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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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Back From the Dead in Tabletop Day

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Holla, I am back, writing. It’s been what, months since my last post? Dunno for sure but, here I am with another post (not sure there’s someone really anticipating my post or even read it like a big of a deal. So what happened in the past few months? Well many or not many, but one thing for sure I am (and we are) celebrating International Tabletop Day (Sat, 29th April 2017), which is a topic worth my fingers numbing. So how’s your Tabletop day? Playing and celebrating with some friends? Mine wasn’t heavy into gaming, just stay home with my wife and luckily our friends came over from out of town and we did play some games, good ones.

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The Name of The Rose to celebrate International Tabletop Day

Lately I’ve been resting with the usual gaming sessions, and instead taking the fast non-stop train of Gloomhaven campaign. Do you know it? It’s on Kickstarter right now for it’s second printing and it’s spectacularly on fire right now by surpassing 3 million dollars pledge level. Congrats Isaac Childres (it’s game designer), keep up the good work. In case some of you want to know more or back, there’s still time, just go ahead to the project page and find out yourself about the awesomeness of the game. Find the link here.

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Its just unusual to me to put hold all the gaming sessions and play this game in rows instead, well there’s always the first for everything. I played the campaign with my wife, each of us handle 2 characters. It’s been a joyride, we love it, we cannot wait to find out what scenario we will take and what it has in store for us. Though I might say that the game took hours to play and we consumed our nights just like seconds burned through our delighted and enthusiastic characters. I think it’s safe to say that we are addicted to this game right now, which is completely amazing feat, since my wife is known to be not really a fan of this kind of games, and I also do not have history and experience in such games. But hey, whatever makes us happy is worth our time. And I will be doing another write (review) about this specific game in the next post but I still stand at zero. Hope things can be smooth and I can start writing them to the upcoming post.

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Starting the Campaign

So let’s take a loot (oh, I mean “look”) at another general matter. I also starting to introduce heavier meatier game to my gaming group at office, they’re complete noobs and to be honest this is something that kinda risky, but I can always tune it down when I think it’s necessary. From Camel Up to Takenoko, Codenames to La Isla, Parade to Potion Explosions and Grand Slam to 7 Wonders. And they seemed fine with it, a good sign. So let’s just wait how the ordeal goes in the next future. Hope to bring more meat after this. Maybe The Name of The Rose, El Gaucho or even The Castles of Burgundy.

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Also I just came back from our seventh gaming camp couple’s week back. It’s fun, though there’s just a few of us, but the spirit still the same, play games and have fun. We started up late and got many friends caught up with something can couldn’t join. It’s definitely our fault not to broadcast it sooner. We played a good deal of quality games, like The Colonists, Adrenaline, Anachrony, Kanban, Food Chain Magnate and such. This year was different because we changed the days, from Saturday to Monday, to avoid the post holiday rush on our way back, so we can actually relax and save time in the trip home. This was very good and everyone agree with the idea, and that surely will be implemented in the subsequent annual camps.

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The 7th IBG Gaming Camp, 2017

Here are some event photos you can check out.

Still strong on the gaming camp hype, our team sat down to talk some ambitious project regarding convention, first big convention for our community, to help gamers get to together and play games as well as to keep our community alive well and strong. Though we have some problems and limitations, we did have a good discussion and planned to get something going whatever it is. So all we have to do first is to pull some strings. Let’s hope there’s something good and big come out from it. Crossing fingers.

Apparently Roxley games launched it’s rework of Brass in 17th April and this was something I highly anticipated since a long long time ago. Goodbye EGG version, it’s a good decision not to get that version and waited long enough for such a masterpiece from the legend, Martin Wallace. So, a bit of a note, I dislike EGG business model and I do have personal vendetta against them due to my experience on backing The Gallerist which totally made up my mind not to back any games in KS from them. And the other thing was because the Brass ordeal. You sir, just make up into my shit list.
Okay so how’s the next Brass is going to be? So friggin’ awesome. I opened the KS page, check what they have to offer, read the pledge levels and “click” I backed the bundle pledge. Roxley has overdone it with this one, great revamp on the artworks, omitting the dull tone (though based on the theme, it seems reasonable but not expected) to a high contrast and beautiful art style from Mr. Cuddington, they’re so talented and they’ve made Brass into a work of art. And  not only Roxley revamps the game, they also create another version of Brass, with different game play and rules so in short, they make 2 games in this project, Brass Lancashire (the old and classic one with revamped art and streamlined rules) and Brass Birminghamp (same revamped art but different game play and rules). And guess what, Roxley even offers the bundle package with same cost shipping (USD 19 to Indonesia for both games, so sick cheap). I can’t wait for the games to arrive, though the custom fee for them will hurt my wallet.
Find the KS link here.

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Ain’t this beautiful?

Let’s move on to another topic, with Gloomhaven on my play list, I kinda short list my acquisitions lately. Well can’t say lately since I just starting this month. But for what it’s worth, I usually posting my loot monthly, so each month I will take a group photo of my newly acquired games all in the same month, and then post it on my facebook or instagram. And for April, there is none! Yeaaay… isn’t that something? Though I must say that I cannot do the same in the next month, since right at this moment a friend of mine is hand carrying Cottage Garden from Netherlands, weee…. Okay it’s been something that we (my wife and I) have been looking for, cannot find it here. So I hope Gloomhaven will occupy my gaming time in the near future and keep my purchase into a tight belt, there are good and bad sides to that, sadly.

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Time to go back into Gloomhaven

Okay, though it’s already 30th April and Tabletop day is passed, but not the spirit, we’re going to play some more and tomorrow I will attend a small event near my place held by my FLGS, Monopolis Wonder. Will demo one or two good heavy Euro games, hopefully things go smooth. In case you interested to join me, check here.
See ya and happy gaming!

 

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Kickstarter – Heldentaufe

Hi guys, with this post I want to introduce you about a new game that’s on Kickstarter right now, called Heldentaufe. This game is from a new publisher, Board Game Circus, from Switzerland. You can check the project here.

Heldentaufe Box & Components (rendered)

The Game


You can read the brief description right below:
“Heldentaufe – An adventure board game for the whole family
 
Two worlds – One game: The unique experience of Heldentaufe arises from two distinct but connected realms: The Upper World and the Netherworld. Heroes can travel back and forth to the separate worlds through portals. Events and activities in the Upper World are mostly serene and peaceful. You will harvest natural goods, carry out missions and trade items that you find. Somewhere hidden in the Netherworld lies a bright and shiny treasure – but what underworld would be complete without monsters and traps?
 
Heldentaufe is easy to learn and has all the key ingredients of a true adventure game (discovering treasures, collecting items, completing missions, and battling monsters).”
 
It is an adventure game for the whole family, judging by the visual you can see why. The illustrations are beautiful and you can see the similarity with Dixit in a way. So what makes this game unique? Let’s find out.

The first time I checked about the game, the illustration hooked me instantly, now you know how illustrations or visual presentations really matter. It’s colorful, beautiful, cute and fun in the same time. They are toying with cute chibi children characters and also scenes with vibrant colors.  When I read more about the game, apparently the game offers more than it looks, interesting game play and accessible to wide range of audiences (children to adult, male to female). Of course it’s about dungeon crawling hero adventures and treasure hunting (which is more likely attract males), but of course they made it as friendly as it is so the opposite sex also interested on it.

In the game, players will play as adventurers who will venture to find monster teeth (somehow these teeth are something of great value in the game). Player who collects a certain number of teeth will win the game. Of course in order to do so, they need to explore, find and battle monsters. And maybe they encounter treasures along the way. Those teeth can be collected in some ways, mainly by defeating monsters or maybe by completing missions.

Here’s my thought on the game’s strong points:
A. Two Worlds.
They explicitly stated that in this game they offer the players two world in one game. The Upper world and Netherworld. Upper world is here, our world, in the surface of earth, such as forests and meadows, and of course portals which are the entrances to the Netherworld, an underground world under the Upper world. These two world provides two type of gaming experiences, where the Upper world is a place where players will go venturing around (peaceful and serene), while the Netherworld is where battle takes place, players will battle monsters here.

Heldentaufe Area Tiles, Figures & Dice (rendered)

The Upper World

Heldentaufe Netherworld Map (rendered)

The Netherworld

B. Great illustrations.
As I already mentioned before, the game has beautiful illustrations all over it, the characters, maps, items and backgrounds. These amazing illustrations are works of Mathieu Leyssenne, the illustrator behind the game Jamaica and The Hare and The Tortoise. He did a great job for this one, it has Dixit feels on it but more 3D-ish.

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Beautiful illustrations


C. Wide range access.

Yes, this game attracts not only gamers but also casual gamers alike, and children, or females. The friendly nature of the illustrations really did a good job to make this game accessible to children and female. Even with dungeon crawling aspect, this game offers something interesting. And also the game play is really simple. In each turn players will have some Action Points to spend and with those points they can choose from the available, either reject a mission, move or attack. So children can basically play this game with some guidance.

D. It pleases gamers in some ways.
Okay, what if you’re a gamer? This looks children game and not challenging and not satisfying as your kind of game. Maybe not, but it has characters with different stats. So you can explore play style of each character. It also offers variability on the game setup, like the monsters different stat in each setup.
Like the monsters, if you defeat a monster, you will get some teeth and this affecting that monster stats in the next encounter because each time they’re defeated, they worth more and more but also stronger. It’s like monsters in video games, the more you defeat them, the stronger they are.

Heldentaufe Hero Cards (rendered)

5 Different Heroes

E. Immerse into the game.
Yes, this game can be played in a certain way that you feel like it’s a dungeon crawling Dixit. The cards i the game have illustrations that can be relate with each other as free as you want it based on your imagination. Of course it’s not affecting game play, but it can be fun for some people who like this kind of story telling element in the game.

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The Game

Sounds neat right? Well, I like the game already, but I’ll be honest, frankly put this game is not perfect, it’s far from it but I also don’t think there’s a game that is perfect in my eyes. This game is beautiful, we all know that, interesting and looks very simple. Not let’s look upon it’s downsides.
A. The shipping.
Okay you all know where this is going right? We’re live in a place where board games are not cheap, aside from the generous price they offer us below the MSRP, board game prices are in general, never be like it is. Yes, we live in Asia, where to get games, we need to import them from European countries or US. The thing is the shipping price is bad (most often) and that hurt us so much. This game has a US $40 price tag and we can live with that, it’s quite normal from what you’re getting, a good game with a good components. But if you add the shipping cost, it’s like getting another game. Unfortunately they charge $40 for this game’s shipping. And we’re like “what the…” and be done with it. I know this, I dismissed my plan to back the game because of this, but do not lose hope, they offer a pnp pledge level and that’s quite affordable. I am looking at the game components and I think it’s fairly feasible to do the print and play. Some cards, boards and tiles. The pledge level is US $12.5, not a cheap one but judging what you will get is fairly modest (with all those great illustrations). I pledged this level by the way, not final yet but it’s a start. Maybe you guys can consider backing this level if the physical shipping is way beyond what you can afford.

B. Character standees.
Okay, another classic issue. I know for some, standee is disgusting and miniature trumps it anytime. I agree to this, but if they use miniatures instead of standees, the price would be higher than it is. I already brought this issue to them and their reason is reasonable. Even with small number of miniatures in the game (5 heroes, 3 monsters and a boss), getting these with miniatures, will make it hard for them to be flexible to add more characters or possible expansion in the future with limited print run.
Heldentaufe Box & Figures (rendered)

C. Variability.
Okay I already mentioned this in below as one of the strong points but the truth is, for me as a hardcore gamer, that kind of variability is not really affecting the game in a huge way. It’s just randomization, but practically it’s the same game. The characters have different stat, but that’s it. Okay they have equipment that can be upgraded to higher levels, this should offers something during the game, but I think it will wear off quickly. The random setup of the monsters, I must say it’s very minor just like the random setup of the Netherworld. What I want is branching out story lines, different monsters or bosses that could change how you play the game, objectives that will drive you to constantly adapt from game to game. If they could offer these, it would be amazing. And I almost forget, the battles  in the game use dice, yes dice rolling and high results. That could be a problem for more advance gamers. This luck based battle resolution some times not in our favor. So this is worth to be mentioned, but I understand the necessity of using this system to resolve battles, after all it’s a family game.
Heldentaufe Netherworld Map, Monster Card Closeup (rendered)

I hope you guys can find out more about the game from my observation and if you are interested you can pledge the game or maybe print and play files on Kickstarter. If you want to know about the game, you can check its rule here (not final though). Or check their facebook page.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Board Games, Kickstarters, Previews

 

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Counting Cows

pic2235441_mdEl Gaucho Review
In 2014 Argentum Verlag published a board game about sheep, err… I mean cows. It’s name is El Gaucho, that sounds like Mexican? Whatever it is the game is about Cattle Barons who manage Gauchos to round up herds from the Pampa (in case you are wondering, Pampa is taken from the word Pampas, a fertile lowland located in South American, covering plains across Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil) and sell it to gain money, I hope they didn’t use that money to buy a revolver, oh wait that’s cowboys. Gauchos are nothing alike cowboys, Gauchos are local residents of the Pampa and they work by herding cattle, they are excellent horsemen, so maybe they use those money to buy horses.
The game can be played from 2 to 4 players in 45-60 minutes. Designed by Arve D. Fuhler and illustrated by Dennis Lohausen who was responsible for those cute-looking cattle in the game. The game is published by Argentum Verlag in 2014.

There are five different colors for the cattle, white and black cattle, white cattle, black cattle, brown cattle and golden cattle. During the game players will use dice to catch cattle in the Pampa and keep them in herds. Then they can sell their herds to receive points. They can also use their dice to place their gauchos in buildings which have different uses during the game.

Game in Progress

Game in Progress

Cows / Cattle enter the game from Pampa or pastures (there are 4 rows of pastures in the board). During each end of round each pasture is refilled with cattle tiles from the draw pile as long as the sum of the tiles in each pasture is lower than 20 (if a single pasture total is already 20 or more then no more tile will be placed even there are still empty spaces).

At the start of a round, the first player will roll all the dice and then chooses 2 dice to use. These dice can be used for one or two things, either to place gauchos in a specific location or to send gauchos to capture cattle.
There are 6 locations on the game, each location has a value for dice allocation, which the dice must exactly the same as listed. So with 2 dice players can send one or two gauchos, but each location can only hold one gaucho of a player. If a player still has a gaucho in that location, he cannot send another gaucho to that location.

Players can use their dice to capture cows in the pastures. Each cows has a big number range from 1 to 12 and a smaller ones. These numbers determines the value of the cow itself, to buy with dice and to sell as coins. When a player buy a cow with the bigger number, he spend his die/dice according to the value and put one of his gauchos on the cow tile in standing position. But if he get it with the smaller number, he put his gaucho laid down on the tile.
The difference between a laid down gaucho and a standing one is standing gauchos will take the cow to the herd at the end of the round (only if all cattle tiles in it’s row are filled with gauchos, standing or laid down, don’t matter) . While the laid down ones do nothing and can only take cows when they’re stood up. Yes they cannot take the cows back but at least they can keep out and watch the cows from other players who lay eyes on them (not it will protect the cows but at least it gives other players extra effort to take them).

Gauchos Placements

Gauchos Placements

After a player uses up all his dice, next player in clockwise order takes his turn by choosing 2 dice from the dice rodeo (pool) and then uses the dice. The round ends when the last player already takes his turn (there will be only one die left in the dice rodeo after he finishes his turn). The player to the left of the starting player takes the black gaucho meeple as a starting player marker and collects all the dice, he rolls all of them and the next round begins. Aside from the player’s dice allocation, he can also activate a location where he has a gaucho and resolve it’s effect (not all location can be activated during this phase), he can do this before, during or after his dice allocations.
The twist is that at the end of each round, players check each pasture. If all cow tiles in each pasture already have Cowboys on them, resolve them (cows with standing cowboys are taken by the owner). But if there’s at least one empty cow tile in that pasture, it’s not resolved. So with this restriction, players also figuring out the timing and situation to get the tiles. Admittedly we played this rule incorrectly, which by the looks of it, made it easier to plan things.
The game ends as soon as the draw pile is empty of cattle. Finish the current round and players will get one regular round, after that there is one final round which the first player do no roll the dice, they can only use their gauchos on the board (activate buildings). After that all players’ herds are sold. Players with the most points win the game.

There are some restriction to put cows in player’s herd. A herd can only consist of a single type and players can only own one herd of one type, so if he want to put a new cow he must put the cow in a herd with the same kind or he cannot choose to make a new herd if he already has a herd of that type. The herd must be lined up in a specific order, ascending or descending, in which the player decides when he creates that herd for the first time. He must adds the new cow(s) in following order (ascending or descending) from the right, so he cannot put new cows in the middle nor from the left of the line. If this somehow breaks the line, he must sell the herd first (not counting the new ones) and receives points based on the highest number on the herd multiplied by how many tiles on that herd. Then he make a new herd with the new cow tiles that breaks the herd (decides the order if necessary).

The game’s six locations are
1. Sort (Stall) – pip range 1-3
To place a gaucho in this place, players have to use a single die with pip value from 1-3. When a player retrieves his gaucho from this location he can do a Sort action, which can only be taken when collecting cattle. Players can place one cattle he collects anywhere in the herd (within the same type) even at the very beginning.

2. Wish (Hero of the rodeo) – pip range 1-3
To place a gaucho in this place, players have to use a single die with pip value from 1-3. When a player retrieves his gaucho from this location, he adds one virtual die (with any value) to his collection. This virtual die cannot be saved up for future rounds and must be used immediately upon retrieval.

3. Immediate Sale (Estancia) – pip range 1-3
To place a gaucho in this place, players have to use a single die with pip value from 1-3. When a player retrieves his gaucho from this location, he can immediately sell one of his herds with at least 2 cattle in it and received an additional 5 points.

4. Steal Cattle (Cattle Thief) – pip value 4
To place a gaucho in this place, players have to use a single die with pip value of 4. When a player retrieves his gaucho from this location, he steal one cattle tile from one of his opponents and put it into one of his herds or make a new one. If this placement breaks the order he must sell the herd and start a new one with that tile. This cannot be combine with Immediate Sale action since it’s not count as an action of the gaucho in Immediate Sale location. The opponent you stole receives compensation in points as many as the stolen cattle value.

5. Raise / Replace Gauchos (Overseer) – pip value 5
To place a gaucho in this place, players need to use a single die with pip value of 5. When a player retrieves a gaucho from this location he can either raise up to two of his lying gaucho in the pastures or replace one of opponent’s lying gaucho with a standing one of your own. For the later, the opponent will receive a compensation based on the value of the tile his gaucho is in.

6. Secret Cattle (Steppe) – pip value 6
To place a gaucho in this place, players have to use a single die with pip value of 6. When a player retrieves his gaucho from this location he then take 4 cattle tiles from the Steppe location (right most bottom place in the game board) and then secretly look at it. He may choose to take one cattle tile (two if each tile has value of 4 or lower) and put it face up in the empty slot available in the pastures (along with his standing gaucho on each tile). If there is no empty slot available, he cannot take this action. He then draw tile(s) from the draw pile and add it to the left over tiles and put it back on the Steppe face down.

Dice Rodeo - Imagine Gauchos using Dice as horses

Dice Rodeo – Imagine Gauchos using Dice as horses

Thoughts About The Game
The game is simple and easy to teach. On your turn you only need to choose two dice and use them, either place workers in a cattle tile(s) or in a location(s). Main purpose, getting a long line of herds and cash it in. Points are generated from simple multiplication when selling herds, the locations add interesting game flow and interactions between players. One important note is that the cattle tiles have unique values, hence you can deduct or predict the availability of a specific tiles. Sold tiles are discarded and no longer used. So in time it will become obsolete to go on for a type of cattle if most of it already sold. The basic principle is getting a lot small value tiles with one highest value tile possible from one type and  cash it in, huge profit.
Though it’s a Euro game, there is one thing worth mentioning, the Steal action does make the game feels quite direct tackling other players, though smart plays could lightly mitigate this. Usually in my plays, the Steal actions take place just before the game ends, because players are keeping their trump cards for last scoring. But who knows, getting another player’s tile in a perfect timing could boost your points (timing is important).

If you are into light Euro with worker placement, dice allocation and simple multiplication, this might be good for you or your children. Plus, the cattle are so adorable, I did not mention the poo, did I? The most notable component in the game is the cattle, 60 tiles full of cute-looking cattle are good enough to make your day, but that’s not all, there’s also a little gimmick for the dice rodeo, which is made to look like a cage with card board fences which keep the dice inside when rolled, also adds little spice to the theme. I must say the replay value is not very high, the random factor is only on drawing of tiles during the end of each round.

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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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Feld Brings Mancala Over The Top!

pic1054375_mdTrajan Review
At last I am ready to review this game. It’s been on my collection for a long time and I’ve played it quite a lot. Trajan is (IMO) the best of Stefan Feld’s games. Oh yes, it beats Castles of Burgundy or Amerigo or Notre Dame or In The Year of The Dragon.
So what is Trajan anyway? What kind of title is that? Well, I knew nothing of it before, it sounds weird and alien in my ear. Trajan is in fact, a person’s name. He was a Roman emperor  from 98 AD until his death in 117 AD. Officially declared by the Senate as optimus princeps (“the best ruler”), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death. He is also known for his philanthropic rule, overseeing extensive public building programs and implementing social welfare policies, which earned him his enduring reputation as the second of the Five Good Emperors (the other four were Nerva, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius) and who presided over an era of peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean world.

So what’s good about Trajan and why it can be my number one from Stefan Feld? I hope you’re onto long reading.

Game Components
The game has standard rectangular box like Agricola or Stone Age, has full packed content and the box is very heavy for its box size. The main reason might because of tons thick card board components. The card board tiles are thick, its player boards also has the same thickness (unlike The Castles of Burgundy’s player boards). There are many wooden tokens for player’s meeples, Trajan arches and action markers.

Artworks
It doesn’t have the best art for a board game but it serves pretty well in term of game play. Like other Stefan Feld games, Trajan has a very good iconography spread all over the game. It’s very functional and nicely designed. Though this lead to dry and abstract visual aesthetic aspect from the game. But as classic Euro should, the mechanic is what makes the game.

Trajan was published in 2011 after Castles of Burgundy, which has good ratings among Euro-gamers. Trajan is a game about managing you empire, to get most points during 3 years time, each year has 4 quarters, which in summary, players will play 12 rounds in the game. At the end of each year the scoring happens, and players need to fulfill people’s demands or else get penalty.

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Flow of Play
In these 12 rounds, players need to assign markers in their player board within Mancala system to take specific actions provided in the game. There are 6 actions in the Mancala system, these actions are Ship, Senate, Forum, Military, Trajan and Build.
In turn order, each player declare how many markers he will take from one bowl (of the available 6 bowls) and move all those action markers in clockwise order, bowl by bowl and in each bowl passed he must drop one of his picked-up markers. When the last action marker is placed, he check for completed Trajan tiles (if any) in that bowl. Then resolve the action corresponding with that bowl, for example Ship or Build.
Other player will advance the round marker in exact amount declared by the active player. If the round marker ends or passes the starting space, the quarter comes to an end and after the active player ends his turn, one demand tile is revealed. If the quarter is ending while there are already 3 demand tiles, do not open another demand tile, but proceed with end of year scoring and resolution. Players need to fulfill the 3 demand tiles and get penalty if they cannot complete all (the penalty amounts are varied by the number of demand that they cannot complete.

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Detail of Actions
1. Senate
This action lets players to advance their markers one step in the Senate track and get points from the value below their marker after advancing. In truth, the function of this Senate is not only the points it generates, but there are 2 other functions. During the end year scoring, while resolving Senate track, the player with most votes (number of votes received from the Senate and the Senate tiles combined) will get to choose one of two available Bonus tile for end game scoring, the 2nd most will get the other but in a face-down (lesser) tile. The other function is to break ties.

2. Forum
This action lets players to take a Forum tile from the available Forum spaces. The tiles are reset each year, so players need to plan what they want to get and how important the tiles based on the drawing. There are 2 kind of tiles in the spaces, basic Forum tile and extra action tile. The setup maintains that there are minimum of three extra tiles in each year, but there is possible to have more from the basic tiles. Extra tiles is used to get extra action of the specific action listed on the tile and can be modified / boost with +2 action, so you can use it double. The other tiles are mainly need and voting tiles and also wild / joker tiles that can be used as different types.

3. Trajan
This action lets players to get Trajan tile from the supply. There are 6 types of Trajan tiles (in 6 stacks) with each different color markers combinations. When a player takes this action, he choose the top tile of the available 6 types and put it in his player board, beside the bowl where his Trajan marker resides, and move his marker to the next empty space in clockwise direction, if there is no empty space (full with Trajan tiles), he put it in the central of the Mancala. He cannot take anymore Trajan tiles and need to complete one of his first to get another. There are tiles that give players 9 points, give players 2 cards, give players +2 extra action modifier, give permanent need tiles, give builders and also soldiers.

4. Military
This action lets players to choose one out of several possible actions, either to place 1 soldier from his player board to the Army camp, to move his general to adjacent province / region, or to score a region with one of his soldier in the camp.
If players choose to move their general, they can only move to adjacent region and if there is a tile available, they take the tile and place it on their board.
The scoring action lets players to move one soldier to a region where has their general and score points based on two restrictions. A player score full points from the listed points on the region if he is the first player to score this region (it can be seen by the soldier in that region, if there is none, it means he is the first. If there is already one, then he is the second and so on. If he’s not the first, firstly check how many soldiers already exist in the region (note that each player can only score once in each region) and then deduct 3 points for each soldier already in that region (this exclude any general in the region). For example, the region worth 10 points, a player choose to score that region but he’s the third player doing that, so he only gets 4 points. If later there is another player wants to score that region, he will only gets 1 points, which is not a wise decision. Players cannot take this action if they do not have a soldier available in the camp.

5. Build
This action also similar like Military action, which provides several possible actions. The first is to place one worker from player’s board to the worker camp. The second action is to claim a building tile. If it’s the player’s first claim, he can choose any available tile and move his available worker from the camp to replace the tile he claim. The tile he takes is placed on the corresponding space in his player board. If it’s the first tile of that type, he gets building bonus action, which varies depending the building type. There are 5 building types. His consequent building action will have to follow the restriction of orthogonal adjacent tile from the already existing worker in the building area. If the space already occupied by another worker, the space is not blocked, the player can still place his worker there, but since the tile is already taken, he doesn’t take any.

6. Ship
Ship action lets players to take one of the possible actions. The first action is to draw two cards from the draw pile and place in hand, then discard one card. The second is to take one card from one of the discard pile, the third is to place one to two cards to the display and draw one to two cards from the draw pile. The last is to ship the resource cards based on three different ship tiles, Each different, each same type and different pairs, Once one of the shipping tile is used, it’s flipped face down, which show lesser amount than the face-up tile. The tile can be flipped face-up again at the start of next round. When a player do this, he place his corresponding resource cards to his display but do not refill his hand.

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The game ends after the last year ends and score points based on several things:
1. Number of cards still in hand (1 point per card)
2. Number of incomplete Trajan tiles  (1 point per tile)
3. Number of soldiers and workers still in camp (1 point per worker or soldier)
4. Bonus tiles (set collection for the commodity cards in table is probably the most lucrative if you can focus on that. Since there are limited amount of cards, there’s also possibility that your opponents are blocking / holding the cards you need.
5. Joker tiles (1 point per tile)
6. Building set collection (3 tiles of a kind gives you 10 points, while 4 tiles of a kind gives you 20 points). This is powerful if you managed to get 4 tiles of a kind.

My Thoughts
I think the game core mechanic is not new but indeed innovative and has novelty. Stefan Feld applied innovative mechanic in the old Mancala system and made it more interesting. Not only you take and place action markers, but the there are 6 different kind of colors for the markers which really need considerations to complete Trajan tiles (not only to take an action).  This gives the game a small puzzle game but impacts greatly on the game play. Some feel (me too, a bit) this as the brain-burner element in the game.
It has lots of options and chain combo with the extra action and bonus action from building tile and that make the game more interesting. Though it has lots of options to consider the game play still has clear coverage, since all that you can do is solely based on your Mancala and the distribution of the action markers. The common sense for returning players is about how they manage the setup for the action marker distribution, which in some cases impose debates on how to maximize the setup. But I don’t really care, just distribute them randomly and plan after that. One note though, I intend to keep the markers in different color for each bowl, not saying that I’m trying to set something up, but just for the sake of random (evenly distributed).

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In Trajan, since it’s also considered as a point-salad game, you can see many different ways to get points but there are some considerations for what strategies you should after. Either you go heavy on shipping or building or military or getting senate and bonus tiles as your trumps. Based on my playing experiences, players can go and grab 1 or 2 strategies but not all, since getting all of them into the plan proved to be unwise, since they cannot utilize all of them to get the most of them. Players will not have enough time, for example collecting 4 building tiles of one kind also need hard efforts, especially if the tiles are not strategically placed (it would be wise to choose other type of building that is strategic) so if you also after Shipping, things could be hard to maximize them both. Some players found that Shipping strategy is quite powerful and easy to gain points in the end game combined with Bonus tiles. Building can also provide you bonus actions and also huge amount of points. But I believe each strategy is quite balanced and each one relates to each other, you cannot play with only one strategy without taking others.

The game also has dynamic turn sequence, different for each player. Since players are mostly take actions based on their personal considerations, the game plays very differently for each player about how many spaces each turn will take. At first each player will absolutely take 2 spaces in each turn, since the distribution of the markers is fixed. But during in-game or once the game progresses, there are varied amounts of markers in each bowl, so the number of space that a player will take is different from other players and this often makes the game unpredictable (you can predict it though if you observe other players carefully (and also guess what their plan next turn).

I think Trajan is way much better than Castles of Burgundy, because it offers more depth and planning than Castles of Burgundy. Castles of Burgundy has smaller scope with only 2 dice to allocate, though it could be many different options but still 2. In Trajan you need to consider 6 different bowls for your plan and it connects together for each turn and also there are also combos to think about so you can take your turn more efficiently.
The player counts are also good, you can play a 2-player game as good as in a 4-player game, the differences are the number of action spaces each round, cards distribution, forum tiles, military expansion and also blocking in the construction site.20150627_100957-1.jpg

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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From Japan

Nope, I did not go to Japan. It was my girlfriend who visited Japan last week with her mom. So when she visited Japan, I asked her to get me some original Japanese games. The reason was simple, board games in Japan has recently growth in such awesome rate, the popularity and the trends are hitting Japan in both sides. There are many various Japanese game designers and also community and publishers that take this hobby into serious business and passion. So getting some original Japanese games has it’s own values. Since she’s visiting Tokyo, I asked her to drop by Sugorokuya (a board game store in Tokyo) to look around and get me games.

Sugorokuya - Tokyo

Sugorokuya – Tokyo

First I did take some research on the topic, looking around BGG for some potential games and also contacted Sugorokuya facebook to find out which games available and which they recommend. So based on the research results I gave my girlfriend a list of games with priority order but in the end it’s up to her decision. There are 10 games on that list and I’m gonna spill them here.

1. Say Bye to The Villain
As you can see, this game was at the top of the list. I really really want this game since last year. It has good theme and yes it looks very Japanese and it was designed by Seiji Kanai. The game has dual language (Japanese – English) which I found it interesting. But rumor has it’s hard to come by, the game is out of stock. I was pushing it for this game a bit, but it’s okay since I did no harm to anyone or anything.

2. Dungeon of Mandom
Well, just read about this game recently and somehow it has some good review there on Japan. So I decided to take a look. The game dominant color is quite intimidating along with the theme, which is quite manly and not very interesting on women’ / girls’ opinion and taste. The game is quick and like most Japanese games, the core mechanics are bluffing, secret identity and such.

3. Sukimono
Masao Suganuma has been on the spotlight since he designed Machi Koro, in which the game has receiving praise and positive review by gamers around the world. And yes he designed another game called Sukimono. Don’t really know about it but the theme is about collecting precious items or antiques. The visual presentation of the game is stunning and that’s the reason I want it. Too bad it seemed the game is hard to come by.

4. Sail To India
Hisashi Hayashi is not a new designer, we all know his works and he’s also a good one at it. Sail To India is getting a wide release by AEG and while I can get the US edition, the original version does have more value for me. And more of it, the game has a very positive feedback, seems a good choice and heavier game than the rest of the games in the list.

5. Mai-Star
Along with Sail to India, AEG also distributes this game also. The visual presentation really similar like Say Bye to The VIllain but with different theme. It comes in dual language so another plus.

6. Criminal Dance
I don’t really know about this game, but it looks interesting and has cool-looking hand sketch style art with colorful backgrounds.

7. Koi-Ochi Idol
Also don’t know about this, but looking at the arts, they’re cute and funny.

8. Candy Chaser
Another Maso Suganuma’s game. Well he’s pretty popular recently, thanks to Machi Koro. Candy Chaser is on of his new games, about collecting points from candies. It really involves bluffing and dice rolling. The game has this unusual dark look but cute illustration, a bit of abstract and it’s language independent.

9. Stray Thieves
This one caught my attention because the simple art with cute illustrations designed by Jun Sasaki (another potential Japanese designer) and published by Oink games. The game evolves in card bluffing with hand management. Pretty much a simple and quick party game.

10. Nuggets
I don’t say the game is original Japanese, but the Japanese version looks very cute and gorgeous. Really has good collection value and I can see people will be interesting looking and playing it.

Her picks

Her picks

But in the end my girlfriend bought me 2 games and 1 game for herself. The games are Sail To India, Criminal Dance and Pyjamaparty. The last game is hers. So she bought me number 4 and 6 from the list, too bad the top numbers were not available. I have the Japanese version from Gamefield of Sail to India and Criminal Dance, both of the games are in Japanese and hell I cannot read the rules. Sail to India is easy, I can check the rules from boardgamegeek.com having AEG distributed the English version does make it easier to look. But I couldn’t find anything on boardgamegeek.com for the other game, so still don’t know how to play the game. The game site is on Japanese and they only give short / brief explanation of the game play (even that’s on Japanese that I used Chrome to translate with no satisfying end).

Lewis and Clark on sight!

Lewis and Clark on sight! … and another recently released games.

I’ve managed to create some English paste-ups for Sail to India and sleeved all the cards, so it’s ready to be played anytime soon.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Article, Board Games, News

 

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A Long Write Comeback

2014 is rolling. I know that it’s been months that I haven’t had any post to this blog, and I am sorry for that. Let me make it up to you guys with this one.

It’s already a new year, 2014 is on our path. So I’m gonna write a whole lot of stuff regarding 2013 specifically about Essen 2013’s games. Yes that’s the latest hype and let see if those games live up to the hype in my book.

Essen is always an interesting annual event for me (and also for board gamers of course), the reason is simply because there are lot of new games being launched in this event. Long before it’s even coming, we all already made a list of games that we expecting in Essen. Now for Essen 2013, there are lot of games that were added into my list, some of them of course I managed to purchase. But some I only or need to try them first before making any purchase decision.

I’m gonna write a small review (more like sorts of an impression) about Essen 2013’s games that I have managed to try.

Euphoria : Build a Better Dystopia (Nov 16, 2013)
I don’t know if it’s included as an Essen 2013 game or not but it was first shown (officially) on Essen 2013 if I was not mistaken. Jamey Steigmaier is a great designer and an honorable man. His KS project of Euphoria really really a hit and I was quite disappointed for not backing his project. Anyway, I was a playtester for this game with the prototype and I was surprised that my name and my friends’ names are on the back of the rulebook. Awesome Jamey! Proud that my name was immortalized on his game’s rulebook. So it wasn’t the first for me, but at least it’s the first for the official published version of the game. When I looked at the published game, my impression was over the moon. The game’s components are exceptionally great, those beautiful shapes of wooden components, great looking custom dice sets, awesome cards and don’t forget the two-sided board with alternative color tones. Okay enough with the overkill produced components, let’s jump into the water. I guessed there were no significant game play / rules changes from the playtesting. The game has a unique dice allocation mechanic (which is attached with a nice thematic worker intelligence) along with set collection and the core mechanic of VP racing. That’s the main discussion over here, VP racing mechanic. Personally I do not like a racing game (not thematically) and Euphoria is one of those games. This is the main reason that I did not back the KS project.
In overall, the game’s goal is to be the first player to place 10 stars. Once you do that, you win the game immediately. That’s what I called sucks.
But when playing the game I was enjoying the process, though I still think that the winning condition is irritating. For me this game has a collector value and worth to have.
My score would be 7.5 out of 10. It would be 8.5 if not for the racing game.

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Russian RailRoads (Nov 22, 2013)
This one is one of my favorites of Essen’s 2013 games. Why? Well you need to feel it yourself. But I’ll try to explain it to you the best I can.
At first I was not interested on this one, the title seemed very 18XX-ish if you know what I mean. But a friend mentioned to get this game and that made me look into it. Surprisingly the visual presentation did a very good job intensifying my interest. After reading the rules, I ordered it from amazon with quite a bargain on the shipping. While waiting for my copy to arrive I tried a copy of my friend’s. The rules are simple and easy to understand, just like a simple worker placement game on the main board. But the point generators are what the main attraction on this game. These engines are lies on the player board which is consists of three Trans Siberian tracks (Vladivostok, St. Petersburg and Kiev destination) and an industry track.
During the game player will need to make lot of hard decisions to build their rail tracks and industries. Normally the game last 7 rounds. Each round players will score their progresses. What’s interesting with this game is there are lots of combination of strategies and you need to find out which ones are the best and most efficient to give you maximum points. At first the rules could be quite intimidating (I am talking about the point generators and how they work) but once you play your first game you’ll realized how easy to play this game (just like Castles of Burgundy and I know why this game is very similar). But the essence is how to get the most out of your plays. The engines are not as easy as playing the game. In order to win you need to carefully mix and match your strategies. Whether you play all three tracks, only some or with industry or maybe leave out the industry aspect at all. It’s very interesting and each turn you will have to make a decision where you should placing your worker(s), because next turn that slot wouldn’t still be available.
This game is one of my favorites and it’s easy to get this on the table often. My girlfriend likes this game just as she likes Castles of Burgundy.
My score is 9 out of 10.

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Bruxelles 1893 (Dec 13, 2013)
I planned to buy this game but I changed my mind in the last minute. I changed my purchase to Russian RailRoads instead of this one. The reason would be simple, the situation wouldn’t let me. Well, that time I could only afford one game. While I already set my target on this game, a new game (which is Russian RailRoads by the way) emerged and judging from the situation it’s easier to come by rather than Bruxelles 1893. So there you go, I missed this one. The truth is I did not regret this, it’s a fine decision. But I do not say it’s a bad game, in fact it’s good looking game. Would love to have this on my collection. The visual presentation is stunning, not main stream stunning but in a unique way. The art style followed the theme in which art nouveau is the main attention. The theme is really describing what really is from the title itself. Bruxelles is a city from Belgium which on 1893 was very profound of their art progress and style. Arts are highly regarded as great work and respected among the society. In this game players play as artists who perform arts in various mediums suchs as paintings, sculpts and also models or furnitures. Alexandre Roche was doing the artworks for the game and I must admit that his work on Bruxelles 1893 really drips Troyes style artwork (which I also love).
The game last for 5 rounds where in each, players will get their workers / assistants to help them with their works. So this is a worker placement game, nothing new here but hold that thought because there is a twist in it.
To assign a worker you must also place coins in it (with minimum one coin). You place the worker on available tile slots on the round (yes each round the first player will decide which tiles are used in a given round based on the column and row, ain’t that interesting?). After all players already placed their workers and resolve the actions, the next thing is to resolve the bids based on the total number of coins on each columns. The winner gets the card under that column. These cards can be used for instant benefit or you can place it under your player board for end game scoring upgrades.
Also there is a majority scoring on the tiles. It’s pretty unique and more of it the chart of market price are also one of a kind. You can adjust the selling price of your art in the market by adjusting the chart based on how many types of arts you have. You can choose to get more coins or more points.
It’s pretty interesting and also not very brain burning. My score would be 8 out of 10.

Madeira (Dec 14, 2013)
This game is brilliant. Hail to Nuno Sentieiro and Paulo Soledade for making such a game. It was published by What’s Your Game and I pre-ordered the game as soon as I heard that they opened the preorder on their site. €40 include international shipping was really sold me out. Instantly purchased and I waited for around 1 months to get it shipped, and 2 weeks to receive the game. I love the artwork but there were some component issues. They informed me that the first batch copies have a minor miscutting register and it would need utmost caution punching the tokens. That’s not a big deal. But what I mostly concerned about was the game box. The outer lid has severe torn on one of the edges. The reason is still unknown since the packing was exceptionally good with bubble wraps and sturdy outer box. No dent was ever found. I told them about this and they told me that they will check into this.
The components are in good quality, I love the dice and the board.
Madeira is an island that was officially discovered by Portuguese seafarers.
In this game players will need to cultivate the lands and adapt in the land’s condition. The goal is to be the player with most points. The game lasts for 5 rounds in which each round players will choose a set of dice, activate available characters with their dice and also activate buildings with their action markers. And in the end of each odd round they will score points from Crown’s request tiles they own. It does sound easy doesn’t it? But the fact says otherwise, it is one hell of a brain burning heavy euro games. It has heavy strategic and planning with moderate learning curve. One needs 45-60′ and a huge motivation to explain this game to new players (or vice versa).
Though the learning curve is ain’t as high as Brass but it’s notable to put this under consideration. The first game would totally blow you away. There are lots of elements that get in the way of the game play. So you need to learn the mixture of things while you play.
I love the game, yes it’s hard but rewarding in my opinion. The pirate aspect really adds players interaction. The dice allocation mechanic is unique. Each round players is gonna choose one set of three dice from the available sets. These preliminary phase has already put players into deep and careful planning since what you choose is not only the dice but also turn order, guild’s favor refresh and your scoring possibility as well.
This mechanic alone shows Madeira has a rich game play and challenging experience in each session. During the character phase, players will take turn to use a die (their own or even a pirate die) to activate a character. There are 5 characters available that randomly distributed into 5 fix locations on the board each round. This also gives players new experience each session.
The island is divided into 3 region (region 1 to 3) and these regions restrict the use of dice, in which random dice rolling factor can be mitigated by the use of breads. Using breads let players to break the restriction of placing a die into a region. The dice have 3 values from 1 to 3 (each value has 2 sides) and each value corresponds to the region where it can be allocated. For example you may only place a die with value 1 onto character in region 1 and a die with value 3 into any region. So this is where the bread tiles come into use, if a player want to place his die but restricted because of the value, he can pay 1 bread tile to virtually modify his die one value higher.
Once all players are already passed (they choose to pass or they cannot use any more die) the buildings are resolved in order. Players who have an action marker in a building have to pay the cost (this cost is generated for each building by a specific number minus the sum value of re-rolling all the dice used previously on the character that’s on it). They need to pay regardless they want to activate the building or not, if they do not want or cannot pay, they receive pirates token (1 pirate plus the value of re-rolled pirate die if any).
After all the buildings are resolved, the rest of the round are upkeep and cleanup. Each odd round players will score points based on their Crown’s request tiles. In round 1, they will choose one out of 2 tiles, where in round 3 they will choose 2 out of 3 tiles and in the last round they will score all their tiles (3 tiles). In the final scoring, player with the most pirates gets penalty 16 points, the second most gets penalty 8 points. This aspect really adds tension in the later rounds and also very punishing. I love the game, the components, the quality, the artworks, the strategy and decision making, the interaction and the game play. The downsides are it’s intimidating rules, complexity and duration length. My score for this game is 9 out of 10.

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Asgard’s Chosen (Dec 8, 2013)
Okay, it’s not a hit. But based on the review it has very nice feedbacks and reviews (besides the lousy component qualities). It’s an innovative deck building game with Norse mythology theme by Morgan Dontanville. I came across this game the first time through boardgamegeek.com (what else?!). I always love mythology theme with gods and such and it’s Norse mythology where you can find Thor and Loki in it. I read the game’s designer diary and it totally sold me out. I found it really interesting of what the designer think about the deckbuilding mechanic and how he wants to take it into another different level. This one might be another addition to my list of loved games but not particularly liked by others (along with Wiraqocha and Panic Station, etc). The artworks look fantastic, you can see there’s also David Cochard in the artists line up (in case you geeks did not know, he’s the artist behind Dungeon Petz and Lords artworks). The characters have great detail artworks and they decided to bring distinguished looks in each character’s level which turned out pretty awesome. This game is published by Mayfair games, which is one of the most famous board game publishers. But they delivered this game very disappointing. The components are in bad quality especially on the game box material (bad finish, thin material) and the punchboards. The tokens are easily worn out and the printed surface is easily falling off. This is very bad, big time.
The card quality is OK but not impressive, a little bit thin and flimsy.
And I do wonder why they use different size hero meeples, I can see the different shapes, but the size just didn’t cut it. The female hero meeples is cylindrical in which if the female hero was vanquished you need to place it aside and with that cylindrical shape, it’s easily to roll out.

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Okay let’s talk about the meat of the game. It’s basically a VP racing game (which is I am not personally favor at), players need to appease a number of Gods to trigger the end game and the one with most appeased Gods win the game. Each player will get a set of God cards (10 Gods to be precise) which includes Odin, Thor, Loki, Tyr, Heimdallr, Frigg, Freyja, Sif, Hel and Baldr. Each round, players will have to take turns to move their 2 heroes one by one in a set of modular boards consisting different type of terrains. Their heroes will conquest uncontrolled or controlled terrains. One of the reasons to do this is for deck manipulation / deck building. They need to diversify their controlled terrains to be able to muster new creatures available in the Tisch during muster phase. What is the ‘Tisch’? The ‘Tisch’ is a 2 rows of cards with 4 cards each. It consists of creature, town item and magic item cards. These cards will help players to appease their Gods. Creatures have their terrain affinities as well as magic and town item. In other words, in order to get them you need to control the matching terrain. For example if you want to muster a mountain creatures you need to control at least one mountain terrain. The same thing if you want to muster a town item you need to control a town.
Now let’s get down to the game play. Each round there are sequence of phases, starting from God phase in which players decide which God in their hands that they want to use it’s favor. That God card is placed in front of them and they can use the favor describes on the card. Next the Charm phase, players may use one item card that can be activated during charm phase from their hand. The next one is the Campaign phase. This is the core system of the game. Each player will take turns to move their heroes one by one. The ‘move’ action in this game means players could literally move their heroes inside their controlled territories or conquest other territory that is adjacent to theur controlled territories. So player can conquest an uncontrolled territory or an opponent’s controlled territory. When they try to conquest an uncontrolled ones they will be facing thr game mechanic, otherwise they’ll be facing the game mechanic and also the controller of that territory.
The next phase is Muster phase. This is where all the deckbuilding happens. Players may take turns to muster a card from the Tisch. These recently mustered cards are placed on the discard pile along with the cost.
The last phase is renewal phase in which players discard and draw up to 7 cards and revive their vanquished heroes.
Appeasing Gods. There are some restrictions when it comes to appeasing Gods. At all times, players can only appease one God per phase and may only doing so during their turn. Played God card during God phase cannot be appeased, they may only appease Gods from their hand.
I like the unique appeasing God and the deckbuilding mechanic. It’s very thematic and one can say it’s pretty much fiddly, to cover all those details and elements during the game. The 6 different terrains, the unique and various creatures’ abilities and the restrictions for each action. The learning curve could be quite high judging it’s not a simple deckbuilding game. In this game, to build your deck you need to plan your actions.
My score for this game would be 8 out of 10.

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Lewis & Clark: The Expedition (Dec 26, 2013)
I highly interested on this game but decided to give it a try before making a purchase. It’s my most anticipated game that I want to try so badly. At last I tried the game from a friend’s copy. It has beautiful awsome artworks and more than that, each player card set has different illustrations though they have the same effects, even more there is no duplicate name and illustration on all the cards. Pretty neat huh? The game is about the expedition of Lewis and Clark during the time when United State bought a portion of land from the French and decided to order an expedition to mapping the location led by Lewis and Clark. They mapped the location from the river stream, from one point to the other end. Now this historical theme might led you to think that it’s a racing game, and it was true that this is a racing game. The first player who reach the destination wins the game. This is the only reason why I hold my purchase and decided to try it first. I’ve read the rules and must admit that I was completely interested on the game play and mechanics, despite the fact that it is a racing game. Players goal is to be the first one to bring their camp to the finish line.
In this game each player will get a set of character cards, a player board and also camp & scout tokens. During their turn, players may play a card, place Indian(s) or set up camp. Playing a card must be accompanied by another face down card, Indian meeple(s) or both. The Indian symbol and meeple(s) represent strength or activation time.
With cards they will collect resources, convert resources, move scouts and other things. They can also place their Indian meeples into available spaces of powwow area on the game board. These spaces provide players with resources and upgrade options. They can also set up camp. To do this they will need to resolve left out cards in their hands and also the player board situation. These will determine where the exact space they can set up camp.
Players can also buy new cards from the available row with some cost.
While one of your aims is to collect resources for your expedition, you cannot travelling carrying heavy luggage, this is why players consider on their supply. With heavy luggage they cannot travel as quick and fast as they travel in light. So there is something that they need to consider when planning. And also, the route is getting more difficult by having 2 different kind of terrains (water and mountain). These 2 kind of terrains will slow your progress, since in order to pass through these terrain a different kind of transportation is needed, either with canoes, horses or yaks. It’s pretty much great decision making aspect to get what you after.
I like the beautifully looking components, especially the Indian meeples and also the cute tiny resource hexes (more if attached with resource stickers). Another reason that I wanted to try this first before purchasing was I also want this game to be liked by my girlfriend. I do not really want to get this game and do not get it into the table because my girl doesn’t like to play it. But luckily she said it is good. So can’t wait to get this one in my next purchase.
My score is 8 out of 10.

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Legacy: Testament of Duke de Crecy (Dec 26, 2013)
This game garnered quite a hype amongst my buddies that moment. But I did not agree. Not really interested on it and did not bother to look into it. But a friend asked me and my girlfriend to join for a session and we both liked “Why not? It’s a new game to try”. Apparently the game has similar resemblance theme and play style as Last Will, though they’re completely different in origin. In Legacy, you are the head of a family that needs to protect and preserve your bloodline for three generations (rounds). You will get married, make children of your own and get them continue your bloodline from generation to generation. This is actually a pretty interesting idea for a theme and I found that my first play was really enjoyable and fun. I felt lack of actions (only 2 basic actions in each turn) which hold you down with so many things you really want to do. Arrange marriage, make children, make friends, get a title for your family, buy an estate and such. That’s a lot to do. It’s basically a card game, as you can see mostly the components are cards, with player boards, main boards to place cards and tracking rounds, cubes and action tokens and also coins.
We’re having some difficulties to differentiate the gender of the child. I don’t see why they make the boys have a long hair, which easily create player’s confusion. Anyway it’s an ok game, with quite a lot of luck factor on the friend cards, their nationalities and also the children’s gender. It’s just not my cup of tea, though playing it the first time could be fun and enjoyable.
My score would be 7 out of 10.

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Concordia (Dec 26, 2013).
A new game from Marc Gerdts, that’s not involving rondel. Usually Marc Gerdts designs games with rondel mechanic, such as Antikke Duellum, Hamburgum and Navegador. It’s his signature, and now he’s making a game without it, interesting.
Actually I was never interested on this game at all, aside I have Antike Duellum on my wish list. A friend asked me to join and I was gladly accept it. It’s a pretty straight forward Euro with paste out theme, leaning more onto abstract side. The game uses roles and set collection with the combination of networking and resource collecting. At first each player has the same set of cards, each with a specific role. Each turn players will play a card as an action. The game ends if the last cards on the row is bought. The anatomy of a card has different part, there is the role part which describes what action the card can do, beneath it there are list of recources as cost to acquire this card. In the bottom is the end game scoring reference. In other words, players will have to choose wisely what kind of cards they need to invest in. Either they get cards for its actions or for its final scoring. The main board has a map drawn and depicts several provinces. These provinces consist of different areas and each of it’s own resource. Players also need to cover areas with their ships and colonies to get benefits while harvesting and final scoring. Surprisingly the game is quite good and it’s fun. But sometimes this could let to AP prone situation while deciding which card you want to use, since more and more you’ll get more cards, which your hand will be full of cards. It’s not like a deck building that you have to fill your hand up to some amount. In this game you take back all the cards you have into your hands after you play a specific cards, that makes you hand really really full. And also deciding what areas to get and where to go could lead to AP situation. With lots of access and randomly different recources in each game leads players to a new situation. The resource tokens have cute shapes, and the card design is so classic old roman style.
My score for this game is 8 out of 10.

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Archon: Glory and Machinations (Jan 11, 2014)
This is my new game for 2014. I should have backed this game while it’s on KS but I did not. I pretty much had a tight budget back then and also not really sure if it would be good. So I skipped the KS, but a friend of mine gave me the opportunity to buy his new sealed copy right after it’s arrived. So I did not skip it this time. The main attraction of this game is the artworks. As you know, Antonis Papantoniou did all the illustrations for the game and man he is one of the best illustrators I know. You can see his works in Drum Roll, Among The Stars and Fallen City of Karez. In this game he also uses the contrast color tone approach on his illustrations (which probably his main style). The characters on the cards are really depicting royal and prestigious feel with gears and bolts all over them. This is the thin red line, the strain that connects all of the illhstrations. The board is amazing and huge, just like Fallen City of Karez. That monstrous and gigantic illustrations of locations and places that put together into a one higly detailed big city embodied with gears element.

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In this game players need to collect the most points for 9 rounds. Each 3 rounds there will be an event and scoring. The game is quite simple, players play cards in order to place their workers into slots from locations on the game board. There are mainly 2 kind of cards, courtiers and magisters. Courtiers are basic characters and do not have special effect. While Magisters have different kind of types and effects. At the start of the game each player will have 8 Courtiers and 2 selected Magister cards in their decks. In each odd round players will need to assign 5 cards that they want to use during this round and the next. Cards for the next round are placed face down for future use. This mechanic is unique and gives you more freedom to build your hand, of course this is not a deck building game, despite you refine your deck of cards, the numver of cards are still 10 cards. Once you get a new Magister card you need to replace it with your Courtier. The flexible thing is you can replace it with Courtier card from your hand (so that newly acquired Magister can immediately be played this round) or from your discard or from your next round’s cards. Players get points from advancing their tracks on the guild hall (getting Magisters), placing Elite warrior on the 2 wall spaces that generates 1 point, build structures, collect science and arts and also collect Elite Warrior cards. There are also end game scoring from 4 level 3 structures. Though the game is good and challenging, there is some issues on one of the strategy in the game. The Roy Guard action to place Elite Warrior cards are deemed not worthy the actions and cost to be taken into account. Yes you get the protection from event, 2 points on the wall an majority from Elite Warrior cards but the actions and resources you need to complete that are almost nonsensical.
I’m gonna bring out topics about the game components, the game uses unusual colors for the playing pieces. They are all monochromatic. From white, beige, grey and black. Also the same with the resource cubes. These colors could look the same and some players reported the misidentified colors between white and beige, black and grey. This turned out to be fatal for my first play, which we identify the grey as black on one of the locations symbol. They should use different shape if they persistent with the colors. They said it’s for the color blind issue, and that’s not a bad thing, I just a bit disappointed that they did not consider other aspect as well. And also during the KS project development, they proposed an alternative art for the game board (the darker one) which could help to bring out more distinguishable look of the buildings apart ftom the background illustrations. This would surely stressed out the functionality design on the game board, but the crowd responses were critically discharge. It’s too bad though, I like the darker ones. Anyway it’s a fun game and I do not regret for having this game in my collection.
My score for this game is 8 out of 10.

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The Capitals (Jan 18, 2014)
This is one big and expensive game. The main reason is the game weight, it’s full of building punchboard tiles all over it. The game is very similar in theme with Sunrise City, City Tycoon and Suburbia. It’s about city building. Players will control their own city and try to build it the best way they choose. After the game ends, player with the best city wins the game. There 3 rounds of scoring with 4 turns in each round. During each turn players will determine turn order and buy a building tile. Then they take action(s) activating their buildings based on their power plant level and cultural bonus.
There are different kind of building types which shown in different color background. The building has immediate effect once built and also has active or passive effect. Active effect need to be activated first to get the effect. Activation cost needs power cubes from power plants.
There are several different aspects that players need to manage, they are city fund, population, cultural, industry and public works. There are also the tourism concept that I find it interesting. Tourism lets player with the most advance on the culture track to get benefit from the tourists that came to his city. Those tourists apparently come from other (players’) cities. This is interesting, since having highest culture give the city benefit for being the most wanted place to be visited. While cities with lower cultures really do not favorable place to visit even their citizens prefer to visit another city. The benefit is in the form of a car meeple that can be used as energy cube. The advantage is the car meeple can always moving around each time you want to activate a building. So it’s more flexible and give you easy access to more buildings.
Another unique thing is the population track in correlation between the work force track. These 2 tracks must really balance. At first population has minus points up until some point. So you need to expand the city population up to at least safe level. But beware you must also manage the work force track. Good level of population is not good if the work force is not balance that could lead to potential jobless threat.
The turn order is also interesting. Players will need to pay thebturn order based on their current order. First players must pay a lot of money to maintain his turn order while of course the last player can easily take the first place if there is no one fill the position yet. In other words, first player that maintain his first position will be wasting points since $4 is worth 1 vp.
I like the game, it’s simple and easy to play. Yes it has random factor from the building tiles but it’s still manageable. You also have to be careful with your point condition. Players will start with minus points and you have to make it positive and gain as many as you can before the time is up.
My score to this game is 8.5 out of 10

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Kohle & Kolonie (18 Jan, 2014)
This is one of my favorites games of Essen 2013. A monster game of the same level as Terra Mystica (well at least the box has the same size). I was interested on the theme and the visual presentation. I wanted it but trying first would be a wise decision since this game it’s not cheap and it’s very heavy. So we’re having board gaming session last Saturday and this game is right on top of my list to play, along with Nations.
When I looked inside the box there are lots, I mean lots of components inside. The box is full with boards, tiles and wooden components. Awesome feeling for unboxing I am pretty damn sure. Each player gets their own player boards with double sided ability tiles, cubes, discs and tiles. It looks gorgeous and I love this.
Let’s get into the game play. The game has a mining theme integrated into it. Players will be a mining businessmen who buy mines, run them and take profit from them. The board is spread long to the side, depicting a map with different region separated by lines and colors. There are around 5 or 6 regions on it. Each region also has some areas with mining sites on it. The game last 5 rounds and there is a progress track on top of the board to eadily track the phase progress of each round. A disaster track that also functions as round track on the right bottom of the board. Each round players will have normally 2 actions (more if you take the bonus tile and spend an extra action tile). During these actions players may take one of available actions (they may take the same actions with all of their actions). These actions are buy a mine, deploy and move workers, place a settlement and 2 workers, train an engineer, make a steam engine. Players also has ability boards that can be placed with their workers, steam engines and engineers. These tiles have double sides with the back sides are higher level that will be available after upgraded and are integrated well with their 3 action tiles.
At the start of each round new mines will become available to purchase. These mines also gives income for the owners, and players can place up to 6 mines on their player boards. These mines also give players points based on how many mines are inside the area. Settlements also give points on how many adjacent mines owned by the player. Each round there is disaster phase, which has a unique drawing mechanic. Players who have uninsured mines will put their disc / uninsured mine into the bag along with black discs. Then 3 discs are drawn. If their discs are drawn, they need to pay the penalty and place a worker cube per drawn disc into the disaster phase (minus points for placing cubes here). The first disaster is natural disaster, which is gonna stay until the end of game (it’s effect will triggered when the beige disc are drawn). If black discs are drawn, bank will buy the lowest number of mines and the bank threshold value is added.
After income and scoring mine phase, there is consolidation phase. Each area has different consolidation round, which depicts when the mines on that area will be cobsolidated. This phase is also unique, since if there is more than 1 owner of the mines (other players and the bank itself) they will take part into consolidation bids. The winner will take control of the area and score points from it. The losers will score 2 points for each mines they have on that area.
Players also get benefit if they complete connected networks on the rails with their workers. There are 4 rails spread over the map each with different length. When players take deploy and move 2 workers, they can deploy workers into their built settlements or into available slots on their ability boards and then move the workers (on settlements) into connected stations. If it’s the first worker moved into the station players can get a bonus tile available on the station. Each player may, during his turn, upgrade his ability boards by spending coins and / or neutral workers. Upgrading ability boards mean that he turn the board into the other face side up which gives him points and also better slots. There are 3 ability boards that when upgraded will automatically flip the action tile corresponding to that ability. Action tiles that are flipped are not only the player’s but also other players. The flipped action tile has higher cost than the basic one.
I love the simple and streamline game play that the game has to offer, okay maybe it has a bit conplex on the consolidation phase but that’s it. There is many things you can do with all your 2 actions per round but I guess it’s still ok compared with Legacy. I wonder when can I added this game into my collection. Since it’s quite expensive and I even haven’t get Terra Mystica. I guess my girlfriend likes this one better than Terra Mystica. It’s one level below Terra Mystica on the heavy Euro scale.
My score would be 8.5 out of 10.

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Alright, those above were Essen 2013’s games that I tried and still lot more to come. I still haven’t try Nations, Rokoko, Glass Roads, Caverna, Patchistory, CV, Om Nom Nom, Tash-Kalar, A Study in Emerald, The Witches, Mauna Kea, Coal Baron and Rampage.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Article, Board Games, Insight

 

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