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

Archive for Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!

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Scythe, Waggle Dance and Igels

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Scythe
tl;dr: worth the hype? Maybe...

Man, this game has quite the hype going on. It appears this is the best thing since sliced bread. It's already ranked #6 on the BGG ranking list of best games of ALL TIME! Why? Don't ask me, I don't know. I like it. I like it quite a bit. But the 6th best game ever? Not for me.
Anyway...
This is an engine building, resource management game with an optional combat element. The main mechanism is the action selection system where you have to select an action space that has a primary and a secondary action that can be executed independently from each other. On top of that, each race has a small special ability that does drive strategy in a certain direction (in some cases more than others).
The game ends as soon as someone gets 6 stars. Stars are like goals that you can achieve, like building all 4 buildings. But the aim is not to have the most stars, no, you want to have the most money. I found it interesting that I was able to win a game (by a very narrow margin) in which I had exactly 0 stars (though I was one action away on 4 stars).
I have now played the game 3 times. Once with each of 2-3-4 players. The game certainly is best with 4, and least interesting with 2. With 3 it is certainly worth playing as well.
I have enjoyed each play quite a bit. This certainly is a very solid design. There are lots of games that do elements from this game better, but very few that combine all of these elements is a package put together well as this game does it.
So I do like this game quite a bit, but is it worth all the hype? Meh, maybe, but I'm not sure it's worth as much hype as this is getting.

Initial rating: 7.8/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Waggle Dance
tl;dr: mediocre honey making

I love bee puke. Tasty stuff! So a euro about making it? Sounds sweet!
The action selection with the dice is not that unique, but it's pretty well implemented and allows for some nice planning.
The game ends as soon as a player converts 5 to 9 of their hex tiles. We played to 5 and it took us over 90 minutes. It did start being a bit repetitive after a while. I just can't imagine playing this to 9 tiles! The box says it takes 45 minutes per player if you do that. 3 hours of this is just waaaaaay too much.
In the end I liked the mechanisms and playing it, it's just that it took a bit too long and was a bit repetitive. So not bad, but far from great.

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

Igels: Das Kartenspiel
tl;dr: well, at least it's shorter than Munchkin

This game really isn't my type. At first sight it's just a majority game, but the special abilities and hidden modifiers and action cards make this a nasty, chaotic game with lots of take-that. It reminded me a lot of Munchkin. You set yourself up for success and than other players go "no you don't" and all your plans go to waste. Meh.
Well, at least it's shorter than Munchkin, especially if you decrease the amount of cards in the forest.

Initial rating: 3/10
BGG scale: 3/10
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Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:18 pm
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Anachrony, Cottage Garden and Gheos

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Anachrony
tl;dr: solid euro, could have been cleaner

The first game from these designers and company, Trickerion: Legends of Illusion was a very solid euro. This game is a very solid euro.
It took almost an hour to explain everything. Granted, no one had played it, and explaining a game you have already played is way more efficient. But still, that's a lot of explaining for what is basically a resource collection, engine building euro. But as soon as you start playing everything falls into place nicely.
The game comes in a huge (Scythe size) box, and it's full of cardboard. You can shelve out another $40 to add custom plastic resources and sculpted plastic playing pieces for each player. Those are really nice. Way nicer than the cardboard bits they replace. But $40 just to pimp your game? I would never pay for that. I'd rather have had wooden bits for the playing pieces. Cheaper and nicer than cardboard. OK, granted, that box also adds small expansions, but I didn't feel those add much to the game.
But how does it play? Each round you need to make a choice as to how many exosuits you're going to use that round. This impacts your resources and stuff. It also impacts how many actions you can perform on the main board. You also have to manage your regular workers well so that you have enough of the right types, as some types are better at some things and some are even unable to perform certain actions.
Building buildings helps you be more efficient but can be very expensive. It also brings you points. I build a lot of them and some of them I built simply because they where a good amount of points.
In the end I really quite enjoyed playing this. After a long explanation the game did only take about 2 hours. That didn't feel too long. It also gives you lots of hard decisions that do have a meaningful impact on the outcome. So yeah, good level of strategy.
Oh yeah, did I mention this game has a time travel element? Don't expect too much of that, that is mainly just a theme thing.

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

Cottage Garden
tl;dr: enjoyable puzzle

I haven't played Patchwork, mainly because it's a 2 player only game. But I heard it was good, so when this multi player evolution of it came out, it went on my radar.
It's pretty basic: choose a playing piece from a given row and put it on one of your boards. Create a puzzle to most efficiently fill your board and score points. There are of course ways to score more or less, so it's not just a matter of filling the boards, it's also how you fill them.
It's not deep at all, but it is very enjoyable and doesn't take that long.
Good stuff.

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

Gheos
tl;dr: average but slightly too aggressive tile layer

I've had this game since I got a copy at Spiel 2006, but I hadn't played it in 8 years. I recently tried it again.

This game came out at a time where Carcassonne clones where still a hot topic. The difference here, apart from the obvious triangle shape of course, is that tiles can be replaced.
The main source of points is creating civilizations, getting followers for them, boosting their value and using your 3 scoring tiles at the right moments. Where it gets a bit aggressive is with the replacing of tiles.
In most cases multiple players will have a shared interest in civilizations. If one player sees one or more other players rake in points for those, he will try and stop that. By replacing tiles, civilizations can be sent to an area where no points are, they might be sent to an island (they are removed from the board and players collections) or they might come in conflict with a more powerful civilization (and also be removed). This can be pretty tough for the players on the receiving end.
In the end I think this is a pretty solid design, but it's just a bit too aggressive for my part. I understand this allows for very strategic moves for players who are behind, but it can also be used by players who are ahead to stop others from catching up.
I would have preferred the game to have an other mechanism for allowing redistribution of civilization followers during the game.

Rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Thu Mar 16, 2017 12:21 pm
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Explorers of the North Sea, Thief's Market and Intrigue

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Explorers of the North Sea
tl;dr: solid exploring games

This is Catan: Seafarers all over: hexes, boats, resources, victory points... except for all the things that are different of course. Players lay some tiles. They contain different elements that open different opportunities for scoring: collecting animals, fighting neutral ships, plundering neutral coast towns, building settlements... This allows for a bunch of different strategies to be explored. That's pretty cool. What is also cool is that it is all executed very cleanly. It does have nice decisions to be made.
This is a very solid design that is quite enjoyable to play. It doesn't really offer anything new, but what it does offer is well done.

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

Thief's Market
tl;dr: ok game of fighting for scarce resources

Thieves, like pirates, are not the subject of my favorite themes or games. But I won't refuse to try games in which they appear.
This game has a pretty cool dice mechanism where the active player chooses a bunch of dice from the middle, or a set already chosen from an other player. But in that last case he must give up one of those dice to the middle. This leads to a nice situation where you want to take as little as possible to execute your plans, and leave as much in the middle as possible so people don't come and steal the stuff you want.
The problem arises when all the cards (that can be bought with the dice) need a certain color, and very few of those are rolled. Then everyone starts fighting for those or are forced to take things that won't give them much.
In the end it's an OK struggle that is fun for a while, but I got stuck in a situation where I din't have any conversion cards, so I had to have the exact dice to buy cards unless I could get hold of gold. This kind of sucked as other players had built up flexibility and could keep on scoring points.
In the end I thought it was fine for once, but this is not the kind of game that holds much interest for me. Not because I didn't do well, but mostly because doing well usually involves taking stuff from someone else. I prefer to do well by being better, not by denying someone else something.

Initial rating: 6.4/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Intrigue
tl;dr: clean design, not my style

This is kind of a weird game. You pay other players to do something, but regardless of what they do, they do get the money. This allows players to completely screw over one or more players if they so choose. That aspect of this game did not appeal to me, even though it helped me secure victory.
The struggle to get the best positions or pry the most money from other players fighting over a location, was more fun though.
In the end I think this is a pretty good design, but that first aspect I mention does make the game very group dependent.
At least it plays pretty fast and doesn't take too long.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Mon Mar 6, 2017 4:21 pm
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Fury of Dracula, The Hanging Gardens and Buccaneer

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Fury of Dracula (third edition)
tl;dr: a game of cancelling the other player's actions.

So yeah, this is not my typical kind of game, but I'm always willing to try new stuff. I'm not a fan of the many-against-one thing, but I don't hate it either. Finding where a hidden opponents is located on the board is always a fun challenge. So it's a bit of a mixed bag for me, but what my biggest problem with the game was, was the combat system. It's the fact that 50% of the time your action consists of cancelling the other player's action. This goes in both directions. This is not limited to the combat phase, but that's where it happens the most of course. And spending turns and turns cancelling the other players actions and having yours cancelled is not exactly thrilling for me. Making progress is certainly more enjoyable than blocking someone else's progress.
In the end I see what people like about this game, but I think there certainly are better games in this genre. Like Specter Ops.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 3/10 for willingness to play, 6/10 for quality of game design

The Hanging Gardens
tl;dr: perfectly average euro

Yep, another one of those: well designed, nothing wrong, but nothing that gives it something special. The way you have to place the cards can be a fun puzzle, and the set collection makes timing an aspect to pay attention to. But in the end I didn't feel a spark. It's perfectly passable but nothing more.

Initial rating: 6.6/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Buccaneer
tl;dr: enjoyable family game

This is by no means a special or deep game, but it does accomplish what it sets out to do: offer enjoyable, family friendly Pirate struggles. The most fun comes from figuring out when to add your pirates to a stack and when to create a new stack.
The treasures can be pretty powerful, but it is also possible to win without ever being the captain or scoring points fore the treasure tiles. That's pretty cool, because most games like this usually only have 1 path to victory.
So I enjoy playing this game, and it accomplishes it's goal. But that goal, we have to recognize, is not all that lofty. Still. Good fun with the right group.

Initial rating: 6.7/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:52 pm
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Blood Rage, Goldland & Hellas

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Blood Rage
tl;dr: an overproduced, more aggressive Midgard

I always thought Midgard was an underappreciated design. It is a very clean, streamlined area majority game. Thanks to this new implementation, it gets more attention. Too bad, in my opinion, they made the design less clean and made it more of a conflict game and less of an area majority game.
It is still a very good design, but it does move away from the aspects I respected the most about it.
The minis seem to be there mostly to sell more copies. They are very nice, but I would have preferred wooden pieces. Also, the minis sometimes make it hard to tell what figure you're looking at.
I haven't played Midgard in years, but playing this, I want to try it again.
As for this version: I wouldn't mind playing it again, but there's no way I'm paying for a copy of this version.

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

Goldland
tl;dr: another solid game from Kramer

Wolfgang Kramer is incredible. He has been designing games for decades, and his games range from good to amazing. Contrast that with other designers who have been doing that for so long. In most cases their later output is... less than we would expect from them. But Kramer, while he hasn't designed a masterpiece in recent years, has been continually putting out very solid designs year after year.
But let's talk about this game. It's one of those games where you have tiles that let you move towards your goal, a bit like Tikal or Im Reich der Jadegöttin. There is a lot of planning needed for how you manage your resources. You really need to manage them well to be able to progress and score points.
It's a clean design, just like many games from that era (2002) and plays pretty fast. Every now and then you might need to puzzle over your resources a bit longer, but most of the time turns go pretty fast.
All in all a solid design. No where near his best work, but certainly worth playing.

Initial rating 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Hellas
tl;dr: clean design, not my style

I don't play many 2 player games because I prefer the dynamics that you get by having 3 or more players. But every now and then I do play games 2 player. I do have a couple of games I really like with 2 though.
This games pits 2 players against each other to discover and conquer the world. The first player to control 10 cities wins. You can get there by just exploring, but that would make for a very boring game. You can also take over cities by plopping more (plastic, ugh) unites there and playing cards to improve your chances. This makes the game more interesting, but it's not something that gets my juices flowing. At least not in a way that I seek out.
It's a very clean design, and if you like this style of game, you might really dig this, but it's not for me and the fact that I never felt that I, as starting player, had a chance of loosing didn't help. The other player seemed to always be playing catch up to counter what I did on my turn and get to the same level as me.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 3/10 (willingness to play) 6.5/10 (quality of design)
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Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:21 am
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Legendary Inventors and Sushi Go Party!

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Legendary Inventors
tl;dr: one of those games no one cares about

What? You say you do care about this game? What is wrong with you? Not that there is anything wrong with this game, but this doesn't bring anything new to the table. Everything feels very familiar and very been-there-done-that. It works. You can play it. You won't remember much about it. It's perfectly forgettable.

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

Sushi Go Party!
tl;dr: see my Sushi Go! thoughts

Yes, this is 7 Wonders style drafting without the depth. Draft, score cards based on the type. Each type is scored in it's own distinctive way. Perfectly entertaining, but don't expect a lot of depth.

I was told this version has more types of cards. I didn't play the original enough to notice a difference. I don't think there is any reason to own both (if any)

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:41 pm
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Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, High Society and Koehandel

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The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire
tl;dr: solid Euro

Aaah, marketing. You have a popular game. You have a new design that has little tot do with the first one, except that they're both strategy games. Why not slap the first game's name on the box? Won't hurt sales, even thought his game has nothing to do with developing nuclear weapons.
Anyway... Players start with different resources. These are used to do actions to get more/other resources. And to eventually build buildings and other things that give abilities and/or points. Nothing new there. The main mechanism is a worker placement system almost identical to Coal Baron. Nothing new there. So not all that original, but who cares, it's put together efficiently. It's a fun challenge to play. It does feel like you need to work really hard to only accomplish a few small things, so that makes the game a bit heavier than expected.
I find this a very solid, if unoriginal, design. Certainly worth a go!

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


High Society
tl;dr: yet another Reiner auction game

I had played this once before, but I didn't remember anything about it. This is a pretty basic auction game. A card comes out and people bid on it in a regular auction. There are a few special cards that double or halve your points. That makes the game a bit more interesting. The game ends when the 4th red card comes out. In our first card this happened after 1 regular card had come out. The result was that the scores where 0.5, 0, 0 and 0. I know it's a fluke, but that shouldn't happen.
In any case, when it works it's fine, but it's not that great. Reiner has many far better auction games.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Koehandel
tl;dr: enjoyable but too long

The box for this game says 45 minutes. With 4 new players we went through about 60% of the deck in an hour. And the game doesn't end then. I'm not sure if it is actually possible to do it in 45 minutes.
At 45 minutes I would say this is a fun auction game with a fun element of trying to pry as much money from the other players as possible (auctions are 0 sum). But the game should be over in 45 to 60 minutes. Longer is too long for me.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Feb 8, 2017 2:33 pm
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25!

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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It's only been a month since my H-index increased again in a long time, and today it went up again. Codenames was the game to get me over the threshold. I'm not sure how much work it will be to go up again.
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Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:51 pm
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Colony and Meduris

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Colony
tl;dr: like Favor of the Pharaoh, but different

I didn't play the original version of this game, but when I played the Bezier edition, it reminded me quite a bit of Favor of the Pharaoh. You are using dice to roll results to get cards that improve your options. I've always liked To Court the King a lot. I quite liked Favor of the Pharaoh but didn't feel the need to own both. The added variety is nice, but not enough to get me to fork out that money again. This game is a bit different, but it does scratch mostly the same itch for me. And while I wouldn't mind owning this game, I need to play it again to know if I find this different enough. But it certainly is a solid game.

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

Meduris: Der Ruf der Götter
tl;dr: family friendly strategy game

Haba is working hard at carving out their spot in the market for family friendly games that don't just appeal to kids (like their main line of games). 2015's batch was pretty solid, and this year continues that trend.
This game again had a family friendly simple rule set but enough strategy to also appeal to players who are used to more strategic games. It reminds me of the games from the late 90's and early 2000's. In that time many games fit in this segment, these days most games seem either simpler or more complex.
This design is pretty solid, but it doesn't bring that much new or surprising. It's fine to play a couple of times and is perfect for the market it targets, but for people like me, it won't have much staying power.

Initial rating: 6.6/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:37 pm
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Mi Tierra New Era, Sea of Clouds and Draw Out

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Mi Tierra: New Era
tl;dr: this ain't no Agricola

A worker placement game about farming will always bring comparisons to Agricola. But that doesn't mean they're expected to be similar.
This is a pretty typical WP game. You have a number of workers and there are different locations with a varying amount of open spots. The locations are executed in a fixed order. You get resources, you get to convert them into other resources or money. That kind of thing.
I found this game serviceable. It works fine, but there's not really much new or exceptional here. The the way the actions are ordered will require you to do proper planning, so that's nice, but it's not enough to stand out.

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

Sea of Clouds
tl;dr: shit, it's a pirate game

I don't care for pirates. Games with pirates are usually not my thing. This game didn't look like a pirate game, but you're gathering bottles of rhum and teaming up pirates to get points. So it's a pirate game. Damn.
It's fine, but nothing really new. It doesn't take too long, and game flow is nicely streamlined. There are some nice choices to be made, but luck plays a substantial part in the outcome.
So all in all one of those fine filler games that I don't need to own.

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

Draw Out
tl;dr: there are better games out there

I like drawing games. This one is not among my favorites though. For one, it takes too long. And the categories are both inconsistent and severely unbalanced. We decided to ignore the white category for being nearly impossible, so we always re-rolled on those.
There is some fun to be had, but why play this when you can play some far superior drawing game?

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Tue Jan 3, 2017 12:28 pm
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