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

Archive for Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!

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Mombasa, Codenames and Banjooli Cross

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Mombasa
tl;dr: very good indeed

Let's get this out of the way: I screwed up majorly. I had this whole strategy which would probably give me the victory. Too bad that I realized too late there was no way to actually execute this at all since there were only two rounds left. The result was that my strategy was just a huge unintentional kingmaker move.
That being said: this is indeed a very solid gamers game. I've played a few good games from this year's Spiel crop, but this one certainly ranks among the best, especially among the heavier ones. If you want one of those good heavier strategy euros, make sure to check this out.

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

Codenames
tl;dr: Team Dixit with words

I usually don't like word games, but this isn't really a word game, it's just Dixit with words in stead of images. Quite interesting and lots of changes to be creative with the hints. But also challenging.
I like it, but I don't get the extremely high rating this game gets. It is very good and lots of fun, but I don't think it's one of the best designs ever.

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

Banjooli Xeet
tl;dr: Meh

A racing game with dice where you have a goal of putting your secret set of colors over the finish first. We've seen all of it before, and we've all seen it done better. It doesn't take too long, but it's a chaosfest and there are other racing games that I'd much rather play.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Mon Dec 7, 2015 8:54 pm
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Grand Austria Hotel and DRCongo

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Grand Austria Hotel
tl;dr: good but too luck dependent

I wanted to like this game. Except that I was frustrating for two thirds of the time. There is so much good stuff going on, but that seemed to be thwarted by unlucky die rolls. So, if you really need a certain thing to move on to your next step, and that is not rolled (or in low amount and you just happend to be in last place) and there are no sixes, you're out of luck. You can do some other stuff in the hopes that will give you some points, but there isn't really anything you can do to sacrifice something to perform the action you need most. And that bothered me, and the other players.
The next problem was that there was some AP going on, mostly caused by the bad die rolls, which led to a playing time of about 150 minutes, which was too much for this game.
Other than that, we all thought there was a good game hidden in there, it just didn't come out. Maybe this was a fluke, maybe this game needed a bit more development.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 6/10

DRCongo
tl;dr: pretty good start

What a stupid name! Why is the DR in there? OK, I know it stands for Democratic Republic, but either write it out or just call your game Congo.
OK, on to the game. Keep in mind these thoughts are only about the core game.
So far most of the games from the Ragnar Brothers that I have played were interesting and different, so I was looking forward to trying this one. I was surprised to see I only needed about 5 pages of rules for the core game. Too bad they could use some (a lot) of editing, but I got through them. The core game is actually a fairly simple, streamlined medium weight euro. It also leaves out any of the combat elements I understand do occur in (some of?) the other versions. Use money to build resource factories, deliver those resources to markets for more money and use that extra money to generate more income or points. It all works great and it was pretty intense, even with only 3 players vying for position on the map. There is good tension building from the very beginning.
We quite enjoyed this, and I look forward to exploring this more.
But such a shame about the stupid title, poorly written rules and ugly art.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:42 pm
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Porta Nigra and Steam Time

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Porta Nigra
tl;dr: more of the same... which means it's solid!

K+K have been going at it and rarely disappoint. Sometimes they're simply good, sometimes they're amazing. This one falls in between those.
It's mostly a rehash of elements you know from other games. A market system, building, majorities, some cards to switch things up. It's a very solid design again, but other than working very well it doesn't really stand out exactly because everything in there has been done many a time before. And that's fine, because I enjoyed it.
Oh, one small remark on strategy: I tried doing everything except scoring in Porta Nigra, but the game didn't steal it's title and it seems like winning without scoring there will be very hard indeed. I had hoped more different strategies would be viable.
And a small remark on the bits: the towers are nice, but 5% (or so, I didn't count) where malformed and didn't stack properly, and that's a shame.

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

Steam Time
tl;dr: pretty good indeed

DOrn has been going at it and rarely disappoints. Sometimes he's simply good, sometimes he's amazing. This one falls in between those.
This game combines a worker placement system with a moving set of action spaces that always give you random things, like cards or resources. What is a cool twist in this one is that you get a bonus based on what action you do and how many resources you have in the associated spot on your own board. This leads to some interesting decisions, especially if you focus on actions where you have to expend resources to get bonuses or more resources. Good stuff.
We all tried pursuing different strategies and the scores at the end where not that far apart so it all seems pretty balanced.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Nov 13, 2015 12:18 pm
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Roll for the Galaxy Ambition and Isle of Skye

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition
tl;dr: the shit I wanted

This is the kind of expansion I love: it integrates with the game perfectly. It doesn't add many rules. The only new rules are about what the new components do, it doesn't change anything to the base rules and doesn't really expand them either. All of it just becomes part of the base game instantly and you can just play as you would without the expansion. Great stuff. Oh, did I mention the new dice are very cool?

Initial rating: 9/10
BGG scale: 10/10

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
tl;dr: Carcassonne with a bidding mechanism and no meeples

It's a tile laying game, so of course you will see comparisons with the most popular title in the genre, but it is quite similar in many ways. You also have multiple elements and landscape types for which you can score and the tiles look quite similar. But you don't need meeples to score anything. And you don't just draw and place, but you auction tiles (for a set price). And most of all: you all build your own tableau. So it is not Carcassonne, but it does feel like it in many respects.
Anyway, different enough and very solid.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Nov 11, 2015 10:28 am
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Steampunk Rally and Dark Matter

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Steampunk Rally
tl;dr: cool and fun

It's a racing game. But not really. It's a worker placement game where the workers are dice in different colors and you get to build your mat of worker spots with cards that are drafted. All cool stuff and it all works together well.
The racing part is there, but the main joy comes from building your contraption and activating the actions with your dice.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this game and look forward to playing it more. I think I might be getting a copy.

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

Dark Matter
tl;dr: interesting idea

I got this game after getting the elevator pitch. The way in which the action cards work is quite interesting. Using your own cards flips them from front to back, using an other player's card flips it upside down. This way the actions available constantly change and are a challenge to get them to do what you want them to do.
The rest of the game is a bit ordinary though: use the resources the cards give you to get planets, upgrade those planets to get points. That part, while it works fine, just isn't all that interesting, it's just very been-there-done-that.
After this first play it seems like this one cool idea fails to lift this game above the average.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Mon Nov 9, 2015 9:11 pm
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M.U.L.E. revisited and In Flanders Field

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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M.U.L.E. The Board Game
So after my first - shorter - game of this at Spiel, I finally got to play the full version. We played using the Tournament rules. I must say I did enjoy the game again, but there where some concerns. First off it seemed that Crystite is the way to go for victory. Except that it is a bit unpredictable. So the trick is to hold on to it until it's value shoots up again. In our game one of the events that came up halted Crystite production for one round, a round in which two players had geared up to produce it in huge quantities. So that was kind of painful for them. They did end up loosing in the end, but not by much, which makes me wonder if this is indeed such a bad thing, but if that is your only source of income, it still is a devastating card. But since this resource is portrayed as no stable source of income, it is also quite thematic.
Of course you have the option to play without the events, so I'm wondering if the game will still be balanced if we do that, as Crystite will be more reliable while still having a fluctuating price.
Also: the lucky and unlucky cards - also an option - are a quite obvious way to keep the scores close together. Being in the lead for the last 4 rounds of the game, I lost a lot of points to those cards (45 to 55, I don't remember exactly) which did feel a bit unfair. After all, I got those because I played well.
So I'll have to play this again to see if I need to adjust my score.
I'm wondering what your experiences are?

In Flanders Field
tl;dr: WW2 Can't Stop

That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But that's how Martin Wallace described it, and that's indeed what it is. Now this is not a rethemed Can't Stop, but it's press-your-luck mechanism gives a very similar feel. The biggest difference here is that there is less chance of one player just going on and on and on. Since you have to claim a card on each roll, the amount of possible cards to claim on your next roll will decrease making every roll harder than the previous one.
We quite enjoyed this and I think this game deserves more attention than it is getting.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Nov 3, 2015 12:28 pm
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German Railroads, Qwinto and 23

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Russian Railroads: German Railroads
tl;dr: more of the same but different - in a delicious way

This first impression is for the German Railroads module only
The base game was my favorite game from 2013 so even though I'm usually not a fan of expansions I had to get this. Many expansions make a game I love less pure, more convoluted and longer. But this expansion manages to just replace the player boards and add a minimal amount of new rules The overall game flow remains in tact. And that's what I love: if leaves all the stuff I love in there, doesn't confuse me with new rules or whatever, it just lets me take out the new material and play. All I have to do is think of how to incorporate the new material in my strategies.
So yes, I'm loving this expansion so far.

Initial rating: 8.5/10
BGG scale: 9/10

Qwinto
tl;dr: more of the same but different - in a good way

Everyone looking at this game will see the obvious connections to Qwixx. But don't let this fool you: this is a nifty twist on the concept that makes it more interesting as you have more and more difficult decisions to make as to when to fill in what as you can choose what values go where but they all have to go in ascending order. Nice!

Initial rating: 7.2
BGG scale: 7/10

23
tl;dr: more of the same but different

Do you like Take 5!? Do you like No Thanks!? Well, you probably should try this as well. You have numbered cards, you want to get rid of them and you want the most points. But getting negative points is just way to easy
There might be a big luck factor with the way the cards are dealt, but playing multiple rounds should fix that. I had one game where 80% of my cards where above 16, and the other 2 players had lots of low cards. I guess having more players will also rectify that.
All in all good fun.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Nov 2, 2015 11:27 am
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Steam Works, Mysterium and Tiny Epic Galaxies

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Steam Works
tl;dr: very cool worker placement system

Worker placement games - which among my favorite mechanisms by the way - come in many shapes and sizes. Most of them have either fixed locations, or locations which can be built (like cards or tiles) or a combination of the two. This game does something new: you build a location, but it doesn't do anything by itself. You can add modules to it which adds functionality. And you can have multiples on each location and combine them to make them better. How cool is that? Well, pretty damn cool if you ask me.
On top of that this is a very solid game in it's own right, not just a rehashed game with a nice twist.
I got the feeling this game has quite a good replay value and I look forward to playing it again soon.
I must also note that this is one of the best games TMG has put out in recent years. A lot of their output has been solid but most of it didn't stand out. This one brings them back to the level I expect from TMG.
One huge downside of this game is: I want it, but the price is ridiculous, especially in Europe. I'll see if I can find a copy at a reasonable price somewhere.

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

Mysterium
tl;dr: co-op Dixit without the hints

Yep, that's what it is. It's up to you to decide if you like that. I like Dixit a lot, but it kind of depends on the players. But I don't like co-op that much. It works nice, but I felt kind of lost. Maybe the fact that I was falling asleep during both the explanation and the game itself had something to do with that, so I'll play this again if I can.

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

Tiny Epic Galaxies
tl;dr: fine little game

I haven't played any of the other Tiny Epic games yet, so I can't compare them and I have no idea how similar they are outside of the box size and the similar title.
In this game you roll dice to perform actions to improve your tech and acquire planets. And to score points of course. It all works pretty nicely. I think the balance between game length and depth is well done.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:16 am
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M.U.L.E, Pi mal Pflaumen and OctoDice

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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M.U.L.E. The Board Game
tl;dr: solid

I've never played the video game this is based on. I hadn't even heard of it. I guess I'm not old enough. That's how old this video game is
Anywhoo... It's an economic game. Build some tiles that give you resources if you have harvesters and you power those. Sell and trade the resources for money. And the price of the resources changes over the course of the game.
What I found made this game work well is the interesting way in which he markets replenish and the market value is determined. Nice.
There are some elements with event cards and action cards that can hurt people, but they're optional, so if you want a pure clean euro that is an option as well.
I quite enjoyed this and look forward to playing it again.

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

Pi mal Pflaumen
tl;dr: to mean for me

How many numbered-suited-cards games does one need? The answer is: as many good ones as one can find! So if one comes out with great artwork and is has Cramer's name on the box, I take note.
So, pretty straight forward: everyone plays one card, highest card chooses first from the played cards and you try to collect certain fruits based on the goals printed on some of those cards. There's some special actions tied to some of the cards, to switch things up a bit. One of those actions is stealing cards. And to my feeling there was a bit too much of that going on in our 3-player game. Maybe it's better with more players, but this first play wasn't what I was hoping for.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10

OctoDice
tl;dr: nice dice game

This is one of those dice games where you get some dice which you get to re-roll and then you cross off some things on your personal score sheet. This game uses the theme elements from AquaSphere, and I think that while the game isn't very thematic, the theme works fine.
While this game doesn't do anything new, it works fine, and I enjoyed it.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:35 pm
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Dice City, Super Motherload and Sifaka

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Dice City
tl;dr: fun, fast, mediocre

OK, that might sound a bit harsh, at least the mediocre part. But I don think this game only has one thing going for it, which obviously is that cool dice mechanism. But other than that it is a pretty standard get-resources-build-cards-get-points game. And it works fine, and the game moves along at a pleasant pace and stuff, but it all felt a bit been-there-done-that for me. OK, that dice mechanism is cool, but it's not enough to elevate this game above other similar titles.
Also, this game is mostly multiplayer solitaire. There is some competition for building certain cards before other players do, and there is a mechanism to 'attack' other players, but no one ever saw any reason to actually do that.
Also a word on the graphics: I'm not a fan of the graphic design. The color scheme is a bit all over the place and the font on the rather small cards could have been a bit bigger.
So yeah, pleasant, inoffensive, but not all that special.

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

Super Motherload
tl;dr: sci-fi deck building mining game

Games with a space theme always grab my attention. Deck building games are a dime a dozen. Mining games are nothing new. Space themed mining games with artwork by Gavan Brown are also nothing new. But that doesn't matter as long as the game is fun.
What is cool about this game is how you have to manage your deck to take into account the different mining techniques. And how every player's cards are different.
All in all this game combines a bunch of familiar mechanisms with some nice artwork and components. The result is an enjoyable game with a good game length and the difference in the decks leads to a good replay value. Which is why I got myself a copy. Nothing too new, but good enough to play a couple of times.

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

Sifaka
tl;dr: one of those games

Nothing wrong with it persé, but it doesn't offer anything special. Think of the best way to play your card, execute your move and score some points if you get lucky.
The one real gripe I have with the game is that you just can't plan ahead. You can't really play to set up a future move because you'll be setting up other players, and you can't think about your move until it's your turn because the board changes constantly. This makes the game a bit longer than needed.
Also, you can get stuck competing with one player while an other player just has a whole part of the board to himself.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Wed Oct 21, 2015 2:20 pm
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