Games played at Spiel 2011 and quick impressions
Georgios P.
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These are the games I played at Spiel 2011 in Essen and the impressions I was left with.
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1. Board Game: Pocket Battles: Celts vs. Romans [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2297] [Average Rating:6.46 Unranked]
Georgios P.
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I was kind of dragged into this two-player tabletop game by a friend. It's not really my kind of game, so I don't know how qualified I am to say anything meaningful about it. I guess it's not bad for what it does, which is let one army clash into another and fight it out. But the look of the game was fairly dry and semi-abstract. Didn't much care for it, but I know people who might go for a quick table-top battle game.
 
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2. Board Game: Souvlaki Wars [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:4033]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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It's a cute little game about running your own Greek fast-food shop. The illustrations are nice, and of a higher quality than one might expect. The game plays reasonably fast, with some light interaction. The theme alone was something I liked a lot, and the ease-of-play just convinced me to buy it. I think it's a nice filler for our weekly boardgame nights.
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3. Board Game: Forceball [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:9523]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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I was really surprised by this game. You play some futuristic mixture of lacrosse and ice-hockey and try to score points in your match. There's a nice little speed-mechanic which lets you play powerful cards only if you have certain number of cards in your private discard pile (called speed pile). But since you don't automatically draw cards - but need to successfully pass or dribble the ball to have some options in your hand - the game has a very unusual up-and-down momentum. It reminded me a lot of watching an international football game. If it hadn't been a two-players-only game, I'd have bought it on the spot. I'm hoping for some cool team variant.
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4. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:233]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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It's an ok dice game, with a fun theme. There's really not that much to it, other than rolling the dice and trying to use your roll to give other players as much damage as possible. If you have an affinity for Japanese monster movies, I can imagine having a lot of fun with it. Despite the nice bits, the price was too high to be worth it for me. I doubt it would see all that much play in my gaming group.
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5. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:245]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
Berlin
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I was really curious about this game, since the two designers on it were responsible for two of my favourite games from FFG. I was somewhat disappointed by the result, though. It seems very random and chaotic, which I guess is perfect if you like the background and theme (since that's a pretty accurate representation I am told). Unfortunately, I am indifferent about Blood Bowl in general, so the chaotic gameplay didn't add anything to my enjoyment. It's alright I guess for what it does.
 
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6. Board Game: Alcatraz: The Scapegoat [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2310]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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Gave this game a try and was pleasantly surprised. I was worried about the scapegoat mechanic of the game. But if you play it right, i.e. make yourself indispensable for the escape, you can avoid it if you want. And even if that somehow doesn't work, you can still make life very difficult for the other players. It amuses me somewhat that if it looks like you cannot win, you can still try to make everybody lose. Game length made it a good addition to my gaming library, especially as a three-player-game.
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7. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:464]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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My first disappointment at the fair. Kingdom Builder while looking colourful and vaguely reminiscent of Carcassone is really, really dry and boring. There's no interaction at all, except for playing a building on a spot where somebody else wanted to place it. It's a game for number-crunching, calculating and counting victory points as you place your tokens. I can imagine some families playing this game together, but there are definitely much more engaging designs out there, if you're looking for something non-taxing and competitive.
 
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8. Board Game: Rumble in the House [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:4000] [Average Rating:6.11 Unranked]
Georgios P.
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Silly, little party game that plays very fast, even with a lot of players. It looks nice, and the game is explained in about 3 minutes. I could imagine this being a big hit at a kid's birthday party. Since I don't really fit that demographic I didn't buy it. But I don't think it's a bad game at all.
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9. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:204]
Georgios P.
Germany
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A somewhat fiddly game, that passes itself of as pirate-themed (at least in German), when it is really more of an economic game. Doing pirate-y things is an option of course, but never really appealing until possibly late in the game. So you will spent most of your time sailing from one place to another, trying to buy low and sell high. It's ok, but doesn't really scratch that (Sid Meier's) Pirates-itch.
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10. Board Game: Mob Ties: The Board Game [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:5405]
Georgios P.
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Berlin
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I was really wary about the illustrations in the game. They are incredibly cruel and sadistic, and while I don't mind a little cut-throat action in a game (even thematically), I was worried this game would be a little too much for me. Fortunately, the game doesn't really give you much time to focus on the things its cards depict. Gameplay itself is fast and theme-heavy, which is nice. But it seems heavily tilted towards just killing off opposing mobsters, and the negotiation and bluffing elements seem less central to the game. It's far from a disappointing game, and the production quality is impressive. But I had different expectations going in.
 
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11. Board Game: Sake & Samurai [Average Rating:6.01 Overall Rank:9155]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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The first big surprise for me at Spiel. A game that I was vaguely aware of and really just tried out, because the table was free and I appreciated the chance to sit down for a bit. Sake & Samurai is a theme-heavy, highly entertaining card game. I can't quite tell how deep the game actually is, but it is definitely not as shallow as its core idea (be the most drunken samurai alive at the table) would suggest. There are some fun choices to be made, while still keeping the game light-hearted and humorous. I played it twice and picked up a copy on Sunday. I expect this game to hit the table a few times. Not least of all because of its very appealing game length of about 30-45 minutes.
 
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12. Board Game: Cabo [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:2701]
Georgios P.
Germany
Berlin
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I didn't actually play this one at Spiel, but at a friend's place. It's a somewhat wild offspring of Memory in a way, but entertaining with some nice bluffing elements, for those who enjoy playing a deeper game. The rules are very easy to learn and it plays up to 5 easily without being too cluttered and chaotic. (Just a little bit. )
 
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13. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:1040]
Georgios P.
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The game's biggest stumbling block in my circle of friends is its theme. But underneath it, you'll find a nicely straight-forward economic game about strategically placing your workers to get the necessary actions to put on the best designs and the best show. I think it allows for some nicely strategic gameplay (we only played the first show and not all 4 or 5). But since I've already picked up one "big" game, and was very doubtful that this game would see much play in our gaming group it wasn't a purchase for me. But I can definitely recommend it for anybody who is looking for a tightly designed economics game with not too many bells and whistles.
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14. Board Game: Panic Station [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:2861]
Georgios P.
Germany
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Possibly my biggest disappointment of the fair. After the buzz and excitement about the game, seeing it in action really sobered me up a lot. While the theme and most concepts are great and engaging, it just doesn't add up to a coherent whole. The game's ending conditions allow for the game to drag on for a while, before anybody realises that they're all infected or before it becomes obvious that the last human player has no chance of winning, since the infected are holding all the gas cans. While you can argue that this is somewhat thematically fitting, it just makes for a game where the end phase just drags on and on for no reason.
 
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15. Board Game: Tanto Cuore [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1392] [Average Rating:6.88 Unranked]
Georgios P.
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Probably my biggest surprise of the whole fair. I did not think it was possible for a Dominion-clone card game to make me feel so uncomfortable, awkward and wishing I was somewhere else. The illustrations are somewhat risqué and tantalising, but the game quickly and firmly places itself in the awkward territory when it comes to ordering your maids to your private chambers to score victory points. And while the card layout is somewhat more functional than in Dominion and I like this extra mechanic of a separate pile for scoring additional victory points, the theme just doesn't work for me at all.
 
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16. Board Game: Chronicles of Zombie Town [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Georgios P.
Germany
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Played it for a laugh, because some friends were already sitting at the table. It's a quick game, vaguely reminiscent of Bang!, but lacking most of its clever rules. If for some reason you are still not sick and tired of zombie-themed games and need a mindless little filler, you could probably do worse than this game. But I am very sure, you could also do a lot better. Decidedly meh.
 
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17. Board Game: Nefarious [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1970]
Georgios P.
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Berlin
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A cute little card game about becoming the greatest mad scientist by successfully building crazy inventions. There's some nice, semi-subtle bits of interaction in the game, where you can use minions to generate cash for you depending on what action your immediate neighbours choose each round. And the individual inventions sometimes allow you to affect other players (usually negatively). There are also some 60 cards with global rules, that slightly (or not so slightly) change the game's flow. It reminded me somewhat of 7 Wonders - also a game that I appreciated but didn't really get excited over. The same is true for Nefarious. It's a good game, that I am not overly excited about. Although that might be partly due to its price (another parallel to 7 Wonders).
 
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18. Board Game: Pickomino [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1089]
Georgios P.
Germany
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Played this game on the train ride home with some nice folks who were also heading back from the fair. It's a dice game - and I don't think I can garner up any enthusiasm for those. There is a push-your-luck mechanic and the ability to steal tokens from other players. It was nice, but seemed to last a little longer than it should.
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