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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Master Merchant, Palastgeflaster, Die Speicherstadt, Rialto, Super Farmer Rancho, Sheepland, Viticulture and what I backed in Kickstarter!

Hits of this blogpost ? Rialto of course! Along with Viticulture and to a lesser extent, Die Spiecherstadt and its expansion. I feel that Stefan Feld is really coming into stride here with 2 great hits this year and it seems as if his previous releases have been him exploring various mechanisms and designs to fine tune his prowess and come up with winning combinations for his releases this year. If Brugge and Amerigo are in the same vein, then I am pretty sure Stefan Feld will be winning designer of 2013 hands down! Lets get on with the review!


Quick light filler. Love letter seems better though...
Game Session and Thoughts:
A light game from Seiji Kanai (of Love Letter) fame. Its like a dominion light with cooler art (in my opinion) and play time can stretch from very fast to slightly too long due to the end game condition. Its no frills (very much like his Love Letter) with minimal text and multiple combinations.
Players start off with 2 standard cards and a money card to keep track of the money they have. During their turn, they can play 2 cards. The first 2 cards each player receives is a card that allows you to buy 1 card from the city market (much like dominion) and steals $1 from each player that has 4 or more. Players can also play a card face down to receive $1. At the start of your turn if you have no more cards remaining in your hand, then you can take back all the discarded cards you have played previous turns. The game ends when 1 player has reached $8 OR has 8 cards in their hands.
Artwork is right up my alley and that is why I also obtained his version of Love Letter. Something about this... urban looking art which is mostly just black and white with bold brush strokes appeal to me.
So as you can see, very much like Dominion but much lighter. There are only 10 cards to buy from and they costs from 1 to 4 and have different abilities. Most cards allow you to target other players so as to improve your own status and sabotage others. Thus in this to and fro, players will try their best to prevent others from winning and set themselves up for the inevitable victory.
Game went by pretty fast and since I had quite a lot of cards I was targeted quite often. I think we did quite a good job of guarding each other but in the end, another player managed to obtain 2 cards (1 from discard and 1 from market) and won the game. 
Pet Peeves: 
The main pet peeve will be the variable end game condition. Because there is no set timing of how long a game will last, this game can take as fast as 20 mins or even 1 hour if everyone has been guarding everyone very well. For such a light game to last 1 hour, that will be a killer. Otherwise, there aren't any other bad things about this game as its rather light and easy to get into and play. 
A light game that is very much a streamlined dominion clone with interesting powers that allow you to really mess with each other's cards. Because of the win condition, this game provides cards which will have a LOT of interaction as you will need to be aware and keep blocking others to prevent them from winning. There is english text on the cards so its not difficult to understand and we had no difficulty learning and playing the game. Not sure how easy is it to get it state side but you can certainly try the online Japan stores and see if they will ship to you. Try before you buy!


Play session seems wonky for some who are used to euro games..
Game Session and Thoughts:
Brought this out for the group that decided to play something light and they did not like it at all. I guess it could be because this group mostly plays Euro games thus having a game that is quite dependant on the card draw and subsequently you may get sabotaged without you being able to defend yourself seems at odds with their terms of enjoyment. One of them brought out a good point in that you are trying to do your best to sabotage others rather than trying to reach the goal of having 6 different characters yourself which is quite true. He also pointed out you should be playing cards that are not of your color so that you can catch another player off guard and thus forcing them to play something they may not have wanted. I guess in future when I introduce the game I will emphasis on this point and it may make for a more fun and enjoyable game. Its a pity the player aid doesn't have the icons of each character on it to make it easier for the players to quickly understand what is happening and each character's special abilities.


More cards, more ways to buy cards and AWESOME COINS

Game Session and Thoughts:
I had played this previously and did not really take to it enough to buy a copy. Now that I am a Stefan Fan, I decided to give it another go and also bought the expansion along with it. The expansion provided more cards, some new goods and a new way to play but the item that really clinched the deal are the METAL COINS. In the base game, it came with a metal coin to signify the first player. In the expansion, it came with MANY MANY coins to replace the cardboard coins from the first game.
I will briefly explain the game together with the expansion.
This is pretty much a game with a rather unique auction and then a sort of set collection/goal fulfilment game. At the start of every round, a number of cards (depending on the number of players) will be drawn and turn face up on the board. For the expansion, the same number of cards is now draw and placed above the board. Players then, in turn order, place one of their meeples (3 in base game, 4 with expansion) onto the first empty slot on the column corresponding to the card they want. Now you are bidding either for the card that you want OR to screw with other players. Players can also choose a card from above the board and bring them to the side of the board with your meeple on it to form another column. Once all players have placed all their meeples, the cards are resolved from left to the right. Starting with the player who's meeple is nearest the card, they will decide if they want to spend the coins to buy the card. How much does the card cost? That is where the screwing will come in. For all meeples that are in that column is the cost of the card. If you pass (cannot afford or don't want to buy), then you remove your meeple and the next player's meeple will be able to purchase the card. This goes on until the card is purchased. Now for the column that is on the side of the board, it is pretty much the same except the price is determined by the number of meeples in that column and if you choose not to buy, that card you have reserved will be discarded.
Players then resolve the cards they have taken (i.e. if it is a cargo ship, then the cargo needs to be distributed either to fulfil contracts or to exchange for coins or money). After that, player order changes and each player obtains 2 coins as income. If you have not managed to purchase any cards during the last round, you will also obtain another coin as compensation. New round begins and play continues until all the card has been played and we will resolve the last card which is a Fire.
Now in the stack of cards, there will be FIRE cards and a certain value. Players will add up all firemen cards they have and whomever has the lowest value will receive the Fire value in negative points. The player with the highest total sum value of firemen will receive that Fire value in positive points. The expansion also add cards which are a 1 time use and to be discarded and also cards with fixed points as rewards.
I had purchased the german version so I had to refer to the rulebook to figure out what the cards do but most of the game is pretty easy to grasp. Artwork is ok and the icons are clear and easy to understand. Again, the coins are AWESOME to have and to hold. They have a nice weight to them.
Perhaps its because we did not shuffle the initial stacks properly but in our initial few rounds we did not have any ships shipping goods to us so when they did finally came out, the competition was furious. There is a LOT of opportunity to screw with others and if you are a gamer that doesn't like all this disturbances and annoyances to your plans, you may want to avoid this game. I am pretty sure I pissed off one of my opponents during this game :p
Pet Peeves: 
Nothing much actually because its straight forward to teach and play. You may need a lot of room to play this game though because your tableau of cards may grow and you may want to have some space to see all your cards and contracts. 
I feel that with the expansion it adds abit more options such that you won't be as screwed as in the base game if you did not win anything at all. Here I think at the very least you should be able to win some items unless you were making quite bad decisions. Its better for me this time around with the expansions but I will need a few more plays to see if I like it enough. For now at least the metal coins are making me feel warm and fuzzing inside :p. Try before you buy!


1st game was Meh for me, 2nd game was WAY BETTER

Game Session and Thoughts:
The second release from Stefan Feld this year after Bora Bora! Brugge is out that I know but its not available in english for us right now so I haven't gotten myself a copy yet.
Rialto is a medium weight game that involves card drafting and area control with the theme lightly dabbed on. Compared to Bora Bora, it is definitely lighter but runs as smooth and lasts much shorter and still provides the same amount of fun for the amount of thinking involved and time spent. In short, it still shows no degrading from the current quality we are expecting from Stefan Feld.
At the start of the round, there will be rows of 6 cards (1 more than number of players) for players, in turn order based on a Doge track on top, to choose from. This is where most of the analysis paralysis will happen in the game. The cards you are drafting for will dictate the 2nd phase (with many micro phases) of the game. After a player has selected a row of 6 cards, they will also draw 2 more cards from the face down. Now players can activate the green buildings by placing a coin on the building (thus each building can only be activated once per round and only if you have enough coins). Players then need to discard down to 7 cards unless they had green buildings activated which can increase their hand size.
Phase 2 is ready! This is where the meat of the game is and you can see if you have made the right decision choosing that row of cards. Phase 2 is a series of mini phases which will grant you rewards based on the number of cards of that mini phase you have played and if you play the most cards, you will get a bonus and is the new starting player of the next mini phase. This is quite important because it definitely makes the game harder to predict and quite interesting. Phase 2a is the doge track so players, based on existing doge track order, will play a number of cards with the doge track. In this phase, you can also use yellow buildings (also paying 1 coin) which allows more flexibility (i.e. play 1 card to become 2 of the same but other type of cards). There are also Jester cards which you can play in addition to a base card OR when played in 2s, can represent a base card. Phase 2a will determine how far you have advanced in the Doge track which is usually a tie breaker.
Phase 2b is to grab gold (for buildings), Phase 2c is building points (to be able to build buildings), Phase 2d is Bridge which awards points and penalize players who never played any card and allows you to place bridge tiles. Phase 2e is the gondola which allows you to have more councilmen tokens in your reserve and also to place a gondola tile on the board AND extra councilman into the board. Finally, Phase 2f which is to place a number of councilmen in your reserve onto the board's active region.
Phase 3 starts and players can activate blue buildings which usually award points or upgrade buildings. That is the end of a round! The game lasts 6 rounds and then, together with the final game scoring, players with the most points will win the game. The main way to earn points is to have a majority in a district so that you will get the sum of all the points indicated on bridges and gondolas touching that district. Only the top 3 players will be awarded points for each district. Note that there is a bonus scoring in that if you are the first player to place a councilman in each of the 3 orange OR blue (meaning 3 orange or 3 blue), then you will score bonus 5 points.
First play through, I wasn't really feeling it like how I felt for Bora Bora after my first play. Now its not a bad game its just not as deep as I had thought.
The 2nd play was way better as I kinda knew what plan to have and went with grabbing a few of the green buildings to increase my hand limit per round. I thought i had the 5 point bonuses in one round but it got sniped away from me when I wasn't paying close attention. ARGH that was a KHANNNNN moment for me and did indeed make me lose the game (I was 2nd by 1 point!).  We also played correctly the 2nd time such that the winner of the bonus each mini phase will be the starting player in the next mini phase. The first play did not have this and boy did it change a lot of things in the game for me.
Pet Peeves: 
Small pet peeve but the board with all the extra roads and alleyways makes the board looks a bit busy. Someone mentioned it looked like colored macaroni LOL. The bonus for each round could have been indicated on the board so we don't need to refer to the rule book every so often but once you played it a few times it should come as second nature.
Oh and shuffling. You will need to shuffle the cards.... A LOT. We played with 4 and almost every round after we setup the cards, we will need to shuffle the discard pile. This is especially true when you have more players and they are all aiming for the green building cards which allow them to draw 3 more cards from the deck. Sleeve your cards to prevent them from wearing out fast!
The biggest pet peeve so far is the score track. It looks nice but not very practical. Why? It represents a street with a row of street lights. You are moving your score tokens IN BETWEEN the lights though and NOT ON the lights. This makes it slightly counter intuitive and hard to score. Wish they done away with this and had something more practical.
So I had more fun in my 2nd play than my first most probably because I knew what is more powerful now than before. Still I think I haven't reach my full power with this (I should start to notice what others are taking and then be aware if I can win the phase and be the majority) and sometimes its a bit tricky to determine the player order sequence. I feel I am only beginning to discover the subtle nuances (i.e. blue buildings are mostly for points, yellow buildings are for flexibility during play, green buildings are just to provide more cards for you at the start. All in all, it is fun to play, easy to teach but probably not too easy to master it completely. Recommended!
NOTE: I just played a game of 2 players and the Doge track is not really hotly contest as vs 4 player game. Much less shuffling and buildings won't run out. The 5 points bonus play a much bigger role in a 2 player game. I can't wait to try a 5 player and see how it plays out....


Dogs smell funny. No really the plastic smells funny...

Game Session and Thoughts:
I saw the cover on the game and was very intrigued by this. The art and components (awesome dice and cute doggies!) appealed to me so I decided to give this game a go.
This is a light family game that plays in about 45 mins or so and plays up to 6 players. The objective of the game is to collect 1 of each animal: rabbit, sheep, cow and horse. First player to do so will win the game. In essence its a game about collecting enough resources, protecting your assets and making the right decision at the right time to get the animals and win the game (with a little dose of luck).
During your turn, players can choose to exchange animals using rabbits. Yes, rabbits are the currency in the game! Each player starts off with 1 rabbit and 1 sheep (which are worth 6 rabbits). Players can also expand their farm by paying in rabbits. Outer regions costs 4 rabbits. The middle region, 2 and the innermost region only 1 rabbit. Once you have decided to change and/or expand, players will roll 2 dice. Total up the animals that appear on your dice with what you have and for every pair of animals, you get 1 more of that type of animal. You have to be able to place these animals on the area that you control and only the rabbits can stack (6) in 1 hex. If you roll a fox or a wolf, then you must roll the D6 and animals in all hexes that belong to the number rolled will be removed. Fox will eat only rabbits and Wolf will eat all except rabbits. Players can discard dogs to prevent this from happening. Small dogs for Fox and Big dogs for Wolf. Then its the next player's turn and play continues this way until someone wins the game.
Its a pretty light game and great for the family. Artwork is very nice and cute and dice and dogs are well produced. Luck of the roll will often determine if you are still in the game or not. But you can get dogs to mitigate bad luck. My first game I did not have any dogs and lost quite a lot of sheep to the Wolf which knocked me out from contention for good. My 2nd game though I won as I made a lucky dice roll of 2 rabbits which provided me the last rabbit I need to win the game.
Pet Peeves: 
Luck of the roll is very high because whether you can get income in terms of more animals or if you are screwed when Fox or Wolf is rolled really boils down to the dice roll. The picture on the die for Wolf and Horse are very similar. They could have made it more distinct. The holes in the board makes it clear for marking which region belongs to you but if you made a mistake, then taking out the disc is quite difficult. Finally, after you have placed your animals on your farm area, you cannot tell if that animal belongs to you or not because your animal tile has covered your token. This is quite an odd design since if you have forgotten what belongs to you, you have to remove the animal tiles and look. Starting moves seems to be very similar, change the sheep to expand outwards 1 space and then roll dice to get more animals. There are some turns where all you do is just to roll dice and get animals because you don't really have much else to do and it doesn't make sense to use up too much rabbits and jeopardize your "income". 
So all in all, I did have some fun playing the game but in terms of replayability and longevity in my shelf, I doubt it will last. If I had kids probably this might last longer because it teaches them about choosing the right time to invest, risk prevention and mitigation and proper planning to win the game. The history of this game is pretty interesting but ultimately, its a Try before you buy.


Black sheep ran almost 3/4 of the board.

Game Session and Thoughts:
As mentioned previously this is as a relatively light game. But I kinda suck at it lol. Do remember the 2 rules that people will usually forget. That is to roll the die for the black sheep to move and also when purchasing tiles, you MUST be adjacent to it before you can guy. I always seem to be purchasing tiles where I don't score a lot of sheep. I am wondering if I should be subtle and just ignore my own secret tile right at the beginning and go elsewhere so that I can purchase other tiles and HOPE my own secret tile is ignored until near the end. I haven't seen a game where the start player


OMG OH SO TIGHT, close race to the end! ARGH...

Game Session and Thoughts:
A great 2nd game where we played the rules correctly. Having the vines still being there after you harvest definitely changed the way we played. We used more time to build up our engines before starting to score points left and right and going first certainly is felt more keenly in the game. I was definitely screwed a few times with nothing else much to do when I did not get to go first. Even though I had by the 3rd round managed to get all my workers out, I did not capitalize on that and with all the bad timings I lost but only lost because of a tie breaker. It was a very tense match and surprisingly, it ended up with the tie breaker (most money) in the end again to determine the winner. At the very last round I managed to pull ahead and was at about 23 points. Another player did the same and because she had more money she will certainly win. The 3rd player decided to play a Winter card which blocked me from further scoring else I will have won the game. ARGH!!!! The pain of it all! I am upgrading my recommendation from Try before you buy to RECOMMENDED. It has all the tense moments yet relatively simple to teach and play of a good game. Thumbs up!

So there have been quite a few new releases for Kickstarter recently which got me all excited :) Let me talk about some of the games I have backed or are interested in.....


When I was quite young, I managed to have copies of the original series from a friend and I spent many a afternoons reading through the books and fantasising the awesome characters that I will be and all the battles that I have. The images in the books were very cool too and I was SUPER DUPER EXCITED to see this coming out from Kickstarter! Although I am pretty sure I won't be running any RPG games (or this could be the one that do me in who knows?) I just want to have the books again to read through and well well it comes with MINIATURES! I had 1 Rick Hunter toy from so long ago and it will be very cool to have these miniatures again to look at. Painting though will probably be a problem for me but lets see what happens.
Go back this now here


Saw this pop up when I am doing my daily (yes now DAILY!) search on projects in Kickstarter for tabletop games. The very nice miniatures really drew me in and best of all, they come PREPAINTED! After trying to (and not yet finishing!) paint the miniatures from Super Dungeon Explore, I think in future I will only get miniature games where they come prepainted. Although Robotech above and Zombicide Season 2 which I had also backed flies against this statement I am making, I still will lean more towards pre painted miniatures than anything in the future. Though recently after playing online and listening to Tom's review, I am wondering if I should cancel my pledge because the game will definitely be way too light for me but the figures are really cute! Anyway, I have a few days to think about it so lets see....
Go back this now here!


I am not too sure what prompted me to back this game without reading up on the rules but once I saw that this was clubbed together with Virgin Queen, I automatically assumed that this will be a euro-ey type of game that will be brain melty. So far I STILL haven't read the rules yet but still I am thinking its worth the backing. It does seem to have a lot of cards though... Anyway, its already fully funded so I still have some time to see if I will continue with my pledge.
Go back this now here!


Now again like above, I did not read too much into the game but the awesome figures and that its a space 4x (yes yes we have had many of those I know) really intrigued me. I haven't backed this yet mostly because I want to see if it will actually reach its stretch goal but you should check out the very cool ships that can hold die in them to denote the health of the ship I believe. 

I think that's enough for now and if you have read all the way down here, THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE! :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nieuw Amsterdam, Batman Gotham City, First Train to Nuremberg, Take it or Leave it, 1969, Viticulture

Many new games played and my batches of new games have arrived! Hitlist this time is Viticulture and hits previously again is Nieuw Amsterdam. Lets get on with the reviews!


You CAN score in both Land and Shipping! Interesting...

Game Session and Thoughts:

This time I started off with the Fur route but seeing how no one was going for the businesses, I switched plans halfway. Its interesting playing with an opponent that calculates a lot and makes it a point to force you to make the hard decisions during auctions. The winner started off with land to get the necessary engine running while storing up on fur and near the midpoint of the game switched to fulfilling the ships, thus scoring a butt load of points from the ships and the end game scoring. My businesses strategy did not put a big dent and he won with about 100+ points. First time I have seen someone scoring past 100. Very good game still and I am loving how the theme somewhat clicks together now for me. Still highly recommended by me and do give it a go if you have a chance!


Nanananananananana BATMAN!

Game Session and Thoughts:
I am a fan of comics and Batman has always been quite a good read for me especially if it has cross overs with Judge Dread :P I have also played the video games so I was pretty interested to get this game and give it a go. Now the reviews have been pretty mixed and certainly it is a more ameritrash type of game and may not appeal to my now euro-gaming senses but well, its BATMAN! How bad can it be? At the very least I will get to go "NahnahnahnahNahnahnahnah BATMAN"
Each player will have 5 cards in their hand and during their turn, they will first check if they have levelled up based on the requirements for that level. Then they will play 1 card. The top part of the card usually provides income for the owner of that location (friendly ties). Unless its a Batman card  which then triggers a drawing of a batman card and resolving that card. Next, the player decides if he/she wants to play the 2nd part of the card he/she played OR discard it to draw 2 resources. If there is any combat (triggered when the player's Villan appears in the same location as another Villan OR Batman, resolve that combat (villans and batman don't really die in this game). Draw a card and your turn is done. Play goes to the next player and this continues until 1 player has reached Level 10 with his villan and wins the game.
NAhnahanahanahanahan BATMAN..... We keep uttering that everytime its our turn lol. That does help to make the game more fun for us. Initially we were really into the game, playing our moves, roleplaying a little, singing that silly tune but then the flaws started appearing for us. Soon it got a bit too draggy and we decided to stop for dinner. Killer Croc was quite powerful, causing most of us to hide our Villans in their lairs until we grew powerful enough to come out and face him. Batman wasn't really a hindrance to us and we mostly swatted him away. I got ganged up upon because my first move was to disturb others so most of the time i was a docile Penguin. Components are quite good though the threat tokens are cardboard discs which for me, somehow feels a bit cheap. Dice are really nice as they have the batman logo engraved on it. They could have provided something better to represent like wooden discs or something but that could make the prices go up. Art is very cartoony and I like. There are HUGE player shields to hide your items behind and it has all the rules printed on them as well for players to reference. 
Pet Peeves: 
Boy, where do I begin?
Card draw luck is quite a big factor in the game. If you draw very sucky cards and you are not there at the location to benefit from it, you can end up providing a lot of income to the other player(s). At the same time, dice rolling luck is a slightly smaller factor in the game because while it determines outcomes of your battles, you can negate it with enough henchmen in that area. The spaces can be quite small and the areas could be quickly filled up with chits and villans but this is a smaller pet peeve. Player shields are REALLY BIG such that very often as we move our pieces or reach over the board, we will knock them over and expose our hidden pieces. I think the reason for such big shields is to include the rules but it could have been smaller or sturdier. Killer Croc might be overpowered because his power cards really do encourage him to seek the other Villans out to kick their asses.
But the BIGGEST pet peeve I have with the game is that it is very hard to win  and it will take quite a long time to reach there. This is similar to how I feel for Spartacus and its like a Munchkin problem. Players will be able to tell who is in the lead and may work together to stop that leader. In that way, the game could drag on for very long as the game ends only when a player reaches level 10. Moreover, it is really hard to level up once past Level 6 as the conditions are quite difficult. We played for almost 2+ hours and I was only at level 3 and Killer Croc was at 7. This also kinda shows that if you are way way behind it is very difficult for you to catch up.
Well, the game requires some tweaking and house ruling in order to make it playable. As it is right now, it CAN be fun but it requires the right group to play it to be fun. Otherwise, it is draggy and not much variety. Batman seems a bit impotent right now as he is easily beaten back to the batcave. He doesn't really make a big dent in our plans because his threat clearing numbers are pretty low. You really need to spread your threat around so that you can at least benefit whenever other players are playing cards. That is very important so that you are at least on par with the rest and won't lose out in terms of getting resources. I will want to play it again with my regular Friday group and see if we can get more fun out of it. As of now, its a Try before you Buy! 
Nahnanananananana BATMAN!


Choo choo! Come on get on the train people!

Game Session and Thoughts:
So I have had a few train games in my collection last time but nothing like 18xx that sort. When I read about this and seeing the good reviews its been getting, I decided to give it a go. Players are trying to score as many points as they can, shipping goods and passengers all over the map and scoring points. All the while trying to keep a positive income flow so that they can also score more points at the end of the game. As an extra bonus, if you connect Nuremberg to the red stations, you will score a point for every link that are used for connecting. The game lasts 5 rounds and whowever has the most points at the end of the game will win it.
Each round is played over several phases. In the very first phase, players will be using investment cubes (every round you will get at least 12 + those that remained in previous terms) to bid onto a few auction spaces. These auction spaces will grant the winner of the bid influence points in the various categories which will determine what you can do in the next few phases. Bidding is such that each player can only win a maximum of 2 spaces and you can only shift your investment cubes to another spot if you are outbid on your current bids. once the auction is resolved, each player's disc on the various areas will increase based on the influences they have gained. There are a few tracks on the board and, briefly, they are: Train/Engine which will determine how much money you may spend to use trains for delivery; White colored influence which determine player order in terms of laying tracks and also used to pay off white meeples on the board when your tracks meet them; Green colored influence which are required when you start your track from a green station and also to sell tracks to the Green company at a later phase in the round; Red colored influence which are similar to Green colored influence;
The next phase after the auction is laying of tracks and each player will get a chance to lay tracks, paying for tracks using remaining investment cubes as well as the right colored influence where necessary.
After which, players are allowed to hire trains by paying influence. This is rather unique in that the trains are all located on one central board and are seperated into 3 different categories and are in different configurations. In this phase, players can also delivery goods and passengers by tracing the route on the track and placing the good/meeple onto the train board as indicative that the good/meeple has been delivered.
Finally, players will score points (1 for each good/meeple that was delivered) and also count income. This income is then reduced by the number of remaining tracks and that will account for the final profit/loss. The player's piece on the income wheel is then increased or reduced accordingly.
It took me some time to get into the groove of it all and after that it was quite an interesting game. There was a lot of fighting for space and position as we lay tracks to try and block each other and to maximise so that we can deliver as many different types of goods as we can because another end game scoring is each set of 4 different goods will provide 2 points. This is also a relatively low scoring game though I will need more plays to be able to determine that.

Pet Peeves: 
The rules seems a bit hard to read. When I first got the game and tried to read it, with so many words and text it was pretty daunting. I did not expect a game that seems medium weight to have such complicated rules. Luckily I had someone else teach us when we played it the first time.
Setup is also abit tedious because you will first need to randomly populate the various areas which will produce goods. Then remove those cubes that don't correspond to the factory it was placed on. Then you need to seed the passengers on the board. Finally you place the influence discs into the bag and randomly draw them out to populate the auction spaces. Given there are a lot of spaces on the board to seed the goods and passengers, this can be pretty tedious!
The bits seems a bit too big for the gauges on the common board but its not a big issue.

Conclusion:I had fun enough playing this game which seems to be like a 18xx game but way lighter. You are trying to be the first laying out the tracks to reach the various honeypots on the map so that you can be the first to deliver and score points. Why honeypots? because of the randomness right at the beginning during setup will probably cause some spots on the board to be more lucrative than the others. It is not that easy to understand right at the beginning but halfway through the game we picked it up and we were still able to give the game a good go. One thing to note the game comes with 2 maps and they provide quite different ways of playing which should be interesting. This coupled with the randomness of setup should provid e for a LOT of replayability. Overall, I enjoyed myself in the game and would like to give it a few more goes! This is however not a game for everyone especially those that do not like train-like games where you are picking up goods and delivering them. Try before you buy!


Blue or Orange.. hmm...

Game Session and Thoughts:
A relatively light filler, each round, 1 player will roll al the dice into the bowl. Then starting with the player that rolled, they will choose 1 die from the bowl and place it in front of them. If they choose the RED die, then they will need to take a -1 Penalty disc as well. Players are trying to match the dice they choose with the cards they have in hand to score points. Each die can only be used for 1 card only. The RED die will count as any color. Players also have an option to play an action card before they select a die. These action cards sometimes allow you to reroll certain number of dice or other benefits to negate the luck of the roll. Finally, players can pass as well. Once all players have passed, then each player reveal the cards they want to complete with the dice they have collected. Any spare die that could not fit any cards will cause the player to collect a -1 Penalty token. Once all players have resolved, they draw back up to 5 cards (combination of action or objective cards) and a new round begins. Game ends after a preset number of rounds and the player tally up the points of the objective cards they have completed minus the penalties and whoever has the most points will win the game.
So as you can tell, this is a light push your luck type of game and is best played with more players because you will need to figure out which card to complete and also determine if you want to go for as many cards as you can and at the same time be mindful of how many dice there are left. The action cards can be quite powerful if you have the right ones but some of them you have to collect a penalty disc for using. Quite fun and a good filler. Dice are really nice as well!
Pet Peeves: 
Nothing really bad about this game except perhaps players need to pay attention to what they are trying to achieve as some players could make mistakes with the GREATER THAN and LESSER THAN signs on the cards. 

Quite a fun filler, easy to learn, teach and play. Recommended!



Game Session and Thoughts:
I have heard some mixed reviews about this game but most of them have not been very favourable. Managed to give this game a go and heres what I think. In the game, players represent different countries embarking on a space race and try to score points by achieving certain successes in the various technologies that are required for a successful rocket launch. After several rounds, players in the final round, will be engaged in the final scoring which is launching of the rocket to the moon and back. Players then score final points based on scientists they have (either increase points for prestigious scientists or decrease points for dubious scientists) and the player with the most points will win the game.
Each round, players will first receive income as indicated by that round. Then in turn order (turn order is rotated clockwise), players will then decide how they want to spend the money either by purchasing scientists or buying cards. Scientists are placed onto their player board which will determine how much advancement in a particular technology they provide. Some technologies provide reroll benefits or even money when there has been failed rolls later in the round. After all players have purchased, players again in turn order decide whether to embark on one of the 10 tracks available.
Each player can engage on 6 tracks (excludig the final going to the moon track) and must choose carefully which to engage in. The player after choosing will then roll 5 special die which will either show GREEN (success) or BLUE (neutral) or RED (cancels a success). Players will advance that many spaces as they have overall successes as well as advancements provided by the scientists. Then other players (in player ordeR) may choose to play any number of cards from their hands which will sabotage the current player. Finally the current player will also decide on a number of cards to play. All other players will reveal their cards and they will decrement the current player's token (which is a cardboard rocket ship btw) down that many steps as depicted on the cards played. Finally the current player will increment that many steps as depicted by the cards he played.
Current player will score as many points as the final position and if he was at the top of that track, will be able to advance his token 1 step on the final to-the-moon-and-back track. Play continues until all players have had a chance to tackle a technology track or pass and that round has ended.
At the final round, players will get a chance to do the same but with the final to-the-moon-and-back track. Players then count the final tally of points (from their scientist) and whoever has the most points will be the winner.
It was an average game for me and while not too difficult to learn could be a little confusing. There is quite a lot of negotiation going on because players are trying to shift attention from themselves or convince the rest to play cards to sabotage others. This can be quite costly because each card is not cheap AND can do quite a lot of damage to the current player. There seems to be an interesting loophole where by players can invest in that technology which will provide you with multiples of 3mil whenever you roll a red die. Sometimes bad dice roll can result in you making a LOT of money!
Overall, we all started with vastly different plans mostly to test the mechanisms of the game. I started off with no scientists and try to just go with cards. I was ahead initially but I quickly realised its harder and harder to buy cards and I might as well buy more Green scientists to help myself and provide end game scoring. There was also a moment where we decided to throw our cards in to sabotage 1 player because, well we all felt like it and it did screw up his plans such that when the game ended, he lost the game.

Pet Peeves:
There should have been better icons for the scientists on the board. For example, the red cubes means the scientists counts as 2 instead of the normal 1 for each cube. The Green scientists provide 3 points at the end of the game. The Blue scientists minus 2 points at the end of the game. These could have been shown on the game board.
The art is very gaudy, especially the pictures used for the scientists. Heck, one of them looked as if they were a bunch of wrestlers rather than scientists!
Component wise they used paper money and rather thin player boards which is kinda meh for me.
The luck of the card draw can play quite a significant part in determining how many points a player can gain from track advancement and can screw around with other players. This can be good or bad depending on how the other players take it. Given that each card costs 2mil to purchase, it can be a costly venture if you end up only getting all the lowest point cards.
Luck of the dice roll can also be quite significant because if you want to succeed often you will need quite a high roll of GREEN successes. If you are having a bad dice luck, then it can suck very badly for you.
As mentioned, it is an average game which I feel is not for me largely because of the sheer amount of luck involved coupled with a fair dose of negotiation. You could very much be locked out of the game if the other players just want to sabotage you all the way and make it very not fun for you. Not many new concepts and it all boils down to how well you can roll initially to how well you can negate cards in the latter phases of the game. Try before you buy!


Love the Rooster Meeple....

Game Session and Thoughts:
A kickstarter that is to do with wine (hmm recently there have been quite a few wine game huh?) and lighter than Vinhos? Well sign me up! Although I did not backed it when it was Kickstarting, one of my gang managed to and it has arrived!
It is a worker placement game with a player board for you to manage. There are 4 seasons to the game each round and the game ends when 1 player has reached 20 victory points. Player with the most points will win the game. During Spring, players will, in previous player order, choose to move their Rooster to a particular spot ala Fresco. This will determine what bonuses they get AND this current round's player order. Next is summer where players can choose from some of the summer spots to place their worker. Each area which can be chosen as a prime spot that gives extra bonuses (i.e. instead of planting 1 vine, you can plant 2).  Players need to manage their workers carefully because they are using the same set of workers for both summer AND winter spots. Once all players have passed, then Autumn comes and players can obtain 1 summer or winter visitor card. These cards often give certain powers/benefits like obtain more $, plant an extra vine. Last season of the year Winter begins and, similar to summer, players will place their remaining workers on the board. 
Essentially, Summer is for you to plant vines, get money, construct buildings and play Summer visitor cards. Winter is for you to harvest, crush grapes into wine, fulfil orders and play winter visitor cards. Once all these seasons are done, players age their wine and grapes, discard cards to keep to the hand limit and earn residual income (when you fulfil orders you will get to increment this residual income). So this repeats until a player has reached 20 points and that will trigger the end game.
We played a rule wrongly in that whenever we harvested, we will remove the vineyard cards. But otherwise, we were pretty much spot on.  Gameplay was fast and easy to manage and it feels like a medium weight game for me. The worker placement part can be quite competitive and often at least 1 player will be screwed and will have not much to do except to collect $1. Luck of the draw for the vineyard cards etc can be tricky to manage because near the middle of the game the cards I have been drawing does not benefit me at all. Worse, the demand card kinda dictates what you should do with your grapes but then again if you had prepared for it and have a wide variety of wines, that may not be a big issue. Money interestingly was quite important at the beginning of the game but became a moot point nearer the end after you have built most of the buildings. 
Components are EXCELLENT! Very nicely produced and many different types of wooden bits. I especially loved the Rooster :P There might be some FAQs required for the text on the cards but the art and design all seemed pretty good. The glass beads are particularly cool because they also help to magnify the number that they are placed on!Pet Peeves: 
Biggest pet peeve will be the Luck of the draw could make or break this game for some because a few lucky draws can help you immensely and position for you to win the game. There aren't really that many other pet peeves of the game except perhaps the glass beads could have been a whee bit smaller so that if you had them lined up side by side on the player board they will sit nicely. The size differences between the medium and large cellar are quite small and can be mistaken but as long as you place them on the player board it won't matter.
The final round was rather tense because it was triggered when I wasn't really prepared for it but I managed, through luck of the draw, to collect a card or two that allowed me to pull ahead and tie with the leader. More importantly, from my play of cards, I screwed up the next player's chances to pull ahead and win the game. In the end, I won by the tie breaker (I had more money) so it was a really close game.  I will want to play this again to see how I really feel about it so for now its a Try before you buy.

PHEW! A lot of games covered and my next post will have a lot more as well! Including my first play of Stefan Feld's LATEST release, RIALTO! So watch for it :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wilderness A Game of Survival, Space Cadets, Mundus Novus, Polis, Divinare, Omen A Reign of War


Run Forrest run!

Game Session and Thoughts:
Wilderness is a game where players are trying to get from the starting point, through a series of different locations to the end point which is a village. During their journey, players need to balance their thirst, hunger and exhaustion levels. First player to reach the village wins. Another way a player can win if he is the last person alive. Why so morbid? Well its because you can die if your exhaustion level reaches the skull icon.
During your turn, depending on the exhaustion level, you will have a certain number of energy points with which to spend. Moving into different types of land hexes will require different numbers of energy points. Players can also do other things like drinking water (from a river which will remove all Thirst that you may have accumulated and search for food and eating which will remove all Hunger that you may have accumulated. Once all players have had their turns, each player will increment their Thirst and Hunger level. They will also increment their Exhaustion level 1 and then some more depending on the number indicated by their current Thirst and Hunger level. There are also event cards (each player starts with 3) which can help you OR be used to sabotage other players.
Gameplay wise, it is a type of racing game where players cannot directly kill each other but can, through a series of events, cause harm to come to opponents. Players also have to contend with running away from animals (unless you are confident on beating them) and also planning when to rest to remove exhaustion and also if its wise to move during the night (because you have a chance to get lost and wander off to another hex).
Its a relatively easy to teach and play game. We started off relatively confident and then splintered into 2 groups with 1 heading into the desserts and the other into the forests. It is surprisingly quite easy to day if you don't manage your exhaustion levels properly. Our first death occurred in the dessert. Our second death was due to sickness from events played on that player. Third death was from exhaustion after the player had managed to kill and eat a ferocious bear (at least he died with a full tummy!) and thus by default, I was the winner. But only barely because given a few more rounds I would have most probably perished as well.
Pet Peeves: 
The components are HORRIBLE. To track the various Exhaustion, Thirst and Hunger levels on your player card (yes its not a board, its just a card!) you use these snot-size markers. They are really SO SMALL! I mean you could have given cubes and that will probably be better. The art is HORRIBLE. Very uninspired and cheap-feeling. A smaller peeve is that they are ALL MALE characters! Actually if you come to think about it, quite a lot of boardgames are lacking in terms of female playable characters. Perhaps I can do an investigative study into the ratio distribution of male and female playable characters in Boardgames. Hmm...
It is a meh game for me. Its straight forward to play and doesn't have much strategic thinking involved. You just use up your actions and move through the landscape as best as you can. You do need to think about when to take a pitstop lest exhaustion kills you. The event cards do give an additional tactical element but is more used to stop a runaway leader I feel because if someone manages to move around nimbly and gets pretty far ahead of the pack, its neigh impossible to stop them unless you use event cards. The components really did this game in for me. It feels very low grade and that ultimately killed the game for me. Not recommended!


Starship CMI spending too much time in 1 sector of space!

Game Session and Thoughts:
Now I have played this latest Co-op hotness during GENCON 2012 but since its co-op, I was not too interested to get myself a copy. My cousin has and he and his group has had a lot of fun. They just played and played it out within 1 or 2 gaming sessions. They probably have gotten their ROI (return of investment) in the game now :). One in my group decided to grab a copy and so I was lucky enough to play the production copy.
Now if you aren't aware of the game, basically each player will take a role of an officer on board a space ship and then, depending on the mission, the crew will work together to try to achieve the objective. In a nutshell, it is the boardgame version of a popular video game called Artemis where players can link up iOS devices and pretend to be on a spaceship. Each station features a minigame which you will recognize from various popular boardgames. For example, the Weapons is similar to Pitch car in that you are flicking discs to score hits and damage enemy ships.
For a co-op game, the best part is there will not be a leader problem where 1 person just dictates what everyone else does. There is a Captain's role but in general everyone is expected to discuss and decide what best to do. However all that discussing may come to naught IF the person at that station fails to perform the minigame and throws the plan into disarray. The most crucial has to be the Helm because if the ship is moved wrongly and shields are not providing overarching coverage, then the unshielded side may become exposed to the enemy ships. So while you are playing a co-op game, you will quickly come to realise that your own mini game is just as important and you may even start to forget its a co-op when your Helmsman moves you away from the objective for the umpteen time and you begin to suspect if he's a cylon (oh wait, different game :P)
Worse is when you start getting damaged and this is where the most chaos comes into the game. Systems start to fail and you may even be asked to switch roles and that is also when the most fun begins. You are suddenly thrusted into the seat of a role which you may not have been prepared for (or more likely, you may not have been paying attention to) and thus the ship will usually start to flounder at this point.
Art is much nicer than the copy I saw at GENCON 2012 (because well that was a promo copy) and components are of a good quality though I wished the energy bits used the batteries from Galaxy Truckers :P
Pet Peeves: 
There seems to be quite a few cards which will cause roles to switch in the course of the game which means that pretty soon we will need to know how to play each roles and quickly adapt so as not to become the one that will cause the ship to fail. This can be pretty frustrating on certain players at times because it can be quite a big change to how they have been playing. That leads to another problem and that is the team could quickly turn on each other especially if there is a weak link. Though if you are playing with a group that quickly turns in this way, then perhaps you shouldn't be playing with that group at all! This is probably a small pet peeve as you should be playing with your friends who are good natured and can tease each other :).  I feel that this game is also best played with the full compliment of players because each player can concentrate on their role and won't be easily distracted nor expected to handle multiple roles at the same time. The icons used to denote the various stations could have been more intuitive (i.e. Weapons have a W there so that its easy to see what station is next in the phases. Finally, the game takes abit too long for my liking. We only managed to explore the first space and barely gotten our first crystal and that took about 45 minutes. We still have 3 more space squares to explore!
The enjoyment of this game greatly depends on the group as well as how many of you are there to play the game. When I was playing in GENCON 2012, I was lucky that Geoff was there to instruct us on how to play the game and the group I was with seems to had a lot of fun. I started off as Captain and wasn't doing too good a job and felt a bit embarrassed lol. In this game, I started off as the Captain again and was struggling to remember how to play the game. Again luckily, Geoff had made a series of game instruction videos which we can watch and learn easily. I don't think there's anything wrong with the game but its not for me unfortunately. If you have a good group and are ok with Co-op games this might be just right for you! Try before you buy.


The very odd feeling is still there when playing this

Game Session and Thoughts:
I first played this game sometime last year and I wasn't particularly impressed and it left me with an odd feeling in my mouth. Got a chance to play it again recently and well.... its still odd to me. Each round, players will be dealt a fresh hand of 5 cards. If they had any merchants/ship cards previously played, then they will be able to receive extra cards during this time. Next, the captain will choose how many cards each player must offer up into the public area. Captain can choose between 2 to 4 cards. Then players will add up the sums of the cards they offered. The player with the most points will be the new Captain. Then starting with the new captain, players will choose a card that an opponent has offered. The chosen card can be added to your hand OR exchanged for a card from the market, which always has 3 cards displayed. The player whose card is chosen now gets to go. After all players have taken cards, then the Captain can decide whom to go first in this next phase. In this phase, players can either submit a set of SAME colored cards to obtain a development card from a set of 5 available to choose from. Development cards can give you a character which may give you income per round and a special power or a merchant ship. Players can also submit a set of different numbered cards to obtain money. Once all player has gone, all remaining cards are discarded and a new round begins. The player who has successfully earned 75 coins or submitted a full suite (cards 1-9 and the wild card) will win the game.
In our session, I was playing to do the perfect suite for the instant win. But we ignored the various character cards that came out and gave one of the other players almost 10 coins per round. I could have almost done it in the very last round but I was missing 1 card to complete the suite. It still feeling very odd as the game mechanisms are a bit counter intuitive and it doesn't help that there is zero theme in the game.
Pet Peeves: 
As mentioned above, one of the biggest Pet peeves I have is that there is zero theme in the game. If there was some theme perhaps it will be easier to understand and appreciate the game. Though most Euro games have no theme, sometimes the theme helps to understand why we do what we do and in this case, having no theme doesn't help. The other pet peeve is that there is no player aid to remind us on the rounds as well as the conversion rate when exchange for development cards or for money. A summary is printed on the back of the rule book but I think player aids will certain help. 1 last pet peeve is that the event tokens which denote events that are happening for that round (which can be detrimental to players) is made up of very small discs. I think cards with words would have been a better way to show what is the current event status.

While the game play is relatively simple, you will probably need a few more plays to better understand what is happening. Because of the way you need to collect sets and the perfect suite, this reminds me of mahjong. While I do like a good game of mahjong, Mundus Novus doesn't appeal to me in that way. Try before you buy.


Careful! No sudden movements to the table now...

Game Session and Thoughts:
I have been on a spree of getting 2 player specific games and I read reviews about this 2 player civilisation like game and was instantly hooked. I enjoyed games like Through the ages but its kinda clunky to setup and would have been better served as a video game. So when I had the opportunity to make a purchase on this, I jumped at it! Now this is pretty though to get (either you buy from the publisher directly or via online sites in Europe) so it will not be very cheap.
So what is the game really like? Game lasts 4 rounds. Players are competing on the same map to own cities, complete projects, grow population so as to have the most prestige points at the end of 4 rounds. At the start of each round, 3 new projects will be available for both players and there will be an event (out of several) for that round. Then the player with the lower prestige points will begin. During your turn, a player can perform 2 different actions after which your turn is over and the other player begins. Play continues until both players have passed. Now when you are performing the actions, you can choose from 12 different actions to perform. Essentially, you can grow an army (hoplite or gallery), create a merchant (for trading), move your army (hoplite / gallery) but this costs 1 Prestige, besiege a city (also costing 1 Prestige) and many others. What you are trying to do is to get resources, move your troops around to conquer and obtain more cities to provide you with more resources and points.
After both players have passed, then you will perform a clean up. All in progress projects are now completed and Prestige points are awarded. Then you will need to pay Wheat for each population you have on your city tiles. Penalty for not being able to feed will be to return the city tile back an remove your token as it has turned neutral. After you have fed, you can convert remaining grain into 1 population each grain in the various city tiles you have as long as it is permitted. Finally, you can convert money (silver in this case) into prestige points. If you have 0 prestige points at this time, you will automatically lose the game. If at anytime you have lost your Capital city (mostly due to inability to feed) you will also automatically lose the game.
Teaching the game is not easy as there are so many actions you can do and you will need to explain in detail what you can do for each. It took us about 30 mins to setup and explain the game. It took us another 2 hours or so to play finish the game. I won but I think I had forgotten to pay prestige when performing the collection action (basically plunder the land for resources) so my victory is probably tainted. We did not do a lot of combatting each other as we were quite busy trying to build up our engine but by the time we had a good enough grasp of what is happening, the game is over. While the map is pretty small, there is still ample space for you to grow and not really be forced into a war. Indeed, I haven't had a battle yet but reading the rules the battle system seems a bit tagged on. I think this game is still more of a Civ-type game than a war-like game. Component quality is nice and thick and looks very nicely done! There are also plenty of wooden cubes and ships.
Pet Peeves: 
A small pet peeve will be that the cube is used to represent population in the city, a hoplite when placed on land and a gallery when placed in the sea. It would have been nicer if there were distinct cubes for each of the different roles but I guess I can see how this may complicate the game and cause the price tag to increase with the addition of so many components.
Another will be that small cubes are used to mark the market prices and the various resources that you have on your own board. Any sudden jolt of the table may send our player boards flying and screw up the game. Again different colored goods may have been a better idea but I can see the reasoning behind, after all, Through The Ages used a very similar player board system. The player aid exists on the player board which is good but I wish they had included some of the important rules like what resource u need to build a hoplite. That will make it so much more easier to tell what you need to do without referring to the manual so often.

Polis is a meaty Euro game where you will need to make sure you are building up your engine otherwise you can be severally lacking in terms of resources to do the things you want. It is also not very forgiving and any mistakes can be easily capitalized by your opponent. I think this is a pretty interesting game and I will certainly want try it more and see if I can engage into a battle or two but this is probably a game that is not suitable for EVERYONE given the time and effort needed to play and enjoy the game. Try before you buy!


Wait what did I put down at the beginning again?

Game Session and Thoughts:
Another great session. Jon had not played this before so I was eager to bring it out and see what he thinks about it. 2 players is quite different from the other player counts because at the start both of you will be dealt 12 cards and you will set aside 2 cards each. Then play continues and you will pass cards 4 times in the game. Once all cards have been played, you will open the 2 cards which you have set aside at the start of the game and then add them to the respective areas.
Playing with 2 is even more intense as you will feel the head-2-head competition more than if you are playing with 3 or 4 because you know that if you screw up, its all your own fault hahaha. You can also setup your opponents easily as compared to 3 or 4 players because of the 2 cards right at the beginning which you set aside as well as what cards you pass to your opponent. Overall, I think its a great game and even better with just 2 players though your brain may melt with all the calculating afterwards. Still very much highly RECOMMENDED!


I want all the Oracles.... for scoring lah! :P

Game Session and Thoughts:
I have heard a lot about this 2 player game but did not dived into kickstarter at that point in time. After the kickstarter, there was still a lot of hype surrounding the game and generally the reviews have been good so I was searching around for a copy. Just nice, someone else in Singapore was selling their copy and i snapped it up real quick. In the game, players are trying to get as much points as they can by obtaining reward cards from 3 piles in the centre and achieving feat cards (6 in total per player and both are identical sets). The game ends when 1 player has achieved 5 feat cards OR when 2 of the 3 reward card stacks are empty. Then player count up the points (2 per feat card achieved, 2 per reward card that is not used, 1 per reward card that has been used) and the player with the most points wins the game.

Pet Peeves: 
The artwork is kinda dark in the game. This game could have been rethemed to make it more accessible by more people but its still not too bad. Furthermore, because the general art theme is very similar, there is very little to differentiate easily the different types of cards (oracle, soldier and beast) other than the wording. The art does change (i.e. beast shows a Beast) but it would have been easier if the cards had different colored backings or an icon. The words on the cards though is bad. Its all in UPPER CASE and it looks as if its screaming at you all the time! Plus there are a lot of cards to go through and this is a case where it could have benefited from a well thought out icon system. Its not unplayable for sure, its just easier to grasp and play if icons were used.

Overall though its not a bad card game to play and I did enjoy my play of it. Jon, my opponent, mentioned that it is very similar to Battleline which I have not played it yet. The game reminded me somewhat of Phantom but plays much smoother and faster. It might be quite tough to hunt down a copy but I will say try before you buy!

Well by the time this blog post is out, Episode 7 of Push Ur Luck Podcast would have been released. You can download it directly here 
We are glad that we have started our Interview series where I interview publishers and designers from the Asia region and hope to be able to publicise them to the world. We have a lot of interviews from designers in USA and Europe but I feel that we have not much exposure here in Asia and I hope to be able to assist in that area.
Do look out for Episode 8 where we interview Seiji Kenai of Love Letter fame!