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Subject: based on one play - we liked scratching rss

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SAKURA in KYOTO 2018 Back to Kansai
England
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Your house has burnt to the ground! Lacking any resources to rebuild, you call on the fairies to help you. They will construct a new house for you, but since they'll be living there too, they must inspect the property as it grows.

Scratch House is a multi-player solitaire tile placement game, with each player constructing their own house with the help of the fairies. At the start of each round, tiles and spell cards fill out the four seasons on the board, and a card is flipped to show the Feng Shui. Players then choose which season they want and place their marker, in order from lowest score first. This part is the only direct inter-action but does have a crucial impact on game-play.

After collecting the tiles and spell card, players must not store more than three of each. Then they go through a process of building their house by adding rooms, following the rules. Each room has a build time, and players now take time off their unfinished rooms. Finally, the fairies walk through finished rooms only, triggering various effects as the player wishes. The player scores Victory Points for how far the fairies walk, VPs triggered by room effects, and a 3VP bonus if the match all the rooms visited to their current season.

All this part of the game is strictly solitaire, and once players have learnt the rules, they proceed simultaneously. But at the start, it is worth taking turns and explaining your actions, as the building rules, costs and effects need understanding and it's easy for new players to make mistakes.

The seasons are key to the game and a very simple mechanism has a big impact. Spring (green) has only one tile space, Summer (red) and Autumn (yellow) have two, and Winter (blue) has three spaces (each season gets only one spell card). All the tiles show rooms or garden spaces, colour-coded to match a season or white to match any season, a cost to build, and some rooms have icons for special effects. The cost is the time it takes to build, so a powerful room has a high number and takes a long time to complete. A basic room has no powers but builds quickly and also proves very useful.

Added to the build time is the shortest stepped distance to the nearest bedroom (your start tile is a bedroom), and the number of rooms you build this turn (second room is +1, third is +2...). After placing the room legally, you add tokens to show the total build time for that room. The tokens show 1 and 3 on either face. Some rooms have a -1 build time, meaning they get no tokens if built first next to a bedroom (-1 cost +1 steps +0 builds = 0). Effectively they build instantly.

When you have placed your rooms, you now take time off each room under construction. If your season is Spring, you take 3 off each room, Summer and Autumn take 2 off but Winter only takes off 1 build time. This is a powerful condition, as taking Winter gets you more tiles but almost no build. Since the fairies will not walk through unfinished rooms, your ability to score could be severely limited. Likewise, taking Spring will open a lot of rooms quickly, but your house will progress slowly, again limiting your ability to score points.

And with the tokens being 1 or 3, this timing mechanism is very easy to work. Since the difference between sides is 2, you are either simply removing tokens or flipping them over. It's really a very clever piece of design, so subtle it doesn't strike you that you're not doing any maths, no fiddling with swapping tokens or making change. Just flip flip chuck done. Genius design.

Now the fairies get to walk around. You start with 5 crystals to place down in each room, marking their progress. But they are superstitious fairies and adhere to Feng Shui. The card flipped at the start of the round shows North South East West and Feng Shui determines some directions are closed. So the fairies will only start their walk in the allowed directions (after that they can go in any direction). And here, the building rules come into play.

All rooms have four portals, but these portals have 0-4 exit arrows, one-way doors out of the room. This means a fairy can leave that room but not walk in (unless the next room has an exit arrow pointing back). And when building, you can only build off an exit arrow. So as you build, you're planning how the fairies will take this trip, because you want them to trigger certain effects, or to stay in rooms of the same colour as your season. Since white rooms count as any season, they help extend the walk, and bedrooms make building cheaper. Having lots of arrows is good but the tile is priced higher. Likewise the effects are helpful if you can trigger them in the right order.

So the whole building process starts back at the round start. What start directions are allowed, so will my fairies be able to even start a walk? What tiles are on offer? If I build this one now, when will it be finished, will that block my planned walk? Can I build cheaply enough? Can I teleport, can I paint rooms to get the season bonus, can I get linked room bonuses, can I get an engine going? Can I reach a bedroom to get two more crystals and go further?

And then you have spells too! The fairies let you cast spells from cards (not the same spell twice in a turn), and these can be very useful. There are only a few in the game, so they're easy to remember (they lack any icons though). And the room effects are also useful, reversible doors, cut build times, gain VPs (but add build time), teleport, paint linked rooms (to get season bonuses), draw a tile. You can also throw a built room away which might also destroy rooms no longer connected.

The game ends when someone gets to 60+ VPs (or the tiles run out), most points wins. And the Feng Shui cards are actually for the solitaire game I've not tried yet.

All together, it's a nice package. Some very clever design work holds together a tricky, puzzling tile builder. The production is great, very good quality components, great artwork especially on the rooms, very inventive theme that works well with the mechanics of the game. The colour scheming, the balance of room types, effects and costs seems good. One downside, no English rules in the box, despite full English text on cards and the box.

The need to plan ahead and keep driving is good. Perhaps it's hard to catch up an early leader, since there's no direct inter-action, only choice denial which wouldn't make much difference. We liked it a lot and want to play it again. We only had a few questions, but it all seemed sensible and we were very happy with the result.

It is strictly a solitaire game, always aiming for an optimal turn, with some scheming at the start of a round. Generally I do not like this kind of game, but Scratch House gave me enough challenge to enjoy. And watching the choices the other players made was interesting too. I definitely want to explore the Scratch House some more.
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Riley Doyle
United States
Londonderry
New Hampshire
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Thanks for your impressions, and the rules run through.
I just got this and I'm looking forward to playing it.
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Steph Hodge
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Well, it's no Ginkgopolis...
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RileyD wrote:
Thanks for your impressions, and the rules run through.
I just got this and I'm looking forward to playing it.


I can teach :P hahah
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