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Category Archives: Euro Games

A game that emphasize on it’s mechanics and game play which fairly involves strategy, decision making, management and player interactions.

Role Playing Dice

RPEXPRoll Player Review (with Monsters and Minions expansion)
RPG players are no strange with character creations, it has been an integral part of the gaming experience. But for those who are not, character creation is an early phase of role playing game where the players create their characters from scratch based on several attributes and features that will determine their characters stats when playing the game. At a glance it starts out as a necessity before performing the game but in reality and closer look it has deep and special meaning for the players. It offers certain values to the process that players really enjoy doing it before their long gaming journey. Now Keith Matejka (the game designer, if it’s not that obvious) tries to materialize that feeling into something more solid in his game Roll Player. I found the title is kinda catchy and a clever use pun. Role was changed to Roll which also relates to the use of dice in the game.

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The Theme
In Roll Players, players will create their characters as good as they can in order to achieve its objectives and other things that will generate points at the end of the game. It certainly provides interesting take on many elements that seemed as obstinately necessities within the game. The game starts with the preparation of one’s identifications from racial choices, classes, alignments back stories and even gender (male or female, for such thing matters to some people). You can find the regular choices that usually found on fantasy role playing games. Okay, I skipped that part, the game was focusing on fantasy genre role playing game. So you can find races such as Human, Elf, Orc and Halfling in the base game. But there are more irregular choices with the expansion such as Wrathborn (demon), Construct, Dark Elf, Dragonkin and etc. Classes also have the same approach where Wizard, Barbarian, Thief and Bard fall into regular choices and can found more irregular choices from the expansion as well. While race provides certain modifier into one or more attributes, Class provides the attribute goals that players need to achieve and also special ability that its character can do, along with it’s color affiliation (dice color) that will make sense later in the game.

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The Game
Basically in this game players try to fill their character attribute slots with dice (colorful dice) which will be tallied into total for each attribute row and check if it meets the objective or not. There are 18 slots in the game, where based on number of players there will be starting dice to allocate before starting the game. So number of rounds are fixed based on how many dice are needed to fill the empty slots. Each round, players will draft dice from the bag based on number of players plus one. The first player will draw them from the bag in random and roll the dice. Then sort them out in ascending order on the initiative cards. Starting from the first player in clockwise order, each player choose one die along with its initiative card. The die then must be allocated immediately to one of the attributes from left to right direction and may take the corresponding action related to its attribute. After players have done so, based on the initiative order, players take a Market action, whether they buy one card or decide to discard one to get 2 coins. Players may buy one card from the display row by paying the cost listed on the card and add it to the space around their board depends on its type (Skill, Armor, Weapon or Traits). At the end of their turn, they can refresh one Skill card of their choice. Pass the first player marker to the player on the left of the first player and begins a new round until all slots are filled.

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Aside from getting the goals done, there also a pattern for dice allocation where the dice color matters from the back story card. Allocating dice of certain color in certain position will get glory points at the end of the game based on how many dice are matched. In addition, each die of the class color will give that player one additional point at the end of the game. Some Trait and Weapon cards can give players more points from set collection. The true heart of the game on this game is the puzzle element that the dice manipulation presents. In short, players need to get dice, fill them in their attribute slots and make those dice contribute on the attribute goals by manipulate them with actions. Set off from the dice rolling / drafting element, players will usually not getting what they want throughout the game, mostly the pip value, then the dice color and cards they want because of certain things like turn and initiative order. So there are actions provided by attributes to manipulate the dice on attribute slots. With Strength attribute players can flip one die value to its opposite side. This action is very useful to turn big into small pip and vice versa. So getting a small value die is not a bad idea as long as you include it in your plan to flip it if you need big number. But of course it’s possible that what you really need is smaller number. Another action is to swap or exchange the position of 2 dice from the player’s board. This gives players flexibilities in allocating dice and also in order to match the dice color to back story card. Players sometime need certain colors in certain time, this timing restriction can be solved with this action. There are also actions that let players to add or reduce the pip value by one, let players to re-roll one die of their choice, let players to shift their alignment one space and gives a discount token to be spent in the market. Once all the slots are filled with dice, the game ends and players tally up their points based on what I already described above, attribute goals, class color dice, alignment card, backstory, traits and armors. Player with the highest points wins the game.

First of all before I continue this review, one small note; that my review is based on the Kickstarter copy of the game along with the Monster and Minions expansion, so with that in mind, there will be component differences from the retail version.

I had an eye for this game since the first time they put it on BGG. It was open for Pre-Order directly from the publisher site (Thunderworks Games) but I was hesitate to go on since the shipping cost and pre-ordering straight from publisher isn’t really something I am used to (aside from What’s Your Games?). So I skipped that chance and then the game was hard to find, out of print everywhere. Until they decide to launch its expansion (Monsters and Minions) on the Kickstarter and I immediately jumped into the wagon. I also got metal coins and Frogkin promo board from the add-ons offered from the pledge manager. It was arrived a bit late than what I had expected since the base game (retail) was available way before my Kickstarter copy arrived. But I did not disappointed since the game was not much of a hype in my country at that time (also maybe up to now) compared with Sagrada (why Sagrada? Well, just read on…)

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The Components
When I received the game, it was two boxes, one base and one expansion. Same dimension except the depth. The expansion box depth is halved from the base box. I like how the boxes look, it has black background with strong and vibrant character illustrations. Briefly you can feel the dark yet exclusive box. The base game I got is pretty heavy (of course it’s heavy, the box is fully packed with lots of components and they’re all from card boards and dice). The boards are thick and the card’s quality is very good (though it’s not linen finished). Love the dice, very solid and chunky (thankfully they did not use smaller size dice) though with pointy corners, it’s kinda hard to roll them (as oppose to rounded corner dice) but it’s just a very minor gripe. The tokens are good, and I did add metal coins, which provide two denominations unlike the card board coins. The card illustrations are amazing, full of  vibrant colors which work well with black background or dark tone of the game. It was one of those moment where I just satisfied on how the illustrations really set the mood for the game.

The Expansion
The Monsters and Minions expansion does give significant amount of components to the base game, with as many as race boards as the base, additional set of color dice, boost dice (mist opaque dice) and combat dice, huge first player wooden marker, XP cubes and more cards (oversized Monster card and new minion cards aside from variation of the existing class, alignment and backstory cards) with additional adventure deck for each monster that gives additional layer of objectives during the game.

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So the expansion gives the game another mile walk and a sense of purpose into the base game. As you already know that the game is about creating characters in Role Playing Game, the expansion gives the creation, a purpose to it. The expansion as it title suggests, introduces Monsters and Minions into the game, where players will have to battle the chosen monster (out of many) with their characters at the end of the game. But that’s not just it, the boss monster existence gives players additional goals to get more advantageous position, fighting the monster which players can acquire when fighting Minions. Thematically speaking, by knowing the location, obstacle and attack of the monster, players can gain the upper hand with minor objectives that can give them benefit when fighting the monster (since the monster have special ability that will affecting on how it fights against the players). There are also Minions, it’s like the progress into culminating end against the monster, players will fight Minions before the Monster during the game. Unlike the monster, Minions are fought by choice, players will have to choose this as an action during their turn. So instead going to the market, they can go fight Minions. Fighting Minions are kinda bit unique, they will roll combat dice based on different things based on the Minions, it could be a certain color dice in their board, a number of cards with specific type they own and so on. Of course the combat is resolved in high roll result, so it depends heavily on luck. They can spend XP cubes to re-roll or add more dice though. Personally, I quite like the expansion, sure it makes the game last longer but it’s fun and I think it’s worth it. With the expansion your character creation process seems to have a purpose. But one can argue that this expansion can give players certain distractions to the base game of character creation, since you need to sacrifice market action (acquire more cards) in order to fight Minions.

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My Thought of The Game
If you think that this is a dice rolling game, you got it wrong. It is not a dice rolling game, dice are rolled no doubt but that’s just for round setup purpose. Players do not really roll dice, they just assign one player to roll all the dice for all players to choose. So this is more likely a dice drafting game, since players choose which dice they want during their turn. And presenting the character creation element and the actions that come with the attributes on the characters, players will modify / adjust their dice, so it’s dice manipulation. I like the game, it has a simple set of rules, though most of you might think it’s quite complex and I do agree. The possibility and manipulation will force you to think the complexity is quite moderate if you compare it with the rules of play. The demands that players need to fulfill in order to get the best score will leave players scratch their heads, it’s not an easy task to get them done the way it is supposed to. Players might be forced to do hard decision making in order to get one or more objectives cleared up by sacrificing other objectives. Of course there’s a luck factor to be involved (if it comes to dice). The dice drawing is surely add luck to which dice color are available each round and the roll will determine if it’s good enough for players or not, depends on their turn order. The random card draws will also affecting the combo synergies in overall, but less in luck aspect and more like adapting with the situation. The game could be really competitive and most of the time players will be in a situation with a few points difference from each other. Playing with the expansion could distract you from getting points from Market cards, but in the same time, you can maximize points from beating boss Monster in the end by piling up your combat dice. From my several plays, the Monster is not really posing a threat to players, I never see players fail to beat the monster. And once you have played with the expansion, you will never want to play it only the base game (at least that’s what I felt).

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Essen 2017 Highlight Preview Part 7

Okay, it’s 2018 and still there is a long list of Essen 2017 games to be done. Have you acquired some of them? Feel free to share the new collection or discuss them here. Now lets move along to the seventh part of this long preview.

pic3736981_lgPULSAR 2849
2849 marks the beginning of an interstellar energy boom. Human finally invented new technologies that can harness or utilize the energy of pulsar for many different things. In this new dawn, players as corporations do not want to miss that chance and compete with each other to take part on this historic event by building megastructures in space. Okay, this sold me out, though I tend to avoid space sci-fi theme due to my wife’s disliking of the specific theme. My main interest honestly lies within the designer behind the game, Vladimir Suchy which designed Shipyard in the past, a game of building ships, which my wife really fond of.  So what game is Pulsar 2849? It has a round-shaped board showing a space in the galaxy with a star cluster and many planetary systems. In 8 rounds players will take turns to draft dice and allocate them to different parts of the game. There are so many actions to choose over the turns, players can move their survey ships around, develop pulsars, build energy transmission, patent technologies, and work on special projects. These are major things you do in the game, the truth is there are many other small things under this major actions you need to do. One of the interesting things in the game is the engineering and initiative tracks which run side by side depending how players want to use it. See, while drafting dice, players can choose any die but they need to pay the cost based on the median track of the available dice of that round. They need to pay the cost with their engineering or initiative. The thing is the higher the die value, the better it is. So I guess the game mitigates this issue by making the players to pay the cost, which getting a high value die is more expensive than the lesser ones. When paying the cost they can choose to move out one of their tracks (engineering or initiative) based on what die they take and its current median. Initiative will determine the turn order of next round, while engineering is like an income for energy cubes based on the position of the markers. When the game ends players score points based on their goal tiles, purple patents, claimed pulsars, leftover engineering cubes, and stations. There are so many things spread around the game and with those come so many choices to choose for. It feels like a point salad game, while you gain points based on what you do. I like how the game looks and can’t wait to try it out.
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pic3364832_lgPHOTOSYNTHESIS
This game is very interesting, you can see it only by the looks of the game set up on the table. There are card board trees, many card board trees. So the game is about the title itself, photosynthesis which is a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy so that they can grow. In this game, players will be one of 4 different varieties of trees and compete to grow and spread their seeds in the sunlight. In the game players will get a player board with slots for many different size trees of their variety. There are 3 sizes of trees, small, medium and large. And players will start with 2 small trees on the board and can work to grow them and add more trees into the board. In order to grow, players need sunlight to light their trees. But the sun moves around and cast shadows. Shadowed trees cannot grow because the sunlight cannot reach it. That shadow comes from another tree blocking the sunlight, since there are different sizes, larger tree will cover the sunlight from smaller ones, making them cannot grow. In the game, players can buy trees from their player board to their supply by using light points, plant seeds around their existing trees on the game board, grow trees by using light points and collect scoring tokens by ending the life cycle of large trees. The game ends when the sun rotates 3 times and the last sun revolution counter has been drawn. I found the game has a very really simple set of rules but offers very deep tactical choice within the game. Players need to plan and take actions carefully by looking at the board situations and how opponents will act to determine what is the best thing they need to do on their turn. The components are good, it’s very nice to look at, definitely eye candy over the table. And the most important thing is it has a very nice educational value for kids (or adults alike) about how trees grow.
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pic3553913UNTOLD – ADVENTURES AWAIT
This interesting storytelling cooperative game is played using a set of Rory’s Story Cubes. For those who don’t know Rory’s Story Cubes, it’s a set of 6-sided dice with different symbols on each side (the symbol is unique one of a kind in a set). In the original game of Rory’s Story Cubes, players will roll dice and set a story from the rolled dice. It’s a loose game of storytelling. Now in this game, they took the cubes usability to a whole another level. With some rules and standard guide they create a structure needed for the dice to be used in a way that players will try to make more compelling and structured good story. Before the game starts, players will set a base story in the episode guide as a starting point and setting for their story to expand. The game also comes with character creation, a quite loose one at that. To create a character, players can use the story cubes (dice) as assistance to shape the character or do it freely and then fill out the questions on their character sheets. A character can also has special abilities along with companion or items than can helm them on the story. As most of good stories, it’s broken down to several scenes (orderly fashion), starting from A Dangerous Dilemma, The Plot Thickens, An Heroic Undertaking, The Truth Revealed and The Final Showdown. Based on these scenes players will reveal scene cards to guide them with their story. The symbols on scene cards will determine how players will use the die of their choice. Since this is a cooperative game, by the nature of this game, there will be an alpha player issue. It requires some sort of creative storytelling and imagination level from the players to create a good and interesting story that will engage them as the game goes by. So if you do not like these kind of stuff, sharing you imagination, give story ideas and like to playful with your stories, this might be not a good fit for you. It relies heavily on that part to determine the fun level of the game. There are some features for players to control (to some extent) on how the story goes, they’re given some tokens to alter the story in one way or another. Players can interrupt other player’s story with idea token (each player has two tokens), go back to the past and try to add more depth or details to the backstory using flashback token, change a die result by using a modify token and a play/pause card to pause the game to set a discussion about the story. This is not a game about winning or losing, it’s about how you build the story together and feel accomplished.
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pic3399864VIRAL
Viral is a game about virus (obviously) in a human body. Players take the role of different viruses trying to get viral points by infecting, spreading through different organs on the body. It’s a pretty unique theme, while Cytosis has a positive approach this one has negative approach. The main boars depicts a human internal organ such as brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, intestines and others divided into different zones. The game uses action selection mechanic with cards. In each round players will assign 2 pairs of cards (with each pair consists of 1 zone card and 1 action card) and then resolve the actions in turn order and discard the used cards (those cards couldn’t be used for next single round).  Players will have to spread their markers to different zones and organs to gain majority and zone controls. To control a zone, each player must have at least one marker in every organ in that zone. Some organs will have a crisis tile (depending on the number of viruses (markers) that organ has and number of players. Crisis tiles mark the organs where the body’s immune system will work. Some viruses on that organ will be removed (there also be scoring). There are also cures which based on the research track on each player. Player’s that already move into the top space on the research track will remove all of their viruses (except the ones with shield icon) from the board and reset the track back. The game uses tie breaker mechanism where players will determine which one of them win the tie breakers. So there will be a lot of tie situations on the game. The game uses vibrant color for the organs and it looks very contrast over the white background. It looks colorful and clear. But apparently I consider this overly too simple for this kind of game. I wanted more interlocking mechanics than just placing viruses and control the areas.
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pic3711919_lgPIONEER DAYS
This is a very simple dice drafting / allocation game from Tasty Minstrel Games. It is designed by Matthew Dunstan and Chris Marling. The game sets in a wild west frontier where players will set a journey with their wagons through the perilous Oregon trail. Life is hard in the frontier and it takes careful planning, cunning decision and perfectly timed actions to avoid disasters and complete objectives. The game lasts for 4 weeks (5 days in each week, 5 turns). In the game, players try to get points by acquiring Town folks, pairs of cattle, favor tokens, gold nuggets while avoiding take damages to their wagon. In this game players draft dice from the pool to do certain actions (Income, Action or Recruit). There are also Disasters in the game, turns out living in the frontier is not that peaceful, there are Raid, Famine, Disease and Storms. Disasters on the game are triggered based on the color of the leftover die that players didn’t pick up each round. Black die is the most dangerous of all which advance all the disaster tracks up one space while other colors only advance that particular color. I think the game is pretty simple, you pick a die and choose what to do in a turn. The drafting is a bit interesting with the disaster tracks. When choosing a die, you need to consider what will be the last die left. This will determine which disaster track would advance. The Town folks also interesting, aside from providing benefits to the players during the game, some of them also provide points generators.
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So, until next time.

 

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Shoot Kill Repeat!

pic3476604_mdAdrenaline Review
In video games, there is a game genre called first-person shooter, which basically playing a guy / dude with his point of view and shoot things up. If you are a video gamer, you will easily name some games with this genre, like Doom, Counter Strike, Quake, Call of Duty, Battlefield and such. And there’s a tabletop game that people think, is using the same mode of play. But not directly I guess, cause it’s different in a big way, though somehow it conveys the feeling for a fps game. It is called Adrenaline, one of some new released titles from Czech Games Edition, designed by Filip Neduk. So let’s get down to it and check what it has to offer us.

The Theme and Artworks
There’s nothing special on the backstory, it’s just a death match in a industrial world with characters in different appearance. Sounds simple and boring, but hey they are here to drop some bodies, not tell stories, makes sense to me. The artworks work fine and nicely made, not something spectacular but it’s drawn for purpose inline with the theme. The death match takes place in a locked compound with several rooms, the game board illustrated this map in eagle eye view, shows the different rooms with different colors to make it easier to recognize. In the other hand, the weapons look cool.

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The player figures

The Components
Miniatures, yeah it has minis, just 5 pieces but hey better than none at all. Players have their figures based on color (five colors, you can play up to 5 players in this game) and each figure is different in shape and model. There are a space soldier, a steam punk girl, a robot and two different alien races. The figure’s colors are very stand-out and easy to see, especially on the board, so this is good. The other components are hit point plastic tokens in each player color. These tokens are tear drop shaped, like a drop of blood. Players will pass these tokens when they hit someone with their weapons to mark their point for majority. Aside from the tokens there are plastic semi-transparent cubes for the ammo, ammo tiles, victory point tiles in many denominations and the cards. The cards have 2 types, Weapon cards and Power-Up cards. Weapon cards are unusually over-sized with 61×112 mm in size, while the Power-Up cards are small with 45x68mm in size. The cards quality is good, very smooth though it’s not a linen finish. The game box is unusual, a bit larger than the normal size box like Agricola. So it’s kinda bit hard to keep your shelf neat to store it side by side with another box.

The Game Play
First of all, the goal of the game is to get the most points, nothing else matter. So in this game players running around, grab weapons and shoot others. Before the game starts players get their own player board along with the hit point tokens, figure, ammo cubes and action tile of their color and also 2 random Power-Up cards. The board is set  based on number of players configuration (it’s flexible and you can use any preferable setup despite the recommended setup). Place a random ammo tile on each room space on the board that doesn’t show spawn or weapon slot, set aside the other tiles face down next to the game board. Shuffle the weapon cards, reveal and place the cards on the weapon spaces (there should be 9 weapon cards on the board, 3 for each weapon slot). Place the rest of the weapon cards on the weapon deck slot along with the Power-Up deck. Randomize the first player, and give him/her the first player tile. The game is ready to start.

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Deathmatch in progress

To start, starting from the first player, they need to play one of the two Power-Up cards they have to decide where their figure will spawn. A Power-Up card has a specific effect and cube with specific color. The color can be used during spawn or re-spawn, to determine where the figure will enter the board. The rooms are separated into 3 colors or more, the red blue and yellow color has a spawn point, the same color as the ammo type. During players’ turn they can take 2 actions. The actions are Move, Grab and Shoot. They can take the same action twice. After taking two actions, they reload and end their turn. Then next player clockwise take their turn.

A. Move Action
During the course of the game, players need to move around the board through rooms and spaces. The Move action lets players to move up to three spaces (single square space). They can move orthogonally adjacent from one space to another as long it’s not blocked by a wall. A room can constitutes from a single space or more than one space. A room is separated from another room by a door.
B. Grab Action
There are two things that a player can grab, a weapon card or ammo tile. Players can grab a weapon when they are on the weapon spot. The can choose one weapon from the available 3 (at most, can be less than) weapon cards on its corresponding slots. A weapon may have a cost to acquire and players can pay the cost from their available ammo supply. When they take the weapon card, they keep it on their hand, it is considered loaded and can be used when players take the shoot action. They can only have at most 3 weapons, so if they want to take the fourth weapon, they have drop one of theirs in the respected slot. When players take an ammo tile, they take ammo cubes shown on the tile from the their general supply and place it on their ammo box. A player can only have 3 ammo cubes from each color at any time, so any excess is wasted. If there’s a Power-Up symbol on the tile, players draw a Power-Up card from the deck (they can only have at most 3 cards by the end of their turn).
C. Shoot Action
Players can shoot other players if they have at least one loaded weapon and have a valid target. A target is considered valid based on several factor, the line of sight and weapon effect. Players can only shoot one weapon in a single action, shooting a weapon means place the weapon card from their hand to the table, the weapon is considered unloaded and need to be reloaded in order to take the card back to players hand.
Line of Sight, in general term is the range that a player can see a target. Players can see figures who are on the same room, while if a player figure in a space with a door, that player can see any figures located on the room connected with that door regardless their distance. Imaginatively that figure take a peek from the door into the other room and can see anyone inside that room. Beside the line of sight, valid target also decided based on the weapon’s effects. In this games, the weapons are one-of-a-kind and have various effects. When a player shoot a target, that target receives damage based on the weapon used. To mark this, the shooter give the target their hit point tokens which are placed on the life tracker of the target. For first blood (first damage to a target), the shooter get one point. When the amount of hit point token that a target has in their track equal as their hit points, they’re killed. When killed, the figure is removed from the board and scoring takes place based on damage majority. The killer gets to claim a spot on kill track by placing one hit point token on the track, or two if they overkill the target (by placing one more hit point than it’s necessary to kill a target). After the player already finishes his/her turn, the killed player draw one Power-Up card from the deck (even they already have 3 cards) and choose to discard one to determine where their figure will re-spawn. After get killed, that player place a skull token taken from the kill track on the empty left most point on their board, next time they get killed, the score gets less and less interesting.

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One-of-a-kind Weapons

After players take 2 actions, they end their turn by reloading, they can pay ammo cubes to take one or more weapon cards placed in front of them back into their hand by paying full the cost listed on the card.

The game continues until the last skull token is used and then one final turn takes place. When the game end, players tally up their points, player with most points wins the game.

The Replay Value
I honestly think that the game has little replay value. The variations come from different weapons, different board setup and game modes are not enough to bring the game fresh in each play. Basically you just running around trying to kill others. Even all the weapons are one-of-a-kind, you can find out and feel almost all of them in a single game. The game also comes in several modes to play. The basic one is Deathmatch mode is like free for all mode, where you can running around and kill everyone you encounter to get the most points. Aside from that, there are Domination mode and Turret mode. I have played Domination mode, once but didn’t see the good in it, the game feels too fast than it should in 3-players and found it to be quite quirky. Turret mode should be different, since players can set trap and hit the turret. It shifts the aim of the game and makes it more tactical if I am not mistaken by reading the rules. I think it is ease to expand the game, to add another new contents into the game. New various weapons would provide fresh taste to the old game, so it could be promo weapons or something completely different by offering new set of iconic weapons in games or maybe real life. There also different modes that the game can be implemented, such as tag team, zone, time based, capture the flag and others. These new different mode surely give new taste on the bud. Or maybe introducing character abilities as new element or new map setups would make the game more interesting.

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Victory Points

My Thought About The Game
I think the game does work well, it offers you new genre and feel to play. Maybe there are other shooting table top games out there, but none of them are just like this simple, easy to learn and yet so real to simulate the shooting genre. As people been saying that this game is a first person shooting game, well practically it’s different and not right to label it that way. For those who have not try the game yet might not agree with that since there’s nothing at all that describe the first person element. Yes you shoot people around, but not from the shooter perspective like an fps should. You still look it on the bird’s eye view, from top view of the game where you can see all the locations, all the figures and others. This is so oppositely different from a first person shooter. But, maybe in a way, you will feel there’s a slight taste or feel on the game play that reflects that first person element. For me, it is and after all, it doesn’t matter it is true or not, as long as you enjoy it. Personally I think the game does brilliantly convey the mechanic and theme into a very streamline and smooth shooting game while maintains or introduces new strategic factor into it by making the game as Euro game. Yup, I bet many of you didn’t see that coming. Taking from the visual, theme and style the game looks like, you would consider this game to be more of an Ameritrash game than Euro, it’s more make sense. But no, it’s an Area Majority euro game in disguise. Yes, killing and shooting people doesn’t feel gory in here, no blood splattered and no heads got blown off. There are only point crunching for majority, the rest are necessities. While you think the game is about killing and killing, it turns out to be efficiency and opportunity grabs. Your priority is getting the most points, not rolling heads, though killing your enemies sounds intriguing and fun. But in the end it’s about who has the most points. And last bu not least, there’s no player elimination (yes I know most of you do not like that, so its a plus right?).

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Playing the game

I think the game is very simple, you can explain the rules under 15 minutes and new players are able to pick the rules rather quickly than most games. The obvious obstacle is the weapons effect. Since all the weapons are one-of-a-kind, the weapon cards only provide icon descriptions on it, though I must admit they work hard to design it as clearly as they can, which I think they did rather splendidly. Though simple icons cannot equal the power of texts and sentences to convey the real definition of something, I believe with one play experience, players will easily pick up the definition of the iconography. So first play can be a challenge. They also try to design the game with balance in mind, since this game type can lead to bullying or player bashing, they use the point reducing for a solution. Each time a figures is killed, he/she is less worthy to be killed again. This create balance on players targeting another in a brilliant way. Okay, players can ignore this but the real aim for the game is most points, so ignoring the rules can lead the players definitely not winning. There’s also an interesting part in the over-kill aspect. When players get over-killed, they set revenge by placing one of their hit point to the tag area of the killer, this way, it gives them incentives to hunt down their killer to get an additional damage.

While the game has different map setups based on number of players, the game is free to be played in any map setup from small, medium or large. Even the large map with 4/5 players it doesn’t feel big. In short, while the game has dude running around the map shooting something, the real is that the game is about getting points from precisely timed shooting opponents. You won’t get lost in it, most of players turn they can shoot somebody because most of the location is reachable with a single turn. I think this is a plus, since it won’t be so fun chasing around people and cannot reach them. The compound is specifically designed to be compact and minimized the labyrinth / maze aspect of the map, avoiding long alleys and secluded area and also dead end. Yup no dead end, all rooms are connected.

So in overall I love the game, it feels new, fresh and very easy to play. I like how dynamic the game is, highly interactive and offers a lot of game changer during the game. I love the weapons and how keeping three of them can create combos, also using the Power-Ups. The components are okay, and in addition, this still an Euro game at heart. Sadly my wife doesn’t completely agree with me. Shooting each other around is not a theme she kindly favored. But for those of you who think shooting weapons is fun and want to add strategy element while shooting people, this might be a good choice.

dav

Crowded space, high conflict

 
 

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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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What Your Dream House Looks Like?

pic3176771_mdDream Home Review
Dream Home is a game published by Portal Games and designed by a Polish designer (I think he’s new to game design and this is his first game), Klemens Kalicki and illustrated by Bartlomiej Kordowski. Right from the start of its inception, this game has already gained a spotlight with the cute, bright-colored and beautiful art, thanks to the artist. It’s like a children’s game which I must admit that it is partly if not whole, a children’s game. It can be played with 2-4 players from 20-30 minutes (you can play this under than the time mentioned, trust me, or you are that worse). The game was published last year in 2016 which I just managed to get early in 2017.

The Theme and Artworks
In Dream Home, players are trying to build their dream home by choosing cards from the available options and place it on their boards. The cards are rooms in the home and can be placed in various spots depends on players’ taste and also basic physics. A good home should have its necessary rooms such as bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, the rest are complementary.
For the artworks, I must give a salute for Bartlomiej Kordowski. His works are superb and really succesfully give the game a very appealing soul to convey the purpose of the game. It really clicks and you know it does.

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The Components
The game is basically a card game, with a central board and some tiles. It has medium square box and of course cute and beautiful art cover. Inside there’s a plastic insert to hold all the components, and it works well, but the cards and tokens are easily scrambled when transported in many positions, so you need a small foam to cover this issue. The cards are small sized, maybe mini Euro size, placed well in the tray even when sleeved. There also a special first player marker, an over-sized orange house-shaped wooden token. There are 4 player boards and a central board, thick and good enough.

The Game Play
In the game, players get their own board as a foundation of their home. The board consists of a drawn image of a home with spaces to place cards. These spaces are drawn with 3 stories, 5 columns except there’s only 2 columns in the bottom story. So in total there are 12 rounds in the game. After 12 rounds the game ends and players sum up their scores. There are mainly two type of cards in the game, room cards and resource cards. During the game, each round players will take a room card and a resource card or the first player marker.

The fun thing about it (or not) is that players will have to choose the cards they need to get for their home from the available ones that drawn on the central display. The problem is there’s the turn order, yaaay… yeah, the one who pick the first cake always get the best and bigger ones. So each round the cards are drawn and displayed on the board, which there are 5 columns and 2 rows but the the first column only draw 1 room card, where the top row is placed the first marker token, you remember the orange house-shaped token? The first row is for resource cards, while the second row is for room cards. Room cards are obviously placed in the player board to occupy the spaces, while resource cards are more, how to say it? Complicated. The resource cards have different types such as experts, roofs, tools and decorations. These types work differently to help players make their dream homes.

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Now let’s take a look into the player board, players have a player board to hold all the room cards they already chose during each round. This player board represent a home with 3 stories (a basement, a level 1 and two stories). The basement only consists of 2 columns, which can accommodate 2 rooms (basement rooms only). Each room must be placed in legal / valid ways, it must have a foundation (a room below it, whether in any type or empty room, not an empty space). So in the first story, at first player can only build three rooms since the 2 right most spaces need basement rooms to be the foundations. Where the second story rooms need foundations from the rooms placed in the first story. Each type or room gives players a certain amount of points that will be scored at the end of the game. Some rooms can be expanded (more than 1 card which expand the room) to get better points. While a fully expanded room cannot be expanded again, so placing the same type of room next to fully expanded / finished room is not valid, hence that room card must be placed in another place or else the room card must be placed face down to show an empty room. Empty rooms will not be scored at the end of the game.

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Resource cards give players flexibility or better points. For example specialist / expert cards, can help you to manipulate one or more elements in the game, whether they can give you better options or additional points. Tool cards work similar like Specialists but the only different is that they have one-time effect, play-and-discard kind of cards. There are also Decors on the resource cards, this kind of resource give you additional points that can be placed on a specific type of room (not always), when placed, the room is considered finished even though it still can be expanded later. So placing a room expansion later is not a valid move and it must be placed face down as an empty room next to it. The fourth type is roof, where players need to collect at least four roof cards during the game to score at the end of the game. There are four colors in the game, brown, purple, red and orange and some roofs have windows on them that gives an additional point to the roof scoring.
At the end of the game, players tally up their points from the room cards, 3 pts from at least 4 roof cards (if they have at least 4 cards of the same color, they gain additional 5 points) and 1 point per window, Specialists that give them points and also additional points for the home functionality, 3 points if they have at least 1 Bathroom in each story and another 3 points if they have at least a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom in their home.

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The Replay Value
Honestly, this game lacks replay value. The game is simple, easy to understand, straight-forward and have a decent light decision making that is interesting for casual players or children. But the replay value just on vacation in this game, it never came back and you will have to live with it. So after several plays, the game is beginning to feel samey over and over again (okay honestly, after 2-3 plays). There are no card variations, different setups or random encounters in each play. So there will always be the same cards in one play to another the only difference is just when the cards will come out. So with this as a crucial factor, the game does get fixed after one play and the rest are just obvious choices.

My Thoughts About The Game
I think that game is a sweetheart. Love it, the presentation is so amazingly cute and beautiful. The theme is simple and really targeting children and girls. It’s like when you’re a child and you play houses. You can introduce this game to totally new players and children, it’s very straightforward and simple you can explain the rules in 5 minutes. Players pick a column and take the cards on that column, place the room card on their board and move on. Yes, move on to the next round and do the same thing repeatedly 12 times. Though at first there seems to be a definitive decision making I must admit that it doesn’t really have decision making since most of them are obvious choices. I can picture myself playing this game several times in a row, since it’s very simple and takes about 10 minutes per play, but playing this for 5 times in a row, I could yawn and sleep accidentally. But aside from that, I think this game attracts children to learn good how to make decisions, because of the visual presentation and nature of the game. This one is totally a filler, overpriced one I suppose. After one play I realized that there are two important things in the game, which are the first player and the basement room cards, And others can be sort out later and easily. Getting first pick of the available cards are surely powerful, to be able to sort out the good cards and combinations, and it sucks to be the last player since what you get is basically trash (or not). In my plays I found out that the first player usually got hold by the same person most of the time. And the basement room cards are so damn important that even 9 points living room cards look like shit (pardon my language). But it’s true, the power of basement card is so damn great, because without these two cards on your basement, practically your movement ends halfway of the game. So the first thing to do is get that basement room cards while you can and if you cannot, take the first player marker for next choices. That simple.

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Aside from the game play, I think it has nice production quality, good small cards, simple wording on the card effect, thick player board and nice insert. If you have kids (early educational age) this might be a nice choice, or maybe girls, they love beautiful things like this.

 
 

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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?

dav

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.

dav

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.

dav

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.
dav
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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That Rush of Blood Up to Your Head

pic2439223_mdBlood Rage Review
Eric M. Lang is a great designer, no doubt about that. He has his own fans, to say the least. One notorious work He had done is Chaos in The Old World and damn, its so friggin’ amazing. I love it, not just because the theme, but the asymmetrical aspect of the game, the clever plays, interactions and full of conflict. “No offense, you’re just in my way” is something you recall it often when playing this.

So years after He designed Chaos in The Old World, He announced a new title that He claimed, shares the same concept but better than Chaos in The Old World. He even meant that it’s what Chaos should be. The game is Blood Rage, not published under Fantasy Flight banner but Cool Mini or Not, which was a potential publisher to be reckon with. The game was on Kickstarter and managed to amassed a great deal of pledges. So let’s join me to see what Blood Rage really is.
A reminder that what I talk about here is the Kickstarter edition, not retail, so expect some differences in components.

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What you get: Kickstarter Exclusives

The Theme
Blood Rage is a bloody game (you probably could guess it by its title). It sets in a Norse Mythology where Vikings believe in. Vikings go to battle, to win wars, come out victorious, plunder the glory or die in Valhalla in the name of Odin, their God. In this game, players take control over a Viking Clan (Raven, Wolf, Bear, Serpent) and try to appease the Gods so they will reward them with glory. The game takes place in the nine realms with Yggdrasil or The Tree of Life located in the center connecting those realms.

The Artworks
As you might already see, this game has many particular reasons why it’s so appealing, and one of them is the artworks, created by Adrian Smith. Smith is definitely one talented artist that could bring the illustrations and imaginations to life. His drawings are simply amazing, really evoking with the theme, setting and tone of it. Each character here is drawn very detailed and has its own persona or characteristic. Given by the theme and the clear visual cue about the game, I remind those who do not like images with horror and terrible looks, gruesome, dark, bloody and a bit of nudity, so not really a good choice for kids underage.

dav

Unboxing

The Game Components
This is for The KS version, with KS exclusive monsters. The most eye candy of all are of course its miniatures, with the total more than 50 miniatures.  Thanks to Kickstarter, each clan has 2 different poses for the warrior figures, so a bit of flavor and variant there. The monsters are excellently sculpted, they’re the ones that draw many attentions on top of the table, like Sea Serpent, Fire Giant or Fenrir (they’re big). And considering this is CMoN collaboration with Studio McVey, no surprise the quality is top notch. The board and cards are okay, wished that the player boards weren’t too flimsy but if they were thicker  the box wouldn’t able to fit them all. And speaking of the box, it’s just like the usual square box with more depth, due to the many components inside. The cover art is evoking, though upon close inspection, I did find the figure posed quite off. Aside from the box, there are two separate kraft-boxes inside the game box. These boxes are used to store all the miniatures inside. One for monsters, and one for units with plastic insert inside. Pretty cool to get things organized but unfortunately this also means more effort on setup and clean up. There are differences between retail and Kickstarter editions, which really shown in the components. Kickstarter editions have more monsters, plastic tokens instead of cardboard and also plastic figures for first player marker and the phase tracker, pretty neat things.

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The Monsters from Base Game

The Game Play
When you get a first look on Blood Rage, the visual presentation, some of you might think that this game is about hack and slash your opponents down to nothing. Just kill and destroy to win the game. This is where you are wrong. Aside from the visual, this game is pure Euro with a shot of direct conflict, not a regular Ameritrash (AT). The theme is strong, but when you strip them down, it has remarkable Euro feats such as drafting, area control and tableau building.
The game lasts for 3 ages (rounds), each age is broken down to several phases: God’s Gifts Phase – Action Phase – Quest Phase – Ragnarok Phase – Release Valhalla
God’s Gifts
The game is mainly divided into 2 major parts, this is the first. In this phase, players are given 8 cards, where they will draft until they have 6 cards. Discard the leftover cards and go to the next phase.
Action Phase
In this phase, from the first player and continues clockwise, players will take turns to do one of the possible actions (Invade, March, Upgrade, Commit Quest and Pillage). Before getting into the actions in detail, each player has a player board which contains spaces for upgrade cards, tracks for Rage, Glory and Honor points. Players will play upgrade cards to improve their factions, advance in Rage track to do more actions in each age, advance in Glory track to score more points  when winning battle and also advance in Honor track to increase their unit limit in the board. OK let’s back to Actions.
Invade – This is the basic action how to place units into the game board. In a single turn, player can take this action to place a unit (exactly one) into any unoccupied slot on the outer province (not in Yggdrasil, which cannot be invaded through basic action). Each province has different (and limited) amount of slots and once it’s occupied, no unit may occupy the slot. Invade with a unit costs rage points (the amount is usually based on the unit Strength,shown in the left top corner of the card / image) except if it’s a leader unit (the rest being warrior or monster units), which is free to invade.
March – If Invade is about adding units inside the game board, March is about moving units from one province to another. This is the basic way to move your units on the board. The cost is cheap, only 1 Rage to do a March, in which you can choose more than one unit in one province to move into another province (Yggdrasil also counts, so this is the basic way to move units into Yggdrasil). Yggdrasil is an area that is located in the center of the map / board (surrounded by all provinces), and it doesn’t have slots for units, there’s no limit in this place.
Upgrade – This action requires players to play an upgrade card from their hand. Upgrade cards are divided into several types such as warrior, leader, clan, monster and ship upgrades. Players play these cards into their board by spending Rage points shown in the left top corner of the cards. These cards is the core mechanic that make players have asymmetric powers one from another along the game progresses.
Commit Quest – Quest is one out of many ways to gain points. To complete a quest, players not only to do / achieve some sorts of condition or tasks but also they have to commit on the quest first. To do this, they have to have a quest card (from the drafting) and play it when taking this action (by committing the quest) and only then they can gain the rewards from completing the quest. But no worry, even if you cannot complete the quest, there is no penalty at all (aside from failing to get points), kinda weird huh? Well, the interesting part doesn’t lies in that reason. There are many things going on in this action, at first I thought there’s not enough incentives not to play quests or why not if there’s no penalty. The twist here lies on timing and situation, which in this kind of game, are very important things.
Pillage – One last action is Pillage. With pillage, players try to conquer provinces, and sometimes if there are other factions join in, it turns to battle. It doesn’t cost players rage point to do it, but the trick is the player must still have rage points. Pillage can only be done when the player has at least a unit in the questioned province and it’s still not successfully pillaged yet. When doing Pillage, other players in clockwise order from the pillager have the opportunity to jump in if, there’s still unoccupied slot in that province and They have a unit in adjacent province to spare. After that, battle happens (if there are 2 or more factions in the disputed province). The battle is simple, pillaging players must play a card (if they have any) from hand and reveal it simultaneously. They sum the strength of their unit and the strength value listed on the battle card played (only battle cards are counted), don’t forget to resolve the effect in the card if any. Player with the most strength wins the battle, gain the reward listed in the province, glory points and discard his played card. The losers, may keep their card and all their units are moved into Valhalla (destroyed).
This phase ends when all players have passed their turn. Then players must discard their hands down to 1 card.
Quest Phase
Now players check their committed quests, whether they fulfill the quest or not. If they fulfilled their quests, they receive the points listed and have to advance one step from one of the three tracks. Luckily, if you cannot complete the quest, no harm’s done.
Ragnarok Phase
During this phase, Ragnarok happens in the province shown in the progress board. All the units in that province are destroyed and sent to Valhalla. Seems bad, right? Well, not entirely bad if you want it, at least it compensates you with glory points for each unit dying in Ragnarok. This could be profitable for players, since the points for each unit dying because of it increase over age. So this could be a strategy to keep in mind, especially in the last age because there is no point of having units at the end of the game, why not make them give you points.

The game ends after the third age, which players tally up their scores based on their tracks (each track gives +10 or +20 points when reached the last or second to last place in its track. Player with most glory points, wins the game.

The game core mechanic is drafting, which is essential because the cards drafted will determine players’ actions and strategy. Players will build their factions by the cards they played, adding monsters into their faction and improve their clan or units. The cards in each age are different, they’re progressing in strength and also reward. This drafting requires players to know the cards first, what they can do and how they works with other cards to make better combos. So for new players, this could be a disadvantage but since everything will  be easier in the subsequent plays, I suggest do not worry about this, consider the first play as learning session.
The cards (or you can say faction progression / improvements) provide the strategy aspect of the game, meanwhile the deployment of units represents the tactical side of the game. This game is very tactical in nature, where you deploy units and when, really affecting the outcome of the game in a very big way. Even a small decision can make or break your plan. Units deployment is very important because it affects a lot more than you can imagine, the slots are limited, so first one get dibs. Players also has limitation of unit on the board and also rage points strictly limiting your options. Timing also takes a great part in this game, since placing units and pillaging will relate heavily on your opponents’ plans.

dav

Miniatures with plastic insert

My Thoughts on The Game
The game is great from many aspects, components, theme, the artworks and also the game play. At first this game had been compared with Chaos in The Old World, another game the designer made in the past (which also one of the greatest game ever made), even at some point the designer himself said that Blood Rage is the kind of game where He wanted Chaos in The Old World to become, this statement was really intriguing, but after experience it in person, I must admit that this don’t have that material to be on the same level as Chaos in The Old World, but make no mistake, it doesn’t  mean it’s bad and it doesn’t have better things than Chaos in The Old World itself. It’s a whole different kind of game. Chaos relies heavily in the asymmetrical aspect of each factions and this brings issue in the player count that leaves unbalance play. Chaos has such deep and clever play of cards and units throughout the map. Blood Rage has simple rules and easy game play and of course with shorter game length. The miniatures are top notch, better than Chaos, obviously.
While it presents with direct conflicts, Blood Rage doesn’t place the winning strategy winning battles, players may also pursue different strategies, this leads the game to have another interesting aspect, which is bluffing in the card play. “Sometimes losing is the best way” phrase really plays its part in this game.

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Aside from many goodness of the game, the game also has bad sides, which in my defense aren’t many. I thought the box quality is too thin given the weight of the components, the player boards and Age tracker are too flimsy thin, the cards aren’t in linen finish but that’s okay. The only big disappointment for me is the box is already too full to accommodate the expansions and fifth player expansions (you can put it all but need certain modification to the insert which already good enough for me and wanted to keep it that way).

Replay Value
To be honest, there’s not much replay value in the game, aside the different card plays and combinations. There is no variable player powers, the boards always the same, monsters in play can offers good variables but that’s also limited. All the cards are almost used in the game, so not many variability involved. Of course there are expansions, the God of Asgard and Mystics of Midgard which add game play variants. The rest lies in the player interactions and how they play.

dav

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2017 in Board Games, Euro Games, Kickstarters, Reviews

 

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