Essen Comes to EuroQuest
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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I love going to EuroQuest every year. This was my sixth of the last seven. It's held in Pikesville, MD, on the north side of Baltimore.

Attendance runs between 300-400 usually.

The reason I love to go so much is it occurs just after Essen and the organizers, Games Club of Maryland, send someone to Essen with money to buy hot new games.

This year there were more new games than I had time to play.

But here's a rundown of ones I played and one I didn't.
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1. Board Game: Gardens [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2905]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This a little tile layer. Each player has a color, 4 players max. Each player has a starter tile and two markers. The tile has their colored flowers on each of the 4 corners.

The draw tiles have one player's color on the different corners. So one corner for each color.

On your turn, you draw and place a tile or play your own tile if you don't draw.

Their are various paths and streams on the tiles making them match up only certain ways. Your marker starts on the start board and you must be able to follow a complete path to wherever you place your new tile. You have a second marker you can bring on if you get stuck, as you can't move over broken paths or through other players' markers.

If after you place your tile, the any four corners that met are evaluated. If one color has a distinct majority, they take a special marker in their color and cover it. I believe there are 8 markers each.

When the last tile is drawn, or someone places all their markers, the game is over. The winner is the one with the most markers on the board.

This was a cute little tile layer that provoked some thought.

thanks for bring and teaching, Stan.

A solid 7/10 on the midweight filler scale.
 
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2. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1979]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This is a stand alone upgrade to the Bronze Age version. It has the dice reworked and a special "fate" die as well.

You can build either ports or cities now and the cities help with armies and points, the ports help getting more goods.

The monuments have been streamlined a bit and the discoveries redone.

All in all, this is a much improved version. 7.5/10
 
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3. Board Game: Versailles [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2653]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This is a resource collection/worker movement/placement game.

The idea is to build Versailles Palace. The king is coming to inspect, which ends the game or completion itself.

While there's nothing extremely innovative in the mechanics, they blend pretty smoothly and I found I liked how much though I had to put into each turn.

You move one of a number of workers you have anywhere one the board one space clockwise to a space that does not contain your activation marker. You then move your activation marker to that spot and receive whatever benefit the location affords.
Each player also has 2 markers allowing an extra movement. These can be used to move one worker twice or two workers in the same place once.
These markers can be replenished at various places on the board by expending workers.

These are: acquiring wood, marble, gold, palace tiles or decorations. You can also recruit more workers and improve technology, which can generate more resources per action or even allow activating spots when other players do. The center is where the building tiles go and they must match others there to be placed.

Points are awarded for placing various tiles worth from single digits to the mid/high teens. Decorations are required for the higher point tiles.

I really enjoyed the first part, but things broke down in the second half. We may have been playing this wrong, but after about 2/3 of the tiles had been placed, not a single tile would fit anymore. The other timer is based on workers activating the spot that brings in new workers or refreshes double move tiles. This moves the king along a path to Versailles. It also activates if someone double moves past it.

The only other points awarded at the end are for building tiles, 1 point each, max hand size 4. Decorations are also worth 3 points, but once everyone realized their building tiles were useless, they went after those. They ran out and the basic resources were then the only way to add points.
The third end condition was to have less than 7 tiles to restock the tile buying spot. This ended up being the finish to this game.

I loved this until the palace stagnated. After that, it was just drudgery.

I've also found out DIAGONALS were supposed to be checked as well which may have made even less tiles fit.

If we played this correctly, 5/10. If we messed up the tile laying and we shouldn't have had the stultifying ending we had, 7.5/10.
 
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4. Board Game: Murano [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:835]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This one has you moving ships around a track. Each space has an action that can be taken. Sound familiar?

The gimmick here is there are a number of boats and they can get in the way of where you want to go.

You can pay to move boats out of your way. No matter which boat you move first, that one is free. Next costs one, the next two to move and so on. The last boat you move (and pay for) is the one you get the action for.

Some spaces let you get one of 4 different buildings and you can build them and the street tiles they must be built next to, using a different action on the board. You can also get more money, hire or sell boatmen, which can be used to activate bonus scoring cards, which may be obtained at another place on the board.

Points are awarded at the end based on bonus cards and some are obtained during the game by building certain buildings.

I liked this, but I suspect we got a few things wrong. Overall, I think this won't make the collection though. 6.8/10
 
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5. Board Game: Neptun [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:3655]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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I got a lot of amusement out of this game, but not how most might think.

Everyone has a ship which starts in Crete. The board is a map of the Mediterranean. there are shipping routes running anywhere from a distance of 3 to 13 on the board between various ports on the map.

The box gives a 45 minute estimated time of play and plays 5 players.

The first phase of each game is drafting a set of three cards, one card being a destination specifying all the possible goods that can be delivered and whether you get spiritual credit or monetary reward for delivering it. The spiritual reward is movement on a temple track.
The second card has 2 numbers, one to change wind speed the NEXT turn after playing it and the second number giving a distance your boat can move the turn it's played. The third card is which good need to be delivered.

The movement card goes in your hand, with the extra 2 cards each player starts with.
The other 2 stay together by your player board and can't be split or changed.
The tricky part is, you have to program each destination in one of the five spaces under your board. So if you don't have an efficient route, you may not be able to deliver all your goods to the proper destinations. If you need to flip it, it gives no coins or steps on temple tracks.
The game runs 3 turns, 5 drafted sets er player each turn.

The problem here, with the 45 minute estimate, is that with 75 selections being made over the course of the game, with players checking destinations and whether they want money or goods can take time. Even if each player takes 30 seconds to choose, not counting dealing them out, collecting your set, and deciding if you want the revealed one or to chance looking at the next, because you can't back up to choose can take even more time, you'd need 37 minutes alone. Add the actual game play and we ended up close to 3 hours.

I didn't hate this as much as Jeff who exclaimed, "If I ever run into Dirk Henn, I'm gonna kick him in the balls."
This might be fair, as he was the only one of the 5 to make all 15 deliveries and he still came in third.

It's about a 5.5/10 for me.


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6. Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:221]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This was highly anticipated, as I'd heard some of the Essen buzz.

I'm still at a loss as to describe the play of this somewhat. It's worker placement at heart and each place only can hold two players. The first there gets more actions at that spot than the second player there and the plant manager Joan can hog one of the spaces, allowing only one player there on that turn.

There are 5 different areas I believe and and you have 1 to 3 actions to use there depending on what space you chose. These can becoming more proficient in a skill or doing something to build, design or otherwise make cars.
Granted, we were all new players, but this ran over 4 hours.

This isn't really a review or I'd have to write a few pages just to describe all the possible actions.

I've already made this statement to a few friends about the game, but I think it illustrates my feelings perfectly.

If this were a book and I the editor, it would be weighing in around 1,000 pages and my feeling is there's a good book in there if I can cut it down to 400 pages and retain coherence.

I can't claim to have studiously thought this out, but my gut feeling is this could be a better game with some streamlining.

6/10
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7. Board Game: Orléans [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:27]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This one I've dubbed a "bag builder." Each turn you draw tokens from your bag and use them to get new tokens, move your piece on the board and to do other actions. Each action takes a certain combination of 1 to 3 tokens, each of which can be one of about 6-8 (I'm guessing as I forget exactly how many) different colors. The different combinations do different things, as stated earlier.

So new tokens you acquire go in your bag, as do the ones that triggered an action.

There are buildings you can get that give you new and different actions as well as other benefits. At the end of each of the 18 rounds, a good or bad event affects all players.

This was my favorite heretofore unplayed game of EQ, but it still doesn't make classic status. I'll be getting a copy though. 7.75/10
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8. Board Game: The Game of 49 [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:2411]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This one was a bit bizarre. Everyone starts with 49 dollars and there's a square path going in a square spiral until the number 49 is in the middle.

There are cards reading from 1 to 49, some also specifying a payout and some designating one of the rings instead of a specific number.

Each player on his turn flips up one card and starts the bidding. You can bluff on your bet, but there's a penalty if caught.

The winner places their colored marker on the number or an open space on the ring the card specified.. You need 4 in a row to win, so it looks like a cross between bingo and tic tac toe.

As the board fills up, people tend to have a bunch of money due to payouts.
Problem is, usually one guy is obviously rich and as spots that come up for a win for a player, this causes most often, the richest player to outbid the potential winner's highest bid. Then HE will likely have to stop the next potential winner.
Not as much strategy as the winner who ends the inevitable death spiral.

3/10
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9. Board Game: Hyperborea [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:521]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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This was the last game for me and I'd heard varying opinions on it.

It turned out to be another "bag builder," but with cubes of different colors instead of tokens.

So each turn you pull cubes from the bag and use them to trigger different actions. In this game though, there are terrain tiles to control and armies to do it with. These actions can be tech, movement, attack, defense and building.

I'm not getting too deeply into this, but the big problem for me was long down time. Way too much time waiting. Others are shuffling stuff around on their boards and it's very difficult to keep track of what they're doing or building, except where their armies are on the board.

The difference between this and Orleans for me was that each player is working on a main board and triggering effects one at a time, round robin. This made downtime between doing actions better in Orleans.

Not gonna make my collection. 6.2/10
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10. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:466]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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I came hoping to learn this, as after I got a copy, reading the rules seemed to have the same effect on me as 6 shots of tequila.

Anyway, I was not able to play this while there. A friend that plays at game day won a copy and another learned to play, so they'll help me stay sober to learn it.

I include this, because it got the best recommendations to me of any of the Essen games.

So I suspect, if I had, this may have been my favorite. ?/10
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11. Board Game: La Granja [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:115]
Rik Van Horn
United States
Livonia
New York
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Finally, I'm adding a game I had played before EQ. In fact I brought it with me.

I scheduled a couple demos and had to turn away players. I ended up playing this once each day, so 4 times. Each time with different players. And I had many more ask to play I could not accommodate.

This is a farm game and you need to generate items, them ship them to get points. There are many more details, but this is the heart of it. There are cards that have multiple uses, but you can select to make each card only one of 4 types. This is designated by where it attaches to your farm.

I'll grant the theme sounds dry and perhaps it is, but this is one of those games that you never seem to chose the same strategy twice.

That's the finest quality a game can have in my opinion.

9/10
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12. Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:82]
Keith Hart
United States
Fairport
New York
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Now this was a new game from the makers of Suburbia. In this game you are auctioning building room tiles to build a castle. You complete rooms by having new rooms connected to all doors on an existing room and then score a nice completion bonus depending on what room type it is. Rooms come in different sizes, shapes, and colors and can score you all kinds of bonuses both during and at the end of game.

It takes all the good elements of suburbia, removes the bad income/population track from suburbia, adds some player interaction on auctioning tiles and makes for a terrific game. This was easily my favorite of Euroquest, an easy buy and will be joining my top ten favorite games of all time. A 10/10 for me
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13. Board Game: La Isla [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:730]
Keith Hart
United States
Fairport
New York
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A new Stefan Feld game.
This was a light to medium card decision game. Every turn you get 3 cards and they have multiple uses. You only pick one use for each card and they must each be different.
1) use that card's power. Cards using the power option carry over turn to turn.
2) get that card's good
3)move the animal track up one for the animal shown on the card.

The Other thing you can do is place a worker on a board costing 2 goods depending on what color space you're placing on. When you surround a space with workers you get VP and and animal. When you cause an animal track to go up in any way you score VP depending on how many of that animal you have.

This was slightly more than a filler game but very interesting. 7/10
 
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14. Board Game: Packet Row [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:3728]
Wink
United States
Eagleville
Pennsylvania
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What about this one Rik, was it so forgettable? Nifty card drafting game in about an hour. Tight design with a simple elegance. Straightforward, scales well, moves fast, tickles the brain, has tension as the turns move - but it only does 1 thing great. However for me that 1 thing (the drafting mechanic) is enough to want to keep it around for a play every now and then.

7.5
 
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