New to you April 2015 => Best new boardgame
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What new board and card games did you play in April 2015? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month. Anyone still playing new Christmas presents?

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1. Board Game: Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:603] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Murray Fish
Australia
Canberra
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They explained everything in detail and at great length. After they finished I sat, despondent, contemplating a bleak and empty future. "I’m glad you’re depressed" said one. "It means you’ve understood the situation.”
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Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue



Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue arrived, along with a slew of other Zombicide stuff, in a tea chest sized container a little while ago. This month I broke it open and got in a few pretty good games with Mrs Fish. To get a both of an idea how good the new expansion is we played with Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue as a stand-alone game one – no other bit and bobs were added to the mix. After all, it’s supposed to be a complete gaming experience so it should stand on its own merits.

Well, Guillotine Games have done a pretty good job with this one as Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue is indeed a fine stand-alone game. More pleasing is that Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue introduces a number of new elements to Zombicide that keep the game fresh and introduce new challenges. Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue is set a few months into the breakdown of society and the rise of the undead. All the easy pickings have been taken and survivor groups need to take greater risks to get what they need. Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue introduces hospitals - a potential source of supply but, given the nature of the zombie plague teeming with undead.

The new skinner zombies are quite challenging in that when killed they can turn into crawlers. Crawlers act as walkers but are the hardest to hit on the target priority chart. the A-Bomb abomination is pretty bad news as it officially takes 'a lot' to kill (not like the three hit creampuffs in earlier editions) and can grab survivors from a zone away and drag them into their zone. There is also a spawn card which has the A-bombs show up while the team is still on blue which really makes like difficult (and short).

Also new is the variable spawn points as pretty basic idea but one that adds a bit more uncertainty to the game. Same with the event triggers which also work well for hospital tiles. Sadly, neither tokens were included in the Kickstarter-exclusive plastic token set; guess I’ll just have to keep on using the cardboard stuff for these tokens. As well as hospitals the game includes markers for the now-abandoned tents in fallen evacuation. This is another good little addition that pieces up the game and keeps the players on their toes.

The rules for the helicopters (also new this edition) are, at least initially, a bit fiddly but don’t seem to work too badly once you get the hang of them.

Other new-to-this-season features include team actions which are pretty useful when used well and the adversarial/competitive mode rules which can pit players against both each other and the undead menace. As Mrs Fish likes the co-aspect of Zombicide. Nice to have though for the more cut-throat amongst us.

As ever, the production values are tip-top and the twelve new survivors have a fair bit going for them. Overall, Zombicide Season 3: Rue Morgue is another excellent package from Guillotine Games and one that every Zombicide fan should seriously consider acquiring – I’m sure I’ll get plenty of use out of it in the years to come.

Raiders of the North Sea



I have had a couple of plays of a fairly advanced prototype set of Raiders of the North Sea and must say that I quite like it. The game plays well and offers some pretty interesting choices to be made. The theme of raiding work really well and. As with all good euros, there are multiple paths to victory.

There are a lot of well thought out gaming mechanisms in the game which greatly augment both play balance and replayability. For example, way that the Valkyries work (i.e. they kill a raider but there are victory points to be had for glorious death in battle) is another nice touch to a game that is simple to learn but has a fair bit of depth.

Interestingly, the KickStarter campaign went really well and hit all the initial stretch goals so other ones had to be added. These new goals (PnP boards & digital wallpaper) were a bit ordinary which, to me suggest the game is pretty much the finished product and needs neither additional variables nor chrome.

Like Victor Kiam and the Remington shaver, I liked Raiders of the North Sea so much I backed the game. The KickStarter campaign has now finished and I await fulfilment. If it’s anything like the prototype (and I'm betting it will be) the finished product should be a winner.

Saga



Just to round off the month, how about set of miniatures rules? Well, I have seen Saga, and it’s cousin, Saga: The Crescent and the Cross pretty heavily promoted in the miniature wargames press. I’d managed to resist temptation as I already have a grillion and three things to paint and don’t need to be starting yet another period.

The basic idea behind the game is pretty attractive in that it is a skirmish-level game where each side is led by a warlord and has a band of followers divided into groups of similar style soliders/warriors. They are controlled by allocation of battle dice onto the player mat. The battle mats are all faction specific, they have ‘common’ abilities available to all sides as well as specific characteristics that reflect the abilities of their particular side. As in all good games, there are never enough actions available to do everything so each side must prioritise their actions as well as attempt to outthink and anticipate their opponent. As I say, sounds good but do I need to start yet another new period?

My mind was changed when a chum suggested I might like to try a fan published variant of this game which is set in Middle Earth and uses the old Games Workshop Ltd. Battle Games in Middle-earth plastic and metal miniatures. As fate would have it, I have quite a few of these items. Unusually, many of them are painted and ready to go. The game also uses normal six sided dice rather than the expensive faction-specific bespoke dice that saga employs.

In my first game my heroic Uruk-hai faced the Riders of Rohan; the enemy archery was pretty effective (they have a faction-specific ability that boost their shooting range) but thanks to some hard fighting from my warg riders who caused enough of a distraction on the flank to allow the bulk of my force to close the gap I was able to get a unit of elite beserkers through and they chopped their way through the mounted hearthguard and then made short work of Theoden himself. Meat was back on the menu that night!

All-in-all it was terrific fun and I can see myself painting some of the half-finished miniatures lurking in the depths of my garage (assuming that I can find them again) with the intent of playing this every now and then. I also probably pick up a set of rules at some stage too.
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2. Board Game: Lords of Scotland [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1415]
Christian B.
Denmark
Frederiksberg C
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April was, as usual, a great month for new games due to Djengis Con, a cosy con attended by ~50 gamers. I’m getting closer and closer to 1000 rated games incl. expansions; just 42 to go, and that’s after just 4 years!  I didn’t play a lot of great new games in April, but there were a few surprising hits – most of them card games, which is normally not a genre I enjoy! This month I've just listed the games in the order I've played them.

Lords of Scotland. Plays: 8. Rating: 8.


! Now this is a fantastic card game! Your goal is to score 40 point, and you do that by playing several rounds of play, each having exactly 5 turns in which you can either draw a card or play a card with a number ranging from 1-12. Once all 5 rounds are over, the highest score gets to pick one of the face-up scoring cards (which also consists of cards ranging from 1-12 as they’re the same cards). So if my strength is 40, yours is 28 and the last player has a strength of 15, I get to pick one of the cards first. They’re all visible before the round start, so if they’re for instance 12-5-1, you better win that round and claim those 12 points (unless the other players can see that you’re going to win and perhaps decide to swap that 12 with a lower card)! Easy rules and easy to play as you only do one of two things, but it’s a game that is hard to master!

So you might think the higher cards are better, and yes they are if you’re only thinking about the highest score. But there are both advantages and disadvantages to the high and low cards; high cards give you a bigger chance of winning the skirmish and thereby claiming the highest card, but the low cards can be activated ofter for their special abilities and can be used to block the other players in playing their special powers, as only lower cards of the same type which have already been played can have their abilities activated! This is truly genius.

It is a very different game with 2, 3 and 4 players (I haven’t tried it with 5 yet, but I suspect that downtime is going to be an issue and that the game might last for an hour). Especially the rules change from 2-3 and 4 players is a huge change which influences your strategy, because you can activate the power for each clan when playing with 4-5 compared to 2-3, and we have found that the rules for 4-5 players actually work better with 3 too (although 4 is, imo, the best number).

What I like is that each hand is important, and you need to intimidate the other players – and even if you don’t have good cards, you can always play one face down and act as if you have great cards… It’s a big advantage going last in the round as you can play the last card without the other players being able to do anything about it, and it’s especially sneaky if you play the green ”claim two supporters” clan card as your last action and nobody can react; if you’re possessing the biggest strength, you just screwed your opponents, especially the one with the lowest strength as he then won’t get any point cards at all! But be aware that playing a green clan card early on will probably get you targeted; the clan will probably be assassinated or swapped, at least if you’re in the lead. And other players can play green cards preemptively.

The game ends when a player has 40 points, and that might be slightly too many in some games when the scoring cards are of low value. But it does make sense when the cards go to 12 and due to the green cards which lets you claim two supporters instead of just one – again, be aware of the last player playing such a clan card!

All of the special abilities are awesome! None are bad, it just depends on the situation. Most of them are activated immediately upon playing them (well, at least if the number is lower than any of the other playedcards of that clan – if I play a 10, and there is already a 9 on the table of that clan, the power doesn’t activate, but if I play a 6, it does). Some of the more nasty cards include discarding clans (including your own which might be a good idea sometimes) or to swap the clan you play with another player’s clan, which also might be a great idea if it interrupts their bloodlines; because if you only play cards of a single clan, the score of the mare doubled! Another card lets you exchange it with one of the supporter cards (the cards you claim in strength order after 5 turns and which counts as points) – so if you can see that you’re losing, you might as well exchange your low card with that neat 12 in the supporter row – and watch how your opponents become very … let’s call it dissatisfied!

Maybe you think that my rating doesn’t do the game justice, at least according to my praise, but a 8 is one of the best ratings I’ve ever given to a pure card game! It’s honestly one of the better card games I’ve playing in a long, long time. It is filled with strategy and tactics in a tiny box (I know that Z-Man is reprinting it in a bigger box; I hate oversized boxes, but at least the game will be widely available again so you can all enjoy the cleverness of this card game).

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Olympos. Plays: 2. Rating: 7.


I probably like the idea of Olympos more than the game itself. It is a short civ-game with very simple rules; you basically move a guy on the board, thereby securing an area with a resource, or you use some of those resources you have claimed to develop technologies which grant you various abilities. It plays in about an hour, and military isn’t a ”OP strategy” as it is in other civ games… Because basically the attacker always win and conquers the area; the cost of doing so just varies depending on the number of military symbols you own. Still, in my second game we realized that it can be very difficult to come back and win if you get attacked and lose a lot of areas… Because then you will have very few resources left and it will take a couple of rounds to recover, so in that sense I’m afraid I don’t like the way military is handled in this game.

However, there are also a couple of good things to be said about this game. First of all I like the various strategies which stem from the differente techs. For instance you can buy a tech which lets you move cheaper across sea, which means that you’re likely to pursue a strategy where you’re heading for Atlantis to get star tokens and maybe build some wonders. A lot of swords means that you’re likely to attack the other players a lot and benefit by them losing the resources. Or you might get a lot of Zeus symbols in order to take advantage of the Zeus cards. There are also techs that give you bonus points for e.g. the number of swords, the number of tokens, the number of tech tiles etc, so there are many paths to victory! The setup of the tech tiles is random each time, which is genius as there is no “best” pattern to pursue!

Another cool feature is the way the turns are resolved; you don’t just take an action in a clockwise direction, no, you take an action, and that action costs a number of action points. You move your marker that many spaces ahead, and then the last player is always the one to take the next action! This means that you can take a huge turn or develop a tech etc., but that means that it won’t be your turn for a while as the other players might take some less expensive actions. The timing of this is critical due to the Olympos/Zeus cards, which was something I enjoyed quite a bit!

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Trias. Plays: 2. Rating: 4.


This is a unique little area majority tile laying game. I’m usually a fan of these mechanics, but in this game I think the game is less than the sum of its parts. It lacks that “something” which makes a game grab my attention, and I was not intrigued by the simple gameplay; you play a terrain card (3 different terrain types), move that tile and then have 4 action points which you can spend on a couple of things, as in Tikal, which is also a game I’m not really fond of.
It is actually a quite simple game to play as the actions themselves are straightforward, but there are lots of little rules you need to remember, and as the game progresses it becomes harder to see if a play is legal (as you must move a tile further away from the center piece – and why did they not include a mat or something that you could place the hexagons on? It could really use one). The rules can be slightly confusing.

It is a very mean game in which you are constantly removing tiles from under other players’ dinosaurs (although you must be present on that continent to do so, so you cannot just wildly attack and hurt the other players). In my couple of plays we all played in a mean way, and that’s how I think the game should be played – and is almost the only way to do so if you want to win.
Speaking of winning, I hated how important the last couple of turns are! You can make a huge mess and split a continent or connect one, and this can have a huge impact on the game, as, when the meteor card is drawn, you cannot move any tiles, so you’re stuck with how the world is at that time…

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AquaSphere. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.5.


Meh, yet a Stefan Feld game I’m a little underwhelmed by… I guess I just have to realize that many of his games just aren’t my cup of tea; I like Trajan and Bora Bora a lot and absolutely love Castles of Burgundy, but I’m a bit indifferent towards almost all of his other games. And I have played enough mediocre games! This isn’t a bad game, but there is nothing particularly fancy about it either. It’s a bit boring and repetitive, and that’s after just 3 plays…

There are lots of neat ideas, and I must admit that I’m sitting and pondering what to do as the optimum choice isn’t obvious, well, because there isn’t any. The actual gameplay is extremely easy as there is basically only two things you can do, but it’s when you do it and how you do it that determines who is going to win. Strategic planning, foresight and timing are all crucial elements in this game!
I like the board next to the main board where your engineer is placed and you need to think ahead – you’re basically planning your whole turn, and this game only consists of 4 turns yet takes 90 minutes to play! So in that regard it’s a bit like Trajan as you need to think far ahead, otherwise you’re not going to do well. I also like the idea of the cards – but hate how it is executed… It is tough to make the best possible use of the abilities. There are lots of cards which ensure variety, but it takes too long to get them, you can only have a couple of them, and their benefits aren’t going to be used a lot… And that is kind of sad now that there are so many different cards.
I have tried it with 2 and 3 – with 2, the game is quite boring, especially the small area majority scoring. 3 was better, and I would probably hesitate to try it with 4 as it is going to be very chaotic and downtime can be an issue. Once again Feld disappoints me – not because it’s a bad game, because it isn’t, but I want his games to be better than they actually are…

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Colossal Arena. Plays: 3. Rating: 7.


I was, surprisingly, positively surprised by this game – which is a bit unusual for me as it’s rare a cardgame really grabs my attention. But this is actually a very good little card game which features elements of bluff and betting.
Winning scores aren’t big, so it’s almost crucial that your secret bet is scored; you get more points for that, and you can count the rest of people’s points, so you’re trying to eliminate those points – but you are never really sure which creature the other players have backed, so there is some “surprise” at the end of the game.

Now, speaking of this secret bet… It is a great feature of the game, although slightly random at the beginning of the game, and you can be a little unlucky to have your creature slained, but mostly you can keep your creature alive by skillful play. But you can also be out of the game for good if you put all your eggs in one basket (i.e. place a secret bet and a high bet on the same creature), and I don’t think I like this as it will probably either win you the game by a lot, or you will have no chance of recovering if it gets slain. In my third play I actually had to make a decision about which creature to kill; I had a much better than 50-50 chance of winning (not going to explain the math here), but chose wrong by pure chance and lost narrowly – that kind of sucks.

Sure there is luck of the draw – I honestly feel that I won my second game because I drew some awesome cards (both the 0 and 10 spectator cards, which can have a big impact on a given round) and a lot of highly numbered cards for my “own” creatures… And speaking of the creatures, I looove the fact that there are 12 different creatures with vastly different powers – but in each game only 8 are actually in play! This gives the game great variety. I think some of the creatures’ powers are better than others, but I don’t mind. Oh, and I actually like the retheme - I think this theme works well.

The game plays quickly over 5 rounds, and it gives me a very tense feeling as I’m trying to keep my bets (both the public known and the secret one) alive! It works great with 3 and is probably going to be my favorite number of players as you have a lot of control over the state of the game.

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Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. Plays: 5. Rating: 5.


This is a social deduction/bluffing game that has flown under the radar, but I think you should take a look at it if you enjoy games like The Resistance and Concept as it’s sort of a mix between those games. You’re investigators who need to find out which of you is actually the killer. One player, the forensic chemist, knows who that is and tries to give clues to the other players who it is. Each player has four “means” card as well as four “clue” cards in front of them, for instance a cell phone, a rose, some rope, perfume etc., and while the other players close their eyes, the murderer selects two of these and shows to the FC, who will then have to try to give clues about these two objects. But the tricky part is the way this is handled… Because the FC draws a couple of placards with 6 words on them, for instance “summer/winter/autumn/spring/day/night” or “pieces/clefts/ashes/water stain/disorderly/tidy” (there are a ton of cards and they vary a lot). So if the murderer chose drowning and a rose, it is not that hard to point to summer and water stain – but another person might be sitting with cards which can also be directly related to those clues, making it not too obvious.

Also, you can get royally screwed by these placards as it is almost impossible to extract any meaningful clues out of some of them. If the murderer chose lipstick, and you get a card with the seasons, it’s not going to be easy… And of course the murderer will have to try and shift attention away from himself and try to convince that it must be THAT player instead of him… Still, every player needs to be very aware of the order in which the FC places his clues; what he feels is the best is placed first, so the last or second last clue might not mean a lot.
When you draw placards randomly and play with a lot of players, it’s actually quite hard to win because there are so many possibilities. And even if you’re fairly sure who the murderer is, each person still only has one shot to uncover the murderer and you need to guess both the means and the clue card!

In my opinion it’s not as good as Resistance/ONUW/many other social bluffing/deduction games, but I do like the mix of those games and Concept (as the Forensic Chemist, which is a great role by the way, tries to give clues and hints only by placing pawns on the placards, but not by saying or doing anything else). My family enjoyed it a lot! I’ve tried it with 4-6 players, and personally I like it better with fewer players as it’s easier, but there are rules for adjusting the difficulty. Also, there are additional roles (some of them which reminds me of Avalon) if you’re playing with 6+ players, and I could see it being an interesting experience with 9-10 players. Oh, and the game takes like 20 minutes to play, which is a huge plus in my book for this kind of game!

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Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.


This is a small game that is easy to learn and probably best suited for kids – although I can definitely see that the decision-making isn’t always too obvious, and there is room for clever play. However, I must say that the game fell flat. It felt a little random that I won as I actually only got two of the cards for my secret bet, the wolf! So normally I wouldn’t stand a chance, but the other players played some wolf cards too (one of them due to a bet), so I got pretty lucky… J do like the special abilities of the creatures; that the turtle always moves, but slowly, the hare is always moving fast unless he’s ahead in which case he won’t move. The sheep has some neat abilities too. But I never really got into the game. Would play it again once more just because it’s so easy and fast, but it’s not particularly interesting.

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Murano. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.


Meh… I liked the gondola mechanic, but I didn’t like the whole luck of the draw of the cards. Some are ridiculously more powerful than others. And I hated that you don’t have ANY clue whatsoever who is in the lead, and the winner honestly feels a bit random…So this game is a huge let down for me, and I suspect my rating will decrease once I’ve played it one more time (if I am ever going to)…

It sucks so much that you can unintentionally block and be blocked just by random chance – and this is why the winner feels very random… Sure, if you’re not playing smart you probably aren’t going to win, but if every player plays even moderately well, I honestly feel like the winner is determined randomly! Let me support my opinion by saying that in my first play, one player lost 24 points in the last round (!) simply because other players built a building… So he was doing well for a long time, but in the last round everything shattered due to bad luck, and it was impossible for him to react (and no, it wasn’t me)… Also, it’s totally impossible to block the other players as you have absolutely no idea which missions/secret objectives they have; normally I’m a big fan of secret objectives, but when it’s almost the only way you score points, and it can be so swingy, I hate it… We had something like 4-12 points before the endgame scoring, but ended up scoring ~50-70 points! Yes, for real… So you have no way of knowing who is in the lead, and it’s almost impossible to block the other players intentionally…

What I did like was the stressful nature of the game where you can see that you have currently fulfilled your objective, but this can change with a single action (as in I like the stress, not the outcome). It’s also stressful that you have to hurry placing your gondoliers so you can fulfil your secret objectives –if you’re too late, you can get screwed, but at least that’s your own fault.
I wanted to like this game, but unfortunately I don’t.

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Murano: Promo Cards. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.


The promo is actually useful and not just another promo which imbalances the game… Here, you can actually use the abilities of the new cards; a chunk of instant VP, for instance, is handy when it comes to activating the glass tokens space. The two other promo cards are Extra income and being able to build cheaper buildings, which are also very useful cards, although mostly in the beginning.

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ZhanGuo. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.


Once again WMG introduces a heavy brainburning euro – which is normally a genre that is right up my alley, but WMG’s games tend to disappoint me slightly. They are all solid games, but nothing spectacular, and I’m afraid I feel the same way about ZhanGuo, at least after one play.
Now, the game is heavy and there’s a lot to think about, but the rules are fairly simple most of the times, although there are a few areas where I found the rules to be somewhat convoluted. The gameplay is quite simple – you play a card in one of two ways (add it to your own tableau or discard it and take an action, which is boosted by the cards in your tableau).

Usually I'm not a big fan of card tableau building, so that might explain why I wasn’t thrilled about ZhanGuo, but another part of it might be due to the fact that I feel some of the cards are significantly better than others. The hammer is arguably the best action as you need hammers to build palaces and walls which are some of the most important things at all - so if you’re not getting any cards with hammers on them, meaning that you cannot build them in your tableau, you’re going to have a bad time… Because you need to be efficient, and getting extra hammers when taking the strong hammer action is crucial (remember that it’s my experience after just a single play).

I also like the randomization of the setup, meaning that the order and especially where you build palaces/walls change, and it is extremely crucial to think carefully about what to do, when to do it and where to do it. Timing is essential.
You can make some cool combos with the right cards, and there are a lot to think about! So my rating might be low, but that was partly due to the fact that I didn’t feel there was much I could do… Perhaps it will change with future plays, but I don’t think I will rate this game higher than 7.

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Dragon's Gold. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.5.


This is a surprisingly enjoyable ”party”/negotiation game, at least if you play it with the right crowd like I did – I’m well aware that this game can flop if playing with some family members and such. Cunning and brutal negotiations IS the heart of this game; if you cannot barter, dicker about the loot, you have no chance of winning…

The game is extremely simple; you play a card with a value from 1-4 (you all have one of each), and once the total number of cards played equal the dragon’s strength, the dragon is slayed and those involve share the look, i.e. they have 30 seconds to discuss how to split the various gems which you get for killing the dragon (some are shown before the dragon is slayed while some gems are only revealed afterwards).

I like the abilities of the wizard and the thief; they have a low strength, meaning that you arguably won’t have a lot to say once the loot is going to be split, but you can get a powerful card that changes the rules if you have played the wizard, and you can steal a gem from another player if you have played a thief. This means that you don’t want to be in the lead too early or your opponents will steal from you!

My first game ended with a big victory primarily based on a lot of sets and “most of type X” points , but there are various other strategies to pursue; going for gold (and to a lesser degree silver), going for a lot of sets and obviously the black gem which is a strategy I’m looking forward to pursue!

One thing I don’t like is the fact that somebody can tank the negotiation and simply state that they won’t accept any offer, which means there won’t be a deal… I know this is totally legitimate, but I personally prefer the negotiation and tension of trying to end the deal before the timer runs out.
A good little game – although I certainly wouldn’t play it all the time.

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Det dårlige selskab. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.


This is the Danish version of Cards Against Humanity. My rating reflects my feelings about this game; I ”could be talked into it on occassion” because it really depends on the situation and which players I’m going to play with! It can be very entertaining if playing with close friends while drinking, and this actually surprised me as I would probably normally not laugh much about these cards/situations. But I must admit that some of the cards are hilarious if put in the right contest, while others unfortunately give me that “meh” feeling. So, again, this can be a good game to play under the right circumstances with the right crowd.

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Skull. Plays: 2. Rating: 5.


This game feels a bit like one of the classic “beer & pretzels” bluffing game as you need to take an educated guess on how many coasters you can flip over without revealing a skull. Eeach player has 3 roses and 1 skull, and each round they put one face down until somebody claims they can flip over X number of coasters, and the next player can then overbid until there is one person left. As you need to turn your own coasters over first, you don’t want to put any skulls if you do win the bid, but it is certainly valid to sit back and act like you’re thinking hard, then make a bid, and then hope that another player overbids you, which he probably will as he “knows” that at least your coasters are all roses as you made a bid…

So, while some claim that this game is pure luck, I don’t think that does the game justice. I think it’s more about bluffing, reading other players’ body languages and taking calculated risks.
Considering how much people laughed, my rating is probably a little low, but that is because I don’t think that there’s much to the game, and there are other shorter games I would rather play. Also, I didn’t like that the winner honestly feels a little random, and that, when you lose a round because you couldn’t find the number of roses you claimed, you discard a coaster randomly – and if it is your skull, you’re going to have a hard time bluffing and manipulating the game going forward.

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Viticulture. Plays: 1. Rating: 7.


My current comment is for Viticulture including the Tuscany expansion, as that’s the only way I’ve played it so far – but from what I can read and have been told, it’s a much better game with the expansion. I cannot imagine playing the non-expansion rules about that big worker! Although I think that some of the add-ons are a bit silly such as the map with area majority and stars; it seemed a little weird and more like an afterthought…

The game itself isn’t novel and the worker placement mechanism isn’t carried out in a way I’m particularly fond of; I think the flow of the game is a little weird as lots of specific action spaces are extremely popular at the start of the game, but rather useless at the end… This is not something you see in great WP games like Agricola or Caylus I think, and that’s definitely a huge minus in my book. I do think the expansion helps with more varied and interesting action spaces, and I also like the small mini expansions such as, for instance, the mama and papas which makes you start with slightly different cards.

I didn’t like the fact that you have a lot of points in the end and cannot use them for anything unless you have been lucky and drawn the right card where you can pay money for a few VPs. And speaking of cards; I hate when a game clearly has under/overpowered cards… I mean come on, some of the cards do almost the same, but some are clearly better than others! Also, you can get really unlucky with the vine cards; I drew a lot of red whine, but all I produced were white wine – and this surely detracts from my gaming experience, because if I had gotten just an average amount of white wine cards I would have done much better…

I have only played it once and with 5 players, and I would love to try it with 2-3. But with fewer players the tension of the turn order track (which can be crucial in the last round!) is probably going to vanish, at least somewhat. Now, you cannot really know when the last round is going to be, as the game ends once a player has reached 25 points. At the start of the game it seems like it’s going to take forever, but suddenly you get 5-8 points in a single turn and then the game is rapidly coming to an end! And I must give credit to the game that with very different strategies, all players were actually within 5 points of each other…!

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Fief: France 1429. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.


I must confess that I like the idea about this type of game (heavy “epic” negotiation game) more than I actually like the game itself… And I even played it with the full number of players, and the players were even the best you could think of for a game like this (backstabbing, trash-talking etc. kind of guys)!

Games like this always, unfortunately, fall flat for me. I want them to be epic and a lot of fun, but it boils down to a “meh” experience which takes 5 hours… The idea of marrying into each other’s families, the pope mechanism where you have to ask favors etc. are some of the good mechanics in this game, and I also like that the bishoprics and the fiefs overlap which means that you’re going to have to fight, negotiate and really think about how you are going to conquer the various cities. There are several interests at stake!

However, the actual gameplay is somewhat boring with boring battles (and a lot of units killed in each battle), random event cards (although I don’t think that they’re as crippling as some reviews state) and a somewhat boring game end once a player (or an alliance of players) are close to reaching the required 3 (4) VPs… I think the game can really drag by then as players are obviously trying to ensure that other players don’t win, and it means that the game can be somewhat slow-going near the end, and turtling isn’t uncommon.

Furthermore, in my first playthrough, one player practically got eliminated during the FIRST round of play… He only had a couple of troops left and honestly couldn’t do anything, and I cannot see how that would change going forward. If you cannot do anything, 5 hours is a long time to wait… But I admire him as he didn’t whine about it at all – I know I and almost everybody else would!

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Historia. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.


Meh, this game is spreadsheet-like, and the matrix honestly isn’t interesting. It doesn’t feel like a civilization game at all, and it’s way too repetitive and long even with just 4 players (I would never ever play it with 6!) The hand management aspect is okay; it’s not something I generally enjoy, and the actions honestly felt lackluster – and you didn’t feel any joy once you had developed the tech so you could get a slightly modified and better action than you otherwise would.

The military track seemed stronger than the science track, which is something I hate in Through the Ages too… And some of the wonders seemed much better than others and suited for specific strategies, so you better be early in turn order to ensure you can snag up the wonders you need as there will be fierce competition for those. So it can actually pay off to be a little behind in most of the game, just like it can with PG (not saying you should be last or anything, but if you’re leading by a few points throughout the first part of the game, I don’t think you’re going to win). The leaders are important too, sure, but the scoring of the areas you control on the map is too, and this is utilized by a military strategy.

All in all I was very underwhelmed by Historia. It’s repetitive and frankly downright boring…

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More or Less. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.5.

This is a somewhat different take on a trivia game. You need to be closest to the correct answer (which is always numerical), but only answers that are MORE or LESS – which is determined by the reader after the question has been read – than the answer is accepted. This means that you don’t win a question in which you answer 87, if the correct answer is 88 and the “more” option was chosen – then the closest bid above 88 is the winner.

Some of the questions are literally impossible to answer correctly, such as “how many km of railroad exist in Finland”, while you are likely to be able to take an educated guess on many of the other questions (i.e. how old was Hitler when his father died, how many percentage of water does a blackberry consist of etc.)

So all in all it’s a weird little trivia game in which it sometimes isn’t enough to almost know the answer when the button is showing either more or less… Still, if you have an approximate knowledge of many things, you should be able to do well in this game.

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PitchCar. Plays: 3. Rating: 6.


This is actually surprisingly fun/tense, although I’ve so far only played it with 3, and I’m sure that ”the more the merrier” is a term that suits this game. Still, it was a decent game with 3 and I enjoyed it for what it is.
Sure there is some luck whether or not your car hits a little bump on the road and thereby flips over and you therefore have to start over, but basically this is still a game of dexterity skills and the better player will often win.

The game design and concept is smart and innovative, but the basis game is slightly dry/boring; I suspect that the game would be much better and more fun with the expansions which include what sounds like awesome stuff, just take a look at the expansions here on BGG. However, this is going to be a hindrance to the game because the game is VERY expensive, and the expansions are too. Secondly the game takes up a LOT of space, especially if you’re going to add the expansions. So it’s not a game I’m going to buy although it seems like a funny game for up to 8 players, but I would gladly play it again a couple of times as it’s very easy to teach and plays in about 10 minutes (with 3)!

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Loony Quest. Plays: 13. Rating: 7.



This game is just plain fun! Well, “game” is perhaps not an accurate description as it’s more like an activity. Basically you need to draw a line (or rings or dots depending on the level) and try to do fit it as perfectly as possible so it fits the current level. I.e. you’re taking a look at a picture where you can see where you need to draw; you get bonuses for connecting coins and you lose points if you draw a line onto any of the negative spots of that particular level. But the trick is that you can see the level, but you have to draw it on your own transparent sheet of plastic, and once the 30 seconds is over, you put your sheet over the original picture and see how well it fits!

But you don’t just get some points and lose some points, no, you can also try to strike some of the lightning symbols which gives you extra powers, such as extra VPs, a shielf of protection or the extremely annoying mosquito/bird which you can pass on to one of your opponents (presumably the one who is in the lead – which kind of sucks when you’re doing well that your opponents puts a target on your back, but I guess I understand why…) And at the same time you also have to be aware of not hitting a bomb, which will give you a huge handicap in the next round! The handicaps include switching hands so you draw with your left hand (or right if you’re a leftie!), draw with a stretched arm, holding the pencil with just your thumb and your pinkie etc.! This makes the game much funnier than it would otherwise be!

It is truly great fun, and some of the levels are extremely tough, which makes this game pretty challenging! There are 7 “worlds”, almost all with 6 levels each, and as 1 world = 1 play, you rapidly amasses a lot of playthroughs of this game. And I do fear that it won't be as great in 20 plays, but 20 plays is a lot in my book.

Now, it’s very much a game of skills – you need to have this sort of spatial intelligence which some people simply don’t. However, you can always handicap the better players by giving them some “bombs”, and this is always something I’m fond of in lighter skill games with players of different skill levels. I must say, however, that there is also some luck involved; I’ve seen players losing by like 1 mm (yes I know some will claim this is just lack of skills, but I’d say it’s pretty damn lucky/unlucky whether you hit that wall/target/bomb etc. or not if it comes down to 1 mm!)

Oh, one thing I didn’t like is the fact that the rules state you cannot have the same number of points… Why is that?! In one of my plays a player gained 3 free points (as you jump ahead onto the next free point space) – how is that fair, and what is the point of this?! Except for that I find the gameplay to be very good, and I’ve had a good time with everybody I’ve played with so far – wife, friends, family, and I’ve played with all the player counts from 2 to 5, and each works well (as there isn’t much player interaction anyway).

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The Red Dragon Inn. Plays: 1. Rating: 3.


This game is very chaotic and random, but not any fun… I could see it being fun with a bunch of Munchkin lovers, but personally I hate Munchkin and don’t find it funny, so I guess it was doomed from the beginning.
Also, it is very random and if the other players target you, there’s nothing you can do (I died right after taking my second (!) action of the game…) Also, one of the players needed to take 7 damage (which is a LOT in this game), but he had a card which let him GAIN 7 hp instead, almost winning him the game. That’s some weird stuff right there if you ask me!). I know it’s a lightweight game and all that, but it just didn’t grab me.

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Sylla. Plays: 1. Rating: 5.


Meh, this felt like just another average euro – not a good thing. There are so many excellent eurogames out there, but this one felt a little dated without many interesting decisions. Sure, it has some unique features such as the bidding in the first round where you’re using your cards, and as you also want these cards in later rounds as they also provide income/votes/other stuff, you need to balance your resources.
Famine increased drastically at the beginning of the game, and that seemed a little weird; it meant that if you didn’t buy any farms and solely focused on collecting chits, you could hit 0 points pretty quickly and then go all in on chits which can yield a massive amount of points at the end of the game! What is positive is that it seems that there are various strategies.

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The Resistance: Hidden Agenda. Plays: 1. Rating: 6.


I haven’t played with all of the modules, just two of them; the assassin module, which is just like Avalon (Merlin, Mordred) and the defector module. The defector module adds an interesting twist on the game as one member of the resistance and one spy can change allegiance during the game! I personally think it helps the spies a little bit, but further plays will tell. The trapper module also seems very interesting and I cannot wait to try that out! I will update my comment once I have a few more plays under my belt.

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GOSU. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.


This is actually a decent game, at least I find it better than most other ”take that”/”combat” card games. I’ve only tried it with 2, but that is by far the best number according to BGG, and I can see why.
The game is actually quite simple, but does a splendid job of complicating the rules due to the way the rulebook is structured and explained (by a first person goblin character…) You play until somebody has 3 VP and then that person wins. You mainly get a VP from winning the battle that takes place each round; once everybody has passed (although there are a few other cards that let you get a VP in some other way, but don’t count on that) you total the number of strength of each player; highest wins. On your turn you can either play a goblin, mutate a goblin, activate a special ability of a goblin or draw some cards – but turns go by very quickly, and I like that you rarely get to draw new cards, so hand management becomes crucial.

I like the 5 different factions which feel very unique, but the trapper-faction seems, at least to me, much cooler and has better (meaner!) abilities than the rest. The fire faction also has some mean abilities, but even the non-mean abilities of the other factions can be very important. However, due to the mechanics of the game, you are probably focusing on 2-3 factions as it’s expensive to go for more. But then you can always mutate a few cards and change your setup (and you do want to mutate some of your cards as a lot of the cards only have a special ability once they enter the game and not an ongoing ability).
The game feels somewhat tense as you never know what your opponent is going to do; which goblin he fields can have an impact on your choice as well.

My first couple of games went off in very different directions; the first game took 45 minutes (granted it was a learning game) and ended 3-3, while the second took 10-15 minutes and ended 3-0… And in this second game my opponent never really stood a chance as he didn’t draw a lot of cards of the same faction, and he drew a lot of level 3 goblins and almost no level 2, so, yes, there is definitely some luck of the draw which can be game-deciding (I also don’t like that you can get lucky and draw a lot of level 3 cards that fits your strategy perfectly), but it is most likely a rare occasion.
A solid game that I can see myself playing from time to time if it really does only take 20 minutes with 2, but if I’m looking for a combat oriented card game I would still rather play Summoner Wars even if that takes twice as long.

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Mr. Jack Pocket. Plays: 2. Rating: 6.


This is actually quite a bit like regular Mr. Jack and not even particularly quicker. Still, I think it was quite pleasant and maybe even slightly better than the original as this is more streamlined, but maintains the core rules. It is a tiny and portable game for sure, but the age of 14+ is probably accurate as there is a LOT to think about (not that there is any deduction involved) even though the rules are extremely simple. But the fact that you can turn around the tiles, and the fact that you go player A then B then B then A in the first round and then switch for the second makes it one of the worst offenders of introducing AP! I normally don’t suffer from AP, but this game almost encourages it… Especially as the four actions are flipped from the first to the second round, so you also know exactly which actions are available the next round, so you really need to think ahead…

I like the very different and odd/fun way of “selecting” the actions for the rounds; you simply toss the disks up in the air, and then the face-up sides are activated this round, and the other sides get activated during the next! It’s not a long game, 25 minutes or so, but you feel like you’re thinking a lot! What I really liked about the game, though, was the tension – you always feel that you cannot do what you want, and that the other player is going to win the next round! So it’s extremely tense, and both of my plays have been very close (I love assymetric winning conditions, and both sides have won). Definitely a game I’m intrigued by, although it won’t get played 10+ times as there are better 2p games out there.

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Orléans. Plays: 2. Rating: 8.
 


This game is very, very good! I had heard a lot of my friends praise this game, so my expectations were high – and yet they were fulfilled! So far I have only tried it a couple of times, both with 4 players, and I would love to try it with 2 and 3 as well. This is a bag building eurogame with a boring theme (not that I mind) and a few ways to score points - I honestly wouldn’t call it a point salad game as some people do as you only score points for money and goods and buildings at the end of the game… There aren’t a whole lot of different actions, but due to the plethora of buildings you can try different strategies each time (although there are only a few ways to score points, there are still a handful of different strategies).

Of course there is luck – you draw chits randomly from a bag, and I have witnessed several bad draws, but generally it didn’t seem to be that critical, although it sucks so much when you just don’t get the guy you need... What was critical, however, was how you could lose an early guy to a plague at random… This gave the players who didn’t get hurt a huge advantage as you basically wasted your entire first turn when you claimed the guy in the first place! That is an unnecessary dose of luck that I don’t like. Also, unlike other deck and bag building games, you might not be able to cycle through you “deck”, so you might not ever see a particular chit, which can hurt you a lot… Sure, you can send some chits away so that you “clean” your bag a bit and cycle through your bag faster, but I’m still not sure I like this.

What I did like was the ease of learning and small amount of interaction - although to be fair there is probably more than I give credit for. Because you really need to watch out where the other players are going on the map so you don’t get stuck as building guildhalls is a huge source of points! It also matters a lot when sending your workers away to the common board as you can get a great reward if your timing is right (in both of my plays I actually timed it great as I could close one of the areas and therefore claim the citizen token, but I just didn’t draw the token I needed and had several of…)

I am very impressed with this game and think that it’s a great, light/medium weight euro! If only it wasn’t so expensive I would probably buy it, and I might end up doing so anyway as I think my wife will enjoy it a lot as you’re mostly minding your own business, although you do need to watch out for the different tracks and where the other players build guildhalls. I highly recommend this game!

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The Dutch Golden Age. Plays: 1. Rating: 4.5.


This is a rather quick game with a wonky flow. At the start of the game you’re struggling to gain money, but once you get a couple of cards for income you suddenly take off. This means that, in the beginning, the luck of the dice roll (yes, this game features a “roll and move” mechanic, really!) can be quite substantial, but at least in our game it didn’t translate into a victory, which is great to see. Later in the game the luck comes from the card drawing, and this can be a substantial advantage – I won because I drew some great colonies that matched, and we found that the spice track is probably too strong (I got 4 markers for 21 points). You win by being first to get 33 points, and the end does come before you think; you can easily get 10+ points on a turn near the end.

Because of the way the ways of taking action works, i.e. the fact that you can only take an action which you have a marker on the corresponding colored region, I think that you can fall behind and have a hard time catching up; if you don’t get some blue provinces so you can sail to the West/East Indies and score a lot of points, or if you don’t get access to brown regions which give you points for paintings (although at a slow rate), I cannot see how you’re going to win… Sure, this is mitigated by the guild track where you can take control each turn (if you have enough money), but I don’t think it’s going to be enough.

So, the game ends sooner than you might think, and if you draw horrible (one of the players drew 5 ship cards, but not the required 3 different cards, ouch) the game can be over… But at least it’s not a long game, and while there is luck of the dice and cards, you can still make a strategy, and in my first game, 3 of the players had 27+ points, so it’s not totally imbalanced. I also liked the auction mechanic, which could sometimes pay off if you were in need of money and just needed a couple of bucks for a crucial action, while other times it was better to simply skip the action. I am definitely willing to try it again, but if the blue track is this strong again (as it gives a lot of points and leads to the orange cards, which are basically more powerful yellow income cards), I’m going to drop my rating significantly.
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3. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:21]
Wes Baker
United States
Fredericksburg
Virginia
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Concordia, 1 play
8/10

The guys on The Secret Cabal had a lot of great things to say about Concordia. A lot. Jumping out of their pants a lot. I love their podcast, but I also know that they can get really excited about new games and they all have a lot of “favorites”. Yet, their review of Concordia drew me buying it, closing out yet another CoolStuffInc order.

Cut forward to TableTop Day and a lot of my friends were requesting this one which I had described as “literally trading in the Mediterranean”. Somehow I managed to wrangle up four other players who thought that sounded good. Well, I have to agree with The Secret Cabal that it is a good game. Like other Mac Gerdts games it has short turns with simple actions which should decrease the amount of analysis paralysis. It has a variable setup and a double sided board (along with another double-sided expansion board) to give you some variability.

Then there’s what makes the game different from Mac Gerdts’s other games: the card play. Instead of using a rondel for action selection like Mac’s other games, you have a hand of cards all with different actions on them: move and build, produce resources in a province, buy new cards, trade goods with the bank, and a reset that allows you to pick up all of your cards. Moving from a rondel to the cards does slow things down a bit, especially when you have a hand full of juicy cards. Yet, as you play you start to understand exactly what it is you’re trying to do and there’s not going to be much that other players can do to stop you from your plans (with the exception of producing goods in the province you were about to use or buying that card you wanted).

I overall really liked this game, the trading works well, the building of a network is fun to watch as it expands across the map, more colonists mean you can expand faster and further, and specialization and diversification are both valid strategies.

My only concern with this game is play time and I’ve only played the game at it’s fullest player count. With five people I think it took us two and a half hours which is about an hour longer than I want it to be. I’ll have to try the game with fewer people and see if I like it nearly as much at the lower player counts.

Battle Line, 3 plays
8/10

I gave this game the short shrift before because I had only played it on iOS. There's a tiny rule change there that reduces your hand size for the basic/beginner game that really reduces your flexibility and doesn't change an awful lot, so if you're trying it out on iOS, go straight to the advanced game.

Here are the basics if you haven’t played before: you have nine flags that represent lanes or columns of troops. You have a hand of seven cards. There are sixty cards of six colors/suits that are numbered 1 to 10. You’re attempting to build three card combinations that resemble poker hands: suited straights, three-of-a-kinds, straights, flushes, then “hosts” which is just a sum. At the end of your turn (or beginning if you’re playing the advanced rules) you can claim one flag. The first person to claim three adjacent flags or five non-adjacent flags wins.

This feels like a superior version of Lost Cities, a game my wife and I used to play a good bit, but I’m not sure why that is. It’s still a game of numbers, but Battle Line feels like it somewhat mimics the feel of a battle. You need to be careful about overcommitting and misinterpreting your opponent’s actions.

If there’s any cons about the game is that it is ultimately a deck of cards and some pawns. There’s not much here, but frankly the rules get out of the way of the game and it’s just more portable for being what it is. If this was Kickstarted today you could expect plastic molded flags, a playmat, and foil cards with full-bleed art.

Definitely worth the purchase.

Beasty Bar, 1 play
7/10

Beasty Bar came recommended from the folks over at Fortress Ameritrash as a nice little filler with some take-that action in it and I can say it delivers.

The basic premise if you have animals and you want to get them into a nightclub. Each animal will manipulate the line in their own way. Once there are five animals, the two in front get in and the one all the way at the end gets kicked out. You’ll end up playing all twelve of your cards, though the last few cards may not matter.

This game reminds me quite a bit of Guillotine in that it’s about manipulating a line of cards. However, you’re creating the line, and the cards used to create the line also manipulate it (instead of cards that only manipulate the line). I think it’s a bit better than Guillotine and would probably bring this out more often.

If I have any cons is that you probably shouldn’t play this game with people who are easily offended by someone taking an action that hurts your position. I also feel like there’s a good bit of luck here depending on the cards that you draw and your position, but you should be able to mitigate this luck.

Hyperborea, 1 play
7/10

I'm not entirely sure what to think of Hyperborea yet. It's got a lot of great elements to it: a hexagonal tile map, dudes to put on said map, cards that give you additional abilities, asymmetric player powers, and the bag-building mechanism that feels superior to deck-building in almost every way. I enjoy the tiny bit of aggression the game has along with the general feeling of progression and the waste that comes along with it. I quite enjoy the card and player artwork, I think that was done very nicely.

However, the game feels a bit bland and the artwork on the map tiles feels muddy and plain. You can occasionally have a turn where you draw cubes that don't let you do anything, but this can be mostly mitigated by making sure you have the right cubes in your bag.

Overall I'm left with the feeling that I need to play this again in order to fully flesh out my opinion on it, but I do want to play it again, so that's a start.

XenoShyft Onslaught, 2 plays
5/10

I was a late Kickstarter backer for XenoShyft and had been following it along from time to time eagerly awaiting its arrival, but Cool Mini or Not doesn’t quite have the kinks worked out of the late backer system yet. While everyone who backed on Kickstarter is getting email updates you’re mostly in the dark. Imagine my surprise when I went to look at the page randomly one day and see it has shipped for a good number of people. I take a look at the pledge manager and see that I need to pay for shipping. I don’t care too much about the cost, but let a guy know, right?

Well, it shows up and I sleeve all of the cards because it’s a deckbuilder and these cards don’t look great, and I’m already thinking of selling it. I setup my first play and start in on it. I draw my six cards and look eagerly at my currency cards and my troops. I buy some more troops and a gun and lay it all down and manage to get through the first wave with no base damage. Then the second wave with no base damage either. Then the third, the fourth, the fifth, etc. The only time the base took damage was the ninth round and it just felt too easy. I posted on the BoardGameGeek forums asking if it was always this easy and everyone said no, it’s typically not. Then I wrangle my wife into trying it out, she looks at the cards and gives it the old college try while trying to suppress her I’d-rather-not look as best as she can (thanks hon!). We lost in the 7th round. Okay, that’s good my first game was a fluke.

However, sitting there after playing it neither of us were all that interested in giving it another shot. There weren’t a ton of decisions and lot of the game is just comparing numbers on your soldiers to the enemies and then deciding when to use your abilities and remaining cards. Admittedly there is a game here and for some folks, they’ll really love it. For us though, it’s mostly an experience of just comparing numbers and removing cards when the number is big enough or too small.

There are some strengths here: a lot of the stuff you want in other deckbuilders is here! You get one more currency card every single round and they get better as you move on. In later rounds you can scrap the cheaper currencies and upgrade to the better currencies at an even trade (e.g. three 1s turn into one 3, and two 3s turn into one 6). You can turn in weak soldiers to get a discount on later soldiers. If you run out of an item card in the offer, just draw a new one! All of these things feel better and they’re things you wanted, but ultimately it’s not what I needed. What I needed was a game that was more than just comparing numbers and hoping the draw didn’t screw me over.

Thankfully there are other folks who want to play and buy this game, I’ve already sold my copy!
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4. Board Game: Wildcatters [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:1462]
United States
Davis
California
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I played some excellent new-to-me games this month (and a few clunkers). Any of the top three could have been the best of the month.


Wildcatters

(Image credit: henk.rolleman)


A long, handsome, complicated, and very interesting logistics and majorities game, where synergy is king.

The players are four major international oil development companies. Each turn a player selects one card from a face-up array of eight. This card indicates which one of the eight oil producing regions the player can act in (players can also build some infrastructure in non-producing regions).

Players can build drilling rigs, refineries, rail networks, and tanker ships. They can then take "oil actions." These include exploration, building pumps, and shipping oil.

All of these operations are in service of extracting and delivering oil to one of the seven continents. Many of the operations cost money. Others cost shares of your own company's stock. At the end of rounds 5 and 7 (of 7), majorities score VP for most oil delivered to each of the continents, most shares held in each of the four companies, and most money.

There are also important set-collection VP for taking over wildcatter operations and for building a high number of refineries.

Money and shares are very tight, and everything is interconnected in interesting and constraining ways.

Importantly, there are several opportunities to leech off of other player's activities, deriving some benefit (at a cost) during their turn. You'll also often need to sell your oil to other players' refineries, which may help them as much or more than it helps you. But you still need to do it!

With instructions, our first play ran about four hours. I expect a second play with the same group would be the advertised two-hours. That would be a very satisfying time/weight/decision ratio. There's also supposed to be an official two-player variant in the works. I'd like to try that out.

The game reminded me a bit of Brass/Age of Industry (which I love), in three ways: (1) Card play geographically limits where you can act. (2) You need to use other player's infrastructure to conduct your own operations, and pay them for the privilege. (3) There's an interesting logistics puzzle where you must produce goods and then ship them to a market (which has limited capacity).

There were two rough edges that we ran into, which are probably learning-game problems only: (1) Components are limited. This came as a surprise to one player when he built all of his pumps about 3/4 of the way into the game. This left him very hobbled in the concluding turns. Pace yourself! (2) As mentioned, the game depends heavily on inter-player synergy. You need others to be working near your work to do well. If you wind up in a backwater by yourself, you're probably in trouble. Spread out!

A very good game!


I, Spy

(Image credit: tranenturm)


A thematic hidden identity espionage game, with lots of ways to stab at vague shapes in the dark.

This is a hidden goal influence game themed around pre-World War I espionage. Each player is secretly aligned with one of the six European powers. If that nation has the most "power" at game's end, the aligned player wins.

Every card that you play gives "influence" points to one of the countries. There are also actions you can take in locations on the board that give influence to the countries. Every couple of turns there is a scoring round. The influence from the cards players used in the preceding turns is tallied up. Countries can also get influence from face down "politician" tiles assigned to that scoring round. The country with the most influence gets a specified number of "power" points. Second place gets fewer, etc.

The cards are used to move around the board, get money (to buy "asset" special power cards), put "trace" counters on other players, do hurtful things to traced players, and do hurtful things to the country's influence. There's also a system for gaining control over the face down politician tiles. Control lets you peek at them (to see whether they help or hurt your country, or have other special powers that will activate if they are scored). You can also swap two politicians, or discard one and replace it with a fresh face down tile from a draw stack. Politicians can have very large effects during scoring, so this sub-system is pretty important.

On reading the rules, I was pretty sure I would enjoy the game, and I really did. The cat and mouse game of helping your side, but not too much, was deliciously stressful. And the actions on the board felt thematic and fun. One of my friends observed that there was more game to it than he expected, and I think that's right. It's fairly meaty.

It ran longer than I'd hoped, maybe 2.5 hours with rules explanation. It didn't outstay its welcome in terms of my enjoyment, but the length makes it an awkward fit for our Tuesday night sessions.

The production values are good overall. I really liked the art on the cards and production tiles. There are a large number of hand-drawn portraits of various personages of the period. This gives a nice historical feel. The board was functional and ok, but a bit bland and a little too obviously computer drawn.

Overall, I liked the game quite a bit.


At the Gates of Loyang

(Image credit: LanaDove)


Extremely tight efficiency game of growing, trading, and selling vegetables.

I'm very glad to have finally played this. It's an extremely clever, tight, resource conversion and order fulfillment game, themed around being a farmer in China 2000 years ago.

You get fields in which vegetables can be sown (and harvested incrementally in later turns).

Then there's a wonky little card drafting system which ultimately gives each player two cards to play to their tableau.

Then players take turns doing as many actions as they can afford or choose to do, using their cards and harvested vegetables.

The possible actions include:

• Trading one kind of vegetable for another on one of your installed market stall cards.

• Fulfilling an order from a one-off ("casual") customer.

• Fulfilling an order from a repeat ("regular") customer. Regular customers are interesting because they want to buy the same pair of vegetables each turn. If you can't meet that demand on a turn, you pay a penalty.

• Use a "helper" card with a rule-breaking special power, then discard it.

• Buy a vegetable from your dedicated "shop."

• Sell a vegetable to fill an empty spot in your shop.

• Sow a vegetable in a field.

After all players are done with their actions, players decide how many victory points to buy on the sequentially numbered VP track. The first advance bought costs 1 coin, any further advances cost a number of the coins equal to the number of the space on the track. So, if I'm currently on space 4, I can move to space 5 for 1 coin, then move to space 6 for 6 coins, etc. This is enjoyably difficult.

This is an excellent two-player game, with lots of difficult trade-offs and very tight constraints. My wife really enjoys it. Every one of our games has been decided by a single point!

The production values are great as well, with colorful Klemens Franz art and six types of wooden vegemeeples.

Highly recommended.



Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

(Image credit: jsper)


A beautiful two-player war-euro, with a brutal population feeding requirement that can easily leave you in a death spiral.

This is a really handsome production, with interesting mechanisms and lots of historical theme.

It's two player only, Athens against Sparta. Players build land armies, fleets, and merchants. Armies can interdict land travel, fight other land armies, and besiege cities (hopefully to take them over). Fleets can interdict sea travel and fight battles at sea. Merchants travel on trade routes to foreign markets to trade commodities (or silver) for grain (or sometimes silver).

You also have a sneaky git called a Proxenos, who can take over cities through treachery (which costs silver). Unlike sieges, which involve a die-roll, Proxenos bribery is guaranteed success if you have enough money. The Proxenos can also bribe his way past interdicting units when traveling. And he can be captured if he's trapped in a successful siege. You then need to ransom him back.

The heart of the game is a brutal starvation economy, with two currencies in terribly short supply: prestige points and grain. You need prestige points to make any kind of military move. And you need grain to feed the population of your cities. If you can't feed a city, it goes neutral.

How do you get grain? For the most part you need to trade for it. This means that you need goods to trade. To get goods, you use troops to levy tribute from a region in which you have a city. That costs you a prestige point. Then, if you have enough commodities, of the right type, you can trade them with a foreign market. IF, your trade route to that market isn't interdicted, and IF you have a merchant you haven't used yet in the round, and IF the foreign market goods haven't already been taken by your opponent. If you get stymied, you're in trouble. This game is strewn with potential death spirals. It would be easy to fall into one, run out of food, and starve your way to a loss.

There's a little card-based mini-game for resolving land and sea battles between player forces. It was a bit wonky, with a degree of fiddliness that seemed out of synch with the smoothness of the rest of the game.

Incidentally, combat is a great way to get more prestige. I fought some battles just for that reason. I didn't really care if I won. I just wanted the poets to take note, so I could raise more tribute from the country-side.

Everything is tightly interwoven and the game works very well. It really is a great piece of design. The only downsides are the long play time and steep learning curve. (You might want to start with the shorter learning scenario included near the back of the rules.)


Impulse

(Image credit: MrPretty)


Another weird, intense little Chudyk card game (which is a good thing)!

It's a space empire 4x game mixing spatial movement on a map with card combos. Once you get your head around the wonky rules, it works very well and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

There's a tableau of face down (unexplored) cards, on which players can move their ships (cruisers and transports). Move into or over an unexplored card and you get to explore it. When you explore, you take the card you've discovered, put it in your hand, then take any card from your hand -- including the one you just picked up -- and place it face up in the place of the card you removed from the table. This gives you some control over how the map develops, which is cool.

Transports that move onto a card immediately activate the card's special power. These powers do things like:

• Command (activate more cards -- this is where the crazy chaining combos spawn).

• Build (build new ships).

• Execute (immediately use the action of a card from your hand, installed technologies, or deck).

• Research (play a card into your personal tech slots, giving you powers others can't use).

• Plan (letting you stash cards into a private action queue for possible later activation -- more combo chaining potential here).

• Mine (converts cards from your hand or the deck into minerals -- stored minerals boost the powers of your actions -- more cascade-fodder here).

• Refine (trash minerals for VP).

• Trade (trash cards in hand for VP).

• Sabotage (try to blow up opponent ships in spaces where your ships are present).

There's also the "impulse," a shared card queue that every player gets to add to and use as part of a turn. The impulse can never exceed 4 cards (it gets trimmed at the end of a players turn, first in first out). So the impulse is a changing chain of actions, which you can exert some control over, knowing that everyone is going to share it. Cool and fun.

Then there are rules for cruiser combat, which involves blind card draws (based on number of ships involved in the fight) boosted by "reinforcements" played from your hand. Some luck here, but larger forces (and larger hands) tend to prevail.

Despite the small size of the package and the minimalist component design, this is a fairly rich blend of possibilities. It's mostly tactical, but the tactical choices are fun and its possible to pull off some very cool combo chains. And it isn't devoid of strategy. The control you have over placing explored cards means you can groom your corner of the map to create a particular strategic potential, which you can then tailor your tactical choices to exploit.

I've enjoyed the game, but my opponents have been fairly lukewarm. I've played it twice now with my wife and she didn't like it much. I think that direct attacking was too important for her taste.


Akrotiri

(Image credit: Percatron)


Handsome two-player exploration, spatial deduction (kind of), and pick-up-and-delivery game. Very cool.

Players are ancient Greek explorers, searching for lost Minoan temples. Tiles with fragments of islands are drawn and placed, creating a complex archipelago. New tiles come with resource cubes that can be snagged and delivered back to the home island for money (there's a simple supply/demand pricing mechanism that pays more for resources that are more scarce).

The weird kind-of-deduction thing involves "map" cards that can be purchased. They tell you where temples can be found and excavated. Each shows a temple in the center of the card with one or more colored icons above, below, left, and right of the center. Those colored icons correlate to icons that appear on the island tiles that make up the growing archipelago.

A map card functions as a set of specifications, telling you where it is legal to excavate a temple. So, e.g, if a map card shows blue above, green to the right, and gray below, you can build a temple on any island space that has a blue icon above it, green anywhere to its right, and gray anywhere below it (based on the icons on the already placed tiles). Maps come in three levels of difficulty, with increasingly complicated specifications that must be satisfied. The higher the difficulty, the more points the card is worth if used to build a temple.

Also, building your temples gives you more action points per turn and also unlocks end of game scoring cards.

The game is mechanically fairly simple, but the geometry of how shipping lanes link up, where resources are placed, and where you can build based on your map cards can be a bit brain burning. My wife had unusually bad AP and complained quite a bit during the game about how she was having a hard time grokking the spatial aspects of the game. Then it turned out that she beat me and said she really liked it.

The game is very interesting and really attractive on the table, but watch out for AP lock up and brain melt.


Colt Express

(Image credit: lacxox)


Programmed movement cowboy brawl on a gimmicky 3D cardboard train.

I enjoyed my one play as a light social game with some "oh no" chaos and take that interaction. Fun enough in that niche, but not really my thing.


Harbour

(Image credit: EndersGame)


Rug repeatedly pulled out from under me. Not in a good way.

This is a small worker placement game, with one worker only, and a strangely constrained and volatile resource management core.

You accumulate resources of various types in order to build "building" cards from a central pool. Those buildings are also the worker placement spaces (as are other player's built buildings, if you pay them a resource for the privilege).

I won't try to describe how the resource system works, but it's a wonky and a bit unforgiving. It's also subject to direct player manipulation, which can radically revalue the resources (meaning you don't have as much money to build as you thought you did). I felt continuously wrong-footed in the game, never quite having what I needed (in part because the other players' actions would shift the value of things before I could use them). I found that pretty frustrating.

There's a lot that we didn't explore in the game (special player powers, hidden end-game VP goals), the rules explanation was rushed, and I was tired. So it wasn't an ideal chance at a first impression. I might try it two-player to see if it is better at that count (or with better understanding). But I might not.


UR

(Image credit: GeoMan)


Thinky spatial area influence game. Blech.

It's a well-designed game, but I didn't like it. Too much work, for too little enjoyment. That's partly the result of me not grokking the game. I didn't understand some of the rules for a few turns, and only started to see the strategic implications late in the game.

Might improve with repeated play, but that's totally not going to happen.
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5. Board Game: Arena: Morituri te salutant [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:5455]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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A - hope to play again

Arena: Morituri te salutant - We were both surprised how good the game was AND how able we both were to play it despite not knowing the decks beforehand. Even though the damage calculations came down to numbers, combat had a qualitative feel-- obviously, 0 guess is terrible all the time, but 2 guess feels very different against a 1-4 attack than a 1-6 attack, and you have the option of guessing generally (guess '3 and 4' to 'block a medium attack') or of trying to specifically psych out your opponent. And failed actions can be ineffective *enough* that it has some of the all-or-nothing feel which makes so many Vlaada games work.

That said... the theme is a little gruesome in its specificity (did it really have to be "these cards involve stabbing your opponent's face" instead of "these cards use ice magic" or whatever?) and also a little dull, but (another Vlaada trademark) it's very, very well-integrated; desperate-sounding moves are risky in gameplay terms, 'surprising' moves really are kind of surprising, and so on.

For The Win - I think I've actually grown into abstract games. Yeah, this is a battle of "who can notice the most things", but I have just enough grasp on it for that to be fun. And while the Zombie is inelegant, the rest of the game feels very clever, despite the cliched theme (intentionally cliched, but who cares?).

The Palaces of Carrara - The building types are interchangeable (of course) but there's texture in which blocks come out when. Better than some other Kramer/Kiesling games in the regard.

I like that I was able to be competitive (intentionally) ignoring one of the objectives and going for land buildings. And it's on BGA which means it'll be easy to play again.

Doomtown: Reloaded - A-. I would not say that first play was fun, overall; it felt like the pacing was off because we didn't know how to play. (Which people had warned me about, but they warned about it going too FAST. This was too slow.) And yet, as with other LCGs, it seemed like it COULD be fun. And the prospect of adding cards to a deck myself and seeing how they work is appealing. So we played around a little with the expansion and tried again. The second game was more fun despite the decks being less balanced. I don't love it enough to make it my new hobby, but I do love it enough to deckbuild, so... let's see how far it goes.

Loony Quest - Skeptical about replayability (maybe with "Arcade Mode"?) and the pranks/penalties are doofy; some penalties don't hurt some people, and pranks have a 'take that' element that's just kind of dumb. BUT it was totally fun, and if I only get to play it 7 times it will have been worth it. Especially since it gets more challenging!

B - willing to play again

New England - The tension of when to spend money is still not my favorite thing, but I did like the spatial aspect and the overall handling of the bidding.

Haru Ichiban - Having played against my phone solo for half an hour clearly gave an advantage, which is fine, but it felt a little janky; making random moves for a few turns and then starting to pay attention doesn't really seem to hurt your chances.


C - enjoyed but would rather not play again

The Princes of Florence - My friend's love for it makes me want to try again (and maybe I will) but the fact that the juicy polyomino system is mostly not meant to be used, the fact that the value of most things can be gamed out well ahead of time, and the professions are all fundamentally the same... it has the exact opposite of that way in which a good Feld design twists my brain a little by combining dry mechanics in a way that's hard to think about. This put together a bunch of interesting-looking mechanics in a way that blunted the interest of each of them.

D - annoyed that I played this

Assyria - Constantly flicking my eyes over the board to figure out which spaces had which food on them meant that very little of the game happened in my brain. As a design it was interesting to see how the mechanics went together, but bah. A point salad has to have at least one good ingredient tying it together; this didn't.
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6. Board Game: Pictomania [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:600]
Steph Hodge
United States
New Hampshire
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Lots of new games this month! Now we are talking!


1. Boom: Runaway: This is a really fun card game. In the filler category. We played with 5 which I think is the ideal number because all the craziness happens!

The game is played in 3 rounds with lots of possible turns in each round. There is Simultaneous card selection and its just fast fun.

I really enjoyed this game.









2. Coconuts: It is a silly Dex game that is pretty great.

Try and shoot the coconuts into the cups. red cups are 2 points and yellow cups are 1. The player that scores 6 cups wins! I should say that cups can be stolen but the player that has collected 6 cups in front of them first wins.







3. The Ancient World: This is a game I have been wanting to play for a long while. I really enjoy Ryan Laukat art and designs. I would not have been sad to have backed this on KS when it was there. I find it very difficult to get his games played, however.

You are basically trying to collect sets of flags best way you can.

If I can find it in a trade I might try and trade for it. It was neat and I would play again.









4. Banjooli Xeet: It is a racing game with ostriches. Riley pimped his game out with LEGO ostriches. I didn't even know Lego made ostriches - with colors no less. Their heads pop off and everything!!!!

It matters because during the race the ostrich can end up with his head in the ground. Every player has a secret goal that wants certain ostriches to finish first second third and last.

It was cute. I don't think I will be requesting it -ever. I would rather play deep sea adventure, for example.






5. Big City: So this is an older game but city building and everyone said I should play it. It has a bit of luck to get certain cards. I wasn't getting very lucky- or so it seemed. I felt I wasn't doing anything productive. I don't need to play it again.







6. Zahltag: A simple contract bidding game. I don't think I have played a game with "contract bidding" as the main mechanism. Low bid wins essentially. You have a hand of workers in potentially 4 colors. You can discard one or pick up one or do both when it is your turn. A card is revealed and all players can place a bid. You have to be able to fulfill the card using the colored workers in your hand.

It was more fun than Big City. But, another one I don't think I have to play again.







7. Monster Trap: It is a easy team game of trying to move the monsters into the pit to capture him. You have until the time runs out to catch as many as you can. Definitely a cute game. I would play again - but may not request it.








8. Cube Quest: It is a 2 player dice flicking game. You set up your side of the board with these dice. Block in your king really well because the goal is to try and flick the king off the board.

I am amazing at this game. I have no need to play again.

No pics





9. Antidote: This is a deduction / bluffing game.

I really did not enjoy this game. While the game is deduction - there is a very good possibility of not ever getting information to deduct to the correct answer.

I thought this was all pretty much luck of the draw. You can try to deduct by what people are playing but you don't want to give away that much information so it is more likely you are just going to play a colored card you have multiples of.









10. Eggs and Empires: The game is great. Right up my alley. Simultaneous card selection to try and get the eggs in the middle of the table. with 6 players 4 egg cards are revealed might go as high as 15 points for a card or as low as -10 points for a card.

All players have the same hand 1-10 and all the cards activate the same way. For example the 9 card cancels if there is another 9 card in play.

This game was super fun- and I will definitely be buying it. I love that it plays 6 players really well too. Always looking for games like this.









11. Stones of Fate: The deck of cards used in this game and also be counted for Tarot cards, which I think is pretty cool. The art is amazing.

Game play wasn't so bad either! There is a 3x3 grid where we place our stones (much like Spyrium). On your turn you can: place a stone, move a stone, look at a card, reveal a card. You take 2 actions and choose what you want to do.

I have to say it was a pretty game that I would play again if asked. Sometimes is it not about knowing the cards but just about luck of the reveal.









12. Rattus Cartus: I have to say I was not a fan of the general Rattus game. I have no need to play that one again.

This one is a bit different with use of the cards and different things to go for. I enjoyed it a lot more than the other. I would definitely play again. Interesting game.











13. Isle of Trains: This is a card game where you can use any given card to do a bunch of different actions.

It is a neat little card game where you get to build your train and deliver the goods to the locations for points. Other peoples trains provide you potential bonus actions by helping them fill up their train. It is neat cause you don't want to help them but you don't want to miss the opportunity to help yourself. It really depends on what you are trying to do.

Fun little game. Could run long with the wrong players- then it might not be so fun.









14. Pack the Pack: Impossible to find on the geek without prior knowledge.

I don't like real-time games. Or, at least, I haven't found one that I enjoy playing.

It was ok. I would play again for humor and it is not a big time investment game. But the scoring absolutely suckors.










15. But Wait, There's More!: That's The Best Part!: I think I have played the game Snake oil before. I have definitely played a game like it. I am awful at this game. I am in no way a sales pitch kind of person. I am terrible at thinking on the spot.

I would play again with the right crowd- I will still be terrible at it. I can see how it would be a fun game though with the right people and personalities.









16. Quartermaster General: This was a game that was a bit hit at the gathering. I am not a big fan of the war games but this was more Euro-ey than war-ish game. To my advantage I didn't have to know anything about history.

This game (I think they said, and seems to) play best at 6 players. There for all nations are in control and it is fair all around, in theory. I wanted red so I was auto-assigned as Soviet Union. That put me in the Allies side with USA, and UK. The Axis side was Italy, Germany, Japan.

It is a team game but without much discussion.

It accomplishes a lot in a short time and I can see playing many more times before getting tired of it. Individual nations have unique powers and decks. That is cool.

Very enjoyable and recommended on playing if you get the chance (with 6).








17. ESSEN The Game: SPIEL'13: It is a VERY colorful game, which of course, I LOVE!! I also love that is has all the 2013 games and it is just plain fun. It is very exciting to see for the first time. Just looking at it makes you smile from al the board game- goodness. The game emotes a general happiness and excitement for games. How could you not love that!?










18. Nostalgia: It is a simple trick-taking game, though I am not sure if it actually qualifies as trick-taking.

Play some cards to try and get 7 animals. Some interesting things going on with different types of animal cards. Now I know how to play I might do better next time, or maybe not.

I would definitely play again. Interesting art.







19. Top This! A Pizza Flicking Game: It is a dex game about flicking pizza toppings onto the pizza. You have to try to get the right toppings on a slice to complete the objectives and potentially get some tips. Those are all points and most points at the end wins. Once a stack of cards runs out.


It was still fun and I would certainly play it again!









20. Polarity: Magnets- what else is there to say. It's fun! Dex game. Good for 2 player games.







21. Arboretum: Small card game with some tableau building and potential hidden scoring until its over.

I think it is beautiful and fun. It has been getting decent response. No one has been excited by it.

I particularly like it for the colors. Game play is fast and I think a fine filler. It gets to be a bit AP with 4 players so that might not be the best count- however, it is harder to know where all the cards are though.









22. Cacao: A light tile placement game. You might have to help others by placing a tile but you try to avoid it is possible. Gotta collect the coco and set it for points. Very light but enjoyable.

Will happily play more.







23. Elysium: Probably the recent most anticipated game to be released. Beautiful art and interesting theme (to me).

Set collection at the bare minimum. Card activations and potential to screw up others. Definitely a cool game. May cause AP in players but it gives you time to think about how you want to proceed.

I can't wait to own it!







24. Pictomania: Awesome. SO AWESOME. I can't help but love this game. I love drawing games. I love the speed and the silliness of it. It can be SO HARD! I love it.

I can't say it enough. This game was probably made for me.






25. Lanterns: The Harvest Festival: Another light tile laying game with some set collection. Probably not for everyone.

I love tile laying but it just didn't grab my interest. I think they did a great job with production quality and the cards are very nice.

I would play again. I may not request it though.










Awesome month!!
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7. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:21]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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It was good month for new games!

Concordia = 3 Plays



This game was not initially on my radar when it was released, despite the good feedback. I then got to try Mac Gerdts' Navegador and liked it, so I started paying attention to this game. Watching video reviews and playthroughs convinced me to acquire it and I'm glad I did!

The initial play though was a bit underwhelming. This was because we played with 5 and the first game took 2.5 hours since everyone didn't know what they were doing and the scoring was not as obvious as the usual eurogame. Everyone was willing to try it again though and the game went MUCH faster as players now had a grasp of what they wanted to do. Card play is very similar to Lewis & Clark in that they stay on the table until you withdraw everything back to your hand, and you can also improve your deck by acquiring more cards. Acquisition of cards is also important since the cards themselves are the basis for scoring, with the god associated with the card having a specific condition to get points. This means you have to be aware of what you are doing and buying in order to get the best score. It's dry, but there the mechanisms are sound and the board can get really tight as networks expand. This means you have to careful since some actions can benefit others as well as you. Good game!



Twilight Struggle = 1 Play



My copy of the highest ranked game on BGG took some time (more than a year!) to get played since it is not easy to get lengthy 2P only games to the table these days, especially one like this which has depth. Luckily there are several video reviews which really helped, and the opportunity finally came when I managed to sit down with Paulo and finally break this out. It was therefore a bit of a bummer when the first play had me (as the US) get blown out of the water in 3 turns due to a tide of USSR events as well as Pau's key domination of the Middle East in turn 2, although we did make a mistake in the Space Race as we thought you could make multiple attempts on the track in the same turn instead of just 1 (2 if you were first to advance twice). Despite this we definitely saw the potential for epic play here, as it truly can be a struggle as players juggle their way through the globe and decide where to spend their Operations points. The size of the map as well as the events really force you to think how to "influence" the game to your advantage, and I suspect that my ranking of this game will go up as long as I can get this to the table again!



Deus = 1 Play



Speaking of twilight, this was just played a few hours before the end of April. This is definitely one of those "comboriffic" games as play involves trying to chain actions of cards with same color together since you play cards on top of each other which in turn triggers the actions of the previously played cards. Discarding is also not just another mundane action to refill your hand as the color of top card you discarded grants you a specific ability which is multiplied by the total number of cards discarded. All of this is tied in to the pieces you place on the board (which gives the game some interaction), and everything comes together in a very nice and smooth flowing package. There is definitely luck of the draw however, as you could end up not having a color you desperately need in order to place the buildings you still have on the board. It was quite well received, although my buddy Kent wished there was more in your face interaction (which leads me to believe that he may like Imperial Settlers more).



Hanabi = 2 Plays



The 2013 SdJ winner was not initially on my radar. This was because the game seemed a bit too simple and I did not like the idea of continuously holding up your cards throughout the game. Once the Deluxe edition was announced I knew this was the way to go since you now had tiles you lay down on the table instead of holding cards up. I still had not planned on buying it though, and it was only after the store owner of the place I bought Deus said that he also had this when I decided to add this to the purchase.

I'm glad I did, since the 2 plays I've had so far has shown that the game is really a very interesting exercise in group communication as you struggle to inform others in the group of what tiles they have. It is also a memory and deduction game since you try to identify what tiles you own and then remember what they are as the game continuous, something that is not easily done by some guys (as we found out!). I also like the look and feel of the bulky Mahjong-like tiles (despite the chemical smell wafting from the newly opened box). A keeper for me and one I feel can be applicable for my different gaming groups.



Colt Express = 1 Play



Pre-programmed actions game have been a hit with my group so far, and this title was an autobuy for me due to the 3D components and theme. I'm glad my FLGS had a copy available, and I got this cracking with the gang soon after.

The game is played in 5 rounds, with each round showing a card dictating how many cards you play from your randomly drawn hand. What makes this game different is that you play your action cards mostly FACE-UP instead of hidden (some cards are play faced down though when the card dictates that you pass through a tunnel) and this means you can see what other players are planning to do (mainly involving shooting, punching, picking up loot, moving vertically or horizontally, as well as moving the neutral Marshall). Our first game was a hilarious experience and its also good that this plays pretty quick (around 30 minutes). The only negative for me was that the train assembly out of the box was a bit fiddly since some of the slots are very tight, which meant some parts got bended as I was trying to push them through those slots. Once done though the insert stores them perfectly, which is another plus.



Age of War = 1 Play



A quick die rolling filler from Reiner Knizia with nice components (after all its from Fantasy Flight Games). Kent has a copy and gameplay involves trying to claim cards by rolling dice and using the correct symbols to fill in horizontal "battle lines". You can reroll if you fail to do so but have to sacrifice a die, making your successive pool smaller. There is also some interaction since you can steal cards from other players (with greater difficulty as compared to claiming it off the table), and this is important since trying to complete sets of the same color gives you more points as well as makes the set unclaimable by others. All in all a short and very portable filler which I liked.



EXPANSIONS

+
Thunderstone Advance: Numenera + Thunderstone Advance: Worlds Collide = 1 Play



1 soloplay using cards from both sets. Some of the cards from Thunderstone Advance: Worlds Collide are quite powerful while I can now use the actual colored XP tokens from Thunderstone Advance: Numenera instead of colored buttons. More cards = more variety and I would really like to play siege mode (which is the best way to play IMO) with the addition of these sets!

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8. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:184]
Stuart Finlay
Australia
Beldon
WA
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Battle Line x8
I like this classic poker hand formation game as a 'couples game' but probably wouldn't rank it as well for general play.

Viticulture x1
Enjoyable worker placement game with a pleasant theme and good mechanisms but the card draws are swingy and the luck of turn order throws the whole thing out for me.

Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice x1
Played 6p as the river walkers. This expansion made it clear to me that faction selection is a critical component of the game and therefore playing casually, as I do it, just isn't the way this expansion should be played.

Tchu Tchu Train x2
Ticket to Ride meets Sequence. At its most basic level on your turn lay contigious track or a place a station using cards in your hand and then draw cards from the lineup/deck to refill your hand. The aim is to connect as many stations as possible together and to place long sections of track in a single turn.

More strategic than I expected and also more work as you stare at the map. Overall a good idea that needs more development imho.

I only tried this as a 2P game which I don't think is how the game would play best. My concerns come down to a few things which may be 2P specific or not:

1.You need to wait for the previous player to draw/flip cards before you decide on your move as the lineup is critical. This can slow the game down significantly.
2.It's really hard to cycle your cards if the lineup is crap, and moreso with 2p I think. This means wending you way across the map is hard which makes dropping stations and trying to block them off very strong.
3.A strong and early central play can lock the other player out joining up half the stations (squaring bonus) almost guaranteeing a win.
4.The longest train was always the one with the most cities in 2P. Rich get richer.


Harbour x1
Great conceptually but the randomness of the card draws and generic card abilities make the game fairly dull to play. The fantasy theme doesn't work for me though is easy to ignore.

Monopoly Junior: Shrek 2 x1
Roll and move with almost zero decisions. Good for kids I suppose.

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9. Board Game: Fields of Arle [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:55]
Brandon Kempf
United States
Jefferson City
MO
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I am exhausted tonight, so I will add this and then finish up tomorrow morning with thoughts and put them in a more true to ratings order, but for now, this is my list of new games this April.

Dungeon Raiders
In the Shadow of the Emperor
Steam Torpedo: First Contact
Fields of Arle
Catan
Neuroshima Hex! 3.0
Progress: Evolution of Technology
SuDoku: The Card Game
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10. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Forgotten Souls [Average Rating:7.88 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.88 Unranked]
Charles Hasegawa
United States
Chandler
Arizona
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Easily best new game for me. This is a great standalone solo/co-op adventure and it rekindled my need to paint everything up. I've managed to get about 2/3 of my base 2nd ed. set painted now (the end of the base set being in sight has me excited to get there). I also limited my hero choice to only the painted figures I have, so I set out rounding out my hero choices so I wasn't just using mages and fighters.

This expansion has some limitations:
* Only 4 base set monsters used.
* Limited replayability

It does have some good points of course. No player overlord, Diablo like dungeon creation while exploring, good match of story to the parts while still being random.
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11. Board Game: Elysium [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:317]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Elysium d10-8

I enjoy tableau building games for the most part and this has several "tableaus". Each game has potential to be different since the decks of only 5 gods are used each game and there are 8 in the box with 4 more to come as a future expansion. Cards have quite a few different effects and are drafted in a bit of a unique fashion based upon what color columns one has remaining... Looking forward to exploring this one more when it comes out in the US.



Deep Sea Adventure d10-7

This one is as cute and fun as advertised. I fared poorly in my first game as I got too greedy...



Rococo d10-7

Picked this one up off a prize table last November and finally got it played. Found it interesting with the majorities and slight deck building. Game is quite colorful. I'd like to play a couple more times before deciding if it is a keeper.



XCOM: The Board Game d10-7

Played a friend's copy and enjoyed our horrendous failure. We rolled very poorly to the point where it was tragically comical. Hard to believe that we almost got lucky at the end and had a slight chance of pulling it out. Haven't decided if this is something I pick up or not yet...



Scoville d10-6

I feel this is the perfect TMG game...I almost always end up giving their games a 6 as they work fine but they never quite grab me. This one might jump up to a 7 but my guess is that I won't get many more plays in and I don't plan to acquire it via purchase.



7 Symbols, and 7 Nations d10-5

This works fine but there are many other trick taking games in my collection I would prefer to play before this one. With so many suits that one can't always even win a suit on the first play of said suit, the game can take some odd twists and control is questionable.
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12. Board Game: Pandemic: The Cure [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:265]
Brad Klein
United States
Minnetonka
Minnesota
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A friend brought these two over last week and we played them back to back.

When we played Pandemic: The Cure, I kept thinking of what a well designed game it was. It does a really good job of reproducing the theme and feel of the original Pandemic. That said it is a great game on it's own. I like the way you need to limit your actions by trading in dice to search for a cure. The push your luck nature of rolling the dice to try and get the actions you give a different type of choice you don't get in the original game. The game we played, we were one player away from a probable win when outbreaks did us in. A really enjoyable game.

Pandemic: Contagion - This didn't click as well. It seemed like you needed to time everything so you didn't have much on the board at the time the World Health cards appeared. Meaning it was a cycle of build up, clear out, and then wait to build again. This also has an area control aspect to it which I'm realizing I'm less and less of a fan of. It's not a horrible game and I'd play it again. Maybe my enjoyment of the Cure just overshadowed it.
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13. Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:28]
CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
Australia
KILLARA
VIC
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After a high month in March, April saw me come back with a thud but there was at least one game well worth the title of Best Game of the Month for me.

New to Me

d10-1 Imperial Assault

This game is fantastic. Fantasy Flight certainly cop a lot of flak at times but with Imperial Assault they have got it just about spot on.

IA is in the mould of Descent but it takes the best bits of 1st and 2nd ed. to create a game that is really thematic, immersive and one that makes sense from a rules perspective.

Having played it 3 times in April (twice through the tutorial and the first mission in the campaign) I can honestly say that I was genuinely excited to play this all Saturday morning before my campaign group came over.

I'm not exactly sure when the last time was that I was truly excited to play a game...I mean really looking forward to a new experience...but it has been a while.

And it didn't fail to deliver. The tutorial games were good but it really only shows off the base mechanics and some of the Skirmish potential.

The first campaign mission was very good. The pacing was excellent (90 minutes with rules flicking [but much less than Descent], there were surprises that forced the hero players to adapt and make tough decisions and the theme shone through without too many rules headaches rearing their ugly head.

I would expect to play through the first mission again in about 60 minutes once a group was experienced.

So what is IA?

It really is a tactical miniatures game with a great narrative, set in an interesting (for me) universe. It doesn't hurt that we escape regurge-ee-noth for a while either. Sure Descent had tactical miniature play but here it is taken to the next level because the Rebel and Imperial players alternate turns rather than playing all figures on their side consecutively. This is a big change with huge ramifications for how entire turns play out and it is welcome.

Line of sight has been drastically improved, movement is improved greatly to avoid big figures getting stuck in choke points and the whole game seems more engaging as an experience.

The Imperial (Overlord) player also has more to play for in AI. For starters the campaign allows them to select one of 3 classes to play with, giving them an advantage of one kind or another and skills/abilities to earn through gaining XPs. The Imperial Units don't have too many nuffies either. Each unit can do some pretty cool things and if a single hero is targeted they can be hurt pretty severely in quick time, which ups the tension from the start, meaning there are no 60 minute periods of prolonged boredom.

The Rebel players also have some key changes, namely that a hero can suffer their max wounds and become officially 'wounded' meaning they flip their hero card over. They are now stripped of an ability and may have some stat changes to reflect their new status. If they get wiped out again they are no longer in the mission.

It is too early to tell how the side mission and Agenda Decks will play out but they look like they will add good variety with each campaign.

Overall I think AI is an excellent title and the re-playability should be strong thanks to the heroes in play, side missions and agenda's that are selected and the class that the Imperial Player plays with.

I haven't even explored the Skirmish format of the game (an entirely different way to play the game with 2-players) and hence the 4.5 rather than the full score. If that is half as good as the campaign structure and base rules then FFG will be looking at game of the year material for sure.



d10-2 DC Comics & Heroes Unite Expansion

And now to the not so great. It isn't that DC Comics DBG isn't a decent deckbuilder, its just that it copies what is already out there and doesn't do other things as well - and for me that is unforgivable when other titles showed them the way. I haven't played Legendary: Alien but it sounds like it looked to further the genre and DC Comics doesn't.

In essence this game is a mix of Dominion and Ascension. It has the basic DBG mechanics of Dominion and even has negative VP cards that can filth up your deck. Then it has the same 5 card market of Ascension and even replicates the basic and more advanced card structure.

DC also has permanent cards (called Constructs) in Ascension but they are far less varied and imaginative in DC. In fact they all offer up basically the same type of ability, which makes them bland to say the least.

The one thing that is unique in DC is the concept of Super Villains and how they play out. But that too can be bettered by Legendary: Marvel where the Mastermind is woven into the mechanics in a more interesting way.

The only recommendation I can give DC Comics is for first time players to the deck-building genre. For anyone else who has experience and played other titles...you will find little to like here.

New to Me - Expansions

Nothing beyond DC Heroes Unite covered above and a few promos not worth exploring too deeply.
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14. Board Game: Wir sind das Volk! [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:535]
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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A lot of my plays are with my wife, son (12), older daughter (9) and younger daughter (who just turned 5).
I also spent game day with my awesome local group: The Adams Memorial Library Gaming Group.

Choosing my game of the month was very difficult, I love Concordia and know it will get a lot more plays than Wir Sind Das Volk. However; I really haven't played anything quite like Wir... and the tie in to a historical period that I partly lived through was awesome.

My favorite game of the month

Wir sind das Volk!, Initial rating -> 8

1 play in April

Highlights:

- The theme/historical basis of this game shines through.
This game is a perfect vehicle point for getting kids to become interested in the history of East and West Germany and how it impacted the rest of the world.
- The game play is extremely smooth and intuitive. It will take a few plays to remember how the end of decade scoring works, but everything happening not only makes sense, it also ties in perfectly with the theme.
- Multi-use cards (which usually have an alignment to one of the two sides), each card functions in multiple ways and the decision of how to use each card really makes you think about your long term strategy (usually based on what your opponent is doing).
- A shared card pool, each turn you are selecting a card to play from a shared row. This creates some wonderful tension as you way the benefits of a card that will help you, versus leaving a card you know will be a boon to your opponent.
- It's fun! Seriously, a game like this could crumble under it's own weight but Wir... manages to keep the game play snappy and the rules overhead low creating a really snappy, fun play experience.

There are many more things I could say about Wir... but really you need to play this game to really appreciate what a brilliant design it is. Kudos to the designers Richard Sivél and Peer Sylvester for creating such an elegant game.
I'm really looking forward to getting in more plays of this brilliant game.




Arboretum, Initial rating -> 8 (purchased after playing)

2 plays in April

Highlights:

- Amazing artwork, I would love to get prints of some of these images.
- Awesome 2p experience, great couples game to play at a cafe or pub.
- This is one of those chill games for us, you can't help but feel peaceful looking your tableau of cards.
- I enjoy the added complexity in how you can sequence different card types as you build your arboretum.
(It reminds me of Lost Cities and Musee but the placement of cards is not as constrained.)

My buddy Mat taught this to me and I immediately went out and got a copy. I am quite happy that my wife enjoyed it as well, this will be in our rotation of cafe/pub games.



Beasty Bar, Initial rating -> 8 (owned)


6 plays in April

Highlights:

- Top notch production, the card quality is outstanding and the cards are tarot sized (like Lost Cities).
- Excellent family/gateway filler game. It is easy to teach/learn and plays well at all player counts.
- Awesome artwork and theme for this style of game, my kids love it.
- There is a lot of depth to be found in the game; the way each animal reacts towards each different animal makes each game a unique experience.
- Beasty Bar does a great job presenting a take that style game in a family friendly package, it is a must have filler game!

In my opinion Beasty Bar is the game I expected Letter to be (based on all the praise it received). We've already played Beasty Bar 5 times and I don't see it outstaying it's welcome anytime soon (Love Letter didn't even make it to 10 plays before we got tired of it)..



Concordia, Initial rating -> 8 (purchased after playing)

2 plays in April

Highlights:
- I love the decision space in this game, planning out your colony expansion while managing your resources and income (pure Euro goodness).
- Plays great with 2; I just ordered the expansion map which should make the 2p experience even better.
- Card management; not only do the cards in your hand provide you with the actions you can take, they also have a scoring rule attached to them. You only score points based on the cards you collect.
- Low rules overhead, this is a very clean design.
(Once you start playing you have a card that lists the scoring opportunities and cost for establishing cities and that is about all yo need to reference while playing.)

I appreciate how focused this design is, the challenge lies in how you play the game in the confines of a very simple and elegant rule set, not in wrestling with a complex rule set full of exceptions and special circumstances. I'm hopeful that this game will see double digit plays by this time next year (I could easily see it becoming one of my favorites).



Dragon's Gold, Initial rating -> 8 (added to my wishlist)

1 play in April (TableTop Day)

Highlights:
- A negotiation game with a one minute time limit! This game runs at a brisk pace and adds real tension to the negotiations.
- Great art, and I appreciate how the theme ties in with the mechanisms.
You are fighting dragons with different characters of varying strength and sometimes special abilities.
- The magic object cards add some fun special powers into the game, at least for the person playing the card.
- I appreciate the fact that this game focuses solely on negotiation and nails it, there is zero bloat in this game.
- All of the above points make this an excellent family game, my daughter loved it.

After playing one game I can see how this would be a hit with the rest of my family, including our extended family. With it just being reprinted I'm pretty confident that I'll end up picking it up at some point in the future(I also really like the plastic gems in the new version).



Eclipse Initial rating -> 8 (sold)

1 play in April

This was a tough one to judge. I played a 2p game with my son and by the end the whole experience fell flat for us. There was very little tension since we could each explore our own part of the board. Then when there was finally some conflict I demolished a large portion of his fleet making it almost impossible for him to come back.

The ancients in the base game are too weak to put up much of a challenge by the mid game. However, early game, my son got hosed because every tile he explored had ancient ones while I was getting tiles where I could place out my cubes unimpeded.

All that said I loved the game and think it would shine with at least 4 players. I would love to play it again at that player count, but that isn't going to happen in my house so I decided to purge it.



The Institute for Magical Arts, Initial rating -> 8

1 play in April

Another game Mat taught me, he thought I would enjoy it and he was right. I really enjoyed the area control aspect of the game that comes into play when you are trying to get cards from the center row. I also appreciated how dice were used in this game, basically the numbers on the dice tell you which cards you can try to gain control of by placing influence discs or you could take that many influence discs from the supply. You also have re-roll tokens that you can get back, but at the cost of points.

This is a great 2p game that I would be happy to own, but I have so many new 2p games that I am holding off for a while. I would be happy to play it again.



Waggle Dance, Initial rating -> 8 (owned)

2 plays in April

Highlights:
- Perfect gateway/family game for a dice worker placement game. (My kids love this game.)
- Excellent rule book that really makes learning/teaching this game a breeze.
- The components and artwork are amazing (the dice have honeycombs for the pips and the 1 is a bee).
- Great tie in between the game mechanisms and theme (e.g. you get eggs and then hatch them to get new worker dice).
- Waggle Dance is another relaxing game to play in the vein of Takenoko and Finca.

I love worker placement games and dice, but Kingsburg didn't end up sticking around in our collection. Waggle Dance is exactly what I was looking for an introductory dice worker placement game with a great theme. It is definitely a gateway game but there is a lot to explore once you learn the game, a skilled player will definitely win more often than not, but the journey of playing the game is fun no matter what.



Monster Fluxx, Initial rating -> 6 (my son wants a copy)

1 play in April (TableTop Day)

We've been in the hobby for about 3 years now and finally got to play a game of Fluxx. I happily played with a friend and his kids plus my son. I'll be honest I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really liked the monster theme, there were a lot of references to things I grew up with (Scooby Doo and Count Chocula come to mind). We had fun playing and the game didn't overstay it's welcome.

While it is not a game I would seek out, I would play it again with my kids. I also think it would be a great game for my kids to teach their friends.



The Staufer Dynasty, Initial rating -> 6 (sold)

1 play in April

This is the game I played this month that made me realize I need to focus on playing the games in my collection that I already know and love. I had a good experience playing this game, but it didn't do anything innovative or exciting.

The Staufer Dynasty is an area control game with some specific rules on how you move around the board and eventually claim spots in a territory. Mix in some bonus tiles that let you move for free or spend one worker to claim a spot on the board. There are also end game goals you are trying to complete, but in reality you can really only accomplish them on your last turn.

Here are my thoughts, I would much rather play El Grande if I want to play an area control game. El Grande is a much cleaner design with a lot less rules overhead. There is also much more player interaction in El Grande, you are vying for control of the same region in order to score it. In The Staufer Dynasty everything is indirect, it feels more like worker placement. Someone takes one space so you now need to take another spot. I also prefer the immediacy of your actions in El Grande, you get into it with people where as The Staufer Dynasty is a much more passive affair.

My thoughts in a nutshell: El Grande creates an amazing meta game due to those tense, edge of your seat moments that you will be talking about during future plays. The Staufer Dynasty is completely devoid of those moments and therefore falls completely flat for me (it feels too much like a solitaire game).



Thurn and Taxis, Initial rating -> 6

1 play in April


I borrowed this from my buddy Joel and he warned me that I probably wouldn't be wowed by it. However; I was really interested in trying it out since there are definitely some gamers that prefer this over TTR (which is a game I love).

Well Joel was right, I played a game with my two older kids and we weren't impressed. I really didn't like the hand management aspect of the game (every time you finished a route you lost your cards), that pretty much killed the game for me. (I found out I was playing the game wrong, you only discard down to 3 cards). As others have noted, I felt that the game really pushed you to get your 7 carriage as quickly as possible, making the game somewhat one dimensional.

I'll stick with TTR and pass on Thurn and Taxis. I much prefer the player interaction (blocking routes, etc.) and route development found in TTR.



Elder Sign, Initial rating -> 4

1 play in April (TableTop Day)

Another coop game that fell completely flat for me. Part of it may be due to how the game played out. We got the crap beaten out of us, but once the great one came out we handily defeated it (which felt very anti-climactic). The Cthulhu Mythos isn't necessarily my thing, it's approaching zombie status as far as pop culture over saturation.

There is not much else to say, the game play was kind of blah. Basically you are rolling dice yahtzee style to fill orders on a card (room). Succeed and get a reward, fail and bad things happen. I can also see how this game could easily outstay it's welcome because the game play is so basic.

If I want to play a dice based coop it's definitely going to be Pandemic: The Cure. Each player has different powers, their own custom dice and there is a spacial aspect to the game (having to move to different continents) that I enjoy. Elder Sign is not a game I need to play again.



The Pillars of the Earth: Builders Duel, Initial rating -> 2

1 play in April

I will never play this game again, what a horrible experience.
I only played once, but my buddy told me the same thing happened when he played which is the rich get richer while you wallow in the dregs unable to accomplish anything. There is a huge advantage to going first and it is not always possible to get first player depending on how your opponent puts out their seals. Add to that some of the take that cards where you can basically stop someone from having any actions that whole round, no thanks.

This might be the worst game I've ever played!



Expansions

Imperial Settlers: Why Can't We Be Friends, Initial rating -> 10 (owned)

3 plays in April

I love what this expansion adds to the game; it adds more synergy between the new and existing cards in each faction deck, open production (which rocks) and opens up some new ways to combo certain cards (including both the faction and common deck).

My son and I tried building our own decks, but basically made a mess of it (we both ended up taking out too many cads that gave you scoring opportunities). We are perfectly content to just mix in the new cards and play.

I will also note that our scores are getting much higher, I know part of that is experience with the game (we are over 20 plays), but I also believe it is due to some of the new combos you can build. He had a game where he scored 119 and I had a game where I scored 102.

In my opinion this is a must buy if you are a fan of Imperial Settlers!



Thanks for reading and as always please feel free to ask any questions!

Cheers,
Will



Edit (September 13, 2015)

I forgot to include London in my initial post.

London (first edition), Initial rating -> 6

1 play in April

Not sure where I stand with this one. I enjoyed my play, but it ran a little long and I didn't have any prior knowledge of the cards so players with previous plays have a distinct advantage. In some ways it feels like an optimization game in the vein of Rosenberg's games with a much different thematic feel.

I feel like I would need further plays to really give a proper opinion of this game. I would play it again, but it wouldn't be my first pick since I didn't love the mechanics of the game (it also went long, but I am assuming further plays would shorten the game length).
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15. Board Game: Neuroshima Hex! Sharrash [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked]
Juan Carlos Goyes
Colombia
Bogota
Cundinamarca
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Escape: Zombie City

2015-04-15

Initial Rating: 5.5 (March 2015)

I like Escape: The Curse of the Temple so I was expecting a good game, but for some reason I didn't enjoy Escape: Zombie City as much, perhaps because it is a longer game for such a silly activity (real time dice rolling). In theory I like that you can fight zombies but in practice I didn't find any joy doing so.

The game components and art are quite good and I also dig the theme but the soundtrack is inferior compared to the one that came in the parent game.

I only played the first scenario twice and I think further scenarios could get better but my desire to play the game again is very low.

Bottom line, a regular game. I don't have any desire to play it again and I will soon revisit The Curse of the Temple to see if I still enjoy it. Both games feature obvious decisions but the longer playtime of Zombie City makes it a worse game for me.

Current Rating: 5.5



Relic

2015-04-16

Initial Rating: 4.5 (April 2015)

Relic is a mediocre adventure game. Very similar to Talisman, but with an improved theme (for me). Like Talisman, Relic can be a fun game to play once a year. The components are very good as is usual from FFG, however I would have preferred to have a whole miniature instead of a torso, but it is a very minor quibble, the torsos ARE very detailed.

In Relic you have a bit more control than you have in Talisman, however the luck factor continues to be through the roof, so the player who rolls the best will win. The decisions are very easy and obvious so most of the fun to be had depends on the game group itself. The characters seem to be very unbalanced (like Talisman) but that isn’t a problem with this kind of game (most of the time). Also it is a gentler version of Talisman, In Relic when you die you can begin anew with few penalties.

As the game is so simple, I get bored between turns so I think Relic is best played with 3 players. I feel the game is way too long for what it offers. I hate that Relic removed the PvP aspect making it a worse experience for me. Some missions allow you to attack/steal other players, but it isn’t the same.

I expect FFG will release tons of expansions for the game (also like Talisman) and there is a certain appeal to this, but I don’t think I will ever buy the game.

Bottom line, I would play again Relic if requested, but this kind of game is among the lowest in my gaming priorities, it is way too simple and slow for my tastes. It can be a good family game, when I was a child I would have loved it. With more plays it surely will go down in my personal ratings. If you like Talisman you will surely like Relic.

Current Rating: 4.5



Perikles

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2015)

WOW Perikles really surprised me and I enjoyed it a lot. For me it has some elements reminiscent of Princes of the Renaissance (I haven’t played Struggle of Empires yet). The games rules are easy to grasp and the game flows quickly. You only play three turns, each with many phases so if you have 5 fast players it is a blast. It is definitively best with 5 players, the problem is the increased downtime.

I really like how the votes (area control) are handled in each city, the player who wins the election will control the army of that city and the armies are VERY important for the battle phase. Sparta and Athena’s army and navy are, respectively, the strongest in the game, so there is a lot of votes going for those cities, however most battles will be fought in places these two cities control, it is a nice balancing mechanism. I also really like the battles, they are fought (generally) in two fronts.

There is some luck in the order the city tiles appear, the battles that are going to be fought and (obviously) the dice that decide each battle, but you can mitigate it with jokers (for the city tiles), planning (for the battles) and adding more soldiers or making alliances to improve your chances rolling the battle dice. There are very interesting choices in each phase (where to put my influence cubes, Should I start/support this battle? With whom should I ally myself? Should I defend this city?) making the game very tense until the end. You are never sure to win a battle, no matter how overwhelming are your forces, the defender always have at least a mathematical probability at winning.

The game components and art is ok.

On the bad side, the rules aren’t very clear and Perikles feature the “attack the perceived leader” mechanism I have come to loath these days but as the game plays so fast and it is very tense, I currently don’t mind much about this.

Bottom line, Perikles is a good game, a keeper in my game collection and I want to explore It further. It is refreshing to see another good Wallace game, lastly he has become more miss than hit for me but I still have faith in him. Perikles was way better than expected, I was expecting a regular game because I bought two copies of it very cheap.

Current Rating: 7.0



Neuroshima Hex! Sharrash

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 8.5 (April 2015)

As I love Neuroshima Hex, it is no wonder I like its expansions, I like that they often bring new possibilities to the game with very low rules overhead.

I love the Sharrash army, although I find it to be very powerful, perhaps it is unbalanced? I’m not sure but I will find out with more plays. The castling ability of its HQ plus the paralyze power of some tiles are very powerful. When an enemy has me pinned down, I can interchange the HQ with a less important tile avoiding most of the danger. I also like the mortars, they are very efficient because I can defend them most of the time so they can deal a lot of damage. The Sharrash army also have 4 explosive tiles which can deal one damage BEFORE the battle begins, no matter the priority and they also have a Hole foundation tile that can destroy nearby units. Very powerful stuff, furthermore if you are playing against the base armies.

Of the new armies I have played, the Sharrash is the one that has netted me the most wins. I will play with it again soon. Even if it is overpowered I don’t mind because the game plays very quickly. I love it.

Current Rating: 8.5



Neuroshima Hex! Mississippi

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 8.0 (April 2015)

As I love Neuroshima Hex, it is no wonder I like its expansions, I like that they often bring new possibilities to the game with very low rules overhead.

The Mississippi army is strong and I like to play with them. Its strongest tiles (IMO) are the Poisoners, they can poison an enemy and have a priority of 3 practically assuring you will hit your opponent. I remember that doing this with the NeoJungle army was very hard, but with the Poisoner you will hit most of the time. They also have a couple of Shadows, very strong units because they can hit anywhere and you can defend them rather easy. The Mississippi army also has some paralyzing modules, others that reduce the priority to zero to all close enemies and they even have a tile that allow you to turn an enemy. The ability of the HQ is also strong (push an enemy).

Bottom line, a good army to play with and a must have for me. They are stronger then the base armies.

Current Rating: 8.0



Einfach Genial: Das Kartenspiel

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 2.5 (April 2015)

Considerably better than Einfach Genial: Das Würfelspiel but still crap. At least in this variation of the game you have some (obvious) decisions to make. It is pure luck who wins as each player has a random hand, either you have the cards you need or not. Lots of potential for king making. Zero strategy, almost zero tactics. In a two player game you have the tinniest bit of strategy as you control two spots.

Bottom line, a boring game that offers nothing over the original Ingenious, obvious decisions, almost not a game. Stay away from this one, it is very bad. I won´t ever play it again.

Current Rating: 2.5



Deus

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2015)

I was expecting a good game from designer Sébastien Dujardin and I wasn’t disappointed. I really like games in which cards have different uses and Deus is one of those. You have to decide which cards are you going to play and which cards are you going to discard, it sounds simple, and it is rules wise, but it allows for interesting decisions (when to pray and to what god, when to play a card, when to build a temple, when to surround a barbarian village, when to get more buildings, How to pay for buildings.)

Dues offers a good mix of tactics (which card to play) and strategy (as every card you play can impact the game again and again.) It has some luck of the draw but I feel the game will be won by the best player not by luck. It offers a high replayability factor due to the variable setup, also there are many cards to explore.

The theme is good, and you feel like you are playing a civ game.

I think it I best with 3 players, with more I begin to feel the downtime although I won’t say no to a two player game of Deus. Playtime is relatively short.

The game components are ok, but the player boards seem flimsy and easy to damage. The central board is regular looking. The art is also ok but the color of the components is different in the cards and in the reserve, the worst is the wood that is depicted as green on the cards, but it is a brown disc in the game (money is green). This confused 100% of the players I played with (including me).

Bottom line, Deus is a good tableau building game that I’m willing to play, it has the potential to get an improved rating with more plays. Definitively a keeper in my game collection, I expect some expansions will come soon.

Current Rating: 7.0



Simply Ingenious

2015-04-22

Initial Rating: 3.0 (April 2015)

Simply Ingenious is the best of the pack (Einfach Genial: Das Kartenspiel, Einfach Genial: Das Würfelspiel) but it is still a very bad game. It is only the best because we had some laughs playing it, but the decisions continue to be rather obvious and scarce. Simply Ingenious adds a “push your luck” facet to the game but it isn’t enough. There is almost no game here. Zero strategy, lots of king making, pure luck. Too long for what the game offers.

Bottom line, a very bad game I won’t ever play again. I’m very disappointed in the latest Knizia designs.

Current Rating: 3.0



Il Vecchio

2015-04-27

Initial Rating: 6.0 (April 2015)

Il Vecchio is a gorgeous Euro game, the game board is beautiful and it looks very nice. The art is very good too. It has some interesting decisions however I found the game to be a bit boring.

After reading the rules I thought it would be deeper but it isn’t. The playtime is generally short and it plays at a fast pace (its main appeal). Best with 3 players.

I don’t have anything bad to say about Il Vecchio, but also, other than the production values, I don’t have anything good to say about it either. When I think about the game, one word pops up in my mind, AVERAGE game. It feels old somehow.

The theme is boring for me, but some friends loved it.

Bottom line, Il Vecchio is an ok game that doesn’t do anything wrong, however it really fails to excite me and I will probably get rid of it. I would have loved the game when I began playing boardgames, but nowadays I want deeper games and Il Vecchio is too shallow for my taste. I almost never like a Rudiger Dorn game :/.

Current Rating: 6.0



Mythotopia

2015-04-17

Initial Rating: 6.5 (April 2015)

To me, A Few Acres of Snow is a good game and also I think Wallace is a great game designer (although I really hate his light games) so I was expecting a lot from Mythotopia. After reading the rules, the game seemed interesting enough, but after I played it I have some misgivings.

The art and components are ok, although the towns tokens and city tokens are very similar so we confused them a lot. It has a fantasy theme, but I don’t feel it. Playtime is way longer than advertised.

Mythohopia uses the same idea of A Few Acres of Snow, but with some changes. Most of them for the best I think. For example I like how the reserve is used, the benefit cards, the “reserve only” cards, the goal cards, the variable setting and the way armies are deployed and used is great. However I have a big issue with the way he handled the improvement cards. Now you have only ONE of each which makes the game very unfair to me. I dislike deckbuilding games in which I cannot buy what I want because another player got it first due to the random sitting order. Also I feel some of the cards are overpowered, the card Levy is WAY too powerful as conquering and defending provinces are the best VP generator in the game while stone and gold aren’t that important.

I’m not sure yet what is the best number of players. I would love to play it only as a two player game, but in that instance, it seems, a player can dominate the other military. The problem as I see it is that some provinces give military power, so if the stronger player attacks the military provinces of the other player, we get a situation in which the richer get richer and no matter what the other player does, he will lose. I need to play more to see if this is true. I guess this can be solved/balanced playing a 4 player game (not a 3 player game), but in that case the downtime would be excessive for me AND I think a “bash the leader” situation would develop. I’m not sure which is worse.

Mythotopia offers very interesting choices, you have a ton to choose from and only two actions per turn (you can build something, score Vps, attack, move armies, defend, end a war, end the game, buy a card, discard cards, destroy cards). I really like this but as there are a lot to consider, the downtime also grows a lot with more than 2 players.

The luck factor inherent in the setup (random provinces for the players a la Risk) can bother me, as some players begin with a definitive advantage, also in our game the goal card Lord of the Seas appeared and one player won those points right in the setup before the game even began.

Bottom line, I think Mythotopia is inferior game than A Few Acres of Snow because I really hate how the Improvement cards are handled (just one per game), so going first is a huge advantage and very unfair in my book. I will give it more chances to woe me as, in general, the game has lots of things going for it.

Current Rating: 6.0



Cheating Moth

2015-04-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2015)

WOW what a surprise, the game is uber fun. Mogel Motte is very simple, but the cheating rules make for a good game. At first, almost no one cheated, but from the second game onward, everyone was cheating like crazy. My SO was throwing her cards in the floor and a passerby thought she dropped the cards by mistake, he picked them up and gave them back to her, it was HILARIOUS. Love that the rules allow for cheating (very novel), if you don’t you cannot win .

The game can be explained under 2 minutes and the playtime is around 15 minutes. I also dig the art.
I played a friend´s copy. On my own, I would have never picked up this game because the cards suffer a lot, even with sleeves. Now I’m thinking about buying the game, if I do I would have to laminate the cards.

Bottom line, Mogel Motte is a great party/family game, lots of laughs and fun. I feel weird rating it a 7.0, but I had so much fun playing it I don’t see any way around it. Perhaps with more plays the rating will go down, we will see. Some friends really hated the game, try it before you buy it.

One of 2011`s favorites.

Current Rating: 7.0



Black Stories: Holiday Edition

2015-04-27

Initial Rating: 8.0 (April 2015)

I love Black Stories so it is no surprise I also love this edition. The game is dead simple and you can explain it under 1 minute while the playtime can be generally around 12 minutes. Some mysteries are very hard and others very easy.

Perhaps the only negative I can think of is that once you know the answer to the mystery you can only play it again as the Guardian but there are lots of expansions to solve this.

I generally like my games in English but in Black Stories' case I'm glad I played it in Spanish, otherwise many friends couldn't play as the Guardian.

Bottom line, it is a simple party game that plays well with 2 players or more. I liked it so much that I already bought as many sets as I could find.

One of 2011´s favorites.

Current Rating: 8.0



Mascarade: The Damned

2015-04-29

Initial Rating: 7.5 (April 2015)

Fun character to play with. It is great when you manage to eliminate an opponent devil. With him in play, some players will hesitate to challenge all the time. I think it is a great addition to the game. In general I dislike player elimination, but not in a game as short as Mascarade.

Bottom line, it is pure fun. I will include in all my future Mascarade games if able. I’m also thinking of including it with fewer player counts.

Current Rating: 7.5



Bunny Bunny Moose Moose

2015-04-29

Initial Rating: 5.5 (April 2015)

Vlaada Chvátil is one of my favorite game designers, in fact I always buy his games without doing any research at all. He always deliver something novel and Bunny Bunny moose Moose is not the exception. It is a light weird game, but it is a fun one. After reading the rules I thought I made a mistake buying the game but it is fun to play with the correct game group.

On the bad side, the scoring can be lengthy for such a silly game. Also at the end I was a bit tired of it, perhaps it should be shorter.

Bottom line, a keeper for now in game collection only because it is unique. I need to play it again to see if I really enjoy it.

Current Rating: 5.5

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16. Board Game: Super Motherload [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:491]
Nick B
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Charlottesville
Virginia
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A few new games this month, all of which were awesome!

Super Motherload - 8/10


I couldn't wait to play this game after hearing about the fun gameplay, fast playtime, and the possibility that it might fire Trains from my collection. Trains is a fine game, but it's sooooo dry and I feel bored just thinking about playing it. My wife is a big fan, however, so I was hoping that Super Motherload would wow her and make her forget all about building Japanese train routes. Did it succeed?

Nope. She had fun with the game, as did I, but we both agreed that it doesn't really feel like a deckbuilding game. We were both big fans of the artwork, and the gameplay is very intuitive once you pick up the basics, but it doesn't scratch the same itch that Dominion or Trains does. There's really no "engine" that you build up as your deck improves, just better options to interact with the board.

I really enjoyed Super Motherload, but my quest for a new deckbuilder marches on. My next contender is Fantastiqa, which I'll hopefully play in the upcoming month.


Nexus Ops - 7.5/10


Nexus Ops has floated on and off my wishlist since I first played it at Gen Con 2012. I owned the original version for a while (I love the glow minis), but sold it off unplayed. I took advantage of a great price in a BGG auction and finally added it to my collection last month, and I'm happy I did. While this will never be the type of game my wife will want to play, I have plenty of friends who will love the aggressive gameplay. I really enjoy how straightforward the game is: summon units, put them on the map, and go hit other units in the face when the time is right. Big thumbs up from me.



Cheating Moth - 7/10


I first heard about Cheating Moth when I was checking out the price of Cockroach Poker on Amazon. It was a great price, so I added it to my cart as well, especially after reading "The Cheating Hall of Fame" section of BGG user kjeong0's awesome, purchase-inducing review.

The basic premise of Cheating Moth is to play your cards one at a time, with the goal of being the first player to run out of cards. Some of the cards have special abilities tied to them, such as allowing you to give away cards to other players or force other players to draw. By itself, this gameplay is super boring, but the game is awesome because everyone is allowed to cheat away one of their cards each turn. You can drop it on the floor, pass an extra card to another player when you are only supposed to pass one, put cards up your sleeves, etc. If the player designated as the Guard Bug (who is not allowed to cheat) catches you, you become the Guard Bug, and play continues. The game is fast and VERY funny. If it sounds at all appealing to you, give it a try and I don't think you'll be disappointed.



Monikers - 7/10


I enjoy Time's Up, but I've played it a lot over the years and it's starting to feel a little stale. I figured that a reboot might be in order, and picked up Monikers to see how it would go over. We all enjoyed the new focus of guessing people (rather than titles), although there were plenty of cards that some people didn't know, even with the provided descriptions and a fairly high level of pop culture/internet meme knowledge. While I don't think I necessarily need both games in my collection, Monikers feels lighter and funnier than Time's Up, which has a more competitive nature. I'm interested to see whether I'll have both games still on my shelves at this time next year, or whether one will emerge as a group favorite.

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17. Board Game: Skyline [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:3487]
Yours Truly,
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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Best New Game

Skyline
7.2/10
Tried this on Yucata. I really enjoy this filler dice game, about constructing skyscrapers. Yucata's got a nice implementation, with each building looking unique.


Great New Game


Sushi Go!
6.8/10
Light card-drafting set collection game.
The theme is paper-thin, but that's perfectly fine in the context of a light card game. Also, I like the "sushi" theme, and the illustrations are cute.
I'm happy to play this as a filler anytime; however, I don't feel a need to add it to my collection.


Worst New Game


Two Rooms and a Boom
3.5/10
If you like Werewolf, you'll like this. If you don't like Werewolf, you won't like this. I don't like Werewolf. ninja


Best Kids Game


Ninja Versus Ninja
This one had been on my radar for a while, and I wasn't sure if it was just a kid's game, or whether it could also do double duty as a family game/filler. Getting a game of it in with my 7-year-old nephew, I see it's squarely in the "kid's game" category. It wasn't really engaging for an adult. But, as a kid's game it's top-notch, it's got some of the coolest dice I've seen, and the playing pieces double nicely as action figures for the kids.
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18. Board Game: Polis: Fight for the Hegemony [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:527]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

2 plays both 2player (what else?).

This game packs a huge amount into a relatively small package. A war game/resource management game with a slick set of rules that abstract the Peloponessian wars period and geography brilliantly.

A n00b will be hosed by a more experienced player, but the game mechanisms are sufficiently transparent to allow a steep learning curve to be climbed quickly. I won my second game – an epic lasting 6 (yes 6) hours by a handful of prestige points.

There is just so much to manage in this game; your meagre resources (including population), a land/sea network, area majorities and the occasional in-game VP grazing - with one mistake potentially fatal. Really interesting dynamic between putting out "dudes on map" to help you win wars, gather resources and keeping "dudes by the board" which gather VPs at the game end. And it is all so beautifully interwoven.

Deserving of a wider audience, which I suspect it will never get - given its genre-spanning game play and unforgiving nature.

Rating 8.5 /10

Mythotopia

2 plays 1x2 player, 1x3player

A Few Acres of Snow was one of my favourite games (Halifax Hammer notwithstanding). I found it both innovative and brilliantly thematic. I was therefore really disappointed when my first 3-player game of Mythotopia early in the month fell rather flat. A rather sterile experience with a fiddly game ending that was less climatic and more bureaucratic (let’s all stop to count the points again and bash the leader to prevent her from winning next turn).

My second two-player game radically changed my view; it was open, swift-flowing and a wonderfully climatic game ending with a single point victory being declared the turn and the end-game condition was satisfied.

My conclusions are that this game – not unlike A Study in Emerald – depends on the cards, company and (player) count. Slow players, looking to optimise every last point will probably kill this game. Ironically, Wallace’s attempt to generate a multi-player Few Acres have arguably failed (at least with the current game win condition), but rather he has streamlined and improved the “deck building with map” experience for 2-players. Largely this has happened through the introduction of the reserve which really opens up the possibilities each turn, accelerating game progress.

There was easily enough in my second play to make me look forward to exploring the richness of Mythoptopia with its wide variety of initial conditions and VP goals.

For multi-player deck building with a board (and a twist), I will stick to Study in Emerald, whose “win the game” condition may be the same to Mythotopia, but at least “bash the leader isn’t really an option in ASiE, so a) you don’t know who the leader is and b) you may be bashing yourself.

I just wish the Mythotopia had a more immersive theme. I really can't get excited about the fate of provinces that sound like items of Swedish furniture. I guess Wallace couldn't afford the Game of Thrones licence. But Pratchett? Discotopia, anyone?

Rating 8/10


In Flanders Field

5 plays. All 2 player.

Martin Wallace’s Can't Stop. Following his attempt to refresh Clue with P.I., Wallace has joined forces with the Imperial War Museum to produce this oddity. The game play is entertaining enough – with more challenges/choices that Can’t Stop – but one is left with the feeling that one that the game (and its simplicity) runs the risk trivialising the horrors of trench warfare in World War 1. Roll die to pick up diminishing number of cards, avoid "going bust" to advance your men across No Man's Land using good old British cards and watch as they get mown down by the German cards in your hand. I played with the variation where all soldiers are placed on the board at the start and are moved across No Man’s Land together, being picked off as they cross.

The blackest of humour really, more reminiscent of "Blackadder IV" and “Oh! What a Lovely War” than All Quiet on the "Western Front".

As long as you can get over that, a game worth trying out.


Rating 7/10


Melee

2 plays, 2 player.

The game calls it Nasty, brutish, short.

I call it OK, some fun, largely unmemorable.

Rating 6/10
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19. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:5]
Moe45673
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Trying to replay old favorites so new games are fewer, lately.


Plays: 1
3 years ago I started my journey into this hobby. Shortly into it, I bought 1960: The Making of the President, a game I was unfortunately only able to play about 2-3 times. Seeing that I would rarely, if ever, get it to the table, I sold it. However, I did love my plays of that game.

1960 is clearly derivative of TS. Is TS better? I don't know. I like the actual mechanics of 1960 more (the cubes for influence, the momentum markers and their use regarding a card played by your opponent where the event benefits you) but dollars to doughnuts the strategic long game is far and away better in TS. Unfortunately, TS IS a long game and fiddlier than 1960, which somewhat dampens my enthusiasm for it, even though the time flew and it was extremely enjoyable. I do like the scoring cards in TS and trying to prepare for them. I'm thinking that future plays of this one will nullify every criticism I've made.







Plays: 6 (Three 2p, Three solitaire)
Glass Road is Rosenberg-lite. There are fewer gears than his other games and attempting to manage that wheel can be brutal. I definitely prefer the 2p game to the solitaire game (probably enjoy the 3-4 player game too), as opposed to Loyang where I far prefer that one solitaire. In my last game (2p), both of us did horribly with scores of something like 16-14.... and we both have scored much higher in our plays of it solitaire (once even hitting a 30!). It was because both of us had grokked the newbie stuff so we were constantly trying to nab buildings before our opponents did, kind of like the mindgame of if to nab a juicy woodpile in Agricola or the Occupation spot before your opponent, hoping he won't go for either. This tension was the Rosenberg I know and love.

While leads me to the point that I just played Agricola after a 2 year hiatus, twice. Agricola is far and away Rosenberg's best (haven't played Le Havre or Ora et Labora but have played Loyang, Glass Road, and Fields of Arle), it's breathtaking. If I could only play one Rosenberg game, it would be Gric..... even if that meant I could never play Loyang solitaire again. Glass Road is very good but, to me, it will always live in the shadow of its older brother.





Plays: 5
Quite possibly the best 4X-lite game I've played. Only played it 2p and solitaire. While the solitaire game initially seemed promising, I was kicking the centipedes butts fairly quickly and winning by a wide margin. I kept checking the rules and asking but I couldn't find anything wrong.

I then played it 2p against my buddy that I borrowed it from. The 2p game is a much more interesting beast with good tension. I'd imagine the 3-4p game is where it's best (unique ant species!) and if you have a steady group at that size, definitely pick this one up. Lots of replayability and scratches that 4X itch when you've got no time for a game like Clash of Cultures.

Two others (including my buddy) in the 1 Player guild have been playing this solitaire and they both heartily enjoy it like that, so either I am a MotA prodigy, extremely lucky with my card draws, or a moron who's playing the rules wrong.
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20. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:201]
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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d10-8 Antiquity

An oldie, but oh man, such a good one. This game is MEAN, and also a bit fiddly, but also so much fun. I like games that are mean, and force you to try to stay alive while at the same time try to score points, and this game offers this with flying colors. One I am looking forward to playing much more in the months / years to come!


d10-8 Witch's Brew

Wow! A nice surprise. I have been interested in this one for awhile, but this one was much better than I expected. One of the better role selection games I have played. I am curious why they felt they needed to redo it (Broom Service) vs just reprinting it.


d10-7 Antics!

A solid euro with a really neat mechanism that represents your ant hill. The theme doesn't do much for me, but this one I would like to explore more, but no way I am interested in purchasing at the current prices.


d10-6 Tiny Epic Defenders

Not as interesting as I had hoped, but not terrible. Tough enough that I plan on playing through it a few more times before making my final call. What kind of killed it for me was the player special powers didn't seem all that interesting so far...


d10-6 DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals – Batman vs The Joker

This one was better than I thought it was going to be. They fixed the worst part of the game where it would drag on forever, however there are still not enough interesting deck building decisions compared to other games on the market.


d10-6 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations

A trick taking game that worked, and had a new wrinkle, but ended up not being as interesting as many of the other trick takers out there.

... And the not so good

d10-5 Gaïa
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21. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:73]
Joseph Peterson
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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I played 25 new games in April. These are my top 5 favorites of the month:

Pandemic - 9.6 - Game of the Month - Most Thematic

Pandemic is an amazing game which scales excellently and always seems to provide an "edge of your seat" type of experience. You always seem like you're about to win or about to lose and you're never quite sure which way it's going to go. Players may concern themselves with alpha gamers or possible broken role combinations but for me, this one is as solid as cooperative experiences get. Love it.

But Wait, There's More! - 9.5 - Game of the Month Runner Up

But Wait, There's More! is officially the best party game I've ever played and is probably in my top five favorite games of all time. First they bring us Train of Thought and now comes its successor and yet both are still great games. The Bamboozle Brothers do it again for me. Awesome, awesome game!

Wunderland - 8.5

I didn't know what to make of this game at first. Having eight pieces available to move at the start of each turn was insane to me. Add to that being able to "piggy back" with opponents on their turn, I wasn't quite sure what we were going to be in for. That being said, Wunderland is an excellent little game about, from what I've read, is an excellent little place with excellent little miniatures. Grabbing onto the concept of how to move tokens and when to piggy back and when to not are key. I also loved the photographs represented on the board and the postcards. A really beautiful game with some great gameplay. Highly recommended!

Love Letter: Batman - 8.4 - Best Art

Na na na na na BATMAN! Na na na na na LOVE LETTER! This game takes the proven and excellent mechanics of Love Letter and adds a theme which for me takes it a step up. I guess I'm a sucker for Batman, but I really like the added mechanic of using Batman to knock out an opponent and receiving a point for doing so. With or without that addition, it's still a great game and having Batman art added makes it all the better for me.

Wasserratten in Sicht! - 8.2 - Best Quality

Cooperative games are a great way to introduce children to the concept of gaming. I'd have to put Lighthouse Ambush as one of the best introductory children's games I've ever played and it plays well with all ages. Players are constantly in situations where they must make choices and the movement of Wally Walrus being how players take turns is ingenious. Excellent game.
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22. Board Game: Antike II [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1059]
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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Only two new games for april, but both were good!



ANTIKE II

Antike II is, basically, Imperial-lite. It has the Mac Gerdts' trademark - the rondel - and it function much like Imperial: actions are chosen in the rondel, the player can choose any action up to three spaces for free, or pay 1 resource for each step beoynd three required to reach the place the player wants. The actions are:

- Ferrum, Aurum, Marmor: gain resource (iron, gold and marble, respectively) accordingly to the number of cities you have with the symbol of the resource + 1 coin (which serves as a wild resource).

- Movere x2: move troops and/or ships one adjacent space. If the troops/ships pass a space with an opponent unit(s), the players, one at a time, may decide to battle, and the losses are in the 1:1 basis.

- Militia: build troops or ships (costs 2 iron for each). It must be put in a place where the player has a city, and no more than one troop or ship per city (or up to three, if the city has a Temple).

- Scientia: develop technologies by paying the cost in gold. There are eight possible techs: Mercatura (6/2) -> Commercium (9/4); Metallum (9/5) -> Moneta (12/7); Regnum (10/6) -> Res Publica (13/8); Strata (7/3); and Navigation (8/4). The first number in the parenthesis is paid by the first player that develops it, the second, for everyone else after. Only the first to develop each tech gains a teach card (worth 1 point each). For a player to develop the connected tech (Commercium, Res Publica, Moneta), it must, first, develop the first tech. As, expected, each tech gives an advantage to the players that have them, like, Strata allows for troops to move up to two spaces instead of one; Moneta gives the player one extra resource when taking resources actions; Regnum gives +1 for defenses of cities; and so on.

- Templum - the player can build Temples, paying 5 marble for each one, and it must be placed where the player has a city. A Temple gives the player several benefits: +2 resources of the type of the city it is in; +2 for defense of the city; permits putting up to three troops at once in the place when using the Militia action; and for every three Temples owned by the player, he gains 1 point. But Temples are also a target, as destroying them are worth 1 point.

The game goes between the player expanding (cities can be build, when doing other actions, if the player has an unit - ship or troop - in the region, and pays 1 marble, 1 gold and 1 iron for each city build) and doing actions in order to gain victory points. The things that give these points are:

- Every 5 cities controlled;
- Every 3 Temples controlled;
- Destrying one Temple;
- Being the first to develop a Technology;
- For every 7 regions a player has ships in (some regions count as two);
- If a player develops all the techs, at the highest level. Only one player can gain this point.

This it it. These are the things that need to be done in order to score. Each is worth 1 point, so, if you reach 10 cities controlled, you gain a card (for the 10th; you would already have one for the 5th when you did this), so, this is worth a total of 2 points (1 for the 5th, 1 for the 10th), and even if you lose cities, and went under 10, you keep the card. But reaching again 10 won't give points (you already have two cards), now only 15 cities will net you another point. The same is valid for every other point you gain - once you got it, it is yours, and can't be lost. I like this very much, since it pushes players to act bold, even when knowing you won't be able to actually sustain a position (for instance, invanding the land of someone else, in order to destroy a temple - your troops/ships maybe defeated easily later on, but if you conquered the city and destroyed the Temple, the point gained is already yours to keep).

Antike II doesn't have the economic engine or timming that Imperial has: there are no bonds to be bought, nor armies to keep paying for, lowering the net gain of money. Nor there is the possibility to act as another power, by claiming it to yourself. Even if there are lots of similarities in the actions, Antike II is closer, in feel of the gameplay, to Kemet, as both had a feeling of development (Kemet more for fight, but still), and the incentive to dare, to attack, as the points of winning battles can't be lost in Kemet.

However, it is important to say that combat isn't the only (nor, probably, the best) way to gain points. It is entirely possible to achieve the amount of points required by simply building (ships, temples and cities) and developing techs. For instance, in my first play, there was a grand total of five combats (4 players), as fights are tough, due to the 1:1 basis, and the lost of units to conquer cities and destroy temples - it is not something easy to recover from (for both sides). Still, the games rewards boldness and I like this.

So, to finish, Antike II is a fine game on its own, and is a sure bet for those that liked Imperial but wants a shorter and lighter game, one that can be played well with four or five players. I enjoyed the game from start to finish, even if the first actions of everyone were pretty close to be all the same, but once everyone start to find their way around the board, Antike II shined.


Rate: 7.5 / 10



URBAN SPRAWL

Urban Sprawl was fun to play and way more easy to learn than I thought. Basically the players have 6 action points to spend every turn, and this is used to pick building permits and buildings itself to build. The player chooses a place in the board to build, pay the costs and activate the building power (always a one shot deal, as, once the build is put, it only serves as a type of building - civ, commercial, residential, etc). There are lots of possibilities, as each building is unique in its one-time effect, the size of it (which requires different permits), its type and, also, the place it is in the track - as the higher it is, the more AP it will require to be taken.

The game is somewhat prone to AP, since it is difficulty to predict your actions before your turn, as you can be sure of what permits and buildings will be available once your turn is up (not only because of what is already showing, but also because new permits and buildings appear just before every player's turn). So, once it is your turn, it that you really start planning what to do. And, in between turns, when cards are being revealed, will happen, sometimes, random events, which can have a big impact also in your plans.

Urban Sprawl sure have a good deal of randomness - which is, basically, the main complain of many against it. Not only the events happen at random (though, with more plays, you can know what they do, but, even with this, is hard to actually prepare and benefit from them, as is not a sure thing which ones will occur, as there are event cards that makes the deck be reshuffled, therefore, some events can happen twice, while others, never - for instance, in this play, the event that gives points and money to whoever has more residential buildings occured twice, while the one for most civ buildings, not once). To counter somewhat this, the game has political roles (mayor, district attorney, police chief, etc) and the Contractor, which is given to the player with the least prestige (points) - this role allows the player to build over someone else's building, which can make a whole lot of difference and is, basically, the catch-up mechanism in the game.

One thing I found weird is the end game. Sure, the other random things may harm, but they aren't all that major, and one player can recover from them. But the game end also happens randomly, whith the Olympics being shuffled in a part of the deck (so players have a ballpark guess as when the game will end). And is totally possible for the game to end with some players having one turn more than others, and this is huge, specially with the big one-time powers of the Metropolis buildings - in our final turns, each play would net 10+ points, and this in a game of around 100-120 points, or around 10% of the total points of the game. This is the only part of the game I don't liked.

One thing I thought would bother me somewhat was the fact that, once the building is built, is just one more token on the board, without any sort of function or uniqueness except for its color and a cube of the owner on top of it. But, considering the sheer amount of different buildings (in different eras - Town, City and Metropolis) it would be crazy hard to keep up with all the different buildings if they were, well, different. It works pretty well being just a token on the board, for scoring (for money and for prestige) purposes, and way less fiddly, since the buildings, once on the board, don't have more uses besides scoring, and would be a hassle to hunt for the 1-space School tile, or the 2-space DMV and so on. In the end, it was the right choice for the game.

Overall, I enjoyed quite a bit my play of Urban Sprawl, but I can see that some random events and, most of all, the end game can have a huge impact on the game, so I can't give a higher rating. I do recommend the fast game, as you basically can do all the same things, and, being shorter, the swings of luck will bother less. The bits are GMT-style: not great art, nor awesome graphic design, but it fits well and do the job perfectly.

Rate: 7 / 10


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23. Board Game: Warriors of God [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:1078]
Matt Clark
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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As I continue my exploration of wargames, most of my "new-to-me" games this month were of that ilk. I feel as though as soon as I manage to play one, I learn about 10 more that I'd like to try. It reminds me a lot of when I was just starting with board games in general.

Warriors of God


image credit: Twirling TF

This was taught to me as just a pickup game after we had wrapped something else. I was a little concerned due to all of the dice rolling for both leader death and combat resolution, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the low rules overhead and I thought it was really thematic for as much abstraction as was required. Of course, I also won which helps my impression of lots of games. It also made me realize how little I know about the 100 Years War, so now I'll have to find a copy of this and probably buy a book.

Fading Glory


image credit: marticabre

I expressed interest in playing the Napoleonic 20 system and one of the guys in my gaming club told me he had a copy of Fading Glory for sale. I ruled up as best I could and was able to get in both a play of the Borodino scenario and another scenario from the España 20: Volume 1 set from VPG. Again, great low rules overhead but with interesting decisions to make. Also as much as I love Manoeuvre, it doesn't solo all that well. With this system, I can run through scenarios at home really easily (although I can't play with fog of war). Great purchase for the beginner or casual wargamer.

Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York - I did not know what the hell was going on in this game (kind of whirlwind rules explanation), but I had a good time! Great theme, cool map, and fun bluffing/guessing decisions to make. I could see this being pretty rough if the players really agonized over the decisions, but we kept it brisk.

Washington's War - Oof. I really wanted to like this but I had a tough game. I was just getting the snot kicked out of me and finding the combat resolution frustrating. I'm not done with Washington's War yet, though. I hope to take another crack at it soon now that I've learned the game.
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24. Board Game: Quartermaster General [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:693]
Peter D
United Kingdom
london
UK
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Quartermaster General is a great find, thanks to Mr.BoardgameGuru himself (Sorp222). Thanks Paul.

I am no wargamer, in fact I actively dislike wargames. But this is no wargame. This is Twilight Struggle Redux (and for me that is a good thing as I don’t care hugely for the very long and complicated area control of Twilight Struggle).

This is a card game with a board. A game of almost unreal and unbelievable simplicity which, beyond all expectations, actually simulates the whole of World War 2 in 60 minutes.
A game wherein the rules can be explained in three minutes but with a depth which belies this apparent simplicity.

This is a game which demands six people yet has little downtime, a game for new gamers, for old gamers, for families, for almost anyone.

A game which plays out so differently every single time due to the interactions of six separate decks of cards.

A game which has endless replayability as each person plays a nation and each nation’s deck is totally different from any other.

A game which is almost impossible to play a single time, all players will be demanding a second game immediately.

A game which has been under the radar but which mechanically actually sets completely new ground: six interacting decks and simple rules - there is a lot of scope in this for the future of a lot of other ideas and not just in this historical war context.

This game is breaking new ground in a wholly addictive and entertaining manner.

I like this game.




 


Most disappointing game of the month: Kraftwagen. I was so looking forward to this game. Matthias Kramer has been on such form recently (Glen More, Lancaster, Rococo) after all.

Kraftwagon uses the rondel-like tile selction from Glen More but replaces it with action selection. And when you start playing the game is seems a real winner. There are cards to acquire, cars to build, cars to sell, salesmen to employ and racing cars to race. It feels good.

But after a while the game’s limitations become exposed. There are particular routes you can follow but you have to be the best in any one strategy or you will get nothing. And then if the cards don’t come up which support your chosen strategy you will be hampered. So, the limitations of restricted cards along with a need to really specialise can lead to frustrations. On top of that one particular path is extra powerful as it means you excel in the Racing part of the game and in one of the Sales areas.

Hmmm. So disappointed.







 


Eketorp is a game which needs six players to play at its best. This is a real take-that game. Place your workers behind your screen then reveal them and move them onto the board in position. On the board you attack other people to either gain resources or knock down their castle. This is done through simple highest card wins play, with the loser retaining the winner’s card and vice versa.

It makes for a very entertaining 45 minutes of second-guessing what everyone else will do and enjoying the light conflict. And the rules are so simple it is a dream to explain and play. So, good with light gamers, family (but some children may object to being attacked) and as a filler in a gamers’ evening.

The game is available very cheaply these days.

Hint: play the Ousgg variant found under varients on BGG, whereby you start with nearly half of your castle built. Played with the normal rules the game will outstay its welcome. The marvellous Ousgg variant cuts around a third off the game time and gives a much more interesting start to the game.








 


Last Train to Wensleydale is a real delight. A great Martin Wallace train game. Part network building, part pick-up & deliver, and part a tough business economic game. And as with the best Martin Wallace games there is a real twist. You build your railway, but you also want to sell bits of it back to the mainline train companies to keep your costs low. Wonderful brain burning stuff.










 

Take a big bunch of Carcasonne, add in some resource generation, a little building purchasing, and some action selection from Puerto Rico and you have The King of Frontier.

And it manages to throw all of this together in a quick 30 minute filler time. It all feels familiar, in a good way, and with enough going on to keep things moving swiftly.
The need for particular landscape configurations is greater than in Carcassonne and as such you are somewhat at the mercy of the random tile draw, but really I am picking faults where none are due.

Let’s hope that this gets picked up by a European or American company and gets wider distribution, it deserves it.









 


It is slightly bewildering as to how popular Tajemnicze Domostwo has become. People call it a cross between Dixit and Cluedo (Clue in the US). But whilst I like both of those games this falls flat with me completely. Trying to deduce the card that is being explained just seems so random given all the cards are a mess of colour and images.

Clearly I am missing something as this is popular right now.









 


As a loud and proud Stefan Feld fan it pains me to say how disappointing La Isla really is. I love every other game the man has created. Even the light and largely ignored dice game, It Happens.., is a joy to play. But this is just...underwhelming. It does not help that the components are appalling: flimsy card, crazy graphic design that is a mess, stupidly small player aid cards, a small central board size, and difficult iconography which all combine to make it a real issue just getting through a game easily.
And it hits that rather vacuous spot whereby it is too complicated for average family enjoyment (or at least my family) but just too random and uninteresting for deeper gamer’s tendencies. Let’s hope the man has not gone off the boil.









 

Um Reifenbreite is an entertaining cycle racing game from so long ago that even I was a child when it first hit the world as Homas Tour. Despite the apparent randomness of the dice the game is more about hand management and getting your team of bikes in the right place at the right time. Some people take this game very seriously with all sorts of bike race simulation rules tacked on. But played in the standard advanced version but without the random event cards and you have a clean and enjoyable race game. Ave Cesar w