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Category Archives: Dice Games

A game that emphasize on it’s mechanics and game play which fairly involves the use of dice (resource, management, allocation, etc)

Information Breakdown

pic3407521_mdH.I.D.E Hidden Identity Dice Espionage Review
H.I.D.E caught my attention a while back and when I had the chance to visit South Korea, I picked it up cause it’s quite interesting enough for me. It’s from Korean designer, published by Dive Dice / Korea Board Games. It can be played from 3-5 players. The minimum player count did make me hesitate at first, but since it’s a very quick game, why not? And what the acronym stands for is pretty neat, thematic and fit nicely.

The Theme
In this game, players are spies / secret agents who are trying to gather as many intel as they can. The goal is to have seven ranks to be a legendary agent or have the most rewards at the end of the third round. If you judge from the visual presentation it’s more like a James Bond secret agent kind of thing. You are trying to get intel from different locations and sometimes there are other agents (players) that also want you dead. Eliminate other agents seems give them better ranks. There’s nothing special about the artworks. It’s plain simple, not really that stunning. Fortunately the symbols look clear.

Game Components
Colorful dice, yes… lots of them (there are 4 colors, with 8 dice in each colors). The dice colors are vibrant, yellow, blue, red and purple. It has good material and finish, smooth to touch and has rounded corners, to make it easier to roll. Each player has a thick player board (pretty nice considering that it serves less important role to the game play) and screen (this one is important), and the rest are cards.

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Inside the box

The Game Play
In the game, each player gets a player board and one screen. The game lasts for three rounds where in each round players will get a random gadget card (placed face up in front of them), one rank card on the respective space (right space of their board). The start player then reveal one intel card in each of the four locations (there are helmet, nuclear, submarine and satellite symbols, each symbol represents a different location) on the location board. These intel cards have different value rewards, range from $3000 to $10,000. Starting from the first player (clockwise), each player randomly take a single die from the dice bag (without looking) and secretly hide the drawn die behind their screen, and then decide which side they want to set (this is their identity die). The dice have 6 sides with different symbols (Submarine, Helmet, Satellite, Nuclear and 2 Gun symbols). Players must set their die to any symbol they want except Gun, they cannot set the symbol to Gun for this purpose, cause Gun symbol doesn’t refer to a location. After they set their die, they no longer can change it until the rest of the round.

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Colorful Dice

After all players already set their identity die, the starting player draw a group of dice from the bag randomly (with the total of number of active players plus one) and roll them. Then in clockwise direction, starting from the starting player, each player choose a die from the available. The die then must be placed either in the player board or on top of the screen. To place the die, there are some restrictions to keep in mind. To place it on the player board, the die must not share the same color AND symbol of that player identity die. This action shows that the player’s identity die is surely not of that color and symbol. While in the other hand, to place a die in the top of the screen, the die must share at least the color OR the symbol of the identity die (though it can share both color AND symbol). After placing the die on the top screen, the player then guess an identity die of another active player (still active in the round). They must correctly guess both color and symbol. If the guess is correct, that player takes all the rank cards from the chosen player, place one rank card to their ranks and place the rest face down as a reward on the left side of the player board. The chosen player is eliminated and no longer participate in the given round (this player is not considered active). Then, the turn change to the next player. If the guess is incorrect, the chosen player just say no and the turn change to the next player. After all players take a die, the starting player card change to the player to the left of the starting player and the leftover die(dice) is returned to the bag and the new starting player takes another group of dice from the bag and roll them. Players can also use their gadget card (once in a round) to change one of the available dice to any side (not the dice that already taken by players), ignore the symbol on the card for this purpose, it’s only used during a showdown. This can be done before or after they choose a die, tap the card sideways to show it’s already been used.

This is repeated until all the active players have already taken 4 dice, where the round ends. All active players then reveal their identity die. If a player is alone in a location, that player takes all of the intel cards on that location. But if there’s more than one player in a single location, showdown must take place. In a showdown, the players who participate add their identity die to the top of the screen along with the dice that they already placed during the round, and if their gadget card has the same symbol as their target location, then they add another die to the top of the screen. These dice count as their life during showdown. In a showdown, players roll a single life die, when a gun symbol shows as a result of the roll, that player successfully shoot their opponents (other players in a showdown lose a life die). They do this repeatedly until there’s last man standing, in which that player takes one rank card from the draw pile and add it to the ranks and take all the intel cards on the location. Then the next round begins. If it’s the third round, the game ends and player with the most money from intel cards wins the game.
It is possible that there’s last man standing before the round ends, if this happened, the last man standing can decide to take intel cards from any one location ignoring his identity die’s symbol. Also if during the game a player have seven rank cards, that player immediately becomes a legendary agent and wins the game.

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Gadget Cards

My Thought About The Game
Surely the game is a deduction game, from dice. In turns players are trying to guess other players identity dice without revealing their identities, while whatever players do, they involuntarily give information (possibly valuable) to the others. The game is simple if you already get the gist of it, which usually takes half a game to know clearly what you really should do. The game really lies heavily from information gathering, where you need to carefully observe what players do, say or think. It’s essential to guess other players identity. Every thing players do give information to other players, so carefully observe what other players do, say or anything could be very useful in later turns. You need to initiate table talk, in order to lure people talk, this is a great way to spill their beans. But be wary, the same thing goes for you. Basically taking a die gives information, though placing it on top of your screen do gives more information, but of course it depends on the current dice you have that determine the amount of information exposed. Getting the same dice over and over is a great advantage.

If you go deeper, there’s another layer of deduction to keep in mind, which is the set of dice left out after choosing a die are very important to figure out why you choose that die. So be careful on what dice you leave and observe what other players leave. The symbol on the gadget cards also give certain information on player’s tendency to follow the advantage given during a showdown, and the other hand, the amount of intel cards available in the locations also plays a great deal to determine which one is more favorable than others.
The game looks very interesting, and it plays better with 4 or 5 players. Though one minor thing that I think it’s pretty much logic, eventually you will get caught from information bashing from many players. Each incorrect guess leads to more greater possibilities until down to one, your true identity. So it’s a matter of time and what you do before you out of the round is critical. Be aggressive and try to eliminate players before they eliminate you is a good idea and a valid strategy the same as playing it safe.
I can accept the fact that that’s how the game works, if you incorrectly guess one’s identity, the next player has the advantage and that’s how it works. This makes the turn order really matter and players should consider this before their action.
I love the tense the game offers, many hilarious moments in the game, the AHA moments and surprise feelings when you got knocked out or fail to guess correctly in a 50-50 chance.

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The location boards and intel cards

Replay Value
Well, the game comes as it is. You play all the contents in the game except some special Intel or Reward cards that can be included in the game or not. So adding them gives more variation to the game, though I do not think it’s not change the game play in a major way. So the replay value is not really high, you should have the same kind of game play over and over again, the only different thing is your group. How players play in your group will determine how the game really works out in the end. Whether they play aggressively from the beginning or play it safe to ensure not getting caught easily.

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Game in progress

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Board Games, Dice Games, Reviews

 

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What Would Happened if?

pic1968267_mdCV Review
Have you ever wondered to do something different in your life? To do something else instead what you already did? What kind of life you would have if you change what you did in the past. You cannot turn back time, so it’s impossible to rerun your life from the beginning, but worry not, this game can. Yes, CV, which obviously stands for Curricculum Vitae is a game from the designer Filip Milunski with the vibrant, colorful illustrations from Piotr Socha, published by Granna in 2013, can be played from 2-4 players within 45-60 minutes.

The Theme
It’s very comical, about what will you do in your life. It reflects interesting point of views from different aspects that really matter in life. It stays true to one’s life timeline, starting from the age of childhood, to early adulthood, adult and ends with old age. In this one cycle of life, players will take turns rolling dice (it’s like our efforts and choices in life) and choose whatever set in front of them to take to add those cards to their life. From time to time, players will grow, and can get additional resources to help them in their future turns. It’s quite thematic and the most interesting part of the theme is that the cards have interesting title that are portrayals of life itself in a weird humor serve best with beautiful, cute and colorful illustrations.

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The Artworks
Without a doubt, Piotr Socha had nailed this down. His illustrations are completely stand out with his comical surrealist style and full of peaceful colors. Personally I was first interested on this game solely because of the illustrations. But when I tried the game, it turned out to be good. So if you like Piotr Socha style, stay tuned to know more beyond the illustrations.

The Components
Needless to say, the box is pretty stand out with the cover, colorful and eye candy. It has a square shape and the size is a bit smaller than the usual square boxes. Though I think it could have been smaller with the components being just a board, cards, some tokens and dice.
The game’s main components are dice and cards. The cards are unusual in size, a bit larger than normal and need extra effort to get them sleeved with the correct size. There are seven custom six-sided white dice, these dice are in good quality though the odd amount of dice seems buggering me (I assume it’s about game balance, and for the sake of easier rule reminder, the amount of dice are limited to 7 as it’s the maximum amount a player can roll in their turn), or it’s about cost efficiency.
The tokens are used to help managing your resources during your turns, not really essential, the game can be played without any resource token if all players do not really bothered keeping track of their resources. They also have thin card stock, thinner than the usual card board tokens and also bland white color background with black symbols. Not really interesting I must say, but maybe this contrast combination serves well with the colorful components. The game also provides a score pad and one pencil to keep track during scoring.
It also comes with a plastic insert, to store all the cards, dice and tokens. But… I do not think it really serves that purpose well. You still need to bag the tokens and dice so they will not fall off the trays when carried, and also if you sleeve the cards, those will not fit back into the tray, so you either need to remove the insert or place the cards under it. So not really practical in the end, kinda bit disappointed with this.

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Game Components

The Game Play
Before the game starts, some arrangements need to be made, separate and shuffle each deck (based on different color on the cards’ back), place each deck on the game board on it’s corresponding space. Deal one Goal cards (purple) to each player, place some cards on the game board (depending on the number of players), these cards will reflect as Public Goals. Separate Bicycle card from the Childhood deck and draw a number of Childhood cards based on number of players. Then add the Bicycle card to the drawn cards, shuffle them, place the rest of Childhood cards back to the box, it’s not used in this game.  As I already mentioned above, the game will take players to go through several eras in life, starting from Childhood, Early Adulthood, Adult and Old Age. Childhood is a special era, where players are dealt 3 Childhood cards randomly. Then each player will choose one card to keep and pass the other to their left. This drafting process continues until players choose 2 cards and receive the last card from their right. These three cards form their starting cards on their hand (just say it’s a resource that players receive right after they’re born). Player with the Bicycle card, place it in front of him and receive the Bicycle token, he will be the starting player in this game.
Starting from Early Adulthood, in clockwise order, players take turns to roll dice and buy cards from the available lineup. Starting from Early Adulthood deck onward. By default, each player rolls 4 dice (players can get more dice if they have the responding active cards in their tableau) and use the symbols from the result. They also have the chance to re-roll the result twice at most. If there’s any bad luck symbol among dice rolled, immediately set it aside, that die (dice) is locked and cannot be re-rolled. If a player gain the third bad luck, that player must discard one of his active cards.
But on the other hand, if a player managed to gain three good luck symbols, he can get any one card from the available ones for free. In a single turn, each player can get at most two cards. The cards they get are added to their tableau based on the respective categories (colors) or place it on their hands (if the card is one-time use / grey color).
Slide the available cards to the left and add more cards to the empty spaces. The next player take his turn.
If there’s no card at the current deck to refill the slots, the game is paused for a while. Players check their table and count their cards, if there’s a player who has half or less than the total cards from player with most cards, that players get a social assistance, they can get one card for free from the available ones. This is to make sure the balance or helping out the last position player for future turns.
The game ends after there are a number of cards left in the last deck as many as the number of players in the game. Players then sum the total of their points from their possession cards, public goals, personal goal and also the number of their Health, Relationship and Knowledge cards. Player with most points wins the game.

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Tokens

My Thought About The Game
I like it. It’s pretty simple, light and fun for family or friends that you can play casually over a tea anytime. The rules are pretty straightforward, easy to grasp just rolling dice and getting cards. Players start the game with 4 dice, and if they get the cards, they can roll more dice. Rolling more dice doesn’t really necessary to be good. More dice means more possibility to get bad luck, but of course on the other hand, same chance to get good luck symbols. I like how simple it is, you roll dice and use those dice to get something. And talking about luck, you can re-roll twice at most to get better results. The hard thing is bad luck, yes, once you get a bad luck, that die is locked. Having three bad luck symbols force you to remove one of your active cards, this is a major set back to your tableau. But getting three good luck, gives you any card for free, pretty big deal if there’s a very good card with expensive cost. The downside (which I can ignore most of the time) is that mostly the cards you want revealed after your turn ends, so it’s unlikely still available in your next turn. One of my plays had almost all the Possession cards were ‘filtered’ before me, left me with nothing. But hey, that’s a game of life. Surely nothing goes as planned, no matter how hard you plan or try. Which I said it’s also the interesting part. Just play the game as a nice simulation of life and how life can turns in many ways.
Basically it’s a combination of dice rolling and tableau building, so aside from rolling good results, you need to consider how you want to build your tableau. Possession cards give you huge points at the end, but pretty much useless during the game (most of them). I take the goal cards are not really that powerful, so these might mislead you in your quest. The card collections can generate very big points for you if you can get a lot of cards.

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Available Cards

Replay Value
I don’t think the game has a very high replay value. The game uses the same deck of cards with 4 players. With less than 4, there’s possibility that all cards are not used (Childhood and Goal cards). So with several plays, you probably have already see all the cards. If it has more deck options like Agricola, that would be something. Aside from that, it’s just a simple dice rolling game with a decent tableau building mechanic. Pretty light for casuals and non gamer.

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Player’s Tableau – End Game

 
 

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How Greed Are You? The Game

pic2773860Thief’s Market Review
This game was launched on Kickstarter by Tasty Minstrel Games, designed by Dave Chalker. It’s a small box game, for 3-5 players. But don’t be fooled, the game is not “small” at all. At first this caught my interest because of the price was cheap and the shipping was so affordable. So I was like “what the heck, let’s back it!”. Well let’s see how the game really is.

The Theme and Artworks
I am not particularly fond with the theme and artworks. It has an okay theme, about thieves doing business in their free time? Just kidding. The artworks are not really my favorite, but it’s okay and you can still enjoy the images, comical and fun. Okay, serious, the game is about splitting up the loot of your last job (remember, you all are thieves) and spend them to get what you want in the market. The back story is that players are a group of thieves, which have been back from their “interesting” looting activity and now the real deal takes place, they need to divvy up the loot and spend their shares to get what they need to help them carve their way to be the one and only, King of Thieves.

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The Components
The dice are what make the game really interesting. The dice are plenty inside a box of that size and they’re custom black dice with colorful symbols. What’s not to love? Though the symbols shown on some of the dice were not really painted well enough, so some icons do not have solid colors compared with others. The cards are in good quality, though they’re not linen finished, but you still can fit them in the box even after you sleeved them (I used premium Mayday sleeves). The coin and point tokens are okay. The small box is good enough to fit all the components, fully packed, and I love the smooth laminated finished on its box.

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The Game Play
The main idea is to get the most infamy points at the end of the game, he/she will be crowned as King of Thieves, it has a card for it, not a real crown, so please be content with just that. Before the game starts, shuffle the cards based on the alphabet shown on its back, place it face down to form three separate decks (A,B,C), draw 5 cards from deck A. Choose a first player and give him the first player marker. The game starts with the first player rolls the available loot dice, and place the first player marker and all the dice roll results to the center of the table as a loot pool. Then the first player choose what to take from the loot pool. He can take anything, all or just some. He even can take the first player marker back. Then the player to His left, choose to take from the loot pool or from any player who has any loot in front of them. If He decided to take from a player, he takes all but 1 from the player’s loot, and return it to the pool (it can be a loot die or the first player marker, if it’s a loot die, He re-roll the die first). So this process is repeated until everyone has a loot in front of them. Then the next phase is to spend those loot, starting from the player with the first player marker and continues clockwise. Players can spend their loot to buy a card from the display, they return all the dice used to buy the card back to the center. In addition, they can spend one or more coins to be any symbol to buy the card. And then they can cash in their infamy symbol with points and gold bag symbols with coins. After all players finish their turns, more cards are revealed, if the current deck is depleted, five more cards from the next deck are drawn and available for next round. If it’s the last deck, the game will end.

So what are the cards do? Some give infamy points but most of them give passive or active benefits that can help players during their turns. This is also one of the many interests about the game, the core idea here is to build your tableau the best you can to gain the most points. The cards are divided into 3 decks, with labels from A to C. It uses cards from deck A and then as the game progresses continued to deck B and C. As the decks changed, the cards get better and eventually offer huge potential points for players.

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The Replay Value
It has some replay value, since all the cards are usually not used in a game, so there often some cases that some cards will not come up in a game. This gives probability and a bit of adaptability with the available cards to build the tableau. Aside from the cards, which is common in tableau building games, one thing that really stands out in this game is the dice mechanic. Okay, it’s just a dice-rolling mechanic but what makes it really interesting and unusual is its distribution. Players have the chance (especially the first player) to get all the dice they need, but there’s a catch. The designer made a brilliant system to incorporate interactive mechanic for players to get their dice. So basically the first player, can and may take all the dice, but that’s not the wisest thing to do, since other players will eventually loot them from his possession. Even if he took only some of the dice, others will decide whether it is okay or not to let him be. The dice amount are limited based on number of players, this what makes it interesting, since in equal perception, there should be an average amount of dice that a player can get, for example in a 5-players game, the game uses 13 dice, which in average there should be 2.6 dice available for each player (not to mention the first player marker). Getting more than the average amount would incite interesting decision by other players, and another factor is what symbols are available in this round relates with the cards available. To some extent the game really has flexibility aspect in the form of what dice and cards available. But aside from all of that, the ugly truth is that people sees things very simple and with the competitive nature of the game, it’s not easy to get away with more dice than the average without other players screwing while they have the chance.

My Thoughts About The Game
I think the idea of splitting the loot dice is very novelty and adds unique aspect to the game in a very big approach. The game is so simple, presented in a very small box but contains a good deal of “contents”. Personally I love the splitting loot mechanic, it stands out very well to represent the game or as it’s identity. The dice allocation and tableau building are nice, they’re just labeled as necessities to form the game. Aside from what components that you get from the game, the price is also affordable from what you really get (in short, it’s very cheap).  What I do not like is the dice, not that really matter to me, but the quality from each die are not consistent and it shows quite apparent.
So in overall, the game is good, you can play in 30-45 minutes with 4 players and it offers interesting choices, tactical and highly interactive. Easy to store with a very small box, even you can put it on your pocket and bring it anywhere.

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Racing with Feld

pic3302018The Oracle of Delphi Review
Stefan Feld’s latest new game after The Castles of Burgundy Card Game and Jorvik (while technically Jorvik is just an implementation of Speicherstadt). But beware, this game is not like your occasionally point salad Feld games. Why? Because here you don’t get points (at all) but racing to be the first to appease Zeus. Yep, racing in Greek Mythologies. So, what’s my take on this new and “fresh” Stefan Feld’s  game? You’re about to find out.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, it’s clear that I do not like racing games (mentioned these a lot lately: Istanbul, Euphoria, Viticulture, etc) if they don’t have rewarding game plays. So that’s why I like Lewis and Clark though it’s a racing game. So crossed my fingers when I got this one. I do like Stefan Feld’s designs, have been collecting His game though not yet complete the line up (Still missing quite many titles). So kinda bit obliged to get this into my collection. Okay, now let’s get down to it shall we?

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The Theme
In this game, players will compete with each other to be the first to appease Zeus. To do that they have to complete 12 tasks given  by Zeus before everyone else. The 12 tasks are broken down into 4 categories, building shrines, erecting statues, making offerings and defeating monsters. The theme seems quite abstract, but the implementations are quite finely done. As you know Feld doesn’t really think through the theme as long His designs have smooth game flow. So not really give much thought about it. But for what is worth, let me give brief description over the theme. What exactly is The Oracle of Delphi? Or maybe the exact question is “who”. In the times of Gods in Greek, there was a sanctuary dedicated for Apollo and in there lies a priestess, which known as the oracle of Delphi. This priestess was chosen by Apollo to translate His message or prophecy. So based on these definition, players will consult to this oracle on what actions they can take and how they will proceed to claim victory.

The Artworks
It’s OK. If you are familiar with Feld’s games, you can see that this game art shares the same resemblance with his other game, Aquasphere. Both of these games’ illustrations were made by Dennis Lohausen, who has been widely known for his illustrations for mostly Euro-games out there such as Terra Mystica, Helios, A Feast for Odin, Coal Baron, Camel Up, Dominion series, Village, The Voyages of Marco Polo and many more. Dennis Lohausen made one of the greatest game box covers in the history of Euro games (IMO) with the illustrations of a woman (priestess) sitting in the center of  somewhat looks like a temple and surround her are many colorful flaming spirits meanwhile the Gods are watching closely above her. I found it to be evoking and rightly describe the game in a way of using dice. The components are colorful, love the way He did with the player boards, very colorful. And one distinctive element to keep note is the iconography throughout the game is very simple and unified, a very good achievement if I may say.

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The Game Components
Okay I will discuss the Tasty Minstrel Games as a reminder here since my copy is TMG version and not yet see or even compare it with Pegasus Spiele version. For me, TMG has better box art, the illustration has border-less frame unlike Pegasus Spiele version, but somehow I noticed it’s a bit thinner than most boxes. The components are good, nice thick map tiles and wooden pieces. I do think the God discs are too small that I would really want to, but then again if it’s bigger, the player board wouldn’t fit them all into the God advancement track, but I suppose you can always stack them.They provide stickers for monster and God tokens, which is very neat and good addition from the bland colored wooden pieces. I just wished the player board could be as good as Trajan in quality, which using thick board instead of thin one. The cards are not in linen finish, which is a bit of disappointment but most of games are using non-linen finish, which I don’t know if there’s a good reason to choose this over linen one. The dice are good, chunky regular dice but wooden, sadly. It would be way much better if using the same quality as Bora-Bora. The thing with wooden dice, they’re too light when rolled, and easy to get dirty.
The rules were poorly written (English), there are many various details got left behind and not many examples covering possible scenarios. And setting up the default map is very challenging.

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The Game Play
As already mentioned above, the goal of the game is to finish 12 tasks given and return to Zeus as fast as you can. The first player to do that, wins the game. So it’s definitely a racing game, bear with me, I do not like racing games (not games a bout racing, but more like a game that players race to win the game, my argument is that these two are different in principle). Players get the same tasks (types and number) but may be different in colors. They need to complete building shrines, statues, making offerings, defeating monsters to appease Zeus. The board laid out as one huge ocean with many islands scattered around.
Players will start their voyage from the center of the board (where Zeus figure is located) and will move their ship through out the board doing actions. Each turn of a player is broken down into several phases, Check Injury, Actions and Consult the Oracle phases.
A. Check Injury Phase
At the start of a player turn, He must check his injury cards, if he has 3 cards with the same kind (color) or 6 cards in total, He must pass his action phase and didn’t consult the oracle. He discard 3 of His injury cards. So it’s kinda important to keep your injury cards in check from time to time, and be wary not to lose the next turn because of this.
But if He has no cards, he gets 2 Favor tiles or 1 step advance in one of His Gods.
B. Action Phase
In this phase, the player carries out His actions, which come from oracle dice and an available oracle card. There are many possible actions that a player can choose from by using a die and there are actions independent no matter the die is or dependent based on which side the die shows. The actions unrelated to the side of a die are taking 2 favor tiles, take an oracle card, or look at 2 unexplored tiles. And the actions related to specific side of the die are below:
– Remove up to 3 Injury cards (of the same color / icon shown on the die)
– Move up to 3 spaces in the sea hex (the destination hex must be the same color / icon shown on the die).
– Explore an unexplored tile (and immediately get it’s reward, whether building a shrine or get it’s bonus) or place a shrine in an explored tile with player’s color.
– Load an offering cube to the ship (the color shown on the die must match the cube color) or unload the cube from the ship to a temple with the same color (also use die of the same color with the cube / temple).
– Load a statue to the ship (the color shown on the die must match the color of the statue) or erect the statue from the ship into the tile with matching icon / color as the die.
– Battle a monster (the color of the monster must match with the color shown on the die).
– Advance one of the Gods with matching color shown on the die, one step in the God’s track.
C. Consult The Oracle Phase
In this phase, the active player rolls His dice. The other players check to see if there are dice matching with their Gods in the advancement track above the clouds, if yes, choose one God to move its disc one step forward. The Gods in the cloud (most bottom step) do not advance.
D. Titan Attack Phase
This phase only happened if its the last player’s turn. He roll the titan die and check the result. If the result is 5 or less and the players shield value is less than the result, they gain an injury card. If the result was 6, all players get 2 injury cards instead.


This turn is repeated until one player managed to complete the 12 tasks and return back to Zeus. Once that happened, complete the round until last player and check who wins the game. If there are more than one player managed to finish the game, player with the most oracle cards wins the game.


Battle Monsters
When players take an action to battle monster, they must defeat the monster with starting strength of 9, minus the player shield value. They roll a d9 and check if the result is equal or greater, they defeat the monster. If not, they fail and have to choose to battle another round or give up. If they want to battle another round, they need to spend a favor tile and the monster strength is reduce by one.
If players decide to give up or cannot go through another round, the battle stop and players do not get or lose anything (except the action itself). If they won, the monster was defeated and placed in the player’s board.
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Favor Tiles
Players can also spend their favor tiles to help them in their turns. Each favor tile can be spend to add distance when moving ship, but the ship must end movement in the same color of the die. Or players can also use the favor tiles to modify the die result in clockwise order based on the chart in player board. Players can also use favor tiles to help them fight another round when battling with monsters.
Rewards
Completing tasks not only take players closer to the goal, but each completed task provides players with reward that can help them in later turns. These rewards are fixed based on what kind of task is being completed. Each time players build a shrine, they can move  one of their Gods one step forward. Each time they defeat a monster, they can get one equipment from the available. Each time they erect a statue, they can get a companion card of the same color as the statue. Each time they make offering in the temple they get 3 favor tiles.
The Gods
During the game, players will advance Gods in their advancement tracks. Once a God is in the top most space, players can use it for it’s special effect to help them complete their tasks. Once used, the God token will reset back to the bottom of the track, which players need to advance again to the top so it effect can be used for the second time.
There are 6 Gods for each player, each with different ability. There are Poseidon (teleportation), Apollon (one turn wild dice and draw 1 oracle card), Aphrodite (discard all injury cards), Hermes (loading another statue into the ship), Artemis (uncover an unexplored tile) and Ares (automatically defeat a monster)
dav
Ship Tiles
There are also ship tiles, which a ship will be randomly / drafted / whatever you prefer, to each player. This ship tile not only provides a cargo slot for each player but also provides a different starting benefit or ability for each player.

My Though of The Game
First of all, before I spill out my opinion about the game I must point out that I do not like racing games and this game got all my doubts. But since it is a Feld’s, then I must try and hope He can deliver something different out of the stereotype racing game I dislike. So by any means, I bought a copy against my fear and tried the game anxiously. And wow, it’s not that bad as I feared. Okay, you may think there’s a catch in my statement, not that bad also means not that good. Well you are right, this is not the best of Feld and also not my favorite immediately. My first impression was kinda mixed with confusion for the rule book lacks of details and examples. My expectation was they could made it way much better. The map setup is a pain, short on example and hard to recreate. First obstacle in the game, getting the default map structure ready. But of course there’s no problem when you start creating map freely.
The game play is actually pretty simple and straightforward, aside from the fiddly rules and tidbit of restrictions but hey once you master all that and get onto the game halfway, you realize how easy it is. The essential thing in this game is observation. Feld has proven again to be one of the best and notable modern game designer over the past few years. His game design is very solid, stream-lined and excellently easy to digest. Just look at the use of the dice integrates perfectly not just with the actions but also to the game elements such as the map, gods, cubes, statues and everything. Multi-use of symbols became the important element in the game. Love this and I must praise Him for it.
The game play is simple, dice allocation, a group of 3 dice can be used for multitude of options. Of course there’s a luck of the dice, but many elements help to mitigate this.
It still a racing game, and I do feel the hopelessness in the last round, but one must say that playing this game is quite rewarding. Players can tinker their dice usages and timing to perform combos. The game also offers moderate player interactions from watching opponent plans and what they have in store for next turn and also outmaneuver your opponents with the same goal.
Like most racing games, its hard to catch the runaway leader, there’s no catch-up mechanic in the game, especially some tasks give players benefits during the game like erecting statues. But it is possible to win by tie breaker, which is not bad (though I would cross my fingers that would happen more than one or two times in all your plays, depends on you plays though)..

The Replay Value
Each game will mostly feel samey, with different outcome of course. Though setting up the map differently might affecting how you play it. You can change and customize the map to your liking but the golden rule is that the ocean tiles must be connected as a single large space. The different ships also make a difference but not that big I guess. After several plays I still want to play it again, a good one though the racing aspect of the game keeps me out for loving it. It’s like your days (turns) are numbered especially when someone already obvious to finish all the tasks and he only have to go back to Zeus. It’s a hard tie situation.
dav

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Board Games, Dice Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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My Top 10 Games from 2016

2016 is over and from it, there are many games that I’ve tried and yet to try. So in short, here are my top 10 of 2016 and some worth mentioned. The rank is of course, subject to change by play count and also different feel of the game and as time goes by, but at least this is my initial take based on my (first) experiences.

The Top 10
#1 Great Western Trail
pic3113247_md
Okay, I heard good (if not great) things about this one. After I got and played it, I must admit that it’s quite over-hyped but agree, this one is good and worth to be in the very top of this list.
Why I like it?
Classic
This is modern Euro that has the classic feel shows in the presentation. The rules are somehow hard to chew but once you play it for the first time, you know what to do and straight-forward simple. There are many mechanics thrown into the game but surprisingly they work very well overall.
There’s a deck-building aspect in it.
A hint but not too strong to be considered as a deck-building game and doesn’t restraint players for building their deck cause there are still many ways to get points. In short, players do not have to totally surrender over the deck efficient and effective aspect of a deck-building game.
Rondel
Disguised in the player board, this one has rondel mechanic in it. Yes, the location spaces along the trail is one network or rondel system that becomes lengthy over time during the game because new locations will be added by the players. I could need a game with rondel in my collection and though this is not the usual rondel but better than none.
Engine Building in player board
The player board gets more interesting since players get to move some components from their player board into the game board in such interesting way. Players mostly score points and get instant benefit while improving their engine.
Clever use of objective cards
Players acquired objectives from the card display and put them their deck. These acquired objective cards are mixed together with their cattle cards, which will eventually be drawn into their hand and can be used in such an innovative way. Players are left with an interesting decision either to keep those objectives in their deck (while making your deck less-efficient in the same time) or play them to get the bonuses but must committed to complete them at the end or they will get penalized with minus points.
What I don’t like about this game?
Hmm, almost nothing. The components are good, though there was minor misprint in one of the player’s building tile (though a simple sticker should take care of the problem). The player boards should be thicker (as thick as the game board) and also has indentation to place all the wooden pieces.

#2 Yokohama
pic2948038_md

Finally another heavier game (heaviest actually) from Hisashi Hayashi. I kinda like most of His game and this one is so beautiful (aside from the beautiful artwork from Ryoko Hayashi). Some said (including Rahdo) that the game design shares the resemblance with Stefan Feld designs (a point-salad game), and I must agree. Even this year, Hisashi Hayashi is more Feld than Feld himself.
Why I like it?
Heavy
At first the box and visual presentation of the box art surely gives you friendly and casual feel of a classic Euro with a location (city / country) name as its title. If it’s true then you were fooled, it’s unlike any of sorts, though the box art is remarkably compelling and relaxing. The truth, the game is quite complex. Though the rules are simple but there are many tidbits that players need to keep up for the first time.
As far as the eyes see
Ludicrous amount of ways to get points. Yes there are many ways to get points (really a point-salad game) even there are some double locations that serve that sole purpose to open more access through out the map.
Combos
After a while learning the game, you can figure out some interesting combo with chaining action and additional action together, also helped by abilities from technologies and bonuses.
High variable setup
There will be no setup like before. The game map setup makes it different each time you play, the location and how you build your resource processing engine is based on the game map. You need to be more efficient to move around and using your assistants to beat your opponents. And in addition, the technology card and award distributions are also different in each game.
What I don’t like about this game?
The modular boards are easily get moved and shifted by players though I understand that this is how the variable setup possible. And the cards, ugh the cards are too fiddly, placed on top of the modular boards and also technology cards are too hard to read (the texts are too small) especially from a player seat to the end of the table. If only they can come up with iconography solution for this. Table-hugger, yes the game takes a lot of table space. With card displays and huge modular boards with maximum amount of players, you get a busy tablecloth ready to be played.

#3 Terraforming Mars
pic2891964_md
This offers a very interesting theme with science backing the theme and logic of the game. Immediately ordered it once I had the chance and played it straight out. The game is amazing, very intimidating though but rewarding with clever card plays.
Why I like it?
Really dig the science behind the theme
The theme is not very compelling for me, but for some reason the relevancy between game and real life science seems click (thinking of High Frontier or Leaving Earth for other examples).
Clever card plays
This definitely what makes the game shines. First of all this is naturally a card game. Many cards inside the game, and it offers different clever card plays along with a tableau engine building. In a game, all the cards won’t be played and sometimes the cards can be useless but sometimes can be very crucial. This reflected by the timing and compatible pairing with other cards (combos). So players need to adapt to every situation in the game and come up with the best solution to get the most points in the end.
Shiny metallic cubes
Okay, they’re plastic but seriously they still looks good and shiny like metals. I like to hold the biggest cubes in my hand, big cubes. Aside from the idea of same big size for all the cubes, I agree the different sizes makes it easier for color blind players.
Game flexibility
The end game relies on the players. There are three parameters to end the game and players are “semi-cooperatively” work towards that end. So in a way, players together is in control with the length of the game (which could also be the drawback in terms of unnecessary prolonging the game).
What I don’t like about this game?
Many. Yes, aside from the cards have heavy texts on them, makes it hard for players to read and prolong the game duration. And for new players, pretty much intimidating if they’re not omni or heavy-gamer people. The cards distribution can also felt unbalance.
The player board could be improved, to keep track the income track and the supply with the same components could turn your game experience a bit nightmarish if things turn sideways. Good thing that there’s a game trays for the player board (or should I say player mat?). The game length could be hard to determine because of the end game trigger, which based on players game plays.

#4 Scythe
pic3163924_mdThis one is one of the best, undoubtedly. You can see it on its Kickstarter project and how good the feedback is. Backed it myself and worth every penny. Stonemaier games has a very good reputation though relatively new in the hobby.
Why I like it?
Stunning artworks and immersive theme
Actually the game was purposely designed out of the beautiful and stunning artworks from Jakub Rozalski, based on His self-made universe of alternate world war aftermath. The scenes are jaw-dropping and awesome. One can own this for collection only and no one dares to argue. The game sets in a alternate history of world war where mechs were exist in 1820’s and there are some factions that want to seize control of the land. The factions not only shows different characteristic in appearances but also in abilities that affect the ways to play them.
Marvelous components
The game is heavy, literally. Many top notch quality components, as already known by it’s components quality, Stonemaier games didn’t kid around by chucking realistic resource tokens and metal coins, not to mention thick card board and huge enormous game board, and those mechs. Hands down, one of the best Kickstarter game projects.
Interesting game play
The rules seems intimidating, but once you break it down, it’s pretty simple and straightforward. It’s an engine building game with variable player power, area control, resource management, and semi racing game with interesting player interactions.
I love how the scoring works and the encounter cards also add a nice touch to the game theme. Battle doesn’t seems highlighted, so for Euro-gamers this should give a plus, direct conflict is down to minimum. So for those who expecting frequent battle, they might be disappointed. Though of course they can play it that way, it’s not guaranteed to be a winning strategy.
What I do not like about the game?
This is hard. Maybe my biggest issue is the game takes a huge table space, more if you use the collector’s edition bigger board. Also it’s better if players can accomplish more objective cards.

#5 The Oracle of Delphi
pic3302018It’s Stefan Feld new title, The Oracle of Delphi. Surprisingly in this game He didn’t make His usual point-salad game, this one is a racing game. Yeah, racing, surprised me. I do not consider myself as a Feld fanboy, but I do like and admire His games. There are many favorites among His games such as Trajan, Bora-Bora, The Castles of Burgundy, Amerigo, Aquasphere, The Name of The Rose and many more.
Most of these share the same feat, various ways to get points (point-salad). But not this one. In this game players need to appease Zeus by completing 12 tasks before anyone else. The player who completed those 12 tasks and managed to get back to the starting place, won the game.
I usually do not like racing game (Euphoria, Istanbul, Viticulture) so I am kinda pessimist with this one and did not get my hope high. Though I hope this could be like Lewis and Clark or at least as good as Automobiles for me.
So let see the summary…
Why I like it?
Stefan Feld
Okay should I admit that I might be a fanboy after all? Stefan Feld always counts something in my book. His games are awesome so far and truth be told in early days of my board gaming adventure, I planned to collect all of His games (though I’ve been lazy and distracted). So His name as the designer should be one of the reason why I like this game.
Dice Allocation
Yes, one of initial reasons why I like Feld was right after I tried The Castles of Burgundy. The dice allocation system is very clever and interesting (for me). What you can do with such dice really amazed me, and how He managed to mitigate the dice roll luck, the reason why I like dice games. And guess what this one also uses the same system and in addition, the dice are custom dice, superb.
The symbology and iconography
Okay, I do not know whether it’s Feld’s, Dennis Lohausen’s or the developer’s doing that makes it great but this game has such a clever implementation of colors / symbols in the game. Not only just to make players identify the elements in the game but also the various aspect or elements in the game are boiled down to these 6 colors / symbols. And extra, it’s color-blind friendly (bravo!).
Theme
Greek Mythology is one of the themes that makes me interested. So this one is interesting. Though I also think it’s lack of theme and quite abstract (most of His games are).
Rewarding game play
Actually aside from the racing game aspect, the game play is simple and quite fun. Okay Euphoria is fun and simple but somehow at the end of the day, its not really rewarding for me when lost the game. But this one feels slightly different. You can feel the excitement to complete task, moving around ship and matching the colors, tinkers with your dice and what combo you can possibly do with those God’s special abilities. So my verdict so far, its playable in the future. In fact, I already logged 3 plays in such a short time.
What I don’t like about this game?
I’ve experienced difficulties to set the map. Even there’s a pictured diagram for the basic map setup, it’s kinda hard to determine the shape of those map tiles because there are more then one kind (4 shapes and sizes). And Place Zeus in the center, what center? There’s no shallow in the center (at least not center, center if you know what I mean). And the cities should be placed in an equally-distant way (come one, it gives me headache). I also tried the random setup and it’s not easier (could be worse).
Racing game, as I already mentioned earlier, even the racing is not that bad, but if it’s not a racing game, it could be better for my taste. For example completing tasks gives you points (how many points is vary not on the type of tasks but the type of objects (monsters, statues, offerings or build shrines), this mean based on colors and each game it should be vary. I never favor a wooden die. Better other materials. Not really an issue but worth mentioned. I mean how good could this be if the dice are plastic or resin (just like in Bora-Bora) or whatever that is beside wood.
The Gods abilities and Ship tiles feel somewhat not balanced. I feel Ship tile that gives starting position on all Gods really overpowered. I also feel that Blue, Red and Yellow Gods are very useful throughout the game, unlike other Gods, which only used number of times for specific actions. But that’s just based on 3 plays.

#6 Word Porters
pic2948039_md This one is coming from Hisashi Hayashi, one of the few Japanese games that go international. His games are amazing and innovative.
I knew him the first time from Sail to India and then Trains. As these games are good, I started to check His other games and turned out His other games are also good.
And when I knew He has a new game with word as its main idea, well I like word games, so I immediately sold.
Why I like it?
Word Games

I love word games, and this looks a very nice addition aside from Codenames, Snake Oil and Dixit. The truth is, I think this is the successor of Dixit and Codenames combined. It shares unique features from both games.
Hisashi Hayashi
I don’t know from when I starting to like and hunt for Japanese games (maybe safe to blame Love Letter) and to be more specific, Hisashi’s games kinda always have special treatment in my eyes. So here it is, another Hisashi’s game that actually quite good and fresh.
It actually good
Turns out the game is very good. If you have second thought about this one because it looks similar to Codenames and Dixit altogether, well it has the same features but the scoring system is different and it changes a lot in the gaming experience. Since in Dixit you try to choose the one and in Codenames you play in teams, in this game you try to guess all other players. The feel is quite different (turned out it’s a big turnover) and it’s so exciting. So I still think it’s worth having in my collection (I own Codenames, Dixit, Spyfall and Snakeoil for your consideration).
There is a minor but essential deduction element in the game, which makes the game quite complex in meta gaming but not necessarily running the game entirely. So whether you use deduction or not, the game can still be fun.
What I don’t like about this game?
The only version is in Japanese though it has English paste ups in the BGG file section and the word cards have English translations, still hard to get this easily run smoothly. You need to get some efforts done, such as print the paste ups, stick it in the hint cards or use sleeves and insert it to the sleeves.
Also the English texts in the word cards are too small, it’s hard to read.
It shines with more players, the game can be played with 3-7 players, but with 3 or 4, is not as good as 5-7 players.

#7 Mask of Anubis
pic3104778_mdThe only reason I found this game interesting was the VR implementation into an analog game. Sounds and looks cool. It’s a Japanese game and not an easy one to acquire. I had to go to Japan to get this, though this was also available in Essen 2016 for a limited amount.
Why I like it?
VR Technology

Okay, technology implementation is always interesting. You can see many approaches from the likes of X-Com, Alchemist and such but this one is more interesting since it’s using our sensory and perception more closer. To play the game you need a VR goggle (which already included inside the game). The first time, you need to assemble it first which is not easy but I am sure everyone can do it.
The interaction is off the chart
In this game, it constantly demands interaction between players. Players need to listen carefully, explain clearly and work together to map the pyramid. It’s a very fun game to begin with, lots of talking, back and forth and getting things done. I also think it’s good for training your visualization skill (mapping it out in your head based on the description of your teammates).
Challenging with different people or group
since the main focus is people interaction and communication, it’s essential to have a good communication and interaction. But in order to do that, there are too many factors at play. Different people with different understanding, speaking skill and how their mind thinks really make this game challenging when played with different people. Though returning group find it easier from session to session due to teamwork and progressing communications.
A monster to explore
As you check on the maps (oh did I tell you about the app you need to install first before you can start to play this game?), there are many stages provide by the publisher, from easy to hardest. The difficulty is based on the scope of the map size. The bigger the map is the more points of view it needs. So, it’s rewarding in terms of game time. And also there also extra stage and time trial mode if you want to change the game mode.
What I don’t like about the game?
The VR goggle is kinda bit fiddly and fragile. You need to carefully use and store it if you want it long-lasting. The truth is you can always replace / substitute it with another VR out there (there are many cheap ones). The assembly instruction could be more helping and clear.

#8 Automobiles
pic2586265_md Another racing game, that I like. It’s about racing (Nascar) so definitely a racing game. Its a good game, quite thematic in spirit of the game.
Why I like it?
A racing game with racing theme
This really makes the game inline with the theme. A game about racing cars with a racing mechanic. So you can feel the atmosphere of speeding over your opponents and give them smoke!
It actually tense and satisfying
To get your car speeding away leaving your opponents behind or even make a come back by surpassing your opponents give a great satisfaction to anyone. Though in the end there’s only one winner, the game rewards you with some adrenaline along the race.
Bag building in it’s finest
Bag building is not a common mechanic used, it’s new and you can also find it in Orleans and Hyperborea (don’t know any other games that use this). But this one really works very good compared to those two (hyperborea too fiddly with the game map, while Orleans is too dry and bland). Okay the bag building also doesn’t important but that makes it good, its just a means, an engine for your car to beat others. So we need to make the engine better but the most important thing is the result. As long as you can beat your opponents or progressing you car as you expected, keep ’em coming!
Tweaking
You can try different or random setup for the cubes ability. So each race would not be the same. And there are 2 circuits to choose, which each has different characteristic that change how you race. So you can always tweak the game setting and feel it in different ways.
What I don’t like about the game?
Hmm, nothing in particular I guess. A good game without any flaw, oh well the box is too big because of the not so useful plastic storage.

#9 Railroad Revolution
This was my only blind buy in 2016 that turns out pretty good. My two reasons were because it’s from What’s Your Game? and its price was reasonable.
Why I like it?
What’s Your Game?

What can go wrong? Yes, they have been releasing good quality games so far. Well, Signorie and Zhang Guo are the least of my favorite, but still good games nonetheless. I like how they present their image and well also because Nuno and Paolo are with them (can’t wait for Brasil).
Simple rules
After reading the rules once, it’s quite straightforward. Easy to grasp rules and the actions are very streamlined. Its enjoyable and rewarding, though unlike my top favorite heavy games such as Madeira or Kanban.
Cool Worker Placement
Okay, actually it’s just a simple one, place a worker in an action, do the action and take a bonus. But the bonus depends on what kind of worker you use to activate the actions, different not based on the worker type but also on the action it’s used. Simple not really that innovative but somewhat fresh yet simple.
Why I don’t like the game?
One thing for sure, What’s Your Game? is notoriously known for its warped game board. Don’t know why they couldn’t make their folded board flat in the table. Encountered the same issue with Madeira and Nippon.
Another issue is the restricted actions, don’t get me wrong, but simple actions and set of rules intend to do just this. There are basically only 4 actions on a player’s turn and there’s nothing that a player can do outside that. So whether a player want to build a station, rails, telegraph office or trade, you need to do it. The only thing that makes them different is only the kind of worker you used to do the action. So the game is somewhat constrained in a specific length. Which not always a bad thing, just consider it as game rounds. Also the condition of player’s action is somewhat solitaire and there’s no blocking in the game. Of course there’s a minor element where player’s get the first bonus effects but that can be mitigated easily by playing the right worker in a certain action. The last thing is the iconography or maybe graphic design elements. Don’t get me wrong, Mariano Iannelli is a talented artist but from what I see with this one, He didn’t take this 100%, the icons were bit off, out of place and not really suitable. Just call it designer’s perception, but that is it. Not affecting the game play and surely won’t be matter to anyone.

#10 Covert
pic2744644_mdDice…. yes dice. Would love for a good dice game.
Many said that this game is good and couldn’t wait to try it.
Why I like it?
Dice allocation
is always interesting, the actions are blockable by dice value so you need to prioritize, so there’s a good decision and planning in it. After you roll your dice, you need to figure what are you going to do with those dice, checking other player’s dice results too.
Theme
Its a secret operatives / spy theme. You need to gather intel and travel around the world to complete missions.
Why I don’t like this game?
First, the dice roll is too random, you can plan it but there’s a time when you really really get a bad roll. Next is the code breaking, it’s fucked up. Getting first is important but the rest only luck left that you can break the code after other players messing it up.
There’s no modifier for general. Okay, there are some, but not easy one to get. If only it has same one like workers in Castles of Burgundy or something. Fixed action to spend dice to get modifiers.
The world map is kinda bit complex. it’s hard to find a location (though it’s already color coded. Also there’s an inconsistency in the iconography, I don’t know why they did not use the same icons.

There were also some games that worth mentioned, like these games below:
Quadropolis – As you notice, it has Days of Wonder’s game quality and characteristic. It has family-friendly value, easy to grasp rules and interesting play. The real deal is about set collection in a 9×9 grid tile laying game. There’s a small bit of worker placement but not quite a classic worker placement since the worker is more like a resource. This one is not really my taste just like their other games (though Five Tribes is on my collection).
Thief’s Market – Surprisingly good beefy filler, though the rules are simple and straight-forward. But the game’s hook is what make this one good. The dice distribution is really clever, players  are forced in position to decide how they take the dice in a clever way to achieve their goals.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game – It’s the card version of one of my most favorite games and though at first thought skeptically at it, it turned out OK, well yes not good because too simple for my taste. Good thing this is perfect if you want a fast game (30 minutes or under an hour) with casual friends, since it’s very simplified with the building types, restriction of tile laying and also small-generated points, strictly a set collection card game.
Waka-Tanka – A friend introduced this one to me and wow, we had fun. It’s a bluffing, push you luck game that could make your night with friends unforgettable. I consider this as a filler. An OK filler game with casual friends.
Dairyman – Got this one from Japan. It’s a very simple Yahtzee style of dice game. The interesting part is the decision offered to players whether they want to pursuit another risk to get bonuses based on partial stages in dice rolls. And the use of freeze tokens and additional red dice improve the game.

And also some that I really want to try, interested but still don’t have the time to try it.
A feast for Odin – It’s Rosenberg latest, another monster after Caverna. But what I do not like is the idea of Rosenberg’s games is really centered in the same idea, like it’s an improvement of some sort from the same game between Agricola, Le Havre and Ora et Labora.
Cry Havoc – A Blood Rage killer? Okay that’s way ahead of it’s head. Blood Rage is a beast and though it seems like one, I do not think it is. A good game maybe, I really interested in the conflict resolution system, which kinda unique. But still this is an area majority game in the core.
Inis  – Been hearing good things about this. It’s the new title from Matagot in the same line of Kemet and Cyclades. The cards are so beautifully represent Celtic’s art visual theme.
Vast: Crystal Caverns – One of those games that I really want to try. It offers a very unique game play and experience, a new level of variable player power. It’s a game where players have different goal, which change the way they play in the game. Sadly it’s hard to get and quite expensive, and lastly I do not know if it’s within my taste or not.
Cottage Garden – I love Patchwork and this one really tingles my love of it in a very different way. Patchwork seems mathy, this one seems a lot more fun and more space to move around. Would love to get this one.
Vinhos Deluxe Edition – I really want this one, since I wanted to complete my big box collection of Vital’s game, I alread had The Gallerist (and Kanban though it’s not in the same line). One said this game is the most complex of Vital’s games, so really interesting to see this one compared to Kanban.
Black Orchestra – The idea and theme sounds good and yes I love the artworks. Simple as that, though I do not know is the game really work or not for me.
Dream Home – Look at those beautiful pictures? Who could resist this one? In this game you build a dream home of yours by drafting cards as rooms, specialists or even tools. Definitely will pick this one once I have the chance.
Lorenzo il Magnifico – One of my most wanted list, the box cover is so stunning, though the in-game artworks are not. But hey, this is Euro and a good Euro is simply not based on it’s artwork. Been hearing good things about this one and definitely want to have.
Solarius Mission – Okay, this one lost against Terraforming Mars, but not totally, since I still want it even after I got Terraforming Mars. I do think my wife will prefer this over Terraforming Mars being it’s more towards classic Euro feel than TM.
Beasts of Balance – I’ve seen this on Kickstarter, though as much as I really wanted this, I did not back it due to the expensive price and a children game likely. Yes, this game helps children with their hand coordination and animal / shape recognition. Though the technology they used is slick! Would love to try or have it.
Fabled Fruit – A new mechanic in the board game world, fable. Not the same as legacy but it offers a progressing game in a series of sessions where players keep progressing the game even after several plays until the game run out of resources (in this game’s case it’s the cards). Unfortunately the cards have pretty moderate in-game texts.
Oceanos – Bauza’s new game with drafting mechanic (thinking 7 Wonders) but offers a new element of decision in it. Definitely will pick this one once available, already watched Rahdo’s runthrough and I fell for it.
Roll Player – The rare of the bunch. Its a dice game with role playing theme. And it’s so awesome. I really want this so bad but it’s hard to get. Passed on the Kickstarter because of the shipping cost. Hope I can get this game soon.
Ulm – The first impression I get when seeing this game is Pillars of The Earth, because of the 3D-like building components in the center of the game board. And it gives certain vibes of a good classic Euro, so nailed it.
The King’s Abbey – Actually already waiting for this for quite a long time, even before it’s released. Based on the description it’s a medium heavy game about building an abbey. Sadly I had to pass on this when I had to choose whether getting this or Domus Domini.
Legends of The American Frontier – Wow, just wow. This game was on my wishlist for a very long time. The Kickstarter project took a very long time to complete. I love the idea / concept about being a legionnaire and working their life career with various choices. Love the artwork too, beautiful. Sadly the high roll and price really kinda turned me off.
Round House – Finally got this just now and I am looking forward to try it. Rahdo said it’s good and it’s from the same designer of Burano (which I also want it). The rules seemed simple and interesting with rondel and worker placement.
Dragoon – I just interested on the game components, which are sick with metal dragons, cloth map and others. But after rules reading I thought it’s too simple for my taste.
Moonquake Escape – Damn I really want to get this, the components are very eye candy though I do not know how the game turns out and does my wife will like it or not judging by the game’s alien theme.

 

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What Can Go Wrong In A Camel Race?

pic2031446_mdCamel Up Review
First of all, congratulations are in order to those who deserve it for Camel Up winning the Spiel de Jahres 2014 award. Camel Up is a game about Camels (obviously) which race their way up to the finish line in Egypt (cause there’s a pyramid in it). So are we camels? Nope, we’re just people, who coincidentally likes camel race. We’re rich people, tourists, businessmen, oil mogul and royal members who like to spend our riches in race track. So in this game, players will bet on a camel race. Player who comes out as the richest after one race will win the game. Camel Up was designed by Steffen Bogen, published by Pegasus Spiele in 2014, with Dennis Lohausen as it’s artist. The game is intended for family and children (which I doubt the theme of the game is really educational for children). The game can be played with 2 up to 8 players. Based from the box description, one game could last 20-30 minutes, perfectly suitable for casual / non gamer and family time.

The Theme
Horses, rats, dogs are common, we love uncommon ones, like Camels. No you will not play as Camels or it’s riders, in fact you only the audience or viewer in the race, enjoying a good chill beverages and chips while betting your money on which Camel’s winning and which is losing. Your money, your (mis)fortune. What else you’ll be doing in the dessert if not spending your money like a sheikh? It’s a fucking dessert!

The Artworks
Dennis Lohausen did a good job, it feels very comical. You can see various funny camel’s expression on this one. The fact is, camels have big teeth, according to Dennis. Players have different unique character illustrations, which is good. You can find some details on the illustrations, check the Pyramid wall for instance.

The Game Components
Definitely eye candy. Yes, the pyramid dice holder really catch attentions. You need to assemble the pyramid for the first time. It’s pretty much essential, since the pyramid dice is used to shake the dice, very important that one die comes out each time it’s used and the die is instantly showing the result without being rolled to give element of surprise. The lever was hold by a rubber band, they provide more than one just in case (my copy came with 3 rubber bands). I already used the last one, so if this one breaks, I need to find another rubber band for replacement. I suppose they can find a better solution for it. The punch boards and cards have good quality, so no worry there. The dice are wooden, and after many plays the color could worn off or maybe dirty. The wooden camels are in fine quality, thick and I guess not easy to break.

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The Game Play
The game last for one lap which consist of several legs. As soon as the first camel pass the finish line, the game ends and final scoring take place then players will count their money. Player with the most money win the game.
So before you start the game, there is a small setup for the dice placeholder (in the form of a card board pyramid) if it’s your first time play. The construction is quite simple and clearly described in the rulebook. Each player will choose a character and receive an oasis / mirage tile, set of cards and 3 coins. Sort the leg tiles based on each color and in ascending value. The first player (randomly chosen) roll all the dice and place the camels in a specific order based on the dice roll results. Put all the dice back into the pyramid and shake it up. There are 5 dice, each has a color represents the camel. The game can now start. Starting from the first player and clockwise, each player will take turns to do an action. The available actions that they can take are taking a leg tile, placing a mirage / oasis tile, roll a camel die and bet on the winner or loser camel. A leg ends when the last die on the pyramid is rolled (thus each camel has already moved exactly once). After a leg ends, leg scoring will take place and if the lap is not finished, new leg begins.

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The Actions – Taking A Leg Tile
Each camel has 3 corresponding tiles with 3 different values placed on ascending stack in each camel’s camp. A player can take a single tile (from any color, if it’s still available) from the top of a stack and place it in front of them. This action shows that you place a wage to that camel. The first tile shows 5 coins for being first, 1 coin for being 2nd and -1 coin for being the rest. The next tile worth 3pts and the last worth 2pts for first place. Players can have more than one tile from one camel.

The Actions – Placing A Mirage / Oasis Tile
This action let players put their tile with mirage side or oasis side on the race track. With restrictions that the space must be empty (of camels) and isn’t directly adjacent with another oasis/mirage tile. This tile will affect camel(s) movement when they stop at it and the owner will get 1 coin bonus. Oasis tile let the camel that stands over it move one step forward. Mirage on the other hand force the camel moves backward one space. Pertaining camel movements, if a camel stop in a space that already has one or more camel in it, the camel is placed on top of the existing camel stack. Each space can only contains single stack of camels. But if a camel moves backward (because of the mirage tile) it’s placed below the camel stack in that space (if any). The camel on top of a stack is considered the most advanced camel (thus a tie breaker).

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The Actions – Roll A Die
To roll a die, you take the pyramid and one of its tiles. Shake the pyramid, put it upside down to the board and open the hatch so exactly one die is fall into the hole. close the hatch and lift the pyramid, voila… a die is laying with a number facing up. The result shows which camel is going to move and how many spaces. Take the wooden of that camel (and other camels on top.of it.if any) and move it as many spaces as shown on the die, between 1-3 spaces.

The Actions – Place A Wager
Each player has a set of 5 cards that shows each camel. With this action he can place one camel card to put a wager of that camel whether it will finish first or last on the race (when the game is over). Usually this action is taken by players when the game is about to end or the outcome is rather clear or obvious. The first player who put the right wager get bigger points. If the wager is not right, he must pay 1 coins instead. It is possible for a player to have more than one camel card in the winning or losing slot by the end of the race.

After the last die is out, a leg is over and the leg scoring begins. Players check the camels’ position and their leg tiles, then cash in their payout money along with their pyramid tiles. If they didn’t win any money, they do not take any from the bank. And if they have to pay their losses, they pay coins to the bank.
After all players cash in, all the tiles are return to their respective positions and all the dice are put back to the pyramid. New leg begins if no camel reaches finish yet. The player who sit on the left player who roll the last die on the previous leg starts the new leg.
If one camel reach the finish line, then the leg round is immediately over, check the current positions and score the leg. Proceed to final scoring by resolve the first place wager and then last place wager. First player who waged correctly get 8 points, followed by 5 and 3 points respectively. Each incorrect wager, cost players one coin. Player with the most money wins the game.

dav

My Thoughts On The Game
This is a simple game, no thinking required (and you can still have a blast). It is a fun game for all ages, children and for families. Anyone can play and it has simple rules (though the camel’s position need extra attention).
The components are attention grabber especially the pyramid though its practically a marketing gimmick. It can easily be replaced and not affecting game play. I like the game, light game with push your luck and wagering as its core element. But there are more than meets the eye. As simple as it is, players can still have fun meddling with the deduction aspect of the camels’ probabilities. Though after several plays (or one play) the actions feel scripted, first player usually goes with placing a mirage or oasis tile in strategic spaces while available. And rolling a die is a lousy action to take, since it gives next players advantage with more information. Unless there’s nothing better to do, it’s one coin anyway.
You can also customize the length of the race by adding laps in the race, it change the pace of the game a bit.

For me this is a keeper, a good addition to my collection, represents a light party games in my collection. This is a game where you can have fun and chill out with friends, or entertain children and family.
Aside from that, the replay value of this game is not really high, okay in many plays you will feel different and has different dynamic pace of the camels, but mostly it’s because of the players’ actions instead the game variations.

dav

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Board Games, Dice Games, Reviews

 

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The Castles of Feld

Box Cover

Box Cover

The Castles of Burgundy Review

For long I have wanted to do a review for this game. It is one of my favorite games and it’s from my most favorite game designer, Stefan Feld. You would know the game if you’re not a newbie to the hobby. Feld has received many great responses for this game, some even might say that it’s the best game he ever invented. For those who don’t know, Burgundy is a region located in East-Central France. As you can relate the title of the game with the background, you can see that there are lot of castles in Burgundy, in which were built during Middle-ages. In this game, each players will become an Aristocrat who controls an estate of settlements. Players will compete with each other to build the most prestigious estate during the game.

The Theme of The Game
The Castles of Burgundy, while having a theme (Euro style) is really a Euro game with pasted theme. Nothing special here, it’s just you are bla bla bla, controlling bla bla bla, competing with other player in bla bla bla, to get the highest points by the end of the game to win it. So it’s really boiled down to the game play mechanics rather than the theme’s importance in a game. In this game, you will become someone powerful enough with authority and decision to shape the land that’s given to you by building some settlements in such a specific manner that (instantly / eventually) give you prestigious value that will be accumulated as points at the end of the game. And by jolly that someone will become the winner by having the most points and celebrates over the entire land, which I doubt that someone will ever truly do so in real life. That’s why this is just a game.

The Components
Feld is known to design a game that has lots of lots of components. In this game for example, there are hundreds of tiles in many shapes. Also dice, yes colorful dice. The game comes with a main board and several double-sided player boards (or more likely player mats), settlement tiles in several categories, goods, worker, Silverlings tiles, wooden player markers and also colorful 6-sided dice. In details there are 164 hex tiles, 42 goods tiles, 20 Silverlings tiles, 30 worker tiles, 12 bonus tiles, 4 victory pieces, 8 wooden markers, 9 dice and 6 player boards. Alea published the game with only one flaw, the thin not so good-looking tiles. It would be perfect if they made it with thicker cardboard material and also the player mat should had been perfect if they made it just like the main board. But of course they had considered these things before.

Game Components

Game Components

The Artwork
Nothing special on this one also, but it’s pretty good as a standard Euro game. Not great nor bad. The artist behind this game is Julien Delval , who also had share a good portion around Euro games’ artworks such as Dominion, Battle Lore, Citadel, Memoir ’44 and other things. The symbol designs are pretty much intuitive and it’s finely made to provide a language independent aspect throughout the game and the components.

The Game Play
The game lasts in 5 phases, which there are 5 turns in each phase. Each player will receive a player board (which can be random or predetermined), 3 random goods, 1 Silverlings, 2 dice of a chosen color, 2 player markers that are placed on the shipping track and VP track, 1 initial Castle tile that players place into one of the dark green slots on his player board (each player chooses which slot he want) and some workers (the first player gets 2 workers, while the next player gets plus one worker more than the previous player consecutively in clockwise order. Place the main board in the center or the table and fill it up with the needed tokens, such as 5 face down goods tiles in each phase slot and randomly draw hex tiles based on the corresponding color slots and number of players listed. And the game is ready to start.

Main Board Breakdown

Main Board Breakdown

At the start of each phase, reveal the current phase’s goods tiles into available slots. This 5 goods tiles will give players easy sign to mark the current turn of the phase. Next all players roll their dice simultaneously (the first player adds the white die to his roll). After the roll, the first player place the current goods tile to a depot with a corresponding value of the white die (this is important to be remembered by the first player, so he doesn’t forget to place the goods tile into a depot). A mistake is crucial and can make the game 1 turn more or less.

Lets take a look at the player board. Each player board, has a space on the right side which is the Estate. This hexagonal shape space is formed by small and colorful hexes with different dice values. The colors and dice values are important, for they will be used to determine placement of the settlement tiles. There are 6 different colors for the settlement tiles. Those colors are Blue for the Ships, Dark Green for the Castles, Brown for the Buildings, Yellow for the Knowledge, Green for the Animals and Gray for the Mines. These colorful tiles are spread on the Estate, creating regions based on color adjacency. The left side of the player board, you can see brown buildings’ references, scoring chart, space for workers, goods and Silverlings.
Meanwhile on the main board, there are 6 depot slots around the central black depot. During preparation process at the start of each phase, these hex spaces on those depots will be filled by randomly drawn tiles based on their colors. These are the hexes that available for the players to acquire at the current phase. There’s also a shipping track which shows players turn order. At the top and bottom right of the board, there are square spaces for bonus tiles. These bonus tiles are rewarded for players who complete to fully cover a specific type / color on their estate. There are 2 bonus tiles for each type, one for the first player and another one for the second.

Player Board Breakdown

Player Board Breakdown

During a player’s turn, he will take 2 actions consecutively out of 4 available options with his two dice. A player may use the same action out of the two actions he choose. Those 4 actions are:

A. Taking a hex / settlement tile from the Depot
There are 6 available depots around the central black depot. These depots have die values from 1 to 6. Using one of the player die, that player can take any hex tile available on one of the depot with the same value of that die value, placing it to one of the three available slots on the player board.

Numbered Depots

Numbered Depots

B. Placing a settlement / hex tile to his Estate
A player can use this action to place a tile that’s already in his storage spaces into his estate. Note that the restrictions of the placement are based by the type / color of the hex, the pip value on the hex space and it must be adjacent to an existing tile on the estate. Once the tile is placed, the tile effect is triggered if any. There are 3 kind of tiles based on the effect, some tiles are immediately activated once placed, some are for end game scoring and the others give benefits during the course of the game as long as the requirements are met.
If placing a tile complete a region (adjacent spaces with the same color), scoring takes place. The scoring values are different based on number of tiles and at what phase the scoring takes place. The more tiles and the earlier phase a player scores, the more points he get. Also when a player places the last settlement of that type / color, he receive the bonus tile (if any).

Estate

Estate

C. Selling goods tiles from the warehouse
Each player has a warehouse section on his board. The warehouse provides 3 slots for goods, each slot used for a different kind of goods, so a player can only stores up to 3 kind of goods at a time. Players can sell goods to get points and silverlings. There are 6 kind of goods and each kind has a die value. To sell it, players use one of his die which has the same value of his goods. For each tile of goods sold, players get 2/3/4 points in a 2/3/4 player game. And in addition of the points, players also receive 1 silverlings tile from the transaction. The sold goods are placed face down on the sold goods spot.

Goods Storage Spaces

Goods Storage Spaces

D. Buying workers
This is the most simple (but often important) action out of the four. You trade die with workers. Each die generates 2 workers no matter the value is. What’s the use of worker? Worker gives you modifier for your dice. 1 worker tile gives you a plus one or minus one to the value of the die. Players can use multiple workers to modify one die value. And yes, it’s possible to modify 6 value to 1 with +1 modifier and 1 value to 6 with -1 modifier. This gives you flexibility against the luck of your dice roll.

In addition of the actions mentioned above, players may also spend their silverlings once per turn to get the black / special hex tile on the central depot with the price of 2 silverlings. So what’s the difference between other hex tiles and these black tiles? Well, the black tiles consist of various types of tiles, this provides extra chances for players to get the tiles needed out of the six depots available.

Central Black Depot

Central Black Depot

A phase ends when the last player had completed his fifth turn of that phase. The depots (the six depots and the central depot) are refreshed (the goods on the depots are stay). The next stack of goods tiles is distributed to the goods slots. All players’ mines generate silverlings. The game ends after the last phase has been completed. The final scoring takes place, players get points from the end game bonuses from yellow / knowledge tiles, bonus tiles, extra worker tiles (1 point for each 2 workers) and 1 point for each silverlings tile.

Strategy
As you can see, based on the rules of the game play, this game falls right into the medium heavy category Euro games. You need to get familiar with the rules and all the settlement abilities to really understand what to do and plan during the game. At first, if you are not a gamer yourself, you might get overwhelmed by the lots of different types of settlements and specific treatments for them. It’s usual getting lost not knowing what to do during your turn, asking advise from more experienced players should be useful, though it won’t help much because experienced players usually have more wide range strategies that they can choose from. Just like his other games (his signature maybe), Feld made this game with lot of options, many paths to get points, which some might see diversification is the best thing, but don’t get it wrong, as many as you want to diversify, focus just on several not all could be an important key to play the game. Yes they all have potentials for you to get points, but not all can be accomplished in one play, players will need to choose which paths they need to focus on and which path they don’t need to. This is important, the run of the game should force you to make important decisions throughout the game. Whether the tiles you need will ever come out or maybe it’s already taken by someone else. The dice factor really adds some key element, though it’s pretty much random and luck, they provide coverage for your plan. The dice roll determine which action you can take and which you cannot during each turn, and to mitigate the luck factor, Feld added the worker tiles. It’s luck alright but you can still survive bad luck roll with those workers, bless them!During the game players will encounter some pretty interesting combo and combination effect with different kind of tiles and how big difference could be when timing the turn order. After one play, new players could easily understand how the game works and fully enjoy it.

Settlement’s Breakdown
1. Shipyards
Shipyard is a blue settlement with a ship image on it, The main purpose of this settlement is to advance a player marker on the turn order track. And aside from that, this settlement is the only way for players to gain goods tiles on available on the depots. There’s a little tactic that goes on with the turn order, being the first player at the start of each phase is very important, this way you can snatch the new tiles you want before someone else. Making sure that no other players will be able to surpass your turn order track at the last turn of the phase is always a good plan. So it’s good to run ahead leaving other players behind as soon as possible, not entirely true, though being the first player gives you more advantageous position, being the first player to reach the end of the turn order track has it’s downside beside achieving shipyard bonus tile and being first early on the game. Of course your opponents won’t do nothing being left out in the back, they will pursue you and when you’re already maxed out, the other players can eventually get on top of you on the track. Well, just like most Feld’s games, the tie breaker is based on the order of the stack, the one who’s on top wins the tie. So if that happened to you during the first half of the game, your second half would get you last,

Ship Track

Ship Track

2. Castles
Castle is a settlement tile with dark green color with a castle image on it. At the start of the game each player has already own a castle that marks his starting position on his estate. The good thing about castle settlement is the free action it gives. Immediately after placing a castle tile, the player gets one free action that he must immediately take. This free action can be any one action from the 4 available actions and doesn’t restricted upon any die value. So you can take a tile from any depot, place into any space or sell any type of goods.
And there are only 4 Castle spaces on the estate, so it’s not hard to complete to gain the bonus.
3. Mines
There are only 3 mine spaces on an estate, the least spaces from any other settlement, but of course it’s also has the least distribution tiles on the main board. Mines main purpose is to generate silverlings at the end of each phase. These silverlings are used by players to buy black tiles or worth 1 point each at the end of the game.
4. Pastures
Pasture is a settlement with light green color and animals. There are 4 kind of animals in the game, chicken, cows, pigs and sheep. This animals solely purpose is scoring points and points and more points. Each time you place an animal tile on a pasture space you score points based on a number of animal shown on that tile plus points from the previously placed animal tiles with the same type in the same region. So they could be many. Usually you gather them animals of the same type in the same region place tiles with most animals first so they can hopefully score more than once.

A Pasture

A Pasture

5. Knowledge
Knowledge tiles are yellow colored with various images, those images describes the effect of the tiles. There are two kind of effects, the end game scoring effect and the passive continuous effect during the game. Though the images is self explanatory, new players will need some adjustment and time to understand and memorize all of them.
6. Building
Building tiles are brown colored and have different kinds with different images. The description of each building is shown on the left side of each player board, and the symbols are also self explanatory. There is a basic restriction for building tile placement, players may not place more than one building of the same type in one region (unless you have a knowledge tile that allows you so). The building effects are surely interesting, there is a building that upon placement let you acquire a specific kind of tile from one of the depot (if available of course). Or a building that upon placement gives you 2 silverlings, or a building that upon placement let you to place any kind of tile from your storage to your estate and many more, I let you find out yourself.

Different hex types

Different hex types

The Replay Value
You can rest assure that this game offers you high replay value right from the start. The game comes with different player boards that you can try aside from the 4 basic boards for your first game. These other boards have different estate layouts that could give you interesting approach in the game paths you need to take. And also, playing with different number of players doesn’t work the same, since different number of players provide different number of tiles drawn in each phase and points given from selling goods. So basically, the replay value is quite good, playing over and over again is unlikely the same, since you cannot get everything you want in each game. Now let’s get to the bad parts, as you can see there are some aspects why this game is not as good as it should and some might agree or disagree. The awful thing to start this game is the preparation, you know separating and organizing those tiles are painful and unasked for. The game does not come with draw string bags in it, so you need to find at least 4 draw string bags to hold and randomly draw the tiles. And don’t forget to clean up after the game ends has the same painful effect (more I dare to say) since you need to separate those tiles back into the box based on it’s category. Looking on the tile’s thickness, I should say it’s supposed to be thicker than it is, so you can feel the goodness of the tile when picking them up. Not really important but could improve the premium feel of the game components, same thing with the player boards.

Draw String Bag

Draw String Bag

My Thoughts on The Game
No doubt that this is one of my favorite games in my collection, my girlfriend likes it. It even works very well with 2 players (quicker I must say). Two experienced players can finish the game in 45 minutes (aside the setup) and 90 minutes for 4 players. This is a game that finds a permanent place on my collection, no way I’m gonna sell it (or no way she gonna let me), it has this awesome feel of building something, some sorts of accomplishment to complete your estate in such a way and yes, you will feel the solitaire game in your estate but of course there is still interaction on the main board. This game is widely known and overly known as the most favorite Feld’s in my group though I am not completely agree with that statement. I still prefer Trajan over Castles of Burgundy by a hair or two. The game is fun, with simple rules and the building theme really fits into gamer and non-gamer alike. New players or casual gamers will find it amusing. The only reason why I picked Trajan over this game is Trajan is heavier game than this game, that has medium weight scale. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I prefer heavy Euro than medium. One to his own.

Images courtesy of BGG users

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Board Games, Dice Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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