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Subject: First play of First Snow, with a hope for more in the future rss

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Sweetgotham
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I saw pale kings and princes too, Pale warriors, death-pale were they all; They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci Hath thee in thrall!’
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This game caught my eye in a PnP geeklist I had come across- I was very interested in the theme and artwork. I missed the original contest it was submitted in, but have been looking more into crafting smaller PnP games.





Since reviewers always come to the table with our own personal preferences, a bit about us and how we approach the games we play: we are a married couple with a small child and a history of heavier gaming (Feld is a mutual favorite designer) but who have been shifting more towards lighter/ micro games, medium weight games and especially two-player games since family life has restricted our gaming time and opportunities. We also both have a history of game designing, with my husband at one time being very active in the NYC prototype group. I personally excel at set-collection, he at complicated, chained actions. We are ok with games that can have ‘multi-player’ solitaire feel but we do like to like games with turn selections that have ‘meaning’. Theme matters more for me and I prefer game mechanics that integrate with a theme whereas he is more forgiving of pasted on themes. Below are our separate notes on the game:

Me:

Wow! This was a lot more intense and fun than I would have expected and the theme was one of the best intergraded I have seen in a while. It really did feel like we were on a journey, stuck in the wilderness trying to figure out survival- within a very small amount of materials and cards- this easily fits into a mint tin when crafted and bits are added. About 2/3rds of the way through, the feeling I was having reminded me of reading Into Thin Air and unconsciously holding my breath during descriptions of oxygen deprivation- I know it’s silly, it’s just a book, and yet the feeling was there.

But it wasn’t all tense! The polar bear mechanic, which I admit to being a bit dubious about, ended up being a surprisingly tense and fun addition. We ended up digging our son’s polar bear figurine and we would grab it and ‘attach’ the player’s dice when they placed it on the card; the experience was favorably reminded us of Raptor. It generated a lot of laughing and silliness for what was a pretty tense psychological stand-off between us: “Hrrrrm… he has a spear…that card has a lot of spears…but he knows that I know he needs those resources…so I should pick that card? Another card?” It provided a direct bluffing interaction with the other player and gave the game that extra mechanic that let it be fun, tense, and interactive. If the game is ever formally published (yes, please; here is my money), I envision a molded bear figurine that has a hollow space you can hide the die under and then used to ‘attack’/ place next to the other play’s die. We used spare boxes to hide our die (me the mint tin the game fits in, he another small box lid); a thematic way to hide it would be awesome (please no privacy screens!).



The rules needed another polish and some clarification, nothing too extreme but there were points that were less clear. The issue with the placement of the last two cards can be a contentious one: where you place them impacts the resources a player gets access to. I would take the last two cards in my hand under the table and mix them up and hen place them randomly on either side so there was no personal influence on where they should go. But this should be tightened up in the next version of the rules set.

At this time, we admittedly have only played one game of this, but we are eager to play again and have talked about it every day since we have played (on day three now)- a great sign in our household since we are limited in space and I ruthlessly curate our collection as a result. Having said that, since this was a 9-card nano game contest entry, I am aware that the game risks getting ‘same-y’ and even in the game we played, I found myself selecting similar, conservative moves. The game could really do with more card options so that some cards are not in play every game (there are a variety ways to do this) and to make sure the resources mix gets mixed up a bit. I did win the game, and we wonder if it was because I was conservative in crafting and maintaining my two tools while he went big and bold and could never really maintain what he had and by the time the summer turned into winter and it was hard to get resources, he suffered- very thematic! It makes him want to try again and try new strategies, which suggests that there are different approaches but card limit might also limit that when more plays.

Quick takes/ notes: I really liked how the impact of the card flips into winter changed the food and resources available. We did a die roll to determine which cards we flip in between rounds so that it was more random. Could use a better way to track what resources where used during a turn off the tableau cards; was easy to lose track between what was used and what was left to be banked; we ended up using scrap paper. My husband read the rules and explained the game based on his reading; there seemed to be no translation issues between his reading and my understanding of game-play.



Notable issues- there felt like no reason to make a coat or even plan for winter, which is the one surprising way the theme *didn’t work*. There is a balance between being too punishing in a game but also there felt like there was no consequence to ‘failing’ the snowflake checks. To the point where I actively wondered if we got the rules/ game play wrong. This was the biggest issue we had and it could use more work.

Him:
Pros:
* The polar bear mechanic is very fun and adds a lot of tension to the game about which land cards should be picked. The best part of the game.
* The resources available change as the cards switch from summer to winter
* Limited inventory space forces you to make tough choices, which works well with the theme.

Cons:
* It's not clear how the last two land cards should be placed, and since they can have an effect on which resources a player may get it should be clarified.
* The Coat seems to be nearly worthless and we never saw a reason to make one. We recommend either making the coat block all snowflakes, or not decay.
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Tomas Uhlir
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Thank you very much for such a review. I am very happy about your feelings of the game. It means that I chose the right theme after all.
I am especially pleased because of your usual taste for a heavier games, because that's what I usually prefer (My all time favorite is Through the Ages).

Here are the comments to your notes. I am afraid you might play a few things wrong:

1) The last two land cards should be placed in the following way: Put the one with the lower number on the left and the one with the higher number to the right.
I wanted to avoid a random resolution, so this way the last player chooses which two cards remain and therefore determines the landscape finishing as well.

2) I have a complete opposite experience regarding the coat. It seams to be almost crucial in most of the games. I even think about weakening it a bit to allow the (more difficult) possibility to survive the cold without it.
So I am afraid you might play it wrong. If you carry a coat, you can ignore all the snowflakes with the coat symbol. The importance of heating grows towards the game end. Heating properly on the last turn gives you 6 points!

3) Keeping track of the remaining resources can be a bit difficult. It's mostly due to the contest limitations. Some of the playtesters already use some additional cubes of a neutral color to mark the available resources. After the contest, I would like to incorporate it into the rules:
When you start resolving a camp, mark all the available resources on the location with those cubes and when you use any of them, simply remove the cube.

4) You may be right about the repetitiveness of the game after several plays. Due to the contest limitations, the amount of viable (long-term) strategies may be a bit limited, however the game should still offer a lot of interesting tactical (short-term) decisions. But I am still quite satisfied with the provided depth for such a small game.

I must consider what to do with the game after the contest. I am quite satisfied with it as it is but I think it could have a potential for even a bigger game. So I am not sure what would be better, polish the current version or rework the game completely. What do you think?

Again, thank you very much for the review and for a great feedback. I would be curious about your observations after more plays.

btw: Good idea with the "bear hiding cup". I though about a small igloos for this purpose.
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Peter Cyrus
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I bought a pile of cupcake liners at the supermarket for 70 cents. They work fine as bear hiders, and fold out flat for storage.

I also use additional "cubes" (actually, small square chips) in two more colors for the resources in each camp.
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Tomas Uhlir
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Good idea.
Would you have some pictures to share?
 
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Peter Cyrus
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For example, https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71dYEYYi3bL...
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