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.
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.
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.
This looks to be a very nice midweight eurogame, in the vein of Notre Dame and Yspahan. I especially like the mechanism of the sun moving round and triggering resource replenishment and scoring. However, I don't know that it would be good enough to earn shelfspace considering I already have some games I love (such as the two mentioned above) in this category. If it gets a full expansion that adds variability, I will give it another look.
UPDATE: Bought the game on sale, and the production is awesome. However, this is another one of those euros where everything you do gives you points. Feld does a lot fo these games, but he usually adds an interesting mechanism to limit the actions you can take. Helios doesn't really do this, other than encouraging you to try to build a set of 4 like color tiles. As such, you get to just sit there and try to work out which action will eeke out an extra point or two for you.
This is probably the best game in the no-frills hidden movement and deduction genre, mechanistically speaking. I think I would have preferred a lighter or more fantastical theme though. This may be hypocritical given some other games that I enjoy. However, I don't like importing "colonists" to farm tobacco in Puerto Rico, and I don't relish murdering women in this one. Go figure.
That all being said, I love the central conceit that Jack needs to return to a single hideout space each turn. This gives a wonderful centerpiece for deduction and deceit, and the maps feels very much the map up on the wall of every crime drama. This game is wonderfully tense and just all around solid and elegant. Perhaps appropriately, this game has murdered Scotland Yard and Nuns on the Run. Fury of Dracula survives thanks to its delicious chrome, and I suspect a Specter Ops will as well if I ever get a chance to play it.
There's a lot of things going on at once with this game, but they're all managable, and I enjoy this game very much.
UPDATE Nov2014: I just played this game for the first time in 8 years, and I have to say I think it's been replaced in nearly every way (thematically, mechanistically) by Jamaica. One player will probably get knocked out of a game of Pirate's Cove very early on, and that may be frustrating for them. However, my kids liked it, and it still looks great,
First order of business: before you even touch the cards, sleeve them. I know that is not possible, but try. They come new with some of he edges chipped already, and in this game it is critical to not mark the cards. Mayday purple sleeves fit very tightly, so I actually went with Mayday Premium Orange sleeves so the cards wouldn't bow.
With that out of the way, I have to say this is a very nicely designed game. I think it is the game I wished Panic Station was. However, this is a game where all the players need to internalize the rules before it can shine, so plan for a practice game or two before you get to the good stuff. Fortunately, the game is quick so repeat play isn't hard to do.
I really wanted to love this game because it has so much cool stuff going on. But in the end I found it too restrictive and it just didn't all come together for me. Or it may just be that I always lose badly. However, if I am going to spend so long playing a game, I think I prefer it to be more focused in scope, with freer choice of actions, and less luck dependent. I actually think Conquest of Nerath does the hero side-quest thing better.
I am also troubled that the map setup is so critical. You can easily lose the game before the first turn if you aren't very careful with the positioning of your home realm.
I would say that if you've played Runewars a couple times and like it enough to keep playing, you should get this expansion. The new cards are great, and I also really like using the more powerful cities. I am not sure the commanders are worth the trouble though. Nothing here changes the game too much, but the added variety is great to have.
I think game succeeds brilliantly at what it sets out to do. It is a fantastic production and has a nice clean ruleset. It also avoids the trap of sticking one player with controlling the zombies like in Last Night on Earth.
A lot of people seem to complain about the targeting priority rules, but I actually think that is the most interesting part of the game. You can't just run in your brawlers and stand back with your shooters. Figuring out how to deal with that is the most tactically challenging aspect of the game.
Ultimately, though, the game boils down to running up to zombies and rolling dice at them., which is too simplistic to hold my interest for long. The expansions add some nice new features, but not really much depth. This just isn't for me at this point in my gaming life.