New to you Jun 10 => Best new game you played this month and why
What's the best new game you played this month (Jun 10) and why? Share your experiences of the new games you've played this month.
It would be helpful, if you could add an entry to the list even if you pick the same game as someone else.. since I use the geeklist entries to compile the summaries. Thanks
New To You Metalist 2010
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Meta-list - old metalist (currently broken)
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Your Most Played Game (and more): June 2010
Board Game: Genoa
[Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:290]
It was my life, like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was to let it be.
THE TIPPY TOP
cool image by frogmind
and since you kids seem to like pics of pretty girls holding game boxes
If you like negotiation games then Genoa is a must for you. I was really taken with the clever decisions that the game gives you and the number of options on your turn. Each turn you get to move the “cart”, which basically means you get to choose the spaces that will be in play this turn. A space may be simply a street space (which has its own implications I won’t get into) or a building which offers actions. So you might choose to move to the buildings for actions, but here’s the catch – you can only take one of the actions. You auction off the remaining actions to your opponents. They can offer to share the benefit of the building or offer you something else entirely. It took us a while to grok that and then this already bushy decision tree sprouted leaves. So you might get offers of a) 5 ducats or b) your choice of one card in my hand or c) splitting the benefit the building provides or d) a bonus chit or ... You get the idea.
Everything is liquid in this game and the combination of moves and trades you can make is staggering (oh, do you have options). It’s the strength and weakness of the game, IMO, because you want to explore all these options -- as each of these options involves negotiation -- but after a couple hours of min/maxing your options and weighing offers, it got a bit weary for me. You don’t want to rush players as the raison d'etre of the game is to consider the 101 things you can do each turn. So I really liked the profundity it offered but at the same time, I wanted less, if that makes sense. I mean, I chose this as the best new to me game, and I like it, but I’d like it to be a bit shorter next time. Our game took four hours which included teaching and one practice round; I think the actual game took three hours. The two hour mark seems perfect for such a deep game so we could all really take time during our turns without the game getting to the point where it dragged. YMMV.
The strategic and tactical options were often delicious, and you were active on each other's turns so you were frequently involved. Very little time when I was not directly or indirectly engaged in the action. I decided to focus on Large orders (longer but higher scoring) and forego Messages (quicker but low-scoring) while other people focused their strategies in other ways. At the same time, I learned the value of balancing yourself so you can take advantage of tactical opportunities that may present themselves. More to explore here for sure.
I was concerned because my group includes a couple, and I wasn’t sure that meta-gaming wouldn’t muck things up, but we played with a rule of no “me too” offers. You had to increase or change the offer, and I didn't feel there was any meta-gaming at all. I don't know where this will end up for me. My feeling after one play is that the game could collapse under its own weight or it could be a unique, brain-burning favorite.
THE MEATY MIDDLE
crappy image by me
Leaping Lemmings is not as light as I thought it'd be, and that's a good thing. It's got some real nice decisions as far as where to move and what goals to go after and there's some really fun screwage. At first, I was playing it as a light game of push-your-luck but in fact, it's more a game of smart moves and playing it safe. It's also a smart design. I'm quite impressed with it.
Each turn the active player rolls the two eagle dice and moves the two eagles (or not if a "hover" is rolled), then everyone gets to move one (and only one) of their 10 lemmings. Moving the eagles is interesting because you want to use them to eat other players' lemmings, of course, but even if you can't eat anyone, you can scatter lemmings who are safely hidden in the brush or block other players' movement. The eagles have zones of control which you can't move in or through.
Lemming movement is interesting because you need to take into account the turn order. Each subsequent lemming in a space gets stacked on top of the previous one there and only the top lemming in a stack can a) move (which is good!) and b) get eaten by an eagle (which is bad!). You're trying to move them over the cliff (board edge) with as many movement points left to get VPs. At the same time, there are these lemming pellets that you can collect for extra movement and VPs. There are choices to be made as far as to keep on moving versus stopping for a pellet grab.
The action cards you use on your own lemmings or everyone else's are quite fun, but in a brilliant stroke, each action card you don't use is worth a VP at game end. Since VPs are hard hard hard to come by, you really need to think twice about dinking other people with a card or getting a special action. They’re fun though -- I used the “Mine! All Mine!” card to control the eagles twice in a row and snatch an opponent's lemming about to jump over the cliff. Never saw it coming, poor thing. I’ve found the level of screwage in the game to be good interaction without it being player elimination.
Here’s the thing about LL that I think is noteworthy and why it justifies a spot in my collection – it fills a unique niche as a short(er) game with some meaty decisions. It straddles that line of light, filler game and serious tactical game. The more I play it, the more serious decisions I find as far as where to move and how to play my cards. It’s a game of smart tactical moves with a bit of brinkmanship. Between the eagles, your lemmings, and your action cards, turns don’t feel scripted. It’s the kind of game that may feel light at first but feels deeper upon repeated plays. Sometimes we only have an hour, and a game like this offers a lot of decisions for a short game, plus it scales well since everyone moves one lemming every turn and the only turn that rotates is who moves the eagles.
images by me
I bought this game primarily because of the team aspect; I though it’d be fun to have a team card game in my collection, but I’ve only played it as an individual game so far. I’m going to report on this from an individual standpoint and will give another report when I get to play the team game. In short, this is a good filler that delivers a lot of bang (quality decisions) for the buck (time).
This is a card game that's supposedly like Ka-Ching!, though I’ve never played that game. There are five rows of 7 overlapped colored/numbered cards. Each turn you can either buy one of the cards on the bottom of each row OR sell two cards of the same color. If you sell, say, a green 3 and a green 5, you get the product (15). It sounds simple, and it is, but the decisions were fun because you frequently didn't want to buy a card on your turn because there was a higher card (like a 6) that would be freed up for your opponent to buy. So the game is as much or more about what card you will free up than what card you should purchase.
In the 3P game, there’s a “Market Closed” card which you get to place after your turn and block the next player from purchasing one card. Some turns may be obvious, but others offer interesting decisions as which card to entice another player with such that they free up the card you want. In the team game, when a team wants to sell, each player must supply one of the cards. I really look forward to trying that.
I’m very happy with this game. It caught my eye from the two videos (French and English) that were posted but I couldn’t locate a copy in the US. During a recent trip to Belgium, I had an Outpost shop order it for me and send it to me. I paid the guy cash in his shop and told him I’d email him my address when I got home. Of course I got the game with no problems, and I really enjoyed the quaintness of such an old-fashioned transaction.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
crappy image of crappy game by me
This is an old AH game that I remember wanting play back in the day but never did because I was so busy with wargames and Statis-Pro Baseball. Thank God I didn’t. So here's the game: you randomly roll for a destination, then roll dice each turn trying to move there over colored tracks. You pay $1000 per turn, regardless of how many spaces. When you get there, you get money and can buy a railroad (which control certain colored tracks). If you have to move over tracks controlled by another player, you have to pay them $5000. You do this over and over for about 3 or 4 hours until someone has bled all the other players of money. I couldn't believe how painfully dull this game was.
It is from 1977, so I understand it was probably cool for the time, but I can't believe my friend actually has been wanting to play this game and talked me into playing it. Doesn't he know my tastes at all? Sheesh. After 2+ hours in, I finally asked to call the game. I just couldn't take anymore and one experienced player had the game well in hand anyway. Another two hours of dice rolling wasn't going to change anything.
The term "glorified" can be overused, but I really felt like it was glorified Monopoly. Roll and move, buy up track monopolies, wait for other players to land on your property. OMFG.
Zendo fan, Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Dominion Fan. These are 'permanent microbadges' to free up space on my microbadge row
I had 19 new-to-me games in June (including one Unpublished Prototype), all but 3 of them during Origins. For all the new games, there was not one that said to me, "I'm the new game of the month." I'm hoping that Ad Astra grows on me, but it's not there yet after just one play. I had fun with Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails, Snow Tails, and Taluva, but not enough to give them the nod. Pirate Fluxx will probably be the most-played for this year since I logged 7 plays during Origins, but (a) it's another version of Fluxx and the "new" label doesn't fit very well and (b) it's still a prototype. So I'll go with the letter-word game.
7 Ate 9 - A speed game of adding and subtracting numbers. I don't much go for speed games, so I would be panning this even if I hadn't sit too far away from the common play pile.
Ad Astra - This is all about building an economic engine in space. I could not manage to find the resources I was looking for, and I finished a dismal last place. I want to try again to see if it was just bad luck, or if I truly do suck at this game.
Back to the Future: The Card Game - I played a prototype version of this game, due from Looney Labs in September. It's based on a simplified version of the Chrononauts engine. There are no patches--the timeline automatically adjusts itself just like in the movies--and there is only one pathway to victory. It's fun to visit the BttF universe, but this is not going to displace Chrononauts in my game library.
Dixit - This won the Spiel des Jahres award the day after I played it. It's really, really not my type of game. Each player in turn gives a description and everybody secretly throws in a card. The current player gets points unless everybody or nobody guesses their card. Everybody else gets points for correctly guessing which card belongs to the current player or for having someone else incorrectly guess their card. I struggled to come up with reasonable descriptions for the cards in my hand, and I utterly failed to guess other players' cards.
duck! duck! SAFARI! - The box contains several kids' games that use rubber duckies. We played "Hi-Lo Hijinks". Cards are played to the center, by number, either higher or lower. If you play the wrong way, you take all the cards of that type currently in play. Each player tries to take the fewest cards, except the person who takes the most of a particular type scores zero for that type. I almost won by taking a lot of three different types and only having two cards left.
Forbidden Island - A cooperative game from the designer of Pandemic. Instead of preventing a disease pandemic, you're trying to escape a sinking island. I enjoyed it, but I prefer Pandemic.
Infinite City - This is a tile laying game, in which each tile has a power, and you score points for most contiguous tiles controlled at the end, as well as for certain tiles that are worth points all by themselves. Meh.
Jerusalem - Area control game in which you are trying to build a tower by accumulating prestige points. The rules were not clear in a few places, and in at least one of them, I found from the forums that our spot-ruling on one of them was incorrect.
Letter Roll - Some people in our group like word games, and this is one. The current player rolls four 20-sided dice with letters on them. The dice are rated at various levels of difficulty, so for example, the "easy" dice have the vowels and the "hard" dice have letters like J and Q. The player to the left of the current player removes one of the dice and everyone must form as many words as they can out of the remaining three. You score points for all of your words that nobody else came up with. Go around the table until everyone is the current player twice.
Mow - All the cards have numbers, cows, and flies on them. The cards are played to the table in a ladder arrangement--you must play either higher or lower than the extreme ends of the string already on the table (except for a few special cards that have their own rules). The cows are entirely thematic, but the flies are the scoring mechanism. You want to score the fewest flies.
Piece o' Cake - A multi-player version of "I cut, you choose." Each player takes pieces of an 11-slice cake, and scores them by type or by the number of dollops of whipped cream they contain. Only the player with the most of a particular type scores the type. Highest score wins.
Pirate Fluxx - This is due out in the spring. It's exactly what you would expect: Fluxx with pirates. It has a few surprises, but it's still fundamentally Fluxx. I like Fluxx, so I enjoyed it.
Quicksand - One of the finalists in the Ice Awards competition, for best fan-made pyramid game of 2009. This one won. It's played on Martian Coasters. Your turn consists of placing/moving a piece, then turning a coaster. A piece moves by jumping over other pieces. Jumping an opponent's piece captures it, jumping your own piece returns it to your supply. You win when you capture 15 pips worth of your opponent's pieces.
Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails - A version of Settlers of Catan that uses a map of the USA as its game board. Instead of building settlements directly, players build settlers, which move until they reach a space that can be settled. Players also build and move trains which deliver goods. The object is to deliver all of your goods before anyone else does.
Snow Tails - Dog sled races. You play cards to control left, right, and brake speed. If you run into obstacles, you take damage. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins.
Stack Control - Another finalist in the Ice Awards competition for best fan made pyramid game of 2009. Place pieces on a chessboard, then move stacks of pyramids in turn based on the size of the pyramid at the top of the stack. Each move reduces the number of stacks on the board. Keep going until there are no possible moves. The player who controls the largest point-value of stacks (based on the number and size of the pyramids in the stack) is the winner.
Taluva - Place an irregularly shaped tile, then place one of three types of meeples. You can win by getting rid of all of two types of meeples, or by having the most of the highest-ranking meeples on the board.
Top Ten: The Bill of Rights - Players are trying to pass amendments to the constitution. Points are scored based on how favorably the amendments are received by each player's assigned interest group. This was extremely unpopular amongst the group with which I was playing, so we only got through a couple of rounds. I might be willing to give it another try with another group, but no hurry.
Unpublished Prototype - I played a prototype of one of Andy Looney's new pyramid games. It is still in development, so I don't think I can say any more than that.
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
blah blah GAMES yadda yadda JUNE
"Pandemic Lite" is pretty much the best way to describe this game. The three actions you take per turn are either moving or shoring up, and that may as well be a "remove cubes" action, for all intents and purposes. You also have randomly distributed roles that allow the players with that role a special ability to help win the game, and almost all of them are comparable to the roles in Pandemic. The differences in the game are in the random distribution of the island in each game (which is nice, but can lead to some really bad layouts), and the way that the
Infection Waters Rising cards are shuffled randomly in the deck, and not spaced out. It adds a different sort of tension, but having the likelihood of all three of them coming out back-to-back is a little scary. On the plus side, if you've already gone through all of them early on, you can rest assured to be safe until you have to reshuffle the deck. Oh, and the game is designed in such a way to guarantee that you can only hold enough cards to get one treasure at a time, so unless you're playing with 4 players, you'll have to go through the deck twice. I think I like the game (for the price point, the components are outstanding), but anyone who has played and enjoyed Pandemic probably won't need to own it. There might be an argument that the game would be for younger players, but Pandemic isn't that tough to learn to begin with, so that sort of negates it.
Jäger und Sammler
I suppose the comparisons to Hey, That's My Fish! are inevitable, since the main mechanisms in both games are similar, but while they share that similarity, the games are vastly different. For one, H!TMF becomes very puzzle-like, since being able to move the penguins as far as you want in a straight line can play into how you attempt to cut off other players while also keeping the best tiles for yourself. In JuS, your movement is more restricted, meaning that the game becomes less of a puzzle, and more of a tactical game. It's still relatively easy to cut people off, but players at least have a chance to stay in the running before letting that happen. Plus, the greatest improvement is the different ways you can score points: In H!TMF, you only score points for the fish on your tiles; in JuS, you score points in three different ways, giving you options in how you choose to pursue your most points. I'm not sure how much staying power the game will have, but the variable setup with the roads and caves will at least give players a different board for each game. So far, though, it's an inoffensive little game of tactics that I wouldn't mind playing again.
I like card games, I like having games that not a lot of other people might have, and I like supporting independent gamesellers and designers, so I was really looking forward to Erosion. I knew it was going to be a take that game before I bought it, but I did it anyway (it was inexpensive, too), and in the end, I think that's a small part of why I don't like it. It's also a game where you have to think ahead, but when you get 4 or more players in the game, then there's so much chaos from other players' turns that you can't plan for much ahead of your own turn. Plus, it just seems to be ridiculously fiddly, and the downtime can be pretty severe for such a short game. It just doesn't do much for me, though I can see giving it another try with 2 players to see how well it holds up; I'm not expecting much out of it, though.
Board Game: Fresco
[Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:172]
Like my brother, this was a tough month for me to try anything new, mostly due to a very heavy work schedule (busiest month of the year, actually). But I did get one new purchase played, and know I'll be putting a few more on the table this weekend.
After hearing good reviews on Garrett's Games & Geekiness and also here on BGG, I felt like this would be a good game for me and my group. I was right. This is a resource management game that is remarkably clever in that it's easy to understand, but your choices are complex. The mechanism of wake-up time is a great innovation, and the mixing of colors is a strong thematic choice. On the whole I think this is a good, solid game that will have broad appeal. Haven't tried the modules yet, but hope to do so on our next play.
Wow. I played plenty of games this month. I just didn't play hardly any *new* games. But that's not a bad thing. I got plenty of golden oldies in.
Of the new ones, I have a soft spot for Flicochet. I really like Bocce out in the yard, and this does a great job of bringing that game to the table. Plus it's cheap and portable. I tried Taktika a couple months ago. There just wasn't any sense of skill or strategy to Taktika. It was just about killing things. In Flicochet there is thought into your hits. Or at least it felt that way to me. (I realize other people have released Table bocce rules, but Flicochet is still a nice packaging.)
A very close second. A super fast area-majority game. And yet plenty of interesting decisions. I quite enjoyed it. I'm trying to decide how much meat it has and if I should pick it up for the family. Hrm hrm. I took a close look at the expansions, but they just don't tickle my fancy. I actually think the little heads do it for me. Just that one extra way to score points and mess with people. It doesn't have the epic scope of El Grande... but it doesn't have the rules overhead and play time. I realize that in some ways epic=time investment, but still.
A golden oldie. And pretty darn good. Still, explaining the scoring can be a bit of a chore. It was worth having and trying. I don't think it's as good as No Thanks or Coloretto however.
You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
11 new games this month. Some decent ones, but this month, an expansion took the top spot!
Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele: This being the 4th or 5th incarnation of Reiner's Lost Cities series, I wasn't expecting much, but this one hit me over the head! The card columns you create have been downplayed, and in some ways, they are integrated better into the design...rather than being the while design. Dr. K has re-tuned everything about the board. No longer is it a "Really? Is it over already?" race to the finish circle. You now get to slow-play the game even more.
I'd almost say that this is what Keltis should have been from the beginning, but then it wouldn't have been as accessible and probably not won the SdJ. Definitely the gamer's version of Keltis.
THE REST (most liked first)
ZÈRTZ: Only the second GIPF game I've played but it was great fun. Let's play Checkers on a shrinking board!
StreetSoccer: Finally got to play this. More luck than I expected, but I enjoyed the mini-puzzles each turn. Strangely thematic.
Aton: I got a big "don't know how this will work" from reading the rules, but during play, it made perfect sense after a couple turns. Very elegant, confrontational without being mean. Lots of things to score.
Age of Industry: I've played better Martin Wallace games, but this one was good. Seems very typical of Wallace, except it has perhaps more card play. I dug the special-edition wooden money!
Battle for Olympus: All the special powers overwhelmed me, but I still had a good time. I'll have to buy it, if for nothing else, that Matt pointed out I can play Knizia's long-out-of-print Tiku with the pieces!
Level X: Interesting take on Can't Stop. It fixes the thing I don't like about Can't Stop--all the senseless adding and grouping--and removes what I did like: the press-your-luck aspect. Well, at least this plays in less time and has a smaller box.
Bucket Brigade (Bucket Brigade): Not a barn-burner, but a solid racing game where you don't necessarily want to cross the finish line first.
Atlanteon: Another Knizia surround-and-score game, like Samurai, but with no luck. Nothing to write home about. Samurai will probably see more plays.
Nanuk: An admirable attempt to make Liar's Dice into a less-luck-y board game. Seemed like it just played a little long for the amount of fun you get out of it. I'd probably rather play Liar's Dice...and I'm not the biggest fan of that.
Banana Republic: A slightly-more-complicated version of Raj. I hate memory as a mechanic, but I'm happy that I got to play this early Doris & Frank game.
This month I played 4 new games.
Clue: The Great Museum Caper gets mentioned all the time on the thrift lists as a good game to pick up, so when I saw it at Value World (1/2 price too!) I knew it would be worth getting. I was not disappointed. First of all let me say that other than the names of the characters in the game, this has no resemblance to Clue. In this game 1 player takes on the role of the thief each round while the other players try to catch him in the museum. The thief is trying to escape with as many paintings as possible. Each player plays as the thief once and the player who stole the most paintings without getting caught is the winner. I rated this a solid 8.
Böse Buben was a close second for best of the month. I was very surprised at how much I liked this game. This game is a basic area majority game with a race theme (goblins racing on pigs to be exact). Everyone has the same hand of cards to play with, and on your turn you simply play a card to one of the tracks in the race. Your cards are numbered 1-6. There is 1 more track than the number of players and you may not play duplicate numbers in a track. Every time there are 4 cards in a track the card the earliest played card is discarded. Once a track has 4 discarded cards on it then the round ends. Whichever player has the highest total of cards in each track is awarded 3 points (money). There is also a penalty for finishing the round and an opportunity to buy discarded cards back at the end of the round. After 4 rounds the game ends and the player with the most points is the winner. This is a very fun game with some subtle strategies. There are also optional action cards that I'm excited to try next time we play. I rate this game an 8.
Tally Hi I picked up in a thrift store right before going on a trip. This turned out to be a good game for a trip. Since I am the only user on BGG that is listed as owning or even playing this game, I'm sure it's not easily available. I'll write a review soon, but it's a fairly simple game that plays quickly and is fun for what it is. I rated it a 7.
Robotory was my last new game for June. I liked the game play but the shoddy game board ruined the experience for me. I know the game was cheap so I shouldn't complain about the quality, but a folded piece of cardboard is impossible to keep such little playing pieces on. The pieces kept sliding off the board, and it was hard to enjoy the game. I rated it a 6 (probably an 8 with a better board)
A. B. West
Why aren't you PLAYING a game?
Innovation - 1 play - Rating: 8
My trip to Origins made June a great month for gaming. Innovation was a complete surprise. Not that I hadn't heard about it (I had) nor was I unfamiliar with it (I had read everything available). What surprised me was I really truly liked it. I'm not a fan of hard-core engine building card games (I'm looking at you, RftG) and believe this one was just like the others. It ain't. It's got style and such a breezy play - yet very original in mechanics. The graphic style is spartan and functional, but not garish. What makes the game sing is the flow - you're not really building ahead too much, but more playing with what you have - tactics and hand management. In any event, great game. I couldn't buy it (I understand it sold out at Origins), but am looking for a copy at GenCon. Hopefully, it'll be there!
Fresco - 3 plays - Rating: 8
The great folks from Queen taught me this game at Origins and I really had a great time. It had been on my list since it was announced, but I wanted a play before I made my decision. It's a fast worker placement (which I generally enjoy), but what makes this game is the production values and integrated theme. The family version is loved by my family, but the expansions bring in some alternate strategy lanes. Well done!
Dixit - 3 plays - Rating: 7
Simple to teach, fun art, fast play - it all adds up to a great family game. Anyone can enjoy the interaction and laughs. I'm looking to get the expansion.
The Scepter of Zavandor - 1 play - Rating: 6
I had heard this game has a flaw - and it came out in our play. There's a pretty severe run away leader problem. Once one player got to 3 diamonds and the rest of us had none, the game was over. We wouldn't be able to out bid nor catch him and the game was already past my interest time. Perhaps we didn't know the subtle ways to make the game close - but in any event, not something I'm looking to play again.
Samarkand: Routes to Riches - 1 play - Rating: 5
Calling this Chicago Express lite is an insult. This game has nothing to offer - few interesting decisions, luck driven strategy (the cards you draw can swing the game) and a dull theme. I won handily and truly didn't care at all. Avoid it.
Played two new games this month, oddly, both themed on the Medicis. Took a few times to figure out Court of the Medici, but by the fifth play, it is fun, quick, and relatively light card game, but I'm still figuring out the strategy.
I also played one game of Medici vs. Strozzi. This seems like a total Knizia, perfectly balanced, kind of think-y, kind of math-y, and fairly one dimensional. This makes it sound like I don't like the game, but I really do.
Yeah it's here! Really it's right here.
I have two games that I haven't rated even though I normally rate after one play. I noticed Boulder add D'r Af to their catalog and had been wanting it for some time. I've played it once and it seems like an 'ok' game. I haven't rated it yet because I fear it might be too easy to get in front and stay there and want to play it more to see. I think it needs more people to cause more traffic too. But, it's interesting to see how splotter titles have evolved.
Creationary I rated a 6.0 after 1 play and that might be a bit too high, but the kids really enjoyed it, so that helps out my enjoyment of it.
Smokejumpers I played once and there was still a bit of a question if I was playing it right. I played it while traveling, so I'll probably take it next time and try it some more.
Cyclades got a 6.0 after one play and may be rated too high. Just seemed like there were a little bit too little to do and it seemed getting to two metropolises was too easy and quick.
Although, we played 5 players (which for this type of game I normally prefer), but I think it will probably play better at 4 so that one god isn't available each turn.
Identik has been rated a 6.0, but I've already played it 4 times. Even though I sport the 'I love All Games' badge, I must admit that I'm not totally fond of Party game. Plus, I bite at drawing, but this has been good for a few laughs and will probably see a few more plays. This one is probably under rated a bit, getting a mark off for being a party game.
Dixit Quest rated a 6.0, and has been played 2 two times. It's much of the same as Dixit.
Board Game: Cavum
[Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1105]
Dist of Columbia
June has been a truly amazing month for new games. Not only did I have the opportunity to try an unusually large number of new-to-me games, but also I absolutely fell in love with one of them, adding a new true classic to my collection. Admittedly, I would have liked to get a little more enjoyment out of several games at the bottom of this list, but I’ll take one new favorite over a handful of solid, but unspectacular games any day.
A quick note for my regular readers (if any): A minor ratings system tweak to better differentiate the middling masses has produced more high and low ratings than before. This is intentional (and, I think, beneficial).
On with the show!
Games With A 10 Rating (Outstanding Game):
Examples of this category: Agricola, Brass, and Space Alert
2 & 4 players.
Cavum is simply infatuating. In just one month has shot right to the top my all-time favorites. Right out of the box, it contains some of the most beautiful components in my collection (and attractive box art to boot). Indeed, the aesthetic inspiration extended even to the punchboards, which are too beautiful to throw away (and now rest safely under the box insert). But it is the gameplay that won my heart. A route-building game tinged with a few auctions, some controlled destruction, and a lot of brain-burn, Cavum is a unique beast, and is probably the fastest game to have ever won my heart.
I don't want to simply regurgitate my review (find it HERE), but I feel like I should hit a few highlights. Although the game employs several familiar mechanics, it does so in often unexpected ways, and the result can be either intriguing or infuriating, depending on how you approach them. The communal board provides an unexpectedly collaborative game experience, but one with plenty of opportunities for sudden backstabbing. Nearly every item on the game board can be implemented to further very different strategies, and, indeed, the variability allows a game with an unusually level playing field (it's not a game about creating engines, that's for sure) to still offer success through specialization. Above all, the game is about creativity, which is why it deserves to be a 10. Not a game goes by where I'm not impressed with an opponent's new tactic that I had previously not considered. It's refreshing to have a game that serves as a vehicle for the kind of experience I want to create, rather than one that stands as a puzzle that I have to deconstruct. Cavum is that game.
Games With A 6 Rating (Okay Game):
Examples of this category: Carson City, Galaxy Trucker, Pandemic & [thing=40692][/thing].
Canal Mania is a game that was saved by my stubbornness. My first play of Canal Mania was so unpleasant that I was ready to put the thing on Geekbay. But I forced myself to play again, and I'm actually really taken aback that my second play demonstrated so much potential.
I’m a sucker for unusual games from small publishers, and this title had come very highly recommended from numerous users whose opinions I greatly respect. Usually touted as a cross between Ticket to Ride and Age of Steam, Canal Mania possessed neither the ease of the former nor the strategic potential of the latter. While the bases for such lofty comparisons were evident in the game’s mechanics, the resulting mix was, at least initially, something less than the sum of its parts.
My primary complaint with the game is in the implementation of the Government Contracts. As in Ticket to Ride, players in Canal Mania are encouraged to complete particular routes for points by way of Government Contracts. However, the Government Contracts are so essential the game, and the restrictions they impose so very nearly suffocating, that, ironically, the game feels a little too much like the hard labor that it simulates. Players are limited to just two active contracts, which must be chosen from a randomly populated set of five that does not get refreshed until exhausted. The contracts then dictate where players may build (tiles my only extend a route from one of the two termini on a player’s active contract), and how fast they may build (each contract mandates that the route be no more than one tile longer than absolutely necessarily). This means that, while players have some choice in choosing contracts and in precisely how the routes get built, they have little control where it matters—reacting to the actions of other players, and making decisions that feed into or off of the gameplay choices available to others.
Because the game employs a Steam-like pick-up-and-deliver system, in which players benefit both when using long routes of their own and also when opponents use their routes, making the range of available termini depend on a random draw from a very small subset of potential routes seems like a very poor design choice. For at least the first half of our first game, we floundered with disjointed routes and arbitrary seeming builds. Eventually, when contracts began to appear that shared a terminus with a pre-existing route, the choice to take it felt very nearly automated. Only toward the end, when canals had spread across the board, did the joys of a route-building game—-notably, symbiotic and parasitic relationships, and true competition for goods—-emerge. By that point, the game had languished for what felt like several hours (and what, in fact, turned out to be 2.5).
I'm not sure whether the second play was just the product of a more fortuitous draw, or whether our better awareness of the game's systems allowed us to make more out of what was available, but this problem was much less pronounced. While still far from perfect, the choices of when to take contracts and which contracts to take actually seemed to be meaningful, especially in conjunction with the limited supply of each type of canal tile (toward the end of the game, several of the contracts were unfulfillable by the player in the lead, who had used all his difficult terrain tiles). We also burned through the game in about 75 minutes.
Canal Mania is a bit of an odd duck. It has some real good ideas, and is actually well crafted for a small publisher game. But it also has some real awkwardness in some of the mechanics (I hesitate to call them flaws because two player is clearly not the game's best player count). In the first game, this produced an uncomfortable, restrictive mess that was at once both fragile (a careless player must undo illegal builds) and obstinate. And yet, in the second game, it was pleasantly laborious--tense, but light, and, at times, even charming. In light of the small publisher designation, Canal Mania could easily be embraced as a quirky fun if the gameplay produces the type of experiences that the second game seemed to promise. But I don't know if that's really possible or simply a mirage. Only more plays (preferably with a higher player count) will tell.
Games With A 5 Rating (Average Game):
Examples of this category: Citadels, Neuroshima Hex!, & Small World.
2 & 4 players.
I just don't understand the appeal of games this light. When playing Thebes, I feel a bit like I'm back playing Candyland or Snakes and Ladders with my family as a child. That's not so say it's a bad game--it's quite good at what it does--but my enjoyment of board games is usually about grappling with the challenge, thinking, re-thinking, learning from my mistakes, and reveling in a victory that feels well earned. On that scale, Thebes is roughly the equivalent of watching television. Colorful, entertaining, but ultimately vapid.
The mechanics of Thebes are very simple: move your researcher (or stay where you are) and perform one of four actions: take a card, take a different kind of card, replace the available cards, or dig for treasure. If there's much difficulty to be found, it is in squeezing every last drop of efficiency from your movements around the board. (As if we didn't have enough games in that genre.) Otherwise, it's move, draw, and hope. That's the game. In light of that, the 60-75 minute play time seems far too long.
I can see where Thebes would fit with some people's groups (and I think I can find a place with it with my group with four players), but it just seems sort of pointless.
Reef Encounter was a game that I’d long desired, but that I had refrained from purchasing because I had feared that it wouldn’t resonate with any of my traditional gaming partners. Billed as some kind of underwater bastard child of Tigris & Euphrates and Acquire (both of which I love), I had hoped the game to be superficially innocuous enough to engage my not-yet-hardcore gaming group, but laden with enough deep and subtle strategies to scratch my itch.
While I’m certain that such strategies exist, they were entirely beyond my grasp in the first two plays. In both games, my wife won handily by simply feeding her parrotfish regularly, while positioning her coral in a way that stifled any hope I had for growth. In fact, I was unable to consume a single tile in the first game. It’s not the losing that I mind, mind you, but that I’m unable to even conceive of a counter-measure to her incredibly simple strategy (Build a 5-6 tile coral; place a shrimp. Eat said coral; build another 5-6 tile coral). I can’t help but feel that I’m either playing by incorrect rules or that I’m simply inconsolably (and perhaps irreparably) out-of-sync with the game. Meanwhile, my failing as an opponent has also led my wife to dismiss the game as simplistic and childish (the cutesy eyes on the shrimp didn’t help).
One of the primary sources of my difficulty was my inability to maintain a steady flow of tiles and cubes of the right colors. In the first game, by the end of the first turn, I had only two tiles behind my screen. Even after passing for the next two turns, I was unable to do anything more than grow a two-tile coral, which seemed to be a waste of an action. It reminded me a bit of Hansa Teutonica’s early game, where players can accomplish so little on such an open board, that the game seems a bit pointless. But where HT quickly ramps up into a mad scramble in the wake of an imminent end, Reef Encounter simply putters along at this pace until the game ends (which was at least mercifully quickly).
In other games (e.g., Brass, Neuland), such a frustrating start has motivated me to grapple with the strategy, ponder the game in my free time, and put it back on the table as often as possible until I truly understood it. Perhaps because at this stage I’ve yet to even glimpse the game’s tantalizing potential, or perhaps because many aspects of the game don’t appeal to me in practice (the tile draw on the open sea board strikes me as both too random, and too upkeep-heavy to justify the mechanic; flipping the dominance tiles in colored sets is AP-inducing, but not in a fun “thinky” way), Reef Encounter has not had that effect. Instead, I’m inclined to simply write it off as a game with which I just don’t connect.
One final note: I was a bit disappointed with the components of the Z-man edition. The tiles were smaller than I thought; the paint on the algae cylinders isn’t remotely close to the color on the dominance tiles; the slots to assemble the parrotfish tiles were too narrow, resulting in considerable damage to the cardboard components when assembled (we’ve just left them assembled and out of the box for fear of doing more damage when taking them apart); the included bag was too small to hold all the tiles and allow for shuffling; and the linen texture on the box and tiles feels unpleasantly artificial.
Games With A 4 Rating (Below Average Game):
Examples of this category: Caylus, Court of the Medici, Kingsburg, & Catan.
Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation
With Canal Mania’s second-play rebound, Uruk takes home the title of most disappointing purchase this month. Uruk is yet another entrant in the “civ-lite” category that is all mechanics and no theme. Here, players build a five-invention tableau, which largely functions to help players acquire colored cubes. Over the course of the game, the inventions may be replaced with higher tech level (i.e. more efficient) inventions, and the cubes may be expended to buy white disks that represent villages and cities, placed above particular inventions. At the end of the game, inventions score points, with the disks acting as multipliers to the tech level number of the cards below them them. Add in a few gods/disasters that randomly appear, and (presto!) you’ve got a game.
But the game is anything but thematic, and is in fact surprisingly tedious. First, let’s talk about theme. Although both the inventions and the cubes are color-coded, I’ve not discerned a thematic explanation for the colors: Nets, Statues, and Astronomy are pink. Ziggurats go with Roads; Lighthouses with Pottery and Coinage; and Sailing Ships with Aqueducts. The connection between particular inventions and their functions is not clear, in part because I’m not even sure what the cubes they produce represent. You need cubes to build villages and cities, but they don’t appear to be raw materials. And then there are the cities and villages, which score the invention below them, as if the two were related, but cities and villages remain when the invention below it is replaced (note that I can’t say “upgraded” because there is no required connection between the replaced card and the new one). And even if the technology were village-specific, the cubes they produce go into an empire-wide supply, to be used for building villages elsewhere. It’s all very confusing.
I’d be willing to put up with the lack of theming if the gameplay were truly engrossing, but the game amounts to little more than luck-of-the-draw set collection combined with a bit of opponent awareness and a push-your-luck element. To build inventions, players try to collect duplicates of single cards, either drawing randomly from the deck or selecting from a surprisingly-small three-card display. The need for cards is balanced against the need for cubes, as villages and cities get more expensive as the game goes on. So players may either spend actions collecting sets of cards, spend actions building inventions, spend actions using inventions to get cubes, or spend cubes to get settlement stones. As the game drags on for about an hour, it provides a lot of actions, and hence lots of decisions, but very few of them feel meaningful. The game lacks natural inventions combos, as one might find in Race for the Galaxy or Dominion, and the cards available usually dictate the choice of invention. Gods and disasters appear at random intervals and can be completely unpredictable, giving crazy benefits or destroying expensive settlement stones.
I don’t want to be completely negative: there are some interesting design decisions in here, and I’m sure I’ll play it several more times to see whether I can’t find the space for developing strategy or cunning tactical play. But, at the moment, it feels like a promising prototype that is still far from refined, and the market is already clogged with too many theme-divorced card games that do the same things better.
I don't rate expansions.
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor
How do you rate an expansion to a game that you already rate a 10? I think Farmers of the Moor is interesting, if a bit unnecessary. It adds more complexity to a game that was already a bit complex, but it does so in a way that is sensible, and that easily inhabits the world of the base game. I'm going out on a limb after one play and saying that I'll never play 2-player Agricola without the expansion again (I never found that player count very enjoyable in the base game), but I'm also not sure I'd ever bother with when playing with 4. Solid addition, overall.
Catan: Cities & Knights
A recent review of Cities & Knights asked, “So is more complexity a good thing for a game which built its fortune on the reputation of being simple and easy-to-learn?” That particular reviewer’s conclusion was contrary to my own, but it was the question itself that prompted the more interesting response: Even if added complexity improves an overly simplistic and relatively mundane base system, is an improved bad game a proper goal?
It seems to me that Cities and Knights should be judged not on how much better it is than the base game, but how well it stands up to games in its new genre: longer, more complex strategy games. In this frame, Cities and Knights strikes me as a major failure. The expansion does little to quell my basic problems with the Catan system: the downtime of trading, the runaway leader, living and dying by a die roll. And the implementation of the added features pale in comparison to better strategy games. For example, the ballyhooed “race” for a metropolis is really little more than a four-pronged decision tree: specialize or diversify in commodities; if specializing, compete with opponents or don’t. Your need for particular resources will probably dictate your answers, anyway. What's the point?
That's it from me. Great month for games, despite the disappointments. Thanks so much for reading!
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
Innovation, of course! After salivating over it for 2 months, I finally got a copy of my own at Origins. It lived up to the hype. We thoroughly enjoyed it and about half of the people I taught it to ended up immediately buying their own copies.
Fresco. I didn't really care for this much as I don't like manipulative turn order mechanisms, but I can see that it will be a big hit. It's very colorful and has some fun mechanics: color-mixing, workers being grumpy because you made them get up too early, etc. Other than the Powergrid-like turn order stuff, it was pretty fun.
Code 777. Got to play the new version. It's very nice, but probably a bit much brain effort for the family.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
So this is what I've been missing all these years. Civilization was a great deal of fun. Usually games from this era will feel dated and just drag on but Civilization still feels "modern" and while long engages you the entire time.
Power Struggle takes second place. During the game I was a little undecided but then the last couple of turns came around and it was close and tense.
Sumeria was a surprise. This little package contains a fluffy little game that still makes you think a bit before you jump into action.
2 de Mayo was fun too but it can sometimes depend on which order the cards come out. As long as that doesn't prove to be the case more often than not then it's a good way to spend 30-45 minutes.
No real stinkers this month, I had a fairly good crop of new to me games this time.
I am on a Journey...
New South Wales
...to explore and discover games of all shapes and sizes regardless of colour, condition or creed
June is the month I host BorderCon and it also takes in some school holidays. Those two usually combine to throw up a large number of new plays for me and 2010 was no exception.
RftG: Brink of War
Just wait a minute while I stop polishing my RftG Shrine.
This is a brilliant expansion and a fitting end to the 1st expansion arc for RftG. The introduction of the Prestige mechanic and associated Prestige actions are genius and take the game to a new level for fans of the series.
BoW also plays an important role in fleshing out the remaining cards needed to maintain deck balance and the issue of streaking.
Only downside is a deck that is taller than Mt. Rushmore. Add card sleeves and you could walk to the moon. I’ll have a review up of this in the coming days after racing through 60+ solo plays in a month.
Whilst I had played this game several years ago this constitutes my first correct play.
This really is a hidden gem of a game. Exploration games are great most times but this one about Gold Prospectors trying to strike it rich in the Lost Valley really is fantastic. The key mechanics are the exploration and the limited storage capacity of each player. Careful management of resources is required in order to build mines, mine rivergold, hunt animals and gather food using things like fish traps.
This is a euro that succeeds in creating that ‘experience game’ feel. It deserves a wider distribution.
Anybody who knows me even a little knows that I am a big dice game junkie. Even better when dice are incorporated into a Euro style design.
Dicetown then was a game I had heard good things about and I had high hopes. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint. The decisions to be made were interesting, the theme is neat (western/poker feel) and the components are gorgeous. I really liked the dice rolling phase, where you have to try and outroll/outbluff/ outthink your opponents and the various locations on the board that impact on those decisions.
I rate this on par with the likes of Stone Age and Alea Iacta Est (just different) but Kingsburg still holds the top spot. This is on order.
Scripts and Scribes
This hard to find card game really has some meat to it. It is a classic set collection style of game but the twist is that the values of each set can be manipulated by the players as the game unfolds if they acquire certain cards. Gold cards are also present and these are needed to bid on card offerings. So essentially the players have 3 elements (income, set collection and value manipulation) to manage, whilst all the time keeping an eye on what the opposition is doing. Really neat and deserving of a wider release.
Perpetual Commotion: 2-Player
I had forgotten how much fun this game could be and in the 2-player format I think it becomes that little bit more accessible. The main difference to the original is that the decks are more tailored, only going up to 8 instead of 12 or 13 like the original multi-player game. This makes for shorter but more intense duals.
This game is all about the company though rather than the game.
I will be getting this and the lack of play my multi-player copy has seen may suggest it needs to be traded.
Pandemic: On the Brink
It has taken me a long time to come to appreciate Pandemic and I got to play most parts of the expansion this month (new characters, Mutation and Virulent Strain). Whilst I haven’t played enough of the base game to get sick of it I appreciate the new modes of play and the variety that the additional role combos generate.
I only have the Bio-Terrorist to try out but Pandemic may well find itself in my collection before to long thanks to the solo play aspect and On the Brink would likely join it.
Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune
Ok another Carc title I hear you groan. Indeed. But this one isn’t to bad. As the name suggests there is a heathy does of luck in the game based on the Wheel. Players can essentially allocate Meeple to the Wheel instead of to the tile they place. The Wheel is then activated by drawing Wheel Tiles and a little Pig trots around and allows for bonus scoring.
I don’t think hard core aggressive Carc fans will find it that engaging but it is good for families as there is more uncertainty and that may level the playing field. It can also be played with other expansions.
I’ll have a review up in the coming days.
This is a neat little design by an Aussie designer in Phil81.
Essentially it is a highly portable (fit in your back pocket) Crokinole although it plays more like lawn bowls than Crokinole.
I haven’t played all of the play styles yet but I really like what this offers and I’ve added it to my Dexterity Collection.
Piece o’ Cake
This is a clever little ‘divide the prize and take your share’ game, wrapped in a theme that is appealing for the family market. It’s main mechanic is not all that dissimilar to the one found in San Marco as the player that does the cake dividing takes their share last, thus they have to think carefully or else be left with spoiled cake.
Plays really fast and would likely appeal to non-gaming family members. I may have to grab this at some point.
Formula D – Hockenheim
Great track that allows a nice flow from one corner to the next with some room for varied gear selections and tactics.
Last Night on Earth: Zombie Pillage
One of the web based scenarios, Zombie Pillage is interesting as the Zombie’s ability to tear down the town is simulated by cutting the Hero deck in half. This gives the Zombie player a much greater chance to exhaust the Hero Deck as they have the option to take cards from either Deck at various times. Not one of the best scenarios but a welcome bit of variety.
This may be unpopular but I just didn’t dig Forbidden Island at all. I can see its appeal as a cheaper more accessible version of Pandemic with an easier theme for families to engage with, but for me it’s like ordering Bacon and Eggs and finding the restaurant is out of bacon.
I am ready for you to sink my battleship now. Fire away.
This is a Gamewright Game aimed at the children’s/family market. It involves some memory and a healthy does of luck in drawing the right (low scoring) cards and utilizes a ‘players can force the end of a hand’ concept.
So it isn’t great…but it does allow parents to have a great time with their kids as the playing field is pretty level and the kids feel like they are doing something clever. As a parent I can’t ask much more from a game.
Formula D – Chicago Street Circuit
I was really disappointed by this track. It seems to promise so much with its hole in the highway, multiple path section and crossover section of track but the reality is that most of these hazards are quite easily avoided and this acts as something of a let down. Could this be the end of the Street Cirtcuit offerings?
Baseball been bery bery good to me
This is a picture of a published game designer
I did not play any new games this month. However, I played two games that I had not recorded plays on BGG before.
I hadn't played this game this millennium, but I sure remembered this classic. It's an excellent game for two to four players who don't want something heavy, but want to think. It's essentially a rummy game, except your cards are in a rack and cannot be reordered. We played the first round with all 60 cards with just two players, and I knew something was wrong. I had never played with two before, but I vaguely remembered removing 10 cards with three. We played correctly starting with the second hand.
BrewMaster: The Craft Beer Game
One day a couple of drunkards made a card game and themed it around beer. The game is not broken, but the card design is lame, and the game is pretty simple. It's better than staring at the wall.
I played this one several months ago, but it wasn't memorable and I forgot to record the play.
This is the only new game I played in June but I rather enjoyed it. I thought the art was very nice and that alone made me like it. But I am also prone to liking building games and I quite liked the way it works in Palazzo. Looking forward to another game of it.
"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."
"No matter how low your opinion of Washington DC, it's nothing compared to Washington DC's low opinion of you."
I was sitting here trying to figure out which of the four new games I played this month would be my favorite. It's an oddly diverse group, and I like all of them for various reasons. But I realized that the game I was most anxious to try again was Big City.
Until someone designs something better, Big City is the closest we'll get to "Sim City: The Board Game." The mechanism here is card-driven placement. It's all about scoring from placing buildings and maximizing points by putting them in proximity to other buildings. If you've played Oregon and liked it, you'll probably like Big City. It also evokes Medina slightly in the placement of (and scoring bonuses of) the streetcars, which work a bit like the marketplace meeples in Medina.
So there it is. And if Valley Games doesn't reprint this soon, I'm just going to have to break down and buy the Goldseiber version from someone.
So Fresco's one of the new kids on the Worker Placement block. What separates it from the rest of the pack? Not much really. Use your workers to collect cubes that you turn in to collect tiles that give you points. Pretty straightforward. Here are the twists:
1) You select your actions secretly, and nobody can actually block you out of an action as one might find on other, more brutal worker-placement games.
2) Turn order is first determined by the scoring track with the last-place person choosing first -- but what you're choosing is your turn order for the rest of the turn. Got that? But if you consistently choose to go first, you also risk having one less worker to place. If you go last, you're likely to get bonus workers. (There are other ways to achieve this, too.)
3) While you can't get blocked out of choosing an action, you can find yourself limited if other players take that action first. This is particularly true if you choose the action of taking sets of cubes (thematically, paint colors). Go last and you will probably find that the sets you want are already taken. You may also find that the tiles you want to claim (thematically, portions of the fresco you restore) have been claimed before you.
4) Mixing paint colors = neato. You can't count on getting orange or green paint and might have to create it from combining red/yellow or blue/yellow. And the only way to get purple paint is to mix your red and blue. Mixing paint is one of the actions you can choose, by which you can trade in some cubes for other cubes.
But when you get right down to it, it's collect cubes, trade for other cubes, turn in cubes for points. So nothing really new, but still fun and not as brutal as other worker-placement games.
(Note, we only played the basic game. I understand that there are essentially bits in the box for advanced game variants. This is an awesome thing.)
Long Shot is really more of a card game than a race game, and it's fairly light and probably a good game for newbies or casual gamers. But where it doesn't have the excitement of the race, it does contain the tension of the wagering. (Which is really the thing about horse racing anyway.) Now, to be sure, as with any card game there is randomness. The first few turns of the game will see players buying horses; the rest of the game is about betting on horses (not necessarily your own) and using the cards and the dice to push them around the track.
The movement is not anything close to the way a game like Turfmaster uses cards and dice (Turfmaster is awesome, by the way). But the game is light and fluffy enough that you just can't get too upset if the dice screw you over.
Anyway, light and fun and recommended for people who like a large dose of wagering in their horse-racing games.
Honestly, if I hadn't found this at a yard sale for $1.00, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to acquire it. This just isn't my sort of game. But one afternoon, my six-year-old and I set this up on the kitchen table and tried it out. And . . . yeah, it's a bit problematic because you often have to do really tiny flicks, which are almost indistinguishable from just pushing the durned things. Then there are the rules about knocking over a moose which requires "resetting" everything -- and that's not always easy. But for a bit of fun with a kid, this'll do. (Though she did get quite upset when I won one of our games.)
Grand Dames of Small World / Cursed!
If you really like Small World, then these two expansions are excellent ways to offer more choices and combos.
Personally, Small World is the sort of game that has me turning to the rulebook every turn to check on how various special powers work. So for me, these two expansions, therefore, are something out of a rules lawyer's nightmares.
If you're willing to play the game enough to intimately familiarize yourself with how the various powers work -- awesome. Go for it. Otherwise, you might want to just stick with the base game and enjoy that.
Board Game: 18MEX
[Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:2274]
Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
While the last few months have each supplied me with a blockbuster new and unique game that fill my heart with joy every time I play them (Tahuantinsuyu, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Kaivai, The Princes of Machu Picchu) June has not been so kind to me. This is not to say that I don’t like and enjoy the new games I have been introduced, because there are four I definitely liked, It is simply that they have not quite wowed me like other recent favorites. All four of them have the definite potential to grow on me in time, and since I own them I will be playing them, they just have not reached the "amazing" level yet.
A Smidge Above The Rest
Since you have to chose a game for Best New To You, this month it is going to be 18Mex. While my choices for Best New To You in the last several months have been like meeting exciting, new people, 18Mex is more like seeing an old friend after a decade. They are pretty similar to how you remember them, but they have had some new experiences and a new wardrobe and its fun to get to know them again. 18Mex is in the same family of games as 1830, and shares a lot of structural characteristics with its ancestor. What differentiates it are interesting little twists like more interesting private companies, the presence of a national railroad that shapes strategies without overwhelming them like the CGR does in 1856, and the presence of lots of expensive terrain. This combines into a game that is a nice trip off the beaten path of 1830, one that I expect to be visiting for quite a while, particularly since I sold my copy of 1830. I rate 18Mex, like 1856, 1830, and 1889, an 8. I think I prefer it slightly to the others, but it is not enough to give it another full point.
Clippers is a somewhat obscure Alan Moon game from 2002. It has less than 1000 raters, less than 600 owners, and has an average rating of 6.70. Now, I am not quite sure why the game is so ill-regarded, but I found it to be a tight, interesting affair, with plenty of tension and fun decisions that were held back only by somewhat shoddy components.
The game’s structure is relatively simple. The game takes place on a map of the South Pacific, where individual players take turns moving shipping lines across the map. Players get points for connecting to islands with a shipping company for the first time (in the form of money) and for how many individual shipping companies connect to islands where they have one or more ports, with different islands having different values.
An additional wrinkle is provided by the special powers that are available for purchase at the beginning of each round. In the game’s default mode, individual players take turns placing one shipping route per turn. If you buy a special power it is possible to place down two and then get double value from any island chains that are connected to, placing three and getting nothing for connecting to an island chain, placing five (in one of the two phases), or to move a port.
What makes the game interesting to me is how the game incentivizes players to disrupt the movement of the shipping lines away from the high scoring islands. By providing points for connecting to new island chains, players can work to disrupt other player’s plans without sabotaging their own chances to win, though they have to still weight the benefits of moving shipping routes to benefit themselves vs. moving them to hurt their opponents. Additionally, with certain island chains having different quantities of ports for different players, these decisions frequently end up being non-zero sum. You can easily end up in situations where moving a shipping company away from one player’s high scoring island chain will instead result in another player getting some points. Being able to gauge the deltas on these decisions is an important skill in this game, and one I find personally to be very engaging.
The game plays best with five, but I have only played it with three so far. I suspect, that playing it with the correct number of players will open up new dimensions to the game that I am not able to properly consider now with only a limited view of the game. So I currently rate the game an 8, both because I found the three player game to be rather fun, and because I suspect it will become even more interesting with more players.
I first played this one tonight, so my opinions are still cementing themselves, but overall I was pretty impressed. The game takes the play time and relatively simple structure of all the other semi-abstract 45 minute auction games out there and combines them with a level of viciousness that you are unlikely to find in Ra. During scoring only a maximum of two of the potential three rows will score, creating interesting alliances between the players, that frequently shift as the game state and potential ending conditions change. I can easily see this one becoming a staple, and look forward to playing it again in the near future.
Interestingly enough, I suspect this is one auction game that will work fine with two. One of the two games I played tonight was with two players, and while it did not have the interesting incentive structures of the three player game, it was just as cuthroat and almost as entertaining. I doubt I would ever choose to play this one with two when three or four players are available, but it is certainly not a bad choice.
I rate it an 8, with a strong potential to rise.
The Bridges of Shangri-La
The Bridges of Shangri-La is another poorly regarded game (with less than a 7.0 rating) that I played this month and found to be quite enjoyable. Like Clippers it is rather inexpensive to purchase right now. I got copies of both games for around $10, and consider them both to be very worth the price paid.
The Bridges of Shangri-La falls into the "theme is so pasted on it may as well be an abstract" category, which does not bother me but could potentially bother quite a few of you out there. You have been warned. Because of theme’s irrelevance I am not going to discuss it beyond saying that the general goal of the game is to get as many of your "masters" into as many villages as possible. To accomplish this you have one of three potential actions on your turn. The first one is to place a master in an empty spot on a board in a village where you already have a master. The second one is to play two tiles ("students") on top of already existing master tiles, no more than one on any given master. The third is to start a journey of the students, which is essentially having one village attack another village. Determining if the attack is successful is based on the relative quantity of tiles in each. If the attacker is successful, then defending tiles are displaced to make way for attacking student tiles of the same symbol. If it fails then nothing happens to the target village. Regardless of the results of the attack, the connection between the two villages is removed and any empty spots in the target village are filled with student tiles from the attacking village. This continues until no further attacks are possible and then the most master tiles on the board wins.
The Bridges of Shangri-La encourages a series of alliances between the players, as it is difficult to launch an attack against another village unless another player helps you, as it is usually fairly easy to block another player by simply matching that player’s moves. This becomes doubly true when the third player also does not want this particular attack to happen. So in order to easily accomplish something you need support from another player. So the game essentially becomes a series of moves and counter-moves as individual players build up positions in the various villages in order to both establish their ability to start a journey of the students and to convince a second player that it is worthwhile to support their journey so that it will succeed.
When we first played the game, we placed our pieces in an almost random way. It was not that we did not understand how the game worked, as it really is quite simple, it was simply difficult to visualize what results our moves would lead to. As we played, it became more and more apparent that the cascade of shifting majorities and new vulnerabilities caused by starting a journey of the students would open a great deal of strategic options for future play.
I liked Bridges of Shangri Law quite a bit, unfortunately it seems to be a particularly fragile game, and I suspect that, like Chicago Express, it will end up being particularly vulnerable to chaos caused by different skill levels. I hope I am wrong, because if this is the case it might limit the amount that the game gets played and, because of this concern, I rate it a 7.
Peloponnes is a fairly straightforward auction game that is fairly thematically tight. I’ve been curious about this one since Essen mostly because I am fascinated by games based on ancient Greece. The claims that it was a lighter sort of game kept me away, however, and I did not get to try it until this past month when a fellow BGGer who prefers the lighter sort of games introduced it to me. I was impressed enough that we played it four times in the session.
The rules are fairly straightforward. Each player starts with a different city-state, each of which has a slightly different set of starting resources and resource(s) produced each round. Each turn the players use their money (produced by population) to bid on available tiles. Each tile has a minimum bid value, though players can bid higher than that minimum. The importance of doing so is based primarily on the fact that once you bid, you are unable to change your bid. If someone outbids you, you are allowed to move on to another tile for bidding, but only if you can either outbid an opponent or meet the minimum bidding requirement for the tile. Landscape tiles are simply added to the player’s board, though there are limitations on which such tiles can be acquired. Building tiles have to be paid for, usually with a combination of wood and stone. Periodically feeding rounds occur, where players must provide grain for their population. Six times over the course of the game a disaster will strike, requiring each player to either reduce one of their resources or pay resources or lose victory point supplying tiles. At the end of the game the lower of the player’s score from victory tiles and 3*population is their score and the highest score wins.
I liked and enjoyed Peloponnes but I fear that if I acquired it and played it at the rate I usually play games I like that I would quickly reach the point where I ran out of interesting things to find in the game. I am not sure if it would take one more play, five more plays, or ten more plays but I can tell it would happen fairly quickly. As such I am going to simply continue to play it exclusively when I am gaming with
I rate it a 7.
Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele
The game is structurally fairly simple. You have a number of pawns that you move across a board with spots that are covered with various colored symbols. In order to move into these spots you have to play a card with said colors. A small amount of hand management exists, as you can only play cards in ascending or descending order. If you play a 0 then each card has to be equal to or greater than the previous one you played. If you start with a 10 the reverse is true. Other numbers you will determine once you play your second card.
Further decisions added by having various spots on the boards having random special powers assigned to them that give you victory points, let you discard a card from your board or your hand into a communal draw section, give you one of five different colored crystals (you get points for collecting an increasingly large number from the set), and let you move up other pieces.
I like Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele just fine, though I do not love it. The decisions are rather repetitive without being particularly deep, though it was interesting planning out routes for individual pawns and deciding when it was worthwhile to skip multiple numbers when playing a card and when it wasn't did provide some tension to the game. Unfortunately, that was about the only tension present as the amount of player interaction was pretty limited. The only time I bothered to look at what other players were doing is when I performed a discard, and needed to decide if the potential benefit they got from the discard was greater than the benefit I got from discarding it in the first place.
Looking at regular Keltis and Lost Cities now that I have played Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele is enough to show me that I would have liked both of them less, probably rating them a 4. Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele earns a 6. It is short enough that I will play it again willingly, though, and I suspect I will play it at least a handful of more times before I start refusing it outright.
I have come to the conclusion that I just simply have an odd aversion to trick taking and climbing games. While I appreciate their quality, and understand the enjoyment that others derive from them, they just don’t work for me. Haggis seemed to work perfectly fine as such a game, and it was clear my opponents enjoyed themselves, so Haggis might very well be a good climbing game. I just have no basis for making that conclusion myself. I rate it a 5.
Meh. While the moving parts of the game are at least mildly entertaining, I ultimately found Starship Catan to be without tension and to barely have anything in the way of interesting decisions. I didn’t even bother to finish the first game I participated in, and I can’t see ever choosing to play this over the other short, 2-player games in my collection. That being said, there is nothing actively wrong with it, and thus I rate it a 5.
Board Game: Brass
[Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:15]
Duchess of Erat
Only 3 new games for me this month:
Brass 1 play.
This was the only non-filler game, and the one I liked the best... Resource management in two stages, so you get another start halfway through, which I like.
Dice Town 2 plays.
Fun filler with poker dice. More fun with 3 than with 2...
Lungarno 2 plays.
Tile laying game, which reminded me somewhat of Carcassonne, you're also placing meeples and scoring them either during the game or at the end. Difference is that it's more clear what the board will look like and how long the game will take. Fun filler.
EDIT: I forgot about Dominion: Alchemy... We played 5 times with the new cards... I like them, but they do make for a longer game, with lots of action chains. Not something I'd always add to the mix.
Patiently waiting for the zombie apocalypse...
House Divided is a bit of a classic and consider an excellent primer for beginner war gamers. I recently went on a Civil War reading spree, and was wanting to try this game out. Since I took a trip to my parents home, I thought what the hey, and bought a copy. My Dad and I played, and enjoyed it, though I wish could have played it more. I was surprised about the length. Didn't expect that.. I think I liked more then him.
Who can complain when you get that kind of quality time with the old man. I rank it an 8 and want to play some more. I need to find a dedicated war gaming partner.....
Well I have had HT, on my self for a least a month and was either to busy or I couldn't find anyone to introduce the game to. Finally, got a chance to play and enjoyed the experience. I believe I might have played a few rules incorrectly, it had been awhile since I read the directions, and had to reference the rules quite a bit, which is an ominous sign. Nevertheless, my wife thumped me, and I look forward to trying this one again. It is a theme less cube pusher of a game. My Ameri-trash side, is looking for a long game of TI3, after playing HT.
What can I say. We bought it to play with my daughter, and she is 4. Gamer indoctrination starts early you know.... My hopes is she will someday have posters of Martin Wallace and Uwe Rosenberg on her walls, and not prepubescent heart throbs.. Yeah right... Hiss is colorful, and she likes the rainbow pieces. We can also practice counting. Pretty decent game for 4 year olds.
Go Fish Dice
Another game we bought for my daughter. A dice feast. It isn't to bad of a game, but is to long for what it is. I truly hope this gamer indoctrination pays off, because these are the tough years of gaming... Looking forward to the day she will play Twilight Struggle with me.
Overall, not a bad month. I have slowed my new game purchases down. Interested in Washington's War , Fresco, and Age of Industry. I have Brass already though..
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
An undiscovered Knizia for me and an equally unexpected surprise. A brain-burning stock-based rail game with very interesting veto mechanic for positioning track. Highly interactive and reminiscent, in part, of other Knizia greats such as Through the Desert and T&E. Arguably suffers from the typically complex Knizian scoring system, but there is plenty of game in here to warrant repeated plays. Looking forward to working out the strategy.
Current rating 8/10
Age of Industry
One game. Two player with Germany map.
Had the feel of a Slicker Brass that may or may not be a good thing. A bit less character, but almost certainly more accessible. Tried the 2p-variant of removing 12 cards as suggested on BGG. However, game still lost a bit of tension at the end (despite finishing in a VP tie) – will try with 17 cards removed next time.
A game that will almost certainly gain from having new boards developed for it. In particular, I suspect that, with the correct board, number and distribution of cards could be one of the best Martin Wallace games for 2players.
Current score 7/10 (but I suspect will go higher)
Board Game: 1853
[Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1860]
Only one new board game this month, the remake of 1853. It seemed the natural progression after playing a few games of 1825 Unit 1. (For those who think 1825 Unit 2 may be the "natural" progression, it's in the mail.)
Anyway, after one long game of 1853 and one short game, I have to say it's my favorite "new to me" game of June. Of course, it was the only "new to me" game of June. For one of my gaming buddies (who happened to win both games), it's his new favorite. He's even considering picking up his own copy. I can't say the same, however. I actually prefer the shorter, simpler "1825".
Board Game: Macao
[Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:154]
Easy decision this month, as I've only played one new game. Macao probably would've been a decent contender in most months, though, and I rate it a 7 after one play.
The trade theme is pretty Euro-standard, but it has some nifty mechanisms, and generally is a nice combination of stuff.
Board Game: Roma
[Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:578]
[Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Beerse [near Turnhout]
No doubt about this one: a very very clear winner.
Though that was not written in the stars. Bought it last year in Essen for 5 eur without ever having played it, based on 2 things:
- It’s Stefan Feld and I already had the Alea big box threesome Rum & Pirates, Notre Dame and his master piece In the Year of the Dragon, so what could go wrong?
- 2 other visitors to the Queen Games booth that were very positive about it
I read the rules a few months back and at first sight this looked very much like an aggressive war-like game. Most of my 2 player games are with my wife who really doesn’t like that aspect.
So 2 weeks ago I took the step in the dark and brought it to the table. I explained her carefully not to pay too much attention to the first game [“learn the mechanics and cards”] and off we went. We struggled through the first game learning the meaning of the cards and the overall flow of the game: eg we didn’t even bother to look at the first 4 cards, just randomly drew 2 of them for the opponent and put them down somewhere.
She was enthusiastic enough to play a 2nd game: for real this time.
The rest is history: 13 games so far, which is something that has happened only once before with Lost Cities. Wife absolutely likes it and now asks to play it again … and again … and yet again.
Now my complaint is that I can’t get another game on the table
So what’s the attraction?
+ The rules are simple – though I had to consult the “geek” to get confirmation on the proper use of Scaenicus and whether more than 1 die can be put on the same disc [eg 2 dice on the “money” disc]
+ A game takes 5 – 45 minutes; on average about 20 minutes
+ 2 ways to win: either by depleting the opponents VPs or by depleting the central stock of VPs and winding up with the majority of them
+ Most cards are interesting except a few ones which are hardly used like Consiliarius, Machina, Consul: I can think of situation where these could be used, but normally you do have stronger cards. So essentially, you have to compose a deck of 6 cards that allows you to gain VPs, attack and defend which is not possible, so one has to make choices and that results in weaknesses. Good balancing act.
On the down side:
- Some cards seem to be too powerful: Forum, Mercator [survive for a few round, pick of loads of money and then in one blow, pay for it, activate it and buy all of the opponents’ remaining VPs]
- You are dependent on the outcome of the 3 dice [and the white one when you attack] and sometimes the dice don’t roll for you. So a higher luck factor than I want it to be.
Pizarro & Co.
Huh huh – yet another auction game. Pfff!
But I was wrong: interesting mechanic where round 1 drives what you can in rounds 2 and 3 [in which areas can you participate in the bidding]. We played 6 and that lead to furious bidding as the places are limited in round 1.
As most auction games, I assume also this one only shines with many players.
On my “want to have this at a reasonable price” list for Essen.
to start with