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It’s that time of year again! Spiel Essen is just around the corner and like a lot of you I’ve been multiplying my visits to the geek by a quadrillion just to process all the information about the upcoming releases that may interest me. This is like Christmas for me, better yet, there’s nothing else I look forward to as much as my visit to Spiel every year, well in the ranges of hobbies and events that is (stay reasonable folks!). I bet many of you have made lists just like me. I’ve been reading so many rulebooks these past weeks, watched so many instructional videos and I’m finally ready to share some of my most anticipated games of this year’s release list. I’ve turned into a Kickstarter junkie the last 2 years and a lot of games are not on my list because I’m receiving them through there. I’ve culled expansions from the list (who has time for those anyways) and have really done my homework this year, so without further ado: My Essen 2018 Most Anticipated Games!
I was blown away by Pulsar 2849 last year and this year I hope to feel the same about Underwater Cities. The theme of this game suits me better and it also seems a little heavier then Vladimir Suchy’s previous titles. After reading the rules I’m certain you’ll be challenged with a lot of interesting choices throughout the game, where and when do you want to play your cards? Do you need the color bonus, can you wait another turn,… I can’t wait to try this, it is on the top of my anticipation list.
Honshu is one of my all-time favorite games, there’s so much game in that little box and I enjoy piecing my ‘land’ together every single time. Hokkaido will be a Honshu 2.0 from what I’ve gathered, the puzzling won’t change a lot but the core mechanic of bidding for cards will be replaced by drafting, that sounds interesting. My favorite part stays the same and the other part might just get better!
Everyone is looking at Ceylon, and hey I get it, I read the rules and it looks like a solid game but the same publisher is bringing us Cupcake Empire and it looks like a great medium-weight addition to my collection. The box and components looked so inviting I had to do my research and read the rules. Unlike a lot of semi-finished rules I’ve been reading around the geek for Essen releases these were solid, clear AND convincing. Actions are straight forward and simple but the replayability probably lies in how the map of demands is constructed and when you’ll go for certain actions / wait for better combos. The theme works, when you read the rules everything is explained and easily supported by the implemented theme. I would love to love this game but time will tell if it has any staying power, I could not resist a pre-order.
I’ve never played Keyflower but am a huge fan of Keyper so now I’m just keeping an eye out on new Key-releases. Gaming Rules! did a great explanatory video on this title and it has me intrigued. I can only recommend you to go out and watch the video if this game is on your radar. It looks like a fun optimization exercise with many possible ways to rake in those points. Rules are slightly different at a 2-player count and since it’s a drafting game it may be extremely tactical at that player count. I’m looking at games that work great with 2 mostly and I don’t know if this fits the bill. I’m excited enough to put it on this list though and hope to try it sometime soon.
Tetris the board game, what’s not to like? The artwork maybe but that’s a subjective matter. This one went on and off the list for a while but now it’s steadily in position. I’ve read a few more reviews I’ve seen people excited, the rules are straightforward and it just fits the bill of a family friendly puzzle game which I love so much. I hope Arraial will be a game I bring home to play with family and friends and is just as addictive as Tetris was in the past and Azul is right now. I go to Spiel to find my personal ‘specific’ games of the year and this one is a contestant for family game of the year. Oh it’s fun to talk these games to the highest ranks but they can just as easily disappoint, it’s all part of the excitement!
I’ve been keeping an eye on some specific publishers who’ve brought us some decent games in the past. Game Brewer is relatively new on the field but has some good games in their portfolio. Architectura caught my attention because of the beautiful artwork but managed to keep my interest after reading the rules. Looks like a clever city-building game with a small footprint but enough challenge to it. I’ve been close to placing a pre-order but decided I do need a playthrough first.
I’m going to do a shout-out to ‘Cardboard East’ here who does wonderful reviews on upcoming Asian releases and the Realm of Sand review/overview posted on the website made me so excited for this. I love engine building puzzle games and there seems to be enough variation here to keep things interesting for a long time to come.
Only 1 roll and write on the list but I bet I’ll come home with a few more, this one stood out the most because of the … wait for it … PUZZLY elements. I love puzzle games, I love roll & writes, this looks like a perfect match. I do hope there is enough depth to keep me coming back, opinions on that are a little offsetting.
People who have read my blog before may have noticed my general dislike when it comes to tableau building games so when A Thiefs Fortune first popped up on my radar I quickly discarded it. Then it popped up on my radar again, a Kickstarter Relaunch, my interest was piqued on why that happened exactly and while I don’t know why it happened I did end up on the Rahdo Rundown video which convinced me to put this game on the list. The Future-Present-Past mechanic used in this game together with drafting (but keeping a few cards for yourself) have even made me excited about it. I’m not a fan of the big cluttered tableaus with a billion combos you can’t figure out your opponent is doing but here your player area won’t get cluttered. I think this will be a great addition to the collection with a lot of replayability, your tableau is limited AND you need to mix and match the best cards together in that limited space, neat!
While I’m not an Uwe Rosenberg fan per se I do enjoy most of his games, theme is often pasted on or anything but interesting but his games do offer challenge and often interesting ways to optimize strategies game after game. Reykholt doesn’t seem to be a very heavy game from what I gather and that’s fine, I like how one has to gather resources as effectively as possible to get furthest on a certain track. This game could have been about a bunny famr, space balloon racing, duck feeding in the park but it’s not, it’s about Icelandic agriculture, a country my partner and I fell in love with last year and if that helps getting it to the table, well it helps getting it on this list.
This is just a small sample of the games I've selected to look into when I visit the fair this year. If you're interested to see the full list you can find it here. What are your most anticipated games this year? Which games do you think I have missed? Just let me know in the comments bellow
Thanks for reading!
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Mini Reviews #2
Another few months of new-to-me games!
Hey guys, it's been a while (again), but since the gaming season is in full swing again I felt like giving another update on the games I've played for the first time over these past few months. I very much enjoyed writing in this format last time so I'm continuing the trend, yes it's a trend now since this is the second time! Please keep in mind that these are only opinions and while I use the term 'review' quite a few of these games have been played under 5 times and a first impression may have been a better title for those. It's been a great 3 months with moslty good games and even some great ones so without further ado....
New and noteworthy!
There are so many good games that fall just a little short of being great for me personally, I've bundled these in this part of the overview.
Food Truck Champion
Food truck champion comes in a rather small box but don’t let that fool you, there’s quite a bit of game in there! The multi-card use in this game leads to very interesting decisions to be made because you can only use it for one of the 3 options. The ‘follow the leader’ way the actions work increase player interaction and makes timing of when to do which action important, it drags the game out of the multiplayer solitaire it would’ve been otherwise. Cards are never discarded, they return to the market, making them available for opponents might not always be what you want. The artwork is bright, the theme is present and you get a feeling of accomplishment when you broaden your food truck horizon. The biggest let down here is the component quality, I did not like the tiny wooden popularity markers and the cards were VERY thin. I’m still on the ledge about replayability, I wonder if it stays fun for long. During my one play it did feel like rinse and repeat towards the end but more plays will probably help me decide on that in the future.
Multi card use
Non-mean player interaction
Feeling of accomplishment
Small box, ‘big’ game
Roll to the Top!
I mean it, there are not enough roll & write games out there to please me yet, I’d like at least a few dozen more before they might start to bore me. When I saw this on Kickstarter I immediately went for the package deal, well after playing a few test games on the online application that is. A very clever and simple roll and write game where you race to the top of whichever monument / building you have chosen. You place a number at the bottom and the number on top of it must be equal or higher, you can only place a number on top of filled in spaces. It’s an interesting quick game where you want to fill in all the numbers and race to the top but you have to make sure you don’t get you numbers too high, that’ll slow you down near the end! There are many different maps making it more replayable but I do find that it gets repetitive after a little while. Sometimes you can see that you’ll lose a few turns before it’s over which makes the game drag just a little too long. I would recommend this game to the roll and write fans out there, but it’s not one of my favorite roll and writes.
Clever and simple design
Many different maps
Can drag near the end
VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
Roll & Write games are somewhere on the top of my list of favorite game mechanisms and VivaJava with an appealing theme and look was very welcome on my gaming table. A friend had bought the game and we went through the rules together. The rules are very tiny (English edition) which made it an unpleasant read but once you get playing you forget about that little downside since your quickly drawn in by the light hearted race / dice game VivaJava is. There’s a lot of different abilities in the game which makes it very replayable, and you can’t pursue them all every game so paths to victory can be explored with any combination. Don’t go planning ahead though, what you roll will narrow down your options quite a bit and you have to make the best of that. It’s a light game which doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with a 30 minute playtime and a lot of differentiation between different plays. Artwork is beautiful, works great with 2 and offers more decision making than the average roll & write game. The dice don’t play the game, you still do.
Appealing theme / artwork
light and fast Roll & Write
Enough decisions to make
Rulebook is tiny
Player aid would be nice (a nice on is included in the German version)
Not as accessible (quite a few abilities to explain to entry level gamers)
I’m cheating a little bit, I’ve played this before a few years ago but it was so far gone it felt like a new game. You’ll rarely see co-operative games in my overviews for the simple reason of me disliking them, but every now and then I make an exception. And every now and then I’m glad I did. Forbidden Desert is a perfectly fine co-operative game with the regular flaws which are more of a people problem than a game problem but I’m not going to talk about that now. I’ve played it a few times with my mom and since we’re both quite relaxed people it was a joy to play. The components of this game is what drew me in the first time, together with the theme which is very nicely implemented. I really feel like we’re racing against time to get out of this desert and find our flying thing (is it plane? I don’t remember). The rules are straight forward, the different complexity levels invite you to take on the challenge several times as do the different player roles making it a very replayable game. I like it most with 2, it gets chaotic with more, communication gets harder and it just takes quite a bit longer to play. Another downside might be when you get unlucky with the cards and get 2 sunburns in a row, that can really throw you of, but it’s not a big issue for me.
Dominant players will take away enjoyment
Chaotic at higher player counts
Luck of the draw
Raiders of the North Sea: Solo Variant
I’m a big fan of Raiders of the North Sea, it’s probably in my top 20 worker placement games and I’ve played quite a few of those. I’m not a sologamer by any means but for the sake of completion I added the solo variant to my collection. Shortly after acquiring the solo variant I had some spare time on my own and was curious enough to get it to the table. I was pleasantly surprised how easily an AI was implemented here, there was hardly any AI control I had to do during its turn. Flip over a card, blocks a location and check if it raids and on to the next turn. It was very fun actually and I had the feeling of a multiplayer game when plunders vanished in front of my eyes. It’s a perfect implementation in my book, but do remember I haven’t seen many solo games before. I might actually get this to the table again in the future, with expansions next time!
Feels like a multiplayer game
AI is easily managed
Tension still there
It's still more fun to play with real opponents
Cacao is a family weight tile laying game and has proven to be very accessible to non-gamers in my groups. There is more to it than just placing tiles because of the workers on the borders of those tiles. They will activate adjacent tiles (once for each worker) making it important to play the most optimal tiles at the right time and trying not to give away too much to opponents. It’s one of those games that’s both enjoyable for gamers and families out there. Nothing new or overly original here but it works like a charm. The theme is a little pasted on making it a rather abstract experience.
Engaging for experienced gamers and casual gamers
Interesting decisions to make
Theme could’ve been anything
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
I bought this game because I like the main mechanics in it, Worker Placement and Set Collection. I’m not a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes theme but I could look past it and went on with the purchase anyway. It did not disappoint, Sherlock vs Mortiary is a quick and simple set collection game with quite some replayability since the possible worker placement locations are cards that show up in a different order every session and there are more cards than ‘days’ to reveal them which means not all locations show up every game. Every round a new location is added increasing the options gradually towards game end which makes it an accessible game you can explain on the go. The set collection is fun and the way the scoring works is quite intriguing, you can’t just ditch a complete set because your opponent will score more for it if you do. Thematically this could have been anything, I never had the feeling I was playing a Sherlock Holmes game and that didn’t bother me at all but it might be an issue for some. All in all I would definitely recommend this game.
Elegant WP/Set collection for 2
Interesting scoring system
Theme isn't present
There are a few 2-player games on this list and this one intrigued me most after reading the rules. A random card in the box, only 4 actions and a very straight forward ruleset. All this makes for a very simple yet clever design. Timing is key, at the start you can only take your own cards into account but as the game unfolds more information becomes available and you’ll have to adjust your thinking. The artwork is wonderful and the theme is somewhat original but not really present for me in the gameplay. It’s a tiny box that offers a lot of options.
Clever and simple design
4 actions, endless possibilities
Lots of positive interaction
Theme isn’t present
Memory aspect present (yet it’s manageable)
Ticket to Ride: New York
Ticket to Ride: New York, or Ticket to Ride in 15 minutes, is basically ticket to ride without any modifications except for some extra points you can score on the map. It’s a tiny map that gets filled up in 15 minutes and works perfectly as a quick filler game. I enjoy Ticket to Ride but sometimes I find it takes just a little too long for what it is, and TTR NY solves that problem perfectly. It’s not easier than it’s big brother so it’s not TTR kids by any means, it offers exactly the same fun things the original game offers and that’s quite fine by me. Will I add it to the collection? Probably not since I already own 2 TTR boxes and have enough filler games on my shelves already, but if I didn’t I would.
Ticket To Ride in 15 minutes without loss of quality
Nothing new so no reason for me to acquire it
Wits & Wagers
A lot of older games have made it to the table these past few months and this is one of them, I’ve always been curious about this party game but couldn’t justify adding it to the collection since I don’t have big groups over for games too often. I’m a huge fan of simple party games like this, there is a trivia element which some might dislike but the questions are often so farfetched that it’s a guessing game for the most part. It’s gambling and guessing combined with some funny questions which will have everyone laughing about it in no time. Don’t expect any depth or serious game mechanics, this is just fun in a box.
Perfect for bigger groups
It’s a guessing game, not a trivia game
Don’t expect depth
A worker placement game by Uwe Rosenberg which feels a lot like Agricola/Caverna with some neat little twists and a shorter gameplay. It plays very quick but still offers a lot to think about. Different cards can be used every game and this is what adds replayability to the game, otherwise there are no changes from game to game. I like the way the fish contracts work and the way you provide your elders with fish. There are only 2 types of resource and there is a whole lot you have to take into account when using and distributing them. I find it a very elegant resource management game and it actually stands out quite a bit from other worker placement games I’ve played. I found it very refreshing and would love to explore this game a little more.
Shorter Uwe Rosenberg
Elegant resource management design
Fresh, new twists
different strategies viable
Only cards add replayability
While there are some new twists it still feels a lot like his other games
A game with Origami-folded animals, where do I sign up for a copy? I bought this after I heard a praise about this game from a gaming buddy and again I’m glad to have gotten the advice. Origami fits a lot of replayability in that tiny little box. There are 5 types of animal and in a 2-player game you use 2 types and so on. You can play with any types you want and they all have their own deck with special abilities and combos to discover. A card can be used as payment or can be built, the multi use cards offer some interesting decision making. There is quite some text on the cards which may be a little much for casual gamers at a first glance but after a round or two everyone should have gotten the hang of it making it a rather accessible game. I very much enjoyed my plays of Origami and find it’s a lighter family game that plays well at any player count and offers enough replayability to keep it on the shelves for at least a little longer.
Multi-use cards, interesting decisions
Quite some text on the cards, not intuitive
Targi is a meatier 2-player game that’s pretty abstract but offers different strategies with a straight forward ruleset. The replayability lies in the modular board and when which cards / possible combos show up. Buying those cards and using them to your best advantage will lead the way to victory. I found it a very clever gamed and really enjoyed my few plays of it but there are some downsides too. There’s quite some text on some of the cards and a lot of that could have been made clearer with iconography, everyone takes different cards and it’s difficult to keep track of your opponents special abilities at all times. There’s also not much you can do, get resources, buy cards or get some points and do this over and over. It drags on just a little too long to keep it interesting until the end but I’m gladly keeping it in the collection because the positives outweigh the negatives for me in this game.
Straight forward ruleset with quite some depth
Quite some text on the cards
Rinse and repeat
Drags a little too long near the end
Karuba: The Card Game
Being a fan of Karuba I could not let the card game pass me by and while it still gives somewhat the same feeling with the tile laying aspect its different enough from its predecessor. There’s a highly interactive bidding part to the game, play the lowest cards and lose 1 of your 2 chosen cards. Tile laying is just as solitaire as the board game but there is no race towards the temples anymore so you can just relax and build your own route without keeping an eye on all the other playerboards. Player count is increased from 4 to 6 players max which works perfectly fine and just like the board game there game doesn’t slow down with increasing player count. It works at all player counts but is most tight at 2 players during the bidding phase. I liked it a lot, if I had to name a downside it’d be the luck of the draw.
Quick (15 mins)
Interactive bidding part but solitaire building
Up to 6 players
Luck of the draw
Star Realms: Frontiers
If you know the rules for Star Realms you know the rules for Star Realms Frontiers. It’s nothing new but there are different cards so if you’ve gotten too familiar with the original this is a nice addition to shake things up. I own everything Star Realms and have grown to like it over time. It’s an elegant simple head to head combat game with the most basic deckbuilding mechanics there are but it’s just utterly enjoyable in its simplicity. What I liked most from the Frontiers campaign are the Command decks which give every player a personal starting deck and really shake things up and force players to find the best strategies for each commander. This increases replayability a lot and keeps you coming back to figure out new combos.
More of the same (which I don’t mind)
4 players in the box
Enjoyable in its simplicity
Command decks up replayability a lot
So much SR content released it’s hard to not get lost
It’s a certainty that whenever a Feld gets released a few of my gaming buddies will add it to their collection, this was no exception. I’m not a huge fan of his games overall but I do enjoy most of them and again this was no exception. I liked the easy going tile placement and the way you tried to plan ahead for which tiles to grab. The goals (point cards) are different every game and make for a highly replayable game together with the different layout of the player boards. There are many ways to gain points and it’s a very solid optimization puzzle that I’ll happily play again. It’s nothing groundbreaking or special though and the artwork is very bland which is somewhat of a letdown. A decent medium weight that’ll fit anyone who likes a nice puzzle game with lots of ways to score points.
Lots of options for a relatively quick game
Enough depth / strategy
A wonderful and bright looking racing/betting game where you use
cards to move your (and your opponents) cars around the tracks. The game begins and everyone bids for the cars (and drivers) they want to own. Once all vehicles have been sold the game starts and in turn order everyone plays cards to advance the cars on the tracks. On 3 occasions (when a car passes a mark) you can bet on the car you think will win, if you’re right in the end that’ll score some nice points (money. Once the game ends you count money: Prizes your cars gained based on their finishing position minus Paid money for cars plus the money you may have earned during the 3 bidding sessions throughout the game. It’s all straightforward andyou can explain and get to playing in 5 minutes. It’s an elegant design that has you sitting at the edge of your seat until the end. Driver cards with abilities add some replayability to the game but I would have liked to see some different tracks. If you’re looking for some light-hearted fun this is the way to go, this is a super family friendly racing game but might not be for seasoned gamers.
Bright and vibrant artwork
Can be mean
Could use some more tracks/things to increase replayability
Another set collection game, yay! This time using the I-split-you-choose mechanic which we don’t see all too often and which I haven’t really liked previously (New York Slice was okay though). It’s very easy, divide the cards in as many piles as there are players and place a certain number (depending on player count) face down in those piles. Everyone chooses a pile and the person doing the splitting chooses last. It’s fun and simple, anyone can play and it almost feels like party game. Trying to get those bad cards in the hands of your opponents by misleading them and maybe ending up with those messy cards yourself in the end. Since it’s a card game it doesn’t take up much space and I like that, New York slice took in too much space when playing. It’s still random, you could draw only good cards to split but there might be many bad ones as well. Sometimes there’s just no way to divide it in an ‘opportune’ way for yourself.
simple yet fun
Luck of the draw
This new release from Space Cowboys was available for a demo on a local game fair. I’m always happy to try games on my Essen list prior to the fair as time there is too short every year. Orbis is a very fun tile placement game where every player builds a pyramid like structure in front of them. You build the structure acquiring tiles from the market formed in a 3x3 grid, you pay the costs on top of the tile and add a cube from the tiles color to all adjacent tiles, if you buy a tile with cubes on them already you gain those and may even use them to pay for the tile your taking. To build place a tile it has to be supported by 2 other tiles (unless it’s the bottom row which is max 5 tiles wide) and one of those tiles has to be in the color of the tile you’re placing. Tiles can score you points if the requirements on them are met: supporting on a specific color tile, spending a certain amount of cubes from the market or from your own resource pile, …. On the top of your pyramid you’ll place a god, a number of gods equal to the amount of players +1 is laid open at the start of the game and you can choose to take a god instead of a village tile during any turn. Those gods score points for certain end game condtions: have the most tiles of a specific color, have specific symbols on your tiles, … At the end of every turn you may have a maximum of 10 resources, this may sound like a lot but it’s not, you easily stack up those resources and you have to decide which ones are most valuable at specific times. I found it a very interesting resource management / tile laying game and would very much like to play this again. It’s a fun tactical cube pusher and I felt there were different paths to explore.
Tactical but some planning is rewarded
Replayability with only 5 types of tiles?
A Spiel des jahres nominee on the list, Luxor is a light family friendly game which you can easily get to the table with kids and non gamer friends and family. You try to do some set collection by moving your adventurers forward on the track, gaining more as the game progresses. You move these adventurers by the use of cards, either the card furthest to the left or furthest to the right in your hand. A new card gets added to the middle at the end of your turn. This movement mechanism is quite fun and definitely a step up from roll & move we’ve all seen too much of in our younger years. It’s engaging and it plays in under an hour not overstaying its welcome. I’d happily play again and am actually looking forward to that.
Easy Rule Set, engaging play
Might get repetitive
Agricola meets Pandemic: Rising Tide, the way most of the boardgame crowd describes Lowlands. I can’t tell if I agree since I don’t have a lot of experience with the latter. I do have 1 play of Lowlands on my played list now and it was a pleasant experience. There are plenty of buildings open to choose from which makes different strategies possible every session. There’s the building of the dike which adds something new to the very Agricola-like playstyle of Lowlands. I’m not a huge fan of this semi-cooperative part of the game. What I did like was the different value of workers you can place to take actions making those actions ‘better’ with increasing numbers. There was lots of player interaction, somewhat indirect but it definitely was something to consider throughout the game. How expensive would you like the sheep to be, how much do you want to build on the dike and who do you want to help when doing so. I need another play to get a better view of this game, it was just ok for now.
Many strategies to pursue
Worker-values give a unique take on WP games
Indirect but important player interaction
Feeling of accomplishment
Semi-cooperative building is not my cup of tea
You should remember the resources your opponents gather
A little less fun, but no time wasted
These are all games I would play again and wouldn't mind doing so but they are not a perfect fit for my collection for numerous reasons.
Century: Eastern Wonders
Century: Spice Road was a fine game, a medium weight resource management game which offered little excitement but didn’t do anything wrong either. Century: Eastern Wonders follows in its footsteps doing giving exactly the same feeling. Sure it’s fun, but there’s nothing new, there’s nothing exciting. It’s actually Century Spice Road from cards to a board with a few bonuses thrown in that left me lukewarm after playing. I would recommend this game, it’s not bad and an excellent entry level game with bright and sturdy components. Most of the planning starts when the map is laid out, you see the good combo’s for this game and you go one following the route to get the cubes and deliver. It didn’t deliver for me though.
Rinse and Repeat
Penny Papers Adventures: The Valley of Wiraqocha
Yet another Roll and Write game, nope still not growing tired of them. This is the only one of the Penny Papers Adventures I have played and although I enjoyed it I found it a little random. Other players could easily mess up your plans and I just like to build things on my own, I didn’t like it when someone knocked down my Lego house when I was 8 and I don’t like someone breaking down what I build in games either. It’s not as bad since the game doesn’t take too long and you’re not playing a heavy strategy game but still. I love lighthearted fun, when it’s constructive. In the end this was a fun 15 minutes and I’d play it again but it’s not staying in my collection due to too high randomness and negative player interaction.
Not the usual roll & write with numbers
Negative player interaction
Counting points in the end can be a task.
I own 2 adorable ragdoll cats and I’m a huge animal lover, I try to avoid games about cats though because they usually only have one thing to offer: cute artwork. I do agree that cute artwork is a bonus but there has to be a game there too! There is a game here but it’s just a random party game. It’s nothing new and it’s not really engaging but because of the cute artwork it does get played easily and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with an average playtime of 20 minutes. The more the merrier is applicable here because it raises the interaction a party game like this needs. It will probably stay in my collection for the occasional family gathering or meetup with friends.
Take That (but hey it’s a party game!)
Nothing new or noteworthy
The last release in the Rosenberg Puzzle Trilogy, and is it any better than its predecessors? I don’t know really. Cottage Garden wasn’t challenging enough, Indian Summer lost its appeal with the clutter of different bonuses leading to taking any elegance away from the gameplay. Spring meadow is another puzzle game where you place tetris-like pieces on your player board and this time it’s about scoring the most points during the separate scorings, rewarding you a victory marker. The player who collects 2 markers first wins the game. I played it and came in second place by 1 point in 2 out of 3 scorings and even though it’s so close you don’t get anything for it, I came in last place not scoring any victory tiles. This was a rather strange take on scoring for me personally, getting in second 3 times could make you come in last place when the game ends. I liked the puzzling more than I did in the previous games, connecting holes to get bonus tiles but no clutter of bonus actions made it a more elegant game. You only score points for full rows starting from the bottom making a nice tetris resemblance and giving a nostalgic feeling when placing the tiles. There’s a little more to it but I dare to say this is my favorite of the Trilogy and I’d love to get a few more plays in. I do think it won’t have a lot of staying power since you’re always doing the same and it might get repetitive after a few plays.
Repetitive after a few plays?
A game about cockroaches going to a dance party, well okay? I didn’t like the looks of the game and would have probably not given this game a second glance but I somehow got seated at a table with this game on it and when a game is on the table you at least try it right. I was pleasantly surprised with how quick and fun it played. I’ve played it 3 times now at 3 and 4 player count, my guess is it works well at all player counts but it gets less chaotic at the lower player counts. You each have 13 cards (value 1 to 13) and draw a hand of 3 cards. Every player plays a card face down, when everyone has decided you reveal the cards and the lowest card gets to choose first. you collect a card already on the dancefloor and once everyone has done so you add the new cards to the dance floor. The goal of the game? Have the lowest total value in cockroaches left. You get rid of cockroaches by making pairs, the cockroaches will leave the party out of embarrassment when someone’s wearing the same costume. The game plays extremely quick and it’s fun trying to figure out what others want and if they’ll play a low card or not. It’s pretty random though and you could get unlucky with the cards you draw, that doesn’t bother me too much since it’s over in about 10 minutes.
Simple yet enjoyable
Luck of the draw
Repetitive after a few games
An auction game with a mean twists is how I’d quickly describe Jorvik. You can ‘bid’ on items without having the required amount of money just to up the price for opponents. You can up it so far that they can’t even buy it. It’s a constant push and pull between do I want to play for me or do I want to block another player. I quite enjoyed it even though it has a very cutthroat nature. What I disliked though was how it felt repetitive after only a few round. Place workers, buy cards, start over. You build up a nice little engine which is fun but it doesn’t feel rewarding enough. There are also quite a few mean cards shuffled in the deck which I’m not a fan of.
Auction with a fun twist
Theme pasted on
Another Party game on the list, you work in teams of 2 to ‘draw’ a given word using a few sticks and disks. No communication is allowed and you each take turns placing a piece to the drawing. We found it fun but difficult, sometimes it lead to utter confusion and laughter but other times we didn’t even know where to start. The concept is interesting, but it’s hard enough visualizing most of the words on your own, let alone do it together with someone without any communication. I’d play it again and it’s fun from time to time but I’ll houserule that the drawers van choose the word they want to draw from the card to make it a little easier.
Fun team play
Hilarious at times
Citrus is a tile-laying game with a very classic feeling to it, it’s an interesting puzzle with a nice mechanic for drafting the tiles which has a very simple ruleset. The way you manage resources (workers/money) is very tight and timing is essential. There are a few variants to play, shorter and longer game for example. In the end it is very much an area control game with an abstract chess like feel where you can really put your opponent out of play so trying to outsmart your opponent is way more important than only focusing on your own gains. What bothered me here was how repetitive it felt after a few turns, the artwork was rather dull and I couldn’t keep my focus on the game, it didn’t feel engaging at all. I’d play again, but wouldn’t suggest it myself.
Feels like a classic
Interesting resource management
cutthroat area control
Spirits of the Forest
Spirits of the Forest is a set collection game, I bought the deluxe version and the components were just wonderful. Wooden tiles, the nice expansion thingies, pretty insert, it all looked very promising. Setting up the game is somewhat of a drag, just randomly placing those tiles in a huge grid (not a small footprint here). This is a set collection game where you can only take tiles from the outside borders and you can only grab certain combinations if you want to grab more than 1 tile, making the ‘good’ options during your turn limited and manageable, you do have to watch not to open up tiles for your opponents. You can reserve tiles by placing gems on them but it’s not a 100% guarantee that tile will end up on your side of the table, it will just cost your opponent but it may be worth it. I see that this is a very elegant game where you have to use those gems to influence the other players and where you have to be careful about which cards you make available for them but I couldn’t get over the repetitive and dry feeling of the game. It just lacked enjoyment and couldn’t draw me in at all which is a shame.
Pasted on theme
This game has been sitting on my shelves for over a year, last month it finally got some table-time. I bought it when I was trying to appreciate abstract games which Hive definitely is. The rules are easy but it’s a little confusing to remember what all the bugs do exactly, I’ll probably need a few games to get the hang of it. My first session wasn’t a huge success, my mom joined me and she seems to strongly dislike abstract games like this which I didn’t know, this was the first one I introduced her to. I liked it fine after a few turns and can see how many options there are and the constant push and pull you create between players. I liked it okay but I’ve come to terms that abstract games like this one just aren’t for me and my copy will enter the second hand market soon.
Fun thematic implementation
Hard to remember what the bugs do at first
Not my type of game
My Happy Farm
I took my niece to a local game fair and she saw this game with cutesy artwork and cartoony farm animals, she was seated faster than I can blink. We got a quick rules explanation and it actually surprised me, this sounded like a perfect gateway game. We got to playing, collecting vegetables, planting and harvesting and eventually feeding our animals to make their bellies grow (it’s ridiculously cute). It turned out to be a very accessible family game that’s perfect to introduce people to boardgames. There is some tension to get to the belly-parts first and get the right combination of vegetables planted on your fields but it’s very solitaire for the most part. We played twice in a row and choices were obvious most of the time making it a less engaging experience for real gamers.
Accessible Gateway Game
Too simple for experienced gamers
Everdell has been hyping a lot the past month, I understand why, it looks wonderful, the components are top notch and it’s an accessible tableau builder. I’ve only played it once and wasn’t convinced of how good this game seems to be if you have to believe the masses. It was just a regular tableau builder for me, sure you can have your worker advancing a season and don’t have to wait until everyone passes for the season and just play straight till the end when you’ve all just ‘passed’ for the entire game. You could just interpret it as a ‘gather workers and gain income’ action. I found that there was a lot of information on the cards and you’re all just watching the cards to figure out those neat combos. A real tableau builder, yes, prone to AP too if you ask me. I don’t like reading too much information on cards, I don’t like having no clue what the opponent is building and I don’t like when it feels too much like multiplayer solitaire which definitely is a feeling I got here. At the pricepoint this game is currently being sold at I do not understand why it sells that well, and I wonder how long it’ll take before those trees start falling apart.
Accessible Tableau builder
Interesting mechanic of moving to the next season
Expensive for what’s offered
Tree doesn’t seem sturdy
- Can’t keep track of what opponents are doing
Moving on, nothing to see here!
Not all games are fun and some aren't even enjoyable, that's what this part of the list is for. I do understand why others might like them so I have taken the time to not only rant but also summed up some positive notes.
Coldwater Crown is an entry level worker placement game with an original and well implemented theme, the theme however (fishing) does not appeal to me so it was a bridge to cross before I wanted to play the game. It didn’t draw me in right away. Actions are straight forward and thematically everything works, the bait collection is also really fun on top of that. The big letdown for me however was the randomness. The board changes a lot before it’s you turn again and you have no control on the right weight of fish you catch. You can plan ahead just fine but those bonus tokens for catching the right weight are just too much luck based for a game in this setting and I strongly disliked it. I do understand why it is widely enjoyed by the eurogamers in my gaming groups and it is indeed a clever game, the shadow of randomness is too much for me in a game like this.
Well implemented theme
Easy ruleset, challenging gameplay
Luck with the weight of the fish you catch
Board shifts too much between turns
There is a new type of games releasing lately, games that aren’t really games in my eyes. We started with the Mind and Illusion is a nice addition to the genre. Try to fit a card in the row having a specific color present in an ascending order starting from the left. If someone places a card and you think they placed it wrong the row gets challenged. It’s an exercise to see how much a certain color is present on the cards, where is the fun in that? If I want to sort things I’ll get around sorting my games on my shelves, or my books and it will even be more fun since I’m not guessing where something is supposed to go! My pros and cons are very obvious here:
It's not a game
It's not a game
Deckbuilders are not really my cup of tea but I saw this one in a clearance and it got compared with Star Realms quite a bit, which I do like, so I decided to take a risk. Sometimes a risk will get rewarded but that wasn’t the case this time, the game dragged on for way too long. It’s been quite a while since playing this and I only remember how repetitive it felt, how mean it felt and how it also felt unpolished for us. We only played twice so maybe it’s a rough diamond or something underneath the surface but with so many good games around nowadays I didn’t take the time to explore it any further.
None for me
Drags on too long
Thurn and Taxis
A former Spiel Des Jahres always intrigues me, I had heard many positive things and was eager to finally try this game. For me however it fell a little short. It’s a rinse and repeat of taking cards and hoping that the ones you’d like show up. You’ll just make the best of what’s in front of you throughout the game and there is little you can do strategy wise, planning isn’t rewarded. The artwork is bland, there is no (or at least very little) player-interaction and you won’t get sucked in by a nice theme either. It’s a good gateway level game to play with people who don’t actually want to pay attention to what’s going on, because you honestly don’t have to when it’s not your turn. Ticket To Ride replaces this one completely.
Suitable as Gateway Game
Easy to Teach
Luck of the ‘draw’
A tiny mint tin with an accessible pick up and deliver game? Sure I’ll try that! I quickly encountered the first downside of this game, upon reading the rules I was left with quite a few questions, the rulebook is somewhat lacking, but I guess that’s what happens when you want everything to fit in a tiny tin. Next up the components, all those tiny components juggled together in the box with no way of sorting, there is no room. The map consists of cards which are easily laid out and have a very functional look. The game itself felt rather dull with zero to no excitement, rinse and repeat of doing the same thing over and over until end game was reached. It’s good for what it is, a pick up and deliver game in a tiny tin, but if you’re looking for something a little more decent well it’s going to be bigger than a mint tin.
Practical lay-out / artwork
Fun for a tiny tin game
Size of box > usability
Doodle City is pretty much a Push Your Luck Roll & Write game, when the game starts the map is open and you get the feeling decisions are important but when the game draws to a closing you’ll need specific routes to finish your plans and those might never show up at all, sabotaging everything you thought you were ‘planning’. I got the feeling you don’t play the game, the dice play it. The City Building theme isn’t really present either, you’re just drawing lines on a map but it could’ve been anything. There are many better Roll & Write games out there, certainly since it takes up to 30 minutes to play and it’s just a rinse and repeat of the same action over and over. It’s accessible and it’s not a bad game if you’re in to push your luck but for me it was too luck based for the rather long playtime.
Plays up to 6
Theme isn’t present
Takes too long for what it is
No real important decisions
A social deduction game, yay. I don’t remember how I ended up at that table really but I decided to give it a go. The fact that the rules were really confusing didn’t help us at all. Once we finally figured out the (very simple) rules and each got a role to play the game started. With only 3 questions allowed to ask not a lot can go wrong right? Except when people give an answer they’re not allowed to give and you have to start over… 3 times! I was out of patience after that and have no interest in playing this ever again. If you’re in to social deduction games this may be fun as it’s a very simple version of one but otherwise, nothing to see.
Quick social deduction game (for fans of Social Deduction)
1 mistake and you have to start over completely
A quick and simple drafting game where you try and have the best combo of cards left in your hand by the end of the game. Draw a card (from deck or discard area), discard a card, there’s nothing more to it. When there’s a certain number of cards in the discard area the game ends and you count the points you’ve gathered from the combination of cards in your hand. I like the principle of this and I see what’s to like: finding the best combos, keeping cards opponents might need, deciding which cards to let go of and planning increases as the discard area unfolds with new cards. For me however it was a miss, there’s so much text on the cards and I just couldn’t keep an overview of everything on the table or in my hand. It was too much bookkeeping to go through and I would’ve preferred some nice iconography. The theme and artwork didn’t appeal to me either making it a non-remarkable gaming session.
Quick and Simple
Many combos to discover
Lots of text on the cards
Bookkeeping is a task
Theme and artwork didn’t appeal to me
Taking your niece to game fairs means you get to play some games you’d never look at otherwise, Dino Race is one of those games. You all get cards to ‘race’ through the jungle and make it to the safe (end) tile before the lava of the erupting volcano reaches you. On your turn you can play a card of the type of landscape ahead of one of your dinosaurs to move it up there. When you reach the end you gain points. At the end of your turn you throw a die and there are 3 possibilities. Roll a landscape type and every dino on that type will get a card, roll 2 cards and every player gets 2 cards, roll a volcano and the player with the egg loses all its cards and the next tile gets flipped over to lava (if any dinosaurs are on that tile they die). What ‘egg?’ you might be wondering… Well yes we are trying to get an egg safely to the end of the track as well, once the egg reaches the end location the game is over. Dinosaurs that haven’t finished yet won’t gain any points. There are take that cards where you can throw the egg away, push players back or steal cards from other players. You do not want that egg during the game but you’ll love having it when finishing as it’ll end the game. It was a chaotic family game filled with luck, randomness and take that. This is not a game for me obviously, you hardly have any control of what’s going on and it takes way too long for what it is.
Counter intuitive play with that damn egg!
Let's all count to 100 together yay, now let's do it again, yay! No, not yay. I do not understand this at all, it's just not a game in my eyes.
It's not a game
It's not a game
Go Nuts for Donuts
A game that gets compared to Sushi Go! a lot which I do understand as the set collection is about the same. However how you gain those cards is very different. Opposed to drafting in Sushi Go you end up with deduction, guessing and bluffing in Go Nuts For Donuts, making it a psychological mind game. I’m not a fan of games like that, and I’m not a fan of Go Nuts for that reason. You can never know what you opponents will do, you can try to guess and figure out what they’ll do but you’ll never know for certain which makes it just a guessing game for me. Playing the wrong card can screw you over big time so don’t get fooled by the pretty artwork, this game can get vicious.
Guessing game (random)
Kwatro, a tiny box with a big game inside, at least that’s what was advertised. When reading the rules I was already confused with how to complete rows and it didn’t get any better when playing. It felt very counterintuitive for a simple tile laying game and I couldn’t make sense of it all. This is just one of those games where I simply don’t see what’s going on and I can’t keep overview. It also takes very long to go through the deck making it last for way too long. This is just not my kind of game.
Tiny, portable game tin
I can’t keep the overview
Best for Last!
This part of the list is shorter than I would like it to be but there is so much quality in there. There are 2 games that may make it to my top 10 of 2018 and maybe even my overall top 10 by the end of the year.
A pleasant surprise for me during the last few months was Steam Time. It’s a worker placement game that’s already a few years old, hasn’t really hit the top of the BGG charts and would have never made it to my radar. Luckily one of my gaming buddies convinced me to play it after being extremely positive about it and oh boy how fun is this game! This is a constant balancing exercise where you carefully have to plan ahead and try to make the most of what the board offers. What gems are on the board, making for bonuses in next actions, what cards are out to score end game or get bonuses right away, how quick do I want to take an action with my zeppelin blocking the lower situated actions. I’m not going in to detail about gameplay in these mini-reviews and I do realize it might all be a little vague when you don’t know anything about these games but there are some nice overviews out there on the geek, go look them up! If you like medium-weight worker placement with a decent amount of planning and resource management this may be right up your alley. The game is endlessly replayable, plays great with 2, has no negative player interaction and offers all that in about an hour, how amazing is that! Oh and on top of that, it looks good with its vibrant colors and lively artwork. If there is anything negative about it, it’s the set up between rounds, it may be a little fiddly for some but it didn’t bother me.
60’ playtime with enough challenge
No negative interaction
Fun balance exercise of resources / planning
Great with 2
A little fiddly
I’m cheating here because it’s not actually a new-to-me game, I played it once before about 3 years ago before I even started logging my plays. I remember enjoying it but that’s about it so it may as well have been new as there was nothing of the rules left in my head. I’d been on the lookout for a price friendly second hand copy ever since but no such luck so I finally caved for a less friendly but still ok priced copy on the second hand market. I wish I had done so 3 years ago honestly, I have already played this 5 times with my mom in just one month. It was an instant hit for her, it’s accessible but still offers enough decision making. There’s dice, so yes you can get unlucky and in a heavier game that would be a breaking point for me but here it’s just pure enjoyment. I like the simplicity, I like the easy-going resource collection. Both the cards and houses are decent strategies and feel rewarding, there is always something one can do. It works like a charm on a 2 player count, sure it’s probably better with more but it’s fine enough with 2. But is it the perfect game? No, it would have been 3 years ago when I just started playing and didn’t have a clue about what other games were out there. Now I crave some more complexity, I like a little more grip on what’s going one, I like to be independent of luck and I appreciate some more differentiation from game to game since you are always doing the same thing over and over. But is it the perfect game in its category? Well yes, if you’re looking for a gateway worker placement this would be my go-to advice!
Perfect Gateway Worker Placement
Elegant in its simplicity
Great with 2
Repetitive after a few games
Luck of the dice
Might drag a little too long per play
Ganz schön clever
A nominee for Kennerspiel des Jahres and a very fun combo producing roll & write game got played for the first time in the last few months. This game is right up my alley and has been bombarded to my favorite Roll & Write game for now. Finding the best combo’s and using your bonus actions to the fullest is just a great way of spending your spare time. Have I mentioned how addictive this is? Even with a beat-your-score solo game this one asks for ‘just one more game’ everytime. You can get unlucky sure, they’re still dice but there’s always something you can do about it. Since you get too choose a die at the end of other players turns and you can use bonuses on their turns it stays interesting even when you’re not the one rolling the dice. Is it a ‘kennerspiel’, no probably not but I don’t care about the politics behind all those nominations/prizes. I’m just happy it got introduced to the big public this way. Also there is an app, and it’s great, go check it out!
Always an option available
App implementation is great
None for me
Doodle rush is a quick (really quick, 6 minutes/game) sketching game. All players get 6 words to draw and they have 1 minute to do so before a 1 minute guessing round starts. This process is repeated 3 times (with the same 6 words) so everyone has had 3 minutes to draw and 3 minutes to guess. It’s chaotic, you are all yelling possible answers and if you’re lucky enough that someone has heard you, you get the card and score a point. In the meantime your listening to the others guessing your cards and giving those away too. In the end your score is: correct guesses minus your own drawings left in front of you. This is a PARTY game, it has to be chaotic, it has to be light weight and fun and just there for enjoyment. You don’t have to be an artist to join, you just have to try and visualize an item in under a minute, an artist won’t do a great job either! I love it, I love the chaos, fun and interaction. It only takes 6 minutes so it’s over in no-time and I always get asked for another round. I’m very happy to have picked this up but I do hope a Dutch version gets made; making it more accessible for my family and friends.
Real party game
No Dutch version (yet?)
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Another Deckbuilder in the list, and another cooperative game, 2 things I usually dislike. For those who are wondering if I placed this in the wrong section, I did not. It is great fun, I very much enjoyed my 9 plays of Harry Potter in under 2 weeks (!) which is extraordinary for me. The reason for playing this so often in such a short amount of time is not because I liked it THAT much but because my partner did. She loves deckbuilders and enjoys cooperative games too so I’m glad we’ve found a game that fits both categories but also fits both of us. Why do I not mind this game? It’s co-op yes but it’s still your hand of cards, which makes it clear that it’s your turn. We talk about main goals and cards that are good to acquire and who we’ll attack first and all that but the details of your turn and how you play it out are for you personally, a big plus for me. The deckbuilding is very basic, nothing new so I don’t mind it nor love it. What drew me in was the scenario based play, it’s addictive to win and get to that next level. Unlike many legacy games I’ve played the rules were clear from the start as is the goal for every session. There’s no frustration about what the hell the point is of this game at all. Defeat the bad guys before time runs out. It’s plain addictive that’s what it is. You can up difficulty levels and add in the expansion for added replayability which we haven’t done yet so far. There are a few downsides though, you can get (un)lucky in when which villains show up making a game significantly easier or harder, there’s the big Hogwarts deck which gets more cards every game but there aren’t that many options to ‘scrap’ or ‘discard’ in this game making it feel a little cluttered at times but that doesn’t kill the buzz for us at all. Talking about thematic integration here is a must and it’s just very well done. I’ve heard people commenting on the pictures on the cards and it not being pretty, I honestly liked the artwork but that will always remain a subjective topic.
Well implemented scenario based play
Replayable (increase difficulty / add expansion)
Not sensitive to a dominant player
Rules are clear and concise
Straight forward deckbuilding, no added complexitiy
Hogwarts deck gets cluttered
Luck of the draw (Villains)
Carson City: The Card Game
As a fan of Honshu I was intrigued by Carson City the Card game, the games are very comparable with the card placement rules, how you gain the cards and the introduction of characters however makes for a huge difference. Gaining cards works with a blind bidding system, there are as many landscapes available as the number of players + one character. Everyone has bidding cards from 1-9 and once you use them in a round you can’t use them again. Highest card gets to choose first and ties are broken by order of the symbols on the top of the character draw deck. I found the blind bidding very interesting and you always have an idea when cards are good for your opponents since their tableaus are always visible. The characters offer some extra depth and ways to score points and are a very nice addition to the game. Carson City is always played with at least 4 players. If there aren’t enough players AI’s are added, these are easy to manage and offer quite a challenge without adding any complexity or annoying upkeep. There are many ways to score points and whatever you do, it always feels rewarding.
Exciting bidding system
Characters add depth
Easy to manage AI’s
Plays up to 6
You can still end up being last to pick when bidding high
I saw this on Kickstarter and I never gave this game a second glance before because it just looked so… bland! I must thank Roxley games, if not for them I wouldn’t have known one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’ve only played it 3 times so it may go up or down in appreciation. Do you know how it feels when after playing a game you go over it all again in your head for hours? I have that very rarely but it happened to me after playing Brass and more often than not that’s a good sign. The rules are concise and anything but elaborate. Very straightforward, only a few actions to choose from and 2 resources to work with really. Network building must have never been easier right? Well no, it’s never been this challenging before. With a static map like Brass the replayability lies in the when you draw which cards and what your opponents are doing and that’s the strength of this game. Timing of every single action is so essential, when do you want to make iron or coal available to the market? Do you want to use those ports yourself or provide them for you opponents, do you branch you network out further or will you not need that later on? Will you upgrade now or later? Everything in this game is tight, money mostly at the start, which left me sitting at the tip of my chair throughout every session so far. I’ve played 2-3 and 4 player and loved it with all those playercounts.
How beautiful is this?
Those Iron Clays
Timing is key, interesting decisions to be made at all times
Well implemented theme
None so far
I had to make a double pledge, I was unable to choose between Birmingham and Lancashire so I decided to back both and make a decision after playing them both a few times and see which one would stay in the collection. After playing Brass: Lancashire 3 times I played Birmingham 2 times and oh it’s just as beautifully designed. A resource is added and there are more manufacturing buildings (cotton mills -> Pottery, cotton mill, manufacturer) which are not delivered to ports owned by players anymore. Where you deliver them changes every game since it’s a variable set-up which increases replayability compared to Lancashire. The beer barrels add an extra layer of complexity too. It’s 90% the same game with some nice twists and an extra layer of complexity, I like it just as much as Lancashire and am unable to choose at this point. The reason I’d keep this over Lancashire is the added variability but the reason I’d ditch this for Lancashire is the added complexity, I’ll have more opportunities to get Lancashire to the table then Birmingham (which feels like an expansion really).
How beautiful is this?
Those Iron Clays
Timing is key, interesting decisions to be made at all times
Adds some complexity and variability
None so far
Every time I tell myself, don’t buy games based on cute box covers and 90% of the time I fail in following my own advice. This time I didn’t, I saw the game a year ago at essen and nearly caved and just bought it because of the box. I wanted to play this afterwards but never got the chance until now and of course, the one time I don’t buy the cute box there’s a good game inside! I really adore Topiary, it’s a fun tile-placement game where you have to make most of your view while trying to block your opponents. It’s so clever yet so simple and I used it as a go to filler game at the end of gamenights these past few weeks. For me it’s a very relaxing game and it’s great to see the garden open up and to try and take advantage of the best positions on the board. It plays good at all player counts but I probably like it best with 2 since you have a bigger influence on the map and not a lot changes before it’s your turn again.
Simple elegant design
Box cover is amazing
Filler game with enough depth to be enjoyed by seasoned gamers
AP-prone for some players
I didn’t buy it soon enough!
Reef is a game I’ve pre-ordered several months ago and was one of my most anticipated games so I was very happy when it finally made it to the table. It’s everything I expected it to be, a great puzzle game that has both a tactical and a strategic depth to is. A rewarding feeling when making multiple combos on your personal board and getting a race like feeling towards the end of the game to finish up as many combos as possible make this game very enjoyable with a lot of positive tension. I’ve only played once and I feel like a need quite a few more plays to explore it further, how much can you plan ahead and how important is it to look at your opponent's board, those are unanswered question thus far, the game played much like a multiplayer solitaire during this first session.
Both strategic and tactical
Loads of positive tension
That is all folks, I bet I'll have another nice list of new-to-me games before the end of the year. I'm very much looking forward to Essen Spiel and have started preparing my list on the Tabletop Together Tool, only 3 more weeks!
Thanks for reading!
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Nice to meet you all (again)!
Some of you may remember me, but I'm not fooling myself so I'm going with a nice to meet you all (again) this time.
For a (short) while I kept a weekly blog here on the geek. I talked about all the games I'd played and tried to play a lot of games during that time to keep things interesting. Not only did I try to play a lot, I also tried to play new(er) games which resulted in buying a lot as well. I made pictures during our game sessions and sometimes rearranged pieces on the board to get prettier pictures.. And it all worked, I had a few friendly faces coming back to comment on this blog every week which I really enjoyed. That's what I liked most, reading about what others thought about what I thought and actually having people reading bits and pieces of what I'd written. But rather quick I got an overwhelming feeling that wanting to write about gaming took over the way I played and what I was playing, it cast a shadow over some of my gaming experiences and it started feeling like a chore. So I started playing less, I stopped taking as many pictures and I felt like I didn’t have anything to add anymore here on the geek. My blog posts became less frequent, and at some point they just disappeared. It’s been about 5 or 6 months ago since my last blog post and I’ve played a lot less, didn’t take any pictures but I did have a lot of fun when I played. So then there was this tiny voice in my head again a few weeks ago and it was kindly suggesting to write about it. I love writing about things I’m enjoying, and who cares if it’s not a post with a million (new) games in there and tons of fancy flashy pictures? Well you might, I’m well aware. But I don’t anymore, I love gaming, I love writing about it and I’ll do it the way it suits me best. To anyone who managed to make it through this first part of the intro, I promise that’s all for the ‘ranting’, we’re on to the games part now!
Why am I back? Because I played a bunch of great games these past weeks and I want to tell you all about them! Why do I like them, what do I like about them, will I buy them, will I keep them, do they work for my game group? Any more reasons I’m back? Well yes thanks for asking, I’ve played a bunch of games that didn’t suit me and I want to tell you all about them! Why didn’t I like them, what do I like/dislike about them, will they work for other game groups? Anything else? Yes! Kickstarters, what did I back, why did I back them, do I already regret it, was it part of a buying spree? This blog will from now on be like I intended it to be: MY day to day life in this board gaming world, not a life filled to the top with games (even if I liked it to be that way) because I don’t have time for that. But if you want to read smaller bits and pieces, join me for the ride!
I will only be writing about the new games I’ve played for now, talking about all 176 plays seems a bit much. I’ll sort the 30something new games I’ve played in 4 categories so those who don’t like reading can see how much I like a game in the blink of an eye and decide then and there if they want to read about it!
Please keep in mind that some (most) of these games haven't been played numerous of times. First impressions are a dangerous thing, writing a mini-review after only one play might lead to jumping to the wrong conclusions and I wouldn't mind if that get's pointed out.
New and noteworthy!
The first category are games I liked but I’m not quite certain yet how much. They’re not my new favorites, they might become that, they might not. They might miss some bite, some depth or lack something new, or I might just not be seeing these things yet. Games in this category will get played again as I do enjoy them.
Harvest is a neat worker placement game that caught my attention at Essen last year. I didn’t buy it right away, there were so many other interesting things and this didn’t make the cut on my final list of games to buy. Looking for some lighter games a few months later led me to buying this anyways, and boy it does not disappoint. There are so many good things to tell about this game. It’s a clever design and although we’ve seen it all before it still stands out due to some factors like the (broad) choice of characters to play, the wonderful components, lots of interesting decision with simple rules, buildings that add variability every game and the nice take on player order with the initiative cards. This can work as a gateway game for worker placement too, and the tiny box is less likely to scare new players away so that’s something to keep in mind too! The reason for putting it in this category and not in a higher one is because it does have some shortcomings for me, I’m not a big fan of the farming theme, the rules could’ve been clearer, the flipping of seeds/crops can feel fiddly to some and the building cards on display are never discarded which could lead to a static situation if no one wants to buy them.
Another perfect gateway game in the Worker Placement genre
Small box, many interesting choices
Beautiful looks (Components / artwork)
Replayability (buildings / Characters)
Intuitive gameplay, a theme everyone can grasp
Theme (not my cup of tea)
Rules could use some clearer examples
Lots of moving parts could feel fiddly to some players
No option to discard building cards when they’re not interesting
Nothing new to see here
Pricey, you could get a game that offers more at the same price point
Scoville (with labs expansion)
At the beginning of January I had somewhat of a buying spree, I was looking for games with a reasonable playing time that did offer some depth and challenge. After reading a bit on how it worked I decided to acquire it together with the Scoville: Labs expansion. All games I’ve played of Scoville included this expansion so keep that in mind when reading. Scoville is exactly what I was looking for at that point, it’s a nice interactive puzzle and it plays pretty fast. There’s player interaction, yes, but nothing mean. It has great looks, the peppers are all so shiny and it plays great at all player counts I’ve tried so far (2-3-4 and 5). It can play up to 6 which we don’t see often in most games and it’s nice to have an extra option for 6 players on the shelves. There’s also lots of ways you can score points and no path is more important than another. Replayability is endless, so many recipe and market cards to make every game different. The Labs expansion adds a tiny planting board that gets you to produce peppers even quicker and makes the pace of the game feel even faster, which I most certainly like. The rulebook is clear and after reading only once I didn’t have a single question left. What I like a little less is how static the board is with only 2 players, not a lot gets planted but on the other hand that makes it easier to keep some control over what your opponent is doing and to block them so I’m not all to certain about it being a negative but I’m pointing it out anyways. This could be prone to AP, but since you always have something to think about when someone else is thinking I’ve never seen it overtake a game. The game plays mostly intuitive but I did struggle with checking for game end and going to the afternoon phase the first few games. A bigger downside for me is that the peppers don’t always fit into the board neatly and you can easily damage it that way. I’ve also seen people frowning over the breeding chart for quite a long time and concluded this is not a game for everyone. A highly tactical game with an amazing puzzle implemented in there that seems infinitely replayable.
Plays up to 6
Clearly written rulebook
Tactical puzzle (which I like so it’s a plus)
Plays fast, always something to think about when it’s not your turn yet
Prone to AP
The breeding chart isn’t that clear to everyone
Might take a bit too long with 6
Static board with 2 (but this could be a plus because of the control you keep over your opponent)
Peppers don’t always fit in the board, resulting in damage
Labs expansion is a must for me
Quite expensive for a medium game (80-90 euros with expansion)
I’m not big on dice games so I easily skipped this until someone suggested to play it. This was definitely a game to give a chance, I was sold immediately. The dice drafting is very clever and there are so many things you can do at first glance. Focus on traveling, focus on those projects which there are more of every round, keep in mind the end game goals, building transmitters, getting Gyrodines up and running. Not a single die you use feels wasted, there is always something useful to do. Those were my thoughts after the first play so I added the game to my collection and played a few more times. That’s when I started noticing some cracks (for me), you can’t ignore traveling it is just something you have to do, getting gyrodines spinning is a HUGE effort and feels like a chore compared to other options, it started feeling samey after 3 plays but I do admit I haven’t changed the projects board yet. Sometimes you want to make huge combos, and the options are there but you’re limited to using a maximum of 3 dice every turn that keeps you from doing this. Another negative here, and even more so than in Scoville is the AP. Pulsar isn’t a hit yet and it might even turn into a miss if my somewhat negative feelings don’t go away with a few more plays. I do hope I’m wrong about the traveling being most important, and I probably am, 3 plays is miles away from understanding a game.
Many choices and options
Multiple paths to victory
Both drafting and Action phase offer great decision making opportunities
Highly replayable (with all the extra boards)
Some player interaction, but nothing noteworthy so no one can mess with your plans
Prone to AP
Getting spinning gyrodines feels like a lot of work
Not possible to make big combo’s
Traveling can’t be ignored (only 3 plays in so take that into account)
Even with many options it started feeling samey already
A good Roll & Write game will bring a smile on my face on any day. Welcome To… is exactly that and a little more, it uses cards instead of dice and is just a little more complex and puzzly compared to most simpler Roll & Write games I’ve played. This is both a pro and a con for me. I do like a R&W game from time to time but I’m uncertain if it should last 40 minutes for me. Is it interesting enough to keep getting it to the table with a rather lengthy playtime in the genre, I don’t know really. The theme is really fun, and the added depth is a welcome refreshment in the genre. It’s still easy enough to play it with family but it’ll end up in my carry-on bag less often because of the playtime. Great game, I do not find the working with cards different from dice, it’s still a ‘random’ pool to select from. Sure you know how many forests or pools are in the deck but in the end they’ll still come out randomly with different house numbers. A good Roll & Write, but for me it’s still lacking something to call it great and add this to another category of new games but yes, it is noteworthy and you should give it a try if you like the genre.
Some extra depth compared to other Roll & Write games
New take on R&W with cards
You can plan ahead a bit since the upcoming actions are on the cards
A tad too long for a R&W
Cards feel just as random as ‘dice’ so I don’t know if it really adds something to the genre
Race to the New Found Land
A few weeks ago I joined some gaming buddies to a local board game fair. This one was high on our to try list so we grabbed the first seats available. It’s dry, it’s resource management, it’s area control, it’s a bit of a point salad, it’s nothing new BUT it is really enjoyable. Trying to get your engine going with the 4/5 boats your allowed to have is very satisfying. The interesting decisions you make every turn are fun, do I get an extra boat or do I need these resources elsewhere this round, what island do I want to explore/settle on, what turn order do I want to do this in (ie using a ship with more sails), … It’s great fun but the downsides are quite evident from the first play. It doesn’t work great with 2, the spots at the cities don’t get filled up easily and they only score when completely filled, the cards in the game aren’t that variable so I have some questions about replayability too. It’s not very appealing, it’s all been done before but despite those negatives I’ll gladly enjoy another 3 or 4 player game in the future but I won’t add this to the collection
Solid eurogame with interesting choices
Different paths to victory
Optimization puzzle of resources
Plays very quick
Not as good with only 2
Don’t know how replayable this is, my guess is not so much
Another game I’ve played very recently is Macao, I’ve been keen on getting to know more Stefan Feld Games and a friend of mine has this in her collection and brought it to gamenight. It looks its age, it’s not like the flashy new games out there and with everything pretty hitting the table lately it’s just a shame to look at a bland game like this. But ok, looks can be deceiving right, they are in this case. Macao is a very fun game that requires a great deal of planning (luckily a little less than Castell requires) which keeps you on your toes throughout the entire game. Getting the right goods tiles, the right resource hexagons and the right amount of them is a fun and challenging puzzle. The interaction in this game is just right for me, you can race to deliver goods first or to get some building/people cards first and you might be able to block someone to get a tile on the map side of the board but you are never able to destruct an entire plan. I had a great time playing this and if it weren’t out of print I might contemplate adding it to the collection for a fair price, but it isn’t good enough to go and hunt down an expensive copy of it in my opinion.
Clever dice implementation
Another fun puzzle
Right kind of interaction (not multiplayer solitaire but no possibility to destruct another player completely)
Looks; it ain’t pretty
Theme isn’t present for me at all
You are forced to take a card every round, I don’t like being forced into thinks that don’t fit my strategy, which is likely to happen here
Hard to keep track of what others are doing so even with the interaction on the board there is still a downside
Out Of Print, not worth a higher price than regular market value 10 years ago
Last but not least we have Castell, a highly thematic game where everything just works. The theme matches the gameplay in a way I haven’t seen done many times before, this alone is a big plus. It’s a great puzzle with loads of planning involved and everything you do is important, as is timing. It’s a very elegant design and I can’t name many flaws but there are a few. VERY prone to AP, sure everyone can think ahead but when your opponent takes something of the board you wanted you’ll have to change your strategy which could take a while. The planning of how to build your towers each fair can take a while too, and I kept re-planning, restructuring and rebuilding my human towers in my head until I saw stars. Too bad the people on the top of my tower didn’t because I always overlooked something that caused my tower to be shorter than I expected it to be. The rondel system of which abilities you get to train in every region every month is extremely clever but again, a lot to think about and another thing to keep track of during whatever plan you have in mind. In the end I just have to say this game is wonderful and it will find a good spot in many collections I am certain but for me it was too much. I couldn’t get a grip on the combination of taking workers out of the correct regions to gain the best abilities for my crew which hopefully holds the workers that will score in many of the upcoming fairs and so on and so on. I like my fair share of heavy games but some of them I can’t master (like Tzolkin) and the same seems to be the case for Castell, I just think it’s more than I can take, which is fine by me as there are plenty other great games to play.
Theme and gameplay match to perfection
Many many many possibilities of expanding/training your crew every turn
Clever system to plan around
Low (to zero) luck involved
Great optimization puzzle
Extremely prone to AP
Too much planning for me personally
A little less fun, but no time wasted
Next up, some games I have played that didn’t leave a great impression. Maybe they’re okay when I explore them further but I do not feel the need to. I wouldn’t miss them if I never got to play them again. A few of these games have been added to my collection in the past few months and those will get another shot though.
This one has been played about 3 times before I decided to sell it. I liked the theme and all the tiny different dinosaurs looked amazing. It’s a solid worker placement and I see why many people enjoy it but in contrast to Macao which I’ve just talked about it has the looks as a pro but the gameplay doesn’t offer enough to keep me coming back for more. I felt like I was rinse and repeating a lot, get DNA, up security, make dinosaur, build cages. And although there are a lot of games out there that don’t offer more than this which I do enjoy this just fell flat. Maybe I expected too much, maybe I should’ve given it some more plays, maybe the expansion will add some nice variability to the mix I don’t know. There was too much missing for me, the race aspect also lacked, the short goals ended the game before it properly started, while the long goals made it drag too long. I also disliked the luck of the hooligans from the bag and didn’t find the 2-player games that interesting, it wasn’t tight enough. A beautiful game sure, but nothing noteworthy enough to keep it on the shelves. I’m looking forward to Dinogenics now and I hope it will make up for what’s missing here.
Easy to grasp and play
Felt like rinse and repeat after only 3 plays
Racing to the goals isn’t my preferred game ending in a euro
Didn’t like it as much with 2 players
Lacks depth and interesting decisions
Didn’t see multiple paths to victory
A few Stefan Feld games hit the table these past months and this was fun for sure, but I found it a little too tactical for my tastes in a heavier eurogame. Making the best of dice rolls is fun, for an hour, but when you need to gain something specific to score higher in the latter rounds it’s less fun. There’s too much randomness for a weightier game. It couldn’t grab my attention at all. No decent way to mitigate dice rolls and even if you do, bad luck may come and strike you again in the next round. That said, there is something I really liked in this game too, the rondel system in the centre of the gameboard felt very refreshing and I’d like to see more games with the same mechanic pop up, preferably games that have some better gameplay apart from that too though.
Rondel system feels refreshing
Medium-heavy, easy to grasp
Too tactical for my tastes
No way to properly mitigate dice (and difficult to do so)
Randomness and luck
Not engaging, theme didn’t get a hold of me
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
A quick lighter version of Castles of Burgundy seems to be exactly what I don’t need. It’s okay to play but I’d much rather get the original CoB to the table. I found it too solitaire, there aren’t that many hexes which results in people making nearly the same choices during a game and then I’m not yet speaking of how tiny the sheets are making it hard to distinguish the hexes. It’s not engaging either and gets boring quite easily so I won’t shed a tear if I never get to play this again.
Enjoyable Roll & Write when there’s no other one around
People end up doing the same
Not that replayable, gets boring easily
Another game with a clever system that intrigues me but apart from that element everything else seems a little ‘meh’. I have only played this game once so chances are this could grow on me, I was in doubt about how much I actually liked it so then I went back and asked: Do I need to play this again? No, I do not and so it ended up between Merlin and Dinosaur Island, which I like far less than this game. What I really liked is the action selection mechanism, it’s extremely clever and it’s quite challenging, every choice you make impacts future turns. The scoring tracks are interesting too, always organized differently in groups of 2, the lowest score of each group will count and I haven’t played a game like that before. While it’s interesting it also bothered me, you are forced to focus on EVERYTHING and that just didn’t suit me too well. You had to get every action on your action board and switch it back to something else when you’ve scored enough. I calculated hundreds of times what my scores would be near the end and that wasn’t enjoyable for me. The theme does nothing for me and some of the stuff just felt thrown in for the sake of throwing it in, I didn’t see a link between theme and some of the mechanics / goals. That said it did also feel like there was more to it than I’m pointing out right now and maybe I’ll find out what it is if I ever get to play it again.
Interesting new way of action selection
Seems very repayable with different action and goal times every game
A very solid design you should definitely give a shot
Many paths to explore on how to gain points
Pushed to focus on every element in the game
A bunch of stuff thrown together that sometimes feel too distant from the theme.
Having to recalculate repeatedly is not my explanation of fun
Some Area Control that works less with 2 players (or that is my guess)
Roll & Write, again, yay! We ‘played’ this during our visit to Spiel last year but I didn’t log it since we were more interested in being seated for 5 minutes than in actually playing the game. In the end that’s a shame because it’s well worth the attention if you like pick up and deliver games and wouldn’t mind seeing them combined with a nice Roll & Write game, which results in SteamRollers. I liked it just fine, it’s quite fun drawing roads on your sheet to make routes and deliver those cubes but it wasn’t very engaging. It’s just a little dull, and that’s a shame because I see some potential, there’s things I do like which are dragged down by the design. Racing for specific deliveries is fun, but not being able to see what everyone else is doing all the time takes that fun away rather quick. It’s light and a little too light to last an hour, which is another downside. If I have an hour to play, I won’t pick something this light. Another thing I noticed after a few solo games was that once your engine is built you can pretty much do what you want, the challenge faints (or even disappears) near the end while that’s the point where things are supposed to get more exciting. I’ve bought a copy a few weeks ago so this will hit the table again, but it doesn’t really have to.
Nice combination of Roll & Write and Pick up & Deliver
Meatier Roll & Write game
Different modules to add to up complexity (change maps, add contracts)
Plays too long for what it offers
Challenge disappears when nearing game end, not engaging at all
Difficult to keep track of your opponents
Moving on, nothing to see here!
Well there might be something here that you'll like, but games in this category were a definite miss for me. Various reasons for this, trying a mechanic again which I know I don’t like, too mean, too luck based, and so on.
Clank! In! Space!
I do not like deckbuilding, I don’t, it just doesn’t work for me like it does for most people. But then I discover Super Motherload which I really did enjoy and when everyone kept being positive about Clank I just had to try it. So yeah, it proved that most deckbuilders are just not for me. I wish I could remember enough about the game to list pros and cons but it’s been a few months so all I remember is that I disliked it. Not remembering how a game worked or played is bad, it means nothing interesting happened that stayed with me and I may as well have been doing nothing.
The Grimm Forest
This game is just the same, I remember we had to build a few houses and be the fastest about it. I also remember there not being any significant choices and it’s way too much of a kids game if you ask me. I remember finishing this game and me and the friend I was playing with both blinked in surprise of how utterly lacking this game was. The mini’s are cool and look great, components are of good quality but I kept looking for a game which they forgot to put in the box. This is probably my least favorite game of the past months.
Let’s throw dice! Let’s throw them again! How about one more dice throw? You ready to throw some more dice? And just because we can, another dice roll ladies and gentlemen! Do not forget to put a cube on the board for whatever you’ve rolled, try and make nice combo’s by putting the cubes in a row or cube formation. Oh wait, you can’t try all you can do is just roll the dice and hope for the best. It’s Yahtzee 2.0 and that’s not even an improvement. Push your luck games are fun for a while but this kept going on and on, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I do think this can be a great family game, at least for families that haven’t seen the better family games out there but other than that I don’t know how much luck the average player can take.
Might be fun for families
Too much luck
Takes too long for what it offers
Tiny Epic Quest
A very cute and colorful looking game that’s the first to introduce ITEMeeples, which is rather nice. But what else is there? Not a whole lot, the tiny items to equip your meeples with are very fiddly. Options are extremely limited and there’s a lot of luck involved. It pretty much overstays it’s welcome with a long playtime and far from intuitive gameplay. I can see people liking this who can really immerse in theme when playing something, but even then, it’s hard to build around something that isn’t even there.
Cute and pretty
Takes too long
Very luck based
A light family game that hasn’t proven anything worthy to be laid out on the table again. Choices are limited and seemed to be too easy to make. The puzzle aspect was fun but hardly there because of those limited options. Scoring wasn’t intuitive either, I would’ve liked an overview to keep that in mind during our play. It looks pretty but that’s about it for me. With all positive things being said I’ll probably give it another go when I get the chance because I have a feeling we may have done something wrong.
The Quest for El Dorado
This is a race game where you try to build an effective deck to get you on the other side of the island first. While that sounded interesting, it was a big letdown after my one play. The decisions you make are not very interesting and straightforward the entire time. Draw cards, play them to move on the map and buy new cards. That is all you do repeatedly. If the cards you could buy were somewhat interesting that could’ve helped but as soon as someone adds a good card to the market row you’re pretty much forced to tag along when it’s impossible to add any more cards to the row. This results in similar decks and when that happens it’s just luck of the draw at the end of the day. I was stuck on a part of the map for a while because I kept drawing fields instead of the forests I desperately needed, disappointing.
Light family game, accessible
Gateway to deckbuilding / race games
A lot of map variability
Obvious decision-making, no challenge
Not engaging for ‘real’ gamers
I wanted to like this, it looks amazing and Cathala has proven himself with more than a few excellent designs (Five Tribes being my favorite) in the past. The first few rounds were quite interesting, getting an engine going, building those machines and hiring specialists but then I gathered myself and wondered what the point was... getting those 20 VP obviously and I noticed my engine wasn’t working towards that and you don’t specifically need an engine for it. Get 3 specialists, buy 3 attack cards, produce x recourses this round, I had to switch my ‘engine’ towards those goals the entire time and I think that’s just the game. Fulfilling goal after goal after goal to get to those 20 VP, dismantling machines while you are working towards that offers a nice amount of points or resources too making it very easy to rake in those points at the end. The challenge disappears and it is just a matter of who has the fastest ‘engine’ or the best specialists’ combo. That was all still fine; the gameplay is just fine but throw the attack cards in mix and you have lost me. I am not a fan of games where you destroy other peoples stuff and steal from them; it is just not for me.
Many combos to explore (with all those specialists)
replayability (different goals every game / order of machines different every game)
Overstays its welcome
Nothing we haven’t seen before
Best for Last!
Luckily, I did not only play mediocre games up until this point in 2018. A third of the new games I’ve played are contending to be in my top 10 new-to-me-games list already, that’s a wonderful first half of the year if you ask me. There are a few classics, a few new games and even a few games I didn’t expect to end up here! Without further ado, let us start …
If you haven’t noticed by now I’ll tell it again, I’m a big fan of games with a puzzle aspect where everyone is building something on his own and no one can come over and directly destroy it. Honshu seemed to fit this description perfectly. After it being on my watchlist for over a year my girlfriend got the chance to play a demo during a local fair. She was convinced and that lead me to buy the game right away. We have played it 10 times since then and it’s far from boring me, it stays exciting every single time. We have not played it with the advanced scoring cards yet, just the regular rules and that suits me fine for now. It’s just so accessible, plays quick and still offers plenty of challenge. The drafting is fun at all player counts, I very much like the 2-player variant always giving you two options to choose from. It’s an extremely elegant design, simple and satisfying, this will forever stay in my collection and is filler of the year so far.
Easy to learn, accessible
Multiple paths to victory
Elegant City-building / trick-tacking game
Optional use of extra scoring cards
Maybe a little fiddly at times when laying the cards
TMG gained an entire cubicle on my kallax shelves over the past months, and rightfully so. They published a decent number of medium games with enough bite to them to keep them interesting for seasoned gamers. Gold West is not just one of those games; it is my favorite among them so far. Gold west combines area control and resource management (mancala style) in a very solid eurogame. I’m not a big fan of area control at all, but that is because most area control games require some direct confrontation. Gold west isn’t about that, it is about positioning and careful planning. Once you’ve settled, you’ve settled and no one can do a thing about it. That doesn’t mean the game lacks player interaction, because it doesn’t. You always have to keep an eye on what you opponents are doing, racing to be ahead on the metal tracks, to make investments or to get the best spots in boomtown contribute loads of indirect interaction to the game. All great fun and very replayable, different map layouts, different boomtown configurations and different investment options add to the fun of looking for the best strategy every game. What I loved most is the supply track; gathered resources are placed on your personal supply track. Every turn you move resources up mancala style to get them all the way to the top and spend them (in the different actions I’ve summed up earlier). If this sounds vague but interesting, get out there and read a decent review with play-through information, you won’t regret it! If I had to come up with a negative it would be the looks, just not my cup of tea.
Strategic puzzle (but manageable, not too heavy)
Engaging, important decisions but a quick playtime
A challenging game that takes only an hour (for real this time)
No direct conflict
I do not really like the looks of the game
Abstract games that lean more to tactics than strategy conquered a place in my collection too, Dokmus being the leader up until now. Dokmus is getting serious competition with this one added to the collection a few weeks ago, it’s a less tactical but still gave me the same feeling when playing. Talking about theme has no use here, it’s not there and I do not care about that. It’s abstract, but yes I liked the looks of the components and the artwork so that’s a plus. Another plus is that you’re building something, you’re pro-actively making something better and bigger every turn which is nice if you like a game that’s constantly progressing. What I love most here is how a ton of mechanisms thrown together work out so well. There’s drafting, resource management, area control, tile placement and engine building mixed up in a game that actually only offers you 2 options every turn. Expand the city or gain resources (, tiles and/or points). I’ve seriously simplified the game by only naming those 2 options but that’s what it comes down to in the end. Most games in this segment of my post have one thing in common, replayability, and Ginkgopolis might be the best yet. Everything depends so much on what others are doing, the board is ever changing and there are so many layers to explore, just wonderful. Maybe a little negative point to end this synopsis, it doesn’t play intuitive, it has to grow on you. Everyone I’ve played it with spent a good time frowning at what they were supposed to do for at least a few rounds.
So many mechanisms working so well together
Constantly progressing playing area
Steep learning curve
A lot can change in 1 final turn
Oh well, I’m not all too certain this game belongs up here but I just had so much fun playing it I couldn’t place it elsewhere. It is simple, it is funny and you wonder why no one has come up with this earlier. Are you looking for a game that will bring smiles to the entire family sitting around the table at Christmas? Bring this! It’s perfect for it, it’s unpredictable, it’s engaging, you can play in teams or all head to head. It lasts about 15 minutes and I bet you all nephews or nieces will be in line to take a spot at the table. On the contrary this probably won’t be a hit at the local gaming gatherings, it’ll probably get samy after a few plays and it’s quite luck-based. Some will even say this is a toy or a gimmick, not a game. Maybe they are right, but it’s a darn good one with the right crowd
Repetitive after a few plays
Not for seasoned gamers
Is this a game, a gimmick or a toy?
I remember a few things about this game, but I have only played it once and that was 4 months ago. So everything I say here is probably questionable. I put it in the top category because I remember how much I liked playing it and it is very high on my want to play list too. It required some decent planning and it is very fun to try to figure out the most optimal way to get to the end game goals first. I sense high replayability, the component quality is top notch, the ruleset is simple yet the game is not. There is no direct confrontation but one does have to take into account what the others are doing. It didn’t feel intuitive though and that’s a negative point together with the sometimes fiddly way you manipulate the dice.
Gentes convinced me after one play because of the very fun balancing exercise you try to master every turn. Spend more time on a powerful action or maybe take a lesser action but also spent less time. The drafting of actions is also very interesting, you have to take into account what your opponents might want to do next and adjust your plans accordingly. In addition to figuring out how much time you want to spend on certain actions there’s another puzzle of how you want to distribute your owned workers. Gaining type X results in having less of worker Y, a constant push and pull that is enjoyable. I’ve only played it once and although I haven’t felt these things were issues (yet) I did read complaints about how the card scoring didn’t seem to work for a lot of players. The final round mostly consist of just grabbing cards, resulting in an anticlimax. Some would call it unpolished, it’s not my opinion at this point but I’m adding it in here because I do see where those opinions are coming from.
Very fun balancing exercise
Lots of game and plays under 90 minutes (2 player)
Rush for cards in the last round
Something I would not have backed on Kickstarter if I hadn’t gotten the chance to play it prior to backing. The theme doesn’t appeal to me and I didn’t take the time to thoroughly explore it because of that. When I saw an opportunity to join a demo I didn’t hesitate, this was getting quite some attention of like-minded gamers in my area, rightfully so it appears. This is a hand-card management game at it’s core, play a card and pick up a new one. Every card has multiple use and the card value adds some extra depth, as do the bonus actions. There seem to be multiple paths to victory and decisions were always interesting. It played smooth, the iconography was top notch, as was the component quality (and it was only a prototype). It was very nice to get the game explained by a very enthusiast person, which just added to the fun. It’s intuitive and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It plays rather fast and is a solid medium weight eurogame. One down side is the possible player elimination, I don’t like being forced to do something and here you have to make it to the top of the middle action (I forgot the name). Luckily, there were many ways to do so and if you consider that right from the start, it’s easily manageable.
Straight forward, intuitive
Variability, different paths to victory
Possible player elimination
Hearing good things about this game couldn’t convince me to play it. I’m not a cycling fan, at all. I’m not a fan of race games either, at least not when they are rather light games. All odds were against me trying this game. Then, I joined a few friends to a local fair and they wanted to try this, who am I to say no when I don’t even know if it’s fun our not. Not judging a book (game) by its cover is just hard when there are so many pretty covers too try first. I honestly thought I was going to waste a good 30 minutes of my time when we sat down but I just played along. Picking 2 cards, moving the bikes, taking penalties, picking new cards. It all seemed so random. The bikes hadn’t even made it halfway through the tracks and I was shifting on my chair, getting closer to the board. I started considering my choices; I started seeing how this utterly simple game brings decent decision-making and tense gameplay to the table. It’s very exciting, you just get sucked in, you want to follow along, be first or last when the time is right. Try to stay with the group but don’t use up all those good cards yet, I was blown away. This is extremely clever, extremely fun and endlessly replayable as everything depends on what others are doing. There’s a bunch of different tracks to try out in the base game box and if that’s not enough you can check out the expansion too. Surprise hit of 2018 so far, heck I might even add it to the collection.
Simple but engaging and fun
Accessible, easy to learn, everyone can play
Champions of Midgard
A Viking-themed game filled with dice about fighting monsters. Nope, this must be a mistake, how can it possibly be on this end of the list? Well, because it gives me that Lords of Waterdeep feeling of gathering recources and depleting them to gather some points. It’s about the same weight and definitely a good gateway choice if you want to introduce people to playing games, IF they are into this kind of theme. You can mitigate dice using favor tokens, and the ‘risks’ you take are always calculated. It plays quick, smooth and there’s little to no downtime. For a Viking themed game there is very little player interaction, but the interaction actually present works well with the theme and isn’t too punishing. Different goal cards and variable player powers make me want to explore this game further. The set collection of the monster colors also adds a nice layer to the game. Eager to add some expansions in future sessions.
Easy to explain
Simple combat system
Variable player powers
Go to choice if you want ameritrash and euro lovers at the same table
Press your luck combat
Might need expansions to keep it interesting
In my intro I said something about wanting to tell you all about the Kickstarters I've backed or am eagerly awaiting to arrive but I won't make it to that point during this blog post. I hope you all enjoyed the bunch of mini-reviews and look forward do reading anyones thoughts about it. I'd also love to read about the games you all enjoyed this first half of the year so feel free to share!
Thanks for reading!
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My gaming year started slow, very slow actually, as I only have four games on the 2018 counter. One has to start somewhere and now it can only get better so I’m just looking at it from the bright side. What I could do is post a short post consisting of only those four plays BUT I’ve decided to take up some challenges this year which means I can get another paragraph in writing about what my first challenge of the year will be. First: the games I’ve played during the first week of January!
On Monday, New Year’s Day, we went over to Katrien’s family for another family event with way too much food. Without hesitating, I packed up a few family-friendly games as we got ready to go. Blokus was among them and somewhere between soup and main course we found time to sneak a game in. No one seemed interested to join at that point so it was another 1v1 battle between Katrien and me. My head was in the game this time, I had lost most of our prior Blokus games and I was intent on doing better this time. Katrien made way to my side of the board rather quick, trying to block me as best as she could. That worked well and soon a large part of the board was unreachable to me. She shifted her focus and I could actually sneak a lot of pieces between the gaps she left open for me. It was a close call but I managed to win with -8 against -10 points. Not about to push my luck and with main course being served we packed up the game. Katrien played a few games of NMBR9 with her family, such a shame it only goes up to 4 players but I happily watched.
I started work on Thursday and I had a few things planned before that so it was Friday before I got the next game played. 3 days without playing a single game, that does not happen often and I was glad to join a gamenight at a boardgameclub in the area. A friend of mine tagged along and I brought a few games as well. There was one game in my bag I was hoping to play and I got lucky and found a few enthusiasts to play Keyper with me. I did regret not revising the rules before, it would’ve made it easier to explain but the game was all set up and the explanation was over before too long. Last time I focused on the left side of my player board, getting as many animals as I could as well as scoring tiles for that part of the board. This time I wanted to do something different so I decided to give shipping a go. There was a tile available at the start of the game that granted extra points whenever you did a double shipping action. I upgraded that as fast as I could and I also added a tile to my board that granted points whenever I sent a Keyple to a shipping area.
Most of the game was spent getting the right resources to ship and score. I was lucky at several occasions I could both join another player and choose another boat for my own so I was scoring around 15 points on shipping each round. The last round I tried to upgrade as many buildings as I could so I’d also get a nice scoring for that. I’d placed both the Drainage and Pavements tile at profitable spots. It’s in your favor when you’re the only one who knows the game, there sure is a learning curve to it, I’m still discovering it myself. Very glad to have this in the collection, it’s one of those games that may take a while to play but there’s not a second wasted as it’s an enjoyable experience throughout the entire game.
We had a rather long drive ahead of us (well for me at least) and I don’t like driving when tired so we called it a night after bowing our heads over Keyper for the past 3 hours. This was a good way to say goodbye to gameless days.
On Sunday we had a lazy day at home and Katrien didn’t mind playing a few games but she wasn’t up to learning anything new. That’s too bad since I really wanted to play Prêt-à-Porter but I’ll play any game over no game so I just looked for something else. In the end we agreed on playing Orleans.
It had been over 6 months since we played this, such a shame. I added both expansions to my collection a few months ago but not feeling comfortable enough with the rules we decided to first play another game just with the base. What I wanted to do was focus on goods and traveling, what I ended up doing was indecisively roaming the map and picking up a good here or there. Katrien did what she always seems to do when playing Orleans, proceed on the university track, get a lot of citizen tokens and halfway through start traveling and putting up houses while near the end she got rid of all her excess workers and sent them of the that side board. The problem is I can’t seem to keep focus when I’m playing this, it’s a shame really since I usually start out good to lose track about halfway through. Katrien won with 138 points against my 103. Next time we’ll add some of the expansions, or maybe we’ll try a co-op scenario so I can actually win too.
Next up was a game we both love to play, be it without the mandatory quests which we just removed from the deck. We did add both expansion modules, I don’t think I ever want to play without those again. The skulls really add to the game, it adds a nice layer of options to the game and it’s very fun trying to weigh out the pros and cons from taking any (more) skulls.
Again, I started out strong and got some big quests done fast. Katrien wasn’t doing bad but she was trailing behind which I didn’t mind. She did seem to have an entire deck of intrigue cards in her hands and she kept taking Commerce quests. I guessed correct that she was collecting commerce quests to score with her lord but I did nothing to stop her and she got really lucky that those quests kept coming up. I instead focused on the few big point quests I managed to collect that matched my lord. We both ended the game with zero skulls but Katrien had like 13 cards that matched her lord while I only had 5 or so. Final scores: 179-146. Yup, I’m the latter. Great game though and already looking forward to my next play.
That’s it for gaming the past week but I wanted to share a challenge I set up about a month ago, yes I cheated and started in December but really what does it matter.
Our 20x5 Challenge!
With the end of the year fast approaching I started thinking if I wanted to join the challenge madness here on the geek. I decided not to, I couldn’t figure out which 10 games I both wanted to play and seemed a reasonable choice to actually get played. Another thing I thought of was that I wanted to play more games with Katrien, sure she’s the number one on the list of people I play with but over half of my plays are without her. I had something in mind but all that was left to do was gauge her interest.
When I explained I wanted to do a 20 x 5 challenge where each of us would pick 13 games to play 5 times she was confused. Yup that would indeed make 26 games but I wanted us both to have some options to get to a list we both enjoy so I set up the following rules: Each of us gets 1 Veto and decides upon one game the other can’t vote out. We also each get 3 votes to discard games from the others list that would have us end up with a list of 20 games we would play 5 times. The final but most important rule is that the games would only count towards the challenge if we were both playing.
Katrien never cheats when we play games but she broke the rules here and only picked 10 games after which she ruthlessly voted Anachrony from my list, honestly, it still hurts a little. Luckily, I put my veto on Lisboa or I’d had no shot in getting it played.
So what’s our final list? Let’s start with the ones Katrien added:
What a surprise, her all-time favorite game.
This is going to be tough, I don’t dislike it but I don’t like it as a 2-player game. Lords of Waterdeep
Well the first real addition to the list if you ask me. No I’m kidding but at least I like this game as much as she does. Scythe
I knew she’d put this on her list, she’s damn good at it and she enjoys it a lot every time.Star Realms
Another evident choice, we’re not going to play until the frontiers KS arrives though.Super Motherload
This is one of those games we both really like but it’s good she put it on the list because we might not play it a lot otherwise. Terraforming Mars
Katrien likes deckbuilders, hand management and civilization building, this had to be on her list. Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture
Another one of her favorite games which came to no surprise and I’m glad she added it to the list since I don’t play it nearly enough.NMBR 9 and Noch mal!
A few fillers to keep the list do-able, fun fillers may I add.
Now on to what I added: Azul
How could I not? This game is great and I had to put it on the list, it’s going to be easy to get 5 plays in too. Blueprints
I also added a few fillers to keep the flow going, adding 20 heavy weight games would throw our confidence of being able to do this. Century: Golem Edition
When I added it to the list Katrien had never played it before and she saw no need to vote it out since it’s not a long game. Dokmus
I really want to explore more abstract games this year, starting with the one that drew me to the genre seemed like a good idea. The Gallerist
I think Katrien contemplated about voting this from the list but she knows my favorite game and I’m glad she decided against it. Lisboa
This one she would’ve thrown out without a doubt, she found her one play of it way too much but I put my Veto up and now she’s going to have to try at least once. I did tell her we could remove it from the list if it really ends up being too much. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
Katrien likes this and I suspected she wouldn’t put it on her list so I just put it on mine. It plays fast too which is a plus. Orléans
A game we revisit not nearly enough. I added it because I want to explore the expansions sometime soon. Prêt-à-Porter
I convinced Katrien about the fact that she will love this game. I’ve tried getting on the table a few times now but she’s not eager because of the theme and weight. She likes heavy games but she doesn’t like listening to explanations let alone read the rules herself.YINSH
Another abstract to finish the list, I added it as a filler, we play it in about 30 minutes and I already know who’ll get best out of 5 here but I don’t care.
We started this challenge the 5th of December and we already managed to get 20 plays logged from it. They consist mainly of the filler games but I’m not discouraged, it just means the real fun games are still open to play!
So how about you guys, anyone taking up any challenges? Done so in the past, how did it go? I’m keeping a close eye on the fact that we have to still enjoy it, it may never feel like an obligation.
Thanks for reading!
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An overview of my last week in 2017
The last week of the year I mostly play a lot of lighter games due to numerous family occasions, this week I was lucky enough to get a few weightier games in the mix as well. I logged over 20 plays this week so that’s a good week for sure.
Monday was Christmas day, my parents and brother came over for the occasion. My dad and brother dislike games but my mom has grown to like quite a few games so we got to play a quick game of Azul. Katrien joined too, she’s proven to be unbeatable in this game so far but my mom was really on a roll too. I tried to go for 2 full sets of a color but I only managed to get 1 so my last turns I tried to save what I could and constructed another vertical row. We started counting points and we were all quite close actually, I had 77 points and came in last, mom had 85, which wasn’t enough to beat Katrien with 87 points, but it was a great effort.
Tuesday morning, we made time for a 2-player game and opted to play Super Motherload. It’s one of those games that offers the right amount of challenge in under an hour. I focused mainly on getting the major achievements and hiring the most point-rewarding crew. I got a few minor achievements along the way and the of the few artifacts I managed to collect during the game one was worth 3 points. Katrien went for the artifacts and she built a decent crew too, snagging one of the major awards away before I could get it but her main focus was on the minor achievements and the artifacts which granted her nice bonuses a few times which gave her a very nice momentum. It was a close game, I thought I’d won by a bigger margin but in the end I won with 63 points against 59. Katrien is pretty good at games like this so it feels good when I beat her every once in a while.
In the evening we went over to friends to play Riverboat. Since I was the only one who knew the rules I quickly set up the game and explained it. It’s fairly easy to explain so it didn’t take long before we started playing. I only played Riverboat as a 2-player game before this and having 2 more people at table increases the tension significantly. You don’t get to be the starting player for as many phases and it’s quite important to pay attention to what your opponents are doing to determine which phase you should try and get first place in. Everyone started playing on scoring for the boats so I left that behind and tried focusing on other things like wells/barns and maybe getting near the majority in Orleans. I wasn’t getting first place there since Katrien already had many workers up there early in the game. This was an interesting tactic, she scored a lot during the game and she also scored majority at the end which is a big deal.
In the end 3 of us scored nearly the same: Katrien who focused on the workers in Orleans and tried competing for the boats (she didn’t make it to first place but it still scored her a significant amount of points). I focused on Orleans too and tried to optimally fill my board and I got barns/wells for having a lot of the same vegetables. Our friend went ships all the way which scored him a lot with a combination of good puzzling on his board and the last player did a little of everything which pretty much cost her the game this time. Katrien and I tied at 121 points followed closely by our friend at 120 while the last player finished with 103 points which still isn’t bad.
It’s always nice to finish the evening with a filler game, NMBR9 has been very popular with our group lately so it seemed to be an evident choice. It always feels like you’re not able to build what you had in mind when playing this, it’s both frustrating and addictive at the same time. We got a lot of high numbers in the end so scores should’ve been high and they weren’t. Katrien won with 89, I had 81 and our friends scored 69 and 56. I can’t believe I’ve already played this game 16 times, it’s a contester to become one of my most played games.
We had 30 spare minutes during the day on Thursday so I convinced Katrien to play Century, which she hadn’t played before. I may have been a little mean, there were 2 good cards in the row and I didn’t tell her how good they were or how often cards like those came along. I was winning, and not by a little so about halfway through I let her take a card for free that was at the end of the row. The damage had already been done, she couldn’t win anymore but to my surprise she did like the game. I didn’t enjoy it as much because I should’ve just told her from the start.
On Thursday evening I met 2 friends to play Altiplano. My first time playing this wasn’t a success but I was ready to give it another shot. I didn’t really remember the rules but when I saw the game laid out in front of me it all started coming back rather quick. The game felt way more fun now I knew the rules, it flowed better and at least I had a clue of what was coming and what I should do. Nonetheless I spent half the game whining about how bad I was doing because one of my friends had a good strategy going and me and my other friend couldn’t follow at all. Things started to pick up after a while though and I got a large chunk of my warehouse filled. I didn’t win, I believe I was at 140 and the winner had 155 points. 3rd place was a mere 76 points. We finished the game with 2 hours on the clock, I expected it to drag a lot longer and time had flown by. In the end I’m really happy I gave Altiplano another chance and I’m pretty sure I’ll play it again in the future. I’ll probably still be wrapping my head around things for at least a few more games but I don’t mind that as long as I’m having fun.
Friday I had a game day planned with my mom, one of her working colleagues and his kids. They arrived right after noon and we jumped right in with a few games of Codenames. This was fun but I couldn’t get anyone to understand the hints I was giving, I do admit my tips are often far-fetched but when you stop and think about them for a minute they are filled with pure logic. (okay maybe you’ll need a few minutes) I didn’t join the entire afternoon but I enjoyed explaining NMBR9, Cat Lady, Barenpark and a few other games while they were having a great time playing them.
I recently bought this game and thought it was perfect for this occasion because there was enough of us to split in groups and have some nice interaction. I teamed up with my mom and Katrien joined in too. We weren’t the smartest team, while we managed to reach the middle of the track one of the opposing teams had already crossed the finish line. Still I really liked Bezzerwizzer, it has plenty of categories and the Bezzerwizzer/zwap stones keep it interesting.
That same night we went to our FLGS for some smaller games, while Katrien and I waited for our companions to finish of the game they were playing we played Ubongo fun & Go. We both managed to figure all the patterns out in time so it was rather dull. Luckily we didn’t have to wait for too long.
We then played a 4-player game of Azul. I had mostly played it with 2 and 3 up until now. There’s nothing new to say here, I really enjoy playing this every time and at any playercount. Katrien seems to be unbeatable but I’m training to beat her one day so she better watch out.
Azul is a quick game so we had about an hour left to get another game to the table. Sentient was in my bag and as the other player was interested and I was eager to teach Katrien we settled for a quick dicey-puzzle game. Every time I play this, I like it even better than before. The puzzle part where you try and match the dice with the cards is relaxing and it would have been a fun game if that was all there was to it. The area-control part is what lifts this game to the next level, it increases interaction and adds some welcomed tension to the game. The game doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with only 3 rounds that fly by it’s hard to resist from playing again. Unfortunately we didn’t have any time left to play that night. Katrien focused on 2 factions and she scored A LOT by doing that, mine and the other players cards were all over the place but yeah that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
After playing Blokus at a local fair a few weeks ago I went on the hunt for a second-hand copy. I finally found one last week and when it arrived Katrien and I played a few games, 4 to be exact. This game is so addictive, it takes only a few minutes and I instantly wanted to play again every time. We used the 2-player variant where you each get 1 color and play on a smaller board (15 x 15) instead of both using 2 colors which is probably too much for me. One of the games Katrien blocked right at the start, I had been very dumb and lost with -34 points or something like that. The other 3 games I was at least competition and I even managed to win once, go me!
Blokus was fun but I wanted to play something else, Katrien didn’t mind giving Century another go now she actually knew what cards to keep an eye on so we got it from the gaming shelves on to the table. We played twice and I was unable to win this time, see why I’m sometimes hesitant to give her tips? She demolishes me afterwards anyways. No I’m kidding, I’m not hesitant to give her tips at any time, I am hesitant about giving tips to other players as I’ve noticed some people just want to figure it all out for themselves. Century could become a go to filler game for us, but I don’t know how much staying power it has for 2 players. Time will tell.
Now we’re talking! Sure I don’t mind the filler games and the puzzling at all, I like it a lot BUT I’d choose a meatier game over a bunch of filler games any day. And this isn’t just a meatier game, it is my all time favorite and it had been way too long since I’d seen it’s beauty on my table. It had only been a few weeks but yesterday would’ve been too long ago if I’m honest here. Katrien needed a rules refresher but it turned out pretty quick she still knew most of it and the game went very smooth. It was really tense, Katrien got a good crew of assistants early one and I was hurting halfway through because I neglected to do that and shifted my focus more towards quickly flipping prices and selling of the artworks. While Katrien started to get short on cash we swapped strategies, and I got some assistants on the auction side of the board. For some reason Katrien thought she was losing badly and she wasn’t being fun about it as she whined her way through the second half of the game. I tried convincing her she was doing okay but she didn’t see it until we calculated our scores. Sure I won, by 1 point, only 1, so it was a damn close race and I hope she’ll still want to play this with me.
Sunday morning, with a busy new years eve ahead of us we decided to first play a few games. Since Katrien had been so nice to play my favorite game last night I agreed to return the favor and play Imperial Settlers. We added one of the smaller expansions, the one that gives you bonuses for collecting sets. With the addition of the expansion we first had to choose which cards we wanted in our decks and I just went with a color that could grant me extra VP’s in sets and didn’t pay any attention to anything else. I started out rather good but about halfway through Katriens barbarians started demolishing my empire 1 building at a time. There was not a whole lot I could do about it, it wasn’t until after I passed in the last round that I saw how far behind I was going to get. Katrien had so many resources and cards left, I believe she took more than 10 turns while I was already done. One day, I’m telling you, one day I’ll win. For me it’s just hard to keep track of what’s going on in the other players empire and I only focus on my own cards which obviously isn’t enough.
Something I’ve noticed the last few months is that I’m really starting to like games I’m genuinely not good at, Yinsh definitely fits that bill. My brain cracks while playing but I don’t give up easily, I could’ve actually won but I told Katrien she was leaving a row open for me. Argh why did I do that! Maybe because winning like that wouldn’t be satisfying enough? Who am I kidding, I should’ve just shut my mouth for once. One can probably read it right of my face when I think I’m about to make a good move so it’s only a matter of reading my expressions and figuring out why I’m looking like that. This one came in really close and I swear, next time I’ll win!
We played a lot of smaller games on New Years Eve but nothing spectacular to mention about that so I’m just going to leave them out of this post.
The best of wishes for 2018!
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Last post of the year, lets go out with a bang!
A little under a year ago I started this blog with an entry about my top 10 lists. I very much enjoyed putting up those lists so I figured I’d give it another go this year. The first top 10 I’ll be covering is the 10 games that were new to me this year, those are mostly games released in 2017 but as you all may know sometimes it takes years to encounter that one game you actually like quite a lot. Once I’ve covered those games I’ll give my overall top 10 another make-over, it still shifts a lot. Being in the hobby for a bazillion years will probably lead to a more static top 10 but since I’m only dipping my toes in year 3 my list is ever changing. In fact, these lists change on a daily basis, especially the new to me list, it will more or less consist of the same 10 games but the order isn’t set in stone. I don’t have a way of scoring points on different aspects of a game, I don’t have an objective way of rating them so that I get a statistic outcome of what my top 10 should be, I just look at my shelves, go through my BG stats app and if that reminds me of a great time, puts a smile on my face, makes me think about how I should go about playing it next time or it even just reminds me of how bad I want to play it again it has a fair shot of entering my list. So, without further ado:
Top 10 NEW-TO-ME-GAMES of 2017
This is not a game I’d have guessed to be on this list. I’ve always avoided playing abstract games, at least if they’re not puzzle games, because I just don’t see it most of the time. This stopped when I encountered Dokmus, I’d read about it and it looked fun so when someone (very convincingly) asked me to join a game of Dokmus I agreed. To be honest I didn’t expect too much of it but I forgot about that once we started playing. I got sucked in from start to finish every time I played this, well I’ve only played it 2 times but still. What I really like is trying to find the best move every turn, it’s some sort of mini puzzle time and time again but it’s nothing like the tile-laying games I was used to playing and which were pretty much the only ‘abstracts’ I played. Ever since Dokmus opened my eyes to the both fun and challenging world of abstract games I’ve been slowly looking for others that I may like and so far there’s a few that have joined my collection: Torres, Yinsh and Photosynthesis are 3 great games I wouldn’t have given a second glance a year ago.
This should’ve been on my 2016 list, unfortunately I wasn’t convinced enough to buy it. This game has a lot of aspects I really like: indirect but important player interaction when placing tunnel tiles, the relaxed feel of building your deck from your own pool instead of a general supply, the puzzle you try and solve every time you dig/bomb in the surface trying to get the best gems without creating opportunities for others while also trying to work to the achievement cards and also the timing of moving forward to the next board by getting the last artifact. Another great plus is that you can play a 2 player game in well under an hour which will significantly increase the chances we pull this one from the shelves to play on a weekday when we want to play a decent gamers game but when we don’t feel like playing an overly heavy game that lasts 2 to 3 hours.
Number 8, Keyper, the first game which is actually a 2017 release. There are 2 games on this list which I’ve only played once and I doubted about putting them in the list altogether since I haven’t formed a complete opinion on them yet but I couldn’t resist ranking them, I just really enjoyed playing them and Keyper is the first one of those games on the list. In fact, I’ve only played Keyper for the first time 2 weeks ago so maybe I’m unable to yet see the flaws through my enthusiasm but I won’t let that bother me now. My play of Keyper was a 2-player game which lasted well over 2 hours but there wasn’t a single minute my mind wandered elsewhere. Every choice you make is followed by a number of consequences you have to take in account when taking a turn which makes for a very engaging game. Pretty much every move you make will help one of your opponents, I felt like I was walking a fine line the entire game, trying to both do what’s best for me without giving away too much benefit for the other player. But every other player does exactly the same so it’s important to keep an eye out on what their plans may be too and if you want to work together on a certain action or if you just wait a turn and take all of the credit on your own BUT this will cause that you may go slower than the others and they’ll still get lay down actions until you’re finished placing all your workers and you have to figure out if that’s worth it every time. Brilliant design, the folding boards are definitely something but I mostly found myself unable of finding the side I really wanted to play at as I kept making the same layout no matter how I turned the damn thing, some practice is in order for sure.
Worker Placement is the most common mechanic on my shelves, no wonder it’s also the one I like most. I really like complex games that make my brain do flip-flops but sometimes it’s nice to just relax, gather cubes and fulfill cards.. I mean quests. I couldn’t care less about the theme honestly, this game is not about its thematic experience but it’s a damn solid worker placement game without overdoing it. This is a perfect game for a lazy Sunday afternoon, set up is done within a few minutes, gameplay is fun and not overcomplicated but there’s still enough challenge to it. Timing of when to take actions, considering if opponents might want to go there, using intrigue cards which may mess the game up a little but at least they keep you on your toes, picking the best building for its action of for the profit you’ll have when others take it or maybe a healthy mix of both… All very interesting choices you can make during a game of Lords of Waterdeep, the only minor negative would be the mandatory quests which are a bit direct for my (and mainly Katriens) tastes. The expansion really adds to the game, the skulls are a very interesting addition which offer yet another layer of possibilities to outweigh when taking a turn. I once played a game where my lord was the one that grants you points for getting skulls, that was no success at all but either way I kept enjoying it and that’s what a good game is all about.
I’ve been surprised by quite a few games this year, this is one of them. I completely ignored it during my visit to SPIEL, thinking it was yet another dry eurogame which sure would be enjoyable but it couldn’t jump out with a cover like that right… Anyways a friend of mine owns the game and even though I didn’t buy it or cared for it much I did want to play it as I thought it would be an OK game. Then I saw it was from the same designer as Azul and Heaven & Ale which both are rather good games so now my expectations were a tad higher. The game went well past what I expected, it may not be anything that’s really new and it’s not very thematic either, but… There’s some puzzling, there’s the choice to make in which phase you want to be first, there’s different ways to victory and thus different things to focus on during a game, it’s a perfect mix of puzzling/optimization of turns/timing of when to buy certain boats and when to activate your scoring cards/buildings. The best medium-weight eurogame of the year for me.
On to the second game I’ve unfortunately only played once this year. The reason for this is fairly simple, no one I game with regularly has it in their collection and I’ve only added it to mine 2 months ago which isn’t a great time to get older games to the table. Luckily the buzz for all the new releases is starting to settle down so my chances of getting this played again are increasing. Something both Katrien and I love in games is positively constructing something, managing something, having that feel of accomplishment when you’re done playing no matter if you won or not. I immediately got that feeling during my play of this, I was hiring workers, expanding my business, trying to get the best fabrics at an agreeable price and getting my models ready in time for the fashion shows to score points. It’s a great economic game and it surprises me to some extent that this didn’t pop up on my radar sooner. It’s a shame people just let this pass because of the theme, it works so well! I’ve been told there is a retheme coming next year, I sincerely hope that’ll draw some more attention to this seemingly great game. After one play I’ve got an idea of what other pitfalls there may be for this one and it’s mainly the long playing time and the unforgiving nature of the game. I noticed it was hard to come back from a crucial mistake, not sure if it’s even possible. This is one of those boxes where when I’m standing in front of my gaming shelves I always think I NEED to play this again!
Well here we go, Lisboa, my most anticipated game of 2017 for certain. It didn’t make it to the first spot but it very much deserves a high spot in my top 10. Lacerda did it again, cramming an amazingly deep and rich game in what boils down to play a card-take a new card every turn. The main reason Lacerda designs are so well praised here is because of how the theme interlocks perfectly with the mechanics and the moves your making. The Gallerist and Kanban do this effortlessly, learning the rules for those games was a breeze because of that. Lisboa probably is the same way but because I’m not that keen on learning about history this one was somewhat more difficult for me. It took me a few plays before everything fell into place. I really liked it, timing is key, when to build stores, when/where to build public buildings, when to follow another players main action, when to sell goods and lower prices and so on and so forth. I didn’t instantly like it the way I liked some of his other designs, there are a few reasons for that: It didn’t feel intuitive for me, I expected to be drawn in more by the theme and it seems complexer when playing for the first time which scares of potential opponents for future plays. All in all these are only negatives because my expectations were going through the roof and if this was a game that hit me out of the blue (blue haha) without knowing any background of previous designs I would’ve been blown away.
First one on the podium is Clans of Caledonia which I backed on Kickstarter, well technically I was too late but I late-pledged so that’s the next best thing. I skipped it during the campaign because it didn’t look fun enough.. I actually only studied the campaign page for a few minutes and discarded it. Writing this list makes me realize my first judgements are often very far off from my final thoughts. A distilled down version of Terra Mystica, great! Works with 2, great! Whiskey, don’t care but sure! Lots of replayability with factions/board layout, great! Beautiful components, another hurray! I guess I’ve stated my point here, there’s a lot of good things to say about this game. I very much like how scarce money is and how you just have to make the best of it, it kind of feels as punishing as having to feed in Agricola but instead of having to work to get that food on the table you’re punished right away with how little you have. That doesn’t matter though, everyone is short on budget so it’s just trying to be the most inventive about it and getting a good engine running for future rounds. Another great plus is how quick it plays, there’s so much to do, so little time and so much fun too. Very happy to have impulsively late-pledged this.
I would’ve put this in first place if there wasn’t another game I liked so much, but honestly it was a very close call. Azul has it all. As soon as a game is finished there’s that urge to just play it again, gamers like it, families like it, kids like it, friends like it, easy ruleset, challenging gameplay, indirect interaction, beautiful material, endless enjoyment, I can go on and on about this one really but what I like most is how every game is different depending on what others are doing/planning to do. I haven’t played with the Joker tiles yet and I also haven’t played on the other side of the board yet, I’m over 10 games in and I don’t feel the need for that just now, there’s plenty of fun left in just the base game for now. There were many great ‘puzzle’ games this year but none of them came near Azul for me.
My number 1 new game of 2017 is Anachrony. There is so much to explore in the base game alone, I’m 10 plays in now and I haven’t even looked at any variants or modules yet, I haven’t felt the need to. The different worker types to use for certain action spots and the awake/sleep state they are in is a very nice take on ‘worker/resource’ management. The asymmetric starting goods lead players to somewhat start on different paths without pushing them in any final direction. Anachrony is a very tight eurogame where every move is important, the artwork is amazing, the miniatures really add to the gameplay, the theme is perfectly implemented and the time-traveling mechanic is definitely interesting. Every game has its flaws and for me that’s setup and explanation time with Anachrony but this doesn’t even dent its reputation of being an amazing game, it’s well worth the time. The modules all seem very interesting and I’ll probably flip over the timeline tiles and use drafting to determine starting goods next time I play it but the other stuff will probably sit in the box for a while longer, I’m not done exploring the base game just yet. Trickerion was in my overall top 10 last year, but I haven’t gotten a chance to play it in 2017, luckily Mindclash Games brought us another gem with Anachrony. I can’t wait to see where Cerebria will end up on the list next year.
Some honorable mentions that didn’t make the list but were a great experience in 2017 as well: NMBR 9, Bärenpark, Santa Maria, Century: Golem Edition, Happy Salmon, The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, The Great Zimbabwe, YINSH, Fields of Arle, Sentient, Roll Player, Trajan and Photosynthesis.
Top 10 GAMES-OF-ALL-TIME
I’ve not only created a top 10 of new to me games in 2017, I’ve also given my overall top 10 a serious update. Some games on there didn’t see the light of day in 2017 and they’re not in my top 10 anymore, others have seriously decreased in rating after playing it a few more times.
Last year's top 10:
10. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
8. Trickerion: Legends of Illusion
6. Great Western Trail
5. Evolution: The Beginning
4. A Feast for Odin
3. Viticulture Essential Edition(including Tuscany Essential Edition)
2. Kanban/The Gallerist
1. The Gallerist/Kanban
6 of those games have left the list for numerous reasons. Tzolk’in just isn’t a game for me, while I still find it very clever I can’t finish a single game of it without a serious headache. Trickerion left the list because I simply haven’t played it anymore and I’d only played it 2 times last year so I simply don’t remember why exactly I put it in the in the first place, I’m looking forward to playing this a few times in 2018. I still love to play Alchemists but not as much as I did at first so it left the list. Great Western Trail turned into a race game at some point while I really loved building an engine on that board and taking my time to get things going. It’s still a great game I like to play but It’s decreased in ranking quite a bit. Evolution: The Beginning is the last game leaving the list, it’s probably still in my top 20 but the luck of the draw can sometimes mess up your entire game and that’s not something we like in this house.
No time to be sad about 6 amazing games leaving the list because they have been replaced by 6 newcomers that blew me of my socks in 2017. The set-up of this list is based on somewhat different factors than the new to me list, instead of only looking at how much I like certain mechanics or how much I enjoyed playing them I’m also looking at if they have any shot of getting plenty of plays for years to come.
I’ve played quite a few games by Uwe Rosenberg but this one is by far my favorite. The puzzling, the sandboxy feel, the endless possibilities all make for a game I very much enjoy.
Well you’ve read about all the things I like about this game a few paragraphs up so there’s no need to say it all again. What it comes down to is that Lacerda made another wonderful game in a way only he can since there’s no other designer that’s designed a game that’s given me the same feeling.
Yes, you see correctly, Lords of Waterdeep was ranked lower than Lisboa on the previous list but it surpasses it on this list. I was more amazed by the Lisboa goodness than I was by Lords of Waterdeep but Lords of Waterdeep is a game I’ll enjoy more overall. It’ll get played more often, it’s a tad more relaxing and it’s just a splendid design.
After playing this game 10 times it already feels like a classic. It’s like it’s been out for ages and everytime someone suggests to play it I say yes. 2017 has brought us MANY puzzle/tile-laying games and while I enjoy them all: Barenpark, Indian Summer, NMBR9.. this is the only one I’ll always want to play and thus it’s well deserving of a spot in my top 10.
This game constantly surprises me, every game is different, it’s always challenging and it never overstays it’s welcome. I love how the tension builds up when the end of the game nears. Scythe is a very clever game, I’m not a fan of conflict or mean player interaction but the combat system in Scythe is anything but mean. If you get attacked and you lose it’s because it’s your own fault. You can have a bad positioning or you’ve maybe just focused elsewhere, which is fine, because losing a fight is not going to make you lose the game. I also sincerely low how the resource management works in this game and the 2 expansions (especially The Wind Gambit) are a true addition to the game.
Already praised this game earlier in this post but it’s well deserving of a spot in my overall top 10. Playing a game 10 times and still feeling like there’s so much left to explore feels great. It’s an amazing experience every time I play this and I can’t wait to delve in the different modules from the exosuit expansion. Another plus is the solo-variant, very smart with little bookkeeping. The fact that I’ve even tried playing this solo is a sign that the game has gotten under my skin. I can only recommend Anachrony.
Kanban shared the number 1 spot with The Gallerist last year but after a few more sessions it’s dropped a few spots. They’re equally great games but somehow The Gallerist flows better when playing for me. Maybe it’s the theme a little bit too, I don’t know. Missing a step in The Gallerist doesn’t easily happen while I often forget to advance my tiny meeple on the track when playing Kanban. It’s little nuances that make the difference in where to rank a game for me.
If I’d made a list of least favorite games in 2016 this would be on it. I’d only played half a game once and I just didn’t really get it. It felt like choices were always obvious and it dragged too long for what it was. Giving this game another chance was not on my list of things to do in 2017 but I’m so glad I did. Every choice you make is actually important and I don’t know how I didn’t see that at first. Building a good engine feels very rewarding and while the interaction can be somewhat direct at times it’ll never destroy you completely. I wouldn’t play this without drafting cards though.
I really liked Viticulture right of the bat, I bought it as soon as my first play was over and we’ve enjoyed it numerous times since then. Adding Tuscany is the best choice one can make, this really lifts the game to a new level as it takes away the few minor remarks I had about Viticulture. The cards have less of an impact so the luck is minimalized, it adds more possibilities to lead you to victory and it turned a medium weight worker placement into more of a gamers game which I can only applaud. It also helps that Katrien really loves this game so it’s always a joy playing Viticulture.
My all-time favorite game is The Gallerist, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s flawless in my eyes. It plays very intuitive, the theme and mechanics are a perfect fit. It’s a simple game when you stop and think about the fact that there’s only 4 action spots one can go to but the timing of when to go to a certain action space and what to do there is ever so important. No game can top the Gallerist for me, when talking about games there’s no game that makes me smile quite as much as when I take the lid of this game and start setting it up.
This year I’ve played 225 games of which 150 were new to me so it was no easy task selecting the once I enjoyed most. There’s simply so many great games out there and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store. Since we’re doing lists anyways I’ll give a quick overview of the games I’m expecting next year and I’m looking forward to quite a bit:
I’d love to hear what games you guys liked best in 2017 and also which games are high on your list of anticipation, feel free to share!
Thanks for reading and until next year!
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Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:08 pm
Continuing to play catch-up over here with an overview of the last 6 weeks.
It’s been crazy busy the last few weeks and every spare moment I had was filled up in no time which resulted in a lack of time to write my weekly blog posts. It didn’t bother me too much at the time, I just planned to write them all in the same way just with some delay. Right now I notice that’s an impossible task and it’s rather boring to make a 6 week long post with several games popping up multiple times so I’m opting for a different format this time. The past 6 weeks there are 79 plays on the counter of which 43 unique games were played. I’m not going to write about every play, I might not even cover every game. The main focus will be on the new, the fun, the most and least enjoyed, if there’s anything noteworthy to say after I’ve covered all that I’ll add it, but I strongly doubt it. Well enough time wasted already: let’s start this overview!
Heaven and Ale is the first game I played during this period, it was a 4-player game and as some of you may have read before I didn’t really like that count in previous games. It was no different this time, turns lasted rather long and thinking about your turn beforehand has little use since the board will significantly change. The game lasted over 2 hours which is just too long for a medium weight like this. When playing with 2 it’s perfectly fine, it plays in about an hour and the randomness is pretty much gone. Random is not the right choice of word maybe but keeping overview of what everyone is doing in a 4 player game is just too much for me. I’ve played this game only 4 times but I’ve decided to let go of it, it’s a fun game and I won’t turn it down if anyone suggested it but I would never suggest it myself and therefore I don’t feel a need to own it.
I’ve written a whole wall of text on this game in my previous blog and if you like some deeper insights on this one I recommend you head over there to read it. During Clubnight I played another 2-player game of this and my positive feeling towards this game has only increased, I love the light puzzle combined with optimizing your deck and figuring out your way to victory without creating too many options for your opponent. This is a contester for my top 10 of 2017 new to me games.
This is the first new to me game of this overview. A demo copy was sitting on the shelves of my favorite FLGS and my friend knew the rules, we only had a little under an hour left to play so this seemed to be the perfect choice. I was very curious about it since I really love Agricola for 2 but this game isn’t about the animals, it’s all about the buildings, which is nice too! What I remember is the clever way you have to build walls before you can add certain buildings to your player board, that’s a very interesting spatial puzzle to solve and it will be different every time depending on the buildings that show up. I do think this will be more fun once you’ve played it a few times as you know what action buildings will show up and when they will. I struggled finding a balance between all the available options but I can see myself enjoying this once I know the tiles a little better. The question is, will I invest in getting to know those tiles? I don’t know, it’s a fun game for certain but it didn’t really click and it didn’t go any further than just an OK game for me.
This may not be the most special game and it’s not a new to me game either but the fact that I’ve played it 10 times the past few weeks says it all. This game fits every crowd, gamers love it, kids love it, families love it, anyone who I’ve introduced it to has asked for an immediate rematch and that’s what makes a great filler game. If there is one thing I regret not buying at Essen SPIEL it’s the starting tiles and the bonus tiles for NMBR9. Maybe next year.
Another new one, it’s one that was on my Essen list but I wasn’t convinced enough to add it to the collection. A friend of mine was and she introduced me and Katrien to it a few weeks ago. It’s a very light puzzle game where you influence the dice depending on which tiles you place in your playing field, the higher the die the more points you can score for that color if you have the majority of tiles in that color visible. There’s some luck involved since you don’t know when certain tiles will show up and taking one of the stack randomly can mess up plans significantly. I liked it, it looked pretty, it plays fast and it’s a fun puzzle, however I don’t see how it would add to the collection, there’s nothing exciting and shiny about it, it feels familiar and that’s nice but at that pricepoint I need more than something that’s pretty and okay. Wouldn’t mind playing it again though!
Lately I’ve been intrigued by a fair share of abstract games, one of my gaming friends told me that Yinsh was a good one. There was a local game fair with the designer of the GIPF-series present so all his games were laid out on tables and ready to be played by visitors. I was happy to try and Katrien didn’t seem to mind so after a rules explanation which lasted no longer than 2 minutes we were good to go. This game is so simple, the ruleset is easy and when the game started I thought it was going to be an easy quick game. That was far from true, Katrien kept blocking me and making great moves for herself as well. I absolutely loved how much game there was in an easy ruleset like this. We already played it 4 times now and I immediately added it to the collection. I need some practice since I didn’t win yet, but I don’t care, I really enjoy playing this game and it’s one of the best new to me games of the past weeks.
Another game that’s both new to me and an abstract. I can see how this was game of the year in the 90’s but I really didn’t like it. I’m not good at it, I don’t see what the best moves are and I was constantly blocked by my opponents. Having to think ahead in an abstract game is not my strong suit and I was confronted with that again during this session. I came in last place and I don’t feel the need to ever play this again. I’m not saying it’s a bad game, it’s obviously not, but it’s not for me… at all.
And yet again another new one, Indian Summer, the follow-up for Cottage Garden which I didn’t like. At first I planned not to take a look at Indian Summer but it looked so pretty, it’s a puzzle game and just because Cottage Garden fell short for me doesn’t mean that Indian Summer would be the same. So our group sat down at a demo-table and as we were waiting to get an explanation I could only applaud how pretty everything looked, I was intrigued and slowly getting excited to be pleasantly surprised.
Indian Summer turned out to be a race game, which I forgot during the game as I was trying to make nice combos and getting lots of bonuses, which is a good thing, but you have to do it in a timely fashion which I didn’t do. Luckily I wasn’t the only one who made that mistake so we were all pretty close to finishing up our player boards when Katrien managed to end the game. I’ve only played it one more time since then but I can safely say I like It, I’m looking forward to playing again. It plays rather fast and it’s a fun exercise trying to find a balance between going fast but also getting the bonuses you need.
The game fair was all about abstracts, I got to try another classic I never played before: Blokus. This was a very fun game with 4, I made a few critical mistakes at the start which allowed others to block me but I was amazed by how many tiles I could still sneak in between other players pieces. I didn’t win but I didn’t lose by an extremely wide margin which would’ve been a shame. Another abstract game I’ll be adding to the collection. I’ve got to find the 2-player rules somewhere because it’s apparently better to play on a smaller field when there’s only 2 players.
There was no lack of new games this month, Otys was another game I added to the collection and was eager to play. I had read many great things about it and I thought it would be a great fit for my gaming group. After playing it 3 times I did decide to not keep it though, not because it ain’t fun but because I was missing something and some of the cons outweighed the many pros for me.
I liked the puzzle of when to activate which diver and at what level to get something out of the bonus tiles, I also liked the bonus tile system which shifts whenever one uses an X but it did lead to not always being able to think ahead for your turn as the board may have completely changed. The market was too static when playing with 2 and not an interesting action at times while I preferred the bonus tile shifting system when playing with 2 just because it was more static and didn’t get shifted all the time. All in all it’s a good game but however nice the diving mechanism may be it’s just another resource collection/trading game with a few nice bonuses added. The way to control your divers is very clever and I would love to see that mechanism pop up in different games but another resource collector was not what I was looking for. It doesn’t play anything like Century or Splendor but I did get the same feeling when playing this game.
My Secret Santa Gifted me this game, it wasn’t on my wishlist but I really liked to receive it as a gift as it looked like a great dice manipulation/puzzle game. Which is exactly what it is, during my first play there was only two of us and the area control aspect felt a little flat, it was interesting but also obvious that another player would add a whole new dimension to it. So the second time I played it, with 3, that’s when I really started liking it. The area control aspect shines and deciding when to pass is way more important now. Very happy to own this game, I hope to get a few more plays in soon but I’ve noticed the cover doesn’t really appeal to people which is a shame.
I’ve talked about Azul already in previous post and I guess it’s pretty obvious that I like it. Just like NMBR9 this is a game that gets requested for a rematch immediately, so ever since I own my own copy I’ve already played it 8 more times. I’ve hardly ever won and I’m still figuring out what the best way is to go about it but it really matters on what your opponents are doing which makes it a very replayable game. Played at all playercounts and loved them all equally so that’s a real winner in my book.
Kiesling is on a roll this year with Azul, Heaven & Ale and now also this one: Riverboat. I completely let this one pass me by at first, I didn’t really like the looks of it. I usually prefer thematic eurogames where mechanics and theme seem to be evidently put together like it’s the simplest thing in the world. It’s very important that the theme interests me as well. Riverboat has nothing of that, no interesting theme, boring looks, and the uninteresting theme feels somewhat pasted on. It felt like a very abstract game while playing. Why do I like it so much then! Let me tell you this is one of my favorite medium weight games of the past weeks. It plays fast (under an hour with 2 players) and it’s important to balance and figure out where you want to score throughout the game: boats, Orleans, getting wells/barns, … Tied in is a nice puzzle on where you’ll place workers and crops on your fields and how many of each crop you want/need to export with the boats and so on. It’s all very nicely tied together and it’s an extremely enjoyable game I’ll happily play again. I regret not getting this one instead of Heaven and Ale right away but I’ve since added this one to the collection too.
Meeple Circus looked like a fun game but I had my doubts because I’m not the handiest of people around and I’d already seen people bumping over whatever they had built time after time but I didn’t turn down a game when suggested, it just looks really enjoyable and so a friend taught me to play. It probably doesn’t shine when playing with 2 but I got a nice idea of the game. Unfortunately it’s not available for purchase at this point because it would’ve been the perfect game to get to the table with family and friends during the holidays but I don’t see myself playing this with my gaming buddies. I like it a lot but Katrien strongly disliked it when she played so I’m in doubt whether I’ll add it to the collection or not.
We got an explanation of Agra during a game fair and I was pretty convinced, the explanation was far from perfect (or complete) but it gave us a pretty decent idea of the overall flow of the game which sounded very promising. We didn’t have time nor did we feel the need to play an entire game of this at a fair but I did enter the shop to buy me a copy and we arranged a gameday with 2 friends to get this beauty to the table. I was pretty excited, the game looks beautiful and it didn’t look overly complicated with only a few main actions on the board other than generating/converting resources. Our first game was anything but a success however. My friend found it too heavy and that wasn’t really lifting the spirits of the other people sitting around the table. I had some difficulties with the board which leaded to some stupid mistakes, I find the arrows on the board rather annoying and I would’ve preferred something clearer and less chaotic but I do see how this way it keeps the beautiful artwork key. All in all this four player game wasn’t fun and I even considered just getting rid of it. One player was sighing throughout the entire game, Katrien was playing other games on her phone, the other player was taking a while to take turns and I was sitting there in the midst of quite negative energy which I translated in to ‘bad game, have to sell’. Once the game finished Katrien told me she didn’t dislike the game but she had a hard time with the downtime at this playercount and she’d love to play again but only the 2 of us so I decided to hang on to it just a little longer. I’ve since then played it a second time, at a player count of 2 but not yet with Katrien and all the little pieces started falling into place making it a more enjoyable experience. I still have some doubts, the top actions are very good but both games no one kicked me for the better part of the game and I didn’t want to invest 2 coins to take the action again as it seemed like an expensive way to do it. I felt stuck but maybe I should’ve just paid.. I don’t know, but I found it rather odd that no one took that action and they were still doing fine. Still don’t know where this will fall in my ranking but I certainly don’t dislike it, can’t yet tell if I like it either.
When I played Century a few months ago I liked it fine but it looked so bland I didn’t want to own it. This version changed that, it just looks so pretty I had to own it. A big plus is that my mom really likes playing it, she kicked my ass several times already. I may not be good at it but I enjoy playing this nice looking version of century. I understand some find the colors too ‘in your face’ but pretty things have to shine right! A game I’ll be introducing friends and family to for years to come, I hope. Too bad the sequel won’t be made with the golem theme.
A highlight of the past weeks was playing my favorite game again in months. The Gallerist is a heavy game, sure, but once you know the rules and you see the important nuances of when to take certain actions it flows like a breeze, it’s a very well-polished game and that’s just how I like it. Everything you need to know is on the board, the iconography is intuitive and what’s important stands out. This is exactly what I missed in Agra so when I played The Gallerist shortly after it felt like coming home, it makes for a way more relaxing game experience and I would enjoy this game anytime!
This one intrigued me, the puzzle you try to finish with your books and how every game is different depending on when certain action tiles show up and it just looks great! I enjoyed it a lot but I don’t understand why the text on the action tiles is sooooooo tiny and there’s no icons on there to help you remind in some other way so that was a big negative for me. I also didn’t like that it’s difficult to keep an overview of what everyone is doing, which is quite important. I did like the puzzling, I liked the original actions and I can see how this is a very replayable game, definitely need to give this one another chance before coming up with a final verdict.
This game classifies as solid for me. If someone would ask me out of the blue what games I like I would never think of this one but when I standing in front of my game shelves I’ll definitely pull this one out as a game I like. It’s a fine game with a nice variety of options which you have to use in an optimal fashion without getting too much pollution into your empire. I will always enjoy playing this, it’s super-fast and it engages me from start to finish without being complicated. Yet another game that plays fine at any playercount and where downtime isn’t an issue. You built your own empire and there’s no negative interaction either, great, great game.
My 13th play of this beautiful game, most of those 13 plays were nearly a year ago so I was glad when a friend suggested to play this again. Cute animals, a fun puzzle, relaxing gameplay, I’ll never sell my copy and I absolutely love playing with those beautiful ceramic animals, they really add to the game. With 2 it’s not always easy to go around the map making the most out of the tiles you pick up along the way but it’s still a great experience, I do however playing with 3 or 4.
Another new one, filled with chaos as it’s a race game where you try and kill your opponents and be left with the most health once one man/woman has fallen. In its essence it’s a game about rolling dice like a lunatic and hoping you get the best combos right away. It’s funny, but it’s as random as a game can get. I’m fine with games like that if they don’t take too long and they offer a good time, I’m not sure if Mystic Scrolls is as fun yet. My guess is a lot will depend on the company you’re playing with because this felt like a brainless party game to me (which is not a negative remark).
Majesty has already received a lot of praises from what I’ve read and heard so I was curious and joined a game at my FLGS. It looks fine and the game material is nice, you just take a card from the display and leave meeples behind in a century like fashion if you want to pick a card further down the line. After one play I’m unimpressed, I didn’t get it at all, the choices always seemed obvious so there was little to no challenge. I felt I did everything I could but I believe I fell 2 points short for victory, which isn’t a lot when scores are nearing 200. I’d give it another go if someone asked but if I never got to play this one again I wouldn’t mind.
From disappointment to praise, Keyper is a great game! At one point I nearly bought the character edition but I wasn’t convinced enough to do so and didn’t even buy the game at Essen, chances were I’d get to play it afterwards anyways. When my Secret Santa package arrived and this game was included I was stoked. A game night was scheduled to play, which I unfortunately had to cancel but luckily my gaming buddy didn’t mind rescheduling so a week later than planned I got to play Keyper, finally! There’s nothing overly special about it, but all the minor ‘new-to-me-mechanics’ were very interesting. You have to constantly weigh out all the options and calculate what that decision will lead to: sure I can use that action but I’ll be placing my keyple on a board that I won’t own and I really need that color next round, or damn I’d like to follow that action but I don’t want to invest that color right now so what’s best following now or taking the action later on but granting my opponent less turns which results in him being able to lay down keyples layer on. We played for 2 hours and a half but I wasn’t bored for a single minute, my mind kept going around in circles to weigh out the importance of every action and when to take it. Timing is key, colors of keyples are important, giving away opportunities to your opponent is something you should always consider and so on and so forth. I haven’t been able to play this a second time yet but this may be high on my 2017 list.
In the midst of all those new games I found plenty of time to play modern classics as well, which Scythe truly is for me. This game holds up in most of the game groups I know and it’s still laid on the table on a regular basis. I recently acquired the latest Wind Gambit expansion and the Legendary box so I was keen on playing this game again. Katrien is a big fan too and I doubt she’ll ever turn down a game of Scythe. I played the yellow faction, Katrien played white and our friend played blue. I very much liked the addition of the ‘new’ end game conditions and that ship certainly makes the exploring of the board a whole lot quicker, I don’t think I want to play without this expansion ever again. Lowie won’t mind that because of the expansion is out of the box there’s more room for him to chill in that box.
I got a wooden insert for this game a few months ago and since then I haven’t even played it anymore which is such a shame. I’ve suggested it several times but there were always other more shiny options according to other players so this kinda moved to the background. I wasn’t ready to give up on it so last week I finally suggested it again and this time I finally got around playing it! I had bought the wooden insert to make set-up easier but since it was so long since I last played it didn’t help at all which again reminded me I should play this game more often. Anachrony is one of those eurogames where you want to do loads and manage to barely get through half of your plans. That hardly matters as everyone else around the table is probably feeling the same. Every action you take matters, so making a wrong move can be somewhat punishing but it’s certainly something you can get past. Excellent game!
The last new to me game of this post, and probably the most disappointing one yet. I quite liked the gameplay, sure there’s more luck involved if compared with its big brother but it’s a pretty enjoyable game that only lasts 10 minutes so the luck involved doesn’t bother me. Katrien however, whenever she took a turn it was a wrong one and she couldn’t collect tiles at all. This seemed very unlikely to happen but yes she was just very unlucky this time and my guess is the game won’t ever be seeing the light of day again if it’s up to her. I’m keeping it around to give it a few more tries before making a final decision.
Last but not least, Roll Player, a nice dice drafting game/puzzle got recently added to my collection after looking for it for a few months now. This is the reason I’m not adding Sagrada to the collection, I find this offers way more in addition to just the raster puzzle Sagrada has Roll Player also adds equipment cards/skills/traits to alter your dice or to just score you points. I’ve only been able to play a quick solo play but now the rules are fresh again I can’t wait to introduce Katrien to this game, I’m hoping she’ll like it, time will tell but I most certainly do.
I guess that’s it for this post! I left quite a few games out but I’ve covered the highlights and I think the post is long enough as is. Next year I’m very much hoping to get back on track with my usual blog posts but time will tell how manageable that is. I hope you all have a great holiday period and I wish everyone the best for 2018!
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This recap is about 7 weeks old, I've been trying to get my blog posted but it's the bussiest time of year after all..
After an intense few weeks of gaming this week was a little slower, only 10 plays on the counter but I enjoyed every single one of them. I’ve read around the geek that a lot of the recent releases are just mediocre but I happily disagree, some great medium weights have been released the past weeks and I’m still in an after essen daze because I’m yet to play most of my acquisitions. There’s no rush though, I’ll gladly enjoy playing new to me games for months/years to come. While others may like playing the same game 30 times I find myself looking for something new rather soon. I consider myself lucky since 2 new games were played this week! Monday I started with a day of and a friend coming over to play some games I already knew though, so let’s talk about those first!
This is exactly what I mean by some great games have been released the past weeks, Azul is high on my list of recent releases. It is just SO MUCH FUN. I don’t own a copy yet, I’m still awaiting a pre-order but luckily my friend got a copy sooner and was so kind to bring it with her to play.
When playing with 2 it’s very easy to keep an overview of what your opponent is doing, since there’s only 1 person to keep in mind. I quite enjoy playing games like these 1v1, it makes planning easier and it plays a lot faster too. After reading the rules I expected this to be a fun game, I expected to like it okay and it could be played with friends and families in addition to gamers. Little did I know how much I’d actually like it, I’ve enjoyed every session so far and as soon as the last score is calculated I want to play another round! We didn’t play again immediately but we had an entire day ahead of us still so I was already planning to ask for a rematch later that day.
This is the most requested game to play by my game buddies the past weeks, I don’t know why but everyone wants to play this and I just nod yes because I really enjoy playing it. There’s also very little difference when playing at different player counts, that’s a big plus in my book since I want a game to be good with 2 but it has to be playable at a higher number as well when I take it to club gatherings. Even though everything went pretty much according to plan I did make a few mistakes, I had sent monks to certain scoring tiles and somehow forgot about taken them into account when placing tiles on my player board. I didn’t lose any points fortunately but it was far from optimal and I’ll have to pay better attention next time. When playing Santa Maria for the first time you must keep in mind it’s a learning game, it’s rather unforgiving and I’ve seen it happen during a few games that a comeback was impossible. This may be demotivating for some but the learning curve is far from steep and the next game you should be well in the race for victory. The real smart gamers might not even need a learning game, not one of those though.
The beauty of having an entire day to play games is that you can get more heavier games to the table so after we finished Santa Maria I set up a game of Clans of Caledonia upon request. Not that I minded it at all, I’ve really enjoyed playing it the few times I did already and was looking forward to trying new strategies again. I did the best I could with the resources I had and by round 4 I thought things were going my way, until I saw how well my opponent was doing. She kept producing resources and had a lot of merchants to sell them of at steep prices. I never really manipulated the market so she was pretty dominant on there and had set it so that she could make some very favorable moves during the last few turns. We both knew it would be a close call but we didn’t expect to tie, which we did! Our final score was 135 but my friend won the tie-breaker. Better luck next time! I should really focus more on producing goods, I kept slaughtering my cows and sheep instead of trying to improve to dairy farms or breweries.
I just browsed the BGG page of this game to find the best player count is 2 players for this game. I wonder why that is? During our session I kept getting frustrated that the dice I needed didn’t come out of the bag. Maybe we missed something in the rules. I had played this game a few months ago and remember really liking it but this time something wasn’t right. The puzzling was fun and all but I couldn’t get my window filled up by the last round, I had to pass a few times and was left with a gap or three which cost me a lot of points. I should’ve kept my beads and used them near the end instead of spending them early one because it looked like the right thing to do, they would’ve definitely been of better use. Another game lost, but again a great time.
We decided to play a smaller game and Harvest Dice is just that. A very quick Roll & Write game that doesn’t offer hard decisions but is still a great way of spending gaming time. Getting your veggies on the field in the most favorable way is a fun puzzle but of course everything is determined by the dice and there’s very little you can do about that. I don’t see a problem with that, it’s a light game and sometimes it’s fun to just give your brain some room to breathe and play a casual game. Harvest Dice will stay in the collection and I can see anyone playing this, it’s very accessible and it looks pretty cute too!
My friend was about to call it a day but I still had one request, I wanted to play Azul again and I was pretty happy when she agreed upon another game. Where earlier that day I was getting the right tiles and everything just fit nicely this session was pretty much the opposite. The tiles I wanted got taken or shifted to the center at the most annoying times which made me take quite a lot of penalty points a few times. I managed to get by and score points sure, but I ended with about half of what I scored earlier that day. My friend seemed to be struggling too so maybe the way the tiles got distributed around the draft spots wasn’t very optimal either. Nonetheless I still very much enjoyed playing and found this the perfect game to both begin and end a very enjoyable day of gaming.
On Wednesday another gaming buddy came over to explain Altiplano, I’d been very curious about this and looked forward to playing (yes I know, I always look forward to playing). While I want to write an entire explanation about what I liked and what I didn’t I’m not able to do so, leaving 2 weeks between a game and actually writing down your opinions is very difficult, especially if you’ve only played it once in that entire time. I made crucial mistakes early on and played more than a few dumb turns, I didn’t invest in movement enough and I only got the cheap products. The glass stock was completely empty by the time I wanted to collect it, not too smart. My warehouse was filled less than a quarter full and I honestly had no idea what exactly I had been doing for the past 2 hours once the game finished. It came to no surprise I got crushed with a score of 128 against 76.
I see a lot of potential but I also have some concerns. Downtime at a higher player count is one of them. Next to that it’s very solitaire, except for being the first to get a certain card but that’s about it. Definitely on my play again list, nowhere near ready to call this a hit or a miss but for now I’m leaning more to the positive side for this one.
And again after a few hours of putting my brain in overdrive Harvest dice was a welcomed light filler game to end the night. I may not be able to win the big games but the dice were in my favor tonight so I ended up getting the fattest piggy and the prettiest garden.
Super Motherload is a game that’s been on my watch list for months, if not years. There were several reasons that stopped me from buying it in the past: Availability, price, deckbuilding and artwork. Recently the game became available again at one of the online stores I sometimes buy from and the price was alright so I decided to just go for it. I’m not a big fan of deckbuilders overall but I don’t dislike them either. This game has a very nice way of building your deck, no one can snag away the cards you want because every player has their own pool to buy cards from so there’s no need to rush, for me this leads to a more relaxing game experience.
It’s a fairly simple game, in your turn you get 2 actions. You can spend them however you want, every action you can either draw 2 cards, drill or bomb. Drawing 2 cards is the easiest, to drill you play a number of cards from the same color and you can drill as many spaces in a straight line as there are drill icons on the cards. To bomb you have to use a bomb token and a bomber card (red card) and you can bomb the pattern shown on the card. That’s not all though, there’s a nice puzzle in this game where you try and figure out what’s best to do at times: you can bomb through stone but not through steel plates and you can’t drill through stone but you can drill through certain steel plates. I say certain steel plates because those are usually marked by a color around the edges and only a driller of that color can drill those plates. Those are all things you have to take into account when playing your turn. When you’ve drilled or bombed you get the gems you’ve drilled/bombed on the board. These gems have specific values and you have to place all the gems you collect during an action on the same card of your available worker/card pool. Once you meet or exceed the price for that card you bought it, you return the gems to the main supply and you add the card to your discard pile (unless stated otherwise on the card). Which leads me to another fun fact of this game, when you buy a card there’s usually an instant reward at the bottom of the card like: copy a gem you already own, immediately add the card to your hand, take another action, and so on. You can also get special actions when playing certain cards, like draw new cards when playing this card or you can drill through stone, … .
To make this all a little more interesting there are also achievement cards to fulfill. During your turn you can fulfill at most 1 minor and 1 major achievement. There are only 3 major achievements throughout the entire game and they are rewarded when you have bought a number of workers and added them to your crew: for instance 3 red and 3 yellow workers. Once you fulfill one of the achievements you can just claim it and they score you the points indicated on the card at the end of the game. The minor achievements have a few different goals: end a turn with no cards in hand, have a number of the same gems spread over your worker pool, drill a 5 length tunnel, … . At the start of the game there is one board on the table and more are added throughout the game, this happens when all artifacts of the last board have been discovered/drilled. Artifacts are very popular spots on the board: they grant you bonuses you can use whenever you want and when you drill/bomb the last one you get to choose which side of the new board will be faced up which is quite important at times. Once the artifacts of the final board have been removed the game ends immediately and points are added, you gain points from: achievements, bought workers and sometimes artifacts.
This was both mine and Katriens first time playing Super Motherload, I can safely say we both really liked it, it has just the right amount and type of interaction for us. You can’t directly destroy something the other player has built nor will you block them if it’s not in your advantage either. The only interaction is in the race for the achievement cards and more importantly in the way you decide to place your tunnels when drilling/bombing. Of course you want the most profitable/suitable gems for your worker acquisitions but you don’t want to create a perfect starting point for the next player so you constantly try and balance what is most important at that moment. It’s a very elegant game and my only regret is not getting it sooner. We played a 2-player game and my guess is that’s the best way to play it as planning will become difficult when you up the playercount and downtime will probably increase significantly. I’m not completely sure of this of course and I would gladly play again at any playercount.
Katrien managed a win this time as she was more focused on the combos certain cards had when you acquired/played them and I left a few nice moves open for her which wasn’t too smart. Better luck next time!
On Sunday we played a 2-player game of Terraforming Mars, I really wanted to play since I got overlays for the player boards and wanted to see if they were an actual addition to the game. Also I hadn’t played this game in a while and I really wanted to invest time in a non-new game as well.
I still remember playing this for the first time and strongly disliking it, I guess I was half asleep that day but at least this game taught me that every game deserves a second play (at least games of certain weight). Right now I’ve even added the expansions to my collection and I bought those overlays which is something I’ll only do when I’m really liking the game. I still don’t know what went wrong the first time but now every time I play this I’m on the edge of my seat from start to finish, there’s a lot of interesting decisions you encounter throughout the game and the interaction keeps you on your toes as well.
I did notice that the game lasts quite long with 2, it takes some time to tackle all the endgame conditions but I enjoyed every minute. Katrien snagged the win with 106 points against my 95.
That’s it for now!
I’m still running behind and I won’t be doing weekly recaps of the last 6 weeks, I’ll probably be compiling the highs and lows into one blog post which should be up this week.
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It's been way too long but I'll be trying to get 4 weeks worth of recaps up in the next few days/weeks
When 2017 started I wanted to play a good amount of games, I didn’t set myself a challenge here on BGG but I was planning to play at least 365 games, 1 game a day. This week I browsed through my BGstats app and noticed I’d just logged my 500th play of the year, that’s a great number if you ask me. Every week in this hobby is another joy and more often than not I reach another milestone, whether it is logging a certain number of plays, meeting new amazing people, learning about another great game or just enjoying a fun game night with my boardgame buddies it keeps amazing me how much joy I get from this. I’m far from ready to quit so maybe I’ll even get 600 games played this year but I won’t put any pressure on myself, fun is always the thriving factor, nothing else. So let me tell you what I played this week!
On Monday I went to a friend’s place to play a game or two, I took Santa Maria with me upon request and was looking forward to playing it for the 4th time in just 2 weeks. That doesn’t often happen, getting a new game played as much in such a short period of time, but I’m happy everyone keeps requesting to play this as I very much enjoy it.
This time everything went according to plan, I could always build the tiles I wanted and had a neat little engine prepared. The dice seemed to be favorable as well, I don’t think I had to pay 2 times to change the die numbers so I could spend my money elsewhere. The conquistador track was mine for for the first and last round, the second round I had to invest more time in the prayer track to get some monks on the scoring tiles. I filled up my entire colony board and enjoyed every minute. Santa Maria is such a relaxing game for me, just getting an engine running and expanding a happy colony didn’t seem that exciting when I first read the rules for this game but you have to look past the cover and just give it a chance because it’s really really fun!
On Wednesday my wisdom teeth got removed so I spent the day at the hospital. I was eager to play a few small games before I had to go into surgery but they gave me a relaxation drug and I fell asleep instantly so we only got 2 games of The Game played before I dozed off.
This gives exactly the same feeling as the original game but in a competitive setting which honestly suits me better. I find it way more interesting to decide when I should help my opponent or when I should just wait it out and play a few cards at a time on my own stacks. It’s better than trying to outshout all the other players and hoping they won’t play on a certain stack. This will probably replace the co-operative game on our shelves. Still need to figure out how to win this one, Katrien won both times because I couldn’t play any more cards.
On Thursday I was feeling a bit better and my mom joined me for a few quick games, Harvest Dice was up first. We’ve already played quite a few roll & write games like Qwixx, Qwinto, Yahtzee, Avenue and some more so this was easy for her to understand. This may also be the simplest roll & write game I own so that makes explaining a breeze. Roll the dice, pick one and either plant a veggie or feed the veggies to your beloved pig. Last dice on the table gets added to the market bins and ups the value of that veggie type planted on the player sheets. I was getting by and trying to make a beautiful garden but I fell a few points short in the end, still an enjoyable game that will easily get a lot of plays.
After a successful game of Harvest Dice she was up to learn another new game, I chose Claim. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy to teach and sell to her due to the different factions and the somewhat counterintuitive rules. This is an easy game but you need a learning game to go like ‘Oh now I see how it works’. It went like expected, some frowns during my explanation but we just tried it and she grasped the rules quicker than expected, maybe it’s just me who needs a learning round of this game. I lost since I only got 2 votes while she got 3. She wasn’t completely sold but won’t dismiss it when I propose to play again.
We’re all fans of the original and I was eager to introduce her to the competitive variant after I enjoyed playing it for the first time one day prior. Apparently I was too late to teach her, Katrien had already played a couple of games with her while I was still asleep. Ah well, that saved me another explanation so we just started playing. I tried to find the right balance between helping her and still getting more cards played myself. This worked out really well the first 2 games, mom tried to catch up but ended up not being able to play any more cards. She was determined to win at least once so we played a third time, this time the roles were reversed. I took too many risks and was unable to play all my cards in the end, she was able to finish her deck a turn before I was about to lose anyways. It’s very positive that she immediately wanted to play again, I had the same feeling really and enjoyed the competitive version very much. I actually like it better than the original.
Later that night I was feeling a lot better and I was up for some ‘real’ gaming again, some of my gaming buddies came over and introduced me to Rajas of the Ganges. Rajas of the Ganges is a race game where you try to gain both wealth and prestige, these values are tracked on 2 different tracks on the edges of the gameboard. When a player’s money marker meets or passes their prestige marker the final round will be finished and the player that has the most difference between their 2 markers (after crossing each other) wins the game.
I honestly had a hard time wrapping my head around this game, it’s been over a week since I’ve played so my memory is a little cloudy and I can’t go into any rule details since I simply don’t remember them. That on its own is not a good sign, when I really love a game it sticks with me, I can at least talk through some of the rules after a week has passed but not with this one so I’ll just talk about what I do remember. Rajas is a worker placement game that is completely based on dice, every action you take either requires a die or gives you new dice to add to your dice pool. You can buy tiles to add to your player board, but you need the right color and right value of dice. You can advance on the river, but again you need a certain valued die. I quite liked the mechanics and the actions but one thing kept bothering me, there is no way to manipulate your dice in a meaningful way. You can change your die by flipping it to the other side (turn a 1 in a 6 and so on) by using a bonus (which seems rather difficult to achieve anyways) but there is no way to just pay money to increase it by a number of pips so once a die is rolled you’re pretty much stuck with it. For me that’s a deal breaker, I like to make a plan and go with it. In Rajas I had to do what the dice told me to, of course I stubbornly tried to stick to my original plan which resulted in many wasted actions trying to get new dice but not rolling what I wanted. This is not a flaw of the game, it’s just how it is but one could keep it in mind when they preferably like to plan something beforehand instead of making the best of what you get. I ended up in 3rd place and was nowhere near getting my markers to meet or cross each other. I would love to give this game another go to form a better opinion but for now it’s not high on my to play list with all the other wonderful games around.
Clans of Caledonia arrived earlier this week and I couldn’t wait to play it, when a gaming buddy suggested to play it on Friday night I started learning the rules right away. Since the game offers a solo variant I just tried out all the different things one can do on my own during a solo session.
I don’t remember the clan I played and I mechanically went through all the motions of just trying the different actions in a five round game. It was rather basic and nothing felt difficult, I was already looking forward to playing a multiplayer game because from what I could gather after playing a solo session this was bound to be a promising game.
Another game my friend requested to play was Heaven & Ale, I was up for playing this as a 2-player game and looked forward to trying different things this time around. From my previous games I remembered 2 very important things, money is tight and monks are important. Evidently I started building on the shadow side of my player board and I also tried to buy the cheap monks, trying to position them next to my most valuable tiles. I very much enjoyed playing this, finding the right balance between money, resources and moving your brewer forward is a great puzzle. While doing those 3 things you also try and work towards the scoring barrels which adds some more difficulty to it as a whole but it doesn’t overcomplicate things. In the end Heaven & ale is a very enjoyable balancing exercise / puzzle and so far I highly prefer playing it with 2. There is no rush in trying to get the tiles you want, it’s easier to plan because there’s not as much competition for all the tiles and there’s little to no downtime. It’s also more manageable to keep an eye on what your opponent is doing when playing with 2. I managed to win with 47 points against 30 but from what I’ve read on the games forums that’s not an incredibly good score. There is something I must be overlooking but I’ll happily play a few more games to try and figure out what exactly.
After playing Heaven & Ale Katrien joined us for a quick game of Dragon Castle, a game I had been curious about since Essen. This has been peaking in the buzzlists, the components look phenomenal and if it’s somewhat puzzly it may be just what I like. Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly what I like, I’ve been wandering in the abstract parts of the boardgaming world but I’m yet to find that one perfect game that fits me. Dragon Castle, while it’s not the game I’m looking for, was a very fun experience.
You take tiles from the main board in Mahjong style and add them to your player board, here you try and build nice temples (or castles) with them. Again it’s been somewhat too long to remember how the placing rules worked again but while the rules were very simple the execution of them was far from easy for me. I pretty much blocked of half of my building options from the start by doing a far from smart tile placement in the middle of my player mat but that didn’t keep me from enjoying building my temples.
Dragon Castle is one of those game that I would love to like, but my inability to see what’s going on exactly casts a shadow on how much I could like this game. I wouldn’t turn down if someone suggested to play again but I do not feel the need to suggest it myself.
We ended the night with the game I was looking forward to most, Clans of Caledonia. After going through the rules on my own earlier that day explaining it went really smooth. The depth of this game is not to be found in the rulebook, it’s solemnly on the board and in a combination of very simple actions one can perform. This game was spot on for me, I very very much enjoyed building my little engine out on the map, there are so many things to consider when taking an action. Should I give up my cow now or do I let it produce another round, but that would result in waiting another round to complete another order, if I wait another round to complete it the price of the next order I want will be higher, do I break up my settlements with the risk of an opponent sneaking in there and taking away my chances of getting an in-range cluster of settlements, do I get more tobacco, making it decrease in value or do invest in other export goods and so on. Money is tight so whatever you decide to do must be rewarding, there is little to no room for mistakes and that ups the tension in a positive way.
Clans of Caledonia is an excellent brain burner and when the game is finished you get that feeling of accomplishment because whether you win or lose, you’ll have built an entire range of settlements, you’ll have produced a bunch of goods and you’ll have gathered a lot of rewards. Final scores were extremely close, I lost with 138 points against 142 and I’m already looking forward to my next play!
On Saturday Katrien accompanied me as we visited a local gameday, no heavy lifting today but a bunch of family friendly games. We kicked off with a game of Istanbul: the dice game. This feels like a very distilled game of Istanbul, you roll dice and try and make certain sets that will grant you goods or money which you can turn in to rubies. You can also use your dice to directly gain rubies. We wasted quite some time on spending dice to gather bonuses like another die or the ability to reroll. At a certain point one of the players just started going for the rubies which all of us could’ve done all along as they were very cheap at the start of the game. From that point on it was a real race as we all focused on getting those rubies but there was no way to catch up, I ended the game with 3 of them just like Katrien but we were 2 rubies short from victory. This could be a fun filler, it gives you some aspects that Istanbul offers you as well like collecting money and goods to turn into rubies but that’s about it for similarities. It’s an OK game which I wouldn’t mind playing again but it’s just another great board game turned into a dice game that can’t be compared.
Next up were 2 games of Kitchen Rush. I’m not a big fan but Katrien absolutely loves playing this and I must confess that once that timer starts running the world around you dissolves and all that matters is that the pantries stay filled, the money keeps flowing, the sand runs through your hourglasses and everyone moves out of their action spaces as quick as they can. This all is accompanied with bumping hourglasses, throwing coins on the board, accidently taking the pantry action while there are no more veggies so the only thing one can do is yell at the others in the hope they’ll stock up, not to be forgotten is the great feeling after the 4 minutes have passed and while it all may have been somewhat chaotic there is an amazing feeling of teamspirit and everyone is applauded for whatever they did, even if it was just filling up the spice bag right in time.
Again, not a big fan of co-operative games but if I had to choose how I like my co-op game experiences best I’d have to go with real-time. It takes away the alpha player problem, it’s extremely fun and I’ve never been so involved in any other co-op. We managed to win both an easy and a normal challenge, the one thing that’s hard to keep track of is if someone is accidently cheating. It’s so difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on so if you try this keep in mind there’s a fair bit of chaos to deal with.
I’m not going to waste too much time on this, this is a highly luck based dice rolling game. Added in the box are a few variants that add more randomness and luck. It takes way too long for what it offers and there’s no real decisions to be made. Not one I’ll ever play again.
Katrien had had enough games for the day after playing High Tide so she went home while I enjoyed a few more games. First up was Uluru which is a fast puzzle/reaction game. During the explanation it made me think of Ubungo a little bit but once we started it turned out to be quite a bit more difficult for me. You get tasks to complete with every penguin for instance: red should be next to green, green should be on a short side and white should be on a long side next to yellow which on its turn has to be opposite of black and so on. You have to try and figure out the combination to put your penguins on your player board before time runs out. Every mistake made will get you a bead, player with the least beads after a number of rounds wins the game. That wasn’t me, while I’m usually good at building patterns and doing it quick, this time it was a mess, I blocked several times and couldn’t figure out most of the combinations in time.
This is a game I wouldn’t mind to play again but I do not feel the need to add it to the collection, there’s so many games out there just like it but with a few different nuances it doesn’t stand out enough to buy it.
NMBR9 is such a fun puzzle game and whenever I go somewhere and it’s available to play I happily join the table since I don’t own it (yet) myself. The hardest thing for me while playing this game is trying not to break the rules. Sometimes I get very happy once I’ve built a plateau to get a high number on top only to realize I can’t place that tile adjacent to another tile… oops!
The good thing: there’s room for improvement! I already regret not getting the promo tiles from Essen, I will eventually buy the game and they really add to the game.
Cat Lady became one of my go to filler games over the past couple of weeks and I still enjoy every play. This time I didn’t really have a strategy, I was picking up different things here and there, some cats, some toys, 2 catnip, some food I couldn’t get rid of… Of course there is some luck involved when you’re playing a game like this, if the perfect combinations show up you’ll happily take them but that might not happen on any of your turns. This time I can’t blame luck though, I should’ve been more focused, I ended in second place with a bunch of leftover food but at least the few cats I gathered seemed very happy.
Time flies when you’re having fun so it was already time for the final game of the day. Someone brought Card City XL and since I bought it recently it was nice to get the explanation instead of having to read the rules. We played the normal game, so the basic rules with pollution as addition. This was a learning game for sure, I kept placing cards and realizing what a stupid move I had made about 2 minutes later. I tried connecting commerce buildings at the start to get income but I couldn’t get it to match at all, I seemed to be blocking myself the entire time. It’s been a while now and I’ll probably have to reread the rules before my next play but I did enjoy it quite a lot, there was a nice amount of depth to this tableau builder and the puzzle was pretty fun as well. This will be one of those games I’ll enjoy playing but my chances of winning are very slim, there’s so much to think about when you’re dividing the cards and when you’re placing them. Interesting for sure!
Not much was planned on Sunday but my play of Clans of Caledonia had been on my mind since Friday, I wanted to play again to find out what I could’ve improved. It’s not often I get as excited about playing a game again immediately. Since Katrien didn’t feel like learning a game of this size I got around trying it again solo. My score definitely improved when compared to my first solo game but I still ‘only’ scored 123 points, so there is still a lot of room for improvement. I love how every action matters, there’s only so many resources to spend each round and they sure are scarce so spending them wisely is key. Clans of Caledonia is a solid Solo game but I did enjoy the multiplayer game a lot more. Positioning, while still important, is way more important in a multiplayer game and it adds an extra dimension to the game the solitaire game somehow lacks. This could be my favorite essen release.
A few days ago this Kickstarter arrived and Katrien was up for a simpler game so this fit the bill nicely. We got ready for an evening of peacefuly tending and caring for dogs. We got or kennels ready and sent our trucks out to the streets to save all dogs in need. Little did I know this game was going to be fierce. Getting the dogs you need is hard, you can really block each other in a way it feels like direct conflict. I still really enjoyed my play but I don’t know where I’d categorize it, it’s not a heavy game but it’s not too family friendly either and somehow it doesn’t feel like a gateway game. I had so much trouble trying to gather all my resources and some rounds I could barely get my truck to the next corner before it ran out of gas. As usual Katrien saw this all coming and she stocked up on resources pretty well, I should pay more attention sometimes. It’s a fun game and I look forward to playing it again but for now the verdict is still out.
Another good week if you ask me!
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Buying new games is easy, money is spent effortlessly and expanding the collection is just as easy as sneezing really. You don’t plan it, but you know it will happen eventually and again and again. I wish getting all those games played would happen just as easily but unfortunately that isn’t the case. There is no reason for me to complain however, I had a nicely filled week with games and I already got to play some of the games I was most excited about after bringing them home with me a week ago.
The first game of the week was Heaven & Ale, on Monday two friends came over and brought it with them. They had already played it so that saved me from learning the rules. Katrien accompanied us, she was up for a game and I always like it when she joins us on gamenights.
This game was easier rule wise then I expected. There is a line of actions on the borders of the game board. On your turn you move your worker to one of those spots in front of you and perform an action there. It’s all pretty straightforward, there are resources you can buy to put on the sunny or shady side of your playerboard, you can also hire monks and put them to work on either of those sides of your playerboard. If you place them on the shady side they cost less but you won’t produce any goods on that side, you’ll only get extra income. On the sunny side your crops will be used as resources once they produce. Apart from the light and dark spaces on your player board there are also 7 special spaces on which sheds will get built. Once you surround one of those spaces completely by resources/monks the shed space gets activated. Depending on the value of the tiles surrounding that space a specific shed will get built. The higher the value the more tiles will get activated, the lower the value the less tiles will get activated but your brewer will have more time to spend in the brewery instead of on the field so he will proceed on the brewery track. There are 2 other types of action spots, in the first you can collect goal tiles for reaching certain goals (for instance covering all the sunny spaces on your map), these tiles will grant you points at the end of the game. It’s a race to get some of those tiles, there’s only 2 of each type and the first one is worth most points. A second thing you can do is get a purple disc which will activate specific spaces on your player board: a specific resource type, a specific monk or a specific value of tiles. Having two purple discs on adjacent spaces of you player board will grant you an advantage, every player has the same advantage cards in their hands at the start of the game which they can play if this happens. It will either grant you money, steps with you brewer, more resources and so on. You can choose to discard any of those cards for 3 coins each at any point during the game.
Now I’ve talked about activating tiles, but what happens when tiles get activated?
Resource tiles on the shady side: they grant you money equal to the value of the tile
Resource tiles on the sunny side: they will move your resource marker on the brewery track as many spaces as the value of the tile
Monks on either side: They will activate ALL tiles adjacent to them (for money if the tile is on the shady side/for resources if the tile is on the sunny side)
That’s it, you try and collect money and resources to both expand your brewery and increase your beer production. I’ve talked about the brewer being able to move up on the scoring track as well, this is very important for scoring. When the game ends, which is after everyone has been around the board 3 times (so 3 rounds) points are scored. You score points for the goal tiles and for your resources / brewer. Your brewer will be on a certain slot of the track which will indicate how to move your resource markers and a multiplier to determine your score. It could say “3:1 x3”, this means you group all resource markers together by advancing a marker 1 spot while backtracking 3 steps with other markers (or 1 marker). If they reach a certain spot you multiply that number with the scoring multiplier of your brewer, et voila, you have a score. For instance 7x3 and you’ll have 21 points, just like me! Don’t be too happy about that because a score like that is bound to get you last place.
I really didn’t enjoy Heaven & Ale during this first game, and that was all on me. What you shouldn’t do is waste all your money carelessly to see where things go later on, chances are you won’t be able to do a whole lot (if anything) for several turns in a row. I made this mistake and it just wasn’t fun, I was short on cash so I couldn’t expand my brewery with worthy tiles so I kept getting crappy tiles but they didn’t help me a whole lot either. It was a somewhat downward spiral right from the start. Come round 3 things started to turn around but by that time the game was nearly over and the damages I had done earlier were irreversible. It was a frustrating session for me and I had a difficult time rating the game because of that. Positive was the balancing exercise one does during this game, I could see it was really interesting and even though I failed right of the bat I wanted to try again. When playing with 4 players it’s hard getting the tiles you want at times, while rushing for them may be a very expensive risk as well, again you need to figure out when it is worth it to skip valuable action spots for that one amazing action. I would’ve loved a little more control, which will be the case when playing at a lower playercount so I’m already looking forward to that. All in all, promising game.
Another positive thing about Heaven & Ale is that it doesn’t last too long, it gives you plenty of challenges in a rather short timeframe. We played 2 hours with 2 rather long thinkers at the table. My guess is a 2-player game will take up only half of that time.
Since there was still time left we decided to give Cat Lady another go. I really liked playing it with 2 but wondered how much randomness would increase with more of us playing. Katrien decided to call it quits so it would be a quick 3 player game. Nothing changes gameplaywise, some more cards are added but that’s about it. When playing with 3 chances increase that one of your opponents takes the row of cards you were planning to take but new cards show up and since there’s not that many different types there’s always something you can use in there. The playtime increases with increasing playercount but it’s not disturbing, it’s still a quick game. Again my only remark is the lack of a scoring sheet. I should see if anyone made a pretty score sheet on the geek and otherwise I’ll probably make one myself.
On Wednesday we had the day off but we had a family gathering planned in the afternoon. I woke up bright and early to still get a game or two played before we left. Santa Maria was among the games I was most curious about after Essen, the rulebook seemed manageable so I started setting up and reading the rules. The rules were actually really simple and straight forward so I convinced Katrien to sit out 10 minutes of rules explanation and to play the game with me afterwards.
In Santa Maria you try to build the happiest colony, which basically means the most thriving colony. You expand your colony board by building new tiles on there and those tiles will increase your production. With the produced goods you can yet again build new tiles, ship goods or sometimes trade them for points/other goods if you have those actions on your colony board. Next to building there’s 3 other actions you can take during your turn. You can choose to spend a die and activate an entire row or column of actions, you can choose to use coins to activate a single action spot or you can pass and get income. Activating action spots is pretty interesting, when using a die the last available action spot of the row/column will be covered by the die and you won’t be able to use that action again for the remaining of the round, same happens when activating an action spot with money, you place the money on the action spot and if you later use a die to activate the row or column with that spot in it, it will be skipped because it’s covered with coins.
There’s not that many actions you can have on your colony board, there’s spots where you gather goods: wood, grain, sugar or gems, then there’s the conquistador track which you just get to advance in and it will grant you gold, you can also advance in the prayer track, this track will allow you to get more dice but it will also let u use monks to activate certain bonus tiles and end-game scoring tiles. Another important action is shipping, there are 4 shipping tiles open at all times and if you activate a shipping icon you can fulfill one of those tiles. You place the tile face down next to your player board next to the same icon you just bought it from (money, praying/conquistador track or points). This is important, when you choose to pass you get income according to your ships. If you have 2 conquistador ships when passing you will advance 2 paces on that track, you get income for every ship according to what they score in. The game is over after 3 years (rounds) and you score a little for money you have left and complete columns of ships next to your player board. You also score every colonist you have on your colony board when it is in a completely filled row and/or column. You also score for being first in the conquistador track after every round and you can also score points using trade actions during the game. All ships are flipped back to the face up side to reveal the points and last but not least you also score the tiles your monks activated. These tiles will typically score the way you’ve built you colony: get as many towns to your town hall or get a large group of 1 type of tile (forest/town/mountain) and so on. All in all a very easy game in rules but it’s an amazingly fun puzzle when you’re trying to fit it all together and when you’re trying to make it work. The art could’ve been somewhat more out there but I didn’t really mind it.
I made the mistake of shipping all my goods early in the game instead of focusing on expanding my colony a bit more. Sure you get income from your ships but expanding your colony is the essence of the game and chances are you’ll expand and create more income which will still allow you to ship. Katrien saw this and she won the game, but I was already looking forward to a rematch.
There was still plenty of time left to play another big game but the weather outside was beautiful so we played a quick game of Avalam and went for a nice autumn walk afterwards. I’m really enjoying the exploration of abstract games and before we started I told Katrien I was ready to be a challenging opponent. She may have smirked when I said that but I didn’t care, I was happy to just try my best. My best was somewhat disappointing because I only managed to get 4 towers while Katrien got 9, this is the worst I’ve done in this game so there’s still some work ahead before I master this game. It’s pretty funny, I keep making the same mistake every time and I’m not able to stop myself from making it for some reason. One moment I’m like: ‘not gonna fool me this time’, and the next I’m like: ‘Oops you got me!’.
After a nice walk and a visit to our family we were invited to play a game of Chimera Station with friends. This would be my first time playing the game with 4 and I was curious to see how it would turn out. The first 2 rounds were really quick and 2 of us started taking the lead, including me. Starting round 3 everything seemed to go at least 5 times faster, the map was starting to fill up nicely and there were a bunch of neat combos on the board. While I had made a good start I didn’t accelerate together with the game, I stayed a little behind while others were catching up and scoring big points. The game definitely lasts longer with 4 but it stays interesting and the time between turns can be spent planning ahead, sure others may take the action spots you would’ve liked but it’s important to keep an eye out to what’s happening or you’ll fall behind when you don’t notice the nice combo’s that gradually get added to the map.
We quit after 4 rounds because it was starting to get late and our friends had a baby to feed but I had a good idea of how a 4-player game felt with those 4 rounds. The last round would’ve probably taken up quite a while and it would’ve scored some of us a lot of points. I don’t think I could’ve scored a lot since I focused on the wrong power ups for my workers to get points in late game but Katrien was doing great and so was one of our friends, it promised to be an exciting last round for them. Ending after 4 rounds left Katrien in first place and I was in third place not too far behind. For now I’ll say I’d rather play this with 3, you don’t have all the buildings on the map but the game plays more fluently and the pace is somewhat more enjoyable in comparison with 4 players. It’s also good with 2 players but the map will be limited and the game will go by really quick.
On Thursday I got off work early because a board game buddy was coming over to play some games. I had read the rules of the Sanctuary the night before and since they aren’t all that difficult we started our afternoon with this game.
Building a Sanctuary for the worlds endangered species is a theme that’s right up my alley. The box artwork looked stunning so it all looked very promising. The beauty pretty much ends there though, I can’t say the other artwork of the game is ugly but it’s not in line with what one would expect after seeing the box cover. I wasn’t about to let that drag me down because I’d already read the rules and the mechanics seemed pretty interesting.
I set up the game before the guest arrived and the explanation was done in an acceptable timeframe of 10 to 15 minutes. Nothing too heavy. There’s a row of cards open on the table which are your action spots, the start player starts by placing their first worker and all other players in clockwise order do the same. In counter clockwise order, starting with the last player, everyone places their second worker. There’s not that many different actions, get a new animal, grow its population, get food/resources for upkeep, expand your sanctuary, get bonus tiles, … all very basic actions that allow you to build the perfect sanctuary for your species. The core of the game is how the action selection works. In clockwise player order everyone gets to activate the main action of their worker including all side actions which are in line of sight. Every card has a main action (top part) and a side action (bottom part). You can execute your main action and all available side actions in whichever order you prefer. Your line of sight is determined by the other players, you can see up to a card where an opponent is standing. The first opponent in line will block you from seeing the side action of the card it’s on and all other cards from there. I didn’t expect this to be difficult at all and it wasn’t really but it was quite challenging if I’m honest. You want to make the most of the actions in front of you but you don’t want to let your opponent get all the actions too, so blocking their line of sight can sometimes be just as important as going for your own desired actions. The core of the game is how you place you workers every round, you are obliged to always leave 1 side action open for yourself or your opponent. At times I wanted to do a main action next to one of my workers but I couldn’t because I’d be blocking my own line of sight, you have to keep an eye on that at all times.
With 2 players it’s manageable to overlook what your opponent wants to do and you can figure out the best spots rather efficiently. My guess is this will be a lot harder and will maybe feel somewhat more random when playing with more. It may be more cut throat with 2 for that exact reason, I can see myself not bothering to look at 3 other players sanctuaries and plans, but if there’s only 1 opponent I’ll make sure to take the time and calculate it in my options. I really really liked the mechanics and I’m glad I picked it up, it’s not a big hit after the first game but I find it rather clever and can’t wait to play a few more games of it. During this session I focused on population while my friend mainly expanded her sanctuary so we gave each other a lot of freedom and hardly bothered each other because we both had other plans. Scores were very close as a result: I lost with 63 against 65.
We still had loads of time on our hands so we opted for another big box game, Heaven & Ale. My first play of Heaven & Ale past Monday night wasn’t a huge success but I was willing to give it another go. Playing with 2 doesn’t change the mechanics of the game at all but the most important, and pretty much only change is that there’s 3 rounds instead of 6. I was a little sceptic about that at first but my opinion changed really quick, I was liking the game way better with 2.
You only go around the board 3 times but you still go for the same goals, this means you should be able to pick up double the amount of tiles in a single round compared to a 4 player game. A lot more information is open in one go and it’s easier to manage all the information when it’s actually out there. Planning went so much smoother, I figured out what I wanted and even though my opponent was in my way at times I didn’t feel the need to jump forward too many spaces just in case someone else may snatch away a valuable tile. The game was way more relaxing and I enjoyed it a lot more this way. This one is not ready to be written of yet, I want to see if I gradually grow into liking the game at higher playercounts as well once I get the hang of it and start seeing the good combos earlier on. I was a lot more careful in spending my money this time and ended up winning because of that with 58 points against 34.
Another big plus of a 2-player session of Heaven & Ale is the short playtime, we finished the game in under an hour which still left time for one last big box game. Ever since losing Santa Maria against Katrien I had been thinking what I did wrong, I knew I shouldn’t have shipped so much early on but I still wanted to try again and see if it would really be worthwhile to lay focus elsewhere at the start of the game. My friend was eager to try Santa Maria as well so another quick explanation and off to colonizing our player boards.
This time my focus was on the conquistador track, the prayer track and building. Shipping goods just went with it, as I expanded my colony and sent out my acquired monks to work I received goods that I could easily ship. I also tried to get a lot of points from the bonus tiles, wanting to combine it all wasn’t easy, but I managed. Had to let go of a few points here or there and I still wasn’t playing optimally but I was getting there, this time I managed to win with 94 points against 56. My friend actually made exactly the same mistake by shipping all her goods early on and not keeping any to expand her colony which made it a lot harder to catch up.
3 big box games was enough for a weekday and we started getting out some fillers. Whoosh is a game I bought because it just looks so adorable. On top of that I have a group of high school friends whom I still play Jungle Speed with every time we gather and Whoosh seemed to be a game that would fit with that player group. I hadn’t had the chance to try it yet but my friend agreed we could play a quick 2-player game just to get a sense of how it plays. Obviously 2 is not the best number to play this at, it’s better to play with more, the additional chaos will definitely add a lot of fun to the game. Whoosh is exactly what I expected it to be, it plays really fast, it looks adorable and without the player elimination it could be a step up from our regular games of Jungle Speed. I’m very happy to have backed this on Kickstarter. Final score: I caught 42 monsters and my friend captured 19 of them.
The final game of the day was Blueprints, I bought this game without knowing anything about it. It was only 5 euros and my friends were all getting a copy, as a true part of the pack I wanted to fit in and got a copy for myself. It all looked rather fun, a filler with dice in which you build buildings on blueprints sounded rather neat at that price point. The goal is to score as many awards and prizes over 3 rounds. Every player gets a blueprint card which they get to build on. During your turn you choose a die from a dice pool and build it on your blueprint (behind a player screen). There’s 4 different colors of dice and they score in different ways. Orange scores for every adjacent die, black scores for the level it’s on (the higher it is the more points you get), green scores according to the number of green dice used and white just scores the number of pips on the face of the die. You can build on top of a die as long as the die you are placing is of equal or higher value.
After selecting a die to build with you discard another die in a 2 player game and roll 2 new ones. Play goes on until every player has placed 6 dice. The buildings score there points and the one who gathered the most points gets an award, these awards are worth 2 end game points. You don’t score the value of your building, it’s just a way of getting awards. You can also get prizes, there’s 4 different prizes to collect every round: have a height of 5, use 5 same colored dice, use 6 dice from value 1 to 6 or use 5 different valued dice in your construction. When you tie for an award there is a tiebreaker, a die is pulled from the bag every round and whoever has the most dice in that color wins the tiebreaker and gets the prize. Prizes are also worth 2 points. At the end of the game, after 3 rounds of building the player with the most points in awards and prizes wins the game.
Honestly, I’m very glad I picked this up, I like puzzling and that’s definitely what you’re doing here. There’s a lot of luck involved and your highly dependent of what the other players are doing but it’s thrilling trying to get a certain prize and having it snatched away in the final turn. Very entertaining filler, I won with 8 points against 4.
Friday evening a few board game friends gathered at our FLGS to play some fillers. There were 6 of us so we split into two groups of 3. We started with a game of Azul which I was looking forward to a lot, I have this on pre-order and I’ll probably won’t receive it before December so I’m already regretting not picking it up at Essen.
The components of Azul are very pretty and so is the artwork, it’s a game that invites you to play by just looking at it and that’s a big plus for me. I’m a bit lost on the rules right now, I don’t remember them correctly to go into detail about them but I really liked the way you need to draft your tiles and add them to your player board. You have to think ahead and figure out how you’ll align the tiles as optimal as you can to score a lot of points without having to draft too many tiles and getting a lot of penalty points in return. It plays super quick and it’s just a very relaxing game, it can be a little thinky but nothing that will stretch your brain to its limit. I can’t wait to play this with Katrien, and I think my mom would really like this one too so it’s just a matter of counting down the days until my own copy arrives! This one still fits the category of filler, it took us 30 minutes to play, the next game was a lot more to take in then I expected.
Next up, Photosynthesis. We had listened to the explanation of this game before we started playing Azul when the other group was getting ready to play Photosynthesis. It seemed like a good idea to win time and just get the explanation together and get Photosynthesis to the table right after playing Azul. We set up the game together but I basically forgot half of the explanation I’d received 30 minutes prior so we went through the rules again with a somewhat quicker pace.
Apparently we were playing the advanced variant where you take shadows into account because it wouldn’t be challenging enough without it. Honestly, I could’ve done with playing the beginner variant first, I was trying to wrap my head around this whole shadow thing and trying to visualize it on the board but it felt like my brain was slowly crumbling into piles of ‘I don’t know what to do at all’ so I just went with it and figured out it would all start making sense after a few turns. Steady but slowly I started seeing it a little better, I was still making mistakes when gathering light points but luckily with 3 at the table there was always someone to correct the mistakes made or to go like ‘ you can’t do that it’s a shadow space!’. During the third round we all agreed there was no time to play a fourth round and we tried to gather as many points as we could at that point. I must say it took some getting used to and the spatial insight required for this game is not something I master yet, and I don’t know if I ever will but I liked it, I liked it a lot. Next time I’ll be trying it without the shadows though, just to start at the level that will probably suit me better and then we can step up to the shadow variant later on. Somehow I managed to win, but I can’t tell you in any way how I managed to do that. It took us a little over an hour to play 3 rounds, not the filler I was expecting.
On Saturday we went over to my parents and my mom agreed to play a few smaller games. We started with Bärenpark. Katrien noticed we played this wrong, I always included all the bear statues in a 2 player game but you only use the even numbered ones, oops. I tried convincing my mom again to use the goal tiles but she doesn’t like them, she says it will take the relaxed feel away from the game for her so I left them in the box.
Using only the even numbered statues makes quite the difference, there’s a bigger gap in points when racing to fill your tiles so I focused on being first every time. I also managed to fill all my tiles while mom still needed another round for that to happen. This cost her the most points and led me to win with 86 points against 71.
Mom was also up for a new game and I suggested to play Cat Lady. The different ways of scoring were a bit much for her but Katrien helped her along and it all went fine. She was focusing on cats, which one probably should do but while she kept taking all the cat and food cards I was left with a lot of toys and costumes which scored me a huge amount of points as well. In the end the cat universe she built wasn’t enough to beat my toy land and I won with 49 points against 46.
Last day of the week, and some more games got played! We went over to a board game friend to teach and play Santa Maria. Katrien accompanied me and after she beat me the first time I was going to pay close attention to her plans and wanted to try and keep up with her.
After 3 plays you pretty much know what the game is about, build an engine, get the scoring tiles, make sure you have some colonists to score on your board and keep a close eye on the conquistador track.
Oh how easy that all sounds, finding a balance between all those things is a pretty tough job, especially when there’s other players around that may get the tiles and dice you want to use. This creates an enjoyable amount of tension around the table and it’s important to weigh out when you should just go for a die and get half of what you planned instead of building first and losing the option to use the die altogether. Katrien was building and scoring like crazy, I don’t know how she did it. She kept activating tiles and she had a bunch of resources and money at all times. I just couldn’t keep up, despite all my efforts of trying to do so. Our friend made the mistake of spending a lot of resources on shipping her first few turns which caused her engine to fall behind. Again, I love trying to find balance between every important element in this game and I love the puzzly feel of it, very happy to own it. Katrien won with 101 points against my 77 and our friend scored 57. Already looking forward to the next play.
The last play of the week was Blueprints. We played a 4 player game and I still liked it but as expected it was a little more random. More dice get removed before it’s your turn and planning is way harder. It’s also harder to keep an eye on the dice everyone is adding to their building and on top of that the playtime increases by quite a bit. I still liked it and I still like how it plays but I think it’s probably better with 2 or 3 players. Managed to win this one though with 10 points against 9, 9 and 6 points.
Another good week if you ask me!
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Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:00 pm
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