Surya's Essen 2011 initial game thoughts
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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My first thoughts for this year's releases.

I'll add them throughout the following months as I play them
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1. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:110]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Believe it or not, but this was my first, fully fledged 18xx game. I had played things like Age of Steam, Baltimore & Ohio and Poseidon though.
We played with 4, all of which had played either 1830 or Poseidon before. The game took 9 hours to complete. We weren't bored, but that is very, very long. And it's not like we were playing slow, but this is a long game. Now, I can see this game taking as little as 4 hours with experienced players. But that is still very long. It is a deep, fulfilling game, which might justify that length for some, but I get almost the exact same satisfaction from playing Poseidon or Age of Steam, and those games take 2 hours or so. So why play a game that takes twice as long? I wouldn't refuse to play 1830 again, I enjoyed it, it is a very good design. But it doesn't offer as much bang per hour.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
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2. Board Game: Alba Longa [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:3050]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I wasn't too sure about this game since it has direct player conflict, something neither me nor most people in my group enjoy all that much. So we requested to play the 'friendly' variant, which I had heard about.

Alba Longa is a worker placement game where you have to grow food, build buildings and most of all grow your population. And for that you need more food. You also get to steal stuff from other players with military power. But in the friendly variant, it's more beneficial to steal from a neutral board.

Everything worked fine. The rounds go fast, decisions are meaningful enough and there are options for you to explore. Yet we found that with this friendly variant it does lack tension a bit. Since we don't enjoy stealing from each other, that probably means this game isn't for us.

Initial rating: 6.7
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3. Board Game: Die Brücke am Rio D'Oro [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:8647]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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A very nice production with 3D river and bridge with cracking and disappearing planks. On top of that is some pleasant artwork. Very nice.
The theme is about players getting valuables from a temple over a bridge back to their base camp. On the bridge, they will encounter broken planks, missing planks and other robber who they can rob... or push off the bridge. That was OK for the first 10 or 15 minutes, but the rest of the 45 minutes was filled with just robbing each other and pushing everyone in the river... and no one scoring a single point. Boring and repetitive. We called it quits before the game actually ended, we had enough.

I never need to play this again, thank you very much.

Initial rating: 3
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4. Board Game: Bullfrog Goldfield [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:3868]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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First up was Bullfrog Goldfield, a game which I had put on my Essen 2011 watch list, but it didn't make the show.

This game has the role selection mechanism of Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (you get a different benefit from each role, but it also determines player order), has mines and trains like Brass and has a share system that reminded me of Chicago Express (your shares increase in value as you connect to more stuff).
At first the rules where a bit confusing, but I got the hang of them quite fast, unlike some other players involved. Even the splainer, who also happened to have done the Dutch translation, had a hard time of keeping track of what he could do when and what had which effect. It didn't help that the layout of the player aid was confusing and the data on it was incomplete.
Neither of us had any good idea of what strategy to choose, so some players went of a railroad strategy, others for a mine strategy, some for a mix of both. It was soon clear that we all made some serious strategic mistakes which mostly came from a misinterpretation of the end scoring or a misunderstanding of the rules. I guess we'll have less of that on repeated plays.

I liked some of the ideas in the game, even though most of them aren't that original, and would be willing to play again. I still don't have a good idea of what strategies to follow though. Weird game!

I didn't enjoy my play of this, but I am willing to give it a second chance. I won't write it off just yet.

Initial rating: 6.5

PS: what's up with that counter clockwise scoring track and the ugly artwork?
 
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5. Board Game: Casa Grande [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:2985]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Casa Grande is sort of a mixture of elements of several themed abstracts with tacked on themes. It's got the running around the board like in Pueblo, the tower building of Torres and the tile building like in Arkadia. All games I enjoy. And while I didn't dislike Casa Grande, it wasn't more than the sum of it's parts. In fact, if felt a bit uninspired. It works fine, but nothing outstanding.

Initial rating 6.7
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6. Board Game: The City [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1262]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Race for the Galaxy light? Not really. You do use cards to play for other cards, but that's about the only comparison I see.
This is the most basic version of engine building you can get. Each card gives you income and/or points. Initially you will focus on building up your income, than you will shift to generating points.
This game is quite light and has quite a big luck factor, but I enjoy playing this, and it has just the right playing time. It's also fun to see how you can score massive points towards the end of the game. The game ends when someone scores 50 or more. Last night I scored 31 points in my last turn, more than half of what I needed to win the game. It's just enjoyable to see such things happen, even if part of it is luck

Initial rating: 7
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7. Board Game: City Tycoon [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1506]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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After hearing the explanation of this game in Essen, I almost bought this. But then they where sold out. I still was eager to try it out though, as it sounded very interesting.
The rules are pretty straight forward. Draft tiles, play tiles, score. Repeat 3 more times.
Buildings get increasingly expensive and efficient, which is something you should know in advance.
This is a very good game, everything works very well, and it didn't outstay it's welcome. But is did get slightly repetitive towards the end and I didn't feel this was anything new.

Good game, I probably won't mind playing, but not one I need to own, I think.

Initial rating: 6.8
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8. Board Game: Click Clack Lumberjack [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1101]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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This is fun. And silly. And hardly a game. I can see why so many players enjoy this, and I do too, but I see it more as an activity than as an actual game. Good fun though.

Initial rating: 6.5
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9. Board Game: Coney Island [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1819]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I should mention that I'v actually played this twice now, so it isn't my very initial impression. The reason for that is that our first game was with 2 players, and neither of us liked the way the 2 player game worked... at all. So I refused to write anything about this game or rate it before I had a 4-player game in.

With 4 players this game is significantly better. It does offer some nice strategic and tactical choices. 2 players went for a newspaper heavy strategy, just for the points, 1 player plopped down as many tiles as possible and I tried building as many attractions as possible.

It's actually a quite decent game, and I love the theme (the reason I bought it!) but in the end it doesn't offer anything new at all. Fine game, but been there, done that.

Initial rating: 6.7
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10. Board Game: Core Worlds [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:324]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I had been wanting to play this game since it came out. I'm a sucker for space themed games I am, however not a big fan of deck building games, which is why I didn't get a copy. Oh yeah, the price tag of $60 didn't help in that department either.
First off let me say that this is the second Stronghold Games title I've played recently that has these tiny cardboard token where I wish they would have used slightly bigger ones or, even better, wooden bits. The rest of the components are fine and the artwork is very nice, if you're in to that kind of style.
This is a bit of a mix of Dominion with Race for the Galaxy in that you build your deck and buy new cards, but you also get to play cards (especially planets) in front of you that stay there.
It played fine, rules weren't too hard. It does take a while longer than Dominion and isn't quite as streamlined.
It's a good thing that you know in advance which goals will come up in the last 2 rounds so you can plan for them, but I guess this will make for a less dynamic end game with repeated plays.

Initial rating: 7.2
 
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11. Board Game: Cornerstone Essential [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2923]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I like spacial games, especially if they have a 3D element, so this was high on my to try list. I do have to say that you can get screwed by the dice, especially in the end game, but I do enjoy this one. I like building tricky situations that will have consequences later on in the game.

Initial rating: 6.8
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12. Board Game: Discworld: Ankh-Morpork [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:336]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Not really an Essen release, but I guess most people consider this part of the pack.

I'm not one who generally enjoys light chaotic games. On the contrary. I'm also not a fan of Discworld. I haven't read any of the books and disliked the BBC movies. I am, however, somewhat of a Martin Wallace fan, but this is far from the quintessential economic Wallace game.
I can't really put my finger on what it is about this game I enjoy, but I just do. It is light, it is chaotic, but it's also very fun.
I also love how you all have different goals, and are trying to get different things done, yet you will be doing things that annoy the other players in doing so. The goals in the game are clearly well thought out.

I didn't expect to hate this game, but I also didn't expect to like this as much as I do.

Initial rating: 7.5
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13. Board Game: Drum Roll [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:726]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I got an explanation of this in Essen, but didn't actually play. It sounded like a solid game, but I knew I'd find a copy and time to try it out at home. Last night I did.

If you look at this game mechanically, it acutally has a lot of similarities to Prêt-à-Porter. It's a worker placement game in which you need certain resources to be able to show of your 'product' a couple of times in the game. The details are of course different. There are way fewer spots to put your workers, and especially the resource spots are very limited. Others, like money are limited to 2 per person. Which is a good thing, since money can be very tight, depending on your strategy. In the first round, I had to pay a total of $1 to pay for all my performers, since the rest was offset by not having to pay them or the income they created. One other player though, had to pay a total of $19, for just about the same amount of performers.
I liked how you could choose to focus on certain things, but it wasn't always easy to do so. Also, focusing wasn't always what you wanted, you need a bit of everything.

I liked Drum Roll quite a bit, but I don't think I like it as much as Pret-a-Porter, which seems to be a deeper game. But still a very decent effort from both a first time publisher as the first time designers. And the artwork is great.

Initial rating: 7
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14. Board Game: Dungeon Fighter [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:631]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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This game wasn't really on my radar, but friend brought it over, we where tired and a light game seemed like a good fit. And I don't mind a good gimmick every now and then.

Dungeon Fighter is a dungeon crawl. Or at least, that's what the theme tells you. And it's co-operative. And you bounce dice on the table to hit monsters. So it's not a classic dungeon crawl by any measure.

The game does give you some strategic options (which dice to use, which to leave for the next player, what weapons to get) but in the end this is a very, very light gimmicky party game. And while I enjoyed it, I expect the replay value to be quite low.

Initial rating: 6.5
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15. Board Game: Dungeon Petz [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:86]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I wasn't too fond of Dungeon Lords since I found it was a bit too long and you had to do all kinds of slightly fiddly things for about an hour only to find out you didn't score a lot of points... and then you had to do it again with the same result.

But I knew Dungeon Petz was only related in theme, not in mechanisms.

I can already say I like Dungeon Petz quite a bit more. For starters, you score each round. And I found it to be less fiddly. And I think it's not as long.
Like Drum Roll an Pret-a-Porter, this is a worker placement game in which you create something to be shown off/sold a couple of times during the game for points.
While I still like Pret-a-Porter a bit more, I enjoyed Dungeon Petz, and would be happy to play it again

Initial rating: 7.2
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16. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:10]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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When a friend came over with this game, I was interested because it scores so highly on the list of Essen releases, but on the other hand, it has a 30 page rule book and combat in it, which aren't what I'm usually in to. But I decided to give it a shot.

The rules explanation was quite long. I remembered most of it, but I found it quite a bit of information and a couple of small rules I wish they could have left out.
The turn structure is quite easy (perform actions until everyone has passed and then do battle and some maintenance) and the actions are mostly straight forward, although the iconography could have been a bit more helpful here and there. In fact, everywhere the iconography could have been a bit clearer. But once you know what which icon means, it's a pretty straightforward game.
I found this game interesting and engaging and in the end, quite streamlined for the kind of game it is (having played TI3 ). I didn't love it, but I'd be happy to play again.

Initial rating: 7.5

PS: now I wanna try TI3 again to make a good comparison, it's been 4 or 5 years since I last played TI3!
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17. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:146]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Oh my. I have owned this game for almost two years. And I like most heavier Wallace games. OK, it's got some direct conflict in it, but it does it in a very Wallace-y way, which often doesn't bother me.
Now this is how I feel the deck-building mechanism should be used. Dominion is fine, but I don't need a dozen games which are Dominion with a different theme and some different cards. No, if I hear deck-building, I want it to be just part of the whole picture. And I think this is the first game to do it the way it makes work great, where it's not the focus but just one part of many things in the game. And the rest of the game works great as well.
I quite enjoyed my first game of this and look forward to exploring it further.

Initial rating: 7.5
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18. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:168]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I'm not a fan of co-operative games, and I probably never will be. That being said, I do enjoy the occasional game of Pandemic.
This game felt very similar to me. The way the fire spreads is quite similar to the way the diseases and outbreaks work in Pandemic. The mechanisms used for the player actions and the spreading of the fire are different though. There are no cards, but dice are used.
Everything works very well and the game is challenging, so I'm certain many people will love this, but for me, this isn't what I'm looking for.

So, good game, not for me.

Initial rating: 6.7
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19. Board Game: Fortuna [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1693]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I had played this as a prototype in various forms, but the final published version is by far my favorite version.
The mechanism with the 12 action cards is original and intriguing and not just a gimmick, as there's more to the game than just that.
There is a certain luck factor with the die roll in the final phase of a player's turn, but I always plan for the worst while hoping for the best. And more often than not this strategy gives me the victory (so far ) which leads me to believe the luck in this game is something you can plan for and even mitigate a bit.

A solid game I'm glad to have in my collection.

Rating: 7.8
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20. Board Game: The Gnomes of Zavandor [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2618]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I thought The Mines of Zavandor was a fine if unremarkable game, so I was interested to see if this game would stand out more. Unfortunately it did in a bad way. Not that this game is horrible, but I did find it frustrating and very hard to control. The fact that most scoring cards have low values doesn't help, as it will be impossible to catch up if one player manages to get multiple of the few higher scoring cards.

Initial rating: 6
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21. Board Game: Hawaii [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:354]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I'm generally in for your typical HiG game, but I also generally don't love them. They play well but the last offerings have been unremarkable yet enjoyable. A friend told me this is a slightly heavier HiG title, so I was more interested than usual to try this out.

Hawaii does indeed offer a bit more dept than the typical HiG title but still manages to stay streamlined. It has some nice workerplacement like mechanisms and the player board reminded me a bit of Vikings, more or less my favorite HiG title. There seem to be multiple paths to victory, an other aspect I enjoy.

All in all another solid title from HiG, but this one is just a bit more solid and enjoyable - for me at least - than most of their recent titles.

Initial rating: 7.2
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22. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:639]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Mathias Cramer had yet to disappoint me, so I was looking forward to this game, not actually knowing anything about it.
This game combines some classic game elements (buildings that produce resources which you use to build more buildings or buy points, worker placement, bonuses for majority) with the original mechanisms of using someone else's buildings by marrying one of your own workers with one of theirs. And then those couples can be used to produce more workers!
This game isn't only classic and fresh and appealing, it also offers quite some meaningful strategic choices throughout the whole game, making it one of my favorites so far.

Initial rating: 7.5
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23. Board Game: The Hobbit [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:2509]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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What? This game is rated 10+ for age? Damn, this is more like a chaotic kids game. At least, that's what it felt like to me. I understand that some of the mechanisms are probably a bit too complex for young children, but this game is too light and chaotic to appeal to the strategy gamer. It's not bad, but this is not the kind of game that get's my juices flowing.

Initial rating: 6
 
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24. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:339]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I had heard this game offers quite some variation, so that's always fun. And it's from the designer of Dominion! But I also had heard it was a light family style game, which is something I'll play from time to time, but I usually don't get too many plays in.
The rules sounded fine, and we got started quickly. Turns are short and easy, this plays very fast. The only problem is: more often than not I got stuck with the wrong landscape card, offering me NO choices. I got to fill up a whole corner of the board, with no chances what so ever to spread over the board, however hard I tried. If I didn't get to fill up the desert I was in even more, I got to start filling up the mountains or the grassland right next to it.

I was very disappointed with the amount of options I got in this game. I liked the idea, and it played well, but there simply too little options. Maybe giving everyone 2 cards to choose from improves this game dramatically, but with the written rule I didn't find this engaging.

Initial rating: 6
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25. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:236] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Loving the 3 previous Suchy games (especially Shipyard) this was quite high on my list of games to try. And then some friends told me this was one of their favorite Essen releases of 2011

I knew this would be a lighter game, but that's OK with me, I still found it to offer ample strategic options. It's a weird game though. You want to run out of money and than get in dept, but you want to run out of money at the right time, or getting in dept will be hard. That's a new feeling in a game. Also, cards that cost you more are better cards. Quite counter-intuitive! But it's all good. This game offers a nice twist on the engine building/worker placement genre, and I enjoy it.

Initial rating: 7.5
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