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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Name Of The Rose, Endeavor, Carson City, Divinare, Alea Iacta Est, Las Vegas, Noblemen, Robot Master, Edo, Navegador, Hermagor

Played a Print and Play game that has been receiving some good reviews and also a few games which I have been wanting to play. Quite a good session I have had this week with highlights being Edo and Endeavour. Lets take a look:

Who's suspicious....hmmm...
Game Session and Thoughts:

So I manage to bring this pretty old Stefan Feld game out as Jon has been wanting to try it. This was one of the first few boardgames I purchased at the beginning when I first started to dive into modern designer games and I was very enamoured by it then. Now a few years later, playing it again and comparing to many modern boardgames, it seems to have lost a bit of the lustre and glamour I had. Much of the game, you were pretty quiet as you are thinking and trying to be subtle but at the same time trying to push the rest ahead of your pawn. However, there is a potential to just play randomly and then see how it goes because the cards you are dealt with kinda dictates what you can do and if you are dealt very bad cards you are probably helping others more than yourself which can suck. This time i realised how even during the 3 times in the game where you are revealing who you are not, it can also turn out badly for you if for example all players chose to reveal they are not a certain color and you are the only one that did not. This is especially obvious when you are in a 5 player game as it increases the likelihood that you are the color. Finally, in the end game guessing, you can also be sabotaged not because you weren't subtle but through the process of elimination. I think perhaps the game took a little too long to play because more often than not you are just doing the same thing again and again every day (6 days in the game) and only change will be reacting to the event for that day. Of course if there are players who are not being serious and just fooling around, that can throw people off as well in the game. So in summary, after a few years and looking back at this game, I can only say Try before you buy. Its seems to be Stefan's first few forays into the boardgame industry and him stretching his legs and trying out what works and what doesn't. I am certainly glad of his recent releases and will still be looking forward to Brugge and Amerigo later in the year.
For more details of our discussion, do listen to Episode 9 of our podcast.


So many many bits!

Game Session and Thoughts:
Ah Endeavour. I have heard a lot about this game and have almost been tempted to buy it but the board reminded me of Lost Cities the boardgame so I did not know what to make of the game. Yea I should learn to read the rules to make a better judgement but somehow the rules doesn't grab me as much when I don't have the game in front of me to look through the components and better understand how it works. Someone had the game and well since we were wondering what other games to play with 5 we decided to give this a go.
Endeavour is a relatively easy game to teach and play but has surprisingly meaty strategies involved and moderate interaction amongst players. Players each have a player board which will mark various "tech" which essentially denotes how advanced they are in terms of various actions that you can perform during the game. There are a few phases in the game but the most important portion is the action phase where players in turn order, perform actions on the main board. Players are trying their best to advance their "techs" as well as obtain cards both of which will provide points at the end of the game. In addition, several locations on the board also provide points if you still occupy them at the end of the game. After 7 turns, the player with the most points will win. I will not go into too much details as you can read it from BGG.
The artwork is not bad and functional. Theme wise though there really isn't a lot of theme and this is a typical euro game. It is also an area control game as well because the number of your tokens in a particular area often denotes which level cards you can obtain and the higher the level, the better rewards you will get. This is my first time playing and I was planning to go an alternative path from what the rest are doing however our paths soon cross as they started to dabble into the exploration paths I was on. The buildings that are available for building are crucial as they often provide you with 2 actions which is quite powerful in the later game when snatching the governor cards or other cards from each other.
Pet Peeves: 
Setup is kinda tedious. First you have to randomly distribute the chits onto each available space on the board facedown. Then you had to flip the chits up for all of them. The cards also needs to be segregated for the various regions during setup. Finally buildings need to be setup in their various levels and types.  Quite a lot of things to do. There aren't any spare chits on the board though so if you lose one it can be quite painful. Otherwise, its a good use of symbols and everything else is quite clear.
one smaller pet peeve is that you can card count in this game or at least memorize the cards so you know which to aim for to get certain benefits. Its not that easy but it may just give you that edge to win.
I can see why this game is rated highly in BGG. For the length of game, the weight and gameplay it provides is just enough. I had some fun in this as it has just the right level of interaction. There is even a way to kick people's chips off the spaces on the board but will cost u 2 extra chips to do so. I don't have many complaints about this but perhaps with more plays I may have. Recommended!


Not many on the other side of the river
Game Session and Thoughts:
Carson City and its expansion is a medium weight action selection and worker placement type of game set in a wild west theme. Each turn, each players will obtain a number of cowboys (to add to those that weren't used in previous turns) and use these cowboys to place them on the board to either perform actions or block spaces on the main board to either build plots of land. Then actions are resolved based on the action track and players will take their actions. Now I giving a very high level view of the game because there are a lot of reviews already so I won't repeat them.
The expansions add more buildings as well as additional character tiles with different abilities and bandits. Bandits will appear from Round 2 onwards and may occupy a player's buildings thus halving the income. However these bandits will also provide players with the ability to defeat them and thus earning points as well. So playing with the expansion does afford more abilities and I feel does make it more fun.
I had played this once before and I did not really think much about it. Recently as part of an acquisition disorder phase (lol!) I decided to give it another go and got both the base game and the expansion to try again. I manage to play 2 more times after buying and have seen quite different plays of the game. It certainly requires more plays so that players know what to look out for and what to guard against. In a game that lasts only 4 rounds (which is pretty short for the amount of things to do and see in the game), players gotta be on their feet and play an active part in blocking others so that there's no runaway victories as have happened in the games.
The number of actions per turn is rather limited and I find it abit distracting to concentrate on the actions I require and also on the main board because I will need plots of land to build buildings on. What I am trying to say is that there seems to be a bit of a disjoint between the 2. Theme wise its not too bad in that there are connections with the characters you choose and the actions you are performing. I love the art as the fonts used and colors are quite thematic and fitting of the western theme.
Pet Peeves: 
Setup is a bit fiddly as you need to setup the action spaces and the main board itself before you can start. The dice while awesome to hold because they are big and chunky are actually a bit hard to roll as they are big and heavy and will push things away if rolled onto components on the board but this is a minor peeve. You will need to ensure no one gets away with anything else the scoring will be very lopsided. This means that experienced players are a must otherwise there isn't really much you can do to catch up with the leader once they get their key items early in the game. Game length seems to be a whee bit too short as well for a game that seems to be meaty and has a lot of potential. Finally, the buildings themselves only have specific requirements to build and different ways of counting income but they don't provide anymore interactions amongst themselves which is a pity. There seems to be a possibility of more development on these buildings and more intricate interactions between them and various elements of the game.
I am pretty ok with the game in that the bidding and fighting for action spaces creates a lot of interaction and tension in the game. Limited abilities to convert to points also will cause a lot of conflicts between the players. Counting income though can be a pain because changes to the board will change the income of each of the buildings you own. Still I am not quite getting the game in its entirety and so I don't believe I will be keeping this in my collection. Try before you buy!


hmmm what cards should I pass...

Game Session and Thoughts:
3 Player game and its still quite a good game for me. As mentioned, I think it will work better as a 2 or 3 player rather than the full 4 because you can still manage what you have provided and it becomes less of a memory only game and more of a tactical movement game. By saying its less of a memory game, I mean its easier to remember what you have passed on and received and so you can focus more on what cards to pass and to play so as to position yourself to be in the best position when the game ends. If you haven't gotten a copy yet and have read my blogs so far, what are you waiting for? You won't regret it! :D


Many dice but not enough symbols to help players
Game Session and Thoughts:
I bought this game when I first heard about it because of the dice and placement mechanism which reminded me of Kingsburg which I liked. However after playing it a few times I realise its a very odd game for me and did not click for me. The theme is pasted on and how the dice are placed on the various areas is quite hard to explain. I once brought it to the office and I had a hard time explaining how the dice placements worked. Scoring of points and the various secret objectives was also not as intuitive and did not help me enjoy the game. I decided to give it a go recently after a year or so since I last played and the sentiments are still the same. Its just a game that I cannot play nor enjoy playing. If you can get pass the rules and have a better way of explaining the game, perhaps this may work for me. For now though. its a pass for me.


And many dice again. Small screwage available though

Game Session and Thoughts:
An easy simple dice game that has had mixed reviews. When I first heard about this and how it plays, it was mostly moderate to negative reviews. Since it is a light game I did not go about purchasing it but managed to have a play recently. We played with the advanced rules where the white dice are used (basic rules you only use the colors of dice that the players have chosen).
At the start of each round, money cards will be dealt to each casino tile up to at least $50mil. This means that some casinos may get lucky and get larger amounts (some got $110mil for e.g.). During your turn, you will roll all the dice that you have remaining and then decide which sets of dice to allocate to the various casinos, depending on the pips on this set of dice that you selected. Then its the next player's turn and players keep doing this until all their dice (including the white ones) have been allocated to the appropriate casinos.
Players then look at each casino and count the number of dice they have there. If your number matches any other players or the white dice, then you are out. The first non-matching majority player will take the highest value money card. Then the 2nd non-matching majority will take the next card (if any) and so on and so forth. In this way, each casino will be resolved and money collected. Players play a few rounds and then whichever player that has collected the most $ will be the winner.
So while it is an easy and simple dice game, the inclusion of white dice in every player's collection of dice does make this more interesting as you can decide how and when to use these white dice to sabotage others. Components and artwork are pretty good, no compliants there.
Pet Peeves: 
The main pet peeve will be the luck involved when rolling. Since this is a dice game primarily, you will be dealing with a lot of luck. As this is a filler as well and game plays pretty fast, this shouldn't be a very big issue but if you dislike luck-filled games, then you will do well to avoid this game.
Light filler dice rolling game. This will be right up some players' alley but its not for me. The best way to play this seems to be trying to hoard your dice so that you can slowly allocate them strategically to block others and steal the majority from them. Although you may get screwed if you have a "good" dice roll, that's just the way life is i guess in this game. Try before you buy. Btw as of this writing, there is an iOS implementation of the game. Not sure how it is like but might be a cheaper alternative to try first before buying the game.


Its all about the masquerade!

Game Session and Thoughts:
I think I reviewed this light-medium weight Euro game previously so I won't go into details here. In a nutshell, its an extremely well produced (and maybe even over produced game) with great components and art work and interesting tile placement cum building type of game. However, the various components while are intricately related, aren't flowing or functioning smoothly in my opinion. The biggest variable in the game is the queen because a round ends when a player ends his turn and he has the Queen with him. That can cause a lot of screw ups to plans and makes it sometimes very hard to plan ahead. Maybe you were waiting 1 more round for the Masquerade and needed to do something to secure the next position but someone got the queen and poof the round ended and we go straight into Masquerade. I don't think its a bad game but for me though it did not feel like it flowed smoothly and was clunky. Try before you buy!


Interesting thinky little 2 player game

Game Session and Thoughts:
Quick light game for 2 players or 2 teams from Reiner Knizia, Robot Master requires players to play cards from their hand into a 5 by 5 grid on the table. Once that is done, players will count points from their lowest column and whoever has more points will win the game.
Its that simple! The complexity and thinky part comes from deciding where to play your card AND how the robots are scored. For example, if you have multiples of the same robot in the same column, you will score multiples of the points instead of just the points themselves. In addition, since what you are placing may help your opponent form the multiples he/she needs it can be used both to sabotage your opponent or accidentally helping him/her.
That's largely the game! Art is ok for such a light filler and there is certainly a lot of interaction in the game because cards are used by both parties but there may not be a lot of talking because both players/teams will be concentrating on the board and trying to outthink their opponent.
Pet Peeves: 
Theme wise, there is zero in the game. You can probably replace the robots with other things and the game will still work fine. The scoring and points have absolutely nothing to do with the theme at all! While some can say that the draw of the cards may screw up your chances of winning the game, I think with careful placement, even a bad draw of cards can still win the game.
I had some plans when I started playing the game but they quickly degenerated into tactical reactions to what my opponent has done because the game is designed this way. There is only so much you can plan ahead before the opponent places a card into the space you wanted and forces you to change your plans. Still I did enjoy myself in this light filler and I suspect this is best with 2 and not as a team game. I am finding myself enjoying these little light fillers that can be quite thinky if you let it be and lets me enjoy light fillers. Try before you buy!


Ultra euro game with very little theme but fun!

Game Session and Thoughts:
A game I saw with much curiosity during GENCON 2012 and was much intrigued by it. My usual gaming group had a copy and played it (without me) but it never got to the table again so I wasn't too sure if it was good or not. Their comments were its very dry. So I kinda shuned away from it. Recently though, with a good dose of acquisition disorder, I decided to pull the trigger :p
Edo is a medium weight action selection and worker placement game with 2 ways of scoring. The game ends when a player has reached 12 points OR if all merchant tiles have been used. Then players have a final scoring and the player with the most points will win the game.
Most interesting feature of the game is the use of these square action tiles to determine which 3 actions you will be taking during a specific round. These square tiles are seperated into 4 triangles each with a different action. During the planning phase, players will secretly place 3 such tiles onto a rack, placing the triangle with the action they want to take at the bottom. Then they will place a number of meeples in front of that tile which will denote how many times they want to activate that action.
Once all players have placed and decided, the action phase will begin. Starting with the Start player, players will play the first action tile and the number of times during their turn. This will continue in player order and when it comes back to the start player again, the 2nd action tile will be played. In this way, all 3 action tiles will be played, actions taken in turn order and the phase will end.
Players then pay rice for each of their meeple they have on the game board and then receive income based on their buildings they have in each city on the game board as well as their position in each city. Players check for the end game condition and if the game has not ended, they will flip over a new merchant tile and start a new round.
Art wise its functional and quite apt. Icons are clear and easy to read and I like it.
Gameplay wise, its a pretty dry euro where you are just trying your best to react to the situation and score points to win the game. The initial starting moves maybe the same but it may change only depending on what the other players do and the list of new action tiles that are available for purchase. I will need more plays to determine if this may break the game but I am hoping not as I do like the game.
Pet Peeves: 
Thematically its very dry and doesn't really fit the theme. You could jolly well replace it with another setting and it will still function the same. The same starting moves sequence maybe a problem in the future but I will need more plays to see if this is a problem. Choice of components is abit odd. The rice tokens are way too big and the starting player token is quite similar to the other meeples but just of a different color which can be mistaken easily. Good weighty pieces I appreciate but slightly overproduced.
I really liked the game because its thinky and meaty enough for the length of game time it requires. While the lack of theme maybe MEH for some I did not really feel it was a pain for me. The board is nicely designed and the game play is tight enough to ensure that the game will definitely end after an appropriate length of game play. I am not too sure about the value of the merchant tiles versus constructing the buildings to get the points to win the game and I am sure with more plays it will become clearer. The promos provide just slightly more options but doesn't really add anything significant to the game play so can be ignored if you prefer. Recommended!


Focused on only Shipping but got screwed...
Game Session and Thoughts:
Medium weight Euro game with a Rondel that requires players to choose from different options for obtaining money and then utilising the money again to improve these options to score points and win the game in the end. Unique part of this game will be the rondel, the market and your player board (which provides the different options for you to score points and win the game).
Like many rondel games, this will not be any different. The next 3 steps are free for you to choose from but further segments will require you to return a boat to your supply. Should you have the Navegador card (which awards you with a free Shipping action), there will be an additional boat on the rondel which will signify when you must use the Navegador card or else you will have to pass it to the next player.
The market is interesting because there are 2 ways to use the market. One by selling goods from your settlements and the second is by processing goods. Selling goods will bring down the price but will increase the profits for processing and vice versa. So these 2 are linked in the market.
Finally, the player board shows you the different ways in which to score points and win the game. Throughout the game, you will be storing wharves, churches and items you have purchased or obtained on your player board. There are also columns where you can obtain prestige tokens which will award you money based on which icon is covered and the number of related items you have on the board. Tokens will also award you points in the end for the number of related items on your board.
Artwork is pretty Puerto Rico style like and Ok I guess. I find I am moving more away from such art styles as they don't appeal to me anymore. They keep reminding me of the traditional euro games and has this trading in the Mediterranean type of feel which is boring and somewhat dated for me. Components are wooden bits and thick cardboard so that's always nice.
Pet Peeves: 
Artwork is somewhat dated for me but its a small pet peeve. Another pet peeve will be how random the settlements are arranged across the board. Sometime with luck the settlements you explore yield a lot of money for you  and then you can make good use of the money, Other times you may be left with the small bounties and thus not as favourable. Indeed, I manage to grab a lot of money after exploring the last settlement and that helped me to get quite a lot of points. Finally, the biggest complaint will be your sitting arrangement and what actions or directions the players before you are taking. Often if you are planning the same things as they are, then they will have often made situation on the board not favourable for you when it comes to your turn. This means that you are sometimes forced to choose a different path from what you have preferred or planned for initially.
Again, guarding someone is very important in a game like this. I was very focused on the shipping route but was quickly stopped by 2 players and I could not flip myself around fast enough to venture into other areas and score points to secure the win. Even exploring requires some good timing because players may steal ahead of you to explore and secure the settlement token when you have your armada of ships good and ready to go exploring. All in all, it was a pretty OK game for me but not great enough that I don't regret selling my copy of the game. Try it before you buy it!


OMG I was 3rd by 1 little point! GEEZE :(

Game Session and Thoughts:
Medium weight game which combines an interesting auction type mechanism and area control where most of your scoring will come from with a thinly wrapped theme to top it off. Players attempt to build trading posts around the board and earning money after building by "selling" the resource on the market. Players also try to keep in mind the final scoring conditions and when the game end, whoever has the most money will win the game.
3 parts that make this game interesting. The 1st is the auction area which starts each round. Imagine a grid where resource/special tiles are placed on the grid. Each tile is surrouned by 8 possible circles with different numbers printed on them. During each player's turn, player will place 1 of their 4 bidding pawns on any of the cirles on the board thereby stalking a claim in the tiles that are adjacent to the circle. Alternatively, player can place their pawn onto a tile directly. Player will then pay $ in terms of the number they have covered. If you place on the tile itself, you will pay $2. Once all players have placed all 4 pieces, this bidding area is resolved. A player will win a tile if he/she has a mojrity of his bidding pieces adjacent to the tile. If there is a tie compare where your pawns are. If your pawn is on the tile, you will win or if your pawn is orthogonally adjacent, you will win. So with careful bidding and placement, you can either win a lot of tiles or even win nothing at all! Players will also receive income based on the placement of their bidding pawns. If they are placed in a row, then they will receive income in arithmetic progression. Players will receive income for the row and column the pawns are in. So potentially you can receive income from $4 to $14.
2nd part which is interesting is the market area which determines the income one receives when building their trading posts. The market also has slots which provide more income when a player has enclosed certain areas on the main board with their own trading posts. Finally, the market comes into play at the end game for end game scoring depending if they have a chit for that particular good and as well as the final price of the good. Slots are limited (especially for a 5 player game) and quite a lot of scoring will come from these slots so competition is high.
Finally the main board itself is rather interesting. At the start of every round, a tile will be flipped over to reveal how many houses we can place onto the board for that turn. After the bidding phase, players, in turn order, will decide where to place their house on the board and move their meeple to that location. Players will pay costs depending on which roads they have covered and if there are other buildings in the destination. Finally players will get income based on the resource at the destination and its current market price. Players also check if they have surrounded a region. There are 2 types of regions which players can surround to get bonus points. One is denoted by "H" for Hermagor and will score in a single track at the bottom. Spaces are limited and there are more H's on board so competition will be fierce. The other type of region will include a resource type on the market and you will get points at the end of the game depending on how much the good costs.
So as you can tell, this is a game with many layers and quite a lot of interaction amongst the players.
Pet Peeves: 
Theme is quite limited in the game primarily because we did not read the fluff and jumped right into the game. The game tried to project a fantasy sort of theme I think but it did not come through at all. Also the bidding portion is an interesting mechanism but does not necessarily combine well with the other parts of the game. Artwork is rather dull and dark with earthy tones. Finally, I think the game comes with paper money and in this game where a lot of money is being exchanged, I think poker chips will be a must when playing the game.
It maybe difficult to visualize how you are going to bid initially but after a few rounds you will get the hang of it. This type of bidding reminds me of Goa though there are some significant differences. After a few rounds though, paying other players becomes a norm and can get tedious if you want to calculate everything. I enjoyed the game but felt it could have been slightly too long. I thought I was doing pretty ok because of the end game scoring but came in 3rd. The top 3 scorers weren't that far off with the points though. This is quite a fun game but maybe hard to come by because it is a few years old. Its a pity the artwork and theme doesn't come through for me and I believe if there was more cohesion and better artwork, this will be a recommended game for me. Try before you buy!

PHEW! So someone commented that I seem to play a lot of games and I did a last count and here are my stats:
I have logged 216 plays of games this year out of which I have played 125 unique games. Top 3 are love letter, coup and suburbia. CO2 is not that far behind!
So that's half a year gone and another half to go! I bet this number will explode due to me attending GENCON 2013 :D