Essen 2018 Highlight Previews Part 2

Back again with me and this time I will be giving you guys the next part of my Essen 2018 Highlight previews (another 8 new board games that currently on my list). Let’s start with the big guns!

pic4196818-2FORUM TRAJANUM
Forum Trajanum is the latest design from Stefan Feld and it might be the most complicated (not hardest) one yet. After reading the rules it gives me certain approach that the game uses a well-blend of mechanics from his previous games. I can see some mechanics from Trajan, Amerigo and also Notre Dame. The core concept of the game is tile placement, which centers in two main part of the game, the Colonia (player board) and Forum Square on the main board (the same thing you find in Trajan, the construction area). Players will take turns to draft tiles that they take from their Colonia (based on the street cards on a given round). They choose one to keep and pass it on to the next player (like Notre Dame cards). Then they will choose which one to use / activate (take the bonus) . If the tile is a Citizen tile, you place it on the Citizen row. Other tiles are placed based on the owner of the tiles, if it’s a player owned tile, it’s placed on the Ship space, if it’s other player’s owned tile, it’s place face up right next the colonia. Then players can build one building per turn by spending the required worker / builders / assistants on the vacated space on their Colonia. There are different kind of Buildings and like Amerigo, there are colored and neutral Buildings (which give different effects during scoring). Placing neutral buildings allow players to advance their marker on the respective benefit track or gain points from Triumphal column building. Colored buildings allow players to send envoys to the Forum square. These envoys will be placed in different squares in the forum based on the color. Completed colored group will be score and provide benefits for each player that has envoys there. At the end of each phase, players need to pay their citizens, if they don’t want or cannot pay, the unpaid citizen became inactive. And then there are construction crane scoring for buildings of the same color as their available face up crane. Colonia Scoring for neutral building based on the citizen row and Forum scoring based on players envoys on the forum square. In overall there are so many little things to remember, it’s not a heavy game but too many things to keep in mind.

I was sold by the game main concept. Originally the designer wanted to make a game that she could play with her blind uncle, so she made this game.
In this game, 1 player will play as the hunter while other players as the hunted. The hunted players will play with blind glasses in which they cannot see a thing. They take their action by using perception and touch of game components. The goal is to survive from a hunter that hunts you down. You run in the dark, try to get away from the hunter and find your car, but you don’t know and cannot see it. So using you hand (naturally) you reach out in the dark and find out your surrounding. How cool is that? I would say, it’s very cool. Okay there are questions of course, the first thing came to mind is the hunter, how the hunter player moves? Since he’s the one with a clear vision with everything on the board, logically the hunter could move freely. But not exactly, while he can see everything, the hunter has a set of cards that determine their actions, and there are also some restrictions in their moves. For instance, hunted players can throw a rock somewhere on the board, this will cause noise that the hunter must move towards. How cool is that? Very cool, I know.
The game use mainly dominant black and white color and offers not a very beautiful illustrations (minimal at the least), but the game pieces might be a good one with plastic player pieces, terrains and a plastic board. Now in the base game, there are 2 hunters that players can play, an ax-murderer and an evil mage. Both have different sets of cards, which the game play would slightly be different one from another. And if you are curious there is also another version that is Target exclusive which has a different hunter than the base, a Vampire. But this means you need to get another game for this.

It’s nice looking game, with colorful components and the helper meeples are super unique and cute. In general, the core mechanic is pool building with area control. Players will spread around their assistants based on their helper leader position on the board. Which has hexagonal spaces with different terrain types. On players turns, they choose a monument tile based on turn order, and then place a helper and take an action. The actions are BUILD, EXCAVATE, REST and READ.
Build allows players to place a monument tile in a given space (following the requirement on the monument tile). Monument tiles give players points based on the Monument track of each player. Excavate allows players to gain a resource from a space where they place a helper. Rest allows players to take 2 coins by placing one helper on their personal supply on it’s side. Read a Monument. (this is like activating one of the monuments available on the board). Pay the cost shown and gain its effects (if it’s another player’s monument, the owner gains 1 pt). After all players have taken their turn, they recollect the income based on the tracks of their player board. Update Inspiration and Defensive tracks and gain coins. They can also spend inspirations to gain Miracle tokens. Miracle tokens give players immediate points, and end game or on going benefits. Last, there is Nightmare phase which players will face monster based on the position of their helpers on the board by using their defensive traits. I think the game is pretty simple, I just don’t really see the point in facing the monsters. For thematic reason, it’s kinda loose or doesn’t have strong relation to the game. And the game is a bit straightforward, not sure there’s enough game within.

Gizmos from Phil Walker Harding is a new game that re-introduce marbles again after the presence of Potion Explosion. The idea is still the same, you pick one marble and boom everything explodes. The main difference is the explosion. In Potion Explosion, matching marbles will explode and you can get more marbles from just one that you picked. Of course you can also use potions to help you out. But in Gizmos, it’s not marbles that exploded, it’s the cards. Yes, the game is about card combos, it’s more like a programming or tableau building. During players turns, they choose one out of 4 actions available and the cards within that action will be triggered, thus you can place cards into your tableau and get more chains throughout the game. At first, I think it offers something different, you can control or there’s a freedom to build the engine that you really want. But, I think Potion Explosion is more simple in term of game play, while Gizmos requires more thinking in the engine building aspect, and in addition with more cards to handle in your tableau, you need more time to think and it could be very long if there’s a lot of cards under your action tabs.

pic4118864pic4097632RAILROAD INK (BLAZING RED + DEEP BLUE)
Railroad Ink, as the title suggest is using a marker on a piece of sheet to draw railroads. Its the kind of pen / marker and paper game that was brought to famous from Doodle City (Doodle China and Doodle Island) by Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Ostby, who also designed Santa Maria which takes another level of the same mechanic. In this game, players basically must draw the dice roll results onto their sheet of paper which shows 7×7 square spaces. There are different type of routes, highway and railway with special connection like overpass and station that will be combines in placement to draw a connection from one exit to another. Players also have 6 special routes on their sheet that they can use to help them connect the routes, though each special route can only be used once per game. The game has 2 different version, Railroad Ink Blazing Red and Railroad Ink Deep Blue, each version provides 2 different variations that slightly changed the game.
Railroad Ink Deep Blue adds Lake and River into the game. Players will have to choose one variation to the game and cannot both. Lake variation adds 2 lake dice that is rolled with the other regular route dice. Players may draw the lake into their sheet but not mandatory. In the end game, Lake areas will be scored in how big the area is and open side will not be counted as errors. While the river variation adds 2 river dice that can be used as another route and score based on the longest river route, but open river connections are considered as errors.
Railroad Ink Blazing Red introduces 2 different variations, Meteor and Lava. Lava variation adds lava dice that works similar as lake die, but open side of lava space is considered an error in the scoring. The Meteor variation adds a unique and different game play, with Meteor dice, one showing distance of the meteor and another showing the direction the meteor will hit. When rolled, the meteor will hit a space on player’s sheet and and continuing from the first space it hits based on the distance and direction in the future rolls. A space with drawing that hits by meteor, must be erased and be drawn a crater instead. In the scoring, each route will score points based on how many open end connected to a crater.
I found the game to be refreshing, unique and very simple yet difficult in the same time. Though luck plays a great role, I found it exhilarating to draw the routes and see if it connects. Sadly, my experience with Doodle City wasn’t really a colorful mark. My group wasn’t amused and they thought it’s as a weird game. So this is also a interesting one but need a caution.

Ceylon reminds me of Gold West, though it’s strikingly different. As in oppose of Gold West where players take resources from the board, in Ceylon, players are filling the board (planting tea fields). It has very simple actions, on players turn, the active player will play an action card, he decide the orientation of the card in the discard pile because each card consists of 2 actions (top and bottom). The upright action is the main action that will be taken by the active player, while the downright action can be taken by other players. Or else, the can take the alternative actions available in each card. The goal is to fulfill contracts of tea which is divided into 3 types / colors. Black cubes as tea leaves harvested in low height plantation, Green cubes as tea leaves harvested in medium height and White cubes as tea leaves harvested in high altitude. The fields on the game board is divided into 4 districts and during setup, players will randomize the different height plantation field by using modular board. What interesting in this game aside from the card action is that in order to take more contract cards, players need to plant teas. This is shown by the leaf markers as restriction to place contract cards of different companies. If players want to have access to more companies, they have to plant more to unlock these leaf markers from their board. Another thing is the different level of fields to differentiate what kind of tea is being planted. I like the theme, it’s quite unique and the illustrations are nice.

Fireworks was actually released back in 2017 but they somehow will be present in 2018 Essen Spiel. It’s a dexterity game from Li-He Studio, designed by Aza Chen, who is quite famous with his Cat-themed games such as Cat Box, Cat Tower, Kitty Paw and other dog-themed games with cute cartoony characters. In Fireworks, players will be one of the 7 characters of cats that must perform their skill in shooting fireworks into the night sky. The game involves player to drop a die into a box full of face down firework tiles. If after the drop, the dice flip a tile or more, they take it based on the result of the die. There are also action cards that dictate on how they drop the die (the dexterity element of the game). If they cannot make a tile flipped face up, they have failed and end their turn. When they acquired a tile or more, they place it on their board, to form a big image of fireworks in their sky which will be scored based on the patterns and set collection at the end of the game. The game seemed fun and simple enough to be played and I was intrigued with the game for quite a while now, mainly the way that the cards dictate how players should roll the die.

One word, beautiful. Everdell is a beautiful game about forest realm and the animals on it. Players take the roles of critters and will build cities on Everdell. The goal, build the greatest city in Everdell. The game has a really standout components, the big tree made from card boards placed on top of a big round board. Honestly, the tree is not really an essential component and can easily be replaced with just a 2 dimensional flat game board. But, for this game, it really looks beautiful and amazing. The game was actually on Kickstarter and was a hit. There are so many great, beautiful and nice looking components and illustrations. The critter characters are so cute looking. The game is break down in seasons, from Spring, Summer and Autumn. In players’ turn, they choose either play a card, place a worker or prepare for season. At first each player will start with 2 workers and several cards in hand, they can assign their workers in different part of the board (or cards) to gain the benefit of that action space or play a card from their hand to their city (which will be made naturally in 3×5 grid of cards).
The core mechanic on this game is a tableau building with worker placement. Players naturally place workers on the main board, but they can also place them on the worker slots on their city cards, in addition it is possible that they can place their workers in some of other player’s city cards. The greatest feat of this game is the superfluous components. It has really great looking components. The resource tokens are not something that you found in other games (such as pebbles, resins, berries and twigs), the card illustrations are so beautiful and the worker meeple is a unique wooden critter-shaped meeple for each player.  The game is quite simple, you place workers to gain resources, pay resources to play cards and use that cards effect to help you do something else. Some cards also using the same chain connection as found in 7 Wonders. As you can play a critter card for free if you already have the prerequisite construction card. Players will get to place workers in some event tiles when they already complete the building requirement and so on. Despite this being on KS or maybe already available on GenCon, I think it’s suited to have this here since the publisher also opens a booth in Essen.

Note: images are taken from and full credit to their owner.

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