==
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - 1 play -
With all the buzz about this game on these lists, I was keen to give it a try when a friend mentioned it and brought it along. The core mechanism of placing workers on the dials, that then move round is very interesting and there's definitely a big element of planning ahead. There are lots of ways to score points too. Since most of us had not played before, no one was really mean and I don't think anyone used their ability to move the wheel twice... though I could easily have been screwed up a lot at one point, if someone had... I persuaded him not to because I was not a threat.
The one person who had played before won easily with 68.25 points. The 3 of us who hadn't played all scored between 40.75 and 48.00.
I'd definitely like to try this one again so I can get a better handle on the game.
Dark Tower - 1 play -
My play of Dark Tower is accompanied by a sad story... A young lad, Philip, who became a friend through gaming, but who we haven't seen in quite a while due to operations and treatments for a brain tumor, came along to our weekly group last week... possibly for the last time. I'd had messages during the day on the Tuesday that his condition had deteriorated a lot, but also that one of our group was going to assist him in getting to the club.. Although quite a few of the people who know him don't get to the group very often anymore, several of us made the effort to be there and to spend time with him, including my wife and myself (having asked my mum to childmind for us at very short notice). We played Dark Tower... an 80s electronic boardgame which is very simple but turned out to be a lot of fun. For its day, Dark Tower was an incredibly advanced design, but today it definitely shows its age. This play however will be a good way to remember Philip when the time comes to do so.
Playing BSG a few years ago, from left to right - John, myself, Mike and Philip
A fantastic race game about managing your riders energy expenditure to make it to the end of the race in the lead. As a cycling fan this is brilliant and while it obviously isn't 100% true to life it definitely gives the right feeling of racing. While I was comfortably last in my first race having got the timing of my attempts to break away horribly wrong I'm really looking forward to hopefully doing better next time.
The Downfall of Pompeii packed a lovely amount of game in to around 30 mins. Quick to explain it packs the right amount of planning and screwage to be a game I'd love to see more frequently at LoB.
King's Forge was a nice fun game, a friend had made a print and play copy having got involved in the kickstarter. Was initially dreading somewhat kickstarter sloppyness with buckets of dice thrown in it proved to be rather a neat little engine game, doesn't take too long and the dice give it a lighter feel which helped it along. Not something I'm terribly upset that I missed out one but I'll be very happy to play it some more when the actual game makes an appearance.
In a Grove would be higher if not for some confusion on the exact winning conditions leading to me not entirely sure what I was doing throughout the game. Still interesting mix of bluffing and partial information which are both always things I enjoy.
1856: Railroading in Upper Canada from 1856 was another of my infrequent dips into the world of 18xx. Didn't manage a complete game due to time constraints though all that was really missed was a few companies buying their permanent trains and the sprint to the end. Interesting combination of mechanics with the loans and the nationalisation which I wouldn't mind trying for a second time though I think I prefer the 1830 style initial capitalisation and shepherding of limited funds.
Salmon Run was a nice attempt to combine deckbuilding with a race game. It's executed competently and gives you some decent decisions, not a classic but not a bad game either.
Where There's A Will was tedious and pointless, claimed to bring take that card play but most of the cards were either largely useless of pointless I win buttons leaving the game hugely dependent on luck of the draw without any real excitement in watching it play out. Basically knew I was going to dislike it going in and wasn't disappointed.
Every Man a (K-State) Wildcat!
"Just get that sucka to the designated place at the designated time and I will gladly designate his ass...for dismemberment!" - Sho Nuff.
Not War But Murder:
Initial rating. It may go up to 10 with more plays. This is an innovative take on the area-impulse games by one of the top designers in the business.
I love the combat system. The entrenching rules are great. The replacement point system and especially the daylight mechanism that ends each turn on a variable unknown impulse. WOW.
As far as gameplay, it is extremely challenging for both sides. The rebs have to watch the flanking and make due with a small force. The Yanks are racing the clock and fighting through a bloody meatgrinder and trying to outmaneuver. Loads of fun and challenge! Added bonus: One mighty fine article about the battle included!
Birth of a Legend:
Another winner by Michael Rinella. It uses a similar system as that in Not War But Murder but with a few twists of its own. I really like the leader activation system as a means of feeling Lee's frustration over Jackson's lack of participation while capturing the trepidation of George McClellan.
Also, the magazine article is excellent! He's as good of an author as a game designer.
If you like 1812: The Invasion of Canada, you will love this one. The mechanics are similar but the theme fits this battle. It plays 1-4 players and I like how the method for using the French, Hessians, and Indians as auxiliary units. High production value. Great artwork. Very fun light wargame. I bet it wins some awards.
The Lost Cause:
One of the better solitaire games out there. The A.I. engine is very good and makes life tough on you. I really like how the cards read like newspapers, have historical facts at the bottom, and has A.I. instructions that match the theme of the newspaper.
This really connects thematically and oozes with shiny good chrome (be sure to play the advanced game!) and does a great job of capturing the war unpredictably without an opponent, so big thumbs up for the work put in on it. While there are better strategic-level Civil War games out there (For the People, A House Divided, The Civil War, and Blue vs. Gray), this is still a fun one that I'm happy to have.
I have been a fan of the webhead since I was 5 years old, so I am not very objective. With that said, this is better than some cheap, dumb movie tie-in that you would buy at Walmart.
The game looks sharp and is intelligent how it ties into the source material. I scratched the surface and I liked it!
Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
Not many games, but one of them is really great!
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island - I couldn't collect my thoughts about this game in an orderly fashion, so I made this: Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island -- a review that is also (and mainly) a session report and, in the end, is really neither, but you might just like to read it
Rate: 8.5 / 10
Forbidden Desert has several similarities with his "middle brother" - Forbidden Island, particularly regarding the abilities of the roles. The game dynamics is as follows: it is a cooperative game in which the players want to recover and rebuild a flying machine buried in the desert - this being the forbidden one, so you know it won't be an easy task. The machine was left in pieces and is necessary to explore the parts of the city in order to find them. All the while the desert itself is trying to murder the characters, beating them down with the inclement sun. Also the dunes shift in the wind, so things seem to move around.
The board is composed by 24 tiles in a grid of 5 x 5 with a space in the center. In each turn the player has four actions points to spend, and they can be used by moving (one point per tile), digging (one point per sand marker), exploring a tile (one point) and collecting the pieces of the of the machine (one point per piece). Players cannot move into tiles with two or more sand markers, being necessary to remove the sand first. Also is not allowed to explore a tile with sand markers on it. At the end of every player turn cards are revealed accordingly to the number on the sandstorm meter. The cards in this deck are in one of three types: sandstorm (rises the sandstorm level), suns beats down (drops the water level of the players) and directions cards that indicates how many and in what direction the tiles will move - each tile that moved receives a sand marker, and if a tile moves more than once, it receives a sand marker for each movement.
Players lose if the sand markers are depleted or if the character dies of thirsty (the level of water reaches the death level). And victory is achieved if all the pieces of the machine are collected and are taken to the hangar were they will be assembled - for this the tile must be clear of sand.
The game has more to it - special cards, tunnels, wells - but this is the basic.
Forbidden Desert, as Forbidden Island, has a really high replay value and also shares the great pieces. One thing that Forbidden Desert has an advantage is the use of actions: many times in Forbidden Island I found myself, or others, with nothing to do with the actions available. In Forbidden Desert all the actions always counted for something. However without the Meteorologist, Forbidden Desert seems to be more chaotic and unpredictable, so making strategies are harder to be put in place - this, by the way, has one positive point: since the it is harder to see a path, it is also harder for an alpha player to dominate, mainly because the lack, in some moments, of a clear "better move".
Anyway, the game hit strong notes with me, and I liked it quite a bit, basically the same amount as Forbidden Desert.
Rate: 7.5 / 10
Sanitarium is a game with a horror mood, in which the players are in the said Sanitarium, without knowing how or why they are there, nor they have memories of who they are. The point is now to escape. But this is made harder because the characters are afflicted with terrible hallucinations. So, before they can escape, they must heal themselves, find meaningful objects that serve as connections with their former lifes, and find their way to the entrance, all the while facing the Shadows which stalk them, lurking in the darker hallways, going after the characters in order to drive them absolutely mad.
Sanitarium has a cooperative mode (the one I have played), a competitive mode and a solo mode. These mode have scenarios made for them, in which some rules are different. I mentioned the Foyer above, and this only came in a small expansion released in GenCon 2013. This expansion made some serious modifications in the game, and thus it came with a new rulebook. The changes are (as said by the designer):
- Each player now has a Character Reference card with two sides -- flipped over to the Sane side when you have no Hallucinations;
- AP System revamped. Your AP die still determines how many actions you can take, but it is scaled so that you get between 3 and 6 actions;
- Desperation Phase. Instead of the game immediately ending when the deck depletes, instead now Desperation begins. During Desperation, the Sanitarium will crumble around the players, and the game ends when no hallways are left. In Desperation, you escape by attacking Shadows instead of collecting your Safe Things.
I only know the game with these changes, but I do have the old rulebook, and in comparison, the modifications were all for good. I had some difficulties with the rules, since the rulebook isn't marvelous in the organization department, this I the reason to go with the co-op scenario (to get a good grip of the rules without harm the game of anyone playing).
The game did worked well: we liked the mood and the way the Sanitarium grows with our explorations - this is really good to add replay value to the game, since the layout will change everytime. But we also did see that some of the cards only have purpose for the competitive mode (though you can still use the cards to get rid of Hallucinations).
The artwork is well done, with darker tones, exactly inside the theme of the game.
Anyway, in a first play, Sanitarium didn't impressed me, but also didn't made me not want to play it again. I hope to play a few more times, and also in the other modes, to get a better view of the game as a whole.
Rate: 6.5 / 10
Love the world.
The Palaces of Carrara
(image credit: the ubiquitous henk.rolleman)
This was clearly the best of the bunch for September. It's a 60 minute, 2-4p, light-medium euro efficiency game, where you acquire building blocks in order to build buildings, in order to score VP for your buildings.
On your turn you either (1) acquire bricks (using a really simple and clever pricing wheel mechanism that reduces the cost of unbought bricks over time), (2) build a building with your store of bricks, or (3) summon the king to admire your handiwork (in a particular city, or a particular building type, or a broad class of buildings).
The in-the-box expansion (which comes in a sealed envelope with a dire warning label), adds some other interesting kinks on the main system, including a deck of variable end-game trigger and scoring cards (with four drawn randomly at the beginning of each game). I expect those will really extend replayability, as the goals will be slightly different in each playing. (This is somewhat similar to Kingdom Builder in that one respect.)
The game play has a crisp, pleasant feel and it moves along pretty briskly. There are opportunities for planning and clever play, but circumstances change enough between turns that you can't just calculate your way to victory. You need to be flexible and adaptive. When you combine that with the small scope of each individual player's turn, I don't see much potential for analysis paralysis.
Overall, it's a really nice package. The components are top notch, as you'd expect from Hans im Gluck. The game plays quite well with two, without any rules modification (I haven't tried 3 or 4 yet). The variable end-game condition and scoring cards should help to keep the game fresh. And I really like the way the different mechanisms are integrated. There's lots of scope for clever play and indirect player interaction.
The bad news is that Z-man's print is sold out and there's reportedly no plans for a reprint. I bought my copy from Amazon.de, for about $40 (including my share of shipping on a shared order). There's German on the end-game cards, but the English translation's available on the Geek and it isn't that difficult to keep track of four cards (which also have iconic representations to go with the text).
A strong keeper.
(image credit: the indefatigable henk.rolleman)
Targi is part of the Kosmos two-player series. It's a light-medium thinly-themed tableau building/set collecting/resource conversion game with an interesting action selection mechanism.
At the start of the game, a 4x4 "frame" of action cards is laid out in a specified order. Then the 3x3 space inside the frame is filled, semi-randomly, with "goods" cards and "tribe" cards. Goods cards give you resources. Tribe cards need to be purchased with specified goods, and are then placed in your own personal tableau.
Here's the spiffy action selection mechanism: On a turn, players alternate putting three pawns on cards in the outside frame. Only one pawn per card, and you can't place a card on the opposite side of a row or column that your opponent has already claimed by placing a pawn.
Once that's done, players get to perform actions. Each pawn that is placed in an outside frame card gets to perform the action shown for the card on which it is placed. And (here's the interesting part) a player also gets to play the action shown on the goods or tribe cards that are at the intersections of the rows and columns claimed in the outside frame. So, if I put a pawn on Row 1 and and another on Column 2, I'd get to activate the card at location 1, 2 in the interior grid. Interior cards are removed when activated and then replaced.
Many of the cards have interesting powers associated with them, which either boost your resource/action engine or give you end-game VP. Tribe cards in your tableau may either have one-time powers, continuing powers, or end game powers.
It's all quite tight, interesting, clever, and fun. A very nice 30-45 minute 2p game.
(image credit: rusty567)
This is a solid enjoyable 18xx game on a small map. It has a nice compact feel to it, with good opportunities for interesting track and token placement; things are constrained without feeling claustrophobic.
The design has no bells or whistles, but it hums along quite pleasantly. Our three player game only took about three hours (which is perfect for our group). The high score was around $5600, beating second place by just $19! (I finished in third, down by about $450, after having been on the wrong end of a loot and dump that cost me $800 to buy a train.)
We played my pnp build, which turned out pretty well, in no small part due to the handsome map file designed by:
ceci n'est pas une pipe
(image credit: the indomitable henk.rolleman)
This is a medium weight network building game, themed around expanding the reach and wealth of the Incan empire over the span of three "ages." On your turn you can extend your road network and improve nodes on the network in different ways, with the goal of scoring VP.
The basic network building chassis is solid and it's supported by a number of interesting mechanisms:
• The amount of work you can do each turn depends on the number of independent people that you've conquered. This is a nicely thematic way to grow your resources.
• When points are scored, you score for each node improvement your network is connected to regardless of whether you built the improvement. This creates opportunities for leeching off others' investments (which I always enjoy).
• Players periodically place event cards (which are either good or bad) in the spaces between two players. The events only affect the players that they're adjacent to. So, e.g., in a four-player game, I might place a card between Alice and Ben (affecting only them). Ben might place a card between Dave and Alice (affecting only them). Etc. This creates some wonderfully hard choices, as you need to figure out whether it's better to screw someone over, benefit yourself, or do something in between. To my mind, this is the mechanism that makes the game.
So what did I think? First the game ran much longer than I was expecting: three hours with four players. That didn't feel over-long, but it does mean that the game won't get played as often.
Second, managing event card placement is much more important than I initially realized. In my single play of the game, I got absolutely hosed over multiple turns by bad event cards played on my position. Seriously, it was like the other players tied sandbags to my legs. To make matters worse, the winner of the game was able to repeatedly use "wilderness road" cards, allowing him to ignore the normal blocking rules and get to valuable nodes that would otherwise have been inaccessible. That was all a bit frustrating, and not in a good way.
It's a very well-designed and interesting game, but I was left with a concern that factors beyond your control could decide the game for you.
(image credit: brankist)
Thematically, this is about the growth and decline of civilizations in a fertile river valley in ancient Assyria.
Mechanically, it's sort of a network building game, where the nodes (huts) in your network need to be supplied each turn or they're removed. There's also a periodic removal of all nodes on river spaces (they've "flooded"). Nodes produce resources that can be used in a number of ways to improve your abilities and scoring potential.
It's a well integrated mix of mechanisms, with a nice ebb and flow to the network growth.
You supply your huts by paying "food" cards with icons that match the demands of the spaces the huts are located in. This adds an interesting spatial/card management element.
I mostly enjoyed my first play, but I'm a bit concerned that luck with the food cards could have too great an effect on the outcome. My rating could improve if that concern turns out to be overblown.
(image credit: terraliptar)
This was my first play of any of the GIPF Project family of games. Like its siblings, it's a two-player abstract with classy components and a quick playing time. I won't describe the rules, other than to say that it's a clever and tricky, with pieces capturing other pieces by stacking on them and stacks moving a distance determined by their height.
My wife and I played a quick three game match in under an hour. With each play we got a greater grip on the spatial strategy of the game -- there were many aha moments. With enough experience I think this game would become much deeper (and slower).
I also think it would be very hard for an experienced player to introduce a newbie to the game. The difference in understanding would make things very one-sided. But as a quick 2p with matched players it was very good.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
After a record August (24 new to me items) I only played 1 new to me game. Detroit Cleveland Grand Prix was good, but after one play I think I like Daytona 500 better.
Pretty light gaming month, got five new games played as well as one new expansion.
Hansa Teutonica - Probably the heaviest of the new games played, although its pretty simple to play. Deciding what to do is the tough part. you've got to balance between improving your actions and going for things that will give you points at the end, since the game is on a timer and can end in one of several ways.
Mr. Jack Pocket - This is a very cool and quick two player deduction game. We played slightly wrong which made it a little more difficult for the Mr. Jack player, but now that we have the rules straightened out, it should be pretty even for both players.
Rialto - A game about getting majorities in just about everything the game offers. You want majorities on the six areas of the board to score points, you want majorities with the cards that you select to get extra bonuses. Quite a few strategies to employ, since lacking in the areas on the board can be made up by purchasing buildings that give you points and extra abilities. I prefer some of Feld's other games, but this one wasn't bad.
Augustus - A strategic version of Bingo. The odds of different symbols being drawn are different, and you choose which cards to mark off which will give you some points or abilities to use immediately or in the future. Still wildly random, but fast enough to be fun since you're not investing much of yourself in a game that you have little control over.
Truth Be Told - A party game where a reader reads a statement about themselves with a blank, and need to fill in an answer. Everyone else also fills in an answer. The reader and the players want the correct answer guessed for points, but the other players want their opponents to guess the answer that they gave, in order to earn extra points. Can be very funny based on the statements and answers given.
Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game - Wisdom and Warfare - An extremely awesome expansion for this game, that fits in well with the first expansion. This expansion swaps out the army units and governments for brand new ones, and includes some extra things like social policies that really makes all victory types viable win conditions. The new options also make previously unselected (and seemingly worthless) technologies into good choices depending on the chosen strategy path. Definitely makes this game much greater than it was.
It was a toss up for best new game this month, but given that I've been able to put in a bunch of solo plays, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set takes the crown. I got a phenomenal deal on the game, so had ordered it mainly as trade bait. After hearing the buzz at GenCon though, I figured I should at least give it a shot before I cycled it out. Glad I did, as I've really enjoyed the 10 or so times I've been able to play this month, and have found myself mentally optimizing my player decks in the off-time. I'm surprised at the difference in difficulty between solo and groups (largest I played with was 4); but part of that may have been due to how late it was and people being drained near the end of the night. Really looking forward to exploring what more this game has to offer with the coming expansions.
Image: Ben Harkins/Floodgate
Legacy: Gears of Time
The other contender this month I only got one play in, but it really hit home exactly like I thought it was going to. I had been eying Legacy: Gears of Time for a while and managed to pick up a used copy at a GenCon auction. It has a really interesting time travelling mechanic, and I was able to drive home a win in the final round by delaying and slowly travelling back in time dropping influence cubes on pre-existing technologies instead of founding my own. It gave me a different perspective on how to play, and I look forward to exploring the game more. And I haven't even looked at the expansion yet...
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.
Best New Game
Antiquity (Jeroen Doumen & Joris Wiersinga, 2004)
Wow. A 6-hour game of this epic civ-builder and the next day I would've been ready to play again, that's how good it is. The kind of game that gets under your skin and makes you keeping thinking about it days after you play. In my introductory game (pictured below) I learned how to deal with pollution and famine, and was barely alive at game's end but very happy to be so. Maybe next time I'll be able to add in one of the victory conditions... A classic game and deserving of its "grail" status.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Not the best month really...
A passing comment by a geekbuddy made Romans Go Home! sound like the kind of thing I'd like, and favourable reviews from Bruno Faidutti and Shannon Applecline put me over the edge. I've played three times so far and it's a really neat little filler. Kind of reminds me of the doublethink of Seiji Kanai's BraveRats but with the addition of pre-programming of moves. Tiny box too!
I didn't hate Guildhall but found it decidedly bland and uninspiring. I didn't like the way the attack cards encourage you to to target someone who just happens to have what you want rather than someone who's winning. And there seemed to be a big first-player advantage too.
Guillotine seems to come down to just figuring out the card that scores you most points each turn and playing it.
I don't see the point of Zooloretto: The Dice Game when Coloretto already exists as a slimmed-down improvement on Zooloretto.
And Timeline and The Resistance: Avalon were technically new to me, but only incrementally different from the other versions I'd played before.
Board Game: Zombicide
[Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:325]
[Average Rating:7.26 Unranked]
Bruno Libonati Rocha
Just two new games to me this month and none of then worth the play time.
Zombicide is just more one zombie ameritrash and the funny is shot in many zombies and see they dying. but you get tired of thos after the first 30 minutes of play. I didn`t see nothing more than a huge hype over it! Just ok!
The other new to me was Kahuna. An abstract strategic game. It starts fine e goes better, but the end is extremely boring with no emotion and you just play it to finish.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
Seven new games for me this month and three new expansions (one on a technicality.) As is my custom, I'll list the games in decreasing order of current enthusiasm, then the expansions and likely add some snarky awards in red text.
Die Macher -- (1 play) _8_
(images by Werbaer & HamsterOfFury)
My winner for the month. It might be long, occasionally random, exhausting; but it was completely worth it. I found the dynamics of play more accessible in practice than I'd expected from earlier reads through the rules. And, perhaps even more amusing, my opponents also found it compellingly amusing: they're up for a repeat play.
It's definitely not a "modern" game: there's more moving parts than necessary; more random effects than a recent game of its weight; more thematic colour than strictly required. But it holds together wonderfully - and puts many of the modern cube-pushing Euros to shame for captivating players and retaining their attention.
The only (serious) downside of this report: the game had existed in my closet for seven and a half years before this play. I hope it doesn't take another 90-odd months to organize a second play!
Spyrium -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by W Eric Martin & Toynan)
This was cool. And it has a lot of upside, too. The play was with 2; probably not the best count. I made lots of (in-retrospect) poor (or at least, sub-optimal) decisions. And yet the game was very interesting. Very happy I've got a copy on order.
The not-quite-Worker-Placement meeple bids are fascinating: placing to select something; or make it more expensive for opponents; or even so that one can remove the bid later to make a bit of cash (and one Really Wants that bit of cash in the 2p game) is fun. I'm looking forward to exploring those dynamics further.
I wonder a bit on how many players the game could support in an hour duration: I'd love to try it with my Friday-Lunch gang; but we only have an hour to play. I'll guess I'll need to try it first in a more unconstrained setting before inflicting it on the right number of lunch folk.
Fast Food Franchise -- (1 play) _7.3_
(images by peapicker & Carrotteer)
Really happy to have had the chance to play. This is a game that was released while I wasn't playing many games (outside Go, Magic: the Gathering and Dutch Blitz) at all. I saw it in play once about ten years ago. But I only became aware of it (in the "I might want to play it" sense) as the final copy vanished from the shelves of my (~F)LGS.
I'm susceptible to the idea of a Better Game inspired by Monopoly. I'm one of those appallingly non-hip geeks that thinks Monopoly is occasionally worth playing, in fact; and have had loads of memorably amusing plays over the years. I find Chinatown does a great job of rendering the "trade stuff" subgame. So it was fun to see the rest of Monopoly here: the move, buy companies, choose things for location and adjacency thing here - yet with a bunch of Real Decisions amid the mix. Who would have thought it: Monopoly + Decisions - Trading + Lehmann-special-sauce = FFF gaming goodness.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed it. Some of that was the historic associations. Some of it was the excellent opponents. Some of it was probably that I was in the mood for something not-entirely-serious of about that weight.
I'd *love* to find a copy (anyone want to sell/trade me one?) Many thanks to Scott for trading me his copy.
The City -- (1 play) _7.3_
(images by W Eric Martin & henk.rolleman)
This one was received enthusiastically by both my two (remaining at home; the eldest is off at college) children. Daughter #1 thought it was the Best Thing she'd played in a while; Son #2 was a bit less enthusiastic during play (his tableau didn't take off at all, and he finished well off the pace) but after the fact he thought he'd do much better the next time out - which meant he'd engaged with the game, and was pondering it later. (That a Very Good Thing when it happens to me; I'll be interested in seeing what enthusiasm he musters for a subsequent play, since his sister will likely force him to join us.)
I enjoyed the streamlined Race for the Galaxy mechanics; was amused by trying to navigate the German text (I was pleased to see that my youngsters did their best with it, rather than complaining); found the snowball even more pronounced than I expected. I think, in the end, it was More charming than expected - which isn't at all a bad thing.
Coup -- (4 plays) _6.7_
(images by W Eric Martin & MyParadox)
This one was capricious and random; or perhaps even nasty, brutish, and short. But, for all that, it was short enough that those other things didn't really bother me. My investment in the outcome that I thought Should Happen was pretty modest; and when events transpired otherwise, I was able to roll with it.
In the end, a reasonably cool fast thing (reminiscent of Love Letter or Hoax): and since I own both of those, not likely one I need to own.
The Castle of the Devil -- (1 play) _6.3_
(images by Scratches & bodomchild81)
Not quite my style of game; and this particular play was damaged a bit by a lack of initial ruling as to what manner of information could (or should) be given verbally. Were we to discuss our allegiances publically? Or only by in-game signalling? As a table, we were a bit more divided on those questions than would make for a clean play - which was a bit unfortunate. I could see enjoying the game more if there was less public discussion, and having more fun with it if unlimited public discussion was permitted. But this way (where there was disagreement over what was permitted) was inelegant.
Basically Best to get the rules straight before the play: advice that is relevant to a whole bunch of titles.
Feudo -- (1 play) _5.5_
(images by papini & ScottyD135)
This one, I'm afraid, was a bust for son #2 and I. It's not a complete pan of the game; I expect that the experience could be quite interesting for the right audience. But we're not it.
While the game is designed to provide situational randomness (the plague) and mostly deterministic resolutions within that framework, I expect the intent of the designers was to have that randomness strike both players roughly evenly. But when the random events uniformly target one player, it doesn't work so well. And that put us off: him more than me, I guess, since he was that target. But I can't claim I was terribly enthusiastic about that eventuality either. (I might have been slightly more amused if all the random events targeted me; but it wouldn't have made me any more interested in playing again.)
I could see playing this again with the Right Opponent; but it's not going to becalling my name from the cupboard any time soon. I'd trade or sell it, if it wasn't basically worthless.
Desert War -- (2 plays) _7.7_
(images by magicm & nerotora)
I'd only really used the French troops in a recent play of Up Front, rather than playing one of the Cool New Scenarios that came with this one. As a result, the rating is more that of the base game than strictly that of the new bits. (And, if anything, is a bit under-rated: I expect I'd rate Up Front higher if I could play it often enough to remember all the rules.)
Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by giochiusati & red_gobbo)
Again, more a reflection of the base game than This Specific Expansion. I've played other maps (we used the Central Europe one of this pair) that mutated the rules and aesthetics more than this one. It worked nicely; the connection topology was interesting; no complaints.
Samarkand: Routes to Riches – Family Connection -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by Almecho & cbazler)
This one is probably rated on its own merits. It's a significant delta on the base game, and a rather interesting one - since it makes some of the decisions from the base game a bit more nuanced. I'd be happy both to try this again, and to buy a copy were it ever to reappear in the BGG.store.
Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the back-to-Fridays-for-2013 Lunch folk, and the Wednesday Night gang for some great game experiences.
Board Game: Guildhall
[Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:696]
[Average Rating:7.01 Unranked]
Fernando Robert Yu
Lots of new games this month!
Guildhall = 6 Plays
This was the surprise of the month for me and the guys. I didn’t realise how vicious and interactive this card game could be, especially if you consider the “innocent” looking cover. You always have to be on your toes with this game, as you have to always be on the lookout for the cards you need in your opponent’s guildhall while at the same time try to avoid putting cards in your guildhall which could help your opponents complete their sets. I am looking forward to getting the Guildhall: Job Faire set for the additional 6 professions which could mix and match with the base set.
Carson City = 2 Plays (1 with the expansion, see below)
I finally manage to snag a copy from Quined White Goblin Games (together with the expansion), and I have to say the 2 plays last month did not disappoint. This game definitely plays very fast so is unlike many euros where you can afford to build a scoring engine before going for points. In addition, the ability to gunfight means that you cannot rely on a set strategy, since you opponents can kick you off an action space or from a land you intend to own. The roles definitely add flavor to the game, and the roles from the Carson City: Gold & Guns expansion give a totally different feel to the game. Future games should see us randomize the roles (as well as the side played) and that should give this game a lot of replayability!
Rise of Augustus = 4 Plays
This has been another surprise for me. Despite the feel that you are in a race to complete objectives and thus be the first to claim the different bonuses, I didn’t realize how PLEASANT an experience playing this is, and is definitely a “chill out” game for me. “Gamer Bingo” turns out to be fun!
Dungeon Roll = 6 Plays
Dice dungeon delving in a small package. While some people have said that the game is devoid of true choices, I say that the true “push your luck” players will still think whether to go 1 level deeper or call it quits, and there are some decision point when to use the character’s special ability as well as when to use treasures. The character cards do make for a different experience per delve, and I am imaginative enough to create my story out of what others may call senseless dice rolling!
Carson City: Gold & Guns = 1 Play (see above)
I rated this lower than the base game since I feel that the new roles aren’t as balanced as in the base game, but nevertheless these plus the new buildings give the game tons of replay value. I hope to be brave enough to use the outlaws one of these days as well!
7 Wonders: Wonder Pack = 1 Play
New wonder boards are always a welcome addition. While I feel that they aren’t as balanced as those from the earlier sets, my mind may change once I get more plays using these.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – More Buildings Big and Small = 1 Play
Similar to the WONDER PACK, the 1 play did not give me enough of a feel for the expansion. More plays are needed in order to discover what synergies can be had from the new buildings!
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Shattered Timelines = 2 Plays
I found the heroes and villains to be better than the INFERNAL RELICS expansion. I especially liked ChronoRanger and his ability to pump up his attacks with the bounties played on the villain cards. Still haven’t had the guts to deal with Iron Legacy yet however!
Five new games for me this month, three on one day when I visited a friend for a day of gaming. I particularly enjoyed the oddly named Neuroshima Hex, which has some quite clever mechanisms, and I'd like to give it another try.
We also played Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game a couple of times, losing the first time but managing to keep half our squads intact on a second run through the gene-stealer infested hulk. A veritable feast of fist-bumping and other expressions of triumph ensued!
Finally we played Dredd: The Card Game, an oldish CCG which never went anywhere but my friend was keen on. It didn't work all that well as we got a rule wrong and as a result lost more victory points than we gained. We also failed to stop what turned out to be a fairly major crime wave in Mega City 1, though I was amused to arrest Judge Death for Selling Comic Books.
Helena was off work for a week in between jobs and so we set aside some time to play a few games we'd acquired without having had the evening energy to test them out.
Neuland was the first, once we'd got our heads around the slightly tricksy mechanics it was quite good, let down by the ending which seemed to involve a lot of blocking. Possibly just our inexperience at the game caused this, so we'll give it another go.
Similarly, Serenissima (first edition) was fun in parts - the trading especially - but she found my fleet of pirate ships sailing around sinking or capturing everything in sight to be not her cup of tea. I've thought of a couple of possible variants to make pirating a bit harder or less attractive, which we'll try. Again, unless we had some rules wrong or something, always an option.
September was the worst gaming month of 2013 so far: only had 23 sessions of 15 games. 3 of those new to me, all 3 only played once. And none of them really great, but all three fun to play, so it's a hard pick between these 3 'initial rating: 7 " games.
Hawaii was a blind try, bought from a geekbuddy, because I had a feeling it might be better than the average euro cubepusher. Only played once with 2 players, but didn't disappoint, I quite enjoyed playing this one. Curious how often I will play it, but I'd like to try again with more players.
Tournay, got it in the same auction. For some reason the buzz about precursor Troyes seemed an empty hype when I played it. Never managed to play it again. So I looked at Tournay with some suspicion first, but after reviews seemed to state that it wasn't like Troyes I got more interested. And I actually like it better after my first play. It seems to have a bit of a learning curve with all the possible combo strategies, but it's a game that gave me the 'let's play it again now I understand it' vibe quite hugely.
Mayan Sun, Aztec Destiny. I like small publishers that make their own quirky games, and Nate Hayden of Blast City Games is one of those guys I love checking out every Essen. Finally managed to get his 2012 release on the table. Mayan Sun, Aztec Destiny is in a way two games in the box: a fairly simple game (Mayan Sun) and a bit more complicated game that's more of a gamer's game. I only played the basic Sun game with 2, and now I definitely want to play the Destiny game. And try the basic game with more than 2 players. So of all three this one is the one I'm most eager to try again, hence the pick.
As it was election month in Germany, I chose an election game for this month's entry. Also, older games need a bit more attention on the geek.
Game of the month
Mr. President: (1 play)
Surprisingly good game given its age and among the best titles of the 3M bookcase series, i.e. in a group with the Sackson classics Acquire and Bazaar.
It's entertaining and, more important, still worth playing strategy-wise. In a far-fetched comparison, this could be deemed a very early predecessor to Twilight Struggle. In both games, players face the choice to use cards for the basic action of gaining votes resp. influence or instead perform some advanced actions (debates & advertising resp. coups & realignments). Interestingly, Jason Matthews is damning this game with a '5' rating and the faint praise that it was the best US presidential election game for a long time. Necessarily, Mr.President is less sophisticated with only rudimental hand management, event cards and high stake single die rolls. Especially unlucky debate rolls can throw a two-hour game off the rails for one side. Still, a player suffering this fate can at least look forward to the final tally and the satisfaction of gaining a few unexpected state votes although the match is lost. The experience of counting the votes has a "European Song Contest" vibe when the country votes are called in without the annoyance of the Eastern European block votes.
To me, it's no drawback that the party agendas, candidates and electoral votes are outdated as I have no own experience with the American election system.
Jäger und Sammler: (2 plays)
Knizia's take on Hey, That's My Fish!. As can be expected, he adds a few more scoring types (direct points, set collecting, more valuable tiles that need a two-step-approach). The challenge is on weighing the different scoring angles against each other while keeping an eye on the movements of the opponents. This differs from its supposed inspiration where the sole focus is on staking out your claims on the board by cutting off others from accessing your area. In Knizia's take, cutting off areas is more difficult as there are warp fields (caves) and some tiles don't disappear. Also, movement is restricted to only one or two steps while allowing to pass other players' meeples.
As a two-player affair, I prefer the clean and condensed gameplay of Hey, That's My Fish!. There's more potential for surprise moves and aggressive play. For three players, Jäger und Sammler offers a more family-oriented experience with less potential for screwing another player and especially less kingmaking. With four players, I probably would choose neither of these two games as the results become too arbitray and the advantage of being early in turn order gets too strong.
Two side notes:
- While Knizia is often criticized for themeless games I found Jäger und Sammler to be true to its theme.
- When playing, we were asked if we were playing something old. The graphic design certainly failed its purpose to entice gamers.
Magellan: (1 play)
Magellan is a pure auction game which probably explains to a large extent why it wasn't able to garner the popularity which could have resulted from Lehmann teaming with Hans-im-Glück.
As every auction game it needs competent players who are able to gauge what an offer is worth for themselves and what it might be worth to others. Letting another player win a crucial auction cheap can decide the game early on. This is favoured by the unique structure of Magellan: It's played in three rounds. Players bid on six explorers. In the first round each explorer is auctioned three times, two times in the second and only one time in the third round. Only players who successfully bought into an explorer in the previous round are allowed to bid on this explorer in the following round. Hence, players will be locked into a more or less promising path midway through the game.
Details such as the special powers of each explorer and the double function of money as VP's top off the package. A solid game that is short enough to mitigate the problem of being decided prematurely.
Olympus: (1 play)
Olympus reminded me of Through the Ages. As in TTA it's paramount to not fall behind in the arms race once it starts. In our case, that was from the very beginning. The one guy neglecting military ended far behind. Worse, he made the military strategy feasible for the other guy having the special building granting additional workers for successful wars and the development allowing him to take resources from the pool whenever the target doesn't have enough resources. From TTA, I learned my part and at least stayed competitive. The good thing about military in Olympus is that it's limited. Once you reach the upper border you're mostly safe and not susceptible to some freaking TTA Napoleon combo.
To enjoy Olympus, you have to accept the pre-eminence of maintaining a military balance and look beyond where there's a fine worker placement game waiting. Workers are send to pray to the gods granting them favours. Knowledge and population have to be grown to gain capabilities to harvest more resources, to build more powerful buildings, to draft an even stronger military. If you don't get your engine of developments up and running, the snowball effect is strong enough to factually take you out of the game leaving you as weak prey in wars.
The distinguishing mechanic is the possibility to follow the lead player's alpha action with a weaker beta action. It's akin to Puerto Rico. This key decision on whether it's worth to follow at the cost of foresaking a stronger alpha action or more basic, want to be in the position to be able to follow at all, poses interesting challenges. Another strong point of Olympus is the wealth of available developments (about 40 including special buildings?). A few musts, probably a few typical paths, a few rarely selected developments but still enough variation to guarantee replay value.
Although Olympus features nearly everything that turns me off in Eurogames (targeted conflict, snowball effect, combo building), I still enjoyed it and might play it again. A '7' for the design although my personal enjoyment hinges on not suffering the fate of the one player falling prey to the others.
OddVille: (1 play)
Oddville is an entertaining quick city-building game with a questionable amount of influence. Initially, the demand for efficiency will lead players into a more or less random starting strategy as they likely will choose to gather the least expensive resources or free buildings to not lose additional turns to collecting money. From there on, it's a question of synergistic rewards from their buildings and more or less random attribution of complimentary roles which might or might not suit the player's current situation. In essence, synergies will save turns which is even more important given the starting player advantage as the game immediately ends with the player claiming the sixth building.
As I won by a large margin, I will give Oddville the benefit of a biased view on the influence of a player vs. simple luck of the draw. Still, a few lucky strokes I didn't really prepare for helped me a lot and watching other players benefit in this way will suck.
Spellbound: (1 play)
Judged gameplay-wise, Spellbound is heavily overpriced. It's an ok cooperative game that's very processional. The deckbuilding part is more an afterthought that just happens as players try to make the best out of their dealt hand of cards. Either it works out or it doesn't. Random setup and distribution probably are more important than skill.
Nonetheless, Spellbound is entertaining. Although I don't like the overloaded art design, playing with the huge miniatures is a strangely satisfying experience. The game material succeeds in telling a story where the processional mechanisms alone would have failed. Each turn a new puzzle has to be solved with enough options to satisfy on a tactical level and compensating for the lack of long-term planning options.
Spellbound will stay in my collection as a playable collector's item. If it were a more ordinary implementation, I'd rather play better cooperative games.
Two new games and two new ways to stab family members in the back.
The edge may go to Vanuatu slightly. The game would be boring except for that action selection mechanism. Choose your character wisely, as you are broadcasting your intentions and potentially setting yourself up for ruin.
The other new game was Neue Heimat which, depending on the house rules in play, is the most evil of auction games I have ever played. I have learned that money management is vital to controlling the tempo in the game.
This gets my nod for best game that I have played this month. I have played it solo, two player, and with four. Each has its own unique way of approaching the game. I'm not one who expected this game to be a full fledged RPG in card form, cause that would be silly. It gives me the exact experience I was looking for in a card game. RPG lite, card management, leveling up, and dice. Also, I don't really understand the pages upon page of rules questions for this game. Sure, there were some things that could have been clearer, but I really did not think it was hard at all. I'm close to finish the starter box in solo mode and two player with my friend. For me, this is the best NEW game that I have played this month.
This follows almost in the same vein as the Pathfinder game. I think in someways it's very similar. Sure the game play is a different experience in the way of mechanics, but for me this parallels the comic book version of pathfinder, without the leveling up and keeping your character aspect.
I enjoy the combinations this game throws at me and the way we feel like a team trying to defeat a villain. I don't think keeping up with all the factors in this game is too tough, so it gets my 2nd best game of the month award.
This gets my final award. While this game is very fun and produces a lot of laughter, after only a few plays it has lost it shine for me. The is a lot of fun to be had for sure, with the right crowd, but this game still boils down to submit a card, read them and laugh, and pick you favorite....and there is nothing wrong with that, expect I can only take it for so long. After three games, I think I am done with this for the short term.
Loads of new games this month.
De Vulgari Eloquentia is an epic game. Themed around the development of the Italian language (of course!) you begin as Merchants, travelling around Italy, transcribing manuscripts as you go. You may choose to go into the Church and follow the path of a Friar, or you can remain a merchant. There are many paths to follow, many objectives to achieve, and much much to do. This is a deeply rich Euro with a strong narrative thread throughout the game. It is less streamlined and less cleverly efficient than a Feld, perhaps think more along the lines of a Sergio Leone Movie: unpredictable, intriguing, not exactly what you are expecting, and something you get deeply involved with.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Strike, or Der Grosse Wurf in its native German, is a tremendously entertaining dice game with one of those intuitively simple set of rules so obvious you can't quite believe that no one has thought of them before. Throw a die into an arena with dice in it, knocking any dice already in there if you wish, and any dice showing the same numbers are kept. Any dice showing an 'X' are eliminated. Other dice remain for the next player. If you don't get any success you can pass or try again. Sounds so simple and it really IS, but it yields an incredibly entertaining game with yelps and groans abounding. It plays in 10 minutes max. And kids absolutely LOVE it.
Bruges is the third Stefan Feld game of the year. It's not as extraordinary as Bora Bora, which is a truly brilliant thing where the aims and ideas interweave beautifully and with complexity. Nor is it as elegantly simple and streamlined as Rialto, which is an astonishingly good game (and I am loving the 9/10 review for that one in the German Spielbox magazine). Instead here we have a kind of Macao-lite (his game from 2009), where the game revolves around character cards and the interplay between the benefits of the cards you play. With 165 different cards there is much to explore here, although the luck of the card draw is fairly dominant. In Macao you feel in control whereas here your strategy and tactics are dictated by your card drawing. Also you can be prone to 'bad dice' here rather than in Macao where you select the dice and manage your tactics around them. I like it, but it isn't a patch on the similar Macao nor his other two sumptuous designs from 2013: Rialto and Bora Bora.
Oasis is an old Alan Moon game I had been hunting down for a long time. It has a truly great turn order/card bidding system which is the key interesting feature of the game. The bits you are bidding for, which are tiles or score multipliers, are less interesting. So here we have a tense tile acquisition process attached to a rather average tile laying area majority mechanic. We played with 5 and it definitely requires 5 to play well.
Like Oasis Santiago is a tile laying game. And like Oasis it also has a terrific bidding system for acquiring the tiles, and a terrific bribing mechanism for laying the irrigation channels required to make the tiles score. But like Oasis it is also ultimately a fairly dry and abstract tile laying, area majority game. Again we played with 5 and again I think it requires that number. I would probably want to play this one over Oasis as the mechanisms are so tense and allow much nasty screwage to undermine your opponents, by bribing the controller of irrigation channels to divert water away from their crops.
Thurn and Taxis was a game I was looking forward to playing, loving Puerto Rico so much, and loving map-based route games. We played the expansion as we were recommended it as a better game than the base game. It is enjoyable, but not one I want to own. There is frustration when a useful city card doesn't appear, and the scoring of the coloured areas is a little fiddly and cumbersome. I would definitely play again, but remain disappointed.
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet was getting good feedback at London on Board as a cute thinky filler. And it is exactly that. It sort of sits in a bit of gaming no-mans land for me though: it is too dry and thinky for my children (teens) who require a bit more action in their games, and yet also it suffers the same problem as an end of evening quick filler after a good euro-strategy gaming session. At that point of an evening you want less thought than this requires. Nevertheless it is a decent game and one I would gladly play when the time is right.
Casa Grande is a good 3D building game. Not in the dexterity area, but in building up areas of control in 3D space. You place column supports in a grid according to where your marker lands after a die roll (the roll can be amended by using previously gained points), and you then try and build different shaped flat landings at various levels using your column supports. You score points related to the size of the landing you place multiplied by the level you are building on. It makes for a game which evolves slowly and beautifully into a wonderful 3D structure and is unlike any other game. The opportunities to screw your opponent is also rife and brings a real competitive dimension to the play.
Level X looked like a simple and fun family dice rolling game. It isn't. For that look for Strike which I mentioned above. Level X is fairly dull and lifeless. There is nothing implicitly wrong with it, it is simply not exciting or interesting enough to ever be played again.
I had been searching for the Pompeii game for ever. I finally picked up an expensive copy from Germany, only to find that it was to be reprinted a few weeks later. Oh well, I certainly do not regret the purchase. This is a terrific family game. There is more than enough strategy to satisfy an adult but my kids love throwing each other in the volcano, and then when the lava starts to expand all over the board the tension is wonderful and palpable. Even the rather dull people-placement first third of the game is excusable with such a climax to greet you when the volcano erupts. Superb fun.
Savannah Tails is a card-based race game. I do like a good race game but I am coming to the opinion that there isn't much point in owning this one. It is fun, but you get more of the same thrills and spills from Ave Caesar and so Savannah Tails is largely irrelevant. I suppose if you love Ave Caesar and want a change then this is nearly as good. Just not quite as good.
Worker placement games are probably my favourite genre of game. So I was excited about playing Viticulture. But it is only OK at best. The main downside is a dependence on very swingy cards. I won the game we played, but only because I drew the required card on my very last turn. Also it is a little fiddly with the conversions to wine from grape, not intuitive at all. On the positive side it looks lovely, and yields tense worker placement moments when there just aren't enough places given the demand. Definitely worth playing the revised Giant worker rules.
Played my first game of Magnum Sal complete with the Muria expansion, which is a must. This is a great game with a worker placement mechanism. Not dissimilar to Viticulture in feel but a lot lot better in its execution. You are fulfilling orders for salt from the mines, similar to the wine orders you fulfil in Viticulture. But here you have a very clever system to extract the salt from the mines. You need to get deep in the mines, but in order to do so you need the help of fellow player's workers to help get down the mine. This interesting dynamic of competitive cooperation makes for a really interesting game.
Sticheln is a trick-taking game. Reminiscent of the marvellous Hattrick, you choose a suit that you don't want to win, then try and win as much in the other suits as possible, and as little in the chosen suit as possible. It is a great game and really turns the trick taking genre on its head. Mind you, this is now 20 years old, so I guess it could even be called a 'classic'.
Letters from Whitechapel - 4 plays - Current Rating 8
Friend of mine has been talking this up for a while and he finally picked it up last month. It's a fun deduction game.We had a long game-day on a Saturday so played this four times, once with four players and three times with three players. Most everyone got their opportunity to play both Jack and the police and we split 2-2. Very stressful as Jack as I had to move right up to the police when they were hot on my tail to double back home as they were closing in too fast. Frustrating as the police as you feel the pressure to find clues before the trail fades into the night. One of the police wins was due to Jack error (he didn't save enough movement to get home). It's the first deduction game we've played as a group, so it provides a differemt gaming experience from our usual fare.
Mage Knight Board Game - 1 play - Current Rating 6
Another friend bought this a few months ago and I finally got an opportunity to play it. We played the learning scenario with four of us, two who've played a few times before and two newbies. Way too much downtime for four players. I can see why it's popular solo or with two players, but we didn't even get close to finishing the scenario in two hours. There's a lot of things to learn in this game and I'm not sure I want to invest the time to get over the learning curve on a game this long. I'm sure I'll play it again in the future, but I'd only request it if it was two players.
Plenty of new games this month.
As tense and tricky as I wanted it to be. Only got one play, and it was late by the end so we were quite burnt out in the last stages of the game. We kind of both lost a sense of what we were aiming for. And then, because I was so tired, I didn't notice DEFCON was at 2 and I attempted a coup in Mexico. Whoops. We can't have been that burnt out on it though, because the next morning we were both reading strategy tips. Worth the hype.
Picked this up because I was playing a lot of solo games this month. It's fantastic! Played it three times so far, two losses and a win on level 1. Plenty of strategy and variety in this game, very glad I picked it up.
A friend owns this and has been trying to get a game on for a while. We sat down last weekend for a full six hours, losing to the ancient in the end. I had a hilariously bad game, ending with no weapons so I couldn't even fight the ancient, but I still had a good time. Felt like a big step up from Talisman, but hopefully now that I've played it once I can do a bit better next time.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)
A different friend bought this recently and also been trying to get a game happening. Six of us played, two had played before and four new players. I thought the mechanics were simple enough, but fiddly (which could have just been the teaching), and didn't leave enough room for strategy. It feels like there's certain things each house needs to do to prevent being blocked for the rest of the game. I was Stark, and didn't really make much headway until late game. We ended up finishing it, but I'm looking forward to giving it another go.
Received my Kickstarter copy this month. I haven't actually played it with anyone else yet, and I'm not sure I ever will - the solo version seems as good as the game would be, and each delve seems like it would be frustratingly long to watch another person roll dice. I played through each character a couple of times, but short of trying to improve some low scores when I'm bored I don't think this'll see much table (or other people).
Oh My Lair!
Played a couple of solitaire P&P games this month, and this was one of them. Fun, tricky, I liked the time track and way the tokens displayed health. Will probably give it another go.
Another solitaire P&P. Didn't like it as much, I can't really get excited about zombies as a theme and the matching cards goal didn't do it for me. I did however quite enjoy the action mechanic, where the zombies would get as many cards as you played actions, which resulted in some nice measured damage control.
And then a special mention to Maquis, a game for the 2013 P&P Solitaire Contest currently being developed by
Very engaging theme, lovely worker placement mechanics, and the artwork is looking gorgeous. Can't wait until it's finished, fully recommend you check it out.
STAG Gamers - The friendliest group in Kent
So back at the regular gaming groups, and a chance to try out some of everyone’s recent purchases. Unlike last month's bevy of beauties, we are faced with a more mixed bag this time out. From best to worst we have…
A beautiful and intriguing game which feels both like a hotchpotch of ideas and mechanics, but at the same time seems to come together surprisingly well. I'd been recommended this game, and buckled (it doesn't take much). It isn't as well designed as Dominant Species, but it is a more relaxing and therefore more enjoyable experience.
Great components, wonderful artwork, and incredibly varied gameplay make this my number one for the month.
Owned, keeper. Stunner.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Usually with games I'm blown away by them when I first lay them, and then I get slightly less impressed with time. The amount of my reduction in interest is then ultimately the measure of where the game is fated to go. Very rarely, a game comes along that I start a little cold on, and then the more I play the more I see the more I get. Pathfinder is a real grower.
Artwork is a mixed bag, card quality is good and there isn't too much shuffling. The system is clever, although occasionally frustrating, but the game is fun because you get attached to the hero and their deck. A clever design, being a step away from the Dominion model into something that feels much older, but seems fresh despite this.
Owned, can see myself getting the full set.
This is a tough game – for me I would give this the title of ‘The Ultimate Euro’. I think I found the limit of my mental capability for gaming. I loved it and was exhausted by it in equal measure. We only played as a 3, but the amount of information that needed tracking in order to make even a half-decent stab at playing well was pretty huge. Artwork and pieces are good (2nd ed), and it even felt slightly thematic.
I took the win simply because with a couple of rounds to go, I concentrated on making sure I had the cubes to populate the higher earning vp spots on the hexes whilst the other two fought over the tundra for the penguin bonus (sorry – forgot the proper name). We played for almost 3 hours, but the game never dragged, and evolved beautifully.
Owned, easy keeper.
I’d got this in a trade and wasn’t expecting too much from it. I’d heard a podcast feature on it a while ago that had me interested, but had seen some harsh comments after picking it up, so it, sadly, had been shuffled to one side. But after having a fresh look, I realised it was a lot easier to play than I had previously envisaged.
Good art, good pieces, and a good theme (although it could be about any production type really). My one play was quick, fun, and had some depth to it. I used the expert rules from the start, and it made the game interesting. The key seems to be finding the right moment to stop building the engine, and start building the Palaces.
Owned, enjoyed, and I see it providing plenty of repeat plays.
Well, we played a rule wrong (we didn't replace immigrants when the supply on the board ran out) and the player that went last in the round seemed to have a huge advantage, irrespective of where they were in point scoring, so these were 2 reasons not to like this game, but it was still fairly enjoyable and didn't seem to overstay its welcome.
A much better game than Nothing Personal (don't worry, we'll come to that in a few minutes), but for negotiation and area control I'd rather play Bootleggers.
Don't own, not looking to get, but would try again with the right rules.
I’ve never played the latest videogame, so the theme means nothing. Our mistake was playing this 4 player as the game really dragged badly with the opposing team agonising over every single decision. With a changing player order, and a round taking about 25 minutes, potentially you could be out of the game, save possibly some defensive rolling, for 45 minutes. My worst was about half an hour to then take a go that took me 2 minutes, and there are times that, with a bad hand draw and no cash you do nothing at all on your turn. I just don’t have the patience for games that play this way.
On the redeeming side, good art, good quality little plastic minis, and the fun of riding the skyway and seeing all your men fall off! The two non-player characters that wander about the board did nothing of note in our game, which was a shame, but I see potential there. I’d just never play this again as a 4.
Don’t own, but would like to try again. With 2.
A real mess of a game, and that is ignoring all the embarrassing mistakes in the printing. They spent so long getting the quality of the components to the highest level, they forgot to proof read. Like I said, embarrassing.
Our 4 player game took over 2 hours, far too long for a game that would really work best as a light filler. Our winner won by a clear margin, and it was over easily a round before it actually finished. The cards you use to play your actions vary from completely useless to incredibly powerful, so it is so much about the luck of the draw. A good idea doesn’t make a good game. If I want this type of negotiation and screwage, as I stated earlier, I’ve had far more fun playing Bootleggers.
Don’t own, feel sorry for the friend who got this on kickstarter. He looked like someone had kicked his puppy. Happy not to play this again.
I’m not sure where the game is in this. Maybe we did something wrong, but it seemed the only viably strategy was to make money, and build the railway, and nothing was going to beat that.
On the plus side, it was over in half an hour, and our game ended as a tie which meant a shootout – on the first roll, one of the players rolled a 6 for an instant kill. Game over. It would have been more fun to just have rolled from the start.
Don’t own, not for me.
This was a very wargaming month for me. In addition to the NTMs below, I got in another play of Guns of Gettysburg, Maria, and Napoleon’s Triumph. Even the games that don’t fix strictly into the ‘wargame’ category were wargamey. These included Reef Encounter, Pax Porfiriana, and even TZAAR. I think this marks the beginning of my acceptance of wargames (and their ilk) as being the games I gravitate toward. I love that, at their best, they provide: an immersive thematic experience, a window into history, and a great game of space, tempo, material, objective identification and management, liability/strength management, risk management, incentives (in multiplayer games), etc. So, with that…
War of 1812
While I played ‘bigger’ new-t-me games, this classic – and one of the seminal titles in the ‘block’ wargame genre – was the top for me. It is a short game taking place in the Great Lakes region. The U.S. player has an initial advantage in strength, but has to deal with a militia unwilling to cross in to Canada. The British start slow but get some significant reinforcements. Control of the lakes represents flexibility of movement (which is otherwise severely constrained to one group moving one space each turn). VPs come from lake control, town control, and units. Because blocks are VPs at the end, huge battles are not ideal. But the pursuit rules are deadly. So, engagements need to be terminated quickly. Because towns can only be held by your own units when in enemy territory, holding them while making bigger gains can be brutal because you spread your few units even thinner. There are optional rules which are highly recommended – and which I haven’t used yet – for secret orders for simultaneous moves. I can imagine this improving the game considerably.
Overall, I would say that this game represents everything I like in a wargame: few moving parts, a few rules that evoke and abstract particular issues arising in the conflict, and a ton of bluff and maneuver.
A Victory Lost
I was really looking forward to this one. Alas, I don’t feel like I gave it the best opportunity to make a good impression. First, trying to squeeze it in on a weeknight, starting at 7pm was a Bad Idea. Then, playing it on a big, round table was not idea. It is a big board with a lot of little counters. And they all start at one end since the game begins at the beginning of the Soviet push back against the Barbarossa invasion. All this meant a lot of standing and leaning and squinting. Not ideal.
Then there are the HQs. This is THE mechanism in this game and it is a cool one. Pull chits from a cup. They indicate what HQs activate. HQs have a command range. Well, if I’d known how hard it is to differentiate the HQs from the sea of infantry and mech counters, I would have replaced them with cubes. Lesson learned.
Besides the HQ activation, what makes this game quite cool is the very ‘pushy’ combat results table. Not a lot of dudes blowing up. You are mostly getting retreat results. While we didn’t get deep enough into the game, my guess is that the goal is to create weakness in the line by pushing it around, then pinching small salient and getting them out of supply and worse.
I’m eager to try again, but this is one that I’d love to fiddle with solo before committing to the 4-8 hour playtime again.
A Distant Plain
There is a lot of love out there for the COIN series. Andean Abyss kicked it off. Now ADP and Cuba Libre just came out. It is just not for me. I like the idea of the cardplay, but ultimately, I find it to be more of a story-arc generator than a real decision point. I’ll skip the details here, but it is basically a choice to trigger an event or do an action. Depending on what you do, you impact what the folks behind you can pick. If you do anything, you can’t do anything on the next turn. Being able to see what the next turn’s choices are mitigate this issue and turn it into the ostensible choice that it is.
But these games essentially come down to a very cube-movin’ area control game. Do this action, drop cubes here. Do that one, take off your opponents cubes. Do this one, move a bunch of cubes around. This is not what I’m looking for.
Moreover, there is SO MUCH STUFF on the board, it is very difficult to parse the game state. The effort that goes into it drains me of energy to actually do something with that data. So, I forego what could be the fun part because I’m exhausted by the Vomit of Pieces.
As I said, not for me. I might try Cuba Libre, though. I’ve heard it is a bit ‘smaller’. Maybe my little brain can handle it.
Now for the kids games. I like Monza. Not as a game for me. But as a good game for 4-6 year olds that is basically roll and move. What is nice about it is that the players need to optimize their rolls a bit. Nothing super complicated, but it makes them think. Basically, you roll six dice with six colors on them. The board has three lanes with spaces with the same coloring as the dice. Players need to string the dice together to get the best move out of them. They can change lanes and move ahead. Nothing earth-shattering, but not stupid. And very doable – and exciting- for young children.
10 Days in the USA
I’ve had this one forever. It has been too old for my kids. Now, with two plays with my wife, I think my 6yo could handle it. I thought it was a nice enough game to pass the time with my wife. I’m sure it fulfills the educational goal of learning U.S. geography a bit. It is innocuous.
Another one that I’ve had for a while. I skipped the representative image and went for one that highlights how awesome the components are. The game, however, is devoid of any meaningful decisions. I would put them on the same level as Monza, but requiring a higher rules overhead making it unsuitable for the 4-6 yo age range that would appreciate it. But look at those bits!
Early playtest set by my buddy Steve. Some really interesting ideas. Can’t wait to see them developed.