New to you Apr 11 => Best new boardgame
What new board and card games did you play in Apr 2011? Share your experiences of the games you played for the first time this month.
Please add your own entry to the list, even if someone has already used the game that you picked as New To You... This helps with generating the statistics for the list.
New To You Metalist 2011
New To You MetaMetalist
New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread
Other Great Monthly Lists
Your Most Played Game (and more): April 2011
New to Your Kids April 2011 - Best New Games You've Played with Kids and Why
New To You Apr 2011 => Your best new Videogame
Your best gaming experience of the month and why April 11
New to you a year ago Apr 11 => Has it stood the test of time?
Mansions of Madness - 2 plays -
I am a huge fan of Arkham, so I was naturally very excited when FFG announced Mansions.. a new game in the same setting as Arkham, with familiar investigators and monsters...
Mansions is quite a bit different to Arkham however, which can only be a good thing... this time it is a one_vs_many, with one player taking on the role of The Keeper, and the others playing as Investigators... it's also fairly story intensive, a good thing for any budding roleplayers.
The game does have a fairly time consuming set up.. as the keeper has to find certain cards and lay them out in the Mansion according to a number of choices that he makes before the game starts.
The gameplay itself is fairly straightforward, but the Investigators are under quite a bit of time pressure to explore the house and find the various clues, which can make it hard to balance between exploring for the sake of it, and singlemindedly heading for the goal. Both my games so far, I've played as the keeper, so I'm curious to give it a try as an Investigator... but so far I am very impressed with the game and I look forward to playing it again soon.
Saboteur 2 (expansion-only editions) - 1 play -
I'm a big fan of the original game, so I approached Saboteur 2 with a mixture of excitement and dread... would it be as good as the original? What new roles and path cards would there be? Unfortunately I found Sab 2 to be a little disappointing... it's a lot more chaotic and more complicated than the original.. There are new roles.. blue and green good dwarves, a boss who is both colours.. a lazy dwarf and some dwarves who aren't even interested in reaching the gold at all.. they only care about crystals found on the way. Gone is the set mixture of good dwarves to saboteurs.. now you use a random mix of all role cards, and these are not fixed for the round like in the original.. you can end up switching role part way through the round! There are still break tools and fix tools cards, but tools can also be fixed by discarding 2 cards, which seems to ruin the point... a dwarf can also be imprisoned now.. and again this just requires an extra discard to get free. Overall I think it overcomplicates things, and loses the beauty in the simplicity of the original.
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
A great month of gaming, but most of it was old favourites. I also racked up a couple of milestones - 1500 logged plays (since September 2008) and 300 games rated. Appropriately, the 300th was a Knizia and my new game of the month: En Garde.
This is one of those bare-bones Knizia card games (like Loco or Yin Yang) with a small deck (5 each of the values 1 to 5) and minimal rules. But unlike most of those, it has an integral theme. I've never fenced, but this certainly captures the feel of a movie swordfight - thrusts, parries, counterattacks, retreats. Ludicrously for a game of this weight, it comes with basic, standard and advanced rules, but I can't see why you'd want to play any way but advanced. 7
I'd been looking forward to trying Jaipur; I'm a big fan of Pauchon's Metropolys and generally like this kind of clever, quick 2p card game. But in the end I thought it was just OK. It's beautifully produced, very fast and there are some subtleties of timing, but I didn't find it as interesting as Traders of Carthage for a game of similar mechanics, length and decision density. 6
Finally, another Decktet game: Gongor Whist. I'm not a big fan of solitaire games, and a one-player trick-taking game seems an odd idea. But with the latest rules rather than those in the Decktet book, it does become a challenging little puzzle. 5
Board Game: Goa
[Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:98]
The Month of Too Much Work
or "It involves us pulling up our bootstraps, oiling up a couple of asses, and doing a little plowing of our own. Not gay sex."
Personal Stuff (feel free to skip this part): So the quality of contributions to this list has successfully shamed me into writing up something a little more comprehensive than the two lines that previously occupied this spot.
This month has been incredibly busy with work (in addition to my regular 12-hour days and sporadic weekend work, I've started pulling all-night sessions just to keep up. Not only has the work hindered my ability to play games, but it's put a real damper on my desire to talk about them. Sadly, my contributions to the GCL have been sporadic at best, and usually substantively weak. My play recording has fallen behind, and even my comments have devolved from mini-reviews into variations on the words "awesome" and "terrible."
It is perhaps not surprising then that I played only one new-to-me game this month. In fact, the night I learned Goa, I had been working for 34 hours straight immediately prior to game night. It's a wonder I didn't collapse during the first auction. Let's hope that May brings brighter days.
However, if I could only have one new-to-me game this month, I'm glad Goa was it. It was awesome (told ya!).
Before I say any more, I have to give special thanks to:
Mad Scientist Philip von Doomula
"I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar."
I got in everyone's hostile little face. Yes, these are wooden cubes from boardgaming. Yes, I'm comfortable with that. I am enlightened.
Games With A 8 Rating (Very Good Game):
Examples of this category: Power Grid, Key Market, Hansa Teutonica, and Neuland.
Goa (Overall Ranking: #15)
(That's literally me playing Goa.)
Goa is a game I had long lusted after, but that had simply eluded me. In the last few new-to-you lists, I've made a point of emphasizing my desire to re-focus my attention on the games I know and love. Goa was one notable (and probably noted) exception. Indeed, for several months, I have been willing to shell out
top dollar a reasonable amount for a good condition 2004 copy. But the right opportunity never materialized. Thankfully, a good bit of good fortune put me in touch with the group above, and Jim noted that one of his favorite games was on my desperate to play list.
And so I had my first taste of the forbidden spice. It was more satisfying than expected.
My primary apprehension about pursuing a classic game like Goa was that it likely had already been replicated and possibly even improved upon in more current games that I've played. Having played Dominant Species, for example, I have doubts that I would find El Grande satisfying. In the case of Goa, the opposite was true: I found that Goa implemented now-familiar mechanics in a way that was more dynamic and interesting than the subsequent incarnations that I had encountered.
The game that Goa most called to mind was The Princes of Florence. But I find Goa's once-around player-paying-player auction to be far preferable to the PoF system. (In fact, Goa's auction system is substantially similar to that of Neue Heimat, my favorite pure auction game.) Moreover, Goa felt that it provided clearer and more meaningful distinctions between strategy paths. I will be interested to see whether that holds true with repeated plays.
Goa's speadsheet-like skill tracks also invoked Endeavor for me, a game that I find to be overly-balanced to the point of submarining the game's strategic potential. Not surprisingly, however, Goa's use of a similar system was far superior. By (1) making skill advancement an action and (2) making skill use an action, Goa incentivizes finding ways to specialize within a system where each skill is (roughly) equally important. Moreover, the system encourages players to diversify from other players, leading to strategic variety within each game session. In some ways, the diversity of options in skill development is more akin to something like Hansa Teutonica.
As is the case with PoF, the artistic direction was dated and user-unfriendly, but not to the extent that it would preclude me from purchasing the game in a heartbeat. Jim's copy was the 2006 Chinese printing, and the linen texture, while not as bad as I had been lead to expect, nevertheless reinforced my desire to hunt down a first-edition copy if possible. I think this is a great game. I find it just challenging enough to be gamer friendly, but also accessible enough to be teachable to the lightest group I game with. I'm not sure it has a lot of upward potential as most of the games in my Top 10 are longer and heavier, but it currently ranks among the very best of its class. A superlative game.
Board Game: Vikings
[Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:304]
Love the world.
Played a couple of Viking-themed games this month. I preferred Vikings, because it plays well with two, in under an hour, and so is much more likely to get played than Fire and Axe (which was a fine game, but unwieldy).
(image credit: alienj82)
Vikings is an interesting mix of two main elements. There's a resource wheel that you use to buy sets of tiles and meeples on your turn, and a tableau where you place tiles and meeples that you bought. Once the 12 sets of resources on the wheel have all been bought and placed, there's a scoring round, where you generate either money, victory points, or both, based on the vikings you've managed to place in your tableau.
The resource wheel is the most interesting part of the game, as it can rotate, decreasing the prices of the resources that remain to be bought. I won't go into the rules governing when the wheel rotates, but it is under player control to some degree, and it presents some difficult timing considerations. Do you buy the resources you really need right away, while the price is high, or do you wait to see if the price will come down and risk having an opponent buy them first?
My wife and I are enjoying it as an after dinner couples game. We haven't yet played it with more than two, or tried the optional advanced rules, but so far it's been an enjoyable addition to our "rotation" and I expect it will get a good amount of play.
It's also a great looking game, with attractive, good quality, and very functional components.
Fire and Axe
(image credit: filwi)
A fun and thematic game, with a lot going on. We played with five, which kept things tight (but a bit slow).
You load your longship with men and goods and sail off to trade, settle, and raid the various ports of medieval Europe. Along the way, you're trying to complete the conditions stated on a common slate of "saga" cards, which can give some points during play, but offer a really large payoff at game end, for whoever has the most of each of the three flavors of card (Sweden, Norway, or Denmark).
The saga cards tend to state multi-part conditions (e.g., settle all of three named ports). It's almost impossible to complete all of the conditions in a single turn, and the reward goes to whoever completes the last of the stated conditions. This provides a lot of opportunity for sniping, with longships skulking around waiting for someone to start work on a set of saga conditions so that the skulker can charge in and claim the card by satisfying the last condition. With five players, you really had to watch your back.
The components are very handsome, but a bit fiddly. The font on the saga cards was hard to read, especially from across the table. And the need to carefully count your seven action points led to a fair amount of AP, with players counting and recounting (and recounting) to make sure they could do what they set out to do before committing.
A fun romp overall, but it's not something that will hit the table often -- a little too much overhead and a tad long (especially with all of the counting). There is also a good measure of luck, with key actions determined by dice rolls. That bugged some in our group, but the luck tended to even out over the game and kept things in theme.
Princes of Florence
(image credit: LanaDove)
For March, one of my new games was Colosseum. I mentioned that it was thematic, interesting, and fun, but seemed long for what it was, with a bit of a downtime problem. Two fellow geeks (dawson_osu and locusshifter) commented, suggesting Princes of Florence as a shorter and more focused expression of the same basic system (buy "recipes" and the "ingredients" needed to fulfill them, in order to score victory points).
Now that I've had a chance to play it, I can see why it's so popular (and why it was suggested). It really does scratch he same itch as Colosseum, but with a much brisker and (for me) enjoyable feel to it. I think it's because the range of recipes and ingredients (especially ingredients) is much narrower and easier to manage. Though I prefer the graphic design of Colosseum, Princes gets a strong nod for providing the better play experience. A really good game.
(image credit: nnoc)
This is a strange one. It's a closed fist auction game where you bid "glass beads" in exchange for "shrunken heads." (The shrunken head tokens are pretty funny. They feature characters from other Friese games, as well as Friedmann himself, Ernie and Bert, and what might be George W. Bush.)
Each closed fist bid is used to resolve four simultaneous auctions, each with different conditions and consequences.
Tied bids automatically lose, with the winner being the person who did second best (unless there is another tie for second, in which case they lose too). This really ratchets up the double think problems, because you not only need to worry about besting the other players, but worry about not matching their bids.
This all makes for a chaotic and brain-busting experience. It got a mixed reaction in our group. One player admired it. Another despised it (especially the fact that the person who did the worst in their bid could nonetheless win the auction if those who bid better all tied). But most of the remarks were in the vein of "I have no idea what's going to happen."
Definitely not for everyone, but maybe fun for the right group in the right frame of mind.
(image credit: justusf)
One play so far. It's a light tile laying contest with some interesting spatial scoring considerations. I wasn't blown away but will probably keep it around for Halloween game nights.
Board Game: Luna
[Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:387]
You want to know something? I don't think Mozart's going to help at all.
10 new games this month...the most in a while! Nearly all games were pretty cool.
Luna: When I read the rules before Essen last year, I took it off my watch list: too complicated, too contrived. When the BGG community starting giving it some real ratings, I took note again. It's just one of those games that will take 20 minutes to teach and seem pretty complex to everyone...until they play a round and then it just zips right along! Herr Feld is quite an amazing designer. I hope he continues making a ton of awesome games a year!
THE REST (most liked first)
Zero: A really quick, old Knizia card game. Set collection of sorts with an odd timing mechanic. I dig it. With fewer players, card-counting is almost required (yuck!), but with more players, it's more manageable.
BITS: Tickles a completely different part of your brain than FITS. Structurally, the games are similar, but they play much differently. Definitely worth owning both.
PRRRT...: If you enjoy fart jokes and a richly-themed card game to match, this is your game. Well, it was mine too. This game is silly fun and clever to boot. Now I'll have to find my own copy.
Gold!: Another card-swapping game, not unlike Zero. There are some neat ideas here. Nothing real new, but certainly an enjoyable game. Some colors are a little tough to tell apart.
Asara + Expansion: A very pleasant game from K&K. Nothing new or earth-shaking, but a solid game. Well, maybe the card-based worker placement is a little new. Don't know how much more it will hit the table.
Merkator: This one is super-dry...but it IS a Euro. Lots of cube pushing, but I dig order-fulfillment mechanics. Reams of rules, and a long time between turns...but you can choose to "tag-along" on the current player's move, which keeps everyone engaged. Not bad, but I probably won't buy it.
Top & Down: Even drier than Merkator, but this is a roll-and-move game. The scoring is everything in this game, and that is just clever enough to keep this game around. Several interesting decisions in this quick game.
Phase 10 Masters Edition: My first experience with Phase 10. It was pretty long for what it was. (I hear the original is even longer than this edition.) It's pleasant, but you can play Knizia's rip-off, Zero, like 3 times in the same time to play this.
Nightfall: Another damn Dominion derivative. This one has an interesting flow-of-play and some neat chaining. Different, but it just wasn't that fun to me. Maybe it was the theme, I don't know.
Edit: Add last-minute play of Phase 10.
Expansionpalooza is a good way to describe my april of gaming and I like them all, albeit for different qualities. Since only main games are considered for the best game, Dominant Species auto wins. Not a bad game and one I want to explore more, so it is a good choice.
While the concept of a combination of area influence and worker placement isn’t unique as it has been compared to Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, the integration between the mechanics is more seamless here. This makes it impressive and coherent experience. The game has some really tough decisions because the game is open-ended and that it can lead to some serious analysis paralysis.
I found it more interesting in theory for my first game than in practical execution though. There are many things I admire in this design, the choices between spreading out or get more adaptable and dominant, but it was hard for me to wrap my brain around it and too much player driven chaos. That said, I would love to play it some more.
Catan: Seafarers + 5-6 players
With the vanilla Catan you only have one type of setup. Sure the placement of the tiles is randomized, but it is basically same game every time. Scenarios introduced with the Seafarers are a great improvement because it makes the game much more replayable. There is still problem that the early part of the game is the most important, but because of the larger areas you do not feel as locked in as you can be in the main game. Therefore you can still do meaningful things despite being out of the competition.
The small nitpick with this expansion is that the setup time for the special scenarios are too long for my taste (but it is worth it).
The new rule that you can build something every round with five or six players makes the game faster, stimulates trading between players and lessens the effect of rolling a 7. Without it, I wouldn’t play it with that many players. To speed things up, we usually say that we want to build something during the round and is not always resolved in turn order.
7 Wonders: Manneken Pis
I don’t think that most promo expansions to games are really worth collecting, but I am not dissatisfied with this. One more wonder card is nice to mix in and although the B-side is a little gimmicky it still not make it silly.
Small World: Cursed! & Grand Dames
These two small expansions to Small World introduce new races and abilities. I think this is a good thing for a game you have played a few times to make the game more varied as the game was becoming a little stale.
Played my first game of this in April, and it is a winner. Great family game, that's fast and pretty fun. Hope it expands well in the future.
Just beat out Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division
which I played my first game of last night. If the first scenario were a bit more interesting, this probably would have won.
Also played Montgolfiere, which is an innocuous little blind-bidding/take that game.
♪ Isaäc Bickërstaff ♫
The results of a five yeer studee ntu the sekund lw uf thurmodynamiks aand itz inevibl fxt hon shewb rt nslpn raq liot.
April was a hard month for me to pick a favorite game, because I played two really good games this month. What are they? Why, read on to find out!
I'm a professed dice-hound, and there was enough buzz surrounding this game after its initial release that I didn't sit around and wait when Clever Mojo announced the second printing of the game. I still haven't received my pre-order (there was a snafu with the mailing address, which has been resolved, but that means it still isn't in my grubby hands), but someone else received theirs in time for me to play it, and boy howdy, was it fun.
I can't say a whole lot about this game that hasn't already been covered, but it's definitely a fun game for people who like dice. As I mentioned during the game, I had a feeling I was going to like it just from reading the rules, but there's always a point where you wonder if the sum of the parts will be as good as you think it will be. In the case of Alien Frontiers, though, it definitely is. I especially like the way that the dice on the board can act as blockers for other players.
The turns move quickly, there are some nice choices to make, and yes, while there is a large luck factor in the game, it's not so much as to make it totally frustrating. At the very least, it's different enough from its predecessor Kingsburg to justify having them both. In fact, I see more replay value in Alien Frontiers than I do in Kingsburg.
It was actually really hard to choose between Alien Frontiers, above, and Dominant Species, here, for my pick of the month. They're both very good games, but they're also very different games. Alien Frontiers is a light game of rolling dice and making small tactical plans, and Dominant Species is a game of making long-term plans around tactical turns. The satisfaction levels of the games are wildly different, and my likelihood of replaying either one is about the same, based on interest alone.
There are a couple of things going against Dominant Species, but none of them are really the fault of the design. I'm not really very good at area control games, nor am I good at war gamey elements, such as beating up on other units. Dominant Species has both types of elements, and I think it hurt me some in the game I played. I wasn't disappointed in the game itself as much as I was in my performance, but the fact that it's a type of game that I'm simply not very good at playing is going to be a minor strike against it. But that hasn't really had much of an effect on my opinion of the game.
For all the talk of the length of the game, I will say that three of us managed to finish the game in 3.5 hours, though we were only controlling one animal each. I'm not entirely sure I'd want to play it with many more players than that (four maybe, but even then, I'm hesitant), because as it is it's very hard to manage all that you want or need to do on a given turn. It's a game that's earned its reputation well, and I'm looking forward to future plays.
Alien Frontiers: The Mind Control Helmet
It's hard to say much about this card, since I never played Alien Frontiers before playing it with this card, but I like the ability of the card. Is it game breaking or overpowered? Hell if I know. I just know that if I managed to have it in front of me during a game, I sure as heck wouldn't hesitate to use it.
Agricola: Gamers' Deck
It's kind of hard to say what all this deck adds to the game, since I've only played one game with it, but at least it's full of cards that actually do something good with the game, as opposed to chaotifying the game up, like the X Deck and the L*D Deck do. At the very least, it's a welcome addition to the game, instead of one that I dread playing.
Hansa Teutonica: East Expansion
So far, we've only played on the expansion board, but given the way that it improves the tension, tactics, and strategy of the game, it's hard to see that we'll be moving back to the original board to try the expansion with the cards. The board is just so well balanced, between the way that it forces players to work with all of their different techs on their board, and the way that the action cities are more difficult to squat in right off the bat. It allows for more aggressive play, and while the base map does, too, it becomes more evident on the East board.
The game seems to take a little bit longer to play now (and it's more likely that the game will end through bonus tokens or reaching 10 cities now), but that's not really a complaint. The board gives players more time to figure out the way they want to approach the game, and that's a big improvement over the base map. Overall, it changes the way that players play the game, without changing much about the game at all, and for me, that makes for a great expansion.
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
Wow, do I like this one. Just a very interesting game, and with all those cards, unlikely you'll ever have two games the same!
As usual, April was a good month for me for new games, if not quite as good as usual (I average over 31 new-to-me games, but only got in 27 this year).
Many of the game new to me were unpublished, but among those published:
Pantheon was easily my favorite. It's a wonderful make-the-most-of-your-situation game, which is a genre I'm very fond of, and one that I'll gladly pick up as soon as it's available in English. Played twice.
Spring Fever was the new-to-me game I played the most (well, tied with Freitag 2); it's pleasant, but not really my thing.
Pergamon is a nice little game; I'm not planning to pick up a copy, but it might still slide above that line.
1880: China was a disappointment. I really enjoyed the first third of the game, but it went on well too long, and I don't at all care for the limitations on track building.
Abtei der Raetsel was also a disappointment, though I now don't feel a need to pick up Abtei der wanderen Bucher, so that's something.
Airlines Europe is pleasant, but the pace felt a bit too slow for me.
BITS is tolerable, but for me wasn't nearly as good as FITS.
Hey Waiter! is cute, but there's way too much take-that for me.
Lao Pengh isn't bad, but there are other stacking games I prefer.
Ranking isn't my thing, but is well done.
Schnapsen is an interesting two player trick taking game. I should probably play again.
Skyscrapers is a blast for one play; I'd play again, but don't feel any need to pick up a copy.
Soldateska is actually the only game I own from this list; I've only played it once, but it's clearly my second favorite of the group at this point. Clever trick taking game with shades of Flaschenteufel...
Strasbourg could be much better, with further development, but as it is doesn't stand out.
String Railway is very cute, but again not one I'm tempted to track down.
Last of the Independents should be avoided, even if it is made with made in China.
Top & Down is not one of the more interesting Easy Play games.
Troyes is better than it was when I played it - we got a scoring rule incorrect - but really not all that interesting anyway.
Ubongo: Das Kartenspiel is easily skipped.
Uluru is a much better speed puzzle game. Like most such games, not one I feel any need to own, but still quite pleasant.
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game - 4 plays
This was the game I played the most this month. This is a most wonderful game, full of tough decisions and palpable tension. Playing your cards right is so important in this game. This is a very good game and if you watch my plays, you can see it is pretty balanced so far. I mostly enjoy playing Lannisters and have yet to come up with a consistent way in which to dominate the other houses. Nevertheless, the TV series really raised my appetite for this, tough I am pretty displeased about it. They could have made a longer show and closer to the books. I guess I will just have to see how it goes on.
Railways of the World - 2plays
This is a very nice train game. The fact that is has no luck and that all the decisions have a long term effect makes this a really nice game. I have mostly lost since I don't like to take many bonds which are sometimes crucial to winning. I usually stop around 6-7, which provides me with a nice steady income and a decrease in points that I can usually manage with my secret card, but I do not have a lot of expanding and explosive plays across the board. Played mostly Mexico map so far with 3. I am looking forward to playing on the big map.
Middle-Earth Quest - 1 play
Nice antagonistic cooperative. I love the way the combat cards play and the fact that heroes must be very careful with their hand management. The secret missions could use more variety and generally a small expansion full of cards would make the game really good. So far it needs some more variety as far as I am concerned to get in the top 3. It has a lot going for it, from plastic-pornography to clever mechanics and epic theme, but falls short in the diversity.
Kings & Things - 1 play
I played the Z-Man reprint. I felt the game kinda flat. A mix between Small World and a very light TI3. The general impression was that it suffers from all the syndromes of conquest games: kingmaking, runaway leader, ganging on the weak, etc. Not very impressed.
Tomb - 1 play
Too much dice-rolling, overstays it's welcome and it was a general bore. 3 hours for an easy learning game with tons of debating on the rules seemed excruciatingly long. I must say that the variety of the heroes is nice, but after dieing so many times to unlucky dice-rolling and really strong monsters in low level dungeons, I have put it up for trade. Maybe it will get a nicer home somewhere else.
Dice Town - Interesting use of dice, but did not seem more than a filler. Might buy it for that.
Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas - Loads of downtime, interesting mechanics, but it just takes too long without feeling rewarding.
Edit: Some Grammar
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This was one busy month in terms of new games. A few of them only solo, but anyway, here goes...
This was under my radar for a long while, which is a pity - it plays quite differently, but to me feels kind of similar to Chaos in the Old World because of the different paths to victory in a game that's only half AT and half Euro, with elegant central mechanics and a relatively short playing time. Played with five people twice, I think that might well be the best player number.
Commands & Colors: Ancients
I was positively surprised by how smooth this plays. Lots of strategy, yet lots of luck, and all in very quick turns and with many interesting decisions. I like the hand management elements, too. Only solo plays, I won't call them test plays because I think the lack of hidden hands didn't hurt the decision processes too much. It would of course be even better with two. I'll try to convince my wife to play.
Through the Desert
I never quite committed to getting this, even though I knew it had to be good with everybody saying so. The game is much more interesting and less dry than I thought it would be. Only two solo test plays, but they were fun.
Defenders of the Realm
Another positive surprise. A friend brought this over and convinced me to try it, and there's much more freedom (and less similarity) than in Pandemic. The characters play a bigger role, too. Overall, a less mathematical affair than its inspiration. Which is positive, to me. Played two games with two players.
I must admit that after all the buzz, I expected a ... more dynamic ... game. Sure, there's direct interaction, and competition, and the game is most definitely good, and deep. But it's not awesome. And what I read in reviews and whatnot made me think it'd be awesome. Ah well. Played once with five.
All Things Zombie: The Boardgame
The best thing about this game is probably that I dared ordering Commands & Colors: Ancients after I played it. But it's a really nice solo experience, and one of the most involved zombie ... simulations that I've played to date. The trouble is, I think, that the game does have a somewhat one-dimensional strategy - avoid the zombies, hope you don't spawn too many, when you do then run somewhere they're not and kite them around forests. It's of course not that simple, and the scenarios are varied, the game definitely leaves a positive impression.
If you ever happen to be looking for a more interesting and strategic kind of Risk, this could well be it. Dynamic map and choke points, fog of war and exploration, randomness but not too much randomness (which is quite a difference from Risk), interesting economics and strategy and tactics. A neat set of rules that makes for an interesting game. I only played two solo test games with two sides, but am looking forward to more.
Pirate Versus Pirate
The reason why I got this was this Mensa Select award thingy. I expected a strategic, thinky game. And was thoroughly disappointed. The dice have way too much of an impact in this game for my taste - it will most definitely work well as a children's game, but nothing that could stand next to Through the Desert and tempt me to play it instead of the older, better game (that doesn't really take any longer but gives me a huge lot more to think about).
Board Game: Nightfall
[Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1271]
[Average Rating:6.53 Unranked]
It's cold outside. There's no kind of atmosphere. I'm all alone. More or less. Let me fly. Far away from here. Fun fun fun. In the sun sun sun...
Darn, I'm Dwayne Dibbley again....
For the first time on these lists I have a default winner. Nightfall was the only new to me game in April and therefor get the nod. It is another interesting twist on the deckbuilding genre although it didn't hit as well as Dominion and Thunderstone did. Still, I only got to try it once so it will be interesting to see how it holds up with a few more plays and we get accustomed to the cards.
Gameplay wasn't the easiest to get a grasp of at first but it flows fairly well after a few rounds. With experience we'll have a better idea of the cards composition to get some good chains together, it seemed like our buys was somewhat random in our first game. Two features I found interesting was the individual cards for each player and that cards were discarded after one attack instead of sticking around.
The worst part was the quality of the cards, just like Thunderstone. They seem flimsy and seperates quite easy and almost falls apart in your hands after a not a lot of shuffles, and that is a horrible feature in a deckbuilding game.
Rating based after one play:
Don't make me exile you.
Plays: 2 with 4
There has already been a ton of talk about Mansions, but here's my two cents any way.
What we have here is a which way book; a cooperative one. The trick is that while most of the players are flipping pages trying desperately advance the story far enough to find out how it ends the puppet master is sitting back desperately trying to beat them to the punch by meeting a condition before they can accomplish their goal.
It's a racing game full of theme, tons of chrome and infinite expansion possibilities; perhaps even on the cheap with FF's new print on demand services.
The game does lend itself to a group that is willing to embrace the theme, current story, et al, so groups looking for a more mechanically driven game can look elsewhere. Those who live for theme, however, should be right at home here; just like me.
Plays: 3 with 3 and 4
Nightfall is the newest deck building darling. It borrows heavily from Magic the gathering with it's use of "the stack, it's last in first out play, and the kicker, the idea of having a requirement set off a bonus ability.
The one thing about this game is that it's got such a large front end load of leaning the cards, their interactions, their kickers, etc, that games have taken 90 minutes when I feel like it should be a 45 minute game.
The thing is, I'm totally willing to play a dozen or more times to get there. Play is tight and interesting. It's really hard to tell who is doing how well as wounds become a bit of a memory game in how many people have gained or exiled.
Overall I recommend it to anyone looking for something new and fresh in the genre.
Plays: 2 with 4
Wizards of the Coast continues to deliver on their promise of a light, board game focused, D&D experience. It continues to work and I think it's actually a bit more challenging this time.
The only thing missing here is a better campaign mode. Characters cannot level past 2 and I would welcome a couple of more levels. This, indeed, would take an entire setting dedicated to expanding that premise.
Again, great bits, play, and better challenge than Ravenloft IMHO.
Plays: 2 with 2
Once again I think Kosmos has hit their mark with a game that's one half strategy and deck management, and one half luck.
Perry Rhodan is pick up and deliver crossed with deck management. The timing of buying your technologies, and how many, coupled with the one shot cards is where the strategy is at. There is even a card in the deck to have you shuffle and redraw, the timing of which can also be quite crucial.
It's not a game or everyone, but any fan of the Kosmos two-player line will be familiar with the delicate balance of luck, strategy, and timing to be found here; I believe it is most comparably on the order of Jambo, another of my two-player favorites.
The only strike against the game is the over sized score track and the over sized score markers.
Plays: 1 with 4
LoV is a new dice-based take on the China Town model, though I much prefer the latter.
Things I liked:
-Ways to mitigate some dice luck
-The point progression as a catch up mechanism
Things I didn't like:
- Late game control of casinos becomes a crap shoot (pun intended, as well as double entendre)
- There is little to do late game as the board is nearly full
- The same catch up mechanism becomes harsh enough that it's a big penalty
The problems with lords of Vegas include that luck rules the day and trading is meaningless. As the game progresses the options available are so slim that the best decision is to save up enough money to try and take over a casino; which will happen a ton as the game ends.
I started out so hopeful and as the game dug on and my decisions began to have less and less importance I simply began not to care.
Eugene van der Pijll
My new games, from good to bad:
1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight is my best game of the month. I like 18xx's, and 1860 is an above average one. Like in 1825, the opportunities for ugly tricks on the stock market is much lower than in 1830, and the result is that there is much more cross-investment, and (at least in the game that I played) more movement of shares between players. But there still is a lot of strategy in this game; much of it centered around insolvent companies. We saw a lot of insolvencies, probably because of a severe train rush.
My 18xx group is very slow, so I liked the rule that at some point, no further track laying is possible, and company revenues are almost fixed. This shortens the end game considerably, which means that the game stays interesting until the very end (which is sometimes a problem for 18xx games).
Crokinole is a wonderful dexterity game. I played on a
Mayfair Mayday board. There has been some criticism of these boards and of the company, but our board was quite good, in my (not very knowledgeable) opinion.
Code 777 is a good deduction game; possibly the best one yet. It's quite a nice feeling to finally get one of your "guesses" right. (Of course, they shouldn't be (all) guesses, as you should wait to call until you're nearly certain. But this is hard to do in your first game, when you're struggling to make useful notes.)
Eurorails is long, almost non-interactive, and largely random. But I still liked it a lot. Maybe it's just that I like to play with trains.
Aloha: an interesting abstract game. It reminded me of Gipsy King, of the same author. It has a much too low rating here on BGG. I didn't find the final scoring to be a problem.
Automobile is long, without enough important decisions to keep the game interesting. Considerable effort is required to learn the game, because of complex rules and no memory aids: no player aids, no helpful icons on the tiles of the famous car manufacturers. The return on investment is too low for me here.
Mag·Blast (Third Edition) is a very random take-that game. I didn't really enjoy it. My opponents weren't really getting into the sound effect thing, which could have been the most fun part of the game.
Chicken Chase is a children's game that is too random for grown-ups, and too complex and mean spirited for kids.
Pipeline is another children's game. Looks fantastic, but the game is too random, and it's too difficult and costly to try to block an opponent, so there's not enough interaction.
One new game this month and one 'expansion'.
Seeland is one of the best games I have played in a while. My wife loves this game so much that it is now in her favorite game rotation (i.e. games she asks to play) which are RftG, Ascenscion, Peloponnese, Taluva and now Seeland.
The components are excellent, the rondel mechanic is interesting and the fact that you can score off of your opponents fields creates quite a bit of tension for us. I highly recommend this as an excellnt medium-light Euro for 2p.
Our new 'expansion' is Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer – Pathwarden Promo. He seems strong in some situations and overall a worthy addition to the game.
Proud Balmain Board Gamer
Lords of Vegas
Plays: 4 Rating: 8.5
Surprised by how enjoyable this one was. At first sight I thought it would be a rather straightforward area majority game. However, the options on each turn allow for some powerful combinations which - if luck it with you - can result in big game shifts. This was my 16 year olds favourite game until I remodelled a single square silver casino and took over as boss for his 8-square brown casino sitting next to me. Next turn guess what card he pulled?
Yes, it has lots of luck and I can understand people being but off by that but it's quite refreshing to have a Knizia-style game with a sense of humour.
Plays: Lost count Rating: 8.5
Purchased from www.pucket.co.uk - a British version of Le Passe-Trappe. Excellent production quality and a very British sense of humour about the rule book. The game is just sheer fun. Gamers and non-gamers alike have had a blast with this one. Everyone has requested to play again. Have also had a lot of fun with a suitably inventive handicapping systems for more skillful players.
Crokinole on Steroids.
Really my equal top game of the month with Lords of Vegas - interesting to see which will stand the test of time better.
Plays: 3 Rating: 7
Traded Goa for this one at CanCon. Its good, but for me, suffers from being a little too like Lords of Vegas (ie combinations of dice manipulations each turn) without the former's unpredictability. Only played it 2 player, and found that one player can start to hog some of the more useful orbital facilities and establish a winning position early in the game. Some of the alien cards also feel a little overpowered.
Board Game: Haggis
[Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:661]
Without a doubt the best new to us game this month was Haggis - owing many thanks to EndersGame for his great play by play review. We had 5 plays of this starting in the latter half of the month. The trick taking, "take that/screw you" factor put this one solidly in the keeper category.
Much to my surprise, we've really been gravitating to card games lately. They just seem to work for us during the week when we're in the after work and fried brain mode. We also played revived Cribbage and logged 24 plays of it, but it wasn't really new, just dusted off. Still, the play feels new. I played cribbage many years ago in college, but wasn't really that thrilled by it, but that was long before I was really into gaming. After recently playing Jaipur and Haggis, Cribbage feels fresh and very different than it did back then. Funny how games have a different feel after you have a deeper understanding for the mechanic or style.
Onirim was also new which also saw 5 plays this month, but since they were all solo, and my primary objective with gaming is the player interaction, Haggis took the top spot. Overall, a great month for games.
Patiently waiting for the zombie apocalypse...
Dominant Species .
There has been tremendous buzz for DS and I've been pretty stoked to finally try it. All I can say is the buzz is acurate. This is hands down the heaviest game I own. What you need to think about and process during the course of the game is amazing. It is a brain burner this game. It was a four player affair, and all who played really enjoyed it. I was surprised by the level of end game scoring. I thought I would come in last place, but due the fact I had been able to spread my amphibians around Earth helped me come in a solid second. It is a longer game, but that does not bother me. It is well worth the time. It also has tremendous player interaction. This is far from a multi-solitaire game. Chad Jensen has developed a Euro game that I believe will be standing until the next Ice Age. Highly Recommended!
Letters from Whitechapel .
This has been a great month for new games. When Letters from White Chapel caught my eye, I could not stop thinking about it. The dark theme, the deduction element, and the streamlined game play just really clicked. I had to purchase it, and boy I'm glad I did. This game rocks! If Dominant Species wasn't such a quality game, Letters would have taken top spot this month. Regardless, Letters from White Chapel is a blast to play. The game is on the longer side, and I believe it plays best with two players. When you add more players, it slows the play down. I highly recommend it, and I feel the game is fairly evenly balanced. I predict of the deduction games here on BGG, Letters is far and above the best. Highly Recommended!
Age of Steam
I know AoS has been the standard to judge all train games. I've always heard AoS is tough and unforgiving, but when I've finally played this game I've found that realistically AoS is down right BRUTAL! I was out the first turn. Now I do not blame the game, I played stupidly, but that is a down side for me. It is not new gamer friendly. I can appreciate the level of intensity in AoS, but since I own Steam I can never see me owning this one. I would like to give it another shot though... Redemption possibly....
7 Wonders .
My sister's Christmas gift for me came in April, when 7 Wonders 2nd print run finally made it to my doorstep. This is a solid game, and it plays relatively quickly. I can see some repetitiveness after many plays, but so far I've only played 2 player games. So looking forward to playing with more. As it stands, it seems the military aspect of the game is a must, and the one who wins those points tends to win. I believe the game group will like regardless, and it should be a solid filler game for us. I enjoy Innovation more though. I find it more fulfilling.
Cargo Noir .
Now Cargo Noir has had mediocre reviews. I bought it, because my wife thought it looked fun. I think it is fun, and can reward brutal play. The theme is pasted on, but the delayed auction action is interesting. You need to be keeping an eye on your opponents... Should I up the bid to slow the other player down? The art work is awesome, but I find the board to be ridiculously sloppy. It is a good game, not great, but good.
I bought Money because if I bough one more game I could free shipping. Money fit the gap perfectly. Now when we played Money it was a three player game, and I found it to be predictable and uninspiring. I'm not going to put the nail in the coffin yet, I just enjoy Master's Gallery more. The components are great though. It is a meh game for me....
April was a great month for new games! Dominant Species takes the top spot, followed closely by Letters from White Chapel. They are great games, check them out!
The best new games this month are a slight variation of a favorite and an expansion to another favorite. Almost feels unfair putting those two at the top!
Imperial 2030 - 10
I rate Imperial a 10 and there is no reason to rate this one any different. The rule changes from Imperial all work well. The Swiss Bank makes this a clearly better game at the higher player counts since it grants a little extra power to those who do not control a country. I'm not 100% sure I like this board layout over the original. It appears that some countries, like Brazil, are significantly better positioned than others, like Europe and China, to improve their tax base. The same could be said of the original board, but because there are so many tax regions available here, the difference between the haves and have-nots appears to be greater. But really, this is just another strategic consideration to take into account and not a flaw.
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor - 9
I have to admit that Agricola has so much stuff happening, it was hard to imagine that adding even more stuff would improve it. Does the expansion make the game better? That might be debatable. Does it bog the game down and make it worse? Absolutely not! In fact, I would think experienced players would want to play with it every time, but I'd probably omit the expansion from teaching games. Here's a breakdown of the rules changes and my thoughts:
* Each player starts with 5 forest and 3 moor tiles on their board. [This is the main difference in this expansion. These tiles are mostly cleared by taking "free" actions. That is, actions that do not use your people tokens. The special actions are grouped on cards. A card is used once for free, and can be used by another player again for 2 food before being done for the turn. The special action mechanic is an excellent way to add another decision layer into the game without changing the basic construct. It also adds an additional element of timing - you can use special actions to delay placement of your people and extend your turn, or you can take advantage of others' use of special actions in order to claim people actions ahead of them. Once all of your people are placed your turn is over, even if there are special actions still to claim.]
* There are new actions you can take. [These are a few of the special actions explained above.]
o Felling timber (gets 2 wood from a forest)
o Slash and burn (turns forest into plowed field)
o Cut peat (gets 3 fuel from a peat bog)
* Fuel is a new type of "currency" in Farmers of the Moor, used to heat your dwelling at harvest time. [If you can't heat your home during harvest, your people can fall ill for one round and they essentially miss a turn. Wood can be a substitute for fuel. Makes wood more valuable, as if it wasn't valuable enough!]
* Horse breeding is rewarded heavily, because you get 1 point for every horse you have at the end of the game. [You only bring horses into play though on of the special actions. They are worth more points than other animals, but don't convert to food as easily. You need special equipment to convert them as well.]
* There are 14 new Major Improvements. [These are placed under the existing Major Improvements and usually help with some of the opportunities in the expansion (heating your home, cooking horses, clearing forest and moors, etc.]
* There are special actions to aid in the acquisition of Improvements. [Some of the other special actions.]
o Black market (use fuel to get a Minor Improvement)
o Moonlighting (use food and fuel to get a Major Improvement)
* There are 118 new Minor Improvements. [You are supposed deal these in additions to improvements from the base game at a ratio of 3 base / 4 expansion. This way you are sure to get cards related to expansion requirements. I might be more inclined to do a 4/3 ratio next time.]
I'd say this is an excellent expansion. Probably a must-have if you play Agricola a lot. I was surprised at how well everything worked.
Chinatown - 7
Chinatown is an almost pure negotiation game. The board is made up of six grids of squares, each square on the board having unique number. There is a deck of cards - one card for each square. There is also a bag of tiles with various businesses (Antiques, Restaurant, Photo, Take-Out, etc.) ranging in value from 3-6. On each turn players draw cards and keep a few (depending on number of players and game phase) and claim ownership of the spaces they keep. Then business tiles are drawn from the bag (again, depending on # of players and game phase). Once drawn, the negotiations begin! Players can trade any number of spaces, tiles, cash, and so on to get the combos they want. Tiles are then placed. Adjacent tiles of matching businesses are worth more, when enough adjacent tiles are built to match the value number, that is considered a "complete" business and pays the most. Then income is paid out and you do it again. Whoever has the most money after 6 rounds wins.
Negotiations are obviously at the heart of the game. In the first and last rounds, the negotiations are weaker because the board is either too empty or too committed to do much, but the middle rounds are filled with negotiating possibilities. It seems quite possible that a player with a number of lucky draws could run away with the game without having to negotiate much. Whether or not you enjoy the game depends on how you like negotiation. If you love negotiation, there's a lot to like here. If you dislike negotiation there's almost nothing to like. One aspect that people may not enjoy is that it is very difficult to tell who is in the lead and by how much.
Fast Flowing Forest Fellers - 6
A slow race game where you seem to get pushed backward almost as much as forward. There are two tricks to this game that make it a bit "thinky". First are the currents, which, if you end your turn on them can carry you in good or bad directions (usually bad). Second is the ability to push other pieces and logs, which can block or interfere. You can push your own pieces forward, thus moving two or more pieces with one card, or you can push other players into currents which can send them back. The key seems to be using your cards efficiently through pushing. Not a great racing game, but a decent sort of light puzzle game for the family.
Board Game: Egizia
[Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:270]
We played and reviewed several great new games in April, the worker placement game Egizia (Essen 2009) especially proved to be a real hit!
I consider Egizia to be Stone Age version 2.0 - slightly more complex, but more strategic as well, and a more satisfying game. Great worker placement with some excellent twists that limit ship placement, and promote variable long term strategies. A well done Egyptian theme, and overall a fantastic game! 9/10
Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Should Egizia be considered Stone Age version 2.0?
Railways Through Time
Railways of the World expansion with a twist: time travel. Players can deliver goods between different eras on eight different boards, using a selection of maps depending on the number of players. Retains enough of the original to be enjoyable, and adds enough new elements to be a fun and different experience. Great addition to the series! 9/10
Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Railways of the World successfully enters the Fourth Dimension by adding time travel
Incredibly well-themed game about archaeology: dig up fragments in Pergamon, piece them together, and exhibit them in a museum. Just released. A well designed light-medium euro with terrific components. 8/10
Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: Yes we dig it! - the new and richly themed archaeology game from the designer of For Sale
Say Anything Family Edition
Family friendly edition of the classic party game from North Star Games, where players write answers to a question asked by the `judge', and then try to guess which answer he'd pick. A ton of fun - recommended. 7.5/10
Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
A Comprehensive Pictorial Overview: A brand new party game for families from the guy who brought us Wits & Wagers
April was an excellent month. Greatly expanding the games library, pretty much the member of the group that supplies the games. No complaints. We sort of had a handful of games for a few years... good ones, but they were few.My friends and I also love the gamblz so backgammon and poker have to get in there a lil. boardgames have pretty much dominated that all now, besides a little backgammon time. Damn I love that game. The best gambling/dice/abstract out there... SO... after tons of research and sticking to some of the strong points i've seen in other games i like, i snagged up a few. after hours and hours and hours on here. almost knowing the rules for each game as per my style. and a few more....
I just started logging plays in January (even then half-assed). I didn't really hit my stride in logging until i got my iphone and bgg app. Even somehow still manage to forget a few... and then it feels like cheating. so, truly new to me plays:
Absolutely in love. Love the tactical depth. It feels like a more abstract twilight struggle. The simplicity was actually a relief from TS at first, but now i want more depth. I want the TS bad. A friends copy will have to do right now as i'm not shelling out the loot they're fetching. Debates seemed a little underweighted at first but now i see them as more of a strategic way to "open" the play of your hand. Election day seems a little anticlimactic when compared to the last 2 turns of campaigning. The "Gathering Momentum..." cards seemed a little weak in comparison to the scoring cards in TS at first but then I sort of broke free of the TS strategy in this game a bit when i realized it wasn't necessarily parallel to this game.
I can see why people would not enjoy this game heads-up. My initial impressions after playing this for the first time were something like "I own this game and will OWN this game." I don't usually get like this about games so that was a lil shocking that it induced that sort of response out of me. As for the "Edo 2 player problem", i think i'll play with random hands for 2P. 3P really opens things up quite a bit. Allows more clever use of the ship tiles. I like the way it plays a lot better with 3. Haven't played 4 player yet, but can't wait. I still just wanna whoop ass in this game though.
This game is rather clever. I didn't even notice the lack of luck the first go around. I like that it keeps moving. Its a pleasure to play really. Printed out the guide with the assets on each card. Streamlined and elegant. I'm sort of surprised it doesn't get more attention on here. Is it too simple for you folks?
Haven't had the chance to play with more than 2 so my comment will be brief. I like it already, even with 2. I can't see why you would play without the auction rules and extra tiles. I could see playing the game without the extra tiles before i'd do without the auction. Wouldn't the money be way too loose and plentiful in the late rounds without this extra potential expenditure? Makes for some tougher more meaningful decisions me thinks...
I like this game a lot. I like the tension that's created by the river dynamic. There seems to be a lot of flexibility to your decisions. You can sort of "have anything you want, but not it all". The sphinx seems to be very crucial the fewer players you have. The temptation is strong to place a ship there every round. The temple seems to have the least value as a building site and seems to be for overflow from the pyramid. Might just be groupthink.
Hey That's My Fish (friend's copy)
Simple. Totally cuthroat mean. I like it. I love abstracts. all of them.
Ingenious (only played a couple times)
Leonardo Da Vinci (only played a couple times w/2)- I will say one thing. I understand why people say this game is unforgiving. We play with Codex I + II and the advanced set-up. I like the openness of decisions. I like how there is no need for conversion of currency to victory points. This sat on my shelf for months after getting it for 10 bucks. The rulebook blows. No one wants to play this game so the forums generally blow as well. but fortunately there are a few people that seem to have made it their duty to make sure people are playing it correctly. After a night of reading for a couple hours on here and making the "new rule book" and expansion boards, we gave it a go. I thought it was gonna be nearly impossible to play this properly the first go, but i think due to that worry i prepared myself really well. I can't wait to play it with 4 and see how the bidding plays out. As well as the extra favors.
I would have to say 1960 is my favorite of the bunch.
This is my chance to convey something meaningful! Darn. Wasted it.
Although I logged a lot more plays this month than I have before, I actually only had one New To Me: Mystery of the Abbey.
I enjoyed it, and definitely think it may be superior to Cluedo (what Australian's call Clue). the only problem was that at the end of the game we all had everyone crossed off, because one player had accidentally crossed off one novice he hadn't actually seen, who happened to be the murderer. We had to agree to take out the card and look at it and just add up our points without any successful accusations. So it was a little anticlimactic. But still pretty fun. Don't think I'll be rushing out to buy it though.
BorderCon is awakening from it's slumber for another year...Check out the BorderCon Guild for more!!!
This April was truly wonderful as I got to play no less than 6 new games and got another 7 out of the dust. What’s even better is that I got to play a truly awesome game for the first game in years…
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilisation
Very rarely a game comes along that just bedazzles you with its depth, decisions and overall experience once the game is done. For me it was Through the Ages. I had read plenty about the game over the years and it just didn’t sound like me. Too long, probably too fiddly, my play group wouldn’t dig it. So when two friends asked us to play I had my doubts but was willing to give it a go.
Man was I wrong…Despite our first game taking 7 hours…(yes you read correctly) I loved every minute of it. Yet another feather in TtA’s cap is that Patty enjoyed every minute of it too and normally a 7 hour game would have her tearing at the wallpaper and burning half my collection.
No this was engaging from start to finish. The game felt like a narrative playing out before you and even if you lose (although I won) you look back on your civilization with something akin to fondness.
Now the 7 hours was largely my fault. When I don’t know a game back to front I ask a billion questions, so hats off to our two game explainers for being so patient with me. In truth I think play #2 will easily knock 2.5 hours off that time as we were being highly social as well. This play of TtA actually reminded me of playing Mahjong for a day – where the wine, cheese and biscuits flow. It’s a game where you enjoy the journey and the company of friends. This was fantastic.
So much so that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the game for a week now. I’ve had dreams about building Wonders that actually don’t exist and I can’t wait for my next play. Those same friends brought me a copy back from Melbourne less than a week after my first play – so game #2 is not far away.
I have played many a cool game in the last 10 years, but I’ve only had this feeling twice before – when I discovered Memoir ’44 and when I first discovered the new age of boardgaming back in 2000/01. I can’t say much more than that really.
This game really surprised me. My general reaction after reading the rulebook was, ‘Meh…sounds alright but probably just a quick play, review and trade kind of game’.
I was having a wrong kind of month. Condotierre is an area control game where the players are trying to gain control of key territories via the use of cards to simulate pitched battles made up of different units/personalities. The battles themselves are fairly straight forward to play out but the game is full of all sorts of subtlety. Every player can be involved in a single battle for control of a territory, so knowing when you are beaten, saving strong troops for future encounters and the overall bluff and double bluff nature of the game make for an engaging experience.
Many of the cards interact with one another and can change the relative strengths of each army fairly quickly, so you always have to be on your toes. Best of all, the game knows what it is and doesn’t outstay its welcome…usually taking between 40-60 minutes.
It’s not quite a filler but Condotierre offers plenty of engaging decisions and plays a little differently with different numbers of players. This game was underneath the trade guillotine but will be staying in my collection for the foreseeable future.
This little filler game is charming and great for families or as a social icebreaker/filler at gaming get togethers. The cards represent a variety of foods such as lettuce, tomatoes etc. The deck is split among the players and when a card is played the name of the food must be said. However, if it matches the last card played then the player must lie and say another name that the food isn’t. This starts to confuse things as the next player cannot say the name of their card if it matches the last picture on the pile or the fake name just said.
Soon enough people are getting tongue-tied (the game works best when people are only given a second or two to say a food name) and making mistakes. A mistake results in collecting the pile of cards in play and adding them to your hand. The winner is the first player to get rid of all their cards.
The game is then further complicated by the appearance of a cockroach. I can’t quite remember how that goes but you can tell by now that this is a light and silly game, more about the laughs and social interaction. My boys really liked it and at with the very low cost of the game I am likely to get a copy for BorderCon to help people feel welcome and make some new friends on the opening day.
My wife and I have been gaming with Heather & Dave for the best part of 10 years now so I was delighted to see that Heather had found a Print & Play game, printed it out and laminated it. I think it’s safe to say that she is a fully fledged gamer now.
Weilong is a simple but fun dice game that only takes 10 minutes to play at the most. Each player takes on the role of a Monk dedicated to one of the elements each round and with that dedication they get a small power. Each player then takes turns to try and role a 1-5 straight or a 5-of-a-kind. They can reroll if they roll at least one value that matches the number of their Monk. If they fail to make the combination required to win the round then they keep what dice they had and play moves on.
As soon as someone does complete a sequence, all other players score points equal to the values of their dice + the value of their Monk (generally the greater the power the more points will be earned for losing).
Each player gets to control each Monk once and at the end of the game the fewest points wins. So simple yet quite fun for a small, quick dice filler. The best part is that the game only consists of the 5 Monk cards and a set of dice – so it can be taken anywhere in your top pocket and be played on trains and flights for example.
Being something of a racing game fan, I had to try this and it wasn’t too bad. It’s weight and feel is similar to Formula Motor Racing or Snail Race in that you only have limited control. Each game requires the players to draft 5 athletes into their stable and then they compete across 5 races (1 athlete per race per person).
What sets Magical Athlete apart from those other games I mentioned are the powers that each athlete has. They are all different and it is the combination of different powers that makes for some hilarious situations but on occasion they will not gel well either and this can see the game devolve into roll and move for a single race. Thankfully each race is a 5 minute affair so it isn’t too painful.
Magical Athlete is a great example of a game that is as much fun as the people playing it. It is a beer & pretzels game really and if you approach it in the right mindset there is a lot of fun to be had. Families with young children will likely have a blast with this.
Yahtzee Hands Down Card Game
Ok the nouns Yahtzee + Hasbro are likely to turn any self respecting gamer off, but this light filler-ish style card game is actually quite good and I rank it above Monopoly Deal: The Card Game.
The players are all trying to create a hand of 5 cards to make a scoring combo. These combos consist of all the scoring options on the bottom half of a Yahtzee pad (Full House, the straights, 4 of a Kind etc). Players try to improve their hand by throwing out any number of cards and drawing that many back again. The cards are value from 1-6 but some cards feature a dice showing two faces, so either number can be used. The cards also come in 1 of 3 colours and when a combo is formed all cards generally have to be of the same colour. So there are wild cards and some numbered cards offer all 3 colours so that 3 you hold can be of a colour of your choosing to help blend in with the rest of your cards.
As soon as someone has a combo they can lay it down. As soon as a 2nd person does the same a showdown takes place. Both combos are revealed and the best scoring combo takes that combo card from the combos still on offer. The loser won’t get their combo card but they can take a chance card, which will have a value from 1-7 (with 7 being worth more than many of the combo cards – so lady luck is well and truly in play).
Players not involved in a showdown still keep their cards (the showdown players draw 5 new cards to begin the next round) so other players have a head start. This style of mechanic feels a little like modern game design, which suggests that Hasbro is at least trying to think about the games they are creating for the mass market now.
Game ends when the last combo card is taken and the highest total points wins. This game like Monopoly Deal, is perfect for family beach holidays and camping trips, which is where we played it.
Anyone that knows me will be wondering why I have an FFG Bigbox fantasy themed game ranked at only 2 and a half stars? Surely this would be right up Neil’s alley?
Well I agree…it should have been. But I really disliked much of this game and couldn’t wait for it to be over. It has so many interesting elements like the resource dials that need to be carefully managed, the board is modular and it is even set in Terrinoth, a world I have much fondness for thanks to Runebound and Descent.
But for me the sum of its parts didn’t amount to much more than a poorly put together saying. Why?
Well the choice of action cards used to do things each season just seemed to obvious each year. All 4 of us seemed to be selecting the same things each turn and that made the game feel a bit one dimensional and obvious.
I really hated the combat with its card system. So many time in the game a player would get uber lucky or get shafted badly. It didn’t feel like you could plan a battle using unit strength or weight of numbers - What’s wrong with dice? And then a combat could be won by simply having more units than the enemy at the end of a battle - This took away any sort of climax for me.
Heroes felt like 1 dimensional beings. They just seem to roam the land to undertake quests but it felt like the game was played in two different realms as Heroes and Units seem to operate independent of one another.
I could go on but I won’t. Lovers of the game will punch holes in my arguments and that’s cool…but it just wasn’t for me and I even won the game, which usually helps just a little. I won’t be returning to this one any time soon.
This was an interesting game but one that didn’t quite click for me. Played in teams, each player is trying to serve a number of dishes of different colours. Various action cards are used to do so but a player can only serve out dishes on top of their plate piles. In addition if a player plays a 2-card combo that serves dishes, it works for all players, so the game is one of timing and careful ordering. It is possible to split your plate piles therefore having extra dishes on top but this will cost you cards from your hand and that means less choice in terms of the cards that can be played.
The game also allows a player to place a cover over other people’s plates so they cannot be served until the cover is removed.
It was quite clever really but if I want a partnership game I’d tend to go to Tichu.
Defenders of the Realm: Dragon Expansion
With only 1 play I won’t say too much for now. There is no doubt that the amount of variety you can bring to the Realm with this expansion is vast. New Generals that can be added in any combination, Agents of the Dark Lord can be present and act differently to normal Generals, new quests, minions change in name and how they operate. A new end game in the form of burning locations is introduced and scenarios are offered.
In many ways it feels like a toolbox expansion that allows hard core fans to tinker and try something new. It also comes at the cost of more fiddly-ness in my opinion and despite knowing the base game quite well I felt lost in my 1st play. I’m sure this will improve but I am yet to judge if the fiddly-ness and additional learning curve offered any more enjoyment over the base game. Time will tell.
Out of the Dust
Wow what a month for bringing old games back to the table and there were some crackers too that I had almost forgotten about.
Evo Out of the Dust – 5 Years 3 Months
This game (which is getting a reprint) is really fun as each player must try to help evolve their species of dinosaur and see them prosper. Land is tight so conflict with other species is certain and the climate means that only dinos that can adapt will survive.
Yspahan Out of the Dust – 2 Years 10 Months
In the wave of new dice allocation Euros we have seen since 2006, I had largely forgotten about Yspahan. Fool me as this game is a great little design that only takes half the time or less of a Kingsburg.
Sure it isn’t as meaty as Kingsburg but the decisions are engaging and it has several strategic paths to explore and enjoy.
Queen’s Necklace Out of the Dust – 4 Years 1 Month
I really do think that this is one overlooked game. Perhaps it is because of the filler-sized box but Queen’s Necklace has some solid depth to its play. The jewel creation (scoring) phase throws up gut-wrenching decisions every time and the special ability characters give the game enough variation to keep the game fresh.
Fairy Tale Out of the Dust – 2 Years 2 Months
I still really like this drafting filler card game. The scoring combos are nice and it plays so quickly…but to be fair it has had some of its shine taken away by 7 Wonders, which probably does it better…even if it takes 15-20 minutes more to play.
Settlers of Catan Out of the Dust – 2 Years 1 Month
We played this again because a new gaming mate kept reading about it on BGG but as a club we had left it behind years ago. He enjoyed the play but could see how it would have been awesome 15 years ago. But even in his estimation it was only ok compared to the other designs he has played in the last 12 months.
Rummikub Out of the Dust – 2 Years 5 Months
We played this with my mother-in-law as we had bought it for her 2 years prior. It is not a bad game with its sequence and set collection. Good for a weekend at the farm but not for gaming mates.
World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game Out of the Dust – 2 Years 11 Months
Same mate is a bit of a WoW fan so we gave him a crack at this. This game is really quite ordinary and even he agreed. It outstays its welcome by about an hour (about a 2 hour game) and in that time you don’t seem to do anything really interesting. It is a race game as you try to move through the levels of the game but it all feels rather generic. Runebound and even Talisman has this beaten any day of the week.