So, when talking about Dark Horse, this immediately springs to mind...
There are lots of things to really like about Dark Horse.
It's a worker placement game, with dice as workers. Now this mechanism has been used in a few games, with varying success. For example Alien Frontiers is a great game, but players have to roll their dice at the start of their turn, which can slow the game down tremendously due to AP especially when rolling six dice. On the other hand Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia fixes that problem by having players roll their dice at the end of their turn, giving them a whole round to think about what they're going to do. Dark Horse is kind of in the middle; you're only ever rolling two or three dice, so the choices aren't huge, and everyone rolls their dice at the start of a round. Plus Dark Horse gives you plenty of options and modifiers to mitigate against the unlucky roll. Personally I really like this mechanism.
I think it has a fairly strong Wild West theme. Each player is a character (The Cowboy, The Gambler, The Preacher) with special actions that tie in with the character's traits. The game is about the pioneering spirit, with players expanding their land and building towns and cities connected by rail. Players can take on the role of Mayor or Sheriff which give special abilities, events occur during the game that can scupper your plans (or at least make you re-evaluate them) and action cards let you be good, bad or indeed ugly - but if you're too bad then your dice have to spend time in jail!
Once the game gets going, it's also fairly quick; players roll their dice, take turns placing them on action spaces, then resolve the actions in order. It's funny that I also had Snowdonia in my magic bag because the whole process is very similar. Choose actions, resolve in order, get resources, build stuff, rinse and repeat. I like that sort of thing.
However. In order to get to The Good, you first have to battle The Bad and The Ugly.
There are a few things which are not really Bad as such, but could have been done better.
There is no way to tally the final score. There's an Influence Track which is essentially a score track and which triggers the Game End when someone reaches 11 Influence. However, there are a ton of bonus points at the end of the game, but no VP chits or spaces on the Influence Track to record them. We had to write the scores on a napkin. So, not awful, but a little annoying.
And, for a game which has so much cardboard (and good quality, thick colourful cardboard too) why are there only two Player Aids? And why is the rulebook a small A5 booklet?
Which brings us neatly to... The Ugly.
Oh my God, the rulebook!
I'm really bloody annoyed by the rulebook. For a game that turns out to be relatively simple and fast, the rulebook is a nightmare.
The structure of the rulebook is horrible. The Game Setup is two pages into the book, and is very wordy with hardly any pictures. If you want to help new players get up and running then make the Setup easy to follow!
The outline of gameplay makes references to more detailed sections later in the rulebook. So, when reading about (say) placing your Cities and Towns during Game Setup, it asks you to jump to the back of the rulebook where it gives you the placement rules. This reminded me of reading Lord of the Rings or Dune, where I had to read bloody footnotes or appendices just to understand what was happening or who was being referenced.
And then there are the errata. It turns out the rulebook is missing some fairly fundamental points. For example, when you place your initial Towns during Setup, you get to place a rail between them and the neighbouring City for free. Without that nugget, the Town won't score at the end of the game unless you spend an action to build the rail, so we wasted actions building rail that we didn't have to bloody build.
OK, I've calmed down.
Look, the most annoying aspect of this for me is that the rulebook damaged our experience of the game. It took too long to read and comprehend the rules, it took too long to setup, and it took too long to figure out how a round and a turn played out.
And actually, it's all really simple.
And, someone has already produced a really nice Summary of Play which fixes most of the rulebook's problems.
And the designer has published a FAQ/Errata which fixes the rest of them. But again, when one of the errata is "Players can only control one Special Role in the game, i.e., Mayor, Sheriff, Outlaw, etc. This is noted on the back of the Outlaw expansion card, however did not get added into the rule book." you really have to consider rewriting the bloody rulebook.
By the way, Tom won the game. I forgot to pick up the napkin so I can't remember the final scores. Grrrr...
I was introduced to Evo. Cute little game that I enjoyed... and won!
I think having the only horn from turn one was quite good. I tried to not bid much or at all for genes and I think that made the difference. Some lucky cards and overall a very pleasant experience. I wonder how does it play with 5 though.
As promised, Dan and I played one game of Villannex and it proved that it is really a quick game. Rules took as long as the game: 5 minutes each!
It plays 1 to 4 players and we both agreed that the 4-player game would be more interesting.
Basically, each player is dealt 6 cards. Then you choose 4 to keep and 2 to discard. You then show your 4 cards to the rest of the players and a few moments later, get them back to your hands and secretly discard 2. You also have 2 production cards which basically are two cards with arrows pointing at one half of the other cards to indicate which half of the card will produce (all cards produce resources from two options at the bottom). Simultaneously, all players reveal their two cards with production cards underneath (the arrows pointing to the resources) and resolve.
There are two types of card (apart from the arrow cards): buildings will set up the value of goods for the whole table (all players) and professions will give bonuses for the whole table.
The one with the most VP wins.
So the whole thing is about predicting and outsmarting the other players.