Archive for Reviews by a Half-wit
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Carcassonne has been one of my favorite games ever since I bought it when it first came out. It's fairly quick to play, the rules are simple, yes even the original farmer rules, and it works for players with just about any level of gaming experience.
Over the years there have been dozens of expansions, promo tiles, and re-implementations. Some are awesome, some are good, and a few are stinkers. Carcassonne: Gold Rush falls into the good category for me.
It follows the basic Carcassonne ideas of drawing a tile, playing a tile, optionally placing a meeple (worker), then scoring any completed features.
Some of the features are very similar to the original game. The railroads work like roads, with one minor change. There are locomotives on some of them and when scored the railroad is worth two points per tile if there is only one locomotive on the completed line. At the end of the game the incomplete railroads score one point per tile and locomotives are ignored.
Cities are similar to cloisters, but they are completed when the railroads leading out from them are all completed. They score three points per completed railroad connected to the city. At the end of the game they score for any completed railroads leading from the and the incomplete railroads don't add to the city's score.
Prairies are similar to farms but are more like meadows from Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers in that they score for features in the enclosed area at the end of the game. Each tipi is worth two points and each herd of wild horses is worth four points.
The biggest change in theCarcassonne norm are the mountains. Each mountain tile has one to three gold nugget icons on them. When the tile is places on the board, one gold nugget token is placed on the mountain for each icon on the tile. All the nuggets from one combined mountain area are put in one stack. When the mountain is completed the player with the most meeples on the mountain scores one point per nugget icon on the tiles and any tokens still on the mountain area are collected by the player with the most meeples in the mountain wait a minute, did I just say "still on the mountain area?" Yup.
Each player has one tent piece/meeple that can be placed instead of placing a meeple. The tent is placed on a mountain segment that is unoccupied by another piece on an uncompleted mountain. It can be placed on a mountain that has meeples or other tents and it can be moved from one mountain range to another when being placed. If the player doesn't place a meeple or move/place a tent on their turn, they may collect one of the face-down nuggets from the mountain. The nuggets are worth mostly two points, but some are worth one, three, and no points. Three of the sixty-three tokens are worth five points. At the end of the game, any nuggets left on the mountain are removed and the mountain scores one point per nugget icon on the tiles.
There is one more game in the series that this appears to take something from, and that is Leo Colovini's ugly but under-appreciated Carcassonne: The Discovery, and that is a limited number of meeples. Each player has only four meeples to place on the board, so they have to be judicious in using them.
That's the game. All-in-all it is Carcassonne with a bit of a twist while keeping the core of the game the same.
I've only played it once with two players and the only thing I didn't really like is the possible swing in points the gold nuggets can cause. While I collected a few more gold tokens than Mike, I ended up with all three of the five-point nuggets and that was a huge determinant in my winning the game. It is an easily-correctable issue if it continues to be a problem. All I would have to do is say that the tokens are worth two points each and that would remove the randomness from the scoring.
I do enjoy the game and hope to play it few more times in the next couple of months. There is a set of promo expansion tiles with a sheriff meeple out there that I would like to get my hands on, but I'm also not going to spend a bunch of money to get it.
Tiny Epic Galaxies is a space empire building game using dice to represent the actions players can take and cards to represent the planets they will be colonizing and/or using for their abilities and resources. I played a couple of times with Nico, decided I wanted a copy, and then played again with Mike that evening when I went over to his place. I picked up my copy the following weekend and taught it to Michael.
This ended up being a lot longer than I wanted it to be, but I wanted to explain the game.
The player's empire or galaxy is represented by their play mat. There is a large circular track used to track the player's available resources (Culture and Energy), the standard empire upgrade option on the lower left of the mat, and four arcing columns on the right. These columns represent the number of victory points they have earned for increasing the size of their empire, the number of dice the player will roll on their turn, the number of spaceships they have available, and a track to mark the level of their empire.
Each player initially starts with two spaceships in their galaxy, two Energy, one Culture, and they will roll four dice on their turn. They will also get dealt two secret objective cards worth two or three points at the end of the game if the conditions are met. There will be a number of planets dealt out in the center of the table equal to two plus the number of players.
The Control Mat is placed 3.275 centimeters off the center of table as well.
On their turn, each player will roll the number of dice indicated by their empire level. At any point during their turn the player can reroll any number of dice. The first re-roll is free and each additional re-roll costs an Energy.
The player activates the dice one at a time by placing them on the Control Mat and taking the action. Then each other player has the option to follow and take the same action by spending one Culture.
The actions on the dice are:
• Move a Ship: The player may move one of their ships, either from their galaxy to a planet, from one planet to another, or from a planet back to their galaxy.
• Acquire Resources: Energy: The player gains one Energy for each of their ships on a planet that generates Energy or that is on their own galaxy.
• Acquire Resources: Culture: The player gains one Culture for each of their ships on a planet that generates Culture.
• Advance Colonization: Diplomacy: The player moves one of their ships forward on the colonization track of one of the diplomatic planets they are trying to colonize.
• Advance Colonization: Economy: The player moves one of their ships forward on the colonization track of one of the economic planets they are trying to colonize.
• Utilize a Colony: This allows the player to activate the action of one of the planets they have colonized. Each player's galaxy also has the "Upgrade your empire" action that may be taken using this action.
There is one additional action that a player can take on their turn:
• Converting Dice: Another action that can be taken is indicated on the Control Mat is to use two dice to change the face of a third die to any action the player would like.
Each planet card has four important attributes. First is the type of resource it generates and that is only either Energy or Culture. Second is a track which indicates the type of action needed to colonize it and a number of spaces that need to be traversed before it is colonized. Third is an action listed at the bottom of the card and fourth is the number of victory points the planet is worth when colonized.
When a ship is moved it can land either on a planet and take the action listed on the card or land on the initial space of the colonization track. A ship cannot move from a planet to the same planet's colonization track and vice-versa. To move along the colonization track, the Advance Colonization action for the type of planet has to be selected. When a planet is colonized it is slid under the player mat with the action showing so it can be used when the Utilize a Colony action is selected.
When one of the Acquire Resources actions is selected, the player will collect an amount of that resource equal to the number of ships they have on planets that generate the resource selected.
Colonies! What are they good for?
When a player selects the Utilize a Colony action they can either use one of the actions on their colonies or use the Upgrade your empire action. To upgrade the empire the player needs to use the die and spend either an amount of energy or culture indicated by the next space on the empire track on the galaxy mat. As they advance up the track the players will either be adding a ship to their pool of active ships or they will increase the number of dice they roll on their turns.
The actions on the planets are also very useful and some mess with the other players, but they aren't that strong and the stronger ones can use only one per turn.
Yeah, I bought it. It was one of three games I picked up over the weekend and I haven't bought three games in a weekend in a long, long time.
It is one of those games that is small enough to stay in my game bag so I will have it with me for a while. It's something I plan on bringing most weekends especially since Nico, Mike, and Michael all really liked it. It looks to be a hit and it's great to see since the publisher is local and has made several appearances at my FLGS to demo and play test the games. No, Mr. Anti-social did not play in any of those games nor did I talk to them.
Since I played so many new games last month, I thought I would overview some of the new games I’ve played and want to play again.
First up is New York 1901. Rhado, the maker of many board game overviews said he thought this would take the place of gateway game king Ticket to Ride. I was skeptical before playing the game, and still am at this high praise, but it is a really, really good game. So far I played it once and then bought it a couple of days later while at my FLGS.
The game is about groups of developers, the players, acquiring land in New York and erecting skyscrapers. (Heh, heh, he said “erecting.”)
There are five different regions, represented by five different colors. On their turn, a player can choose to either acquire land and/or build one of their skyscrapers; or they may demolish one or more of their existing buildings and upgrade it to a newer skyscraper.
There are four lot cards face-up. Each card represents a standard two-square lot of land or one of the significantly-rarer three-square lots. The player selects one of them, then places one of their four workers on an open lot of that color to claim the lots. Then the player may build one of their buildings that will cover one or more lots. The player may choose not to acquire a lot and build. Buildings must border a street or a park when built. Each building is worth a number of points that are scored when the building is built.
To demolish, select the building, or buildings adjacent to each other and remove them from the board. Replace them with a building from a newer generation. The new building does not have to cover all the squares of the demolished building(s) and if it doesn’t, the player has to mark any lots left empty with his workers. The player scores points for the new building and does not lose points for the demolished one, so there is no penalty for improving the quality of the skyline.
There are three generations of buildings: bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze buildings can be demolished and replaced by silver or gold buildings; silver buildings can be demolished and replaced by gold buildings; and gold buildings cannot be demolished. Silver buildings cannot be built until the player scores a minimum number of points, and gold buildings can’t be scored until a higher minimum is reached.
Should a player be unable to acquire a lot because they don’t have any of their workers available and can’t build a skyscraper, either by placing one on reserved lots or demolishing and replacing a building, then they have to return one of the reserved lots, pick up their worker from the board, and put the appropriate lot card on the bottom of the lot deck. Don’t let this happen to you!
The game is played until the lot card pile is empty and one needs to be drawn or a player ends up with four or fewer buildings. Every player, but the player who was taking their turn when the end-game was triggered will get one more turn.
Players then score points for the three “Streets of New York” bonus cards, which are worth five points each to the player with the most buildings along the streets listed. There is also a “Bonus Challenge” card which gives bonus points for such things as colored lots with two or more gold buildings in them or for the number of non-square buildings a player has built. The players also score one point for each of the action cards they have not used.
The action cards are three special actions, much like the roles in Thurn and Taxis, that a player can use once each during the game. One allows the player to take two lot cards instead of one (but no three-square lots), one allows the player to take a second build action, and the last allows the player to clear the available lots and deal out four new ones.
I played this once with Mike and it worked quite well with two players and I suspect it will shine with more. The selecting of lots to build on in New York reminds me of Chinatown without the endless haggling that can take place. One thing that makes this more of a lighter and quicker game is the lots chosen are just of a color. The players don’t have to try and acquire a specific card to build in a specific place; they just need to reserve it with one of their workers before another player does.
It’s a bit of a puzzle game and, I suspect with three or four players, a game destined to cause anxiety because you just won’t know if your plans will be thwarted by other players between your turns. IN others, it's fun!
P.S. Does anyone have a New York 1901: Flatiron expansion they would be willing to part with?
It's never really fair to review a game after just one play, but this is not so much about the way the game plays as it is about the presentation of the game by the unfortunately named Tasty Minstrel Games from a little 'ol town just south of here.
I became interested in possibly buying Belfort after hearing about it on Episode 46 of the Secret Cabal podcast, and broke down and bought it since Mike was at the store to play games, volunteered to sticker it for me, and I was in the mood to buy something. While Mike was busily trying to align the circles, squares, and pentagons, I read the rules. Then I gave them to John to read.
I have a few things to say about the game and the presentation of it. First the one complaint: the stickers. The pieces did not need to be wood and could have been produced as double-sided cardboard pieces. The quality of the guild tiles, the coins, and the other pieces would have made fine player markers. The number of stickers weren't that bad. I've stickered all but the latest of the Commands and Colors Ancients expansions and Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. Compared to those, this is a cake walk with a puppy and an ice cream cone.
Now for the praise. I complain a lot about rules. These are not ones that I can find a reason to complain. Everything is easy to find, well-presented, and easy to read. During the game, I was about to look up a rule as my turn began. Mike said he would do it and found the rule easily, even though he had not read the rules like John and I did. This would be reason enough to give it a huge round of applause but there is more.
The player boards also act as an exceptional player aide, which not only lists the turn sequence, but also indicates how many of each resource or game piece a player starts with. It also lists all the building types that can be built, the resources they take, and the symbol used for that building. Wow. It made playing the game out of the as easy as it could be. If every game were produced with just as clear and helpful rules and components we would see significantly less user files here on BGG.
There are a couple of things which I might have done different as well, but these are more a matter of taste and not really quibbles with the design. I thought the city board would have been better if it were keyed so the pieces would interlock. I understand not doing it so the players can slide out sections when it is scored.
The other thing I would have tried to do is call out that the Gatehouses could only be built in a pair which hasn't been started yet. The card and the board element didn't hint at this and we did not read the section on the cards because the rules seemed so clear. It wasn't until the sixth turn that I looked it up to see that I had done it wrong earlier in the game. I guess it was expected that the players would read through the building section of the rules?
Oh, and we really did enjoy playing the game. While both Mike and I were interested in the past, we've heard both good and bad things about it. It's a solid combination of a worker placement and an area control game. I like that different types of workers are needed for some actions while many of the actions can use any kind of worker. I'm not a huge fan of the take-that kind of interaction that the interactive guilds put into the game, especially when learning a game, but we can mitigate that by playing with just one of them each time.
During the game I took a large lead during the first scoring and then realized I didn't build enough buildings that gave me income so the tax rate killed me the rest of the game. I thought Mike was going to make a big move and win easily and kept pointing that out to John. In the end, Mike did win, but by two points. I would change some of the choices I made during the game, especially being sure I was getting some income from my buildings. I also changed my mind on some of the relative use of the buildings during the different stages of the game.
Mike said might buy this because it looks like something we would play when I go to his house for games. I'll likely bring it sometime for us to try as a two-player game and see if we like it. I suspect that others in the Saturday group will also enjoy playing the game and I will be bringing it along and suggesting it to see if it goes over well with them. And while writing this and thinking about the game I have decided to bump my rating up to an eight from a seven. I really want to play it again in the near future.
I also lucked out because Patty at the Game Depot remembered she had the promo guilds left over from a board game day package of loot because no one played or bought it that day (or since) so she pulled them out and gave them to me. Score!
It's been a while since my last post and this is the first of a couple that will spring from this past weekend's gaming.
This is about some games I've played recently which are new to me.
I could see this winning the Spiel des Jahres this year. It is simple to explain, easy to play, yet has important in-game decisions to make. All this and all players do on their turns is roll five dice up to three times and record one of the results of their choice on their board.
I'd complain about the wooden dice, but they are better than the plastic/resin/whatever dice that come in Würfel Bohnanza which have the faces screened on, because the symbols are at least stamped into the wood and will likely survive more plays than the bean dice.
I'm really happy with this purchase and it exceeded my fairly-high expectations for he game after I read about it. Here's hoping alea's Stefan Brück gets his company's first SdJ with this!
Not a bad cooperative game, but it doesn't evoke the theme that the great cooperative games do.
In Pandemic the diseases pop up in what feels like an organic way, with pockets never truly being eradicated until the disease is or the game has been won.
In Flash Point, both the tasks at hand, controlling the fire and rescuing the people, matter. In this game, the murder feels inconsequential as a bunch of unrelated crimes pop up at random. There is no theme except in what the cards say, and they even feel more like something you might experience in Grand Theft Auto than in a TV series or movie and are nothing like what happens in a city on a day-to-day basis. They are completely unrelated to the murder and investigating the murder feels like a tacked on task for police officers.
At its heart, it feels more like a polished Battlestar Galactica, which I found to be a boring, uninspiring game of tossing in cards while playing on my phone waiting for my turn to arrive. This one also has a traitor element, but we played without it and are not likely to play with it since this will get played with three people.
I kickstarted this game because I like deck builders, I like Tanto Cuore which was the last game Japanime brought over, and because it wasn't gathering a lot of steam in the campaign early on. Yes, I bought it even though it came in a non-standard shaped box. No, it had nothing to do with the sexy art. Well, maybe a little. I'm such a perv.
Mike and I played a couple of two-player games were disappointed in it. It does a great job of taking Nightfall's color chaining and modifying it slightly as well as having the cards a player buys going right on top of their deck so they get used right away.
Where it doesn't work is the game appears like it will always drag. In the team game, the goal is to reduce the other team's main player to zero lives ("Energy"). In a free-for-all the goal is to either be the last man standing, or be the first to get to 25 Energy. The problem is that both building up Energy and reducing another player's are both slow and tedious. It might be better as a team game, but as a two-player game it is a drag.
One other issue I had was with the rules. Many of the game effects and much of how the game actually plays is not in the rules. They describe the basic mechanics of how to play, but the players must read and know the Glossary to understand even some of the basic concepts of the game. Everything appears to be in the rules, they just could have been organized better. I suspect some of that is because of the space available for the rules in the can and because it is a fairly direct port from the Chinese rules. Thankfully, they aren't terrible like one of the rulebooks I mention a little further down.
Two people have remarked to me that it is like a simplified Tigris and Euphrates, which I can kind of see. It's a simple, light game which feels like it has a tactical depth which will be discovered with more plays. It's not an inspiring design, but is a solid one which I can see playing a few dozen times before it gets shelved for something else. But I can see pulling it out on occasion in the future because it will be something that is easy to pick up and play right out of the box.
It could easily been produced with a smaller board and less-elaborate pieces for a lesser cost, maybe as part of something like Fantasy Flight's Silver Line. I am not saying it is over-priced for the components, just that it could have been done as a $30 game with less parakeet appeal.
Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game
I had really high hopes for this game because it was cooperative and based on Quarriors, which has gotten a lot of play in these parts.
While it does take the basics of Quarriors and makes it into a cooperative game, the results are clunky and could have been better executed.
The primary, and biggest problem this game has is the rulebook blows. It does a poor job of explaining the game, defining the rules, and being a reference while playing. And this is coming from someone who has played Quarriors. I read the rules and had lots and lots of questions, so I set up a two-player and tried to play it while going through the rules. That didn't work.
It wasn't until I read the forums and got an answer direct from designer Jeph Stahl that I was able to play it.
The biggest issue I had with the game is that a player buys only a few dice during the game and since there is no real way to remove the starting dice those dice do not get played that often. I understand why it is not simple to remove dice, but there should be some way to cull some of the less useful dice while still keeping the theme.
For me, this is a near miss, but I can still see playing it on occasion, especially with Mike. I enjoyed it more the second time with two players than the first game with four players. It might also work better with three. Who knows, maybe there is a small expansion waiting which will solve my minor issues with the game?
Nothing, however, will make me like the rulebook. Nothing. Well, maybe a date with the models for the Gemini card in Kanzume Goddess, but even that might not be enough!
Like I said, perv.
I played a couple of Mike's new acquisitions this past weekend and thought I would comment on them.
First up was Rolling Freight which he has had for a while. Mike hadn't read the rules in a while, but we were looking for a game with five players and Michael suggested it, so we dove into the game.
This is a game in the same family as Age of Steam and Railways of the World, except each player uses dice to generate the actions which they can perform on a turn. From memory, the actions are: buy an improvement, claim a route contract, work on a contact which was claimed, and deliver goods.
One of the really smart things designer Kevin Nunn did (hi Kevin!) was to have each player roll their dice at the end of their turns so they could plan out their turns. The problem I had while playing this game is it didn't matter too much until the player before me started taking his turn because things changed so much between player turns. It was also really, really long. I think we played for 2.5 hours and just managed to get 2/3 of the way through the game. I managed to burn through the battery in my iPhone between turns because it took so long for my turn to come back around.
Both complaints would be fixed by playing with fewer players and I wonder if four might be a better maximum for the game unless everyone was really familiar with it?
The cards for the improvements and contracts are really, really small, but they are effective and once there is a familiarity with the iconography they work just fine. The board is harder to find things on. The graphic design is very, very busy but I can't suggest a better way of handling marking the routes between cities.
I'd really like to try it again, though with fewer players.
Next up was Atlantis Rising.
Mike and I played this in the evening at his place with his wife. They had both played before so going through the explanation was quick and we were off to try and save Atlantis from sinking by building the 10 parts of a machine which would save it.
Each player gets one of the special roles and three workers to place on tasks. They take turns placing the workers on one of the six spokes of the board which each has a function. The abilities at the ends of the spokes are better than the ones closer to the middle of the spokes.
After placing the workers, the pain starts. A card is flipped over for each player, and most of them cause one, or more, spaces on a spoke to sink. Any workers on the space are discarded for the turn and returned to the owner. Then the Greek navy attacks, which can also sink spaces.
Then the workers can activate. Gathering the resources to build the machine parts requires a roll of a die which gets harder the closer to the middle of the spokes. There are also knowledge cards which can help, some mystical blue glass beads which can be used to modify things and un-sink spaces (if you have a LOT of them).
The players are unable to trade amongst themselves without a special card which only happens once in a while, so it really is not all that cooperative. As a cooperative game, this fails because it doesn't require a lot of player interaction. It also fails for me because it is one of those games that is built on a slippery slope. Initially, things might be balanced, but once the players start losing, they start losing badly and no amount of clever play will make up for the fact that the game was designed to beat you down.
I've been talking a lot about miniatures. It's time to do some talking about board games.
Game of the Week
This is something I won't be continuing. I was having a hard time getting excited about getting some of the games to the table. Initially, it was a blast, but as time wore on the games became a casualty to my unwillingness to teach yet another game.
Best recent game not named DreadBall
The game which I learned the last few months which is my favorite is Seasons.
Looking at it, and then hearing the instructions when Mike was going over them, I thought for sure that I would hate the game. Instead, I really liked it and I ended up suggesting it the next day when Nico had his copy at the store.
I played it again with Mike and then again at the store over the next few weeks. This past weekend we were looking for a game which would work for up to four players, and I bought it on the spot and taught it to Michael, Jeff G. and Rob H.
The resource allocation using dice, which can be different each game with less than four players, it clever. Being able to chain together cards is really a lot of fun and it reminds me of playing Magic or any other CCG which has chaining.
I don't like some of the cards which make it too easy to keep siphoning away the points from other players, but they don't break the game. They are just annoyances and I hope we don't see too many more of them if there are expansions.
Most disappointing recent game
A press your luck dice game is right up my alley. I love those! Therefore you would think that I would at least like Escape: The Curse of the Temple. I found it to be a mediocre dice rolling game with a time constraint which appears to be put into place to add some urgency to a flawed game.
The components are top-notch and Queen was smart in making the dice engraved, which should be a requirement for anyone making a dice game with special dice.
Mike has played it a few more times since we tried it out with Jerry and says he thinks I will like it. I am quite willing to try it again, because it only takes a few minutes to play. But if he pulls out the soundtrack, I am out.
By the way, who has a CD player anymore? I have one in my car, and my computer has one but all my portable devices have died over the years. They are so 1990s!
This is a hard decision. I really liked Garden Dice and was going to write about it. It has some depth with limited choices determined by dice rolls, and it takes some thought. But it was edged out by Mice and Mystics when I noticed it on the list of newly-played games. Both Mike and Alex are fans of dungeon crawl games and Mike bought this and we tried it.
The theme comes through as you fight rats, roaches, centipedes and try and avoid the cat and the bird in the courtyard.
The multiple use of the dice is clever and the game is still simple enough to dive into and play right away.
Alex also picked up the game so I have played the initial scenario twice and am really looking forward to playing it again.
I doubt I would pick up Mice and Mystics since it is something I would want to play with either Alex or Mike. Plus, Kevin and Anne picked it up, so I know of three copies floating around. Garden Dice is one I can see myself picking up on a whim at some point if Mike isn't around.
As I mentioned in my monthly recap, I really like D-Day Dice.
Back in December 2010 Mike and I played the print and play version. At the time it was a competitive game (and started as a solo game) which had the players competing to be the first to get to the end bunker and clear out the guns shooting up the beach. I liked it and rated it a 6 on the BGG scale. Mike liked it more than I did and committed to the new-fangled Kickstarter thing to help fund it. Sometime during development it became a cooperative game.
To say Mike was excited about the game as the release date neared is an understatement. For the last couple of months I suspect he mentioned it just about any time I was over at their house to play games. When it arrived we had to play it.
The first time was that Thursday with Hilary, Mike, and I. We played the first map, Exercise Tiger, and managed to advance a fair way up the map before losing.
Mike brought it along when he went to the store the following Saturday. Nico also was a supporter on Kickstarter for it and had played a few games before it was broke out at the store. Michael joined the three of us and we played the Omaha Beach map, losing three times in a row, including one really bad loss, before beating it the fourth game. Michael had to leave and we played a few other games, but to finish the day out Nico, Mike, and I played again. This time we stormed Utah Beach and we beat it the first time out!
That second win was very easy and was the result of a lot of fortuitous dice rolling by all of us. That night I jumped on eBay and started trying to get one of the Kickstarter packages with all the expansions and swag. I drove to Colorado the next day, checking my auctions when I stopped for gas, food, and "comfort" breaks. I did manage to win a copy later in the week and it arrived the middle of the next week.
After getting home I went to Mike & Hilary's for my normal weekly gaming with them and the three of us tried Utah Beach. we lost.
Hilary bowed out and Mike and I tried again and lost three more times, only getting close to the bunker once. Every loss was fun, as we were close to losing for several turns during a couple of the games.
I'd describe the game play, but there is a pretty good video overview by BGG user jllama.
Like Flash Point: Fire Rescue and Pandemic it's a solid cooperative game. The components are top-notch and the boards/maps have not warped at all in the dry, hot desert air, which is saying something. What comes in the main game box is well worth the $40 MSRP.
The one negative for me is one I've seen mentioned elsewhere. The game can be a bit of a challenge to set up because you have to reference the map's rulebook to select the available specialists for each player and the items and specialists which will be available to all players. Since we generally play this multiple times in a row on the same map it is less of an issue because we reset and get right back at it. If that's the only complaint I have about a game, it's a good thing!
As of right now I rate this a 9 and I am very much looking forward to working my way through the different maps and expansions, and new ones which have yet to be released.
When Nightfall came out I had really high expectations for it. I really liked the idea of chaining colors and super-bonuses if the card which was chained from matched a particular color. I liked that the wound cards which were collected had some uses but still clogged the deck. Everything about it made me think I was really going to like it.
As I played it, it never really grabbed me. I picked up Martial Law, the first expansion, and hoped it would ignite a fire for the game for me, but it didn't. There always seemed to be something missing, and by the time the Blood Country expansion came out, I decided I would divest myself of the game.
I tried trading both Nightfall and Martial Law as a single lot in a few math trades, but it never traded.
Then I picked up an iPad and purchased Nightfall for the iPad/iPhone and began playing the app. It rekindled my interest in the game, but I was still leaning towards trading it away.
One of the things I checked out because of the renewed interest was the new starter cards in the third expansion, The Coldest War. While looking at the cards, and really liking them, I noticed the new wound effect created in this expansion.
This card chains to and from any card. This does not count toward your 1 wound effect per turn limit.
It helps players who are stuck by allowing them to play cards when they might not normally be able to play.
The set also introduces a global condition, which the players can change during the game, called the Moon Phases. These give bonuses for playing certain cards, based on the traits of the card or the type of the card. It adds some chaos to the game, but also some flavor and incentive for making certain plays.
Another addition is cards which attach to minion cards, essentially equipment for the minion, which helps them. There are also cards which can be played directly from a player's hand instead of being chained. Their effects are usually less than their effect if chained. All-in-all, this looked to tweak the game just the way I hoped it would have been with the first expansion.
So I picked up The Coldest War and Mike and I gave it a whirl, playing three games with just cards from the set.
We liked it, and it will be in our regular rotation of games to play when I go over to his place. After we get to know the cards from this set, I'll pick up Blood Country, the second expansion and then will eventually mix in all the cards.
I've changed my earlier assessment that the game is better with three or four players and now prefer it with two, though I would play with three on occasion.
I do have some wishes...
1. Keep the expansions to once a year, or every nine months. Mike mentioned an article that suggested Thunderstone had to be rebooted because of bloat and I would hate to have Nightfall reach that point.
2. Expansions for the iPad/iPhone version. I'm already feeling like I need more for the game. More, dag nab it!
3. More lycanthropes.
4. More ways to kill vampires.
5. One of these for my birthday!
Mike taught Lords of Waterdeep to Hilary and I the other night and playing it only once has made me a total expert on it and given me enough information to make a full, comprehensive review.
All right, all right! Calm down! I really only know enough about it to make some comments which will likely bear out over time.
First up, the box. Whoever designed this poor excuse for a game container should lose their job, be flogged, rehired just so they can suffer the humiliation of being fired again. In other words, it's poopy. Maybe I am being a little dramatic? The box isn't sealed on all four corners and while the insert looks like it would hold everything, if some poor sot placed it on a shelf like a book, the shallow cover would likely come off and spill the contents everywhere. It's something I would not expect from such a big company.
On to the game!
Take the Dungeons & Dragons theme, add some Forgotten Realms, and some flavor text on the cards. Got it? Now toss it all out and let's look at the game because what we have here is a basic Euro worker placement game which has less nothing (which is a really small amount) to do with the theme. Not that it is a bad thing. For me, theme is best used when explaining a game and I think it would help those who need to explain the game to players not familiar with standard Euro conventions. In our playing, we were about 1/4 of the way through the game when Mike held up a black cube and said, "Oh, these are rogues." Until that point, who knew?
The game is about collecting resources (hiring adventurers) and completing goals (quests) by paying the collected resource cubes and, sometimes, cold flexible (because it is cardboard) cash. This is done by visiting locations in Waterdeep, a city in the Forgotten Realms. Most locations have one room for one worker meeple a round and two of them have space for three. When a meeple is placed on a location, the player which placed said meeple collects the resources indicated on the space, or takes some other action, like taking the start player marker.
There are five or six different types of quests and each player will be dealt a "Lord of Waterdeep" card which gives bonus pints at the end of the game for each of two types of quests that are completed*, which adds one more layer of the information the players need to track. I was looking to complete Warfare and Commerce quests and I believe there were Arcana and Skullduggery and others.
One of the actions is completing one of three face-up building tiles, which creates a new space on the board which players can visit. The player that built the building will get a bonus when other players use the building. There is a stack of building tiles which is shuffled at the beginning of the game, so the available buildings will be different every game.
The other location with three spaces is where one of four face-up Quests are taken. Each space allows the player to take a Quests, with a bonus. One space gives the player two coins, one gives an Intrigue card, and one discards the face-up Quests and replaces them with four new ones before the player has to choose one.
Quests are completed after placing a meeple. A player can only complete one Quest after placing a meeple. Usually the Quests are placed face down in a completed quest pile, but some of them give the completing player an ongoing bonus, such as collect an extra fighter (orange cube) anytime the player takes an action which gives them any fighters.
There are also Intrigue cards, which give bonuses to the player that played them and/or sometimes have a minor annoying effect on an opponent. They can only be played when visiting the harbor space (which has room for three meeples) and meeples on the harbor are placed on different spaces in the town at the end of the round. So the cost of being able to play one of the cards is losing out at the better spaces available earlier in the round. A fair trade off in my book.
The Intrigue cards are what almost stopped me from wanting to try the game. Severe screw your neighbor effects really can ruin a good game, especially random ones. If a game is set up so every player has the same effects which they can play on others, then it is fair and everyone knows what can (and likely will) happen during the game. But drawing cards randomly which can then be played on another player really can ruin a good game.
What I saw of the Intrigue cards during the game we played made me believe they are all pretty equal. Sure, some might be better than others for a particular task at the moment, but overall the designers look to have done a great job with them.
I enjoyed my playing and will happily play again, though I am sure each playing with come with some kind of taunt made at the stupid box design. Yes, I obsess over small things.
It's a good Euro-style game, and one which might lead some of the RPG fans to the world of board gaming. Since Mike has it, I see no reason to buy it. Plus the box wouldn't work well with how my games are stored. (See? Small things!) We can play whenever he is up for it and it might also be something Nico buys, which means I would be able to play on Saturdays when he's not playing at being shark bait.
Mike has played it with two, three, and four players and said it scales well with that number of players.
I wonder how much I would have to say about something I actually knew more about? Sheesh!
* I see from perusing the pictures for the game that at least one of the Lords of Waterdeep gives bonus points for constructing/controlling buildings.
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