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Surya's game blah blah

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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Bretagne, Catacombs and Bezzerwizzer

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Bretagne
tl;dr: good strategy game!

This is one of those games that got great responses at Spiel 2015, but it wasn't actually available until a while later. But I finally got to try it. And I must say: this is a very solid game. There are few things you learn on your first play that will improve your score in the next games, but overall rules complexity is average and the icons are quite clear, so there isn't too much of a learning curve.
I quite enjoyed this and look forward to trying it more.

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

Catacombs (third edition)
tl;dr: fun but too long

I guess the best description is: Crokinole meets Descent. A dungeon crawl where the monsters are flicking disks. Good fun, but I did feel it went on for a bit too long. Also, as someone who sees theme as a method of making rules easier to digest, I don't really see the added value over Crokinole, so I'd rather play that. It is cheaper though, but still not cheap at all.

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

Bezzerwizzer
tl;dr: fine, except for that one thing

I had heard good things about this trivia game. It's not my favorite genre, but I don't mind playing them usually.
I would say: this is like Trivial Pursuit without the board. Also, you can choose what categories you will score more for. And that's a good addition to the genre.
The only real problem I had with the game is the stealing of categories. If someone steals your top category and gives one you suck at, you're screwed and there's little you can do to remedy it.
I would play it again, but not with the stealing.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:09 am
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Ships and Ravenous River

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Ships
tl;dr: the Martin we know and love

Some people see this game as a return to form for Martin Wallace. But I don't agree, as he never really stopped making these kinds of games, it's just that we saw less of them for a bit. But he was always working on them.
I played the prototype for this game twice in February 2014 (so that's 2 years ago!) and liked it a lot. I don't remember exactly, but if I'm not mistaken the game that was published is really close to that version. The basics are certainly the same.
In any case this is one of his strategic euros that made me fall in love with his designs. Deep strategies with lots of choices and moving elements that make the game very challenging.
In our first 3 player game I was running away with the victory. I did have the feeling I still had to work hard to keep it that way, but each turn I was able to keep my lead. I'm not sure if that was due to my superior strategy (it probably was, you know me whistle) or the game that has a weird cadence to it with 3. Time will tell, but we all really liked the mechanisms and strategies. So very good, with an asterisk.

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

Ravenous River
tl;dr: ok chaosfest

This is one of those games where the playfield can be completely different from one turn to an other. So your level of control is rather low. You can still do cool moves, but that doesn't mean they will have the lasting effect you're hoping for.
But it doesn't take too long, so it's fine.
It's one of those games that works but I don't think I would ever print this if I was a publisher. It just doesn't stand out in any way.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Sat Apr 2, 2016 1:59 pm
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West of Africa and Expo 1906

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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West of Africa
tl;dr: pleasant but too long

And by too long I don't mean play time, but rounds. In the third last round of the game it was clear how the game would end and what the outcome would be, so the last rounds we went through the motions to finish the game and get an extra point here or there, but the result was the same. So that was less then stellar. Which is a shame, because what came before that was quite enjoyable. The mechanisms are nice, the choices feel like they matter... but once the building opportunities run out, there's no real extra room for scoring big. So my biggest quibble with the game is that there's only one real strategy to pursue: build as much as possible. All other ways of scoring are vastly inferior. I prefer games where there are different ways of scoring and winning.
Maybe the round issue was the result of playing this game with 5 and maybe the game is better with less, but that won't take away my other reservations I have about this game. But I enjoyed playing this for the most part.

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

Expo 1906
tl;dr: that's a lot of brown!

Yes, so this game is very brown and certainly could have looked more attractive. But looks aside, how does it play, you wonder? So did I. The answer is: quite well. This is quite a decent though pretty abstract strategy game.
There are a bunch of different components and mechanisms that interlock quite nicely.
That being said: I wasn't blown away and while the game is worth playing, I did feel like it could have used a bit more development to balance the different elements a bit more.

Initial rating: 6.6/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:32 pm
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Above and Below and Shakespeare

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Above and Below
tl;dr: enjoyable and approachable

This is sort of a worker placement game. You have a number of workers (with different skills) and actions. You decide which workers to assign to which action. The main action is to go on adventures, but there's also resource and worker recruitment elements that can't be ignored. The adventures have you roll a die to determine a random encounter from a big flip book, sort of like in Tales of the Arabian Nights. The biggest difference is that in that game is that the paragraphs depend on your character and current situation, so there is sort of a thread that sort of makes sense. In Above and Below the paragraphs are just random, only based on a card and a roll, so there is no line that moves from one to an other. So in that regard Tales of the Arabian Nights does a better job. But this game is a better game as it is way more controllable. There is an actual game. I see Tales of the Arabian Nights more as an activity as there is so little control. So don't get these two games confused. They are very different but they share one common idea.
In the end I quite like this game. It's approachable and challenging and doesn't outstay it's welcome.

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

Shakespeare
tl;dr: enjoyable Euro

Worker placement, engine building, nice artwork, what's not to love? Not much to be fair. This game is very well designed and developed. It is approachable with nice meaningful choices and a nicely flowing game play.
In fact I don't really have anything negative to say about this game. I liked mostly everything about it, so the only thing missing is that I didn't love any of it. But if not loving but simply liking everything is the worst you can say about a game, you have a decent game

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Mar 4, 2016 3:50 pm
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Favor of the Pharaoh, Celestia and Elfenroads

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Favor of the Pharaoh
tl;dr: the same but different

I've always liked To Court the King, so when this reimaging with more variation was announced, it went on my 'want to play list' right away. I didn't buy it because I already own the original and wanted to make sure I wanted to own both. Some people I know loved it, some thought the extra stuff made it a bit too much and took away from the charm of the original. So I was a bit hesitant.
I now finally got the chance to play it and indeed, apart from some small rules changes and more variation, it's basically the same game. The variation that is added is very nice, and the different dice do have an impact on strategy. So that's all very nice. All in all it felt very similar to the original, even with all the variation. Yes, the dice and abilities are different, but the feel is the same. I don't think it takes away from the charm of the original, but I also feel it doesn't add enough to own both. If I didn't have the original, I probably would get this.

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

Celestia
tl;dr: nice push your luck game

In this game the pushing your luck comes from your choice on each move to drop out and get the current (smaller) reward, or risking it all for a potential bigger reward in the future. Great, light fun. And it doesn't take too long. And it has nice artwork.
No, I have nothing to add to this, it's enjoyable.

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

Elfenroads
tl;dr: familiar

I had played Elfenland once about 10 years ago, so I didn't remember much when this hit the table.
So the main mechanism in this game is that first players decide what routes have what requirements from travelling and then they play cards to actually travel those routes, placing markers along the way, and the goal is to have the most markers.
The system works very well and is both simple and enjoyable. It's not groundbreaking, though it might have been when it first came to market. Today it feels friendly and familiar. Nice

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:58 am
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Trickerion, Om Nom Nom and Kito revisited

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Trickerion: Legends of Illusion and Trickerion: Dahlgaard's Gifts
tl;dr: solid strategy game.

So this isn't really a first impression, I've already played the short base game twice, and the full game with the expansion once.
It's a fairly involved worker placement style game with lots of interlocking elements. There is a very nice turn angst and timing and preparing for future turns plays a very big role.
The 5 round basic game is streamlined but maybe a bit too short to really invest in the 16 point trick cards.
We also played it with the expansion and the full, 7 round game. It adds a lot of stuff. There is a lot more stuff to keep track of making the game a bit less streamlined and adding some AP. Our first 7 round, 4 players game took almost 4 hours. That is a bit too long. It might be a bit faster on the next plays, but I think I prefer the game without all the extra stuff. Maybe just a 7 round basic game? We'll have to try some different combinations. But you can add and remove modules independently, and that is a nice aspect.

All in all, a nice challenging game that does ask for replays.

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

Expansion
Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Om Nom Nom
tl;dr: OK family game

This is one of those chaotic simultaneous action selection games. If you choose the option no one else chooses, you can score really big. So it's a lot of I think that you think that I think... I didn't mind it but yeah, not one of my favorite games or mechanisms.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Kito
tl;dr: still horrible

Because our first play went over SO bad, I decided we would try this with a couple of minor changes to the rules, just for the heck of it. So we modified it as follows: the take that cards only last until the end of your next turn (making you just lose 1 turn, but you can still play cards on other players) and the cancel cards become instants, stopping you from losing your next turn.
This made the game a lot more playable, but no more interesting. It's still a very bad, uninteresting game.

Revised rating: still 2/10
BGG scale: still 2/10
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Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:31 pm
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504, Castles of Mad King Ludwig Secrets and Basari The Card Game

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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504
tl;dr: interesting, but is it good?

Game 738

There was a lot of hype for this game, but I always was skeptical. The concept sounds very interesting, but if you think about it, there is a far better chance of the results being mediocre or even bad than great. Of course there is a a website where the combinations get rated, but so far the amount of votes is a bit low to be really useful.
We played game 738. It is many non-competitive territory building to score for majorities. And there is a system to allow you to increase your income. And money helps you perform actions.
The game was interesting, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. First of all the territory building was non competitive, which is a bit uncommon but it also removes a potential source of tension in the game. But the biggest problem I had was that the scoring can happen after just any player's turn. If you just played and set yourself up to score, and a scoring round is triggered, you'll probably score big. At game end this can be devastating. Especially if the game ends before your last turn! There is a compensation of 3 points for that, but that is a joke.
So it was interesting, but this game wasn't great.

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

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets
tl;dr: more of the same

This game adds more of the same (more rooms) with some slight variations (the swans) and a new elements (the moats). So if you like the base game, you might want to try this. I didn't feel like the expansion added all that much to make much of a difference. The moats where interesting, but I was really annoyed that they where limited in supply. I got hosed out of building my last one because I happened to be the starting player in the last turn of the game. You would say I had to build them sooner, but I started building them first and of course you need money to do so, and I was usually the player with the least money. So that sucked as it robbed me of any chance I had to win.
All in all not bad, but I don't think you really need this.

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

Basari: Das Kartenspiel
tl;dr: where have I seen that before?

This game is - obviously - a new take on Basari, which I haven't played. However, I have played Edel, Stein & Reich. I don't remember too much about it, but they obviously share the gem trading mechanism. And that is a pretty cool mechanism. In this game that mechanism is combined with simultaneous action selection using cards to select one of 3 actions. And it's pretty fun. Unless you get hosed out of action after action because 2 or more other players chose the same. That's part of the game however, so it doesn't bother me too much.
I quite enjoyed this, but I'm not sure how much I'm going to play this.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:23 pm
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Haspelknecht and Gold West

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Haspelknecht
tl;dr: good strategy game!

We've gotten a ton of games about mining in the last couple of years, and here's yet another one. This time from the same designer of one of the best ones, Kohle & Kolonie. But where that game focuses more on building a mining industry, this one tackles more of the actual operation of the mine, closer to Coal Baron.
What I liked about this game is that it has a nice mix of mechanisms, some of which are not overused but most of all it seems the game offers different paths to victory.
This asks for some more exploration!

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

Gold West
tl;dr: enjoyable!

It's been a while since I played a TMG title that I really enjoyed. Most of them are fine, but few are great. This one is one that I would think would have worked just as well as one of those HiG games. Streamlined rules and game play with a good dose of strategy and tactics. It has choices that are interesting enough without being too hard for the occasional gamer yet not shallow. A very nice ballance. The result is a very enjoyable game.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:28 pm
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Power Grid Deluxe and Kito

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Power Grid deluxe: Europe/North America
tl;dr: Power Grid with better different artwork

So what was wrong with the original Power Grid? Nothing. Why did they redo the artwork? So they could sell you the same game again at a higher price.
"But it has nicer bits!" Does it? They're different, they look more custom. But does that make them nicer? I don't think so.
Anyway, the game itself is very good of course. There are some minor variations on the base game (we played the Europe map) but it's basically Power Grid with gas in stead of garbage. I can't fault the game for not changing a winning formula, I just wish they didn't try to sell me the game again.
The new map is nice and worked great with 5, is all I can really say about this.

Initial rating: the same as Power Grid!

Kito
tl;dr: UGH!

Where to start?
OK, so this is a game made by a power utility in Belgium. It's sort of a gamification of saving energy. Why do power companies want you to save energy? They don't, but if they tell you they do, it makes them look good I guess. So the game was made by them and offered for free to anyone requesting one (while supplies lasted), so not only customers. The goal of the game is to be the first person to save 5000kWh of energy. Not more, because that would be a bad thing, I guess. Dunno, that part doesn't make much sense. On your turn you draw a card and then you play. Too bad the rules nor the instructional video actually say what you can do on your turn other than that it starts with drawing one card. Can you just play one card after that? More? Who knows? We decided on one as the rules state that if you can't play one legally you have to discard one.
The next rule is that you can only play 'save' cards if the evil dog Kito is sleeping. Of course some cards are take that cards that you can play on other players to wake up Kito. As long as they don't play the corresponding cancellation card, they can't save energy. And therein lies the biggest problem with the game. If you have one of those cards on your tableau you'll just have to hope to eventually draw the correct cancellation card, or you'll never be able to start saving. Which is what happened to me. I never drew the right card, so I could only spend my turns discarding a card and every now and then playing one of the evil Kito cards on other players who always seemed to have the right cancellation card in hand.
As you can tell this was a very enjoyable experience for me. Drawing cards and doing mostly nothing for the entire game. But the other players weren't having a great time either. In fact, they dreaded playing this almost as much as I did. This simply is a very badly designed game. And the crappy rule set doesn't help making sense of it.
Oh yeah, there is a rule about trump cards (those are kind of permanent cancellation cards) that if you play them during someone else's turn, that they count as supertrump, and you have to rotate the card 90°. It doesn't say anywhere what difference that makes or what effect that has. Dunno, it's just there.
There is one very simple fix the biggest flaw: make the evil Kito cards last until the end of your next turn, so you have a bigger chance of actually accomplishing things. But the game is so lame I have no interest in trying this variant.

Initial rating: 2/10
BGG scale: 2/10
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Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:31 pm
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Karuba and Spookies

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
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Karuba
tl;dr: fine family game

This is yet another take on the mechanism where one user draws something random (a tile in this case) and all the other players place an identical tile. In this case you are tying to create paths to connect corresponding markers and you try to score some bonus points along the way.
Nothing new here, but it works very well and it's enjoyable.

Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Spookies
tl;dr: fine family game, but with a high dose of luck

A push your luck game. Roll the die, move the dude up in the house to score points. Push your luck and fail to move, lose some points. Yes, very basic, very simple, very family friendly. It's fine, it works well, it's not unenjoyable, but for the average strategy gamer, this will probably be a bit too basic.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Tue Jan 5, 2016 11:00 am
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