New to you October 2014 => Best new boardgame
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What new board and card games did you play in October 2014? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month. Thanks to SPIEL in Essen... this promises to be an interesting list.

In order to assist with collecting Statistics from these lists, please post an entry with your chosen game of the month, and if possible please use the "insert board game" feature to add other games you mention in your entry.

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1. Board Game: Asteroyds [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2383]
Andy
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Manchester
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== NEW GAMES ==

Asteroyds - 1 play - thumbsup

Having not managed to play a new game all month, I got an eleventh hour reprieve when a friend came round for games tonight and agreed to give this a try. It's a crazy, random realtime game of programming spaceships, along similar lines to roborally, except even more random, since die rolls control how the other objects: Asteroids; Gates etc. move each turn.

There's definitely skill required in plotting your course quickly, efficiently and without error, however it is also heavily luck dependant as to whether you have a lot of complex Asteroids to deal with.. in our game I spent more time than I would have liked in an area with a few multi-coloured asteroids which confused me more than they should have... this meant I crashed a lot. Meanwhile, Simon seemed unimpeded and indeed only took 1 point of damage all game. Mary on the other hand had been blocked in very early on, by asteroids closing in on her launch platform and then struggled to recover after that.
It was fun though, and I would have loved to play it again straight away, but the others were not as keen.


== YUCATA.DE ==

Port Royal - 1 play - thumbsup

This was new on yucata this month, and also new to me... it's a pirate themed push your luck type game that is reminiscent of Circus Flohcati or Can't Stop. Each turn the active player can flip cards off the deck to create a pool of cards available to choose from. The player can stop at any point and take 1 (or more if there are 4+ different ships in the pool) cards, and then each other player has a chance to take a card from the active players pool. If however the active player draws a second ship of the same colour as one already in the pool, and he is unable to repel it using pirates, his turn ends immediately.

Early on your are quite like to miss turns because of the double ship rule, however once you've recruited a couple of pirates it is possible to repel the weaker ships and hence have a lower chance of being stuck with a duplicate.

The rest of the game is about taking cards to earn money, which allows you to then recruit people to either reduce your risk (like the pirates) or to help you earn money or victory points.

I won my first game (pictured above) so I'm a little biased, but I did rather enjoy Port Royal, despite the early frustration of missing turns when duplicate ships turned up.


Carson City - 3 plays - thumbsup

Although this technically isn't new to me, as I played it once a few years ago, I'd completely forgotten how to play, and it was new to yucata. I've played one complete game against my wife and am just finishing up on a couple of 4 player games (one of which is pictured above).
It's a worker placement and area control game set in the wild west, where players between them construct Carson City building Mines, farmsteads, banks, saloons etc. and earn money from them... However Players are competing to be the most successful by turning money and other resources into victory points. It can get quite aggressive too, as players can send their cowboys in to contest certain actions or attack certain buildings.
On the whole it's an exciting and interesting game, with a few different ways to score points, allowing for different overall strategies.
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2. Board Game: Shadow Hunters [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:724]
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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Essen time again, 27 new-to-me games! I only got to play a few of the highlights but many more of the small releases. Also, a lot of older titles got played at the last chance before the Essen flood gates opened. Accordingly, Shadow Hunter as my game of the month is an older game which earned the title as a best-in-class-game in a category I usually don't play too much.

Game of the month
Jäger der Nacht: d10-8 (2 plays)

Finally, I found the Werewolves-type game that does it for me. I had enjoyable Werewolves games a long time ago but it’s too dependent on the right group of players which I don’t have. The Resistance was a step into the right direction but after a few initial plays it didn’t hit the table again. Not enough fun included. Battlestar Galactica has too much overhead and is too long for the limited amount of gameplay.

Jäger der Nacht strikes the right balance between rules overhead, playing time, amount of information and fun. A pity that it took two years from buying to finally getting it on the table. I don’t even mind the lackluster young adult theme of Werewolves against Vampires and the uneven artwork in the German version.

Close contenders
Five Tribes: d10-8 (2 plays)

The Mancala mechanism and the multi-facetted scoring dimensions create an AP heaven but the tactical decisions are challenging and worth the time. Only towards the end when the choices decrease, the game speeds up. I really like it but it's a very brainburning pleasure and not for everyone. The initial auction can be misleading some players into overpaying as it's not always better to be earlier in turn order and enough times it doesn't matter at all.

Note: End game conditions are translated wrong in the German rules. Game ends when one player doesn't have any legal move. In that case, game will end after this round even if another player puts back meeples and has a legal move again.

Deus: d10-8 (1 play)

The Spiel ’14 title that made the biggest splash among my fellow gamers directly after the fair. Deus is a surprisingly quick-playing civ game that feels more like 7 Wonders than Civilization. The tableau building is combined with a dudes-on-a-map part although one dude can’t attack another player’s dude directly. Attacks are only indirect by stealing VP’s from neighboring players via cards played to the tableau. The only alternative action to playing cards to the tableau is sacrificing to the gods, i.e. discarding cards to one of the five development areas to get new buildings, resources, money etc. The challenge is to minimize the need to sacrifice cards by generating enough resources from the tableau.

The tableau building mechanism in combination with the unique discard mechanism creates plenty of replayability. At the same time, Deus is the cleanest Pearl Games title so far. Once explained, it plays smoothly. Thus, it might become the first game from this publisher to not only be a good game like Troyes or Ginkgopolis but to be played in years to come.

Mangrovia: d10-8 (1 play)

Very pleasant light-/medium weight Euro. On their turn, players choose one of six or seven action spots, each of them grants a specific combination of actions, e.g. get two cards and build one hut, get three cards and become start player, get two cards and draw from the sack. Ultimately, players build huts on the board to directly score points, win majorities, improve their skills to draw more goods from the sack. The challenge is in mastering the multi-dimensional scoring. On a first play Mangrovia leaves the impression that it’s finely balanced and developed. A positive surprise from Zoch.

Good games
Isaribi: d10-7 (2 plays)

A redevelopment of Sail to India blown up to a real boardgame. The introduction of random factors and less need for one consistent strategy turned Isaribi into a lighter more family-friendly pickup-and-delivery game compared to its ancestor. On top, Isaribi has a simple but workable market demand mechanism that vaguely reminds me of the one in Automobile. The artwork is gorgeous and elevates an otherwise average game into a good playing experience.

Spike: d10-7 (1 play)

In between Ticket to Ride and Age of Steam but closer to the former game. It’s heavily front-loaded even for a pickup-and-deliver game. In principle, players have to parse a lot of information to solve the travelling salesman problem on hand. Optimally, players combine connecting the cities from their bonus card with completing their order cards while tactically connecting cities when they are most valuable. Actually, focusing on short-term connections and tactically completing deliveries could pay out as well while dramatically reducing the barrier of getting started.

An enjoyable game for fans of the genre that’s hampered a bit by the slow progress towards the long-term goals and fiddly handling of the track tiles and locomotives that will challenge some of the clumsier players.

Onward to Venus: d10-7 (1 play)

The artwork on the box and the cards is outstanding and got me interested although Wallace’s conflict titles usually aren’t for me. Actual gameplay was a surprise as I liked it. It’s a clear action selection structure, the mechanisms gel together well, the focus is mostly on tactical decisions, it’s a clear-cut game of majorities and most importantly, conflict is restricted by randomly placed tactical markers giving players the possibility to manage their exposure.

On the negative side, there’s no innovation of any type here. The crises which constitute a big part of the rules, potentially don’t play any relevant role in the game. The tile draw can decide the game when it doesn’t present any opportunity to challenge another player’s majority.

It’s still conflict, it’s still decided by luck but I would play again which is more than I can say for many other multiplayer conflict titles.

Sushi Go!: d10-7 (2 plays)

Until I played Yardmaster Express a few hours later, this shortly carried the title of quickest drafting game ever. In comparison, Sushi Go hits the sweet spot better. Decent depth, fun, randomness and quick playing time in a game of collecting the most valuable sets. A filler that probably will find the way into my collection some time.

Die Welt: Singapur, wo liegt das nur?: d10-7 (1 play)

Part 3 in Burkhardt's geography series. My feeling is that Die Welt is easier than the German or European version. Other than that there’s not a single difference in gameplay.

Mission: Red Planet: d10-7 (1 play)

Astonishingly simple combination of simultaneous role selection combined with majority scoring. Nine different roles, ten rounds, three increasingly important scorings. My single problem is the luck element introduced by the event cards. I drew two good bonus cards which made me the winner, the other guys only drew discovery cards. Still fine so far for such a quick game.

Two reservations: Probably, with the full complement of five players the chaos factor would be too high for my liking. Also, we made the rules mistake that we all revealed our role cards simultaneously which reduces the chaos a bit and increased my enjoyment.

AquaSphere: d10-7 (1 play)

Fits in perfectly with Trajan, Bora Bora and Castles of Burgundy (in order of descending similarity). Actually, it's so close to Trajan, that it's best described by the respective similarities and differences.

Instead of the mancala driving the game in Trajan, Feld invented a steering center vaguely similar to the one Rieneck introduced in Der Pate. As in Trajan, there are six principal fields of action although to mix things up Aquasphere features a seventh 'joker' action. Both feature some form of area control, of developing special skills and set completion. Both are explanation-heavy, of comparable complexity, depth and length - the basic structures are so similar up to the same amount of four rounds with intermediate scoring that I don't see much sense in owning both.

Still, here are the differences. Aquasphere features a currency, time. There's a rondel instead of separate areas on a board. It's under water, it's much more colourful, it feels more opaque. The intermediate bot scoring and the endgame scoring are lacking as they don't differentiate as much as I would like them to do. After one play, I prefer Trajan.

Ok games
Das Vermächtnis: Stammbaum der Macht: d10-6 (1 play)

A sprawling experience-focused Euro game. Worth playing occasionally as it’s fun to see your family tree grow but there’s not much to discover on repeat plays. The payout to be earned in terms of tactical or strategic challenges is not enough to justify the game length and rules overhead when looking beyond the well-integrated theme. A few too many options feign depth while only adding chrome. I wouldn’t mind playing Legacy again but my positive opinion directly after the game changed quickly to a more neutral stance when thinking about the game.

Ivor the Engine: d10-6 (1 play)

Quirky game which is sold in best British understatement as a kid’s game for adults. Actual gameplay is as odd as this sounds but at the same time has its charms. While heavily frontloaded as a pickup-and-deliver game with the typical need to map out a route in advance, it has a high degree of randomness and player targeting at the same time. Definitely too involved for kids.

Packet Row: d10-6 (1 play)

There’s a good idea hidden in the central mechanism of the harbor master, it only lacks in execution and would have needed more fine-tuning.

The harbor master is a variation on the ‘split-the-cake’ mechanism. The active player chooses the area where players can claim cards, the other players select first. If a player decides to pass, he risks not getting anything if the harbor master takes a card. Players have to guess if the harbor master is trying to tempt them to claim a card as he really wants to get something from another area or hopes that they pass as he wants to get one of the available cards. So far, so interesting.

Packet Row falls short in tempo. The cards cycle through the game much too fast to give players time to plan. At best, they can hope to start 3 or 4 ships. The administration part becomes a chore being almost half of the game with three players. The luck factor of having the right cards for choice and being in the right position at that time is high. Some more fine-tuning could have made a good game out of this.

Doodle City: d10-6 (1 play)

An original concept somewhere in between a game and a toy. Too long to be a filler, not enough to offer for a full-fledged game. In the end, it comes down to getting the right dice one or two times more than the other players. The decisions themselves are rather obvious. I would play it occasionally again for its originality.

Pandemic: The Cure: d10-6 (1 play)

Clearly, this is the dice version of Pandemic. It suffers from being prone to bossing even more than Pandemic itself, probably due to the dice determining the available actions. It could as well be played by a single player as each round the challenge is for all players to most effectively solve the puzzle of making the best out of the respective dice roll with no hidden information or time pressure to avoid the bossing syndrome. I don't think that it's a good idea to let the dice decide the difficulty of the puzzle or even making it impossible to solve the puzzle. Still, it works and is somehow appealing as a Pandemic-themed puzzle passtime.

Black Sheep: d10-6 (1 play)

Knizia’s take on Texas Hold’em Poker. Instead of one there are three pots, the pots (two animals) themselves constitute the community cards. Bids are replaced by playing cards openly to one of the pots where they combine with the animals to form the most valuable ‘hand’. In the end, each animal is worth VP’s and additional VP’s are awarded for majorities of animals or certain combinations. Ok although a bit too long for what is on offer.

Wind River: d10-6 (1 play)

A multiplayer abstract game with a theme that works. As usual for abstract games, simple rules create an open strategic space. If one player gets targeted jointly he will have a hard time but there are some means to avoid getting too much attention. Wind River offers a condensed multiplayer conflict experience in a short time frame that suffers from its dry nature. An ok game I would play again when asked but it lacks the spark to seek it out.

Yardmaster Express: d10-6 (1 play)

Claims the title of quickest drafting game ever. Draft a few cards (six in our four player game if I remember correctly) from the same hand that gets replenished with a single card for each draft, count the value of the cards, score additional points for special conditions, finish after 5-10 minutes. Eye-catching artwork in a game reduced one degree too much.

Clinic: d10-6 (1 play)

Alban’s own description here on BGG makes Clinic sound like Age of Steam in a hospital. Patients and doctors of similar color (competence and severity of condition) have to be matched to generate revenue. Only revenues surmounting costs can be transformed to prestige points. Each piece of infrastructure and each employee generate costs. Building the infrastructure is subject to a host of restrictions.

Clinic works, is a challenge, initially interesting but ultimately too long (>3 hours on first play) for the limited payout. It also suffers from the lack of development by a third party. Some elements rarely or not at all used (parcs!) could have been eliminated, some elements are too cumbersome to be enjoyable (movement) and the rules are among the worst I’ve experienced in a long time. 8 pages took two read-throughs and 1,5 hours in total to prepare for this game. Clinic was enjoyable once as a thematic economic game but in future I rather play Age of Steam or Ground Floor instead as more accessible while deeper experiences.

Average games
Beasty Bar: d10-5 (1 play)

Ended up in the Fairplay Top 10 for Spiel 2014 which only can be explained by the spatial arrangement with less than 20 metres between the two booths. The game itself is perfectly average. I didn’t enjoy the mix of a bad rules overhead/playing time ratio caused by 12 non-self explanatory action cards, player targeting, mostly random gameplay and a bit of card counting. Others had fun with it.

Council of Verona: d10-5 (1 play)

The game starts with a card draft. Subsequently, players on their turn play one card either to the council or to the exile and finally put one influence on a character. If this character fulfils its goal, the influence counts as VPs.
Another microgame that doesn't stand the comparison with Love Letter. There's a lot more rules overhead while not really offering more fun (in the contrary) or depth to the high randomness of gameplay.

MashUp Monsters: d10-5 (1 play)

Basically a kid's game that features a 'panic' mode to make it feasible for adults, i.e. grab two cards as quick as possible which are matching the symbol on the die. The unique twist are the split cards that have a cut in the middle (oh noooo!) to push one card into the other. Charming artwork for the monsters but not remarkable as a game. The die in our game must have been a cheating die as only four of the six sides ever showed up.

Artificium: d10-5 (1 play)

The basic mechanism of trying to build card chains to produce initial resources or buy them to convert them into more valuable resources is not innovative but ok. A minor weakness is the dominance of luck in the card draw that only in parts can be mitigated by a limited possibility to exchange cards while at the same time being heavily in favor of the players earlier in turn order. The major weakness are the take-that cards included in the mix. A fine game for players who deem it fun to freely steal a resource from another player that in the extreme would have added more than 10% to this player’s final score and in turn increases the stealing player’s score by these 10% effectively leading to a 20% score difference. For me, such elements are a major turn-off and often a sign of unexperienced authors.

Bad games
L'Aéropostale: d10-4 (1 play)

Aviation theme = interest. Nonetheless, even before release my interest evaporated when I saw a picture of a player board that combined the Luft Hansa name with an iron cross. Thankfully, this saved me from getting a game I would have regretted buying. It’s a typical small publisher effort with many ideas but not enough development. To start with the positive, theme integration is strong. Early aviation was a risky business. You never knew if you reach the destination without incidents. You might discover worthless demands, get screwed in die rolls, kicked out of cities just because it’s you while another player gets lucky and gets all the fame. Too bad that this is integrated in half-baked Euro mechanisms and a far too long playing time for the amount of depth and randomness. The challenge is in mastering the number of game elements combined, not in the depth of decisions which filter down to focusing on fame or lots of destinations. It’s far too fiddly and clunky for my liking. A better alternative to this game is Wallace’s Aeroplanes.

Stimmvieh: Ihr habt die Wahl!: d10-4 (1 play)

Each player has 9 candidate cards which are splitted before the game into 'top candidates' and backbenchers. Each candidate can only acquire either donations or votes up to his skill (1-9). Depending on the camp he's coming from, a new donation or a vote card replaces the taken card. Fits in with other BeWitched games that often carry a political message, this time they forgot to put a game in to carry the message.

Bakerspeed: d10-3 (1 play)

This can't be the game. Oh no, this is the game. Incredulity was followed by two minutes of fun while trying to figure out how the player rolling the die can have a chance to play his cards faster than the other players. That's about as much fun as Bakerspeed has to offer.
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3. Board Game: Thunder Alley [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:540] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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Only one new to me board game and one new to me expansion this month, but both were good. I'm pretty sure Thunder Alley will make my top 10 new to me list for the year. I also played and enjoyed my one play with the King of Tokyo: Promo Cards.
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4. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:129]
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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Only 2 new to me games for the month of October as I was only able to get out once and play with friends.

Top for me this month is Imperial Settlers. I really enjoyed how the game plays out over the 5 rounds, and while I didn't quite get it as I lost pretty badly it was one that really has me thinking and wanting to try out the other factions. I was the Romans, but didn't play too well to my strengths so that probably accounted for my struggles, but it was still fun to try different things and see what sort of combos could be created. I'm itching to play again and hopefully do a lot better! For now this is an d10-8, but I could easily see this going higher with a few more plays. I know expansions are coming for the existing factions so we will see how the deck-building goes. I also hope at some point there is a new faction or two as well although those will take a lot more work. Unlike my next game, I think this is probably best with two, which makes me really happy that I have a copy.

Closely behind this is Abyss. I give it a d10-7 primarily because we played with two and while it played well it probably isn't the best player count. I was able toget one of the lords that gave me a pearl every turn pretty early on so in a 2-player game I could simply pay 1 pearl to get the card I wanted on my opponent's turn and then I would get it right back from the bank on the next. It is light and plays pretty fast, which is always a plus in my book. My only concern is I just can't get into the theme, yes the artwork is amazing, but underwater fantasy just doesn't appeal to me. Definitely want to try again with more players.
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5. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:52]
United States
Davis
California
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Life continues to interfere with my hobby — only two games played again this month. Both were new.


Five Tribes

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


This is a lavishly produced VP capturing game with a very clever mancala-type mechanism at its core. The board is a variable 5x6 array of square tiles. These tiles come in various types, with different innate powers and an end-game VP value for the player that claims them. At the beginning of the game, each tile is seeded randomly with three meeples of various colors. Again, each color has its own power.

Each turn, there is a bidding process to determine turn order. Then, in the resulting turn order, each player does the following:

(1) Select a tile containing meeples and "walk" those meeples along an orthagonally connected path, leaving one meeple in each space that is entered. The final tile in which a meeple is placed MUST contain at least one meeple of the same color as the meeple placed in that space.

(2) Remove all meeples from the final tile that are the same color of the meeple just placed there. If that completely clears the tile of all meeples, the player "controls" it (placing a camel in the space to record that fact).

(3) Activate the power of the meeples removed from the final tile.

(4) Activate the innate power of the final tile.

(5) Optionally, sell card sets for cash.

This presents a complicated spatial puzzle, with players figuring out how to best activate meeples and tiles, and hopefully take control of valuable tiles. In addition, it's crucial to avoid setting other players up with powerful opportunities.

Some AP is unavoidable, even with normally brisk players. I wouldn't even try to play this with people who are predisposed to slow play.

One of my friends disliked the very tactical game play. The words "point salad" were also mentioned in grumbly tones -- and it is true that virtually every turn you will net you *some* points. Also, our scores were very close in a four player game, with a three point spread on final scores in the 130 range.

I liked it and will play again, but I'm not yet sure it's good enough to have a permanent place in my collection.

[Also, if it bothers you, slavery is a thematic element in the game. You've been warned!]


Evolution

(Image credit: Mouseketeer)


I've only played this once, but it was pretty enjoyable. It's a tableau building game themed around competition between different species of herbivores and carnivores. Game play was pretty simple and tight. There was a lot of player interaction. Herbivores are competing for a fixed pool of food each turn. Carnivores are trying to eat other species. You get VP for food eaten, population size of your species, and any special evolved trait cards you've assigned to your species.

The trait cards are an important part of the game. They allow you to specialize your species, giving them defensive abilities to ward off predators, efficiency gains, or offensive traits to make carnivores more effective.

Powerful combos seem crucial, and this means that the game will need a few plays before newbies will be competitive. In my play, the only experienced player locked down a strong anti-carnivore combo early and the rest of us didn't have the cards or experience to know how to get around it. He had an easy win.

The artwork is excellent and the game play solid. I don't feel the need to own it, but will happily play when asked.
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6. Board Game: Lords of Vegas [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:354]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Lords of Vegas = 1 Play



I got this (together with the UP expansion) since I did not have a “gambling” themed game in my collection and the fact that most reviews gave this a positive buzz. The one play we had with 3 players confirmed this gambling feel during re-organization attempts and the fact that you can actually gamble in your opponent’s casinos. What I liked more was the management aspect of the game as you attempt to build and grow your empire, which is given more tension and importance by the scoring track as you MUST grow your casinos later in the game if you want to score VPs, as small casinos will not be able to generate enough points in order to hurdle the scoring “breaks” on the track. The process of growth (through building, sprawling, or takeover!) and the push your luck “gambling” feel overcome the inherent luck of the draw and of dice rolls to make this a good fit to my group and a nice addition to my collection!



Formula D = 1 Play



I’ve always wanted a chance to play this reputed Roll and Move racing game, and my chance came when Kent
Kent Celino
Philippines
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managed to borrow a copy from the store he frequents. We played just the basic game, but I could already see why this has been classified as a nice gateway. It’s interesting how a “simple” decision on which gear to use and therefore what dice to roll can be the crux of an entire game! Structure points are also a valuable resource and deciding when to risk sacrificing them is quite critical in how you can do. I’m not sure how the longevity of this can stand up though, but at least I got to try it.



Chicken Cha Cha Cha = 1 Play



I first heard about this when my fellow chatmates ate the GCL Beehive chatgroup described that this was a great family game. I got to try it when I picked up my copy of Xia: Legends of a Drift System at
Carlos Sandico
Philippines
Pasig City
NCR
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's house, and I like how this used the memory mechanic you find in card games like Memory and turns it from an exercise into a “chase” game as you strive to have your chicken overtake the others in order to grab their tail feathers. The components are colorful and cute, and this is something I will consider on getting as I believe this will also make a great gateway game for a wide group of people.



Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre = 1 Play



I’ve heard about this but never paid attention to it, and so I was interested to try it out when Kent bought a copy and brought it one game night. The gameplay involved deciding how many spell cards to play from your hand of 8 spells. You could play 1 card, or chain together 2 or 3 cards for a more powerful spell, at the cost of casting last. This led to some interesting decisions especially when your HPs are low, as going first could be a big advantage at that time. The game ends when one player wins by being the first to gain 2 "Last Wizard Standing" tokens, and you get these by bringing the HPs of all the other wizards down to 0 from 18. While it was entertaining, the negatives of the game are the randomness due to the dependence on the card draw and the order you cast spells, the presence of player elimination, and that the game can definitely drag with higher player counts. It’s OK for sporadic play, I guess.



EXPANSIONS

Dominion: Prosperity = 1 Play



I thought I did not need another expansion for this game as I already had 4 others, but when this came up on sale I could not resist and bit the bullet. I’m glad I did since I found out how this highly regarded set could change the gameplay so much. The addition of the Platinum, Colony and VP earning cards really gives another dimension to this deckbuilder. It should be fun exploring this set!



Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion = 1 Play



I finally manage to get this expansion map played last month. The addition of cities with permanent special powers plus others where you need to complete these routes in order to place Kontors in them does give you a different feel from the base game. This gives it needed variety and is a great addition to a smart design.



Toc Toc Woodman: Golden Core and Bark Promo = 3 Plays



This very simple expansion just adds 1 Golden section to the tree, but the effect can be dramatic. The double points from the bark may entice you to take risks just to claim them, and this in turn may cause you to have a huge -10 penalty if you knock of the Golden core by mistake! We find it more fun if we split the bark up among the normal cores, and have the Golden core at the very top, where it has the easiest tendency to slide off.

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7. Board Game: Machi Koro [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:740]
J. Atkinson
United States
Grant
AL
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Only two new games this month, and both are pretty close to best new boardgame.

However, because more players can play, I give the edge to....

Machi Koro

2nd best:

Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men

Still hard to find, and I was lucky to find it at my local HobbyTown and got the last copy. Still cannot get my hands on boosters.
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8. Board Game: I'm the Boss! [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:937]
David P
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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I'm the Boss! is easily my favourite negotiation game, and one of the few games that plays well 6p. With the right group, it's short, simple, uproarious fun. The freewheeling and dealing has a way of revealing the personalities of other players, which is fascinating whatever the group, but can lead to dramatically different experiences. It's a Sid Sackson design, so the rules are light and intuitive. There's exactly the right amount of chaos in the cards for a game of its type, and the variable end-game trigger is brilliant. Rated 9.

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Usually even the best cooperative games are doomed to receive average ratings from me. I look for competition, not cooperation. But there are exceptions, and Wok Star is one of them. It's exactly the frantic fun you'd expect from a game with its theme, and it's executed well--assuming you enjoy speed games. The restaurant depicted is typical of North American Chinese restaurants, and I was worried about stereotypes when I saw the designer's name. Frankly, there is a card or two that might offend some, but I think they're lighthearted enough to be funny rather than offensive. It's not punching down so much as gently ribbing. I've lived and travelled in Asia and eaten things that most Westerners are (irrationally) averse to. I love the people and the food. Ignorance annoys me; this game doesn't. Rated 7.

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Very simple elegant design. There's a lot less luck than it seems, but you have to think of the track laying as incentive manipulation, and the key is knowing where to place your initial piece, which is by far the most important decision of the game. It's rarely ideal when a game's most challenging decision is at the beginning, but TransAmerica is short enough and plays out over several rounds, so it's not as much of a problem. In many ways, this game reminds me of 6 nimmt! Play with the expansion. The game is meaner and more interesting that way. Rated 7.

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A more complex TransAmerica. By comparison, it's less of an incentive manipulation game and more of a logistics puzzle, but the comparison only goes so far. On the Underground is less subtle but more calculating, with an even mix of tactics and strategy. After one play, it's easy to understand the best strategy but hard to implement due to constantly changing tactical considerations, which are frequently at odds with long-term plans. Rated 6.

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Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise is a hidden role racing game that's suitable for older children and adults. There's less control over the result than I'd like, both in the hidden roles and hand management, but it's short enough for what it is, and the production values are high. The design doesn't quite measure up. Rated 6.
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9. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:466]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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These are the games new to me this month.

Game of the Month:

d10-8 Panamax - Just played this one the other day and I'm still thinking about the game and what to do differently next time. This one can create difficult challenges despite only having to choose between two actions 12 times in the game. Who knew? Looking forward to exploring this one more - it can be particularly nasty, especially if you go later in the turn and can move people's boats where their company has to pay high maintenance fees. Bye bye dividend!

Other Good Games:

d10-7 Virgin Queen was fun to explore but I think after one play of VQ and 2-3 of HIS, I prefer HIS at the moment. To me, the cards seemed predominantly focused on Spain and I just got tired of this wanting a card that helped me!

d10-6 Progress: Evolution of Technology surprised me and I actually would give it a 7 if it played more quickly. It is an excellent two player game but playing with more can make it painfully long. If playing with 3-4 players, I would only ever play a total of 3 ages. Don't play with 5. This is pretty dry, but playing with the tech tree is fun...just don't forget to stay competitive on the three majority tracks or you've already lost.

d10-6 Asgard is an excellent game for the price paid (It was/is on clearance quite a few places). However, like many What's Your Game games, it is a mish mash of mechanics that don't always flow well together so it feels like one is constantly hitting the gas and then the brake the next moment. Once the game play is understood, it isn't too bad and it is actually fun and has an interesting special ending where a large number of points can be won using gods and chits attained earlier in the game.

d10-6 Clinic is interesting - I want to explore it more. I've only played half a game due to confusion over the building rules which I think I understand now...maybe.

d10-6 Evolution is a clever, light game with some thought required. Always interesting to build your dinosaur to compete for top species. Carnivores are hard to develop well.

d10-6 A Fake Artist Goes to New York was a fun activity for my student staff and I. We were having a blast deciphering who the fake artist was and watching him or her attempt to draw what everyone else knew. None of us really got to the point where we had figured out the balance needed in clue giving, how far to go in drawing, etc.

Meh Games - fine playing but don't need to own

d10-5 Diamonds is fine but isn't anything I need to own or play often. I have plenty of other card games I'd prefer to play before this one. Win a trick or play a card of a different suit - take a corresponding action involving the acquisition of crystals.
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10. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:97]
Jay Sachs
United States
Woodinville
Washington
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I've had Nations for a while now, having received it in trade, and had played a few games solo several months ago. But it doesn't count (for me) unless it's played against another live human, preferably in the flesh where we share microscopic fauna across the cardboard and cardstock. For sure, Nations has pushed out Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization for me, even after so few plays. I do not miss the shuttling of tiny wooden pinheads, and I greatly prefer the handling of war and battles. It's still lengthy enough that it won't hit the table as often as I'd like, and honestly, if I had that time to play a civ game, first choice will still be Clash of Cultures.

I have a love for the evolution theme, and traded Dominant Species after a few plays -- to me it was just heavy and no fun, and really unevocative. I wanted evolution, not a bloated El Grande. I have Bios: Megafauna, and enjoy it, it's too much on the science-y side, maybe not enough game. So I "had" to kickstart Evolution, and while it's lighter than those others by far, after just a few plays I feel it's a much better game. Combo-seeking, yes, but it has that "red queen" feel of having to keep adapting -- and that's evocative of the subject, not in the same "depth" as Bios's glaciation and trait swapping, but more fun. It's going to see a fair amount more plays I'm certain.

One more this month The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein. I wouldn't refuse another game of it if there was nothing else, and I'd certainly play it in preference to not playing at all. But on the whole it didn't give much narrative, despite the little plastic monsters to assemble.
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11. Board Game: Nomads of Arabia: The Wandering Herds Game [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:9561]
Joseph Peterson
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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My Top 5 for October:

Nomads of Arabia: The Wandering Herds Game - 8.6 - Game of the Month

I'm a big fan of games which feature an ever-changing market. In Nomads, players are collecting different types of animals and returning to cities to sell them for the current price. Price fluctuates based on how many remain in stock. The stock constantly changes as lands empty and animal stocks max out. Whenever restock occurs, the lands shift and new tiles move through the game board. I really, really enjoy this one. It's very abstract, but I love the modular board and the market changes. Great game.



Jackal & High - 8.5 - Game of the Month Runner-Up

Awesome little dice chucking game. I really like the mechanics of placing the dice either on sure things or just hoping you'll be able to complete the card later on. Also, the vulture spot adds a fun little element to either help or hurt those who had no luck in the round.



Monster Cafe - 7.8

This one's a game of chicken. Do I pull a card and risk getting a sorbet and losing my monsters? I could also miss out on a chance to get a table of food that I need. I could grab the table and only get one monster or should I wait to get four? But what if my opponent takes the one I need? Lots of easy, fun choices for this quick, little game. Good one!



Sheepzzz - 7.7

What a fun, little game. I really like how the order (ascending or descending) changes throughout play based on when players play a wolf card. I also like that players can choose to change play order and also force a player to play on a specific deck. This is a fun, quick filler.



Aggravation - 7.4

This right here is a classic game. It's like a mix of Sorry, Parcheesi and Chinese Checkers. I really think the game's namesake comes through often, especially with 5 or 6 players. SO AGGRAVATING! But so fun too. It's pretty mindless, sure but, who cares? Classic fun.
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12. Board Game: La Granja [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:115]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Want To Keep Playing:




Would Play Again But Not Seeking It Out:




I'm Done With It Already:




Why In The World Did I Play This?!



Expansions (I Don't Rate Expansions, But It Was Good)





For text-based recaps, check out Chally's 2014 Essen Season Geeklist.
(I recommend subscribing; another round of new games is happening tomorrow!)

meeple
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13. Board Game: Warhammer 40,000: Conquest [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:603]
Jeff Kayati
United States
Worthington
Ohio
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Only one new to me game for October, but
Warhammer 40,000: Conquest is good enough that it might beat some competition. The latest in the LCG line of products from FFG, Conquest plays like a hybrid of other LCG with just enough "new" thrown in to create a new experience.

As a casual game with just one core set, Conquest provides enough interesting choices and replay value to justify a purchase. For the hardcore player, it's a tougher choice. Needing three core sets to get a full playset is pretty much mandatory due to the high percentage of "one of" cards in the set. Add in needing a storage solution because FFG decided to shrink the box to a size too small to hold the mountains of cards LCGs can produce, and it gets difficult to justify the cost.
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14. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:71]
United States
Redford
Michigan
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After so few new games this entire year, October really ramped up with 9 new to me games and a few new expansions.

Trajan - Got this in a trade a few weeks ago and played it twice so far. This game is just right up my alley, with it's puzzling mancala action selection, and trying to maximize and be as efficient as possible to get lots of points. Each of the six actions is like a different minigame, and most of them are a race against the other players to get the best tiles or the most points out of each one. This one could be top five material for me.

1775: Rebellion - Picked up a couple of war games this month after doing some research. After having played 1812: The Invasion of Canada, and seeing all the praise that this one was getting, I decided on 1775. It is very accessible but there is a lot to do, a lot of territories to conquer, and not enough time to get to them all. So you must decide which areas are most important to go after in order to take control of more colonies than your opponent. With an end game condition that can happen at almost anytime, it is very tense and keeps you on your toes.

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game - A friend of mine is a huge fan of the Alien series and picked this one up. They did a great job giving the scenarios the feeling of progressing through the events of the movies. There are a couple new mechanisms since the Marvel version that gives this even more of a co-op feel with ways to help each other.

Gravwell: Escape From the 9th Dimension - A simple but very cool simultaneous action selection game. This entire game is about predicting and playing against what you think the other players will do and how the turn order will play out. The turn order is the most important part, because it will often determine whether you will be jetting yourself ahead toward the goal, or back toward the beginning. Lots of bluffing and second guessing here.

Ca$h 'n Guns (second edition) - Speaking of bluffing and second guessing, this is almost a party style game where you want to escape with the most treasure. If you are being aimed at, you must decide whether to stay in or duck out of dividing up the treasure that round. Even if you stay in, you still get nothing if they decided to shoot you, but get shot too many times and you are out for good.

Coin Age - My friend had a spare copy of this that he gave me just a few days ago. I had never looked into it previously and I am surprised at how much game there is here, and how well the action selection is balanced. It is still somewhat luck-based, but there are plenty of decisions to be made.

Set - A game where you try to find certain sets of patterns quicker than the other players. An average game where it definitely helps to have some experience to determine what it is you are looking for.

Bang! The Dice Game - A secret role dice game where your actions are at the mercy of the dice. There are ways to determine who is who by there actions, but you may still be forced to hurt the players that are on your side. The games we played were heavily against the sheriff. Some of it may be due to players not fully understanding their role, but even so, it seemed like they were dead or very close to it before they got a second turn.

Darkest Night - To me, this was a smaller scale and more restrictive Arkham Horror. You travel to locations, search for items and fight monsters, but while Arkham would let you do all those things in one turn, each of those things is a single action in Darkest Night, and you only get one action per turn. Therefore it feels like it takes a long time and a lot of effort just to make any progress. The best part of the game is each character having their own deck of powers, which makes them very different from each other.

New Expansions:

Carcassonne: Little Buildings - This expansion helps everyone get more points. When you place a building on a tile, any feature on that tile will get an extra point when completed. Lots of buildings all over the map means lots of extra points. The trick is to try to place them only on the features you will be scoring, and get multiple uses out of them.

Carcassonne: The Plague - The Plague is the opposite of Little Buildings, as this one gets you less points than normal. There are lots of plague-ridden bugs that remove meeples from the map, which means they won't be getting any points. The meeples can move to other tiles along the feature they are on to try to stay away from the bugs, but the best bet is to score small features as soon as you can.

Power Grid: Indian Subcontinent - Played on the Indian map which has some interesting rules changes. Resources are bought one at a time instead of a player buying everything they need all at once. So spending money on resources is more evened out along the turn order. Another big change is when lots of towns are built in all at once, brownouts occur, which means big money losses when getting paid for powering cities. It was a fun map to play.
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15. Board Game: Neos [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:9382]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I didn't have much to choose from this month - just four games new to me - but I'm really enjoying Neos; it's a multiplayer solitaire game in the tradition of Take It Easy, but very quick and surprisingly addictive; the game really grew on me after my first play.

Steam Donkey is good enough that I've played it five times already - but I'm still just not sure if it's a keeper. Even if not, I've gotten my money's worth.

Sultaniya is another perfectly cromulent game; I'd be willing to consider playing again, but if it never happens I won't lose sleep.

Start Fire is a race game, and not one with nearly as much control as I'd like; in the line, I greatly prefer Flizz & Miez, as it's a lot more unique and more fun.
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16. Board Game: Crazy Circus [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:3781]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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This month is a hard choice. I played several really good games, but no great ones. Jungle Smart comes the closest. Very simple rules, beautiful, sturdy components, supports all player counts, fun as a filler or for casual/family gamers. It has it all. Initial Rating: 8 with potential upward mobility.

Coal Baron is my second "8" of the month. Spiele 2013 had this listed as a solid but unremarkable worker placement game. After admittedly only a single 2-player game, I think it may be one of the strongest games of Spiele 2013. While there is nothing particularly innovative, every decision is a trade-off between long-term strategy, short-term benefits, and helping/hindering other players. Most WP games have only the obvious blocking of action spaces. Coal Baron has interaction on so many more levels. Initial Rating: 8

Cribbage is a game I played once when I was 14 and hadn't played since. I lucked into a game the other week and am now enthralled by it. It's a traditional card game with simple rules and an apparent large dose of luck until you explore what's under the hood. Lots of probability analysis as well as getting into your opponent's head. Initial Rating: 7 with potential upward mobility.

The last potentially great game of October is Relic Runners. Simple rules, fairly quick play-time but significantly more long-term strategy and player interaction than this year's DoW game. Not sure if it will hold up to repeated plays or not, but very curious about it. Initial Rating: 7 with potential upward mobility.

The Also Rans:
Nations - Solid TtA-lite. Happy to play but won't seek out. Initial Rating: 7
California - another solid Schacht game. Not his best but very good. Hope to explore more. Initial Rating: 7
Ricochet Robots - it's no Jungle Smart, but quite good. Happy to play again. Initial Rating: 7
Hansa - also a solid Schacht but less refined than most of his. Willing to play. Initial Rating: 6
Potato Man - average light trick-taker. Will play but won't ask to. Initial Rating: 6
The Battle at Kemble's Cascade - great transformation of a video game, but fiddly and repetitive. Initial Rating: 6
Mordred - not a bad Wallace dice-chucker but took too long and got repetitive. Initial Rating: 5
Asara - clueless how this is compared to Coal Baron. No interesting decisions or interactions. Initial Rating: 4

For more details, see my blog entry A Month in the Life - October 2014
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17. Board Game: The Red Dragon Inn [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1182] [Average Rating:6.57 Unranked]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Red Dragon Inn

This is the only new game for the month and without checking might be winning for worst new game I've played, although that's certainly better than some other years. A very okay game at that. I fear additional plays won't give it a better showing.
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18. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:161]
Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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It was a wonderful Feldtober but a light month for new fare...

GAMES



Seasons

I had a mild interest when Seasons came out but all attempts to play it at Origins that summer failed and time passed. Then I acquired two (don't ask) copies at Gen Con in the Math Trade this summer.

To the point, my wife and I finally got the game to the table this past week and played four times splitting the wins, 2-2. I won the first two plays by a slim margin, and since then my wife and continued to increase her score and lead.

Players take on the role of sorcerers of the kingdom competing in a three-year tournament to decide the new Archmage. Draft your 9 power cards, then collect energy and summon magic and familiar powers to accumulate amongst other things crystals needed to win the challenge and gain the title Archmage of the kingdom of Xidit.

The first few games started to feel a bit redundant and familiar using just the basic cards, we have since mixed in the rest of the base game cards and the game experience has improved. We feel it would be better with more players, but we're good with 2p for now.

I also have the two expansions which eventually we're likely to try.




Diplomacy

This game has quite a reputation. One, as a great game that has existed for decades with quite a devoted following. Secondly, it has been known to strain relationships with all of its backstabbing, bluffing, and broken promises that occur in order to advance one's position in the game.

As part of my 2014 Gaming Goals, I wanted to play this classic with my friends online. We started our game in early April and played roughly one turn (season) per week (too long in hindsight). I see the brilliance of this game, although we had mixed experiences due to mis-/lack of communication and various levels of engagement and consistency.

In the end I won (Austria) at the end of the 1909 Fall Movement. Some of us are willing to play again, however each of us has our own conditions under which we would be willing to do so. As I said, I really enjoyed the game and would be willing to play again, but never at the expense of any relationships.


meeple Keep playing...
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19. Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:64] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game - It wasn't really a surprise to me that Dead of Winter was such a big hit with my weekly meetup. The theme is right up their alley and they love screwing each other over. This game definitely deserves comparisons to Battlestar Galactica. I'm not sure yet which game I like better, though. The board play in Dead of Winter is a bit more interesting to me and the crossroads cards are a really great idea, but, so far, the betrayal aspect hasn't really shined in our games (we've only had one traitor in 3 games, and he was a little too easy to spot). In BSG, I have mostly found the board play to be only sort of interesting, but the betrayal and tension are amazing. So far, I think Dead of Winter gets the edge, just because it plays a little more quickly. I'm hoping that the traitor will prove to be a lot more interesting with more plays, too. This was definitely worth picking up.
Rating: 8

Black Fleet - Sebastian Bleasdale hasn't quite attained insta-buy status for me, yet, but his name definitely catches my eye. And a fun pirate theme always catches my wife's (a function of living in Tampa, I suppose). We both spotted Black Fleet sitting on the shelf of Cool Stuff at the same time, and it was pretty much decided that we would eventually pick it up. After a little bit of research it became even more obvious that this was a game we were going to like. It's a very light, family game, but like most good family games, it has some teeth to it. It feels like it's a game cut from the same color cloth as Merchants and Marauders, but more of a summer weight. As in that game, this is a pick up and deliver pirate game in which everyone can be both merchant and pirate. Black Fleet really encourages player interaction, and the development and fortune cards gives each player their own special abilities to formulate their plans around. I knew this one was a hit when everyone insisted on playing their final turns, even though the player who won had won by at least a couple of cards!
Rating: 7.5

Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition) - The first time we played Cash n Guns we played it 3 times in a row. It's a super simple game, and when I first read the rules it seemed like it might feel a little arbitrary (though it still sounded fun). I mean, you just randomly pick someone to point your gun at, right? It turns out, as the game progresses, the decisions get much more interesting. You might point your gun at someone who has been competing with you for paintings or diamonds. A couple of times, I pointed my gun at the godfather, specifically so they would tell me to point it elsewhere so that I could aim for the person I really wanted while claiming it was out of my hands. The loot phase is fast, and the set collection adds a nice element to the game. I really enjoyed this.
Rating: 7.5

Flash Point: Fire Rescue - I really liked Flash Point: Fire Rescue. As a coop game, it is interesting, thematic, and simple to teach. I've only played the family game so far, but it was fun enough that I could play it that way several more times without being bored. I am excited to try the more advanced game, though, as I think the complexity could be very cool. The tension of rolling for smoke each turn is great, and feels similar to spreading the infection in Pandemic (which I also love). I'm really tempted to buy this, even though my friend already owns it.
Rating: 7.5

The Great Fire of London 1666 - I love history, and I love London, so The Great Fire of London 1666 was a game I was very excited to play. Sadly, I don't always have enough of a group together who share my interest, so it has sat on my shelf for the better part of a year... Until this month. I finally got to play a 4 player game with my family, and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. It's a light game, but it does suffer from some difficult to explain rules (specifically the rules for fire movement). It's one of those games that's easy to play, but hard to explain, though. Once you get going, the game is a lot of fun. Turns are fast, and the play can be a little mean. I need to play it a little more to solidify my opinion, but I'm pretty happy to have this one.
Rating: 7

Expedition: Famous Explorers - And my enjoyment of games by Wolfgang Kramer continues! Expeditions first hit my radar this past summer, when someone described it as "sort of like Ticket to Ride, but better." After one play, I think the games are actually pretty different, but I definitely see the comparison. This game is very tactical, and has a lot of interesting decisions. You can kind of tank your game with poor placement at the beginning, but you'll still enjoy trying to maneuver the different expeditions your way. There's a lot of opportunity for clever play and action chaining (like many of Kramer's games). I don't know if I'll rush out to buy this one, but I'll happily play it again, and if I continue to enjoy myself as much as I did my first play, I might just pick it up.
Rating: 7

Catacombs - Catacombs has been on my radar for several years now. I almost backed the recent kickstarter to finally get a copy, but held off because I wasn't sure about the art, nor was I sure about whether or not I would need both Catacombs and Rampage. I finally got a chance to play for the first time this month, and I think I made the right decision. I enjoyed the game quite a bit, but I'm not sure I need to own both it and Rampage. Rampage offers a few more options, and requires a little less skill, so I think it will get more play. Catacombs felt like themed billiards to me. As soon as i started playing, I flashed back to my youthful days of careful control and bank shots. The only problem is that a pool cue requires a bit less coordination, so Catacombs ended up being a pretty frustrating (but fun) experience.
Rating: 7


Zombie 15' - When I think of real time games, I think of Escape. Yes, I've played Space Alert and a few others, but to me Escape pretty well defines the genre. Then they announced a zombie themed version of Escape, and I thought, meh, I like the Indiana Jones flavor. Then I heard about Zombie 15' and I had trouble picturing anything other than an Escape style game. Zombie 15' surprised me, though. There's no dice, for starters. It's purely an action point allocation game. You have 4 actions that you have to do as fast as you can. Planning ahead is difficult, too, because, in a 4 player game you have responsibilities on 3 of those 4 turns. So, you have to think and act fast. Okay, no problem. We're all on the same team, right? Except... except there's this hot potato aspect to the game. You're all on the same team, and you live and die with the success of your fellow players. But when it's your turn, you want to finish as fast as you can so you don't get stuck with the horde, even if it means you have to trudge over to your fallen comrade and carry them off the board. This is a fun game, with a great escalating set of tutorial missions. I had a lot of fun playing it.
Rating: 7

Saint Malo - I've been tempted by Saint Malo several times. It goes on sale for like $13 every few weeks, it seems. Village (by the same designers) fell kind of flat for me, though, and I'm not really a big fan of dice games. So, I put it off. A friend brought it to the table this month, though, and now it has been added to my wish list. I had a lot of fun playing it. It's a dice game, but, unlike so many others, you don't just roll and reroll and do whatever the dice tell you to. You roll and reroll and pick one of the options that the dice give you. That one difference changes the game from a luck fest with few decisions (in my opinion) into a game of planning and choices. Add to that the constant pressure of impending pirate attacks, and you have a really interesting dice game!
Rating: 7

Port Royal - I played a learning game of Port Royal on yucata.de this month. This is a very light, but neat little push-your-luck card game. The card mechanism is a little like Incan Gold, where you crap out if the right combination of cards is revealed during your turn. There's not a lot of strategy beyond "get money, then buy dudes to fulfill expeditions." But the getting the right mix of character cards that can either help you complete expeditions or give you special abilities can be pretty interesting. I'm not going to rush out and order this on amazon.de, but if it gets US distribution at the right price, I would definitely pick it up.
Rating: 7

Arena: Roma II - I've thought about picking up Arena: Roma II for a long time, pretty much ever since I started playing Felds. I held off at first, just because it looks so very different from the rest of his stuff. I finally grabbed it a coup of weeks ago and I was right: It's very different from his other stuff. But, it's also still very good. This is a really aggressive two player game. Lots of direct interaction, and some very interesting card play. It even has dice-based combat! The game feels to me like someone took the attack cards out of Jambo or Asante and turned it into a full game. This game is easy to teach, it plays fast, and it's a lot of fun.
Rating: 7

Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game - I've not heard a lot of good things about Boss Monster. The art and theme always appealed to me, and the idea seemed like a good one, but the bad reviews scared me off and I didn't think I was likely to get a chance to play it. A friend picked it up, though, and I was glad to get a chance to try it out.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, really. It really does have some good ideas, and the building of your dungeon is interesting. The spacial element of positioning your rooms in the most effective ways is great. The spells offer some interesting options to manipulate those things you can't quite arrange otherwise. I think the main problem I had was with the mechanism for attracting heroes to your dungeon. In a two or 3 player game, I think it could be better, but in a 4 player game it's going to be incredibly frustrating when you only have two of those symbols in front of you, and you don't have the lead in either of them. So you do build a room that helps you in one area, because you really need to get one of those dang heroes, and someone else does the same thing, so you're still trailing. Now you're doing even worse in your second symbol, and your best symbol remains not good enough. Then, you finally claw your way out of the cellar and you're going to get that epic fighter! Until someone else plays a "Princess in Peril" card (a card you haven't drawn the entire game) and takes him from you.

Like I said, it could be better with fewer players. I'd like to try it that way, because I really like the idea. Right now, though, my first opinion of the game was not a positive one.
Rating: 6.5

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20. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:198]
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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Game of the Month:

d10-8 Bruges

It can be tough for me to get Stephan Feld games played, but I was finally able to bust this one out, and oh man, this one is awesome. Have only played it with 2 players so far, but I am very much enjoying this one, and will definitely be picking up the expansion!

Other good ones:

d10-7 みならいゆうしゃとまほうつかい

A neat memory Japanese game. I usually do not enjoy these games, but this one is fun in the same way that Hanabi is. Another game in which you cannot "table talk" but as a group you are trying to cast spells to defeat various "bad guys". This game is also VERY tough (and this probably is what is making it interesting), and we still have yet to beat it on easy mode.

d10-7 Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection

Played this one twice at GMT West Fall 2014. There is still a few rough edges, and they really do need to find a way to make the French and Indian players more interesting, but this game was a blast to play. This is probably thematically the one I am most excited for from the COIN series. Definitely one I want to try again once they put out the final version.

d10-7 Dogs of War

This probably gets the award for biggest surprise. I had very low expectations for this one, but it actually ended up being a pretty neat "tug of war" type game. Not sure that all of the various houses are balanced, but there is a ton of them to choose from. This is one I would like to play again soon.

d10-7 Forbidden Desert

A really neat co-op. I love the way the different mechanisms work regarding the sandstorm & the water supply (very thematic). The components on this one are pretty awesome as well. Not sure if I like this one better than pandemic, but this one is definitely in that same "league".

d10-7 Walnut Grove

I had really been wanting to try something else from Touko Tahkokallio, so I picked this up. Not usually a fan of "spacial" tile placement, but I actually enjoyed it in this one. I thought everything came together very well in this one, and I loved the reused victory point bag grab mechanism from eclipse (with the coins). One I am looking forward to exploring more.

d10-7 Relic

Laugh all you want, but I enjoy adventure games from time to time. This one took Talisman (Revised 4th Edition), and completely replaced it for me. I probably do not like the theme as much in this one as much as Talisman (Revised 4th Edition), however they made all the right fixes for the system. One I am looking forward to playing much more of over the coming months / years.

Blah:

d10-6 Panamax

Oh man, I was really excited for this one, but was a bit disappointed. It's a well designed game, and pretty streamlined (there is only 2 actions!!), but not entirely sure how much "fun" I had with this one. I am also worried about the staying power, since with so few action choices, will this start to feel "samey" quickly? Time will tell i guess, and while I was disappointed, this is one I would like to explore more (and get better at...I was horrible in our first game) to see if it does indeed grow on me.

d10-6 Wok Star

Have had fun playing this, as it is VERY different that other Co-op games, however it has already started to feel "Samey". I will probably keep this around for awhile, since my wife does enjoy it, but not something I would recommend to others.

d10-6 Progress: Evolution of Technology

This one was fun, but just has WAY too much downtime. Also, not sure if I like the scoring system, as those 3 tracks really do end up deciding the game. I could see this being a fun 2 player game, but there are probably other 2 player games I would rather bring out.

d10-6 Clinic

This one has a really cool theme, along with some cool engine building mechanisms, however I did not really enjoy the crazy room building aspect of it. Too be fair, we only played half a game, and ended up calling it as neither of us could really grasp all the rules for room placement. Something I would like to get a full game in, but I am a little worried, as I am not sure how much "fun" the wonky room placement rules will add.

d10-6 Super Fantasy: Ugly Snouts Assault

I thought I would enjoy this one much more than I did. Also not as tough as I thought it would be (We barely beat the 1st mission on hard mode)? Not sure I like the co-op dungeon crawl type games, but willing to explore this one more.

d10-5 Vampire Empire

Having played a ton of CCGs & LCGs, this one was just boring. It was well designed for what it was, however I don't know if there is a market for a game like a CCG, where you don't change your deck at all. The deduction element in this was kind of interesting, but there is only a few minor tricks you can play as the vampire player, and ended up falling flat for me.

d10-5 Diamonds

I don't get the hype. There are simply MUCH better trick taking games out there (Potato Man!!)
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21. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:69]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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This has been a month with not many plays, but the quality has been good, and I got to put three new games on my list. Here they are, in descending order of preference:

Russian Railroads d10-8

I've now played RR online enough that I feel comfortable rating it, and in fact I enjoyed it enough to buy it!

This is one of those games that could be perceived as multi-player solitaire, because you're trying to pick a strategy to focus on, and continually do what you can to get to that end. The main competition is in the action spaces for your workers, which can get a bit more cutthroat as the game progresses.

What I like about this is the myriad scoring opportunities. There's a lot to explore here, and repeated plays mean you'll likely be able to perfect your strategies. It moves very quickly once you get the hang of it, and I can see my friends getting very absorbed in this interesting game.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple d10-7

When I heard how Escape works, I thought, "Not for me." I'd played Space Alert a few times, and decided the intense time pressure and shouting involved wouldn't work for us. But then my husband surprised me by saying he wanted it as a gift, so I thought, "OK, why not."

And while the game is very intense, there's a simplicity to the rules which makes it easy to remember while you're under the gun with that timer. A group that can play this multiple times will be rewarded by seeing themselves get closer and closer to that exit in time. Fair warning: this game is possibly addictive!

So while this might not be for everyone, if you want a lighter game in the real-time genre, this might be for you.

Diamonds d10-7

Our FLGS encouraged me to try this, knowing that I like card games and come from a trick-taking family. The art deco style is beautiful, the gems are cool, and the safe is neat. So I gave it a go.

This is indeed very much like most trick-taking games you're used to - someone leads a suit, if you have a card in that suit you have to play it, otherwise you play another card. The twist here is you get rewarded for which suit you "play off" and also the trick-winner gets rewarded for the suit they won the trick in. Each suit has a special power, with Diamonds being the best. You have a "showroom" in front of your safe which scores you points at the end of the game, and a safe whose gems score you double points.

Super easy to learn and completely ideal if you're into trick-taking games. The advertising here is spot-on - if you like Hearts or Spades, you need to try Diamonds. My only criticism is the art makes some of the card values a little hard to read at first glance. There's some big empty space in the middle of each card which could have been utilized.
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22. Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:64] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Three Four "new to me" games this month including Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, 18NEB, Love Letter and Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game edges out 18NEB for best. A year from now, I wouldn't be surprised if they reverse as, after four plays, I'm already beginning to question the replayability the former.


Even if the theme isn't my favourite, Dead of Winter has a lot going for it. With the exception of the location boards and player boards, which could be more board and less card, the game components are great. And the game play makes for some interesting decision-making. Unlike a game like Arkham Horror where you move and then roll dice for combat or to succeed at some task, Dead of Winter has you roll your dice pool first and then assign dice to character actions. So while there is some randomness, there isn't chance when it comes to succeeding or failing at combat or an action. So your turn is more of a puzzle and less of a game of probabilities.

Not that there aren't some chances to take - like rolling the Exposure Die when fighting a zombie or moving out of the safety of the compound, and drawing an item card for searching a location. But it's not a total luck-fest. Finally, there's the potential of a traitor in the midst who can reap havoc at a critical moment.

All in all, I've enjoyed our plays of this one and, as I alluded to above, my only fear is we may burn out on it fast.

I rated Dead of Winter an _8_.


18NEB turned out to be a bit more interesting of a game than I was anticipating. As a place, Nebraska lacks the exoticness of China (1880) or breadth of Russia (1861) or the grit of industrial England (1825). I figured the game, with it's lack of any original mechanics, would be rather bland. But it turned out to be quite an enjoyable 18xx.

I rate 18NEB a _7_ with the possibility of it rising even higher.



Love Letter was played a couple times as a three-player over a noon hour with a couple of my former co-workers. It went over pretty well and will hopefully be the first of many more lunchtime gaming sessions. While I'm not really a fan of filler games, this meta-game for this one is entertaining enough to make me not think that I'd rather be playing something more meaty.

I rate Love Letter a _6_.


Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men has been more fun than I figured it could ever be. I've never really enjoy the "bucket of dice" type games, but this one plays fast, has some reasonably good decision-making, and let's us pretend to be twelve again. And that's not bad for a $15 investment.

However, after also playing a few games of Magic: The Gathering this month, I have to admit that Marvel Dice Masters just isn't as interesting a game as Magic and if I'm going to allocate some of my gaming money on collectable games, I think the latter is a better investment.

I rate Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men a _6_.
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23. Board Game: Steam Park [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:675]
Mark Siew
United States
San Francisco
CA
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In order of preference

A relatively light month of gaming for me, but I was able to get in some fun new games. My favorite new game of the month was Steam Park. The game looks and plays great. The components are gorgeous and really tie into the theme of the game. The simultaneous dice rolling was a fun element that really sped up the game. Some of the players in my group weren't in love with the spatial element in the game, but got used to the rules as we went along. The player boards are certainly tight to start out the game, but that's clearly by design. Overall, everyone had a great time with the game. I played with four, but I'd be interested to see how it plays with just two.

Machi Koro


I've been looking forward to playing Machi Koro for quite a while and it didn't disappoint. It reminded me a little of Catan, but simpler and quicker (although not as quick as I expected). There's some interesting depth to the game as certain cards work well with other cards. But it's still very much a lighter dice game. I liked how the different types of cards kept you engaged with the rolls, even when it wasn't your turn. All in all, a very enjoyable game that I'm looking forward to playing more often.

Age of War


Yet another light dice game! This one based on Knizia's Risk Express. I never played that, but you can definitely see how this was conceived as a variant of Risk. I'm normally not a Risk fan, but this is more of a push-your-luck dice game. It's interesting but may outstay its welcome just slightly. It was enjoyable, but not necessarily a game I'm going to be playing too often.
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24. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:52]
Brandon Kempf
United States
Jefferson City
MO
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Wow, what a slow month, only 13 plays total, and the most played was our favorite of the month, Five Tribes.

All of our plays have been 2 player so far, my daughter and I, we haven't managed to get anyone else to join us just yet. With 2 people the bidding track for turn order doesn't seem to be all that important, only once or twice can I think either of us wanted first player enough to bid over 3 coin. It seems to be more important to us to get our two turns together. Really enjoyed the mancala movement that drives the game, makes for multiple good choices, just have to figure out which one best suits your needs. Great quality components and an easy to learn game. DoW has really done a fantastic job with this one.



Linko! was another new game this month and another one that my daughter and I like, we got in a couple 2 player matches and then a 5 player game that would have been fun if one certain person was not really wanting to play it all that competitively with his wife. Easy to learn but it does offer some fun choices.

Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition) was also played that same evening with the five of us and we ran into the same problem. My BiL didn't want to point a gun at his wife, my wife didn't want to point it at her daughter or Brother or SiL so everything got pointed at me. Really soiled my thoughts on the game. Hope to get to try it again soon with a more receptive and open group.



That's it, that's all for October. Here's hoping November has a bit more excitement gaming wise.
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25. Board Game: Pokémon Trading Card Game [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:2482] [Average Rating:6.16 Unranked]
CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
Australia
KILLARA
VIC
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In a month where I discovered the pull of iOS Strategy Games, namely Galaxy Trucker and Lords of Waterdeep, I managed to sneak in 1 new game for the month.

New to Me

d10-1 Pokemon Trading Card Game

Now here's the thing...as a dad and parent you sometimes have to do things you really don't want to do...like return to the world of collectible car games...2 decades after I gave them away for good.

But then one morning your 12 year old son gives you that look in the eye...they plead with you...and before you know it you are playing Pokemon. God help me.

And yet the game is actually pretty decent. The aim is to take out your opponent's Pokemon and each time you do so you gain access to one of your reward cards (6 are placed face-down out of your deck at the beginning of play). If you are the first player to draw their last Reward Card then you win.

The Pokemon within one's deck consist of Basic, Level 1s and Level 2s. Of course all of the Pokemon types are present (grass, fire, electricity etc) and it makes for a great variety of unit types and attacks.

Pokemon are regarded as being either in reserve or active, with only 1 being active at a time. Pokemon have resistance against certain types of attacks and weaknesses...just like the real thing. If your Pokemon is looking at a bad match-up, you can swap them out by paying a retreat cost. Oh yes, there is a second way to win...if your opponent ever sees their last Pokemon in play defeated.

Instead of Mana (as in MtG), here the cost to activate attacks are referred to as energy types. Pokemon themselves have no cost to enter play.

To boost your Pokemon and do varied actions are cards called Trainer Cards and Support Cards.

All in all I found the game to be pretty good and the theme of Pokemon is handled well. This is however a CCG designed for younger players or those that like fate to play a roll. Many of the attacks and support cards require the flip of a special coin, so not everything is guaranteed in the game.

The concept of the 6 Reward Cards are also novel but can screw with a payer's deck if they have a finely tuned balance as some cards may be out of play for some time.

At present we are playing with a collection of randomly collected cards, some battered to buggery that he had acquired from friends and the like. I could see the deck building element being quite enjoyable if a pool of 500-1000 was available.

Despite the evil that is the CCG, after playing this I could hear the subtle call to go buy some more decks to play with my son. I could hear the cry of 'Gotta Catch Them ALL!' from the deep recesses of my mind.

I slowly but surely took a step back from the table...dashed off to the bathroom for a cold shower and allowed my conscience to convince me that by not getting it I was doing my son a favour...

Tragedy averted...



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