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Subject: Africana, or as my wife calls it "Ticket to Ride...but waaaay better" rss

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Todd Kauk
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First off, I have played this game 4 times (2 4-player, 1 3-player, and 1 2-players). I own and enjoy China, another game by designer Michael Schacht.

I received this game in the mail last Monday and was very impressed when I opened the box (although it IS bigger then it needs to be). The theme is that each player is a different country in the late 19 century who are vying to complete expeditions to fund their search for valuable artifacts!

The game plays 2-4 players in 45-60 mintes. Ages 8+

Components: 8/10

Nice art, good cards, and great looking sturdy board. In the box you get 4 player pawns, player tokens, cards (in both standard and euro size), plastic coins, 2 wooden "books", and a beautiful gameboard depicting the continent of Africa.

Rules: 9/10

Easy to learn and teach (about 10 minutes). Everything is clear and well laid out. They have included strategy tips as well.

Objective:

The objective of the game is to gain the most victory points by completing expeditions and adventures.

Movement Cards:

There are 5 different colour movement cards in the game. Each player starts with a joker (wild) card and one other movement card. The joker can be used as any colour and stays in your hand from turn to turn. Assistant cards can be purchased from the book of adventures and correspond to one colour, but also stay in your hand from turn to turn. All other regular movement cards are discarded once played. For 5 silver coins any movement card or assistant card can be re-dyed for your current turn (to allow you to move to a city that would otherwise be impossible). Hand limit = 5 total movement cards.


Expeditions:

There are 5 expedition cards that fill in the bottom of the board. Any of the players can join these expeditions (and receive the joining bonus) - but only one player can finish each expedition. The expedition are basically route connections from one city to another. The joining bonus is either 1 silver coin, 2 silver coins, or a movement card. Once a player completes an expedition, they receive the coins and victory points stated on the card (Ex. 3 coins, 3 VP).

Adventures:

There are two books of adventures (one for the northern half and one for the southern half). The book of adventures for the northern half contains artifacts and assistants that can be obtained in a city located in the southern half and vice versa. A player must be in the northern half of the gameboard to flip and/or buy from the book of adentures located in the north. The first flip of the book is free, each subsequest flip costs 1 silver coin. Each adventure card costs 5 silver coins (5 silver = 1 gold) to purchase. The adventure cards consist of 10 assistant cards (2 for each movement colour). Players with 2 assistant cards receive -5 VP, and players with 3+ assistant cards receive -10 VP.


Gameplay: 8/10

On a turn players can do 1 of 3 things:
A) Draw 2 movement cards
B) Play movement cards to join, complete, or get closer to expeditions
C) Buy from or flip pages in the book of adventures

Scoring:

Scoring is mainly done in 2 ways: Expeditions and Adventures

Expeditions Scoring - When a player completes an expedition they score the VP shown on the expedition card.

Adventure Scoring - Adventures score in two ways:
A) Once an adventure is complete (you travel to the city shown on the card) the player receives the VP shown on the adventure/artifact card. B) There are scoring bonuses to set collection of these adventure artifacts. Players score 6 VP for a pair of the same artifact, and 12 VP for 3 of the same artifact. Similarly, players score 2 VP for a collection of 2 different artifacts, and 10 VP for a collection of 4 different artifacts.

There are nominal pts for movement card remaining in hand, and gold at the end of the game as well.

Feel:

Africana feels like no other game I own (I haven't played Valdora). The game is all about optimizing your movement. It is part pick-up and deliver, part set collection. The decisions are tense and the scores are always close. What makes the game really shine is the competition for expeditions. It's definitely not cut-throat, but it adds a sense of theme/adventure. I find the game very elegant and balanced. There are only a few decisions each turn, but they are important and interesting.

My thoughts/Verdict: 8/10

This is not a deep game. This is not a complex game. Africana plays under 60 minutes and does not overstay it welcome. Our latest 4 player game resulted in a 33-33 tie for first with my wife winning in a tie-break (silver remaining). 3 out of 4 of the players really enjoyed the game. My wife is a non-gamer and she told me the day after that she would gladly play it again with me sometime. So...I think this is a great family strategy game that will be hitting the table soon and often. I look forward to future plays and am excited to teach it to more of my friends.

I think that if you enjoy WoP/China or Ticket to Ride, Africana is definitely worth checking out!




*Edited to address lack of detail*
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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If I knew you, Todd, that minimalist review might be more useful to me. It's clear that you like the game, and think it's well done, but I'm more interested in the game itself than your likes and dislikes. I'm afraid I learned next to nothing about how the game plays, or why it even bears the name Africana. Is it thematically connected to Africa in some way? I'd expect to learn at least that much from a review.
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Todd Kauk
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Thanks, I have edited the review to explain the gameplay, etc in a more detailed fashion. My daughter was sick today - so I just threw up a short, "minimalist" review. Sorry about that
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Jason
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Africana has very little theme relating to Africa other than the art and place locations. It makes a nice backdrop to how Todd describes it. It's classic Schacht - you always need just one more card to do what you want to do, and you're constantly checking your opponent's progress. It's interactive in that way and has good tension. Yes, it's mechanisms over theme, but it makes for good gaming while looking pretty(like TTR).
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Kevin B. Smith
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I'm very curious about the one person out of four who *didn't* really enjoy the game. What is their background, and what was it that they didn't like?
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Todd Kauk
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She is a casual gamer (enjoys 6 Nimmt, Geistesblitz, Anomia type games). She just said that it didn't really work for her. But she also admitted that she was sleep deprived, so take that for what it's worth.
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Sylvester Stachovicz
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Sphere wrote:
If I knew you, Todd, that minimalist review might be more useful to me. It's clear that you like the game, and think it's well done, but I'm more interested in the game itself than your likes and dislikes. I'm afraid I learned next to nothing about how the game plays, or why it even bears the name Africana. Is it thematically connected to Africa in some way? I'd expect to learn at least that much from a review.


For me it's quite opposite: I don't care for rules or anything I can find in the pdf rules. All I want is one's opinion, thoughts, comparisons, gameweight description etc. The bigger review the better, especially if reviewer is not that famous. In 90% of reviews I skip rules summary. If I don't wanna read rules, I go for video review - one picture is worth a thousand words.
It's individual thing of course, just don't shoot the reviewer. His work was a bit too short maybe, but the approach tottaly acceptable.
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Vester wrote:
For me it's quite opposite: I don't care for rules or anything I can find in the pdf rules.

How can that be opposite, when I didn't even mention rules? I want a sense of how the game plays; what viewpoint I represent when I play and what I'm trying to accomplish. There are thousands of rule sets available in pdf - do you think it makes sense to read all of them first, and then follow up by reading reviews, or do it the other way around?

I don't have infinite time, so I look at new reviews as they appear, and if the game sounds interesting, I may follow up by reading the rules. That won't happen if the review doesn't give me a handle on what a typical play experience might feel like. I appreciate the reviewer having taken time to expand upon his original review to move in that direction.
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Sylvester Stachovicz
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Sphere wrote:
I'm afraid I learned next to nothing about how the game plays, or why it even bears the name Africana. Is it thematically connected to Africa in some way? I'd expect to learn at least that much from a review.


Let's be honest. You're the BGG veteran and you know about it. You know it's Schacht's game so it's (for 90%) family or medium heavy and dry. You look at the photos and you see pretty map of Africa with a number of routes and cities. So it IS about Africa. Another few seconds to look at BGG entry and you know it's pick up'n'deliever type of game, 8+, 60 mins. Book mechanicS? So it is based on Valdora. So it's family game rather than medium-heavy euro. So if it is Schacht family game, reading pdf manual should take you 10 minutes tops and you will know EVERYTHING about mechanics.

My point is, quoted sentences sounds like patronizing. If the game is really big, long and heavy, rules summary makes perfect sense and saves time, no argue about it. Otherwise it's optional and up to rewiever: you can ask nicely for more details but you shouldn't criticize the approach.

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Todd Kauk
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I admit my first version of the review was a little lazy as I just didn't have time to fully flesh everything out.

I was spurred on to do a review of the game because I liked it more than I thought I would. I see the relatively low rating and think that it needs a little more due.

In my honest opinion, this is a better game than TtR. It is very stream-lined, elegant, and family friendly. I do not know how this game was not nominated for the Spiel des Jahres!?! It seemingly fits in perfectly with their criteria. I think it would have been a better representative than "Vegas" for sure!
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Vester wrote:
My point is, quoted sentences sounds like patronizing. If the game is really big, long and heavy, rules summary makes perfect sense and saves time, no argue about it. Otherwise it's optional and up to rewiever: you can ask nicely for more details but you shouldn't criticize the approach.

The sentences you quoted weren't patronizing, they were descriptive of what I felt the initial review lacked. I find it ironic that you are criticizing me for criticizing the review. (I don't agree with you, but I don't mind you speaking your mind. We all have that right.)
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Vester wrote:
Let's be honest. You're the BGG veteran and you know about it. You know it's Schacht's game so it's (for 90%) family or medium heavy and dry. You look at the photos and you see pretty map of Africa with a number of routes and cities. So it IS about Africa. Another few seconds to look at BGG entry and you know it's pick up'n'deliever type of game, 8+, 60 mins. Book mechanicS? So it is based on Valdora. So it's family game rather than medium-heavy euro. So if it is Schacht family game, reading pdf manual should take you 10 minutes tops and you will know EVERYTHING about mechanics.

What does being a BGG veteran have to do with anything? You do realize how many games are here, don't you? Euros aren't my primary area of interest. I know nothing about Valdora, and first heard Africana mentioned only last week.

You seem to think I'm interested in mechanics, but what I've been asking about is theme. How do the mechanics advance the story, or is there any story? I want to know what role I fill when I play. If it's just an abstract with African names for flavor, I want to know that too.
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David Grietens
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If you know Valdora, this game feels like "Valdora light".
I also felt some resemblance to a game that probably not a lot of you know, Expedition
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Todd Kauk
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I just played it for the 5th time a couple of nights ago with 4 players. The winning player scored 61 pts (which is high!) and I finished dead last. That being said, I still enjoyed the play so did everyone at the table (2 new players). We were all eager to play it again together another time. The 2 new players liked it the best (especially the winning player )

I have come to the conclusion that this game is somewhat luck-filled, and light...but the competition and elegant gameplay makes it a great super filler family-type game. Replayability may be an issue, but after 5 plays - I'm still eager to play a few more times and in my opinion 10+ plays for $30 is money well spent! meeple
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BJB
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Todd Kauk wrote:
She is a casual gamer (enjoys 6 Nimmt, Geistesblitz, Anomia type games). She just said that it didn't really work for her. But she also admitted that she was sleep deprived, so take that for what it's worth.


Todd - Kelly's comment on your post is "I am not a casual gamer! My favourite games are Thurn & Taxis, and 7 Wonders. I demand you immediately end this online smear campaign"

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Kevin B. Smith
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bbuss wrote:
Todd - Kelly's comment on your post is "I am not a casual gamer! My favourite games are Thurn & Taxis, and 7 Wonders. I demand you immediately end this online smear campaign"

Since you seem to have access to Kelly, it would be awesome if we could hear any specifics about what she didn't (or did) like about the game!
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Todd Kauk
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Haha!!!

Hmmm...maybe the word "casual" wasn't quite appropriate, but I'd argue that is still fits. I don't think I'd personally care to ask her about her reasons for not really liking the game (and I would NEVER sully her good name ).

Anyways, I was just stating the games that I knew she enjoyed. Thurn and Taxis is somewhat similar to Africana (but with a more boring theme). Thurn gives you a little more control, but is less fun in my opinion.

BTW - I played my 6th play last night (with 3). My wife played again - she really likes the game meeple. The final score was 51-47-26. Lots of fun again. Still having a great time with Africana and will potentially break it out again tonight!
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Nice review. This is a game that our family just recently started playing and quite enjoy. As you say, easy to learn and not deep. But a good game nonetheless. Some small shades of TtR and another family favourite,Thebes. A couple points of clarification:

- "Hand limit = 5 total movement cards". You can have as many cards in hand as you want as long as by the end of your turn you have no more than 5. The distinction is important because having more than 5 cards in hand during your turn can be key to achieving multiple objectives when performing the move explorer action.

- "The adventure cards consist of 10 assistant cards". The adventure cards consist of 10 assistant cards and 20 artifact cards.

I do have a question. Does flipping through the book of adventures count as an action? I understand that "buy adventure cards" is one of three possible game actions during a turn. But, the way the rules read, a player can flip through the book of adventures and not buy an adventure card. So... I am not clear if I can flip through the book of adventures and then decide to perform one of the three possible game actions....



 
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Kevin B. Smith
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Bondgoldfinger wrote:
I do have a question. Does flipping through the book of adventures count as an action? I understand that "buy adventure cards" is one of three possible game actions during a turn. But, the way the rules read, a player can flip through the book of adventures and not buy an adventure card. So... I am not clear if I can flip through the book of adventures and then decide to perform one of the three possible game actions....

It's pretty clear to me that flipping is part of the "Buy" action. Thus, it's not something that you can do unless you have already chosen the Buy action for that turn. If the rules discussed flipping outside the context of the Buy, then I might be persuaded otherwise.
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Goldfinger
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It's pretty clear to me that flipping is part of the "Buy" action. Thus, it's not something that you can do unless you have already chosen the Buy action for that turn. If the rules discussed flipping outside the context of the Buy, then I might be persuaded otherwise. [/q]

It voids my win but it makes sense.
 
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