Random Pre-Essen Musings For 2013
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If you've stumbled across this at random, there are a few things you should know before reading on:
- These musing are based, at best, on my impressions after having read the rule book for the game. In most cases, I would call it more of a skim. Taking them seriously is expressly forbidden by The Geneva Convention.
- I have been wrong about games in the past and I will viciously defend my right to be wrong about them again in the future.
- These are pretty crude notes mostly for my own consumption along with a few friends and are not really intended to make sense to other people. If you don't understand something, don't worry, it's not just you.
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1. Board Game: Archon: Glory & Machination [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:1839]
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This looks like a totally by the numbers worker placement game with a few bells and whistles tacked on for good measure. Bland theme and a city defense mechanism which reminds me a lot of Comuni.

Conclusion: Avoid
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2. Board Game: Cornish Smuggler [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:6896]
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Definitely seems thematic, but the kitchen sink approach to game design seems to have resulted in a bit of a convoluted mix of mechanisms. In particular, the tetris mechanism for goods seems a bit flat overall. I'm also worried about how random the secret cards might be.

Conclusion: Only if I run out of other things to look at.
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3. Board Game: Romolo o Remo? [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:3896]
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This looks like a fairly straightforward Civ style game. That said, the walls and lack of ownership over buildings invokes a little Roads and Boats. Throw in what could be an interesting (albeit still pretty random) battle mechanism and this becomes at least worth checking out.

Conclusion: Worth trying.
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4. Board Game: Bruxelles 1893 [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:263]
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Wow, what a lot of mechanisms there are here: variable play area, variable building costs, auctions, parasitic benefits. Not sure if they'll really come together into a cohesive whole, but there's enough interesting stuff going on that this is probably worth a look. I'm a little worried that the abundance of indirect interactions will make the game seem too chaotic. Art style is definitely awesome.

Conclusion: Worth a try.
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5. Board Game: Palmyra [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:5755]
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Looks a little on the light side, for my tastes. Place tiles to either make money or more tiles. Doesn't look like the core game play is going to have enough interesting decisions to warrant additional play.

Conclusion: Avoid.

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6. Board Game: Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:492]
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I have actually played this game. I found it too abstract to be a good thematic game and too chaotic to be a good abstract game.

Conclusion: Avoid.
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7. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:110]
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Interesting looking card driven Civ game. Definitely evokes memories of Through The Ages. Worried that the military has been abstracted a little too far (ironic since military was my main complaint with TtA). Still, I'm a sucker for a good Civ game.

Conclusion: probably purchase.
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8. Board Game: S-Evolution [Average Rating:5.42 Overall Rank:15175]
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What's with all the Civ games this year?

A Civ style game with Trick Taking and Deck Building elements. Got to admire the ballsy approach to game design there. Seems like the mechanisms might actually work, but should probably give it a try first in case it turns out to be another Hobbit in disguise.

Conclusion: Definitely try.
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9. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:227]
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Uwe Rosenberg continues to make minor variations around similar economic engines. In this case it's the action selection mechanism which comes across as the bastard child of Glory To Rome and Race for the Galaxy. The dials are a neat way of reducing bookkeeping, but don't seem to add much beyond that. Given that the selection mechanism doesn't look like my cup of tea (depends on how random it plays out in practice) and the rest of the game is pretty standard fare for Uwe, I suspect I can safely skip this one.

Conclusion: Won't go out of my way to try it.
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10. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:19]
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Didn't actually realise this was a Gerdts joint until I started reading the rules and spotted his grubby little fingerprints all over it. Gone is the rondel, but in its place your choice of actions is restricted by playing from a fixed set of cards which you can refresh at any time, with the appropriate opportunity cost, naturally. Beyond that, the rest of the game doesn't appear to offer anything blisteringly new. Doesn't excite me, but might be worth a try to see if the whole is somehow better than the sum of its parts.

Conclusion: Try if I have free time.

I liked the rondels...
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11. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:921]
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Hard to ignore the hype and, to its credit this does look like an interesting take on the Civ game (seriously, another one?). The patching mechanism reminds me of splaying in Innovation somehow. I'm not sure I'm up for the mad dash needed to get a copy (especially since I'm still sore about missing out on Trains by a single person) but I might give it a go if I get to the Messe early enough.

Conclusion: Purchase (if I can be bothered).
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12. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
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I'm a little sick of worker placement games, but this looks like just the remedy I need. Developed by OO who have made some awesome 18XX games, this looks like just my sort of game. Deep with both tactical and strategic decision making. This is pretty much an auto-buy although I must admit some concern that this seems to be coming into the Spiel a little hot.

Conclusion: Buy if it makes it in time.
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13. Board Game: Dark Empire: Revolution [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:5374]
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A hidden goals stye game with a traitor mechanism that reminds me of PAX. It looks convoluted for what it is and I suspect it takes longer to play than it really should for the amount of game on offer. I think I'll give it a miss.

Conclusion: Avoid.
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14. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:22]
Gareth
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Agricola meets Dwarf Fortress, I guess. It looks like a reasonable evolution of the base game. Not sure it needed much evolving to be honest, but there we go. That said, I did like Agricola and I do like Dwarves...

Conclusion: Guilty Pleasure Purchase.
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15. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1630]
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This game reminds me of 20th Century a lot and Peloponnese a little. Advance the technological level of your civilization while balancing energy consumption, pollution and some other resources. That said, the actual gameplay looks pretty dull and I'm not seeing a lot of replay value. Might be worth watching someone else play to see if I've picked it up wrong, but other than that I'm fine letting this one go by.

Conclusion: I might be done with Knizia.
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16. Board Game: Bremerhaven [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3361]
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The similar style to Le Havre made me nervous, but it was the blind bidding that really sent me running for the hills.

Conclusion: Blind bidding, especially the kind where you lose your bid no matter what, should be considered a violation of our basic human rights.
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17. Board Game: Enclave: Zakon Krańca Świata [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:6176]
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I'm not sure if the designers are awesome, crazy or both but the introduction in the rule book had me in stitches for its sheer insanity and ludicrous techno-babble. The game doesn't really seem to hold up though, centering around going on missions with random obstacles in your way which determine success or failure. There are some options to reduce the randomness but they don't seem enough to eliminate it entirely. I do however feel I should at least check out the game in return for the entertainment provided by the intro.

Conclusion: Maybe try it out in the hope that the designers are just as awesome in person.
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18. Board Game: Coal Baron [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:504]
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blah blah blah generic worker placement blah blah blah

Conclusion: Avoid
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19. Board Game: Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2579]
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Werewolf without the player elimination. To be honest, player elimination was never my real problem with werewolf, it was the endless discussions over precisely zero real information that started to get to me. Granted, that might just be and artifact of the group I played with.

So, you the players are inquisitors investigating a town of villagers, some of whom are human and some of whom are werewolves. However, among your number are also some individuals of the hairy variety and you must weed them out. So, instead of voting about players, you're voting about villagers. The same villagers also grant special powers which are how the players get information about their identities which they can then use or abuse as appropriate.

I guess it seems like it might all work, but in a world with other good social bluffing games (e.g. Coup, The Resistance) I'm just not sure I care.

Conclusion: Lynch It!
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20. Board Game: Artifact [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:11498]
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Worker placement in the sand. There might be something in the tradeoff between instantaneous money (selling) versus income (exhibit) but it's just not jumping out at me.

Conclusion: Skippable.
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21. Board Game: Kohle & Kolonie [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1899]
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As the sequel to the frequently misspelled Ruhrschifffahrt (be sure to count those 'f's) this game takes the obtuse and fiddly nature of the original to a whole new level. There may be some interesting depth here but, like a potentially handsome coal miner, it's covered in way too much crap to be sure and, even if it is there, you're still going to have to deal with all the crap.

Conclusion: Ffforget it!
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22. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:200]
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Okay, it's worker placement and the theme isn't exactly what I would look for in a game. That said, the idea that your workers are not all created equal and, also, that they are in themselves a kind of resource is enough to make me at least want to try this.

Conclusion: Play someone else's copy.
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23. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:159]
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I'm oddly fond of racing games, I think it's because they don't have to artificially introduce tension - everyone understands the tension in a close race. Lewis and Clark looks like it might be an interesting addition to the genre. The layer of resource management along with the penalties for getting it wrong (I'm pretty tired of racing games with rubber banding) seem like they might bring something new. That said, I like my racing games to play quickly and I'm a little worried that the added complexity might cause the game to slow down too much and outstay its welcome.

Conclusion: Should try.
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24. Board Game: Sigismundus Augustus: Dei gratia rex Poloniae [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:4264]
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This is definitely one of the most impressive looking boxes I've seen in a while. The game, however, is a little baroque in its design. You gain points by influencing countries, which requires foreign policy cards, which will be easier to get if you hold certain offices, which require internal policy cards, but each of the policy cards can also be used as a special action and there are military policy cards, which allow you to beat people up if you have a bigger army, which require maintenance, which means you need money, which is easier to get if you hold certain offices...

There are definitely some interesting ideas here such as the offices and the laws that the players can pass but overall there is just too much noise surrounding the central concepts for them to really stand out. There's also some direct interactions which are distinctly of the "screw you" variety. The final nail in the coffin, however, comes from the blind-bidding during voting.

Conclusion: Admire the box in person, but probably avoid the game.
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25. Board Game: Venetia [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:3196]
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This looks like a reasonably well put together little area control game. The players are attempting to gain control in various regions for the purpose of scoring points there. There is some shared board play, but it's fairly light (effectively some regions cost more to occupy than others). There does appear to be some amount of randomness in the form of threats which may pop up and destroy influence and although you know when it's coming, there are no real mechanisms for managing this. A bit towards the lighter end of the scale for me, but it might be worth checking out if time permits.

Conclusion: Might be worth a try.
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