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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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Panthalos and Sushi Draft

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Panthalos
tl;dr: decent unoffensive euro
Ever since Peloponnes everyone's been keeping an eye on Bernd Eisenstein's output. So far he has been hit-and-miss with me. I like PAX a lot, I hated Pergamemnon.
This game is a worker placement where the dice are workers and the values of the dice - which can be influenced of course - determine what actions they can be used for. There's resource generation and point generation based on those resources. There's also 2 ways to combat. The first is with the game where every player has to defeat the same enemy for points or not do so and risk losing points. The second is where you can attack an other player in which case it's sort of majorities with cards of a certain suit.
That's all fine and dandy, and it works fine, but it's all so unoriginal. It's just more of what we have seen so much of, and it's not like the combinations are fresh or work way better than anywhere else.
So, all in all a decent, unoffensive euro that failed to excite me.

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

Sushi Draft
tl;dr: not annoying
It's drafting like 7 Wonders. The cards you draft have a suit. Scoring the played cards is like scoring the dice in Las Vegas. Highest wins, equals cancel each other. The winner takes a token from the same suit. The token has a random amount of points. Highest total after 3 rounds wins.
As you can tell, it's neither original nor deep. But it works OK and it's not annoying. It's not great either.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:48 am
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ZhanGuo & Antike II

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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ZhanGuo
What's Your Game? has done it again. It seems they can do no wrong!... oh wait, they can*
Anyhow... This game is quite meaty indeed. It doesn't look that way from looking at the components or the board though. The board especially is not very busy at all, with just a few obvious wall sections and very muted icons.
The way in which you can use cards in 2 different ways isn't new but works great and does offer some nice painful choices. The mechanism of gaining bonuses when performing actions with cards also makes your timing a thing to factor in.
This is one of those games where you can do only a fraction of what you want to do, so there's plenty of interesting choices to be made on multiple levels. The possibilities are quite big. This might introduce some very bad AP in some groups, something you should be aware of if your group is prone to that.
I must say that I quite enjoyed the puzzle this game offers and I look forward to exploring it more. I don't think it's the best of the series so far, but it is certainly worthy of being part of this product line.

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

* There's nothing wrong with OddVille, but in stead of a good to great heavy euro, it's an OK family strategy game.

Antike II
Wow, Mac Gerdts is a genius. In Concordia he showed us that you can create deep strategy games with ridiculously simple rules, and with this game how demonstrates this ability again. Everything is just so streamlined and straightforward... except the strategies! Every action in and of itself is so simple, but the ways in which you can combine them open up such possibilities and strategies. Great stuff.
This game does include Imperial style combat, which I'm quite fine with. And you don't have to fight to win, but in certain situations it can certainly be beneficial.
In our game all of us where at 8 points before I squeezed out a victory. It was just incredibly close.
It seems we did play a rule wrong - remove armies after conquering a city - but I don't think that would have influenced my win as I didn't do much with the armies after I used them to conquer - which I only did twice in the game with different units. Just saying
Oh, just to clarify: Antike is his only title I hadn't played yet. I still haven't, but I don't think I need to now that I have this one.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Sun Dec 7, 2014 2:41 pm
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Kanban & Imperial Settlers

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Kanban: Automotive Revolution
So far Vital Lacerda's track record has been pretty stellar. Both Vinhos and CO₂ are very solid, heavy designs with lots of interwoven bits. Totally up my alley.
This game board reminded me of the Vinhos board. Lots of different sectors which all look completely different and all have their own way of working internally. But they are all part of a bigger picture.
The rules are understandable, but I'm glad I had Rahdo's video to give me a better feel of the game flow, I felt like the rulebook didn't make that as clear as it could. And the base mechanism of executing the WP spots from left to right not only works great but it's fairly simple. What makes this game hard is understanding how to combine the mechanisms of the different board sectors in order to get your engine running.... and churning out points. Everything pretty much makes thematic sense, which certainly helps in digesting all of it, but I've never been an intern in a car factory, so I had no experience with gaining victory points from doing all of those actions.
This is a very involved heavy euro. If you liked Vinhos, you'll probably like this one as well. But I think this one is slightly easier to digest.
Very solid.

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

Imperial Settlers
When 51st State was explained to me as Race for the Galaxy but better, I got pretty exited, as that is one of my top 2 ever games. But after playing it twice, my review is more like: somewhat like RFTG but not nearly as good. They're both card games in which you build a tableau, but other than that they don't have too much in common.
I remember feeling that something didn't sit right with the game, but I don't remember what that could have been.
Imperial Settlers is a rethemed version of 51st State. Or so the splainer told me. That could very well be as some of the elements sounded familiar indeed, but it's been a couple of years since I played 51st State. But whatever didn't sit right with that game, didn't bother me this time around.
The mechanisms work fine and the game goes along at a very pleasant pace. Everyone has a different faction with a different starting set, which should add to the replay value. One thing that annoyed me slightly is that all of us only used a small part of their deck. I used every chance I had to draw cards from my deck, yet I only went through about a third of the deck. If the card's you are planning for are in the other part of the deck, you're out of luck.
A very enjoyable game, but I'm not sure yet about how good it actually is.

Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Dec 4, 2014 8:09 am
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Deus, Subdivision and Concordia Germania

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Deus
So far Sébastien Dujardin's output has been pretty good, so I was looking forward to this game. I was pleasantly surprised when this strategic came was finished in about an hour with 4 first timers yet it didn't feel too short or rushed or overdeveloped. In fact it felt like a full fledged strategy game. Good stuff!
The theme is pretty much pasted on and I feel like the graphic design is too clean for the theme they chose, but that's all nitpicking.
One thing that kind of annoyed me was that the temples are limited to those available. That means that if the game end is triggered, but you still get to perform a turn, you won't be able to build a temple even if you have the right cards and resources. And that will hurt your score. I feel like more temples should be available after the end of the game has been triggered.

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

Subdivision
Again this Bezier title is very well developed! The rules are very straight forward and short and the game plays fast and still has strategy and tactical elements to give it enough depth. I guess these are the characteristics of the games we can expect from Bezier in the future. And that's not a bad thing.
Let's get this out of the way: this is mostly multiplayer solitaire. In essence it's the drafting from 7 Wonders with the tile laying from Suburbia. It's not as deep or as fulfilling as that last title, but it certainly is fun.
One annoying thing is: the grid on the board is slightly smaller than the tiles you have to fit on them so you're constantly adjusting the tiles to fit as best as possible. I guess that's what you get when you print in China...

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

Concordia: Britannia & Germania
After enjoying the other side of this map, I was eager to try the Germania side as well. It is a big map, whereas the other side is very compact. So we played with 4 players. It turns out that even with 4 players everyone is pretty much spread out. I think this map will play best with 5.
The tweaks to the game are very subtle: ships grant you 2 movement points for increased maneuverability. Also there are some locations that grant you a resource when you happen to stand next to them when playing the Tribune card. A nice twist, but the tweak to the ships if of more importance, especially since the ships themselves have very limited options since there aren't that many rivers, and they don't take you via efficient routes.
The changes to the rules don't make for a very different game, so you can take or leave those. With 4 the game wasn't tight enough to my liking, so I'd have to play with 5 to get a better feel for this map.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:38 pm
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Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Massilia and Concordia Britannia

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Ted Alspach spends a lot of time on development of his games, and you can tell from this design. It is very, very streamlined, with very simple and short rules.
The game has quite some Suburbia in it. It also has tiles which you can buy for a varying price, the tile you buy gives you points and additional points according to what other tiles are adjacent or elsewhere in your castle. Very similar indeed. What is quite different is the I-split-you-choose mechanism which we know from games like San Marco. Except here you don't make sets, you determine prices. You want to make things expensive so the other players pay you lots of money. But if you make it too expensive, they will buy something cheaper. And you want to make the tiles you want cheap, but not so cheap the other players will snatch them from under your nose.
It all works great together and it plays very nicely and quick. I'm not sure if this is as good as Suburbia, but it certainly is a very solid design.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Massilia
This game has quite some history to it, but I wasn't all that involved. All I knew was that I quite liked Vanuatu and that I would see what he did next. And this is what he did next.
First off: O!M!G! this game has some of the worst iconography in the universe. Even after knowing what they meant I couldn't make sense of them. And I'm one of those crazy people who just loves the icons in Race for the Galaxy!
This is essentially a buy-low-sell-high game. The prices of the commodities fluctuate in a predictable manner so the trick here is to make sure you have enough money to buy the cheap stuff and to stick it out until your merch reaches it's highest value.
There are 4 colors of dice and they all perform a certain action. But manipulating them is easy but comes at a cost: penalty points. Nice mechanism.
It all works quite fine. But it didn't get my juices flowing. It all felt like the designer had some basic concept that worked fine but didn't have any soul so he added some twists and stuff but the total is less than the sum of it's parts. It's not horrible but I found it a bit disappointing.

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

Concordia: Britannia & Germania
The Britannia side of this expansion doesn't do anything new with the game except that it splits the starting positions of land and sea colonists. The graphic representation of the prefect tiles is also different. But it doesn't add any new rules or twists.
What it does do is it has a very compact map with less provinces and cities. This makes for a very competitive and tight game even with 3 players. Good stuff!

Initial rating: 8.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:41 pm
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Aquasphere, Pay Dirt and Bugs in the Kitchen

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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AquaSphere
Yes, I'm a bit of a Feld fanboy. I'm not ashamed of that. Some people don't like his games, and that's OK, but I don't see why being a fan of his is looked down on by some. End rant
Each time he creates a new game we wonder what the new clever mechanism is going to be. There's no big central innovative mechanism in this game that stands out like in most of his big games of previous years. But that's not a problem at all. This game combines a whole bunch of things that aren't all that new in and of themselves but it's all done a bit different. The way in which you program your future moves is quite neat and a nice challenge to master.
I must say that even though I didn't do well at all, I quite enjoyed this game.

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

Pay Dirt
Dig up gold, move it, clean it, sell it for money or keep it as points. Use money to bid for new tools and work force to get more efficient in getting that gold... There's been many mining games and usually the main idea is the same, and this one follows that line as well. Yet, all of them go at it slightly different.
I enjoy engine building/optimization games and this one works fine. I enjoyed playing it. I only have one complaint: some of those damned event cards are very tough and while you can take some measures to avoid them you can't stop all of them and I can imagine some of them might be pretty detrimental. I had the chance of shoving a really annoying one to the main competitor for the win, and it bogged his last turn down quite a bit and I won. I don't think it would have mattered in this case, but if the game was closer, it could have.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Bugs in the Kitchen
This is a very light and silly family game with no depth whatsoever. If you play it for what it is, you can enjoy yourself. But it's not a great game by any measure. It's more of a fun pastime.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Tue Nov 11, 2014 8:43 pm
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Fields of Arle, Black Fleet and Bucket King 3D

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Fields of Arle
So far none of the Rosenberg big box games have been bad. I own most of them and wouldn't mind owning the ones I don't own. But this game is 2 player only. And since I hardly play with just 2, I wasn't sure I needed this. And I probably don't, but I'm still glad I own it.
This is kind of an overwhelming game. Not a first from Rosenberg. The first times I played Le Havre and Ora et Labora my brain didn't have a good overview yet of which buildings where available. After a couple of plays that problem went away though. In Fields of Arle it's the amount of different actions that is quite significant. They are all clearly laid out on the board, but there are a lot of them, so again it will take a couple of plays to get a good feel for them and how to use them to the best effect.
In my first game we both took very different approaches, yet we ended up within 3 points from each other. Is that because we are equally good or because the game is so balanced it doesn't really matter what you do? Time will tell.
One thing that became very clear in this first game was that I needed to invest in vehicles sooner, you really do need more to set you up for a good score in the end. I was ill prepared for the last round and I wasn't able to optimize my score.
I enjoyed the game quite a bit. It is a very solid design, but from this one play it is hard to say how good it is.

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

Update after 2nd play: we know the rules but we still don't really know how to play. It's still very much a learning experience. I scored about 20% more than the first time, but Myriam scored less than in the first game, so we still have ways to go to master this game.

Black Fleet
My track record with pirate themed games has been pretty horrible. I don't like many of them. But somehow this one works great. It's simple, family friendly, it plays fast, it has great bits and art and it doesn't outstay its welcome. But most of all, it allows for some nice combos with the card play. And we all love making combos and feeling smart for doing so, don't we?

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Bucket King 3D
This is not actually a new game but almost a straight re-release. The 3Dness doesn't actually add anything to game at all. It's still a very entertaining light game.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Nov 10, 2014 9:16 pm
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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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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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