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My initial impressions on games I recently played for the first time

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150!

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Most of you know I play many different games. If I get to play a game 10 times, that is A LOT.

But today I logged my 150th play of Race for the Galaxy. It is BY FAR my most played game. The second is Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm at 93, but since that is an expansion I wont count it. No, my second most played game is... erm... yeah, I have no excuse for this except that it is really short. It's the Reiner Knizia masterpiece Escalation! at 58.
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Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:45 pm
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Jump Drive and Krass Kariert

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Jump Drive
tl;dr: The City with a skin of Race for the Galaxy

I was told this is an entry level RftG (you know, my favorite game). It is not. It is The City that has been reskinned with the RftG artwork and has some of it's mechanisms injected here and there. But they way you get new cards and points is the mechanism from The City verbatim and thus feels very similar. That being said, I think this is an improved version of that game. Because it has a space theme of course! Just kidding. I think it has a bit more variety and a welcome change is that you can build both a development and settle a planet on the same turn.
This game is very short, very fast and there is the same luck factor as in The City: whoever gets to that breaking point of getting a good amount of card income first will probably win. But with the different strategies to explore, this is a lot of fun with good replay value.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Krass Kariert
tl;dr: one of those good Amigo card games

Amigo has been having abstract-colored-numbered-card-game diarrhea for a looooong time. We have seen many classics come out during that time, like Take 5 and Sticheln. We've also had other... let's call them non-classics like Quanto and Gier. So I usually seek these games out but it's always hit and miss.
Luckily this time they did it again: this game works great! The thing is that this is a trick taking game where certain combinations of cards trump other combinations but you cannot reorder your cards and you can only use cards that sit next to each other in your hand. This has you planning ahead so you can remove cards from in between other cards to create combos for later use. The aim, however, is not to win the trick but simply not be in a position where you can't play something that trumps the current highest value in the trick. You also don't want to be the last player with cards left in your hand. Once either happens 4 times to a single player, that player is the loser. So there's not really a single winner. You can of course count left over chips and use that as a score.
All in all a fun game with good choices, refreshing and enough strategy. Good stuff!

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Sep 4, 2018 10:24 am
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Das Vermächtnis des Maharaja, Guilds of London and Aladdin's Dragons

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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Das Vermächtnis des Maharaja
tl;dr: OK set collection game

This game kind of has set collection at it's core. You get points by being the first to complete certain combinations of artifact cards first. And you get those cards by buying them. The money managing is quite nicely done. And the way the end game scoring for the artifacts works also adds some nice choices.
But in the end this game does little more then simply work and be kind of pleasant without standing out. So fine, but not a must have

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Guilds of London
tl;dr: very tight

Oh, how did I not write about this when it came out?
This game is mostly an area majority game, but the heart of the game is the card management and cards that have multiple uses. It's all about how you use and combine them. There is a great variety and different strategies to explore.
It does seem like getting a good amount of those end game scoring cards is quite crucial though. But make sure to maximize some of those or I don't expect you'll be in the running.
This game is very different from Snowdonia, Tony's other big strategy game. I'm not sure I like this one AS much, but that is an exceptional game. This one is at least, very good!

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Aladdin's Dragons
tl;dr: nice card game

This is sort of a secret deployment area majority game. If you play the highest total value of cards on a location (placed face down one player at a time) you get first dibs. Depending on what location you played them on you either get more cards for later use, special action cards or artifact cards that give you points (and a special action).
Most rounds can be quite tense, but the cards do add a significant amount of chaos. That can be a bit frustrating at times, but since the game doesn't last that long that's fine I guess.
I would say this can be fun for occasional play, but none that screams for endless replays.
Oh, how does it compare to the board game? Why are you asking me? I don't remember!

Rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Mon Sep 3, 2018 10:10 am
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Raids, Shipyard and Rattle Snake

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Raids
tl;dr: a family game that can be played

... but if you're like me, you won't get much out of it.
It has that mechanism where you are the active player if you're in the last spot on the track. Except here they added a mechanism to stop you from not going in front of at least one other player. You can never be the active player twice in a row.
In any case, this game has a number of different mechanism for scoring points. They each have their up and down sides. And once you start modifying your ship, you will be pushed into pursuing a specific strategy.
But I felt like the game mostly played itself. There's a number of choices, but in most cases the best one is pretty obvious.
This is a family game with nice artwork and bits, simple rules and some strategy. And as a gamer you can play it, but yeah, not very engaging.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Shipyard
tl;dr: amazing

The only thing that could make this game better is a space theme, because, you know, having a space theme just makes your game better. And it could actually work.
But anyway, I think this game is amazing. The amount of interlocking mechanisms that create a flow that still feels natural, the amount of planning involved, the amount of different strategies to explore. Yeah, this game IS amazing.

Rating: 10/10
BGG scale: 10/10

RattleSnake
tl;dr: stupid fun

Erm, don't expect much game here. Or strategy. Or tactics. With experienced adults, this game goes as follows: whatever color you roll, you'll find a spot for your magnet until there are 8 magnets on the board. Whoever places the 9th one loses the game. You could play on at that point, but one player will be very much behind and turn order will determine the player.
So not very good as a game, but it can be good fun. And the magnets are just nice to fiddle with.

Rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Mon Aug 27, 2018 1:25 pm
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Ganymede, TAJ and Among the Stars

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Ganymede
tl;dr: solid, enjoyable

This game has players building their space fleet and transporting colonists in the galaxy. And it's a race, because you need to get 4 ships space bound first. So why isn't this just named Race for the Galaxy? Oh... wait...
This game has simple mechanism and only a few possible actions to choose from on your turn. But it does manage to offer compelling choices to players on every turn anyway.
I would say this game strikes a great balance between length, complexity and luck. That being said, this doesn't seem like an exceptional game either. Just a very solid mix of familiar elements. Well done.

Initial rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10

TAJ
tl;dr: lots of game in a tiny box, but that doesn't make it great

This box IS tiny. It's the kind of size retailers hate because it's way to easy to steal. Anywhoooo, this game has more game it than you would expect from the box size. It's kind of a hidden voting thing where player vote on changing the order of cards on the table to influence their score and everyone has a secret scoring card that tells them what will give them most points.
It kind of reminded me of Justinian where you're also shifting things around and everyone has different goals. But I've only played that game once 12 years ago, so maybe I'm completely off.
In any case this is one of those games you can play and... well, you can play them. My world wasn't set on fire. Not that I expected that, but there are other games that make better use of my time I think.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Among the Stars
tl;dr: nice mix of tableau building and drafting

This game was one of the first big drafting games after the success of 7 Wonders. And thus many people have called it 7 Wonders in space. But while both games have drafting as their main mechanism, the way the cards work is quite different. You don't have different resources you need to build other cards, and many of the cards give you points for positioning them in certain ways on your tableau, something 7 Wonders doesn't have at all.
I think this is a very solid game in it's own right and I really like it.

Score: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Aug 23, 2018 9:34 am
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Brass: Birmingham, Jamaica and Alien Artifacts addendum

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Michelbeke
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Brass: Birmingham
tl;dr: 98% Brass

This game is very, very similar to Brass. I has a different maps and replaces the anchor tiles and foreign market with a new mechanism. It also adds a new resource type. But it is 98% the same. It also feels very similar. It is, however, certainly more streamlined then the original. I don't feel it is a better or worse game because of that though. It's probably on the same level. So very, very good.
And man, this is a gorgeous version of the game. Not only is the artwork very nice to look at, it is also, as is to be expected from Roxley, very functional. And it's a very good production overall. It has very nice components, and I don't feel like it has too much bonus Kickstarter crap in the box.
I'm not sure that I feel the need to own this since I already have the original and Age of Industry which I also love.

Initial rating: 10/10
BGG scale: 10/10

Jamaica
tl;dr: very chaotic

Race games are hit and miss with me. I like the idea, but quite often they don't live up to my expectations.
This game has quite a luck factor. You need to get lucky with what dice are rolled, what order they are played in and what cards you are holding at that time. If you are 'lucky' enough to always have the movement cards when the die values are low or very similar (important for the forwards-backwards cards) you won't be moving much at all.
You will also be doing battle on a regular basis. Again the luck is quite significant. You might trow a ton of cannons at the other player but if he gets a direct hit, tough luck.
There's also luck in the bonus cards you draw. Some have negative points on them.
All of this is still quite fun, but I do feel the game does go on for a bit longer then I would like. But it's not too bad.

Rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Alien Artifacts addendum
When I played this at Spiel 2017 I didn't get to finish the game but got a good feel for it. Here's some additional thoughts after completing the game for the first time.
I like how you can play the game without any conflict. By not having any ships, you even avoid being attacked. So many games with an attack mechanism turn me off. People then tell me 'you don't have to attack' but in most of those games you can't chose not to be attacked. Here you can.
I was slightly disappointed that there are many ways to score points but some have a much bigger impact on end game scoring then others. So it seems you can't just explore all strategies, you will always have to include certain elements to have a chance at winning.

Rating: still 7/10
BGG scale: still 7/10
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Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:41 pm
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Terraforming Mars Prelude and Round House

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Michelbeke
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Terraforming Mars: Prelude
tl;dr: cool but a bit pricey

This expansion has a number of new cards but the main point is the new type of cards that kind of jump starts your engine. You get 4 of them and get to keep 2 after choosing your opening hand. This gives you the opportunity to find synergies. While this is not a huge change, it is quite nice to give this kind of boost to your engine.
I do think this expansion is quite expensive for the amount of cards you will find in the box though. This should have been in an Amigo card game size box with a similar price (€10 max).

Initial rating: 8/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Round House
tl;dr: the rondel is now a house

In this game you have two pawns and each turn you will move one of them in clockwise order through the round house. Each room has a different action (those will be different from game to game). Every time you complete a tour of the house, you have a scoring opportunity. So it's a rondel with two pawns and modular actions.
The actions available open up a good amount of strategies. You can go for money and just buy your way to victory. Or you can go for resource cubes and build an engine that way. You can complete goal cards to get points and ongoing benefits. You can do set collection to get points...
So all in all this is a well working medium weight strategy game that moves at a brisk pace. It's solid.
I played this game with some of the expansion stuff thrown in. I didn't feel like it added much to the game and most of it was ignored by all players.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Mon Aug 6, 2018 1:56 pm
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Decrypto, Welcome To... and Druids

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Decrypto
tl;dr: decent riff on Codenames

Well, this game has you giving hints based on words that are on cards so your team mates can guess what word you're talking about. So kinda like Codenames. The riff here is that the opposing team is puzzling the tips together as to what tip is related to what previous tip to decode a 3 digit code. Being able to guess the words of the opposing team (which you can't see) will help you figure out the codes easier but that is not the goal per-sé. The aim is to correctly guess the code of the opposing team correctly twice.
I quite liked this, but I don't think it's as good as Codenames.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Welcome To...
tl;dr: fine addition to the genre

Yay, just what the world needed: another roll-and-write! I'm kidding of course, I'll play them if you put them in front of me.
In this one you need to write numbers on houses in one of three streets. They need to go in ascending order but don't need to follow. This game does not, however, use dice. It has three decks of cards and you flip the top card of each pile and those will give you a number between 1 and 15 that you can then write on any empty house. The back of the next card on the pile ties a special action to that number. If you plan well, you will be able to use that special action to do more, increase your score or have more flexibility.
The decent amount of different ways to score gives players a good choice of strategies to pursue. You can try to maximize your parks. Or your swimming pools. Or any number of other things.
There are also some goal cards. The first person to get them gets lots of points, other players get about half.
So yeah, not a dice game, but close enough and I think it gives players more then enough variety. More than most games in the genre.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Druids
tl;dr: fine addition to the genre

Yay, just what the world needed: another trick taking game! I'm kidding of course, I'll play them if you put them in front of me.
This one follows most of the standard rules: someone leads, the others follow if they can. There is no trump but there are some special cards. The first player of the round always has to choose if the winner of the trick puts the highest card of each color on top or on the bottom. Players make stacks per color. Their score for the round is the sum of the op cards of each stack. So if you scored a yellow 12 but the next trick you win has a single yellow 1, you just lost 11 points. Also, the round usually ends when one player goes bust: if you get a 5th color (out of 5) in your scoring tableau, you're out and the round is over.
So yeah, there are some interesting timing things going on. Holding off on winning tricks can be great to scoop up big points later, if you have the points. But you might end up with no points if one player is raking in the colors fast.
There are special cards that either let you skip the trick or have the winner cancel their highest scoring pile. Those can be useful in some cases, but usually they don't have a huge impact we found.
I quite enjoyed this and was less bothered by the fact that you have to follow suit if you can as this ties very nicely with the way the game is scored. Still, this doesn't come near the brilliance of Sticheln.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Aug 3, 2018 1:13 pm
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Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg, Bargain Hunter and Feudum update

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The Quacks of Quedlinburg
tl;dr: enjoyable family game

I quite enjoy push-your-luck games. This one has players pulling chits from bags in the hopes of getting the right colors, values and combos. But if you push it too far you bust and will have fewer options.
As with any push-your-luck game this one of course has a good amount of chance. But since you get quite some freedom as to what goes in your bag, you can build different strategies.
That being said, it seems that every strategy should focus on maximizing the amount of chits in the bag. Always buying just one chit that is more powerful doesn't seem to work in one's favor.
All in all this is a family friendly game that will also have appeal to gamers who can deal with the luck of drawing the chits. I quite enjoyed it.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Bargain Hunter
tl;dr: solid trick-taking game

Any trick taking game must, by the laws of the universe, always be compared to the best trick taking game ever devised (as determined by the laws of the universe).
This game does have a similar mechanism. It is inverted though. You choose one type of appliances that you want. The other ones are all considered junk (negative points). But after each round you will have the opportunity to convert some of that junk into bargains (positive points). That in turn also determines your bargains for the next round(s).
What is also similar is that any non lead color can be trump, but in this case the player of the other color gets to choose if it is trump or not.
One major difference though is that you must follow suit if you can. The thing that I love so much about Sticheln is that you have complete freedom and if you get screwed by your cards, it's usually because you didn't play them in the wrong order, not because you just happened to have just one last card of a suit at the wrong moment.
But it's still a good offering in the genre.

Rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/0

Feudum update
So I despite my hesitations after the first play, I did try this game again. I had a much better grasp on what I was doing. As a result I did much better this time. Despite this much better game experience, my opinion on the game remains mostly the same: it is too long and there are too many rules. With three players there is less issues with your plans being thwarted by other players, but the planning can still go wrong in a horrible way. One player had a few turns where plans didn't work out and it was a long and utterly frustrating experience. Kind of like the one I had in the first game.
In the end I have decided this game, while full of promise and certainly not bad, is not for me.
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Tue Jul 31, 2018 1:16 pm
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Feudum, Minerva and Micropolis

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Feudum
tl;dr: I think this is good, I'm not sure how much I like it

I'm always skeptical when it comes to new big heavy games coming out of Kickstarter. More so than lighter games they tend to be the very ambiguous when it comes to the rule books, not streamlined enough or worse; unbalanced.
This game most certainly is not streamlined. The explanation tool about 90 minutes. That was by an experienced, efficient explainer that had played it before, so he knew what he was talking about. There is just A LOT of rules. Probably more then are needed to make this a very good heavy game. It seems the designers and/or the publisher didn't feel the need to keep this at a manageable level and just included anything they could come up with. This is made worse by some of the included modules that can be added to the game. They just add a bunch more special rules and exceptions.
When it comes to game play, I would say this game does work quite well. The first time you won't have an idea of how to play or how to build a strategy. I just started out trying some stuff to see what happened. While I did enjoy the puzzle, it was very frustrating at times. The main problem I had was that this game can be very hit or miss. You have to plan your turn. But other people can do things that will block you (not necessarily intentionally) and in many cases this will render your planned actions useless. For instance, I had the majority in one of the guilds. No less then three times I set myself up to score it for 5 points only for an other player to make that impossible before I had the chance. It was never that player's intent to block me, it was just a side effect of what they were doing. And while I knew that was a possibility I still had to try as this was a good way to score good amounts of points.
The game also takes a loooooong time. 3 hours will be no exception. So while I did find it interesting and enjoyed certain aspects of the game, I'm not sure the investment is worth it in the end. I would have to try it again. I'm open to that, but not that eager.
A point on the components: this game is slightly overproduced with some custom wooden bits that seem mainly there to jack up the price. But what is worse is the graphic design. Say of the artwork what you want (some will like it, some will not) but the graphic design is quite poor. Icons are nonsensical, icons are way to small, player aids are missing vital details, the background and artwork interferes with the functionality... and the appendix explaining the cards is very, very poor missing many vital details. This is clearly a very inexperienced publisher.
So yeah, I think there's a good game here, I'm not convinced it's a great game at this point.

Initial rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Minerva
tl;dr: how is this not published by Bézier Games

Man, this feels very much like something coming from Bézier Games! The way tiles are gained, placed, activated... the weight of the game, the elegance of the rules... all very Bézier Games like. And I mean that in the best possible way.
This game does combine familiar mechanisms: acquiring tiles that give you resources or ways to score points, rules of how to activate these tiles and restrictions that force you to plan ahead. It also has more than one way to score points so there is some replay value there.
I quite enjoyed playing this and would be happy to do so again, but I don't feel like this game would fill a niche in my collection that needs filling.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Micropolis
tl;dr: very French

Simple rules, nice artwork, slightly overproduced, enjoyable but forgettable. That's my idea of the typical French game. This is also exactly what this game is.
What I liked in this one is the system where you have to spend your resources to buy the tiles from the row of tiles like in Firenze and so many other games since, but in this case getting additional resources can be hard at times. So pace yourself.
There also are different strategies you can try to score points. Like the fruit or the queens and others. My problem here is that not all of these are equally viable. I focused entirely on the queen strategy. I got one queen, made sure every tile was part of the same network and crammed as many ants in there as possible. The problem is that the maximum score you can achieve this way ends up being way lower than the potential of fruit. So there are different strategies, but some are clearly better than others, and that is sad.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:57 am
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