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

Perhaps this will be the Essen list??

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
New to you a year ago Nov 12 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in November 2012
Out of the Dust, November 2012
Videogames New To You November 2012
Your Most Played Game (and more): November 2012
New to your Kids or Renewed Enthusiasm Oct & Nov 2012
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1. Board Game: Granada [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1832]
Andy
United Kingdom
Stockport
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== NEW GAMES ==

Granada - 1 play - thumbsup

I only managed one new game this month, and it was a last gasp on the 30th to play something new.
Granada is basically a revamp of Dirk Henn's set collecting game Alhambra... this time with an added twist that the tiles are double-sided and you can pay to flip a tile over when you buy it. The scoring is also slightly different in that all building types are valued equally, and you score for each tile of a particular type that is in play (not just your own). Other than that it's basically just Alhambra.

I did however feel that the new elements added a new level of strategy, because not only are you competing for the majority, you want as many as possible of the buildings you are scoring to be in play.. and there is now the option to "bury" some buildings, by flipping them, thus reducing their overall value.

Overall a clever twist on Alhambra.
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2. Board Game: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:25]
 
United States
Davis
California
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This was a very good month for new games and it was difficult to decide which game should get top honors. Both X-Wing and Zimbabwe are excellent (in very different ways). However, X-Wing is a lot more accessible and should see much more play with my group, so I gave it the nod.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game


(image credit: flying hair)

This is just a lot of fun to play. The basic rules are fairly light, relying on well-designed aids (like the cardstock turn arc templates) to take care of a lot of the mechanics. You secretly choose your maneuvers; move your ships; fire (if possible); and repeat until one player (or team) is left on the field.

But you can also add in extra ships (which have their own maneuvering capabilities and weapons/hull/shield mixes); play special scenarios; choose individual pilots with special abilities; or add ship "upgrades" like R2-D2 or an Ion Turret.

Everything is very thematic and resonates with my deep childhood geek memories of the original films (Han shot first!).

I was surprised by how cinematic the game felt at times, with a flight of TIEs all banking in an arc to come back for another firing pass, or the time I flew my X-Wing into the teeth of an oncoming TIE and destroyed it just before flying through the debris. I couldn't help but imagine the ship explosions from the movies, or Han warning me not to get cocky.

The game just feels right.

And it looks gorgeous. Absolutely great design work. (If you're interested in the game and haven't yet seen the unboxing video for the upcoming Millennium Falcon expansion, go watch it. Holy crap!)

The only (slight) downside to the game is that it can run a little long with multiple ships. But it hasn't been too bad. Our four-player games have lasted about 90-120 minutes (with five or six ships).


The Great Zimbabwe

(image credit: jmdsplotter)

This is an economic development game, with its theme set in the ancient civilizations of Africa.

At heart, you're placing different types of craftsmen on the (variable set-up) map, in order to develop different resources into different finished goods. Finished goods can then be used to upgrade your monuments (which is the main stream of VP). To develop monuments to higher levels, multiple types of finished goods must be used. So eventually, you'll need to have access to multiple different kinds of craftsman products.

Although you own the craftsmen you place on the board, anyone can use their products (by paying the price you set). This leads to very interesting and important turn order considerations, because once resources are used, they're depleted for that turn and unavailable for use by other players. By going first, you can snitch essential resources and prevent other players from upgrading their monuments that turn.

Spatial considerations are very important, as craftsmen must be in range of their resources, and transportation of finished goods over long distances is costly.

Players also have access to cards that grant special powers, but they come at a price. Each one you take also increases the number of VP you must get in order to win. So when enhancing your effectiveness, you're also extending your finish line.

All of that combines into an interesting and interactive economic and logistics puzzle. There look to be lots of opportunities for clever screwage through price manipulation, resource depletion, and the development of master craftsmen (who make the products of their subordinate craftmen obsolete -- So that they can't be used to upgrade monuments).

My wife and I have been enjoying it two-player, but I get the feeling it would be much better with more players. The special powers and craftsmen ownership would be spread around more, creating opportunities for temporary alliances that aren't present with two.

That said, I'm not sure that I'm going to have much chance to play it with a higher player count. It isn't the kind of thing that goes over well with my regular group. Also, I see a potential for painful downtime, if any player decides to do brute-force calculation of all the possible moves (and counter-moves). That potential exists in my group, and I see some risk of it transforming the game into a joyless slog.

The art production is really nice. The components won't blow you away, but they're up to modern standards. And the aesthetic style is quite appealing -- understated and thematic, with a nice muted palette of colors.

The rules were hard to grok. Get someone to teach you if you can. You'll thank me.

Last point: is it worth the price tag? Not for the game play alone. It's very good, but not that good. But if you're a collector as well as a player, it's a nice item to have.


Fleet

(image credit: EndersGame)

This is a light-medium hand-management, engine building, VP chasing card game. It's got a well integrated and interesting set of mechanisms and very handsome components (with a great understated aesthetic sensibility).

So far, I've only tried it with two and it was somewhat brittle at that player count. In both of our plays, the person who got the economic boosting cards out first had a snowballing lead that led to victory. I suspect that with 3 or 4 the multi-sided competition for engine boosters would prevent anyone from getting an insurmountable advantage.

Although I'm a little disappointed in the two-player experience, I'm looking forward to trying it with more.


Roads & Boats

(image credit: blindangle)

Build factories and transporters. Then use the factories to produce raw materials or convert them into processed materials.

But here's the catch: you can only have one factory per hex. This means you must move stuff around. A lot. And that's what most of the game is about, setting up transportation routes and using them to haul materials around, in order to eventually produce victory points (for your pro rata contributions to the collective "wonder", gold, gold coins, and stock certificates).

It's a big efficiency puzzle, that's pretty interesting if you have the patience for it. It kind of feels like a train set, as you build a road net and then run your little transport vehicles around on it.

One downside is that the game's very long for what it is. My first 2-player game, with rules explanation took between 4-5 hours. The second play (also 2p) ran about three hours. The time passed pleasurably, without me feeling bored or tired of the experience, but it was still a big block of time. That's going to make it hard to get to the table.

And it's also quite fiddly. There are lots of little piles of chits to place, move around, and convert into other chits. That was a bit of a pain and I found myself wishing it was a computer game, with the program taking care of all of the bookkeeping. (I think an iOS version of this would be great.)

Finally, both my plays had the same basic arc, which felt a bit limited. My wife and I were both wondering how anyone manages to get the higher level transports built, as we struggled just to move from donkeys to wagons.

All in all, I've enjoyed the game, but I'm not sure that it's worth the investment (of time and attention or the hefty price tag). If I'm in the mood for an economic game with a spatial component, I'd have a lot more fun playing Age of Industry, in half the time. I'll probably hang on to it, as a collector's item that I *occasionally* get to the table, but I'm not positive that it's a keeper. (If anyone wants to test my resolve, I've listed mine for sale in the marketplace, priced below the going rate.)



Walnut Grove

(image credit: Toynan)

This is a painfully tight resource management game, where the need to pay upkeep makes it really hard to get ahead of subsistence demands. And the game is short. There are only eight single-action turns. By the time you start to get things cooking, it's over.

It all works well and the mechanisms are interesting, but I'm afraid it's maybe just too limited in its scope of action.


Chicken Caesar

(image credit: skipsizemore)

You're trying to promote your family's roosters into various offices, in order to exercise the powers associated with the offices and gain the office insignia (which count for end of game VP scoring). But there are external threats (foxes) and internal ones (the Censor), which can banish or kill your roosters. The game presents an interesting set of interconnected mechanisms, that work in clever ways (once you recognize how to use them to best effect). There's also a heavy dose of negotiation, which should serve as a check on the leader (but sure didn't in our game!).

The art design and physical production is quite good. The goofy Chicken motif is a nice draw, especially when combined with a game that can be quite cut-throat.

We played with five newbies and the results were a little frustrating (for me). I made an early mistake that took me out of contention. The eventual winner happened onto a strong initial position, that the rest of us didn't know how to check effectively. I get the sense that this game would really only shine with players who know it well. That's a problem because, I found the game difficult to learn and teach, making it unlikely that I'm going to want to invest the effort into repeated play.

Plus I suck at negotiation games in general. So while I admire the design and think it will work very well for many, I doubt it will be a keeper for me.
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3. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:17]
Solomon M. Green
Australia
Armadale
Victoria
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24 distinct games for the month, 11 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. New releases at ESSEN Spiel starting to hit the table.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (2012),
Martian Dice (2011),
Kingdom Builder: Nomads (2012),
Uchronia (2012),
Kosmonauts (2012),
Lancaster (2011),
1969 (2012),
Circus Flohcati (1998),
Potion-Making: Practice (2005),
Clocks (2012),
Three-Dragon Ante (2005).


Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (2012)
26 steps in time on the Mayan Calendar wheel go very quick if someone speeds it up just towards the end of the game. Knowing how many turns remain is critical for squeezing out those last victory points. Worshipping the gods in the temples grants very generous game bonuses that cannot be ignored, just as building just the right monument will also help. It's such a brilliant euro in that there are so many paths to victory.

On your turn you either place workers or retrieve them. Placing workers takes on an incremental cost paid in corn for multiple workers placed with additional costs for workers placed beyond the start of any of the cogs dependent on which tooth is next available. Retrieving of workers takes workers placed in previous turns which have undergone the benefits of time to increase their yields. The longer you wait, the greater the reward, which is a new concept to worker placement. Players start with 3 workers which can be increased through the game though they will need to be fed after each quarter of the game.

Amazingly, having done the research before, pretty well understood the game, I surprised myself in seizing victory on the first outing.


Martian Dice (2011)
A quick fun game, light, easy to learn, and as a push your luck type game, a bit more difficult than it looks.

You control the Martian invasion with 13 dice (d6), each having 2 death ray (Green), 1 Tank (Red), 1 Human (Blue), 1 Cow (White) and 1 Chicken (Yellow). On your turn roll all available dice, any revealed tanks must be set aside, then choose to set aside either death rays or one of the other types not previously set aside. You can always put death rays aside. Continue rolling remaining dice till you choose to stop or fail to score. At the time you stop you score only if the number of death rays equals or exceeds the number of earthly tanks, otherwise zero. Then score one point for each chicken, human or cow put aside with three bonus points if you have all three. Game continues till one player has 25 points.

The challenge here is to have enough Martian death rays to overcome the earthly tanks, otherwise you get nothing. As easy as it is to take death rays the temptation is to secure chickens, humans or cows hoping that additional dice rolls will not produce more earthly defensive tanks. I like it and it's now on the wishlist.


Kingdom Builder: Nomads (2012)
Does the expansion improve the game ?
Hmmm, not especially. Whilst it introduces some progressive scoring through the game with bonuses arising from the expansion, the game remains largely the same. The addition of four new terrain types and new special game powers adds to the replayability of the game, with silver cities having one off bonuses for the first person to explore adjacent spaces. The expansion adds a 5th player though for a game already played on a crowded board with 4, this perhaps slows the game down further and makes it prone to more analysis-paralysis.

I still have a huge respect for this game, more so than Donald X. Vaccarino's Dominion. The win of Spiel des Jahres for the base game was well deserved. Any designer that can win such awards more than once deserves their place in boardgame immortality.

Uchronia (2012)
Whilst much writing and the author's links to Glory to Rome, the feel to me was nothing like it. I felt less screwed over in this game than GTR though can see some of the similarities given the bonus actions that come with having established activities on previous turns. The learning curve for the turn mechanics takes several rounds to get used to though repeat plays would overcome this. The game is prone to analysis-paralysis when learning with the Draconians action designed to work best when there are 4 or more players, otherwise it's benefits would be lost. Gameplay continues till one player has acheived the variable victory point quota, dependent on the number of players, with the round in which that occurs completing.

From our initial plays, this game version suffers from some poor printing quality and misalignment of card images. There are way too many cards in the deck making shuffling of mini cards very difficult for mere mortals. Two of the colour shades are so close and easy to confuse with no keys for colour blind people making it nigh on impossible for them to participate in the current version. It is language dependent given that there is a large amount of text to understand on building cards.


Kosmonauts (2012)
Take an interplanetary trip through the Galaxy visiting all the planets before your opponents after which you return to earth and claim victory. Players are given an identical share of fuel, super fuel and shields to start their mission, with an opportunity to recharge by resting on a planet during a turn rather than activating their impulse engines. Each turn the active player selects an effect that will influence all players movement for the round. Players then add additional fuel to their directional engines in one of 8 points which help propel their craft, Fuel applied is cumulative until you land on a planet meaning you may need to counter your motion by an opposite impulse. Lose control of your spaceship leaving the galaxy or destruction from lack of shields will send you back to the last planet successfully visited.

A bit like chase the flag type games, though you choose the order to visit the planets of the solar system with success acheived by visiting at least all but one of the planets before returning to Earth at which point victory points are tallied. What makes this novel is that the planets do move after each turn with explorers who have landed moving with the planet or landing as the planet moves. Haley's Comet is a magical touch which can slingshot your adventure at great speed along its eliptical pathway.

We found there is a need in the first few rounds to keep move planning hidden from opponents, after which it becomes inconsequential. It light enough to learn though still quite challenging as you try to land on a moving target for this or a future turn.


Image Courtesy Chaddyboy
Lancaster (2011)
More of a worker placement game than area control, it comes with a difference to most concepts of worker placement. Once placed, no knight is safe, as a subsequent player can also exert a higher of level of power in the same county to displace your knight done with any combination of knight and squires exceeding that which you have chosen to place. Being displaced is not the end of the world as on your turn you will again have a choice of where to deploy your knight. Squires are lost in battle never to return though are generated from the results of various board placement actions. Placement in combat yields immediate results of a bonus for the round with up to six such bonuses of different types available each round.

The rules are overly complex with necessary detail often difficult to find whilst learning the game. A good simplified cheat sheet would come in handy. Starting player is changeable by gaining successful placement in the county of Surrey and having the choice to freely choose which player, including yourself, becomes the start player for the future round. We were uncertain as to whether being the first or last in a round was beneficial even after the game had completed.

One thing for certain, a good supply of willing squires to die in battle for you will be rewarding as only the most powerful in the counties at the end of the round will reap the rewards. Collective voting of laws with influence cubes coming from those who have dined at your royal table is an interesting twist on the benefits that may come to you or your opponents. Game play is across 5 rounds with the most victorious army being awarded victory.

1969 (2012)
The space race of the 1960's is played out in this space themed game. Choose your rocket to represent one of the featured countries. Draft workers of varying prestige or spy on the accomplishments from one of your opponents. Initial rounds players will research technologies with maximum points being available for any mission not attempted in previous rounds and diminished by the number of previous attempts by opponents. Any one mission may only be attempted by a player once and subsequent missions must be for a different goal. Successfully complete a mission with maximum points and your future journey to the moon benefits. The ultimate goal being exploration of the moon. Start player for each year moves on one player.

What I didnt like about this game was the spy capability which effectively chews up a development slot for an opponent basically gives them a license to return the favour. Success or failure of missions can be affected by your opponents setting up an almost revenge like cooperative culture between players in order to sabotage opponents outcomes, this effect on a mission hurts the later players most as others who have not used cards can choose to play them all at once, including the last round, thereby destroying opportunities.


Circus Flohcati (1998)
A Reiner Knizia game where he challenges you to push your luck aiming for greatest score achieved through set collection and best scoring cards of each colour in your hand. On your turn, flip over a card untill you decide to take the card. If the card flipped over is the same colour as once previously displayed then you miss out and that card is discarded moving onto the next player. Collect a set of three identical numbered cards and you can save them for 10 bonus points at the end. Play moves through the deck once with players then tallying points from sets along with the highest value card in each colour within their hand. Winner has the greatest points.

Light, quick filler game to learn, plays well with maximum players (5).

Potion-Making: Practice (2005)
Attempt to construct the best potions to earn points. On your turn, draw up to five cards, then attempt to construct a potion in your hand from previously discarded elements or potions earning the number of points displayed on the card. Potions constructed from other potions may use your own potions or that of your opponents. If you construct a super potion using potions made by others then they will earn points equivalent to half the number of points you earn. Spells may be played with their effects taking place immediately. If you cannot construct a potion you can discard a card which becomes an element available for other players earning one point if the element is different to all other elements previously discarded. Play continues till the deck runs out and players have used up the last of their cards. Winner with the most points.

What the game really lacked was a reference sheet for the potion hierachy which is printed on the reverse side of the scoring table making either the scoring sheet useless or the reference sheet useless. The game is extremely random and nothing more than a filler. Apart from the rules it is a good language independent game with discenable icons for the various elements and potions.


Clocks (2012)
12 points of the clock where dice you collect during the game will be collected and placed, with a target of 1 thru 6 repeated twice. Players will select an objective in clockwise or anti clockwise direction with bonus starting coins going to those playing anti clockwise. With more players, a mix of players moving in both directions will mean objectives are less likely to clash. Players attempt to collect dice in numerical order with bonuses rewarded for placing dice matching that of the node. Skipping nodes come at a cost.

The starting player selects dice from the bag, one more than the number of players, rolls the dice then splits them into groups according to the number of players. Players then secretly bid for the right to choose the dice, minimum bid zero, highest bidder wins with ties being resolved in anti-clockwise direction back from the start player. 1st step, all players select their dice according to order from auction bids. Then turns in clockwise order from start player. Allocate the dice, earn bonus and optionally perform bonus, optionally take 3 coins or perform one extra action paying the cost associated with that node on the clock if you have previously placed the correct dice at that point of the clock. The bonuses include increasing or decreasing a dice, flipping to the opposing side, swapping two neighbouring dice or performing anyone of the other special actions which all occur on every second step of the clock. Start player moves on each round.

Three-Dragon Ante (2005)
Each player starts with a starting stake of $50 with the aim of taking all the money from their opponents as the last one standing. Initially deal 6 cards to each player, they range in values from 1 through 13 across 11 different suits and some additional cards. Five suits in each of good dragons (6) and evil dragons (6) along with mortals (7) and three other cards. Play starts with each player contributing an "ante" card for which the highest value becomes the "leader" (start player of the round) and that value dictates the ante for the round, successive rounds the leader being the one who usually played the highest card in the previous round. Play continues till 3 cards have been played making up the flight, with the player whose flight is greatest taking the pot. The leader always actions their card and then successive players action their card if the same or less than the value of previous player. Some cards will cause money and or cards to change hands depending on the type of power. At the end of the flight players reload their hands with two new cards up to a hand limit of 10 cards. If a player runs out of cards they gain four more at a cost determined by the value of the top most card from the new deck. Bonus winnings occur if a flight contains three cards of the same suit or three dragons of the same value.

As a winner take all game, the strategy seems to be save your best cards for your when you can win the most and hence make the ante greatest at that time. Remember actioning the power of your card only happens if you play a card of the same or lower value than the previous player.

We played with 3 players, though would be best with more such as 5 or 6, given that some of the actions from the cards would have greater impact with more players. The deck was an english deck and is language dependent with no symbology to follow. The instructions on the cards are quite wordy and take a few rounds to get the hang of it. Not something I will be rushing out to play again.


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4. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:2]
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 managed to play six new games. No new expansions, though. I love the first game; am very enthusiastic about the next three titles, and (unfortunately) distinctly less so about the final title. That last is a game with some merit; but not one that worked for me.


Terra Mystica -- (2 plays) _8.5_
(images by nan3000 & henk.rolleman)

Wow. I've not been as enthusiastic about a first play of a game, well, since last month's The Great Zimbabwe. Ok; the title before that was South African Railroads in May of 2011. It doesn't happen that often. Unfortunately, I was also particularly incompetent: I placed poorly in both of my games. It clearly wins Largest enthusiasm to competence ratio of any title in recent memory.

Fourteen different factions; four different currencies (two of them distinctly different from the others); tempo effects; direct competition for limited resources. It's definitely not a attack-your-neighbour game - so the Small World comparisons are rather poor. But it's equally nothing like a multiplayer solitaire exercise.

I'd be very surprised if this doesn't get to a _9_ for me in the next couple plays: it's providing me a great deal of amusement. I'm totally happy to own a copy. And I think it's a great pickup for Z-Man: I hope they're very successful with it.



Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage -- (1 play) _8_
(images by alex1326 & coker)

Hannibal is really an amazing design: I'm very sad that it took me so long to get my copy played. Ok; whose idea was that Carthaginian Die? might be my only complaint: as a usability choice, it's not terribly good. While I found that I was manipulating the complete ruleset fairly well by half-way through our game, I was still needing to look up the symbols on the Carthaginian Die for another hour.

One of the difficulties I have with some of the wargames of my youth is that there's a whole lot of bits to keep track of. My difficulty is that I'm not a General, nor ever might be: I can't keep track (happily, at least) of more than a dozen or so things. And here, there are no more than 9 mobile armies at any time: 5 Carthaginian generals, and 4 Romans. I found it quite pleasantly tractable to keep most of the game state in my head (and, as a result, could consider ramifications of various potential actions while my opponent was moving.) Combine that relative modesty with combat mechanics similar to 1989 (which I'd recently played) and We the People (whose rules I'd recently read) and a influence-placing game that's a dramatic simplification of the Twilight Struggle mechanics and I have a fascinating and tractable game. It was excellent. I'd be very happy to play again.



1846 -- (1 play) _8_
(images by thepackrat & sourwyrm)

While I admit that I have no particular skill (I hope yet is the operative word) at any 18xx title, this one gave me hope. It's got a surprisingly constrained time horizon (along with its other virtues.) So it gave me hope that I might be able to correlate cause and effect more distinctly than I've been able to do to this point. Short-ish, brutal, and nasty. And all of those are good things in this context.

The partial capitalization thing mutates the game more than I'd expected: I'd definitely need (at least) a few more tries to get the hang of how to manipulate that successfully. For me, it's a lovely mutation on the limited set of family tropes with which I've come to an accomodation. Definitely looking forward to the point - 15 or 20 months from now - when I hit the front of the deepthoughtgames.com queue and can acquire my own copy.



1825 Unit 1 -- (1 play) _7.7_
(images by patrel & edwardsmale)

By the standards of 1846 this one is leisurely, calm, and relatively harmless. Perhaps this is a tiny corner of the Pacific to the other title's late summer in the Adriatic. Pretty harmless, by 18xx standards.

Still, there are a bunch of decisions to make: there's stations to place (something I'm not good at at all!); track to place; trains to buy and run. Yeah; one can't dump a company on someone else, or force someone to buy a train out of pocket as a result of pushing the train rush. But kinder, gentler or not; it's still cool.



Kingdom Builder -- (1 play) _6.7_
(images by binraix & Toynan)

I know this is quite popular amongst the BGG elite: it's an IGA Winner; a multiple Golden Geek holder; a Spiel des Jahres winner... Yet I found it, well, ordinary. Tension? Where's the tension?

Each turn I was presented with a set of pretty trivial decisions. Not null decisions; but equally not a difficult ones. But it wasn't at all obvious that anything mattered terribly. Any plausibly sensible (subject to the likelihoods of the next card draw and the various incentives in play) choice seemed as likely to generate roughly as many final points as any other. Our final scores played out that aesthetic: we were a few points apart; and while it would be delightful to blame Good Decision Making on the results, it seems just as likely to be random butterfly effects.

Of course, my one observation isn't at all significant. It's far more likely that the game is of high quality and I'm delusional. I'm content to play again: I'll do my best. But I'd love to see a correlation between Good Play and game results in future. (I'd be even more happy to have someone demonstrate Clever Play: something unexpectedly cool: I didn't see much opportunity for that, either.)



Fealty -- (1 play) _5_
(images by angelkurisu & ZackStack)

I'm even more grumpy about this title than the previous one. Excuse me while I take half an hour to calculate the the information I need to make a good decision. Again, I can't claim that the decisions that present themselves in this game are trivial or irrelevant. But they are obscured - and I can't even say "unnecessarily": it's a necessary consequence of the design - by some very uninteresting and annoyingly repetitive calculations. I found myself, grumpily, thinking that it's a game that would be far more compelling in the digital domain - where one could calculate both the momentary delta score (that any particular placement might induce) and the maximal delta score change that any given placement might induce in the remaining tiles of each opponent.

"What?" You say. That'd take forever to calculate. For an arbitrary person, perhaps. For me: most definitely. But - for sake of argument - a bit of code running on Google Glass could do it in a tiny fraction of a second. And, worse or better as one might find it, present a visual overlay over each point on the board and each unplayed tile displaying those results.

But the game that presents itself when all those numbers are immediately available to both players might be quite interesting. It's just too hard to get there with the game as presented. I don't really want to play the cardboard version again - but would be delighted to give it a try again were it ever to be implemented in software.



Thanks again to my youngsters, the BAP attenders, the no-longer-on-Friday Lunch folk, and the left-coast leftovers of the I've been Diced! gang for some great game experiences.
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5. Board Game: Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 - ? [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:211]
Evil Bob
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
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Although I played fewer games this month, I managed to play a number of my new games multiple times. At the beginning of the month, I had expressed an interest in learning how to play Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 - ? to my friend. He jumped at the opportunity to teach me the game. To be honest, I was very sceptical of the game at first. I've only played one game of Twilight Struggle and wasn't too thilled with it. Then I played 1989: Dawn of Freedom, which I definitely enjoyed more. Though both of those card driven games are very well designed, knowing all the potential cards which can come up is a singificant factor that gives an experienced player an edge. To me it just felt as if the cards scripted too many decisions of those games. So, along comes Labyrinth and it looks similar to the others. However, there are some very large differences with this game. First and foremost are the events on the cards. For the most part, the events seem more generic than those in Twilight Struggle. There's only one "must play" event card so the game doesn't have as much of a scripted feel to it.

My biggest draw was the asymmetrical game play. In this game one player plays the USA, the other the "jihadists". In a nutshell, the jihadists are trying to influence Middle Eastern countries in order to get their governments to Islamic rule. They can cause all sorts of chaos, including triggering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in countries in order to further their goals. Their main constraint has to do with their funding levels, as tight funding results in a reduced number of cards in hand. The USA player has to launch War of Ideas (WoI) in countries in order to get their goverments to eventually ally with them so they can send troops to the country and disrupt terrorist cells. The USA's main constraints are the overall global position (hard or soft) on the Global War on Terror as well as the USA's global prestige ratings. Typical to most other card driven games, both players can play cards to trigger events on the cards or they can play them for Operation Points in order to accomplish their tasks. Each side performs their functions in completely different, but thematic ways. For example, the USA can use Ops points to move as many troops into a country, provided that the country has a neutral or ally alignment with the USA but it's more costly to deploy into countries where the governance levels are poorer. The jihadists can use OPs points to move cells from a country to another country but must roll a die to see if the cells were caught and detained (removed from the board) along the way.

In the end, I enjoyed my experience of this game so much that I quickly ordered the game during the GMT sale and now I'm the happy owner of my own copy.


I really enjoy block wargames and have a few of my own. Those blocks elegantly implement the whole "fog of war" limited intelligence of conflicts. Also, they look really cool. When my friend suggested that we try out FAB: The Bulge I was delighted. This game deals with "The Bulge" situation during the Ardennes Offensive that occurred outside of Bastogne, France in World War II. Basically the Germans initiated a counter offensive against the American lines, who ended up containing and then pushing back the Germans with reinforcements that were quickly deployed. This game plays out very similarly in that the game begins with the Germans pushing in on the American lines. The American fall back and slow down the German offensive by blowing bridges, creating fieldworks, and setting up roadblocks. The Germans have to push really fast though, as very strong American reinforcements come on board and quickly move to support the front lines. There's an interesting mechanism in this game in the form of assets, represented by counters. Assets are artillery and rocket bombardment, engineers, and other special actions and events. At the beginning of the round, these are placed in a cup and the scenario determines how many are randomly drawn. As you use the available counters, they are placed in a "used" pile and returned to the cup to be redrawn for the next turn. This almost seemed similar to a "deckbuilding" mechanism, since if you decide not to use the asset it remains in your available pool and doesn't go back into the cup to be redrawn. Proper asset management (which I still haven't mastered) should allow for stacking the cup in your favor. I managed to play 2 sessions this month. In the first game I was the Americans and was quickly falling back from the German onslaught, supported by rocket and artillery barrages. Luckily, I was able to build a solid defence and force my opponent to rebuild blown bridges in order to keep his troops in fresh supply. In the end I managed to hold onto Bastogne and the Germans ran out of time with not enough accumulated victory locations. The second game saw me playing the Germans. As we were still getting accustomed to the rules and tactics of the game I made a mad dash to Bastogne, neglecting to solidify my front. An American unit slipped behind my lines and caused all sorts of havok. I did manage to capture a number of victory locations and by the end of the game I think I only needed one more point to win the game. Great game overall and I'm itching to play it again. Also, another gaming buddy has FAB: Sicily so I'm hoping to give that a try once we feel a bit more comfortable with the basic FAB system.


A gamer buddy came back from Essen 2012 with Blocks in the East, having met and purchased the game from the designer. Great! I love block wargames (see my entry above) and the WWII Eastern Front interests me, particularly the way that Soviets managed to fight a retreating battle and slow down the German Offensive. I was very interested to give this game a try, having not heard of it before. I read the rules the night before in preparation of our scheduled game and was surprised at how easy the rules were to read. The next day, four of us got together and tried to play the game. We decided on the large learning scenario. Unfortunately, our problems began with the setup. To begin with, the map is beautiful, large and colorful but also very busy. It was difficult to determine the locations of some of the borders, cities and towns. Also, the first version of the rules had omitted the entire setup procedure. We managed to find a post on the BGG forums with a picture of the setup that someone had created. After having finally managed to set up, we attempted to play the game. Unfortunately, we hit our second obstacle. It turns out that the rules, which had been written in an almost casual style, were not very concise. There were many ambiguities which we took note of and subsequently posted in the forums. Not knowing if we were playing the game as intended, on the first turn of the German Offensive the Soviet army was wiped out without any chance of retreating. Not much of a learning experience for the Soviets. After about 5 hour of setup, trying to make sense of the rules, and the sudden death of the Soviet defense, we left the game in frustration.

One of the players posted the questions that we had encountered and I have to say that the designer is VERY enthusiastic about his game. He quickly clarified the problems that we had. A few days later, my buddy and I made the effort to try the game again. We reread the rules one more time before the game and set it the first basic scenario. This time we had a better understanding of how the game flowed and what to do. My friend had taken a number of notes from the rulebook, as the game came with no player aids and the reference charts on the map have incorrect information on it. We played the game again and I enjoyed it much more. Once again we had some rules questions, posted them, and had the responses quickly.

Blocks in the East is a game that I want to like but at this point I feel that there's still alot of work to do. There's a really fun, interesting, and fairly simple to learn game here but the game feels half cooked and unfinished. It still feels as if the rules are in flux right now with clarifications and new additional optional rules. The early adopters are really "blind playtesters". The designer recently posted a version 2.0 of the rules, however it looks very similar to the original version with the addition of the responses to our questions to fill in some of the gaps. I'm guessing that the game will probably stablize in about 6 months and I'll eagerly revisit it then. In the meantime, there are many other mature games out there to focus my attention on.


Back in September, I hadn't even heard of Middle-Earth Quest until I saw it listed in a BGG auction. After doing my research I decided that this game might be a good fit for me so I placed a bid and snagged it. A friend of mine used to have the game and offered to teach it to me so one evening the two of us sat down and played it. This game takes place in the stretch of time between Bilbo Baggins' birthday and when Gandalf comes back to the Shire to warn Frodo about the Ring. First off, let me say that the game is visually stunning, as typical with Fantasy Flight games. The map boards, when laid out on the table, are about the size of the Railroad Tycoon map. There are a number of few sculpted minis representing the player characters and major baddies. There are lots of thick, yummy counters. And there are cards. Lots of cards. Tons of cards. The cards represent events, monsters, plots, goals, encounters, and combat. This brings me to one of the mechanisms that I really like in this game. Combat is card-driven. Similar in part to Yomi, you must out-guess which card your opponent will play for his combat card to maximize the damage you do to him while minimizing what he does to you. Card combos can increase the effects in combat and any damage received reduces the number of cards from your draw deck. As cards are expended, you become exhausted but by resting and healing you can gain your cards back. Once again, to me the best part of the game is the asymmetrical play style. The heroes play cooperatively and attempt to fulfull goals and quests to gain experience and useful items. There is definite character progression in this game. During their questing they may even meet up with Gandalf, Elrond, Aragorn, or Saruman (yeah he's still good) in their attempts to gain favour and eventually stop Sauron's plots from maturing. Sauron, on the other hand, tries to spread his influence and corruption across Middle Earth in order to allow his minions and monsters room to roam. Accumulated influence makes an area more perilous for the heroes to quest in and helps to protect Saurons plots. If the heroes don't foil Sauron's plots quickly enough, he will win. Overall, this is a very thematic game and I'm looking forward to trying it out with more people.


I'd been hearing about Shadow Hunters for a while and was glad to finally get a chance to play it. I love BANG! and this game reminded me of it in alot of ways. In the game each person is secretly given a character card which tells them their special ability, their health, their objective, and which faction they are on. There are three factions; the Shadows, the Neutrals, and the Hunters. Basically, the Shadows win if they kill all the Hunters. The Hunters win if they can kill all the Shadows. The Neutrals have unique objectives. On your turn you roll 2 dice and add the numbers together to move your pawn. You pick a card from the deck with the color corresponding to the space you end up on. The cards can either be weapon cards, healing cards, or Hermit cards. The Hermit cards are the most interesting as they force other players to give clues to help determine that player's faction. When you are secretly given one, you must follow the instructions based on your faction. As an example, the card may say "Heal 1 point if you are not a Shadow". After your movement and card acquisition, you may attack another player provided he's in your range. I love games like this where quick deduction and bluffing can totally screw around with someone else. Although there is player elimination in this game, the game doesn't last too long and there's a fair amount to interaction to keep even eliminated players invloved with what's going on in the game until the end. I really enjoyed this game and would love to play it again.


It's taken me a while but I finally got around to playing Die Macher. I've heard that it's a great game and it's been in the top 100 forever. I guess I was expecting something else when I sat down to play it because in the end it didn't excite me as much as I'd hoped. I'm guessing the theme may have alot to do with it. Die Macher revolves around races in the German political system. In the game, you're a political party trying to gain the most victory points. You have to place your resources in the different regions in order to gain media influence, grow your national party membership, match your party's political platforms with those of the region and the nation, and you have to win elections in each region. In our 5 player game, I fully admit that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing throughout most of it. Somehow I ended up with media control in 2 regions, and managed to align my party's platforms closely to a few of the regions, as well as the nation. In the end I think I came in second place but walked away left wondering how I managed to do that. When I sit down with this game again, and I definitely will at some point, I still have no idea how I'm going to achieve a victory but I'll have fun experimenting nonetheless.


I'm generally not one for dexterity games, but Catacombs looked interesting. It's a combination of crokinole with a dungeon crawl. The heroes choose from a number of characters, each with different abilities. The evil player chooses a boss villian, and a number of random dungeon level cards. The dungeon level cards determine the room boards, the setups, and the monsters. Basically, each character and monster are represented by disks. In order to perform melee combat, simply flick your disk at the opponent you want to hit. If you hit it, you deal a point of damage. Ranged combat works similar except that the missile is represented with its own smaller disk. As the players progress down the dungeon levels, they gain gold from defeating the monsters, which can be used to heal or purchase items to help them survive. Eventually, at the last level, they meet up with the boss monster and its a fight to the death. This game has a simple set of rules, with alot of fun chrome rules for the monster special abilities. I really like the way this game manages to combine the two game types together so well. In our game I had the pleasure of playing as the evil beasties and chose the dragon as the boss monster. I think we played the game incorrectly, as each hero player only chose 1 character, Paladin and Sorceress. The heroes managed to survive until the level preceding the boss before they succumbed to their wounds. Chalk one up for the Bad Guys This game is lots of light fun and has a surprising amount of extra content from its expansions. After a brainburner game, this is a great game to end the evening with.
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6. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:114]
♪ 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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Seasons



Plays: 7

Winner: The "Be Prepared to Play a Game Just to Learn the Game" Award

123456

It should probably be easy to explain to players how to go through a typical turn in Seasons. Roll the dice, pick one, take what you can, and then do what you can with all the stuff you've earned, using the cards in your hand, which you drafted and then sorted into three piles at the start of the game. Easy-peasy! The problem is that players typically aren't going to understand all that the cards will do, what actions might be important in the early game as opposed to the later game, etc. And, of course, the game uses a lot of card combinations, which means knowing what other types of cards are in the deck is important, too.

Now, this isn't a complaint by any means; I'm the kind of player who has to be able to see the game in action before I can really get a sense of how it works. In fact, I've sat down several times to play a game knowing that I'm going to do horribly, because I'm just playing it to learn it. Seasons has an unforgiving nature if you get off to a bad start, which can be a source of frustration for new players, so I guess it depends on how your opponents feel about that sort of thing as to how well it will go over with them. Myself, I'd play it again, now that I understand it better.

There are a few things about the game that I like. I like the way that you use only a small subset of the cards, as it adds to the variability of future games, adding to its replayability. I also like the card and dice drafting element, since it gives you a chance to build up a strategy from the start. There's also the four special abilities that you can take at a high cost, which keeps you from getting stuck in a hole when you're ready to take your engine up to the next level. But it's also a game that's fairly dominated by luck, especially when someone draws the one card he needs right off the top of the deck thanks to a card ability he has. And then there are the dice, which can work against you, too.

The luck is manageable enough, but the real mark against the game is all the housekeeping that it requires. In our game, we had a lot of "when the round ends" and "when the seasons change" and "when someone activates a card" and "when someone plays a card" abilities that earned points, so every time someone did something, we had to track how the points shifted around. I feel certain that we (a) didn't give points to someone when they should have earned them, and (b) gave points to someone when they didn't. Seasons would be a great game to implement for the iPad, since it could track all that for the players automatically.

Would I play Seasons again? Definitely. Would I buy it? Probably not. I can see the game (and my playing of it) improving with more plays, but I have a number of card-combo games as it is, and besides, someone else in my group owns it.



Trick of the Rails



Plays: 2

Winner: The "Thoughtful and Analytical, Or Just Deterministic?" Award

123456

I like trick taking games. I don't think this is a big secret, if it ever was, but any time I see the words "quirky" or "clever" or "nifty" alongside "trick taking," I usually pay attention, and since I was already ordering Trains, I figured I would go ahead and add this to the order since it wasn't going to make a difference in the shipping costs anyway.

Anyway, I got a chance to play it this month, and it took us one play to learn the game, and then another to realize that we had played the first one incorrectly. Luckily, everyone involved seemed to like it, though some of us were a little frustrated with not grokking how to play out the hands properly. It took a while to get the flow of the game down, and remember whether or not the cards played would go into our stock portfolio or onto the railway at the end of the trick, but it became more natural as we played more. There's definitely a subtlety to the game that takes a while to get, since you also have to remember that if you win a trick, you might have to discard the card you used to win that trick.

I like that the game is balanced between the suit value and the railway value, and how you manage your hand based on those values. I also like the way that you're also managing a stock portfolio among all that, but I do wonder how much control you have over all that if you're not the one leading the trick. Discarding the winning card helps alleviate some of that benefit, but I can see a good player working around that limitation while forcing other players to add to a line you want to extend, or take stocks that he maybe didn't really want. And without a trump suit, it means some hands can be chaotic.

So, the jury's still out, but I like what I've seen so far. I do think it's clever and nifty, and the game plays in about 15 minutes and has that "One more time!" characteristic that keeps players interested. But I'll have to play it some more to see if any of my concerns are actually valid.


New-to-Me Mini-Expansions
King of Tokyo: Heidelbärger Brockenbär (2 plays)
King of Tokyo: Promo Cards (2 plays)
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7. Board Game: Ascension: Immortal Heroes [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:554] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Runcible Spoon
United States
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Ascension: Immortal Heroes



Strengths

1. I felt that Storm of Souls (base set for this expansion) was a bit thin on content, and this addressed that.

2. The new soul gem mechanic is pretty neat. Some have said that it can be a bit swingy in terms of luck. This is somewhat true, but I play this game knowing that luck has a role and I am o.k. with that. I consider the soul gems to be a strength because I have wondered what it would be like to mix the first base set with the second, and this gives a small sampler sized taste of that.

3. I like the new event variations. We start with an event and then shuffle in the 'new event' cards, keeping the actual event cards in a separate pile, and it works marvelously. I also like it that one can manipulate how rapidly events cycle through the deck by changing the number of 'new event cards.' They have recommendations for 5 new event cards per set used, but of course one can manipulate this suggestion a bit to find the optimal balance for the game play experience they are looking for.

4. The new monsters are interesting. I like the synergy that some of them enable like the growmites.

5. More excellent E. Sabee artwork!

Weaknesses

1. You get more mystics, heavy infantry, gems etc. So I payed for more stuff that I already have many copies of that I don't need. For those of you that played MtG back in the days of revised and earlier this has a feel to like all of those times you would get basic land in a booster pack. You grimace because you feel a little annoyed, throw it in the 'land box' you are keeping with the 1,000 other basic land cards that aren't in any deck and then move on.

I really wish they would have a more differentiated product spectrum so that you could just buy the new cards and one didn't have to pay for duplicate stuff.


Other thoughts

1. The upside to the weakness I mention is that I now have so many mystics, heavy infantry, gems etc that I could run a small 12 player session (i.e. 6 games of 2 players each) just out of my own ascension stuff.

2. First game took a while. Had to read all the new cards. This of course will change with some repeated plays. I think my wife and I just glance at the pictures and don't even need to read the text for the majority of the older cards.

3. Some have argued that souls infuse to much luck because one player could draw master dhartha (powerful card) and another player can draw mechana initiate (weaker card). True and this would be more of a problem if players only ever drew one soul gem in a game. The effect that drawing repeated soul gems in a game (we drew a bunch in our first game) is that the power disparity between individual draws regresses toward the mean of the soul gem deck. Extreme events will happen, this is predicted in any probabilistic distribution, but all told there will usually be very close power relationships between 2 given players with repeated draws from the soul gem deck. I think master dhartha vs mechana initiate types of arguments don't account for this very well and as such, I am not bothered by hypothetical single draw power imbalances. Rather, I focus on the new mechanical variations this affords and fully embrace the regression to the mean effect based on repeated pulls from the soul gem deck averaged across many plays of the game.
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8. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:114]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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November was very busy for me early on, but as the month wore on we got in a few gaming opportunities, and I pushed to get at least a couple new ones to the table. Otherwise I'm reporting on several games I've picked up on Yucata.de with at least 5 plays each. Here are the new-to-me games for the month, in descending order of preference.


Seasons d10-8

While doing some Christmas shopping at the FLGS, we just had to pick up one thing for ourselves, and this was what we both fell for. On the surface this might seem like a typical drafting or deck-building game, but Seasons is different. Each player starts with 9 cards (there are a few ways to do that), and then splits them across three years at the start. After that, you work with the cards you have and hope to potentially get more.

Players try to play these cards by leveraging elements they collect each season. Dice are rolled, and each player gets to pick one and reap those benefits. Dice might give away elements, crystals (VPs), or cards. Another option will be to "transmute" elements that are hard to find that season to get extra crystals. You have a few bonus actions available, but they carry penalties - and don't be caught with cards at the end of the game, because those count against you.

This was so easy to pick up, we both definitely liked it, and I look forward to trying it again soon! Love the components (except that small score track), love the art (lots of great cards to enjoy), and love the concept. This is a game we picked up because it seemed unlike anything else we have, and we were right. Just unique enough to be a new winner for 2012, and certainly ripe for expansions.


Bezzerwizzer d10-6

My brother gave me this perfectly nice trivia game that's designed for parties. It can be played individually or in teams - up to 4 (although really with extra tokens you could stretch that to 5). If you're like me and actually miss your old Trivial Pursuit days but want a game that's more forgiving for your friends - this is for you.

The concept is simple - each team draws four tiles from a bag that represent the 20 categories. Then they arrange them based on how well they think they know them - so you put your best category in the 4 slot and the worst in the 1 slot. On your turn if you get the question right, that's how many points you get. The spice to make it a party game are the Bezzer tiles - which let you try to answer a question another team can't, and the vicious Zwap tiles, which let you swap any two tiles on the table. Adds just enough to make the game a hoot.

The only downside is the questions can sometimes be painfully easy. Also some of the categories and questions seem very European. But hey - this is your chance to broaden your horizons!


Egizia d10-6

This game I have been playing for a bit on Yucata. I want to like this game. I really do. But it just doesn't feel different enough from the worker placement games I've played before.

The one unique mechanism is players place their ships (workers) along the Nile, but can't go back along the river (unless you have a special card). Along the way you collect stone and grain, feed your workers, and contribute to building monuments. Guiding your progress are Sphinx (bonus) cards.

It's a perfectly fine game, but I don't see a reason for me to own it. I've got a number of other games that I think do the same thing better.


Torres d10-6

This is a case where playing online can be a detriment. I really find it hard to visualize the 3D board, even if it's not, strictly speaking, necessary. So this one I'm considering a preliminary rating until I play it in person.

In Torres, players are in a positioning game to try and get their knights on the tallest points of castles that have the largest areas. But castles can't touch and you only get a few action points per turn. To help you along the way, you have a deck of cards that you can select one at a time.

This is really an abstract game (what theme?) with an action point system. It's not too tough, but may not be right for everyone.
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9. Board Game: Lancaster [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:161]
♬♪♪ ♫ ♩ ♫♫♪ ♩♬♪ ♫
Australia
MURRUMBEENA
Victoria
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance... (Iain Banks)
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November has been an eventful month. Lancaster and Edo dominated our table, but there have been so many gaming opportunities that many other games were played. The highpoint was last weekend; ConVic 11. Julian unhalfbricking Clark is the organiser, and he brought a huge collection of new games back from Essen. I went along hoping to try one or two, but managed half-a-dozen. Scrumptious!


Outstanding Games:

Lancaster
I don't know why, but I convinced myself this would be difficult to learn and teach. Consequently, it has been sitting on a shelf for months. Happily, I was mistaken: Lancaster really needs a better chart showing sequence of play, but the rules are very easy to manage.

It is brilliant. A mix of Worker placement/Action selection, voting to approve scoring options,and area majority (Conflicts). There are six rounds, and a game is less than an hour once people know the rules.

Mid-game: competition for the county spaces
Picture courtesy mezzoforte

We have the expansion, and after a few more plays it will be added. In the meantime, Lancaster is becoming a favourite.

Components are very good, although all of Henry V's nobles appear to be having bad hair days. No colourblind problems at all.
9/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Power Grid: Northern Europe/United Kingdom & Ireland

There's the Auld Sod
(I think that's what they said after the game)

Picture courtesy Henning
We played on Karlsen's UK/Eire map... I won. I'd like to extend my thanks to the hard-working Irish at Dublin's Plant #21, whose efforts were the backbone of my success.

UK/Eire is two islands, of course; the great innovation of this map is to permit players to operate separate networks on each one. There is a 20 Electro surcharge when the second network is started. If Ireland is in play, both areas are comparatively small (akin to the West coast on the USA map) and become cramped early in the game. I was fortunate to have the best turn-order when Step 2 triggered, and jumped from Ireland to London, gobbling cheap connections with my new network. Eventually I was able to power 16/17 cities (4-p) and win the tie on cash.

This is an interesting board. I can't wait to play Scandinavia, with its alternative power plants, and I have placed an order for my own copy.
9/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Dominion: Dark Ages
Yes, I am a Dominion fanboy. After an interminable wait (I could not get sleeves), Dominion: Dark Ages has finally been played. I love it. People who already know and like Dominion will find new card abilities and increased interaction. Having said that, Dark Ages is not the first expansion I recommend for a new player. Notably, games take significantly longer with certain cards in play, and I think Dark Ages is probably best in a computerised format.
8.5/10



Excellent Games:

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
I did not expect to play Tolkien*, but I am pleased I did. Very pleased that Aneirin is determined to get a copy. My play was pretty patchy - I didn't understand the importance of some options until too late. But it is a complex game, and there are clearly a lot of ideas to try. It will be fun seeing what works. My rating is very tentative, but the Magic 8-Ball™ says "Outlook good".

NB: there are some problems for colourblind folks - yellow and green player pieces are very tough to split. This is simple to fix, especially as it seems de rigeur to paint and decorate the components.
*my spellcheck insists.

7.5±1/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Resistance
Werewolf fans rejoice: a solution for situations when the group isn't quite big enough. If you dislike Werewolf, or the traitor element and finger-pointing of BSG, run a mile. If you like those games, The Resistance is a winner.
7.5/10



Very Good Games:

Suburbia

A town takes shape
Picture courtesy Nobi
I played this twice, both times with four. It might be best with 2 or 3 players, and more attention paid to blocking and disrupting the competitors.

The premise is simple- grow a small town into a large town, buying developments and adding them to your individual array. Some developments only effect adjacent tiles, others your whole town, and some effect every player. These are not once-off events, either: effects have continuous duration so upkeep can become complex, albeit not onerous.

I quite like Suburbia. It isn't a brain burner (hello City Tycoon) and plays very quickly, with more interaction than I was expecting. There is plenty of opportunity to annoy other players by way of interfering with the market of available tiles.
7/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Big Points

Green and red? Why?
Picture courtesy NielsZW
A close relative of Atlantis and Cartagena, Big Points is completely abstract and has horrible colours for colourblind players. Nevertheless, it is a great 3-p filler and with care it could easily be repainted and still look polished.

There are 5 different coloured pawns. A randomly ordered path is created from wooden disks painted in the five colours, plus a few that are black or white. The pawns race from one end to the other. At the far end there is a cardboard winners podium: first goes to the top, second gets next highest and so on. On your turn, you can move a pawn forward or backward to the next disk of its colour. After moving, you take one of the adjacent disks and add it to your personal stash. This shortens the path for one of the colours, usually not the one you just moved. The black disks can be traded for additional turns, white disks give bonus scores for collecting all the colours. As soon as a pawn reaches the last disk of its colour it can be moved to the podium, from which it cannot subsequently be removed. Final points are scored based on podium position multiplied by the number of disks collected, with bonuses for white.

I didn't like the chaos when we played 5-p, but 3-p was very, very good. I am tempted to buy a copy and repaint it
7/10



Good Games:

Sheepland

Bush tucker?
Picture courtesy NielsZW
Sheepland is a neat abstract game with a very cute theme. The board has 24 regions, four each of six types. Players purchase increasingly expensive stock in the different terrain (i.e. I buy a share in pasture), move sheep between regions, and set fences to prevent the relocation. Scores are determined by multiplying the sheep in each region by the number of shares of that type.

Sheepland is simple and has lovely pieces, but it was a bit dry and I doubt it is something we would play over and over again. Thumbs-up for the sheeples, although from the wrong angle they look like Witchety grubs!
6/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Mutant Meeples
Ricochet Robots Revisited, with special powers for each robot (i.e. jump an obstacle once, or strafe once etc). The underlying game is the same, except the objective is now to "collect the set": be first to successfully complete a puzzle with six out of the eight robots.

I like the bigger, two sided board, and the "easy" side (more obstacles) should make the game newbie-friendly. The super powers are interesting. Annoyingly, the game is far from colourblind friendly - the decision to use meeples as robots means that they have to be distinguished by colour, and I found this extremely difficult. There are stick-on glyphs, but they are tiny and hard to see in all but perfect lighting conditions. Mutant Meeples would be much better for me if it were Revised Robots, with different figures.

But even with that change, MM has the same fundamental problem as RR: it is a matter of timed skill rather than strategy. Players who "get" the game are dominant, and players with less spatial visualisation ability get crushed. Notwithstanding my inability to differentiate the pieces, I found it easy. Other players laboured.

There is a brilliant game here, that desperately needs to be ported to a computer tablet and given a new scoring mechanism. Played against "the crowd", with scores based on comparative time (rather than a race to be first), Mutant Meeples should be fantastic.
6/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Clocks
Rating is for 2-p Clocks: I am pretty sure this is the weakest way to play the game.

It is a dice game: player 1 rolls N+1 dice (N = number of players), divides the pool into N groups (one set has 2 dice), players bid for turn order to select from the available lots. Dice are assigned to different parts of a board, generating some immediate benefits and setting-up endgame scoring.

It doesn't work too well with 2 players - the auction isn't that interesting, and there are not enough options to bid on. But it would be much more interesting with 4. I will happily play again with more people.
6/10



Games that disappointed:

Casa Grande

Fiddly...
Picture courtesy Bombadillo
I think older children might get some mileage from Casa Grande, but experienced gamers will probably find it very repetitive.

Players get points for placing cardboard floor sections into an evolving "building", adding one support piece at a time. Dice determine which section is available for building each turn, although players have a lot of latitude to alter the dice result and there are many spaces available in each. The problem is, the strategy is pretty obvious: build the biggest pieces on the top floors, for maximum points. It is possible to block other players, but doing so uses your only placement for the round. Every game feels the same.

The components are OK, but the towers and tiles are fiddly to work with. Rules are clear.
5/10

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Cave
Was very, very dull. And looked lame. Give me Lost Valley any time! In The Cave, you spend actions to move, discovering new regions that will be worth points if explored. Collecting these points uses-up actions and often expends resources as well. It feels like the Explore/Mine cycle from Lost Valley, but at 1:10th of the interest.
5/10
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10. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:437] [Average Rating:6.90 Unranked]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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One new game for the month, played just under the wire on Wednesday night. It was a gift from

Cate
United States
Mequon
Wisconsin
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No good deed goes unpunished.
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Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There's a crack in everything, That's how the light gets in. - Leonard Cohen
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in a surprise package I won on Games for Geekgold.

Sam and I had played Coloretto, but we found the animal tiles to be more thematic and fun. Thank you Cate!
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11. Board Game: Dixit: Journey [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:238] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
Brad Klein
United States
Minnetonka
Minnesota
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This was kind of a surprise how much I enjoyed it. I don’t typically like party games but this has been enjoyable so far. There’s some thinking and creativity and it plays relatively quickly. Everyone likes the art on the cards. I think the biggest surprise is that our five-year twins can play and hold their own in it. When they said they wanted to play it, I told them it would be too difficult. But when we played since we were trying to get them to guess our card, we weren’t using clues they wouldn’t understand and the game adjusted to their level even though we didn’t consciously try to. We are already looking forward to new cards.

Other new games:
I played a lot of new games this month thanks mostly to a day at the Twin Cities Board Game Marathon.

Libertalia – Most other months this probably would have been the top choice. The decision of what card to play has a number of factors which make each round interesting. You’re trying to figure out an overall strategy of how to make the cards in your hand work together, so you want to consider the special power of the card you want to play. But you also need to consider the value of that card and what booty tokens are available. Not to mention what your opponents might play which you have some idea of since you all started with the same cards. I played a three and five-player game and definitely preferred it with three. The more players, the more chaotic which might be the one knock against the game. I still really enjoyed it.

Sentinels of the Multiverse – We played a five-player game of this and won fairly easily. It was, however, a fun game. The different deck styles for each hero made it interesting. With that variety the game should last awhile without getting too dull.

Archaeology – This was a fun game. Although it’s set collecting, it’s different than most of the other fillers we have. I wish it played more than four.

Hab & Gut – Economic games are not really my thing. But the one play I had was fun. The game played fast and the rules were straight forward enough that a new player could get started quickly. Although it was a relatively short game, there were also enough interesting decisions to make it enjoyable.

Cavum – This was a fine game, it just didn’t really excite me. Some neat mechanisms: the tile laying for the tunnels, the collecting for the different gems for the jewelry, and having to move the prospector in sequence. It just didn’t stand out. I would certainly play it again if asked though.

Cosmic Encounter – I wanted to try this and it really wasn’t my thing. It was really difficult to plan with the variable cards, powers, and negotiation. I’d play it again, but won’t request it.

Timeline – An okay filler. Kind of a trivia game which levels the playing field by not requiring you to know the exact answer but fit it in the right range.

Kremlin – I’m glad I played this game but don’t know if I need to play it again. I didn’t think I had any idea what I was doing but won primarily to lucky dice rolls. The spread the influence mechanism was interesting and it was fun to watch the game play out. After the one play, I still feel like I don’t know what I was doing.

Innovation – This game has been a disappointment. We’ve only played it twice but each time at every point one of the players is stuck and very frustrated. In the first game I was really far behind, got one card my wife couldn’t defend against, and I exploited it several turns in a row until I won. In the second game, my wife got some cards early that put her in the lead and I never caught up. I own the game, so I’m not willing to give up yet. I’m just hoping that the games get more balance soon.

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12. Board Game: D-Day at Omaha Beach [Average Rating:8.31 Overall Rank:302]
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What a month! I didn't realize how good it was until I made this list!


D-Day at Omaha Beach


A solitaire wargame that allows you to focus on your strategy rather than A.I. management. Great rulebook and intuitive play allows you to hit the floor running and enjoy this great game. I think this will end up a 10 once I have a few more plays under my belt. This might be the jewel in the crown of the king of classic solitaire wargames.
Rating: 9




War of the Ring:

A very tight design! The designer captures both the Fellowship of the Ring story involving taking the ring to volcano to destroy as well as the battle for Middle Earth and the return of the King and the ascension of Gandalf. Much of the story (at least as much as I know it) is contained in the game while and you are playing a great game of resource, dice, and card management. It's a bit long, and that's probably the only reason I don't give this a perfect 10, but at the same time, you can't play an epic game like this in a short setting.
Rating: 9




Anzio:

This may have a point for nostalgia and my personal back story of trying to acquire this years after I foolishly traded it.

This game has a whole lot that I love in a wargame. First, it is fairly easy or fairly complex, depending on how many rules you want to implement (there are 4 sections of rules to add more realism and complexity). The basic game is perfect for learning and has a low counter density, so the learning curve is not too steep.

The step reduction system was innovative and could be perfected with double-sided counters, but hey, someone had to invent the system, right? A full color OOB would help in set-up as well. The only (small) gripe I have is that, like Battle of the Bulge and Victory in the Pacific, the set-up takes a long, long time.

Once you have it set-up and ready to play, sit back and have a blast! Various invasion zones allow you to study "what ifs" or play the historical path the Allies took. On my first invasion, I thought, "this is easy". Not. The Germans reacted, got into defensive positions in the mountains, and it became a meat grinder to drive north. And to make it worse, my port was in danger of getting overran during the German counter-offensive on the 2nd turn! (And I was playing solitaire!)
Rating: 9




Micro Space Empire:

Caveat: the designer is a friend of mine, so maybe I'm just a weeee bit biased.
That said, this thing is still a blast! At first glance, you may think it is like Race for the Galaxy except for one glaring difference: this one is fun and RftG makes me want to stick a ice pick in my brain just to end it (truth!).

Your goal is to max out your victory points, which can only be achieved by expanding your empire (conquering certain planets) before the timer (event deck) goes off (played through twice: 14 turns total). The gameplay requires a delicate balance. Do you build up your military and conquer everything Klingon-style as rapidly as possible? If you don't advance your technology, you will figuratively be hurling spears at tanks. At the same time, if you screw around and build up your technology, you won't have time to conquer the universe, Klingon-style! Then, you have those annoying invasions from jealous A.I. rivals, who try to conquer your planets, as well as worker revolts, which screws with your resources. And if you don't invest technology in storage/banking, your resources become severely limited, which limits your technology. Not enough resources and not enough time! Arrrrghhh! I love it!

It plays very quickly, oh and did I mention it has the blessed/cursed cube of chance that some call a "die?_ Which means your best laid plans are at the mercy of the dice gods, so that makes an optimal move impossible, which is a very, very good thing: you play the odds and you balance the risk.

Another great feature is that since it is solitaire, your goal is to get the best score possible, so you don't have the frustration of trying to score X number of victory points the first time out. You do the best that you can and then try to beat your high score the next time out.

Sharp looking graphics and a sweet VASSAL module are a big plus. An even bigger plus? It's free! Yeah, print and play. Can you top that? You got 10 minutes? This is the game for you.
Rating: 9




Dawn of the Zeds:

At LAST! A zombie game that I really liked! This is an excellent solitaire game. I suspect that you are going to lose a lot more than you win, and that is fine because it makes winning that much sweeter.
It gives you constant sense of impending doom: one stress-filled moment after another, with only brief pauses to reload and find more ammunition and such.
There are not enough action points in a turn and it seems like the zombies are always closing in. What a rush!
Rating: 8




2 De Mayo:

This is one of the best Wueros and war-based fillers out there. The bluffing and hidden orders reminds me a little bit of Quebec 1759. The timing-racing mechanism is great. Play is FAST. The learning curve is small, and the challenge is great. What's not to love?. And the randomness of the cards prevent you from finding an unbeatable strategy for one side or the other.
Rating: 8




Hornet Leader: Carrier Operations:

Same basic engine as Phantom Leader with modern weapons. I like the weapons and options in this one better, but I like the theme of Phantom Leader more. The component quality of this one is better though (mounted board, better looking cards).
Rating: 7




Frontline General: Spearpoint:

It feels like a cross between a really beefed up The Battle for Hill 218 and Pocket Battles. The graphics look great and the game is easy to play and a solid filler. I wish it were more historical, but that is my personal preference.
Rating: 6

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13. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:189]
Ben Pinchback
United States
Leonard
Michigan
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I've had Taj Mahal since last Christmas and just hadn't gotten around to playing it yet. Honestly I wasn't prepared for how good it was going to be. Knizia is by far my favorite designer, but a part of me thought that how many new tricks could he really show me after I've played and loved tons of his big hitters already? The tile laying games, Amun-Re, Tower of Babel, etc, etc, etc. Well.... there's a reason he's the best. Taj Mahal feels 100% like a Knizia but I didn't at all feel like I've played this game before. The tension in the card playing is amazing. The different ways to score are of course incredibly balanced and sometimes subtle. The components are great; those little plastic palaces are very nice. We played two games right in a row because I was so blown away after game 1 that I had to try it again right away. The other huge bonus is that like other great Knizias this is a deep game that I can teach very quickly and players can learn and catch on right away. What an amazing game. So glad I own it and finally played it.





For some reason i was very skeptical about Dixit for a long time. How could a party game actually be that good? Plus, I already have my list of favorite party games and there's not any recs out for newcomers to join the crew at the moment. Insert my friend trading for a copy of Dixit randomly and us having a smaller amount of time to close out an evening with 6 people one weekend evening....

Dixit is fantastic! It's legit from every possilbe angle. It's beautiful, it's twisted, it's funny, it's engaging, it is flat out fun. The game is everything said about it and more. The stories told about the wonderful art pieces are of course the heart of the game and it's amazing to see just how many pieces of art come flying out that actually apply to what you just said! It's like, "Really, THREE of you had a card with a Spider on it!!?? We played a couple games that night and every single person was in love. We had such a great time. That's what games are about. Having real fun and laughs with good company. Bravo Dixit. And off to buy expansion cards....
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14. Board Game: Municipium [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1414]
Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
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California
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New Games:

Municipium - 1 play





I purchased Municipium pretty much without knowing anything about it on Tanga. I mean it wasn't THAT risky - Reiner Knizia, cool bits, low price... how could I go wrong?

All I can say is... SCORE! This game is awesome!

Municipium is an Area Control/Area Influence game with point to point movement and set collection thrown in for good measure. The basic idea is that you are an aristocratic family trying to earn the favors of 4 types of citizens (set collection) by visiting various institutions and having the most sway over them to earn their favors (area control/influence).

There are seven institutions on the board and each can you a specific type of citizen (one of 4 colors). For each set of 4 colors you collect you must immediately turn them in for a coin and the first player to get 5 coins wins. On your turn you may move your 1 or 2 family members a total of 2 spaces between the two of them. You then must either play one of the 3 identical cards that each player starts with OR draw a card from the deck. The cards do various things like activating the powers of each institution, advancing the Prefect (a special pawn that awards a random citizen or a wild token), or adding citizens to the institutions (once 3 citizens accumulate they are immediately awarded to the player or 2 players with the most influence at that institution).

The 3 player cards are more powerful versions of similarly powered cards in the main deck but once you use one it's out of the game for you for good. Deciding when to use these potential game turning cards is agonizing but if played correctly, can propel you into the lead or even win you the game.

I've only played once so far, but I really enjoyed the game and feel like there is a lot more to explore with this one. Go to Tanga and pick up your copy!
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15. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:21]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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It was a really good month for new games for me...

Keyflower was, by a nose, the best of the lot. Easily my favorite Key game in more than a decade.

Just a touch behind, for now, is Ginkgopolis - but it could easily end up #1. I like how the special abilities build up over the game.

Just a small step further back is Snowdonia - but it too could easily end up being my favorite. Here, I love the theme, and I like how it mostly avoids my usual issues with worker placement games.

The other 20 games new to me can be divided into the decent, but not favorites bucket:

Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant, Casa Grande, Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (second edition), Feudality, Helvetia, Muzundrum, Roman Taxi, Siberia, The Cave

...and the not for me bucket:

1812, Briefcase, Crazy Creatures of Dr. Doom, FlowerFall, IV-V-I, Mercurius, Rise!, Smash Up, The Great Zimbabwe, Tokaido

Plus one Unpublished Prototype, which had some promise.
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16. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:21]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Two new games this month, Keyflower and Snowdonia. Snowdonia was the first to arrive and has got three plays so far. Not a bad game. Nothing earth shatteringly revolutionary about it. The game has a simple worker-placement/action selection mechanic on a theme about building a railway up Snowdon. It plays quick, has some interesting decisions and conjures a bit of a mashup of Agricola and Tinners' Trail.

But while I enjoy Snowdonia, I give best of the month to Keyflower. I've only played one other "Key" game and that was Key Harvest, which had some interesting mechanics but ultimately failed to impress my wife. She's still a bit ambivalent about Keyflower, but after four plays, I think it's starting to grow on her. It's another worker placement/action selection type game except thrown into that mix is an auction mechanic. A lot of two-player games with auctions as a driving mechanic just don't work that well, but this one does. And I'm sure it even works better with more players (I just haven't had a chance to try it). As games go, this may be one of my favourites for 2012.
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17. Board Game: Bonkers [Average Rating:5.23 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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November saw a slight trend up in my quantity of games played. The holidays are always a good time to get together with family, and I have had success convincing them to sit down for a few games after the big meals. I also have had a little success getting some of the lighter games on my unplayed list onto the table. Of course the games I need played for my New Year's resolution aren't exactly light, so that number remains unchanged. Selecting a best of the month was easy, because there was only one that wasn't a big disappointment.




1 = Bonkers - This is a game that my wife asked for on Amazon. It always seems a bit scary when she requests a game that I've never heard about despite all my BGG knowledge. Yet I should have faith, because she has taste and always manages to find games that are at least somewhat fun. This is an interesting little party game. One player reads the card and ranks the difficulties of the answers. Another player shouts out guesses rapid-fire looking for those answers. The remaining players get a shot to steal one answer. Each player moves based on the difficulty of the answers they guessed, and the reader moves based on the difficulty of the answers no one guessed. It's cool because it causes everyone to pay attention. We found it funny how the player in the hot seat would often freeze up and miss obvious answers. The big downside is that the box of question cards is very small. I imagine we could potentially burn through them in only a handful of games. Still the game was fun, and was short enough to stay exciting throughout. I've played much better party games, and this one has some similarities to other ones that have done it better. Yet in a month where new games were less than impressive for me, this one was an easy choice as the best.





2 = Fauna - You know those days when you would go into a class in school and the teacher would have some "fun" activity planned. Obviously it was indeed more fun than sitting and listening while the teacher lectured for an hour, but it certainly wasn't an activity you'd choose to do in your free time. Well, that's the feeling I got from this game. Sure, it's moderately interesting to learn what regions of the world you can find a green turtle, but I don't exactly call it a good time. I've never really wondered the length of a leopard gecko's tail, therefore a game that focuses on facts like that is not my cup of tea. Now there is some strategy in the way you can place your betting markers, and even if only one player really knows animals you can kind of copy them for a chance at points. The problem is that, unless you're really into zoology, it just becomes a game of guessing and estimating. Also the graphic design on the board is very poorly done. Differentiating one region from another is not easy. My final assessment would be that Fauna is boring, not in a "I want to rip my hair out" way, but more in a "I guess I'll twiddle my thumbs" way. I really wanted to love Fauna because it offers an alternative way of playing a trivia game. Sadly, there was nothing more to it than the educational lessons and some random guessing. Oh, and it bears mentioning that in the short game we played, we found 2 game-altering typos on the cards.





3 = Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 (only India so far) - I adored the Asia map for Ticket to Ride. I mean it completely reinvigorated my passion for the base game, and got me excited about playing it again. So, naturally, I was pretty psyched about receiving expansion set #2. Well, I hope Switzerland delivers something more, because I've played the India map and discovered I might possibly hate it. I know that sounds strong, but there's a couple reasons I say this. First of all, the special rules about making round trips is kind of a dull twist. Expansion #1 offered something remarkably original (team play), but this one just gives us another way of scoring bonus points. Yet if one or two players are able to make a big circle this can create such a massive swing in points that it could easily determine the winner and loser, making routes and destination cards virtually irrelevant. Then there's my more personal complaint. The way this map is set up forces players to play in a way that is completely contrary to the way I typically like to play Ticket to Ride. I'm usually a card hoarder, so I wait and watch and then start making my moves when I have most of the trains I need. But this map is so overloaded with short 2 and 3 train routes, that you have to rush to start claiming necessary routes. It feels almost like a race, where you just have to keep drawing, then claiming track, then drawing, then claiming track so that you can avoid anyone blocking you out. It filled me with anxiety, and also makes the round trip bonuses that much harder to attain. I'm going to try this again to see if it was a one-time fluke experience (and I need to try the Swiss side) but I'm worried this might need to hit the trade pile if it doesn't get better with more plays.



4 = Tailgate Touchdown: The Helmet Racing Game - My wife was helping out at a local craft show, and when I stopped to pick her up she pointed out that one booth was selling a game. So we walked over to check it out of course, and they were just getting ready to start playing so they told us to pick a helmet and join in. How do I explain this game? My best descriptor is that it is like Sorry! but you don't have to make all those pesky decisions. Allow me to explain. Up to six people pick a football helmet and place it on a number between 1 and 6 at the start line, I guess if you have less than six players you just fill the rest of the spaces with NPCs. So then players take turns rolling the dice. For each 1 rolled you move the helmet in column #1 a space forward, and for each 2 rolled you move the helmet in column #2 a space forward, etc. Now here's the big twist...there's a black die, and whatever column number is shown on it cannot move. That is it. You make no choices, you just roll and move. And, sadly, you roll and move everybody. So what's the point of taking turns? I don't know, in fact about halfway through the demo the guy working the booth was just moving most of the helmets for people. So I started to consider just walking away and coming back later to see if I won. I suppose if the target audience is a bunch of drunk tailgaters then they aced it. This game is perfect for people who are so bombed they can't even think, because it doesn't require them to use their minds at all. Frankly, it doesn't require them to do anything. Eddie could be lying on the floor passed out and still win. What great skill he displayed! They explained a variant way of playing that allows the person who got hit with the black die to move someone backwards, just in case the pain of playing this game isn't lasting long enough for you. So if you find yourself at a craft show or something and there's a booth selling this game, run away unless you're interested in the board game version of LCR.


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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18. Board Game: P.I. [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1359]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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P.I.


5 plays 2/3 players

Played a number of very good games that are "new to me" this month, and I am quite surprised that I have picked this one out. Possibly because I though no other BGG contributor would and because it has re-vitalised gaming with my non-gaming family. PI is a straightforward detection game that works best with 2-3. Two minimises downtime; three add some interest to the scoring. Yes there is lots of luck and yes it can get a little 'samey'. But it is also simple, tense that non-gamer family and friends can pick up and play relatively quickly. I even like the design, the busy-ness of the board actually adds to the theme for me. For our family, it just encourages the lame Humphrey Bogart impersonations. PI may be considered by gamers as the sudoku to The Resistance's Time cryptic crossword challenge, but it has certainly struck a chord with my family and friends.

Rating: 7.5/10


The Resistance

3 plays with 6/7 players

Another logic/detection game which is a blast to play. In this case it is bluffing which makes the game. It may take a couple of games to 'get' how to work out information most efficiently, but the game is designed really well and things can get to right down to the wire, with great twists. The ease with which the traitor/resistance sides can be played appears to vary a little with number, but the importance of the outcome pales into insignificance beside the fun you can have. Probably very group dependant, but almost the game that table talk was invented for.

Rating: 8/10


Snowdonia

6 plays all solo

Cracked this one out to learn the game and ended up playing six games solo in 3 days. Was even inspired to write a review. Worker placement this is elevated beyond the normal fare by two interesting mechanisms: the weather track track and the event track. A very enjoyable solo experience, with quite a bit of apparent replayability and the benefit of having the the event track (essentially a dumb/random robot) required for solo play embedded as part of the multi-player game.

Rating: 7.5/10


Ginkgopolis

3 plays. 2 with 2p, 1 with 5p

7 Wonders meets Carcassone meets El Grande. Well, not really but the combination of hand management, tile laying and area majority really merges together well on this one. Ultimately a pretty straightforward rule set, but it was surprisingly difficult to initially my head around it. The theme is extraordinarily silly [building a city based on a tree] - not so much pasted on, but already peeling off. Nevertheless, the 3D building/area majority aspect is well done and the game paces itself over the 45mins-1hour it takes. Felt the games worked better with two than with five. With five there are not really enough cards at the start and the round goes with the pace of the slowest player; five simply increasing the AP risk.

Rating: 6.5/10 (5player) 7.5 (2player)

Fleet


One game: 4 players

San Juan at 60deg north. Excellent first play of game that has (partially) restored my faith in KS. Lots of interesting strategies to explore in what appears - at least initially - as a well balanced game. Money can be pretty tight at the start of the game and timing of the VP generating engine is critical, as it appears to really only to kick into play one or two turns before the end of the game. Some of the bonus offered by the licences were a bit opaque at first, but it worked out fine. Components excellent. True gamer filler material.

Rating 7.5/10

Puerto Rico

Finally lost my PR virginity. With a group of very kind PR vets. And the bloke on my left didn't win. Good game.

Rating 7/10



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19. Board Game: Extra! [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2811]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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When asking "What would Jesus do?", remember that flipping over tables and using a whip are within the realm of possibilities.
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This was an easy choice for me (pun intended). I played 3 new to me games this month. I liked this one, thought Peloponnes was so-so, and didn't like Colosseum.
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20. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:399]
Mike W
United States
Illinois
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On November 10, the Wandering Dragon in Plainfield, IL, held their first game auction. First one for me too. I've spent a lot of time on Ebay, but never attended an auction in person before. It lasted about 4 hours, but was quite fun the whole time. I bid on a bunch, heading home with just two: first Avalon Hill editions of History of the World and Kingmaker, both complete and in nice condition, for a total of $18. The seller for Kingmaker had listed it as "missing 10% of the counters" but when I got it home and compared components to an image of the countersheet posted on BGG, they were all there 100%. So obviously, I was quite pleased with that.

Played History of the World a couple times and it was pretty cool. Kind of an epic Small World oozing with historical theme. It is certainly not a No Luck/No Randomness Euro... total Ameritrash awesomeness (although I have the edition with just the cardboard bits rather than miniatures - honestly, my old school preference).

*******************



I imagine this list does not see too many 38 year old games. (Although I did see that Judd pipped me by 5 years with Anzio...) But I had my first plays of Avalon Hill's 1776 from 1974. This was an Ebay add-on from the same seller when I picked up The Republic of Rome. I had been interested in this title for a while, so for $6 and basically free shipping it was an easy buy. The basic game has only 2 pages of rules and plays quick, so easy to get started. Of course it played like only 2 pages of rules too... not a very interesting situation. Expecting the Advanced Game scenarios to be better. Will eventually hope to play the full Campaign simulation.

*******************



Finally played the Banzai expansion of Up Front for the first time. I've only owned it for 17 years. The Japanese and British definitely look like interesting additions to the game system. I also Kickstarted the awesome new edition of Up Front... have you?
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21. Board Game: Memoir '44: Sword of Stalingrad [Average Rating:7.92 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.92 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I played this 8-player scenario for Memoir '44 at a local convention and had a great time. I've played a number of 8-player scenarios for Commands & Colors: Ancients and enjoyed them a lot, but this was the first time for Memoir '44. Each 4-player team has one supreme commander, who simply hands out cards and advice, and three subordinates, who move the pieces and roll the dice.

I'm typically the supreme commander for the 8-player Commands & Colors: Ancients games, but I'm not that familiar with Memoir '44 and was assigned a subordinate commander role. It's a game of limited information and not-always-easy intra-team cooperation and coordination, and it's a barrel of laughs. When our outnumbered right-wing commander, Joe Rushanan, killed the last German unit we needed for the win, we were all hooting and hollering over his achievement.

One interesting aspect of this game: when a passer-by would ask, "which side is the good guys?", we'd reply "we're both the bad guys!"
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22. Board Game: Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:204]
Quinn Munnerlyn
United States
Carrollton
Texas
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It's a hard choice this month for the top spot to be honest. I'll put Spartacus up there because that the one we were loudest with. November usually provides me with lots of new to me games mainly due to BGG con and this year was no exception.

Ground Floor was pretty much at the same level for me. Very much looking forward to this one hitting my doorstep.

I was pretty impressed with 1989: Dawn of Freedom even though I got pretty hosed in the Power Struggles. Hopefully I'll get luckier next time.

Copycat Seemed to be getting a mixed reception but mark me one of the ones that enjoyed it. I like most of the games it borrows from and it takes some of the best parts of those so what's not to like? laugh

Coup had some interesting things going on I'm really not sure how many plays I would be willing to put into it though.

Among the Stars was OK but at little too much to 7 Wonders and I already have that so why bother?

Puzzle Strike is a slightly redone Dominion and I'm not a huge fan of Dominion soooo... Meh

I want to like Article 27: The UN Security Council Game more than I do. The more players the more fun the negotiations are but also the longer it is before you can get the gavel which isn't as fun.

Monad was exactly as I expected a dry card game. Not necessarily a bad thing just not really what I'm looking for most of the time.

Mt friends really liked Smash Up but it doesn't really seem like the kind of thing I can get into that much. Seems like there are a lot of cards that are really useful in certain situations. The problem is waiting for those situations to come up. shake

And then there's Gauntlet of Fools. Vaccarino is a designer of some repute as far as I can tell but I have yet to see a game of any real substance from him. I do like Kingdom Builder alright but nothing else he's done has generated any interest for me. snore
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23. Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:2527]
Rob ZoBell
United States
North Salt Lake
Utah
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With another sparse month, I fear that I'm entering a drought--or at least a short recession of gaming. Hopefully the holidays will rescue me before work gets really busy after the New Year.

Napoleon at Waterloo (1 play) thumbsup
This was a fun game, but a lot more attritional than I thought it would be. My first play left the board almost completely devoid of units. I'm hoping that further plays can have some variety.

The system is simple enough that it would probably work well to apply to some simple skirmishes of the late Napoleonic wars, or almost anything of the late 18th / early 19th century period. Maybe if I enjoy my next few plays of this...

Amazons (1 play) thumbsupthumbsdown
Not as good as I'd hoped, but this game was against a child, so I'd like to try it against someone of similar skill level. Normally this child is very excited about simple modern abstracts and is very fun to play against, but neither he or I could get very excited about this one. Here's to hoping that I just had a bad experience--this one is rated highly enough that I might have just missed something.

The Bagged Peiper (1 play) thumbsup
This game was fun, and if it was the only one of it's type I'd played I'd probably give it two thumbs, for succeeding at it's small ambitions. But this is the third one in the series, and it didn't really differentiate itself from its siblings. This one was almost exactly like A Dash of Peiper except that blowing up the bridges seemed even more futile. I'll probably play it a couple of times, and be glad to have it in my library as a filler for lunch at work, but I'm losing enthusiasm for the Peiper series, and for the ATO Pocket Battles Games in general if this keeps up.

Such A Thing (1 play) thumbsdownthumbsdown
While I'm not generally a party game person, I can have fun with them in their time and place. But not this one. It's like Apples to Apples, but you have to have unanimous judging across all players, rather than one subjective call. Apples can get old for me, but this one, even though I was playing with very agreeable folks, was kind of painful. Instead of spending more of the evening arguing, we mutually ended it.
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24. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:38]
Zack Stackurski
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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I love almost all games, play Boardgames with my wife, have three kids, generally enjoy cats and understand and like those bumper stickers with the little fishies sprouting legs.
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Rating 8 after 1 play

I like Euros. I like Euros with clever, unique mechanics. I like Euros with clever, unique mechanics and unexpected amounts of player interaction... so I really like Trajan! The rondel action selection mechanic is as interesting to manage as advertised... though I can see it being a major sticking point for folks with excessive AP problems (this didn't happen in our game but we were all just feeling our way through the game rather then try to make a long chain of events happen). There is also a lot to explain that first time as every section of the board works a little differently than the others... but once you get rolling everything fits together nicely and the turns flow quickly. It is a fairly abstract experience so if you don't like chasing points and blocking your opponents for the simple joy of scoring points and blocking your opponents you probably won't get hooked into Trajan... but if you haven't met a "soulless Euro" you didn't like this will be right up your alley!



Rating 6.5 after 1 play

I kickstarted VivaJava: The Coffee Game based on its promising theme and unique gameplay... and I'm certainly not dissappointed by its uniqueness! It happened to show up on my game day so I got it punched and ready to go... but didn't have the rules down as well as I would have liked... so I think trying to sort out minor timing details and keep a game I didn't know very well running smoothly took too much of my attention for me to really enjoy the game (though I have a sneaking suspision its a tad more chaotic than I was hoping regardless). However the other folks at the table got really into trying to jockey for the best blending groups and we all liked watching the results of people trying to play the odds out of their roaster bags. I'm hoping I'll enjoy the next play as much as the others enjoyed the first (if so my rating will go up)!

I'd certainly give this a try if you like press your luck mixed with a bit of "luck control" and like games with a lot of in game converation about what's going on. Vivajava certainly has the feel of a party game with full fledged main course game mechanics. If you don't care for those things and would rather just focus on what you are doing rather then try to track the collections and motivations of up to 7 other people at the table (or prefer your party sized games to be quite light) you should probably give this one a pass.
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25. Board Game: Castle [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:2144]
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:

Castle (Bruno Faidutti & Serge Laget, 2000) 8.8/10
I've been wanting to try this game for probably 5 years now, ever since I read about its unusual origins as the end result of a collaboration between Faidutti and Laget that started off as a single game but evolved into two very different games, Citadels (few characters and many locations) and Castle (many characters and few locations). The story is here if anyone is interested in more details:
http://www.faidutti.com/index.php?Module=mesjeux&id=328&fich...

So when I was ready to leave late Thanksgiving evening after gaming all day, and someone suggested this one hitting the table, I couldn't resist postponing my departure and finally giving this a try. It turned out to be an incredibly entertaining tactical game of trying to get rid of the "characters" in your hand by placing them in various areas in and around a castle. Each character has a special ability. The art is fun in a cartoony way and the abilities are nicely thematic. It would be great if they reprinted this, and the unfortunately never-published expansion "Big Castle" sounds good too. Here's hoping.


Runner-Up:

Ys (Cyril Demaegd, 2004) 8.2/10
This was another game in the Thanksgiving gaming marathon. And wow, what a game. A semi-blind bidding game themed around the French version of Atlantis, where you are bidding for various goodies that include special action cards, plus there's a market manipulation component that can adjust the value of said goodies, PLUS there's kind of an El Grande "Castillo" type thing. A lot going on. The beautiful board doesn't hurt. I will be coming back for more of this.


OK New Games:


Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game (Steve Finn, 2012) 6.5/10
A dice game which, as the name suggests, shares some similarities with Biblios AKA the-game-formerly-known-as-Scripts-&-Scribes. Keep in mind when looking at my rating that I'm not particularly into dice games. But, as dice games go, it had some interesting elements - I liked the category valuation changes (borrowed from the original S&S), the "pick one and pass around" of the dice pool (especially with the option to try to screw people out of a choice), and the periodic auctions (although we only had 1 or 2 auctions per game in the 2 5-player games we did, which seemed kind of odd, not sure if that's normal). So yeah, good game but didn't set my world on fire (but then again never met a dice game that did).



Careers (James Cooke Brown, 1955) 6.5/10
Old-school Parker Brothers "roll-and-move". It gives you a degree of flexibility on manipulating your rolls though (although the choices are still pretty obvious and luck-influenced), and has a variety of alternate career routes off the main track that you can explore. Three kinds of currency (money, fame and happiness) and thematically-linked options like getting degrees that help you on an appropriate career path. All in all not bad for a roll-and-move. Not sure if I'd pick it up in a thrift store but those with kids might be interested.


Not My Cup of Tea:


TransAmerica (TransAmerica: Franz-Benno Delonge, 2001; Vexation: Manfred Keller, 2007) 4.2/10
This is a game where you "collaboratively" build public track to reach hidden individual destination goals, but can block others out with a few private tracks. I found it more annoying than anything else. We played with the Vexation expansion, which adds the blocking. I think I didn't like it because it's SUCH a simple game that with Vexation the game then becomes distilled into just blocking and messing with other people's plans, in an irritating way like a buzzing little mosquito. I suppose if you remove the blocking it might be less annoying, but I'm not sure how much of a game would be left. On the other hand, I could see the base-game-only possibly being a nice Tsuro-like meditative experience. Also, it probably didn't help that it was a 6-player game and 3 or 4 of the other players were intensely taking forever to analyze their moves as if they were playing Power Grid rather than a light filler.
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