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Surya's game blah blah

My initial impressions on games I recently played for the first time

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Solarius Mission, String Railway and 2 de Mayo

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Solarius Mission
tl;dr: good, but how good?

So when the designers of La Granja (one of the best games of 2014 I think) put out a new game from the publisher of La Granja, I'm paying attention. When said game also sports a conflict free space exploration theme (seems like a mini trend this year), it shoots to the top of my 'want to play' list. And I finally got hold of a copy!
I was a bit surprised by how heavy this game was. I expected a medium weight game, but it is a bit heavier than that. It's also not very intuitive. Not that the rules are that complex, but how you effectively achieve your goals, that's not a clear straight path.
I did really badly at the game (I came dead last) but I really enjoyed playing it. I was a bit disappointed that one player who mainly colonized planets, won by a huge margin. That gave us the impression that is the only strategy that is worth pursuing. I hope that is not the case. La Granja clearly gives players multiple paths to victory.
So I really liked it, and want to play it again. I just hope there's more to it than grabbing as many planets as you can early on.
In any case, the rules take their time to explain you everything, but while explaining the rules, some questions came up that I had to look up. I think I'd best reread them to clarify any issues we might have had.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10

String Railway
tl;dr: a bit too basic

I like the idea for this game. A train game where you use strings to 'lay' track. But this was just a bit too basic for me, and there certainly is a big dose of luck with the stations you draw. This seems to have a bit impact on the outcome.
It is a quick and easy game, and it's not unenjoyable, I just hoped for just a tiny bit more.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 6/10

2 de Mayo
tl;dr: balanced?

I'm sure people who have played this game a bunch will tell me otherwise, but from my first play it seemed this game is unbalanced. The French seem to have a huge advantage. Maybe winning as the Spanish is very possible, but it certainly is much harder. So for occasional players, this doesn't seem like a good option.
Now, anyway, this is one of those games in which you play cards to influence conflict. I usually don't care for those, and this game didn't change that for me. You have a card to play to help you and then the other player plays a card to block that and you're back to square one. Not enjoyable by my standards.
So yeah, not a game I enjoyed, but I guess that if the game is indeed balanced for experienced players, it's a pretty good design. Just not one for me.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 2/10 if based on my likeliness to play again, not on the quality of the design
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Tue Nov 29, 2016 8:19 pm
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Hellas, Einfag Genial Kartenspiel & Wurfelspiel

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Hellas
tl;dr: nice classic style euro

Stefan Dorra has been around for a while. You know, from back in the day of those classic euros. The ones that where simpler and more elegant than those of today. I'm not saying that is better or worse than what we have today, but these days games are either simple and light or not so simple and not so light. Back in the day they managed to make medium weight games with very streamlined designs in a way you don't see as much today.
But this game brings back that flavor. Very simple, sort rules with few components yet not too light. There is enough planning and strategy to interest the more hardcore gamer.
On the other hand I must say that this game doesn't do anything we haven't seen before and while to does everything it does very well, it doesn't do anything in an exceptional way. It just remixes a bunch of things that feel familiar without explicitly copying anything from any particular game.
So a very solid game, just not exceptional.

Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Einfach Genial: Das Kartenspiel
tl;dr: clever, but unexciting

Ingenious is one of my favorite multi player abstracts. So I'm always interested to see what Reiner does with that basic idea. What he does here is a very clever adaptation of the base game. The way he takes the element of enticing player to play the colors other people have played because it's the fastest way to score lots of points. The sad thing is that it doesn't result in a great game. It's just not exciting.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Einfach Genial: Das Würfelspiel
tl;dr: unexciting

Just like the card game Reiner adapted his classic, but this time with dice. This time however, it's not as clever. The mechanism where everyone is incentivized to play the same colors gets lost because of the luck of the dice. You still try to match other player's colors, but there isn't as much carry over from turn to turn.
But the result is just as unexciting as the card game.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:41 am
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The Arrival, Adventure Land and Adventure Land King & Princess

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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The Arrival
tl;dr: not breaking new ground

Apparently this game is a redevelopment of Mordred. I played that game once, but it's been a long time, so I don't remember too much of it. The rules to The Arrival didn't sound familiar though. Doesn't Mordred have dice?
In any case, the way you gain resources is, to my knowledge, unique and cool, and I don't think it was in Mordred at all. But I did enjoy this part of the game.
The rest of the game is a bit of maneuvering on the board and fighting the evil that enters the board from the north. There is some competition over who gets to go where first and who gets to defend first (that gives points of course). This part of the game I didn't find nearly as exciting as the resource generation. It felt way more pedestrian.
There is also a corruption track, and there is a way to win by having the least corruption in stead of the most points. That's called the Fomori victory, but my group didn't see how one could pull that off. To do so lots of Fomori would have to enter the board, but to place lots of them, you will have to gain a lot of corruption, so how then can you have the least corruption? The only big way to lose corruption is to kill Fomori, which would stop that end game condition from happening. I don't know, after this first play this didn't seem like a viable victory condition. I could be wrong though.
But in the end I didn't find this to be Martin's most exciting design of the year, but I guess he didn't set out to design a masterpiece when he made this game either.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Adventure Land
tl;dr: excellent family strategy game

Haba puts out a strategy game from K&K? WTF? I guess they are going in a new direction!
Anyway, any K&K game goes on my radar, so I was happy to finally try this game.
I didn't play just the base game, I played it with the brand new expansion, but that just adds a couple new scenarios, so the basic game play is the same. It's mainly the victory condition that is changed.
The rules are very simple and family friendly of course, and there's a good dose of luck involved. But there is also some solid planning and strategising needed to pull of a victory.
I must say that I was very happy to see this game is very successful at doing what it sets out to do. Yes, yet an other solid design from K&K!

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Abenteuerland: König und Prinzessin
tl;dr: fine variation

While I didn't play the base game without the expansion, I did inquire as to what was added by this expansion, so I could comment on this expansion by it's own.
The scenario we played was the one where you have to kill a level 25 monster. The first player to do so successfully wins. So there's kind of a race to build up your power to get there first. There are no VPs in this scenario.
While I enjoyed this scenario, I do think that VP based scenarios are probably a bit fairer.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:56 am
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Inis, Noch mal! and Deus Egypt

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Inis
tl;dr: solid design, not for Eurosnoot!

This was quite the hit at Spiel. And it's currently the 5th highest ranked Spiel release on the ranking list. So I had to try this. Also, it comes from a company that mainly publishes accessible family and strategy Euro's.
The rules are pretty short, very streamlined and well written. Game play is pretty fast and the game flows well. I appreciate the artwork on the cards and the rule book (not so much the box or the tiles). The components are nice (but way overproduced). That's all good.
But this is not a Euro. After reading the rules, I thought this would be mostly an area control game. There is some of that, but there is a very solid amount of fighting. The fighting rules are very clean and easy, until you start playing cards. And that's where the main problem for me came from: there are a lot of cards that you play during combat of the type 'and now I do this, and you didn't see that coming, haha!'. Many people like that, but my group doesn't.
I really do believe this is a very good design that is very well developed. I like the fact that the same set of unique action cards are drafted each round, so you know what cards are out there and what effect they have. That's cool. But some of the things those cards do just don't work for my taste.
So solid, not for me at all.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: can't say. I won't play this againn so a 3, but it's not bad, so not a 3.

PS: for those interested, my copy is on the BGG market place now if you're interested!

Noch mal!
tl;dr: Qwixx, but different

This year there were a lot of Qwixx like games. Roll dice, cross off numbers/colors/whatever on a score pad. It seems like every publisher is trying to cash in on that hype. I never thought Qwixx was a great game, but it is a very effective filler that is enjoyable. And this game does the same thing, but different. So it doesn't really differentiate itself, but if you want more of the same but different, this is a solid option.
The fact that you can't loose points for not crossing off makes this game a bit friendlier. I also appreciated the planning nature in the way you have to cross off.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Deus: Egypt
tl;dr: fine, but less intuitive

I haven't played Deus that much, but what I remember is that even on the first play, figuring out a strategy based on the cards you draw is a pretty intuitive process. With this expansion it felt less intuitive. It also adds some mild take that effects. Of course I wasn't a fan of those, but I didn't mind them too much, they weren't too harsh.
I would say: if you've played Deus to death, you should probably get this expansion, but if you aren't done yet with the base game, I don't think you need this expansion.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:47 pm
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Happy Pigs and Perry Rhodan The Cosmic League

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Happy Pigs
tl;dr: enjoyable but shallow

Get some pigs, feed them to grow and vaccinate them to keep them alive. There is some space management and managing your money (having the most of it is the goal) add some challenges to this pretty basic game.
We all enjoyed playing this, but replay value is pretty low.
We also found 4 an unfortunate number. There are 4 rounds per season, so the same player will be start player in every last round of the season. Being start player is not good so in this game, so I would suggest playing with 3 or maybe 5.

Initial rating: 6.4/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League
tl;dr: fine, but why 2 player only?

This is mainly a pickup and deliver game with some cards to spice things up. It works well and I enjoyed it, but it didn't leave a big impression.
Some of the cards are a bit too powerful I think, so we opted not to use those.
The biggest question I had was: why is this only for 2 players? There's no reason you couldn't add a few more resource cards per planet so you can play with more.
All in all a decent game, but nothing special.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Mon Nov 7, 2016 12:15 pm
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The Colonists and Piratatak

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The Colonists
tl;dr: good, but also a bit like work

Lookout has built it's reputation on publishing heavy gamers games. This year they continue that trend with yet an other all out heavy strategy game in a huge box, with 3 rule books and more than 20 punch boards. Yep, not for the faint of heart.
But I usually like these kinds of games as long as they play well and don't take too long.
This game gives players a LOT of options. You can choose from a bunch of different eras and embassies. You can even choose how many eras to include to make the game longer or shorter.
We played the 2 first eras with 3 new players. That took us almost 2.5h. This year's other big, longer games that I've played so far, Great Western Trail and A Feast for Odin also took us that long or even a bit longer, but they didn't feel that long. And this one does feel more like work than those. I think that comes mainly from the fact that you have to perform all actions you land on. So if you need to create bricks, but to get there you need to pass over a building action, you need to make sure you have enough resources to do both those actions, even if you don't really want or need that building action. And storing resources can be challenging. And on top of that you need to manage your workers.
Everything is very interconnected and performing the simplest task requires good planning. Being efficient and accomplishing your self imposed goals requires a lot of planning.
I wouldn't say this game is heavier or more complex than the other aforementioned games, but it does feel a bit more like work and it was not as fun as those games (which, granted, both are a ton of fun).
But it certainly is intriguing and challenging, so I look forward to trying this again.
I did have the feeling that the publisher maybe went all in with rules and components because that is the market they where going for, even though making a slightly slimmer, slightly more developed game could have been better.
But still, a solid game

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Piratatak
tl;dr: luckfest, but it doesn't take too long

Yay, another pirate game! Dear designers and publishers, if you want a game that appeals to me, don't use a pirate theme. End rant.
Oh, maybe this game wasn't aimed at me at all. In fact, I'm quite sure it wasn't. It's a light, very chaotic kids/party game.
There is some push your luck. Draw cards until you stop, or draw a pirate card and lose (most of) your turn. In the process you try to collect the 6 ship cards of your color.
What I disliked was that the 8 pirates happened to be in the first half of the deck. That can happen. The result was that the next player had an almost endless turn of drawing cards. Every other player had to just sit there and watch that player run away with the game.
I don't think this is a very good design, but it isn't the worst either. It's easy, takes only 15 minutes to learn and play and there can be some funny moments if people push their luck just a bit too far.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Thu Nov 3, 2016 4:49 pm
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A Feast for Odin, La Granja No Siesta! and Hanamikoji

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A Feast for Odin
tl;dr: it's an Uwe game!

Ever since Agricola Uwe Rosenberg has been cranking out heavy big box after heavy big box. And they go from very good to excellent. So many people look forward to every new game and of course I always put them on my 'to try' list. I don't always buy them right away though. Caverna: The Cave Farmers I didn't get because it was based on Agricola (which I like a lot, but hardly ever play) and was very expensive. This year though I did take a chance on his new effort for some reason, but only after Asmodee was pressured into offering it at an acceptable price.
I must say I'm glad I took the chance. The amount of bits and action spaces looks daunting. But once all rules are explained, and you've played 2 rounds, everything falls into place very nicely. You can't remember what actions are available, but you can easily remember what type of actions are available and since they are grouped by type, it's easy to find an action that will work for your strategy. The question then becomes how to combine those in the most efficient way and how to deal with other people doing the actions you want to do.
Thematically I don't really get how covering up shapes on a board with resources adds up to having a feast for a deity, but that's something that doesn't bother me.
I haven't played Patchwork, so all of this was refreshing, but also familiar at the same time. You can certainly feel the Uwe DNA.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10

La Granja: No Siesta
tl;dr: great stuff

How do you convert a heavy and rather complex game like La Granja into a dice game? Well, by taking parts of it and remixing them. But Ode did a very good job retaining some of the feel of La Granja. But in the process the did manage to make a great roll-dice-mark-stuff-on-a-sheet game. It's way more complex than Qwixx of course, and the rule book is quite long, but in the end the rules are straight forward. But there are multiple strategies to pursue and adapting to the luck of the dice spices things up.
Great stuff

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Hanamikoji
tl;dr: solid 2 player game

This game is a bit similar to games like Schotten Totten. Players want a majority control over an odd row of cards. The big twist here is how you play these cards. There are 4 actions, all of which each player has to perform once in the game. This creates a very tight space to make your moves in, and it is VERY tricky. And a round only takes 5 minutes!
Very good 2 player game indeed. If only I played 2 player more often, I would get a copy.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Nov 1, 2016 11:19 am
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First Class, Automania and Codenames Pictures

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First Class: Unterwegs im Orient Express
tl;dr: solid and refreshing

Three years ago this designer and publisher teamed up (with an other designer) to bring me my favorite game of that year, and one of my favorite train games of all time. It's also one of the most original train games I've ever played. Now they team up again for yet another original train game. You could say the way the wagons are scored is reminiscent of Russian Railroads, but the rest of the game is quite different.
The fact that you can only take 3 actions in a round is very limiting and forces you to make good decisions.
While I did very bad on this first play, I did enjoy the game quite a bit. I don't think it will ever top Russian Railroads, but it's certainly worth playing as it is not just a good game, but also quite different from most train games.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Automania
tl;dr: strategy game in disguise

This game is deceptively heavy. Judging from the artwork and the fact that the board looks like 1/6th of the Kanban: Automotive Revolution board, makes you think that this will be a lighter strategy game. The rules are also quite straightforward.
But once you start playing, you immediately notice that choices are hard. You need to choose what strategy to pursue, but which one is the best, and how to best achieve it?
We where all pleasantly surprised by this game. The fact that scores where very close just helped making all of it very enjoyable.

Initial rating: 7.4/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Codenames: Pictures
tl;dr: less than the sum of it's parts

This game takes Codenames and injects some of those weird images you can find in Dixit into it. Both games shine at what they do, but when put together, the result is less than the sum of it's parts. The giving of tips seems to be much easier than in vanilla codenames, and part of the joy in that game is how tricky giving good tips is.
The game is still fun and worth playing, but if you have access to the original, I would opt for that version. Unless maybe you're playing with kids.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:43 am
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The Oracle of Delphi and Honshu

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The Oracle of Delphi
tl;dr: another solid design

Feld is a highly regarded designer by many. And with good reason if you ask me. He has put out great game after very good game. And this one just adds another game to this growing list.
I don't think many will regard this as being his best game. I think the main reason for this is that the game doesn't really offer many different routes to victory. Everyone has a set of 12 goals that are the same for every player, and how you accomplish those is very well defined. So the game comes from deciding what order you complete them in and finding the most efficient route to do so as the goal is to complete all of them.
The game has a lot of different types of components and it looks very complex if you look at that component list. But once it's set up and explained, it's actually very straight forward. And the excellent player aid clearly shows what actions are performed how.
With 2 players it seems like there's not that much competition, it's more of a race, but with more than 2 I think competition for resources and such could be very fierce. I look forward to trying that.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Honshu
tl;dr: fun, but very open

The concept of a trick-taking city building game sounded weird and intriguing. I guess you could also put it a different way, as you don't actually take the trick. It's more an auction for turn order.
After turn order is established, every player gets to take one of the played cards and add that to it's tableau. The way in which you add those has very few rules. The result is a great freedom in building your city. This resulted in me not feeling very challenged. I felt like I was winning big by not trying very hard, and that proved to be true.
So I did enjoy this, and maybe I just got lucky, but I certainly would like to play again.

Initial rating: 6.75/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Oct 28, 2016 6:00 am
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Great Western Trail, Quanto and Qwirkle Cubes

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Great Western Trail
tl;dr: more of the same... good stuff!

This game was hyped at the show after last year's Mombasa turned out so well. It went on my radar but the western theme doesn't help. But it was clear this is a traditional, rather heavy euro, not a real cowboy gunslinger game. Good.
First, let me say that the rules where very well written and structured. I had to do very little lookup work even though there are quite some rules tied to a couple of actions or locations. It does have a lot of nested 'if' statements. If you do this action, then you check that. If that is the case, then the following might occur. If the result of that is B, than something else might happen. That kind of thing. But we had few questions and found the answers easily. And when playing, everything does make sense.
Anyway: this game is not original. Build some buildings, use some building's actions, use resources to score points... All stuff we've seen before, but it's all put together skilfully. Every turn you have to keep in mind a good number of variables and make plans for the future while still staying flexible.
I must say I really enjoyed playing this game a lot. It looks like Pfister has an other hit on his resume. Sweet.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Sloop
tl;dr: pfff, that's it?

I got this because the back of the box told me it was more complex than some of the other Amigo card games. And it's designed by Mike Fitzgerald. Sounded good. After reading the rules, it still sounded good. But when playing this fell flat completely. Play the card that gives you the most cards in your score pile. Usually it's pretty obvious what card you should play. There is a bit of strategy going on because you can choose to take a chance and put cards in a pre-score pile, and you're not guaranteed you can cash those points in later, but that's not nearly enough to make this game interesting.
It works, but it seems more like a tool to teach kids math than a game.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Qwirkle Cubes
tl;dr: the same, but a bit more random

This is very much Qwirkle, but the fact that you don't draw fixed tiles but roll cubes, does change the game in a significant way: there is no limit of 3 identical symbol/color combinations.
There is also less planning since you roll random cubes, and you get to re-roll them.
I enjoyed this, but I do think the original is slightly superior.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Oct 27, 2016 6:00 am
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