New to you July 2014 => Best new boardgame
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What new board and card games did you play in July 2014? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.

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1. Board Game: Las Vegas [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:477]
Andy
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Thanks to a summer game convention I was able to attend for a day, I managed to get in a couple of new games... It was also my 40th birthday this month, and I added a couple of new games to my collection (Escape the Curse + Illusions Expansion and Dragon's Hoard) and a new expansion (BSG Daybreak). I also have some birthday money to spend, some of which might go on games.

== NEW GAMES ==

Las Vegas - 2 plays - thumbsup


I was very fortunate to play this with:
Steve K
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And I found it to be an interesting and fun dice game, with a good amount of push yer luck and screwage. We played with the additional white dice, which I think might have been an advanced rule, or an expansion, but they added another level of strategy to the game.

We also played with some unknown money cards, that were replaced when the casinos were evaluated. I'm pretty sure this was also from the expansion and it added another level of mystery and randomness to the game, which was fine.

Overall it was the best new to me game this month, and it was fun, but it's not a standout game. I would play again, but won't be picking it up.


Camel Cup - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsdown


I honestly hadn't paid attention to the SDJ nominees this year, so when I played this I didn't even no it was a nominee... and then a few weeks after I played it, it went a won!

Camel (c)Up is a gambling game with theme of camel racing. Players can get chits to bet whether a camel will finish a round in first or second place... or place chits of their own to bet which camel(s) will win or lose the race overall. Camels are moved by rolling dice by means of an elaborate and entirely unnecessary pyramid that lets only 1 dice out at a time (a simple bag to draw the coloured dice from, and then roll, would have sufficed). The camels stack, and all camels above the one moving are moved, meaning that some camels can move more than their individual roll. There's also some messing about with playing +1 or -1 tokens on the racetrack to modify camel movement.

It's a fairly simple game, which does look very pretty, and with the right group of people can be a hoot. Fortunately we had the right group of people, including but not limited to:
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so it was fun. I'd play it again if asked, but don't feel the need to request it myself.


== NEW EXPANSIONS ==

Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup


I'd played Lords of Waterdeep a couple of ties before, so when Fred, Charles and the gang suggested we give it a try 6 player with the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion I jumped at the chance... I must admit when the corruption mechanism was mentioned, I was expecting something more like that in Cleopatra, where the person who is the most corrupt gets fed to Crocodiles... however their use in scoring, with the value varying with the amount of corruption taken overall was quite interesting. I also really liked the additional locations, which give you more options of where to go... particularly early in the round, but also when spaces are filling up and you're trying to place your last people.
I finished 3rd, which I was very happy with, considering Fred and John both play the ipad version a lot and Fred had finished second in the tournament at UK Games EXPO 2014!.

I don't own Waterdeep, but this play has shot the game pretty high on my wishlist, along with the expansion. I would definitely play it again, and request it.
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2. Board Game: Helios [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1369]
United States
Davis
California
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Helios

(Image credit: punkin312)


I liked Helios quite a bit. It's a shortish, 2-4 player, light-medium resource management game with a strong spatial component. It struck me as a much lighter distant cousin of Terra Mystica, but more in terms of look and feel than in the mechanics.

The game is played over four rounds, each of which is broken into three phases: (1) players rotate taking "actions" until all players have taken four, (2) players take turns buying or activating "person" tiles, (3) refresh/housekeeping.

To take an action, you draw a tile from the bottom of one of three tracks of six action tiles. Each of the tracks contains action tiles of one type (build land, construct building, rotate the sun). You just choose the tile matching the action you want to perform. (As a minor twist, the tiles come in different colors. When you've collected a set of four of the same color, you get to perform a free action. This is fun, because everybody likes an extra turn!) The rows don't replenish as tiles are taken, so there's some moderate strategizing involved in the order of selection.

The "build land" action lets you choose an available land tile and add it to your growing landscape of land hexes. Land comes in different colors, which produce resource cubes of a matching color. Instead of placing a land tile, you can choose one of a limited set of "bonus" tiles, which do not produce resources, but provide end-game VP based on various spatial aspects of your landscape.

"Construct a building" lets you either place a temple on one of your land hexes, or build a "city" building on your separate player city mat. Temples provide VP when "illuminated" by the sun. City buildings give end-game VP and special in-game powers. Buildings cost resource cubes of specified number and colors.

"Rotate the sun" is the central novelty of the game. You have a yellow sun disk that moves clockwise around the perimeter of your landscape when you choose this action. The distance moved is limited by your sun rotation value, which can increase during the game. Wherever the sun stops, it illuminates your adjacent land tiles. Illuminated land tiles produce resources and illuminated temples produce VP.

In the "person" phase of the round, players spend another currency type -- mana -- to buy one of a set of available person tiles. Once "activated" (by spending specified resource cubes), a person gives you end-game VP based on a specified criteria. These give you a reason to specialize in how you develop your land and buildings.

That's pretty much it. There are a handful of special power rules relating to buildings, bonus tiles, and persons, but the core mechanisms are fairly straightforward.

It's a tight and smoothly playing resource euro, with attractive bits and a pleasant fantasy/building theme. It combines several elements that I enjoy (spatial engine building, special powers, special VP end goals) and a nice timing problem as you manage the rotation of the sun.

Recommended, if you like midweight efficiency euros. Good stuff.


First Train to Nuremberg

(What's wrong with this picture? Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is a modest but interesting Martin Wallace train game. (It's a re-implementation of Last Train to Wensleydale, and has the map needed to play that game on the back of the game board.)

Players are raising capital to build short rail lines in the undeveloped countryside, in order to move two types of goods and passengers.

The game turns on a number of interesting pivot points, all of which must be managed to suit your current needs:

• You're juggling several different currencies, which must be used to pay for the different types of actions that you need to take (build track, bribe NIMBYs, lease trains, coordinate with the national companies). They also determine three different types of turn order.

• You need to build track to be able to move goods, but all of the track you've built carries a maintenance cost each turn. Too much cost and you'll tank your profitability (with an end-game VP hit). You can shed that cost by selling segments of your track to one of the national companies, but then you lose the use of that track. Interestingly, previously neutral towns on track bought by a national become company towns, which increases options for where you can build track and deliver passengers.

• When moving goods, you need to decide whether to emphasize immediate VP or money (which affects game end VP). You're also trying to collect complete sets of all of the types of goods and passengers, for end-game VP.

And all of this plays out on a board that grows increasingly crowded and starved of useful stuff as the game progresses -- track builds can block and goods/passengers do not replenish.

The game looks really great, plays fairly quickly, and is an interesting medium weight pick-up-and-deliver route builder. If you like that genre, you should check it out. It's a solid game with some very flavorful and unique mechanisms.



Florenza: The Card Game

(Image credit: TdGPisa)


Florenza the Card Game is a good middleweight euro card game that doesn't really offer anything new. Despite that, I still enjoyed playing it a couple of times with my son.

Mechanically, it's a tableau building, multi-player solitaire, where you draft actions to collect resources or spend them to build buildings. The buildings provide bonuses each turn (resources, money, extra action, extra card draw, end-game VP goals) or straight VP. There's also a smidge of set collecting, as you get significant VP for building complete sets of the three types of "district" buildings.

Thematically, it's about the powerful families of renaissance Florence gathering the resources and artists necessary to construct architectural wonders (to enhance family prestige).

Despite the well worn grooves that the game moves in, I enjoyed it for its high degree of thematic integration and its generally pleasant design aesthetics. It's fun to try to manage your resources to build the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, Uffizi, etc, and it's also nice to hire the great artists of the period to work on your projects. It gave me a thematic sense of satisfaction to see what I'd built at game end.

A solid and enjoyable game, if a bit old school. Pretty.


Istanbul

(Image credit: MyParadox)


Move your merchant disk around the 4x4 grid of city spaces, on top of a stack of four "assistant" disks. If you drop one off in a space where you end your move, you can perform the action associated with that space. You can retrieve an assistant by ending movement on its space (you don't get an action if you do), or you can retrieve all of your assistants by visiting the fountain space.

What can you do in the city spaces? Get different resources in various ways. Sell them in the marketplace. Increase the size of your cart (increasing your maximum resource count), get special power cards. Gamble. Bail a relative out of jail (who flees to any space on the board and performs its action). Buy special power tiles. And, most importantly, buy gems (the gem price, in money or resources, increases as each gem is bought). You can also get gems by acquiring all of the available stuff at a few locations.

The game ends when one player gets five gems. Complete the round. Most gems wins.

This is a solid and accessible midweight euro for 2-4. The tiles for the city can be set according to a defined order or randomized, giving some game variability.

It plays well with two (using a couple of dummy merchants to clutter the board a bit). Based on those initial plays I would have rated the game a bit higher. But my one play with three was a real clunker. The randomized board layout was awkward, creating bottlenecks that were not fun to manage. And, most importantly, we had some really skewed dice luck that largely decided the outcome of the game.

There is one type of resource (blue) that cannot be obtained as easily as the others. The main way to get blue is to visit the black market and roll higher than a 6 on two dice (depending on the result, you can get 1, 2, or 3 blue cubes per visit). My wife rolled high and got two blue on each of her five visits to the space. I rolled low and got zero blue each of my five visits (even with a limited ability to re-roll). This was brutal, as blue is necessary to get full sale price at the markets, to buy gems from the dealer who demands resources, and to acquire your fifth assistant. I think it was a design mistake to condition player access to such a key resource on successful dice rolling. (I realize that there are other ways to get blue, but they are also either luck based or too unreliable to be a good substitute for the black market.)

It will probably be uncommon for skewed die luck to have such a big effect on the outcome of the game, but I find it really annoying when it happens (that's why I dislike Settlers). If a design permits it, I tend to stay away.
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3. Board Game: Imperial 2030 [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:171]
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
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The July tally: two heavy games and two light games - three of them good, one that, well, has its fine points, but just doesn't clicked right with me.



For this one I divided my thoughts in three parts:

Basic rules overview
The basic actions (that happen in a rondel - much like almost all the Mac Gerdts games) are: Production (each factory and port produces 1 unit); Factory (build, at the cost of 5 million, one factory or port); Maneuver (may move all units to and adjacent land area or sea; if there are units of other nations in the place, the player decide if will happen a battle or not - then, if the choice is to enter in peace, the player with the units originally there chooses; the units/ships are destroyed in a 1:1 basis); Import (hire units or ships, up to 3, paying 1 million for each); Investor (bonds of the nation activating this action pay interest); Taxation (add +2 per each factory and port, +1 for each area under the control of the nation, take -1 per each unit and ship, the product of this will be the tax level, and you compare it in table in the board, to see how much will be the increase of the nation power and the bonus, both of which can be nill).

It is allowed to the player move the nation marker under his control up to 3 spaces in the rondel at no cost, and, above this, he must spend (from his own money) 1 million + the power modifier of the nation for each space above the three spaces. Everytime the marker, no matter of which nation, passes by or stop in the Investor space, the player with the investidor marker gains 2 million and my purchase a new bond or upgrade one that he already have.

The game ends as soon as the power marker of one nation reaches the spot 25 (x5) of the power track. Then, all the bonds of the nations will pay accordingly to the value of Interest on them times de modifier of the nation on the power track. This will add up with what the players already saved during the game. The winner will the player with the most money.

Differences from Imperial
I played Imperial twice, but this version never before. The main differences are: the Taxation of the countries is worth less for the controller (in the money gain when it happens); there is way less conflict within the borders of the main nations, since there are way more neutral areas in the board (Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Middle-East), going from 15 in Imperial to 27 in Imperial 2030; the map, now, has the whole world, so Russia isn't all protected in the east, and also the nations aren't all close together (well, at least USA, Europe and Brazil), so there is way less threat to the factories and ports of the nations, and combats between armies and fleets aren't usual in the early game, as the expansion can happen in the neutral areas without problems; the power track in Imperial 2030 is tougher, since the game considers the greater number of neutral areas (but, in my play, more neutral areas required more armies to take and hold them, so, in the end, the game lasted way more than in my plays of Imperial, since Taxation didn't go all the way up as the game expected us to do, but this could be because the way we played), for example: in Imperial a +10 difference was good for +5 of power increase, but in Imperial 2030, the same would net the nation only +3.

Comments
Imperial 2030 is a strategy game, with no luck involved: battles are deterministic, movements always lead to adjacent regions, the formula for the Taxation and Investor activation never changes, the number of units and/or ships built in the Production activation is known, there aren't event cards, no dice rolls. Is important to know, though, that the rules themselves aren't hard to grasp: you basically only have that 6 actions to do (and, in most turns, you will have three options to choose, since, only rarely, more in the end of the game, will someone pay to advance the marker more than three spaces), and bonds to buy.

It also has a good deal of interaction, being a, somewhat, semi-cooperative game, since more than one player will want one nation to do well, because of the bonds he has of it, but not too well if he isn't the controller of the nation (because the controller will gain more, even if not all that much more). One player can't really prevent other from buying bonds and even taking control of a nation you hold (but you can try, buy activating the Investor when the person with the investor marker doesn't have much money). The game do allow negotiation (but not the exchange of money) and this can be key in order to rise the power of a nation that two or more players have and that isn't really paying off so far. It is also possible for someone to really put a break on the advance of a nation - for example, I, holding China, always sent my units to occupy the a factory and a port of Russia (I don't had any bonds from Russia), and, because of this, other player (with over 13 bonds of Russia) needed to get out of its way to take the control of China from me, in order to advance Russia (and I got what I wanted: the Swiss bank).

The game requires the player to take chances, to try to see ahead of others which bonds will be worth more and which won't - this is important, since the number of bonds is very limited (only 9, of different values, for each nation), so, once they are all gone, they won't return to the market, so if you waited to see, well...

I also believe that most games of Imperial 2030 will be decided only in the very end, not only because a nation can have some big pushes that may change things a lot, but also because the players will likely have bonds across the nations, and with timming to take control of nations or when to let them go (the use of the Swiss Bank can be a really powerful move if used well), even if a player has bonds not worth much, he can still recover.

All in all, Imperial 2030 is a good game, one that I liked a little less than its older brother (due to this one be a quicker game, still keeping all the interesting parts), but it is as much solid and fun. Really recommended for those that enjoy some brain-burn euro with a high amount of interaction.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



Splendor is a light set collection type of game. In your turn you have a small set of options:
- take two chips of the same color (if there are at least 4 chips in the stack);
- take 3 chips, all of different colors;
- take one card from the rows and one gold chip (maximum of three cards separated - you must always pay the cost of these cards, you can't just put them back in the rows);
- pay the cost of one card and put it in front of you.

The cards are divided in three rows, accordingly to the amount of chips necessarry to build them. The less chips, the easier to pay its costs. Every card will have the kind of chips necessary to pay for it, and also will have a type of precious stone - once you take it, the cost of that type of color will reduce in one. So, for example, if the card you took has 1 green gem on it, the next time you will pay for some card that needs green, you will pay one less (up to zero).

Some of the cards are worth victory points, and also there are nobles, which are worth 3 points and require a set of colors to "visit" the first player that complete the set. The game ends when someone reaches 15 points, when this happen, the players will finish the round of play so that everyone has had the same number of turns. The winner will be the player with the most points.

As one can see, Splendor is a game that can be explained in few minutes and played by anyone that grasped games like Ticket to Ride, beign as light as this one. And it plays even faster: usually you will have your turn figure out way before the game returns to you. When we played, one AP player was always surprise to see that the play had already returned to him. Even with this, we played the whole game in around 40 minutes. I won't be surprise at all if the plays, once everyone has the flow of the game set in, will last around only 30 minutes.

It is an easy going game, with some indirect confrontation (I can take a card I see you want to take, or I can hold chips of one color in order to prevent, for some time, other to build cards of that color), nothing major, so, even if you play with family or players that dislike confront, they will probably still enjoy Splendor.

The game has some luck in its play: for instance, if you take several cards that lower the cost one, say white (diamonds) cards, and the ones that are worth points requiring a high number of white don't show up, well... So it is best, as far as I can see, the spread your options, taking, at least in the beginning, cards of almost every color, in order to be somewhat prepare for everything that shows up later. Even with luck, usually the player that played the best will win - something that is always great.

As it was said many time, Splendor has some awesome chips - they are sturdy, heavy - a friend of mine thought they were made of metal (but no). Yes, the box is huge for what comes inside, but everything stay in its place, the cards fit even when sleeved (a major plus for me) - so I can't complain about the box. The cards are OK and the noble tiles are thick. Overall, an excellent production value - it makes well worth the price of it (which isn't cheap, considering the game doesn't came with a big lot of components).

So, Splendor has proven itself as a great option of filler, giving several things to consider in every turn, but none of them overwhelmingly hard nor requiring several minutes of ponderation. It isn't as portable as, say, For Sale, nor it accepts as many players as Unnamed Object, but it is a heavier than both, and it will probably be a good choice for players that want more meat in their fillers.

Recommended!

Rate: 7.5 / 10



Jaipur is a set collection with hand management game for two players. In a player turn the possible actions are:
- draw one card for your hand (limit of 7 cards in hand);
- draw two or more cards, in this case you must trade for other different good cards you have in you hand and/or camels;
- take all the camel cards;
- sell goods.

There are six types of goods: diamonds (6), gold (6) and silver (6) are the ones that are worth more points, but there are less of them in the deck. These goods can only be sold by using two or more cards of its type. Cloth (8), spice (8) and leather (10) are worth less, but there are more of them and they can be sold even by trading in one card.

When a player sell 3, 4 or 5 cards of the same good at the same time, he gains bonus tokens corresponding with the number of cards sold (so, if you sell 3 goods, you take the bonus chip with 3 cards showing on it) - the bonus differ in the amount of VP they give: 1, 2 or 3 money for the 3 cards chips; 4, 5 or 6 for the 4 cards chips; and 8, 9 or 10 money for the 5 cards chips. You will only know the amount of money gained when you take the chip. The chips of your opponent remain hidden until the end of the round.

Jaipur is played up to 3 rounds, and each round ends when: the draw deck runs out, or three stack of chips of different goods are empty. The winner of the round will be the player with the most money. The winner of the game will be the one that wins 2 rounds.

I found Jaipur to be an enjoyable, allowing much with so little: the options aren't overwhelming, but they permit you to do some fine plays. Most of them involving the camels. The camels, to me, are one of the cores of Jaipur, one of the things that makes it better than, say, Archaeology: The Card Game. Because, if you have two gold cards in your hand, a a gold comes up in the market, you will probably just take it, if able. No mistery, no real thought behind: you just want more because more is, normally, better, specially if it is a high value good. But with the camels, well, you have so many more options. You can take the gold AND one or more cards you think (or know) the other players really wants. And the camels will be there, blocking other cards to show up, until someone takes them. Also, if the other player takes the camels, yes, he can gain 5 points (if in the end of the round he has more camels than you), but he also opens up several new cards for you! Having camels puts pressure in the other player, because he knows you can just take a high number of cards, without giving him anything new, except, well, camels. He may take them, making the camel balance tilt to his side, but at what cost?

The second thing that makes Jaipur shine? Timming. Again, in Archaeology: The Card Game you have a mechanism (the sand storm) that puts some pressure to sell goods, puting the better reward x losing big in the table. But the sand storm hits everyone, and it also kind that makes the game slower, since once you lose goods to the sand storm, you won't be able to take them all back, because you have to trade for them. Also, in Lost Cities, the pressure only comes when the deck is running out and you still have a lot of cards to put down - so, timming is important in Lost Cities, but it only comes from the deck.

In Jaipur the pressure comes from the deck, but also from the other side of the table. A player can make the game go faster by trading quickly, and this also have another reason: the first chips of the goods (except silver) are worth more, so the first that sell them, will get more. So, if I believe that you have several green cards, I can sell a couple of them only to take the 5 and 3 money chips. This makes the whole experience richer and tenser (and this sort of "race" is helped by the camels, since you can take several cards of the same type in one swoop, and sell them in your next turn).

Playing three rounds of Jaipur I guess last around the same as three plays of Lost Cities - but, I have only played on Yucata, so I can't say for sure (for this same reason, I can't talk about the quality of the components). A friends that has an actual copy of the game said the it lasts around 30-45 minutes.

Overall, Jaipur is a solid, portable and smart game, fitting pretty well in its two player slot, since it is confrontational, but only in an indirect way (taking what the other player wants, selling before the other do it), which is good when you don't want to get mad at each other over a game.

Rate: 7 / 10



 
This is actually a new to me in june, but I only gather my thoughts about in july, so, it enters here.

Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) is a monster of a game in many ways: it is big (350+ miniatures, 400+ cards), sprawling, long, complex (but not all that much), and it has many, many moving parts.

TI3 shares the role selection mechanic that is used in games like Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy, in which you choose a role, that will give you a major action and the others can "follow" the same role, but doing some minor action. To follow a role you spend Strategy tokens. There are 8 roles in the game: Initiative, Diplomacy, Politics, Logistics, Trade, Warfare, Technology, Imperial.

Every round, the players will choose a role to do, and the choosing order will go from the player that took Initiative in the last round (and the player can't choose Initiative two times in a row). The players choose a role in clockwise order, beginning with the one that took the Initiative role last round. But after this, the order of play will follow the order of the numbers on the roles. The players can activate the role anytime during his turn, and once he does it, the major action will happen, then every other player will be able to do the minor action of the role by paying one Strategy token (and usually will be necessary to spend resources also) - the Initiative role doesn't have a major action, it allows, however, to the player that selected it to use all the minor roles without spending Strategy tokens (and, of course, the player will be the first to select a role in the next round).

Also, the players will have a number of Command tokens, and they can be used, each at a time, to activate a hex (system) in the board, and is only possible to activate a hex once for round (the Warfare role allows for the possibility to activate the same hex twice). You activate a hex in order, usually, to build units (ships, ground forces, docks, PSDs) or to move units (then you place the Command token in the hex to where the ships will move).

The game revolves around these things: actions of the roles and actions (activations) made by the Command tokens. Basically the roles serve for: Initiative (be the first to act), Diplomacy (stop someone from attacking you), Politics (bring an event for voting, also to gain Action cards), Logistics (to gain tokens, that you can put in the Command, Strategy and/or Fleet Supply), Trade (gain resources, also allows for trade deals to be made, or to break all of them), Warfare (to activate twice the same system), Technology (to discover new technologies), Imperial (score points).

Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) is very rich in options, and not a lonesome game, as everyone pays attention to the others, trying to take advantage of the minor action of the roles, struggling to get the timming of actions right (like waiting to activate rolls when you know some other players won't be able to do the minor action), and, of course, because it is a game of conquest, so it is only a matter of time before the battles start to happen, especially for Mecatol (the capital center of the board), since many objectives - both public and hidden - requires the players to take and hold Mecatol.

So it is a game that puts players face to face, brawling for the same spaces, the same actions, building fleets and technologies in order to attack the planets of others. And also of politics, since you can make deals with the other races, vote for events that will benefit some (or harm others). It is, also, a very long game, with many hour of playing time.

I was enjoying it quite a bit, but, after six hours of game, one event came - the Ancient Artifact - that basically DESTROYED the whole game of one player, the one holding Mecatol. He had put a major force there (12 big ships, a dock, ground forces, a PSD), and, since he was winning, almost everyone vote to approve the event - and it was all in the hand of a die roll: 1-5 and everything in Mecatol would be wiped out; 6-10, and everyone would get 2 techs. The roll stop at 1. Now, the game basically ended for the player that was in Mecatol - he just couldn't build again his forces, specially because another players were next to his home planets, preparing for attack.

I usually don't mind be in the receiving end of a bad event - it comes with the territory when playing thematic games. But this happened around the 6th hour of the game. Six hours to be taken down by an event. The event didn't affected me, but I still was taken aback by it. Sure, we did have to approve it, but what chance have the person, alone in Mecatol, ahead in points? Not even the promise to leave, and later truce among them, brought someone to his side, because, you won't need a truce if the player is trounced and he won't need to leave if all his forces there are obliterated.

So, the event soured the whole game somewhat - since a swing of luck this big can happen in what is a strategy-heavy game.

I could play it again, but I won't ask nor miss it.

Rate: 6 / 10


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4. Board Game: Hungry Hungry Hippos [Average Rating:4.11 Overall Rank:15788]
Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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Only one new game and one new expansion this month.

Hungry Hungry Hippos



Weirdly, I never played this game as a child. Not at all. I must have been in something of a minority. Anyway, when we were visiting friends with little ones one of their guys suggested a game and Little Fish the Elder was interested. We ended up playing 14 games on the trot and enjoyed every one of them.

Some children’s games have great educational values, others teach the importance of taking turns, planning ahead and dealing with bad luck/bad decisions. Hungry Hungry Hippos is not like that. It does, however, demonstrate that games can be fun and that in itself is no bad thing.

To quote Dr Seuss: "These things are fun, and fun is good."

I would definitely play this again and may consider it as a Xmas/birthday gift for the Little Fish.

Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak



My first play of this particular expansion for the Zombicide franchise. Alas, it wasn’t the greatest experience due not to the game itself but the scenario we played was, I am sorry to say pretty easy, to the point of being flawed. I played at an open gaming session with a somewhat unpleasant adolescent (whose carer dumped him on us while going off doing her own thing) who at one stage accused other players of cheating (they weren’t he just didn’t listen when we explained that you go up to four actions when you reach yellow) and didn’t really do much to enjoy the game or help the group - a direct quote from one player when he complained about the lack of action his characters were having was "we’re up here fighting Zombies; you're down there fiddling with a door." That was as terse as it got; he was encouraged to use his characters a little more adventurously so not table flippingly terrible but not fantastic.

I was in two minds on this. On the one hand I am a huge advocate of encouraging kids to join in games but on the others hand it’s not much fun using one’s severely limited leisure time to play with someone who detracts from the experience. On my third mutant hand I guess it was open gaming and one has to accept that not everyone will play the way that one considers to be ‘right’ so one just has to wear it and hope that good behaviour will ‘rub off’ on any recalcitrants.

Anyway, I digress. I should also say that we played a scenario with cars. Now, I know a lot of people hate on the target priority rules but I can handle that for shooting. Cars are, I suggest, the most seriously broken element of the game in that they are way more deadly than they should be (i.e. attack everything in the zone when you enter and then again when you leave) but don’t have any chance of crashing regardless of how many zombies they plough into. In effect this meant that two characters drove about the place racking up huge kill tallies (all spawn zones were in the streets) without any real risk to themselves while everyone else skulked about and had a very easy job of clearing the prison. I prefer my games to have more tension and the very real risk of failure rather than being cakewalks.

Howsoever, aside from playing a flawed scenario dominated by an aspect of the game I dislike and with one less than pleasant player I still must say that Zombicide Season 2: Prison Outbreak seems to be have the potential to be another solid expansion for Zombicide. I’m not sure if I don’t prefer Zombicide: Toxic City Mall more, but I’ll definitely give this expansion a few more goes before I am able to fully assess it.

After all, this less-than-stellar experience didn’t stop me pledging for season three - I know, I am a weak, weak man. shake


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5. Board Game: Thunder Alley [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:557] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Colonialism
3 plays 2 player


A card-driven area control game with a dark theme - anonymous European powers vying to colonise the developing world, subjugating the natives and making off with their natural resources. The components and art work much the theme perfectly, with a deliciously black sense of humour (which may not be to everyone’s taste) running through the game. There are clearly rough edges to the game (cards can be quite swingy), but I found the combination of immediate and delayed actions through the card play quite innovative and led to a lot of tension and bluffing/counter-bluffing during the game. Similarly the mechanism to limit repeat actions in regions under dispute was well handled thematically, and led to number of interesting decisions.

Rare amongst area majority games, this one works really well with two players, possibly because of the natural third “dummy” player in the form of the native influence in each region. All three 2-player games I have played so far have been tight and exciting affairs coming down to the last turn, aided by the Knizia-esque (best of the lowest category) scoring system. Indeed, at 45-minutes per player, I wouldn't look to play with any more than 2 or 3, as the swinginess and somewhat chaotic nature of the card play might not merit a 3 hour session. [At that length and player count I would rather be playing El Grande, but otherwise it stacks up well against the gold standard of area-majority games. And El Grande doesn't play well with 2 or 3.]

If the game has a negative, it might be in the game arc. Although it has a degree of escalation throughout its 3 eras through the increasing availability of resources, some may find it a little too repetitive. This a risk inherent in many card-driven area-majority games (Twilight Struggle is no exception), but the response to this is to have a large card deck. Colonial’s card deck is quite small (24 per player) and the same actions do come round again. Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed the experience so much I was motivated to write a review as I do think this game has not received as much attention/recognition as it deserves.

Rating 8/10

Thunder Alley
3 plays: 1 solo (3teams) 1x2player 1x3player

 

I don't know my Daytona from my IndyCar but I do know that Thunder Alley is the most exciting and challenging racing game I have come across since Hare & Tortoise 30 years ago. Those that I have tried to date (Formula D, Snow Tails, Ave Caesar) all suffer to varying degrees from the rather pedestrian "he moves his car/sled/chariot, she moves her car/sled/chariot, I move my car/sled/chariot " turn sequence. Thunder Alley turns this on its head by having teams of cars for each player and the ability to link different cars together and move cars as a group. Movement is achieved by card play using a few simple rules, but which give rise to a number of interesting options. It can initially feel a little bit puzzly as you attempt to optimize card play to set-up your cars for a wicked team move combo - only to be undone by card play from your opponent. In our games so far, we quickly gave up trying to work out the combos and simply went along for the ride. Played that way, the game is over in under a hour and works well at all player counts [even solos well with multiple teams]. With a little more experience, longer-term strategies might well emerge, but in the meantime I am having a real blast working it out. Vroom Vroom.

Rating 8/10

Sail to India
1 x 3players


Sail to India is an action-point allowance area movement game with card and cube components. A hallmark Hayashi design – a finely distilled game offering a number of strategies – exploring, trading, colonising, all wonderfully abstracted. Think Navegador in half the time and tenth the box size.

In our first game, initially the routes to victory were somewhat opaque – despite the simple rules. But a couple of turns into the game and the strategies became clearer and the game hummed along very nicely. There is a fair amount of player interaction through blocking of ports and taking goods/locations ahead of other players – but no direct conflict. At its heart, a distilled cube pushing Euro is still a cube pushing Euro after all.

AEG seem to have stuck a rich vein of published these great games by Japanese designers for the European/North American (and Australian) market. Keep them coming.

Rating 7.5/10

Linko!
2 x 6 players


Abluxxen (what's with this Linko! name?) is a great little card game with simple rules and some surprisingly agonising decisions. The simple rules allows everyone to take part in everyone else's turn, so plays well at large player counts. On your turn lay out cards with matching numbers, on everyone else's turn look to take into your hand cards that they have put out in an attempt to find cards to go out with. Its easy to get completely hosed and left holding a stack of cards in your hand if you get too greedy. One of the best risk v return card games out there. A good family game - but it might only be for gaming families.

Rating 7/10

Mad City
1 x 2 player


This game was a lot of fun - although it perhaps outstayed its welcome a little. A time-limited race to build a grid of 3 x 3 tiles and score according to connected areas across 4 district types (colours). Bonus points for goals that you pick as you race to put your 9 tiles together. Rinse and repeat.

The game had an innovative mechanism to escalate point scoring towards the end - but with the same mechanism of arranging 9 tiles throughout. I definitely want to play again, but I was worried that this game simply does not offer enough of a game arc. Also, although its not normally an issue for me, I was also a little put off by the graphic design. It's probably done that way to aid game play, but I just found it all a little "old fashioned".

Rating 6.5/10

Hot Tin Roof
1 x 3 player


Played a demo game at the Mayfair games booth at the Sydney Toy and Game Expo. I am a big fan of Colovini’s game design (The Bridges of Shangri-La, Clans etc), but for me, the jury is still out on this one. It is a connection game where you are either picking routes, or building the connections between them. Thematically you are trying to connect two pairs of cats between two distant rooftops.

For me it fell a little between two stools - almost as if some of the game play had been sacrificed for theme. There are some good elements - including the route building and the balance between income and expenditure - a sardine economy in this case. However, I felt the pace of the game to be a little slow in the initial stages and I suspect the game's sweet spot is sharply peaked around four players. I would be tempted to give this game another play with four, but I am not rushing out to buy it.

Rating 6/10
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6. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:199]
Brad Klein
United States
Minnetonka
Minnesota
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I thought I should look into getting a Feld game and after some deliberating decided this would be it. It has quickly become a favorite. I’ve played a half-dozen games already which is a lot for how many plays we’ve been getting in around real life. I like the way you can plan a bit for your next round based on the color of cards that you draw but then may need to adjust based on the dice roll. The characters and abilities are interesting and there are a good number of decisions to be made. So far most of the games I’ve played have been two-player with my wife and we both really like it. We did play a four-player game last night and it went equally well.

Other new games:
Trains - Prior to playing this I had watched a review. Although the board added another level, the game, specifically the card play, really reminded me of Dominion so I had written off as something I didn't need. When I played it, I was pleasantly surprised as the board gave it a unique feel. I enjoyed it and it might even have a spot alongside Dominion.

Rampage – The one play I had of this was fun. The mechanics of the game fit the theme really well. The game ended up lasting almost twice as long as the stated length on the box and it dragged a bit at the end. We were all new to the game but with the simplicity of the rules I wouldn’t think a first play would be much slower. I would gladly play it again if in the right mood and I think it would have been as enjoyable to watch as to play.

Ninjato – I was really looking forward to this. The game play, theme, and component quality looked great. It didn’t grab me as much as I hoped though, maybe suffering from my high expectations. I still enjoyed it and look forward to playing some more. It has a lot of things going on, so I expect it will get better with more plays. I’ve had a three-player game that was cut short and a full two-player game.

Shadow Hunters – Over the past year, we’ve had a number of times where we’ve had 6-8 people show up for a board game night and the majority don’t want to split up to play two different games. I’ve been trying to get some games that play well for this number (Fearsome Floors, 7 Wonders) and Shadow Hunters was the newest one to try. The one night we played it, we ended up playing two games and it went over really well with the group. I’d also been looking at the Resistance and Werewolf and chose this because it seemed to have more of a game to it. It was a good, not exceptional game but met the larger group requirement perfectly.
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7. Board Game: Famiglia [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1484]
Jon Enns
Canada
Herbert
Saskatchewan
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This is quite a good card filler from Friedemann Friese. I have yet to feel that I have mastered anything after nine ten plays. First Lindy beat me every single game and now I have played four five solo games and lost every one. I am getting better though. I rate it





The Hobbit is not a bad game but the luck factor is too high for a game taht takes this long. I can barely give it



Edited for number of Famiglia games played
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8. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:90]
Keith Rudolph
Canada
Langdon
Alberta
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Istanbul

Another game I can blame on MiWi's walkthrough videos and is my favourite of the new games this month. Not exactly a brain-burner but a fun little pick up and deliver game none the less that requires some planning. Both games that we played of this ended up being really close with the winner being no more than 2 rounds ahead. The variable setup of the board should help keep things interesting as we play this more in the future. Very pleased with this one.

Edo: Expansion #1

We incorporated the creatively named expansion in our most recent play of Edo and enjoyed it for the most part. The temples and shogun's demands add some interesting new elements to the game that we thought worked great. The temples give you another building option and let you travel along roads connected to them for free. The shogun's demands give you the chance to acquire bonus tiles that can provide some nifty one-time advantages like being able to take the full number of resources despite how many people are on a spot, get an addition official, or gain aonther resource for free. It gets even more nasty when two people are trying to compete for the tiles on the same turn as the tiles shift after one is claimed meaning that the next player either can't take the tile the want (because you just took it) or that the bonus for the tile they're going to take has changed because the action and bonus tiles slide in opposite directions. Both offer additional ways to score points. The only module from the expanion we didn't care for are the Ronin who count against the number of figure in a resource space and can potentially block the ability to build or collect money from a city. Additional points that you get at the end of the game can be gained by dispersing a group of Ronin. While they sounded interesting, the module ended up being just tedious and didn't provide anything interesting. The Ronin never got into a situation where there were more than 2 in any single location and dispersing them never seemed to be worth the actions needed to do so; the point you earn only at the end of the game was never worth disrupting what you're working on or towards which ultimately had a bigger payoff. The next time we play, we'll include the temple and demand modules but the Ronin one will be staying in the box.

Helios

This sounded more interesting than it actually ended up being. The game just feels very mechanical with a really weak theme that just didn't seem to make much sense. Teaching the game was a little difficult because things like the buildings just didn't make sense in the context of the theme ("the Observatory increases the movement of the sun because it just does" sort of thing). The game works well enough but there was just nothing about it that really grabbed us. The game is somewhat fun in its own right and the mechanics work just fine, but the feeling of the theme being shoe-horned in there makes it feel a little awkward. We enjoy it enough to keep it around and will probably play this on occasion at least.
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9. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:120]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Splendor = 7 Plays


I had a chance to play this latest hotness late in July, and wow I now understand why it has gotten much hype. It’s funny though since the mechanics of the game (set collection, engine building) are not unique, but there is SOMETHING in the game that is strangely addicting. It could be the tactile feel of those large and heavy poker chips, or it could be that the game ramps up very quick as your engine develops, or that you could screw your opponents by reserving cards you know they are after, or the fact that all of you are also in a race to get the nobles to visit you as well as be the first to 15 points in the most efficient way. You get all of this in a very fast paced game, and when it is over you want to play again. Let’s see how long the hype lasts!



Via Appia = 3 Plays


This was an unplanned purchase, as I saw a copy of this for sale when I visited the first true boardgaming restaurant in Manila for the first time. I had seen a couple of video reviews of the game and the quarry and grinding of stone mechanic did interest me slightly, so when I saw the copy I just decided to purchase it since the game is quite hard to find locally. The game turned out to be more fun than expected, especially with Jim who loves games with some form of physical manipulation. I find it to be another good gateway game due to its simple mechanics and of course the appeal of pushing round “stones” and hoping you get a good grind on the other end! The components are also top notch, which is no surprise since it’s published by Queen Games.




Goa = 2 Plays


This game has been with me since November last year, and it took 8 months before I finally had a chance to play this. Part of it is probably due to the fact that it has only a few video reviews, that I find the gameplay a bit abstract, and that Power Grid is the favorite auction game with the guys so far. In any case I am glad that this has hit the table twice, and I find the single bid mechanic to be really a fundamentally different take on the auction mechanic. This gives a different layer to the game since unlike other auctions games you cannot really fight over a tile you want, since the power to decide on who gets the tile rests with the auctioneer. This is turn makes the placement of the bidding numbers very important, since this also sets the direction on which tiles other players have to place their bid numbers on as well.

Otherwise, the rest of the game and the “tech tree” of actions are very straightforward and smooth. Deciding on which actions to progress first though is not also easy and while I agree that the game has multiple paths to victory, it is also AP inducing and our 2 plays have made this one of slowest paced games in my collection, as we took more time to analyze what to do compared to other games. Still one I would like to explore more though.



EXPANSIONS

Suburbia Inc = 2 Plays


I find this a nice expansion which adds more variety to the base game without changing the gameplay a lot, since getting the borders is very much like buying the basic tiles or getting a lake (albeit a very expensive choice). The effects are very thematic and oftentimes funky (ie radioactive dump site) and while the concern of tile dilution is valid and makes going for strategies which rely on certain tiles more difficult, it also prevents people from going to the same strategy over and over again. I like the bonuses and challenges as well, so overall this expansion gets a positive recommendation for me!



Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Queenie 1: The Pit = 6 Plays


I was initially very hesitant to use the Pit since I was daunted by the “roll 5 black masks in order to escape” ability, but I soon found out that rolling 5 black masks isn’t really too difficult. Having another adventurer nearby with saved gold masks is of course necessary, but the fact that you get to get rid of 2 gems makes the Pit an OK inclusion during our games even though it does delay the finding of the escape room.




Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Veteran and Rescue Dog = 1 Play


My son Shawn was very excited to try out the Rescue Dog so we got in a game where we controlled 2 firefighters each (with one of them the veteran). We found out that while the dog is an excellent and mobile asset, it is quite limited in what it can do once it finds a victim. Moving a victim is 4(!!) action points so in the future I feel that the dog should be paired with the medic or with another firefighter who can clear its path of fires. The veteran is useful only if he is kept close to other firefighters so he could boost their Action Points, but I find the dodge fires ability not so useful since you need to have saved APs in order to trigger that ability. More roles are still welcome I suppose.


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10. Board Game: Maskmen [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:3681]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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A decent month for new games for me - but no immediate standouts.

MaskMen, a climbing game with some interesting twists, is the best of the lot. It's in my collection for now; not sure whether it will prove along term keeper.

Rest of the month once I have my spreadsheet handy...

...EDIT... OK, got it now.

The interesting thing about the new games I played this month, at least to me, is that I played all but one multiple times, and would be willing to play any of them again. That doesn't happen too often.

Isaribi I still own; I'm just not sure if it's a keeper. Fine game, in the worst case, and I've already played it six times.

Concept is actually my favorite of the SdJ nominees - though not a game I'll own.

Burgenland is a good game, but of a type that doesn't really work for me. I would play it again, but I don't need to.

The one unpublished prototype I played this month has real promise, though it's still a work in progress.

Finally,Colorpop, the one game I only played once, was a pleasant abstract.
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11. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1142]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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Hand & Foot



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Just Another Crap Rummy Variant" Award

123456

I'm not as big a fan of Rummy games as I once was (they're mostly variations of the same main theme, which means the same strategies apply to all of them) and I've since learned that the older the game is, the more variations there are to a single game. Hand & Foot was taught to me by family members over a long weekend, and it seemed unnecessarily complicated and far too random.

What makes the game a little different is that you have two hands of cards, and you can't dip into the second hand until you've played out your first. You can't even look at it, save for the bottom card, but the way I was taught the game was that you're dealt your two hands, and then before looking at anything in either hand, you swap one hand with the player to your right, so no one starts with the same hands they were dealt. This makes no sense to me, save for the fact that if you don't trust the dealers, it eliminates any possibility of cheating. Otherwise the hands are random, whether you dealt them or someone else did. What's the point?

I found the game to rely too much on randomness, since you have to be able to play a certain number of points the first time you play cards to the table. Since it's unlikely that a player will have enough points in the deal, it means that players are just drawing cards and hoping to get what they need. There's a partnership element to the game, but only for scoring; there's no passing of information, or trading cards, or anything like that. There's also a weird mechanism where if you can pick up exactly 22 cards to deal your two hands, you get bonus points. It seemed like a stupid rule to me.

As Rummy games go, this isn't bad, but it takes a while to play, and there's a lot of information to have to remember without a cheat sheet. I mean, sure, Age of Steam has more rules to track, but somehow the game helps you remember them. Hand & Foot needs a reference card for point values of cards to help move things along.


The Magic Labyrinth



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Clever Enough to Play More Than Once" Award

123456

I picked this game up a few years ago on clearance, thinking that it might be one of those kids' games that have enough going on to make it fun for adults, too. It's a clever enough idea, but the memory element was a little iffy for me. My short-term memory is about as good as a squirrel's, if that gives you any idea.

To set up the game, you build a maze with wooden walls that will sit beneath the board. Your pieces have a magnetic base, which hold a metal ball beneath the board, and as you traverse the maze, your ball will drop and roll back to one of the corners if you run into a wall, and you have to return to your starting position when that happens. You roll dice and try to collect tokens (which are randomly drawn one at a time from a bag), so there's some randomness, but it's pretty cute.

The decisions aren't great (there are actually times in the game where you want to run into a wall, if you're far away from a newly drawn token and need to get back in a hurry), but it plays pretty quickly and has a neat tension. It won't unseat any deeper, strategic games I have, but it's not bad for a family game.


Nox



Plays: 1

Winner: The "More Than It Appears" Award

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Nox is a game I picked up in an auction last year, because I read some decent reviews of it. When I received it, I read through the rules and thought, That's it? But I played it this past month and realized no, that's not it.

The game is pretty simple. The game has three suits of cards, each with several cards of each value. The round ends when a player has six stacks of cards (all three colors must be present), and players add up the values of the top cards on each stack. You have a hand of three cards and can play a card to your own tableau or another player's tableau, and if you ever have more than one stack of the same color and value, you have to condense them down to one stack, making the game a race to get to the end.

The choices in the game are whether to play cards to better your stacks, worsen an opponent's, or slow them down by putting two stacks together. It's a quick-playing game that gets frantic, and it's actually decent for family gaming. I'm not sure if it has the lasting power of other quick card games, but it's certainly worth a few plays. I only played it with two, but I can see the game improving with more players.


Saving the World Before Bedtime



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Not Enough Here to Engage the Adults" Award

123456

Speaking of games that probably improve with more players, let's talk about Saving the World Before Bedtime. It's definitely a kids' game (see: Powerpuff Girls), but there's a neat exploration mechanism that would improve with four players uncovering pieces and moving the PPGs around the board instead of just two.

The game is sort of like Arkham Horror lite (without the sanity and life tracking), since players are moving around the board trying to find enemies to defeat. The game ends when one player has defeated three enemies (regardless of strength), but none of the PPGs actually belong to the players. You move the pieces based on cards, and the order in which the cards are played is based on the time on the card. Each player picks two cards each round, and all cards are resolved in order, if they can be. Losing a battle early in a round means that all involved PPGs are out for the rest of the round, so if someone else later in the turn has that PPG, then he just discards that card. Too bad, so sad.

The game is OK, and it's certainly better than other, traditional kids' games. Now that I've played it, though, I can't see myself playing it again, either with family or friends. There's just not enough there to justify playing it again.


Sail to India



Plays: 1

Winner: The "More Game Than the Box Would Lead You to Believe" Award

123456

I've been bitten by the Japanese game bug (which, I should note, started way back with R-Eco), and when I heard about Sail to India, I knew it was the kind of game I wanted to play. Sure, it took six months to get a copy, but a copy I got. And now have.

I had been expecting it to be more of a micro-game, but with rules explanation and play time, the game took about an hour. That's not a bad thing, because there are a lot of choice to make in the game. You get points for discovering new land, building buildings, technologies, and shipping goods, and in our game we each wound up trying a different approach to the game. The scores were pretty close, but the high scorers were those who best worked all elements of the game.

Sail to India also has a neat mechanism where your cubes represent everything, including your scoring so in order to score high points, you have to sacrifice a cube that you could have used as a ship, to secure a building, or what have you. It was a clever idea that works well with the construct of the game.

Everyone enjoyed our first game, and I'm eager to try it again with the entire sail deck being shuffled up. I'm curious to see how the two editions of the game differ (I understand there are differences between the original Japanese edition and AEG's printing, though I haven't had the time to investigate it), but so far I'm pleased with the game.
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12. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:90]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Top three new to me games are as follows:



Istanbul was one of my favorite new to me games and I was happy to find I could still order it off Boardgamebliss for a reasonable price after coming to it late and finding it out of stock at that point. I still question whether this one has longevity but time will find out - the fact that the board is randomly seeded helps increase replay value. I also thought it might be too abstract for me to enjoy the game but that proved false at this time. I currently rate the game an d10-8 after my first play.



Muneyuki Yokouchi has become my favorite Japanese designer and his new game did not disappoint. Pecunia is another excellent game where one drafts different characters and they resolve their effects when one of four locations has enough influence. Some of these effects can be quite nasty (IE, when Starvation hits, you better have enough grain to feed your people or it isn't pretty...as I found out the hard way! ). I still prefer his Age of Assassins, but this one is a close second. I currently rate this one an d10-8 after one play.



Did I mention that I enjoy Muneyuki Yokouchi's games? This one isn't quite as good as three of his other efforts, but I still find it interesting as one attempts to collect mission disks in primarily 2 colors for the character cards who are in your first and third rank. This is not easy and of course there are other clever twists involved as well. I've only played this once thus far and rate it a d10-7 , but expect to play more often since this is his only game I currently have on hand (although Pecunia will soon be on its way and there are rumors about Age of Assassins possibly coming over the ocean that I've heard from several different people...)

Other games new to me in July and their initial ratings are below:

d10-6 Coconuts Fast, Silly Fun catapulting rubber coconuts into cups.
d10-5 Greed Drafting gangsta style and mostly chaos...
d10-6 Sushi Go! The perfect introductory game to drafting...
d10-6 Magnum Opus Card drafting, hidden discoveries and alchemy...
d10-4 One Night Ultimate Werewolf Well, at least it is over quickly!
d10-4 Maskmen Didn't work for me...very disappointed.
d10-5 Race! Formula 90 If you want to draw a card for a check for every other action you take, this is perfect for you. No thanks!
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13. Board Game: Clue FX [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:4127]
Joseph Peterson
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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I play a lot of new games each month. The following is my Top 5 favorites of the month and the "Flop". Here goes!

Number 5: Tortuga
This one was a very fun time for us. Sure, there's not a lot of strategy going on here but, the mechanics make for an enjoyable game. I like how the treasures move from the island to Tortuga throughout the game depending on how many crew members or boats you have available to you. We were a little confused at first but, really got into the swing of things and enjoyed ourselves. The best part to me were that the scores were super close, with the winner only winning by one point and the loser only losing by three. As I said, this is a very fun game!



Number 4: Take It or Leave It
I have an affinity for games with cards and dice, especially when the cards are used as goals to collect the dice in a certain way. While this doesn't scratch quite the same itch as "Roll For It" does for me, it's a great take on the same style of game. I do like that there is a community pool of dice for all the players. I can imagine it becoming more and more chaotic the more players you add and I'd say 2 or 3 players is the best spot for this game.



Number 3: Kimaloe
This is a very enjoyable game that has a good theme and a great scoring mechanism I had never seen before. Basically, players are moving two pawns up the scoreboard but, neither pawn can ever be more than 3 points away from the other. So, players are constantly balancing and moving the pawns to make sure they can balance out and move the pawns the most they can at each time they're able to. I really enjoy the pick up and delivery aspect here.



Number 2: Lemminge
This is a really enjoyable racing game. I like the movement mechanic of using the cards and I love the way that terrain can be changed to help yourself or hinder the other competitors.



Number 1: Clue FX
I'm a sucker for Clue so I was almost certain I would at least like this. However, after playing, I may possibly LOVE it! It's better than Classic Clue. Yes, I said it! I really enjoy the ability to go around finding suspects to interrogate along with how the game board works and of course the electronic voice. The huge pro here also is that now you can play with two people! Clue for two! It's great, it rhymes, it's...too bad it's out of print.



The Flop: Wobble
This is not very good. It's rather fiddly and dependent specifically on luck. Luck in the die roll and luck with physics. The worst part of this really is that the ball will often not center properly. It's just not very fun.



I love gaming and I can't wait for another month of great new games to play with my friends and family!
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14. Board Game: Global Mogul [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:3830]
Quinn Munnerlyn
United States
Carrollton
Texas
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I didn't expect Global Mogul to be so short. That makes the decisions you make in this game that much more important.

A Duel Betwixt Us This title is has good potential. If you're opponent gets all the events that murder your miners and you don't though you're in for a tough time.

Firefly: The Game was interesting but I think ultimately I'll have to be in the mood to play this specific game before I'll get back into it.

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15. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:142]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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This is an easy one! 15 plays of Lewis & Clark. I wasn't sure how the race-to-the-finish style would work for us, but it's kind of nice not to have to calculate scores at the end.

Also new to us, also very good: Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld. If you are a Mystery Rummy fan, this one is recommended. I love the card that lets me flip over seven cards.

Take It or Leave It was played for the first time tonight. It's a decent filler game, and also comes with a ton of dice and even a little dice tray.

Race for the Checkered was the only game to hit the table that did not make a good impression: Played one turn, drew one card, and lost
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16. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1142]
Mark Siew
United States
San Francisco
CA
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In order of preference

A good month of gaming with a nice number of new games. Sail to India was my favorite of the month. I'm starting to grow a bit weary of micro-games, but I had heard some good things about Sail to India. It certainly has a lot more depth than most micro-games. I really enjoyed how you had the cubes perform different tasks throughout the game and you really had to balance how you used them all. It's surprisingly thematic for a game that is mechanically about moving cubes around on cards. The multiple uses for the cubes reminded me a bit of San Juan or Race for the Galaxy in a strange way. It plays relatively quickly, but doesn't outlast its welcome.

Prosperity


Biggest surprise of the month definitely goes to Prosperity. I had all but given up on Knizia as a designer as I had found a lot of his more recent games a bit lacking. However, this game that was co-designed with Sebastian Bleasedale, is really elegant and fun. You are essentially buying tiles to put on your player board that provide a certain type of income each turn as specified by the new tile that enters the game. There's an interesting balancing act of getting income and keeping your pollution level of your civilization low. I wasn't particularly good at this balancing act, but it was still a really fun game to play. I had heard some mixed reviews on this one, but it was a really solid and fun design. My one gripe with this game is that it doesn't do anything that Suburbia doesn't do better and that's really the only thing preventing me from adding it to my collection. There really isn't much in the way of spatial placement in the game, as you have in Suburbia, plus I feel the tiles are more thematic in Suburbia. Overall, though, a really good game that is worth at least trying out.

Splendor


One of the most hyped games of the moment, Splendor is a really solid albeit abstract game. It's a mechanically sound set collection/engine building game. The gameplay is very streamlined and the components are very nice. It's definitely one of the better lightweight games I've played in a while and I'm glad to have a copy in my collection.

Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent


My wife and I really enjoy Power Grid, but we've only ever played the base game map. Our first new map was the Australia one and it was really interesting. The Australia map is very strange and spread out, but every city is connected to every other city with a maximum connection value of 20, so there's a little bit of hopping around the map which is interesting. Also, there are no uranium plants. Instead, the plants that come up for auction are mines that can be used to sell back uranium to the market each turn for additional money. An interesting mechanism, although only two players in our game really used them. Overall, I'm quite impressed with how a new map changes up a Power Grid game and I'll probably be picking some new maps up in the near future.

Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game


I was interested in Once Upon a Time after seeing it on an episode of Tabletop. The episode had a bunch of writers playing the game. In reality, it wasn't quite as fun as watching writers play. It's an interesting and different game, but you definitely need to have a group that buys into the story being told. I would definitely like to try the game again, though, as I can see it improving with more plays, especially with the same group. The game does play very quickly, which actually surprised me. Our game ended almost too quickly. All in all, though, it's an enjoyable experience.
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17. Board Game: Forbidden Desert [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:263]
Wes Baker
United States
Fredericksburg
Virginia
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Forbidden Desert, 1 play
8/10

I definitely enjoyed this more than Forbidden Island and also more than Pandemic. This game feels a lot more fresh than the other two because of the moving tiles and the sand building up. I like how the parts of the ship are found and how they move around as well. All in all, I'd rather play this than Pandemic, but also worry about the longevity of this game when compared to Pandemic. I don't own this, but I'm looking into buying it.

Sneaks & Snitches, 1 play
6/10

Not something I need to buy, but I like having to pick where to send my snitch and where to send my sneak and guessing where everyone else will go. It's a nice little filler, but I still don't like fillers...

Forge War, 1 play
5/10

I played the online version of this in order to determine if I was going to back it or not and ultimately I decided not to. Let's get the good stuff out of the way: I really like the way the mining phase worked and how jumping other workers gets you additional resources and how the mining board clears itself. I also liked how the adventurers quest and level up.

However, there's a lot that's been done before in games that are further polished. Also, the epic game is supposed to take nearly three hours and I have other games in that time range that I'd rather play than this. I think my biggest beef is that there are lots of little rules loopholes which says to me the game isn't quite ready yet.
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18. Board Game: Impulse [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1173]
Brandon Kempf
United States
Jefferson City
MO
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Wow, if I have looked at this correctly, it was a good gaming month for us, but only three new to us games, which seems a bit odd, but in a good way, we played some older titles that don't get nearly enough attention this month. Of the three new ones we played two of them 1 time and one 6 times.

Best game of the month has to go to Impulse. With only one two player game under our belt I feel a bit weird calling this our new game of the month, but it was. It's a big giant 4x game packed into about 120 cards and some plastic ships and it plays fantastic. I like Innovation quite a bit, but I won't play it with more than 2 people. Glory to Rome on the other hand, I don't enjoy, and Uchronia still hasn't shaken off the dust to get one play in due to the horrible to me rulebook. But this one, this one shines. I was able to teach it to my 10 year old daughter and have her understand it and even enjoy it, we just haven't gotten a chance to break it out with more people. I need to remedy that soon.

Coup was the game that got 6 plays, it's short and it's fun, but I just don't know if it's everything that folks have made it out to be. I almost wished I was playing Mascarade instead. Part of that though was the fact that the only copy of Coup that we can get right now has The Resistance theming slapped on top of it, and I don't necessarily like that art work, would much rather have the older version. But still a few of the players really liked it so we did play it multiple times and had fun, I just suck at lying.

Justice League: Axis of Villains Strategy Game would be the only other new game we played and we played this one once with 2 players and it played pretty brutally. We didn't have a chance. This is basically Castle Panic re-themed with the Justice League. The components are nice and the price was right, got it on clearance for $7.50, I just don't think it's nearly as well balanced since it seems nearly impossible to win with only 2 players. Definitely want to play it again with 4 to see if that is the case though.

Good month, we played 24 games and only 3 of them were new to us. Hmmm, maybe we're finally hitting that point in our collection where I actually like what we have, lol. What am I saying, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, Bruges, Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension and Lost Legacy: The Starship should be arriving next week, and I currently have a bid out on Tikal, lol.

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19. Board Game: Metallum [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:2520]
Mark Saya
United States
Los Angeles
California
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After owning it for a few months we finally got around to trying Metallum, a meaty little two-player space exploration and development game, with a neat sci-fi backstory and lots of player interaction. Very nice component quality too. We only managed one play but look forward to many more.

I really liked the programming part of the game, where you secretly plan for your next turn or "routine" by building a set of up to four subroutines that enable movement, mining, and various special actions. The subroutines are rated by complexity, and the player who constructs the least complex routine gets to decide who goes first that round, often a crucial advantage.

A couple other new-to-me's this month were the ubiquitous Splendor, an appealing game we enjoyed three times in one session, and Dominion: Dark Ages (two plays), which I got for Christmas and took until now to play, thus the ol' Christmas in July!

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20. Board Game: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:331] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
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I played only two new to me games in July, and three new to me expansions. Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin was an easy winner, as I enjoyed it and would play it again. The other game I played was Angry Dice, and that cost me 60 seconds of my life that I can't get back.

I also played a game of Smash Up with three expansions mixed in: Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000, Smash Up: The Obligatory Cthulhu Set, and Smash Up: Science Fiction Double Feature. They were OK, but I've never been a huge fan of Smash up anyway.
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21. Board Game: Africana [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1668]
Mr. Frothingslosh
Canada
Caledon
Ontario
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6 new to me games this month, including two micro games courtesy of Kickstarter.

Africana

Being lucky enough to have access to local no-ship math trades, I try once in a while to trade for games I don't necessarily know too much about but think they'll be a good fit. Africana is one of these.

It's a nicely done pick-up and deliver game that is easy to learn. I suppose multiple plays could wear out the game's attractiveness, as there are only so many route cards to win, but for now, it's a lot of fun. Not only routes, but also goal tokens and guides to win that will greatly assist in your movement capability but also come with possible negative points at the end. An enjoyable game overall and glad to have in my collection.

Province


This micro game really delivers boiling down resource management to the basics into a tight 20 minute game. And all fits into a ziploc bag (or in my case, the limited carrying pouch that was offered).

For just two players, my wife and I have played twice and were quite impressed.

The Magic Labyrinth

OK, this game is tough - don't let the cuteness tell you otherwise. Because it certainly is cute and well made. Idea is you set up a maze of walls, cover it with a board and affix your pawn (pawn on top, magnet under board).

In this way, you made maddeningly, painstaking steps on the board, using your memory only to retrieve tokens. I lost twice to my 6 year old with no shame. But even he was getting a bit annoyed by the end.

Dungeon Raiders

A card game of dungeon exploration. To simulate darkened rooms of each dungeon floor, some cards are shuffled face up, some face down. Monsters will require cooperation to defeat, otherwise trying to screw the player(s) with the lowest cards.

Funny game, and plays quick. Only worrying though that with 4 plays, I'm pretty sure I've seen everything the game has to offer.

Raiders of the Lost Tomb

Second micro game to arrive this month. Again just for two, and you supply coins that serve as player pieces and your 'dice'.

The two players essentially have a running battle through the tomb cards grappling for the 'grail'. After a while the boss monster is released, who chases the players. Of course if the monster reaches the end space, both players lose.

It's amusing, although with bad dice 'rolls' you'll find yourself trapped in the same space for a while. For such a little game, it does create a nice level of tension however.

We prefer to use 'Boss Squidward'



Bendomino

Well, it's Dominoes, but you know, bendy. Picked up for a few bucks second-hand. Played a few times with the kids, but ultimately, they are happy just building curvy roads with the dominoes and I'm fine with that.
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22. Board Game: World Without End [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:462]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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July was a sparse month of gaming. When I was playing games I played a lot, but when I was not I went entire weeks without a single game being played. In those handful of days I did play games, though, I managed to get a few new-to-me games to the table, and I think it was easy to pick a favorite. This game challenged my mind the most, and was truly unique...



1 = World Without End - I wasn't sure how I would react to this game, because geekbuddies described it as a game that revolves around managing pain. Sure enough that is exactly what it is, a game where every turn there is a chance an event card could devastate your plans. It felt like I was constantly wanting to do everything, and yet the game limits and restricts you in such a way that you have to prioritize what is most vital to your plans. Despite the potential for frustration, I quite like this game. It challenges my mind in a different way from other games because it continuously forces you to look at what is more important: scoring points towards victory, or fighting to avoid losing points by gathering the necessary items to pay the mandatory dues. My one concern is that the nature of the game almost forces a close score, but it will take more exploration of the game before I can conclusively determine if this is true. It's not a game that I will play all that frequently, and I can see some of my family and friends being totally enraged by the game, but I am anxious to play again. Initial Rating = 7




2 = Callisto: The Game - This is Knizia's take on Blokus. The only differences are that you connect side-to-side instead of corner-to-corner, and you have pedestals that mark starting spaces including one you can throw down later in the game. I enjoyed it, but for some reason it felt a little weaker than Blokus. The game is extremely quick, partially because it was easier to block someone out and eliminate them from contention. I'll have to see over more plays, but the board is so tight the walls close in very quickly. Still, I enjoyed playing and might choose this as a faster alternative to Blokus. I also would be interested to see how it would play if you did the multiple games with scores added up because that would certainly change how players target one another. Initial Rating = 7


Special Situation



Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary - This was not new to me, because I've played regular Ticket to Ride dozens of times. But I received this deluxe version as a gift and played it a couple of times in July. Instead of talking about gameplay, which I have reviewed in the past (I love it,) let me mention the components of this edition. The art is amazing, simply beautiful. I love how the board is illustrated, and some of the little details they included on the board. Some of the family I played with had trouble differentiating the colors of a couple of the train cards because they are so pale it can be difficult to tell orange from red unless you're holding both. It seems a shame that some people have to use the color-blind symbols in order to play the deluxe edition of a game even though they're not color blind. The individual train sets are really cool and look neat on the board. It is perhaps a bit odd to have an entire line of circus trains with only giraffes, but it still pops on the board. My only other complaint would be the fact that a yellow score marker doesn't really match the brown barrels on the trains. They should have gone with a brown score marker. Overall I'm satisfied, but if it cost the gift-giver any more money I think they might have had a beef about some of these minor issues being present.
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23. Board Game: Seeland [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1123]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Great Games
Seeland

Seeland, like many other Kramer games, manages to produce a game that is largely tactical without falling into tactical tropes. By this, I mean tactical games that become a strict exercise in score optimization. Seeland is not that. Rather, it is a game in which you want to spend your turns pushing to control the pace of the game, slightly helping yourself out (but not so much that it is too attractive, or too helpful to the other players) or attempting to reduce other players scoring and scoring opportunities (the worse here is producing a null-score monoculture for an opponent). Overall, this game provides a fantastic rules-to-depth ratio, allows for creative play (especially due to its stuiver double play option), and is well produced to boot: two thumbs up from me.

Good Games
Hanabi

Hanabi is a deceptively simple cooperative game which introduces an element which addresses the "alpha/leader" problem in a rather creative and effective manner - you can see everyone else's cards but your own. To make things more interesting, the primary resource in the game is hints so it becomes an impossibility to gather the perfect information required to implement such alpha/leader behaviour. As a result, the game becomes one of cooperation, memory, deduction, and calculated risk/reward. It's the perfect length for the type of game it is and doesn't overstay its welcome (if anything it understays and has you desiring more - a feature that designers should strive for more), is boiled down to its singular mechanism and not convoluted with unnecessary bells and whistles, and is aesthetically pleasing.

Mega-Gipf

While not for the faint of heart (nor a typical 'game' in and of itself), user smorange and myself gave the full-on mega-GIPF a go with all seven members of the GIPF family (this includes the forgotten member TAMSK) -- with all the added potentials (which means new potential moves) plus the ability to challenge the use of potentials (which entails playing a 'side' game of the potential used; e.g., we played two games of DVONN as a result), this meant for 'a' game which lasted an entire evening. Certainly an experience that was rich with both abstract gamey-ness, as well as meta-gaming (i.e., questions such as what games do I excel at, which games do I hold my own at, and which games do have a losing streak in?). While not my prefered way to enjoy abstracts, certainly a worthwhile experience every once in a while!

Ok Games
The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus

My overall impression of this game is that it over-complicates push-your-luck adventurism by adding more rules. However, this complexity does not add to the depth of the game. Accordingly, I still think that Diamant still delivers a much richer rules-to-depth ratio or that games like Tikal make exploration rich but also incredibly much more strategically (and tactically) meaningful.
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24. Board Game: Sticheln [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:815]
David P
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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Sticheln is a trick-taking game where there's no need to follow suit; every card that doesn't is a trump; taking the lead is generally disadvantageous; and giving someone a trick can be downright nasty. Basically, it's the opposite of everything you know about trick-taking games. It's more of an incentive manipulation game like Modern Art, but Sticheln is more opaque. Rating: 8.

This may be cheating, but I played Ultimate GIPF this month, which is almost a different game from regular GIPF. We ended up playing 5 challenges within the game: YINSH, TZAAR, ZERTZ, and two games of DVONN. I really like the how the challenges force you to consider how good you are at the various GIPF games. Rating: 7.

I prefer the 4p version of Blokus for its depth, but Duo is good as a lighter abstract, albeit drawish. Delightfully mean game. Rating: 7.

I respect the design of Puerto Rico, and the role selection mechanism creates an interesting dynamic, but I don't like how static the game is otherwise. It's a bit too close to Saint Petersburg and its ilk for my liking--although, to be fair, Puerto Rico is a lot more interesting than Saint Petersburg because it's way better at weaving together the effects of player actions. It's just that I'd rather play San Juan, Race for the Galaxy, or Glory to Rome, and in this genre I only find myself requesting Glory to Rome. I also don't like the theme of Puerto Rico, as abstract as it is. Rating: 6. A high 6.

Taluva is a neat tile-laying game that I found difficult to pick up. The rules aren't complicated so much as unintuitive compared to other tile layers like Samurai and Carcassonne; I prefer those games for their purity and simplicity. But I like the three dimensional aspect of Taluva. It's visually striking, particularly at the end. Rating: 6. A high 6.

I played Hoity Toity with three players, and it was awful, though I won handily. I'm sure it would be better with more players, but downtime would increase, as would luck. The game is too transparent to offer difficult decisions apart from the bluffing involved with the rock-paper-scissors simultaneous action selection, and I don't find that hugely interesting or rewarding. As a result, I doubt I'd ever request to play with any number of players. Impressive for its time. Rating: 6.

As a design, Boss Monster is terrible. Nostalgia is its only ally. There aren't many decisions and none are the least bit difficult. The cards are so unbalanced that players might have no chance of winning before making any choices at all. That's a huge problem. Another problem is that the turn-based rules make the game slower and more tedious than playing cards simultaneously in real time, which is how we played, but not how the rules are written. If I can see this after one play, what does that tell you about the playtesting? It's all the more frustrating because it could have been a decent game.

With real time simultaneous play, it's not irritating to play like some games I rate 2 or 3 because it's so short, but it's a typical overhyped underdeveloped Kickstarter project that somehow raised over $200,000, an obscene sum for a broken game. Boss Monster deserves the rating I've given it because it's an offensively half-baked design. Rating: 1.
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25. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:259]
Stuart Finlay
Australia
Beldon
WA
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A disappointing month for me where nothing stood out.

_6_For Sale x1
A pleasant filler with some strategy and a dollop of luck. Would happily play in future.

_6_Letters from Whitechapel x1
Scotland Yard + breadcrumbs + time = a more interesting game. But is that time tradeoff worth it? For games that are essentially the same I think they're really after different audiences. So if you're after a thematic experience then LfW should be it. If you're after a good family game go with SY. I don't mind either of them but they're not must plays.

_5_Star Realms x7
Another deckbuilding inspired game. Personally I can't think of much less interesting but new games are always worth a try as occasionally you get to be surprised, but in this case I wasn't.
The art is of that soulless 'digital' style that permeates everything these days. It's well done but I hate it. In gameplay terms there was no difference in feeling between this and any other light head to head games on the market. The whole engine building and combat systems had nothing evolutionary to get me excited and the game tells no story at all. This is a game that has an appeal that I'll never understand and up against games such as Ascension, Dominion, Solforge, Hearthstone I can't find enough of a difference between them to recommend one over the other. Pick one that your friends play if this sort of thing interests you. I'm going back to RftG.

_5_It's Alive! x2
There are some interesting choices to be made here but I wasn't thrilled with the game as I felt like a Bill the hedge fund manager and not Victor Frankenstein. But it's short and the theme is suitably cheesy so I'll happily play it if someone requests it.

_5_Bamboleo x2
Like most of its dexterity brethren it is a fine game but does nothing that pool, darts or foosball don't do better.

_5_A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) x1
I played this really poorly but I also don't think this design offers much to the players in terms of interesting mechanisms. The basic RPS system is fine if stagnant and the cards tend to only interact in mundane ways which makes combat rarely more than double-think. The other events that occur are completely random and don't add anything besides an element of luck. For a game as long as it is and with a setting as interesting as GoT I expect there to be more going on than above the table negotiation.

_3_City Council x1
Like FCoK this game has all the trappings of a good semi co-op but it is fundamentally flawed. None of the levers in the game provide any real control of the outcome and this makes the negotiation aspects less than interesting. Finally the card draws randomly and massively swing the outcome of the game. Avoid or just draw lots instead.
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