New to you Apr 11 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in Apr 2011? Share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
Please add your own entry to the list, even if someone has already used the game that you picked as New To You... This helps with generating the statistics for the list.
New To You Metalist 2011
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): April 2011
New to Your Kids April 2011 - Best New Games You've Played with Kids and Why
New To You Apr 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why April 11
New to you a year ago Apr 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Trust no one
I played more new games this month than I thought:
7 Wonders x3: Pretty fun game. I'm glad to own it. It seems my friends are going to like it a lot.
Battlestations x0.5 (we're probably going to finish it this week): Awesome game. I'm thrilled I finally got to play Battlestations (I bought it probably 1.5-2 years ago). My wife and friend are really enjoying it, so fortunately this one will hit the table again without a doubt.
Betrayal at House on the Hill x1: Ok game so far. Our haunt was not too exciting, so I'll need to play a few more times to figure out if some of the other haunts will be better for us.
Biblios x1: I loved it. My wife hated it. She's not a fan of auction games, generally speaking. Oh well.
Giants x1: Played at a charity event. I enjoyed playing, but I'm not dying to play again right away.
Glory to Rome x1: Also played at the charity event. Again, I enjoyed it, but I don't need to own it.
Haggis x1: Another one I loved. My wife is lukewarm on it. The strategy eludes me thus far, but I look forward to figuring it out a little better.
Middle-Earth Quest x1: I have a lot of adventure games, but I feel like this one is pretty different than all the rest. A fantastic title to have on my shelf.
Jeroen van der Valk
Very lean month for me, mostly because I've been struck down by sciatica. Very annoying.
Anyway, did get to play Yin Yang with the family on Easter Monday, which was fun. It's a neat little game, easy to explain, hard to play (tough decisions). The yin yang tokens are largely superfluous, but still look nice on the table. Good little cardgame.
And the winner is...
Preliminary rating: 7
Technically, this isn't new, as I played it for the first time a few months ago, but forgot to record the plays.
Interesting prospecting game, where you build up the terrain as the players explore it. Outfit yourself with horses, dynamite, rifles and whiskey, then set out to find the gold in them thar hills.
Can be quite confrontational, as there's no ownership of mines, so one player can spend a lot of effort to buy the materials to create a mine, then another player can swoop in and get the gold while you're away.
Vom Kap bis Kairo
Preliminary rating: 7
A fairly typical Adlung card game, where players compete to build a railway line across Africa. Cards are turned up for bidding on, depicting terrain that you need to cross. Some are easier to cross than others, but cards also depict train and money amounts. Trains are needed to actually complete the lines, and money helps replenish your cash supply for bidding on later cards.
Interestingly, you use a community pile of cards to build your rail lines, each player turning up a new card from the deck to add to the community pool for building. This makes for some tough decisions, as you can also spend cash to make up shortfalls in trains. So, you might look at the table seeing that you have only 6 trains but need 8, but surely if you pass to the next player, he'll turn up another train and build with those 6, and you'll be back to 0. So, you spend the cash to build. But you need to manage your cash, so you'll still be able to bid on future cards.
Like many games with bidding, playing 2 player wasn't the best experience. There were many times when both cards up for bidding were similar, so bidding would be very low, since you were satisfied either way. Definitely want to play this with more.
Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Preliminary rating: 6
Rescue your guys from the sinking island, and have them swim or take boats to safety. Numerous creatures like sharks and sea serpents are waiting to eat them, so not many will make it through the gauntlet.
Decent game, it was fun to play with Scott Nicholson, and he was really into it making sound effects and so forth. I'm not that kind of player, so it's really not my kind of game.
Mansions of Madness
Preliminary rating: 6
Another thematic game played at Scott's house, a team of investigator players takes on the "dungeon master" player as they explore a house and try and prevent monstery goodness from bursting forth and killing everyone, taking over the world, etc etc.
I found it decent, it didn't knock my socks off. The setup is long and complicated, and the scripting didn't thrill me. IE, the intro story tells you outright where to start looking, you go there and find another clue which tells you to go to spot B, etc. I find the build the house as you explore system used in Betrayal at House on the Hill much more interesting.
I thought the best part of the game was the puzzle system, very enjoyable, and all of us were happy when we found one our character could work on.
Preliminary rating: 6
A roll and move race game. Who'da thunk in this day and age?
Players draft athletes, each of which has a magical ability, such as re-rolling the dice, swapping positions with other racers, advancing on other player's rolls, etc. Each costs a different amount, and when one is purchased, the remainder slide down to fill in the gaps, becoming cheaper for the next player to buy. You have very limited funds to buy your 5 racers, so it's important to judge when you have to spend a lot for a racer you want, or to buy a cheap one just to save money.
Players secretly choose one of their racers to run each race, which can lead to interesting combos as magic abilities clash, or work together to really push one racer forward. Or backward, in my case.
Ultimately, much of the race just comes down to rolling well on the dice, but if you're the sort of player like Scott is and makes Troll noises every time his troll moves, then there's enjoyment to be had here.
Preliminary rating: 5
A very old and rare Andreas Seyfarth game, with faint echoes of mechanics that would later make it into Puerto Rico (look, red colonists mark tree damage!)
Players manage a personal board depicting forests, roads, and factories. You need to plant new tree seeds, growing them into saplings, then full trees. Pollution causes damage to your trees, so improve the factory and road/rail lines to reduce pollution. Cute animals move in if your forests are healthy. Getting your board completely full of trees ends the game. Interestingly, if too much pollution happens, all players can immediately lose the game, and there is no winner.
A deck full of event cards plays havoc with your forests, beetle infestations, smog, fire, frost can all come calling, adding damage to your trees. Too much damage, and a tree reverts to seed, causing you to lose ground (heh). Interesting season mechanism, as play progresses Spring arrives and seeds blossom into trees, in Summer animals move in, and in Fall you thin out your trees to earn money, then it all starts over again as Winter arrives.
This game has been a bit of a grail game for me, I've loved the theme ever since I first ran across it, and it was extremely hard to get a copy. So, it's a bit disappointing that our first play wasn't as fun as I had hoped.
The primary reason for that is the event card system. On a player's turn, they must choose and play 1 to 3 event cards from their hand of five cards to put into play. However, they aren't necessarily performed by that current player. The player to their left randomly chooses one of those cards, flips it up and it affects them, not me. Then the next player clockwise chooses one of the remaining cards, and again it affects them. The current player always gets the final card happening to themselves. If I place only one card down, the other player decides if they want it for themselves, or will force me to play it on myself.
As I mentioned, a great many event cards in the game are negative. So, in my hand of cards, I might be holding 4 negative cards, and 1 good card with something positive that I want to happen for me. The problem is, I have no way to ensure I can get that good thing to happen for me. I can place 1 good card on the table and 1 bad card, but if my opponent draws the good card and *they* get the benefit, while I get the bad card left over that gives my trees damage. Then on their turn, they might put 2 cards down, and if my luck continues to be poor, I draw the bad card again, and they get a good card.
It's very luck prone, and in our game I got the wrong end of the random choice 18 out of 21 choices. It got so bad that my wife was putting down cards that I needed along with neutral cards in an attempt to help me. But I would randomly choose the neutral cards, and she got the good ones anyway.
Instead of managing your own forest, the game gives you the feeling like you're sabotaging the other player's forests. Haha, here's a lovely Frost for you, come and get it.
I think there's a good game here, the event card system just needs to be modified in some way. We'll be trying different ideas to see if we can make it a bit more modern.
Location: 3' from my actual position.
Played this just last week for the first time and it was a great experience. I did really poorly but it was fun to see the world and its inhabitants change over time struggling to survive.
Also played were The Mines of Zavandor and Cargo Noir. Both of these titles were enjoyable though not something I feel the need to rush out and add to my library.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
This was easily my favorite new game this month. I've played it 10 times this past week. All but one of those plays was with the Passage Through Mirkwood quest. It's still not old. There is tons of replayability in this box. Anyone who says otherwise is just a hater.
Looking forward to picking up a second core set and more expansions. I've taken FFG's bait hook, line and sinker!
Played this for the first time last night. It was just OK. I could see it being a fairly decent family game, but I already have too many of those types of games. I'll just play my buddies from time to time.
The best things in life aren't things.
Last night, this game snuck in under the wire.
Bloody hell it's good.
Also new and very very good this month:
High Frontier which tickles my inner space geek no end.
The "merely great":
Horus Heresy and its interesting take on the WH40K universe.
Turn the Tide is ok for an occasional filler.
Tiki Mountain! didn't really appeal to me.
Duchess of Erat
Mansions of Madness
I really like this one, we played it twice, I was keeper both times. It's Descent in less than two hours (at least with the first scenario) with an Arkham Horror theme. We had a great time playing.
Deckbuilding game with attacks every turn and you get to add your cards to your opponents chains, if the colors match. So a lot more interactive than the other games with the same mechanics. As it was my first play, it felt too short, I barely got to use any of the new cards I bought when the game was already over. Probably something that will change with more plays.
Die Säulen der Erde: das Kartenspiel
Fun trick taking game where the highest card wins the trick, but the trick doesn't always go to the person who played the highest card. We really needed to change our thinking for that, because it's a simple but important difference.
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
LCG that works multiplayer. There were a lot of keywords and I was tired, so this didn't work for me. I would like to try again, because the basic idea seemed nice and I like the books/theme.
I didn't like it. The card that allows you to steal a nut from another player seemed way to powerful (if compared to how difficult it is to actually get a nut). It took too long too.
L'Aventure c'est dur
Card game. Everyone is an adventurer that goes on a journey to slay the dragon. Coup de grace wins the game, but first you have to travel a number of km through different terrains (cards you play until you have the right number of km or more) and other players get to put encounter cards on your road, if the terrain type matches (cards with monsters on them). You then have to beat the monster before you can continue. Once you've reached the dragon, you just fight him and the one that deals the final blow wins the game.
Ok filler game, with some interaction.
Einfach Genial: Das Kartenspiel
Card version of ingenious. Ok game, but I prefer the 'real' version.
Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel
Tile version of the boardgame, reminded me of Lost Cities. Plays in 10 minutes or so, and is a fun little game.
Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory
Expansion for Thurn und Taxis that is basically a new game. There's a different map and you need to make sure you have enough horses to deliver to all the cities you want to go to. This mechanism means that it's more interesting to build longer routes as there's bonus points for those as well (5 and up iirc). Nice variation on the base game.
Puerto Rico: Expansion I – New Buildings
We used all the new buildings and 3 of the old big purple buildings and just tried a game of PR again. It was a nice change, because we couldn't just go for our tried and true standard strategies. I scored my first captain strategy win (which are very rare in our games of PR, usually it's the big buildings combined with university and trading strategy that wins), which was a nice change of pace. Library is too powerful with 2 players. Next time we'll have to try the drafting option.
Small World: Necromancer Island
First try, it really changes the game, and the other players didn't keep the necromancer in check enough, so he won in the 8th or 9th turn. Fun to add every now and then, but I think I prefer the base game with the expansions mixed in.
Baseball been bery bery good to me
This is a picture of a published game designer
Only two new ones this month:
A not at all bad territory grabbing farming building game. Some very interesting choices of when to pursue what. Reminiscent of Arkadia and Attika. I think Attika is the more interesting, clever game, yet at the same time Attika is flawed by the kingmaking aspect.
Area control and action cards. It reminds me of Liberté; I found this the better one. It has an interesting mechainc where one player divides cards into two sets and the other player chooses which to take. It may be a little too chaotic.
I had a great month for new games this April.
I hated Caylus when I first tried it 18 months ago - too long, too brain-melting, and an unpleasant experience fighting for last place for 3 hours. My tastes have shifted over time, and nowadays I look for depth and tightness of mechanics over theme; thus I'm curious to try Caylus again. Last week I got to try its little brother Caylus Magna Carta and loved the experience.
Caylus Magna Carta is a slimmed down design that retains the core of Caylus: coordinating workers placed along a road, struggling to deliver the most batches and build prestige buildings, trying to get opponents to use your tiles, and most importantly screwing each other with the Provost. A year and a half of games had improved my ability to grasp what was going on, and I enjoyed the mix of positive and negative interaction as well as the coordination of workers (trying to remember to acquire a resource upstream of spending it). I was a bit disappointed by the cards: I have no problem with luck but it seemed un-Caylus-like; I hope that the mechanic provides variety without significantly influencing who wins.
I was amazed to discover how easy Sticheln was to teach, and how interesting the decisions are for such a simple game. Combined with its scalability, Sticheln has the potential to be a fantastic filler. Plus you can use the cards to play a million other games.
I acquired Pizarro & Co. after reading about its strategic (rather than tactical or calculative) virtues. It's my type of game: 3+ players, short yet strategic, containing special powers - it's even designed by Thomas Lehmann. I don't really like auctions, but the "narrowing" mechanic here makes them interesting. The publisher-imposed theme is boring, and I wonder what Tom originally intended.
After hearing a lot about Navegador, I was eager to try it out. It's the first rondel game I really enjoy; in particular I like how the strategies interlock, though church and shipyard scoring paths don't seem to interact very well with the others. In my game I went for churches while two other players killed each other by sharing the shipyards.
Mansions of Madness was a fun experience despite a dud scenario with an over-reliance on annoying mid-turn cardplay by the Keeper. With a better scenario and a brisk pace, this could be brilliant.
Nexus Ops is really a distillation of the essence of multiplayer conflict games: there's economy, different units, terrain effects, hidden objectives, and special cards, all in a structure that emphasises attack. I'm not particularly interested in the genre, so I'd rather play this sharp, short version than others.
I wasn't surprised to learn that The Golden City was a Michael Schacht game; it combines a whole bunch of simple mechanics into a smooth whole. The game doesn't seem especially deep, but was a pleasant experience; I really liked the way players are incentivised to reach the inside of the Golden City in the middle of the map.
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! with Survive: Escape from Atlantis! The Giant Squid Mini Expansion was an enjoyable experience at the time, but not the style of game I'd play again given the choice.
Wealth of Nations with Wealth of Nations: War Clouds demonstrated that I'm still a ways from being able to enjoy heavy Euros.
I played London with heavily botched rules; the owner had missed that you pick up poverty cubes when you run your city. Hence I can't say whether I liked the game or not.
I played Carolus Magnus online and no doubt frustrated my opponents with my weird moves. The truth was that I didn't quite understand how to gain a majority, and probably performed some hardcore kingmaking.
Board Game: 18MEX
[Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:2275]
The decision for this month's best new game was between two 18xx's and Luna. As I only played Luna once, I feel more confident with choosing the better one of the 18xx's which was 18MEX, mainly due to its richer long-term challenge. My disappointment of the month was Goa from which I expected a lot but which just rubbed me the wrong way.
Game of the Month
18MEX's strength is its medium length and complexity approach coupled with a tough train rush. Route construction is interesting with a lot of expensive terrain but no scarcity of tiles. I can understand the majority opinion that this is one of the most playable 18xx once the basics are mastered.
After first play I can see that we've probably haven't played the train rush as cutthroat as it will be in experienced groups, the National rail merger didn't happen. It's open enough in its decision space that I made a lot of mistakes (compared to smaller and more 'obvious' 18xx's like 18Scan or 1889).
Small and fast 18xx, presumably best with three players but fine with four as well. It's comparable with 1889 in these concerns but it is not as friendly for beginners. The initial auction is far more decisive as the initial companies differ strongly in their potential and only five public companies are available in total, one of them only later through merging three minor companies into it. Play tends to be scripted as there are few different but no scarce tiles and the map has a lot of restrictions for builds. This will be nice for a few more plays to practice 'set pieces' but other 18xx's will be more interesting in the long run.
Players are priests/priestesses praying to the moon godess for favours. Lots of available actions are confusing at first but each single action is simple and short enough that the game gets a flow once players got them down. Still enough opportunity for AP though but some turns will be very fast. Normally, I'm an attentive player but never before in a game I missed so often that it's my turn.
Luna is a clever mix of known elements that combined form a unique new game. There's a slight engine building element in the construction of temples which I doubt that it can be ignored to win the game but is not too dominant to annoy me. An area majority element is introduced with the scoring for the moon godesses island that might be ignored sometimes if there are better scoring opportunities. Positional play is necessary in promoting novices to the temple at the right time. The tradeoff here between scoring more points early while limiting the future action potential at the same time is balanced enough to create real alternative. What probably differentiates it the most from the mass of Euros is the lack of resource-to-VP conversion.
I enjoyed my first play. Luna offers enough to explore and feels unique enough that I might add it to my collection in mid-term.
Hanabi & Ikebana:
I only played Hanabi which is a nice cooperative card game that feels a bit like the party game 'Who am I' as all other players can see the hand of each other but not their own hand. Players get hints on what they have on hand and have to deduce what card is the right one (not) to play. A bit overrated on BGG as a hidden gem but a keeper for the right group.
Two plays in and I'm not convinced. I would have to spend more time/plays on Goa to see if it takes the Saint Petersburg way and gets enjoyable once I've got down the basics or the Stone Age / Yspahan way that I don't find the strategies interesting enough. As there's no online implementation the question probably won't be answered.
The issue is that I'm mostly not interested in learning the generic strategies for success, applying them again and again while only varying them in detail between plays. In Goa, the exploration cards seem to be one strategy which must be followed and colonies are mandatory as well. Focussing on money on the other hand is suboptimal at best. There's enough randomness in the exploration cards and the establishment of colonies as well as player interaction in the bidding phase to add interplay variety but at the same time the potential for frustration is raised by the random factor.
When it comes to classic gamers eurogames I rather go for the Knizia ones.
Players have to guess the rank for one of five randomly chosen countries of the world in ten different categories like BSP per capita or doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. Globalissimo is a game for people enjoying trivia and geography. In such a group it is fun as a party entertainment with 4 or more players. But as the related 'Deutschland - Finden Sie Minden' it lacks in the game mechanics part. While it is better regarding replayability, the scoring rules are so basic that they feel disjointed from the game and the questions to pass certain barriers on the scoring track differ from irrelevant (show Russia on a map) to ridiculous (capital city of St. Lucia) while introducing a need for specific knowledge that is avoided in the main part of the game and probably will be decisive for winning.
Savannah Tails could be considered a shortened and simplified version of Snow Tails when it comes to gameplay. At the same time explaining it isn't really easier when playing the advanced version which seems to be the only one worth playing even for casual gamers. That's the problem: There are more interesting race games out there like e.g. Powerboats which are not much more complicated.
Frankfurt am Main
Amun-Re (2 plays) - 8
Take a great auction mechanism, constantly shifting goals depending on what the other players do, and a fair shot of double-guessing. Add in the typically multi-layered scoring opportunities, and you have one of Knizia's greats. The reset point at the halfway mark in particular looms over every action in the first half of the game because the pyramids you commission now might be the ones that guide your opponent to greatness later on.
No doubt some people will find this dry and mechanical, too, but from erecting pyramids through sacrifes to Amun Re and the harvests at the mercy of the Nile, all the elements make a lot of sense thematically.
Factory Fun (1 play) - 7
Factory Fun is a speed puzzle that is a bit more demanding than Ubongo and the like. If you screw up here you'll not only be disadvantaged for the current turn, you'll also have a hard time for much of the rest of the game.
Even if you end up in that position, however, it's still kind of fun to see how convoluted a pipe labyrinth you're able to come up with. In that sense it's a little like Galaxy Trucker, I suppose.
The game needs at least one play to learn the most important things you shouldn't do...
18FL (2 plays) - 6
18FL is a pretty nice introductory game for 18xx. It's comparatively short, the one-dimensional stock market is fairly stable, and the route building is mostly constrained by the small map, not by shortage of tiles. Nevertheless it's not as scripted as some of the other intro games, and it does have a few bells and whistles that, while probably a bit confusing for beginners at first, still keep things interesting for more seasoned players.
Zing! (2 plays) - 6
A solid trick-taking game along the lines of Wizard. You must predict how many tricks you'll win in each colour, and an incorrect prediction results in a penalty. Points accumulate more slowly than in Wizard, and you cannot make a huge leap with a single great hand which makes this a slightly better game.
High Society (1 play) - 6
In High Society players simply bid for valuable items, highest value at the end of the game wins. It is, however, not just yet another auction game because of the following features:
- There is no change. You can only bid with the notes you have ranging from 1 to 25 million.
- You don't know when the game will end, or which items will enter play up to that point.
- The player with the least money left at the end of the game loses no matter his score.
These rules create a very tense auction but also add a heavy dose of luck. It is also quite possible for players to be out of the running for all practical purposes by about midgame. Then again, the game is short enough that these detractors don't drag it down too much.
Guatemala Café (1 play) - 5
The two separate boards, the permanent conflict between expanding and scoring, the rather brutal landgrabs on the plantation boards; the game has lots of likable elements.
In the end, however, the scoring, while certainly interesting, seems too much of a crapshoot, and the winner is determined by the group as a whole at least as much as by what you did. The simple most important factor is what coffee sacks you draw. They define what colours can be scored, and they tell you the scoring of which colours you can prevent. And when people are able to blockade "your" colours for longer than someone else's, you lose.
Jerusalem (1 play) - 5
A short way to describe Jerusalem: The winner takes it all.
That's not uncommon in area majority games but it becomes problematic here because there are few restrictions on where followers can be placed, and you place all followers at once in turn order. This basically means the player(s) at the back decide which areas to take over and results in pretty chaotic turns. The game has a couple of rules to alleviate this effect (players earlier in turn order get more resources; you can lock one region per turn) but they mostly serve to show that the underlying design needs fixing.
To a lesser extent I also disliked the very coarse-grained scoring. You need to spend influence points to build tower levels which double as victory points. The only reason this additional conversion step exists is that being the first to build to a new level is slightly more expensive.
Can't Stop (1 play) - 5
A very straight-forward push-your-luck game. Roll dice until you've either had enough or gotten a bad result. For such a simple system it still works surprisingly well as a game, although it probably very much needs an audience that is actively trying to turn it into a shouting match or something.
Chinatown (1 play) - 5
Chinatown is a free-form negotiation and trading game. Quite unusually the values of the properties that are haggled over are entirely transparent to the players. You know exactly what a certain lot or business is worth to another player - with the sole exception of random future draws which in some cases may or may not increase the value even further.
This is a huge problem. Without uncertainty about what other players can do with what you're giving away there is no game left. All it is about is whether or not people do the math to determine the tile values, and if everybody does that (and it's not like that's a difficult thing to do; you can mostly even read it right off the player aid), it comes down to who draws the more lucrative lots and businesses.
Liebe & Intrige (1 play) - 4
A most simple set collection game with a rather high screwage factor. Players try to get the family's daughters married off to wealthy, well-reputed gentlemen by collecting sets of cards. You can try to steal cards from other players, and event cards often provide another means of direct interference.
The high level of interaction almost salvages the game but ultimately, the decisions to make are just too simplistic and get repetitive very quickly.
Savannah Tails (1 play) - 4
Savannah Tails is a very simple card-driven race game. So simple, in fact, that there is not a lot of game left. It might be suitable for young kids but if you're looking for a race game with a bit more meat to the bones, stay with Snow Tails instead.
Monsters Menace America (1 play) - 2
Pretty and heavy with theme but ultra-light in gaming content. The game is a long, boring, random dicefest without any actual decisions, and the additional game components like research cards only serve to unbalance it even more.
In fact, if this episode was good for anything it was proving that not all "games" deserve to be played. Life's too short.
Wisdom begins in wonder.
Stale pastry is hollow succor to a man who is bereft of ostrich.
Only two news games this month! I'll have to rectify that in May. I thrifted Loopin Louie and got to try it out. Further play is needed to decide whether to keep it.
My only other new game was BuyWord, another thrift find. I was pretty sure I'd like this, but my few solitaire plays have left me disappointed.
(Pictures, as usual, by myself.)
Airlines Europe 1x
I have never played the original Airlines nor Union Pacific so this game was really new to me. However I have read some of the complaints and it seems to be Airlines Europe is an improvement over the old game. Also I like that each decision is a little bit painful (and I love painful decisions in games) : buying two permits in the same round is good but costs more and gives you only one share; special shares (UP in the previous game, Abacus in the current one – the company names are fun nods to the game publishers) cost you hard-to-get shares and two rounds until they can score you anything etc.
I played Airlines Europe with my family including my 69-year-old mother who learns new rules a bit slow (but she likes games and plays Spiel des Jahres-winners quite frequently). Airlines Europe is a bit more complex than her favourite game (which is, of course, Ticket to Ride) but still she could learn it by the second half of the game so I guess this game isn’t too heavy to be nominated for Spiel des Jahres this year (I guess it will be). 7.7
I’m rather sorry that I can’t choose this one as the best game of the month because of Airlines Europe as it’s a really good game that is currently seriously underrated here. There are some strong myths at BGG and one of them is that if a game is strongly tactical then it can’t be good. Artus proves the opposite. Is it not a game where you get buildings that give you special abilities, it is not a game where you upgrade several mildly uninteresting features of your own to be able to score more in the end of the game and it’s not even a really thematic game. Many geeks prefer these games even if these start to feel all the same and this thing is getting rather tired. Artus is different and I like how different it is.
Artus has a Rondel but it’s not a rondel for actions but a rondel for better and worse scores (a little bit like the rondel in Michael Kiesling’s Vikings, this game of constant (re-)positioning also has some very far resemblance to Wolfgang Kramer’s Viva Pamplona). I’m really happy that the publisher of recent good Euros like several (great) Stefan Feld games and Glen More chose to publish something really different this time – even though many of the fans of the Alea series might be disappointed. The advanced rules (age 12+) are just amusingly great, having 6 mission cards of which 3 are really menacing until you play them (and you try to play them in the optimal time). Of course more strategy is evident in a 2-player game and a 2-player game is also faster but I have played Artus 4 times now and none of the 4-player games lasted more than 75 minutes. When played this way, the tension remains high during the game. If everyone tries to over-optimize their moves (which is simply futile as it’s not a strategy but tactical game) then it might get too slow and boring. Play Artus for fun and it becomes really fun. 7.6
Fun race game about mountain climbing with the old Kramer race mechanism (play one of your cards simultaneously to move your figure and hope others don’t get in your way) with some nice thematic touches: weather, the need of air (going uphill), building a tent. It’s enjoyable with fine replayability and it also provides harder and easier levels (with a two-sided board and different weather conditions). One of the finest race games I have played in the last years. 7.1
I’m among those who didn’t really fall in love with Hansa Teutonica last year. I admired the mechanism but didn’t find the game particularly fun. But of course as it was a success I guess the designer was approached by publishers to find and finish his half-baked, unpublished efforts. And actually I quite enjoyed Firenze. No, it’s not that original but enjoyable (strange but I guess it also helps that it's more colorful); also while it’s not as special as HT it felt a bit more fun. The biggest drawback is that right now its cards have German texts on them and this game is rather language dependent. 7.1
Anyone who’s played Thebes or Mykerinos knows that you dig artifacts and exhibit them in archeology games. You do the same in Pergamon: luck factor is higher than in Mykerinos but smaller than in Thebes (which was just too much for me) so it’s fine. I can’t say the game is full of original mechanisms (it’s like Gravedigger’s digging for loot – say how much of the unknown treasure you want to take and those who want less will more probably get what they want as after the loot is revealed those who wanted less get their money first – combined with something like the “newer attraction attracts visitors from the older attractions” that I saw in O zoo le mio) but it works and you have to keep an eye on lots of different aspects when making the – not too hard – decisions. 7
(no pic because of low battery)
Cable Car 1x
Connections and shares nr. 2.: Cable Car is a fine and fun update on Metro. Metro is an all right tile laying family game, nothing special, and while the luck factor is the smallest when played 2-player, it’s not that interesting. With shares it changes, and the hidden information makes it a fine 2-player game. Chaos/luck seems to be still rather high with more players but I do think it’s a good gateway now. 7
Cargo Noir 1x
Cargo Noir is like the combination of a Knizia auction game and some aspects of Knizia’s Merchants: Lords of the Sea but the decisions are made less painful as it is aimed at a family crowd. Actually it works as a gateway game and it’s a really okay game; for gamers it certainly doesn’t offer enough meat for a big box game. Had it been published as a small-box card game with some wooden cubes instead of the elaborately designed ships and board segments (which do add something to the game) I would consider buying it. As an expensive big box game… no. But I still think Days of Wonder did a good job on this title as they are not creating their games for gamers but for a wider audience. 6.9
Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation 1x
An okay civilization card game which offers a mix of different okay mechanisms: there is no real problem with the game (although when each player’s final score is around 15 points, I do find it’s quite a large luck factor if you can lose or win some points by the luck of the draw). I just didn’t feel very involved during game and I’m not sure if it was the game’s fault or mine. It kind of… let me cold. It didn’t provide anything special. Maybe I’ll try it once again to know if it has anything for me. Right now I give it 6.7.
Make ’n’ Break 1x
There was an open day in the day nursery our son is possibly going to go to from September and the small ones were mixed with 6-year-olds. One of the 6-year-olds asked me if I wanted to play with him and I said why not? So we played Make ‘n’ Break. (I won but not by much.) It’s a fine skill development game that helps developing pattern recognition, motoric and balancing skills (you draw cards and try to build what can be seen on the cards as soon as possible); also it’s fun because of the timer added. (I just don’t get why it’s age 8+ according to the box; the 6-year-old kid almost beat me.) The only reason why I won’t buy it for my son is that it’s available in the kindergarten.
Beerse [near Turnhout]
Seems I’m always late with playing the buzz games. Also with 7 Wonders where I stumbled upon during a 24 hours gaming event in Middelkerke.
Apparently there was a 7 Wonders tournament and
urged me into entering the tournament. So I played one game to learn the rules and get a feel for the game. Round 1 was the qualifying round, only the top 2 would go to the final table. To my surprise I qualified and in the final round, I came in 3rd. Frederic Moyersoen [yep, the designer of Saboteur] won and took home a copy of 7 Wonders.
De Waey Joeri
More fun than I expected to be honest: yeah gamers already told me that it fits up to 7 gamers, and that there is military conflict with the left and right player and that you can buy their resources, … but they didn’t tell me about the tension of selecting which card to keep and which damned-good cards you had to pass on, deciding which strategy to follow, and that it is a really fun game involving plenty decision making in such a short time frame.
Also very nice production: 7 wonders, cards, rules book, …
I do wonder [pun not intended] about long term replayability though?
The other goodies
Finally got it on the table: bought in Essen 2010. Played 2 times and both games were tense because the multiple scoring mechanisms [esp. the end game scoring] make it unpredictable where one really is on the scoring track: virtually first or really last?
Worker placement with the new mechanic of “thou shall put yer next ship downstream” is a very good tough addition. Indeed lots of comparisons with Stone Age where also end game scoring has a huge impact and mechanics are similar.
At first glance seemed rather complex [too complex?], but after 2 rounds all things feel into its place and the game flow is smooth and easy.
I had just read earlier that week ’s review so was happy to give it a try.
One 3-player game was enough to conclude this is a very good filler game with push-your-luck [do I take this card myself or put in on the buy-later stack or open on the table], set collection … in just 30 minutes. Very nice production in the book-like box.
One of the hits of last year and not too bad: very euro and I don’t really know why it doesn’t make me like it more as it has the things I normally like:
- Variable turn order
- Collect goods and only then use them to generate VPs
- Worker placement [this time hidden]
We played the family version, apparently the “advanced” version is better.
On my Wishlist for a few years, based on a couple “what we play as a couple” GLs.
As such not that bad, but in tile laying there are much better games. Will occasionally play it though.
The pen-ultimate push-you-luck game. Not a big fan of games with high-on-luck factor, but this one is good enough to convince me into replay.
28 plays of 20 plays. 4 new-to-me's, but 3 of them kid's games, so no real competition. (The 3 kids games we're ok though, Big Pirate was a fun find)
Which doesn't mean my 'game of the month' is a mediocre one, on the contrary. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a testplay of a prototype of Ankh-Morpork. Even better, I won it as well. Which I hope doesn't colour my opinion too much...
Anyway, as usual with a Martin Wallace game, there is a lot of interaction. In this case it comes from the different 'secret tasks' that players need to fullfill in order to win. The various condition is getting players very antsy "hmmm, he's already in control of 3 areas, another one and he wins, if that's his task", "yeah, but he's got minions in 7 regions already, 2 more and he wins, if that's his mission". So good fun.
The negative: in our play the trolls (or whatever they're supposed to be) and demons never got into play. And after reading what they're supposed to do I doubt they're a good addition to the game with the current rules. But I'd love to find out.
This game was already on my wishlist. After playing it certainly stays there.
My progress toward the 2014 10x10 Challenge
Bitin' Off Hedz - 1 play
Owned this game for almost ten years before it made it to the table. Now that it has, I can honestly say... it's not that great. It's fine for what it is, which is a roll-the-dice-and-move-your-guy game. I'll pull it out again with my 7-year-old. Maybe.
Forbidden Island - 15 plays
This, on the other hand, makes it to the table any time we've got a half hour to spare. This is my family's first co-op, and we love it. Pandemic's on order now, and Lord of the Rings is on deck too. For FI, I may order some of the extra cards that have been developed here from Artscow to keep it fresh.
Mr. Jack Pocket - 2 plays
Carried this in my bag to and from work for several days before I got a play in. Got a student to play with me - he was Jack and he beat me. The next day, taught my daughter the game - she was Jack and I beat her. I think I prefer vanilla Mr. Jack, but this will definitely be getting some more plays.
I logged 35 plays in April, my fewest since I started logging plays in September 2008 (15 plays). The quality is there, though, and I didn't have the misleading number of short games unlike some other months. Let's do this.
- Dominant Species (3 plays): I'm pleased to say that this game is as good as advertised. After 3 plays (a 2-player, a 6-player and a 5-player) I rate it a 9, and that's really only because I'd feel weird rating it a 10 so quickly, but it seems likely to end up there. The only downside to the game is the 4-hour playing time, though last week we removed 5 cards from the deck and finished a 5-player game in 3 hours (a necessity for my weekly game group). The (amazingly well-written) rules aren't nearly as complicated as I expected, and every decision is critical in the game. Everything affects everything else, and there are many layers to the game. It's an aggressive euro, so it's one of those rare games that appeals to the fans of euros, ameritrash and wargames in my circle. The components are a testament to functionality over glitz, and though many people on here complain about the aesthetics of the game, they just work. The game doesn't look impressive in photos, but when it's all set up and in progress, it has a certain of minimalist appeal. I really can't say enough good things about this game (and it's all been said before at this point). Dominant Species is a classic.
- Nightfall (8 plays): Finally! A worthy successor to Dominion. It took some time, but I eventually fell in love with Dominion (it's in my top 10). I haven't played a deckbuilding game since that has come close - Thunderstone, Ascension and Heroes of Graxia have all come and gone. So what makes Nightfall stand out? It's the first deckbuilder that doesn't feel anything like Dominion. It bears some similarities to Magic the Gathering in that it's aggressive (you must attack with all of your minions each turn, and they are then discarded) and the way cards are played onto the stack then resolved in last-in-first-out order. This makes the game a quick and dirty beat-up-your-neighbor game - there is no turtling here. There is a public tableau from which you buy cards, but each player also gets to draft 2 cards that only he has access to, giving the game a touch of customization. The way cards come into play is interesting as well. Each card has a primary color and either 1 or 2 secondary colors. If a card's secondary colors are, for example, white and purple, then you may play a card whose primary color is either white or purple onto the stack. You can continue by playing onto that card's secondary colors and so on until you can no longer play onto the stack; the player to your left may then play onto the stack using the secondary colors of your last card played and so on all the way around the table. This means that players are involved on other players' turns, and that you have to give consideration to when you play your cards as well as the order in which they will resolve. Anyhow, Nightfall is a fresh and exciting take on the deckbuilding genre. The werewolves 'n vampires theme doesn't do anything for me, but that's okay. Nightfall is a keeper. Those of you who like card games but found Dominion too dry and boring, too multiplayer-solitaire-ish should check this one out.
- First Train to Nuremberg (2 plays): I'm realizing that I've become a Martin Wallace fan after Steam, Brass, London and now First Train to Nuremburg. It's got his usual need to try to get the most out of the (always too few) resources you are given, and you have to try to balance taking scoring opportunities now with planning for future turns. First Train is a game some gamers will find to be quite dry, and I can't really disagree with that assessment. It's all logistics and planning. I've only played the 2-player game, which is pretty fun but I believe the game will improve with 3 or 4 players due to increased competition in the auction and turn order having increased importance. I love that Z-Man included the Last Train to Wensleydale map on the back side of the board. I'm not sure whether First Train will have staying power, but it's off to a fine start for me.
Not too many new games this month, but all 3 were good. Hopefuls for next month:
Mansions of Madness
Bridges of Shangri-La
I only played one new-to-me game this month, but I suspect it would have been the best one anyhow. Crokinole is a blast. Well worth the $200+ I spent on my muzzies.ca board.
Tons of new games this month.
Balloon Cup - I excitedly picked this up, finding it in a FLGS in Monterey, CA for $25. I really enjoy the game.
7 Wonders - I want to like this game more than I perhaps do. Still interested in playing it though.
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries - I have Ticket to Ride: Europe but justified this purchase because 1) I was out of town and just wanted to buy a game and 2) justified #1 because it is designed for 2-3 players.
Roma - I already had Roma II, so this wasn't new to me in gameplay. Good game. I would like to mix it with Roma II soon.
Coloretto - Good, quick and simple card game/filler.
Piece o' Cake - Fun, quick game. Made me do math.
Tikal - Good game. Want to try it with 4 players. So far have only played a 2 and 3 player game.
Battle Line - This one hasn't hit the table since my first play. I'm wanting to get more plays in on it, especially since I sleeved the terribly poor quality cards.
Cheops - Neat little market/economic game. Perhaps I would enjoy it more with more plays.
No Thanks! - Only played once. Probably a good filler/starter.
Glory to Rome - I thought this was really interesting and look forward to playing it with more than two.
Intrigo - This was fun. I need a cheat sheet for the special action cards.
Thunderstone - Good game. Distinct enough from Dominion that I could see myself owning both.
Tinners' Trail - Didn't like this super well during play, but once the game ended, I thought back on it and found it pretty interesting.
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers - The rules are a nice twist on the base game, but not sure I can really justify having both in my collection. This may be trade fodder in the near future.
Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League - I really wanted to like this but I found it a bit dull. Though, it makes me very curious about Merchants of Venus.
The Great Dalmuti - Beer and pretzels game. I hesitate to even put it as "meh." It was pretty uninteresting.
Nuts! - Not bad. I can think of worse games.
Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game - I died first and fast. Okay for a co-op. I thought the use of cards was interesting.
The needs more plays:
Merchants & Marauders - I really want to like this. After two plays, I'm still looking for a little more action/excitement in it, but maybe that will come with more familiarity of the game among players.
Nightfall - I think chaining is an interesting mechanic. Need to see how this plays with more than 3 players and/or players who know the cards (including myself).
Board Game: Luna
[Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:284]
April was a month of famine for time to play games, but it was a pretty good feast for new games. Hoping May will give us more time to play games - I've got 3 new-to-me just dying to hit the table! Regardless, here is my snapshot for April, in order of preference.
I acquired this in a BGG auction because the look and theme really appealed to me and I thought some of my friends would enjoy it. For an initial impression and to make it easier to teach going forward, Scott and I tried it once as a 2-player game. Once you overcome the incredible complexity of the rules, you discover that the game is very easy to grasp. But then you realize that the choices you have to make ARE complex and this game isn't easy at all!
Luna is a game of planning out a series of moves as far in advance as you can, but time is ticking away. Most ways a player gets points can't be claimed with just one action. Want to build a shrine? You need a shrine favor. And you need to be on the same isle as the Master Builder. But your novices are all on the herbal and book isles - what to do?
Handsome components, different set-up options to keep things interesting and a solid concept makes for a very enjoyable game. The 2-player version didn't feel like it's lacking anything, which was very nice to see. I'm smitten for now and may fall in love with it later.
This game isn't easy to find, and I had been trying for some time as my geekbuddy JohnRayJr recommends it so highly. Then I stumbled across a game store in Delaware that had sitting amongst their shelves the entire Kosmos 2-player series - at $20 each! Needless to say I snapped this up quick as can be. (Heck, I should have bought their copies of Balloon Cup and re-sold them for a song...)
Here we have the basic elements of many 2-player games distilled into a simple idea - a race that involves a constant push-and-pull between opponents. Line up the right landscape cards to surge ahead. What I like - very simple rules and it plays very quickly once you have the hang of it. The cards are all attractively designed. And having 2 options on each Odin card is clever. What bothers me - I feel like the magic way cards are too over-powered - a 3-point bonus is huge in a game with otherwise incremental wins in a given race. Also the auxiliary pile seems unnecessary.
I definitely hope to play this game more in the future to try and dig into some of the potential strategies. But for now Balloon Cup remains as my favorite of the Kosmos series.
Carcassonne: Abbey & Mayor
We also picked this up in Delaware, and quickly brought it to the table with all our expansions for one mega-game for 2 players.
I need more plays to mull this over, but my initial instinct is that A&M is the strongest of the Carcassonne expansions. It offers 3 very strong play options:
- the Mayor, whose influence grows if a city gains shields;
- a Barn, which forces farm scoring and monopolizes the area for the future; and
- a Wagon, which can complete one area and roll right onto the next job.
You also get an Abbey which can act like a joker tile to complete neighboring tiles, but its utility is limited. On the whole a great expansion that I expect we'll always use in the future.
Carcassonne: Der Tunnel
A G4GG win from awhile back, I just kept forgetting I had it! Finally pulled it out for the mega-game.
This mini-expansion isn't all that useful or interesting. Other than chances to give yourself a slightly longer road to score, it seems that the main purpose is to doom an opponent to be on a "road to nowhere."
Harmless, but I don't know how often we'll use it.
As usual, my list this month doesn't contain anything from the "Cult of the New." Unfortunately, it also doesn't contain anything really outstanding.
I'd heard about this game for a while. When I found a metal tin package for a computer game with a similar name, I decided to shell-out the $6 to try it out. Sadly, the tin was just a tad too small for the original components, so I photocopied and mounted the boards at a smaller size to fit. But this isn't the DIY forum, what about the game?
I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It's a fast yet strategic blending of two different types of games: an economic engine game won by open victory points, and an area-control game won by a hidden agenda of "ingredients." Either victory condition is possible, but both paths require attention to be successful.
The theme is completely irrelevant, but it doesn't hinder the game at all. It plays quickly; there's a take-that element; and the random board set-up and ingredient lists provide good variety. A very nice little game.
Ugh. Toooo looooong!
I don't remember how this game caught my attention, but for some reason I wanted it. I thought it could be a fun diversion, and it was supposed to be more interesting than Talisman, a game I loathe.
I read all the warnings about length, and we incorporated nearly every recommended tweak to shorten it. The first game (5p) took forever, but we blamed ourselves more than the game. We tried again a week later (4p), really cracking a whip to keep players moving quickly, and still it took a really long time.
I don't mind long games at all, but they should earn that length. Even a 30 minute game can be too long if you are not engaged. Prophecy started to get repetitive fairly early, and most players took too long to attack the Big Bads.
I liked it more than Talisman to be sure, but I'm not really planning to play it again unless the play time could be cut in half.
Star Trek: The Adventure Game
Although the picture makes it look like a hex-and-counter space wargame, it's actually a story-telling game very similar to Tales of the Arabian Nights.
One player is the Federation and the other the Klingons. Each explores the universe and has encounters on planets. These encounters develop based on your decisions and the skills of the landing party sent down. The opposing player reads the scenario and outcome from an Adventure book, and the results range from losing crew members to gaining influence over the planet. The goal is to have the most influence by the end.
Although we didn't have time to play a full game, I really appreciated the thought that went into the game. With updated player-aids, I think it could be a pretty fun game. Many of the scenarios are pulled straight out of the Classic Trek universe, but they mixed up the results so that you can't predict what the best course of action is.
I look forward to comparing this old design with the new Star Trek: Expeditions coming out this year.
Iron Man 2: Game of War
A thrift gift that is a re-implementation of Star Wars: Episode 1 – Clash of the Lightsabers. It's a nice little light filler for two. Nothing super special, but fun and fast.
A card-selection and set-collecting game that felt like it should have been the mechanic in a larger game.
Players select cards to add to their set. The cards they choose affect which ones they can choose in future rounds, how many they can keep, and their end score. It's actually a pretty neat idea.
However, your choices are far too limited, so the decision making is pretty minimal. You feel like you should be able to do more, or affect your opponents more, but there's just not that much to do.