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Racing with Feld

pic3302018The Oracle of Delphi Review
Stefan Feld’s latest new game after The Castles of Burgundy Card Game and Jorvik (while technically Jorvik is just an implementation of Speicherstadt). But beware, this game is not like your occasionally point salad Feld games. Why? Because here you don’t get points (at all) but racing to be the first to appease Zeus. Yep, racing in Greek Mythologies. So, what’s my take on this new and “fresh” Stefan Feld’s  game? You’re about to find out.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, it’s clear that I do not like racing games (mentioned these a lot lately: Istanbul, Euphoria, Viticulture, etc) if they don’t have rewarding game plays. So that’s why I like Lewis and Clark though it’s a racing game. So crossed my fingers when I got this one. I do like Stefan Feld’s designs, have been collecting His game though not yet complete the line up (Still missing quite many titles). So kinda bit obliged to get this into my collection. Okay, now let’s get down to it shall we?

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The Theme
In this game, players will compete with each other to be the first to appease Zeus. To do that they have to complete 12 tasks given  by Zeus before everyone else. The 12 tasks are broken down into 4 categories, building shrines, erecting statues, making offerings and defeating monsters. The theme seems quite abstract, but the implementations are quite finely done. As you know Feld doesn’t really think through the theme as long His designs have smooth game flow. So not really give much thought about it. But for what is worth, let me give brief description over the theme. What exactly is The Oracle of Delphi? Or maybe the exact question is “who”. In the times of Gods in Greek, there was a sanctuary dedicated for Apollo and in there lies a priestess, which known as the oracle of Delphi. This priestess was chosen by Apollo to translate His message or prophecy. So based on these definition, players will consult to this oracle on what actions they can take and how they will proceed to claim victory.

The Artworks
It’s OK. If you are familiar with Feld’s games, you can see that this game art shares the same resemblance with his other game, Aquasphere. Both of these games’ illustrations were made by Dennis Lohausen, who has been widely known for his illustrations for mostly Euro-games out there such as Terra Mystica, Helios, A Feast for Odin, Coal Baron, Camel Up, Dominion series, Village, The Voyages of Marco Polo and many more. Dennis Lohausen made one of the greatest game box covers in the history of Euro games (IMO) with the illustrations of a woman (priestess) sitting in the center of  somewhat looks like a temple and surround her are many colorful flaming spirits meanwhile the Gods are watching closely above her. I found it to be evoking and rightly describe the game in a way of using dice. The components are colorful, love the way He did with the player boards, very colorful. And one distinctive element to keep note is the iconography throughout the game is very simple and unified, a very good achievement if I may say.

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The Game Components
Okay I will discuss the Tasty Minstrel Games as a reminder here since my copy is TMG version and not yet see or even compare it with Pegasus Spiele version. For me, TMG has better box art, the illustration has border-less frame unlike Pegasus Spiele version, but somehow I noticed it’s a bit thinner than most boxes. The components are good, nice thick map tiles and wooden pieces. I do think the God discs are too small that I would really want to, but then again if it’s bigger, the player board wouldn’t fit them all into the God advancement track, but I suppose you can always stack them.They provide stickers for monster and God tokens, which is very neat and good addition from the bland colored wooden pieces. I just wished the player board could be as good as Trajan in quality, which using thick board instead of thin one. The cards are not in linen finish, which is a bit of disappointment but most of games are using non-linen finish, which I don’t know if there’s a good reason to choose this over linen one. The dice are good, chunky regular dice but wooden, sadly. It would be way much better if using the same quality as Bora-Bora. The thing with wooden dice, they’re too light when rolled, and easy to get dirty.
The rules were poorly written (English), there are many various details got left behind and not many examples covering possible scenarios. And setting up the default map is very challenging.

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The Game Play
As already mentioned above, the goal of the game is to finish 12 tasks given and return to Zeus as fast as you can. The first player to do that, wins the game. So it’s definitely a racing game, bear with me, I do not like racing games (not games a bout racing, but more like a game that players race to win the game, my argument is that these two are different in principle). Players get the same tasks (types and number) but may be different in colors. They need to complete building shrines, statues, making offerings, defeating monsters to appease Zeus. The board laid out as one huge ocean with many islands scattered around.
Players will start their voyage from the center of the board (where Zeus figure is located) and will move their ship through out the board doing actions. Each turn of a player is broken down into several phases, Check Injury, Actions and Consult the Oracle phases.
A. Check Injury Phase
At the start of a player turn, He must check his injury cards, if he has 3 cards with the same kind (color) or 6 cards in total, He must pass his action phase and didn’t consult the oracle. He discard 3 of His injury cards. So it’s kinda important to keep your injury cards in check from time to time, and be wary not to lose the next turn because of this.
But if He has no cards, he gets 2 Favor tiles or 1 step advance in one of His Gods.
B. Action Phase
In this phase, the player carries out His actions, which come from oracle dice and an available oracle card. There are many possible actions that a player can choose from by using a die and there are actions independent no matter the die is or dependent based on which side the die shows. The actions unrelated to the side of a die are taking 2 favor tiles, take an oracle card, or look at 2 unexplored tiles. And the actions related to specific side of the die are below:
– Remove up to 3 Injury cards (of the same color / icon shown on the die)
– Move up to 3 spaces in the sea hex (the destination hex must be the same color / icon shown on the die).
– Explore an unexplored tile (and immediately get it’s reward, whether building a shrine or get it’s bonus) or place a shrine in an explored tile with player’s color.
– Load an offering cube to the ship (the color shown on the die must match the cube color) or unload the cube from the ship to a temple with the same color (also use die of the same color with the cube / temple).
– Load a statue to the ship (the color shown on the die must match the color of the statue) or erect the statue from the ship into the tile with matching icon / color as the die.
– Battle a monster (the color of the monster must match with the color shown on the die).
– Advance one of the Gods with matching color shown on the die, one step in the God’s track.
C. Consult The Oracle Phase
In this phase, the active player rolls His dice. The other players check to see if there are dice matching with their Gods in the advancement track above the clouds, if yes, that particular God(s) move one step forward. The Gods in the cloud (most bottom step) do not advance.
D. Titan Attack Phase
This phase only happened if its the last player’s turn. He roll the titan die and check the result. If the result is 5 or less and the players shield value is less than the result, they gain an injury card. If the result was 6, all players get 2 injury cards instead.


This turn is repeated until one player managed to complete the 12 tasks and return back to Zeus. Once that happened, complete the round until last player and check who wins the game. If there are more than one player managed to finish the game, player with the most oracle cards wins the game.


Battle Monsters
When players take an action to battle monster, they must defeat the monster with starting strength of 9, minus the player shield value. They roll a d9 and check if the result is equal or greater, they defeat the monster. If not, they fail and have to choose to battle another round or give up. If they want to battle another round, they need to spend a favor tile and the monster strength is reduce by one.
If players decide to give up or cannot go through another round, the battle stop and players do not get or lose anything (except the action itself). If they won, the monster was defeated and placed in the player’s board.
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Favor Tiles
Players can also spend their favor tiles to help them in their turns. Each favor tile can be spend to add distance when moving ship, but the ship must end movement in the same color of the die. Or players can also use the favor tiles to modify the die result in clockwise order based on the chart in player board. Players can also use favor tiles to help them fight another round when battling with monsters.
Rewards
Completing tasks not only take players closer to the goal, but each completed task provides players with reward that can help them in later turns. These rewards are fixed based on what kind of task is being completed. Each time players build a shrine, they can move  one of their Gods one step forward. Each time they defeat a monster, they can get one equipment from the available. Each time they erect a statue, they can get a companion card of the same color as the statue. Each time they make offering in the temple they get 3 favor tiles.
The Gods
During the game, players will advance Gods in their advancement tracks. Once a God is in the top most space, players can use it for it’s special effect to help them complete their tasks. Once used, the God token will reset back to the bottom of the track, which players need to advance again to the top so it effect can be used for the second time.
There are 6 Gods for each player, each with different ability. There are Poseidon (teleportation), Apollon (one turn wild dice and draw 1 oracle card), Aphrodite (discard all injury cards), Hermes (loading another statue into the ship), Artemis (uncover an unexplored tile) and Ares (automatically defeat a monster)
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Ship Tiles
There are also ship tiles, which a ship will be randomly / drafted / whatever you prefer, to each player. This ship tile not only provides a cargo slot for each player but also provides a different starting benefit or ability for each player.

My Though of The Game
First of all, before I spill out my opinion about the game I must point out that I do not like racing games and this game got all my doubts. But since it is a Feld’s, then I must try and hope He can deliver something different out of the stereotype racing game I dislike. So by any means, I bought a copy against my fear and tried the game anxiously. And wow, it’s not that bad as I feared. Okay, you may think there’s a catch in my statement, not that bad also means not that good. Well you are right, this is not the best of Feld and also not my favorite immediately. My first impression was kinda mixed with confusion for the rule book lacks of details and examples. My expectation was they could made it way much better. The map setup is a pain, short on example and hard to recreate. First obstacle in the game, getting the default map structure ready. But of course there’s no problem when you start creating map freely.
The game play is actually pretty simple and straightforward, aside from the fiddly rules and tidbit of restrictions but hey once you master all that and get onto the game halfway, you realize how easy it is. The essential thing in this game is observation. Feld has proven again to be one of the best and notable modern game designer over the past few years. His game design is very solid, stream-lined and excellently easy to digest. Just look at the use of the dice integrates perfectly not just with the actions but also to the game elements such as the map, gods, cubes, statues and everything. Multi-use of symbols became the important element in the game. Love this and I must praise Him for it.
The game play is simple, dice allocation, a group of 3 dice can be used for multitude of options. Of course there’s a luck of the dice, but many elements help to mitigate this.
It still a racing game, and I do feel the hopelessness in the last round, but one must say that playing this game is quite rewarding. Players can tinker their dice usages and timing to perform combos. The game also offers moderate player interactions from watching opponent plans and what they have in store for next turn and also outmaneuver your opponents with the same goal.
Like most racing games, its hard to catch the runaway leader, there’s no catch-up mechanic. But it is possible to win by tie breaker, which is not bad.

The Replay Value
Each game will mostly the same, with different outcome of course. Though setting up the map differently might affecting how you play it. You can change and customize the map to your liking but the golden rule is that the ocean tiles must be connected as a single large space. The different ships also make a difference but not that big I guess. After several plays I still want to play it again, a good one though the racing aspect of the game keeps me out for loving it.
dav

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Board Games, Dice Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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That Rush of Blood Up to Your Head

pic2439223_mdBlood Rage Review
Eric M. Lang is a great designer, no doubt about that. He has his own fans, to say the least. One notorious work He had done is Chaos in The Old World and damn, its so friggin’ amazing. I love it, not just because the theme, but the asymmetrical aspect of the game, the clever plays, interactions and full of conflict. “No offense, you’re just in my way” is something you recall it often when playing this.

So years after He designed Chaos in The Old World, He announced a new title that He claimed, shares the same concept but better than Chaos in The Old World. He even meant that it’s what Chaos should be. The game is Blood Rage, not published under Fantasy Flight banner but Cool Mini or Not, which was a potential publisher to be reckon with. The game was on Kickstarter and managed to amassed a great deal of pledges. So let’s join me to see what Blood Rage really is.
A reminder that what I talk about here is the Kickstarter edition, not retail, so expect some differences in components.

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What you get: Kickstarter Exclusives

The Theme
Blood Rage is a bloody game (you probably could guess it by its title). It sets in a Norse Mythology where Vikings believe in. Vikings go to battle, to win wars, come out victorious, plunder the glory or die in Valhalla in the name of Odin, their God. In this game, players take control over a Viking Clan (Raven, Wolf, Bear, Serpent) and try to appease the Gods so they will reward them with glory. The game takes place in the nine realms with Yggdrasil or The Tree of Life located in the center connecting those realms.

The Artworks
As you might already see, this game has many particular reasons why it’s so appealing, and one of them is the artworks, created by Adrian Smith. Smith is definitely one talented artist that could bring the illustrations and imaginations to life. His drawings are simply amazing, really evoking with the theme, setting and tone of it. Each character here is drawn very detailed and has its own persona or characteristic. Given by the theme and the clear visual cue about the game, I remind those who do not like images with horror and terrible looks, gruesome, dark, bloody and a bit of nudity, so not really a good choice for kids underage.

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Unboxing

The Game Components
This is for The KS version, with KS exclusive monsters. The most eye candy of all are of course its miniatures, with the total more than 50 miniatures.  Thanks to Kickstarter, each clan has 2 different poses for the warrior figures, so a bit of flavor and variant there. The monsters are excellently sculpted, they’re the ones that draw many attentions on top of the table, like Sea Serpent, Fire Giant or Fenrir (they’re big). And considering this is CMoN collaboration with Studio McVey, no surprise the quality is top notch. The board and cards are okay, wished that the player boards weren’t too flimsy but if they were thicker  the box wouldn’t able to fit them all. And speaking of the box, it’s just like the usual square box with more depth, due to the many components inside. The cover art is evoking, though upon close inspection, I did find the figure posed quite off. Aside from the box, there are two separate kraft-boxes inside the game box. These boxes are used to store all the miniatures inside. One for monsters, and one for units with plastic insert inside. Pretty cool to get things organized but unfortunately this also means more effort on setup and clean up. There are differences between retail and Kickstarter editions, which really shown in the components. Kickstarter editions have more monsters, plastic tokens instead of cardboard and also plastic figures for first player marker and the phase tracker, pretty neat things.

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The Monsters from Base Game

The Game Play
When you get a first look on Blood Rage, the visual presentation, some of you might think that this game is about hack and slash your opponents down to nothing. Just kill and destroy to win the game. This is where you are wrong. Aside from the visual, this game is pure Euro with a shot of direct conflict, not a regular Ameritrash (AT). The theme is strong, but when you strip them down, it has remarkable Euro feats such as drafting, area control and tableau building.
The game lasts for 3 ages (rounds), each age is broken down to several phases: God’s Gifts Phase – Action Phase – Quest Phase – Ragnarok Phase – Release Valhalla
God’s Gifts
The game is mainly divided into 2 major parts, this is the first. In this phase, players are given 8 cards, where they will draft until they have 6 cards. Discard the leftover cards and go to the next phase.
Action Phase
In this phase, from the first player and continues clockwise, players will take turns to do one of the possible actions (Invade, March, Upgrade, Commit Quest and Pillage). Before getting into the actions in detail, each player has a player board which contains spaces for upgrade cards, tracks for Rage, Glory and Honor points. Players will play upgrade cards to improve their factions, advance in Rage track to do more actions in each age, advance in Glory track to score more points  when winning battle and also advance in Honor track to increase their unit limit in the board. OK let’s back to Actions.
Invade – This is the basic action how to place units into the game board. In a single turn, player can take this action to place a unit (exactly one) into any unoccupied slot on the outer province (not in Yggdrasil, which cannot be invaded through basic action). Each province has different (and limited) amount of slots and once it’s occupied, no unit may occupy the slot. Invade with a unit costs rage points (the amount is usually based on the unit Strength,shown in the left top corner of the card / image) except if it’s a leader unit (the rest being warrior or monster units), which is free to invade.
March – If Invade is about adding units inside the game board, March is about moving units from one province to another. This is the basic way to move your units on the board. The cost is cheap, only 1 Rage to do a March, in which you can choose more than one unit in one province to move into another province (Yggdrasil also counts, so this is the basic way to move units into Yggdrasil). Yggdrasil is an area that is located in the center of the map / board (surrounded by all provinces), and it doesn’t have slots for units, there’s no limit in this place.
Upgrade – This action requires players to play an upgrade card from their hand. Upgrade cards are divided into several types such as warrior, leader, clan, monster and ship upgrades. Players play these cards into their board by spending Rage points shown in the left top corner of the cards. These cards is the core mechanic that make players have asymmetric powers one from another along the game progresses.
Commit Quest – Quest is one out of many ways to gain points. To complete a quest, players not only to do / achieve some sorts of condition or tasks but also they have to commit on the quest first. To do this, they have to have a quest card (from the drafting) and play it when taking this action (by committing the quest) and only then they can gain the rewards from completing the quest. But no worry, even if you cannot complete the quest, there is no penalty at all (aside from failing to get points), kinda weird huh? Well, the interesting part doesn’t lies in that reason. There are many things going on in this action, at first I thought there’s not enough incentives not to play quests or why not if there’s no penalty. The twist here lies on timing and situation, which in this kind of game, are very important things.
Pillage – One last action is Pillage. With pillage, players try to conquer provinces, and sometimes if there are other factions join in, it turns to battle. It doesn’t cost players rage point to do it, but the trick is the player must still have rage points. Pillage can only be done when the player has at least a unit in the questioned province and it’s still not successfully pillaged yet. When doing Pillage, other players in clockwise order from the pillager have the opportunity to jump in if, there’s still unoccupied slot in that province and They have a unit in adjacent province to spare. After that, battle happens (if there are 2 or more factions in the disputed province). The battle is simple, pillaging players must play a card (if they have any) from hand and reveal it simultaneously. They sum the strength of their unit and the strength value listed on the battle card played (only battle cards are counted), don’t forget to resolve the effect in the card if any. Player with the most strength wins the battle, gain the reward listed in the province, glory points and discard his played card. The losers, may keep their card and all their units are moved into Valhalla (destroyed).
This phase ends when all players have passed their turn. Then players must discard their hands down to 1 card.
Quest Phase
Now players check their committed quests, whether they fulfill the quest or not. If they fulfilled their quests, they receive the points listed and have to advance one step from one of the three tracks. Luckily, if you cannot complete the quest, no harm’s done.
Ragnarok Phase
During this phase, Ragnarok happens in the province shown in the progress board. All the units in that province are destroyed and sent to Valhalla. Seems bad, right? Well, not entirely bad if you want it, at least it compensates you with glory points for each unit dying in Ragnarok. This could be profitable for players, since the points for each unit dying because of it increase over age. So this could be a strategy to keep in mind, especially in the last age because there is no point of having units at the end of the game, why not make them give you points.

The game ends after the third age, which players tally up their scores based on their tracks (each track gives +10 or +20 points when reached the last or second to last place in its track. Player with most glory points, wins the game.

The game core mechanic is drafting, which is essential because the cards drafted will determine players’ actions and strategy. Players will build their factions by the cards they played, adding monsters into their faction and improve their clan or units. The cards in each age are different, they’re progressing in strength and also reward. This drafting requires players to know the cards first, what they can do and how they works with other cards to make better combos. So for new players, this could be a disadvantage but since everything will  be easier in the subsequent plays, I suggest do not worry about this, consider the first play as learning session.
The cards (or you can say faction progression / improvements) provide the strategy aspect of the game, meanwhile the deployment of units represents the tactical side of the game. This game is very tactical in nature, where you deploy units and when, really affecting the outcome of the game in a very big way. Even a small decision can make or break your plan. Units deployment is very important because it affects a lot more than you can imagine, the slots are limited, so first one get dibs. Players also has limitation of unit on the board and also rage points strictly limiting your options. Timing also takes a great part in this game, since placing units and pillaging will relate heavily on your opponents’ plans.

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Miniatures with plastic insert

My Thoughts on The Game
The game is great from many aspects, components, theme, the artworks and also the game play. At first this game had been compared with Chaos in The Old World, another game the designer made in the past (which also one of the greatest game ever made), even at some point the designer himself said that Blood Rage is the kind of game where He wanted Chaos in The Old World to become, this statement was really intriguing, but after experience it in person, I must admit that this don’t have that material to be on the same level as Chaos in The Old World, but make no mistake, it doesn’t  mean it’s bad and it doesn’t have better things than Chaos in The Old World itself. It’s a whole different kind of game. Chaos relies heavily in the asymmetrical aspect of each factions and this brings issue in the player count that leaves unbalance play. Chaos has such deep and clever play of cards and units throughout the map. Blood Rage has simple rules and easy game play and of course with shorter game length. The miniatures are top notch, better than Chaos, obviously.
While it presents with direct conflicts, Blood Rage doesn’t place the winning strategy winning battles, players may also pursue different strategies, this leads the game to have another interesting aspect, which is bluffing in the card play. “Sometimes losing is the best way” phrase really plays its part in this game.

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Aside from many goodness of the game, the game also has bad sides, which in my defense aren’t many. I thought the box quality is too thin given the weight of the components, the player boards and Age tracker are too flimsy thin, the cards aren’t in linen finish but that’s okay. The only big disappointment for me is the box is already too full to accommodate the expansions and fifth player expansions (you can put it all but need certain modification to the insert which already good enough for me and wanted to keep it that way).

Replay Value
To be honest, there’s not much replay value in the game, aside the different card plays and combinations. There is no variable player powers, the boards always the same, monsters in play can offers good variables but that’s also limited. All the cards are almost used in the game, so not many variability involved. Of course there are expansions, the God of Asgard and Mystics of Midgard which add game play variants. The rest lies in the player interactions and how they play.

dav

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2017 in Board Games, Euro Games, Kickstarters, Reviews

 

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My Top 10 Games from 2016

2016 is over and from it, there are many games that I’ve tried and yet to try. So in short, here are my top 10 of 2016 and some worth mentioned. The rank is of course, subject to change by play count and also different feel of the game and as time goes by, but at least this is my initial take based on my (first) experiences.

The Top 10
#1 Great Western Trail
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Okay, I heard good (if not great) things about this one. After I got and played it, I must admit that it’s quite over-hyped but agree, this one is good and worth to be in the very top of this list.
Why I like it?
Classic
This is modern Euro that has the classic feel shows in the presentation. The rules are somehow hard to chew but once you play it for the first time, you know what to do and straight-forward simple. There are many mechanics thrown into the game but surprisingly they work very well overall.
There’s a deck-building aspect in it.
A hint but not too strong to be considered as a deck-building game and doesn’t restraint players for building their deck cause there are still many ways to get points. In short, players do not have to totally surrender over the deck efficient and effective aspect of a deck-building game.
Rondel
Disguised in the player board, this one has rondel mechanic in it. Yes, the location spaces along the trail is one network or rondel system that becomes lengthy over time during the game because new locations will be added by the players. I could need a game with rondel in my collection and though this is not the usual rondel but better than none.
Engine Building in player board
The player board gets more interesting since players get to move some components from their player board into the game board in such interesting way. Players mostly score points and get instant benefit while improving their engine.
Clever use of objective cards
Players acquired objectives from the card display and put them their deck. These acquired objective cards are mixed together with their cattle cards, which will eventually be drawn into their hand and can be used in such an innovative way. Players are left with an interesting decision either to keep those objectives in their deck (while making your deck less-efficient in the same time) or play them to get the bonuses but must committed to complete them at the end or they will get penalized with minus points.
What I don’t like about this game?
Hmm, almost nothing. The components are good, though there was minor misprint in one of the player’s building tile (though a simple sticker should take care of the problem). The player boards should be thicker (as thick as the game board) and also has indentation to place all the wooden pieces.

#2 Yokohama
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Finally another heavier game (heaviest actually) from Hisashi Hayashi. I kinda like most of His game and this one is so beautiful (aside from the beautiful artwork from Ryoko Hayashi). Some said (including Rahdo) that the game design shares the resemblance with Stefan Feld designs (a point-salad game), and I must agree. Even this year, Hisashi Hayashi is more Feld than Feld himself.
Why I like it?
Heavy
At first the box and visual presentation of the box art surely gives you friendly and casual feel of a classic Euro with a location (city / country) name as its title. If it’s true then you were fooled, it’s unlike any of sorts, though the box art is remarkably compelling and relaxing. The truth, the game is quite complex. Though the rules are simple but there are many tidbits that players need to keep up for the first time.
As far as the eyes see
Ludicrous amount of ways to get points. Yes there are many ways to get points (really a point-salad game) even there are some double locations that serve that sole purpose to open more access through out the map.
Combos
After a while learning the game, you can figure out some interesting combo with chaining action and additional action together, also helped by abilities from technologies and bonuses.
High variable setup
There will be no setup like before. The game map setup makes it different each time you play, the location and how you build your resource processing engine is based on the game map. You need to be more efficient to move around and using your assistants to beat your opponents. And in addition, the technology card and award distributions are also different in each game.
What I don’t like about this game?
The modular boards are easily get moved and shifted by players though I understand that this is how the variable setup possible. And the cards, ugh the cards are too fiddly, placed on top of the modular boards and also technology cards are too hard to read (the texts are too small) especially from a player seat to the end of the table. If only they can come up with iconography solution for this. Table-hugger, yes the game takes a lot of table space. With card displays and huge modular boards with maximum amount of players, you get a busy tablecloth ready to be played.

#3 Terraforming Mars
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This offers a very interesting theme with science backing the theme and logic of the game. Immediately ordered it once I had the chance and played it straight out. The game is amazing, very intimidating though but rewarding with clever card plays.
Why I like it?
Really dig the science behind the theme
The theme is not very compelling for me, but for some reason the relevancy between game and real life science seems click (thinking of High Frontier or Leaving Earth for other examples).
Clever card plays
This definitely what makes the game shines. First of all this is naturally a card game. Many cards inside the game, and it offers different clever card plays along with a tableau engine building. In a game, all the cards won’t be played and sometimes the cards can be useless but sometimes can be very crucial. This reflected by the timing and compatible pairing with other cards (combos). So players need to adapt to every situation in the game and come up with the best solution to get the most points in the end.
Shiny metallic cubes
Okay, they’re plastic but seriously they still looks good and shiny like metals. I like to hold the biggest cubes in my hand, big cubes. Aside from the idea of same big size for all the cubes, I agree the different sizes makes it easier for color blind players.
Game flexibility
The end game relies on the players. There are three parameters to end the game and players are “semi-cooperatively” work towards that end. So in a way, players together is in control with the length of the game (which could also be the drawback in terms of unnecessary prolonging the game).
What I don’t like about this game?
Many. Yes, aside from the cards have heavy texts on them, makes it hard for players to read and prolong the game duration. And for new players, pretty much intimidating if they’re not omni or heavy-gamer people. The cards distribution can also felt unbalance.
The player board could be improved, to keep track the income track and the supply with the same components could turn your game experience a bit nightmarish if things turn sideways. Good thing that there’s a game trays for the player board (or should I say player mat?). The game length could be hard to determine because of the end game trigger, which based on players game plays.

#4 Scythe
pic3163924_mdThis one is one of the best, undoubtedly. You can see it on its Kickstarter project and how good the feedback is. Backed it myself and worth every penny. Stonemaier games has a very good reputation though relatively new in the hobby.
Why I like it?
Stunning artworks and immersive theme
Actually the game was purposely designed out of the beautiful and stunning artworks from Jakub Rozalski, based on His self-made universe of alternate world war aftermath. The scenes are jaw-dropping and awesome. One can own this for collection only and no one dares to argue. The game sets in a alternate history of world war where mechs were exist in 1820’s and there are some factions that want to seize control of the land. The factions not only shows different characteristic in appearances but also in abilities that affect the ways to play them.
Marvelous components
The game is heavy, literally. Many top notch quality components, as already known by it’s components quality, Stonemaier games didn’t kid around by chucking realistic resource tokens and metal coins, not to mention thick card board and huge enormous game board, and those mechs. Hands down, one of the best Kickstarter game projects.
Interesting game play
The rules seems intimidating, but once you break it down, it’s pretty simple and straightforward. It’s an engine building game with variable player power, area control, resource management, and semi racing game with interesting player interactions.
I love how the scoring works and the encounter cards also add a nice touch to the game theme. Battle doesn’t seems highlighted, so for Euro-gamers this should give a plus, direct conflict is down to minimum. So for those who expecting frequent battle, they might be disappointed. Though of course they can play it that way, it’s not guaranteed to be a winning strategy.
What I do not like about the game?
This is hard. Maybe my biggest issue is the game takes a huge table space, more if you use the collector’s edition bigger board. Also it’s better if players can accomplish more objective cards.

#5 The Oracle of Delphi
pic3302018It’s Stefan Feld new title, The Oracle of Delphi. Surprisingly in this game He didn’t make His usual point-salad game, this one is a racing game. Yeah, racing, surprised me. I do not consider myself as a Feld fanboy, but I do like and admire His games. There are many favorites among His games such as Trajan, Bora-Bora, The Castles of Burgundy, Amerigo, Aquasphere, The Name of The Rose and many more.
Most of these share the same feat, various ways to get points (point-salad). But not this one. In this game players need to appease Zeus by completing 12 tasks before anyone else. The player who completed those 12 tasks and managed to get back to the starting place, won the game.
I usually do not like racing game (Euphoria, Istanbul, Viticulture) so I am kinda pessimist with this one and did not get my hope high. Though I hope this could be like Lewis and Clark or at least as good as Automobiles for me.
So let see the summary…
Why I like it?
Stefan Feld
Okay should I admit that I might be a fanboy after all? Stefan Feld always counts something in my book. His games are awesome so far and truth be told in early days of my board gaming adventure, I planned to collect all of His games (though I’ve been lazy and distracted). So His name as the designer should be one of the reason why I like this game.
Dice Allocation
Yes, one of initial reasons why I like Feld was right after I tried The Castles of Burgundy. The dice allocation system is very clever and interesting (for me). What you can do with such dice really amazed me, and how He managed to mitigate the dice roll luck, the reason why I like dice games. And guess what this one also uses the same system and in addition, the dice are custom dice, superb.
The symbology and iconography
Okay, I do not know whether it’s Feld’s, Dennis Lohausen’s or the developer’s doing that makes it great but this game has such a clever implementation of colors / symbols in the game. Not only just to make players identify the elements in the game but also the various aspect or elements in the game are boiled down to these 6 colors / symbols. And extra, it’s color-blind friendly (bravo!).
Theme
Greek Mythology is one of the themes that makes me interested. So this one is interesting. Though I also think it’s lack of theme and quite abstract (most of His games are).
Rewarding game play
Actually aside from the racing game aspect, the game play is simple and quite fun. Okay Euphoria is fun and simple but somehow at the end of the day, its not really rewarding for me when lost the game. But this one feels slightly different. You can feel the excitement to complete task, moving around ship and matching the colors, tinkers with your dice and what combo you can possibly do with those God’s special abilities. So my verdict so far, its playable in the future. In fact, I already logged 3 plays in such a short time.
What I don’t like about this game?
I’ve experienced difficulties to set the map. Even there’s a pictured diagram for the basic map setup, it’s kinda hard to determine the shape of those map tiles because there are more then one kind (4 shapes and sizes). And Place Zeus in the center, what center? There’s no shallow in the center (at least not center, center if you know what I mean). And the cities should be placed in an equally-distant way (come one, it gives me headache). I also tried the random setup and it’s not easier (could be worse).
Racing game, as I already mentioned earlier, even the racing is not that bad, but if it’s not a racing game, it could be better for my taste. For example completing tasks gives you points (how many points is vary not on the type of tasks but the type of objects (monsters, statues, offerings or build shrines), this mean based on colors and each game it should be vary. I never favor a wooden die. Better other materials. Not really an issue but worth mentioned. I mean how good could this be if the dice are plastic or resin (just like in Bora-Bora) or whatever that is beside wood.
The Gods abilities and Ship tiles feel somewhat not balanced. I feel Ship tile that gives starting position on all Gods really overpowered. I also feel that Blue, Red and Yellow Gods are very useful throughout the game, unlike other Gods, which only used number of times for specific actions. But that’s just based on 3 plays.

#6 Word Porters
pic2948039_md This one is coming from Hisashi Hayashi, one of the few Japanese games that go international. His games are amazing and innovative.
I knew him the first time from Sail to India and then Trains. As these games are good, I started to check His other games and turned out His other games are also good.
And when I knew He has a new game with word as its main idea, well I like word games, so I immediately sold.
Why I like it?
Word Games

I love word games, and this looks a very nice addition aside from Codenames, Snake Oil and Dixit. The truth is, I think this is the successor of Dixit and Codenames combined. It shares unique features from both games.
Hisashi Hayashi
I don’t know from when I starting to like and hunt for Japanese games (maybe safe to blame Love Letter) and to be more specific, Hisashi’s games kinda always have special treatment in my eyes. So here it is, another Hisashi’s game that actually quite good and fresh.
It actually good
Turns out the game is very good. If you have second thought about this one because it looks similar to Codenames and Dixit altogether, well it has the same features but the scoring system is different and it changes a lot in the gaming experience. Since in Dixit you try to choose the one and in Codenames you play in teams, in this game you try to guess all other players. The feel is quite different (turned out it’s a big turnover) and it’s so exciting. So I still think it’s worth having in my collection (I own Codenames, Dixit, Spyfall and Snakeoil for your consideration).
There is a minor but essential deduction element in the game, which makes the game quite complex in meta gaming but not necessarily running the game entirely. So whether you use deduction or not, the game can still be fun.
What I don’t like about this game?
The only version is in Japanese though it has English paste ups in the BGG file section and the word cards have English translations, still hard to get this easily run smoothly. You need to get some efforts done, such as print the paste ups, stick it in the hint cards or use sleeves and insert it to the sleeves.
Also the English texts in the word cards are too small, it’s hard to read.
It shines with more players, the game can be played with 3-7 players, but with 3 or 4, is not as good as 5-7 players.

#7 Mask of Anubis
pic3104778_mdThe only reason I found this game interesting was the VR implementation into an analog game. Sounds and looks cool. It’s a Japanese game and not an easy one to acquire. I had to go to Japan to get this, though this was also available in Essen 2016 for a limited amount.
Why I like it?
VR Technology

Okay, technology implementation is always interesting. You can see many approaches from the likes of X-Com, Alchemist and such but this one is more interesting since it’s using our sensory and perception more closer. To play the game you need a VR goggle (which already included inside the game). The first time, you need to assemble it first which is not easy but I am sure everyone can do it.
The interaction is off the chart
In this game, it constantly demands interaction between players. Players need to listen carefully, explain clearly and work together to map the pyramid. It’s a very fun game to begin with, lots of talking, back and forth and getting things done. I also think it’s good for training your visualization skill (mapping it out in your head based on the description of your teammates).
Challenging with different people or group
since the main focus is people interaction and communication, it’s essential to have a good communication and interaction. But in order to do that, there are too many factors at play. Different people with different understanding, speaking skill and how their mind thinks really make this game challenging when played with different people. Though returning group find it easier from session to session due to teamwork and progressing communications.
A monster to explore
As you check on the maps (oh did I tell you about the app you need to install first before you can start to play this game?), there are many stages provide by the publisher, from easy to hardest. The difficulty is based on the scope of the map size. The bigger the map is the more points of view it needs. So, it’s rewarding in terms of game time. And also there also extra stage and time trial mode if you want to change the game mode.
What I don’t like about the game?
The VR goggle is kinda bit fiddly and fragile. You need to carefully use and store it if you want it long-lasting. The truth is you can always replace / substitute it with another VR out there (there are many cheap ones). The assembly instruction could be more helping and clear.

#8 Automobiles
pic2586265_md Another racing game, that I like. It’s about racing (Nascar) so definitely a racing game. Its a good game, quite thematic in spirit of the game.
Why I like it?
A racing game with racing theme
This really makes the game inline with the theme. A game about racing cars with a racing mechanic. So you can feel the atmosphere of speeding over your opponents and give them smoke!
It actually tense and satisfying
To get your car speeding away leaving your opponents behind or even make a come back by surpassing your opponents give a great satisfaction to anyone. Though in the end there’s only one winner, the game rewards you with some adrenaline along the race.
Bag building in it’s finest
Bag building is not a common mechanic used, it’s new and you can also find it in Orleans and Hyperborea (don’t know any other games that use this). But this one really works very good compared to those two (hyperborea too fiddly with the game map, while Orleans is too dry and bland). Okay the bag building also doesn’t important but that makes it good, its just a means, an engine for your car to beat others. So we need to make the engine better but the most important thing is the result. As long as you can beat your opponents or progressing you car as you expected, keep ’em coming!
Tweaking
You can try different or random setup for the cubes ability. So each race would not be the same. And there are 2 circuits to choose, which each has different characteristic that change how you race. So you can always tweak the game setting and feel it in different ways.
What I don’t like about the game?
Hmm, nothing in particular I guess. A good game without any flaw, oh well the box is too big because of the not so useful plastic storage.

#9 Railroad Revolution
This was my only blind buy in 2016 that turns out pretty good. My two reasons were because it’s from What’s Your Game? and its price was reasonable.
Why I like it?
What’s Your Game?

What can go wrong? Yes, they have been releasing good quality games so far. Well, Signorie and Zhang Guo are the least of my favorite, but still good games nonetheless. I like how they present their image and well also because Nuno and Paolo are with them (can’t wait for Brasil).
Simple rules
After reading the rules once, it’s quite straightforward. Easy to grasp rules and the actions are very streamlined. Its enjoyable and rewarding, though unlike my top favorite heavy games such as Madeira or Kanban.
Cool Worker Placement
Okay, actually it’s just a simple one, place a worker in an action, do the action and take a bonus. But the bonus depends on what kind of worker you use to activate the actions, different not based on the worker type but also on the action it’s used. Simple not really that innovative but somewhat fresh yet simple.
Why I don’t like the game?
One thing for sure, What’s Your Game? is notoriously known for its warped game board. Don’t know why they couldn’t make their folded board flat in the table. Encountered the same issue with Madeira and Nippon.
Another issue is the restricted actions, don’t get me wrong, but simple actions and set of rules intend to do just this. There are basically only 4 actions on a player’s turn and there’s nothing that a player can do outside that. So whether a player want to build a station, rails, telegraph office or trade, you need to do it. The only thing that makes them different is only the kind of worker you used to do the action. So the game is somewhat constrained in a specific length. Which not always a bad thing, just consider it as game rounds. Also the condition of player’s action is somewhat solitaire and there’s no blocking in the game. Of course there’s a minor element where player’s get the first bonus effects but that can be mitigated easily by playing the right worker in a certain action. The last thing is the iconography or maybe graphic design elements. Don’t get me wrong, Mariano Iannelli is a talented artist but from what I see with this one, He didn’t take this 100%, the icons were bit off, out of place and not really suitable. Just call it designer’s perception, but that is it. Not affecting the game play and surely won’t be matter to anyone.

#10 Covert
pic2744644_mdDice…. yes dice. Would love for a good dice game.
Many said that this game is good and couldn’t wait to try it.
Why I like it?
Dice allocation
is always interesting, the actions are blockable by dice value so you need to prioritize, so there’s a good decision and planning in it. After you roll your dice, you need to figure what are you going to do with those dice, checking other player’s dice results too.
Theme
Its a secret operatives / spy theme. You need to gather intel and travel around the world to complete missions.
Why I don’t like this game?
First, the dice roll is too random, you can plan it but there’s a time when you really really get a bad roll. Next is the code breaking, it’s fucked up. Getting first is important but the rest only luck left that you can break the code after other players messing it up.
There’s no modifier for general. Okay, there are some, but not easy one to get. If only it has same one like workers in Castles of Burgundy or something. Fixed action to spend dice to get modifiers.
The world map is kinda bit complex. it’s hard to find a location (though it’s already color coded. Also there’s an inconsistency in the iconography, I don’t know why they did not use the same icons.

There were also some games that worth mentioned, like these games below:
Quadropolis – As you notice, it has Days of Wonder’s game quality and characteristic. It has family-friendly value, easy to grasp rules and interesting play. The real deal is about set collection in a 9×9 grid tile laying game. There’s a small bit of worker placement but not quite a classic worker placement since the worker is more like a resource. This one is not really my taste just like their other games (though Five Tribes is on my collection).
Thief’s Market – Surprisingly good beefy filler, though the rules are simple and straight-forward. But the game’s hook is what make this one good. The dice distribution is really clever, players  are forced in position to decide how they take the dice in a clever way to achieve their goals.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game – It’s the card version of one of my most favorite games and though at first thought skeptically at it, it turned out OK, well yes not good because too simple for my taste. Good thing this is perfect if you want a fast game (30 minutes or under an hour) with casual friends, since it’s very simplified with the building types, restriction of tile laying and also small-generated points, strictly a set collection card game.
Waka-Tanka – A friend introduced this one to me and wow, we had fun. It’s a bluffing, push you luck game that could make your night with friends unforgettable. I consider this as a filler. An OK filler game with casual friends.
Dairyman – Got this one from Japan. It’s a very simple Yahtzee style of dice game. The interesting part is the decision offered to players whether they want to pursuit another risk to get bonuses based on partial stages in dice rolls. And the use of freeze tokens and additional red dice improve the game.

And also some that I really want to try, interested but still don’t have the time to try it.
A feast for Odin – It’s Rosenberg latest, another monster after Caverna. But what I do not like is the idea of Rosenberg’s games is really centered in the same idea, like it’s an improvement of some sort from the same game between Agricola, Le Havre and Ora et Labora.
Cry Havoc – A Blood Rage killer? Okay that’s way ahead of it’s head. Blood Rage is a beast and though it seems like one, I do not think it is. A good game maybe, I really interested in the conflict resolution system, which kinda unique. But still this is an area majority game in the core.
Inis  – Been hearing good things about this. It’s the new title from Matagot in the same line of Kemet and Cyclades. The cards are so beautifully represent Celtic’s art visual theme.
Vast: Crystal Caverns – One of those games that I really want to try. It offers a very unique game play and experience, a new level of variable player power. It’s a game where players have different goal, which change the way they play in the game. Sadly it’s hard to get and quite expensive, and lastly I do not know if it’s within my taste or not.
Cottage Garden – I love Patchwork and this one really tingles my love of it in a very different way. Patchwork seems mathy, this one seems a lot more fun and more space to move around. Would love to get this one.
Vinhos Deluxe Edition – I really want this one, since I wanted to complete my big box collection of Vital’s game, I alread had The Gallerist (and Kanban though it’s not in the same line). One said this game is the most complex of Vital’s games, so really interesting to see this one compared to Kanban.
Black Orchestra – The idea and theme sounds good and yes I love the artworks. Simple as that, though I do not know is the game really work or not for me.
Dream Home – Look at those beautiful pictures? Who could resist this one? In this game you build a dream home of yours by drafting cards as rooms, specialists or even tools. Definitely will pick this one once I have the chance.
Lorenzo il Magnifico – One of my most wanted list, the box cover is so stunning, though the in-game artworks are not. But hey, this is Euro and a good Euro is simply not based on it’s artwork. Been hearing good things about this one and definitely want to have.
Solarius Mission – Okay, this one lost against Terraforming Mars, but not totally, since I still want it even after I got Terraforming Mars. I do think my wife will prefer this over Terraforming Mars being it’s more towards classic Euro feel than TM.
Beasts of Balance – I’ve seen this on Kickstarter, though as much as I really wanted this, I did not back it due to the expensive price and a children game likely. Yes, this game helps children with their hand coordination and animal / shape recognition. Though the technology they used is slick! Would love to try or have it.
Fabled Fruit – A new mechanic in the board game world, fable. Not the same as legacy but it offers a progressing game in a series of sessions where players keep progressing the game even after several plays until the game run out of resources (in this game’s case it’s the cards). Unfortunately the cards have pretty moderate in-game texts.
Oceanos – Bauza’s new game with drafting mechanic (thinking 7 Wonders) but offers a new element of decision in it. Definitely will pick this one once available, already watched Rahdo’s runthrough and I fell for it.
Roll Player – The rare of the bunch. Its a dice game with role playing theme. And it’s so awesome. I really want this so bad but it’s hard to get. Passed on the Kickstarter because of the shipping cost. Hope I can get this game soon.
Ulm – The first impression I get when seeing this game is Pillars of The Earth, because of the 3D-like building components in the center of the game board. And it gives certain vibes of a good classic Euro, so nailed it.
The King’s Abbey – Actually already waiting for this for quite a long time, even before it’s released. Based on the description it’s a medium heavy game about building an abbey. Sadly I had to pass on this when I had to choose whether getting this or Domus Domini.
Legends of The American Frontier – Wow, just wow. This game was on my wishlist for a very long time. The Kickstarter project took a very long time to complete. I love the idea / concept about being a legionnaire and working their life career with various choices. Love the artwork too, beautiful. Sadly the high roll and price really kinda turned me off.
Round House – Finally got this just now and I am looking forward to try it. Rahdo said it’s good and it’s from the same designer of Burano (which I also want it). The rules seemed simple and interesting with rondel and worker placement.
Dragoon – I just interested on the game components, which are sick with metal dragons, cloth map and others. But after rules reading I thought it’s too simple for my taste.
Moonquake Escape – Damn I really want to get this, the components are very eye candy though I do not know how the game turns out and does my wife will like it or not judging by the game’s alien theme.

 

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60 Seconds Mapping

Mask of Anubis Review

When I visited Japan, this one was one of my top most wanted list, in which almost in the same time its available in Essen Spiel 2016. Kinda a hit during the last TGM (Tokyo Game Market) in 2016. 

The game comes using VR (virtual reality) technology, yes VR. The theme is that you guys are treasure hunters or maybe a team of archaeologists that visit pyramids to search something precious or historical. But getting into pyramids is not easy and the only thing you can get inside is through a hole that is not big enough for a person, but luckily among you is a trained cute dog that can help you to find the thing. But you need to navigate it through holes around the pyramid. 

The game can be played by 3-7 players by using a smartphone that compatible tof VR. You need to download a dedicated app first though the VR goggle is provided from the game (you need to assemble it for the first time). In the game, players will choose which map they want to play and then take turns to be the viewer using VR goggle and describe to other players what they see inside the pyramid (each player is given 60 seconds to examine and describe surrounding place, I believe you can adjust the length of viewing time in the setting). While the viewer is on VR goggle, the rest of players try to mapping the pyramid by using map tiles and other items (tokens) based on what the viewer describes. After the time ends, the players stop their activities and discussion is allowed after the viewer examine his team mates mappinh result. The next viewer takes the VR and repeat the same process with new vision. He/she will start in a different spot, which gives players different perspective of the map. After all players complete the viewing time, they will have to combine all the perspectives together to make a single complete map of the pyramid and check if their team-made map is the same with the real map. If its a match, they are success and managed to unlock extra stage of that map.

The app provides many stages with different levels of difficulties and also different viewing times. Its quite interesing aside from the normal mode, there’s also a time trial and an extra stage in each map. So its a long road to complete all of them and the developer can also publish updates with more map contents easily through the app, except the tokens and tiles.

The game is really fun, suitable for children, family and friends altogether. The first experience may be hard and several tries are needed to get used to (aside for viewing the map) communicate with your team. With more experience and plays of the same group, this game rewards more quality play over time since players will get to know more of each other and how to communicate with each players. 

So enough with the good words, how about the bad? Well for one the mask / VR goggle is quite hard to assembly and also has a quite thin card board quality. After several plays I am a bit concer that the mask is quite fragile. I even bought a new VR cardboard but even that is not a good quality. My other issue with the game is that even they thought about how to store the game (I mean the Mask) its kinda tiresome and reluctance to strip down the mask (even not strip the whole thing) and store it inside the box. 

 
 

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When Dixit and Codenames Have a Baby

Word Porters Review
I love word games, yes there’s a time when scrabble gave me such satisfaction, but opposite to others. So no great Scrabble moment there. Then word games came to mobile, what a time killer. But sadly I did not really commit to it. Right after I jumped into the board game hobby, word games found a place in my heart, though there are few. 

First, there is Dixit, a family game that centers in a story-telling element. Player trying to guess a card that described the story or clues given and in the same time choose their card that really resembles so other players can guess theirs. The hardest part of Dixit is of course how to find the perfect story that you can share to others without revealing so much. Aside from good and amazing illustrations from Marie Cardouat, this family game suffers from this story-telling problem that leads to player giving only a single word as a clue. 

Then Codenames came out recently with such a bang. The game took us by amazement until we have no words left to say. In Codenames, players play in te which one play the role of master spy and others are the spy agents trying to figure out which secret / codenames that their team have by code-breaking the hint their spy master provide. This is damnly fun and enjoyable. I was hooked instantly. 

But then, a Japanese game from Japanese game designer came out and show a new approach to this kind of genre. The game is Word Porters by Hisashi Hayashi from Okazu Brand. So what differentiate this game from others? Actually this game really similar like Codenames and Dixit combined. There are word cards (as seen in Codenames) laid out in the table (10 to be exact) and hint cards by categories randomly drawn based on the number of players in the game. Players will then randomly given a number card (secretly) that tells what word they have from the table. With this in mind they will take turns to the best they can assign tokens to hint cards so others can guess the word of that players. 

The game can be played with 3 to 7 players. Nice player count for family or party game with friends. It also plays in 30-45 minutes, so not long to get another shot at it after first play. The game is on Japanese, but not to worry, they provide English paste-ups to download. My biggest issue is on the word cards, they have English translation but its too small, hard to read from across the table. They could have been larger, definitely would improve a lot.

So what makes this one different than Codenames and Dixit? Well, unlike Codenames, you do not play in teams, and unlike Dixit, you try to guess other players’ words not just one, and trust me that is really exciting. And what make this little game clever is the deduction element that really really interesting. It is hidden in plain word guessing game. In this game players get 3 hint tokens with numbers 1 – 3. At their turn, they place their lowest number they have in one of the hint cards that describe their word. If the card already has a token, they need to place number 3 token below their token. So with this, others can check the priority of the choice. Its also about reading players and hey you can also learn English on the way (or Japanese). 

Another minor issue is that sometimes the hint cards are not matched or perfectly suitable with the words, but that can be define as challenging.

You can play this with 3, but in my opinion the game really shines with more players or max player count.

So if you are into word games, fun party game with guessing something, this can be a nice choice to try. Though its not easy to get.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Card Games, Reviews, Word Games

 

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Survival Has A New Name

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The Grizzled Review
Okay, just bought this recently and I already logged many plays over this one. So what is The Grizzled anyway? Truth be told The Grizzled is a cooperative game (yeah, I don’t like coop games, but this one is among the exceptions) that sets in the first world war timeline, where a bunch of village men (from France) were forced to take arms and go to war against their will. They promised that if they survive the war, they will get back together to their village. In case you don’t know, this one is based on a true story, historical! The game was published by Cool Mini Or Not (which is unusual for them to release a game without minis, hey it only has cards and some tokens) around 2015 and has garnered quite worldwide attention (a positive one).

The Theme
As you already know from the above description, The Grizzled set in WWI timeline, where some group of village men in France were forced to go to war. They had no choice, but fought for survival, not about winning the war, but how to stay alive together until the war ends. This story was told from the characters themselves, surviving the horror of life called war. And the game recreates that story, which they described as a living hell. In the game players will take up one of the roles of the characters, fight to survive alongside their teammates. They must survive until peace comes or one of them die before then or they lost their morale.

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The Artworks
Simply authentic, since the game was adapted from famous graphic novel, it also used the same talent, Tignous. I did not familiar with the name, though maybe Europeans or French might. But whoever Tignous is, his works are amazing, the style is very fit to represent the era and situation. Warm but rough that represents familiarity and the hardship during war. Sadly, he had passed away in the Charlie Hebdo shooting, may he rest in peace.

The Game Components
Nothing special I must say, though the small box really suitable to say the least. The cards are good, with nice linen finish, but I advice to sleeve them since you will be required to shuffle them often. The tokens are good enough, no complaint. They also provide a square game aid board for reference but not that is really necessary. They also provide a stand we for leader player, a nice addition, though also unnecessary.

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The Game Components

The Game Play
The Grizzled is one of those co-op games that shares partial information to the players, keeping them unknowingly about the situation of other players’ hand aside from what is on the table. Though not knowing other players’ hand, players can figure out some clues along the way, which I must say this one requires more subtle and advance deduction and card-guessing than games like Hanabi or The Resistance (well no bluffing though).
In the game, players will undergo missions and working together until peace is resolved (there are 25 cards form a trial deck on top of the peace card, they will removed these cards so that peace card is revealed and they win). The restriction is that no one get killed or before their morale runs out (which is a morale card beside the trial deck with some cards on top of it). These cards are their morale indicator, when the cards in this deck run out, they died.
At the start of the round, the leader will declare the mission intensity, which is how many cards that each player will be dealt from the trial deck. More cards they deal the faster they go towards peace, but more difficult to finish the mission.
Then starting from the leader, each players take an action. The action could be playing a card from their hand, using their lucky charm or speech token. Playing a card from the hand could be either playing a threat card (cards with threat symbols) to the No Man’s Land (center of the table) or playing a hardknock card beside their character card.

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Using A Speech Token

When playing cards to the center of the table, players must play a threat card, nothing else. Threat cards are cards that consist of one or more threat symbols on them (there are 6 threats, Whistle, Mortar, Gas Mask, Night, Snow and Rain). These threats represent obstacles that the group has to overcome through the mission. If at any time there are at least three threats of the same kind present in the center, the mission is failed.
Aside from playing cards to the center of the table, players can play cards toward themselves, which is to sacrifice themselves by playing trauma or hardknock cards. Trauma punishes the group by adding virtual threat (depicted on the card) as long as the player is active on the mission, while hard knock punishes the group / player during mission in many ways.
Another actions are using a speech token or lucky charm. Players can spend a speech token they have to get rid of cards from their hands that share the same threat that they declare. Very handy but speech tokens are limited, so not to be used carelessly.
For lucky charm, each character has their own lucky charm preferences. Players can use their lucky charm (once) while their character card is still face up. Once used, the card is flipped face down and the lucky charm cannot be used again until they flipped it face up again in later turn.
If they cannot or do not want to play an action, they must or can withdraw from the mission. When withdrawing, they play a support tile (if available) face down and will no longer take part in the current mission. This means they do not take another turn and also their hardknock and trauma cards do not take effect.

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Samples of Threat Cards

The mission is over if it’s completed or fail. Players completed the mission if all players have passed. In other hand, they failed if there are 3 or more threat icons of one kind present in the center of the table. Failed mission is not the end, it just makes the road to peace is further away, which lead to morale drop. Check support tiles, the player who receives the most support tiles this round will get the benefit to either remove 2 hard knock cards or refresh their lucky charm. If they failed the mission, the player only able to remove 1 hard knock card and cannot refresh their lucky charm.

After support phase, there is a morale drop. Each mission the group will always remove 3 cards from the morale deck and place it on top of the trial deck. If the sum of cards in players’ hands more than 3, for each excess card, players add a card to be removed from the morale. If the morale deck runs out, the group lose the game.

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Sample of Hardknock Cards

My Thought of The Game
I think the game is very refreshing, unique but stays simple and easy to learn. You can explain the game in 5-10 minutes and start playing the game. The game also plays quite fast, 15-20 minutes per game and you can play back to back if you have more time. I usually don’t enjoy cooperative games (mostly because of the decision making and alpha male issues) but this one is different, players do not share all the information and they were kept in the dark about other players’ hands. I like the simple idea by playing cards with symbols on it, and the catch is easy, they failed the mission if there are 3 symbols of one kind present in the game. This is a controlled situation (mostly) since they have full control what cards to play (aside from the trap effect). So given the situation, there are many times that players were forced to play bad cards to themselves or withdraw even they still have cards in hand.
The interesting part is they need to determine how they treat the missions, either they want to reach the peace in a hurry (but risky) or keep calm and do small steps. This is interesting since players cannot just fooling around since there’s a morale deck that keep on reduced on each mission. But if players rushing it in, the difficulty rise up. So they need to find a way to keep the balance and survive. Yep I haven’t told you before about it, the game is about survival. And the game play really reflects that in many ways.
I just like how they integrate such a small and simple game into a theme with strong flavor and very immersive from it’s characters’ point of view. I find the game to be relaxing and fun playing with friends or family (nope, never try with family before) disregarding the theme context of war. It’s about survival and nothing is bad from that.

dav

Sample of Trauma Cards

Replay Value
I don’t think there’s many replay value in the game, but of course since the beginning the game is not really that easy to win, so players will struggle to take up on winning and with different players, there are different feels. But the good thing is that there are some modules and variants to keep you entertained for some time, enough until any expansions released (wait, there is an expansion). The expansion will greatly add replay value to the game, haven’t tried it yet but looking at the preview, it surely damn interesting.
In fact the game’s difficulty can be adjusted, though I am sure the default difficulty is hard enough, it’s good to know that even if you and your friends beat the game at default difficulty you can step up on the game with harder ones (moving cards from morale deck to trial deck).

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Characters that you can play in the game

 

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Card Games, Reviews

 

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You Can Get Choked Drinking This Potion

dav

Potion Explosion Review
Warning, choke hazard, if you drink any potions on the game! They come in marbles, colorful marbles (okay only four colors, but still…)
Potions do explode, which based on my experience, I know none of this thing, never ever I brew a potion, worse make it explodes. So, when a potion explodes, what that leaves us, a good thing or not? In this game, explosions are always good if it’s your turn. Others, not so much. The game is about making potions (that’s obvious). The game had been on my wishlist since last year, which the game had made it’s debut in Essen 2015. Finally I got the game from an online store in Italy (it’s an Italian games, so that explains), which I gave up to wait for English version, and got the Italian instead.

What made me drawn into this game anyway, aside from the marbles? Well, the marbles, I mean the dispenser (they call it that) that hold all the marbles looks spectacular from my seat or anybody’s. The dispenser is unique not also in form and shape, but also how it works. It holds all the marbles and can slide them over for game purpose, so a design with purpose is always a plus on my side. Plus the game play seems simple enough to produce fun with casual friends (when I don’t do heavy Euros but need something to occupy my time around 60-90 minutes).

The Theme
This is very abstract, so don’t expect much but it’s theme is applied perfectly. Players are chemistry students learning about the reaction of mixing potions. Now the test begins and they will compete with each other to prove that they’re the best among many in front of the professor. Player with the most points at the end of the game wins the game to be the most talented student of the professor.

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Inside the Box

The Game Components
Marbles (of course), the dispenser, some tokens and potion tiles. The marbles come in four colors (blue, red, yellow and black) and the colors are not solid, so they are kinda different from each other. The game comes with two extra marbles for each color, substitutes if you lose a marble or two, a nice gesture from the publisher. The potion tiles are fun to look at, colorful, but a bit thin than it should, but then again, if its thicker than it is, the pile would be very high and won’t fit into the inserts. Sadly the holes in the potions weren’t cut perfectly in place, many misses that some OCD players will find them annoying. The marble dispenser need to be assembled for the first time, and it’s quite fragile, so glue it down is a good solution, since you can store the assembled dispenser back into the plastic insert (yes they provides a very useful insert) without the need to disassemble it again. One last thing is, the box quality is not very good, I own the first Italian edition from Ghenos / Horrible games and it’s kinda thin, flimsy and easily torn, luckily the game is not that heavy.

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Playing The Game

The Game Play
It’s very simple, on your turn you must take one marble (ingredient) from the dispenser, and you take any explosion caused by your action (2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other and explode). These marbles go into your hand and you must allocate these marbles onto your available potions (which you will always have 2 in your brewing desk) based on the matching color. When a potion tile is complete (all the slots are filled with matching marbles), you flip it face down and remove it from your brewing desk and return all the marbles on it back to the dispenser.
This complete potion can be consumed (aside giving you points at the end of the game) to gain it’s effect (which could be varies depends on the potion types). Once you consumed it, you turned it upside down to remind that you already drink it.
You also can (once per turn) ask help from the professor, which allow you to get additional ingredient from the dispenser (but keep in mind, no explosion will happen even if 2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other) to help you finish your potion during your turn, but of course it’s not free, you must take a -2 token which will count against your points at the end of the game.
You can also get achievement token by completing 3 potions of the same type or 5 different potions. Each achievement token will give you 4 points at the end of the game, and these achievement tokens also what trigger the end game aside from the available potions from the pile. So once the game end is triggered, each other players will have one final turn, including the player who triggers it.

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Brewing Dry Potions

My Thoughts
It’s a very fun game, light and easy to play. What you do is take a marble and see the magic from marble explosions. Then try to complete your potions, maybe with the help of the professor or your own arsenal of potions. Though its quite straightforward, there are some way to arrange your moves to get the best chain combos outcome, timing is essential. Either by asking help or using potions in the right time can change the outcome  of your actions big time. Because of this reason, some might found this game prone to AP players. Personally I take this game as it is, a light game that you can play with your family, non casual gamers and other friends who thinks winning is not the real purpose but to have a great time playing and seeing marbles explodes (not literally). I found the game to be very easy (or not punishing) since you still count the points from completed potions even if you already consumed it for its effect. I think you can try the game without counting the points from used potions, that could be more challenging.
Talking about practical time for setup and tear down, I think this one has a problem (at least for me), since preparing the game is kinda fiddly and long when it comes to sort all the potions when you randomize potions to use in the game. There’s no other way, you have to choose either take more time to setup or more time to tear down. Or maybe you can play it with all the types (in which I don’t know how it affect the balance of the game).

Replay Value
The game comes with 8 different kind of potions and you only play it with 6 potions, so 2 random potions won’t be in the game. Aside from that, there’s no other element to add the replay value.

dav

8 kinds of potions

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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