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

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

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

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Inside the box

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

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Colorful Dice

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

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

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Gadget Cards

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

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

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The location boards and intel cards

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

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Game in progress

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

 

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What Would Happened if?

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

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

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

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

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Game Components

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

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Tokens

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

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Available Cards

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

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Player’s Tableau – End Game

 
 

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How Greed Are You? The Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Racing with Feld

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

 

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Above and Beyond Expectation

pic2398773_mdAbove and Below Review
Red Raven Games hit the Kickstarter again with their title, Above and Below early in 2015 and it’s a huge success. It had garnered more than $ 142,000 from the expected goal of $ 15,000 (that’s a huge success I tell you that). Ryan Laukat is the man behind Red Raven Games and the game itself and managed to get himself  a quite established fan base in the board game hobby. I pledged this one right like instantly just because I knew in my heart and mind that it was the perfect time to back one of his game (after missing out Empires of The Void, City of Iron, and The Ancient World). Maybe partially because that his illustration skill was totally developed into an amazing one and the other was because the game offers something unique than other games in the market.

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Unboxing the game (Kickstarter Edition)

So what is this Above and Below and what kind of game is it? As it is on the title, Above and Below is a storytelling board game, and what I mean by storytelling it’s not like Dixit in any way (that’s the first thing came to my mind in the first place, Dixit). It’s a different storytelling than Dixit but honestly come to think of it, I failed to understand why Dixit is called as a storytelling, it’s a bit far off I think. Yes, you can tell a story, but the real essence is giving out a clue. That clue might be a story. But enough about Dixit and more about this game.

In this game, storytelling may be the strongest factor of the game, which makes it unique from other games aside from the simple worker placement and resources collecting. The storytelling aspect comes from a specific action in the game, which is explore / exploration. When players decide to do an exploration action, they will be read a specific story from the encounter book by on of their fellow players. From this story / encounter they will choose to react / what to do given the options available to them. Though each story / encounter that players have is short and unrelated to each other, it’s up to players imagination and will to make up a connection to those encounters they have for more better immersive game play (but that’s not affecting the game play in any way), in fact you can even ignore the stories and just go for the mechanic (though this isn’t the real intention from the designer).

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The Theme
Above and Below offers a mesmerizing world of fairy tale and imaginative world with beautiful universe created by the designer himself. His illustration style has brought him the title of Hayao Mizayaki’s of Board Games and it’s not exaggerates at all. The background story (might be a follow up from his previous game, The Ancient World) is that each of you lead a runaway villagers from their beloved home which had been invaded by either titans or maybe disasters or ravagers. In search of a new home, you’ve come to a place where you think it’s suitable / best to be your new settlement. As you starting to settle in that place, you found that it has an underground tunnel system that already been there for quite  a long time before your time. Now the sense of adventure engulf you with excitement, hence the game begins. So you will send some of your villagers (or all of ’em, it’s all up to you) to venture the underground hoping it will gives you fortune, interesting results and such.

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My first play

The Artworks
Another compliment to the designer, Ryan Laukat for making such a breathtaking universe, his own original universe. What I like the most about it, aside the beautiful scenery (peaceful blue sky and dark blue underground walls) is the villagers. The villagers have their distinctive feel in each one of them. They’re not only human, there are many other interesting races, Hogman (I guess this following the same universe from City of Iron), Glogos, even robots. The way that it’s made to be uniquely general makes it uncommon in the worlds of races (like elves, dwarfs or orcs and such) which I found it to be more masculine but not this, this can be enjoyed rather by anyone, male or female or children.

The Components
Aside from having a beautiful artwork, the game also comes with a top notch component quality. The cards are linen finished, tiles are smooth and the box is very sturdy (love it very much). And for the KS edition, it has exclusive custom shaped wooden resource tokens that replace the resource tiles (and you still get the tiles). Of course this upgrade the game components by a mile, since the presence of the wooden resources really add a stunning vibe on the game presentation, and gosh touching wooden instead of cardboard tiles are definitely way way much better.
But of course not all components are perfect, I consider the player mat and game board have minor issue on the finishing. The surface is smooth, which is good, but unfortunately it is not durable, easy to worn out by scratches and frictions (so be sure to keep it safely when storing and playing them).

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Wooden Resource Tokens from Kickstarter Exclusive

The Game Play
Though the game centers on the story-telling side, it also offers interesting good mechanic for players. The game last 7 rounds, yes too short. I am not talking about the play time ‘short’, but more about how short players to build their engine to get really started, but that’s make the challenge in the game. I just feel it’s not enough, want to play more and more, finish too soon. In each round players will take turns taking an action with their active / ready villagers. They can send 2 or more villagers to explore the underground tunnel or recruit another person as new a villager, send them to work labor to gain coins, harvesting resource from one of your buildings or build a structure (building or outpost) in your village. The round ends when all players already pass. Villagers that already used to take an action are send to the exhausted area in player’s board (or injured area).

Since the core of the game is about exploring, I will start with that first. Exploring action is the only way to develop your underground area. By exploring new caves, you can build outposts available in the center of the table. To explore the main requirement is having at least 2 villagers, they’re too scared or maybe not that stupid to go venturing to uncharted tunnels (and dark) alone. The player rolls a die and consult on the result table listed on the top most card from the cave pile. This will point out what encounter that player will have. Another player will have to go through the encounter book and find that paragraph, read it aloud to the active player. This paragraph contains a short backstory of the encounter to set up the scene and gives the player a set of choices to make (without saying the rewards and penalties). The player must choose one and resolve it. This usually requires the player to gain a specific number of exploration points in order to succeed, by rolling  a die per villager that participate on the exploration. If the result is equal or higher than the required amount, it is a success, but even if it not, the players can still  choose to exert their villagers (work extra hard) to get 1 point from each villager to count toward the result. But, as consequence those exerted villagers are injured (players will have to heal them with potions during the end of the round). Villagers have different values and chances of success, some of them also have special bonus for certain actions. If the exploration is a success, the player gets the card and the rewards listed, if its a failure, the action is wasted.

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Player’s Villagers, Ready and Exhausted

Another action is to recruit more villagers. In their turn, players can send a villager with a scribe icon to recruit one of the available villagers by spending a certain amount of coins listed. The new recruited villager cannot be used until next round, they place it on the exhausted area.
Another action is build. Players can choose to build a building (above the ground) or build an outpost from their completed exploration cards. Yes, outpost can only be build if there’s an empty exploration card in the player’s table. Players can choose from the available buildings, the starting star buildings, key buildings or from the draw lines. Players can also pay one coin per turn to discard all the cards from a line and draw another set of cards before or after doing this.
Another action they can do is to send villagers to harvest resources from their buildings. Some buildings provide resources and they need to be harvested first in order to be used or considered owned.
They also can send villagers to do labor. Labor is getting a coin per villager sent to do labor. The first player to do this action on a round, gets a cider token from the main board.
Once a player do not want or cannot do any action, they can pass for the round.
Once the round ends, players will get income based on their resource tracks. And they can spend potions to heal the injured villagers. And then the villagers that have a bed can sleep and rest to be ready in the next round. If there are more villagers than the number of beds, the rest are not be available next round.

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Playing the game, very enjoyable

Aside from the storytelling, the game also emphasizes about the village building aspect. Players can do actions to make their village better and generates points for them in the end game. So basically players get points from building that they’ve built, end game points from buildings, reputation track and advancement track. Let’s focus on advancement track. In this track each space contains 2 different information, points and coins. As I already mentioned before the coins are generated during income phase in the end of each round. Points from this track are only counted at the end of the game. This points work by set collection. Players can place one kind of resources in each slot. The slots are limited to eight, as many as resource kinds in the game. These slots aside from opening your income raise but also worth points at the end of game based on the number of resources in the slot. The more slots you occupied the more income you will get (up to the maximum of 8 coins). You open these slots by placing one kind of resources in each slot. For example you place a fish token on the first slot, and the next slot you must place another resource that has not yet been placed in previous slots. So if you get an already placed  resources, you place it on the specific slot.  At the end of the game, each resource worth points based on the  value listed on that space. So getting many resources in slots further along the track would give you a lot of points.

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Resources comparison between KS Exclusive and Retail version

My Thoughts
I definitely love this game. All of my plays were amazing, with lots of stories, interesting encounters and fun simple resource collecting. I like everything about the game, nothing less. Even down to the box quality I just cannot hold myself to not give out my thumbs.
The game is simple, easy to play for casual and non-gamer but also offers a good deal of Euro style game of worker placement, set collection and tableau building. I always thought that the game really answers on two sides, the casual side which leans heavily on the story telling aspect of the game and the avid side with enough meat inside the game. But getting only one of them is still balance throughout the game. You can totally ignore the Euro aspect of competitive game and just focusing the story you are trying to complete in the game or you can ignore the story and just dive in to get maximize points from your actions. For me I like the story aspect so much, you can get very immersive with the story. Even though the encounters are not related to each other, but you can relate them with you own ways, to make it more interesting. There are a lot of encounters in the book to build your own story in each play, but if that’s not enough for KS edition, its backers have a small expansion that consists of a separate book for new encounters. This should keep you busy to arrange a good and interesting story by yourself.
I like the choices that players must take during encounters and the consequences and rewards behind them. But of course you want to win (but that’s not priority for me in this game), by doing things right.
So the game really fits for casual players that really want to enjoy the story, and for gamer that also demand some meat inside it.
So for me this game is easily one of the best games out there, definitely one of the best in 2015. Lets just hope there will be more encounter expansions, I hope in PDF so you can just download it.

dav

A quite successful village

 

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What Can Go Wrong In A Camel Race?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dav

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

 

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The Offensive Catan

Box Cover

Box Cover

Wiraqocha Review

In 1995, Klaus Teuber released Settlers of Catan, a Euro game that revolutionized the board gaming world. The game is almost 20 years old and already played by most board gamers worldwide and had once become one of the obvious choice for Christmas present by a lot of families over the world. Many other board games were inspired by it and take some mechanics of the game and also improve it more and more. The game itself applies the core mechanic of dice rolling with hand management, networking and also trading. This is a new and fresh approach to the game system that everyone know about at the time (looking at Monopoly, Game of Life and Risk). It gives a more friendly approach with interesting play for families and friends. Roll and move had become boring and stale at the time, creating a mindset that player’s actions dictate by the result of the dice. Direct conflict has become more and more responsible for conflicts in relationship. Settlers of Catan offers an interesting decision factor in more friendly situation for casual gamers (at the time). In 2011, Henri Kermarrec released Wiraqocha, a board game with the similar aspects found in Settlers of Catan. I found the game from boardgamegeek and don’t know why I just hooked. I ordered the game aside from the game’s rank on boardgamegeek and users’ feedback. I like the presentation of the game. So what kind of game is this? A Settlers of Catan copycat? Not a chance.

Back of the box

Back of the box

1. The Theme
I do not know how to classify the game, into Euro or AT but it has both styles in it. It surely has a good portion of theme and background story to give the game a good sense of flavor. The game takes place in an alternate world where England found a new and secret entrance to the long lost realm of Wiraqocha. It’s like Atlantis but it’s Wiraqocha. In this game, the Queen of England delegates several conglomerates to share the land and reap the benefits for her. So player will be those conglomerates and compete to be the first that complete one of the three objectives given. So it’s basically a race game, the first one to complete an objective win, simple. There are three objectives within the game, by collecting 4 relics throughout the land you will unlock the secret treasure of Wiraqocha, which I bet gonna make the queen very, very happy. The second objective is the collect a number of Somnium crystals that prove to be very powerful energy that can affect matter and even time. The third one is to acquire enough scientific knowledge to build Leviathan, a war machine based on the ancient and lost technology of Wiraqocha’s civilization.

2. The Artworks
The game has nice looking arts that really popped out throughout the game. The arts on the land tiles, cards and sticker tokens really show it nicely and perfectly integrated with the time and style of the theme. The artist that made this work of art was Yuio, a great artist who also behind the artworks of Karnag, Rockwell and Takenoko. Artworks in Wiraqocha has a strong conceptual feeling and not particularly set for main stream audiences, the design concept of the buildings and inventions are unique, different from common sense and also strange and alien from the normal idea of them, which can be found easily on the Juggernaut, Flying Fortress, Transport Tunneler, Android Explorer, Battle Exoskeleton, Mechanical Miner and more.

The Juggernaut Art

The Juggernaut Art

3. The Components
The game comes in sturdy box with 12x9x2 inches dimension, which was chosen perfectly by the publisher to store all the game components nicely, no extra space issue (I still think the expansion would also fit into the base game box, but I don’t have it so not much a reliable info). The game comes with wooden discs and punch-board tiles, 11 6-sided wooden dice, some cards, some cubes and crystals, 22 hex tiles and stickers for the wooden discs. The game components are top notch, good quality card stock material for the cards (it’s okay not to sleeve the cards, because you won’t get to shuffle the cards often in a game). My copy of the game had bad production wooden discs (some of them were cracked) but replacements were quickly sent by the publisher, thumbs for Sit Down! Games. The stickers could be better in color contrast aspect and paper material, it’s in matte finish, glossy should be better but can’t complain it’s still good. The rulebook is printed on a fine paper stock material, one of the best rulebook quality I have ever seen. The dice material could have been better, instead they’re using wood for it (I know it suppress the cost) which really lack the feeling of accomplishment when rolling them (maybe it’s just me).

Example of game in progress

Example of game in progress

4. The Game Play
To play the game, players need to assemble the hex tiles to form the land (you can choose to form it randomly or using predetermined setup from the rules. The designer suggests to use the predetermined setup for first time play (the friendly landscape for new players). Shuffle the cards and draw 4 cards face up. The game starts from the first player clockwise. Each player chooses a color and take all wooden tokens (units) with his corresponding color. These wooden tokens / discs are player’s units, there are 7 unit discs in total per player, 1 Base Camp, 2 Zeppelins, 2 Drills and 2 Explorers.

The Base Camp token
Imagine this token as the main camp or headquarter for your expedition. You need this unit presents on the game board in order to take other actions. The unit’s sticker has a 5 value pips symbol that referring to the natural protection of the Base Camp. This means, the unit has a natural protection with a value of 5. During the first turn, players must firstly place this unit onto the game board before taking any other actions. On the next turns, player then can place another units onto an adjacent tile (conquering a tile) and / or move the existing unit (including the Base Camp) to any tiles on the board.
Zeppelin tokens
Each player has 2 Zeppelin tokens at their disposal. This Zeppelin units are used to enter a Mountain tile (white), the other units cannot enter / conquer mountain tiles. So the only way to place a unit / conquer a mountain tile is by using Zeppelins. Of course, thematically, Zeppelins are airborne units, and thus it can only be attacked by another Zeppelins, but it can attack ground unit as well (think of Zeppelin unload bombs and such). And another crucial advantage of this unit is that this is the only unit that can deploy other units into mountains. Players may “disgorge” one or more of their Zeppelin(s) during the preparation phase to deploy a unit either from a supply or from the game board onto the tile where a Zeppelin exist.
Drill tokens
These units also called miner, because they extract / harvest Somnium for players. For each miner / drill unit that exist on the board, players will get one extraction points. For each two extraction points, players receive 1 Somnium crystal. If a drill unit is on a tile with Somnium veins, it generates 2 extraction points instead the normal one.
Explorer tokens
Explorers main use is to collect Relic tokens from Ruin tiles (there are 4 Relic as well as there are 4 Ruin tiles on the board). Each Relic token are placed on a Ruin tile matches the corresponding color. One of the three objectives is to collect all the Relics in order to win the game. This Relic can only be taken by Explorers, if  a player has an Explorer token on the Ruin tile with a Relic token, he may take the Relic token immediately (without cost).

Player Tokens

Player Tokens

Players take turn in clockwise order, where in each turn players will follow these 3 phases:
A. Preparation Phase
In this phase, players harvest resources based on the tile they control (there are tiles that generates one or two resources). They take the resource cubes from general supply to their personal supply. They can also activate some cards that can be activate during this phase. The important part of this phase is players have the chance to “disgorging” their Zeppelins out from the game board, which players oft to forget, and if they already pass this phase and continue to the next phase, it would be too late to do it. The last thing is players prepare the dice to roll in the next phase. At first, players receive 3 dice by default (the minimum number that players are allowed to roll) and possible to get extra dice from hex tiles.

B. Action Phase
In this phase, the active player roll his already prepared dice and then take some actions. There are several things that a player can do for their actions, one of them is conquering a tile. Players can conquer a tile by allocating their die/dice. The dice allocation is based on the type of the tiles, either by the dice value or by dice pips. If  a tile requires a dice value to conquer, the player must spend a die or a combination of dice with the exact value of the cost. (so in order to conquer a tile with the value of 7 or higher, a player must use at least two dice). But if a tile requires a set of dice with specific numbers of pips on each die, then the player must spend the set with the exact same pips. If the tile that he conquered is adjacent to his own controlled tile(s) then he can place one of his unit tokens from the supply (minding the type of the tile, hill or mountain) or any unit from the board. If it’s not adjacent, then he may only place one of his units that already on the board, not from the supply. This regulation means to limit player’s movement, so players cannot easily place units from the supply into the board. If there is an opposition unit on the tile, the active player conquer the tile as normal (considering there is no protection dice on the unit) and place the opponent unit to the graveyard (except if it’s a Base Camp).

A Player's area (relic, wooden tokens, somnium, resource cube and invention card)

A Player’s area (relic, wooden tokens, somnium, resource cube and invention card)

Players can modify their dice by spending 2 resource cubes to adjust a die value by one, higher or lower (without limit) and also buy an additional die with a Somnium crystal (limit to one).
Players can also buy one available technology cards from the row, the cost to purchase is listed on each card (the cost are resources and Somnium crystal). There are two kinds of technology, an Invention or a Building. Inventions can be stolen, while Buildings cannot. These technology cards have various uses and effects that can be used to help players gain benefit during the game and also complete the Leviathan.
Players also can place a protecting die on one of his units. This protecting die is used to give protection for a unit to make it more difficult to be attacked by other opponents. The protecting die is work just like a die cost in a hex tile, players who want to conquer a tile occupied by a unit with a protecting die must spend an additional die which is higher than the protecting die. In which a protecting die with the value of 6 can only be conquered by spending extra die with a value of 6 and 2 resources to modify it into 7. The restriction of using a protecting die is each unit is limited with only 1 protecting die at any time. A player Base Camp has a natural 5-value protecting die (you can see the Base Camp token’s sticker shows a die image with 5-pips). So using a protecting die to protect a Base Camp is really useable when the protecting die value is 6, better than the natural protection from the Base Camp. Strictly from the rules, that a unit cannot have more than 1 protecting die, so if the Base Camp is only reasonable if the natural protecting die is replaced by a 6-value die.
Players can also modify their dice result by paying 2 resources for 1 value modifier. This modifier is only limited to a value of six. Players may only modify up to 7 if they want to defeat a protecting die with a value of 6. There is no limit how many times a player can spend resources to modify his dice. Modifier is essential, since it’s a dice allocation, the dice roll results are usually need adjustment (if they cannot, it would be very frustrating).
Players can also sacrifice 1 of his Somniums per turn to get an extra die to roll. Once per round players can also recover a unit from the graveyard (this is the only way to get units back) by paying 3 resources.
Players can steal a Somnium crystal, an Invention or a Relic from an opponent. This works precisely the same for conquering another hex tile controlled by the opponent’s Base Camp, the only difference is the Base Camp token is not destroyed (since you’re only stealing). Movement restrictions are applied as normal for this action.

The game in progress

The game in progress

C. End of Turn Phase
After a player had taken all of his actions, he must take End of Turn phase, where a player harvest Somnium with his Drilling units. Each Drilling unit on the board provides 1 extraction points in any hex without the Somnium symbol, if there’s a Somnium symbol, the unit provides 2 extraction points instead of 1. For each 2 extraction points, the player receives 1 Somnium crystal. As mentioned above, players can use these crystals during action phase or to fulfill two of the three winning conditions. After this, a player must discard excessive resources from his supply. Player can only keep 3 resources by the end of this phase, the rest are returned to the general supply.

The game immediately ends when one player fulfill one of the winning conditions and that player wins the game.
The game also offers one expansion and a mini expansion. The expansion’s title is The Way of The Feathered Serpent which adds several new units and new cards for specific winning condition, new hex tiles and also player screens. It’s not considered as a big expansion but packs a bunch of elements that really improve the game in some way. The stickers give players optional units to start the game which is good and provide new gaming experiences.
The mini expansion gives 4 tokens that can be achieved by controlling a ruin tile. This token can be used to counter a protective die with a specific value.

5. Replay Value
It’s definitely has a great replay value. Playing with different people gives different experiences. Not mention the modular board during setup can provide different challenge and situation. The game is quite quick in general, it could last 45-60 minutes with experienced players and has a medium learning curve. It’s basically a racing game in disguise, and more to, it sounds Euro but Ameritrash at heart with three winning conditions. Unlike Euro games, this game doesn’t have programmable choice of actions and players are freely to take available actions to win the game. Playing with different number of players also gives huge impact on the game. Playing with two players will definitely brings tactical elements very crucial with only a single opponent to fight off. When playing with 3 and 4 players, negotiation and table talks would surfacing the game experience while players need to carefully plan their actions against not one but 2 or 3 enemies at once. The game comes with predetermined game board, but since it’s modular, you can use different kind of setup which really-really enhance your experience. You can set it randomly or maybe determine different combinations of terrain tiles.

Game board hexes

Game board hexes

My Thoughts of The Game
My fondness towards the game has been growing since the first time it entered my wishlist. I love the game, it’s not perfect but love this more than other good games because it has values in my opinion. The rich theme and nice artwork really do the game some good. Some players might get fooled to think it is an exploration game, when in real it’s not. Players need to find one spot that they think the best place to put base camp and conquer some spaces that give them resources and defend it. Once players get the best place, they can focus to reach one of the objectives to win the game. In my opinion this game have a Euro feel while it’s really an Ameritrash from the core. If you like direct conflict and ever changing board situation, instant win and stuff, this game might be perfectly fit for you. But if not, you might as well pass the chance to try the game, since the dice roll and other players picking on you are what you will get for the entirety of the game. I love it and it’s definitely has managed to get privilege spot on my collection.

 

Some of the cards

Some of the cards

Note: Images are courtesy of BGG users

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Ameritrash, Board Games, Reviews

 

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