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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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 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 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.
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.
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!)
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.
I think that this could be a very good game, but the players need to all be familiar with it and be prepared to deal very aggressively. It is fairly quick (30-40 min) and allows for clever as well as devious play. My problem with the game isn't that I don't like it, but I have a hard time getting people to play it. I think this may be because the people I play with find this game to be more clever than fun. This is the driest negotiation game I've ever played. As far as the Mayfair production: the pawns are awesome, but the board is somewhat less attractive than the Amigo version. The tokens are too thin! I would have much rather had thicker tokens than the small, useless cloth bag they included for some reason.
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.
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.
Love the concept, love the models, although the Klingon ships are all too similar.
I definitely see the reasons for the "DungeonQuest in space" comparisons I have read.
I did not seem to me that all the mechanisms of this game hang together well. The Clix element is an interesting idea for handling power allocation, but I found it to be very fiddly in practice. It is obvious that the Clix models were shoehorned into the design.
Thee challenges seemed often very lopsided. Either you had no chance, or you crushed it. Which side of that you ended up on was often chance. Also, some of the missions are trivially easy, while some are pretty much impossible, and this is not entirely balanced by the VP payout.
Other miscellaneous complaints: * Clocking is just a big pain to track. * A tied roll in some types of tests is a success, and in others it is a failure. That really couldn't have been harmonized? * Disappointing ship models. The biggest usability problem for me is that, while the Federation ships are nicely distinctive, and Klingon ships are hard to tell apart. More argument for why they should have been painted! The Clix bases are big pain.
My overall impression so far is that the concept is excellent, but the game mechanisms are largely half-baked. The game is a mess of stuff thrown together to give a "complete" Star Trek experience, but the execution is lacking. I'd play this again, but I'm not too excited about it.
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.
Variable player powers work really well in ameritrash games that are more free-form, but it is very hard for euros, with their tighter mechanisms, to pull these off. Terra Mystica is a euro that manages to accomplish use of special player powers and yet keeps the game well balanced.
The underlying game is a solid, if only moderately inspired, euro design, kept fresh by the random setup of scoring and bonus tiles. The 3 currency system is well done, particularly power, which runs in a very interesting feast/famine cycle.
It is impressive that a euro of this weight can even accommodate special player powers without breaking. I think the trade-off for this is that the underlying system is rather simplistic, as it likely has to be to accommodate the layering of special powers on top. This type of setup works great for a game like Cosmic Encounter or Small World because the excitement comes from the interaction between all the special powers. There is not nearly as much interaction in Terra Mystica, so there is much less to discover as far as interplay between the various powers. That leaves you with using your power to optimize how well you turn the crank on the underlying point-generation systems. Eurogames rely upon having interesting mechanisms, so I don't know how this game will fare in the long run given that its skeleton is fairly dull compared to the truly great, enduring euros.
In order to do well in TM, I think you need to leverage your race power to maximum potential, and it may be that over time this will lead to somewhat scripted play. To be sure, each character will have its own script to learn, but it may be a script none the less. I don't get the sense that the interaction between player powers is strong, so I don't think there is a lot to explore as far as certain power matchups. Time will tell!
I think my favorite thing about the game is that there is so often a clever way to squeeze in one more action. It is as though you are constantly finding a forgotten $20 in your back pocket.
I hope to get better at this game, because it gives me brain freeze like little else I've played recently. I hate to be that guy who takes 5 minutes to do his turn, but it is hard to resist the urge to think everything through carefully, as the profits of doing so can be very great.
UPDATE July 2013: I am even more convinced that the essential element for successful play is to use your racial power to its maximum potential. This isn't like Agricola where you can get along without your cards, using them to boost you where appropriate. In the absence of your racial power, development is very slow, and you will be quickly left behind. The issue with this is that you need to play each race in a very specific way. There is some fun to be had in discovering this best way, but I am finding the game is losing its shine as the included races are "played out."
I think this game has a lot of "curb appeal", but as I dug into it I found that the underlying mechanisms aren't all that interesting despite all the brain burn they require to execute. The racial powers are the secret sauce here, but rather than adding interesting interactions, they just dictate how you need to play. I doubt that this game will remain in the Top 10 on the 'Geek for long as it gets wider distribution and people accumulate plays.
Where I have ended up on TM is that it I think it has a lot of fancy feathers, but not much tasty meat underneath.
I do appreciate why this game is popular, but from my personal viewpoint, this is in no way a replacement for Dominion. Trains copies only the most boring Dominion cards, and lacks the interesting card mechanisms that the earlier game brings. I find the board element somewhat distracting, and the waste mechanism downright annoying. I once read something from a prominent game designer who said that he tried to avoid rules where players had to remember to do something detrimental to themselves. Here, you always have to remember to take that waste.
It's the fun parts of Risk distilled down to a 30-45 minute game. Nice quality cards. Is it a rip-off that you need to spend another $10 to get the Dragon Hordes expansion? Maybe.
The bottom line for me is that while this isn't the best game from a pure design standpoint, it is very fun. If you can deal with the randomness and unfairness you find in say Bang!, you'll probably like this as well. You get the added excitement of rolling dice, and of course, you also get the added fustration of rolling dice. However, the game is quick, and can really get people shouting, and does have a modicum of strategy. I recommend playing with the Dragon Hordes expansion, as while it makes the game a little more complex, it makes it a lot more interesting.