Thunkd's New-to-me games - 2015
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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It's a new year again, so I guess I'll make a new geeklist! Here's the definitive list of games that I played for the first time in 2015.




Previous Years
Thunkd's New-to-me games - 2014
Thunkd's New-to-me games - 2013

Next up:
Thunkd's New-to-me Games - 2016
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1. Board Game: Legends and Lies [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:9249]
Bryan Thunkd
United States
Florence
MA
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1/4/15 - 3 Players

Legend and Lies is a themed version of Rummy with some special power cards thrown in. You build sets to your tableau and you play power cards to do stuff. Your discards count against opponents sets if they match. There's not a lot more to the game.

It was fun to play, and it adds something more than Rummy, but there was not much here that really demanded another play. If somebody wanted to play this, I'd be fine with it, but I don't know if I'd seek it out. The people I could see playing this with would just prefer Rummy, and the people who'd prefer this over Rummy would prefer a different game than either this or Rummy.

Will I play again? I wouldn't not play it.

Will I buy? There's no reason to own this.
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2. Board Game: 7 Wonders: Babel [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Bryan Thunkd
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1/7/14 - 6 players

I was curious what Babel would bring to the 7 Wonders franchise. This is a bit of different direction from previous expansions which were all card based.

The first thing Babel adds are great projects. Each age has a great project. There's some condition you have to meet, like paying an extra two coins when you play a blue card or somesuch. If you do, you get a token. At the end of the age if all the tokens are taken, then everyone with a token gets the bonus x the number of tokens they have. Otherwise everyone without a token is punished somehow.

The second thing Babel adds is a tower. Everybody drafts tower tiles. Then you can discard a card to build a tower token. The rewards for building 1/2/3 by game end are 2/5/10 points. Additionally, the tokens have special rules that go into effect when they're built. There's only 4 spots to place tiles, so the fifth covers the first, the sixth covers the second, etc. and the special rules which are covered up are no longer in effect.

So what did I think of Babel? Honestly, I'm not really wowed by it. The great projects really didn't feel like anything special. You could have taken them out of the game and I wouldn't have really noticed much of a difference. Sure, there are goals there... but it doesn't add much to the game.

On the other hand, I think the tower adds too much. Randomness, that is. Rules pop into existence nilly willy and reward or punish you if you were lucky/unlucky. And you tend to get multiple people building all at once, so there's no period of time where you can see the new rule and plan ahead for it, as "Boom!" five people just played a tower tile one of which is buried before every taking effect.

I just don't feel like I need, or particularly want, to add this to the 7 Wonders experience.

Will I play again? If someone wants to, I'm not going to throw a fit or anything, but I wouldn't suggest it.

Will I buy? No. I don't seek out 7 Wonders anymore. It hunts me down often enough as it is.
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3. Board Game: Shadowrun: Crossfire [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:618]
Bryan Thunkd
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1/7/15 - 4 Players

I hadn't heard anything about this game beforehand, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. This looked like something that I wasn't positive would appeal to me so much.

Shadowrun:Crossfire is a cooperative deck building game. It's set in the Shadowrun universe which apparently is a mix of tech and magic, with Elves, Dwarves, Trolls and "Orks" but with modern weapons. You have a hand of cards, which deal different types of damage points (generic, spell, weapons, hacking, etc.) Generally, there are enemies front of each player and the goal is to kill all the enemies without anyone dying.

Enemies have different stages you have to beat... so you might need to deal five damage to beat the first level.... but you have to be able to completely defeat a level for it to have any effect. So if you only can deal four points of damage, don't even bother. And levels need to be done in order, so while you may have the needed spell card to beat the second level, but it's useless if you can't deal 5 points of damage to clear the first level before that. Enemies typically have many stages, so it can take a bit to deal with them.

You don't have to play to the enemy in front of you... but any enemies in front of you at the end of your turn will attack you for some damage and/or have some special effect in play. Sometimes you'll have to ignore the baddie in front of you to take out the guy who's about to kill Bob.

Killing enemies gets the group extra money, which can be spent to buy new cards, which go straight into your hand for the next turn. Cards can be as simple as getting more of a particular damage type into your hand, but the more expensive cards can do some pretty cool stuff. There's also an "assist" element that lets you play some cards on other people's turn to help them out.

The one really painful part of the game is that it's hard to get cards. You only draw cards if you have 3 or fewer at the end of your turn, and you only draw two. And there are quite a few baddies that require you to spend five points of damage to beat a level, which is your whole hand unless you've bought some more powerful cards.

After everyone has played for the current round, you draw a crossfire card, which has some nasty effect. The crossfire events are tied to how many crossfire cards have already been drawn, so the longer the game goes on, the nastier the crossfire events become.

The game comes with different scenarios. When you beat a scenario you get "karma" points which stay with your character and can be redeemed for stickers which add permanent abilities to your character. Some of the harder scenarios recommend you don't even attempt them until you've bought 75 points worth of karma upgrades.

I played this game with other gamers and it was pretty fun. But I knew as soon as I started playing this that my son would absolutely love this game. He's a huge fan of cooperative games and D&D-type themes. So this is going to be an instant buy for me.

Will I play again? Yeah, this was a lot of fun. I can't wait to play with my son.

Will I buy? I'm already putting together an order.
 
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4. Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:82]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/11/15 - 4 Players

I had only a vague idea that this was some sort of tile laying game along the lines of Suburbia and wasn't sure quite what to expect. As the game was put out on the table, I was a little taken back by the number of bits and how much information you needed to absorb for each one. Trying to read the tiles was a bit of a challenge. Once you play the game a few times I'm sure you'll start to remember tiles. For the first play, I decided to ignore other player's tiles for the most part.

The primary challenge in the game is playing the master builder and valuing all the buildings that come out for the turn. You want to price buildings so that people buy them and give you money. You won't likely get any more money until your next master builder turn, so this is pretty important. You want to make the things they want to buy expensive enough that they pay you a good chunk of change, but not pricey enough that they decide not to buy.

Oh, but if the tile is too good and will score them a ton of points, you want to price it out of their range. And since you will be buying last in the turn, you want to figure out a way to price the building you really want such that it won't get bought by the other players, but will still be available to you at a reasonable price.

The rest of the game is deciding which buildings to buy, which keys into all sorts of factors. First and foremost is how much money you have left and how long it will be until you get more. But rooms score points for being built, some rooms score points for being connected to other types of rooms, and some rooms just score points for having other types of rooms in your castle. So figuring out the room that gives you the most points is a big consideration.

But then there's all sorts of placement restrictions, the first of which is simply geometry... will your room fit where you want to put it? And some rooms don't like being next to other rooms, and some rooms can't have anything adjacent to them, and some rooms are basement rooms and can't adjoin the first floor rooms without stairs. And rooms give bonuses when you complete them (which requires matching every exit to an entrance of another room) depending of the type of room. Which can give you all sorts of powerful options. And players have different personal goals and a few common goals.

Despite the myriad of things to take into consideration when choosing which room to build, pricing the rooms as master builder is still the harder part of the game. Because to accurately value things you'd need to go through the same "What should I build?" calculation for every player. Trying to do this to any degree of precision would pretty much kill the game and send it into an AP-type time distortion field. I basically shortcut this step by picking a top level note for each player (that player wants sleeping rooms, that player wants basement rooms, that player wants dining rooms) and not worrying about it too much. Thinking about it much more than that would make the game less fun and more spreadsheety... so there is at least one player that I know I'd never play this game with (Sorry, Gwen).

I really enjoyed this game. There were a lot of interesting decisions and I found the game challenging and competitive. It certainly has a certain feel of Suburbia to it, but while Suburbia feels pretty dry and themeless, I found this game much more thematically engaging. It was fun looking at the castles all of the players built and seeing what sorts of madness was going on. The cooks in one player's castle would have to take a quick romp through a nine pin bowling lane in order to get supplies for dinner? Crazy!

I felt more invested in my castle more than I ever felt invested in any city in Suburbia. How the castle developed was much more dependent on my decisions than in Suburbia, primarily due to the odd shapes and placement restrictions. You just don't see that with the hexagonal pieces in Suburbia as it's hard to muck things up too much with pieces of only one shape.

And it's much easier to view the buildings in Suburbia as generic blue/yellow/etc. hexagonal pieces whereas the buildings in CMKL with their distinctive shapes and imagery help you retain the idea that they are specific rooms with different functions.

Will I play again? Yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

Will I buy? Despite there already being two copies in the group, I'm tempted.
 
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5. Board Game: Alchemists [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:80]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/14/15 - 4 Players

I knew going into this game that it was "the hotness" and that at least one person needed an app to play it. I was a little worried that it would be hokey because of that. As it turned out, I rather enjoyed that aspect of the game.

We're alchemical researchers who are gathering ingredients, testing concoctions on students (or in dire straits, on ourselves), publishing theories (where you want to be first author for more reputation), debunking other's theories, and selling potions to whoever will pay.

The game is a fairly standard worker placement game, but there's a turn order auction every round and you have to place all your workers out in one go, in reverse turn order. So going last means other people can swoop in after you and make your placements look stupid. And then there's the app/deduction aspect.

A large part of the game revolves around a deduction mechanic. And this is where the app comes in. When you drink a potion, you place the two ingredients on the table behind your screen and line the app up over them. It tells you what potion you've made. Poisoning, paralyzing or driving your student insane means they'll need to be bribed to quaff any further potions (so being the first to conscript the student for the round is a good idea). And drinking something vile yourself has dire consequences.

Once you know what potion you've made, there's a pyramidal chart in your player board that you plug the corresponding chit into. And you have a sheet with a table where you can mark your inferences. You'll want to deduce the properties of each ingredient which lets you know what potions it can make with other ingredients (or vice versa, knowing what potion two things make can tell you the properties of those ingredients). For some reason this part of the game didn't click with me until halfway through the game, but it's not particularly difficult or onerous. Figuring out what potions are shouldn't be too much of a problem.

At the end of the game there's an exhibition, where you can demonstate which potions you've figured out, but only the first person to display a potion gets any fame. And at the end of the game all the theories are evaluated and you get points for authoring correct theories.

This game was a lot of fun. I loved the theme, and the deduction aspect was an interesting twist to the game. It really added to the feeling of being an alchemist figuring out how to make various potions.

Will I play again? Yeah. I am really looking forward to it.

Will I buy? I get the feeling that there is an anti-app bias in my groups that might be hard to overcome.
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6. Board Game: Scoville [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:516]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/14/15 - 4 Players

I'd heard nothing about this game at all, so I came into this blind.

The game is about planting chile peppers and making chili recipes... where the hotter the chili the better. Every turn there is a blind bid turn order auction, and you get to choose one of the pepper cards that comes out based on your turn order.

On your turn you plant a pepper, in turn order, then move your guy on the fields three steps, in reverse turn order. You get peppers based on what two pepper fields you walk between, which ends up being a color blend mechanic much like Pastiche... red and blue peppers combine to make a purple pepper, etc.

There are lots of recipes and the ones that score more points require rarer peppers. There's also some points you can pick up for being the first to plant rare peppers. And there are points and money that you can get for selling pepppers in the market.

Most of the game comes down to trying to get the best path through the fields and screwing other people out of a good path. But it's hard to figure out how to do that effectively. You want to both go first in turn order, so that you can get the best pepper card and also claim recipes first, but also go last so that you can walk the fields first.

It's an interesting game, but ends up feeling a little puzzley.

Will I play again? Yeah, I'd play this again. It's not a game I'll want to play all the time, but it's interesting.

Will I buy? I think one person I know having this is enough.
 
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7. Board Game: Einauge sei wachsam! [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:3804]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/18/15 - 3 Players

This is a game I've played online... so it's technically not a new-to-me game, but I'm continuing the tradition of only counting my first physical play for the purposes of this geeklist.

I taught my wife and son how to play the game, and they both proceeded to whomp my butt. My son really loves this game and my wife seemed to enjoy it too.

The game is fairly simple. There are seven cards in each color and depending on the number of players you'll play with some/all of the colors (red, blue, green, purple, yellow, white, black, brown). The cards have symbols on them for money, swords, gems and treasure chests. During the game, whenever you get a card you get the money, swords or gems that are on that card. Additionally, you retrigger any cards of that color you already own. At the end of the game you get gems for having most, secondmost or thirdmost treasure chests for each color (7/4/1).

On your turn you buy a card (and you have to sell off stuff if you can't afford to), and optionally spend 3 (or 4) swords to take a card from the pirates table, and then move a card from the purchase row to the pirate's table. Then you refill the purchase row and continue on to the next player. The game ends when you get to the end of the regular deck and there's a final special round where you can only raid cards.

The game is a pretty quick filler game but has a lot of interesting decisions. I love the look of the cards and the pirates table board... they're quite beautiful. The box itself is rather goofy and not so pretty.

Will I play again? Yes, I quite like this game.

Will I buy? I already own it.
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8. Board Game: Cockroach Poker [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1212]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/18/15 - 4 players

I was convinced to play this game with the phrase "...and Bryan will hate it!" I didn't have any idea what to expect at all, but with an introduction like that how can you go wrong?

For some reason, I just assumed there would be lots of ugly pictures of cockroaches in the game. I was pleasantly surprised by the artwork. Even though the game is focused on various types of vermin, the art is beautiful. I'd be tempted to pick this game up just on visual appeal.

The game itself is super simple. You pick a card from your hand and put it face down in front of another player. You make a claim on what the card is. They can accuse you of lying or agree that you're telling the truth, and if they're right the card goes into your tableau. If they're wrong it goes into theirs. Alternatively, they can look at the card and then pass it on to someone else, adding their own claim about what the card is. There are no winners in the game, but the first person to get four of a kind or to have no cards to pass to another player loses.

I really enjoyed the game. There are any number of bluffing games out there, but a lot of them build a complicated game around the bluffing element. Cockroach poker strips away almost everything that would be extraneous and focuses just on the bluffing element. I much prefer this to something like Coup, where the bluffing element is propped up on an awkward economic system.

This game also achieved something I've never experienced in Coup... it was fun. The best moment for me was a showdown I had with Matt. I was determined to stick him with a card, so I repeatedly played cards in front of him, claiming they were bats, pretty much randomly deciding to lie or tell the truth each time. About thirty seconds and six correct guesses later, the entire table was laughing and I had a pile of cards in front of me. It was hilarious, even though it completely wrecked me.

I think the artwork, theme and simplicity of this game would make it replace Liar's Dice for my kids.

Will I play again? Yes... but I won't mess with Matt, he's blessed by the gods.

Will I buy? I think I probably will. This is a quick, fun filler which my family will love.


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9. Board Game: Legends of Andor [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:287] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/25/15 - 2 Players

I picked up this game in a math trade to play with my son. It's just the sort of game he likes, a cooperative game set in a D&D-ish theme. For our initial play, we played a two player run through of the introductory Legend One.

For those who don't know the game, the first mission, or legend, is just a "Let's teach the new players how the game works" type of thing. So while my initial impression of the game is fairly good, I'm basing that in part on the belief that the other missions will be more fun once the handholding you through how the game works stuff is taken out.

I enjoyed the initial mission. It gave a pretty good idea how the game will play with the standard missions. It looks like it will end up being a challenging co-op, with tough choices.

I have a little concern that the game only comes with five missions, one of which is never going to be replayed once you learn the game. I've also heard there are some "spoilers" so that also cuts down on the replayability... although I've been assured that the third mission in particular has random elements and provides a lot of opportunity for replay value.

I'll probably update this entry once I have a chance to play the game again. It's a little early to come out definitively on this game.

Will I play again? Yes. I'm hoping that I can replace something like Castle Panic with this game.

Will I buy? I own it.
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10. Board Game: Eggs and Empires [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2004]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/24/15 - 2 Players

I hadn't ever heard of this game when it showed up. And the title didn't do anything to reassure me. But more on that later.

The game is simple. There are two egg cards that come out every turn, either good or bad, valued from about -10 to 15 or so. You have a deck of cards numbered 1 through 10. You have three of those to choose from at any given time and you pick a card to play, reveal it simultaneously, take eggs in descending numerical order and draw a replacement card. Oh, and there's a love letter thing going on in that your cards have special powers that let you break the rules of the game.

Back to the title.... Honestly, I have no idea why they named this thing the way they did. First, Eggs? Come on! If we're going to be stealing from a dragon, we should be stealing the dragon's treasure hoard. That would make a lot more sense. And you could put pretty pictures of treasure chests, jewels and gold on the cards, with exploding booby trapped treasure chests for the negative cards. And Empires? There's nothing in the game that suggests anything of Empires. It just fit alliteratively. This is the stupidest name for the game.

The game itself is a quick filler. My expectations were pretty low on this one, mostly due to the title, so I was actually pleasantly surprised. It's not the deepest game, but I'd be happy to play it. I've only played two player so far, which is a little different than the multiplayer game, and I assume that it would be a lot more fun with more players.

Will I play again? Yeah.

Will I buy? I already own it. I don't know that I would have gone out of my way to pick it up though.
 
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11. Board Game: Friday the 13th [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1441]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/25/15 - 3 players

Poison is an older game that I'd never heard of before. It's a fairly simple game. There are three suits with numbers 1-7 (with no 6's or 3's) and some poison cards. Each suit has a pile that you play to. When you play a card such that the pile exceeds 13 you take the cards that were already there, leaving the card just played. At game end you discard any cards in a suit if you are the player who has the most of that suit. Each card is worth 1 point against you and the poison cards count double.

I liked this game. It's fairly quick and light, so a good filler. I especially like the artwork on the cards. The game comes with three humongous cardboard cauldrons which are totally not needed. And it's a game that could fit in a standard card deck box but instead uses a box twenty times too big. And while the artwork on the cards is really nice, the cover is super cheesy.

It apparently has been redone as Friday the 13th with artwork I really didn't like.

Will I play again? Sure.

Will I buy? It's hard to imagine that I'd find a copy of the original at a price I'd pay. And I'm not getting the Friday the 13th version.
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12. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:60]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/25/15 - 3 Players

Roll for the Galaxy is hard game for me to review. It obviously shares a lot with Race for the Galaxy. So the real question for me is how is it different and would I prefer one over the other.

Before I get into that though... let's talk about the graphic design of the game. There's a lot of iconography in the game, some of which is the same as Race, but they did not do a good job of making the game comprehensible. The cheat sheet in particular is undecipherable until you start understanding the game. But even given that, there has to be a better way to display the information. I feel like this is a graphic design fail.

A lot of the game is the same. There are the same actions as RftG, but although some of them are implemented slightly differently, the overall feel is much the same. The main difference is that you have dice instead of cards. And different colored dice have different distributions of actions, most leaning towards a particular set of actions.

Everybody secretly rolls up whatever dice they were able to get into their cups. Then they assign them to whatever action is displayed. They can pick a die and use it to select the action that they want to guarantee will be performed this round. And it doesn't have to be the action shown on that die... so nobody is ever screwed out of an action they really want. And they can also use a die to force another die to be something else.

Finally, everybody reveals their dice. If someone selected an action and you have dice assigned to that action, they activate. Unused dice go back into the cup, used dice have to be repurchased for a buck each. I won't go into much about how the rest of the game differs from Race, as it isn't really material to understanding the differences in the games. It's this action selection mechanic that is really the primary difference.

So how you feel about Roll vs Race comes down to how you feel about the dice. First, let me say that while it seems that this introduces a lot of randomness in the game, everybody in my first game had a way to mitigate that. So in the end, you almost always could get your dice where you wanted. And since you can use one die to select the guaranteed action, you can always have at least one die on the action you want.

What I like about the dice is that it replaces a lot of the card fatigue you feel in Race... where you're constantly shuffling, cycling through cards, exploring through a ton of cards, etc. At times it feels like they said "You know, I love shuffling... I bet I could shoehorn a game into that somehow." The dice cut the card maintenance out of the game making it a lot easier to manage.

But what I like about Race is that the game comes down to picking the right action. You want to pick an action that will help you, without helping someone else, and hopefully also plan so that other people will be picking an action you need on a turn when you don't. There's kinda that same thing in Race, but it's not nearly as pure. Someone else can profit off your actions, not because they planned to, but simply because the dice ended up on the right symbol and they didn't have a way to change them to something else. And it's this distinction that really separates the two games for me and is why I prefer the original.

I like Roll for the Galaxy... but I prefer Race for the Galaxy. I'd probably want to play Roll every once in a while for something different, but most of the time I'd probably rather play Race.

Will I play again? Sure.

Will I buy? No. One copy in the group is enough... if I ever can't play it, Race for the Galaxy scratches the same itch.

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13. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:91]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/25/15 - 3 Players

Istanbul is a eurogame where you're getting resources to convert to money and victory points (gems). There is an interesting movement mechanism, where as the merchant goes to a tile to take the action, it requires an assistant to smooth the way and schmooze the owner. The merchant himself is a bumbling fool who can't manage without an assistant's help.

So if you don't already have an assistant assigned to the tile, you have to leave one behind to take care of things. If you already have an assistant there, he's already put in the time setting things up with that shop and can rejoin you. If you ever end up on a tile without an assistant already there and it's just the merchant, then your incompetent merchant can't do the action and has to end his turn. You can always make your way back to the fountain which allows the merchant to recall all his assistants back to him. Oh and if someone is at the spot you want to go to, you're going to have to pay them to use that spot.

So a large part of the game is figuring out how to get where you want to go and how to manage your assistants. You can only move orthogonally one or two spaces on a turn. And the assistant movement mechanism makes retracing your steps an attractive option if you can find a way to do it and still get a useful action.

The other main part of the game is managing your inventory. You start with the ability to hold two of every good. You can later upgrade your wheelbarrow to hold three, four or five goods of each type. Which you'll want to do because most of the time when you take goods you take all that you can carry. Except jewelry which is harder to get.

Make no bones about it, this is a game where you're trying to solve an optimization puzzle. You've got to figure out the best way of getting gems and the best path through town to do it. If you enjoy that sort of thing, like I do, then this will be an interesting challenge. If you don't, then you probably won't have much fun with this one.

Will I play again? Yes. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I like trying to figure this type of game out.

Will I buy? I don't know. I probably wouldn't mind owning it... but there's a copy in my group now, and I want to see how it holds up to repeated plays. The variability provided by the tile placement will likely be a key factor to that.
 
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14. Board Game: ESSEN The Game: SPIEL'13 [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:2999]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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1/29/15 - 4 players

I have to admit that the theme of running around a board game convention buying games is one that appeals to me. And the fact that real publishers and real games from the 2013 Essen Spiel were used added a nice touch to the game. Although that also dates the game.

What I found most interesting about this game was the movement mechanic, where empty spaces in your bag are your available actions for the turn, and buying a game decreases how many actions you can take on a turn. Figuring out how to manage your inventory until you can make it back to your car and dump your games off is tricky. One player in our game went deep into the convention and bought as many games as he could carry which ended up crippling him. He spent the last three turns of the game waddling back to his car, but never quite got there. That effectively meant that he couldn't score any more points and wasted the second half of the game accomplishing nothing. Lesson learned: think about whether you can really afford to get laden down or not.

Outside of the interesting movement/action mechanic, the game is a fairly standard exercise in point maximization. Buy the cheapest game that gives you the most points. Except that you have goal cards that make you want certain games in particular. And there are public goals for having certain types of games in particular quantities.

It's not the best game in the world, but it's interesting and pleasant enough.

Will I play again? Sure. I don't know how many plays this game has in it, but I could play it a couple more times.

Will I buy? I think I'm going to get enough out of playing another person's copy. I don't need my own.
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15. Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Big Box [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/4/15

Real time games aren't really my thing and snap decisions aren't my forte. So I was a little nervous about whether this game would break me. But the decisions in this game aren't really that deep, so there's never a time when you need to invest much thought into them.

But that also means that the fun part of this game probably isn't going to be in making interesting decisions. And it's not. What's fun about the game is the hectic scramble. Rolling, rolling, rolling, shouting and screaming. Desperately trying to get stuff done before you get completely hosed.

I found the game fun for what it was... a short filler game. We ended up playing five times in a row and by the end I was getting burned out on the game, but for a filler and just a play or two, it's great.

The best part of the game was when Chris got stuck and couldn't get rid of his "Can't talk" curse. I thinking we may house rule a perma-curse on him.

Will I play again? Sure. I don't know that I'd seek it out though.

Will I buy? There's no reason I need this.
 
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16. Board Game: PIX [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2432]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/11/15 - 9 Players

Pix is Pictionary, except you have to "draw" the pictures using square magnets you place in a grid, creating a pixelated image. You get points if you guess what someone else drew and/or if someone guessed your drawing. There are several players drawing the same picture, but whoever uses the fewest pixels gets to display their drawing first. So if you use a lot of pixels making your image unambiguous, your opponent will likely go first and take the point before your drawing is ever shown.

This is a party game where the real "fun" is laughing at people who can't draw. It's about par for the course for a party game. It was fun for a play, but having had the experience, there's not a real need to repeat it.

Will I play again? I'd rather play something else.

Will I buy? No.
 
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17. Board Game: Tekeli-li [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:10172]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/14/15 - 4 Players

Tekeli-li is a Cthulu themed trick taking game. There are four suits with a single card of values 1-6 and three cards each of 7's and 8's. You have to follow the suit led, if possible, and high card in the trick wins. There is no trump. 4's and 6's are generally nasty cards that give you a lot of negative points (-60, -120, -240, etc.) and you want to avoid taking them. Every card in the water suit (blue) is -10 points. The game is played to -1,500 with a single loser.

The 3's do different things. The black and blue 3, if both are taken by the same player, cancels out 200 points against you. The red three means that you round your points to the next 100. So if you only scored -10 it's actually -100. The white 3 means that the trick doesn't end when everyone has played a card to it, instead everybody has to go around again and play to the trick another time.

There are two very interesting twists to the game. First, the person to the left of the person who took the trick is the person who leads the next trick. Second, if two people play 7's, then they cancel each other out and neither counts. But if a third person plays a 7, then the last two cancel out and the original one becomes valid again. And it's the same for eights.

So there's a lot of interesting strategy to figure out. There's the general thing of you want to go void to dump your point cards, but the way the lead changes, the way that high cards can cancel out and the possibility of a trick going around the table twice all make for some funky strategy.

For example, in one hand Dave played an 8, and so did Tim... cancelling Dave's original 8. But the white 3 had been played on the trick and Dave was forced to play his last card of the suit, another 8. So he was forced to take the trick because his last 8 made his original 8 valid again. He took the trick and a nasty point card someone (who will remain nameless) dumped on the trick.

The game has interesting artwork. Most of the cards look like generic clipart drawings... except for the monsters who are detailed, colorful and clearly more interesting than those boring humans. The humans are just generic children, old men, doctors, professors and workers.

I'm still not sure if that little girl is praying or boxing.

Will I play again? Sure. If a trick taking game is what's being played then I'd be happy to play this one. But I don't really go out of my way to play trick taking games much.

Will I buy? Probably not. Cthulu themed games aren't my thing. If this was somehow rethemed I'd be more interested. Besides this is apparently very rare and hard to get.
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18. Board Game: Brew Crafters [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:458]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/15/15 - 4 Players

Brew Crafters is a worker placement game where you're gathering ingredients to make and sell beer. There are three different styles of beers that the world has discovered how to make, and there's three different types within each of those styles. You have to brew the first basic beer of a style before you have the ability to brew the more advanced beers of that style. The game only lasts 12 turns... spring, summer, fall and winter for 3 years.

The game is a worker placement game with accumulating resource spaces. It's a bit odd in that you only have two wooden meeples that can take resources (although apparently in the advanced variant there's a way to get more). After resources are gathered, you move on to phase two where your cardboard worker chits can be placed to do research, buy equipment/upgrade rooms or brew beer. You can get more cardboard workers but you have to have brewed 3 beers to get your second and 9 to get your third. And they have a lot of upkeep cost.

Selling beers gets you points, more for the advanced beers, and two bucks no matter whether you're making a premium beer or a crappy one. Money is really tight in the game. All your cardboard workers and equipment/rooms cost upkeep at the end of winter.

There's also specialists you can hire that give you special powers. And there are some special abilities you can take for free. And research lets you develop special abilities and/or get you end of game scoring.

Outside of theme, there's not much new here. It's a game about converting this to that to points and figuring out the optimization puzzle. It's got a ton of things to think about and it's got fiddly bits all over the place. And this paragraph tells you everything you need to know to decide if you'll like this game or not. If you like the idea of settling in to a new game and learning how to convert brown and yellow cubes, sorry... barley and yeast, into points more effectively than anyone else, then you'll enjoy this game. If this sounds like a slow soul-sucking death then you should avoid this game like the plague.

Will I play again? Yeah. This is totally the type of thing I enjoy.

Will I buy? Probably not. I suspect that a single copy of this in my groups is one more than a bunch of people really want.
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19. Board Game: San Juan (second edition) [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:277]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/22/15 - 3 Players

Counting this as a new-to-me game seems a little bit like cheating, but technically this is a different game than the first edition, although not by much.

There are a handful of new buildings and some rules tweaks, but honestly, I don't know that they change the game a great amount. But it's also not like this game really needed any changing. San Juan is a great game, which I enjoy a lot, and it's not like there were any fatal flaws in the first edition.

The new buildings are nice (with the exception of the Park, which I'm not sure why you'd bother) as are most of the rules tweaks (the guildhall in particular, although I think the goldmine may have gotten unfairly dinged). And the new artwork works a lot better. I looked at the old "violet buildings" and I much prefer the tan background on the new cards.

Will I play again? Definitely.

Will I buy? I'd like to own a copy of San Juan, and given my druthers I'd prefer the second edition, but I'd be just as happy picking up an old first edition for cheap.
 
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20. Board Game: Deus [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:301]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/22/15 - 3 Players

Deus is a game that I discovered online and really enjoyed. So I was happy when it finally came in and I got a chance to play it over the table. Games that are fun online aren't always as fun in person... and vice versa.

And I'm happy to say that the game was pretty fun. Both players I taught picked up the game fairly quickly and the final scores were all within points of each other. I just barely squeaked out a win, something I think only happened because it was the first play for the other players. I suspect that I'll be scrambling to keep up now that they know how to play. But I look forward to it.

Will I play again? Yup, I like this game a lot.

Will I buy? I already own it.


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21. Board Game: Linko! [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:707]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/25/15 - 5 players

Linko is a simple filler game. There are cards numbered 1 - 13 with 8 of each denomination. There's six cards face up in the center of the table and a blind deck, both of which you can draw from when you need to take cards.

On your turn, you play a single card or a set of the same number to your tableau. The set you play covers any existing sets you've previously played, protecting them. If your set has the same number of cards as any other player's top set, you choose whether you want to take those cards from their tableau into your hand. If yes, they draw replacements and it's done.

If not, they decide if they want to take the set back into their hand, or discard it and draw replacements. You keep playing sets until someone goes out. At that point every card in your tableau is a point and every card in hand is a point against you.

It's quick and there's some strategy. But there's nothing terribly exciting here. It's fine enough, but there are plenty of fillers I'd like to play as much or more than this.

Will I play again? I wouldn't say no, but I'd rather play something else.

Will I buy? I don't need this.
 
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22. Board Game: Temporum [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2444]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/25/15 - 4 players

It's a card game from Donald X.... well technically there's a board too, but honestly you don't even need the board really. My first thought after picking up my starting cards was "Hey, these look like Dominion cards!"

Dominion isn't my favorite game so I went into this with tempered expectations. The game is about time travel. You've got a lot of wooden bits stuck in Age 1 that you have to bring back to Age 4 (present day).

Each of the four different ages has as many cards as it's level, one card in Age 1, two in Age 2, etc. They branch out from the past... so the Age 1 card can lead to either of the Age 2 cards. The Age 2 cards lead to three Age 3 cards, but from any Age 2 card you can only possibly access the two Age 3 cards that are adjacent to it. There are little arrows that show the "current reality" path. So while the Age 1 card could lead to either Age 2 card, there's always one that it's pointing to that is the only valid current card.

On your turn, first you can switch which way reality will bend from the age card you're in to the next lower age, switching between the two closest realities downstream. Then you can move anywhere in time in the current reality. When you stop on a card in a particular age, you take the associated action, which typically lets you play a card from your hand, score a card... which means you get some amount of movement points (which lets you move your wooden bits closer to present day) or get some special benefit.

All the cards can be used either as a play card or a score card. The play abilities typically get you money, or more cards, or some ongoing benefit. The score ability just lets you pay some amount of money to get some amount of movement points.

As a twist, while you're trying to get your markers back to the present day, there's a majority contest for having the most markers in any age. The majority is only important when some card in play references it. But typically it can ding other players for money, give you cards, or let you move your markers.

While there are ten age cards in play each game, they are chosen randomly from a larger deck. So every play will be different and there looks to be a lot of replay value due to that fact.

The game was a lot of fun. It's a fairly quick game, but there is enough going on to make it interesting. It's definitely on the lighter side, but given how long it takes to play, that's appropriate.

Will I play again? Yeah... I really enjoyed this.

Will I buy? It's possible.
 
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23. Board Game: Red7 [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:543]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/25/15 - 4 Players

Red7 is a super light filler game. You get a hand of cards which are in 7 color suits with values 1 to 7. On your turn you have to manipulate the environment such that you are currently winning or else you fold and go out.

You can play a card to your tableau, play a card to change the win condition, or play a card to both. Every color represents a different win condition (have the higher number card, have the most of one number, have the most even cards, have the most cards under a value of 4, have the most of a single color, have the most different colors, have the longest continuous sequence).

Ties are broken by highest number and then by color, where a "warmer" color beats a "cooler" color. When everyone else folds you win the hand. The card(s) that gave you the win go into your score pile.

We also played with a variant that when the card you play to change the rules is a value higher than the number of cards you have in your tableau, you draw a replacement card. And there's a "some cards have special powers" variant we didn't play.

The game has a lot of luck, but there's still elements of strategy. It's quick enough that the luck isn't really a problem. It was fun.


Will I play again? Sure. It's a tad random, but that's okay.

Will I buy? I might. It's fun.
 
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24. Board Game: ZhanGuo [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:397]
Bryan Thunkd
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Florence
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2/25/15 - 4 Players

Zhanguo (John Gwo) is a game that will hit you over the head when you first sit down to the table. There's a lot going on and it's hard to parse at first. Once you learn the game it's actually not that bad, but it'll take you a play to get there.

The game revolves around the cards. There are three decks, which are split according to the card numbers, 1 - 40, 41 - 80, 81 - 120. In addition to having a number the cards have potential bonuses, in the form of "When you take x action, get y." Every round you get 2 cards from each deck, so you'll get to play 6 cards in a round.

On your turn, you either play a card to your personal board, which means that later on you potentially get the "Do x, get y" bonus, or you play a card to the palace which means you chose to do one of 6 possible actions (the aforementioned x's).

Two of the actions are getting workers and officials, which you need to do the other four actions... moving officials, building walls, building palaces, and building governors.

Walls give you endgame points if you meet the appropriate conditions. Palaces give you points for cards on your personal board. And governors are used in area majority contests. Additionally, there will be random goals in each game, along the lines of "Have a governor in regions 1, 4 and 5" or "Build palaces in region 2 and 3". Whoever finishes the goals first gets the most points for doing that goal. And if you complete multiple goals in the same area there's a multiplier effect. So accomplishing two green goals doubles the score of your green goals, and accomplishing three (the most there are) triples them.

Oh, and those cards you played to your personal board, that potentially give you bonuses... they only do so if the card you use to play the action is the right number. Some actions want the card to be a higher number and some want the card to be a lower number.

Additionally, when you play cards to your personal board you get some tokens of the card color, and there's a majority contest with those, as whoever has the most can spend all the tokens of one color that they have to get a bonus. Those bonuses get better each round. But if they choose not to, then the player with next most tokens can choose to spend their tokens to get the bonus.

So yeah, there's a lot to think about, and at first glance you just don't even know. But by the end of the first game I was really started to see how things fit together and getting excited about the game. There's some meat to sink your teeth into with this one.


Will I play again? Yes. I'm looking forward to it.

Will I buy? I already own this one.
 
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25. Board Game: Stalag 17 [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:8986]
Bryan Thunkd
United States
Florence
MA
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Played 3/4/15 - Solo

I usually don't count online plays for the purposes of "new-to-me", but I'm going to make an exception for this game as I think I got a fairly good feel for the game and I'm not likely to play it in person. I only tried this game because it was a free app download.

Stalag 17 is a simple little card game. You're trying to get the right cards to escape. Dice will determine whether you need food, uniforms, wire cutters, maps or documents to escape. You'll also need some number of escape points. Early missions only require a few items, but subsequent missions will need more and more items.

So a large part of the game is about drawing cards. You can take two cards from the deck blindly. Or you can draw the top discard and one blind card. Also... whenever you play a card to your tableau. you automatically draw a replacement. But there's a downside to cards. They have point values which can hurt you and you can't get rid of them easily. You can discard 3 of a kind or 5 different cards and that's it. The point values on the cards in your hand, but not your tableau, count against you when someone escapes, regardless of whether it's you or your opponent. They add to the value of the escape points you need to complete the next mission.

The game is somewhat interesting, but it's not particularly deep. The most interesting decisions are whether you want to risk getting caught with a handful of cards if your opponent escapes and whether you have time to pitch cards before making your own escape. All of which boils down to whether you believe your opponent has the ability to escape yet or not.

And luck is a factor in the game. If you need X and don't get it, well that's just not so good.

This is a game that I might play on my iPad if I am bored, but I can't see buying it and bringing it to the table. There's just not enough there.

Will I play again? The app maybe.

Will I buy? No... I have the app, but I might just delete it.
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