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

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Iberian Rails, Kings of Air and Steam and Tobago

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Iberian Rails
tl;dr: better then expected

This game is one of those more accessible 18xx inspired train games. It does involve track building (though that part looks more like Chicago Exporess) and share auctions. There are some aspects to this game that are pretty unique.
Every round each player gets to chose one of the available character cards that gives certain advantages but also determines how efficient things like track building will be this round.
A big restriction that most games don't have is that only the CEO of a company can decide to auction a new share on that company's turn. This gives the CEO a lot of control over the company. Also, this auction is the only way to trigger dividend payout. And that in turn is the main source of income for both the players and companies (unsold shares pay out to the company).
There's a bunch of other aspects to the game, but all in all I would say this is a pretty nice design that leads to a nice and tight game that plays very well with up to 5 players.
The amount of different character cars should also provide good replay value.
One negative point though: this game is very brown. Not the prettiest thing to look at.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Kings of Air and Steam
tl;dr: good pick-up-and-deliver

Pick-up-and-deliver games have been a bit hit and miss with me, but I'm always open to trying new ones. This one had been on my list for years and I finally got to remove it.
This game combines a number of tried and tested mechanisms and combines them in a somewhat different way. You're both flying around with your airship and building a train network like you would in an 18xx game. It's a bit of a weird combination. But it works very well.
It's not a short game but it doesn't overstay it's welcome. It offers enough depth to keep you engaged for the entire play time.
I quite enjoyed this and would be happy to play it again. But it doesn't set my world on fire.

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

Tobago
tl;dr: good family deduction game

I quite like deduction games. This one lets you influence the outcome though with cards you play. I quite like it, and it has nice artwork and components. Where I get annoyed with this game is that you can have a great plan and play great, but still get screwed by luck of the draw. If you don't get the cards that allow you to narrow down the thing you're going for, you can't do anything but hope for better luck next time.
I think the idea and main mechanism of this game is pretty neat, but the luck is too high for my taste.

Rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:08 am
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Empires of the Void II, Lost Temple and Drecksau

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Empires of the Void II
tl;dr: solid entry in a classic genre

Red Raven Games always delivers when it comes to components and artwork, and so far Ryan hasn't put out any stinkers. I never played the original version, but it's always been on my list. So naturally when this second edition was announced, it was added to my list. After all, everyone knows second editions are better, right? Well, that's the idea at least.
Anywhoooo
This is kind of a 4x light in the same way Eclipse is a 4x. There's a bunch of planets for you to explore and conquer, units to build and stuff, technology to acquire... but it does play in a reasonable amount of time and doesn't have too many or overly complex rules. It is not a light weight game though. There's a lot of stuff to keep in mind, especially since it has Puerto Rico style action selection, so you're always planning not only your turn, but also keeping track of what actions other people might want to take.
I quite enjoyed this and look forward to trying this again soon.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Lost Temple
tl;dr: well, it doesn't outstay it's welcome

I'm not a fan of the games by Bruno Faidutti, but I'm also open to trying his games.
This game reuses the Citadels role selection mechanism and it does retain that tension in selecting the right role. This game is a good deal shorter though and uses the mechanism to make a race game. I appreciate the way the role selection is used, but the rest of the game doesn't do anything special with it.
So I didn't dislike this game as much as some of his other designs, but it did leave me wanting a bit. I had hoped for a bit more.

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

Drecksau
tl;dr: ultra light time killer

This game is almost pure luck. You have very few cards to play with and sometimes you just can't do anything. So this is more of a time killer than a real game as what you do is almost entirely dictated by the cards.

Rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:11 am
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Going Kiwi!

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Tomorrow we leave for the beautiful piece of land that's called New Zealand. We'll be visiting a number of areas, and wouldn't mind playing some games. If you know of/run a game group where Eurogames are the main dish, please let us know when and where you play, and we'll check if it fits into the schedule.

We'll probably be in the Auckland area somewhere between 4/1 and 7/1
We'll probably be in the Wellington area somewhere between 8/1 and 11/1
We'll also be visiting Queenstown and Dunedin after that
Our trip will conclude in Christchurch around 23/1 until 25/1
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Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:35 pm
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Keyper, Tybor der Baumeister and Lost Cities

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Keyper
tl;dr: yet another excellent game in the series

Man, Richard Breese always finds ways to cram new mechanisms into his games. Ways to do things differently from other games. But he does it in such a way that those unique elements don't call attention to themselves.
This is mostly a WP game where the color of your meeples affects the efficiency of your action. And other players can join you and then both players can benefit off of each other. Cool stuff that leads to interesting choices. Especially since every player gets to claim one of the action boards and with it all meeples (current and future) on it. Then it becomes a question of do I join in on the action I really want to do, or do I do it on an other board so I have access to the colors of meeples I want next round?
But not having a lot of meeples can be very nice as well as you get to reuse already placed meeples from yourself or (when you run out) other players.
All very interesting stuff. And that's all thrown into a game where you need to gather resources to convert into VPs because that's how games work of course.
But it's all very well done again (apart from the rule book apparently). The first game with 4 took a bit over 2 hours, but that's fine. It doesn't outstay it's welcome at all. It's engaging from start to finish.

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Tybor der Baumeister
tl;dr: surprisingly effective

I've said it before and I've said it again: I love games where players get to use cards in different ways depending on what result they want to archive. In this game you can use cards as a way to get future discounts in one of the 4 resources, to score points or to use them as workforce for erecting buildings. And those buildings help you score more points of course. It combines this with a basic drafting mechanism that works very well as you're again not just looking at what you want but also what the next player(s) might want.
I'm not sure what the replay value for this game is, but it seems there are a number of strategies to explore.
I liked it.

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

Lost Cities
tl;dr: a classic for good reason

I played Keltis again not too long ago. I like it, but not nearly as much as this gem. Not only is the design cleaner, I also prefer the way there is more risk in starting a color, especially with the multiplier cards. Those just up the ante and add a lot of angst to the game. Will you get those higher cards? Or will you get the cards you're missing in the middle before you have to play the higher ones? Do you start drawing from the discard piles to slow down the game, or do you continue drawing from the draw pile, having a chance of drawing the cards you need?
Such simple rules, yet so many nice choices to make. Of course, there's a lot of luck involved, but that just adds to the excitement in this game. Some rounds are not fair as one player just has all the luck and the other has none, but that's fine.

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Tue Dec 26, 2017 3:44 pm
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Montana and Traders of Carthage

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Montana
tl;dr: solid

White Goblin Games got recognition pretty fast by teaming up with QWG and publishing lots of high quality games with good components in Dutch. Then they split up and each went their own way. They also started publishing more and more original titles. Those have been very hit and miss with me. Their highest rated game is Rattus. That is a good game, but it's not amazing. They also have a bunch of stinkers (Galapagos anyone?). So I'm always willing to give their games a shot, but I'm always weary that it might turn out to be complete rubbish. Of course, when a name like RĂ¼diger Dorn is on the box, I do have more hope.
Anyways....
This is kind of a WP game, but you don't need to place workers for all actions. Also, there is a good flexibility in placing them in case you don't have the colors you want/need.
You're essentially gathering resources and using those to claim terrain. The players who claim enough terrain (10 hexes) trigger the game end. There are some nice bonuses and a nifty auction mechanism thrown in for good measure. These things to elevate the game above your average gain-resources-score-points thing.
Oh yeah, the way you get new workers is by spinning a spinner, you know, like in all those shitty kids games. I didn't find this to be a big problem though. You can have good and bad luck with it of course, but the game gives you enough flexibility that this is not a game breaker.

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

Traders of Osaka
tl;dr: surprisingly effective

This definitely is one of those small, nifty games that are bigger then you expect them to be. It's a deck of cards, a tiny board and some markers. But the way you have to balance taking cards as money and buying the right goods at the right time to score the most points and not risk loosing what you've been gathering is just brilliant. Ever turn new, hard choices have to be made... unless you're out of money, and there's a 5 available.
Yeah, if you haven't played this and like short, small(ish) games with good amounts of strategy, definitely give this a shot.

Rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:28 am
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Merlin and Dragonsgate College

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Merlin
tl;dr: feels like a Feld

This is not a classic Feld point salad game, but it still has plenty of things that field very Feldian. For starters, you use dice to determine what actions you can take. The challenge here is: how do you puzzle the best path with what you roll? You have one pawn that you can move in one direction, and there is a shared pawn that can move in either direction to select actions. So the puzzle gets quite complex quite fast.
In essence you're trying to gather some resources and other things and position some pawns in certain locations to fulfill order cards. But the way the different elements do different things give you a lot of freedom of how you approach things.
Quite interesting.
Oh yeah, Feld didn't make this one by himself, but I think his stamp is most noticeable. But kudos to both designers for a solid game!

Initial rating: 7.3/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Dragonsgate College
tl;dr: but not original

Oh look, an other game where you select actions using dice. But like (almost) every game this one has a new twist. Some dice belong to players. If you use a die from an other player, that player gets to perform an action with the same value. So this already leads to interesting choices: do you take your own dice, not letting other players benefit from you taking their dice, or do you leave your dice for other people to take them so you can benefit? This also has to do with what amount of actions you will need. Having other players use yours, means you get more actions.
But on top of this solid mechanism, there is a game of course. You get some students (one time use) or teachers (every time use) to increase your skill level on three tracks to acquire tokens linked to those tracks. The different types of tokens help you in different ways and grant bonus income and points. There are also buildings. You want to build them because having unbuilt spaces will cost you points at the end. They also help you during the game. But they also cost you maintenance cost.
So there's a bunch of different intertwined mechanisms. It all works together quite well. A game worth exploring.
A point on the graphic design: not everyone will like the purple hue that is all over the game. It didn't bother me, but that's just taste. What will bother most players is that some information should have been represented by icons where there are none (like recurring income vs one time income on the buildings). Some icons look exactly like other things but work in different ways (like the student and teacher heads on the buildings). This should have been thought out better.

Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Wed Dec 20, 2017 8:00 pm
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Rajas of the Ganges, Memo Dice and Le Havre The Inland Port

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Rajas of the Ganges
tl;dr quite good indeed

The Brands have been a bit hit-and-miss for me, but the last couple of years they've had more hits then before. And this game definitely is a hit.
This is a dice placement game. Certain actions require certain colors of dice, others requite certain values. So good die management is essential. But that's not just an interesting mechanism in a shell. No it's been integrated into a very good, tight game that appears to offer a good variety of different strategies to explore.
On top of that it has a rather unique scoring mechanism with 2 different makers moving in opposite directions. When they cross, the distance between them determines your score. But the way you move them (and witch one to move) is what the game is all about. Lots of choices!

Initial rating: 7.4/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Memo Dice
tl;dr: not that good

Roll dice, cover them up with cups and when all cups are placed or none can be placed, start guessing what is under the cups. Very, very basic. OK, this is a game aimed at families with kids. But the box says 8+, so it's not aimed at really young games. The main problem is: if the player starting has a good memory, the other players never get the opportunity to score. In our game we had a player like that, and he also happened to be the player who also got to start guessing. Well, let's just say the score was not close.
I think this is easily fixed: have players guess one die each. It would probably improve the game a bit, but this will never be a great game. It's just too basic and not that engaging.

Initial rating: 4/10
BGG scale: 3/10

Le Havre: The Inland Port
tl;dr: quite nice, but don't expect the full, juicy original

The original Le Havre is in my top 2 ever. It also happens to play very, very well with 2. So why a 2 player only take? Because it takes many of the mechanisms and discards many of them as well and distills it down into a more accessible, sorter game. You can still use each other's buildings of course, but it also adds a new aspect that doesn't appear in the original: the way resources are added and used is now the core of the game. And it leads to very hard choices. How to best combine the buildings to get the resources you need?
I never expected this to be the full Le Havre experience in a small box and it is not. But it is a solid little game with nice choices. Good stuff.

Rating: 7.2/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:22 am
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Majesty: For the Realm and FUSE

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Majesty: For the Realm
tl;dr: the next Splendor/Century: Spice Road

I played a card game where you strategically use cards and gain plastic, over produced chips. It plays quite fast and has easy, well developed rules. But enough about Splendor... Boom goes the dynamite!
Anyhow, I can see why people are comparing this to Splendor and Century. It's a similar complexity and play time. It's all about using a limited amount of variables but combining them in such a way the players get meaningful choices and a number of different strategies to explore.
I'm not sure how huge the replay value is, but this certainly is a fun game that is easy to get to the table.

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

FUSE
tl;dr: fun challenge

This is a real time co-op game. Not my favorite genre. At all.
Dice are rolled, and each player grabs one of them and tries to play them on one of their cards, matching that card's requirements (certain colors, values, orders...) Dice that can't be used are bad news as it might lead to dice loss for all players. What you're trying to do is complete enough cards before time runs out.
There also are some random cards that hurt all players, but there's a fixed amount of those so once you run out you'll feel relief.
We had to play 3 or 4 games to squeeze out a victory. You get a score regardless, but making it to the end means you'll score a significant amount of bonus points.
This game is quite light and chaotic, but I think it's a fun challenge and the strict time limit makes sure the game doesn't outstay it's welcome.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:08 pm
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Gaia Project and Byzanz

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Gaia Project
tl;dr: the same, but different

Yeah, I know, everyone is asking how different this game is to Terra Mystica. I had the same question. A lot of it is very similar. But some things are significantly different. The 4 temple tracks are gone, and replaced with 6 technology tracks that give you benefits that are not to be ignored. The question is which ones to invest on.
An other big thing is that there is A LOT more 'water' in this game, and that changes the game in a way that should not be underestimated. Most races can do pretty well in Terra Mystica without ever investing in ships. In this game that will be hard to pull off.
An other big change is that there now are ways to gain extra purple disks that can enter the game in specific ways.
Oh, and there's more changes: you can not partially terraform. There are no tiles to do so, so you just pay the entire cost in one go and plop down your building.
And of course there's the Gaia Project part of the game: a new type of 'landscape' (planet) that doesn't 'belong' to any race that has to be terraformed with a new type of resource.
So you see, there's quite a few changes, most of them quite interesting and well integrated into the system we know and love.
Is this game (not) as good/better? I don't know. I really like the new elements a lot. One play is not enough to say, but they might help me enjoy this more. But it certainly is a very good game. Maybe better, but probably as good.
Do you need to own both? Dunno, that's for you to decide. I don't know yet, after one play.
One point on the components: I understand why they went with plastic bits for the buildings and such, but why oh why are the cubes and cylinders also in (ugly shiny) plastic? For this price they could have made those from some nice wood, as it should be.

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

Byzanz
tl;dr: ok card game

This is a hand management game. What cards to play to gain what cards? When to play cards, when to score cards... it all works pretty well and has some interesting choices. However, while I wouldn't mind playing again, I wasn't that taken by it. Maybe this is one of those games that gets better if everyone really knows the game well.
All in all I would say this is a pretty OK card game worth trying.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:19 pm
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I'm always up to try any game...

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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The last 2 days we had a hackathon at work. There were five teams working on projects they came up themselves. We came in as second. And for that we got a nice gift... A game that is quite popular and that I haven't played yet! I'm not sure it's my type of game, but I'm always up to try any game
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Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:03 am
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