New to you November 2017 => Best new boardgame
Andy
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Manchester
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What games did you play for the first time in November 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.

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New to you a year ago Nov 17 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in November 2017
Out of the Dust November 2017
Your Most Played Game (and more): November 2017
New to your kids - Gaming with (your) kids November 2017
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1. Board Game: Spot it! [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:859]
Andy
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Manchester
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== NEW GAMES ==

Dobble Kids - 1 play
First Published 2009


A pretty poor month for game plays, however I did get to play Dobble Kids for the first time with my kids and some of our friends. It was a pretty fun real-time dexterity-like game.
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2. Board Game: Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium [Average Rating:8.37 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.37 Unranked]
J. Atkinson
United States
Grant
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No games... new expansion and it's quite excellent.
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3. Board Game: A Feast for Odin [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:31]
Juan Carlos Goyes
Colombia
Bogota
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Spyfall: Ice Hockey Stadium promo cards

2017-11-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (October 2017)

I really like Spyfall and I have played it a lot, so any addition to the game is very welcomed, if only, for the increase of the replayability factor.

Spyfall: Ice Hockey Stadium promo cards adds a new location to mix with the base game, there are no new rules, only a single new location.

I like the art of this promo card.

The issues that arise from mixing this card with the other locations are twofold. 1. It didn’t come with a plastic bag so you need to find an exact plastic bag as the ones that came with the base game to avoid detection before playing with it and 2. It doesn’t appear on the list of locations (obviously) so now you need to print player aids (I wanted to do that for a long time now). Both issues are, easily solved, so they don’t bother me that much.

Bottom line, Spyfall: Ice Hockey Stadium promo cards is a welcomed addition to the game. I want more cards to mix.

Current Rating: 7.0



T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance

2017-11-27

Initial Rating: 7.0 (November 2017)

As one of my regular game buddies had to travel away from the country, It’s been a long while since I last played T.I.M.E Stories. We finally decided to play it without him because I need to sell these expansions due to the increasing amount of games I buy these days, I just don´t have the space.

As I like the game a lot, it is only natural I also like its expansions and I enjoyed T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance.

The art continues to be amazingly good.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

I really like the theme (Lovecraftian horror) and I loved how they sent you a few days ahead by mistake in the first run (that was amazing). The story feels very thematic but, sadly, it was very easy for us to solve it. No one, in our party, became insane and I feel that detracted a lot from the fun. Also, the end felt anticlimactic, I wasn’t really expecting for us to finish it that quickly. A player in our party has a secret card that we cannot see and he has to keep it with him in the next games (I love this). I already sold the expansions but he took a picture of the card.

Every time we finish an scenario, I go through all the cards, but I couldn’t do that this time because there is a new rule stating that I cannot see the madness cards or Location 666, otherwise I would lose beacons. I love these two new features

There are no puzzles to solve in this scenario (or they are too easy), it was much more thematic and linear than other scenarios.

My main complaint is that the end comes too abruptly. I wanted to explore more. I didn’t see many cards and I really want to read them all.


Bottom line, I enjoyed our game of T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition – Endurance and I will play them all. For specifics read above.

Current Rating: 7.0



Cartagena

2017-11-27

Initial Rating: 5.0 (November 2017)

When I began playing boardgames, I had a high desire to play Cartagena but I never did. After some years, my gaming tastes changed a lot and my desire to do so now was very low, still, the opportunity arose and I played Cartagena this month. As I expected the game is very simple and not for me.

The rules of the game are pretty simple, you can explain them under 5 minutes. Playtime is also quick, it is less than 60 minutes with the full complement of 5 players.

The game´s components and art are ok. The modular board looks gorgeous on the table.

The theme is pasted on, but in any case, I heavily dislike pirate themes.

The decisions needed to play the game aren’t complex, they are pretty simple, but not outright obvious, there is room for clever play which was unexpected and welcomed. There is a high luck factor with the cards and the king making is huge as well, you depend entirely on the opportunities that the player to your right leaves open.

Bottom line, Cartagena is a light game, perfect for the family or to introduce new gamers to our hobby, but it is too simple for me. The luck factor is very high. Mostly tactics. My desire to play it again is very low as are most if not all Colovini games. I, generally, dislike racing games.

Current Rating: 4.0



Kingdom Death: Monster

2017-11-27

Initial Rating: 6.0 (November 2017)

I finally played the fabled Kingdom Death monster. I initially pledged for it on KS, but later, I retired my pledge as I learned a little about the game and I´m very glad I didn’t support it. KDM is not a game I want to own or play.

The rules of the game are less complex that I was expecting, however, there are many rules so teaching the game takes at least 30 minutes. Playtime is very variable and it depends on the scenario.

Love the theme.

The game´s components are AMAZINGLY good. The miniatures are incredible detailed, I love the art and in general, it has great production values. The game box is very big and heavy and the game is very expensive, but also overproduced and ambitious. It is gorgeous.

To me, KDM has a medium weight, I was expecting something much more difficult to play. The decisions needed to play the game aren’t very complex. I concede I have only played the prologue and it was hard to beat, but we didn’t have any issues with the decision making process, it is hard to pass due to luck considerations (you roll for everything). After you pass the scenario, there is another phase (I don’t know its name) but that phase is much more interesting to me. In that new phase new people are born, you distribute your loot, build equipment and buildings and you choose philosophies. In our game we became cannibals and we ate a fallen comrade, he was genuinely distressed about this, it was fun .

Another good thing about KDM is that you don’t own your character (besides killing you character seems pretty easy in the game). You can begin another scenario with a new character or you can use one created by a friend. This makes much more easy to play the game often. On the other hand, many players (scudding me) create a bond with their characters, and in KDM characters can and will die easily.

KDM is an Ameritrasher dream game, but I have been drifting away from this kind of game. My tastes have become much more Euro these past couple of years. Still, I could have bought the game if it wasn’t for the unassembled miniatures. This is THE deal breaker for me. I never buy games in which I have to assemble the miniatures and when I do (by mistake) I have sold them unplayed. I hate this activity and I won’t ever do it.

When we were playing the game, a friend said he really enjoyed the game, but he said that if he is going to play a game like this, RPGs do a much better job. I can understand his point of view but I don’t share it completely.

The luck factor seems very high, which isn’t bad in this kind of game (Cooperative Ameritrash).

I have an inkling of desire to play the camping but I won’t do it. I think the game is very repetitive so I’m not sure how much game is really here, my gut says the game hasn’t the legs for me so I think it would bore me fairly quickly. I think the big appeal comes from the miniatures but they don’t work for me.

Best with 4 players.

Bottom line, I recognize that Kingdom Death: Monster can be a great game for many players, but it isn’t for me. I have a low desire to play the campaign so I don’t think I ever will. There are many other games that really excite me and KDM doesn’t. I would have enjoyed a game like this when I was a teenager, or maybe when I first began playing boardgames (2010), but now I have moved far away from this genre, I feel the game is very repetitive and what I enjoy the most is the phase after the fight, not the fight itself. KDM comes with unassembled miniatures which is a no go for me, there is no way I’m going to glue them together. KDM isn’t as complex as I was expecting. There is also the consideration of the price, I feel there is a bias here toward liking the game just to justify the high price, this behavior isn’t that uncommon with KS games. I prefer Myth over KDM, but I already sold Myth. KDM has a very high luck factor.

Current Rating: 5.0

Jgoyes´ Awards:





Innovation Deluxe

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 6.5 (November 2017)

I have always (kind of) liked Innovation. It is not among my favorite games but I think it will get there eventually. I´m still undecided if the game has uncontrollable luck or not. I vastly prefer to play the game as a 2 player game, and due to this, it´s been hard to get Innovation to the table, we are always more than two players.

When I found out there was a Deluxe edition of the game, I decided to bought it, even though I had the old Asmadi edition of the game and 2 (still unplayed) expansions.

As Innovation Deluxe is an Asmadi game, I wasn’t expecting much from it, but still it managed to disappoint me. The box is a big box with a cardboard insert that is useless once you sleeve the cards. The outside of the box looks cool, but the inside isn’t functional. The box could have been an smaller box (like Pixel Tactics Deluxe). Still, it is nice to have everything for the game in one box, but I miss the dividers. To store the cards I flipped over the insert.

Innovation Deluxe comes with all the expansions for the game along with 2 new expansions, I think they were released at the same time but I could be wrong. I love that I now have all there is for the game and I really want to explore it.

The new cards are very similar to the old ones, they changed the graphic design a bit and I like the changes.

I will comment on the entry of each game and the rating of Innovation Deluxe will be the average of its contents.

Current Rating: 6.5



Room 25: Escape Room

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 7.0 (November 2017)

I have always liked Room 25´s ideas, however the game isn’t as fun as I was expecting so after various games I decided to sell it. My desire to play the game again was low so I didn’t have much interest in Room 25: Escape Room, but it really enhances the game a lot.

Room 25: Escape Room makes the game only cooperative and now players have to solve riddles to escape. Escape rooms have been appearing more often these days and I approve, I really like them and in this case it makes the game a lot better. I didn’t read the rules, but as I understand them from the explanation, there are only 10 scenarios that come in the box. We played the first scenario and it was very easy, I hope the next ones are a lot harder, still, I liked the new system. Unlike any other Escape Room, the replayability factor of the scenarios is not null as every time they will be different (but the puzzles are the same). I´m not sure what else the expansion brings to the table.

To verify if you solved a puzzle, there is a ruler that you have to align to see if you have the correct answer, cool.

Bottom line, Room 25: Escape Room adds a new dimension to the game and I really like it. It makes me regret (a bit) that I sold the base game and I´m keen to play it again. I don´t think I will buy again the base game and its first expansion, but there is a slight possibility.

Current Rating: 7.0



A Fake Artist Goes to New York

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 6.5 (November 2017)

I wasn’t expecting anything good from A Fake Artist Goes to New York. I hate drawing games, the only one I like and own is Pictomania (from genius designer Vlaada Chvátil) but A Fake Artist Goes to New York really surprised me.

The rules of the game are pretty simple. You can explain the game under 2 minutes.

The game is expensive for what comes in the small box (as are all Oink Games), the components are ok.

Gameplay is very fun. It works just like Spyfall (a game I love). A game Master select a category and a word and all players will contribute to this drawing but there is one player (fake artist) who doesn't know what he is supposed to draw. Players win if the fake artist doesn’t guess the drawing and he wins if he do guess it correctly.. As I´m terrible at drawing, it was very fun to try to convince my fellow players that I wasn’t the fake artist, cool game.

From my limited perspective, the fake artist has a hard time guessing the correct word, but the game ends in about 5 minutes so that´s ok.

Bottom line, A Fake Artist Goes to New York was a surprise game and I liked it. I´m not sure if it has the legs to resists repeat plays, but for now I´m enjoying it a lot. My lack of drawing abilities makes the game better for me. I will probably buy it. It is a borderline 7.0 to me though.

Current Rating: 7.0

Jgoyes´ Awards:





Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 7.5 (November 2017)

I absolutely love Terraforming Mars, so I had to play this expansion soon. I like Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium but it doesn’t change the game that much.

When I first bought the expansion, I didn’t know it was only a map. I was expecting more cards for the game (I think Venus Next will add cards, but I´m not sure) but I’m happy to have more Terraforming Mars.

I have only played with the Elysium side of it. The map modifies very few rules, the important part for me is that it changes the milestones and awards making for a different experience. I expect the Hellas map offers new goals as well. Without the new Milestones and awards, I feel the gameplay would be very similar. There are landmarks in different parts of the map, but I haven’t played enough Terraforming Mars to really gauge their impact.

Bottom line, Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium is a good addition to the game, I’m happy it offers new awards and milestones so the end strategy will vary a lot between maps, the new geography doesn’t have an impact on gameplay (yet). I need more plays to really see the differences in this regard. I’m rating the expansion the same rating I gave to the base game. I hope to explore it further soon.

Current Rating: 8.0



XCOM: The Board Game – Evolution

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 7.0 (November 2017)

I enjoy XCOM: The Board Game so it is only natural that I also enjoy its expansion. XCOM: The Board Game – Evolution makes the game a lot harder but it also adds a lot of new content.

The rules of the game are pretty easy if you are already familiar with the base game. You can explain them under 3 minutes. It adds more of everything plus 3 more miniatures and some new rules. Among the new rules are:

- Dangerous tasks: Task in which you have to roll a D6 instead of a D8, so naturally, they are harder to accomplish.
- Exalt tokens: They appear at random and make all the related task dangerous.
- Destruction Cards: They make the game a lot harder. Every time the base takes a hit, you have to execute one of two cards and they destroy equipment and make things a lot harder for you.
- Meld: You only gain a Meld reward if finish a mission as soon as it becomes available and the mission offers the reward. We couldn’t obtain the reward so I don’t remember which is the reward .

That´s it. I´m surprised FFG has not released more expansions for the game.

I couldn't find the rules online, weird!

Bottom line, XCOM: The Board Game – Evolution is a good expansion for the game. It makes the game considerably harder to beat and it adds a lot of content. I want to play with it again soon.

Current Rating: 7.0



Jump Drive

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 6.0 (November 2017)

I love Race for the Galaxy, a game currently on my Top Ten games of all time so I always buy everything they release for it. As the game was introduced to me as Race for the Galaxy: Jump Drive I, naturally, assumed it was an expansion for the game. When I played it this month I was surprised to find out it is a base game based on RFTG, but independent from it.

The rules are very short and, for once for a RFTG game, they are very well written and easy to understand from the rulebook. You can teach the game under 5 minutes, it is very simple. Playtime is around 20 minutes and it could be a lot less with experienced players.

The art is cool, but it is recycled from other RFTG games. The theme is pasted on.

After reading the rules, I thought the game was going to be boring for me, but we kind of liked it. The core of the game remains the same (hand management, you have to pay with cards), but now there are no roles to play or follow, any player can play the card they want to and if you play only one card you get a benefit (as if you played a role in the old RFTG), if you play two cards you don’t get any benefit. After all players have played their cards, they draw more cards and earn VPs based on the cards they already played. The decisions needed to play the game aren’t complex, but you do have to think them through.

There is luck of the draw with the cards, but as I have only played the game once, I’m not sure if it is uncontrollable or not.

The end game comes very abruptly, in my next game I will be prepared for it.

Bottom line, Jump Drive is an ok game. I obviously prefer Race for the Galaxy, but teaching that game is a pain, teaching Jump Drive is much more easy. Has this been any other game, I would have already sold it, but as it is part of the Race for the Galaxy universe, I think I will keep it for a little longer, but it is too simple to appeal to me. I will give it more opportunities to woe me, though.

Current Rating: 6.0



Unlock! The Tonipal's Treasure

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 7.5 (November 2017)

I love the Unlock! series of games. In general, I have a play system that tells me which games to play and I’m very strict with it, but when the Unlock! games arrive, I always want to play them first and forget all other games .

We decided to play Unlock! The Tonipal's Treasure because we were 3 players and on the app, it says it is the hardest of the bunch. I was expecting puzzles as hard as Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse, but they were a lot easier. Still, I had lots of fun.

In general, I prefer to play the game with only my SO, but if the game is hard, I could add a couple of friends. If the game is too easy, I’m disappointed as four or more people can breeze through it. I always finish these adventures without using any hint, even if it takes us hours. That’s part of the fun for me.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Pirate themes are not among my favorites, but, I really like it here. The adventure was very fun. We had some issues with the language as English is not my first language and it isn’t very clear from the app (it was slurred as a Pirate should talk I guess), but we managed to finish it without using any hint. The puzzles weren’t very hard and I really liked how they used the back of the cards to form a map.

The music was very cool.


Bottom line, Unlock! The Tonipal's Treasure is one of the best (if not the best) Unlock adventure I have played (I still have to play the other two adventures in the second release of the game). Its rating would be higher if it had some replayability. I already sold my copy of the game. I cannot wait to play more Unlock games, thanks to them, I visited a real escape room, and, to my surprise, I had a similar feeling that when I play these games. Good stuff.

Current Rating: 7,5



A Feast for Odin

2017-11-28

Initial Rating: 7.5 (November 2017)

Uwe Rosenberg is one of my favorite game designers. I have bought and liked every one of his heavy games, I’m not much of a fan of his lighter games, but as I knew A Feast for Odin wasn’t a light game, I was pretty sure I was going to like it, and I did .

The rules of the game aren’t as complex as I was expecting from what I have heard, however, there are many rules so explaining takes around 25 minutes. Playtime is around 3 hours.

The game´s components are very well done and you get a lot of components. Unpunching the game takes a lot of time.

The theme is ok I guess, but I don’t feel it through the game except when I have to feed my people.

I have heard, the game had lots of decisions each turn, and that’s true, but they aren’t as hard as I thought they would be. The choices are grouped by categories, so if you send more people to do an action, the reward will be bigger, but in the same category, that is, if you want food, you can send one worker and obtain an small reward or you can send a lot of workers for a bigger reward. Don´t get me wrong, A Feast for Odin has very interesting decisions, you can do a plethora of actions each turn. Some of the actions require one worker and some require four workers, so deciding where to send your workers isn’t obvious. There are spaces to get food, to hunt, to attack, to gather resources, to explore.

There is a lot of luck of the draw with the cards, I’m not sure if this can be mitigated. Sometimes you get some amazing combos going on, other times, the cards don’t have any synergy between them. The is also luck with the dice when you hunt and when you attack. This luck is much more controllable as you can use weapons and boats to increase/decrease your roll, you also get 3 throws with every action. Even if you fail your roll, you get a reward. I need more plays to see if the luck factor is an issue for me.

In A Feast for Odin has, you have to feed your workers as is traditional from Uwe Rosenberg. Each turn you have to feed more and more workers (unless you have sent them away) and the method of feeding is very interesting. The best way to do it is using different food to maximize its effect. When you begin the game, you have lots of negative VPs, so looking for the best way to counter them is very fun. The way to counter them is to cover them and here is an spatial aspect to the game, similar to Patchwork and I enjoyed it.

Best with 3 players.

The game isn’t as cutthroat as Agricola, there are many repeat spaces, so blocking someone isn’t worth it, this makes the tension of the game a lot less than Agricola´s. A Feast for Odin is a much friendlier game, I think this is a negative for me.

A Feast for Odin is an expensive game, but you get so many content for the game, you feel the price is fair.

I expect the replayability factor to be high with all the cards. I need more plays to verify this point.

Bottom line, A Feast for Odin is a good game and I like it a lot. It offers interesting decisions and it seems it has multiple paths to victory. It is definitively a keeper for me and I want to explore it further. At first it seems very complex and scary, but it is much simpler than I thought it would be.

Current Rating: 7.5

Jgoyes´ Awards:





Pass the Bomb

2017-11-29

Initial Rating: 6.0 (November 2017)

I was pleasantly surprised by Pass the Bomb, it is a good party game to play from time to time.

The rules of the game are pretty easy to teach. You can do it under 1 minute. Playtime is around 20 minutes.

The goal is pretty simple, when you have the bomb you need to pass it quickly before it explodes, you do that by saying words with specific letters on them and there are some limits to where the letters can beas well (you roll a die for the limits). The bomb has a variable timer which was too soft (perhaps due to the battery) so I had to replace it. It was hard to replace at first but with an app you can replace it, however you lose some tension without the sound of the bomb.

It can be hard to see who gets the bomb when it goes off when you are passing it, it can be a bit unfair this way.

At first I thought the language was going to be a barrier, because English has many combinations that aren’t in my own language (Spanish), but we didn’t have a problem with that. I need more plays to verify if this is an issue or not.

Pass the Bomb ca be used to help create vocabulary.

Bottom line, Pass the Bomb is a light and fun party game to play from time to time. I’m still undecided if I should keep it or not but I will play it again before deciding.

Current Rating: 6.0



Codenames: Disney Family Edition

2017-11-29

Initial Rating: 7.5 (November 2017)

I love Codenames, so I bought every edition I could find (I think I have them all). When I bought Codenames: Disney Family Edition I didn’t know what were the changes. Now I know, It is very similar to Codenames: Pictures.

This edition of the game continues to be very simple to explain (you can do it in less than 4 minutes. Playtime was higher for us because the topic made the game a lot harder (at least for us). There are many characters I haven’t seen before and even the ones I know, are hard to link as many are similar (princess for example). Still I like the game a lot.

It seems the game has a lower quality than others Codenames.

The art is pretty and colorful, I like it. The cards have an illustration on one side and the name of the character in the other, this limits replayability (as they offer half the usual content) AND it makes the game almost impossible to play for me if I don’t know the name of a character (this is very likely), with the pictures you at least can look for other ways to link the cards together.

It seems the game has a family variant in which you use a smaller grid. I understand why it’s there but I don’t think I will be playing with it. Besides that, it seems the rules didn’t change (I didn’t read the rulebook).

Bottom line, Codenames: Disney Family Edition is a great party game and a keeper for me. It is perfect for the family. This version of Codenames has been the hardest far for me as I’m not familiar with many Disney characters and many share a lot of attributes, I think I will be much more knowledgeable with the Marvel edition (which I hope to play soon). This themed version of the game does detract a bit from the creativity that other versions allowed, the reason, all the cards have already a theme so if you aren’t a Disney aficionado (like me) you are trying to link together characters you don’t really know, but this is a minor issue for me.

Current Rating: 7.0



Sentient

2017-11-29

Initial Rating: 5.0 (November 2017)

As is usual from me, I bought Sentient without knowing anything about it. The art of the cover box is amazing so I thought the game was going to be a futuristic endeavor. The theme is indeed futuristic, but the game was a letdown.

Sentient´ s rules are easy to teach, you can do it under 5 minutes. Playtime is around 50 minutes with 4 players.

The art is very good and the components are nice as well. The dice look great. The game occupies more space than you would think for a card game.

The theme is cool, but you don’t feel it through the game, it is, sadly, pasted on. It could very well be an abstract game.

The game´s decisions aren’t very complex. You have only 4 places to play each turn and the decision where to play isn’t hard to process, but you do need to think a bit about it. Not only you are taking the cards to your board, you are also fighting for majority in that area to influence investors. Deciding which card to take each round was easy, deciding how many assistants to play wasn’t as easy (and my favorite decision). When you take a card, they affect the dice you already had on your board. In theory, it sound great, in practice it doesn’t work for me.

The luck factor is very high and uncontrollable. In our game, many times a player took a card and then a great card appeared for the next player. I heavily dislike this part of the game, I feel luck decides who wins as the strategy is very light (it is mostly tactics). The best strategy seems to be leaving a side of your board for the fourth card, that way, it will affect only one important die and you can cancel its effect if you need to with only one assistant.

The downtime can be high because the game situation changes every turn. There is no point in planning ahead, so you think only during your turn.

Bottom line, Sentient was a disappointment. I was expecting something else due to its excellent box art (I know this doesn’t make much sense ). The game is pretty light with (mostly) easy decisions and the luck factor is very high. Planning room is very small and it comes mainly from the majorities (investors). I already sold it. My desire to play it again is low. Perhaps it can be used to teach basic math to kids.

Current Rating: 4.0



Rumpelstiltskin

2017-11-29

Initial Rating: 5.0 (November 2017)

I wasn’t expecting anything good from Rumpelstiltskin, perhaps due to that, the game, pleasantly surprised me. Still, it isn’t a game for me so I already sold it. I had no idea it was two player only.

The rules of the game are very easy to teach, you can do it under 2 minutes. Playtime can be up to 30 minutes, which is way too high for such a simple game.

The art is pretty cool and I like the theme (but you don’t feel it through the game).

The goal of the game is to guess the bottom card of your opponents´ deck. Luck plays a huge role in the game, sometimes you can guess correctly without any information but as the game develops, your guesses become better. Each card has a power and deciding when to play them offers a little bit of fun. You need a bit of memory and deduction to play the game successfully (I like this) but still, it is a very light game.

Very reminiscent of Agent Hunter from AEG and it has a Love Letter feel to it as well (also from AEG).

Bottom line, Rumpelstiltskin surprised me, it is better than I was expecting, but it is still way too light for my current tastes. It also has a lot of uncontrollable luck. I could play again if requested, but I already sold my copy of the game. It could be a good game to introduce to new gamers.

Current Rating: 4.0
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4. Board Game: Kingdomino [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:186] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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KINGDOMINO

Kingdomino is a very fast and smart little game: on it, using tiles, the players build their kingdoms. The tiles have two parts (like a domino piece) and at least one of the terrain types must be placed matching another one already in place (the central tile works for any type of terrain). To make areas worth points is necessary to add terrains with crowns, as the points come from the size of the area times the number of crowns on it - thus, a forest area with size 4 and 2 crowns is worth 8 points. At the end of game, if all tiles were used, the player receives 5 points, and if her castle is at the center, 10 extra points. The person with the most points will be the winner!

Kingdomino has a lively pace, as choosing the tiles is quick, thus the downtime is quite small. Still the decisions aren't without weight: first due type of terrain and if has or not, crowns to give value to the areas you have; also the tiles are numbered, and bigger numbers go bellow, and the position of it will indicate the order of choosing tiles in the next round - therefore, a person might choose to take a higher tile, even if not so good as one bellow, in order to pick sooner in the following round.

Still, Kingdomino is quite light - playing time normally don't go above 20 minutes, even with 4 people. Kingdomino is easy to teach, and works well for 2, 3 and 4, which is very nice.

I was expecting good things from Kingdomino, and it delivered. A fine filler, with relevant decisions and fast pace. It isn't without flaws - in some turns, when you are last to pick, there can be truly no choice: you take the tile that left and the placement of the one you took can be obvious. Still, Kingdomino works well for its purpose and gives a neat experience. Definitely recommended.

Rate: 8 / 10



RIALTO

Rialto is a truly differentiated area control game, mainly because it allows to have area control without much in terms of hassle and fight for the places, often quite present in the genre; it is truly an "euromization" of one of the less euro types of mechanisms.

The mechanics of Rialto are quite well done, being simple to play and clever, demanding choices and decisions all around, as well as prioritizing - is necessary to pick which battles to take and which to let go, as simply isn't possible to try to gain many things each round; thus seeking the best opportunities to seize is a must. Rialto is mostly about balancing your choices.

A play passes in a lively rhythm, with the actions being done in a speedy execution, once the choices of which stack of cards to take and what cards to keep are done, many of the rest of round is in auto-mode.

I quite enjoy that the regions on the board don't start with a define value - what they will be worth is decided by the players, during the game - is part of the strategy to try to make regions you care the most value more at the end.

There is luck in game - most of it in the stacks available and in drawing cards. Still, I consider that decisions will matter more in the long run.

Overall, I like Rialto and recommend it.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



MORELS

Morels is a set collection game with some complications thrown in, like demanding pans to cook mushrooms, baskets to carry more things, additions to spice the food (butter and cider), decaying and night mushrooms. Yet, in its heart, is a standard set collection: managing the cards in order to obtain the maximum from them.

Thus, one takes mushrooms to form sets of at least 3 of the same kind in order to be able to cook them and, with this, earn points at the end of the game - the more mushrooms cooked, bigger the score. To cook is necessary pans - players start with one, but more are required, as each one can be used just one time. Then, to form bigger sets, one needs more room in the hand, which is what baskets do - they raise the hand limit by 2 cards. Is also possible to add butter (4+) or cider (5+) to big sets in order to make them worth more (3 and 5 additional points, respectively) - the problem is, of course, to be able to take and hold the high number of cards. Along side this, players try to grab the night mushrooms, which are worth for 2 of the normal types, but is possible to take cards with little use to yourself, that will do more harm than good, by clogging the hand of cards. Is also possible to sell 2 of the same kind of mushroom to gain sticks, which can be used to take cards further away. Finally, a player can take all the decaying cards (one, per turn, goes into decaying - up to 4 card be there). There is a good deal of options for the player.

On each round the player makes 1 action of 5 possible ones: taking one card, taking all the decaying cards (if she has room for all of them in her hand), puting down a pan, selling mushrooms for sticks, or cooking. Is mandatory to make an action if the person can make one, which means thay is possible to be obligated to sell mushrooms, wanting or not. And is likely to have to pass on a good card since the player is already at the limit in the hand, requiring the player to cook sooner than she would want, just to open some room for new cards.

Thus, Morels has a lot of planning, as players can see with 3 to 4 rounds in advance what cards will be available, hand management and search for the best opportunities. It works pretty well for 2, since the players have more control, allowing them to even manipulate the availability of cards, be to make sure that one will be up for them to grab, or to prevent the other from taking a particular one.

Though it is a 2 players game, Morels ins't truly agressive, as the hand limit hinders the chances of someone playing too mean, taking what the other wants, unless it also helps the person doing the blocking, otherwise the player will have her back on the wall quickly.

The flow of the play is lively, as turns go fast, since each player do just one action at a time, and a whole game will last around 20 minutes. There is some dose of luck in the game (basically in the night mushrooms), but good planning, decisions and timming will decide the winner.

Overall, Morels is a fine 2 players game, with an easy and relaxed gameplay, filled with a good amount of choices in a short playing time. Recommended.

Rate: 7.5 / 10



CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is an strategy game about tile placement, where players build their castles while paying the others for parts to use or receiving money when its their turn to set prices.

The game revolves around managing money - as it can go really fast - while seeking the best opportunities, both to buy cheap and to take what you need to score better, as some rooms work better with others, and finishing a room (connecting all the openings) gives bonus depending on the type of room - therefore going for pieces that connect well (in a Tetris-like manner) is important also.

It is very good that the mechanisms are well done, because the game looks awful - never once I was proud of what I built, as the castles always looked bad, with loads of cornes, huge circles, corridors and others parts in odd ways - this feel was shared by the others; not the really beautiful structures we think when talking about castles - still, Ludwig is mad. Anyway, I usually enjoy games where something is built during play, yet in here I don't find this pleasure, since I know that it will likely look ugly in the end.

However, as I mentioned, the mechanics are solid and give enough to think about and to have fun with, that I don't mind the ugliness all that much. They provided several possibilities for choices and decisions, giving many paths to achieve victory. In the choice of style of substance the designer went for the proper sutff, yet i wish that Castles of Mad King Ludwig could have both.

Rate: 7 / 10



MOMBASA

Mombasa is a game filled with options and rich in paths for players. While the set up can be hassle, preparation of the components beforehand can help a lot in this.

Explaining the game, even with its complexity, gave us less trouble than the other designer work, Great Western Trail. Also, when comparing both, the play had a more lively pace and we understood the gears of the mechanisms faster. Mombasa has a fine replay level, coming from the semi-random draw of cards as well as the set up of the companies.

The limited number of rounds pressure players in making efficient plans, trying to the get to most of all actions. This is increased with the addition of the best mechanic in the game: the way used cards form draw piles for the future, which brings forth the necessity of forming the draw piles in the best way possible, in order to use them with a greater effect and timming. The way it works is very organic and neat, truly giving much to think.

Overall, Mombasa is a game that mixes several mechanics - hand management, simultaneous action, deck building, worker placement, etc - which usually scares people, as coupled with its many possibilities, could become bloated, harder to learn and teach and too heavy, pushing the fun out and dragging the gameplay to a sluggish pace. Yet, nothing of this happens in a worrisome level. The flow is fast, quite dynamic and clever. When compared with Great Western Trail, Mombasa is a little less fun (likely due to the theme), drier and more mechanical, yet it seems to be more well-round and tighter, even with both demanding long term planning. Recommended!

Rate: 7 / 10



MAQUIS

Maquis is a solitaire work placement, set in WWII - the player represents the Resistance, the Maquisards (hence the name of the game). The goal is to fulfill two objectives in 14 rounds. To do this, the player uses her agents to use the locations in France in order to gain the necessary items and information in order to achieve the goals. The game is lost if the player loses all her agents, the Morale of the citizens drop to zero, or if the time ends (going to the 15th round) without an objective being done. There are the possibility of a draw, if any of the losing conditions happen, but the player managed to complete one of the goals.

The mechanics for Maquis are easy to understand, yet the game is challenging, managing to have a nice scale in difficulty, as harder missions can be attempted. Set up and tear down are minimal, and with a playing time of around 15 to 20 minutes, many plays can happen in just a couple of hours - which is rather good, since it matches well with the difficulty and the luck in placement of guards/soldiers, as usually these can be avoid with a chain of agents, yet, every now and then, a game can be lost due to bad luck, with them closing completely the access of the agents to the Safe House (at the end of the each round, the agents must return to the Safe House, otherwise they are arrested).

The game is quite pretty, but being a PnP, the components quality may vary a lot.

Overall, Maquis is a neat solo game - it offers challenge, decisions and scales in difficulty (a much needed feature many solo games lack), while having smooth mechanics and gameplay, all wrap up inside a 20 minutes playing time. Recommended.

Rate: 7 / 10



IMAGINE

In Imagine players use transparent cards, with some simple drawing on them, positioning next to or superimposed, in order to form clues for the other players, in order to one of them to give the correct answer.

Imagine is an OK little game: it doens't offend, allows for some good laughs, and is totally a party game - is hard to take it too seriously, given the huge different in difficulty in the answers. It was really a missed opportunity not making the answers divided by difficulty, giving more points for the harder ones, as done in Concept - which ends up being quite superior to Imagine.

Still, Imagine isn't bad - if there is some control over the time used to give clues and to get the answer, it can be quite quick and lively, working well specially among people not used to (or keen to play) more complex board games, as these might soon see problems with it.

Rate: 6 / 10



CODENAMES: PICTURES

Codenames: Pictures is Codenames with, as the name mentions, pictures instead of words. The images have multiple elements, which can lead to several possibilities of meaning and understanding - a rich ground for the spymaster.

This is the good part. The bad is that this wider field leads to increase in AP of the spymasters, trying to fit more answers to the clues, and the same goes to the players trying to make sense of the clues. Since my gripe with Codenames was the downtime, just scratching my chin, waiting to do something. Codenames: Pictures makes this worst whille not truly adding much in terms of fun - there is a little more possibility in making mistakes, due to the bigger openness in meanings, yet the counterpoint is, often, safer - and more boring - clues.

Overall, Codenames: Pictures is simply a worst, for me, than the original. Not by a whole lot, mind you, and not bad enough that I would refuse to play - just weak enough for me to think in several other party games I enjoy much more.

Rate: 6 / 10



YAMATAI

Yamataï is a neat game: is pretty, has a nice set of decisions, indirect interaction, is somewhat easy to teach and play. It could be a big winner. But it wasn't. That is mainly due to time - the amount of it that I expend not playing.

I'm rarely bothered by downtime in games. I like to play, I enjoy the environment they create and often is interesting to see what the others are doing. Still, on Yamataï I just couldn't ignore the downtime. Not only the turns tend to be long - yes, yes, maybe you and your beautiful and smart friends play fast, but I don't play with them or you -, as the game has all the informations of the round open at the start of it - there won't be a random draw of cards, of events, no dice roll. This leads to more control, and normally a min-max situation: players keep taking long turns in order to calculate many possibilities, trying to find the one that will give just one more point. "Four is good. Hummmmm...." (1 minute of ponderation) "But this will give me 5 if I buy this boat, move this to there and place these there. Nice! So I will do th-- no, no. Wait a minute. Can I get that other building? Let me see... If I took that tile"...

And there is basically nothing to do in the other players turn. There aren't off-turn plays. No response necessary. No direct interaction that goes more than give or take a few coins from one person to the other.

What is more - since the board state can change a lot, with the addition of boats, some possible movements and openings, and the taking of an assistent tile or a building - there is not even a good reason to actually start planning before your turn is up. Something you couldn't do just one turn before, now you can - and something you could, you can't, or simply isn't the best maximum point gathering you can make now.

One person truly wouldn't miss anything objectively important if, after playing her turn, she would leave the table to do something else, and just return when called. Your presence wouldn't be required for anything (if you trust the people you are playing with, of course), and your planning wouldn't be faster if you were there.

To add insult to injury, is possible, and happens quite often, a person can be the first to play this round, and be the last to play in the next round. Meaning, in a 4 player's game, to wait 6 turns to happen before playing again.

Yamataï doesn't have other major flaws: it offers multiple paths to victory, interactions between strategies and the assistents, a good amount of room for timely actions and opportunity play. When] you are playing, the game is good - the problem is that, when you aren't, Yamataï is mind numbing. The playing time tells the whole story: it should last 40 minutes, but it takes 80 (or more).

Yamataï will be a great candidate for game platforms of asynchronous play, specially turn-based. Yet, sadly, I play it live. If you are going to do the same, try to play with gut-players, or else, with the min-max crowd, you are in for a treat.

Rate: 5 / 10



LOVE LETTER PREMIUM

I often wonder why some decisions are made - in several areas of life, but, in this case, particularly with games.

And now is the case with Love Letter Premium. I'm sure that many avid players clamored by a party version (i.e: more players) of Love Letter. And considering the amount of copies the game has sold, cranking more versions of Love Letter became a market on itself.

Yet, from my point of view, I can't see why anyone would want a longer, more drawn out, with waaaaaaaaaay more downtime (specially if you are eliminated early) and much more bash the leader - as there is more players to do this. It is baffling.

Love Letter Premium did tried to even things out, bringing some interesting new characters, like the Bishop, the Constable and the Jester, that can bring more points for a round - which is the hope for the game actually ending around the same time as a regular Love Letter game, still, they usually don't, as they use chance to work.

So, what you do get is a more chaotic game, with less chance for Guards to hit, some unexpected effects (specially more ties when using the Baron), that takes around 45 to 1 hour (not the 20-30 minutes mentioned in the game's page, which can happen, but more often than not is a lie), in which downtime is increased and the person herself play less.

Lover Letter is a gem - it basically started the whole micro-game world (there were others before it, but none as ubiquitous, played and well known). Now it was, in Love Letter Premium, turned into a bloated mess. If I can't see why someone would want a game like this, I can see why it was made: money. I will do my part and say: stay away and be happy.

Rate: 3.5 / 10


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5. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:49] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Jim Jamieson
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Another great month of games for me with lots of great games this month and some new Spiel hotness. Still got a bunch more Spiel games to get through but lots of favorites already that I hope to play again soon.

== NEW GAMES ==

Azul - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017


I was not convinced of this game, but with how great Century is I decided to take a chance on this one too. Simple rules, but plenty of tough decisions throughout on what tiles to take and from where, plus what row to place them in since the tiles you take only go into 1 row on your board. So much crammed in to about 45 minutes, I wish I could have played it again right after. A few more plays of this I could see this jumping to a 9 as it is that good. Plan B has another hit on their hands.

Mini Rails - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017


What a great train game distilled down to 2 simple actions. Buy shares or build tracks. As you build tracks share value changes for all players of course, but it still may not score unless that color disc is ignored in 1 of the 6 rounds. All the discs for each round are laid out and depending on the disc you take will also determine turn order for the next round. Simple to explain, but agonizing decisions and there is the ability to build temporary alliances throughout. There aren't many games in my collection that start with 3 players, but this one is a definite keeper.

The Climbers - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2008


I wasn't sure what to think of this game when I bought it, but it's a very intriguing abstract strategy game where you are trying to be king of the hill. On your turn you move and then hopefully move and rotate another block in the tower in a way so you can use it to move up again. Throughout the game you have 3 one time use abilities (a small ladder, a large ladder, and a blocking piece). The ladders help you move up in higher gaps and the blocker piece ensures a piece can't be moved until your turn comes around again. This is definitely a game where you stand up and walk around the table to play, and has you thinking more and more the longer the game goes on. The first few rounds went quick, but as we got towards the top we really were thinking about how to keep moving up. A very different game that has great table presence and I'm really happy I decided to buy this one.

Concordia: Aegyptus / Creta - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017


Played the Egypt map and definitely enjoyed the slightly different rules with gold and frankincense that can net you coins and victory points at the cost of losing a ship for the game. I also liked how the one sea region required a colonist to get into which was another neat wrinkle on the typical play along with the bonus food marker that moved up the Nile.

While Crete doesn't have as many changes, the changes in Egypt are alone worth the price to me. Very happy to have this map.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2012


Hard to believe I hadn't played this one as it's always been a highly regarded 2 player game. I enjoyed my play and I am pretty sure we played in about 35-40 minutes which was great. 8 rounds, 24 actions is all you have to build your pastures for all your animals. You definitely need to expand so your animals get bonus points and that is something I need to focus on more in my next game is expanding early and more than just 1 board. I look forward to trying the expansions for the additional buildings to see just how much they may change the strategy from game to game. The only thing I'm not sure of is if my wife would play this. It's light and easy but not the kind of game she typically likes so the actual chance of it being played often is hard to say right now.

Tiny Park - 5 plays -  7 
First Published 2017


A very simple kids game of using Yahtzee rolls to match symbols on Tetris tiles to fill in your 20 square grid. My daughter crushed me in both games, good 15 minutes fun although it’s a lot of little pieces to setup so you might as well play twice.

Glory to Rome - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2005


Finally got a chance to play Chudyk's classic and it met my expectations. Every card does different things and the building powers are definitely as crazy as advertised. We played with 5 and I fear that's not the best number since there is a lot of going around the table twice each turn and made the game almost 2 hours. While the game is very thinky it is fun to play and I definitely think the game is worth the effort to learn. The game took up a lot of table space and we had cards everywhere so it felt like a lot to take in, but it's a game I can definitely see myself thinking about over the next few weeks which is always a good sign.

London (second edition) - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017


Having played the first edition I will say I liked this edition better but it still does not do much to stand out for me. The art is great and I do like the fact that they got rid of the board as it does seem to turn this into more of a true card game. For a Wallace game it was punishing and there was a lot of poverty, but money was plentiful so there was no need to take loans. I imagine we could have taken loans to play some of the higher victory point cards, but since no one went after them we did just fine without them. A solid design for sure, but I feel this tableau builder is a more complex San Juan and is too just punishing to be fun.

Whistle Stop - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017


Gamer Tsuro is the best way to describe this as you are building paths with your tiles to try and get to the other end of the board. There are some fiddly movement rules such as you can use coal to pass through your own trains, but not those of your opponent seems odd to me. I like the idea of building the board as you go and the random setup of the first column, fourth column, and last column definitely adds to the variability and I like the penalty of 10 points for not playing a special tile since it forces these to come onto the board. However, there was just nothing exciting about this game like most pickup and deliver games it feels rather procedural. Move to a space, collect a good, and on a later turn move to another space and turn it in for a stock or special power. No sense of building up anything just moving along and taking your actions. It makes for a rather smooth playing game, but one that is not very exciting. Finally, the pastel colors are an interesting choice. I get why they made the decision, but man do they look weird on the board.

Transatlantic - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017


A solid Mac Gerdts game but it doesn't live up to Concordia or Navegador to me. You can definitely see the influence the Concordia style card play and Navegador type scoring had on this one though. However, the game just feels so abstracted by simply playing ships into columns and there seem to be a bunch of fiddly rules and exceptions that could be improved with better graphical choices (i.e. remembering coal costs 50 is not on the invest card and the color choices are so close with no discerning icon for the flags). The decisions also felt easier since you never really felt short resources like you do in Concordia you just played a card that got you the most money or points each turn. It may sound like I'm putting the game down a fair bit I just don't see it living up to those other 2 games and like the decisions in those games more than this one.

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2017


A quick game where you draw lines to try and connect worms and flowers to a different scoring area in each of the 5 rounds. However, if you score less points compared to the previous round you'll lose 5 points for that round so there is some strategy of scoring low and trying to slowly build your score. It might even make sense to purposefully take 0 or 1 points in the first round and work on connecting the corners of your board for end game scoring conditions. Overall I enjoyed my play of the game, but didn't think it was anything special and there are more enjoyable 30 minute games that I would rather play. Lastly, one comment on component quality, the dry erase boards are a nice touch, but the erasers on the markers smeared more than they actually erased so keep some tissues handy for cleanup at the end.
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6. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1069]
Peter D
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Nusfjord – A wonderful Rosenberg game, and very different to the others

Nusfjord shows that Uwe Rosenberg is still on form and still coming up with innovative new angles on the Worker Placement mechanism. This is my favourite Essen 2017 game so far. And it really is not like any other of his games. Really.

It certainly isn't like Glass Road, a game it lazily gets compared to. Glass Road is closer to Witches Brew/Broom Service than it is to Nusfjord. I love Glass Road and I love Nusfjord, but the only similarity is the designer, some buildings, and a few forests.

Nusfjord plays in about 20 minutes per player, even on your first game, and plays well especially with five, though four is very good too.

Nusfjord is an excellent medium weight game centred largely around the interesting fish-serving mechanic - this mechanic generates gold/vps as well as being the element which triggers the ability to use the powerful Elder cards. The game is therefore about the tactical timing of this fish serving, as well as the strategic building of an engine of card combos, your fishing ability, and your fish retention abilities.

It feels very different from any other Uwe games, despite the apparent similarities with worker placement and building powers.

I like this game and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who likes Rosenberg games.





Lisboa – Brilliant, complex, multi-layered Euro

From the two games I have played by the designer of Lisboa, and from what I know of some of his other games, I would not call myself a Vital Lacerda fan. I love a complex Euro but CO2 was a bore to me and The Gallerist had too many unrelated mechanisms fighting for attention. So I was expecting Lisboa to be more of the same.

Boy was I wrong. This game is simply wonderful. Whilst it does not quite have the elegance of Madeira, where the layers of complexity are expressed as a seamless integrated engine of beauty, it gets pretty damn close. Lisboa to me is a wonderful array of interlocking mechanisms which make thematic sense and inter-relate to each other with brain-melting delight. I have played it twice, done very badly on each occassion, and loved every minute of both games.

A must for all who love a heavy, thematic, smooth playing Euro.







Caverna: Cave vs Cave – Solid two-player Worker Placement

Whilst Caverna: Cave vs Cave is nothing like Caverna it is still a great two-player game. It's as successful a game as the 2-player version of All Creatures Big & Small is. And just as open to expansion buildings to give it more variety.












Schollen Rollen – Knizia-by-numbers

Reina Knizia with another push-your-luck dice game. There is no need to own this, absolutely no need at all. It is quicker than Heckmeck, but in every other way it is inferior.











Tybor der Baumeister – Short thinky filler

The third in the Pfister trilogy of Port Royal, Royal Goods and now Tybor der Baumeister . I love Port Royal and thought Royal Goods (Oh My Goods) to be OK. Tybor der Baumeister removes the push-your-luck element of Port Royal and Oh My Goods, working as a clever and quick card drafting game.

This game is good. It is a card drafting game where your hand of cards work in one of three ways: (1) as citizens which you are collecting in sets and which offer discounts on buildings; (2) as workers which operate as a currency for purchasing buildings; and (3) as builders which you discard to build a building using the worker currency you have previously drafted. You then build buildings which give VPs in various ways.

There are a myriad of ways to score points and the game offers loads to think about in a quick 20 minutes of fast card drafting.

I put this above Royal Goods but below Port Royal in my ranking of the three.








Pioneer Days – Polished dice drafter with an element of disaster-management

Pioneer Days is a game of dice drafting where the chosen dice triggers an action, or income, or the taking of a citizen card. Some dice you draft trigger combos of effects from your previously selected cards and equipment. The dice not selected each round trigger a disaster track which eventually causes one of a number of different disasters to happen. Over the course of a game most of these disasters will likely happen at least once. You can spend turns building up a defence agains the potential disasters, or you can ignore them and run with the destruction they impart.

It plays in an hour and gives a good amount of decisions in that time without ever feeling heavy or difficult. Variable powers of your starting characters, as well as a number of decks of character cards, means that there is a huge amount of variety to explore in the game.

I enjoyed it with the exception of the TMG artwork. It's a personal thing but I really do not like the TMG in-house cartoon style illustrations which they used on Harbour, Belfort, and which destroyed the previously brilliant Colosseum. Other than that the game is well-presented and very good indeed.







Clans of Caledonia – Good economic spatial game of fulfilling contracts.

I am not sure about the Terra Mystica references with respect to Clans of Caledonia. Yes it has home hexes from which you expand your territory, and yes there is a bonus for expanding next to another player, but really that is about it.

It is an economic engine game played with a spatial aspect. I like it.
You spread out over the hexes producing either farm basics, or building factories and turning those basics into bread, whiskey and cheese. The game then mainly revolves around the fulfilment of contracts based on you providing the goods to meet a contract. There are other ways to get points but the contracts are the main method.

My fears are that the asymmetric clan powers are so strong that they effectively dictate your strategy. I wonder if playing without them would give the game more space to breathe in terms of adopting a strategy? And the game end scoring can be swingy with three of the goods you make in the contracts having a price which varies according to their rarity on said contracts.

Clans of Caledonia is an enjoybable game to play, not so mentally challenging as the Terra Mystica game it is compared to. How much replay-ability there is in it time will tell, but for now I am enjoying it.








Calimala – Innovative mechanic driving area-majority scoring. Clever.

Calimala is a terrific area majority game. I'm not a big fan of area majority games, particularly the take-that swingy nature of them. I respect El Grande a great deal, but you can be devastated by the negative attacking actions of others. Calimala gets around this with its very clever mechanism which means all actions are positive. In fact taking the action you want will often trigger another player also getting the action. The way this all works is just so very clever, I cannot think of another word for it.

Such a clever clever game. And it definitely plays best with 4 or 5.









Claim – 2-player trick-taker

A two-player trick-taking game. That's a rare old thing. Here, in a style reminiscent of For Sale, you spend the first half of the game building up a hand to use in the second half of the game. Unlike For Sale the cards in the two halves are identical. So it is a round of trick-taking to determine your hand for a round of trick-taking.

Mix in a bunch of suits all with special powers and you're away.

It worked OK for me, nothing more.












Outlive – Puzzley Euro: resource collection with a spatial optimisation aspect

Despite the dystopian post-apocalyptic Ameritrash theme and artwork Outlive is at heart pure Euro. Your four people go around a rondel, upto two spaces at a time, activating the various spaces, but, and this is the key, only if you are not already present in that space. This small rule means the game takes on a real puzzley feel as you try and ensure your people get to the right place in the right order. On top of this your people have different powers and if you turn up some place with weaker other people there you steal some stuff form them.

The game is hugely stressful to play, and I mean that in a good brain-burning way.

It is an interesting puzzle. You are ultimately trying to fill your rooms with people, but that means feeding your people. So you need to build an engine early in the game to maximise your abilities on the rondel, and you do this with the objects and rooms you acquire.

There is nothing particularly innovative here, but there is a great deal to think about and the interplay of rondel/action/feeding is a puzzle worth checking out.










Majesty: For the Realm – Splendor-like filler with admin issues

Majesty: For the Realm has been touted as a new Splendor-like filler, and with Hans Im Gluk on board as publishers the signs were good. Sadly the game is a bit too fiddley in the admin department to really work. You are constantly shifting cards along the line of the central card pool, and on every fast turn you are calculating how much cash you get and seeking to get the change from the bank. And some cards mean everyone is taking small coins on each turn and changing big coins for small - so there are often many fingers in the bank trying to get change at the same time. It is the sort of game which would work well as an app to take care of all the admin.












Gaia Project – Unnecessarily complex version of Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica in space. Gaia Project has been labelled the Terra Mystica Killer. I am not so sure. But then TM is one of my favourite games, so Gaia had a long climb to reach such heights. It failed.

The main improvement Gaia has over TM is the tech tree (instead of the priest track). It is brilliant. Also the tech tiles (the favor tiles in TM) are more balanced with the removal of the TM Earth 1 tile (having only three Earth 1 tiles, which gives 2 points for every dwelling built, is a major issue with TM as it is by far the most powerful Favour).
Oh, and the modular board gives this game more variety.

The downsides?
To me the game just got unnecessarily more complex:
- the Transdim planets add an unnecessary level of complexity.
- The green G.I.C. cubes add another currency and so another level of complexity
- the Variable end-game bonuses will play into the strengths of certain races. This can only be overcome by auctioning off the races.
- the way towns (now called colonies) are built is much looser and less easy to grasp. Towns are so easy they become less challenging to build. Maybe this could also be seen as a good thing.
- adjacency is two spaces which is less easy to see.
- longer playtime, and TM is not what you would call short.
- the plastic bits are...well, plastic.


So at the moment I still prefer TM, which is much easier to teach and plays more intuitively. The Tech Tree in Gaia is great, if only they had simply ended the changes at that.











Azul – A relaxing game...until you find the nasty sting in its tail

Azul is an abstract game and one which seems to be becoming one of the hits of Essen. I found the tile-laying to be a pleasant enough game, with good and interesting simple spatial decisions. What I was not expecting, and fear may be the undoing of the game with a wider public, is the way a round can end with some real brutal play forcing opponents to take a bunch of negative points. And with this some kingmaking may be inevitable, as you can be in a position where you decide who takes the negatives that will arise.

So I started off thinking this is a must-buy game my family can play together, a sort of King Domino, which they love, but with more going on. But by the end of the game I had changed my mind: the take-that elements presenting themselves at the end of many rounds mean it is too nasty a game for my family. Maybe even so much that it threatens its possible SDJ potential?










Transatlantic – Too dry, too repetitive, too long

Transatlantic, from the hand of the brilliant Mac Gerdts, has been in development for some time and anticipation was high. The card play is straight from Concordia, but there the similarities end.

In Transatlantic you are in a cycle of ship building, ship sailing, and taking income from your ships at sea thereby fueling another ship-buying spree. The game is more or less that: buy, sail, take income, buy, sail...etc. Rinse and repeat.

The problem is that there is no arc within the game: there is not a great deal of evolution - the ships just become more costly and your revenues grow. And the game lasts over two hours, and really overstays its welcome.

A major disappointment.
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7. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:9.02 Overall Rank:1]
Tally C
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New York
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"We have to change our way of thinking if we really want to change the future." - Saki Watanabe, "Shin Sekai Yori"
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For November 2017, I played six new games and zero new expansions (hard to believe it, but apparently that’s what happened!).

== NEW GAMES ==


Gloomhaven - 11 plays -  8 
First Published 2017

* Comments: My new-to-me game of the month is Gloomhaven. Though I’m not quite as infatuated with it as a lot of other BGGers, I like it quite a bit and with 11 plays in one month, it definitely deserves to take the top spot this month.

Our copy of the second printing of Gloomhaven arrived this month and it’s been pretty successful with us. We started a campaign with a Mindthief (me) and Brute (Tyler) and were surprised to find just how tough the game is at the beginning! There have been many failed attempts, but some successful ones as well, and it’s pleasing to see our strategy improve as we get more experienced with the game system.

My favorite mechanic of the game is probably the action card system. Combining two actions on each card and playing two cards at a time allows for some planning, but also some flexibility, which is a very cool combination of strategy and tactics that I don’t recall ever seeing before in a dungeon crawler. The concept of “Lost” cards is really innovative as well, as your deck acts as a type of clock until scenario failure. A lot of your strongest actions will be one-time use (meaning you lose the card for the rest of the scenario), which causes you to question when you should use it. Furthermore, you lose a card whenever you rest, so running out of time is inevitable eventually.

There are some small aspects of the game that are a bit fiddly (e.g. constant shuffling of enemy action decks), or that I wish were a little different (e.g. I wish leveling up to level 2 was a little quicker), but these are mostly nitpicks. The legacy element of the game is fine, but I’m not blown away by it (though since we recently finished up Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, we’re probably difficult to impress right now). Overall, we’re having a lot of fun with the game and I look forward to many more plays. It will probably not end up my favorite dungeon crawler, but it’s a really good one with some really unique and innovative mechanics.


Yamataï - 2 plays -  8 
First Published 2017

* Comments: Yamataï is my runner up for the month. Gifted to Tyler for his birthday by our good friend, Yamataï is a game where players are making routes of colorful ships to claim favor tokens and construct buildings. In true Cathala style, the rules for the game are fairly straight-forward, but the gameplay itself is full of meaningful decisions. At the beginning of each round, players will pick an available boat tile in player order. In a two-player game, players each get two turns. These boat tiles each have a number and an effect on them, with lower numbers meaning you get to take your turn earlier (but with weaker effects) and higher numbers meaning you must take you turn later (but with stronger effects). On their turn, players will claim any boats listed on their boat tile, optionally trade coins for one boat of their choice from the bank (except gold boats), place their boats, and either collect favor tokens or build a building. There are some light restrictions on boat placement and buildings can only be built on an island that no longer has a favor token. Buildings are generally constructed from the common supply and must be built on an island that has the listed number and color of boats surrounding it. Favor tokens can be turned in for Specialists, which offer players boosts on existing actions, or entirely new options.

I really enjoyed the cerebral nature of Yamataï, which gives off a similar vibe as Five Tribes. Like Five Tribes, you’re thinking of paths and how creating a path can chain into future actions. Mechanically, though, there’s a lot of differences between the two games. A lot of the special effects on actions can radically change the board, which can allow you to set yourself for big moves on the same turn. There’s also a bit more of a blocking and denying aspect when it comes to claiming an area (in Five Tribes it was camels and in Yamataï it’s buildings), due to certain boat tile effects, specialist effects, and the fact that players can’t build on an island until the favor token on it is claimed. To me, Yamataï feels heavier with more choices. That doesn’t mean it’s better than Five Tribes, just different. At the moment, I’m not sure which I like better, because I like them both quite a bit (and they’re certainly different enough to warrant owning both).

Sentient - 1 play -  7.8 
First Published 2017

* Comments: I’ve had my eye on Sentient ever since it was announced, due to its wonderful box art and awesome dice. It arrived in a recent shipment of games and we had the chance to get it to the table for the first time this month.

Sentient is a puzzley game that combines light card drafting, light area control, and light set collection into a combination that feels greater than the sum of its parts. Each card that players draft from the central card supply goes into their player areas (which has four card slots per round), each of which contain five dice. Since each card has its own scoring objective based on the values of the adjacent dice and placing cards will often compel players to increase or decrease the values of those dice, players will have to consider which cards’ objectives they can reasonably complete. They’ll also have to decide when it’s worth using one of their assistants to cancel one mandatory increase/decrease of a die when a card is place. These five assistants can also be utilized in the area control aspect of the game which determines the winners of the five faction tokens each round. These faction tokens award bonus points at the end of the game for each corresponding card.

The game concludes after just three brisk rounds, but each choice you make feels meaningful. I found the task of setting my own goals (in regard to my personal player area each round) and then completing them to be extremely satisfying. The area control portion of the game keeps it from feeling like a completely solitaire experience, which I also appreciate. Sentient provided us with a really clean, satisfying gameplay experience that’s not quite like anything we’ve played before. And, as expected, the art and components are excellent.



Codex: Card-Time Strategy – Core Set - 1 play -  7.5 
First Published 2016

* Comments: After hearing boatloads of praise for this unassuming-looking card game, I ordered a copy of the Codex Core Set. Then it sat on the shelf for a few months because despite my love of head-to-head card games, sometimes it’s hard to get them to the table. A Sirlin Store sale on the week of Black Friday finally gave us the push we needed to get it to the table (we wanted to see if we liked the game enough to buy some more factions, which were currently on sale).

Since it was our very first game, we played 1-Hero Mode with me playing Red (with the Fire Hero) and Tyler playing Green (with the Growth Hero). Codex is unabashedly a mash-up between Magic: the Gathering and Real Time Strategy games like Warcraft and Starcraft, but it also adds in its own special touches. Mana is replaced with a gold economy system, driven by your workers. You start with 4 or 5 workers (depending on turn order) and can recruit one new one each round by spending a gold and culling a card from your deck. Each worker produces one coin during production and these coins are what you spend to play cards. The playing of some cards is restricted by whether you have Heroes deployed, or whether you have the correct tech building. Tech buildings are purchased by gold and they allow you to deploy stronger cards.

There are two aspects of Codex that really make it stand out from the pack of head-to-head card games: the codices and the patroller line. At the end of each round (until much later in the game), you’ll add two cards from your codex to your deck. They can be two copies of the same card, or two different cards, and your opponent will not know what they are. This allows you to adapt your strategy over time as well as having greater control over the cards you draw. Though I really enjoy deck construction games where you build your entire deck before the game, Codex offers a really innovative spin on it, making it a more tactical experience.

The patroller line is a special area where you can slot unit cards to basically act as defenders. When a player attacks another player, they must engage with the defender’s patroller line before they can attack anything else. Each spot in the patrol line gets a special bonus (e.g. taunt, +1 gold on death, +1 shield, etc.). This adds a nice extra layer of strategy to the game and as a bonus, since the defender makes all defense decisions on his or her turn, combat resolves fairly quickly.

We enjoyed playing Codex so much that we went ahead and ordered the two faction expansions and their codex binders. I look forward to trying out more factions as well as playing the full 3-Hero Mode.

Skyward - 1 play -  7.5 
First Published 2017

* Comments: Though I like the mechanic, we don’t own very many I-Split-You-Choose style games. Probably because many of them aren’t intended to play with only two players, which is our usual player count. So when I heard that Skyward was this type of game and, by some people’s opinion, played well with two players, I knew we had to pick it up.

Skyward is a very straight-forward game where the beginning of a round whoever has the Warden token splits up a stack of cards depending on the number of players in the game (in a 2-player game, it’s eight cards). The cards in the base game deck are either resource cards, buildings, or instant action cards. The Warden divides the cards however he or she wants in a number of stacks equal to the number of players. Then, he or she places the Warden token on top of one of the stacks and then each player takes a turn claiming a stack, ending with the person who split the cards. Whoever takes the stack with the Warden token gets a cog (a wild resource) and will be the first to play that round. Instant cards are triggered immediately upon grabbing them and get placed in that player’s field. Everything else goes into the player’s hand. On a player’s turn, they can optionally play one building (most which take resources, which are consumed) and then optionally turn in any three cards for a cog (as many times as they want). They discard down to 6 cards and then play moves onto the next player. Once everyone has taken a turn, a new round starts with the Warden dividing up cards. That’s it. The final game round is triggered when either the deck is depleted or any player has six buildings in their field. Players count up the VP on cards in their field and whoever has the most points wins.

I found this to be a card game with really simple rules, but some tough decisions, which is exactly the kind of thing I look for in card games. Splitting up the cards can be really tough, with the most balanced result being that each stack is equally underwhelming. There’s also a bit of a memory element to the game, since players keep their hand from round to round (though you often won’t know the exact contents, since players will be discarding cards) and there are a lot of cards that combo with each other. It’s a very smart game and we found for us it did play well with two! Glad we grabbed this one.

Dixit - 1 play -  6.5 
First Published 2008

* Comments: Somehow I’ve gone until this month without playing the whimsical favorite, Dixit. Tyler and I went over to our friend’s place for a bit of a game day with him and his fiance. This was the second game we played, which his fiance quite enjoys (she crushed us, by the way).

Since I’ve played many other games that are similar, like Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, and Mysterium, I had a good idea of what to expect. Balancing your clue so it’s not too obvious, but not too obscure, was a nice twist, though. I could definitely see this playing a little better with more players (even just added one more in I felt could improve it), though I enjoyed our game. I would certainly not be opposed to playing it again, but I think we’re fine with not owning this one since Mysterium has a fair number of similarities and is cooperative as well.



It was a solid month overall; not the strongest this year, nor the weakest.



Note: Thanks to Grimwold for his New to You Tool which helped me generate my list.
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8. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:71]
Joe Wyka
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I was torn between Trajan and Lisboa for game of the month. I decided on Trajan because a Feld game is pretty easy to assess and I feel like my 8 rating is solid and unlikely to change. However, Lisboa could climb or drop with more plays, it is hard to say. So while I'm putting Trajan ahead of Lisboa for now, Lisboa could potentially have a higher rating a year from now. We will see!

As always, in order of preference...



Trajan - 8
With a sharp mancala-inspired action selection core and lots of intertwining mechanisms, this is definitely one of the best Feld designs I've played.

I feel like in discussing any Stephan Feld design, you first need to place yourself within the spectrum of Feldian fandom. Trajan is the 10th Feld title I have played and rated. My average rating is 6.89 and my highest rating of "8" I have given to 3 games: Macao, The Castles of Burgundy, and now Trajan. I will say I have yet to play a badly designed Feld game, but neither have any of his games been home runs or personal favorites. For me, his games run the spectrum of meh to really enjoyable and Trajan is definitely in the latter camp.

The core of Trajan is pure mancala-inspired action mechanic where a player picks up a pile of colored action stones from one bowl and distributes them, one at a time, to other bowls in a clockwise direction. The last bowl to get an action stone is the action that the player performs. There are lot of tiles to collect, people you can turn into workers or legionnaires, senate voting for end game points, people's demands to satisfy, bonus actions to gain,... and more! Most of these choices generate points (or prevent from losing them), hence the "point salad" label. Despite the amount of small point increments players can constantly gain, there are specific paths that generate larger point totals over a few turns and players who plan best balancing short and longer-term opportunities will come out ahead. I very much enjoyed manipulating the mancala stones to get the actions and bonus actions I was shooting for and figuring out where to most effectively expend my energy. Really good stuff!




Lisboa - 8
So challenging to rate and comment on first plays of a Lacerda game, since all you are doing for the most part is getting your head around the mechanics. While this is true, I think that my score is within a point - up or down - of where it will finally land.

It has gotten to be that you can predict pretty closely what you are going to get when you play a Lacerda game: a fairly straight-forward central action mechanic, but with each action having tricky rules and implications for how it unfolds; seemingly indirectly-related activities that reveal themselves in the end to be tightly inter-dependent; a very limited number of turns that can be enhanced by building on the actions of other players; the ability to customize your own scoring through the open drafting of target goals. Lisboa, much like Vinhos and (from a rules read) The Gallerist, shares just about all of these qualities.

In Lisboa, players are contributing to the rebuilding of Lisbon destroyed by earthquake, fires and a tsunami. As a result, building sites are littered with rubble specific to all three disasters. Players build stores to produce goods and contribute to public works so that their stores score points. When you build a store or public work you collect rubble from the sites and every set of three different kinds of rubble increases the size of your warehouses, the size of your tableau and allows you to draw extra goal cards when you take that action. You can also sell goods overseas for money and the owner of the ship that sells it (you or another player) gets points. At game's end you get points for having the most stores on a particular street, for placing your "officials" into public buildings (which is a requirement for building them), for every set of rubble, for money, for ships, and for the goal cards that you've collected.

How does all of this work? Players have a hand of five cards. On a turn you can play a card to your tableau (called your "portfolio") or to the court on the main board. Cards added to your tableau give you a one-time bonus when added and influence points ongoing and possibly a monetary benefit. Most cards also allow you to take 1-2 state actions for the cost of a good each. State actions allow you to produce goods in your stores, build ships, collect royal favors, prepare officials for public service, sue for favors from the cardinal, or collect plans for public works (also required to build them). If you play a card to the court, this allows you to build stores, build public works or collect goal cards - and other players can play favors to piggy-back on your action out of turn.

So just with this brief summary, you can see the interconnectedness of all actions. While it is pretty clear what actions are available to you, it is initially hard to wrap your head around just how connected they are and how to best leverage them. However, after a play, it certainly starts to clarify. Since it takes a few games to "get in the flow", it is challenging to know just where my opinion will end up landing, but I definitely am interested enough to find out!




High Society - 8
Excellent 15 minute filler auction game with some deliciously devious choices.

I have been playing this game as a phone app for a while and finally got my physical copy to the table this month. We all really enjoyed it. How many years has it taken me to pull this game off of my shelf? Unbelievable. It will not remain a stranger to my table any longer!

Players bid for tiles as they are revealed from a stack at the center of the table. Good tiles give you points (1-10) or "x2" multipliers. Bad tiles remove a point card that you've won, halve your points, or give you "-5". Bids for good tiles are standard, although your bid cards jump in value as they get higher and you cannot make change. Sometimes you are forced to up your bid more than you'd like because it's all you have left. For the bad cards, players bid to not take them. All bids are paid and the first player to pass takes it. The brilliant twist, though, is that the player with the least money left at the end automatically loses. The game plays quick, the decisions are interesting, and the mechanics inspire much taunting and goading. Everything you want in a simple, thinky filler.




First Class - 8
Interesting choices abound in this mid-weight card game! A game that feels equally at home played with the kids (aged 10 and 15) or broken out at game night. With that range of audience, this is a definite keeper.

This is supposed to be the card game version of Russian Railroads, but it has been so long since I've played the former game that I did not find it all that similar - but I could just be forgetting. It certainly does not feel like a board game being replicated entirely with cards (looking at you, The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game), which allowed me to learn, play, and enjoy the game on its own merits.

Players draft action cards from a central display in order to accomplish a few different things in their personal tableau: grow the number and value of rail cars for two trains, build and travel a rail line for points and bonuses, move conductors along your trains so more of them score, and collect money which can be spent to advance in all of these areas as well. The game comes with 5 modules in addition to the basic one, only 2 of which are in any given game. Picking the modules changes your actions and focus for each game, providing a bit of built-in variety and an easy way to expand game play with small decks of cards. It's largely a game of tactics and opportunity with a satisfying sense of accomplishment as your tableau grows. Some people say there is a dominant strategy, but others say it is an illusion that fades with more experience. I guess I'll have to come to my own conclusion down the road...




Bunny Kingdom - 7
An appealing cross between the pass-n-draft of 7 Wonders and the area control piece-placement of Kingdom Builder, which is one of my favorite games. If replayability remains high, my score will rise!

This was my most-played game this month. I'm clear on the game's flaws - it lacks originality, the board is not changeable, the game is not expandable (a positive for some), the parchment cards are vastly disproportional in value, and I don't think I'd play it at any count other than 4 players. However, I really like it.

The game takes place over 4 rounds with a scoring at the end of each. Every round players are dealt a hand of 10 cards. Players play two and pass the rest. There are 3 kinds of cards: exploration cards which have coordinates corresponding to every space on the board and allows you to place your bunnies, buildings which enhance spaces with towers or resources where your bunnies are already placed, and parchment cards that give you points at game's end for meeting certain conditions. Orthogonally adjacent bunnies form fiefs and every fief scores each scoring round with a simple towers x different resources calculation. There are three basic resources on the board, so to get big multipliers you need to add unique resource buildings and lots of towers. At the end of the fourth scoring you add points from collected parchment cards and most points wins.

I think I like this game disproportionally to its actual quality. I really enjoy placing pieces with limited options and leveraging placements for points as the game progresses. This is fundamentally how Kingdom Builder works as well. KB is the better game, with a variable set up, more options, and powers to shoot for and employ. Even still I'm keeping Bunny Kingdom because it scratches an itch I like to have scratched.




Too Many Bones - 7
A pricey and excellently-produced adventure game with a very fun dice-pool character advancement scheme. Besides the production and character advancement, the rest of the game was just okay.

With the new KS in November, I reached out to a friend who I knew had the game so we could play and I could decide if this was worth a $300 investment - because when I go in on a game, I have to go ALL in, so just getting the base game is not really an option... I decided it was not worth it and passed on the KS. Here's why.

First the good stuff, which I can summarize as the player mats, the character-building, and the chips. Player mats are neoprene with slots for all of the dice that track your abilities, skills, locked rolls and misses, which can be stored and used for special character-specific actions. The mats excellently facilitate character management and are fun to use. Every character comes with a unique set of dice, each representing a skill that a player can acquire between encounters. These dice get added to your dice pool and have a wide range of effects from character to character. The learning curve for the game lies here - learning your character's skill dice, what order you should get them in and how best to use them. Player cards give advice for these choices and as you are figuring things out, you won't go wrong just picking what they suggest to keep the game moving. The dice are high-quality and while the symbols are not necessarily intuitive, your excellent character-specific reference breaks it all down for you. And lastly, as most folks familiar with this publisher knows, the chips used to represent your character and monsters in battle are nicely weighted and clearly laid out.

Now, for the rest of the game. Players start by picking a "boss" to fight. Bosses have to be defeated in a certain number of days (1 day = 1 adventure card/encounter), but cannot be encountered until you have accumulated X number of adventure points (cards usually grant 0-2 each). Once you have the points, you have until the target number of days to beat the boss. If you decide meet the boss before the last day (as long as you have the points, you can choose to fight him), you can keep encountering him until the days are spent. You really only lose the game by not defeating the boss in the allotted days. An encounter/day is a drawn card that offers two choices, one usually harder with a better reward. Most are fights, but not all. When you fight you draw a value of monster chips (they come in 1, 5, and 20) equal to the day you are on times two (5th day = 10 points = two 5-point monster chips). The battle grid is a 4x4 grid with two outer ranged combat rows and two inner melee rows. Characters and monsters fight only in one category or the other and are placed accordingly. Players and monsters then move and attack in initiative order.

So beyond character development, the rest of the game is pretty mundane. There is no compelling story arc and no campaign. Each adventure is a simple build-up to a boss fight and that is it. The next boss you take on you are starting from scratch. The battle mat is cramped with limited tactical opportunities, although I do like that misses can be collected, saved, and used for special character-specific actions. The loot you find is not that interesting. None of it is terrible, but many other games handle these aspects in more interesting and compelling ways. I just don't really see enough here to justify the spend for me. If you love character development and high-quality components over story and strong tactical game play, then by all means this could be the game for you.




The Thief of Baghdad - 6
It's a pleasant puzzle moving your guards and thieves around in this card-driven majority game, but it is all a bit too dependent on blind card draws. The reprint, 12 Thieves, looks much less fun without the meeples!

I played the original version and I suspect that is the one to get, even if it costs a bit more. There are a lot of pieces to manipulate throughout the game and I don't understand how the cardboard tiles in the new edition are a sufficient replacement for the wooden bits... Anyway, we enjoyed our play of the older version. Players are trying to get a target number of thieves into a palace to steal chests of gold. The board consists of six palaces, each with a stack of 4 chests with increasing numbers of thieves needed to steal them (4, 5, 6, and 7). Depending on the number of players, the first player to steal the target number of chests instantly wins the game.

Four guards can be placed at the entrance to each palace. Every palace starts with a neutral guard and then players add their own guards depending on the number of players. During the game you are playing cards to add thieves or move thieves with your guards into palaces to claim a chest before other players. Neutral and enemy guards increase the cost of adding thieves (by 1 card each), so players can also use guards to slow other players down. You need a neutral guard and one of your own guards at minimum to add from the supply, so your cost is always at least 1 card. We discovered that there are some crafty plays to be made between guards and thieves to block and add and it feels a bit like a logic puzzle on each turn - with the uncertainty of your future card draws forcing you to commit before you really know if a location will pan out. I don't know if this game will stick around in my collection for long, but I was pleasantly surprised as I had heard so many negative things for so long about this Spiel nominee. Being a nominee probably builds an expectation that this simple game can't possibly meet.




Pyramids - 6
Card-drafting set building game with three different kinds of sets to which cards can be assigned. My 10-year old daughter put it best, "What a pleasant, relaxing game!" Nothing too exciting, but fine for fans of drafting and building sets.

For every player, a pair of cards is turned face up in the center of the table. Players draft a turn order card that also determines your actions for the turn. The earlier you go, the less you can do. In the new turn order, players draft the card pairs and add them to their tableaus, which consist of three sets that combine and score differently. Cards are divided into 2-4 different sized sections, each of which is one of six colors. In your pyramid you try to place cards so you are stringing sections of color together (largest sections of each color score). In your Obelisk you are trying to add cards so that one of the same color is on every card placed and in your tomb, which is face-down, you are trying to stash more sections of a single color. You always add a card to your pyramid, but your turn order dictates whether you can also add to your tomb, obelisk or both. When the pyramids are complete, the game ends and all sets are scored.

This is a very basic game that probably won't excite anyone, but neither is it terrible. It's about as "meh" as a game can be. Plays quick and can satisfy a sudden craving for card drafting and set building, if you ever get one.




Qwixx - 5
The "roll dice and check boxes" game that has inspired so many themed versions of that basic mechanic. The themeless Qwixx is an almost solitaire game of choosing the best dice combo that keeps your options as open as possible.

Each turn you roll six dice - four colored and two white. You have a scoring pad in front of you that has two colors counting up from 2 to 12 and two colors counting down from 12 to 2. You check off boxes always going left to right and you can never go back. When you roll, you add the white dice and all players have an opportunity to check a box of any color that matches the value. Then the player whose turn it is can pair a colored die with either of the white dice to check off a box of that color/number combo. When 5 boxes in a row are checked, if you roll the last number in the line you can close off the row and remove the die. When two rows are closed the game ends. Players get points for each row depending on how many boxes are checked. Every turn where you couldn't check a box is -5 points.

It plays faster than Yahtzee.




Ulm - 5
The action selection grid works pretty well, but the rest of the game feels generic. I don't think the action grid is interesting enough to overcome the unremarkable remainder of the game.

The heart of Ulm is in selecting your actions. There is a 3x3 grid of action tiles. Players draw a tile from a bag (there are 6 different actions) and slide the tile into a row or column of the grid, adding their drawn action to the two remaining in the row or column they pushed, defining their 3 actions for the turn. The board features the Danube, which players push their barge along, opening and closing "seal" action spaces on either side of the river. Besides moving their boat, players can collect coins to pay for seals, collect pushed-out action tiles to pay for action/scoring cards, or collect city coats-of-arms that give initial points and points whenever someone places a seal in the matching area of the city. Players can also collect cards that grant single-use in-game bonuses or can be laid face-up as an end game scoring goal. A number of areas and goal cards are assessed at the end and most points wins.

The action grid is effective without feeling terribly innovative. Everything is intertwined in true euro-fashion - you travel down the river to open up the seal action spaces which grant placement points to a player with the right city coat-of-arms. A big percentage of points seems to be in the cards and while you might be able to neglect some parts of the game, it seems impossible to win if you neglect cards. I didn't hate the game, but it just isn't special enough for me to come back to it.




Death Wish - 4
Funny party game that quickly gets less funny and fun with each subsequent play. Good-for-a-few-laughs-on-a-few-nights-only-to-then-get-relegated-to-the-back-of-the-closet kind of a game.

If we eliminate the funny diseases, symptoms and afflicters, the game is simply about building sets of cards by color from three separate sources - your tableau, your hand, and the common display. Cards in the common display show numbers from 2-5. You must have that many cards of the matching color in your hand and one card of that color in your display to claim the card for your score pile. Different colors are worth different points depending on rarity. On your turn you draw cards to your hand, add a card to your tableau, or claim a card from the common display for points if you meet the requirements. First player to an agreed number of points wins the game.

Now, that didn't sound all that much fun, did it? The mechanics are the worst part of the game, but dwelling on that is missing the point. This is a party game and the point is to laugh your ass off, which the game mostly succeeds at, at least for the first few plays. The point of the game is to be the first player to die at the hand of many terrible diseases. In your tableau are events that afflict you with disease - like licking someone's armpit or eating a hamster. In your hand are the various symptoms of your disease - such as developing a menacing monobrow or smelly fat folds. On the common display are the medical terms for your disease, which might be "assburgers" or "smallcox". You get the idea. The best part of the game is revealing your disease, your symptoms, and what you did to get it.

I've come to the conclusion that great party games with lasting value feature creative engagement from the players to make memorable experiences. Games where the fun is entirely dependent on card text (like in Death Wish) just don't have lasting appeal. It doesn't mean they aren't worth playing, but so far in my experience, they are never worth keeping.



Expansions



Vegas Wits & Wagers - 8
A HUGE neoprene betting mat with additional betting options. This makes the game feel like an event and the new betting options are great. Also, the regular betting mat is on the back which works for all versions.

The biggest downside is storage. Never has Wits & Wagers taken up so much space! But this is truly a joy to lay out on the table and play. The additional betting options are betting 1-1 on high/low (red/black) and 10-1 for betting on a specific player being the most correct before any answers are written down. Not sure if this is in W&W Party, but the most correct in each round also gets a payout of whatever round it is times $100. The betting options are what make this an expansion rather than an accessory, but this expansion is all about the mat. Oh, that MAT!




Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland - 6
A smaller, one map expansion that adds an economic element to TtR. The scores get BIG on this map and it advantages players who build early and often. Although the economics works okay, it still plays second fiddle to simply completing a lot of tickets.

Apparently every train traveling over every track in the Netherlands is inflicted with tolls. Fortunately, you have money! In addition to the usual set-building for connections, all connections have a cost of 1-4 and players start with 30 bucks to pay all tolls in the game. Most connections are double tracks. The first player to connect along these pays the bank and the second player to connect on the same line pays the first player who connected. At game's end, the longest connection bonus is replaced with bonuses for remaining cash. The bonuses seem big. Money is compared and the most gets 55 points and then it scales down until the least gets nothing. However, tickets are worth more points as well, with small tickets worth in the teens, medium-sized in the 20's and large in the 30 point range. The difference between money point rewards is about equal to a small/medium ticket, so it doesn't really have the impact on the score you would think at the beginning of the game. It's really only going to be factor in close games.

There are no tunnels, ferries, passengers or stations on this map, making it more straightforward than a lot of the expansions. The map is not large and it seems easier to leverage connections many times. It pays to draw lots of tickets as there are big advantages to building in the middle and tweaking for what you draw. I suspect for this map to really sing, EVERY player needs to be super-aggressive in their builds and ticket draws - otherwise the money is too much of a non-factor and the most aggressive player will run away with it.
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9. Board Game: Tuscany Essential Edition [Average Rating:8.69 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.69 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.69 Unranked]
Fernando Robert Yu
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Lots of new stuff tried out last month!

Photosynthesis = 4 Plays



I got wind of this latest hotness from the Dice Tower network and I knew that I had to get it. The mechanics are very simple as each round everyone simultaneously gains light points depending on the sun location and how many trees are exposed to the rays coming from that direction. Each tree gains light points depending on their size (1-3 points) but each tree also casts a shadow behind them also equal to their size and if trees are shaded then they gain no light points unless they are taller than the blocking tree. Each player then, in turn order, use the light points to buy seeds and trees from their board to the available supply, put down seeds which can be laid down as far as the height of the seeding tree, or grow seeds and trees to the next level. Important points though are that only 1 action can be done on a particular space (you cannot plant a seed then grow it immediately for example) and that if you replace a piece on the main board it has to go back to a free space on the personal board or else it is removed from the game. VPs are gained by harvesting the largest tree and points vary depending on the location and how early it was harvested, and after 3 revolutions you count the points from harvests with each 3 light by the end of the game also equalling 1 point. It has been received very well but I am not sure how much legs this title has since it seems that you can execute the same winning strategy in every game such as using seeds to reserve the most valuable locations for most of the game and then grow them to harvest late so that you are the only one who can maximize that location. Maybe some expansions which allow you to mess with other player’s tree of a time limit in order to grow the seeds will come out. It’s a GREAT looking game on the table though!



El Grande Big Box = 2 Plays



This granddaddy of area control games has always flittered around the edge of my mind but it was only when the big box version of this got available locally did I bite. With 4 players available I felt it was time to bring it out and we soon discovered the elegance of the gameplay which has made it a classic. We only played the basic game where each player had his hand of bidding cards numbered 1-13. High cards make you go first in the round but lower cards make more Caballeros available in your supply. Players then take turns selecting 5 face up action cards with each allowing you to place 1-5 of your men on the board around the area where the King’s Pawn each as well as giving you a special action with 1 action always being to move the King’s pawn. After 3 rounds (2 in the short game which was the option we played) scoring occurs in the typical area scoring method with the top 3 players scoring each area. There is also the Castillo mechanic where players can opt to place meeples in the tower and at the start of the scoring rounds the Castillo is scored and then players place all their Caballeros in 1 region which is secretly chosen with a dial before the Tower is removed and this can suddenly swing the situation in those regions. The game is over after 3 scoring rounds with tied players sharing the win. I definitely see why this title is the by word for area control games. The mechanics have aged very well and I look forward to playing with the expansion modules.



Combat Commander: Europe = 1 Play



I am very fond of tactical wargames but was hesitant to get this due to the perceived chaotic nature of play as well as the lack of tanks. However, Up Front is my favorite wargame of all time and knowing that a lot of elements from that inspired Combat Commander Series plus there are a lot of fans for the title made me bite the bullet and get it. It has been with me for a couple of months but I had to thoroughly review and watch videos on gameplay to make sure I get the flow correctly. The difference between this and Up Front is that you have actual units on a map and that each nationality resolves everything with their own deck of cards. The players can use the cards to order units around up to the maximum amount of orders specified by the scenario and also for actions which can be triggered by specific in game conditions. The cards are also used for die rolls to to resolve attack and morale rolls, as events and to determine random hexes when needed. Each of the scenarios in the box outlines the order of battle, time limit, break points, whether objectives are randomized or not, etc.



Julius Caesar = 1 Play



I have been leaning over to more wargames recently and this title has been frequently mentioned as a great introductory game for the block wargame genre. I already have Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan (it does not play like a regular block wargame though since there is no step reduction with each block) and also the old edition of Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 (haven’t played it yet since the components are not complete) but this seemed to be the best title for me to get. I was about to order it from CSI but managed to catch a second hand sale offer which I grabbed immediately. I then tried out after a few days with Enrique and while the playlength was longer than expected (3 hours) we found out that this is indeed a tense game with very interesting decisions. Gameplay is card driven with each side choosing a card and the revealing simultaneously with the one with the higher number being player 1. Each card has 2 values with 1 being the number of block groups you can activate and the other being a recruit number used to repair damaged or weaker units or to recruit new units. There are also 7 event cards which give special actions although 2 revealed events cancel each other out. Movement is point to point on the map with the type of road restricting movement while sea units move from port to sea area to sea area. The game also has an amphibious movement mechanic wherein you can transport land units in ports across sea areas controlled by your navis units and that proved to be very useful in my victory as my Pompey defeated Enrique’s Caesar. I also like how the type of unit is factored in its initiative rating with range or fast units (like cavalry) being able to shoot first over leg units. A very nice game which I feel can be improved by a larger mounted board (the current map is TIGHT!) as well as player aids which clearly show here units can be recruited (as many reserve units can only be recruited in specific cities).



Magic Maze = 1 Play



This is a real time game similar to Escape: The Curse of the Temple, but the difference is that the players cannot talk to teach other and can only use a wooden component to bang in front of players who you want to do something. This you have to do while a sand timer is running down and while you can reset the timer by having a pawn stand on a reset point, these are used up after 1 use. Each player can only move in 1 direction and some also have additional powers (ie go up an escalator, explore a new map tile etc.) What players need to do is to have the 4 pawns find their specific weapon on the map and that is down they all have to make their way to the exit before the timer runs out. As reset points can only be used once there will be point where you cannot reset the timer anymore and you must get out asap! The reset points do allow players to briefly talk until the timer is flipped over and the respite is critical in order to discuss group strategy. I have to say I had a ton of fun similar to when I first played Escape: The Curse of the Temple and I am looking forward to trying out the harder scenarios!



Adventure Time Card Wars: Lemongrab vs. Gunter = 1 Play



I’ve slowly been accumulating the different sets of the game as I am a fan of the cartoon, but it was only last Friday where I had a chance to try it out with Shawn. It is quite an easy 2P battle game with many mechanics similar to Magic: The Gathering except that players just have 4 land and all start played and that damage to creatures are carried over to the next round. It is a very easy duelling game and I am interested to explore the other character decks.



EXPANSIONS

Tuscany Essential Edition = 1 Play



This expansion adds new modules which can be added to the base game as the owner wishes. The 3 new modules are the new board which divided the board into 4 seasons instead of 2 as well as an area control element, the new structure cards which give abilities or action spaces when built, and access to build 2 special workers each of which has a special ability. We played with all 3 and it was great despite the 2 hour play time. A great example of an expansion done right.



Colt Express: Marshal & Prisoners = 1 Play



This expansion really changes gameplay as now the Marshall is now controlled by 1 player and instead of grabbing loot the Marshall (named Samuel Ford) has 5 random objectives and if he manages to fulfill 4 by game end he automatically wins. This could be managing to capture some of the bandits (determined randomly and using a capture action which essentially replaces the punch), shooting 1 bandit 4 times (he has 2 guns and more shoot actions), avoiding bullets from the bandits, etc. He could also be punched now and the bandits may like to risk punching him since each successful punch rewards them with money! The expansion also introduces Mei as a new bandit (she can move diagonally using the change level action) as well as the prison car which acts as the caboose and also captured sidekicks of the bandits. The gangsters now have a new action called the brilliant idea which they use to escape the jail if captured, free captured bandits or a sidekick (which then give them the same ability of that sidekick's bandit or doubles his steal action if it is his sidekick) or to duplicate the last action of a bandit.

I have seen some reviewers say that the Marshall is OP and not balanced, but in that 1 play I was the Marshall and I only managed to complete 2 of the 4 objectives so I say it is not that easy to be the Marshall. Nice addition to the system methinks.



Navegador: Pirates & Diplomats = 1 Play

It was also the first time for me to try out the mini-expansion which adds pirate and diplomat cards. Each card can be purchased with the privilege action where you either pay a worker (for the diplomat) or a ship (for the pirate) instead of getting a privilege, and you can also use the privilege action to flip a previously used card back to its active side. The pirate card allows you to use colonies on the board (1 colony per ship present in its space) as additional goods to sell during the market action. The diplomat, on the other hand, lets you use other player’s colonies and factories during a market action and thus allows you to take advantage of other players who have more of these than you. The disadvantage is that you waste privilege actions to get them and in this game Kent highlighted this by not getting a single card but rather grabbing the most privileges for the win despite the cards also giving VPs for ships (pirates) or workers (diplomat)! It is really just a promo mini-expansion and not a true expansion as it does have any game breaking or shattering change IMO.

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10. Board Game: Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:207]
James Moline
United States
Tampa
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Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin - This was my first foray into the Exit series, and it's really really good. I don't know if I like it better than the Unlock games, but I think I enjoy them both equally, if for different reasons. The puzzles in this game were a bit more limited in their scope, but we also a bit more clever, I think. I think this game works better with fewer players, too. We played with 2, which really felt kind of perfect. One thing that annoyed me a little bit was that this particular entry actually would not have been difficult at all to play non-destructively. We got to the end, and I felt like if we had been thinking about it, we could have kept it pristine pretty easily. As it was, we were still able to put it back together and pass it on in a slightly used condition. I really enjoyed this game a lot, and I look forward to playing the other 2 I have.
Rating: 8

The Chameleon - I was given The Chameleon as a gift a couple of months ago, and finally broke it out to play with a big group at Thanksgiving. This is an evolution of Spyfall by the designer of Coup. Basically, instead of a bunch of locations, there is a grid of words related to a specific subject. The good guys get a grid coordinate pointing to a specific word, and the chameleon doesn't. Then, you go around the table and everyone says a single word that, hopefully, tells everyone you know what the word is without actually giving away the exact word. After everyone has done that, you debate who you think the chameleon is until you're ready to vote. In my opinion, this game is better than Spyfall in almost every way. You can't pick out the player that's staring at the card as the chameleon, because everyone needs to look at it. Coming up with a single, vague-yet-specific word is a challenge, but it's a better mechanism than having to potentially come up with a bunch of vague-yet-specific questions and answers. The one downfall is that some people might be weaker in certain subjects than others, but in our plays (and we played a LOT), the players were able to work around that. We really liked this game a lot, and I honestly don't think I'll ever choose to play Spyfall over this.
Rating: 8

Clans of Caledonia - Clans of Caledonia was clearly inspired by Terra Mystica, which is one of my favorite games. Caledonia is a solid game, too. I think it's a little lighter than Terra Mystica, but it has a lot of the elements that I like about that game. It also includes contract fulfillment and randomized scoring each round, which gives you some direction to work towards. It's a little looser than Terra Mystica, as well, but is still enjoyably tight. You're never going to be able to do everything you want to do. All in all, this is a very good game. If I didn't know anyone who had it, I might pick up a copy for myself. I look forward to playing it more.
Rating: 7.5

Terraforming Mars - Terraforming Mars has gotten a lot of praise since its release. It actually made me a little leery of trying it, because I didn't know if it could live up to the hype. Now that I've played it, I would say that it is a good game, but I'm not sure it deserves all of the hype it has received. I really like the card drafting and unique faction abilities. For some reason, I thought there would be more to the tile laying, but it really just kind of felt like record keeping. The component quality has been rightly panned. It really is awful. All in all, though, this is a good game; just don't go into it expecting it to be the greatest game ever. And try to find it on sale.
Rating: 7.5

Magic Maze - Magic Maze is one of those frantic, real time games that starts you off slowly with a subset of the rules and then adds to them over the course of several games. We've made it 3 scenarios in, and we're having a lot of fun with it. The cooperation without talking is very challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but it's also a lot of fun. I do think that you probably don't want to play the game with more than 5, maybe 6, and I suspect that 4 is the best count. If you like real time games, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Rating: 7.5

Bunny Kingdom - Bunny Kingdom is a pretty quick playing drafting and area control game. It seemed like it was getting buzz for being heavier than the theme implies, and I guess it sort of is. It's not a heavy or mean game at all, but it's got more going on than a children's game. I like the combination of end game scoring cards and area placement cards, and the way you balance in-game and end-game scoring. This is a fun game that doesn't overstay its welcome. I don't think I'm likely to get my own copy, but I'd happily play it again.
Rating: 7

The Blood of an Englishman - Blood of an Englishman is a solid 2 player card game. It feels like a traditional card game that you might have learned as a kid. The rules are simple and there's a lot to think about while you're playing. It's really easy to miss something and leave your opponent an opening. I enjoyed this, and I think it is going to be a good game to bring out when we travel.
Rating: 7

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama - Kokoro is a fun little path building game. It reminds me a lot of Karuba, but I think it's pretty clever that it uses cards and dry erase instead of the tiles of Karuba. This game has a much more pronounced push-your-luck element, too. I'm not sure which game I enjoy more. That may be because, in my only play of Kokoro, I pushed my luck a bit too much a couple of times and ended up doing really poorly. Still, I did enjoy the game, and I really like that they included the components to allow you to play with up to 8. I look forward to playing it more.
Rating: 7

Theseus: The Dark Orbit - Theseus is a 2 player game that employs the mancala mechanism in a surprisingly thematic way. I have been looking forward to trying it, in part because I really like the decisions and strategy that the mancala can add to game (Trajan, Five Tribes... sort of). I think I made 2 mistakes here. First, I should have picked one of the other factions (Scientists or Greys) because having 2 somewhat simple, pure damage dealing factions made the game a little less interesting. On top of that, I played with the basic decks, instead of throwing in the more "complex" cards, which could have helped, too. Still, I have to admit to being a little disappointed overall. The shared mancala throws any kind of real strategy off. And the fact that there are, at most, 6 pieces in the mancala and only 4 in any one spot, the choices end up being a little weaker. I'm very much hoping that this will not be my final rating, as I hope to find that mixing in the other factions will up the interest factor.
Rating: 6

Caverna: Cave vs Cave - Cave vs Cave is a pretty interesting 2 player action drafting game. The choices are interesting, but not terribly difficult. There is limited variability in the form of slightly random actions each round, and the random reveal of new buildings as you excavate. The variability of the buildings actually serves to limit your choices, though, and doesn't so much make the game more interesting, at least in my opinion. I suspect that replayability is going to be pretty limited here. Those criticisms aside, the game mechanisms are good, and I'm looking forward to playing it with my wife. I could see an expansion elevating this, too.
Rating: 6

Ninja Camp - Ninja Camp is a quick playing filler. It reminds me of Hey, That's My Fish, which I also enjoy well enough. The movement, and not wanting to get blocked in, makes for some interesting choices. I'm not likely to ask to play it very often, but I would definitely play it again.
Rating: 6

Tournament at Camelot - This is a Hearts-style trick taking game, where you're trying to avoid points. The twist here is that there are characters for the players to play as, and some wild cards and some special ability cards that work as a catch up mechanism. It's fine, but I think, for me, the twists actually take a way from the strategy of the game. I would play it again, but I'd prefer to play Black Spy.
Rating: 6

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 - I went into The Thing with as open a mind as I could. On the one hand, I really wanted to like this game. On the other, I was very leery of Mondo using new designers and one of my favorite movies for their first board game. I actually enjoyed the game a lot while we were playing. Picking teams and playing cards. It borrowed heavily from both The Resistance and Battlestar Galactica, which is not a bad idea for this kind of game. I was disappointed that the players didn't spread the infection, which I think is a super important aspect of the theme that was missing. My biggest issue, though, came after the game was over. After I had successfully picked a 100% good guy group to go on the chopper. It was when we all realized that in any future play, we could probably come close to guaranteeing a win for the infected by just playing as a good guy and banking on being able to get on the helicopter. If no one ever sabotages anything, then the odds of picking a perfect team of good players are really terrible. Even though I had fun with the rest of the game, the more I think about that endgame, the more I dislike it.
Rating: 5

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11. Board Game: Mystic Vale: Mana Storm [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked]
Keith Rudolph
Canada
Langdon
Alberta
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Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Like Vale of the Wild, this is 90% a "more of the same" expansion which is fine with me as more variety in Mystic Vale is always welcome. The rest of it is new vale cards, new heroes, and the new mana tokens that can replace the ones from the base game and give each player a unique power which can be pretty interesting and change how you build your deck slightly. The more content this game gets, the more I enjoy it.

Jungle Party

We grabbed this one for our daughter when she's older but decided to give it a try shortly after getting it. There's not much to the game itself since it's a kids' game but it's a pretty cute little memory game. I can see kids enjoying the toy factor of this one as pieces slide under the bridges and over the falls.

Unlock! The House on the Hill

The puzzles were OK but like the rest of the Unlock! series, this one relies too heavily upon their idiotic hidden number system. The puzzles are a weird mix of too easy and "screw it, I give up!" without ever really finding that happy medium, making the whole experience rather unenjoyable.

Unlock! The Nautilus' Traps

It's after this one that I realized that Unlock! is quickly becoming my least favourite of the series of escape room games. Like those that came before it, this one relies too heavily on the series' idiotic hidden number system, forcing you to scan every card in painstaking detail and reading into things that just aren't meant to be hidden numbers. The puzzles in this are convoluted and confusing, even when you use the hint system. There were a couple in this game in particular where the puzzle didn't make any sense even after viewing the solution. After this batch, I think we might be done with the Unlock! series as a whole.
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12. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 [Average Rating:8.54 Overall Rank:35]
CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
Australia
KILLARA
VIC
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A very thin month mainly due to playing some older games that I hadn't looked at for 5+ years.

New to Me

d10-1 Pandemic Legacy: Season 2

Well it wasn't a tough month to win was it? But this still gets a 4 star rating from me and I've only played the Prelude 3 times (so I haven't even got into the meat of the game yet).

But I already like where they are headed and the initial features on offer. This may go up or down once the journey is complete.



d10-2 Love Letter: The Hobbit - Battle of the Five Armies



Naturally this is a re-theme of the original hit Love Letter. In truth this one is ok but not great. It features two differently named 3 cards, which makes guessing someone's identity that little bit harder and it also has an auto-defeat if you hold the Arkenstone and are challenged by Tauriel.

The Arkenstone Card (value 0) also makes this the first Love Letter game to have 17 cards.

When all is said and done, this is not an improvement over the original for me. If you want to know more about it -

Love Letter - The Hobbit (A Comparative Review)



New to Me - Expansions

None this month
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13. Board Game: Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales [Average Rating:8.31 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.31 Unranked]
Oliver Paul
Iceland
Reykjavik
None
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Not much in November

Great


Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales

Finally got this expansion to Mice and Mystics to the table, after having finished the base game, Heart of Glorm, and both print and play adventures. Big fan of the base game, even though I will admit that there is a lot of dice rolling.

This adds a whole new campaign, but using the same characters (and a few new ones), so we picked up right where we left off. Also, there are not a lot of new rules (although the rules on the snake seem a bit wordy), so not a problem to just dive in and reference the rules when something new comes up.

The very first mission has a branched path you can take, which takes you on two different paths to the conclusion. After finishing one path, we reset back to the fork and took the other path and played that one through. That was a lot of fun

Looking forward to playing through the campaign this christmas.

Good


Unlock! Doo-Arann Dungeon

Still waiting for the second pack of Unlock! adventures (Mystery adventures if I remember correctly), so we've been doing all the official print and play scenarios while we wait.

This one was neat, as it was a very different theme from the normal adventure/mystery. This one was almost a dungeon crawl, and had some neat aspects to it.

Would recommend, as it doesn't cost much.

Meh


Unlock! Temple of Ra

Played this directly after Doo-Arann Dungeon, since that one was so short and fun. This one was the opposite. I know it's rated as 3 stars out of 3, but this one had some puzzles where even after seeing the solution, I still don't know how we could've made that leap/found that out on our own.

Only for hardcore Unlock! fans. Also, it doesn't cost much.
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14. Board Game: Sagrada [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:168]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 6 new-to-me games, and my choice for best is Sagrada. I also played and enjoyed Noch mal! and an Unpublished Prototype, somewhat enjoyed Mystic Vale and Days of Ire: Budapest 1956, and until this month successfully avoided Tenzi.
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15. Board Game: Mistborn: House War [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:5116]
Sean D.
Canada
Langley
British Columbia
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I finally got my KS of Mistborn. It follows the first book of the original trilogy with the characters in the story actually being antagonists for the players in the game. An interesting twist for me as you are not playing the 'good guys' per se in this game and it is a hybrid coop/competitive game with negotiations being the primary mechanic at work. Lots of table talk required to make this game shine. You can do things to hinder the other players, but don't do it too much or they might not help you when you need it later in the game to meet an objective you have. I enjoyed it, and I think everyone else at the table did as well.

Plays 2
Initial rating
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16. Board Game: Biblios [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:288]
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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I had 9 new to me games in September, no new to me games in October, and 8 new to me games in November. Weird the way that works out.

Codenames: Deep Undercover - 3 plays
First Published 2016
I'm not a fan of the naughty genre. This is one of those.

Biblios - 2 plays
First Published 2007
Not sure how I missed this the first time around. Set collection card game. Pay no attention to the dice. You don't actually roll them.

M.U.L.E. The Board Game - 1 play
First Published 2015
Ever since this came out, I've been wanting to play it for the nostalgia value. Well, it wasn't going to happen by itself. I checked it out of the club library, read the rules, and then pushed it to the table. It didn't disappoint. It's not going into heavy rotation, but somebody pulled up the 8-bit music on their phone and there we were playing M.U.L.E.

Flick 'em Up! - 1 play
First Published 2015
Flicking games are the least objectionable type of dexterity game. Clever titles usually make for bad games, but this one is okay.

Kribbeln - 1 play
First Published 2016
Get the highest dice total while meeting the current round's objective based on the colors of the die faces--each die has a different color on each face and there are six different colors.

Hope City - 1 play
First Published 0
The group I was in gave up on this game before it was over, so I may never know if there's actually a game there.

Dice Forge - 1 play
First Published 2017
Roll dice, which faces change during the game. Like Rattlebones, only better. Still not sure how I feel about the game.

New York Slice - 1 play
First Published 2017
Piece o' Cake, but with pizza. Multi-player "I cut, you choose." Not a fan, but maybe you'll like it.
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17. Board Game: Vengeance [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:3732]
Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Vengeance - 4 plays -  8 
First Published 2017

I love the theme, and how well this game integrates the feel of revenge movies. You basically try to solve a dice puzzle, and spend the Montage turns trying to mitigate future bad luck. The game plays well, and features some great components.

Liberatores: The Conspiracy to Liberate Rome - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2017

This is a highly enjoyable heavier social deduction game, in the vein of Battlestar Galactica more so than The Resistance. What I mean is that Liberatores feels like much more of an actual game, than just an exercise in bluffing. Being forced to support Caesar in order to earn a grant of money is a wonderful mechanism, that forces some tough decisions.

Secrets - 3 plays -  8 
First Published 2017

An interesting hidden loyalties social deduction game. The component quality is off the hook, but think that the iconography is equally poor. We kept having to look at the double-sided role reference sheet even after successive plays.

Aeon's End - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2016

A cool cooperative deckbuilder where you don't shuffle your cards. I look forward to playing it again.

Beasty Bar - 1 play -  8 
First Published 2014

Gorgeous, and hilarious artwork, with a good reference, and decent iconography. This is a funny game.

Fugitive - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2017

I enjoyed it, and would like to explore it some more to see how it stands up to repeat plays, and if player skill matter much.

Magic Maze - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2017

Decent cooperative real-time game, but I was so tired at the end of a long gaming weekend that I need to revisit to form a better opinion.

Periorbis - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017

An okay worker placement game with workers with various skill levels. A bit fiddly perhaps.

Laurel Crown - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2017

I enjoyed my late night play of this game, but it's super light.

Ghost Blitz - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2010

Good fun, but I need to be in the right mood.
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18. Board Game: For-Ex [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:6071]
Robert
Canada
Ottawa
ON
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== NEW GAMES ==

For-Ex - 1 play
First Published 2017


Hard to know what to say about For-Ex yet other than I woke up in the middle of the night after playing it thinking about what I could have done differently.


Turin Market - 1 play
First Published 2016


Plenty of rough edges that could have been polished off, but I'd say I had a very positive experience not knowing what the hell I needed to do to win this. Seems to be the theme for the month.

Bridge - 2 plays
First Published 1925


Finally found a group that was willing to indoctrinate us into the cult of Bridge. (My grandmother made an abortive attempt at this when I was 10.) Love trick takers and this was no exception. I'm a little put off by how prescriptive everything is, but it's early days with this. We've been invited back to play again.
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19. Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:40]
Frank S
Canada
Calgary
Alberta
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Marco Polo

6 (first time plays) in November

Initial rating 8

One of my favourite games of late is Grand Austria Hotel, (9 plays just this Nov. 36 plays in total). I mention this because these titles share a common co-designer, Simone Luciani. These two games are also credited as 2015 releases but if my memory serves correctly, Marco Polo just predated the two. I’m also sure I had Marco Polo before purchasing GAH but somehow that made it to the table much sooner than Marco Polo.

Anyone familiar with MP knows that each character have outstanding special abilities. It’s been fun to explore these roles. We used the standard set up for the first game as suggested in the rules. I had Raschid ad-Din Sinan and my wife took the suggested roll of Matteo Polo.

Raschid has, what might seem to be, the game breaking benefit of making his dice faces whatever he wants them to be! How can you lose … well I found a way, or better to say this shows the amazing balance in this game where I ended up just falling behind by 10 points.

My wife and I were tied going into the final scoring and where I put extra focus on Travel my wife put extra focus on contracts, and she just squeezed out the win. Matteo’s special ability is to get an extra die for the entire game and to pick up a new contract every round, (possibly saving the use of an extra action).



The game is quick, a little mind numbingly quick for me. It’s taken me all these plays to get into the pace of the game.

I found that there was a fair amount to take on for the first game but will say the initial learning curve is well worth effort. It also takes some time to understand all the iconography on the cards … I swear, our true universal language will just go back to solely using pictographs … maybe that’s not a bad thing

In the end, though there is some innovation in the dice mechanic and player powers, this is another conglomeration of Euro game elements. In my mind, this is in no-way a criticism. Maybe that is the best feature of a good designer, they can use the Euro game toolbox to come up with a better mousetrap, (or a better game)!

This one hits many positive notes for my wife and I. We have left feeling we want to play more, as soon as possible, to see if we can do better in our next play and to try some of the other game characters.

It’s too early to say if Marco Polo would equal or surpass our admiration of Grand Austria Hotel, regardless we look forward to more Voyages into the world of the spice trade!


Mysterium



2 plays

Initial rating 7

First impressions: Doesn’t hold a dimly lit candle in a creepy darkened room, to Dixit!

Well that statement is just slightly hyperbolic! Though I do much prefer the later (my rating of 8) and I still enjoyed Mysterium and wouldn’t say no to more plays.

Our first game was with five clairvoyants and I didn’t experience or see the level of interaction in the game compared to Dixit, (I was not the ghost in this game). Of course, one is a competitive game and the other a coop but for my limited experience there wasn’t the same kind of interaction between players. With 5 it felt impossible to see and participate with what everyone was working on and we tending to focus on our own goals much like a competitive game. To be sure everyone had fun and there was a good amount of banter. I just felt it lacked engagement of the inescapable comparison to Dixit.

This experience might have been the reasoning behind the, what I feel are the fiddly, clairvoyance tokens and track. This might have been meant to engage a little more interaction. We started out with these rules but gave up on it after the first round. This was everyone’s 1st play except the Ghost, (2nd play), so we were quite unfamiliar with the game. I hope to try it with these rules another time.

I had the opportunity for a second game later that same day but this time with 3 clairvoyants (brand new and different players from the first game), I was the ghost in this one. I found the players in this round had a little more interaction leading me to believe that this might actually be best at a lower player count.

I found it quite stressful to be the ghost but this is the aspect closest to Dixit. You have to be creative to give clues. This was a little harder than I thought this might; I quite quickly used up the Crow tokens to draw extra cards. I felt pressure to help the other players and not to let them down with lame clues. Regardless it was still fun being behind the screen.

In the end despite Dixit being competitive there is more player interaction during the rounds and everyone gets a chance to be creative with the cards and clues.

I see Mysterium more as a novelty game that will get a few seasonal plays. I’ve found Dixit needs that higher player count with Mysterium scratching a similar itch with a lower player count for us.


Herbaceous



3 plays

Initial rating 6

Nice light card game, with pleasant artwork. There’s a good amount of, luck of the draw, but regardless the games were all close and there’s a decent amount of decision-making.

This is a stripped down Rummy style game that would be a good travel or lunchtime game. Not much here for us but good for the occasional play.
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20. Board Game: Ladder 29 [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:5159]
Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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Two new ones this month...

GAMES



Ladder 29

Plays: 6
I'm not a big fan of traditional card games, nor am I very good at them. But something about the hot spot cards in Ladder 29 piqued my interest. I mainly got this game in hopes it would lure my family to the table as a game that would appeal to all of us when we get together, and it did.

My dad, BIL and daughter all really enjoyed it. At first we thought it was a bit swingy and overly dependent upon luck but we couldn't stop playing. After a few plays we started to see less obvious yet more interesting choices and the glow of luck started to fade. I think this has a future in my collection, a risk worth taking.


Takenoko

Plays: 1
During a visit, a friend offered to teach me Takenoko as he felt in looking at my collection that it would be a game I would enjoy. I'll admit I never took this one seriously as it had always looked more like a toy than a game. So it turned out better than I expected. There was a bit of luck involved which I attribute to my winning the game. There was enough on the board that selecting cards with a little help from the wind produced my victory.


meeple Keep playing...
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21. Board Game: Star Trek: Ascendancy [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:642] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Crokinole - 3 plays
First Published 1876


Solid dexterity game. No real place to store one where it would get played. Push It covers this area.7-8ish,

FUSE - 2 plays
First Published 2015


Meh. Feels like minimal communication with lucky die rolls to get the win. Nice that it plays short, but a 5 with maybe being a 6. A 6 feels like I could buy it and that's a definite no.

Star Trek: Ascendancy - 2 plays
First Published 2016


Nothing new outside of planet placement. A decent amount of randomness with planet and card draw with dice rolling. Likely a 7 because in a way I like the rest of the package. Klingons definitely feel like the most consistent to get a victory out of. Maybe a tad too good. Don't play this with more than 4. I'm still debating the player count having played it 3 and 4. Four players can lead to one person trying to win and the person on the opposite side limited in preventing that from happening.

T.I.M.E Stories - 1 play
First Published 2015


A beautiful system that's really hampered by how much this is rail roaded. There's a version 2.0 which will fire this badly. A 6. A lovely 6, but a 6.

Stockpile - 1 play
First Published 2015


An entry level which lives up to the hype. One of the legit entry level games I could see owning and certainly if I was building my collection starting now. Maybe a horde of plays makes me accept how good it is in its role, but it is a bit on the light side for an 8, but a hearty 7 will do. Like, if I cared to break it down more I might go 7.75.
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22. Board Game: Nusfjord [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:1069]
Will Plante
United States
Greenville
Rhode Island
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Another great month of games with my family. With all of our school schedules settling in, we managed to find a lot of time to play some games. Since I'm buying less games there weren't as many new titles played, but I was happy to get a few played that had been sitting on my shelf for a while. Enjoy!



My favorite game of the month

Nusfjord -> 4 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8/10):

It took me a couple of plays to warm up to Nusfjord, but Uwe has managed to design another excellent quick, mid-weight Euro (Glass Road being the other). While Nusfjord isn't difficult per se, there are a few new mechanics that took a few plays to wrap my mind around. The addition of stocks, elders (which function as personal worker placement spots) and the banquet table (a communal board where fish are placed and then use to hire/activate elders) help separate Nusfjord from Uwe's other games. In Nusfjord you are only managing three resources: fish, wood and gold (which is scarce) making it a more streamlined gaming experience. Wood comes from managing your forests, while fish comes from building fishing vessels (which are also worth some VP).

I've read other folks making comparisons to Glass Road and while there are a few similarities, both games play out completely differently. They are similar in terms of weight and game length (around 45 - 60 minutes). The other major similarity is your player board where you manage forests, boats and buildings. Buildings provide in game abilities and may be worth VP. Later in the game you will be able to build new buildings which will provide end game scoring opportunities. There are three separate decks of buildings which will add a lot of variety to the game. Similar to Uwe's other games, Nusfjord scales quite well. The 2p game is just as tense as playing with 4 or 5. So far I've enjoyed playing with 2, 4 and 5 players. The 5p game definitely makes the game go long, but despite the downtime I still enjoyed it. I'd say the sweet spot is between 2 - 4 players.

Nusfjord may be lighter than a lot of Uwe's recent games, but it is definitely one of the most cut throat. You will constantly be fighting with your opponent(s) over spaces you want to send your workers, which forces you to readjust your plans based on the actions available to you. While elders may help with this there will not always be fish on the banquet table for you to use. In the 4th round you will also get buildings only you can build until the beginning of the 6th round when they become available for everyone to build. I enjoy this kind of interaction/blocking in games precisely because it forces you to be adaptable and flexible with your strategy, but there will definitely be some folks who will not like this. I am looking forward to many more plays of Nusfjord and I'm extremely happy to have another 45 - 60 minute Uwe game to play with my kids.



Boomtown -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Boomtown is a fun push your luck game that combines set collection, auctions and some take that; in the game you are bidding on mines which may provide gold and there are also take that cards which increase the player interaction. If you have majority in a mine you get the mayor pawn of that color and other players need to pay you when collecting income from their mines that are the same color as your mayor. The game works well, but I think you need a full five players (we only played with three) in order to get the most out of the auctions and potential player interaction (some cards can be quite nasty). I would definitely play it again, but it wouldn't replace other filler games I have for higher player counts. Still it's a testament to the game play that it still holds up 13 years later.



Can't Stop Express -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (2):

What a disappointment Can't Stop Express turned out to be; from the Kickstarter experience, production quality and choice of rules/score sheet it has been a fail. I should've done my research and saved myself from throwing money away.

I'm not sure why Eagle-Gryphon went with the scoring found in Choice as opposed to Extra!. Extra! balances the game by making you check more boxes to get out of the negative based on the probability of a certain number being rolled. For example you only need to roll four 2's before you break even, while you need six 7's. I also prefer the multipliers for scoring each number in Extra as opposed to just scoring the same value for each box checked and the number of boxes for the extra number go from 9 to 8 to 7. All of this adds up to Extra! being the superior game and score sheets for Extra! can be printed for free.



Clans of Caledonia -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Since there is so much info out there on Clans of Caledonia I'm going to keep my thoughts brief and only discuss why it is no longer in my collection. This is not to say I think Clans is a bad game, instead it is not the type of Euro game I enjoy. I've only played once so my thoughts are solely based on comparing Clans to what I typically enjoy in a Euro game; I am in no way declaring that the game was poorly designed. It's quite obvious that there are a lot of folks who really like this game, but I think there are some gamers who will get sucked into the hype and end up in the same boat I was in; so for that reason I will share my opinion on Clans of Caledonia.

I was enjoying Clans of Caledonia, minus the market being pretty stagnant and mostly a non factor, as the game moved along relatively smoothly. Money was scarce and efficiency was key until the game ended and we tallied up our scores. All of a sudden the game went from being tight and focused to a point salad scoring system. Everything you end the game with gets you points and there seemed to be disparity between the points given the degree of difficulty associated with certain objectives. For example settlement scoring was not only counter intuitive it also didn't seem to award enough points considering how difficult it is to create the largest interconnected network of settlements. A few players easily scored more points for leftover goods compared to the settlement bonuses which was a huge turn off for me. I would have enjoyed a more focused end game scoring, especially by removing the extra goods scoring. I appreciate a game that rewards efficiency all the way through scoring. If you produced extra goods that you couldn't ship I don't think you should be rewarded for that. The volatility of tobacco, sugarcane and cotton scoring was also frustrating. The first bunch of contracts all had cotton on them so cotton was always way ahead of the other goods and was destined to be the least valuable good.

In the end I guess I was looking for a more punishing end game and instead what starts as a really brutal game ends with a smorgasbord of points. Ultimately the end game scoring was quite unsatisfying and left me cold. While I would play again, it is not a game that I'd seek out and definitely not one I need to own.



The Expanse Board Game -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

If you have played Twilight Struggle or 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis you'll have a good understanding of how The Expanse plays (it falls between the two in terms of weight). The Expanse uses the same card driven, area control mechanisms as the aforementioned games, with the biggest difference being The Expanse plays up to four. Cards can be used for action points or to trigger the event on said card and with 3+ players there is an initiative track which determines who gets the right of first refusal for an event (if the active player uses a card for the action points). When playing with 3+ players there is an element of diplomacy in so far as you try to get your opponents to focus their aggression on each other and not you. The other major addition are the ships you control which count towards planetary control and you need ships in orbit of a planet you want to place troops on. This adds another layer of planning in order to execute your strategy effectively.

Personally I found The Expanse to be more fun than 13 Days (which I do still enjoy) in large part because of how dynamic the player interaction is a 3+ player game of this type. The design is clean and not cluttered by superfluous or fringe case rules and the game moves a long at a brisk pace. This was definitely the biggest surprise of the month for me since I hadn't heard of the game before I played. I'm looking forward to playing again; unfortunately this isn't the type of game I could get played in my house so it'll have to be a game I play with my gaming group when the opportunity arises.



Forest of Tataraba -> 2 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Two plays in and I'm really enjoying Tataraba and Forest; so far my plays have been with two. I have to mention the outstanding production quality of this game, everything is top notch from the different wooden trees to the quality of the cardboard components (They have a shine to them and are quite attractive). This game has amazing table presence and will definitely draw folks in. The theme is absolutely unique and the components help bring it to life. In Tataraba and Forest you are forging tatara steel by planting and harvesting different types of trees so that you not only have a steady supply of wood, but also manage the forest so it doesn't get overgrown. Tataraba and Forest is essentially a race game as you compete to build an Eidai Tatara (a type of forge).

Game play is quite simple, in fact I was surprised at how light the game is. Tataraba and Forest is definitely a family weight game, one I can imagine my youngest playing (she's 7, almost 8). You are only managing two resources, money and tools, that you can get by felling different types of trees. However; don't let that detract you from the game, it is that very simplicity that allows player interaction to drive the game. The difficulty and tension of the game is completely determined by your opponents and their ability to thwart your plans based on where they plant trees, possibly build their second basic tatara and whether or not they can beat you to chopping down the trees you will need.

Forest of Tataraba offers such a unique playing experience that I would recommend playing at least once if you get the chance. I'm really looking forward to playing this with some my game group; I think it will work well as an opener or closer, I can't imagine a 4p game going more than 45 minutes (our 2p games have been about a half hour).

I ordered a copy from Amazon.co.jp and in order to do that I had to create a new account even though I already had one (something I didn't have to do to order from Amazon.de). I'm from the US so I don't know if this applies to folks from other countries.



Montana -> 3 plays

Initial thoughts and rating (6/8):

Montana is a fast playing race game that ends once one player builds all of their settlements onto the public landscape board (which is made up of different tiles, adding some variety to the game). If only one person built all their settlements they win, if not there are a series of tiebreakers. Montana uses worker placement as the mechanism to gather gold and the other resources (pumpkins, wheat, copper and ore) you'll need to build your settlements. A spinner is used to determine which color workers you get; the color determines which resources those workers can gather. Believe it or not the spinner works quite well and adds a fun, tactile element to the game.

Montana is very tactical; you have to watch what your opponent(s) are doing and react accordingly. This is not multiplayer solitaire, if you spend too much time navel gazing you will get trounced. Quite simply you need to be more efficient than your opponents. All this adds up to a relatively straight forward game that is easy to teach and quick to play. Your enjoyment of Montana will depend heavily on your feelings towards the race element and a potentially abrupt ending to the game; with four players it's much harder to pay attention to what everyone is doing and react accordingly. Montana is deceptively light, I think some gamers will go into this expecting a much heavier experience and walk away disappointed once they realize just how light Montana is.

Personally I'm enjoying my plays, but long term I'm not sure how the race to the finish will sit with me. On the plus side not only is Montana quick, it also plays great with two.



Mini Rails -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (4/6):

I only played Mini Rails once and wasn't wowed, but since it moved along fairly quickly I'd give it another go. I question how much control you actually have over your fate; I feel like the game was paired down too much and what you're left with is a shell of a game. I played with four and the game was decided before we began playing the last round which was quite disappointing since 2 out of our 12 actions were totally useless. Maybe a second play will reveal more than there is more strategy than I thought, but I'm not in a hurry to play again.



Nile -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (8):

Nile is a game I had heard of years ago, but never managed to play. After finally playing I found Nile to be an excellent set collection game with a high degree of player interaction. For some reason the whole time I was playing all I could think of was that Nile was a much better version of Bohnanza even though the games are quite different. My comparison is based solely on the fact that you are planting crops, after that the games diverge completely. While I find Bohnanza to be a long, tedious game, Nile has great pacing and remains tense until the end. What sets Nile apart from a lot of other set collection games is how scoring works. Similar to Tigris and Euphrates, you are first scoring the crop you have collected the least of and working backwards towards the crop you have the most of until you have a winner (in short you'll win by having the most of your least harvested crop).

Nile would be an excellent game for families; it appears that Nile DeLuxor is the most recent edition and it also comes with an expansion (which I know nothing about).



Zombies of Los Muerte High -> 1 play

Initial thoughts and rating (6):

Zombies of Los Muerte High is best described as a very light Zombie version of For Sale. It was a fun considering it is a 10 minute filler, tops. The pen and ink artwork was simple but well done, I really liked the aesthetic of the game. I'd consider getting a copy, but it's not available anywhere.[/i]



As always thanks for reading and please feel free to ask any questions.

Cheers,
Will


I use a 5 point scale to rate games on BGG to simplify things for me. I really don't want to spend time deciding whether a game is a 6 or a 7, so I nixed the odd numbers. I may give a game I'm on the fence about a split rating (6/8), then change the rating when I update my thoughts a year later. When use a split rating, I use the lower number in the BGG database.

10 -> A classic that defines a genre.
8 -> The evergreens, games I always enjoy playing.
6 -> Not a poor rating, just an average one.
4 -> A game I don't enjoy playing and/or has a theme I really don't like.
2 -> A game I really dislike and will not play again.
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23. Board Game: Skull King [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:976]
john newman
United States
Lafayette
Louisiana
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A relatively high count of new-to-me games this month. My best game of the month is a bit of an anomaly as well.



Current Rating: 8.5
Number of Plays: 3

I love card games. Growing up, I have pleasant memories of playing cards with my dad and grandpa. For the last ten years or so, I have been an evangelist for Wizard, a trump game. For me, Skull King is a Wizard Slayer.

Skull King plays in 30 minutes, regardless the player count. The game uses simultaneous bidding, scales well from 4 to 8 players, and introduces layers trump. The black suit is always trump. After the black suit, there is a Rock-Paper-Scissors hierarchy of "Wizards", but in this case, pirates. Mermaids beat all trump, but lose to pirates. The chief pirate, the Skull King, beats all pirates. In an added twist, the mermaid beats the Skull King. To top things off, you receive bonus points for capturing pirates or the Skull King.

The simultaneous bidding and the layered trump set up all kinds of wonderful moments. Best trick taking game I have played. Even if you don't like card games, you should give this one a try, but make sure to purchase the Schmidt Version, not "Grandpa Becks" version.



Current Rating: 7.5
Number of Plays: 11

Sagrada is a multiplayer solitaire, dice drafting game, that plays like a Sudoku puzzle. The game has a beautiful table presence, and the dice placement goes well with the theme of creating a stained glass window.

It is a very thinky game with very little player interaction. The game rewards you handsomely for completing your own puzzle, so there is little incentive to "hate draft." It plays well at two or three player game. Not recommended as a four player game.

With the standard rules, in a two or three player game it is possible not to draft the color of die of your secret objective. At the end of the game all your die could still be in the bag. There is a BGG variant correcting this flaw. When playing with three players, remove one set of four die of each color. With only two players, remove two sets of die of each color. Then you will use all the die in the bag, just like in a four player game. I would never play without this house rule; it should be in the standard rule set. I have found Sagrada to be a game enjoyed by both gamers and non-gamers. A welcome addition to my game collection.



Current Rating: Unrated
Number of Plays: 1

For me, this is easily the best of all the Tetris-like puzzle games. Bärenpark adds a race element to the game. Not only must you solve the spacial puzzle, but you are rewarded for solving elements of the puzzle first. The game is pleasant enough, but set up and storage is a detraction. The amount of time required for set up and clean up is nearly more than the actual playing time.

I am not very good with spacial puzzles, so this is not my favorite type of game, but I can see it going over well with my family. I would need to play it a few more times before I were to give it a rating.



Current Rating: 5
Number of Plays: 1

Feels like it is a trick-tacking games made for people who don't like trick taking games. Each turn one player is the ruler who chooses the "edict" that the other players must follow, or else pay the ruler for breaking the rule. A player can also choose to be a "sinner" before the hand starts, in which if they intentionally break the rules and receive a handsome payout for it. On the other hand, if they get set, they suffer a hefty loss. The game plays over stays its welcome at 45 minutes or so. The edict cards are a bit random. Some are very hard to complete, others are very easy. The game overall is too swingy and random for my tastes. I would grit my teeth and play it again, but inside I would be screaming "Nooooooooo!"




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24. Board Game: Three Kingdoms Redux [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:917]
Jerry Schippa
United States
Sun Prairie
Wisconsin
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The Good

Three Kingdoms Redux 1 Play - 7.0 / 10

With only one play under my belt I don't think that I can say with any certainty how I feel about this game. This is a three player, and three player only, asymmetrical heavy euro that plays in about 2.25-2.45 hours. However, my first game lasted about 3.5 hours with setup, rules, playing, tear down.

Each player chooses one of three Lords, then chooses generals and begins using these generals to bid on action spaces. Each action space has a specific attribute its looking for (combat or administrative) and each general has a different value for each attribute. Whoever has the higher value in the attribute in question wins the ability to take that action.

Imagine you wanted to play your occupation in Agricola but your opponent already grabbed it...well here you can fight for it! Ok, nothing really new, but thematically represents the shenanigans these Lords were up to stealing each others weapons and whatnot.

The actions allow you to build armies, play state enhancements (think occupation cards/minor improvements), grow your economy to pay your armies and eventually win combat against your opponents in 2 of the 3 battle settings.

Theres a lot going on here that I can see would give you a lot of replayability, different strategic paths, some interesting combos, and on top of all that the art is top notch.

One last thing I was happily surprised with this game was its ability to tackle the gang up on the leader problem when playing three player games. In this game, the two players who won the least amount of bids in the previous round get to place an alliance token on one of the 12 (2 excluded) action spaces and there they can both take that action and combine their power to deny the leader that action. This is a brilliant mechanic that can be used as a threat, a nearly guaranteed aid to the alliance, or a tool to deny the "leader" that ever so important action they're geared up to take.

Right now its a 7 because the first game wasn't enough to fully appreciate whats going on, but I'm looking forward to future plays.

The Ok
Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension 1 play 6.0 / 10

An odd racing game that revolves around card play and your positioning compared to other players ships and other NPC ships. Each round players draft cards where half the cards are known. Then by simultaneous play, they choose a card to play. Each card has a number and letter. The letters dictate who triggers first and the numbers and card type dictate how many spaces your ship moves.

I liked the idea behind this, but for some reason I couldn't keep straight how each card interacted and how to correctly play each card.

It was a nice game that had some moments of big gains and big loses. Unfortunately about half way through two players broke so far in the lead it seemed impossible for the other two of us to catch up and compete. But, the game is relatively short (30-45 minutes).


Kodama: The Tree Spirits 1 play 5.0/10

This game really fell flat for me. My wife thought it was nice, but we both agreed it wasn't something we felt we needed to buy.

You're drafting cards with branches and symbols on them in order to place them on your tree to expand your tree. The scoring is based on the card you just placed and the previous cards from the new card back to the base of the tree. For example if I placed a card with a firefly and mushroom, all cards in a contiguous manor beneath that card with fireflies and mushrooms score points depending on how many of each symbol there is.

There are also Kodama cards that get played at the end of each of the three rounds. These cards give you bonus points scoring to aim for. Also at the beginning of the rounds a law is proclaimed that gives additional point scoring chances.

It all works fine, the different Kodama and declaration cards give the game a lot of variability...but in the end the game didn't offer much player interaction and just felt forgettable.

Nice looking art, but also the card quality felt very cheap.

The Bad

Shadow Hunters 1 play - 4.0 / 10

I was a little reluctant to play this as I'm not a huge social deduction fan. Games like Werewolf are good because they're so quick. But this game was long and had too many things working against it.

Its basically a roll and move game where certain locations (6 total) allow you to find clues as to whos on your team, other locations help you heal, others give you items, and you can attack people near you.

The things that rubbed me the wrong way was the fact that on your turn you rolled a dice which forces you to move to a certain location. I don't really have to get into the problems with roll and move games do I?

The second issue was that eventually people start to get eliminated...as in completely out of the game yet stuck at the table watching the game finish.

The above two problems wouldn't be too bad if the game were 20 minutes long, but we were at it for a good hour. I was the first to go out and had to watch the final 15 minutes play out.

The game just didn't age well. I was surprised how much I disliked it considering SUSD gave it good reviews.

The Unknown

Knuckling Knights 1 partial play

We found a copy on Black Friday at a game store and bought it for our nephew who's 4. He's getting to the point where he can almost play some games, but he loves Animal upon Animal and we figured we try this one on him. If nothing else, he'll be entertained by the knights tumbling down the tower. That'll be fun to watch...we just haven't had a chance to play it with him yet. So we played a quick round with my mom.
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25. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.71 Overall Rank:14]
Ivan
Russia
Ekaterinburg
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== NEW GAMES ==


Gaia Project - 3 plays -  10 
First Published 2017


I'm big fan of Terra Mystica, so I was happy to play its "next gen" - Gaia Project.

Cons
- the game is more complex than Terra Mystica (new resources, new planets);
- duration of play increased
- illustrations

Neutral
* balance - not enough game experience to test various races;

Pros
+ technology tracks
+ gaia-planets and transdimensional planets - they increase competition between players
+ modular board
+ gameplay itself

Resume: excellent boardgame.
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