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New to you September 2011 => Best new boardgame
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Stockport
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What new board and card games did you play in September 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): September 2011
New to Your Kids September 2011
Videogames New To You September 2011
Your best gaming experience of the month and why September 11
New to you a year ago Sep 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Games only YOU have played in September 2011
Out of the Dust, September 2011
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26. Board Game: Elder Sign [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:375]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Nothing spectacular this month:

Liked it!

 


Elder Sign (2 plays): This is a nice Arkham Horror game trimmed down into a ~75 minute dice game. There are plenty of decisions to make, and it's a nice co-op game of resource-management and push-your-luck. I love the theme and artwork, even if it does essentially boil down to a co-op Yahtzee game.



Triumvirate (2 plays): This 2-player trick taking game provides a nice little mind-twisting experience from a simple ruleset and short playing time. It's a game of reading your opponent, trying to pick up on what they're doing while masking your motives and intentions.



Mystery Garden (4 plays): This is a very simple game made for children, it essentially combines I Spy and 20 Questions into one game. One player draws a tile with an image from the game board on it, and the other players alternate asking yes/no questions until they figure it out. My 4-year old daughter likes it, and it helps develop logic and critical thinking so it's a winner in my book.

Not so sure...



Quest: A Time of Heroes (2 plays): This seems like it would be such a blast for non-roleplayers. It's a light game where one player is the game master and the others are stereotypical fantasy characters. It's essentially a choose-your-own-adventure game where the GM reads the story and offers the players choices. The combat is a little spotty, but it fits the light feel of the game. The non-roleplayers I showed it to had a lot of fun with it, while the RPG guys disliked it for being too light. I used to play D&D/Planescape pretty regularly, so the novelty was a bit lost on me as well, but I'm sure for the right group this game would hit it out of the park.



Stoplights (1 play): This seems like a nice, very simple family-friendly card game, and my uncertainty with it stems from only having one very brief play. I expect it'll get more plays in the coming months and years.



Löwenherz (1 play): I played a 4-player game of this classic for the first time this month. I found it to be dry and thinky, but fun. It's chess-like, and not something I'd be up for all the time. It's a nasty game of building, defending and invading territories on the board. Lands will ebb and flow like the tides. There is also an auction element to the game. It's a pretty tight design, though the dry, studious game play won't appeal to everyone.

Didn't care for it.



Wok Star (1 play): This one just didn't work for me. I'll be happy to give it another shot once it reaches a wider audience via ZMan next year, but my initial play just felt rushed and stressful, not fun. I'm not shutting the door on Wok Star forever, but nothing about it inspired me to try again, and there are enough games out there that I don't feel the need to push one that isn't engaging me.

Edit: Oh noes! I forgot about Lowenherz!
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27. Board Game: Chronicle [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1093]
 
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Only three new games this month but they're all solid 7s.

I'm a sucker for small but meaty card games, so I had to pick up Chronicle once I'd read a couple of reviews of it. I messed up the rules first time out (forgot that cards left in hand get added to allies) but have played a couple of times since and really enjoyed it. There's a fair amount to digest - it's basically a simple trick-taking game, but every card has a special power - but once everyone's got the rules down, it flows smoothly and has lots of delicious opportunities for screwage. Definitely a game where tracking cards helps, but since most played cards stay face up on the table, that's not too onerous.

I'd played and enjoyed Edel, Stein and Reich once so was interested to try its predecessor Basari. The psychology/double-think of the simultaneous action selection is just the same, but Basari has a simpler die-roll option instead of special action cards. I quite appreciate the simplicity, though the actions cards were fun. We played the variant with a common die-roll each round instead of individual ones - seemed to work fine. The best part of both games is probably the bartering system - lots of opportunities to either off a low bid that's just what your opponent needs or a high one that's completely useless to them.

As a big Discworld and Martin Wallace fan, I was very excited by the announcement of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork and got to try the collectors' edition last week. It's squarely aimed at the family games market, with the most streamlined set of Wallace rules I've ever seen, but it's not really any the worse for that. Beautifully produced, and with card play much more firmly tied to the board than in (the overrated IMO) London. The Discworld theme doesn't quite feel fully realised though - I spent a lot more time looking at the symbols on my cards than noticing which characters they represented.
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28. Board Game: Ice Flow [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1438]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Ice Flow

Great wooden bits and translucent ice tiles. Thank you to WriteGamer for teaching us.


Guillotine

Another one WriteGamer taught us at our last game day. Quick yet engaging, I was always watching to see what was happening.


Hang in There!

A thrift find that has made it to the table a couple of times already. Silly, colorful fun - it's the kind of game you always wanted for Christmas, and now you get to play it.


Tom Tube

The pictures don't do the colors justice. Interesting, though abstracts don't get much play here.


A B Seas

A thrift find - you fish with magnetic poles to get letters to put on your bingo board. Includes optional French/Spanish variants. Nice quality bits.


Polar Dare!

A thrift find. Has a lot of similarities to Ice Flow and has fun bits, but Ice Flow has better gameplay. Still, could be fun with younger children.


Don't Bug Me

Another thrift find that we got to the table. Innovative way to score, without needing a lot of bits - you move your translucent bingo marker over the number of vegetables you have. If you move your farmer to a vegetable, that vegetable gains the number shown on the space, but if you move your worm, it eats one of those vegetables. If a farmer lands on the same space as a worm, the worm goes to the worm hospital.
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29. Board Game: VOC! Founding the Dutch East Indies Company [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4145]
Mike B
Netherlands
Utrecht
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Quite some plays this month. 64 plays of 38 games. Sounds more impressive than it is, since quite a lot of these plays were kids games. I'm glad my toddler likes to play games with me, but obviously those games are not the meaty stuff I'd pull out with adults.

Of those 38 games there were 6 new-to-me's. 2 of them kids games. None of them truly great games. All runners-up for my personel new-to-me award of the last couple of months would have easily beaten this months winner.

Anyway, here we go:

Schotten totten is a reasonably nice filler. It's the kinda game my wife likes, so I'm glad I got it. It's certainly a big bang for your buck, both investment and timewise.

Rattus was actually better than I expected it to be. I thought it would be just another eurocubepusher, but it has more tension in gameplay to be called just that. Nice filler.

I've had an interest in the Space Hulk: Death Angel cardgame since it came out. My 3rd edition Space Hulk is still in shrink, just because I'm not so certain yet if I really want it. There's a similar thing going on with this card game: there's plenty of tension, and lots of turnangst but there's not too much of a game. Nice filler though. I'm curious if someone can see me?

VOC is probably the best new-to-me boardgame I played this month. The hilarious mechanism of drawing your route on a board with your eyes closed is very funny. This kinda entertainment will actually distract you enough from your first game to make you wonder if there's actually a good alternative game possible. Which I think there is.
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30. Board Game: Villa Paletti [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1043]
Eugene van der Pijll
Netherlands
Den Haag
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Villa Paletti
I enjoy the Zoch dexterity games a lot, and Villa Paletti is no exception. There's room for strategic play, as you can choose the columns that you want to move in such a way that your opponents' columns now support the entire structure. But mainly, it's a very fun tower building exercise, that I will get to the table often with all but the most serious gamers.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
I've played this game three times now, and it seems to work ok. With four players, it's quite hard to reach your win condition, and both times the card deck ran out (and Sam Vimes won). With three, the winning chances seems a bit more balanced. Still, this is quite a chaotic game. That fits with the Pratchettian theme, but this may not be appreciated as much by the less rabiate fan of the Discworld novels.

Magna Grecia
An older network building game. Enjoyable, but I'm not sure it brings much new to the genre. All the rules about when you are allowed to build roads or cities somewhere were a bit confusing in our first play.

Quarriors!
I can see why people like this game. I enjoyed it, but it's too random to become part of my collection. I haven't yet found a deck building game that significantly improves on Dominion, and Quarriors doesn't come close to that level. I probably would seldom refuse to play it, but I accept this game as the mindless activity that it is.

River Dragons
The RoboRally-like programming is fun; the whole mechanic of crossing a river using planks is a bit less entertaining. There's just not much challenge here.

Spot it!
A small pattern recognition game, in which cards are turned over with a number of symbols. The player who first shouts out the symbol that matches one on their own card, wins the round. Very simple rules; not much depth. It was ok to play it once, but that's enough for me.
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31. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:41]
Alberto Casarrubios
Spain
Madrid
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This game succeeds at modelling the tension and teamwork needed to make an insteresting cooperative game. Its theme is original and some mechanics, like the epidemic cards or the different uses of the player cards are pure genious of elegant design.

King of Tokyo

This is essentially a Yahtzee variant with a giant monster theme and king of the hill elements. Not very deep, not very strategic, but loads of fun. We usually chain game after game when I bring it to the table.

Munchkin

Not exactly a new game, but a reencounter with it after a failed play with (now I know) wrong rules that made me hate a game which is, in fact, pretty decent and with huge potential with the right group.

Agricola

After some online solo plays, I can see the appeal of this game. It has a very clever design, combines long-term planning and adaptability skills and can be very demanding and therefore satisfying to win. Its only real downside is that it can be a bit too dry. It's clever, elegant and well-thought, just not very fun for me.

Acquire

I see why this game is considered a classic. Very simple play and a good modelling of the stock market. For me, it was perhaps too random, and the need of a calculator doesn't help to make it more appealing. Not a bad game, but I'd rather play something like Airlines Europe any time of the day.
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32. Board Game: Tokyo Train [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2143]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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New to me this month:
Tokyo Train is a game I had read about awhile back and it sounded good. I bought it (or was it a Secret Santa gift?) and finally got to play it at a minicon called "Thing" (which predates That Boardgame Thing by a long time). And you know what, most people really disliked it, but I loved it. Great game that is obviously not for everyone.

At that minicon, we also played Hollywood Shuffle, which is just a create-a-good-answer game. The shtick is that the thing you're writing about are made up movie plots. Yawn.

I had hosted, but not played It Takes Two at a previous "Thing," a decade or more ago. It's a nifty little trivia game where partners try to come up with a numeric answer, separately. (E.g. how many gallons of water fall over Niagara Falls every second?). Without conferring, everyone answers, and each team's average answer is what counts. Closest team gets $100. Play to $1000.

Spinergy is really just a really cool three-ring spinner that allows you to come up with random words. Those words are used to write something (letter, song, opening paragraph of a story, script to beg your spouse for something, ...). Everyone writes and the "on turn" player writes down verbotten words. As each person reads their response, the "on turn" player is looking to negate their score if they use a forbidden word. If they don't, they get the points. Cute, but not special.

Pelican Cove should be a good game, but iconography and colors kill the game. It could be glorious, but isn't.
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33. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:136]
Erin Sparks
United States
Garden City
Michigan
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Only one new game, and technically it was new last month but I missed last month's list. We had a lot of fun with this, though it is a bit tough to teach for the first time. We have resorted to leaving out a lot of details up front since there's a lot of minutiae you don't need until it comes up. We have yet to get really ruthless with each other so I think the game really won't reveal itself fully until we get more cutthroat.
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34. Board Game: 51st State [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:596] [Average Rating:6.99 Unranked]
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
United States
Greer
South Carolina
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I started a new job this past month, and one of the benefits of said job is that a guy who's in my local gaming group already works there. During lunch, we've been playing some games, so I was able to try a lot of new games I'd been wanting to try for a while. I had other opportunities to try new games this month, but the good news is that I now have an opponent for some of the 2-player games I've been wanting to try. The bad news? Well, a couple of months ago, I sold off a lot of my 2-player games because I never had the chance to play them that much. Le sigh.

New Games

2 de Mayo thumbsup



It's hard to describe this as a wargame, partly because it doesn't have the characteristics I expect of a wargame. It's not lengthy or brain-burning, and it doesn't have an epic scope, but it does have a troop-versus-troop feel to it. The map is also pretty tight, but even though it's small, it doesn't feel so constrained as to limit the choices you have on a given turn. And even though the players always start with the same setup, the drawing of cards keeps it from being static from game to game.

That being said, I wonder how many times it would take to play the game before one could play it out. You don't add any new troops to the board (at least, the Spanish don't), so it's mostly a matter of overwhelming your opponents troops (the French) or dodging your opponent's troops long enough to win the game (the Spanish). I can see getting at least ten plays out of it (five for each side), but even then, that's a better rate than I have for most of the games in my collection.

I was really surprised by how much I liked this. In our one game, we thought I had the win locked up (I was playing the French), but as we were putting the game away after calling it early, we talked a bit about our positions and the options, and we realized that the Spanish might have been able to eke out a win by having one troop run away from me for the rest of the game. So there seems to be a nice balance in the way the game is put together, and I definitely would like to play it again.

51st State thumbsup



I don't really get the comparisons between this game and Race for the Galaxy. Aside from both games having personal tableaus, the games have nothing in common. The cards can be used for different things, sure, but the cards in 51st State have three different ways to play the cards, while in RftG, you either use them in your tableau or use them as money. I actually see this game having more in common with some CDG wargames, really, the way the cards are designed, but even then, you don't have "Ops Points," so even that comparison misses the mark.

51st State is a game unto itself, and it sets itself apart in many different ways. The drafting of the cards is interesting, as is the way that points aren't cumulative. Neither mechanism is new, but it creates a nice tension and narrative over the course of the game. Most often, you'll find yourself in the position of taking a card that will help you, or taking a card so that your opponent can't have it, and it's not always easy to decide which one will help you more. The game is a bit fiddly (I'm still not entirely sure if we have the scoring down right), and the rulebook is a horrible mess, but once you have the flow down, the game moves quickly, and it elicits a "One more game!" response. It's a very satisfying experience, but you really want to have someone teach you the game instead of trying to learn it from the rulebook.

Black Friday thumbsup



Black Friday is a game I bought way back in March, but I heard so much about the fragility of the system, and the effect that one small rules mistake could make on the entire game, that I never got around to reading the rules for it. I had the feeling it was a game I would like, but the dreaded Rules Intimidation factor put me off of it for too long. This month, a gaming buddy of mine got a copy of his own and taught it to us one night. We still made a small rules error (which did have a pretty big impact on things), but it was an incomplete learning game, so no harm, no foul.

Still, the game made a mighty big impression on me, regardless. I don’t mind a fragile system, so long as when it’s played correctly, it works quite well, and what I’ve seen so far looks good. I like the subtle way that players manipulate the market through buying and selling. The way that the market shifts is random, but the mechanisms by which you add more briefcases to the bag increases the odds for popular stocks, giving the players a little control over how the game flows. It’s a pretty simple system, just with a lot of fiddly rules necessary to keep it working properly.

As I mentioned before, our game was incomplete, and only lasted through part of Phase 1, but I’m very interested in playing it again. I just hope that a complete game will continue to impress me the way that partial game did.

Court of the Medici thumbsup



Z-Man releases a lot of these small-box card games, and while some of them really make an impact on me -- Fairy Tale was big in my rotation for a while, and No Thanks! is a classic example of a near-perfect game -- a lot of them don't even sound good enough to make me interested in them. Court of the Medici flew under my radar for a while, and the only reason I decided to get a copy at all is because I needed to fill out an order for free shipping. I wasn't expecting too much, despite some good reviews. For one thing, I couldn't get a real sense of the game based on the rules alone.

So, when I did first play it, I tried playing one way. It made sense to be aggressive right from the start, and it looked like it was a decent tactic to try. But some of the subtleties of the game began to reveal themselves as my opponent played his own cards on mine, making me less incentivized to remove the whole stack. I lost that game, by a close margin, because I felt like I was being too aggressive. In our second game (which immediately followed the first), I tried a more defensive approach, and found my stacks getting destroyed as my opponent found ways to take them out as quickly as I could play them. I lost that game by a margin of thirty points. But the third game stayed up! was a better game, where I started to understand the necessity of sacrificing your own cards, as well as keeping your stacks low enough so as not to be targets for your opponent. Plus, we both started to get a better understanding of planning for the future and how to use that to extend the game and raise our chances of getting our good cards to stay on the table. I still lost that game, but the three-point margin was close enough that I didn't care about losing. It was just a well-played game.

I was surprised to find such a challenging game in this box. I don't think it will unseat any other two-player tug-of-war games (Schotten-Totten is hard to beat, after all), but the game is certainly thought-provoking and challenging, and I want to play it more. I can see each game being very satisfying, once both players understand the usefulness of the different tactics.

The Dwarf King thumbsdown



Last month, I talked about Stich-Meister, which I likened to Fluxx blended with a trick-taking game. I wasn't wild about the chaos, and I'm not all that keen in general with trick-taking games without trump suits, since they seem to suffer from crap draws more than not. Well, I found a game that made me appreciate Stich-Meister, and its name is The Dwarf King.

To be honest, the game is about what I expected from a Bruno Faidutti game, so I can't saw that I was surprised or disappointed. Plus, it's a trick-taking game, which raises its estimation a bit. But when you add into the fact that the hands are likely to score very little (if at all) based on the tile draw, and that the person who picks the scoring rule is picked randomly by the deal, and the fact that there are only three suits (none of which are trump), then the game devolves into more chaos than game. It's not terrible or awful, but there are other, better trick-taking games out there, which makes playing this one seem almost pointless.

On the plus side, the art is excellent, and the production is stunning. So this would be a perfect game for someone who wanted to frame it as art.

Elder Sign thumbsdown



I’ve mentioned before that I’m burned out on cooperative games, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. Part of what I like about playing games is making my own decisions and seeing how my plan works out against the game system. In cooperative games, it seems like it comes down to doing what’s best for the group, so your decisions aren’t always your own. I think this is separate from the Meathead Effect, which can be managed; in this case, it’s simply about what you get out of games that’s satisfying.

The crazy thing is that Arkham Horror is a cooperative game, but I enjoy playing it. For some reason, the choices I make in that game feel a little more personal and a little more valuable. Maybe it has to do with the stricter movement rules, or maybe it’s just the way that the team discussion before making a move feels more valuable. Believe me, I’m as confused as you are about why one is better than the other in this case. Maybe it’s just personal preference.

The game has a strong appeal for me – it has a Chthulhu theme, and it has dice – but it’s ultimately just not my thing. I think folks who enjoy cooperative games will like it just fine, but as it is, the best a cooperative game will do for me is about a 5. I’ll play them, but I can’t get very excited about them, even when they’re a shortened version of Arkham Horror. Plus, the game seems ridiculously hard, which normally appeals to me, but in this case, it almost seems like the way to win is to get that perfect storm of events via the cards, the monster draw, and the dice. That makes it seem nearly impossible to beat, and not very satisfying.

Ergo thumbsup thumbsdown



I'm a little torn on this game. I'm intrigued by unique games, and when I first heard about Ergo, I figured it was a one-of-a-kind sort of game, which prompted me to buy it. I like the idea of writing a "program" to set some values to true or false, and while the idea is interesting, I think the implementation of the game is less so. For one, the game is far too chaotic for a thinky game of logic; for another, it doesn't seem to follow standard logic rules.

To be fair, I should emphasize the "seem" in my previous sentence. I was working under what I thought the logic for the game was, and my opponent (a much more experienced programmer) was saying that the logic was different. There seemed to be an issue with the order of the operators in the game versus their order in binary logic, and we were lost through much of the game. So there's a good chance I misunderstood the rules of the logic, and am still confused about it.

I can see this game being a good introduction to the basic rules of logic, and I can even see an instructor using the game in class, but as a game, it relies too much on the card draw to be completely entertaining. It seems like it's important to draw and play the Not and Parentheses cards (you're trying to prove your own existence and disprove others'), or at least the Revolution card, and the Fallacy cards are just flat-out annoying. It just seems weird to me, since I imagine Logic and Chaos as being on opposite ends of the spectrum, to find them both in the same game. I'll try it a few more times, but it might turn out that the game, unique as it is, might not have enough game to make it worthwhile.

Famiglia thumbsup thumbsdown



This is a neat little game, and it reminds me a little bit of the Japanese card games that have some neat card-cycling mechanisms. It's not quite as clever as R-Eco or Traders of Osaka, but it seems to have a nice balance in the way that you sacrifice cards to gain others. The special characteristics of the cards add a little something to the game, too, and I think that's what makes it particularly good, in the same way that the special tiles in Oregon make it a good game. In fact, without them, there wouldn't be much of a game here.

It's hard to judge the game off of just one play. I neglected two types of cards all together, but still managed to eke out a win, thanks to a final move that I likely would have missed all together if my opponent hadn't pointed out how the green cards worked (though I'm still not sure I completely understand it). I neglected two colors of cards all together, and I get the feeling that's not the way to play the game. At the very least, I'm intrigued enough about the game to want to play it again. That can't be a bad sign.

Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League thumbsup thumbsdown



This is another in a long line of "What else do I want for $15 to get this order up to the free shipping threshold?" that I never would have paid attention to otherwise. On the bright side, I usually have little to no expectations for these sorts of games, so if they wind up being good, I'm pleasantly surprised; conversely, when they're not all that exciting, I don't feel terribly let down, either.

Perry Rhodan isn't a bad game, and in fact, it has some elements that I think are pretty cool. I like the way that you can manage the deliveries by potentially picking up cards that you deliver to a planet, and how that manageability is balanced by the potential penalty for delivering large groups of cards at one time. I also like the way the movement works as you travel toward or away from the sun. Shoot, it's a pick-up-and-deliver game, and my favorite game is Age of Steam! But the game just doesn't thrill me or feel very engaging, and I think it's because the game is essentially a race game, and I'm just not overly fond of that class of games.

Which is not to say that I wouldn't play it again. After that first game, I recognized that I could have played differently to stay competitive with my opponent, and at the very least I'd like to play again to try a different tactic. I'm not holding out for it to improve all that much, though.

Punch! thumbsup



If all you did was read the rules of this game, then you might come away thinking that there was nothing much to it, and choose not to play it. And boy, would you be missing out if you did. It's a quick, fast, tense, and entertaining little game, and well worth the time to create and play.

The game feels like it borrows heavily from Duell, but I think it serves more as an inspiration than anything else. The identical decks of cards and the sports theme are present, as is the back-and-forth of the matches, but it feels different, like it has more to it than Duell ever did. There are attack cards and block cards, but the addition of the "Do Nothing" and "Dodge and Return" cards mean that you can't go with a stick attack-block tactic of play, because you might just benefit your opponent if they can anticipate your style of play. The options are balanced just enough to make you think a little bit harder about which card to choose, and the hand management aspect of the game gives you something else to consider.

It's repetitive (pick a card and reveal, over and over again), and won't do much for folks who don't like the simultaneous-reveal mechanism, but the identical decks, paired with a growing certainty of the cards in play for any given round, mean that there's a lot of thinking and outwitting that takes place in the game. I've never boxed, so I don't know if it's a particularly accurate simulation of the sport, but I did enjoy playing the game. I hope to play it more often.

Utopian Rummy thumbsup thumbsdown



Anyone familiar with Mike Fitzgerald's Mystery Rummy games will recognize the formula in this game: Play as many sets (not runs) of cards on a turn as you can, and play one action card per turn before discarding one card to end your turn. The round ends when one player runs out of cards, and whoever gets the most points after a determined number of points wins. It's not a bad formula, by any means, but it's awfully familiar, and by comparison, simply not as interesting.

I'm perfectly willing to admit that I may be missing a significant part of the game (there are a lot of comments praising the game in the ratings), but it just didn't seem like there were a great amount of options in the game. I liked the addition of the powers as associated with the sets of cards, but it seemed like your best tactic was still to go after whatever you could collect the most of over the course of the game. And I suppose that the powers that trigger with sets would offset the limitation of the one action card (draw more cards), so it's possible that I just haven't played this game enough to really get a sense of its play.

Regardless, it's a game that I would gladly play again, and since the likelihood of that happening is going up, I expect I might be returning to this game in a year's time, talking about how much it improved with repeated play. I guess we'll just have to wait to see.


New Expansions

Catacombs: Cavern of Soloth thumbsup



Catacombs took my "New Game of the Month" in August, and for our second play of the game, we went all out and added both of the expansions in to see what kinds of variety we could eke out of the system. Cavern of Soloth adds some new rooms, new overseers, and new heroes, as well as some new monsters, all of which add up to a larger pool of materials to create the same game. This is not a bad thing, of course, because the expansion just adds some new things to discover, without changing up the game itself too much. Sure, there are some new rules to consider, as well as new abilities for the monsters, overseers, and heroes, but overall, this is just more stuff. As I mentioend in my game comments, "What more do you need to know?"

If you like Catacombs, there's no reason not to go ahead and get Cavern of Soloth.

Catacombs: Dark Passageways thumbsup



Dark Passageways, on the other hand, mixes up the balance just a bit with some cards that have an effect on the game outside of the boards/rooms themselves. These get mixed in with the room decks, and they either benefit the heroes or the overseer. In a game that's already weighted toward the heroes, this can be good or bad; if the heroes are already on a roll, a card that helps them will just keep them rolling, while one that benefits the overseer will help balance the game out a bit more. It fits the theme well, and I can see the effects working well in both directions, so I don't see a big issue with them, but I can see other players disliking that chaos. It's a small enough expansion, though, that a lot of folks who like the game will probably go ahead and add this expansion to the mix. I don't think they'll be too disappointed.
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35. Board Game: Troyes [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:47]
Andrew
United States
San Francisco
California
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It was a fantastic month for new games, particularly with ConVic on.

The Favourite
As an antipodean, I'm late onto the medieval die-rolling bandwagon that is Troyes. I roll my eyes at the medieval cathedral-building theme, but am willing to admit that it's done decently here: the art is in the style of the period, and the negative events are a new thematic element. On the mechanics level, Troyes is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy: hidden objectives - with the sweet twist that it's only knowledge of the objectives that is private, not the scoring, so you are trying to deduce/bluff and compete - card-combo powers - with combinatorial variety due to the setup, but avoiding Dominion's problematic strategic front-loading - and semi-cooperative elements due to a wide variety of external threats. I also liked the die-rolling resource-management, and the intriguing interaction of purchasing others' dice.

The Standouts
Samarkand: Routes to Riches appears to be the light introduction to stockholding that I've been looking for, without the details of running a railway (which I don't care about at all). With emergent alliances, incentive manipulation, and the ability to buy into companies later, Samarkand: Routes to Riches has plenty to offer me. However the most important thing for my purposes are the simple rules and short playtime.

GOSU has far simpler core rules than other tableau-building card-combo games like Race for the Galaxy or Innovation but still manages quite a bit of depth (as far as I can tell). Pity I'm so awful at the game...

The Decent
Lords of Scotland is a fine trick-taking game with powers, along the lines of Three-Dragon Ante. It is simple to teach and plays very smoothly, and is much improved by possessing a monotonic game-end trigger.

I've wanted to play Tales of the Arabian Nights for a long time. I was actually disappointed by the randomness of the game - it's basically a sequence of disconnected stuff happening to you - and there are few choices and little interaction. Nevertheless it's a good "experience game" to play once in a while. Apparently Z-Man Games has a bunch more games utilising the same system in the pipeline - I'm looking forward to a tightened-up, more coherent version of the game.

Hex Hex and Palastgeflüster are light card games in which play jumps around. I like the mechanic, as it focuses your attention more. The former is a light take-that game, the latter is supposedly about playing six cards to the table but is usually about survival. Both decent enough fillers.

The Indifferent
I'm really not a fan of the crayon rails games: too much calculation, too long duration. Australian Rails was no exception, though the owner kept the turns moving quickly (vastly improving the play experience) and I learned a bit about Australian geography, which was fun. (Queensland is gigantic, and Brisbane is a lot farther South than people expect.)

Kakerlakensuppe and Kakerlakensalat are ridiculous games for 1am when you can barely string two thoughts together or pronounce "capsicum". They are games in the style of Jungle Speed where a mistake can set you back considerably, and many mistakes can make the game continue forever. Fun for a while.

I really wanted to like Rune Age, but the card-pool is incredibly shallow and there doesn't seem to be much depth to the game. The Runewars scenario seems to grind on, back-and-forth; the Dragonlords scenario is decent (because the game ends without a drawn-out tug-of-war), but I think I like the ridiculously difficult cooperative Cataclysm scenario best.

I had a drawn-out experience with A Few Acres of Snow, but in the end I think I'm just not a fan of combative 2p games.

Dominant Species is an excellent design - a highly-interactive Euro with many parts that work well together, and a fascinating, unusual and well-integrated theme (I especially like how cubes represent species rather than numbers, which makes me interested in how other things are represented). However it's just too long for me, and not something I can play occasionally. In another universe, I'd study the game and play it frequently.

The Others
I also played the Agricola: Gamers' Deck and Arkham Horror: Innsmouth Horror Expansion expansions, which I can't judge accurately as I'm unfamiliar with the base game - though I will say the Agricola: Gamers' Deck occupations looked more interesting and interactive, and the systems of Innsmouth appeared a lot more coherent and true to the source material.
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36. Board Game: Wings of War: Famous Aces [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:548] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
Steve Bauer
United States
Gilbert
Arizona
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Not a great month for games. Only 2 new games and a single card expansion.

Wings of War: Famous Aces
1 play, rating 6.5

A good game, I don't really like miniatures games and it is pretty light but had a very fun 3 versus 3 game for my first play and would gladly play it again once in a while.

Othello
1 play, rating 5

Glad I tried it, don't really need to play it again.

Expansion:
Dominion: Walled Village Promo Card
2 plays, rating 7.5

A fine card but not great, would like more interesting card effects from a promo.

Here is hoping for more variety in October.
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37. Board Game: Dune [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:131]
Juan Carlos Goyes
Colombia
Bogota
Cundinamarca
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It’s true hard work never killed anyone, but I figure, why take the chance? - Ronald Reagan
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1. Dune Rating: 9.4 - What a great game!! I think this will be in my top 10 of games.

2. Mansions of Madness Rating: 8.3 - I´m a sucker for Cthulhu games.

3. Doom: The Boardgame Rating 7.8 - Love the minis

4. Rook Rating 6.9 - Want to play againt to re rate.

5. Evo Rating 9.1 - The other winner of the month.

6. Imperial Rating 5.3 - The biggest disappointment.

7. Dust Rating 7.4 - I expected more but a good game.

8. Dragonheart Rating ? - Not sure yet.

9. Alhambra Rating 7.1 - Family game of the month,

10. Airlines Europe Rating 7.6 - Good stock holding game (unlike Imperial)

11. Wings of War: Famous Aces Rating 6.1 - A game I could learn to like.

12. Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization – Czech expansion + Cywilizacja: Poprzez wieki – Polski dodatek 1 - Rating 10 - Love TtA

13. Ystari Box Rating 8.5 - (Caylus Magna Carta Expansion) - It adds so much to the game,
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38. Board Game: N.Y. Chase [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2466]
Jerry Wilkinson
United States
New Castle
Indiana
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After owning a copy of this game for 8 years, I finally got to play it this month. My favorite game of all time is Scotland Yard, and I don't think this game is quite as good mostly because the board is ugly, but the gameplay is almost as good. It was my favorite new-to-me game of the month.

I played 6 other new-to-me games this month. I really enjoyed Lost Cities, Mamma Mia!, and Parade. I would rate all three an 8. I enjoyed Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition (unlike many of you I enjoy the occasional game of Monopoly). I would rate it a 7.

I also played Rook, which I would rate a 5, and Fact or Crap which I rate a 2. (This game deserves a 2 because Sally Ride was not the first woman in space. Valentina Tereshkova was. It makes me wonder how many other "Facts" are really crap.)
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39. Board Game: Field Commander: Alexander [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:1396]
D a v i d B u r k e y
United States
Fort Smith
Arkansas
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Field Commander: Alexander thumbsupthumbsup 4 Plays



Only one new game for me this month, but it was definitely a good one for me. I took the plunge and finally purchased this solo game over the summer after being favorably impressed with the feedback on the game from this site. I was able to play this four times this month (three plays of the initial Granicus scenario and one play of the Issus scenario), and I have really enjoyed the game so far. The game mechanics work tremendously well for a solo wargame—the scouting roll for movement especially forces the player to make some hard decisions each turn. Adding to the experience was the ability to "tell the story" of the campaign as you are playing. When Alex was able to luckily slay the enemy leader in a battle I was losing, I could imagine the scene at the battle—Alexander rallying his broken troops for one last successful charge on the leader to save the day.

I also have to admit that I have been VERY fortunate in my first plays; I won all four plays in only a few turns and scored significant VPs. I am sure that this beginners luck streak will end soon, but it has been nice. If you are interested, you can see more detailed descriptions of my plays here.
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40. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:33]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Gaming con this month so I tried quite a few new games. My pick is a classic that I've wanted to play for years. Just enough theme, classic Knizia scoring, scheming and building and smiting and destroying, and the ebb and flow of power. Good times. Played again as soon as I got back home, and enjoyed that game too despite having horrible luck at the tile draw.

Really didn't play anything else that I disliked; the rest of my new games fall along the spectrum from "hey, that was cool" to "ok, would try again." Here they are in no particular order.

I've always heard Battle Line compared to Lost Cities, and now that I've played it, I agree. It has a similar feel. I like Lost Cities, and I liked this.

The Bottle Imp is another game I'd wanted to play for ages and finally got to try. It's one of those tricky little card games that makes you think in a new way. I love the way it's based on the short story.

I'd been interested in trying The Castles of Burgundy because I'd heard good things about it, and because of how much I've liked Notre Dame and Macao. It would be overstatement to say I was disappointed, but it didn't seem to have as much character as either of those others. It was good, but kind of Eurobland. On the other hand, it was like 3 am on the penultimate night of the con, and I was pretty exhausted, so maybe I didn't appreciate it to the fullest.

I didn't know a thing about Biblios except that I'd admired the box, and once we opened it, I admired the dice. This is a nice little filler; not strongly themed, but has some nifty mechanisms.

Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War was one of the more interestingly different games I tried this month. This 2p game is something like chess (promotion of pawns to queen, pieces that have different movement abilities), something like Stratego (battle between troops of unknown strength), something like several other games, and a mix of deduction and capture-the-flag. You don't know what your pieces can do; you know what your opponent's pieces are and she knows what yours are. When you try to make a move, she tells you whether it's legal, and through experimentation and elimination you figure out which piece is which. This was a novel and interesting game, and I'd play it again, but ultimately I think I didn't like it enough to give it the attention it would take to become any good at it.

HeroClix, on the other hand, seemed like a game that would become increasingly fun the more you knew what you were doing. It exceeded my expectations right from the start because the grid movement system eliminates the aspect I've most disliked in my few brushes with minis gaming. This was actually pretty cool.

Wiz-War was a hoot. There's wizards and treasure and labyrinths and all kinds of crazy magical smiting. Any kind of long-term plan is pretty sure to get ruined, and it's over before you know it, so it only makes sense to just go all in and unleash whatever you can. Lots of fun.

As for Arkadia, I don't know. It wasn't unpleasant, but really felt like I didn't quite get it. It was like I could see that by doing A I could make B happen, and I understood how B caused C, and I grasped the mechanism whereby C would bring about D, but I never knew whether to do A or not because damned if I could figure out whether I wanted D to happen. It was strange. Both the experienced players said that the game had unfolded in a very odd and uncharacteristic way, so maybe that had something to do with it. I'd be happy to play this again sometime and see if it made more sense.
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41. Board Game: Mammoth Hunters [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:2273]
Brian McCormick
United States
Lansing
Michigan
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Mammoth Hunters was a game my friend introduced my wife and I to. I wouldn't buy it, but I'd play it again. Despite the fact that you're constantly screwing with your opponent's placements, it doesn't feel very aggresive.

Louis XIV. A very, very cool game, so cool that I'd want to check out Mr. Dorn's other designs. My wife really liked it, too, so I imagine this one will come off the shelf if we're in the mood for a light Euro.

YINSH. I've been exploring the Gipf series. YINSH was one of the last ones I had yet to try. I'd heard so many good things about it so I thought I'd save the best for last. It is my least-favorite Gipf game so far, not because it's bad, but because the strategy is absolutely foreign to me. After 25+ plays (all of them losses) I still cannot grasp this one.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. Not exactly "broken", but horribly, horribly unbalanced and poorly-tuned to the point of almost being unplayable. Pity, because the mechanics are neat and I love the art style.

Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. Heard good things about this one. This is a very light Euro that doesn't overstay its welcome. My friend (the same who showed my wife and I Mammoth Hunters) taught me this one and like Mammoth Hunters I'd play it again, but I wouldn't buy it.

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42. Board Game: Onirim [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:728]
Matt Connellan
United States
Avondale
Arizona
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I am the white void. I am the cold steel. I am the just sword.
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Start with the game I liked the most that I played this month. It completely replaced LotR:TCG as my solo card game of choice, partly due to to this game being great, and partly due to LotR being unbalanced for single-player games. The expansions I bought this month taught me that. No more money from me, FFG.

Mr. Jack in New York: Great game, and an improvement on an already great game they had in the original. All characters are useful and balanced.

Citadels: Okay, I guess. Better than most other role selection games I can think of at least. It's just... bland, I guess.

Hive: Cool game. I really think there are a lot more strategies in this for me to discover, because half the moves my wife makes I say "Oh wow, I didn't think of that!"

Quarriors!: I can tell this game will be the source of a lot of fun. I think I'll tweak the rules a bit, but other than that, a fun dicefest waiting to happen.

Return of the Heroes: This game is a lot more fun than it looks like it would be. The components look like the game makers grabbed whatever was handy when they made the game. Glass beads, cardboard chits, plastic bases, wooden cubes, smooth rocks, and a weird combination of painted art and (horrible looking) CG art.
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43. Board Game: Magnum Sal [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:761]
Lo Ma
United States
California
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This has been a good month!

I've been wanting to try Magnum Sal for quite awhile, but wasn't able to hunt down a copy until recently. It was deifinitely a hit, and felt like a euro with theme! You have some sense of mining deep for that salt as you play the game, and all the mechanics seem to support the theme well (except perhaps for the gambling house where the players are always lucky - that makes no sense!). Interesting game with good bits and unusual theme. For some reason, it kind of reminds of Dungeon Lords, even though they are entirely different games in theme and mechanics. Maybe it's the feeling of digging underground. Just something about it. Anyway, thumbsup

By the way, you can now copies of this awesome game from Tasty Minstrel Games for $50 shipped to the USA. Check it out! It's worth the bucks. bag




The surprise bit of goodness was from a game that I just received today in a trade, and which I didn;t think I'd like that much since it seemed like it might feel a lot like Yahtzee: Elder Sign. But it was a total blast to play. Really fun. But there are a couple of things I really don;t appreciate - the flavor text on the cards is really hard to read - couldn;t they make more contrast or something? And everything is very very small and non-contrasting, so hard to see and handle. An immediate improvement was to replace the chits for the investigators with painted minis from Arkham Horror. Yeah, you can't put a focused die on a mini, but you put it right next to the mini... But definitely a surpise thumbsup




Finca was a great family hit - it's all about donkeys and selling fruit, and is the first rondel game I've played thta I like. Cool bits, clever if simplistic gameplay, with some real decisions to make. I also have the Finca: El Razul expansion, whoch I haven't played yet. The base game however is a solid entry for familyland. thumbsup




Not completely new to me is a game that I really had a chance to get familiar with was Era of Inventions - a funtastic game with subpar bits. Cool theme of inventing, patenting, and producing 19th century/early 20th century machines, with excellent mechanics and lots of hard choices. There are different strategies, though if you can get your manufacturing engine going early and get some inventions invented ASAP, it'll be a lot easier. There a lso seems to be a first player advantage from the very first turn that can take time to even out - not sure how to balance this better. Nevertheless a cool and taut game. But the bits are the pits - cards with information that is hard to discern on the board, wooden bits with colors that don't have enough contrast, and rolling rods instead oc discs or octagonals which might stay in place better. Oh but still very much worth playing if you can find a copy. thumbsup




Ah, but I did have one disappointment: Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League - pick up and deliver is cool with me, but this one just didn;t have "it". I am still looking for a space game that works for me. I had high hopes for Alien Frontiers, but that was a really big disappointment - it didn't take long for me to get tired of it. Before that, Ad Astrawas the one I was hoping would fill the void, but it didn't. And there were others, oh so many. I didn;t have very high expectations for this small 2-player game to be honest, and unfortunately, it lived up to the lowness of those expectations... when when will I find the one? thumbsdown




This has been a big month in trades, so I have several I'll be looking forward to playing next month, with expectations from high to low: The Castles of Burgundy, King of Tokyo, Techno Witches, A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game, plus two games I've had for awhile but haven't gotten to the table yet: Mansions of Madness and De Vulgari Eloquentia. I know I won't get to them all though in one month!


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44. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:327]
Joe Wyka
United States
Walnut Creek
California
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Again, another slow couple of months. I didn't post for August, and between last month and this I've only tried 4 new games. The best of them I got in the mail on Wednesday and played last night!

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork - 7
Martin Wallace continues his trend of creating lighter and lighter games. This is a fun title with great artwork and smooth game play. Martin used to be terrible at designing lighter games, but now he seems to have really grasped how to do it. You basically play a card and draw a card. Cards have combinations of actions that may be performed in order to add, remove or move pieces on the board. Players try to meet their personal victory condition before the deck runs out, after which most points wins.

I prefer the heavier games myself, but I think this has enough going on that I'll enjoy bringing it to the table. The player aids are excellent and the pieces for the Collector's Edition are very nice. Beautiful production. Enjoyable, lighter game.


FITS - 6


Blokus-Tetris. Mildly interesting, but lacks some needed tension.


Grass - 5


This is the first of the Milles Bourne-based games I've played. You basically try to get money cards down on the table while playing cards that hurt your opponents or give you advantages. While there are some choices to make depending on what is in your hand, the best choice is usually obvious and luck of the draw plays a big part. Pretty average card game. How various sins like lust are supposed to protect your money, is a thematic mystery.


A la carte - 4


Played the Moskito edition. Very light game. You have choices, but the result of every choice is determined randomly, so it can feel rather pointless. My score includes a bonus point for the components, which are special.
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45. Board Game: Wizard [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:546]
James Fehr
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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I only played 2 games that were new to me this month, and one of them was a variation on an old classic.

I grew up playing Rook, and generally really enjoy trick-taking games. I've been mildly interested for a while to try the well-regarded and widely available trick-taking game of Wizard, and finally got a chance this month. I played it with my 4 oldest kids, and we enjoyed it for what it was. I like the way the hands get larger by one card each round, and the tension of having to guess exactly how many tricks I'll be able to take each round. Most of the choices during actual game-play are pretty obvious, but there's a little angst to be had there too. Not a bad card game to buy if you're on a budget. My rating was 6.5 out of 10.

It really doesn't count, but I also played U-Build Connect 4 this month after picking it up for $4.94 from Superstore. It was fun for the kids to build at least. The extensions that hang down from the top of the game add a dexterity element that adds a little something to the classic Connect 4 game.

It was a very slow month for new games here in September, but I`m expecting it to pick up in October.
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46. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:115]
William Bussick
United States
Reno
Nevada
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You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
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4 new games this month.

BEST

King of Tokyo: A good, old-fashioned, king-of-the-hill, dice game (er, if there ever was one!). This has great replayability, a short length, and terrific production values. The cards can be ambiguous and require house rules almost every game, but it doesn't slow the game down. Good work, Mr. Garfield!

THE REST (most liked first)

Ghost Blitz: A terrific game for kids or adults. Simpler than Jungle Speed or Santy Anno, but definitely in the same "speed" vein. Very portable. A little hard to play when your opponents don't have a similar skill level, but it's a minor gripe.

Dungeon Lords: Ah, Dungeon Lords... This is a great game that I'll probably trade away at some point. It was good fun and well-produced, but it was overwhelming. The 24 pages of rules were incredibly daunting to me. (They are funny as hell, though!) I don't think I'll play this enough to really retain the rules as well as I did Space Alert. Such a neat concept, but too damn complicated. I hope Dungeon Petz boils it down a little.

Sternenhimmel: A clever older area-majority game. It seemed to move pretty quickly and had some great bluffing-related decisions. I may not pick it up, but I did enjoy it!
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47. Board Game: Poseidon [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:861]
Joerg Schaefer
Germany
Frankfurt
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Ten new games this month and one prototype of a pirate game I won't talk about here as it's probably a good game for its target group which I don't belong to. A difficult choice this month, as all games were ok or good. Sounds boring, I know. I go with Poseidon, as it's a unique twist on the 18xx system.

Game of the Month
Poseidon: d10-7 (1 play)

An interesting twist on the 18xx system settled in ancient Greece that can be reasonably played in less than three hours even with newbies to 18xx. While it shares many features of the system, it's too different in a few core instances to serve as an introductory game. In first place, the route building is more similar to Winsome titles than anything else. Also, you really have to mess up to go bankrupt in the ship rush as the city states (railroads) can usually issue some more titles to refinance themselves making Poseidon a very tame 18xx variant. It's fine as a meaty economic game option on weeknights but time available a full-fledged 18xx will give more satisfaction.

Good games
Olympos: d10-7 (2 plays)

Olympos takes the time mechanism from Thebes and combines it with a combo building civ game. The result is more pleasant and much more thinky than I was expecting from reading the rules. My concern that it will be a random who-gets-hit-the least fest was unfounded. There's a lot to plan for and in the end the better plan should usually win. But Olympos needs experienced players who know their options. Better learn it with three players as our five newbies game took well beyond two hours. The colourful graphic style didn't help in conveying the needed information although it is a step up for Ystari in appearance.

The Princes of Florence: d10-7 (1 play)

Princes of Florence was the last of the Alea/HiG Euro classics (Puerto Rico et al) from the turn of the century I got to play. 11 years later it still holds up with the new releases although it has a distinctive strategic old-school feel which is part of its charm. It reminded me of Louis XIV (which it predates) in its aim to complete works/missions in most turns. While Louis is the majority take on fulfilment services, PoF is auction-based. Every gamers' game can benefit from some auction and with PoF I'm glad to have a rock solid exponent in my Alea collection. Too bad, that it's the Pro Ludo second German edition which has inferior less functional artwork. It likely won't climb higher than a 7 as it's too strategic to fall within my more tactically focused comfort zone.

The Resistance: d10-7 (3 plays)

The Resistance just adds enough elements to Werewolf to give a few hints for deducting the secret roles from gameplay itself and not only from the metagame between the players which can sink Werewolf easily if the majority of players are calm. It's still easier to hide your spy identity when you stay out of most discussions but now others will have some specific evidence to tackle those kind of players. Luckily, it avoids Battlestar Galactica's chrome and length overkill and stays within 15-30 minutes playtime making it a good opener or closer for game nights. Now, I just have to learn how to play a traitor without being discovered each time.

Titicaca: d10-7 (2 plays)

It looks like Settlers but plays like a multiplayer abstract with blind bidding. If none of these features disturb you enough to not play Titicaca, then you'll likely find an enjoyable somewhat weird placement game with a complex scoring mechanism that will leave question marks until the final scoring. It's typically Cwali in its abstract nature and a clear predecessor to the more well-known and streamlined Gipsy King. Worth seeking out although time has proven that it's too limited in its appeal to have staying power among gamers.

Workshop of the World: d10-7 (1 play)

To draw an odd comparison, Workshop of the World is like a Brass-themed Titicaca (see above). The key is the blind bidding for turn order respectively first choice of city cards and canal/rail link building to construct the best network. It's low on complexity and plays in not much more than an hour. Nothing outstanding, which is why it got lost in the flood of new releases but a solid effort.

OK games
Langfinger: d10-6 (1 play)

The small box, mediocre artwork and the less than perfect track record of authors and publisher set the expectations low. But Langfinger is a nice surprise and delivers a crisp worker placement experience in not much more than 30 minutes. It thereby circumvents the biggest drawback of the genre: getting annoyed by the processional nature of going through the placement resolution. It's a bit more luck-based than is usual for the genre but I don't mind it here considering its short length.

Canal Mania: d10-6 (1 play)

Canal Mania's pacing is off. It plays as long and is causing as much AP as Age of Steam, but the depth of decisions is on a middle ground between AoS and Ticket to Ride. Either one will be the choice in most instances. Canal Mania would be for the occasion when you're looking for a longer but not to brutal route building fix and don't mind a noticeable luck factor. For winning you need to get connected canals starting from the main cities early on and the best you can do is setting up a position that increases your chances of getting lucky.

Runewars: d10-6 (1 play)

For multiplayer conflict games Runewars is as good as they get and I wouldn't mind joining in again. It has enough well-combined elements such as the order mechanism and the tactical cards to allow a player clever moves to sneak in the win. It's not too much free-for-all leaderbashing and the hero system introduces a nice counterbalance to simple military might. I'm just not crazy for this type of game. After one game I rate it a bit below my two benchmarks for this genre, Civilization: The Boardgame and A Game of Thrones. This is due to the Runewars fantasy setting that's not up to my taste and the ridiculous coffin-sized box and toylike components. In terms of gameplay, I wouldn't prefer any of them to each other without more experience.

Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails: d10-6 (1 play)

A little more complex Settlers variant but not as much complexity added as I thought after reading about it. Settlers of America introduces a Civ-like settler that can cross the country indepedently from roads (SoC) or the herewith introduced rails. Whenever it stops on a city spot, it founds that city and further development can start from there. Players can't get stuck horribly anymore. The second new concept are railroads that have to be built up to reach the winning condition of delivering all your goods and are a mean to get money when a rail connects a city to another for the first time.
Money - an even bigger difference than the open nature of development. It can be used twice per turn to buy a needed resource. Furthermore, whenever a player doesn't get some resource from a die roll he's compensated with a coin. As a result, trading happens much less in America than in Catan. Pretty big change for a trading focused game. Might open up the system to new trading-averse players but that was what Settlers is about for me. On the plus side, the kingmaker potential is reduced as well. I'd still prefer classic Catan but my game group tended more towards this iteration.
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48. Board Game: About Nothing [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
...sure...
Netherlands
Rijen
Noord Brabant
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Nothing.... cry
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49. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:186]
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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This month has a stellar top end and some of my least favorite new games of the last year. A wide range of experience...


Struggle of Empires x1


An epic, engrossing, wonderful experience. I played with the full seven-player count and loved every minute of the seven-hour marathon. It's a simple game shaped by tight resources, a clever alliance system that masks overt aggression with bought partnership, and just the right amount of wargamey randomness. A treat. I'd buy it, but I'll never get a game like this to the table.


Letters from Whitechapel x1


I like deduction and hidden movements and asymmetric sides and hunter-and-prey, but this was still more fun than I had anticipated. Maybe I had my expectations diminished by so many forum posts declaring it broken. It was a tight, tense experience (I played Jack) and much of the fun came from hiding how nervous I was at any given moment while making daring plans to move right under the noses of my pursuers.


London x1


This game fits right into my bullseye for game style. I like tactical card games and games that are best played by intuition. It did not disappoint. I had no great sense of strategy, but tried to make little combos and efficient plays. I ran a large city (probably a dozen stacks) and managed to avoid disaster.

The only drawback to the game in my first play was the repetitive feeling of running the city then buying districts. I almost wish the map weren't a part of the game, but that's a first impression. Aesthetically, I played on the Limited Edition and can't get it out of my head. I want the wooden pieces! So I'm not getting a copy for myself at this time.


Elder Sign x4


Elder Sign is predicated on a lot of prediction of dice odds. I really like that sort of thing and I am a Lovecraft fan, so I had to preorder. It has been fun so far, though my last play seemed to run into a broken situation. One player failed a couple times early and never succeeded at a single task again. This was partially poor luck, but was exacerbated by the fact that their character (Vincent Lee) had no abilities that help with task resolution and they had no items. It devolved into spending half the turns rolling for items in the Lost and Found (with a very poor success rate).

I haven't won solo (two plays) but won both three-player games. The three-player games both came down to the wire, so further plays are needed to determine if it's too easy (as some are claiming).


Mystery Express x1


This is probably my surprise of the month. I really enjoyed this game. I played a three-player game, which seems below the sweet spot, and found it to be a tight duel of wits. What I assumed to be a deduction game turned out to have a much greater element of manipulating the other players, working hard to shield information from them while not falling prey to the same. This is one of those games in which the players smile and laugh as they groan when another player screws them over. I'd love to try this with 4-5 tough gamers.


Modern Art x1


My rating is probably unfair here, but I don't yet understand the nuances of the game. I love Ra, but find this and Medici more impressive than compelling. I'd like to pack in a number of games in a short space of time, or possibly read a primer on the bidding strategies, to get more in touch with the valuations. I came in second with a conservative strategy, but first place was very far ahead of me. A very interesting and worthy game, this much is certain.


Merchants of the Middle Ages x1


This is a game very unlike any other I've played. The underlying rules are almost simplistic and everything hinges on the need to negotiate cooperation. Everything you do requires aid from competing players. I really enjoyed the dynamics even though I had no solid frame of reference by which to value actions and services. My rating is lowered because it felt a bit too long and no one at the table was dragging. It started to feel a bit repetitive toward the end.


Goa x1


Before I hit the depressing part of the list, I'll revisit this game from last month, which I was unable to rate at that time. Playing Goa a second time has made me realize I don't love this game. I agree the auction mechanics is unique and wonderful, but the rest of the game leaves me with a strong feeling of Euro malaise. I just don't enjoy the process of teching up and scoring from 6 categories and so on. It's fine but not as exciting as I had hoped.


Neue Heimat x1


I'll give this two stars for design; for fun it's near zero. I don't like this game, but not because it's bad. I just don't like this kind of game. It's too abstract. The information is too open. The type of position jockeying bores me. It might work better for me with more of the information hidden (making it randomized from the players' perspective) and/or if it were much shorter (eg, one round rather than three).


Gears of War: The Board Game x1


Awful. A distillation of the worst parts of cooperative games. Procedural and repetitive with no dramatic payoff. The design almost seems designed to bore and a great example of that is the map size. The game is played on a miniature board, with perhaps a dozen "steps" needed to go from beginning to end, but you can barely move because the waves of enemies and the dwindling resources. This game has a terminal lack of fun.


Food Fight x1


A waste of time. It takes too long for what it is. The card art is spectacular and, in the end, looking at it is the only fun part of the game.


The Walking Dead: The Board Game x1


A random, meaningless exercise reminiscent of traditional roll-and-move game design. The game has one clever mechanic in the zombie multiplication, but overall you might as well watch robots play for you because your decisions make no difference at all. And once again, as I often say about low-rated games, it's much too long for what it is. My play of this was nearly 3 hours!! Don't play with six players; you've been warned.
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50. Board Game: Kartenschach [Average Rating:6.67 Unranked]
Tom Hilgert
Germany
Unspecified
Bavaria
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I haven´t played this month so many games as usual, but this KARTENSCHACH from Knizia is one of the best games I have played this year. Ok if you are purist and don´t like variants on the Game of the games then you should pass on this one. But on the other hand if you like 2 player abstracts with nice twists this collection of 16(!) Chess variants with countless subvariants is a must have. When we played it we wanted to play that afternoon Washington´s War but we ended playing 8 of the 16 variants and had a lot of fun. Rated a 7 seven with tendencies to 8 or a 9

Sun Tzu



Well this is two player EL GRANDE and I don´t have the slightest idea why Alan didn´t offered this to Hans im Glueck. Very good artwork,a nice small box and a good game. So tahts a clear 7

Dragon Lairds



This one is an OK game with some nice ideas (as usual in Tom Wham games) but you have to play it several times that you know the cards. I´m very curious what Mr. Brunnhofer will say when we play it hopefully the next month. I don´t like Saint Petersburg so much because its multiplayer solitaire, so i can´t say if its that close to Dragon Lairds. Not sure if its a keeper, but the graphics are great again and the inlay is a mess (I got a brandnew copy with a completely destroyed game aid). Solid 6

Charon Inc.



A bigger disappointment here. I hoped that its takes away the paralysis analysis as in Hermagor, but only the cards help a little bit to do this . I think we played nearly 90 minutes which is too long for what it is. the only good idea is the reverse worker placement mechanism which should get a better game. A Disappointing 5
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