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Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Magic Lamp of Randomness

Tales of The Arabian NightsTales of The Arabian Nights Review
I just recently took the experience of both playing this game and owning it. I already heard or knew the game for quite a long time. Its quite famous among board gamer’s communities. The very distinct thing in this game is no other that the story-telling element that drives the game. The game was published around 2009 by Z-Man Games. My wife had played it one time before me, which was a bad experience from her testimonial. The persistent main issue she kept saying over and over again is the long play time. It took ages to finish (if you can finish it) and dragging the game long enough makes it pretty much a boring voyage that even Sindbad feels tormented.

But as some of my friends who like the game keep telling me that the game is best playing with 3-players, not more. Though up to 5 players is listed on the box, they all agreed that with 4 and 5-players, its not recommended due to the long downtime and game length. So putting my faith on their testimonials, I jumped into the magic carpet and tried the game with my better experienced friends on the subject. My wife liking the game is essential for my plan for this game, so if I ever get the game, she must like it cause I intend it to be a couple game at least.

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So the game comes with a really pretty looking game box (black background with beautiful Arabian decorations and stunning illustrated covers that involves genie and other Arabian tales. Inside, you can find some of the key components in the game which are the Book of Tales, the map board, Reaction Matrixes, player mats, cards and some punch boards for in-game tokens. The map board shows a huge world map with interesting places and the wide networks connecting them all. The center of it is Baghdad, this is where players start the game. But before that, players get a board (more of a reference) some tokens to keep track things like Wealth, Destiny and Story markers as well as Quest, Destination and Origin markers. They also get 3 random skills, drawn one by one (must be different). Then players must decide the amount of Destiny and Story points with the total of 20 (this amount can be adjusted as desired), which they kept it hidden from other players, these are their goals to win the game. The last thing before starting the game, they also draw a quest card. Each player takes turns in clockwise direction from the starting player, move from their current location (they cannot stay unless stated otherwise) based on their Wealth marker. This Wealth gives movement amount limitation in sea or land. Once a player decide to stop their movement, they draw an encounter card and resolve it. To resolve it, the encounter card shows a certain number which will be check in the Encounter book and the active player rolls a die, add the value with the location modifier and destiny modifiers if any. The result will determine the encounter, which then the active player and another player will check the matrix related to it. The active player then decide how they want to interact with that, based on the available actions listed in matrix. Once decide, they roll a destiny die and apply any modifier. The other player then check what paragraph the result is refer to and open that paragraph in the Encounter book (other player can help to do this) and read it aloud to the active player. Usually the reading will show the outcome of the encounter, though some encounters provide options or lead to another paragraph.

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So how the paragraphs work? They’re random and the subject of this review title. Once your fellow partner read the paragraph, you just let it flow and move on. You start with 3 skills (drawn at the start of the game) and as the game progresses you might have more. The skills might help you on your encounters, the key word is might. Yes, you enter the encounter blindly and just hope that the skills are useful. The paragraphs have a chance to have skill or treasure related to it, in which somehow may help or do the opposite. Master skills are different, they’re some sort of upgraded skills, but better in such a big time. Why? Because when you have master skills, the paragraph readers will check whether the three available paragraphs have that master skill inside and the player doesn’t need to roll the destiny die. If there is none, then roll the die. So basically master skill helps you get the best outcome from it. So your freewill and composition of your skills quite likely determine the action you will choose, though there’s no restriction at all to go nuts and feeling lucky (if it is luck) and choose whatever the hell you want to do. Once you gain the required amount of Destiny and Story points, you need to go back to Baghdad and complete an encounter there in order to win the game.

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Final Take
The game is a random fest, you will not know for sure what happen in your encounters. The randomness is high off the chart in this game, you think you know what to do and what will happen but in the end the game might prove you wrong. The game really focuses on the adventure / storytelling aspect, where the fun is. Your characters will have a crazy fun (or not) encounters that will shape the whole adventure in the game. So if you are okay with strong storytelling element that lead your gaming experience, this might be the game for you. It appeals more to players that really treasure the gaming experience and how the theme blends in with character’s progresses than to those who really take the final outcome as the utmost important thing out of the game.
On a side note, I do think that the components fall into more of a mediocre level, it’s kinda bit on the middle of things, not bad but not good either. Despite the beautiful game box cover, I found that the board is a bit drab (as map should be I guess) and the color tone is a bit heavy to my eyes. The cards, okay the encounter cards have illustrations, but it could have been done better with full illustrations instead of drab looking background. The quest cards is just a card with full of text pasted on it, but I guess that serves it’s purpose. Player standees, well cannot complain though, it’s just okay. In overall, this is a game where the components not really evoking how people see it visually but rather immersive to the story it provides. So if you cannot get pass through that visual boundary, maybe you can close your eyes and rely on your own imagination. In the end, I do like the game, it provides a unique gaming experience despite its huge luck factor.

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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Ameritrash, Board Games, Reviews

 

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Essen Spiel 17 Highlight Preview Part 4

Wow, it’s already part 4 and to be honest we (or is it just me?) just moving still. There are still many, many… (I emphasize on many) new games out there need to be previewed and I am ashamed with my speed. But no good whining about good stuff, let’s savor it the best way we can and buy it eventually.

pic3646165_mdRAJAS OF THE GANGES
This game is one of the games that I got my hands into. A friend got me this directly from his Essen trip. Bless you and your games man! Okay, this game is designed by Markus and Inka Brand, the couple behind Village, La Boca, Orleans Invasion and the famous EXIT series. The box cover in this game is breathtaking, I love it very much though the font type of its title is not so much, but hey as long as its inline with the theme. The cover shows a landscape of the famous Ganges river with looming figure of the God, Kali with colorful dice in her hands. In this game, players will take the roles of Rajas / Ranis in the 16th century of India and try to expand their province in order to gain fame and riches. Player that cleverly does so that their fame and riches intertwined, wins the game. The game uses some classic mechanics with added twist. The core is a worker / dice placement game with tile laying element. Players will have a province board and a Kali statue board with one die for each color (4 colors) with 3 workers at the start of the game. Players take turns to place their workers with the possibility of spending dice or coins in several places like Marketplace, Quarry, Palace and Harbor to do different things. Players can get province tiles from the Quarry by spending money and dice to add them to their province board. Players can also get money from Marketplace based on markets that they have on their province board. Palace gives special benefits that requires the cost of die of a specific value and also the place where players can get dice or convert dice to another color. Harbor is place where players can move up their Ships on the Ganges river. I found the game to be very simple, easy to learn and setup. It has the same feel like The Voyages of Marco Polo in the aspect of dice utilization. I’ve played several times and I like it so far. It’s one of few games that has a racing feel that I actually like (Lewis and Clark is still the best though).
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pic3582920_mdTHE CLIMBERS
Okay we head on to an abstract game. In this game you will try to climb a pile of wooden blocks as high as you can and get rid of your opponents. So the game comes with lots of different size wooden blocks with different colors on one side. These colors represent player colors. Before the game starts, players need to arrange the wooden blocks to a single pile (in any way they want) of course with certain requisites. Players take turns to move their climber from the bottom to the top of the blocks. To do this they can move up a level (shown by their climber’s “neck” level), if above this limit, they cannot climb it. Each player also given a pair of ladders, one small and one large. These ladders can be used once each to help them climb onto blocks that are higher than them. And also a blocking stone that can help them hinder their opponents for a single turn. But as it’s not enough, players also can only climb / move onto a block with the surface of their colors or neutral (beige wooden color). If I recall correctly, this game uses player elimination, since it’s possible that players can out of their movement. In this case they are out of the game. The game is actually not a new game, the listing page on BGG suggests it’s from 2008. I found the rules are very straightforward and easy. And the components are wooden blocks (so I expect it would be heavy) and can make a spectacle on top of the table. So if you like tactical movement with tolerance of abstract theme and a small direct conflict to block others, this might be good for you to check out.
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pic3489123_mdFLATLINE: A FUSE AFTERSHOCK GAME
This is a sequel game of FUSE, designed by the same designer, Kane Klenko. As you know, in FUSE, players work together to defuse a bomb, this time the bomb exploded and players need to save the casualties. They work in the medic bay of the (broken and crashed maybe) space ship just barely getting the equipment running to save the critically injured or dying due to severe explosion. Unlike FUSE, this game has more components (it has bigger box and definitely heavier) and meatier. In this game, players get their own dice (by colors) and there will be an exact number of rounds (8 rounds) in which they need to save all the patients before the last round or they lose. In the game one player will be assigned as the Chief Medical Officer, who will keep things up based on the round breakdown. The first one is to remove a round marker and draw cards. These cards are (yes) bad for the players. There are two types of card, orange (stat) and blue (emergency) cards. When they’re drawn, they’re placed separately based on colors. Then the CMO roll the emergency dice to determine which emergency cards are active. Then they discuss the plan this round. Okay before move on to the next phase I want to explain about the board. There are 4 sick bays (medical pods if you like) to hold the patient tiles (a different number of players determines how many tiles that players need to save). And in the center, there’s a dial with 4 connectors, with each of them connected to a sick bay. After the discussion, the CMO will start the timer (one minute) and players roll their dice and assign them all into various spots. Once the one minute time is over, players must stop distributing dice. Okay, not only to cure the patients, but also different places such as the cards and recharging stations (there are two of them on the board). These recharging stations can bring back one round (delay the game) but there are only 2 of them. The different color cards have 2 different effects. Orange cards must be solve in that round, if not they’re placed on fail space and a number of failed cards can make the players lose the game. Blue cards in the other hand, is not as devastating as that but when triggered they can hurt players quite bad. And the bad news is that there can be 2 rows of 6  blue cards present in the game (and that’s a crowd). Treating the patients is as simple as assigning dice based on the symbol, but this must be done in inline fashion (they must clear it line by line). The other restriction is that who to place the dice, must be one player only, 2 or more or each player. This will surely keep the players busy with their dice allocation. When this hit the bottom, players can also use cards from Triage (cleared orange cards have their good effects) or submit a die to have all players the option to re-roll their dice, but the die locked in it for the rest of the game (also its limited to submit a die here). And about the connector, once a patient has all lines covered up, they are removed and the effect column that connected with the connector will take effect (black means nothing, green means good effect and red is the opposite). These connectors are set up in a way that each patient’s tab will get connected differently with each other, this adds another element to consider about timing to clear the patients. I played this game for several times, with 2, 3 and 4 players and these plays were memorably fun and crazy, lots of hilarious and chaotic moments. I guess it’s not that easy as it looks, to assign dice among players. As people say, “more minds, more problems”, can’t argue to that. But I must say that the game is beatable, we beat it once with 4 players, though it’s just in training mode. But amidst all that, the sole thing that drawn me into getting this game is the dice, the custom dice. Yes, I am a sucker for it. I love the colorful custom dice, period.
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pic3606262_mdMEEPLE CIRCUS
Okay lets head on to a dexterity game. In this game, your motor skill will be tested. In Meeple Circus, players need to pile up meeples and the likes in order to get points. There are different shape of meeples, from basic meeples, animals and different objects. Players will do a great performance with 2 rehearsals (3 acts). In each Circus acts, players will go through a preparation,  presentation, evaluation and end phase. In the preparation phase each player takes turn to take a component tiles and act tile (in the order they choose). After that players must show to their best what the public demands with their acrobats and other components, yes you stack ’em up! Of course there are some restrictions, you need to stack them inside your circus ring, place it on their side (not lay it down) except barrels and beams and all components on the ground must carry at least one other components. Players do this against time and other players. The time is from an application with circus music themed (very fun and lively), once the music stop, they must stop. In evaluation players will gain applauses by their presentations through public demands, acrobat meeples and speed bonus tokens. Public demand cards are somewhat like objectives that player can follow through to get points (these cards have different categories shown by different colors and each act will have different cards available). Next are acrobat meeples, which have 3 different types of acrobats, beginners (blues), intermediates (yellows) and experts (reds) and they score points differently, interestingly it’s thematic in some way. The beginners score points as long as they touch the ground, while the intermediates score points as long as not touching the ground. Now the experts have very unique and interesting scoring mechanism. Experts score by using a custom designed ruler (provided from the game). They score based on their heights. Higher they’re the bigger the points are. The second rehearsal (act 2) works similar with the first one with small difference, there are guest stars that can give points in specific ways. The great performance has some changes, speed tokens are not used, double points from guest stars and each challenge will give points when completed. I think its a simple dexterity game, you can find similar games in this genre such as Animal Upon Animal, Rhino Hero and others. But in this one, they managed to make it interesting both in terms of theme and game scoring, totally well done. This is definitely on my must have list.
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pic3718275_mdAZUL
This one is one of the most stunning (if not beautiful) games released in Essen 2017. Azul is an abstract game with a very loose theme of aesthetic decor ceramic tiles originated in Alhambra palace, in southern Spain, called Azulejos. It was introduced by the Moors to King Manuel I when he visited. The king was mesmerized and awestruck that He began to order His architects to redecorating His palace in Portugal. In this game, players will be the King’s architects and try to decorate the walls of the palace. Each player will get a player board and the goal of the game is to be the player with most points after the game ends (which is triggered when a player successfully complete a horizontal line in their player board.). The gameplay sounds simple, in a player’s turn, the player takes tiles of the same color from either the factory display or center of the table and place them on one of their pattern lines. When all players already take tiles, next they place the tiles onto their 5×5 wall grid from the pattern lines and scores. The basic mode has a pre-definitive pattern shown on the grid, while on the back side of the board, there’s a blank grid (a variant, as expected for this kind of game). Scoring is unique, players will score the row and column of each tile placed. Players get one point for each tile currently exist in the same row and column line of the placed tile, and this is done separately between row and column. But the twist is that those points will be deducted with the tiles laying on the floor lines. More tiles, the negative points are bigger, so this put a huge consideration to the player’s choice when taking tiles. I found the game to be pretty unique, complex in the outside while the real thing is quite simple and pretty much 5 minutes rules explanation. This game required a great knowledge and plan further because the pieces placed going to affect subsequent turns greatly. I am not a big fan of an abstract game, but this one surely caught my attention due to its beautiful components, thanks God they didn’t go with card board tiles, that would be so lame. The tiles are gorgeous, beautiful, stunning and amazing (I am out of words), the game visual presentation is out of the chart, its an aesthetically work of art. I found it quite unnecessary for the score track in each player board, a single score track for all players would be more suitable since players can observe others and it surely mitigates the chance to knock or slide player markers off their place.

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I included two photos of Azul, in my defense, the game is worth it. So this has to end and I need to prepare with the next list. It’s been slow but I hope you can understand, since I also has couple of new games coming (though sadly not all of them are Essen releases). Also shamefully, my game review posts have been pending due to a lot of things (this is one of them). So until next time, with part 5.

Disclaimer: all of the images shown are taken from boardgamegeek.com and the credits go the owners, I do not have the rights for all the images.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Article, Board Games, Events, Insight, Previews

 

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