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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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Exodus Fleet, Pocket Mars and Star Plus

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Exodus Fleet
tl;dr: solid resource management game

We have seen Puerto Rico in space before but while this game has some of that, this certainly is not that. I has Puerto Rico style role selection, but the role is then auctioned off (in most cases) and this is pretty cool. It adds to that a resource management system that involves mining resources on planets and managing your storage capacity by building new ships (that of course cost resources to build). But in the end it's all about loading passengers onto your ships for points. Of course you need room for those on your ships as well.
I quite enjoy the puzzle this game provides. What ships to buy, when to select what role...
When I played this at Spiel with 3 players it worked very well and moved at a brisk pace. When we played this with 5 players though, it did slow down a bit too much. Also I think getting to select 1 out of 3 actions leads to a better game than selecting 1 out of 5 actions. Some of the slowing down was due to the fact that the resources and special abilities on the ships are printed too small and people loose a lot of time going over the available ships again and again.
So I would recommend this game with 3, maybe 4, but not 5.

Initial rating: 6.9/10
BGG scale: 7/10

Pocket Mars
tl;dr: nice little game

This game is by no means a big strategic game, but it certainly is bigger than the box would lead you to believe. It features an interesting mechanism where you have to choose to play either one of your 2 cards in your hand and perform the action, or one of the cards in your prep module (face down on the table) to perform up to 3 actions. Or, and this is pretty cool, if you don't have the colors you want, you could opt to play one of the cards in other players prep module. They still get to do one of the actions, but you're certain you'll be able to do the action of the location where the card is played. This game still has a significant amount of luck, but this mechanism helps mitigate that a bit without hurting the other players too much. After all, they still get to do the action on the card in question.
All in all this works really well in a reasonable amount of play time. Cool stuff!

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

Star Plus
tl;dr: enjoyable ladder climbing game

This is a ladder climbing card game where you have to get rid of your hand of cards first. Kind of like The Great Dalmuti but different I guess. Or maybe more like Escalation!. In this game the tricky thing is that you have to play a specific amount of cards to form the value required to have a valid play. If you can't, you have to draw more cards.
Of course there's a good amount of luck with the drawing of cards and such, but for this kind of game that is perfectly fine.
It doesn't do anything new or spectacular, but if you're looking for a ladder climbing game, there are worse choices out there.

Initial rating: 6.6/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Sun Nov 5, 2017 10:14 am
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Heaven & Ale, Azul and Doppel X

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Heaven & Ale
tl;dr: very good

Hurray, yet another game about making alcoholic fluids. I don't drink those ever, so the theme doesn't appeal to me. But then again I haven't been bothered by theme a lot. Themes that don't appeal to me usually don't appeal to me because of mechanisms that are usually involved. Like pirates = stealing and stuff, maffia = screwing other players and stuff. Brewing ales? That sounds like gathering resources and converting them to VPs. Works for me if done well.
This game has a number of action spaces. Each player progresses over those in a clockwise direction. If you reach the end of the track, you'll have to wait for the other players to also finish. This leads to interesting choices: do I go slow and pick up a lot of stuff (if there is anything left) or do I jump ahead and grab the best stuff first, picking up less in the end?
Also, there are interesting choices to be made with everything you pick up. Do you place your tiles to advance your markers or to gain money? You need both, but striking a good balance is very tricky! What monks do you take and when do you activate them? How do you place your tiles to have sheds that activate more tiles or let you advance your brew master faster?
As you can tell, lots of choices with everything you do. But it all falls into place quite intuitively and moves at a brisk pace. This leads to a very enjoyable, pretty deep strategy game.
One point on player count though: I have now played this once with 3 and 4. With 4 it felt very natural. With 3 you only play 4 of the 6 rounds. That sounds logical since the amount of spaces on the board remain the same, but the thing is you regularly have to skip over spaces because you don't have the money to do them. That is the same in a 3 and 4 player game. So it feels like there is less time to do stuff with 3, and it feels rushed. This could just be this one play though.

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


Azul
tl;dr: solid abstract

This is one of those games that can stand up to Ingenious and Qwirkle as a multiplayer abstract that appeals to both families and gamers. Again we have nice chunky bits and easy rules that lead to interesting choices. The main difference is that in this game everyone creates their own tableau, and the interaction comes from competition for tiles from the main pool. When do you take what tiles from the tiles in the middle or the big pool that is created by the left over tiles there?
I do have a couple of thoughts on the bits though. For the most part this has been put together with attention to detail, as one would expect from this publisher. But why does every player have their own scoring track that is easy to screw up when you reach for bits in the center of the table? A separate board with 1 score track for all players would have been better. Also: the red and the blue don't have any pattern printed on them, and it looks a bit like someone forgot to print them. It's a weird choice.
But all in all a solid, enjoyable game!

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

Doppel X
tl;dr: stupid, but effective

Throw some dice, score some points. This is kind of an affordable mix between Crokinole and Tumblin-Dice. It's a bit stupid, but it's also very enjoyable and effective.
What is also nice is that there are 2 double sided boards for variety and adjustable difficulty level.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Fri Nov 3, 2017 1:19 pm
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Oilfield, Medici The Card Game and Gier

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Oilfield
tl;dr: solid euro

Yes! Yet another worker placement game! I can never have too many of those
This one has a bunch of actions and a different amount of available slots for each one of those. And some of them cost extra. This leads to some nice choices to be made. Especially since it combines that with a simultaneous action selection where the outcome is influenced by how many choose a particular action.
There's also choices as to where to develop oil rigs, where to mine oil and gas, when to sell those...
And this all combines nicely into a game that doesn't take too long and plays at a pleasant pace.
Yes, all in all this is a solid euro. It uses the ingredients to very good effect. But in the end it didn't stand out to me either. It's just a well put together package.

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

Medici: The Card Game
tl;dr: perfectly average card game

In this game you take some cards from the middle and add them to your tableau. At the end of each round a scoring takes place. So there's no auctions in this game, just majority scoring.
It plays well (as one might expect with a Knizia) and has some interesting choices, but by no means does this break any new ground. Perfectly serviceable to kill some time and gently (very gently) massage your brain, but not more than that.

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

Gier
tl;dr: OK, brainless time killer

This game has some collection of cards with an efficient push-your-luck mechanism in a very light, quite random but luckily short game. I can see why some people would be put off by the chaos in this game, but it can lead to some fun moments sprinkled throughout it's short play time.
I don't mind it and it's fine to finish out the evening with one last game, but absolutely nothing more than that.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Nov 2, 2017 1:46 pm
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I went to Germany and came home with a couple of games

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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... and I made a geeklist for all of you to look at if you have nothing better to do with your life
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Wed Nov 1, 2017 11:32 am
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Whistle Stop, Lady Richmond and Hive

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Whistle Stop
tl;dr: nice, but sometimes frustrating

This is the kind of game we've come to expect from Bezier: accessible rules, well developed, plays well, good flow, good components. I found it quite enjoyable, as I do with most of the games they put out. I did get frustrated at some point though as everything I needed, including backup plans were blocked by other players for three rounds. I tried using my other trains to best effect, but I rand out of things to do in 2 turns, and those things were far from optimal. That was quite annoying. Maybe this wouldn't happen with only 3 players (we played with 4). You could say I could just skip those things, but by then I would be so close to the other side of the board it would be too expensive to go back, and if I wanted any chance of winning I needed to do at least some of the things I was trying to do.
But this was only the first play, so hopefully I'll get to try it again soon and we'll have a smoother game.

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

Lady Richmond: Ein erzocktes Erbe
tl;dr: light, chaotic, not very well balanced but also kinda fun

In this game you flip cards and anyone at any time can choose to start auctioning off the currently visible set of cards. There are a lot of score cards, but also a bunch of action cards. Some of those replenish your pile of money to the maximum. Nice if you just spent big, sucky if you haven't spent any money yet.
It is very chaotic and I felt like the best strategy was to go all out crazy and overbid and hope for the best. So not very strategic. But we did have fun playing it.

Rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10

Hive
tl;dr: it's a 2 player abstract!

That's more or less my review: Both players have an identical set of pieces that have to be played tactically to archive the victory condition. You know, a 2 player abstract! I've never been fond of those kinds of games, and this game did nothing to change my mind.
I guess it's well designed, and there are a couple of opportunities for smart moves and such, but this left me cold.

Initial rating: 6/10
BGG scale: 5/10
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Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:49 pm
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Chimera station, Bottle Imp and Boom Boom Balloon

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Chimera Station
tl;dr: pretty cool worker placement system

This is a pretty standard worker placement game with a fun twist: you can customize your workers to get better abilities and bonuses on certain actions. There is a good amount of turn angst going on. The length and complexity are average and thus the game doesn't overstay it's welcome.
I'm not sure about the end game though. There is one spot that will give you significantly more points the later you use it. So everyone will try and activate it on the last turn, and more than once if possible. It feels a bit like the rest of the game is setting yourself up for that big last turn. This could be a wrong impression though, after just one play.
I enjoyed this and would like to play it again.

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

The Bottle Imp
tl;dr: enjoyable but maybe not enough control

I'm not sure why, but most trick taking games require you to follow the suit the hand was opened with, if possible. I always find that so limiting and frustrating. I understand it opens up a lot of possible strategies, but that is mostly for the people leading a had. I had 2 rounds of this game where I couldn't accomplish anything. The order the colors came out left me no choices and no chances of setting myself up for the next rounds. So that can be very frustrating.
The next rounds did go better and where quite enjoyable. Ending the game with the bottle being a bad thing is a nice twist. But if your neighbors hand you like the 1 and the 2, and you already had a bunch of low cards, it can be very, very hard to avoid not losing the round.
So there is a good amount of luck and a good hand will let you dominate a round without much challenge.
So I have mixed feelings about this one. It doesn't beat Sticheln, that's for sure!

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

Boom Boom Balloon
tl;dr: silly

Roll a die, push rods into a balloon as many clicks as the amount your die shows. Hope the balloon doesn't explode. How simple can a game be?
It does provide some fun. After 2 rounds we just started hammering the same rods as much as possible, increasing the risk for the next player as soon as possible. That will lead to some funny moments. Bu the replay value of this game is very low and the game becomes very samey very soon.

Initial rating: 5/10
BGG scale: 4/10
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Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:36 am
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Xia + expansion, Dream Home and Hab & Gut

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Xia: Legends of a Drift System + Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star
tl;dr: fun, but quite random

This is mostly a pick up and deliver game, but there is also some exploring, engine building and conflict in the mix, which I guess is why some see it as a 4x game. I don't think that is correct though, since you only have one ship and can't build an army to destroy your opponents.
I quite enjoyed most aspects of this game but I do have to say that there are a good amount of (not always streamlined) rules that make the game sound more complicated than it is. And you do have to live with the fact that there is a very sizable luck factor. You can get cards that give you points, but 70% of the time you get cards you can't fulfill because the right systems haven't been discovered yet. So you need to explore more, but that is no guarantee you'll get what you need for your goals to work out.
We only played till 10 points (as pre determined) and that was a bit too short we found, but I can see 20 points taking a bit long with the game overstaying it's welcome.
I only played this with the expansion included. Apparently the luck factor and chaos is even higher in the base game. Lots of the things that are in the expansion felt like they belong in the game and I can't imagine the game without them. So I think the expansion is essential.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Dream Home
tl;dr: light but fun

This is a very light, family friendly game, but it manages to squeeze in some nice choices. Do you go for that one card you really need now or wait for it in the hopes of scoring more, running the risk of not getting it?
I suppose there are a couple of different approaches to playing this game, but I don't expect this to have a huge replay value.
Still, quite enjoyable.

Initial rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10

Hab & Gut
tl;dr: chaotic!

Buy low, sell high. Simple concept, but in this game it is really hard to pull off. Even in a three player game, where every player has two thirds of the info, you still have situations where you can't see a stellar rise in value of one commodity coming from the one set of cards you can't see. So there's always some crap shoot situation going on.
If you don't mind that, this is an enjoyable stock market manipulation game.

Rating: 6.8/10
BGG scale: 6/10
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Wed Oct 4, 2017 8:18 am
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Lisboa, Martian Dice and Heartland

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Lisboa
tl;dr: solid deign, but where's the fun?

Vinhos is a game from Vital Lacerda that I quite enjoy, but it's also complex, heavy and feels a lot like work. This game seems to continue further in that direction. It feels even more like work. Maybe that's because this was only my first play though. But yeah, this game has a lot of mechanisms and it takes a good while before you start having an idea of how things interact and how to archive things. This game has a player aid that actually is an 8 page leaflet! And it doesn't even include things like end game scoring!
Yeah, this is definitely one of those games where the designer and developers didn't bother finding ways to streamline it a bit while retaining the depth. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a solid design. It is clearly well thought out. But I found it lacking in the fun department.
A word on production: the artwork is ugly and the board is too busy. Especially the part where you build the tiles. And it seems like the publisher actively looked for ways to include more pieces to jack up the price needlessly. I would put this in the 'overproduced' box.

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

Martian Dice
tl;dr: doesn't evolve

I quite like light dice games as fillers. Rolling stuff and making the best of what you get is a challenge I enjoy.
This game has a certain push your luck factor. If you take certain risk, you might bust and not score anything. Also, if you cash too much of one thing, you might not score as much as when you score a bit of everything.
That's all good. What let me down in this game is that there is no evolution whatsoever. Every turn you take you take from scratch and nothing is retained except your score. Every turn has the exact same flow and choices. The game gets old very fast because of that.
If you make a dice game, please make sure not every turn is the same!

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

Heartland
tl;dr: solid

This game does a lot with very few rules. Every tile you place gives you so many options. Where do you place it, what side of the tile do you score what way? Do you go for the barn points or just for regular straight up points?
There's also a bit of an Ingenious thing going on where everyone wants to score that big area on their turn (if they can) until it looses it's value and everyone moves on to the next points bonanza.
It can be quite aggressive at times, but this is not a game you win by just blocking others. Most of all you have to make sure you are scoring points.

Rating: 7/10
BGG scale: 7/10
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Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:46 am
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Villages of Valeria, Terraforming Mars Hellas & Elysium and Vinhos Deluxe

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Villages of Valeria
tl;dr: decent

I like it when cards games in small boxes have some depth to them. Especially if cards can be used in different ways. This game fits that description.
You have cards that can be built as buildings. Or added to a structure to function as a resource generator. Or added to monuments to be a resource. Or discarded to pay for certain actions. That's always good in my book.
Underneath it is a game that has some engine building and resource management and a few ways to score VPs.
It all fits together quite nicely. Nothing is groundbreaking or spectacular, but it is quite pleasant and moves fast.

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

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
tl;dr: not much, but still welcome

This expansion is a double sided board. The map on each side is slightly different, but the biggest change comes from the new goals and milestones that will impact the way you play a bit. For people who have played TM a good amount of times, this injects a very welcome fresh taste into the game even before it got stale. It's not much of a change, but it's very welcome.

Rating: 8/10
BGG scale: 8/10

Vinhos Deluxe Edition
tl;dr: why?

This game put Vital Lacerda on the map. With good reason: it is an excellent, heavy, tight euro. You know, the type of game I usually love. And I love this one.
I have a couple of questions about this version though
- Why do away with the excellent artwork of the previous edition? It looked great, was functional and integrated perfectly with the other games by What's Your Game?. This has been replaced by new, fine artwork that has been printed in horrible, washed out colors, in a huge box that doesn't fit anywhere and has a custom insert that doesn't hold the components very well. Why?
- The game has a ton of small extra modules. They are mostly nice and integrate quite well, but none of them are must haves. But why do some of those come with extra bits that replace other bits in the box? You're paying for 2 different versions of the same components. Why?
- Some small things in the graphic design are questionable. Ambiguous icons, missing icons, that kind of thing. Why?
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't do anything do diminish the joy I get from this game, but I'll be sticking to my old edition.

Rating: 8.5/10
BGG scale: 8/10
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Wed Aug 30, 2017 3:51 pm
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Dice Forge, Exit the Abandoned Cabin and Tzolk'in

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Dice Forge
tl;dr: not more than the sum of it's parts

I love the concept of building dice with custom faces to build your strategy. Rattlebones did it first (I think) and was enjoyable, but I didn't feel it used the idea to it's full potential. I hoped this game would do more with the concept. It's been a while since I played Rattlebones, but I feel like this game does even less with the idea. It's just too basic. Roll the dice to gain resources, use those resources to buy new sides or get points. Was there really nothing else they could do with the concept?
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad game, but there is just so much more untapped potential.
Oh, and the game is way overproduced and probably costs more than the gameplay warrants.

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

Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin
tl;dr: not a game

Let's be clear: I mostly enjoyed 'playing' this, but I don't consider this a game. In a game you have a number of possible moves and choose which one to take. This is just a multi player puzzle. You have a number of things and you make your best guess as a group and look if you where right. Nope, not a game in my book. But certainly not annoying.
There was one question that had us stuck for quite a while. We used the tips, but the first tip didn't add any new info, and the second one only a tiny bit. We also used 2 other tips on other problems, but those also didn't help as they always gave us info we already knew.
In any case: if you like solving puzzles as a group, give it a try. But don't expect a proper board game, not even a proper co-op.

Initial rating: 6.5/10
BGG scale: 1/10 as it defies the description of a game. And I will never play (this version) of the game ever again as there is zero replay value. But it is not awful as the BGG scale for 1/10 indicates.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
tl;dr: still excellent, still unique

This game introduced a new, novel and unique mechanism with the gears that advance the placed workers from one action to the next. Usually when a game introduces something new and unique, it gets copied and reworked and introduced into games the original designers couldn't imagine. As a gamer, I love it when designers let us experience these mechanisms in different ways in different kinds of ways. For this game though, that didn't happen. I understand why though: this is not cheap to produce, but still.
In any case... this game doesn't just have a unique mechanism and use it as a gimmick. No, it's a very solid strategic game in it's own right with a bunch of different strategies to explore. I like it a lot!

Score: 9.5/10
BGG scale: 9/10
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Sun Aug 20, 2017 9:27 pm
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