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A game that essentially provide a board to play the game or centralized it;s activity within the functionality of a board.

Essen 2018 Highlight Preview Part 6

Let’s move on to part six, where the good things are keep coming. Essen Spiel 2018 is over and now we need to thinning the herd and make them count. So which games you actually interested on?

pic4177569-2HOLDING ON: THE TROUBLED LIFE OF BILLY KERR
A new release from HUB Games (the one that published UNTOLD: Adventure Awaits and Rory’s Story Cubes). In this game, players will take the role of Nurses in a Palliative Care Unit of a hospital in London. And the hospital receives a transfer patient of a massive heart attack, with the name of Billy Kerr (60 years of old), which is surprising that he still alive. The players will need to take turns to be shift manager in days of work on the hospital. Each player will have a nurse pawn of their colors and there are also assistants and On-Call Assistants that they can use to allocate medical or palliative care to the patient. Medical care is given to maintain the patient health condition, where palliative care is given to build trust between the patients and the nurses so the patient can open his memories. The game comes with 10 scenarios and players will try to complete them in order. The goal is to complete the objectives of each scenario while maintain Billy’s life. To achieve these objectives, players will need to piece together Billy’s lifetime memories while being drawn into his troubled past. It is a worker placement cooperative game, with unique elements. The round is broken down into 3 shifts, Morning, Day and Night shifts. In these shifts, players will take shifts to provide care for Billy. The worker placement aspect is unique, the nurses (workers) can get stressed from covering shifts. Having stress restrict Nurses to work, being overstressed forced them to take on leave (unavailable). A card board ring is used to mark stress on a nurse. Also when trying to give treatment to Billy, players need to decide whether if they want to treat palliative or medical. Palliative gives players closer to their objective, when Medical gives players to maintain Billy’s health condition. Players cannot provide both treatments for a day, so this is the huge decision on planning. When I read the back story of the game, I am hooked. It is unique regardless it is a cooperative game. Of course, cooperative aspect is still a huge warning for me so this need further research or maybe tryout, but this one has potential.

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pic4227674BAD BONES
Bad Bones is a Tower Defense game from Sit Down! Games where players are trying to defense their villages from horde of skeletons while averting those skeletons toward their neighbors. Personally I really like the game art cover. It has a similar look as Tokaido, with white clean background and a piece of illustration in the center, a dragon on top of a tower facing a skeleton. Each player will have their own board (it’s a 5×5 grid with a tower in its center). Players will have to defend their villages and tower with their hero and traps (one of those is a dragon, how cool is that? Of course these are only tiles except of the hero figure). The game comes with a lot of tiles (lots of skeletons) so it’s going to be quite a heavy box. In the game, players will move their heroes around, place or retrieve traps, move the skeletons and spawn them. The skeletons are moved by a certain command based on the movement icons printed on the squares while they are spawned from cemeteries into the board. Illustration and specific symbol on the skeleton tiles will determine where each skeleton tile is going to show up on player’s board. Aside from defending their villages (tiles that worth points if not destroyed by skeletons), they should change the skeletons on their board to move toward their neighbor. I think this is the interesting aspect of the game, where players need to plan carefully with movement programming to do two things, defend their villages and let their neighbors get attacked. Also the game has two modes of play (A for basic and B for advance with cooperative play, advance and skeleton chiefs). The advance version adds a new market phase where players have to buy traps and weapons and also there are coins in the game. The skeleton chiefs add new special skeletons into the bag.

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(Skull isn’t included)

pic4187935WANGDO
In this abstract game of network building (kind of), players will compete to be selected as the heir of the throne. To do this, they need to travel around the world and erect sacred bear steles (statues). The game board depicts some sort of a map with routes and spaces where players will place knowledge tokens on these spaces during setup randomly. And before the game starts, they must replace all (four) the bear tokens with random bear steles (statues) from the bag. There are 4 colors of bear steles (black, blue, white and orange). Players will have a personal board and random 3 starting Steles from the bag. The goal is simple, be the first to collect 2 tokens of each type (A set collection game? You can say that).

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Now the game is very simple, in players turn, they chose one of two available actions which are getting new steles or acquire a knowledge token. To get new steles, they can either take 2 steles from the temples (supply of steles divided by colors) or 3 random steles from the bag. To acquire new knowledge token, they have to place stele on that space and then pay the cost. The cost is the twist part of the game, it varies depend on the number and color of adjacent steles from the space you place a stele.

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They need to pay the cost to the temple. Placing steles on the temples may trigger a ritual when a stele is placed on the last space of a temple. All steles on that temple will be returned to the bag and that player will get one stele chosen from one of the other temples. When players manage to get 2 tokens of a single type, they will get a seal card that can help players during the game. Despite the game has a racing element to trigger the game end, it has certain scoring if more than one player managed to finish their tokens during the last round. The winner is player with the most Dragon seals, which can be found in some of the tokens and the back of the seal cards. Though the chance to get this situation is like Istanbul or Viticulture? The illustrations are beautiful (lots of colors, mostly green), not to mention the steles (plastic or resin? I bet it’s not wooden).

pic4338675BLACKOUT: HONGKONG
A new game from Alexander Pfister, the designer of Great Western Trail. To be honest, I was kind of surprised with this game visual presentation. It’s a unique theme and visual approach for Alexander Pfister. He mostly designed games with classic themes but this one isn’t. Briefly I thought this one is a cooperative game (it really reminds me of Pandemic in term of visual appearance). The game takes place in Hongkong (the near future 2020) where a massive blackout happened on the entire city. Players will work their ways to secure districts by placing their markers on locations that will enclose a district. To do this they need to gain resources (which is designed in the form of dice rolling combined with a rondel. There are 3 resource dice (each has a specific color and symbols on them) that will determine what resources are available for the round. Players then will choose cards from their hands to their board (up to 4 slots of cards). Following the turn order they will reveal the assigned cards and carry out their plans. There are two kinds of cards, specialists and volunteers. Specialists let you do special actions while volunteers allow you to procure things (resources) based on their colors (place cubes on the rondel based on where the same color resource die is). Players may procure resources other than shown by the dice by spending transport tokens. Players also can complete objectives by paying the requirement. Completed objectives allow players to get points, coins and place cubes on the map. The game comes with campaign mode and can also be played in solo mode. The campaign mode offers certain challenges and what objectives the players need to complete. This is surely unusual kind of game from the designer, personally I am not really into this, the overall game’s visual is not appealing to me, but I am kind of curious on how the game play really is.

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pic4272051NEMETON
The forest is corrupted, the trunks are blackened and the sap is toxic. The animals are dying and it’s up to the druids to save the forest and fight back the darkness. In this game players will be druids who will try to heal the forest by creating Nemetons, a sacred ground for brewing purifying potions. The game lasts for 10 or 11 rounds and in each round there will be Night, Dawn, Day and Dusk phase. In the night phase players will take turns to place a forest tile from their stack to the board face down (with moon side facing up). This tile will determine what tiles in straight lines are activated. Players place plants to empty tiles showing plant symbols. In Dawn phase, the Moon tiles are flipped on its day side, this may trigger a special tile to be placed onto the board. In Day phase, the druids will have to move one or two tiles in a straight line and then may use the action of the space it ends movement. Players can collect plants on the tile, brew potions (to get points), earn animal’s trust, or benefit from one of the two powers of the oak. Once per turn players can also use the animal spirit that they’ve collected. There are several kind of animals, each has its own ability. The game is a tile placement game with point to point movement.  Players also may complete goals that are shown on the common board, the first player to complete a certain goal will get a plant from that space. I think Nemeton is quite a light Euro game with moderate complexity from the different kind of tiles and available actions. It might be a good addition if you are looking for a tile placement game with a set collection.

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pic4012064-2TALES OF GLORY
In this game you are heroes that hungry for adventures. You will visit different places to defeat monsters and gain treasures. In this game players will get adventure tiles and add them to their hero tiles. In each round players will assign a card to determine their destination for the round (which adventure tile that they want) and reveal it simultaneously. Then they need to pay for the tile in order to place it on the table in front of them, adjacent to one of their placed tiles. These tiles must be placed in upright orientation and the side with a diamond must connect to other tiles with the same diamond side. Once the tile is placed, players will get rewards depend on the tile. Some tiles contain chests which can only be opened with a key token. Players can get key tokens from rewards or discard a tile instead of placing it. The game ends after 10 rounds. I think it’s a simple tile placement game with simultaneous action selection. I love the cartoony illustrations by Miguel Coimbra. I am not sure the game will have high replay value (though it also comes with Quest tiles that give more replay value than the base game). I think this is a nice addition to my collection, though the big question is if this game is good enough to be in my collection or not.

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pic4176830SHADOWS AMSTERDAM
This game is another interesting game that uses the core mechanic from Codenames and Mysterium. In this game, players will play in two teams. Each team will have one player as the Intelligence Officer while the others are Detectives. You can say that Intelligence Officers are the same as Master Spy in Codenames. These players will get a screen and a map card. To win the game, a team must win 2 rounds of the game. To win a round, the team needs to find three different pieces of evidence and deliver them to their client. The game is played in real time, so there’s no turn for each team. To find the evidence, the Intelligence Officers use Intel cards to give their detectives a clue to where they should move on the map. The Intelligence officers may not speak or gestures to avoid giving extra clues. You can find similarities of this game with Codenames. As word cards from Codenames are changed to hex tiles with images that form a map board. Players will try to guess these locations based on some Intel cards that the Intelligence Officer is using. I think the game is really interesting, they use a unique mechanic from a famous game and modify it with different approach. Though my concern is that somehow players can see the direction of the Intelligence Officer is looking at on the map board as they constantly check their map card behind their screen, this will surely give away important information for their detective agents.

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pic4058665NEWTON
From one of the designers of Lorenzo il Magnifico (Simone Luciani) and Nestor Mangone, CMON brings Newton, a new game about scientists in the 18th century and their efforts to make a mark in the world. In this game, players take the roles of young scientists who eager to be great geniuses of the world. Players will travel around Europe, to visit universities, study to discover new theories, create tools and also work to earn money. The game lasts for 6 rounds, where in each round players will play cards to do some actions. The actions will be progressive as previous played cards will improve those actions. Though the core actions are simple (involving Work, Technology, Travel, Lessons, Study and Joker actions), there are lot of things to keep in mind. Each action has multitude of considerations that players need to carefully decide. These are probably what make the game complicated. Adding cards to player’s tableau represents the tableau building mechanic of the game. Though briefly the game offers many things at once, there are many things to keep track in a single game. There is a map that shows universities across Europe, income track where you keep track of your works, Bookshelves in players’ study board to keep track your studies, also space to keep track of your inventions. I just thought that with all of these, it would really be interesting to see them fit altogether as a giant big machine. This is surely one of my most anticipated titles from Essen 2018.

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Note: images are taken from http://www.boardgamegeek.com and full credit to their owner.

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Posted by on November 9, 2018 in Board Games, Insight, Previews

 

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Essen 2018 Highlight Preview Part 5

Wow, already 5 parts long and we’re not barely scratch half of the list. Well, considerably it is a long list (as expected from Essen Spiel). So let’s see what I have here, maybe some games that also in your list? Let me know in the comment.

ReykholtREYKHOLT
Following Uwe Rosenberg signature of agriculture games, Reykholt brings new or fresh theme out of it, an icelanding gardening business. Tomatoes seemed particularly essential there. Judging by the rules, I guess it falls into the lighter and less complicated side of Rosenberg’s designs. In Reykholt, players will compete to make the best green houses. Unlike other Rosenberg’s agriculture / farming games, this one doesn’t have player boards and also building tiles (instead it uses cards as tiles placed in front of players). The game board comprises several action spaces that players can assign their workers. They will mostly seed vegetables, harvest them and attract tourist with their beautiful gardens. I am not really familiar with the Tourism track, which I think the game lacks of components to mark the player’s achievement if they completed the track and go back to the beginning space of the track with a reminder that the cost still accumulates (in addition this is how to track the winner of the game, farthest on the track; so it’s all about Tourism!).

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The components seemed minimalist here, but against all of Rosenberg’s agriculture games, this one is by far has the most beautiful illustrations. And moving out of the usual tradition, the game will be published by Renegade Game Studios instead of Z-Man, Mayfair or Lookout Games. But the real question is, does this game offer new game to the agriculture lines? Or does it replace one of his older games? I am also curious about it. I heard this one is very similar with At The Gate of Loyang, Uwe’s older game.

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pic4314635ADRENALINE – TEAM PLAY DLC
This is the first game expansion that made into this list. I am so excited over this. Love the base game and this expansion is a must-have for me. This expansion brings new elements that considerately improve or change the game play of the base game. The first one is a new sixth characters (character with orange color named Vector). This way, you can play with 6 players. pic4339874But not just that, this sixth character allows the game to be played in team play, whether you play it 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3, you will use all of the characters in the game. Yap, team play as the name suggests. So there will be black and white team in team play and it will be using a new way of dealing damage, with buffers. The instance you deal damage to your opponents, they’re not instantly receive wounds, but instead all the wounds are collected with their own wound tokens in their team’s buffer board, which when it’s full the wound will then be distributed. I am not sure why they designed it this way, but I am certain they have a good reason for it.

And there are still more new things, such as the Adrenaline Rush mode, which players can adjust their hit tracker (shifting it to the left) which reduce their hit points (easier to be killed) but it also gives them certain benefits. You know they surely want to emphasize the point of Adrenaline rush into the game (like it’s not enough in the base game). Last thing, there’s also dedicated weapons for each character which I think it’s awesome. They bring the asymmetric element while the base only offers variable player weapons.

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pic3949618-2TEOTIHUACAN: CITY OF GODS
This one is the successor from Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar. From the same designer but snot from the same publisher. Teotihuacan (wow, that’s hard to pronounce) is still wearing the same theme as Tzolkin, which is Mayan ancient civilization. In this game, players will utilize their workers/dice to take available actions around the board, so it seems like a giant rondel thingy, remember Great Western Trail? Though in this one, the rondel isn’t improving as the game progresses. But the game variation is surely high, since you can have different actions to choose for during setup, so you will have different set of actions in each game. Aside from the rondel, the way players use their dice is kinda unique, they move their dice and the action is determined by the total number of pip from all the dice in that location, which I think gives another level of consideration while choosing what action to take. On top of that, there’s this wooden block pyramid in the center of the board (it’s like the eye candy of the it all). This is not just a gimmick, but I am not sure if design-wise it’s essential to be made as it is. The pyramid is shaped by numbers of square blocks with some icons on the top side. I would guess those are resources. I am not really into the illustration, hopefully it’s a functional design decision. I am on the fence about this one, since I am not really into Tzolkin, but let’s see how it goes.

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pic4269685GINGERBREAD HOUSE
Phil-Walker Harding strikes again. After his successful game of tile placement, Barenpark, he released another tile placement game, called Gingerbread House. It still using tile placement mechanic but the form / shape is consistent with this one, domino tiles (2×1 tiles). Player will compete to build their own gingerbread house by placing the domino tiles on their boards (3×3 grid). Squares that they cover will generate resources (sweets) or actions. These sweets are used as bait to capture fairy tale characters. If you are following the story, the witch is using her Gingerbread house as traps to nail rude fairy tale characters who pass by and eat a piece of her house. I found the theme to be cute. As I know this one is more random than Barenpark, since players will get random domino tiles to form their house. But I love the illustrations, they’re cute and funny.

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pic4328782THE BOLDEST
This is a new game from designer Sophia Wagner (the designer of Noria), which has fascinating illustrations from Max Prentis. The game is about a savage world called Iron Valley and the forgotten creatures of the forest. The goal is to get the most experience by the end of the game, which players get from collecting forest tiles from the main board. To do this, in each round, players will assigning 3 groups of cards (starting with 17 cards of their faction) from their hands into their planning tables. These groups will be revealed simultaneously one by one starting from the left to the right. Players will then compare their groups to see who will execute the expedition first based on the group class (from Warrior to Technician, to Hunter and then the last, Cook). If there are more than one group of the same class, the group strength will determine which player will execute the expedition. If it’s still ties, the tie breaker is the position of player’s flags from the king’s tent. Doing expedition allows players to take forest tiles based on what class is the leader of the group. Warrior allows players to take a monster or an item, while Technician allows players to take an artifact or an item. Hunter on the other hand may take up to three forest tiles from a single column but only with a cross hair symbol. Cook allows players to take Adventurers of their choice from the camp, this how players build their hands. There are also pets, which can be assign to any group, though it may not be a leader of a group. I think the game is quite simple, there are certain plannings that players need to think about, their hands are mostly where the plan is. Carefully organizing how they form their group is essential, not also to mention that you don’t get your used card right away in the next round. I found the game is more appealing because of the illustrations instead of the game play, so don’t really have a high expectation for this one.

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pic3983952-2WILDLANDS
Most of us know Martin Wallace with his classic Euros such as train games, historical civilization and such. But he also has some games with fantasy theme such as A Study in Emerald, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, The Witches, Mythotopia, A Handful of Stars and many more. Now he releases another fantasy theme game called Wildlands, which has unusual genre. Yes, unusual because it’s a take that, racing and skirmish game. In the game players will have 5 heroes (characters) that will enter the board one by one. These heroes will have a starting space where they enter (which is done during the setup in the form of drafting). Player’s turn is very simple, first if the player still have an unrevealed character, they must reveal at least one of them. Then play as many cards and reveal as many characters as they wish. Then they draw 3 cards and pass the active player market to the next player. The game may ends in two conditions, whether one player has successfully get 5 points or one player loses all their characters.
The card play is the heart of the game. Each character has a specific symbol that will show up in the cards. In a card there are a column of scales and a column of flags. If the character symbol is on one of the scale, than that character can move using this card. Symbols in the flags are specific actions that the character can take instead of moving. I found the game to be pretty simple and straight forward. But somehow there are things that are not easy to grasp. There are certain limitations with the maps, such as high ground and line of sight. Players get points by collecting crystal shards and knock opponents’ characters. I am definitely interested with this one, and its already have 2 upcoming expansions to add variety into the base game.

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pic4082667PANTONE THE GAME
Now not many of us know about Pantone, personally for me, Pantone is quite familiar. Pantone is color books, it is mostly used in printing industry or any other fields that uses paints and colors. In this game, players will get 3 character cards. On their turn, the player will be the artist and must design a representation of one of the cards they have by using color swatches. Yes, Swatch cards are basically colored cards (the game comes with 15 different colors) and it uses a plastic tray to easily store all the swatches. Players get 3 cards, meaning the game lasts for 3 rounds. In the first round, players may use all the swatches available. But in the second round, they may only use one swatch card of each color to design. In the last round, they may only use 3 swatch cards in total. After the artist is finished the representation, each other player has exactly one guess. If a player managed to guess the character correctly, the artist and the guess player score full points that shows in “NO HINT” label. If no one able to guess, then the artist will give the next clue that shown on the character cards (if a player managed to guess this, the artist and the guess player will score less points than before). I think the game is fun, given this is a social game that has similar genre as Concepts, Charades or Pictomania. The downside is that when you play with players with different generations (age) some of the characters might not really identifiable by them. And to be honest, the components are kinda meh, it’s just a bunch of colored cards. You can practically home made this game. But having this game is kinda worthy from my line of work because I am a creative person. Hell, I don’t even have the real Pantone color book (I am feeling guilty and this might be the solution, errr…).

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pic3730607SPY CLUB
Detective theme games are selling like hot cakes right now. Following the success of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detectives, there are games with the same case solving theme as Watson and Holmes, Detective, Chronicles of Crime, Deadline and many more. Now there’s Spy Club which targeting more younger audiences. Spy Club is new game from Renegade Game Studios with more brighter and colorful theme (instead dark and grim tone of the story from the other crime solving games). In this game players will work together in a club that they formed by themselves to play spies and investigations. Although the game is not a legacy game, this game offers a campaign mode (5 scenarios that connected with each other) as well as one time play, which players can reset the game back to the beginning easily. In this game, players need to find the solution of 5 aspects of the game (Motive, Suspect, Location, Crime and Object). To find a solution of an aspect, players need to place 5 cards of the same aspect type in the center row. In order to do this, they need to take some actions to move around cards from their hands. Players may take up to 3 actions during their turns to Investigate, Confirm, Scout and Shift Focus. Each player hand consists of 3 cards (or 4 cards) that they place on the table in front of them within their player board. The clue cards are double sided (there are no front and back side) which they carefully not to see the bottom side when move the cards, they can flip these cards with Investigate action during their turns. At the end of each player’s turn, the suspect will move (and escape marker may advance) and will trigger special event depends on what type of card the suspect marker is on. The game also uses a resource called Ideas, from time to time, players will get or spend Ideas. If playing a campaign, players will unlock things and carry things over to the next campaign providing some sense of progression. The game is definitely an interesting set collection, puzzle game but I am not sure of the built-in story may differ in each play.

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Note: images are taken from http://www.boardgamegeek.com and full credit to their owner.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Board Games, Insight, Previews

 

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Essen 2018 Highlight Preview Part 4

I am back with the fourth part of the preview. There are some interesting titles here and some of them are going to be in my collection. Curious what games are those? Just read on!

pic4093955KERO
It’s a 2 player game of Mad Max. The game title is taken from the word of Kerosene, which is a scarce resource in the future. Each player will take the role of a rival clan, struggling to survive and explore new territories. The game lasts for 3 claim rounds, which is determined by the draw pile. Players take turns by fueling up with Kero, roll dice and collect resources to take cards, visit the native tribe or explore new territories. The unique element of the game is the Kero resource which represented by the hourglass timer with the shape of a truck. Each player keeps their trucks for themselves. When fueling up their truck with kero, opponent player will roll 8 dice in real time while the active player hold their truck in an upside down position (truck head downside). When the dice roll shows all fire symbols, the player must stop fuel the truck and place it flat on the table. The player then may spend Jerrycans to add additional dice from the shack to improve their dice results. Once ready, the player place their truck on the table on upright position so the Kero starts flowing and the player rolls their dice. The die is locked if showing a fire symbol. If the player ran out of Kero, they must immediately stop and gets nothing. When the claim card is revealed, the players claim new territories based on area majority. After the third claim card is revealed, players finish the round and check who has the most points. I think the game is quite unique with the hourglass timer and it’s implementation. Having your opponents rolls dice to determine the time for you to fuel your truck is very interesting. If only it is possible to play with more than 2-players.
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The RiverTHE RIVER
In this game, players will place terrain tiles on their river board to generate resources and storage spaces. They also have pioneers that they can assign in worker spaces to gain resources, build buildings, swap resources and gain tiles. It’s a very simple worker placement game, with limited resources in the game. What makes the game unique is the river board owned by each player. Briefly the tile placement is in a 3×4 grid (12 tiles) but the placement is following the river direction, which is from left to right down to left and then lastly, dow to right. This will affect players to gain score based on the terrain type scored per column. Matching terrain tiles from the tile of the top column in each column score points. Not sure the replay value will be good or not. I noticed that each player starting tile is drawn from the stack of tiles, randomized at the beginning. This give me the general overview about the tiles. The tiles are mostly balance, no sense of progression, so you just adding quantity to your board instead of quality. But maybe the game is intended for lighter getaway games.
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pic4308140CARPE DIEM
Another new title from Stefan Feld, which I think a lot more simpler than Forum Trajanum. Carpe Diem sets the game in a medieval Roman civilization, where players play as noble patricians set to build and improve their city districts. The game consists of four phases (7 rounds in each phases) just like in The Castles of Burgundy where they use the term ‘phase’ for ’round’ which sometimes could be misinterpreted by players because of the common use of the term ’rounds’ instead of ‘phases’. In this game, players will move around their marker on a circular (mancala-looking kind of board) spaces to take tiles based on the connected lines of those spaces. These acquired tiles are placed on the player’s board to complete a certain landscape, dwellings, market, bakery and fountain (which have different treatment). Once the mancala out of tiles, the phase is over and scoring begins based on the players’ progresses on Banderole track. Player who advance furthest score first, by placing one of his marker on an empty spot between two scoring cards and score points based on these cards (related with his board). So basically the game has tile placement (like Cottage Garden, Barenpark or the likes), very simple. The art is bad, period. Definitely an abstract, as opposite with the art cover. Not to mention the title is overwhelmingly generic, Carpe Diem, is latin for “Seize The Day” which I could say can be applied to anything, regardless the background setting fo the game.
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pic4220884SPELL SMASHERS
Here we go, a word game. You know that I love word games and I am really excited with this one. I guess there’s nothing new in this except that this is an improved version of Letter Tycoon (not having Letter Tycoon on my collection gives me a good reason to get this). Unlike Letter Tycoon, this game has theme, which players take the roles of heroes who fight monsters by crafting spells. The game has 7 rounds, which in each round there are 3 phases, prepare words, battle monsters and then visit the town. As you might already guessed, players craft letters to make a word (spell) to deal damages to monsters. Letter cards have damage value and type that will affecting the damage total based on the type of monsters. During prepare words phase, players are simultaneously craft a word with letter cards (also with the help of Armor and Weapon cards) and simultaneously reveal their words. Then they check their initiatives (most letters to fewest), longest one will go first and choose which monster they will be battling. After dealing damages, players gain rewards, suffer wound or complete quest based on the monster. Wound works quite unique, where players draw a wound card from the deck and add it to their hand. Wound card can be used to form a word, but generally they’re a combination of letters and harder to form and tricky to use in a word. There are ways to remove wound card, by playing it in a word or by using Shaman ability. During visit town phase, players draw 2 quests and keep one (max 2 quests at any time) and then they can visit 1 building such as Shaman, Tavern, Guild, Armory and Alchemist. It’s a unique take on a word game, the general concept that players can fight any available monster and accumulate damages (basically reducing points in the form of coins) on them is quite tactical. Having that said, this provide piggy-backing feature for players to see which monster is dying so that they can take out, though some might not like this concept. Overall, I definitely getting this game, great word game and illustration by the Mico, really peak my interest.
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pic4215812-2SYMPHONY NO. 9
I found this game by mere chance, and upon looking at the game description, I am interested. It’s a game about classic music composers (like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and etc). In this game, players are taking the roles of music enthusiasts and will support composer to hold royal concerts. The game lasts for three rounds, where each rounds there will be three phases, Sponsor, Concert and Clean up. During Sponsor phase, players will taking donation cubes three times. These cubes represents reputation of each musician. Players will gain composition tiles from musicians based on the majority of these donation cubes. The movement of these cubes could be fiddly to analyze. After then players will finance the royal concert by spending money (wagering) simultaneously, the total money spent by all players will decide whether the concert is a bust (failure) or a success. The concert can fail because the money gathered is under the minimum value or to much above the maximum value. If it’s a success, there is still 3 levels of concert (low, medium or high). The level will determine which musicians will perform and players will get income based on their donation cubes of that musicians. In the Cleanup phase, musicians might be dead (if there is no longer donation cube in their career track) but their works can still be enjoyed by the public, as their works are immortalized through compositions. Players also have furniture tiles, which they can (at any time) sell to gain more money. But of course, keeping furnitures are essential in the household and give points at the end of the game. At the end of the game, players score points based on the scoring methods available on the game (there are different sets). I think the most interesting part of the game is the wagering part, which it can have different outcomes depends on the players as a group. The second one is the theme is kinda unique. Definitely on my top list.
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First ContactFIRST CONTACT
The first thing I have in mind when I read the rules is Codenames! This game reimplemented the core rules of Codenames into a more interesting game with suitable theme. I actually kinda fond of the theme of first encounter. This is a game of deciphering code of alien (foreign) language, translate them and fulfill the needs. Unlike Codenames, in this game players still divided into teams but, there will be only one winner from each team at the end of game. The background story is really interesting, one team will be earthlings while the other is aliens. Alien had come to ancient Egypt and they want to take things from Egypt civilization to be sold into intergalactic market (you can say it like that). But both Aliens and Egyptians do not understand each other languages and cannot communicate using words. So the earthlings need to find a way to translate the Aliens’s needs and offer it to them.
The general game play is still using codenames core deduction, but I think it has enough similarity as Word Porters as describing the nature of the goods. Basically earthling players need to figure out the symbol of certain characteristic from some goods available, the aliens will assign the symbol based on their interpretation, and what is good they want by drawing some symbols. Then after having enough information, earthling players will offer the goods by voting the requested one. If they are correct, each will get a benevolence token from the Alien player. This game is definitely in my must have list. I might prematurely said this, but this might be Codenames killer.

FuturopiaFUTUROPIA
A new game from Friedemann Friese (you can play solitaire in this one). As the title suggests, this game is about the utopian future, where people want to live leisurely the best they can. For this demand, they need the most sustainable system to accommodate their life and players need to build the fulfilling condo. In the game, players can expand the living quarters of their condo, which can sustain more people (for each people they need to provide their own bed). To sustain their life, people need to work (at first) but they need to improve, meaning let the robot do the work and they can relax and leisurely spend a great life. More needs means more resources, food and energy, to provide these they need generators. To keep the generators running they need to work, or install robots to work the generators, but that also means more energy needed for the robot to operates itself.
I think this is quite interesting, players will need to make a sustainable and profitable engine for their condo. I kinda like the idea and how the game plays. It uses action selection mechanic where each player has a set of 5 action tiles that they can choose for each turn. Chosen action tile is placed face down and cannot be chosen again before they use all the action tiles. So there is a small action programming / planning to take into account.
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pic4244955-2SOLENIA
Solenia is a game of hand and resource management. The premise is simple, each player has the same set of cards ((16) which all of them will be played throughout the game, 1 card per round. They place cards on the board, which consists of 5 pieces of double sided strip tiles (day and Night). There are certain rules about the cards placement, which affecting the position of the giant airship, card adjacency and using resource to lengthen the voyage. What tile the card is placed will determine what kind of effect the players get. If it’s a floating island, they get resources, if it’s a floating city, they must fulfill one of the available delivery tiles (day or night depends on the tile). Acquired delivery tile will be placed on player’s board slot, grating them immediate rewards. When a player plays a value-0 card, then the Giant Airship will move 1 space forward and the cards on the first strip will be resolved and the strip tile is flipped and moved to the back line.
The game is very simple, find ways to collect resources, then spend the resources to fulfill delivery tiles. The concept of day and night is also interesting, because after a cycle, the strip tile will change rom Night to Day or vice versa.
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Note: images are taken from http://www.boardgamegeek.com and full credit to their owner.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in Board Games, Insight, Previews

 

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Essen 2018 Highlight Previews Part 3

Back to part three of my Essen 2018 Highlight Previews. There is a long list of new titles and we’ve just scratching the surface, so let’s get down to it and take them all up.

pic4328611SUNFLOWER VALLEY
I bet this genre is on a hype this year. Following the hit trend from Santa Maria La Granja Dice Game, The Castle of Burgundy dice game and many more, this year Essen will be filled with games that involving dice roll with pen and paper such as Railroad Ink Red and Blue, and the another one is Sunflower Valley. The game is targeted for children with bright colorful illustrations and simple game play.  The game play is almost similar like other games of the same type, roll dice, choose a die and draw it on a sheet. Very simple idea, but apparently it’s not wholly simple for children to build good-score network of sheeps, houses and sunflowers. It requires a good deal of logic to connect these hexes in order to score good points. The game provides a ruleset for playing with younger players, which count adjacency placement instead connecting with railroads. I found the game to be cute, but not really think it would overstay its welcome.
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pic4285717BETWEEN TWO CASTLES OF MAD KING LUDWIG
This is a mix between a Stonemaier Game (Between Two Cities) and a Bezier Game (The Castles of Mad King Ludwig). Somehow both publishers can manage to combine these two and Stonemaier games get all the glory to publish it. Personally I found Between Two Cities lacking the gaming element and regardless all the decisions, is decision-less) but I do like Castles of Mad King Ludwig if not because the ugly in-game component artworks. The major differences about this one is that it incorporates Between Two Cities game system but in a 2D side scrolling style where you look at the rooms in side-view instead of top-view as in those two games. The golden rule is that when you place a room, you need to place it from bottom up (each room need a foundation just like in Dream Home). The scoring system works similar like The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, interesting. And to be honest, I love the illustrations of the rooms in this game. The illustrators of Dream Home also contribute in this game visual appearances, so that explains partially.
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pic4297333DICIUM
Dicium is a very interesting dice rolling game combination. Why combination? Because the game offers 4 different games by using the same core mechanic of dice rolling and allocation.  Each game offers different game play such as racing, cooperative dungeon exploring, civilization conquest and confrontation skirmish game. All these games are using the same principle of 2-2-2, which are roll two times, take 2 actions and store up to 2 dice. The dice shows different colors and each color has corresponding value (from 1 to 5) and one side showing a spiral (wild number). These are related to what actions that player can take by grouping the dice based on sets (color or number). I think four games offer simple approach in the mechanic but the idea is neat, to offer 4 games in one game.
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pic4022414ATLANDICE
Atlandice is a dice rolling/ drafting game with it’s main board (dial) looks like the player’s lab in Aquasphere (the game plays differently). In this game, players will take a die from one of the location, get the corresponding resource and activate the effect. And then move the clock hand forward. The goal is resource collecting, where there are several resources available in the game, each is located in different district, though during the game, these resources may be moved around the board. When a district is out of resource, the scoring happened and player with most of the resource wins the district tile (and opens up new tile, if any). The tiles have different effect and they will affect resources on the board. I think it’s a very simple and straight forward game though the heart of the game lies on the effects of the tiles, which I am not sure how they work and affecting each other. The downside is the overly well done art cover, which is kinda misleading when you check the components.
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pic4224397ARCHITECTURA
It’s basically a card laying game. Each player has their own deck of cards which they shuffled and draw 3 cards from the top at the start of the game. On their turn they must play a card (place it on one of the eligible spaces on the city which is formed by blocks and rows (with 8 blocks and the number of players determine the number of streets). The placement rules are: The card must be placed on the first block of a street, or must be placed to the right of previously placed card. Player must not place a card which lead to a 3 in a row of a single color. Once placed, the played card is compared with the card on it’s immediate left. Which will affect the orientation of the previously placed card (the value of the card). In the end of the game, players count the value of their cards, player with the highest value wins the game. There is also an advance variant in the game, which using a different set of cards.
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pic4199323PLANET
In this game, each turn players will draft continent tiles and place it on empty side of their planet core. Then starting from the third turn onwards, players will contest who will get the animal cards that are contested on the given round. To do this they need to pass the habitat requirement for that animal. Basically you must provide the habitat by placing continent tiles in specific pattern which allow you to get them. It’s a very simple game of area majority, light strategy game that is casual gamer friendly. Though the general idea is interesting, in addition of the eye candy planet cores, I don’t think the game is gamey enough and warrant nice replay value, let along it’s kinda fiddly to check your continent looks like, rotate that core every now and then; not to mention you need to constantly ask other players about their planet cores, since the main mechanic is area majority or control.
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pic4122624BLUE LAGOON
Another new game from Reinier Knizia. The goal of the game is to expand your tribes throughout the islands. The game has two distinct phases / stages, exploration and settlement. At the end of each phase, there will be scoring. In the exploration phase, players place a token into the board to make a wide network of their tribes. There are restrictions of course, players place settlers in a sea space in the boat side (they can place it anywhere) and to place a village or settler, they need to place it on adjacent space of their previously placed settlers. In the second phase (settlement phase) the villages that on stone tiles, will be removed from the board along with all the settlers, and then new resources will be refilled on that stone tiles. And then after the second phase, the same scoring will take place.
It feels odd, I don’t know why but the scoring mechanics looks boring and tedious. The settlement phase lets players expand their tribes from the villages that they have placed from the exploration phase which could give different stand point from the first entry points in the first phase.
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pic4120596RUTHLESS
Ruthless is an interesting pirate themed card game that combines a deck building with a poker (suit). In this game players will recruit pirates (card from the display) to their ranks and try to make a raiding party by making a set as can be found in poker (such as pair, straight, three / four / five of a kind, flush and full ship). The interesting part is that there are Command actions that players can take from their starting set of cards, which are Trade, Brawl/Bury, Plunder and Board. To make it more interesting, there are also special abilities provided by Pirate cards which immediately take effect once the pirate is recruited. I usually not really into a poker style kind of game but this one looks pretty interesting, and if you are looking for a more compact deck building game, this one is a good one.
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Note: images are taken from http://www.boardgamegeek.com and full credit to their owner.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2018 in Board Games, Insight, Previews

 

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Essen 2018 Highlight Preview Part 1

Okay, Essen 2018 is right upon us and how excited is that? Now there are lots of games coming your way, and you need to trim down that list with some new games that worthy of your collection. But you don’t know what games fit the bill just because there are too many and you don’t do any research? Well worry not, I did some research and might as well share them to you guys. Hopefully these preview lists are useful for your Essen 2018 purchase. And as usual, I will break down the list in several posts to keep them easy to read. Happy reading!

pic4037705CRYPTIDS
Have you heard of the thing that lurks in the night? Nobody ever witness the thing face to face and the rumors just spread wide and wide. You are a cryptologist and this time you are looking for the truth behind the urban legend creatures and where it is nesting. Whether it’s a yeti, chupacabra or something else, you must find it first before someone else. That’s how it is! In this game, each player will have a certain piece or information (different for each player) that holds the location of that creature you all are looking for. Players will take turns to gain information by either question someone else or search. This two actions will revolve around your deduction in order to find the correct location of the creature. The game has modular maps, which determined the map in each game. Players then, work their ways to gain information based on their piece of information. On their turn, players can choose to questioning other player, to do this, they have to put a pawn on a map space and choose any other player “Could the creatures be here?” The questioned player must answer with an honest answer based on the information they have by placing a cube or a disc. A cube if the answer is a NO or a disc if it’s a YES. If it’s a cube the player who asked also need to place their cube in a space that is not the habitat according to their clue. Another action is to search, this is done by placing a pawn on a map space that could be the habitat of the creature based on the information the player has and place their disc there, following clockwise, players must also place whether a disc or a cube. If all players placed their discs, that searching player found the location of the creature and wins the game. If at least one player place a cube, the search fails. The game surely has interesting deduction element, very simple but lots of memory and deduction takes place. There are maps and things on the board, so players can keep track what players did. Some said this is similar with Tobago, I have not try Tobago yet, so wouldn’t know how it is. It’s kind of an abstract game with maps, cubes and discs but an interesting one at that. If you like a deduction game, this might be a game for you.
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pic4089634ARRAIAL
It’s basically Tetris: The Board Game. The premise is about Portugal tradition of outdoor festivals. People will flock the streets because the festivals they often have. In this game players will organize their own festivals and try to attract the most visitors. The game is played over 3 rounds. In each round they will take turns to take action(s). Each turn they have 3 action points which they can spend in 2 ways. 1 pt to rotate the octagon 90 degrees or 1 pt to place a color piece on your street (this is a mandatory action that you have to take on your turn). Rotating the Octagon lets you get the piece you need in a specific orientation. Placing pieces on your street will be like Tetris. You will take the corresponding piece from the supply and put it into the bottom part of your board (you cannot reorient it no longer). If the placement of the piece cross the level bar, return it and any visitor on it to the box, those will not be scored in the final score.
Visitors are gained by placing specific color pieces on the board. If you place a piece which creates a zone (adjacent) of at least 2 tiles of the same color, place the matching visitor on that zone. If you add another tile to that zone, you don’t get additional visitor. If you are the first player to make a zone of certain color, you will get the couple visitor in addition to the single one. But this couple visitor can be claimed by other players who make the larger zone of that color. When you completely fill a line on your board with pieces, same as tetris (but slightly different) you raise one line of your level bar and place an individual visitor (white) on it. At the end of phase 1 and 2, each player will drop their level bar by 2 lines. If the bar doesn’t overlap any piece, move the white visitor to any piece on your board. If it does, remove the level bar as usual. At the end of phase 3, the level bar doesn’t move downward. Players get 1 point from each individual visitor and 2 pts from couple visitor.
I thinks the game is really interesting, very simple, just like tetris, which is kinda nostalgic in some ways. I kinda guess that this game will be a relaxing game, like Cottage Garden or Tokaido and a perfect companion in a very casual night. In addition that the game is designed by one of my favorite game duos, this is a good one to have. One side note, the pieces are not double sided, cause they are not intended to be. The back side has white color which I think kinda drab and lame, should be with the same color on the front (without illustration) to make them easy to recognize even if it’s on the reverse side.
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pic3956079-2COIMBRA
The game uses dice placement and drafting mechanics. In each round players will draft a die and place it into one of the four locations. The placement follows a different rule in each location. The placement in the castle follows an ascending order of dice, while other locations are using descending order. After all players have place their dice, then each player will retrieve their dice from the locations and take the corresponding actions. This is done following the location order from top to bottom. At locations beside the Castle, players will acquire character cards. Taking cards require cost which define by the type of resource it has and the amount of that resource needed based on the value of the dice. This means taking cards first cost you more than taking it last. Cards can be used for several things in the game. After that the game continues to Influence Income, where players advance their influences based on what colors of dice they have and gain the income depicted. Then players can invest in a voyage which will give points at the end of game depends on how you perform.
The game is quite simple, the illustration or presentation of the game looks amazing and colorful. I can see a small hint of Bora Bora in the dice placement mechanic (though I think it’s less elegant). The Pilgrimage aspect of the game feels really like Voyages of Marco Polo, where players move around and place their markers on locations to get the bonuses.
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pic4023265CARSON CITY – THE CARD GAME
Following the same concept of city building in the board game, Carson City Card Game uses a  square terrain cards (with each card represents 2×2 parcels of land) which players will place in front of them to build a city. In order to get these cards they need to participate in a blind auction, strictly confined within a set of cards with value 1-9 (it is possible to increase the ante with cards value of 10-11). During the auction phase there will be some terrain cards and a character cards available to be auctioned and once players already decided what cards they want to use, they reveal the cards and check who has the highest value card, that player will choose first and followed by others in descending order. Then they place their newly acquired terrain card within the range of 8×8 parcels of land with some restrictions for placement. The game lasts for 2 eras, which after the first era, their used auction cards will be returned to their hand and be used again in the next era.
The scoring is done based on the placement of buildings on players land and also some characters that provide points. The game can be played from 2 to 6 players, though playing with less than 4 players requires the use of virtual players that will balance the auction mechanic.
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pic4010727-2JUNK ORBIT
At first, this game really feels like a children or not serious game with simple and take that and randomness and luck elements on it. But the truth is, it is. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be fun. I hold myself to read the rules and turned out to my satisfaction, the game is really interesting. Though there’s a crunching numbers and AP potential on it, it surely interesting to see managing chaos get a hold of you. In Junk Orbit, 2-5 players will be junk pilots that will make deliveries of junk cargos across the Earth, Moon, Mars and as well as Phobos and Deimos. Each planet have different locations / cities surrounding it (thus the title orbit) and players will travel these locations in a very interesting manner. In players turn, in order to move, they have to launch a junk from their ship. They decide the direction on the launch and it will travel a number of spaces based on the value listed on that junk tile. When a junk ends it movement, it will stop on the city, it can rest there (nothing happened) or can be delivered remotely (congratulation to you) or it can hit another player’s ships (yes if there’s more than one ship, all of them get hit). When a ship hit, that ship must discard a junk tile from their cargo or delivery area into the city they’re in.
The funny and interesting part is, after you launch a junk, your ship will move in the opposite direction of the launched junk tile in the same exact spaces shown in the junk value. If when your ship ends its movement to a city that exactly match with one of your cargo, you just made a direct delivery (hats off to you). You place that junk tile face down on your delivery area. And then you pick up junk tiles in that city.  Ships can move between planets from specific cities which act as transfer points between 2 planets. I found the game to be very interesting, there are interesting decisions inside and totally a number crunching game. I just hope that it’s not diminishing the fun part from the game.
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pic3443532-2PRINCESS JING
It’s an asymmetric two player game with one player will be the princess and another player as the guard. The princess of course want to get away from the guards while the guards want to capture her. It’s a hide and seek, cat and mouse game with a twist. Players will try to pin down by using mirrors and the position of their player pawns.  The thing that doubts me the most would be how good the mirror even works. I bet in this hidden movement game, your discreet is really an essential thing, getting to look at the mirror would make your opponent kinda actually know where is the location, not exactly but maybe they can narrow it down. And given the mirror is not an actual glass mirror, you will be faced with blurry reflection, which I think could be on purpose, you never know. I just hoped this game has good replay value, it’s a 2-player hide and seek game, so replay value is important. They do includes the advance variant with more components and variable to add more replay value to the game though.
Apparently the designer himself commented on this post about my mistake in translating the game as an asymmetrical game. The truth is that the game is actually a symmetrical game, where both players have their own princess trying to escape from opponent’s guards. This change several things to consider, the competition is balance, players will try to be the first to deliver their princesses to their Captains. Pointing out the location of an opponent princess may give the player, time to complete their own goal because if they correctly point the whereabout of the opponent’s princess, they have to return back to the starting line. It’s an interesting one though thematically I would say it’s less fit with the game play. First of all, the game title is Princess Jing, but actually there are two princesses and the other one is Jing’s sister named Fang (should it be Jing & Fang?). And secondly, the game pits the two characters in opposite sides, though based on the story given they’re not fighting or even competing, but getting to reach each captain (but it’s not in whatsoever affecting the game play). So The concept is interesting, unique and definitely has great presentation, which will draw public attention to the table.
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pic4259360-2UNDERWATER CITIES
In this game, players will build underwater cities. Th game is played over 3 eras. Which in each era, players will play 3 cards or more. The game uses hand management and action selection. In their turns players play a card onto one of the available action slots on the board. If the card and slot have matching color, the card effect is resolved, if not only the slot effect is resolved. This is the core mechanic of the game, which players will manage their hands with cards which determine two things, the actions on the card and the actions on the action spaces that matching the color of the cards. It still feels like a worker placement game, but it uses card instead of a worker meeple. The main objective is to get the most points by building cities with buildings attached to it and the networks. Networks are important, because you need to connect the cities or metropolis in order for them to score / produce.
This is Vladimir Suchy’s new game and it uses different game mechanic from his previous games (Last Will, Pulsar 2849 and Shipyard and many more). I think he always use different mechanics in his games.
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pic4143114GUGONG
Gugong is a game with China as the background during the Ming Dynasty. Where players will take the roles of leader of powerful Chinese families, try to gain influence and power by exchanging gifts (bribes) with Emperor’s officials. The game uses an interesting card play mechanic where they place cards to get cards for future rounds. The twist is that player must place cards of higher value than the one they take. The game is played over 4 rounds and each round consists of 3 phases (Morning, Day and Night phase). During the Day phase, players will perform various actions by exchanging gift cards from their hands with the ones in the game board. As already mentioned that player can get a card from the board by placing a higher value card from their hand, this not always the case, and players can do something to get the card even if it’s higher or equal with the card from their hand (remove servants or discard another card or exchange without performing the action). The actions that player can take from exchanging cards are varies, from traveling to cities (to get travel tokens, which could be useful for several things during the game). Participate in the renovation of great wall, which would lead to a great wall scoring if a segment is completed. Getting a jade token from Jade Official houses, which worth as points at the end of the game. You can also climb up the intrigue track. You can also advance your envoys in the palace track to gain points. Obtain a decree which gives various benefits. You can also send your servant on a journey on the grand canal, to trade with outside people. In the Night phase, players can score points with their gift cards if one or more cards are matching the destiny dice. And then all ships moved. I think the game is very simple, basically the core concept is exchanging cards and taking the actions which mostly cost servants to take.
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Note: images are taken from http://www.boardgamegeek.com and full credit to their owner.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2018 in Board Games, Previews

 

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Welcome to Abstract Island!

pic3933639Dokmus Review
Do you share your love for some abstract? I for one, don’t love abstract games in general. I found them to be uninteresting, lack of compelling reason and bland as boredom. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t say that abstract games are not good, some of them are good (if not great), let say abstract games like Chess, Patchwork, Tsuro, Azul, Ingenious, Onitama, Quoridor and many more. It’s just that the abstract theme doesn’t really help me to like the game more. Regardless, having a great art doesn’t warrant the game as not abstract, in fact most of Euro Games are abstract if you strip the game from those pasted theme. Now enough with that, let’s take a look of a game called Dokmus. Weirdly titled, Dokmus is a 2017 released game designed by Mikko Punakallio (Finnish designer) and published by Lautapelit.fi (at first) and getting wider distribution by Renegade Game Studios.

What is Dokmus?
In Dokmus, each player will lead an expedition to the island of Dokmus, the ancestral god of your tribe. The island is guarded by five guardians, whom you can gain favors from. Their favors will help you to explore the island and prove that you are the most worthy in the eyes of Dokmus. There is barely a theme here, I would say that this is an abstract game from head to toe, with a slim theme on the icing.

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Dokmus is a simple, light abstract strategy for 2-4 players. Each player will have to explore the island and discover temples. After 8 rounds, the game ends and scoring takes place, player with most points wins the game. In the game, there are 8 map tiles (double sided map) that will be randomly placed in a 3×3 grid with the center tile left empty. It is recommended to use the A side of the map tiles for first play. Starting counter clockwise from the last player, each player place one of their tents (tokens) into one of the edge spaces of the corner map tiles (only square with meadow or forest terrain).
Starting clockwise from player with the first player token, each player will secretly choose one guardian tiles (out of five) and pass the rest to the next player. The last player set aside the guardian tile that not chosen face down. Starting with the player who has the first Guardian and in ascending order, players place 3 of their tents (place up to 3 tents each round) into the board following several restrictions. Players must place their next tents adjacent (orthogonally) to the previous ones, they cannot place it on a temple, waterway and mountain. They can sacrifice a tent to place a tent to enter forest terrain (unless they already have an adjacent tent in a forest terrain) or cross waterway to a meadow / ruin that is adjacent to that waterway. If a player token is adjacent with a temple, the adjacent spaces of that temple are considered adjacent to that tent. Players can place a tent on a volcano space, but at the end of their turn, that tent is sacrificed. Placing a tent on a ruin space allows players to activate the ability of either the second, third or the fourth guardian on a map tile of that ruin space. Players can use the favor of the guardians that they already chose in their turn. They can use it before, during or at the end of their turn.

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Each player has 25 tents (including the starting tent), so each player gets 3 tents per round. Players can sacrifice their tents during their turn but still count for the 3 tents limit each round, thus players cannot sacrifice a tent when placing their third tent.
There are several goals that players can try to achieve, the main goal is to discover Temples (small or large) by placing one of their tents beside the temples, this is the main way to score points. Large temples give slightly higher point than small ones, while placing tents on ruin spaces also gives players a point. Players get additional points if they discover all the temples in a single map tile and discover at least one temple per map tile. Players also gain points based on who has the most sacrificed tents. So with these goals in mind, they need to place their tents throughout the island but they only have 24 tents to do these things. With the limitation that they can only place a tent into an adjacent space from their already placed tents, it is no way that they can possibly achieve the goals. That’s why they need help, which are favor of the guardians.

In this game building network of tents from one tent to another is not the interesting part of this game, it’s too simple and yet not something remarkable to do in a game. But, not to worry because the designer figured out how to make things more interesting, yup with the help of the guardians.

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The Interesting Part
The guardians allow players to manipulate the board in many ways, and in order to get their favors, players need to be clever in the drafting phase at the start of each round. The first guardian allow players to be the first player to place their tents, while this ability seemed unimportant or not so rewarding, think again, being the first is really crucial in this game. The first player to pick a guardian and also the first player to place tents. Because in this game, there is no way if other players already take the spot you wanted, no way to undo this. So better be the first or nothing. Sometimes not being the first usually leads players to not getting the guardian they want, and they start to realize the important ability of the first guardian. In order to get the guardian you need, be the first to pick them.
The second guardian allow players to move one of the map tiles in a cardinal direction (vertical or horizontal) as long as the map is moved within the 3×3 grid (remember the empty space tile in the middle of the 3×3 grid?). This guardian ability is tricky, sometimes players need to do this more than once to achieve something they want, sometimes luck is on their side cause other players unintentionally helped them. In short, this guardian ability lets players to cover great distance across the island.
The third guardian allow players to move one of their tents on the board, to an adjacent space (mountain and water restriction still applies). This is also very important. In some cases, players plan lead them to situation where they need one more turn to complete it, this might help them. Placing a tent into a space that gives them nothing is useless (obviously) but with this guardian ability, that issue can be solved.
The fourth guardian allows players to rotate one of the map tile 90 degrees. Though it’s not as powerful as the second guardian in term of distance, this ability prove to be more flexible for players. rotating the map is giving them wider range of possibilities with its bi-directional rotation.
The last guardian allows players to do the ability of the second, third or fourth guardian. The most powerful guardian of all (not exactly), because with one guardian players get to choose one out of three guardian abilities, of course at the cost of taking the last turn (though it is not necessarily a bad thing). There is a time that players left with a plan that requires them to do lot of things in order for the plan to work. Being the last player might do good for them because it is possible that other players do some of the work for that player, but that’s no guarantee others do exactly as that player wants it.
Once all players have taken their turns, next round begins and player with the first player token will be the first to choose a guardian for the next round.

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My Thoughts of The Game
Honestly, at first I didn’t have any interest at all in this game. Some people said it’s good but the abstract aspect really kept me on the fence, until a friend lent me a copy to try. Since it’s a simple game, I said “why not?”.  I learnt the game rules pretty quickly, it is simple and straight-forward (after reading the rules, I still not yet convinced). Once I tried the game, everything was changed and the game looks solid, fast, promising and also offers some depth to think about. I love the simplicity of it rules yet great observation and decision making are needed to make a good play. I believe drafting phase of the guardian stores the core aspect of the game, since the considerations to choose which guardian will lay the foundation of the rest of players’ turn. As I already mentioned earlier, the map tiles come double sided (A and B sides) and it seems the B side provides more challenge to players with more mountain spaces than the A side. Players of course can combine the two sides for variation. The game itself truly addictive (at least in my experience) and the game also comes with a 2-player variant where players will play with less map tiles than in a 3 or 4-players. One thing the game lacks are the visual presentation of the game. The map’s graphic could be improved in two ways (if not more), like the map tile should have a colored border (either white or black) to easily differentiate the border of a map tile for the purpose of rotating and placing tents (placing a tent in the edge space of a map with the edge sharing side with another map tile space that has a temple on it, is also scored in the end game but that can be changed by simply rotate the tile. So it’s not a final position and players could made mistakes not seeing the clear edge of a map tile) And also the space with ruins could do better with a thin border (white or other color) or maybe enlarge the size of the ruin icon. I noticed this when calculating score at the end, noticing the ruin spaces covered by tents are not the easiest thing to do. So if the space has white border or larger ruin icons, it is more apparent for players to count.

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Replay Value
Turned out getting all of your tents to discover temples in all map tiles are not something impossible. You can achieve this of course and definitely gives you a lot of points if you can place tents on most of the map tiles (max at 8 which gives you 27 pts, or 7 tiles which gives you 22 pts). Now the hard part is placing tents in all temples in a single tile. Doing that gives you 8 points. I think it is achievable, but the real question is how many tiles you can complete. It also has an expansion (a small one I must say), called The Return of Erefel, which Erefel is the name of another guardian (possibly the most powerful guardian in Dokmus). Erefel ability is not particularly new, but it plays very interesting. During the drafting phase, the player who choose Erefel will copy the highest number of the two leftover guardian at that round. Not a guaranteed powerful ability though but, with this extra guardian, the players will definitely think harder when choosing the guardians, which guardian should be left out. The expansion also gives scenarios that introduce new ways to interact with the terrains. Regardless the available expansion, the game is really interesting and definitely has moderate replay value, though the game plays do not really change significantly from time to time, the player decisions and interactions would surely give different feel.

Some images are credit to @hdicode

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2018 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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

 

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