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New To You August 2012 => Best new boardgame
Andy
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Stockport
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What new board and card games did you play in August 2012? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.

In order to assist with collecting Statistics from these lists, please post an entry with your chosen game of the month, and if possible please use the "insert board game" feature to add other games you mention in your entry.


New To You Metalist 2012
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread


Other Great Monthly Lists
Videogames New To You August 2012
New to you a year ago Aug 12 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in August 2012
Your Most Played Game (and more): August 2012
New to Your Kids August 2012 - best new games you've played with your kids, and why
Your best gaming experience and why August 12
Out of the Dust, August 2012
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1. Board Game: Arena: Roma II [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:676] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
Andy
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Stockport
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== NEW GAMES ==

Arena: Roma II - 2 plays - thumbsup

First play I didn't know what I was doing, and having to go first seemed a big disadvantage. I was easily beaten... thankfully we played again immediately and I was able to put into play what I had learnt.. I had some pretty good combos too and was able to keep my opponent losing points, and eventually run out the supply of VP. Overall it's a pretty clever 2-player card game, but is pretty high on the 'conflict' style of play, so if that is not your thing, you may want to steer clear, although I quite liked it.



== EXPANSIONS ==


Stone Age: Style is the Goal - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

5 player and I felt the expansion added a lot and made it more interesting.. while providing enough for that many players to do... not sure it would work as well with fewer players.
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2. Board Game: Liberté [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:455]
Solomon M. Green
Australia
Armadale
Victoria
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25 distinct games for the month, 10 of them new to me. One of the features of our gaming groups is that invariably each game is a teaching game as there is always someone learning that game for the first time.

Liberté (2001)
Power Grid: Québec/Baden-Württemberg (2012)
King of Tokyo (2011)
Small World (2009)
Dominant Species: The Card Game (2012)

Big Points (2008)
Lost Valley (2004)
Excape (2008)
Fragile (2006)
Lost Temple (2011)


Liberté (2001)

I have a huge respect for any game from Martin Wallace so this game had been on my play list for the last three years. It's themed at the time of the French revolution, a game of area control / influence across a map of France divided into provinces and cities. Played in four "turns" with each turn lasting a number of rounds till one of the "factions" [Radicals (red), Moderates (blue), Royalists (white)] runs out of tokens to place. Any area can only have a maximum of three faction members under a single players control.

Players are dealt a variety of cards which will give them placement rights or special privileges which can vary the influences already exerted on the map. On your turn you can exert influence in a region across designated by the colour of the card being played with between one and three members of the faction indicated on the card. In exercising your influence it can be in one or more city within the province, so long as no city has more than three faction members under your control. You indicate your presence and influence placing one of your player markers on top of the stack of faction markers. Winning control will bode you well in forthcoming elections unless the royalists manage to invoke a coup. What I enjoy is the depth and complexity, whilst still being easy enough to grasp the concepts.


Power Grid: Québec/Baden-Württemberg (2012)


Ok, so I hear you say, yet another Power Grid map. Something about these expansions, the different scenery, a rules variation here and there, that still makes it enjoyable trying to beat the experts. In this case I suspect the expensive interconnects, the change to beaurocracy (turn order determined after power plant auction each round, not only first) along with some cities only available from Step 2 onwards do make for another pleasurable outing.

In this case, I tried to get too smart by halves, the ol bid in an auction when you don't actually want the proceeds just in an attempt to have others bid the power plant up and use their money, this dismally failed when I did it in the last turn, depriving me of the money I needed to expand my cities. I was already able to power enough, I did not need the power station and stuffed myself up pretty well.


King of Tokyo (2011)

I tried to resist this game for months, too much ameritrash could spoil my Euro fetish reputation. Too much monsters theme never my liking. It's another dice game with a twist. Whilst everyone competes to be the first to 20 victory points or be the last monster standing on Tokyo, there is a fine balance of push your luck, how much damage can you sustain whilst inflicting it on everyone else, versus self preservation. I tried the push your luck and causing damge to others path, only to fail dismally.

It's a light filler type game and easy enough to learn. You start with maximum health and zero victory points. Rolling six dice, "1, 2 or 3 Points of Destruction, Energy, Healing and Whack", you need three of a kind in the numbers to score VP's with additional in the same number being single VP's. Energy earn you points towards valuable bonus cards having special powers, Healing only possible when you are outside of Tokyo, and Whack applied either to all monsters in Tokyo or all monsters oustide, depending on where you are. Extra VP's for surviving a round as the monster in the middle.


Small World (2009)

Monsters, more monsters, though this time in the mythical lands of Small World. On your turn you can activate a monster receiving their powers and abilities putting them into battle. In your control at any one time you will have a maximum usually two races, one active with the other in decline. Placing a race into decline in most cases takes a whole turn. There is a random combination of races (14) and unique special powers (20). You attempt to conquer surrounding or accessible lands for the monster type, scoring for presence of both active and declined races at the conclusion of your turn. Played over 7 turns, you aim for the most amount of VP's also the currency for the game. Beware of going too agressive in your conquest, spreading you too thin as that may be the route to your destruction prior to your next turn. Your battles are fought with a pool of tokens for your race indicated by the race and its special power at time of acquisition. They are limited and if defeated you lose single tokens from those anhilated by your enemies with the residual returned to you for deployment on your next turn.

Medium weight, too much text and monsters for my liking, though light enough for repeated plays.


Dominant Species: The Card Game (2012)

At the outset, I am not a fan of the Dominant Species original game as it was just too heavy for my liking and something that takes that long should be enjoyable to play rather than a chore. The card game is a refreshing contrast, medium weight, enjoying some of the thematics and iconography, though thats where the similarities end.

Played over 10 round (Biomes), it has a push your luck mechanism of playing cards in a round does not guarantee you any bonus and may if played too forcefully, cripple the rest of your game. You play as many or as few cards in a round as you choose, with the highest total hand value being the dominant specie for the round and advancing on the survival track. Play in each round is clockwise till all players pass or one player passes with no cards, after which scoring for the round takes place. You need to win enough rounds to give you the bonus recharge in the large round. There is a combination of animals and events that you choose to play on your turn with dominance in the diet classes for the round contributing to your victory points.


Big Points (2008)

Schmidt Spiele "Easyplay" games have a great family feel to them and are always easy to learn, though mastering them is another thing. I was happy enough to try this on respect for other games of this genre from the same publisher. This did not disappoint. It's a quick and easy filler to learn with some strategic depth.

Random setup of a stepping stone chain, play moves clockwise, each player selecting from the pool of coloured markers (5 on offer) to advance to the next indicated point on the trail. Players then pick up the next free piece, either prior to or after the current position of the marker. When a player moves a marker and there are no more of that colour remaining on the trail, they move to the highest available rung on the victory steps (ranging from 4 thru to 0 in value), with play continuing until all markers have completed the trail. Other colour markers, black and white exist, with black awarding an extra turn at a time of the players choosing in a future round and white scoring for each colour type a player has collected by the time of scoring.

Final scoring is rank of the rung, multiplied by the number of those coloured markers in a players collection done for each of the colours, white bonus as mentioned before. Winner is the one with the highest points.


Lost Valley (2004)

Go forth and collect the gold from them thar hills, being the first to ammass a collection of 10 or more and get them back to the trading post. Players start with an initial kit out including boose, food and wood, try to explore down river collecting gold along the way. Beware that your carrying capacity is limited and for larger tasks you need to find wood and food along the way. Larger treasures will be found in the mines of the mountains though you will need lumber and food to establish your mines there. Once mines are discovered, they are available for all players to loot, with limited stockpiles available at any single location. Returning to the trading post will allow you to cash up your gold for other useful implements.

So we played it wrong with our excursion down the river leaving an island in the middle, we'll get that right next time. Plays in an hour and there are worse. I'd still give this another try.


Excape (2008)

Those who have read my musing over recent moths would know my fascination with games from Reiner Knizia, so this came with high expectations and failed to deliver. Other peoples blurbs on this suggest it to be the designer's answer to Sid Sackson's Can't Stop, it aint. I love Can't Stop which I learnt on BSW and this just doesnt present the same magic for me.

Two modified D6 (1/2/3/X/5/6 & 1/2/3/4/7/X), each with a space taken by "X", which you may reroll once to combine the apparent values to be expressed as the best possible two digit number then gamble a placement on the points track. If your placement on the track is there when you come to your next turn, you gain that number of VP's with the winner being the one to reach 20 points before their opponents. If you select a lower placement on the point track and the value of your dice combination is same or greater than those above you on the point track, then those dice are returned to the player meaning they will not score when it comes to their next turn.


Fragile (2006)

Manipulate your "Chinese" dock workers to manouver the dock cargo into your warehouses (2/3/4 player = 6/4/3 warehouses). Cargo initially arranged in the centre of the board one high. Each player has limited (5) actions available every turn to apply to their dock workers in turn, completing all chosen actions with one worker before moving to the next. Possible actions are orthogonal movements (1 action), passing dockworker to dockworker (1 action) allows you to use other players dockworkers passed at 90 degrees, stacking (2 high) / unstack (2 actions), convert cargo to fragile (4 actions). There is a limit of 4 fragile crates on the whole wharf. Standard cargo 1pt, fragile cargo 2pts. Game ends when one players warehouses are full and scores are tallied.

We played this with three and it was serious broken, as the third player can get off scott free whilstthe other two engage in combatative wharf activities. I'm not in a hurry to play this again which explains why it is almost at the bottom of the list from this month.


Lost Temple (2011)

Hugely disappointing game dominated by luck and randomness. Did not help that we omitted the rule whereby each person receives a gem at the start of the round meaning most of the time we were all penniless. Roles are executed in numerical order with the trailing player becoming the start player in the following round. It's a game that would work better with more players.
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3. Board Game: Homesteaders [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:285]
United States
Davis
California
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[Month of the Moo-ples.]


Homesteaders

(image credit: Lowengrin -- Dig those stylin' cowboy boots!)

Homesteaders is an Old-West-themed economic development game, where each turn you: (1) produce various types of income from your buildings, (2) participate in an auction to purchase a building permit (for one of four different "zoning" types -- Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Special), and (3) build a building (if you bought the right permit and possess the necessary building materials). (Auction lots can also offer benefits other than building permits, but those aren't common.)

The auction is Amun-Re-style (or, for you youngsters, Cyclades-style) ((or for you K-pop hipsters, Gangnam-style)), where there are multiple lots up for auction and you can bid on any of them when your turn comes around. This allows you to bail out on a lot if the bid gets too high and instead switch to bidding on a different lot (or you can pass). There's one fewer lot than there are players (except in 2p), so someone will always go empty handed. If you do pass, you get a consolation prize, which increases in value/flexibility the more often you pass.

The different buildings provide you with different resources, special powers, and victory points.

There's a lot going on: debt management, worker assignment, resource conversion, engine-building, and VP generation. Plus all of the cards have different costs and benefits, which take a while to get your head around. My wife and I aborted our first play because we hadn't appreciated the importance of "trade" tokens until too late in the game, creating a runaway leader situation. (Hint: they're important.)

But the second and third plays were really enjoyable and much more balanced.

I was very pleased with Homesteaders. It's a modest-looking package (though very nice aesthetically) that delivers a tightly integrated resource management puzzle. The auction phase and the fact that all players are buying from the same limited pool of buildings keeps it from being entirely multi-player solitaire and should produce some good inter-play variability.

A solid, interesting, and fun 90 minutes. My only qualms are: (1) I think this would be tedious with AP players, and (2) this might be hard to introduce to new players -- there's a lot of info to learn and it seems easy to get off on the wrong foot.




Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small


(image credit: julioriquelme)


Agricola: "Just the Critters" is a very tight worker placement game for two ONLY, with players competing to develop the best overall sets of animals (and related buildings) by game end. The production is up to general Agricola standards, with the addition of small herds of animeeples. (The one design oddity, which bothers me a bit, is that some crucial scoring information is printed (only) on the sides of the box bottom. I would really have preferred to have that information on a handout or the back of the rulebook. It's a strange choice that I found to be awkward. And, as long as I'm griping about the scoring rules, I had a hard time understanding how they worked and had to go to BGG rules forums to get a clear explanation.)

But those minor issues aside, the game plays very quickly and well. Decisions are interesting and the arc of the game (which seems VERY short) has a nice feeling of growth to it.

I haven't played it much yet, but I'm a little worried about replayability. There is NO variability in set up and NO luck at all, so it seems like a couple who play together enough times could get into a groupthink rut, with certain moves becoming routine and the game playing out the same way every time. It hasn't happened yet, but I see the possibility. (The main way to avoid that would be for the players to consciously choose to play with different strategies each time, just to see how they work. But that strikes me as artificial, as you'd need to trade playing-to-win for playing-for-fun. I prefer to do both at the same time.)

Those quibbles aside, this is a very strong 2 player worker placement game, with cute bits and a very tight arc.




Belfort

(image credit: ckirkman)

Belfort is a beautifully produced game -- great art, hefty tactile components, innovative pentagonal board and bits. Nice use of humor. Top notch.

My game group enjoyed our first outing well enough, but we were left feeling a bit ambivalent at the end. For one thing, it ran too long. Despite being warned by the rules not to do so, we played with 5. And play length scales proportionally to the number of players. So there was a lot of down time.

But as we started mulling over the game afterward, I realized that I just wasn't that taken with it.

To me, the game feels overwrought. There are just too many layers of mechanics. There's a worker placement game, on top of a resource management/engine building game, on top of an area majority game.

One good side effect: it left me wanting to play a nice clean area majority game. So we've made plans to play China or San Marco the next time we get together. Both are great designs where the heart of the game isn't buried in a lot of mechanical clutter.
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4. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:91]
Mark Siew
United States
San Francisco
CA
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In order of preference

Another good month with a pretty steady stream of new games after Gen Con despite the fact I didn't go. My favorite new game for the month is Glory to Rome. Despite the well documented production issues with the new Black Box version of the game (none of which actually affect gameplay, by the way), this turns out to be a great game. The game has a nice flow to it and there's a lot of tension and interplay between all aspects of the game.

On your turn, the leader can lead a card from their hand to play a role and everyone else has the option to follow by also playing a card. Those cards go into a shared pool used by the roles later in the game. This provides a good push and pull between feeding the pool and draining the pool with actions. There's also a lot of great interplay between the cards, the various roles and the clients you can hire through the use of roles. It's all very clever, works well and has a nice pace to it. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface as far as strategy goes. The game also scales well between the various player counts. I've only played with 2 and 3 players so far, but they both flowed very well.

Lancaster


Lancaster is just a spectacular worker placement game. I'm a big fan of worker placement games and this has some interesting wrinkles to it. You place knights out onto the board in various places to get different benefits, but the nice twist here is that players can use higher strength knights, along with squires they acquire over the course of the game, to oust players from spots before they get resolved. This adds a lot of tension and interaction to the game. There's also a player castle where they can also place knights without fear of getting usurped, so that gives a nice balance to the worker placement.

The laws in the game are voted on after the worker placement phase and they score various things. The voting is really interesting, although our first game we had a few missteps that handed the game to one player because we weren't quite discussing the repercussions enough.

All in all, a very solid and interesting game.

Goa


I had been waiting quite a while for the reprint of Goa, although not as long as some other people here on BGG to be sure. Turns out it was absolutely worth the wait. This is a wonderful game that has a good deal of tension through the auctions and yet plays very quickly. I'm quickly becoming a very large fan of Rudiger Dorn's designs. I've enjoyed Jambo, Dragonheart and Arkadia in the past.

The setup phase for the auctions is a nice wrinkle to what I normally find to be a pretty dry mechanism. It adds a strong spatial element to the game. There's some nice interplay between all aspects of the game and I never felt like there was one dominant strategy. All of them seem to be relatively valid, which I find quite fascinating. Definitely need to play this one more.

Catacombs


The best way to describe Catacombs is fun. It's just a fun game to play. While certainly not the deepest game out there, it never takes itself too seriously. The game is essentially a dungeon crawl with a dexterity element instead of your usual dice rolls. You flick your pieces at the enemy pieces and if they hit, it's one point of damage. Incredible simple and yet wonderfully elegant.

I'm usually not a big fan of dexterity games, but this and Ascending Empires have me rethinking my stance. While there are more ways to mitigate bad flicks in Ascending Empires, I found that the flicking it Catacombs isn't as unforgiving as I thought. The pieces are a pretty good size, so they're not terribly hard to target. You just need to be sure to give a strong flick or you'll just waste turns. This is definitely not a game about finesse, but it's a great game and one I'll have to look into adding to my collection.


Seasons


A very fortunate co-worker who went to Gen Con was able to secure a copy of Seasons and we've played it a few times this month. It's a really well designed and fun game. However, both of our games were four-player affairs and I feel like this is the less-than-ideal player count for the game. When playing with four, there's a lot of chaos and, unfortunately, a lot of bookkeeping between rounds. It's the bookkeeping that really bogs the game down with four. The card drafting element is quite interesting, but it also gives a huge advantage to those who have played the game more, as knowledge of the cards is essential. There's a penalty at the end of the game for cards you haven't played, so there's an interesting tension between drafting cards that are strong and drafting cards you know you can play by the end of the game, which I found similar to Macao in that regard.

The dice drafting during the game is also interesting and, again, reminds me a bit of Macao, but it still seems very fresh. The artwork in the game is nothing short of spectacular. Everyone I've played the game with has mentioned how great the cards look. They're certainly strange (not too dissimilar to Dixit), but they add a good deal of flavor and whimsy to the game.

Village


Village would probably win my award for most disappointing game of the month. That's not to say it's a bad game. In fact, it's a very good game. I was just expecting greatness, so a lot of that disappointment falls on me.

There are a lot of very interesting mechanisms in the game. There's action drafting where you take cubes from the board to perform actions. There's an interesting time/death mechanism with workers, where some actions require time and if you use a sufficient amount of time (tracked on your player board), one of your oldest workers has to die. It's a nice thematic touch to the game. I think it's the time/worker mechanism that makes the game most interesting. My real problem with the game is that all of these wonderfully clever mechanisms don't seem to gel very well together. The cubes are mostly abstract "concepts" rather than actual goods. There are goods in the game as well and those at least have some logical place within the mechanisms in the game. My real problem comes with the sheer number of ways you can score victory points and none seem to be particularly associated with the other. It's like a large victory point salad with no dressing to tie it all together. Some parts of the game are highly thematic, while others are just pure cube pushing. The workers are really thematic, but those cubes are incredibly dry and abstract. I'm fine with dry euros, in fact, I love many of them. However, even the ones that are accused of being the most dry at least have something tying all the cube pushing together and I just didn't feel that here. I taught the game to a few groups and they all felt the same way. There's no clear way to form a strategy when there are so many competing mechanisms in the game.

All that being said, I really do enjoy the game. It may not seem like it, but I really do. It's just a bit disappointing that the game could have been so much more.

Factory Fun


I'm not entirely sure that Factory Fun necessarily lives up to its name. It's a very interesting and strategic game that I really enjoy, but I'm not sure I'd call it fun. Entertaining? Yes, absolutely. But the game itself is incredibly thinky. You spend a good portion of the game with your head down trying to optimally place all of the pieces you have in front of you to get your colored goods into the appropriate machines. There's a little bit of interaction in the selection of the machines, but that's about it. I do like that machine selection is done simultaneously by everyone in real time. That's a nice touch that reduces some of the randomness that could show up in the game.

So yes, it's an entertaining game and one I'm very happy to have in my collection.

7 Wonders: Cities


7 Wonders is a game that I never really felt was broken, however the Cities expansion tunes some aspects of the game's balance in interesting ways. I'm not sure that it's essential by any means, but it does add some interesting mechanisms to the game. The new black city cards add a few things to the game, the largest of which are diplomacy and debt. You can now duck out of conflicts with diplomacy cards and you can "attack" everyone at the table by playing cards that require them to pay a certain amount of gold back into the bank. If they're unable to, they'll have to take debt tokens for each gold they're short and those are worth -1 VP at the end of the game.

There are also some city cards that give a late surge to military in Age 3, so that helps balance out some of the military strenght late in the game.

It's a good expansion, but I'm not sure if it's necessarily essential. I haven't played Leaders yet, but that seems to be more compelling in terms of modifying gameplay.

Say Anything


Say Anything is a bit like a mixture of Wits & Wagers and Apples to Apples. In my opinion, it improves on the Apples to Apples formula by making the answers more freeform. You write your answer on a reusable board, so all answers are going to apply to the question. The scoring is similar to Wits & Wagers, but without the odds from that game. It's a really fun party game and one that I would love to play again with a larger crowd. Definitely glad to own this one.

Battle Beyond Space


Last, but certainly not least, is Battle Beyond Space. I really enjoyed this game. It's a very light card-driven space battle game. It reminded me a lot of Kingdom Builder. Each player gets one card to play at a time and the card tells them how to activate their ships. So the real strategy is choosing which of your ships to activate. When you activate a squadron, you're forced to move a certain number of spaces and then have the option to fire. It's a simple but elegant mechanism. Each player also gets a special power at the start of the game, which I can guarantee you everyone is going to think is game-breaking. Each one seems woefully overpowered and yet somehow it ends up very balanced in the end. Something that is absurdly overpowered at the start of the game becomes relatively useless towards the latter stages of the game and vice versa. It's all quite clever and it plays very quickly (usually under an hour). I enjoyed playing the game and I would be up for playing it again, but I don't feel strongly compelled to add it to my collection.
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5. Board Game: El Caballero [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1363]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Except from Dungeon Petz, nothing really new this month… But lots of new to me, maybe less known and/or less loved older games from some great designers! Pictures, as usual, by myself and more to be added later.

El Caballero

I have always known that el Caballero (1998) is (not only chronologically) between El Grande (1995) and Carcassonne (2000). And it’s obviously true: there are lots of ideas presented here that appear later in Carcassonne – and yes, I can agree with statements like „El Caballero is the thinking man’s Carcassonne”. What I didn’t realise before is how much this game leads Herr Kramer to Tikal (1999). Many of Tikal’s features are already here: tile-laying, choosing the tiles with a kind of bidding from a common pool (Tikal advanced rules), area majority with the added idea that the areas and the points they are worth are shaped by the players during the game (a feature present in the whole Mask trilogy) and even the action point allowance system is peresent in a kind of rudimentair form (with the Caballeros acting as action points here). Not to mention the AP feel when it’s your turn…
I have also seen for long that El Caballero is rated relatively low. I think it does the game unjustice as it’s a really good game. But still… while BGG ratings are suggested to be about your will to play a game, they are quite often used (even by me) differently. And here I can strongly feel a difference. Is El Caballero a good game? I think so. Do I want to play it often? I’m not sure. It feels to me that the three titles mentioned just do their job more perfectly for what they are. So while El Caballero is a good game I guess most of the time I’m going to play the three other games instead of this one. 7.4

Dungeon Petz
When I wrote my geeklist about the games published in 2011 I found the only 2011 game that I still really wanted to try was Dungeon Petz, partly because I really enjoyed the Dungeon Lords experience two years ago. Playing Dungeon Petz I didn't feel thematically as connected to it as to the predecessor – it was a bit like Drum Roll (also more about the fiddly, although not uninteresting worker placement structure than the theme itself) although with a more fun theme and artwork. Also the structure had a little Dungeon Lords feel (this one is also a twisted take on worker placement to collect stuff, then in the next phase draw a bunch of cards and try (or, maybe better to say, hope) to combine your resources in a way that you can satisfy the needs provided by the symbols in the cards). I felt a bit more connected to the theme of Dungeon Lords – building the dungeon (a spatial element that always makes games better for me!) and counter-acting heroes was a bit more fun.
Also while it didn’t bother me in Dungeon Lords, here I found (probably because of the looser thematic connection) how luck is handled is not necessarily what I like. What do I mean? I prefer hand management-like games where luck tells you your possibilities but you try to get th ebest out of them during the round – and not in the end of the round. Here you use clever strategies to collect stuff in the worker placement part, then you draw cards and if you have drawn only bad cards then you are damned. But well, Dungeon Petz is still quite fine, even though I liked Dungeon Lords quite a bit more. 7.3

Merkator
Uwe Rosenberg’s only relatively complex game that is completely different from his harvest games. This fact alone is worth +1 points to me. I do think Agricola, Le Havre and Ora et Labora are good or great games (well, Loyang is not bad either) and I guess 2-player ‘gric and 2-player Le Havre are also fine but the more Uwe harvest games are published the more bored my face is. So what about Merkator? I was expecting to like this one more than the harvest trilogy-loving average geek and I was right, even if I didn’t fall in love. Somehow this game had a Michael Schacht feel to it (with even a little Puerto Rico-like mechanism element where everyone can follow the player to his present location for some smaller benefits). And did I tell you I like spatial element in games? Yes, Merkator is dry (a less abstract map could have helped a bit) but the mechanism works fine, it’s tricky and isn't full of unnecessary details. 7.2

En Garde
Not to be confused with El Grande. This game (the exclusive version) is probably the most overproduced game I own, and especially really overproduced for a small filler card game that basically consists of 25 cards (5 times 1 to 5), a track numbered 1 to 23 and two player markers. The big box Ferti edition of En Garde is really impressive but also I think it’s too much. Nevertheless, it's an interesting little card game: while the rules (even the advanced rules) are very simple, it manages to catch the theme and feel of fencing surprisingly well while it remains a true Knizia. For those who say Knizia=pasted on theme I suggest trying this one, while at the same time it was also about juggling with numbers, estimating risk, trying to figure out the cards in your opponent’s hand and solving the puzzle of the situation each round. It was surprisingly good. 7.1


Robber Knights

Robber Knights has a very typical (should I say trademark?) Rüdiger Dorn mechanism (this breadcrumbs way of moving is present in Space Walk, Genoa, Goa and so on, although suspiciously missing from Vegas) combined with tile-laying while it’s not more complex than a game of Carcassonne (well, it’s more interesting than that). Most of the tactical fun comes from the rule restrictions (especially the imaginary borders of the non-existing game board). I rather enjoyed this one. 6.9

Airships
Andreas Seyfarth is a great, although not very prolific designer – not counting expansions, in the past 18 years he created two Spiel des Jahres-winning games (Manhattan and Thurn und Taxis), the #4 (and #14) game of BGG (Puerto Rico) and a card game based on it (San Juan, ranked #125). And Airships which is a lesser effort but not totally uninteresting. It’s a dice-driven development game, or maybe a development/factory-themed dice game which is relatively fun and of course rather light. Still, it felt to me it's a bit more complex than I'd like for a little dice roller which is otherwise so silly. I enjoyed it but wasn't amazed by it; also while I sucked in the first 80% of the game I managed 3 good rolls in the end and almost won (I came second by 1 points). 6.6

Neuland

I think it wasn't the best decision to play Neuland as the last game in a gaming evening full of new games learned. We were getting tired and Neuland is also a game where the downtime is quite long as you can have lots of actions in your turn. What can I say? The time track mechanism was a great innovation back in its time but the rest of the game didn't feel that interesting to me now. Sure, you can block each other a bit, and of course you are creating (short-term use) VP machines using several buildings but somehow it felt this 2004 game is aging and getting old fast. 6.5

Expansions:
Cuba: El Presidente

The last time I played Cuba I wasn't a geek yet (although this game certainly helped me move forward to the direction, being one of the last kicks). Then it was a bit overwhelmingly complex but I enjoyed all what was happening. Since then I have learned Puerto Rico and dozens of Euros with about the same complexity, quite often some of the same ideas as well. Now that I replayed Cuba I still enjoyed the way the personal boards work and the voting part (as well as preparing for them during the round) but the rest didn't feel that special and the ways to win even felt a bit forced, constructed (still better than Neuland, another Eggertspiele game, see above). I still liked the game but what saved this game for me was the Cuba: El Presidente expansion that I have learned only now. It actually adds a lot to the game - you have to find the right timing for choosing one of these cards, you can use and combine them creatively with the basic actions and you still have to look for the additional effect their space has in the end of the round. It made the game more dynamic, more interesting (while not a lot longer); I think it’s a must for Cuba owners.

Small World Realms
I own but haven’t played any of the Small World expansions yet. I have also not played Underground as it looked like it’s more of the same with only a little improvement. But now that I have played Small World Realms I can state this is the best thing that could happen to Small Worlds. It does not only provide the possibility to set up the board by yourself (who would want to play Settlers of Catan on a fixed board all the time after they have the possibility to mix up the tiles?) but it also adds lots of interesting scenarios with lots of flexibility. For example we played the Crops of Power scenario which is supposed to be a Small World scenario but we played it with the Underground sides of the tiles up and also added all the expansion races and abilities (Grand Dames of Small World, Small World: Be Not Afraid..., Small World: Cursed!) and it worked fine. It didn’t only work fine but it provided some nice twist on the game.
Here if you conquered 5 areas neighbouring a property tile your tribe had this property as well (until you had fewer). It was interesting, also more interesting than the base game. But of course all this Realms "expansion" or "scenario pack" is good only if you like Small World. If you don't, don't even give it a try. However, if you like Small World this is a box of treasures for you.

Children’s games:
Fische fangen 7x

It's a very simple and rather unoriginal pure luck game for 4-year-olds; not even very innovative (roll two dice, one for the color, one for the shape, take the fish card of the given color and shape; white die means any color, arrow means you have to put one fish of the given color back) but its main difference from the games like this (it's not real-time reaction game but players take turns) made it a real hit at home - and my son really enjoyed the part where he was stealing fish from me. thumbsupthumbsup

Funny Fishing
Another fishing game, but this time it's about tangled shoelaces acting as fishlines and the players have to find the fishing rod that is connected to the fish depicted on the just turned up card. Well, this is a reaction game so it was not really a success, however much my son liked the idea and however much this is more innovative than the game above. Actually for a four-year-old even Rolf Vogt’s illustrations were quite misleading (the fishes weren’t that different from each other). I guess it’s better for older kids but not for the suggested age group of 4. thumbsupthumbsdown
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6. Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:208]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Well, a bunch of mediocrities this month, with one notable exception.

The best
I've had my eye on 1989: Dawn of Freedom for a while, being a huge fan of Twilight Struggle and finding the historical period fascinating. I've only had the chance to play it once so far, but it was a promising first impression. I liked that it was similar enough to Twilight Struggle to make learning it a breeze but different enough to make it interesting. The way they combined the coup and realignment actions into one works really well, and I love the mini-game Power Struggles when a scoring card is played. I need another game soon, now I know a few more of the things to look out for. You can certainly carry over some strategy from TS, but I suspect there's a lot that's different too.

The rest
I wouldn't run screaming from another play of any of these, but nor will I be seeking one out.

Trains is getting a lot of buzz for combining deck-building with train game. I found it to be a lot more Dominion than Winsome - many of the cards are exact clones of the Dominion base set and the map is really just an alternative scoring system.

Only played half a game of Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game so I can't really judge it. Seemed like Ameritrash Battle Line, so it's at least half-good

If BB:TM is Ameritrash Battle Line, perhaps Neuroshima Hex! is war-game Samurai? Not bad, but the battles are a pain to resolve - probably better suited to the iOS version.

Cards Against Humanity is just Apples to Apples with rude words, when half the fun of A2A is being rude *without* rude words. Some good laughs, but the cards themselves shouldn't be the joke or it'll get old fast.

Riff Raff is another impressive dexterity construction, if that's your kind of thing.

Nanuk is a tolerable bluffing game, but why not just play Liars Dice?

And Jungle Speed (how had I not played yet?) is a fun speed pattern recognition game, but that slot in my collection is already filled by Dobble.
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7. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:295]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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After record-breaking July, August has been a return to normalcy, kind of.

Eminent Domain (1 play) - _6_



When playing Eminent Domain for the first time, comparisons to Race for the Galaxy, Dominion, and Glory to Rome are inevitable. In fact, you can mostly explain the game in terms of those three, although it does simplify the core concepts of each.

Maybe it's because of this that I would brand the game as a beginners' RftG or GtR (Dominion not so much, since the deck-building aspect is much less prominent), introducing many of the core concepts but in a more forgiving environment. The number of available options is fairly small, the combo building part is rather tame, and the action leeching is much less severe without becoming unimportant.

All this simplification comes for a price, of course. The cards, including actions, roles, developments, and planets, are all very generic and provide very little in the way of flavour or character. While I wouldn't go so far as to say the game has no soul, it does smell of clean-room engineering very strongly. I'm also somewhat unsure of the long-term appeal since there is so little variability. I'm sure you will be able to further refine strategies for a while but I expect those to be very small incremental steps without much of a feeling of discovery or improvement.


Starship Merchants (1 play) - _6_



Starship Merchants isn't an 18xx game but it is built around one of the central ideas of the family, the train rush: old ships get decomissioned when a sufficiently new generation hits the market.

The rest of the game is fairly different. One of the few commonalities is the strong emphasis on timing although here it is caused primarily by the rondel mechanic, not so much by the sense of urgently needing to accomplish something before somebody else gets there.

While individual turns are usually very short, the game as a whole takes rather long (though I don't doubt you can get the time down with some experience) and gets a little repetitive. There is little sense of progression beyond the most simple equation of bigger holds and thus bigger gains at the end of a run. There is also very little variance. Sometimes special missions provide a little sugar-coating on top but the bulk of your turn can usually be calculated ahead of time, and I suspect that only becomes more pronounced with fewer players. What it comes down to then, is - slightly exaggerated - little more than a dressed-up maths exercise.


Was sticht? (1 play) - _6_



A build-your-own-hand trick-taking game. Players draft their cards from a common area in order to complete individual tasks they also selected for themselves. Huh, I can hear you say, you choose both your goals and your hand, isn't that a bit easy? Well, yes and no. The drafting mechanism and possibly contradictory goals make completing them quite a bit harder in practice than it sounds in theory.

However, it does seem awfully hard to sabotage other players on purpose as long as you still want to complete your own task, so simply choosing the right task at the right time (right, this is done secretly and simultaneously) is much more important than it should be.


Grimoire (1 play) - _6_



Grimoire scratches the same itch as Citadels but fortunately fixes the most egregious issues of that game. It still involves a good amount of take that but the penalties for those it is targeted at aren't quite as harsh, turns play a lot quicker and, perhaps most importantly, the game ends after a fixed number of turns.


Rotundo (2 plays) - _5_



Players collect sets of marbles, then trade parts of the collection away piecemeal in the hopes of increasing their collection value. The game often puts you in a bind where you don't really want a card you are offered but passing would allow the next player to vastly improve his collection much too cheaply. This works quite nicely.

At the beginning and towards the end of the game it feels a little rough, however, when you are very much constrained by your starting hand or by what little you have left in your hand. The discard pile is the only way to restock quickly and cheaply, and as a result it is often empty which on one hand is necessary for the auctions to make sense but on the other often seems to bog the game down a bit.


Wealth of Nations (1 play) - _4_



In Wealth of Nations, as the name suggests, players take the roles of nations (that can be oddly dispersed on what goes for a map here) vying for economic supremacy.

On one hand it's an economic game with a merket driven by the players' supply and demand and lots of direct trading and negotiations between the nations, on the other it's a very abstract tile placement optimization game where the nations attempt to place their industries on the board for the highest yields while at the same time strangling their opponents' growth.

Now, strike 1, the negotations game. I'm just not a huge fan of this sort of thing. Strike 2, there are a couple of elements that feel half-baked and underdeveloped (the loan system is ridiculous). And strike 3, the cube min-maxing of resources you need for the next development phase and powering your industries becomes old really fast. Despite a very simple system and very few rounds played the haggling and constant recounting and reallocation of resources make the game go on for far too long.


Jagdfieber (1 play) - _3_



This is one of those double-think games: "Best would be to play X, but everybody knows that so I'll play Y instead. But what if..." There is one reason why it doesn't really work here, and one reason why learning that is more tedious than it should be. Starting with the latter, the rules are too baroque. There are only five different cards, and while they all work similarly there are subtle differences for all of them. Some cards go under your hut, some go back to your hand, others stay on the board, and there are no thematic (or, you know, graphical) hints for which is which.

More importantly, however, capturing cards is essentially random. There is very little data to work with, and what little incentive there is to favour playing one card over another is identical for all players (except for turn order but guessing who might play what instead of just what might get played doesn't exactly help to make things any more scientific) so there is nothing to base your decision on. It gets a little better once a few cards have already been played but by that time the round is almost over, and most of the points have been scored anyway.
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8. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:408]
Yours Truly,
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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Best New Game:

Vanuatu (Alain Epron, 2011) 8.5/10
This game makes me feel the hot tropical sun, the cool depths of the ocean as I dive for treasure, the cozy shade under a tree to take a nap...

Interesting and different (and nasty! devil) action selection method and a pleasing array of strategic options to score points. It makes me think and ponder and agonize over decisions, which I like. Definitely a "gamer's game". I've gotten 2 plays of this game in this month, and it's already one of my favorite new discoveries of the year.

I really dig the visual presentation too, kind of a graphic novel type approach. I also like that I got to learn about a culture I'm not familiar with: you can draw turtles in the sand (a historically ancient island communication method apparently), export high quality beef (from an island! really!), even go take a rest in the shade. Which other game lets you take a nap? This is Island Life: The Boardgame.


Good New Games


Imperial (Mac Gerdts, 2006) 8.2/10
I did play Imperial 2030, but it was years ago and I don't remember much how it differed from this, other than the art and the time period, for both of which I prefer Imperial. This is an unusual rondel game in that you are investing in different countries but not necessarily controlling them. Another good "gamer's game". It's got a hefty learning curve so it's a good game to revisit a few times over a short period of time with the same group of people.



Forbidden Island (Matt Leacock, 2010) 6.5/10
A stream-lined, more family-friendly version of Pandemic. While the rules are easier, it is by no means an easy game. In fact it's quite challenging: we started on Novice level and yet died a soggy death after gathering just 1 of the 4 treasures. Great family game, and beautiful production, both the card/tile art and the 4 treasures. This would be a perfect gift for a middle-school-aged kid, who can play the game with their parents or even by themselves once they have the rules down.


Not My Cup of Tea


Quo Vadis? (Reiner Knizia, 1992) 6.2/10
I don't like negotiation games.
That said, this is probably my favorite negotiation game. Even though I was playing just because others wanted to play, it wasn't a miserable experience. And, it is well-designed and pretty interesting the way the majority-needed/progression works. A very stream-lined, distilled, elegant design, and in that it is very Knizia, and it even has a touch of his trademark mathiness in having to constantly be keeping an eye on what the majority number is in each area.



Rolling Freight (Kevin G. Nunn, 2012) 5.8/10
You could kind of call this a hybrid between a dice game, Ticket To Ride, and a more gamer's type of train game.

I liked:
-"Improvements". (Special powers, special dice, etc) This allows for interesting and different strategies.
-The strategic balance between "fast" and "slow" goods.
-The historical angle worked into the design.
-The "non-functional" part of the graphic design, like the coffee rings, the pipe, etc.

Neutral on:
-Train games. Dice games. I don't hate such games, but I don't seek them out either.

Didn't like:
-Length. More and more I realize 3-4 hour games are just not my ideal game length. The point of diminishing returns for me starts around 2 hours. Part of it is, I like to experiment with strategy in a game, and if my experiment is clearly a failure after 2 hours, I don't like having to watch the failure crash and burn for another 2 hours.
-The rules (or at least the way I was taught) say to roll the dice at the end of your turn and plan before your next. But then invariably all my calculations were wasted when the contracts & resources I planned for were taken by the time it got back to me. I started enjoying the game a lot more once I started planning only once it got back to me. And rolling and sorting the dice takes about 5 seconds so you really could do that at the beginning of your turn and it makes things less frustrating.
-I've realized I don't enjoy "route finding games" (like Auf Achse and this). This part is by no means the fault of the game!
-The "resource demand" graphic design just felt fiddly and it was hard to see who wanted what, etc esp. as the board became crowded with saturated markers. Then trying to remember which route you did and whose track you went over to give everyone credit just felt fiddly too.



Eclipse (Touko Tahkokallio, 2011) 2.8/10
I think there are better Ameritrash games out there, that are nowhere near this high a rating (#5); it's the one game in the Top 10 that I don't think belongs there. Rampant Cult-of-the-New. It does have nice theme implementation and attention to thematic details, but game design not so much.

Issues:
-Too much luck for a 4 hour game
-Too much downtime.
-Runaway loser problem; potentially a runaway leader problem too. (38, 31, 31, 30, 15, 5 in my one 6-player game.)
-Exploring part is too luck-heavy which then over-influences the rest of the game.
-Unbalanced techs. (e.g. my neighbor had some kind of crazy unbalanced missile upgrade that blew up all 5 of my ships without me even getting to roll a die in response, think Hiroshima & Nagasaki)

I do give them props for having easier rules to learn than TI3. But, for this type of flavor and game-play I'd pick Galactic Emperor any day, plus at 90 minutes I'd get to play at least a whole 2nd game of something in the same time.


blacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrainblacktrain


Last year I analyzed my local gaming guild's game ratings and put together our collective Top 10 games: From 3600 Games Down to 10: Gainesville Guild's Top 10 Games
At the time I'd only played half of those 10, so I set out to try the other half. Imperial marks the last of the 10. It's been a fun journey and a great little bunch of games. My personal ratings for the 10:

El Grande: 10
Power Grid: 10
Wallenstein: 9.8
Dominant Species: 9.5
Die Macher: 8.8
London: 8.5
Princes of the Renaissance: 8.5
Imperial: 8.2
Struggle of Empires: 7.5
Puerto Rico: 7.5
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9. Board Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:143]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan

I finally had a chance to sit down and play Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan this month for the first time. As it wasn't planned, I didn't have an opportunity to read the rules ahead of time.

It was a bit painful at first and my friend and I made at least one small mistake as a result (mustering a single block allows you to place it at any recruiting area). Playing the game, I felt a bit flat by the whole thing. It's a common feeling I get playing miniature wargames that I'm not overly familar with. But afterwards, it's the churning the game around in my mind that usually gets me excited. And Sekigahara is no different.

One thing I will do before playing again is make some aid to track the castles and towns as I'd like to see the strategic situation immediately and not have to count and recount off the map. But aside from that, I'm looking forward to playing this again.

Tokugawa Ieyasu besieging Ueda's castle.


Village

After the four plays of Village in the latter half of this month I'm actually feeling a bit burnt out on this one. I can't help comparing it to Trajan because the both are point salad style games; Village is a bit more interactive as there are only so many actions of each type up for grabs. Along with the decision over which action to take, there's the added decision of which colour cube to take with it. As the cube colours influence what you can do with your actions, you may find that you're competing for the pinks or the greens with another player.

In Trajan, your action is selected through your movement of cylinders around your own mancala. It's done in isolation - although your action may result in you picking up a counter or a card that your opponent may have wanted. But given the options available in Trajan, your taking what someone else wanted is rarely tragic for your opponent. In Village, late in a round, it can be. There are times when the only cubes left are black (plague) and the action they are linked to gives you no benefit at all.

All in all, I like Village, but I'm afraid I might find it less replayable than I had initially thought.
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10. Board Game: Neuland [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1348]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
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7 Wonders: Catan



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Best Mini-Expansion That Deserves Its Own Discussion Point in This List" Award

123456

It was just last month when I declared that I was no longer going to rate all the umpty-hojillion mini-expansions that are coming out, and just listing that they were new to me. Well, this month, I found one that feels like a necessity, and probably deserves its own discussion point. And why? Because you can trade two like resources for any other resource.

This is huge! How many times have you been in games where you couldn't build something because neither you nor your neighbors built what you need? Now you don't have to worry about it (unless you didn't wind up with this wonder, but hey, you can't have it all)! It's tempered out by only being able to be used once per turn, but it's still handy. In fact, it would have been very useful in that one game this month where no one built cloth, and we were all stuck with cards that required it in the last few turns of the last age.

So, this is still available in the BGG store, so don't delay! If you don't have it yet, you should get it, because its power is very, very useful for the game. The powers for the levels of the wonder are just OK, but that trade power ... man. Get on this while you can!



Clubs

 
 


Plays: 1

Winner: The "Tichu's Younger, Slightly More Attractive Sister" Award

123456

I've never been a big fan of Tichu, or any climbing games, for that matter. I like the concept of the game, and appreciate its depth, but I get very frustrated because I generally have no idea how to play out my cards, while everyone else at the table is running the show, playing out all their cards in a methodical fashion that I don't get. This happened with Tichu and Gang of Four, and I expected that to happen with Clubs.

The bad news is that I still experience that sort of frustration; the good news is that I like this one a little bit more than I like Tichu or Gang of Four. I'm not sure why, though, to be honest. Since you're not dealing out the entire deck each hand (at least, with 4 players you don't), then it's likely that you'll get a crummy hand, and when you get a crummy hand, there's almost nothing you can do. You're also limited by not being able to play anything other than sets or runs of cards, but I find that the inclusion of 2-card runs makes the game a little more open for manipulation.

I was having a hard time with the game until I realized we could play those 2-card runs, and then I started figuring out how to play out my cards to do that whole "run the rest of my cards and own the table" thing that I see everyone else do. I still don't have the knack for doing it just right (I came one card away from managing to do it in one round, and then wound up taking the chip that zeroed out my entire hand, Goddammit), but it's helpful.

I'd like to play this again, but I'm not sure if it's one that I'll buy once it's released. I'd be curious to see how the game looks once it's developed from all the feedback, at the very least.



Farmageddon



Plays: 2

Winner: The "Those Who Dislike Take-That Games Need Not Enter Here" Award

123456

I'm not a fan of take-that games on the best of days, so I'm not sure if I'm the best judge of a game that's essentially one big mess of take-that mechanisms. I mean, at its core, the game is one of hand management, but some of the cards that you're to manage are action cards that do little more than hurt your opponent in an effort to better your own position. I don't mind the hand management part of it, but the take-that part? I'm not too keen on it.

If Farmageddon were more than just a take-that game, I might feel differently about it, but a large part of the game is less about bettering your own position, and more about harming your opponents at any chance you get. If you're not, then they're in a position to move ahead, and chances are, they're going to hurt you in the process. So it's not really an "I'll play my game over here and only hurt you when I have to" game; it's a "The only way I'm going to better my own position is to hurt everyone along the way" sort of game. And if I'm going to be honest, it's not terrible.

There are a lot of interesting choices and challenges in the game, in that you'll find yourself trying to figure out how to best play the cards in your hand on a given turn. There are some primary tactics to play -- don't leave a crop ready for harvest at the end of your turn, since you'll likely have it taken or destroyed -- but the limit of two action cards per turn makes for some good turn angst. It's hard to develop a strategy more than one turn ahead, so be prepared to do the best you can each turn with what you have, and use your saved cards for your strategy.

It's not a perfect game, mind you -- aside from the take-that elements, it seems like hoarding action cards is the best thing to do at the start of the game -- but it's a decent filler, with some cute artwork. I'm not sure if it will remain in my collection over the long haul, but it hasn't yet worn out its welcome, either.

The game comes with its expansion, FrankenCorps, which brings in additional, one-of-a-kind crops cards that provide actions, but don't require they be played as actions to activate. This is one of those mini-expansions which I feel should have its own entry, since it brings a lot more chaos into the game, while also adding additional variety and challenge to the standard game. I think it's different enough that it should require its own rating, but what can you do?



Fzzzt!



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Not as Good as Dominion, but Not as Bad as Miskatonic School for Girls, Either" Award

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I'm a fan of deck-builders, and this one came across my radar a couple of years back. I can't remember why I didn't pick it up sooner, though I suspect it's because it had rules for bidding on cards. It seemed like a weird idea for a deck-builder, and the only reason I picked it up recently was because it was a deal in an auction.

It turns out that the bidding/auction part of the game wasn't like the one in, say, Mecidi, so it wasn't too complicated or out of place in the game. I was also surprised to find out that the deck-building element of the game was much different from those in other games, and that the core of the game was really set collection. You do build up a deck of cards for use in the game, but you only ever have a hand of six cards for any bidding round, and the cards you collect go toward building your sets of cards, which are based on the production cards that you collect. You can remove one card from your deck each bidding round to get rid of low cards, and then you repeat the process until you run out of cards in the conveyor belt deck.

The game is a bit luck-dependent, but it's somewhat manageable. You don't want to run out of bidding cards too early in a round, but if you get a bad draw (which is to say a hand of cards with high energy values), then you might not be able to prevent it. Plus, how the cards come out on the conveyor belt is random, as is the process for seeing which cards will be available further down the line. We played with two players, and it was easy to manipulate who got which cards, but I can see it being a little trickier with more players.

The game is a neat collection of mechanisms that work well together, but I do wonder what the longevity of the game will be. It seems like knowing the production cards in the deck and paying attention to how they come out will be a big determiner in how to play the game, and I'm afraid that continued play would force the games to be somewhat repetitive. Since there's no continuity over the game from one turn to the next, it might become stagnant over repeated play. Right now, though, it's interesting enough for me to want to play it again.



Musketeers



Plays: 1

Winner: The "2 Players? That's a Damned Lie!" Award

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I acquired this game in a lot where I also bought Fzzzt!, and I wasn't expecting too much out of it. That's usually a good sign, since the lower my expectations, the more potential the game has to impress me. That being said, the game was still a huge disappointment, which doesn't say much for the game at all.

The game has some potential. The heart of the mechanisms is that you start with a hand of cards, some of which you set aside for the potential of scoring points. You flip over one of the guard cards each turn, and then each player picks one card from hand to play to contribute toward defeating the guard. Defeat them, and the player who played the highest card takes a gem card and places it on one of their set-aside cards. Lose agains them, and the player who played the lowest card takes a prison card and places it on one of their set-aside cards. Gem cards double the point values, and prison cards make them worthless.

With three or four players, the game might be better, but as a two-player game, Musketeers is pretty useless. The game ends as soon as one player collects all three of the gem cards, and it's too easy to do that within the first three hands of the game, especially if you manage to get the high cards in the initial deal. I don't mind games that have a luck-factor, but here, it's just too high. There's nothing you can do to manipulate the game to slow someone down if you have low cards, and it's just an exercise in futility at that point. It seems like the Musketeer cards in the game should be adjusted for player numbers in some way to better balance the distribution of cards.

This is an older game, and maybe I should give it a break for not being as refined of a design as I'm accustomed to playing, but Manhattan is an older game, too, and holds up very well. Musketeers is just frustrating and pointless, at least with two players. I may try it with four just to confirm my feelings about it, but I can't say I feel a strong inclination to do so. Issues aside, it's just not very interesting.



Neuland



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Best Game in the Age of Steam-Container-Upon a Salty Ocean Lineage" Award

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I'm typically not a big fan of games where the primary mechanism is one where you're not supposed to leave the state of the game in such a way as to give the next player a great move. I struggled with Hansa because of that, and didn't even bother to try Cannonball Colony because I understood that it was that sort of game. Neuland has that same sort of characteristic, but somehow I don't mind it as much. In fact, I really enjoyed the game, despite it all.

Neuland is a very passive-aggressive game, where you're doing a lot of mean things in the game to slow down the other players in the game. The game will present choices to you that appear suboptimal, but which are actually good moves to take because of how it will affect your opponents. In fact, as we were playing the game, I made a comment like, "I'll need paper to score a point on that building, and the only way you'd be able to prevent me from doing that on my turn is to build both paper buildings and then squat on them for a turn, which would be a real dick move, though I guess that's sort of the point of a game like this, isn't it?" (And yes, he built both paper buildings and then squatted on them for a turn.) So I learned a valuable lesson in that game, which is: Don't build a point building unless you can put a coat of arms on it that turn.

That point brings me back to my original point, which is that Neuland is the sort of game where you want to avoid leaving many opportunities for the person following you in the game. The game is one of creating chains, optimizing your turn, and hogging up resources to make the next player work harder to achieve his goals, but it all works well together. I was surprised (especially after having wanted to play the game for nearly five years and expecting it to be great), but I'm not complaining.

There's also that issue of the first edition rules versus the second edition, but it's easily remedied. When we played, we didn't have the first edition rules handy to make our comparisons, but we did use the right scoring track for the game, so there's that. I can see the game being a lot better with those rules, since it removes some of the randomness of the game, and tightens up the system a bit more.

The downtime is pretty significant, but I see that the game is best with three, and we did play the game with four. I'm very interested in playing it again, this time with all of the rules from the first edition of the game. I'm not sure if it will have the kind of replayability I'm accustomed to from my games (once everyone's familiar enough with the game and its strategies, I get the feeling that it will suffer from some of the startgame issues that Puerto Rico has), but I think it will take a while to reach that point, and I expect to get my money and time's worth out of the game.



Village



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Least Engrossing Theme for a Quite-Engrossing Game" Award

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If you want to look at a game that best epitomizes the derogatory "cube-pusher" term, then you would need look no further than at Village. Ostensibly, the game is about life in a Medieval village, but there's nothing about the game that will make you feel like you're living in that time, toiling away in the church, the markets, or the farms. Shoot, there was one building on the board that represented ... something ... and I still don't know what it was supposed to be.

That being said, the game is actually a decent worker placement-ish game, without the "only one person can be in this spot" mechanism that's so familiar in this genre. It reduces some of the competition on certain spots, but the competition for the spots on the board is created by having cubes to take off the board in order to take a particular action. The cubes can be used to complete other actions, or allow you to play actions that are no longer available, so picking the right color cube with the action is important enough that you might decide to pick an action that you don't really want to do, because you need that color cube for something else. It's tied together well enough to make your incentives shift throughout the game, and it's very intriguing.

The game also has the death mechanism, where when you complete a circuit of time on your personal board, you have to send one of your oldest pawns to either the history book (for points) or the graveyard (for no points). Early in the game, you might be inclined to send your pawns to the history book, but you have to make sure you don't run out of workers in the process. Balancing your workers with your points-grabbing ploys is key to running an efficient game.

I like the game well enough, but it's tricky, and not at all engaging through its theme. The game is for people who like deeper games that engross through the mechanisms, and not at all for players who want something more thematic. Myself, I like the tension and angst that's associated with timing your actions and anticipating what other players are going to do. I expect to play this one again in the future.



Vineta



Plays: 1

Winner: The "Too Much Chaos in an Otherwise Passable Strategy Game" Award

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I like hand-management games, and I typically like games where all the players have the same set of cards to start the game, so I thought that Vineta would be a pretty decent game. In a way, it does. There's a nice tension that develops over the game as you're trying to time your actions, and holding on to your powerful action cards for a game-changing ending means that you're going to clog up your hand with them and not draw enough surge cards to participate in the battles for the different regions of the island. Considering that you get points by taking houses from those regions, and that the only way you can get houses is to participate in the battles, then it's imperative to do so.

In the game, you own one color of house, but that's hidden information, and you earn more points for houses of your own color that you save. You also own one region on the island (also hidden), and if that's the last region standing at the end of the game, then you earn bonus points. There's a nice set of cross-incentives working in the game, which makes the decisions feel fairly meaningful.

The problem with the game is that there's a lot of chaos, and that the last player going in the round has too much power. It can be managed to some degree, but players earlier in the round will have to use their mack-daddy cards to prevent the last player from using his, and it seems like too great a sacrifice, especially since it's possible for the last player to undo what that player just did. I prefer more predictability in a game system, and Vineta just takes that predictability and tosses it right out the window.

I wouldn't be too bothered by it, except that the game seems like it could be a lot better, and a lot more meaningful. I feel like I'm in the minority with that opinion -- of the five of us who played, the other four seemed to really like the game -- but I do recognize that the game has appeal, and has some parts of it that work really well. It just wasn't quite what I was hoping it would be, and even if it somehow eliminated the chaos, I still think it would just be a mediocre game for me. I'd play it again, though, if folks wanted to.



We Didn't Playtest This at All



Plays: 4

Winner: The "Most Aptly Named Game" Award

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The title of this game tells you pretty much all you need to know about it. It's random. It's chaotic. It's silly. And it's fun, so long as you don't get too hung up on the whole "winning" part of playing games.

Typically, most games will last about five minutes, and they'll end that fast because someone plays a card like, "If you say 'I' or 'You' or 'Unladen Swallow,' then you automatically lose," and then someone forgets the rule. There are other ways to win, but that's based on playing certain cards and not removing yourself from the game based on another card.

I had fun with the game, but I'm not sure I'd want to play it all the time. It's a whole lot more random than Fluxx, but at least there's no illusion that you might actually be able to do something to help you win with WDPTaA. That it's so light and crazy is its saving grace, but there's still a good chance that you'll play a game where people don't even get to take a turn before it's all over, and no matter what's going on, that's never any fun for that person.


New-to-Me Mini Expansions
7 Wonders: Petra
51st State: Wrak Transportera
The New Era: Spiel 2011 Promo Cards
Village: Bonus Customers
We Didn't Playtest This at All: Chaos Pack
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11. Board Game: Steel Driver [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:605]
David J. Mortimer
United Kingdom
Melksham
Wiltshire
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Picked Steel Driver up in the last UK Math trade. When explaining the rules I was worried it sounded a bit dull. However as we played it the tension built and we had a really tight finish with only £40 separating first to last. A great quick train game.

The only other new to me game this month is Le Havre which I have been meaning to play for ages. Enjoyed the game and will give it another go but with less than 5 players next time as it was a little long.
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12. Board Game: Carson City [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:230]
My Turn Yet?
United States
Kirkland
WA
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Visit me at http://myturnyet.tumblr.com/
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This month I bought games as if I was wealthy enough to afford them...

4 (FOUR!) new games (okay 3 and 1 expansion, but still...)


Carson City

This was on my list for a long time and when I saw it at auction for cheap (including shipping) I pounced.

I'm pleased to say that I am quite happy with this purchase and it has gotten the approval of most of the lunchtime group as well.

We've only played the basic game, not the variants yet, but I'm sure that we will. Rolling the die to resolve duels was just a little too much luck so several in my group.





Dungeon Lords
Another that's been on my list for quite some time. I played this several years ago and loved it. When Dungeon Petz came out, I purchased it, as someone in my group already owned Dungeon Lords.

This is another auction that I snapped-up when I saw a great price and local pick-up for an in-shrink copy.

Haven't gotten it to the table yet, but I'm sure it will make it soon.
Another Vlaada Chvátil game that I can check off the "Must Own" list.




Dragon Valley
I won! I won! I actually won a BGG contest (Thanks Game Salute!) and received a credit at the store.
After some discussion with friends and reading online, I selected Dragon Valley and received it very quickly.

I broke my rule of playing a game before I purchase it when I ordered this game, and I'm not sure how it will turn out. We have played the game once, with the rules taking up most of the first day of lunch.

The rule book could be better written, but the game seemed to be alright for a first play. Some rules were played incorrectly and there's the ever present AP when splitting up the selection, but once we got the icons and cards understood, the game flowed quicker.

I'll let you know after a few more games.


Lastly, an expansion:

Galaxy Trucker: The Big Expansion
I have owned the base Galaxy Trucker game for quite some time, but the expansion was both hard to find and expensive. We have been playing the game with the expansion at the office and playing just the base game without it felt lacking (not bad, just lacking...)

I got a notice from Amazon that this was on sale (and STILL in my cart), so I went to check it out. $45.00 -20% off AND free shipping!

Owned! Now if they would just hurry up with the next expansion: Galaxy Trucker: Another Big Expansion
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13. Board Game: Wits & Wagers Party [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1421]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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August saw a slight downturn in my quantity of games played. As a result new games didn't hit the table. This is sad because it means my resolution is slipping away from me. I know 7 new games in 4 months sounds easy, but it will be a challenge for me. Still I did have one game that was technically new to me, and it was great...



1 = Wits & Wagers Party - This barely counts as new to me. I mean I've played (and loved) every version of W&W that Northstar has ever published, so the idea is nothing new. Plus, I got this game free because I helped playtest the new ruleset (my name's even in the rulebook.) Still I think this is the ideal W&W version for me. It has the adult questions like you find in the original W&W, but simpler scoring rules like the Family version. Of course to most geeks this will be a negative. Removing the betting odds may make scoring easier to understand, but it does reduce the strategic options slightly. But I love Wits & Wagers as a party game for play with non-gamers, so the straightforward scoring is perfect. Now I can have anyone act as banker without concern about messing up the payouts. The components are great as I've come to expect from Northstar. Particularly awesome are the dry-erase markers with built-in erasers, and the higher quality poker chips. My only complaint about this version would be the box insert because the hole for the question cards wasn't made deep enough to hold them all. A very minor complaint for a truly great game.


Number of games remaining to complete my New Year's Resolution (play all unplayed games I already owned on 1/1/2012): 7
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14. Board Game: Blue vs. Gray [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1997]
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"Just get that sucka to the designated place at the designated time and I will gladly designate his ass...for dismemberment!" - Sho Nuff.
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This month, I really couldn't decide which game I liked better between the top two. Since I could only pick one, I went by my old rule of "When in doubt, go with the wargame." (FA is Ameritrash). Wargames have a higher upside.



Blue vs. Gray:





The design is incredible. I keep asking myself how a card game can capture so much depth and historical feel, yet here you go. The game is not that difficult: the mechanics are really smooth. The Union's forces are so much more powerful as is their ability to supply their troops, yet they have their work cut out for them: trying to meet their objectives in a fixed amount of time and having a large group of ineffective generals. So in many aspects, it captures the feel of the Civil War, and it does it in a card game! Too cool!!!
Rating: 9




Fortress America:





WOW!!!! That sums it up. All that is good and right with Ameri-Trash is contained in one box. It has awesome (and unbelievable) theme. It has dice. It has conflict. It has cool plastic pieces. It has hovercraft, lasers, and it has Wolverines!!!!

All coolness aside, this one has a real genius in how it plays out. The "bad guys" (hmmm...they didn't break the treaty, did they?) have the big advantage early on, but America starts building her strength and as more lasers come online, the bad guys' spearhead gets shattered or else their supply lines can be decimated with a laser attack followed by the right strike.

So much to like about this game!
Rating: 9




Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815



 


This is kind of a cross between Quebec 1759 and War of 1812. This would be ranked a point higher had I not played the other two already. It's a good one, but it is a little more dated than most block games (because it is), but it's still a good old battle of attrition.
Rating: 7




Dimension Demons



Sadly, the comments on this game are true. The premise is interesting. I like the split map (human planet on one side/demon dimension on the other) and the idea of popping in, attacking, and popping back.
However, a clever idea was never fleshed out in playtesting. The humans simply spread out. They take about 3 tanks. With a range of 6, you are close to creating inter-locking fire. Pick one hovercraft for high mobility and put it in the middle. Put an infantry in every town. There, you just won the game.
Two demons vs. an infantry in the open attack at 3-1. Put the human in a city, and it falls to 1-1. That is too much. A column shift would be about right: and a 3-2 odds column should be listed, also. A "disrupted" result does not hurt the humans when applied, but it is a death-blow to the demons, who will be finished off on their turn when the humans fire first (defensive fire). The killer, though, is that demons cannot pop back voluntarily if they are within 5 of their transport. Combined with the fact that the transport cannot move normally and stacking is prohibited (other than transporting across dimensions) and that means that the demons stack 2 warriors, land out of range of the tanks, unstack and attack a human with 4 warriors (3-1). Roll a disrupted (33%). Now they can't go back. The humans mobilize and get 2 tanks in range along with the hovercraft. They attack 2 demons at 3-1 and another at 1-1. 2 demons dead. The other 2 cannot leave next demon turn and the tanks will finish them off the next turn. That's pretty much how it goes.
Rating: 4
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15. Board Game: Inca Empire [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:672]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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This month, I've only played four new games, though I did manage to get a couple new expansions to the table as well. As usual, I'll list the games in decreasing order of enthusiasm, listing the games before the expansions.


Inca Empire -- (1 play) _8_
(images by Nekrataal & GeoMan)

I really enjoyed this one. Though it made me regret that I'd never got in on the Tahuantinsuyu bandwagon years ago (it was a game that existed on the periphery of what I experienced: I'd seen it played, but never had pushed to become involved.) Even after reading the rules a few times, I found the card play more interesting in practice than I'd expected, and found the mostly-shared infrastructure quite amusing. Of the things I'd tried this month, this is definitely Game I'm most interested in getting back to the table.

If you're willing to opine on the issue: I understand that Tahuantinsuyu is a 4p only game. Yet Inca Empire has a dedicated 3p side. I often have an easier time getting a game for 3 to the table. Is the 3p version worth trying?


1830 Cardgame -- (1 play) _7.3_
(images by W Eric Martin & msaari)

This one surprised me with how cleanly and sensibly it played. There was very little friction to the game; decisions were interesting; the card draw both seemed very significant and yet possibly didn't have as much effect on the final outcome as we'd presumed it would. I enjoyed this play a lot - yet I'm not (yet) completely convinced the game is great. Still, it's likely worth another handful of plays even if it's not: and it's entirely possible that it might demonstrate some qualities that I'm not yet seeing in that time. The jury's still out for the evaluation of this one.


Thousand Islands Railway -- (1 play) _6_
(images by W Eric Martin & lorna)

My experience with the "Family" offering from the 2012 Winsome Essen set was a bit different. While my (10 and 12 year old) children were amused by this, it was more work to play than we'd expected. The game is - in principle - quite fast; yet the bureaucracy of remembering VP and cost deltas for any given placement slows the game down: and possibly past a point of good return. The game seemed heavier to play than it should be; it seemed ponderous and unwieldy. While I have great admiration for Winsome's development, this is one that needs some mental model to play that I haven't yet found. And it might be hard to get it to the table often without finding that pattern that would let it be played cleanly. Both prettiest and clunkiest Winsome in recent memory. (For calibration purposes, I found Gulf, Mobile & Ohio similarly clunky - though that one is a game with slightly crunchier decisions, so the effect didn't feel quite as pronounced.)


Mare Balticum -- (1 play) _6.7_
(images by Piotro & EndersGame)

A lovely physical object; a relatively trivial pickup-and-deliver game. Amusing, but without any hook that demanded I revisit it. (My children would have loved it 4-6 years ago, though.) I think at present that I'm content both to not own this one and will be happy to play if the opportunity presents itself. But this isn't one that I'd be searching out. Best match of art and game weight this month.


I also managed to play two new expansions. (Some day I'll figure out that I'm buying expansions faster than I'm getting them played. I think the whole expansion thing is gradually becoming less and less compelling for me.)

Catacombs: Horde of Vermin -- (1 play) _7.3_
(both images by aronwest)

I'm susceptible to the lure of Catacombs; son #2 is a fan. So this was somewhat inevitable. Fortunately, it's also quite amusing: the new Vermin are excellent; the opportunity to substitute more ferocious monsters for some of the existing ones (in order to tweak difficulty levels) is a great change. Hard to complain with this one... Well, maybe: What? Another rulebook to look through? Why couldn't there be an omnibus document that covers everything?


Dungeon Petz: Bonus Pets -- (1 play) _7.3_
(image by biohazard930)

The two new monsters are charming. And I find the game a lot closer to my personal sweet spot than Dungeon Lords was. In the end, they're a small though amusing addition to a charming game that works for my younger two children. Many thanks to Joe for the new monsters.


Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the no-longer-on-Friday Lunch folk, and the I've been Diced! gang for some great game experiences.
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16. Board Game: Africana [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1239]
Peter Brahan
United States
North Sutton
New Hampshire
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Africana

After waiting and waiting for this game to arrive in the US to my preferred supplier, it finally was delivered a few weeks ago. This game has been a hit. We are big fans of Ticket to Ride and we heard this was a little more advanced, so we were anxious to get it to the table.

I'm going to become an evangelist for this game. It is fantastic.

What do I like about it?
Approachability: This game takes about 10 minutes to teach, even though there is some nice depth to it. Like many games, the first time you play it there is some thought to it, but the second play is an absolute snap. My wife doesn't like to learn new games that much, and she thought this was very easy to learn.
Elegant play with depth: There are only three choices per turn in this game, but its simple rules are balanced with tough decisions.
Attractive artwork: The reason why I got this game is because when I was looking at the rules online, my wife said (after seeing a picture of the board), "That looks good. We should get that one." The artwork is quite attractive, though I wouldn't say that it reached the legendary status.
Very interactive: I'm not a fan of multiplayer solitaire and require my games to have some good interaction but without too much "take that." This game fits that need very well.
Good replayability: I haven't played it a lot, but there seems to be good replayability.


What are some gaps in this game? I haven't had enough time to really uncover many, but here's what I have thus far:
Closed scoring: You have completely closed scoring. This is not to say that you don't have an idea on how you or your opponents are doing, but the scoring is hidden until the end. The games I played were both tight, so it didn't affect our play too much.

Plays in August '12: 2
Initial overall rating (out of 10): 8.5


Last Will

This is another game that I have been eyeing ever since seeing it on the Essen list in 2011. I debated about it for quite sometime, thiking that it might be too complex. Though I have only played it once, I really like it. I cannot wait to play it again.

What do I like about it?
Great theme: What a fun theme this has-spending as much money as fast as you can. When explaining the game to my nine year old son, he immediately was sucked in.
Mechanics that make sense: The mechanics in this game just plain make sense. You buy a property. If you don't maintain it, it loses value. If you throw a big party, it costs a lot of money. You hire a private chef, it takes more money. Easy.
Good approchability: This game is not easy, but it is approachable. The theme sucks you in and makes you want to learn to play it, which makes it easier to learn. My 9 year old son just loved it.
Solid components: The production quality is very good for this game.
Just plain fun: Take a dog to dinner? Really? It doesn't get much better than that. The game is just a lot of fun to play. Who doesn't like to let their property wear out, trash it with a party and then sell it for a loss?

What are some gaps in this game? After one play:
A bit complicated: I said it was approachable, but only because of the theme. It is a bit difficult to learn, especially with the iconography.

Plays in August '12: 1
Initial overall rating (out of 10): 8
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17. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:103]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

2 Play with 2p

A couple of couple-friendly games new to me this month.

I reckon that I am more likely to get my cat to sing opera than I am to get my spouse to play Agricola. The stress of feeding a family, the juggling of multiple work/home options – that’s a game???

So when Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small came out, with no feeding, no complex card play and cute animeeples in the box, I thought I may be onto a winner.

It turned out I was right. The animeeples brought out the immediate “Oh… cute” reaction and then my spouse proceeded to annihilate me as she aggressively built up her horse stud.

We both really enjoyed the first game – simple yet meaningful decisions with the Agricola-esque of ‘can-never-take-as-many-actions-as-I-need-to’ feel. More importantly, my spouse didn’t feel overwhelmed with options and I didn’t feel lacking in options.

We both felt the game flew by, indeed my spouse immediately asked for another game, because she felt the game was almost over too quickly. She beat me in the second game too.

Its now on short list of 2-player games, along with with Jaipur, Morels and Kingdom Builder. There may be a long-term replayability issue with the game, but if we ever get to that point, I feel that I will have had more than my money's worth out of the game. Not least because my spouse has asked to play a worker placement game of her own volition. Great components, straightforward rules, quick gameplay with interesting choices and the geeky-thrill of seeing your farm build up without the smell and all that s**t.

Clearly Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small was designed with us in mind. In our case, I have to say they got their target market spot on.


Current rating: 8/10


Morels

1 play

Given my spouse's liking for Jaipur, I thought I would take a punt with Morels and ordered a copy from Two Lanterns Games. The folks at Two Lanterns could not have been nicer or more helpful and I got the edition with the special hand-whittled foraging sticks.

These evoked the same reaction from spouse as the animeeples in Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

The game itself is a straightforward set collecting with some nice twists, including the rondel-like 'pay more the further you go' mechanism. This leads to interesting decisions and generates a lot more interaction than one would think at first sight.

The art is great, although there was one graphic design issue - my spouse didn’t twig that the Lawyer’s Wig was a mushroom (the mushrooms are not very obvious on the card) and thought it was some special card – she later claimed it it could have been for prosecuting people trespassing in the woods. shake My spouse is a lawyer herself which could explain it

The game flowed smoothly and there was always the interesting (but not agonising) choice between cashing in cards for sticks or saving them for VPs. The Destroying Angel cards were easily avoided, and led us to think that perhaps they should also have been included in the night deck for some added tension.

Our first game suffered a little from me getting an unusual starting hand containing a couple of moon cards which meant I could raid the night mushroom stock and get ahead on foraging sticks very early. As a result I was able to gain a substantial lead which I never lost and the game then appeared to go a little long for what it was.

Nevertheless, we are both looking forward to our second game - which hopefully is both closer and a little more tense. First time through this walk in the woods was more like a walk in the park.

Always to see a new company start up in the Board/Card Game Universe, and I wish Two Lanterns Games lot of success. With Morels I think they are off to a good start.

Current rating: 7/10

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18. Board Game: Thousand Islands Railway [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:8130]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I played only two new games in August (I played a lot of games, but most of them were games I had played before---in part because I attended WBC.)

My favorite of these two was Thousand Islands Railway. I don't think it is a favorite, but I'll be more than happy to play it again.

The other new game I played was Off Your Rocker, a party game whose rules don't work very well, though it's okay as a group activity if you don't emphasize the game part very much.
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19. Board Game: Neue Heimat [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1526]
Drew
United States
Wisconsin
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"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."
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"No matter how low your opinion of Washington DC, it's nothing compared to Washington DC's low opinion of you."
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Neue Heimat


I finally got Neue Heimat to the table this month -- not once, but three times. Twice as a three-player and once as a five-player.

Fantastic auction game of building houses (stacking blocks as "floors") and trying to keep your color blocks on top for scoring purposes. Control of a color is determined by being the first player to buy and place a block of a particular color. From then on in the game, that color is yours. Because set-up is random, in some games you may have more bits of particular colors. In our most recent game, there was only one green cube and it wasn't available until late in the game.

In one three player game, one player owned three colors, I owned two, and the eventual winner had only one. In the five--player game, once again it was a player -- me -- who had only one color who won. (And then only with a mere nine points.)

It's a completely valid strategy to own no colors at all and then try to ensure that nobody else scores (by working to make sure no rows of houses are complete). We almost had someone pull that off in the five-player game.

The game is easy, but the level of thinking is kind of deep. A lot of torquing of the incentive grid. Because you can bid on and place other players' colors as well as your own, blocks become hard to value. Everyone is trying to get something out of the system. Natural alliances rise and fall. Sure, go ahead and buy my cubes -- wherever you place them is fine with me!

It's also a closed economy game, and I love those!

The five-player game was excellent, though went on quite long. One of the three-player games was quite short, and the second seemed to be juuuuust right.





Airlines: Europe


While Airlines: Europe was a solid game, it did make me want to play its immediate predecessor: Union Pacific. Trains > Planes. Also, while I tend to like majority games, I think that moving much farther beyond first and second place majorities just gums up the works. All that does is bring the game to a screeching halt while you start adding up points. Here you score -- what is it? 10 different colors? And you may have times where you could be scoring the fifth-place person, and really . . . just . . . no.

But otherwise, a solid game that will have a wide audience.




Gobblet


A handful of plays with my seven year old. I don't know if this is a deep abstract or not. More plays are going to be required. I do know that I was glad to find it cheap in a thrift store. I didn't realize it would be as difficult as it was. The goal is common enough -- four in a row. But the ability to cover pieces -- yours or your opponents -- and then have them revealed at later points, adds the brain-burning twist. It seems a valid strategy to cover up your own pieces in preparation for a later move. Covering your opponents' pieces will be necessary, but then you sort of pin yourself. Looking forward to really putting this to the test with a grown-up brain.




That's Life!


It's a roll-and-move, but a roll-and-move that won't drive you nuts. You create a track with large hex tiles. The last player to move off a tile takes it. Two-thirds of the tiles award negative points. One-third awards positive points. Plus there are a set of tiles that you can use to turn your negative tile into a positive one. There are also a number of neutral pawns you can move instead of your own, to prevent other players from taking high-scoring tiles, or to prevent yourself from taking a low scoring one. It's simple, and a nice antidote between thinky games. Although some thought is required here, but mostly it's fun.
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20. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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Finally bought this highly acclaimed game. Got in 3 solo games first (family, E deck, "Jackie" variant with the E deck) before trying it out with 2 of the staff of my FLGS (2 family, 1 E deck).

I now understand why it's so highly rated. In ALL games I really felt the tension of trying to develop your family and plot while avoiding starvation. The issue here is not that you do not have choices, but rather you have a LOT of choices which can overwhelm you. This is compounded with the addition of cards. In a way the cards you decide to use are similar to the leader cards in 7 Wonders: Leaders, as they can direct you to a particular focused strategy which you MUST take advantage of, or it's a wasted play.

I found out that the game plays faster than I thought (1 hr for 3 players in family mode, 1h30min with the cards) and I know the game is a winner when despite the tenseness after a game you immediately want to start another game to see if you can do better!

My only complaint is the rulebook. They should redesign this and have examples of gameplay and definitely should increase the font size and add more pages to the rulebook. The current one does no justice to this great game!






Got this second hand in excellent condition, and this ended up with the most plays for the month. It is simple, easy to learn and teach, and has depth in the gameplay, as you can really setup nice engines during play. I managed to get the extra cards from the Alea Treasure Chest, which adds more fun to the little portable game. Once the people I play with gets really used to the role selection process, I will then try out Glory to Rome (the I.V. edition, love the art and quotes), which I also got in August, but have not tried out yet.



and


While I have the Ipad version, Me and my 8 yr old son only got the play the physical version during a mini-tourney held last August 25, 2012. Boy, it DOES make a difference holding and laying those trains! Still on the fence on getting the actual game though, but my 8 yr old wants it (I will choose the Europe map, as I feel the map and tickets are better (ie less overlapping of routes) and you have nice additional gameplay elements) thus I am using it as a carrot to dangle in front of my son to encourage him to get better grades.

I made a session report of our experience, and it is located here: ALL ABOARD tourney during the Open Gaming Meet, August 25 2012

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride: Europe




Finally got a play of this in, as although I selected several races and powers and races to mix into our Small World games, this is the first time we have tried to actual map and rules. It was OK, with the river rules giving the map a different feel, and the relics and artifacts gives you areas to fight for (especially control of the Balrog!). It DOES make the game more fiddly (maybe since we kept on looking at what the items/relics do, as well as the abilities of the new races), and I feel that the races are more powerful than those in SW (especially Flames when linked to the volcano) but it is still just SW, thus is fun.




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21. Board Game: Carolus Magnus [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:609]
Nathan Woll
United States
Warsaw
Virginia
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I finally got to play some new games this month! I haven't really done any gaming since moving away from the big city almost a year ago. But this month I travelled back home (Toledo, OH) and got to play some great games at a great game club.

Carolus Magnus - This game was intense. One play with three players, which I understand is the best way to play. This felt a little bit like one of Colovini's other games Meridian. The luck aspect felt more understated though. (Carolus Magnus had less luck) I really wish there was a way I could play this again.

Guild of Thieves - So I was thinking of publishing a self-designed card game on The Game Crafter. So I decided to buy a card game from them and see what the quality was like. I browsed the cheapest games on there that included a review or video presentation. Guild of Thieves caught my eye so I ordered it. After more than 10 plays with my son I can say this was my best purchase of the year! The game plays fast and has been described as a cross between a deckbuilder and Hey, That's My Fish!. Most of the cards are balanced really well. The only over powerful card is the Coins card but as long as all players are aware of this then everyone is on equal footing.

Stronghold - This game is very fun but extremely complex. I think after 5 plays we (my son and I) now have all the rules correct. I have enjoyed every play so far but this game is very long and I am worried that repeated plays will not be fun for the defender.

Basari - I liked the game but in our one play (4 players) the winner didn't collect any gems. It seems very counterintuitive to realize that you don't need gems to win.

D-Day Dice - Good game. Seems it would be better played solitaire. (which I understand is how it was originally designed). I had fun because my co-players made it fun but I don't think I would play this again.

Sidibaba - Neat idea. I misunderstood the movement mechanic so I was completely lost after a few turns. I wouldn't mind playing again.

High Frontier - This game needs some serious house rules. The entire first part of the game takes forever and is fairly uninteresting. Once you finally get some technology flipped to the useful side the game ends. It feels like the game goes really slowly then just when it start to get interesting it's over.

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22. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:185]
Runcible Spoon
United States
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At the Gates of Loyang



My favorite new game of the month

Strengths

1. Nice artwork
2. Great components
4. Nice twist on drafting/tableau building because the actual spatial arrangement of the cards matters
5. Excellent 2 player game, just along as you don't use the rules in the rulebook.

Weaknesses

1. I just didn't think the rulebook was all that clear. I have seen worse, but I have seen better too. It's not bad per se, but I wouldn't rate it as a strength.


Other thoughts
1. I really like this as a solo game experience. The more I played the more I enjoyed and that is what makes this one of the best this month.


Eminent Domain




Strengths
1. Mechanically elegant
2. Top notch components
3. The technology cards really add to the experience.

Weaknesses
1. Sometimes I think it goes a bit long for what it is.
2. Without an expansion I worry about the replayability.


Power Grid

 



Strengths:
1. Excellent set of mechanics.
2. I kind of like the 'theme' of utilities management
3. The artwork on the cards is kind of neat for what it is (I mean they are power plants after all, but still neat).
4. I like the route connection aspect as well as the power plant market

Weaknesses
1. So this could certainly be pretty AP inducing. I am not really very AP prone but I could see myself avoiding this with certain players.

Musings
I found several excellent one page summaries of the rules, phases etc. here on BGG and that really helped a lot.


7 Wonders: Cities




Strengths
1. Some interesting new mechanics
2. I like the debt tokens and the new guilds
3. This should extend the shelf 7 Wonders quit a bit
4. Great artwork as always!
5. I like the Louie promo - not really all that thematic, but I like the musicians work a lot so I appreciate it for that

Weaknesses
1. None so far.

Musings
1. I worry about the diplomacy tokens being too powerful. I am not certain that they are, thats why it is not a weakness, but it seemed to really shut people down (I was the one getting them my first game with this).

Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege




Strengths
1. New cards, new mechanics, what's not to like
2. Increases replayability

Weaknesses
1. Not as bad as dragonspire, but some of the artwork was a bit below the first couple of releases.
2. Not really feeling the 'forest' theme while traveling through the dungeon

Agricola: 2011 World Championship Decks




I can't say too much about this one yet. I have only tried out the alpha deck so far. It was interesting. I am certain new cards will extend the lifespan of the game.
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23. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:115]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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I picked this up to fill out an free shipping online order because I had heard good things about it.

Great pickup as this as been the best new game for us. Easy to play and easy to teach makes this a great fun game when time is short or you just want an easy game.

Best game so far is when my friend had no points an I killed him... yet he still won.

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24. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:9]
Bill Kunes
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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The Castles of Burgundy




Over the past year or so I started noticing Stefan Feld's name pop up in association with games that were catching my attention in the forums and geeklists. This is my first exposure first hand to his games. I went to Origins with the intention to buy it, but did not see it. I went to Gen Con with the same intention. Fortunate for me, my wife found a copy, the only one we saw, and at a great price!

Our first play was a little slow going. The turn mechanics were relatively easy to pick up. It was the iconography of the knowledge tiles and the benefits of each of the building tiles that took time to learn. Our second game went much smoother and we felt like we were finding our stride.

Ultimately Castles saw a dozen plays this month and is my wife's new favorite (along with King of Tokyo). We've enjoyed playing the different boards and trying different strategies. This game offers a variety of risk/reward opportunities, challenging decisions and multiple paths to victory.


Sentinels of the Multiverse




My brother-in-law and I played a demo of this at the end of our one day at Gen Con. We played with a couple familiar with the game who enthusiastically navigated us through a tough battle against the villain, Omnitron. I played Absolute Zero, a complex and difficult hero to play, which comes with one of the expansions.

The card and component quality were exceptional. The flow of the game is straight forward: villain takes its turn followed by each hero and finally the environment takes its turn. Rinse and repeat.

We struggled a bit to grasp the inner turn mechanisms, but it had more to do with starting with a more complex game setup to play for your first exposure. Regardless, we got through our game, saw enough for me to still be interested in acquiring this game. The real question for me will be whether I can muster enough interest in my gaming circle to justify its purchase.


Flash Point: Fire Rescue




My wife and BIL had no previous knowledge of this cooperative game prior to playing a 4p demo with the family game setup. I understood conceptually a little from chatter on BGG. It was an easy sequence of turn actions to pick up with a straight forward objective.

In this simplified setup the decisions quickly became straight forward with some choice and discussion around what may be the most efficient use of our actions. We rescued mostly false alarms (i.e. blank markers) in the early going causing a little panic, but in the end we managed to exit with sufficient persons of interest (and a cat?) to win our game.

I felt the game met my expectations. My wife and BIL however were luke warm to it. Not sure if it was due to our teacher being a bit tired and worn out from multiple demos, the game play itself, or whether they were still in shock at the vast chaos of the con (their first exposure to the hobby on any scale) that led them to that conclusion. I liked it enough to keep it on the Wishlist. Time will tell.


Power Grid: The Robots




My oldest daughter had a commissioned art job to paint a mural on one of my gaming buddy's daughter's room. With summer coming to a close she wanted to make one last push and put in a whole day to complete the project. This afforded my buddy and I time to play a few games. One of those games was our first exposure to the Robots expansion for Power Grid.

The idea here is when playing with 2p, which is not that fun, you can introduce a robot or two by putting together robot body puzzle pieces with each segment offering a heuristic for how the robot will carry out its turn each phase. If playing with one robot you alternate turns carrying out its actions making decisions within the guidelines of the robot. If you introduce two robots, which we did, each of you gets to control a robot on its turn.

We choice to play two robots would give us more opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of this expansion and whether or not it was worth more table time. My buddy and I are the strongest two PG players within our gaming circle, which only means that we would be the best two to evaluate this expansion for our game group, nothing more.

We also agreed to play the robot as we would play in its position when choosing to make the decision offered by the game; in other words we wouldn't play it to favor or cripple any one player. In the end it is humbling to admit that we actually lost to one of the robots. With this being our first and only exposure to the robots to date we aren't sure whether losing to one robot and barely defeating the other which we nicknamed "Dumb Dumb" is a good thing for the game or a bad thing for us??? Final score: Robot1 16, Myself 15$, My Buddy 15, and Robot2 (a.k.a. "Dumb Dumb") 14.


Innovation: Echoes of the Past




Innovation was the hit for us at Origins and our most played game the past two months. So getting the expansion was a "must buy" at Gen Con. In our first few plays the jury is still out on how we feel about it. The introduction of new cards, bonuses, echoes, foreshadowing, and potential to introduce additional achievements mixes up the game significantly.

All our games with this expansion thus far have been blowouts. What we don't know yet is whether that is due to us not knowing how to counter these new changes yet, i.e. we are still learning how this works, or whether there are some run away leader issues. It is premature in my mind to discern that without more plays to explore the layers of complexity found in Innovation.


Magic the Gathering




I picked up a $10 Battle Booster Pack at Walmart killing some time before picking my teenage daughter from a friends to see what all the craze was about. Amazing art and and interesting system for sure. A friend familiar with the game played against my daughter to teach her the basics while I watched and compared their dual against what I had read and watched online.

I eventually picked up a Deck Builder kit at the store and tried my hand at building two 60 card decks and my wife and I played two games. We still have much to learn, but there exists enough interest in the game to play from time to time for a change of pace.


meeple Keep playing...
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25. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:7]
Jeremy Smith
United States
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma
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Best New Game

Android: Netrunner
With how this exploded I'm a bit surprised that it isn't on this list yet. This is my favorite game that is new to me in August 2012! Asymmetrical LCG with an awesome theme! I give it a 10/10

Board Games

Shadowrift
An interesting Co-Op deckbuilder. I hadn't even heard of it before going to Gencon. Fairly solid game, but not best game of the month. 8/10

Sentinels of the Multiverse
I did demo this game several months back and immediately signed up for the kickstarter. I now own this and all of it's expansions! It's a new staple in my game collection I would put it at #2 best new game this month. 9/10

Smash Up
Another surprise for me at Gencon. I hadn't heard of this gem, but after a game or two I realized that it would fit perfectly in my lunch time at work. It's fun, light, and fast game. 8/10

New Expansions

Thunderstone Advance: Caverns of Bane
I'm not the biggest fan of the new color scheme, I liked the darker backgrounds. The important thing though is that this game adds quite a bit to Thunderstone Advanced. I really like this expansion, I just wish it came with more than one treasure type. 8/10

Rune Age: Oath and Anvil
I knew this was on it's way, but was surprised to see it at Gencon. This added everything that Rune Age was missing. It's a great expansion and with this I'll get a lot more replay out of a very underrated deckbuilder. 9/10
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