I run through Rahdo's Runthroughs and make right what once went wrong (via annotations)
last week was an excellent week of gaming... there was an Holiday in the day of the Weekly gathering so we made it an all day event. Adding to that, Saturday was the last Saturday of the month, so it was the Monthly gathering, so two full days of gaming!!
The Wizard of the Tribe has died. As it has been recorded by our ancestors, for thousands of years wizard-wannabes made their predictions for the ostrich race in the Holy Cave, the one making the more accurate predictions becoming the new Wizard. Which ostrich will win the race? Who will become the new Wizard? The answers are not easy since it is an open secret that candidates are not limited just to making predictions...
In Banjooli Xeet players become Wizards who must predict the order of arrival of racing ostriches in order to gain points, while dodging obstacles, collecting berries, avoiding the dreaded Lion, and not waking the sleeping crocodiles. Banjooli Xeet is a fast-paced race game for 2 to 5 players with a lot of bluffing, crazy predictions and hilarious fun.
This is a racing/betting game where we want to be the new Wizard of the Village and so we make predictions at the start of the game (by receiving a tile) of the order of the arrival of the Ostriches in a Race...
We of course manipulate the race but we are limited by the dice we roll in our turn.
It's a pretty quick filler game, it took 15 minutes, and it's fun.
We played the basic version since we were all playing for the first time but we can add some special racing tiles and some special power tokens to the board.
Won't mind playing it again
Score: João Gonçalves - 18 Me - 6 Tiago Rebelo - 5 Vanessa - 3 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
Next up was a game that I've been wanting to play for sometime because of Steph raving about it:
2212: Ginkgo Biloba, the oldest and strongest tree in the world, has become the symbol of a new method for building cities in symbiosis with nature. Humans have exhausted the resources that the Earth offered them, and humanity must now develop cities that maintain a delicate balance between resource production and consumption. Habitable space is scarce, however, and mankind must now face the challenge of building ever upwards. To develop this new type of city, you will gather a team of experts around you, and try to become the best urban planner for Ginkgopolis.
In Ginkgopolis, the city tiles come in three colors: yellow, which provides victory points; red, which provides resources; and blue, which provides new city tiles. Some tiles start in play, and they're surrounded by letter markers that show where new tiles can be placed.
On a turn, each player chooses a card from his hand simultaneously. Players reveal these cards, adding new tiles to the border of the city in the appropriate location or placing tiles on top of existing tiles. Each card in your hand that you don't play is passed on to your left-hand neighbor, so keep in mind how your play might set up theirs!
When you add a new tile to the city, you take a "power" card of the same color, and these cards provide you additional abilities during the game, allowing you to scale up your building and point-scoring efforts.
This is a very abstracted City Building game, at least I didn't get the feeling that I was building a city at all, I was just placing tiles trying to get majorities and getting bonuses from the cards i had in front of me that triggered with specific actions.
(End of Game City)
By reading that you probably think that I didn't like the game, but you would be wrong!
I really liked it... I love when a theme brings a game together but that's a bonus, I don't need to be completely immersed on theme, it only has to be a little bit of theme there and Gink has enough for me.
I really loved the mechanics of the game, the way you try to build big combo chains that trigger when you do a specific action.
It's indeed a very cool and interesting game that I will gladly play again and again
Score: João Gonçalves - 87 Me - 73 Tiago Rebelo - 67 Vanessa - 37 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
You already know I like this one, I've been playing it for the past weeks It's easy to do because the box is small and easy to carry and the game is very good.
João didn't like it that much but I think it's just butt hurt because he was very near of getting 2 planets that would score him 10 points and there were a lot of planets out there that would allow you to make an opponent ship to go back in the orbit track and we used that on him... he was going to take a huge lead with that, so we had to do it...
He then spent the rest of the game complaining about that, if you knew João you would be laughing because he always does this
This was also a very unorthodox session because during most of the game there were no culture Planets available, only energy ones and so no one had culture to follow the other players, but we were all drowning in Energy!
Score: Tiago Rebelo - 24 Vanessa - 21 Me - 19 João Gonçalves - 15 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
For those with the eldritch gift, temptation lurks around every corner, even in leisure. Just consider the possibilities available to the practitioner of magic. Imagine poker with spells! No person could resist such temptation, and even a casual review of history will prove that none could.
The famous last play of Ephippus of Athens? It was about Circe’s never ending thirst for cheating at cards. Morgan le Fay and Merlin regularly crossed wits over a deck. Roger Bollingbroke’s most heinous crime was the transparently bogus run of five straight flushes in a row. And so it has gone. The application of magic to card games is as natural as mixing mandrake and worm’s husk.
For the first time, however, the rules for a game specifically created for wizards have been pieced together from fragments found in tombs, dusty used bookstores, and in the classified ads of one small newspaper. Though magic has largely been forgotten in the centuries since this game was invented, modern game design has given us a way to imitate the arcana outlined in the reconstructed rules. The result is a “no-magic-required” whimsical romp for 2-5 players.
Hocus places the players in the flamboyant boots of wizards, using their powerful advantages to create opportunities, manipulate the game, and alter the flow of cards. Wizards hate being pinned down and live by the mantra “You shall not fold!” Each turn, players choose one Spell to use. As you are new to Hocus, we shall first discuss the three Basic Spells.
Use the first basic Spell to play cards to the Community. Play thoughtfully, as everyone shares the cards in the Community! The second Spell is for building the Pot. In addition to Suit and Strength, every card has a point value. Cards played to the Pot contribute their points to the winner of each Showdown. Play cards to build a Pocket with the third Spell. (Never ask to see a wizard’s pocket!) Each player takes one of their Pockets and combines it with the Community to form a hand during Showdowns. The best hand claims all points in the Pot.
There is, of course, a twist. Trust a wizard to provide a twist! There are multiple Communities, each with a Pot, and players can compete in multiple Showdowns if they have the Pockets. Hocus is not merely a matter of building good hands, but making a winning hand where your opponents least expect and profiting with a hefty Pot. Timing and careful, targeted play will win the day. And time is limited. You may have conjured a Straight Flush, but it’s worthless with no points in the Pot!
Now, look at the other spells in the game. There are eight different spell books, each with their own unique approaches to the game, providing every wizard who plays with their own special abilities. The spell books raise the game to another level, with even more tools for bending luck to your advantage.
Travel way back to a dark, dank inn, shuffle the cards, and play the favorite game of the legendary Merlin and Morgan le Fay. Hocus is a little like poker, but a lot more magic!
I'm a very casual Poker player, I really like it but I don't play often and I don't count cards and probabilities in my head because i just don't like to do that.
This game presents a very cool "variation" on Poker introducing asymmetrical player powers called spells.
Each player has 3 Basic Spells that are the same and they can cast them in order to play cards to the different places (Community, Pot or Pockets). Players also have 3 advanced Spells each that are specific to them and come form a themed deck. These Advanced Spells give players the ability of performing a boosted action, for example Tiago had a spell where he played the card to the Community face-down, so only he knew the suit and number of the card he played... extremely powerful!
We both really liked the game, it's very very cool, awesome art and interesting gameplay
I didn't see it mentioned on the rules but we wondered if we could mix cards from different magic reals, like using a Storm and 2 Illusion cards for example? For those that have played the game, is that possible?
This was a very fast game, 3 rounds and it was over.
Tiago managed to build a very big production of Contact Tokens in the first round and ran away with the game.
I was a bit constricted with the cards I got, nothing that could jump start my game and I really felt that my Faction was a little weak, but we all feel that hehehehe
Like I said last week, I'm liking this version more than IS because it's a faster game, the "luck issue" I had with IS is still present in this game, the luck of the draw is very high for my taste but since the game is fast the frustration regarding that luck or lack of it is diminished and tolerable... it wasn't for me in Is due to the length of the game
Score: Tiago Rebelo - Mutant Union - 47 Eduardo Cruz - Texas - 29 Me - New York - 22
The Hundred Years' War is over and the Renaissance is looming. Conditions are perfect for the princes of the Loire Valley to propel their estates to prosperity and prominence. Through strategic trading and building, clever planning, and careful thought in The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, players add settlements and castles, practice trade along the river, exploit silver mines, farm livestock, and more.
First because it's an easier game to grasp, not that CoB is hard but this one has less things going around so it makes it easier to comprehend and assimilate. I consider this one a great gateway to the full game of CoB, it's a fantastic way to introduce new players to the game, explains the basics of CoB and then they will be ready to take CoB by the horns when it's presented to them
I also liked some of the changes to the gameplay:
- You always have 2 "dice" (cards with the dice) in hand to choose what action to do, so you aren't stuck with only one die and that number won't help you to do anything interesting... it can still happen if you have 2 cards with the same dice number but hey at least you had the chance that it would be 2 different ones.
- You take alternate turns, meaning I play one Die to make an action, then you play one, then I play, etc... I don't play all my dice in one turn
The game will be faster than the regular one, specially when playing with more players.
So, really impressed with this one for the simplicity and cleaver way that they were able to transform the game.
Score: Eduardo Cruz - 76 Carlos Santos - 64 Me - 52 Sérgio Ribeiro - 30 Jorge Santos - 29
But there's a reason why the number of players is capped...
We were laughing so hard that Alex and Biscaia joined us... this puts us over the limit of players and there's a reason there's a limit... the game is much less fun with this many players because you play much less... the risk of being stuck with a terrible hand is very high and since you play fewer times you can't recycle it...
Playing with 5 is fantastic... playing with 7 not so much!
Score: Carlos Santos - 88 Alex - 61 Eduardo Cruz - 52 Ricardo Biscaia - 47 Jorge Santos - 44 Me - 36 Sérgio Ribeiro - 18 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
7 Ronin is an asymmetric two-player game in which one player controls a group of ninja attacking a village that's defended by seven ronin (masterless samurai), which are controlled by the other player. The ninja player wins by occupying five of the village's ten areas, while the ronin player wins by surviving eight rounds.
Each turn starts with the players distributing their forces over the village areas simultaneously and separately. Their choices are then revealed, and combat resolved. Each of the ronin have a different special ability to aid the defender, while each of the village areas have a special ability usable by the attacker once it has been occupied.
Really really like this one... it's a 2P game with asymmetrical powers and a very different way of playing.
(Ninja in the Woods)
I came out of it with a felling of a Stronghold (2nd edition) light... One player is trying to invade the village and the other is defending it.
Of course this is much lighter but the feeling is there and it's also much much faster!
Trying to get into the head of the opponent, where will he go and what Ronin will he use, or where will the Ninjas try to enter and how many will come that way.
Was very impressed by it and can't wait for the next version that's supposed to come out in the future.
(End of the Game Village)
Score: Me - Ninjas - 5 Zone victory Tiago Rebelo - Ronins - Defeat _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
Next it was time for a game that I owned for more than 2 years and hadn't played yet!!!
Merkator is about the rise of Hamburg after the Thirty Years' War.
You visit cities to collect goods or fulfill orders. The collected goods are added to the cities when a player visits a neighboring city. Fulfilling an order provides you with another better, but more complex order additional to the fulfilled order which you keep and can fulfill again, although the number of orders you can own is limited. Each order itself is worth a certain amount of points at the end of the game. Also you can exchange these points for special cards which provide additional goods in certain cities or more victory points if you fulfill certain conditions at game end.
Depending on the city you want to enter you either receive a resource called "time" or you have to spend it. By paying a certain time-fee you are allowed to accompany another player on his trip to a town to fulfill your orders in this town (but not to collect goods). The game ends when a player receives the order with the highest value by fulfilling the order one level below.
I was a bit weary of playing this one because I heard terrible things about it from João and Eduardo... João I don't mind that much because this type of game isn't his cup of tea but Eduardo is an Euro Gamer with similar tastes than mine, so this is probably why the game took so long to hit the table.
And I say they are wrong! The game is very interesting, the way you travel around getting different goods trying to fulfill contracts, getting Bonus for visiting certain locations, trying to create synergies between the contracts and the bonuses.
Also, the way that you can piggy back in the other players travels and fulfill contracts out of turn by paying some time is very cleaver.
Yes, it's not Uwe best game but it's a very good one!
(My end Game Office)
Score: Me - 78.5 Tiago Rebelo - 64 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
This is one of my favorite games and I was on a 4 game winning streak after that horrible play that made me crawl under a rock!
But alas, that winning streak came to an end...
I played pretty poorly in this game... I managed to get my first certification after 1 hour and 50 minutes of play!!! I was always struggling for time and had no spare time to do big moves on the certifications...
The end game came pretty quickly after the second meeting and I was only able to get 1 seat on the last meeting! Horrible!
Fabulous game that I played very poorly this time!
Score: Eduardo Cruz - 124 João Carlos - 114 Me - 110 _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________
This week's podcast - Circus Flohcati, Pi Mal Pflaumen, and Pack O Games Set 2
Shelley joined the weekly gaming group with the guys for a playing of the new Hans im Glück release from Matthias Cramer, then I snag yet another 'not-yet-reviewed-from Essen' release off the pile for some 4-player auctioning of chickens!
The following is the first post in a fictional account of how I came upon the history of the Land of Danger. This post can be found at my website here: http://www.mwgames.com/?p=2905 -----
I distinctly remember the “aha!” moment I had on one particular day when I was in my third year at college. I had checked-out a few old history books from the library (yes — I did go into the library now and then) to do research for a paper I was writing at the time. Of course, the paper was due in a couple of days and I was way behind the proper curve for researching and writing a paper of this type, so I had been trading normal sleeping hours for homework time.
The books spanned a wide range of the middle ages and were filled with old maps and stories about travels throughout the known world. I’m not sure if it was the sleep deprivation or the frightening amounts of coffee I had consumed that evening, but I started seeing some unmistakable patterns. Although it was never fully described nor drawn on a map, I became certain that there was once a large land area located in what is now the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
Logs from early merchant fleets and navies mentioned ports and resupply points that were not part of mainland Europe, northern or western Africa, nor the northern explored areas that we know now as Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, etc. The mentions were found in a couple different explorer journals from the late 1400s, which used the name “Brykovia” for a set of large islands used as a stopping-off point along the way to find a western sea route to India and China. Prior to that, throughout the 1300s and early 1400s, sailors’ notes would occasionally refer to the “Land of Danger” as a collection of islands a few weeks sail to the west of mainland Europe.
Now, as soon as this silly idea surfaced, I simply shrugged it off and tried to get back to my initial research purpose. But something in me didn’t really want to let this go. So, after a couple hours of mental tug-o-war, I decided to follow the threads to some sort of conclusion. Mainly, I figured I’d see the light along the way and realize I was on a fool’s errand with this.
My first thought, of course, was that this was really the remnants of fabled Atlantis. Ever since Plato first mentioned it a few thousand years ago, people have been looking for this land (or whatever remains of it, buried beneath the sea). And while some interesting theories have risen along the way, nothing has ever really stuck as proof of its existence. I spent a couple days tracing all of the references and theories and came to my own conclusion on it: I think it did exist at one time, but not in the location that this Brykovia/Land of Danger used to be. Instead, it looks to have been located to the west of Africa, before the Atlantic swallowed it. I believe that the modern-day Republic of Cabo Verde used to be spot islands off the eastern coast of Atlantis. When Atlantis sunk, Cabo Verde was all that remained of the ancient super power.
So, where does that put Brykovia? The best I was able to determine during that first research binge was approximately half-way between Spain and Maine. But, its archipelago nature made it tricky to pinpoint. I did have some port city names — King’s Harbor, Costa d’ Costa, Ard Alwafra — but the translations seem suspect. I knew I would need something more substantial if I was going to make any further progress.
And, as these things usually go, I caught a break: As part of a side conversation about my new-found research passion, my academic adviser told me that she knew a guy that might know a guy. And it turns out that her friend actually knew a couple of people that would be the key to getting the real story. (to be continued)
It can also be found below: Miniatures Related Projects:
Space Raiders [No BGG LInk at Time of Release] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/554542735/space-raiders... Diego Serrate Pinilla is bringing the second Space Raider miniatures range and this time “The Orcs are Here”. A complete squad of classic Late 80’s, early 90’s feel about them to lay waste on your tabletop. Ends Monday 06-13 After.
Highwaymen https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1662377637/highwaymen-a... Moving to board games! First, Highwaymen! A tabletop game about robbery and treachery on the Open Road. Be a proper highway robber like in days before and attack the guarded coach and steal the gold with the help of your fellow players, but known there’s no honour amongst thieves and you could be left for dead in the blink of an eye. Ends Thursday 06-30.
Subtle Much? [No BGG LInk at Time of Release] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/moresomegames/subtle-mu... Subtle Much is a game which you can ‘add’ to any game you own! It adds secret objectives to your game, completely unrelated to what game you’re playing, so you’re basically playing a game within a game! Ends Tuesday 06-28.
Expansions, Reprints, Relaunches and Upgrades:
Mommies Critters (Relaunch) [No BGG LInk at Time of Release] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1126076452/mommies-crit... Mommies’ Critters is having a relaunch! A deck full of critters, spells, chickens and eggs allows for a fast elimination style game, because If you can’t give an egg to mommie at the end of your turn, you’re eliminated and out of the game. I hope they’ll make it this time, it looks pretty cute so.. Support mommies critters. Ends Thursday 06-30.
It's been another decent week for gaming with five more 10x10 Challenge games done and a few others played as well. Robyn and I are starting to gear up for having a large chunk of June off on holiday, starting with Download Festival and then two weeks away on the canal boat. Just two weeks of work to get through first!
With Concordia and Hostage Negotiator leaving the collection during the mid-year purge, I decided to get a couple of replacements and really boost up the sci-fi side of my collection. I don't remember when I first saw Android: Mainframe, I think it may have been during a lunchtime browse of FFG's website, but it grabbed me immediately and I picked up a copy from my local game store. I really enjoyed the theme and universe of Android: Netrunner despite not really getting into the game itself, so the artwork of Mainframe was an easy sell as was the range of different runners with their unique abilities.
I also went through my tablet apps a couple of weeks ago and decided to re-download a bunch of digital board games I'd previously tried and then for some reason deleted. One of these was the adaptation of Galaxy Trucker and getting back into the digital version made me realise it would be a superb addition to my collection. I've noticed that when gaming with my school and university friends, we much prefer games where we can share in the absurdity of each other's game-play even if there's no direct player interaction. Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a perfect example of this, as we play the game we each weave a narrative for our respective castles and relish in the hilarious and crazy reasoning as to why the Queen's Bedroom adjoins the Buttery. Galaxy Trucker I realised would easily provide that, and with a solid dose of the science fiction we all enjoy on top.
While Robyn was up seeing to the horse on Saturday morning I got on with the house chores, and with all the washing out to dry found time for a couple solo rounds of The Castles of Burgundy. I replayed Board 3 after being unhappy with my dodgy scoring from last time (finishing with 183 points) and followed up with a play on Board 4. I made an effort to not neglect the Knowledge tiles this time and when the "+1 point for scoring farm tiles" one came out quite early I went straight for it. I got lucky then with the available animal types and was able to have one field full of pigs and one of sheep. I was quite proud that I finished with no half-finished regions, and a score of 226 sets a new personal best for the solo game.
We went down to Hertfordshire on Saturday evening to spend the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend with Robyn's family. Robyn is fanatical about Canasta and as soon as we arrived it was all she wanted to play. Eventually coaxing her dad to the table, we swiftly finished the game we had in-progress (Me and Robyn vs. her parents). After our crushing defeat, partners were shuffled and once again it was girls versus boys and I was teamed with David.
With wine opened and beers poured, David and I struggled for a while to even get the required 50 points for the first Meld. The girls gained an early lead but we pulled it back slightly with a couple of solidly scoring rounds. Having played a load of cards to the table I ended up with the agonizing decision of having to discard either an ace or a two (which is a wild card in Canasta), either of which the girls would snap up to make a canasta with.
We finally went to bed as dawn was beginning to break, we'd been playing until nearly 4 in the morning! The time flew by though, canasta is a very easy game to play for hours at a time and the banter between partners and teams can really make the game as hilarious as any modern party game offering. I'm currently getting over a sore throat and I was very hoarse on Saturday night, once I'd had a few beers and my northern accent started creeping out I sounded eerily similar to soap favourite heavy smoker Deirdre Barlow.
Dominion kicked off gaming on Sunday and Robyn and I went head to head over a kingdom very heavy on +Buys but devoid of anything with extra actions: Bank, Baron, Bridge, Chapel, Goons, Hoard, Ill-Gotten Gains, Silk Road, Tunnel and Workshop. Our tactics were quite similar, both for us going for Bridge and then Hoard, but whereas I went defensive with a Chapel, Robyn went for Ill-Gotten Gains. I was able to trim away most of the Curses sent my way but a few lingered in my deck until the end. Realising Robyn was a Province ahead of me I opted to grab as many Silk Roads and Duchies as I could, but she followed suit and I ultimately lost out 58 to 66.
After dinner Sandra joined us for another game and this time we had a bit more of a balanced Kingdom with Cartographer, Grand Market, Masquerade, Merchant Ship, Mine, Minion, Oracle, Scheme, Torturer and Upgrade. Oracle was the favourite opening choice, and Scheme and Mine were popular as well. Masquerade saw a few good plays as well and I was to able to siphon a few Silvers from Robyn's hand with it, while offloading my Coppers to Sandra. It was a close game, I won with 34 points but Robyn and Sandra were close behind with 29 and 28 respectively.
I was really hyped to play Galaxy Trucker and despite Robyn's insistence that she "doesn't like sci-fi games" (I did not bring up her fondness for sci-fi conquest game Quantum) she and Sandra both agreed to try it out. Her brother Thomas, a keen sci-fi follower, joined us as well. Having read the rulebook cover to cover I made sure to throw in some of the excellent humour as I explained the ship building phase, and with everyone clear of what to do we started building our first ships.
And what first ships they were. I didn't take any pictures of those first efforts because we were all laughing so hard at each other's scrapheaps. Lasers pointing every direction except forward. All the engines to one side of the ship. Three battery compartments just to power one shield. It's just brilliance. The test flight was a really great introduction to the game and I have to commend the CGE team for making such a well designed rulebook.
Everyone was really keen to play a proper game after the test flight, even Robyn who said that despite her initial objections she really enjoyed it! We only played flights I and II, but the number II flight was so full of drama and suspense we were exhausted afterwards! Three meteor storms, smugglers and a combat zone all took a heavy toll on our ships. While we all mocked Robyn's tiny one engined ship at first it proved remarkably hard to hit during the flight, but on the penultimate card, a meteor storm, her only engine was knocked off! Thankfully the last card was not Open Space and she was able to drift through to the end. The worst ship was definitely my own as I made the dumb decision to put all three cargo holds on the outer edge of the ship without the shields or lasers to protect them. Every hold had cargo in when it got blown off and when my one engined, single sideways laser armed truck groaned into the space port, I actually made a loss!
Even after only one play I love this game.
We had a break after the intensity of Galaxy Trucker, and after a movie and a bite to eat we played a couple rounds of the classic Carcassonne. I've been without Carcassonne for about a month as Sandra had borrowed it, along with Port Royal, to take with her when they visited friends on the Isle of Wight. Robyn was desperate to finally play it again as it is her favourite, but since Sandra is still fairly new to the game we played without farmers, nor did we score Cathedrals and Inns. In the first game Robyn and I played very aggressively against each other, claiming and stealing cities like there was no tomorrow. All this of course only helped Sandra, who snuck in under the radar to beat me by one point and win the first game. Playing again, Robyn eased off on the direct aggression but we still placed tiles to make cities hard or impossible to finish. This time however, the joke was on me as Robyn won and Sandra beat me to second place by one point!
We finished off the evening with a round of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Despite getting bonus cards that were perfectly in line with one of the favour tiles (I had bonus cards for 150 size rooms and 500 size rooms, and the favour was for most round rooms) I struggled terribly to get the rooms I actually needed. I managed some nice combos and reward chains but once again, despite being ahead at game's end I fell way behind once the extra scoring categories came into play. This was the tenth and last game of Ludwig needed for the 10x10 Challenge but it's proven to be such an excellent game I'm sure it'll still get played a lot.
I realised upon logging into BGG this morning that I had completely forgotten about the rule to put 1000 Marks on left over room tiles at the end of a round! Looking back I had also forgotten this rule last weekend when playing with Ed, and even before that on Tabletop Day! I think what happened is we didn't play Ludwig at all in March or for most of April, so by the time I'd gotten it to the table again I'd completely forgotten it. So I ask the question to you dear readers, what rule or rules do you regularly forget about?
In addition to these two gems, he's also created some of the most endearing Icehouse designs, including Zagami, Mandala, Gnostica (co-design), and RAMbots. Of these four my favorite is probably Mandala, which is an Icehouse adaptation of Knizia's Tutankhamen. Of these I'm most interested in Gnostica given my recent dabble in Zarcana. Thankfully, I happen to have another Tarot set that I could sticker.
There are a couple of unpublished designs that I'd like to dive into if possible. First, Jewels of the Sultan is a design that's been in the works for a decade (?). This one might be difficult to try given that the rules have never been released outside of a few trusted play-testers, but perhaps I'll put some feelers out to see if I can dig them up. Another interesting design is Pantopia, a Zarcana-like that uses Aquarius cards instead of Tarot. I was quite surprised that Pantopia is not in the BGG database so maybe I'll take a moment to add it soon.
Additionally, there are a couple of games that I can play here and there and everywhere: Why Did the Chicken...? and Analogies. With the right mix of people, WDtC can be pee-your-pants funny. A lesser known game Analogies takes a simple idea and turns it into a fun drive-time (or message-board) activity that hopes to find the best answers to questions of the form ______ is the _____ of ______.
Here's an example:
______ is the Texas of Europe.
Possible answer: Russia
Finally, for those moments here and there, in a queue, and while waiting for food I'll break out my phone and play some Blockhouse, a clever little puzzle game.
I'm looking forward to this month. Thanks Mr. Heath!
It's probably important to mention up front that World's Fair 1893 started as something entirely different. The whole process from end to end, inception to initial production, was about two years. It all started with a simple concept I call "stickiness". The idea is that on your turn you're placing a piece somewhere to take what's there (like in, say, worker placement), but then the piece stays there to score for other things. I love tradeoffs in games, and this became an interesting way to make each choice have implications for several things. To me, the fun part of playing games is making those tough decisions, deciding what to pursue and what to sacrifice. I had first explored this mechanism in Gold West, but I wanted to create a game built around that concept as the starting point. I also won't claim I invented this mechanism either — if you haven't played the game Québec, it's absolutely wonderful, and I took a lot of inspiration from that design.
Speaking on inspirations, the two biggest inspirations for the game were El Grande and Ra, two of my favorite games. If you've never played, El Grande is the definitive area majority game, with a wonderful tradeoff between placing more caballeros (read: cubes) on the board, activating more caballeros (so you can place them), and taking better/worse actions. Ra, on the other hand, is an auction game in which the winner of the auction will collect sets of tiles that score in different ways. Each player is collecting different things, so everyone evaluates a particular combination of tiles differently, which is what makes the auction interesting. I imagined a game that combined these mechanisms together — you're adding cubes to different areas trying to control them, all the while also collecting tiles that scored in different ways. This coalesced into the first prototype: a brown bag full of tiles with different symbols on them, and a hand-drawn board spanning four sheets of paper.
First "rapid prototype" of what would become World's Fair 1893
From this prototype a few different mechanisms were established that form the core of the game and still form the basis of the final game today. Place a cube in an area to take all the tiles there (cards, in the final version, more on that later), then replace three tiles, starting with the region from which you took and proceeding clockwise. I made it three tiles (instead of two or four) because three felt like a good amount of tiles to pick up each turn, so if I wanted players to usually pick up three, I figured each time you should put out three. Sometimes game design is as easy as that; other times it's not.
At this point, the game was more or less abstracted. When I'm exploring mechanisms, I'm always hesitant to weave in a theme too soon. I've always had the approach that I want to start with a game that creates interesting thoughts in players' heads, and doing that requires an unbounded decision space when it comes to changing the mechanisms within the game. Once I figure out how the "game" works, then comes the second step, which is coalescing it around a theme that fits, using that to refine secondary mechanisms, and tie everything together.
So as the concept slowly developed, it came time to find a theme and let the game coalesce around it. I had read a book called The Amber Room — don't bother as it's not that great; if you're going to read anything, read The Devil in the White City instead — and become interested in the amber trade, amber being the precious stone made from fossilized tree sap. As a fan of historical themes, I decided that the idea of players being amber merchants, collecting amber and other goods, and trying to control different key cities of the amber trade (Bern, Venice, etc.) would fit the game fairly well.
In this prototype, each region had a different value for first and second generated by placing a randomized tile on the area. The game had five "goods", which scored only for set collection (collecting multiples of the same good scored more points) and were not linked to any specific area. All the actions that are in the game today were present, but the actions in an area were executed immediately when you placed there. The subtle change to have actions played in your subsequent turn came later, but I'll talk about it now because my memory is not so great. Playing actions on your next turn gave players more options. For example, in the game today, the Daniel Burnham card lets you place an additional supporter in the same area where you place your initial supporter. By allowing players to pick up the card on one turn and use it on their next, it could be used on any one of the five areas; you're not stuck waiting for the action to pop up on the specific area where you need it.
Prototype at Gen Con 2014
I brought the prototype to Gen Con 2014 to play with trusted friends, including Adam McIver, who would end up doing the wonderful graphic design on the game. These playtests inspired a number of changes. I changed the game to a modular board and removed the tiles that increased the value of individual regions. In its place, the game had its first major breakthrough. (Let's call it Breakthrough #1.) I realized that the five goods in the game should correspond to the five areas you're trying to control. It made sense to link each of the goods to an area thematically and have each area be worth more if you had more of the associated good. It was a subtle change, but it resulted in each area having a different value to each of the players, which created interesting trade-offs in the game.
I decided to submit the game to Randy Hoyt at Foxtrot Games. I knew ever since I had played a prototype of Lanterns at Gen Con that I wanted to work with them, and the game seemed like it would fit with the weight and style of game they were looking for. A few weeks later Randy emailed to inform me he'd like to sign the game. There's no better email than that. I was thrilled.
Prototype submitted to Foxtrot Games
Intermission: The Theme
Underlying all of the changes that are to come was a major thematic overhaul of the game. All along, we knew the game probably needed to be rethemed. We explored a number of different things, all of which worked okay — but the World's Fair theme was a revelation. Sometimes you just know, "This is it; this is the game".
The Chicago World's Fair theme was both a better fit for the mechanisms and weight, and an infinitely more interesting and appealing theme that miraculously had not been explored in detail before in a game. Having lived in Chicago for over five years, I already had a fascination with it, so when Randy starting mentioning World's Fairs as a possible route in which we could go, the idea of focusing on the one from the city I loved so much only made sense. It helps it was the best World's Fair (completely objective and unbiased opinion).
I really credit Randy for all of the incredible thematic details in the game. Though a lot of the development happened under the "amber" theme, for sake of ease of understanding, I've re-couched all of the terminology in the diary below to match the final game today. What were goods became exhibits, the amber in the game became the Midway tickets, and the actions became the influential figures of the fair. If you're interested in more of the thematic aspects, we discussed them in detail on a podcast of The League of Nonsensical Gamers.
This was just the beginning of the game's development, and we needed to figure out a way we could reasonably playtest with me in New York and Randy in Texas. Randy imported the files onto Roll20, an online platform that would allow us to playtest in our disparate locations. I love the future. We played regularly almost every Friday.
The first thing that became apparent was that the player who collected the most exhibits would more often than not go on to win the game. The exhibits simply scored triangularly the more of a single type you collected. We also realized that we could probably do more than just reduce the number of points they're worth. After all, the more exhibits you collected, the more they were worth, so once you reached a certain point it made sense to just collect as many as possible — and if you weren't collecting a certain type of exhibits, there wasn't much incentive to start (with the exception of denying your opponent, which isn't all that fun), which meant you were better off just trying to earn points from controlling areas.
Through lots of experimentation, we arrived at two huge breakthroughs. These would end up being two of the most mechanically important aspects of the game.
• Breakthrough #2: The exhibits must be approved in order to score. In other words, you needed to control the area that the exhibit was associated with in order to make it worth anything. This was critical because it integrated what were previously disparate strategic avenues: area majority and set collection. With this change, the set collection didn't mean anything if you didn't also spend energy on area majority, and the area majority wouldn't earn you much if you didn't also have exhibits to approve.
• Breakthrough #3: The exhibits should score for diverse sets. This rule is critical because of the one above. Because you must control areas to approve exhibits, and you must approve a diverse array of exhibits to score meaningful points, this means (does mental connecting of the dots) you must control different areas over the course of the game. I love this rule because it alleviates the problem of some area majority games in which you can accumulate an insurmountable lead in an area, then reap the benefits all game. The rule that you have to remove half of your supporters each turn helps with this, but even so, the game now makes you want to control different areas. The end of each round should feel like an accomplishment when you approve exhibits, but it also quickly changes your focus as you must re-evaluate which new areas you need to try to control next round. This (hopefully) keeps the game play from feeling repetitive, as the goals you're trying to accomplish continually evolve.
Speaking of scoring rounds, the game always had three scoring rounds, but they weren't always triggered the same way. The Midway tickets were originally just a way to score points. Instead there were separate "trigger" tiles, twelve of them, that when taken would be placed on a track; once certain thresholds were reached, a scoring round would be triggered. This worked okay, but the scoring rounds were highly variable, in that some rounds would be extremely short and others very long. We needed a way to decrease the variance of trigger tiles.
Enter Breakthrough #4. The Midway ticket cards are the triggers. It may not seem like a major change, but it had a twofold improvement on the game: First, it decreased the variance of the scoring rounds because there could be a ton more of them in the deck, and second, it gave the Midway ticket cards a more important role, mechanically and thematically. The Midway was what made money for the fair and was really the only part that was profitable. The Ferris wheel was the biggest attraction on the Midway and became the centerpiece of the fair, so it was fitting to make it also the centerpiece of the game.
Prototype at Gen Con 2015
Okay, one last thing. You may have noticed the game was once tiles, and now it's cards. I originally designed World's Fair 1893 as a tile-drafting game, mostly due to the inspiration of Ra. The game had a fixed number of tiles in the bag, which meant a fixed number of turns for each player. There were ten starting tiles and 108 in a draw bag. The first two rounds ended when players triggered them, but the third round ended when the tiles ran out. The timing of that third round felt quite different from the other two, flat and predictable by comparison.
Randy and I brainstormed solutions, and he pushed to have us try a deck of cards, rather than tiles. The deck could be shuffled, and the game could continue until the third scoring round is triggered just like the other two rounds. This worked only because of Breakthroughs #2 and #4. Actions were already being discarded when used, but now exhibits could be approved and discarded (#2) and Midways could be cashed in and discarded (#4) at the end of each round, making a discard pile that could be reshuffled into a deck when the draw pile ran out. This was a subtle change from a gameplay standpoint, but it allowed a lot of flexibility in terms of the flow of the game. There's also a broader point about game design there. The idea to use a draw deck made sense only after a couple of other subtle changes were made to the rules. (Those rules didn't originally change anything about the components, just how they were treated during the game.) It was a reminder to constantly assess a developing game in its current state as new improvements can open the door to even more improvements that wouldn't have made sense prior to the previous improvement.
That said, having a shuffled deck also provided a number of challenges. The timing of the reshuffle is critical. If the reshuffle happens too early before a scoring round, there can be a disproportionate number of action cards in the deck compared to Midways and exhibits. There were three variables we had to play with: the number of Ferris wheel spots in a scoring round (i.e., the length of the round), the size of the deck, and the number of Midway cards — and it had to work with two, three, and four players. It took a lot of math and a whole lot of testing, but we managed to figure it out, so (hopefully) everyone who plays the game can take it entirely for granted.
And that's the long, short story of the development of World's Fair 1893.