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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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The Staufer Dynasty, Lords of Xidit and Flizz & Miez

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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The Staufer Dynasty
I've had mixed feelings about Andreas Steding. All of his designs have been solid, but while I appreciated Hansa Teutonica, I didn't really enjoy it that much. Norenberc is solid and quite enjoyable but it doesn't really stand out.
This new title of his is put out by Hans im Glück Verlags-GmbH, known for their very talented development team. They take games that would be good and tweak them until they play better and give more bang for their buck. And you can feel that in this game as well: it is very well developed. And it features a great turn order mechanism. But most of all this is an area majority game. It has some very basic area majority elements which are souped up with bonuses and other stuff to make it be more than just an other area majority game. But most of all the turn order mechanism makes it stand out.

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

Lords of Xidit
I have owned Himalaya for years, but every time we thought about playing it, we only had 3 players, and since we hate dummy players, we always played something else. And after some time we forgot about it. But a new edition is always a good excuse to play an older game.
In this game you program 6 moves which you use to walk around, grab resources and kill bad guys. Of course timing is very important here. The order in which you do things depends heavily on what spot in turn order you occupy. A fun puzzle to figure out.
While the programming aspect is something that we still don't see often, the other elements of the game give it a bit of that classic game feel. And while thematically you are slaying bad guys, it's not really a fighting game. You move to the bad guy and chose to pay the required resources to kill him or simply move on. So it's like completing orders. Wait, that probably was the old theme
I found this to be a solid design with some novel mechanisms.

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

Flizz & Miez
This is a fast and silly kids speed game. And it works great for what it is, but of course there isn't much depth here - if any - and I suspect the replay value might be low, but for now it is very enjoyable.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Nov 3, 2014 8:07 am
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Essen Spiel 2013, Evolution and Machi Koro

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Michelbeke
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ESSEN The Game: SPIEL'13
This game wasn't really on my radar. It sounded too much like a gimmick and the art is ugly. But when I get the chance to play a game from the designer of Bruxelles 1893, how could I pass that up?
I must say that this is a solid design. You run around buying games. And you can play tactical or strategic in what you buy. But I have one big problem with the game: if you want to be strategic, you have to buy games from your wishlist. But there is nothing you can do about it when someone else buys that game for tactical reasons. And there is only one of each game. So you can try to buy your wishlist, but it might not work out and there isn't really anything you can do about that. This problem is magnified by the end game scoring: you score big, really big, for having a lot of games off of your wishlist. But if you can hardly plan for that, is it really strategic or just luck?
So I thought it was a good game, but that end game scoring rubbed me the wrong way.
One more thought: so whatever is on no one's wish list is on everyone's wishlist?

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

Evolution
This game didn't sound like my thing. And I hadn't heard great things about the original. But I have to admit: this is a pretty decent game.
There certainly is some take that but it didn't bother me too much. And you can find ways to protect yourself against that.
I enjoyed playing this, especially since it doesn't go on for too long, but it's not something I need to own.

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

Machi Koro
This game caused quite the hype when it first came out, and now it's finally available to a wider audience, which is why I finally got to play it.
The goal is to build 4 cards before anyone else does. To build them you need money. To get money you buy cheaper cards that give you money. So all you do in this game is spend money with the hopes of getting more money. But there seems to be only one strategy: get cards so you get money on as many die results as possible. Then double up for some combos and hope for that roll that gives you a lotta mulas.
I'm not sure how much depth is actually here but it sure is enjoyable to play.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Oct 29, 2014 6:00 am
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Panamax, Orleans and Johari

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Panamax
Man, this rulebook isn't great at all. It fails to make clear right away things that are not actually complex at all. And the structure fails to point your attention to important details that might be easy to miss or forget. And it is completely useless for looking up information during play.
That being said, this appears to be a very solid game. Unfortunately we made a mistake a crucial mistake in the first round. I had explained it correctly, but when players bought shares, they forgot to put that money in the company. Which lead to companies not having enough money to pay dividends, which lead to devaluation. The result that money was very, very tight. I managed making the best of it by using the second round to set me up for a big third round.
This game is all about timing. When to get new contracts? When to load the ships? But most of all: when to start moving the ships. The pushing mechanism is what makes the game interesting but also hard to play well.
I wish we hadn't made the mistakes we did make, but I look forward to playing it again as I can see this being a hit in my group.

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

Orléans
So far, dlp games has been putting out a steady stream of family friendly strategy games. They all play well, have a nice mix of strategy and luck and fail to really stand out in the crowd.
Orleans still isn't a heavy complex game, but it does have more depth than dlp's previous efforts so it's closer to my taste.
It combines bag building, worker placement and a number of other familiar mechanisms in a very organic way. Turns move fast and you're always doing stuff. There is very little downtime.
It also seems like there are multiple strategies to be explored.
If I have one nitpick it would be that while the game didn't take too long, it did feel like it had 1 or 2 rounds to many and it did start feeling slightly repetitive.
I quite liked it and I hope to play again soon.

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

Johari
In Essen someone told me this game had more depth than you would expect from looking at the components and box, which made me more interested than I first was. And there is something to that statement. Unfortunately the amount of luck and length of the game turned it into a disappointment. It surely becomes repetitive in the last third. And player order is sometimes so important because of the luck involved when the market gets replenished. Being first when a hole bunch of same colored cards come out, can almost win you the game when it comes at the right time. But you can't plan for that, it's down to dumb luck.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:00 am
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Mythotopia, Nations Dice Game and Spellcaster

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Mythotopia
I've only played A Few Acres of Snow once. I haven't played it again mainly because we hardly ever play with only 2. But I did enjoy it a lot. I know there is a broken strategy but since I'm not a history guy, I don't know what it is, so it's not a problem for us (yet). This game is using the same base mechanism of deck building and gaining territories, but other than that this is a very different game. And since there are no historical, faction specific cards, that broken strategy doesn't exist here.
This is a medium weight game of conquering land and managing your deck. Like in most of Martin's deck building games, that mechanism is just one of many and it doesn't work in the Dominion way, it works quite differently: draw up to your hand size (usually 5) and perform 2 actions some of which will require cards, some of which wont. Refill your hand to your hand size. You get points for having control of a province but also for performing actions tied to the bonus scoring card of which there are 7. There is quite some direct player interaction and taking areas from other players going on. But in this game it doesn't bother me too much. I guess most of that is down to the non destructive nature of it. Losing a province card - while not pleasant - will not ruing any strategies. It's not really a big deal and you can usually recover. Since provinces don't have any defense from themselves, taking them from another player is quite easy. I like the combination of elements and it all works together quite well with a playing time of around 90 minutes which is perfect for this game. It isn't anything new or spectacular, but it is certainly very, very solid.

Inirial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Nations: The Dice Game
It's a dice game, don't expect this to be Nations in 60 minutes. But also don't expect this to be to Nations what Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age was to Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. This and Nations certainly share some of the same DNA. It's one of the heavier, more complex dice games out there, but that's not saying much by itself as most of them are very light and easy.
This game lets you develop technologies similar to the way you do in Nations. But in this case you get dice for them. And the dice give you the resources you need to get books, build wonders get colonies and acquire new technologies. So the way it all works is a bit different, but you're trying to do the same things in similar manners. But simpler and much shorter. The one game will not replace the other, both deserve their own spot in your collection. I liked it and have ordered a copy.

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

Spellcaster
This game wasn't on my radar, but friends got a copy and it's co-designed by Aaron Weissblum, who has been involved in some solid titles in the past.
The rules are simple: draw a card and perform 2 actions. Actions can be to play a card, activate a played card or draw a card. The aim is to get to a number of points or to drain the 'life' of the other team. Pretty simple. The one game we played had my team off to a good start, and that never changed. I guess we had a lot of luck and used our cards well, but this is not a game that excites me. Having it be closer would only make it longer, which wouldn't be positive.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Mon Oct 27, 2014 6:00 am
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La Isla, Urban Panic and Imperialism

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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La Isla
Not all Feld game are full fledged point salad heavy euros. And that's OK with me as long as he keeps on doing those La Isla is one of those other games. It's a very family friendly game. It plays well and has some nice opportunities for strategic or tactical play. There is a good chunk of luck in what cards you are dealt though. I just decided to max the track I had 2 creatures of at the start of the game and in doing so I won the game by a landslide. I'm not sure that means the game is broken, I guess I also was lucky with the cards I got, but I also was able to use them well, which I credit my flawless gaming abilities for. So it's a good combination of luck and strategy. It does what it sets out to do, but don't expect the full Fled experience.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Urban Panic
I was looking forward to this. I had heard good things about this designers game from last year, Craftsmen (which I have since acquired). I also like city building games.
The explanation for this game left something to be desired. While the game is actually very simple, the splainer failed to clearly say what a turn actually looked like. After 2 rounds that was all cleared out though. What wasn't cleared out is that the files have 'borders' on them (Alhambra style) and that those are important for scoring. None of the 4 players where aware of this fact. We fixed the problem quickly and continued playing. We didn't finish though. By about halfway the game all of us had the same feeling: there is very little tension in this game. You take tiles, adjust 4 of the 5 tracks and try to get all track high for a good end game score. But that's all there is to it. Take tiles, adjust tracks. Take more tiles, adjust track again. It's just not very exiting. It was very, very meh.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG score: 4/10

Imperialism: Road to Domination
I heard this is somewhat of a civ game. I'm not sure I agree entirely but I guess there is something to it. You get colonies, attack each other and develop you 'economy' by improving your position on a number of development tracks.
We played with 2 Italian guys we didn't know, but by the end everyone was in agreement: it wasn't a great game. It certainly didn't overstay it's welcome, clocking in at around 90 minutes. But what did prove a big problem was the way you develop your empire: you have land and sea attack values. You need those to get new colonies, which - among other things - give you more attack power on land or sea. So the more you have, to more you can get. By the second half the game had settled to the two players with the most military power attacking an other player every second turn, taking from them stuff they already had little of. Yes, a very bad case of rich get richer. It did feel like there was a good game hidden in there somewhere though.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 3/10
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Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:00 am
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Ciúb, Orongo & Sushi Dice

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Ciúb
With To Court the King Thomas Lehmann proved that he can make compelling dice games. So I had good hopes for this game. And even though I wasn't expecting too much I was very disappointed. There simply is very little here. Cards need you to roll certain combinations. If you do you get the points, if you don't, you get an extra die. There's ways of managing your dice pool and such, but in the end it didn't live up to it's potential at all. It's not horrible, but I was hoping for just a bit more.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Orongo
Yes, this is a Reiner game through and through. Simple rules, good strategic and tactical options, very, very streamlined, short playing time... and no soul at all. It's been developed to the max and that leaves no room for a soul. There simply is no spark at all and that's a shame. I'm sure he still is able to make great games but for some reason he seems content to simply design these family and kids games that have little to no appeal for gamers. Too bad, he did some awesome stuff back in the day.

Inirial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Sushi Dice
Meh. Ugh. No thanks. There's nothing here. Might be OK with kids or when really drunk but not a game that grabbed any of us.

Initial rating: 5/10
BBG scale: 3/10
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Sat Oct 25, 2014 6:00 am
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Spiel: the Eurosnoot experience

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Just some redundant tidbits on my Spiel experience this year

So this is the first year we went to Spiel with our electric car. Since we don't make enough money for a Tesla Model S (and wouldn't want to drive such a huge but nice car anyway) I have a more affordable car with a range of about 160km (100 miles) which means we couldn't make it without recharging. We opted to drive to Turnhout and charge there at 22kW. Then we drove to Venlo. That charger was supposed to be 22kW as well, according to the New Motion website, but it turned out to be a faster, 43kW charger. Half the charging time, yay! From there it was an other 65km to the hotel, so a round trip was possible, but like any car, going faster uses more power which means that at highway speeds we wouldn't be able to make the round trip. So I noted chargers in Duisburg and Essen for the way back to be safe. I also ordered a new PlugSurfing RFID chip to use those chargers. They also have an app, but having no 3G I wouldn't be able to use it. But more about that later.

Thursday evening we met up with Martin and Julia Wallace and the new kiwis Louise, Chris and Kirsten. We went out for dinner together and talked about what went on in our lives since last Essen.

Thursday we went to the Messe to set up the booth. The games hadn't arrived yet and we got the news they wouldn't arrive until Thursday morning. Ugh. So we went around the halls to look a bit but mainly to say hi to all our international friends. Doug and Shelly, Kevin, the rest of the BBG crew, Tony Boydell, the guys from the Spiel, the many publishers and designers we've gotten to know of the past couple of years... We also bumped into some other persons of note that I hadn't met yet, like Rahdo and Eric from the Dice Tower. Good times.
After getting back to the booth, we got a pleasant surprise: some games did arrive after all - the non-limited editions of Mythotopia and Onward to Venus so we started unloading those. The limited edition copies would only arrive the next morning.
Tony Boydell told me about Red7 and I liked the sound of it. He also told me they had very few left. I got one of the last 10 copies and I'm glad I did!

Thursday started with unloading the Limited edition copies which did arrive on time. And for the first time in a couple of years the first hours of the fair where overshadowed by a long line of Wallace fans standing in line around the booth. I believe that to be thanks to last year's A Study in Emerald. I think that reignited people's love for his heavier games. I spent most of the time doing demos, hauling boxes and going to the bank for small coupons so we could give change to customers.
But I also had the afternoon off. And the next two days I had half days free as well. And I got to play no less than 8 games over those 3 half days, which is a personal record. In the past I had given up trying to play games at the fair. I'll post my reviews for those shortly.

I returned home with 20 games and expansions and some small promos. You can see my complete haul in my geeklist. I didn't get some obvious titles like AquaSphere as I had them on order - I have since received them.

I must say that this year was difficult for me. I had prepared better than last year when I hadn't really prepared, but I had less of an idea of what to look at. And during the show there weren't any games that seemed to stand out. Which is probably why I didn't bring home more games.

In the evenings I spent time going for dinner with friends and generally having a good time by hanging out with good people. We did get to play a couple of more games, but we don't play that many games in the hotel either. As usual I heard some great stories from the industry, some of which are not fit for publication But there are some things that haven't been published widely yet that are 'public' knowledge. Like a possible German edition for Onwards to Venus which currently only exists in English. Or Martin working on a follow up to A Study in Emerald. Nothing is set in stone, but the plan is to maybe publish a new edition with streamlined rules and shorter playing time. The original was a bit unwieldy but I liked it a lot for being so different. The new edition sounds like a good idea, but there are no guarantees it will be published. Also good news was that Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth! is on track to be released shortly. The plastic pieces have been produced! Some of the other stuff we talked about will be made public in due time.

The Monday of the return trip I went to the charger near the Messe to fill up the car. It wasn't strictly necessary, but it would make the trip back a bit easier.. According to RWE it should work with PlugSurfing, but it didn't work with the RFID chip. It only could be activated with the app, even though the website warned that you're better off with the RFID because not all charging points support the app yet - leaving me to believe all of them do support the RFID. Not the case. Not a problem, on to the Duisburg charger. But that one didn't work for us either. It was supposed to work with the New Motion RFID, but after a long wait, the authentication of my pass failed repeatedly. And it wasn't PlugSurfing compatible. So on to Venlo then, with just enough range to make it. We arrived there with 20km of range left, but from there on the trip went as planned.

Driving an EV doesn't always go as smoothly as you'd hope, especially if you go internationally, but it's not a big hurdle, and I really like driving our little electric car, it's just way more enjoyable and relaxing than an old, noisy, vibrating ICE car

All in all we had a fantastic time again and I had so much fun meeting all our friends from literally all over the world.
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Fri Oct 24, 2014 1:58 pm
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Ivor the Engine, Red7 abd Primera

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Ivor the Engine
I really like Tony Boydell. Snowdonia is excellent and he is a fun guy to hang out with or play games with, so naturally this had to be on my list. Being not from the UK I wasn't familiar with Ivor theme. I was aware that this wouldn't be Snowdonia 2, but more of a family game. And it is. There is a healthy but not problematic amount of luck with the cards that come out. There is some strategy in which cards you take and how you move on the board. You can play nice or slightly nasty. It actually kind of reminded me of last year's The Witches: A Discworld Game because of the weight and you are also running around trying to perform jobs. But I think this might be a slightly better game. It's not a game I will play tonnes of, but it's a nice to game to play every now and then when you're too tired for a heavy game.

Initial rating: 6.75/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Red7
This game was on my list only because Carl Chudyk's name was on the box, but Tony Boydell told me how it worked and I promptly got one of the last 10 copies on sale in Essen. I'm glad I did because this is a clever little game. Once you start learning the way the rules work, you can start looking a number of turns ahead, which makes the game more strategic rather than purely tactical. Fun!

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

Primiera
I hadn't heard of this game when I played it with Andrea Ligabue and his lovely daughter. He explained it as Scopa with a small twist. The twist is that the 1s (of which every player holds one) lets you team up with another player, but only the very first 1 to be played fixes the teams, later 1s don't have an effect. I hadn't played Scopa, but I had played similar games that use a regular deck of cards. I found this to be an OK card game, but it doesn't really stand out. It's just one of many and doesn't really bring anything new to the table.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:36 pm
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The Capitals, Warlock

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Spiel is almost here, so why not quickly get some of those titles from last year off of my 'to play' list before all the new titles postpone that for a few months.

The Capitals
This was being touted as a heavy city building euro. Sounds right up my alley! The amount of pages in the rulebook sounds a bit daunting, but actually the rules are quite straight forward. The first couple of rounds wend swimmingly. After that things started slowing down. That was mostly due to me having the feeling that if I played just on gut feeling - which I mostly do - I wouldn't stand a chance. So I started planning and calculating. The problem is that with every round the amount of combinations keeps on increasing so the game slows down as the players have to keep track of more and more combos. It reminded me of Suburbia, but slower and more fiddly. You build a tableau of tiles with abilities which can make combos and influence each other. But it's way more tedious to play. I think there's a good game hidden in there, but it lacked development to streamline it. Like that street cross that has to be moved. It doesn't add much to the game.
I was also quite annoyed by the turn order mechanism. If you're in last place and have tonnes of money, that won't do you any good if the players in front all make sure to stay in front of you. Which means there is nothing you can do to make sure you get that tile you really, really need.
So I really wanted to like this game, and I don't hate it either, but it didn't live up to it's potential.

Initial rating: 6.5/10

Warlock
I never knew what to expect from this game. I'm not a fan of the art style and I had heard there was some take that involved, which didn't help peak my interest. Turns out that take that element isn't very big and usually not to the benefit of the one executing it. I must also say that some of the choices design wise where not optimal. The way in which you can tell which of the types the second type on a gonome card is. It's always in a different spot an not always prominently featured. It's also kind of stupid that with 5 players there might not be enough cards in the deck to finish the game, in which case everyone must give up some of their cards. That's kind of a forced fix. But in the end it didn't matter too much I think. The game moves fast enough and has a nice mix of strategy and tactics.
All in all a pretty decent game that doesn't really stand out.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
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Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:25 pm
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Abyss, Legacy and Emira

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Abyss
More hype on my gaming table! I didn't buy this, as I felt most of the hype was simply based on the great artwork. And it is lovely to look at, but great artwork does not make a good game. In some cases it even bothers actually playing the game *cough*FFG*cough* After just having played Five Tribes, playing more Cathala games does sound appealing though.
This game has us collecting cards with a fun twist and then using those cards to buy other cards that give us a combination of points and abilities. Some of those cards have keys on them which give you even more points and abilities, but they also take away some abilities as soon as you have 3 keys.
This is a pretty typical superfiller. It plays fast, it has a good amount of strategy and tactical choices and a good dose of luck with a short playing time. Good stuff, but nothing spectacular. And the awesome artwork can't hide the fact that there is no theme.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
6/10 on BGG scale

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
OK, so you're building a family tree. But I don't see where that legacy comes in. We're not all building a different legacy for the same guy, are we? That didn't make sense for me.
This game has a nice combination of mechanisms that work together well. The worker placement bit, where you can get one-of dedicated workers to perform certain actions is pretty cool. The family tree building is a fun thing in and of itself. The way in which you can use friends to get resources, friends or money or use them to marry your offspring is also pretty cool. I enjoyed playing this! I was, however also a bit frustrated at times. For one of my bonuses, I needed something that meant I needed boys in the 4th generation to marry them to women, since only women seem to give you friends. To make sure I could maximize this bonus, I made 13 new children in the third act. Luck however made it so that I only got one boy - and 3 'complications'! That was quite annoying. It didn't kill the game for me though.
So if you're looking for a game that has a good amount of strategy and tactics with a good dose of luck, why not give this a try?

Initial rating: 6.8/10
6/10 on BGG scale

Emira
This game came out in 2006. I played it twice then. I liked it a lot. I had only been playing games for less than a year at that moment. My look on games must have changed. I've become old and grumpy I guess.
This game clearly takes some cues from The Princes of Florence. The auction system is almost identical. The way you win is not though. In PoF you get points for completing works. You get more points if you have won the right elements for completing the work. In Emira you win by getting a certain amount of princesses. They come to you if you have won the right elements in the auctions.
The main difference here is that in PoF you have the works in your hand so you can plan ahead and save up to score big. In Emira on the other hand you have exactly 1 auction to buy 1 thing to get the princess. The problem here is that you might not even have a chance to do so. If you need the biggest palace but are behind more than 1 palace part, there's no way of winning that princess this round. So you don't have nearly as much control over which princesses you can win and when. To make things worse, you also have a mission card. If you have a certain combination of princesses you need less of them to win. But since you don't have much control of which princesses you win - you just take whichever you can get - that just adds even more of a luck factor.
This also takes us to the problem of length. PoF taks 7 turns. Emira ends when a player has a predetermined amount of princesses, depending on the number of players. We played with 5. To win you needed 4 with the mission or 6 without the mission. Since only one princess is distributed each round, that means you will have to go through a lot of rounds since the same player will not win 4 in a row and complete his mission. It just becomes so repetitive. It drags on.
Things are made even worse by the addition of the action cards which add even more chaos to the game.
I was surprised our game only took 90 minutes, but even with that time, it outstayed it's welcome. And I know most plays of this take much longer.
The game also has some production problems. The artwork itself is pretty good, but the design is a bit problematic. The font is horrible and lots of things that should have been icons are text. What's wrong with using the coin icon and putting a value on it to indicate cost? No, let's put that in text. The rules also leave some things unclear and could have been structured much better.
Oh yeah, the theme seems to bother some people. I don't see why. It's just a game you know.
The game has a solid base that was borrowed from one of the best games in existence. And than it piles on top all those things that make the game less than the sum of it's parts and simply not a very good game.

Rating: 5/10
3 on BGG scale
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4 Comments
Wed Oct 8, 2014 6:00 am
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