Last week I played the new game in Richard Breese's Key series - Keyper and the game was an absolute delight. From the component quality to the player interaction, the game was a success for me and I'm excited to get it back to the table (which I will be this Thursday!). Also, I'm a huge fan of Keyflower, for a while it was my favorite game of all time.
The first thing that stood out to me was the player interaction through the joiner mechanism. How this mechanism works is when you play out a keyple the other players get a chance to join you in that action by playing a matching keyple. If there is a joiner to your action, both you and that player get to take the action an additional time, which is awesome!
The second interesting form of interaction is how you optimally use your keyper. The way the keyper works is, as an action, you play it on one of the country boards and at the end of the round you get all of the keyples from that board. I don't fully understand how to use this mechanism optimally yet since it isn't necessarily the case, for a variety of reason, that you want the most keyples each round, but sometimes you do, or sometimes you may just want to select keyples based on their color. I really need to think about this mechanism more.
As I mentioned above, it isn't always about having the most keyples and that is because each round you can use your keyples multiple times by laying them down. This simple interaction means that, just because one round you got fewer keyples than the other players, you aren't out of luck. Also, it provides an extra layer of strategy around how you choose the keyples you get because any time you use a keyple for an action you get an additional resource if your keyple matches the color of the space it is on.
My final note on this game is country boards. These boards can be flipped and changed to different sides and each round you will get to choose which faces are up on your country board. When I initially saw this mechanism I thought it was a gimmick but it really is not. The decisions built around which faces are most important to you, or might be enticing to other players, are incredibly important and can define your strategy throughout the game.
There is so much more to Keyper that I haven't gotten into yet. The process of buildings and upgrades was well executed, there is also a shipping good mechanism that I'm not sure I fully understand how to maximize yet, and there are so many different resources in the game. I am very impressed with my experience with the game thus far and I am itching to play it again. Is it as good as Keyflower? I don't know yet but the fact that it still is in the running compared with one of my favorite games of all time should tell you enough about the quality of this game. At this point, I hope Keyper gets the same expansion and deluxification experience Keyflower did.
Last night I had the pleasure of playing Gaia Project and it was fantastic. This was my first play of the new system and even before the end of the rules description it was clear that this was a significant improvement over its older brother.
I really enjoyed Terra Mystica, it was my first real foray into heavier games and there are so many good and innovative things in the game. In Gaia Project several of the actions are streamlined or improved.
First, take the cult track in TM. In Gaia Project the cult track is combined with the increasing of your skills (i.e. your boat distance and shovel cost) and it combines them. Basically the way this works is when you move up those tracks your skills increase or you get income, etc. Also, the higher you get the more points you score. There is no competition (for the most part) in who scores the most points on these tracks. What you score from them is simply based on how high up you get. Further, when you take on of the microchips for building the structures equivalent to the sanctuary or temple you also move up on a track.
Second, the board is simultaneously more spread out but the power leaching is more interesting. The way leaching works is if you're within two spaces of your opponent when they build a structure you can leach power for your largest available building. This is a really neat improvement over the base system.
Third, the new mechanism of Gaiaforming is awesome and creates incredibly tense and exciting battles for space. How this works is there are several locations around the map that everyone is equally able to use for building new civilizations. If you have a gaiaformer, you can colonize these very efficiently. In base Terra Mystica there were some parts of the board that were virtually unusable by certain races and this improves on that.
On top of the Gaiaforming, the new mechanism for building towns, creating federations, is very neat. Since the board is much more spread out and you'll only have a few places to build adjacently you will almost certainly need to combine groups of planets together. This is done by throwing away power to place out satellites between your planets. Now this is really neat because, in Gaia Project, it is much easier to spread out on the map and create multiple colonies. If you plan well, which I didn't, you can easily spread around the map and form several federations whereas in the original game it is much harder to spread to diverse parts of the map.
Finally, and there are still things I'm leaving out that are amazing, the variable player powers are superb. In the base game of TM the powers were in general very vanilla and extensions of the base system for the most part. In Gaia Project these powers feel closer to the variable powers in Voyages of Marco Polo that are all game breaking. I don't have a feel for how well balanced these powers are, but it is clear that some are easier to play than others. They are the thing I'm most excited to explore about the game.
Overall, Gaia Project was an amazing experience. I'm excited to pick up a copy when it comes to the states. I highly recommend people give it a try even if you were not the biggest fan of TM.