New to you April 2017 => Best new boardgame
What games did you play for the first time in April 2017?
Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
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.
Grimwold's New To You Tool
New To You Metalist 2017
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Movies You Watched
Movies You Watched in May 2017
Movies You Watched in April 2017
Other Great Monthly Lists
New to you a year ago Apr 17 => Has it stood the test of time?
Out of the Dust April 2017
Games only YOU have played in April 2017
Your Most Played Game (and more): April 2017
New to your kids - Gaming with your kids April 2017
BGG Top 50 Statistics : from 01 Apr 17 to 01 May 17
== NEW GAMES ==
Tiny Epic Galaxies - 1 play
First Published 2015
This was the first of 2 new to me games that we played on a family vacation just before Easter. My wife won and was new to the game, I came in second and, Tim(B) who was also new to the game came 3rd and the Tim(C) that taught us the game, came last. I really liked the game.. it felt fairly minimalist, but as the name suggests it also felt epic. I was also thinking it had a bit of a feel of Roll for the Galaxy.
A fun and clever game that I would definitely play again.
Sushi Go! - 1 play
First Published 2013
Sushi Go was the second new game that I learnt on our family vacation.. playing with with Tim(C) and Jon-Man. It's a set-collection game, with a 7 Wonders'esque card-passing twist. I did really badly in the early rounds, but I managed to collect a few puddings which only score at the end, and I also had a pretty epic final round with a couple of multipliers.. That, along with the puddings I scored, I finished in second place, behind Jon-Man who taught us the game.
Another fun game that I would play again.
Love the world.
(Image credit: telos81)
Very nice order-fulfillment engine-builder, with a walk-your-dude-around-the-board action selection system.
Thematically, Yokohama is about the industrialization of Japan, with increasing foreign country influences.
Mechanically, you're (1) collecting resources of different flavors and then spending them to fill foreign export orders, and (2) building your engine (which includes advancing on majority-control VP tracks).
You build your engine in part by acquiring technology cards, which give you special powers. Also, you can place buildings in the board's various locations, to boost your power when acting in those locations (and to get one-time bonuses).
The most novel element of the game is its action system. The board is made up of a number of large location tiles, arranged in a pyramid shape. The tiles are placed randomly, so the board landscape will be different each game.
Each location provides the opportunity to perform a different action (e.g., get money, acquire resources of a particular type, recruit more assistants and buildings from your bank into your hand, acquire orders, acquire technology).
On your turn, you begin by putting assistants on the board (mini-meeples in your color). You can place three if you put each in a different location, or you can put two in the same location.
Then you move your "president" (a much larger meeple) to a new location on the board. You can move any distance, so long as you move through a continuous path of locations that contain your assistants. Once your president arrives in a new location, you perform the action provided by that space. The power of the action is variable, based on the number of pieces you have in the space (i.e., president, assistants, and previously placed buildings). After performing the action, the assistants from that location are removed from the board and go back into your hand.
There is some scope for blocking. If you put an assistant in a space that contains an opponent's president, you must pay that player a coin. Similarly, if your president moves through a space containing an opponent's president, you must again pay that player a coin. And, importantly, your president can never end in a space that contains another president.
This all creates an interesting spatial puzzle with clever trade offs. If you spread your assistants across the board, you'll maximize your president's movement and action selection flexibility. But you need to concentrate assistants in the location the president uses, to boost the effectiveness of your actions.
I've only played with two, and the effect of the blocking was fairly mild. I expect it would be much greater with a higher player count.
I kickstarted the deluxe edition and am really happy with the quality of the components -- loads of wooden bits and really excellent metal coins. The cards and board tiles are very functional, and the overall art style is attractive (if a bit muted).
We really enjoyed it as a two-player, and I appreciate the way that the randomized board set up and limited availability of order/technology cards creates inter-play variability. The move-your-dude-to-select-an-action mechanism reminded me a little of the Colonists (which is a good thing).
(Image credit: R2EQ)
Great looking, long playing, 40K grand strategy wargame.
Forbidden Stars is a descendant of FFG's StarCraft: The Board Game, rethemed in the Warhammer 40k universe. The two games have a lot in common.
Both are grand strategy dudes-on-a-map sci-fi wargames, with a lot of unit differentiation and major asymmetry between player factions.
Both use deck-building as a mechanism for tech development. When you acquire a new technology, you add the corresponding cards into your combat deck. This adds to your overall power, while keeping some unpredictability.
Both have a lot of cool toys in them.
Both games are long. My single two-player game of Forbidden Stars lasted about three hours (and we called it short of actual completion, because we were tired and the result seemed pretty certain).
I can't imagine how long a four-player game of Forbidden Stars would take. I don't intend to find out.
If you like this kind of thing, Forbidden Stars is great. Physical production value is excellent and the rules are tight and interesting.
I just don't have the stamina for it.
(Image credit: The Innocent)
Deck builder with a board (about mining Mars).
I played this once, with three. It was okay. I'm afraid I don't remember enough about it to say anything interesting.
It has a slightly macabre art style, which I liked.
(Image credit: Nini la nicoise)
Not for me.
Roll two dice (color and number) to establish the starting point of a robot on a grid board. Roll again to determine the end point. Then everyone simultaneously tries to find a legal route for the robot to traverse to the end point. Each move, the robot must move orthagonally to a space that matches the color or number of its current location.
First to do so, gets a point.
I found it kind of tedious. Cheap and portable though.
A new Oink! game that continues their run of great games in small boxes. Each player collects shares in companies and at the end of the round, the majority shareholder gets a payout from everyone that has also collected shares in that company, 1 coin per share. This is the core of the game and everything else is built on it. Collecting every share of a company you see will probably get you a majority, only you need other people to have those shares to actually get a payout from your majority. Giving away too many means you might lose out on a company while holding 3+ shares, which is disastrous.
The decisions each turn are small (draw a card, play a card) but the payout system means that these are often hard and based on imperfect information. You have 3 cards in hand that will be part of your scoring at the end, you draw one card then you decide to either add it to your shares or play it to the middle to give to someone else. If you're strong in a company, you want to hide that for as long as you can so others start to invest before being scared off. However, holding 3 shares of a company means you have no flexibility in what you do with your new card each turn and that's often dangerous. There's plenty of scope for bluffing, trapping people and scaring potential competition away thanks to the hidden information in your hand.
Even the distribution of companies is clever. The companies are numbered 5-10, which is how many shares are in that company. Getting a majority in the 5 company is very easy if you see 2-3 cards but the potential payout is low because there are only 2-3 other possible cards to pay out. The 10 company can have a huge payday if you win it but you're guaranteed to have at least one other player collecting them too and it's a big gamble to invest early when you may never get the chance to get more 10 cards later.
All in all, one of their best games. I've played it with 4-7 players and it's good at all those counts.
A real-time, cooperative game of great chaos and silent glares. Four characters are trying to loot some items from a mall and escape before the time runs out. Each player can control any of the four characters but they can only do a specific move (e.g. move left or use escalator). The map is typically winding and narrow, which requires some coordination as everyone does their small part in getting a character from one side to the other. The problem in all this is that people can't communicate at all - no talking, no gesturing, no meaningful looks at part of the board. Your only options are to stare at someone and place a giant red Do Something! pawn in front of them; you can't tell them what needs doing, just that they need to do something. Typically it starts nice and gently and quickly escalates to tapping the table at someone because can you see it why will you not just do this obvious thing no stop that please do this you're going to make us lose are you stupid oh no no no.
The timer is only 3 minutes and you lose if it runs out, so you need to use the timer spaces on the board to flip the timer (literally flip, meaning sand in the bottom is now in the top). You can also talk as much as you want after the timer is flipped, which stops when someone takes an action again.
The game starts simple and adds more permanent rules for the first 7 scenarios in what is effectively a tutorial sequence, then has a bunch of scenarios with weird one-off additions and exceptions. I've had a lot of fun in ths game even if I've not gone past scenario 7 yet. There's a real urgency to everything and there are always some excellent moments of everyone using the pawn on the same person because they just don't see that they need to save the game right now. It's also prone to some fun groupthink problems - one person starts moving down a corridor because they figure we need to, everyone else joins and it's only 10 moves later someone realises that this is a dead end and a complete waste of time.
I've played with people that typically hate real-time games and they've enjoyed it too, in part because your moves are always very simple. The 2 player game is ok. We had some fun, it's nowhere near as good as it is with 4+ though. I've not tried above 6 yet so I don't know how crowded it would be at those counts.
A tricky connection game using pentominoes instead of counters or tiles. The only real placement rule is that you can't leave voids under the new tile, otherwise you can rotate and stack as much as you want. The path can follow any connected faces of your pieces, including the sides, which means it isn't easy to cut a path and allows for some very winding routes across the board.
I did enjoy this game a lot, even if I find it difficult to visualise future moves when you start stacking. Early games were full of rotating pieces constantly to see how they can fit into the spaces available. At this point I recognise the basic shapes but I can't accurately predict what moves will be possible in 2-3 moves time when all the pieces are being stacked up together.
Allowing the path to follow all faces means you really need to pay attention to the full 3d space and this game is best played on a small table where you can peer over the top or a place where you can walk around the table a bit. I think the ideal setup would be a lazy susan so both players can see all sides at will.
The only complaint I have is that it's a little fiddly. Ideally the components would be heavier so they'd stay in position better when knocked but I gather this is a limitation of the 3d printing used. Definitely a game that requires some precision when placing in a big stack and not for the shaky. It's still a great game even with the fiddliness.
A simple tile laying game where each tile has a pattern indicating where you need to place your tiles around it to win. Completing one tile's pattern wins the game but an opponent's piece placed in the way will leave that tile dead for the rest of the game. There's a decent amount of depth to discover here; early placements are typically going to be killed immediately and so they're mostly useful to set up your later tiles for a winning move, later tiles are the ones that are going to actually win the game.
Currently the goal seems to be to try and set up a double win with two positions, which means you can't be blocked. I suspect it's possible to set up the win condition of a tile without playing it, then play it to win, but that requires much more vision than we have right now.
The components are nice, thick acrylic tiles and it doesn't have a board, which means it's very portable and can be played in most places. It's not a groundbreaking experience, it's just very well done.
A variant on Go using marbles and 3d stacking instead of pieces on a flat board. The rules are simply enough to learn, especially if you're familiar with basic Go concepts, but the stacking and forced moves means it's much more than just a Go variant.
The board is small and a lot of the game comes in the decisions over where to stack your pieces. If you pin an opponent's piece (your marble is resting on their marble), it won't be removed from the board even if it's dead. It still counts towards the scoring and can become alive again later if captures open up space around it or it gets connected properly. Connecting over the top is very powerful in most circumstances as it opens up available spaces dramatically and cuts your opponent's groups in half but pinning balls too much can lead to no effective captures and a loss. The fact that you can cut a group in half means double eyes aren't a safe group, combined with the fact that you must played a legal move if able, which means you sometimes fill in your eyes because you have no choice.
I bought the deluxe edition from nestorgames and the marbles themselves are incredible. I've left it out after a completed game just because it looks so good. The standard version is fine too, but if you can afford it, definitely get the deluxe edition.
Clank!: Sunken Treasures
The main part of this expansion is a new board with a little more going on than the standard board. I like the addition of water spaces, which are mostly used to provide a shorter route with more risk of damage, particularly if you don't have any scuba gear. The best treasure typically involves some diving to reach and the advanced board has a big shortcut if you're willing to swim early. It's a nice touch that the new cards can be used on the standard board so you don't need to filter the deck per game even if they're a bit weaker without water to interact with.
As a whole, it's not particularly game changing, just some extra variety. It's as easy to teach as the base game, it's a little more interesting but it also doesn't entirely replace the base board. I'm glad to have it and I use it about half the time in practice. I'd definitely recommend it if you enjoy the base game and want more. If you aren't convinced by the base game, this won't do much to help.
I was very disappointed in this. It's a worker placement with a dressing of time travel that doesn't have any kind of meaningful payoff to counter the long teaching time or the multi-step process needed to take most actions.
The presentation on the game is very, very good. There's great art everywhere, even on the small player boards that contain little gameplay information. The iconography on all the actions is clear and consistent - after the rules explanation, all actions were easy to decipher. The one exception is cube colouring, which feels like a simple oversight. Grey and green both look too similar under non-ideal lighting and everyone was caught by their similarity at some point. I also like that the theme isn't just another worker placement of farming or trading cubes.
However, I have some problems with the game:
The time travel theme is mostly implemented through the timeline that allows you to take items now then punishes you if you don't send the same items back in time later. In practice, this is a loan system with a thin theme on top. It even has what felt like a credit rating system - if you take stuff and send it back, you get extra VP so you really want to do it even if it's not needed right now. I appreciate the theme they're aiming for with this, it's just too blatantly a loan that you pay back using special repayment (time travel) buildings and it's the only part where time travel is actually relevant to the mechanics.
Placing workers out is multi-level without any real benefit for me. You need to refresh your workers so you can use them again (from most spaces), you need a worker of the right type (unless they're wild) and you need a suit powered up this time, unless you're going to your own board where suits aren't needed. The turn begins with powering suits and it costs resources to power up more than a couple of suits for most factions, so the first step is to figure out exactly what you want to do this turn. How many workers are refreshed right now, am I going to wake the tired ones up, are there any buildings/workers/resources on the board I need this turn, is there a superproject I want, what are other people likely to take first, what actions am I doing on my board that don't need a suit? It feels like I need to answer all of these to make the right choice, which means everything suddenly stops as people calculate for a bit. We played it with rough guesses and people ended up with wasted suits or not quite enough suits available.
The science tokens. Come on, that's the best you can do? They work in a mechanical sense but they're easily the least interesting and thematic part of the whole game. I was never, ever excited about what I might get from research and couldn't find any thematic justification for matching shapes and symbols to research.
There are lots of resources here and I don't feel it needs them. You have 4 colours of cubes (mostly for buildings), power cores (for suit powering?), water (for lots of things) and those weird science tokens. Three types of workers (plus the wild) means they're basically a resource too, along with the suits you power each turn. A good portion of the actions in the game are dedicated to getting these in various combinations and you can trade between them all slowly too, but surely we could have ditched some to streamline it a little.
I was very close to backing this on Kickstarter and I'm glad I didn't now. Half the players in the game loved it, largely because they found the theme outweighed some of the gear grinding involved in getting things done, so I don't think it's a terrible game, just not for me at all. I don't mind lots of rules and lots of gears to turn if the payoff at the end is better. The end result of all the work involved is that you get a bunch of points for basically anything you did during the game, just like in many, many other euros. Even evacuating is just more points with a bit of playing chicken, it's not a satisfying climax to the game.
A cooperative game of avoid guards and stealing loot before someone gets caught. I enjoyed this a lot, even if we haven't succeeded yet or even come close to. The guard movement system means you really need to split up and the early game seems to be a desperate dash for stairs so you can start working on the other floors too. It feels a little luck based at the beginning - if you find the stairs early, life is much easier - but I suspect that can be countered through better play.
Our early instinct was to avoid setting off alarms whenever possible but it seems like you need to use them to keep the guards busy. It's a little fiddly to set up, especially for how quickly it plays once it's up, but I forsee this getting a lot of play in future. A slightly bigger box with some organisation would alleviate some of the setup and packup time.
Exit: The Game – The Secret Lab
Another escape room game! I think this probably has the best/hardest puzzles of the ones I've played so far (ThinkFun games, Unlock, Escape Room The Game) and also one of the best hint systems, but it's also the most boring one so far for me. The theme was basically non-existent, the art drab at best and it mostly felt like working through a puzzle book with a timer. It also continues to have mostly one puzzle to solve at a time based on very limited physical components, making it not-fun for people not holding the pieces right now.
We have another one in this series to try so I'm still hopeful as this did have some good puzzles. This one at least didn't need to be consumable. You make minimal changes to the components and those could easily have been provided pre-cut to avoid any changes. I'm not too bothered because it wasn't that expensive, it's just unnecessary in this case.
Finally got a chance to play this and I think it's suffered a little from having played so many other area control/majority games that it inspired. It's fun, there are some clever ideas but nothing in this makes me want to play it over Tammany Hall. I don't really like the attack cards that return workers to the supply, the whole king system feels a bit fiddly and you absolutely need some card knowledge to compete. We were mostly new and one person got 20 points in a turn from a scoring card that came up when they were first player, winning them the game alone quite comfortably.
I wish the tower was open information. Hidden, trackable information in such a short period is a big turn off for me. Otherwise, Tammany Hall has many of the same ideas with added bidding and a more interesting theme. I can see why it's a classic, it's just got too much that annoys me on top of what seems like a great core.
An Infamous Traffic
A game simulating the start of the Opium Wars in China by one of the designers of Pax Pamir? Yes please. We played a print and play copy someone had made but I don't think that makes much difference. Each player is trying to sell their opium to China, legally or illegally, and generate the demand to sell to in the first place. The actual goal of the game is to gain favour in high society back in London so everything you do is simply a way to get a better marriage or a particularly nice hat.
We sure failed at this, so, so badly. China went to revolution in the second round and final scores were 1-0-0-0. We spent all the conspiracy tokens immediately to flood China with missionaries and smugglers, generating a huge demand for opium we couldn't fill because we didn't have the pieces of the supply chain in place yet. One supply chain could be completed but it excluded the player that had gained control of the British, which meant it would have been shut down immediately. Round 2, player one realised they had 1 point and could end the game so they did and that was that.
It's a lighter game than Pamir and quite easy to play but it still manages to get its theme across very well. You ship in the missionaries to open up the opium demand, allowing you to smuggle it in, but doing so increases the chance of China rebelling and might make the British intervene. Ultimately one person will get to control the British troops, opening up ports and removing smugglers and bureaucrats from almost anywhere on the board.
Selling opium requires the opium, the ship to get it there, a smuggler if the port isn't open and one of your representatives or a local bureaucrat at the end, making everyone involved in that chain some money. Making an entire chain yourself is very hard and they're quite fragile so you need to bring others in to the chain. You get to choose the money you get from your part in the chain but others can undercut you and settle for less, losing you the money you made earlier. We didn't realise how important it was to spread the wealth to make keeping the chain more globally desirable and so we ended up doing basically nothing in the end.
Definitely one I want to try again. It's not as good as the Pax games but it fills a similar niche for me. I'm very interested in his John Company game now if that can manage to do what it hopes to do - semi-coop negotation game about running the East India company? I'm in for that.
Board Game: Belfort
[Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:359]
Juan Carlos Goyes
It’s true hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance? - Ronald Reagan
Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)
What's Your Game? is perhaps my favorite publisher. They simply do the kind of games I like the most so I was expecting good things from Railroad Revolution and it didn’t disappoint.
The rules of the game aren’t very complex, you can explain them under 18 minutes.
The game´s components and art are ok, the graphic design is functional. It´s funny that the game didn’t come with the traditional player aid sheet and I miss it (a very minor issue for me), instead the help aid is on the rulebook.
The train theme is neutral to me.
Railroad Revolution´s decisions are interesting and non-obvious, you only have four main actions (build a station, build railroads, build telegraph offices and gain money) but many sub actions that depend on the kind of worker you use, there are four specialized workers and a general one. Also there are spaces in which you can strike deals with entrepreneurs and some company goals you are striving to achieve. Good stuff, I particularly like the specialized workers (that´s the innovation of the game). I previously have seen this mechanism in Archon, but here it works much better.
The luck factor is very low, only the company goals are dealt at random but you choose from 3 available, so you can control it. This is important to me in strategy games . You can plan ahead and have a lot of control over all your game. On the same topic, there is very little interaction between players (there is a bonus for the player who builds a telegraph or station first). I know this bothers some people but I like it, the player who plans the best will be the winner.
Railroad Revolution has a high replay value, each game is different due to the randomize city, bonus and telegraph tiles.
Bottom line, I really like Railroad Revolution. It has interesting decisions and a very low luck factor, it is a good strategy game and a keeper for me and I continue to love What's Your Game? games. It is reminiscent of some aspects of Signorie and lighter than most games of that company, but still a good game.
Current Rating: 7.0
Initial Rating: 5.0 (April 2017)
As soon I realized Qin´s designer was Reiner Knizia, my desire to play the game plummeted. It´s been years now since I liked one of his designs and Qin is no exception. I didn’t like the game.
The rules are pretty simple, you can explain them under 4 minutes. Playtime is around 40 minutes with 4 players.
The game´s component and art are ok.
Qin is an abstract game with no theme whatsoever (as is usual from Mr. Knizia). Abstract games aren´t my cup of tea although there are exceptions.
The decisions needed to play the game aren’t very hard, but they aren’t too obvious either. Qin has some depth but I don’t think I will explore it further. When is your turn you have to place a tile in the board trying to place more pagodas than your opponents, still the game is way too simple for our tastes.
Tile laying is perhaps my most disliked mechanism.
Luck plays a relevant role in the game (a minus for me). Also, it seems the tiles that only have one color are much more powerful than the other ones. Due to this, it is perhaps played as a two player game, but in that case, attacking would be scarcer.
I’m surprised R&R Games publish abstract games. At first I thought they only published party games, but then they published the excellent Mombasa, so I guess they now publish any kind of game.
Bottom line, Qin is way too simple for us, I was bored by it. It is reminiscent of Tigris & Euphrates but a lot lighter. I believe the tiles are unbalanced and it has way too much luck of the draw. In general, I don’t like abstract games nor tile laying games so I dislike Qin, however, it could be a good game to introduce new gamers to our hobby or to play with the family but I will sell my copy of the game ASAP.
Current Rating: 4.0
Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)
Belfort was one of BGG´s highest rated games that I still haven’t played. I was expecting an ok game but I found a good one instead.
Belfort is a mix of area control with worker placement and it works really well.
The game´s components are good and I really like the art!, however a friend of mine almost didn’t play the game because he really disliked the cover art, he thought it was a boring game (now he wants to buy it ). I hate stickers in my games, fortunately my SO helps me with this task. When the board is crowed it looks gorgeous. The player aids are great and the graphic design works perfectly.
The rules aren’t very complex. You can explain them under 15 minutes. Playtime is around 2 hours with 4 players.
Best with 4 players.
I like the theme.
Belfort decisions aren’t obvious, in fact it is just the opposite, they are very interesting (in which district to build, which building should I build?, how many resources and of each kind should I get?, should I claim a guild?, How many workers should I get and from which race?, Should I upgrade my workers?). You have 3 different kind of workers with different capabilities and they also count for majority in the scoring phases. To summarize, Belfort has meaty and meaningful decisions.
There is some luck with the cards, but I feel it is controllable. You can always build walls without any cards so you can still fight for majority in the event no card works for you. Still I wish there was a little less luck in this regard.
I´m also not sure how I feel about the taxes, they punish you if you do very well. In our game I did very well at the beginning, so the taxes bogged me down in later turns and I did nothing at all in the last turn. At this point I kind of like them, you need to take them into account when you plan your moves, but perhaps they are too harsh? I’m still undecided.
I played the basic game only, but after reading all the guilds I realized the game has a very high replay factor (a huge plus in my book). Also the guilds work for any kind of player. In the basic game player interaction was restricted to blocking spaces, but with other guild, I saw you can steal from your opponents. In general I dislike that option in control area games, but I love that there the option is available.
Bottom line, I really liked Belfort, it has very interesting decisions. It´s sad it took me years to buy and play the game, It was very expensive and I could have bought it a lot cheaper years ago. I don’t remember why I didn’t buy it. The innovation in the game comes from the way the meshed the known mechanisms and from the 3 kind of workers. I already bought the promo guilds and I need to buy The Expansion Expansion. I´m pretty sure my SO will like the game as well and I cannot wait to play it again. Belfort is a keeper for me.
One of 2011`s favorites.
Current Rating: 7.5
Code of Nine
Initial Rating: 6.0 (April 2017)
At first, I was very keen to play Code of Nine. It was designed by BakaFire, the same designer who made the excellent EXCELLENT Tragedy Looper. However, after a while, I began seeing the game deeply discounted and in more and more sales so at the end I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. After playing it, I still have mixed feelings about the game, but it is an unique game.
The game´s components are regular, it comes with generic Ludo pieces for the players . The text on the board is very hard to read. I was expecting a lot more from Z-man Games (still a minor issue for me) . The art is very good and the player aids are excellent. The theme is very interesting, but you don´t feel it thought the game, it is, sadly, pasted on.
The rules are much simpler than I expected, you can explain the game under 3 minutes. The rulebook (both versions) could be a lot better. Playtime is less than 30 minutes with 4 players, Code of Nine plays very fast.
The game´s decisions aren’t obvious but they aren’t that hard either. You move your pawn to a free action space, pay for it and execute, that’s it. The game revolves around the items available and the memory cards. The memory cards are the best part of the game, they indicate what gives VPs at the end and they are hidden so you only have 1/4 of the puzzle at the beginning. In some instances, you will see the cards of your opponents and in this case you need to exercise your memory (I love this part of the game). If you cannot see the cards of your opponents you need to deduce what they have based on their movements. (I love this as well). All the available spaces are known from the beginning, so you can plan your moves.
The expert game is not a lot harder than the regular game, but it gives more options so I prefer to play this way.
Best with 4 players.
Bottom line, Code of Nine is a strange and unique game. It plays very fast and have interesting decisions for such a short game. I’m still undecided if I should keep it in my game collection. I had fun playing it, but I can’t shake a feeling of disappointment. I was expecting a heavy game from BakaFire. All my friends enjoyed the game though.
Current Rating: 6.0
Coup: Inquisitor Promo
Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)
I really like Coup so it is natural that I also like its expansions.
The Inquisitor adds, a badly needed, variability to the game. It replaces the Ambassador and has two powers. The first one is very similar to the Ambassador’s but the second one is different and fun to play. Now, you can look at your opponent´s cards and exchange them. Both options are very powerful, if you know what they have their bluffing ability is diminished and if you exchange them you can mess with their plans.
I really like it!
I also like that the art is shared between this card and the promo tile of the Resistance.
Current Rating: 7.0
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
Initial Rating: 5.0 (April 2017)
We love Sherlock Holmes so my SO and I were very keen to play Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft. It ended up disappointing us.
The rules of the game are easy to teach, you can do it under 5 minutes. Playtime is fast, around 25 minutes.
The art of the game is ok as are the components.
Cool theme obviously , but you don’t feel it thought the game . It is pasted on.
The idea of the game is clever, each day for seven days, one new person appears and you can ask for their help. This mechanism keeps the game fresh as every game will be different but the decisions needed to play the game aren’t very hard, in fact, they are kind of obvious, that is, you often know what is the best play without thinking too much. Also, as your meeple doesn’t block your opponent´s, both players can have the same 3 actions every turn if they so desire it :/. In short, what you opponent does has a very low effect on you.
The luck of the draw is considerable. You know how many cards are of each kind, but that’s not enough to control the luck. Sometimes you will pick some cards and then your opponent can benefit a lot from the new cards. This is the deal breaker for me, I heavily dislike this aspect of the game, at least it plays fast.
The scoring system is interesting and the only redeeming aspect of the game.
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft wasn’t exciting in any way and I was expecting at least a little bit of deduction as any game with Sherlock´s name on it would imply. As deduction is my favorite game mechanism right now, I’m disappointed by this as well .There is no deduction whatsoever in the game.
Bottom line, Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft is much lighter than I was expecting. The luck of the draw is very high and I feel it will decide the winner of the match, pure tactics. The decisions needed to play the game are mostly obvious. I already sold my copy of the game. It can be a good game for casual players but it is not for us. I only played the basic version of the game, but my desire to play it again is very low, so I won’t play with the villains. Disappointing game.
Current Rating: 4.0
Initial Rating: 6.0 (July 2013)
I recently played Battle Sheep and I realized it was very similar to Splits. As it turned out, they are the same game . I’m not sure if there are some changes in the rules but, from memory, I don’t think so.
Battle Sheeps´ art is a lot better than Splits and the game´s components are good, however, it is an abstract game, so both games are exactly the same for me, you don’t feel the theme anywhere in the game.
The rules of the game are pretty easy to explain, you can do it under 3 minutes. It plays very fast.
The game´s decisions aren’t very complex, but they aren’t obvious either. It is fun to plan ahead the best way to expand your sheep while at the same time you block your opponent’s. When the game develops, your choices shrink rapidly.
I have only played it as a two player game, so I cannot comment how it plays with more players, but I vastly refer to play my abstract games with two players only. I would never play it as a 3 player game, it lends itself to king making.
Bottom line, Battle Sheep (or Splits) is an ok Abstract game. I would play it again if requested, but I already sold my copy of the game. There is not enough meat in the game for me to keep interest high.
Current Rating: 5.0
Initial Rating: 5.0 (July 2013)
Magestorm was one of my oldest unplayed games. When I bought it (March 2013) I was very keen to play it, but it was a big box and no one wanted to play it with me. Had I played it at that time I’m pretty sure I would have liked it a lot more, as it stands, I no longer enjoy most tactical miniature wargames and I have become much harsher with my ratings.
The rules of the game aren’t very complex, but there are many of them. You can explain the game under 23 minutes. Playtime varies a lot because it is an scenario based game.
The game´s components are ok, the miniatures are very small, but fine. The art is great.
I really like how the mages work. If you want to cast a spell you need to have it ready by getting the mana where you needed it and, as this takes turns, you have to plan it beforehand. It is a novel and cool idea. The mages themselves are very different, I played with the fire one and I would have wanted to play with the fate one, but we played the first scenario and the mages are decided by the scenarios, a minor dislike for me, I would have preferred to choose any mage I wanted in each fight.
The units on the board represent whole armies and you have your units hidden until you fight. Each unit can have at most 6 troops and assembling said units seems fun in paper, but I was bored by it (long setup). You can have up to 12 units so it takes a lot of upkeep and table space. In paper this sound great, but in practice it wasn’t practical. After the fight, the units become hidden again so you have to exercise your memory a little bit.
The movement of the units is novel as well. You do it by placing markers in the objective you are pursuing, then the units move toward the closer marker, in a way you program the units´ movement. I like this mechanism.
The battles are ten phases long and once you are familiar with them you can play them quickly, still it was a bit boring for me. The luck factor with the die is high, a minus for me in a long game.
There is very little variation in the base game, I know expansions were planned but it seems the game wasn’t a success, so the expansions were never released.
I also got bored by the needed assembly of each unit. You have to physically put the miniatures in a base and then, at the end of the game, removing the base again.
Bottom line, Magestorm is a good game if you like tactical miniatures. I like the idea of the game, but it is not for me. It is an innovative game (how the armies move, how magic works) but I got bored playing it. I, vastly, prefer to play Mage Wars instead. It’s a shame it wasn’t successful as I think It is a novel game and a good game in its category. I generally dislike wargames, they are too fiddly and this one is no exception..
Current Rating: 4.5
Initial Rating: 6.5 (April 2017)
Hanamikoji has been getting a lot of buzz lately. As I was expecting a light game I wasn’t too keen on playing it, but the game surprised me and I really liked it!
Hanamikoji´s rules are very easy to each, you can do it under 3 minutes. Playtime varies between 7 and 15 minutes.
The theme is ok, but you don’t feel it through the game. It is pasted on.
The art is very good, the game´s components are ok.
Hanamikoji comes with cards of 2 sizes. Regular cards and Dixit sized cards and that’s a minor issue for me because I cannot carry the game on a deck box, a very minor issue, but an issue nonetheless.
It´s true Hanamikoji is light, but it has teeth. You only make 4 decisions per round, but choosing what to do isn’t obvious nor easy and there is a lot of tension. The tension comes from which cards to give to your opponent while trying to outguess him. Hanamikoji can end in only one round, the idea is to gain 4 Geishas or at least 11 points. It only comes with 21 cards.
There is luck with the game but I’m still undecided if it is a lot or a little bit. I’m leaning toward low luck. I feel you can control it most of the time with clever play, besides, as the game plays so fast, I don’t mind much about the luck.
It is reminiscent of Schotten Totten (Battle Line).
Bottom line, Hanamikiji surprised us. It is a light family game, but it is my kind of family game . It has a lot of depth for such a quick game. For now, my desire to play it again remains high but I´m not sure if it has the legs to keep us interested. We will see. Good game, a borderline 7.0 to me.
Current Rating: 7.0
Nations: The Dice Game
Initial Rating: 6.0 (April 2017)
Nations is an ok game for me but I have always preferred Through the Ages, a very superior game in my book, due to this, I never want to play Nations so my desire to play Nations: The Dice Game wasn’t that high in the first place.
The game is a lot simpler than I expected. Rules wise it is very easy to teach. You can do it under 6 minutes. Playtime is under an hour.
The decisions needed to play the game aren’t very complex, but they aren’t that obvious either. You have only 3 decisions to make each time it is your turn (should I buy a new tile, should I re roll some of my dice? or should I buy a wonder?), also you need to choose which dice you are going to leave to the end of the round. There is a lot of luck with the dice, but there are ways to mitigate it, besides you know the odds of each dice so I feel the luck factor isn’t uncontrollable, but it isn’t low either.
Nations: The Dice Game shares some concepts with its parent game but it feels and plays very differently. I think I prefer this version of the game.
Bottom line, I like Nations: The Dice Game. It is an ok game to play from time to time. It can perhaps get an upgraded rating from me with more plays. Much better than regular Nations for me.
Current Rating: 6.0
Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road
Initial Rating: 6.0 (April 2017)
Kashgar: Händler der Seidenstraße is a neat and novel deck building game. Before playing it, I didn’t have a clue about what the game was about, but I enjoyed it.
The rules aren’t hard, you can explain then under 4 minutes. Playtime is less than an hour.
The art is ok to good. The theme doesn’t do anything for me, but some mechanisms support it during the game.
The decisions needed to play the game are interesting. You have 3 decks at all times (an innovation) and in each one of your turns you can only play the bottom card of any of your caravans (decks). All the cards are face up all the time so you can plan ahead. You then must decide if you play the caravan action (keeping the card and putting it in the back of the caravan) or the parting action (eliminating the card from your deck). You can also pass.
I’m worried about the luck factor. Right from the setup, players have different cards and the luck of the draw seems uncontrollable, so it seems luck can decide a lot. I need more plays to verify this point.
It’s a shame it´s only available in German.
As most deckbuilding games, it is best played with 2 players.
Bottom line, Kashgar: Händler der Seidenstraße is a novel deckbuilding game and I like it. I’m worried about the luck factor, it seems uncontrollable and that’s a shame. For now, I want to explore the game further.
Current Rating: 6.0
Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror Expansion
Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)
I really like Arkahm Horror so I was very keen to try this new (to me) expansion. I was expecting something a bit better from Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror Expansion, but it is still a good expansion and a must have for me.
The new rules can be explained under 5 minutes. The big additions are the new board (Kingsport) and the rift mechanism. Kingsport itself has only stable locations so you know it is an easier board. The rift mechanism isn’t as cool as I was expecting but you still have to take care of them or they will spit monsters and the old one can awake faster. Closing the rifts are very easy, you only need to have an encounter in the location and presto! I think I feel some disappointment with the mechanism. The friend who was closing the rifts complained that he didn’t fight once in Kingsport. I’m not sure if this is the norm or an anomaly, but controlling the rifts seems easy.
Another new mechanism are the guardians, they make the game easier for the investigators. So far I have only played with Nodens and he didn’t have a lot of impact in the game as getting blessing was hard in our last game, still, I’m very happy to have this new mechanism.
The Epic Battle and Ancient Plot Cards make the game a lot harder, but they are very welcomed as they change the final fights. It is very fun to read the flavor text of the cards .
The new (but same) content is always welcomed. Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror Expansion comes with new investigators, new cards, new monsters, new heralds and new old ones. The old ones are hard to beat in a fight (as they should be). We played against Y´Golonac and we lost. The Terror increased quickly due to the cultist we killed and the final fight was very hard. Atlach-Nacha seems very hard to beat as well due to its Gate Burst ability.
Bottom line, Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror Expansion is the worse big box expansion I have played (Dunwich, Innsmouth) but still a good expansion for the game. I love the new content and I particularly like two out of three new mechanisms (Epic battles, Guardians). I want to explore Kingsport further.
Current Rating: 7.5
Arkham Horror: The Black Goat of the Woods Expansion
Initial Rating: 7.0 (April 2017)
I really like Arkahm Horror so it is no wonder I also like Arkham Horror: The Black Goat of the Woods Expansion. In my only play, we didn’t interact a lot with the new mechanisms as only one investigator had access to the cult and he did his best to stay away from the corruption cards, still I really like new content.
As is usual from the expansions, Arkham Horror: The Black Goat of the Woods Expansion adds more common and unique items, new spells and new Arkahm Locations, new Mythos and new gate cards, and some monsters. All of that is very welcomed.
It add new mechanisms as well, the first one is that it allows the game to become harder or easier. Arkham Horror always was very easy for us to beat, but as soon as you mix a couple of expansions, the difficulty of the game increases a lot, still, it is neat to have a way to control the difficulty of the game. The other new mechanism are the corruption cards, some of them seem beneficial and some seem very detrimental. As I wrote before, we didn’t explore them at length, but my desire to do so remains high.
The expansion also adds a new herald, The Black Goat of the Woods, but I haven’t played with it.
In our session, the expansion didn’t have a lot of impact in the game. I hope this is not the case with most games.
Bottom line, I feel I haven’t explored Arkham Horror: The Black Goat of the Woods Expansion as I should. My desire to play it again remains high. I hope to play it again soon.
Current Rating: 7.0
My nephew, who has been getting more and more into boardgames over the last few years, was given this for his birthday (not by us!). He and his family were on holiday near us and so we met up and (amongst other essentials like cake) played this. It's obviously pretty similar to Forbidden Island, which we gave him a couple of years ago, but is sufficiently different to be interesting. In the end, though we nearly managed to escape, we dies of thirst. Good fun, and it's always interesting playing a co-op game for the first time to learn the rules enough to be able to start thinking of strategies.
Also played for the first time this weekend was BoardGameGeek: The Card Game - rather appropriate for International Tabeltop Day. It's an ok little game, nothing very novel but perfectly functional, and it's rather nice to spot the games you have or haven't got on the cards.
Had a gaming weekend in April, combined with a robust turnout to my usual game nights and I got to try out a lot of great new-to-me games this month! Some very, very quality games here. Not sure yet if any of them will be greats for me, but definitely a bunch I want to play more of, for sure.
In order of initial preference...
1846: The Race for the Midwest - 8
The production quality and rule book of the GMT reprint is as good as any 18xx I've seen. This is an operations-focused 18xx with minimal stock shenanigans. That will be good or bad depending on who you are, but it's a good one in the category.
I really enjoy 18xx games when I have the time to finish them, which is pretty rare. I did have 6 hours to kill with three other gamers this month and so we tackled this one. It says 2-4 hours on the box, but that would not hold true for inexperienced or only moderately experienced players of the 18xx system. That said, what 1846 does really well is make the system accessible for newer players by giving strong operational decision points but few stock manipulation levers, which can be harder for newer players to appreciate. 1846 is really about investing in railroads with strong operations and operating your railroads as well as possible.
Every 18xx has slightly different rule sets that distinguish them. The unique aspects of 1846 are that the initial set of private companies are drafted rather than auctioned, basic track lays cost $$, and some of the railroads have pretty powerful special abilities based on historical activities. Some of the private companies also have powerful abilities that can be leveraged to great advantage early in the game. My primary concern with 1846 is that if a player manages to draft a complimentary set of initial privates that gives them an early income advantage, it will be challenging for the other players to overcome that. By starting with a draft rather than with auctions, players have less control to prevent this from happening. Since 1846 lacks the levers to really manipulate railroad stock value, it makes it hard for players to get creative to catch up, especially if all players are playing well. In our game, one player got both the Michigan Southern and the Steamboat Company privates and was able to leverage both via Holland for significant early income that gave him a share advantage that nobody had much chance to overcome when those advantages expired. The game is definitely fun, though, and I'll play more for sure - but I can't rate it higher until I see more about how the privates play out.
Anachrony - 8
Managing your pool of workers - what they do and how they do it - is as engaging as any worker placement game I've played. The time-travel mechanics however - which form the basis of the theme - were less central to play than I expected, which was a little disappointing.
Anachrony is a large game with lots of pieces that looks like it will be a real bear to learn and play, but it isn't at all. The actions your workers perform are all common tropes of the genre - collect resources, recruit workers, build action spaces, research, and trade. What sets Anachrony apart is how you manage your worker pool: there are four types of workers (each worker has advantages or disadvantages for certain actions), when workers return they are usually exhausted and need to be refreshed, action spaces on the main board require powered-up exosuits which must be planned for, and you build out additional action spaces on your board throughout the game. All of this makes for a very engaging set of decisions and room for forward strategic planning.
The story of the game is that each player represents an ideological faction vying for dominant control of a planet that has mastered time-travel. Because of this, everyone knows that an asteroid is going to destroy the capital and every one is prepping for this event in order to best lead the world in its aftermath. In game terms, the asteroid hits after turn 4 out of 7 turns. Players can borrow resources from the future to use in a current turn, but on future turns they need to actually go back in time to give the resource as the lender. While this is cool in concept, nobody ever really needs to do this in the game. Players who borrow the most each turn usually get paradoxes and three paradoxes become anomalies that eat up your building spaces and cost you points if you don't get rid of them. Frankly, I'm not sure if borrowing is worth the risk. You do get two points every time you go back to fulfill your commitment, but there are lots of less-risky ways to get points. Once you start borrowing from the future, preventing time-continuum paradoxes necessarily becomes the focus of your resources at the expense of potentially greater opportunities - the penalties of not addressing paradoxes can really add up.
Overall, I very much enjoyed our play. I look forward to exploring the game further. The time-travel is cool, but I'm yet convinced it is balanced. If my suspicions prove unfounded, I'll happily raise my rating by another point.
Great Western Trail - 8
Players craft and position their own action fields to support delivering better and better herds of cattle to Kansas City. The rest of the game leverages known mechanisms in an appealing way, with just enough differences to set it apart.
With GWT, designer Alexander Pfister rises from the status of promising newcomer to entering the small society of consistent and reliable top designers. GWT offers a circular, rondel-esque action structure that players build with action tiles as the game progresses. While the trail of actions is one way, it always ends in a delivery of cattle and then starts over again. Players cycle through about 5-7 times before the end conditions are met.
The structure of the game is simple and once you get going the game plays fast. However, there are a lot of options and a lot of symbols to learn, so the game may appear a little daunting at first. While there are many ways to get points, there are few key sources where the majority of points will come and how you choose to focus on these areas is the key to doing well. Players are managing and improving a deck of cattle cards that represent their herd. Building your herd and managing your hand to optimize cattle deliveries is one source. Another is advancing your train to better and better stations. Putting out more of your buildings (action spaces) is another possible source. And another source is gaining and playing goal cards. There are a number of other secondary ways to collect points. If you balance your focus between all of the main sources, you are unlikely to do well. As with a lot of these games, the key is optimizing your decisions to primarily support one or two of these sources while keeping an eye on your opponents and hindering them when you can.
While at first glance a mechanical mish-mash, Pfister has done a very good job of melding the various elements into a cohesive whole. This is a very good game that is well-deserving of all the attention it has gotten.
Factory Funner - 8
While the hexagonal machines provide more flexibility in connections than in the original Factory Fun, the game makes up for it by not allowing machines to be moved at all once placed and providing no reservoir bonuses on any of the machines. These changes make Factory Funner feel different enough.
Factory Fun is a favorite filler of mine and one of my gaming partners. Others don't seem to love it as much as we do, so we mostly play it two-player. Factory Funner turns squares into hexes and shrinks the size of the factory. The structure of the game is identical, except that it ends after 8 rounds rather than 10. In both games, players each turn over a machine at the beginning of a round, players claim the machine they want as quick as they can and then try to fit it into their factory so that all of the input colors and output colors align correctly. Having machines feed other machines gives you big bonuses at the end and doing this effectively is the key to winning.
The differences in Factory Funner are subtle, but differentiate the game enough that I think it is worth keeping both. In Factory Fun, you can move a previously placed machine for a penalty, if you need to. In this new version, machines can never be moved once placed, so you need to space things to allow room for the unknown future placements you'll need to make. If you play it too tight to save money, you may find yourself stuck as the game progresses. Another subtle, but significant, change is that machines feeding each other only pay 3x points instead of 5x. This reduces the domination of this part of the scoring and so the efficiency of your builds count for a bit more, balancing - a little bit - the risk of building a tight, closed system. This is a nice variation if you are into the game, but just as in the original, you MUST like visualizing logistical puzzles in order to have any chance of enjoying this one.
Limes - 8
This game has nothing to do with delicious limes.
If you are a huge fan of the green, sour fruit and you think you are getting a game about lime growing or lime production and processing or lime selling and pie-making, you will be deeply disappointed in this title. Apparently, "limes" is also a roman word referring to a frontier territory with military roads and towers and probably pronounced "leems". *sigh* Well, the game is good enough that I was able to swallow my disappointment and enjoy it anyway. We still ate a key lime pie while playing, even though the thematic coherence was totally lost.
While a brief description (lay a tile, place a meeple on your tile) sounds VERY much like Carcassonne, this is a different feeling game. Every tile has four zones that feature a mix of up to four territories - fields, forests, water, and towers. One player shuffles their deck of tiles and drafts one every turn. The other player finds the drafted tile and both players add the same tile to their personal tableau, which will end up as a 4x4 square at the end of the game. Players have 7 meeples which they can optionally play on one of the territories on the tile just played OR they can move a meeple previously placed to an adjacent territory. At game's end, you will score for every territory that has a meeple somewhere on it and each territory scores a bit differently.
Shaping your tableau and moving meeples to optimize your scoring for larger territories as they evolve is quite the fun puzzle, especially for those of us who like puzzley sorts of games (see Factory Funner, above).
Loony Quest - 8
Instant success and love for this game with the entire family! There may be a baked-in problem with replayability, but few games I have introduced have had such instant success with absolutely everyone!
What's the surest sign of a great family game? I gave this to my daughter for her 10th birthday and she is terrible at it. She has lost every game by a country mile, getting no more than a few points in each game. And yet, she is obsessed and wants to spend every minute playing the next level. I'm not sure if I've ever seen her this excited about a game in my life.
Loony Quest is an interesting amalgam of platform video game and board game. The base game comes with 7 worlds and 6 "levels" per world and two bonus levels that the different worlds share. A game consists of playing through all the levels of one world and takes about 30 minutes. The levels look like a screen shot from a platform game, with obstacles and point opportunities, along with a small menu that designates how to play and score the level. Players, with clear, white screens in front of them, have 30 seconds to draw per the objectives trying to hit or miss the various elements on the level, which you are looking at but not tracing over. Drawing objectives can be to draw a single path with a start and finish, circle certain elements entirely, draw dots as if shooting, and so on - hitting objectives and avoiding penalties. After the timer is up, players overlay their screens onto the level to see how well they did and score or lose points accordingly. Some bonuses can be inflicted on other players as penalties. Penalties might include balancing a token on the end of your pen or gripping it with your thumb and pinky.
The game is challenging, plays quick, and always seems to bring surprises and laughter to the table. It is a shame that this game does not have a US distribution. I bizarrely found a copy on my FLGS discount shelf and snatched it up for my daughter. I probably would not have invested in the import otherwise. But, now I may want to import the expansion... I'm thinking that this game, with its limited number of levels, could lose its luster fast. However, it's well worth it for short punch it packs!
Ponzi Scheme - 7
This is like playing a financial manipulation game while blindfolded. If the lack of real info doesn't frustrate you, this is a great game of reading situations and your opponents. The pressure ratchets up fast!
The beauty of Ponzi Scheme is how effectively it simulates the pressure of financial commitments that are virtually impossible to meet. The entire game is about jockeying to be the player to not go bankrupt first while collecting industry tiles for points that cost precious money or increase your future financial commitments. As it turns out, uncertainty and impending financial cliffs are fun!
The rules are very simple. Every turn each player may take 1 of 4 industry tiles and a money card based on how many tiles of a type you already have. The money cards have an amount of cash you get immediately, a number of turns after which you must pay interest, and an interest payment that in many cases can be more than double the cash you received. The money that every player owes and when they owe it is public knowledge, but the amount of money every player has is secret. After getting money and tiles, each player can make a secret offer of cash for a tile of another player. The other player can accept the offer, or double the money and buy that same tile from the offering player. Either way, if there is an offer, a tile and money WILL exchange hands. Some money cards are marked with a bear and when 4 enter the market (out of 9 cards total), the time track moves twice, shortening the time window for interest payments and destroying current financial plans, as bear markets can do.
The first player who cannot afford an interest payment goes bankrupt and loses. The remaining players get points primarily from sets of industry tiles and a little bit from money. Everyone's running a scheme that will go bust, you just want to avoid being the first one while collecting as many industry tiles as you can get. Without seeing how much money exchanges hands, you only have vague information about their ability to make their payments. That's where the fun lies. What offer can I make that would interest another player? Which player? Do I want his tile or do I really want his money? How much should I offer to get what I'm looking for? If I don't get it, will I be okay? If you think these sorts of questions would interest you in a game, then Ponzi Scheme is for you!
King Chocolate - 7
An abstract production chaining game that depends heavily on good timing. Cacao pods pass through 6 stages of production and players can own only part of a production chain, so this is a game about trying to make points on other player's turns...
The production values for this one are low, as is typical with Mayfair games, but game itself is quality. Every turn players place a tile and then use 3 action point points to do any combination of placing a worker, moving a worker, drawing a tile, or producing. The domino-like tiles show a different step in the production chain on each side. Players try to group together the same production steps into areas and use workers to claim ownership of a production area. When a player produces, they can move one group of cubes from one area to another, with the owner of the area that the cubes leave getting one point for each. With areas of different sizes and open spaces, it may be that not all cubes can move. Finding efficient moves (and setting up the means to do them) is what the game is about. Because players need cubes on their production areas in order to make points, often someone else will remove your cubes for you! This is the best way to make points, leaving your turn free to take an additional action. Of course, players can also get creative in finding ways to NOT give you cubes while still generating points other ways - or give cubes to another player's production area, so sometimes you need to pull the cubes in, which will give others the points on your turn.
Nicely interactive and just variable and abstract enough to ensure a high level of replayability. Can lead to high levels of AP, so it also needs the right audience to shine.
Fugitive - 7
Crafty and well-produced two-player deduction game. The ratio of deductive reasoning and enjoyment to play time makes Fugitive stand apart. The strike against it is that the fugitive player MUST be a good bluffer for the game to be competitive, otherwise it is too easy for the marshal.
For all of the rightfully maligned crap that KS produces on a frequent basis, those who pay attention and comb selectively through the mess do find independent designer/publishers like Tim Fowers that otherwise might not exist and - for me - justify KS as a funding platform for game production. Fugitive is Fowers' fourth title and all of them have been solid winners. While Fowers games may not be ground-breaking in their ingenuity, they have all been mechanically solid, well-produced, and fun.
There are great two-player deduction games, like Letters from Whitechapel, but that game sports at least a two-hour play length which limits its table time. Fugitive is a very streamlined design, simple to teach, plays in 15-20 minutes, and really satisfies fans of deduction games. One player is the fugitive, who plays a series of face-down number cards trying to get to number 42 while the marshal tries to guess all of the face down numbers before the fugitive can meet his goal.
On their turns the fugitive and the marshal draw a card from three shuffled decks in three progressive number ranges, 4-14, 15-28, and 29-41. The fugitive can play a face-down card (a "hideout") that is within 3 numbers of the previously played card. The fugitive can optionally play a higher number by adding sprint cards. Every card has 1 or 2 footsteps on it and the fugitive can play 1 number over the 3 advancement limit for every footstep played. These "sprint" cards are played face down next to the hideout and are revealed if the hideout is guessed correctly. The card the marshal draws eliminates a card for the fugitive to play and assists in deducing the hideouts. The marshal can guess at least one hideout per turn. If guessed correctly, the hideout and associated sprint cards are revealed. The marshal can guess more than one hideout, but they are only revealed if every guessed card is correct. When the 42 card is placed face-up, the marshal gets one final chance to accurately guess all remaining face down hideouts, otherwise the fugitive wins.
The fugitive can play more sprint cards than he needs, as in so doing mislead the marshal. With a logically deductive marshal, I suspect the fugitive must bluff, or the hideouts are too calculable. In my experience, the marshal has a huge advantage without some good deception from the fugitive. Event cards were included that increases the uncertainty, but I haven't tried them yet and the game doesn't need them.
Super Motherload - 7
Very fun deck-builder with a "Dig Dug" style board play where you mine minerals of varying values to purchase cards and meet displayed goals. The game is straight-forward, light-medium weight, and plays quick. Primarily a 2-3 player game.
I had my eye on Super Motherload for a while. While I was a bit surprised by how light the game was, I wasn't disappointed at all because the game was really fun. In this deck-builder, all cards represent drillers in one of three colors or a wild. Red drillers can also use bombs and each one bombs in a different pattern. You start with a deck of seven basic cards and a hand of four. The board is a grid of squares with various minerals, bombs and artifacts that you can acquire when you drill or bomb them. On your turn you take two actions between drilling, bombing or drawing 2 cards. When you drill, you can turn in a set of cards of the same color and drill through as many spaces in a straight line as you have drill symbols. The object is to collect minerals, which are worth money, to use to purchase more and more powerful drillers from your personal market. Once you drill out all of the artifacts on 3 or 4 boards (depending on player count) the game immediately ends.
Some areas can only be bombed and some can only be drilled. You spend the game building off of each other's work to dig deeper and purchase your upgrades faster than the others. There are also major and minor goals that can be collected for points. At the end of the game you add up the points on your purchased cards, completed goals, and any artifacts that happened to be worth points (they have various effects). It's very straight forward game of getting the most you can without leaving obvious big plays for your opponents. The game plays best with 2-3, I think. I haven't played four players, but the downtime might be a bit much and the board state would change so much that it would be hard to plan between turns.
The Blood of an Englishman - 7
Asymmetric two-player card game with Jack trying to remove cards from a display in order to build three bean stalks to three different treasures while the Giant tries to manipulate the display to line up his "Fee Fie Fo Fum" cards. This is a crafty game!
The Blood of an Englishman is Dan Cassar's follow up to Arboretum and he is starting to establish himself as a very promising card game designer. The deck consists of 50 cards - 3 treasure cards (x2), 4 Fee Fi Foe and Fum cards (x2), and the rest are beanstalk cards numbered 1-9 (x4 each). The cards are randomly laid out in 5 rows of ten cards and at the start of the game Jack is allowed to move any one card to any location - as a way to mitigate a shuffle that favors the giant too much too early.
Jack's objective is to remove cards in order to build three personal beanstalks leading to each of the three treasures. The Giant's objective is to line up his four cards - Fee Fie Fo Fum - either along the front row of each column or grouping them altogether in one column. In both cases the cards can be in any order. The giant can also win by removing enough cards that Jack can no longer meet his objective. The actions that each player can take are different. Jack can primarily take a card from the front or back of any column to add to his beanstalk or move cards from back to front or from the front of any column to the front of another, small moves that enable him to build his beanstalks, each of which must consist of 6 cards in ascending numbers topped with a different treasure. Jack gets 3 actions while the giant gets one, but his action is more powerful. He can move groups of four cards from the front of one column to any other column, move two cards at the front of columns or remove a beanstalk card from anywhere from the game entirely.
Early on, Jack can pretty much build his beanstalks unimpeded, but he cannot start a new one until the previous one is finished. As the game progresses, Jack's options get harder as the giant either eliminates the cards he needs or gets close to arranging his Fee Fi Foe Fum cards for a win. The giant can slow Jack down by burying the cards he needs in the middle of columns that Jack cannot directly access. There have been a few asymmetrical two-player games of late and this is a very good one. Not sure if I can speak to balance yet, although the giant's objectives seem to pose a bit more of a strategic challenge, I think, than Jack's does.
Ciúb - 6
I think Tom Lehmann was on a bender when he named this one. While not really my kind of game, I liked this one more than his other dice games.
I'll just start by saying I really don't like Yahtzee-type dice games. Lehmann's To Court the King bored me and I have not been motivated to seek out the revamped Favor of the Pharaoh. A friend picked up Ciúb at a game auction and we gave it a go as a quick filler after dinner. And you know what, I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would. Now that's something!
To Court the King had players progressing along an ever more difficult list of combos to unlock dice and gain points and benefits. In Ciúb, the pyramid is replaced with increasingly difficult goal cards that only give you points and the special abilities are scattered throughout 7 different colors of dice. As in all of these games, you roll a handful of dice and have to save at least one before you re-roll. Your basic dice have numbers 1-4 and two swap symbols. When you roll a swap, you can trade it for another color and keep rolling it. Different colors have different number ranges and special abilities that allow you to fix numbers, trade one die for two different-colored dice, and re-roll. Some dice also have skulls that, of course, cannot be re-rolled. When a combo-goal is hit a card is claimed and new one takes its place with ever-more demanding requirements. If you can't claim a card, you get to add a die and roll more in the next round. When you do claim a card, you have to discard back down to 5 dice. The game ends when you've worked through the goal deck.
I think I liked this one more because it it had the feel of a dice-management game just as much as a combo-rolling game. Certain goals can only be met using certain dice and you and have to spend turns sometimes evolving the dice in your dice pool into the dice you need. You can always have one goal card reserved for yourself so that your evolution can't be deemed worthless after working towards it. The choice of special dice gives you more options and decision points than Yahtzee-variants generally do and I appreciated that. I'd play this one again.
Hero Realms - 6
The base game out of the box is primarily Star Realms with a different theme. Expansions promise new directions, but not much is out yet.
If you love Star Realms, there's no reason you wouldn't like Hero Realms. But is it worth owning both? For those who haven't played either, both are small, competitive deck-building games where you purchase cards from an evolving market and directly attack your opponent, the objective being to reduce their life to zero - sort of a cross between Magic and Dominion. While the balance of cards has been tweaked and the color-focus changed between the two games, there is only one rule difference that I noticed. Defenders (champions and guards) are tapped when their abilities are used. There is a new ability "Prepare" which allows you to untap them so that their ability can be used more than once in a turn. The equivalent stations in Star Realms can only be used once. As far as I can tell, that's the only difference! One slight criticism is that the type-face and symbols on Hero Realms cards is smaller, so factions and text are not as easily readable.
I didn't love Star Realms when I first played it, but I got a copy for my son for Christmas one year as an easy way to introduce him to deck-builders and I've played it with him a lot. I appreciate how well my son took to the game and the time together it has given us, so I now have a soft spot for Star Realms. The phone app is quite good as well. I'm knocking Hero Realms a point because, well, it's been done before. The publishers have indicated going in a different direction with expansions, creating unique starting decks that are character-based, bosses to cooperatively defeat, and campaign-style play. So far, only the character decks have been published. For now, I would say it is not different enough to be worth owning both, but we'll see if the expansions can change that impression.
Fearsome Floors - 5
This older, lighter Friedmann Friese game is charming and somewhat slow-paced. It seems like a kid's game, but I'm not sure it was marketed that way.
The absolute best part of this game is the phenomenal kitschy art on the box and game pieces, as well as the mix-and-match monster assembly. After that, it's generally downhill if you decide to play the game. Not that the game is terrible. With the right audience, I'm sure this could be a hoot. The board is a giant grid onto which is placed a few features that hinder or help sight lines and movement. Players control 3 or 4 pawns (two-sided disks) with the objective of getting from one corner of the board to the other without the monster catching you. After you move a pawn you flip it and each side has different movement values (1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3). When everyone has moved and flipped you draw a tile to see how the monster moves. The monster goes straight, looking left and right. If it sees a pawn, it goes after it up to its max movement. If it passes another pawn that is closer, it will go for that one. In this way, players try to get safely across the board while setting other players up to get their pieces eliminated.
It's essentially a kid's game, even if the game play is a bit mean for that crowd. With more players the game would be chaotic and with less players it is a bit more strategic but less exciting. I don't think the strategy is very interesting in this one, so I say load up the table and bring on the chaos!
Argo - 4
It's like a reading a book where all of your favorite characters reveal themselves to be narcissistic assholes.
You read the back cover of a paperback novel in the book store and the premise looks good. Derelict space station. Rampaging aliens. Hapless astronauts fighting to get to the escape pods. You read the first couple of pages just to be sure, and while it isn't Shakespeare, it looks like it should be a good pulpy read. Building the space station as you go. Tricky movement where characters push each other rather than block each other. Room activation effects. You buy the book, hoping for a solid, short stint of escapist thrills.
About four chapters in, you start to have concerns... While moving the aliens to kill other player's astronauts is fun at first, you realize that if too many astronauts die, then everybody loses. So you start to help each other kill aliens. The points for killing aliens start to dribble in. Astronauts start finding escape pods and a few players start to collect some bigger points as they get out of dodge. Now two players have 10+ more points than the other players and the game is looking out of reach. The only logical thing for the losing players to do is to double-down on killing astronauts to prevent anyone from winning, even if it means killing their own astronauts! What madness is this?! Every astronaut killed, no matter how, gives the aliens points in chunks and if no one can outscore the aliens, no one can win. You get to the end of the book, pissed off that the authors diverged from all logical reality because they really just didn't have any ideas for where to take the story. And it's a depressing shame because the tile-laying and movement mechanics were pretty cool.
Castles of Caladale - 3
This is like completing individual puzzles with a drafting mechanism. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt by scoring it a 3, but I really don't see a game here.
In Castles of Caladale you are drafting tiles in order to piece together a whimsical castle made of stone, tree and plaster. Tiles have one or a combination of two of these materials on 1, 2, 3, or 4 sides. When you select a tile, you can try to fit it into your castle immediately ...or not. You can completely rearrange your castle at any time, setting pieces aside and adding them in later. There are two game-like decisions each turn - which tile to draft and whether or not to use it for your castle or turn it face down for 1 point. Tiles fitted into your castle are 2 points. Tiles you keep but can't fit are -1 and so on. The "game" is really just players building their own puzzles and drafting their next pieces. That's it! That's all there is to it. The rules even provide a timer and various different modes of play, which feels like stabs at trying to make a game where there isn't one. I predict in most households, kids will bag the game fast and simply use the tiles to build crazy castles. Not that that is bad, but it isn't a game. This is to be filed on your puzzle or toy shelf, not your game shelf.
Railways of North America - 8
Excellent map sized just right for four players.
Railways of Europe was my go to map in this series for 4 players. It is an excellent map, but the North America map is just as excellent in many ways. North America is a long and narrow map set primarily in Canada. It introduces ferries which you can acquire a card to build for free. Also, there are a number of mine cards that cost $10k that can potentially add a lot of cubes to a gray city, but not necessarily so. They are a risk. This expansion also contains cards and pieces to play a game that combines the base map with the Western US map into a massive, back-to-back play session. I haven't done the "Intercontinental" piece of this expansions and I'm not entirely sure I want to...
Only one new game for me this month and it was a good one. I was able to pick this up off clearance at Target. Took about a month before I finally played it tho!
My wife and I tried it out this weekend and had a great time playing it. It was helpful that we've both played 7 Wonders before so the concepts were there. I like how the draft works with some cards visible and some hidden. Sometimes you get stuck taking a card and don't really want to. That led to a win for me, I was able to manipulate the cards that were left so my wife had to expose a scientific card that I needed for the win.
Great game that I can see us playing more down the road.
Fairly light month for new games, though it seems like that's becoming the trend.
The Great Zimbabwe - 8.5/10
This game is really cool. I love the way that the economy is mostly closed and the cows are mostly just transferring around from player to player. And the way that you can choose your own special powers but this affects how many points you need is really cool. But the best part is how you can influence the economy in various ways, by building more and higher level producers and setting prices. It seems like it will take a while to fully appreciate the consequences of actions and how to set things up to slow down your competition, but I'm already really intrigued.
I don't have much I can say intelligently about this game as I don't feel like I understand it all that well yet. In fact for a while after my first play I didn't even rate it as I didn't think I could rate it competently, but in terms of my desire to come back to it's definitely a strong 8.5. The kind of game that has me thinking about possibilities of what I could have done and what else I could do in future plays after I've gone home.
UPDATE: I just finished playing a second game of this (got done ~11pm on the 30th, so it still should be relevant to this list). It went a lot longer than our first game since we knew how to make things harder for each other. It also started to drag down a bit by the end in counting and optimizing. Some players seemed bothered by this but I still think it's great. Granted the counting was always particularly relevant to me so maybe that affected my not being as bothered. But also we saw some interesting stuff and it seems as though there's still a good amount more to uncover. Really happy with this one.
Mega Civilization - 7.5/10
I really wasn't sure what to expect from this game, and arguably my rating is premature given that I've just played one game and it was called early as it was designed to just be a learning game. But it impressed me.
There's something very satisfying about the way you just move people across the board and create cities. It seems a bit odd that cities sort of make walls that restrict even your movement, but the puzzle of moving guys around to maximize reproduction is fun.
And the trading, while pretty chaotic, seems to work well. I was worried that the calamities (I think that's what they're called) would feel arbitrary, but really they're mostly able to be worked around, and even if you get hammered one round, this means you'll probably just be ignored for a while. Though I am usually wary of this kind of player balancing of games, it seemed to work reasonably well here.
And the technologies seem really cool, though we just started getting a few of those when we called it. It seems like if I were to play this for real I'd need to spend some time first looking through all of them to have a better idea of their various pros and cons and when to take which, which seems like a big part of the game.
It was also interesting how at some point you'll just have too many people and so it becomes worthwhile to just throw a bunch of them at some enemy territory just so they don't all starve and die. This seems like a good way to encourage conflict and it doesn't feel bad since it seems like you'll quickly have guys with nothing else to do anyway.
Overall, I'd really like to give the game a proper try but realistically I don't see this as the kind of game I'd really find the opportunity to play basically ever again. But I'd like to.
Great Western Trail - 7/10
I had decently high hopes for this game given how much I like Mombasa, but unfortunately it fell short. There's nothing wrong with the game per se, but there's also really nothing special to it. Some engine building, some deck building, and a few different paths to victory, but none of the systems really seem to interact or work together at all.
Everything you do really just gives you better money and point generation, and then you reinvest that money into more of this kind of stuff. But your cows don't influence your trains at all, and your trains don't influence your cows. Somehow, the fact that everything just went through coins and nothing really affected any other thing directly made the game just feel too linear to me.
And on top of that I don't find the 'build your own rondel' to really be all that interesting. It's certainly not as cool as the 'hand building with separate discard piles' that Mombasa has.
To be fair, it's a perfectly competently designed game and if all you want is a nice engine building euro with multiple paths to victory, maybe you'll love this. It even has that classic engine building question of when you should shift from building to running, and a variable end game to make that decision a bit tougher. But for me personally I don't really see how this game stands out from the many many other games that could be described that way.
Also, the randomness seems a little high for a game of this length, but that alone probably shouldn't be a deal-breaker if you're otherwise inclined to like this kind of game, just something to be aware of.
Overall, I enjoyed myself while playing and would probably continue to do so if I were to play again, but at the same time there are dozens of games that I find both more enjoyable than GWT and also not enjoyable enough to have any strong desire to ever play again. To me this is a textbook 7/10 'meh' game.
Board Game: NMBR 9
[Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:816]
I played 46 new-to-me games this month - the second-most I ever have managed in a month - but just over half (24) are unpublished, and so I'll skip them here. Unfortunately, as a number of them were quite good...
Nmbr9 is very enjoyable, and a type of game I'm drawn to - the true multiplayer-solitaire. Recommended for anyone who enjoys such games.
Pyramids was quite pleasant, and made it through three plays, but not quite a keeper for me. Magic Maze was quite fun - but being a coop, not one that I quite need in my collection.
Crazy Race was an enjoyable push-your-luck game, which I'd be fine with playing again if not quite driven to. Kribbeln was quite fun, and might grow on me more with more play. SPY was a clever puzzley deduction game, which I'd be happy to play again.
Startups is very similar to Rights - but for me, doesn't work quite as well. Songbirds wasn't bad, but was too abstract to really hit home with me. Century: Spice Road was pleasant, but not as dynamic as Bazaar. Hellas worked just fine, but didn't really engage me. Mission Impractical was good, but I'm not really a party game person. Night Clan felt too much like a less interesting Banana Republic to be a hit with me. Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse was fun enough, but board game escape rooms aren't a particular favorite.
I was less impressed by Animal Mind, Glüx, Ibyron: Island of Discovery, Mistkäfer, Moons, Papà Paolo, Sagrada, Unfair, and Valletta.
LIKE A LOT
Century: Spice Road - 8 plays
Touted as a Splendor-killer, I have probably enjoyed my plays of CSR more: it is simpler and cleaner (if such a thing is possible) albeit a little longer. The ‘engine’ aspect is more interesting as you have to keep working at it and optimising it throughout the game, rather than having a huge bank of virtual gems to call on. It is essentially a numbers game (1-2-3-4) with a theme pasted on top (as freely admitted by the designer). Reception has been very positive, from my gamer-y son at 6 to through game-group-gamers to my word-gamer-y mum at 70. Not spicy, but good.
Code 777 - 2 plays
An old Dice Tower recommendation that seems to have survived the test of time (see Atta Ants, below, for the opposite): a pure deduction game which can appear to be all over the place until you start putting things together and, well, deducing! There may even be some strategy, trying to get your second board completed before the tiles are reset. As of two games, there has not been a 7-7-7 hand yet. Printing off colour game sheets really helps, though.
Sushi Go Party - 1 play
Sushi Go is an immensely accessible light drafting game which I gifted away when I got the Party version. This is not a party game (much like Dixit and Codenames are not party games), but it does now play up to 8: the new cards work well with the larger numbers, although the administration is noticeably heavier and set up much more fiddly. That aside, the new cards are fun, so I’m content to have upgraded. Tin came pre-dented thanks to Amazon, so that saved me having to ding it myself.
LIKE A BIT
Fuchs & Fertig - 1 play
Fun, quick'n'simple memory game with a push-your-luck aspect to it. It reminded me of Zicke Zacke Huhnerhacke (aka Chicken Cha Cha Cha) but thankfully plays in a much shorter time-frame, one that has a definite limit as players slowly get cards out of their deck, rather than endlessly chasing each other in circles.
Terra - 2 plays
A humanities version of FF’s Fauna, where play is about guesstimating the answers to tough questions and exploiting the answers you are sure on. The rules have been simplified slightly (IIRC), for the better: this went down well with wife and in-laws and - in what will probably be a regular ’thing’ browsing the cards for trivia after the game was almost as enjoyable.
Unfortunately, Terra seems to refer to the Congo Basin and Katenga as areas on the board, but they don’t exist (may have been left over from Fauna). A further note on both Terra and Fauna: Fauna’s box came pre-split and Terra’s board came split at one of the corners (my non-gamer wife even remarked upon it); I don’t know if this is ‘typical’ of Bezier Games' quality control, but it’s probably worth mentioning.
NOT SO MUCH
Atta Ants - 3 plays
I must learn to re-evaluate games that have been on my ‘to buy’ list for a long time*: they’ve probably been superseded by more recent designs. Such is the case with Atta Ants, which may have been an ‘unexpected gem’ 14 years ago, but I was quite disappointed. A themed abstract with a pick up & deliver vibe, there is very little strategy, just turn-by-turn tactics, which are pretty basic. I did like the way the ants had to work in a line to bring a leaf home, but that was about it. Anti.
*I had a similar problem when I returned to boardgaming in 2008 and first started listening to the Dice Tower from the beginning: a lot of Tom and Joe’s rave reviews were for games already a few years old, and by the time I got to purchasing and playing them, newer, shinier, and just plain better games were coming out (BANG! one example that springs to mind).
What a light month!
Fool's Gold (2015) - This game was recommended to me after I complained about Thebes: all that preparation and I draw nothing but sand. In Fool's Gold, it is a communal effort to see how much is drawn, and then participating players draft based on when and how many miners they brought to the site. There are some typical set collection components to the scoring and some event modifications to the draws. Nothing shocking, but plays quickly and some nice interaction. And nobody minds drawing a bit of silt.
Louis XIV (2005) - First time with this old thing, and I'm not 100% sure we played by the book, but I enjoyed it. Area control is always more interesting when it leads to doing something instead of just earning points, and the ability (through cardplay or area control) to influence later contests is something I enjoy. Definitely down for more plays of this.
Ice Flow (2008) - Nice theme and matching components (the translucent, jagged ice floes are especially cool). This is a race game that plays like a puzzle game, as you shift the ice to your favor and hop across the strait. The fact that everyone else is doing the same makes it a bit tricky.
Martians: A Story of Civilization (2016) - I suppose this was riding the Mars hype wave. It's fine, but it's actually a rather simple worker placement resource conversion order fulfillment game. Buzz buzz buzz. Hiring people and other upgrades allow you to customize your experience a bit, but it was sort of flat and I suspect the replayability is somewhat worse. Maybe the cooperative scenarios jazz things up, but then you're playing coop, and who wants that?
Start Player (2008) - Is it more fun than random? No. Is it more "fun" than random? No.
Garden Dice (2012) - Perfectly fine family weight game. Get a sundial down early so you're not beholden to the dice roll the whole game. I do like setting up so that other players do work for me, and it's a nice balance between ease and payoff.
Board Game: Abyss
[Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:323]
May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
With 7 Nee to Me Games for April, it is my best return since the start of the year. There are also some interesting titles in here too...gaming was great in April.
New to Me
I received this 2 years ago for my birthday and finally got it to the table. This is one of those games that was always going to appeal to me. It is a mid-weight Euro with variability, great artwork, an engaging and unique theme and a few different ways to go about your business.
In the Abyss, the great depths of the ocean, the throne lies vacant. It is your want to draw the attention of the council to your claim. It will take the coercion of powerful Lords to your cause and the mustering of support from the many Affiliates that make up the deeps.
The central decision tree is quite simple to grasp in truth. Most common is to explore the depths and this allows other players to bid on Allies by paying the active player in pearls. Battles with monsters may ensue as well. The variability of the game comes in the form of the Lords on offer, which are constantly changing and the locations that can be controlled by gaining Keys (to the kingdom) allow for some longer term planning to maximise your score.
The final piece of the puzzle is the clever way in which Faction Cards used to pay for Lords cna be Affiliated to your cause. The catch is that the lowest valued card that you use to pay is kept as an Affiliate but it is the highest valued Faction Card that can score you bonus points in the final tally. This poses the question of how to pay for Lords as the game unfolds.
I will be very keen to expose this game to more of my gaming group as I loved it. I think the Kraken expansion will be a must get as well.
This is one of those Friese games in which I'm not quite sure if he is being too clever or if he is in fact a genius. The theme is about as stupid as it gets...You are in search of delicious fruits to make fresh Juices with. The forest friends of the forest will help you in various ways and you have to make the most of their abilities to collect fruits and then turn them into juice.
The theme gives purpose to the artwork but it can be largely ignored after that. The game though is a bit more compelling.
Now don't get me wrong, this is simple stuff. But it is executed expertly and sometimes a game that knows what it is and devoid of any bloat is far better than the opposite.
In Fabled Fruit the game will always present 6 animals which each offer an ability. A player must place/move their animal token to one of those card groups (there are 4 of each per stack) and they can make use of the ability on offer or pay the listed cost of the card by cashing in the required fruit cards to take a card from the stack and flip it to reveal a juice. The first to 'x' number of juices wins.
So where is the game? Well if a player moves to a stack of cards that other players are on, they must pay them a card from their hand. So carefully considering where to move is important.
But the game has a major twist. Once a stack of cards is exhausted, it is replaced with a new stack of cards with a new ability. In this way )over many plays) the game state will constantly be changing and the players need to adapt best to the new variety of cards and abilities on offer.
Is it clever game design or gimmick? After 2 plays the jury is out. But there is no denying that it is great fun to see new cards come into the mix and there are rules for scoring over the course of the journey. With something like 52 different card stacks there is plenty of re-playability here and getting to the end will see us get great value for money and that's only playing through once.
The game itself moves along at a great clip and the discovery of what mechanics Friese has packed in here will be fun. I think I'm a fan.
This is a straight up filler-card game that only a couple of rules that are needed to make it tick. By pure coincidence it is another Friese title and I didn't even know that when I bought them both this month.
The aim of Fuji Flush is to be the first to get rid of all your cards (5 or 6). To do this you have to be able to keep the 1 card you played on the table for a whole round. The cards range in value from 2 - 20 with different frequencies of each.
A player can play any card from their hand. If an other player plays a card of higher value on their turn, they will Flush your card. This results in your card being discarded and a new one being drawn from the deck. Thus a flushed card means you haven't advanced at all.
This could be disaster if you are holding low to mid value cards. But there is an out. If a player plays a card value that matches another one already in play (let's say another 5) then the cards are now equal to the sum of the total (in this case 10). Multiple players can do this and in doing so hope to survive. If the play gets to any player that still has their card in front of them, they push it through...meaning they can discard it without drawing a new card and that moves them one step closer to winning. If a player manages to Push their card through and other players also have a card in play of the matching value...all of those players can Push their card through at the same time.
In this way Fuji Flush reveals itself to be about timing, knowing when to team up with someone else and there is a good dose of luck in their too at times.
This is just one of those filler games that flows beautifully, allows for those 'screw you' moments and it ticks the box for allowing a larger group to play...accommodating up to 8 players.
This is the best multi-player filler card game I've come across for a while and will be in regualar rotation at game days for some time to come I suspect.
Shipwrights of the North Sea
This game is stiff to be this far down the list and it could quite well be the best of the month down the track, but I've only played once so far. Shipwrights is the first of the well respected North Sea Trilogy by New Zealand's Shem Phillips.
At its core Shipwrights is a drafting game whereby the players need to gather resources and the needed artisans in order to build ships to create a Viking Fleet. The artwork is lovely and the drafting aspect is well done and a little different to what has come before.
I look forward to playing more of this one before having a crack at the next game in the series.
Escape Room: The Game
Sometimes fate has a way of grabbing you. I was heading down the freeway to Melbourne and I downloaded some Gaming Podcastgs to listen to. One of them (The Dice Men Cometh...thanks lads) talked about playing an Escape Room Boardgame and being a fan of the real thing myself I was an eager listener.
I hadn't come across any in my frequented stores as yet but later that day I walked into a store that doesn't really stock games (I was after Pop Vinyls) and BAM...this game was staring me in the face. I naturally purchased it and here we are.
We have played 2 of the 4 scenarios in the box and naturally I won't say too much. They have what you would expect though, combining a variety of puzzle types such as codes to break, visual/spatial puzzles, cryptic clues and so forth.
The centre-piece in this offering is an electronic Crypto-Decoder and it is well used as a central element.
Does the game replicate the real nature of Escape Rooms? Well no...it can't really as a key feature of the real thing is the physical nature and ability to manipulate the room in a physical way. But it covers most of the other elements quite well and the need for team work and communication is definitely there.
That leads to a second question...is the game good value for money? Well at $58 for 4 plays the answer would also be no in comparison to other games. But this one does allow for components to be reprinted so the game can be re-set and I am looking forward to watching other mates take it on and see how they fair. So the game can offer more than 4 plays.
The other side of the value coin is also to compare it against other experiences. A single escape room costs around $180 for a group and that's one room. This offers up 4 hours or thereabouts so it isn't too bad. If a group takes the approach that they will share the cost say 4 ways...then the entertainment value is pretty decent.
Overall I give it the tick of approval if this is your kind of thing.
This is a silly little game in truth but it is cute thanks to the artwork that reminds me of one of the Pixar short films of a decade or so ago.
In What's Up, the players are trying to acquire cards that feature birds on telephone wires. The birds come in 4 colours and a bird can feature once, twice or three times on a given card.
Essentially this is a memory game, because the cards are set out in a grid. When a player selects a card they must flip it to see what is on the other side (the cards are double-sided obviously). The reverse of a card can feature the same number of birds as the face-up side (but in a different colour) or it can feature the same colour of bird but one of the other two amounts.
The last element is that the players are trying to be the first to complete 3 rows of birds in 3 of the 4 colours. But they have to find a 1-bird in a colour to be able to keep it. Once a 1-value card is in play they can keep a 2-value card of the same bird colour and so on.
That's all there is to it. It's a twist of a memory game and if the game didn't have such nice artwork it would be largely forgettable. For many it still will be, but I bought this one for the girl and she doesn't mind a game every now and again with the right group.
New to Me - Expansions
My first expansion for the year! And it's a so so one. It does what so many expansions do...add a little bit more of everything, more tiles, more Objective Cards etc. To some degree the base game does need those additions but some of the tiles and objectives are a little hit-and-miss for my liking.
The main change to the game play is to add a female panda. She can be moved in the same way as regular panda and if she manages to move to Panda's location, she has a baby if the active player can discard a piece of Bamboo (she has to eat of course). This entitles the player to a 2-VP Baby Token, which also offers up 1 of 3 benefits.
I don't think I would play without the Chibis expansion but I don't think it elevates the game to any new heights over the original design either.
Perhaps the best element of the expansion is the several variants that are offered up
Board Game: Too Many Bones
[Average Rating:8.56 Overall Rank:334]
[Average Rating:8.56 Unranked]
== NEW GAMES ==
51st State: Master Set - 1 play - 8
First Published 2016
Finally got to play this even if it wasn't my copy being played. It certainly has been streamlined from the original game and plays much more like Imperial Settlers. Bits are quite nice. Game is a bit more aggressive than Imperial Settlers.
Mystic Vale - 3 plays - 7
First Published 2016
I can see this needing a number of expansions to keep the replay value high. It already felt a bit samey after a couple plays with the base game and first expansion. Looking forward to seeing what the expansion brings but overall I found it an interesting system. Curious also to see how designers build on this design moving forward.
NMBR 9 - 4 plays - 7
First Published 2017
This is quite a bit of fun. I suppose it might feel samey after a certain number of plays after learning how the number shapes work together best but the uncertainty of the order of how the numbers come out will keep some replay value retained. Bingo-esque mechanic where everyone is playing at the same time on their own board.
Villages of Valeria - 2 plays - 7
First Published 2016
This was a pleasant surprise. Really enjoyed this mixture of Glory to Rome follow mechanic with a bit of tableau building. Plays fairly quickly. The deluxe version makes me laugh with the number of "enhancements" to game components and such.
Too Many Bones - 1 play - 7
First Published 2017
Beautiful production values mixed with quite a challenging cooperative dice game where everyone plays as different characters with different abilities and skills. Hoping to get more plays of this one.
The Flow of History - 1 play - 7
[imageID= square inline]
Feels like Through the Ages the card game to some degree. As in TtA, you need to keep up in the arms race or you will be destroyed. When investing in cards, either pay enough that no one else will steal it from you OR set it up so you gain a fair bit of money in the loss.
Coal Baron: The Great Card Game - 1 play - 7
First Published 2016
This wasn't bad. I enjoyed the game although I'm uncertain if I need to own it. I probably actually prefer the card game to the board game although the board game might actually be more straightforward and easier to play/teach!
Down in Flames: Aces High - 6 plays - 7
First Published 2008
Got in a fair number of plays at GMT West and really enjoyed the game and the group of guys that were constantly participating. Looking forward to the time when I can get my Ace shirt...but for now, that's still at least 4 kills away.
Black Orchestra - 1 play - 6
First Published 2016
Also learned this at GMT West where our group went 0-6 in assassination attempts and lost the game. I found the game interesting but I'm not convinced its a keeper due to the fact that success is very much up to luck of the roll of dice - you can control to some degree how many dice, but not much more.
Bantu - 1 play - 6
First Published 1955
Okay, not thinking its this one but a card game using playing cards also called Bantu. Enjoyed this one as everyone selects one of the 5 games when they deal so each round plays with a different purpose.
Aeon's End - 2 plays - 6
First Published 2016
Another solid co-op in the fantasy trope. Two ways to win by either enduring the boss' deck or killing the boss. Won a game both ways. I think I'd prefer more ways to heal the town's health than exists but perhaps that might break the game or make it too easy.
Avenue - 2 plays - 6
First Published 2016
Another Bingo Style game requiring a bit of thought. Keep scoring more points each round or you lose 5 points for the round.
Sagrada - 2 plays - 6
First Published 2017
Beautiful game but with very little opportunity to manage/manipulate your dice this can be frustrating.
Eternity - 1 play - 6
First Published 2016
Interesting trick taker where the trump color can change numerous times in the same hand. I would likely prefer the variant where harmony is 2 points and the rest of the point scoring remains as stated.
Birds of a Feather - 1 play - 4
First Published 2015
Fine card game but not one I need to play often. I would prefer to play with the variants where you can manipulate your initial deck at least a bit. Being short in a color is not a good thing here sometimes.
Tiffin - 1 play - 4
First Published 2016
Didn't really enjoy this one much. Timing and incentives play a role near the end of the game especially.
Dragon Rampage - 1 play - 4
First Published 2012
Another push your luck game using the Yahtzee mechanic which was somewhat fun but I didn't really think there was enough of an interesting game present. I'm just not a huge fan of the Yahtzee mechanic.
Mhing - 1 play - 3
First Published 1982
I have little desire to play this card version of Mahjongg again.
GIR, quickly, ride the pig!
Yaaaaaay! I don't know what you just said!
Targi: Die Erweiterung
Targi has been a favourite of mine since we got it and we finally got around to trying out the aptly-named "The Expansion". The enhancements to the game are actually a lot more interesting than I thought they were going to be. Water can be exchanged for goods or gold. The new border cards change up the behaviour of the previous ones a little and make them a little more interesting; Fata Morgana, for example, is nowhere near as powerful as it used to be and requires you to think a little more carefully. The Sand Dune cards also offer some unique and extremely tempting one-time benefits but you lose out on taking one to two more actions on the main playing area since you need to place one of your Targis on the dune you want to use. The rest of the contents are really more Goods and Tribe cards though some of the new Tribe cards have some neat effects as well. Learning the expansion takes almost no time since it adds a couple of new rules without changing the underlying game. This has made me enjoy one of my favourites even more.
Definitely an interesting variation on the Pandemic formula and miles better than the Cthulhu version they released before this one. I don't feel that there's anything in here that makes it better or worse than the standard version of Pandemic - it's just a nice change to play this from time-to-time when you want the feel of Pandemic with a few different tweaks.
A Feast for Odin
We've had this one for several months now and were really looking forward to trying it out, so we were pretty excited when we finally got it to the table. That excitement faded pretty quickly and I was ready to quit half way through round 5 of 7. The game feels like Patchwork + (Fields of Arle - intuition); nothing about the upgrading of the various goods makes sense. Nothing about their placement restrictions on your player board makes sense. Trying to figure out how to get the various goods to place on your board with the arbitrary restrictions is unintuitive and frustrating. My wife won our only play of this but neither of us really cared - the win felt hollow for her because neither of us could sit back and say "this is clearly why you won". We both feel like we need to play this one again to get a better understanding of how these unrelated items upgrade from one to another and see if we can derive some kind of enjoyment from it, but it's probably going to take quite a while; it's hard to justify forcing yourself to play something again to try and like it when there are so many others in our collection that we already enjoy. It seems like the game wants to be Fields of Arle with more choices but completely lacks the focus and intuitive play that Arle had.
I only learned one new game in April. A friend of my son brought some decks over and taught my wife and I how to play. The genre is not one I'm likely to get deeply into, but it was fun to be taught by someone who really knows the game.
Gloomhaven - Gloomhaven lives up to the hype. If you like dungeon crawls, but have always found the decisions in most dungeon crawlers to be just a little too simple. If you like multiuse cards and (mostly) deterministic attacking. If you like campaign games with interesting character progression and goals, and the feeling of exploring a map and having it reveal itself to you over time... Gloomhaven is really pretty great. I know I'm gushing a bit here, and I don't mean to over sell it. It's not the greatest game ever, or anything, but the design is really pretty brilliant. I'm looking at the other dungeon crawlers on my shelf and wondering how much they'll get played. I've only played it 3 times, so we'll see if it stands the test of time, but I'm really enjoying it right now.
Blood Rage - I've played Blood Rage twice this month, and my biggest take away is that I am bad at it. Area control has never been a mechanism that comes naturally to me, and that is on display here. My own shortcomings aside, though, I really like this game. The rules are deceptively simple, but once you get that hand of cards and see all the ways you can set things up and manipulate the scoring, it really opens up. I do think that replayability might be a tad weak, just because you'll see the most of the cards in every game, but the drafting might enough to keep that interesting. This was a big hit with my gaming group, too, and I'm really looking forward to playing it more.
Twilight Struggle - I can definitely see why Twilight Struggle is so highly rated here. It's clearly a really well designed game, and I liked it a lot more than I expected to. The area control is very tense, and there's a lot of opportunity for clever play. I don't think it's ever likely to be one of my personal favorites, though. Even though the mechanics are completely different (and more interesting to me), this game feels like Chess. I was always pretty good at Chess, but I would only pull it out once or twice a year, because, for me, Chess is stressful. The tension and anticipation is just a bit too high. I've also never really loved any tug-of-war game. It's pretty easy to fall into a cycle of removing/replacing influence in a specific region, and never make any head way. I know that future plays would mitigate this as I got to know the cards better. I'll definitely play this more, but I don't think I'll play it often.
OctoDice - This is a pretty fun roll and write game. I'll have to play it a little more to decide how I feel about the actual gameplay. It might seem like an odd criticism, but I'm not sure how much control the players have. I do like the way it forces you to choose only 2 dice each roll and then reroll the rest. It forces you to make decisions, instead of just rolling and rerolling in the hopes of getting a better result. This is only very loosely related to Aquashpere, but I do like the art and theme.
Onirim (second edition) - Onirim is a pretty cool little solitaire game. Too much shuffling for such a quick game, but that's what makes the digital implementation so great. The theme is whatever, but I do like the art a lot. It does remind me of traditional solitaire, even though the mechanisms are not terribly similar. It definitely feels like the shuffle of the deck will be the main deciding factor between victory and defeat. Still, there are some interesting and tough decisions. I hope they will implement the expansions soon.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
This month, I was fortunate enough to play 9 new games and 1 new expansion. I'll list things in decreasing order of my current enthusiasm for the title, and all the games before the expansion.
Sissi!: Die Bohnenkaiserin -- (1 play) _8_
(images by W Eric Martin & Engoduun)
My favourite was easily Sissi. And, of course, that's not totally fair: I'm a huge fan of Bohnanza; so this variant isn't at all a hard sell.
But it's also really cool. There's loads of opportunity for clever play. I'm really looking forward to inflicting it on my youngsters: the overwhelming likelihood is that they will like it too.
What's My Word? -- (3 plays) _7⅔_
(images by zefquaavius & EndersGame)
My wife and I enjoyed our plays of this one. She's particularly good at word games, and so the Boggle family make up most of our plays. But she found this quite fun, too.
To the point that (and she never says this) "Let's play that new word game." Success!
Kunst Stücke -- (2 plays) _7⅓_
(images by offwater & punkin312)
I found these plays (one with 2; one with 5) quite lovely. The game is easy to explain; quite attractive (to me: YMMV) in play; and presents some not-completely-obvious subtleties and opportunities to be clever. I'd be delighted if this was played regularly enough that we could improve our play.
Schnäppchen Jagd -- (1 play) _7⅓_
(images by henk.rolleman & diddle74)
Definitely a gap in my gaming education: I was delighted to have the opportunity to play this one.
And I really enjoyed it. It's clever, and (still, after nearly 20 years) quite fresh and charming. Has there been a modern title that remixed a bit of this? I'm not aware of anything.
Terraforming Mars -- (7 plays) _7⅓_
(images by EagleEye80 & milenaguberinic)
Only one of these seven plays was multiplayer. And, perhaps strangely, I'm not completely convinced I didn't like the solo ones better.
Some of that is the set of take-that effects: that's not my favourite part of a game design. (Strangely, I'm comfortable with more direct aggression, particularly when there's some advantage to me in those actions: but the take-that effect - and particularly when the opponent I choose to damage has no relation to any benefit I may receive - seems often like a sloppy attempt at restraining a leader.)
A friend cautions me that my opinion may change when I have more experience with the game, and can more clearly discern who might be that (temporary) leader. Sure: it might be so.
The other factor is the dithering. When playing solo, I can take whatever time I desire in making a decision: no-one else cares. But in the multiplayer environment, it seems that a modicum of civility argues for making decisions in a reasonable amount of time.
As to the game: it's quite entertaining. But I'm not convinced it's great.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game -- (1 play) _7_
(images by W Eric Martin & kazk)
Quite pleasant. I liked it better than I like the board game, too! I think I like the more-constrained randomness of the card deck than what I see with dice; and I didn't miss the board adjacency constraints at all.
Which likely just means that I'm defective, and that my opinions are worth rather little. But, still: I'd play again, but wouldn't likely ask for it.
Oraklos -- (3 plays) _6⅔_
(images by BigWoo & ponchera69)
It's fluffy and pleasant, and very very random. And, sure, there are things one can do to mitigate that randomness, which is cool. But it's a frivolity at best. (Even if likely one I'll continue to play because my youngest child liked it!)
Hocus -- (1 play) _6_
(both images by HerrohGrant)
I'm not remotely a good Poker player. (In either sense of that: I play neither the odds, nor the bluffing well.) So adding Player Powers to Poker is not a recipe for success (for me.)
Still, leaving aside the small problem that I played terribly - and likely threw the result to someone else that may or may not have deserved it, it was quite amusing. I'd play again if folk wanted me to join them. Which, admittedly, isn't terribly likely.
Universal Rule -- (1 play) _5_
(both images by Sanders)
This one, I'm afraid, isn't for me.
It is a 4X minigame. And it was soon over. But if that's the sum of the things I can say in its favour, it's a bit lacking.
And so it is. I found the scoring sufficiently lumpy that it felt like there were always three (of the five of us) that had no hope. And they were left with making kingmaking decisions as to which of the other two of us might win. Those aren't dynamics I celebrate.
Quartermaster General: Air Marshal -- (1 play) _7⅓_
(both images by Mad Scientist)
This was quite engaging, and definitely added interesting possibilities to the game. I rather enjoyed employing it: and would be happy so to do in future.
That said, I'd not conclude it was necessary; nor even inevitable. There are expansions that I've rolled so completely into the base game that I'd not consider playing without: this isn't of that form. It was fun, though.
Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the Monday Lunch folk, and the Wednesday Night gang for some great game experiences.
Only played 5 games in April, with 2 of them being new!
Unlock! The Elite
This might actually be the first time I've done an honest to god print and play, as I printed out this short scenario for Unlock, cut out the cards and sleeved everything. Not sure I'd do it again, as I really hate cheap components (cards on printer paper in penny sleeves was not a great experience), but I'm glad I got to play this scenario. It's a shorter one, definitely, and not terribly difficult (only one I managed to win, besides the first one in the original box), but lots of fun nonetheless.
In my mind, Unlock takes the puzzles from Time Stories, and removes most of the story. What I liked most about TS was the blend of puzzles and story, and as I've played more scenarios for TS, they've been focusing more on story and less (almost zero) on puzzles. The Unlock scenarios have been a great way for me to get my puzzle fix. Really enjoying them, and hope many more come out in the coming years.
This sounded really intriguing, as it's a choose your own adventure book with multiple paths and a character that has stats and health and such. I loved the old Lone Wolf books back in the 90s by Joe Dever, and was hoping this would scratch a similar itch. It did not.
To begin with, this must have been translated from another language, as there are multiple spelling errors and typos, and the translator's lack of English skill is very apparent. Bad grammar, bad wording, pretty poor writing.
Another knock against it is the lack of color. I get that it's supposed to convey the feeling of walking around a large house after dark, but in most rooms I could barely see what was going on, and most rooms/hallways looked identical. Thematic? Maybe. Fun? No.
To be fair, I did get a ways through the book without dying (seemingly everything gave me some wounds), so it might just be that I need to go through it a few more times and see the entire story, but at this point, I don't really want to.
I had very much high hopes for this book, and was going to buy the other volume available, Knights, aimed at a younger crowd, but not anymore. Has anyone here tried both? How was Knights compared to Captive? Let me know.
Played a lot of great games this month and some new ones. Nothing that set my world on fire and probably nothing that will enter my collection but games I'd play again.
The Bloody Inn - A light tableau builder with some player interaction beyond denial and some great art. I think this mostly gets by on a fun theme for me, but definitely a decent bar game.
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King - I don't know what the "from Chieftain to King" bit is all about, but this was another fine light tableau builder. I was hoping to see a little more of the pricing/money flow interactions, but our game was mostly about puzzling out our own little fiefdoms. I think I prefer Carcassonne, but Isle of Skye is cute.
Duck Dealer - Easily the more interesting new-to-me game I played from a design standpoint and yet not one I'm eager to ever play again. Spend turn after turn collecting energy and formulating your plan, then set it off and see who's the smartest.
Two "new to me" games this month. The best was 18Rhl: Rhineland.
18Rhl: Rhineland is one of the lesser known 18xx games. In fact, although it's been around for a decade, not enough people have rated it on BGG yet that it remains unranked.
The map is basically split down the middle thanks to the Rhine River and there are only four points (three of them cities) where bridges can be built across it. The best routes, of course, are those running East to West so securing stations at those cities is crucial...and something I failed to do effectively in my one play of it this month.
I got the cycling games, Leader 1 and Leader 1: Hell of the North, in a math trade a while back. This month, my wife and I gave Leader 1: Hell of the North a try (though we used the map tiles from Leader 1).
While I think it's a good game, it's a bit AP-inducing if you want to play it well. And because it's AP-inducing, I don't think it's a game for us to play together. So it went back into the box.
Fernando Robert Yu
Lots of new titles and expansions tried out this month!
Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia = 7 Plays
This flew under the radar but with the success of Arcadia Quest it immediately sparked interest in me. A couple of gameplay videos and the fact you could crossover the characters from both games as well as mutiple modes of play (alliance or competitive mode) sold it for me despite this having some negative reviews. I also managed to get all the etra stuff except the Masmorra: Dungeons of Arcadia – Monsters Dice Set.
This is really a dice management dungeon crawl where you use dice to fuel your actions. Your objective is to have the most XP (in competitive) or to defeat the boss Malaphyas (Alliance). Every turn you roll the 6 action dice after a reroll you use them to move, attack, and heal. XP is gained by defeating monsters, disarming traps, opening chests, and entering larger rooms. Players also gain treasure cards and gold and while you cannot directly affect other players treasure cards are the primary way you can interact with others since they can hinder (in competitive) or help (in alliance). After their actions players then act as a dungeon monster as they can move (even unto other players) and spawn monsters in the dungeon.
My group really liked the game despite the Munchkin like "Take that" aspect of the cards. The Alliance mode was also a hit with my son Shawn. I do agree that the Treasure cards are a bit too easy to get and we may try out the community suggested variant where players gain gold instead of a card after defeating monsters and then use the gold to buy cards which should make the cards more valuable.
Discoveries = 3 Plays
The game was interesting to me since it shares the same theme as Lewis & Clark and I liked the historical element of that game. I was not able to get it when it came out due to availability but it suddenly popped out out of nowhere at my FLGS so I got it. In this one you are also exploring but the discovery element aspect is also included since you are also trying to chronicle the different species you have discovered as well as travelling on rivers and mountains. In addition, knowledge gained from Indians also is a big factor in this game. Mechanics wise this theme is modeled with the use of dice. Unlike most other dice games though there are no rerolls in this game until you retrieve your dice, and you will have to do so at some time since many actions will cause your dice to be lost to the board. You are only allowed to use as many dice of a single symbol per turn and those symbols either help in travelling (footsteps and horseshoes), journal (letter A, which triggers travel actions with the prerequisite type of dice placed already), and get new Indian cards and neutral dice (Indian head). Other actions which can be done are to swap the expedition card on your board with those on the display as well as manipulate the faces of your rolled dice, which is important as it is your primary way of luck mitigation. Retrieval of dice is also interesting as you can retrieve ALL the used discarded dice (even your opponent's and neutral Indian dice) from 1 of 2 areas on the board, although 1 other form of retrieval is to retrieve ONLY dice of your color wherever they are (except in your stock), which could be a bummer if another player had that dice as a prerequisite for a future travel action. Retrieved dice are then rolled and the cycle begins anew.
Getting new Indian cards is very useful since they give you more efficient travelling actions as well as special abilities which should help the players fulfill the expedition cards in order to gain points and symbols (the bigger the set of different symbols the more points). Many cards also have tepee symbols and players are rewarded for having the most symbols at the end of the game.
The flow of the game is quite good and smooth once you get it and turns are pretty quick except for the inevitable AP as you decide what dice and actions to use. One factor for this is that you are actually allowed to complete the expedition card on your board AND 1 card on the display as part of combined journey from triggered travel actions in the same turn. This gives you an extra action so some AP does occur as players strive to see if they can do so during their turn. All in all it is quite a neat little package.
Rum & Bones = 1 Play
I was taught this cool PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN themed game by Robert. It is another great looking and well produced Cool Mini Or Not title where you use your team of 3 heroes and crew to battle the enemy as well as monsters in the game until someone wins by reaching a set number of VP. Every round you have 4 activations (1 for each hero and 1 for the entire crew) wherein you can move and trigger the special abilities of the heroes, with the more powerful hero abilities triggered usually by gold with some being constant abilities. The crew activation allows you to respawn crew in each of the 3 spawn points after which they all move 1 square forward and can attack an adjacent square. Each ship has also 5 VP locations which you can destroy which gives you VP as well a special ability. Each player also has his own deck from which he draws a hand of 3 cards. He refills his hand whenever a card is used and the cards (as expected) have funky abilities. The catch here is that many cards have the hydra symbol and the total number of hydra symbols played by both players is the number you have to roll equal to or below at the end of every round in order to summon the hydra, which can cause a lot of complications to the player who has played the most hydra cards. There is also a card which summons a sea monster which replaces a plank and all in all you get a chaotic situation on deck as players not only try to attack each other and break through to the objectives in order to gain VP and gold but have to deal with these dangers as well. Killing other heroes also gives VP and gold while killing crew gives gold. I found the game to be quite fun and very tactical as not only do you try to think how to maximize your powerful heroes, but also how to use your crew as I find them to be a powerful “swarm” element in this game. Very thematic and one I look forward to playing again.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Urban Structures = 2 Plays
I got to play this with my 2 sons and while the Structural Engineer is a cool addition we found him very limiting since he could put out fires. The office building map however was very tough and quite challenging and I feel will keep us occupied until we finally win, which may take several more tries.
Warhammer: Diskwars – Hammer and Hold + Warhammer: Diskwars – Legions of Darkness = 2 Plays
I have had the expansions for a long time and luckily Enrique requested to play this game so I manage to bring this out of the dust and the Dwarf and Vampire Count factions finally saw the light of day. It is a shame that Games Workshop Ltd. and Fantasy Flight Games have parted ways since this game would benefit from more factions and our 2 plays reminded me how much fun this game brings as it is essentially Warhammer with much less of hassle which plays much quicker too.
Eclipse: Shadow of the Rift = 1 Play
Another expansion which has been with me for a long time which was only brought out last month. This one adds 3 new races plus a host of new things like Evolutions and Time manipulation plus special VP chips etc. A worthy addition to a game which should be brought out more often. Now if only we can get specific ship models for the expansion races!
BattleLore (Second Edition): Mountain Giant Reinforcement Pack + BattleLore (Second Edition): Razorwings Reinforcement Pack = 1 Play
I finally manage to use these 2 mercenary unit sets last month as well, and they were crucial to my win. It is a shame that Fantasy Flight Games has not supported this game more and it is rife for even more expansions and units.
A pretty good month all around. I got to attend my first International Tabletop Day event this year and had a great time playing some fun new games as well as some old ones too.
The King Is Dead
I knew nothing about this game until I came across this Geeklist post from weyscoggin talking about hidden gems. When I saw it was a simple-yet-deep game it caught my attention as those tend to be winners for me. And it is! I love that I can teach this game in just a few minutes but then have a rich gameplay experience. You only get 8 actions each game but since there are very few restrictions on when you can play them it presents enormous possibilities. You're constantly thinking about what to do (or not to do) and you're never 100% sure any move you make is the right one. I haven't yet tried this out with 4p where you play as teams but that seems very intriguing...almost a whole different game.
Railways of the World
I recently got this game along with the Europe and England/Wales expansion maps. I played a 4p game on the Europe map and it was great. Not only is the game light on rules yet makes you think (something I often look for in games) but it also looks impressive on the table. Between the turn order bids and where you build on the map, there is a fairly high degree of player interaction in this game as well which I appreciate. Overall this was a game I expected to like and it held up to expectations. I'm curious how future plays of this will look like as people get more familiar with the mechanics but overall this is a keeper.
Deep Sea Adventure
I kept hearing about this game and it had been making appearances at my game group but I just had never managed to play it. My expectations were somewhat high but I can say this is a great little game. And I mean little...the entire box is maybe the size of two decks of cards. The game plays over three rounds and in each round you're trying to collect treasure and get back to your submarine. However, the more treasure you and your "friends" collect the more oxygen you consume and the round ends if you use all the oxygen. If you didn't make it back to the sub, you drop your treasure and score no points. So the crux of the game is deciding when to turn back with your loot? It's push-your-luck but a little more. The shared oxygen mechanic is excellent. I really enjoyed this one a lot and makes for a great filler game. I'd probably pick up a copy for myself if it ever became cheaper to get.
Black Fleet is a light pick-up-and-deliver game with a fairly strong take-that element as you attack each other's ships and steal cargo. You move ships around by playing a movement card which dictates how far each type of ship can travel on the board. There's also cards that give you one-time special powers as well as cards you spend money to buy that give you special abilities for the remainder of the game. I played this as a 3p game with all new players. The best part of the game is the production value as the board is vibrant and big, the plastic ships are excellent (and even hold the cubes you deliver), and it even comes with metal coins! With that said, it's got a lot of luck via the card draws. And with the take-that aspect, you have to have fairly thick skin as you will often have your stuff stolen from you. Even with those drawbacks, I had a lot of fun with this game and my biggest complaint is it felt a tad long for what it was. Our 3p game took around 90 mins and I'm sure with more plays that would go down but I would hesitate to play this with 4p for that reason.
House of Borgia
I only played this once and we kinda bumbled our way through the game in the first few rounds so take this rating as very preliminary. This game is essentially a hidden-identity game that uses Liar's Dice as its action-selection mechanism. It's very much a hybrid of the two games although the Liar's Dice component is simplified but it still seems to work. In the game you're all up-and-coming cardinals(?) all hoping to become the Pope and trying to gain influence. The character that has the most influence at the end of the game wins. The aspect of the game that either makes it brilliant or kills it is the Rumor action. There are Rumor cards that match the hidden identities and as an action someone can put a Rumor card in front of you. If at the end of the game your actual identity matches the Rumor card, you're ineligible to win. Also, there's no way for you to get rid of a Rumor card in front of you although others can exchange your card with another if they feel like it's not correct. What this means is you never want to do anything that is obviously supporting your own character because if you do you will essentially be eliminated. However, supporting-but-not-supporting your character is not easy. This is where I need to play this more to peel back the layers of the onion but I'm just not sure right now. I did enjoy my one play even if I didn't quite know what I was doing at first.
Mission: Red Planet (Second Edition)
This was a pretty fun area control style game. I had heard quite a bit about it since the reprint came out a couple years ago and been wanting to try it out and so finally got around to it when someone had it at a game meetup. I wouldn't say there's too much luck in this game as there's no dice rolls or drawing cards much however there's a lot of chaos! You're trying to get your astronauts onto Mars and control areas for points but rockets can explode, change their destination, people could "seduce" your astronauts into one of theirs, etc. Its hard to keep track of everything but there's still a solid layer of strategy underneath it all. Not a game I would gravitate to often but one I hope to play again.
Got this little guy in the mail this month and got it played during International Tabletop Day. Played once each as the Fugitive and Marshal. The overall product is quite good with great "retro" artwork and a box that looks like a briefcase. The game mechanics are super simple but the choices, especially as the fugitive, can be tough to make. Do you just lay out the easy hideout or try to sprint to get ahead? Or maybe bluff? It'll take more games to really know if this is a keeper in my collection but initial impressions are overall good. There's definitely an element of luck on the Marshal's part where making a lucky guess could swing the game in their favor but since games are short that's hardly a deal breaker.
This game is like Cosmic Encounter meets...hot potato? I'm not really sure. In this game you are an alien that is going from planet to planet collecting equipment and weapons but ultimately you're looking for the Ovoid because whoever has the Ovoid when the game ends is the winner. Each alien has their own special powers and there a bunch of types of cards that can also give you benefits during your turn or in combat. Oh yeah, there's combat in this game too. We added the Dark Ovoid and Cipher into our game but despite that the game felt a little lackluster. Through some luck, one player found both Ovoids in the first couple turns and managed to keep them hidden most of the game. Then at the end, despite getting attacked repeatedly the dice rolled in their favor and he held on to win. It ended up creating a game that just rubbed me a little wrong as it never felt like I had a chance to win. I can see
Sheriff of Nottingham
This is a fun little bluffing game where one player each round acts as the Sheriff and the other players are attempting to get goods into the city. The goods are concealed in these handy little bags which is a nice touch. Are the players telling the truth about their 4 apples or are they hiding some high-value contraband in there with them? If the Sheriff calls their bluff and inspects the goods and finds illegal goods, the player must pay the Sheriff money for each good he lied about. Otherwise the Sheriff actually pays the player if they were telling the truth. When the game ends, you tally up points for all your stuff along with some bonuses for having the most and that's it. Overall this game is fun and is one of the few games that almost demand you role-play a bit, especially as the Sheriff. Otherwise this game is almost entirely about that "do you inspect or not?" question as the Sheriff is trying to read the players. You can spice things up by trying to bribe the Sheriff which can make for some fun quandaries too. So yeah, it was fine and I'd play again but I think I like a little more depth to my bluffing games.
Palaces of Carrara
Initial rating with 2 players - 6
Initial rating with 3 players - 7
I recently bought the HiG import version as this game had a very limited Zman printing. The production is very good, (as usual for HiG). The Rondel is pleasing and works well in the game. We also used the included expansion in our initial plays.
So far with 2 players, if I had to reduce my initial thoughts to a couple words, it would be that the game is too easy.
I have to admit that I enjoy games that have their inherent challenges against the game. However frustrating tight resources can be in many games these challenges can also keep me coming back for the fight.
Typical examples of this are feeding your people in Agricola or Stone Age and other games with super tight resources. I have not seen these challenges in this game. The Marble bricks aren’t that difficult to come by; the buildings aren’t that expensive or hard to buy. The objects seem to be the tightest resource but again not that difficult for a two-player game.
A game like this ends up just being a race against the other player. With little interaction it feels a little empty with two. Hopefully these are only initial reservations.
The good stuff! The game is quick!! That might seem like another tongue in cheek dig at the game but it really is a plus and it is fairly easy to get to the table.
Third play was with 3-players and it was much better. It gave me hope in the justification of the game purchase. Competition was stiffer with more players vying for bricks and buildings. I still feel another player would make it even more challenging.
In the end this is still a good mid-weight Euro that might be suited to someone newer to the genre. With 2 players I would prefer to play games in a similar range like; Vikings, Cinque Terre or Finca.
Initial rating with 3 players - 6
I found a very good thrift copy of this sometime back and finally got it to the table at my weekly Wednesday lunch group. It can be played quickly which is great on the weeks where we have to keep things tight. (The 3 player game of Palaces of Carrara was also played at work.)
Nothing earth shattering with Tsuro but it has its place as a warm for a group. Again I look forward to playing it with more people.
Edit: It's still April here and we've snuck in another 'new' one just under the wire
Initial rating with 2 players - 8
Really nice, next-step-plus game to Patchwork. My wife got tired of PW after several plays, though I still enjoy it. Her first impression of CG was very positive as is mine. The play time leads to a little more satisfying game experience past a 2 player filler. Look forward to adding more players. it might be my next choice for this week's work-lunch group.
If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it!
== BEST GAME OF THE MONTH ==
Santorini - Played 4 times - 9.5/10
My son, Patrick and I, burned through four games of Santorini today quickly learning the game, completing plays for the Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament and then continuing on for The Passionate Knight's Normal 10 X 10 Challenge which is my contribution to 2017 Challenge: Play 10 Games 10 Times Each. The game has surprising depth for such a simple rule set. Patrick insisted on playing until he beat me. I thought we might complete this portion of the challenge in one day as I felt quite skilled at blocking Patrick from reaching level three of any building placing domes to prevent the win numerous times, but he beat me on our fourth play of the game. We are both looking forward to playing with the gods to see how using them alters game play.
= Other New Games for April 2017 =
San Juan (second edition) - played 6 times - 8/10
Patrick and I learned San Juan, which is a wonderful card game that uses cards as buildings, goods produced (indigo, sugar, coffee, tobacco and silver) and currency. It is a brilliant versatile use of the cards that makes game play intriguing and fun. Patrick thought he had the upper hand on me, as he always thinks he does, but I built buildings that allowed me to increase production and collect more currency when goods were sold giving me a solid victory 34 to 22. Patrick states he understands the game better now and will be more successful in the games that count toward the tournament. I guess we will see.
In our second game of San Juan (second edition) Patrick felt certain he had a path to victory as we sat down to play our first round of tournament play of San Juan (second edition). He seemed to have a viable collection of buildings that permitted him to produce and trade additional goods, but a harbor building and city hall gave all I needed to enjoy another fairly easy win 36 to 24.
It appear that lessons were learned as Patrick finally put together a powerful array of buildings that helped him accumulate extra cards to enable him to complete his twelfth building while I only had ten. The result was his scoring 35 to 24.
In our fourth game, it just does not seem to ever stop amazing me how Patrick picks up games and appropriate strategies for them quickly. Now, it is true, that production buildings avoided my hand as if it suffered from leprosy, but nonetheless, Patrick accumulated a well structured set of buildings that enabled hum to win 31 to 22. Most interesting was that my wife has stated that she does not want to learn any more new games, but our gameplay appeared to seduce Debbie who asked to learn the game after Patrick and I finished the game, We would play two games and by the second game Debbie dominated scoring 50 points!
New York 1901 - played 2 times - 8/10
Patrick and I also learned to play New York 1901 with the Flat Iron Expansion for our Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament as well as knocking off the "N" in the Passionate Knight's 2017 Alphabet Basic Challenge which is my contribution to The Alphabet Board Game Challenge - 2017 Edition. The game was quite exciting considering the tile laying mechanism. The street bonuses made for some tense play as we sought to cut each other off from accumulating buildings on certain roads. It was pretty cut throat. The game bonus card was for the Master Architect (building non-square or rectangular shaped buildings). I gained the largest bonus there, but Patrick began a campaign of demolishing and replacing buildings to accumulate more points while accelerating the end game trigger event of having four buildings. In the end the tally resulted in a 77 to 77 tie. The tie breaker goes to the individual who built the tallest legendary building. Patrick built the Woolworth Building which rises 792 ft., while I built the Flat Iron Building which only rises to 285 ft. Nonetheless, a very good game with a surprising cut throat edge to it. An 8 out 10 from me.
In our second game, Patrick again proves his acuity developing a stronger understanding of this tile laying game as he has done with other tile laying games - see Karuba and Quadropolis above. Today bonuses meant little since we both managed the same architect bonus and split two street bonuses while Patrick won five VP for the other for a final score of 85 to 71.
Alien Frontiers Big Box - played 1 time - 7.5/10
Patrick and I undertook learning to play Alien Frontiers Big Box for Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament and to satisfy the letter "A" in Passionate Knight's 2017 Alphabet Basic Challenge, which is my contribution to The Alphabet Board Game Challenge - 2017 Edition. The Alphabet Challenge has spurred our learning new games since the list contains nothing but unplayed games in my collection. Thus, we have a backlog of games that we have learned but have yet to complete for the Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament . Our initial play through was a slaughter as Patrick quickly shut me out of various locations collecting all his extra ships and smartly placing all of his colonies while I only managed to place 3. A brutal beating of 13 to 3. I really hope I can come back and be more competitive as the tournament play begins.
Room 25 - played 1 time - 7.5/10
Room 25 is an intriguing game where you are a prisoner seeking to escape a complex of rooms by finding Room 25 and moving it out of the complex. Among the rooms you will find obstacles that range from cold to flooding to instant death. The most interesting aspect of the game is the number of ways you can play it. You can play it competitively, cooperatively, and in what is called "Suspicion Mode" that involves a couple of players acting as guards seeking to undermine the other players hoping to prevent their escape. Since the game has cooperative and competitive modes Patrick and I learned the game as part of Playing All of My Cooperative Games as well as our Father v. Son Two-Player Board Game Tournament and of course to fulfill the R in the Passionate Knight's 2017 Alphabet Basic Challenge. Today we played competitive mode but neither of us won. In order to enjoy victory you need to escape the complex within 10 turns with both members of your team. Although I found Room 25 with two turns left I could not manage to get my pair together to leave the complex. Thus, the game won this one.
Fabled Fruit - played 4 times - 7/10
Patrick and I also learned to play Fabled Fruit as part of this challenge and as part of the The Passionate Knight's Normal 10 X 10 Challenge which is my contribution to 2017 Challenge: Play 10 Games 10 Times Each. This an interesting game that continually changes. You start by having six decks containing four of the same cards that are locations you can place your Meeple. Each deck has a different power you can use. For example, one location lets you draw two cards, another lets you steal two cards from the person with the most cards, etc. You collect fruit in order to purchase the cards which are removed and replaced by another card that may supply a different rule set. Anyway, it plays very quickly and has an interesting evolution as games change as the locations change. It's a game I did well at as Patrick tends to focus on two or three locations to exploit - he was quite fond of of the thieving card. In our first play through I won 5 to 2. Patrick felt certain he would do better during tournament play and he did losing 5 to 3. He finally scored a victory 5 to 4, but lost the rubber match 5 to 4.
== NEW GAMES ==
Ginkgopolis - 1 play - 7
First Published 2012
I got this some time ago but had a hard time getting it to the table. Played a learning game but I think rating will go up as I play it more. Pretty different from my other engine building game. Lots to consider on your turn. Good amount of decision making for a short game.
Expedition: Northwest Passage - 1 play - 7
First Published 2010
Another game I got awhile ago but too awhile to get to the table. Very good tile lying, exploration game. Very interactive for a euro. To win you need to make good use of other people's tile placements but of course you don't want to help out other players.
Oh My Goods! - 3 plays - 8
First Published 2015
I really enjoyed my plays of this little engine building filler. I do wonder about the luck of the draw in setting up chains - you get so many points doing that but you might not get the cards to set a chain in an entire game.
ZhanGuo - 2 plays - 7
First Published 2014
It works fine but I am not excited to play it again, feels kind of bland.
Die Dolmengötter - 1 play - 7
First Published 2005
Played someone print and play version. Interesting abstract where you you need to get other player to be in your areas to score better but you still need majorities to get points. I'd like to play this more. Very different from usual area control games.
Roll Player - 1 play - 6
First Published 2016
Only a partial play. Seems like a decent dice manipulation game but I think you have to like to theme for it to be great. I didn't like the theme.
StarFall - 1 play - 5.5
First Published 2016
pretty unremarkable though pretty.
New York Slice - 1 play - 5
First Published 2017
I like the original Piece o' Cake much better. The tweaks don't really add interesting decisions and the graphic design is awful.