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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!


  1. Wilderness price point is a little steep, it's a shame that the components quality didn't match with the price.

    I've had my eyes on Polis the moment I heard it's going to be published in 2011. I followed the development closely and was psyched even more when the designer wrote the designer diary on BGG.

    Agreed that Polis can be a little hard to find, plus, I was a little skeptic to buy games from small publisher. But I just went ahead cuz the artworks are just stunning. Another game that I think is in the same vein is Antike Duellum although both games scratch different itch for me but they do share the same setting.

    I find Antike Duellum simpler among the two but has a different map side for different battle setting/sides.

  2. yea Wilderness is a definite miss. Even the artwork is MEH..

    I will need to give Polis a few more tries to see if i am keeping my copy.

    Antike looks good. quite highly rated (<1000 on bgg) and same theme.. hmm...

  3. I just love Omen! Played it with my brother all the time when i was still in the Philippines. All our games were pretty close! Even when one seemed to be ahead in points.