New to you June 2011 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in June 2011? 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.
New To You Metalist 2011
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): June 2011
New to Your Kids June 2011 - Best New Games you've played with your children and why.
New To You June 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why June 11
New to you a year ago Jun 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in June 2011
Board Game: Tobago
[Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:396]
With a late flurry (3 new games in the last 6 days of the month) I managed to play 3 new games this month... all of which I would class as lighter strategy games, or family strategy games.
Tobago - 1 play -
As many people know I have a soft spot for lighter strategy games.. ones that could be played by families, but with a bit of thought and depth... so as such Tobago has been on my want to play list ever since it came out.,.. none of my close gaming friends owns it, and on one previous occasion, we had too many to play it.. so this week I requested it at my weekly game group (thanks to Richard for bringing and teaching it).
It really is quite a unique game, combining card play to narrow down the location of the treasures, also corresponding to an investment in whatever gold is found there, with movement around the board to be the first to discover the treasure and/or collect amulets that appear on the Island. There's quite an element of luck too, as the treasure cards are selected randomly, one at a time, and players get to choose whether to take it in exchange for their 'investment' or pass and hope for something better, this happens in reverse order of their investment in finding the treasure, with the player who actually went to dig it up getting first refusal... this is slightly mitigated, by allowing players to look at a number of treasure cards equal to the number of their investments (cards played for that treasure) before distribution, but there is always one treasure that nobody sees. There are also 2 curse cards in the deck which have nasty consequences if they turn up at a treasure site.
Overall I really enjoyed Tobago.. it helped that I won, but I thought it was an excellent and unusual light strategy game. It has tentatively been on my wishlist for some time, but has now moved up the list.
Cargo Noir - 2 plays -
A few of us clubbed together to get this as a birthday present for a friend:
And I managed 2 plays of it in the last few days.. first with just 3 of us including my wife, and then again at our weekly game night.
It's a fairly light family strategy game of bidding/worker placement and set collection, which despite being designed to scale from 3 to 5, definitely feels tighter with more players... granted that fewer regions are available with fewer players, however with more players there are more ships in play, and more people who can outbid you, so competition got quite fierce.
The idea is that you use your ships and money to get cargo, which you can then trade in in groups (same goods or all different) to get cards which are worth specific amounts of points... Several of the lower value ones give you extra benefits, like extra ships, extra warehouse space.. or money when you abandon a port where you were outbid.. but there are only 8 each of these, so in the 5 player game, not everyone can get the maximum 2 each of these important upgrade cards. There are a few different strategies to try... in the 5 player game I got 2 extra ships, but I didn't get any syndicate cards, so I mostly just bid on a single port and used my other ships to generate money and get guaranteed tiles from the black market, whereas other players were using the syndicate cards and spreading themselves thinner around the ports, knowing they would get income from 1 or 2 ports they abandoned.
So overall, I enjoyed my plays of Cargo Noir... it's definitely a bit more interesting with 5 players than with 3. I would be happy to play it again, however I'm not sure it's one I need to own... especially since the insert is a complete disaster (and this from Days of Wonder!) and the tile-bag seems to have come un-stitched after only 3 plays.
Mystery Express - 1 play -
Although I can be a bit hopeless at them, I enjoy deduction games... Cluedo was a family favourite when I was growing up, and I enjoyed Mystery of the Abbey when I came back to boardgaming... so it made sense that I'd be interested in Mystery Express, which turned out to be cluedo on crack!! The basic idea is still the same... 5 cards (1 of each type) are hidden at the start of the game and the object is to identify those cards through the course of play. However in the case of ME there are 2 copies of every card, except the time cards of which there are 3 copies!! So unlike in cluedo, seeing a single copy of a card is not enough to eliminate that person/place/weapon/motive/time you have to see both/all copies and be sure that they are different copies and not the same one that has been passed around. ME also builds on where MotA left off, in that the way you view cards varies.. there is no question and answer mechanism in this... instead you use actions that take a certain amount of time (and you only have a fixed amount of time in each round). to get or view cards.. sometimes you get the card, others you just view it, and sometimes the cards are shown to everyone.
Another nice mechanism is that players have a discard pile, and any cards they show or receive go in the discard pile, and are only picked up again at the start of the next round... this means you cannot get away with showing the same card more than once in a round, which is kind of important when you are trying to locate 2 of each card to eliminate it.
The 5th trait you have to identify: the time of the murder; is handled differently to the other 4... the remaining time cards are not distributed to the players, but kept in a separate stack. At 3 points during the game, players will see the whole of this stack in 3 different ways and will need to try and memorise which cards they have seen 3 copies of. Great for those who have an excellent memory... but harder for me with my poor short term memory.
Overall, Mystery Express does a really good job of re-implimenting and super-charging the cludeo-style deduction game. It has great components (as always from DoW), and is fun and interesting to play. I would love to see this become the staple deduction game for families, but I fear it's chances of unseating cluedo are slim.
New to my Wife
Of the new games I played, my wife got to play both Mystery Express and Cargo Noir... both of which she really enjoyed. Especially Mystery Express, which she said is now on her wishlist.
Love the world.
Good month overall, with a number of new games under my belt. The nod goes to Airlines Europe.
(image credit: msaari)
This is the latest iteration in the Airlines/Union Pacific lineage. It's a stock ownership game, with three victory point payout events semi-randomly distributed through the card draw deck.
On your turn you can do one of the following:
(1) take money,
(2) pay money to increase the value of one of the on-board airline companies (by expanding its geographical range of operation) AND take one share from the face up "stock market" or the face down draw pile,
(3) play share cards from your hand to the table in front of you, or
(4) trade shares in hand for shares of the special off-board "Air Abacus" airline.
If one of the three pay-out cards turns up in the draw deck, then everyone receives VP based on (1) their share of ownership in each company and (2) the current value of the company. Importantly, ONLY the share cards that you've played to the table count for VP scoring purposes. Cards in your hand don't.
You use those actions to try to position yourself to hold large blocks of shares in as many valuable companies as you can manage, push up the value of the companies you've got the best holdings in, and decide when to play share cards from your hand to the table -- all without knowing exactly when the VP scoring will be triggered.
Each of your turns is short, so game play is brisk. Other player's actions can really affect your position, either negatively if they start competing for control of a company you've invested in, or positively, if they help to build up the value of a company you're invested in. As the game progresses, a push your luck element develops, as you need to decide each turn whether to play it safe by putting shares down on the table where they'll count toward VP scoring, or keep pushing to increase your number of shares in hand and the value of companies you control.
I've only played one 5-er so far, but it was well received. Not too heavy or long, interesting decisions to be made, and really nice production values.
Alea Iacta Est
(image credit: nobi)
Nice light-medium "dice allocation" game, with an ancient Rome theme. Players take turns rolling their dice and then deciding how to place some or all of the dice on the various "buildings" available. Keep rolling until one player has used up all of their dice (then complete that round, so everyone has the same number of rolls). Then allocate the rewards.
Each building has different rules for how dice can be placed there and provides different rewards.
The main rewards consist (1) different colonial "provinces" of varying values, (2) male and female "patricians" of varying values who live in specified provinces, and (3) "Senate" cards which provide special scoring opportunities. It's set collecting with some minor geographical and gender constraints (no same sex marriage in this game, despite the recent historic vote in NY state).
I've only played it two-player, which doesn't allow you to use all of the buildings, so I think I need to play with more players to get the full effect (it goes up to 5). But so far, my wife and I have enjoyed it on its own terms, as a light, luck-heavy filler.
The game has nice chunky components with excellent (if slightly cartoon-ey) artwork -- for some "Where's Waldo" type bonus fun, see if you can find the dog relieving himself. Also check out the statute on the column just left of the latrines.
(image credit: Garry)
This viking themed game is very fighty. Players fight over resources, which they'll use to build the walls of their forts; fight to steal resources out of each other's fort walls; and fight over the right to attack each other's forts.
The fighting is accomplished using a simple but clever card mechanism. You get a hand of four cards with values from one to six. Each player involved in a fight simultaneously reveals one card. The higher number wins. The lower number sends his viking to the "field hospital," with the duration of his stay determined by the difference in the card's values. Vikings in the hospital gradually heal and return to play, but it is quite possible to have most or all of your vikings out of play for several turns -- don't let that happen! That would not be fun.
Oh, and here's an interesting wrinkle. The two players who fought exchange the cards that they played, placing their new cards in a "reserve" discard pile on the board. Once they've depleted their active hand, they pick up their reserve pile as a new hand. That's a nice balancing mechanism, because if someone crushes one of your vikings with a six card, you'll soon have that six card in your hand to fight back with. You quickly learn to watch what cards have been accumulating in people's reserves and try to time your attacks when a defender has only one or two cards left in hand.
And another wrinkle. There's secret action selection with simultaneous reveal to determine which vikings go where to fight.
The game plays from 3 to 6 in an hour plus a little. It's light in rules complexity, but there's a lot to think about. It can be a bit swing-ey, with lucky or unlucky guesses and timing helping or hurting you, but it's fairly easy to gang up on the leader by attacking his fort and stealing the materials out of the walls, so the luck evens out a bit over time.
If you're looking for a deep strategic game you'll be disappointed. But if you want a light-medium game with tons of direct player interaction and double-think, in a great looking package that plays up to six, you'll probably be happy with it.
It definitely fills a niche -- after playing, one of our group members said "this isn't like any other game we've played."
(image credit: fabricefab)
Just one play, some time ago, so I don't have a strong recollection of the mechanisms.
It's a dice game, using special "poker dice" showing a value from 9 through Ace on each of the six die faces. Everyone rolls and keeps one die (or more, but you need to pay gold to do so). Repeat until someone has used all of their dice. Then compare dice against the targets on five or six different "locations" on the board. Each location has a different target (e.g., best poker hand, most nines, etc.) and pays out a different bonus. There's a special "I lost everywhere" consolation space that pays out something if you really crapped out.
There are VP cards, and special rule breaking cards, and "gold" nuggets that are worth some number of VP at game end.
I had an okay time, but it wasn't really my favorite type of game. I get frustrated when I feel like luck is playing too great a role in the outcome of a game, and this gave me that vibe.
Light, attractive, thematic, and if you aren't bothered too much by luck, a reasonably pleasant game. I wouldn't ask to play it again, but wouldn't veto it either.
(image credit: baelthazar)
We had a good time with our one play of this. Tons of fiddly bits. Pretty long play time (2.5 hrs?). Lots of randomness. But the thing drips with theme and we played for the experience, rather than as a serious competitive game.
I was the only one to reach the dragon's lair and get out, but I finished second in a hilarious upset. One of our players got trapped in the catacombs, with a terrible string of bad luck (made worse by a rule error) -- torch went out, got lost, torch went out again, attacked by baddie, etc. He literally spent every turn of the game down there, most of them stuck doing nothing. Next to last turn he puts his hand on a diamond that surpassed the treasure value of all of the rest of us. Next turn he finally found an exit from the catacomb and popped up right next to a dungeon exit. One more turn and out to win the game. We laughed and laughed. As we were boxing it up I quipped, "That was a lot of fun, let's never play it again." I was (mostly) joking, but I do feel like I've gotten a healthy dose of what the game has to offer and that repeat playings would probably take the bloom off the rose by emphasizing how long the thing is for a game with that much luck in it.
We had a blast though.
Axis and Allies
(image credit: volnon [with painted minis])
There was more to this than I expected. I had thought it would be more simplistic, just a notch above Risk, but there was really quite a bit more meat on its bones than that.
We played with five. That was good because it really gave the full flavor of multiplayer team-based strategery, but it meant a lot of down time between turns.
The game was LONG. After four hours, I had to bail out and let someone else play my position. It was also somewhat unforgiving. As a complete newbie, I just didn't have a good sense of the strategic space and the relative value and best use of the range of units available to you. So I made a couple of mistakes and got pushed back to a defensive crouch. The next couple of hours were spent slowly uncrouching.
I'm very glad to have played it, but I really don't expect to play it again. If I was in my teens or twenties and had a dedicated group who wanted to really get good at the game, it might be worth the investment. In my current situation, not so much. I'll happily stick to shorter games.
Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
As expected the combination of my brother coming to visit, and me heading to Origins has resulted in a massive entry this month. What I find interesting is that, if you had told me the list of games I would share this month, I never would have guessed the order would come out in this way. There were a lot of surprises this month, both good and bad. As for my favorite game of the month, well it was a battle, but I think I chose the right one...
= Bloodsuckers - When I approached the Fireside Games booth at Origins I really only wanted some Castle Panic freebies and info on the upcoming expansion. Little did I realize that Justin DeWitt and his wife Anne-Marie had put together 2 more new games. And this one was there and ready for us to try out. After getting the rules explained we rushed back the next day to try out the game. Sure enough it was a richly thematic battle between vampires and hunters. The cards offered some neat combos, and the production was just great. The short synopsis is that the two sides are fighting over a group of townspeople by playing different weapons, and other items. Then the townspeople join the side that came out on top. There are also opportunities for vampires to bite the hunters themselves and turn them into vampires. It all makes so much sense (within that theme) and flows brilliantly. If my family was a little more into themes like this I would have bought the game on the spot. As it is I was sorely tempted, and will anxiously seek out a chance to play again soon. A good game made even better by the sparkling personalities of the designers. I hope their company goes far.
= Coloretto - Jason brought this little card game with him when he visited earlier in the month, and holy cow was that ever a revelation. This is what I wish Zooloretto would be like. The game is tense and it cuts through the silly tile-laying aspect of Zoo. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Zooloretto, I've just burned out on it over time. The speed of this game is exactly what I was looking for and it has me seriously considering picking up a copy for my collection. My family seemed to enjoy it, and I think it will work with all my friends and relatives. And, surprisingly, I found the 2-player game just as exciting and tense as 5-player. Seldom do I find myself leaning towards a card game over a board game, but this will be the exception to that rule. If I didn't know better I would think this was the card game sequel to the SdJ winner, and I would be impressed by how it pared away the useless features and left everything that makes Zooloretto fun. Great, fast game that I think everyone should try at least once.
= RoboRally - It's really not fair for me to judge this game after the first game we played. Unfortunately Jason was forced to deal with some things for work in the middle of the game, so he was distracted. Plus we played 2-player which meant very little bumping and jostling for position. So it ended up just being a game of "who can draw the more useful cards." And since Jason was distracted he struggled to plan his moves out properly. Throw in the fact that it was our first game so we played a very basic game, and it was almost a perfect storm of situations that make it hard to accurately judge a game. I do see some potential here and I'm anxious to play again soon, but for now I'm going to call it a good-not-great game. Although the mechanism is something I enjoy, I think I like it better in a cooperative fashion like you find in Space Alert. I can just see certain people playing to be jerks and making the game more difficult for everyone else, which you never find in a cooperative game.
= Star Trek: Expeditions - Being a massive cooperative game fan, a fan of Reiner Knizia games, and a fan of the recent reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise I thought for sure this game was going to be the greatest game of the month for me. Well, while I did enjoy the experience of playing and would gladly play again, I just wasn't as wowed by it as I expected. The game does involve a lot of cooperation, and has some amazing components. The theme was there on the cards, and the images from the movie were just what I was looking for. The challenge was a bit light (I never really felt like we would fail) but I can see how the more difficult levels would change that feeling. But the execution of the missions felt very dry. Rolling 2 dice to determine if you fail or succeed usually brings out a loud chorus of cheers or groans of defeat. Yet the die rolls felt a little anticlimactic as you rolled first and then added 6+ different modifiers to the roll to see if you succeeded. Perhaps in the future I will make a point of adding up modifiers first and then determining what roll is needed (that might ramp up the tension.) In summary, the game wasn't bad (I did like playing it), but it lacked that spark to make me want to rush out and buy a copy.
= Wok Star - Another cooperative game that I've been itching to try for a long time. I love the timer mechanism and the way it imposes excitement and tension on the game. I also like how this seems to be 2 different cooperative games in one: First you have the speed game of swapping dice and making ingredients that your partners need, and then you have the group decisions between rounds where you have to decide what upgrades you will need to succeed. The downside of the game is that the rules are not intuitive, and the game can get a little repetitive. I wish we were taught by someone who already knew how to play because it felt like the rulebook was a little ambiguous on some points. And the rounds all start to feel the same after awhile, which I also find frustrating. I'd play again, but this is another that I took off my "must own" list after playing.
= Grimoire - This was an interesting game that I honestly knew nothing about before John Weldy bought it at Origins and taught it to me. The gameplay is very straightforward which I appreciated. As a 2-player it felt rather strategic, and there were a lot of different roads to victory. I'll be interested to see how that translates to the multiplayer game. In a way the interaction of the roles made it feel like I was playing a Bruno Faidutti game, which is a good thing in my opinion. However the gimmick of the spell books didn't work that well for me. While the idea is cute it leads to some issues. For one thing, players have to read and re-read the spells all the time, and risk forgetting about a key spell later in the game. This can slow things down as people have to remind themselves what is available. Also if you have a dishonest player it would be remarkably easy for someone to watch roughly where in the book a player is playing their bookmark and base their decisions on that. I'd play again, but it didn't strike me as a great game.
= Climb! - A very creative twist on dexterity games. I've honestly never seen anything quite like it. The way players have to plan out their hand movements as they "climb up" the cards is very interesting. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat watching even when it isn't your turn. But I can't even imagine playing with the harder cards. It seemed that the easiest cards were enough of a challenge for me. But what bothers me is that it feels like certain people with longer fingers, or more flexible hands will succeed every time. Plus remembering which color matches which finger is not easy so you're constantly referencing the chart as a reminder. It was a silly game that I'd play again for the humor of it, though.
= Click Clack Lumberjack - I bought this silly dexterity game as soon as I saw it at Origins because I knew the youth group would love it. I'd heard about it before from some geekbuddies and never thought I'd be able to get a copy so easily. Sure enough the game is silly fun. But this rulebook was perhaps more fun than the game itself. I have never read such horribly mangled Engrish in my entire life. I honestly had no idea how to play the game from the rulebook, but we were laughing almost to the point of tears reading it. Tom Vasel, thankfully, was on hand to explain the game clearly to us, and it ended up being fun. The biggest drawback to the game is that the setup can be literally twice as long as the game. I'm anxious to see what the teens think of the game, but for now I'm just having fun reading the rulebook again.
= Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation - Dominion is one of my favorite games, but I never really felt compelled to try any of the other deck-building games since Dominion gives me exactly what I want. Still when you're at a convention like Origins and you have the opportunity to try a game that hasn't even been released yet with a theme you enjoy it seems silly to turn it down. Well, Dominion doesn't have to worry about losing its claim to my deck-building heart. This game was interesting but seemed to suffer from a number of flaws. First of all it felt like there was a massive chance for a runaway leader. While the guys demoing the game assured us that in multiplayer you could gang up on the leader, I just didn't see that many opportunities for that kind of interaction. Then there is a massive luck factor in the mission deck. If you draw the wrong cards at the wrong time you can literally be destroyed 5 or 6 times in one game. And finally, and probably most importantly, the game just felt too long for what it is. I guess there are multiple ways to play, but the version we played felt very long and drawn out. We didn't quite reach the "official" end condition but when one player is 300 points ahead of the other, and the loser just got his ship destroyed for the 6th time it seems like a good time to stop.
= Triviathon - I appreciate what the designers were trying to do with both of the games in this box. However, despite their best efforts, I think they failed at combining those 2 games into 1. Let me explain: The first game in this box includes some really interesting trivia, and has a great way of presenting it. The multiple choice takes some of the sting away for people who don't like trivia, although it still requires some knowledge to do well. Now the other game that is in this box is this over-the-top silly game. There's lots of humor brought in with the different roles, and the spaces on the board. In fact the game box is absolutely covered in humorous comments. Some people won't be comfortable being silly to this degree, but with the right group it can be fun. But I don't think intriguing trivia blends well with this kind of goofiness. So you either get players who are intrigued by the trivia but annoyed by the humor, or you get players who laugh at all the humor but get bored with the trivia. And my other gripe is that the choices and lists in the questions are often quite hard to memorize so you either have to repeat yourself multiple times, or you just have to hand the card to the person answering. The game is a valiant effort, but not something I'll be playing much more.
= The Target - We saw this game at a booth in the dealer hall at Origins, and were just blown away by the great production quality. The card boxes were well designed, the art was great, and the cards themselves were sturdy enough to stand up to multiple plays. I've always liked hidden role games, and when we struggled to get a group together in the dealer hall to try out the game I just bought it so we could play it in the Board Room. What a mistake! This game has so many problems that I feel like the designers never once playtested the game. For starters there is no clarification on timing in the rulebook, and a lot of times it really matters whether you have to play before looking at another player's card or not. There are 4 different decks that all do useful things, but since the hand size is so ridiculously small (4 cards) it is virtually impossible to get all the cards you need to create any sort of strategy. If you die you are basically sent back to the beginning of the game which is absolutely crippling. And there was even a situation in our game where we calculated, several turns before the end of the game, that at least 2 of the players at the table no longer had a chance of winning, but they still had to play anyways! John Weldy insisted that I could work out some house rules to salvage the game, but at this point I'm so amazingly frustrated by the utter lack of any playtesting that went into this game and its rulebook, that I just can't even think about playing again...AAAAAAAAAGH!!!
Everyone likes a piece of pie.
That's wonderful. Good for you! I've always wanted to have a haunted house. It's been my lifelong dream!
Thirty-three games this month! That is more than I've had in almost a year. Interestingly, almost none of them were new games. I'm okay with that because I've been enjoying exploring games a little bit more deeply. Plus I'm getting more mileage out of my collection. So only two new games but and they are exceptionally light.
Testing the Senses
I love pick up games that have unique mechanics or challenge my brain in different ways. Igloo Pop does both. I love the free for all and it is oddly thrilling as the igloos are flipped over and the number revealed. Interestingly, the weight of the igloo is as useful as the sound of it in many ways.
One comment on theme. While Igloo Pop is famous for it's bizarre theme, my friend Victor thinks the original, less kid friendly theme is quite obvious:
The idea of playing hand twister fell flat with all the old farts I play with but I'm still hopeful. I see the potential for a ton of laughs with the right group. I really love the balls that come with the game. Plus I picked it up for free from one of our group's thrifters for free. Bonus.
Chicago Express: Narrow Gauge & Erie Railroad Company
I really enjoy Chicago Express and I was excited to be able to try out the Erie RR Expansion for the game. I liked the gamble of it. It seems really hard to get a good enough return on investment with a big enough outlay to push back to New York. In our game, the owner pushed down toward Pittsburgh and Wheeling instead. Still not sure it paid off though. Still I could see this being a regular addition to the game. Still need to try the narrow gauge but I am more dubious of that one.
Not a new game but a new outlook on this one. The first couple of games I played fell flat, but I brought this out on a lark and it was a huge hit with the old farts. I'm not sure what changed in the dynamic but it was a really fun game and has seen several more plays since. It is turning into one of my favorite dexterity games.
Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
Stronghold - 1 play
I've played a partial game of this (3 turns) of this with my wife to get the hang of the mechanics and gameplay, but it was not enough to determine how I really felt about the game. After this full playing of the game, I can give Stronghold a VERY enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Stronghold is unlike most games you will have probably played - on the surface it is a wargame, but there are some really unusual game mechanics going on here that make the game really standout. As the Invader player, you set the pace of the game, and each action that you take generates an hourglass counter that is given to the defender to use for actions of his own. If you feel you are strong enough to make an assault in one or two places you can "starve" the Defender player of hourglasses as you make your attack(s). It's a nice touch that I haven't seen in any other games and really ratchets up the tension for both players.
With the variety of cards available for each stage in a turn - of which only ONE for each stage will be selected by the Invader for the game, each game will have a different feel to it and allow each player to explore the many tactical options available to them.
Stronghold is a brilliant game, rich in theme and is both strategic and tactical in it's execution. I'm really, really glad I picked up a copy and I hope to see it hit the table a lot in the future. On the downside, the rules are tough to get through - it seems that there is really no easy way to describe the game play, although I hear the new version is slightly better. My advice would be to print up some of the various player aids and after a single turn walk through, things will be going smoothly.
For me the icing on the cake is that there is an Undead expansion that really changes up things for both players. I hope to get a chance to play that one soon!
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game - 6 plays
I was on a business trip to Chicago and after looking up a nearby game store, I took a short drive and went exploring. Not only was the store one of the best I have seen in my travels, but I picked up this gem of a game too.
I had not read up much on Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game prior to buying this, in fact my main motivation was finding a small, compact game that I could play solo in the hotel room during my stay. Seeing that the game can handle 1-6 players sealed the deal and I eagerly picked up my copy.
After laying it out on the computer desk in my room and reading the rulebook 3 or 4 times, I plowed through my first game of this. It was slow going with a lot of flipping back and forth through the rule book to see what did what. Fantasy Flight Games has a certain style with their game rules that seems to always be organized at first glance, but in actuality, is someone disjointed in relationship to the what you rally need to know to play one of their games. It's a minor point to be sure, but one worth mentioning.
The game itself really captures the tension and excitement of a small squad of Space Marines confined in narrow corridors filled with multiple places to be ambushed by the Genestealer aliens. The game deals with combat very simply - the Space Marines make a kill by rolling a skull icon on one of 3 sides of the die, the Genestealers need to roll equal or less than the number of Genestealers in the group that is attacking. This makes for some brutal games as a few bad rolls can mean you lose half of your Marines in a single round.
To win you have to "advance" through a set number of a series of semi-random locations (depending on the number of players in the game), and each game plays out differently depending on which locations you have in your stack.
I think the game is the most difficult when playing solo as you get a certain number of squads depending on how are playing: with 1 player you get 3 squads of 2 for a total of 6 marines, with 2 players you get 2 squads each for a total of 4 marines, etc. The more squads in play, the more available actions you have available and the more tactical choices you have at your disposal. Marines "face" one way or the other and they can only attack in the direction they face and you have to use a precious action to change locations or facing. I've yet to win a single game playing solo (5 of the 6 played), but we won easily in our single 2 player game.
There is a lot of game here in a very compact box and it is well worth the price tag - you will get hours and hours of enjoyment out of this well produced, tense and fast playing card game.
Infinity - 1 play
Infinity was a game I owned as a kid, but it was destroyed by water damage when my dad cleaned off the garage floor with the hose and this game was sitting in the box on the bottom of the storage area. After joining BGG back in 2000 or so, one of my quests was to find a replacement copy of this game. After some scouring of eBay auctions, I eventually found a complete copy and replaced this very cool and interesting game of my youth.
Infinity is one of the earliest "tile-laying" games I can recall, and game play is very straightforward: lay out tiles in a specific order as you try and empty your tray down to 2 or less tiles each turn to score points. The game board represents 4 arms of a spiral galaxy and the tiles are either actual things like suns, moons, and black holes, or they represent the evolution of a planet with things like dinosaurs, man and his development.
The rules are really simple - they are printed on the back of the box top, and after reading them once, you'll be playing in no time. The game was co-designed (at least this edition) by Sid Sackson, so you know there is a real game here. There are a couple small ambiguities in the rules that you really just need to pick an interpretation of and go forward as there are no real resources anymore to get an "official" answer from.
The game is both unique and visually stunning and once the flow is down, it could easily be a game that gets played often when a quick filler is needed between meatier games. My rating may go up with more plays, but right now this is a great way to spend 45 minutes with a game with surprising game play light years ahead of it's time.
Reef Encounter - 1 play
I had played Reef Encounter a couple of times a few years ago, but I never really got "immersed" in the game play to say I enjoyed myself. It seemed too disjointed and confusing as to what you should be trying to do in a turn to accomplish anything. After watching the video of it on "Boardgames with Scott" (who does a masterful job of explaining not only what the game is all about, but how it all works), things have finally clicked and I can enjoy the game for what it is - a game of set collection with territorial conflict thrown in for good measure.
The main goal is to feed your Parrotfish coral tiles and make the ones it's eaten the most valuable at the end of the game. There are 5 different colors of coral and there is a certain heirarchy to which dominate over the others and that dominance can change and is controlled by the players. Each color can potentially dominate any of the others so careful and smart game play will allow you to lock in each type of dominance - thus scoring more points for that color coral at the end of the game. Score the most points and you are the winner.
I had my wife watch the video too instead of trying to explain the game to her and it worked fairly well. During the game, I helped explain things further and while the first half of the game she was kind of lost in what was a good move, later on she started to see how things interacted and did very well - in fact she even won the game.
We both enjoyed the game for a couple of reasons: One - it's SO different than our typical games of Agricola or Le Havre that it was a nice change of scenery for us; and two, the game was fun to explore how things interacted together and how we could manipulate the environment.
I can easily see this game becoming a semi-regular in our play sessions just for the variety alone.
Only one new game to me this month.
I didn't enjoyed it. It has a nice bidding system, but that's it. Well, I believe that people who enjoy bidding games will love this one, but they are not for me.
Only a few new games this month.
Formula D (2 plays)
For a party game that gets away from the usual "ask a question, make up an answer" format, this one will become my go-to game. There is a bit of a push-your-luck feel that I like, and just enough strategy to make this more than a roll and move game. It's also great that it plays up to 10 people. This one is definitely a hit.
Scopa (a bunch of plays)
We brought a deck of cards with us when we flew this past month. My wife couldn't get enough of Scopa. Normally, we would bring a cribbage board with us, but this might take its place. For one, we don't have to carry the board. Also, it plays quicker, which allows for games to actually finish. It's short enough the the luck doesn't matter too much, and playing over multiple rounds mitigates it.
Skat (3 plays)
This one isn't technically new to me, my wife, her friend and I used to play occasionally. We got to see her friend again, so we played this a few times. It's been so long since we last played that I wanted to mention it here. If anyone is looking for a good trick taking game for three players, take a look at this. The rules can be a little confusing, but it's no more complicated than something like Contract Bridge, and it's quite a bit of fun.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
My favorite this month was Airlines Europe. It's pretty close to Union Pacific but has some good changes. I think I still slightly prefer Union Pacific if only because trains are cooler than planes.
Irondale was pretty good too. I played this 2 player but would like to see how it handles with more. I'm enjoying the way buildings interact and trying to set yourself up without making it easy on your opponent.
I finally got to play Dune and I had a good time but I wasn't one of the players who got effectively eliminated while there was still plenty of time left to go in the game. If I were I expect it wouldn't have been as interesting.
Board Game: Java
[Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:754]
June was Kramer month. I played 11 different Kramers, 6 of them new to me.
#1 Java - (1 Play)
I've been waiting for quite a while to play the complete Mask Trilogy, Java being the one that had so far eluded me. I had finally acquired a copy of Java and managed to play it during Kramer month. What a brain burner! Kramer is a master of deep game play with simple rules and Java is no exception. It was very easy to learn and I was able to easily teach after only having read the rules once or twice. I loved the opportunities for creative moves. Several times throughout the game players did totally unexpected things. Properly exploiting the three-dimensional board that is built throughout the game required using a part of my brain that felt a little dusty and complained a bit for being woken, but it was a great ride. Java won't come out every week, but I'm looking forward to trying new things next time.
#2 Hacienda - (1 Play)
"Another Kramer, another hit." Wow, I didn't even have to change my first sentence from last month. Only played this game once, and it was a bit of a learning game, but by the end of the game I knew it was a great game that will get many plays over the years. I like how there really are a number of winning strategies. The player who won was only connected to one market. Again Kramer presents us with a few simple options and a devilishly tricky time of deciding when to do what. Like a good Kramer, I always felt like I needed just one more action to do what I wanted to do. All in all, this was a very solid game.
#3 Gulo Gulo - (5 Plays)
Versatile Kramer delivers another excellent game - this time a children's game. Not too much to say here other than it's fun with both kids and adults and kids with their nimble little fingers might actually have an advantage here. Players who make a mistake can catch up quite easily, which is another advantage. The components are really top notch as well. I love the THICK tiles, and the wooden eggs, nest, and egg alarm thing are really nice. A great kids/dexterity/race game to have in my collection.
#4 Wildlife Adventure - (1 Play)
Another very good Kramer-designed game with simple rules. The theme is great. Traveling around the world to save endangered species is fun (although we thought it might be even more fun to be big game hunters trying to bag the animals). One of the best parts was stringing together big combo moves by using special spaces and cards. Make no mistake, there's a high amount of randomness. This could be more of a game for younger players. But we had a lot of fun with it. I will be playing this one a bunch more times.
#5 Evergreen - (1 Play)
I most likely would have never played this game were it not designed by the Kramer/Kiesling team. I'm glad I did. This is a great game! I am shocked by how it ranks around here. Sure it's rather overproduced for what it is, and the sand timer doesn't work properly, but this was a great game. So good, in fact, that I immediately ordered my own copy from Amazon for $12. I agree that the theme is kind of lame, but we mostly just ignored the theme and enjoyed the game play. Theme can be important to me, but game play is the most important. This game is quick, has elements of hand-management, includes an excellent and unique majority system, and makes you think fast. What's not to like?
#6 Gemblo - (1 Play)
I recently acquired this (non-Kramer) game and played it once with four players. The game is very Blokus-like but with hexagons. It was quite enjoyable. The game is more opaque than Blokus, as your pieces can actually never touch, but rather must be placed one hex away from each other such that (at least) one vertex on each piece is connected by a grid line on the board. This makes it harder than Blokus to see and block your opponent's opportunities for expansion. This could be a positive as it actually feels different enough from Blokus to be new and exciting. Not using the whole board for fewer than 6 players is a tad fiddly, but easily manageable. I'm really looking forward to trying it with various player counts and especially a full complement of 6. Not having an English translation of the rules lead to one rules error as well. I found a translation for future games.
#7 Top Race - (1 Play)
I love Daytona 500 and so was excited to try this similar implementation of Kramer's card-driven racing series. First off is an important note about components. I played with the Volkanik/Magma edition and the game is almost unplayable with the included components. The components are cheaply made, but the real problem is that there is no easy way to fan out the movement cards and see at a glance what you have. This was a very poor graphic design decision that makes playing the game very cumbersome. Also I was not a fan of the spurt/breakdown cards which seemed to almost break the game. The game seemed like a good mix of luck, strategy, and tactics with room for clever play through the great betting system and the card play but the spurt/breakdown cards seemed to throw a wrench into that nicely balanced system. I think I also prefer how the big movement cards are given to the owners of the cars in Daytona 500. Top Race, with a different edition, and with a few house rules would be a great game. I think I'll instead use it (with the betting rules) as an additional track for Daytona 500.
#8 Code Cracker - (9 Plays)
I found this Knizia game at the thrift store for $0.25. I knew about it, and wasn't incredibly interested, but you can't really go wrong for a quarter. I play it 9 times and 7 of these were solo. It was actually quite fun to play a number of games using the solo variant and try to beat my high score (34). I can't really see it being rewarding to do this for more than 10 plays though as it doesn't take very long to figure out optimal play and the rest is pure luck. The problem with the multi-player game is that you are pushing your luck, but if you don't quite make your goal you've only helped the other players. It would be kind of like playing Can't Stop with only one set of runners for everyone and you don't lose your progress when you strike out. It's probably going back to the thrift store.
Sorry Dave, I didn't get to Die Handler during Kramer month.
Just the one new game for me this month: Thunderstone Dragonspire. This was a new acquisition by someone in the group, and he'd brought it a couple of times before now, but I never had the opportunity to play. Until the last games evening of this month.
I liked it. Wasn't blown away by it, but I liked it. Better than I like Dominion, I think. But same as with Dominion, we must have done something wrong, as we spent the whole evening playing just the one game!
I had picked this up as a second chance bidder during the Jack Vasel auction. I was quite intrigued by it but my girlfriend was a bit put off by all the symbols. We'd tried it once in May quite unsuccessfully, and didn't complete the game.
We brought it out again earlier this month, and have played it quite a bit. The iconography of the cards is second nature to me at this point, she only needs the place mat occasionally to clear up what a card does. This was the only new game I got to play this month, but it's by far one of the best new (to me) games I've played this year.
Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
A mere three new games for me this month; which would ordinarily be a pretty sad report. But this month, I'd also played four new expansions - and, perhaps strangely, I found the expansions uniformly more appealing than the games. So as is now usual, I'll list 'em in decreasing order of enthusiasm (even though that means the expansions before the games.)
Twilight Imperium (Third Edition): Shards of the Throne -- (2 plays) _8_
(images by W Eric Martin & halbower)
This one should probably win Poorest colour match between base game and expansion. While it's certainly not gameplay-significant, there's a distinct difference between the colours used for the plastic miniatures used in the original game and in this expansion.
Why did I find it amusing? It adds a few interesting mechanisms (mercenaries; flagships; emissaries) and several fun new races to the already-epically-cool base game. I'm not sure that my vote is terribly significant - other than being a reflection of my fondness for TI3. There are still several bits I've not attempted here, and I'm looking forward to trying them. In particular, I'd like to try one of the Lazax scenarios!
7 Wonders: Manneken Pis -- (1 play) _7.3_
(image by zefquaavius)
It seemed wrong to demand a beer of my 8 year old. Perhaps the B side isn't appropriate for all audiences... Most likely to get me in trouble with Child & Protective Services?
While the theme-appropriateness of the Manneken seems dubious to me (I can understand the National Pride factor; but it seems dorkily incomparable with the other wonders) it's an amusing addition to 7 Wonders. I'm not the world's biggest fan of that title - but I like it well enough to put an expansion into second place.
Dixit: Quest -- (2 plays) _7_
(images by Toynan & revengeisnotjustice)
This one needs to win Best match with the original game (in contrast to Shards of the Throne, naturally.
In our most recent Dixit game, we shuffled the original and expansion cards together. Other than the huge stack of large cards taxing my limited ability to shuffle, the new and old cards blended together perfectly. And since with 5 or 6 players, we normally go through more than 84 cards before someone gets past 30 points, the extra deck ensures that multiple shuffles aren't necessary. Perhaps it's a net win?
In the end, though, my daughter's view is probably most appropriate "Wow; this artist is really good."
Mississippi Queen: The Black Rose -- (1 play) _7_
(images by Kevin C & Toynan)
Not the fault of the game at all, but this one wins Most latent hostility wrapped in a game box. It also wins Greatest improvement on the base game on merit.
"Why the hostility?" you ask? (Actually, I'm pretty sure that's only rhetoric; it's likely you don't care a bit.)
My relationship with Black Rose is historically unsatisfying. I'd bought a copy back in 2007 from ebay.de. Which could have worked, but - in my case - was an abject failure. The seller took his time in shipping - so I only received the box three months later: too late to file a complaint. Initially, I was just happy to have received it (I'd previously paid for a copy of Die Händler off ebay.de and never saw a shipment. The seller wouldn't even pretend he had shipped it - though he was happy to keep my money. Hmph.) but when I opened the box, I discovered a miscellany of Mississippi Queen parts, but nothing like a complete Black Rose set: it had half expansion tiles, and half base tiles; four new steamships - three of them red; and none of the little stateroom tiles (ok; they're trivial, but still!) So this play needed to wait until I'd bought another copy. (And you can imagine that was difficult to find: the complete copy was usually worth less to me than it was to any potential seller.)
So, finally, I managed to get my hands on a complete Black Rose. And my two youngest were happy to try it out on Fathers' Day. Fun stuff; it worked for all of us, and we enjoyed the havoc that the Black Rose herself caused. Definitely an improvement over the base game.
The Speicherstadt -- (1 play) _6.7_
(images by W Eric Martin & Siromist)
This one wins Most amusing new auction mechanism I saw this month. Now that may be more sarcastic than strictly necessary: I don't know that I really needed any new auction mechanisms in my life.
The game was fun. Perhaps that was a reflection of the other folk; they're cool. Yet despite the fact that I was amused, there was something imperfectly compelling about the game: it seemed to be one of those lovely new euros that might get three or four plays before I tired of it: and I'm doing my best to not buy those ones this year. (I've certainly blundered and bought too many incompletely compelling games that amuse for a small handful of plays, and then sit on my shelf waiting for me to learn more about Math Trades.)
I could be wrong: it might be the sort of thing that I could drag out with the no-longer-on-Friday crowd to a great reception. But I've too many other things that I'm hoping to inflict on them to want to bring the same game more than two or three times in the next year.
Blink -- (1 play) _5.5_
(images by EJKemp & Mecoides)
Blink gets the coveted What? Is it already over award.
Yes, this is a game that takes almost more time to find on the shelf than play! Lovely daughter #1 and I had the opportunity to play with a couple of her friends: they'd brought the game with them (they were coming for a sleepover, and had been a bit concerned that we wouldn't have any games to play in our house.) As speed games go, I'd personally rather play several others: I'm a huge (and historic) fan of Dutch Blitz/Ligretto; I really like Spot It!; my kids have fun with Set; I've enjoyed Ricochet and Bongo!. This one falls after those others: amusing but too far on the speed-thought line toward speed for an old guy like me.
Kent -- (2 plays) _5_
(image by riffraff)
This one wins Without the Metagame, it's nothing.
I had the chance to play this with my daughter and a gaggle of her friends. They'd been playing for most of the past year at lunch at school - and had developed a wonderful vocabulary of signal and misdirection (along with a pretty exotic set of stories about the most outrageous signals pulled of during the year.) It was a lot of fun to be part of the play - but the game wasn't really the cool bit. Instead, it was just the framework for some wonderful silliness.
Thanks again to my youngsters; the no-longer-on-Friday Lunch folk; the I've been diced gang; and the BAP attenders for some fun games.
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
Two excellent ‘new to me’ games this month.
Letters from Whitechapel
2 Plays both with 2 players
Deduction done right. Highly atmospheric game – albeit an unsettling theme. The magnificent production and great playing board only add to the experience.
Played both Jack and Policeman ‘side’ and found both are equally interesting, although perhaps that was just because my playing partner and I are n00bs and left plenty of clues, so there was always a trail to follow for the police.
I thought it might be a little fiddly, but my fears were largely unfounded. The rules and play were very straightforward with both players getting “the hang” of things by the middle of the first round.
Nevertheless, great theme, great production, good mechanisms led to entertaining and tense play.
Provisional rating: 8.5/10
2 plays: 1 2p 1 3p
I have finally found a new non-gamer-spouse-friendly game! My wife liked it so much she happily played 2player after an initial 3player game. Another game that integrates very well with its theme. [The theme of removing ancient cultural artefacts from their homeland to a European museum is something I find almost as unsettling as Letters from Whitechapel – Game of “Elgin Marbles” anyone? But I digress]
A simple game with lots going on – worker placement/set collection/push your luck and yet it all fits together is a surprisingly simple and smooth game that follows the excavation of Pergamon theme very well. Very non-gamer friendly and the playing time of 1 hour ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
There are a few strategies to try out eg lots of smaller exhibits v a few large ones, but it will be interesting to find out the re-play value in a game that might have an element of ‘scripting’ around it.
Its also up there with Homesteaders for one of the best implementations of a dummy player I have come across, almost making the 2player game preferable to the 3player games. Minimal fiddliness in operating the dummy and moves the game along quickly. The $@^! Tomb raider seems to know just what your after!
Provisional Rating: 8/10
Board Game: Kreta
[Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1428]
I did not get to posting to last month's list, but I would have only posted two games anyway. Inca Empire was the surprise to me, in that I thought I would enjoy it more than I did.
So this a two month post! Still disappointed in the number of new-to-me's here...
Kreta - 8
Kreta is an interesting little majority game set on the island of Crete. The island is divided into provinces with a numbered fort space on all the intersections. There are 26 numbered fort spaces. A deck of cards corresponds to the numbers on the forts and 11 of those cards are drawn and lined up face-down at the beginning of the game. Scoring is triggered 11 times, once for each card, and the provinces that are scored are those connected to the fort space on the card. You only have visibility to the next two forts being scored, so the game is fairly fluid and unpredictable. There are a number of game piece that each score and move in different ways. You activate a piece by playing a personality card from your hand. Once played, you cannot play that card again until after the next scoring. There are also goods on each province that can be collected for additional points.
Kreta is a great game for what it is. It is fairly light, but still forces interesting decisions and it is great putting the ability to time the scoring into the players' hands.
Ticket to Ride: Europe - 8
This and Nordic Countries are almost the same game, except that this accommodates more players. Both are excellent. The tunnels and ferries add just the right amount of complexity to improve, but not clutter the basic game. The board for Europe is challenging with a full player count. The best editions of Ticket to Ride.
London (first edition) - 7
Card-driven economic game where strangely money seems to get more scarce as you near the game's end, which can leave you holding the bag in multiple ways if you aren't expecting it. The game is solid, with very simple rules. The cards aren't terribly interesting, but they are well-balanced and nicely laid out. The game, especially the special order version, is attractive. I think the card display gives an acceptable amount of control over hand-management. Solid, but not terribly exceptional, game.
Inca Empire - 7
Players are Incan lords trying to expand and develop their part of the Incan empire better than the other players. Players get points for conquering territories, building cities, garrisons and temples, and being connected to those locations, whomever built them. Players can also play cards that affect two players, either positively or negatively, and creates a certain variability on what you are able to accomplish from turn to turn. Every turn players extend their network of roads and either conquer a territory or build something. Income comes primarily in the form of labor from conquered territories. That's right. The currency of this game is human sweat.
The game play is interesting. It's part race to get the premium locations before your opponents. It's managing your income so that you are not limited in your actions. The cards throw in a bit of chance and the ability to directly mess with your opponents. I liked the game. My main concern is the ability to be competitive if someone gets an early advantage. It is unforgiving in that regard. I'm usually fine with unforgiving games, like Age of Steam, but somehow this game feels a bit hopeless when you get behind and there isn't quite enough choices for those who are behind to even give the illusion of competitiveness. I'm interested in playing the game a few more times to see if most games follow this pattern. There are a few catch-up mechanics, but they are pretty weak. If more play reinforces this pattern, I'd probably drop the score a notch and trade it.
Archaeology: The Card Game - 6
This is a set collecting game where you try to score points for selling sets of the same cards, getting points according to a scoring multiplier which differs by card type. There is a marketplace of face-up cards you can trade with on the table, as well as a pyramid with treasure rooms containing 3, 5, and 7 cards. You need to trade in 1, 2, or 3 map cards accordingly to claim those bounties. Each turn a player draws a card from the deck and then can do any or all of the other actions: go to the pyramid if you have the required map cards, trade with the marketplace (you can trade for cards of equal or lesser trade value), or sell sets. You can draw Thief cards that allow you to steal a blind card from your opponent and Sandstorm cards that make all players drop half of their hands into the marketplace. The game ends when the deck is exhausted and nobody has any cards left. Very light game. Plays in about 10-15 minutes. Not bad at all for what it is, but probably has a bit too much randomness for my tastes in general.
Odin's Ravens - 5
A racing game with some convoluted card play. There is room here for some clever tricks, but as a whole the game starts to feel repetitive pretty quick.
When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
I played 6 new to me games in June, and this one was my favorite of them. I would probably rate this an 8 or 9.
I also played Java (8), Clash of the Gladiators (7), Cloud 9 (6), Carcassonne:Hunters and Gatherers (6), and Easy Money (3).
Along with the expansion Revolution! The Palace
is the best game I played this month. I had never really looked at this game and got asked to get played at a con.
Wow, it was a five player game of cut throat and I loved it.
Pictures, however poor they are, by myself.
Stephensons Rocket 1x
This is one of those ’classics’ that I have known for years, read its rules years ago but could not try for very long – I had to buy the game (rather cheap) to make it appear at the gaming table. And I was really impressed, actually. Of course it’s (only) one third Acquire, one third Knizian tile-laying connection game (see Through the Desert and others) and probably one third classic train games (I have never played any of the 18XX games or any of the Martin Wallace train games yet!) but it’s still a very streamlined design with two great features.
One of these is the three ways of scoring, expecially the web of the decisions leading to scoring this or that way which simply makes the game a gamers’ game even with its relatively simple rules. The other one is the veto mechanism (was it inspired by Drunter & Drüber? Or is it an old device in games?). The decision is made tricky and hard in the way I love in the great Knizias: you can change the direction of the routes – but then you have to give up one or more shares of the company for this. (Of course other features are made just the same tricky: to get passenger tokens you have to connect somebody else’s station to the network; stations can’t be placed next to the train so it’s far from sure that they are going to be a part of any network; trades are free but they are worth nothing if the city is not connected to any networks etc.)
Add that the role of luck is zero in this game (even the set-up does not have any randomness) and many of the decisions are crucial so you can safely say it’s not a family game. I still hope I can play it with some of my friends and not only the gamer guys in the gaming club; I hope the best as I want to explore the seemingly great depths of this one. 7.8
De Vulgari Eloquentia 1x
As I was warned I’m going to have the same problems with this game as I had with Vinhos I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, it has problems of production rushed-up for Essen 2010 (confusing rulebook, mistakes on the board and the player screens etc.) but as for the game itself, it’s complex but not overcomplicated, it has many rule details sprung from the theme (e.g. map details, Assisi, University of Genova, Brindisi, endgame in Roma etc.) but these also always add some interesting decision to the game. It’s a 3-hour game but unlike in Vinhos I really enjoyed these 3 hours and didn’t really feel it was an overdesigned (underedited) title even if I wouldn’t call this one elegant.
I guess the interesting theme adds a lot to the game and also it seems I’m a map-geek too: even if it’s a rather standard complex Euro I do think maps (that you really use as maps, i.e. you move on them) always add something to the games, they just make the experience more enjoyable (e.g. I’m sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed Navegador that much if it didn’t have the map as a central feature). 7.5
Mr. Jack in New York 1x
Was my introduction to the Mr. Jack universe through the best episode game in the series? According to BGG it was; I don’t know but I want to learn the rest as well now. It’s interesting, fun and original (of course I’m talking about the system and not this particular game which is a follow-up of Mr. Jack). A nice abstract game of different tiles having different special abilities combined with a hidden information deduction game and a fun portion of luck – it really seems to be a winner. After one play I say 7.5.
I'm not sure this "FITS turned upside down, inside out" sequel is not better than the original. It really turns the original game on its head - instead of using Tetris tiles for creating rows, you are using row sections (dominoes) for creating Tetris tiles, also instead of taking care not to leave gaps, this time gaps don't matter - you are taking care not to make some special forms using your tiles.
Surprisingly engaging game with quality and nice tiles. I thought I won’t like it as much as I enjoy FITS but even if it's still (or, if that’s possible, even more) a multiplayer solitaire, I really enjoyed this one. What’s more, my wife demanded replaying the game the next week which is not something she does with each game. It’s what I call Spiel des Jahres quality; as the game is really different from the SdJ-nominated FITS I’m a bit surprised this one wasn’t even recommended this year. 7.3
Another game that fits my wife, but of course this one won Spiel des Jahres this year, resulting in many (usual) arguments at the geek. Luckily there is only one week every year when this debate heats up.
Qwirkle has many Ingenious-like qualities although it seems to be more luck-dependent (who knows if it is or not – it seems there are strategies/tactics to be explored). It’s also Scrabble-like in many ways but I have never played Scrabble as a game of tactics, only as a game of vocabulary knowledge (I’m not sure if it doesn’t have to do anything with the Hungarian alphabet having 44 letters). This one has some cardgame-like features as well (as looking at the face-up tiles you can clearly see which symbols can still be at your opponent and which one can’t) and also it’s light enough that it can (also) be played without full focus on the game (ideal for playing with my wife who, of course, easily beats me in this game). 7.2
I have never played Lascaux – Boomerang is said to be a re-themed update of that one. Actually it feels like No Thanks – the family game with some hidden information, bluffing and set collection thrown in to the mix. A very light but enjoyable family game with a really special (I’d say great) graphic design; I’ve just bought it for family purposes. With gamers some of the decisions can become obvious in some rounds (especially in the last rounds) but still this game is rather enjoyable. 7.1
Magnum Sal 1x
A standard euro with some nice thematic ideas thrown in to make it more fun. I enjoyed it pretty much (especially the mining part) but the endgame felt a bit underdeveloped (some players clearly not having any reasonable action to do in the last round). After reading the forum I realised we played one rule wrong (your workers stopping water also get tired after you used them). The action cards also seemed a bit overpowered - each round started with players buying them up. I'd like to play it with the right rules as well; while what's happening on the board is pretty standard Euro stuff, the salt mining is thematic and clever (I also enjoyed it because of the fact I have visited this salt mine in Wieliczka before).7
Genial Spezial 1x
I have to play this one more to know what to think. It seems like a good (although not original) game – that has some issues. Its biggest problem is that it’s nothing like Ingenious. Unlike the game it got its name, its scoring and double-hex tiles from (and unlike Qwirkle which was published 2 years after Ingenious) this one does demand full focus; it’s a no-luck abstract strategy game; also it seems it’s better with more players than with 2. So fans of Ingenious are going to be disappointed and this game is never going to have high ratings.
But do false expectations make Genial Spezial a bad game? I don’t think so. In many ways it is more like the classic Knizia no-luck connection games (Through the Desert and Stephensons Rocket) with three different ways of scoring: connecting colored columns gives you colored points (also raises the value of these columns for the next connection made to them, which interestingly brings back some Ingenious-feel), connecting large columns gives you points in each color and placing tiles on certain fields gives you one joker point (to be used immediately on any of your colors).
With 2 players you are full of possibilities so it’s more like a “where can I get the most points from my move?” race and action-reaction game while in a game with 3 or 4 players it has more of the “where is it more urgent to act right now?” decision which is clearly more exciting in a game like this. I’m still on the fence about this game; I guess it won’t become a favourite with 2 but I hope to bring it to the table often with 3 or 4. 7 is really just a tentative rating, no more, no less.
Actually I have played this game before – against myself. But it was the first time I played it against others and I quite liked the experience. I’m not a real fan of Michael Menzel’s game artworks (I agree they are nice) but here it is one of the main reasons why the game work. It’s a very simple game even with its almost dozen characters and their effect on each other – and that’s because the board (and the cards) just explains 90% of the rules. This way the game becomes even thematic while it’s really a simple ‘play one or more cards of the same type, take some other cards as a reward and collect points this way’ hand management game that doesn’t seem to have much depth. But it goes fast (less than 15 minutes), it’s a fun and very light 2-player filler – a game with trolls, goblins, dragons that your stereotypical Euro-loving SO can also enjoy. 6.9
I guess I shouldn't write too much about this game now, as I have played it only once and even then I played it with someone who openly hated it from the beginning, so it was hard to fall in love with this tricky mechanism (first part: distribution of cards - draw a card, decide if you want to keep it or want it to be part of a later auction or make it available for other players for free; repeat until you have chosen a card for you, one for the auction deck and one for each of your opponents; second part - auction for the cards put in the auction deck). It still seems to be interesting; I just don't know if it's too chaotic for my taste or not. 6.8
Big City 1x
Big City seems to be "the" competitive board game adaptation of Sim City. It's very old-fashioned with its plastic pieces and high level of luck, although it is charming in its old-fashioned way. Maybe I'm going to fall in love with it when I play it next time. 6.5
A fast and interactive filler word game. Both players place 8-8 dice in a wall-like 4x4 grid so that one face (letter) is shown on their side and one on the other player's side, then they try to find as many words as possible on their side - both of them has only 4 minutes for all this. So the biggest advantage Fast4Words has over Scrabble is that it's a lot faster. It's also fun; I'm just not convinced about its replayability (maybe it can be played 10 times before it gets old - but 10 plays of this game can be played in 2 hours...) It's hard to give it a rating (I just can't compare a word game to the Euros) but now I say 6.
8 new to me games this month, thanks to a local convention and winning a couple of contests.
Power Grid - After wanting to play this game forever, I finally got my chance at Michicon. We played 6 players on the Germany map, and I loved it. It's a mathy, resource management game, the type of Euro game I like playing. Fun stuff, I definitely seeing this end up in my collection in the future.
Automobile - Another game I wanted to try, I also enjoyed this one at Michicon. Also quite mathy, and tough to tell how well you're doing compared to the others until the final scoring. This was a game I predicted I would want to add to my collection, but after playing, decided I wanted to play a few more games to see if there is enough variation in the game to keep there play value high. I'm not sure if there is.
Galaxy Trucker - Also played this at Michicon and had a blast. Made some pretty weak ships, and got lucky with some of them, and others fell to pieces. I'm not sure this is a game I would want to play all the time. I think the more unfamiliar you are with it, the more fun it is. Playing this every once in a while would be great.
Wasabi - Another Michicon event. I really enjoyed this game, and know my family and some of my friends would love it. I am almost mad at liking this game so much, because I could have gotten it a year ago at the Michicon raffle for free, but I instead took Dwarven Dig, which in itself is not too good. But that was when I first got into the hobby and didn't know much about games.
Cthulhu Dice - Played this in between some events. Not much to say about it, you're at the mercy of the die. At least you get to pick your target in this game, unlike in a game like LCR.
Magestorm - I won this game in last month's BGG contest. It is a fun game, with a lot of variety thanks to the mages and their powers. I have never played and of the C&C games, so was excited to get this. The only problem is that I don't play with just one other person consistently enough to learn the intricacies of the mages and armies, and to go through the different scenarios. It is too much for my wife, so unfortunately, I currently have this on my To Trade list.
Omen: A Reign of War - I won this game from the Superfly Circus at: http://www.superflycircus.blogspot.com/ thanks to N/A. Now this is a 2 player game my wife will play. The artwork is great, and the game is fun and tense. Thanks Pete!
Lord of the Rings - Also won this from the Superfly Circus. I got the original version that's compatible with all the old expansions (now all I have to do is find them). Played this once with my co-op loving friends, and we had a good time. Took us a while to understand what we were doing, but then we got into it. Beat it on the easy setting, can't wait to try it on the normal version.
After two months of barely any new games played (I didn't even bother posting), this month was crazy full of new games. I'm quite happy with the selection too...
Hanabi -> Played it and ordered it that same night. This is just an absolute fantastic coop game. Essentially you can see everyone else's card in the same way as Code 777, but the goal is to help each other play the right cards by giving limited information as defined by the system. Quite original and lots of fun.
Ascending Empires -> And speaking of original. Ascending Empires is a 4x flicking game that works so well, you wonder why no one had made that before. I loved the designer's previous Taktika but this one could be even better. It strikes a perfect balance of strategy to flicking as well as fixes the 3 player wargame problem quite well. (If two players attack each other - the player left out gets stronger. But in this case also doesn't get any victory points.). Both this game and Hanabi are contenders for game of the year in my book.
Giseh! -> I bought a Giseh board for the purposes of playing Margo, Akron, and Pylos in a prettier board than what Pancerola offers. It turns out Giseh is a pretty good game too. Giseh is a simple game: Connect 4 in a pyramid structure where instead of winning from a connection, you gain a point. Most points wins. One of the major problems of Connect 4, and many abstracts is that the inner area is much stronger than the outer area. Giseh solves this quite cleanly: The inner area gives you more mobility but you're also at a higher risk of getting covered before scoring than if you play in the outer area. So far I've found both an inner and an outer strategy to be effective. My wive loves this game, so much in fact that I've yet to play Margo, Akron, or Pylos. I should point out that although Giseh is Good, I think the 4 games together definitely push my purchase towards the Great category.
Triumvirate -> Haggis was my favorite game of last year. A climbing game that actually works for 2. Triumvirate, in a very similar manner is a trick taking game that actually works for 2! The twist is that you are playing for 3 separate factions and at the same time bidding for their control. If you control the winning faction, you win. Triumvirate is a fun game, and the strategy isn't easily mastered which is nice. However, I will say that this isn't nearly as deep or as interesting as Haggis. Still lots of fun, and I'm glad I got it.
Formula D -> I should mention that I only played this in basic mode. And in basic mode, I felt the game was somewhere between good and mediocre. I'm bumping up to good with the expectation that the advanced game gives it the extra kick it needs. Anyway, there are better racing games out there but this one is still pretty solid.
Yavalath -> Much like that multi-use Giseh board, I have a Cross board that is just yearning to be used for other games. Yavalath, Pentalath, Ra, and Unlur for example. I'm a fan of Cross, but there's more gaming to be had here and I'm starting with Yavalath - the first ever computer designed game. Yavalath is essentially a Connect 4 game (The second this month, wow! I also played Connect 4 in memory of the designer.. crazy) where connecting 3 at any point loses you the game. It's a fine game, quite quick, and the wife likes it. The bad thing about it is that there are so many pitfals that the game essentially turns into pattern recognition. I'm also not a fan of the fact that the game is made not trivally solvable by the first player only because of the small size of the board. It just feels weird to me that the game does not scale to a bigger board very well. In any case, I played this a whopping 14 times in a span of 2 days, and had a great time. Despite it's problems I can see playing this on a regular rotation.
Claustrophobia-> I should first mention that I've only played this once and the rating could go higher on more plays depending on how the other scenarios work. In theory, I think this game is fantastic. You roll dice and then assign the rolled dice to your stats and special abilities every turn. What a great idea! I feel like there is genius in the design and with more interesting die roll combinations it could be a pretty interesting mix of Yahtzee and a dungeon crawl. In the single game I played, however, the stats took a step back and the randomness of die rolls took over. It's still a fun game, I just don't see it as being as good as I had hoped.
The Resistance -> The third indy cards game completes my playing of the series. This game slightly improves on the werewolf formula by both working with less players, and not having player elimination. I think you'll find no surprises in this game to be honest. It is what you expect it to be and that's not a bad thing.
Ikebana -> Ikebana seems to be getting a bad rep when compared to Hanabi. It is true that Hanabi is the better game, but Ikebana is good enough that having it is worth getting a copy before Hanabi goes solo. Essentially this is a press your luck set collection game. Every turn you draw a card and keep it, or pay increasing costs to draw a new card. When you have 5 chosen cards you score them for money. Most money wins.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space -> Think Scotland Yard except everybody is hidden, the humans (Mr X), and the aliens (Detectives) and nobody really knows who is who from the start. The idea is great fun, and the game bristles with theme. Sadly, as written the game is pretty much broken, crazy luck based, and impossible for the humans. When the game ended all of us sat around and started bouncing around ideas on how to make this thing work. This thing isless of a game and more of an experience, which is really too bad because the experience is fantastic. With more design work it could really have been something amazing.
Jasper and Zot -> I hate to bash a free print and play game, but I just hated this game. It felt very much like a Pop Cap computer game (Plants vs Zombies) but with lots of fiddly moving pieces about. I threw away my homemade copy about 2/3rds into the game.
I enjoy Keythedral but I usually have a hard time finding people to play it. I was excited when I got to try Key Market. I really enjoyed it. I liked how you had to plan ahead to make sure you could get through each season and how each player could influence the market.
Interesting. I like deck building games and this was described to me as a deck-deconstructing game. But I think after just a few plays it will get repetitive. Unless they come out with some really good expansions.
This was a lot of fun. It's like Crokinole in space. With a tech-tree. Who doesn't like flicking things across the game board?
I read a lot of people thought this game was ugly. I actually thought it was pretty. I liked the colors and the shapes of the pieces. But I thought the game play was chaotic and lasted twice as long as expected. It would be fun for 2-3 hours. not 7.
If Wishes Were Fishes!
I was kind of tired when I played this. I'd like to try it again. It seemed like a cute card game and I liked the rubbery worms.
Not my favorite Dominion expansion. May actually be my least favorite. Maybe because I am having a hard time adjusting to having/want to having lots of different cards in my deck.
Letters from Whitechapel
Letters from Whitechapel
I only played this once and my partner and I weren't all that good at deducing where jack was but I really enjoyed it. And I keep thinking about how I know I can do better. So I will probably get this one.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Not my cup of tea.
Board Game: Jaipur
[Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:112]
In order of preference:
Not a lot of new games for me this month. Jaipur was the surprise favorite of the month for me. I picked it up after hearing some good things about it here on BGG, but I didn't expect all that much. First off, the packaging when opening the box was simply perfect (something I can't say very often). The insert is designed to fit the game perfectly. Also, a particularly nice touch was that the deck came shuffled and ready to play. You have to separate out 3 camel cards to play and they were already separated at the bottom of the deck! A lot of thought went into this presentation. The art is lovely too. But the gameplay is really the star here. It's a very quick game to learn, teach and play, so we were up and running in a few minutes. The first game or so you're still getting used to the strategies, but there's actually a lot more depth and tactical thinking than you'd think from a set collection game. You have to balance selling a good early to get a higher value token and waiting to collect a larger set for the bonus tokens. There's a really good push and pull in the market and the game plays really quickly.
I found this at a local game store. After reading about it in a few posts and hearing that it was out of print, I snapped it up pretty quickly. It looks like a relatively straightforward tile placement game, but there's a surprising amount of depth there. There's a good amount of tension when everyone clearly sees the best tile/viking set out there, but no one can quite justify the price. The theme really doesn't show up all that much in the game, but the little wooden vikings are a really nice touch. There isn't a ton of interaction in the game and it's easy to forget about the progress of other players, but it's still a fun game that plays pretty quickly and still has a good amount of strategy. This was barely edged out by Jaipur for my favorite of the month.
Biblios has been getting a lot of hype on BGG and, for the most part, it's pretty justified. I played a few games of this with my girlfriend and a few with a group of 4. The game definitely flows better with a larger group, but it still plays well with 2. There's actually a little more luck in the game (particularly in the gift phase) than I would like, but it's still a nice game. I'm usually not crazy about auction games, but the auction in the second phase of this game is light enough and works surprisingly well with two.
Played at a game night at work. Someone brought this and it was quite fun. Not the deepest of games, but it plays quickly and there's at least a little strategy.
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
It's been a long time...
London is in essence a tableau style card game. I typically love this type of game and tend to try as many of them as possible. This one includes a board. I can't say that it shouldn't include one, but it does increase the cost of the game substantially compared to other card games. Another noteworthy thing to mention about London compared to others of it's ilk, is that it's not a short affair. This game is going to run about 30 - 45 minutes longer than similar games.
It's an easy game to learn. On your turn, draw a card and do 1 of 4 possible actions: play cards, activate cards (aka running your city), buy land, or draw 3 cards. There is a large balance act in terms of getting money (there are also loans available), getting victory points, getting rid of poverty (negative VP at game's end if you do not have the least VP). There are many ways to do this. You just have to find a way that's more optimal than your opponents.
Each card is designated by phase a, b, or c and the deck is comprised of phase a cards first, then b, then c. While the game is enjoyable I'm hoping the game doesn't become scripted due to the composition of the layered cards and the fact that most of the cards in the deck simply revolve around vp, money, poverty or some combination thereof.
I currently rate it a 7 and the only new game I played this month.
Lancaster (3 plays)
In the days before Agricola, this would have been called a sophisticated bidding game, with an Evo-like core mechanism. Develop your castle, acquire knights, play host to nobles, influence the laws of the land, go kick the French for honour. My main memory of the first game is that rushing to get a strong knight gets you bullying rights, but having more knights (however weak) give you more actions/bids to use, and therefore ends up a better approach.
Pastiche (1 play)
Looks & feels superb. Great production values. The owner of the copy I played had added gorgeous little wooden stands for the artworks. Unfortunately, the gameplay didn’t live up to the visual & tactile first impressions: it just felt obvious how to play, and I won easily. So … either completely luck based or blindingly obvious. Either way, I’d play it again but probably wouldn’t suggest it.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (1 play)
Late prototype (completed art & components) June 2011. Lighter than regular Wallace. Card driven area influence / secret objectives. Clever action mechanics. I’m not a Pratchett fan, but from what other players said it’s very thematic. Even without understanding the background, it’s a game I thoroughly enjoyed, and intend buying when its released.
Struggle for Catan (3 plays)
Latest installment in the never-ending story of Catan. A card-drafting game that’s a race to 10 points by building roads (to exchange more cards or 1VP, knights (to draw more cards or 1VP), settlements, cities & city expansions for 1/2/3/4 VP. A bit of take-that in the form of exchanging cards with other players and stealing their roads & knights. For what it is - I found it rather enjoyable.
It’s a shame Mayfair ditched the small box of the German edition and went with an oversized box and a crappy insert. Decent UK price though.
Dixit: Odyssey (2 playS)
More cards, more ways to play. The insert accommodates the cards from the first two games, and the game itself now handles up to 12 players. Not yet convinced by the slightly wobbly scoring devices, though.
Paperclip Railways (1 play)
The concept worked, and I enjoyed the idea of creating a relatively free-form network, but the tedium of joining paperclips together sucked much of the fun out of the game. Adding up all the end game bonuses is also a bit tricky & time-consuming.
I’m actually now more interested in trying the game that inspired this: String Railways.
Billabong (1 play)
A race to get all your kangaroos home. Simple rules but interesting route plotting. From limited experience, I’d say letting your roos get isolated at the back is a recipe for last place.
Ascending Empires (1 play)
Took a few turns for the rules to coalesce, but I think I understood everything by the end of the game. Quite a nice concept, though maybe too attack-y for my taste. The occasional board issue was slightly irritating, and I can see some people getting really cheesed off if they regularly suffered.
Take it Easy! (2 plays)
Oddly, my first play of the original game despite having played the two re-developed versions. An interesting activity of competing to best solve an emerging puzzle. This version has the benefit of implementing the concept in its simplest, purest, form.
Rails of New England (1 play)
Enjoyable fairly lengthy economic & network-building game. First 4-player game inevitably started slowly as we got to grips with the rules. Subsequent turns accelerated as we understood the economic system & the various assets we could target. Keen to play again soon.
Paris Connection (4 plays)
A curiously tricky quick game of increasing share value while creating a portfolio of the most valuable shares.
Angry Birds: Knock on Wood (1 play)
So just before her birthday, I jokingly said to my wife (who plays games on her phone but not boardgames) “look at this - perfect for you!”. My smile froze as she replied “oooh yes. I want it!”. Crap. Schoolboy error! Now I’m trapped. So, I bought it for her birthday. And we played it. Thankfully, she only has a birthday once each year, so I should be safe enough for a while.
I know I should be rating this as a kids game (the box says 5+), but to be honest it was so hard to actually hit the target that if I saw some snotty-nosed 5 year old getting a better hit rate than me the game would annoy me even more.
And we couldn’t figure out how to fit all the bits back into the box. Yeah. Show me a 5 year old who can figure that out.
Dominion: Cornucopia (1 play)
Single play. Maybe now too many Dominion options for me. On the plus side, by rewarding diversity, this expansion takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to play differently, which is good.
Fresco: Expansion Module 7 – The Scrolls (1 play)
A simple expansion that introduces potential for scoring bonus points when restoring tiles in a particular row & column. The longer you delay using these bonus tiles the more you’ll score, but if you leave it too late you’ll miss out.
A tolerable €8 unboxed price at Essen 2010, but a ridiculous price when later released.