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New Bedford + Rising Tide - A Maddest Hatter Review
It's been a long time since I have written a review for a game. Played a lot of games since my last review, and some great ones. New Bedford tickled my fancy. It did it for me. Here is the story...
It was the bottom of the ninth... 3 strikes and 2 outs. The last hitter was at bat. The pitcher was totally gassed and throwing garbage as he exhausted his options. If the pitching team was gonna win, they would need the luck of the roll. it was now or never. The ball was crushed for a double and the runner came in. Game over. Wow! ...What else does "Dice Hate Me Games" make?
Enter New Bedford. Entirely a different ballpark than Bottom of the 9th, but in the right ballpark for me. I love worker placement games. 60 minutes or so is the sweet spot. One of my all time faves is Agricola: All Creatures and New Bedford seemed to share similarities to it. Variable buildings at setup. But added the whaling mechanic to the mix. Add to all of this that I spent the first 45 years of my life growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts and Cape Cod. Having grown up and lived there for so long the history of that area is just something passed down from generation to generation. So New Bedford the game was looking like a must-buy at this point.
I'll totally skip the "how to play" aspect as there are videos for this. How does it play? Fantastic! I was hoping for a game I could at least justify keeping, instead I found a true gem. A sincerely underrated top notch game. I enjoy this as much as some of my favorite games. And that's high praise if you check out my higher rated games. It has worker placement aspects. I know lots of games do, but this one is very efficient (only two workers for the whole game) and mixes in the whaling mechanic. The whaling mechanic (whales from a bag) isn't exactly a new idea, but combining it with worker placement - and doing so seamlessly and effectively - seems new. No part of the game is too difficult or too fiddly. It's not overly simple or abstract. It's actually just right. I get a very similar feeling from playing this as I do Agricola: AC. I know the games are very different, but that satisfaction is reminiscent in both game. That's a great thing!
New Bedford does have flaws. One of which Tom Vasel pointed out, the (necessary) Rising Tide expansion doesn't fit into the base box. Well, it does fit into the box - but it's like a separate game of Tetris trying to get everything in there. In the future, if this sees a 2nd printing, it needs a proper box.
The second issue is the total butchering of the proofreading. Or a near complete lack thereof. I've seen this before with kickstater games. Great artwork, abysmal game. Abysmal artwork, great game. Great game, horrible components. And usually kickstarter games have horrible rule books. They work - if you know how to play the game already. ...Kickstarer backers really need to employ rules writers. This is an underrated talent.
...I digress. The rules for New Bedford are adequate. The few ambiguities are cleared up online, but they are few indeed. The misprinted tiles and cards? A crying shame. This game is so smooth, so carefully balanced and executed. It's tiles so thought out. It really reminds me of a Rosenbgerg attention to detail (functionally speaking) as the tiles relate to player counts and effects. But the errors are everywhere. Moreover, it would have been nice if the tiles maybe had a small 1, 2, 2/3, 3/4, 5 on them for easier sorting by player count. A small touch that would have gone a long way.
None of these issues are gameplay related (well they are, but in proofreading, not in application).
Conclusion? The game itself shines like a diamond in the rough. It fills a niche in the gaming world (small/med worker placement) that isn't too crowded (with good games). The whaling mechanic is perfectly added to the game and makes this game unique. The theme is not just (beautifully) painted on, rather it's deeply permeated. Everything feels as though it's a game about building a whaling town. Which is again great.
Who is this game for? Hard to say. It's not just worker placement as there is the whaling mechanic. While I find this addition refreshing and well executed, some purists might turn their nose up at it. Their loss. My best advice would be a "full blown worker placement game in a medium sized footprint and playtime." It's no Fields of Arle, but it's not checkers either.
I think Tom Vasel does an excellent review of this game and the expansion. I tend to mirror his thoughts and feelings on this game. But I know that, for myself, sometimes I want a different opinion on a game than Tom's. I'm hoping that my effort does that for some of ya.
I was able to make easy contact with someone to get me the replacement tiles. I printed out the errata and the buildings setup page. There is a small amount of personal work needed to play this game. But don't let it turn you off. This game is worth it. A real "white while" in a vast sea!