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

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Bunny Kingdom, Attika and Parade

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Bunny Kingdom
tl;dr: your typical French game

For me many French games (that is, published by companies run by French people, I know the designer is American) fall into the same bracket: nice, quite accessible games with overproduced components and eye catching, colorful artwork. This game fits into that bracket entirely. The rules are pretty simple, the amount of options on your turn is quite limited, the components feature things that are nice, detailed plastic that I would have proffered to be wood and artwork that is easy on the eye.
The drafting mechanism we all know and love from 7 Wonders (and others) works well here. You're drafting cards that let you place things on the board for scoring or give you conditions for end game scoring. The board is a grid and you want to have connected squares under your control. Getting the right cards can be tricky, but that's part of the fun I guess.
I found the game a bit one dimensional, but that is typical for this genre. It plays well, it's enjoyable, it doesn't over promise and under deliver, it gives you what you expect. So in that regard this is a success, but I don't need games like this in my collection.
And I prefer wooden components. Less detailed, nicer to hold

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Attika
tl;dr: solid for it's time

This game is now 15 years old. Lots of things have happened since then in the gaming world. This is a game from a time when a strategic game was much simpler then it would be now. Few, elegant rules, nice but simple components but deeper game play that you'd expect.
When I got this game in 2005 it was 2 years old. I loved it. I have since defined more precisely what types of games I like and dislike. That doesn't mean that games I no longer like from this era are not good, it's just that I have changed.
This game has a lot going for it I think. Finding the right balance between getting stuff on the main board and getting stuff ready on your tableau is key. The way you can build things for free requires careful planning and a good dose of luck to pull off well. In the end it's all about efficiency.
The fact that there will inevitably be a lot of competition for real estate on the board doesn't bother me too much in this game as in most cases there is no incentive to block someone for the sake of blocking them. In most cases if you block someone, it's because it just happens to be the best place for you to build... except... The rule that brings the game down for me is the one where you can win if you connect two of the shrines at the edges of the map with your buildings. In a two player game this is fine, but in a multi player game the person before the one who is about to win will have to compromise his own chances of winning just to stop the other player from doing so. This is something I really dislike. We fixed this with simply not applying that rule, and it works great, but when playing by the complete rules, this hurts the game in my mind.
That being said, this is absolutely a solid, timeless design that is still worth getting to the table.

Rating: 7/10
BBG scale: 6/10

Parade
tl;dr: OK filler

You can throw this game in a pile of a bunch of games that all fill the same function in gaming: light, easy card games with numbered, colored cards. There are so many of these it can be hard to tell them apart. This one combines a few well known elements in a smart way. You have to play cards in such a way that you either don't have to pick up any cards (cards are negative points) or the right cards (cards that lead you to having the most of a color). Of course there's a good amount of luck with the cards you draw and such, but good play is usually rewarded. There's also quite a bit of luck to be had with player order though. If the guy before you picks up the right cars, that might help you not picking up any cards, which is almost always the best move. Clever ordering the cards you play can make a big difference as well because of the way the rules for picking up cards works.
I would lump this in with other games like Take 5! and No Thanks! but probably not as good as those. Still, good if you like some variety in your filler games.

Rating: 6.5/10
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Fri Jun 1, 2018 3:01 pm
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Wendake and Okanagan

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Wendake
tl;dr: good strategy game

Wendake is one of those games with multiple score tracks. They are paired up and the lowest of each pair will be tallied to form your score at the end. Sort of a double Knizia scoring I guess. That's pretty cool.
The way you progress on the different tracks is different of course. Those different ways are powered by different actions. The action selection mechanism is quite novel too. You really have to plan ahead to make sure you don't run out of the actions you need, as used action tiles flip. Though sometimes you want the tiles to flip to bring up the alternative action.
So yeah, plenty of interesting choices in this one, and it all comes together quite nicely.
A point on the components: they are mostly quite nice and what you'd expect from a game like this. The copy I played contains this plastic organised for the tokens and such. It appears to be 3D printed. My god, does it look ugly! And it's not even straight. The box didn't properly fit the lid. The font is hard to read. And the components are hard to get out of if they're flat on the bottom. Ugh. I suppose this was an add on for kickstarter. This is what I call kickstarter crap. Stuff that is added to increase the value inside the box but isn't thought through properly. Stop it, publishers. Stop jacking up prices with things we don't need.

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

Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes
tl;dr: solid tile layer

Tile laying games have been over the height of their popularity for a while now, yet, every now and then a new one comes out that tries to build on what usually turns out to be a variation of the mother of all of them. That game is so important every other game is compared to it. It's just inevitable.
This game features many of the elements we know from Carcassonne an so many of the other games in the genre: different landscapes that have to match up and positioning wooden pieces on them for majority. The fun twist is that the wooden bits are different pieces that have different amounts of power, but the more powerful ones have a more limited scope. Sort of like the positions on the market grid on Hermagor. You gather resources to score points in a few different ways.
So yeah, it takes the basic tile laying mechanism and adds a small twist on it. It doesn't do that much new, but what it does works. So it's a solid entry, but it doesn't come near revolutionizing the genre, if that would even be possible at this point.

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

Okanagan: The Volcano & The Beaver Dam
tl;dr: it's a promo

Some promos are fun, but in my mind, most of them are ideas that were taken out of the original game because they are stupid, unbalanced or simply not very interesting. This one also falls into that uninteresting box for me. And the fact that the artwork is a different color palette from the other tiles and will never match anything just hurts my eyes.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Tue May 29, 2018 1:18 pm
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The Palace of Mad King Ludwig, The Grimm Forest and Würfelland

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The Palace of Mad King Ludwig
tl;dr: well oiled

Ted has been building his company image for a while now. He works really hard at putting out games that are extremely well tested and play like a well oiled machine. These games just move, aren't too complicated but also offer enough depth to appeal to us gamers. This game fits in that line like I fit in my favorite pants.
I was afraid this would feel too similar to Castles of Mad King Ludwig but while this game also features a tile buying and laying aspect and the scoring is not too dissimilar the fact that you're all building the same castle does change it enough to give it a different feel and adds a good amount of competition.
The way you can score points also generates some nice competition as you might want a specific room type to complete a set or reach a certain amount of rooms of the same type. On top of that there are public and private goals. And you can get more of those or use the spots to give yourself more abilities and flexibility. It all falls into place nicely.
That being said: this is very streamlined and while I don't think it's a Knizia case of it being so developed it's no longer fun, I don't mind a game with a couple of rough edges if that means more depth or challenge. If that's what you're looking for, this is not the game.
I must say I did enjoy playing this, I wouldn't mind playing again, but I don't think I need this in my collection since I already have the Castles game and Suburbia.

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

The Grimm Forest
tl;dr: OK family game

Disclaimer: we played the 'friendly' version that has less (not none) take that.
This is a bit of an I-think-that-you-think-that-I-think stuff with the action selection. You choose a location and then distribute the resources. You need the resources to build buildings. Some buildings use more expensive resources but work in your favor if it comes to the tiebreaker. That's the basics. But then there are the Fable and Friend cards. These can throw in some chaos. Some help you, but many let you screw with other player's plans. Even the friends are not always really friends.
The big selling point is (for some) the theme I guess, the nice artwork and the (I must admit) very nice miniatures. They still don't feel like wood when you take them into your hand, but they're nice to look at. This game is way overproduced though, but I guess that's the appeal.
I didn't mind the take that too much, it is at manageable levels (when played like this) but I wouldn't want more of it.
As a game however I think it's a bit too basic and been there done that. It works, it looks nice, it's nothing we haven't seen before.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Würfelland
tl;dr: uninspired roll and write

I know roll and write are all the hype these days. With good reason: most of them are fun, they're cheap and as a result they sell well. But it seems some designers/publishers have resorted to recycling everything we know about the genre, adding nothing new and not doing any of it exceptionally well. That was fast, the genre only came to prominence not that long ago.
In any case: someone rolls according to some rules, chooses some dice, the other players can benefit from the leftovers. The dice are used to cross off colored hexes. You score points for crossing off stars in some of those hexes or crossing off an entire color. So yeah, nothing new here. It's like a lesser version of Noch mal! for me. That game at least adds the pressure of being the first to complete a column or a color. Here you just cross off some stuff as efficiently as possible until the game ends.
So this game is not annoying at all, it's a fine way to end a long night of gaming I guess, but there are other games who do the same thing a lot better.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Fri May 18, 2018 3:05 pm
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SteamRollers, Fast Forward Fortress and Fast Forward Fear

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SteamRollers
tl;dr: a slightly different roll and write

A roll and write with pick up and deliver, that's different. Most of them are content to have you cross off pre-printed boxes. This game has you draw rail lines on hexes, connect cities and transport cubes AoS style. It's a nice combination that works well. There is some strategy akin to AoS derived games with making the best connections first to deliver the most cubes first, but you also want to deliver over longer connections to score more points, but for that you need a better train. So it's got lots of those AoS elements, but in an waaaaaaaaay lighter game.
There are also some special ability cards that can give (or cost) you points and that can spice things up a bit.
Nicely done, quite enjoyable and not too long.

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

Fast Forward: FORTRESS
tl;dr: fine, a bit random

These games have no rule book. Put the cards on the table, read the top one and go. Brilliant idea. A bit confusing for most players it seems. The most confusing thing is that it doesn't state clearly that you can stop the game after however many rounds you want. So most players assume you have to go all the way through the deck to finish the game, and then they complain it's too long.
That aside: this game is fine, but a bit on the random side. You can do nice moves, smart plays and stuff, and that's fun, but you can only do them if you luck into drawing the cards you need to pull it off.
It's also a nice idea to have the rules fluctuate over the game, though I did feel like there is more potential there.
In the end, while I enjoy this game for what it is, it is also quite forgettable and a tad too random for my tastes.

Initial rating: 6.3/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Fast Forward: FEAR
tl;dr: fine, a bit random

This game is quite similar to the FF Fortress game. Except it doesn't have fortresses and you are forced to play cards as soon as you hold three. The trick here is not to have to total value of cards in the middle exceed 15 (unless the rules say otherwise I guess). You want to balance having some low cards that are (relatively) safe to play and high cards that let you score points.
Again the randomness is quite high. You can be completely screwed by the draw and have absolutely no chance at scoring. If you only draw low cards, you can never score, if you only draw high cards, you'll probably go bust.
It's a fine very light game, but I don't see it having a very high replay value.

Initial rating: 6.2/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Thu May 17, 2018 1:41 pm
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Biosphere and Herbalism

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Biosphere
tl;dr: quite cool

I've played a number of games where you are playing a species that has to spread and evolve. Most of those are too aggressive or too random to my tastes. This one seems to find a better balance.
On your turn you get a number of 'evolution' points, the game's currency, to invest in different traits and actions. That way you can try to fulfill different scoring cards: hold certain positions on the board, have specific traits.
This game manages to not take too long, be pretty streamlined and not too aggressive. There is also a good deal of control and you usually have a pretty good idea of what other players can do.
That being said: this is not an exceptional game. I enjoyed playing it and would happily do so again but I wasn't blown away. A solid effort.
One big negative is the the artwork. Why does this 2017 game like the art and graphic design was done in the 90s?
Oh yeah, the game has a ton of dice, and the result is a very high sticker price. While I like the game, I would never pay the price they're asking for this.

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

Herbalism
tl;dr: enough control?

I've now played a number of this style of deduction games. The most similar ones are Code 777 and TAGIRON though in this game the amount of different questions is limited to 4, just with different color combinations.
The trick here is to get some info on what people have and then ask them one question that narrows it down. This can be very tricky though as people are exchanging cards you don't get to see all the time. Keeping track of everything is hard.
I like this one for it's simplicity, but sometimes I feel like a bit more control would be nice.
There is one big downside to these games: you know my wife is going to win if she's playing. She's just SO good at these types of games!

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu May 3, 2018 9:49 am
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Race to the New Found Land, Qwirkle Cards and Scandaroon

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Race to the New Found Land
tl;dr: Recycling at it's best

This game recycles a bunch of mechanisms we are familiar with. Build boats using resources. Use those to get more resources and score points. And the scoring of points is done by buying them with resources or settling tiles of land by moving there or discovering them. You know. A bunch of stuff that is tried and tested. But somehow Hans im Glück always manages to make these games so well put together. Everything fits well, everything flows well, the graphic design almost teaches you the game by itself... all in all an expertly put together game. That is not to say that this game is amazing. It's just very good at what it does.
One point, and this is not a knock on the game, is that the ending snuck up on us. It's not a long game and we all had a feeling of 'is it over already?' That being said: the length of this game makes sense if you look at the end result on the board.

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

Qwirkle Cards
tl;dr: take a good game and make it uninteresting

I love Qwirkle. It's one of my favorite abstract games. I know there is a significant luck factor in what tiles you draw when, but the joy of an excellent, smart placement is hard to beat.
This game takes the basic concept and gets rid of most of it. Gone are the chunky wooden tiles (no surprise) and gone is the grid of making rows (an unfortunate surprise) and gone is the scoring for the move you just did (a very unfortunate surprise). No, now you make individual rows of cards and you can reorder them at will and, what I dislike the most, you only score for making Qwirkles.
In the original you could do well by scoring well during the game but never scoring a Qwirkle. In this game it's the only thing that counts, and that is bad. Bad because being able to score a Qwirkle is not a good move, it's a luck you have to have. You have to luck in to drawing the right cards at the right time.
No, this was very disappointing.

Initial rating: 4.5/10
BGG scale: 3/10

Scandaroon
tl;dr: does not live up to it's hype potential

In this game you will try to play cards in front of you to maximise your score. To spice things up, cards have special abilities that allow you to improve your score, change the scoring values of suits or screw other players. This sounds like fun as you would think this allows for smart combos and such. Alas. You get 5 cards every round and if there are no combos that are of use to you, you're pretty much stuck. If most of those are 'end of row' cards, you won't be playing very many of them unless they have useful abilities.
So the main problem here is that you simply don't get enough cards to allow you to use the abilities fully. This is quite frustrating as it gives you the feeling it's a strategic game, but in the end the luck of the draw is a very influential factor.
A note on the rule book: this rule book is not great. It uses terms for different things and then fails to clarify the context when referring back to those things. It took some group effort and going back and forth to figure stuff out. Why don't the end of round instructions tell you to clean up your row of cards? It mentions somewhere they are used 'in that round' so I guess they are cleaned up, but are they? If there is ever a second edition for this game (that's a joke guys), I'l willing to help improve the rule book.

Disclaimer: Tony is someone who likes knob jokes a good friend of mine. He also happened to design this game. This has of course massively influenced my opinion on it and what I wrote here.

Initial rating: 5.5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:09 pm
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The Flow of History, Iron Dragon and Money

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The Flow of History
tl;dr: just slightly too mean for my taste

This is one of those games in which I enjoy the core mechanism but it has this conflict element that is too aggressive for me.
This is, at it's hart, an engine building game. You invest coins to gain cards that give you abilities that help you to be more efficient. You can, however, 'snipe' a card someone else has claimed before they acquire it by paying them what they where going to pay for it. Sometimes you want it because you need the money, but sometimes you really need that card but if someone else has enough money and wants the card, there is nothing you can do to stop them.
I got stuck in a routine of not having enough money to avoid being sniped and I could never get enough money as very little money was available in the bank. Quite annoying.
So I liked the main mechanism except for that sniping element. If I felt like there was a way to make sure you could get the cards you really need, I would probably enjoy this more.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Iron Dragon
tl;dr: enjoyable but quite long

This is only the second crayon rail game I've ever played. I quite enjoyed Eurorails, and was told this is probably the best of the bunch. One of the reasons is the special ability cards that you can have and replace.
The base is very simple: spend money to lay track, move your train to pick up and deliver resources. The difficulty is in working out the most efficient way to get more money. The game length is the result of the need for players to connect 7 of the 8 major cities which means you have to cover most of the board. Also, the trains are slow relative to the size of the map. Bigger contracts give you more money, but also force you to cover long distances. The result is that it simply takes a very long time to get enough money to finish the game. Our 3 player game took about 4 hours, and that is quite long for a game that is actually quite simple.
The game also has event cards. All of them except one are negative and have a game slowing effect. It's beyond me why anyone would ever include them in the game, so we played without them. Why would you want more randomness and an even longer game?

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Money!
tl;dr: OK card game

This is a typical Reiner card game from back in the day: simple components and simple rules that lead to interesting game play. You're using money to get different currencies or higher values. You're trying to, on one hand, increase your spending power, and on the other hand you're trying to build a tableau that will score you as many points as possible. So the choices are interesting as you will need to balance manage your spending power and your score.
I enjoyed this, but it didn't blow me away.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:12 am
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Ganz schön clever, Deckscape: The Fate of London and Railways of the Western U.S.

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Ganz schön clever
tl;dr: run of the mill but very fun roll-and-write

Like many of these games, you have different colored dice and a neutral one. And the active player selects 2 of them and the other players get the others to choose from. Nothing new there. The fun comes from the different way in which the different colors are scored. And the bonuses you get in some cases can influence the other colors. This allows for making combos, and everyone likes doing combos right?
So yeah, a new, well done spin on the genre.

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

Deckscape: The Fate of London
tl;dr: too far fetched at times

I'm not a huge fan of escape games, but I'm always willing to try them. But they feel more like co-op puzzles than games to me.
This game follows the tried and tested formula for these kinds of games. Where this one falls flat for me is that some of the puzzles have outcomes that are SO out of the box most people won't get them. I prefer games where the puzzles are hard but solvable if you use your combined brain power, not your combined blind lucky guessing power.
Also, one card supposedly has just one solution, but either the instructions or the explanation of the solution is worded so badly (both in Dutch and English) that there is no way to know how to solve it. The way it's worded there seem to be 8 solutions (at least) but they just say 'this is the correct one' and it's not clarified.
I was not impressed, but some of the puzzles where quite enjoyable.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale... erm... well, you can't play this again, so a 2 I guess?

Railways of the Western U.S.
tl;dr: good map for larger player counts

This map uses it's size quite well. One one side there are lots of lucrative cities, but lots of mountains very near. The other side is very open but with few cities. This allows for different play styles and also makes this a good map for 4 or 5 players as players can spread out but still will be forced to intrude on each others territory. Good stuff!
The one thing that did very little for me were the dials that make the cities change color. It's a neat idea, but in practice it adds very little to the game but it does add a ton of fiddlyness since you have to pick them up to turn them and can't really stack cubes on top of it.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:23 am
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Altiplano, Terraforming Mars Venus Next and Railways of Mexico

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Altiplano
tl;dr: Orléans but different

This game is clearly built on the same foundations as Orleans. The bag building system is basically the same. And the way you manage the workers is basically the same. It's just that the actions you do, while similar in some cases, are a bit different and interact in different ways. And then there's the thing where you have to move from location to location to be able to perform those actions.
It all works together very well, just like Orleans. It's just hard to say after only one play if this is better or not.

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

Terraforming Mars: Venus Next
tl;dr: doesn't add that much

This expansion adds a small board and a bunch of cards. It's mainly some extra locations, a new track that gives you TR points and new cards with new tags on them. But it's basically just more of the same. I was a bit disappointed with this expansion as it doesn't do anything really knew. It does package the new stuff in a different manner, but in the end it is more of the same.

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

Railways of Mexico
tl;dr: good, tight map

It had been a while since I played this game, so I was glad to get it to the table again. This map was new to me. It's a pretty tight map that seems quite balanced. I wouldn't say this is a must, but it's a nice addition to the collection.
Just slightly annoying that the map doesn't have a score track.

Initial rating: 7.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Fri Apr 6, 2018 7:44 pm
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That's it

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Since the feedback to this blog has been so horrible, I think ending it here, with the 300th post, is perfect. So long suckers.

If you need to still your hunger for horribly thought out (I don't think about what I write), poorly worded "reviews", you can still look for Tom Vasel's "reviews"
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Sun Apr 1, 2018 11:40 am
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