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Ready for another weekly recap?
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
It’s been a few weeks, but I’m back now!
The past 2 weeks were filled with fun times, good games, friends and the highlight was a 2-day venture to SPIEL. I didn’t find time to blog since all the spare time went to planning my Essen trip and making sure I looked in to as many new releases as I could. Now the Essen madness has settled down I’m sitting here with a pile of new games behind me which still need to find a place on my gaming shelves but there’s no room for them. Yup, that sounds like we’re back to normal, let me start by telling you which games I played the week before the fair.
On Monday I was invited to play a game with 3 of my favorite gaming friends, and on top of that we were going to play Yokohama which I’ve been enjoying very much the past few months. This session however didn’t go smooth at all. I was enjoying the company way too much and was blabbering away the evening. Mid game I realized there was no way I was going to win if I wasn’t paying enough attention. I had already made a few (okay many) crucial mistakes at that point and a comeback was no longer in reach. 2 of us stayed mainly on one side of the map, 1 player used the entire map while the last player enjoyed the other half of the map on his own for the better part of the game.
On his side was the location where you pay to get new workers/buildings from your player board, it was so far away that I decided against going there and I tried getting my buildings and workers from bonuses and rewards. This was not a good idea, I should’ve taken the time to make the trip and I should’ve worked over the entire map. It was a suboptimal strategy I won’t be pursuing again. I ended up being last with 91 points against 93, 109 and 160. What matters most is that I had a great evening and I really enjoy the game.
On Wednesday a friend from the boardgaming club I play with regularly came over to my place to get a few games in. We started with a session of Chimera Station. I had only played it 2 times before but I was starting to get an idea of what I was supposed to do. I explained the rules, which are surprisingly simple for an engaging game like this and we got going. Not a whole lot got built at the start which caused the game to go rather slow in the beginning but we shifted up a few gears come round three and the game started getting a lot more interesting from there. What I really like about Chimera Station is how the game evolves in a nice pace and you get time to get used to all the actions spaces popping up on the game board. It’s a point salad type of game where you need to figure out which action spaces will be most valuable to you, there’s also the controlling of the station which is an amazing action at times but a waste of time for the better part of the round. Timing is key for this action and I really like the challenge of figuring out when exactly you should go for those actions and when it’s better to leave them behind because better things have popped up. I’ve been enjoying Chimera Station a lot more than expected, it’s a simple worker placement game but the unique twist of customizing your workers and the ever changing game board leads to a highly replayable game.
After Chimera Station we opted for a lighter game and it had been way too long since I played Agricola for two. Set-up is quick, components are pretty and your basically making a big accommodation for farm animals which you hope to acquire and breed over 8 very quick rounds. Every round you have 3 turns, I’m always amazed how much one can achieve in only 24 turns of this game. My friend went all in on sheep and had a few other animals to avoid getting penalties for not having them in her farm. I was all over the place, I wanted to do everything and while that sometimes leads in me ending up doing very little this time it worked out rather well. Scores were close, but my friend won with 53 points against 50.
After playing Whistle Stop 2 weeks ago I was anticipating playing it again, preferably at a higher playercount. When my friend came over on Thursday and suggested a 2-player game of Whistle Stop I couldn’t turn that down, the higher player count would happen eventually and I happily set up the game after enjoying my first game. After set up I got distracted and left the room for a few minutes, this was not a bright idea. I forgot that our 2 cats would love those little trains and by the time I came back one train was nowhere to be found. I was ready to go in panic mode but Katrien saved the day and found the missing train underneath our refrigerator, with some nice cat teeth marks in it but I guess it’s just a personalized edition now! After that incident I don’t think I’ll leave the cats alone with another game ever again, I find it very important my games stay neat and complete.
Anyways, after that small incident we started playing and the rules were a lot clearer to me after playing it for the first time. Being used to reading a lot of rules didn’t help me all that much when I first read the rules of Whistle Stop, it’s such a simple set of rules but at times it seemed like they were written in a way to raise confusion. Last time I played very slow, passed as many stops as I could, but this time I figured racing may be a good way to go around this as well. So I started looking at the track and stops already visible and a plan started forming and shaping further with every tile that got added to the game board. I got a few shares along the way but didn’t bother spending too much time on making circles and pretty much got to the west side of the board as fast as I could. This resulted in nice bonuses that geared up my remaining trains and before long all my trains had reached the end destination. Just in time, if I had taken 2 turns more it may not have been a win for me, my friend was gathering shares and planned to trade them in for a lot of points at the end station, the game ended before she could fulfill that goal so I ended up winning with 163 points against 130. This game is all about figuring out which stops are worth to make and when it’s just better to move along, very interesting!
The previous session of Agricola for two stuck with me and I wanted to play it again and most of all I wanted to get more focused and pursue one strategy and stick with it. That lasted for about 2 rounds, after that I got distracted again and did random stuff. I ended up having the same score as the previous night but this time it was enough to claim victory.
I used to play Patchwork a lot on the app with my mom but the last few months that died down. I talked about this with one of my gaming buddies and she installed the app and challenged me for a few games. This is such an enjoyable game, I find it surprisingly relaxing and I should play it way more. I lost most of the games we played but I don’t care, I enjoyed every digital move I made and I have been playing it a lot the past few weeks now.
On Friday we went over to some of Katriens friends and played some entry level games. The first one was Speed Cups, I saw they had it on their gaming shelves and I just love playing reaction games. Katrien rolled her eyes but she let me have my fun and we started playing. The expansion was added for some more variety, which never hurts. This is a game I usually win, but Katrien is becoming fierce competition, I ended up with 22 cards and she had 17 so it’s only a matter of time before she passes me by and completely destroys me. I’ve noticed I’ve got a lot of difficulty distinguishing black and blue in this game and I start making more and more mistakes the more I play it.
After that we played a quiz game, you have to answer questions correctly to gather seconds on your timer. Once a few rounds have been played with different ways to gather this extra time the 2 people with the most time left on their timer will battle for victory. They try to answer open questions and drop the timer of their opponent with every correct answer. Last man standing with time left on their timer wins the game. I quite enjoy trivia games but this wasn’t a success for me. One person has to be the quizmaster and can’t play and during the final round the others are also just sitting there waiting around for a winner. I prefer games where everyone is engaged from start to finish.
We ended the evening with a quick game of Montana, when playing with 4 the victory condition is getting 8 settlements on the board. Last time we mistakenly played till 12 settlements with 4 players and I was wondering why the game seemed to last longer than all previous sessions. Don’t know how that happened, but this time it all went really fast. Montana has proven to be an excellent gateway game once again. The actions are all fairly simple and straightforward but the gameplay doesn’t suffer from is, in the contrary, it’s an enjoyable game I’ll happily get to the table every time. I enjoy the race and figuring out where to go every game since the board is always different. Katrien and her friends got 8 settlements on the board in the same round but Katrien didn’t have any waterbags while her friend did so he won the tiebreaker.
On Saturday I went over to yet another gaming friend and we played Lisboa. This was my third time playing and explaining the game. I learn a lot while teaching and explaining games, I have to remember every little rule when explaining a game which is a good way to take in all the information faster. I haven’t gotten the chance to play this at a higher player count but I must say I already enjoy it tremendously with 2 players. I can see that there will be more interaction when there’s more players present, you can ship on different/more boats, you don’t have as much control over prices anymore since others can influence them too, there’s more competition for clergy tiles and decree cards and more opportunities to follow along when an opponent does an action. I can see all that, I however like the feeling of having all this control during the 2 player game. I can’t tell for sure but my guess is that it’s a lot easier to manage all options and definitely a lot easier to pursue a certain strategy because there is just less people in the way to mess with your plans or to add that extra tension. I needed these 3 plays but now I feel like I can enjoy and explore different options for the next games to come, I certainly haven’t gone through the entire learning curve yet, but I feel like I can handle the basics now and venture further from there. Will this become my favorite Lacerda game? I don’t know, The Gallerist felt so much easier and smoother when playing for the first few times and I adore its elegance, I rate Kanban just as high while it’s more complex and the different layers the game offers take quite a few sessions to explore. I have a feeling Lisboa will be the same, it’ll take a while but it will grow on me.
When playing a heavy game like Lisboa it’s nice to end the night with a lighter game, Montana is perfect for that. The game is set up in a few minutes and explaining it is done even faster. I’ve played it at all playercounts now and I can say I enjoy it at every playercount, the map adjusts perfectly and the tension/competition for certain tiles is just as fierce when playing with only 2. We both finished within the same round but my friend won since he had way more resources left. Great game!
Sunday was Katriens birthday and her family came over to celebrate. Before the big troops arrived we played some small games with her brother. We started with The Game: Extreme. I quite like the original but over time it has lost a lot of its shine, the extreme variant is exactly what it needed to get back to the table. It’s way more challenging and a lot more fun as well. We’ll have to practice before we can win this, right now we lost with 13 cards left.
The next small game was Träxx, it’s among my favourite filler games. There is no downtime and it’s 10 minutes of gaming filled with fun and puzzling. The others didn’t take optimal routes and blocked of half of the map in no-time so I won with 30 points.
In addition to playing all the above games I also read so many rules, lists, opinions, etc. of new essen releases. Before traveling down to the highlight of my boardgaming year there were a few other games played and even more preparations were done.
On Tuesday Katrien tagged along to visit a board game club where 2 of our best gaming buddies play regularly. I brought a few lighter games with me and Whistle Stop got chosen. Like I said before I was really hoping to get it played at a higher playercount, that was going to happen now and I really looked forward to it. In the end 5 of us sat down to play so we would be at full playercount, I was curious how it would play with so many. My idea was to go for stocks this time and depending on the map I could maybe get some other points elsewhere. After a round or two I figured out this was not the way to go, one of the players had set up the gold mine all the way to the north, nowhere near me so I figured I should shift up a few gears because they were backtracking all the time to get more gold nuggets. I saw a fairly open route and had decent tiles in hand to just make a race of it, so that’s what I did. I ended up not getting a single share, you can set up a plan when the game starts but the board and the other players will eventually guide you to what you should do. Sure you can stick to whatever you want to do, but if you’re too strong headed in pursuing a certain strategy instead of accommodating to whatever the map leads you to do you might end up in last place. No one was in my way once I changed my strategy to racing and the game ended in no time, we played a little under an hour. I had 87 points, Katrien followed with 67 while the others had 33, 28 and 25 respectively. I don’t know what I like best, the stocks are more interesting at the higher playercount but the map grows so quickly it’s more difficult to influence a lot yourself. Can’t wait to explore this one further, I’ve been enjoying it a lot.
We ended the night with For Sale, a game I had never played before but I’ve always wanted to play it. In For Sale you try to acquire homes during the first part of the game, a player starts bidding and when someone passes they take the least valuable house from the available options, they also only pay half of what they bid. Bidding happens until everyone except one player has passed, this player gets the most valuable house but had to pay the fully offered price. In the second part of the game money is laid out instead of houses. Everyone chooses a home they bought earlier and the best house gets the highest cheque on the table and so on. This goes on until all houses are sold, after that the player with the most money left wins the game. Scores were very close and I enjoyed playing.
Wednesday evening I went over to my FLGS where a gaming club meets up every other week and I doubt I’ve missed more than 3 get-togethers over the last 2 years. We started with Bärenpark. This is my favourite puzzle game at the moment, it’s so accessible but the goal tiles give seasoned gamers some challenge and everyone I’ve introduced it to has loved it. I misplaced a tile somewhere at the start, I hadn’t placed it adjacent to another one which is mandatory. Another player noticed and I tried to fix it but it was too late to completely repair the damages. This was in my advantage but everyone was a good sport about it and we left it at that. From there one I tried to not make that mistake again and it all went really smooth. I won the game by 6 points, but of course I don’t know if I would’ve won if I hadn’t accidently cheated. Ah well, still enjoy this one and I can see it getting a lot of plays. In the month I’ve owned this game it has been played 7 times already, that’s a great number.
Next up was Trans Europa, it was also the last game of the night for me because the next morning we’d be leaving for SPIEL and I wanted to be somewhat awake for those events. Trans Europa is a train game that plays really fast. Several rounds are played until someone has 0 or less points. In Trans Europa players build railways throughout Europe. Every player gets 5 destinations from the 5 different parts of the map they’ll have to travel towards. When someone reaches all his/her destinations the round ends and all other players lose points equal to the number of railroad tracks they are short of getting to their destinations. The first round wasn’t a good one for me, I lost 7 points right of the bat so I only had 6 left. Of course you can get somewhat unlucky with the cards you get, the map is divided in 5 parts but you could get locations that are still somewhat close together or you could get locations at a far distance from each other. I ended up losing, it was hard getting back from that awful first round but I had a great time playing.
Essen SPIEL 2017
Somewhere near the end of August this already started for me, rather slow yes, but new releases were getting announced and I happily read about all of them. My time on the geek tripled over the last few months because of this event, I’m a huge planner and I like to be prepared at all times. It’s impossible to know everything about every little release but I tried to at least look into all the games with mechanisms and themes that I like. Lowie helped marking all booths of interest on the halls a few days prior to leaving and after that I was ready to go.
This was my third time visiting and now I had a clear idea of what to expect. We would be commuting to the fair on Thursday and Friday, it’s a 2,5 hour drive so there was no time for games before or after the fair on both days, we were just too exhausted. Lots of people stay in Essen for 5-6 days and play day and night so to speak but I need my sleep and quite honestly after spending a day at the fair I’m happy just unwrapping and punching the new additions to the collection. I’m way too tired to start learning rules after a day at the fair. On Thursday we played 2 small games in the afternoon, starting with Overbooked which is a fun puzzle game that’s running on Kickstarter for 2 more days now. If you like puzzly games, give this one a glance it deserves to get funded. Another game we played is Café Fatal, I expected more of this one and Katrien didn’t enjoy it at all so I decided against buying it.
The best part of the day was dedicated to buying new games though, one of my boardgame buddies tagged along on our 2 day venture and she had a lot of pick-ups to do so that’s what we spent our morning on. I also picked up a few games I was certain I would buy so we could drop everything at the car once the math trade was over and we could enjoy exploring the halls somewhat more comfortable. We dedicated Thursday to Hall 1 and 3, on Friday we went through all the other halls. I ended up with quite a few new games to enjoy, Lowie has been happily rating all the boxes on how well they sit. So far he seems happy with my purchases.
On Saturday a fellow gamer came over to pick up a few games I got for him during the fair. We used this occasion to try a few new games already. I hadn’t found the time yet to learn any rules so we just played a bunch of short games, Avalam was the first one. I’ve always said I don’t like abstract games, but lately I’ve been enjoying quite a few and I’m trying to find more abstract games to my liking. A friend suggested giving this a shot at SPIEL and it was a great tip, it plays in under 15 minutes and it’s a highly accessible abstract game. This is exactly what I was looking for, my abstract thinking could use some training and this is a great start. Since it still needs some training I didn’t win but I felt like I at least made a shot when we ended the game with 7 points against 5.
I’ve played Century before and even though I didn’t dislike it I can’t say I really liked it either. I’ve gotten a bit carried away with this one, it just looked so pretty and I bought it right before we went home on Friday, together with Heaven & Ale this was my impulse buy of the year, I’m already proud of myself I didn’t get tricked into buying the player mat too. Since we both already played Century it was just a matter of looking up the value of the gems and starting the game. This game has shown me how important artwork is, I didn’t like the looks of the regular Century but I love how Golem looks. I like the bright colors, the gems and the cute golems on the cards. The game clicked way better now and I’m glad I brought it with me, I’m already thinking this may be a good one to play with mom. I lost with 69 points against 90.
Another game that was easy to learn is Harvest Dice, we quickly went through the rules and started rolling dice. I’m a fan of roll & write games, I find them relaxing and enjoy most of them. Harvest Dice is a nice addition to the collection, I like trying to figure out where I should put my vegetables and if it may be smarter to just give up the die to feed my pig and get a possible advantage to use later on. Which dice to I leave on the table as it will increase the value of a certain vegetable and so on. Neat little filler, glad I added it to the collection.
Dice stars is a Roll & Write game that I’ve heard good things about. Since my friend already played it before he explained the rules to me. I didn’t really get it, the way you use the dice seemed so strange but once we started it sunk in, and it’s actually very interesting. This is a deeper roll & write game and challenges you to think a little more in comparison to the above mentioned Harvest Dice. I do need some practice, I lost with 104 points against 145.
Last game of the evening was Cat Lady, a game I’ll admit I only brought home because of the title. There’s a lot of Cat games out there and as some of you will know I’m a cat person, I’m an animal person all around actually but yes, cat person. After Gen Con this game popped up on my radar several times and I’d read good things about it, since I’m always looking for some good fillers this one easily made the cut. It’s a very simple game, 9 cards are laid out on the table in a 3 by 3 roster. On your turn you choose a row or column you like and take the 3 matching cards. You move the cat marker to that row/column to indicate the next player can’t take that row/column during his turn. There’s a few different types of cards: food, cats, toys, catnip, water spray bottle and lost cat flyers. Goal of the game: score the most points by tending for your cats, giving them the food they want, a variety of toys, some catnip and so on. The scoring near the end is a little confusing and a scoring pad would’ve been a nice addition, but except from that one remark this is a great game and another one I’m happy to have added to the collection.
On Sunday Katrien agreed to play a few of the new games we brought home. We started with 2 matches of Avalam. She won the first one with 8 points against 6 but I was determined to do better and during the second game the scores were exactly the same but this time I won. Every time I play this I make the same mistakes, I still have some practicing to do but I’m enjoying it a lot.
Katrien loves cats just as much as I do so I wasn’t surprised when she wanted to try Cat Lady next. I was trying to get as many cats as I could and of course feed them as well. Katrien went for costumes and she also had a cat that scored points for each costume she had, in addition to that she managed to take some toys and catnip as well. The large variety made her cats very happy and she won the game.
Next up: Harvest Dice. Katrien didn’t like it as much as I did but she didn’t mind it either. It didn’t help that she put her carrots in a corner and they couldn’t grow any further since she locked them in with tomatoes. I of course made sure I scored carrots as much as I could and that made the difference, I won with a 20 point difference. This is a game I look forward to introducing to my mom.
A quick game Katrien enjoys a lot, not a new release but we only had a few minutes left before lunch so no time to explain new rules and it was still roaming on the shelves close to the game table so we quickly got a game in. Katrien went for the big points right away but this led her to cut off quite a few spaces which would cost her points in the end. I was in no rush since the big points were already gone and just tried to fill up every open space to my best ability. This paid off, I won with 34 points against 28.
After lunch we played Kitchen Rush. We don’t own a lot of co-operative games, I’m not a huge fan of them but after trying a few rounds of this at the fair we had to bring it home. The time pressure is so much fun, my guess is it will also diminish the chance to become an alpha player, there is just no time for that in a game like this. Katrien really loved the theme and she wanted a real time game for a while now. We set it up and tried to beat the easy scenario, everything went smooth until I made a mistake on one of my plates during the last round, this cost us the game (oops) but we liked it so much we immediately tried again.
I paid more attention during our second session, Katrien went for the bigger plates and I took on as many small ones as I could since they were easier to manage for me. We were a great team and it was a lot of fun, we won by a great margin and I look forward to playing through all the different challenges in the game box.
The final game of the day was another co-operative one, as I said we’re not big on these games but when you make a game with cute polar bears and a great theme like this, you can safely bet your money on the fact that I’ll be first in line to buy it. Sure saving people from a burning house is heroic and who doesn’t want to stop a world spreading disease, I understand why people like games like Flash Point and Pandemic, I just don’t love them… But boy do I love saving cute Polar Bears and fighting global warming. It may all look cute and it is, but I really think this game should be used for educational purposes, it’s a great way to show kids what will happen if we don’t all fight against global warming together. We managed to gather enough data and saved all the polar bears, I’m looking forward to playing this again soon.
That’s it for this blog post, I’ve already played some more releases but my guess is this recap is long enough as is. Next week I’ll be posting about other titles like Heaven & Ale, Santa Maria, The Sanctuary, Azul, Photosynthesis and a few others.
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Welcome aboard of another weekly overview!
This was interesting week where I tried to play a few newer games again but I also took the time to revisit an older game or two. It was a very relaxing week, not too many games were played but all were enjoyed and that’s what’s most important.
On Monday two gaming friends came over and while we were waiting for the third player we started a 2-player game of Kingdomino. My friend had never played before but I suggested to just make the 7x7 grid and ignore the bonuses for the complete castle grounds and having your castle in the middle of them.
Kingdomino is a game I enjoy playing every time but I find myself making stupid mistakes most of the time. About halfway through I noticed I was in no way able to place all my tiles anymore, but I made the best of it. In the end my field was missing 2 tiles and it didn’t look promising at all. My friend on the other hand had managed to do much better, she finished her entire field if I recall correctly and she had a well-organized land in front of her. It came to no surprise when she beat me with 128 points against 99 after counting the scores. This is a game that will never leave the collection.
After our play of Kingdomino the final player had arrived and we agreed on getting Bali to the table. I was the only one who had played before so I started explaining the rules and setting up the game. During my explanation there may have be some frowns on the faces of my opponents, because it all sounded rather strange I guess. It’s exactly what I thought when I first read the rules, but once you start playing it all starts making sense.
It’s harder to remember or try to downsize the options of what’s been offered when playing with 3 or 4 players. When playing with 2 it seemed rather obvious, we didn’t take any risks. But this game everyone was offering a little of everything and by the end I thought I knew which was offered most and second most but I was wrong. I landed in second place, the winner had also invested in priests which gave him a nice ‘pointflow’ throughout the game. Final scores were 42-33-28. I still find this a clever game, the way you have to try and take advantage of the offered goods and the market rows is very interesting and it’s still engaging after a few plays. Don’t know how I will feel after 10 plays, but I still have the variants to try and my guess is it will stay interesting.
Since Bali doesn’t last long at all there was still time for another medium weight game, Carcassonne: Amazonas was pulled from the shelves. After playing the basic game of Carcassonne for a year I got this variant for Christmas last year. I was drown to the artwork, I really like the animals and the bright green forest colors.
Since it’s got Amazonas in the name I tried focusing on the river for the most part of the game, trying to make a nice city here or there but the main focus was always the river. Of course it’s somewhat luck dependent, if you don’t get the tiles to move your boat forward that you’ll have to gather your points some other way but all in all there’s plenty of boat tiles in the game and the race on the river was always quite close. It was close but I was in front for the better part of the game and I do think that made the difference. I really enjoyed playing and once the game is finished it feels like quite an accomplishment when you look at the result. Even when you lose, you’ve built something pretty and that’s what I like in a game. This Carcassonne variant is a keeper and it diversifies itself well enough from the original to own both games. Everyone won a game now and we decided to end the night with that.
On Wednesday it was time for another visit to one of the local board game clubs and I brought a bag filled with game. Pretty soon I found 2 people who were interested in (or at least didn’t mind) playing Chimera Station. After going through a 2-player session last week I was curious how it would play at 3 or 4. My guess was a higher player count would increase interaction but on the other hand it could be more random and prone to AP, I was about to find out.
Explaining the game went easier than expected, it’s not a difficult game at all as far as the rules go. Pretty basic worker placement with the nice power-up twists of splicing components to your workers. I wanted to focus on brains but in the end I did a little of everything but barely anything noteworthy.
The game was a little more random, but it was still manageable and there was always something good you could do. AP was not a problem since my opponents are known to be rather quick players. I won but I’m pretty sure that we all played somewhat intuitively without thinking too long which resulted in rather low scores. I won with 123 against 118 and 107. I’m hoping to play this a few more times in the upcoming weeks as there is so much replay value to it with the different location tiles and when they enter the game, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this one. We played for about 90 minutes which meant there was still plenty of time left to play another game.
Only 2 of us decided to play another game and we agreed to play Ingenious. It was in the demo-shelves of the FLGS and I still remembered most of the rules so we could start swiftly. This is another one I really enjoyed playing but I don’t think I went smart enough about it. There was a lot of green on the field early game and I barely scored any of the points, but instead of blocking it of for my opponent I just left it at that, let him score and barely scored anything myself. This didn’t seem like a problem at first but when the end neared I could up all my scores except the one for green and since the winner is determined by comparing the lowest scores I knew I was in trouble. We finished the game and I only scored 6 on green while the lowest score of my opponent was 9. I got 2 Geniuses during the game, but those aren’t worth a thing if you don’t use them properly, which I obviously didn’t. These abstract games are starting to grow on me, the simple ones at least.
On Thursday one of my best gaming buddies came over to play Lisboa upon her request which I of course couldn’t turn down. Since it wasn’t easy for me to comprehend the rules last week I quickly went through them again before she arrived and it all started sinking in again, when she arrived I tried to explain the rules as well as I could. It’s a lot to take in though and I’m convinced the first few games are learning games for this one.
Last week I ended the game thinking: “Yes, this may be great, I’m looking forward to find out during my next plays.”, but I don’t know where I stand after playing this week. The game is great, everything works together so well and I love how timing is key as it adds so much tension to the game. Since my friend had never played before she had lots of questions and I could see it wasn’t sinking in, this made it difficult for me to focus on how I actually feel about the game at this point. After several rounds my friend said this was just too much so I offered if she wanted to call it quits, which I totally understand if you don’t like or comprehend the game but she insisted in finishing. I must say I respect that she sat out the entire session, it shows a lot of respect for fellow players but in this case I think it would’ve been better to just end the session. When the game neared to the end I was playing both mine and her turns and this was a little much. It was very demanding, going through all the steps, explaining them aloud and going over all the options she could take with the cards at hand in addition to playing my own cards.
My focus was all on the game, but not in an entertaining way, more in a mechanical way where I was sifting through every option (both useful and not) to just keep teaching. I do not mind this at all, but I could see she didn’t like it and she wasn’t going to start liking it so I shifted up a gear and finished it as quick as I could near the end. I am no wiser about the game after this play, I do know the rules quite well now and think I even know them by heart so the next session should go smooth! I had actually planned to play the game another time this week but I was too tired when it came to it so I had to unfortunately cancel.
My Friday night was spent explaining games at a monthly meeting close by. I explained Imperial Settlers and St. Petersburg to a few groups. The organizer of the event requested to play Torres, since everyone else was already playing I joined for a quick 2-player session.
I had studied the rules earlier that night so we were off to a quick start. Abstract games aren’t my strongest suit and most of the time I dislike them but as I said earlier I’m starting to appreciate quite a few of them lately. Torres is one of them, I like how you always have options and it’s not too strategical. You can make a little mistake and still come back from it, it doesn’t ruin the game like it does with a lot of abstracts. I was spread over the map everywhere but I had a big castle where I was on the top level of 8 which scored me a lot of points, just enough to win. This is one I’m very much considering to add to the collection.
On Saturday I visited my parents and my mom had asked to bring Bärenpark with me again, she wants to know the rules completely before she borrows the game to take on vacation with some of her friends. Since she wants to remember it all I let her do the set-up, I didn’t get away with it that easily though, she was quite good with set-up just telling me what to do but at least she knows how to set it up, it was quite funny.
We play without the goal tiles but I really think I should add them next time we play, it adds so much to the game. If you play without them and you’re both equally good at puzzling it’s a matter of 2 or 3 points difference, and it doesn’t really mean a lot. I won this time with 94 points against 92, next time I’m upping it a level with the tiles for sure.
I had also brought Montana with me to play a somewhat heavier game, it’s still very much a medium weight but it’s more engaging than most games we play together. She remembered most of the rules and I could see that, she had 5 tiles on the field in a record time and I was just sitting there thinking: “what just happened…?”. But after that she played less efficiently, she didn’t go for more workers but just placed 1 worker on the market actions every time. She also opted to build in multiple turns to get 2 coins every time instead of going for a lot of resources first. For a while that seemed to work fine but I was catching up and I had also managed to gather a water bottle which I used for my final move and I just barely won the game laying 12 tiles and mom ended with 11 tiles. Great game!
A little filler to end the afternoon with, I’ve played this game more than I’d like to and for a while I really didn’t want to play it anymore but now it had been a few months. I got the expansion recently because a lot of friends like to play this but we only played the base game this time. After about 4 rounds it was looking really good for me, I had a few tiles while mom was very unlucky and as soon as she managed to get a tile she lost it right away. Not as close as montana, I ended the game with 13 worms against 1.
On Sunday some friends came over to play games and we started with Bärenpark, it’s just such a solid game. I love puzzle games and the goal tiles make it stand out compared to other puzzle games for me. You don’t have to just fill the tiles, you’re pushed to consequently meet the goals and to collect the good tiles at the right time and at the right pace, before the big points are gone preferably. I was the only player who managed to fulfill all 3 goals and that did the trick, I won with 104 against 95, 94 and 77. I love heavy games but this makes me just as happy as when I’m playing The Gallerist, in a different way though as it’s just such a relaxing game.
This is a game that doesn’t get played nearly enough, I can say that about 75% of my collection but still, it’s such a good game which is easy to learn but always engaging and fun to play. This time we added both collection, Katrien had never played with them but since they don’t change the game a lot (rulewise) it was easy to explain. I say rulewise because the skulls definitely add a whole new dimension to the already great base game.
It’s very interesting to balance and figure out if taking a skull is worth taking a really powerful action. At first it’ll be worth it, but soon you’ll notice it’s not easy getting rid of those horrible blue penalties now glued to your player board. I got the lord where you score 4 points for each skull you have and I had never seen it before so I didn’t know how to handle it really. It seemed obvious that I had to take advantage of it, taking skulls in order to get the really powerful actions and score all my points during the game as my lord wasn’t likely to grant me a lot of points, maybe 5 or so but it was also possible that I’d have to take a few penalty points, it all depended on how everyone would play.
For about 80% of the game everything went fine, I had my amount of skulls nicely balanced and was way ahead in scoring. This wasn’t always a gift as when playing intrigue cards I was most likely to be targeted. But then it happened, an opponent finished a quest where his reward was ‘draw 4 intrigue cards which you can play immediately’, 2 of those cards said to remove 3 skulls from the game entirely which he of course did as he had no skulls at that point. For me that meant 2 penalty points extra for the skulls I owned and atop of that another opponent decided to take another few skulls making my lord scoring a -15 instead of the +5 I calculated out just minutes before and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t even get rid of anymore skulls so I ended in last place with 119 points agains 128, 133 and 135. I don’t know how I feel about this lord but I get the feeling it’s not an easy one.
My friends owns Sagrada and brought it with them, I was excited about it since Katrien had not played it yet and I looked forward to introducing her to it. Such a pretty little dice drafter with a nice puzzly feel to it! Yes you have to be lucky at times but a lot of the game is in your own hands, I made a few mistakes and couldn’t score the end bonuses as much as I wanted to but I managed to get a second place: 63, 58, 49 and 39 were the final scores. Katrien wasn’t convinced at all, she said it was okay but nothing more. Maybe Roll Player will interest her more!
That’s it for this week.
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This week was about Quality instead of Quantity.
Last blog post I played quite an amount of games, some fun and some a little less. This week I barely played half of what I played last week, but, I liked (nearly) all of them. A long awaited Kickstarter arrived, I played 2 other new games and I revisited an old favourite, which I got to play with all its expansions for the first time. First of was a train game, one I saw passing by in a few blogs after GenCon and when I had the opportunity to buy it, I couldn’t resist. My week was off to a good start!
After acquiring the game on Sunday I was already planning to find a spare moment to get this to the table. I didn’t have to wait long as Monday night someone came over to pick up a package and we combined it with a game. I set it up right after work and started reading the rules. The rulebook didn’t look promising, I found it rather confusing and it wouldn’t have hurt to have done a final edit on it. Anyways, that’s not a big deal, I got through the rules before the guest arrived, the game was set up and I looked forward to an evening of fun and trains.
Whistle Stop has an easy ruleset, on your turn you spend coal and/or whistles to move your train over the tracks. Coal lets you move to the next stop in to the west, north or south. Whistles let you move up to 2 stops and you can also go east. In the end going west is what you want, it’s where the big points are and you get some extra rewards for arriving there, but sometimes you want/need to make a little detour for a stop you require (as it may be worth a lot of points). The stops are mainly places to pick up goods, you finish your move on a stop with a coloured cube, you get that cube. There are also some other stops like railroad stations where you trade goods for a share of that station. Shares will grant you points if you have the majority at the end of the game. There’s a trading post where you can trade goods, a spot where you can get some extra coal or whistles and a gold mine where you can get gold which is also worth points in the end.
If you want to move your train in a direction where no stop has been placed yet you get to place one from your hand, you always have 3 tiles in hand to finish of the tracks. You place the tile and move your train to the stop on that tile, if there is no stop on the tile you just place another tile and so on until you’ve reached your destination. After your turn you take new tiles, either from a face up row or the face down stack, and fill your hand back up to 3 tiles. You’ve also got the option of building upgrade tiles which grant certain benefits like pay 1 coal to gain 2 coal. These are pretty nice perks but from what I’ve heard some may be more interesting than others, depending on number of players and early/late game. The game is over once someone has reached the west with all of his/her trains or when the final round has been played (there’s a prefixed number of rounds according to the number of players). I guess usually the latter will be true, as reaching the west with all your trains within the set number of rounds seems rather difficult, but I could be wrong.
Whistle stop was an enjoyable experience, it’s a nice puzzly game where being at the right spot is quite important, you can’t pass your opponents but you can ‘jump over’ your own trains so if your opponent decides to stand in the way you can either wait or take a detour. Planning is crucial and you need the right goods at the right time to deliver them to certain train stations or to the end tiles. Coal and whistles are scarce, you get some coal every round (turn) but it’s hardly enough to get by. The upgrade tiles are nice to have, but people can buy them from you after you acquired them so they’re not always yours for the entire course of the game. I had a hard time the first few turns, I was looking at some of my trains and I was convinced my opponent had blocked me, I was talking about it and he thought so too until after a few turns we noticed I’d overlooked the option of just going north and then west instead of going west right away. My point? The tracks are everywhere, and I sometimes had a hard time seeing which ones went where and what my options were.
In a 2-player game the map is very open, which made turns a little long at times. I’m not always good at breaking down all the options and seeing which one is best right away when a game feels somewhat abstract. For some reason it didn’t bother me though, I liked the planning and the ever changing board. I liked figuring out the best routes while trying to outsmart my opponent at the same time. It’s an engaging game of picking and dropping of cubes and getting some shares along the way, nothing more. It’s a nice puzzle and it’s quite pleasant to look at which in my book never hurts. I’m looking forward to playing it at a higher playercount as I’m wondering how much options there are left when there’s some more trains on the board and you have less trains to control. Also, the shares will probably be more interesting as during our 2 player game when someone went for a certain type of shares none of us really followed as the first player gets 15 points but second gets none. Also the tiebraker for this is whoever picked the first share, so you have to make quite an effort to get majority after that. For now, I’m very glad I added this to the collection, but the final verdict is still out until I play it a few more times.
On Tuesday some gaming buddies came over and Katrien also joined for a 4-player game of Istanbul. I recently re-acquired this game, I sold it after a year of not getting played and decided to buy it again after demoing it at a game night. Katrien never really liked the game, and I still don’t know why but I could convince her to give it another try. My friends however have played the game numerous times and suggested we add both expansions right away as they add interesting new dimensions to the game. I was hesitant and wondered if 1 expansion would be enough to start with but agreed to both expansions in the end as I was excited about learning them.
And it’s true, the expansions add some nice things. Mocha mainly adds another good, coffee, while Letters adds some more variability and a companion to the game which is pretty interesting. I’d say Mocha is more of the same while letters brings new and interesting options. The grid does get quite big, 5x5 instead of 4x4 when only using the base game. It’s significantly harder to move around and go to the places you want, the way the map is laid out will be the biggest influence on which route to victory is most viable, in addition to what your opponents will do ofcourse.
Our map had all goods to load on your cart on the bottom side while the markets were located at the top. This didn’t seem like a good idea as you’d have to spend a lot of time just walking around and assistants would be too widely spread. The bones tiles were all right in the middle so I decided to race for those and see what I could do afterwards. One of my friends and Katrien went for Coffee while the other gambled for money and kept upgrading his cart, he had a long term plan I guess. No one really noticed me going for all the tiles, or at least they didn’t mind it so I got the 4 bonus tiles in no-time and 2 rubies. Only 3 more to go, but how? Coffee didn’t seem like a good idea as I would have to catch up with Katrien. I tried letters but I got values of locations I already visited.. So I figured I’d go for money instead. I had some goods left after acquiring the bonus tiles and could immediately cash in some money. I also acquired a bonus tile which would let me go to the post office twice in a row which offered me some nice goods and some more money after sales. No one had bought rubies yet as they were all focussing on goods so I just hoarded cash, summoned my companion and in no time the game was over. I had 5 rubies while the others had 3, 2 and 1 rubies.
Katrien didn’t really like this, she said it wasn’t fun that a game would allow such a runaway leader. I disagree and think it’s not the game that allowed me to do all this, it’s my opponents. Katrien ended the game unimpressed and I don’t think this will be a game she’ll play again in the future. I’m not selling it again however as I think it’s a classic and I’ll find some players from time to time. Still on the fence about the expansions as all I used from the expansions was my companion.
Thursday was one of those days I was looking at my shelves and although I really wanted to play something, I couldn’t just figure out what to play. Nothing too heavy, but nothing too light either. Nothing new and not Star Realms, which is the game Katrien will suggest every time. In the end I picked up Quadropolis from the shelves, I couldn’t remember the last time I played it but I remember I liked it. Looking it up in BGstats I saw it was 6 months ago when I logged my 9th play of this game. That got a smile on my face, I’d be logging my 10th play of a game. I have played so many games, but there are only few I play on a regular basis. There’s 20 games now that have had the honours to pass on the table 10 times and Quadropolis is one of them.
We played the family variant, I’ve never played the expert variant before and I didn’t feel like reading the expert rules. The game took only half an hour which was perfect as I didn’t feel like thinking for too long. Katrien enjoys this game too, and she’s pretty good at it. I tried beating her this time by building appartments, shops and a few harbours. I tried fitting in some museums as well but miserably failed and ended the game with only one of those. I let her have start player for most of the game which wasn’t a bright move either, I should’ve thought it all through some more. My efforts didn’t matter, Katrien planned and built better. Her city was worth 57 points and I fell a little short with 55 points of my own. This is one of those games that I’m not likely to ever sell (I think) but I don’t always feel like playing. I forget how much I like it until I play it again, it’s a shame I haven’t tried the expert variant yet.
Even though I really enjoyed Quadropolis the previous night I was up for something a little more challenging on Friday night. I even felt like learning a new game, and I had figured out exactly which one it was going to be, Chimera Station. There was another game that had arrived the day before but I couldn’t find the time to learn, explain and play it in one night, but no worries you’ll read about it a little further down.
Chimera Station is a worker placement game with a twist, that twist being customizable workers. You can add an extra set of claws, brains, leaves or tentacles to you workers to gain certain skills/benefits. Brains will allow you to work smart and will score you points, leaves will grant you extra food, tentacles will allow your workers to get more resources and claws will make them strong enough to push away an opponent. You can attach any 2 components to a worker, adding the same 2 to a worker will turn the original benefit in a more powerful one. This is all pretty nice, but it’s not the essence of the game.
You’re all building and controlling a space station together, who-ever gains the most prestige by controlling and implementing the best modules into the station wins the game. I’ve read a lot about Chimera Station before making the purchase and I only pulled the trigger after reading some detailed session reports. At first I thought this game was all about splicing claws, tentacles or whatever you may find into you workers but it’s honestly not. You need to do the splicing, the benefits are too powerful not too, but the game is not about that. The game is about building the station and choosing the most opportune moments to select certain actions on the board, which is more up my alley.
The first game was definitely a learning game for us, it took a while before we started thinking like ‘Hey, that’s what we’re supposed to do’, and I’m not even entirely sure if I do know what I’m supposed to do next time, but that’s fine, I like that. From what I’ve seen my guess is the game has quite a replay value with all the tiles coming up at different times and being placed on different locations each time. The same goes for the cards, some may be more useful to obtain early game but if they don’t pop up you’ll have to figure out something else. Here I go again, it’s a nice puzzle to figure out what the best strategy is with the tiles in front of you every turn. It’s quite a point salad and it wasn’t always clear to me how I could gather the most points, but it kept things interesting and I was already thinking of how I would do things different during our next game, which usually is a good sign.
Despite all this it isn’t an overly heavy game, with 2 it played really quick, the information opens up slowly and you gradually get introduced to an expanding range of options every round which isn’t overwhelming at all. I do have some concerns, with 2 players there’s not a whole lot of building going on so the map stayed rather small and options probably somewhat more limited as opposed to a 4-player game. Not entirely sure, but I’ll be finding that out whenever I find 3 players to join me for this one. And while I think the options and interaction may be more interesting at a higher playercount I worry about AP, but again I’ll have to play to find out. All in all this is an enjoyable point salad type of worker placement game with a nice twist (or a strong push if you want to attach the components to your workers for the first time).
Thursday I received a message that Lisboa had arrived and I went to pick it up right after work. I’d been eagerly awaiting this game. If you’ve read some of my posts before you may have noticed I really like some of Vital Lacerdas designs, mainly Kanban and The Gallerist. I’d seen so many pictures, reviews, session reports, blog posts, and anything else one can name about Lisboa in the past months, some people were very positive about it while others were a little reluctant. I tried not reading too many of these reports and thoughts just to not blur my expectations and find out for myself if I liked it.
Saturday around noon I started reading the rules and setting up the game, a little under 2 hours later Katrien joined me to play the game. Right away I noticed this was going to be harder for me to grasp compared to The Gallerist and Kanban, the main reason for this is the theme. I’m not really interested in history, at all, it’s part of the reason I’m more drawn to games about producing and building things since it’s in my line of interest. I had a hard time going through the history lesson of the rule book but if I like games about building and production this still perfectly fits in that category as your rebuilding an entire city. The history lesson was interesting and I learned a few things from the rulebook other than the rules for the game, but it didn’t click with me. The political terms and strange Lisbon (do I say this right?) names only made it more confusing for me but I struggled through it and managed to even explain it to Katrien in a somewhat decent way. During the course of the game it changed into the builder, the king and the politician as I was in no way able to remember the names, but that’s okay.
There was one thing that had me worried, the cards, I highly prefer an open worker placement game where you roam around the board and place your workers on desired spaces. This is completely different from that as you have to play cards to perform certain actions. My worry was all for nothing as the game just worked so well, the multi-use cards offered just as many options as a board with action spots and playing a card felt like choosing an action for me so it may as well have been the same. Of course it couldn’t have been because of the benefits when playing a card into your portfolio. Lisboa has an influence track comparable to the one of The Gallerist, I loved it in The Gallerist and I liked it just as much here. I haven’t really used it though so I doubt I’ve optimally played the game (which is to be expected when playing the first few times). There’s not a whole lot to say after playing this for the first time, I need to play it more to actually comprehend all viable strategies and to really get the flow of the game. It’s not that I didn’t understand the game after one time, I understood every small part just fine, but now it’s a matter of interlocking all the different actions and possibilities to really comprehend the entire thing. Building stores and public buildings is the heart of the game, that’s for certain, how can it not be when the theme is rebuilding the beautiful city of Lisbon but when do you build the stores/public buildings and which benefits are more important than others at what time and why? I don’t know yet, but I’m looking forward to find out.
An extremely vague and small overview for now but I’m sure I’ll talk more about it in upcoming blog posts since I was really intrigued after my first game. We played the hours away, I did not get distracted from the game even one second and that’s what I love about The Gallerist and Kanban to. From start to finish my head is in the game, and I enjoy every second of it.
My mom recently got this reaction game at Spellenfestival and she wondered if she could play it with some of her friends during the holidays. I said she probably wouldn’t like it as it’s a reaction game but she wanted to try it anyways. She came over Saturday night and we played a few games.
The goal in this game is to catch as many mice as possible. A mouse gets flipped face up and if you have one of the exact same garments the mouse is wearing in your hand and you’re the first to play that card on the mouse card you catch the mouse. If you don’t have any matching clothes you call ‘Mausgeflippt’, play all your cards and you catch the mouse aswell. It’s all about being fast. I like reaction games, but this one wasn’t it for me, it was just playing cards and it was a little too easy to see at times so it wasn’t challenging. My mom wasn’t convinced either and donated the game to me.
After Mausgeflippt, we played Bärenpark. She had enjoyed playing this at the local fair last week and wanted to play it again. We played without the goal cards, I’ll introduce those to her once she’s fully familiar with the base game which won’t take long.
I really enjoy Bärenpark, I like relaxing puzzle games and Bärenpark is just that, it’s so fun! I was really thinking out my turns to see which park extension I’d get and where I would put it to finish the puzzle as optimal as possible, fast and with a lot of points. My mom didn’t seem to bother with that much, she took whatever suiter her best at the time and ended up with a really nice park. A better park than mine actually, she scored 98 points while I had 93. And she decided this was the game she could play with her friends during the holidays so I guess she’ll be borrowing it sometime soon. I like how she really enjoys playing games, I can see it’s growing on her especially with the colder winter and autumn days that await us.
There was some time left for a small game and we played The Game Extreme. We have played the original version of the game numerous times but at a low playercount we win most of the time so I suggested to try this variant. It’s significantly harder to win this one, we had 27 cards left our first try and on the second time 15. We’ve found a new challenge with this variant. Still, such a shame about the artwork as I really don’t like the looks of the game.
A few weeks ago I played my first game of Fabled Fruit with Katrien and my mom, I was glad they both enjoyed it and was planning to play the entire ‘campaign’ in no-time. No such luck, I’ve taken the game with me on numerous occasions but it never got played. That doesn’t matter though, it’s not all games all the time and I understand that (sometimes, I’m quite set on my gaming you know). On Sunday however there was some time to play a small game and since I’d only taken 2 with me and with the other being Whistle Stop, we quickly agreed to play a short game of Fabled Fruit. I really like this game system and find it quite enjoyable. Looking forward to playing it for several weeks now did take some shine of the game as it turned more fun in my head than it is in reality. It’s a fun game and all but it’s quite simple, which I don’t mind but I don’t really care for either. I’ll happily play through the entire game once, even if it takes me 2 years to do it, but after that I’m wondering if it’ll return to the table ever again.
That’s all I played this week, another great week if you ask me and I can’t wait to play most of these games again!
Thanks for reading.
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eady for another weekly recap filled with games? Let’s start!
The gaming week started on Monday, as it should every week but that doesn’t always happen. I received Pay Dirt for my birthday last August and had been curious about it but up until now I hadn’t yet taken the time to delve into the rulebook. On Monday I was up for it and Katrien agreed to play along after I’d studied the rules and explained them to her.
Katrien bought this game for me with good reasons, it’s a euro game, you build a company, you acquire some sort of resources or you accomplish other goals and theme is very prominent in the game. All things I (and Katrien too) like, this should be a hit! But was it?
It’s a rather easy game, you start with some basic crew members, some rusty tools and a little money. During the game you acquire more workers, sometimes with special abilities, better equipment and maybe some extra gear, you’ll also want to discover new claims to dig for gold. The game is played over several rounds, first everyone gets to bid in an auction phase. The starting player opens an auction on either a worker, a piece of equipment or a claim. Bidding for that item goes on until everyone has passed and the highest bidder takes the tile. After that it’s up to the next player in order to start an auction, the only restriction is that he/she is not allowed to open an auction on the same type, so if the previous player just auctioned equipment the current player can choose to open an auction on personnel or claims. You can pass to start an auction, or you may have to when you don’t have money to afford the tile. The auction phase lasts until there are as many tiles auctioned as there are players. Bought tiles are immediately placed on your ‘factory’.
Next up is the worker phase, where you use workers to dig gold and move the gold through your machines until they reach the end of the process and you get the gold nuggets on the specific gold tiles. You can also sell gold nuggets for money, which you’ll have to do if you want to have a better infrastructure later on or you can send workers out to buy camp/claim gear which grant you benefits (you usually have to use workers to activate them). Every time a claim piece is shifted onto one of your machines, that machine wears out. A wear cube is placed on the machine when that happens, if the machine is filled with wear cubes it’s no longer useable and in some cases it’s even broken and will be discarded from the game. Evidently you can use workers to remove these wear cubes. A rather simple worker phase if you ask me.
After the worker phase there is a hardship phase. The player with the least gold draws as many hardship cards as there are players picks one and passes the left over cards to his left neighbor who does the same. These cards are no fun, they are setbacks most of the time and more often than not they are rather mean. When playing with 2 this can be rather harsh. The start player looks at the temperature drop depicted on his/her hardship card and adjusts the temperature. If the temperature reaches 0 the game is over and whoever has the most gold nuggets wins the game.
After the hardship phase there’s an income phase, everyone gets 2k from the bank, the start player token is passed on to the left and a new round can start.
There is one thing you need to know about the claim tiles, every tile holds 3 ‘digging’ grounds and you know when buy the claim if the gold amount there will be low, intermediate or high. The low tiles will have 2 to 4 nuggets the intermediate 3-5 and the high 4-6, you don’t know how many nuggets are on a tile until after you have washed and sorted everything in your little set up. When the ground tile reaches the end of the washing and sorting line you’ll see how many nuggets you found. Thematically that may be correct, but for me, in a game that lasts over an hour where your decisions are somewhat important a lot of the scoring depends on how lucky you are with the tiles you receive and for me that was a very annoying part about the game.
I think Pay Dirt may work for some, but it doesn’t for me and I was surprised Katrien liked it as much as she did. I liked the engine building and the production process simulation which all worked really well but I didn’t like the auctioning, I also disliked the luck element with the nuggets/tile and I really hated the hardship cards, I found them way too cruel. Although there are some positive sides they are strongly outweighed by the negatives. I feel like pointing out again that the negatives aren’t because the game is bad or it doesn’t work but because it doesn’t work for me.
Katrien won the first game of the week since she gathered 38 gold nuggets, focusing on less ground tiles but the high profit ones while I only had 32 nuggets, I had quite some more tiles but all low profit ones. Because I shifted more tiles it was less efficient, I had to remove more wear cubes during the game.
On Tuesday Katrien and I went over to a friend’s house to play Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia. The few Stonemaier games we’ve played were quite the success. Needless to say that expectations were high when my friend suggested to play this. We played a 5 player game, the game explanation was over quickly and before I knew it we were good to go. The goal in this game is to place all your 10 stars on the board, and be the first to do it.
Euphoria is a worker (dice) placement game, where the dice value depicts a certain knowledge level. Different dice values grant you different bonuses or action rewards. Except for the dice there are also worker cards to your disposal which allow you some extra stuff as well. It’s mainly a resource collection game with some nice twists to it. There’s the knowledge for the dice, when it’s too high your workers get more ‘aware’ and they will leave you which will lead you to want less workers at times. There are also markets which add some area control to the game, you can place a worker to construct a certain market, once the market is constructed (meaning all construction places have been filled) the market will be build and every player who helped constructing is granted a star on the depicted area. This can lead to you starting up a market construction site, but if no one joins you that worker is lost until you either retrieve it or you build the entire market yourself (which is way too burdening). These are all fun aspects to keep the brain twirling and crunching while playing.
I’m not going to delve into the rules here, mainly because I don’t remember them all too well, I just remember the fun little aspects of the game and how I felt during and after playing it. Our session turned out to be very close, once one of my friends placed their 10th star, 3 of us were only one or two turns away from doing the same which is always fun. It adds some positive tension and stress to the game. The fifth player wasn’t successful at all, he was the only one with a worker card of the yellow color so no one really played on the track to make that card more powerful and he decided against it as well. In the game you can reveal cards when working on a certain track, if more players have the same color cards the burden of working on the track is divided but for him that wasn’t the case. My first thought was: “where are all the action spaces on this board?”. It was such a busy board and it took some getting used too, I may have liked it a little less .. radiant. Other than that I don’t have anything negative to say because one game felt like just scratching the surface. It’s not an overly heavy game but for some reason I can’t make up my mind on this one yet after one play. I don’t even know if I liked or disliked it, but it was interesting for sure.
On Wednesday it was time for gaming with the club at my FLGS, as usual me and another player were a little early so we started with a quick game. Dr Microbe sure fits that description so I set it up and we played. You’re supposed to figure out which microbes to get from the tray in the middle and put them in your own petri dish as quick as possible. There’s a few tiny rules like the bacteria has to have another color and form than the microbes and all microbes must be of different shapes.
This is the next game in the Dr series after Dr Eureka and just like Dr Eureka I don’t dislike it, but there are more fun reaction games out there, at least for 2.
Once we were done catching and throwing microbes over the table people started walking in and gaming groups started to form. I had taken a few games with me and was most keen to play Manhattan Project: Energy Empire again, especially with a higher playercount. I found some people who liked to join, a few knew the first game in the series but all were new to this one. I explained the rules and was surprised how easily I remembered everything, that’s usually a good sign, it’s a sign that everything works really well together and is memorable because of that.
Up until now I had always focused on building green (government) buildings and keeping my pollution as low as possible. This time I wanted to try something different and went for a steel-based take on the game. I bought and performed mostly industry cards and actions. Due to focusing on those industry cards I had my steel and plastic ready every round to work myself up on the united nations track. I reached the first place as fast as I could and after that I started shifting focus from industry back to government. I tried achieving the cards worth most points and got rid of (a lot of) pollution on my player board. Everything worked rather smoothly and although there were 3 other players I never felt blocked on the game board which may have just been lucky as the others were trying different strategies. Manhattan project is such a solid eurogame, it’s a joy to play. I like how it only lasted 2 hours with 3 new players and how time flies when playing. This time I won, 107 points, closely followed by 94 of the second player. Being first on the UN track and 5 good achievements made the difference.
On Thursday no games were played, but that didn’t matter as I was already looking forward to a great gaming weekend that started with Pixie Queen on Friday night. 2 of my best gaming buddies came over to play and learn the game. I memorized the rules from last time and was looking forward to not being trampled by the queen this time. While the intention to play better this time was really apparent for me, it didn’t quite seem to go very well after round 1. We all decided to offer silver, and if the queen doesn’t get her food no-one gets any rewards. On top of that, no pixies climbed the social ladder so all actions on the board kept requiring two worker discs to be placed. Because of that it took a while for the game really started shifting gears, but once it did it all got interesting. I made 2 rings early and worked my way up the silver track, not bidding any food. The rings granted me bonus points because of a bonus tile I chose at the start of the game so it seemed like the evident way to go.
After a round or 3 silver and gold started getting harder to come by as my friends shifted focus towards it too. For a while I didn’t do a whole lot, but I decided to work a pixie or two up to the top and to hoard resources to use for the offering points at the end of the game, once they started getting worthwhile. This seemed to work and I had the right resources at the right time, I climbed to the top of the ladder several times and made sure I was always first player if I had to demote a pixie back to the mines (which protects you from doing that). The last 2 rounds I managed to score another 18 points by offering goods and I already had the least penalty points on the track, so although the start was slow, things were looking up. I ended the game with a positive score, which I found a great accomplishment for myself! I do have to say the others were new to the game which may have made it possible for me to get in the positive scoring. End scores: 5, -28, -41.
After we were done playing Pixie Queen I got a filler to the table to end the night. We opted to play Take it Easy! as it’s played in 15 minutes and still offers fun decision making. It’s so tempting to put all the higher points on the big lines, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out so I opted to play ‘safe’. This nearly granted me victory but I fell 6 points short with a score of 157. This game has been received really well with everyone I’ve introduced it to so far and it’s one I’ll take to family gatherings for certain.
After finishing the first Unlock! series I wasn’t planning to play another escape room game soon but since we’d already acquired the secret lab scenario of the exit series and the previous exit games were really fun I did want to give it another go. Saturday morning I convinced Katrien to turn on her puzzling brain and delve into the mystery with me.
The secret cabin went so smooth so we kinda expected the same would happen when we’d play this one but for some reason the puzzles didn’t click with us at all. We made such silly mistakes and were off to a bad start right away. With the first puzzle I said we should do something but we both agreed that would be to easy and started overthinking it, in the end we should’ve just tried what we thought would be the answer in the first place as it was actually the right answer. This thing cost us nearly 10 minutes but we picked up the pace a little after that until about halfway through. We made such silly mistakes and couldn’t see past some obvious mistakes. It was just about to get frustrating when the bells started to ring in Katrien’s head and she helped us out of the mess. We finished in 79 minutes, which isn’t great but we were happy with the result. Our favorite Exit game is definitely The Secret Cabin though.
Saturday afternoon a friend and I went to a local fair called Boardgamefest. With a name like that, the afternoon looked really promising! I had requested to play Pret-A-Porter, one of the organizers has it in his collection and rated it quite high. I was intrigued by this since his gaming tastes align quite well with mine. Once my friend and I arrived we found the game rather quickly, and I could not wait to start playing! The game was set-up for us and explained in about 30 minutes. It all looked fun right away, because the theme was very attached to the mechanics and also because the game explainer explained it really well. The fact that he liked the game was evident and it worked infectious, my mind was working overtime as I was figuring out how I was going to deal with this game.
Pret-a-Porter is a game about fashion, you own a fashion company and you want to be the most thriving company by the end of the game, as do your opponents. The game is played over 12 rounds (months). Every third round is a scoring round, this resembles a quarterly fashion week/month. The other 2 months you prepare by expanding your company, hiring new employees, signing contracts and not unimportant: drawing new designs and gathering fabrics to finish those designs. You really need some finished products to show on the runway every third month. Every preparation month you have (only!) 3 workers, in turn order every player places a worker on a certain action field. There can be more players who take the same action but the first one will have more options. There are 3 available workers, contracts and company expansions available every round. The first player has all options to choose from but the second only has 2 and so on. In a 3 player game only 2 people can be at every action spot (yes we made a mistake if you look at the pictures), timing when and if you want to take a certain action is also important. Next up are the designs, 2 players can grab a design and first come is first served, only 4 designs are open to choose from. The designs can grant you several tokens like trend or quality tokens which are important during fashion week. Last but not least there are some fabric action spaces. The difference between the actions is buy 1 of each colour or buy as many as you like of 1 colour. If you buy 1 of each (you don’t have to buy all) the prices are a bit higher but the fabrics are of better quality. If you buy in bulk prices are lower, unless you opt for a higher quality which raises the price significantly, but in the end it may be worth it. The fabrics you buy are depicted by coloured cubes and you can place those on the designs you drew. If you place the correct coloured cubes on the design it is finished and models can show it on the runway during a scoring month. Every month you have to pay upkeep costs, the more employees and the more expansions the higher the cost... But it may be worth it later on.
During a scoring month you can present a certain line, every design belongs to one of those lines like the kids, sports or gala line. If you have more finished products of a certain line you can show them all. You could also show only 1 or even no designs. Once everyone chose which collection they will take to fashion week, scoring starts and 4 things are scored: number of models, quality of designs/fabrics, PR strength and if you follow trends. Each city has a different focus so in Paris quality may be important while in Rome you’ll get more rewards for following trends. This is really interesting as every round the focus will lay elsewhere, as is the same for every game since the cards get shuffled. Early in the year you’ll only visit one city but you’ll be able to score all 4 factors while later in year you’ll visit more and more cities but score less factors in every city. You’ll score a number of stars which will turn into ‘company value’ later on, you’ll also get more income when you have more earned more stars.
Anyways, this is all really vague and I realize that but maybe it gives you a certain idea. If you like thematic games with very interlocked mechanisms you should take a look at this game. Everything is tied together, every decision is important, and not only the decision you make but also when you make it. You can crash and fall if you don’t take what you need right away. When I started playing I thought, what would Katrien do. I could hear her say ‘a company that doesn’t invest won’t be successful’ so I got employees and extended my company early on. In the second quarter this felt like a mistake, I even had to take a loan. But soon I could see things started looking up, my investments started turning in to profit and it all started running like a well-oiled machine. I had to count money till the very last minute and my brain was ready to overheat but it was so rewarding once the game was over. I had been focused 100% throughout the entire game, it was all so challenging and it’s been a while since I’ve been this drawn to a certain game. I ended up winning this time but I’m already looking forward to introducing Katrien to this game, I hope she can look past the theme because it’s a nice economic simulation puzzle where everything you do matters.
Thanks for explaining the game Johan!
Unfortunately we had to leave after this one game as I had planned to go to a concert later that night. I enjoyed myself quite well and I find it a shame I didn’t have time to talk with other board game aficionados a little longer. They had also arranged a quiz, a lottery and the evening buffet looked really good! Looking forward to hearing when this event takes place next year, I’ll definitely try and keep my calendar open.
On Sunday it was time for another local event, this time a small fair near my parents’ home. Spellenfestival is just boardgamefestival in Dutch, so lucky me: 2 boardgamefests in 1 weekend! I had convinced my mom to join me on this adventure, she had been to a smaller fair with me once, but nothing like this. This fair had about 900 visitors so it’s bigger than what she’s used to. She’s not much of a gamer but she enjoys joining me every once in a while. The fair would open at 10 so I arrived at my mom’s home around 9:30, ready to leave for a day filled with gaming! No such luck as my mom thought an entire day would last too long and she wouldn’t be interested in playing games for that long. I understood and didn’t push (at least not too much) so we arrived at the fair a little before noon. Right as we entered I saw a game I’d liked to try with her.
Bärenpark is a game I had played twice already but I didn’t completely remember all the rules as I never read the rulebook myself. A nice volunteer sat down with us to teach and play. We played a shortened version of the game, using only 3 tiles and none of the special scoring bonuses. The game my mom and I have played over 50 times is Patchwork and although we both still enjoy it, a new puzzle game would be welcome. I bought Cottage Garden last year to be Patchworks follow up but it fell flat for me. Bärenpark on the contrary was a success from the start, for me, so I hoped my mom would like it too. And she did, after our short session I could see she enjoyed herself and I took the game home with me when we left the fair.
I started scanning the tables near us for the next game we could play, I was planning to keep my mom happy without overwhelming her with a bunch of heavy or uninteresting games (from her point of view). A few tables away Deep Sea Adventure was laid out and I’d heard good things about it. A mother and her son joined us for a quick session. I don’t know what I expected but I did expect more than rolling dice and carrying points. The oxygen meter is a nice twist of putting pressure to the game and is the heart of the game but it just couldn’t interest me. Throw a die, take a tile or don’t take a tile. Return to the surface or travel further? Are you lucky or aren’t you? This was a luck fest, and I do not mind that, what I do mind is if a luck based game leaves me unentertained and bored. The game looks cute and I see how many people enjoy it, my mom liked it a lot too, but I will not be adding it to the collection like I was actually planning to do so I’m glad I got to try before buy.
I took my mom to the Dutch publisher of NMBR9 is I thought they would have the game with them, to my surprise it was not on the tables so I asked a volunteer if they had it with them. She wasn’t sure and told us she could explain Jolly and Roger and she’d go look for NMBR9 while we played. Playing never hurts so I happily agreed and my mom just tagged along. Jolly & Roger is a 2 player game where you try and gain control over certain ships. Once you have control over a ship you can score points for the cards in the ship color. One player draws 5 cards and splits them, the other player gets to choose which portion they want and the player who split the cards takes the left over ones. The cards are of different values and colours. You can play them under the same colour ship as influence points, if you have most influence points for a ship you’ll have control over the ship. Instead of playing the cards as influence you can score them as points now if you wish to. You can flip the card over and use it as a 1 valued influence card on any ship. You score points at the end of the game for the ships you control and the cards you were able to score during the game. While it played quick and it was really a neat little game I knew this wouldn’t be for us during the explanation. It’s too confrontational and the pick and choose mechanism isn’t one I generally like and with only 2 players I find it even more lacking. Again, I see how people can like this, just not us.
When we finished played the volunteer had found NMBR9, a game I really loved playing and I looked forward to introducing it to my mom. The rules are so simple, if you want to build on a higher level: don’t create gaps and build over at least 2 other tiles. Tiles on lvl 1 are multiplied by 1 while tiles on lvl 2 are multiplied by 2 and so on. The fun part of this game is how you always think you’ve got it covered and you can go higher you always run in to problems because of how oddly the tiles are shaped. It’s an engaging puzzle game that lasts no longer than 15 minutes. About halfway through my mom had shifted her tiles so it looked as if she’d built over holes. She said she didn’t and rearranged the entire thing to its original state, I can only trust her on that. It looked really funny! I won by 3 points, and mom was already talking about how we should play it again if her colleague arrived. She had asked him to come and join us for a few games.
We went over to the other side of the hall where Chronicle Games was demoing 10 Minute Heist. It looked rather pretty so we asked for a demo. You have to reach the exit of the tower with as many valuable goods as possible. Most of certain goods/values/colors score you points but if you gather the most skulls you’ll lose some points. It didn’t feel quite engaging enough with 2 but I think it could be a fun experience when more players join the burglar team. It’s a nice filler game, but I wasn’t convinced after my playthrough, I would love to try it again at a higher playercount.
Next up was a silly game where you shoot kiwis in a box and try to shoot 4 of them next to each other so they form a square, and that’s all there is to it. We weren’t gifted enough to shine is this game, our Kiwis flew every direction: next to the box, over the box, to the other players, in a random opening, but never where we aimed for them to go. After 2 games without any of us winning we had enough of it. That’s when my mom’s colleague arrived and we returned to the booth where NMBR9 was located.
On our way there we were halted and asked to play Happy Salmon. I’ll never turn down a game of Happy Salmon, it’s too fun to turn down! My mom looked a little suspicious as the rules got explained but she joined anyways. That didn’t last long though, 20 seconds in she threw the cards on the table and decided to pass. I knew this wouldn’t be for her but it only lasted 2 minutes and I think it’s quite funny to look at so it doesn’t matter if you aren’t playing.
Since other players had taken the NMBR9 table we got a quick demo of 30 seconds, a party game which I had seen a hundred times before but I never actually played it. It’s fun but I don’t understand why the die is in there. We got about the same amount of words every turn but fell behind because we threw 2 all the time and the others threw 1 or 0. This was a little frustrating so I got distracted and looked for my bag to check on my phone. Couldn’t find my bag but my phone was on the table so no worries…. Untill I realized I couldn’t find my bag. I looked under my chair, under the table and everywhere around me… No bag! Well I was done playing that’s for sure. We made our way back through the halls passing every table where we sat but didn’t find my bag so I went to the organizers of the event and luckily someone had already turned in my bag. The little moment of panic passed and the table of NMBR9 was free now.
This time I couldn’t win, I left holes in my entire construction and could only put my low numbered blocks on higher levels which was a shame. My mom wasn’t doing great either, so we both lost and were over 10 points behind. But again, really enjoyed playing this.
During NMBR9 my mom’s colleague and his daughter had 2 requests: they wanted to play a ‘real’ boardgame and something heavier. They pointed towards Great Western Trail but I figured that would be a little too optimistic and I knew my mom wouldn’t enjoy a game like that. So instead I led them to where Montana was set up. It’s not completely an entry level game, but it’s not overly complicating either so I decided to give it a shot.
During the rules explanation my mom and her friend didn’t seem convinced, it also seemed a little much, but they went with it anyways. As we started playing I saw the rules started to sink in and all of them enjoyed playing. My mom’s colleague gave up on logically building settlements about halfway through and was enjoying himself with the sole purpose of gathering cows. While this looked silly at first he did have a lot of bonus items in the end and got third place close behind me and his daughter. My mom wasn’t far behind either, she had 9 tiles while her friend had 10, I had 11 and our other friend finished the game by placing her 12th tile. I’m glad I’ve tried this with non-gamers now, my mom knows quite some games but all entry level while her colleague and his daughter know Ticket To Ride and a few others but also nothing major. Montana worked really well and every time I play I enjoy it more. It’s fun racing game and as expected it’s a tiny step up from a so called gateway game but it’s still very interesting and tactical for seasoned players
The afternoon had passed in the blink of an eye, it was really enjoyable and there was time left for 1 more game and some shopping. Splendor is a game I sold about a year ago but I wanted to give it another go since the expansion released recently and I’ve been hearing good things about it. Also, it’s a perfect gateway game and that’s the genre I was looking to play today. After 3 rounds I knew why I don’t own this game anymore, I just don’t see it. I randomly buy things and try to achieve some goals but I’m always late to the party and not like ‘ah dang that was close I missed it by an inch’ but more like ‘wait, the party was last week?? Really???’. So yeah, I just gave up after a few plays of the game and after this session I don’t think I’ll revisit Splendor again any time soon. It doesn’t appeal to me either, it’s rather dry and lacks theme. But I own games like this and I enjoy games like this, I don’t know why Splendor doesn’t work for me, but it doesn’t.
After our game of Splendor we passed the sale booths one more time and I took Whistle Stop home with me, it looks like such a great game and I’ve read great things about it. I’ve played it this week already so next week you’ll know if I actually liked it! I feel like thanking the organization of Spellenfestival one more time, they made a really nice event that was enjoyable for every type of gamer. Everything was well arranged, there were lots of tables to play, there were some Essen releases to take a look at, great lottery prices, great group of volunteers, I will visit again next year! There is only one thing I regret, I forgot to take a look at Agra, I was so wrapped up in all the family games I’ve played I forgot to even take a peek at this stunning Quined release.
In other news: I've started prepping for SPIEL a while ago but now I've uploaded a geeklist with my games of interest. It's a work in progress but feel free to take a look and give me some feedback! I'm open for suggestions of games I overlooked and I enjoy reading opinions on the games already on there!
That’s it for this week!
Thanks for reading.
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A rather slow week, but a good one!
As you may or may not have noticed I’ve talked about all White Goblin Games Essen releases except this one. That’s about to change since I played my first few games of Claim on Monday. Claim is a beautiful trick-taking game for two. The box art is only the tip of the iceberg as you will notice when you open the tiny box. Nearly every card has its own artwork which makes it a stunning looking card game. The linen finish on the cards is a great plus too, so as far as component quality goes, this one meets the standards of the high expectations most people in the boardgaming hobby have nowadays.
Lilly sure knows how this claiming thing works
But what about the gameplay?
Claim is set in a kingdom where 5 factions live, they lost their king and now you and your opponent will fight for the throne. Well not really fight, you’ll try to get the most followers for each faction to make the kingdom your own. This happens in 2 phases, first there is a recruitment phase which is followed by a gathering phase after which the winner is determined.
The five factions are represented by numbered cards, each faction is represented by 10 cards valued 0 to 9 except for the goblins which have 4 extra 0 value cards and the knights don’t have 0 and 1 value cards. All these cards are shuffled after which 13 are dealt to each player. Every player will use these 13 cards to play the recruitment phase.
During the recruitment phase 1 card is drawn from the pile of cards that hasn’t been dealt. This card is placed face-up on the table and it is this card you are able to recruit during this trick. The Leader (the start player or the winner of the last trick) plays a faction card from his hand. The other player has to follow by playing the same faction card. Whoever played the highest card wins the trick. If you are unable to follow and you play another faction, you lose the trick. The winner takes the face up card and puts it face-down in his recruitment pile. The loser recruits the next card from the deck by drawing it. So every recruitment turn the winner gets the face up card while the loser will take a face down card from the stack. This results in situations where you will want to lose because the face up card may not be what you want. All cards played for this trick are put in a general discard pile and won’t be used anymore during this game.
There is more to the game than this, the factions have special powers. During recruitment phase the following powers apply:
-When playing a knight after a goblin the knight wins regardless of the value (must still follow if possible)
-When playing undead they don’t go to the discard pile, they go to the scoring pile of who-ever won the trick
-Doppelgangers are wild cards, you can use them instead of following. They don’t get special powers from the faction you follow though. If a doppelganger is played as the opening card you must still follow if possible.
Once all 13 cards are played everyone has recruited 13 faction members that are willing to fight for them during the gathering followers phase of the game. The winner of the last trick in phase one has to start and the rules are not a whole lot different from phase one. Instead of battling for a recruit you are now battling for followers to add to your score pile. You play the trick, whoever has the highest card wins and gets the both played cards in his score pile.
Again a few powers apply:
-Doppelgangers and knights: same powers as in the recruitment phase
-Dwarves are collected by the player losing the trick during phase 2, they like to root for the underdog. Any non-dwarf cards played still go to the winner of the trick.
If all 13 cards are played the phase is over and the new king can be revealed. Every player counts the number of followers they have per faction and the one with the majority gets a vote. If there is a tie the one with the highest valued follower gets the vote. Whoever gathers at least 3 votes wins the game and can be king of this wonderful land.
When we played it for the first time it felt rather odd, I had never played a trick taking game for two and the phases this game consists of took a few plays to get used to, at least for me. You don’t always want to win a trick in phase 1 which adds a certain amount of depth a trick taking game for two should require. If you just had to win all the battles it wouldn’t be as interesting as it is now. You want the best recruitment pool in phase 2 and that doesn’t always mean getting the higher cards, you could ignore goblins and try to only get knights so you can have both the goblin and the knights vote if it works out. You could try and go for a lot of undead in the first phase if your hand allows it and not have to worry about it any further in phase 2 and so on. The 2 phases add a dimension to the game that was necessary to make it as interesting as a 4-player trick taking game, as do the faction abilities. I can see this game being a standard traveling game for us. Trick taking games remind me of holidays with the family where we played cards, in a time where I didn’t know of modern board gaming yet. So I’m happy to have found a trick taking game that works for two, one that I will take on holidays with my partner and one that will be played for probably years to come. Do keep it mind, it’s still ‘just’ a trick taking game, this does not stand a chance when I have to ever decide to play this or a heavy eurogame for the rest of my life. But when talking solemnly about the small card game categories, this is one to look at.
Katrien won the first game, she had 4 votes while I only had one. She’s usually faster in grasping how games work, I’m a little on the slow side, even with simpler games like this one. The second time I was ready for battle and I won with 3 votes, just barely as we tied in number of knights but I had the highest valued one which resulted in me getting the vote. Looking forward to playing this again soon.
Since Claim only takes about 15 minutes to play we had quite some time left to play some other games. Katrien wanted to play Star Realms, and while I didn’t agree at first I couldn’t come up with anything else I really wanted to play so we squeezed a quick game of Colony Wars in.
Katrien is really good at this game, she plays the game on her phone every once in a while and she’s better in seeing what combos are good and which bases you shouldn’t leave behind when they’re in the trade row. As for me, I’m not so good at this, I try and stick with about 2 factions to create a strong deck but I always derail from that strategy and end up with a highly cluttered deck of random cards, good cards that just don’t work well together. I wasn’t really a good sport, I started whining about how she always wins this but I would play one game and then we’d play something else. This time however I got quite a few strong bases and a good combo of ships that gave me a lot of early damage. Katrien couldn’t heal it up and her engine wasn’t ready yet, she was well underway to demolish my fleet but I was right on time to prevent it and take victory one turn before she would’ve turned me to dust. So yes, it happened, I won and I’m going to try and be a better sport next time. Especially since we backed the Frontiers campaign and I’ll be seeing a lot more of this game in the months to come.
One game of Star Realms was enough for me though. I didn’t feel the need to play again since I wanted to feel the victory a little longer. No that’s just jokes, I just wanted to play another escape room game. After our first miserable scenario of Unlock! last week we were ready to try again. We were more prepared as we now knew how the machines worked and got the hang of how a fully card driven escape game worked, or at least we thought we were. We fired up our tablet and opened the app, we unwrapped ‘the Squeek and the Sausage’ scenario and we were good to go. Doctor Noside had us trapped and we had to get out within the hour to stop him from destroying the world, at least we had a good drive for breaking out. The puzzles did go smoother in comparison to our first play, but we still struggled a lot. I’m still not convinced by this, I don’t get the escape room feeling with this game. At least not like I do in Escape Room: The Game or the Exit series. I find the puzzles less intuitive and sometimes rather far fetched while this wasn't even the hardest one in the box. We still have to play the dr Groose scenario which is one step up in difficulty. We managed to escape with a lot of hints and a few mistakes but we didn’t get the feeling of accomplishment when we finished which is a shame for a game like this. If the third scenario doesn’t bring a better feel to the table I’ll probably let the future Unlock! series pass me by.
I had to wait until Wednesday to play another game, a friend was coming over and we had decided the main game of the night would be Slplotters The Great Zimbabwe. The last time I played this game was in January of this year, the rules weren’t fresh at all. In fact I had to reread them entirely. Before that I had gone to BGG and read some comments in the rating section. I started with the lower ratings and the more I read the more I wondered why I had ever enjoyed this game. It was broken down to a soulless, fiddly and dry eurogame with bland components and no fun factor at all. I said to my friend that I really wanted to play it now to decide if it could stay in the collection. I was highly influenced by everything I’d read earlier and thought the game would be discarded sooner rather than later.
Right on time, set up and rules were taken care of, my friend arrived and we could get going. As for the comments I read before, yes it’s rather dry and yes it could fit in the soulless category if you only take one glance at the somewhat bland components… But it is fun, it really is, at least I think so. It’s the gateway game to other Splotter games. It’s got the same feel you get when playing Roads & Boats but ten times easier. It’s at least as cut throat as Food Chain and the game is challenging to delve into and a joy to try and master. Setting up an economy you should benefit more from as opposed to your opponent is no easy task. You want to manage while you want to take down your opponent but you both have the same resources and opportunities on the map. You want to gather income of the most wanted goods and raise the prizes to your benefit without hurting yourself. You want to acquire a good god card and maybe some of the other cards to help you without making your Victory Requirement unreachable. Every turn is a math exercise, it’s not for everyone, but it is for me. I really really enjoyed playing this again. I tried to get by without a god or a lot of other cards keeping my Victory requirements low but in the end I got my VR at the same time as my friend and hers was way higher. A great game which I’ll try and play again soon because not playing it for 8 months doesn’t benefit the game.
After The Great Zimbabwe it was time for some less heavy thinking and I got another game of Claim in. I had been wanting to play it and explore it a little further since my first few plays on Monday so I was glad my friend agreed to play. She also agreed on how pretty the cards looked and after a quick explanation we were good to go. This game takes a round of getting used to, at least this was the case for both me and Katrien on Monday and also for my friend today. Once you get the hang of it it’s a joy to play though, turns go fast, it’s a fun team to joke around about during the game and it’s an accessible game that could fit with a broad audience. I’m going to try and see if I can get my mom to play it in the upcoming weeks, I wonder how she feels about the theme. Us boardgamers, we can look past it rather easily in a small game but I wonder how a game with zombies, knights and goblins will do in comparison to just hearts and spades. I’m not all to convinced that non-gamers will look passed the theme. Anyways, I won with 3 votes and although we could’ve played another session the next game was already staring at us from the other side of the table so we moved on to the next one.
I had watched a playthrough video of this game a few weeks ago and I like tile laying games and building kingdoms or castles or whatever really, but Castles of Caladale allows you to do something that’s often not allowed in tile laying games… It allows you to change whatever you’ve built at ANY time, as long as you still make all the pieces fit you can rearrange your castle as often as you want. I was intrigued by this and since my friend bought this game a few weeks ago she brought it with her on request.
The game is very simple you take a tile and you either build it or you put it face down and it scores you one point. Every built tile however scores you 2 points. You get extra points when building tiles with a flag on them and when you can finish the entire castle, meaning it is completely surrounded by air. When you grab a tile you must be able to place it when you don’t want to put it face down, you cannot keep it to build later on. Honestly, although I was intrigued by this moving around all tiles thing it didn’t sink in… AT ALL. I ended up just building and never shifted a single tile, it just didn’t feel right, I didn’t want to shift them… I just couldn’t do it. I had a great time building my castle, but I don’t see the use to shift the tiles, it’s chaotic and takes meaningful decisions away as you can just shift everything again later on. And without shifting anything, I even won. I wouldn’t mind playing again, but it’s unfortunately not a game for me.
This puzzle game has been hitting the table a lot recently. I find it a perfect filler to end or open a gaming night with. There’s no downtime at all, the puzzling is really fun but also a little luck dependent as you don’t know what tiles will be drawn for the game which adds a nice amount of tension to the game. You’re hoping for the good tiles to show up but that doesn’t always happen. But if you don’t get them, no one will. Whoever took the least risks on their player mat or whoever had the most luck will have gathered the most points. Yes it’s luck dependent, but it’s a family game. It’s a game where you get to puzzle but more importantly it should be fun. This game was fun, I tried getting more points from 9’s by making 2 rows of them, this only came back to bit me as not a lot of 9’s were drawn. Luckily my friend had the same problem so even though both our scores were miserable I still managed to win.
On Thursday some other friends came over and they had requested to play Montana which I really felt like playing too so I set it up while waiting for their arrival. Once they arrived I started explaining the rules which is done in a few minutes, this game is very easy to comprehend and also easy to explain which resulted in a smooth first game for my opponents.
There were only 2 waterbags on the map (which grant you an extra turn) so my first priority was trying to get one of them. I wanted the one more to the middle of the map but I got beaten to it so I took the less favourable positioned one (at least I thought it was) and started working out what to do next. I figured not to waste time on bidding this game, I didn’t need big stones ore copper in the area where I had already placed my first tiles. I decided to stock up many resources and try and end the game with 2 turns in a row, using my waterbag. I was left unharmed as my other friends started building close to the centre blocking the third player. I was happily gathering and placed a tile somewhere between my gathering turns because otherwise I couldn’t place them all in 2 turns.
I got me some cows along the way so no one really noticed how close I was to laying all my tiles. I only needed one more turn but it could get close if someone noticed and blocked my way… They didn’t notice, I put 3 tiles n the map, making a 4 in a row and placing another tile for free. I drank my waterbag and placed my final 3 tiles too to finish the game. My friend had one turn left but could only place 7 of her 10 tiles while her husband only placed 5. I got away with it this time but I doubt I’ll get away with it again. Fun game!
Montana is a quick game so we still had some time left and we decided to play Bali. I didn’t take any altars and focused on getting stone gatherers and a few specific food gatherers. I also tried to have most priests throughout the game, which worked for the first half of the game and got me quite some points. After that I focused on getting food every turn by using my stone to buy it. I had a lot of peanuts, bananas and peppers but I didn’t buy or gather any rice. Since I never played an altar card I didn’t get points from them nor did I influence the points a lot. I could see what the others were offering and I had a good idea of what the majority would be. So instead of trying to modify the results I just went with it and bought the food that would gain me most points. I had quite some gatherers so food was cheap, way cheaper than paying 7 stone for 4 points from the altar. My friends never bought a single food so they had about 8 cards fewer than me. They may not have gotten points from cards but they got the points from their altars which pretty much evened out in the end. What made the difference was my majority in priests which resulted in me having a final score of 52 while my friends had 41 and 32 respectively. I haven’t played it often enough but the few times I’ve played it I was able to follow a different strategy which looks promising for replayability.
Saturday evening, after a fun day of visiting my family, Katrien and I were up for the last Escape Game challenge left in our Unlock! copy. This would prove to be difficult, it had a difficulty level of 3 while we already struggled escaping the lower difficulty levels from The Formula and Squeek and the Sausage. Anyways this time we were to escape ‘the island of Dr Groose’, an antique collector who has made it difficult for us to get of the island. We played it as a 2 player game although I knew it was recommended for more players and I’ll start by saying that I would not recommend anyone to play it as a 2 player game. The other 2 scenarios worked ‘great’ with 2 but this one didn’t. The reason is because you get split up into two groups, and work out quite a bit separately before the teams join back together and can share all information openly. This is just too difficult when only playing with 2, and it’s less fun as well. You’re not playing as a team anymore and you can’t positively work to a solution together. Also, I think I’m not smart enough for the Unlock! series. This scenario nothing seemed to make sense to me, I knew what to do but I didn’t seem to have the correct cards and we got a few hints which made it even more confusing and we missed some cards so I was all confused and disappointed by the time we finished. Have the riddles I didn’t understand and the other half a found a bit random. Unlock! is not an escape game implementation I’ll be revisiting again, which is too bad because I did like the mechanisms of putting two cards together and working the machines etc. Anyways, I’ve still got an Exit box left to play and look forward to that.
That’s it for gaming this week, on Sunday I went to demo a few games at a local games store to celebrate its 25th birthday. It was a fun day but I was exhausted when I got home so I ended up not playing any more games myself.
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I enjoyed quite some good and new games this week.
On Monday one of my gaming buddies came over, it had been months since we played a game together but now the holidays are over people have more time to plan gaming sessions. We agreed to play Bruges, I hadn’t played this game yet but it was recently added to my collection. I never paid much attention to the game, the box didn’t really attract me and I was too busy wandering in the cult of the new to ever give this one a chance. When I was able to buy it a few weeks ago I decided to just go with it based on the good ratings and the Feld name being on the cover. Stefan Felds games have been sneakily growing on me, I liked the Oracle of Delphi and I have enjoyed playing Castles of Burgundy a lot, Trajan is another title that made it to my shelves just recently without really knowing it was a Feld. Owning 4 of his designs now makes him one of the most represented designers on my shelves.
Bruges turned out to be a real success, it’s stated as being best with 3 or 4 players but I enjoyed myself greatly during this 2 player session. Building up the beautiful city of Bruges is a great theme for someone living in Belgium, I visited on numerous occasions and I can recommend anyone to pay Bruges a visit if they ever get the chance.
In the game you try to build up Bruges and try to better and more than your opponents. Every round you draw 5 cards and play them to perform an action: hire workers, build a building, get coins, hire the person depicted on the card, build a canal section or discard a threat marker. The cars colour has to match the action, if you play a red card you hire red workers, discard a red threat marker etc. Not going any further into the rules but I really liked this optimization puzzle of using the right colors for the right actions and trying to find the most sufficient way to build the city. The game lasted about 45 minutes which is a great time frame if you ask me, it’s not engaging enough to last longer but it offers enough interesting choices to entertain me for an hour or so every once in a while. Great game. We tied, but my friend had 1 more coin so she came out victorious.
My friend brought this game with her, it was recently added to their collection and I had stated my interest in it before. I remember a huge version being present at SPIEL last year, I was intrigued by it but never gave it a shot. It seemed rather expensive for a quick building game, and balancing things isn’t something I’m good at. In Junk Art you make art out of local junk trying to gather fans of your work.
We played the introduction game if I recall correctly, consisting of 5 different ‘cities’ which are all sort of mini-games. In the end it came down to either building the highest tower, stacking the most pieces, being the first to use all components to build a tower etc.
I had a great time, it was funny and it’s a game that draws you in completely, trying to stack all the pieces together without the construction falling. In the end I think it’s a nice activity every once in a while but I don’t really feel the need to own a game like this. Junk Art is something that will do great at family gatherings and such, but I don’t see it being played often with my gaming group. I lost this one as well due to balancing issues as was to be expected.
On Wednesday it was time for another clubweek, I was hauling Evolution: Climate with me for weeks now but it never got chosen to be played. This time I decided to not bring any other games so I left with a bag, as usual, but this time instead of being overfilled there was only Evolution: Climate. I got distracted when I arrived and before I knew it other tables were formed, but there were still 2 or 3 people not sure about what game they wanted to play, I happily waved my Evolution box around and soon it was decided, we’d be evolving species and trying to survive all climate changes thrown at us.
I have played the base game a few times and The Beginning game a few more, Climate however had only been out to be played once. I had to quickly go through the rules again as I had prepared the game 5 weeks ago when I started dragging it around but now my memory was failing me. We got started rather quick, and we played the quick play variant. Everyone would play cards at the same time. This added some chaos to the game as we didn’t really discuss upfront how we were going to do that. In the end some players were faster than others, who sometimes even made adjustments. We should’ve simultaneously chosen the cards but could’ve revealed them one by one to minimize the chaos. I don’t know if I’ll play the quick play variant again next time, especially when introducing new players to the game, all the traits and possibilities can be a bit much at first so a learning game where everyone plays in turn order may be more rewarding in the long run. It also adds different strategic layers to the game.
During our session we got scrutinizing heat in round too because everyone played to many suns, resulting in no food and since we all had no carnivores we lost all our species. This seemed rather odd, but we had just messed up the game by not paying attention to food scarcity and climate impact enough. We learned quick and the game started to flow by round 3, the scores were rather close in the end: 49-48-40-39, I won but just barely. I loved the extra dimension Climate adds to the game, it’s more challenging and it works just as well, if not better, thematically. Great game.
Katrien joined us after our game of Evolution, she usually picks me up after game nights at the club but since she was a bit early she played along. We played a 4-player game of Saboteur, I don’t really like the game but I hadn’t played it in years and since I know Katrien enjoys it I just went with the group and decided to try and have fun. What I don’t like about Saboteur is that while I may be able to bluff, I can’t combine it with sabotaging the road without being caught. Of course I got the Saboteur card during the first round, and I played really stupid. Everyone knew I was Saboteur by turn 2, so I just let the dwarves get their gold, there was nothing I could really do. It didn’t matter too much , I was probably going to be a dwarf on the next round. Nope, just my luck, I got Saboteur again. It wasn’t as bad as the first time, but being the only Saboteur doesn’t make it easy at all. Again I lost and got no gold.
The third round I was the first to draw a new role card, Saboteur, I really didn’t feel like doing that again so I reshuffled the cards. I got a regular dwarf card, if I had gotten Saboteur again I would’ve played it but this was just not my game. During the last round we all sabotaged eachother but we made it to the gold in the end and there was no Saboteur in the game… I can’t see myself playing this again soon.
Thursday we brought a visit to Katrien’s parents and I took Ali Baba with me. After dinner they were up for a quick game so I set it up and started explaining the rules. In Ali Baba you try to collect treasure sets that will grant you points. There are 10 different types of treasure, 6 of each, and they get stacked in a pyramid, like Mahjong tiles. Only the ones that aren’t covered by other tiles will be revealed. The pyramid only consists of 54 tiles, 6 are returned (blind) back to the box. On your turn you take a tile, use its special ability and reveal tiles when you have opened them up.
If you have 1 ring at the end of the game it will grand you one point, however if you have 6 it will grant you 21 points. There are 6 colors for every treasure, each colour has a special power. If you take a pink tile for instance you get 5 points, take a green tile and get another adjacent tile during your turn, take a yellow tile and get a tile from an opponent, a white tile allows you to protect a certain item or colour on the board until it’s your turn again while blue tiles give you points for every tile you revealed by taking the tile and brown tiles give you points for every treasure of the tipe you already own. So when you take a brown lamp and you now own 3 lamps you get 6 points (it’s 2 for every treasure of the type owned).
This is a family game and at first I thought it wouldn’t hold my interest at all, it’s just luck of draw I thought. And while there is certainly that it’s also really important to take the right colour tiles at the right moment and sometimes you have to take a tile that won’t grant you a lot of points but will make your opponent lose quite some. There are 2 variants for experienced players which I haven’t played yet but I’d suggest to play one of these instead of the regular game. In the regular game 6 tiles are returned to the box so if you’re unlucky you’re trying to complete a set of which some tiles were returned to the box. To avoid that you can remove 1 treasure type completely and everyone knows there will be 6 of every one of the 9 treasures in the game, making it way more tactical. Another option is to place the 6 tiles that would go to the box next to the pyramid, make sure there are no lamps there by sorting those out first. Now every time you take a lamp you can choose to either use the colours ability or use the lamps ability. The lamp ability allows you to take a tile from the 6 that were placed in the row at the beginning of the game. Both variants add welcomed depth to the game, it’s still an entry level family game but the luck is minimized making it vastly more enjoyable for the seasoned gamers out there. Was the game a success? If you ask Katrien’s parents it sure was, they requested a second play right away. For me it’s a game that I can enjoy every once in a while, there is more to it than you may think, our second game was already more fierce than the first and I can only see it becoming more tactical every session.
Recently a new Kickstarter project caught my interest, the expansion for The Networks, The Networks: Executives. This game has been in my hands on several occasions and for some reason I never bought the game, and I can’t really give an explanation why. Maybe because it’s a card driven game which often is less appealing to me, or because of the artwork which isn’t really my cup of tea either but not because of the theme, it’s the theme that draws me back to this game every time. When the Kickstarter launched I backed a copy. After a while I was contemplating again over why I should back this game, so I started doubting again.
On Saturday a friend had invited me over to play some games and since she owns The Networks it was the perfect time to try before you buy. She set up the 2-player game and explained the rules. The game is very straight forward, acquire a new show, a new star or a new advertisement. Play the advertisement or star with a certain show and get more viewers or a better cash flow, which you need to buy more stars and shows. When you pass you get income and after everyone passed you have to pay seasonal fees to your stars and for the upkeep of the series. You also get income from advertisements and gain viewers per show (which equals to victory points), the player with the most viewers after 5 rounds wins the game. In a 2 player game there is a sort of built in AI, every 3 turns some cards are removed from the market to make the game go faster and it also adds some tension.
We did not play with the interactive cards, which I’m glad about, I don’t know how they will work for me. I enjoyed building up my TV-empire without anyone being able to intrude or mess things up, I can see how some would like this and this probably is more realistic but I prefer to live in a TV land where no one interferes when I want to broadcast a certain show. Playing the game has convinced me to add the game to the collection, it fits perfectly as I’m a big fan of thematic games and although I’ve only played one game I’m convinced The Networks is a great thematic implementation. I won the game, but just barely, I’m already looking forward to owning the game and exploring it at higher player counts and maybe even delving in to the solo option it offers.
Another game my friend owns and I’d been wanting to play for a while now is Roll Player. Roll Player gets compared to Sagrada a lot, puzzling with dice, optimizing the placement and using some abilities to (maybe) change the results for the better. There’s more to keep in mind when playing Roll Player compared to Sagrada, you have the skill cards, the different objectives for the skill sets (values of dice per row), armor sets you can collect and weapons you can wear. I don’t want to talk rulesets because I don’t remember all the names specifically and I’d much rather talk about how I felt about the flow of the game. Roll Player was a great experience, I like the puzzle with the dice, the different elements added by the cards add some depth and interesting choices, choices Sagrada doesn’t offer. Roll Player isn’t a huge brain burner but it’s a big enough challenge to make the right choices every time. I’ve canceled my pre-order of Sagrada and instead ordered this one, does this mean Roll Player is the better game? No. Does this mean you can’t enjoy and own both? No. I believe they may be different enough to own both, I just see myself getting Roll Player out more often.
We’ve been enjoying our fair share of Escape games lately, we’ve played nearly all scenarios of Escape Room: The Game and have only 1 of the Exit series left to play. Unlock!, another popular escape game was not in our collection yet until last week. I really wanted to try it after reading quite some positive things about it. On Saturday morning Katrien and I played the introduction scenario and were all set to start our first adventure. We started with ‘The Formula’ where we had 1 hour to retrieve a mysterious serum from a lab.
We managed to do something wrong in the tutorial that led us to the correct answer (this was a coincidence) which resulted in a lot of confusion and frustration during the real adventure. We didn’t know how the machines worked and lost a lot of time and tips on it, in the end I just took the rules and we figured it all out. This was a dent in our first experience of the game as it stated the introduction game will get you going. Anyways, we messed up so I can’t blame the game for it. We needed 10 hints to get out but managed to escape in time, 1 star... Yay.
I don’t know where this will end up in rating compared to the other 2 escape game implementations I’ve played, for now it was our least favourite but we’ll give it another go soon. My guess is it will be way more enjoyable now we actually know the rules properly.
After our escape adventures we visited some friends who recently got Pixie Queen, I was eager to play it as I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive. It had been over a year since I played a prototype of this game which immediately convinced me to order a copy. The theme stuck with me rather well, which showed when I was 2 rounds in and already managed to pick up the flow of the game again. In Pixie Queen you try to please the Queen who’s never really satisfied, she wants food, golden rings and loyal pixies. No matter how much you try to please her she’ll always have reason to punish you, your goal in this game is to lose the least points, you’ll make the queen angry either way, just try and make her less angry than the other players and you should be fine. Meanwhile you can also come in her good graces by giving her rings, a big stack of goods/food and by climbing to the top of her empire and becoming one of her most loyal pixies, these things will grant points at the end of the game.
Pixie Queen is a nice mix of Worker Placement, bidding and resource management. If you keep too much food she’ll punish you for not giving it all to her, if you don’t give her the food she prefers she’ll punish you, if you want to copy other Pixies (take their actions too) she’ll punish you, whatever you think of doing she’ll find a reason to punish you. But since you are a team of brave Pixies you’ll keep trying to come in her good graces and this will be rewarded at the end. Pixie Queen has some elements I’m not a real fan of, bidding and direct conflict. You can steal from other players and you can be outbid on gold/silver tracks. These things didn’t bother me once during our play Saturday, it’s all justified by the theme. I may be stealing from you but I’m a poor Pixie trying to make ends meet just like you and I have to be the best. It doesn’t feel mean because when you steal it’s a well thought over decision, you need the goods that player has so you’ll have to get them there or you’ll be penalized. You don’t steal them because it’s funny, or because you like to steal, you just do what you need.
After this play I’m even more eagerly awaiting my own copy, I’d like to try the 2-player game and delve into different strategies. The scores were really close: -12,-13,-16 and -20 with me coming in second place.
On Sunday I visited my mom, like most weekends, and we played a game or two. I told her a few weeks ago I wanted to introduce her to something that’s a step up from Carcassonne, Ticket To Ride, The Game, Take it Easy and other games like that so this week I brought a few ‘heavier’ games. I brought Bali, viticulture and Castles of Burgundy. After giving her a short overview of the 3 games she decided to play Castles of Burgundy, that was no surprise since she doesn’t know worker placement yet and the puzzling in Burgundy seemed like something she’d enjoy.
I explained the rules and we started playing, at first she had to ask some things and she was confused about not being able to take goods with a die but after a few turns she started to get into it and she started to look for the optimal choices to make with her thrown dice. I gave some tips here and there but she mostly decided against my tips and did something else. She finished the game with 181 points which was well in reach of my 202 points. She enjoyed the game but I don’t think she’ll be asking for more of these games in the future. She likes the other games better I think, they are more relaxing and that’s why she likes to play every now and then. She doesn’t need the difficult decisions, the leisurely playing suits her more but I was really glad she played this and I think we’ll play it again in the future.
After playing Castles of Burgundy I introduced her to a new Carcassonne game I’d recently acquired. It’s pretty, some things are gone (monasteries and farmers on the grass fields) while others were added (farming fruit/vegetables and building stables near animals). In the end it’s still the same game, it’s Carcassonne with some nice twists. I felt like this variant didn’t distinguish itself enough from the base game, I enjoyed playing but I also own Amazonas and find it more interesting than this variant. I’ll keep in the collection because I liked the looks of it and although it doesn’t add a lot of variation it’s welcomed variation for Carcassonne as my mom really likes to play it and some changes keep the game fresh and interesting. I won because I ‘walked’ more with my meeples.
That was the last game of the week for me, I had a great time exploring quite a few new games and hope this trend stays the upcoming weeks, than again I also love to revisit old favourites. So whichever way this goes, as long as I get some plays in I’m happy.
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I didn’t expect to get more than 2 games played last week but this blog post proves me wrong (and I’m glad it does).
At the start of the week it looked like I’d only have one gamenight, some shout outs to gaming buddies and Katrien being up to some gaming made it a better week than expected. It actually was a great week, I learned a few new games and played one of my top 2 games!
On Monday it still looked somber, I thought I’d only get to play on Thursday and I started whining about it, while I should’ve just asked Katrien if she wanted to play. Luckily she didn’t wait for me to ask and just told me she would like to play a quick game. I went to my shelves, trying to find a quick game she’d like. I returned to the living room with Speed, the fastest game I own (except for Happy Salmon maybe). It’s a pattern recognition game where you try to play your cards as fast as possible emptying your pile of cards before your opponent does. Not the type of game Katrien likes, but since it’s something I love to do she went with it for 3 games, which only lasted 5 minutes. I won all 3 and went back to the shelves, looking for something that could entertain us both, and perhaps longer than 2 minutes.
This year White Goblin Games, a Dutch publisher, will release some new titles at SPIEL in Essen, Bali is one of those titles and I’d been looking forward to trying it after Montana was such a pleasant encounter last week. Bali is a reimplementation of Rapa Nui, designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede who apparently is known for bringing us Carcassonne. I say apparently because I was not aware, I’m not someone that remembers all the designer names, there are only a handful of designers I can link to their games.
Anyways, Bali is a gorgeous reimplementation, I went to the BGG page of Rapa Nui and I concluded I like the artwork of Bali better. This is of course subjective but you can go and check it out for yourself. Unfortunately I never had the chance to play Rapa Nui so I can’t talk about possible differences between the two games except the artwork and theme.
The rules are easily explained, there’s only a mere 3 pages of rules and there are lots of illustrations on the pages so don’t expect this to be an overly difficult game. The mechanics in this game are quite interesting, to substantiate my opinion of Bali I’ll give a short rules overview.
In Bali all players receive 3 gatherer cards and a miner card in their hands. There is a market which consists of 4 rows of cards containing these gatherers, miners and also priests and altars. There are also good cards: Peanuts, peppers, rice and bananas. These cards depict the items your gatherers can obtain. There’s also stone and points which your miners, priests and altars can get you.
During your turn you have to perform 4 simple steps: Gather goods (optional), Play cards, Get new cards from the market and Evaluate.
If you choose to obtain a certain good you have to pay 5 stones for it, for every gatherer of the goods type you have in your playing field you pay 1 stone less. The goods you obtain are kept on a separate pile face down, secret for your opponents. After that you can play cards, you can choose 1 of 4 options:
-Play one miner for free
-Play a priest for free
-Play 1-3 gatherers of the same type for 0-2 stone
-Play an altar
When you chose to play an altar, which is rather expensive as it costs you 7 stone, there is an offering phase. During the offering phase the player to your left will start by offering 1 good, placing it open (not secret) on the offering table. All players to this until it’s your turn again, you play one card from your hand face down AND an additional card from the goods supply face up. These offered goods will determine scores once the game is over.
Once the offering phase is over or if there was no offering phase you have to fill your hand back up to 4 cards. You take as many cards as you need for that from any row you want, and you can take several cards from different rows. Once you picked up your last card the Evaluation phase commences. After taking your last card the card underneath it will determine wat happens:
-It’s a gatherer: everyone with that gatherer gets one of the depicted goods if you have most you get a good extra
-It’s a miner: Everyone gets 1 stone for each miner they own, if you have most you get one extra
-It’s a priest: Everyone gets 1 point for each priest they own, if you have most you get one extra
It’s an altar: Everyone gets 1 stone/point for each altar they own, if you have most you get one extra (no mixing)
Once a market row is emptied it’s replenished. If you took the last card from a market row the newly revealed card at the bottom of the market row will be evaluated. The game ends when there are no more cards to refill one of the market rows.
Once that happens points are counted: 3 points for the most offered good still in your pile, 2 points for the second most and so on (0 for the least offered good). 4 points per altar, 1 point per 5 stones left and the points you acquired during the game are also counted for the final result. Whoever has most points wins the game.
I wasn’t planning to get this game at all, card games don’t appeal to me, I’m more for wooden bits and pawns and figuring out which places to go with your workers than about distinguishing the best strategy to take in a card game BUT I’m really glad I picked it up. It’s always fun to try something new and Bali felt like something new to me. It was an interesting balancing exercise, trying to offer many goods you owned but not offering too many since you don’t score the ones you’ve offered but the ones you still have by the end of the game. The altars give some nice points too but they are so expensive you have to figure out when the right time is to play them instead of maybe investing stone to buy another good. The game plays in less than an hour which really is a plus for me too, just last week I talked about how I don’t own enough games that are medium weight, don’t last too long and offer enough of a challenge to keep me coming back for another game. And just like Montana, Bali could easily fit that category, I think it’s solid design that offers fun tactical choices and where you can weigh your options every turn contemplating which will get you more points. During this session I lost, I focused on everything and nothing all at once while Katrien solely offered rice and bought rice the entire game which just got her a massive amount of points. With only 1 play under my belt I can’t say what strategy to take, it all depends on what your opponent does, and that makes for a very interesting and dynamic game. You are not playing on your own little field, you have to stop and think about what the others will do and try and take advantage of it. I have a strong suspicion this will be better at a higher player count but I liked it enough as a 2 player game.
On Wednesday I managed to set-up a rather last minute (in my book) gamenight. We’d have 3 players but one of us would join us a little later so we started with some fillers. Evolution: The Beginning is a GREAT family implementation of the Evolution series and when Katrien saw we were going to play it she joined us before heading out as she likes it quite a bit too.
It’s Evolution ‘lite’ in all aspects, you don’t have to think about how much food you’ll add to the watering hole as it’s always 2, no need to worry about body size and when a carnivore can attack another species as you only have to look at the trait cards. It’s easier but sometimes the cards you want or need don’t come, making it more sensitive to luck of draw. Since it’s only a family game that lasts about 30 minutes I don’t mind it, I actually like it this way. I’ve said luck of draw but don’t get me wrong, this is not a luck fest. It’s logical that when they designed this to be less difficult there are just less parameters you can control with your cards but you still have interesting choices to make and you are not doomed if you never get a carnivore for instance.
During this session Katrien and our guest got the cards that get you one food whenever a carnivore attacks with some nice traits added to it which no one could attack. It looked like everyone got their same traits all the time and so the others couldn’t attack them or only the unimportant species that didn’t get them that much food anyways. I got a bunch of long necks but I couldn’t keep my population up leaving food in the watering hole for the next player. Katrien seemed to get away unharmed rather long, our guest started making a comeback and maybe if the game lasted a few rounds longer he would’ve caught up with her but I’m not certain. I would’ve ended in last place either way, 54 points against 62 and 72 for Katrien.
There was still some time left for another filler while we waited for another gaming buddy. Jaipur turned out to be the game of choice as my opponent had never played the game before and would like to give it a try. Jaipur is a game I ignored way too long because I thought it wouldn’t be fun so every time I do get it to the table now it’s like catching up lost time. It amazes me how much fun one can put in a little box, Jaipur is that for me, a little box filled with fun. Not joyous and outrageous fun but more like satisfying calm fun. I’m talking nonsense now but maybe someone out there knows what I mean. I managed to win the first game but lost the second so we needed a third round to determine the winner. We seemed to rush to the ending and hoping to end with the most points, scores were low but I managed to get my second winning token which ended the game in victory for me.
My gaming buddy arrived and we decided to play Yokohama. I was the only one who’d already played so after a quick explanation of the rules we started. I focused on getting my shops and placing them as fast as possible, in the meanwhile I tried to be first on all achievements and I tried to get the majority both on the church and customs boards. My guest (I keep calling him that since it was the first time we played a game together) seemed to be doing everything, he got the 22 points spot on customs, he gathered 4 or 5 double card symbols and filled many orders. My gaming buddy was planning more of a long term strategy and forgot that the game could end rather quick as I was focusing on setting up all my shops. In the end I finished the game but I didn’t have enough points to win, I was 12 points behind the winning score of 111 and my friend only had 79 points. Maybe I should’ve dragged the game longer and try and get some more points in but my opponent’s engine was way too strong already at that point and my friend would start catching up while I had depleted all of my options and had to build up from scratch again so I decided against it.
Yokohama is a great experience, it’s not too heavy although it tends to overwhelm when you play it for the first time. If you just take a moment to overlook it after finishing your first game you’ll see it’s all rather straight forward, there’s not that much to keep track of and it’s not overly challenging. Therefore I think Yokohama is an excellent euro game without overcomplicating things.
On Thursday one of my gaming friends came over and I noticed I was about to log my 1000th play. I say this rather nonchalantly now but I’ll just confess I was counting down to this as I thought it was pretty cool, at least in the geeky world where I feel right at home. I asked my friend if she was up to play Kanban and she was, I couldn’t be more excited as I was going to play not only my 1000th session but also my favorite game. The only thing left to do now was win (no I’m kidding I don’t mind losing).
Earlier I mentioned how I hardly know any designers and I’m hardly able to link them to their games. If there is one designer I do remember at all times it’s Vital Lacerda. I fell in love with The Gallerist last year and it’s my number one game of all time but since I loved The Gallerist I was curious about his other designs too so I quickly acquired Kanban too and they have been my 2 number one games ever since I played them.
Unfortunately it had been way too long since Kanban hit the table. It’s not easy to find candidates for some of the heavier games I like and Kanban is one of those. No need to whine about it now though as I had just found someone to play it with.
This session I felt like everything was running smoothly, I got the designs I wanted, I upgraded the parts I wanted got some training and stayed ahead during the first part of the game. My friend started banking shifts like crazy and laid her focus on training, she also tried to fulfill Nice Sandras demands and I let her, this granted her 10 points on several occasions and I didn’t stop her. This was one of the 2 big mistakes I made, the second was ending the game with an end of week scoring. I was ahead in seats at the table, I would score good at the meeting and yet we let Sandra skip a turn in the upgrade department by both taking that action and not even to claim cars. The pace car didn’t move but Sandra went to administration before I had the opportunity to claim another car from the track which would’ve resulted in a meeting and I just messed up there. I don’t know if I would’ve won but it would’ve been better. I was over 30 points behind my friend, she had 192 while I only had 161 points. I was a little frustrated when the game ended because I didn’t focus on training and banking shifts as much but I had a lot of tested designs and I thought I could catch up that way but my friend just worked way more efficiently she had nearly as many tested designs as me and I didn’t immediately see where I went wrong. I am very much looking forward to playing this again, and hope to play with Mean Sandra next time.
After playing Kanban Katrien joined my friend and I for another session of Bali. This time I was better prepared and I tried taking advantage of the goods my opponents were offering. I didn’t build any altars and spent my stone on buying goods. I got some in game points because I’d build most priests throughout the most part of the game. As expected the game turned more interesting at a player count of 3. I don’t know what the sweet spot for this game is but I sense it may be hard to remember and overlook the offerings when playing with more people. I managed to win with 59 points against 50 and 45.
On Saturday Katrien agreed to go to a club near us. When we arrived the turnout seemed rather low so we just started setting up a game for the two of us. I had played Bärenpark a few months ago and thought it was a really nice game and I looked forward to try it with Katrien someday. Someone brought a copy and we could play it right away after they explained the rules to us. Katrien seemed to like it and I once again am convinced this is a great puzzly game. I like it better than Cottage Garden but both games have their strengths. Near the end the fun was gone as Katrien noticed she took the wrong tile somewhere which would’ve granted her a lot of points and probably would’ve made her win the game. Since she made this mistake about 10 turns earlier we didn’t go back to it and just left it like that so I ended up winning with 97 points against 89. This will probably be added to the collection soon.
After our game of Bärenpark more people had already showed up and there were now 5 of us looking for a game to play.There were a few options but in the end we went with Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction which as I understand it is the card implementation of the original Manhattan Project game. The same disturbing theme is present, making bombs, and I can’t help but let it bother me. I like the Energy Empire theme way better.
As for game implementation I think they did a great job, they got the key concepts from the board game and made a really decent card game out of it. You either do the action on a card or you play the card sideways and provide the workers on it for employment with one of your next cards or when you build a bomb. You have to collect Yellow Cake and Uranium which you can turn in to bombs. It’s all in all quite simple and I’m not going to talk rulesets. I think this is a fun game but not when playing with 5 players, you can plan ahead but it’s not too difficult so you spend a lot of time just waiting on your turn. Also since you only draw 5 cards every turn and you have to make the best of it it’s sometimes just going with what you have which may not always be good. I won and I enjoyed the session, it’s a fun game but I’ll choose the board game over this every time.
Most of the time when I hear about ‘new’ (to me) mechanisms I want to try them out right away, the past year real-time has been something that’s regularly popping up on forums and blogs I follow so I’ve been intrigued for a while now. A few months ago there was a Kickstarter, Kitchen Rush, which I nearly backed but I decided against it as I didn’t know what real-time games would do to me. I say do to me because I don’t need a game that makes me stress or gets me frustrated and it looked like a real-time game might do that.
Magic Maze is an entry level real-time game, it’s rather easy and actually more of a kids game so when it was available at the clubnight I asked if someone could explain it to us. All 5 people from the chain reaction game joined us so it would be a good stress-test for me. As expected the game has a rather chaotic sense to it, but I didn’t find it frustrating at all. I did find myself bending the rules when I needed to put the red pawn in front of someone but I couldn’t find it, I would just knock the table in front of them which come to think of it is actually cheating. I also had a hard time not talking and not pointing directions people should go. So while I enjoyed the game, I still don’t know this is really my thing. If I’m not able to stick to the rules, why play at all. Katrien was positive about the game which I didn’t expect her to be since she doesn’t like the crowdy and messier games which for me describes Magic Maze perfectly. I’d like to try it again soon, but the verdict is still out on this one. I’m intrigued but yet to be convinced. I look forward to trying Kitchen Rush at SPIEL to see if another game in the genre will convince me. The theme and worker placement aspect in that game might suit me better.
On Sunday I took my usual bag filled with games to my mom’s place, sometimes we play them a lot of times we don’t. This week we played and we started with Take it Easy on her request. It’s a classic and fun puzzle game, it lasts only 15 minutes and you just have to use every tile optimally each turn. I won the first round so my mom immediately asked for a rematch which she lost even worse so we moved on to the next game, which I was a tad more excited about!
Fabled Fruit has been out for a year now and while I did get to play a test round a few months ago I didn’t feel like I already explored the game. A few weeks ago I added it to the collection with the intent of playing the campaign together with Katrien and my mom. Getting a new game to the table with them isn’t always easy, at times they are ok with it but mostly they enjoy playing games they already know instead of having to listen to a new set of rules again. This time I just put the game on the table and said it would be easy to explain and they both agreed, yay!
I enjoyed Fabled Fruit a lot, more than I expected to enjoy it. You want to keep going to see all the cards and I think the artwork is really cute. A lovely addition to the collection. Katrien won the first session but there’s time to get back at her during one of the next sessions.
That was my last play for the week, another great one if you ask me!
Thanks for reading.
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In October of 2015 I started logging my plays, as of this week I have officially logged a 1000 game plays. Not my usual post where I talk about the games I've played this week (which will follow in a later post) but just some thoughts after being in the hobby for over a 1000 plays.
About 3 years ago I moved to an entirely new city to move in with my partner, Katrien. I’d been a gamer for several years, but only PC-gaming and mainly MMO(RPG) style games. When I met Katrien we played boardgames, on our first date, but we actually played Monopoly and Stratego as I didn’t own anything else. For her birthday Katrien received Pandemic and we played it a few times, and even though we both liked it, it didn’t get us hooked. It was when I actually moved that I didn’t want to get caught up in online gaming anymore, I wanted to branch out further so instead of looking at my screen every spare moment I had I started doing some thinking about what else might interest me. I moved about an hour away from family and friends so there were no get togethers after work anymore, it was too long a commute and too tiring.
Somehow my thoughts went to boardgames, I had always loved them as a kid and it seemed like a small step to make from online gaming. I searched the web for local boardgame meetups without thinking they would even exist, but they did so I went over to the club for their next gamenight. I still remember the games we played, starting with Kingdom Builder and ending with a long game of Bang!, a game of Black Fleet was set up but we didn’t end up playing due to lack of time if I recall correctly. I LOVED all the games I played and a world opened for me, I went to all their gaming nights and was really amazed by how many games there were.
It didn’t go further than that, I went to the gamenights, played some games, went back home and wouldn’t play another game until the next gamenight. I did get a BGG account, but as a new member it’s not always easy to get the hang of how this (let me say amazing) website is build. This was in July of 2015. I also joined a similar Dutch platform and there it was easier to get around, I read several top 100 lists and Katrien and I went to a local toy store, not an FLGS yet. We got Ticket To Ride and Village which entertained us for quite a while. Katrien liked playing a game on rainy evenings when we couldn’t go outside. I liked playing a game … period. Before October came around I was finding my way through BGG, I acquired nearly every game I played on clubnights and was busy trying to get the top 100 games played, mostly by buying them all myself. THIS is where I started logging game plays and where the hobby really started for me. I read about SPIEL in Essen and decided I wanted to go, a friend who liked ‘games’ (= he only knew Catan) tagged along. I was well prepared, I made a shortlist, printed out the hall plans and I was ready for this event, so I thought. We ended up roaming the halls the entire day, I bought about 10 games and we played only 1 … Fun Farm. I was not ready AT ALL, it was way too much, so many games, so many people and I only had one day. I don’t remember a lot of this event, but I already knew next year I would be prepared.
After Essen I realized how much there was left to discover and went on exploring the top 100 list, and guess what, I liked everything. The phase of liking everything luckily wore off rather quick, people started introducing me to eurogames and worker placements, I had found my home. Games like Eldritch Horror, Cash ‘n Guns, Ghost Stories etc started leaving the collection as did abstract games. I started looking for other game groups that played heavier games and found a few people that I still (okay it’s only been 2 years) play with on a very regular basis. What I have experienced is that the hobby grows more interesting as you discover what interests you most. You can start to filter all the information on BGG towards the things that interest you instead of staring blindly at everything the boardgaming world offers you can see what continent of even what country in this world you like best and can just skip the rest.
So in 2016 I was well prepared for Essen, my collection already grew over 100 games and I added about 30 more during my trip.
After Essen 2016 there was still undiscovered territory for me, Kickstarter, I started noticing games on the hotness list I couldn’t even buy anywhere.. Turns out there was some sort of pre-order platform I hadn’t been paying attention to. Unknowingly I did join some group pledges on forums or through stores but I never ventured to Kickstarter on my own. The last year I have been doing that, but if it’s good or bad, I don’t know, the verdict is still out on that one.
Next month I’ll be visiting SPIEL for the third time, and I’ve accepted that I probably won’t be prepared. There’s too much ground to cover if you want to go through all the games thoroughly before the fair, and honestly I don’t want to. I look forward to playing something that isn’t on my list and let it surprise me, it’s part of what I enjoy in this hobby and doing too much research might take that away.
Well, I’ve talked games and Spiel and all that but that’s far from what I’ve enjoyed most. What I enjoy most is the people in this hobby. I’ve never met a community as welcoming as the boardgaming one, maybe part of that is because I feel right at home in the community but still. I like looking at the stats of my logged plays, I’m a geek like that and I’ll swear by my BG Stats app. I also enjoy how this hobby attracts many different people and nothing matters, not gender, not age, not status, not skin color, nothing but having a pleasant time.
No pictures this post, just a long block of text which may be a bit annoying to read through, but to anyone who made it this far: thanks for reading my rambles and I’m happy to hear your stories.
Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:16 am
The changing of season drew us back to the gaming table this week.
Most of us love when winter fades and spring arises, birds start to chirp and days lengthen. The sun is back from leave and we get to spend more time outdoors. That’s true for me too, I like being outside, sitting on a terrace and soaking up the sun, going on walks and even enjoying an occasional holiday. Since I consider myself not an all too difficult person I also love it when the sun departs again, bringing longer nights and when rain falls more occasionally. Why? Well it’s high season for gaming, that’s why! Last week we got a sneak preview of autumn resulting in me playing a game nearly every night! The weekend was sunny and bright again so I played a little less.
Both Monday and Tuesday night Katrien accompanied me to play a game. We started with one of her (and mine) all-time favourites:
Whenever on a weeknight after work Katrien agrees to play a game the same thing happens. I walk over to my game stacked shelves and stare at them. Hoping for the perfect game to fall out or something. Nothing ever happens and on quite some occasions I return to the living room empty handed and we decide to do something else instead. After a full day of work I’m not always up for a heavy game, that excludes about half of my shelves. While I don’t want to play something too challenging I’m not satisfied with a filler/family game either, so there goes the other 45% of options. There’s a mere 5% left and I don’t even always feel like playing those. But there is 1 game I’ll play at any time and I had been overlooking it for far too long, since May actually. Viticulture.
We decided to add some elements of the Tuscany Essential edition, both the map and the specialized workers. We never play without the Tuscany map, it makes the game an overall better experience without changing any rules. There’s just more to think about regarding which actions you’ll take in what season. The only thing I don’t find an addition is the little map in the corner where you can place stars, it’s a fun little thing but it’s not a necessity to make this a better game. During our 2 player games we don’t count the majorities as is suggested in the rulebook. The specialized workers are used most of the time too, they add a lot of replayability to the game and challenge you to make slightly different decisions every game. This time the specialized workers were the Oracle and the Messenger. The Oracle allows you to draw 2 cards instead of 1 and take whichever one you like best. The messenger is put to work in a future season, once it’s your turn you can place it and whenever that seasons comes up you take the action where the Messengers at as your first action that season.
We both seemed to not care about the Oracle and hired the Messenger and some regular workers during the game. I was off to a good start, I had some pretty nice visitor cards and some diverse wines. Katrien however seemed to struggle, she had no decent cards and felt like she couldn’t pursue any strategies just yet. So while I was building a well-oiled machine she was scratching her head trying to figure out which way to go. Do keep in mind she’s quite the perfectionist, so bad cards in her book are probably okay cards just not a combo yet. My machine was up and running, I grabbed some extra visitor cards in the hope to scramble up some more points that would get me over the 25 mark. No such luck, I was going to need another round and Katrien had turned very quiet which could only mean trouble was heading my way. During our last round she managed to fill 2 big orders and get some nice points from visitor cards. I only filled one more order and got a point from my tasting room tour… yet again it wasn’t enough. Victory was smiling towards me, but then Katrien jumped in front of me, and it was no longer in my sight. A well-deserved win! And when we finished she noticed I could’ve just sold my champagne for 3 points instead of taking 1 pint from a tour, we would’ve tied 32-32 but now I fell behind with 30 points. Random note: Katrien hasn’t been beaten yet on the Tuscany map, she has a winning streak of 6 now.
Tuesday night we played another game, Katrien stated she was up to learning something new so I eagerly prompted to play The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire. The rules are easily explained, it’s not a difficult game, but I have to find a more comprehensive and logic way to explain it. During my explanation I didn’t really attach the rules to a story or theme, making it less easy to sink in for Katrien, which I understand since the same happened to me when I played it the first time. Anyways, once we got through the rules it was time to start our Energy Empires while trying to minimize pollution.
Early on I decided to focus on the United Nations track, I wanted the first place and I needed oil and metal for it. Since oil is cheap in the first few rounds I acquired enough to get me at the end of the United Nations track as fast as possible. I also decided not to go for the harmful dice, focusing on blue and green ones first and getting a black and/or a yellow one near the end. Katrien started the game with an extra worker, she took more turns before needing to generate which did bother me quite some during the early game stages, just not enough to hire additional workers. We both played the entire game with only our starting workers and that seemed to work fine in a 2-player game. There are some restrictions towards buying buildings in a 2-player game, there is always a dummy player present causing you to spend some energy. Other than that it’s the same game as the other player counts. Because of the extra need towards spending energy I focused on buying buildings rather late in the game, I first got some dice, worked on the UN track and got me some achievement plaques. Once I acquired those I had all my energy to spend and went on to buy buildings. I bought mainly brown and green ones since I needed oil and all other resources for my awards as well as a clean forest and clean sky. My last award was for owning 5 dice. Katrien was doing a lot of the same things, she also went for the awards early on and bought more buildings toward the end but she failed to beat me on the UN track and she also had one less die and a few buildings less than me. This resulted in me winning by 11 points: 135-124.
Katrien wondered if it’s supposed to be so easy to work away all the pollution and honestly I don’t know. The first time I played, a 4 player game, I had quite some pollution left but my last 2 games (solo and 2-player) I managed to clean it all up and so did Katrien. We did focus on the pollution friendly dice, but still it felt very easy to get rid of it while during my 4-player game the competition to clean up the pollution was way more fierce.
All in all an enjoyable game which I look forward to explore further.
Every other Wednesday I head over to Leuven and play some games. This was one of those weeks. This time I was eager to play another heavy game so I packed Mombasa, Food Chain Magnate and Kanban. If no one was up for that I needed a back-up plan so I also put Dokmus in my games bag and left for a night filled with games. On my way out I thought of another game I’d recently gotten, Speed, and brought it with me to play with one of the people that’s usually early too, yes I’m one of those people that always arrive first. I was glad I brought it along since we had some time to kill before the others would start joining us.
First, I can’t find this game in the BGG database, maybe it has an alias name?
Anyways, in Speed every player gets half of the cards in the box and makes a stack before them. After that every player draws 3 cards. A card has 3 characteristics: a color, a figure and an amount of times the figure is displayed. Once everyone drew their cards (everyone always being 2 players since it’s a 2-player game) they reveal the first card of their stack by flipping it open in front of the stack and that’s when the fun begins, you have to be fast now! You can play a card at either stack as long as one or more of the following is true: the colors match, the figures match or the quantities depicted on the card match. You can fill your hand back up to 3 cards whenever you like and the one who empties their deck first wins the game. It lasts about 2 minutes to play and it’s explained in about 20 seconds, talk about a filler right?
This game is right up my alley, I like speedy pattern recognition games and this one is a nice addition to the collection!
Since we were still waiting for more people to arrive we set up another small game. I saw this being displayed on the shelves with new games and the shop owner told me there was a demo copy we could play. Since I was quite curious we set the game up and started playing. It’s fairly easy, there’s a whole bunch of items in the middle of the table and a stack of cards. The cards get drawn one by one, each card depicts one or more of the items in the middle of the table. When you think you see an item for a second time you have to grab it as fast as possible. The one that has the most items in the end wins the game. I believe it’s played over a few rounds too. If you grab something and it shows up on a later card it means you have made a mistake, every item is depicted only twice on the entire deck of cards. A game about memory and reaction speed. Somehow I didn’t enjoy this game at all, everything looked alike and I couldn’t figure it out. After a few rounds we just left it at that and we put the box back on the shelves.
Of all the games in my bag it was Dokmus that drew the most attention. Instead of playing a heavyweight euro tonight it was going to be a medium abstract. I don’t mind, I enjoy the people, the talks and the banter just as much as I enjoy the games. The gaming group is in a city that draws different audiences every game night, usually not audiences in to heavy gaming but I have plenty of other options to get my fix of heavy eurogames. In fact, Dokmus is even more of a challenge for me than most eurogames are since I hardly ever play an abstract game. The main reason for not playing them is because my ability to master them is limited, I can’t seem to focus long enough to broaden my horizons and delve in to the (so I’ve heard) amazing world of abstract thinking.
Dokmus is different, I added it to my collection since I’ve played it before and I actually liked it. The reason I think Dokmus is different from most abstract games is because it doesn’t require a varied strategical plan, it’s way more tactical and that suits me better. The map is ever changing so while you may have loose strategies like staying on the side of tiles rather than in the middle there is no plan you can pan out when you start the game. Nothing is set in stone yet. Also, the options on your turn are ‘rather limited’ compared to other abstract games I’ve played. During your turn you can easily assess all of your options and choose the best one. While typing I realize I may be characterizing the game a bit too loosely because it’s definitely not an easy game. I’ve spent about 5 minutes thinking over every move I made, which is a long time! The reason for my long thinking again is my untrained abstract brain but even I could compare all options.
Dokmus consists of 9 square map tiles, every tile has gras, water, forest, mountains, temples and ruines.
Basically what you do is place 3 settlements every turn, the rules are that you have to place them adjacent and that whenever you enter a forest you have to sacrifice a settlement, resulting in only playing 2 that turn. You also get one of the five elders every turn which have a special ability like shifting and turning tiles or moving a settlement. You can use that elder at any point during your turn. The ruines grant you a bonus elder action once you play a settlement on there, the water allows you to move through it and the temples score you points. Every big temple you have a settlement next to scores you 3 points while a little one only scores you 2. You also gather a point for standing on a ruin, for sacrificed settlements and for the number of map tiles you have settlements on. Bonus points are scored if you are adjacent to EVERY temple on a single map tile. So, I believe while you probably don’t know the rules by summing this all up you probably realize there are many ways to score points and thus a lot of options to consider. My brain hurt after our session but it was worth it, every dragging minute a spent thinking led to my victory, yay. I apologize to everyone who had to wait on their turn while I was playing, sorry!
We couldn’t get enough of the reaction games so we set up a game of Speed Cups, this is a game I win quite often, I really like stacking the cups. Tonight I had some fierce competition, one of my opponents was stacking and arranging those cups like a madman and I could only sit and watch. I was put a little of balance because of it actually. After a few cards I started pulling myself together and focused on the colors and patterns, I found my way back and managed to win by only 2 cards!
As soon as we were finished stacking cups another table was finishing up a game of Carcassonne, we waited a little while and decided to end the night with a few games of Codenames Pictures. Teams were divided and the battle was on! Every time I play this game it amazes me how many different things are illustrated on one tiny card. During the first match I was one of the guessers and it all seemed easy, but the second match I was the one giving hints… Not easy at all! Whenever I gave a hint and my teammates started discussing I knew we were doomed, it didn’t matter though, it’s really entertaining to watch them argue about which card they should take while the one you meant isn’t even on their radar. Needless to say we lost the match where I gave clues, we won the 2 other ones so that compensates. Codenames is a great game for 6 people, that’s when it really shines. Not too much chaos and just enough interaction. I still don’t know if I like the words version or the pictures version better, pictures has the huge advantage of being language independent. At the club there are often English speaking people among us so it’s easier to pick up a pictures variant for everyone. With that we ended the night and I was already looking forward to the next gaming session on Friday.
Unfortunately my gaming plans for Friday got cancelled, I tried finding other candidates last minute but no such luck. Since I couldn’t get to play but I really wanted to do something game related I was left with two options in my mind. Either go through the Spiel preview list which I’d been neglecting for the most part or learn the rules of a new game. It ended up being the latter, I knew Katrien and I would have some time left to play a game Saturday afternoon so I took a box from the shelves that had been staring down at me for a while. Literally staring down since it doesn’t fit in the Kallax shelves and thus I had to put it on top of them.
Ever since I purchased this game I’ve wanted to play it, I’ve had it set up on the table two times already but every time I ended up packing it up due to lack of time or focus. This time I was determined to not let that happen. I read the rules and prepared myself to explain them to Katrien the next day. I consulted BGG because of the conflict rules and saw that some people played without conflict, making it a multiplayer solitaire where everyone pretty much stays on their side of the map. This looked like a good idea to me and I suggested it to Katrien when we started, she agreed.
As usual I’m not going to talk too deeply about the ruleset of the game but I do feel the need to touch the subject for a little bit.
In Roads & Boats you want to basically set-up the most profitable network, logistics are key to this. You start with a few donkeys (transporter), some geese and a few goods. A turn is played simultaneously over several phases.
The production, movement, building and wonder phase. During the production phase primary producers like woodcutters cut wood, you get clay from the clay pit and stone from the quarry. There are also secondary producers and they need an input of goods to create a better output like a sawmill which turns wood in to boards or a paper factory which turns wood or boards into paper. You cannot choose to produce, a secondary producer always uses all the goods on its tile until it reaches his production capacity or until there are no input goods left. After that one can build certain buildings/producers like a woodcutter, the paper factory,… but more importantly one can also build factories that make better transporters. To build those you need to have the research done, which you ‘produce’ in an earlier phase by giving up some geese and paper (yes this is illogical, the entire game makes sense except for this, but just like me you’ll have to deal with it). Anyways those better transporters can carry more goods and travel a longer distance on the movement turn expanding your network widely. To move all transporters you need roads (unless they are boats), the roads are also built during this phase. Important: one can only build with goods delivered from the tile they want to build on and there has to be a transporter present. Once everyone is done building they can choose to add bricks to the wonder if they have some goods left on their home tile to build with and a transporter to supply the goods to the wonder. The first brick will cost you 1 good the second brick will cost you 2 etc. making it a very expensive hobby. What I want to point out with all this is how important the placing of every structure, good and transporter is. Every element has to be at the right place at the right time to perform certain actions, this requires A LOT of planning. When the game is done, once the wonder is finished, players get points for their bricks in every row of the wonder and for all the gold, coins and stock papers they managed to create using their network of transporters and producers. To score the points you need to have the items on one of your transporters. One more thing, every building, every good and every road can be accessed and used by all players. The only thing that’s really yours are the goods your transporters are carrying. In the peaceful variant we chose to play we didn’t share anything, we both took one side of the map and did our own thing. That’s it for the (really) quick overview, now on to my thoughts.
The hardest part of the game is getting started, I mean… I don’t know how anyone gets that plastic sheet on top of the tiles without shifting them over about a 100 times after which you just give up and go with it. Once that frustration has passed one may find the rules are rather straight forward, they really are, the challenge is in the gameplay and the amazing puzzle you’ve got to solve. Roads & Boats is a VERY strategical game, it is possible to mess up and fall behind when you place a producer on a less beneficial tile or when you wait a turn too long to build a certain road. You HAVE to plan ahead and there are soooooooooooo many options, my brain actually hurt. This is a beast of a game, I bet it takes several sessions to even start scratching the surface of all the possibilities it offers. It’s a good game, everything falls nicely in to place and fits together, it all makes sense and I got sucked in for the better part of 4 hours without even glancing at the time. I was glad we played the peaceful way because I can’t even imagine there was room left in my head to think about what Katrien was planning to do. There was a little conflict during the wonder phase, where you can’t avoid it and you just have to call for a change of turn order every once in a while. Other than that I was sitting on my own island, turning my brain in to overdrive. There’s a few things that caused a small dent in the gameplay for me, of which the most important thing is the fiddlynes. There’s a BUNCH of cardboard pieces laying on the board and you use them to produce other cardboard pieces or you transport them with your transporters, everything is always moving. The bits are so small and at times it’s difficult to keep an overview of what was available on every tile, that’s my second concern: the inability to overview everything. I do think part of that inability is because of myself, one has to admit where to draw a line and this was too much for me, but the millions of bits didn’t relieve any stress.
So final summary: Roads & Boats is a good game where you have a million of options and which will be a hit with those looking for a optimization puzzle/brain burner that will keep them busy for years to come. I myself will not be holding on to my copy, I could challenge myself and play this game every once in a while and it would be an amazing learning process I’m certain, but with the boardgaming world as it is now I can’t bring it up. If I ever find a game that challenges me like Roads & Boats does but without the fiddlyness and with at least an hour cut from the play time, I’ll have a new top 10 contender.
That same night we were invited by a friend to play some games. We cut the options down to either Anachrony or Outlive. Katrien was up to learn yet another new game and I wasn’t going to let that pass so we went with Outlive.
In Outlive you’re supposed to set up a ‘surviving system’ in which you store as many survivors you can, you try to feed them and you try to put them to work with specific tools in operating rooms which then grant you some benefits when visiting the outdoors. It’s a post-apocalyptic game where you have to hunt for food, search for supplies and water and try to be the best surviving hub.
You start the game with a few survivors, possibly some tools and a few rooms. Your workers are placed on the board and during your turn you can move them 1 or 2 spaces. When moving you can’t end in a room where another one of your workers is already present so you have to think about which actions you want to take and when you want to take them since the workers never leave the board. Every round an event occurs which has a negative influence on all players. It’s an engine building game at its core. You need equipment that grants you benefits, you need rooms that grant you benefits when they are built and filled with survivors and like every tight eurogame you need to feed at the end of every round. During the action phase you gather goods, food, broken equipment and you can find survivors. During the night phase you can fix equipment, open up new rooms, and solve events which grant you points. In this worker-movement (or displacement game as they like to call it) you have to do pretty much the same thing as in other medium weight euros. Gather stuff and turn it in to points. There’s a nice flavour added to the mix making it an enjoyable thematic experience but I wasn’t convinced. There’s some randomness I don’t like, the equipment can show up at any time so making matching symbols (equipment cards have symbols you can match to score extra points) is sometimes luck based, you also don’t know when which food card will show up and collecting the same ones gives you extra food but you can be unlucky when collecting these. What I do like is the variation in starting equipment and how there are different rooms in the game for a variable set-up.
Outlive is not for me, Katrien on the other hand really liked it, I don’t think she’s been this positive about a game in a while actually. I can’t put my finger on what we see differently, but I can see why Katrien liked it a lot. When playing this I often thought of how this compared to Lords of Waterdeep in game weight, it’s accessible yet challenging enough. It plays nothing like Lords of Waterdeep but I couldn’t shake the feeling of it granting the same interesting decisions in a limited pool of options.
Katrien bulldozed right over us too, she had 56 points while my friend had 43 and I was dangling at the bottom with a mere 36 points.
Since Outlive isn’t a game to fill an entire gamenight there was time for some more! On Thursday I had already taken the time to unpack this game and go through the rules. The components in this game are gorgeous, everything is bright and oozes a sense of calm and happiness, I’m going to stop about that now before this all turns in to a Disney movie, but really kudos for the design! After sorting all the pieces and glancing through the rulebook it landed on top of my ‘want-to-play’ pile which didn’t exist up until that point but still.
Setting up and explaining the game takes about 10 minutes, it’s really straight forward. One can either recruit workers, gather resources or place settlements. The goal of the game is to have all your settlements on the board first, a racing game, yay!
To recruit workers you have to use a rondel, you take the 2 workers where the arrow points too BUT you also have the option to pay a grain and get the 2 workers of the next area too. Since the variations on the wheel are limited and you can choose to buy the extra 2 for grain there is always something you can do.
The second choice one can make is to send out workers to the market or bidding place (I believe it was called town center but I’m not sure). You spend brown workers to get copper, yellow ones to get grain, black ones to get stone and orange will get you pumpkins. For every resource there are 3 action spots every one being more expensive (turn in more money) than the one before but also granting more resources. You can choose to pay a second worker to gain one extra of that resource at any time. If you do not have the color worker of the resource you want you can spend any other 2 workers and still take that action. Because of that I felt like there were always plenty of options. You can also send any worker type to the bank to gather money, by either spending 1,2 or 3 workers you get an increasing amount of coins. If at the end of any players turn one of the market spaces or the bank spaces are completely filled up the workers return to the worker pool ready to be recruited once again, allowing players to fill up the action spaces again aswell. Instead of gathering resources that way one can also go to the town center and join a bidding war (this is exaggerated I just like the expression). When a player takes that action they choose a spot on the town center, every other player in turn order gets a chance to bid too. There are 4 rows to choose from so you aren’t necessarily in someones way. If someone overbids you, you can decide to bid even higher or go to another row or pass completely and not join the bidding anymore. This keeps happening until there is only 1 or no meeple left on every row. At that point you take your reward and pay the amount of pumpkins you bid. This is the only spot to turn small resources into big ones, why you need those will become clearer once I explain the next possible action.
Placing settlements: with the resources you’ve gathered it’s possible to place up to 3 settlement tiles on the board. You just pay the goods depicted on the tile and cover it with your settlement. The tile has to be adjacent to either another settlement or the starting tile. If there is a cow on the tile you put it on your player board. If you place a tile adjacent to a lake you get the waterbag. If you succeed in placing 4 settlements in a row you get to place a fifth for free by stacking it on the last settlement you placed.
The cows and water bags can be used at any time during your turn, the cow is used to trade it for any other good and the water bag allows you to immediately take another turn.
At numerous occasions I complain about not having good medium weight games, they either last too long or aren’t relaxing enough on a work night. Then there are the fillers which aren’t challenging enough and cant grab my attention for long. Montana falls right in between those groups. It’s the hardest category to find games for in my opinion, games that are not too long, not too easy, not too difficult yet still challenging and offering pleasant choices. From what I gathered after one play, Montana is a great contestant to fill the gap and I’m hoping to play again soon.
After playing Montana there was still some time left for a filler. I'd been eager to introduce Katrien to NUMBR 9 but I don't own the game myself. Since my friend owns it I requested a quick game.
The high valued numbers came early on making it harder to score big points, I didn't even get a good 2nd level. But the others were struggling too so in the end I was still able to win. I really though Katrien would like this but she was rather unimpressed, not that she didn't like it, she just didn't really get captured by it. Soon I'll introduce Bärenpark to her (I hope) and my guess is that might work out better for us.
On sunday evening we played the second game in the Exit series. Since I found my first play with 5 a bit too chaotic I looked forward to trying the next scenario with Katrien and I'm glad we did.
For some reason escaping the cabin went way easier than when we had to get out of the temple. Communication is better, the little booklet and puzzles are easier to look at and you can actually form a team.
We managed to escape in just under 75 minutes but we had to use 3 tips (stupid!) so we ended up with 6 stars. That's better than the 4 stars we got last time so there's a bright future ahead of us when we'll try to get out of the secret lab. Hopefully I get to play one of the Unlock! series soon too, I'm enjoying the different takes on the escape experience in board games.
That's it for the past week. If this is what my gaming will look like during the colder autumn and winter weeks I'll be one happy gamer.
Thanks for reading.
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