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

 

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Feld Brings Mancala Over The Top!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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What is a ‘Point-Salad’ Game?

Hi guys, as I strolling around the geek site (we all could come clean and said it’s Boardgamegeek.com) and find a specific jargon called ‘point-salad’ games which sounds very alien (for me at least). Once I look deeper on the subject matter, it happens that ‘point-salad’ games is one of the categories that define game’s scoring mechanism.
So what is a ‘point-salad’ games? I found no exact description for this (yet) but based on browsing efforts on the net these are what I found…

If you don’t know what “point salad” is it refers to the relatively recent school of design in which there are such a wide variety of ways to get points that it actually becomes difficult to take actions without getting some amount of points as compensation. These games are often derided as being “unfocused” but I like to see them as “open-ended” and would like to get more of them.
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/161603/point-salad-games

A game where nearly every possible action you take nets you points, if not immediately then through some intermediate with easily calculated value, typically for no apparent thematic reason. Dominant Species is not a point salad – there are clear goals, and you play many small moves toward those goals prior to their being scored.
http://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/comments/1xr2k3/what_is_point_salad_exactly/

Or you can get the idea of the scoring mechanism right from a designer’s mind like Jeffrey D. Allers in his article below
http://berlingamedesign.blogspot.com/2013/03/tossing-point-salad.html
He, while believe how game designers should stay away with this kind of scoring mechanism and stick to the ‘meat-and-potatoes’ games, managed to provide brief and short description of it.

So ‘point-salad’ games is a scoring mechanism in game designs that offers players to get points with most of the actions available in the game (so this kinda makes it easier to gain points in a game). Though the points rewarded by each actions are varies, it’s still generate points. This scoring mechanism was becoming quite popular recently thanks to Stefan Feld’s games (as some people might assume), most notoriously was Castles of Burgundy.
In Castles of Burgundy, getting points are not difficult, players only need collecting tiles and place them on their estate. You gain points from animal tiles, a specific building tile, selling goods, complete regions, complete bonus tiles and also end game points from workers and silverlings and other knowledge tiles. That sounds a million ways to gain points, wait til you know about Trajan. In case of Trajan, players gain points from completing Trajan tiles, constructing buildings, advancing on the senate tracks, shipping goods, scoring regions and of course bonus points.

I guess by this two examples one can have a good understanding of a ‘point-salad’ game. But in designing a game does not simply boiled down by the scoring mechanism. Designers tends to work around various aspects and other complicated elements of game designing, and a scoring mechanism is one small part of that sacred process (we all can agree on this, can’t we?). So a designer cannot just say “I want to make a ‘point-salad’ game!” (on the contrary of my remark, of course they can!) but a whole lot of things are in considerations. But what if, Stefan Feld did want to make ‘point-salad’ games in the beginning. It’s his real intention, so it gave births to few of his prolific games like Castles of Burgundy, Trajan and Bora-Bora. It still a valid argument though.

Many ways to score points from player's estate

Many ways to score points from player’s estate

Putting games into a specific category is not easy, because there are games that have no tangible value on the subject or perhaps the subject itself does not have a specific range of values to restraint an object to falls into that category. So I can still say Drum Roll is a ‘worker-placement’ game as well as Troyes. Castles of Burgundy was released onto the market on 2011 (around 3 years ago) but then again, there are so many games before it that in my opinion have this ‘point-salad’ scoring mechanism. One of them is Agricola. Of course it’s not that all the actions in Agricola give points, but looking at the end game scoring, almost all the aspects of the game are scored, which led players to apply a specific mindset that you need to cover all things in Agricola to do fine (considering the penalty for not doing so). So players need to get all the aspects and through these, score points. This kind of scoring really led me to think that Agricola is also a ‘point-salad’ game. Looking back at this, there are also 2 different definitions about a ‘point-salad’ game, is it about all or most of the actions provide points or maybe each turn players generate points? What do you mean by “generate points each turn”? Let’s look at Russian Railroad for instance, though it probably falls into engine building category, but RR is not like the usual engine building games, but it really points generator. In RR, scoring happens each round, not triggered by the player (through actions) though players can gain points also from their actions. The main issue is the round scoring, in which if players already build an engine (no matter how small), they’ll earn points each round. It’s their job to make it bigger and better. Sounds like snowball economy right? (now I remember about Scepter of Zavandor). Does this kind of scoring mechanism is also falls into a ‘point-salad’ category?

Points generator

Points generator

So what about it compared with ‘multiple paths to victory’ games?  ‘Multiple paths to victory’ is as the name suggests, has more than 1 path to gain victory. While at first, it’s not fair placing reward and game play into the same field. ‘Multiple paths to victory’ offers players several ways to gain victory, unlike the single path. Games with single path to victory are usually far simpler than multiple paths. Their objective usually straight forward / direct (collect points from X or maybe reach a specific condition). Okay collecting the most points is a bit ambiguous, but what I meant was the way to collect point is simple and only from one way. I don’t know, but I think Power Grid is not a multiple path to victory game. The only way to win is to supply electricity to houses that provides the most lucrative profit while maintain the least expense for purchasing power plant, resources and networks. Unlike, for instance, civilization games (Sid Meier’s Civilization) that have more than 1 way to achieve victory. In civ games, players can achieve victory by expanding their territory (through war or peace), by developing technologies or even cultures and wealth. Another example is Wiraqocha (though the game is not common, but I found it as good example for a ‘multiple paths to victory’ game. In Wiraqocha, to win the game players can complete one of the three conditions, through collecting resources, collecting relics and build Leviathan (giant flying machine). So there are 3 ways to achieve victory and each one of these conditions are very different by nature. These ‘paths’ change the nature of one’s play, how they plan and act during the game. I think it’s the core principles of the game with ‘multiple paths to victory’. Though a ‘point-salad’ game has this kind of feeling with many ways to score points, but I think they are also different in some way. I believe Trajan is a ‘point-salad’ game but also a ‘multiple paths to victory’ game. It has different strategies to offer, players can either choose to rely heavily in shipping or construction or military or politic or forum. But the actions on these ‘paths’ are not always provide players with points (maybe yes, in the end, but it’s not fixed), aside some actions provide points down into the smallest element such as completing a Trajan tile (even the points is not the main purpose of the action) which looks more like a small reward.

Actions in Trajan

Actions in Trajan

Another example is Tokaido. in Tokaido the bridge between a ‘point-salad’ game and ‘multiple paths to victory’ is a bit short, supported by the simple game mechanic of ‘point-to-point movement’ provides clearer perception towards ‘point-salad’ scoring mechanism. Players move their marker from one point to another point, do the actions and mostly get points (almost everything provide points). But as it’s actions are different, players can maximizing their actions to what actions provided them the most points (this looking back at each character’s ability that give them benefit in what factor). Of course it still leaning on a ‘point-salad’ game rather than a ‘multiple paths to victory’ game because of the game complexity level. In Tokaido, a player who focuses on scenery and ‘onsen’ might not get the best by taking a ‘souvenir’ action but nevertheless that action gives him points, unlike Trajan for example, a Trajan player that focuses on shipping and politic might not get the best of his military or construction action. In Trajan, focus is the core principles, entering the shallow water might not be so profitable after all.

Leaning towards to a 'point-salad' game

Leaning towards to a ‘point-salad’ game

Though there’s still no definitive answer and meaning of ‘point-salad’ games, but after my efforts to give it definition by examples and comparison of different games, should give you a better (if not good) understanding about what it is. In the end, there are still much more to learn, much more to conceal and reveal through the eyes of professionals and gaming experiences throughout the community. I hope this article is good enough to amuse it’s reader and also great if attracts people to board gaming hobby.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Article, Board Games

 

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The Castles of Feld

Box Cover

Box Cover

The Castles of Burgundy Review

For long I have wanted to do a review for this game. It is one of my favorite games and it’s from my most favorite game designer, Stefan Feld. You would know the game if you’re not a newbie to the hobby. Feld has received many great responses for this game, some even might say that it’s the best game he ever invented. For those who don’t know, Burgundy is a region located in East-Central France. As you can relate the title of the game with the background, you can see that there are lot of castles in Burgundy, in which were built during Middle-ages. In this game, each players will become an Aristocrat who controls an estate of settlements. Players will compete with each other to build the most prestigious estate during the game.

The Theme of The Game
The Castles of Burgundy, while having a theme (Euro style) is really a Euro game with pasted theme. Nothing special here, it’s just you are bla bla bla, controlling bla bla bla, competing with other player in bla bla bla, to get the highest points by the end of the game to win it. So it’s really boiled down to the game play mechanics rather than the theme’s importance in a game. In this game, you will become someone powerful enough with authority and decision to shape the land that’s given to you by building some settlements in such a specific manner that (instantly / eventually) give you prestigious value that will be accumulated as points at the end of the game. And by jolly that someone will become the winner by having the most points and celebrates over the entire land, which I doubt that someone will ever truly do so in real life. That’s why this is just a game.

The Components
Feld is known to design a game that has lots of lots of components. In this game for example, there are hundreds of tiles in many shapes. Also dice, yes colorful dice. The game comes with a main board and several double-sided player boards (or more likely player mats), settlement tiles in several categories, goods, worker, Silverlings tiles, wooden player markers and also colorful 6-sided dice. In details there are 164 hex tiles, 42 goods tiles, 20 Silverlings tiles, 30 worker tiles, 12 bonus tiles, 4 victory pieces, 8 wooden markers, 9 dice and 6 player boards. Alea published the game with only one flaw, the thin not so good-looking tiles. It would be perfect if they made it with thicker cardboard material and also the player mat should had been perfect if they made it just like the main board. But of course they had considered these things before.

Game Components

Game Components

The Artwork
Nothing special on this one also, but it’s pretty good as a standard Euro game. Not great nor bad. The artist behind this game is Julien Delval , who also had share a good portion around Euro games’ artworks such as Dominion, Battle Lore, Citadel, Memoir ’44 and other things. The symbol designs are pretty much intuitive and it’s finely made to provide a language independent aspect throughout the game and the components.

The Game Play
The game lasts in 5 phases, which there are 5 turns in each phase. Each player will receive a player board (which can be random or predetermined), 3 random goods, 1 Silverlings, 2 dice of a chosen color, 2 player markers that are placed on the shipping track and VP track, 1 initial Castle tile that players place into one of the dark green slots on his player board (each player chooses which slot he want) and some workers (the first player gets 2 workers, while the next player gets plus one worker more than the previous player consecutively in clockwise order. Place the main board in the center or the table and fill it up with the needed tokens, such as 5 face down goods tiles in each phase slot and randomly draw hex tiles based on the corresponding color slots and number of players listed. And the game is ready to start.

Main Board Breakdown

Main Board Breakdown

At the start of each phase, reveal the current phase’s goods tiles into available slots. This 5 goods tiles will give players easy sign to mark the current turn of the phase. Next all players roll their dice simultaneously (the first player adds the white die to his roll). After the roll, the first player place the current goods tile to a depot with a corresponding value of the white die (this is important to be remembered by the first player, so he doesn’t forget to place the goods tile into a depot). A mistake is crucial and can make the game 1 turn more or less.

Lets take a look at the player board. Each player board, has a space on the right side which is the Estate. This hexagonal shape space is formed by small and colorful hexes with different dice values. The colors and dice values are important, for they will be used to determine placement of the settlement tiles. There are 6 different colors for the settlement tiles. Those colors are Blue for the Ships, Dark Green for the Castles, Brown for the Buildings, Yellow for the Knowledge, Green for the Animals and Gray for the Mines. These colorful tiles are spread on the Estate, creating regions based on color adjacency. The left side of the player board, you can see brown buildings’ references, scoring chart, space for workers, goods and Silverlings.
Meanwhile on the main board, there are 6 depot slots around the central black depot. During preparation process at the start of each phase, these hex spaces on those depots will be filled by randomly drawn tiles based on their colors. These are the hexes that available for the players to acquire at the current phase. There’s also a shipping track which shows players turn order. At the top and bottom right of the board, there are square spaces for bonus tiles. These bonus tiles are rewarded for players who complete to fully cover a specific type / color on their estate. There are 2 bonus tiles for each type, one for the first player and another one for the second.

Player Board Breakdown

Player Board Breakdown

During a player’s turn, he will take 2 actions consecutively out of 4 available options with his two dice. A player may use the same action out of the two actions he choose. Those 4 actions are:

A. Taking a hex / settlement tile from the Depot
There are 6 available depots around the central black depot. These depots have die values from 1 to 6. Using one of the player die, that player can take any hex tile available on one of the depot with the same value of that die value, placing it to one of the three available slots on the player board.

Numbered Depots

Numbered Depots

B. Placing a settlement / hex tile to his Estate
A player can use this action to place a tile that’s already in his storage spaces into his estate. Note that the restrictions of the placement are based by the type / color of the hex, the pip value on the hex space and it must be adjacent to an existing tile on the estate. Once the tile is placed, the tile effect is triggered if any. There are 3 kind of tiles based on the effect, some tiles are immediately activated once placed, some are for end game scoring and the others give benefits during the course of the game as long as the requirements are met.
If placing a tile complete a region (adjacent spaces with the same color), scoring takes place. The scoring values are different based on number of tiles and at what phase the scoring takes place. The more tiles and the earlier phase a player scores, the more points he get. Also when a player places the last settlement of that type / color, he receive the bonus tile (if any).

Estate

Estate

C. Selling goods tiles from the warehouse
Each player has a warehouse section on his board. The warehouse provides 3 slots for goods, each slot used for a different kind of goods, so a player can only stores up to 3 kind of goods at a time. Players can sell goods to get points and silverlings. There are 6 kind of goods and each kind has a die value. To sell it, players use one of his die which has the same value of his goods. For each tile of goods sold, players get 2/3/4 points in a 2/3/4 player game. And in addition of the points, players also receive 1 silverlings tile from the transaction. The sold goods are placed face down on the sold goods spot.

Goods Storage Spaces

Goods Storage Spaces

D. Buying workers
This is the most simple (but often important) action out of the four. You trade die with workers. Each die generates 2 workers no matter the value is. What’s the use of worker? Worker gives you modifier for your dice. 1 worker tile gives you a plus one or minus one to the value of the die. Players can use multiple workers to modify one die value. And yes, it’s possible to modify 6 value to 1 with +1 modifier and 1 value to 6 with -1 modifier. This gives you flexibility against the luck of your dice roll.

In addition of the actions mentioned above, players may also spend their silverlings once per turn to get the black / special hex tile on the central depot with the price of 2 silverlings. So what’s the difference between other hex tiles and these black tiles? Well, the black tiles consist of various types of tiles, this provides extra chances for players to get the tiles needed out of the six depots available.

Central Black Depot

Central Black Depot

A phase ends when the last player had completed his fifth turn of that phase. The depots (the six depots and the central depot) are refreshed (the goods on the depots are stay). The next stack of goods tiles is distributed to the goods slots. All players’ mines generate silverlings. The game ends after the last phase has been completed. The final scoring takes place, players get points from the end game bonuses from yellow / knowledge tiles, bonus tiles, extra worker tiles (1 point for each 2 workers) and 1 point for each silverlings tile.

Strategy
As you can see, based on the rules of the game play, this game falls right into the medium heavy category Euro games. You need to get familiar with the rules and all the settlement abilities to really understand what to do and plan during the game. At first, if you are not a gamer yourself, you might get overwhelmed by the lots of different types of settlements and specific treatments for them. It’s usual getting lost not knowing what to do during your turn, asking advise from more experienced players should be useful, though it won’t help much because experienced players usually have more wide range strategies that they can choose from. Just like his other games (his signature maybe), Feld made this game with lot of options, many paths to get points, which some might see diversification is the best thing, but don’t get it wrong, as many as you want to diversify, focus just on several not all could be an important key to play the game. Yes they all have potentials for you to get points, but not all can be accomplished in one play, players will need to choose which paths they need to focus on and which path they don’t need to. This is important, the run of the game should force you to make important decisions throughout the game. Whether the tiles you need will ever come out or maybe it’s already taken by someone else. The dice factor really adds some key element, though it’s pretty much random and luck, they provide coverage for your plan. The dice roll determine which action you can take and which you cannot during each turn, and to mitigate the luck factor, Feld added the worker tiles. It’s luck alright but you can still survive bad luck roll with those workers, bless them!During the game players will encounter some pretty interesting combo and combination effect with different kind of tiles and how big difference could be when timing the turn order. After one play, new players could easily understand how the game works and fully enjoy it.

Settlement’s Breakdown
1. Shipyards
Shipyard is a blue settlement with a ship image on it, The main purpose of this settlement is to advance a player marker on the turn order track. And aside from that, this settlement is the only way for players to gain goods tiles on available on the depots. There’s a little tactic that goes on with the turn order, being the first player at the start of each phase is very important, this way you can snatch the new tiles you want before someone else. Making sure that no other players will be able to surpass your turn order track at the last turn of the phase is always a good plan. So it’s good to run ahead leaving other players behind as soon as possible, not entirely true, though being the first player gives you more advantageous position, being the first player to reach the end of the turn order track has it’s downside beside achieving shipyard bonus tile and being first early on the game. Of course your opponents won’t do nothing being left out in the back, they will pursue you and when you’re already maxed out, the other players can eventually get on top of you on the track. Well, just like most Feld’s games, the tie breaker is based on the order of the stack, the one who’s on top wins the tie. So if that happened to you during the first half of the game, your second half would get you last,

Ship Track

Ship Track

2. Castles
Castle is a settlement tile with dark green color with a castle image on it. At the start of the game each player has already own a castle that marks his starting position on his estate. The good thing about castle settlement is the free action it gives. Immediately after placing a castle tile, the player gets one free action that he must immediately take. This free action can be any one action from the 4 available actions and doesn’t restricted upon any die value. So you can take a tile from any depot, place into any space or sell any type of goods.
And there are only 4 Castle spaces on the estate, so it’s not hard to complete to gain the bonus.
3. Mines
There are only 3 mine spaces on an estate, the least spaces from any other settlement, but of course it’s also has the least distribution tiles on the main board. Mines main purpose is to generate silverlings at the end of each phase. These silverlings are used by players to buy black tiles or worth 1 point each at the end of the game.
4. Pastures
Pasture is a settlement with light green color and animals. There are 4 kind of animals in the game, chicken, cows, pigs and sheep. This animals solely purpose is scoring points and points and more points. Each time you place an animal tile on a pasture space you score points based on a number of animal shown on that tile plus points from the previously placed animal tiles with the same type in the same region. So they could be many. Usually you gather them animals of the same type in the same region place tiles with most animals first so they can hopefully score more than once.

A Pasture

A Pasture

5. Knowledge
Knowledge tiles are yellow colored with various images, those images describes the effect of the tiles. There are two kind of effects, the end game scoring effect and the passive continuous effect during the game. Though the images is self explanatory, new players will need some adjustment and time to understand and memorize all of them.
6. Building
Building tiles are brown colored and have different kinds with different images. The description of each building is shown on the left side of each player board, and the symbols are also self explanatory. There is a basic restriction for building tile placement, players may not place more than one building of the same type in one region (unless you have a knowledge tile that allows you so). The building effects are surely interesting, there is a building that upon placement let you acquire a specific kind of tile from one of the depot (if available of course). Or a building that upon placement gives you 2 silverlings, or a building that upon placement let you to place any kind of tile from your storage to your estate and many more, I let you find out yourself.

Different hex types

Different hex types

The Replay Value
You can rest assure that this game offers you high replay value right from the start. The game comes with different player boards that you can try aside from the 4 basic boards for your first game. These other boards have different estate layouts that could give you interesting approach in the game paths you need to take. And also, playing with different number of players doesn’t work the same, since different number of players provide different number of tiles drawn in each phase and points given from selling goods. So basically, the replay value is quite good, playing over and over again is unlikely the same, since you cannot get everything you want in each game. Now let’s get to the bad parts, as you can see there are some aspects why this game is not as good as it should and some might agree or disagree. The awful thing to start this game is the preparation, you know separating and organizing those tiles are painful and unasked for. The game does not come with draw string bags in it, so you need to find at least 4 draw string bags to hold and randomly draw the tiles. And don’t forget to clean up after the game ends has the same painful effect (more I dare to say) since you need to separate those tiles back into the box based on it’s category. Looking on the tile’s thickness, I should say it’s supposed to be thicker than it is, so you can feel the goodness of the tile when picking them up. Not really important but could improve the premium feel of the game components, same thing with the player boards.

Draw String Bag

Draw String Bag

My Thoughts on The Game
No doubt that this is one of my favorite games in my collection, my girlfriend likes it. It even works very well with 2 players (quicker I must say). Two experienced players can finish the game in 45 minutes (aside the setup) and 90 minutes for 4 players. This is a game that finds a permanent place on my collection, no way I’m gonna sell it (or no way she gonna let me), it has this awesome feel of building something, some sorts of accomplishment to complete your estate in such a way and yes, you will feel the solitaire game in your estate but of course there is still interaction on the main board. This game is widely known and overly known as the most favorite Feld’s in my group though I am not completely agree with that statement. I still prefer Trajan over Castles of Burgundy by a hair or two. The game is fun, with simple rules and the building theme really fits into gamer and non-gamer alike. New players or casual gamers will find it amusing. The only reason why I picked Trajan over this game is Trajan is heavier game than this game, that has medium weight scale. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I prefer heavy Euro than medium. One to his own.

Images courtesy of BGG users

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Board Games, Dice Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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Hard Decisions Ahead!

Rialto Review

Box Cover

Box Cover

It’s been a while since my last review. Somehow I just been busy with other things (exclude playing games) like making player aids, pnp games and such. And to mark my comeback a decent review of Rialto should pay off the debt,

Stefan Feld released 3 games on 2013 and this one being one of the three. The title is unique and catchy, but not known to most people, even myself at that time. So, what is Rialto? The Rialto is and has been for many centuries the financial and commercial center of Venice. It is an area of the San Polo of Venice, Italy, also known for its markets and for the Rialto bridge across the Grand Canal.
The above description should let you know the theme of the game. The game takes place on Italy, somewhere around Venice through it’s canal system and the famous and unique Gondola boats.
As you can see from the box description, the game is played around 45-60 minutes and can be played from 2 up to 5 players. Judging from the game time, the game is fall upon the category of light to medium Euro.

I’m a collector of Stefan Feld games and this one was surely a no brainer purchase for me. I snatched the game before Bora-Bora since Bora-Bora was hard to find that time. I read the rules in an instant and found the game to be quite straight and simple. Okay, let’s move on to the meat of the review.

1. Theme
As you can see like other Feld’s games, the theme is not very strong on this one. You as might say that it’s completely pasted onto the game. Come on seriously, assigning councilmen throughout the district to gain as many points / influence, that sounds… very common. But aside from that, in this game players place their Councilmen into each district and gain points based on majority.

2. Artworks
The game has impressive artwork I must admit and the artist tried to give different approach on the style compares to other Euro games (or Feld’s games). Euro games has a distinctive visual appearance on the art style, mostly they are wrapped with illustration / painting style of middle age or classical theme. But not this one, though you can feel the classic approach of the artwork but it has different style, without using basic painting or illustration on the cover but more like vector graphic with subtle coloring (Gold color over burgundy red background). The cover image is pretty much represent the theme, with a bridge over canal and gondola boat runs through it. Andreas Resch and Hans-Georg Schneider did a good job not only with the cover but also the card arts and map on the game board.

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Some people (including me) found that some parts of the game board invite a question mark. If you pay attention to the detail of the 6 districts, there are 2 major color that separate the district into 2 parts (these are called Grand Canals), the yellow and blue districts. But as you give more attention, the 2 colors have different tones from each other. The artist might have a good reason for this but people that I introduced the game kept asking why they have different colors and I had to give some extra explanation to it. Not that it’s bad and not suitable, since I understand that they want each district to be easy to recognize from each other. I guess, putting a fine white / black outline on each district edge should solve the issue. The other issue is the scoring track, it’s hard to differentiate, by using only a small symbol of flower as the separator between spaces.

Game Board

Game Board

3. Game Components
Now, straight out of the box. You can find some basic components of Euro games inside, game board, cards, wooden tokens and tiles. I use a copy from Pegasus spiele for this review. The game board is a 3 folds board with colorful artworks and good quality with the back side of the board is shown not blank cover but blue cover background with a big centered Rialto logo. The 77 cards are one size small cards (45x68mm) and though they’re in good quality, I suggest to sleeve them for they will be shuffled often in each of your game. I sleeved my cards with premium sleeves since standard sleeves are easy to worn out. Building and coin tiles are thick and in good quality while some of the wooden components are not in perfect condition, but not an issue. The player mats are made fro thick paper material, if they used the same material as the tiles, it could have been much better.

Game Components

Game Components

4. Game Play
The game plays over 6 rounds (shown by the 6 districts on the map) which each round has 3 phases that must be completed. During phase Cards, players starting with the turn order on the Doge Track, each player choose 1 column of cards available on the table (there always number of players plus one rows of cards laid on the table at this phase. Each column has 6 cards and after each player choose and take a column of cards, he draw 2 more from the face down draw pile. This let 2 cards in his hand unknown to other players while the rest are known. During this phase players may activate green buildings they own by paying a coin for each building he wants to activate. Each building can only be activated once per round. After all players are done activating the buildings, they reduce cards from their hands to it’s hand limit (normally 7 cards, so each player need to discard 1 card from his hand face down) which can be modified with some green buildings.

Districts

Districts

In the next phase, players play cards from their hand in specific order from stage A to F. In this phase the player who is in the most advance space on the doge track continue in clockwise order opens the first stage, Doge action. Each player plays Doge card(s) he wants to play into the table. For each Doge card he plays, he advance his marker on the doge track. Player with the most doge cards played each round gets the bonus of the Doge action, which is advance 1 more space on the doge track. In case of a tie, the player with marker on the right and top most doge track win the bonus.

And then player who obtains the previous action bonus open the next stage and continue clockwise. The next stage is Coin action, for each Coin card played, the player gets 1 coin from the general supply and place it on his personal supply. Player with the most Coin cards played get 1 additional coin.

Next stage is Build action, players can build building by the total value of Brick cards he played. There are 3 types (colors) of buildings and each type has 4 different levels. This levels are also the value of the building itself. Players place the building they acquired into available spaces on their player mats which are limited for 7 buildings. Player with the most Brick cards gets additional value of 1 on the sum of the brick cards played.

Next stage is Bridge action. In this phase player gets 1 points for each Bridge card played and if a player does not play at least 1 Bridge card during his turn, he lose 1 point. Player with the most Bridge cards played, get the bonus 1 additional points and gets to place the top most Bridge tile on one of the available slots that connect two districts on the board.

The next stage is Gondola action, which players take 1 of his Councilman token from the general supply into his personal supply for each Gondola card he played. If there is no Councilmen left on the general supply, the player scores 1 points for each excess card. Player with the most Gondola cards played take the Gondola tile from the stack and place it on one of the available slots and take 1 Councilman from the general supply and place it on one of the two districts connected by the Gondola tile that he had placed earlier.
Oh yeah I forgot to mention that there are two minor scoring of the Grand Canals. There are 2 scoring worth of 5 points which each represent one side of the Grand Canals (blue and yellow) that happens on the Gondola and Councilman stages, and only restricted for the first player(s) that complete the objective. To acquire these points, players need to have at least 1 Councilman in each of the three district of a Grand Canal (blue or yellow), If a player complete this objective at the Gondola stage, then he get the points alone and flip the tile corresponding to which Grand Canal and no other player may score this points again. If the objective is completed during the Councilman stage, and more than 1 player completes it, those players receive the points.

A-F Stages

A-F Stages

The last phase is the Councilman action, which players place 1 Councilman token from his supply to the current district for each Councilman card played this round. If there is no Councilman left on the personal supply, player may move his Councilmen from other districts to the current district. Player with the most cards may place 1 additional Councilman.

During this phase, players may activate yellow buildings during their turn. The next phase is only about activating blue buildings and play continues to the next round.

After the last round ends, the final scoring takes place. The final scoring comes from three different aspects, from personal supply, buildings and districts scoring. Each player gets points from the total sum leftover coins and Councilmen left on his personal supply and divided by 2 rounded up, total sum of owned buildings (sum the levels). The districts scoring are special, each district are scored by calculate all the value from Bridge and Gondola tiles that adjacent to that district, player with the most Councilmen in that district scores that many points, while the 2nd player scores the half of that points and so on (rounded down). The doge track always break ties whenever necessary.

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5. Replay Value
Though the game is quick but the replay value is quite high. Th cards are random but the main factors that make this game has high replay value are the combination of buildings, randomize rounds over districts and the players interaction itself. There are 12 different buildings with different effects which can be combined and used based on your actions and strategy. The cards that form the columns also affects game play and can change player’s strategy in the middle of the game.

My Thought of The Game
Some might say that Rialto is one of Feld’s games that has the highest luck element by the drawing of the cards. But, the essence is how to manage your specific hands to your benefit and how decision making is really hold the key on the game. In the game players will face hard decisions over their action on the course of the game. This boiled down upon the first phase, which determines players actions on subsequent phases and rounds. Generally, in Rialto you need to balance all aspects (stages) each round. The game makes sure that there are consequences for give away one or more aspects in the game. You need to advance in the Doge track which is essential to break ties (especially in the district scoring) and to keep you choose columns first, you also need coins to keep your buildings effective, and you also need to acquire buildings before you can use it afterwards, they’re essentially points after all. And you also need to actively contributing on the bridge, since bridges give you points and also strategic positioning for the final districts scoring. With bridge tiles you can adjust when and where you want the scoring beneficiary for you. Gondola is your resources, you cannot place Councilman if you don’t have any in you personal supply and Gondola tiles are also useful to hold or block your opponents districts scoring. In the end, Councilmen are important to fill districts with your Councilmen tokens.

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So every decision is important and can change the course of the game. I personally think that since how important your actions are, player usually takes time when deciding which column of cards he should take. Other than that, the game is quite fast and each round can be played from 5-10 minutes. I like the game, though it’s quite unfamiliar from other Feld’s game (considering the area majority and hand management mechanics). It’s a great fun medium game.

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The Castles of Burgundy : The Common Strategies and The Knowledge Tiles Combination

I like this game and played it quite often recently. I’ve played with 2 and 4 players, with basic player board and advanced. Though base in luck of your dice roll, but there are some strategy inside it along with tactical approach at the game. Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Analyze your board

This early decision is critical for choosing strategy to implement on the game. Base on this you can choose what strategy to play, either focusing in buildings, pastures or knowledge first. The size of each regions are also considerably important which will decide in what approach you will take, which region you need to complete first. And also the synergy of your estate is depends on the balance of your development, you cannot fully focusing in only 1 type of tiles and forget the rest, there must be a balance between the ship and the other tiles.

Estate

2. Initial Castle Placement

If you play with advance boards and rules, the initial castle placement is free, you can decide where to place it. Now, this is important because this will determine you reach in the estate, in the middle of the estate seems the most logical explanation in general cases, but in other specific cases, you can determine the location by adjusting with your priority in the game based on the layout. Try to get the spot with easy access on ships and mines.

Castle Placement

3. Ships

Though this is not really rewarding for your estate, it’s very critical for your game play. It’s a long term investment which would put you as the first player. This means more access to all the available tiles. This one really important during the first round of each phase. You’re not the only player who wants a specific tile available and being the first player really rewards you this privilege. But, don’t forget, if other players constantly racing as the first player, the timing on ship tile placement is quite important to make sure you’ll be the first in the start of next phase. And put in mind, if you are the first player to finish the ship regions, you’ll get the bonus tile but remember this will likely put you as the last player eventually and you cannot do anything about it. It’s a 50/50 decision, tactical based on your game condition. If you don’t want to be the last player, just wait for other players to take it before you. Keep in mind that in some cases not all players would get enough ship tiles to complete their region (4 slots x 5 phases = 20 Ships) and in addition of the black tiles draw if any, so beware.

Turn Order

4. Mines

As you can see, there are only 3 spaces of Mines and it’s very important to complete these in the early game. All or nothing, to maximize your income in each end of phase. Gain 2/3 Silverlings in each end phase really useful in the next round. If you’re the first player, you can buy a black tile first hand before other players take it. The same with ship tiles, there is not enough Mine tiles in the side depots for all players (2 slots x 5 phases = 10 Mines), the rest is luck of the draw of the black tiles.

5. Castles

This tiles are really powerful, most of the spaces in player’s estates are in single tile region, which led to early scoring once you place the tile and it grant you a free action. The good about this free action is it doesn’t need die value to assign. So you can freely add tiles to your storage, place tiles into your estate or even sell goods without even bother the required die value. There are 2 slots x 5 phases = 10 Castles in the side depots, beware.

6. Buildings

The buildings are quite complex engine with chain of combos and effects that add to your benefit. The regions of buildings are mostly contain many spaces and the most spaces in your estate (12 spaces). It’s a great achievement if you can complete the regions in early rounds, which get you high VP boost. Keep in mind that no same building tiles in the same region, which lower your flexibility. But there is a certain knowledge tile that let you ignore this rule.

7. Pastures

Pastures is a bit tricky but powerful. You need to collect animal tiles of the same type in a region to maximized the scoring. And keep in mind to place the big size tiles first, so they’ll be scored several times. Monitor the animal tiles available on each phase, if there is 2 or more tiles in the same type, that’s your cue to grab that as soon as possible. The best calculation is 4 size tile + with 4 size tile from the black tile and 3 size tile. From this only, you’ll get 23 points, exclude points if the region completed. Also keep in mind any knowledge tiles that add points from animal tiles, it’s very powerful if you consider to play all animal varieties.

8. Knowledge

Now, this is the game changer. The thing about knowledge tiles is there are 2 types, end game bonus points or in game effect. Now, in game effect are not visible during the game, it helps you a lot during your turn and could lead you to victory with all the flexibilities. In other hand, the end game bonus points are major boost in the end game scoring and could take on others by surprised. There are several combination tiles that are very powerful, over powered maybe. Like this:

Knowledge Combination 01

Grab these tiles fast. And do the bidding. You can add huge points if you send lots of goods with complete varieties with these tiles. Not that each variety add 3 points (6 varieties means 18 points) but also sold goods count as 1 VP each. A great deal right? And if you complete the animal varieties, you add 4 points for each type (16 points in total). 2 of my games are won by this tiles presence.

Knowledge Combination 02

The left tile gives you flexibility on completing the building regions. And it really help a lot if you have the right tile, this combination lets you to secure any building tiles and place them where ever you like. The bonus points are also packs a punch if you have many specific buildings.

Knowledge Combination 03

These tiles combination really works for in game effect and add flexibility for you during the game. Extra workers are always welcome, this minimize your get worker actions. More actions for anything else. The modifying bonus is also great, which can maximized the use of your workers twice.

Knowledge Combination 04

These tiles combination are very good if you play mines and take workers. You’ll rounding up Silverlings to get black tiles easily. And the workers and silverlings are worth points in end game scoring.

The good tiles are also quite good to sell in many quantity. If you can sell 3-4 tiles in 1 action then it’s worth it. 2 is the least. In 4 players game the points from goods are quite spectacular, 4 points / good sold. Unlike with 2 players just 2 points each. The ship placement timing is important in this case, look around the side depots and the stock in the left rounds. This could determine your ship timing. Although it’s heavily based on the luck of the white die rolls.

Good Tiles (6 Varieties)

Some of the images are courtesy of BGG users

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Article, Board Games, Euro Games, Insight

 

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A Tiresome Short Game?

Box Cover

Strasbourg Review

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Theme

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

2. The Artworks

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

3. The Game Components

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

The Game Components

4. The Game Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game in Progress

5. The Replay Value.

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

My Thought of The Game

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

The City

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

 

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