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?
To be free, one must give up a little part of oneself
Several new games this month, and several more mini-expansions/promos. Nothing knocked-out-of-my-chair amazing, but several solid titles.
New to Me Game of the Month
London - Wallace games are weird to me. I've played Brass: Lancashire and Automobile, and had the same sort of "I enjoyed that but I'm not sure I had fun" feeling from both. They're awesome games for when you want to burn your brain and crawl up from nothing, economically, but without quite the feeling of true progression that you get from a game like Le Havre. I enjoyed both games, but felt like I was only treading water in both. I still rate them both as "good games," for sure, but I tend to not say "Hey, let's play Brass/Automobile" partly for that reason.
Well, London, then, came as no surprise to me. Still, I find it intriguing. Again, I can't say at the end "Woo, man, that was a blast!", but I feel satisfied, like I had a nice filling meal. London in particular intrigues me because of its Race for the Galaxy-esque emphasis on building a tableau of powers. What sets London apart from other tableau-based games is, in true Wallace style, you are penalized with poverty for utilizing your tableau. So it isn't a game simply about finding a good combo and exploiting it, but rather a tricky balancing act: how big do you let your tableau get before you activate it? How many boroughs should you invest in when money is tight? Is getting more cards good (more options) or bad (higher poverty accrual)? London is full of quite tough choices, and I enjoy that about it. I've won both times I've played, but I'm never quite sure what I'm doing right compared to my opponents (who were newbies, as well, so it's not like I'm a Wallace savant).
I have some qualms about the game that keeps it from being a favorite, other than the aforementioned "enjoyment but not fun" issue. It's strange to me that there are so many cards that feel repetitive but are in some aspect strictly superior to another card of the same type (for example, there's a Blue card that gives X pounds, and another one that gives X+2 pounds that costs no more and has no other penalties). I think that's based on the A/B/C stages of the game, but I think it can become frustrating if one opponent tends toward drawing the superior cards. Plus, the game just feels a bit fiddly during explanations, though it's very smooth in actual play.
Overall, I think London is a cool game and I'm going to continue playing it. My rating may increase over time. Currently, it's an interesting brain-burner that hasn't quite captured my heart the way it's captured my brain.
Blue Moon City: Expansion Tile Sets 1 & 2 - Rating-wise, this is the winner for the month, but I'd rather my entry wasn't "best mini-expansion of the month." I adore Blue Moon City. There's just something I find so intriguing and addictive about the smooth, simple, and oh-so-variable Knizia game. Particularly, it's interesting to watch the group-think that spreads across the board as certain areas become more valuable due to player investments. I like the balance between finishing tasks yourself and trying to entice others into doing the work for you. It's a go-to game for 2-player play over dinner for my partner and I when we go to a pizza place with room for the game's moderate footprint. So, obviously, I've been drooling over these pretty limited Spielbox promos for awhile.
Eventually, I broke down on finding the "real thing" and had
48 hour turnaround time for Prototypes!
print up a copy of these on chipboard for myself (and they came out gorgeous). I played 2 games with them this month, and I love what they do to the game of BMC. The slight enlargement of the board makes travel a much larger concern, making it much harder to get where you want to go. Efficiency is even more important, and the new buildings (which allow you to take an action at the end of your turn) contribute to this efficiency by giving useful waypoints throughout the board. Two of the buildings encourage extra card flow (either by providing it as a reward/neighbor bonus or by giving it as an end-of-turn bonus), meaning that people have fewer "I do nothing and draw cards" turns if they balance things correctly. The addition of four new buildings also means that the board isn't quite as depleted by game end; in the original game, it wasn't uncommon to see only 3-4 tiles unflipped when the game was over, meaning that people were very dependent upon drawing the correct color cards to get those last few crystals. With more buildings in play (several multicolor), the endgame is more dependent upon movement and action efficiency and less upon "I need only these three colors" card drawing.
I love, love, love this expansion and will probably include it whenever I'm playing BMC from now on (barring teaching new people who just can't handle the couple extra seconds of rules).
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game - It's no secret that I'm a pretty big Dominion fan, which means that other deckbuilding games have a high bar against which to compete. For those who recall, I wasn't terribly enamored with Thunderstone after my first play or two, and my rating only got worse by the time that I played played one of its expansions. It just felt too bloaty, too slow, and long for what it was. In particular, the numerous "Invincible against this" effects on monsters meant that if people built the wrong type of deck, it could be very difficult for anyone to make progress in the game.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached Ascension. On its surface, it's not terribly unlike Thunderstone: you have both buying-things currency and beating-things-up currency. Victory points are largely accumulated through beating things up, which is largely accomplished by having lots of "Hero" type cards in your deck.
But Ascension feels streamlined where Thunderstone feels unwieldy. In Ascension, you can both buy things and fight things in the same turn. You play as many "Heroes" and "Constructs" (similar to Actions in Dominion) on your turn as you want, buy as many things on your turn as you want, fight as many things as you want. You can do these in any order and switch back and forth as long as you have currency and/or cards remaining. Defeated monsters don't bloat your deck, but instead give you Race for the Galaxy-esque VP chips. Construct-type cards are semi-permanent, meaning they stay in play from round to round once played, unless canceled by some other card effect. There is one type of monster (Cultists) that are easy to defeat and always in play, meaning that even if no other monsters (or totally insurmountably difficult monsters) are in play, you still have something you can do with your military currency.
Ascension is a fast, smooth deckbuilding game. It doesn't grab me with the "oh god just ten more games, c'mon" addictive quality of Dominion, but it's enjoyable. It's fairly quick and has some interesting combo decisions. I fear for its replayability, as even after playing twice I felt like I had seen most of what it had to offer, but I'd still be in for a few more games of it. It's a good fillery deckbuilding game. It's more random, I think, than Dominion (since the buy/fight supply is ever-changing instead of a steady supply), but it's pleasant and enjoyable. Probably nothing I'd ever scramble to own, though.
Ascension: Theme Pack – Rat King - Our second game of Ascension had this in play. It's an interesting little villain, since it constrains your buying ability until it or its minions are defeated. Hard to say much about mini-promos like this, but I think it's worth getting and including if you enjoy Ascension.
Infinite City: Guild Hall and Salvage Yard - Again, hard to comment on mini-expansions. Had a game of Infinite City recently where the Salvage Yard came up a couple times. I enjoyed having the extra face-down tiles on the city, both for more options for piece placement for Housing, etc., but also because it made it easier and more interesting to cut off other players.
Alien Frontiers - I really like games that do interesting things with dice, particularly worker-placement type dice usage. I was totally enamored with Kingsburg when I first encountered it, and so Alien Frontiers similarly intrigued me. Someone happened to bring a copy to a recent game day, and we played a four-player game of it.
Up front, Alien Frontiers has some neat attributes. It has more of an emphasis on sets (three of a kind, runs, etc.) of dice rather than specific values (though those can matter, as well). You start with three dice and can earn more through the collection of certain resources and dice-types. The end goal of the game is a small-scale area-majority game that takes place on the world in the middle of the board, with the goal of all your dice shenanigans being a way of placing those colonies. There are a variety of "tech" cards that give special abilities, and owning the majority in a sector of the world gives more abilities, meaning that you can have all sorts of dice manipulation powers (flip a die to its opposite side, add or subtract one, use someone else's die for a turn, etc.).
This last sentence describes where the game fell apart for me. My problem with To Court the King, which should appeal to me because of my interest in neat takes on the Yahtzee formula, is that for a short dicey filler, turns bog down like crazy as people accumulate eight different powers and spend forever agonizing about how to change their roll into a six of a kind using all their powers. People get a tableau that is paralyzing for them because of all the options of dice manipulation. Unfortunately, the last half of Alien Frontiers fell into this trap, as well. Not all players had this problem, but those who collected 3-4 Alien Tech cards started to have a lot of trouble taking their turn promptly due to the vast array of choices on where to place dice, how to manipulate their dice, and what combination of the above would get them the most optimal set of resources and/or colonies. Downtime became a significant problem; the player next to me and I were able to have a complete and fairly in-depth conversation about how awesome The Kingkiller Chronicles are between our turns. Sure, this is a problem as much with AP players as it is with the game, but I find that certain types of games tend to encourage AP to a staggering degree, and Alien Frontiers is headed that way. I'll admit I had several turns where I could hear my mental gears grinding away to figure out how to min/max my roll. And that, to me, just ends up being boring when it's not my turn and sort of frustrating when it is my turn.
I'd play again, preferably 2-3 player and/or with people who are fine with taking slightly sub-optimal turns in order to keep things moving. But from what I've seen, AF just isn't interesting enough to warrant the downtime and amount of mental dice reconfiguration it requires to play well.
Alien Frontiers: The Mind Control Helmet - Was included in the copy of AF we played. One player had it, and it seemed like a useful (maybe a bit too useful?) tech to have, though expensive to use. Not a lot of feelings about it either way.
Monopoly Deal Card Game - This is not a game I anticipated trying anytime soon. But we were staying with some acquaintances on a weekend in Philadelphia for our anniversary recently, and I forgot to pack any games for us to play if we stopped at a coffeehouse or wherever in our exploration. Our hosts had a copy of this, and I remembered seeing some mildly positive comments on the Geek about it, so we brought it with. It's a fast, simple game, and so we ended up playing it quite a bit when we were resting after walking around Philly for awhile.
Monopoly Deal is, well, a Monopoly card game and is pretty much what you'd expect: it's about attempting to form sets of properties that become more valuable as they get paired with like properties. There are interesting twists on the formula; money is purely a defensive thing to protect you from losing properties to other players when they charge you money for rent or other things. Money takes actions to play, so you have to make decisions about balancing your set accumulation against building up a defense against possible attacks. I think the game would probably be more interesting with 3-4 players instead of 2, but it was still a quick, fun little take-that game.
One thing that seems out of place with the rest of the game, though, are a couple of cards in the deck that let you steal an entire complete set of properties from another player. Every other card involving property stealing/trading cannot hurt a complete set. Since three sets is a victory condition, being able to steal an entire set of 2-3 properties (possibly including a wild) is fairly ludicrous. It seems totally out of wack with the power level of other cards in the game and completely swung the game most times it came out.
Hall of Shame
Alien Frontiers: The Space Crane - Another mini-promo in our game of AF. Not a single one was bought and they just tended to clog up the Tech options available. I can see the usefulness to it, but it just seemed like a kind of boring and/or undesirable card when it was out. If I was to own AF, I wouldn't feel the need to have this in it.
Homesteaders - Man, I played this once and just don't know what to say about it. It feels like a resource grind in just unpleasant ways. I can find resource conversion as a mechanic and goal to be enjoyable and interesting (Le Havre), but here it was just... annoying. Maybe with increased plays the game would grow on me, but I doubt it. I just felt like there was very little interesting going on and most of the game was spent calculating how to convert X to Y in my head as best as possible. Plus the graphic design is boring as sin, meaning it's not really interesting to even look at. Bleh.
Board Game: Summoner Wars
[Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:325]
[Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
Elk Grove Village
Big month of new games for me - 12 total "new to me" - thanks to the 9 new ones learned at a regional con - the Gaming Hoopla in Janesville, WI ( www.gaminghoopla.com )
Summoner Wars was one that I have had my eye on for a while and it was an event being run at the Hoopla. Enjoyed my play as the Ice Orcs and I look forward to the release of the Master Set (which seems to be a great value - 6 decks plus the mounted board) in June so I can play more with my brother in law, whom I do a lot of 2p gaming with.
Wok Star was a close 2nd for the month. I am kind of "meh" about most co-ops, but this one felt rather intense during gameplay. Rolling dice for ingredients, serving up dishes to cusomters, deciding when to advertise or change the menu, a lot going on. I like the bursts of action, the planning between rounds and then more action. Zman has a winner here.
Cathedral An oldie, but a goodie. Part of the "abstract" event at the Hoopla. We played on a really nice board with the heavy pieces. Nice 2p game that I will add to the rotation.
Ido was one I had never heard of before the "abstract event". I love "discovering" a new game from 1998. This was an interesting, colorful game which ended with everyone matched up very closely.
The next 3 were part of the Cheapass Games event at the Hoopla. Camden, Starbase Jeff, and Devil Bunny Needs a Ham. Agora was one that I am thinking of picking up - interesting game play with a very random board set up. Starbase Jeff felt a little "Factory Fun"-like which is not a good thing for me, and Devil Bunny was an ok race game.
Archaeology: The Card Game is another game I've been wanting to play since I bought the original self produced game. Zman seems to have condensed it down nicely. I think I can get the family to play this one.
Pack & Stack - we played with a variant where each player rolled and then flipped over 3 cards and selected one to use. I ended up with 100 points which is very good since mot players progress towards zero after starting with 75. A few "perfect" loads helped the cause quite a bit. I warned them that I pack a mean trunk of the car. Maybe I missed my calling?
Cabo - I found this card game to be interesting, but I did not have the patience and called "cabo" too early a few times. Very nice artwork for a small card game - the art reminded me of Dixit, but without the variety since the image repeats on each numbered card.
Aladdin's Dragons - I don't mind secret bidding games and a lack of perfect information. This oldie was fun to play as long as it moved along at a nice pace. There was some screwage as well which is OK at times in game play.
The Bridges of Shangri-La - Colvini games usually are a bit dry, but I still enjoy a few plays of each of his titles to see what is there. We played a 3p game and I'm not sure that is the best # of players or not. AP players would take forever in this one, but if played quickly I would enjoy some plays to explore it. I don't think we destroyed bridges early as often as we should have.
I am always, always, always late to the party.
I'm going to give Stronghold the nod this month, but it's not necessarily a resounding HUZZAH! The game was enjoyable, but I really wonder how often it will come out. We played it early April, and there's not been much demand to pull it to the table again.
Also new this month:
Boochie was a mildly entertaining take on Bocce ball. The rules were a bit ambiguous, leading us to be unclear on exactly what handicap it was trying to assign, but we just took our best guess and moved on. 3 games in an afternoon (each game took 15-20 minutes) was about all we could do, and it hasn't seen the light of day since.
Qwirkle was one I got in trade. I think it's pleasant, and my wife thinks it's more than pleasant, so it's seen a few plays. I can definitely see pulling this out for some outdoor play since it's got nice chunky tiles and a low wind-disturbance factor.
I actually played Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game for the first time at BGGcon, but we played with just 2 players and the rules weren't particularly clear from my read-them-on-the-con-floor-while-trying-to-learn-the-game attempt, so I'm not counting it as a play. With 5 players, the game was much more interesting, and we played twice in the same evening, losing narrowly the first game and losing much more quickly the second. Learning? We don't need no steenking learning! I enjoyed it, but I don't know how often it will actually hit the table. We'll see. I might try to get it out again this weekend.
Android has been on my shelf for a long while, but Ron convinced me to pull it off for a 3 player game. I'm not really sure how I feel about it. It was long. It was interesting. I can't imagine pulling it out again without a request to do so, and I can't imagine anyone requesting it. It will probably go into the trade pile, despite it being really unique.
Antler Island was another trade. The pieces are really neat, but the game itself is hohum. Another one I can't imagine getting to the table again.
I'm not sure any of us got Puzzle Strike on the first play. We've played a lot of Dominion, and it doesn't translate particularly well. I'd really like to give it another go, but my wife and son weren't keen on it, so I don't know how likely it will be to get back to the table. Not getting back to the table seems to be a familiar cry this month....
Finally, we got a play of Railways of England and Wales in, and I liked it, but then I like the whole Railways of the World/Steam/Age of Steam concept. We didn't try the stock rules, so I can't comment on that drastic change. The map was fine, though, although I admit to not having a particularly discriminating eye to them.
Best game of the Month
Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game
The best game of the month for me was a game I was very excited to play, Civilization, and I think I was a little disappointed. Maybe my hopes were too high, but the mechanics seemed a little simplistic. This was great in that the game was pretty easy to teach, and the decisions were still very meaningful, but I guess I expected more of a Civ game feel than in Through The Ages, and it achieved about the same feel. This isn't to say that the game wasn't enjoyable, as it was very enjoyable (and I love Through the Ages), just not up to the hype and the expectations that I had set for it. I'm looking forward to playing it again, but next time I won't be gearing myself up for an epic game experience, just a standard one.
I played Prolix a couple times at home and at the Airport when traveling to see family, and it was a lot of fun. It is a word game with zero downtime and a ton of tension as other players can create a word on your turn to "interrupt" and score the word minus 3 points. If you get interrupted twice, you lose your turn and score zero points for that round (but don't fret, as you can replace that score with an interrupt on someone else's turn!). The game felt pretty balanced, and didn't run into the scenario as in some other word games do where you get a bad "clue" since Prolix has no clues, however, I'm sure you could add in the clue cards from Word on the Street to make a pretty interesting variant! Also great about this game is it's compactness. The box is incredibly heavy for its size, because it is packed full of components. One complaint is that the draw bag was pretty small and hard to mix the tiles.
I played Shogun with a full set of players, after reading the rules a few times and teaching the game to everyone else. The cube tower gimmick is pretty neat, and I like how your army doesn't always win in battle with superior numbers, and the luck mitigates itself as your lost troops can reappear. Other than that gimmick, though, the game felt a little lacking. As I have said in other comments, I'm not a big fan of games with a set round number that feel like they end right when they start gearing up. Even though the game isn't short, it didn't feel like we made enough decisions to have "outsmarted" an opponent, and the winner ended up being the player who was the least contested.
Dice town is a very simple game where you roll dice trying to make sets to use each round. Typically you just want the most of a certain die face, or possibly two die faces if you notice your opponents aren't going for a couple of them. The game didn't feel too luck based, as everyone got something for their dice, but that means that the game didn't feel all that decision based either, since everyone gets something and the relative gains/losses aren't that big. Dice Town was fun for a quick game, but definitely nothing meaty. I prefer Boomtown hugely over Dice Town, whereas my wife seems to like them both about equally.
None this month!!!
Really enjoyed reading through this thread, first time I've seen it, so thought I'd add myself to the list
I bought two new games in April:
This is a game I learned to play on Yucata.de and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy. I introduced it to my girlfriend online and she enjoyed it, while my group have really had fun playing too. I can see this being a firm favourite for a long time, as there's enough strategy to keep you interested but it's light enough to feel like fun too. A solid 9.
This was a bit more of a risk (no pun intended!), as I hadn't played it all. But the reviews sounded great and I was desperate to get rid of Roborally in a trade as it hadn't gone down well at all with either my group or girlfriend. We've really enjoyed it so far and after a few games it really feels as if we're only scratching the surface in terms of strategy. An 8 so far, but it could well rise.
I also leaned a few new games on Yucata, with very mixed results. I played the actual game Yucata and didn't enjoy it at all - a real abstract brain burner that I just know I'll never be any good at!
Had my first game of Bangkok Klongs too. While I found the game intriguing, I haven't found myself looking for another game since - not sure why. I think I'll revisit it though, as it seemed to have quite a lot going on. The theme didn't grab me at all though, which didn't help.
Finally, I had a few games of Maori and really enjoyed it. This is one I expect I'll pick when I can find it at a good price and I'm surprised it doesn't get more love on the Geek - maybe it doesn't have much replay value, or do people just have enough tile games already? I'll keep playing online for now and see how I feel about it after some more plays.
Board Game: Macao
[Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:209]
This was by far the best new game of April that I played. Coincidentally, it was also the only new game of April I played...
Seriously, this is a great game. The idea of having to plan ahead to get the colors and amount of cubes you need is crucial.
Only one new game this month, so an easy pick. A Scrabble game I didn't suck at. My wife loves Scrabble, and I like the game, but I suck at it. I bought this to try as a quick family game, and I thought my wife would like it because of the Scrabble theme.
It is exactly what I was hoping for. It was a nice fast game with little setup, and easy rules. A simple, fun, fast game, that is a great filler.
Note: I know this is late, but I wanted to March's list first, and I was just too buy too catch up until now.
Nicolai Broen Thorning
A straight forward choice, no contest at all, only the one contestant...
(Courtesy of FortyOne)
That said, of the new to us games this year, only 1825 Unit 3 could rival it for top spot. It is the epic space adventure from Phil Eklund. A game so daunting it took us six months to get it on the table, so complex it requires a degree of some sorts to understand the mechanics - or just read the excellent walkthrough here on the Geek.
We did have a few mishaps and it took us a while to get into space. There was no plan at all, just a "see what we get and fly off somewhere" feel to it. It did not matter. As with all Phil Eklund games, it is all about the experience and it has plenty of it. Over the course of a week we played it 3 times and by the third play we felt we had the hang of it.
The expansion is stil sitting in the box, we are playing basic rules here, with one or two advanced thrown in for good measure, following advice from fellow, more experienced, geeks on this site. It is a great experience and a fun game, though the one reactor does seem to offer the win. Perhaps it is a 2 player thing. Certainly we often felt that we were just getting started when the game ended, but on the other hand it also felt like from there on out it would be a race to get the most points as the best stuff - getting that first rocket off the ground and into space was over by then - things were flying, so to speak.