New to you May 2014 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in May 2014? 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 2014
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Videogames New To You
Videogames New To You June 2014
Videogames New To You May 2014
Movies You Watched
Movies You Watched in June 2014
Movies You Watched in May 2014
Other Great Monthly Lists
New to you a year ago May 14 => Has it stood the test of time?
Your Most Played Game (and more): May 2014
BGG Top 50 Statistics : from 01 May 14 to 01 Jun 14
New to your kids - New Lease of Life - Gaming with your kids in May 2014
== NEW GAMES ==
Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts - 2 plays -
Although this is technically an expansion, I'm listing it as a new game because "The Orb" version felt to me like a very different game to the base game.
So... "The Orb" game comes with a communal "board" made up of cards that are placed as the game progresses, giving you a region to explore with your explorer meeples. Any time there is an Explore Phase in the normal game, all players get to do actions relating to the Orb exploration: moving their explorers; drawing an orb card; placing an orb card. There is also a special Orb Exploration action which you can play instead of the 2 standard Explore cards (The +5 or +2+1 cards) which allows you to go ahead in the Orb turn order and perform all 3 of the Orb actions within the Orb Explore phase.
It all sounds very complicated, but the basic goal of Orb exploration is to find the tokens which will give you one-off benefits during the game, or points at the end of the game.
I've only played 2 player, so it may be different with more players, but we found that the Orb explore action was only beneficial for changing the turn order... otherwise you generally didn't care whether you could do 2 or all 3 of the orb actions. The turn order was particularly crucial in some cases however, as you could really screw someone over by placing a card to prevent them from getting to a token. But on the flip side, the rules of placement are particularly stringent (e.g. to do with making the 'edge' worse) so it often seemed difficult to place cards.
It's perfectly possible to play The Orb game and still completely ignore the Orb exploration aspect... my brother pretty much did this in our second game and still won.
Overall I wasn't particularly enamoured of the Orb game... it's possible I'm missing something, and, if anyone wants to convince me otherwise, they are welcome to. Since then, we've played lots more games of Race, with the Alien Artifact cards, but we have not played the orb game again.
I don't design games, I play them!
Real-life events got in the way which meant that I haven’t been as active in this geeklist as I used to be. However, I’m back now and here is what I think about the games I played in the meantime. I won’t link to the games because I don’t want to mess up the statistics, but my ratings are all here as well as pictures so it’s easier to navigate – the list is extensive...
Yes, I know, I didn’t play all of them in May (but the game I chose as the best new game to me was one I played in May). But this is not a competition, and personally I love to read what other people think about games, so here goes...
EDIT: after some justified complaints I will not do it again if I miss out on a month; then I'll just list my "NewToYou"-games in that specific month. I apologize, guys!
Nations. Plays: 17. Rating: 9.25.
It’s inevitable to compare Nations to Through the Ages. They are both quite long civilization games without a map, and you buy cards from a common pool each round and place workers on (some of) these cards. A lot of people who love TtA don’t like Nations as they find it too simple, too short, too luck-based, not enough tension or elements of warfare etc. However, to me, these so-called “cons” are all “pros” in my book! Nations is a much more streamlined civilization game which is a hundred times easier to teach and play. It plays shorter, scales better and doesn’t really force you into a specific strategy (here I’m talking about the fact that if you neglect military completely, you will get hammered in TtA – this is not the case in Nations and it’s a huge improvement). Furthermore, in TtA, you can target a war specifically against one player, whereas in Nations everybody who hasn’t enough military lose a point and perhaps some resources, but not in the same devastating amount as in TtA. Yes, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but I really feel that the element of war is condensed and improved a lot in Nations.
This might sound as if I don’t enjoy TtA, but I do. I’ve rated it a 7.5 which is a nice rating compared to my average of 5.9... It’s just too long and too much focused on warfare, so that’s mainly why I prefer Nations - by far. Sure, Nations also has its flaws. The random way in which the cards come out and the fact that a bunch of cards never show up means that you might not get the cards you had been hoping for. In TtA, you know that each and every single card show up at some point, so you can plan for this and use a long-term strategy. In Nations, you need to adapt and make some short-term tactical moves, and while it can really suck that no colonies show up if you have a big military, it’s honestly rarely the case. But, granted, it is a random element which I’m not very fond of. The events each turn are also random, and it happen from time to time that you get screwed because for instance the turn order doesn’t change or the guy with most stability gets a point right after you’ve pulled an extra worker off the stability worker pool…
Speaking of stability, I think it’s a clever game mechanic that you can mitigate the consequences of war if you have a stable civilization and go down the more peaceful route (and the fact that every player can start the only war each round means that a player with no military can prevent a military defeat if they buy the war first)! The player who has invested more into military will get a reward in terms of going first each turn, probably getting a reward from the events, not losing VPs to lost wars, get income from colonies and resources from battles. But the downside is that this player doesn’t get income from buildings, so the peaceful nations will get a good engine going. It’s a nice balance, and the great thing about the strategies is that you can always adapt and change! You’re not locked into a specific strategy if you chose that at the beginning of the game. Oh, and after more than 10 plays I feel that I can safely claim that military is not an overpowered strategy nor is any other strategy.
Another huge plus is that the elegance and simplicity of Nations. The game consists of 8 turns, and in each of those the players take one action out of three possible actions: buy a card, place a worker on a building/card, or grab an architect to help building your wonder… Yes, it’s that simple! But even so, you still need to think a lot about your decisions each turn (not that it leads to AP in my experience). The resources are also streamlined: you need food for some events, famine and to feed extra workers, you need gold to buy cards and you need stone to place workers on your buildings… Talk about elegant mechanics! There are also the books, which can net you between 0 and 16 points (or 8 in a 3 player game). That’s quite a bit, but again, you sacrifice other resources, so you always need to make a cost-benefit analysis.
Of course there is some upkeep afterwards and some cleanup and such, but that doesn’t take too long each turn. Military and stability is also handled in a smart way as you instantly move the tracks up and down once you place/remove workers on cards. Clever.
Finally, it’s just awesome that you can play as different nations and on different difficulty levels - it’s a huge improvement on TtA and Clash of Cultures and other civ games! You have some unique powers as the civilization you choose, and they feel somewhat thematic (though the civs can quickly develop into non-thematic civs when you build hoplites in China and build the Pyramids in Greece etc.) I really love that you can choose your own difficulty level so experienced players don’t have too much of an advantage. I’ll have to say, though, that the experienced player still will win most of the games even when playing on the tough difficulty levels like king and emperor; the key is that if the events go their way, they can just take a worker instead of 1-2 resources each turn (as opposed to 3-4 resources on the easier difficulty levels), and then the so-called disadvantage is cancelled and cease to exist.
Judging by the components you get, the price tag for this game is kind of steep. But in my opinion it’s the gameplay you pay for, and I think it’s a reasonable price when you consider this, as it’s such a great game! It should also be quite easy to make an expansion, and I’m fairly sure one will be published eventually.
My final thoughts on Nations are that it works better with 4 players than with 2, but it does work very well across the different number of players. 2, 3 and 4 all work well; I haven’t tried the solo variant yet, but that’s mainly because I don’t play many solo games (Agricola, my number one game, being the only one). It’s a long-ish game with 4, but it’s not too bad as the game takes about 30-40 minutes per player!
Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion. Plays: 7. Rating: 9.
Hansa Teutonica is one of my favorite games, so naturally I had to try this expansion. It adds a new map and some existing secret objective route cards to the original map. I’ve only tried the cards once, and they worked quite well as they introduce some randomness to the game which is otherwise almost totally absent. But the major reason to get this expansion is the new map. It’s not as great with 3 as it is with more players, but it works across the scale. I’ve played it seven times now and I still haven’t explored the depth and the different possibilities of this map at all. It adds a few extra rules which tweak the gameplay somewhat. It’s more important to get merchants now as some spaces can only hold those discs and not cubes.
The city with the extra action, which is almost always wildly contested, now has three entrances, but the city also features the money bag, so now you can choose which one to upgrade. As it’s such an important city, you cannot claim the route and place a cube in the city, though there are other means of placing a cube/establishing an office there. There are some dinner plates pre-printed on the gameboard (up where the “ships” are = those spaces where you can almost only place discs), so when you claim a route, you get a free action; one of them is upgrading your city track, but the three others are different; moving two cubes on the board, move two of your just-claimed route to another route, or establish an office in a “green” city (which you normally cannot claim). In my opinion, this expansion is a must-have for fans of Hansa Teutonica. It’s not better than the original map, but it adds some variety to a great game.
Terra Mystica: 4 stadtmarkers. Plays: 3. Rating: 9.
This is a great tiny expansion that actually adds something to the basic game. First of all, obviously, there are now more possibilities to choose from when you found a city. The actual tiles are neat as they add something which I’ve thought about myself; one city tile gives you 11 VP straight up, which is quite nice near the end of the game compared to the tiles which give you 5-6 VP or so. The next highest tile (in the original game) gives a priest and 9 VP, which is still good, but often isn’t better in the late game (unless you can use the priest to advance on a cult track).
I even sometimes grab this city tile mid-game if there are no better options just because of the big chunk of points, and remember that there is only one kind of this tile as opposed to the normal two. Another unique city tile is one which gives you 2 points and lets you advance 2 spaces on each cult track (and gives you two keys). I’ve actually never picked that tile myself as I’m usually leading on most of the cult tracks (depending on which race of course and against which opponents), and even when I’m not, I don’t think it’s worth it as it only gives you 2 VP. Sure, you might get some power and obviously a few extra final points, but I cannot imagine that it would decide many of the cult tracks.
The last two tiles are double-sided and address some of the few problems in the basic game: the weakness of the fakirs (and to a lesser extent the fact that not many races advance on the shipping track). This makes the fakirs more powerful as they now don’t have to build their expensive stronghold. The other races can use the other side of the city tile to advance on the shipping track, effectively saving an action, 1 priest and 4 gold. It also synergizes well with the new bonus round tile which gives 3 VP for each advancement on the shipping track. It’s now easier to get around the board. That said, it’s rarely been chosen in my games, though it has happened a couple of times.
Caverna. Plays: 18. Rating: 8.75.
Many people feel that Caverna has replaced Agricola. Me? I don’t think so. Caverna is a splendid game and one of my favorites, but it’s simply just not as good as Agricola. There are multiple reasons for this (feeding is not as hard and intense, the setup is almost the same each game, the gameboard is too open etc).
Contrary to Agricola, a game in which you need a bit of everything in order to score a lot of points, it’s easier to diversify and follow different strategic paths (due to the various buildings, expeditions, rubies and the fact that almost everything scores 1 point each with no cap limit). I guess that’s one of the (few) advantages Caverna has on Agricola, and it’s the thing I like the best I guess; your farms look different from each other, whereas if you have a competitive farm in Agricola, they tend to be similar, although the way you built your farm might vary.
The expeditions are another thing I love about Caverna! The forged weapons you use to go on expeditions make family growth a lot less desirable. It’s no longer a must (as it is in Agricola) due to the fact that you can get a lot of actions with a few dwarves equipped with strong weapons and due to the fact that each dwarf only gives 1 point (which almost everything does in Caverna, which makes it easier to understand and calculate scores) of about 60-120 or so depending on the number of players. It’s also a good idea that you can block the family growth spot even though you aren’t going to get an extra worker; it adds some extra strategy to the game (and I like that later on in the game another family growth appears). It’s also nice that you now know when the first family growth appears, and in games with more players it’s even available from the start of the game!
One thing I dislike is that if you don’t go with armed dwarves, there is only one crappy action spot where you can build buildings – and the buildings are powerful! What is brilliant about Caverna is the fact that there is a spatial element; you need to carve out the cave in order to build additional rooms. I think that this is a very nice addition. It does seem, however, that some buildings are never ever built whereas others are bought in almost every single game… And that’s a little sad. Some of the yellow buildings are extremely powerful and if you don’t get a couple of them it’s hard to win.
And speaking of these buildings, they are the equivalent of the occupations and improvements in Agricola – but whereas Agricola has 10 cards which appear in every game and a gazillion of cards where just a few are drawn randomly each game, there are only 48 buildings in Caverna, and they all appear in every single game. This means that the variety and replayability is decreased and vastly inferior to Agricola, and that’s a huge bummer. I’m fairly sure that a couple of buildings haven’t been built in any of my 18 playthroughs… Yes, I know that they are situational and sometimes they might work, but I’d rather stick to build those buildings I know are great! And those yellow bonus buildings are so crucial, and with higher player counts they are highly contested. Oh, and I’ve never lost a game in which I’ve built the food chamber, and I’ve played against very experienced Agricola players. That building has given me more than 20 points a lot of times, and I’m pretty sure that I scored 40 points with it once as it’s so much easier to plant and sow in Caverna than in Agricola!
However, Caverna is way too forgiving and loose. It’s simply too open with especially 2 and 3 players (3 players even having 3 more spots than the 4p game?!), so it’s almost impossible to block your opponents – there are always a lot of good actions to choose from. In that sense Caverna feels more like Le Havre than Agricola. Besides the fact that there are too many open spots, there is not at all the same tension about feeding your family because it’s so easy to get food. Yes, there is a feeding phase after almost every round, but it’s so much easier to get food, and get a lot of it, so it doesn’t really hinder you too much. Maybe in the beginning of the game before your engine kicks in, but in the middle and at the end of the game it’s not too hard. And that’s sad, because the tension of the tight gameplay and feeding phase and the fact that some actions are highly contested are all reasons why I love Agricola and why it’s such an awesome game.
So while Caverna has removed some of the features I like most about Agricola, it has also added some cool stuff (expeditions, spatial elements, streamline the point system).
I think Caverna is best with 4 players, although 5 and 3 are fine too. As it takes about half an hour per player, I probably won’t try it with 6 or 7, although I would like to try it one day. Caverna is a great game (cf. my rating), but it doesn’t replace Agricola. Not by a long shot.
The Castles of Burgundy: The 4th Expansion. Plays: 3. Rating: 8.5.
These boards feature yet an element you need to take into account when placing your tiles as you now get a significant amount if completing 3 rows – up to 22 points depending on the number of players. This means that you now have to think a little extra about where you’re going to place your tiles. But it’s not that easy to create those rows… There are 4 baord which are all double-sided, which means that this expansion includes no less than 8 brand new boards – awesome for us CoB fans!
The Castles of Burgundy: Player Boards – German board game championship 2013. Plays: 3. Rating: 8.
This feels like a map for experienced players. It’s a good map where I feel it’s possible to score a nice amount of points.
The 4 different starting spots for your castle lead to 4 quite different strategies. I like the big pasture and the big city building section which consists of 7 tiles. This makes it a challenge to complete in a 2p game as you never know which city tiles are going to pop up, but I like it.
There are even 4 different city areas, meaning you can score 16 bonus points if you get the same building - quite nice. When playing with this expansion I prefer that every player does so.
Rococo. Plays: 5. Rating: 8.
Rococo is a game that has flown somewhat under the radar I think, and if more people had played it it would probably be rated a little higher. It is a game which features a bunch of different game mechanics such as deck building, area majority/influence, hand management and drafting. This definitely makes the game quite unique. I really like how you can take 6 different actions, but some of them cannot be taken by your apprentices (certain cards), while the master dressmaker can take any actions. This makes him attractive, and you need to buy a couple of that type as they are able to make the best dresses. But you still need some of the apprentice and journeyman cards as every card gives a bonus beside the main action. This makes the game very interesting as you need to decide which cards to buy and which to trash. I don’t think you need a tiny deck in order to do well, actually I think a big deck can net you a lot of points if you get the apprentice which gives you 11 points for having a lot of cards. But there are definitely several paths to victory.
During the game you collect cloth/silk and lace and yarn in order to create fancy dresses which can either give you money (so you can buy new stuff or even use your money on the fountain in order to get extra points or income etc.) or points – if you choose the latter, you place the dress in a room of your choice which gives you endgame victory points based on area majority.
Yet a positive thing about Rococo is that it comes with a two-sided board for different player counts. This is always a nice feature. It works very well across the player numbers and plays smoothly. Definitely one of those “hidden gem” games!
Russian Railroads. Plays: 13. Rating: 8.
Russian Railroads is a very good game, in fact it’s almost a great game! It’s a very good worker placement game in which you actually aren’t collecting resources and converting them to victory points, so that’s refreshing. It’s relatively deep and has some very interesting strategic decisions. I like that you can pursue various strategies (points from industries, bonus chits, high point rail tracks, doublers on the Sibirian track etc.) Also, there isn’t any randomness in RR at all, except for the starting player and which engineers are available throughout the game; just like in Terra Mystica. This is something I love in hardcore eurogames. Even though some claim that a game need randomness and variety in order to be interesting, Terra Mystica (and perhaps RR) are examples that prove this wrong in my opinion. As said, the only randomness is which engineers are available during the game, but they are all face up before the game starts, so you can build your strategy around those available.
However… Russian Railroads definitely has a problem. A serious problem actually. And that’s the replayability, or rather lack of it. Sure, there are various engineers, but they don’t really change the game too much, and basically there are only 3 tracks with 3 different strategies (or a combination of them). It’s not just me who raise this question about the lack of replayability – it’s something everybody I know who has played RR also says… On the other hand, I have tried it 13 times, which is an extremely impressive number for me as I often play a game just a couple of times. This is a testament to how great RR is. But there is absolutely no doubt about it that the enjoyment you get out of Russian Railroad diminishes over time as the game starts to feel kind of the same due to how few strategies you can pursue in the game… Regarding these strategies, the two major are probably Vladivostik and Kiev+factories. The St. Petersburg-strategy (double points on track number 7) is a tough one to pull off because it also requires you to advance on the Vladivostok route, and the tracks can net you a lot more points on that route due to the white tracks. However, I can confirm that I’ve won a game by using this strategy, so it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely a much weaker strategy than the rest.
Oh, and speaking of the St. Petersburg line, I’ve never seen anybody not getting both of their bonus tokens in play (although it was a close call once, and maybe it did happen in 1 out of 13 plays). It’s simply rather easy to get, so it doesn’t make sense not to get those bonuses; and that’s a pity. Again, some more strategies/paths to victory or other action spaces or something would enhance the variety and therefore replayability, because as it stands now there isn’t a whole lot to do. You can mix some paths, but it likely won’t do you any good. RR almost forces you to focus on a single strategy at the beginning of the game and then pound that, whether being Vladivostok or Kiev+factories etc. It’s too hard to change strategy and shift your focus, and I don’t really like the huge focus on strategy over tactics.
Speaking of strategy/tactics, coins seem pretty important as they essentially give you an extra action, though it also means that you forfeit a better action immediately (as you take the coin action now). Workers are also good. But probably the best spot is the engineer, which costs you a gold, so you need to have a coin and be first in player order. It’s not always the case, but it’s honestly quite rare that the starting player doesn’t grab an engineer or coins if he hasn’t got any. The engineers give a bonus action only you can use (so they cannot be blocked), and they’re usually quite powerful. Not only that, but they also give you 40 or 20 points at the end of the game if you have the majority. Speaking of points, you get a gazillion of them in this game! However, unlike Stefan Feld games, you don’t get them for doing everything, and as I said you cannot do a little bit of everything (unlike, say, CoB or Trajan). Winning scores are usually over 400, but it could also very well be below 300 – it depends on the number of players, the engineers and how fast players buy trains; if all of the players sit and wait for the rest to buy the lower numbered trains, the scores will be lower. I’ve actually won every single one of my plays of RR with various strategies (all of them I would say?), and though there isn’t a recipe for victory, I would say that extra coins are important as well as getting an extra worker asap as well as getting at least 3 chips, one of them being the one which gives you an end-game scoring card. Engineers are important too, but I’ve won many games in which I only had 1 or max 2. Also, while the 9-train is powerful, it isn’t broken as some people say.
I’ve played it a handful of times as a two player game – and those games have taken around 30-45 minutes with one of the games taking 20 minutes! Yes, 20 minutes! That’s just insane! And it wasn’t because we didn’t think about what to do, it’s just that if you have a strategy, you know what to do without thinking too much. One of my plays with 3 players took 1 hour, and for such a relatively meaty game this is awesome! It’s a tense game with 4; with 2, the competition isn’t as fierce as there are too many spots (as is the case with 3), and you probably go for two different strategies meaning you don’t really compete over the same spots. But, truth be told, I would play this game again with any number of players!
So, all in all I like Russian Railroads, but I have to once again mention the caveat of the limited replayability. I played it 8 times in 1 month and 12 times from November to January, but I haven’t played it since. I think RR benefits of not being played repeatedly because of the few strategies available – and that’s why I will probably ultimately end up selling it. Still, it’s a good game and I hope they publish an expansion which opens up for more strategies, more variety in the setup and hence a better replayability.
Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion. Plays: 3. Rating: 8.
Galaxy Trucker is a great and very unique game, so I’m thrilled that I finally got to play one of the expansions. It’s a very good expansion, and I’m especially fond of the new boards which make the building of your spaceship much more fun and chaotic! However, to be totally honest I didn’t get to use a lot of the new compartments (only found 5-6 or so useful), but I did get to see most of them in use (before they were destroyed…).
Some seemed pretty neat and other pointless and other perhaps too convoluted and complex. A lot of the new tiles seemed to just take up a space which you could have used for a better tile from the base game… This is probably why I rate the expansion slightly lower than the base game, and it’s definitely not a necessary expansion. But it’s nonetheless a super expansion because of the new tiles and the new player boards – if you love GT, go get this expansion.
Concept. Plays: 5. Rating: 8.
The Concept (haha! Get it?!) of this game is awesome! It’s actually not much of a game, it’s more like an activity for creative minds. In Concept you try to explain a, well, concept, to the other players but without saying words. The way you do it is that you have a board in front of you with various spaces representing e.g. a man/woman, buildings, night, phrase, the colors, high/tall, food, animal etc. etc. etc. You then place a question mark on one of those spaces, which then represents the word the players are trying to guess. An easy word could be milk; you place it on the food, and then put cubes on liquid and the color white. It starts getting very interesting once you need to guess a phrase, for instance “a needle in a haystack” (which was one of the actual phrases).
There are tons of different words with various difficulties. We have never NOT guessed a word, but it has been a close call a couple of times, and we only guessed it after 10 minutes with 5 players guessing… Because we just wanted to solve the puzzle! Normally you score points in the game for solving the words, but the rules actually state that you should probably just play without keeping scores, and I agree with that. It’s the same we do in Telestration; a game which gets much, much better if you just play for fun without scoring!
Concept is such a great party game and has been a big hit with everybody I’ve introduced it to (though the groups have so far only been non-gamers, light gamers and family; no hardcore gamers). It’s such an enjoyable game, and it’s awesome to see how different people express themselves in different ways. Even my mother and sister, who aren’t fans of games, like this game a lot, and they’re very good at it too.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – Even More Buildings Big and Small. Plays: 2. Rating: 8.
I got to try this expansion once, and it’s a nice although not necessary expansion. I wrote this for the first expansion: “Great expansion! You get a ton of new buildings which makes every game different; obviously you still have the same overall goal, but the means to reach that goal has been expanded with the introduction of 4 new buildings drawn at random in each game. No game will ever be quite the same, which could be the case with the standalone game as there is no luck involved.” This second expansion just adds more of the same, so you don’t really need both, but it’s always nice to have some extra variety. But it’s definitely only nice to have and not need to have.
Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery. Plays: 4. Rating: 8.
AoE is a very cool worker placement game with area majority scoring rules. It plays over 8 rounds spanning 3 ages in which you score each age (and then you score a lot of bonus points at the end of the game). In a sense it’s a much simpler version of Dominant Species as you place your workers on a track, and when every player has placed his workers, they activate from top to bottom.
I like how you have 5 different workers at your disposal, and that these have various powers which give you extra income/units on the board/help you win battles etc. The fact that you have different types of workers really enhances my enjoyment of the game! You need to get new workers, send them to the new world to get goods and score you points, get merchant ships, fight battles against the other players, go on expeditions in undiscovered areas and fight the native, collect trading goods and build new buildings – so you really need to do a lot in the game, but the overall gameplay isn’t too hard to understand. The strategies are plentiful, though!
A couple of things I dislike are these: the exploration is a huge bummer to me as it’s so random – you can send 4 units and lose, while another player can send 1 soldier and still win… That’s really a bad game design I think, and in my games I’ve removed the 1 and 5 tiles so that the luck is less profound. But it still sucks so much when you send 3 guys on an expedition and you fail, because the penalty is quite severe. This means that most of us just wait until we have a strength of 4 until we go on expeditions. The other spot on the board where everybody can place units is the merchant ship, and I also hate that only the winner gets the ship, and the losers lose every single units they spent… Which makes it very important to win (and in general the merchant ships are very handy in order to get income during the game, so they are important). Some buildings are better than others, and it can be a little frustrating that you don’t know which endgame bonus buildings show up in age 3 as they can have a big impact on your whole strategy.
Having read the rules for the expansion, I cannot wait to try that! It sounds as if it makes a great game even better. AoE works with all player counts, but I have to say that, as is the case with most area majority games, it works better with more players. With few players there are also too many open spots on the board to place your workers on.
Commands & Colors: Ancients. Plays: 2. Rating: 8.
- Kill units to gain VPs
- Plusses: various terrain and units and scenarios
- Good 2p game
- More complex than M44, less than BL
Nexus Ops. Plays: 5. Rating: 8.
This is a very nice mix of ameritrash and eurogame. You attack each other and destroy units, but you do so in order to complete secret objectives and be the first player to achieve 12 points, at which point you win immediately. I tend to like games in which you can win immediately and this is definitely no exception.
I love the way you can get points: by winning combats as the attacker and via secret objectives, which I’m always a sucker for. The secret objectives can be to destroy a specific unit and non-combat missions like controlling most forest areas etc. This is really awesome and what definitely makes the game shine for me! The slightly assymetric setup and especially the 6 different units also make the game very exciting. The units have special powers (and the units are “double-sided, meaning the variety is significantly increased), and while the dragon is awesome, you need to have some cannon fodder too due to how combat works (which is evidence of a smooth design).
Nexus Ops is a very good game, and while the Monolith is very strong indeed as you get two cards each round, so if a player gets a foothold and fortify the Monolith, the other player needs to be worried, although it’s definitely not a sure thing that you win if you control the Monolith, which has been proven in several of our games. The cards, the exploration bonuses, the units and the objective cards are what make Nexus Ops such a great game!
BattleLore (Second Edition). Plays: 2. Rating: 8.
BattleLore second edition is a game like Memoir ’44 and Commands & Colors: Ancients, but it does have some differences. The main reason is the way you score points which is very different to C&C, and it’s actually probably a little more euro-y because you don’t get points when killing units, but for holding specific areas on the board (though certain scenarios may dictate other ways to earn points). Speaking of these scenarios, it was very cool that you each choose one part of scenario/board and you then put the two together to form the gameboard for that particular game (and choose what you earn points for)! After setting up the board you also choose which units you are actually going to play with and where to place them (you use decoy cards so the other player doesn’t know until you’re both ready). That’s so cool!
The movement cards are quite basic, but I like the special cards as well as the mana card you can buy each round. I have to say, though, that because you get points for controlling areas, the scores are usually very close, and I cannot see that a player can win a major victory simply because you both are likely to get 1-2 points each round. Of course that can also be called a pro as both have a chance to win, but it’s just hard to pull away from your opponent and win a decisive victory. This actually meant that I lost a game I probably should have won. Even though you can play well, there is a big luck aspect due to the random card draws and roll of the dice. I lost a game when a single army unit made 3 hits on 3 dice which was quite unlikely, and at the same time I rolled a bunch of misses which would have sealed the deal. Furthermore I only got a single “right flank” card during the entire game, and due to how the board was set up, all of the points were at that flank – so I ended up spending at least three turns playing a regular movement card to move just a single unit. That’s hardly effective! It just felt a little anticlimactic as I only lost by a single point, but then again, in my other game I felt like I had the upper hand the entire time and only won by 3, so the games seem to be always close no matter what.
If I didn’t already own C&C, I would probably buy this as the two games don’t feel too similar because of the cool plastic figures/theme/mainly the way you score points.
Mage Wars: Forcemaster vs. Warlord. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.5.
I’m not a huge fan of Mage Wars, but I like it just fine, and as my friend loves it I had no problems trying the expansion. I got to be the Forcemaster who seemed extremely powerful! She is relatively easy for a newbie to play as she doesn’t have a lot of creatures (actually she only had 3 in my spell book), so you need to equip her with strong items and then attack your opponent asap with all of her gears! The force barrier or push spell (forgot the name) was very powerful when your opponent plays walls. And the Force Field is might powerful too, although it only lasted one measly round as my opponent played a card so that I lost all of my 4 enchantments attached to my Forcemaster – ouch!
The Forcemaster has a special power, but personally I find it problematic that a 50-50 die roll has such a huge impact (whether she takes damage or not)… Yes, it cannot be used all the time and not against spells, but still. I actually missed 3 out of 5 times, so it wasn’t because I either avoided it or took all of it, but it somehow just rubbed me the wrong way no matter if I avoided the damage or not…
I’ve won fairly easily with the Forcemaster, and I’ve since heard that my friend has had some convincing victories as well. But I’m sure she’s fairly balanced, and you can always just create your own spell book if that’s what you want. The Forcemaster is a cool character as it’s quite different from e.g. the Beastmaster and characters who use spells.
I’ve played MW three times now, and it’s definitely more complex and time consuming than Summoner Wars (although it isn’t necessarily a bad thing in some circumstances). But for now, I definitely still prefer Summoner Wars.
Madeira. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.5.
I think Madeira is a pretty good eurogame with a lot of different mechanics (like Rococo, but much heavier). There are a ton of ways to score points which is cool. Maybe it is slightly too long for what it is; if I am going to spend more than 2 hours on a game, it better be very good or rewarding, and perhaps I think that there is missing that “something” in Maderia, although it’s certainly not an easy or non-complex game. There is certainly a fair bit of luck, but it’s not too bad. However you need to know that the city tiles are shuffled each round and can have an impact on where they show up. Furthermore the dice each round has an impact, especially if you’re picking dice as the last player. Furthermore there are the pirate dice which are also random, but I do have to admit that the die rolls didn’t seem too game-changing.
The pirate tokens were a cool idea as you need to balance the instant bonus you get for getting an extra die with the negative points you get at the end (and if you have a good memory, you will have an advantage as it’s important to remember how many tokens the other players have as the penalty is significant).
Furthermore the ships/workers cost more in upkeep the more you have, so there’s always a delicate balance between “risk” and reward. Finally I like how the passing is an important aspect in the game as it decides which bonus you get and when you get to choose your next actions and such.
I thought about buying it, but having thought a little more about it the game is probably only a 7.5, which is not good enough to warrant a spot on my limited shelf space.
Puerto Rico: The Nobles. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.5.
The nobles really doesn’t work with 2 players as they are worth too many points (but then again, PR was originally a game for 3-5 players, and with more it isn’t as big a problem). In one of my games, my brother got 12 nobles or so and combined with the Villa it was just too many points when you combine it with the end-game building which makes the nobles worth one extra point… Obviously the nobles aren’t as unbalanced as a Library in a 2p game, but in that game I really tried to play well except for taking a lot of nobles, and it resulted in a narrow defeat. When I went for the Villa and a lot of Nobles, I won with 70+ points.
But, except for that, I really like the idea of the nobles! The fact that they can do something different in the various buildings than the normal colonists is awesome, and you always try to juggle them and move them around in the mayor phase. The new buildings are cool and add something new to an otherwise static gameplay, and it’s nice to replace some of the important buildings like small market or unimportant buildings like university.
Claustrophobia. Plays: 9. Rating: 7.5.
As you can probably tell by my ~700 ratings, I’m a hardcore Eurogamer. However, this doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate and even enjoy other types of games. I generally don’t like many Ameritrash games, but Claustrophobia is actually quite a good game!
First of all, Claustrophobia is an Ameritrash game, yes. You’re trying to kill each other (one player is playing as the heroes and the other players is controlling the evil forces), and it has tons of dice rolling which means that the luck factor is quite big (add to this the random tile and card draws). Still, I find it enjoyable. I think the major reason is that I don’t own any other games like this, and I really like the fact that there are several scenarios to play. The random tile draws ensure that the dungeon is going to be different each time, and sometime you get screwed by bad tiles and other times it’s a little too easy. The listed play time of just 45 minutes is pretty spot on, I think all of my games have lasted between a half and one hour, and when you consider this, Claustrophobia is a great game! It’s so easy and fast to play!
I haven’t tried all of the scenarios, but those I have have been very enjoyable and a little different from another (as they should be). Now, you can play as the good guys or the bad guys, but because I’m winning regularly in most of my games, I almost always play the heroes as they have a harder time winning in Claustrophobia. This has resulted in a lot of defeats and only one win and a couple of ties, but I don’t mind. I would like to play the bad guys a little more, though, because they are by far the most interesting side – the dice mechanism (deciding where to put your dice on your board) is just plain awesome!
Having played Claustrophobia 9 times now, which is a lot for me, I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it. The reason for this is not because it’s a bad game, because it isn’t (just look at my rating, which is very high for a game like this!), but because I seldom play 2 player games, and when I do, I often play TS, 1960, Agricola ACBAS, Summoner Wars, Mage Wars and a bunch of other 2 player games – or even some good multiplayer eurogames which support 2 players well like Caylus, Le Havre etc. But Claustrophobia is certainly a good game which is very easy to learn and play!
[Forbidden Desert[/thing]. Plays: 10. Rating: 7.5.
I like Pandemic quite a bit but never really felt that Forbidden Island was a good game. Forbidden Desert is sort of a sequel to Forbidden Island, but it’s much, much better! Like FI, FD features a pretty simple gameplay in which you have 4 actions and then flip over some cards which do bad things. You win if you find 4 part of an ancient flying ship and get to a certain tile before any player loses all of his water, the sandstorm track reaches a high level or if there aren’t enough sand tiles left. I like coop games in which you can only win in one way but lose in several. What makes FD so much better than FI is because of its slightly more “game-y” gameplay; FI is a light family game, but FD is a little step above. The genius idea of the moving sand tiles is what I like the most about the game as you never know where you’ll be or where the tiles will be on your next turn.
The variable player powers, the items you can find and use as free actions, the tunnels in which you can “teleport” and hide from the sun are other very cool features as is how you actually are able to pinpoint where the ship components are hidden and the fact that they can move (which can really hurt you!). It’s an easy game to teach and play, and if you think it’s too easy to win, it’s very easy to adjust the difficulty level. I’m sure it’s going to be a hit with my family as well as some of my friends who aren’t really gamers. Any game I play about 10 times in a single month is definitely a good game! So why do I only rate it a 7 you say? Well, it’s a bit too simple for my taste. It’s quick, but I would rather play Pandemic for the same kind of feeling (although the two games are certainly very different).
Rampage. Plays: 7. Rating: 7.5.
Rampage is a silly/funny dexterity game by the great and versatile designer Bauza. It’s a lot of fun, at least with non-gamers and family! It’s funny for gamers too, but only if you view it as the light game it is. It’s just plain fun to flick your monster, throw vehicles at buildings and your opponents and blow the meeples to the ground so you can devour them!
Sure, the power/scoring cards don’t seem totally balanced as some are definitely much more powerful than others, but it doesn’t really matter too much as the game is all about having fun. It did suck, however, that I lost my first game only because one of the other players had a card which allowed him to steal 3 random meeples from me – which meant I lost a set while another played gained 10 points which made him win! That kind of sucked as I had no idea such a power card existed (my own fault), but later plays haven’t seen such events happen, and I doubt they will happen frequently. But I still don’t like that if you have 1000 meeples in various colors but no blue, you get 0 points; I think that you should get at least a couple of bonus points for having a lot of additional extra meeples at the end of the game.
The special powers and scoring cards mean that each play is somewhat different, although the overall gameplay is the same. But the two different meeple boards mean that there is some variation as to which type of meeples you need to be careful about throwing over the edge of the board.
It’s good for a non-serious play with family or when you’re in need of a “beer game” with your friends. I think it says a lot that I’ve already played it 7 times in a couple of months!
Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) + expansions. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.5.
I am very positively surprised by Twilight Imperium 3. While I certainly don’t want to play it all the time, and probably only a couple of times in a decade (due to its massive length!), it is actually not a bad game. I had feared that I, being a hardcore eurogamer, would hate it, but it actually has a lot of euro features which I was very fond of. Sure, you roll dice etc. and the combat can be very random and swingy, but the main mechanism is about role selection and fulfilling victory conditions which give you points, and the first to 10 points wins the game! I like the tech tree and various technologies, the secret objectives (such mission cards, which can also be found in games like Nexus Ops, is something I love), the various units, how you spend actions points in three different areas etc. But the length of the game, yikes… That, along with the random die rolls which can mean a lot and is especially annoying when playing a game lasting for 8 hours, is the main reason why I don’t always want to play it. But, to be sure, I had expected it to be much worse. I will update my comments on TI3 after my second play.
Geistesblitz 5 vor 12. Plays: 7. Rating: 7.5.
I’m pretty good at normal Geistesblitz, which I find rather easy (compared to many other players at least), but this game dramatically increases the difficulty, which is awesome for especially me and my wife! Other players and beginners will likely get stomped, but I guess that can be said for any good game during people’s first play. And with subsequent plays everybody gets much better.
Regular Geistesblitz only features two figures depicted on the cards, and you only need to be aware of whether the colors match or not (and then the optional, imho mandatory, book rule), but this version has three figures depicted which ramps up the difficulty, and then it adds a lot of optional extra rules which make the game so much more fun – now you have to shout out the name of some items instead of grabbing them, you have to grab the thing if it is mirrored in the mirror, you have to say what time the clock on the card shows etc., but only if certain conditions are met. Actually, if playing with all of the additional rules, I think there are just a handful of cards where you must do the “normal” thing from the base game!
Some of the cards seem contradicting, but there are rules regarding those few cards. Overall it’s a super version of an already excellent game, and those extra rules, which in my house are mandatory, really add an extra layer to the game!
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
I like LotR: The Confrontation, but I don’t love it, and as I rarely play 2 player games, it won’t hit the table too much as it must compete with great games like Summoner Wars, Commands & Colors: Ancients, 1960: The Making of the President etc. Yes, the gameplay does give you some sort of Stratego-vibe, but it’s much better than Stratego. The decisions you need to make are much deeper and there isn’t as much luck as in Stratego and LotR doesn’t rely as much on memory.
What I really like is that some units can kill other specific units, and the combat which is based on card play is very neat! The extra special cards really add something to the game as well. You need to outthink your opponent and sometimes bluff. Near the end of the game, though, the game becomes a bit “la-la” as you know which characters are left and probably where they are. Still, the way the game can end in different ways for the two teams is always something I enjoy. Good, but not great game.
The Castles of Burgundy: The 2nd Expansion. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
The black tiles are very powerful, the yellow less so. Especially the yellow turnorder tile is bad I think, at least in 2p and probably 3p. In a 4p it should be pretty good. The other yellow tile allows you to buy workers for silverlings which makes you more flexible. But it’s not particularly good in my opinion. On the other hand, the black tiles seem extremely strong, probably too strong – it gives the first player that round an advantage as they are almost guaranteed to be bought right away. As the park and the animals count as any type when placing them and for scoring purposes, they are simply much, much better than any of the other building (and to a degree animal) tiles.
Mogel Motte. Plays: 10. Rating: 7.
Unlike Kakerlakenpoker Royal, Mogel Motte is an excellent game. I absolutely love how you need to CHEAT in order to win! Throw away your cards under the table, hide them in your sleeves etc. without the person playing as the guard bug notices you! Except for this awesome mechanism and gameplay where you’re encouraged to cheat, the game itself is rather basic as you simply play a legal card on top of another card (a 4 on a 3 or 5, a 1 on a 2 or 5 etc). But man, the way that the winner is the first one to get rid of his/her cards mean that you have to cheat, and that’s brilliant and very entertaining.
Also, there are 5 special types of cards included which all do various things when playing them; everybody hates to see the ant card as they need to take an extra card, the spider is so annoying if you’re picked on as you get a card, the mosquito is a fantastic idea, and those moth cards are so annoying to have - as the only way to get rid of those is by cheating (unless you’re the guard bug)! The mosquito is a great idea as it adds a speed element to the game; you have to constantly be aware as if you’re the slowest you will get a penalty! The cockroach also adds a speed element, although that card is less fun than the mosquito. All in all I highly recommend Mogel Motte – it plays very quickly, it doesn’t take up much space on the shelf, it’s cheap, it supports a fair amount of players and most of all it’s fun!
Indigo. Plays: 5. Rating: 7.
I was told that Indigo was like an “advanced Tsuro”. My family likes Tsuro (they aren’t really gamers), so I figured it would be a good purchase. And I’m happy I was right. They all like it (though none of them love it), and it’s probably because of its simplicity and resemblance to Tsuro. But while it’s a very simple game, the decision about where to put your tile is never that easy… There is some strategy, but luck of the draw does play a big role. And while it’s not a super heavy game, it’s much, much heavier than Tsuro in my opinion, and it’s a much better game. It takes about the same amount of time to play (perhaps slightly longer), but the biggest disadvantage Indigo has on Tsuro is that Tsuro plays up to 8 while Indigo plas a maximum of 4. I think it’s a shame that you cannot play it with 6.
I like how you have to cooperate with some of the players in a 3 or 4 player game as it adds a semi-coop feeling when you’re trying to get the gems for “your team”, though you’re really trying to get as many for yourself as possible. The 2 player game is a whole different beast, but I like it as well.
Rokoko: Fancy Dress Promo. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
These promo tiles add a little extra to the game, but actually this “extra” is an increased amount of randomness. The reason is that especially the cloth tiles are much, much more powerful than those in the basic game. And this is a bad thing as they don’t cost anything extra to purchase, so whoever is lucky enough to be first in player order will likely grab those tiles. The other part of the game, though, the dresses, is a better promo. They are still very powerful as they give 5 points compared to a maximum of 4 in the basic game, so it becomes a no-brainer to get at least one of those and put it on the top row so the man/woman tile can see the firework at the end of the game and score 2-3 extra points. They do cost a blue cloth, which is the rarest, but they are still must-buys I think. So all in all I like half of the promo tiles, but for easier setup I just include everything. Just be aware that the cloth tiles are somewhat overpowered.
Mage Knight. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
Woah, this game is very complex and very long. As in very, very long (not compared to many wargames or “epic” games like Twiligt Imperium or Civilization, but compared to almost every other new game). At least that’s the case with “the long game”-version and 3 players. I think it’s much better with two as the third player doesn’t add too much to the game, and I would never try it with 4! The short game (2 days and 2 nights) works well and I’d probably prefer to play it that way going forward.
MK features some intriguing mechanics and LOTS of small rules which you are almost guaranteed to forget during your first couple of plays. But it’s quite satisfying nonetheless; it’s one of those “semi-epic” games because it’s so long. The overall exploration/moving/fighting/deckbuilding mechanics work well as far as I’m concerned. Sure, you might not draw a lot of “move” cards and be limited that way, or you don’t have enough attack cards to attack the creature you want etc. (which by the way is very neat as you can see its strength and abilities, so you can plan ahead, which you need to do in order to keep up the speed), but you can always use other cards for the attributes you need.
The deck-building element is cool, although it’s certainly not a hardcore deck building mechanism; you usually cannot really trash a lot of cards or recycle your deck quickly. Other cool features are the night and day; it doesn’t change the game fundamentally, but it still brings a nice flavor to the game. The sort of “level up” mechanic is also neat – I like that you gradually become stronger as you get room for more mercs and acquire extra cards with special abilities for your deck. The way you hire different mercenaries in different places (cities, keeps, towers etc.) is a good idea, although I once again have to mention those rules… There are a lot, and they mostly aren’t too troublesome, but there are so many of them, and I’m sure that you could have removed some of them in order to streamline it. Yes, the game wouldn’t be exactly the same, but I think it would be better and still feel “epic”.
The spells seem very strong, and I actually feel that they vary quite a bit in strength (not that they’re broken, not at all, but some are simply much better than others. I really like the spell which outright destroys a monster)… The many rules and how hard you need to plan your move in order to move and attack units etc. definitely make your head hurt, and it really sucks when you need to backtrack because you forgot something and cannot do what you wanted… This will happen a lot!
I understand those who claim that MK works as a solo game; I think I might try that one day, and I’m normally not a solo gamer at all. But I will never try it with 4, and even with 3 I think it’s rather boring (as is the coop variant), and because it takes so many hours to play I cannot justify to give it a higher rating; I won’t play it too much because of the fiddly rules and long play time.
Nations promos. Plays: 5. Rating: 6-7.
I’ve now tried all of the Nations promos, and I don’t think they are “need to have”, but “nice to have”. Some of them are very situational but can be very powerful. They mostly aren’t “just” new cards as some of them change the fundamental ideas of the game. Here, I’m thinking of Mechanical Turk in particular, which can be a very mean card to pass to an opponent! Tesla is very random and can have a big impact, but I don’t like that. Hagia Sophia gives you a ton of points, but you always need to stay focused and never get fewest military points (which means that it’s better with higher player counts). Kremlin can boost your stability too if you have most military, which means that this is better with lower player counts). The Grandu Duchy of Finland can be very strong in the end of the game if you need to pass later than another player, but it’s probably the most boring of the promos.
I always include the promos in the mix, so sometimes they show up and sometimes they don’t. When they do, they aren’t either immediately or never bought, because it all depends on the situation. This is a big plus for the usability and usefulness of the promos and something other publishers should notice.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition). Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
Yay, I finally got to play this dungeon crawler! I’m a hardcore eurogamer, but I’m also an “omnigamer”; I am willing to play every single game at least once. While eurogames are still by far my favorite genre, I also sort of enjoy light wargames and games which mix euroelements with ameritrash (such as, hm, Survive Escape from Atlantis, Eclipse, Claustrophobia, Kemet etc.) Descent is definitely a game in the ameritrash genre, and while I find it okay, it also showed me what I already knew; that eurogames are, in my personal book, the better games.
I don’t really care about the theme or storytelling elements in games, and I hate random dice rolls, so Descent already was at a disadvantage before I even tried it out! After my 2-3 plays of it (two scenarios, the second being divided into two), I must say that it was an enjoyable experience which I will play again if asked. I think the reason is that, despite the things I don’t like, there is sort of a puzzle to solve with your friends, just like there is in a coop game – and I love coops. It was good fun to cooperate with three other players against the dungeon master. Also, there was actually a fair bit of strategy involved and some euro-y elements. You take two actions out of 7-8 or so each turn and need to choose those which best handles the specific situation. I like how the scenarios evolve and your character evolves too and gets extra abilities etc. The various characters feel different due to their special powers and the items they carry.
Descent played very well with 4 heroes, and it played in a reasonable amount of time which is quite important to me – had the game taken 4 hours (like its predecessor) I am sure I would never play it again, but as our scenarios only took about 1-2 hours each, I’m definitely willing to play it again as long as I’m one of the heroes; I know I won’t enjoy the game as much if playing the dungeon master. All in all, Descent was a positive surprise and a game which, much to my surprise, I would play again a couple of times.
Medina. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.
Medina is a fine game which feels like it’s made by Knizia (which it isn’t). The reason is that the gameplay is very smooth and the scoring as well. I think the spatial element made the game interesting as well as when you decide to claim some of the buildings. The wall design is very clever too as is the small meeples you place and get points for (it’s cool that you can only build from both ends)! I liked that you could really obstruct and mess with the others in this game; it looks innocent, but it’s actually quite mean. It seemed that a player can get an advantage if he makes a trap pass, but in the end he didn’t win, so I guess it’s not really an advantage… We played with 4, and I would imagine that it’s extremely different (and better) than if we had played with 2.
Splendor. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
Having played it three times the first day I got it, which is highly unusual for me, I definitely understand why Splendor has been nominated for Spiel des Jahres! It’s such a good, light family game with a decent amount of strategy. People who say that there isn’t much strategy don’t understand the deeper layers in this game!
The simplicity of the gameplay is what makes the game shine: you can do one action on your turn out of four possible and extremely easy actions. Basically you collect gems to build cards which give you points and a discount on future cards. The first player to 15 (sort of) wins the game; the round is played to the end, but it usually doesn’t matter. The game starts out fairly slowly with players grabbing chips, but as you get more cards you also get bigger discounts, so the game speeds up and I think it ends exactly when it should after about half an hour.
The components are nice, but the box is oversized which I hate due to limited shelf space. My siblings don’t dislike this game which is something that says a lot… Sure, it’s not a heavy gamer’s game, but I think it is suited for gamers too in between bigger games. Definitely take a look, it’s a splendid game (sorry, I had to do it). It’s so simple yet strangely addicting – I know I am going to play it a lot more! It won’t be for anybody, but it was a hit for me.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition). Plays: 1. Rating: 7.
I finally got to play this game based on the very popular books and tv show. While the game isn’t as good as the show (yes, I know you cannot really compare those), it felt fairly thematic. It was actually a more euro-y game than I expected, which is definitely a plus. The game felt very tense and tight with 6 players (which I understand is by far the best number in this game), and while it was long, perhaps slightly too long, the pace was okay and the game didn’t bog down. It was probably slightly too long with 6, so I’m not sure how often I’m going to play it, but I’m definitely intrigued after my first play. It doesn’t hurt that I won as Stark as well!
I’m not a fan of blind bidding, and against experienced players it’s hard to know how much to bid on the three tracks (and the track which grants you better actions is fiercely contested!). I like that the board is fairly balanced with castles/strongholds spread out as well as barrels, the latter preventing you from building a huge army, which worked very well. The simultaneous action selection was, as that mechanic usually is, tense and hard to plan for, but it worked pretty smoothly. Your plans can always be messed up by the other players, and you always have to take into consideration the position of the other players. If they are involved in a battle somewhere else, they probably will place those battle markers there, but you’re never sure and might get ambushed… That’s great.
As Stark I was mainly in combat with two other houses and built up victory points, until I on the first turn of the last round rushed and got two castles in one move iirc. That felt pretty good, but if another player had been before me in the turnorder, he would have won. Overall the game was very tight although the Lannisters didn’t really stand a chance, which I understand is, unfortunately, the consensus here on BGG. Anyway, Game of Thrones is a great tv-show and a decent board game, although it’s slightly too long to get a great rating (but a 7 is a fairly good rating).
1960: The Making of the President. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
I tried this after Twilight Struggle and now prefer this. I rarely play 2p, but when I do, I would rather play this than TS as it’s much easier and faster to play. While the way you play cards for events or cubes is reminiscent of the gameplay of TS (and is something I’m fond of), and you do control some areas, the way you score points makes the game quite different: you play 8 rounds and tally up your points, and I think I prefer this to the VP track of TS. Also, there isn’t really any connection between the states in 1960 as opposed to the countries in TS, which has a big impact on the strategy.
Speaking of strategy and of winning the game, it does suck a little that NY/PA/CA have such a huge impact on who is winning. I’ve won all of my games, but if the balance had tipped in one of those states, the outcome would have been different in two of them. Yes, I know, it’s thematic, and you also fight a lot for those states as they are so important compared to e.g. Hawaii and the states in the West, but that just feels… odd. I don’t want to spend so much time fighting back and forth about a few key states! I know, if none of the players fight over them in the beginning, the game can open up a little, but it will always end with players trying to get control over those states, at least that has happened in my games. They just seem too important.
The issues is a good other way to spend your cubes, and while the endorsements and president markers are good, I don’t feel like they are overpowered at all as it’s not too hard to prevent the endorsements from getting your opponents a lot of points. I like that you can use your own markers for either following events or blocking your opponents from following events. The debate is a good idea and it can change the outcome of the game somewhat, though in the worst-case scenario you won’t lose too many cubes as you should be able to win at least one of the debates. Personally I feel like it’s better during the game to dump some very strong event cards (which your opponents could use) in the debate and then go for just winning one of the debates, but maybe that’s just me. I just know it’s worked every time so far with both candidates.
It’s clever that you can control a state if you have 4 dubes in it so your opponent needs to make checks unless they control the media in that region. However, these checks feel a little random… And it sucks so much to lose 2-1 when drawing the starting player each round as you will almost always be chosen to go first which is almost always a disadvantage. Yes, of course, your opponent does lose some cubes from the bag, but still. Also, it’s quite random at the end when you don’t know in which four states your opponents make check… This sucks quite a lot, especially because the bag can run out of cubes and then it’s just tough luck (I know about the refill).
But, anyway, I like the game a lot. I love that you’re forces to play cards which your opponent can follow (though you can prevent it if you have a couple of markers yourself), and it always feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle! It only takes a couple of hours to play, so while it isn’t as deep as Twilight Struggle, I’m going to play 1960 more.
Arkadia. Plays: 4. Rating: 7.
Arkadia is a fine but not spectacular game. It’s a classic eurogame with brownish components and a nearly non-existing theme – but that doesn’t matter to me at all. As long as the mechanics are fine, it’s all good. The gameplay is so simple as you either place a building on the board or place workers around buildings! If I didn’t know better I would have thought that it was designed by Knizia as the gameplay and scoring is so simple. You constantly manipulate the values of the various color buildings and try to cash in on them when they are worth the most – no easy feat as your opponents also try to do the same and you probably don’t collect the same values.
The spatial element of placing tetris-shaped buildings on the board is a whole other game in the game, and you need to place your workers in a clever way so they touch as many buildings as possible, but your opponents can once again thwart your plans.
The game doesn’t last long, about an hour, and if you’re sneaky you can actually end the game suddenly and catch your opponents off guard – it’s awesome when this happens! Arkadia is a simple game with easy rules and a simple scoring mechanism, but there is definitely a lot of strategy hiding beneath the surface in this game.
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
This deck-building game works well with all player counts (as I generally think most deckbuilders do, although the downtime is of course always an issue with 4 players). But I think there is much more luck involved in this game as opposed to other deck-building games like Dominion. The reason is that you never know which cards come out each round, so the hand you draw needs to match some good cards available in the play area. If there are lots of monsters available, and you don’t have a lot of attack cards, it really sucks… On the other hand I do like the different types of cards and the fact that you can build a strategy around some specific type of cards. However, in the end I feel the same way about this than Thunderstone; if I were to play a deck-building game, I would rather play Dominion. They take about the same time to play, but I think Dominion is the deeper game and allows some much cooler combos. Still, A:C is a fine game, it’s just not something I’m crazy about (but that is partly due to the fact that I’m not a huge fan of deck-building games).
Nauticus. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
I looove the “role selection” mechanic which can be found in Puerto Rico. In Nauticus it doesn’t work as well than in PR. You’re more at the mercy of which other roles the other players pick and especially in which way they are chosen! This is partly due to the fact that you only play 4-5 rounds and chose 7 out of 8 actions each round, so the order they are chosen means a lot. For instance if the sail action is chosen before the mast action, the sails need to be put into your inventory and such, and especially the action where you retrieve actions from your inventory is crucial and is extremely important in the last round. Of course, this problem is mitigated by the fact that you have a special one time use action where you can pick any action. But of course you’d rather use it on the point action (up to 15 extra points) or some other, and at least you just hope you don’t get to use it too early.
Besides the role selection, the interaction is limited. You’re sitting and puzzling with your own player board and build your own ships out of a couple of different ship parts and then you ship your own goods.
While I understand the decision from a game mechanic point of view, I’m not happy how the different actions change from round to round (i.e. where they are placed). It makes it so much harder to plan ahead when you don’t know where the stuff are going to be/cost/what kind of bonus you get for that action in the next round… And that’s a big problem I think. I’m especially thinking of whether a specific type of sail/mast is free or not! For instance, in my first game the sails I mostly went with (and for my 4-length ship) cost 0 in all of the 5 rounds, so in each of them the sails were put into my inventory, so later on I needed to use that action and workers to move them into my ship… And it seems as if it’s pretty important to complete a ship or two at the beginning so you can get a bonus and boost your infrastructure either with money or workers as there isn’t any income phase each round, or with crown masts/sails which are jokers and can give you points if you take a certain action.
Speaking of points, Nauticus features a very simplistic (which is positive in this regard) point system: you only get points from two things, ships and goods (and then converting various stuff at the end like gold into VPs). The best strategy seems to change depending on the number of players; with 2 players, it’s not too hard to grab a lot of similar goods and they net you a lot of points. That’s a little sad, but if everybody knows that, I guess it’s okay. Overall, Nauticus is a good but not great game.
Crokinole. Plays: 27. Rating: 7.
Crokinole is a game I’ve been intrigued about for years. I never got why people would pay a huge amount of money and why they would decorate their game room with this game board, but having played almost 30 rounds in April, I can see the potential. It really is strangely addictive, which my numerous plays testify!
I haven’t tried a lot of dexterity games (except for “speed games” which I’ve tried a bunch of), and while it’s certainly not my even close to my favorite gaming category, Crokinole was a big, positive surprise. While I won’t buy a board myself (it’s just too expensive and big), I would almost always play a round or two.
You can play to 100 points and all that, but in my opinion the strength of Crokinole is that you can play a round or two while you’re waiting for other players to finish their games, or if you have a few minutes to spare. I just record one game with the 2x12 discs as one play here on BGG, but to be honest the score doesn’t really matter too much in this game. It’s all about the quick fun! Oh, by the way, it’s a cool rule that once you’re sitting in your seat, you have to remain seated there with one cheek on the chair.
Summoner Wars: Fallen Kingdom - Second Summoner. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I honestly think that this faction, along with Vanguards second summoner, is the worst or at least one of the three worst. It’s not particular funny to play, and I hate the units and the event cards as they almost all seem to hurt your summoner! He will rather quickly gain wound markers which can make for a tough endgame or a death by a quick rush. I guess the common units are okay, but I don’t like the event cards at all. The base FK is also one of my least favorite factions. I guess I just don’t like to hurt my own summoner!
Jet Set. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.
I understand why some people claim it’s like Ticket to Ride and Airlines Europe, but I don’t think it’s very accurate. Sure there are route connections which you get points for, and each round is very easy as you only do 1 out of 5 possible actions, so in that sense it’s like Ticket to Ride. But Jet Set is much more focused on the economic aspect of your airline routes, and the economy is tight in this game. I like that you have an endgame secret mission card which can net you a lot of points, but you still need to build routes depending on the available cards. And if you don’t like the cards, you can pay for adding further cards (or speeding up the game as you can reveal more cards so the vacation cards show up earlier; when two of them are revealed, you can play your endgame card and rush the game-end before other players are done completing their missions and getting aircrafts on the board.
I haven’t played it with higher player counts, meaning that the interaction hasn’t been too big as we rarely put planes on each other’s routes as the board was too open. Would love to try it with 6.
Jamaica. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I too had high expectations after watching some video reviews here on the geek. However, I don’t think the game is that good, even considering it’s a light family game. It’s actually not so light as I had thought, at least during your first play. I’ve tried it with 3 and 6, and both numbers worked well, although I imagine the sweet spot would be 4 or 5. With 3, there isn’t as much tension and the battles are far between. With 6, the downtime is noticeable and bogs down an otherwise light game.
There is definitely room for clever gameplay, but at the end of the day, you’re rolling a lot of dice (although the two dice are used by everybody in the same round, which I like) and drawing cards randomly, so it’s hard to plan too much ahead, especially as you only have 3 cards available each round. Still, I’ve experienced some extremely clever play when players move forward and cannot pay the cost, and thereby moving back towards a pirate cove and gaining a treasure! These treasures can be worth a significant amount of points (I actually won one of my games when I had the two 7 point treasure tile although I also had the -3 point’er – but that did kind of rubbed me the wrong way as the runner-up was the one who ended in Port Royal with me far behind, and he even had a -4 point curse)… I think that the treasure deck is a brilliant idea, and all of the treasures are useful in their own ways, although some are definitely better than others.
I like that you need to pay food or coins in order to advancing around the island and be the first one to cross the line. Although you don’t necessarily win by crossing the line first, you do have an advantage, but if you’ve stacked up on a lot of gold you might win as well. Just be aware that the other players can attack you if they land in the same spot as you, and this can be quite a luckfest due to the die-roll. The production value is obviously astonishing and helps drawing your family in. It’s a nice light game that probably overstays its welcome with 6, but maybe that was in part due to the fact that we didn’t roll a single 6, so we moved forwards slowly. Definitely not a bad game.
Coal Baron. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.
The major thing I dislike about Coal Baron is the memorization aspect regarding the points: how many points you score feels a little random as you need to remember what type of cards (goods, wagon) the other players have played… Sure, it’s not “random” in its purest form, but I heavily dislike the memory aspect and there is no doubt it will favor some players. Also, another thing I disliked was how important the last scoring seemed to be, i.e. the empty wagons – further plays will tell.
Now for the good parts: the lift mechanic is very unique (although not quite the “pick up and deliver” mechanic which it states on BGG). It is also a clever idea that the price of the actions increase once players have put meeples on them; you can still get the same action, but it will cost you additional meeples. And, of course, the whole thing about getting the right coal wagons and the right means of transport etc. was what made the game interesting. Although I have to say that the way you need to balance your coal wagons (regarding the light) seemed like an afterthought – it was okay, but not really an element in the game which could not be left out. It did mean that you had to think a lot more to get the right wagons, and you could probably block even more with them which is always something I like.
The game is quite fast with 4 - it took about an hour with 4 new players which is very positive. It’s not a game I need to own, though; it’s not a bad game, but yet one of those fairly good games which gets a rating of 6-7. Nothing spectacular, but I would play it from time to time.
Takenoko. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I was surprised that I actually liked Takenoko as much as I did as it’s a very light game. And I doubt I would play it more than 5 times, but still, it was an enjoyable experience. Granted, I’ve only played it with 2 players, which I’m pretty sure is the most strategic player number; at least that was what I saw in my game in which I could plan quite a bit as I knew only one other played could change the situation on the board before it’s my turn again (but that can be said about most games). I would guess it’s a little more loose with 3 while 4 is probably too chaotic and hard to plan ahead.
There is a sizable amount of luck in Takenoko – it is a light family game after all. For instance, you roll a dice at the beginning of your turn, and it’s so much better to roll the ? and the extra action (almost always)… And then there are the random terrain tile draws and especially the card draws.
The latter did actually decide my last game; I used my last action to draw a terrain objective card which I couldn’t solve. My opponent also used his last turn to draw a terrain card; a card which we could obviously both solve, but he did and got 3 points for that... I ended the game, but that meant that my opponent got an extra turn (compared to me) in which he luckily drew that card and ended up winning by 1 point! That rubbed me the wrong way. But hey, it’s not a ”gamer’s game”, it’s a light family game which has a cute theme, good components and is visually appealing, and I would definitely recommend people with kids picking it up! Also, I always love game which feature “secret objectives” so you plan your actions around some missions which only you can accomplish.
American Rails. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.
We were all new to this game, so we probably made a lot of mistakes (not rule-wise, but in terms of decisions…). In our game the player who won was the player who actually got his “own” company up and running almost all by himself. He splashed a lot of cash into the company and didn’t do much else. That did seem a little weird as I had expected that you needed to cooperate much more and that you would need to buy and sell stocks all the time. Again, maybe it was just us, but he did win fairly convincingly, so…
The turnorder mechanic where you go first based on how high on the track the action you selected the previously round is, is pretty good. You are forced to make some tough decisions; do you want good actions now or do you take some worse actions but then go before other players in the turn order (which can be crucial).
I think it was maybe a little weird when you offer a stock; for instance, there were to stocks in a green and a blue company, and I chose to offer (and eventually win) the blue company, which meant that the player in the blue company got fewer points throughout the game because the revenue now had to be split, whereas the player in the green company got all the points for himselv. Yes, I know that the money I put into the blue company could then be spent on laying rails and improve the company, but it still felt a little weird to me that you could sort of choose who to punish. Maybe it will change in my next play – I’m sure I’m going to try it again, and I’m also more hooked on getting my own Chicago Express to the table. Still, American Rails didn’t chance my mind on train games in general: I’m just not that into them.
Peloponnes. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
I absolutely love the way you score points; you need to balance your points as it’s the lowest of the two which constitutes your final score! This is a genius mechanism also known from Tigris & Euphrates, Ingenious etc. This is truly what makes the game interesting. The betting is also cool as you can screw each other a lot, so you need to be careful. I also very much enjoy the penalties of the disasters; I love when the game actively works against you and tries to whoop your ass (like the feeding in Agricola, the events in In the Year of the Dragon etc.)! I’ve only played it twice, with 2 and 5 players, and I actually think the game would work best with either 3 or 4… But it still worked well, although 2p was a little too loose and the bidding not particularly interesting. On the other hand, though, I do like the tiles which are available if you go on a conquest (at an increased price!), which aren’t part of the game when playing 5p. I don’t think the game will rise dramatically in my rating, because it’s just not a great game. Still, it’s quite good and I would usually be willing to play it.
Glass Road. Plays: 4. Rating: 7.
I love Uwe’s games - Agricola being my favorite game of all time. This one is much lighter than many of his other “big” games, but it’s actually quite good, especially considering how short it is. Actually, the first time I played it I thought we played it wrong (which we did not) because it was over in like 30 minutes. This obviously also means that you don’t really get to do a whole lot in the game, but it works just fine as a short, light game.
The gears and how you produce resources is a neat mechanic just like the three types of buildings (instant ressources, conversion buildings and end game buildings). But there is no doubt that the greatest feature of Glass Road is the card mechanic itself! GR rewards you for choosing cards which the other players are going to play and for playing cards yourself which they haven’t chosen… So you really need to evaluate the situation of each player and try to outthink them (which also creates some subtle player interaction)! Because if you play a card nobody else has chosen, you get both of the actions on the cards. And if you can match one of their cards, you both get to do just one of the actions. This of course means that it’s crucial to pick the right cards. Some might think it’s random which player chooses which cards, but I highly disagree – it’s most certainly possible to estimate which cards other players are likely to play (if he doesn’t have any type of one resource he might play that, or if he has a lot of lakes he might play the card which gives him x number of sand or water for the number of lakes etc).
The downtime is minimal because the game is so fast and because you choose cards simultaneously. I’ve tried it with 2,3 and 4, and while 2 player works a little differently, all player counts work well. Some minor niggles are that it can be a little hard to choose cards and which resources you need to produce glass and bricks. And when you have one of each resource, the wheel turns which might not be what you wanted, but it can happen if another player plays a card. You can also get a little screwed if another player plays (especially) a building card before you wanted to because you don’t have the resources at that time, or you thought you would get both actions etc, but that’s pretty cool.
The buildings themselves aren’t that interesting. Those that convert aren’t used too often I find as they don’t provide any points, and as the game is over so quickly they rarely get used a lot. Those that grant an instant bonus, well, they just provide you with an immediate bonus and then they’re worth nothing afterwards (except for the points of course). The end game buildings are very important and help you shape your strategy, so it’s a pain in the ass when another player grabs the building you had your eyes on! I think it was a little weird that there were so few buildings available and that so rather few new buildings came out each round. But all in all GR is a good, although not great, game.
Rialto. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
Rialto is a pretty neat area majority game set in Venice (San Marco, anyone?!). However, the area majority part of the game is actually the “worst” thing about the game, which is kind of weird and a little sad… The main reason is that it’s extremely difficult to get new tokens into city areas where the doge has already visited! So, you kind of play 6 rounds, and in each round you need to some pieces into that current city area as it’s going to be very hard to do later. You need a gondola, but then you’ll only get a single token into that district which hardly ever wins anything except for maybe a few points if you’re lucky. It felt (…) as if it wasn’t a real area majority game, but that the area majority only gave you some points at the end of the game (in our game probably about half of the points we got throughout the game).
What makes Rialto a good game is the card mechanic! I love how some bunches of cards are available at the start of the round and then you pick a row in player order (but still draws some randomly so you never know exactly which cards your opponents have; which is necessary as you get a bonus for playing the majority of cards each round). I like that the cards are played in phases and that you start the next phase if you win the previous one (i.e. get the bonus). This means that you rarely win a lot of phases in a row as you need to say how many cards you want to play before the next player decides etc., and you can (perhaps) keep a few cards for the next round in order to do better then. In general, the limited amount of cards you get each round means that you have to focus on a few major things each round – you can never do everything you want, which is always something I love in games as it’s frustrating in a good way!
The buildings are very cool, although we feel that some of the buildings are certainly better than others. Maybe it’s groupthink, but judging by what other people think, it seems we’re not in the minority… Still, all of the buildings have their uses in different circumstances and I always love when players can do something which other players can’t (well, some other players can’t as there are more of the same type of building. Also, I like the idea that you can upgrade your buildings to better ones!
It works as a 3p game but is more interesting with 4 players. I haven’t tried 5, but I would expect it to work quite well (probably best?). The downtime isn’t as problematic as some say; it’s mostly in the beginning of each round when you choose your cards that you need to think a lot. All in all it’s a good but not great game.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar - Tribes & Prohphecies. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.
Tzolk’in is one of my favorite games and my younger brother’s favorite game, so naturally I had to get this expansion. Having only tried it once, and with all of the modules combined, my first hand impression is that the expansion doesn’t improve on the base game. It’s good, but not great and I don’t think I’m always going to include it in my games of Tzolk’in.
I’m a fan of expansions which have several modules so you can mix and match as you see fit! This expansion adds tribes, prophecies, quick actions, a 5th player etc., and they all work well; they add a little something without changing the base game radically. In my play I included all of the modules except for the 5th player; and I’m unlikely to ever play Tzolk’in with 5, as I actually think I enjoy it most with 2 and 3 due to the minimized downtime and the increased strategic perspective (you’re able to plan more ahead with less players as you always know where the dummy players are). Speaking of planning ahead, you really need to do so much more in this expansion because of the prophecies! This is because they make certain actions more expansive during parts of the game and punish you by deduction points from your total if you have few or none of the specific items (but rewards you with points if you’ve managed to get a lot of the specific items after the prophecy). Furthermore, the quick actions also change quickly and are only available for a few rounds, and both things combine to make the game featuring a little more analysis paralysis.
The tribes add a lot of variety, but I honestly don’t think they’re all balanced. Yes, I’ve only played the game once, so I’ve not seen all of them in play, but just by judging them by their text it seems as if some of the tribes are more powerful than others. This luck of the draw regarding your starting tribe is of course mitigated by the fact that you draw two and keep one of them, but in my game I got two really bad tribes (imho).
The new monuments are cool and add variety which is always something I’m fond of. The new buildings add a new mechanics as you can “overbuild” them (forgot the gameplay term) later in the game, meaning you will get a discount on your future buildings if you return the first buildings.
All in all the expansion is neat, but I wouldn’t want to play with it all the time. I guess that the prophecies will see the most plays, the quick action tiles minimal play as they are fiddly without adding a lot, and the 5th player no plays.
Targi. Plays: 4. Rating: 6.5.
Targi finally got reprinted so I grabbed a copy having heard a lot of good things about the game. However, I don’t think the praise was justified; while it’s a good 2p game, it’s not fantastic. The gameplay is perhaps slightly too simple for my taste. The great thing about the game is how you position your 3 meeples each round, giving you various resources (and using those resources to get buildings, which give you special powers and victory points). It’s so awesome when you place a meeple which blocks and therefore hurts your opponent badly!
The game can end in two ways, which is always a plus; you don’t just play x number of rounds as the game can end prematurely. This makes it a race for getting that 12th card. I very much enjoyed how you need to arrange those buildings as you acquire them as you get a rather big bonus for getting a lot of the same kind. Also, the fact that the buildings all have special powers is great – more variety always is. Good, but not great 2 player game. I still prefer Agricola ACBAS and will suggest that if playing a short 2p eurogame.
Bang: The Dice Game. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
This was actually a quite nice filler – and definitely better than the original Bang. Sure, the secret teams don’t really work well as it’s pretty obvious early on who is on what team, but it doesn’t matter too much. It’s a fast and funny game in which every player can win despite the odds due to the dice rolls. I think in my first game the sheriff got like 5 arrows and was heavily wounded and killed soon after… I like the “push your luck” mechanism concerning when and which dice to reroll as you can get punished if having too many arrows or dynamite. Pretty good filler as it’s relatively fast yet still have some room for decision-making. And it’s one of those few filler games in which you’re actually attacking each other (so it’s very unlike my favorite fillers No Thanks/For Sale etc.), meaning trash talk is bound to happen!
Sentinels of the Multiverse. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
SotM is a neat and different coop. You are all fighting as superheroes against a super villain. What is unique is that each player has his or her own deck of cards, so it feels different than many other coops. The alpha player syndrome is mitigated somewhat due to the fact that you control your own deck and make your own decisions based on that (though you obviously still need to talk about what to do).
Speaking of the decks, there are a bunch of them, and they all feel different, at least those I tried. The villains are also very different!
I played it two times with rather experienced SotM players and one time with most of the players new to the game, but no matter what we won our games fairly convincingly. I want my coop games to be very hard so you lose most of the times and want to go back and try to do better, but SotM doesn’t feel particularly hard which is a shame as it means that I probably won’t play it too often.
Can’t Stop. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
I finally got to play this classic, and it’s actually quite a good game for what it is – a push your luck type of game. I like Incan Gold with the right crowd i.e. not serious gamers, but family/friends/kids who enjoy the push your luck element of the game. Can’t Stop is similar in that way and it’s certainly one of the best PYL-games I’ve ever tried. It wen’t over really well with some kids; while they just played on initially and took some huge risks, they quickly understood that you also need to stop at some critical times… But you want to play juuust one more round before stopping! There is a nice layer of strategy (not much; it’s a game driven by luck after all) because you need to take the odds and probability of the dice into account. Will you go for the 6-7-8’s which you need to roll a lot of, but are also more likely, or do you take a chance by moving the 2 or 12? I also really like the race element in the game; if you get to the top in a row, nobody else can use that row! This make the game even more tense, and I like that the game ends immediately when the eventual winner gets 3 cones to the top/finish. Although it might take slightly too long with 4, but that’s really a minor complaint and I would happily play it with kids and family from time to time.
Jungle Speed Safari. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.5.
The concept of this version of Jungle Speed is still to be the fastest– essentially, speedy reflexes will win you the game. However, unlike in Jungle Speed where you turn over cards and grab a single totem if two pictures match, Jungle Speed Safari offers more variety: you must imitate animals, you must hit another player’s card stack, you must grab one of five totems when a specific animal is showing and such. Therefore, it’s a very different speed game than the original Jungle Speed. I’m not sure it’s better for me, but it’s probably a better game for children.
Ring L Ding. Plays: 7. Rating: 6.5.
Hah, this is a really silly game! If you like speed games or have smaller children, you might want to pick this up. The concept and goal of the game is very easy to understand: you flip a card which shows a number of hair elastics in various colors, and these are all attached to a hand in a certain way, as in for instance an orange over both your middle- and ring finger and a blue spanning across your pinkie, ring finger and middle finger. There are a ton of elastic hairbands laying on the board, and you need to grab those as fast as possible, attach them in the correct way on your fingers, and then smack the clock faster than any other. If you’re correct, you win the card (you can play a couple of rounds or until all are gone).
It’s nothing like Jungle Speed and those kinds of games, but it’s still good fun with younger kids. However, as in most speed games, the problem is that one or two players can be much, much better than the others, and then the game become a little boring. But fear not. There is a variant which relies on the memory aspect; you get to see the card for 5 seconds, but then it’s removed. You still need to be the fastest, but it’s much harder now that you have to remember in which order you should put the hair elastics on your fingers!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Plays: 18. Rating: 6.5.
While I’m not a fan of One Night Werewolf, I actually like ONUW quite a lot. There are many more roles, and they are all very interesting. You can mix and match and play with a lot of special power roles, and I always like the customization in a game. Whereas ONW felt random and boring and without any real possibility of deducing, I’ve found that there is actually quite a lot to be deduced in ONUW despite the fact that it only lasts for one night. However, one night doesn’t equal 2-5 minutes, it’s more like 10 in my main group as we tend to try to talk and deduce… Which also means that the werewolves actually lose most of the times! With skilled players, roles like robber and especially troublemaker become very important and can cause great havoc. I haven’t tried each and every one of the roles (think I only need to try out the tanner), and while some work better than others, they are all quite useful. And even if you have a bad/boring role, you can always claim to be somebody else and see what happens…
Sure, sometimes you can get unlucky and have no chance to win (and not even by a fault of your own, but if somebody has switched your role), but that’s the name of the game. It’s so short that you can always just play again! One problem I have with the game is that, with lower player counts, there is a chance for the troublemaker to switch a werewolf and a good guy. When the troublemaker says that, it’s often very hard for the new unawaring werewolf to win… But besides that it’s a good social game.
Oh, and the “lone wolf” optional rule should be the standard rule. Use it!
Uluru. Plays: 6. Rating: 6.5.
This is an enjoyably puzzly game which my wife likes (she loves puzzle-y games like Factory Fun, Enigma, Ricochet Robots, Mutant Meeples etc.) The time element is what makes the game interesting as you need to think quick and get an overview of all the cards. You basically all play and resolve the puzzle by yourself, so the interaction is non-existing. You place birds onto spaces on your private board, but do so while abiding the rules of each animal; for instance the green bird wants to sit next to the blue, while the yellow wants to sit across the blue bird but not on one of the sides, while the black doesn’t want to sit next to the yellow, while the orange wants the opposite of what the blue wants etc.! It’s quite engaging.
I think it’s pretty clever that you can adjust the difficulty (due to the various cards), and that you can place TWO rule cards for each bird – which makes the game extremely hard! It’s too bad that some rules contradict each other sometimes, so you cannot avoid any penalty points, but it’s okay. Cool and quite unique speed/puzzle game.
Blue Moon. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
To me, Blue Moon is a somewhat casual 2 player game. It’s not as casual as Lost Cities of course, but it’s no Summoner Wars either. It just feels relaxing when playing as the gameplay and rules are so simple (it is a Knizia game, so it’s no wonder). I like the “push back and forth” mechanism of trying to get the dragons over to your side. The base game with its two decks is neat and they feel very different to play, and the mutant is a card which can screw your opponent’s plan. I really like the support cards and how you play those along with the power cards for your character cards. The way you choose to lead a round with fire or earth, and the fact that you can always retreat and give up the round if you don’t think you’ll win it is pretty cool as is how the game can end in two ways and that there is a (albeit slight) chance to win instantly.
If I didn’t own a game like Summoner Wars I would probably buy some more factions and play Blue Moon more. My wife and a friend both like the game, but none of them love it. The same goes for me. And I don’t really see the point of owning a game which people won’t actively suggest playing, so off it went. But it is a neat game to be sure, and I actually do consider to buy the new version as you get 9 different factions…
Francis Drake. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.5.
This game got a lot of hype, and initial thoughts on the gameplay sounded good, so when I got a chance to play it, I took it. I ended up playing it twice, and to be honest I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t get to play it again. Why? Mainly because the gameplay is too simplistic and the game feels very similar when playing the three rounds the game takes… There is almost no difference between the rounds, so I have to admit that I am a little underwhelmed. Nice production quality doesn’t equal a good game, and it doesn’t make up for a lack of good gameplay mechanics…
I do like the first part of the game where you choose the stuff you need for the second phase. The Egizia-mechanism where you cannot go back once you’ve taken an action further ahead is brilliant in my opinion. I like how you need to stack up on various resources which then determine if you’re going for cities, galleons, forts, trade goods or a bit of everything. And, of course, almost of highest importance, how far your ships are able to move! This is a pretty neat mechanic; you need between 1 and 4 barrels in order for your ship to be able to move to region 1, 2, 3 or 4. The special character cards are also a big deal in the game as they give you the power of doing various things, and some of them are really strong. But, alas, after this exciting first phase in the first round, the second phase begins which is definitely more boring and random.
In this phase you place your tokens face-down and hope that you’ll not get screwed. But that you will be… In one of our games it happened quite a lot, and it sucks so much if you place the same token but is later in turnorder (I know you can somewhat plan for this in phase 1, but still). Honestly it’s a little lame that you can be screwed if you happen to lose to the tie-breaker (the order in which your ship is ready for the voyage); the first player will then get, i.e., 1 point + a gold = 5 points, while the latter player gets 1 point = 5 times less… This just rubs me the wrong way! You can “bluff” about where to put your discs, but there is no way to tell, and I think the randomness kills the first phase for me. You spend a lot of time doing something, and then you can get blocked big time.
Besides the gameplay, the components are beautiful. The glass tokens, the treasure chests, the plastic ships etc., but on the other hand it’s weird that they chose to make about half of the items awesome and the rest generic cubes… Cubes in various colors symbolize crew, cannons and trade goods, while barrels are, well, big plastic barrels which look very weird sitting next to your bunch of cubes... Odd.
I played with 4 and 5 players and liked 5 the best. 4 is okay too, and I definitely think 3 would be too boring as there would be no tense competition and fight over the spots on the track as well as where you place your secret tokens.
But, really, my main criticism towards Francis Drake is that it feels boring after the second round when you have to do it all over for the third time and that the second phase is a little too random and tthat you can be screwed too much.
Taboo. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.
This is a party game in which you need to explain a word to your time – without mentioning the word or any words from a list (for instance, if you need to explain The Statue of Liberty, you cannot use words like freedom, New York, statue, liberty etc). I do like wordpartygames, but it’s always sad when something doesn’t quite work. In this case, disputes can happen very easily when some players claim that they are allowed to use an abbreviation or some other word etc. and the other team disputes this… It hasn’t been a huge issue so far, but what has is the fact that the rules state that you cannot gesticulate. However, most of the players still do this even though I’ve told them a million times, so we kind of skipped that single rule… Fortunately, the game doesn’t become any worse, though personally I think it’s what makes the game even more fun and challenging.
I own a Danish copy which is great; the game is very language dependent especially as you cannot mention a list of words which are printed on the cards, which would be hard for some if they were in a foreign language. It’s a nice party game, but I’ve tried a lot of better one; Telestrations is a lot more fun, and if you want wordgames, Alias is the best in my opinion (and A-Z (or A-Å in Danish) is a good alternative).
Lost Cities. Plays: 8. Rating: 6.
Lost Cities is nothing like Battle Line in my opinion! Well, “nothing like” is probably too strongly worded, but I had always been under the impression that those two games are very similar. The way you need to play cards in order to get points are very different I think. In BL there is much more interaction as you compete directly against each other in order to win flag. There are also the tactic cards which have a big impact on the gameplay. Finally, you build pokerhands in BL, whereas you simply play cards from 1 to 10 in LC… In LC the interaction is very limited (except when you’re discarding cards face-up in the middle, as you need to keep a close eye on which cards the other player can use – this is a great feature). LC is a much more casual and easy-going game, so I honestly don’t think the games have too much in common, and I don’t think you’ll necessarily like one if you like the other.
To me, LC is the better game as I feel it’s a little more relaxing and without too many hard decisions. It’s better suited for non-gamers or casual play. The time to play feels just about right. Sure, there is the luck of the draw; if you get a couple of the hand multipliers and some high cards in the same suit, you’ll have a big advantage, but that’s why you play three games and compare scores. And despite the luck of the draw there is still room for clever play: when to discard which cards, how many expeditions to start (as you lose points if you start a mission that fails to reach 20+ points, which is probably the best thing about the game).
Amerigo. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
I’m not a huge fan of Feld’s games. It’s not like they are really bad, because they aren’t, but they also aren’t very good (except for a few like Castles of Burgundy). Amerigo is no exception, although I think it’s much closer to falling into the “really bad” area… There are several reasons for this, but they two main reasons are that it’s too long and that the cuber tower doesn’t work.
Now, it’s not “too long” in the sense that it takes hours to play. It takes about 90 minutes or so. But it’s too long because I would dare say that the two last rounds, or at least the last round, could easily be totally left out, and that the game would be better if doing so. The reason is that a lot of the different actions aren’t useful at this point in the game. It’s not just something I experienced in all of my own games, I’ve also heard it from other people. For instance we didn’t use the sailing action halfway through the games as we had already colonized most of the islands with trading posts, so other actions would grant more points. Or in the last round we had built all of our buildings on the islands, which again meant that the green and red actions were useless… And most of the special chits which grant you bonuses throughout the game were also useless. Honestly, to me, that’s a somewhat sloppy game design…
Also, the cube tower. It doesn’t work in the way I (and many others!) think it “should”; it often spits out too many actions/cubes, and often only in the color you just threw into the tower… This makes for a pretty boring game when you don’t have a bunch of different actions to choose from. Yes, you can grab some coins, but that’s honestly not that effective…
It also felt a little weird that you would get an extreme amount of points if you’re completing the islands asap; for instance 15 points in the first round vs. 3 to do it in the last round if it’s an island with just 2 trading posts, and the problem is even more exposed with more trading posts. I know it’s a balance issue, but it didn’t feel very balanced to me (Burgundy is a good example of a game which manages to do it in a good way).
What I do like about Amerigo, and the reason why I wouldn’t totally object to play it again, is that while you’re doing your own thing, you still need to see what the others are doing, need to watch out for turn order and the fact that you can block the other players when building. The building aspect is a great thing about the game; I’m always a sucker for spatial elements in games, and when you can block your opponents by doing so, I’m thrilled! However, in the end, the negatives outweigh the positives. It’s a classic Feld point salad game in which you get points for doing everything, so you’re never quite sure if¬¬¬ you played well or what you did that made you win the game… To be honest, this game is more like a shit sandwich than a point salad.
Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
I don’t care what some people say – Tash-Kalar is an extremely abstract game! I’m certainly not a sucker for theme or nice components, but boy did it feel abstract to place your small discs in a so that you could summon a unit in order to complete a task… Seriously, the theme is paper-thin, and I honestly think Chess has more theme. Oh well, as said, I don’t really care, but I just wanted to state my opinion on this matter as it has been discussed a lot. Onto the game itself:
Now, I’ve only tried it with 2 player, and while I wouldn’t mind trying it once with 4, I definitely think it’s better (and should probably only be played like this?) with 2, just like Summoner Wars etc.
In the game you’re placing discs to form patterns which match your cards; you do it to destroy the other player’s pieces and in order to complete tasks if playing this version of the game (which I would recommend). It’s very, very easy to thwart your opponent’s plan – even without realizing it, but simply by sheer luck (as you didn’t know which pattern your opponent was trying to form)! I definitely don’t like this as it means that you cannot make longterm plans but have to resort to shortterm plans and tactical moves instead of following a big overall strategic arch. Also it just sucks to have your plans destroyed by a lucky shot from your opponent… Oh, and I’d also like to say that the fact that the pattern on the cards can be rotated, flipped or even be a mirror image makes the game bog down as you need to visualize every option!
It’s cool that the game can end in various ways, but I have to say that the number of cards you get to play can vary a LOT! One of my plays ended when my opponent’s deck was empty while I still had 9 cards left simply because I couldn’t summon as much as him during the game… That’s pretty crazy. And this again shows how rather random it can be whether you get to summon units or not; you can set yourself up, but your opponent might ruin your plans without even knowing. Is this a sign of a good game? No. Still, the advanced version of the game (which I would definitely recommend although it’s slightly more complicated), the one where you compete for some shared goal cards and score points, seems to be pretty even. Part of it is probably because of the flare cards which help you catch up.
On the other hand, the 2p death match is awful! As soon as one player gets a small advantage, he will continue to be in the lead. At least that’s my experience and as far as I understand here on BGG that’s the same experience some of you have too. Maybe my buddy and I are just bad at this game and let this happen, but we really can’t see how the game should be close most times when playing the death match version of the game… It’s like a snowballing effect in which the rich player gets richer and spawns more units and controls the board whereas the other player uses his two actions to deploy units without being able to actually summon the creatures… However, to be “fair”, the losing player might still get lucky and be able to summon a guy because the winning player has no idea how the other player’s cards are shaped, so it’s pretty hard to block…
Twilight Struggle. Plays: 4. Rating: 6.
A rating of 6, you say?! Burn the heretic! Well, hear me out. TS is a fine game, it’s just too long and involved for me. To be fair, I have to state up front that I have played this four times, and only one of them ended after all 10 rounds. So while I’ve played this four times and have a fairly good insight in this game (yes yes, I know, it’s nothing like having played this game hundreds of times and know all the cards, but it’s better than having played it just once, and if you know me, you’ll know that I rarely play a game a lot in a short time frame), I have only once experienced the “full” game going all 10 rounds. But I have to say that I’m quite pleased with that as my first three plays all took 2-4 hours iirc, and the one which went all 10 rounds took 4½ hours, so with extra rounds it is way too long for me to really enjoy. And the playing time is part of what’s keeping me away from exploring the depth of this game more. It’s just too long for me compared to other games I would much rather play. Gaming time is a scarce commodity, so I have to choose which games I want to play, and a game I’ve rated a 6 will not get to the table a lot…
Usually I enjoy the games in the top 100 quite a bit, but there are some big exceptions. To name a few, Android Netrunner, Pathfinder, Eldritch Horror have all received low ratings by me, much lower than TS. I think TS is a good game and achieves what it sets out to do, but to me it’s nowhere near the best game on the BGG. But, to be fair, TS is only the number one game because so few (comparatively) have rated it; those who have played and rated it have played it because they already knew they wouldn’t hate it. At least the majority. Most are probably drawn into it by the theme, which works quite nicely due to the tons of cards with flavor text and real events, and most who sit down to play this 2 player game will therefore probably like it (compared to the next couple of games in the top100). Oh well, I don’t really care about this, I just wanted to say that I think TS is ranked artificially high as it won’t get as many ratings and plays as for instance Puerto Rico which will be tried and hated by a lot of gamers.
I think in order to really enjoy TS, you need to be interested in the theme and be willing to spend a lot of time learning the cards! In my first game I placed some cubes in Egypt only to have them removed by an event… And I did this in a couple of other countries only to have them removed by events I didn’t know existed! This lesson cost me dearly, but I was prepared for this during my next game which I won handily. I lost my last game. Whether I win or lose doesn’t really matter, but it does matter if I didn’t really stand a chance because I didn’t know that such cards could appear. Yes, I could have read the cards beforehand, but that’s exactly the problem; I don’t have time to do that, especially not for such a long game.
Now, onto the game itself. As I’ve only played it four times, and only one of them went all 10 rounds, I certainly don’t claim to be an expert! I’ll just state what I thought about the game after having spent 12+ hours on it. First of all I enjoyed the mix of wargame and eurogame. There is a lot of “in your face” actions going on due to the events on the cards and the coup actions etc., and that’s something I really dig. I’m not a wargamer, but have played some of the “light” wargames which aren’t really full-scaled wargames (TS, C&C, Battlelore, 2deMayo). I think it’s a genre that I’m going to explore more in the feature, but for now I’m a fullblooded eurogamer, and this is why I fancy the area majority/control scoring throughout the game. You can get a ton of points if you’re playing a scoring card at the right time, and it’s tense when you don’t know when a scoring will occur! The way you play your cards for action points or for the events and that the other player can benefit from an event is really a great idea and helps minimizing the luck of the draw, though luck certainly still plays a part considering the random draw of the cards and the random die rolls when attempting a coup etc.
The space race track is a neat idea too as you can play a card which benefits your opponent too much. However… I have to say that the space track also introduces a huge randomness to the game. A randomness which cannot be mitigated and is 100 % based on the roll of a die… And, to me, that’s really unacceptable! At least for a game which lasts this long and otherwise leave your brain burning when you’re trying to figure out which card to play and whether to use it as an event or not. I lost my one game which lasted all 10 rounds by 2 points – but my opponent almost didn’t miss a roll on the space track and got a total of 7 points on me because of this… And he also got some huge advantages! This really, really, really rubbed me the wrong way, because what if it had been the other way around? I cannot see how I wouldn’t have won in that case, so did it really just come down to a roll of the dice on the space track? That kind of sucks… I know that there are cards which let you catch up, but it’s hard to do so if your opponent draws those few cards… I know there is also randomness in the card draws and in the coup attempts etc., but the outcome of the space race track is something I whined and still whine about!
All in all, I just think that you need to invest too much time in TS in order for it to really shine, and even if you do, the game is going to run too long for my taste. The whole system is quite good, though, and I actually enjoy 1960: The Making of the President quite a bit which TS is often compared to. 1960 is more accessible due to its easier rules and gameplay and shorter play time (but to be fair I personally don’t think the game mechanics have that many similarities). I will definitely play TS again and hopefully explore all 10 rounds, but if I had the choice I would probably always prefer to play 1960. And, luckily, I do have a choice. So for now Twilight Struggle will only get a rating of 6.
Ticket to Ride: Germany. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
TtR Deutschland is almost the same version as Märklin. The primary difference is the lack of the passenger mechanic, which makes this version easier to understand and play. Some of the tickets have also been changed, but basically the maps are identical. It’s a nice map, but to be honest I would rather play Märklin or many of the other TtR maps. It’s not a bad map, not at all, but it doesn’t add anything new – and if an expansion is going to stay in my collection, it has to… I would play it again, no doubt about it, but it’s not an awesome expansion.
The map is almost divided into two; there are the color-coordinated, long routes in the East and the grey, short routes in the western part of the map. This works nicely in Märklin because of the passengers, but I don’t think it’s extremely well balanced in this map. I know the ticket distribution is also skewed in order to balance it, so I’m not saying it’s imbalanced.
The best thing about this edition is that you can draw tickets from two different stacks; one of the stack features shorter routes and the other some longer routes, so it’s easier to control what kind of tickets you get. At least in theory… Because it doesn’t really work when most of the tickets are between 8-13 points anyway…
Airlines Europe. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
AE is an okay game which is a level above Ticket to Ride, so it’s not really a gateway game which I thought it would be. The problem is that I think there are too many games which fill this niche. Of course, this doesn’t automatically make AE a bad game, but it simply doesn’t keep my interest… And if I play with other ”gamers”, we play something heavier, and if I play it with non-gamers I would much rather play Ticket to Ride or fillers or something like that (although AE could be used – it’s not that complex). I’ve only played it twice, both with 4, but the board seemed way too open, so it’s probably better with 5.
The eventual winner in both games went with a strategy of doing a little bit of everything, which meant the two winners got quite a lot of points from various companies; only a first place in one or maybe two companies, but then a lot of secondary placements. It’s also easy to be too attached to the Air Abacus company; it’s a nice source of points, but just be aware that it comes at the cost of investing in other companies, and it takes more turns to invest in Air Abacus. The route building didn’t work the way I had hoped, and the game emphasizes stocks too much, so, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a good game.
Kingdoms. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.
This Knizia game is typical Knizian! It has so simple rules and yet quite deep gameplay. Draw a tile and place it or place one of your castles. That’s it until the game ends after 3 rounds! You score (or lose!) a lot of points depending on where you put your castles and tiles, so you need to really think about what to do. It’s great with 4 players as you sort of get “allies” as you want to build good rows in the same rows, but that just means that the other players will put terrible tiles which might give you huge amount of negative points if you don’t watch out!
Sure, you still draw the tiles randomly, and they certainly aren’t equally balanced and good, but it really doesn’t feel like you get screwed by bad luck (which is also helped by the fact that the game is relatively short and the fact that you play 3 rounds so the luck gets mitigated). The dragon and the goldmine tiles are very powerful if you get them at the right time, but a +4 or even a mountain can also be very helpful.
I really like that once you’ve used your castles, they are gone for good in the next round (except for the level 1s), so you need to play balanced but also pull the trigger once with your level 4 castle tile which can be worth huge amount of points – but your opponents know that, so they will do everything they can to stop you!
It’s a very nice, short game which works great with 3 and 4 players. I haven’t tried 2 yet, but I would imagine it would lose a lot in terms of tension, the tightness of the board and decision-making.
Wooolf!. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.
This is another one of those secret identity games where you’re trying to deduce who is who. However, this is more of a deduction game than a hidden identity game I think as there’s no bluffing or lying involved, which separates it from games like Werewolf, Resistance etc. The “easy” version of the game isn’t as cool as the harder, “real” game in which you can be tricked and need to think twice about who’s who. I think it’s clever that there are a lot of various roles included and you as your own role need to find one or two specific other roles. And you can definitely learn a lot by seeing what the other players are doing and what questions they are asking what person.
I love most deduction games, and this is okay, but I really don’t like the way you score points in this game! Once a player makes an early guess the rest will probably follow, leaving the other players to only score 1 point for the round (and in a game where points are scarce over the 3 rounds, this is a huge deal)! There’s also quite a lot of luck involved about which person to pick and ask your question, and you have a distinct advantage if you don’t get asked a lot (just like in games such as Sleuth etc.).
King of Siam. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
This is a weird little game! It’s actually quite cool and I don’t recall any games like it. Essentially you’re trying to manipulate 3 different power factions in 8 different regions over 8 rounds. You want to get the majority of power cubes of the power faction which owns the most regions after the rounds. In doing so, each round you can play a card or pass – but you only have 8 cards, so you might run out of cards before the end of the game or a round might just consist of players passing! Oh, and I like that a round doesn’t end until all players have passed in a row, so you can always come back later if you want. What is really neat is that during the game you’re playing cards that add/remove/move cubes from the various regions, and one after one they’re going to score. But after playing a card and for instance adding a yellow cube because you want yellow to win, you also need to grab a cube for yourself in order to gain influence in this faction – so while you’re trying to make yellow win, you also removes some of that faction’s power from the game board during the play! It’s a great balance and works well.
Oh, and I also like that you also need to monitor if the Brits seize the power (i.e. there has been a tie in 4 regions) because then you need sets of cubes in the 3 different powers instead of a majority in one. I would assume this would be most likely to happen in a 2p game, which actually happened once in a game I played. As you can probably tell, the game is extremely fast and plays in about 15-20 minutes for 2 players, making it a nice and different filler.
Il Vecchio. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
I like, but don’t love, a lot of Dorn’s games (Goa is by far the best, and I don’t really care for Jambo, while Arkadia is okay). This one falls into the “meh” category. It’s a very mechanic game which I normally don’t mind, but in this game it just felt too “scripted” and “mechanical”. It is a very quick game, though, which takes less than an hour. But there are many other games I would prefer before this one. The play is rather easy going as you do a single action on your turn out of a handful of actions (iirc). The end game bonus tiles are crucial, and they are quite different, meaning that you can pursue some different strategies. I like how the middlemen move around the board so you need to plan a little ahead. And it’s cool that you sort of choose yourself when the game ends (you can speed up and force the game ending if you’re focused, and this can really screw your opponents’ plans, which is awesome). But it felt like a generic eurogame which unfortunately wasn’t too much fun to play.
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.
This 2 player game sounded awesome as it’s a little like stratego/chess with some deduction element thrown in. The game is probably best in the beginning as there is a lot of deduction going on (although to be fair you aren’t deducing as much as simply excluding options). Near the end of the game it becomes too chess-like when you know how your units move and such. Then it really felt like chess as certain pieces could only be moved in certain directions. This is a little sad.
The double agent, and the tree extra chits that you can play once during the game, are some pretty good ideas as they make the game much more interesting. You never know for sure which piece is which, and the special bonus chits enable you to make some sneaky moves!
I’ve played it three times, and one of my plays ended after just 10 minutes, another one dragged on and became a lot of back-and-forth and almost too chess-like, and my last play was definitely the coolest as both of us played very well and used those bonus chits and eliminated a lot of each other’s pieces. So the game can definitely play out in different ways. In order for me to like the game even more, there should be much more deduction going on and less chess-related gameplay.
Dixit Odyssey + expansions. Plays: 5. Rating: 5.5.
I played Dixit Odyssey (with the scoring map and up to 12 players), but in all of my plays cards from Dixit 1, 2 and 3 have been mixed into the game, so I’ve just given the same rating for all of them. I think that the expansions are, unfortunately, essential as the few cards you get in one of the standalone games will quickly get into a rotation. Dixit shines when you don’t see the same cards often so you don’t have the same associations connected to specific cards (sure, you might still do, but with e.g. 300 instead of 100 cards, chances are that you won’t face too many of the same cards, and, furthermore, the other players will have a broader variety of cards of their own to pick from).
Dixit is a great game for kids and families as you really need to be creative and think outside the box! However, I’m not in the target group. I would definitely still play it with family, kids and non-gamers (which is exactly what I’ve done so far), but as a game there isn’t much to it. It’s more like an activity for creative minds, and it’s very good at that; it’s just not a game for me. If playing a “game” that isn’t really a game, I would much rather play Telestrations; it’s not a similar game at all, but Telestrations always make me laugh, it caters the same amount of players and it’s also a partygame/activity.
Bruxelles 1893. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
Now, okay, the following is obviously my personal opinion based on just a single play in which we were 5 new players who had never played the game before – that’s probably not optimal, so do take the following with a grain of salt… And the game did take 2½-3 hours or so which is way longer than it should, based on what it offers. We didn’t really have any clue as to which strategy was the best, but based on my play the building bonus seemed huge; 60 points is quite a lot, and the winner and the runner-up were the players who had pursued this strategy…
The other bonus points seemed inferior, and yes, the other strategies mean that you probably get more points during the game, but the building bonus seemed too big. Also, the winner probably won because he got to be starting player a lot during the game, which meant that he could decide how ”the arch” (don’t know the name for it) should be placed each round. And in every single round, it was placed in the coordinates 1.4 as it meant his buildings were always available while especially my buildings never got activated… Yes, I guess I could have passed beforehand, but that would mean I would have to forego a lot of actions in order to be starting player (and it still wouldn’t even be a given that you become the starting player if you pass first; the probability just increases). This left a sour taste in my mouth as he got tons of second action rewards (while other got unlucky and had placed their buildings in such a way that they didn’t get activated). Oh, and he was also the only one to build on two of the “building” actions; and those were used all the time as buildings are great as they give you second abilities…
Yes, I do admit that my opinion of the game might be lower than it should due to poor play and no overall understanding of the various interlocking mechanics (which is neat) and bonus points etc. I would like to try it with 3 as it should be much faster, and it will be much easier to plan ahead as only 2 as opposed to 4 players can change the outcome during the game). I always like different paths to victory, and there certainly are many mechanics and a lot to think about in this game, so while my initial rating is quite low (and I almost never radically change my mind and therefore rating about games), I’m very willing to try it again.
Elder Sign. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
I was positively surprised by this game. Having tried Eldritch Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill and other games in that vein, I had low expectations coming into this game. However, it wasn’t as bad a game as I had thought. Sure, there is a LOT of dice rolling, and if you roll poorly you will lose the game no matter how well you play. Normally, I’m not a fan of this, but I think I didn’t mind too much because this is a cooperative game, so bad rolls affected the entire group instead of an individual. Also, the game is relatively short (we finished our games in about 50 and 40 minutes), and that’s a big plus for me. Eldritch Horror, based on the same theme, has a lower rating because it takes forever to play.
Still, my rating of 5 reflects my opinion about the game; it’s an okay game, and I could play it once in a while, but I wouldn’t actively suggest it myself. If looking for a coop taking a little less than an hour, I would pick some other game (even if it ran a little longer). The gameplay simply feels too limited; you pick a monster to fight and hope you get those symbols when rolling and re-rolling. I did like how you could buy and get equipment once you’ve slain some monsters, but it felt a little weird that you could buy the necessary victory points. In my two games, we were never in any big trouble, so the ancient one never woke up (i.e. we won prematurely). I don’t like my coops too easy, so it will probably take a while before I play ES again.
Acquire. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
Meh. While I can see that it was a great game a few decades ago, I think the age really starts to show, and I personally don’t understand why it’s rated just outside the top 100. There is a lot of speculation about what the other players are going to do, which companies they will buy stocks in, when and which company will overtake another company, especially at the beginning of the game where it’s crucial to get a payout from your company – it seemed as if a big money boost at the start of the game really helps a lot going forward, so while it’s not impossible to catch up, it’s much easier to do well if you get a good start.
It’s pretty important to get good tiles. In my second game I won, but I did draw some awesome tiles which could connect some companies and I had control over what happened as well as financial control as I had the most money and shares in good companies. It’s very important to buy shares in the right companies! The final round can have a big impact on the winner as the bonus for most shares in the most expensive company is very high, at least if the game ends in the way with a company being 41+ tiles big, which is the most common (oh, and speaking of this, it’s pretty cool that you have to state that the company is 41+ tiles big or the game won’t end). Of course everybody knows this, but it still felt like a lot.
I think Acquire plays best with 4 as the stocks are in the companies are divided among those, and 5 takes too long plus you don’t have enough control about what is happening. I think 3 would definitely be too few, but I cannot say until I try it. Despite the player counts, I don’t think I have too much control over what’s happening if I don’t get great tiles and because I don’t know the tiles of the other players. Maybe I don’t know the shares either, as that depends on which rules you play by, but I think both open and hidden stocks have their pros and cons. The game has also ended in both ways, and it was interesting to see how differently the two games played out. However, I doubt I’m going to play it a lot in the future.
Pick-a-Pig + Dog. Plays: 4. Rating: 6.
Pick-a-Pig and Pick-a-Dog are some decent speed games, but there are a myriad of these on the market, so they need to be visibly different from the majority. I think they fail to do so, so while they are good games, they are not games I need to own (although they are very cheap and kids like them). It’s a speed game sort of like Spot It as you need to find similar matches, but there is a catch. All of the pictures show a pig (or a dog), and the pig has some traits: it has either one or two arms, sunglasses or not, holding popcorn or not, is pink or brown or is big or small. You grab cards as quickly as possible (the cards are laid out in a 5x6 grid iirc), and these cards need to be exactly similar to your previous card, or it needs to only have exactly one difference! So a big, pink, two-armed pig can be taken and put on top of your big, brown, two-armed pig etc. It’s pretty simple and actually a fine game, but I really only need the best of the best. Families with small children should definitely pig (ahem) up this game!
Concordia. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
My expectations were most likely too high – I had heard a lot of people claiming that this was as good as or even better than Navegador. However, it’s definitely not. The gameplay is not too interesting and it feels very repetitive. With 5 there is way too much downtime due to AP which means my enjoyment of the game naturally falls a lot. I thought I would like it much more with 3 or 4 (with 2 there wouldn’t be enough interaction and competition), but having played it with 3 too I cannot really say that it makes the game better. Actually there was less interaction due to fewer blocked cities and fewer expensive buildings. It doesn’t take as long as with 5 (about 1½ hours compared to 2½+), but the gameplay is still very repetitive as you kind of need to do some actions in a certain order. What I do like is how you acquire cards during the game and can play them and thereby choose your own actions and when to play them. This “rondel” you “build” out of your cards is quite interesting. You obviously have to keep a close eye on what your opponents do and are able to do as it affects your decisions.
It did kind of suck that the winner in my first 5p game took a lone road/are more or less by himself while others were closer to each other, meaning that the other players had to pay much more for the buildings; of course, that’s a tactical mistake by the other players, but the winning player actually also got no less than 8 cloth from one other player throughout the game – a lot of them at the beginning where he used the bonus action… I have to say that it made me slightly dissatisfied that one player could benefit so much from a suboptimal play by another player… And this mechanic in the game itself is definitely not something I enjoyed. Yes, of course you can build in areas where another player has a couple of houses so you’ll get a benefit when he uses the action where you get goods, but still… The player probably would have won anyway, but it’s not a given as he got a lot of essentially “free” cloth during the first couple of turns. Again, we played poorly, but the game let us do it. My next game didn’t have too much of this, though, so maybe it was just inexperience.
The end game scoring is nicely done as you can get points in different ways depending on what your strategy is during the game. I like Navegador quite a lot, but Concordia was simply just not my cup of tea as it feels way too repetitive, constraining and, frankly, boring. And this comes from a hardcore eurogamer.
Eight Minute Empire: Legends. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
EME:L is marginally better than the basic game. For sure, there are many other aspects of the game you now need to consider as there are more mechanisms. The cards are definitely more interesting than in the regular game as they give you special powers, but on the other hand the focus on set selection is lower. There are cool abilities (flying, for instance), and the various tokens meant that the gameplay felt a little more open. Still, it doesn’t take 8 minutes to play, but for a game that lasts about 20 minutes it’s okay, although the scores seem very even and small margins will probably decide the game
Five Crowns. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
I thought Five Crowns would be a replacement game for games such as President, Lectio, Rummy etc., but having played it a couple of times I think it’s a worse game than those. First of all, it’s actually quite a long game as you’re playing 11 rounds. Second, the luck of the draw and the fact that cards that you need can be discarded without you being able to pick them up. Third, the gameplay simply isn’t that interesting.
The scoring is pretty neat as the round ends after one player plays all of his/her cards, and then the rest have to play as many as they can in order to avoid penalty points (fewest points after 11 rounds is the winner).
The luck of the draw is obviously present, but what irritates me the most is when somebody who isn’t your immediate right neighbor discards a card you need - then you have no way of getting that card and you’re just screwed. I know, you can work around those situations, and it helps that there are two of every cards in the deck, but still… It feels like unnecessary randomness, and you need to be lucky that your neighbor discards a card you can actually use, otherwise it’s just random draws… Jokers and the round-joker are extremely important. I think the first few rounds are rather boring, but from round 4 on, when you can play two different sets, the game starts to shine. Still, there are many other semi-traditional card games I would rather play, so while Five Crowns isn’t a bad game, it’s just not that interesting to me.
Raj. Plays: 2. Rating: 8.5.
Raj is an ok filler which is as easy to play and explain as No Thanks and more simple than For Sale. It’s sort of a blind bidding game, and I’m no fan of this mechanism as I think it has way too much luck. Yes, I know you should think “I know that he knows that I know, so I will do THIS instead”, but it just doesn’t work that way. It’s much worse and more boring than fillers like No Thanks, and where No Thanks works well with 3, Raj is probably best with 5 (4 players was fine too). The only good thing about the game is the moment when you flip over the 9 or 10, and everybody knows that you can win it with your highest card, your 15, but the trick is that if another player plays a 15, none of you will get the card and it will instead go to the next player who might have played a 1! This means that people sometimes play a 14, but so does another player, and then they are screwed… That’s always fun, but it doesn’t prevent the game from being rather uninspiring.
Quantum. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.5.
Yet a somewhat forgettable game… We did play with 4, which I think is the best number due to the increased amount of conflicts etc., but that couldn’t save the game from being poor. The luck of the dice is significant, and although you can mitigate the luck, you can still be screwed badly. And it seemed hard to win if you lose a couple of crucial battles early on as you need to spend an action on getting back the die – and the winner was the player who didn’t participate in a lot of combats until the end. The worst part of the game is probably the cards though. While I’m a sucker for special player powers, I hate when the various powers are noticeable different in their usefulness and strength… We all agreed that they could have been better balanced. The game only took an hour, and I think it might take even less with further plays. While I’m willing to try it again a couple of times if people insist, it’s not something I would suggest myself.
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.5.
First of all, I love that this is a worker placement game that has a racing element in it – the first player to get 10 stars immediately wins! That’s always refreshing compared to many eurogames in which you tally up your points at the end. However, that’s probably the only good thing about the game… First of all, it’s just not that interesting to play; the mechanics are pretty basic and the variety is, imho, low. The game tries to camouflage it by giving you rather boring options, and even though the bumping is a good idea, it also means that you cannot really block any space. And if you bump a player, that player then gets an extra turn in which he doesn’t have to retrieve his workers, so your move actually benefits him…
But by far the worst thing about the game is the randomness…! It oozes of it! It’s random which factories show up and if you have the cards which are needed for those and are following a strategy which suits those. It’s random which cards you draw; 2 of a kind is almost always better than 3 different. And speaking of those cards, the special starting cards are random too and certainly not balanced (which I’m not the only one claiming). And there’s of course the randomness concerning the dice; 2 of a kind is almost always better because you get a double turn… Oh, and I also twice rolled 15 and once 16 (and I only had 1 single brain!) with just 3 dice, while an opponent rolled much lower (which is good) with 4 dice… This essentially meant that I lost a lot of workers due to poor rolls – and there was no way to mitigate this; I had even played as safe as possible as I only had 1 brain… All of this randomness bugs me in a game which claims to be a medium eurogame. It honestly felt like it was random who won…
I’ve played it with 3 and 6, and none of those numbers were particularly good – but even though I would expect 4 to be the best number, the game is still bad. So, yes, my rating is actually generous and should probably be decreased, but I’m willing to give it one final shot.
6 Nimmt. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.
Somehow I just cannot grasp the simple strategy of this game! I’ve only played it twice, once with 4 players and once with 2, and both worked quite well. I would image it would be even more chaotic with more players, but also more fun than the rather mathy game it is with 2 players where you can outthink and outsmart the other player by clever play. However, unfortunately I’m not the one to do so… It’s a nice little filler, but it’s not one I’m excited to play although I wouldn’t mind if everybody else wanted to.
Origin. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.
Meh. I guess it’s an okay medium-light game, but it just didn’t feel very inspiring to me. It certainly didn’t help that some of the goal cards seemed quite… Unbalanced. I’m usually a sucker for secret objectives, but it didn’t really work too well in this game I think. Maybe it was because it was the first game among three of us, but we all kind of agreed. There are also other cards, not objective cards, available, but while some seem quite strong some were weak.
The differently sized pawns were an innovative twist, but it didn’t really do too much. We didn’t play with the dice as that would only have increased the amount of randomness. There are a couple of different ways to score VPs on, and while you do have to plan ahead, the game was a little too boring. Would try it again, though, just to be sure.
Kingdom Builder: Capitol. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.
The Capitol is a perfectly fine promo which you can add to your game, but to be honest it’s a ”take it or leave it” promo. It doesn’t enhance the enjoyment of the base game, but it also doesn’t detract from it. I do like that it gives you points depending on how many houses you have around a capital, and that you get points even for being 2 spaces away.
Coney Island. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.
Meh! It’s short, but the short playing time also means that the number of “decisions” is very limited. The spatial aspect of the game isn’t that interesting (and while you can block it’s not that easy), and the overall gameplay is too simplistic which doesn’t constitute a good game. The various artists you can hire certainly aren’t balanced well, and some are much stronger than others. Also, the luck of the draw (cubes from the bag) can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game, as can the points for newspapers (which seem like a very strong strategy).
Municipium. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.
I’m generally a huge fan of Knizia’s (early) games, but Municipium wasn’t as good as I had expected. Maybe I’m just accustomed to beautiful designs by the good doctor, but this one fell flat for me – and it is clear that it’s more like a Reiner game than a Knizia game...
With 4, there was not enough control over your own board position and the actions you could take, but, granted, the game was better in the sense that area majority games are always better with more players. Also, it feels a little too random regarding which cards you draw; is it the prefect who moves or is it new meepes or is it a scoring card – this drastically changes what you actually want to do on your turn, but you don’t know it until you turn over the card. It was also somewhat hard to plan ahead and make a strategy with the full complement of players.
Some actions seem better than others; upgrading your meeples early on seem very important as does turnorder as ties are frequent. Granted, we were new players, so maybe I haven’t uncovered the deeper layers, but that’s at least my first impression.
Kill Doctor Lucky. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.
This game was actually better than I expected. Initially it seemed very hard to be in a position where you could actually kill Dr. Lucky due to the line of sight rule, but with 4 players it wasn’t too hard. The game was fairly quick (about 30 minutes or so) and I like that the turnorder changes throughout the game. The fact that you can bluff and force your opponents to play cards is nice to as is how you can “teleport” yourself or Dr. Lucky to different rooms; it adds some decisions to an otherwise light game.
BUT… It has the same problem as Munchkin: when a player is close to winning and goes for the final game-winning move, the other players use their cards to prevent this (as they should, to be sure), but then the next player wins because all of the good cards have already been played… This is such a crappy gamedesign decision and the reason why I hate Munchkin (oh, and also because it takes 2+ hours to play). It will not happen all the time of course, but it did happen in our second game, in which I as the last player had to prevent a player from winning by playing all of my cards, but that just meant that the next player who attacked Dr. Lucky won very convincingly as everybody had used all or almost all of their good cards. Argh. That makes me sad! But in any case I would still play it again simply because it’s so fast and relatively relaxing.
Iota. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.
Iota is a mix of Qwirkle and Set, but much harder to grasp than both, and you need to think a lot more. I don’t like that there is just a single tile of each tile (as opposed to three in Qwirkle), because you then quickly know if you can make a lot (four in a row) and thereby double the points. And it’s not easy to do when there are so few tiles. Recarding the points, the scoring is a little weird… And I don’t like that the 4-tiles are worth, well, 4 times as much as the 1-tiles, making them automatically worth more (I’m actually considering just playing with every tile being worth 1 point). And I think it’s a bad design decision that you can double your points if you make a lot and if you play all of your tiles (although the latter is very, very hard) – and they stack! For instance I got 80 points in one turn, which is a lot considering you usually score around 15 or so… The rules even have an example of a play netting you 208 points. This is an instant-win, and I don’t like this. I definitely prefer Set and Qwirkle for their much lighter gameplay and easier scoring rules.
Guildhall. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
I guess that Guildhall is an okay card game if you play it repeatedly and get a sense for the various card combos and such, but after a single play with 4 it didn’t wow me the way I had hoped it would. It does seem like a fine game in which there are some deadly combos with specific roles. I don’t like that you just attack another person whom you think is leading, so maybe it’s better as a 2p game – I will eventually find out. Also, you can count the cards in the discount pile (although players can camouflage it), especially if you have played a historian and looked through the pile – this means that there is a memory aspect that I don’t fancy at all.
I tend to think that games in which you can win instantly are cool, and while I do like that you gradually buy points until you reach a number in which a player instantly wins, it does kind of suck that I sat right next to that player who won the game, and he did end up getting an extra turn. I could have closed and won the game on my turn, sigh. Oh well, it’s not a hard game to learn and play, but it just didn’t feel special or particularly interesting.
Eminent Domain. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
Meh! It’s a little mix of GtR, RftG, Dominion and such games, but it’s much worse than any of those… It really wasn’t engaging to play. Maybe it was because we played it with 4 with 3 new players, but it really didn’t click for any of the new players. In a 4p, it also seemed there is some luck concerning when you get to do the actions; I almost always ended up being half a round behind, meaning I needed to produce when the others traded and such (maybe it was just poor play). Of course you can plan your way out of a lot of this, but random card draws always make the game harder – it sucked so much when you just needed that other card or one more of that card etc… It also seemed as if there were only 3 viable strategies, and research should probably even be combined with others to be strong enough… But the settle new planets and produce goods seemed very strong indeed. Won’t refuse to play it (with 2 or 3), but won’t pursue it either.
Dead Panic. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
I’ve owned Castle Panic but sold it as it was too simplistic and didn’t have any “development” during the gameplay. I like coops quite a bit, but CP fell flat. I got the expansion, which helped a lot, but it still didn’t grab me. However, I still decided that I would give Dead Panic a shot as it sounded more intriguing with more possibilities and a lot more to think about each turn. Sadly, after a single play, my impression is that DP is about as dull as CP. Sure, there is more you can do on your turn, but to be honest one of the two actions you take each round is probably too often to take a card (notice that I’m not experienced with the game, but cards are very useful and often there isn’t any other good actions to take).
Also, there are too many fiddly rules compared to how rather simple the gameplay is (I’m thinking of, for instance, how the zombies move and how range works when firing a weapon). The difficulty of the game also seemed wonky. The zombies quickly surround you, at least in my play through, but even so you can still win rather easily.
So, while DP has more meat to it, I don’t think this makes it a good game. CP could be used as a family coop, but DP is probably too heavy for that – but even though it’s heavier it doesn’t add any interesting gameplay decisions…
Inkognito. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
Normally I love deduction games, but this fell flat. The “deduction” element is a little too easy, and you can also get lucky at the beginning and get some good cards (and be shown some) which make you able to deduce something right from the get go…. In my first game, some players didn’t understand the rules entirely, so the game went on for too long; and even if the game takes 99 minutes, which the box states, it’s too long. I’ve heard some players say it takes 45-60 to play, and if that’s the case most of the times, it’s probably a good game. But it took a couple of hours, and that’s too long for a game which involves randomness in how you can move on the board and too light deduction.
While the “doll”-thingy is a funny mechanic, which is probably better and more unique than dice, it’s sort of a gimmick and it’s extremely frustrating when you know what to do but you aren’t allowed due to a poor “roll”… Anyway, once you find out who your partner is, and you give and receive clues and find out what your secret mission is, that’s when you feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s awesome when you win and shake hands and say “mission accomplished”! But unfortunately the path to that victory isn’t as interesting and engaging as I had thought it would be.
Kakerlakenpoker Royal. Plays: 2. Rating: 4.5.
Meh… This is the worst game in the series of ”Kakerlak”-like games. It wasn’t a funny bluffing game, and it wasn’t even much of a game. Often you’ll just pass on the card, and yes, there is definitely room for clever play, and I guess for some it is funny to deduce whether the other players are telling the truth or not, but it fell flat when I played it the first time. The second time was better, although 3 players is probably too few for the game and the strategy to really shine. Also, I think it takes too long to play for what it is, and I find it pretty “lame” that a single person loses and everybody else wins as I prefer games to have one winner, but that might just be me.
Yunnan. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
When looking at the game objectively, I should probably like the game. It’s rather short, there isn’t a whole lot of luck involved and it has a fair amount of player interaction. However, I really, really didn’t like my one play through. The game has an awful amount of AP (though I admit that I did play with players who are somewhat prone to AP when there isn’t a lot of luck so you can calculate the outcome). Overall Yunnan is very boring. The gameplay is simply dull, you don’t really do much on your turn, and there is waaaaay too much calculation going on among the players which really bogs down the game. The game can actually be over quite quickly if a player speeds up the game, which happened in our game, but it also meant that some of the players got caught off guard because the game ended so suddenly.
To me, the biggest plus in Yunnan is the way scoring works; you get points in each round, but you have to decide if you take them as straight up points or income which will help you in the next round. This means that after a few rounds you shift from getting income to getting points, and this can rapidly end the game.
Yunnan also has a big chunk of screwage thrown into the gameplay, which just enhances the AP as players need to think what they themselves can do as well as every opponent, especially because turn order is also very important when resolving your actions… So while I love the interaction in Hansa Teutonica or games like that, I don’t think it works in this game. It’s simply too important what the other players decide to do.
Imperial. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
Going into this game I knew I shouldn’t see it as an area control game or “wargame” like Risk; it is a much more euro-y game where you invest in various contries and allegiances and alliances shift. However, after having played it once, I am baffled. In every single game I always have an idea about a strategy or what can pay off or something like that. And I usually understand why I lost a game and can improve upon in my next game. But in this game – not at all! I was and still am absolutely clueless as to what went wrong (I ended up last, which is quite unusual for me, although it was a fairly close race). So I won’t say too much about what I liked and disliked about the game. I will wait for my second play, either of Imperial or Imperial 2030, before writing further comments. But I doubt that I will try it soon – the game didn’t grab me at all as it felt quite “clinical” and perhaps too much focused on stocks and the economic aspects. That’s too bad as my expectations were high due to the fact that I like Navegador and that Imperial is in top 100 here on BGG.
Shadows over the Empire. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.
This game is quite confusing and quite boring… It sucked quite a bit with 4 players and all of the 25 cards that you kind of need to know what do if you want to win… SotE probably wins something if you play it repeatedly, but I have to admit that I didn’t really read or cared about what the various cards did, because it would have been way too troublesome and result in too much AP (which one of the players unfortunately did, bah)! If we played it repeatedly, the game would be smoother, but there isn’t really anything that makes me want to go back.
I guess the beginning of the game is the most exciting, but as soon as somebody is close to winning, the game becomes somewhat stale and kingmaking problems will happen as you choose who to attack… And once a player is close to win, there are lots of cards which remove influence/tokens which results in the game dragging on…
The different factions don’t seem equally balanced (everybody thought so); the one I was, where I could remove 3 tokens in a conflict, wasn’t used in every round, which the other players’ powers were. And even when I used it, I had to choose who to harm the most. Another character push you in a certain direction (the one which blocks actions on the prince), so we felt that the role played you instead of you playing the role and choose your own strategy.
Middle Kingdom. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
This was a forgettable experience. Granted, the different abilities of the cards were cool and all, but the game lacked tension, and the blind bidding wasn’t interesting (but I’m not a fan of this mechanic in the first place). Granted, this was maybe/probably because I only played it with 3; I’m sure it’s better with 5, which BGG does state, though there are only few ratings. I give it a rating of 4 with 3 players; it would probably be a 5 with 5 players, but that’s just speculations, and I’m fairly sure that I’m not going to play it again.
Flamme Rouge. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
This rating is for an “Unpublished prototype”. Actually, I think it’s not a prototype anymore, it just hasn’t been published yet. But when it does, I’m not going to sleep in front of the FLGS the night before in order to secure my copy… It was waaaay too basic (a deck-thinning game with a cycling theme). Basically, you have two guys with two decks of cards with numbers on them. Each turn you play one of their cards and move that many spots and then remove that card from their decks. The first rider to the finish line wins the game… That’s basically it. There are a few extra rules and twists which make the game slightly more interesting, like being in the front of the race exhaust you so you get bad cards shuffled into your deck, but it’s such a basic game that lasts too long for the depth it offers (or the lack of it). Oh, and the player who was in front of the entire race, and therefore got a ton of bad cards in his deck, actually finished second, so that strategy actually seemed viable, which goes against the grain of the theme.
Bezzerwizzer 2013. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
Bezzerwizzer is one of the better trivia games out there for sure! However, this mini game just features questions about 2013 and doesn’t have any of the interesting game elements of the original Bezzerwizzer board game. So it’s basically just a trivia game about events which happened in 2013. I guess it’s a nice game to play on New Year’s Eve, but in a few years it will be quite boring. Well, it already was boring now, so… I would prefer to play the original game, though this one is okay to play with casual nongamers and a glass of wine.
Tøsemiddag. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
It’s not listed here on BGG and I don’t have the data to do so. This game, which can roughly be translated to “Girl’s Dinner”, features a deck of cards on which some dares or truths are written. As in “what would you do, if…” or “who do you think is most likely to do…” etc. It was actually quite funny to hear what my friends had to say about the various subjects, so as a dinner game with non-gamer friends it was a big hit. It can only be played a few times, though, as you’ve then heard all the cards and answers, and they are obviously much more fun the first time!
Eldritch Horror. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
Going into the game, I knew that I probably wouldn’t like it. I was right, and here is why: Normally I like coops, and as this game is in the top100 I would love to try it. However, I also knew that it was a more ameritrash-y than euro-y coop, and I’m a eurogamer. Also, we were 7 players (!) and most if not everybody was new to the game. Even though the rules weren’t too convoluted, the game dragged on and it was hard to know what everybody could do and which items they had. This would have been remedied by playing with fewer players, and I would like to try that just to do the game justice and give it a fair shot. However, even with fewer players who know the game, I’m pretty sure that I am never going to like it – it’s too long and random! I’m not a theme guy either, so the Cthulhu theme doesn’t save the somewhat boring gameplay.
But the worst thing about Eldritch Horror by far is the too simple/boring gameplay and the randomness due to the die rolls. Come on, you do a simple thing on your turn and then sometimes roll some dice in order to make progress towards the goal of the game. But it’s so random what you roll, and you often don’t know which of a couple of abilities you need to be good at which increases the randomness even more. Yuck. Give me Ghost Stories (yes, it’s random too, but much less so!), Pandemic or almost every other coop. They are much more fun to play (but again, I did play it once with 7, and it should be a little better with 4 or so).
Eclipse: Tractor Beam. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
Meh… doesn’t really do much as people rarely flee from battle! It’s a cheap tech, though, and you can put it wherever you want, so it can net you an easy point at the end.
Kingdom Builder: Caves. Plays: 2. Rating: 4.
The caves open up for more strategies and options, but it can actually lengthen the game slightly as there are more options. Also, the caves vary a lot in usefulness depending on the scoring cards. They are okay, but not necessary. Wouldn’t mind including them though.
Go. Plays: 4. Rating: 4.
Go is a very simple but deep game, and I definitely understand why it’s so popular and have survived and been played for thousands of years! However, my rating is a personal reflection (like all of my ratings) of the fact that I simply don’t want to play this game much. It’s a nice abstract and all, but I don’t really fancy abstracts, and those I like tend to be shorter. I don’t want to overanalyze every move, and I think many abstracts can lead to this problem as there isn’t any randomness inherent in the game, so players think a little longer about what to do. I’m a big opponent of analysis paralysis and I don’t want to spend too much time playing an abstract game. And with Go’s 19 x 19 grid there is a LOT to think about and plan ahead after the first handful of stones have been set. So, while Go is a good abstract, it’s just not particularly enjoyable for me. I’ve also played Capture Go which I would rate higher as it’s tenser and shorter.
Sigismundus Augustus. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
Oh boy this game is LONG, and not in an epic feeling way… It lasts 9 rounds, but the short version is only 5 rounds – and that still took 5 hours… Okay, granted, we were 5 new players and some are prone to AP, but still, there is no way in hell this game only takes 2 hours if playing 9 rounds with 5 players! So while I will refuse to play it for 9 rounds, I could be persuaded to try 5 rounds. However, even this is not a certainty as the gameplay wasn’t something I was excited about. I guess that the three different tracks are cool and all; they give you various advantages and give you votes for voting on the cards at the end (I hate blind bidding, so this isn’t a plus), and I guess the various phases in each round (9 I believe) feel different – there is a lot to think about and to do each game, and a lot of mechanics are present in this game! Besides the blind bidding, there a hodgepodge of mechanics: worker action selection, area majority, hand management among others, and also the direct player interaction concerning the fact that you can attack each other with units (which, as it turned out, was prone to kingmaking). I’m not convinced that all of the mechanics are as interlocking as the designer would have liked, but I do admit that the game presents you with some relatively tough choices.
There is no doubt that the cards you draw are very unbalanced – some are extremely powerful (like destroying another player’s building) and others are useless. Now, speaking of the card which can destroy a building… Well, that’s something I really, really, really don’t like after what happened in my first game! The fact that you can target a specific player meant that I lost the game. In the first round, right after I had bought a building, it got destroyed and I therefore lost income and a lot of victory points which I would otherwise have got throughout the game. In the last round, I once again was attacked instead of another player (who also wasn’t attacked at the start of the game), and that meant that he ended up winning just because one of my buildings once again got destroyed… I honestly feel like I had deserved to win, and after playing for so many hours it felt like a punch in the face, and maybe it clouds my judgment of the game. Still, a game that lasts so many hours and allows a game to end like that isn’t a good game in my opinion.
A la Carte. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.
My rating is probably unfair; it reflects how much I want to play it, but if I was a child, I would probably rate it 8 (I did play it with children, and they were very positive towards it). And I admit that it’s a kind of fun dexterity game with euroelements thrown into it. You must put x number of ingredients by shaking the glass in a small saucepan. You then need to turn up the gas to the right temperature and you’ve made your recipe and thereby gain some points – most points after a certain amount of time wins the game.
The flipping of the pancake is a funny element, and while it’s hard to do it gives you a nice chunk of points. The die is always a good idea in a children’s game. You use it to turn up the gas or get a coffee cup which gives some extra powerful actions; for instance you can get three extra actions, you can get a point and you can switch recipes/courses with another play (the last one being an “evil” action which can be fun against grown-ups). The components are great and the artwork is cute, and both help enhancing the gaming experience for children.
Bang. Plays: 2. Rating: 4.
I played this right after playing Bang: The Dice Game, and I must say that the latter is a big improvement! Regular Bang felt way too long and too boring. B:TDG is a good game because it is so short; Bang is not… The alliances and secret teams don’t really work in Bang as it’s clear who is who, and then it’s all about getting the good cards and hurt your enemies (as you should, of course, but the game fell flat after B:TDG). Also, the renegade must be one of the most imbalanced cards in any game – even if the other players played crappy, it should be impossible to win with that character (yes, I know that many of you will probably claim that you’ve won playing the renegade, but man is he severely underpowered and I feel like I have already lost the game when drawing him – which just makes the game feel even longer)!
Kolejka. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.
The theme is great and well implemented – because it really felt frustrating and depressing to play… And it sure must have been standing in line in grocery stores in Poland during the Cold War… Yes, that’s right, that’s the theme of the game! We did get a laugh, but that was mostly because the game was so bad and pretty damn random! It was actually an awful gaming experience, but the social context (playing the game on a con at 4 am) made it quite funny. It waaaay overstays its welcome with 5, even though BGG finds this is the best number. It would probably have been a fine game for 30 minutes, but not for 100! Yes, maybe it’s an educational game for teaching young Poles about communism and such, but that doesn’t make it a good game – in fact on the contrary, it seems.
I do like that the winner was the first one to get a 10 commodities (instant winning conditions are always cool I think). In order to get those goods, you place meeples in queues – and hope that there will be enough of that commodity when it’s your turn. But you can change the order of the queue, jumping ahead in the queue etc., making it feel a little like Guillotine, but without any of the fun elements and the fast gameplay! It’s always random which commodities/goods appear in which round, and it’s just too hard to have any control over what happens. Those cards alters the situation too much and it’s hard to plan ahead as the queue can change quickly. And even when you finally get to be in front of a queue where there is actually a commodity, another player might simply shut down the market that day and you get screwed! Oh and the cards vary quite a lot in usefulness, and as you only have 3 out of 10 or so each day (iirc), you are really at the mercy of Lady Luck as you need to draw the right cards at the right time. And hope your opponents don’t.
The scores were very tight, and the owner of the game said that is usually the case – but is that necessarily a good thing? I’m not sure, because then it seems even more so that it’s random who eventually wins. I am pretty sure that I don’t want to play this game again, and maybe I’ve been too generous rating it a 3.5…
Borgen. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.
This is a trivia game based on a popular Danish tv show. I don’t fancy the show as much as others, but I can still appreciate a good game. However, this is not a good game. It’s, as said, a basic trivia game, and those are rarely interesting. This one doesn’t just base its questions on the tv show, though, which is good. Sometimes you see a picture for a few seconds and need to answer e.g. how many persons you saw on the picture or what the color of the tie was etc. Still, it wasn’t a good game and I’m not likely to ever play it again.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of Runelords – Base Set. Plays: 3. Rating: 3.5.
Holy sh*t this game is overhyped! It’s probably the most overhyped game I can think of. Of course this is just my opinion, and I respect that a lot of people love it, and its rating cannot be questioned, but it’s just not for me. At all. I don’t see the appeal in this game. Yes, on paper I thought it sounded great that you get a character you can evolve over many plays etc., but in reality the game itself is so extremely repetitive and boring… I mean, you do the same thing over and over again: turn over a card and roll the dice to do a skill check. Sometimes you fail, other times you lose, but rarely is the penalty for losing too serious as we’ve never lost a game (always won rather easily), and I know that it’s the general consensus that it’s just way too easy.
Come on, the whole idea of cooperative games is that they should be hard as hell so you often lose so that you want to go back and win! This desire is non-existing for me in the case of Pathfinder. Even the way you kill the monsters and his henchmen is the same. Yes, there are various bosses and locations and weapons etc., but the chore gameplay mechanism is extremely boring because of its repetitive nature. I don’t even feel like there is a story behind the game. Yuck. Sorry, this game is simply bad, and I do think it will drop in the ratings as people (perhaps?) start to feel it’s just “more of the same”.
The Magic Labyrinth. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.
This is a children’s game which reminds me a bit too much of Magical Maze… It’s not a rip-off, but the idea has definitely been seen before. Not that either of them are better than the other; both games are basically memory games in which you also need to be quite lucky. If you roll a high number you can move far and perhaps be lucky to pull a chit which is close to your player piece. You randomly move your pawn onwards to the chit without knowing what way you should go, and sometime you hit a wall, but this is where the memory aspect kicks in. It’s probably a great game for kids, and I guess my rating would be 7 or so for that, but for me as a ”gamer” it’s obviously not particularly interesting.
Quarto. Plays: 2. Rating: 3.
The best thing about the game is that it only takes 3 minutes to play… No, I’m not joking, it really does only take a maximum of 5 minutes to play. Yes, we decided to play it rapidly, but we did think about where to place our pieces. It’s just that the first couple of pieces aren’t as critical as the last 4-5 or so. That’s when the game becomes slightly interesting as you’re trying to visualize how to place your piece and which piece you need to give your opponent so that you set yourself up for the win. This can be tricky, but to be fair, if you’re spending the listed 20 minutes on the game, I cannot imagine that it will not end in draws a lot of times as it’s quite easy to see what to do and not do, and that’s sad… I really feel that the game will end in a draw most of the times if played just moderately skillfully – it’s not a game in the GIPF-series or some other advanced game like those!
Of course I played with the “advanced” rules, which I think should be the standard rules, as they make the game more interesting as you need to take into account more possible formations of a quarto. The neatest thing about the game is probably that you yourself hand the piece your opponent must play, so if you’re not thinking it through, you might hand your opponent the winning piece! Quarto is way overpriced and way too simplistic and “shallow”, and even though it’s so fast I don’t want to spend my time playing this… The games in the GIPF series are much more rewarding!
UR. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.
Woah this game was awful! Even though it only took about 20 minutes to play, it was extremely boring throughout those minutes. Actually, the two other players wanted to stop playing after 7-8 minutes – something I have literally never seen before as they are usually willing to try out/play every game at least once.
It wasn’t because we played a rule wrong, because the rules are quite simple. It’s just that they are very simple, meaning that I personally don’t think there are any interesting choices to make. It seemed like it was pretty important to get some agriculture tiles early on so you could spread yourself out faster; I don’t like a game which forces you to go in a specific direction from the start of the game in order to succeed (the rules even mention this). The only thing which was remotely interesting was how you select your tiles for the next turn and therefore the two options you get on your next turn (unless you forego one or more of those actions which isn’t uncommon to do). Ur is a very, very bad game which I’m unlikely to play again; I sold it after a single play, which is not usually something I do as I want to try my own games at least twice, preferably with different player counts.
One Night Werewolf. Plays: 4. Rating: 2.5.
Woah, I don’t think that there is any game to be found here… There simply isn’t enough information to base your deduction on, and it seemed as if the one who yelled the loudest would win as there is no valid reason to actually believe what any of the players claim.
In each of my 3 plays, which by the way were with what I suppose are the optimal number of players, 5 and 7 (as opposed to for instance 3 which I think would be awful), it was impossible to deduce anything. Of course the body language and voice can reveal something, but you cannot really deduce anything. My rating of 3 reflects my opinion; I am probably not going to play it again, although I could be convinced to play it once or so between games if the other players insisted, simply because it’s so short. However, a couple of weeks after I played ONW I was introduced to the “upgraded”/”advanced” version, One Night Ultimate Werewolf. I have to say that ONUW is a huge improvement over the original one, and I think there is much more room for deducing who is who because of the plethora of roles with special powers. Also, it probably helped that we took longer to decide and actually discuss why people said so etc. So to sum up I will probably never play ONW again as ONUW has replaced it.
Win, Lose or Banana. Plays: 4. Rating: 1.5.
?! There isn’t really any game to be found in “Win, Lose, or Banana”, but it takes about 15 seconds to play, so in that sense it’s a good filler (and the only reason why I’ve played it so much)… I guess you could use it to determine the starting player in your next (real!) game, but WLB only plays exactly 3, so… The gameplay is so simple, and I guess if you like bluffing games it could be good fun with a beer and some good friends. But, still… No. Just no. It’s not a good “game” or activity or party game or whatever.
Two Rooms and a Boom. Plays: 1. Rating: ?.
This is the first time ever I haven’t rated a game even though I’ve played it! The reason is that it wasn’t a success, but it definitely was a result of us having never played the game before and the fact that we played 3 rounds with just 9 players… Most of us agreed that the game would probably have gone over much better if we had played with 20+, which we will try next year at the con. If we can manage that, we can also include some more roles which will definitely help the gameplay tremendously as you would then be able to show your role or just your loyalty (color) to a few other players. More deduction, bluff and meta-gaming would definitely have improved the game. The game itself is actually quite fast (10-20 minutes or ), and I definitely think it would be a huge success in the right crowd – then it could definitely get a rating of 8 or so, but the actual game I played was probably more like a 2 as it didn’t work with so relatively few players. Too bad. I look forward playing it with 20+!
Fernando Robert Yu
Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men = 13 Plays
This has been a big hit, no doubt about it!
The Marvel fanboy in me made me finally take the plunge and get into this despite my promise never to buy a game with a collectible aspect again, and boy was I glad I did! The fact that you only 1 copy of a hero card and that dice are easy to get makes the collectible nature tolerable, especially at the price point this games is at now. I like deckbuilders, I like dice, and I did play Magic: The Gathering 20 years ago, but I was surprised to find the game so much fun! The hero effects are very thematic and there are many possible combos and styles you can experiment with. While games are not as short as you think (around 30 minutes), it does not drag on for too long, as there are many effects which can break an impasse of heroes who do not want to attack. I also like the look of the dice and the art, and this early we have an idea of the expansions to come. 2 Thumbs (err dice) up!
The Palaces of Carrara = 3 Plays
Kent's "if I just had 1 more turn!" expression!
I was very lucky to come upon a Dutch version when I was looking around the shops near Amsterdam Central during my trip to Holland. The store I looked into had a new arrival of games, and this was the only copy! I immediately bought it and so far the game has lived up to its reputation as an easy to learn game but one which has some depth. The scoring mechanic gives it a “race” feel as you are rushing to be the first to score the cities as efficiently as you can, and you definitely have to be alert on what your opponents are doing since you must have a general idea on when the endgame will come, otherwise you will end up with a bunch of coloured tiles and lots of buildings but have 0 VP since you did not score them yet! Endgame scoring is also huge so paying attention to the scoring conditions (which are different every game, adding to the game’s replayability) is also a must.
CapCom Street Fighter Deck-Building Game = 1 Play
E. Honda > Dhalsim > Chun-Li
I got to try Kent’s copy of the game, and I must say I approached it with a bit of trepidation since I really did not like the unthematic mish mashed implementation of its cousin, the DC Comics Deck-Building Game. This one, however, feels much better since you are acquiring (learning) martial arts moves, and the unique power of each fighter seems balanced. I also love the art of the game, especially those of the “boss” stages, as it really reminds me of the times I played the video game. Not a bad filler and introduction to the deckbuilding genre.
Dominion: Stash Promo Card
I feel this card is a balanced addition since while it is quite expensive (5 gold to buy) the fact that you can select where to place ALL shuffled copies of this in your deck (preferably on top!) means you can have your 8 gold needed to buy a province the next turn. Cool effect!
Smash Up: Science Fiction Double Feature
I managed to get in a 4P game of this on the last day of May, and we got to try 3 of the 4 factions in the expansion. The Super Spies mixed really well with the Alien deck, as Kent really messed about with our decks. I used the Shapeshifters and Bear Cavalry together, although I really wanted to try out an Alien + Shapeshifter mix. It didn’t do too shabbily and I got to copy Kent’s Alien Minion’s ability to give 1 VP a couple of times. Jim’s Time Traveller + Microbot provided some moments of “Minion placing, rinse and repeat”, so I would say the powers of these 3 new factions are indeed thematic and appropriate, and thus they are a worthy addition to the game.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game expansion ships
Nice additions to each faction, as the Imperial Aces pilots do add a bit more oomph to the offense of the Empire, while the HWK-290 / Moldy Crow with a turret can be extremely irritating due to its 360 arc of fire and the support it can provide to Rebel ships within range.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
This month I played 4 new-to-me games, and VOLT: Robot Battle Arena was easily my favorite. All 4 who played it (My best friend, his son, my daughter, and I) loved it. I look for it to make my top ten new to me games for 2014.
I also played and enjoyed Card Football: Premiere Edition and Andean Abyss, and I didn't care much for The Resistance: Avalon.
Völuspá - (Also Kachina)I've been curious about Voluspa for a while now, but never pulled the trigger on buying it, despite its decent price, because I'm not normally a huge fan of abstracts. A friend brought out Kachina to close a game night, though, and it really kind of got under my skin. I went out and registered for yucata.de and have had several games of Voluspa going ever since. I still haven't purchased a copy, because I still wouldn't want to play it that often face to face (although I may purchase a copy just to show my support to the designer and publisher), but a tactical (not very strategic), brain burner is exactly the kind of game that I want to play asynchronously. I'm really digging it.
Galaxy Defenders - I played Galaxy Defenders three times this month (the first scenario twice and the second scenario once), every time it was a lot of fun. The first time was a but of a slog, and took us 4 hours to finish (successfully, on the very last round). The second time was considerably faster; it only took us an hour and a half. The third time was a bit longer again (2:45ish), but was still pretty reasonable for the first playthrough of that scenario, I think. As long as the play time stays reasonable, I only have one issue with the game. I'm not a fan of the combat system. The fact that a defensive die gets rolled for every single hit (potential negating even the best of hit rolls) is pretty annoying. It's still a great game, though. I love tactical combat games, but I've always been a little annoyed by the lack of decent full co-op versions. I really like the alien AI in this game, though. It keeps the game tough (and the difficulty can be leveled, depending on what you want), and its rules are pretty simple to follow. I really enjoy this game.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) - I've had Descent Second Edition on my radar pretty much since I first heard of it. I finally got a chance to play it this month, and I really did enjoy it. I love Doom and Galaxy Defenders, but I definitely want to have a fantasy themed game of the same ilk to play from time to time. As much as I liked it, though, I'm not sure this is going to be it. I've only played it twice and I am eager to play it some more, but a couple of things bothered me about it. The biggest thing was the stand up mechanism. When you "die", you can take you're entire next turn to stand up, recovering an amount of health between 2 and 6 points (average of 3-4). There's 2 issues with this. First, if you're surrounded when you go down, there's a decent chance that you'll just get knocked back down again on your next turn (this happened to us 4 times in a row, and only ended when the overlord had completed their objective). Second, the amount of damage you recover as a "tank" warrior character with a base of 14 health is the same as you recover if you're playing a fragile thief with a base health of 8. It essentially negates the utility of the more robust role once they've been knocked down (in fact, if they have a movement score of only 3, it makes them a huge liability). People in the forums here acknowledge the issue, but seem to think that it's simply part of the game, which I understand to an extent, but I still think that any game that requires any player(s) to perform the same useless action over and over again with little chance for different results and no alternatives is flawed. You may notice that I've still rated this a 7.5, which is an indication of how much fun I still had with it. In future plays, I think we'll try to avoid the situation by having more than 2 team members, one of which will not be Grisban the Thirsty (perhaps we'll throw a healer into the mix as well).
Atlantis Rising - I only played Atlantis Rising one time this month, but I really enjoyed it and would like to play it again. I'm lukewarm on most co-op games. I only own Pandemic, Hanabi, and Mice & Mystics and Agents of SMERSH (both of which I have yet to try). I don't know how many plays it would take for me to tire of Atlantis Rising, but I suspect I would want to play all of the roles at least once (so 6 plays minimum). I could be wrong, but I think the game has too much going on to really allow for an alpha gamer problem. Our one play consisted of a ton of discussion and actual, you know, cooperation. I also really like the push your luck aspect. Definitely worth checking out.
Chronicle - I've been on a trick taking/climbing game kick lately, and I was excited to see that Seiji Kanai had designed one with his own unique take on it. It really does feel like a Love Letter trick taking game, complete with special abilities that you won't always be thrilled to play (which I personally think is a good thing). I also really dig the history deck which gives each round it's own goal, so that every time you run through the deck it feels like a different game. This is quick and fun. It's light, but not quite gateway light (even knowing how to play a simple trick taker like Black Spy will make explaining the game a lot easier). If you like Seiji Kanai, it's worth checking out. If you like trick takers (and don't mind the idea of a lighter take on the genre), it's worth checking out.
Splendor - I don't know how to sell you on Splendor. It's a strategic, economic game with simple rules, a pasted on theme, and nice components. It's fun, though, and every decision is interesting. The review that convinced me to buy it was Joel Eddy's, in which he said that the game was Knizia-like. Easy to learn, hard to master is also a somewhat apt description. Like others have said, I could totally see this game winning Spiel des Jahres. If any of that sounds good to you, you should check it out.
Jaipur - I've been meaning to learn Jaipur for a long time now. I had heard it was a great 2 player game, but delayed picking it up and then I started to worry that we might have outgrown it. I was goofing around on yucata.de recently, though, and played a couple of games to give it a shot. It's a nice, light 2 player set collection game. I've been liking games with a little push your luck element, and this one has that, as well. I will probably pick up a physical copy before we go on our next vacation.
Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game - This is a bit of a rarity in my experience: a dice game that actually feels like the original, probably because it uses the same core mechanisms (auctions and area majority). It's also the only dice game I've played that actually takes longer than the original game. I still prefer Biblios, I think, but I really liked this game. The auctions are interesting and the area majority tracks provide some tension.
Star Realms - Star Realms is a new deck builder by the designers of Ascension, and it's clearly derived from that game. It shares the idea of factions with unite abilities, 2 types of currency, and an ever changing card market. Where it differs is pretty interesting. For one thing, you can play a card as soon as you buy it (doing away with the annoyance of buying a card only to never be able to use it). It also does away with Monsters and Victory Points, instead combining the two into a limited amount of health per player that the attack cards whittle down. It plays very fast (10-15 minutes), and is really inexpensive. Definitely worth checking out.
EDIT: was just informed that the person who taught me the game got it wrong. You can't play a card as soon as you buy it, it goes into your discard just like in every other deck builder. Ignore this rating, please!
Family Business - I bought Family Business as a gift for my sister back in 2007 when I first discovered modern boardgames, and it has sat, in shrink, on her shelf ever since. A friend of ours pulled it out at a game day this month (in part because it will play 6 people, which is a requirement at this particular gathering). We really had a blast playing it! It's a simple game, just a last man standing thing, really, but the theme comes across pretty well and it plays reasonably quickly.
Pack of Heroes - This is a nice tactical superhero game. It feels a lot like a lighter Summoner Wars to me. It plays fast and has a simple ruleset. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it has a lot of thematic flavor, but I do really like the art and the different hero abilities (which do play differently). I should also mention that we used the optional play mat, too, which was completely unnecessary, but made things very convenient. This is a decent game. It's also compact and would travel well.
Paperback - I'm not a fan of word games at all, really. I tend to feel that the outcome feels like it's influenced less by a good vocabulary, and more by a knowledge of obscure 2, 3, and 4 letter words that no one uses. My wife and mother love them, though, and when I found out about Paperback, it seemed like a pretty good compromise. It brings the strategy more to the forefront (building towards buying victory point cards), and mitigates the annoyances of luck by allowing you to purchase the letters that will fill your deck. It's a fun game, and easy to teach. I've only played the vanilla game so far, but I'm looking forward to adding the genre cards to the mix and seeing how interesting it becomes when you add in specific words you're trying to spell.
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
The poster child for a gamer’s game. Expensive, fiddly and less-than-stellar components. Everything that should turn me off a game. [Well, not the first bit, if its not my game.] But, in this case it ends up being my game of the month for stellar game-play. With the first couple of rounds under your belt, the play just flows smoothly, with largely simultaneous play avoiding the dreaded down time of many CIV-type games. I loved the thematic elements of the graves and pollution piling up. Less Antiquity and more Entropy? While it might be a bit of a “play in your own sandpit" (or is that cesspit) kind of game as conflict is largely through competition for ever scarcer land resources, there is plenty here to come back for. After so many false starts, could it be that I have found my favourite CIV game?
Byzantio is a KS game that has hung around on my shelves for a few months while I regretted buying it. Finally took it out for a test-drive and was favourably impressed. There is nothing too deep here, but its a tense little area majority games that works well even for two players. You need to keep a careful watch on the limited set of different actions you can take and there is some good bluffing and double-bluffing on guessing who picked what goals. The paper and pencil aspect is quite novel in this day and age.
Worker placement pinball. Start amassing points slowly and then double-triple-quadruple up bonuses in the final round or two as your well crafted plans come to fruition. It’s very much “choose your strategy” and then “optimise the implementation of that strategy” game. This is not normally my sort of game, but its so well done here, with a number of routes to victory (both metaphorically and literally) as well as great presentation, that I still enjoyed my game. That is despite coming last by perversely choosing the no-engineer strategy.
This is a simple tile-laying abstract game with a rather endearing theme. Make flower beds not war. Take turns placing a single tile and be the first to get all of your flowers out in the garden based on area-majority in completed flower beds. Tile placement is defined by position and movement of your gardeners on the path that is built up by the tiles. A sort of Takenoko meets Indigo. Design is reminiscent of a Knizia, Colovini or Schacht – simple, clean rules but interesting gameplay. Not really at its best with two (it uses the dreaded play-2-colour option) but could imagine this short and straightforward game being a great filler for 3 or 4.
Omen: A Reign of War
A rather enjoyable card game, with a good balance between depth and complexity. Play heroes, spirits, oracles and beasts to win battles and/or satisfy goals. Can be bit a bit swingy from turn-to-turn and heavily luck-dependant (hey it is cards after all), but an entertaining way to pass half and hour.
First play a bit ho-hum. But there seems to be more here, so worth at least another explore. Certainly it is a very different type of area-majority game from the usual. Place up to four cards per turn on the comic strip art board, adding, subtracting or moving pieces according to a number of rules - which, for some reason, ended up being much more fiddly to apply than they appeared in the rule book. Attempt to build connected groups of your pieces and/or grab VPs along the way according to which comic strip you are playing in. Uniquely modular board *might* enhance replayability, but I suspect not much. Nevertheless, the game has a certain Gallic flair to it and is visually striking.
Use dice as building blocks to score points for various combination of dice and/or meeting various goals/building to a given blueprints. Rinse and repeat 3 times. OK for some challenge, but slight wonky scoring – the actual blueprint building element appears quite downplayed in the scoring, with the same VPs for building as efficiently as possible as for simple dice collection. In the end it fell very flat.
Board Game: Yunnan
[Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:1248]
Love the world.
(image credit: Caversham)
I've only played this once so far, with three, but I really enjoyed it. It's is a tightly-wound efficiency game with lots of interesting trade-off decisions. The theme (which is integrated enough to satisfy me) is shipping tea along the ancient Himalayan Tea-Horse road. The further into the hinterland your chain of traders and trading posts can reach, the more revenue they'll produce.
There are two main phases each turn: (1) a bidding phase where you place workers to buy (with money) certain improvements -- you can also bail out of the bidding entirely and just take money, and (2) a moving and building phase where you move your traders around and, if you bought the privilege, build one building somewhere within the reach of your trading empire.
Maybe because Yunnan is published by Argentum Verlag, it reminded me a little bit of another of their games that is a favorite of mine -- Hansa Teutonica. Although there are significant differences, both involve the building of chains, a chance to displace other people's chain elements, the necessity to acquire "privileges" in order to extend your reach, and a modest tech advance system that allows you to improve and specialize your abilities. But where HT allows you to bop around placing pieces anywhere on a web of connections, Yunnan has you pushing your way forward on a linear path (with some minor exceptions).
My favorite mechanism in Yunnan is this: at the end of each turn you total up the revenue produced by your trading chain. You must then decide how much of that revenue you will take as cash and how much as victory points. E.g., my revenue is 20, I decide to take 15 money and 5 VP. This is the principal source of VP in the game, but you also really need money to be competitive in the bidding for improvements. The trade off tension is really nice.
It's a solidly attractive package, with good art design and bits. I really enjoyed it.
Edit: More notes on Yunnan in comments below.
(image credit: Reliba)
This is a very clean, quick playing, pirate-themed, engine building filler card game. It's well-designed light fun. You can set it up in under a minute (just shuffle the cards and go).
There's a push your luck mechanism, as each turn the "active player" puts out cards to form a market. The more cards in the market, the more chances the active player will get good money cards (ships) or valuable ability boost and VP cards to buy (people). But if two ship cards of the same color are turned up, the active player "busts." The turn is over without any cards being acquired and the market is flushed into the discard.
There's also a leeching element that adds to the push your luck mechanism. After the active player quits drawing cards to the market and takes whatever cards she is able to (and chooses to) acquire, each other player in turn has a chance to acquire one of the remaining market cards (but they must pay the active player a coin to do so). So the active player needs to worry about leaving cards in the market that will fit other players' needs.
The luck can be a bit swingy (it's a card game), but there are some ways to mitigate.
Overall, it's a very good 30 minute multi-player filler that does a good job of scratching the money-to-VP efficiency itch in a quick playing, low overhead system. I would put this in the same class as Splendor and Blueprints (both of which I recently acquired and really like) as fillers that distill the essence of more complex euros into a lighter game. That's a useful niche to be able to fill. Not enough for a main course; but a very good snack.
(image credit: EndersGame)
I mostly got this because of nostalgia for a great family vacation to Italy (the same reason I own San Marco and Lucca Città). But it's a worthy game in its own right — a pick up and deliver game, with a solid card-based objective system that reminded me of the route cards in Ticket to Ride). As with TTR, if you take an objective that you can't complete by game's end, you're penalized.
The art design is clean and colorful; the interlocked pick-up/move/sell systems present some interesting decisions with a dose of card-driven luck. There's a little bit of race-game tension as you see the end game approaching and are hurrying to finish your objectives. And there is a dice-based system for setting goods prices at the start of the game, so the economic landscape will vary slightly with each play -- that should help replayability.
I enjoyed it and will play it from time to time.
Lewis & Clark
(image credit: Chabousse)
Not sure what to make of Lewis and Clark, after one two-player game with a major rule error.
It's a race game, with players hurrying to push their camp westward along a path that's divided into river and mountain spaces (in alternating groups). The core mechanism is hand-building and action selection. Each turn you can play a card from your hand for its effect. At any point, you can choose to take back all of your cards into your hand (but must move your camp when you do so, which can be good or bad depending on your posture).
You acquire and spend different types of resources to purchase new (and better) cards for your hand, or to acquire food, horses, or canoes that will be spent when you push westward. You can also buy more and better boats to hold all of your stuff.
Helpful local "Indians" can be used to strengthen your actions (you get them back when you move camp) or expended in a worker placement subsystem to do useful stuff (they go home afterward).
There are some novel mechanisms that I'm leaving out, but that's the gist of it -- a tightly interconnected juggling act with some crucial timing aspects.
It's an interesting spin on deck-building, where the card cycling is embedded in a full-blown euro resource management game. I wasn't blown away, but it need to try it again with the rules right.
(image credit: Toynan)
This is an odd little 3-d spatial building game, with the players trying to place their awkwardly shaped blocks into a common structure in such a way that their blocks aren't visible to an "overseer" who proceeds clockwise around the outside of the structure and looks in to see what's showing. Each block face of your color that the oversee can "see" in the row he's inspecting gives you penalty points (with higher level blocks giving bigger penalties). The overseer also occasionally looks top down and clicks his disapproving tongue at whatever colors are exposed on the top of the structure (he's a dick!).
Cool bits. Good but not great game play. This would probably play much better with a Lazy Susan under the board, as there's a tendency to forget what's going on with the other side of the structure.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
(image credit: saksi)
I don't really like co-op games very much, but Robinson Crusoe is so damned pretty and intricate and well-regarded that I had to give it a try.
As I'd expected, it wasn't for me. I found the rules & bits maintenance to be a little too much of a hassle. I kept wishing there was an IOS version —— but then I'd think, if this actually was a computer game, it would be too simple to be interesting.
I really wish that I liked it more, because the art design is really appealing. I'm especially drawn to the Beagle expansion. Just look at it!
When I saw that, I wanted it. But I now know that I'd never actually play it, and I'm trying not to acquire games that I'll never play (silly me).
(Also, I just noticed in the image gallery, that Z-Man decided to ruin the box cover:
In a way, that's a relief. Do not want.)
Location: 3' from my actual position.
My favorite of the crayon rail games so far. The ships add a cool touch. Some of the foremen this one adds are cool too. Some of them are near useless. In all this was the winner for this month.
Coal Baron Surprised me a bit. I'm not sure what my expectations were coming into it but they were exceeded. Went on my wishlist.
Strada Romana Either my reading comprehension failed or the English rules are just a bad translation we played this one with some rules wrong. It is intriguing but even after we play with the right rules I don't know how this will stick. We'll see.
Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension didn't grab me that well. It's a neat idea but there just doesn't seem to be that much to it.
Elemensus was pretty much as expected. It started out interesting but there are some things about it that just don't make sense in the context of a game. Some of the tiles are outright useless. Scoring is based on the atomic weights on the periodic table so some tiles that can be used in a lot of words are worth a ton of points and some that are tricky to use aren't worth much. After a bit it kind of fell flat.
I have had this game for about 4 days and I have already played it 5 times. It's not the most innovative game in the world. But it takes a few mechanics I really like (tableau building/set collection/card drafting) and distills it down to a very simple game that still requires thought and can be taught in mere minutes to just about anyone. Part of the appeal is certainly the hefty poker chips. But getting cards cheap late in the game because of the discounts you have built up is also fun; it kind of feels like bargain shopping. It has been a hit with everyone I have taught it to. this game will easily see dozens of plays over the next year. Some find it dry and dull, but count me among the fans. 9/10
I have only 1 play of this so far (basic game). I already have and love Railways of the World and it's going to take a few plays before I can decide which one I prefer. I'm not sure about the split between the income track and the VP track. Since it's basically a game about capitalism, it seems your income and prestige should really be tied together, not separate. But I really like the action tiles and the competition for the various benefits in a given round.
There is a point in Railways where turn order does not feel as important as it did in the beginning. In Steam, however, turn order remains heavily contested throughout the entire game. Brass is still my favorite Wallace game, but I am glad to have Steam as well. Definitely a keeper. 8/10
I played C.C. Higgins Rail Pass with two other people. I think this was about right. This is a game with perhaps the most intense map around:
For me, it is the map that really beckons to me. I love all the old Railroad insignia, and just enjoy staring at this very cool map.
With three players we could all see the map pretty well. I worry about adding a fourth player, as sitting with the map upside down would probably be a bummer.
The game is easy to play, and I hope to play a few more times, and eventually write a full review.
Twin Tin Bots: This was a fun game, which has been played 2 weeks in a row. The limited control, and the player chaos makes for a romp of a game. The nice plastic pieces work well. Comparisons to Robo Rally are inevitable. RoboRally was a game I really wanted to like, but ultimately didn't work for me. Twin Tin Robots is easier to play, and keeps the action rolling. So far, so good.
Ramparts: Older abstract game by Rudi Hoffman. While I enjoyed it, it did not especially impress. I will try to get it on the table again, but I suspect this is not a long term keeper.
Airlines Europe was my favorite for the month. I took this on a trip to my in-laws and played it with my father-in-law who loved the fact that it was a stock game about airlines. It ended up taking us 2 nights to complete, because we started it way too late the first night. We both enjoyed it as a 2-player game although did feel the last round scoring was a little odd using all remaining cards as a dummy third player. He ended up winning by 2 points and we both had fun. I give it an and would like to play it again sometime.
Macao was the next game we played. The windrose mechanic is certainly unique and makes planning difficult because you try and plan your cards out right, but you still need the dice to get the right numbers to get your cards out. I think we all ended up with a few penalties because of this, but we really enjoyed the game. For this reason the first few rounds flew by while the remainder took awhile as we got our cards out and used them each turn. I enjoyed this Feld game and would be interested in playing it again although I'm not sure it will stay in my collection even though I ended up winning on the tie breaker. Having played Bruges before I enjoyed that tableau builder a bit more than Macao as I think the card abilities are a bit better and it plays faster. For this reason Macao gets a .
Packet Row is a quick auction game that relies on the auctioneer going last and asking if the other players want a card from one of the 4 areas. If the players don't take a card and the auctioneer does, then the turn ends so it may be important to get a card from an area even if it's not the one you are interested in. The game plays quick and coins serve a dual purpose as you need coins to buy goods (ships and contracts are free), and turn all 3 as a combined set into coins so that you can also buy victory points. I ended up winning on the tie breaker of coins, it was a good quick game but certainly needs a full compliment of 5 players to be really good. As our game group is only 3 of us, I like it but know it is better with more. So for now I give it a .
Dominant Species got to play this and while I enjoyed it, it was far too long for me. It took us 4+ hours as we were all new to the game. I enjoyed it, but for me it is far too mathy in that you have to count up dominance with almost every single action as it can change quite frequently during the course of the round. I think this is what hampered my enjoyment of the game because I felt like I was always counting and could never get into the theme. For this reason I give it a . I'd like to try it again to see if it speeds up at all, but not one I'm itching to get to the table again.
Board Game: Yedo
[Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:450]
Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
Only two new games this month - it was as if I was in NoNeGaMo!
One meh game, and the other really good.
I will be honest and direct: I really liked this game! It is smart, fun, with many mechanics that work really well together, and also make players actually involved one with the other - first because there is an auction phase, but also because of the fight for spaces (something usual for a work placement), the trading (which require players to be in one of two regions of the board, so is necessary to talk beforehand), the use of action cards. Yedo has a fine space for strategy, while requiring tatical thinking, to work around restrictions given by the Events (and the Patrol), and also to work as fast as possible to fulfill some missions. The missions are an excellent tool to make the players really do about everything in the game - in the end of a play it will be unsual if a player hasn't used almost all the actions in the board. Our play, in five (four learning it) took us around 3+ hours, but everyone was excited with the game, and it appeared to be less time.
Also, considering the amount of things you can do in a given round, it is surprisingly easy to have a grasp of the rules and the flow of the game right from the start - it could be that this is because of the explanation that the owner gave to us, but I guess that this happened also because of the game itself, where everything works well and is knitted together. The Events can really hurt one or other players (in our game, the Earthquake affected only two players, and both lost a disciple and a building, while the other three weren't affect at all - so, the two players that suffered the full effect were sent back almost to the start of the game - the event occurred in the third round), but the game allows for some control over this: some of the Events can be lessened or even totally avoided by the use of a blessing token, and also, it is possible to use the Temple to see the next three Events and then you can prepare somewhat for them.
There is luck in the game? Yes, a good deal, by the way: from the Events, as I mentioned, but mostly in the Missions: in the auction phase, the player that takes the missions spot, can take three cards from the same stack and keep one of them - this helps a lot with the lick aspect; but using the Castle District you only take the topmost card in one of the piles, and this one can be something you are already close to do, or something that will take you a lot of actions/trades to accomplish (for example, two times in the game, happened that after a player took a mission card, using the Castle, that mission was already "made"). But, again, the luck of the draw is lessened by the use of a building: the Yashiki, that, when used, allows the player to trade one mission card in his hand and draw a new one. So, as you can see, the game do have luck, however all of is aspects have something in the game that works against it (like looking the top three cards of a stack - an action allowed by the Port, the Gate and the Temple, or look the top three weapons in the stack - this can be made in the Tavern; all of this will, for example, allow you to make a more sound decision in the next bidding phase).
One thing that also happened in our game was: if you lose an disciple because of the Patrol, things can enter in an spiral of bad things: because losing a disciple, not only means that you have one less worker, but also can signify that you won't be able to fulfill a mission, and because of this will be out of money, and won't be able to use your disciple in other place, which might prevent you do another mission next round - things, as I said, are knitted closely in the game, and one lost action/disciple can screw the timming of your whole game up to that point. So you must be really careful with the Patrol. Yedo is also unforgiving if you lag behind: there isn't any catch up mechanism, the only "catch up" is given by the actions of others: if you are ahead, you might find it difficult to trade, and also you might end up in the receiving end of some nasty action cards effects. But other than this, no - you will just have to work hard in order to try to catch up.
I saw some people comparing Yedo with Lords of Waterdeep. Well, I can see from where they come from: in both game the victory points come from fulfilling missions. But this is about it. Yedo, for me, is a richer game, with much more interaction between players. Also, Yedo has more moving parts, and it lasts way more, which makes it less of a option as a gateway game, or a game to play with occasional players - Yedo fits well for gamers.
The only thing I think it could be a missed opportunity is that the clans in the game - Hosokawa, Nabeshima, Toyotomi, Sanada and Maeda - aren't different in any game aspect, except in color and art. I know it is really hard to make different "powers" while keeping the balance of the game, but it still would be nice to have little things, like if the Sanada clan could use any weapon as a rope, or if, once in the game the Nabeshima could gain the bonus of a mission without having one of the requirements. I don't know about balance, but I would sure like that the clans would be a little unique. Anyway, a small complain, as it was a joy to play even without this.
Rate: 8 / 10
Everything I wrote for DC Comics Deck-Building Game is valid for this game. The only things that changes in this game is the cards: new equipaments, villains, supervillains, locations and, of course, heroes. In here you don't play with Superman or Batman, but, instead, you get Nightwing, Batgirl, Booster Gold, Hawkman, and others. I do think that, in this implementation, some cards are a little more OP, particularly those that give points in the end game - like the Rings, and cards that give you as many points as you have of different villains and heroes, which can be quite a lot.
So, for the rest, all only need to read is what I wrote in last month list, regarding DC Comics Deck-Building Game.
Rate: 6.5 / 10
And that was it!
I learned this 2 player game and played 4 times. It is not a bad game but with so many competitors out there it is not that special. It plays really quickly, usually over in 20 minutes, so this makes it more likely to get played since there is some pretty good thinking in a very short game. I rated it:
_9_Combat Commander: Europe x7
I'm not going to bother reviewing the gameplay as their are countless great reviews of this game. Suffice it to say I agree with most of them. I will comment that this is at the very top of my complexity acceptability and I'm struggling to keep all the rules straight in my head, not to speak of the nested action sequences which can be tricky to track. It's slowly coming together but I look forward to the day when I can stop constantly referencing the rulebook and player aids.
I should also comment that I don't really care for WW2. I don't remember how many people are in a team or a squad though the rulebook did say, I don't know or care what a volksgrenadier is or if a German pioneer is the same as the American engineers (those numbers sure looked the same to me!) or how a guards rifle unit differs from a regular rifle unit. But the game just manages to capture the imagination so completely that I forget all those things and just focus on keeping my little guys alive in the swirl of battlefield mayhem. It is fantastic.
1.FL was not a very interesting scenario but was simple enough to learn on, at least using the basic strategy of grabbing and holding the lake house (a drawn chit raised the VP value of this by 10). That raised the stakes as the Germans did their best to hold on but at the end couldn't keep the overwhelming firepower from the forest at bay. The Russians who had unbelievably lucky draws throughout the game advanced and the Germans were sent packing. They had been holding out for one more time trigger for quite a while but it just never came for them.
2.Wasn't a fan of Hedgerows and Hand-grenades.
3.Bonfire of the NKVD was good fun. The Russians fighting retreat didn't go quite to plan and they had to surrender well before the end.
4.Closed for Renovations was suitably stabby and ended quickly as the smoke cup seemingly pulled out only values of 5 and up across the board, well before the reinforcements arrived.
5.Cold Front - the dash across the river played out well with a tight win by the Germans on VP primarily due to some timely reinforcements.
7.Poor Germans were obliterated by some very lucky Russians who managed to grab a hero and a .50cal and then stuck them with the pointy end in close combat all across the board. Ended by Surrender with the Russians on 26VP!
8.Very poor setup by the Russians allowed the Germans, by a couple of lucky events to break and rout 3 russian units off the board, and then do a dash through the brush whilst popping off smoke to get off the board. The rest of the Germans managed to spread the russian forces but were playing more for time and locations (drawn objective) than trying to escape. Easy German victory.
_8_War of the Ring (Second Edition) x1
5.5 hours including setup and rules learning. The components are great except that the miniatures aren't color coded which makes sorting and identifying them a real pain. And the nation symbols on the war track are blazingly hard to identify.
The game itself seems solid with plenty of choices and though the Risk variant complaints do have a ring of truth, there is still a good game here and enough variety to keep it interesting. Perhaps it does lean too heavily on the IP but as a non-wargamer I'll take that over a great game on a boring topic.
I felt that the game had quite a lot of automatic balancing built into it which prevented one side completely outdoing the other. The downside being that at times bad luck in the dice can often make you feel like you're just along for the ride. I'm not sure that it's such a bad thing though. After a few plays the gameplay which is fairly simple should move out of the way and the players can focus on the story and card play making the game come to life.
The Fellowship had wonderful luck in the game, that is to say the Shadow couldn't roll to kill a hobbits life and with some decent card draws was not revealed until about half way across the board. To make matters worse SP was initially only moving a single army instead of two which meant his forces took too long to build up and were rebuffed from Helm's Deep, though the shire and surrounds were all sacked. In his favour though the lack of action meant that the FP took forever to bring anyone to War status effectively killing off any chance of a military victory and keeping most of the Fellowship together so they couldn't interfere elsewhere.
It ended as one would expect with a ring dunk to 7VP. A veritable thrashing in WotR terms(?) 8/10 is probably generous at this stage but I think the experience will improve to match it with further play.
This first play encouraged me enough to order the Lords of the Middle Earth expansion now, since it was out of stock at Ares in April and I don't want to be left waiting for them to get around to reprinting it if I miss it.
A solid hand management, keep everyone in check type game with enough luck to keep most people in with a chance. Enjoyable for something a little different from most other card games. It can be played with pretty much anyone and can be quite engaging. BUT Being nothing more than two decks of standard playing cards makes it a real hard sell. I would happily pay for the rules but I can't see any reason to clutter my shelves with those ugly cards.
_6_War of the Ring: Lords of Middle-earth – Treebeard Mini-Expansion x1
The Treebeard mini-expansion was fine. It didn't do much for my opponent but I suppose that it is a nice option to have for the rare case when it is useful.
_6 _Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin x1
Thunderstone with random decks of cards. Fairly interesting but it's still a basic deck builder, a mechanism that doesn't make for much of a game on its own. Happy to play once in a while but wouldn't buy.
_6_Core Worlds x1
This combines a few things I'm not a fan of, namely, action points, deck building and variable card combinations. For people who don't mind those things this should go down very well as the game itself has simple rules, fantastic artwork and keeps the pressure on the players throughout to optimize their decks whilst grabbing points at every opportunity.
_6_Eminent Domain x1
Dominion, RftG, Glory to Rome mashup. Pretty good overall though a little lacking in theme, art and options. It plays smoothly enough but as I understand it the expansion makes it into the game it should have been out the box. As such I have no interest in buying it.
_6_Eminent Domain: Bonus Planets x1
Whilst just being more of the same I'm surprised this wasn't part of the base game.
_4_Eminent Domain: Elusive/Exclusive Victory Promo x1
Eh. Seemed completely pointless.
_3_Recon Strategy aka Dogfight x1
Played one game of this using the PnP files available and some standard decks.
At the most basic level the game works and is enjoyable for what it is. The problem is that it's a design that feels old, clunky and luck driven.
The large amounts of luck in the card draws but more importantly the movement mechanism that sees only a single plane (per squadron move each turn by die roll) reduce any sense of control the game offers. To make matters worse the game encourages (pre-ace) planes to a) stay in the base for better card draws and b) to give the recon something to do. There's nothing wrong in these decisions per se but when I have an air combat game I want to feel like the aircraft are swarming about and jockeying for tactical position rather than flying out one at a time, trying to either dash across the line and back or quickly shoot someone down and then dash back. Sure it makes it 'strategic' in the sense that the player that rolls better will likely get to attack first but it's fundamentally not interesting.
The other major problem is that in a game this simple, the rules for card draws which are based on ace status, eligibility, planes in base and planes destroyed/in air are overly complicated and don't mesh with the rest of the design. The design reasons for the number of card draws are quite logical in terms trying to balance the recon part of the game with the dogfighting part but the tradeoff doesn't seem worthwhile to me.
So how much strategy does there seem to be? Well it seems to me that this is more of a Cribbage/Backgammon rather than a Bridge/Chess. That is to say the better player will win out over multiple games but not necessarily in any one off. As for the Poker aspect; there is basically none.
Did we slam our cards down on the table to increase the intensity of the Recon Strategy? Yes! That was a fantastic element that I will include in all future games, recon strategy or not. (Thanks Thom)
The time for this sort of design is well passed. Not when there is Wings of War/X-Wing on the tabletop, Ace Patrol on iPad and War Thunder on PS4/PC.
Got to play a few new games this month, which was nice. The best was definitely Agricola.
Borrowed this from a friend, but I'll definitely be picking a copy up for myself. I only got to play it once, and looking forward to more plays. Probably should have started with the family game, because the cards just added a lot to take in on the first game. I think I need to play it some more (a family game and then play with all the cards) but it felt very promising.
(and likely to go up)
Gorgeous little filler, fun and tricky towards the end. I felt less like I was playing a game trying to win and more like I was putting something together with the other players. When it's finished, the train networks look absolutely wonderful.
I think the way this game simulates different roles on a ship by having players simultaneously complete mini-games is fantastic. I always felt part of a bigger machine, with responsibility (but I never felt solely responsible for mistakes - well, except that rocket firing that went horribly wrong). In-built game rotation is a great touch. I think some of the minigames are much more fun than the others - building rockets, sensing, engineering - and it was a lot to take in on the first game, but I'd definitely be willing to play it again.
Lived up to my expectations - this is a lovely, gentle game. It's not ever difficult or challenging but the simple, fluid gameplay and lovely art was enough to keep me engaged the whole time.
Pack of Heroes
Kickstarted this, had a quick play and it seems pretty fun. It'd be very quick once both players are familiar with the rules, and the number of teams means it has some nice replay value.
Someone offered to show me the infamous Fluxx and I agreed. It was perfectly fine for what it was - a fast paced card game with constantly changing rules. I've played Chrononauts before and I could see the similarities - I think I prefer the latter for the timeline. Fluxx went for a little longer than I would have liked, but it was fun enough for a play. I probably won't go back to it in a real hurry - also, any game that can successfully market a stoner version of itself is probably not going to be something I'm super interested in.
52 Plays this month thanks to attending the fantastic Geekway to the West Convention in St. Louis, here are the new ones. Not in any particular order.
The Builders: Middle Ages-Short quick, well put together city building game that always encourages close games. Definitely on the lighter side but that’s okay by me. Just wish all the tins would match up in size.
Expedition: Northwest Passage-Fantastic exploration race game with some set collection. Played twice with 2 player and would love to see it with 4 and see how the map fills out, with 2 we only really used half the board. You have to plan according to the freeze line which also acts as the round marker. Fantastic method of doing this.
Asara-Played on the last day of Geekway with my daughter and both of us quite enjoyed this one. Need to pick it up and try it with the advanced rules. Simple worker placement with cards instead of pieces where you are trying to compete and build the best towers in the land. Definite winner.
Cinque Terre-Fun Pick up and Deliver game with a beautiful board and artwork. Want to play it again as our play of this was at 1 am in the morning and my memories were a bit fuzzy, as was my play. I couldn’t even get close to finishing my starting card, but enjoyed it just the same.
Dominant Species-Brain burning fun. Definitely need to be more aggressive when playing this which goes against a lot of how I play normally. Looking forward to playing again.
Garden Dice-Boy, this game always looked a little light to me, but it was actually quite a bit thinkier than I imagined. I really liked the chaining in this game. Look forward to trying it again and this time being a bit more aggressive and trying to use the bird and rabbit.
Lewis & Clark-I am probably the only person, or one of the few, who did not like this game. Now a disclaimer, we played it late on the first day of Geekway and we had trouble finding a teacher that was comfortable teaching and by the time we did and played, it ended up being about a 3 ½ hour game which was entirely too long for what it is. The board is beautiful and the artwork looks fantastic, but the color choices were horrible, more than twice we got colors confused and moved around incorrect pieces. Also, one play doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but certain cards seem to be a lot more powerful than others, Sacagawea being the one we saw in this game. Would be willing to try again, but I just don’t know if it’s going to work for me.
Machi Koro-Liked this city building game that uses dice to activate the buildings to gain money/gain others money or take money from others. Can’t wait for the NA release of this from IDW.
Nauticus-Definitely a game I want to play again, quite enjoyed it even though I was beaten horribly. My ship building skills apparently were not up to par. Loved the action selection method, was really interesting.
Paradise Fallen: The Card Game-Need to play again to form a better opinion, but I definitely thought it was a pretty good lightweight exploration type game, but wasn’t sure there was much there.
PIX-Neat game premise, where you are using blocks to draw pictures trying to get the other players to guess. Definitely worth a look and a play, makes for some fun times.
Relic Expedition-Exploration while being chased by wild animals!!!!! Want to play again, with possibility of adding to collection at some point.
Relic Runners-Overall not impressed with this one, but I could see there was something there so I want to try it again before completely dismissing it, but it seemed to want to try to do too much for what it was.
I played several new-to-me games that I thought were mediocre. This 2-map chit-pull wargame about the struggle between Germany and Russia in WWII is my favorite for May. So far I've only set it up and played through Turn 1 solitaire, so my opinions are still preliminary, but it's an interesting game. Designer Ted Raicer, whose best-known game is Paths of Glory, designed the East Front game he has always wanted to play, and because he often plays solitaire, it works very well that way.
The game is driven by drawing chits from a cup. This means that, except for the last chit each turn, you never know what's going to come out next, forcing you to plan for eventualities. At the start, the Germans have many more chits, but over time the composition of the set of chits changes, a mechanism that neatly depicts the gradual shift in the balance of capabilities without the need for many rules.
I'd love to play this with an opponent, but right now I'm learning the rules.
My wife gifted me this "trading goods in the Mediterranean" eurogame for my birthday. It has captured my interest since the first prictures emerged out of Essen last year. When I heard it was quickly selling out and I was in danger of having to wait even long until the next print run I got nervous, but my wife is the best.
I managed three plays this month. It takes a game to learn how the game plays out, especially since scoring doesn't take place until the very end. It also helps to have an understanding of how the end game scoring works: each card in your hand it associated with a given Roman god which awards VP for certain criteria. Each cards of a given god is a multiplier for the achieved bonus.
This is an elegant and beautiful euro game. I appreciate it more with each play and feel I've got a working grasp and ready for more.
Like Concordia, Spyrium has been on my wish list for a long time. We gifted my brother-in-law a copy for his birthday figuring he and his friends would really enjoy while giving us an opportunity to play it and determine whether it is a game for us.
It was only one play but there was plenty of interesting decisions and game in that box. It is also a great value. I am good to proceed acquiring the game, I'm awaiting my wife's thoughts when she's ready to talk about it.
I've heard there is questionable replayability which could easily be solved by additional cards. Yes, the phase 3 (or C?) cards are very predictable given they are all used, the configuration and a few unused cards in the first two phases certainly could hold our interest for a good number of plays.
This 2013 hotness was a game I had considered buying, or at least playing last year at Origins but after watching for two minutes my wife commented how overwhelmed it make her feel. So when one of the BillCon IV attendees showed up with copy in hand I immediately signed up to play it at the end of the day. It has a lot of moving parts, upgrade actions, scoring opportunities, etc. which was admittedly overwhelming at the end of an all-day gaming event. I just tried to absorb the basics and make sense of the iconography given what I was obsorbing and felt it was not too bad. I managed to keep it close between me and the only experienced player in the game. One of my best friends also played and is now trying to plot how he might justify buying the game. I really liked it, would play again, yet I probably wouldn't buy it as I put it right there with Eclipse which is a great game, but given their price point and how often they'd make it to the table I only have room for one in my collection at the moment.
I'll admit that this game exceeded my expectations. In my first read through the rules were underwhelming so I passed on the game. This Spring my wife found a copy of the game at a garage sale for an irrisistable price. There is a really neat set collection game in this box. It was easy to teach and start playing and with each play our scores increased as we got a better understanding of the game.
I've seen this game being played was but was not impressed. However a friend pulled it out and asked if I was interested in trying it. Sure. It exceeded my impressions. A fun, neat yet simple card game that would be approachable by new and seasoned gamers for an occasional play. My wife saw us playing and said, "Oh, yeah. I got to play that one at our game night a month or two ago. I liked it." Hmm.
I've played a number of other versions so when presented with the opportunity to try Pirate at a bowling alley while I waited for my daughter to finish up, I said, why not. Okay. More Fluxx... I got to be called captain from the beginning of the game and I won. But beyond that probably my least favorite. Just not as interesting to me as the other versions we own and play.
I'm an unlikely convert to Eldritch Horror, a long, random, theme-dependent game; however its clever modular design provides narrative structure (and avoids dilution), and the component design makes gameplay really smooth. Eldritch Horror: Forsaken Lore adds more of everything that was in the base game, including more content for the existing Great Old Ones - a move I really appreciate as I'm wary of the phenomenon of shallow complications being tacked onto a thin core. Anyway, I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to play the game.
I didn't expect to enjoy Smash Up but the simplified way you could "build" your deck before the game (pick two factions, and they're your deck) and the simple gameplay won me over.
I played maybe a quarter game of Factory Fun, perhaps not by the actual rules. It seemed okay, and I'd try it again to be sure.
The microgame Master Merchant was one of those bewildering experiences where you're not sure if the combo someone did is a baseline tactic in the game. I'd play it again, but wouldn't go out of my way.
I had heard good things about The Palaces of Carrara, and it was okay, though less like Chicago Express than I had hoped/assumed. It's the kind of game that rewards repeat play, but I doubt I'll pursue that - I have enough games to work on.
Liberté is a two-level area control game, a lot like König von Siam, but it seems to have far too many little rules for its own good. While the two-level aspect ameliorates my general distaste for area control games, I'd rather just play King of Siam.
Dragon's Hoard is a light card filler that seemed to suffer from some streaky draw problems. You need to collect sets of cards in order to score, but that proved to be annoyingly difficult.
This month was full of new games, many of them good, but some bad. First, the cream of the crop (rated 7 or 8):
Quantum was way more enjoyable than I expected. It gets my pick of the month. I generally prefer cards to dice, but Quantum is an excellent dice game. It's surprisingly deep for a game of its weight and type, and it's impressively elegant given all the flexibility in the rules. Decisions are less obvious than in what's probably its closest competitor, King of Tokyo. Quantum is a lot more open by comparison.
TAMSK is the most fun of the GIPF games, though I can't say how replayable it is. Easily the simplest and lightest, it's definitely the odd one out. Players have to manage time as well as board position, and there's some wonderfully mean moves to be made by taking as much time as possible for a turn while watching the last grains of sand run out on an opponent's timer. Truly original, there's nothing else like it. If only it were a bit deeper, it might be my favourite of the GIPF series, but then it might not be as much fun.
Seeland reminded me of Samurai; it's what you might get if you put it together with Carcassonne and added a rondel. It's like Samurai in that you score defined numbers of points for adjacent tiles on a shared board, and there are incentives to piggyback on the efforts of other players. Like Carcassonne, however, you only remove your pieces when you score them. There's also a rondel to constrain tile selection. Good old-style euro.
Ingenious seems similar to Qwirkle, but it's way better and with much less luck. It's got the best-in-the-lowest scoring rule from Tigris & Euphrates, which I like a lot. I prefer Blokus with four players, but Ingenious scales a lot better, and luck of the draw should prevent the game from becoming scripted.
Next, the good but not great (rated about 6 or 7):
I haven't played the original Junta, but I like negotiation games, and Junta: Viva el Presidente! is a pretty good one. It's not without issues. Some of the cards are simply take-that attacks. Paired with the dice rolling, luck can crowd out skillful play. But it's short enough that I excuse its faults.
Mutant Meeples is Ricochet Robots Advanced. In other words, it's a spatial logic puzzle within a speed game.
Villa Paletti is the best dexterity game in the Jenga subgenre. It's certainly deeper than its competitors.
Polarity was an interesting dexterity game with magnets, definitely one I'd happily replay from time to time, although I imagine some might find it frustrating.
Cheating Moth was a fun variation of Crazy Eights with art in the style of Kakerlakenpoker. All players but one are allowed to cheat unless the one catches them in the act, in which case the cheater is penalized and becomes the new watchdog. With the right group, in the right mood, it's lots of fun.
And closer to average (rated 5 or 6):
Half of Kaigan is an inspired take on Coloretto, the other half a mediocre area majority game; the two halves are fused together competently enough. Kaigon is one of those euros that's more focused on mechanics and edging out a win with opportunistic play. It's a bit dry, but there's a good amount of interaction, and I enjoyed the game more than I expected to.
I'm not convinced that Innovation needed an expansion. Even so, Echoes exists, and it's worth playing. The foreshadow and echo effects are fine, but I find the setup and draw rules cumbersome, as is adding up scores on the cards. The additions disrupt the flow of the base game, and while they mix things up, I'm not sure it's for the better.
I have similar thoughts on Figures. With both expansions mixed together, I question the balance. In one game, I got the Fermenting + Reformation combo, plus Huang di, converting light bulbs into leaves too. Splayed under Fermenting I had an echo effect that allowed me to tuck all cards in my hand of one value. By the end, I drew and tucked 10 cards, not just every turn but every action. I saved Canal Building from the start to score 80 points in one turn and ended the game by running through the deck, though I could have won any number of ways.
Finca is a set collecting game with a rondel and anti-hoarding rules that probably ought to be stricter. I like the rondel, but I found it difficult to plan anything but the most basic strategy with four players. BGG says it's better with fewer, but there's lots of competition in the 2p slot. Quality components aside, I don't see myself wanting to play Finca 2p or 3p over similar alternatives.
I like the theme of Prosperity: balancing development with environmental sustainability. The game's arc makes sense within that framework. But it's rather repetitive, a bit dry, and I don't expect there to be a ton of replay value. Still, it's a solid euro with an intuitive ruleset that plays quickly.
Finally, the mediocre to poor (rated 5 or lower):
Augsburg 1520 is an auction paired with a tech tree. One branch increases the number of cards drawn at the end of a round; another advances income, which players use to buy the drawn cards; the last branch advances a victory point engine. Essentially, players draw cards, buy them, and use the winnings to advance up the tech tree, ultimately aiming for victory points.
The auction is clever. I like it. However, many of the spaces on the tech tree are obviously superior to others, and the tech tree itself feels as generic as the theme, which makes the game both less interesting and less fun than it might be otherwise.
There are several things I don't like about Endeavor, starting with the fiddly setup and ending with the points-for-everything scoring. It's an optimization game with individual player boards, and some people like that, but I usually don't. It's reasonably brisk, short, and there's a map with territory to fight over, so it's not a solitaire experience; the individual player boards are for bookkeeping more than anything. If I were more into optimization games, I might like this game.
Splendor might appeal to a similar audience as Seasons. It's a simple engine-builder with not much interaction or excitement. Collect stuff; convert it into engine parts; snowball your way to victory.
DNA results:Scottish, Dutch, English, Irish, German, French, Iberian Peninsula = 100% American!
Played this for the first time 2 and 3 players. At first, seeing this set-up at BGG.CON, I turned away at the 'board', seeming to be too busy. I was wrong. It is a very intuitive game, with the tiles clearly marked, allowing for easy interpretation of the interaction each had with other tiles. And the warnings I had read of a few powerful tiles turned out to be simply unfounded. I even bought the expansion, which I haven't broken the shrink wrap on yet. One of the best designed medium games I have come across in years.
Lewis & Clark
And this one too, as with a few others above. Played 4 and 2 players. I like this medium race game with a subtle deck building element. It played long our first 4 player game - but we ignored the 'warning' not to play with that number our first game. Enjoyed it very much, with a slew of historical character cards to play each game.
I didn't play much of anything new to me for most of the month and then things really got rolling over Memorial Day Weekend.
Image credit: Chris Norwood
Madeira was definitely the standout new to me game this month. Lots of levers to pull, lots of ways to try to combo things and set yourself up for some decent points and yet the game is restrictive enough to cause some significant brain burn. I did pretty poorly but I loved the process. Can't wait to play again.
Liberté definitely gets my vote for "I'm not sure what happened but I want to try this again." I like area control/influence games and I like interesting card play and this game seems to have both. However, my first game ended with a second round red landslide and the most experienced player had loaded up on red cards for the victory. I take it that most games don't go like that, but I had fun all the same and would like to do it again.
The Manhattan Project was a fun game and one that I'd be happy to play again. The building market feels a little like the power plant market in Power Grid and I really would like to see what else could be done by focusing on espionage. I'm not entirely sure why the air strikes are there, but maybe I can put them to use in my next game. Definitely solid.
The Walking Dead Card Game is a game I never thought I would buy, but then I found out that it's a re-skin of 6 nimmt! which I've been meaning to pick up ever since playing it on BGA. This will be making the rounds with my lunch group at work.
Draco Magi is a totally solid 2 player filler. I'd be happy to play again.
Board Game: Tenzi
[Average Rating:4.80 Overall Rank:15263]
[Average Rating:4.80 Unranked]
Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
May was a good month of playing games. But I concentrated much more on dusting off old classics instead of playing new stuff. So, sadly, my unplayed list stands the same and the only new game I played is not one I enjoyed. Oh well, there's always next month...
= Tenzi - I really don't have an issue with extremely simple dice games. LCR is even tolerable to me, because it is so quick and easy. What this game lacks that LCR has is the opportunity to chat while playing. Since it's just a race to grab your dice and roll 10-of-a-kind as fast as possible, you can't socialize. Luckily, our friend who purchased this as a gift also gave us a deck of cards that include different twists to the standard rules. Using those we can play multiple rounds with different styles of play and it adds a little more interest to the game. Yet I just have a hard time getting past the fact that there is no decision point in the game, and sometimes rounds can take a lot longer simply because no one is getting that perfect number they need. There are a couple other annoyances that I find when people start rolling one die again-and-again as fast as possible, but I understand when you're hurrying that style kind of goes out the window. I'll play again when our friend who gave us this game asks, but otherwise I think I'll just be happy to use these as fun unique colored dice for other games that come with generic dice for each player. Initial Rating = 3
I enjoyed gaming in the month of May as I got to replay a bunch of previously-played stuff, including several cutthroat games of Wildlife Safari and Nanuk. However, I also reduced my ratings for Vasco da Gama, Russian Railroads and Suburbia in the process. But hey, let's not reminisce about the old and look at the bright new shiny games played instead!
Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road centers around an inspired variation of the deckbuilding mechanism. Players start off with three ‘caravans’, which are essentially columns of cards. During their turn, they activate one of the cards in front of the columns and move it to the back of the respective column. The purpose of this exercise is to gather resources which can then be exchanged for public objective cards.
Despite the presence of a few cards which can affect other players, Kashgar was quite a multiplayer solitaire experience as players occasionally took turns out of order with little consequence. It is simple to learn, and apparently quite prone to luck as there was one player at my table who couldn’t seem to draw cards which gave him camels. Yet I enjoyed this game quite a bit, possibly due my idiosyncratic fondness for games which reward efficient management of decks. It also moves at a relaxing pace, and offer a few options every round without being too nerve-wracking.
Abluxxen didn’t look like much at first. All players have to do is play down a set of cards every turn with the objective of being the first to exhaust his or her hand. However, if a higher-valued set is played, the player with the lower-valued set either takes back the set to hand or gives them to the player with the higher-valued set.
But there is a bit more going than it initially seems. Players may want to play low values early, with the hope that of exchanging the set for something more valuable if it is bounced back. However playing low values also means that your opponents' sets get a free pass for one round, which brings them closer to emptying their hand. A little memorisation is also required to help anticipate the kinds of sets your opponents can play. Overall, a surprisingly charming yet vicious filler.
There are two interesting aspects in Glen More. First is the way tiles are obtained, with the player furthest behind on the track being able to claim any tile along the track. The further the player jumps ahead, the more likely he or she will have to wait some time before his or her turn comes round again. Second is the scoring system which awards a decent bulk of VP based on how well players are doing relative to their opponents. The system incentivises the focused production of certain types of resources to increase the difference between players as much as possible.
Glen More’s tile activation mechanism reminds me of a variation of Suburbia. A little dry and abstract, but offers quite a bit of choices for a game that plays under 50 minutes.
With all due respect, YINSH is a very well-designed game. Players control rings which leave behind a disc of their own colour whenever they are moved. Whenever the ring passes over a disc, the disc is flipped over to the opposite colour. The goal is to be the first to obtain 3 sequences of 5 discs of your own colour.
Rings can be used both offensively and defensively; either flipping discs over or sitting in the way to block the movement the movement of rings. I also like the balancing mechanism of requiring a ring to be removed every time a sequence is completed. As brilliant as this game is however, I don’t particularly clamour to play abstracts, and so my rating reflects that enthusiasm.
In Port Royal, players draft cards which either provide coins or ongoing effects which can form a simple engine. The gimmick here is that the cards in the set are drawn in a push-your-luck format, much like the one found in Circus Flohcati.
Despite a number of initial glowing comments for this game, I thought Port Royal was a fairly ordinary card game. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I felt that the push-your-luck mechanism was a bit forced. Although a few rules and effects cleverly reward players for taking the risk to reveal many cards, there was a slight gap in the risk-reward payout and players usually stopped after revealing 4 cards or so. The game also tended to feel anticlimactic towards the end, when players know who is in contention for victory and who isn't.
Furstenfeld poses an interesting dilemma – the game has players constructing an engine to earn money, but the end goal requires the engine to be completely dismantled. This requires players to carefully select parts of the engine to be permanently shut down throughout the course of the game.
What fell flat for me in this game though, was the market system. Sometime by midgame, the prices of goods were near constant. Any attempts to reduce the prices of goods to sabotage others were futile, and there rarely was a good reason to manipulate the turn order.
However, I’d like to try this again because I went into the game with the wrong mindset. Thinking that this was a game of manipulating the deck of building cards, I assumed some planning ahead could be done once the whole deck had been cycled through. However, the game ended barely after the first cycle through the deck, so I believe that the strategy shifts based on the cards you have in hand for that round instead.
(Edited on 6 June for grammatical errors.)
Board Game: FITS
[Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1266]
This is the fist Knizia game I've played, thanks to my daughter taking an interest in it at the B&N clearance table this month. I've played one game with her, and another with the whole family.
It's surprisingly challenging, despite the complete lack of player interaction. It's definitely a fun game for those who like puzzles, and the competitive aspect is entirely fair.
The physical components are very cleverly designed; my only material criticism is that it could have fit into a considerably smaller box. This is a game that could and should be more portable at its current scale.
Edited to add: D'oh! I actually first played this game in April. No new-to-me for May at all.