This feels like a more polished version of a game I would have designed in 7th grade. Theme is great, components are great, and the general theme of risk/reward and push your luck is well implemented. However, the game also feels disjointed because every section has its own rules. While there are decision points along the way, which way you go has more to do with what you feel like exploring rather than any strategic imperative.
I get what this game is trying to accomplish by providing a theme-rich sense of adventure. However, in the push-you-luck genre, I derive more excitement and sense of agency from less theme-intense but more mechanically focused games, such as Diamant, Exscape, or Can't Stop.
To be fair, I only played this through once. With that caveat, I found this game just had too many things going on. I felt much the same way about Marvel Heroes, another game by the same group. There's depth, and then there's just complexity, and this had much of the latter without necessarily bringing the former, For example, there are at least 5 different kinds of combat, each with their own subrules.
I bought Conan because War of the Ring (also by this group) is one of my favorite games. WotR also has a lot of little rules, but it manages to hang together. Conan just doesn't get there, and I'm not willing to play it enough to internalize the rules so that the strategy can come through.
I acquired a copy of this and pushed the bits around for a while until I was overwhelmed with the feeling that the game was underdeveloped. Lanius seems to regularly take some else's elegant mechanism and then complicate it to the point I no longer find it enjoyable. (Pandemic->Defenders of the Realm, Risk Express->Elder Sign, Castle Panic->Alien Uprising). However, others obviously appreciate the addition of thematic elements, but for me, this disrupts what I originally enjoyed about the underlying mechanism.
This is a really nice design. I especially like how there are truly varied paths to victory. You can win without getting a single "Court" card. Such upgrades are essential for victory in most other games of this type, but here they are just tools, and that is very interesting.
Maybe slightly redundant to other games in my collection though?
I was hoping that I would find this to be an improvement of the original. The central dice/card mechanism has a lot of promise. Arena does seem to be an improvement, somewhat tempering the tendency of the game to snowball in favor of one player. However, it still seems difficult for a player who starts to slip behind to recover, which makes you wonder why then it still takes another 10-20 minutes to end the game. Overall not a bad game, but not good enough that I don't have a dozen other 2 player 30 minutes games I find more interesting.
My brain hasn't tingled like this since the first time I played Tigris & Euphrates. It's not quite T&E, but still very very good so far.
UPDATE Nov 2014: My tastes in games must really be changing. I thought I loved this game, but I recently revisited it after not playing it for a few years, and did not dig it much at all. The gameplay seems to be an exercise in NOT setting up your opponent, which is not a style of play I typically enjoy, although I do still really like Samurai which has a similar vibe. With two players Arkadia is quite deterministic, and with more it's entirely tactical. Not for me anymore.
New Asmodee edition. The track spaces are incredibly irregular, with some being too small to hold the chariots! The board looks great through, so we found this to be more funny than annoying. The game is very simple, but we were surprised how much fun it was. Bring on the track expansions, Asmodee!
I don't think this is really all that much like Bang. The core mechanism here is that you take 3 cards, keep 1, discard 1, and gift 1, and a solid little game was built around it. Players need to be very aware of the cards they pick and pass out, as victory depends on not handing someone else the win as much as getting yourself to your goals. I need to play this one some more to see how much better it can get with familiarity. it is a solid design, and I suspect one of those games that is best when you play a few times in a row - the game length (20 min) supports that nicely. There is some fiddliness in the rules about when and how you can play privilege cards that I think should have been streamlined somehow.
This game has some nice systems, but I'm not yet convinced of its long term replayability. It's not exactly scripted, but it seems that the mechanisms are definitely trying to enforce a certain narrative arc. The shadow player washes over the land like a red tide, but as the game progresses the free peoples acquire superpowers that allow them to push back. I do have concerns that either you play out the intended narrative and end up with a close-fought finish, or one side has some lopsided luck and short-circuits the story. I have been enjoying exploring the game though. It will take some more plays before I can decide if the game has legs.
Update Jan 2015 (after 5 plays) At first, this game felt very lucky and swingy, exspecially around the Fate track. However, with more plays, I am realizing that the fate track is actually more balanced than it appears (much like the movement of the Fellowship in War of the Ring). The FP player can sacrifice activations for the CHANCE to accelerate the fate track, much like he can push the fellowship for the CHANCE of moving them faster without damage. And the Fate card mechanism somewhat balances out slow movement of the fate marker - when your characters do eventually come out, they will be stronger if more fate cards have been drawn.
I think the game feels a lot like when the FP go for a military victory in War of the Ring. There's a lot of reliance on tricky movement across the map and attacking the enemy's weak spots. The game has clearly undergone extensive development and offers many finely tuned options to the players. As I adjust my expectations and accept the game for what it is rather than my preconceptions, I am enjoying it more and more.
The cards are a big improvement over the tokens used for orders in Battles of the Third Age. There are a few component issues however. The combat dice are pretty chintzy (I've replaced them), then damage tokens are very unfortunate (I've sub'ed in wooden cubes), and how successful is this line of games going to be need be before they can make armies in more than just two colors (I may need to paint some bases at least)?
UPDATE June 2015 (after 8 plays) OK, I am back to feeling that while the game does offer a lot of choices, the impact of those choices is too dominated by luck. Now that I've finally seen a game or two that saw Beorn come out and fight for a while, I think I've seen most of the game's tricks and am ready to move on.
I contrast this to War of the Ring, where I've got over 50 plays in, and the game still manages to surprise me. WotR has luck, but I rarely feel like luck is the dominating factor in the outcome.
So where I think I am ending up on B5A is that it has some nice ideas and is fun to explore, but ultimately has too much luck to be deeply satisfying and is too beholden to its narrative to have long-term replayability.
Final update July 2015 I decided to give the game one more try with fresh eyes, and I am definitely done. There really aren't all that many strategies to try, and whether or not you succeed depends upon luck upon luck upon luck. The game does a great job of telling a narrative, but it's more a narrative you watch to see how it turns out than one you actively control. That's not what I am looking for in a game of this depth and length. I won this game, and I still feel this way! It pains me, but I think I need to drop my rating a point (to a 6) on the way out.
So far, it's pretty good. One thing I'm not crazy about is the victory condition. I tend to try to set up my lines for the long haul or as a force that can break through the enemy lines. That has led to many a defeat as my opponent plays the correct strategy of isolating weakened units so she can finish them off!
UPDATE Dec 2013: I think I overexpanded this game. Dealing with the new units is really clunky, and the color based system is so bastardized that it became more of a hindrance than a hep in figuring out what the units do. I went as far as helping Universal Head bring his BL player aid up to date just so I had a chance at keeping the units straight, but it was still a hassle. When BL 2nd Edition came out, I realized that was closer to what i wanted to get out of this game, so BL1 was sold.
First impression: This game improves a lot of my least favorite things about Battlelore. I especially like that scenarios are now more objective oriented. It always bugged my in Battlelore that the goal is just to "eliminate X units".
I also really like the use of the 8 sided dice. This system does a good job of representing the differences between the different ranked units. Green units are much easier to hit, but also significantly more mobile thanks to the fact that you roll these same dice to generate order tokens.
The major change is that units are now ordered on the basis of their proximity to commanders rather than left/center/right board position. This is maybe more different than strictly better than the Battlelore system, but it definitely gives the game its own flavor.
My concern is that BoW is somewhat drier than BL. I think that BoW will be more tactically interesting, but also lacks the fun elements of lore, command councils, and rampaging monsters!
I am curious to see if one of these games eventually replaces the other for me, but my impression now is that there is room for both of these on my shelf. BoW certainly feels more like a complement to BL than a clone, much more so than Memoir '44.
UPDATE Aug 2012 After a few plays and some retrospection, I have decided that BoW is an overwrought version of the C&C system. The FAQ is ridiculous! Quite to my surprise, I found that the ZOC system is actually more constraining than the usual C&C L-C-R system. I also find keeping track of all the commander's special abilities a hassle. I do miss the pizazz of Battlelore's command council and lore cards. I appreciate that BoW is a fine game, but BL is more my speed in this genre.
DEAL-BREAKER: Gameplay seems too plodding. A bit too many mechanisms, each of them rather uninteresting on their own.
I like my for my co-op games to not exceed a certain rules complexity. This is so that the game can thrive on the player "social" interaction rather than worrying about parsing the rules. I think that Lord of the Rings and Pandemic both get the rules depth about right. I think that both Shadows Over Camelot, and to a greater extent, BSG, start to really push up against the rules complexity that I'm comfortable with for this type of game. However, that being said, I think that BSG is still on the proper side of the line, and all the game's systems serve the goal of giving the players some interesting things to base their actions around.
So far, I've played twice, both times with the same 4 players, and both times the Cylon gave herself away very early, which I think severely hampered the game. Also, I'm not a fan on the Sympathizer rules, which are both too fiddly and not much fun for the person who draws that card. I think next time I'll try to find more players or try the "no sympathizer" variant.
I am eager to try this again, and I want to be a Cylon!
UPDATE: Okay,I got my wish and got to be a Cylon. This happened a little past the halfway point when the revealed Cylon pushed his other card to me. Despite that, I was able to avoid being pegged as toaster until the turn I revealed during the run to the last jump.
I think the game does a great job of setting the atmosphere and creating tension, but I find the gameplay to be too ponderous. I think I'm changing my opinion that this game was on the good side of the complexity line. It's actually not so much the complexity as the plodding pace it had for us as we went though every step, shuffle, and math at each turn. I had assumed that the game would smooth out a bit with more play, but it hasn't. After tonight's game, I don't know that I would choose to play this again over something else. Just too long.
I also am terrible at remembering to use the characters' negative abilities.
I think maybe Shadows Over Camelot has the better approach. Overall, Shadows is certainly less thematic, but it still gives a good measure of the hidden traitor vibe, and more importantly the mechanisms are simple enough that they get out of the way of enjoyment of that aspect.
I can see why some people love this game, but for the life of me I can't imagine wanting to add more baggage to it with the expansions.
Overall, I would be very happy to play someone else's copy of this, but I don't see myself teaching and leading a group through it again.
I think the people who have described this game as a combination of Taj Mahal and Lord of the Rings are dead on. The game shares the brinksmanship bidding of Taj Mahal and the set storyline and events of Lord of the Rings. The game feels lighter than either of its parents, and it is a good game in its own right. My primary criticism of the game is the tiny board spaces. The pieces don't even fit in them, and they are very hard to read from across the board. The spaces should have been twice as big, and there is plenty of empty space on the board for them to have done so. Yes, the background art is nice, but I'd much rather have had bigger spaces.
This is decent alternate Carcassonne. I do like that it includes a Cloister type tile, which is somthing my current Carc faves (Hunters & Gatherers and Castle) do not. The tiles look great, and collection of the resources as wooden bits is a nice change. I especially like the fishing mechanism where the seas become depleted.
However, overall, I don't enjoy it quite as much as H&G. The filling of ship orders was not an interesting as I had hoped, and more or less just felt like an extra step to get your score.
This is a very good game that I enjoy even more that the Settlers board game. It's great when you're looking for a two-player contest that's somewhat deeper and longer than the typical Kosmos game. The drawback is that I don't find this to be the most exciting game and it tends to feel just a little long.
August 2014. I recently revisited Caylus after not playing it for many years. I was very curious how it would stand up after living through the evolution of worker placement games in the interim.
My conclusion: Man alive, this game is BRUTALITY in a box in a way best appreciated in retrospect. With clever play, you can totally hose over your opponents, and with the slightest mistake totally hose over yourself. This game reminds me there was a time when you weren't handed out some ration of VPs every turn just for showing up and Eurogames would let you fail. I'm talking about the before times when new Knizia games were awesome and points weren't served up at a salad bar. If you suck up a turn in Caylus, you get nothing, you lose, GOOD DAY SIR! That's jarring in the present day. However, it is magnificent gaming, and I'm so glad that we can enjoy the current style of games without losing the old.
UPDATE Aug 2014: All that being said, I think maybe I don't actually so much enjoy this game, because against a good opponent, it is HARD. I am not sure how fun I ultimately find this game. I'd like to say it's because the game is rather dry, but I'm afraid it is because I don't want to work this hard. Maybe if my wife didn't destroy me every time...but she does that at Agricola too and I still enjoy that. I also tend to prefer games with more of a dynamic setup. I think I am going to try Tzolk'in, as I think it might scratch the same itch without drawing blood.
UPDATE Sep 2014: Curse you Caylus! I am now thinking that what I need to do is not to trade away Caylus, but to get better at playing Caylus. I call this "Agricola syndrome". I have realized that one thing that throws me about this game is that you don't really build up your own personal infrastructure. Anyone can use the buildings you construct for a relatively minor payment. This makes it difficult to build things that benefit you without helping your opponents. Maybe that payment isn't so minor in the long haul, and your personal infrastructure comes from those baby payments. There are definitely still some things to explore here.
Last game my wife and I tried to starve each other out by not building and passing early. We only had a few buildings the whole game. It was a very different experience and I was impressed that the game still worked in this extreme mode (although it wasn't the most fun way to play). Once she caught on to what I was doing, she out-stingied me anyway.
Update Sept 2014: I finally played a game reasonably well. However, I think Tzolkin may have further spoiled Caylus for me. I love the variable setup that Tzolkin offers. Caylus si the same every time, and I'm not sure what there is to stop me from trying to pursue the same strategy every time. I prefer it when the game itself forces you to change up your approach. I also in generally don't like it when controlling the timing of the end of the game or needing to dominate the last turn is a big issue, and it surely is here.
Final update? Sept 2014: I think is the end. The more I play this, the more joyless I find it. We had our ups and downs Caylus, but it is time for us to part. I revisited you to see how you fared in the modern day, and while I admire you for being a pioneer, your descendants have surpassed you in Fun. Farewell, and I wish you well.
This is a very fun negotiation game. The only reason I don't own it is another game called Lords of Vegas. The games have a very similar feel to me, but LoV replaces the calculations of Chinatown with the evaluation of probabilities, and I enjoy the latter more.
This is a nice design that does justice to its BGG top 10 mashup premise. Would I like to play it again? Sure! Would I like to play it ten more times? Ehhhhh.....
I think my difficulty with this game is that the design is workmanlike rather than truly inspired. I think for me it falls into that category of Euros where I'd be very glad to play it, but I don't see it having a enough replayability to earn a spot on my shelves.
D&G is a trick taking game that has 2 features I really like. One, there's no trump. I like that because I always mess up trump. Two, high cards, low cards, and middle cards are all useful due to the very clever scoring system. Very fun, although a full game (one round for each player) would be too long. Fortunately, you can just play a round or two.
This is a great solo game. It is cinematic, your decisions matter but crazy stuff can happen, and it is capital F Fun. The heroes feel like distinct individuals and add so much wonderful flavor to every game. I take DotZ on every business trip that I can fit it (and I will neither confirm or deny that I've ever skipped part of a conference to play it).
I do have a couple minor complaints that have started to wear on me as I play more:
1) I'm not crazy about the foraging mechanism. Parking a guy on a resource cache and using an action every turn to roll a die in the hopes of maybe getting one supply or ammo is not terribly interesting. I much prefer the mission-based methods of getting supplies, and wish there were more of them, enough so that foraging would need be only a last resort.
2)I wish there were fewer special rules for the superzombies. Some of them, like the ones that get stronger when you flip them, or the just plain super strong ones, are no problem because everything you need is on the chit. Others, like the leapers, are a headache to deal with (especially because the name "leapers" doesn't really help you - why can they "leap" over catacombs in underground caves?). True, I can always just play without these guys, but I like the concept of superzombies pouring out of the catacombs. I just wish their implementation was more streamlined.
The rulebook is a challenge to get through the first time, but it is wonderful as a reference. I plowed through it, but if I had followed the recommended tutorial procedure I likely would have had an easier time. Once you get going, the rulebook is *great* because fiddly little rules are repeated in many places, so you are likely to find them no matter where you look. I can't overstate how much I appreciate this type of rulebook design. Give me a separate quick start book, but make the main rules good for in-play referencing! That being said, the game could really use a master cheat-sheet like the one promised for the Director's Cut expansion.
I believe that DOOM is the best iteration of this system. DOOM gets you to the good stuff (tactical combat, special abilities, fun dice resolution system) with the least amount of hassle. The hook of Descent 2 for me is the campaign system. In concept, it is cool that the heroes and the overlord can level up. However, the two sides are leveling up more or less equally, so the "leveling up" really just means that everyone rolls more dice and can take more damage. It is not like the leveling up in say, Runebound, where you have to judge when you are powerful enough to take on greater challenges. In D2, you do a series of missions at level 1, then a series at level 2, which is similar except everyone rolls twice as many dice. This is underwhelming to me. However, I do like how the outcome of each encounter affects how following ones unfold. The campaign is suitably epic, but it is a commitment of quite a few game nights.
Personally, I'd prefer to just get in and out with DOOM for the combat, play Mansions of Madness for the narrative, or Earth Reborn for a more intricate tactical experience. D2 falls through these cracks for me, and is therefore getting Jones ruled off my shelves. I would still very happily play D2 anytime, though.
Not a bad little bluffing/memory game. I don't like memory games in general, but this games lets you check cards frequently. It feels a little like Hera & Zeus to me, in that you are trying to hide certain cards either in your hand or on the board.
A quick and harmless betting game. Probably best with 3? You have minimal control over where the dragon ends up. Paying attention to where the other players place their pawns is more critical than the cards in your hands. There may be an interesting psychological element to this game, but it is overall too light for that to be exploited very far.
SPARKS: * This game generates exciting narrative like to other. The characters' abilities and stats are remarkably well-tuned to the archetypes they represent and enforce the storytelling aspect of the game. You can't help but picture each of these individuals and their actions in your head as the game plays. This is much different from many similar games where the characters come off mainly as a collection of stats. * Every set of characters is a puzzle to figure out. The key to the game is figuring out how to best use your team against the opponent's team. It is a race to match your strengths vs. their weaknesses. Characters are just durable enough - they are hard to kill, but not too hard. * Despite the many things that are going on and the high level of flavor that is maintained, the rules are quite streamlined. * I love the challenge roll resolution table with color vs. color and the varying degrees of success and failure. * Combat is just a means to an end. Yes, you need to fight, but mainly you do so to further your ability to efficiently challenge the labyrinths. There is a greater purpose to your combat tactics.
I dig this game. The biggest problem is that there is a LOT going on. This is definitely a game that gets much better with familiarity, but you'll need to be a true gamegeek to break through. This is the game that pushed my wife a little too far. UPDATE: My wife tried it again, this time with 3 platters and 6 characters each, and she liked it (and, not coincidentally, she creamed me)! UPDATE UPDATE: The game offers so much tactical depth and variety that it has become a favorite. Best setup: 3 platters, 8 characters, 2.5 hours.
Update July 2012: After a few nights of 3 platter games, we finally tried a four platter, 10 character game. I thought that it would be cool to get in some more of the extra adventure keys. The game went OK, but I think we really prefer the tighter experience of the 3 platter, 8 character setup. Having more keys available didn't really add that much. I think in the future we'll just use 3 platters and draw one of the extra adventure keys at random.
This is a great game, and the only reason I sold my copy is that I think Dungeon Petz accomplishes much of the same feel in a more streamlined way. Also, I enjoy the puzzle of taking care of the Petz more so than the puzzle of thumping the adventurers. I will still happily play it any time, though. I actually like the dummy player you get to control when you play with 2, and missed it a bit when we played with 4!
UPDATE Oct2014: I sold this, but I find myself missing the game. I've been on a worker placement binge lately, and so many games have not made the cut that I have renewed my appreciation for DL. I intend to pick up a copy of the Happy Anniversary edition.
A good game, but man, the cards are unhelpful at telling you how to resolve them. A lot of referring to the rules is required at first. However, the fear this game creates is awesome. It's one of the few games where you're relieved rather than bored when a room is empty. I find the combat mechanism tedious, however. If it's going to be nearly totally random, just roll a die and be done with it.
I wanted to love this, but despite all the enormous effort around giving this game "theme", it just felt like rolling dice to me. The dice rolling mechanisms just aren't that exciting, and the card effects are meh.
D-Day Dice, on the other hand, has a much more interesting dice rolling system, co-op interactions, and card play. D-Day Dice does this type of game right, and it killed ES for me.
This game definitely brings some novel ideas into the worker placement genre, with its unique use of dice and interesting game flow. I very much respect it for its beautiful artwork, absolutely stunning production, original theme, and novel mechanisms. However, after a few games it started to feel a bit samey, despite all the stuff going on. Also, this game is all about tempo, not blocking, which is odd for a worker placement and something that I don't find as satisfying.
I am hopeful the the expansion revitalizes this game as much as Tuscany did for Kickstarter. That may get me to take another look at it.
Fun little puzzle game. The problem is, the more you think about your moves, the better you'll do, but the less fun you'll have. Implement a (short) turn timer!
I've ended up playing this a couple times around Halloween for the last couple years, and it's always been with 5+ players. Each time I am left with the impression that the game would be better with fewer, but have yet to try it that way.
I suppose the least kind review I could give of this game is that it is pickup and deliver with a bunch of random crap in between. Because I tend to feel the mechanisms of a game more than the theme, I am left wanting...wanting to go play Merchants Of Venus.
However, as a fan of the show, I can say this is a nice implementation of the Firefly license. The components are great, and the game design is passable. The biggest draw to this game is that it lets you revel in the 'Verse.
That being said, even if you can swallow the mechanistic underpinnings of the game, there's an awful lot of luck here for such a long game. I think they key point of tension is trying to take the minimal amount of crew and equipment along on your missions to maximize profits, but if you slice that too thin you will be frustrated by the die rolling. On the other hand, if everyone just gears up all the way, the encounters rapidly get too easy.
On the whole, I don't think many would have given this game a second look if it weren't for the Firefly name on the box!
Great bluffing game with a fair amount of strategy. This is one of the more giggly and cursifying games I own. The cards need sleeves though because their quality is not great, which is surprising from Days of Wonder.
I eventually realized that this is not a racing game - it's really a gambling "press your luck" game. The rules variations suggested to add "realism" are laudable, but really subtract from the essence of the game. Even the strange pit stop rules make sense when viewed in the context of a gambling game. The game is good even with just 2 people, but I'd recommend each driver play 2 cars. I haven't played the full Formula De, but I really don't think I'd like it as much. Adding any more complexity or length would probably make the game too tedious for me, but I really enjoy the "mini" version.
Wow, amazing production quality on this game. However, I am still waiting for a great game that uses the excellent "one way worker placement road" mechanism. To be sure, Francis Drake does a much better job with it than Egezia (which I give credit for inventing this mechanism), but still doesn't fully do it justice.
I don't think the second half of the game scales well to fewer players. Even with a full boat, I'm not sure about the programmed order mechanism used for scoring in a game of this weight. I think that can work very well in a lighter game (e.g. Caribbean), but I'm not sure it is aligned with the tensely tactical worker-placement phase of the game.
This is a good area-control game. It could have easily been presented with common military or trading theme. They did a really good job with the theme, and it fits well. The main drawback for me is that it in my collection it competes with games like Carolus Magnus, Dynasties, and Great Wall of China, and I don't like it as well as those.
I bought this because I was so surprised by my love of China. This seemed similar, but with some more stuff. However, I'm not sure that the addition of so many more ways to score really helps the game. This is a fine game, but I'm not sure that I would be likely to pick it over China when in the mood for this type of game. I do need to give it a few more plays, though, and the two-player variant looks pretty interesting. I might even like it better that way.
Some really neat things about this game: The card auction is well done. I also like the way the game board is literally a map of the game mechanisms and balance. For example, you need to move away from the city to grab a key To grab a goal, you need to take a space that leads to nowhere.
Excellent packaging was used for the FFG Silver Line edition. This could have easily been marketed as Samurai: The Card game. It's become a lunchtime favorite. It's a bit of a shame that the FFG version didn't keep the iconography of the German edition.
Excellent poker style game. This is great with a group of 3-6, but I'm not too impressed with 2 player play. Make sure to carefully explain the somewhat fiddly Dog rules - the Dog cheat sheet on the publisher's web site is helpful in this regard.
I wish I hadn't had to pay so much for this game, but if the Funagain exclusive deal was necessary to get the game published then I guess it was worth it.
This game is an interesting cross between Battle Line, Havoc, and stud poker. I like the betting element. Could easily be played with a standard deck of cards and some chips if you have the table space, but for $5 the game is a good value. I give it an 7 using the betting variant I posted in the "Variants" section. The betting rules supplied with the game are lackluster at best.
A fun little game. Remembering what each side of the Igor die means is a bit of a chore at first. Considering the size of the box, I would have thought to be a "bring your own bits" game, but all the pieces you need are in there!
I looked over the entire VPG catalog to order something new so that I could get the new Dawn of the Zeds map. This game looked the most appealing of games I do not own (or am awaiting Gold Banner editions), and I am looking forward to trying it. I like the theme and the spacial elements of the puzzle. I am also impressed by how responsive the designer is here on BGG.
UPDATE: I have a few plays over a few days under my belt. This game is really nicely produced, and has a lot of very nice elements. I like trying to figure out how to maximize the return for completing antibodies by setting things up so that you can clear several molecules at once. There is a very nice risk/reward calculation that you have to make on whether you should complete an antibody now or risk waiting for a big score. The equipment and personnel have thematic and useful functions. The events throw a nice dose of thematic chaos into the mix.
All the above is so well done that it pains me a bit that ultimately I don't think I'll be keeping the game. My issue is with the central driver for the game's tension: the death toll clock. When that advances 10 steps, you are done, and each advancement is based on a die roll. If you don't get some fortunate rolls and stop that clock from advancing, there's just no way you can win. The luck/skill balance is just thrown all out of whack for me, and I think it's due to this single central mechanism. What I would like to see is the advancement of this game clock more directly tied to how I am doing clearing molecules. If there were some dynamic that would let me choose to let the game clock run to take the chance of making some big progress later, I would find that more compelling. As it is, I kinda wish the game would just tell me up front how many turns I was going to have, rather than play for a half hour and realize I never had a prayer.
For me, there is fun luck and bad luck. I don't mind the luck involved with whether or not I draw the proteins I need. The game tells me right on the chits how many of each of them there are (a very nice design choice), and I can judge how likely I am to draw what I need. I also don't mind the events throwing in a monkey wrench then and again. I really like the virus mutations that can mess you up, because that gives a nice feeling of battling against a continually evolving threat. I am an immunologist and virologist, and the game gives a nice sense in a very compact time of how this type of research feels over periods of months.
However, I think just way too much hinges on that death toll clock. I have no risk/reward choice I can make there, and the result isn't fun for me. I either roll 6s a few times and can win, or I don't and I have no chance. I would love to revisit this game if a v2.0 ever comes out that redoes this mechanism. Like maybe the mutation phase could be redone so that if you pull a molecule and it can't be placed because there is already a molecule there, that would advance the clock or make you roll to advance the clock. I am thinking something similar to the "Monster surge" mechanism of Arkham Horror. You would need a much shorter Death Toll Track in this case, but at least the progress of that track would be linked to how well you are controlling the virus. If you are going to sandbag to try to set up a big removal for maximum funding, possible advancement of the death toll would be a valid consequence. Decisions to take near term losses for greater long term gains are a realistic element of medical research.
Or maybe that wouldn't work at all, I'm just spitballin' here.
This game has a unique feel and a very unusual rhythm. It also has so many cards that seem overpowered that on balance none of them are. In this it reminds me a lot of Glory to Rome. However, Innovation is much more chaotic than GtR, and as such I think that all the interesting twists it presents would eventually begin to wear on me.
Quick, random, fun card game. It's actually a better than I thought it would be, but don't go in caring too much if you win or not, because it's largely out of your hands. This game has less strategy than "Falling" if you can believe that. However, it's fast and amusing so my lunch group enjoys it.
This is undoubtedly a very clever game. It seems to me to be a mashup between Carolus Magnus, Maharaja, and China. The problem for me that I think I would rather play any of those other games over this one. The only 8-actions bit makes the game very tight, and maybe too puzzle-y for my tastes. The best part of this game is that it makes for an intense competition, but that is a fairly common trait of area majority games. For 2, I would rather play Dynasties.
Amazing potential to generate narrative even with the random nature of the game. It's got depth to spare, but I am afraid it overwhelms my ability to keep track of the game state. Dawn of the Zeds and Astra Titanica are more my speed.
I'm having a harder time that usual making up my mind about LAST WILL after 2 plays. I do really like the theme, and I applaud the myriad of different paths available to lose money, such as buying, depreciating, and selling properties; keeping up with a bevy of expensive companions and clubs; running your farms; blowing large sums on one-shot events.
To make these paths work optimally, you need to get the right helper cards. Because the game is so tight, it can be very painful if you are unable to nab the cards you need, and maybe that's where my frustration comes with this game.
It is par for the course in worker placement games that someone else grabs the spot you need; that's the whole tension of the game. However, when your spot is taken, there needs to be something else you can do instead. While Last Will offers you other options, they likely will not be nearly as good. The 2-card limit at the end of each turn exacerbates this quite a bit as you can't really make up for a missed beat this turn on the next turn.
Overall, this is a nicely designed, easy to play Euro. Usually, when I find myself ambivalent about a game, I'm thinking "I would rather be playing X". But with Last Will, an X doesn't come to mind. That's commendable, because I don't play a whole lot of new games anymore that don't feel like something I have already played. But I don't love it. More plays will help me make up my mind one way or the other. I think the game will either open up for me as I gain a greater appreciation for its depths, or I'll become more convinced of its lack of replayability.
Sept 2012: Played again, this time starting with $120. I now understand that you need to adjust your strategy to the amount of money in the game. This adds some interesting game-to-game variation. I would play this anytime, but I am still not convinced of its long term replayability. And yet I keep wanting to play it....
December 2012 My tumultuous relationship with this game continues. I really want to like this game, and I am playing it quite a bit, and yet I still find it vaguely unsatisfying. I think I may just like my worker placement/engine games either heavier or lighter than this. Regardless, I have ordered the expansion in the hope it will add that missing something. I realize that this is akin to having a child to try to save your marriage, but I am going to give it a shot.
November 2014 The expansion adds some nice variety, options, and decisions, but does not fundamentally change the game. I do like playing this, but my vague dissatisfaction at game end persists. I think that I'm craving a little more depth and strategic variance than this game was designed to offer. This game perfectly meets my personal definition of a "7": very good game, happy to play it, but don't need to own. I will even break my "no fractions" policy and give this one a 7.5
Fun game. Feels like it has some strategy to it despite an awful lot of luck. It's very much about timing.
I'm OK with the art in the Gamewright production, but they did make some unfortunate design decisions. I'll echo what others have said about the pirate ship colors being too indistinguishable. This is annoying as it could have been so easily avoided with more distinguishable colors. Or, every ship color could have had a different graphic.
The other issue is that the merchant ship values are represented by tiny stacks of coins in the corners of the card that are hard to read across a table. A big printed number would have been far preferable.
On the plus side, everything is bigger. One the downside, everything is bigger. I do enjoy the new bits, and the variant game is an excellent new twist that requires new strategies. The art is fantastic. However, I miss the portability of the original. The box is too big - it could have been about a third smaller and still held the board and peices. I think on the whole, I would have liked for the Deluxe Edition to be released in the same form factor as the original. I must admit that Dungeon Twister has somewhat tempered my enthusiasm for Confrontation, as I find that DT has a similar feel and is overall more satisfying. However, Confrontation has the advantage of being the quickest high strategy game that I own.
I find this game to be simple and complicated at the same time. I probably would have been crazy about this game 5 years ago, but Euros really have to do something special these days to grab me. There's just too many other games I would rather play. (Don't worry Rudiger, I still love Goa and Arkadia!)
THE DEALBREAKERS: The pacing is off; the most interesting part of the game ends before the game does. By the time you finally get your engine together, it is just not that satisfying to turn the crank on it. Too much dependency on what dice rolls and cards come up for a calculating cube-pusher.
I generally appreciate this game and the way all the parts fit together. At first, I liked the challenge of trying to put together the right engine to allow the purchase of PP each turn. If you can but PP on just one turn when your opponents can't, you'll have a big advantage. I also like the trade-off between a couple cubes now or a bunch of cubes later.
However, I'm finding this less interesting with repeated plays. You need to deal with multiple levels of randomness, so you can't count on either the dice or the cards you'd like to see come up.
I think my biggest issue with the game is with its pacing. You can't do a whole lot at the beginning. Then, you do a bunch of stuff towards the middle and finally get your engine in play, but then in the last third of the game you are awash in cubes and pretty much just mopping up. That last third takes the longest to play out because you need to dink all your cards and deal with all your cubes. Consequently, the game loses some momentum at the endgame.
What is up with the thin cardboard? The tokens in this game and Notre Dame are barely acceptable. Come on guys, this is the Alea Big Box series! Step it up!
So to sum up: I found the game quite interesting at first, mainly due to the dice mechanism, but the game lost its luster for me with more plays.
A pretty good, tense game. It might have been better done with a castle and walls theme, but spaceships work as well. The one problem I can see is that there's potential for a game to drag on for a very long time, but this may be a misfounded fear, as it hasn't happened to me yet. I think the luck factor some people seem to worry about is mitigated by the fact that you can discard your whole hand for a new one every turn.
This is a nice design, and is very clever. I don't find it quite as fun as it is clever, but I'd still happily play it. I think the new goals from the Extension cards are an improvement to the point where I'd almost consider them a needed "patch" for the base game.
Just four cards, but they really improve the game. No longer can you easily guess which colors your opponents need. It almost seems like the designer had a better idea for scoring that he was able to add with these cards.
Very good auction game - I love all the varied types of auctions as well as the valuation system. However, I find the bidding process difficult - it's very mathy to come up with just the right value, and one person who miscalculates badly can throw the game off. The card game edition does most of the good stuff while eliminating the tricky money component!
This can be fun, but only with the right group. There's not a whole lot of actual GAME here. This would be the test - imagine that the box contained only a slip of paper that said "You're a ninja, and you deliver hamburgers. Discuss." If your group could have fun with only that, then you'll enjoy the game. Storytelling during deliveries is a must. The 3 x d6 die rolls make for quite the steep bell curve (nearly 50% of rolls total in the 9-12 range) that makes skill checks a bit different than in other games, an aspect I think I like, because you have a good idea beforehand of whether you will make the roll. Some of my new-gamer friends request this a lot.
PLUSES: Great theme. 3 x d6 resolution system makes for a tight bell curve, allowing you to have a good idea of chances of success before rolling, and also the value of upgrades.
MINUSES: Gaming elements are very thin - only the theme keeps this from being a pure exercise in "Roll higher that 12! Now roll higer than 14!" Necessary money and honor tokens are not included (in a SJ game? Say it isn't so!).
The genius of this game is that it is more fun to be the one sneaking around, and in this game everyone but one player gets to sneak. The drawback is that the line-of-sight is unnecessarily fiddly due to the design of the board, and the game can easily be ruined by players misjudging line of sight. It's not like a player can ask for clarification without giving their position away, either.
This game should have used something like the Tannhauser system for clarifying line of sight (hmm, maybe I could mod the board? Feels like too much work), or just settled for a simpler map.
UPDATE: I'm afraid this game is falling between the cracks for me in the "Hide and Seek" genre. With gamers, I'd rather play Letters from Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula. With my kids, I'd rather play Ghost Chase or Flurch Der Mummie. Nuns on the Run was supposed to be my casual gamer game of this type. The problem is, it is just too fiddly and too easy for Nun players to make a mistake. They can't ask questions during the game without spoiling things (giving away their position), and that is the kiss of death for "gateway games." I realized this when I had the perfect group of 6 casual gamers, and passed NotR on by because I didn't want to try to teach and referee it. How are you ever supposed to use the line of sight ruler that comes with the game without giving away your position, anyway? Consequently, this game is neither well suited for competitive nor casual play.
This dice game has some nice features. I like how the character's powers are largely implemented by giving them different dice. The game also presents some interesting choices. Ultimately, however, I think that whether you win or not or predominantly a function of how well you roll, and that calls into question whether the choices you make are really all that meaningful.
I played this game as a team building activity with my group at wok, and it was great in that context. The game revealed a number of realistic market dynamics and participant tendencies. However, I feel the game is a bit dry for a party game, and the action is unfortunately punctuated by long periods of payouts and an auction that only engages half the players. The large player count that can be smoothly accommodated is a great asset though, and the production on the Panic on Wall Street edition is very good.
On its surface, it is mainly just flip a card, roll some dice. However, there are some interesting decisions to be made, and teamwork between characters is key. I find it strangely compelling in a way that Descent 2 was not for me. Perhaps there is some merit in stripping the idea down to its essence. I think the idea of slowing developing my character is the hook for me. Whether that is enough to keep me interested through 6 adventure decks remains to be seen.
UPDATE Oct 2014: We're about halfway through adventure 1, and the shine is starting to come off this a bit. We'll see how far we get. I think that the most interesting thing about this game is the way you build your character, and while that is fairly novel for this type of game, I am not sure I ultimately find that compelling enough to sustain my enthusiasm.
UPDATE Nov 2014: Well, my son (age 7) gave me a very well reasoned agruement as to why Pathfinder was not his favorite game. "I have to wait 10 minutes between my turns, and when it is my turn I barely know what I'm doing." Fair enough. As for me, I am finding the game repetitive, and gaining a +1 here and there is no longer thrilling me. I am also perplexed as to how I continue to find this game so finicky to deal with rules-wise. I think I'll be turning to Lord of the Rings Card Game for a similar questing card game, but with more interesting mechanisms. I'm also looking forward to Assault on Doomrock, which I hope will be more of what I hoped to get out of Pathfinder. I just don't think the long campaign thing is for me with this particular game. I think this game may be too reliant on the appeal of slowly leveling up, and the game guts underneath aren't really interesting and varied enough to sustain the game long-term.
I like a few things about this game. The tic-tac-toe card selection forces some tough decisions, and I really like that. I also like the seal mechanism. However, the whole ends up being somewhat less than the sum of the parts here for me. It doesn´t feel like the game really goes anywhere. All the rules ambiguities (STILL not clarified by Mayfair, as far as I can tell) push me over the edge on this one - this game is not worth agonizing over what the cards really mean. I think I would always go for Jambo over this one when in the mood for this flavor of game.
Sounds outstanding. I'm imagining something with the same general feel as Jamaica, with the added element of bluffing! Dice + push-your-luck + bluffing + flicking + cowboys = home run for my lunch group. #1 on my wish list right now.
UPDATE: Bought it, played it, and it's just as fun as I hoped.
In general structure, this feels a lot like Goa, and I think I like Goa a bit more. Nevertheless, PoF is one of those wonderful games where there are so many strategic options and so few turns to accomplish them in. This is a great game to play with people who want deep strategy but not direct confrontation.
It's just fun, and becomes just strategic enough with the Expert Culling Variant (with the house rules that triggering all "Scoring" abilities whether or not you cull for points if the creature survives, and allowing the culling of a different used die if you chose not the cull the creature).
UPDATE May 2015: After getting the iPad app, I've recently played this a lot more than I ever did with the physical game, and I'm starting to wonder how much of my affection for the game is based on physically handling those dice. The game design itself is maybe not so interesting to me, and I find it troublesome to have to continually reference the cards to know what each die does. I do love. The bag full of dice idea in theory, but I don't so much enjoy the flow of the game.
I think that Puzzle Strike is a more strategic and less fiddly version of this deck building battle concept.
Not sure this will work well with the Expert culling variant I prefer. Also, I'm not crazy about the Locking mechanism or effects. I could be done expanding this game, unless the next expansion works well with Expert culling (and adds some more corrupted Quiddity!)
This game is lighter and smoother playing than I had anticipated, and the latter reason is why I think I like it. With the recent trends toward brutally complex co-ops (which I do love also, don't get me wrong), I can also appreciate one that is just wacky and easy to play.
I favor the first edition of this with the smaller box for its item tiles rather than cards and the improved portability.
This is a good bidding game that is similar to, but not quite as good as, Turn the Tide. I don't know why there's so much complaining about the "Relationship" theme. Would we really prefer another game about impressing renaissance ponces?
Lots better than regular risk. This is the game that got my wife back into boardgaming in the early 2000's. A few of the cards add to the luck, but also to the excitement. The time limit built into the game is much appreciated. More like regular Risk than is Risk 2210AD.
THE DEAL BREAKER: * Not as much variety as you would think given the big stack of cards * I'd rather play Roll Through The Ages
This is a gorgeously produced title with solid, fun gameplay. The giant dice are especially nice.
However, despite all the chrome and cards, the game isn't as exciting as I'd expected. You can often play all your cards, then sit around with not much to do until the next year begins. In the end, it is not quite good enough to earn a permanent place on the shelf.
Catan is great, and this is my preferred edition of it, but I'm at the point now where I don't enjoy it so much if it's not played at a brisk pace. I have been occasionally tempted by Seafarers, but I think this may actually be all the Catan I need.
Don't get me wrong, this is a very good game with a wonderful production. However, I think the general opinion on Space Hulk may be somewhat inflated by nostalgia and awesome paint jobs. This is probably sacrilege, but I'd probably have preferred less over-the-top minis. Personally, I don't find it to be the masterpiece it seems to be revered as and think DOOM the Boardgame is overall a more interesting sci-fi pew pew fix.
I really wanted to like this game. The theme and concept are cool and the production is very nice. I gave the game a good chance, playing multiple times in campaign mode and investing a lot of time in making a cheat sheet and FAQ. Ultimately though, I came to feel that the whole thing was too luck-based. I think the issue is that combat is very deadly. One round of bad chit pulls can destroy your entire squad. You can work your way methodically through most of the mission unscathed, and them BAM you're dead.
There is a lot of nice detail and flavor, but I'm afraid I find the central combat mechanism to be too frivolous to support all that. This game really makes me want to cheat, or go play a video game instead.
Two solo games that I do still enjoy are Space Hulk Death Angel and D-Day Dice. I think the difference there is that you're not going to get wiped out in a single turn. You can see trouble coming and have ways to respond, and thus the game has a more satisfactory arc, win or lose.
We will have to see how I feel about my Kickstarted copy of Last Frontier when it arrives - is it more Death Angel or Space Infantry?
I think this game is a nice effort and well done in many ways. I can see how people of other proclivities than myself might enjoy it very much.
Beautiful production, but it doesn't quite gel for me. I don't feel that the different phases flow well together or that I can have much control. The role cards feel especially pasted on. My wife likes it better than I do, though.