New Game November: BGG.Con and Euroquest 2013
Anni Foasberg
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I played a lot of new games this November. I posted about them on social networks elsewhere, but as I look over those posts, I realize that I have written enough to make a geeklist out of this and share it with the world, or at least with BGG. So, here we go...
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1. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:14]
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This was basically Agricola: Prosperity. That is, it is to Agricola as the Prosperity expansion is to Dominion. Same game, except now you have all kinds of resources to work with.

It's definitely not as tight--I didn't use family growth and I beat two people. I'm not sure how that happened.

My initial impression is positive. I feel like the general skill level of Agricola players has passed my own, and while I'm certainly interested in getting better at that game, it's always nice to have to learn it again as long as everyone else does too. And, you know, a less-stressful Agricola could be a useful thing to have around.
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2. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1478]
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Prosperity (the new game, not the Dominion expansion) reminded me of Power Grid: Factory Manager. The tiles replace each other in a similar way, and the resources and anti-resources cancel each other out in the same way they do in Factory Manager. There are a certain number of spaces and players make adjustments that are generally a net positive, although the difference is nearly always smaller than it looks. It's a little more streamlined than the earlier game, though, and definitely lighter.
 
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3. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:96]
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Nations is indeed quite similar to Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. I'm not convinced it is actually much shorter, but it is more straightforward, less fiddly, and has fewer options. Adding people is probably too difficult; the cost of happiness or resources is very steep. The art is so poor that even I noticed it (and I don't generally pay much attention to these things).
 
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4. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:196]
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There are two parts to Rokoko: a shuffle-free deckbuilder and an area control game. Both parts work really smoothly. The game is easy to learn, even from the rulebook, and there's a clear connection among all the things players can do. It's a clever middleweight Euro.
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5. Board Game: Cornish Smuggler [Average Rating:5.98 Overall Rank:5874]
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Cornish Smuggler is a game about eluding customs officers so that you can sell Tetris pieces on the Cornish coast. I'm not sure why Tetris is apparently banned in Cornwall, but other than that the theme is great. The game was disappointing, though: clunky, too easy, and very poorly explained in the rulebook.

We were playing with four and the customs officers never caught anybody. Traveling around took forever, and the neat Tetris elements of the game never came into play. The rules were really poorly written and organized.

I wanted the game to be good, but alas, no.
 
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6. Board Game: Firefly: The Game [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:276]
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Doug Faust
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observed that the Firefly game feels, oddly, a little like a cross between Merchant of Venus and Tales of the Arabian Nights: pick up and deliver with lots of story and events with unpredictable outcomes. I enjoyed it for what it is, but it's quite random and swingy. Of course, chaos and unpredictability are thematic here. One might suppose the audience for this game is casual gamers who are fans of the show, but one would be wrong--it's probably too complicated for that crowd.
 
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7. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
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Concordia is very interesting. I think I'm going to need to play this again, and then maybe a few more times. It's definitely a cousin to Navegador, but with a shuffle-free deck building element similar to what's in Rokoko. I can't decide whether I think this adds variety or just clutter, but I suspect there is some depth here.

The cards are interesting because they offer the opportunity for players to specialize, but they also obscure what is happening in the game a little. If I want to know what's giving me points, I have to remember what's in my deck, and as for knowing what other people are scoring, well...

But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I didn't fall instantly in love with it, but I expect it to grow on me with further plays, and I definitely hope for further plays.
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8. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
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Lewis & Clark is really good. The board tells you it's a racing game, and so it is. Those tend not to be my favorite, but in this case it's more about planning and resource management--it's closer to the race in Power Grid than the one in Formula Dé. This is better for my preferences. Strangely, it's the third game this year to use the no-shuffle deck building mechanic. I suspect small deck specialization is the way to go; being in lots of resources is inefficient and the game will definitely punish you for a large deck. In this one, some of the draftable cards are very powerful and will really change what a player can do. The way the Indians work is interesting; they'll come and go and they definitely don't belong to you. Anyway, the game has lots of options and plenty of space to explore. One of the best of this year.
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9. Board Game: Machi Koro [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:736]
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Machi Koro is a Settlers-esque little filler in that it produces resources when a die is rolled, and you spend them to get more. It's over in less than half an hour. It's cute, but I wish it had more cards for variety, Dominion style. All the cards that come with it are available every game, limiting the variability.
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10. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:593]
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Oh, Neil Gaiman, you are so weird. Oh Martin Wallace, you are so weird.

(At the end of the game: "You were a restorationist??" "Yeah, that's why I murdered that guy!")

To add to my thoughts of the moment: This game is pretty messy, in every sense. There are tons of rules that aren't always in play, the board's quite busy, and the things that might happen are.. messy. I'm not convinced that it's a deep strategic experience, but it's at least entertaining. I want to get to know it better before I write it off.
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11. Board Game: Artifact [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:9729]
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If you think you can do anything, you can't, because
Doug Faust
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--which is to say, it's a game in which you have to commit to a certain goal by gathering resources, but by the time you are ready to collect it, Doug will have already taken it. I guess if you are not playing with Doug, another player could fulfill this role. I tend not to like games like this because they are so frustrating. I lost so badly that I don't want to judge the game, but I suspect it's not good.
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12. Board Game: Triviathon [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:11163]
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This isn't a new game, but I attended Spiel-a-thon, which I always enjoy. My team members were
Doug Faust
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and
Paul Marshall
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. We didn't win, but Paul did pass out some hilarious sad face meeples, which is almost the same thing.

The questions had a distinctly Swedish theme this year..
 
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13. Board Game: Madeira [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:300]
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Madeira could probably have benefited from being split into two games; there's probably a little too much going on. I'm not sure where the split would happen, but I note that after the game, we all agreed that each of us had been focusing on only part of the game because the whole was too much to take in. It is interesting stuff, though. I'd play again, but I'm unlikely to have many opportunities.

There seems to be a starvation strategy here; I spammed the board with workers and boats and hardly ever fed them, to the extent that I went over the 20-pirate limit and was penalized even more than the player with the most pirates usually is, but I still won. I did enjoy how the actions available were paired differently every turn.
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14. Board Game: Yunnan [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1248]
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Yunnan probably deserves more buzz than it's gotten. It has a really interesting, weird auction mechanism that depends quite heavily on timing. I really enjoy that sort of thing.

The game can be rather cutthroat in two ways. First, if you have more influence than another player, you can kick them back, but having the most influence tends to attract the province inspector, who is bad news. Second, manipulating the provinces to determine where the inspector will go is a significant part of the game. I didn't find this unpleasant; it opened up a lot of opportunity for cleverness and made the decision to go or not go for influence an interesting one.
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15. Board Game: Amerigo [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:265]
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My initial demo of Amerigo reminded me a bit of The Castles of Burgundy--seize the tiles before they go away and use them to fill in your areas. There were, of course, some major differences: No dice, and you have to share the board.

Wen I got to play the game, I found that the sharing of the board made this pretty confrontational for a Feld game. Then also, the pirates bring back the punishment he used to be known for. It can be a little frustrating to watch the board fill up from your opponents' actions.

I found myself wishing that the cubes didn't go through the tower so quickly, so that there could be a greater variety of available actions or at least possible available actions. Looking around BGG, I can see that others have expressed similar opinions.

It's clever, but I doubt I'll ever like it as much as Burgandy.
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16. Board Game: Bruxelles 1893 [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:251]
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Original market mechanism, multifaceted bidding, pretty art. Yes please.

I really liked this one because what happens on the board is simultaneously bidding, worker placement, and area control. This means that players may have multiple motives to put down a person; wanting or not wanting a card is not the only reason a person might bid. In a way, this makes up for the fact that you lose your bid even if you lose the auction; you're still taking the action and potentially getting area control points.

There's a lot going on in the game and it took me most of the game before I felt that I was getting all of it, but throughout the entire game, I felt that the effort was worth it. Time will tell if I remain interested in this one, but for now, it's the best new game I've played this year.
 
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17. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:210]
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If you expect to control the game, you'll be very frustrated! The idea is to force players to take actions before they are ready, counteracting the usual flow of games like this. I've said before that Agricola is a game about doing things in the right order. The same is true of a lot of games like this in which players try to build up and take actions as efficiently as possible. In this one, Rosenberg messes with that, and I'm slightly amused at how much this annoys many of the commenters here on BGG.

For my part, I tried not to overthink it and enjoy it for what it is: a Rosenberg lighter harvest game which is over almost immediately. I'm only exaggerating a little there--this game is so short it seems as if it is never too early to buy point buildings. I picked up one that gave me points for having sets of landscapes, spent the rest of the game picking up sets of landscapes, and won. On the other hand, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what my opponents would play, because who knows, man, who knows.
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18. Board Game: Tokaido [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:438]
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Oops, this is a year old. Maybe I shouldn't be posting about it here, but I'm including it because I intentionally looked out for a chance to play it and was pretty excited to learn it.

And.. it's a winner. Light but with some strategy, wonderful art, and short in duration, it's the kind of game you can play with just about anyone.

The game offers players a very simple choice between being greedy about getting lots of things, or going ahead and just getting what they want. In the meantime, there's a little set collection, and lots of pictures of gorgeous Japanese landscapes and delicious food.

It was a very pleasant experience and I wouldn't at all mind owning this as a filler. In our game, we played two player, which involves a dummy player moved by whoever is in front. I suspect this actually does a decent job of simulating more players.
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19. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:67]
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Games of interest that I did not play: Russian Railroads, Francis Drake, Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, Bruges, Steam Park, CV, Coal Baron, Patchistory, Citrus, Canalis, Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends, Bremerhaven, Nauticus, Kohle & Kolonie, and of course, the new expansions to games I like: Last Will: Getting Sacked and Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar – Tribes & Prophecies.I'm probably missing some other games worth playing, of course... I wonder if I'll get another opportunity.

I also learned another game that could not be called new: Gipsy King. It's a nice filler, easy to learn but initially difficult to calculate.

ALSO. I don't want to end the list without saying this: Thank you to everyone who taught me a game, everyone who played with me, and everyone who was part of putting these two conventions together. You helped make this a great November.
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