RSS

Tag Archives: Euro

You Can Get Choked Drinking This Potion

dav

Potion Explosion Review
Warning, choke hazard, if you drink any potions on the game! They come in marbles, colorful marbles (okay only four colors, but still…)
Potions do explode, which based on my experience, I know none of this thing, never ever I brew a potion, worse make it explodes. So, when a potion explodes, what that leaves us, a good thing or not? In this game, explosions are always good if it’s your turn. Others, not so much. The game is about making potions (that’s obvious). The game had been on my wish list since last year, which the game had made it’s debut in Essen 2015. Finally I got the game from an online store in Italy (it’s an Italian games, so that explains), which I gave up to wait for English version, and got the Italian instead.

What made me drawn into this game anyway, aside from the marbles? Well, the marbles, I mean the dispenser (they call it that) that hold all the marbles looks spectacular from my seat or anybody’s. The dispenser is unique not also in form and shape, but also how it works. It holds all the marbles and can slide them over for game purpose, so a design with purpose is always a plus on my side. Plus the game play seems simple enough to produce fun with casual friends (when I don’t do heavy Euros but need something to occupy my time around 60-90 minutes).

The Theme
This is very abstract, so don’t expect much but it’s theme is applied perfectly. Players are chemistry students learning about the reaction of mixing potions. Now the test begins and they will compete with each other to prove that they’re the best among many in front of the professor. Player with the most points at the end of the game wins the game to be the most talented student of the professor.

dav

Inside the Box

The Game Components
Marbles (of course), the dispenser, some tokens and potion tiles. The marbles come in four colors (blue, red, yellow and black) and the colors are not solid, so they are kinda different from each other. The game comes with two extra marbles for each color, substitutes if you lose a marble or two, a nice gesture from the publisher. The potion tiles are fun to look at, colorful, but a bit thin than it should, but then again, if its thicker than it is, the pile would be very high and won’t fit into the inserts. Sadly the holes in the potions weren’t cut perfectly in place, many misses that some OCD players will find them annoying. The marble dispenser need to be assembled for the first time, and it’s quite fragile, so glue it down is a good solution, since you can store the assembled dispenser back into the plastic insert (yes they provides a very useful insert) without the need to disassemble it again. And the in-game issue I have with the dispenser is that, your playing surface need to be totally flat, a degree tilt makes the marbles deviate slide through one of the slots.  One last thing is, the box quality is not very good, I own the first Italian edition from Ghenos / Horrible games and it’s kinda thin, flimsy and easily torn, luckily the game is not that heavy.

sdr

Playing The Game

The Game Play
It’s very simple, on your turn you must take one marble (ingredient) from the dispenser, and you take any explosion caused by your action (2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other and explode). These marbles go into your hand and you must allocate these marbles onto your available potions (which you will always have 2 in your brewing desk) based on the matching color. When a potion tile is complete (all the slots are filled with matching marbles), you flip it face down and remove it from your brewing desk and return all the marbles on it back to the dispenser.
This complete potion can be consumed (aside giving you points at the end of the game) to gain it’s effect (which could be varies depends on the potion types). Once you consumed it, you turned it upside down to remind that you already drink it.
You also can (once per turn) ask help from the professor, which allow you to get additional ingredient from the dispenser (but keep in mind, no explosion will happen even if 2 or more marbles of the same color collide with each other) to help you finish your potion during your turn, but of course it’s not free, you must take a -2 token which will count against your points at the end of the game.
You can also get achievement token by completing 3 potions of the same type or 5 different potions. Each achievement token will give you 4 points at the end of the game, and these achievement tokens also what trigger the end game aside from the available potions from the pile. So once the game end is triggered, each other players will have one final turn, including the player who triggers it.

dav

Brewing Dry Potions

My Thoughts
It’s a very fun game, light and easy to play. What you do is take a marble and see the magic from marble explosions. Then try to complete your potions, maybe with the help of the professor or your own arsenal of potions. Though its quite straightforward, there are some way to arrange your moves to get the best chain combos outcome, timing is essential. Either by asking help or using potions in the right time can change the outcome  of your actions big time. Because of this reason, some might found this game prone to AP players. Personally I take this game as it is, a light game that you can play with your family, non-casual gamers and other friends who thinks winning is not the real purpose but to have a great time playing and seeing marbles explodes (not literally). I found the game to be very easy (or not punishing) since you still count the points from completed potions even if you already consumed it for its effect. I think you can try the game without counting the points from used potions, that could be more challenging.
But not to ignore the fact that there are many interesting combos based on the mixture of player’s action, potion uses and professor’s help which timing plays a great part of it. So given the small scope of constraints in the game, players can really work the game out based on what options shown in front of them, a very good plus if you are into that sort of combo thing.
Talking about practical time for setup and tear down, I think this one has a problem (at least for me), since preparing the game is kinda fiddly and long when it comes to sort all the potions when you randomize potions to use in the game. There’s no other way, you have to choose either take more time to setup or more time to tear down. Or maybe you can play it with all the types (in which I don’t know how it affect the balance of the game).

Replay Value
The game comes with 8 different kind of potions and you only play it with 6 potions, so 2 random potions won’t be in the game. Aside from that, there’s no other element to add the replay value.

dav

8 kinds of potions

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Board Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

dav

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).

IMG_20151202_210800.jpg

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.

dav

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).

dav

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.

dav

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.

dav

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.

dav

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

[mini review] Trickerion: Legends of Illusion

Mini Review of Trickerion: Legends of Illusion
In which I know this doesn’t do justice to the game, because there’s nothing mini in the game (except the crystal shards compared to the stone). But nevertheless I was so excited about the game that I thought it would be nice to make a short review about the game.

image

Kickstarter Edition with Legend Box (Exclusive box sleeve)

This game was released in 2015 via Kickstarter (in 2014) and had garnered some buzz among the geek. I backed the legend box with exclusive contents (dark alley expansion along with magician powers). The game is heavy, there are a lot of components stuffed inside, hundreds of cards, tokens and trickerion shards, huge player boards (yes not the game board itself, let me make myself clear that when Rahdo claimed this game as “devourer of tables” I was wrong to think the game has huge game board, in fact the main board is kinda small considering my expectation to that title).

image

Game Components

 

I love its visual presentation (basically one of many reasons why I backed the game) with a bit classic and fantasy touch bring the glorious past time full of magic and wonders. But the character illustrations are another thing, not really fond of them.
The game is looking fairly complex from a glance, many components and bits scattered around that in the same time it gives you amazement and confusion. So how is the meat really taste?
I’ve played it twice in full mode with the expansion (one of them also with Magician powers), we hit it right off the bat with full mode just because we’re arrogant bastards, yes we are. How on earth we cannot handle this game, if we already beaten Kanban or The Gallerist? Well, we’re kinda mistaken. In the game each player will take a role as magician, who will compete in such prestigious arena where the legend himself (Dahlgaard) being the host. In order to perform, you magicians need to learn tricks and prepare them before the shows begin. But to prepare tricks, player need to have the required components, in which if they don’t have them, they need to get them in the market row. Once prepared they also need to set the trick into the stage located in the theater, where players will book stages to perform the best they can. Once they perform they will get fame and coins based on their tricks and other bonuses.

image

Game in Progress (Downtown)

 

In the game players will assign their characters (Magician, apprentices and specialists) to run errands across the town’s 4 locations (5 if you are playing with Dark Alley expansion). Placing the characters are purely worker placement but with innovative twist (with assignment cards). These cards are assigned face down in each characters and players will reveal them simultaneously, this will create tension and mind reading play as players will guess what other players will do in a round. Also each character also has a base action point that they can add with the slot modifier based on where that character is placed. This combined mechanism give players interesting decision making during the game. A headache to begin with. Also the assignment cards are limited for each location, so players cannot as they wish, send all their characters into a single locations to abuse the usage of that location in a single round, in other words, your management is crucial.
Another interesting part is the trick cards. There are 4 trick categories (Escape artist, illusionist, spiritual and mechanical) that are available and each magician has one of these categories as their personal preference. By learning tricks, players build their engine on their board so that their tricks can gain profit (of coins, fame points and shards). But preparing the tricks is another headache, you need to mix and match the components required among the tricks you have so that you can get the components from market row as efficient as you can be. I found this to be the most challenging part of the game (though it’s not the only one).

image

Stage Performance on the Theater

When you want to perform, you need to go to theater, where in a round (one week) magicians will fight for stages and performance schedules so they can gain the most out of the performances. First of all, if magicians want to perform they need to book the stage (their magicians do nothing with the 3 action points) and also set up the trick (although two actions can be done separately in different weeks). When booking a stage players can choose to book the day they will perform (turn order) from Thursday to Sunday, where Sunday will gain extra profit while Thursday will gain less (very thematic, I like that the theme are tailored quite well into the game). Setting up tricks let players placing their trick markers into the performance cards (it’s like a mini puzzle where players will match the trick into slots and creating links). These cards will then be performed by magicians on the stage. All tricks placed on the chosen performance cards will be scored (regardless who activates them). So order of activation is very important, not mention that performing also get bonuses from the links, specialists supporting the performance and also the card itself. The game is complex, though it’s look simple by the game phase breakdown. Players need to build their tricks arsenal and put them in the right spots and in the right time to steal the highlight from anyone else.

dav

Player Board

Honestly the game takes a very long time, we played both games in 4 hours plus (exclude the game explanation) and there were lots of errors because of the complicated and fiddly rules. But in overall, I love this game very much. It scratches that itchy feel to build something and tinker with it. The interactions are high where players will battle positions on each locations and when performing. I love the theme, and how it integrates very well into the game. This game is surely one of the best games in my experience.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Quilt can be fun, seriously!

pic2270442_mdPatchwork Review
Have you ever make a quilt? Not everyone knows about quilts and how to make them. Based from Wikipedia, Quilt is a multi-layered textile, traditionally composed of three layers of fiber: a woven cloth top, a layer of batting or wadding, and a woven back, combined using the technique of quilting, stitches which hold the three layers together. Historically quilts were frequently used as bed covers; this use persists today, but quilts also frequently are non-utilitarian works of art.

image

Quilts are distinguished from other types of blanket because they are pieced together from several layers of cloth by stitches or ties. Where a single piece of fabric is used for the top, (a “whole cloth quilt”), the key decorative element is likely to be the pattern of stitching, but where the top is “pieced” from a patchwork of smaller fabric pieces, the pattern and color of the pieces will be important.

image

So yes, not everyone knows about Quilting and not everyone give a damn. For some this is a work of art, for others, it’s a boring and requires some sets of skill to do it, and yes it relates to female activity. But guess what, Uwe Rosenberg, the man behind the famous Agricola and Caverna designed a 2-player game based on this as it’s theme and it’s called Patchwork. So what players do in this game exactly? I am sure not fighting over someone else quilt. Two players will compete to get the most buttons while in the same time complete their quilt as whole as they (of course without leaving any hole or incomplete patches).
The game was published in 2014 by Lookout Games and several other publishers for localization. It was launched as a part of Uwe Rosenberg’s 2-player game series just like Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small and Le Havre: The Inland Port (the game box is just as the same size with these games, 7.67 x 7.67 x 1.77 inches).

image

It’s a small game, you can easily carry it around, but of course not in your pocket, it’s not a pocket-sized game after all. In this game, each player will have his own patch board (empty at first) to begin with and get starting buttons (buttons are the main currency in this game, just consider it as money). There is a time board that’s placed in the center and players will randomize various shaped and sized tiles to circle this board. Place a marker on the smallest size of the tile, the game starts with the marker from this place. Players will take turns to do an action until the game ends, when all players time markers already reach the last place on the track.

The actions that a player can take are either take a patchwork tile or advance his time marker. When taking a tile, a player can only take one from the available 3 tiles in front of the tile marker currently on. Each tile has it’s cost, whether in buttons, time or both. To take a tile, a player will have to pay the cost (return an amount of buttons to the supply or advance his time marker along the track or both) and place the tile onto empty spaces on his board. The placement must be legal, which has to follow these requirements, the whole part of the tile must be placed onto empty space on the board, no part of the tile should be placed out of the board, and the tile cannot overlapping another tile previously placed on the board. If paying the cost of time makes a player time marker pass on a button icon on the time track, the player will receive income from his board based on the amount of  button icons available on tiles he placed on his board. And also if his time marker pass on a single bonus tile, he takes that tile (as long as it’s not yet taken by other player) and must immediately place it on his board. This is the only way a players can patch a single hole on his board. Once a player time marker reaches the last place, his turn ends. If his opponent is not done yet, he wait until his opponent reach the end space.

image

The other action is to advance his own time marker up into one space after his opponent’s marker currently at and gain buttons as many spaces as the time marker advanced. If this action lead the marker pass over button icon and/or single bonus tile, it triggers the effect(s). Also the first player who complete 7×7 grid tile on his board, he’ll receive a bonus worth 7 points at the end of the game.

After all players finish their turns, they count their buttons and then subtract it with their minus points from empty spaces (-2 points for each empty space). The player with most buttons wins the game.

Patchwork is a simple game that only lasts for about 20-30 minutes, but unfortunately the space you need to play the game is not practically small in terms with other small games, it takes over a dining table for 2 to play this game. The rules are simple where casuals and non-gamer alike are able to play instantly. The twist is that the game has very deep calculations to do better optimized moves. So it’s hard to master but easy to play. Experienced players do better in this game compared to new players. This game requires highly calculated decisions to manage outcomes over incomes, whether the tile you’re trying to get is worth the cost or not. Larger and unusual shaped tiles are usually cheap and can cover large spaces on your board but not gives many buttons during income, while smaller and simple ones usually have expensive cost, but give more buttons. So players need to balance their outcomes with the potential income regarding the timing of the tile comes into place in the board. It’s interesting and full of important choices for some of those who find this calculated mathematics formulas as interesting puzzle. It’s purely abstract and those who doesn’t like abstract games might just not like this game, but who knows? This game can also works as a medium to teach children about simple math but still engaging in the game element.
But how about the replay value, considering that experience players will get the hang of it eventually to optimize their moves, fortunately the main challenge not lies in the game, but in your opponents. So it will still engaging as long you have a challenging opponent to play with.

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

20150513_095815

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

20150627_094517-1

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.

dav

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.

dav

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).

20130923_171321

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Under The Shadow of The Galaxy

Box Cover

Box Cover

Eminent Domain Review

In 2011 Tasty Minstrel Games published this game under Kickstarter project which was one of the games from TMG that pioneered games through crowd-funding in Kickstarter. The game was designed by game designer Seth Jaffee who also takes the title of head of development in TMG, and also responsible for games like Terra Prime and Wizard’s Tower. As you guys might recall or aware about how this game is similar or resemble Race for The Galaxy (you guys should know this game. But in case you don’t, you suck then.) up to some extent, it’s definitely different from that legendary game.

1. Theme
The title Eminent Domain does somehow give such a sci-fi feeling into it with unknown jargon about political, science or even sounded geek / nerd enough for common folk. I am for example not really good at English but vocabulary is my strongest suit, did not know what’s that about. As I looked at some kind of dictionary in the net, this is what it means:

The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

And I still don’t get it. Never mind… In overall the game has Sci-Fi theme with planetary exploration throughout the universe, which relate to planets. galaxy, spaceships and else. In this game, players become a leader of an Empire  ‘that only Seth Jaffee knows what’, and they will competitively expand their empire by taking another planets (by any means necessary) to gain points and such. By the short description of the game, it’s more or less sounds like space 4X game which you need to explore, expands, exterminate and exploit, in which maybe there is a Space 4X element inside.

2. Artworks
They are beautiful. Yes, this is the very fist time I encountered Gavan Brown’s awesome works. He made the planets really stood out, subtle with contrast and kinda have a radiant effect. It’s very gorgeous, all the Sci-Fi design and icon elements are perfectly designed and placed with stunning role icons, and he did that over the dark black background, magic! The game has easy to differentiate icons but also cool and brilliant. The design shapes are mostly geometrical shape in subtle form, pretty much solid 3D vector design element, playing with awesome combination between color tones, shades and shines. And when I looked at his other works on games like Undermining and Skyline, I knew that he’s a specialist with this kind of style. I am his fan for this style.

Technology Cards

Technology Cards

3. Game Components
Eminent Domain is a card game, which is pretty natural that the game does come out with mostly cards. The other components are resource tokens in 4 different colors (blue, green, purple and orange), small board, planet & player tiles, ship miniatures and Influence tokens. The cards quality is great, not sure how the durability since I sleeved my cards. I do recommend to sleeve them since the cards will be often shuffled. The resource tokens are fine, though it’s nothing of important, but they are somehow smooth in edges and paint, a plus on the component quality. The board is thick, with glossy finished (maybe this is one of the stand out components in the game) just like the box. At first I thought glossy finish is a bad idea, but as it turned out, it really stand the test of time. The bad thing about glossy finish is, frictions and scratch easily wear the glossy surface, which could make a devastating result on the look of the surface. The only thing that confusing is the ship miniatures, it has good looking shape (plastic material, just the same thing like Eclipse ships) but many people wondered why the ships come with 3 different sizes, when the rules explain they don’t have the same value. The designer (or TMG) explained that they’ll be used for future expansion (nice planning don’t you guys think?). The Influence tokens are in pentagonal shapes, some in black and in blue color. The blue is only used for end game purpose. One thing about the rulebook, though it lacks some detail examples, the paper material quality is top notch. Love the smooth finish, one of the best rulebooks out there. Oh yeah, one last thing, the box is awesome, sturdy as it is and of course also with the glossy finish just like the board.

Game Components

Game Components

4. Game Play
Eminent Domain is played in several rounds, based on several conditions, one being one or two of the roles are depleted or the black Influence tokens are depleted. These conditions trigger the last round. At the beginning of the game, players get a random face down starting planet tile which they put in front of them, a starting deck consist of several roles (2 cards each for Colonize, Research, Survey, Produce/Trade, 1 card each for Warfare and Politic) in total of 10 cards, they shuffle them and draw 5 cards to form their hands. The other role cards are placed on the board based on the type of roles while the planet cards are shuffled and placed face down beside the game board.
Starting with the first player clockwise, each player performs their turn one by one. A player’s turn consists of 3 steps, Action, Role and Clean Up.

Action step is optional, players do not have to commit this step, they may skip this and going straight into step 2 (Role). This step allows a player to play one card from his hand and do the action described on the card text under “Action” text. The player immediately take the action and then continues to the next step, Role. Unlike Action step, Role is a mandatory step, meaning each player must take the step no matter what. Taking Role step is choosing one of the 5 roles available such as Survey, Warfare, Colonize, Produce/Trade or Research. After a player choose a role, he take a card of that role to his play area and then he may ‘boost’ the role with cards from his hand (boosting a role is playing cards that have the same symbol with the role that the player choose.). For example, when a player choose a Warfare role, he takes a Warfare card (if any) from the role stack and he may play cards that have a warfare symbol from his hand to boost his role. Role is a very simple action based on that role but have the weigh based on the number of symbols played for that role. If a player play a Warfare role and play cards that have 4 additional symbol of Warfare, he gets 5 symbols in total. In this case, the Warfare role let players to collect a fighter for each Warfare symbol on his play area (or he can attack a planet instead of collect fighters). Not only role can be boosts by cards from hand but also some planets provide role symbols that count toward boosting a role.
After the active player complete a role, another players in clockwise order from the active player, may “Follow” the role or “Dissent”. Following a role means the player may take the chosen role with only cards from his hand (he’s not taking a card from the role stack), there are limitation upon what actions of a role that following can do, for example with Warfare role, following players can only collect fighters not attack a planet. If a player does not want to “Follow” he can “Dissent” which mean he draw 1 card from his deck to his hand, just that simple.
The next step is Clean Up. This step is also a mandatory, which the active players may discard or keep all or some cards that still in his hand, the cards on his play area are discarded, and then he draws cards back to his hand limit (normally up to 5 cards). When a player already finish this step, the next player will take his turn.

Game Board

Game Board

As I mentioned above, there are 5 roles in the game and I will explain all those 5 roles below.
SURVEY
Survey cards provide an action to draw two cards from player’s deck. while the role provide planets. When taking a Survey role, the leader (active player) may draw planet cards as many as the Survey symbols, while other players may “Follow” with -1 symbols. The planet cards drawn this way do not all come to player’s play area, the player needs to choose only one from the drawn cards, the rest are discarded. Players must choosing planets face down, they cannot look on the front side of the planet cards before deciding which one to keep. Unlike any other cards, planet cards use 2 sides, the front side shows the planet’s worth, role symbols, planet type, bonus, name and also the type of resource(s) it generates. The back side only shows the type of the planet as well as the cost to attack and colonize it. So in other words, player can only consider what to keep based on these information, what planet that he wants and how he want to expand, either by colonizing or attacking it.

WARFARE
Warfare is one of the two available options for players to acquire a planet (the other way is Colonize). Keeping a card from Survey role does not entitle a player to acquire that planet. The planet was only surveyed (you can say this is the explore aspect of the 4X in the game) and you need to acquire it to be officially own the planet. Face down planet cards in your tableau contributes nothing in the end so, it’s always a good thing to expand your empire with planets especially those that give you benefits along the way. Warfare action lets you collect 1 fighter from the supply (just take a ship miniature from the supply no matter the size). The Role also lets you collect fighters as many as the Warfare symbols that you commit. As exception, the leader may attack a planet (only one planet, no matter how many planets or fighters available in his disposal) in his tableau instead collecting fighters. This can only be done by the leaders (active player), the other players that “Follow” can only collect fighters no matter what the leader choose (attack or collect fighters). To attack a planet, a player must return a number of fighters from his possession to the supply based on the value on the planet cards with ship icon. This value determines how many fighters needed to successfully attack this planet. After returning the required fighters, the player flip the planet cards face up. This shows the exterminate aspect from the 4X by attacking a planet.

COLONIZE
Aside from attacking a planet, players can Colonize it. Colonize action lets players to tuck a Colonize card under the planet card or settle it. This card is considered stuck until the planet is successfully settled or attacked. Just like Warfare, planet cards also have a Colonize value to be meet. Once a planet has a number of cards equal with the Colonize value, he can choose to settle (Expand) the planet with Colonize action or Role. Just like the Warfare, the leader may tuck Colonize cards or settle it instead. Players that follow the Role can tuck cards under a planet card. So Colonize has the same function as Warfare, the only different thing is the means of getting there. While they seems similar, actually they have completely different approach. Warfare collects fighters, while Colonize tuck Colonize cards under a planet card. This means, when you collecting fighters, the cards are simply discarded and you will be getting any, but Colonize don’t Unsettled planet cards that have Colonize cards under, hold your Colonize cards, they’re not instantly discarded after use, they only back into your discard pile once the planet has been settled. So the play mode is different, which it has advantage in one side and disadvantage in other side, it’s up to you which one you want to choose or maybe you can choose both modes.

PRODUCE/TRADE
Produce/Trade (Exploit) is one of several ways to gain Influence points. Players gain 1 Influence point for each resource token traded. So before players can trade resources with Influence points, they need to produce the resources first. This card is the only one that has 2 functions, As to Produce or to Trade. So during action players can play this card either to Produce 1 resource (given he has an available slot in his planets to contain a resource token) or to Trade a resource (only if he has a resource to trade for). With Produce/Trade Role, players can do the same with action but with more capacity instead of only one resource. Of course this is restricted from the available slots and resources. Each resource slot in a planet can only contain 1 resource of the designated type (unless the slot has question mark icon, in which player can choose what type or resource he want to produce each time). So players cannot stack a resource token in a single slot.

RESEARCH
Research cards provide action to thin a player’s deck. The action lets players to remove up to 2 cards in player’s hand from the game. So if a player does not need specific roles, he can remove them from his deck to keep his deck efficient. This action is usually used later in the game after a player managed to build his tableau and needs to keep his deck efficient enough for his tableau engine to work at it best. When taking the Role, Research symbols give players a technology card. Technology cards are divided into 3 types based on the main planet types (Fertile, Advance and Metallic). These technology cards are not random, players can choose from the available whenever they take the Research Role, of course with condition. They must meet the required Research symbols (there are 3 levels, 3 or 5 or 7 Research symbols) and also they have acquired the minimum prerequisite planets.
On the promo bonus planet cards, there are Utopian planets, which is new type aside from the original 3. This kind of planets useful for Research role, which it can mirror one kind of planet that you already acquire (so for instance a player only have 1 Fertile planet and 1 Utopian, if he can boost the role to 5 Research symbols, he can take the cost 5 technology cards that required 2 Fertile planets, the other Fertile planet is mirrored by the Utopian planet. But players cannot use 2nd Utopian planet to acquire a cost 7 technology card.). Acquired tech card is immediately placed in player’s hand, which he can decide to discard or keep for next turn during Clean Up step.

POLITICS
This card is not among the 5 Roles but available at the first of each player starting deck. Politic card can only be played as action, which lets a player to remove the Politic card out of the game and take any one card from the available roles. This give players flexibility and different approach early in the game between players.

Planet Card (back and front)

5. Replay Value
So, basically the game has some good-looking replay value based on the role cards. You can choose what strategy to choose when playing, whether by collecting planets, heavy investing on technology cards, exploit the resources on your planets or maybe you hunt down the prestige planets that give you big punch on Influence points. So, there they are, and the combination of them could give you a good solid replay value. But don’t get too much high hope for the different kind of play. It’s basically the same game play experience, been that done that. It’s not like you can always find surprises on your each play. Of course you can try different technology but the feel is still the same, the different technology only provides flavor on your already known dish. The only random thing in the game is your card draw and the planet cards.

6. Strategy
So as you see based on the brief game play explanation, players need to collect Influence points, and to collect them, there are 3 possible ways, settle / attack planets, trade resources, points from technology cards.
Planets always give players points (Prestige planet gives the most points with 6 points while the other planets can give 2-3 or even 5 points based on the detail specification of the planets). So, it’s the easiest way to collect points, since at the start of the game you need to get planets to work up your table and collecting planets are something that already up in your alley. Either you choose to collect them with settling or attacking. As I explained above settling need the Colonize action or role in which it will hold down your cards in planets before it’s settled, so it could be a good thing or bad. A good thing if you want to slim your deck at the moment, but it’s not if you don’t have enough colonize card or symbol left in your tableau or hand. Symbols from planets are definitely important since you can “Follow” other player’s role even if you don’t have cards in your hand. But for Colonize, you still need cards tucked under planets aside from symbols on your tableau. Unlike Colonize, Warfare has more flexible way and easier to control since you collect fighters and spend them to attack planets. The cards still cycled as normal from your discard to your draw pile. Sometimes it’s a good thing to check for planet’s requirement when doing survey, since the requirement is not the same, on settling or attacking them. Of course you can choose to use them both (Colonize and Warfare).

Influence Tokens

Influence Tokens

The main concept of the game is really lies on the tableau building aside from the deck building. Players improve their deck to build their tableau. Build tableau means made an engine to generate points. Which in this case, planets are the engines. Not only they give end game points, they also the source for collecting points from resources. Once you get a good foothold of planets that generate good deal of resources you should shift the play with produce and trade them to get points. Start thinning deck from Survey, Warfare and Colonize cards.

The last thing is by collecting Technologies. Technology cards require planets and Research symbols to achieve so get the basic requirement fast, and then choose cards that could help you remove cards and more draws and also Research symbols. Tech cards with 5 or 7 Research symbols give Influence points at the end of the game, there are the things you need to after.

The hard thing is to balance all the strategy so you can maximize them as effective as it could. I still think it’s the hardest part of the game, timing the balance of strategies during the game.

My Thought of The Game
When this game was known to people, the first thing that they remember is, of course, Race for The Galaxy. Can’t blame them alright, it surely looks the same. Planets, Sci-Fi, cards, and role selection? Well, either the designer put a challenge to his awesome idea or he couldn’t think something else, trying to play fencing with the famous game from Thomas Lehmann. Of course I must agree this one has better artworks (kudos to Mr. Gavan here), but one to his own taste. Looking deeper to the game you will even more sure about it with the same role selection of produce, trade, survey, attacking or settling a planet and also different planet types (no wonder, no wonder). But there are major differences between these two games, Eminent Domain has something that Race for The Galaxy doesn’t, which is deck building, and this deck building mechanic is what makes this game interesting. Seth Jaffee not only tried to design a game as good as Race for The Galaxy, but also better in a way. In Race for The Galaxy players draw cards from a communal draw pile, in which you can safely said it’s too random. Building an engine that is very crucial to win the game but really depending on your card draws is really gives me the ‘butterfly on my stomach’ feeling. So if you fail to get card that you need, you need backup plans (many backup plans). But in this game, the random card draws are minimized to your personal deck, and you build your deck with cards that you already know what by taking it from the Roles.

At first I experienced teaching games to other players and they somehow found minor difficulty on the role symbols and how to really really understand the principle of the role step. But once they understand that, it’s so simple and the icons really help them. The game plays quite fast, around 45-60 minutes on a 4-player game, the only downside is the Technology cards, since all the tech cards are available to all players, selecting and examining them take some time, not to mention you are new to the game. It’s a good thing to set aside tech cards for first play to let new players get used to the game flow. I found this game is quite good and it managed to find a heart in my collection, though obviously based on my plays and game experience it needs more play times and I sucks at this game. It’s hard to win the game (at least for me, but thank God it’s still not as bad as me playing Race for The Galaxy). Don’t think I dislike Race for The Galaxy, I think it’s one of the great games and worth having and playing. Love it in fact, but I could never win the game and I decided to stop playing the game with the fear I might hate the game if it keeps going the same (stupid me, shame indeed). So in short, Race for The Galaxy is a great game but it’s not a game for me, while Eminent Domain really hit me in the face compared with Race for The Galaxy.
It’s a bad thing that my girlfriend does not really into (or can I say she dislike.. same thing goes with my most favorite game, Eclipse) the theme of sci-fi, especially anything that has to do with aliens and it’s home (PLANETS), so it’s a hard work to ask her to play the game.
As with the game play, I find it hard to keep the deck balance in time. At first of course you need to build your deck with survey, colonize / warfare, but in the end you need to run the engine and invest in produce/trade and research, so to keep things efficient you need thinning you deck, which I find the most difficult part from the game. A good polished game indeed, but I’m afraid people mostly compared the game with Race for The Galaxy as they look the game pretty much a clone or you can say RfTG wannabe. The game recently has it’s expansion, Eminent Domain: Escalation, which contain new cards and fixed typos with scenarios that are new to the game. It should be interesting which gives you more replay value and at last the use of different size ships, but I still not yet getting it, considering it rarely hits my table. Maybe one day…

Game In Progress

Game In Progress

 Images are courtesy of BGG users and publisher.

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: