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.
My opinion is based on two back to back plays of the game. It just doesn't seem very good. I enjoy Tales of the Arabian Nights, but Agents of Smersh seems to somehow miss all of what I enjoy about that other game. AoS doesn't seem to have the sense of a character story arc that TotAN always seems to provide, win or lose. Also, I am skeptical that the co-op format really works for this type of game. Random stuff happens, and then you either lose or beat the game. In TotAN, you move through the story and have a sense of progression regardless of how your encounters are turning out. The Book of Encounters also feels very tacked on. You make your reaction choice before you even hear any story, making the whole thing seem rather pointless both mechanically and from a storytelling standpoint.
Maybe we were doing something wrong, but my impression is that the game is flawed. The mechanisms seem unbalanced and fail to support the storytelling aspects. TotAN's place is secure.
UPDATE: OK, I was playing it wrong. You can't try to immediately chase down the Intel like Gates in Arkham Horror or infection cubes in Pandemic. You can take your time and built up your skills first. But, barring an unlucky series of encounters, you can take as much time as you need, to the point that the endgame may not be much of a challenge. I'm still not crazy about the experience this game provides.
I think I will never like this game as more than a good friend. Despite the card decks, this game is Euro like Tom Willis is white (which means very very, not matter what crazy cards are mixed in or who he's married to). It does do a good job of evoking the appropriate angst of being a 17th century farmer, but actions are just so limited it feels like trying to swim in handcuffs. On one level I enjoy it, and on another I find it laborious. I think I'll play this one every once in a while, but I doubt it will become a favorite. After my latest game, my overriding thought was that I think that, for a heavy worker placement game, I prefer Caylus.
UPDATE: My love/hate relationship with this game continues. I still am not very good at it, but am enjoying it more. My problem is that I get distracted from my goals too easily, and there just aren't enough spare actions to do that.
This game is simple and fun. It is a roll-and-move game with some features to help you land on the spaces you are targeting. There's some educational and inspirational value here, with spaces called "Imaginiation," "Credability," "Flexibility," and "Experience." The game earns a bonus point for effective use of metaphor.
I also like that they used familiar brands and companies rather than made-up ones.
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?
Surprisingly tense for a game about creating the most sumptuous arboretum. It feels very Lost Cities-ish, but with less tension around which card to play and more around which to discard. Is a good game, but does not replace Lost Cities or Battle Line for 2 player play, and I think I enjoy Keltis: Das Orakel more for 3-4.
I think there is some disconnect between the ostensibly harmonious theme and the prominent denial mechanisms. Blocking the crap out of your opponent' scoring feels kinda mean in a game about beautiful trees. "Who's the most sumptuous NOW, beatch?!?"
On the other hand, this game enables abnormally frequent use of the word "sumptuous"
Great mechanic to balance speed with manuverabilty and ability to fight. I haven't yet decided if the other aspects of the game are too cumbersome for a "race" game. They may be for new players, but I suspect not once experience is gained.
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.
Aug 2014: I've watched some playthrough videos, and this game looks really neat. I like the pacing of the pre-combat questing interleaved with a very interesting tactical battle system. The systems of Doomrock appear to be much more interesting than Pathfinder Card Game, and I'm hopeful that this game will have longevity for me where Pathfinder did not. This looks like a great solo game as well. I think this game deserves more attention than it is getting!
The $60 price tag feels at least $20 too high, but what the heck. If it's a as good as I hope, it will be worth it.
UPDATE Jan 2014: This is a damn fine game with a very original take on the card-driven fantasy genre. I love the combat tactical system, and it marries perfectly with the interesting but not overwrought adventuring phase. Important decisions face you at every turn. They could have called this game "A Million Ways to Die at Doomrock" but I really love the challenge the game presents. Yes, there is luck, but every time I've lost I've felt that I made critical errors that led to my downfall. You are not going to stride through to a win your first time through. You'll need to learn how to fight each enemy, and need to adapt every game as you bring in a different set of skills and abilities. It's a wonderful, flexible, challenging system, and I'm still enjoying it more with each play.
My initial hesitation at the price has evaporated. We, as gamers, should be willing to pay for good design as much as nice bits.
This is a great solo game, and also good for a group that knows how to closely cooperate. If you have alpha gamer problems, you should be steering away from co-ops anyway (and how empty does someone's life need to be that they feel the need to step on the fun of others to dominate a boardgame?)
UPDATE Jan 2015 (6 plays in) This game is just getting more fun. The encounters continue to be a great challenge, but I am also learning that the order in which you do things and the choices you make during questing phase are critical. Do you risk venturing forth with low HP? Do you focus or items or abilities? Do you take a less useful ability just for the stat to enable use of an epic item? Can you get a peek at the upcoming encounter and tune your adventuring around that?
I've raised my rating to a 9, and I see 10 as a possibility. This game is just a fantastic surprise. Tom Vasel, marnaudo, I love your videos, but I think you are misleading people away from this great game! Doomrock is a real challenge, but it feels so good when you when. The game has me totally geeking out, doing fist pumps whenever I am able to take an enemy down. Give this game a shot, people!
I consider this to be a medium weight game, but it still plays pretty easily and I don't find it dry at all. My wife also likes this game, I think largely because the bargain-hunter in her likes to set things up so she can build for free. Placing markers on built buildings really aids play.
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.
I've been considering this one for a while. When the new Baker's Dozen version came out, I finally jumped on it. I've got plenty of games about witches and potions, but not nearly enough about food!
I think I like the variant where you deal out all the cards right at the beginning.
UPDATE AFTER SOME PLAYS: I feels a lot like a cross between Category 5 and Coloretto. It may be slightly easier to explain that those (admittedly already pretty easy) games, but I think that overall I would rather play one of those than this. However, the people I've played it with seemed to really like it. My kids especially enjoy it.
This game has a lot of things wrong with it. It's random, you don't have much control, there's player elimination, it's unbalanced... But man, it is FUN. This is one of my favorite games for 5-7 players. It would be a decent even without the hidden roles, but having the "werewolf" element takes the game to a higher level.
Bang! Express. Doesn't replace the card game for me, but it does fit better with a casual game crowd with limited time/attention span. The arrow mechanism is particularly clever and keep the game brief.
This is an enoyable game that I should play more than I do. I like the poker-like nature of the formations. I enjoy it both with and without the tactics cards, but find it more exciting with the latter (be sure to remember the rule that you may only play 1 more Tactics card than your opponent has played!). BL is rather similar to Lost Cities in that you often face the prospect of chosing where you'll have to screw yourself. This one is more confrontational than LC though. UPDATE 5/2006 - after playing this regularly with my wife, I'm bumping my rating up to a 9! The tactics and depth are really starting to come through for us as we get better at the game. It often comes down to someone winning by a single turn. We are now very stingy with the use of tactics cards, as we don't want to let each other play them.
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.
This is a surprisingly enjoyable game that I'd play anytime. The neatest thing about it is the dice mechanic. Big, slow tackles get a d6, while the fastest guys have a d20. Rounding out the middle are d8, d10 and d12 players. To move a player, you roll their die and they move that many spaces. However, when players from opposite teams meet, they roll, and the LOW roll wins. Very elegant and effective. The game is simple to learn, and play is fast and brutal. Love it for what it is!
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.
After buying nearly a complete set of Battlelore 1st edition, I found that the 2nd Edition is much more in line with what I hoped to get out of the game. Some of the improvements: * Better use of the dice. The color system made little sense in 1st ed, as each color was only on one face anyway (at least Battles of Westeros made better use of the colors on its d8s). The 2nd edition dice are much better use of those 6 faces. * Objective-based point system feels much better to me than the kill-based VPs of 1st ed. * Random scenario setup with army mustering is much cleaner and variable than the 1st edition, even with the somewhat kludgy Call to Arms expansion. * Full-on fantasy setting is more cohesive than the historic/fantasy hybrid of 1st ed. * I REALLY prefer the new new unit system of just having all the unit stats on the single card. The colors/weapon based system in 1st edition meant you had to cross reference 2 or 3 different cards to figure out movement and attacks. Once you added in the expansions, the whole thing became very unwieldy.
As a downside, the game really should have included boards and markers to track lore and VPs. The token-based system is needlessly fiddly. I think I may whip up my own, likely ugly but functional, score tracks.
Overall, I like this game a bunch, and it is even more fun than I expected! A light wargame should be easy to pick up and play, and this fits the bill much better than 1st ed. If I decide to go for a purer C&C experience, I will pick up ancients.
UPDATE Jan 2014: Loving the game. I am appreciating the mustering phase. The units each have their specialties, and tailoring your lineup to the specific scenario combinations is a fun challenge. With an expansion or two to ensure continued variety, this could become a 10. I would especially like to see a better campaign system. Also, they need to sell dice packs (they really should have included more dice in the box).
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.
I like this style of gameplay on occassion, and I think this game tried hard to implement a lot of neat ideas. The theme is great, and I like the dice system. Thankfully, the second edition of the game fixed the shamefully poorly edited rulebooks.
UPDATE Nov 2014: This is generally a fun experience, but it is highly variable how good of a GAME you are actually going to have.
Black Gold is a fun design coupled with a very nice production. Each round consists of a series of market fluctuation, action card draft, board movement, investment, and auction, and it all meshes and flows quite well. The bidding can be especially vicious because winner-take-all situations are common. Timing of when to go for a big score is critical, because mistakes can be punishing. Assuming your family can handle that, this is a good family game.
Drawbacks are the game feels like it runs a bit long, largely because the rounds are fairly repetitive. If I could have only one oil-themed economic game, it would be Crude, but it would be painful to let Black Gold go. Black Gold also reminds me of Owner's Choice, a lighter game wrapped around a similar market fluctuation mechanism.
It took some thinking, but for now I believe I will be keeping this game. Given my tendency to purge a game that does not meet a very standard, that is high praise indeed. I will be curious to see how this holds up after some more plays, as I can imagine my opinion going either up or down with experience.
My wife and I enjoy this one. When we first started, the Vulca were dominant, but now that we've got some experience with the game, I can't win with them (but she still beats me with them occassionally)! However, I'm getting closer to learing "Advanced Vulca" strategy that can compete with the Hoax's killer combos. I love the way every deck is a new play experience. Before I got into the game, I actually thought I wouldn't like having to work to figure out every new deck, but it turns out I enjoy it. The game is still opening up for me, and I like it more the more I play. I like playing to 5 crystals, switching decks after each round. That way we can mitigate inexperience with a deck by trying to get the least hammered using it.
Bohnanza seems to be rather friendly for a trading game, as trades feel more cooperative than competitive. I think it is essential to keep the game moving quickly, or it starts to feel long. I also don't see the need for the expansions, which would seem to bog things down, with the possible exception of the order cards from High Bohn Plus. Overall, I think it is a good game, but the people I play with like the game more than I do.
Game is a big hit so far. The major drawback seems to be that if you get off to a slow start and are sitting in just the wrong place in the turn order then it can be near impossible to come back. I'd love to see the expansion throw in some cards that alter turn order mid-game. Overall it's a lot of fun, but the game is not to be taken seriously, as the die rolls make the game very lucky.
This game is a complete clusterfeld of mechanisms and point salad. It works, to be sure, but it also feels like an experiment in how many mechanisms can be crammed into one game. I think a bit of editorial distillation would have been a good idea. It's like Castles of Burgundy and Trajan went on fertility drugs and had a baby. A brightly colored, tile spewing, bloated baby.
I was definitely intrigued by Bora Bora game at first, but after several plays have come to the conclusion that I don't much care for it. All the various mechanisms ultimately seem to take you to the same place at the same speed, which makes you wonder why the game had to be so complicated. In my games, all the players ended up within a few points of each other, and that's with scores in the 150-200 range. You are awash in choices, but as long as you are reasonably competent it doesn't seem that any of them are bad, so does it really matter what you choose to do?
As usual for Feld games, the central feature is an action limitation mechanism. I've found it's a tenuous thing for me whether or not I enjoy the method of action limitation or if I find it frustrating. My overall opinion of Feld games tends to rely upon this decision. I very much enjoy the use of dice in Castles of Burgundy and I also really like the way the mancala works in Trajan (the Feld game most similar to Bora-Bora). However, much like in Macao, I find the dice mechanism in Bora-Bora to be interesting in theory but frustrating in practice. I'll stick with Trajan when I hunger for point salad!
This is a decent game, but you need to be in the mood to do a lot of mental addition. This game is an example of the proper way to have basic, intermediate, and expert game levels. The rules are essentially the same across all the levels, but the cards are marked so you can mix in the more advanced ones as you gain comfort with the game. This was a nice way for them to set it up, as the game is slow until you get a little familiarity with the cards. Ultimately traded away, as I found it just a little too much work for too little fun.
I played this quite a bit when I was trying to get others into gaming with me back in 2004-2006. I recently broke this out with my kids 6 and 8 to try it again after a long hiatus, and I don't think I am so crazy about it. I'm not sure I ever was, but it was an easy gateway back when. For some reason I still really enjoy Carc: The Castle, but other versions of the game don't really do it for me. I don't mind playing them, but I wouldn't suggest them any more.
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.
I own both Hunters & Gatherers and the Castle, and the two are definitely non-redudant. The Castle has fewer restrictions on tile placement, but the roads can still create tricky problems and are often as useful for blocking as they are for scoring. My wife loves to go after the bonus tiles on the wall, while I tend to try to maximize scoring and only pick them up if convenient. I need to make sure I stay way ahead, however, as in a close game, the bonus tiles will make the difference.
Lord help me, it was the cool plastic coins that pushed me off the fence and into buying this one. It's growing on me. This is a game where you need to break out of groupthink to prosper, and the wackier your move, the better you'll do. I love that. I don't agree with the assertion that this game is 'chaotic'. You can plan your moves so that you'll most likely get to execute them, but it will require you to devise a non-obvious course of action. Plays fast too. This game also looks great on the table. I've been playing games with my colleagues at lunch in the cafeteria for some time, but no one ever came up and asked us what we were doing until we played this.
SPARKS: This game makes me feel like I have something clever to do every move. You have just enough information to consider: perfect information about the next turn, and some probabilities for the next. Very tactical in increments, but still requiring an overall strategic discipline.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig certainly has similarities to Suburbia, but is a bit lighter and strikes a different cord. The Master Builder job of pricing the rooms adds a very nice element. I'm happy to own both this and Suburbia, as they are both good games, and complement rather than replace each other.
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.
There is a lot to like about this game. I even like the hand passing. That's really more of a way to control your play than a random shake-up. However, I think that it is too harsh for your entire hand to score 0 just because you get caught holding the Chaos card. You can get it passed to you as part of the hand rotation and then the hand can end before you have a chance to do anything about it. If you picked up the Chaos card as part of a trade or a battle, well then I think it would be fair to have the penalty, but to score 0 due to something completely out of your control kinda stinks.
SPARKS: Each character has something that they are GOOD at, that suggests a strategy, but the player interaction and events mix things up so much that you have to be creative while you stay focused on your goal.
Each item I have played this so far, I have immediately wanted to replay as THAT character. This is really like 4 games in one as far as the enjoyment of discovery. This game actually made me wish there were fewer games in the world so that this could get played more in my group. I also wish there was a good way to play 2 player!
Takes CitOW to a 10! I find the new cards to be better balanced and more fun to play with. The Chaos cards are more subtle, but still as thematic for each character. Conversely, the upgrades are now somewhat more powerful and all are useful now. Basically the more powerful effects have been shifted from the Chaos cards to the upgrades, which I think works better from fairness and game pacing standpoints.
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.
Chaotic fun. The best feature of the game is that there's several ways to win. I occassionally enjoy it, but it has quite a few flaws. The random draw of cards is punishing, and you'll often sit with a hand full of patches and no inverters. The cards that let you search the deck and pick a card are necessary to mitigate this, but they slow down the game. If you happen to have a timepoint that contradicts someone else's card, you'll spend a lot of time just flipping that one back and forth. I used to like this game more than I do now. My tolerance for this type of randomness and potential for game length drag has definitely decreased over the last year.
A great game where you need to balance several individually simple elements into a dynamic whole. Scales from 2-6 players pretty well. The game is excellent with 5, 6, or 3 players, and still good with 4 or 2 (but with those numbers I'd probably play something else). The cards in the Fantasy Flight Games edition are of disappointing quality. The character cards especially need to be made of stronger stuff, but this is easily remedied using standard baseball card sleeves for the character cards. I would rate this game a little higher if it wasn't so often the case that you get beaten down and there's not a thing you can do about it. The game entices you to plan more more strategy than you are actually likely to be able to execute, and that can be a little frustrating at times..
It's the bluffing aspect that really makes this interesting for me. It doesn't seem light at all to me when played with 2 - it's a real thinker. With 3+ it's a looser game. I probably have more fun with 3+ unless I'm in a real chess-minded mood.
A nice improvement on the original, which was one of my childhood favorites. The bigger board, minis, and ability to keep the cards on the board are very nice. I also like that you can find your "to-hit" number by color rather than having to read the card - better suited for my young kids. The art also got a nice upgrade in this version.
This is a current lunchtime favorite. I find it incredibly dynamic for such a structured game. There are no bad cards, only bad timing. This game reminds me of Lost Cities in two regards: 1) it fundamentally involves assessing your ability to complete a series of numbers, and investing in that series accordingly, and 2) women routinely destroy me at it. I think that with a "nicer" theme, this game might be up there with Lost Cities as an extremely female-friendly game. But as for me, I still like the monsters.
Not sure I would enjoy the trading or some of the random elements thrown in here, not to mention the forced-catch up mechanism of last place player taking a resource from first place. Seems like a family-friendisized Princes of Florence.
UPDATE: I bought it and played it a few times with my family, after trading Princes of Florence for being too dry. This game certainly has more flavor, but is overall an even more milquetoast gaming experience. The auction, ostensibly the central mechanism of the game, is frequently uncontested. There is also potential for AP as people study the program card.
That all being said, this is a very beautifully produced, pleasant family game, and I'll happily play it. The catch-up mechanism actually works pretty well in the context of the game. The limited actions possible between auctions keeps everything nicely under control. However, it does make the gamer in me crave Medici for a truly great auction, and good ol Catan is a better trading game.
Yeah, we probably played it wrong, but if that's the case, the mechanisms shouldn't make it so easy to play wrong. We couldn't see how the factory and harbor goods could ever move much out of their lowest-priced spots.
My 2 year old daughter loves this game, and I love playing it with her. I was amazed the way she instantly recognized one door could stand for its color, picture, count, and a letter. I highly recommend this for 2-5 year olds.
This game looks like a wargame, and acts like a wargame, but the strategy is really in the bidding phase. As such, it was a much different game the second time we played than the first. The first was more about positioning and maneuvers. We laughed at that 10+ spot on the bidding track - who would bid that much? The second game was all about saving up the gold to grab the crucial god and/or creatures at just the right time to strike the deathblow, and we had bids around 20 gold. The tension was delicious.
This game is very good, and is one that will really shine with repeated play.
A couple spins with the PnP convinced me to back this project (not to mention the mounting package of bonus items). Feels a lot like Roll Through the Ages, but is much better suited to solo play, and a lot more intense. This game has a lot of tough choices to make, and is a really masterful design.
Wow. Print out a single sheet, grab some dice and a pencil, and you've got a surprisingly engaging and thematic half hour of fun in front of you. I like trying to manage the balance between keeping a good pace, gathering needed resources, and dealing with events as they arise. Really, really well done.
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 really like what they've done with the Pandemic foundation gameplay-wise. This would be a must-buy for me if the graphic design was not so awful. Maybe if it gets blown out on Tanga some day.... Better yet, I'd love to see a redesign - then I might pay the $85.
UPDATE: After playing, I found this to be a little less like Pandemic and a little more like Arkham Horror than I expected. My favorite thing about that game is the way you need to balance fighting minions with removing corruption and gathering enough cards to fight the bosses.
I also really like the chunky minion minis. I wish more minis were like this - more abstract and easily distinguishable on the board. Alas, the heroes are of the unpainted, intricate, hard-to-distinguish variety.
UPDATE 2: I have decided that I prefer my Pandemic and Arkham Horror as separate games. I loves me some dice, but I found the dice in DotR frustrating. You can spend several turns getting together all the boss cards you can (plus a reroll card) and know it is likely you will win, but then get some bad rolls and lose. The penalties are harsh, and the guy heals up to boot. The second time this happened last game I was ready to throw the game out the window. I get the epic feeling this game is going for, and I am sure it feels awesome when you win, but it seems like for the game length and production, it should be more strategic than it is (particularly the boss battles). Not being able to trade cards between heroes is especially frustrating, as is the slowness of accumulating cards at the inns.
I am glad I tried this, and would be fine playing again, but I don't need to own it.
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.
If you have played Dice Town and enjoy it, you really should get this expansion. It makes a very good game great.
The secondary prizes are nice all around, both because they give you a choice of actions and they minimize the times you get frozen out entirely.
On the other hand, the secondary rewards make it very hard to get to Dr. Badluck when you want him, so fortunately that is now an action you may chose at the general store. Even with just the base game it is hard to get to Badluck with lower numbers of players, so I think this was a needed fix.
The outlaws let you preset some of your roll, and add some nice strategy, and trying to capture them for rewards is just fun. I like the way they are all worth an odd amount of $ - this makes that odd dollar in your hand worth something in VP!
The gold cards give you a nice option when you limp into the gold mine with a single 9, and the alternate bank action helps keep a player from getting stuck with no money.
Overall, the expansion adds a lot of options and strategy and fits very nicely into the existing framework of the game. It is nice that these options where kept as a separate expansion, as I think the whole package would overwhelm many casual gamers.
There is some good stuff here, but I fear that the impact of the random events is too great in relation to the amount of strategy present in the rest of the game. Imagine if you pieces in a territory could be randomly wiped out in a game of "China" and you'll get my drift. Maybe this game is light from a Wallace point of view, but it's not so light that I don't get annoyed when my board position is destroyed by a random card draw.
This is one that seems to really annoy women because points can be taken away! I like the way the card deck limits actions a bit and puts a time limit on the game. I find keeping track of the score and mine income a bit of a chore. Overall, I think it's a neat game, but I'm not sure that I find it a lot of fun. While I like it, but I think I'm more likely to reach for Elasund when I'm in mood for this type of game. However, I also feel compelled to try it again, so my opinion may improve.
This game captures the feel of the video game very well. There may be some balance issues, but the system is very ameable to house rules, so I see this as easily fixed. I actually enjoy the challenge of the initial scenarios - you just have to make sure the marine players understand they they are not supposed to succeed the first time through - they need to figure out the tricks! The single roll combat system is very well implemented. I think that DOOM and Descent have diferent priorities - DOOM is a much more intense experience, while Descent is more of an adventure.
UPDATE: July 2013. I purchased and played Descent 2nd Ed. I fully expected that it would replace DOOM for me. But you know what? I still think DOOM is the best iteration of the system. It gets you to the cool parts, namely tactics, upgrades, and dice chucking, with much less fuss. The DOOM levels are just the right length for a play session, whereas the shorty D2 levels involve a good amount of setup for a small amount of game. I did not find the "leveling up" of D2 to be all that engaging either - it just meant everyone can dish out and take more damage. Bigger numbers doesn't feel a whole lot like progression. For me, the variable upgrades in DOOM vs. the different monsters (+ expansion) give a better feeling of variety with less hassle. DOOM forever!
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.
Duell is nearly perfect in its simplicity. The game has startling depth for such a simple set of rules and components. Successful play requires hand management, memory, tactics, and a healthy dose of bluffing. It manages to invoke the flow of an actual fencing match as well. The special round cards take the game to a new level, as each changes the rules only slightly, but each also requires you to rethink your strategy. The parts in the new edition are just the right production value: nice wood bits, attractive board, small box. Duell is easy to teach, a lot of fun to play, and is surprisingly satisfying.
UPDATE August 2013. This game is still amazing! I am very glad to have this edition, as I very much enjoy the "Olympiad" nature of the special cards.
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 slick little expandable hack-fest. Each player acts as dungeon master for the other players. The scope is limited, but that's part of the appeal. Good for a play every once in a while or when you don't want to lug along your Runequest or Talisman sets.
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.
This is a very well done update to a classic. I like Runebound and all, but I'm ambivalent about placing this game in the Terrinoth universe.
The new combat system is very welcome. I find it plays fast and has a bit of strategy to it. Fortunately for the complainers, FFG has but out alternate combat rules, but I like it with the system it came with.
A really good tactical game with a bunch of innovative, well designed mechanisms. My main issue is that many of these are separate little mini-games that don't mesh with the theme and prevent my immersion in the narrative.
Catan for gamers. Now, I'm not at all a Catan hater. SoC is my gateway game of choice, and I'll always be up for a play. However, and I'm not sure if this is fair or not, I've got to drop my SoC score a half point after playing Elasund, as this game has really made me aware of what parts of SoC I like and which I'm happy to live without. Elasund maintains the struggle for higher-probability land but controls the luck factor much better. There's always something you can do on your turn, even if it's just to relax and earn some free gold. Lots and lots of tough choices here, and you can be as aggressive as you dare. I do miss the trading element a bit, but that's not what this game is about! Elasund also works very well as a 2-player game, which is definitely not true of SoC. The rating could climb after some more plays.
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.
Another great Cthulhu game from Fantasy Flight that lands somewhere between Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror both in feel and in epicness. My favorite feature is the way the mysteries and research cards are different for each Ancient One, giving the whole game a slightly different flavor for each AO.
HOWEVER, all this talk about EH "replacing" Arkham Horror is poppycock. Poppycock, hooey and malarkey I say! EH is a tighter design than AH, but this also means the game is more constrained and presents fewer possibilities. It is not really all that less fiddly than AH either. Having to check every game component for reckoning effects makes the Mythos phase almost as much of a hassle as AH. The influence roll to get items can be just as frustrating as trying to get money to buy items in AH, maybe more so because you can't accumulate successes. Now you need to track damage on the monsters. I miss taking the multi-turn journeys through the other worlds. I also feel like EH splits your attention between tasks more than AH. You can't just focus on the gates, monsters, and occasional rumors like in AH. Now you have to deal with the mysteries as well. And getting across the board can take forevers. You can't just boost your speed and run for it like in AH.
I think that a lot of the flight to EH from AH comes from people who have overexpanded their AH and lost sanity points as a result. If you eat yourself sick at the buffet, that's not the buffet's fault, people!
I can see EH being a good option for those who are new to this genre. EH feels about like AH + the revised Dark Pharoah in complexity.
That being said, EH is a great game that reworks the AH premise into a more compact but also less epic format while incorporating some of the features from MoM. EH, AH, and MoM will all coexist happily on my shelf, and I am very picky about which games get to live on my shelf.
UPDATE Nov 2014: I've been really enjoying playing this solo. I can run 3 characters without trouble, but I'm finding the game very difficult I win this way. While clues are plentiful, "# investigators/2 (rounded up) = 2, which makes the mysteries tough. I'll try 2 characters next and see if I fare any better.
SPARK: Great to play with my 3 and 5 year olds. Teaches them counting (dice recognition) and memory skills, with just enough interaction to also allow them to practice good sportsmanship. The way my son shouts "DOUBLES!"
Excellent kids' game and game for parents to play with their children. My 3 year old has the rules down and loves it! This game has improved his counting skills and he can now instantly identify the number on die faces without needing to count the dots.
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.
Great dice game. Maybe not quite as exciting as Can't Stop, my other favorite in this genre, but it is easier to explain, supports more players, and has less downtime between turns. I like to use the first roll XX variant in the Excape rules. I think simpler is better when it comes to dice games and negotiation games, and this is a great example of the former. The theme of the new version feels very appropriate as everyone tries to pull back the leader and surge ahead themselves.
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.
OK, I probably didn't give this game a very fair shot, but it felt to me like trying to pick up jello while wearing oven mitts. I love deck building, but here, it just seemed to make doing anything difficult in a way I did not at all enjoy. Consequently, playing it more is not something I am eager to do. My mind rejected this game like my stomach with a bad burrito.
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.
A great distillation of Pandemic down to a more kid and family friendly format. Great components! Not nearly as interesting to me as Pandemic, but I give it points for being easier to get to the table with casual gamers.
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 clever game in a nice package that feels like a deck-building trainer. I don't feel like it has much replay value for me. I beat it on hard after 3 games and feel kinda done. Going for higher scores doesn't appeal to me much - I'd probably rather go back to solo Thunderstone!
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.
So much to do, but such limited actions. It seems that you need to come up with your overall strategy fairly quickly, but fully implementing it is likely to be tricky. You have to balance a lot of things while simultaneously focusing on a few. I can definitely feel the similarities to both Traders of Genoa and Jambo, but this game is in a class above those two (excellent) games.
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.
This is a great game to play with kids. The game is a good lesson in risk taking. I play it with my 3 and 5 year old. The three year old needs just a little help, and the five year old has it down. They both really like this game, especially collecting the trophies.
This is a really nice, clean design. I will gladly play it anytime. However, I don't yet know if it earns a space on my shelf next to some of its juicier descendants such as Chaos in the Old World, Rattus, Shogun, and even Dynasties.
I think the fact that I'm not too excited by any of the expansions is a tribute to the elegance, power, and purity of the original design. I have to admit that preferring Rattus makes me feel like a candy ass.
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 is the most exquisitely engineered game I have encountered. From the precisely measured game sequence for each player count down to the helpful tips on the backs of the cards, this game was clearly underwent exhaustive development and tuning.
I think I like Le Havre a little more than Agricola, largely because the game gives me more of a feeling of opportunity than desperation. However, this game is surely at its heart a grinding exercise in optimization, and the fundamental soullessness at its core will likely keep me from ever loving it. However, I can still enjoy it quite a bit.
My favorite feature is the way that the special buildings give each game its own set of scoring potentials, so that you need to be agile in your strategy.
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.
I have no idea what the proper strategy is for this game, and my wife routinely thumps me, but I still like it. I think I like it because the tactics you should use are NOT obvious, and are as psychological as they are material.
Simply, shiney, and fun. The expansions seem a little on the pricey side, but the base game is a good value. The worst part for me is the time required to set up a battlefield. In other circumstances that would be one of the most fun parts, as the terrain blocks are very cool, but my gaming time is currently too limited to spend too much time building the board. I like the game and have a bucket full of figures, but I think I'm done buying expansions for this one.
This one has a bunch of neat mechanisms. I like the way that that you cannot make change for your bid cards, which can make bidding agonizing (in a good way). The misfortune cards that you must bid NOT to take are a lot of fun and often an exercise in brinksmanship. The rule that the lowest amount of money at the end instantly loses is brilliant.
Hollywood Blockbuster Uberplay edition: When I took out the counter sheets, I was surprised at how thin they were. They would be fine for a $20 small box game, but this is a $40 big box edition. Boo to Uberplay for cheaping out on the counters!
As for the gameplay, this game may replace Medici as my #2 auction game (with #1 being Ra). I love the dynamics of the economy - there seems to be just the right amount of money in the game. In this game, it is somewhat easier to evaluate the value of lots than is typical in Knizia auction games, and I enjoy that as a change of pace. I also like that you can look ahead to some degree.
UPDATE: OK, all that stuff about Hollywood Blockbuster being better than Medici was crazy talk, but HB is still very very good and much better themed.
I've had some of my best group gaming experiences ever with this game. An added layer of complexity is that you need to do well without appearing to do too well. The shrewdest deal maker often finds themselves boxed out by the end of the game! I like to play so that the ONLY thing that can be bargained for is investor use. Other cards must be played so as to maximize the value of your investors. Also, subcontracts made for each investor are binding and cannot be altered unless the boss is changed or an investor is sent away. This keeps the game moving along and the negotiations fierce.
Update May 2011 So I have tried Intrigue, Mall of Horror, Lifeboats, and Chinatown and still find this to be my favorite pure negotiation game. I love the way your cards give you hidden leverage in the negotiations, a factor missing in these other games.
Update December 2014 As the years pass, my appreciation for Sackson's games only increases. His designs are pure, focused, and bring the spark that makes them FUN. My kids ar enow 7 and 9, and we just played it with them for the first time. They played very well, the game was close, and we had an awesome time together. Thank you Mr. Sackson!
Rating raised to a 10. I'm finding so many former favorites diminished in my eyes when I pull them down lately, but this one holds up and is unmatched in the genre.
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.
This game seems expensive, but wow is it well produced. Even the insert is perfect. I could do without the map-fold otu instruction manual format, though. The game is very fun, and was really liked by all! The POW on the combat die adds a lot of excitement. I found there to be a satisfying amount of strategy and risk management. It also has just the right amount of player conflict to keep things interesting but still light-hearted.
I am really enjoying this game. Maybe the best of the Kosmos 2-player line? The card interactions are very well balanced, and the tactical play is exciting. Very well written rules.
UPDATE: I still like the game quite a bit, but my tolerance for luck seems to be diminishing slightly, and the cards you draw really play a big role in your success. You can mitigate this by various means, but they all have a cost, so getting lucky definitely helps.
UPDATE UPDATE: Despite what I said above, I'm starting to believe you largely make your own luck in this game. If you pick a strategy that doesn't match the cards you're getting, you're in trouble. If you're flexible and willing to spend some actions drawing cards, then you can usually stay in contention no matter what you get.
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 game takes most of Lost Cities and makes it an underlying mechanism of a more involved game. It's like instead of rolling a die to move your pawn, you play a game of Lost Cities instead. There's a lot of interesting things going on at once here, but not too many. It still manages to give me that same "I don't want to play this card right now" pain of Lost Cities that I love/hate so much with that game. I like it!