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That's the Spirit

Martin G
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The latest issue of the free online games magazine Tabletop Spirit is now available here: https://thespiritgamesmagazine.wordpress.com/

Amongst lots of other things, it features a couple of review by yours truly - Daring Dustbunnies and Great Plains - and a few words on Riftforce.

I'll post the reviews on BGG eventually but for now head over and download your copy!
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Tue Sep 14, 2021 12:51 pm
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New to me August 2021

Martin G
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Games night is back baby! For now anyway...

Riftforce - 4 plays -  8 
First Published 2021
Board Game: Riftforce


Ritforce is a duelling card game that sits somewhere between the elegance of Battle Line and the combo-creation of special power card games. After four plays I'm quite impressed.

There are 10 'guilds' with different powers, from which players draft 4 each at the start to make up their deck. But the cards for each guild are the same: just four 5s, three 6s and two 7s; and each card in a guild has the same power, so it doesn't feel overwhelming to learn.

The three actions you choose between on your turn are really elegant:

1. You can play up to three cards, either all from the same guild or all with the same value, and put them either all in the same location (of which there are 5) or one each in adjacent locations.

2. You can discard a card from hand to activate up to three cards already played, either all matching the guild or all matching the number of the card discarded.

3. You can refill your hand, which also lets you score one point for each location where you have cards but your opponent doesn't.

The special powers of the guilds are variations of dealing damage to cards in your opponent's row, healing damage in yours, and moving cards around. The value of a card is also the damage it takes to destroy it, and you get one point for each card destroyed -- the game is a race to 12VP.

There are some nice thematic touches in the way the powers relate to the names of the guilds (e.g. Fire does a lot of damage to the enemy but also some to your own nearby cards) and some interesting combos to discover. It also seems like a system that's built for expansion without requiring much in the way of new components; just a reference card for each new guild you introduce would do it.

Polynesia - 3 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Polynesia


Probably best to direct you here for my thoughts on this one: Peer Sylvester's Polynesia - thoughts after one (make that two!) plays. I've played one more since and it didn't go all the way to answering the questions I posed at the end of that article. I think it's a clever and interesting design but I'm not yet sure how fun it is.

Next up, a brace of co-op word-connection games which I tend to enjoy (see also Codenames, Decrypto, Just One...).

So Clover! - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2021
Board Game: So Clover!


So Clover has a neat trick that's best explained with a picture.

From gallery of W Eric Martin


Each player starts with four word cards randomly inserted into their 'clover'. Your task is to come up with a one-word clue linking each pair of words arranged around the edge and write it next to them. Once everyone's done, you take turns working as a group to put the cards back in place next to the right clues, with the additional distraction of a random added card.

I very much enjoyed both the clue-giving and solving halves of the game (though not everyone at the table felt the same). It's nice that unlike Codenames there's no waiting around while someone thinks up a clue, and the cluing feels less pressured as a result. Some pairs of words work out very easy to clue but most allow you to be a bit more creative (I was pleased with my "REM" for Dream and Berry).

For some reason, it's not advertised as a 2p game but it seems like it would work fine. With a big group it is possible for players to get left out during the solving discussion if others are too quick to spot the likely solutions.

Fiesta de los Muertos - 9 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Fiesta de los Muertos


In Fiesta, you each start by drawing a (hidden) card with the name of a famous personality or fictional character. Then you write down one word linked to that person and pass it on to your neighbour. They read that word, erase it, write a different related word and pass it on again.

After four iterations, you put the final words in the middle for everyone to see alongside the original characters plus some random ones that have been shuffled in with them. You each individually have to try to match them up based on what you can see and on the intermediate steps you remember writing. As with So Clover, there's a slightly pointless scoring system but the fun was in the figuring out and then the discussing of what we'd all put and how we'd got messed up.

With 4 players you contribute to every word so I found it much easier to come up with the right answers; with 7 it was less analytical and a lot of my guesses failed. You can also mix things up by using one or more of the included restriction cards to limit the clues that can be written, e.g. 'your first clue must begin with C'. This seems like it will be a good way to avoid predictability as you go round the character deck again.

Daring Dustbunnies - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Daring Dustbunnies


A 'race' game in which you only know which your own colour is (a la Heimlich & Co), and you also don't want to race too far ahead because your 'fluffball' will get sucked up into the hoover and be eliminated.

Basic movement happens with colour/number cards played from hand but there are also three different types of special power (one individual permanent power, one triggered by landing on different board spaces and one on cards drawn from a separate deck). Very silly but with some smart design choices. I reckon the designer is a Cosmic fan...

Dragomino - 3 plays -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Dragomino


This keeps only the domino-matching from its parent Kingdomino - each time you make a match you earn an 'egg' which might or might not contain a dragon (worth a point). The colours are distinguished by having different numbers of tokens but the same number of dragons, so you're more likely to hit with some colours than others. Worked well with my 5-year-old and her non-gaming grandparents!

Regicide - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Regicide


It's nice to see a standard deck card game topping the hotness and I was impressed by how well connected the mechanisms are to the structure of the deck. It's a co-op in which players take turns playing cards (from 10 down to Ace) to attempt to kill the 'bosses' representing by the Jacks, Queens and Kings. The numbers determine attack and defence strength while suits correspond to different helpful special powers.

So far I've played 4p which seemed incredibly difficult and solo which I won first time (but using both Jokers for help). I suspect the sweet spot is in between those. Solo it's really just a hand management puzzle while 4p is overly tactical as you have such a small hand. I'm interested to try with 2 and see if some restricted communication/signalling emerges.

Next come three trick-takers (who me?)

Nein Nine - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2021
Board Game: Nein Nine


A work-in-progress design that seemed quite promising. As the name suggests, you particularly want to avoid taking 9s, but there are a couple of twists that allow you to get them foisted on you.

Anansi - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Anansi


This is a 'hitting a moving target' game where you want to end a hand with the same number of tricks won as 'followers' acquired. You get followers by ducking out of a trick, but only one player can do that each trick so turn order is very important. The trump suit can also change during the hand but in a controllable way - it's determined by the suit with most cards that have been used to duck tricks for followers. Overall I felt it had some neat ideas but didn't quite come together as well as similar games I've played recently.

Take The "A" Chord - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2015
Board Game: Take The "A" Chord


Take the A Chord has a really cool theme. You're jazz musicians and the cards represent playing in different styles (suit) and keys (rank). Certain plays will change the key (a different rank becomes highest) or let you 'improvise'. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work very well as a game. Unlike Anansi, the changes of trump during a hand feel capricious and there's too little control for the plays to feel meaningful, especially with only 8 tricks per hand.

Snakesss - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2021
Board Game: Snakesss


Mehhh. One of many social deduction combined with a traditional activity games, this time it's multiple choice trivia questions. The 'snakes' are told the real answer and know who each other are, the 'normal humans' don't know either of those things. Everyone then has a discussion before individually picking the answer they think is correct; snakes get points for wrong answers, humans for right answers. The problem is that the fun is very dependent on the quality of the questions - sometimes we felt we all just knew the answer, other times we didn't really believe it!
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Thu Sep 2, 2021 1:47 pm
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Recent "old-school Euros" - geeklist

Martin G
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There are endless threads about the definition of "Euro game" which often end in the conclusion that "Euro" now has a different meaning to what it did in the 1990s/early-2000s.

"Modern Euros" often feature worker placement or another restrictive action selection mechanism, individual player boards or tableaux, a focus on efficiency/optimisation and fairly complex rules.

By contrast, the games variously referred to as "old-school Euro", "classic Euro" and "German-style" tend to have some or all of:

- a shared central board where most of the action takes place
- relatively simple rules (4-8 pages or so) and short play times (< 90 mins)
- 'necessary' interaction i.e. you can't just focus on your own thing and occasionally glance at what the other players are doing
- a simple action menu/turn structure
- few if any text-heavy special powers and combos

(note: this isn't intended to be a rigid definition and not all "old-school" games will meet all the points)

I'm much more interested in "old-school" than "modern" Euros and I know there are others like me out there too (the Board Gems video channel and Hidden Gems podcast focus on them for example).

I thought it would be interesting to have a geeklist which showcases recent examples of the "old-school Euro" style and I've seeded the list with the ones I've played so far. If you're adding a new one, please consider the points above and explain why you think it fits.

Please contribute at: "Old-school Euros" published in the 2020s
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Wed Aug 25, 2021 10:49 am
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Peer Sylvester's Polynesia - thoughts after one (make that two!) plays

Martin G
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Polynesia has been on my radar since Peer Sylvester’s excellent design diary. Sadly the middle of a pandemic wasn’t a great time to release a game that probably needs more than two players to shine, and my copy sat forlornly on the shelf for 9 months until I finally got to take it to games night last week. While I wouldn’t say I was immediately head-over-heels in love with it like I was with, say, Babylonia, I did find myself thinking about it a lot afterwards and wanted to draw out some of the more interesting features. Since I wrote this I’ve played a second time too, which helped answer some of my questions at the end of the article.

Old-school Euro DNA

The reason I first took an interest in the game was its clear ‘old-school Euro’ lineage. Open the box and there’s a great big fold-out map depicting a series of islands and potential routes between them. Yes, there are individual player boards too, but they literally just store your meeples and ships - everything happens on the map.

Board Game: Polynesia


The very first sentence of the rulebook states “from a mechanical standpoint Polynesia is a pretty abstract game” and it’s certainly of the type where the setting just gives us a language to talk about the game pieces; there’s no pretense of simulating the real world. Here we have tribe members (I’ll refer to them as meeples) venturing out on ships to explore a series of islands and get far enough away from the volcano when it erupts at the end of the game.

Excluding setup, the rules fit on three pages, and everything you need to remember once you’re playing is contained on a small player reference card. There’s no convoluted action selection mechanic; just a menu of four simple actions. When it’s your turn, just take one of them; you won’t find yourself struggling with how to do something, just what to do and why.

From gallery of qwertymartin


It’s not quite as simple as repeatedly circling round the table taking an action at a time though. The game is broken into rounds, each made up of three rotations round the table taking an action each, followed by a maintenance phase. One clever feature of the design that I don’t think I’ve seen before is that the three phases of actions in a round differ slightly. The first is valued 3, the second 2 and the third 1, and these values affect the different actions in different ways.

From gallery of qwertymartin


The Travel action gives you movement points for your meeples equal to the value of the current action phase, so it’s more powerful the earlier in a round you take it. By contrast, the Explore action, which lets you place the ships that allow your meeples to travel over a route, has its cost set by the phase value so it gets progressively cheaper. The other two actions play more of a facilitating role. Fish lets you gather currency equal to the current phase while Populate lets you move meeples from your personal board onto the map.

This gives you some guidance as to when it’s best to take certain actions but sometimes you really need to Explore and then Travel and it might be worth shelling out to do so. After the three action phases and maintenance (which plays a few important roles I’ll come on to), the first-player marker moves to the left, which has interesting consequences for turn order that reminded me of Puerto Rico.

Symbiosis and defection

I’ve said that the meaty actions are Explore and Travel which let you place ships on routes and move meeples over those routes respectively. The aim is to get your meeples off your player board, onto the map and from there to explore the islands, claiming tokens and points.

Board Game: Polynesia


But this is no solo efficiency exercise! As well as using your own ships for free, one of your meeples can traverse a route using a different player’s ship. Probably the most interesting mechanism in the game is that as well as paying the player whose route you are using, you also have to bring one of their meeples with you as a guide.

One consequence of this is that you can drag another player’s meeple somewhere they don’t want it to be. But even more interesting is the potential for symbiotic movement. Consider a situation (pictured below) where one of my meeples and one of yours sit on island A and both want to get to island C via island B. To get there on our own we’d each have to Explore both routes and then use two points of Travel. But if we work together, we can Explore one route each and then take turns ferrying both meeples over at the same time for a total of just one Explore action and one Travel point each.

From gallery of qwertymartin


Symbiosis only goes so far though. Several of the islands are seeded with juicy reward tokens at the start of the game to be claimed by the first meeple arriving there (and by the active player if two meeples arrive at once). So once I’ve Explored route B to C, there’s a strong incentive for me to ‘defect’ and strike out on my own rather than wait for you to ferry me. A good opportunity to attempt this can be when the start player token moves, as described above. That’s because the turn order goes ABC ABC ABC / BCA BCA BCA / CAB CAB CAB giving, for example, player B the chance to take two actions before player A gets another one.

Having this happen to you sucks not just because you got beaten to the token, but also because your meeple is now ‘stranded’ on island B with no guide to help it onwards to C. To add insult to injury, if you still want to get to C by placing your own ship alongside the other player’s, you have to pay them for the privilege!

From gallery of qwertymartin


With this talk of symbiosis and parasitism, you might think the game wouldn’t work with 2 players at all. I can’t comment from experience, but the one rule that changes is that each route can only be Explored by a single player in the 2p game. That seems likely to shift the focus away from shared incentives and on to potentially vicious blocking.

Dual currencies

I’ve alluded to earning and spending resources but another potentially interesting feature is that there’s not just one but two, almost symmetrical, currencies: fish and shells. These are earned in the same way: either by occupying islands with the relevant symbol or by claiming tokens that provide permanent income.

From gallery of qwertymartin


When you pay to Explore a new route, you get to choose which currency you pay with, but this choice must then be followed by anyone subsequently Exploring the same route or travelling over it using a guide. So for example, you can Explore using shells, knowing that another player who wants to use the route only has fish right now.

Fish/shell income is earned during the maintenance phase, but just before that comes Decline, when the current start player gets to choose whether all players lose all their fish or all their shells! So you only want to stockpile resources from round to round if you’re confident the start player is stockpiling the same thing and won’t screw you over.

In our first play, I felt we didn’t fully exploit this mechanism and consequently the resources didn’t feel as tight as I’d expected, but I suspect this will come into focus more with further play.

Game-end clock

One main scoring objective for the game is to get your meeples off your player board and then away from the large volcano in the corner of the board. Any meeples that don’t escape far enough will be returned to your board when the game ends, costing you points. Meeples who travel particularly far gain you points for occupying islands with the ‘turtle’ VP symbol. There’s a maximum of 7VP available for each of these two objectives, but it’s unlikely you’ll have time to do both. It’s a question of which to focus on more, made harder by the fact that you don’t know exactly how much time you will have!

The seeding of the game end clock is the other big thing that happens in the maintenance phase each round. Ten ‘lava stones’, 6 red, 3 grey and 1 black are placed in a bag at the start of the game and one is drawn out each round. The game ends immediately when the sixth red is drawn, but to increase the uncertainty, when the black is drawn you immediately draw two more cubes. The net effect is that the game will last between 5 and 9 rounds, but calculating the probabilities shows that about 60% of games will be exactly 8 rounds and 95% will be between 7 and 9.

From gallery of qwertymartin


You could achieve a similar probability distribution with a simpler mechanism (e.g. end after round 7 on a roll of 6, continue to round 9 on a roll of 6). But the lava bag gives the players more information about the changing probabilities of the game length along the way. Unfortunately in our game all uncertainty was removed when the black and grey cubes had already gone by round 4, confirming that we had exactly 4 more rounds to play. I hope the volcano draw leads to a bit more drama in future, befitting its central role in the game’s setting.

The bag draw is the only random element in the game post-setup. But there is a lot of setup variability, both random seeding of the reward tokens onto islands and also the last interesting feature I want to talk about.

'Modern' variable setup

This is no point salad game and the points available are scarce. You can get a maximum of 7VP for getting all your meeples off your board and away from the volcano and a maximum of 7VP for occupying all the turtle islands. There are also a handful of turtle tokens that score a VP for the first person to reach them.

In a 90s Euro, that might be it, or perhaps there would be one more fixed scoring route. But here Polynesia adopts a more modern approach, with a rule-modifying ‘tide card’ drawn from each of three stacks at the start of the game.

From gallery of qwertymartin


One set of cards provide an additional rule relating to ‘archipelagos’: four specific pairs of relatively distant islands. One gives an additional rule to the ‘mask’ tokens that are available to be collected from certain islands. And the third card usually adds another way of scoring points. In fact it’s possible that all three cards drawn might offer additional scoring opportunities, though in our game only one did.

Some questions asked and (partly) answered

So, lots of interesting things to think about after one session, and a few questions I’m interested in answering through further play (with some notes added on my thoughts after the second play):

How important is symbiotic movement? Can you go alone and win?

In the second game, which was 3p with two players who hadn’t played before, I was able to get a lucrative chunk of the board mostly to myself, which gave me an easy win without making much use of other player’s ships. However I don’t expect this will be allowed at a table where everyone has played before.

How much can the dual currencies be manipulated? Are the resources tight enough?

I managed to exploit this a bit in the second play, using shells for my route into the area I was controlling, which the other players were poor in. I still never really felt like I was struggling for the resources I needed though and I never took the Fish action. Again, I’m hoping it will feel tighter with an experienced table.

How much does the turn order/start player matter for both the above?

I was the start player in the first round, built my first route with shells, and then caused shells to decline at the end of the round stopping the other players from following me. I also think turn order could matter a lot at the end of the game if you had a meeple pulled away from a scoring location without an opportunity to respond!

Does the random end game clock lead to more interesting decisions than a fixed one?

Unfortunately the same thing happened as in the first game and we knew it was an 8-round game after turn 4. Despite appearances, that’s quite unlikely though so we should definitely see some more interesting situations soon.

How different are games with different scoring conditions? Do they enhance the dynamics of the basic rules or overwhelm them?

This was a clear positive from the second session. Half my score came from a scoring route that was introduced by a card, and the mask effect was really interesting too. But I was pleased that it still felt like the same game, just with an interesting tweak.

After the second play, I'm no less enthusiastic to play more soon and I'm really looking forward to that being with a table full of people who already know the rules.
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Mon Aug 16, 2021 11:28 am
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New to me July 2021

Martin G
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Great Plains - 3 plays -  8 
First Published 2021
Board Game: Great Plains


From the team that brought us the excellent Mandala comes this brisk new 2p hex-grid-placement area-majority game. If you've played Blue Lagoon, it feels a lot like playing just the second half with just the area majority scoring, but the addition of some little special powers that let you spread your pieces further or mess with your opponent.

The playing area is assembled from seven double-sided segments giving lots of possible setups. Each of those segments contains the same distribution of terrains but in different configurations. There's always 'meadow', which are the areas to be contested for majorities, 'lowland' which is where you gain the special power tokens and 'mountains' which can't be crossed except with the special 'eagle' power.

Depending on how the mini-boards are assembled, you might get a giant meadow that becomes vital to fight over, or you might get lots of little ones that you might hope to sneak with only one token. Turns are as a simple as placing a single token adjacent to any of your ones already on the board, and with only 20 tokens each we got through three games in 45 minutes. Blocking is really important, as are the special powers which also include a 'bear' that lets you push one of your opponent's pieces into the mountains or off the map entirely. A neat little tactical battle!

Hashi - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2021
Board Game: Hashi


This is a flip & write by Jeff Allers based on a genre of Japanese puzzles my wife enjoys. The idea of the puzzles is that a group of 'islands' on a grid each have a number printed on them representing the number of bridges that can connect to them. Your task is to fill the grid of bridges in such that all the numbers are satisfied.

To convert it into a game, Allers has cleverly made both the numbers and the bridges player-controlled. Each turn you draw a card which depicts a number from 1-6 and a number of bridges from 1-3. You have to write the number on an empty island and draw the bridges connecting to islands that already have numbers. As well as getting points for each island that ends up with the correct number of bridges, there are three 'races' to complete certain islands which give more points to the player who does it first.

Aside from that, it's multiplayer solitaire - there's no drafting nor interference with other players' boards. I really enjoyed the thinkiness of the spatial puzzle - of the roll/flip & writes I've played it reminded me most of Rolling Japan/America.

Wind the Film! - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2016
Board Game: Wind the Film!


This Japanese card game cleverly combines Bohnanza-style queue management with Keltis-like scoring for ascending/descending sequences. I enjoyed the hand management but the game as a whole felt slightly over-engineered compared to its inspirations, with a grid-drafting system and partial information on the card backs.
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Sun Aug 1, 2021 9:26 am
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Top ten designers geeklist

Martin G
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Bristol
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I made a list of my top ten designers, and ten more who I'm keeping a beady eye on!

qwertymartin's top ten designers (and ten more to watch!)
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Mon Jul 26, 2021 4:17 pm
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It's coming home!

Martin G
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What, you thought I was talking about the football? whistle

From gallery of qwertymartin


Seriously though, well played England (and Italy!). A team to be proud of, both on and off the field.
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Mon Jul 12, 2021 2:32 pm
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New to me June 21

Martin G
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(apologies again for the overlap with previous blogposts!)

Dicke Dämonen - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2004
Board Game: Dicke Dämonen


I've been wanting to try this for ages and it was just as good as I expected. It's an area-majority game where the areas are created by overlapping four loops of different coloured string. Each corner is a spot where a pawn matching one of the string colours can be placed, and each enclosed area is controlled by the colour with the majority of pawns inside it. There are also white pawns which can 'lock down' an area from further additions.

That's already interesting, but on top of that is a push-your-luck game. At the start of the game, neither player knows which colour they want to win, but whenever they feel ready they can declare their allegiance. Going early means you get the biggest choice, but it also makes your colour a target and reduces your hand size from 4 to 1, leaving you at the mercy of fate for the rest of the game. Really interesting stuff, reminiscent in some ways of the excellent König von Siam and Clans.

Spicy - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Spicy


Really enjoyed this little Cheat-style bluffing game. There are three suits with numbers 1-10, you have to play (or say you're playing) a higher card of the same suit as the previous card. But all cards are face-down and can be challenged. The neat thing is that when you challenge you have to say if it's the suit that's wrong or the number, so the bluffer can get away with, say, a 7 blue for a 7 green if the challenger challenges the number.

Reign of Witches - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Reign of Witches


This is Amabel Holland's attempt to squeeze the soul of a Pax game down into the format of a micro-game. And she manages to get an amazing amount of it into two dozen cards, a handful of coins and a tiny ruleset. Present and correct are a sliding card market from which to buy cards that you play into your tableau and then activate; competition for points across multiple arenas; periodic game-changing events; and lots of attention to historical detail. The only thing that stopped it being a smash for me was my complete lack of knowledge about the history involved; a bit of research will be required to bring it to life I feel.

Kompromat - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Kompromat


There are lots of 2p games where you put a set of things to fight over in the middle and you each build a 'formation' on either side to try to win them. The trick in this one is that the formations are Blackjack hands (closest to 21 without going over) where only the first card is face up, bringing in a bluff element. You each have a personal deck (a 1/11 card, 2-10 with three 7s, and a '0.5') so you know what you might draw especially if you manage to remember what you've already seen.

The 'prizes' are quite varied - some are pure points but others give you special powers to be used in future rounds. And there's also a big push-your-luck element. Every time you go 'bust', you get a 'notoriety' token. They're worth a point each (good!) but if you ever get 9, you lose the game immediately. Silly and fun.

Paris: La Cité de la Lumière - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Paris: La Cité de la Lumière


The nice thing about this polyomino-placing game is that it takes place on a shared map not individual player boards, and even better that shared board is collectively created by the players in the first half of the game. The weird thing is that you don't actually get to place very many polyominos (only 3 or 4 each) and a lot of the focus in the second half of the game is on drafting special powers instead. It felt slightly awkward as a result.

Project L - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Project L


Another polyomino game but in this one you place a lot of them, and on the more usual individual player boards. The players draft little recessed shapes to fill with their polyomino pieces. Each one you complete adds another Tetris piece to your personal supply, giving it a bit of a Splendor-like engine-building feel. Once you've got going, you'll be working on four puzzles at the same time, trying to maximise your once-per-turn 'master action' which lets you add one piece to each puzzle. It's got the buzz of an addictive app game but no real interaction at all so I doubt it'll be something I keep coming back to.

Calico - 1 play -  5 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Calico


I was pretty sure this wouldn't be my kind of thing. I was right, though it's largely inoffensive.

There are just *so* *damn* *many* of this type of game around at the moment, so it's surprising that there isn't (as far as I'm aware) a commonly-accepted term for them. I'd like to propose 'fiefdom game', though Rob has suggested the snappier 'take & make'.

Defining characteristics:

1 The mechanisms can be neatly separated into those that deal with how you 'get stuff' and those that deal with what you do with that stuff once you've got it.

2 The 'getting stuff' involves some form of competition between players over limited resources (e.g. worker placement, drafting, auctions); true multiplayer solitaire is excluded.

3 The 'doing with stuff' involves some decision-making (not just set-collection) but all those decisions take place in an individual player area (the 'fiefdom') and usually involve some spatial arrangement.

4 Other players can't affect your fiefdom in any way - once you've 'got stuff', it's yours to use as you like.

5 The stuff you get doesn't fundamentally change what you do in the game (unlike tableau/engine-building), though it might have some minor effect on the way you get stuff.

For me, these games live or die by two things: how interactive the 'getting stuff' mechanism is, and how 'readable' the other player's fiefdoms are. For example, Azul excels at both - you can easily see what the other players need *and* you can take appropriate action as a result.

Unfortunately, Calico fails on both fronts. The 'getting stuff' is as bland as they come: play one of two tiles from your hand, then draft one of three from the common supply. And the readability is low too - it's hard enough visualising the colours and patterns on your own board, let alone figuring out what your opponent needs. And even if you did, you'd often be shooting yourself in the foot by hate-drafting, unless you just happen to need the exact same thing. This leaves me feeling like I'd rather play a true multiplayer solitaire like Take It Easy where I don't have to pretend I'm interacting.

And yet... it's currently the #5 ranked abstract game on BGG, so clearly I'm missing something. It does do a lot of things that seem to appeal in today's market: cute theme and art (cats! quilts!), quality components, variable setup (aka a different solo puzzle to solve every time) and the obligatory solo mode (which it's clearly well suited for). But when it comes down to it, none of those are things I really care about. Oh well, plenty more games in the sea!
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15 Comments
Thu Jul 1, 2021 12:06 pm
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2021 Q2 review

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Total plays: 104

Distinct games: 42

New-to-me games: 19

Dimes: 1 - Space Worm (12)

Nickels: 3 - Midnight Party (8), Raj (7), Biss 20 (6)

A weird and frustrating quarter. I got my first shot, things were generally looking good and I even went to my first 3+ player games night since before the pandemic. Then the delta variant took hold, cases started rocketing again and I decided to scale it back to 2p until after my second jab next month. Others in my group are playing though, so the Tuesday online sessions have ended. Still lots of good online tricktaking sessions and some fun family gaming though.

Now a look at the collection.

Acquired: 5 - Whale Riders, Whale Riders: The Card Game, Biss 20, The Key: Theft at Cliffrock Villa, Spicy

Removed: 0

Owned: 243

Unplayed: 9 - Res Publica, Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation, The Game of 49, Rosetta: The Lost Language, Claim, Great Wall of China, Polynesia, SWAT!, Silencio

At least I managed to play all the new ones, and knock a couple off the backlog. Hopefully there will be more opportunities in Q3...

Best new-to-me: loved the traditional and traditional-inspired trick-takers Doppelkopf and Le Plateau and laughed a lot with Biss 20 at home.

 10   6 nimmt! x4 (172 all-time)
 10   For Sale x3 (90 all-time)
 10   The Crew: Mission Deep Sea x3 (7 all-time)
 10   Tichu (56 all-time)
 9   Letterpress (15 all-time)
 9   My City x3 (46 all-time)
 8   Doppelkopf x3 NEW!
 8   Le Plateau x3 NEW!
 8   Marrakech x2 (16 all-time)
 8   Scout! x2 (3 all-time)
 8   Skull x2 (22 all-time)
 8   Space Worm x12 (18 all-time)
 8   That's Life! (5 all-time)
 8   Trick of the Rails x4 (12 all-time)
 7   Biss 20 x6 NEW!
 7   Chartae x2 (7 all-time)
 7   Conspiracy: Abyss Universe x3 NEW!
 7   Diamant x2 (22 all-time)
 7   Dicke Dämonen NEW!
 7   Dragon's Breath (12 all-time)
 7   Escape from the Hidden Castle x8 (16 all-time)
 7   Mighty NEW!
 7   No Thanks! x3 (71 all-time)
 7   Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition x4 (20 all-time)
 7   Reign of Witches x2 NEW!
 7   Scape Goat x2 NEW!
 7   Schotten Totten 2 (2 all-time)
 7   Sheepshead NEW!
 7   Spicy x2 NEW!
 7   The Bottle Imp (15 all-time)
 7   The Key: Theft at Cliffrock Villa x2 NEW!
 7   Vira x2 NEW!
 7   Whale Riders NEW!
 7   Whale Riders: The Card Game NEW!
 7   What the Heck? x7 (25 all-time)
 6   Carcassonne Junior (3 all-time)
 6   Kompromat NEW!
 6   Paris: La Cité de la Lumière NEW!
 6   Project L NEW!
 6   Renature NEW!
 5   Calico NEW!
 4   Shave a Sheep (3 all-time)
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7 Comments
Tue Jun 29, 2021 10:43 am
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Interesting article on 'review drift'

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Read this article first: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2021/06/review-drift.ht...

(and thanks to this thread for the tip off)

My stages in reading it:

1. Huh, this article isn't about board games but loads of the stuff he says is super-relevant to our hobby.

2. Oh, now he *is* talking about board games! And he knows what he's talking about! I wonder who this guy is.

3. Name looks familiar - oh it's
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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BGG veteran and writer of excellent stuff about Knizia and other topics. Yay!

My only disagreement with his argument is that I'm not sure the current "review context" for board games is "really far from the standard use-context". Seems to me that a lot of players treat games as things that look pretty and get played a handful of times too.
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34 Comments
Tue Jun 15, 2021 10:31 am
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