New to you October 2013 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in October 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 October 2013
Videogames New To You November 2013
Other Great Monthly Lists
New to you a year ago Oct 13 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only You have played in October 2013
What games did you acquire in October 2013
New to your kids - New Lease of Life - Gaming with your kids in October 2013
Your Most Played Game (and more): October 2013
== NEW GAMES ==
Mascarade - 2 plays -
I'd heard a lot of good things about Mascarade, so when we had 6 people at our weekly game group and someone suggested we play this, I jumped at the chance. Because it was fairly short, and everyone wanted another chance once they'd got the hang of it, we played twice in a row, and I possibly could have played a few more times. It was a lot of fun and quite chaotic, which I was expecting from a Bruno Fiadutti game! It actually reminded me quite a bit of Coup but with the added challenges of a) not being allowed to look at your card (except as your turn) and b) having other players swap (or not) cards with you.
I think in both our games the win came because people were more concentrating on their own card instead of paying attention to what cards other people had, and how much money they were on. e.g. Donald won playing the King a couple of turns in a row. Everyone at the table knew he had the king, but somehow none of us swapped with him!
HomeStretch - 1 play -
At the same session as Mascarade, we were undecided whether to split into 2 games of 3, or to try for another 6 player game.. This was suggested as a quickish 6 player game, and there were no objections. It ended up being quite long... close to 2 hours, which was mostly down to the time it took us to place bets before each race.
HomeStretch was ok.. kinda fun in the right crowd. but I'd say it's more about the gambling than about the horse racing really.
You initially buy 3 shares in horses in a sort of Notre_Dame/7_Wonders kinda way: You get 3 cards pick one and pass 2 on, get 2 and pass 1 on, then keep the last one you get... you then pay for those horses from your initial pot of $50,000. The horses are number 2 to 12 (you can see where this is going) and there are initiall 2 (later 3) shares per horse. 2 and 12 cost way less than 6,7 and 8.
The game then plays over 4 races, with 1 more chance to buy shares after the 1st race. For each race, a card is drawn that will give certain horses handicaps from X (misses first move) to +2, +4 and +6 these are bonuses to the first move of that horse. Before the race starts, each player gets to place 5 betting chips (1,1,2,2,3) onto a Win/Place/Show odds table where the favourites have much lower odds than the outsiders, and obviously Winning (1st) pays out more than placing (1st or 2nd) or showing (1st to 3rd).
Players then take it in turns to roll 2 dice.. if you accept the first roll, that horse moves 2 spaces round the track (plus any handicap bonus on it's first move). If you reject the roll you have to throw again and must move the horse shown, but only 1 space. There are 9 spaces, so 10 moves and the horse is home.
Once 3 horses have finished the race is over and you earn prize money... owners of shares in the winning horses receive a cut of the prize money specified on the handicap card, and then people who bet on the horses earn their token value multiplied by the odds of the position they bet on... best you could do is 3x 12 if you bet your biggest token on horse 2 (or 12) to win. Clearly the decision to move a horse or re-roll comes down to who has shares in it, and who has bet on it.
After the first race there are two chances to buy more shares, this time from a face up pool (or blind for +$3000). The pool is only refreshed after everyone has had a chance to buy or pass.
Then 3 more races, which are rinse and repeat of the first one.
I don't design games, I play them!
Yes, this list is long, but that’s because I’ve also included the games I played in September as I didn’t have time to post it back then. But even if I only included new games in October, the list would still contain about 30 new games – yes, this fall has been great in terms of new games! Unfortunately only a few of them are truly enjoyable (i.e. rated 8+) whereas I played a ton of crappy games… I expect November to be much better in terms of quality as I’m going to play a lot of the new Essen releases that I suspect I will love (Caverna, Concordia, Russian Railroads, the Tzolk’in expansion etc.)
Galaxy Trucker. Plays: 6. Rating: 8.5.
This game is awesome! My wife loves it too, though it’s not a very good game with just 2 players – but it’s great with 3 and 4 players as they add a lot of tension and pressure to finish first (as, in this game, if you have built a decent ship, being first or second is absolutely crucial if you want to win). Everybody knows that, so it’s a race to finish ahead of the others, but when you’re building so fast, the chances are that you will miss something and make some errors which will later on most likely be devastating for your ship – great fun! That’s also why you shouldn’t take this game too seriously; it’s not all about winning but only about having fun (yes yes, I know, that’s how every game is like, but I feel Galaxy Trucker has a very different vibe than, say, most eurogames; these cannot be said to be “funny”, but rather very thinky, and the best player often win in these).
You can remove pieces when playing with 2 and 3 players, but I don’t fancy that as you might remove a lot of the same type of pieces. Still, it’s the best possible solution, but I think I would always prefer to play GT with 4 or maybe 3.
I don’t know how, but I’ve won every game of GT I’ve played; that’s because I often build a pretty good ship and often finish first or second; in case I don’t it’s because other players have rushed and built some ships that are bound to be crushed later on! I often take a peek at the 3 deck of cards as they help you shape your building strategy for your ship; this helps mitigating the randomness of the events, but I think it’s great that you add some cards every round that you cannot look at – in order to ensure that there is some randomness which can ruin your carefully laid out plans! It’s always a great deal of fun when your own or another player’s ship loses half of its side due to a meteor… After I played GT I knew that I had to own it, so I got the Anniversary Edition – I can’t wait to try the expansions! I’ve actually already included the Even-Steven cards as I want to handicap myself; as I said, this game is all about having fun and not about winning, so I feel like it’s more fair if I’m handicapped in each game (and it really does mitigate the advantage of more experienced players).
All in all Galaxy Trucker is a great game, and I must say that I admire the ability of designer Chvatil to constantly make games that feel so different (not that I love all of his designs; GT is definitely his best in my opinion). One minor complaint I have about GT is the timer; it’s too slow, and I’ve considered playing with a stop watch and set it to e.g. 2 minutes – THAT would make the game stressful and tense! The fact that I’ve played GT 6 times during the first month really says a lot as I often play a new game only once or maybe twice during that first month.
Kemet. Plays: 3. Rating: 8.5.
Kemet is an extremely interesting and different mix of eurogame and ameritrash which works surprisingly well! The publisher, Matagot, has also released Cyclades which can also be said to be a mix of both genres, though it falls more into the eurocamp than Kemet. There are many similarities: the length and weight/difficulty of the games are similar, the production value is perfect (mainly due to the awesome plastic miniatures in both games). However, in terms of mechanics it’s a very different beast than Cyclades, and I think Kemet is a much better game than Cyclades as the latter feel too static and without too much interaction/combat. I’m a die-hard eurogamer myself, but I think Kemet is the better game. Cyclades is, as said, more in the euro-camp and its main mechanic is centered on auction with a limited amount of combat. Kemet, on the other hand, uses an action point allowance system and is extremely focused on combat between the players.
The combat works well; it’s simple and elegant and it works much better than the die-rolling combats you see in most games including Cyclades. On the other hand there aren’t big differences as to which cards you play, and it felt a little weird that you can win a combat even though you have lost the most units… But that’s just how it works. And it’s extremely clever that you can attack each other right from the start of the game! You’re able to do so because you can teleport from your home to basically the entire map; maybe it’s not thematic, but I don’t care because the game becomes much better and more alive because of this rule! Now you can attack during round 1, and you don’t have to build up a huge army over several rounds before you think you’re strong enough or even are able to reach your opponents… And you cannot even build a huge army as you have only 12 army units available, which is a good idea. Furthermore, the game rewards attacking and not turtling, which is another good call in terms of the overall design and playability of the game!
The way the game is won is superb. I love that you can play to either 8 or 10 points. The first player to get those points is declared the winner, and that’s a nice change of pace compared to all of those games where you count your points after X number of rounds. As points are public knowledge, the game is constantly moving back and forth as players are constantly attacking the leader each round. The game probably lasts for around 90-120 minutes (maybe longer with 5 players and playing the long game), but it definitely ramps up in speed when you know the various power tiles.
Speaking of these power tiles, they are a big part of why I love the game. The fact that once you buy a power tile, you - and you alone! - have that specific power, is something I’m very fond of. There are 3 kind of tiles; the offensive-minded, the defensive-minded and those which focus more on infrastructe/income. All of them are nice to have, and it’s always a tough choice which to choose! I like that every player start with various levels of these three “tech pyramids” as you’re pursuing different strategies. The multitude of cards and power tiles is great.
Of course there are a few things I’m not thrilled about. I don’t like that other players can take control of your pyramids and limit your options. However, this is a minor concern. My biggest concern is that there might be situations where you cannot avoid kingmaking… This was the case in one of my games as the game was very close and was very close to be the case in another game. That definitely left a sour taste in my mouth, and if I experience any further incidents like this, I think I’ll have to decrease my rating drastically… But for now it’s a great game which I thoroughly enjoy, and I do suspect that kingmaking issues won’t be too much a problem going forth.
Overall I love Kemet. Everybody is constantly attacking everybody, but you’re not screwed if you lose a combat or two. The power tiles are awesome. The game plays very differently than most other games I own and love. Kemet is a keeper!
Risk Legacy. Plays: 3. Rating: 8.
I finally got to play Risk Legacy after having tried to make arrangements with 3 friends and my brother for the past year! I play a lot with this group so I was a little afraid that some would be pissed, but we all agreed that no matter what happened we wouldn’t be too mad – after all, it’s just a game! We managed to finish 3 games (with 3 different winners), and it was awesome! I don’t like Risk as it always overstays its welcome, but Risk Legacy is a very quick game (though I imagine later games will take more than an hour, perhaps two, but that’s still shorter than regular Risk). The other good thing about Risk Legacy is that the game ends as soon as somebody gets 4 VP, and it means that nobody ever sits around too long waiting for the game to end. I know that later there will be missions and events, but I have no clue about how those are going to change the game – all I know is that I cannot wait to open all of the packages!
And while it’s an awesome idea that you open new packages and add new rules and components and rip stuff apart and write on the main board to form your own world, I’m fairly sure that after we’re done with the 15 games, it’s not a game that is that fun to play again… It’s all about the experience and excitement of open new packages and not knowing what will happen! This is also a problem with another new game, Legends of Andor, which I think is great the first time you play a scenario but then becomes very uninteresting. Sure, LoA is more scripted than Risk Legacy, but a lot of the excitement will disappear.
I’m not sure if I like the diplomatic aspect of Risk Legacy; like regular Risk, you need to convince the others that you’re not a threat and they should attack the other players instead… Still, as you know that the overall winner is the one who has won the most after 15 games, you will most likely attack those who have won most games so far. Also, I like that players who haven’t won start the game with 2 VPs while the winners only start with 1! It really helps to level out the playing field.
Overall, my rating of Risk Legacy isn’t a rating which is totally tied to the game itself. It’s also partly because of my gaming group which helps this game come to live. There’s a lot of trash talking etc. – just like a game like this should be!
Western Town. Plays: 1. Rating: 8.
Western Town has flown under the radar which is sad as it’s a very unique eurogame. This is because of the way you play your cards which is truly innovative! I’m sad that I’ve only got to play it twice so far; I’m definitely intrigued by the gameplay and the strategies.
It’s very important to guess/estimate which cards the other players are using so you can exploit their cards! Otherwise you have no chance of winning. While going first in player order has some advantages, there are also advantages by going later. What was the biggest disappointment in the game was the fact that there can be some some kingmaking when somebody gets to choose where the Indians attack; it actually happened in our game and it actually caused me to lose simply because the player chose me instead of another player… So that left a bad impression, but despite of this I had a lot of fun with the rest of the game, and I’m hoping it was just a coincidence.
I definitely want to try it again soon and explore some of the other strategies. The replayability seems good because of the different goals and the different buildings which come into play as well as the overall strategies; you can focus on the goals or on some special buildings like the gallows etc., but it never turns into a point salad game (after all, Feld is not the designer…) so that’s definitely a plus.
Mage Wars. Plays: 1. Rating: 8.
My first game was surprisingly fast even though I had never tried it before. Well, “fast” as in 1½ hours, but I had feared it would take 3-4 hours the first time (which some have said). Sure, I did miss what some of the cards did because of this, and perhaps I should have read the rules first and all of the cards thoroughly, but it was still a very enjoyable game in 90 minutes!
I was playing against a somewhat experienced player with ~5 games under his belt, but I think I did quite good and wasn’t far from winning. I like that the game definitely seems to reward repeated plays (as you need to understand your own and your opponent’s decks and the combos you can make), but my biggest fear is probably that I, personally, don’t think I am going to play it enough to be truly competitive. The reason is that I have so many other “2 player only” games which I also need/want to play; mainly Commands & Colors: Ancients and Summoner Wars, which both fill the same niche and both play much faster. Oh, and I know that my wife will never want to play Mage Wars, so my main competitor will be my brother who suffers from AP in Summoner Wars – and I know he is going to make much slower decisions in Mage Wars when he has like 80 cards available every turn! So my personal gaming situation wouldn’t allow me to play this game much, so even though I liked it quite a bit the first time and would gladly play it again, I don’t need to own it.
I would imagine that it would be cool to build your own deck, but I simply don’t have the time for this so I’ll just play with the suggested pre-made decks. I liked the various types of cards: equipment, spells, creatures, enchantments etc.! I love that they play out very differently, and the bluff and tension involved about some of the enchantments/traps you put under your mage is awesome. There is less luck involved than in Summoner Wars because you choose which cards to play each round (compared to drawing blindly), but of course, there is still the bluffing (which some may think can be “lucky”) and a lot of rolling dice which can ruin even your best plans! Still, the better player who knows his and his opponent’s decks will win most of the time.
Shipyard. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
The overall goal is to make ships with various parts, and I really enjoyed figuring out how to put the ships together in order to maximize the points when they sail. You get some points for making ships with all sorts of stuff on them, but you’re trying to customize each ship so they meet your own two personal goals that you get before the game starts. I love secret, personal goals, and Shipyard has an awesome twist on this – you get 3 x 2 secret goals, so 6 in total. However, after the first half of the game is over, you immediately have to discard 2 x 2 of the goals so that you’re only sitting with those two secret goals that you’ll reveal at the end of the game. This means that you have half of the game to shape your strategy, but you have to fully commit to some of the bonus goals after the first half.
Shipyard is a very solitary game; it’s very hard to mess with each other, though of course there are some subtle tricks you can pull off to mess with your opponents. You can take tiles you know your opponents need, you can take the actions they want (though they can still pay gold to take the action), you can advance some of the rondels (especially the train cars market rondel) and some other stuff – but it’s basically the very subtle kind of interaction, so if you like games where you do your own stuff and your opponents cannot interfere (too much) with your plans, you’ll probably like Shipyard. My wife and I like these kind of games (like Castles of Burgundy), and we both liked Shipyard (though I seemed to like it more).
I’ve only played it with 2 players, and I suspect I would like it even more with 3 players (4 players would probably take too long; downtime could be an issue) – the reason is that there is an extra action available each round so you won’t feel so limited in your choices as more action spaces are available. Furthermore, the different tiles (shipparts, train wagons etc.) will change and be replaced faster; with 2p the tiles didn’t get refreshed fast enough I think, though of course this also means that you have more control of the game.
Shipyard has a lot of rondels, but to be honest they don’t really feel too much like rondels; you choose an action, and then another marker moves a space and you get the stuff you want. I do think the rondels work well together, and especially the rondel where you can choose something to customize your own game/ship is very interesting! All in all Shipyard is a very enjoyable, low-confrontational eurogame where it’s all about customizing your ships.
Ticket to Ride: Nederland. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
TtR Nederland is definitely one of the better maps in the family! And the reason is the cool new mechanic which distinguishes it from the other TtR maps: the bridge tokens. These make sure that you can no longer just hoard a lot of cards and play them when you have enough for making a lot of connections! The reason is that the first player to put down his trains on a route pays to the bank, but the next player to place trains next to the first player’s trains on the same route needs to pay toll (i.e. bridge tokens) to that first player – and the player with the most bridge tokens at the end of the game gets 55 points, while the second player gets 35 points (and 20, 10 and 0 in a 5p game). This also means that you, towards the end of the game, really need to think about if you can afford to pay another player your own bridge tokens, because those 55 or 35 points mean a great deal!
To compensate for this huge bonus, the tickets are worth more points than usual, and this also means that you’re feeling that you’re doing a great job (even though the other players also get more points for their tickets). In the first game I got more than 200 points in tickets! Speaking of the tickets, you’re actually going through the ticket deck quite fast, mainly because there aren’t that many and because you draw 4 each time instead of the normal 3. This means that you have a chance to bump into cards that you’ve already thrown away earlier.
I like that you can also just play the game as an ordinary map with the TtR USA basic rules as you don’t include bridge tolls and only are playing with single routes with 2 and 3 players. It makes the map more versatile. If only they had decided to print another map on the other side of the board like they did with the first two expansions, sigh…
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.5.
I was pleasantly surprised by this game and almost considering buying it after my first play – which is something I rarely do these days compared to my shopping spree a few years ago (just take a look at my ”previous owned” list)… After my second game, though, I’m not sure it has enough replayability, and the luck is probably a bit too much for what I generally like. However, Discworld is still a pretty good game that I would probably always be willing to play!
The reasons are that it’s a quick game with some depth which includes quite a bit of the sweet “screw you” factor. Furthermore it has secret goals, and area majority is its main mechanic which is always a plus in my book as it’s my second favorite mechanism (WP being the undisputed number one). What makes the game somewhat unique is the secret goal each person holds throughout the game – these goals ensure that the game can come to an abrupt end! This is a great mechanic as you’re constantly trying to see if your opponents are close to winning. Of course, you might not know this as everybody is trying to disguise their real goals (though it can be quite easy to assess which goals each player owns, but this is generally a problem with this kind of mechanic). The various goals are truly very different (at least some of them), so you need to deploy different tactics in order to win. If you don’t instantly win at the start of your turn, the game will end by everybody tallying their points in the end – unless somebody has the secret character called Vimes, in which case this player wins… Speaking of Vimes, he seems slightly overpowered, at least in a 4p game, so I’m thinking that I might remove him. Of course, if you’re playing with 2 it might also be hard to win with him, so maybe 3p is the sweet spot?
The game worked very well with 3 and 4 players, even though certain secret characters seemed better or worse depending on the player numbers, even though the objectives try to handle this. The screw you factor is present indeed, but everybody knows that this is one of those kinds of games, so people don’t get mad. I think that it’s only because of the light-hearted nature of the game that I don’t get too mad at the excessive randomness in this game. The cards are very imbalanced; some are ridiculously good while others are completely crappy (and no, it’s not good under certain circumstances)! Furthermore, the event deck is very random and might screw you over, but it’s all good as the game takes less than an hour and is indeed enjoyable.
The tension that you have to suffer when you have actually completed your goal, but it needs to be your turn again in order to win, is great; often, the other players will notice that you might win if you have that specific character, so they attack you. It’s a great game of fighting back-and-forth and trying to complete your secret objective!
Mutant Meeples. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.5.
This game has been a huge hit with my wife – who has actually beaten me in every single one of our games! That’s not weird as she’s very good at Ricochet Robots which is the game Mutant Meeples remind me of. You’re trying to reach a certain spot on the board which is random each time, and you’re trying to move your meeples like in RR – the difference is that these meeples have superpowers! So they can, once per game, move through walls, teleport, jump over obstacles etc. I really love how each meeple is unique. The other difference in MM compared to RR is that you can only move 3 different meeples each round – this is a rule I wasn’t too fond of as it seemed to limit you unnecessarily; I would have preferred if you just had a maximum number of moves (which you do, and which I’m also not a huge fan of).
The fact that each player loses the ability to move the meeples they have already used to reach the different spots with is a great idea – it is kind of a catch-up mechanism which ensures that the games are probably a little closer than they would otherwise be. The game board is double-sided so you can choose which side you want (we like the harder side with less walls), and that’s a great touch, so kudos to the designer and publisher. There are also some variants, and all in all it plays quite smooth and fast, so it’s definitely a keeper.
Mutant Meeples: Sidekicks. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
This small expansion just includes 2 new meeples, but nonetheless it’s a pretty good expansion (I think it’s included in the base game now). I especially like Swapmeet, whose power is that he can swap place with any other meeple – this can be extremely handy! Nacho Fast is somewhat lame as he can just move once, so it’s not that common that he is used (though I have indeed used him a few times). The two meeples add even more possibilities which is always a plus in my book, so I’m probably going to include them in most of my games.
Trains. Plays: 5. Rating: 7.
It’s not exactly Dominion on/with a board, but it’s pretty close… However, there are some significant differences. First of all, despite the fact that there are no limits on the number of actions and buys on your turn, Trains didn’t strike me as having the same possibilities of crazy chains and combos. Maybe the cards that are included in Trains are just too basic or don’t have enough +draws or something like that, but it just felt less elegant than Dominion as you can always play all of the cards you want, so a skilled player cannot really get a comparatively large advantage. I think that it’s harder to make your deck much better than the other players’ when you’re able to play every card anyway (though of course you can still make your deck more effective, and it’s obviously still extremely important which cards you decide to buy for your deck).
I like the fact that the cards provide money themselves so you can buy new cards even with the so-called ”action cards” as those also have a monetary value. Sure, you might still want a limited express train or something like that, but it’s perfectly possible to win without focusing too much on money. This is directly caused by the fact that you don’t need to buy your VP in Trains, unlike Dominion. In Trains you can get points during the game, but a huge chunk of your total victory points will come from the board; you need to lay a lot of rails in order to extend your rail network to city spaces and build station for lots of points! I’ve tried various strategies and none seem to be better than others. I have won with minimal focus on the board (less than 20 points) and buying VP cards, and I’ve won without buying a single VP card. In either case, you will get waste cards throughout the game. These act like curses in Dominion, though they are not so bad as they don’t give negative points and you can get rid of them through various cards – or by the great mechanic that you skip your entire turn in order to return the waste cards on your hand to the original waste pile! This is truly a clever way of trashing and getting rid of those awful cards.
Trains has far less direct attacking; you cannot even block people from building on spots, but only make it more expensive for them. I did kind of miss an attack card which could remove rails certain rails from the board (at a cost, obviously) or “close” a city so nobody else can build there etc. If you don’t like in-your-face-competition, I think Trains is a better suit for you than Dominion with attack cards (but if you don’t use attack cards, Dominion is of course a much more solitare and boring game in my opinion).
Finally I have to mention that I don’t think the basic game provides the greatest replayability in itself; I really want expansions that add new cards, because those in the basic game are very, well, basic! It’s the same deal with Dominion, though I still find basic Dominion slightly better than basic Trains. I’m sure there will be many expansions, it’s just a matter of time. Oh, one minor thing I want to mention when comparing Dominion and Trains is that Trains doesn’t use the tie-breaker rule of Dominion, though it seems even more important in this game… Actually I lost a game because the player right ahead of me put down his last cube which got him 8 points – he won on the tie-breaker that you have more cubes on the board. He got one more turn than me… Now that was lame! Anyway, that’s a minor niggle. All in all Trains is a different game than Dominion because it emphasizes play on the board, and this is a great thing. But in order to love Trains I need more interesting cards…
Shadows over Camelot: Merlin’s Company. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
SoC is a game I play a lot with my old high school friends and my brother, but not with anybody else. We love coops, and we recently tried the game with the traitor, which adds a ton of fun because of the tension! So, naturally we had to try the expansion. What I like the most about the expansion is probably the variety of new characters/knights (including the 8th knight) as the game now has tons of different setups regarding the knights. Granted, I think that most of the new knights are inferior to the knights in the base game, but increased variety means increased replayability! The new special white and special black cards are a great addition and add some interesting decisions during the game. The “?” white fight card is also very handy. I suppose 2 traitors would be interesting to play with, although I suspect the traitors would easily win, but as I’m never playing with 7-8 players (except for my family, which probably won’t play this), this part of the expansion isn’t important to me.
The biggest part of the expansion, the travel deck, is probably what I like the least about the game. It obviously makes the game much harder for the knights, which is a plus, but on the other hand it also increases the randomness dramatically and it’s pretty hard to plan ahead. You can be screwed badly by this deck… And this is probably the reason why I have rated the expansion lower than the base game; I’m not going to play with Merlin’s travel deck a whole lot, but will add it once in a while, especially if playing with experienced players who find the base game of SoC too easy. This expansion definitely ramps up the difficulty!
Civilization: The Board Game. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I’m a huge fan of the Civilization computer games which I played extensively 10 years ago, so I’m glad that I finally got to play this game, and I’m even happier to get to play it twice as there are lots of rules – especially because my two plays included both of the expansions! I played with two very experienced players and some other newbies like myself, and the two experienced players told me the differences between the basic game and the expansions – and from what I hear I would definitely prefer the game with its expansions! However, having said that, I’m not sure that I’d be willing to play this game a ton in the future – it lasts for too many hours in my opinion. Our first game took 4+ hours with 5 players and our second game took around 3½-4 hours with 4.
Now, it’s hard to evaluate the expansions on their own, but obviously the biggest improvement is the combat system which has been balanced somewhat (now there are no more bad draws). There are lots of new features, new techs and so on which all make the game more interesting. Even though the combat system has been improved, it’s still one of the mechanics I found least appealing; the rock-paper-scissors mechanism isn’t too good, and combats are often fairly close if you have units of the same level.
Civilization is a good civilization-building eurogame. I like that it has a map - yes, I’m obviously referring to Through the Ages, although I like that game slightly more – but again my main criticism is the huge time commitment to the game. I would much rather play a couple of games of Agricola or Tzolk’in or games like that than a single play of Civilization. If you don’t care about the playing time, Civilization is actually a pretty good game. The undisputed thing I like most about the game is definitely the victory condition. Or, the victory conditions I should rather say, because there are 4 of them, and as soon as a player has reached one of them he wins the game. That’s a pretty nifty idea! Your starting civilization obviously hints at which path to choose, though you still have freedom to do whatever you want. I’ve seen a military and a cultural victory, and in one of the game an economic victory (and in both games a technologic victory) was pretty close. I looove different paths to victory, and they truly are different! So you need to be aware of what the other players can do, and you also need to have a decently sized military if your opponents are going down that road (and even if they don’t, it’s always good to have some military power in order to explore huts and villages).
I think that the culture cards, the different terrain and various buildings help increase the replayability, and all of these factors are something I appreciate. The great leaders are, well, great, but they can also be too powerful I think, at least if you get some much faster than the other players. I fear it may lead to a snowball effect; in one of my game I won because I got a lot of leaders, and the only other player who was also close to winning got a lot of leaders early on due to his race. Anyway, Civilization is a good game, but I’m not sure if I want to play it too often.
Suburbia. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
This game would probably work much better as a computer game as the upkeep is tedious as well as the constant calculations and checks to see if you’ve taken every tile into account. I’ve heard that they will make this game as an iPad app which is going to take just 10-15 minutes to play (which should be compared to stated 90 minutes here on BGG)…
In any case, Suburbia has a lot of good stuff going on. I’m a big fan of games that include a spatial element. The way you’re placing your tiles and thinking about how to increase their benefits is something I enjoy a lot. How to maximize the synergy between the tiles is basically the game. There are lots of different tiles so the variety in each game is huge. However, I also think this is a downside to the game; you’re never sure which tiles are in the game, so if you’re planning to go for e.g. airports or green buildings etc., you can get screwed if none (or perhaps just a few) shows up. This is quite critical I think.
I like the various and different goals which you have access to at the beginning of the game and which help you shape your strategy. I’m also a sucker for secret goals, so that’s always nice and it’s often hard to figure out what goal a specific opponent has, which is as it should be so you cannot just copy their moves. I also like that you need to balance between your population and income, though income is vastly more important at the beginning of the game! It’s clever that it becomes more and more expensive as you get more and more points.
Maybe it makes sense that certain tiles provide income or loses reputation etc. depending on which tiles you put them next to, and while I can appreciate this thematic touch it doesn’t mean anything special to me as I don’t really care about thematic flavor. The artwork on the tiles and the rest of the game is quite bland.
Finally I will state that the game is very fiddly; you constantly need to check to see if your own tiles provide any income/reputation – and then check if your newly placed tile is affected by the tiles in your opponents’ boroughs. This leads me to think that a SimCity-kind-of-boardgame perhaps just doesn’t work as a boardgame. It’s a decent game that I would play again, but I don’t need to own it.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar: Mini Expansion 1. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
Tzolk’in is one of my favorite games (I’ve rated it an 8), so naturally I had to get the promos – and it’s always great to support BGG via their store! This tiny expansion consists of a monument and a starting tile, and they certainly don’t change the game but just add some variability which is always appreciated. The starting tile is pretty neat; I like that you can screw your opponents by forcing them to start with one less food. This also means that this starting tile is probably only good with 4 or maybe 3 players. I don’t care that you play the game with 1 less dummy player piece if you draw it as part of setup. The monument is different from the others because it doesn’t cost any gold and because it provides you with 13 food once it’s built; this makes it an interesting monument to build early in the game, which is definitely a plus as monuments are often bought late in the game. I am always going to include the tiles in the mix before each game and play with them if they show up.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar: Mini Expansion 2. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
Like the first mini expansion, this small second expansion also consists of a single monument and starting tile. The starting tile is interesting; it comes with a penalty as you move down on one of the god tracks, but it also gives you a whopping 4 wood and 6 food – resources you can use in every strategy, and I think it’s especially strong if you’re going for a building or tech strategy. I don’t care that you play the game with 1 more dummy player piece if you draw it as part of setup. The monument is very interesting, and like the monument in the first miniexpansion, you also want to build this monument as early as possible – if you can build it during the first quarter of the game, it’s worth 40 points, while it’s only worth 13 points if you build it during the last quarter of the game – which is when you’re usually constructing your monuments. Because of the price, I don’t think you should build the monument during the last quarter of the game as the reward in points isn’t really going to cut it, but it’s a great pick mid-game if you have an otherwise good engine and don’t need to spend too many actions getting those gold resources. I am always going to include the tiles in the mix before each game and play with them if they show up.
City of Iron. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.
The main mechanisms of City of Iron are the action point allowance system as well as the area majority. Yes, there are cards you use to form a deck, but I’d argue that “deck building” as a mechanism is a stretch! There are lots of different cards to buy and add to your deck, but you basically only buy a handful or two, and you run through your deck less than that… It was a nice touch that the two decks were separated into military and civilian decks so that you could shape your strategy after your temper, but as I said you rarely get to play the cards. To me, the deck building didn’t work at all.
Luckily other things did. I like that you score points during the game depending on how many resources you have on the cards you’ve bought, and that this is at the same time what brings you some money during the game. I’m a sucker for area majority games, and while this part is only so in the loosest sense, it still works quite well I think.
I love that you need to colonize new areas so that you can get some of the better cards which show up later in the game (it’s divided into three phases). I also like that you can go for military colonization and that you can attack each other if they have some colonies – but if they don’t, you cannot do it, so again you’re still choosing if you want to go the more hostile way or if you just want to mind your own business. I’m definitely intrigued by this game, though I highly doubt that it’s a game I would love to play more than a handful of times.
Puzzle Strike (Third Edition). Plays: 4. Rating: 6.5.
I am a little disappointed in this game. I had hoped (and thought) that it would be the game which would replace Dominion and make me never look back, mainly because the interaction seemed to be much higher. Alas, after a handful of plays I sold the game and still think Dominion is the best deck building game (not that I’m a huge fanboy; I’ve only rated it a 7.5 iirc). Actually, in my gaming groups I was the most enthusiastic about Puzzle Strike; the others thought it was very “meh”.
I’ve only tried it with 2 and 3 players, but to be honest I cannot see why it would be any better with 4, especially as you only attack one player at a time. It’s the same with Dominion which I also think works best with 2 or 3. However, unlike in Dominion where attacks hit every other player, in Puzzle Strike you choose a single opponent to attack – to me, this is a fatal flaw as it can lead to kingmaking (if playing with more than 2; which is also why I probably prefer playing Puzzle Strike with 2)! The rest of the attack phase is actually quite unique and interesting; I like that you attack with gems that you crash and split into many smaller pieces (though it does make the 4’s extremely important as they cannot be blocked, which I maybe think is too strong). So, while the attack phase of Puzzle Strike has some good things going on, I hate that you can only attack one opponent with your gems!
Unlike Dominion, you have unlimited buys as long as you have enough money which make you more flexible. It’s also pretty cool that you actually have to take a wound (= chip that does nothing but takes up space in your deck) if you cannot afford any other chips! Another change from Dominion is the actions; this was a very cool twist; I loved that different chips are color coded so that you can only play action chips in the corresponding colors. This meant that you had to think twice about the colors of the banners on the various chips!
Some final thoughts on some of the other things I liked about the game. The components are good as the chips are very sturdy. I loved the fact that I don’t constantly need to reshuffle! The unique player character chips is a brilliant move as it instantly changes your approach to the game each time, and you never start out with the same deck as your opponents. The way the game speeds up when you’re buying chips is a good idea, though it never happened in my games as the game ended faster than the stacks were emptied. In any case, the game still speeds up each turn because of the ante, and this is actually a good idea so you’re sure plays don’t overstay their welcome (yes, we’ve all had those games in Dominion with tons of attack cards where it’s impossible to buy anything because of all of your curses and ruins and no way to trash them)…
I don’t know anything about the theme, but it doesn’t matter as I’m not a sucker for theme. Now, all of the above maybe sounds like I love the game more than I should, but it never truly clicked for me, and my opponents hated it. My main gripe is that you must choose the opponent to attack, and yes, I know this can be “solved” by playing the game strictly as a 2p game, but I’ve tried that a couple of times and didn’t find the game that engaging when doing so.
Factory Fun. Plays: 9. Rating: 6.5.
I think the name is very misleading for this game, I did have a good time playing this game – and it’s very rare that I play a new game so many times in a month which shows its merits.
My first two plays were with 5 of which most of my opponents were experienced, so naturally I didn’t win – but that’s definitely not a negative, because it showed me that a better player will win most of the times. I’ve had the game sitting on my shelves for a couple of month, but after trying it I was pretty sure that it would be a hit with my wife – and indeed I was right as she loves it! That’s not surprising as she loves tile-laying games, spatial element games and multiplayer solitaire game, and this game fits nicely into those categories. However, it also introduces another mechanic which makes this game stand out from a lot of other games that use the previously mentioned mechanics: a speed element!
Every player turns over a machine, and then you need to grab the one you need the most before any other player! This adds a lot of tension as you need to think fast about how well the machine will fit into your factory. However, it doesn’t work as well with 2p (and is probably best with 4 or 5 players), but I’ve tried the 2p variant where 2 players are managing 2 different factories each and 4 machines are therefore turned over each round; it works well and produces a lot more stress and tension which is great!
Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
I was actually a little underwhelmed by this expansion which was quite surprising to me. Now, granted, I’m not in love with LoW as many others, but I do enjoy it mainly because it’s so simple to teach and play and because most of my friends love it. This expansion doesn’t add much new stuff to the base game. It doesn’t improve the base game. The two separate expansions are fine, but not great. They basically just add more of the same with the exception of the corruption mechanic which was quite nice. This is the biggest game-changer, and I love that you’re getting rewarded and penalized at the same time for taking these skulls (you get better stuff, but also skulls). The new quests in the second part of the expansions seem too powerful considering the costs, especially those that give 40 points!
What the expansion parts have in common are that they add a ton of new cards and buildings, some of them very interesting and different from those in the base game. One of the things I criticized the most about the base game is that all of the lords are similar (except for Larissa, but on the other hand she’s not balanced; she’s super strong in 2p games and super sucky in 5p games). So, I was happy to see new lords are added in the expansion, but I’m sad to say that they don’t seem too balanced (I haven’t played much with them, granted; I definitely need to play with them much more, but it seems as if their strength and usefulness vary quite a lot – and many others on BGG seem to think so too)!
One of the main reasons why I won’t combine both expansions at once, or even add a single expansion, is the extreme fiddlyness involved in doing so! You need to sort out the expansion cards and buildings and separate them from the base game and then count them and add a certain amount of cards/building – and when the game has finished, you need to sort it all again! I cannot think of any other game where I don’t use a part of it because it’s too fiddly, but that’s the case with this expansion I’m afraid.
The production value is extremely poor… Quests have very different backs than those in the original game, so they are easily distinguishable, and they are upside down… Furthermore, the colors of the Commerce quests are more similar to those of the old Piety quests… Oh, and the box insert isn’t nearly as good as it is in the base game; it’s too tight, and you can’t put the box on its side or everything is tossed around inside the box. Speaking of the box, that one is better than the base game, though, as it doesn’t have that annoying “half top” which doesn’t close completely… The production gets a rating of 1, so it’s lucky that the rest of the expansion is ok! However, as I’ve stated I feel it just adds a little more of the same, so I’m surprised to say that I actually prefer the base game on its own!
Lords of Waterdeep: Inevitable Betrayal Promo Card. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
Yay, I finally got this promo without paying $25 for it on ebay – it was a great move to include it in the LoW expansion! Now, the actual promocard is okay, though it isn’t very beneficial if you play it before the last round (in which case it’s actually super strong); this is because you have to give your opponent the card after you’ve played it. But I guess it’s always good with an extra card, and this card enhances the interaction and spite as you’re stealing from each other.
Lords of Waterdeep: Rapid Expansion Promo Card. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
This is a nice card; it’s always great with more options of getting more buildings into play, and because you can draw 5 buildings and choose the one you want, there is more room to shape or help your overall strategy. It’s a promo card that I always hope I’ll get in my hand, but so far without luck. I feel like the two promo cards do add something different to the game, without being overpowered like many other promo tiles (“Stone Age: Casino”, anyone?!) so that’s a plus. I’m always going to shuffle this promo card in the deck and hope it shows up.
Hanabi multicolor cards. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
I got to play Hanabi 20+ times before I played with the 6th “multicolor” cards. This is because I have often introduced the game to others, and the first few games I think those cards add an unnecessary complexity. I have now played with these extra cards three times, all with some experienced players who play a lot with each other and therefore have some meta-gaming going on and are therefore quite good at the game, so they add in these cards which obviously make the game much harder as you might make mistakes by laying down cards because you thought they were a different color… Or it increases the difficulty because you want to wait until you’re sure that you’re playing the correct colors, so you need some more clues. In any case, I personally don’t think the expansion is a necessary addition to the game; I actually prefer to play the base game without the multicolor cards, but I wouldn’t mind playing with these cards occasionally.
Sushi Go!. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
I love the drafting mechanism in 7 Wonders, so naturally I had to get this tiny game. It comes in the standard 2-deck card box size like Coloretto and Fairy Tale; the latter is another drafting game, but one which I eventually found lacking compared to 7 Wonders. If you’ve played either 7 Wonders or Fairy Tale, you’ll know that those games play very quickly… But I’m actually able to play a game of Sushi Go in the same amount it takes to explain the rules for 7 Wonders! Yes, it’s that short!
However, this isn’t necessarily good; while it is an “okay” filler, it lacks some meat to the gameplay. It is basically just a very simple form of drafting and has much more luck going on than 7 Wonders I feel. I guess the major reason for this is that not all cards are included in every play, so you never know which cards are included in each of the 3 rounds; this means that you have to gamble on whether specific cards are going to appear in each round. This is especially devastating if you pick for instance a Sashimi as your first card only to then realize that there are not 2 other Sashimis in the deck; and if there are, other players might have gone for a Sashimi as their first card too (the card gives 10 points if you have 3 of them, 0 points if less)… Then you’re basically screwed by no fault of your own. Other players might “hate draft” and pick a Sashimi just so you cannot get the third one, but if you’re playing with 4+ players that’s hardly a winning strategy as you don’t get points yourself…
The cards I do like include the chopsticks and the wasabi cards; they add a nice extra layer of strategy. The chopsticks can be a great early pick as you can use it later on to get two similar cards (sashimi comes to mind) or a wasabi and a squid nigiri – just remember to use it before it’s too late as there are a lot of crappy hands in the end of the game! I think it’s cool that the wasabi card triples the value of one of your nigiri cards which can suddenly make those cards very viable to play and net you lots of points. Finally, the pudding cards are neat; I like the fact that there are some endgame bonus scoring cards. Speaking of the end; I think the end of each round is often kind of lame – it’s very rare to score many points on the last card simply because the better ones have already been taken (yes, that can also happen in 7 Wonders, but there you at least have the ability to discard it for gold or perhaps even use it as part of your wonder).
Ultimately, I’m not sure this game will stay in my collection (I tend to sell most games I’ve rated below 7). It’s a filler, but I’d rather play No Thanks or some other filler if I only have 5-10 minutes. And if I want to get the drafting feeling, I would much rather play 7 Wonders as it’s also a very quick game but is vastly superior in depth.
Um Reifenbreite. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
I initially rated this a 5, but having thought a little more about it I changed it to a 6. However, it is likely to go down again. The reason is that, while the game actually was okay, we played the Tour de France route. Even if that setup is probably the most interesting (as you need to take into account lots of mountains, cobblestone and other terrain), it was slightly longer than what I found fitting for what the game offers in terms of mechanics, gameplay and overall enjoyment. It didn’t seem there was a lot of progress, so I think it would be better not to play the longest scenario (TdF); therefore, I’d love to play the game again just to be sure about my rating.
Speaking of the rating, I’m expecting it to only decrease and not increase. The reason is the randomness. True, Um Reifenbreite features a lot of neat mechanics: it offers a lot of tactical decisions as to then to play your cards, when to form a breakaway, when to follow, how to place yourself in clever positions so the other players don’t stick to your wheel. The pointsystem is a good idea; you don’t win the game simply by crossing the line first – you get points for the final positions of each of your riders. This means that you cannot neglect any riders and need to take care of them all, which is a very clever twist on the racing games. I actually finished first and second in my game, but I also came in last (because of a horrible last round in which the dice gods hated me) – so I ended up losing by 2 points! And this is exactly why I don’t think it’s a great game, and probably won’t think either if I’m playing some of the shorter scenarios; the dice simply determine too much. It’s downright impossible to win if you roll poorly, even if you play great. I’m especially hating the part on the top of the mountain where you’re about to ride downhill; here, one lousy pip on the die means whether you start your next turn on the mountain space and get a -6 movement penalty for your next move or whether you’re starting on the first downhill section space and get +5 to your next move… Come on, that’s ridiculous!
Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa. Plays: 4. Rating: 6.
I’m quite a big fan of Ticket to Ride – it’s the best gateway game ever, and having played it quite a bit I’ve found that it actually also provides a decent game for experienced players who can finish a game in 30-45 minutes or so. I loved the two previous map expansions, so naturally I had to buy this one too, though I think it’s sad that they decided to only include a single map… It’s so easy to include another one, but they obviously know that people are still going to buy them (like I did), so I definitely do understand them from a financial company point of view. But from a gamer’s point of view it’s sad.
This is one of the weaker maps. It’s somewhat different from the other maps because of the terrain cards and how the map is designed with similar colored routes lumped close together. The latter makes it very hard to put down trains in a specific area because you need a whole lot of the same colors which makes the game harder. Another thing which makes the game harder is the fact that there are very few double routes. Now, many of the tickets seem to give you a lot of points; there are many long routes rather than short, which is something I like. As tickets give many points, you might think you want to grab a lot of them, right? Wrong! This map is one of the harder to complete tickets in as it’s so easy to get blocked – there are very few double routes, and they are all in the outskirts of the map. In the central part of the board there are no double routes and you can be easily blocked, especially with 4-5 players, which makes this TtR map very, very mean! This is something I know that a lot of the people I game with won’t think is funny as they like to build their own routes without too much interference from the opponents.
The terrain cards are obviously the biggest difference from the other maps. It’s a neat idea, but it fails to deliver when you actually play It extended the play time somewhat because you spent turns drawing some of those instead/in addition to normal train cards, and it added an unnecessary “complicated” layer of rules for new players (which I once had to introduce the game to). Oh, and 10 or 15 extra points for just two terrain cards is quite a big bonus; perhaps too big? It certainly makes laying down trains a much more viable option than in many other TtR maps, especially as routes can be hard to complete if the other players actively are trying to block you (or, actually, even if they are just minding their own business as they will unintentionally block you because the map is so tight)... What I did like about the terrain cards was that you needed to tie other players in order to play them, so a player with a lot of terrain cards could “control” the other players, so you can’t just play them whenever you want. When playing with the terrain cards, you need to track your scores as the game progresses as you need to score the terrain cards if players use them; this is a minor inconvenience as I’m normally tallying up the train scores at the end of the game so we’re sure we don’t miss anything or forget to score during the game. This is only a minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience to me nonetheless.
Anyway, having played this map 4 times I don’t need to own it any more (I’ve already sold it), but I would still play it; I haven’t tried it with 5 yet but only with 4 a couple of times, and I imagine that 5 players would make the game extremely cutthroat! It’s just that if I had the option of choosing any of the maps, TtR Africa would be near the bottom of the list; I prefer the Asia maps, India and Nederland.
Mr. Jack in New York. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
Hmm. I’m feeling a little ambivalent about Mr. Jack (both the base game and in NY). I want to love these games, but the reality is that I just don’t. I’m not sure what it is, but the games don’t work for me as the deduction games I want them to be! I guess there is a little too much luck/little deduction for me to really appreciate the gameplay. The components are great etc., but that’s not why I buy and play a game! Now, I’ve only played this edition once (had planned to play it at least twice, but something got in the way), but I have played the original Mr. Jack three times and have made up my mind about this game. On its own merits I guess it’s a decent game, and I think that Mr. Jack in New York slightly improves on some things which didn’t work so well in the base game. The detective and Mr. Jack are more evenly matched in this edition, and the characters’ abilities are, to me, more interesting and varied. The informant and where the ferries are placed and the parks where you can hide are good ideas, but for me personally it’s not a great game. It’s still decent, though, as my rating shows, and I would like to play it again a couple of times just to be sure that I’m not missing anything as I really do want to love it!
Brügge. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
I’m not a huge Feld fan, but I like CoB and Trajan quite a bit as well as Bora Bora. However, I think Feld makes a lot of average games: Speicherstadt, Macao, Notre Dame etc. all fell flat, and Brügge does too. It’s not a bad game; it’s just not particularly good either… It lacks interesting decisions and tension.
Brügge is not the typical point salad game which Feld has become famous (or feared…) for, but the point scoring still feels very uninspiring. You get some points for moving up on the track, for building canals and for the persons you hire. Meh. These persons vary a lot in strength and usability, but my biggest gripe is probably that you cannot really make a definitive strategy as you don’t know which cards you’ll be getting later in the game, so it’s a little hard to make those good card combos which will win you the game! You only keep a single card from round to round, so planning ahead is difficult. The best mechanism in Brügge is the disasters; they add some tension and relatively important decision making to the game, and there are some mean cards which the other players can play to make you get the last piece for the disaster to happen (you need 3 before the disaster strikes) – this can be very crippling, but I guess you just have to take it into account, so it’s definitely not a negative point.
The artwork is nice (though perhaps slightly too brown for my taste), so why did they choose to make the game board so small? And now that they chose this, then why did they choose to make the box so relatively big? Oh well, that’s not a complaint about the game, it just bugs me; it could easily fit in a Speicherstadt sized box or even a smaller one.
Suburbia: Essen Spiel. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
As is the case with almost every promo tile, I usually just mix them into the base game for added variety. This promo doesn’t really change much, so it’s okay. However, like I mentioned in my comments about Suburbia, I have a problem with the random selection of tiles in each game; this is especially emphasized with this promo, as the tiles give points for each other promo tile you have - but the problem is that you never know if the other promo tiles are even going to come up in the game…
Lexio. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
Lexio is very similar to the card game ”President” or ”asshole” as it’s called in Denmark (not that we think the US President is an asshole, mind you!). Mix it with some poker hands and add that some colors trumph others, and you’ve basically have Lexio. It was actually pretty enjoyable, and it’s a game I would play again as it’s very quick. However, the decisions are pretty basic so the strategic aspects lack a little.
I liked that the colors aren’t equally strong and the fact that you get minus points if you’re sitting with a 2 when the game ends (which actually happened in our last round). You play 3 quick rounds and every loser pays the difference in the tiles they have left compared to the other players; so, the winner get points from every other players’ stacks, while the runner-up player gets points from number three and four etc. This is a good mechanic as you’re all trying to finish as fast as possible, and even if you don’t win the round you’ll likely still get a few points from the biggest loser of the round.
There is still the luck of the draw when you’re grabbing your starting tiles, so you need to understand that it’s not a super heavy game and that you can get screwed if you get some poor tiles. In my game there was actually a player who had a really strong series of tiles while I had a maximum of two similar tiles, but as they didn’t want to break their nice straight etc., they passed which actually meant that I won the round with a very bad hand consisting of no 2’s, no suit/flush and only singles and pairs… So the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be too gready if you’re sitting with a strong hand! I do think the game is good, but it’s just not something I would like to play all the time, hence my rating of just 5.5 (which almost might as well have been a 6).
Planet Steam. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
One of my main criticisms about games is if they are too long ”for what it is”, meaning the time commitment doesn’t match the enjoyment the game provides (or rather the lack of enjoyment). Often it’s because of boring decisions or an excessive amount of luck. This game fares no differently; it’s just too long. If it had played 1-1½ hours quicker than the 3 hours it took (though it needs to be said that we were 4 inexperienced players with 2 new players), I would probably rate it higher and be more inclined to play it again. As of now, I’m willing to try it again, but if it still takes 3 hours, I’m not going to play it again. It worked okay with 4 players, but next time I would like to play it with 3 players so that the market mechanism gets a more significant role.
The game mixes some stock speculation with some auction and some spatial elements, but I have to say that none of them are particularly interesting… Stock speculation isn’t my kind of thing, and the amount of math required to figure out the best play and how much to bid in the auction or which goods to sell or buy is way too excessive! This reminds me somewhat of Power Grid; it’s a good game, but the amount of calculations just kills it for me (not that I’m bad at it, it’s just not a good mechanism in games)! This is enhanced and made even worse by the fact that you need to calculate/expect how the market is going to react due to the other players, and this is very hard to do. The market prices of the four different types of resources control how many robots are available each round, and while it is a very neat mechanic it, again, needs too much calculations in my humble opinion. The market works, but it’s hard to anticipate how it’s going to look if you’re the last player and the other players are selling or buying before you…
This leads me to the next important element of the game: the auction for turnorder and specials roles. I always enjoy games which include various unique roles, so this was a good thing though I felt the 4 roles were somewhat uninteresting; during the game I thought it mattered a lot, and while it obviously does somewhat, I now think that it’s more important to be first in the turn order. This is because you can buy cheaper robots (which was very important if there were few robots available) and, especially during the late game, the last couple of contracts worth 50 points, and then obviously because of how the market works. Of course, it might sometimes be better to be last if every player sells goods and you want to buy, so they have lowered the prices, but in my one game it wasn’t the case.
The spatial element wasn’t implemented in a satisfying way. The way you bid on terrain spaces and put your robots in a grid was okay, but not exactly groundbreaking. Also, it doesn’t matter too much as you can always change which robots produce which resource… Oh, and I really despise that you need to rely on the dice in order to get the space you want! This is a bad mechanic, and it was even worse during the late part of the game in which you basically had 50 % chance of getting a terrain space!? In our game it could actually have decided the game…
So, overall the game didn’t really appeal to me. It was too “mathy”. I don’t care about the steampunk theme, and the components (I’m specifically thinking of the robots) were good. I would be willing to play it again with 3 players, but I’m fairly sure that it’s not a game I am going to play more than that.
Monolith: The Strategy Game. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
This is yet a eurogame that uses dice as workers – and somewhat succeeds. The main reason I haven’t rated it higher is because of unbalanced cards and quite a bit of luck involved - both in dice rolling and card drawings! I am willing to try it again, but in the first game the winner ended up winning by a tiny margin (over me) only because he drew an insanely good card which granted him 12 VPs (!) for 3 dice (it didn’t matter which numbers he used)… That’s extremely broken and it’s sad that a game that last for an hour ends like that! Yes, the box says 30 minutes, which I’m finding it hard to believe if playing with 4 or maybe even 3 players. If if only took 30 minutes (and I guess with fewer and more experienced players it could take 30-45 minutes), my rating would perhaps increase slightly, but I can never rate this game highly when the winner is determined due to a lucky card draw…
Other thoughts on the game: the turnorder seems more important in this game than in many others. A lot of the power cards are extremely powerful, and it’s very important to get them early on! I like that you need gems in order to “unlock” various spots on the map, i.e. in order to pass them. Finally, every game will be different due to the plethora of cards just like we’re used to in games like Dominion etc., but to me the replayability of Monolith is lower as the game isn’t that engaging. A variable setup doesn’t always translate to good replayability!
Spyrium. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
Spyrium is just another light, quick engine building eurogame; I already own a lot of those and don’t need to add a copy to my collection. The game evolves over time as better buildings become available. What’s interesting about the game is that there are two phases each round; you either place meeples or decide to pull them off, but you cannot place meeples anymore if you’ve chosen to remove one! This means that you have to decide how long you can hold on placing meeples, because if the other players are starting to remove their meeples, you’ll not get as good rewards. In continuation of this point, it was a neat twist that you either has to get some income or to pay a lot for the building you want when you remove workers (you place workers around cards, so you either have to pay the price or workers around the card, or you can get as much gold as there are workers around that card).
I don’t think that I would actively suggest playing this game again; however, to be fair, my one and so far only play of Spyrium was around 1:30 AM and I was well aware of the fact that I made a lot of mistakes because I was tired. So I think I owe it to the designer of the great Caylus to play Spyrium at least once again, perhaps with 3 players, and see if my opinion changes. However, I doubt it.
Eight-Minute Empire. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
No, it doesn’t take 8 minutes, but it’s not that far off. I guess if you had played it a couple of times before and were only 2 players playing, you could finish it in 8 minutes, but in my experience it takes around 15-20 minutes – which is still an acceptable timeframe. The game itself is okay; not good, but not bad either. Actually, considering it only takes about 15 minutes I think there is some meat to the game. I like area control games in general and this one does it fine considering the short play time. It mixes area control with set collection, both of which are very important in order to win.
The different abilities on the cards are neat; I like that you want to get a lot of similar cards in order to score more points, but that you also need to focus on the abilities the cards provide. And while you’re evaluating these factors you also need to consider how much the card costs; the row of cards cost between 0 and 3 coins, and you only have 11 coins to buy all of your cards!
I’ve played it twice, once with 3 players and once with 4, and I must say that I definitely think it works best with 4 players. The reason is that the board becomes much more crowded which translates into fierce competition. With 3, two of the players fought each other and neutralized each other which made the third person win; the one who expanded the other way and didn’t face any real competition… I guess that’s how it goes for all these types of games when playing with 3, so it’s always something that this one plays so quickly.
Police Precinct. Plays: 3. Rating: 5.5.
I love cooperative games, but this one is perhaps a little too long for what it is; it’s a quite basic game and in my experience it’s not that difficult to win – and if a cooperative game is relatively easy to play and win, it shouldn’t last for 1½ hour or so.
First, let’s talk about the good stuff. The special character abilities and the police cards make the game interesting; you always need to evaluate if you want the symbols or the ability of the cards. The special character powers shape your strategy but they don’t determine it (the fact that you can upgrade the 3 symbols with doughnuts helps towards this).
I liked the fact that you can lose the game in two different ways; while you’re trying to find the evidence so you can eventually capture the killer, you constantly need to be aware of the crime track. The boxes you put on some of the emergencies are a very good idea as they bring some uncertainty and element of surprise, and finally the urgent marker is a great feature as you’re constantly under pressure. Or, at least in theory, because in 2 of my 3 games the crime rate didn’t move too much and we never had any trouble winning. This brings me to the negatives.
The game doesn’t have the same tension as other coops like Ghost Stories; actually I have won all of my 3 games so far. Yes, I know that there are at least 14 different ways of increasing the difficulty, but I don’t have the time to experience with so many different setups!
The gameplay is kind of boring. The ways you”investigate” isn’t such a great mechanism, and you basically do the exact same with all of the four decks of cards… I feel like there should have been major differences in the way you find evidence – then my enjoyment of the game would increase drastically! Finally, at least with two players (it wasn’t a huge issue with 4), we spent the majority of the game just staying afloat and getting the evidence, before we could finally arrest him, and it felt a little wonky.
I’m sure that the traitor element would have added something to the game, but if I want to play a game with a traitor I’ll just play Shadows over Camelot, which I anyway find a better pure coop than Police Precinct.
Police Precinct: Mad Men Deck Promo. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.
I played Police Precinct twice with these promos. They are fine to add, but truth be told they don’t really change much… Actually it’s one of those promos which doesn’t change the game at all, it just adds a tiny bit of variety. What I do like is that they increase the difficulty as they all need die rolls of 5 or 6 to take care of, and their penalties for failing are very punishing. Anyway, it’s certainly not a particularly interesting promo, so I could take it or leave it.
Ra: The Dice Game. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
Meh! There are very few decisions to make in this game when rolling the dice. Yes, there is obviously some sort of strategy, but if the dice don’t go your way it’s hard to do anything reasonable. Yes, you can reroll which is obviously necessary in such a game, but I still think it leaves a lot to be desired.
The game takes as long to play as regular Ra – what’s up with that?! This makes no sense… It’s way too random considering its length, and I would always play Ra instead of Ra: The Dice Game!
The disasters are a nice touch but don’t change my overall opinion of a boring game. If I hadn’t tried Ra before and compare it to this new dice version (I rate Ra a 9), I actually still don’t think I would like this game as I’m not a huge fan of dice game and it’s waaay too long (it took us around 45 minutes with 4).
P.I.. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
This is annoying! I want to like the game so badly, and I actually do, but… Everything is ruined by the randomness and luck factor which weighted much more than skillfull play – and that’s a shame! There are several degrees of randomness in the game. From the cards in the card row which may or may not be the cards you want (if you need some specific cards in order to deduce something and they don’t pop up, that’s just bad luck) to the randomness of your first question. And this last part is my main gripe with the game as it’s so random! You ask if there are any clues in a certain area, and then you can get a cube or more cubes or discs or even 0 cubes; if you get 1 cube it’s such a horrible start compared to someone who gets more or even a disc or even 0 cubes as they have now narrowed the potential areas down a noticeable size!
Yes, deduction is definitely still the chore mechanism of the game, and a good player will probably win most of the time, but if you’re equally skillfull the lucky player will win the vast majority of the games simply because he can get a lot of lucky information in the beginning of the game… And luck/randomness certainly doesn’t belong in a deduction game! Sure, you play 3 games, so the luck should be somewhat mitigated, but it’s definitely not enough.
I like that you get more points for deducing faster than the other players (and that you get negative points if your deduction is incorrect), but the thing is that it’s not the better player who will make the deduction faster than others, it’s the one who got lucky in the beginning of the game and 100 % randomly just managed to take a wild shot at a position on the board. The cards can be shuffled in a way so you’re basically just lucky, not good… And I even won my one and so far only play of PI! Now, I wouldn’t mind to play it once or twice again, because it’s quick and you still need to think and make correct deductions. I would probably have rated it 7+ if it wasn’t for the fact that luck can trump skills…
High Frontier. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
High Frontier is not a good game and I am honestly shocked that it’s ranked in the top 100 here on BGG. My low rating is caused by various factors:
It is way too long for what it is (granted, we played with 5 players and 2 of us were new and didn’t really understand the game until halfway through the game). Now, if there were interesting things to do on your turn it wouldn’t be so bad, but I don’t think there are much to do during the game. I had planned a more long-term strategy, but I only just managed to build 2 factories; so actually you don’t get to do too much in the game. This is something I should be aware of the next time I’m playing it (and yes, even though I’ve rated it poorly, I’m planning on playing it one more time just to be completely sure that I didn’t miss anything in my initial assessment).
Eklund’s games seem to involve a ton of rules, and this game was no exception. I’ve played heavier games before, but they have all had more streamlined rules I think. In High Frontier, there are a lot you need to keep track of; the fuel, mass, the thrusters, waterdrops on planets etc. – and then, of course, the very confusing map with tons of little icons (especially in the outer solar system; actually I’m not sure if we played with the old map or included the expansion). This game is extremely busy and certainly not newbie-friendly!
I’m usually a fan of individual player powers, but in this game it was a little lame as they didn’t seem balanced; I was the Japanese in the basic game with 5 players which I was told was really bad… I didn’t get to use their special ability a single time (because we were 5 players in the auctions), whereas the other nations used their abilities at least once, and the experienced Chinese player used his ability to win (with me coming in second, which I had definitely not expected). But that was probably because the other very experienced player at our table lost his planet to the Chinese so that he had to spend the next 2 hours or so doing practically nothing important as he wasn’t able to win…
I wasn’t particularly fond of the fact that you can make deals but not keep them; this seems like an odd mechanic in this game in particular, but maybe it’s just because I don’t like this mechanic in games in general.
It’s an unforgiving game and you need to plan ahead. But I think of it more like a “thematic simulation” rather than a game.
There are very few ways of scoring point – perhaps too few?! This is normally not something I criticize, but it felt like there weren’t a whole lot to do in the game regarding getting points. It’s not that I love Feld’s point salad games, but in High Frontier it seemed like we spent a lot of time on many other things and then calculated the few points we got after the game. I forgot what it’s called, but the points for going to the science planet close to the sun is an easy way of getting point, but you can also found colonies far away from the sun on some of the better planets which nobody else has and therefore score 8 points (this was actually what the winning player did in my game, and he won with a score of just 18 points, so 8 is a lot).
The biggest reason I didn’t like the game is the random dice rolls. Now, I’m perfectly fine with random dice rolls in shorter game, but not in games that lasts for 3-4-5 hours… What kind of awful rule is it that you can lose your ship if you roll poorly?! Then you’re basically doomed… It’s totally out of line with the time commitment this game requires and this is the major reason I didn’t like the game; I do NOT want such a long game to be decided due to a bad throw of the dice…
So, overall I found the game to last way too long, having some balancing issues, having a confusing map and a lot of random dice rolls which can destroy your plans due to an unlucky die roll which is absurd considering how long it takes to play.
Igel Ärgern. Plays: 2. Rating: 4.
This is yet an old classic that I have wanted to try for a while; not that I thought it would be a great game, but rather because I love trying new games, and I feel that I need to have played many of those old classics (at least it’s a classic game here in Denmark). Having now played it twice, I can safely say that I do not need to play it again…
It’s a very basic game whose problem is that it takes around 45 minutes with 6 players, which I think is the best number, though I suspect 5 or maybe 4 would be okay too. With fewer players it loses a lot of the charm and strategy. On your turn you roll a die and then have to decide if you want to move one of your visible hedgehogs and then you move any hedgehog in the row corresponding to the die roll – yes, that’s more or less the entire game! Obviously there is a bit more to it, and you can make some sneaky moves or try to place the other players’ hedgehogs in the tar which cripples them, but there are way too few interesting decisions considering it takes 30-45 minutes to play (with 6). I played it twice and actually made it to the finals - but I didn't want to participate, which I think says everything about how I feel about the game...
Android: Netrunner. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
I’m sure this game gets better with repeated plays, but I’m rarely playing with just one other player. And when I am, I would much rather play Summoner Wars or similar card games! So even though I’m sure the game is okay, it’s just not something I personally want to dive into and explore – and even if I did, I still wouldn’t understand why it’s number 4 here on BGG, that seems way too high!
My only play was against a very experienced player who played with a sneaky corporation deck (can’t remember the name), so I knew before the game started that I would lose and that it would only be a learning game to see what the fuss was about. I’m just happy that I actually got 2 agenda points! But that was also partly because the corporation player’s first three scored agendas were the ones which give you the token which can permanently stop a run from the runner… Which is a huge benefit to the corporation! My opponent did state that he had been quite lucky with his cards, so that’s somewhat encouraging despite the fact that I got smashed 2-8! Still, even though the better player will win, I think there is a pretty big problem with the luck of the draw. It seemed pretty important to get the card which gives you 2 coins for each action instead of your basic 1, and I didn’t get that card until late in the game. Some cards are just important to get rather early to get an engine going. The luck of how your deck is shuffled also shows when you’re trying to make a run on the deck and you might reveal an agenda and score it or an ice and take some damage… Oh, and when you take damage the corp randomly discards some of your cards which might screw you or don’t have an impact at all…
It’s more like you are playing your opponent than the game itself; not sure if I like this. There is a lot of bluffing etc., which I’m not very keen on. I normally like bluffing in games, but not the way it works in this game as this is a more “serious” game than the bluffing you’re doing in games like Cash n Guns etc. (not that you can compare the two games at all but it’s just to explain why I wasn’t enamored with the element that you’re trying to figure out if your opponent is bluffing or not; it can be extremely costly if your guess is incorrect)!
I think the way the corp puts out his ice cards was quite cool as well as the various types of ice. And of course, the fact that he could be bluffing added to the tension (and I was probably way too defensive minded as a new and inexperienced player; I should have made more runs earlier). I love asymmetrical games, and next time I’m playing it (because I will – though that will probably be the last time), I’m going to play the corporation whose playing style I think I’m going to like the most. Oh, the theme and artwork seemed very bland and definitely didn’t help to improve my opinion about the game.
I would imagine that I would like the creation of your personal deck, but as I have stated I just don’t have the time to play this extensively, which I think it requires in order to shine. It definitely seems to reward repeated plays! However, as it stands, I think Garfield is one of the most overrated designers ever (Android, MtG and King of Tokyo all have ratings of less than 5).
Zombicide. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
I’ve read reviews stating that this game wasn’t funny and it only got hyped because of the miniatures. I can confirm this… Overall it struck me as one of the worse cooperative games, but I have to say that I did play it with some players I almost never play games with, and if I played it with my brother, who loooves coops, my rating would probably increase. Only slightly, though, because while I would be willing to give it another shot or two, the gameplay just wasn’t anything special.
The miniatures were cool, but the game was pretty random because of the big amount of die rolls which have a great impact on how well you’re going to do. I’m not a fan of dice game where the luck cannot be mitigated properly, so this coop wasn’t my cup of tea. I can appreciate the various scenarios, and I would like to try another scenario someday – perhaps with 3 players and not the 5 I played with, which I think were too many.
Paris Connection. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
This game is not good. It felt very pointless and you get absolutely no kick out of it! The decisions to make are very basic… However, it’s extremely fast and isn’t brainburning at all, so as a filler when you want to relax with your family, it’s probably ok. The one thing I liked the most was probably that you could take some trains the other players need and lay them without getting any points for them. And the fact that the game can end in two different ways is good.
But for me as a gamer I don’t care much for it, and if our game had taken 15 minutes longer (in addition to the 20-30 minutes it took), I wouldn’t want to play it again and would probably rate it even lower. As it stands, it’s very short, but I feel like it tries to be an actual game and not just a filler – but to me it fails to achieve that. The size of the box is ridiculous for such a simple, short game with minimal components.
Tongiaki. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
Tongiaki was a flop; it’s too chaotic and has too much luck. I mean, what’s the deal with flipping tiles and then accidently turn over a water 4 tile – then your boats are just destroyed?! That seemed like a very strange mechanic… You’re also dependent on what the other players do and if they help your ships moving. I think there might be some tactical aspects of the game, but the luck of the random tiles ruin it for me…
Hamburgum. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.
This game features extremely repetitive action selections… Yes, I’m obviously not an expert after just a single play, but it seemed like you constantly needed to get some goods, trade them at the market for cash, then do something else, then go to the market and buy resources for the cash you earned, then donate to the church or build buildings… If you could sell and buy at the market during the same action I actually think I would like the game more. As it stands now, it’s definitely my least favorite rondel game! It doesn’t have those interesting decisions you make in Navegador, and there isn’t much variability and it feels extremely mechanical and repetitive which equals boring.
The worst part about it is probably that the game doesn’t speed up once you’re close to the end; you don’t have a bigger engine, you don’t get more income or anything else, so the game ends slowly without any satisfaction. Also, it seems that there are way too few paths to victory; every player basically does exactly the same all the time; in Navegador, you have at least a couple of very different strategies, but in Hamburgum there is basically only one strategy; you want to donate to the church, and in order to donate you need resources; resources you need to buy from the market for money you have earned for selling goods earlier in the game... And the 3 goods are almost exactly the same. The game honestly doesn’t allow for a whole lot of creativity and diversity from the players.
I keep comparing it to Navegador, but in that game there’s the need to get to the market before your opponents and sell before they do in order to get the better prices, so you might be anxious about what your opponents are going to do. That’s (almost) not necessary in Hamburgum, except for the way the ships work, which is one of the only remotely interesting things in the game; the moving of the ships onwards in the three different ports is a cool mechanic, and you can get screwed and screw others if they/you decide to buy ships and move theirs off the board or onto the worse ports. This mechanic increases the spite and interaction, but the most interesting mechanic in Hamburgum is probably which buildings you build and where to build them (which, granted, also means that you have to be faster than your opponents; even moreso in 4-5p games I would guess). The various different buildings make the game much better than it would otherwise be.
Oh, I think I have to mention the components; it’s a nice touch that you get actual bells and bricks made of real bricks and not just cubes. But this doesn’t change the fact that this is a very poor game. As you can tell I don’t enjoy the game too much; it’s definitely a game which is a prime example of “JASE” – and this statement comes from a HUGE fan of eurogames!
Quo Vadis?. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.
Bleh! Quo Vadis is honestly not much of a game in the traditional sense… Instead it’s a “game” which is basically won by negotiating a lot, but unlike Santiago or other interesting negotiation games, this one fails to deliver any tension at all! It was basically just who could convince the others to help him out. Some might like that, but I certainly didn’t. It’s more than 20 years old – and it shows…
Also, the VP chips randomly come out and you might be lucky. The only good thing about the game was how the game ends, because if you don’t have a guy in the senate once it is filled up, you cannot win even if you have the most VP (I do like a mechanism like that; the “most corruption cannot win” mechanism in Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is basically the only reason I like that game). Quo Vadis is probably a good game for people who like to wheel and deal, but I’m not really a huge fan of this mechanism in games as the winner can be decided by oral skills.
Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe. Plays: 2. Rating: 3.
I absolutely love the idea of leveling up your character and getting and equiping items and slaughter monsters. And it works – in computer games… It simply doesn’t work in the Munchkin setting. I’ve played Munchkin once some years ago and thought it was quite bad. My two plays of it, along with the expansion, were with a couple of friends who really enjoy the game, so I gave in and played it with them – but this only confirmed my initial thoughts and even enhanced them so I had to drop my rating to a 3 – Munchkin with all of its expansions is just a game I do not want to play again!
Why? Mainly because it takes forever to play! Even with the “fast” setup in which you play to lvl 8, it can overstay its welcome by quite a lot… Now, if the rest of the game was good, I wouldn’t mind the long play time (as you can see in my ratings, I love many long games). But the thing is, the rest of the game in Munchkin isn’t good. Not by a longshot! It feels so random and pointless. For one, the cards surely aren’t balanced at all; it’s not that big of a deal, but still a minor niggle. Furthermore, the luck of the draw is huge in this game! Draw curses? You’re screwed. Draw high lvl monsters? You’re screwed. Draw low lvl monsters? Yay! And if you draw a high level monster you can try to run – you roll a die and have a 33 % chance of escaping. That’s some more randomness right there. Oh, and in my first game I actually drew a card when I was a level 9 cleric which stated that every cleric would gain a level and that it was possible to win this way… What the…?! That was a lame ending to that game!
In my second game, we were just 3 players playing and I convinced the other to try the short version to level 8. The thing is, I advanced to level 7 lightning fast (in Munchkin, that translates to roughly 1 hour), and then the other two did everything in their power to stop me from winning; of course, that’s what they should do, but the game went on for an hour before I eventually won because they had ran out of nasty cards (and the fact that I randomly drew a level 4 monster iirc)… The “bash-the-leader” mechanic is fine in many other games, but it feels so pointless and annoying in Munchkin!
I’m not sure what the changes are in Munchkin 2 compared to Munchkin. They have added a ton of new cards, but those cards are, IMHO, never funny… I just don’t get a kick out of the flavor text. They added a new race, the orc, which can come in handy, though I prefer some of the other classes. I guess the 100+ new cards would be a great addition for Munchkin-lovers, but unfortunately I’m not one of them.
Nightfall. Plays: 2. Rating: 3.
I like (not love, mind you) most deckbuilding games, but Nightfall was a huge disappointment! While it has some great new twists on the whole deckbuilding genre, it has one extremely aweful mechanic which I simply cannot accept: the kingmaking aspect… This is a huge bummer as the rest of the game is actually quite nice, but when a game is decided through negotiation and diplomacy and lobbyism and people who are just trying to keep under the radar, it’s not a good deckbuilding game! It’s all about sitting back and trying not to make yourself a target and to convince the other players that you’re not a threat… I cannot believe that some people can find this satisfying; you can win without playing well or lose despite playing well… Yes, an experienced player will have an advantage (as is the case with every game), but the advantage can actually be a disadvantage as the other players are more inclined to deal wounds to those players they perceive as threats. My point was proven even more so after my first couple of games in which a newcomer won an easy victory because he simply wasn’t targeted as much as other players! It just doesn’t work! Attacks should hit everybody equally. Oh, and I know that playing with 2p exclusively would solve the problem, but I rarely play 2p games and when I do, a game like Nightfall wouldn’t be high on my list of suggested games. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that you’re constantly attacking and defending, and that’s not because I don’t like the system mentioned above.
Now, I said there are some good mechanics in Nightfall, and that is true. Actually, there are a lot of things I like, but they are simply overshadowed by that one aweful attack rule… Oh well. The things I like about Nightfall is the fact that you’re drafting the cards you are able to buy in the game. I love drafting, so this was obviously a plus, though I have to say that in one of my games there was a shortage of a lot of the colors which meant that the cool combos weren’t used as much as they ought to. It’s also a great idea that you draft your own two personal action card piles because each player is then able to play unique cards.
The chain and kicker mechanics are awesome – I love that you can play a lot of cards from your hand each turn and make some sweet combos, and the chain mechanism also enhances the interaction between players. Finally, I also found it very elegant that you’re getting rid of your starting cards as the game progresses; this means that you’re not stuck with some weak cards throughout the game, and this was quite clever.
Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition. Plays: 1. Rating: 2.5.
Ooooh! This game is horrifyingly bad! Wow I was underwhelmed! Where is the deduction?! Yes, you can deduct something, but there is a huge amount of luck and guessing involved, and the actual deduction is extremely limited! Okay, truth to be told we did lose the apprentice seer and the other characters whose abilities are that you can peek at certain cards early on… But still, I don’t think it would have made a big difference. Oh, in the end there was 50 % chance that the good guys would win, but when a simple card draw is the cause of this I think it’s too random... This game is just awful! The way you’re choosing the cards and later vote seems very weird and the mechanism when you pass the cards around is unbelievable clunky; you need to try it yourself to see just how bad it is.
Board Game: Bruges
[Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:217]
Love the world.
It's birthday month, and that means lots of new games to play!
(image credit: jgoyes)
This is primarily a card game, though it also has a board and some dice. Each round the players take turns playing cards, with each card being used to perform one of six actions. Five of the available actions are always the same (get money, get people, remove threat, build a canal, build a building) except that those actions are tied to the color of the card (e.g., get two blue people, get money equal to the value on the blue die, etc.).
The sixth action is to play the card as a "person." To do so, you must pay the indicated amount of money and have a vacant building that you can use to house the person.
Every card is a unique person, which will give you a special power when it's been installed in your tableau. The times when these powers can be activated varies with the person. Some activate once only, immediately when played. Some can be activated once per turn, after paying a specified cost. Some are "always on." Others activate only at game's end, giving you bonus VP for meeting some stated condition (e.g., two VP for each "noble" in your tableau).
As with other Feld titles (e.g., Notre Dame), the game also includes a growing threat that must be mitigated or you'll pay the consequences (actually there are a number of different threats that can develop, all with different penalties).
I really enjoyed the game. It has a nice brisk feel to the game play, with very little scope for analysis paralysis. There's an interesting resource management puzzle, as you must use some cards to set up the prerequisites to play other cards that will give you special powers or score you points.
There are a lot of cards in this game, and all represent unique personalities. When you combine this with the fact that you use a randomized subset of the cards each game, I expect that there will be a lot of scope for interesting replayability.
The only potential downside that I see is the possibility of luck having an outsized effect on who wins. But there are so many small occurrences of luck that it should mostly average out over the course of a game. (The only person who complained about luck in my game also went on to win.)
On top of all of that, this is another great looking design, with clean and functional art and card layout.
I haven't tried it with two yet. If it plays well at that number it will be a solid keeper. I liked it quite a bit.
(image credit: phil81)
This is a light, fast-paced little filler, built on a stripped down card drafting engine. Think 7 Wonders, with only a handful of simple set collection rules for scoring.
It's goofy fun, with just enough decision making to be mildly interesting as a game. In its niche, it's quite good.
Don't forget your pudding!
(image credit: styren)
I like this game more than I actually enjoyed playing it.
The game has some very interesting mechanisms, and I like the overall flow of game play, but my one play was badly marred by excessive down time. Going forward, I don't think I'll play this with more than three (maybe four, if I can pick them). But we played with five and it was kind of awful.
So my three star rating could improve (or worsen, if slow play turns out to be inherent in the design -- I don't expect that to be the case).
What were the interesting mechanisms?
(1) Each round, players start by taking turns putting their meeples out into a card array, one at a time. This positions the meeple to do something useful later in the turn. At some point, each player will decide to start taking meeples off of the table. This activates them to do their useful things. The decision of when to switch from putting on to taking off can be very interesting, as it involves important sequencing decisions and some brinksmanship with the other players.
(2) When you put a meeple on the table, you put it in a space between two cards in the array. This creates an opportunity to buy or activate one of the adjacent cards when the meeple is later taken off the table. It also increases the cost to buy or activate those cards (the cost goes up by one coin for every adjacent meeple). This creates some interesting timing decisions. In the beginning part of the turn, card costs will climb as meeples are placed. Later, as meeples start being taken off the board, those costs will drop. It's good to wait for the cost to come down, but wait too long and you might have the card bought out from under you.
(3) The timing issues discussed above are further complicated by the fact that you can choose to remove a meeple to earn money -- one for every meeple surrounding one of the adjacent cards. When lots of meeples surround a card, that's rich territory for generating money. As they start to come off, the income value of the card drops (along with its cost to activate or buy).
Every time a player puts a meeple on or takes one off, they're changing the game's cost/revenue landscape for everyone. This creates lots of interesting timing tension and opportunities to screw other player's plans up. Fun!
Princes of the Renaissance
(image credit: Me! Those are a couple of the cards I made for my homebrew copy of the game.)
I've really wanted to play Princes of the Renaissance for a long time. Despairing of ever owning (or even seeing) a copy in the flesh, I spent a lot of lazy hours putting together my own homebrew copy, using original period art to illustrate the cards.
Finally, as a birthday indulgence, I talked my wife and some friends into playing.
I liked it quite a bit. It's a meaty and flavorfully-themed brawl.
That said, my enjoyment was enhanced because I had a good idea what I was getting into (having pored over the rules and bits in assembling my bootleg copy). The players who were entirely new to the game had a harder time. The rules aren't that difficult, but there's lots of card information to grok, and lots of choices that depend on informed valuation. This means plenty of opportunities to make significant mistakes. So it was a tough first play.
I'm very glad to have played it, had a good time, and will play again given the chance. But I expect that it will be hard to find enough players. It's demanding.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set
(image credit: Hex_Enduction_Hour -- the least embarrassing picture I could find)
This is a bit too D&D juvenile/goofy for my stodgy 50 year old tastes, but I was intrigued by some strong recommendations, especially those that focused on the novelty and cleverness of the mechanics.
I finally decided to get a copy and give it a spin, solo, with the expectation that I would eventually trade it.
I've played a few scenarios and can say that it is a very interesting and solid design. But I'm probably done. I don't see much chance of regular play with my group, so there's no need to hang on to it for that reason. And the solo play is seeming a little samey. Yes, I could try some other characters. And I might. But I still see a shipping box in its future (a BIG one; this thing is large).
(image credit: duchamp -- had to go medium on that image, sorry)
This is just a big dumb tactile goofy balancing game, with a really impressive counterweight pendulum to keep things semi-stable. But it's a good big dumb game. I've had a great time with it! It's fun to try to read the weirdly complicated balance of everything, fun when you pull off an amazing move that almost fails, fun to make dumb jokes and invent stupid names for the bits. Just fun overall.
While we were playing, a game ended at another table and all of the players were drawn like moths to a flame -- "what's that big dumb goofy thing?" they wondered, their eyes like saucers. The game got played solidly the rest of the night.
I wasn't at Essen, so just a few new games this month.
Played this once over lunch. I really like it, it has a strong tactical element, and I'm a huge fan of how there's no real passive action - by plotting to pick up new cards you can usually still leech an action off somebody. In fact one of my best turns was a plot that used an action to complete a building, allowing me three extra actions. The game was incomplete, and I won when we ended it, which was probably lucky because I don't think I would have done so well if we went to the end. I'm really interested to try Glory to Rome now - even though the complexity felt quite nice (and I'm not sure I'd be able to get as many people to play a more complex version), I'm keen to see how it plays. Also Uchronia wasn't great for old colour-blind me.
Walk the Plank!
After playing Get Bit! in a pub somewhere in London a year ago (when I was just discovering the hobby, I was really excited to be able to pick it up with its 'thematic prequel' off kickstarter. This is a fun, quick, chaotic action-programming game. I'm looking forward to playing it a lot with a few people, to start really getting in each others heads - at the moment we're barely able to predict where we'll be by the third card, let alone anyone else. It's short enough that the player elimination isn't a problem, but the ghost meeple is a nice touch. I do wish the box was smaller though, for the length and complexity it is I wish I could carry it around all the time like Love Letter and Hanabi.
Tracked this down for a friend's birthday - he'd been wanting it for months but it was nowhere to be found. A little post-buy research indicated that Gosu 2 is an update, rather than a completely new game. And Gosu 2 is certainly somewhere to be found.
That aside, Gosu is a fun little card game that definitely feels like somewhere between Race for the Galaxy and Magic the Gathering (both of which I've only had a little experience). Building up ranks of goblins by discarding other cards. I love how tricky it is to get new cards, and how much you have to plan ahead to ensure your hand is sustainable. Specialising on two or three goblin clans seems to be the way to go, and setting up combos is very satisfying. Looking forward to more plays of this.
Board Game: Rialto
[Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:851]
Just one game this month, so by default it's the best!
Rialto is an area control game; unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of that mechanic so I don't expect to revisit the game.
Fernando Robert Yu
It a great month as I got to try a lot of the new games in my collection!
Guildhall: Job Faire = 6 Plays (+2 with mixed roles)
Continuing with last month's success of Guildhall, this stand alone expansion proves no different as the 6 new roles in this set really changes the feel of the game. We actually like the roles here better since they are not as "direct" as the first yet have a great impact in gameplay. We have now been mixing the cards from both sets by pairing similar jobs together and then randomly selecting 1 of the pair to be included until we get the 6 roles needed for the game.
Innovation = 4 Plays
I only had mild interest in this since it seemed to be a chaotic game and I also didn't like the art in the Asmadi Games version. However, I found out that the IELLO version was available so I took the chance and got it since the game wasn't too expensive anyways. Well, 4 plays of this confirmed the chaotic nature of the game, but man it was fun! It is DEFINITELY more swingy than Glory to Rome, but the fact that it is also more interactive means you have to stay on your toes and actively build your defense in terms of having more symbols than your opponents. I also agree with the general sentiment that this is best with 2-3 players as this gives a better chance of you getting better combinations of cards and less chance of a particular card giving a player a dominating position.
Forbidden Island = 3 Plays
I also wasn't too interested in the game since I already own and enjoy Pandemic, but when I traded my copy of Cosmic Encounter + Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Incursion away for Ascending Empires I got this added to the mix. I am glad I got it though since while it shares many similarities with it's older cousin, the gameplay is actually more streamlined without removing the difficulty factor of the game. I also like the idea of a shrinking map, and I can definitely say that the components are much better as well!
Ascending Empires = 1 Play
I have not heard of this game until it was offered as trade bait for Cosmic Encounter, and subsequent research had me bite the bait since I still did not have a "flicking" mechanic in my collection. I only managed to play this once since you need a large flat space in order to keep assemble the map to play (at least a 3" x 3" space), but that one play showed that this game is fun as the gameplay is NOT just about flicking the discs, but deciding on the way you want to earn points. As such its a fun 4X game which plays out in a reasonable time!
Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition = 2 Plays
I decided to get this game as an alternative to The Resistance: Avalon, which is a great fun game but where my group feels is really tilted towards the Minions of Mordred. Well, we got a couple of plays in and still the bad side (werewolves) won both, but the general consensus is that it seems to be more balanced. We DID have fun though and had a blast "testing" the allegiances of each player especially after viewing cards with the seer role. Good game, even though the mechanics are not as streamlined as The Resistance: Avalon.
Rialto = 1 Play
This literally a last minute entry for this month, as it got played for the first time minutes an hour before October expired! We really didn't know what strategy or tactic to do during the first few turns, but later on it just "clicked" and the one thing you will learn is that you CANNOT compete in all stages of the game, so you will have to decide on what to focus in order to win the game. The game is also quite tactical rather than strategic as what you can do is determined by what cards you draw (or what cards are left to you). Time will tell to see if the ratings go up higher when I have more plays under my belt.
Walk the Plank! = 7 Plays
This was another unplanned game which fell into my lap when
informed me that he kickstarted this game and got multiple copies. It's not a cheap game and the fact that I still didn't have a game with the "programmed action" mechanic made me buy one of the copies. This is a fun filler IF you play it with an aggressive group. If the group is very defensive the game can drag for a long time, as I found out when I introduced this to the gals at the FLGS. If so then you may have to houserule removing some of the defensive cards later in the game (such as the extend the plank and I don't want to die cards) if this is the case, although it is best to simply not play this game with such a group!
bo bing = 1 Play
This really not a game, but is more of a raffle. Still, it's a good experience for my clan to get together, and it was the first time we tried playing this traditional chinese game. We did modify the prizes to be composed of things which the kids will be more interested in rather than just mooncakes though. Once a year is definitely the right frequency of play for this!
This is a good expansion as the addition of the Village Inn has definitely given the game more depth. It provides more strategic options with the endgame cards as well as tactical options with the instant effect cards. The nice thing is that the rules are not overly complicated so you can definitely teach newcomers the game with this already included. As such all future plays of Village will have this included.
Board Game: Spyrium
[Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:551]
Really one of our slowest months of gaming in quite awhile, but that doesn't mean we didn't have a couple standouts!
Spyrium-Winner of the month has to be Spyrium. I missed out on the Caylus boat(late comer to board games), so I wanted to pick this up and play it as soon as possible. This "worker placement/engine building/economic" game lives up to my expectations. It's fairly easy to teach, it has a lot of strategy involved and you can build some fun victory point building engines. I've only played this with 2 and 3 people and I expect playing with more to be a bit more hectic and player interactive, which can be a good thing. Looking forward to more plays of this and I may finally bite the bullet and pick up Caylus and give it a whirl.
San Juan-Ahhh San Juan, such a strange game for me to keep on my shelf unplayed for so long. I like this city building little brother of Puerto Rico. Managed to get a couple plays of it in this month and anticipate many more. Need to hunt down the expansion for it at some point!
Firefly: The Game-Partial play through to learn the rules and see if my daughter would take to it since she seems to enjoy the tv series. I'm not sure what to think about it, it has the theme of Firefly oozing from it's pores and it has some fun things to do, but I really don't know if it warrants a 2-3 hour game even if we do seem to like pick up and deliver games. Will have to give this a try soon with more players and see how it goes, my fingers are crossed, I really want to like this one.
Magic: The Gathering-Yup, I was that guy, the guy who never played Magic, it cost to much, it's too nerdy, it's addictive, blah blah blah. Well my daughter and I picked up the Heroes vs Monsters Duel Deck and have quite enjoyed ourselves. Now a Theros Fat pack, M14 Deck Builders Kit and a couple starter decks later and we are having a blast building our decks and fighting each other. Such a fun game, sorry I ignored it for so long.
Guilds of Cadwallon-First play of the Kickstarter version, no big board. This one gets a resounding ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ok. Maybe that's because we played just the base game with none of the special cards, might have to try that next time and see if it helps add a bit of flavor to it.
Roma-Need to play this a couple more times, but I liked it for what it was. What is the difference between Roma I and Roma II?
Going to post thoughts as I get a chance tonight while working if it slows down.
Letters from Whitechapel
Very fun strategy game of deduction in the same mould as one of my favourite games, Fury of Dracula. Whereas FoD is mostly a chase game with plenty of chrome and wild swings of luck, this is a pure chase game with no luck whatsoever.
I was wondering if it would feel too abstract since it's so streamlined. Not at all. This game is highly thematic -- playing as one of the police players reminded me very much of a scene in a movie in which the cops are poring over a pin-map, trying to find the pattern that will lead to capture.
Future prospects: I'm looking forward to trying this games as Saucy Jack. My friends found that role to be very tense.
Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
Very fun and thematic recreation of the four simultaneous battle zones at the end of The Phantom Menace. I threw the prequels on for background noise to enhance the experience (first time those movies have enhanced anything...).
It reminds me of playing War of the Ring -- both in terms of the strong implementation of theme and the need to balance numerous playing fields -- but with the benefit of much less overhead. I do prefer WotR, in part because luck isn't as big a factor, but this will be much easier to get on the table.
I'm very happy I was able to get a hold of what was my ultimate grail game. If someone made a Return of the Jedi version of this, it would be my favourite game, period.
Future prospects: My wife likes it, so it will get played. But will she ever be willing to play as the bad guys?
Very reminiscent of No Thanks!, but with two distinct but related phases.
Future prospects: The local public gaming venue has a copy of this in its library so I should get more opportunities to play it as a night capper.
The Ares Project
A wholly unique game (save the dice rolls for combat). It's a bit of a beast to learn because the design is so, for lack of a better word, esoteric. But I'm very intrigued by it. Once I can wrap my head around the strategy, I think it will make for a very interesting game, especially with 2 players.
My only play was with 3 players and with full rules, neither of which is the ideal way to learn it.
Future prospects: One of the guys I played with wants to try it with 2 players, so it will hit the table again.
Fun, light and quick racing game in which you play cards from your limited deck with values from 1 to 6 to move that many spaces. The fun comes from the fact that it's as much about screwing over the other racers by burning your low cards in a way that boxes them in at the bottlecks as it is about crossing the finish line. I imagine the game isn't nearly as much fun with less than 5 players.
Future prospects: There's no depth to explore, but I'd gladly play again. I don't know how often the opportunity will come up.
Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition
One of the better party games I've tried, with plenty of options that can be mixed in or left out, and accommodates an impressive number of players. I imagine the most important thing for a successful session is having a really good moderator.
Future prospects: A few guys I play with run the occasional Werewolf game so I'm sure I'll try it again sometime.
An ok deduction game in which players can risk some points to make a mostly educated guess to close their case before the competition.
Future prospects: I'd play again but I won't miss it if I don't.
Expansions tried this month:
Alien Frontiers: Factions
Alien Frontiers: Faction Pack #1
Mage Knight Board Game: Krang Character Expansion
Spartacus: The Serpents and the Wolf Expansion Set
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
1 play 2p; 1 play 4p
I purchased this game to play with my loving, but non-gaming, spouse. And I ended up liking it more than she did - although she will play again (the cute panda was a hit). A simple rule set and cute theme mask an abstract of some depth and good playability. Although there is a significant slice of luck in the objectives one draws, the game still rewards planning and skilful play. The game appears to scale well over the player counts and, in particular, I didn’t feel it lost too much of the tension with only two. Indeed it becomes a little less chaotic with two. A highly enjoyable 45 minutes.
3 plays 2p
I recently picked up Genesis on a bargain clearance table in my FLGS. A game from Knizia's unfashionable post-2005 period, the rules are short enough to be written on a single page. Roll two dice, place your markers of the colour rolled accordingly to build up/block off an area, score areas based on majorities at the end of the game (with the usual quirky-Knizia scoring system).
Coupled with the pasted-on theme, this is pure Knizia. And pure gaming genius. Very interesting game of area majority building, while blocking opponents. Shades of the brilliant T&E without the complexity. A less is more game.
Web of Power
1 play 4p
Talking of less is more games, I finally got around to playing Web of Power. And really enjoyed it. Simple, quick turns. Interesting short and long-term strategies to pursue in a classic area-majority, connection-building game. It doesn’t have the meatiness of an El Grande, but is still a very good appetizer. In particular, there is a near timing dilemma to placements. It is a pity this is OOP, but I guess there is always China. The more Schacht games I play (e.g. Hansa, Valdora), the more I appreciate his approach to game design.
Gormenghast: The Board Game
1 play 3p
This game “inspired” me to create a thread and a review
The most unheralded game on BGG, this game of the Mervyn Peake novels turns out to be a pretty good game. Play cards to move and influence characters to achieve objectives. Essentially Ankh-Morpork meets Roborally with a spot of Clue thrown in. Excellent productions values, clear love and respect for the novels from the designer and generally good artwork contribute to a very thematic experience. One really does feel like Steerpike manipulating the Groans and their servants around the labyrinthine Gormenghast castle. The random placement of the room tiles will no doubt help with the replayability of the game. The random events read from the Book of Rituals provide a great way to mess up opponents plans – although need a fair degree of house-ruling due to the less than comprehensive rules.
I would give it at least a 6.5 for game play alone with an extra 1 for the theme and components. I suspect this is not enough to make it a strong game for those not familiar with the world of Gormenghast, but fans of the novels should find the game fun, thematic and enjoyable for some challenge at least.
One of the more thematic cube-pushers out there. The economic engine is initially quite opaque and extremely unforgiving. It makes Age of Steam look positively generous. With very limited actions available each turn, the initial auction for those actions (town, country or trading based) is all important. The theme of early white settlement really shines through as one carry out the actions (use building in town, clearing land, trading with the native Americans) albeit tinged with the acknowledgement that the native Americans were getting the rough side of the deal.
However, building an efficient economic engine from the outset with the limited actions available in critical. Our initial 3player game was terminated early since the two n00bs (myself included) basically ran out of resources to support any actionsNevertheless the tightness and thematic nature of the game play, made me want to get back on this horse as soon as possible.
Even after a failed first game I would still rank this one highly – anywhere between a seven and an eight depending on the second game.
1 play 3p
I am not generally a fan of worker placement/resource optimisation/set collection gamse where initial actions and final consequences involve a chain of calculations approximately akin to solving a series of simultaneous equations. I would rather eat my own pancreas than play Tzolkin again, for that very reason. I had stayed away from Drum Roll for similar (and it turns out, misplaced) reasons too. For some reason the complexity in this game proved manageable, possibly because the game play appeared to be more closely tied to the theme. Lots to think about in the game – not least the Agricola-esque feeding/paying your troupe at the end of each round. Enjoyable but exhausting game.
2 plays; 1x4p 1x5p
Unfortunately, for me, this is another game from Peter Hawes that was almost great. I really wanted this to be my best New to Me game this month, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype. Close but no cigarillo. Yes, Francis Drake has amazing components – but in my case it also came with a warped board and missing pieces.
The board, while gorgeous to look at, doesn’t have a terribly helpful graphic design for the game play. Yes, it also has great game play, but I couldn’t get over the issue that I was essentially playing the same game three times. OK for Fjords, but not for a game that takes 1.5+ hours - it does start to drag a little in the final third.
Those gripes aside, it did provide for a very thematic experience. A few difficult decisions in the worker placement/provision phase and also in the mission/voyage phase. The 5 player game seem to run a little long – but easily provided the most tension/competition for voyage planning. In both games, however, it was just a little too easy to overcome the Spanish defences, and I suspect the mini-expansions may rectify that by increasing the strength of the Spanish. I was also a little worried about the Golden Hind worker placement location. The player grabbing that appears to have a very strong advantage, gaining an unbeatable extra ship. This advantage is exacerbated in the spot turns up near to the start, providing an easy gain on the round for the first person out of the docks (based on the player coming last). That sort of overpowered catch-up mechanism I found a little annoying.
So superficially very attractive, but has some niggling issues.
Rather different from the games I normally play but an experience I definitely enjoyed. It's a pleasingly clever game with simple rules and a nice interconnectedness as you all scrabble around to try and make a profit. I'm pleased we all managed to avoid completely tanking the economy and while not a game I'm likely to play often it's one I'm very glad I tried.
Sukimono is a wonderful little filler which was the first game someone brought back from Essen I've tried this year. A semi real time race to find bargains to sell on in a number of different piles it's simple, quick and fun, everything you'd want in such a game.
Samurai wasn't completely new to me, I'd downloaded the old computer game previously, but it didn't much help as I got absolutely flattened in my first game against other people. It's an elegant abstract which I probably find more pleasing in theory than in practice but I'd definitely be up for another game.
Nothing Personal was the second of new Essen games I got to try out earlier this week. An enjoyable social game with plenty of opportunities for negotiation and betrayal. There is a definite random element in which cards you draw each turn which can restrict your moves but it's quick and light hearted enough for that not to be a major turn off.
Card City was a clever game about city building with a neat divide and choose mechanic for handing out new zones each turn. Not something I'm going to search out for another game but it's certainly a neat idea.
The City was described to me as being kind of like a simpler Race for the Galaxy. This is perhaps true but gets there by stripping out practically every interesting thing about RftG so is hardly a point in it's favour.
Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
No blow-out awesome game this month, but the first one I played over 50 times in this month alone! I even talk a little about a modification I made for it. Not a great game for new games, but a solid selection nevertheless.
Lord of the Rings: The Adventure Deck Game is a solo print-and-play game set in the universe of Middle-Earth. The players embodies Frodo in his quest to take the Ring to Mordor.
The gameplay is fairly simple: the cards give the player the options to go ahead, to the left or to the right. You draw the number of cards indicated in the direction and the last one activates. After the travel phase, Frodo takes the amount of damage of all the cards passed added together. If he survives, the activation takes place. Sometimes the cards will give Frodo items, options or problems.
The many items can be used to make the threat of damage to Frodo smaller - healing him, or lowering the number of the damage given in the cards, and other things in a similar fashion. After every travel, damage and activation, the player can heal Frodo. If the time track is in a sun space, the token advances two spots. If it is in a moon space, the healing is automatic.
The player can choose to use the Ring, but this makes the Ringwraiths come closer. If the marker of them reaches the final spot, Frodo is found and the game is over. The player also loses if the time track reaches its end or if Frodo loses all his life points. Victory only happens if Frodo reaches Mount Doom and cast the Ring into the fire (or, in other words, when the draw deck is empty).
As a PnP game, I can't say much about the components - they are as good as you can make them. The art is good in the cards, but for the icons, especially for the equipaments, some choices are odd, to say the least. It doesn't really takes away from the game, but also doesn't add to it.
I found the game rather easy - in my 4 games so far, I won 3, and the one I lost, I went head on always in the longest route only to see what would happen. So I made one change: to heal, the player always advance the time track by two spots, even if the marker is in a moon space - the player can always choose not to heal.
A whole games takes about 5 to 10 minutes, which is great for a lunch time game, or when someone is about to arrive. I'm really glad I gave this game a chance.
After six more plays, with my modified rule. The first four plays I lost, some was brutal. For the 4th, 5th and 6th play, I made one change: up until the 10th day, the heal works as normal (no cost in time and automatic, when in the night), and, after, paying 2 times. It has some thematic value - Frodo is far away from friendly places, and rest in the night happens in dangerous places. I still lose all three plays, but they were all close ones. I need to play more times to see if this is the sweet spot for difficulty. So far, it is.
After 5 more plays, it appears that the sweet spot is: healing by free in the night up until day 10, then start to work just like day. All the games were close, with 3 defeats and 2 wins. Two of the defeats happened with only 5 cards remaining in the deck. One win occurred in the 23th day, and it was a nail-biter (Frodo had 2 life points when I drew the last card - if it was a 2 or 3 agression, and I would lose; 0 or 1, and it would be a win - and a win it was). So, there it goes my recommendation.
Very well, 7 more plays later, and the game with the new rule is, indeed, brutal. The time starts its pressure early on, so choose the 1 path, when it is there, isn't usual very good - but, sometimes, necessary. In the normal play, the day-1 or 2- and night -3 or 4- cards drawn must change often - since you know you will usually have to advance more than 5/6 cards per day+night, since the healing will consume many more time slots. For now, I'm way under 50% win ratio (around 20%) with my modification - not everyone like such low ratio of wins to defeats, by it is right inside my liking. If the ration drops, I might made the healing works as in the rules up until the 15 spot in the time track. Will see.
Rate: 7.5 / 10
Haggis is an escalation game, much like Tichu, but especially made to be a 2 or 3 player game. Every round, the first player opens the hand with a set of cards, which can be only one card, a pair, two pairs, a sequence, and so on. The next players must either pass, or play a set of the same amount of cards, but with higher number(s), this, except if a bomb is used - the bomb is a given set of cards (like: 3-5-7-9 of different suits, J-Q, Q-K, 3-5-7-9 of the same suit) that can win any hand, losing only to another bomb of higher level. The winner of the hand is the owner of the set with the higher number/level after the other players have passed. If the trick was won by a normal set of cards, the players takes it for himself; if it was a bomb that won the trick, the player that used the winning bomb, must choose another player to give all the cards of the trick.
The goal of the game is to get the cards that are worth points, win our initial bet (or get to points of the bets of the others) and, if possible, be the first to empty the hand of cards. After the distribution of the cards, the players may bet on themselves to be first player to play all the cards. The bets can be made in the following amounts: 0 (no bets), 15 (small bet), 30 (big bet). If the player is right in his bet, he get the amount as points. If the player didn't bet, he will get the points of all the bets that didn't came through. The first player to empty his hands, gets 5 points per card in the hand of the player with most cards at the moment the last card of that player was played. Also, the first player that empty his hand gets the points of the wrong bets. Finally, all the player get points for the cards (that are worth points, not all are) of the tricks they have won. Usually a game goes to 250 or 350 points.
I really enjoyed my first play of Haggis, and so everyone else at the table. It is an easy game to understand, the only hurdle is the scoring system, but after a couple of hands, we were fine with it. Since in the game, players always win points, the game also always go towards the end, unlike Tichu, where the players can get negative points and the game can dragg.
Haggis is cheap (is only a deck of cards, after all), but the art in the back is neat, and so as the symbols for the suits. The box is large enough to hold the game with sleeves, if the insert is thrown away. A fine addition to the trick-taking hall of games (though some might argue that an escalation game isn't a trick-taking game, but is potatos, potatos), one that plays remarkably well with 3 players.
Rate: 7.5 / 10
Viagem no Tempo is a light game, euro-style, with point to point movement and set collection mechanics. Basically, in the game, players are using explorers and cienstists in order to go to different time periods, meeting personalities and getting scientific evidences from that time.
From the start, all the players put their explorers on the board, in the locations (times) of their choosing, but with one rule: one place in every time period must remain empty. After this initial positioning, the game starts. The players, in turn, choose a way to travel - the ship (move a number os spaces equal to the spot in which the track of the ship is), the clock (go to anywhere in the board, but you and other players are with you, will receive the things indicated in the clock track) or the time machine (the player must use a color card to move, so the explorer goes to the time related with the color of the card, the advantage of moving this way is that if the player is the first to go to a certain time period, he gets the bonus points for that time).
Regardless of the type of movement, whenever the player moves the explorer and he is the last to leave a spot, he he collects "scientific evidences", which are worth victory points. While travelling, the player may meet the historical figures, which are in specfic places in the board (like: Future 1, Modern Age 3, and so on), and all of them gives the player something (points, scientists and/or the possibility to send other explorers to be lost in the tunnel of time). The player must use a type of movement that has an icon in the spot of the explorer he/she whishes to move - when he does, the icon for that type in that spot is covered, and cannot be used again. If one explorer happens to be in a spot with all the icons covered, he can no longer move and is trapped - the player can will have to use a scientist to recover him, and another to put the piece again in the board, in the place the player wants.
The players gain points by acquiring these scientific evidences, by being the first to use the time machine to get in a time period, by meeting the historical personalities, and by some places in the clock track. By the game end, the player will gain bonus points for the number of different evidences (colors) he acquired during the game, and also one point per explorer in the board that aren't trapped. The players will lose points by trapped explorers in the board and by each explorer lost in the tunnel of time. The player with the most points, wins!
Viagem no Tempo is a game more on the light side of rules, though the decisions are, sometimes tough, because timming plays a huge part - sometimes one action will get you more points, but you might just be able to do it in your next turn, and another you probably won't be able, but it will earn you less points now, but this "less" could be zero or even negative points later on. Sometimes your actions are limited by the cards you get (you cannot use the time machine without color cards - which, by the way, I saw one during my play), but you always have something to do (although, not always what you really wanted to do). Also, the card Expedition Leader is really better than most of the others, because it allows the player to get evidences not only from the spot the explorer left empty behind, but also from the spot he arrives, if it is also empty - this makes a huge difference because the evidences count points by themselves and also in the game end, as bonus by the different ones. So, in my view, the game has some balance issues regarding the cards (the player can, however, discard the whole hand of cards and buy new ones, so only with really bad luck - like mine - you will get somewhat shut down from the important cards), but being a smart game, with many options and one that plays rather quickly (around 40 minutes), Viagem no Tempo is one of the best brazilian games.
The bits for the game are also good, not great though: the cards are a little flimsy, the board didn't stay totally flat on the table (nothing major, like 95% flat), but the tokens are sturdy and the explorer pieces have a nice set of colors and are well made. All in all, a fine addition to the board game scene here in Brazil.
Rate: 7 / 10
Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak is basically the same thing as Zombicide only more, hum, berserker. There are some new abilities for the survivors (like taunt or loud), new items (flamethrower, waskizashi, kukri, nightstick, and others), but these are basically just for show. The real difference is the berserker zombies that are killed only by melee weapons, since this changes the dynamics and tatics of the game.
The dogs are, also, a pain in the ass, mainly because they are runners on drugs: they move 3 spaces and are the last ones to be killed in any zone they are in. Bastards, all of them, and I'm not even a cat person.
We haven't used the Zumbivors (or something like this - the Survivor when killed return as a Zumbivor, still in the Survivors side, but with a few differences) so I can't say more about it.
If you like Zombicide, I can see no reason you wouldn't also enjoy Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak. If you don't liked Zombicide, well, probably Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak won't change you opinion.
Rate: 7.0 / 10
Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game could be called Dungeon Lords: the Card Game, mainly because on it players are villains (aka: the boss monsters) that build a dungeon in order to attract bold heroes to it, for your monsters minions and traps kill them - it is a matter of respect and distinction among boss monsters: the one that kills more and the best ones, will be the top monster.
The way this happen is quite simple: a number of heroes equal to the number of players are revealed. Then, every player may choose to add a card from the hand to the dungeon, and these came in two types: monster rooms and traps (with two levels: normal/silver and upgrade/gold). This build phase happens simultaneously among players. There is a limit of 5 cards to form the dungeon, so, if the dungeon already has 5 cards on it (rooms built above others, did not count to these five), the players will be able to only upgrade a room (in this case, the normal room and the upgrade room must share at least one icon) or to build a normal above other room. Every room card has four informations: 1) its type; 2) its effect; 3) the damage that it will inflict on the heroes; 4) icons that are used to attract the heroes.
After the build phase happens the bait phase, when the heroes go from the middle of the table to the dungeon of the players. The heroes have icons also - sword, holy symbol, bag of money, book - and they will go to the dungeon that has more icons that match its type. If there is a tie among the players in the number of icons, the hero won't move, staying where he/she is.
Then there is the exploration phase (I don't know if this is the actual name, but it will do), where the hero will pass through the rooms, taking damage. If the hero dies before reaching the boss monsters, the player takes the hero as points. If the hero reaches the boss, it will do damage - the player takes the card as such. If the boss monster receives 5 points of damage - it is out of the game. The game ends when a player reaches 10 points in heroes - then the boss with the most points is the winner (eliminated bosses can't win, even if they have more points).
Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game is reasonable fast, it gives room for choices regarding the rooms (which order, which effects, which icons and so on). A player must be somewhat careful - if the boss atracts heroes beyond his "level", the heroes will have a field day (in our game, one of the players took 9 points of damage, after attracting 3 epic heroes without being able to handle them with his dungeon). The 8-bit art if phenomenal, giving the game a great feel. There is a good amount of player interaction, but not enough to make it a "take that" kind of game, nor I see much room for king-making.
So I will be happy to play Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game again.
Rate: 7 / 10
Inn-Fighting is a a dice game where the players assume the control of adventurers and bystanders in a big brawl in the Inn. The attack can happen in three ways: with the fist (attack the player in the left), with the chair (attack the player in the right) or with the thunderbolt (attack the player with most VPs - wich can be yourself).
The round is pretty simple: roll the dice and separate the ones with especial symbols (beer or dice). If the separated dice didn't amount to three dice of one type or more, the player then uses the remaining dice to attack. As I said, the attack comes in three ways, and every adventurer might have different ways to deal with them (a higher amount of damage, or something like this). The player decides the type of attack to be used and chooses which card he will attack (a bystander or the adventurer - to attack the adventurer, the attacker must use 2 or more dice of the same type, so, say, if the attacker only rolled one chair, he must used to attack a bystander, if the player in the right has at least one of them). Then the player rolls a d20 to see if the attack will use the bigger amount of damage (if he rolls equal or higher the Skill number for the adventurer) or the smaller one (if he rolls bellow the Skill number). If a 20 is rolled, the attack gives +1 damage and cannot be defended; if a 1 is rolled, the attack deals -1 damage (which can be zero). Then the defender player rolls the defende die (the red one), to see if the adventurer (or the bystander) manage to fend off the attack, applying the special effects, if any.
For every point of damage dealt, the attacker takes as victory points. If the attack bring down an adventurer, the attacker also gains the knockout bonus (for bystanders the bonus is always 2 VP).
The player then passes the dice to the next player. The dice rolled that got a special result, aren't rolled again until it has three or more dice of the same type. When this happens, the player of the turn can use them to recover hit points (the same amount as the dice with the beer symbols), taking the points from the pool of VPs of the player with the most VPs. Or take an special card (with three or more dice with the dice symbol); the special cards come in two types: the actions (which remain in the hand of the player until he/she uses it) and the bystanders - these must be put in the table immediately. The player of the turn can only use the special dice once in his turn.
The game goes until one player reaches 20 points and, in the same round that this happens, he/she manage to give at least one point of damage. If the player reaches 20 points, but didn't do damage, the game continues, until someone have 20 or more points and do damage in his/her turn.
Inn-Fighting has a little more to it, but this is basically what it is. The game isn't long and, yes, luck plays a huge part on it, but, being quick, I don't mind at all. You will need some way to track the hit points of the adventurers and bystanders - the game don't provide this for you (to keep the box small and the cost low).
Inn-Fighting do have more choices to it than King of Tokyo, but if you didn't liked this, you will probably don't like Inn-Fighting - you will still be at the mercy of the dice, you cannot even re-roll them (only if you got three dice for the special action, because then you must re-roll the dice).
I wasn't thrill by it, being more fiddly than King of Tokyo, and the theme for this sort of brawling game works better, for me, with huge monsters.
Rate: 6 / 10
October, Essen month again. 19 new-to-me games and as usual a big spread due to plays of games I normally wouldn't play. It was a close decision between my personal Essen surprise Origin and the expected hit of the show, Nations. I chose the latter as there's more to discover.
Game of the month
Nations: (1.25 plays)
Nations promises to be what I wished Through the Ages was. Micro-managing your empire in TTA was highly enjoyable on your turn. It dragged on other players' turns. It was killed for me when the wars in the third age came up and it became obvious that there's no alternative strategy to developing military might.
Nations seems to solve these issues. It's streamlined, each player only takes small turns avoiding ten-minute breaks between your turns and the fiddliness of TTA is gone. It's possible to pursue non-military strategies by either declaring a minor war yourself to preempt players with strong military from waging war or by upgrading the stability of your civilization to weather any upcoming war.
As a whole, TTA is better designed and deeper but Nations is more for me although there are more rough edges. It's too early to tell if there are other more severe weaknesses, dominant strategies or strategic musts. Until then, I remain optimistic on Nations.
Origin: (1 play)
This and Nations where my best experiences of Spiel 2013. As it sold out at the fair, others seem to share this experience. It's a comparably easy rather abstract game that lives from its gorgeous components. Still, Origin manages to convey its theme of the evolution of mankind.
The game starts with a small thin black pawn on a world map in approximately the location of today's Ethiopia. On his turn, a player chooses one of three actions. Mankind either evolves by settling an adjacent territory with a new tribe changed in one of the three attributes (increase in size, in thickness, or change in colour), migrates (moving pawn according to size) or engages in conflict (thicker pawns change place with smaller pawns). Depending on the target location, the player than takes cards and/or development tiles. Points can be derived from various sources such as completing scoring cards, bridging straits or settling victory point locations. There are minor possibilities for targetting other players which stay within manageable bounds for a family-oriented game.
While I'm not 100% sure about the balancing of the available actions, I really enjoyed this game and it's short enough and attractive enough to withstand minor balance issues.
Android: (1 play)
There are few games as polarizing as Android. After one play I can't tell which side I'm leaning to. I enjoyed it although I can see why people dislike it.
We played with four and it took us more than five hours. It can happen that you have to wait 10 minutes until it's your turn again. There's an enourmous upfront investment in learning the game and its many subsystems. Much time is spent on managing the complexity of the game and decisions with doubtful relevance for the final outcome as luck of the draw and (in-)attentiveness of other players in (not) targetting somebody will have at least as much influence. Android clearly lives from the thematic experience.
For me, it's the competitive alternative to Arkham Horror. There's a potential that the take-that component tanks it. If the final determination of the murderer is as decisive and difficult to control as it seems it might reduce my enjoyment of the game.
Dungeon Petz: (1 play)
2011 was the year of exhibition-themed games (Vinhos, Drum Roll, Pret-a-Porter, Air Show, Pergamon) and Dungeon Petz is the highest-ranked of them. Chvatil again managed the trick to create a Eurogame that ranks high amongst thematic gamers and as of writing this comment is #20 in thematic games on BGG.
On the mechanical (Euro) side, it's a worker placement game with one central simultaneous decision in how many groups players want to divide up their workers. For example, six workers can be split up in six singles for the maximum amount of actions, two groups of three workers each or any other combination. The larger the group, the earlier it acts. This mechanism coupled with very limited action spots works perfectly.
On the thematic side, players have to fulfil the needs of monsters they nurture. Each turn, players caringly reveal the cards they have associated with each monster and tell small stories. The successful thematic integration helps to get beyond the processional and sometimes drawn out flow of the game.
Victory is decided in best fulfilling the demands of exhibitions and buyers. There's some luck in getting the right cards at the right time but enough possibilities to mitigate or at least reduce adverse effects.
Nice enough game although I'm not sure if it really is a 7 for me or if I'm a bit generous due to winning the game.
Rococo: (1 play)
Rokoko at times is like a two-hour long Dominion when you know that your deck is not working as good as it should while others already buy province by province. Especially the dreaded deck-thinning rears its ugly face. But then there's more to Rokoko. There's a relevant board where you're battling for majorities or certain bonusses. It's action selection where you can gather resources and work on improving your deck. There's money to be managed. All efforts to catch up might be in vain as Rokoko rewards long-term strategy but each turn it grants enough room for tactical manoeuvering to keep players engaged.
It's a well-crafted game and my first play was ok. As all strategic engine-builders, only repeated plays will show if I really enjoy it (RFTG, Saint Petersburg) or if it's not for me (Dominion, Stone Age).
Coal Baron: (1 play)
Worker placement to gain majorities in three scorings. The complexity is ok for advanced families, not enough for heavy gamers who don't enjoy lighter fare. Except for the three intermediate majority scorings, the game's theme is well integrated and its fun to play with the cool mining elevator.
The worker placement is only a mean to an end. As in any majority game, the key is to win where you invest heavily and to make easy second places with low invest. One of the better outings in this genre which isn't among my favourites. Two of my co-players found it a bit too calculational although I don't share this impression.
Ground Floor: (1 play)
Ground Floor comes with an attractive graphic design that speaks to me. Economic games are among my favourites. Hence, my expectations were comparably high and Ground Floor almost was able to meet them.
Players have to maintain a steady flow of two main currencies, money and information in order to build up their company and purchase new floors as main VP condition as well as economic engine. New workers can be employed and goods have to be produced to be sold on a volatile market. Each worker comes with a limited time budget that has to be attributed to the various actions. Basically, it's worker placement with a following resolution phase. Actions in your own company can be resolved immediately giving further resources for the next actions. Planning ahead is important to not end up with too few of any currency in the various phases.
There's a lot to think about and getting a working engine up in the first half of the game is crucial. While I enjoyed the game, the second half can drag once you're locked into certain patterns. At times, it felt like going through the motions to reach the end without many important decisions left. It would help if players get faster with experience to speed up this part.
I'm not sure yet if the game is good enough to warrant rare four hours of game time for a single game. It bothers me that the achievement floors are so similar that it's mainly a matter of who gets one more of them deciding the game. Many actions aren't as tight as I wish they were. From reading through the forums I get the impression that there's nonetheless enough meat in this to allow widely differing strategies although the single variable element is the random setup of the economy cards.
Ground Floor gains the title of "First enjoyable Kickstarter game".
Columba: (1 play)
Played with the designer in Essen 2013 and lost horribly which speaks for the game. The Hanging Gardens is the obvious comparison when it comes to the central mechanism of laying tiles and covering parts of previously laid tiles. But Columba is a deeper more abstract game that's best played either with two or with four in two teams. While it's an abstract game, there's still a noticeable luck factor in drawing the tiles that at times could be decisive if players are of comparable skill.
The cards are nicely illustrated, the pigeon stalls are massive wooden towers adding to the pleasure of playing this. The only issue that kept me from buying it is the lack of players in my group willing to play thinky rather abstract games.
Canalis: (1 play)
I love Love Letter but the rest of the Tempest series left me cold so far. I also didn't enjoy the two games by duBarry I've played so far (Revolution, Kingdom of Solomon). Nonetheless, Canalis got me interested due to the spatial element of connection building and I wasn't disappointed.
Canalis mixes card drafting with laying tiles on the board and fulfilling open as well as secret goals. There are some actions allowing player targetting but nothing devastating. More important is denying other players the possibility to reach their goals by destructive placements or choosing the cards they need before they get them.
It's clearly an American eurogame with the randomizing factor of many different cards and the possibility for negative interactions. My impression is that there's enough influence to manage the randomness as well as enough depth to warrant repeated plays. Hopefully, the open goals of the roles are balanced.
Amerigo: (1 play)
I enjoy most of Feld's games and I'm usually not one to call out a game for JASE. But Amerigo gave me the impression that it is the same game Feld has designed many times before with the single innovation of using a dice tower to create the available choices. Unluckily, the dice tower implementation is not necessarily great as the tower mostly ejects cubes of the colour just thrown in with the odd cube from previous colours aside. Beside that, it features action selection from a central pool, vying for turn order, alternative probably balanced ways to victory, containing negative influences, bonus tiles. It's professionally designed and developed, it works fine but it's not compelling. Nonetheless, I give Amerigo the benefit of doubt and a '7' rating which is better than my actual enjoyment of the game at Spiel 2013.
Steam Park: (1 play)
Another steampunk game where the steam is absent except for the story told in the rules. The components, although nicely illustrated, don't really convey the theme. Not too bad as I don't like steampunk anyway.
Not unusual for Cranio Creations, Steam Park has an action element. This time, it's speed dice rolling and deciding fast that you're finished with your rolls. The earlier players finish the better the bonus / malus card they get for this round. The slowest player is punished with additional waste which has to be taken care of to avoid huge endgame VP deductions.
The custom dice show one blank side and five different symbols to build attractions, extend infrastructure, attract visitors, remove waste or score VP cards. Once visitors are attracted, they stay until the end and generate income but also waste.
Steam Park is a nice mix of engine building, spatial planning, action elements and randomness (rolls, visitor draws). It is played in less than an hour. The problem is that strategic players will be turned of by the speed element, for fun gamers the engine building and spatial planning could be frustrating. A case of stuck in the middle?
Quantum: (1 play)
Quantum packs a whole 4x experience in a dice game playing out in less than an hour. While the look of it is up to the usual Funforge standards, the dice sweated out an oily substance which I don't want to think about. Hello China?
In terms of gameplay, I enjoyed it but it's not a genre I'm looking out for. It features all the issues of other 4x games. Random rolls, player targetting, leaderbashing, sneaking in the win from behind. In such a short game I can live with these. Also in its favour, Quantum cuts out all the gratuitous chrome / rules overhead common for the genre.
If I ever were looking for a condensed 4x game, Quantum would be it. As it stands, Ascending Empires remains my go-to 4x game. Nonetheless, I wouldn't mind joining rounds of it again.
Teomachia: (1 play)
A combination of deck-building and Texas Hold'Em Poker. In three bidding rounds players can raise the stake betting on their hand to win the ensuing battle round. After each bidding round an additional central card is revealed that can be used by all players. The winner gets his stake back, the other players lose their stake. The stake is not money but souls (believers are worth 2, priests 5 and prophets 10). First player to win 10 VP or alternatively last player owning souls (player elimination!) wins.
The cards give either strength, are prerequisites to play other cards or provide modifying effects of various types. Additionally, each player is a deity with special powers and can craft wonders if he gathers enough wonder points.
I was positively surprised by the poker-inspired bidding mechanism and would be willing to play again. A problem might be that after the first battles players have to much information about the potential other hands due to the small hand size and open draws of additional cards and accordingly the bidding might fall flat. The balancing could be another dealbreaker. Rating could go either way but probably there won't be any chances to verify this due to the obscurity of the game.
Ad Astra: (1 play)
Ad Astra mixes action programming with resource generation and player-determined scoring. Think Robo Rally meets Settlers of Catan meets Palaces of Carrara. It's a nice game but I would prefer each of the above for the single mechanisms. Somehow the switch from a slow build-up to frantic scoring didn't feel right although this could be due to playing Ad Astra with only three players where each player gets to program four actions each round vs. only three actions with four or five. My feeling is that it will be better with more players.
I like the simple rules still creating enough depth to provide for difficult decisions and a possibly short playing time for a strategic game if there are no players paralyzed by the programming part. The graphic design and components are good as well.
Catan Histories: Merchants of Europe: (1 play)
This is Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails on a new map. The only new element is that there's a short game option. Here's my comment from its predecessor which can be fully applied to Merchants of Europe as well if you exchange railroads for wagons and settlers for merchants:
A little more complex Settlers variant but not as much complexity added as I thought after reading about it. Settlers of America introduces a Civ-like settler that can cross the country indepedently from roads (SoC) or the herewith introduced rails. Whenever it stops on a city spot, it founds that city and further development can start from there. Players can't get stuck horribly anymore. The second new concept are railroads that have to be built up to reach the winning condition of delivering all your goods and are a mean to get money when a rail connects a city to another for the first time.
Money - an even bigger difference than the open nature of development. It can be used twice per turn to buy a needed resource. Furthermore, whenever a player doesn't get some resource from a die roll he's compensated with a coin. As a result, trading happens much less in America than in Catan. Pretty big change for a trading focused game. Might open up the system to new trading-averse players but that was what Settlers is about for me. On the plus side, the kingmaker potential is reduced as well.
Rails of New England: (1 play)
A railroad game for thematic gamers? The number of ratings and the rating itself show that there's only small overlap between railroad fans and thematic gaming. Most of the guys at our boardgame meetup are more on the Ameritrash side of gaming and weren't interested in playing this on theme alone. Actually, they might have liked it better than they expected while us Eurogamers were at least partially disappointed.
In first place, there's a lot of luck what cards you are dealt in the beginning and what is drawn each round. Experience will help to weather parts of it but some gamers will get a headstart in this economic snowball simply by getting better cards. To compensate for this, there are action cards which allow to target other players directly. Balancing by negative player interaction is not exactly my favourite gaming element. I don't enjoy the obvious tactic of not getting ahead of the pack to avoid the target cross on your forehead. The bad thing is that Rails of New England needs this element as otherwise the game could be decided early on. The rich get richer here if nobody does something against it.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this game at least partially. It succeeds in creating an experience as you really get the feeling that you are building up a railroad network. Each player has a unique position from where to develop a basic strategy and implement it tactically based on specific business opportunities. Many small elements like the subventions for building something specific or events give enough flavour for players who want a story in their games and who don't care for clever mechanisms or negative interaction. While I occasionally enjoy a thematic game, the player targetting is too severe without any compensating benefits. I rather play Silverton which can be unfair and punishing as well but I prefer being beaten by the game system randomly than on the merit of being too successful.
Trains and Stations: (1 play)
The Vasel indicator should have warned me. Luckily, I was able to play Trains and Stations at Spiel 2013 and avoided buying it.
Essentially, Trains and Stations is a small dice game blown up to a full-sized game. Unluckily, only the size of the box and the expectations were affected, gameplay-wise it remained a small-box dice game filler with lots of unfulfilled ambitions. The elements thrown into it like a map to complete routes, building infrastructure, collecting resource cards don't add up to interesting decisions as it's usually obvious what you want to do. If you can do it is a question of luck of the dice. This and luck in the card draws outweigh any decisions. I rather play Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age or even Zooloretto: The Dice Game instead.
Intrigue City: (1 play)
The 60 minutes playing time is illusionary with five players. It took us almost two hours. The problem is that at its heart Intrigue City is a free-for-all bashfest that doesn't provide enough to carry through such a long time.
On each of the eight turns, players have one action doing good for themselves and one action doing bad for one other player. Any effort going into the abstract and brainy decisions of action selection, setting up position on the player board, juggling for turn order and preparing for endgame scoring is annihilated by other players targetted actions. If you're playing better, you get hit more. As usual for take-that games, the only valid strategy is a dash from behind in the last round when the leading players get all the negative attention.
Much ado about nothing!
Archon: Glory & Machination: (1 play)
This game pushed all the wrong buttons.
The components are an utter disaster regarding usability. The board is so busy that you're repeatedly searching the spots where to place your meeples to choose an action. The resources come in the colours white, beige, grey and black. The white and the beige cubes are almost indistinguishable. The representations of the resource colours on the board don't correspond to the cubes at all.
Mechanistically, the game is a hodgepodge of deckbuilding, majority scoring and worker placement. In itself, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Rokoko does exactly the same mix in an enjoyable fashion. While Rokoko doesn't introduce anything new, it mixes known elements in a way where the sum of the elements is more than its parts. Here's where Archon falls miles short. Each element has been done better somewhere else. The deckbuilding feels awkward, the majorities to fight for are bland and one-dimensional. The result is an annoying lacklustre affair that left me angry for wasting my time with this completely superfluous effort instead of a more rewarding game. Archon is another proof that Kickstarter opens up alleys for bad or mediocre games to reach the market that would have needed a competent developer. Artipia Games still is miles away from established publishers that have built up this competency over many years.
Three new games from Essen, two old Hans im Glück games a- seemingly a good month of gaming, but actually there were about 25 days in the middle when I didn't play anything but kids' games. Pictures, as usual, by myself.
The two Ystari releases are in the top 10 list of games I wanted to try from the Essen 2013 crop and this one was not a letdown. Caylus designer William Attia’s game is definitely not a grand scale game like Caylus; I’d compare it more to Ystari’s Mykerinos (another game where you are collecting cards with an innovative mechanism of placing your markers at the cards in a few subsequent turns). The game is tactical and strategic at the same time (like Mykerinos).
The mechanism is a kind of worker placement but not really: in each round players place their figures between cards (that are laid out in a 3x3 grid) one by one until you decide it’s time to take them back and/or use your own buildings. When you take your workers back (one at a time) you can use the card it is next to (if it’s a character) or buy the card (buildings, other cards for special abilities) or take money. You take as much money as the number of workers left next to a card you were next to; you pay for the cards you take as much as the number of workers left next to this card (plus the printed price of the card). The rest built around this idea is not that special; there are a few added options and also you are building your personal display just like in many other games of the past few years (even the three piles of cards marked A, B, C work just like those – cards in pile A can provide you easy conversions and some simple benefits, cards in pile B do the same but are significantly stronger, cards in pile C are mostly for collecting victory points).
It’s simply a very good game that is not too complex (but not for beginners either) and has many interesting considerations for your decisions – like timing (when to start taking your workers back; when to take money and when to take cards; when to take the special action available for everyone once in the round, just to wait to make a card cheaper etc.) and worker management (keeping some of them active – not using them at cards – so you can use your workers on your own buildings). As you have choices about what you can do with your workers when picking them up, you are constantly forced to evaluate the current situation at the given cards (as others might have made you change your mind). The aims are usual, the tools for reaching the aims are usual, the way and order you get the tools is not that usual. And it's the second WP game in the past 365 days that makes "taking back workers and executing the action connected to them" a separate action from the placement of workers (the other game was Tzolk'in and I found that one a bit boring).
I also like that it works fine with 4 but still rather good with 2 (a bit less competition for the cards, but then it’s a lot harder to get any money so you still end up around the same card with your workers). The game is not very thematic but that has never been a problem for me; what can be a bit of a problem is that it can get longer than it should if you play with AP-players. Otherwise, still I think it’s the best 2013 game I have played until now (I’m at 15 games right now; it hasn’t been a strong crop). 7.6
The other Ystari release takes second spot this month. This is a game by Reiner Knizia and Sebastian Bleasdale (of Keyflower fame) who’s contributed a lot to other Knizias as a playtester in the past decade. This is obviously not a game for everyone, also it’s not very interactive – but it already makes me happy that it’s an Eurogame without worker placement in 2013.
The keyword is sustainable development. The game consists of 36 turns (which means you can have 18/12/9 turns in a 4/3/2-player game: I’d guess this game is better with fewer players than with more. Each turn starts with an event that has an effect on everyone, then the active player takes two actions just as usual from Knizia. There are 5 different kind of events and these turn up in every decade (5 turns). You try to find the balance between research, income, pollution, ecology and energy in your country. And while the game is pretty simple and abstract, this theme is strongly represented by these tiles – you do have to feel and see how hard it is to be juggling between these aims: almost all developments have their benefits and bad sides as well, also you don’t even have enough space on your board for everything, so you constantly have to destroy something to add something else instead. Luck does play a role but the fewer the players the more you can count on the events that are to come. In the end it’s rather balanced: our 3-player game ended with a 32:31:30 score.
(footnote: the rulebook is rather bad – even though everything is written there, it’s hard to understand and sometimes you can get the meaning of some sentences only from the examples; also when it refers to blue tiles those are grey tiles etc.) 7.3
Coal Baron 1x
It’s a worker placement game from master designers Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Have they ever designed any worker placement games? Oh yes, they did, that was Asara, and that is my only problem with this game –although it’s not obvious at first sight, this is about 60% the same game as Asara (even though it’s a bit more complex and it even incorporates some action point allowance like the games in their famous Mask trilogy). Glück Auf is a game about mining and it features a worker placement mechanism that might have seemed a novel idea when they started to develop the game but after games like Lancaster, Vanuatu and Keyflower it isn’t very new anymore: in order to use an action space that someone else has already used, you have to kick them from there – with more workers than what they have there. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard worker placement where you collect tiles, deliver cubes, go to bank etc. It works fine but it just didn’t feel very new. Quite interestingly, while it’s a game from this strong designer duo, the saving grace of the game is the components and especially the graphic design which is detailed, clear but still captures the theme perfectly. 7.3.
The Hanging Gardens 1x
This is an older and lesser-known Hans im Glück game that I bought used very cheap because I was curious. While it’s another old-fashioned Eurogame where you collect tiles with a special mechanism in order to have various set collection scorings in the end, the way you build your gardens is rather special (well, at least I haven’t really seen it before). And it has a nice dynamic throughout the game, a kind of story arc if you will: the first few cards are just about setting up the area, while in the last few rounds you keep scoring with practically each card (having more control on the events). It’s intriguing (while it has a wife-friendly theme); I do want to play it at least a few more times to explore the possibilities. 6.9
Mauer Bauer 1x
And another older Hans im Glück one, this time a tricky little game by Colovini. It has dice rolling to determine colors that you place on the board, also scoring cards that are randombly drawn; still, I believe it's more than meets the eye (there is more strategy to it than it seems first, also as soon as you start to know the cards you try to play in a way that you don't set up nice scoring options for the other players). At the same time I would guess my non-gamer family (my mother is 71 years old, sister is 42) enjoys it more than gamers would. But who knows: it seems Hungarian buddies, also on average the members of the Hungary guild rate it higher than the average BGG user. Maybe it fits us more? After first play, 6.7, but I believe it can get higher with time.
King Arthur: The Card Game 3x
Well, actually this is not a children’s game. This is a very basic conversion game (collect adversary cards with same-colored sets of knights; collect scoring adventure cards that require certain combinations of adversary cards) that had been on my trade list for a while even without trying. But now it's not for sale anymore: it's a game for 8-year-olds but my 5year-old was good in it and he really enjoyed the theme (that was the reason why I opened this box for him). So now it’s a keeper, not as a game for adults (maybe 5.5 with the basic rules, possibly 6 with the advanced ones) but as a game for kids.
Rory's Story Cubes: Enchanted, Rory's Story Cubes: Prehistoria and Rory's Story Cubes: Clues 3x
Three more sets of story cubes, this time 3 dice each. Enchanted features elements of fairy tales so this one is a must have for any story cube fans. Prehistoria is fine as well – it’s always fun to have some dinosaurs in your stories. Clues might be the weakest one for telling stories to kids as it has things like DNA, fingerprints, chalk outline of a dead body etc. – not really for telling stories to the smallest ones. / /
Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
October is the month of my birthday, and I can usually leverage that fact so that my family will sit down to a few game days. It also is a nice way of convincing them to learn some new stuff. I didn't overwhelm them because we did have a busy month, but there were a few new games this month so I definitely improved on my failure from September. Picking a favorite was extremely simple, this game was not only the best new game we played this month, but it's also the only one of the 3 that I'm really anxious to play again. Here's hoping I can get even more new games off the shelves in November.
= Formula D - Racing games aren't usually my favorite genre, but this one is an exception to that rule. I've only played the basic game so far, but it was a crazy fast ride. I like the challenge of gearing up in order to stay in the lead, while still maintaining control in order to avoid overshooting a turn. As long as you play fast and furious, without counting and recounting your moves it actually feels like a real auto race. I really need to try the advanced game in order to get the full effect, but we had enough fun that I can see us pulling this game out again soon. My only complaint is that it is very hard to get up into that top gear and roll that big blue die, because there aren't many open straights with no surrounding curves. Everyone wanted to do it, but we never got the chance. Although perhaps we're just being too cautious and need to push our cars to the limit. Initial Rating = 7
= Man Bites Dog - OK, yes this game is dumb. In fact there is very little actual game in the box. But my parent's bought it for me, so I felt obligated to give it a shot. It was surprisingly enjoyable. The game has almost no strategy, and luck of the draw can totally hose you, but it has that party game feel where I just don't care if I'm winning or losing. We had a blast constructing humorous headlines, laughing at the headlines created by others, and helping other players rearrange their headlines in order to sound more authentic. I just find it funny trying to figure out which way sounds more entertaining "Brave D.A. Shoots Naked Cop", or should I make the Cop Brave, or should I have the Naked person doing the shooting? It's ridiculous stuff like this that makes the game worth a few minutes of table time. If the game lasted longer it would be a total disaster, but it's short enough and has just enough humor to make me willing to play it again and keep it in my collection for now. Initial Rating = 6
= Code 777 - *whistle* False start! 5-yard penalty, repeat 1st play! Oh boy, what a mistake. Apparently I misinterpreted the ease of the deduction in this game and my family's reaction to deduction games of this nature. Let's simply say that we barely made it through one round, and at least 2 of us had no idea what to write down on our note papers. It was a disaster! The game is a bit like those logic problems you find in puzzle magazines. You know, the ones that say "Sally does not like Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream. Dawn prefers less than 4 scoops of ice cream. There were at least 2 scoops of strawberry." And then you have that grid of boxes where you start marking off clues to slowly narrow down the answer. It's deeply analytical, and not what I'd describe as "fun" in the context of a game. Now I'd play again, but I'll certainly never subject my family to it again. Long story short, it's on my trade list if anybody wants it. Consider my rating only a testament to my lack of desire to play again, not a reflection on the quality of the game (which I can't accurately determine considering we only played one round.) Initial Rating = 3
Board Game: Pala
[Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:5020]
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
A slow month, saved at the very end!
I bought Pala a couple of months ago but didn't manage to get it played until tonight. It sounded like an intriguing trick-taker and that's exactly what it is! The 'trick' in this one is that you can play pairs of different-coloured cards to 'mix' a third colour. We only played three hands and I really didn't get the hang of it, but I'd love to try again soon. 7
Kakerlakenpoker Royal was a huge hit for me from Essen 2012 but I hadn't played the original Cockroach Poker until this month. I appreciate the purity, but having played a lot of Royal, I missed the added tension of the penalty pile, and the little tricks you can play with the special cards. 7
Finally, another trick-taking game that I'd been keen to try: Alan Moon's reprinted Black Spy. However it turned out to be just a minor tweak of Hearts. I like Hearts, but didn't really see the point of this. 5
My first trip to Essen and oh boy what a fabulous experience. I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful and jaw-dropping event this is. So let's look at the games I played in the hotel in the evenings and occasionally at the fair itself.
Machi Koro. WOW! What a game. Sometimes at Essen there is hype generated by scarcity (this year with Patchistory), sometimes there is hype generated by something innovative (Tzolk'in), sometimes by a near-universally acclaimed great game (Terra mystica), and sometimes, just sometimes, all three join together into an unstoppable gaming phenomena which takes the world by storm (think Love Letter). I would not be in any way surprised if Machi Koro follows this path. It is a gem. Part Settlers (dice determine the cards which are actioned), part Dominion (buildings are bought and form a deck but which is constantly in play via your tableau), part The City, but actually none of these as it feels so refreshingly new. It plays in 30 minutes max but time flies by and so it feels really really fast. And there is always something to do: on others' turns you may be taking money from the bank if their roll activates your building, or you may be stealing from them, and on your turn a whole host of actions become possible as your city grows. Yes it is true that the outcome is determined by dice, but you determine which dice rolls work in your city and you manage your own probabilities. And after playing a couple of games you realise how cleverly the card numbers and probabilities are worked out. I could go on but suffice to say it is a game which brings a smile to the face just thinking about it. Nothing I can think of packs so much punch into so short a time. And that's enough for me. One final comment: this will get picked up by a major publisher but let's just hope we get to see the lovely fresh artwork and that it isn't ruined in a Trains or Coup fashion.
Concordia is a Mac Gerdts design, he of Navigador and the rondel. Cornucopia gets rid of the rondel and instead is a fascinating map-based, card-based objective-driven game which works elegantly and with a lot of tension. The rules are few, just 4 pages, and upon reading I was underwhelmed. But when you play the game you realise just how clever and exciting it becomes. Points are scored according to a number of common game-end objectives (number of cities you are in, amount of money etc). You all have an identical deck of cards and the cards give particular actions on the map (expand, gain resources, trade etc) but once played you can't do that action again until you choose to effectively forfeit an action and pick up the cards. So far so dull...but here's the interesting bit: you can get more cards (thus building a deck) and these same cards also act as points multipliers to the different respective objectives at the end of the game. The conflict is thus: you want to build a diverse deck to give you a good choice of actions, but in order to maximise your scoring multipliers at the end you have to concentrate on one or two of the objectives and therefore you need to concentrate on collecting one or two types of card multipliers. But this gives you a deck with loads of the same action, which is not useful at all. How you balance your actions deck whilst trying to achieve the multipliers for one or two objectives is the key to the game. And the tension comes from the fight for space on the board, for the cards that come up and for money & resources. Tense tense tense. And the beauty is that, unless you are keeping track of every card each person buys you really have no idea who is doing well until the final scoring so there is no sense of playing a losing game. Fabulous game and the best of the three heavier games I played whilst at Essen.
Glass Road is Uwe Rosenberg's latest resource conversion game. Le Havre led to Ora and Labora led to The Glass Road. If you enjoyed those games, particularly O&L, you will enjoy this. It is shorter than either of it's forefathers, playing in a realistically achievable 20 mins per person. There are just 4 rounds and between 3 and 8 actions are played per round. You are building buildings which do 'stuff' and give VPs. It has a neat card mechanism whereby you select 5 action cards from a 15 card action deck which you all have identical copies of. You play 3 of these cards in a round. Each card has 2 actions. But when you play a card, if anyone else has it in their hand, then you can only use one of the actions, and the other player gets to use the card 'for free' too. So you are not only trying to select the cards with actions you want to use, you also need to be mindful of what others are playing as you want to play cards yourself which they don't have, so you can get to use both actions. Meanwhile you want to hold in your hand cards other players will use so you can get 'free' actions whilst also halving your opponent's use of the actions on their card. So...lot's to think about and a lot of the time is spent determining just which 5 cards you will take in to the round with you. Oh, and it has a really clever resource wheel which is a thing of great intelligent design.
Nauticus. Kramer and Keisling are doing great things of late. Palaces of Carrera has been a real grower. And this year they produced Coal Baron, which is reviewed below, and this, Nauticus. This is another clever clever elegant design, one that offers plenty of decisions at every turn. And every turn is short so there is not a huge amount of down time. You need money, you need workers, and guess what?....you can't get enough of either. There is a bit of Puerto Rico here: the start player selects an action which everyone carries out but he gets an added benefit from choosing it, but there the similarity ends. And there are some genius touches: you will get minus VPs each round unless you pass on 3 of the 7 actions, and you really need to do all 7 of the actions. Arghhhhh....so many tough decisions. Its only downside is its length which at a couple of hours is twice as long as Palaces. But definitely recommended.
Buccaneer Bones is a Yahtzee style game. All dice with no theme but it sails along at a fair old pace. Good fun when you feel like a dice rolling fest.
Sail to India is another cracking game from Japan. It is a game of considerable depth and strategy, up there with any excellent mid-weight Euro, and yet played with only 22 cards,a bunch of cubes, and all housed in a tiny box the size of Hanabi. Clever stuff indeed. The mechanics are another moment of Japanese genius. Your cube is a building one minute, then a ship, then maybe a banker, an historian, or a bunch of goods. And the clever thing is, you use one of these cubes to measure your VPs and another for your money. But if you get to 5 money or 5 VPs then you need another valuable cube to put on your bank or VP card...so the more successful you become, the fewer cubes you have to do other 'stuff', like sail or build or colonise. Very clever stuff indeed. Here is an excellent strategy game full of interaction, trading, shipping, colonising, building...and in a box you can fit in your back pocket. Very very clever stuff indeed. Let's hope AEG, who have picked this up, don't ruin its considerable charm with over-embellishment and a box full of air.
Om Nom Nom is pretty weak. Let's not beat around the bush here. A game of Paper Scissors Stone bluffing that looks OK but in play is just not interesting. The animal theme means that with young kids this would work, and I can see 4 yrs+ playing this excitedly, but I cannot think of anything else positive to say about it. There are many better bluffing games around that is for sure.
Malacca looked interesting as it seemed to combine bluffing and betting in a short and sweet pirate environment. But I was disappointed. A set of unintuitive but simple rules lead to round after round of bluffing and sometimes betting. A ship is worth x money. You have 3 cards: attack, defend, or gamble. If you attack it and there are more attackers than other cards you share the spoils. If you gamble you double your bet if defenders win. If defenders win you share any money that attackers put on their attack card in an attempt to bluff that they were not attacking but were playing their gamble card. Do you follow that? I wanted to like this game and wanted to want to purchase it, not least because the guys on the stand at Essen were so enthusiastic and seemed new to this mass gaming market. And they had a lot of boxes to sell. But it just didn't quite work for me.
1911 Amundsen vs Scott is a nicely themed 2 player card game. Play is simple, just play the card with the colour of your next space, or multiple cards to move multiple spaces. And there are some other cards in there: blizzards to stop Scott in his tracks, dogs to help Amundsen on his way, sunny weather cards to help, and other such cards. The theme is nice, the game plays in 15 minutes, and it is well-presented. But at the end of the day it is a little too straightforward and not quite interesting enough to warrant seeking out. Mind you, there are 2 expansions in the box and I haven't yet tried those so it may get better.
Origin is a beautiful abstract game where these wonderful wooden statues of varying colour and height and thickness take over a world map. You have hidden objectives and other ways of scoring VPs, none of which are terribly taxing on the brain. But for a half hour game you get a fair amount of value and it really does look and feel very splendid indeed.
Eggs of Ostrich is an oh-so-simple but oddly addictive 3 player card game. Another Japanese hit. You are collecting eggs. Turn a card over to determine how many eggs are up for grabs for the three of you. Now simply play a card to say which capacity bag you want to put your share of the eggs in. Easy. But there are two extra elements: a 'skip' card to skip the round and so your fellow players will get more eggs each and potentially burst their egg bag, so great opportunities to screw your opponents. And the clever clever bit, the card you play is not available to you next round. This game is like a first class simple Knizia game. And it plays in 10 minutes.
Oss is a game of traditional jacks turned into a party game. You play a card on various challenges and that card determines how confident you are that you can achieve the result. A typical challenge maybe to turn 1-4 (depending on the card you play) jacks on their edge whilst of course throwing and catching the principal jack. Add duels into the equation and some group tasks and you get a very amusing and entertaining party game. Mostly laughing at the incompetence of everyone. This was a big hit with my wife who played jacks as a child. And my daughter loves it too. They both thrash everyone at it too.
Coal Baron is a good solid elegant Worker Placement from Kramer and Keisling. The interesting mechanism is that you can use the same action as another player but you have to place one extra worker than is already present on the spot. Whilst Kramer and Keisling don't get me fired up in wide-eyed awe and anticipation as I do with a Feld game, there is no doubt that they are consistently putting out Top quality, very elegantly designed games which play quickly and smoothly. And common to all their recent games (Coal Baron, Palaces of Carrera and Nauticus) are continual tough and interesting decisions. Most impressive and plays in an hour or so.
Going, Going, GONE! is a real time auction game. There are 5 cups and each has a card next to it which you are bidding for. You have 10 seconds to get your bids in by dropping cubes into the cups. This sounds exciting and is exciting. But it has two drawbacks: firstly the 'ebay effect' takes hold and people hold back their bid to the last 2 seconds when everyone manically piles in. Secondly, everyone manically piling in causes the cups to fall over and deposit their contents all over the table. Some DIY system of glueing the cups to a base needs to be done to make this properly playable. A good idea which doesn't quite work.
Looking forward to next Essen...
Odd month - I played almost no new games from 20 days, and then almost nothing but new games for 10 days.
Machi Koro, which I've played twice, is the big new hit for me so far. But it's far from the only game I've enjoyed...
RRR does what it's aiming to do very well. It's the kind of game I don't play enough, but it's quite good.
Topfrosch is a really enjoyable, very quick dexterity game which while not available to take home with me I did order.
Bluff in Zoo is a game I shouldn't enjoy, but which I did - enough to pick up a copy.
Glass Road was more enjoyable for me, on first play, than any of Rosenberg's board games save possibly Le Havre and Agricola. And I think it will last better for me than Agricola...
Koryŏ shows every sign of being a good filler for me.
Zahlen-Mobile is a game you'll see on very few Essen lists, but was one of my happy finds.
There are a further bunch of games which aren't bad, but which weren't hits with me:
Five Cucumbers, which I played twice, seemed to depend too much on luck of the draw, and too little on clever play, but was pleasant enough; I'd play it again.
Renaissance Man is an interesting pyramid building game, but I found Guild a far more interesting game in the genre.
BancoBanco is reasonably fun, but goes on too long for what it's trying to do.
I've not given up on Eggs of Ostrich as a keeper - but my first play, while enjoyable, wasn't very compelling.
I enjoyed Galapagos well enough while playing it, but it's growing on me after, which might be a sign of moving to the keeper pile.
Glastonbury succeeds in making Kupferkessel Co. into a multiplayer game - but did more to make me question the need to keep the original than to make me want to pick up the new version.
New Haven was enjoyable, but too abstract for me.
Pasha I need to try again, but was just OK the first time.
Plunder is a nice deduction game, and nicely produced, but that's not my sweet spot and even among deduction games I tend to prefer heavier ones.
The Rats in the Walls is in the same family as Bluff in Zoo, but didn't surprisingly work for me like that game did.
Games that weren't for me:
Garden Dice wasn't bad, but also wasn't interesting enough for me to play again.
Medievalia didn't work - don't know why not.
UnNatural Selection is a fine game, but not my thing.
We always have time for the things we put first.
11 plays and counting. Quick and painless setup, and the kind of game you want to play again right away have made it a regular for us this month.
We played our first game of this last night, and found both familiar and interesting new elements in it. Would be excellent with family members at holiday gatherings.
Hi there! Follow my gaming exploits on Twitter (fehrmeister)
I played 4 games new to me this month, along with one new expansion.
My favorite by a slim margin was:
Clash of Cultures - My rating: 8.5/10
I've been eager to try Clash of Cultures ever since I heard Tom Vasel's glowing reviews on The Dice Tower. I'm a huge fan of other Civilization-esque games (Through the Ages is currently my #2 game of all time and I rate Sid Meier's Fantasy Flight game a 9), and had high expectations for this one. Well, it didn't disappoint me much. It's not quite as involved as those other games, luck plays a more prominent role, and it doesn't play that much shorter, but it does offer a few things those other games don't. Here's my list of pros and cons:
- Includes a way to exert cltural influence: a non-military way of turning your opponents' points into your points.
- The map is granular enough that it look completely different every time.
- Ships and navigation play a prominent role, and the way troops can effectively sail around the board is way cool.
- This game is slightly more abstract and easy to learn
- Fantastic building pieces that fit together to form an impressive-looking city
- It features random objective cards without a lot of ways to get more or trade for others
- There is only one type of military unit and combat is fairly simplistic (which could be a pro for some)
- Plastic cubes. Enough said
Libertalia - My rating: 8/10
Libertalia is simply one of the best blind-bidding games I've played. Much of the joy of the game is seeing which cards I'm forced to make work together and whether I can play a hand better than my opponents can play the identical hand. There's a lot going on with the cards themselves, enough that the game can feel more chaotic than strategic at times. But in the first couple of games I've played, it's definitely the deeper thinkers and guessers that have won.
This game turned out to have more depth than I was expecting. It's still pretty light, but it's still subject to significant analysis paralysis with some. I had also heard that it could easily be played in 45 minutes when the reality for me has been about 90 (with 5-6 players). I don't know how often I would bring this out with non-gamers, but I would certainly recommend it as a light offering for a gamer family!
Spyrium - My rating: 8/10
I've been excited about a new game from William Attia (the designer of one of my favorite games - Caylus) ever since I heard it was coming. Spyrium has a fascinating central mechanic that turns the geographical placement of workers into something that affects the cost of various cards that need to be acquired, with the added twist that I can longer place workers as soon as I decide to buy my first card in a round. People that care about theme may want to stay clear, but I find this to be very interesting with plenty of room for exploration.
Dice Town: Wild West - My rating: 8/10
This expansion to Dice Town makes the original game almost twice as complicated, but also adds about 50% strategy. Outside of the box being about 5 times too large, there's nothing here not to like if you like the original!
Takenoko - My rating: 6.5/10
Takenoko is a beautiful, light game involving tile placement making up a shared board, stacking wooden pieces (growing bamboo) and moving a panda and a gardener in straight lines across the board in order to meet objectives specific to me. It's not a heavy game, but it may take non-gamers a bit of time to get used to the idea of sharing all components but the cards. I'm not usually a fan of hidden objectives in games, and that's the whole game in this case. But it's pretty and simple enough that I won't mind it bringing it out occasionally, and I know my girls will absolutely love it.
Not many new games this October, so the list of nominees was incredibly small. Mostly this was due to focusing on games that I already know and enjoy, which I'm beginning to enjoy much more than the often disappointing Cult of the New hotness.
Francis Drake was an enjoyable experience. Nice production overall and finally an insert that had a lid to help hold everything in place! The map is a bit busy and confusing to play on, but you get used to it by the end of your first play. I enjoyed the game, and I'd play again, but I felt no need to go out a purchase a copy. Not sure that it will scale well, or just how much replay value it has.
The only other new game was No Retreat! The Russian Front, which I played "two player" solo to learn the rules. Not really enough to form a solid opinion on, but I'm looking forward to playing a "real" game.
Board Game: Small World
[Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:206]
[Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Not just a new game or two this month but two new gaming buddies in the of Ian and Rhona! Trebles all round in honour of our new gaming sessions every couple of weeks (even if it does seem to mean a long drive through pouring rain for one or both of us).
Yesterday they introduced me to Small World and I regret to say that my Peace Loving Tritons were instrumental in several bouts of genocide and, not coincidentally, scored me lots of points, to the extent that I managed to win.
I had played its ancestor Vinci, but after this one play I can see that the permutations and possibilities in Small World seem greater, and the artwork and theme appeals too. Excellent stuff.
after this one play!
Helena and I also played Starship Merchants, acquired in this month's maths trade, and enjoyed it . The rules were a little ambiguous, though all our questions were cleared up by referring to the FAQ, however it's a shame that a little more care hadn't been taken with writing the rules in the first place. In spite of this, a good game and one which we'll return to soon.
Finally, Middle Kingdom, a card game on a relatively unusual theme. It was slightly tricky to get your head around, and I think we played with a rule wrong, but again it was a decent game, which might play more smoothly with more players.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
Some pretty good claimants to the best new to me game throne this month.
I think overall the winner is the Pathfinder card game. I like how it boils down the mechanics of a RPG into a card game format without losing a lot of what makes an RPG interesting mechanically. It's still not an RPG but it fun.
Legacy: Gears of Time may be next on the list. It looks pretty silly but really it's got some tricky things to consider and timing can be very important.
Finally got to play Love Letter that everyone has been hyping. It pretty much lives up to what everyone has been saying. It has some tense moments despite lasting much less than half an hour.
Star Trek: Attack Wing I may still prefer Fleet Captains for my Star Trek game fix but for a tactical maneuvering style Star Trek combat this seems to work really well.