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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