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But It Says Five on its Title

pic2055255_mdFive Tribes Review
The very first time I heard a game called Five Tribes, I thought you can play the game up to 5 players, which it couldn’t. Did you think the same like I did? The truth is you can only play the game up to 4 players. Five tribes only represent the five tribes in the game, shown as 5 different colors that can be used by any players and have different abilities. So in the game, we are a powerful merchants trying to influence the five tribes to support you as their new leader (or whatever). The game is designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Days of Wonder (you can expect great quality components from them).

The Theme
Not really important, the theme integration is somewhat just flavor. In this game you try to be ___ with the most ___ (so common). Anyway in this game you win the game by collecting the most points (from coins and end game bonuses). To get those points, you need to cleverly bid your turns and getting most profiting tiles, Djins and Resource Cards. You are a foreign trader / merchant, trying your business endeavor in the world of mystical power and camels and also vast desert. There are five different tribes that you can influence to your benefit, each with their own specialties. The tribes are Viziers (Yellow), Elders (White), Merchants (Green), Assassins (Red) and Builders (Blue).

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The Artworks
Days of Wonder is the one behind this game, a guarantee for the art to be stunning and beautiful. The tone is vibrant with colors, thematically middle-eastern and full of decorative elements. Though some people has an issue with the thematic element of slave trade in the specific historical background reflected in the slave cards. Which was  changed by them in later prints with Fakirs instead. I found them to be purely historical which you couldn’t ignore or forget, but some people thinks that this brought up the issues at hand about slavery and how the industry salvage from that unpleasant topic (mostly in Europe).

The Game Components
Days of Wonder always produce good quality games, that includes the components. The game comes mostly with square tiles, resource cards (small size), square Djinn cards, lots of colorful wooden tokens (meeples, palm trees, camels, palaces and pawns) and money tokens. Also included in the game is a score sheet to track points in the end game and a black cloth bag to keep the meeples. The biggest eye-candy would be the vibrant color components from meeples and also camels and palm trees and palaces. The wooden camels, palaces and palm trees, aside from being unique in shapes, also in colors and sizes. They’re colorful and huge.

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The Game Play
First of all you need to set up the game. Randomize the tiles and create a 5×4 tiles map from it. Place all the meeples and into the black bag and randomly distribute them into the tiles, 3 meeples on each tile. Shuffle the spice cards and reveal 9 cards. Shuffle the Djinn cards and reveal 3 cards. Each player gets money tokens with the value of 50 and pawn and camels of their own color. Place the turn tracker board beside the tiles.
Randomly place player pawns into the track. The game starts with an auction to determine the turn order for a round. Player with the highest bid can decide their turn in the round after paying the bid cost. The  bid is not once around, so you can always outbid your opponents as long as you have the money. After the auction phase determines the turn order, players take their actions based on the new turn orders. Their action is to choose a tile with at least one meeple on it and distribute each meeple from the tile to an adjacent tile subsequently. The tile that they place the last meeple will be the target tile to do the action. There are 2 actions that players can do in the target tile, these two actions depend on the last meeple they place and the tile action itself. Players will take all the meeples in the target tile with the same color as the meeple they place and take the corresponding action of the meeple color. Viziers (Yellow) are used for end game scoring, Elders (White) are used mainly in conjunction with Slave / Fakir cards to purchase Djinn cards, Builders (Blue) are used to generate money based on the blue based tiles around (and include) the target tile, Merchants (Green) are used to get resource cards from the available line, and the last are Assassins (Red) which is used to kill meeples. From this main mechanic, you can feel that the real gist of the game is about moving meeples in mancala style. A classic mechanic used from a traditional game with the same title, Mancala. You can found this mechanic in Trajan by Stefan Feld, not sure what other games use this, it’s not commonly used in modern board games.
Before the meeple action is resolved players need to check control, if the target tile is empty after players do the actions, they place one of their camels on it (which secure that tile from anyone else and will give points to the owner in the end game scoring). If later other players target this tile, the owner will get a coin from the supply.

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The tiles also have an action that you can use, there are tiles that you can buy resource cards (Small and Big Market), purchase a Djinn card by paying Elders and / or Slave / Fakir cards (Sacred Place), place a palace (Village) and place a palm tree (Oasis). These actions are optional.
Before players end their turn, they can sell their resource cards to gain money / points, though the points are counted in the end game, there’s a reason why you want to cash in those sets mid game, to give you more capital to bid for your next turn. The set is for each different kind of resource and each resource type has different amount of cards in the deck, this create different rarity / common value to that specific type. Hoarding rare resources usually good to block your opponents set collection to grow more.

In this game, basically you are moving around meeples to get the most points. The catch is to get most points / benefit by doing three things altogether in your single turn (not really), moving meeples and activate the last, activate the target tile and then claim control over the target tile if possible. In order to do that there are 2 things you need to consider, Bidding phase and what will you do in your turn. Know what other people do also helps big deal, but you already have enough in your platter, so usually I don’t really care. Just check your situation and do what gives you max points or benefit.
You collect Viziers for end game points, Elders also gives you points but mainly you spend them for Djinn cards (it’s has higher points and then you can use their abilities during the game or gives additional end game points). Merchants help you collect resource cards, where you can get a lot of points from collecting sets. Builders give you big points based on strategic activation of the blue based tiles. Assassins in the other hand, are more complicated than the rest. They serve more tactical options to give you indirect benefit, whether to reduce your opponents Viziers or maybe remove a meeple on the board that could lead to your advantage.

The game ends when one player already place all of his camels into the tiles, or there is no legal movement available. After that the final scoring takes place, accumulated from total money left, points from Camels, Djins, Viziers and Elders, Palm trees and Palaces and resource card sets.

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My Thought About The Game
I find the game to be simple, bid your turn, move the meeples and activate actions. The meeple and tile actions are also simple. But I believe the game has serious AP prone issue. The combinations and possibilities can really give you headaches. You need to consider and calculate all the options before you and in addition, you can only do that after it’s your turn. You need to wait after all your opponents move because they will drastically change the situation. Okay, you can plan ahead but you need make more than one plan to survive.  So in short, it’s more like a puzzle game that encourage you to get the best move from what’s in front of you. Sort of puzzle-move-activation tile game.
And then there is the bidding part. Personally I am not a fan of bidding mechanic, that’s why I less like Power Grid, which has strong bidding / auction mechanic that really affecting the game play. In this game, bidding is very important, it determines player turn order and turn order is essential for players to get what they want before taken or screwed by other players before them. The tricky part is players bid with their money, which also their points. So if you bid high, you waste your points.
The game usually takes longer than it is, because downtime between players cannot be mitigated because they need to wait other players before they can come up with possible options during their turn.
The 2-players game mode has a different game play, since each player will get two turns in a single round. Each has 2 bidding markers, this means they bid twice, each for one of their marker. This changes the game, minor change on the game play but really affecting how players plan their moves.

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Replay Value
I doubt that it has some meaningful replayability. There’s no variation in the game else than the Djinns availability, which is random. You can try different strategy but everything almost viable to get in a single play, whatever you choose, there’s nothing that drastically change how the game feels.
I find the game to be fairly simple but holds lots of combinations to ponder through your turn, so it takes quite considerable amount given the vast possibilities, but the game still within the same scope of simplicity of moving meeples, activate the meeple and then the tile.

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

 

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Stockpile – Early Review

Hi, it’s my first early review. What is an early review? Well I called it early review because it’s a review for a game that not yet final or complete. Stockpile is on Kickstarter right now and therefor this is my early review of the game. Nauvoo games launched the Kickstarter project on 21st of October 2014. The game is designed by Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol. You can check the project’s page here and maybe consider to back this awesome simple game.

Box Cover

Box Cover

Stockpile is a game about stock market and insider trading that can be played with 3-5 players (there’s a 2 player variant but not sure if they already make it official or not) in surprisingly 30 minutes. And in case you’re not familiar with and/or intimidated by stock market and trading do not be afraid, I can assure you the game is very simple and easy to understand. In fact aside from the fun, it’s a good way to introduce the topic to people that are strangers to the theme. What’s inside the game Stockpile is a simple game that involves stock shares and market with bidding element, set collection and also economy. In this game, players need to get the most money by the end of the game to win the game. In order to do that they will have to buy low sell high company shares, investing stock shares and try to be the most stock holders in all companies. The game comes with a double-sided board (picturing basic game and advance game board), player mats, money tokens, player & game markers and of course cards ( lot of cards).

Game Layout

Game Layout

The Meat
The game plays in several rounds (depends on the number of players) which in each round there are several phases that will be resolved in order. At the start of the game, each player will get a player mat and a market along with 20 grand worth of starting money and also one out of 6 company shares (secret). The round runs in several phases, these phases are Information, Bidding, Action, Selling and Market phase. During Information phase, each player will be given 2 cards (hidden) that contain information of a company and what market condition their stock is in and also there is a set of cards opened in the main board as a collective information for all the players. Depending on the number of players, there are possibilities that there are also several sets hidden in the table. And each player get 2 cards from the draw pile (these cards can either be company shares, action cards or even trading fees) that are placed in player’s hand (not on his player mat). The second phase is bidding. Cards are drawn from the pile to fill the bidding slots on the main board based on the number of players and starting from the first player clockwise, each player assign the two cards from their hand to these slots, one face up and one face down. The cards can either be placed in the same slot or different. Once all the players already placed their cards, the bidding starts from the first player by placing his marker to one of the available slots. Each slot has spaces that determine the value of one’s bid. Players need to place his marker higher than the previous marker (if any) in the slot to outbid. Player that was outbid by other players can outbid or move his market to another slot. Players with highest bid marker on a slot cannot move his marker to another slot, they can only do this if another player outbid their marker. Once each player is the highest bidder, the bidding ends and each player needs to pay the bidding cost depends on the value where his marker is placed. If there are Trading Fees among the cards, the owner needs to pay the cost listed. One thing about bidding games is that the bidding tends to be flux based on the players or the gaming group. So it’s a mixed feelings to be sure, some players easily bid high or maybe some players really bid low, both kinds give the game different feels. During Action phase, starting from the first player clockwise each player have to play action cards that he has (he cannot keep action cards for future rounds) to manipulate the company stock values. After that in Selling phase, starting from the first player clockwise, each player is given the chance to sell their company stock. In this phase of course players can guess or read other players mind and insider information, whether to follow others or not which is a plus situation in the game, there’s a trick taking and bluffing situation going on and players will definitely react differently in each game. In the last phase, starting from the first player clockwise, each player reveal his inside information cards and adjust the company values. There are 2 conditions in this phase, bankrupt or stock split. When a company goes bankrupt, players need to reveal their shares to show whether they have that company share or not. If they have, they must discard that company shares (the company value then reset back to 5). But if a company value goes stock split (raise above 10), players need to show their shares, if they have split shares, they get 5.000 for each share in their stock split portfolio (10 grand for one card) and then move any company cards from their stock portfolio to stock split portfolio. Each company card on stock split portfolio slot is counted double in selling, dividend and majority shares. At the end of the game, players check majority for each company shares, player with the most shares get 10.000, if there is any tie, tied players get 5.000 each. Then players sell all their shares. Player with the most money win the game.

Company Shares

Company Shares

My story behind the game
I actually did not know anything about stock market and trade, these all are so alien to me and that’s intimidating. But when Seth (Van Orden) posted in BGG about playtester for his unpublished game, I was there and interested to try. So I asked him a permission to try the game and he delightfully gave me the print and play files. In order to print and play the game I read the rules first so I can understand the game and make necessary adjustment with the files as I see fit. I could see it uses a lot of cards and I decided to make the cards smaller that the real size so I can save papers (printed them front-side only). As for the board, I also resized it for the slots to perfectly hold the cards (single sided, didn’t print the advance board) and also made my own custom temporary player mats. When I learned the rules I noticed that it’s very simple for me, someone who didn’t know anything about stock market. So once I managed to get everything done I started to ask my friends to try the game.

My Print and Play version

My Print and Play version

My Custom Player Mat

My Custom Player Mat

The first try was in a 4-player game which turned out to be a success. We had so much fun with the bidding and push your luck element of the game. When I explained the game to some of my friends that actually know something about stock market, they confirmed that the game rules stay mostly real and correct. Some of them had comments about how the rules really work in reality which I already discussed them with Seth by mail as feedback of my plays. But Seth did managed to explain their reasons and I thought they’ve done a great job to convey the subject into such an easy but fun game. I did test the game several times, with different number of players (3 and even 5 players) and these tests were all successful.

Investor Cards

Investor Cards

The game also has advance board and character cards. The advance board gives players more variable in company share values (I have not try it yet, but I am sure it will change the players treatment for each company’s shares. And the character cards will give more variation to the game, with character abilities and also different starting money. The game has awesome artworks, it conveys the stock market world very well. The sophisticated cartoonish look with clear and simple vectorish style.

Game Presentation Rendered

Game Presentation Rendered

Overall
Game play: 7/10 It’s a fun game for both casual or non-gamers and serious gamers. Theme: 9/10 Successfully portrays the theme very well but still easy to play (you can say that the game is perfect as a beginner’s tool to undestand stock market and trading. Some rules are simplified from the actual reality but it’s for the sake of simpler game play and mitigate fiddly elements. Difficulty: 5/10 It’s difficulty goes as far as basic economy, so most people will find the game easy to understand and has simple game mechanics. Game time: 3/10 Even playing with 5 players, it only takes 45 minutes most, so it’s quite fast for a game that packs something clever in simple way. *some images are credit to the publisher and BGG users

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in Board Games, Card Games, Reviews

 

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A Tiresome Short Game?

Box Cover

Strasbourg Review

Strasbourg is a game that published by Pegasus Spiele in 2011, designed by Stefan Feld (the man behind In The Year of The Dragon, Macao, Notre Dame, Luna, Die Burgend von Burgund and many more). This game is quite new and not many gamers know about it, and how good this game is. It should deserve more spotlight.

Strasbourg in the 15th century – the political skills of the city are heavily influenced by the craftsmen guilds .

In this time, players take on the lead of ascending families of the city. It is your goal to place your family members in the different guilds. Only the clever usage of influence points makes it possible to be accommodated as apprentice, assistant or even master craftsman – provided you can pay the admission fee. But don’t underestimate the power of the church or the nobility.

Strasbourg is a easy to learn strategy game with inventive mechanisms, that provide the player with lots of room for decisions. But only those that also keep an eye on the plans of the other players will earn the highest fame in the end.

I noticed the game from boardgamegeek.com and curious about it, so i read the rules first and it was quite unique and attractive. One of my friend has the game and we played it recently, from the first play i instantly like the game. This review is made based on my 2 game sessions, hopes this cover all of the game aspects.

1. The Theme

As like many Euro games, Strasbourg offers you typical theme which lies not too important in the game. I often found the theme of Euro games rather similar, and this game is not an exception. Players are noble citizens that try to get into the council of Strasbourg with their influences and other things. They will try to dominate some guilds and take control of the council and gain prestige points (other name for Victory Points). The player with the highest VP in the end of the 5th round win the game.

2. The Artworks

The artworks of Strasbourg are quite good, it’s classic and yet colorful with the guilds icon. I am not too familiar with Alexander Jung, the artist behind the artworks. I did a background check and it turns out that he’s the artist behind Dominion : Intrigue & Seaside, Antigua and Antike.

3. The Game Components

You’ll find in the box, a game board with nice illustrations, 5 round cards that represents 5 rounds, 5 edifice tiles, player screens, influence cards in 5 player colors (blue, orange, green, yellow and black), wooden family members in 5 colors, goods tiles contains 5 different goods (meat, armor, shoe, keg and bread), task cards, chapel markers, coin tokens (with the denomination of 1/2/5)  and privilege tokens.

The Game Components

4. The Game Play

Setup the board by placing the 5 round cards and edifice tiles in random. Put all the tiles and coins in empty space. Each player pick his color and receive it’s family members, influence cards and get 5 task cards that he will decide to keep the task cards or discard any (he must keep at least 1 task card).

The game consist of 5 rounds, in the end of the 5th round the final scoring takes place. Each round has 3 phases (Planning Phase, Action Phase, Council Phase). In the planning phase, players must draw influence cards from their deck for the bidding purpose. The cards contain number range from 1 to 6 in 4 sets. Each player will drawn cards and decide how many to be drawn for the bidding purpose in that round. So, based on the 5 rounds, players must consider the planning of their deck for enough to be used in that 5 rounds length bid. After they drawn the cards, they need to separate the cards in several stacks (based on how many times they intent to bid in that round). These stacks may contain only 1 card or more, but must be openly visible to other players how many stack each player has and how many cards in each stack. These cards are put face down in the table and each player can freely check his cards anytime, but not rearrange it after this phase is over.

Then the game continue to action phase. In the action phase players will, in correct order from the round cards, to put their influence the council by winning a bid with influence cards in their stack. The bid always start from the first player and going once a round. The highest amount of influence win the bid and gain the first player marker. The council consist of 2 important bodies (the noble and the church) and 6 guilds (butchers, vintners, shoemakers, smiths, merchants and bakers guild). Player will influence in certain order which shown from the round cards. The first one to be bid is always the noble and the church. The order of the round is shown like this:

Influence The Noble and The Church (A) – The 1st winner of the bid win the noble, the second win the church. Each place their family member in the council slot available (in the coat of arm of the noble and the church).

Influence Guilds (B/D/F) – Each player will bid a certain guild that shown in the round card. Winner of the 1st place (Master) will gain 3 benefits which are he may place his family member in the corresponding guild in the council, take the corresponding good tile and then he may also place his family member in the corresponding place on the city by paying the price shown. The 2nd place (Journeyman) gain 2 benefits (after the master has already take his benefits) which are he may take the good tile and place his family member in the city. The 3rd winner (Apprentice) gain only 1 benefit, either he take the good tile or place his family member in the city.

Influence Merchants (C/E/G) – Influence merchants mean that the only winner can sell his good tiles and gain coins. There are 3 chances to influence merchants in every round, but there last one will gain the winner a place in the council (merchants guild).

Build Chapel – The player who won the 2nd place in the first bid (The noble and the church) get the chapel marker and put freely in the area on the city as he wish.

Build Edifice – The players who has his family member in the council as the noble get the edifice and place it in one of the city empty spaces.

Each player who sits out on the bid may place one of his influence card used to the bottom of his deck. The other player who won the bid (the winner) discard their influence cards into the box. The cards remain in the stacks in the end of each round will be discarded.

In the last phase (the council phase), round scoring take place. The players gain prestige points by the amount of their family members on the council. The player with the most members on the council gain privilege token. The game continue into new round. Each player draw cards from their deck again in the planning phase of a new round.

In the end of 5th round the final scoring take place. Each player scores 1 prestige points for every family member in the city, 1 prestige for every privilege token he has, gain prestige points from his completed task cards or minus 3 points from each incomplete task card. Gain bonus 1 prestige point for each member adjacent to the chapels, gain an amount prestige points based on each member adjacent to the edifices on the city. The player who gain the highest prestige points win the game.

Game in Progress

5. The Replay Value.

What’s good about this game? Well, i believe the game was built in great mechanics and it really offers great  game play. The auction / bidding mechanic is unique by using influence cards that are drawn random. This give the players extra planning and risk taking by blindly draw the cards and plan their bidding phase of each round. Player must carefully observe other players need and interest so he can decide his objective in each round. This mechanic was surprisingly gave a nice risk taking and gambling element which made the game challenging and more interactive. The round cards and edifice also placed random in every game, this add more variant to the game. But the most powerful is the task card which add  a great deal of variant and gives each player secret missions that needs to be completed. This task may put players in direct confrontation of the family member placement on the city which can be very challenging on the action phase (some players may pursuit the same guild and it may really decisive). I guess the game is already proved great and won’t be need any expansion if there will be.

My Thought of The Game

I like the game, after 2 plays i want to play this game again. It was fun and intense in the action phases and really looking forward for another game. The game play is unique and it offer you new experience of the bidding mechanic. Even the game is quite short (about 60 minutes) some of my friends said that this game is depressing and really tiresome. Well, not for me, i know how the pressure might come in the action process, but then maybe i was having fun and not feeling it. I understand the reason why they said so, i know the reason why the game is so depressing. It’s the relentless condition of which you don’t know what other players would put their influence cards in the stack. What numbers beyond their face down cards. It really gives you the itch that can only be subdued by resolving the bid. Or you can take several calculation based on other players position and what they after (by observing the city and the councils, but this not always guarantee that you will win the bid, cause when you can guess what other players intention, it’s usually too late. Too late cause the condition of your stacks for the bid this round cannot be rearrange and you can only hope your bid is high enough to outbid them. So overall, i like this game and wish that someday i can have a copy of this.

The City

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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Master of Spices

Goa Review

Box Cover

When i heard about this game in the first time, the title really made me lost interest and you know what, the cover also did not help. What is ‘Goa’ anyway? What a lame name for a board game don’t you agree? Well if you want to know, Goa is India’s smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its western coast. Goa is India’s richest state with a GDP per capita two and a half times that of the country as a whole.It was ranked the best placed state by the Eleventh Finance Commission for its infrastructure and ranked on top for the best quality of life in India by the National Commission on Population based on the 12 Indicators. Based on the history, this place held an important role in the European spice trades in the early 16th century. So, because of the influence, it has dominant Portuguese infrastructures and cultures.

So really, what is Goa and why it has high rank on boardgamegeek.com? Well, i suppose i need to try the game to know and luckily one of my friends has a copy. He has the dutch version of the game and that means, the rulebook is in Dutch. My friend taught me the game and it’s quite simple. Combination of auction and resource management. So, my first time had been awesome. The game is great and to be honest i like it very much. One time, he lend me the game and my other friend gave me a copy of the English rule. When i had the time to read the rule, it came to my attention that the rule i was being taught is wrong and i played it wrong.Now, embellished by the English rule, i played it correctly or so i thought it was. After several games, with my various friends, there were some questions that came up that need to be clarified. Thus, i check through BGG’s forum and apparently there are many discussions and debates on the rules. I was confused and didn’t know what’s right or wrong. So after looking in every corners and discussing the rules with my friend, it come up to my conclusion that the official rules are rather unclear and really needs lots of errata and FAQ’s. Well, i learned the correct rules but up to this moment i haven’t had the chance to try the game with the correct rules. Designed by Rudiger Dorn and published by Hans im Gluck (Rio Grande Games for the international version) in 2004.

1. The Theme

In this game, players are taking the role of Portuguese spice traders, looking to gain profitable settlements and trading routes in India, which describing the victory points in several aspects. Since at that time, Arab spice dealers controlled the spice trade in India. Therefore The Portuguese decided to attack one of the Arab’s position in the spice trade. In 1510, Goa was conquered and provide the Portuguese with bases  for their fleet. From this coastal regions, they reach to expanding their colonies and influence for they still wasn’t in a favorable position in the spice trade. This led them to established a contract of trade with The Sultan of Ternate in Mollucas (The Spice island) which known to us as Maluku (now is an island as part of our nation, Indonesia). As traders, players will have to plant spices such as nutmeg, ginger, clove cinnamon and pepper. With those spices, players can trade them for various treats.

2. The Artworks

Honestly i doesn’t like the artwork and the man at the cover really similar to King Phillips in Caylus cover, but this one is better. The artwork on the board seems nice, has a soft and classic looks. It’s not my favorite style of artworks but the game play really helps me like it. All the artworks and illustrations were made by the artist Oliver Freudenreich.

3. The Game Components

Let’s talk about what would we find inside the box. There is a big nice looking board which contain almost the game components during game play (cards and tiles). Player mats with 4 different colors (for 4 players), 2 mats for each player. The main mat is for progress (describe the table of actions and levels that a player can take), and the other mat is for player’s field (it can hold plantation & colony tiles). The wooden meeple spices are interesting one, it shaped like spice sack with colors. Red for nutmeg, green for pepper, brown for cinnamon, black for clove and white for ginger. The cards are printed in linen thick papers and they cover the money (ducats), colonists, ships, expedition and action cards. The expedition card has multiple function as a set collection, expedition cards and for finding a colony. The game come up with insert tray (nice looking one i suppose) but the cards container really annoying, since the cards always messed up when try you carry the game. And it won’t fit if you sleeve the cards.

Inside The Box

4. The Game Play

The game consist of 2 parts (Part A and Part B), with 4 round in each part (this will get you 8 rounds in total). For every part there will be 25 from 27 tiles that will be randomly placed in the center of the board. You can see the different tiles from it’s back (Part A has red color on the back and Part B has blue color on the back). The main goal is to collect as many VP in the end of the game which there will be a scoring. Each player are given the player mats, progress marker cubes, auction tiles based on their chosen colors. Each player starts with 2 colonist, 4 ships and 10 ducats, except the first player who only get 7 ducats. The game turns consist of 4 phases, which are Place Auction Markers, Bidding Phase, Action Phase & End of Round Phase.

  • Place Auction Marker Phase – In the first phase, the first player put his first auction marker and the flag tile in the edge of the tiles sections and followed in clockwise by other players with their auction markers. The markers can be place upon the tile which is adjacent diagonally or orthogonally from the previous auction marker placed. The goal of this phase is to collect tiles which can give players certain effects based on the tile types. After all players put their auction marker on tiles, the first player put his last auction marker on a tile of his choice (regarding the legal requirement to place it).
  • Bidding Phase – Then the second phase started, from the flag tile first. In this bid, players will bid for the first player position and 1 action card (which gained by being the first player). The first player to bid (or the owner of the auction marker) will start the bid from 0 and going clockwise (once a round) until the first bidder having the last call. If he pass the bid, then the last highest bidder pays his bid to the owner of the auction marker and take the tile (resolving the effect of the tile). Or, if the first bidder has the highest bid, he pays the bank and take the tile for himself.
  • Action Phase – After the auction is over, the action phase begins. Each player. starting from the player who has the flag tiles do his first action. Player choose his actions of harvest, advance on development chart, shipbuilding, taxes, expedition and founding colony. Each player has 3 actions on each turn that they will take one by one based on their turn order. Advance on the development chart means you can advance your progress marker cubes down a level, of course by paying the cost shown. Shipbuilding is to take ship cards based the level of shipyard, harvest is to put spice sacks on the player’s empty or half empty tiles. Taxes generates income based on it’s level. Expedition is to take amount of expedition cards with certain hand limit. The last possible action is founding a colony. Colony is found by drawing 2 expedition cards from the deck and add the total of colonist with the ones on the development chart. If the total sum is equal or greater than the requirement of a colony, the player success on finding that colony. He take the tiles of his choice of that colony and put it in his player mat (this kind of colony cannot be replaced and there always only one slot for each colony. You can’t change or stack the colony tiles. After all players already took their 3 actions, starting from the first player can use his action card. The action card limit that a player can keep at the end of each round is one. So if there is more than one card, that player must discard or use it before he pass the action phase.
  • End of Round Phase – There is certain condition to be met in this phase. Each player cannot use more than 1 action card each turn, as well as he cannot keep more than one at the end of each round. A player who has passed may not use his extra action cards.

When After the 4th round, the remaining tiles on the board are discarded and the new tiles of part B are randomly placed. The 5th round begins with new tiles to bid. At the end of 8th round, the game is over and the scoring begins. Points are awarded in 7 different categories (position of markers on the development chart, number of colonies, expedition cards / set collection, ducats, plantation tiles that gives VP, Selling tiles and Mission tiles). There is a unique thing about the expedition cards. This card can be played by players by maximum 1 for each turn, and has 2 different types (cards that related to specific action and cards that doesn’t related to any specific action). The tiles also has different types, plantation tiles produce spices (the amount of spices is various based on the amount of icons. Plantation tiles that only produce 1 spice sack also give bonus 1 VP in the end of the game. Tiles with light blue background has instant effects, these tiles are traded with it’s corresponding item when acquired. Tiles with red background produce items in every round and doesn’t count as action. Tiles with purple background provide bonus VP. Tiles with dark blue background has different special effect that can be played once.

5. The Replay Value

With 27 tiles in each part, you can have 2 tiles in your disposal to support the replay value and since the game has auction mechanic, i would say the replay value is high. At the bidding phase, each player will decide the most important thing in the game, to call the bid or pass. They must choose to get the money or the tiles. If you’re the first player to put the flag tile, it’s important to position the flag in certain space to get the condition as you want it. I’ve played this game several times and i still want to play it again. The game is simple but holds a deep game play with the unique bidding mechanic. This auction gives players indefinite situations, it will forced players to act differently each game, that means high replay value.

Cards Close Up

My Thought of The Game

Okay, my first play of the game was too messed up, my friend taught me the awfully incorrect rules. But that time we did not know that we play it wrong. I like the game and won’t mind for another shot. My next game was quite a revelation, since i unearthed some of the incorrect rules from my previous games after i read the English rules (there was only dutch rules available back then). I played my first game with only 1 action per turn that really devastating. How difficult it was to progress your development chart in the game. My second and other games were more entertaining since i grabbed the English rules, but i  knew that it badly need lot of clarifications and erratas. And it turned out i was right, my previous games were also incorrect. We playing it wrong before, even by the English rules. So i look for clarifications in the forums and well, i guess now i know the correct ones. The game really interesting and i love to play it again (with correct rules of course). Too bad that this awesome game is out of print and there is hard to find (dutch version only available in my FLGS), and i only knew one person who own the game. But fortunately if i want to play the game i could just ask him. I heard there are rumors, that this game is going to be reprinted, new version and international. Well, I’m gonna look into that one for sure. The game has good replay value, nice looking components, easy to learn but competitive and great player interactions.

Overview of The Board

 

You can also view this review on boardgamegeek.com here.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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Gemstones into Gemstones?

Box Cover

Scepter of Zavandor Review – 110624

Just been introduced to this game, and for my first play in 3 players game, i like it. But definitely not for newbie, since it really need quite understanding upon the mechanics and all the possibilities. Published by Z-Man Games and designed by Jens Drögemüller

The Scepter of Zavandor is about magic and power. Players represent young magicians who have gained possession of old magic knowledge, and with it they attempt to achieve the powerful position of archmage, symbolized by the Scepter of Zavandor.

To increase their power and influence, the young magicians enchant jewels and seek out knowledge. An auction mechanism also allows them to acquire artifacts and sentinels. Victory points are earned through active gems, artifacts, sentinels, and knowledge.

Here is the overview of the game:

1. The Theme
Well, since it’s euro game, there’s not much to talk about the theme. But even it’s paste on, theme is quite different and fresh from other games. Players take the role of magician apprentices that have the goal to achieve the highest VP when the game ends. Each player has variable player powers. the only odd thing is, the apprentices turns a specific gemstones into that same kind gemstones! What? Well i know they’re still an apprentice, but seriously? Even i myself doesn’t need to be them to be able to convert a ruby into ruby! But, carry on, it still interesting (ignoring the odd).

2. The Artworks
Beautiful. Yes, the artworks looked fresh and clear to be seen. But the illustrations of the characters seemed immature (well they’re apprentices anyway) and not good lookings. And there are some texts that really hard to be read because the annoying background (darker color that interfere the black text readibility).

Player Sheet example

3. The Game Components

Unboxing

Actually the game components are quite good, even though there were some minor drawbacks such as the gems cards (which the front side are black and white), the gem tokens VP info are in the other side, and the 2 version languages (really cramped the space with texts). The main board is just for the spell books and each player has his / her own player sheet. The gemstones’ denomination comes in tokens and cards for easy handling for the incomes. The sentinel tiles has different size from the others (square tiles).

4. The Game Play
Okay, the game take bidding / auction mechanic, variable player powers, resource management mechanic.
Each player randomly choose a character and take his / her starting statistic (from starting hand limit, spell book, starting gemstones and capital).
Now set the starting players by randomly choose the player order tiles.
Now the goal of the game is to collect as many gemstones you can hold each turn and turn it into VP every turn (by doing actions). Each turn consist of 4 phases (determine turn order, income phase, action phase, count the VP’s). Every player can take actions as many as they want if he / her is able to.
So what actions are available to each player? They are listed below

  • Put your skill token (or whatever it’s named) to one of the spell books (this can only be done once per turn by each player.
  • Buy or sell any kind of gemstones.
  • Allocate active gemstones.
  • Buy your skill token.
  • Bid the artifact cards and sentinel tiles.

Game in Progress

Each gemstones you posses, generate some amount of gemstones (this is the weird thing) that you can use or keep (when you decide to keep it, only the same amount of your hand limit, the excesses were removed back to the supply at the end of the turn). Opal stones gives you opal tiles, based on the number of opal you have. The ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond has cards, that randomize the amount that generates the gemstones.
Spell book gives you knowledge, there is 6 knowledge trees that can be developed (each knowledge tree has 5 levels). when you gain the last / top level you instantly receive 2 VP’s. This knowledge gives you benefits and also detriments. Usually it affects your hand limit. The game ends when the fifth sentinel are bought.

5. The Replay Value
It’s quite good and after my first game, i want to play this again. The variable player powers gives you variants, and the random gemstone cards and artifacts put luck into replay value. And no dice, so no curses if your hand sucks to roll.

My Thought of The Game
Well, you can say i love this game, i even think about own it myself. A great game to pass the time with thinking. This game also indirectly put your math lessons in elementary school to test. The need of adds and substractions in inevitable. The downside of the game is, there’s no change of quarters in this game, so quite a hard decision to let go that useless dimes for donation.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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