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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Terra Mystica, String Railway, Geistes Blitz, Oddville, Ginkgopolis, Tahiti, Evil Baby Orphanage, Disaster Looms, Keyflower, Ladies of Troyes, Archipelago, Tzolkin the Mayan Calendar


Quickly climbing up the ranks of best games played in 2012, I manage to play 2 games of Terra Mystica this week. Once as the Darklings and another as the Fakirs. I won as the Fakirs but I did not really use their powers more than 4 times during the game. Still it is the first time i have scored over 100 points so I am satisfied. This game certainly rewards multiple plays as you start to know what to look out for and hone your strategies in accordance to what the other players are doing. The various gaming sessions so far that i attended, there was at least one game of Terra being played. While most games are played with 4 or 5 players, I do think that it should handle itself well with lesser players because players will want to be adjacent to each other in order to get the Power bonuses. Everyone who has played it felt that it was a very good game and I feel the same. It is a surprise hit for me as when I heard about it and read about it I wasn't so sure it will be my cup of tea. Fantasy euro seemed a bit odd. But i am so glad that after reading a few more reviews, I did pull the trigger to get my own copy. I will probably do a review on this soon.


We also played the new version of String Railways. I have played this game (in its original format) once maybe 2 or 3 years ago and it is a simple light game with an innovative method of laying tracks by means of strings of your own color. The new art I did not like as I preferred the previous one, with its anime like characteristic. That being said, the group that I was playing to managed to make this game a rather cut throat game as we try to screw each other up by always attempting to reach their starting station or lay tracks to make it difficult for them as well. Light game and you should try it at least once.


To end that night, we played this dexterity game called Geistes Blitz. In the game, there will be a deck of cards which will be revealed one card at a time. When each card is opened, you will need to be the fastest to grab one of 4 items on the table. The item to be grabbed must either look identical as that of the card OR the item that does not appear at all in the card (both in terms of the item itself and the color). This light game is surprisingly quite fun to play as you are testing the agility of the mind to be able to find the desired item and agility of your hand to grab it before your opponents does. If you grabbed wrongly, then you need to pay the penalty by returning a card from your hand. If you guessed correctly, you get to keep the card. Once the deck runs out, the player with the most cards in hand wins the game. Light easy game to play but surprisingly fun! I won't be surprised if there is a drinking game version of this. Good ending to a long night!


Wanted to bring this out for my group again and also see how my 2nd play will make me feel about the game. One rule we keep getting wrongly is the rewards that you receive when you expand Oddville. We did not notice the availability of roads which will determine if we obtain the rewards from the neighboring houses.I think my group was not too hot for the game. Probably a meh at best. Art wise it is quite good and nice to look at. The characters do add a lot of tactical decisions to the game as their powers allow you to break the rules of the game. Game wise it is a fairly straight forward game. However it seems to be lacking something for me that makes it something that I want to keep in my collection. One word of caution is that this game may take up a lot of space depending on how the players expand Oddville.


This second time we played Ginkgopolis, we discovered that we had played a rule wrongly. That is, the benefit of Exploitation only occurs when you are playing a card by itself (without a tile). That is crucial mistake which turned this game from a average to an above average for me. Previously we played such that whenever you play a card (with or without a tile), you will get the benefit. Thus sometimes the games ended very fast or felt a bit unfair to those that did not have cards with such benefits. This time, playing with the proper rules, the game really shined for me. We are actually playing cards by themselves (instead of always expanding and adding floors) so as to get the benefit or get resources. I am not sure if during drafting it will cause players to just choose 1 of each benefit to hedge their bets. Now with the correct rules, I can heartily recommend the game. Its medium weight euro with good tactical decisions to be made. While the "passing the card" element may not allow for very deep strategic planning, it does not feel as if you have that little control over what you intend to do. I played Ginkgopolis another 2 more times and it is interesting to see how different players take to the game. Highest score so far i see is 68 points. it is definitely a good game and all players involved agreed as well.


Tahiti is a light-medium weight game that involves exploring as well as ferrying of goods. During your turn, you have a number of actions depending on how much goods your canoe is already carrying. While taking your turn, if you pick up goods, you may find yourself with even less action has the game has an interesting mechanism whereby once the number of actions you have taken is equal to or more than the number of action spots left on the canoe, your turn ends. The game also has its own timing mechanism where you are forced to move the goddess and explore a tile and once all tiles are exposed, you start to place a depletion tile on empty islands. once there are only 4 island tiles left that have no tile on them, the game will end. When you pick up goods, you also determine what type of goods you can pick up. Either you pick up all different goods OR all the same. This can also determine how fast you can travel. Between island tiles there are coral reefs. Whenever you cross 1 reef, you need to draw 2 goods from the bag. If any matches the goods on your boat, then you have to discard them. You score points based on the goods you have delivered, your secret objectives and even sets of goods. The player with the most points wins the game. Tahiti is about seeing what is the most efficient way to collect and bring goods back to the main island. The components are colorful, the bag to contain the goods is of a very good quality and it is not a bad little game.


Someone brought out their copy of Evil Baby Orphanage to try and we played with the correction which is once a player has 8 points, he/she wins. This makes for a much faster game. It is still a relatively light game and requires the right crowd to bring out the fun in the game. I found that using different terms from most games (unsupervised and supervised) does make it slightly more difficult to understand how the game works. However if you roleplay, it will definitely help in understanding and enjoying the game.


Disaster Looms is a kickstarter game which is a space exploration cum space-taxi type of game. Thematically, the earth is dying and you are trying to ferry people away to colonize the other planets while trying to make a profit. Everything then translate into points and the player with the most points wins. There is surprisingly a lot of luck in terms of what technology you draw (your scientists seems to have a mind of their own in what they research) as well as the events that may occur when you explore. Sometimes bad luck can cause you to surround yourself with lousy planets that provide not many assets thus you can be down a few turns which may make it hard for you to come back during the game. There is some interaction as well in terms of leaving your colony unprotected and being bought over by another player. I believe if we played in a very cut throat manner, then we may be in a kind of a stalemate as ships will not leave their more valuable planets and thus nothing gets moved during the game. Ultimately though, the technology will determine the shape of the game as they provide rules which will allow you to move and teleport for example or move 3 spaces as compared to the normal 1 or 2. An average game for me and some of us were hoping for the game to end quickly to get to another game.


Another game of keyflower! This time i scored 68 points but lost by 6. I do love how there is a lot of thinking involved and timing is very important. When to upgrade, when to use the buildings and when to auction are all related and a mistake can be quite costly. However interactions during the game are rather subdued as it happens only when someone takes a spot you may have wanted. There can be a lot of screwage definitely but in a typical euro game fashion, you just go "aw man...." then start to think what else you can do during your turn. The ships which allow you to disregard the primary colors when bidding or activating the building seems a bit overpowered as they are really very powerful. Still the player that won did not have such a boat in the end. So i guess it is not overly powered.


I managed to bring out Ladies of Troyes and played all the modules with 4 players. Explanation fo the game took longer than expected and the game did end up taking 2+ hours to complete. I am not really feeling the expansion as much as some of the other players. The extra purple dice does make it such that you still have some options if other players gang up against you and buy off all your dice. The extra roles and events are fine by me though I am not too sure if play balanced has been done with the base game as well as promo cards. Why? Because we had 3 players with 30+ dinars (and even 1 with 80 dinars) at the end of the game. We actually ran out of dinar tokens and had to use money cards. The movement around ramparts is pretty ok i guess but I totally ignored it during the game. Overall, it seemed as if the game took much more longer with all the modules in play. I will need a few more plays to see how it is before passing a judgement but for now it seems to make a tight game much looser and not as fun? Hmmm...


Ah.... Archipelago. I really want to play this game properly for once. Even after taking out the Separatist goal card, the game ended and beat us when the natives became restless. In my games so far, 2 of them the game ended and the player with the Separatist card won. This game, we just weren't cooperative enough to quell the growing unrest and the game won. We discussed about this later and I even posted on the bgg forum to ask and it seems that having the right group with the right mindset is important for such semi-coop games. One player commented that he cannot see clearly if he was winning thus rather than risk putting in the effort and coming in last, he rather we all lost. As such, I cannot fully enjoy the game so far. I already ordered the Solo expansion and I am hoping that can redeem some of the game for me. Oh well, better luck next time...


After 6 hours over 2 days, I managed to finish painting my copy of Tzolk'in the Mayan Calendar and got it out to play. I have since played it 4 times (phew!) and it is a great game. It is not just a simple worker placement and to me the wheel is a very clever mechanic to affect change in 4 different areas at the same time easily and quickly. During the game, you can only do one of 2 actions. Either you place at least 1 worker (and as many as you can) OR remove at least 1 worker (or as many as you can). For placing workers, the more you place, the more corn you have to pay. In addition, some spaces will require corn as payment. For removing workers, you will take the action of the space that the worker was removed from. The game ends after the wheel has rotated fully once. Player with the most points win the game. Timing is very crucial in the game. Knowing when to place and remove workers, when to take the first player token and even when to move the wheel twice (usually you can only do this once per game) is key to winning the game. Corn is also very important both as a way to provide flexibility in placing workers as well as feeding your workers as you are penalised during feed day (there are 4 in the game) if you cannot feed them. Players will often directly interact with each other as sometimes the slot you were aiming for will be blocked by another player or the building you were aiming for is taken. It is easy to teach yet has a lot of strategy and planning. Players with analysis paralysis can stall the game but usually the game will end in about 2 hours. Subsequent plays will allow the game to move much faster as players are more familiar with future planning and the available slots and buildings. I heartily recommend this game and encourage owners to paint their wheels as it will make the game more pleasing to the eye and enhances the players' experiences with the game. Unfortunately right now after a few plays it seems as if temple scoring is the main way you can score points and win the game. Thus a strategy combining temple + something else seems to be the clincher. I certainly hope this is not the case and hope to try out different strategies in future games. Otherwise... sigh.... it can be a game killer for me.

All in all, this has been a great few days of playing and all the euro releases from Essen 2012 have been excellent. Not only are they high quality and well produced games, they are surprisingly thematic to a certain level with clever mechanism, good balance and deep enough to make my brain melt a little at the edges but still provide enough fun for me. I am hoping to get in a play of CO2 which has been raved at as well before the year end and then I can make my final top 10 list for 2012. Needless to say, this batch of Essen releases 2012 sure give all the other games I have played in 2012 a serious run for the money. Great year for Euro gamers and I sure hope 2013 will be of the same level, if not, even better!


  1. Hmmmmm ....... seems like Archipelago is a semi-coop game to you ....... interesting ..... thanks for the review. Was thinking of getting it and I hate co-op game....... Perhaps I should play it one time and see how it goes.

  2. hi Lex, archipelago is a semi-coop game not just to me lol. Its marketed as a semi-coop game. Do give it a try first and see for yourself as you can tell some in the gaming group seems to like it a lot. However given the issue that we are so competitive, we rather everyone lose than someone win, that kinda breaks the game.