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New to you July 2011 => Best new boardgame
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What new board and card games did you play in July 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
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread

Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): July 2011
New to Your Kids July 2011 - Best New Games you've played with your children and why.
New To You July 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why July 11
New to you a year ago Jul 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in July 2011
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1. Board Game: Ad Astra [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:606]
Andy
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Stockport
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A bumper crop of new games thanks to a convention and a birthday...

NEW GAMES

Ad Astra - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

This was a birthday present from my brother, and I just managed to get in a game with him and my wife before the end of the month... it's a bit like Settlers of Catan, set in space, and without dice.... but also has action cards in a similar way to Race for the Galaxy and a planning board which made me think a bit of roborally or space alert.

I really enjoyed the game. I really like sci-fi themes, and it felt a lot like a diceless catan game that I had been working on (but that also had tile-laying a bit like Carcassonne). The resource collection is very nice.. not relying on dice to generate resources, and I like that you score points by playing scoring cards (so it's not just based on value of buildings etc at the end of the game).

So I guess for me, this pretty much fires Catan... it has everything I enjoy about that game, without the randomness of the dice and without the robber and with a lot more strategy.


Golden City - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

I'm a bit of a fan of Michael Schact games... particularly Valdora, and also the ...retto games, but despite an interest in this, I never got to play it when it first came out. However as a result of discussion following the release of Felinia, I was fortunate enough to arrange a game of this at a convention.
I enjoyed my play of Golden City... it is kind of an area_influence/network_building game in which players place control markers at different points around and in the city, by playing resource cards that are first bought in an auction.. which is really less like an auction, and more like card drafting, with an option to pay to take the card selected by another player.
Overall I think I still prefer the pickup and delivery of Valdora, but this is a good game, which compliments it well a part of the golden trilogy.. I am kindof interested in the third game - Felinia... but the theme is a little off-putting.


Circus Train - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

This was my first introduction to Victory Point Games... and it turned out to be a pretty darn good game. Unlike a lot of their other fate, CT is not a wargame, although it has quite a lot of cardboard counters.

Instead, players are operators of travelling Circuses in the US, who collect acts and put on performances to earn money and ultimately victory points. The game has a bit of a feel of Colosseum in that you record the score of your best performance and this counts at each scoring to see who has the highest... and previous performances add to your score. There are also bonuses for 'famous' acts, for players who have 3 or more of the same type.

There's quite an element of randomness too, as the location of acts, performances etc. are determined by drawing from a deck of location cards.. however towards the end of the deck it becomes possible to predict where things are going to appear. I also really liked the action cards mechanisms, where you have to use all your cards (including the "wages" card where you have to pay your circus acts) before getting them all back.. but you can take a penalty (in reputation early on, or later in the game in actual victory points) to re-use a card you have discarded.

Definitely recommended.. especially as an introduction to VPGs for anyone unfamiliar with this publisher.


Leader 1 - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

My wife and I were invited to play this at a game convention, with a couple of guys we know from our local game group(s). They are both keen cycling fans, and have played the game a lot... and they created a non-standard course for us to play, and we used specialisations (downhiller and sprinter) for our cyclists.

I am a bit of a fan of racing games (my wife not so much), so it was no surprise that I enjoyed Leader 1. I particularly liked the Peloton mechanism, and the fact that each player had 3 riders they could break out with, and spend energy to move away from the pack... by the end of the race everyone had all three riders out, and it actually became a race between climbers who had survived the flat inbetween the two hills, and leaders who had broken out of the peloton late on, with relatively high levels of energy.

I had a lot of fun and would definitely play this again..



Spectral Rails - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsup

This is probably the most unusual pickup and deliver game I have ever played... collecting lost souls and transporting them to their place of rest. plus the game has a very unusual track mechanism.. because you train leaves behind a spectral trail, which you are not allowed to cross... this reminded me of the old painter type videogames, where you leave a trail and are not allowed to re-use areas covered by your own paint.
A very clever game, but I think the theme is rather too odd. I would definitely play it again though, given the chance... especially now that I understand the game better, and how the scoring works.


Straw - 3 plays - thumbsup

A fun little maths-based card game with a theme of loading items onto a camel (and the straw that broke the camel's back)... great as a filler or opener for a game session.


Artus - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsdown

I'm not a huge fan of abstracts and this latest game from alea struck me as being very abstract... in fact the theme (loosely based on camelot) might as well not have been there at all, especially as some of the mechanisms like the promoting of a new king etc. don't really fit thematically. I can tell that it is a very clever action card/risk management game, it's just not exactly for me.


Mijnlieff - 1 play - thumbsupthumbsdown

I'm not usually one for abstract games, but two of us played a game of this while playing a game of Shogun.. we would make our moves while we were waiting for the 3rd player to finish his card selections. It's actually quite a clever little tile placement game, where each type of tile has different rules concerning the placement of the next tile. We played the basic square, but the board is modular, so you can play it in other arrangements too, which would make the game interesting.


Mad Zeppelin - 1 play - thumbsdown

The theme, description and artwork of this game had drawn my interest, so I asked a friend who owned the game if we could play it at a local convention... we gave it a try, and although the game tries very hard to be like citadels, we all found it rather lacking and so gave up after a while in favour of playing Unexploded cow.. .I was interested to read that someone has posted a complete re-design using the games components.. however I'm not sure I'm prepared to waste any more of my life of this game.

New to My Wife
Straw
Ad Astra
El Grande
Saboteur 2
Leader 1
Spectral Rails
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2. Board Game: Battleship Galaxies: The Saturn Offensive Game Set [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1176]
Drew
United States
Wisconsin
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Battleship Galaxies: The Saturn Offensive Game Set


Only one new game this month, so here's my default entry.

But it's not really a bad game. The name "Battleship" gets stuck on for the sake of sales, and I guess because it has little red pegs to mark hits. And I suppose because there's a coordinate system that did have us calling out the familiar chords of "B-3," "G-4" "Hit!" "Miss!" "You sunk my So Bwa Tet!"

Well, maybe that last one is new.

Anyway, what this is is a simple space combat game that isn't necessarily simplistic. It's very much a "toolbox" game, and only a complete dullard would fail to see how this can be (and likely will be) expanded with different ships, scenarios and cards like the HeroScape franchise. In fact, this appeals to me far more than HeroScape, because, dude, it's SPACE COMBAT!

The idea of energy as a currency to allow you to do different things (add weapons, use events, etc.) is pretty brilliant. But I never found myself in the position where I wanted to do more than my energy would allow. Maybe it just wasn't an issue in our simple scenario. But that system also allows for a lot of expandability, too.

Don't be put off by the Battleship name. This is "Battleship in Name Only."

There is no doubt in my mind that creative gamers will soon be pushing this toolbox to the limits. I can't wait to see what they come up with.


New Expansions



Hive: The Mosquito




Hive: The Ladybug


Finally got a chance to try Hive with both The Mosquito and The Ladybug. Though I like the Ladybug better than the Mosquito, neither of these expansion pieces were overused in our games. I probably used the Mosquito more than my opponent, and almost always for an Ant. (That need to have a piece that can quickly deploy to various areas of the hive for the sake of pining pieces makes it tempting to always use the Mosquito in this fashion. The Ladybug didn't get used much at all. But the fact that neither piece was used prominently suggested that the base-game pieces are still where all the action is, and that's a good thing.





Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War


I've had this expansion since it came out, but at about the time I got it, Race for the Galaxy was dropping in popularity in our group. And the times that we did play, we left this out because nobody had really made an effort to understand how it worked. So I made it a point to get it to the table this past month, and my conclusion is What was I waiting for? The prestige feature really is quite simple, and the way it adds options to the game (as well as adding a new endgame trigger) is very cool indeed.

I also like several of the new cards and their powers, and now there's such a stack of cards to go through during a game, that we can play several games in a row and I'm still seeing "new to me" cards.

I was trying to figure out how to evalute this expansion and what it does for Race for the Galaxy, one of my favorite games . . . and I found myself trying to be all sophisticated and diplomatic and say "well on one hand this . . . , but on the other hand that . . . " . . . and in the end I decided that the answer is screw it -- Race for the Galaxy rocks, and the three expansions make for an amazing experience.

So no, I'm not going to try to qualify it. With this expansion, Race for the Galaxy completes its first "arc," and becomes a solid 10.

And I'm not going to go all squishy on that.
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3. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:59]
United States
Davis
California
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Close call for best new game this month, with lots of excellent new games played. The best was either Ascending Empires or Chaos in the Old World.

Both are great, but I'll give a slight nod to Chaos. Ascending Empires is excellent, with solid gameplay and the fun of flicking, but Chaos is just so densely packed with coolness.

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Chaos in the Old World

(image credit: krimsonstarr)

Ever since I first saw Robert Florence's lunatic Downtimetown review of Chaos in the Old World (hello wee'ums!), I knew I needed to own and play this game. I bought it, it sat on my shelf for years, got traded, and got reacquired, all without getting played. Why? The dark and dweeby theme, chrome-laden game play, and the reported need for four (and only four) players to make the game shine. I couldn't figure out how to fit all of that into a regular game group game night.

This month, I finally managed to marshal three other evil-doers for a "special session." Happily, the game was as good as I'd hoped (good enough to get the same group back together for another special session play).

At its core, Chaos is an area influence game with a simple combat mechanism that can be used to attack other players and displace them. The thing that makes the game shine is its asymmetry. Each of the four players are "Chaos Gods" with markedly different powers (i.e., a unique mix of troop types and special power cards) and victory conditions (in addition to a global victory condition of "racing around the victory point track"). The variant powers really give each player a different feel, with different strategic choices and capabilities.

Plus, each game you use eight special event cards, one per turn, which introduce some thematic and significant changes to the situation on the board. The event cards are drawn randomly from a deck of 40 or so, so there's lots of variability. These are also a game clock, if the evil Chaos Gods haven't ruined the world before the last turn of the game, everybody loses!

I've played twice now and both games really played out differently (except that I won both of them, bwa-ha-ha).

The game has a bit of a learning curve and I was glad to play both games with the same group of four, so we all were getting our heads around the strategies at roughly the same rate.

Overall, this is an excellent game, with loads of flavor and replayability. The only downside is the need for exactly four players and the grotty theme, which might make it hard to get the game to the table as much as I'd like.

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Ascending Empires

(image credit: firstfletch)

Flicks in Spaaaaace!

This is a fairly low complexity space exploration and development game, where you use ships to explore and colonize planets, then use actions to either build up defenses or build research stations. Research stations can be used to acquire tech advances in one of four different tracks (which match the color of the planet where you've got research stations -- if you've got two "orange" research stations, you can go up to level two tech on orange).

It's a clean and clever design with just enough meat on its bones to be interesting over the length of the game (90-120 minutes).

But here's the thing: your ships are wooden disks and you "navigate" them by flicking them across the smooth surface of the map. Planets are larger wooden disks that act as bumpers that you can carom off without penalty. But hit an enemy ship and you've "rammed" it destroying both. Go off the edge of the board and you're "lost in space" and your ship goes back to your supply waiting to be rebuilt. Stop in "orbit" around a planet and you can attack, defend, or blockade that planet.

Sometimes your flick will fizzle and the ship will hardly move. Sometimes the disk will flip up on its side and roll around the board, producing fun tension as you wait to see whether it will be lost in space or will settle down somewhere on board -- maybe somewhere totally unexpected but useful.

The flicking mechanism really kicks the game up to a higher level of fun. Lots of groans and shouts and taunting involved.

Unfortunately, in my experience the two-player experience is a bit weak. Too much tit-for-tat and zero sum stuff going on. With three, it was much more interesting, with collaboration to restrain the leader.

I'm really looking forward to trying it with four.

[UPDATE: tried it with four at my regular game group. First game was a bit wonky as the new players worked on figuring out what they should do. We finished and everyone said, let's play again, which is a good sign for a 90 minute game! Second playing was much tighter. In the post-mortem, the group praised the game for having a fairly simple but solid core rules engine, with the flicking to add a level of somewhat controllable indeterminacy -- like dice that you can sort of control -- which really elevates the fun.]

------------------------------------

Hacienda

(image credit: johncarlton)

In a slower month, this could easily have been the best new game of the month.

It's a nice tight light/medium route connection game, with a modest economic component (it costs money to obtain cards or to place certain point enhancing landscape features; other actions generate money).

Your actions are limited, so you need to look ahead, see what's available, what others are doing, etc. You can block people out of important scoring opportunities, which is always fun.

Nice looking. Didn't overstay its welcome. Thinky, but not brain burning. I liked it quite a bit. Recommended.

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Qwirkle

(image credit: meskue)

I was headed for a week's vacation sharing a cabin with a bunch of Scrabble-hounds and thought they might like a change of pace (that wasn't too far outside their comfort zones). I'd heard a lot of praise for Qwirkle, which was described as involving a lot of the same concepts as Scrabble, so I thought I'd grab a copy and bring it along.

It's a good abstract. Kind of a cross between Scrabble and Ingenious. I've tried it with two and four and it seemed to work well at both extremes. It was well received, but won't displace Scrabble for the true believers. Maybe an occasional alternative, with a shorter playing time.

It's pretty, portable, and light entertainment that is very accessible for non-gamers. A very good game for that niche.

------------------------------------

Parade

(image credit: dagerr)

Brought this to the cabin too, and it saw a fair amount of play. It's a tight and clever design. Cards are divided into six colored suits, with cards numbered from 0 to 10 in each suit. On your turn, you must place a card at the end of a row of cards (it's a parade!).

A number of cards equal to the value of the card you just played are "immune" from being taken. So if you play a six, the six preceding cards are immune. If there are any cards left in the parade that aren't immune, you take any of those cards that are the same suit as the card you just played or equal to or lower in value to your card.

You don't want to take cards, because they give you points. The winner is the player with the fewest points. Normally, if you take a card, you get as many points as the value of the card (take a six, get six points), BUT if you have more cards in a suit than any other player, each card of that suit only counts as one point, regardless of its value (shades of Poison).

There are a lot of interesting decisions to be made. You'll discover the tactics as you play, so I won't bother describing them.

A quick, light filler that looks nice on the table and is super-cheap.

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Cold War: CIA v. KGB

(image credit: dagerr)

This was a surprise. I've read a bunch of reviews and comments that describe it as a variant of Blackjack. That doesn't do it justice. There is a "play cards to get the highest value but don't bust" element, but you can use the special powers of the cards you play to kill other cards, steal them, refresh them, or peek at the deck. And each round you secretly choose an agent with special powers, including killing the enemy agent and letting you secretly reverse the rule for who wins the round (i.e., if you win, I win instead).

There's a lot of double thinking and tactical tweaking going on that was pretty meaty for a card game.

The cards have nice, thematic period art on them, and are well designed to convey the necessary information. A very nice package in terms of the gameplay and physical design.

------------------------------------

Biblios

(image credit: EndersGame)

A quick set collection game, where you can manipulate the values of the different sets. It's nice looking and pleasant enough, but didn't grab me. I expect I'll try it a few more times to give it a fair shake, but I'm not sure it's a good fit for me.

---

[Post edited to mess around with the image size. I'm often dissatisfied with the medium size images (which are too big for the right column display context) and the smalls (which aren't quite big enough). Wish there was an image size that would scale perfectly with the right column spacing.]

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4. Board Game: Ghost Blitz [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:697] [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Zarathustra
United States
Atchison
Kansas
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Curb Appeal

I kept things fairly light this month with new games. For heavier stuff, I visited some old friends like Puerto Rico, Ra, and Santiago. This is a powerful combination of super-awesome.

Ghost Blitz


Geistesblitz beats out Jungle Speed for best quick react pattern recognition game. First, the bits are awesome. Second, it lends itself to calling out the right item instead of doing the mad grab (though you can still do it if you want).

The final reason is what makes Geistesblitz a truly engaging game is that it doesn't ask for the same identification each time. Most of the time the goal is to identify the item that does not match the two item or the two colors (which do not match the color of the actual physical objects) on the card. However, some of the cards have a properly colored object on them; these require that object to be identified. It is a small twist but it is amazing how much it mixes things up.



Five items seems just right and the fact that they are great wooden bits adds tons to a small game like this that could have been done more cheaply. All in all, I think it is the best game of its type out there.

Wits & Wagers


I'd like to think that I'm fairly astute, but man I am lousy at the numbers game. I thought I was high when I said Picasso had 40 paintings that sold over a million dollars. I was way low. I did know the year Sputnik was launched though.

Anyway, I still really enjoyed myself and with seven questions there's no way the game overstays it's welcome. Plus, I've never really thought of this game as having great components, but it does. The mat is well made and I love that they went with wood for the bet markers ( though looking at the images, it appears that has changed). A poker chip aficionado would probably dislike the chips, but they work for the game.



I've been wanting to expand my party game library lately and now I know the first game I'm going to get.

Klondike


Man, talk about cool components. Great wooden bits, a silver pan (for, you know, panning), and even a rope to make sure the cool wooden bits don't go rolling onto the floor. The only problem is the rope gets a little stiff and doesn't quite lay down. Still, a good idea that I doubt most companies would have provided.



Beyond the bits, Klondike has some solid game play that is super intuitive because all you do is try to keep the gold in the pan (we misplayed this by trying to get the gold out, but it doesn't effect the game much). The bidding keeps everyone engaged throughout. A great and distinct dexterity game.



Ugg-Tect


Speaking of distinct games, they don't get much more distinct than this. I love the team play, the limited communication, and the race aspect. And of course I love the inflatable clubs. It's a challenging game especially when one of your builders is a Grumpy Gus who keeps moving pieces between two places even though you keep whacking him on the head so he knows that both places are wrong.



Word to the wise: always let the owner of the game inflate the clubs.

Zoowaboo


I really like the idea of this game and it seems so simple. Everybody votes if a bunch of animals can fit onto raft (or, more accurately, into a cutout in a cardboard raft). Once at least one person votes no, the rest try to fit all the wooden animals in the space provided. A fun spacial puzzle game.



However, it is easier than it looks to fit the animals in the raft. A round starts with 10 animals but typically needs 14 or 15 to be worth voting against. Even then, the fit was made every time. I also think that the progressive scoring is flawed but easily fixed.

I know this is a kid's game, but it should work better with adults than it does. Obviously, having a better understanding of what a raft can hold helps, but I would still love to see a better tighter implementation of this idea.

That said, the game has promise, is not overly long, and looks great. I'm glad to have it in my collection.


Super Circles


Not much to say here. It is a solid implementation of speed. The color recognition is a challenge (for me at least). I appreciate the graphic design here too.

Pfusch


I can't think of any other games that use clay and aren't party games. This is a really clever concept of using wooden blocks covered in clay for good construction and using pure clay blocks for shoddy construction. It's a fun tactile experience and the art reminds me of Mad Magazine (a very good thing).



My problem is that it is too simple. It could use a little more structure to create interesting choices. No matter how big the building, the value of the construction blocks put into it remain the same even though bigger buildings are more exposed to a bad inspection. Also, the simultaneous selection works fine but I would like a little bit more card interaction (like in Montgolfiere).

Too unique for any regrets, but this could have been a much better game.

Mord im Arosa


This is a very slight game that using an aural guessing mechanic to drive scoring. It's pretty random and a bit longish, but man that apartment tower is cool. The art is evocative. Even the square box is cool.



Despite a less than inspiring first encounter, this might work with a different crowd and the components make it worth a second look.

Yggdrasil

What a pretty board! Too bad it is wasted on yet another coop that is lacking tension or fun. Sack management is not my idea of a good time. Did I mention that the board is pretty?


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5. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:142]
Brian Boyle
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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A Few Acres of Snow
3 plays

I was lucky enough to be demoed this earlier in the year by Martin Wallace at CanCon. Although I am not a great fan of deck-building games (Dominion leaves me pretty cold), the use of deck-building to underpin the theme (and not an end in itself) had me interested.

With three plays in as many days, I feel like I have picked a winner. The way that Martin has used the deck-building mechanic to deliver a meaningful and thematic gaming experience is real ‘standing on shoulders of giants stuff’. The deck building combined with the map is genius. I thought London was good with the card play and a little so-so with the map. Here the card plays and the map come together beautifully.

I am only just beginning to come to grips with the options and strategy. Game play has come down from 2hours to just over an hour – and a very tense hour at that as both players keeps their decks ‘relatively lean, mean and fluid’ with multiple card drafting options. Although a bewildering set of options seems to confront you at first, the game is surprisingly straightforward once you get the hang of it. However it’s not without the typical Wallace quirkiness, driven by historical accuracy (is Kennebrec the next Birkenhead?). My non-game-playing spouse even played one game (she won) and enjoyed it.

It is difficult to avoid gushing about this game, but for me, this highly innovative game is the best 2-player game in a long time.

Only one question: What’s Michael Stipe doing on the box front?

Rating: 9/10


Airlines Europe
2 plays - both with 3 players

Airlines Europe behaves like a well-oiled machine. The step-up from ‘Ticket to Ride’ for new gamers, it has effectively fired Samarkand: Routes to Riches for me as an entry-level share/route building game.

Plays fine with 3 players – but the board is a little bit open for my taste (blocking is almost impossible). The quasi-random appearance of the scoring rounds and game end adds a lot of tension to the game.

Turns are short, with only one action (from 4 options) per turn – and the game is over (just) before this gets too repetitive.

Fantastic production values.

Provisional rating: 8/10
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6. Board Game: Carson City [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:230]
 
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Carson City - 5 plays.

"Caylus with guns" is probably an oversimplification, but it does kind of hit the same buttons without making my head ache. After five plays with a maximum of three players, I enjoy it quite a bit. I'm curious to see how it plays with more as so far the gunfights have been rare. With more players, I assume the spot selection gets tighter and forces more competition.

Grand Cru - 6 plays.

In spite of Drakkenstrike's review warning against playing Grand Cru as a two-player game, my wife and I have enjoyed it quite a lot. Having only one action per round means it plays fast (even when pausing to consider your next action). There's a good degree of interaction in and competition over the auction, the festival, and the pricing. And you really have to watch the other player's position as much as your own.
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7. Board Game: JAB: Realtime Boxing [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1728]
Mark Saya
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Only new game of the month but it was a good one. Although my younger, more agile and quick-witted opponent battered me twice I really admire this game design and look forward to many more plays.
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8. Board Game: Innovation: Echoes of the Past [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
Jay Sachs
United States
Williamstown
Massachusetts
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Innovation is without a doubt my current favorite game, and despite an uncooperative schedule, seeing many plays. One of my main Innovation partners generously gave me Innovation: Echoes of the Past as a gift-for-no-occasion-so-lets-play-it, and it takes the base game to a new level for me. I will say, though, that another 100+ individual cards to bear in mind makes it somewhat overwhelming. I have yet to see in play all the expansion cards.


I had preordered Founding Fathers when it was first announced, based on the irresistable potential of a multi-player Twilight Struggle. Sadly, it's languished on my shelf for nearly a year, and I was about to put it out to pasture in a Math Trade ... but I convinced my wife to give a it a go two-player. It turns out to be a decent enough 2p game that I am now trying to get a FTF 3+ player game. In the meantime, it's up on Yucate where I'm in two games.


Also new is Apples to Apples, which I played with my kids (13 and 8). I had extremely low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. Infrequently, and with a group of people with clever senses of humor (which absolutely includes both kids), I'd welcome this game.


Finally, I got to play Dominion: Cornucopia. I don't play Dominion and its expansions enough to really know them all that well, which probably keeps the plays pretty fresh. Cornucopia offered more in the same fun puzzle of "cracking the nut" of a new tableau of kingdom cards.
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9. Board Game: Hanabi & Ikebana [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
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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Hanabi & Ikebana x3


I have learned that there are three kinds of cooperative game: puzzle-like tests of optimization, Arkham Horror and Hanabi. I enjoy a good coop, but to find one so unlike any other is a true treat. I think this game is fantastic after three plays and am hopeful to see it get better with more. I have only played it two-player so far and got a decent score of 20 on my first try. It seems as if it would be much more difficult with more players due to the fixed number of blue chips, and I am anxious to try it out at other player counts.



Paris Connection x2


My second happy surprise in July is Paris Connection. I don't think SNCF needs any introduction, as it's been talked about for some time. This is a game that plays in 20 minutes the first time you try it and as soon as you finish it makes you say, "Ohhhhh, I want to try that again right now." After that first scoring you learn so much but it's not so easy to master as all that. Even at the high price of the Queen version, it's a purchase I'm happy to have made. I'm disappointed to see it's not recommended at higher player counts, but I may try that for myself.



Automobile x1


In the middle of my first play, I said to the table, "The break-down-in-hysterics factor in this game is high." This is one of the most fun game sessions I've had in a long time. The tension leading up to the reveal of market demand, the groans and cries of despair as people realize they will not sell all the cars they produced, the sad feeling of black cubes piling on you after one round of miscalculations… Great play. I have read it can be samey and I can imagine that, but I really want to find out for myself. Super fun.



Battlestar Galactica x2


I resisted this game for a long time because of the licensed property tie-in. I succumbed to interest because of the legions of fans on BGG. I played an entire 3+ hour solo game with 5 "players" to learn the rules so it would flow well for my first real play. Just at the end of the month, I finally got that first play to happen. We had good table participation and it was fun from the start. Half-way through the game, we began to suspect there were no Cylons (there weren't) and the shift at the sleeper agent phase took on a menacing portent. One player almost cracked up when receiving his cards (he was "Boomer") and we brigged him immediately. We were at 6 distance with one Cylon in the brig and all the dials in the blue. What could go wrong? Let's just say that jumping as early as possible and losing 3 population is not a good idea. Game 1 to the Cylons and I'm fully prepared to admit this is a great game even though I lost on behalf of humanity.



Nightfall x4


This is the second deck-builder I have purchased. Nothing post-Dominion interested me until this game. Other deck-builders simply did not depart far enough from the formula and I am one of those who believe Dominion is a fantastic game; so why get an inferior knock-off? Nightfall truly turns the structure on its head. After two plays at a game meet-up, I picked up a copy for myself. This is a cool game, though the strategy is a little murky. On repeat plays, it doesn't flow as well as I thought it might (the decks bog down and get repetitive in the end-game) but this is still worthy of being my second deck-builder. I'm interested to see how much the "must attack each turn" feel it has in common with Quarriors! (which I have preordered).



Airlines Europe x1


I purchased this to play with some friends who love Ticket to Ride. I don't love Ticket to Ride. I was hoping this might be a good middle ground and I think I'm happy with it in that role. It was an interesting game and after one play I don't think I have a handle on winning strategy or the impact of chance in the card draw. Nevertheless I am happy to own this game and I definitely prefer it to Ticket to Ride.



Defenders of the Realm x4


An interesting game. The Pandemic parallels are obvious and the things it adds to the equation are cool and fun. Launius' support for this title post-launch has been astounding. So why the low rating? Mostly the game is a little too long. I'd say this game is twice as fun as Pandemic, but the problem is that it takes 4-5 times as long to play. I start to get bored 3/4 of the way through it on most plays so far. It might be better with people who play more quickly, but I'd rather not have that as a limitation on my games. I got it free and like it enough to keep it.



High Frontier x3


This is a game I rate lower simply because it has such a narrow window for playability. You need a certain type of gamer and you need a significant chunk of time to get this played. The auctions are interesting and very tight, which was unexpected. In fact, the early game is almost solely an economic race of minor optimizations and opportunistic grabbing of techs that benefit your plan. How well you synergize your tech purchases will determine how well you succeed once you get an ET factory up and running. From that point, the end game comes fast. My table was a little disappointed in that piece of the pacing, feeling as if the game board was only around 10% explored when the final turn came around.
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10. Board Game: 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:897]
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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8 new games and 6 of them were good. Not a bad ratio.

Game of the Month
1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight: d10-8 (1 play)

1860 is a very unique twist on the 18xx system. The main change is planning for the train rush via bankrupting your own companies as it's not possible to finance train purchases from your own pocket. But there are lots of other distinctive features which combine into one of the best 18xx on the market although die-hard fans of the system might have a problem with the different approach needed. Components are weak but acceptable and I'm glad that I got my preorder even though the publisher JKLM went bankrupt in between preordering and delivery.

Good games
Dungeon Twister: d10-7 (1 play)

Combine an abstract chess-like nucleus with a dungeon crawler theme, an action point system and card-driven combat et voilá: Dungeon Twister.
I'm not a big fan of dungeon crawlers but luckily the focus is on gameplay. Heaps of options and decisions are generated by up to 5 action points available per move. DT is AP prone and surprisingly deep/dry which might be a bit of a disappointment for players expecting a more theme-driven quick dungeon experience. Notwithstanding its abstract core, the game succeeds for me in generating a story.

Texas & Pacific: d10-7 (2 plays)

Texas & Pacific is a variant of Chicago Express which is a bit easier to grasp. The biggest difference is introducing a private investment option by replacing the city development action with a ranch action which is easy to evaluate and will only benefit the player choosing it. Investment appraisal is further simplified by one of the railroads having only two shares and no chance for an extra dividend. Still, the system is opaque enough to provide the typical CE atmosphere of fragility, uncertainty and changing alliances. T&P lacks the originality CE had to get a higher rating.

Tower of Babel: d10-7 (1 play)

Enjoyable entry to the area majority genre. As can be expected from Knizia, Tower of Babel has an elaborate scoring mechanism. The idea of all players being able to contribute towards any build of other players is clever but the simple mechanism of the trader card coupled with a set collection subgame turns this game from a mediocre to a worthy gamers's game. It probably suffered from its dry and subtle nature which is not what people expect from a major German publisher like HiG. As a function thereof it's rather fragile and susceptible to unintended kingmaking when players don't foresee the results of their actions. Better with experienced players, not recommended for casual gamers. No problems with the action cards here.

Pergamon: d10-7 (1 play)

Surprisingly entertaining twist on the set collecting genre but my expectations were pretty low in first place as it sounded like a boring Thebes clone with the drab design taken from Mines of Zavandor. While I still don't like the design except the VP chits, I would rather play Pergamon than Thebes.
Special RFTG award: worst iconography ever!

The Castles of Burgundy: d10-7 (1 play)

Trivia: What do Seeland and Burgen von Burgund have in common? Players collect lots of VPs. The winner in both games will have more than 200 of them. A feeling of accomplishment is guaranteed.
In each of the 25 turns players have two actions which can be chosen from a broad array of options to build up their duchy. Mechanically this is a tile-laying game governed by dice that (dis-)allow selceting some of the options. Expect AP to be at work here. Typically, at game end individual players' mats will likely be filled up almost completely no matter which way the players went. It's efficiency in VP generation that's key. There's no destructive element in BvB. Interaction is usually not targetted but definitely provided nonetheless as the game consists of many small races to reach something first.
A good effort, more plays have to show if it will have the same staying power as some of the other Alea big boxes.

OK games
Recicle: Tempos de Crise: d10-6 (1 play)

Recicle is a solid economic optimization game but it is not the hidden gem people are always looking out for. It could have needed some further development as usual for small publishers. Gameplay chugs along, the money track feels odd, some of the available purchases seem to be priced wrong and replayability is limited once the purchases and extra cards are understood and compiled into working order as there's no random factor in setup or play. Still, there's some interesting decisions to be made to squeeze out that extra efficiency that lets you gain the one or two additional VP's that will decide the game.

Average games
Perikles: d10-5 (1 play)

Perikles is typical for Warfrog. Wallace constructs a system with some clever ideas and sinks everything with a few big blunders. The political system is great. Whoever wins the struggle for control of a city is controlling its armies for the following battles. The brillant twists are the assymetric city powers and the leader voting enabling players to gain control even if they haven't the strongest influence in a city. The battles are where Perikles falls apart. Battles are resolved with two D6 and a single battle can easily be worth 20% of the total score. There aren't enough battles to compensate for one or two unlucky losses. Add to this a total lack of restrictions who to attack and you have a nearly random kingmaking fest which can take up to three hours.
My pet peeve with Wallace's games are the rough corners. In Perikles it is the disjoint between the influence tiles taken and using them again for placing armies. It's as odd as the card usage in Brass.

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11. Board Game: Around the World in 80 Days [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:993]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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July started out with a bang. I had a lot of gaming sessions with family, especially around Independence Day, and convinced them to play a few different new games. Unfortunately then things started to fall apart. All my gaming opportunities started to disappear. Suddenly our focus shifted from games to movies, which I really don't mind that much. But, as the month came to a close we slipped in a few more gaming sessions and at least 1 more new game. Picking my favorite this month really wasn't much of a chore. I really enjoyed this game and it shined above the other choices tremendously.



1 = Around the World in 80 Days - I've never been a huge fan of race games, so I didn't know what to expect when I tried this one. But, this is strange, it's a race game where the person who completes the circuit first doesn't necessarily win. In fact there is some strange time-travel thing going on where you could complete the trip around the world 3 turns before another player, and yet they could still complete the trip in less time than you. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt. Despite this mind-boggling mechanism the game is lots of fun, and is dead simple to learn. The time thing, while confusing if you sit down and think about it, is implemented really well and makes so much thematic sense. I like all the tough decisions you have to make (should I get moving now, or should I hold out for a matching number card.) I haven't explored all the strategies in this game yet, but it is one I'm anxious to try again soon, and it is one that my wife has actually requested to play again.



2 = Olympia 2000 (v. Chr.) - Every once in awhile I take a chance on a game simply because I find it for a really cheap price, or I like the theme, or something like that. In the case of this game it was a little of both. I honestly didn't know what to expect, but this game was a delightful quick little card game. The theme is cute, and the strategies are really subtle. Knowing when to play your best athlete or to throw the worst is very difficult. I like that the game offers those kind of deep decisions and yet it has such a light feel. This is definitely a game I can share with all my family while still being entertained myself. While there are a few German words on the cards, the meaning of them is superfluous. So a game that I initially suspected would be a challenge to translate ends up being one that is virtually language-independent. I can see us playing this a lot in the future.



3 = Make 'n' Break Extreme - Speed games tend to be a bust in my family. I really wasn't holding out much hope for this one. And after the first 2 players took a turn, my wife said "I'm not sure if we need to play that many rounds, it doesn't look that interesting." Then her turn came and her mind was changed. There's just something so cool about building these different structures. And the range of difficulties is nicely balanced with the points you receive. In fact the only real downside we saw with the game is the die. Since some players had twice as much time because of lucky rolls they were bound to win. We all agreed after playing that we needed to switch to the more strategic variant they have in the rules which eliminates the die. But, with that one change, I can see this being a notable exception to my family's speed game hatred.



4 = Bezzerwizzer - I want to like this game. I mean I want to like it so badly. In fact the strategic play of the tiles is really interesting. Knowing when to steal a question and, even more importantly, when to switch categories is very thought-provoking. But the questions are so tough that we literally had 3 teams that moved less than 5 spaces while my team raced out to a 10 space lead. And my in-laws were anxious to quit as soon as they saw the opportunity. So you really need a group of players with a good amount of trivial knowledge in order to make this fun for everyone. In the right group I can see this game being a winner, but it's going to take some work to find the exact right group.
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12. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:24]
Eugene van der Pijll
Netherlands
Den Haag
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I played a number of new games this months. Here are they, from best to worst:

Dominant Species: oh my goodness, what a terrific game. It's a cross between Agricola and El Grande, and is easily as interesting as both of these. I played this once, and immediately ordered my own copy. The only play until now lasted about 4 hours, but it felt much shorter.

Roads & Boats: I finally played this excellent game. And I loved it! It reminds me of some older Civilization-type computer games; especially of Settlers, which has the same feeling of having to build up your empire from a few basic materials. My opponents weren't quite as enthusiastic as me, and so I'm afraid I'll have to explore this game on my own.

Ambush!: a wargame; not my usual fare. I didn't log this one, because it was a solo game. It was a nice experience, even if a bit slow. I'll try some of the other missions one day, but don't expect me to turn into a wargamer soon.

Rubik's Illusion: I owned this game when I was younger, but I don't think I ever played it. It's an interesting variant in the "X in a row" family of games. There's quite a bit of complexity here because of the mirror, and because of the rule that you don't win if you have more than the required 5 in a row.

Ligretto: it's a party game, not a game for game nights. And as a party game, it's ok. At least, when played with 4. We first played with 3, but it seemed to be broken, as nobody could play more than 2 or 3 cards per round.

K2: this game is too random; it's all about drawing the right cards when you're in the correct position in the turn order to profit from it.

Cathedral: an interesting little abstract game. It has some resemblance to Go, as you have to try to surround territtory on the board. Unfortunately, it's a bit too short to be really good. It's beautiful though.

World of Warcraft: The Boardgame: let's just say that this is not my kind of game. It was good to try this, but it lasted too long, with too few interesting decisions and too many dice to hold interest long.

Spel van de Eeuw: a Trivial Pursuit clone, with questions about the 20th century. Yuck.



And then I also played a few new expansions:

Power Grid Canada: a very nice experience. The export cities are a nice addition to the game.

Die Siedler von Catan: Kartenspiel – Handel & Wandel: this is possibly the most boring expansion to the Settlers card game. The cards in this expansion are quite similar to a number of cards in the base game, so I didn't really think it changed the game much.
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13. Board Game: Ascending Empires [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:470]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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I didn't try a whole lot of new this month, but what I played was pretty interesting, regardless.

New Games

Ascending Empires thumbsup thumbsdown



I'm glad I got to play this game twice this month, because while the second game was a fun, antagonistic romp, the first one was a long, frustrating, antagonistic slaughter. Had I not played that second game, my comments would be a lot harsher than what you're reading right now. I'm not sure if I'm as sold on the game as others are, but at the very least, my opinion of the game has improved.

Now, I haven't played a lot of 4X games, so I don't know how other games of this type handle the different aspects of the game. I imagine the the tech development, the settling, and the resource collection would be similar, but I get the strong feeling that the flicking is a new way to travel from place to place. And given that space exploration came come with a lot of unknown factors to contend with, I think that flicking a disc is a fantastic way to capture that sort of thing. At first, the flicking put me off (one bad flick at a critical point could spell doom for you), but later I realized that this is almost like the fog-of-war effect that comes from the roll of the dice or the draw of a card in most wargames. Having a little unpredictability is good, and adds a nice tension to the game. The momentary angst that precedes a tricky shot turns into excited whoops or sorrowful groans, and it adds a lot of fun to the game. At first, I thought that one bad flick could ruin a game, but I saw one guy come back from a couple of bad flicks at critical points in the game.

The game can get a bit tedious, though. With only one action per turn, it takes a while to build up your empire, since you first have to move to that planet, land on that planet, establish a base, build a colony, recruit, build a city, etc., etc., etc., and if all you're doing over the course of several turns is building, then it just gets boring fast. Also, moving across the board can take time with just two ships, and until you develop those technologies, it's very much an expand, settle, build ships, expand, settle, build ships sort of game, which, again, gets a little tedious.

I originally thought that a player falling behind the other players in technologies would be at a serious disadvantage, but the second game showed me that this wasn't the case. The real key is to be adaptable to changes on the board, and not stay too much in one mindset that you ignore other potential benefits, or potential threats. Overall, it's fun, and unique. Don't pass up a chance to play the game if you can.

Don Quixote thumbsup thumbsdown



The comparisons to Carcassonne and Take it Easy! have already been done to death, as are the comparisons to Cities. I see a little bit of Ta Yü in there, too, and it's always a bit of a warning sign when I see that a game borrows so much from other games. In the case of Don Quixote, it's not quite as good as its predecessors, but it's really not that bad, either.

What frustrates me the most is the randomness of the card draw, paired with the randomness of the tiles. You do get a chance to work with a predetermined set of tiles, but sometimes you get the absolute worst choice for your last tile, and at that point you have to place it. There may be a case to be made for not banking too heavily on one tile, but sometimes the way the draw comes up, you don't have a lot of choice. It's frustrating in the solitaire game, and I wonder if it would only get worse in a multiplayer game, where someone else's tile draw helps them greatly, while yours is mediocre, at best.

It's a fun little game, without some of the complexities of Cities, and I wound up getting two sets so more players could join in the game. Getting them on the 75%-off table at Barnes & Noble certainly helped with that decision!


New Expansions

7 Wonders: Leaders thumbsup



I figure this is going to show up on a lot of entries this month, not just as a discussion point, but as a "Best" choice. Why? Well, the expansion adds a lot of newness to the game, without really mucking up what made the base game so enjoyable. The drafting element is still there, so you get to make choices about how you want to proceed through the game, the cards you pick can help you formulate a strategy for the entire game, and if that strategy doesn't work out for you, you can always ditch cards for gold or for your wonder, whichever is more beneficial to you. The new board is pretty cool, and appears to be overpowered at first glance, but the guy who played that board didn't win the game (though his neighbor, who had the Mannekin Pis board and borrowed his ability twice, did, and only by two points). It certainly gives that player a nice advantage, though.

Anyway, I can see myself continuing to play the game with the expansion, but I can also see myself taking it out and just playing the game with its base components, too. That's not really bad praise for an expansion.

7 Wonders: Stevie Wonder thumbsup thumbsdown



To be honest, there's really nothing bad about this leader card; unfortunately, it's really not that great, either. It's a perfect ability for a promo card, since it's something I can take or leave. Completist that I am, though, it was something that had to be mine. We only got it in the mix one time, and I didn't get to use it, but its ability, compared to some of the other leaders, was just kind of blah. Of course, it does give you an ability that's better than just getting a science symbol, or one that gives you just VPs, but it's not nearly as interesting as the ones that give you bonus points for collecting sets, or giving you certain discounts on building.

Again: I could take it or leave it. I don't think folks need to be clamoring to get it to finish out their set, though.

Nightfall: Martial Law thumbsup thumbsdown



I don't care if this is listed as a base game in the database, nor do I care that the game includes the wound and starter cards to play the game right out of the box. This is an expansion, and I'm going to treat it as such. That means that I'm only going to look at what the expansion adds to the game, and talk about what I think of it all.

As near as I can tell, the only things added to the game (other than the new card sets) is the "Feed" characteristic, and the different Wound cards. They don't change up the game that badly, and in fact, it allows players to play a standard game, just with an added element. I don't know how the chain/kicker colors are sorted out among the cards, so I don't know if anything has been addressed, as far as basic game play, but I know that what the expansion adds is different enough to justify the expansion, but not so different that it messes with the basic way of playing the game. So, good expansion, right?

Well, if you already like the game, I think you'll like the expansion, too. The problem is that I'm not really sure if I like this game a lot. It's passable, and certainly different enough from other deck-building games to make it unique, but I struggle with understanding the chain/kicker connections well enough to really play this game. I spend a lot of time each turn trying to figure out what combinations I need, and it slows the game down a lot. It isn't intuitive for me, and while struggling with a game doesn't immediately lower my ratings for it (Brass and Container are favorite games that eluded me for a long time), this game just seems like too much work for what I get out of it. I bought the expansion hoping that the new cards would bring something to the game that would lift it up for me, but so far, no go. I want to give the game a couple more plays before I decide for good, but so far the prospect, like the game, is a little bleak.
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14. Board Game: Pocket Battles: Elves vs. Orcs [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1550] [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked]
Duchess of Erat
Netherlands
Enschede
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Pocket Battles: Orcs vs. Elves 3x
Fun game, it isn't as complicated as the rulebook makes it appear to be. Quick enough for a rematch after a loss.

King of Tokyo 5x
Fun filler, looks very nice as well.


Eat Poop You Cat 2x
Silly drawing game. We played with 4, which meant ending with a drawing, it is probably more fun to end with a sentence. We still had fun.

7 Wonders: Leaders 1x
Nice addition to 7 Wonders, it doesn't change the game too much, but the leaders do give you an incentive to go for a certain strategy.


Small World Underground 1x
The new SW version. I like that the board is easier to conquer, there are more empty regions in the beginning, and it's a bit more difficult to turtle somewhere. The relics and places are a nice addition, it gives everyone something to aim for.

Traders of Carthage 1x
Fun mechanic of either buying the lot, or taking one card as money, making it easier for the next person to buy the lot.

VOC! Founding the Dutch East Indies Company 1x
The mechanic of drawing a route to a city while blindfolded is fun, but it was too difficult in the beginning. Amsterdam won by a huge margin, because it took us forever to reach even 1 harbor, and of course by that time it wasn't possible to sell silk anymore. This is fun if everyone is in the right mood.

Macao 1x
I didn't like this one. The best strategy seemed to be to just take the higher number of dice, while keeping in mind that more different colors is better. And then just take the card you can afford, or you know you can afford before the end of the game. Boring, and too AP prone for me.
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15. Board Game: Keythedral [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:425]
Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
United States
California
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New Games:

Keythedral - 1 play





Keythedral is a game I've owned for quite a while but for whatever reason, was not one that ever made it to the table. Our first game was a little strange as you initially set up the board by placing tiles and cottages - which is in itself a strategic part of the game. Not knowing what to expect we did make some placement errors that threw things off a bit later on, but all in all, it was still a fun little game that had some interesting things going on.

The most unusual mechanic is selecting the Work Order Marker which is basically deciding the order in which you will try and collect resources from the various cottages placed around those resources. If I can see that I can collect a resource you need by selecting a Worker Placement marker that allows a cottage of mine to collect it before you do, then it's in my best interest to do so. There is a lot of strategy in this step as you can cut off or at least minimize the resources that your opponent will get to collect by careful Work Order selction. This was where our poor placement of tiles and cottages was most glaring as by bunching all my cottages around the same 2 or 3 resources, the Work Order selection phase effectively made little difference to me as I often had to select from various ways to hamper myself and not my opponent. Future playings should remedy this.

Keythedral was alot of fun, very tactical - both in the set-up and actual game turns, and unique. There is a lot more here than inital impressions would seem to suggest and it is definitely a game that I want to explore more.

Small World Underground - 1 play




I enjoy playing Small World with al the additional races and I was really looking forward to this new stand alone version of the game set in the depths of the Small World er... world.

Here there are 15 new races, new powers, new land types but in a similar vein to the original, yet there was also the addition of Relics and special places that suggested that the game was going to be something special on it's own.

Unfortunately, I wasn't that impressed.

Granted I've only played one game of this new version, but some of the powers (Magic Bag - I'm looking at YOU!) seem really overpowered and made one player nearly invincible for 3 turns. We had the Stinky Socks and Shiny Orb relics in play as well as the Great Brass Pipe and Ghost of the Tomb Raider. My wife was the Spiderines (with the Magic Bag) and in one turn she was able to steall all the other relics and places from the other two players in the game. Attempting to steal any of them back was successful for a single turn as she was able to use any one she wanted to (or needed to) at least once and she could use a power one time to get back whatever she lost and then use the Magic Bag to use it again. Only after 3 turns of both of us attacking her repeatedly (which was never the best move from a points standpoint for us - but was the only way to stop her), we managed to stop her domination. She ended up winning 107 to our scores of 83 and 75. Pretty one sided to me.

I think the Relics and Places tend to focus the game onto getting the lands were those items are instead of taking over the most strategic or beneficial lands to further your score. If you ignore the relics and places then your opponent has some huge advantages over you so you are forced into playing that way.

I need to play it more to see if this was an anomaly or if this is the way the game works, but in my opinion, adding in those items in an attempt to make the game "different" enough to warrant this being a new game and not an expansion, makes the game too chaotic.
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16. Board Game: Lords of Scotland [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1287]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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After a poor June, this month was excellent and I'm hard pressed to choose a favourite. I think I'll go with Lords of Scotland, on the tiebreak of value for money.

It's one of Z-Man's neat line of compact card games, by the designer of the rather good Court of the Medici. It reminds me a little of Condottiere: you take turns to play numbered cards to build up strength and some of them have special effects. The clever twist is how these special effects work. Each suit ('bloodline' in the lingo of the game) has a different effect, but it only activates if the card played is the lowest played in the round so far. So you get the benefit of the effect, but usually by playing a weaker number. So far I've played three times, and there are lots of neat tricks to try out. Nice to have another game that's as compact in space and time as a filler but has a bit more meat to it. 7, may rise.

It's possible that A Few Acres of Snow will come to be my favourite from this month, but it's hard to assess after one play. The options are simply bewildering at first, as it's a deck-building game where you can choose any card from a large range of options. How you choose to play the cards that you draw is also wide open as most cards can be used in several different ways. Typically for Wallace, it has a meticulously researched theme with well matched mechanics. There are a number of different strategic approaches for each side; the question will be whether they become scripted with repeat play or whether the randomness of drawing from the deck provides enough tactical variation to maintain replayability. I'm keen to find out. 7

I was pleased to get to try Rheinländer, one of the highest-ranked Knizias I'd not yet played. Unsurprisingly, I liked it quite a bit. I've not really agreed before with comparisons between Tigris & Euphrates and Acquire, but Rheinlander feels a bit like the missing link between the two. It has the numbered-grid of Acquire and some of the feel of the internal and external conflicts of T&E. 7

I was quite impressed by another older Euro too, Evo. I've always enjoyed the auction system where overbids force players to rebid until everyone has bought exactly one item. It's used in Amun-Re, Peloppones, Vegas Showdown, Last Train to Wensleydale and I'm sure others. Was Evo the first? The game also has a good sense of humour (which it looks like might have been lost in the new edition) and it's clear it shares some DNA with Vinci/Small World, especially in the way players expand over the map and score each turn for their current extent. 7

Grimoire is a role-selection game with similarities to Citadels and Witch's Brew. The gimmick is that instead of selecting a role from a set of cards, you do it by inserting a bookmark into the relevant page of your 'spell book'. I quite enjoyed it, though one of the cards in particular seemed a bit unbalanced (the King for those who have played). 6

I'd been meaning to get round to trying Reiner Knizia's Decathlon for a while, as it just requires printing out a score sheet (and a bunch of dice from my copy of Perudo). Turns out to be a great little game, with delightful mapping between the use of dice and the different events. Definitely one my wife and I will return to, and which I think will work well in the pub with friends too. 6

Last and least, The Speicherstadt. I really like the clever auction, but I felt like it was a great mechanic in search of a game. The rest of it was just so generic and bland, with the cards reminding me a bit of St Petersburg. 5
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17. Board Game: Disney Pixar Cars 2 Sorry Sliders: World Grand Prix Race Edition [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:3795]
Jae
United States
Bryan
TX
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I played a few new games this month, but I found most of them lack-luster. We've definitely left behind the dice games, co-ops and find ourselves solidly in the era of deck builders...I wonder what could be next?


Disney Pixar Cars 2 Sorry Sliders: World Grand Prix Race Edition
The best game I played this month was Sorry! Sliders: Cars edition. Hasbro's take on Pitchcar. A revision of the also quite enjoyable Sorry! Sliders game (similar to a poor man's crokinole), this newer entry brings flicking to the raceway in a big way. Not only do you have a novice friendly flicking mechanism (those sorry flicking pawns are awesome and could make many games like Catacombs and Ascending Empires MUCH better!), but you get options not included with the euro-big brother Pitchcar such as power ups and obstacles. The game is quite enjoyable and I highly recommend it!



Merchants of the Middle Ages
I picked up Merchants at BGG Con last year, but I didn't manage to play it until a few weeks ago. It is an interesting pick up and deliver game. I found it enjoyable and pleasant, but it isn't something I would pick to take with me to a regular game night. I recommend with reservation.



Nightfall
I had been avoiding this game for some reason, but I'm glad I was talked into playing it. The waterfall effect of chain reactions in this game is very satisfying and gives this deck builder a real "engine" feel to it. Very pleasant, but the theme put me off a little bit. I highly recommend, especially if you enjoy deck building.



Dune Express
Played a 5 player and 4 player game of Dune Express.
It was interesting, but like most games with the Express moniker, it is somewhat lackluster in the fun department. Word of caution, the game is absolutely NOT designed for more than four players. You have been warned. Not sure I recommend, but it is a print and play, so it is free to try, so definitely "try before you buy". (I didn't feel like I was playing in the Dune universe...take that for whatever you wish...)



Arkham Express
I like the Chaosium Arkham Horror.
I am wary of the Fantasy Flight Arkham Horror.
This thing. It's a coop express game. It is express.
The game is dead simple to beat, not much tension and the endgame feels very contrived. There is so much room for improvement in this game that I cannot in good conscience recommend it without significant improvement. I really want to like it, because it looks cool and plays fast.

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18. Board Game: Nassauer [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Played six new-to-me games this month - none of which seems likely to appear in my games played list a year from now.

My favorite of the group is Nassauer, a simple but reasonably clever game of pub crawling. It's just not the type of game I play a whole lot.

Timber is rather odd for a Jean du Poel game, in that the rules are clear and it's not difficult to figure out what you're supposed to be doing. It's not particularly _good_, but still - that's often more than can be said for du Poel's games.

Don Quixote is easily my least favorite of the four games based upon the character I've played. Not bad at all, really - just bland and derivative.

Lancaster is likely the best known of the games I played for the first time in July, being a KedJ nominee, but was a disappointment for me; there seems little to the game but watching (and participating in) the churn, and hoping you come out ahead when it's done.

Cloudbusters has incomplete rules, imbalanced abilities, and was generally unplayable. Which would usually allow a game to stand out as my least favorite of the month, save that in July I also played Irondale which didn't even have the glimmer of promise that Cloudbusters offered.

Late edit - just played Micropul; I really can't see what the fuss is about. Sits somewhere between Lancaster and Cloudbusters for me on this month's list.
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19. Board Game: Tantrix [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:1622]
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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A week away in the Lake District with the rain beating down is obviously an ideal chance to play plenty of games and this opportunity was duly seized. We mainly played some familiar ones we'd taken with us (16 packed into 5 boxes, which rather shows how much air they tend to contain). However, the house came supplied with a number of quite reasonable games - familiar fare like Boggle and Scrabble but also Tantrix, which I had heard of but never played.

This proved to be quite a jolly abstract tile laying game, once I'd got my head around the restrictions on placements. Certaqinly one I'd pick up if I saw it at a reasonable price. Son no 2 also tried out some of the solo versions - seemed to be quite interesting.

So, a new game was a bonus to the holiday which otherwise mainly involved getting wet and/or muddy!
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20. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:142]
Paulo Soledade
Portugal
Leiria
Leiria
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Have been out of this list for a long time now mainly because I haven't played many new games these last few months (nor old ones!)...




A Few Acres of Snow is a great game I think. It took an eternity to play for the first time but my guts are telling me that this is a very tight 2 player game mixing settling (civ feeling) with wimp wargaming! I think I might really enjoy it a lot but still have to play it again. And soon if possible.




Olympos works pretty well with three players and maybe even better with 4. Very entertaining euro with beautiful art, no theme at all but very cleverly designed. A few neat ideas in a good game. Not sure about its replay-ability but that's another story for a different list!




1848: Australia A cool medium term 18xx that works pretty well with 3 players but it's even better (for sure) with 4. I like the changing lanes mechanic and the England Bank. Not sure if the English Bank works all that well but still think of it as a good idea. Have to play it again to clear some things up. Preferably with 4 players.




1889 is an excellent game, 18xx like, for 3 players. Very entertaining, short in time and very fun to play. I liked everything about it I think. Nothing new here, everything almost equal to 1830, but still a very good game.




Rails of New England has terrific ideas but they simply seem bad incorporated or maybe, sorry if I'm being unfair here, not very well tested. Plus there are some issues with the production of the game (rules, components, art) that don't help in the general picture of the game. Not likely to play it again.
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21. Board Game: El Paso [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:3590]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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I played 4 new to me games, and I really liked 3 of them. El Paso was a really fun push your luck dice game with an extra layer of push your luck inside. Klunker was better than expected. Ticket to Ride: The Card Game was also fun.

I would rate all three game around an 8 after 1 play of each, but I chose El Paso for the entry because I won my copy at IndyCon 2011 so it was free.

The 4th game I played was Pirate's Cove. After one play I would rate it a 5. It seemed all the other players liked it more than I did, as I lost several consecutive battles early and could never win any to catch up. I will play again, but if I have the same results it will probably hit the trade pile (or I will give it to my friend for Christmas, since he was one of the players who liked it).
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22. Board Game: Defenders of the Realm [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:228]
Runcible Spoon
United States
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Defenders of the Realm



Thanks to Superhawk2300

Plays x4
This game really works for me, and more importantly my wife really enjoyed the adventure in this one as well. This is my favorite from this month.

Strengths
d10-1 Good (not great) components.
d10-2 Excellent game play with 2p. Plays well solo also.
d10-3 I like many (but not all) of Elmore's artworks used in this game.
d10-4 I like fantasy but I don't have many fantasy themed games, relative to my interest level that are not LotR, so this one fills a niche for me.
d10-5 I really liked Pandemic, so this works for me because I dig the puzzle aspect
d10-6 The designer is really active here on BGG. Fortunately there are lots of designers on BGG that really support the players and Richard (the designer of Defenders) is among the best.
d10-7 Loads of characters. For me this adds to the re-playability in a big way.
d10-8 In his review Scott Nicholson mentioned that this game really had a nice balance between doing one's own thing and working as a group. I completely agree.
d10-9 The FAQ is pretty good with lots of examples and again reflects the designers support, but the fact that an FAQ (a lengthy one at that) is needed says something (slightly negative) about this game.

Cons
d10-1 Set up has a pretty high fiddly factor.
d10-2 All the minions look the same, save the color, obviously.
d10-3 I am not a fan of the rulebook. Way too much underlining and overuse of other font features that should instead be used sparingly. Also, the FAQ is long and probably necessary for many to play the game correctly, so that speaks to issues with the rulebook but...(see above)

Other Thoughts
d10-1 This is a great game for those that like fantasy co-op play but are not big into the RPG scene.

Magnum Sal



Thanks to yosz for the picture



Thanks to Alex, Seth and Grun for the picture

Plays x2

We both enjoyed this one and we are still exploring the game space. At first it seems like the game space is wide open, but I think even after two plays this is a bit tighter than it first seems.

Strengths
d10-1 The artwork is nice.
d10-2 The theme actually works with the mechanics, so the rope and the cart etc. act in ways that seem consistent with the theme (mostly...see below).


Cons
d10-1 The gambling house is a bit weird thematically, but it is the only one that doesn't really work for me so this is a pretty minor issue. I think Tom Vasel remarked something like everyone in Magnum Sal is lucky because they always win.
d10-2 The box is a bit of a weird size relative to others in my collection.

Other Thoughts
d10-1 The set-up isn't too fiddly, just a little.
d10-2 I have some concerns about re-playability. I am just worried that there is not enough variation in the mine chamber tiles. I didn't list this as a negative because I cannot fully address this after just 2 plays moreover it is a speculation.

Big Boggle



Thanks to weaklink75 for the picture

Strengths
d10-1 Super quick set-up.
d10-2 Quick play time.
d10-3 Works well with up to about 5 or 6 and plays just as well with 2.
d10-4 My wife loves this game.
d10-5 It was a nice step up from the 4 x 4 Boggle set.

Cons
d10-1 None really. It is pretty good for what it is.

Other Thoughts
d10-1 I am a bit ambivalent about the scoring system. On the one hand it really is tougher to come up with some of the longer words, but on the other hand just a couple of long words (or even just one with a minor iteration like adding an 's' or 'ed') really racks up the points. I am undecided on if this is luck (seems like it sometimes) or skill (seems like it other times).

Tumblin-Dice



Thanks to muka for the picture

Strengths
d10-1 Quick set-up (takes like 2 minutes or less, much less than most of my Euro games).
d10-2 Quick play time.
d10-3 Works well with 2, 3 or 4 players.
d10-4 It even works solo. It's fun just to flick dice and practice getting them to land on those x4 spots
d10-5 Loaded with luck. Don't take it too seriously (both a strength and a weakness).
d10-6 Takes about 30-60 seconds to teach.
d10-7 Very charismatic and great for non-gamers.

Cons
d10-1 Loaded with luck. Don't take it too seriously (both a strength and a weakness).

Other Thoughts
d10-1 It's just plain fun and I am glad I have it.
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23. Board Game: Baltimore & Ohio [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:1173]
Mike B
Netherlands
Utrecht
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I was on holiday for almost the whole month of July (yes, I enjoy a big break after a busy year). Partially thanks to the not so bright weather in Denmark and Germany I still managed to play 39 sessions of 22 games. Most of them 2 player sessions with my wife on holiday of medium/lite games (and 3 plays of Wallace's London)

Only 2 new-to-me's this month. the winner is without any doubt:

Baltimore and Ohio. Bought it last Essen, and glad to finally get it on the table for a four player session. That took 4 hours (which seems reasonable for a first play with 4 for this kinda game), and afterwards all 4 were very enthusiastic, and going for the 'well, next time we could try to....' discussions. So this 'Chicago Express meets 1830' is a very clear winner. Very good game, despite all the calculations... (no, we didn't want a laptop on the table)


The other new-to-me was Travel Blog. For years I've been buying every Vlaada Chvatil game on sight. This tradition has stopped since last essen. Sneaks & Snitches was an amusing filler, good for a couple of laughs. Travel Blog is less fun. It seemed perfect to play on a holiday, but I guess it needs more than 2 players to shine. And I doubt if it will ever truly shine. Ok filler, nothing more.
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24. Board Game: Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:414]
Jacco Versteeg
United Kingdom
Crewe
Cheshire
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Bit of a tough choice for this month, with three new games.

First new game this month: Barons.



A rather fun little game from the Cambridge Games Factory. It was remarked that the comments on the artwork for these games are only on the high strategy games, not on the simpler games, which I thought was rather amusing. I'm also not at all bothered by the artwork.

I liked the game, a bit like Race for the Galaxy. But Barons has a spatial component as well, which requires a fair bit of table space. I didn't have time to play more than one game, but I'd be happy to play it again.

Second new game: Death Angel



This is a game I was curious about, as I rather liked the idea. This was a lot of fun, also because we played it with six people. This game ended up coming down to the final die roll and the final Space Marine (Librarian) to get out alive (and I alone survived to tell thee). Nothing too heavy, really just a fun romp.

And lastly, a game I thought I would hate: Jungle Speed



This sort of dexterity game is not something I'm necessarily good at (or so I think). That being said, I actually had a good time playing this, and didn't even do too badly! The game owner won game after game, because the rest of us were completely new to the game, but everybody who played had a lot of laughs that evening, which is what it's all about.
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25. Board Game: 1889 [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:1355]
Carlos Ferreira
Portugal
Porto Salvo
Porto Salvo
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This was a busy month. 9 new games to me, all with only 1 play each.

The best was:
1889 -
A nice 18XX game. The rules are "almost" the same as 1830, but the map is very good for 3 players. I really enjoyed it.


Another new 18xx games were:
1854 -
and
1848: Australia -

The first was as a really slow start and a lot of chrome.
The second was strange. It as a lot of unused map. We played it with 3, maybe not the best number.
They both need more play!!!


Olympos -
A good game with some map problems. The art is great and the game plays really fast. Must play it again.



To Court the King -
A great filler, with dice and cards. Some friends had the game, but never had the chance to play it. Really enjoyed it and I will probably buy a copy.


6 nimmt! -
Another old filler that I had the chance to try this month. Enjoyed it, but I could skip it. just good enough to "kill" 10 minutes.



Ruse & Bruise -
"bid" game with some chaos. Nice experience, but..


Senji -
Mixed feelings about this one. The game has everything to work, but somehow they managed to ruin it with that rule "the first player is the ruler". I think this small rule ruins a good game. Maybe with some house rules this could work... but there are so many games out there that I will not worry about it.



Games that I will not speak about, as they are sooooo bad that they don't even deserve the time of reading something about them:

Rails of New England and Texas & Pacific -
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