RSS

Scrabble Reinvented

pic2510971Letter Tycoon Review
As you already know by now, I am a fan of Word games though there are not many good word games out there. Scrabble was fun but I found that the tactical placement on the grid really turned me off back in the day. The fun of word game lies in crafting those letters into words. But apparently, too many rules or restrictions put me not really like it. You know the feeling, when you found great word from your letters but apparently you short of 1 square of space or even it touches the side of another letter that really screw your word, it’s maddening. Now Letter Tycoon from Breaking Games, designed by Brad Brooks, is something else entirely. It shares the same game principle with Scrabble, but omit the use of the game board. Instead it uses cards for the letters and players need to assemble those cards into a word.

The goal of the game is to get the most total points from Stocks, Coins and Patents when the game ends. The game ends when one player managed to get a total sum value of letter patents (varied based on number of players). On player’s turn, they play cards from their hand to form a word and they can also use some or all of the three cards available in the middle of the table. The word created will be score based on the amount of letters used for the word. The longer the word is, the bigger the points are (and more stocks). After that, the player may buy one available letter patent that they use to form the word. These patents have different value and represent cost to buy them and points at the end of the game. Some patents have passive abilities that can be used by the owner, but all of the patents give the owner money from the bank each time they’re used by other players to form words.
Before a player’s turn ends, they decide which card they want to discard from their hand and then refill hand back to 7 cards. The cards in the middle of the table are also refilled back to three.

pic2592717

Now, it is possible that words the players make is not really correct words and not exist. To solve this problem, players can challenge the active players once he made a word from the cards. If this happened, they check the word through a dictionary (decide which one they should use to settle the conflict) and if the word did exist, the challenger need to pay 1 coin to the bank. But if it turned out that the word did not exist, the active player must take back the played cards (return the factory card back) and then discard one card from his hand. He end his turn and refill back his hand.

I like how the game really works, the flow is smooth and fast-paced, unless you have trouble to form word from those letters. I love the freedom to create words from the cards in your hand and also from the three cards on the table. It always a fun game for me, though luck also plays a great deal on the game. The letter distribution can be a let down, since the cards are discard and won’t be coming back to the deck before it rans out. So if it obvious what letters are all used up, they won’t be on the deck and you won’t get it soon. I also like how interesting the patent abilities, they’re powerful and it can change how you make your words. Players also choose to buy which patent that will be the most useful to them, letters that frequently used (mostly vowels) and higher card count are usually more expensive. Getting them early in the game could prove to be useful for the players because higher chance for other players to use them more often.

pic3640936

The game can be played with 2 players and up to 5 players, it usually lasts around 30-60 minutes. For me, I can play the game back to back several times. It hits all the sweet spots and turned out it solve the Scrabble issue. Of course one issue left is about the word difficulty. As each letter in scrabble provides value depends on the letter frequency used in words, there are some clever play to use great combination of letters in your words, which making long and hard word really paid off. In Letter Tycoon, there is no such thing, that’s why this game is casual friendly and suitable for family games, children and adults alike. It doesn’t reward players to make difficult words but instead rewards players to play longer words.

The components are nice, simple linen cards though it feels a bit flimsy than average. The coins are wooden and have printed value (nice) with solid color difference between the ‘3’ value (black) and ‘1’ value coins (beige / natural). Stock tiles are made from card board and only used during the final scoring. Basically stocks give you extra point but cannot be used for anything else unlike coins. Players collect stocks when they at least create a 5 letters word or more. There is also a plastic zeppelin marker as the active player marker, though I never used it every time I played the game.

This game is one of five games that won a Mensa Select Award in the year 2015 which also the same year it was released. Mensa Select is an annual award given by American Mensa since 1990 to five board games that are “original, challenging and well designed.”

pic2510976

All images are taken from BoardGameGeek, full credits to the owners.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Board Games, Card Games, Reviews, Word Games

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Life of A Treasure Hunter in the Deep Blue

pic3169827Deep Sea Adventure Review
So you are a group of treasure hunter (either poor or cheapskate) who rent a single submarine for all of you in your quest to dive into the deep blue sea and find sunken treasure. You are playing Deep Sea Adventure, a game from Oink Games (Japan) where taking risk and pushing your luck is the key element to win the game (or not). Continuing the line of small / pocket-sized games from Oink Games, Deep Sea Adventure comes with a very thematic background and an interesting one at that. The game comes with 2 six-sided wooden dice (the pips value ranged from 1-3), submarine board, tokens and wooden diver markers for players within a small box.

The Theme
In this game, 2 to 6 players take the roles of cheapskate / poor (whatever man) treasure hunters that rent a submarine to go dive into the deep blue see to find sunken treasures. Now the thing is, because they’re poor and/or cheapskate, they cannot afford to rent a submarine by themselves, so they rent it together and go diving.

The Game
In this game, players will take turn to go dive deep into the sea in three rounds. Each player (starting from the first player and clockwise) rolls 2 dice and check how many spaces they go down into the sea from the submarine (The movement doesn’t count spaces occupied by other players). When they stop movement, they have to decide whether they want to take the tile where they stop or not. If they take it, place a tile marker below the player marker and take the treasure tile (treasure tiles have 3 different shape that defines the sea depth). The deeper it goes, the higher the treasure will be. At the start of their next turn, each player must check whether they have a treasure tile in front of them or not. For each tile that the player has, they must subtract one from the oxygen track of the submarine for each stack of treasure that player has. And then before they move, they have to decide whether they want to go deeper or back head to the submarine. They can of course drop their treasure once they end their movement during their turn.

pic3879862

If they reach back to the submarine before the oxygen runs out, they survive and may keep treasure tiles they acquired that round (they may check the value of the tiles). Players who do not reach the submarine when the oxygen runs out are out of the game and their tiles are left on the last space of that players. The next round begins after the spaces are organized (empty spaces are removed and the tiles are gotten shorter). If there are more than one tile in a single space, players can take all of them in a single turn and it still counts as one stack when reducing oxygen. Player with the highest total of treasures win the game.

pic3417367

My Thought of The Game
I have a mixed feeling with this game. It surely fun and full of hilarious reactions. it shows how greedy you are. The game is truly really simple, on your turn you decide (up or down) and roll dice, that easy. What makes the game hard is, as collective players have to determine what decision each of them should take in order to get into the surface safely (and better if you can snatch a treasure or two). But life is not that easy, the reason why lots of things in the world are not working because of someone else, has his own idea of how things should be. And all (if not) must pay the price. After the first round I can guarantee someone would start cursing on another, it was fun, hilarious and full of crazy moments (stressful not getting anything by the end of the round). In the end, player who is clever enough to get away while other players squabble, would end up winning the game. This is a push your luck game, you try to play safe and get away as soon as possible with the smallest reward, will regret that decision if someones get bigger reward than you even he got up after you. So this mixed dilemmatic feeling will haunt players throughout the game and they will of course not let other players get away with anything. “If I go down, all must go down” is what lies in their mind. Regardless how fun the game is, I must admit, this game has a table life, at some point, playing this game over and over again will tire you out. It would turn the game flat and boring cause it moves in static, every game will feel the same. So I guess the game is good once in a while with the perfect group who don’t mind a bit of take that and luck for their 15-30 minutes.

pic3065016

Note: Images are taken from BoardGameGeek and full credit to its owners.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Board Games, Dice Games, Microgames, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Inside Trading Goes A Long Way

pic3678411Startups Review
I am a fan of Oink Games (Japan), their game collections are so fun, easy and compact. I came to know their games from Deep Sea Adventure, which a friend brought to a game day and played it several times, in short we had fun. Since then I am collecting their games and most of them redefine micro / pocket games out there. Startups is one of them, it was released on 2017 and reimplements Rights (which is another older title from Oink games, 2015). I also had tried Rights before but in terms of visual appearance, Startups definitely has friendlier atmosphere. The game also comes with the same uniform small pocket-sized box like most of their games and the games artworks are stunning, truly reflects Japanese approach in visual arts, colorful, simple, straight-forward and unique in the same time.

pic3774476

The Theme
In Startups, players will invest in startup companies and try to win big (profit) from those companies. As like Startups companies do, there’s nothing certain about their business, their business can go boom or not, depend on the market. Invest in the right companies can lead you to big pay out or the opposite. The game comes in 6 different companies shown by color differences and fictional names and logos. You can find unique names and logos such as Octo-Coffee, Giraffe Beer, Flamingo Soft and others.

The Game
Startups can be played from 3 up to 7 Players and lasts roughly 10-15 minutes. The game comes with a deck of cards that consist of 6 sets of colors (companies), with each color has different amount of cards based. For example Hippo Powertech (green) has 9 cards (all of the cards are the same) while Bowwow Games (blue) has 6 cards (the amount is ranged from 5 to 10). Aside from the cards, the game comes with currency markers, let say these are money chips. Each player will get 10 money chips with white side face up (with 1 value) and dealt 3 cards from the deck. Then there are 5 cards removed from the deck (this is done to assure that in each game there’s at least some sort of hidden veil to the card distribution). Starting from the first player (and clockwise), each player must take a card and then play a card from their hand.

pic3911577

Taking a card can be done in two ways (from the draw pile or from the market). In the first turn, the starting player can only take a card from the draw pile since there’s no card in the market area (the area around the draw pile). What complicate things is, once a player has the most card of a single color (company), that player monopolize that company shares (he is given the anti-monopoly token of that company) as it’s major / main shareholder. As long as that player has this token, he cannot take card of the same color from the market area and doesn’t pay chip to cards of the same color in the market area when he want to draw from the pile. When another player outmatch him with cards of that color, the token will be pass into the new player.

A card can be played from hand into two places, in front of the player as stock or to the market area. Playing a card in front of the player means that player add one card as a share of that color to his possession. While playing a card to the market area means that player release a company share to the market and can be acquired by anyone else without the anti-monopoly token of that color. The thing is once there’s a card in the market area, players have to pay one chip per card in the market area if they want to draw a card from the pile, unless the player has the respective anti-monopoly token.

The game ends right after the player who draw the last card from the pile have played his card. All players add all of their cards from hand to their collection of shares. Evaluate each company anti-monopoly token (if there are more than 1 player who have the most cards of a company, no one gets the token). Players with anti-monopoly tokens get 1 chip for each card of the respective company from other players who also own / invest on that company. That chips are flipped out to the brown side (shows number ‘3’ instead of ‘1’) to show that their investment has come to fruition. If no players have shares of that company, the owner do not get any payout. Total the chip amount they have and player with the highest point wins the game.

pic3474525

My Thought of The Game
This game is brilliant. It is so simple and complex in the same time. The game plays very fast, the ruleset is very simple but there are several things to consider that seemed unusual for new players to click on right away. This is the kind of game that needs to be played at least once for players to realize how the game flow really works. In short, there are 6 companies in the game, each company have different amount of shares that can be acquired. You can randomly get a share or take a specific one. Once you already have monopoly of a company, you cannot get more from market (the specific way) and can only get more randomly. Investing in a company share is always risky even if you have inside trading (the cards in your hand), but ain’t all of them is a risky business? In order to win big, you need to risk something big. You need pay out, but you have to decide which company will give you the most lucrative one with the least efforts and risks. Getting all out in a company is not always a good thing, cause it would probably scares your possible shareholder away, without opposing shareholder your shares means shit. So sometimes its better to wait or play slow in order to trap potential shareholders. The company have grades, i like how each company has different amount of cards, it offers variety / constant struggle between opportunity and risk. Company with more cards give you flexibility, higher probability to get it, but it also has bigger risk cause it also applies to other players. I found that the game has nice interactions, you will constantly check other players and see what cards they place and place them where, these are so important to decide what you should do. What I like about this game is that the game has a strong theme (although it’s not really a favorite among players) and it has a WOW element that players can quickly pick up right from the first play (the type of game that players need to play it firsthand before they get the big picture). And for me, this kind of game is definitely worth to play and have. Though the problem with any small game, it has low replay value because it feels the same in every game and with repetitive plays the game will turn stale in a short time. But the game also has a multiple round variant, where you can play the ‘long’ game. I have not play that variant yet, so I cannot comment anything about it.

pic3911606

Note: Images are taken from BoardGameGeek and full credit to its owners.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Board Games, Card Games, Microgames, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Word is Not Enough

pic2582929Codenames Review
I always have a knack for word games. there are actually good and decent titles out there and this one is one of them. Codenames is definitely one of the best party game out there with words as its main element. Designed by Vlaada Chvatil, you wouldn’t believe or realize this is one of his works, cause He is just that random. After came up with Space Alert and Galaxy Trucker, He shocked us with interesting complex game of Dungeon Lords and Dungeon Petz. Then a great game appeared, Mage Knight, out of nowhere and we took a deep breath. It is such a great game along Through The Ages and then He designed Codenames. It’s a bit downhill from expectation but not that it’s a bad thing. We just didn’t see this coming.

pic2887128Codenames is a game about partnership, players play in two teams. One of them from each team will become the Spymaster, who will give clues to their team members what keywords are belong to their team in 5×4 grid word cards spread over the table based on the current key card. The game components are, of course mostly consists of cards. Word cards, Spy Cards and there’s a sand timer to keep the game reasonably on time. The goal is to successfully guess all the team’s codenames while in the same time trying not to mistakenly guess opponent’s codenames or the assassin. Teams take turn to give a shot guessing the clue given by each Spymaster. The clue must consists of a single word and a number of codenames available. Team members must guess the codenames one by one, with each being checked by the Spymaster. Each correct codename is marked with the team tile (color coded) if it’s correctly guessed. If it’s not, the codename is placed with either a bystander tile or the opponent tile. If the team incorrectly guess the codename, their turn is immediately over. If they get all the codenames correct, they have a chance to guess one more (based on the previous clue or maybe they’re feeling lucky to have a shot in the dark). If one side has all their codenames guessed (either by them or accidentally by opponent team), that side wins the game. Or if one team accidentally guess the assassin codename, that team immediately lose.

pic2944600

I guess the game works well with 3 on 3 or more. Having only one team mate to guess your clue is not really that fun but it still fun. You play in teams and the focus is to guess your friends’ mind. Having more players to guess your clue is more fun and hilarious. There are of course, some lenient house ruling based on your preference about what can and cannot be used as clues, the rules have specific restriction for words that can be used as clues but hey as long as you are having fun, right? The cards are double-sided, so you will get plenty of word variations. Though with the sole purpose as clues, the word cards will definitely get used repeatedly after multiple plays.

I must say that the game is very interesting, definitely a great game for couples, casual friends and gamers alike. There will be long discussion over the play sessions and it’s worth your time. Of course the downside is that players need to know English vocabulary well enough, but that’s easy to solve by giving definitions to each word. The words are placed in two-ways, thus avoid players to read them upside down. In addition some players take a long time to figure out what clue is needed to cover all the codenames as efficient as it should, the game provides a sand timer to avoid this. If you plan to play this game fast, I recommend use the timer. If you have spare time, it’s more enjoyable without time limit so players can take their time to find the best possible clue and words. Despite its simplicity and casual friendly, I can see good enough strategy value disguises inside the game.

The good thing is the game has different versions and variations. Up to now the game has many language adaptations, including Bahasa (Indonesian) and different themes such as Disney, Marvel, and Deep Undercover (adult version). In addition there are also variation like Codenames Pictures (using pictures instead of words) and Codenames Duet (offers mode for 2 players with campaign element to add more interesting way to play) which these two are stand alone games (you do not need to have Codenames base game to play).

Codenames-series

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2018 in Board Games, Card Games, Reviews, Word Games

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Role Playing Dice

RPEXPRoll Player Review (with Monsters and Minions expansion)
RPG players are no strange with character creations, it has been an integral part of the gaming experience. But for those who are not, character creation is an early phase of role playing game where the players create their characters from scratch based on several attributes and features that will determine their characters stats when playing the game. At a glance it starts out as a necessity before performing the game but in reality and closer look it has deep and special meaning for the players. It offers certain values to the process that players really enjoy doing it before their long gaming journey. Now Keith Matejka (the game designer, if it’s not that obvious) tries to materialize that feeling into something more solid in his game Roll Player. I found the title is kinda catchy and a clever use pun. Role was changed to Roll which also relates to the use of dice in the game.

DSC02391

The Theme
In Roll Players, players will create their characters as good as they can in order to achieve its objectives and other things that will generate points at the end of the game. It certainly provides interesting take on many elements that seemed as obstinately necessities within the game. The game starts with the preparation of one’s identifications from racial choices, classes, alignments back stories and even gender (male or female, for such thing matters to some people). You can find the regular choices that usually found on fantasy role playing games. Okay, I skipped that part, the game was focusing on fantasy genre role playing game. So you can find races such as Human, Elf, Orc and Halfling in the base game. But there are more irregular choices with the expansion such as Wrathborn (demon), Construct, Dark Elf, Dragonkin and etc. Classes also have the same approach where Wizard, Barbarian, Thief and Bard fall into regular choices and can found more irregular choices from the expansion as well. While race provides certain modifier into one or more attributes, Class provides the attribute goals that players need to achieve and also special ability that its character can do, along with it’s color affiliation (dice color) that will make sense later in the game.

DSC02392

The Game
Basically in this game players try to fill their character attribute slots with dice (colorful dice) which will be tallied into total for each attribute row and check if it meets the objective or not. There are 18 slots in the game, where based on number of players there will be starting dice to allocate before starting the game. So number of rounds are fixed based on how many dice are needed to fill the empty slots. Each round, players will draft dice from the bag based on number of players plus one. The first player will draw them from the bag in random and roll the dice. Then sort them out in ascending order on the initiative cards. Starting from the first player in clockwise order, each player choose one die along with its initiative card. The die then must be allocated immediately to one of the attributes from left to right direction and may take the corresponding action related to its attribute. After players have done so, based on the initiative order, players take a Market action, whether they buy one card or decide to discard one to get 2 coins. Players may buy one card from the display row by paying the cost listed on the card and add it to the space around their board depends on its type (Skill, Armor, Weapon or Traits). At the end of their turn, they can refresh one Skill card of their choice. Pass the first player marker to the player on the left of the first player and begins a new round until all slots are filled.

DSC02409

Aside from getting the goals done, there also a pattern for dice allocation where the dice color matters from the back story card. Allocating dice of certain color in certain position will get glory points at the end of the game based on how many dice are matched. In addition, each die of the class color will give that player one additional point at the end of the game. Some Trait and Weapon cards can give players more points from set collection. The true heart of the game on this game is the puzzle element that the dice manipulation presents. In short, players need to get dice, fill them in their attribute slots and make those dice contribute on the attribute goals by manipulate them with actions. Set off from the dice rolling / drafting element, players will usually not getting what they want throughout the game, mostly the pip value, then the dice color and cards they want because of certain things like turn and initiative order. So there are actions provided by attributes to manipulate the dice on attribute slots. With Strength attribute players can flip one die value to its opposite side. This action is very useful to turn big into small pip and vice versa. So getting a small value die is not a bad idea as long as you include it in your plan to flip it if you need big number. But of course it’s possible that what you really need is smaller number. Another action is to swap or exchange the position of 2 dice from the player’s board. This gives players flexibilities in allocating dice and also in order to match the dice color to back story card. Players sometime need certain colors in certain time, this timing restriction can be solved with this action. There are also actions that let players to add or reduce the pip value by one, let players to re-roll one die of their choice, let players to shift their alignment one space and gives a discount token to be spent in the market. Once all the slots are filled with dice, the game ends and players tally up their points based on what I already described above, attribute goals, class color dice, alignment card, backstory, traits and armors. Player with the highest points wins the game.

First of all before I continue this review, one small note; that my review is based on the Kickstarter copy of the game along with the Monster and Minions expansion, so with that in mind, there will be component differences from the retail version.

I had an eye for this game since the first time they put it on BGG. It was open for Pre-Order directly from the publisher site (Thunderworks Games) but I was hesitate to go on since the shipping cost and pre-ordering straight from publisher isn’t really something I am used to (aside from What’s Your Games?). So I skipped that chance and then the game was hard to find, out of print everywhere. Until they decide to launch its expansion (Monsters and Minions) on the Kickstarter and I immediately jumped into the wagon. I also got metal coins and Frogkin promo board from the add-ons offered from the pledge manager. It was arrived a bit late than what I had expected since the base game (retail) was available way before my Kickstarter copy arrived. But I did not disappointed since the game was not much of a hype in my country at that time (also maybe up to now) compared with Sagrada (why Sagrada? Well, just read on…)

DSC02431

The Components
When I received the game, it was two boxes, one base and one expansion. Same dimension except the depth. The expansion box depth is halved from the base box. I like how the boxes look, it has black background with strong and vibrant character illustrations. Briefly you can feel the dark yet exclusive box. The base game I got is pretty heavy (of course it’s heavy, the box is fully packed with lots of components and they’re all from card boards and dice). The boards are thick and the card’s quality is very good (though it’s not linen finished). Love the dice, very solid and chunky (thankfully they did not use smaller size dice) though with pointy corners, it’s kinda hard to roll them (as oppose to rounded corner dice) but it’s just a very minor gripe. The tokens are good, and I did add metal coins, which provide two denominations unlike the card board coins. The card illustrations are amazing, full of  vibrant colors which work well with black background or dark tone of the game. It was one of those moment where I just satisfied on how the illustrations really set the mood for the game.

The Expansion
The Monsters and Minions expansion does give significant amount of components to the base game, with as many as race boards as the base, additional set of color dice, boost dice (mist opaque dice) and combat dice, huge first player wooden marker, XP cubes and more cards (oversized Monster card and new minion cards aside from variation of the existing class, alignment and backstory cards) with additional adventure deck for each monster that gives additional layer of objectives during the game.

DSC03262

So the expansion gives the game another mile walk and a sense of purpose into the base game. As you already know that the game is about creating characters in Role Playing Game, the expansion gives the creation, a purpose to it. The expansion as it title suggests, introduces Monsters and Minions into the game, where players will have to battle the chosen monster (out of many) with their characters at the end of the game. But that’s not just it, the boss monster existence gives players additional goals to get more advantageous position, fighting the monster which players can acquire when fighting Minions. Thematically speaking, by knowing the location, obstacle and attack of the monster, players can gain the upper hand with minor objectives that can give them benefit when fighting the monster (since the monster have special ability that will affecting on how it fights against the players). There are also Minions, it’s like the progress into culminating end against the monster, players will fight Minions before the Monster during the game. Unlike the monster, Minions are fought by choice, players will have to choose this as an action during their turn. So instead going to the market, they can go fight Minions. Fighting Minions are kinda bit unique, they will roll combat dice based on different things based on the Minions, it could be a certain color dice in their board, a number of cards with specific type they own and so on. Of course the combat is resolved in high roll result, so it depends heavily on luck. They can spend XP cubes to re-roll or add more dice though. Personally, I quite like the expansion, sure it makes the game last longer but it’s fun and I think it’s worth it. With the expansion your character creation process seems to have a purpose. But one can argue that this expansion can give players certain distractions to the base game of character creation, since you need to sacrifice market action (acquire more cards) in order to fight Minions.

DSC03263

My Thought of The Game
If you think that this is a dice rolling game, you got it wrong. It is not a dice rolling game, dice are rolled no doubt but that’s just for round setup purpose. Players do not really roll dice, they just assign one player to roll all the dice for all players to choose. So this is more likely a dice drafting game, since players choose which dice they want during their turn. And presenting the character creation element and the actions that come with the attributes on the characters, players will modify / adjust their dice, so it’s dice manipulation. I like the game, it has a simple set of rules, though most of you might think it’s quite complex and I do agree. The possibility and manipulation will force you to think the complexity is quite moderate if you compare it with the rules of play. The demands that players need to fulfill in order to get the best score will leave players scratch their heads, it’s not an easy task to get them done the way it is supposed to. Players might be forced to do hard decision making in order to get one or more objectives cleared up by sacrificing other objectives. Of course there’s a luck factor to be involved (if it comes to dice). The dice drawing is surely add luck to which dice color are available each round and the roll will determine if it’s good enough for players or not, depends on their turn order. The random card draws will also affecting the combo synergies in overall, but less in luck aspect and more like adapting with the situation. The game could be really competitive and most of the time players will be in a situation with a few points difference from each other. Playing with the expansion could distract you from getting points from Market cards, but in the same time, you can maximize points from beating boss Monster in the end by piling up your combat dice. From my several plays, the Monster is not really posing a threat to players, I never see players fail to beat the monster. And once you have played with the expansion, you will never want to play it only the base game (at least that’s what I felt).

DSC02412

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dice Manipulation at Its Best

pic3496086Sentient Review
J. Alex Kevern made some pretty good games over the years such as Homesteaders, Gold West and World’s Fair 1893 and his latest game is Sentient. Sentient does share some of the features found in his other games, but there’s one thing or two that Sentient doesn’t share with his other games. That is it’s dice manipulation aspect which is the core mechanic of the game. Sentient comes pretty much with awesome contents in a bit smaller box game. You can find a bunch of components inside like a deck of oversized cards, several wooden markers in player colors, 4 sets of custom dice, investor and VP tokens and several boards.

What is Sentient
The main appeal of the component lies on the custom dice, which they’re vibrant in colors and have custom etching than just regular d6 dice. I mostly attracted to the game because of the dice. Though the game has a small table footprint and presence because it doesn’t have a main board and the components are relatively not many.

So what Sentient is about? In the near future, the world has invented artificial intelligence that is applied to bots to handle most of human activity in diverse sectors such as industry, service, transport, military and information. Controlling these sectors will prove to be crucial to be the best corporate among others. In this game, players will control a mega corporate that race to program the best bots in order to attract the right investors toward their favors.

DSC02082

How to Play
A game of Sentient lasts for 3 rounds, which in each round players will assign agents to different locations to get their desired bots and attract investors. At the start of each round, players will get a set of dice, 4 agents and 5 assistants in their disposal along with a 2-pieces board that will form their corporate’s name. At the start of each round players will roll their set of dice and assign them to each location on their board based on the dice color. Starting from the first player and following the turn order, each player will either place an agent to get a bot card or pass by spending their pass marker (if they’re still have any). Placing an agent can be accompanied with assistants. They can place more than one assistant if it suits them in order to increase their chance to attract investors.

The card that they take, must immediately placed below their board between two of their 5 dice, once placed, this card will modify / adjust the dice on the left and right of that card unless they assign assistant to cover the card effect (they can cover both of the card’s effect using two assistants). They can choose to pass instead of getting a card, if they think it’s not a good time to take a card or maybe they need to reset the board. Passing is placing a pass marker on the next round marker, and then reset all the cards on the display, refill cards from the draw pile if only they still have at least an agent left, if they have none, they just place the pass marker and then end their turn.

DSC02178

Once all players have passed, the round ends and the bot cards are score. Each bot card has requirements in order for the card to score. These requirements are shown on the top center of the card that relate with the dice value beside the card. If the requirements are satisfied, the card scores a number of points shown on the bottom left corner of the card. Once all cards have been checked, the cards are removed and keep in a separate pile for each player to be scored at the end game. And then the investors are resolved based on majority of influence fight over that investor. Each agent and assistant in count as one influence, if there are ties the most agents will break ties, and then followed by turn order if there still ties. Player with most influence will get the investor tile while the second most get one point. Return all the agents and assistants back and reset the card display. And then the next round begins.

Players repeat the above process until three rounds and the final score takes place. All the cards that they have will be scored based on type. Count the number of card from each type and multiply it with number of investor of that type. Players do not score points of a certain type if they do not have either investor or the card of that type.

DSC02180

My Thoughts
I find Sentient to be a very solid game. It has very simple rules and mechanic but yet it’s full of interesting decisions and deep thinking within the game. It’s not a dice rolling game, though the dice are rolled it is not considered to be dice rolling, since players only do it once per round and not taking actions by rolling it. Instead players manipulate those dice to achieve the goals from their cards. Its kinda inappropriate to say players modify their dice as it’s leads reader to assume they do it by choice. Partially players are confined with restrictions of each die to satisfy two cards while the means to modify them are come from the card itself. Such restrictions provide mini puzzle yet complicated to solve on their own. Each card modifies two dice and yet each die is modified twice (exclude two dice on the side) by two different cards. This interconnecting yet unrelated precedent lies something to ponder which makes the game such a clever gem. Not just that, it gets more problematic with how players allocate their assistants. Assistants are used for two things (unrelated to another and yet so essential to each of its own), to contribute in investor majority and to grasp control over dice manipulation. Five assistants are never enough for each player. Sending all five of them to investor majority is ideal, but how good can you modify the dice without the help of your assistants is the question players try to answer by choices of their actions. Not having assistant(s) at the last turn could be problematic since player’s plan might get ruined and soil the two cards scoring potential. Keeping a good deal of assistant for the last push to ensure majority also proof for easier control over majority.

DSC02085

The game has very simple rules, this really helps the game to shine with it’s core mechanic of puzzle dice manipulation and set collection. The investor scoring is very powerful though it’s seemed hidden because scored at the end of game. Don’t ignore it cause I don’t think there is no other way to score big as big as investors can potential bring. Focusing on single type is always the best way, since the nature of multiplication reveals as exact science, higher multiplication provides higher sum. Here lies the interactions, where players must carefully check their opponents’ plans. If one player was running freely to collect what he want, he’s most likely winning the game. With this being said, the player count will make the game different. In a 2-players game its most likely the game to be very tactical, with one opponent to focus on, players can figure out and counter or block their opponent intention, while with 3 or 4 players, there are things that players have to (or forced) to ignore due to which choices is more beneficial to them.

I like the nature of the game, it can be frustrating to some extent, not getting cards that you want or maybe your dice and cards are not perfectly aligned like other players. But for a simple rule game that last for 45-60 minutes, it surely packs a heavy punch. It offers you some extent of puzzle element to figure out the best optimal placement of your agents, assistants, card scoring and the investors. The core idea is to get maximal points from investors and card type while also scoring those cards via dice the best you can. I do not think that players can top that end game scoring with just scoring cards throughout three rounds while abandoning investors, they are the big bucks. It’s not a difficult game, but the restrictions put the players in such tight and dilemmatic position where they need to decide which card, which investor, where the card is placed within a series of actions in a round. This makes the game really shines.

dav

Of course not everything is a plus inside this game. I think it’s considerably expensive for what the components and game weight level, but hey we’re in for the game play right? One nitpick is, it’s too bad that the card illustrations are not one of a kind. They’re the same for each type regardless have different scoring requirement. The wooden pieces could be bigger, especially the turn order and pass markers. Assistant markers are understandably fit to the modifier icons on the card, though agents could be more bigger. And having a play mat or game board to hold all the cards and round markers in one board sounds like a really-really good component improvement to make the game looks more exclusive. It is definitely improves the game presence in the table. I also think the game has so few variabilities, all the cards are used, all investors are used, it could use some randomizer in the game though it will surely affects game balance.

DSC02177

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Board Games, Dice Games, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Not The Fairest of Them All

pic3780045-2Fairy Tile Review
Back in our childhood, fairy tale is a very common thing for us children. It had driven us mad with curiosities, interests and loves. The idea of a brave knight in shining armor goes on a quest to rescue a beautiful and ill-fated princess on some tower held captive by a fiery and evil dragon really embodied in our mind and soul. It’s a true definition of fairy tale if not all. So with children as it’s major market, Iello published a board game with that spirit and called it Fairy Tile (designed by the duo Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert who made their names from Elysium, Pyramids, Prof. Evil and the Citadel of Time, Pioneer Days and many more) okay they made pun out of its title but that’s okay, “tile” because it’s using tiles for playing. So lets go jump into the pages from the fantasy book and know the game more.

First of all, they (Iello) surely know how to attract people with their awesome beautiful-looking artworks and nice-looking components. The illustrations are truly gorgeous (the cards, tiles and even character figures) and it is hard to resist the appeal of it. The first thing which made me want the game is the cover, full of deep rich green and yellow colors. It didn’t sell me right on, but it made me look the game components and behold the cards really destroyed my wall of resistance (of course, it’s Miguel Coimbra’s work of art, who can resist?). Illustrations from the cards are straightly taken from a fairy tale book, lots of beautiful and captivating scenes. And then you also get three nice-looking pre-painted character figures. Well, way less detailed than miniatures from Blood Rage or Mythic Battle Pantheon, but hey it’s good enough for a children game (and to be honest, there are many games that have worse minis than this).

DSC02232

The game comes in a small square box, with nice insert to hold the cards, tokens, tiles and figures in their place. There are wooden tokens for players, naturally colored (unpainted) with an etching of a star painted in gold (nice touch). The cards are nice, though it would really make the illustrations even better with linen finished quality.

So what the game is about? They presented the game in a story book manner where there’s a story that involves a knight, a princess and a dragon. You see that right there? Now the game can be played from 2 up to 4 players and surprise, surprise… a figure is not assigned to a player but can be controlled by anyone. The goal of the game is for a player to finish their story first and win the game. The story is represented by cards, dealt at the start of the game based on number of players. This cards will form a player’s deck and kept in a face down pile. At the start of the game there are 3 starting tiles with figures on them. Each player then draw one card from their deck, this card is their active story to complete. During their turn, each player can choose one of the two actions, Develop Story or Turn a Page.

DSC02246

Develop Story means that players Go on an Adventure by moving a character or adding a land tile. And then check to see if they can recount the adventure. These are done in order to fulfill the objective shown on the cards. Moving a character is different based on which character they move. The knight must exactly moves two spaces away from its location, while the princess must move exactly one space away. Meanwhile, the dragon moves in a direct straight line until the last map tile on its path. Adding a land tile gives player room for figures to explore. This is needed to complete the objective from terrain and location aspects. Recount the adventure is optionally done once a player has taken an action as a chance to complete the objective, they place the completed card aside in a face up file and draw another card from their deck.

Turn a page is done when a player doesn’t want or cannot complete the objective on their card at this moment. They place the card on the bottom of their deck and draw another one. And then they also flip their magic token face up if it’s not in the upside position. This magic token allows player to get an extra action which it is possible for a player to take two actions in a row, which is often very powerful to complete the objective.

DSC02252

The truth to this action-point-movement-system and tile-laying game is that the game is a racing game. The first player to empty their draw pile wins the game. It looks simple, clean rules and very suitable for children. But behind all of that, it hides the true nature of take that and tug of war game where players pulling the characters to complete their objectives. There are only 3 characters and all objectives require one or more characters to be in specific condition or location. This truly problematic since mostly each player can only take one action in his turn (except using a magic token) but need several actions to fulfill an objective conditions. It’s inevitable that players will hinder others in their quest. It could be a tiresome ordeal to fight over these characters and lead to a frustrating end (more players means more conflicts). So though I have not play this game with kids, I am not sure they will always enjoy this kind of game, but it’s definite that I did not enjoy all my plays, though for less serious play it’s still within tolerable level.

DSC02256

Once the game ends, players can sort (in ascending order) their completed cards based on the numbers shown on the bottom of the cards. And they said (the rules) you can recount (read) the flavor texts and those will form a story. I did that and to be honest it’s hard to see how it could be possible and to be honest, it’s just a lame attempt on connecting the story telling aspect of the game with the theme. While you can connect each sentence with another from card to card, there is nothing real in the story that could make you feel that you’re building that story in the game.

Sad to say, this is not a very good game for me. Though you can introduce your younger ones into board games with this and they could enjoy this better than I did. It has cool aspects when it comes to introduce tile laying, action point movement and other in-game rule set application such as when you can apply the magic token and how you complete your objective with several options in front of you and etc.

DSC02320

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Board Games, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: