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

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

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Games Only YOU have played in May 2015
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1. Board Game: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:577]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 4 new-to-me games and one new-to-me expansion in May, and this is my choice for my favorite. I also played and enjoyed Kings of Israel, didn't care for Cubist, and didn't even like the chocolate in Trivial Pursuit: Chocolate Edition.

The expansion I played was Dominion: Adventures. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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2. Board Game: Dominion: Adventures [Average Rating:8.20 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.20 Unranked]
Juan Carlos Goyes
Colombia
Bogota
Cundinamarca
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Golem Arcana

2015-05-11

Initial Rating: 7.0 (May 2015)

I finally played Golem Arcana and I must say I’m impressed. I have no problem using digital devices as gaming aids, I own and like Alchemists and XCom but Golem Arcana has the most impressive boardgame/digital device amalgamation I have seen so far. The Bluetooth stylus works perfectly and I really liked it. The game has a huge WOW factor, when we were playing it, even non gamers approached us to ask about the game.

The iPad app does all the upkeep which I really hate to do in most games, but its potential is much greater than that, so many possibilities .

So far, I have only played the first two scenarios, so for now, the game is a very simple tactical miniature game, but it is my understanding that with each scenario the app introduces new rules to the game making it more interesting and challenging. Due to this, teaching the game to new players is a breeze while at the same time, it appeals to the heavier gamer in me. I hope the game has a lot more depth than I have seen so far.

The minis look gorgeous and (mercifully) they come assembled and painted. In general, the components are top notch.

I have nothing bad to say about the game, perhaps the fact that you can play the game on the iPad without using the miniatures or the map can bother some people, but I don’t think I will ever do that, after all, I’m a boardgamer so I will always assemble the map and move the miniatures in real life.

Bottom line, I like Golem Arcana a lot, it has the potential to go up in my personal ratings. I think it is a very innovative game and it offers a glimpse of some possible future of the hobby. I plan to buy the game along with all its expansions.

Current Rating: 7.0



Nosferatu

2015-05-11

Initial Rating: N/A (May 2015)

Nosferatu seems like a good game, however the player who read the rules was very inexperienced so he explained them wrong. I need to read the rules and play Nosferatu again this month. From what I saw, Renfield has the best role of the game .

The art of the cards is ok.

I will comment further when I play the game again but I have high hopes. I like hidden role games.

Current Rating: N/A



Black Stories Movie Edition

2015-05-11

Initial Rating: 3.0 (May 2015)

In general, I love Black Stories. They are riddles that encourages people to think out of the box. I was very excited to try this edition, sadly I was sorely disappointed. The Movie edition of the game is pure crap. It goes against the idea of the game because the “riddles” in this edition are plots from very famous movies (Ice Age, Se7en, Carrie). Every time I have played it, someone in the group knows the whole plot so we all have had zero fun playing it, there is no deduction involved, only memory . This is stupid, why would you create a riddle game in which the answers are universally famous? It negates the whole point of the game. At least they could have done this from obscure movies no one has seen, but as I told you before all the ones we played were taken from Hollywood blockbusters.

Bottom line, there is no point in playing this edition. My only hope is that some of the mysteries are indeed taken from old movies or from less known movies. For now, I’m leaning toward getting rid of the game.

Current Rating: 3.0



Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper

2015-05-24

Initial Rating: 5.5 (May 2015)

Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper is a weird game. From the rules it seemed very complex but in practice it is very easy. I think the rulebook does a poor job of explaining the game.

It seems MR:JtR has some hidden depth that eluded me in my only play, so I’m still unsure about how I feel about the game. More plays are needed to gauge if I enjoy it or not. However I was expecting a better game from the start. I really hope the other games in the series to be better but I still have hope for this one.

The art of the cards is good enough for me and I like it. Best with 2 players. I love the theme and I feel it does come through during play.

Bottom line, I love cards games so I want to play again MR:JtR soon to see if I can enjoy it. As I said before it is a weird game and I feel I didn’t grasp it well enough in one play. When I play it again I will come back to re comment.

Current Rating: 5.5



Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

2015-05-24

Initial Rating: 6.5 (May 2015)

I didn´t know what to expect but I really liked Raja: Palastbau in Indien (Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India). I have a tremendous respect for Wolfgang Kramer and that was the reason I bought the game in the first place.

As I have the game in German, it was very hard to get the rules online (this shouldn’t happen these days), I only got some summaries, but a German speaking friend confirmed we played the game with the correct set of rules.

The game has easy rules, but the decisions needed to play it aren’t trivial. It features Area Control, Role Selection and Simultaneous (hidden) Action Planning. You have to correctly guess what will happen and then plan accordingly but so much can happen between your plan and your move. Very tactical, I really like it.

I played only with three players, but I wouldn’t say no to a four or even five player game. It moves at a fast pace.

It is weird that you can interrupt one action to do another and then finish the first one, so far this is the only game I have seen this.

When I transport the game, its components become very disorganized, so I had to toss the insert (it pained me a bit), it was gorgeous but useless.

On the other hand, I have a minor issue. I’m worried that catching a runaway leader can be too hard.

Bottom line, Raja: Palastbau in Indien is a keeper for me. I think it has a lot of probabilities of getting an improved rating and I want to play it again soon.

Current Rating: 6.5



Love Letter: Batman

2015-05-24

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2015)

I was curious about this title so I bought it. At this point, my friends and I are tired of seeing Love Letter all over the place, so it was a bit of a struggle to get Love Letter: Batman to the table. After playing it I wasn’t surprised nor disappointed. It is still THE SAME Love Letter with very minor changes. I liked the changes though. 1. The game has now very good artwork and I love Batman. 2. Now you need to get 7 points to win the game, at first I didn’t like it but with the new Batman ability you can finish this game faster than regular Love Letter which is a huge plus for me. It also has the added benefit of keeping all players in the fight as there are more VPs to be gained each round. 3. The VP tokens are GORGEOUS and the best part of the game by far.

I found weird that the new Batman ability isn’t listed on the card, you have to read the game manual for that.

For the clamshell edition, the bag is also very nice looking.

Bottom line, I’m tired of Love Letter in all its forms. It is a fine game to play from time to time (if played quickly) but I already sold all my Love Letters editions. I don’t think I will play it again this year.

Current Rating: 5.5



Black Stories: Mittelalter Edition

2015-05-28

initial Rating: 8.0 (May 2015)

These last months, I have played lots and lots of Black Stories. I also bought as many sets as I could find and after all that I have cooled a bit toward the game. I still think it is a good to great game but I no longer want to play it all the time so I’m downgrading the rating of all Black Stories games, still I don’t think its rating will continue to fall down for me.

In general, I really like every Black Stories game I have played, with the exception of the Movie edition, so the Mittelalter Edition doesn’t break this rule. I like the game a lot. It can be explained under 1 minute and it plays under 12 minutes (most of the time). You can play it with gamers or with a casual crowd (like my mom).

In particular, I think some of the riddles found in this edition, are based on historical fact, and that IS very neat .

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 and bought it in Spanish, otherwise many friends couldn't play as the Guardian.

Bottom line, Black Stories: Mittelalter Edition is a good game I won’t say no and I want to play it again soon.

One of 2012´s favorites.

Current Rating: 7.0



The Resistance: Merlin/Assassin Promo

2015-05-28

Initial Rating: 8.5 (May 2015)

I love and have both incarnations of The Resistance, but I think Avalon is a bit better due to the roles. These promos add an Avalon feel to the first game so I like it a lot. This is great for people who only has the original game but want to add the main (best) roles Avalon has to offer and they radically alter the game in a good way.

Many of my friends already played The Resistance this way.

By far, Merlin's role is the hardest to play properly, but it is very fun. Playing the assassin is also very fun, but much easier. Love the art although I would have liked it better if the cards art featured a different character. It is the same girl in both cards.

My only (minor) dislike is that I wish they have different names as having Merlin in a futuristic setting doesn't make thematic sense.

Bottom line, these roles are a great addition to the game, a must if you like The Resistance and don’t have Avalon. I almost always want to play with them.

Current Rating: 8.5



Passing Shot

2015-05-28

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2015)

I wasn’t expecting anything good from the game, in my mind Passing Shot was already a very a bad game, even some friends made fun of me for buying it in the first place , but after all that, I was pleasantly surprised. I like the game and for now it is a keeper in my game collection.

If a game has a high degree of luck, I firmly believe the luck factor should be controlled somehow or the game duration should be short. Passing shot has a healthy dose of randomness but it is a short game so I don’t mind. I have to say I have only played the basic game (very easy rules) and now I want to try the advanced variants but I’m not sure how these variants affect the luck factor or the game length.

The basic game IS very basic, with obvious decisions, however I had fun playing it and knowing there are advanced variants makes the game better for me, at least in principle.

The components are very nice, gorgeous dice. It comes in a small box, very portable.

The theme (amazingly) does come thru for the game, when I played it I really felt I was playing Tennis, so I think it is a good simulation of the game.

Bottom line, a very quick and easy Tennis game. I want to play again with the advanced variants and when I do, I will come back to comment on them. I liked the game even though I almost always dislike sport games.

Current Rating: 6.0



AquaSphere

2015-05-28

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2015)

At last I got to play this fabled Feld game. At first I wasn’t blown away by Aquasphere, but with more plays I’m beginning to like it more and more.

When the game was explained to me, I found it to have many similarities with other Feld games (obviously ) the variable VPs awarded based on which round you are, the negative factor that can destroy you if you don’t manage it (octopuses), the tightness of the game (you want to do much more than you can), the player boards, etc. All things considered, I like all of those.

The rules aren’t hard and the graphic design of the game helps a lot in this regard, however many friends have found the board to be “too colorful”. I like it but I agree it can be a bit too much. For me, the board is very similar in graphic design to the one I found in Il Vecchio, I’m not sure if there is a relationship between the two games but when I see one board I automatically think of the other one.

As I said before, the rules aren’t hard to grasp, but the game offers a lot of interesting decisions (among them, which action to program, which card to choose, which lab module to choose, where to execute the action). I really like it. Love the limits imposed by the game, you can’t advance in VP if you don’t have crystals and many actions are limited by the space available in your laboratory. As the decisions aren’t obvious and can cascade into very complex interactions, I think the game has a medium weight.

Aquasphere offers a plethora of options, so the game can slow down a lot in the last couple of turns with slow players, due to this, I think it’s best with 3 players although I will play gladly with 4 players if requested.

The theme sounds great but I don’t feel it during the game. Most of the actions don’t make thematic sense, this is a minor quibble for me though.

Aquasphere has some luck, but I feel it’s impact is minimum most of the time, a huge plus in my book.

My copy of the game came with a broken yellow robot (which is being replaced by TMG ) but also came with a misprint engineer board (which cannot be replaced cry). This is a minor issue for me.

Bottom line, Aquasphere offers interesting decisions in a short(ish) time frame (only 4 turns). I like it so I will keep it in my game collection but I found it has less tension than Bora Bora so, for now, its rating is a borderline 7.0. I want to play again soon.

Current Rating: 7.0



Ora et Labora

2015-05-29

Initial Rating: 7.5 (May 2015)

Uwe Rosenberg is one of my favorite game designers, so I always expect a lot from his games. Happily, Ora et Labora is a very good gamer's game .

The game comes with lots and lots of components, sadly, many of them were damaged when I punched them. Also the player boards are very flimsy. I'm thinking about laminating them.

The rules were easier than I expected but the decisions in the game are far from obvious due to the sheer number of buildings. Each building has a cost and an effect but you also have to take into account where to build it (strong spatial element) and the type of terrain in which you can build it. It it's great .

Ora et Labora comes with excellent (and vital) player aids.

The resource wheel is very well done and does an excellent work tracking the resources and the game rounds. I think this was the first game in which Rosenberg used it but I already played other games with it (Le Havre: The Inland Port and Glass Road).

It comes with two variants (France and Ireland) that have different resources and cards. Very neat. So far I can't really compare them because I have only played Ireland.

I was worried that the static setup could lead to a low replay value, but my gut feeling is telling me each game will be different. The are just too many options with the buildings.

I'm indifferent towards the theme, but I have to say many buildings feel very thematic.

On the bad side, I think the cards are too small so you can't see them clearly across the table. Also, it came with lots of manuals (I think four?) and as I read the rules almost exclusively on the iPad I couldn't find all of them. However, this is a very minor dislike.

It was very expensive for me, but this week I heard about an upcoming reprint.

Bottom line, Ora et Labora is a very good resource conversion game. Very reminiscent of both Le Havre (resource conversion) and Le Havre: The Inland Port, but much more closer to the later. It has a lot of potential and I want to play it again soon.

One of 2011`s favorites.

Current Rating: 7.5



Rattus: Africanus


2015-05-29

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2015)

As I like the base game, it is no surprise that I like this expansion. Rattus Africanus adds three aspects to the game. I love one, I'm indifferent to the other and the last one I'm not sure if it's an improvement or not.

I love that the expansion comes with additional characters, this is what I really like because it adds a lot to the game without changing the core rules. Many of my favorite games share this feature (Dungeon Twister, Dominion, Neuroshima Hex).

I'm indifferent about the region cards, I'm not sure if they are really needed and I didn't have any fun playing with them. It it's pure luck if you can use one of them to defend, but you can plan to win some VPs with them at the end of the game. Also, if the right character isn't in play you won't have the chance to draw more cards.

The third aspect that this expansion adds it's a higher player count. I almost always find this to be a mistake (my favorite player count is two). I'm not sure about the new player count but I'm willing to play it with five or six players (once) to really see but I think I won't like it. I feel it adds too much chaos to an already chaotic game AND the downtime would be excessive for such a simple game. Another small disappointment in this regard is that the new board (Africa) can only be played with 5-6 players :/.

The game components are very good.

Bottom line, Rattus Africanus is an ok expansion. To be perfectly honest, I would have preferred an expansion of only new role cards. I will play again soon to see if the Region Cards appeal to me.

Current Rating: 6.0



Rockband Manager

2015-05-30

Current Rating: 5.5 (May 2015)

In general, I find Bauza games to be from regular to ok designs, so I had very little expectation toward Rockband Manager. However the game surprised me (better than expected) and I had fun playing it.

The rules are easy to grasp but more convoluted than expected for such a simple/light game. You can explain them under ten minutes. The game components are great as is usual from FFG and the art is ok.

Rockband Manager is a bidding game at its heart. At first you have to bid money and then you have to bid cards. It it's reminiscent of For Sale but a lot longer (a negative for me).

I'm indifferent toward the theme, but many friends liked it.

I feel the game has lots of uncontrollable luck in the first phase because you can only see the first card AND you can only have one of each kind of rock star. In our games it was a common occurrence to pay a lot for a rock star and then find the one below it to be much better and, to add insult to injury, it generally was bought a lot cheaper. However, as the game is very simple and it moves at a fast pace, that luck of the draw doesn't bother me that much.

The other two phases are much fairer as everyone can see all the cards and there can be duels between players. However some cards seem overly powerful (perhaps unbalanced?).

On the box says the game is for 3 to 6 players, but I feel 3 players won't enjoy they game properly. You need at least 4 players.

Bottom line, Rockband Manager it's a light bidding game geared toward the casual gamers. I would play again if requested but I won't pursue anymore plays of this. Rockband Manager is perhaps a bit too long for what it offers. I already sold my copy.

Current Rating: 5.5



Star Wars Galactic Heroes Game

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 2.0 (May 2015)

It took me 4 years to play Star Wars Galactic Heroes Game. It is evidently a child´s game but a very simple one. Even with the “advanced” rules the game is incredible simple, in fact there is barely a game here. The only redeeming factors are the miniatures (which are great) and that you can play it very fast.

Perhaps I’m a bit harsh with my rating, but I always rate games based on how much I like it and I can’t have different standards to measure boardgames, even if the intended public for them are wildly different. I guess I would have liked this game as child, but now there are many better child games that come to mind (The Magic Labyrinth,Enchanted Forest).

Bottom line, I won’t ever play again Star Wars Galactic Heroes Game, I really didn’t like it and I already got rid of it.

Current Rating: 2.0



Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 6.0 (May 2015)

Fun game to play from time to time. I really like Sentinels of the Multiverse so I like the universe of Sentinel Tactics. They share not only the theme, but also many mechanics have a similar feel. It is neat to play as the villain (I always play the baddie) and when I played it, the game was very close for both teams, tense and fun.

I’m not sure if I like how movement is handled, it seems very random and was the reason a player lost last time. I need to play more times to really see if this bothers me or not. Sentinel Tactics is a Light-Medium weight game.

I’m not sure if each scenario is meant to play independently or as a campaign of sorts. I prefer to play it as a two player game, but I will also play from 2 to 4 players. Not sure how the game can handle an 8 player game, but I’m afraid to ask. I have to read the rules to solve these questions.

Bottom line, I like Sentinel Tactics, not as much as Sentinels of the Multiverse but I can see myself playing this again in the future. Perhaps I will buy it but the main problem I have right now is a shortage of play time. I’m already committed playing a Myth and Imperial Assault campaigns so I’m not sure if I can squeeze another tactics game to the mix.

I bought an expansion for this game by mistake, I thought it was a Sentinels expansion :/.

Current Rating: 6.0



La Città

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 6.5 (May 2015)

I didn’t have any expectation whatsoever, but I found a good game in La Città. The game looks gorgeous on the table, the components are very good too. The rules are easy to grasp, but the decisions needed in the game are very interesting and meaty. You have only 5 actions each turn and you have lots of options. The luck of the draw isn’t small, but I feel it doesn’t decide the fate of the game (most of the time).

An early mistake can take you out of the game for good, in general I like this kind game (Age of Steam, Antiquity, Myrmes) BUT in this case I don´t because sometimes you have to take decisions with incomplete information. That’s not the part I dislike (in fact I love that) because there is a mechanism to control it (a card that allows you to poll the voice of the people). What really bugs me is when you spend a costly action to look 2 of the voice of the people cards and that gives you no valuable information whatsoever (when the face up card is black, and you looked at a white card and at a blue card). I realize this has a low probability of happening, but in our game it happened twice, and one of the players guessed wrong so he finished last. In conclusion, I’m ok to losing the game in the first or second turn if it was my fault, but I’m not ok if I have to guess a path EVEN after I paid for a card so I didn’t have to guess. I also think this can be mitigated paying attention to what the other players cities are building. I need to play more times to see if this is really an issue or not.

La Città also has a “the richer get richer” feel because when you steal citizen you grow stronger and you maintain that strength while at the same time weakening your competitors, in this way you can achieve an unrivaled advantage. In out game there were 2 super cities and all others lost to them. These cities won from round one. I’m not sure if this is an issue for me, but I think not. Perhaps it was due to our inexperience, as I said before I need to play again.

The insert looks great, but it is useless because when you transport the game, all bits become disorganized angry, I will toss it and use bags instead.

I thought the “feed your workers” mechanism was invented around 2007 (Agricola) but this game is from 2000 and it causes a lot of tension, I love it.

Bottom line, I want to play again in the near future and I will keep the game in my collection. La Città has a lot of potential and perhaps it will get an upgraded rating. I feel I has lots of depth and I would like to explore it.

Current Rating: 6.5



Dominion: Adventures

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 9.5 (May 2015)

I love Dominion, a game currently in my top ten list of favorite games of all time. Thank to this I was pretty sure I was going to love Dominion: Adventures and I do. My favorite cards are the duration ones from Seaside, and this game brings them back .

As usual, it adds 30 new 30 Kingdom Cards to the mix (I love it and I would have bought the expansion just for this), making the replayability very high, besides the new cards add new effects I’m dying to try soon. Dominion: Adventures also adds Event Cards (cards that you can buy but not acquire) and I really like them, they can impact the game in many ways and you only use one each game so the repercussions of the events can be very different each time.

The Reserve cards are also very interesting, they are combo makers. Dominion: Adventures adds tokens, they are neat because they allow a card to do one thing or another depending upon the estate of the token (face up or face down). The traveler cards seem great, you can upgrade them each time you play them but I haven’t played with them more than once.

I have heard some people are angry that Dominion got a new expansion, even after Donald X. Vaccarino explicitly said that Guilds was the last one, but as I love the game I can say without any doubt, that I will buy any new Dominion expansion they release. For me, the more Dominion the merrier.

Dominion is best (by far) with two players.

Bottom line, along with Seaside and Prosperity, Adventures can become one of my favorite Dominion expansions. I will definitively play again and again in the near future. I love Dominion and I expect this to never change.

Current Rating: 9.5



Sylla
2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 7.0 (May 2015)

Good game. It has a very low luck factor and I almost always appreciate this. Sylla is a bidding game at its heart. You bid for everything with money or cards, but there are interesting decisions (medium weight) to be found, basically, for which kind of cards will I bid (character, building, event) and how will I pay for it (slaves, senators, virgins, legionaries or money). You also bid to be the first player and also bid at the end of each round to win VPs. I love the setup phase in which players all have the same set of characters but they have to choose a limited amount, this keeps the game fresh and repayable.

I love the events, in each round there are two events (from a total of four) that will occur and they can be devastating to your plans. Many times you need to “convince” other players to help you prevent a particular event, this fight is tense and fun. Other source of tension are the Res Republica tokens, they represent VPs at the end of the game according to a table (which is very fun to manipulate) AND they also serve in-game as VPs generators/punishment due to crisis. These tokens are hidden for most of the game adding a memory element I really enjoy. Also thank to this, you are never sure who is winning as many points will be awarded at the end. For last, there is a third source of tension, each round there will be famine and it can punish unprepared players. All things considered, I love all of this.

The theme isn’t to my liking, but some of the mechanisms do support it. The art is merely ok and the player screens are very regular (although they achieve their purpose).

I dislike that there is no tiebreaker.

Bottom line, Sylla is a borderline 7.0 to me (a good game I’m usually willing to play) but it could fall with more plays. It is a keeper in my game collection.

One of 2008´s favorites.

Current Rating: 7.0



Sword of Rome

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 4.5 (May 2015)

I’m not a wargamer. I was tricked into playing Sword of Rome, I thought we were going to play Battlestar Galactica .

For me, it is a regular game, it last a long time and the decisions aren’t that hard (more or less you have to choose who to attack and/or what to defend). I confess I have some fun playing it, but I won’t ever request it and I won’t lose sleep if I never play it again.

I like that each player has different powers (asymmetrical).

Sword of Rome has lots of luck, you have to roll for everything (to attack, to defend, to siege, to sail, for attrition) and the luck of the draw can also be high. I dislike that I feel it is luck who decides who win (because the decisions are obvious really), and this is even worse when the game duration can be over the 6 hour mark. In our game if a player rolled 6 or more in a siege he would have won, but he rolled a 4 so he lost. I found the sieges to be overly slow and luck driven as it didn’t matter how many army tokens you have (but to make a siege you need at least 3), so many times you begin a siege and then be repelled losing part of your army and hours of your life.

These days, I (almost) never enjoy games in which all players attack the perceived leader and are ripe for backstabbing situations. Sword of Rome share both of these traits BUT I liked that you can make an alliance and if you want to attack your ally you have to pay a penalty. Still you know that you are going to be betrayed at some point, so the best strategy (as usual) is to never be the leader (lay low), but be close to him in VPs, then at very end make your big move, usually backstabbing the power who helped you during the game.

I realize the cards are a very good design, you have to choose if you play the strength of the card or the event of the card and it is a(somewhat) hard decision and the only one interesting in all the game, but in general I was a bit bored with them.

I strongly believe Sword of Rome is a 4 player game, with more, a couple of hours are added to the playtime and it increases the downtime, both very negative in my book.

The paper board is awful, but we played with the mounted board of the deluxe edition (which is very nice). I also (in general) dislike the small chits of many wargames, mainly because they have lots of information in a very small font, but I didn’t have that problem with this game, the chits have almost no information.

The theme is ok (but I couldn’t care less for it), and the cards capture it very well.

I feel the game has in its majority easy decisions, the complexity comes from the minutiae of the rules (they are easy, but many) and the long playtime so I would catalogue it as a Medium-Heavy weight game, however I feel the decisions are much harder and interesting in Agricola, Madeira or Tragedy Looper to name a few.

Bottom line, I will do my best to stay away from the game, sadly all the other players loved it and they already asked me if I would play again with them (5 player game). I have a rule and it is I will play anything twice, so I guess I will play it again.

Current Rating: 4.5



Sword of Rome: 5th Player Expansion

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 4.0 (May 2015)

I don’t like Sword of Rome so, by extension, I don’t like this expansion.

If I liked the game I guess it would be nice to have expansion, but for me it only add negatives. Namely: 1. It makes the game a lot longer adding a 5th player 2. Increasing the downtime to unacceptable levels.

As I have never played Sword of Rome without this expansion, I don’t know how it affects the game.

Current Rating: 4.0



Escalation!

2015-05-31

Initial Rating: 2.0 (May 2015)

As soon as I found the game was from Mr. Knizia, my wishes to play it plummeted. I wasn’t expecting much because most of his games are repellent to me and Escalation! was no exception. The game is pure rubbish.

The art is very regular and the rules are extremely easy, you can decide everything on auto play, you don’t need to think at all, the best play is ALWAYS glaringly obvious. Almost zero strategy, I guess with 2 players you could plan something, but with more players it is pure luck. Its only redeeming factor is the (mercifully) short playtime.

Paper-thin and boring theme.

Bottom line, Escalation! is just way too simple to appeal to me (or to my mom, a casual gamer), it has almost no strategy and it is very boring. I won’t play it ever again. With every new Knizia I try, my estimation for his designs continue to fall down.

Current Rating: 2.0
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3. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:60]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Roll for the Galaxy


6 games 2x2player, 2x3player, 1x4player, 1x5player

As a 100+ play veteran of Race for the Galaxy (one of my few 10s), I couldn’t wait to try this. After stuttering through my first couple of games, I think my engine is starting to fire nicely. As someone who never had a problem with getting the iconography of Race, I am somewhat surprised that people appear to have less trouble picking up this game since it has even more moving parts and just as much iconography (albeit with 6pt font text to 'help'). Possibly this is because the separate aspects of the game (tableau building, actions and currency) are now represented by distinct things; tiles, dice and galactic credits rather than cards serving every purpose. This does have a slight downside, as a lot less cards/tiles (and a lot less options to build) will cycle through your hand.

Although it takes some time to explain, and new players pretty much look all at sea during their first few turns, everyone I have taught it to certainly seem to “get it” by the last few turns of their first game. By which time, they immediately want to play again. Perhaps it is the great cadence/rhythm to the turns (roll, place, resolve, reset) in this game that makes it such a pleasure to play. The sound of dice dropping in the cup and the cup shaker chorus is surprising joyful for essentially an engine-builder economic game. The produce/ship order of the action is much more intuitive than in Race, and much better – since it allows you to generate cash much quicker and maintaining a healthy cash flow is critical in this game.

Having an initial tableau of three worlds/developments allows you to get into combos much quicker, but also (arguably) sets your strategy earlier. Perhaps the single biggest positive change in Roll over Race, is that options thrown at you by the roll of the dice now makes feeding off other peoples actions all the more important in this game. I love the delicious agony of trying to second guess what other people will do and, because of the fist pumps and cries of despair when those little screens are removed, most of my fellow players clearly do so too. For this reason, I think the sweet spot for this games is definitely 3-4players. Two players, with the roll of the dice determining an extra action, is pretty unsatisfying and five is possibly just too loose with a surfeit of actions being activated each turn.

If I were to express a minor frustration with the play, it would be the length of the explore phase. With more options open in the Explore phase (cash or tiles, which tile face to play), AP-prone players can really bog the game down here.

So overall, an impressive reworking of a great game. Time will tell whether the elegance of the game play and the interesting challenge of managing your cash-flow win out over the more limited number of world/developments that pass through your orbit in any given game.

Rating 8.5/10 (and may go higher)

Valley of the Kings

1 play, 4 players.

This inexplicably hard-to-get (at least in Australia) game is a very entertaining and slick deck-builder. I was lucky enough to get to play this game at the re-boot meeting of the Inner-West Gamers in Sydney. Lots of opportunity to interact with other players through card actions and a great tension between retaining powerful cards in your hand and banking them for VPs at the end of the game.

The pyramid from which you can select cards gives a measure of control and planning for getting cards into your hand, although this will clearly vary on player count. Nevertheless, even with four the ability to plan is still there – although I can imagine that some would find this just a little too chaotic at this player count. I won my only game with the ultimate thin-deck strategy (2 cards) inadvertently forced on me through the actions of my fellow players.

Rating 7.5

Musée


3 plays, All 2 player

A beautiful card game that is simple to learn, quick to play and contains a fair bit of replayability, despite its simplicity. Draw cards and place them in front of you, respecting increasing number across your gallery (tableau) and score points for placing suits next to each other both horizontally and (sometimes) vertically. Little opportunity for direct interaction, but you do need to keep an eye on what your opponent is collecting/playing.

But its lightness, quickness, theme and artwork make is ideal to play with non-gamers. Advertised as 2-4player, 2 player certainly works very well.

Rating 7

One Zero One


3plays

I really like how Grail Games is focussing on games with refreshingly quirky themes (Elevenses, Too Many Cinderellas). One Zero One is no exception, an abstract card game wonderfully themed as Basic programming. It certainly takes me back. All it needs is a Commodore PET.

The game is simple; play cards with your number "1" or "0" face up to one of five rows, possibly changing other cards using BASIC commands (CUT, PASTE, GOTO, IF...THEN, etc... ) written on some cards.

Unfortunately I found the placement rules rather restrictive, and limited card powers available in each hand made the game slightly less interesting than it could have been. I might experiment playing longer rows, using the larger deck (including all expansion cards that came with the KS) to see if that increases replayability/tactical depth.

But, all in all, a well-handled Kickstarter with a great little product and a great price ($12). What more could you ask for? Kudos to David Harding for establishing a great little company.

Rating 6.5

Machi Koro: Harbor


The increased variability of the cards - more than one type per number - elevates this simple dice roller from the mundane (5/10) to the solid (7/10) level.
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4. Board Game: Hnefatafl [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2358]
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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Okay, four new-to-me games for last month. None were great; some were okay but some not so much. I guess some months are better than others.

Hnefatafl




When one of my regular lunchtime gaming opponents brought this out we both really liked it and started to try out different strategies. Early plays ended up with the attackers, despite outnumbering the defenders by a fairly significant margin, losing every game. After all, the defender's sole objective is to have their king escape and it doesn't matter how many pawns they lose doing it. It's much harder for the attackers who have to be able to box the king in on four sides.

This did not dissuade us and, if anything, just made us eager to explore other options and different strategies. In the last game we played the attacker methodically blocked each corner exit and then we set about a cat-and-mouse exercise in attempting to either kill enough attackers to force a break in the defence pattern or kill enough defenders to give the remaining attackers a chance at boxing in the king.

This took a while. A long while and, for mine (playing as defender) the game really started to drag.

We were interrupted by a fire drill (yes, really) and haven't gone back to the game since.

I'm sure we'll play again, but the strategy of denial really slowed up the game and made a fun 15 minute exercise into something of an odyssey of tedium.


Risk Express



I played this for the first time at the ‘Knziathon’ to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Great Reiner run at a local games store (Jolt Games in Mitchell). It was pretty much what I expected, a heap of dice rolling and a bit of fun. The first game, with adults, was okay but really didn’t grab me – probably fair to say that it was a bit too long and outstayed its welcome.

I played again later with the Little Fish and they really enjoyed the game. We played without the ability to take areas from other players and the boys liked rolling dice and then matching them up to suit the different areas that were still up for grabs.

So, not a bad game and one that while I wouldn’t rush to play again it’s one that I would happily sit down with and play with the boys. I might consider purchasing if I see a cheap set somewhere or even get Age of War which, I understand, is pretty much the same thing but cheaper as it doesn't come packed in the 'roll bowl.'


Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue



Just for something different, here's a game by Reiner Knizia with a pasted on theme. Hard to believe but true.

This is basically a very very simple card game where each player plays cards in a rows with the object of playing all their cards before the round ends. Cards are played in rows (up to a certain length) or above rows, but any card above must match one of the colours of the two cards below it. As the card edifice grows the playing options will (usually) narrow. The last person able to play a card is the winner of the round. Players then accumulate penalty points for each card left in their hand at the end of the round.

The winner then gets an 'Iron Throne' card which cancels a number of points, but also has some 'swords' where the more points cancelled the more swords. Swords are used as a tie breaker.

The 'theme' is that the cards that are played in the rows are themed to the four main houses in Game of Thrones with character stills from the TV series. That's it.

The game itself is a very light and reasonably entertaining diversion. Might be a good gateway option for new gamers but not one that I'll purchase. I will play again, but won't push for this to be brought to the table.

Further play shows that shouting the word "Hodor" when playing the Hodor card really captures the essence of the 4000+ pages (so far) of the George R R Martin novels - it's like one really is in Westeros.


Mutant Meeples



If you like Ricochet Robots you may enjoy Mutant Meeples. Mutant Meeples is pretty much the same as Ricochet Robots but the pieces each have a special power of some description.

Sadly, or perhaps not so sadly, I don't particular care for Ricochet Robots and after all of one game I can truthfully say that the same of Mutant Meeples.

Don't get me wrong, I can see the appeal of the exercise, but it just does not even remotely float my boat. For mine, it comes across as more a puzzle than a game (I know there is the competitive aspect to it with players being timed to find a better solution once one player thinks they’ve cracked it) but puzzling out the minimum number of moves to get a meeple from one point to another is just not too much fun.

Will not buy and will actively avoid playing in the future.
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5. Board Game: Quantum [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:372]
Jim Jamieson
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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My favorite of the month was Quantum. I was really surprised by this game as I thought it would be one I didn't like due to all the attacking. However, I really enjoyed it! It plays quick and because your ships come back right away it's not so bad to lose a fight. I thought the modular board and the special powers really add a lot to the game. I was glad to be able to track a copy of this down and I look forward to more plays in the future. d10-8

The next game I enjoyed this month was Mottainai the new Chudyk game currently on Kickstarter. My friend put together a PnP and we ran through 2 quick games. It's another Chudyk game with multi-use cards and if you have played Glory to Rome it is pretty easy to pick up. The only potential rule hiccup is the covering aspect between the cards, but as soon as you do it once or twice during a game it makes a lot more sense. I also liked the mechanic similar to Impulse where you play everyone's action card during your turn. Backed for the deluxe copy and can't wait to get it with the final art as that looks great too! d10-8

1944: Race to the Rhine is a race game where you have to defeat nazis and make it to the river. I was the white player and jumped out quickly, but ended up having difficulty getting supplies to my units and stalled out before the game ended. I ended up having a lot of turns just moving trucks to get my guys supplies, which wasn't very exciting. It's an interesting game, but I wasn't overly excited by it. I'd play it again if others wanted to, but not one I'll request. d10-5

The last game was Xanadú. CSI got a few copies in and I joined a buddy in on an order so we broke it out. It's a worker placement card game that has you covering up slots on either your or your opponent's cards using your cards in hand to get resources to play a card as a building. By covering up these resources you can change the sale value of the cards so you can do quite a bit of damage to your opponents. For this reason the game is probably better with more players since you have more options available to you on your turn. You play twice through the deck and then whoever has made the most money by selling their buildings is the winner. I enjoyed my play, but wasn't overly thrilled with it as there are other card games I like more compared to it. d10-6
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6. Board Game: Minerva [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:2891]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I played no new-to-me games for the first 19 days of May - and none from the 26th of May until now - but I really filled those six days between, racking up 15 new to me games. Besides two unpublished prototypes (one to be published, and both rather good), I played:


Minerva - I've only played the game once, so picking it as my choice for the month is taking a lot for granted, particularly because there were a lot of new-to-me games I enjoyed this month. But - I do think, in the end, this one will prove to be my favorite.


TROLL - there are a number of games which are very close for me. But this one had the best first impression of the group, and it's held up very well through three plays now. One of the many things I appreciate about Oink Games - many of their games don't top out at four players, which seems to be a common limit for Japanese (not to mention other) designs.


Guns & Steel - this is a heavier game than many of my favorites from the month, and it would place higher if I weren't worried about how it will stand up to extended play. Worried - but by no means convinced that there will be a problem. I definitely enjoy it more with 3 than with 2, and with 2 than with 4.


Rights - on my first play, I wasn't convinced at all that this would be a keeper for me. But it improved significantly for me with additional play, and ended up being the new-to-me game I played most in May (possibly the game I played most during the month), with five plays.


Crows Overkill - this is a very light game - but rather enjoyable. In many ways, it's a game with a very Japanese theme but very American gameplay, and lots of things I don't generally care for - but in a 15 minute game, it works. And the screen is just fantastic...


Art of War: the card game - the bottom of my keeper list; would probably rank higher if I enjoyed two player games more. It was fun to see my first three plays end on three of the four end game conditions. (The fourth end game condition seems very unlikely.)

And the rest:


Terrible Monster - another game done in by my preference for multiplayer games. Fun game; my older son enjoyed it enough that he happily took it.


Get The Cheese! - a fun little game, but doesn't have something extra to allow the game to stand out for me.


Tussle - fine little dexterity game, but not one that did anything special for me.


Actionworks - "works" is appropriate, really. Mostly harmless.


Queen's Architect - very straight-forward building game. It's never a good sign when, 15 minutes in, you can't wait for the game to be over.


Rumble in the House - remarkably boring, for an all-out battle game. I think it also has something of a parity problem.


7 little korpokkurs - just not my thing
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7. Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:41]
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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d10-8 The Voyages of Marco Polo

Really enjoyed my first play of this one! My "thing" is probably worker placement games with cool uses of dice, and this one did not disappoint. The game seems to scale well between the player counts as well. REALLY looking forward to getting my copy, although at this point I am regretting not just importing it. I expect to get in at least 10 plays of this by the end of the year... it was that interesting!


d10-8 Star Wars: Armada

Got in a play of the intro scenario with just a copy of the base game. While I did find the system to be very interesting, a base box alone is not nearly enough to make this game interesting. I have now picked up all the Wave 1 stuff, however I have not yet gotten this to the table with those included. Still prefer X-wing at this point, but I could see this one growing on me as more and more stuff is released.


d10-7 XenoShyft: Onslaught

This one does have some issues, but I thought it was probably the most interesting attempt yet at putting together a deck building co-op. The downtime can be a killer for some, so unless you are one of those people that kind of gets into everyone's turn in a co-op, this one isn't probably for you. I liked it, and look forward to trying it again soon, as we died a few rounds before the end (this one isn't easy).


d10-7 Broom Service

Not as interesting as its sibling, but I found this one too be fun. I really liked the different card combos in Witch's Brew, and while this borrows the same hand management mechanism and throws a board into the mix, the card combos are more stream lined. This is one I would like to explore more going forward, but I don't see it overtaking Witch's Brew for me.


d10-7 KeYstoNe

Just another trick taking game... but it adds a tableau building aspect for scoring points which was really interesting. I really had fun with this one, and would like to see how interesting it stays after a few more plays.


d10-7 Murano

After the great Village I'll play anything by this couple! While this one is no Village, I did find the rondel in this one to be interesting, but I will have to try it with more players as it didn't seem "tight" enough in our 2 player game. This is one I did have fun with, but I need a few more plays to really gauge my true thoughts.


d10-6 The Game

Never would of even heard about this one if it had not been nominated for the SdJ. While I did find this one to be clever, and actually very addictive, there is nothing really special here. I do plan on keeping it, as it is pretty tough to beat, and it's something fun to play with my wife.


d10-6 Orcs Orcs Orcs

A neat tower defense game that isn't a co-op. I thought it was fun, and the deck building mechanism works really well, however none of the current expansions add any cards to expand the choices. I think the variety on the terrain and monsters will make this one interesting for a few more plays, but I fear my favorite part will get a bit stale without some more card options.


d10-6 Samurai Spirit

This one was fun to play a few times this month, but overall it doesn't feel like it does enough to separate itself from the other good co-ops out there. One I wouldn't mind playing more, but there are so many other good co-ops at this point that I would rather play.


... And the not so good

d10-5 Mine out
d10-5 Savanna Trick
d10-5 Antidote
d10-4 Assault on Doomrock
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8. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Race for the Galaxy + Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm = 8 Plays



This has languished for quite some time on my shelf since I was not so comfortable with the icons, so I’m glad I finally mustered the strength to study this game in depth in order to be able to teach it to the gang. This turned out to be the biggest hit for the month, as we managed to get over the clumsy first 2 plays and got used to the icons after that. It’s indeed SAN JUAN on steroids and I do like the fact that production and trading is a much more viable path to victory over its simpler predecessor. The addition of goals from Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm expansion is a nice touch and helps give additional direction on what to achieve if the players choose to do so. All in all it is a very nice engaging role selection tableau builder despite its multiplayer solitaire nature and well deserving of all the accolades it has gotten, assuming players can get over the slight learning curve needed to get comfortable with the game.



Love Letter: Batman = 2 Plays



I would have to say this is the best version of this super filler game so far. The ability of Batman (ie the Guard) to get a token if he successfully guesses a criminal role in someone else’s hand is a great addition to the base game as it makes it possible for someone to win despite not dominating a round. The Art on the cards is also very nice and those oblong bat tokens are way better looking than those boring red cubes in the base game as well!



EXPANSIONS

Agricola: Belgium Deck = 1 Play



More cards mean more variety, and that is always a good thing! The cards I managed to draft felt about just right and were quite useful, and I like the alternate art / pictures used in the deck which were associated to Belgium as well.



Ghost Stories: White Moon = 2 Plays



I have read that this expansion makes the base game easier, but the 2 plays I’ve had with this added were very difficult experiences. The additional choices of moving and saving villagers give more tension to an already tough game, and I must say my mind felt more swamped in trying to stave off the hordes of ghosts, especially the new ones with the devourer ability. Should I devote more time and effort in saving the villagers first in order to gain the family relics? Maybe that should be an angle I should try in the future?



Legendary: Guardians of the Galaxy = 2 Plays



The Infinity Shards as well as Artifacts (cards which are not discarded and remain in play once played) are the additional rules this expansion brings to the game. Infinity Shards are items which are accumulated by the heroes which can be spent in order to give additional benefits. This makes for a more slow building game since Shards have to re-accumulated after being used, and this gives some additional tension since I feel it makes things a bit more difficult to maintain a constant high attack value as compared to previous sets. Villains can also accumulate Shards and these make them tougher to defeat. The only downside for me is that it’s not thematic for me to mix the Guardians with other heroes of the game as the Guardians of the Galaxy are independent from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as of now, but I feel that will be remedied in the upcoming movies from Marvel.




Sentinels of the Multiverse: Wrath of the Cosmos = 1 Play



This expansion adds a more galactic feel to the game. The new heroes are basically versions of Green Lantern and Giant/Ant Man, but man the game does a great job in giving you a feel of their powers. Captain Cosmos is a good support character, and Skyscraper is a real powerhouse in her Giant mode and can bring on a lot of hurt to enemies (and even her team mates if she is not careful!). Progeny is a tank of a villain, and it will be interesting to find out how tough the other villains are in this set.

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9. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:522]
United States
Davis
California
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1846: The Race for the Midwest

(Image credit: sourwyrm)

Excellent "shorter" 18xx with variable start conditions.

This is an excellent 18xx title. As compared to the rest of the series, it's relatively short (~4 hours). And it's got some features that I really enjoyed.

The private companies offer an interesting mix of special powers, and if you're playing with less than the full complement of five players (as I will almost always be doing), you'll have a different set of them in each game.

The public railroad companies also have minor special features and, again, if you're playing with less than five there will be some randomness in which companies are present in the game.

That combination of unique characteristics and variable availability from game to game is very appealing. I'm a huge fan of variable set-up in games, as it keeps things from getting too scripted. I can see playing this game repeatedly without it feeling samey.

There are also a number of other minor tweaks that distinguish 1846 from other titles in the series. For example, all track construction costs money (unless a special power allows free construction in a specific context).

Also, companies float at 20% and keep the remainder of their shares in their treasuries. The company pays itself dividends for every share it still holds. And companies can sell their shares to the open market to get a cash infusion (at slightly below market price). And if it makes sense, they can later buy them back (at slightly higher than market price). This adds an interesting element of cash/stock management to the operating rounds. But beware, companies will take a hit to their share price if they've got any shares in the open market at the end of a stock round. This is all very cool.

This might be my favorite 18xx!


Arboretum

(Image credit: punkin312)

Excellent, mean, thinky filler card game (with charming art).

Cards are in suits running from 1 to 8. On your turn, draw two and play one to your tableau. Cards can be drawn from the face down deck or any discard pile.

In your tableau, you're trying to build orthagonally connected sequences of cards in ascending numerical order. In order to be scored at the end of the game, the sequence must begin and end with a suit that you're eligible to score.

Eligible to score? Yep. To be able to score a sequence, you must have the highest sum of cards in that suit in your hand at game's end (with the added wrinkle that an 8 is worth 0 if anyone is holding the 1 of the same suit).

This creates a huge potential for dickish blocking and anxiety. Your opponent building a valuable sequence in Oak trees? Keep that 7 in your hand and they won't be able to score it. Ha ha! But your hand size is only 7 and you need to keep cards in your hand to ensure you can score your valuable sequences. Which is more important, keeping your scoring opportunities alive or blocking your opponent. You can't do everything.

With two it was fun, but maybe a little too calculable. It might be a little too easy to know what your opponent is holding as the game draws to a close. That would be harder to do with more players (at least for me!). But I wonder if the downtime would become a problem with more than two. Especially if you've got an AP calculator in the mix.

For me, this fits a similar niche as Parade (numbered suits, with mathy sequencing concerns), but is more complex. I suspect I'll continue to prefer Parade as a lighter travel game. But Arboretum might get the nod as a game night opener or closer with people who won't play too slowly.

Very good game!


Mythotopia

(Image credit: percatron)

Variable set-up, 2-4 player Snow without the history.

My wife and I had a lot of fun playing A Few Acres of Snow when it first came out. So I was very interested when I heard that Wallace was designing a reimplementation of the core game concept (deck builder crossed with light strategic conflict and development on a map), with the goal of making it playable by up to four.

So what do I think? I'm pretty happy with it (at least as a two-player game, which is all I've tried so far). It plays well, with a moderate weight and length, and provides a lot of interesting choices.

I miss the historicity of Snow — I find it really satisfying to load your settlers into canoes in New York and send them upriver to establish a foothold in wilderness Albany (and then worry about whether you'll be able to build a stockade before they're wiped out by raiders). Mythotopia doesn't have that kind of thematic appeal. It's just dudes on a generic fantasy/medieval map.

But the game play is still a lot of fun. And the disconnect from a specific historic setting freed Wallace to introduce significant variability in the game set-up, ensuring that each play will have a different configuration of resources and objectives (and no single dominant strategy).

I've heard complaints about the endgame bogging down at higher player counts. I can see how that might happen, but it wasn't a problem in our 2p game.

I'm glad to have another game built on the Snow engine, to breathe more life back into the system.


Bausack

(Image credit: KNUT STROEMFORS)

How the hell did you do that?

This is more of an activity than a game, but it's a fun activity.

Choose eccentrically shaped wooden bits and use them to build towers.

That's pretty much it, but there are also a series of variant auction rules that you can use to decide who must use which block. The most interesting are the ones that allow you to stick someone else with an absurdly difficult piece.

I get a kick out of being surprised when something really unexpected actually works.


Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road

(Image credit: wamboyil)

A "queue-building" order fulfillment card game.

Each player has three merchant "caravans" (i.e., vertical rows of face-up cards) that are traveling the Silk Road trade route to the market city of Kashgar.

Play is very simple. On your turn, you select one of the cards at the "front" (i.e. bottom) of one of your caravans, either perform one of that card's actions or pass, then move the card to the back of the caravan.

There are cards that let you (1) get more cards (either from the standard deck or the smaller "special" deck, which has better cards in it but is harder to access), (2) get more stuff (i.e., various spices, gold, or mules), (3) thin a queue by permanently deleting cards, or (4) complete a contract card. A contract card may require one or both of the following: a minimum number of mules as transport (these aren't spent) and the expenditure of a specified mix of spices, gold, and mules (these are spent).

Some of the caravan cards have points on them. But most of the points come from completing contract cards. The game end is triggered when someone gets to 25 points (you then complete the round, so everyone has the same number of turns). Most points wins.

Cards that let you complete contracts are crucial, so you'll need to dig for those early. It's also valuable to thin your caravans so that it doesn't take so long for your important cards to cycle back to the front. You can even thin a caravan down to a single card, in which case it is always available to be chosen for its action.

The game plays very quickly, and includes some interesting deck-building type choices (with the interesting twist that you also need to manage the fixed sequence in which your cards can operate). With three caravans, you can try to optimize each one for a different purpose (e.g., contract fulfillment, resource generation, etc).

Two-player felt a bit too zero sum and luck dependent (which is how I often feel about two-player card games). But it plays up to four and I'm looking forward to trying it at a higher count.

There is no English version of the game, and there's lots of text on cards. So you'll either need to read German or use paste-ups or a cheat sheet.


The Staufer Dynasty

(Image credit: punkin312)

Good (but not great) area control with travel cost management.

Hansa Teutonica is one of my favorite games, so I'm always up to try another game by Andreas Steding.

This is a fairly quick and very tight area majority game, with a spatial limitation that's based on moving clockwise around the six segments of the circular board. Each player has only three actions for each of the game's five rounds. So there's very little time to accomplish much.

There's a clever turn order mechanism, which I won't describe, that creates a trade-off between doing important stuff now, at the cost of going later in the next turn.

On your turn, you either get more dudes from your general supply or put some dudes on the board. To put dudes on a board space, you must pay one dude per space that you need to traverse to get to your destination (moving clockwise from the current location of the king), and then pay more dudes to occupy "offices" within the location that you're targeting.

After both players have taken all of their actions, 1-2 regions are scored. The regions that will score each round are mostly determinable, though in a few cases the choice of space to score is contingent on the game state at the end of the round (in a way that you will know in advance and can try to manipulate).

Players score decreasing points for most offices, second most, etc. Big dudes (who are harder to get) count double. And ties are decided by whoever occupies the leftmost office (which increase in cost towards the left).

Throughout the game you have chances to acquire treasure chests, which are used either for end-game set collection VP, one-off special powers, or to purchase always-on special power cards.

At the beginning of the game, players are dealt three end-game VP targets, which can produce a lot of points. One nice catch is that end game VP can only be scored based on dudes on the board at the end of the game, and dudes that are used to score majorities at the ends of the various rounds are removed from the board. So you'll need to make some difficult choices about whether to put dudes out to score in the current round, or to salt them away for end-game scoring.

Total JASE. I won't even try to debate that. But it's a clever combination of euro mechanisms that produce a very tightly constrained set of difficult choices. It all hums along pretty smoothly once you know how it runs. (But I doubt I'll try to teach this to anyone besides my wife; there's just so much fiddly special power information to manage that it would be a pain to teach. "What's this do again?" I also see some potential for AP, since you've got significant look-ahead to how the regions will score throughout the game.)

It's a good game, but not great.


Norenberc

(Image credit: nekrataal)

Medium weight simultaneous action selection, worker placement, and set collect (with cupcake meeples).

Another Andreas Steading game! (With art by Josh Cappel and an extravagant set of custom meeples.)

Players are buying and selling goods (and recruiting guild members and special power characters) from various guilds. All of this builds toward end-game scoring based on various set collection criteria.

The best stuff about the game:

• The physical production is very nice. Lots of silly custom meeples (cupcakes, beer, hats, etc.)

• There's an interesting simultaneous card selection mechanism for determining which guilds you'll operate in each turn. This produces some really nice timing tension.

• There's a lot of interplay variability. The price of the various goods will fluctuate each turn based on numbers that are randomized each game (but known and therefore predictable, within each game). There will also be a random subset of special power cards that will be available to recruit each game.

• The money economy in the game is interesting (and in conflict with your VP generation goals).

Here's what wasn't so great:

• The money economy seems a bit fragile. You need to be very careful to stay liquid. If you overspend, it's possible to wind up in a hole that you can't dig out of. That happened to my wife in our first game and we decided to quit halfway through, because her position was futile.

• It's also possible to just limp along, without your engine ever kicking fully in. That can be a bit frustrating.

Overall, the game's a bit of a glorious mess, with lots of competing priorities to manage. But it hangs together well enough and it presents some interesting trade-offs and timing decisions.

The game is designed to scale with the number of players, but it was probably a bit too zero-sum with two.

I'm very glad to have finally played it, but I'm not sure if it's a keeper. Good, but not great. Probably better with more than two, but that might make it more prone to the fragility problem, with some players getting kicked to the curb and unable to recover.


Louis XIV

(Image credit: i just lost)

Classic euro, with a dry historical theme pasted onto a solid set of mechanics.

There are four rounds in which the players take turns playing cards to either put their dudes onto various "noble" spaces or retrieve dudes from the general supply for later placement. When you place dudes, you start in the space shown on your card and put down up to three pieces. You can dribble them out across diagonally adjacent spaces in "trail of bread crumbs" fashion (which is pretty familiar, for a Dorn design).

After everyone has finished playing all of their cards, the noble spaces are scored, providing money, task tokens, or other good things based on dude majorities and/or payment of dudes or money.

Task tokens are collected to fulfill the requirements of task cards in hand. Once fulfilled, task cards are worth VP at game end and give you a permanent special power for the remainder of the game.

A solid, old school euro. I've heard it's good with two and would like to try it at that count.
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10. Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:82]
Wes Baker
United States
Fredericksburg
Virginia
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Castles of Mad King Ludwig, 3 plays
9/10

For the longest time, I wrote off Castles of Mad King Ludwig as an also-ran of Suburbia. It looked more fiddly with the cards and multiple tiles, and I knew my anal retentiveness would flare up with the various little rooms being disturbed from their perfect right angles. However, I’ve been doing a lot of trading lately and decided to get rid of a game I realized I wasn’t going to play and traded for this one and one other.

When it showed up, I did my normal “new” game routine of breaking everything out and organizing it as best I can given the tackle boxes I own and the plastic baggies I have on hand. After that, I brought it downstairs and it sat for a few days until my toddler was cooperative enough for me to try a solo game of it.

I was blown away. Castles is not an also-ran of Suburbia, though it’s clearly an iteration of it. The real differences come in the form of only worrying about points (and not income, reputation, and population) and paying money to the other players (when that player is the first player) instead of the bank.

Additionally, at the end of Suburbia you would have quite the city…of hexagons. It was impressive to look at from a mechanical level, but it was pretty bland looking. With Castles you have this unique castle built to your specifications with odd bits and bobs here and there. I mean, who knew you needed four gardens and no bedrooms?

Money is very interesting in Castles. In Suburbia, you always paid the bank when you bought a tile, but in Castles you only pay the bank when you’re the master builder (first player). The other players end up paying the master builder the cost of the room and it’s up to the master builder to correctly price the buildings in order to get the most money from the other players. This is done in a I-cut-you-choose mechanism where the master builder places the buildings and the other players buy and when everyone else has taken their turn, the master builder gets to buy something. I absolutely love this mechanic.

The last trace of Suburbia in Castles would be the King’s Favors. Instead of having goals where only the person who had the most gets points, now everyone gets some amount of points, just decreasing with your rank. In addition, the secret goals in Suburbia have been replaced with bonus cards which only affect you and not the other players and are typically more of a bonus for each of something or for having a certain condition, not for having the most or least of something.

All of that aside, I think Castles has some disadvantages to it. First, there’s a good deal of shuffling at the beginning, though since you’re shuffling fewer tiles, I think it’s better than Suburbia. Second, the castle rooms move around and you find yourself reorganizing more often then you like and it takes a bit more time than it did in Suburbia.

However, I just spent several paragraphs telling you that I really liked Castles and only one telling you about it’s disadvantages. I quite like this game and I’m happy I finally picked it up because this is one that’ll be in my collection for a while.

Neuroshima Hex!, 1 play
7/10

This is totally a cheat. I’ve played this before, but this is the first time I’ve ever played against someone. Also, we played using the iOS version of this game, mostly because my opponent lives all the way across the continent. Still, I think it qualifies as “not played before” and I log all of my online and iOS games when I’m playing against someone I know.

Now, about the game. It’s a thematic abstract game where you place tiles and try to destroy your opponent’s base. The tiles you place (I’ll call them army tiles since they look like soldiers) typically have damage on them that either damages tiles that are right next to it or in the same row depending on the attack type. The army tiles sometimes have other abilities like shields (to prevent ranged damage), nets (to prevent other tiles from attacking), extra life, the ability to move later, or other abilities (depending on the army). There are also tiles that let you move your tiles, your opponents tiles, attack a specific unit, a few few units, and start battles.

Battles are where everything goes down. Each of those army tiles has an initiative between 3 and 0. Starting at initiative 3 and all the way down to 0 (usually just the bases), every tile will attack. Any tiles destroyed are removed from the game. Those battles are started either with a battle tile or when the board is completely full.

In addition, there are multiple armies that all work roughly the same but have different wrinkles. One army might be more mobile, or have more armor, or use more nets than the other.

So we have a thematic game that functions a lot like an abstract game. There are lots of interesting mechanics and asymmetric factions. It can play anywhere from two to four, but most call it a two player game. There are additional factions available for purchase and the game is on it’s 3rd (or 4th) incarnation. You can play it cheaply on iOS or Android. That’s a lot of strengths.

Yet, I’m a little lukewarm on all of the factions. Some of them are just downright confusing and while the interface has a way to look up the different powers of each tile, it’s not as slick as other games. That being said, you can ignore most of the factions and happily stick to the four the game comes with, buying the additional ones later. That would be my recommendation.

This game is at least worth a purchase if you own an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. It’s a quick game that has some pretty interesting decisions to be made. I’m considering buying the physical edition because I like this one so much.

Viticulture, 2 plays
7/10

I was a backer of the first edition of Viticulture when it was originally on Kickstarter. I loved the idea of a worker placement game with the approachable theme of a vineyard, something I thought would appeal to my wife. However, I didn’t even make it that far, I was so disappointed with all of the changes that Stonemaier games seemed to make after releasing Viticulture to the public. It wasn’t finished. In addition, the game was selling for far more than I bought it for, so away it went.

Then came along the Tuscany Kickstarter and I considered backing that one too, but I avoided it remembering how much I disliked the weird rule changes from the first edition.

So, how did I end up playing this game? Well, Miniature Market was having a sale on Tuscany: Prima Edition and I had just seen Tom and Zee’s review of both Viticutlure and Tuscany, so I decided I’d give it another shot.

I’ve only played the solo variant—Automata—so far, but I really enjoyed it. The grande worker change works far better than I ever thought it would back with the first edition changes. I love the tension of only being able to use some of the actions, yet being able to override that with the grande worker when absolutely necessary. I enjoy planting the grapes in the field, harvesting them, and turning them into while, all the while watching them age between rounds.

There’s a lot of interesting decisions to be made, yet I think the structure is simple enough to be a next-step game, something for people who have played a few gateway games. In addition, the amount of game you get in Tuscany seems crazy to me. I love the idea of having multiple modules for the expansion. That being said, I haven’t played with anything but the Automata variant and the shiny metal coins.

The only weaknesses come from the nature of the game. It’s a simple game with a few choices and there’s some randomness to the cards. Those cards provide you with your grapes, your wine orders, and any visitors that might help you out, so if someone finds a great synergy and you don’t, you’re going to have to work that much harder to get over it. They’re not deal breakers for a game of this weight.

I’m happy I bought both Viticulture and Tuscany, but I’m not sure I would have if Tuscany hadn’t been on sale. On one hand that makes me a little sad, it’s a great game. On the other hand, I’m not sure what this game does that others don’t. Right now I recommend this game if you like games like Stone Age and want variety and something close to the same weight.

Star Wars: Armada, 1 play
5/10

This game was underwhelming and I’m happy about that. I purchased Star Wars: X-Wing near when it came out. I bought the extra ships and expanded it to the point where I needed a big Plano box in order to store all of the ships and even that didn’t fully contain it. I also bought the fancy acrylic templates. I later realized that I never played the game and it was just collecting dust, taking up space, and it represented an expense that I wasn’t happy with. I was much happier when I sold it.

When I saw Star Wars: Armada I knew it would be a similar story. I’d end up collecting more ships while never playing the game and I’d eventually get to the point of expansion fatigue and sell it.

With all of this baggage in tow, I tried a quick learning game thanks to my friend Tim. I think this game does have a lot going for it. I love the movement of the capital ships and how the bigger the ship, the more planning you have to do. Fantasy Flight most definitely achieved a very different feel from X-Wing and they should be commended for it.

However, there’s a lot I don’t like. Let’s start with the squadrons. These squadrons are your X-Wings and TIE Fighters and have different movement and shooting rules from your ships. They move in straight lines through the capital ships and they can only shoot at a very short range (which admittedly makes sense). The problem is there are so many of them and they’re in the way of your capital ships. Additionally, they have these little dials to mark their health and these sliding tabs that mark whether they’ve been activated. Both are great ideas, but the execution means you’re frequently going to accidentally move or knock over squadrons.

I think there’s a lot to like here for the serious player, the person who can invest a lot of time (and money). However, for a casual player, especially one who doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for the fiddliness of miniature games, I’d say this is a pass.

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11. Board Game: Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:126] [Average Rating:7.62 Unranked]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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As expected, May was a huge month of gaming for me because I basically dedicated a weekend of my life to it! Thanks to that awesome visit with my brother and the family, I got to try a whole mess o’ new games. Here is my list of new-to-me games for the month, in descending order of preference.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game d10-8

I described this game as "cooperative Dominion set in the Marvel universe." That has been enough to pique the interest of several of my geeky friends.

What I really like about this game is the straight-forward rule set. There aren't a lot of little exceptions you have to worry about, so it makes it easy for even the novice gamer to catch on quickly, and over time they clue into powerful card combos. I also like that you can change up the characters and villains so each play feels different.

The only real downside I've seen so far is the 2-player game is too easy, but it sounds like certain expansions can up the difficulty level appropriately, so that's great. All in all - two big thumbs up. This was my must-buy after the big gaming weekend with my brother.

Pandemic: The Cure d10-8

Taking a game that I already know and love, and simplifying it slightly while adding some extra randomness...it's just a great idea. I actually felt invigorated to go back and play the original because of the fun experience of the dice version.

The Cure also adds an interesting challenging element in finding those cures - it's not a foregone conclusion. Building up your chances by taking more samples is very clever. There's also the scary element of having all those dice sitting in the middle if an epidemic comes up, so you've got one more element to keep under control.

This game reminds me of a really good expansion - it enhances the original game in new and exciting ways, but doesn't change the fundamentals. I think this is likely another game I'm going to have to buy in the near future.

The Phantom Society d10-8

What if you took Battleship and actually made it fun? To me, that's what you have here in TPS. It's a simple game of the hunters trying to guess where the ghosts are by picking various rooms somewhat at random. But they have to be fast and clever before the whole house is destroyed.

This was ridiculously easy to learn, very fast to play, and a lot of fun. It's beautifully designed and the mechanism for hiding the ghosts is simple and smart.

A great filler if you can find it at a good price.

Gloria Picktoria d10-7

For such a simple game this is really more fun than it has a right to be! And I think what elevates it is the anguish as you approach the endgame. No one wants to be caught with the fox in their henhouse, and you are just hoping you can get that extra card to pull ahead of another player on a particular set.

Silly, light fun - this is a great option for families. The "take that" level is very low, as you only have one other player you can target with the fox each turn. I quite enjoyed the game and would happily play it again.

Sentinels of the Multiverse d10-7

I'm really glad we played this before Legendary, because I suspect my opinion would have been much more negative if it had been the other way around.

There are certainly similarities - a cooperative game of superheroes trying to outwit an evil mastermind. Other annoying threats cropping up to distract you. Hoping you can stack powers on top of each other to maximize your attacks.

In general this felt too hard, though - but we've since been told that 2-player that's common, so I'll call this rating preliminary and hope to try it again with either more players, or each of us playing two characters.

Camel Up d10-7

I think this game proves that having one or two clever mechanisms can really elevate a game that otherwise would feel like "been there, done that." Such is the case with last year's SdJ winner.

The pyramid represents a twist on the classic dice tower, and knowing that by choosing to roll you are giving valuable information to other players is truly agonizing. Add to that the uncertainty of when to place bets on the winner and the loser to maximize your take in the long game, and you see that Camel Up offers real choices and isn't totally random.

I liked this game but I didn't love it - it's the kind of game where I'd happily play if asked, but I doubt I'd request it. It also solidified my thought that Splendor should have won the SdJ!

David & Goliath d10-7

Just when I think I've played every kind of trick-taking game there could be, my brother introduces me to another clever twist on the genre I've not tried before. This was definitely one of the better ones.

Here you're trying to balance a bit of the "get just enough" mechanism with an odd take on who gets the trick - basically the winner will always get all but one card, with that one going to another player.

It takes a bit to wrap your head around the rules, but once you do, the gameplay is fast and at times rather nasty! Good fun with a group with the right mindset.

Mutant Meeples d10-7

This game is almost great for me - I want to play it again and put in one of the Sidekicks and then I think it would be more fun.

To enjoy this game you have to like puzzles and speed - it's sort of in the Ubongo vein. A target on the board is identified, and players race to figure out how they can get a meeple there in the fewest number of moves.

It can be quite fun, but there were two downsides for me. First, there's a need to remember the movement rules extremely well because then you've got the various meeples which break those rules. Many times I thought I had a solution only to later realize I'd broken a rule. Secondly, I think the blue meeple is woefully under-powered compared to the rest, to the point where it was truly detracting from me enjoying the game. So as I said - next time I want to swap him out and see if it clicks better for me.

Pick Picknic d10-7

It's a simple game of bluffing and trying to outguess your opponents - is everyone going to go for purple just because it has the best crop of corn? Maybe, so I'll lay down a fox! Oh wait, everyone put down a fox. Darnit!

Super light and definitely a good option for families. I had fun with it, even if it wasn't my favorite in the Chicken Family series. I wouldn't hesitate to play it again if asked, but it's probably not one I need to own.

You Suck d10-6

Another trick-taking card game from our big weekend, or more precisely a "tick-taking" game. What this game seems to want to do is take a hodgepodge of mechanisms from other games and cram them all together.

I definitely liked the game, but I felt like there was just too much going on for it to be really great. The reference card alone makes it pretty clear that it's overly complicated.

While I wouldn't turn down the chance to play it again, after trying David & Goliath I would opt for the latter if given the choice.

Fzzzt! d10-6

This game has definite potential and I will call my rating preliminary because I suspect it's just one that should list 2 players as an option. It was pretty obvious that the bidding element needs more players to keep things interesting.

I did enjoy having various widgets I was trying to fulfill and thinking hard about which cards to assign to each one to maximize my points. There's a good game hidden in here, I just need more plays with more players to get to it.

BANG! The Dice Game d10-6

Truth be told, I had the original BANG! card game, read the rules, and traded it away because I suspected it wasn't right for my gaming group. Playing the dice version I felt the same way, but it was still an OK experience for me.

It's good that the dice streamline the experience and you can just focus on the symbols and what you really need - some beer to heal, watch out for the dynamite, etc.

I think what doesn't work for me is the randomness that comes out of the hidden roles - it often felt to me like choosing who to attack was a (pardon the pun) shot in the dark. While I still think it's a perfectly fine game, there are just other hidden role games I'd rather be playing, like Shadow Hunters.

Dampfross d10-5

There are games that you come across which have a storied past but once you try them you realize they just aren't in your wheelhouse. Such was the case for me and Dampfross.

This is not to say I didn't appreciate what it had to offer. You've got an interesting element of crayon rails (my first time with that genre), and balancing your bank account to maximize your points for the win.

But what really didn't work for me was the racing part of the game - it felt superfluous and often a foregone conclusion once you saw what the two cities were. Looking ahead at how many races were to be run, I grew weary of the game quickly and was ready for something snappier.

Fürstenfeld d10-4

I'm going to consider my rating here preliminary because I really felt like I just didn't get it. There's some element here I'm missing that must make it fun for other people - any help out there?

Also I'm not buying the listed game time - it really felt like this could drag on for quite awhile. It's also just too fiddly - it's precisely the type of game that would benefit greatly from an online implementation that does all the record-keeping and moving of bits around for you.

I play games to have fun, and this just wasn't fun for me.


EXPANSIONS

Dominion: Black Market Promo Card d10-7

Dominion has a lot of promo cards that run the gamut in terms of the fun they bring to the mix. This is one of the better ones, particularly if you have several expansions.

And that's because this card allows you to pull another random card you're not currently playing with into the mix. While it's a bit of a pain to have all those other cards at the ready, I liked the surprise element.

King of Tokyo: Halloween d10-6

Honestly this is an expansion that I was hoping to like more than I did. It's perfectly fine and I'm happy to play it (I'd even be happy to own it), but it didn't really bring a lot of new excitement to the table. The costume cards just felt like any other cards you'd buy with energy.

That being said, the orange dice are nice, the artwork for Jack is very sharp, and it's probably a must-have expansion if you're a die hard KoT fan.
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12. Board Game: Cacao [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:497]
David B
United States
Virginia
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Cacao


Quite light, but also fun. I like it much more than Carcassonne which I never really much cared for. The worker tile mechanic in which 4 workers are distributed on each tile (1-1-1-1 or 1-2-1 or 1-3 or 3-1) and each edge gets activated once adds just enough spatial considerations to keep it interesting yet easy enough to get just about anyone to play. This one is definitely going on vacation with me as my wife has already given it a thumb's up.




Sylvion

The next installment in the Oniverse is a good one and much better than the disappointing Urbion. As others have said, it is a tower defense game where you are protecting the forest from fiery "Rage" cards that are marching through the forest. The game begins with a very intriguing drafting mechanic that is almost a game in itself. It has a "San Juan" hand management mechanic where you must pay for reinforcements by discarding cards from your hand. With the included expansions, this game will provide a variety of challenges for quite some time. Great stuff.




Shogun

Great game that I am glad I finally got the chance to play. I am going to try to talk someone in my regular group to get a copy so we can play it more often (I am currently out of room and am limited to smaller boxes until I get rid of some stuff). I can see this occasionally running a tad long for what it is and players may need to be prodded to move along as there are some points in the game where AP can rear its head. Good game, though.
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13. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:512]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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A+ - plan to play again

Wits & Wagers - Does just what it says on the tin! A person who had previously said they didn't enjoy games was having a good time, the parents were able to play despite kid distractions, an older kid joined for the second game. Everybody had fun.

King of New York - Fixes (or at least changes?) the fact that KoT has several boring die results and a board that doesn't matter. The dice still sometimes just won't do what you want, though; you can move to a borough for the buildings that are there and just not be able to hit them. So it's a good thing it's also short.

A - hope to play again

The Speicherstadt - Easy to teach, and there's some texture if the cubes come out in a funny order (though the fact that you can always trade for the exact right cube makes it less exciting) (but you need cubes to do that and they aren't cheap). The bidding is more vicious than the scoring, though; there are plenty of cubes to fulfill all the contracts, I think. Too bad Kaispeicher is hard to find.

B - willing to play again

La Isla - I'm going to play this again because it was really short and because I think it would be worth trying with more players. But that aside, it was disappointing that I got so many points by just spamming dodos.

The mechanic of having to cover up one bonus each turn is the interesting part. But unlike in Bruges, the rest of it is lightweight enough that it didn't feel like a slog to get to the good part. Just also not sure how well-balanced it is.

Sticheln - Don't know why I had so much trouble getting my head around it; it's clearly a deep/interesting mechanic, but since it Just Doesn't Work for me, I doubt I'll go out of my way to play.

Pylos - Quick, nice pieces, some non-obvious strategy, can be played while cuddling on the couch. That last part is really the main draw, sadly. I'm starting to enjoy the "aha" moments of learning simple abstract games, but this felt like tic-tac-toe.

C+ - willing to play under other circumstances

Quoridor - As a 2p game, we had some aha moments in the middle, and yet ended up essentially tied. The extra chaos of 4p seems like it might be appealing. Or really, I might play it again as soon as I get over the disappointment of a tied game-- I bet there are techniques we didn't figure. I mean, there must be.
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14. Board Game: Tammany Hall [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:588]
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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Thinking about my next move.
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So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
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Seven new to me games, simply more than my last two months combined. Three great games, two surprises, one I knew little about it and one that just didn't sit right with me. This was my May.



TAMMANY HALL

It only took a year and a half for Tammany Hall to hit the table. Though the game is easy enough to set up, as all the informations are on the board, I did a poor job at this, and I also made a muistake regarding the amount of immigrant cubes that should be in Castle Garden (the correct is number of players plus 2). I say this to keep everyone informed that the game do help a lot the players to do everything right, you just have to pay the proper attention. Once we got the game going, everything fell into place and we had a blast.

The gameplay is simple: each player, in his turn, has three options of actions:

- either put two wards bosses in any area (they can be put in different places);
- or put one ward boss and one immigrant cube (they can also be put in different places). The immigrant cube comes from the Castle Garden, and only it is empty, more cubes come from the bag. The player takes one political favor chip of the people/cube he put on the board.

These two are the main options the player has. The third possibility (that the players can't use in the first four rounds/years) is to use the slander chips.

- to use a slander chip the player chooses an area of the board, and pays one favor chip of a type there is on the chosen area (so, if in the are there are italians and irish cubes, the player can use one of either of these). Then he removes one ward boss of the chosen area. The player can, then, extend the slander into an adjacent area, by paying two more favor chips of the same type he paid in the first area, and the adjacent area must have cubes of the same people. An ward boss is also removed by the player in this second area.

The game runs for 16 years (each year is a round), and in the end of every four years period, occurs an election. The election is, first, a scoring time, for every area of the board. In every contested area (one with ward bosses of more than one player) will happen a closed bidding: players my bid any amount of favor tokens of people in the area (so, you can't use, say, irish favors if there aren't irish cubes in the area) and every chip will count a 1 vote, and each ward boss also count as 1 vote. The player with the most votes win the area. All the ward bosses in the place, except one of the winner (if the winner have more than 1 boss in the area, they leave also), are taken out. In case of a tie, all the ward bosses of everyone are taken out.

The information of how many favor chips every player has is open, but the amount bid is hidden until revealed. It is allowed to made deals with players - like "don't bid here, and I don't bid there, so you can use these english favors against him".

So the dispute in the areas follow some arrows in the board, and first the areas in Region I are decided, then those in Region II and finally those in Region III. When playing with less than five players, some regions won't be open until some point during the game. It is important to be aware of the direction the areas will be disputed because you can find yourself battling in several places were you only can use, say, your italians political favors, and you might have to decide to let one or more go, to win others, with more interesting cubes/people.

After the control of all the areas is decided players score 1 point for every area - except the Tammany Hall area, which is worth 2 points. Then, the player that won in the most areas becomes the Mayor, gaining 3 extra points. There are a series of tie-breakers if there is a tie for the most areas controlled (first, the player with most favor chips, then the one with the most irish favors, and so on). The Mayor also has an very important job: distribute functions for the other players, and they are:

- Precinct Chairman: each turn (year) the player can move one immigrant cube from one ward to an adjacent - it cannot be the last cube in the area;
- Council President: may "lock up" up to two wards (no more than one each turn). No ward bosses nor immigrant cubes may be added or taken out of a lock up area;
- Deputy Mayor: each turn the player gains one favor chip of his choice;
- Chief of Police: may remove one immigrant cube of one ward each turn (year) - it cannot be the last cube in the area.

These offices are pretty great, every one of them and their existence is a smart move from the designer, as normally the Mayor will be the player ahead (for controlling the most wards and also because of the three extra points), and the offices can he used as a neat catch-up mechanism, as the player with the Mayor doesn't have any special action for four rounds (years), and will have to use lots of talk and persuasion (even when giving the offices) to stay in a good position after his term ahead of the city. But, of course, no deal is binding in Tammany Hall.

Finally, also during scoring, players see who has the control of most cubes of each type of immigrants. Each player controlling each people receives three favor chips of that people. Tied players also receive the three chips.

The game runs for 16 rounds (or 16 years), and, thus, there are four scoring/elections. At the end, the player with the most points wins!

Tammany Hall showed itself as a mean, even vicious game, and tons of fun, with tension and conflicts filling the game time to the brim. Cursing like a sailor hitting the pinky toe while walking to get water at night were usual, almost every time someone put a cube or a ward boss, specially after the 5th year (for the first four years there are room for almost everyone), as disputes will be the norm in several wards. This happens because the game is pretty fluid when considering control of wards: an "safe" area may be lost by adding a single immigrant cube, allowing someone to bid big in there - so, from "safe" to basically "lost" in half an action. This also occurs with the ward boss, as everyone of them works as an "I'm interested" sign, or just a deceit to cost you some favor chips. If I add the slander chips, well, then things get simply evil, as this can take someone out of the contest directly, no matter how many favor chips he/she has. Wicked stuff, man.

In spite of the simplicity of rules and actions, there is great depth in the gameplay, as not only to choose what to do (2 ward bosses and 1 ward boss and 1 immigrant), but also the game as a whole: which immigrant is available, how is the situation of the wards, who is fighting with who, what is the office everyone has, how many favor chips everyone has and of which type, which immigrants are in every area (to dispute for majority of people to gain three extra chips), the order in which the wards will be disputed. All of this has a weight, and one that is constantly changing, calling for almost incessant reevaluation. Therefore, you need to play the players and be always aware (unagi) of what is happening on the board and outside of it.

The components are beautiful, truly top-notch. Playing time stayed a little above the 90 minutes (around 2 hours), but we did had some AP (read the paragraph above to understand why).

So, to sum it up, Tammany Hall is a finely crafted game of area control and influence, with lots of possibilities and depth - definitely not a game you will solve, or have a broken strategy, as the game state is ever changing and is player-driven. The theme exsudes from the gameplay and the bits - we played by the sound of the Gangs of New York soundtrack, and everyone was pumped up.

Most surely recommended.

Rate: 8.5 / 10



FREEDOM: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

In Freedom: The Underground Railroad players are trying to free slaves from the south of USA, leading them to Canada. To do this, they use conductors, to move the slaves north, and fundraising, to sustain the advancement of the struggle to abolish slavery. Basically, player lead slaves from the plantations on the south towards the north, trying to reach Canada, avoiding, along the way, the slave catchers. In all the rounds of the game more slaves enter the plantations, coming from the slave markets - if there isn't enough room for them, slaves start to be lost, and if a given number, depending on the number of players, is reached, the game ends in defeat. The play will never pass the end of the 8th round - if the players haven't won by this point (reaching a certain amount of slaves freed and support gained), they also lose.

The gameplay has five phases:
1) Slave catchers movement phase: the two dice are rolled to see which slave catcher (if any) will move and how further he will go;

2) Planning phase: each player may take up to two tokens. There are three types of tokens: conductor (to move slaves); fundraising (to gain money); support (player need to buy all the support tokens in order to win the game). Support and conductor tokens costs money, while fundraising is free to take.

3) Action phase: players may do any of actions, in any order they want.
- play a conductor or fundrasing token;
- play a second conductor or fundrasing token;
- use the benefit of the role (each player is a character, with special benefits);
- buy and resolve one Abolitionist card;
- use the once per game ability of the role.

The conductor tokens allow the players to move a certain number of slaves one or two spaces each (for example, in the first period - 1800-39 - the conductor tokens is 3/1, allowing the player to move up to 3 slaves one space each). When the slave cube enters a space that passes by the line of hunt of a slave catcher, the corresponding token of the catcher move towards the cube one space. The fundraising tokens provide money, accordingly to the number of slaves cubes in some places in the south (for the first and second periods of the game) or in the north (for the third period - 1860-65).

4) Slave market phase: slave cubes move from the bottom card from the market to the plantations. Players can put the cubes in whatever spot they want, but if there isn't enough space for all the cubes, they excess go to the slaves lost track. The other cards from the market are slided down, and a new one is revealed at the top, and filled with cubes.

5) Lantern phase: the Abolitionists cards are slided to the right (if there is a card in the rightmost spot of the track, it leaves play, activating if it is an Opposition card). Players check for victory condition. If the game continues, new cards are drawn from the deck of the period to fill the empty spaces in the track. First player token moves clockwise.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is highly thematic, with the flow of the game following three distinc periods of time (1800-39; 1840-59; 1860-65), each with its own deck of set of cards (and each card has a few lines to explain the role the event/person/place had - a really nice addition, specially for a person, like myself, that isn't all that well familiar with US history), in order to stay true to the historic events, persons and places. The conductor and fundraising tokens also change due to the period the game is. The period advances once all the support tokens (each costs $10) are bought by the players. All the care taken here is top notch.

Also, Freedom: The Underground Railroad is beautiful to look at, with a clean design that works in almost all the ways. However, I have two peeves with the graphic design: first, the spot with an image above the plantations. It is just an illustration, not an actual place to put slaves that are fleeing the plantations. It says so in the rulebook. But why, oh, why to put it in front of the plantions, and not behind or bellow? So easy to be done, and would actually help players instead of creating an opportunity to cause mistakes (and, of course that we did this error during our first play). Second, in the slave market cards totally should have extra squares, maybe in a different color, apart from the usual squares by a line or something, with a small setence above them: Slaves catched. Again, the rulebook is correct about where the slaves cubes go once taken by the slave catchers, but as there wasn't more space in the cards, we went with the idea that slaves catched went directly to the Slaves Lost track. The mistakes were mine, but the graphic design is at its best once it helps as much as possible the players.

Anyaway, Freedom: The Underground Railroad works pretty darn well, beign easy to learn and to teach (the actions are all straightfoward), and offers a fine and tense puzzle for the players to deal with. More than once we stayed several minutes pondering about moves of the slaves, considering not only the current move, but the next ones. It was agonizing, sometimes, to see that, in order to went foward, one cube would be lost (but, when playing by the proper rules, this was much less dire, as though the slave might be lost anyway, we could do something about it). We stayed talking possibilites and let deep sighs when someone added "but then this catcher will go here and we won't be able to move these", or "this might work, but if you do this, my fundraise action will be much worst". The game unfolds and reveals an amazing and difficult struggle against slavery, something we cannot forget nor repeat, ever.

To sum it up, everyone that played, liked Freedom: The Underground Railroad. In two days we played three times, and I bet several more will come along the way. Recommended.

Rate: 8 / 10



TRANSAMERICA

TransAmerica manages to be even simpler than Ticket to Ride (there is only one action to be done in the player's turn), but, at the same time, it is also somewhat deeper and more strategic, as during the game, luck plays just a small part (the luck of other taking cities near the places you want to go), however the player can start and build were he wants, inside the connections limits.

Basically TransAmerica plays like this: at first, everyone takes 5 cities cards, one for each color/region of the board. The objective of the player is to connect all these five cities before anyone else. To do this the player first choose a place in the board to start his connections. Then, every turn, he can place 2 connections on the board (or one, when crossing mountains or rivers, as these spots cost two connections). And the main thing of the game is: when your connection reaches that of another player, well, now you both share this bigger connection as your own, and can go from places starting from any point on the railway. So it is possible that, once you connect with another player, you immediately complete your objeticve, if the new connection already reaches the places you need.

In the moment a person connects his five cities, the round is over. Everyone that didn't fulfill his objective counts how many connections he would require to finish it - considering the smallest route and couting two for connections that passes over river or mountains. This number the player will lose in points, adjusting the marker (that starts in the 13th spot) accordingly. When a player reaches zero, the game is over, and the player with the most points left will be the winner! If no one reaches zero, a new round is played.

The current edition of TransAmerica already comes with a small expansion - Vexation - that adds color connections, three for each player color. The players can use these color connections whenever they want during their turn, putting it as a normal connection and by the normal rules, and the difference is that it "cuts" the connection for other players - they only share the connection up to the point of the color connections. This small addition makes for a much better and meaner game. We can't even consider playing TransAmerica without them, as they seem so much like a integral part of the game. The expansion allows for some bastard moves, and even if I can see that playing with them with, say, small children, could be bad, for us, gamers, we won't let it in the box, using it even in our first game.

Overall, TransAmerica is a great little game - quick to play, easy to teach and learn, has a pretty good sized box (the board is bigger than I expected by looking at the box) and the bits are well done (though nothing really great in the art department). Everyone that played it enjoyed, all favorable of TransAmerica over Ticket to Ride, and not only, but in big part due to the nature of the game, in a series of rounds, as someone can have bad luck, but recover later, or win one or two rounds, and even if this person loses, it still has a feeling of some accomplishment. Greatly recommended!

Rate: 8 / 10



ARBORETUM

Arboretum has some pretty simple mechanics: on his turn the player draws 2 cards, it cab be from the draw deck or the discard pile of other players or himself (taking the first card of the discard); it is allowed to take one from the discard and other from the draw deck. Then the player put one card from his hand in his arboretum (roll credits) and then discard one card, returning to 7 cards in hand. Play proceeds like this until the draw deck is depleted - at this moment the game is over and is scoring time. It is in the scoring phase that is the "heart" of the game. I will explain using an image from Steph:



In the image above there are potentially three lines of trees scoring. The rules of scoring are:

- the first and the last card in the line must be of the same type, and the player can only score one line of trees for each type of tree (the type is considered by the first and last card, not the ones in the middle, which can be used to score other paths);
- the tree line must follow an ascending order of the numbers on the cards;
- each card on the scoring line is scores 1 point;
- if all the cards in the line are from the same type of tree, and this line has 4 or more cards, then each card in the line will be worth 1 extra point;
- each 1 card is worth 1 extra point;
- each 8 card is worth 2 extra points;
- to score a line of trees the player has to have, in the end of the game, the higher sum of this type of tree, considering the 7 cards left in his hand.

So, in the image above, considering that the person had the highest sum for the three types of trees scoring, the points she would receive are:

- the Royal Poinciana (or the orange one) could be legally scored in two ways (but the player must choose one): from the 1 in the base all the way to the 8 in the high row (for 11 points - 8 cards = 8 points; 1 extra point for the 1 card; 2 extra points for the 8 card); or from the number 1 to the 5 in the same lower row (for 6 points - 5 cards = 5 points; 1 extra point for the 1 card). Of course, there is no reason to choose the line scoring less - it is just to illustrate that there might be more than one way to score a line of trees;
- the Jacaranda (or the purple one) scores from the 2 at the bottom row up to the 6 in the higher row (for 5 points - 5 cards = 5 points);
- the Lilac (or the blue one) scores from the 3 card in the bottom row up to the 6 card in the middle row (for 8 points - 4 cards = 4 points; all cards of the same type with at least four cards = 4 extra points, one for each card). It is also legal to score from the 3 to the 6 passing by the Royal Poinciana 5 at the bottom, but this would reduce the amount of points to only 4 points, for 4 cards, as there wouldn't be the extra gain for all cards of the same type in the line.

As I said, to score the three types of trees, the player would be required to have the higher sum of cards in hand for all of them. At scoring, players reveal their hands of cards and for each type of tree players add the numbers on the cards they have, and the player with the highest sum is allowed to score that type of tree. Tied players are also allowed to score. It is possible (and wiill happen often) that a player have the highest sum of a type but has none of this type of tree in his arboretum - the player used the cards in hand only to block scoring for someone else. When adding up the values of cards in hand, an 1 card cancels an 8 card of the same type.

Therefore, players must balance the need to expand the arboretum, vying for the highest score possible, while also keeping key cards in hand, not only to allow himself to score some types of trees, but to block others from scoring as well. And this is hard when you consider that you must keep in hands cards for yourself (to use in the arboretum and also to fight for scoring) and also discard at the end of every turn, and your discard can be draw by someone else! Tough stuff.

So players must be mindful about what type of trees the others are using to build their arboretum, the cards discarded and the possible cards in everyone hands. The game allows for a good grasp of this, since the game only ends when the draw deck is depleted, which means that all the cards in the game will be either in the hands, discard piles or showing in the arboretums (so, for example, if you have a line using the cards 1, 3, 5 and 8, and you have the 6 card of the same type in hand, and none of the type were discarded, you know that, somewhere in the draw deck or in someone else's hand, there are still left the 2, 4 and 7 cards - so, if the game is near the end, the chances you will be able to score your neat line, will be close to none, as the single 7 card can block you. But, let's say you draw the 4 card, you are now guaranteed to score, as with the cards left, it won't be possible to pass you sum of 10 for this type of tree).

Arboretum adds easiness of rules with some nice complexity in scoring in order to provide a good set of possibilites for players throughout the play, coupled with a nice tension in the reveal of hand at the game's scoring phase, something that is akin to what happens in the end of a play of Parade. Arboretum has a low screwage factor during the game (basically denial of cards), but, in the end, someone can be seriously kicked in the butt by the cards in the opponents hands, going from a game winning score to a sour and distant last place - but, at least the person should already be aware that this was very likely to happen, and not a big surprise.

A play can last longer if the players focus on drawing from the discard piles, but, naturally, it will stay around the 30 minutes mark. The production is pretty good, as the box has enough room to hold the cards sleeved (an important issue to me), while not being really big, and the art and graphic design is nothing less than amazing - simply beautiful.

To close up, Arboretum is easy to explain (only the scoring may require a time to get used to, and some mistakes by the players can occur in the first plays), quick to play and the cards are a work of art, so I recommend it for those looking for a filler with eye-catching cards and some meat.

Rate: 7 / 10



KING OF NEW YORK

King of New York has a lot of similarities with King of Tokyo: claws to attack, hearts to regain life, game ends with 20 fame or with only one monster standing, lighting bolt for energy, buying cards with energy, an unique space for monsters to be in in where it attacks everyone out of this place and gets attacked by all the monsters out (namely, Manhattan, the equivalent of Tokyo, with some minor changes, as there is now a progression in what the monster in Mahnattan gains by staying a full round there).

But there are also several differences: now all the monsters stay in the board, in the neighborhoods of NY, beign able to walk among them; there are new faces in the dice: destruction, which serve to crush buildings of the city or army units; star, which, by itself, isn't worth a thing, but if you get three or more (just like points worked in KoT) you take the Superstar card, gain 1 fame because of this, and then, if you have the card, every star you roll in the next turns, will be worth 1 fame point of each (you don't have to roll 3+ starts for this, one or two also score) - but someone else can take the Superstar card by rolling 3+ starts; the skull, which activates the army units - if you roll just one skull, all the army units in the neighborhood your monster is will attack, causing 1 point of damage each; if you roll two skulls, the army units will attack every monster in the neighborhood, not just yours; if you roll three or more skulls, all the army units on the board attack in every neighborhood, which is as fun as it sounds.

The biggest difference between KoNY and KoT is the destruction of the city buidlings: each neighborhood has stacks of building tokens that have numbers from 1 to 3 (the number is equal to the amount of destruction die you must use to destroy it), and also a symbol that says what the monster will get by destroying it (usually one of three things: fame, life or energy). Once the building is destroyed, the token is flipped and now it will work as an army unit. The army units have numer ranging from 2 to 4 (if I remember right), and this number is also equal to the amount of destruction die the monster must use to destroy it; likewise, the army units, once crushed, give things to the monster (fame, life or energy). Now, when the army units activate, they do 1 point of damage each. At the start of the game this is a non-issue, as the monsters simply go to an area without army units, but from the middle to the end, there are plenty to deal with, and the units can be used to cause some serious wounds, and considering that the monsters still beat each others, its is hard to have a break to do some soul search and ponder about the meaning of the microcosmos of monsters destroying a city and the harshness of the universe.

King of New York also endes when a monster reaches 20 fame points or if only one monster is still standing. It seemed to us that gaining fame is somewhat faster than in KoT, but damage also comes quicker. Our plays lasted a little longer than the average of those of King of Tokyo, but the difference of time is less than I thought it would be. Maybe we got lucky, because in none of our plays there was a moment of "slowness", as sometimes happen in KoT, specially when there are only two monsters in the contest - the presence of the army units helped a lot to mantain the tension and the game going forward.

So, is King of New York an evolution of King of Tokyo? In terms of complexity, yes. Not that King of New York is really a complex game, but it does have more rules and offers more possibilities in each turn. Therefore, I suppose King of New York has more meat for those players with greater baggage in games, being accepted more easily and beign treated with less contempt.

I ended up liking the game more than I expected, as I read some comments that while King of New York added playing time and options, it lacked adding more fun. Well, it is hard to measure fun, however I did think both stayed at the same level, with King of New York showing itself somewhat more interesting, and will probably last more in the tables of my gaming group. Though, I say that KoNY won't probably work as well for kids or even persons that are up for games with as little rules as possible and just want to chuck some dice, as King of Tokyo did.

The components are of the same quality as those in KoT: chunky dice, cardboard standees for the monsters and the life/fame trackers, green cubes for energy. There is the addition of building/army tokens and the board is, now, an actual board. This additions made the price tag go from US$ 39.99 MSRP (for KoT) to US$ 49.99 (for KoNY).

Finally, such as King of Tokyo when released, King of New York also lacks real differentiation between the monsters. This will surely be fixed in an expansion to come. Even still, King of New York was soundly approved.

Rate: 7 / 10



GAME OF THRONES: WESTEROS INTRIGUE

Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue is the pinnacle of simple rules an total, absolute absence of any sort of link between mechanics and theme - even me, a person used to Knizia way of beign and designing, was taken aback by how abstract and themeless this game is.

Anyway, the game goes like this: each player receives, at the start of the round, a hand of cards - for four players, each gets 9 cards. The number of rounds the game lasts is equal to the number of players. The cards are divided in four colors (and this is the only thing that matters - name, image, is all for show; there aren't even numbers on the cards, which can mean that Knizia only had 50% of his usual amount of work, as his games are usual numbers and colors). In his turn the player must play one of his cards on the table, or he must pass and be out of the round. The first cards must be played in a single row, forming the bottom row of the court (this bottom goes to a maximum of 8 cards). Once there are two cards in a row, the person may play a card in a new row above them, forming a pyramid (first row with 8 cards, second with 7, third with 6, and so on). The card played in the new row, however, must match the colors of one of the two cards below it.

The pyramid can go up until there is only one card at the top, but, usually, it won't go this far, as the limition that the card above must match the color of one of the two cards bellow can (and, most of the time, will) block one or more players from adding cards to the rows, as there won't be a valid play. When this happen, the player counts how many cards there are still in his hands and take penalty points equal to the number of cards. The last player to add a card to the pyramid wins the round and takes one Throne card (which have negative points from -1 to -3, as the penalty points are "positive", and the purpose of the game is to have as lowest points as possible in order to win). Take note that last player to add a card is different then first player to play his last card.

And that is it. This is the whole game - adding a card, every turn, to the pyramid, trying to play as many cards possible, hopefully be the last one to add a card to it, and, if not, taking as few penalty points as possible. Players will try to play the cards as to block others - like, if you do not have more yellow cards, you might put a gray card above one gray and one yellow, lowering the chances of a yellow card be played later.

It is harder to make a simpler game.

Now, I was expecting a much worst game, to be honest. From what I had read and heard, the game lack, no only in theme (which is completely true), but, more importantly, in quality. I was expecting a game much more dependent of luck, with very little room for actual good play, leaving for the players only the task to try their best to handle the cards they are given. Well... yes, Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue has a fine deal of luck - if you take 5 or 6 cards of the same color, chances are that you will be shut down by the others and a chunk of penalty points maybe coming your way. However, the preponderance of luck is lower than what I expected to be. Not only there is room for smart play, one can actually prepare for his next moves. The only bad part of the randomness is the Throne cards, that range from -1 to -3, since, in a tight game, the decisive thing could be the difference between taking a -3 card or a -1. I understand that this exists to create a fog in the amount of points department, as to not be able to know exactly how much points all the players have, in order to have more tension in the end game, giving hope for the participants ("he gained two Throne cards, but both could be -1, now, if I only could take a -3, maybe even a -2, I could win..."). It works for this side of things, but I didn't liked (I could just take out the -3 card, though).

The theme, as I said, is a joke. Nothing is related to anything. The theme could be whatever you want - Vegetable Wars, Revolution of the Colors, Suit Conflict, you name it. As such, is completely possible to play the game with a standard deck of cards (using the aces, a couple of 2s and a 3 as Throne cards) and a pen and paper to register the penalty points. Or you can cut color papers and you will be good to go.

The components, by the way, are OK: the cards have square shapes, which I'm not fond of, but do help to make the pyramid less tall. The box is huge for its contents. The penalty points markers are standard stuff.

The playing time ranges from 20 to 30 minutes - more players, more time playing, as there will be more rounds.

So, to sum it up, Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue is an easy game to teach, learn and play. But won't be anything special - it probably won't be the favorite filler of someone, nor it will be asked. Beign neutral enough, though, it doesn't offend, so I can't see beign refused with a passion also, considering the quick playing time and easiness. Do I recommend it? Not really. For instance, Love Letter is better and cost basically the same. Sure, the experience of both isn't the same, one not beign a complete substitute of the other, even more because Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue can accommodate up to six players. Even still, the recommendation is more in the level of "buy if you find it by half price".

Rate: 6 / 10



TASH-KALAR: ARENA OF LEGENDS

I got say that I was never meant to be the target audience for Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends. I prefer theme with my gaming. Usually Vlaada Chvátil delivers pretty well on this matter, with his euro games with lots of theme built in. But I was aware that Tash wasn't one of these. And I avoid it well for a almost two full years. However, recently a friend bought and asked me to play with him on BGA, to learn the rules better and see the game working. I was... uncertain - not only because of the game itself, but also because he wanted to play while I was at work, and though I can make a move here and there, as I have internet acess all the time, I can't really pay close attention to anything I do, and certainly won't look what the other is doing. However, he was excited and so play we did.

I wish we didn't.

Not only the disconnection between mechanics and real theme was bothersome, I actually found it to hinder gameplay, as some things wasn't clear to me (probably one effect of onlime gaming coupled with learning it). I tried to do a fine showing, and move around pieces, put another ones on the board, move pieces, took out pieces of my friend. It could be a neat thing, but wasn't. What it was was long and, worst, boring. As the game went, he stayed on one side, I stayed on the other, and we both could summon whatever we want with the amount of pieces - what we couldn't do was gaining points by fulfilling the objectives, as when someone was close, with all the stuff either of us could bring, the other pieces were destroyed or moved. Eventually, after lots of back and forth, he won and the game was over. Phew.

The game is basically - do two actions, usually you will either put a common piece somewhere on the board, or you will use a card to summon the creature/thing on it to do something on the board - you will have to have made, first, the proper patterns of pieces in order to allow the summoning. Once the thing do its thing, the piece becomes just another piece, but at the level of the thing you summoned (common, heroic or legendary). In the way we played - High Form - the purpose is to fulfill objectives (positioning pieces in certain ways, destroying pieces, and things like this). The game ends when someone reaches the end of his deck or by reaching an amount of points. Nothing really much difficult, but is has some depth and width.

However, I want to try it again. And we did. Fool me once... It didn't went better, but it was, indeed, shorter. Mainly because I wasn't able to actually do something meaningful and did a lousy play, as the wooden creatures (or whatever is their name) was harder for me to deal with. So, not long, most definitely still boring.

I'm not a fan of abstracts, nor games that require spatial awareness, but most of these are light games, like Ubongo, La Boca, and in a less degree, Galaxy Trucker. So, by the simple and quick fun, I'm down with playing these. But Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends requires more than I'm willing to give it, as I simply can muster enough "want" to play it in the sort of brainy attentive way. I save these for other euros I enjoy a lot more.

So, for me, Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends was a complete failure, and I don't want to get near it with a ten-foot pole, as the game might turn it into a piece after I use it to shove the game away.

Rate: 3 / 10


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15. Board Game: Coal Baron [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:474]
Kirk Groeneweg
United States
Clear Lake
Iowa
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Geekway helped me play a bunch of new games. I really enjoyed most of them. Picking a favorite new game of the month is a tough one this month!

Best of May:


Coal Baron ended up being my favorite game of the month. After the first play at Geekway, I walked right over the the Miniature Market booth and got a copy. I enjoy the strategy in this one. I love the fact that nobody blocks anybody from taking an action, but if you want an action that somebody else had taken, you need to use more workers to get it done. I just simply really enjoyed this one. The balance of money and mining the coal and delivering is great. Just can't say enough nice things about this game and the enjoyment I had.

Fun Ones:


Everything I had read and heard about Coup, nothing really sparked my interest. Just didn't sound appealing to me. One of the guys at Geekway wanted to give a try and I'm so glad I played. I had a great time. It was simple, fun and brought out many laughs and bluffs. Just a great time. Another one that I had to bring a copy home with me. I've played it quite a few times after getting home as well.


I had heard about The Game of 49 from teh Gameboy Geek (Dan King). He had great things to say about this game. When I saw it on the Play & Win table at Geekway, I wanted to give it a try. Another game that had us laughing and having a great time. Luckily for me, the designer was there selling copies of the game. I had to get one and bring it home as well. What a likable guy. I could have stood and talked to him for much longer than I did. If you are looking for a game that is light enough to play with non-gamer family and friends, but yet gives you some things to strategize about, consider this game.


I wanted to try The Resistance last year at Geekway and never got a chance. This year I did get a chance. I had a blast playing. Not everyone in our group enjoyed it as much as I did. They just didn't care of the deception in this game. They were just not comfortable lying about what their identity was. So, this game is definitely not for everyone. If you don't mind lying to your friends, you will probably enjoy this game.

So this list doesn't get out of control, here are the others I enjoyed:
Scoville: I liked this game about peppers. Although I could not figure out how to get the good peppers and lost miserably.
The Simpsons Spoons Card Game: this was a gift from a fellow thrifter and has sat unplayed too long. Just stupid fun.
Machi Koro: Neat little "building" game. Really enjoyed my plays of it.
7 Wonders: I finally know what all the hubbub is about. Enjoyed this drafting game.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game: So fun and tense at the same time. Just problem after problem to solve.
Istanbul: Would like to play again to do more figuring out.
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16. Board Game: Shogi [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1086]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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This has been a bit of a slower month for me in terms of playing new games, but not necessarily playing games in general. As you'll note, the two new to me are a bit older (my 'best' being rather old!) games which privilege strong positional play -- which is something that always places game strongly in my eye. Both Shogi and Kingdom builder do this well, but as you could imagine, they offer incredibly drastic play spaces!

Shogi

While I don't have any clue as to what I'm doing, Dōbutsu Shōgi in the Greenwood provides a great learning set on which to play Shogi. The way in which captured pieces can be simply dropped in lieu of playing a piece allows for a fair deal of creativity and almost disallows the lock-ups/lock-downs that sometimes occur in chess. Even exchanges don't simplify the match, rather, they make it more complex as each player walks away with a potential edge. The result is, accordingly, somewhat more chaotic, fluid, intuitive, and open to swings and counter-swings in ways that chess isn't (unless you're playing Bughouse Chess)

Again, the aesthetics of the Dobutsu shogi are too darn cute while also being incredibly functional (for players who can't read kanji - or don't have a 'chessified' set).

After 2 games, initial rating: 8.

Kingdom Builder

Connection games seem to be a right of passage for designers looking to make their mark on the gaming world. Not because "everyone is doing one" but rather because it's such a tried and true that has also become a trope that it becomes an interesting challenge to breath fresh air into this medium (especially after so many good games of this sort are already out there). Vaccarino achieves this in Kingdom Builder by proposing a short game which (importantly) inverts the game space: first, he provides only one type of terrain per move; and second, due to the way placements happen, you are invited not to expand your options too broadly (i.e., you are required to place further pieces adjacent *if you can* - key words). After that, the game feels Vaccarino-esque, there are variable abilities you can gain to build a bit of an engine, scoring opportunities against which you must balance 'engine building' with, and variable end-game scoring opportunities. This creates a short and sweet game which straddles between the unassuming simplicity of older spatial games and the contemporary bloat of SEPCAIL PWOERS! SECERT OBEJCTVIES! multiple special texts.

After 6 games, initial rating: 7.
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17. Board Game: Fruit Spy [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:6354]
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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Zendo fan, Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Dominion Fan.
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Two fillers were the only new-to-me this month. The dice game seemed excessively random. The card game seemed inoffensive enough, so it's new game of the month.

Chupacabra: Survive the Night - Not much to this game. It's a silly random dice filler. With 2, there are few if any meaningful (non-obvious) choices. I suspect it's not much better with more than two.

Dead Man's Treasure - Light and fillery and not much there really, but I didn't really notice anything profoundly negative. The choices seemed vaguely meaningful.
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18. Board Game: Carcassonne: Gold Rush [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:1284]
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 (5).

Deciding to not take part in some math trades and not buy any new games in May definitely reduced the number of new games I played. I'm not complaining, it was nice to get a lot of plays in of games I know and really enjoy!

My favorite game of the month

Carcassonne: Gold Rush, Initial rating -> 8 (owned)

2 plays in May

Highlights:

- Great theme, artwork and components (cowboy meeples) that will definitely draw kids in.
- Simplified farmer scoring, you now look for tepees and horses on the tiles which score you 2 and 4 points respectively.
- Mining tokens which you collect these tokens when finishing a mountain, tents which allow you to steal these tokens before a mountain is finished.
- Railroad tracks can now score like inns (2p per tile instead of 1) if you have 1 train on a section of track.
- The Sheriff mini expansion adds a few excellent editions to the game play,

As of now this is my favorite version of Carcassonne I've owned the base game with expansions, the winter version and South Seas). The mining tokens add a bit of randomness to the game [i](they can score you 0 to 5 points, typically 1 or 2), but I actually like having some hidden scoring in the game.

This version has really been a hit with my kids, they already liked the tile placement mechanism, but they love the theme of this version. I would definitely recommend this version with the mini expansion for any family with kids!



Royals, Initial rating -> 8

1 play in May

Royals, or Ticket to Ride meets area control. I honestly got the same feeling playing this as I do in TTR with one important exception. First the similarities, in both cards you are collecting cards in order to play sets of colors to take control of spaces on the board. In TTR you are trying to complete routes, in Royals you are competing for control of countries and each type aristocrat in the game.

The biggest difference in the games is that in TTR you can block people permanently (unless you're playing with stations), whereas in Royals there is a second card type you can draw called an intrigue card. You can play an intrigue card with the required number of colored cards to kick someone out of a space on the board. Late game this becomes extremely important as the board fills up with cubes.

I mention the connection to TTR because I think Royals is very close to being a gateway game or at most a very small step up in complexity. I enjoyed my play of this game, it is a very clean design without any unnecessary rules clutter. The game play is quite straightforward, but the decisions you have to make are quite deep. You really have to pay attention to your opponents and what they are doing.

I would consider this the gateway game into the genre of area control. It is as interactive as El Grande (my personal favorite), but easier to get into.




Alien Frontiers, Initial rating -> 6

1 play in May

I have been wanting to play this for years and my buddy Mat let me borrow it to play with my kids. I really thought they would love it and I thought I would like it a lot more than Kingsburg.

After playing for over an hour I could tell that my kids were getting bored (mind you long games are not an issue with my kids, they'll sit and play Agricola with me). In the end nothing about the game grabbed them and they felt like they were repeating the same actions over and over and I kind of agree. There really isn't much variety in the actions you can take. Also waiting for each person to place all their dice gets old fast, especially by the time my daughter had 7 dice. I much prefer Kingsburg because there are a lot more choices you can make when placing your dice (a total of 16 advisers versus maybe 8 - 10 spaces in AF).

I would play it again if someone requested it, but it's not a game I would consider adding to our collection (I am grateful that I got a chance to try it out before buying it).




Siberia: The Card Game, Initial rating -> 6 (owned)

3 plays in May

I saw this game mentioned on a geekbuddy's New to Me list. I ended up finding an inexpensive copy a few months ago and finally got it to the table.

It is a very simple game where you are playing cards to collect resources trying to earn the most money for the resources you've collected. There are a few worker cards that adjust the endgame payout of resources, but the game is still quite straight forward and seems to play out very similarly game to game.

It's a game my son enjoys, so we'll get some more plays in, but there isn't enough there to keep this game in our collection for the long term.



Plucky Pilots, Initial rating -> 4 (for sale/trade)

1 play in May

Wow, what a let down. I got this game to play with my youngest daughter (she's 5) and it bombed. I had read Joe in Colorado's thoughts a while back and he wasn't kidding, there really aren't any decisions to be made in this game. It is really just roll dice and see what happens. Basically you end up inching your way up the point track because you are continually busting. The way the arrows are laid out you will never use blue (except to get to the last space) and a few spaces in you need one color to advance and by that point you've had to spend a die as gas. I understand it is a push your luck game, but it just ends up feeling very random and seems like it could have benefited from more play testing.




Expansions

Concordia: Britannia / Germania, Initial rating -> 10 (owned)

I loved my original play of Concordia and ended up buying the game. Since I knew most of my plays would be either 2 or 3 player games I decided to get the expansion map.

After 2 plays with the new map I am extremely pleased with this expansion, it really elevates the 2p experience. The board becomes crowded quickly and you are forced to build into cities where your opponent is (you can no longer get away with going in a separate direction in the 2p game). In my opinion this is a must own expansion if you plan on playing Concordia with 2.

2 plays in May




Carcassonne: Goldrausch – Der Sheriff, Initial rating -> 8 (owned)

2 plays in May

This adds a few tweaks to the game play. The Sheriff stops people from stealing mining tokens with their tents so you can protect a mountain you control that has a lot of mining tokens. It also adds graveyards which function like monasteries in the original Carcassonne with the added benefit of scoring more points for each city tile it is adjacent to.

I love what this min expansion adds to the game, I would highly recommend tracking down a copy if you own the base game (it's not expensive at all).



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

Cheers,
Will

Edits: Forgot to add Plucky Pilots, then changed entry by mistake blush
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19. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]
Phil Triest
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Brass: Lancashire 9
I actually did play this game many years ago but I added it because we played so many rules incorrectly that the game I played this month was pretty much unrecognisable. I actually really like it. 4 plays in I am still seeing things I didn't previously see.

Emira 6
This game is OK. It definitely feels a bit old mechanically. The theme is quite interesting though. It is also funny getting stuck with a lady you don't want to be with.

Sequence 3
Luck driven filler kind of game. Nothing really interesting at all to be honest.
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20. Board Game: Dead Men Tell No Tales [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:886]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
FL
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Dead Men Tell No Tales - Dead Men Tell No Tales was really a pretty well run Kickstarter. Sure, it missed its April ship date by a couple of weeks, but outside of Daybreak, I think that's the closest to on-time I've ever had a kickstarter be. I backed it for the theme as much as anything. My wife likes pirate games, and has wanted to do a pirate themed game day. This had a cool pirate theme, but the gameplay looked decent, too. To me, playing it felt like a cross between Pandemic and Flashpoint, but it also adds a combat mechanism that gives the game a fun element of risk. Even better, it adds a tile-laying exploration aspect that I really enjoy, too. I hate to say it, but the rules are maybe a little too complicated and fiddly. For instance, and this doesn't ruin the game at all, but I kind of hate any mechanism that requires me to turn a die to a specific result. I know, it should be simple, especially if you know the layout of a die (I do), but somehow I still almost always have to look at all 6 frickin' sides. The rules also have a few exceptions that aren't always easy to remember (the fatigue rules when you are looting vs the rest of the time). None of these are deal breakers at all, but they might be for some people. I really like the game, though. I dig the teamwork that it requires, and the different special abilities with the roles and equipment are fun. The production quality is great. If you like coop games, it's definitely worth giving a try.
Rating: 7.5

Firefly: The Game - Firefly has been on my radar ever since it first came out. My wife and I absolutely love the show and the characters. The only thing that kept me from buying the game as soon as it hit the stores was the fact that I own Merchants and Marauders, and it never hits the table. A buddy of mine had preordered it, so I figured I'd wait and give it a try before deciding what to do. Cut to almost 2 years later, and I finally got to try it out. I think it's a good game. First, in comparison to Merchants and Marauders, they definitely share some feeling, but they are also pretty different mechanically. Firefly is a lighter game, and a little less fiddly (I think), but it also takes about the same amount of time. I think the only aspect of the game that I'm not a big fan of, is the "Aim to misbehave" mechanism. It's an interesting way to handle the vagaries of some of the missions, but I think it's just a little too random. It doesn't ruin the game by any means, though. I'm definitely going to pick up the Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion. I think that interaction is definitely an element that's missing. All in all, I like the game. Good thing, too, because I got it played just as a friend was buying it to give to my wife as a gift.
Rating: 7

Morels - I've been looking at Morels for a while, but the $25 price tag seemed a little steep for a light 2 player game. It still does seem a little high, but Amazon recently started doing same day delivery in my area, and I wanted to try it out, so I tossed Morels into the shopping cart. Sure enough, later that day it was at my door. My wife and I broke it out that night and played several games. We both really enjoyed it. I found the constant sliding of the cards to be a little annoying. Sometimes we were taking our actions too fast and get confused about which cards should be in the decay and how many cards should have been added to the line. I want to try out the circlular, rondel-ish set up from the rule supplement in the box. I think that might solve that very minor complaint. The rest of the game is really great. Simple set collection that plays quickly and has some nice thematic elements (cooking with butter and cider).
Rating: 7

Good Cop Bad Cop - I bought the first edition of Good Cop Bad Cop a while back because it was cheap and was getting good reviews as a quick hidden role game. I don't love the theme, but I liked the idea of the multiple loyalty cards. I finally got it to the table this month and played several time. On the one hand it is simpler and easier to teach than Blood Bound (which has a similar field), but I don't think there's as much game there, either. I need to play it more, and my group liked it, so I don't think it will be difficult to bring out, but with several plays this month, I felt like the deduction element was a little lighter than I'd like. I do think the game will be better with more bluffing, but it takes some plays to start to figure when and how to bluff well. I'm guessing the second edition is better, but some of the equipment cards in the first edition are pretty ambiguous in their effects in certain situations. We had different questions come up in every game we played that the rules didn't make clear. I read the rules forums here on BGG afterwards, though, and most of the questions got cleared up. All in all, I think this is a decent game that will only improve with more plays.
Rating: 7

Eminent Domain: Microcosm - I really enjoyed my plays of the original Eminent Domain, so when the kickstarter for Eminent Domain: Microcosm launched, claiming to offer a similar experience in a 2 player, 10 minute card game for $10, it was a no brainer. I've only played the game once so far, so my rating is very soft, but I enjoyed it. I don't think it offers a very similar experience to the original Eminent Domain, but it does share the "Am I going Colonize or Warfare?" aspect to the strategy. You could do both, but I'm not sure how well that would go. Unfortunately, the thing that stands out the most for me with the game, though, is the rulebook, which is just awful (or at least unconventional in an unintuitive way). As it turns out, I think you can learn the game with what is in the box, but if you're the type of person to read the rules as printed and expect to be able to start playing, you will be disappointed. There are many terms and aspects of the game that just aren't defined (or, in some cases, even mentioned) in the rules. The designer has since clarified that you have to read the rules, and each unique card, to get the full picture. I suppose this is fine, but it has been very confusing for many, and I really think it was a misstep. The game itself is interesting. It has a fast play time, and some interesting decisions.
Rating: 6.5

Dungeon Escape: A classic game of memory with a twist! - This is basically Memory or Concentration. It has a minor twist, in that it has an element of combat, but the combat is pretty random (dice rolling modified by cards you randomly get), and only occasionally comes up. The game is still pretty fun, but it's very light, and if one person doesn't have as good a memory, they're going to have a bad time. I would absolutely recommend this as an alternative to Memory for people who have kids.
Rating: 6
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21. Board Game: Marrakech [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1244]
Joseph Peterson
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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I played 20 new games this month. Here are my favorite five:

Marrakech - 9.4 - Game of the Month - Best Quality

Marrakech is probably the best roll and move game I've ever played. As with most roll and move, there is a good amount of luck however, there is a high amount of strategy, both in turning the merchant and placing the carpets. Each of these can set you up for success, even if a die roll is involved. Trying to set yourself up to not have to step on any opponent rugs and being able to cover up their rugs as well is strategic and enjoyable. This an excellent one and something I'd love to play over and over again.

Mystery Rummy: Escape from Alcatraz - 8.9 - Game of the Month Runner-Up - Most Thematic

Escape from Alcatraz is the first game I've played from the Mystery Rummy series. If the others are even half as interesting as this, I think I'm in for some good times ahead once I crack in to the others. This one though turns rummy from a sort of boring, theme-less card collection game into something with a little meat on its bones. Add to that the action cards along with how sets are scored, you've got a winner.

Mord im Arosa - 8.5

Mord im Arosa is one of those games you might look at and think, "Gimmick!" and hey, you'd be right. However, that gimmick really does make for a cool looking and fun playing game. I love how after you listen you could swear that a cube is definitely on the fourth floor only to find out there's absolutely nothing there at all. Or worse, try to cover your tracks only to reveal 4 or 5 cubes of an opponent on the floor and none of your own. It's an excellent game that plays fast and has everyone on their toes trying to figure out who killed the victims!

Tsuro of the Seas - 8.4 - Best Art

Tsuro is a game I really enjoyed when I played. Tsuro of the Seas takes it up a few steps and changes the game slightly and, in my opinion, for the better. Adding in the movement of the dragons may make for a less strategic game, but it definitely adds to the fan factor as well. Never quite knowing how things will turn out from the end of your turn to the beginning of your next really makes it interesting. If you take it to seriously, you'll have a bad time, but if you just go with it, there's a really great game in this box, even better than its predecessor.

Pyramix - 8.4

Pyramix is a great game in a great package. As the begins and as it's played out, the game always looks great. The gameplay is simple, take a piece from the pyramid following a couple of rules and adding it to your collection, but through this simplicity there's a really strategic game to be played. While cranes and eyes score the most points, collecting ankhs is key. Excellent little game.
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22. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:338]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Bananagrams

Eh, it is a word game which I am not inclined to like all that much. I feel like it is around a 5-6 for me. Playing was a 5, but I see enough in the design to see it being a 6.

Ingenious

After deciding not to get this a number of time, a guy in my group brought this. It is hard for me to not like a Knizia game and this is no different. This will click on easily in the 7 area for me.

Sobek

Similar to Parade with adding more to it but adding more upkeep in terms of between rounds and such. I decent little set collection game. I’ll toss it a 6 rating for now.
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23. Board Game: XenoShyft: Onslaught [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:816] [Average Rating:7.06 Unranked]
Jim Hansen
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Game of the Month

Specter Ops (1 play w/ 4) - Specter Ops is a really unique game. It does the hidden movement masterfully. I love the variety of agents and hunters. The 4 player game seems near impossible for the agent. I wonder how the 5 player game would work with a traitor hunter.

I think this would be best with 2 players, because the hunters really need to work as one and you don't necessarily need other people controlling them. It actually gave me a very similar feeling to Tragedy Looper in the way you are playing mind games with the other players. Great game.
Initial Rating: -8-


Good Games

Runebound (Second Edition) (1 play w/ 2) - Runebound is the best Ameritrash adventure game I've played. Mage Knight is better, but that's a totally different animal. The WoW Adventure game is similar, but not nearly as good.

There are a ton of heroes and they all play very differently. I really like the leveling progression and how you can choose which stats to increase. The items were fun and varied, the encounters were entertaining, and the combat system is unique but satisfying. The movement system also provided some interesting puzzle solving and unpredictability.

The game can be very lucky/swingy, but that's not uncommon for the genre. There can also be a lot of downtime because you have nothing to do on other people's turns, so I think the game is best with 2 players. I would maybe try a 3 player game, but 4 would be way too long. I haven't looked at the solo rules, but this would be a fun solo game.
Initial Rating: -7.5-



Letters from Whitechapel (1 play w/ 6) - Letters from Whitechapel did a really good job of capturing the theme. In my game I was a detective, and it was a lot of fun trying to chase down Jack and work with everyone else to corner him and figure out where he could possibly be. In this game and one other game I watched, Jack got caught on the first night. I have no idea if that's typical or not, but I fear the game might be too hard to win as Jack. Either that, or it's completely hit or miss. It seems all about the first few moves and whether or not the police can catch up to him. I would love to give this another try as Jack.
Initial Rating: -7.5-



Legends of Andor (2 plays w/ 2) - I'm a big fan of fantasy and coops, so you'd think I would have played this a while ago. I'd watched many reviews and a Rahdo runthrough and it just didn't appeal to me at all. But I found it for cheap in an auction, so I picked it up.

There are a lot of weird things about the game that seem very unpolished or unconventional. The cardboard standees, the names of all the monsters, and the names of the heroes in particular are just kind of odd. It's also strange that you somewhat get punished for killing enemies because it pushes you closer to running out of time. But all that said, I've enjoyed my first two plays. The leveling up aspect is kind of lacking, but there is some power growth. Combat is fairly simple yet somehow very satisfying. The missions are interesting and really force you to not waste any time. Both missions so far have come down to the wire with one win and one loss.

It's survived 2 plays, which seems hard to do these days. I wonder about the replayability because there are only 4 characters and not a whole lot of variability other than some random game setup. It has a lot of similarities to Defenders of the Realm (which I prefer to Andor), but if you want a more Euro version of Defenders you should check this out.
Initial Rating: -7-



Age of War (2 plays w/ 2) - It's hard for me to get excited about fillers, but this was surprisingly good. It's pretty much a 2 player, competitive clone of Elder Sign. And I think that's what Elder Sign really should be anyway, so kudos to Age of War.
Initial Rating: -7-



Fiasco (1 play w/ 5) - I really enjoyed the TableTop episode of Fiasco, so I've been looking forward to playing this for a while. It's not really a game and the "mechanisms" are kind of wonky, but it does a great job of providing a framework for interesting roleplaying. This is 100% a roleplaying game, so don't think twice unless you like roleplaying. My one game had 1 great roleplayer (not me) and 4 mediocre roleplayers, but we still had fun. I would love to give this another play with a more creative crowd.
Initial Rating: -7-


OK Games

XenoShyft: Onslaught (1 play w/ 2) - I'm not sure what to say about Xenoshyft other than that it feels like a kickstarter game. The concept and theme are good, but some of the execution is lacking. The troops are cool and I like that you can trade in the basic troops, but they will always be the same every game. The items are also pretty cool, but some of them are way better than others (telekinesis for example). We also played with the kickstarter heroes, which made the game a lot easier.

The enemies are pretty cool, but there is huge variance depending on which enemies show up and when. Also, you may fight the boss or they may never come out.

Overall it was a good concept, but way too much unpredictability and not enough replayability. The different factions are the main variety because the troops are always the same and there aren't that many items to choose from.
Initial Rating: -6-



Space Beans (1 play w/ 4) - This is very similar to Bohnanza, but without the negotiation. It means the game is faster, but it loses a big part of the game. The other mechanical tweaks like passing your hand and having a secret collection were pretty good. This is an OK filler that I would play if someone else brought it out.
Initial Rating: -5-
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24. Board Game: Sluff Off! [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1059]
Nathan Clegg
United States
Escondido
California
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Zing! (2003) (Die Sieben Siegel) has shot to the top of my list of trick-takers. I normally shy away from games that require trick prediction, but this one simultaneously requires more detail (in which suits will each win be?) and punishes you less (point penalty rather than all-or-nothing). Like it lots.

Nice Discoveries

Wizard (1984) - Another predictive trick-taker that I enjoy, even though I'm terrible at it. I like the progression.

Opera (2009) - Took a long time to get this to the table but I was glad it did. I got a couple rules wrong so it needs a replay, but I see a lot of potential here. Looking forward to more plays.

Parade (2007) - A nice surprise. This is what small-ish card games should do: move fast, reward good play, entertain.

Age of Industry Expansion: South Africa (2013) - Only 2 of 5 players enjoyed this, but I thought it was great. Nice restrictions on expansion, interesting but not at all game-changing extra industries (I'm looking at you, USSR), just right.

Circus Train (Second edition) (2013) - Jury is still out on this one. We played the basic game and need to try the advanced next. The dice factor is a little high but I did enjoy the play. I'll make a keep-or-trade decision after the next play.

Fun and Done

Dominion: Adventures (2015) - Oh I'd happily play this again, especially mixed in with other expansions, but it didn't bowl me over and I won't be picking it up (more because I have plenty of Dominion already than disliking this set). I like the plots and plenty of the cards. Maybe I'm just burning out on the system.

Viticulture (2013) - While this stands out among kickstarters, it seems to me a perfectly adequate euro--and nothing more. I will try again with the expansion to see if it meets the high expectations set by others, but I suspect this will fade among a bland sea of its competitors.

Njet! (1997) - Okay trick-taker. I'd play again but it's a little chaotic for me.

Black Spy (1981) - I see potential here but the table hated it and I don't know if I will see it again. That's okay.

Monkeys on the Moon (2002) - I probably shouldn't like this so much but it's an interesting combination of cute and fun.

Mondo (2011) - Acceptable but not particularly interesting.

Ring-O Flamingo (2009) - I'm not sure I scored a single point. Maybe one. Like many silly dexterity games likely intended for children, this is worth exactly one play.

Trio of Knizias: Dragon Parade (2007), Horse Fair Card Game (2007), SWAT! (2010).

Not For Me

Cirplexed! (2012) - Pretty terrible.

You Suck (2013) - I'll play anything Ted makes. This one is not worth a second play. Just chaotic and terrible to me.

Arboretum (2015) - Really hated this. I'm not even sure I can describe why. I wanted to like it but no. Certainly one knock against it is accidental screwage, which I always hate, but I didn't enjoy the play all that much along the way either. Won't play again.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (2014) - Very standard cooperative game with lots of reading. I can see what others like about it but I have zero interest in an unfolding narrative.

Ca$h 'n Guns (second edition) (2014) - Much like first edition, the appeal of this game is completely lost on me. I don't "get it."

Onward to Venus (2014) - Wow, Martin, what happened to you? This is so not for me.

Samara (2015) - First and only play marred by some rules issues, but I don't see myself coming back to this anyway. Its very repetitive and I just don't see the scope being interesting.
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25. Board Game: Mundus Novus [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1464]
William Bussick
United States
Reno
Nevada
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You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
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10 new games this month. Thanks to Matt and Brien to teaching so many of them!

BEST

d10-7Mundus Novus: Our first game was overlong, but there were constantly interesting choices to make. The forced trading felt really novel. The art is great--almost too intricate, though. I had to squint at many of the elements. Still, good box size and design!

THE REST (most liked first)

d10-7The Game: Pretty neat cooperative, multi-player, solitaire-style game...except you are all playing on the same board. It's fun how close you can come to winning. (Played using a 6 Nimmt! deck.)

d10-7Isle of Trains: Good game in a really small box! San Juan-inspired mechanics are executed well here. The graphic design is hit-and-miss, but it plays smoothly. I love the concept of getting a benefit for adding a good to your player's train, thereby allowing them to ship sooner.

d10-7Bucket King 3D: A new look for the classic game, using actual physics instead of the simulated kind! The art is a little baffling and the suits don't read well, but still a great game.

d10-7Urbania: Pretty cool hand-management game. Not very complicated, but plenty of interesting decisions. The only thing I was not a fan about was the disc vs. cube ranks; it seemed counter-intuitive when scoring people at the end of the turn. A couple of the graphic choices made the colors a little hard to comprehend too. But still a very good game!

d10-6Brew Crafters: Agricola-style worker placement/engine building with some order fulfillment. Seems like there are quite many paths to victory. It's nothing really new, but decently executed. Some of the icons are pretty small and the colors/names aren't the best, but otherwise the production quality is good. The theme doesn't do anything for me, though.

d10-6Dead Men Tell No Tales: Well-designed, cooperative, exploration, pick-up-and-deliver game. Seems quite derivative of Flash Point, but more complicated. The theme is terrific. The turns are slow-ish and the game is kinda long. These are things I don't like in cooperatives, so this game isn't my cup-of-tea.

d10-6Mad City: Played the base game. Not really my thing, but the play was smooth and not taxing. It definitely took too long for what it was. Very nice design for speed players. Too bad there was no catch-up mechanic.

d10-6Situation 4: This is a really cool idea. (Surprising how it's almost 50 years old!) Speed puzzles aren't really my bag, but I admire how ahead of its time it is.

d10-5Fluxx: The Board Game: Still not my kind of game, but this one is more of a game than the original. More to think about, but not necessarily more fun. Too bad the box is really over-sized too.
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