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Tag Archives: Tasty Minstrel Games

How Greed Are You? The Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Racing with Feld

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

The Replay Value
Each game will mostly feel samey, with different outcome of course. Though setting up the map differently might affecting how you play it. You can change and customize the map to your liking but the golden rule is that the ocean tiles must be connected as a single large space. The different ships also make a difference but not that big I guess. After several plays I still want to play it again, a good one though the racing aspect of the game keeps me out for loving it. It’s like your days (turns) are numbered especially when someone already obvious to finish all the tasks and he only have to go back to Zeus. It’s a hard tie situation.
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Board Games, Dice Games, Euro Games, Reviews

 

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My Top 10 Games from 2016

2016 is over and from it, there are many games that I’ve tried and yet to try. So in short, here are my top 10 of 2016 and some worth mentioned. The rank is of course, subject to change by play count and also different feel of the game and as time goes by, but at least this is my initial take based on my (first) experiences.

The Top 10
#1 Great Western Trail
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Okay, I heard good (if not great) things about this one. After I got and played it, I must admit that it’s quite over-hyped but agree, this one is good and worth to be in the very top of this list.
Why I like it?
Classic
This is modern Euro that has the classic feel shows in the presentation. The rules are somehow hard to chew but once you play it for the first time, you know what to do and straight-forward simple. There are many mechanics thrown into the game but surprisingly they work very well overall.
There’s a deck-building aspect in it.
A hint but not too strong to be considered as a deck-building game and doesn’t restraint players for building their deck cause there are still many ways to get points. In short, players do not have to totally surrender over the deck efficient and effective aspect of a deck-building game.
Rondel
Disguised in the player board, this one has rondel mechanic in it. Yes, the location spaces along the trail is one network or rondel system that becomes lengthy over time during the game because new locations will be added by the players. I could need a game with rondel in my collection and though this is not the usual rondel but better than none.
Engine Building in player board
The player board gets more interesting since players get to move some components from their player board into the game board in such interesting way. Players mostly score points and get instant benefit while improving their engine.
Clever use of objective cards
Players acquired objectives from the card display and put them their deck. These acquired objective cards are mixed together with their cattle cards, which will eventually be drawn into their hand and can be used in such an innovative way. Players are left with an interesting decision either to keep those objectives in their deck (while making your deck less-efficient in the same time) or play them to get the bonuses but must committed to complete them at the end or they will get penalized with minus points.
What I don’t like about this game?
Hmm, almost nothing. The components are good, though there was minor misprint in one of the player’s building tile (though a simple sticker should take care of the problem). The player boards should be thicker (as thick as the game board) and also has indentation to place all the wooden pieces.

#2 Yokohama
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Finally another heavier game (heaviest actually) from Hisashi Hayashi. I kinda like most of His game and this one is so beautiful (aside from the beautiful artwork from Ryoko Hayashi). Some said (including Rahdo) that the game design shares the resemblance with Stefan Feld designs (a point-salad game), and I must agree. Even this year, Hisashi Hayashi is more Feld than Feld himself.
Why I like it?
Heavy
At first the box and visual presentation of the box art surely gives you friendly and casual feel of a classic Euro with a location (city / country) name as its title. If it’s true then you were fooled, it’s unlike any of sorts, though the box art is remarkably compelling and relaxing. The truth, the game is quite complex. Though the rules are simple but there are many tidbits that players need to keep up for the first time.
As far as the eyes see
Ludicrous amount of ways to get points. Yes there are many ways to get points (really a point-salad game) even there are some double locations that serve that sole purpose to open more access through out the map.
Combos
After a while learning the game, you can figure out some interesting combo with chaining action and additional action together, also helped by abilities from technologies and bonuses.
High variable setup
There will be no setup like before. The game map setup makes it different each time you play, the location and how you build your resource processing engine is based on the game map. You need to be more efficient to move around and using your assistants to beat your opponents. And in addition, the technology card and award distributions are also different in each game.
What I don’t like about this game?
The modular boards are easily get moved and shifted by players though I understand that this is how the variable setup possible. And the cards, ugh the cards are too fiddly, placed on top of the modular boards and also technology cards are too hard to read (the texts are too small) especially from a player seat to the end of the table. If only they can come up with iconography solution for this. Table-hugger, yes the game takes a lot of table space. With card displays and huge modular boards with maximum amount of players, you get a busy tablecloth ready to be played.

#3 Terraforming Mars
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This offers a very interesting theme with science backing the theme and logic of the game. Immediately ordered it once I had the chance and played it straight out. The game is amazing, very intimidating though but rewarding with clever card plays.
Why I like it?
Really dig the science behind the theme
The theme is not very compelling for me, but for some reason the relevancy between game and real life science seems click (thinking of High Frontier or Leaving Earth for other examples).
Clever card plays
This definitely what makes the game shines. First of all this is naturally a card game. Many cards inside the game, and it offers different clever card plays along with a tableau engine building. In a game, all the cards won’t be played and sometimes the cards can be useless but sometimes can be very crucial. This reflected by the timing and compatible pairing with other cards (combos). So players need to adapt to every situation in the game and come up with the best solution to get the most points in the end.
Shiny metallic cubes
Okay, they’re plastic but seriously they still looks good and shiny like metals. I like to hold the biggest cubes in my hand, big cubes. Aside from the idea of same big size for all the cubes, I agree the different sizes makes it easier for color blind players.
Game flexibility
The end game relies on the players. There are three parameters to end the game and players are “semi-cooperatively” work towards that end. So in a way, players together is in control with the length of the game (which could also be the drawback in terms of unnecessary prolonging the game).
What I don’t like about this game?
Many. Yes, aside from the cards have heavy texts on them, makes it hard for players to read and prolong the game duration. And for new players, pretty much intimidating if they’re not omni or heavy-gamer people. The cards distribution can also felt unbalance.
The player board could be improved, to keep track the income track and the supply with the same components could turn your game experience a bit nightmarish if things turn sideways. Good thing that there’s a game trays for the player board (or should I say player mat?). The game length could be hard to determine because of the end game trigger, which based on players game plays.

#4 Scythe
pic3163924_mdThis one is one of the best, undoubtedly. You can see it on its Kickstarter project and how good the feedback is. Backed it myself and worth every penny. Stonemaier games has a very good reputation though relatively new in the hobby.
Why I like it?
Stunning artworks and immersive theme
Actually the game was purposely designed out of the beautiful and stunning artworks from Jakub Rozalski, based on His self-made universe of alternate world war aftermath. The scenes are jaw-dropping and awesome. One can own this for collection only and no one dares to argue. The game sets in a alternate history of world war where mechs were exist in 1820’s and there are some factions that want to seize control of the land. The factions not only shows different characteristic in appearances but also in abilities that affect the ways to play them.
Marvelous components
The game is heavy, literally. Many top notch quality components, as already known by it’s components quality, Stonemaier games didn’t kid around by chucking realistic resource tokens and metal coins, not to mention thick card board and huge enormous game board, and those mechs. Hands down, one of the best Kickstarter game projects.
Interesting game play
The rules seems intimidating, but once you break it down, it’s pretty simple and straightforward. It’s an engine building game with variable player power, area control, resource management, and semi racing game with interesting player interactions.
I love how the scoring works and the encounter cards also add a nice touch to the game theme. Battle doesn’t seems highlighted, so for Euro-gamers this should give a plus, direct conflict is down to minimum. So for those who expecting frequent battle, they might be disappointed. Though of course they can play it that way, it’s not guaranteed to be a winning strategy.
What I do not like about the game?
This is hard. Maybe my biggest issue is the game takes a huge table space, more if you use the collector’s edition bigger board. Also it’s better if players can accomplish more objective cards.

#5 The Oracle of Delphi
pic3302018It’s Stefan Feld new title, The Oracle of Delphi. Surprisingly in this game He didn’t make His usual point-salad game, this one is a racing game. Yeah, racing, surprised me. I do not consider myself as a Feld fanboy, but I do like and admire His games. There are many favorites among His games such as Trajan, Bora-Bora, The Castles of Burgundy, Amerigo, Aquasphere, The Name of The Rose and many more.
Most of these share the same feat, various ways to get points (point-salad). But not this one. In this game players need to appease Zeus by completing 12 tasks before anyone else. The player who completed those 12 tasks and managed to get back to the starting place, won the game.
I usually do not like racing game (Euphoria, Istanbul, Viticulture) so I am kinda pessimist with this one and did not get my hope high. Though I hope this could be like Lewis and Clark or at least as good as Automobiles for me.
So let see the summary…
Why I like it?
Stefan Feld
Okay should I admit that I might be a fanboy after all? Stefan Feld always counts something in my book. His games are awesome so far and truth be told in early days of my board gaming adventure, I planned to collect all of His games (though I’ve been lazy and distracted). So His name as the designer should be one of the reason why I like this game.
Dice Allocation
Yes, one of initial reasons why I like Feld was right after I tried The Castles of Burgundy. The dice allocation system is very clever and interesting (for me). What you can do with such dice really amazed me, and how He managed to mitigate the dice roll luck, the reason why I like dice games. And guess what this one also uses the same system and in addition, the dice are custom dice, superb.
The symbology and iconography
Okay, I do not know whether it’s Feld’s, Dennis Lohausen’s or the developer’s doing that makes it great but this game has such a clever implementation of colors / symbols in the game. Not only just to make players identify the elements in the game but also the various aspect or elements in the game are boiled down to these 6 colors / symbols. And extra, it’s color-blind friendly (bravo!).
Theme
Greek Mythology is one of the themes that makes me interested. So this one is interesting. Though I also think it’s lack of theme and quite abstract (most of His games are).
Rewarding game play
Actually aside from the racing game aspect, the game play is simple and quite fun. Okay Euphoria is fun and simple but somehow at the end of the day, its not really rewarding for me when lost the game. But this one feels slightly different. You can feel the excitement to complete task, moving around ship and matching the colors, tinkers with your dice and what combo you can possibly do with those God’s special abilities. So my verdict so far, its playable in the future. In fact, I already logged 3 plays in such a short time.
What I don’t like about this game?
I’ve experienced difficulties to set the map. Even there’s a pictured diagram for the basic map setup, it’s kinda hard to determine the shape of those map tiles because there are more then one kind (4 shapes and sizes). And Place Zeus in the center, what center? There’s no shallow in the center (at least not center, center if you know what I mean). And the cities should be placed in an equally-distant way (come one, it gives me headache). I also tried the random setup and it’s not easier (could be worse).
Racing game, as I already mentioned earlier, even the racing is not that bad, but if it’s not a racing game, it could be better for my taste. For example completing tasks gives you points (how many points is vary not on the type of tasks but the type of objects (monsters, statues, offerings or build shrines), this mean based on colors and each game it should be vary. I never favor a wooden die. Better other materials. Not really an issue but worth mentioned. I mean how good could this be if the dice are plastic or resin (just like in Bora-Bora) or whatever that is beside wood.
The Gods abilities and Ship tiles feel somewhat not balanced. I feel Ship tile that gives starting position on all Gods really overpowered. I also feel that Blue, Red and Yellow Gods are very useful throughout the game, unlike other Gods, which only used number of times for specific actions. But that’s just based on 3 plays.

#6 Word Porters
pic2948039_md This one is coming from Hisashi Hayashi, one of the few Japanese games that go international. His games are amazing and innovative.
I knew him the first time from Sail to India and then Trains. As these games are good, I started to check His other games and turned out His other games are also good.
And when I knew He has a new game with word as its main idea, well I like word games, so I immediately sold.
Why I like it?
Word Games

I love word games, and this looks a very nice addition aside from Codenames, Snake Oil and Dixit. The truth is, I think this is the successor of Dixit and Codenames combined. It shares unique features from both games.
Hisashi Hayashi
I don’t know from when I starting to like and hunt for Japanese games (maybe safe to blame Love Letter) and to be more specific, Hisashi’s games kinda always have special treatment in my eyes. So here it is, another Hisashi’s game that actually quite good and fresh.
It actually good
Turns out the game is very good. If you have second thought about this one because it looks similar to Codenames and Dixit altogether, well it has the same features but the scoring system is different and it changes a lot in the gaming experience. Since in Dixit you try to choose the one and in Codenames you play in teams, in this game you try to guess all other players. The feel is quite different (turned out it’s a big turnover) and it’s so exciting. So I still think it’s worth having in my collection (I own Codenames, Dixit, Spyfall and Snakeoil for your consideration).
There is a minor but essential deduction element in the game, which makes the game quite complex in meta gaming but not necessarily running the game entirely. So whether you use deduction or not, the game can still be fun.
What I don’t like about this game?
The only version is in Japanese though it has English paste ups in the BGG file section and the word cards have English translations, still hard to get this easily run smoothly. You need to get some efforts done, such as print the paste ups, stick it in the hint cards or use sleeves and insert it to the sleeves.
Also the English texts in the word cards are too small, it’s hard to read.
It shines with more players, the game can be played with 3-7 players, but with 3 or 4, is not as good as 5-7 players.

#7 Mask of Anubis
pic3104778_mdThe only reason I found this game interesting was the VR implementation into an analog game. Sounds and looks cool. It’s a Japanese game and not an easy one to acquire. I had to go to Japan to get this, though this was also available in Essen 2016 for a limited amount.
Why I like it?
VR Technology

Okay, technology implementation is always interesting. You can see many approaches from the likes of X-Com, Alchemist and such but this one is more interesting since it’s using our sensory and perception more closer. To play the game you need a VR goggle (which already included inside the game). The first time, you need to assemble it first which is not easy but I am sure everyone can do it.
The interaction is off the chart
In this game, it constantly demands interaction between players. Players need to listen carefully, explain clearly and work together to map the pyramid. It’s a very fun game to begin with, lots of talking, back and forth and getting things done. I also think it’s good for training your visualization skill (mapping it out in your head based on the description of your teammates).
Challenging with different people or group
since the main focus is people interaction and communication, it’s essential to have a good communication and interaction. But in order to do that, there are too many factors at play. Different people with different understanding, speaking skill and how their mind thinks really make this game challenging when played with different people. Though returning group find it easier from session to session due to teamwork and progressing communications.
A monster to explore
As you check on the maps (oh did I tell you about the app you need to install first before you can start to play this game?), there are many stages provide by the publisher, from easy to hardest. The difficulty is based on the scope of the map size. The bigger the map is the more points of view it needs. So, it’s rewarding in terms of game time. And also there also extra stage and time trial mode if you want to change the game mode.
What I don’t like about the game?
The VR goggle is kinda bit fiddly and fragile. You need to carefully use and store it if you want it long-lasting. The truth is you can always replace / substitute it with another VR out there (there are many cheap ones). The assembly instruction could be more helping and clear.

#8 Automobiles
pic2586265_md Another racing game, that I like. It’s about racing (Nascar) so definitely a racing game. Its a good game, quite thematic in spirit of the game.
Why I like it?
A racing game with racing theme
This really makes the game inline with the theme. A game about racing cars with a racing mechanic. So you can feel the atmosphere of speeding over your opponents and give them smoke!
It actually tense and satisfying
To get your car speeding away leaving your opponents behind or even make a come back by surpassing your opponents give a great satisfaction to anyone. Though in the end there’s only one winner, the game rewards you with some adrenaline along the race.
Bag building in it’s finest
Bag building is not a common mechanic used, it’s new and you can also find it in Orleans and Hyperborea (don’t know any other games that use this). But this one really works very good compared to those two (hyperborea too fiddly with the game map, while Orleans is too dry and bland). Okay the bag building also doesn’t important but that makes it good, its just a means, an engine for your car to beat others. So we need to make the engine better but the most important thing is the result. As long as you can beat your opponents or progressing you car as you expected, keep ’em coming!
Tweaking
You can try different or random setup for the cubes ability. So each race would not be the same. And there are 2 circuits to choose, which each has different characteristic that change how you race. So you can always tweak the game setting and feel it in different ways.
What I don’t like about the game?
Hmm, nothing in particular I guess. A good game without any flaw, oh well the box is too big because of the not so useful plastic storage.

#9 Railroad Revolution
This was my only blind buy in 2016 that turns out pretty good. My two reasons were because it’s from What’s Your Game? and its price was reasonable.
Why I like it?
What’s Your Game?

What can go wrong? Yes, they have been releasing good quality games so far. Well, Signorie and Zhang Guo are the least of my favorite, but still good games nonetheless. I like how they present their image and well also because Nuno and Paolo are with them (can’t wait for Brasil).
Simple rules
After reading the rules once, it’s quite straightforward. Easy to grasp rules and the actions are very streamlined. Its enjoyable and rewarding, though unlike my top favorite heavy games such as Madeira or Kanban.
Cool Worker Placement
Okay, actually it’s just a simple one, place a worker in an action, do the action and take a bonus. But the bonus depends on what kind of worker you use to activate the actions, different not based on the worker type but also on the action it’s used. Simple not really that innovative but somewhat fresh yet simple.
Why I don’t like the game?
One thing for sure, What’s Your Game? is notoriously known for its warped game board. Don’t know why they couldn’t make their folded board flat in the table. Encountered the same issue with Madeira and Nippon.
Another issue is the restricted actions, don’t get me wrong, but simple actions and set of rules intend to do just this. There are basically only 4 actions on a player’s turn and there’s nothing that a player can do outside that. So whether a player want to build a station, rails, telegraph office or trade, you need to do it. The only thing that makes them different is only the kind of worker you used to do the action. So the game is somewhat constrained in a specific length. Which not always a bad thing, just consider it as game rounds. Also the condition of player’s action is somewhat solitaire and there’s no blocking in the game. Of course there’s a minor element where player’s get the first bonus effects but that can be mitigated easily by playing the right worker in a certain action. The last thing is the iconography or maybe graphic design elements. Don’t get me wrong, Mariano Iannelli is a talented artist but from what I see with this one, He didn’t take this 100%, the icons were bit off, out of place and not really suitable. Just call it designer’s perception, but that is it. Not affecting the game play and surely won’t be matter to anyone.

#10 Covert
pic2744644_mdDice…. yes dice. Would love for a good dice game.
Many said that this game is good and couldn’t wait to try it.
Why I like it?
Dice allocation
is always interesting, the actions are blockable by dice value so you need to prioritize, so there’s a good decision and planning in it. After you roll your dice, you need to figure what are you going to do with those dice, checking other player’s dice results too.
Theme
Its a secret operatives / spy theme. You need to gather intel and travel around the world to complete missions.
Why I don’t like this game?
First, the dice roll is too random, you can plan it but there’s a time when you really really get a bad roll. Next is the code breaking, it’s fucked up. Getting first is important but the rest only luck left that you can break the code after other players messing it up.
There’s no modifier for general. Okay, there are some, but not easy one to get. If only it has same one like workers in Castles of Burgundy or something. Fixed action to spend dice to get modifiers.
The world map is kinda bit complex. it’s hard to find a location (though it’s already color coded. Also there’s an inconsistency in the iconography, I don’t know why they did not use the same icons.

There were also some games that worth mentioned, like these games below:
Quadropolis – As you notice, it has Days of Wonder’s game quality and characteristic. It has family-friendly value, easy to grasp rules and interesting play. The real deal is about set collection in a 9×9 grid tile laying game. There’s a small bit of worker placement but not quite a classic worker placement since the worker is more like a resource. This one is not really my taste just like their other games (though Five Tribes is on my collection).
Thief’s Market – Surprisingly good beefy filler, though the rules are simple and straight-forward. But the game’s hook is what make this one good. The dice distribution is really clever, players  are forced in position to decide how they take the dice in a clever way to achieve their goals.
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game – It’s the card version of one of my most favorite games and though at first thought skeptically at it, it turned out OK, well yes not good because too simple for my taste. Good thing this is perfect if you want a fast game (30 minutes or under an hour) with casual friends, since it’s very simplified with the building types, restriction of tile laying and also small-generated points, strictly a set collection card game.
Waka-Tanka – A friend introduced this one to me and wow, we had fun. It’s a bluffing, push you luck game that could make your night with friends unforgettable. I consider this as a filler. An OK filler game with casual friends.
Dairyman – Got this one from Japan. It’s a very simple Yahtzee style of dice game. The interesting part is the decision offered to players whether they want to pursuit another risk to get bonuses based on partial stages in dice rolls. And the use of freeze tokens and additional red dice improve the game.

And also some that I really want to try, interested but still don’t have the time to try it.
A feast for Odin – It’s Rosenberg latest, another monster after Caverna. But what I do not like is the idea of Rosenberg’s games is really centered in the same idea, like it’s an improvement of some sort from the same game between Agricola, Le Havre and Ora et Labora.
Cry Havoc – A Blood Rage killer? Okay that’s way ahead of it’s head. Blood Rage is a beast and though it seems like one, I do not think it is. A good game maybe, I really interested in the conflict resolution system, which kinda unique. But still this is an area majority game in the core.
Inis  – Been hearing good things about this. It’s the new title from Matagot in the same line of Kemet and Cyclades. The cards are so beautifully represent Celtic’s art visual theme.
Vast: Crystal Caverns – One of those games that I really want to try. It offers a very unique game play and experience, a new level of variable player power. It’s a game where players have different goal, which change the way they play in the game. Sadly it’s hard to get and quite expensive, and lastly I do not know if it’s within my taste or not.
Cottage Garden – I love Patchwork and this one really tingles my love of it in a very different way. Patchwork seems mathy, this one seems a lot more fun and more space to move around. Would love to get this one.
Vinhos Deluxe Edition – I really want this one, since I wanted to complete my big box collection of Vital’s game, I alread had The Gallerist (and Kanban though it’s not in the same line). One said this game is the most complex of Vital’s games, so really interesting to see this one compared to Kanban.
Black Orchestra – The idea and theme sounds good and yes I love the artworks. Simple as that, though I do not know is the game really work or not for me.
Dream Home – Look at those beautiful pictures? Who could resist this one? In this game you build a dream home of yours by drafting cards as rooms, specialists or even tools. Definitely will pick this one once I have the chance.
Lorenzo il Magnifico – One of my most wanted list, the box cover is so stunning, though the in-game artworks are not. But hey, this is Euro and a good Euro is simply not based on it’s artwork. Been hearing good things about this one and definitely want to have.
Solarius Mission – Okay, this one lost against Terraforming Mars, but not totally, since I still want it even after I got Terraforming Mars. I do think my wife will prefer this over Terraforming Mars being it’s more towards classic Euro feel than TM.
Beasts of Balance – I’ve seen this on Kickstarter, though as much as I really wanted this, I did not back it due to the expensive price and a children game likely. Yes, this game helps children with their hand coordination and animal / shape recognition. Though the technology they used is slick! Would love to try or have it.
Fabled Fruit – A new mechanic in the board game world, fable. Not the same as legacy but it offers a progressing game in a series of sessions where players keep progressing the game even after several plays until the game run out of resources (in this game’s case it’s the cards). Unfortunately the cards have pretty moderate in-game texts.
Oceanos – Bauza’s new game with drafting mechanic (thinking 7 Wonders) but offers a new element of decision in it. Definitely will pick this one once available, already watched Rahdo’s runthrough and I fell for it.
Roll Player – The rare of the bunch. Its a dice game with role playing theme. And it’s so awesome. I really want this so bad but it’s hard to get. Passed on the Kickstarter because of the shipping cost. Hope I can get this game soon.
Ulm – The first impression I get when seeing this game is Pillars of The Earth, because of the 3D-like building components in the center of the game board. And it gives certain vibes of a good classic Euro, so nailed it.
The King’s Abbey – Actually already waiting for this for quite a long time, even before it’s released. Based on the description it’s a medium heavy game about building an abbey. Sadly I had to pass on this when I had to choose whether getting this or Domus Domini.
Legends of The American Frontier – Wow, just wow. This game was on my wishlist for a very long time. The Kickstarter project took a very long time to complete. I love the idea / concept about being a legionnaire and working their life career with various choices. Love the artwork too, beautiful. Sadly the high roll and price really kinda turned me off.
Round House – Finally got this just now and I am looking forward to try it. Rahdo said it’s good and it’s from the same designer of Burano (which I also want it). The rules seemed simple and interesting with rondel and worker placement.
Dragoon – I just interested on the game components, which are sick with metal dragons, cloth map and others. But after rules reading I thought it’s too simple for my taste.
Moonquake Escape – Damn I really want to get this, the components are very eye candy though I do not know how the game turns out and does my wife will like it or not judging by the game’s alien theme.

 

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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.

 

 
 

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Belfort Insight

Monday, 19th Dec 2011

So, Monday night we (Me, Eric and Jeffry) hit Belfort the first time. Belfort is a game of worker placement and area majority from Tasty Minstrel Games, designed by the Duo Canada Designers Sen Foong Lim and Jay Cormier. Basically it’s a hyped game of 2011.

Jeffry and I, had read the rules. So I just needed to explain the overall of the game to Eric. We start the session at 19.00 (including the explain and setup) with 3 players game. It took quite a lot of space with multiple boards and player mats. Based on our first play, the game is different, it felt unlike any other worker placement or resource management games. We played with a lot of mistakes, not ruling but wrong decisions and miscalculations. This game has different feels. The phase order of the rounds is uncommon and could results in different uptakes and miscalculations.

Main Board - 5 Districts Pentagonal Uni-Board

The key point about it is the timing of income and taxes are in the middle of the order, which sometimes, if you’re not common or used to it would potentially lead to miscalculations and wrong decisions. The money is tight, the resource aren’t cheap. We used 5 random guilds from 3 categories. Which led us to display 2 resource guilds, 1 interactive guild and 2 basic guilds. By the looked of it, 2 resource guilds (gain 4 stones; gain 4 wood) are quite essential in the game. The 5 districts formed as a pentagonal uni-board, a very unique and classy approach on the component. Though the artist (Joshua Cappel) really done a great work by putting a fine and high details on the board illustrations, i just thought it’s better if the layout of the buildings aren’t the same for each district. The symmetrical layout seemed bore me down, but i guess it’s done that way to set the balance of the game. The King’s Camp available slot is kinda odd. I think it would be better if a player wants to be the first player, he need to pay for it (for instance 1 gold), and the rest of the planks are free. This could prevent players from swaps crests easily. And more of it, i think it’s better with 4 players rather than with 3. The reason is, with 3 players the competition of swapping crests would happen mostly from the first and last player only. Property cards are important, they really tweak your condition, beside giving you buildings for majority. Property cards give you other benefits such income, hire gnome, elf or dwarf (workers). This workers also essential to the game, which like other worker placement games, having more workers always a good thing. The points also embedded by a simple tax payout, which the higher your points, the bigger the tax is. Players get points from district majority and workers majority.

In Belfort, timing is important. Players must know what to do and when to do it. Quite impressed with the game but I must agree, that this was an over-hyped game in http://www.boardgamegeek.com

The components are in good quality but I noticed that the box was bowed (a common issue for this game). The rest are good, but I’m not really fond of the matte finish (or whatever you call it). I still prefer linen finish, but it’s still good.

3 Players Game

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Board Games, Euro Games, Insight

 

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