1890 Berlin offers some intriguing twists to Age of Steam. The early game is a fight over real estate with Engineer being popular, while the mid-to-late game is more about controlling cube shipments with First Move and Production being popular.
The cities are always replenished to 4 cubes during goods growth (there's no shortage of cubes here) but you can only ship cubes out of a city in order, from right to left. You have to watch how cubes move - do you ship that cube for 4, leaving a 6-link delivery open for an opponent?
The Moon is a brutally tight Age of Steam expansion, especially when using the original 1-cube per city starting rules. Limited building options, expensive terrain, route-sharing and different actions are powerful especially Urbanization and Low Gravitation. I'm not fond of the wrap-around map as I have a hard time visualizing my routes.
I want to love Brass, but the cards and the luck-of-the-draw are its downfall.
My initial impressions of Brass were quite negative. But user photocurio made a comment that inspired me to look into this again: "Brass is fiddly of course, but it offers something rare in Eurogames: an organically developing marketplace driven by supply and demand."
As a result, I tried playing this game online (PBWeb) here: http://brass.orderofthehammer.com/ Dozens of games later, I appreciate Brass' subtleties. I still find it fiddly but Brass has really grown on me.
Timing timing timing! Colorado Midland is a clever game that packs a punch in a quick playtime. Mine claim cards are randomly distributed to all players at the start of the game and players expand railroads into various mines. How does one properly time when to play certain cards to score high and keep scoring? When is the right time to close a mine claim (remove card) to adjust which claims get shut down this round? How do you balance this with expanding railroads and will other players contribute to your goals or are you helping others out more than yourself?
A very clever little game with some tough decisions each turn, albeit based on dice rolls. Stock holding and dilution, minor route building and pickup & deliver. The quick playtime often makes Credit Mobilier a great choice.
This may be the best game to introduce new comers and non-gamers to the system. The rules and concepts are very simple and straightforward. But try to end the game when it benefits you most; that is what it's all about.
Liberté is an interesting take on area majority. I like the complexity of the mechanism - get majority of the right faction in the right area. I don't like the cards especially when the face up cards don't move.
Namibia features area control and a novel commodity chart with supply/demand/price being factors all manipulated by the players. It also includes an auction for turn order which is easy to get sucked into though not without its risks as you convert money into victory points at specific stages in the game at differing conversion rates.
A note about components: the game board needs to be bigger if not only slightly as the board quickly fills up and it gets quite annoying and difficult to see what is where.
This game is part of a system that eventually spawned the masterpiece that is Age of Steam. In a way, it is simpler and focuses more on positioning yourself in such a way that others make use of your links. More links isn't always better and it's easy to get sucked into a debt spiral. There is a bit of luck in the cards and the dice used for market changes (income reduction). I'm also not very fond of the play continues in clockwise order from player with highest income.
Little or no direct player confrontation, but good indirect player interaction where you're constantly trying to anticipate what others will do next. Good strategy includes forcing the day to end when it hurts others more.
Players either place cubes on cities claiming VPs, or take a card and if you have a cube on any cities on the card, score multiple VPs. As cube networks grow and join, score more VPs.
Do I take the card now and score a few, or do I place cubes first in the hopes that I'll score more when I take the card? What if another player takes that card? Do I try to block off that opponents network or can my cube be put to better use at this time?
Robber Barons is a clever but somewhat bland, light-to-medium-weight game.
A light and quick economic game. Control the timing of when you "marry" into a family, expansion, and ultimately, when the game will end. The cards add an interesting decision point - do I sell that good now for the much needed capital, or do I save it for the VPs in the end? How do I maximize the VPs on any given card? Is it worth the effort?
The rules are simple and the game is accessible to many different people of all ages. Also quite good for 2 players, though luck of the draw is exacerbated.
While I prefer less luck and more strategy, my concerns are mitigated by the quick playtime. We can easily play a 2-player game in 30 minutes. Plenty of fun here!
San Marco is an area majority scoring game. The core mechanism is drawing cards for you and your opponent(s), then building two (or three) hands out of those cards; your opponent chooses first and you get what's left. The major drawback is the dice roll determining how many cubes are banished from an area.
Struggle of Empires is a big game of diplomacy and control. Auction for alliances is a major part of the game and an excellent mechanism; you typically want to be allied with your bigger opponents. Play with 5 or 7 and be very familiar with all the cards.
Thousand Islands is a peculiar game of card drafting available builds and managing Income vs. VPs. The Inspectors are a clever mechanism where you potentially could position them to negatively impact opponents whether by preventing big payouts or positioning yourself to get payouts on your opponents' runs. VP/Income reduction ledges are also interesting. I'd like to try this with more but worried about downtime and long playtime.
It's clear to me that there are many false choices in the game; there appear to be many options when, in fact, there are few. Get your science up and focus on military. It's that simple. It's fun to explore the different paths, but after a few hundred plays, it comes down to 'get your military up and plan for war with the leader.' As a result, luck of the draw is worse than it initially may appear.
It scales well though the 2-player (2 - 2.5 hrs) is very different than 4-player (4+ hrs).
This is a great, no-luck, market supply/demand game. Still digesting but there is a great game here. We played with v2 rules on commodity packages and trading - namely, the ability to buy/sell 1, 2 or 3 cubes in one action during the trading phase. The drawback is the slow trading phase but it's not that bad; it will speed up with experience.