New to you May 11 => Best new boardgame
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Stockport
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What new board and card games did you play in May 2011? Please share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.

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


New To You Metalist 2011
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New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread

Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): May 2011
New to Your Kids May 2011 - Best New Games You've Played with Kids and Why
New To You May 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why May 11
New to you a year ago May 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
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1. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:127]
Andy
United Kingdom
Stockport
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Letters from Whitechapel - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

This just sneaked in on the 27th thanks to a monthly game group that meets at our church.. My wife and I arrived late and there were 4 people setting up to play this, with 2 other games in progress, so we joined in and I'm very glad we did.

Letters from Whitechapel is a one vs many deduction/chase game very much in the style of Scotland Yard, but with a trail mechanic reminiscent of games like Fury of Dracula (second edition) and Garibaldi: The Escape. The game plays over 4 nights, and each night Jack has to make a kill (or two later on) in the first 5 turns of the game... then the police chase his trail through the streets of London trying to find and arrest him before he reaches his hideout. The locations of the murders change each night, of course, but Jack's hideout remains the same for the whole game, so in the early nights the police may be more interested in narrowing down where his hideout is than in attempting to make an arrest.. although, as happened to us, it's certainly possible to catch Jack on the first night (one space away from his hideout).

We played with 6, but with fewer players you still have the same number of police officers, so the police players move multiple officers.

I do like one vs many games, and Letters definitely updates and builds on Scotland Yard, making it a better game.


Troyes - 1 play - thumbsup

I finally managed to give Troyes a try this month, at my weekly game group.

Despite being a dice game, I found Troyes to be a rather deep resource management/worker placement game, with quite a bit of screwage (buying dice from other players, pushing their workers out of the principal buildings, and forcing them to waste dice fending off events). My game was 4 player, with 2 having played before... naturally they finished 1st and 2nd, and I came a creditable 3rd despite being down to 1 worker/dice and only a handful of money (left over from my income that round), in the final round.

It's definitely a game that will take a play or two to start to get a feel for how to best manage resources.. and to learn which activity card combos are the most powerful.

It is a clever game, but I think it might be too mean a game, with, for me, too much screwage for the length and depth of the game.


London - 1 play - thumbsup

This was one of the games recently donated to our club by Martin Wallace, and when we had 4 players, none of whom had brought games with them that night, we gave this one a try.

It's a Wallace card-driven, economic game, in which you use cards to generate money or points... usually you also need money to generate the points. You also use cards (of a matching colour) from your hand to play a card into your display, so these elements are where some comparisons to Race For The Galaxy come from.

London is different in a couple of important ways though... cards are (generally) expended when you activate them to get their benefit, so you are constantly replacing those with new cards. London also has a built in penalty system called poverty which you generate when you activate your cards... the more poverty you have, the more points you lose at the end of the game, but it is relative to the player with the lowest poverty.

There is also an element of buying boroughs on a map of London, but this actually has nothing to do with area control... it is mostly a way to reduce the poverty you generate when you activate cards, and also a way to earn points and quickly get more cards] you can only buy certain boroughs once others have been bought, and later in the game you can build underground stations on the map for more victory points.

When I played, two of us were new and two had played at least once before.. possibly more. As with most Wallace games, it was obvious that the players who had played before had a distinct advantage, especially since there did seem to be some very powerful cards. I don't remember them all, but Coffee Shop; School; Hospital and Street Lights come to mind.

I would definitely play it again, but I can't see myself playing it very often in the future... I prefer games along the lines of Race for the Galaxy or San Juan.


Schlacht am Buffet - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

This is an update of Martin Wallace's card game ...und tschüss!, this time with a theme of rats eating food. This version comes with a board to keep track of the total each player has played each round, and some very nice, hefty, plastic rat tokens.

In this version cards range from -1 to +9 and the scoring tokens range from -1 to +5 in 6 different types. Each round there is one fewer scoring token than the number of players and the one who finishes second gets nothing. A simple card game with a bit of strategy to it and a lot of fun.
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2. Board Game: Scrabble Apple [Average Rating:5.35 Overall Rank:9306]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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After playing 29 new-to-me games over the past three months, I only played 1 new game in May, Scrabble Apple.

It really doesn't deserve being on a "best game you played" list as it's not a very good game. The tiles are cheap and the gameplay is uninspired.

It seems like the Board of Directors at Hasbro acquired a copy of Bananagrams and had to do something about it.

The apple pouch is cool, though.
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3. Board Game: The Rivals for Catan [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:467]
Mikael Ölmestig
Sweden
Halmstad
Halland
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As a gaming month, may hasn’t been extraordinary in any way. I’m waiting for a long convention starting tomorrow and where I expect to play a lot of games that are new to me.

Recently, I feel I am becoming more picky on who I play with. I think it has to do with the fact that I am not so eager to play games that I used to be and therefore have higher standards when I do it. I also feel I want to spend less time reading about board games. Maybe I am in a slope with gaming, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing.


Picture by: MarcelP
The Rivals for Catan thumbsup thumbsup
This is the new two player card game for Catan and I like many of the ideas in this. There is production for every player on every die roll and many of the concepts of the main game are cleverly introduced in this and usually in a better matter. Since there is production on every number, there is a constant tension in the game, much like a tug-o-war.

In the box, there are also three themed decks, which introduce more complexity to the game. While the introductory game is a good way to learn the basic cards, the themed decks add more strategy and interactions between the players and make other strategies viable. This is a good thing, because I feel that the intro game can become a little stale after you learned the cards. Until this date, the only theme deck I have played with is the era of gold.

The card art is good, price is right and I expect to play this a lot, so I consider this a great buy for me.

Picture by: MidLifeDelta
Baltimore & Ohio thumbsup thumbsdown
I’m not used to play train games more complex than Age of Steam and with playing this game it solidify my views of these types of games. I like heavy game and this is certainly a game with simple rules, yet pretty much depth despite static setup and without random elements. What might seem obvious at first isn’t because of interactions between players. So what’s my knock against the game? There are too many calculations which for me obscure the game play. And even if I play using intuition I still have to count up the numbers. I know there are computer programs for this, but using that takes away the feeling of playing a physical board game. Thankfully it doesn't have an overly complex share market system.


Out of the dust
Fluxx (almost two years)
For me Fluxx is not a serious game, but more of an activity when socializing. The problem is that the game becomes better with fewer players, but socializing is usually better with more. This is a game that leaves me blank. I don’t despise it like many on the geek, but I never remember a game of Fluxx.
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4. Board Game: London [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:175]
United States
Davis
California
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All of the new games discussed below were very good. But the nod goes to London. In fact, I'd say it's the best new game I've played in 2011 (so far).

London

(image credit: duchamp)

London is game about rebuilding London after the great fire of 1666. It's mostly a card game, though there is an important board element as well.

On your turn you draw a card and then perform an action (from the following types of actions):

(1) Buy a "borough" on the map (it must either be one of the three starting boroughs or adjacent to an already bought borough). When you buy, you pay the marked price, draw the indicated number of cards and (at game end) receive the indicated number of VPs (this is a VP game, btw). Then you put a marker on it to show your exclusive ownership.

(2) Play cards to your card tableau. To do so you need to "expend" a card of the same color (brown, blue, or pink) and pay the monetary cost (if there is one). You can either play the card on top of an existing card (nullifying any effect it currently has) or start a new stack. The more stacks you have, the more poverty you'll generate for yourself, which is bad.

(3) Run your city. Pick one or more of the face up cards in your tableau, pay its activation cost (discard a card, pay money, or nothing), and then receive whatever reward it provides -- mostly money, poverty reduction, or VPs, but some do more exotic benefits. Some cards get flipped once activated. Once flipped, they can't be used again. They still take up space in your tableau, you can never get rid of stacks.

After you run your city, you produce poverty. Add the number of stacks and the number of cards in your hand, then subtract the number of boroughs you own. Add that amount of poverty to your pool of poverty. The number can be negative, in which case you reduce your poverty.

(4) Draw three cards.

After you've done your action, you must "expend" any cards over 9 you have in your hand.

That's it. Keep repeating until the draw pile is exhausted. At the end of your game you tally your VP, subtract a penalty based on the amount of poverty you have and see who wins.

What's this "expend" business? When you expend a card, you place it into a card display. Whenever a player draws a card, the card can be drawn from either the face up card display or the face down deck. This means that you need to think hard about what cards to expend, because you don't want to give anything useful to your opponent.

What's to like?

(1) There's a nice rhythm to the game, as you decide when to play cards to your tableau, run your city to produce stuff, or buy a borough. You need to plan ahead to get the best results out of your flow of actions.

(2) There are a lot of interesting trade offs. Do you concentrate on producing money (which can be disablingly tight if you're not careful), buying VPs, reducing your poverty, buying up good boroughs? It's good to have lots of cards, so you have more options, but cards in hand generate poverty when you run your city. You can also take out loans if you need money, but if you don't pay them off (with interest) at game end, you take a big VP penalty. Lots to think about, but not brain-burning.

(3) The graphic design is tasteful, attractive, and very functional. I didn't like the plastic tiddlywink money, and might eventually upgrade if the game has staying power.

(4) It played well with two, which is important because about half of my gaming is two-player. And my wife liked it, which is important for the same reason.

Downsides? Not much. I've had one game (out of five) where I felt that the luck of the draw gave one player a significant advantage, which was a bit uncomfortable in an hour long game, but I'm hoping that won't happen very often.

Overall, a really enjoyable middle-weight. I'm very happy with it and eager to play again.

[After writing the bulk of this entry, my wife and I tried the Ben-Luca Two Player Variant and really liked it. It shortens the two-player game and generally tightens things up. I really felt time pressure for the first time. In fact, I felt a bit of panic as I realized I had ten more poverty than my wife and there were only two or three turns left in the game.]

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Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

(image credit: sirprim)

This is a coop that is easily played solo (there are rules for scaling down, or you can just play two positions). It's a "living card game," meaning you buy a core set that has enough stuff in it to play the game, but there will be fixed content expansions released occasionally.

The game is familiar LCG fare, with character cards that you can buff in various ways. Tap them to assign them to different tasks (quest, defend against an attacking enemy, attack an enemy, or do something special). You get resources each turn that you can pay to put more cards into play (allies, attachments for your characters, one time events).

The heart of the game is the quest cards. Generally, speaking you need to commit characters to questing in order to make progress in your quest. And the combined quest stat for your questing characters must exceed the anti-quest values of locations and enemies lurking in the [dramatic music] "staging area." (Seriously, FFG, that's the best you could do? How about "lurking menace" or "growing threat" or something else thematic.)

Anyway the stuff in the staging area impedes progress on your quests. So you need to clear it out. This happens by engaging enemies or traveling to locations.

There's much more detail, which I won't describe, but I'm happy to report that it hangs together pretty well. The result is a tense and very thematic game in which I felt like I was constantly fending off dangers and struggling to make progress toward my overall goal.

As a card-based game, there is a fair bit of luck streakiness. I've had games where I got crushed by a barrage of monstrous card draws, and others where we strolled down the Old Forest Road without drawing a sweat.

I've enjoyed my solo excursions and was excited about 2-player, but my wife's first play left her cold. She's not a big fan of co-ops and just didn't get engaged. It didn't help that I gave her the questing oriented deck, so she just tapped her heroes each turn to quest while I was fighting off spiders and such. I'll try again to lure her in, but it may wind up being a solo.

I'm optimistic that the solo game will continue to hold my interest. You've got four different "sphere" decks to experiment with and three starting quests, so there's a lot of scope to mix things up. Plus you can build "dual-sphere" decks, which increases the range of possible combinations. And, as new scenarios packs are released, there will be more quests to struggle against, and more cards to modify the possible decks. So I'm pretty happy with the game so far.

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Navegador

(image credit: duchamp)

Navegador is the latest of Mac Gerdts' "rondel" games. If you've never played one before, you should. The rondel's a clever mechanism that makes for interesting micro-turns, with very little down time.

In Navegador, the players are wealthy Portuguese families in the age of discovery. There's an exploration component, as you move ships to open up new areas of South America, Africa, and Asia to colonization (hey, there's Goa!).

I think the main thing that distinguishes Navegador is its economic component. The economy runs on three goods: sugar, spice, and gold. There's a simple but clever supply/demand mechanism that affects how much you're paid when you import goods or process them in factories (the prices for importing or processing a good are inversely related).

• When you import a type of good from colonies, you flood the market for that type of good, and the price paid to an importer of the same good goes down. But the money earned for processing the good goes up (presumably because the material is now abundant and cheap in the Portuguese market).

• The reverse is true when you process a type of goods. The price paid for future processing goes down, and the price paid for importing that good goes up.

This creates an interesting degree of timing and interaction between the players. You really need to think about what type of economic activity to specialize in. If your opponent is going heavily into gold producing colonies, then you might want to build gold processing factories. Then when she depresses the price for gold imports, you can get a higher price paid for processing gold. Or maybe grab a couple of gold colonies as well, and go to the market right before she does in order to depress the import price for gold before she can do her importing.

There's also a nice little mechanism where you can pay money and a worker to grab a "privilege." Privileges increase the end game VP value of the various infrastructure items you can purchase. So, for example, ordinarily every colony is worth one VP at game end. But if you buy a colony privilege, your colonies will each be worth two VP at game end. If you're successful at matching your privileges with your acquisitions, you can score big.

It's a beautiful production, with top notch graphic design and components. The rondel helps to prevent the game from getting bogged down in AP. All good stuff, but I'm not yet entirely sold. It feels a bit unforgiving, with early mistakes putting you consistently behind the market curve. That's happened to me in both games I've played (2p and 4p) and I couldn't figure out how to recover. I felt like I was losing for most of the game, and I was. I still had a reasonably good time, but it was a bit frustrating. Also, it didn't go over too well with the other folks I played with. They didn't dislike it, but weren't very enthusiastic either. I'm definitely interested in playing some more (I'd like to win one!), but I'm not sure about whether it's going to turn out to be a great fit for me.

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Alien Frontiers

(image credit: soosy -- the mysterious Burroughs relic ship)

Absolutely love the look and feel of this retro-sci-fi themed dice allocation euro. Roll your "ships" (i.e., your dice) and allocate them to various orbital stations, each of which requires different dice combos and produces different resources, with the ultimate goal of dominating in the placement of your colony bases on the planet below.

I really wanted to love this game as it's right in my sweet spot: light-medium weight, plays in around an hour, a great theme, and top notch production values. But I've had two problems with it:

(1) I found it a little difficult to teach to new players. I've taught it twice now and there's a lot to get your head around. Each orbital facility has different requirements and benefits. The alien tech cards each provide TWO different rule breaking powers. And when you control a region of the planet you get the use of a special rule breaking power. The mechanics of the game are pretty simple, but new players seem to have a hard time mastering all of these variables and figuring out what they need to do to succeed.

(2) There's a bit of rich-get-richer problem. When you get more "ships" you get more dice to roll and allocate. This increases your likelihood of getting doubles and triples, which feeds back into more ships and quicker colony construction. In each game I've played (four now), the winner was the player who got into the shipyard first and started acquiring more dice before the other players. There are ways to combat that, but it requires defensive play, which means postponing your own advancement. If the first player to get an edge in ships also gets the first colony on the planet, that player can take the "relic ship" reward, which gives another ship. I'm not saying that the game is broken. I expect with more plays, players would get a better understanding of how to rein in the leader. Unfortunately, I don't see it getting enough plays in my group to reach that level of experience.
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5. Board Game: 1889 [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:1357]
Beau Bailey
United States
Missoula
Montana
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I only played two new games this month, so it was a very easy decision.

1889 was my favorite of the two new games. I really enjoyed the development of the map over the course of the game. The track pool allows for some interesting shenanigans and jamming of companies. I look forward to more plays to continue exploring the system.

The only other new game I played was Pastiche. A mediocre tile placement game that (for me) is quite boring underneath all the gorgeous pieces. It just played very slowly and did not seem to have many interesting decisions throughout the game. If it was fun, that might have made a difference. I'd rather not play this game again.

I also got a chance to play the High Frontier expansion. I did not enjoy the base game and thought it was a very unexciting experience. The expansion turns it into a playable and interesting game. There is actually a reason to select the various equipment for your rocket. A much needed improvement that should have been included with the base game (basic game should only be played as intro demonstration).

Game Ratings:
1889 - 9
Pastiche - 4
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6. Board Game: Karnaxis [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:5333]
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United States
Greer
South Carolina
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With May, the Atlanta Game Fest rolled back around, and I found myself with five full days of gaming on my hands. It was a great time, for a number of reasons, and it gave me the opportunity to try a lot of new games that had piqued my interest in one way or another. It also gave me a chance to discover a game I'd never even heard of, much less played, and found a gem of a game, much like a manure shoveler finding a nugget of gold in a pile of poo (which is a very clever reference if you know the game I'm referring to). Which one was it, you ask? Well, read on and find out!

New Games

Airlines Europe thumbsup



I was never a big fan of Union Pacific, for a number of reasons. I didn't like the restrictions that the track deck created, I didn't like the way that the UP stock could be picked up as easily as any other stock, and I didn't like the way that the scoring cards could pop up at any time at any point during the game. Airlines Europe fixed those issues, as well as a few others I hadn't really recognized as issues in the first place.

For one thing, money and VPs have been split apart, which is probably the change that makes the biggest difference in the game. It's not enough now just to keep building up your returns; you also have to weigh the importance of playing stocks to get paid, as well as spending an action just to get some money. It adds a little to the turn angst, which is always a good thing. The scoring cards are spread out more intentionally throughout the deck, it costs an extra turn just to get the UP stock, and totally removed the track deck, making the game not just different, but better.

I'm still not sure that this is a game I have to own. I have other stock games that I like playing more, and which I think create a much better gaming experience. Still, where I wouldn't hesitate to veto playing Union Pacific, I wouldn't turn down a chance to play Airlines Europe again.

Amazonas thumbsdown



I'm starting to hit a "Too Many Euros" rut again, with all the new games I'm playing not making any significant mark on me. Even popular buzz games like Troyes (which you'll find below) function well enough to play, but not to make a terribly lasting effect on me. I guess I should give older games a bit of a break, but when they're from Stefan Dorra, who designs some clever games with some unique mechanisms, I expect more.

Amazonas doesn't do anything that hasn't been done better, either before or after it was published. In particular, the action deck can become a frustration as it's hard to predict what's going to come up next, and you can be left at the mercy of the draw when the card you needed on a previous turn shows up on the current one. The game forces a lot of limitations on the players -- it costs a lot of money to build placements on the board, and you don't earn a lot of money at a time -- which is good in one respect, but bad when you're managing a lot of what you can do based on that action deck.

If this had been by anyone else, I might be able to give it some slack, but Dorra's proven himself to design better games, with MarraCash and Medina. Amazonas just doesn't live up to that pedigree.

At the Gates of Loyang thumbsup



So far, all I've played is the solitaire game of Loyang, but it impressed me enough to wonder how a multiplayer game might work. I mean, I understand that it's really just a 2-player game (unless you're particularly fond of waiting an eternity for your move), and that it boils down to being essentially a multiplayer solitaire game, but I'd be interested in seeing how the distribution phase would work with more players.

Regardless, the game is very much an economic efficiency-engine sort of game, and the way that the card tableau works in the solitaire game gives you a chance to speculate toward future turns. Balancing all of that is the challenge, and knowing when to take a penalty during the game (either through a loan or negative points) is key. The rules say that good players can score about 17 points, which is a surprise, since I only scored 12 during my best game, and I felt like I had a pretty good system going. I don't get a lot of opportunities for 2-player games, but I wouldn't mind playing it solitaire again, either!

The Castles of Burgundy thumbsup



Stefan Feld may slowly be winning me over with his designs. I wasn't won over with either Under the Shadow of the Dragon or Rum & Pirates, and I wasn't all that interested in playing Notre Dame, but with Macao, Luna, and now Die Burgen von Burgund, I'm finding some things to like about his designs. I'm not sure exactly what that is, though. At the very least, there seems to be less of the "Here's a thousand little disasters that you will have to manage on future turns," and more "Here's a thousand little things you want to do on future turns," and it changes the feel of the games.

With Burgund, you're managing a land, adding buildings and other tiles that grant special powers in the game. The tiles can chain together to create powerful combinations, so that simply placing one tile can allow you to take multiple chain actions as a result. The actions you can do are controlled by the roll of two dice (each die representing an action you can take), but you're not always restricted to that number when selecting an action, since other tiles can allow you to make small modifications to it. Ultimately, the game is about efficiency, making the most points off of the fewest moves, and that seems to be a better fit for me than Feld's earlier games were.

The game has a lot of bits, and I'm not sure if it's a game I would want to play all the time (it does take a big chunk of time, for a Euro), but it's definitely had me thinking about it since the end of the game. That's certainly a good sign!

Chronicle thumbsup

 


It's no secret that I like trick-taking games. I don't just like all of them, no matter what, though; I prefer a little control in the proceedings to really get the most out of them. I'll suffer a little chaos if the rest of the game takes something from that chaos to make it fun, but for the most part, I want to know that if I screw up in the game, it's because I misjudged something, not because I got a crap hand.

When I learned Chronicle this month, I expected it to be too random and chaotic for me. Every card has a special action associated with it, and players don't have a choice to use them; when the card is played, they must use it. After a few hands of play, though, I was surprised to find a lot of balance between the cards, their powers, and their rankings among the suits. In fact, the game went on a lot longer than expected, because three of us were pretty experienced with trick-taking games, and that balance kept us competitive throughout the game.

My only complaint is that the game might consistently run long. Our first game ran 90 minutes, as players are supposed to play an extra round if anyone is tied when the endgame is triggered, and we kept tying up round after round after round. Still, what made that part of the game pretty cool was that even the players who weren't tied had a chance to make a grab for the win. So it's hard to complain. It's a nifty game, though, and one that I would love to play more often.

Dos Rios thumbsup



I remember when this game came out, six years ago. The buzz wasn't tremendous, and what I remember hearing about it didn't thrill me, so I wrote it off as a game I probably wouldn't like. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play it again, because I realized that while the game has some small issues, it's also a lean, cutthroat game of tactics and positioning.

In Dos Rios, players are trying to build all of their buildings onto the board, but the buildings cost money, and the way to make money is to divert the river by placing dams, forcing the water to flow near the fields where you have your people. See, there's a harvest each round, and in order to make money off of the harvest, the river has to flow through a space where you have one of your people. In addition, to build a dam or a building, you also have to have one of your people in a space, and since only one player's people can occupy a space at one time, the game comes down to protecting your people or moving in to force other people out. In addition, the movement of the river is dictated by the terrain, so knowing how the river will move once it's dammed (and, more importantly, how to protect your positions by knowing how to force the river in your direction) is key.

Don't make the same mistake I did and write this game off as not being interesting. It's a brutal, nasty little game that gets a lot more aggressive as the game goes on. If you like your Euros with a little confrontation, then this one should be right up your alley.

Genoa thumbsdown



So, the problem with Genoa is that it's a negotiation game. If it were a type of salami, then I wouldn't have any fault with it, but since it's not, and since it's a negotiation game, I find serious fault with it. Though, honestly, it's not so much a fault of the game as much as it's just not the type of game I'm interested in playing. I wasn't that wild about my few plays of Chinatown or Merchants of the Middle Ages, and while I find myself enjoying Bohnanza almost every time I play it, I find that it's the exception, not the rule. And while Genoa's ranking suggests that it's a top contender among negotiation games, I'm simply not interested in playing this game very much, if at all.

The heart of the problem, for me, is that it's difficult to judge quickly how much something will be worth to me while also valuing quickly how much it could be worth to everyone else in the game. I get left behind a lot in these types of games. They also seem to be a little too open and free-form to give me a satisfactory gaming experience, and in the end, I just don't feel like I've had a lot of fun. Some role-playing would help (it elevates Intrigue to a near-perfect game), but we didn't really get into that during our one play of this in May.

Karnaxis thumbsup thumbsup



The introduction of this game at a recent convention was an inauspicious one. One of the attendees commented about playing a game that Frank Branham had, calling it "The Game of Life if it didn't suck," and said that he initially wrote it off after hearing about it, and even after playing it, but that he couldn't stop thinking about the game, and wanted to play it again. So I was intrigued, but didn't think much more about it, really.

Then, I played it, and holy crap if it wasn't the best damn game I played in May. Here was a game that looked like it had been designed in the '80s, published by a company that made me think of University Games, and made an initial impression on me about on par with moldy cheese, and what I found was a game that forced you to weigh every move so carefully that the turn angst felt cranked up to 11. There's a little bit of a worker placement element to the game, a bit of a random stock market effect, a touch of luck, and variable player powers there to keep the game interesting, compelling, and challenging. And I had never heard about it before setting foot into the convention hall.

In short: This is the best game you've never heard of that you're not playing. If you don't find a way to play this game soon, then you're not really a gamer. And yes, I really mean that.

(Also, this is the game I referenced in the header paragraph. One of the professions is "Manure Shoveler," and there's an event card that gives the player with that profession extra cash because he found a gold nugget in a pile of poo. No kidding!)

Luna thumbsup



This is second of Feld's games that is new to me this month, and also the second of his that I played over the course of two days. As I mentioned above, with The Castles of Burgundy, I'm finding more to like about his games, and Luna is no exception. There's something about the game that reminds me of Macao, though I'm not sure I could tell you what that is. Maybe it's the Probate?

The game is decent, and creates a good amount of tension. The candle round mechanism is a nice, small addition to the game that adds a great deal to the turn angst. The game is also all about the timing, and it even has a bit of a flavor of Agricola in what order you choose to do all your actions to maximize your turns, though you can chain some of your moves together to allow you additional moves throughout the turn. It winds up being quite fiddly, and almost appears to be a stereotypical cube-pusher game (without cubes), but it's not something so horrible that I wouldn't play it again.

This game, like Macao, has a bit of an edge over other games that I classify "Yet Another Euro." In short, I might not ask to play it, nor would I purchase a copy, but I'd be quite happy to play it on occasion. That might be damning the game with faint praise, but that's about how I feel about it.

Manila thumbsup thumbsup



I'm starting to think that I'm a bigger fan of Franz Benno-Delonge's games than I first realized. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Container, and you've already read my praise of Dos Rios, above. Now, here's Manila, I game I wrote off time and time again because I was thinking it was Niagara, another game of bidding, timing, nastiness, and stocks.

The game actually reminded me a lot of Container, because of the bidding and the stock, and the limited way that the game allows you to take a stock. In order to get a stock, you have to win the bid, and winning the bid puts you in control of moving the boats, as well. There are ways for other players to adjust the boats, as well, but your motivations are based on how many people are interested in a given stock, since the temporary alliances of players who have interests in the same stocks can make or break you. The alliances shift from turn to turn, and it winds up having a similar flavor to Container in a shorter timeframe.

I'm sad that this game is out of print. If anyone has a copy that they would like to trade or sell, please let me know!

Mord im Arosa thumbsup



On the other hand, I'm almost immediately drawn to games that have mechanisms that I haven't seen before. I'm also drawn to games that are light, easy to understand, and just downright fun to play. Mord im Arosa is a game of that sort, despite its somewhat dark theme.

Players are detectives trying to solve a murder that's taken place in an eight-story building. The detectives take turns guessing where other players' cubes are in the building, based on what they think they heard as their opponents dropped their cubes down the middle of the building. If they guess correctly, then their opponents have to place their cubes on the suspect chart; if not, then the detectives have to add one of their own. Either way, the cubes never come out of the building, so the more you add to the building, the more likely you are to be the prime suspect.

The game is cute and charming, and could easily be retrofitted as a family game ("Who stole the pie?"). It has enough going on to make it fun for adults, too, and that makes this game the kind that would appeal to everyone. It's certainly unique, though.

Onirim thumbsup thumbsdown



So, solitaire games. Or, "games," as I often call them. There's something about games that requires other players, to the point where games that are intended for one player wind up feeling more like puzzles with moving parts than actual games. In fact, the only reason I wound up with Onirim is because I needed to add something to a cart to get free shipping. Otherwise, I may not have even bothered with it.

The thing is, the game isn't really that bad. It seems to require careful hand management and the need to sacrifice, much like Pandemic, and in fact, the ways that players collect the doors is somewhat reminiscent of Pandemic (sets of cards). In fact, the five games I played this month came down to the last 3-5 cards in the deck, and I only won one of those five games. I mean, given the choice of playing this or Clock, I would certainly pick this, just because it's more interesting. Really, I avoid playing a lot of solitaire games, so it's not like this is going to be my go-to activity for when I'm alone and bored, but it wasn't bad.

The game also comes packed with three different variants, all of which are easy to add to the game. I understand that it's possible to add all three of them to the game, but to me, that sounds like playing Pandemic on "Heroic" level. It offers a bigger challenge for when the game feels easy, or at least same-y.

Overall, I feel like it's just a mediocre game (despite the very cool artwork).

Pergamon thumbsdown



So, I mentioned Dorra above, in reference to Amazonas, and I'm going to follow up with Pergamon, here. In this case, I don't find a whole lot more to like about this game than I did with Amazonas. It has some better moving parts, I think -- the game is primarily tactical, leaving a lot of the decisions up to the players instead of having them randomly determined -- but the tactical decisions seem to detract some from the overall game.

There are a lot of things going on that work pretty well. The turn order/selection track thing is nice, as is the way that the exhibitions earn points and move down on the track. It just winds up being a lot harder to plan for a big move in this game, since you're just having to do the best with what you have on a given move. That's OK in other games, but for some reason it just didn't impress me here.

I'd play this one again (and to be honest, I probably should), but there wasn't much here to draw me back to it. It was just another mediocre Euro, of which I seem to play a lot.

Royal Palace thumbsdown



To be fair, this game isn't a complete trainwreck. In fact, the part of the game where you manage what you want to do based on the locations of your servants on the lower half of the board is pretty damned interesting. Unfortunately, the game just doesn't have the kind of feel to it that I like. It feels very dry and lifeless, even though I hesitate to call it dull. It just doesn't seem to deliver the kind of punch I'm looking for in my games.

There's a bit of an area control aspect to the game through the way players manipulate the lower half of the board, which might also put me off a bit more than normal. But even overlooking that part of the game, it just feels like a cube-pusher. You move pieces around to determine how much money you earn, how far you can move your pieces, how many pieces you can place, how many cards you can draw, how many tiles you can buy, and how much influence you get to purchase the tiles. So the entire game, and what you can do, is wrapped up in that main part of the game.

So why does it feel so boring? I have no idea. Despite the clever use of that board, it just feels forgettable. I would play it again if asked, but I just don't see anything in this game that will make it have any lasting effect on me.

Skull thumbsup

 


Do you like bluffing games? Do you like playing the odds? Do you like Liar's Dice? If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then Skull & Roses is the game for you.

See, what you do on a turn is select which of your tiles (either a skull or a rose) to place face-down on your player mat. After that, players, in turn order, either select another tile to place face-down, or start the bidding for the number of roses you think you can find among all the players. You have to start with all of your own tiles, but you then can pick which players to turn their tile over in whatever order you choose. Who can you trust? Do you think the person who started the bid is trying to get you to raise it so you can take his skull during the turn? If so, do you think you can get the next person to trust you enough to raise the bid, and take the skull instead?

The game lasts until one player meets his bid twice, keeping in mind that if a player finds just one skull among all the tiles in the round, then he misses his bid and loses one of his tiles randomly. It's strictly a game of guessing what the other players are doing, but it's also impossible to win by simply avoiding the bids all together. You have to get two bids to win, so at some point you'll have to take a chance. So who can you trust? And the question you have to ask yourself is, "Do I feel lucky?"

Troyes thumbsup thumbsdown



I've probably said before that I like dice, but I figure that if something is worth saying once, it's worth saying more than once: I like dice! Troyes is a strategy game that uses dice as a primary mechanism, but to compare it to other dice games that come to mind when people say "I like dice!" is probably a disservice to the game. It makes me think of the randomness that goes into the board setup for Catan, because a random setup that remains static for the rest of the game is no longer random. The dice in Troyes are a lot like that, because once the dice are rolled, they'll pretty much stay that way for the rest of that turn.

That's not to say that the game doesn't add a little bit of chaos to the mix, thanks to some special abilities that alter the dice in different ways (you can pay to reroll or flip a die, and a lot of the activity cards will allow you to transform your dice or otherwise alter their values), as well as players being able to purchase your dice from you before you can use them. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that other players can buy dice from you, and you have no way to stop them (that I can tell so far). Getting the money helps to buy dice in return, but since money isn't worth anything at the end of the game, even as a tie-breaker (unless you have the character who awards points for money), it seems kind of useless to try to accumulate a whole bunch of cash. Still, the points for our first game were fairly close, and the activity cards require money, so I'm sure that more familiarity with the game will prove me wrong.

The game works, and I like it so far, but it seems almost soulless. The game is interesting and engaging, but it also seems dry and forced together. By contrast, Hansa Teutonica looks dull and boring, but has enough game going on to get you excited about playing it. They're both good, but my eagerness to replay a game can be based on how much soul it has, and I worry that I might just forget all about Troyes, given enough time.

Water Lily thumbsup



I probably would never have given this game any thought if not for Ted Alspach mentioning it after Essen last year. I like lighter games with simple rules that still give you some choices to make during your turns. There's even a small amount of challenge to the game, since it will be important to figure out how to position the pieces so that you can get your own color into the pond at the right time.

We played the game with five, since we were just learning the game and we had five colors, and we knew going into the game that it was a game designed for up to four. It worked, mechanically, but afterward, I realized that having a neutral color in the game is pretty necessary to give the game an extra oomph to make it fun. With three players, you could have two neutral colors, which would be even better, since you could try to position them into place to fill up spots without giving an opponent points. With all five colors in play, it meant that putting another color in the pond to put yourself in a better position meant that we were also giving another player points. With the neutral colors, there is no guarantee of such a thing.

This is a charming game that's obviously not for everyone, but for people who enjoy a lighter fare with a touch of bluff and positioning, it will be their sort of game. And lately it's been easy to find at some inexpensive prices.
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7. Board Game: Key Market [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:923]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I only played five games that were new to me in May, and to be honest none of them really stood out.

That said, Key Market has a number of clever ideas, and worked just fine; it just failed to excite me, and I'm not convinced that the trade-off between guild advancement and retirement is tuned ideally.

51st State went on too long, and felt like it could have used some fine-tuning; again, there are interesting ideas present, but I'm not convinced.

Hau La also has some decent ideas, but it's not all that enjoyable in practice, and it feels too fragile.

Great Western, as others have noted, has a poorly designed board. I'm not convinced I'll much care for it even after that's resolved, though.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space isn't nearly as enjoyable as Scotland Yard. And - while I was eliminated on the 4th turn out of ~25, I still officially won. I intend to retire from the game undefeated - and unimpressed.

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8. Board Game: South African Railroads [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:3511]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Only four new games for me this month. As is now usual, I'll list 'em in decreasing order of enthusiasm. This time, I'd enjoyed the first game head and shoulders over the ones that follow. The next couple are definitely adequate (but subject to a variety of cruftiness) while the last one (though clever) didn't work well for me at all.


South African Railroads -- (2 plays) _9_
(images by rockusultimus & lorna)

My best game of the month is easily South African Railroads. Last month, the title went to Pampas Railroads - and this is another similar game. Yet SAR is slightly more interesting (to me - which I suspect reflects badly; it's shorter, brassier, and more uneven in pacing.) It clearly wins the Where are the train markers? award: I'd bought the update kit (over Pampas only to discover that while the cubes were common, I needed to find five train markers as well! I used glass stones instead.)

It's nowhere near as subtle as Pampas - but then again, it's not as unrelenting, either. In my first copy, I'd said "a short cross-country dash to the other's steeplechase." It doesn't seem wrong in rewrite. Moreover, if one blunders early on, the game is over soon enough and one can simply try again. While I've not played enough to be completely confident in the rating, I've (for the moment) rated it higher than Wabash Cannonball, which is pretty good for me.


Nightfall -- (1 play) _7_
(images by AEGTodd & MyParadox)

This one is back a way in my esteem. It's a cool game, but possibly flawed in some ways (For example: I'm not confident that the scoring really works - it's too easy to throw the game randomly to a player; and the card-play mechanics require practice: the fold-and-unfold thing make it easy to lose track of who will act next.) So Most Interestingly Flawed Game I'd played this month.

I found the initial draft to be very random. But that's not a flaw: just evidence of my unfamiliarity with the game system. After that point, I paid and paid and paid for my bad choices. I rather enjoyed the timing choices involved in card play. While after a single play my opinion is unlikely to be of any significant value, I found a lot more dynamism in the game than in previous (Dominion, Thunderstone) deck-building games. To be fair, none of them are my favourites; but this one may work best for me. I suspect it'll work better with fewer than the five that played it the first time, though!


51st State -- (2 plays) _7_
(images by trzewik & Thedalek)

I found this one unsteadily, amusingly, unevenly entertaining. I'd've been tempted by Most in Need of Further Development - except that one belongs to the next title. So Charming but Uneven will have to do. It's not clear at all to me that the factions are balanced; the resources are fiddly and yet (mostly) unconstraining; the card draft just fiddly enough to get gratuitously wrong if care is not taken.

I found it fun. The theme is delightful. The decisions aren't nearly trivial. Probably not one I need to own, though.


Great Western -- (1 play) _5_
(images by zefquaavius & Almecho)

Great Western was a lovely surprise in the recent SpielBox magazine. Unfortunately, for me (and some others) it appears that the map is less interesting than the game system: unless (and perhaps even if) the players are very careful, there's a runaway victor that claims the high VP cluster in western Wales.

It's quite possible that the game system would work better with a "better" map. (It's also vaguely possible that the game works as is if all players are clear from the beginning of the requirement to strike out towards Wales.) But (like my esteemed predecessor in this list) I'm not confident I like the dynamics enough to demand a play even if such a map existed.


Thanks again to my youngsters; the no-longer-on-Friday Lunch folk; the I've been diced gang; and the BAP attenders for some fun games.
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9. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:120]
Chris
Netherlands
's-Hertogenbosch
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I missed last month's list, as I was enjoying a great holiday: A friend and I have been walking the Great Glen Way in Scotland, which was amazing. To make up for this I'd like to list the new to me games of the past two months in this entry. Even while I was away for a holiday I managed to play 17 new games! King of Tokyo, the underdog, is the game I have enjoyed the most, so far!

King of Tokyo - 5 plays



This game has been on my radar for a while and I was anticipating its release. It was a blind buy when I saw it for sale at a con. What a terrific, fun game. It's a lighter game, but with great interaction and a huge replayability due to the large amount of special abilities. Each player is a monster rampaging Tokyo. Only one can be King of Tokyo, though, so it's one vs. all and all vs. one. You win if you're the last monster standing or the first to reach 20 VP's. Becoming King of Tokyo and staying King of Tokyo earns you those VP.
Players roll six dice. Three sides are the numbers 1, 2, 3; Roll a set of three to score that many VP's. The other three sides are more useful though. When you roll a claw, you deal damage to the King of Tokyo ór every other player if you are King of Tokyo. A heart will heal damage and a lighting bolt will earn you energy, which you can spend on special abilities. These special abilities are awesome and take the game to another level. There is a wide variety, ranging from rolling extra dice to crazy effects as doing damage to all players each turn, or doing extra damage when gaining VP's or not having to take damage if you roll a heart when damage is done to you.
The artwork is really cool and fits the theme very well. The production values are great. It's a ton of fun. I was really looking forward to this game, but it still surprised me how much fun it really is. I rate King of Tokyo an 8 and can highly recommend it.

Troyes - 1 play



Troyes is an interesting engine building, card combo, dice allocation game. One of the co-designers, Xavier Georges (I really enjoy his game Carson City), and the gorgeous and thematic illustrations by Alexandre Roche had piqued my interest in this game from its early stages. It was the first game I pre-ordered, anticipating my first ever visit to Essen. Unfortunately it was the last game of the Essen crop to hit to table, though and I just don't know why it has taken this long.
One of the things that really struck a chord with me is the amount of replayability this game will probably offer. There is some kind of a worker placement mechanic where players pick their actions from certain action spaces, but there are 27 different actions (30 with the BGG promos) and each game only uses 9 of those. These 9 actions are revealed in pairs of three througout the first three turns of the game. This way you won't often see the same successful combo turn up game after game after game. Each game players will have to assess their options again.
To perform these actions players will have to allocate dice to these actions. Players vie over the control of these dice and they are able to buy each others dice. Also, there are ways to tweak dice rolls. There is a large sense of control, especially for a dice allocation game.
During the game the city of Troyes will have its fair share of bad stuff happening. It's up to the players to resolve these events, or suffer consequenses each turn. All players gain from resolving the evenst, so this gives the game a small bit of a co-op feel as well. Of course, you are earning VP by doing so, but every other player doesn't suffer the consequences any longer as well.
On top of all this there is also a deduction element. At the start of the game each players is assigned a single secret role which affect end-game scoring for all players. You'll know one of the end-scoring mechanisms, but you'll have to deduce the others by looking at your opponents moves. This worked really well and added some bluffing to the game as well.
Like I said, I love the artwork. It's true to the theme and wonderfully done. My only gripe is the colours of the dice, they could have used slighty less flashy colours in my humble opinion.
Troyes is a great game; one I can't wait to play again soon. It's in my bag for tomorrow's game night, for sure! I rate Troyes an 8.

Liberté - 1 play



The last couple of months I've played a couple of area control games: Tammany Hall and El Grande. Tammany Hall is my clear favorite of the two but it has strong competition with Liberté. Liberté sets itself apart from both games because players are not playing one of the factions, but they try to gain influence in the winning faction to score victory points. The player with the most victory points after four rounds wins the game, unless one of two sudden death conditions are triggered. For me, these sudden death conditions are the best part of the game. It adds a lot of depth to an already great mix of an area control game with some kind of a stock market element. You have to read the game state not only for the regular area control part, but also to see if somebody is trying to pursue one of the sudden death mechanics or to see when you have to try to end the game quickly. Another great part of the game is that ties are common when resolving areas and that players build their own tableau of special tie breakers. There is some direct interaction as players can remove these tie breakers from each other. It's really a difficult game; I am only starting to grasp the basic strategy after my first play, but it's one of those games I'd love to play more to delve deeper and learn more and get better. The Valley Games reprint has a great production quality and I'm glad I have added it to my collection. It does have a direct competitor with Tammany Hall, so I am just hoping to get more plays of both of these games. I rate Liberté an 8.

Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York - 2 plays



This game is all about secret action selection, double-think and bluffing. It's an area control game where players own locations and personalities in six regions on the main board. These assets have a certain amount of influence; the most influence wins you the control of a region and some VP. Locations are fixed and offer influence and income. Some personalities offer influence and income as well, but other personalities can alse move around the board to take there influence elsewhere.
The heart of the game takes place behind huge player screens, where players plot entire turns on a abstract representation of the game board. Secretly, players determine which locations of other players they'll attack, or maybe they'll defend their own. Personalities can be bribed, but you could also bribe your won personalities, so the'll refuse a bribe by another player. There is a lot of tension in this game, as you're constantly weighing your options as you can only make progress by taking over other players' assets, but you'll also want to defend your own. There's never enough money to do both.
We played this once as a 3-player game and once as a 4-player game. I can highly recommend this game as a true 4-player game. It's a nice game with only 3, but the 4-player game is much deeper. The 4-player game is a team game, where two players represent York, the other two represent Lancaster. Players are not allowed to talk about their plans, so this adds another layer to the already tense double-think. On top of that, you'll have to co-operate to let your faction prosper, but only one player can win the game: You can expect a lot of lovely backstabbing in this game!
The game is great, the production is amazing. It's a big box, filled to the brim with top-notch components. But beware, you'll need a really big table to be able to play this game. The graphic design is also done really well, by the way.
My rating is based on the 4-player game and I rate it an 8.

Nightfall - 2 plays



Dominion fell flat for me for a couple of reasons: it really wasn't interactive enough and there was just too much downtime, especially with those endless combos. Still, you could win with just buying gold! After choosing which cards to feature in your deck, the game pretty much plays itself. Since Dominion, I didn't really care for deck-building games anymore. Then I got introduced to Magic, a completely different kind of deck-building game but here the deck-building aspect really clicked with me. Strategically building your deck is coupled with meaningful tactical gameplay. As you're at each others throats, the game is very interactive. So far, no game has ever been the same. Now, I really wanted to try another deck-building game again; one where you build a deck as part of the game, like Dominion. A friend of mine bought Thunderstone, but we haven't been able to play that one, so far. Then I read about Nightfall and it looked really promising: it has player versus player combat, a great theme and a lot of interactivity as you're able to play cards on other players' turns.
So far, after a couple of plays, Nightfall has not let down. I really like the flow of this game, although there are a couple of flaws as well. I really like the deck-building aspect: a card effect can be awesome, but if you can't link it and maybe kick it, it's not so great anymore. The downside is that it can get a little abstract when you're just looking at linking and kicking colours. So much for a great theme, I guess. Probably the best part of the game is that you can play cards on your opponents turn. This means that you can play cards on each turn, but you only draw cards at the end of your turn ánd you want to discard cards to buy more cards. This way, gameplay doesn't feel scripted as you have to decide when and if to play each card. Another great thing is the distibution of wound cards, which clog your deck if you're not careful, but they also let you play more agressively, as you can draw more cards when you discard wounds. The game ends when you run out of wounds, and this can become quite sudden in some games. We've tried increasing the total number of wounds and this has worked really well for us. Like other deck-building games this game requires a lot of time to set-up and take-down, which makes it a bit harder to get to the table. I have to play this game a couple of times more, to really make up my mind about it, but so far I like this game. I rate Nightfall an 8.

Get Nuts - 4 plays



I've played this game at a convention and while we were still playing it, I already decided to buy a copy. It's a lighter card game, but one that's just a lot of fun. Everybody represents a squirrel, trying to gather some nuts before winter kicks in. To do this, players build a path of trees to reach a stash of nuts. Players can interfere with your plans by ruining your careful laid out path of trees. There are bulldozers, axes, chainsaws and flamethrowers to bring down your opponents trees. Other cards can let you protect your own trees, give you more actions or let you score more victory points. It did remind me of Sitting Ducks Gallery, another light card game where you're trying to screw each other over, but with more emphasis on your own progress as well. The artwork is well done and very funny.
As a bonus, you'll get some extra promo cards. I just read the rules for them and they look like a lot of fun. I can't wait for them to arrive by mail. I can highly recommend this game as a light card game filler. I rate it a 7.

The Boss - 2 plays



A quick card game filler with area control and deduction elements. Players vie for control over a centain amount of cities, hoping to earn the reward for each city. Each city has a certain amount of possible rewards. Players just don't know exactly what this reward is at the start of the round. Each player has some information about what the rewards can't be. During each turn they have to share some of this information, giving all other players a better guess at what the reward could be. Most of the time these rewards are positive, but there are really negative ones as well. This is where the risk-management and bluffing elements shine. It's short, surprisingly deep and works really well as a deduction game. You just can't wait for all the information to be revealed, before you'll decide where to spend your influence, as the game really pushes you to take risks. This game just pushes a lot of the right buttons, while keeping an elegant ruleset and tense gameplay. I rate The Boss a 7.

Norenberc - 1 play



Norenberc is another one of the games I've bought as Essen 2010. I figured it would be the last one to get played, but it beat Troyes to the table! Frankly, I bought it because it has a lot of pimped wooden bits and it came with extra components. One of it's main mechanics is secret action selection, something that doesn't usually get me excited. As I had hoped, here it does work: you don't select a specific action but you secretly select the guilds where you'll perform your actions. This gives a lot more flexibility and really speeds the game up as you don't have to keep double-thinking. Players try to effectively trade the goods the guilds produce, and score the most victory points. A big part of the game is set selection and it rewards both specialization and diversity. Money is tight and can be a big liimiting factor if you got careless. There are a lot of ways to score victory points, which makes it a hard game to teach and grasp. I did like my first play though, and I'd love to try it again. I rate Norenberc a 7.

Steam over Holland - 1 play



Pfew. This was our first go at an 18xx game. I liked it, but it's not for the faint of heart. The rules were quite straight forward, but should have been more complete. As it is, my guess is that experienced 18xx players know exactly how to play this game. Players new to the game need a more complete overview of the rules. Am I right in this assumption? At least for us, a lot was unclear. The game did remind me of Steam, with a blocking element. I also liked the way the game forces you to upgrade your locomotives and the limited means of upgrading track tiles.
This is a tense game and a real brain burner. At the end even the most simple calculations needed effort. It means I'd really like to play this game again, but only will if I'm in the mood for a game this heavy.
I also don't know what to think about the artwork. I know it's a niche game, but why does that mean it shoud have such a Spartan look and feel?
For now, I rate Steam over Holland a 7.

Tinners' Trail - 1 play



Another new to me game by Martin Wallace, but so far this is my least favorite. I rate it a 7, so I still think it's a good game; the others I've played (Steam, Brass, London, Liberté) are just better. You're mining for tin and copper in Cornwall and the main goal of the game is how to deal with the water which fills up your mines which in turn increases the cost of mining. It features a nice turn order mechanic and there's plenty of interactivity with the auctions. The auctions are probably the part where you win the game, so these are the most important decisions. The game requires the players to adapt their plans to the fluctuating prices of both tin and copper. Now, I like playing Tinners' Trail and I don't think I'd refuse a game. Still, something just doesn't feel right and I guess it's the way victory points are scored. There is an entire phase for this part of the game where you have to invest your money in VP's; the earlier the higher the payoff. But there is just no tension: we didn't block each other or ran out of investment cubes. This part of the game just felt tacked on. Overall, it's still a nice game, but the sum is less than its parts. I rate Tinners' Trail a 7.

Toscana - 1 play



I first saw Toscana at Essen, having never heard about it before. I instantly loved the artwork and the quick overview we got sounded really good as well. I just wasn't convinced enough to make an impulse buy. But when I saw it being demoed at a local convention I really wanted to try it. Unfortunately we got like the worst rules explanation ever, which isn't really helpful to make a good first impression. In the end I did study the rules myself and I must say the rules just aren't written well. They're really short, too short. They should be improved by just adding more clarifications.
In the end, we got to play this game, but my guess is it's not really a 2-player game. It works with two, but probably needs 4 or 5 players to shine.
All in all, this is a game I wanted to like, but there were just too many situational problems to make it a pleasant experience. I would really love to try this again, with an experienced player, to give it a fair chance. For now, I'll rate it a 6.

Spot it! - 2 plays

 


Dobble is quite a unique game as it features round cards. Each card has 8 symbols and each and every card combination shares exactly one matching symbol. There are a couple of ways to play this game, but the goal is to identify the matches as quickly as possible, preferably before an opponent does and you have to start over again, looking for a match on a different card. It's really quick and a lot of fun. It was explained to me as Set-light and that's probably true; not having played Set myself, but I have seen people play it. I rate Dobble a 6.

Cherokee - 2 plays



I've played a preview copy of Cherokee at a convention and wasn't too impressed with my first play. I had a better time with my second play, where I focused more on the game and not on the production issues which hamper gameplay. It is a game with hidden colours, but the colours of the cards that tell which colour you play and the actual cards don't always match. Even when you see these cards next to each other, it's really difficult to tell if you're playing either green or yellow and red or orange.
Cards aren't oriented to both directions so for some players it's hard to tell a 6 apart from a 9. After we finished our game we noticed a tiny symbol to set them apart. There is a tie breaker rule which states that a female cherokee beats a male cherokee of the same rank; sometimes it's hard to tell which is female and which is male. I wanted to like the game, but these things can't happen, not with so many games being produced and that much more gradual insight. The gameplay itself felt rather refreshing and is based around pattern building and pattern recognition. There is a pyramid of numbered and coloured cards and the higher a card gets, the more VP it will score at game end. These cards can take the place of a card on the next level, when that card is a lower numbered card. The gap it creates is filled in a chain reaction by the highest numbered card from each level below the gap. You only score victory points at game end, so it's all about positioning in a way you can still take out higher cards, but not be taken out by lower cards. Hiding your colour is very important when doing this. It's fulfilling when you set yourself up in a way that lets you make progress based on other players decisions, while they don't even know it. It's a great idea, but I just don't think it's a great game. It felt too abstract for me, but I will try it again if I get the chance; there is something intruiging about this game. For now, I rate Cherokee a 6.

duck! duck! Go! - 4 play



I bought this game because it has rubber duckies, which is just novel. I was surprised to find out that it's not a bad game at all. It's actually as much fun as the rubber duckies promise it to be. It's a light take at programming games like RoboRally. And I can finally use all these rubber duckies I have! I rate Duck! Duck! Go! a 6.

Forbidden Island - 2 plays



When a friend taught me Forbidden Island, all I heard was 'Pandemic'. Luckily the game has its own flow and feel and it's a lot lighter and more streamlined as well. I like to play Pandemic every now and then, but I don't see why I would substitute it by playing Forbidden Island instead, as it really is a lot lighter. I rate Forbidden Island a 6.

K2 - 1 play



This is one of these games revolving about numbered cards with the worst kind of pasted on theme. These games are usually my personal pet peeve, so it is no surprise it wasn't to my liking. The worst thing about is is that there is just no climax when you're nearly reachng the summit; you're just going through the motions for an hour. We played this right after King of Tokyo, which could probably be written off as Yathzee+, but at least there is a ton of drama and emotion in that game. It's highly interactive and with definite ups and downs for all players involved. K2 just fell really flat, which is remarkable for a game about one of the worlds highest mountains. I had expected something else, to be sure. I rate K2 a 4.

The Struggle for Catan - 1 play



It is indeed shorter than the original Catan Card Game, but it's also even more bland. It still retains a lot of the feel from the original, which is quite a design accomplishment, though. I'm not a fan of the board game or the card game and this is not an exception. If you do like those games, give this one a go. It will deliver a 20 minute Catan fix for you. I rate it a 4.
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10. Board Game: Alien Frontiers [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:94]
Drew
United States
Wisconsin
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Alien Frontiers


Well! This came as a total surprise. When presented with the opportunity to play Alien Frontiers, I thought to myself "Meh, I'm tired of overly complex games with little plastic figures, incomprehensible rulebooks, interminably long playtimes, leaving nothing but exhaustion in their wake. Give me a short, intense Euro, someone!"

"Oh . . . that's what this is?"

And it's quite a good one! It's a dice-euro -- a popular sub-genre -- that some are probably calling "worker placement" -- cue the mechanics police!

To me, the game to which it can be strongly compared is Alea Iacta Est. (And, in fact, if Alien Frontiers was themed as ancient Rome, one might almost accuse the designers of plagiarism.)

However, Alien Frontiers, while using a similar dice-allocation mechanism as Alea Iacta Est, adds enough options to make for a much deeper game experience. The goal is to gain points by using resources to place settlements on an alien world. Dice are rolled and allocated according to the outcome to various action locations around the board. These give you resources, allow you to build extra ships (use more dice), build settlements, collect special action cards, etc. It all works together quite well, and one might even call it "elegant!"

I don't know if I'll ever get around to acquiring my own copy of the game (so many games, so little funds!) but I will jump at the chance to play it again if someone should bring it to game night this week. (Hint, hint . . . Krister!)




Cosmic Encounter


It's true. Until this past month, I had never played Cosmic Encounter, even though I have owned a copy for almost five years. It took someone else bringing it to game night for me to play it.

The game defies categorization. It's not a Euro. It's not AT. It's not like anything else I've played, really. I can see while it's in the hall of fame. It holds up well for being over 30 years old.

And though it did take us some rulebook consultation (thanks, Fantasy Flight, for making yet another poorly-organized rulebook, although your rulebook for Battlestar Galactica is still the worst) we made our way through our first game, culminating with a surprise win. As this was a first play for all of us, I suspect with more plays we would learn to become far more devious.




Through the Ages


So I finally got around to playing this high-ranked game -- just the basic "simple" game, which went faster than expected. My starred-rating for this is artificially high, I'd say. What I recognize here is that this is really a very good design, and I imagine the full game is even better. However, in spite of its high rank, I expect this has a limited audience. Even as I recognize the game-design achievement, I can't see myself wanting to play this very often. I'm not a big fan of "working your spreadsheet"/"optimization engine" games.

But this is really quite an achievement -- a fully-fleshed civilization game played with only cards and a record-keeping board. It's almost like the result of a dare, brazenly and successfully pulled off.




Campaign Manager 2008


This was the game I never wanted to play.

Though I own, have played, and enjoy 1960: The Making of the President, for me Campaign Manager 2008 is an event too recent and too traumatic. The theme is NOT FUN! Your choices for roles are poor and poorer. We want to play winners, and this game sticks us with two losers. There is nothing heroic here to celebrate.

That said, Tanga, the evil temptress of the board game world, enticed me with a $9.99 price tag, and in a weak moment I hit the "BUY NOW" button.

And then, as if ashamed to have it on my shelf, I played my first (and to date only) game on Yucata.

Happily, the theme can be mostly ignored. This is a classic tug-of-war game. Times Square with a political theme, if you prefer. But if you want the full experience of this sort of game, your best bet might be 1960: The Making of the President, which is far enough in the past that you can even play a Kennedy and not feel all dirty afterward.

Even better, of course, is Twilight Struggle.





Alcazar


Pretty bits? Yes! Three-dimensional building game? Yes! Wolfgang Kramer? Yes, oh yes!

Is it any good? No. Hell no.

Alcazar is a sort of reimplementation of the long out-of-print Big Boss, which itself is a sort of 3-D Acquire. But Alcazar (played with the Alcazar rules, not the "new Big Boss rules") is sort of like the freakish offspring of Acquire and Torres. A bad seed, indeed, and the experience only left me wanting to play Torres or Acquire.

You're building up "castles" and merging them to create larger castles with higher values, and sort of investing in them with knights that you move to higher levels, but the game seems to hinge on where your knights are standing at the end, with the merger/investment part having very little effect on the game. Or maybe I just didn't get it. I'd be willing to try it again, but I just don't know why I'd bother when its obvious parent games are so much better.


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11. Board Game: 18AL [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:1130]
Carlos Ferreira
Portugal
Porto Salvo
Porto Salvo
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On May I played 3 new games to me.

The best one was:
18AL



Great 3 player 18XX game. The game is tense and allows almost everything as other games of the genre. Plays very well with 3 (which is a must at our group).


War of the Ring (first edition)


Played with the expansion, War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age. I really enjoyed it, but the game has to thing to control, that I need to play it again soon.
The game is full of theme and reaaly makes want to kill Frodo, or dump the ring, depending on the side you are playing.
Good experience. Now I need to try the War of the Ring Collector's Edition


The third game was: 1846.



This game is quite different from other 18XX games. Lots of different rules. I didn't appreciate it but I'm willing to give it another try. New strategies came to my mind right after the game has ended, and this is always a good sign for a game
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12. Board Game: Sicily: Triumph and Folly [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:2290]
Luchador
United States
Atchison
Kansas
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I haven't done this for several months. School has really gotten in the way of my gaming this past year. Now, with summer here my only responsibility is to watch my fifteen-month-old daughter during the day and I'm am ready to become more invested in my hobby.


Triumphing Over Folly

Sicily: Triumph and Folly

One good game day saved me from having only one new item for the month. However, that one game was the best for the month.

As I'm getting more familiar with the rules, I'm really starting to love OCS and its games. I'm particularly fond of this one because of the interesting terrain which leads to choke points that aren't entirely unassailable. After some smaller scenarios in other games and playing a campaign game of Burma, Sicily is a real step up. More troops w/ division to consider, tons of air units on my side and to contend with from the Axis, and naval units to boot. I'm really hoping bringing all of these things together will step up my game.

We started with the first couple of turns of the full campaign which means naval landings. Don't get me wrong, there was something very engaging about piecing together the right troops for each landing and finding the right beach heads and all that, but it was all rather fiddly. Big stacks and lots of rolling with very little for the Axis player to do. It was a fun experience for what it was but we decided to reboot using the campaign that starts right after the landings.

 

Photo by kiraly

The second game had much more action. The Brits marched up the east coast fairly effectively to the Malatai Bridge. In the center the 2nd Army was ground down and became virtually useless offensively in the rough terrain at the heart of the island. After two sessions it became clear that I was going nowhere soon and we have decided to reset again.

 

Photo by kiraly

We're both still having fun and I've learned a few lessons. I'm a great commander with enough do-overs!


A Day of Gaming Goodness

Airlines Europe


I didn't realize how much I hated the track cards in Union Pacific until I played Airlines Europe. The streamlining turned a game that I was meh about into a great game. Getting rid of the track cards turn it into a much more straightforward stock game where I can focus on picking my battles without needless limitations. I also liked the less fiddly point chits and the very cool plastic airplanes. All in all, a great reimplementation.

Los Mampfos


I suck at memory games but who can pass up pooping donkeys. I didn't understand why moving the donkeys mattered to begin with but it really does make it hard to keep straight which donkey had eaten what after they get mixed up a bit. Just great bits, straightforward play and it's always good for a chuckle. What really brings it to the next level is that my son likes it and is pretty good at it too.

Troyes


Probably the best gamery dice game I've played. It is certainly superior to Macao. Being able to pay to use others' dice was great because it allowed for a fairly reliable strategy from the outset that is reasonably tweaked by the randomness of the game. I felt that a military strategy was the riskiest as more than a few can be wiped out taking care of black dice.

I liked my first play but I have a few concerns so I want a few more plays before I can rate it more accurately.

Long Shot


We played it twice mostly because we had a rule wrong the first time.

Edit: Though, upon further reflection I think I liked the game more with the wrong rule. It at least played much faster.

This was much more exciting than the drier than dry Winner's Circle but I'm not sure it is better. That's because I think it goes too far in the other direction. I place a wise bet only to see a die roll or a card play stymie me. I understand that is part of the point, but there should be room for more than just lucky guessing...although playing the ponies may be little more than that.
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13. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:119] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Quinn Munnerlyn
United States
Carrollton
Texas
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Mostly it was old games played this month but a few new ones mixed in as well. At the top is Dixit. It's got pretty frilly packaging and the box art is very cutesy but this is right up there with Wits and Wagers as my favorite party games now. We had lots of laughs with this one.

I finally got around to playing Troyes as well. This was kind of interesting even though lots of dice get pitched around. I am good with getting another play or two of this one in.

Alien Frontiers gave us more dice to chuck around but I'm not so sure about this one. Here the raiders come into play and if you don't have the artifact that keeps people from stealing your loot then you're stealing that artifact from someone else. That artifact seems a little too important to have. Not my kind of thing I guess.

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14. Board Game: Lords of Vegas [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:341]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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This has to be the winner for me this month. The game just hits so many areas in gaming that I love. While not the best looking game, I do enjoy its functionality. It helps that I love dice and it uses them in a very cool manner.



Revolution!
We just played this game over the weekend with our game group. We all immediately loved it. The simultaneous selection technique is one I really enjoy in my games. While it is kind of light, I love the thinking, re-thinking metagame that goes on in this one.

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15. Board Game: Era of Inventions [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:3118]
Железный комиссар
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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Still enjoying a pleasant break from new games. Only one this month. I feel I can make a positive contribution to this list by telling you all: do not play this game.



Era of Inventions has a spark of inspiration its core. Players invent things but then other players can actually produce and manufacture these things, and then both players get some kind of benefit. It's possible to produce knock-offs occasionally for pure self-gain, but that can be blocked with patents.

Everything surrounding that idea seems starkly underdeveloped. Graphic design is awful. Actions are often subject to all kinds of arbitrary limitations but of course non of that is on a player aid anywhere. Basically the game is total amateur-hour stuff - unintentional parody.

As for the inventions themselves, many of them are identical from a gameplay point of view - no character at all, either in theme or strategy. It's deadening.

There's a spark here but it's really hard to believe this game made it through the publication process. It is *rough*.

My one play of this was high comedy.
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16. Board Game: Peloponnes [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:454]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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A month of many good games and few standouts. Almost everything I played I rate a 7, though some show more promise than others. Many of these games also got lukewarm responses from the people I played with, which does not bode well for further exploration.


Peloponnes x2


I paid a lot for this game. The MSRP is high for the components that you get, presumably due to the size of the publisher. But it appears to be out of print and I was intrigued enough to spring for it when I found a copy languishing in my FLGS. I'm glad I did! I banged out two plays on Memorial Day with only three players and had a lot of fun, while failing utterly to do well (as did we all). This is a tricky game and the fact that it is said to be best with five portends good things. I'm hoping to play this often as a short filler in the coming weeks.


Factory Fun x2


I loved this on my first play through. My second play was slightly less enjoyable, but I'm still bullish on the game. The thing I disliked about it on my second play was the moment when I had made a poor choice of machine and became aware that it might take 5 minutes of careful analysis to make sure there wasn't an option for placement better than taking a -5.

I ended up eating the -5 in preference to making the table wait for me, but I didn't like making that choice. I may try curtc's bidding variant to see if it smooth's out some of the kinks.


Louis XIV x1


I like it! I got this mostly based on the comments of JohnRayJr, whose taste often appeals to me. I was acutely aware that there were many factors I wasn't skilled enough to track in this game, but I still felt like I could execute a strategy. It is very satisfying to play a new game and see a balance between knowing there's more to explore while not being lost. It wasn't as popular with my gamer buddies, sadly. Outlook: uncertain.


Shogun x1


This game is very pretty and I like it, but I didn't finish my play as enthused as I had hoped. I think the player mix was less than ideal for my inaugural game. The strategy was difficult to explore when one player was making somewhat random moves. I want to play more, but have no clear idea what I'm looking for from the game.


Age of Empires III x1


This is the best game I played that didn't speak to me. I did very well in my first play and was impressed with many of the clever features. I was also struck by the mention of this game in a recent Ludology podcast as telling a great story. And yet, in spite of all these things, it didn't grab me. I think it's a factor of "one Euro too many" syndrome. Perhaps specifically worker placement. I have played enough of the genre in the last year not to want to learn new versions for a while.


Middle-Earth Quest x1


Interesting mechanics that came together as well as I hoped, but the pacing of the game was odd. It was actually not too long, which was a good thing. However, the development of strategy felt curtailed. The jury is out on this game (as with everything this month, it seems!).


Mission: Red Planet x1


Great light game. Surprisingly short, in a good way. This is a game I'd like to say I'll play many more times in a filler role, but it feels like the sort that might fall between the cracks. The setup is a bit fiddly for the playtime.


Reef Encounter x1


shake

Did I have any idea what was going on in this game? No! Well, yes, but not strategically. The economy of cubes and tiles is tricky as all get out. This is a game to put serious effort into. I'm not sure I want to. Admirable design, but I don't have the proper play group to appreciate it.
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17. Board Game: Nefertiti [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:661]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Nefertiti sounded like my type of game - a quick, middle weight, lightly themed, Knizian auction game - and so it proved, though I’d like to play again soon to be sure. The different rules for the different markets seem quite original and it’s nice to see a novel set-collection mechanic, where the rewards depend on what other people collect as well as what you do. 7

I was really excited by the first reports of Airlines Europe because it sounded like it fixed all my problems with Union Pacific (which I played once a while back). Those were the cumbersome track card system, the almost completely random timing of dividends and the over-ease of acquiring Union Pacific shares. Well, it does fix those things, but unfortunately it introduces problems of its own that killed my desire to buy it. For one, the setup is too fiddly for a game of this length and weight. For another, the board just doesn’t matter enough - it’s way too hard to block routes so each company can usually do exactly what it wants. And finally, the way the scoring pays out VPs down to 4th place in shares gets rid of a lot of the tension of UP. In fact, it seems you get a better rate of return for just having one share in most companies rather than trying to fight for majorities. Admittedly, all these drawbacks are probably exacerbated with three players, which we had, but for now it’s a 6 like its big brother.

Don is a Schacht auction filler. The basics are pretty bland - cards are auctioned off in randomly-determined lots of 1, 2 or 3 and you get points for collecting coloured sets. The ‘twist’ is that each card also has a number and once you own a number, you can’t bid that amount in future auctions. What’s more, it’s a closed economy (like Hollywood Blockbuster) and your bid goes to the player who owns most cards of the number you bid. This makes for some interesting decisions during the bidding rounds, but unfortunately the game seems to be ultimately determined more by which cards get turned up together. 6

King of Tokyo is flavour of the month at London on Board. I don’t think it’s a very well designed game, but it is quite fun. At heart, it’s just another Yahtzee-style dice-roller, but the dice combinations aren’t very interesting and the decisions seem mostly obvious. A lot of the fun comes from the Alien Frontiers-style special power cards. Needs to be played fast and furious - it’s not a strategy game and ponderous play would be particularly annoying if you got eliminated early. 6

St Petersburg was the most-played game that I’d not got round to, and boy was it a disappointment. Utterly cold, calculating and tedious. 4
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18. Board Game: Railways of the Western U.S. [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.03 Unranked]
John Newall
United States
Lehi
Utah
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This has been the best month for new games in a long time. Three new games and all are wonderful.


The Expansion

Railways of the Western U.S. - 1 play - Rated 9

A great expansion for a game we only recently discovered, even though it's been in my game closet for over a year. This is a fun expansion and I think it's a fairer map than Eastern US. There isn't that one area where if someone starts building there they are definitely goign to secure a victory. We now have the 3 maps to go between, with Great Britain being the only one not to hit the table yet (I don't particularly like Mexico as it is too basic). I especially like this board as the colours aren't messed up on the Blue and Purple!! Muchos extra plays needed.


The game that is like all the others in the series - not that that's a bad thing

10 Days in Africa - 5 plays - Rated 7

A lot of fun was had just pulling this out and giving it a try. My wife and I pulled it out the next day as it would be quick and we had 3 fast fun games, including one game where she had no real turns as I finished the whole set by replacing one tile from my original 10 for the win. Good tight map. Fun. I like the 10 Days series a lot.



The classic - did it take this long to discover it really?

Acquire - 2 plays - rated 8

Great game. Very elegant (yeah I hate that phrase too, but it fits!), easy to learn and to teach. We figured the strategy for this game fast, and still had time to discover new things in the second play. We will get a lot of play out of this for sure.



Addendum to the original list - The one that got in under the wire

Railways of England and Wales - 1 play - rated 9


My brother in law came over at the last minute to play a quick game and this got pulled out fast and an hour later we had finished a 3 player game of what has now become our favourite map. We did not play with the shares, and probably won't for some time, but I might move this board and cards into the main box and play this repeatedly! It plays fast, and there isn't a stand out part of the board that is going to win the game for you. I scraped a second place, which is good for me! This will get played again this coming Thursday!



The next few months are going to be great as I go through my list of 51 unplayed games and get at least 2 or 3 played each month!

No new games bought this month as I am trying to get to the point where I have played everything before burdening myself with anything new!




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19. Board Game: Pueblo [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:750]
Manchuwok
Canada
Mission
BC
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I try to only ever play games I think I'll like, so choosing the best is always hard.

#1 Pueblo - (2 Plays)
Wow! I'm not sure why I'm suprised at this point by Kramer's genius, but this was another home-run. I only played it two player, without the advanced variant, and without the demolition rules. Pure awesome. The rules are so simple, but trying to keep your colored pieces unseen by that chieftain is devilishly difficult. Looking forward to playing this one more.

#2 Viva Pamplona! - (2 Plays)
Another Kramer, another hit. I played this game twice in May, the second time after a rules clarification from Herr Kramer. The order in which the bull cards are flipped makes games feel very different. It also makes the game fairly random, but it's most of all a lot of fun. Pushing your fellow bull-runners to steal their courage is the best part. Both plays were with a full complement of 6 players, and this will come out on many more occasions I hope.

#3 Who's the Ass? - (2 Plays)
An excellent climbing game with a major twist - the 20 point delivering ass. Now there is a wonderful tension going on whereby you want to get rid of your high cards to avoid taking too many points, but you need to keep enough high cards to take control at the right moments, but you need to keep enough low cards to not take the ass at the end of the game. What a lot of fun tactical and strategic manouevering. Not going to say much more than that. Oh, one more thing. This game is better than Tichu. Oh, and it's a Kramer.

#4 Ticket to Ride: Märklin - (1 Play)
Another great game. If I wouldn't have played 3 new Kramers this could have been a top pick. I enjoy TTR and a new fresh map is always good. Looking forward to seeing what comes in the map pack in October.
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20. Board Game: Vinhos [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:196]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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May turned out to be a great month for gaming, because we just made more of an effort to sit down and play when we could. And with a serious backlog of unplayed games, it was mostly new stuff! Here's my list, in order of preference.

Vinhos d10-9

After hearing Doug Garrett talking about this a lot on his podcast, I was really anxious to try it, as it sounded like it was right up our alley. Eventually my impatience took over and I snagged a copy of the German edition from an American online store.

My initial impression of this game is like taking your first sip of a Malbec - heady, complicated, and you're not sure if you like it. But the more you think (or drink), the more you appreciate its layers.

This is too complex to describe in a few sentences - I'll just say that it incorporates the theme very well and the components are really great. Once you've mastered the rules (no easy feat), the playtime isn't all that long. The basic idea in a nutshell is that you're growing and producing wine, which you then use to gain various benefits. You might use your better quality wines for exporting or selling locally, while your lighter wines can be exhibited at a wine fair or sold to a manager.

Looking forward to more plays so I can get underneath what I suspect is a truly great game. For now - it's quite good.

Asara d10-8

We already had played and own the other two Spiel des Jahres nominees this year, so it seemed like we really should try Asara. Our FLGS ordered plenty of copies, and seeing it made it hard to resist. I'm happy to report it's a delightful game, and I think worthy of the nomination.

The rules for this game are easily explained, but the gameplay is more challenging than you might first expect. Players dispatch their buyer cards in various colors to acquire pieces of towers, which can then be built and earn prestige points (and even more with the right embellishments). These buyers can also increase your money, gain you more buyers, etc.

The twist is that each area of the board can only have one color of card, and if you don't have the right color you have to play two other cards. With a limited hand, that's a real issue. Bonuses are dealt out at the end of the game for the biggest and most towers built.

So easy to learn and fun to play, this is an ideal family game that plays well from 2 - 4 players, but it's certainly tighter and more competitive with 4. And a quick note - there is no reason I can see not to play the "professional version" right away, unless you were teaching it to complete non-gamer novices. It's just a couple more elements which make the game interesting.

Campaign Manager 2008 d10-7

I've been learning how to play this game on Yucata, and after a number of plays I've got a good handle on it.

As you've probably read, this is a lighter and less complicated version of 1960: The Making of the President. Once again you have a battle of cards where you try to gain marginal advantage in various states to claim them for your side in the election. The difference here is that you win over a state on one of two issues - Defense or Economy - and when you've convinced enough voters, you "win" that state immediately.

The plus side to this game is that it moves along quickly and is just easier to digest than its predecessor. The downside is I don't like the deck-building aspect at the start of the game which can cripple a newer player that doesn't know better. Also there is a risk of a protracted battle over the last state if the game was evenly matched up to that point. But overall this is a nice implementation of a theme. For now I'll stick with my copy of 1960 because I like it's greater depth.

Atlantis d10-7

Scott received this recently as a gift, and we were anxious to try it out right away. This race to the end game has a simplicity that I like. The rules are easily learned and the play is fast. The basic idea is to move your meeples along a path from Atlantis to the mainland as everything slowly sinks into the sea. Crossing a gap between tiles requires "paying" more, which gets increasingly expensive as the game goes on. Along the way you pick up treasures (as a memory of the island?) to earn VP at the end.

There are multiple strategies to victory, which I appreciate. Do you run ahead in order to have more cards each turn? Take it slow but focus on high-point tiles? Try to keep cards that will move you quickly? The bridges seem a little unnecessary with 2 players, but you'll find it's a necessity in the 4-player version, where gaps open so quickly it boggles your mind.

It may take a few extra minutes to set up, but for such light-hearted fun I think it's worth it. I think it's ideal for 2 players, not bad for 4.

Toledo d10-7

A recent gift from my brother, this was our next step in our Martin Wallace journey (having previously played La Strada and London). Some of the Wallace hallmarks are here - scant resources, and having resources that serve a dual purpose (in this case purchasing and moving).

The unusual theme (forging swords) isn't deeply ingrained in the game, but at least it's different. Players' choices are not easy and planning ahead is key if you can. The real secret is in placing your businesses - collecting income is just as important as the convenience of moving.

The downsides for me are dueling, which feels silly and irrelevant late in the game, and that the game takes a bit longer than it should. But on the whole this is a simple game that's easily taught and plays fast once you get the hang of it.

Ra d10-6

Ra was a recent auction acquisition (how appropriate) that I've been anxious to try. This twist on a standard auction game limits players to only three successful bids each round. And in return you get the bidding tile that was used to win the prior auction. Players work to collect tiles in various areas, struggling not to be the lowest in a few of them.

On the one hand I appreciate the unique bidding mechanism, and that sometimes the auctions are dangerous to win because of disasters. What isn't apparent to me just yet is how players can stay out of the hole when they do poorly early in the game. A few -5 penalties are devastating if you just couldn't win the right tiles.

I'm curious, but not fully convinced this game is as great as I've heard. Modern Art remains the superior auction game for me. Regardless, my rating is preliminary and I look forward to delving deeper into this one to unlock its secrets.


EXPANSIONS

Wits & Wagers Expansion Pack 1 d10-8

The very last item from our Christmas haul that still hadn't hit the table finally saw the light of day at a party recently. More great questions for an already great game. What's not to love? Plus they come with a nifty band that's branded, so there's no need to hold onto the extra box.

I just love this game - consistent fun!
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21. Board Game: The Speicherstadt [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:401]
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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Sunday found me at a very enjoyable day of gaming at Edinburgh Unplugged where I was able to satisfy my needs to play new games!

is a nice little auction game with an interesting mechanism to decide what the price of each item is, and who gets first choice as to whether to pay. With money being constantly tight it's full of hard decisions, but remains fun and engaging.

is also highly recommended - I'd been wanting to play for ages, and it didn't disappoint.I was the king of science, though my non-existent army meant I was a pushover for the militaristic so-called civilizations next to me. Give peace a chance next time guys!

was another I'd heard a lot about so I was glad to give it a try. Once I'd got my head around the various housekeeping fiddly bits it was quite enjoyable, and I even won, though I'm not quite sure how - bidding my entire army to acquire a cultural territory worth 11 points on the next to last turn probably helped quite a bit!

A couple of games of Alien Frontiers completed my sample of new games, this was a fun, tactical worker placement game with dice-rolling. I played once 3 player and once with two, and think it worked better with more people.

The next day I played this co-operative game with my two older kids. On the easiest level we managed to just escape with the treasures, and it was nice to work out plans with them and be on the same side for a change. A nice game.

Finally a few days before I played Albion, two player, which worked nicely.

All in all, a very good month for new games for me, I'll be very happy to play any or all of them again.
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22. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:19]
Mark Siew
United States
San Francisco
CA
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Finally got around to playing the game everyone is talking about. I'll admit it, I was buying into the hype quite a bit. I was quite surprised that, for the most part, it lived up to most of the hype. It's a fun, strategic game that scales really well and plays remarkably quickly for the amount of strategy that's in there. We played it a total of 4 times. Twice with four and twice with three players. I definitely felt a lot more strategic with three as you could plan ahead a bit more since the cards you saw were (theoretically) coming back to you quicker. Overall, I really enjoyed the game. The only thing that would be close to a flaw is the fact that it almost plays too quickly. You get through so many games in such a short timespan that I'm worried I might get burned out on the game if I played too often. Don't have a copy myself and since just about every group I play with has a copy, I might hold off to avoid that burnout.

The rest. Listed in more or less order of preference
Taluva


After watching the recent Dice Tower video review, I was intrigued by Taluva. I'd seen some recommendations for the game before and I remember seeing just how gorgeous the game looked in play. For example:


The pieces are truly unique, well-made and beautiful. Not really sure how they ended up with that horrible cover, though.

I'd also read about that it was relatively hard to find and I couldn't find it in any online stores, but a local game store had a copy, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I've played a couple of two-player games and they were just great. Lots of fun and quick to learn and yet still holding a lot of strategic depth. I'll be interested to see how well it scales to four players.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game


Surprisingly, this game really wasn't on my radar at all until [geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/6791]this[/geekurl] review from Drakkenstrike. I think I was put off by the whole Living Card Game idea. I've deliberately avoided Magic because I didn't want to go too deep in card collecting. However, the core set of this game is a load of fun. I've played mostly with my girlfriend, who was very hesitant about this at first, but we both really enjoyed it. The idea of a co-op card game like this was relatively new to me, so it was quite fun getting used to the system. Our first few tries, we got some rules wrong but still really enjoyed ourselves. Once we got the rules down, we really started to enjoy the rhythm of the game. The cards are beautiful. I'm still not sure if I'll get getting any of the expansions as we're pretty happy with the core set for now.

Troyes

I'd been following this game since Essen and I really was interested in the dice mechanic, especially the ability to buy dice from your opponents. So I was eagerly awaiting the US release from Z-man Games. It has a surprisingly good amount of deep strategy, which is unexpected from a dice game. Although this shouldn't surprise me with the recent crop of inventive dice games like Alien Frontiers and Macao. Overall, while I really did enjoy the game, I'm not quite sure it lived up to the hype. I think I might need to play it a few more times and with more players. I've only played it twice and both were just with two players. It's certainly something I enjoyed, but I'd seen the term "Caylus with dice" thrown around from time to time when describing this. I don't feel like it had as elegant a flow as Caylus. At times the dice management seemed a bit too fiddly for me, but I did like how they all came together to make a very strategic game. The game seemed like it ended a bit abruptly. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I don't feel it quite lived up to the hype preceding it. I'd still love to play more, though.

Merchants & Marauders


Another game I'd been looking forward to playing for quite a while. I really enjoy the theme with this game, but I felt like the gameplay actually ended up being a bit cold. It's hard to describe it, but the game just didn't quite pop for me. The pieces and board are just gorgeous. I only played this as a two-player game, and I feel that it might work better with more players. The NPC ships work pretty well, but I just didn't end up interacting with the other ships all that much as a merchant. I'm still up for playing this one a bit more to see if it works with more players.


Mystery of the Abbey


Played this at a game night at a friend's house. It's an interesting deduction game but for the most part it seemed like we were all fumbling around for most of the game. The game seems to move very slowly for the most part and then end quite abruptly as the information can come quite quickly in the mid to late game. I enjoyed the game, but it felt a little long despite the relatively quick playing time. That may seem like a contradiction, but the slow start made the game seem a lot longer than it actually was. Again, great art and pieces, though.

Cults Across America


Played at a game night at work. It ended up being a bit of a fallback choice since it was basically the only game that we had around that played 6, which was the size of our group that night. Well, unfortunately, that was probably a mistake. While there is a fun theme here, the gameplay of this one was quite lacking for this many players. It might work with fewer. The game was just altogether too silly, too light and too long for my tastes. It takes all the dice-rolling frustration of Risk and combines it with the rule-changing card chaos of Fluxx. While I actually like those two games, when combined you get a bit of a mess that takes four hours for 6 players to play. I'm glad to have tried it but overall it was quite disappointing.
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23. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:347] [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked]
Runcible Spoon
United States
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I have two games (+ expansions for one of them) this month that are new to me.

Thunderstone



Thunderstone x26 plays
Thunderstone: For the Dwarf Promo x21 plays
Thunderstone: Promo Pack x21 plays
Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements x15 plays

My wife and I played some 2p games of this. After a few games her comment was that she likes it because it has a good fantasy theme, she enjoys deck building (Ascension is probably her favorite DB game) and it was pretty easy to learn with lots of re-playability. She said that one aspect of the game bugged her a bit. It apparently was a little too multi-player-solitaire-ish for her tastes after a few plays. This is saying something coming from my wife who is generally pretty cool with multi player solitaire. Nevertheless she said she really enjoyed it and that after some more plays she said she might dig the solitaire nature of the game.

We have also talked about trying out one of the co-op variants next and she said this might increase her enjoyment.

It was a big hit for me. I enjoyed it as a 2p non-co-op but I really enjoyed it solo as well. I actually enjoy watching a movie or listening to music and playing a good solo game so this was right up my alley. Also, I am a fan of games with lots of expansions. I think it usually means a game system has lots of potential and I don't (usually, but there are exceptions to this) have to learn a lot of new rules before I get in and start playing.

As for the expansions I really enjoyed all of them. I played with the Haruli Hero from the Promo and the For the Dwarf promo A LOT and it made for some interesting match ups vs particular dungeon set-ups.

Even though I have 20+ plays I feel like this is a game that could easily get 200+ plays and still won't be old for me. This one was my big hit for the month (although Finca was good too).

Finca



Finca x10 plays

Instant hit with my wife and my in-laws. After our first game as a family my mother-in-law stated loudly and proudly before heading to bed that she was plotting my demise in our next game and she planned on dreaming about her strategy and my crushing defeat. I thought it was funny given that it is a low conflict game about fruit farming.

My wife and I are really getting back into rondel mechanic games. We loved Vikings a few years ago (before I started logging plays) and we have recently been into Seeland and now Finca.

All in all a good month for gaming!


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24. Board Game: Zooloretto Mini [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1842]
Jon Enns
Canada
Herbert
Saskatchewan
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Two new games this month:

Zooloretto Mini
I quite enjoyed it and for some reason seemed to like it better than the original Zooloretto. The night I played that I was very tired so I think I need to try it again as well as Mini and reassess. For now I give Zooloretto Mini

Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
I actually liked this game quite a bit despite the fact that I, apparently unlike just about everyone else, does not particularly like the zombie theme. Hence, I would enjoy it more if the theme were something else, but still, not a bad game. I give it
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25. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:195]
United States
New York
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HYPERBOLE! It's like the greatest thing ever!!!
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Automobile

-- A brilliant, hard-edged economic game. The genius in the game comes from two factors. First is the way it handles demand, in that you know some of what the public wants but have to intuit the complete picture. Second is the supply side of that equation, which is dealt with by Losses which are accrued via overproducing, creating dealerships that may not sell anything, and (my favorite part) by being behind the curve of innovation. This is a game for you if you enjoy things like Power Grid, Container and Planet Steam. It is NOT an economic snowball game. I enjoyed it a lot and cannot wait to play it again.

Poseidon

-- Another game I enjoyed quite a bit. This is an 18xx game that I grokked right away. The learning curve was small, mainly due to the many economic games I have played. I suppose that the theme helped me get into the game more than "we're investing in companies". Yes, it does include every element from all the other 18xx's, but it does not feel clunky nor like you are overwhelmed. Will definitely play it again.

Byzantium

-- Another Wallace, another hit. Brilliant in how you control all sides (the Byzantines, the Arabs, and the Bulgars). This is an abstract wargame mixed with an economic engine twisted up with worker placement, but it all somehow works.

San Marco

-- A game I have been dying to play for 6 years. It was worth the wait. The card division mechanism is brilliant: one player divides the pie, the other picks the split for the two of them. Simple, no frills, area control game otherwise, but how you make that split OR make use of it determines who wins or loses.

Merchants & Marauders

-- A decent enough game with a lot going on. I just wish there was more "there" there.

Gheos

-- So-so tile placer where you play the role of gods creating a planet and profiting from its populace (your worshippers). Decent enough gameplay, but it will not be my first (or second or third) choice out of the games I have the time for.

Amyitis: the Palace expansion

-- I really like how this expansion breathes new life into what is already a favorite. There are two new characters to recruit: a Courtier who provides 1 point and a step further into the palace; a Noble who moves you two steps furter into the palace for 2 coins and he is always available. The Palace provides more to do with your money, as well as four options for the next round: become 1st player; control the Priest Procession; gain 1 coin + a step further into the palace; choose, as an action, any character for free (not the Noble) -- you gain his abilities as if you choice him from the available recruitment pool. These alter how the game is played, with players jockeying within the palace to get the prime abilities.
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