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Subject: Reviews from the Berkeley Board Gamers #3: Snow Tails rss

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Berkeley Board Gamers
United States
Berkeley
California
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The Berkeley Board Gamers are a group of gamers who meet as often as 2-3 times a week for game nights held in downtown Berkeley, California. Many of our regulars are also BoardGameGeek members and represent gamers of many different stripes. Some are hardcore euro-snoots, loose-cannon Ameritrashers, elegant abstracters, light card gamers, counter-pushing grognards, social party gamers and everything in between. These reviews are presented as a list of short commentaries from these members who have all have played the game multiple times and with multiple opponents as well as each other in our somewhat tight-knit but still public group.

Other reviews in this series
#1 Dixit
#2 Tales of the Arabian Nights
#3 Snow Tails
#4 Modern Art
#5 Tichu
#6 Small World
#7 Automobile
#8 Prophecy
#9 Mall of Horror
#10 Stephensons Rocket
#11 Piece o' Cake
#12 Imperial 2030

Snow Tails

Summary: The snowy tundra is the scene for this test of skill and endurance. Each sledder must slip, swerve, and drift around insane turns, unforgiving obstacles, and each other, to be the first in this race. Strategic hand management and tactical positioning are the keys to this game, not to mention recognizing that it is not always good to be first until the very end!


Reviews:

1. David F

David F
United States
Emeryville
California
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Luck in games, in measured doses, is the catalyst which enables shocking game-changers that you'll remember and talk about forever.
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Let the Lord of Chaos rule.
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Very original and interesting on your first play, but after the new aura wears off, you're left with zzz. My favorite part of the game is the damage system. Your damage scales up exponentially, so the first dent you take isn't so bad, the second hurts more than the first one did, the third one hurts much more and so on. This is in direct contrast to most racing games, which feature an all-or-nothing threshold damage system or at best a linear system. The steering system is very nifty, and even realistic if you think about it (don't swerve too much!). But after all these new ideas quickly wear off on you, you realize the game for what it is: counting spaces, minding your own business and being bored while others take forever to do things you don't give two hoots about. I've never played a game as quiet or dead with this group. Try it once to check out the hype, then never play it again. (2 plays)

Rating: 5/10

2. Jeffery

Jeffery Bowling
United States
San Francisco
California
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Was it for this my life I sought? Maybe so, Maybe not.
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This is another race game but with a unique mechanism for moving. The idea that the cards you play not only affects your speed but also the direction you are moving adds an interesting element to what I would consider a pretty played out genre. The real question as I continue to play this game is if that is enough to give this game some staying power. And while I am enjoying playing this now, my feeling is that it is not a game with a lot of staying power.

3. Ralph

Ralph Colby
United States
California
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Snow tails is great. It's quicker than Formula D, but still deep enough. It has a unique number card mechanic for steering and speed that's cool. The board is made up of puzzle like pieces so ever game has a new layout. Simple mechanics, yet still strategic. Another great "break-time" game.

4. Charles

Charles
United States
California
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Very easy to learn to play. Very luck based on the cards you draw to maneuver your sled through the track. Lots of different maps to try and play to keep the game interesting every time. Only played this once but was really fun and would play this a lot more. I don't think there needs to be any improvements or anything else.

5. Paul

Paul
United States
Berkeley
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Snow Tails is a light fun racing game that's great for beginners. It has just enough hand management to present interesting decisions. The modular tracks make for lots of re-playability. The steering mechanic is very original and I've only ever seen the dent mechanic in one other game, both though are especially appropriate for the game theme. Put all that together with nice components and you have a great all-around game. Last but not least, I do love the "paws" token.

6. Gabe

Gabe Alvaro
United States
Berkeley
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I really wanted to like this, but for a race game it feels remarkably slow and plodding and not as fun as some other recently released racing games. The theme is a cute, if fanciful, interpretation of sled dog racing, which is actually all about grueling long distance marathons of over 1000 miles! The mechanics, while perhaps unique, are not that fun or interesting enough to get me past the disconnect in the theme. I've never piloted a sled dog team, but I highly doubt that steering has anything to do with different dog speeds and the idiotic way that "brakes" function in this game. For my money, I would much rather play Powerboats. In fact, I'm ready to trade my copy of Snow Tails away for a copy of Powerboats right now. Any takers? Rating: 4/10

7. Deniz

D E
United States
San Francisco
California
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Snow Tails isn't bad. I haven't played other racing games, so I can't compare it to the rest, but it seems like Snow Tails swings between pros and cons. I like the hand management aspect, although it's a little too luck-based, I like the variety of tracks and obstacles, and the damage system is awesome. I strongly dislike the artificial speed bumps before turns (I believe that the turns themselves should discourage breakneck speeds due to the damage), and only being able to play cards in sets seems very limiting. I would prefer there to be no speed bumps, and being able to play different cards for the brakes and the dogs (although dogs can be kept as "set play"). The game seems to being trying to force you to go at a steady pace, but I would prefer being able to play fast and loose and let the track and damage take its toll on those who aren't careful. Overall, I would say 6/10.

8. James

James Klemm
United States
Concord
CA
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I don't like racing games. This one didn't change that. It's pretty and all, and the new mechanisms seem fine, but I just don't feel compelled to play again.

9. Owen

Owen Christy
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Snow Tails is a sled dog racing game that falls short for me. The general mechanic is that you have a hand of cards, random values of 1-5, that you place on your sled to increase or decrease your speed, and to help you turn (by putting "faster" dogs on one side of the sled). I find two mechanics in the game generally broken and therefore not much fun. First, the rules for placing cards. Each round, you can only place cards of the same numeral, although you can place up to 3 of the same value if you have them, i.e. you can place two 4's on you sled, but can't place one 4 and one 3 in the same round. This is incredibly limiting if your hand does not happen to have multiple cards of the same value, giving an advantage to those who got a good draw. Second, in addition to the curves on the track, which would make you naturally slow down to avoid damage, there are speed limits at various points! I have no idea why I have to slow down in the middle of a race for arbitrary reasons. It sucks a lot of fun out of the game. In general, I would just avoid this for better racing games such as Powerboats and Formula D.

10. Tony

Tony Chen
Taiwan
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Snow Tails is definitely more about managing the velocity than mapping out the route on the race track. Granted the race track will dictate what velocity one will want to adhere to at any given place and time, but the maneuvering comes not so much from choosing which paths on the track to take, but how to put together a series of velocities that will together make for the most efficient progress on the track. Or put another way, it's not so much about the positions on the course, but the velocity of the sleigh that one is struggling to handle. Players do not, as they do in many other racing games, manage their velocity to get at a desired position on the board, but rather manage their acceleration from turn to turn to get at a desired velocity on their sleigh, which in turn affects the sleigh's progress on the board. In that sense, one really feels like he is on top of the sleigh trying hard to steer this way and that--all the time accelerating to change velocities--and not like some player remote-controlling a toy car from a bird's eye view. Technically, accleration and velocity and position ultimately all depend on the same things and are all related; but in Snow Tails, what is central and distinctly felt by the player managing his sleigh, is not point A or point B on the course, or to hit this curve or that, but the velocity he is going at at any given time and his ability to change it, to accelerate it sideways, forward, or backwards.

I said that position doesn't matter--I lied. It can be very important, and important in a way that is missing in many other racing games: player interaction. In Snow Tails more so than most other race games, the ability to block those behind you is very real and quite easily a deciding factor in a race. I was in a race once, where I'd have finished ahead of the winner had the race been conducted in a vacuum; but I lost because we were on the same lane and she was ahead blocking me, stopping me short in my track wasting the ultra-fast speed I was going at on the last turn.

Tangible threat of blocking, sophisticated mechanism for struggling with acceleration, and the feel that you are going at a particular velocity instead of being at a particular position on the course--Snow Tails is a winner for me as far as racing games go.
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Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Thanks for the basketful of reviews.

Snow Tails has exactly what I'm looking for in a race game. Not heavy strategy, but quick decision making (fortunately, my groups play this game quickly.) It has just the right amount of control---not too much, but not too little. It's tied with Winner's Circle at the top of my list of favorite race games.

Goodness knows I don't want to play a "realistic" race game. You wouldn't catch me dead watching Nascar. I just want a reasonable suspension of disbelief, a lot more action than in a real-life race, and a short playing time.
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Tony L
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I got this game for $2 at a Barnes & Nobles clearance sale. I've read so many reviews praising how great this game was. I played it and didn't understand all the positive reviews, I thought I misread some rules or something and kept rereading the rulebook.

After reading this review, Im glad some people feel the same way I did about this game. I really wanted to like it, I wanted a quick and simple racing game for a group of 5 people but it fell really short. It felt like a series of math problems and counting spaces the whole time. It didn't really feel like a board game where the goal was to have challenging fun and competing with other players. You have to constantly add the two values, minus your brake speed and made sure you had to avoid other players, obstacles, speed limits and make turns at tthe right time. It really didn't feel fun and it felt more punishing than rewarding.

I have steampunk rally as well and I think that game is fun and enjoyable compared to this game. I instantly gave away snow tails and the $2 I paid for it didn't seem worth it.
 
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