Ladder 29

Ladder 29
Ben Pinchback & Matt Riddle-Designers
Andy Jewett-Artist
Green Couch Games-Publisher

DisclosureWe were provided a preview copy for Ladder 29 from Green Couch Games prior to the Kickstarter which launches on 3/15/2017.

Climbing games, the bane of my existence, in that, I never get to play them and I quite enjoy climbing games, and trick taking games which have some similarities. But the climbing games that I have in our collection all have been fairly difficult to get to the table, Tichu because it is a 3-10 player game and while three players is pretty regular, our third player is fairly irregular, I’m looking at you Gabby, in her picks of what she’ll play. Haggis and Clubs have suffered similar fates. So when Jason Kotarski over at Green Couch Games asked if I wanted to preview Ladder 29 I anxiously jumped in, but was a bit worried about what my family would think about it and if my family would give it a try. My worries turned out to be unfounded, and here is why.

Ladder 29 is a card climbing game for 2-5 players, and like most climbing games or card games like this, the theme here is merely used as a way to teach the game, to make sense of the mechanics, and it works beautifully in that sense. But, I am getting ahead of myself, what exactly do you do in a game of Ladder 29

Ladder 29 consists of a deck of 60 cards of four different suits(Red, Yellow, Green & Blue), with each suit numbering from 1-15. There is a hierarchy for the the suits as well, Blue being the highest, followed by Green, then Red and then Yellow. Also in the game will be 19 “Hot Spot” cards as well, these cards are where you are going to get your scoring from, but also these cards are the Cog in the Wheel so to speak, they give you direction in that they limit you in what you can play, but once again, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Also in the game will be a score track much the same as has been used in previous Green Couch Games titles and some score markers and player reference cards for up to 5 players. So I think it’s safe to say, this will be another lovely little small box game from Green Couch Games to match all the others in their line. Seriously, I’m going to build a small shelf for these, I swear I am.

So, the deck of 60 cards is shuffled and everyone is dealt 13 cards, regardless of player numbers. You are then going to pass 3 of those cards to the player to your left. After everyone has passed cards and you have your starting hand, you are going to draft those “Hot Spot” cards now. In the game there will be one more Hot Spot card out than there are players and there will always be a Start Player Hot Spot Card in the offering.

The Hot Spot Cards are where you will get your scoring for a round. Each player will pick one card, that card will contain a rule for the player to follow for that round and their scoring. In the example above, if the player is the first to go out, they get 8 points and so on down the line with last place always getting zero.

After everyone has drafted their Hot Spot Card a round of play begins. Starting with the current start player, the player will lead either a single card, a pair of cards a triple, a run of three or more or a four of a kind. Everyone thereafter has to follow the pattern, meaning that you cannot play triples on pairs, or runs on singles, etc. Play continues in clockwise order until everyone has to pass, the last player who played then leads another legal play to start another round. All in an effort to be the first person to shed all of their cards from their hands.

There are also some special cards that help you along the way that go along with the 60 other cards in 4 different suits. These cards help you bend the rules so to speak. You have the Chief and the Lieutenant who can only ever be played as singles but they are the highest rank singles, with the Chief being the highest and Lieutenant being second highest. You also have the Dalmatian  that can be played as a single or in runs with a value of zero, OR more importantly the Dalmation can be played as the second card in a pair. Lastly you have the Rookies, apart they can be played as singles or in runs as a value zero as well or paired together, The Rookies become the most powerful Pair that you can play.

Oh, and what would a good Climbing game be without one way to break the following rule? In Ladder 29 a Four of Kind may be played at any time, regardless of what has been led and is called a Flashover, Flashovers are the highest valued plays in the game and can only be beaten of course, by Flashovers of higher value.

After everyone but one has shed all of their cards from their hand, the round is over and you calculate your scores based on the Hot Spot Cards in front of the players. The game is a race to 29 points, once 29 points is hit the game is over and whomever ends up with the most points, wins the game.

I wish I had more experience with climbing games so I could make all the comparisons to Tichu, Haggis, Clubs and so many others, but I don’t, but I will say if you are looking for that, be sure to check out Ryan Sanders’ write up over on The Indie Game Report.

For me, what I’m going to say is this, Ladder 29, is a fantastic addition to the Green Couch Games line of games. The artwork by Andy Jewett is beautiful, inclusive and I know that they are taking steps to help with some of the color blind issues that were been pointed out once folks started playing the game more out in the open.

Much like any climbing game or trick taking games the strategy of play comes down to learning your opponents idiosyncrasies I think, but also, you have to know your own as well. The Hot Spot Cards add a huge new twist to your strategies, because not only do they limit what you can or cannot do, but they also are your score each round, so sometimes you have to take that Start Player Hot Spot Card even though it is only 6 points for first, just because you want the lead at the beginning, as you may never be able to get it otherwise. Sometimes you have to take the big points on the nearly impossible cards, just in hopes of making up some lost points even with going out maybe third. They make for interesting decisions to make each and every round and really push the game.

Seven plays so far under my belt, from 2 player to 4 player, I just have not been able to get that fifth person to the table, but we’ve enjoyed it at all player counts, although I will say, Kerensa and I both agree it is probably more fun for us at 3 or 4 than at 2 player. 2 player is once again a lot of back and forth and whomever figures out or at least thinks they’ve figured out, what the other player has is usually the winner.

Ladder 29 is just another fun, well designed, beautifully illustrated game from Green Couch Games. We really can’t say much more than that. If you really like “Great little games, that make great big connections”, don’t let this one pass you up. This one got me Hook and Ladder, I am most definitely a backer.

And I haven’t even mentioned how I am like Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback’s 12th biggest fan!

Be sure to check out Ladder 29 on Kickstarter, you have until April 12th, 2017 at 11am Central!

This preview was written by Brandon Kempf for the What Did You Play This Week Podcast & Blog.

You can hear more of our thoughts on Ladder 29 on our podcast at around the 52:09 mark:

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The Colonists(how I completely forgot Sunday & Monday, and then a Saturday & a Sunday)

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The Colonists from Mayfair Games arrived just before the New Year hit, and I was bound and determined to make this one, one of the first games of the year, the year of less buying, of less backing, the year of playing more games that are sitting there staring me in the face. But The Colonists is no ordinary game, it isn’t a game that one can just throw on the table, grab three friends and sit down for an afternoon of fun and games, well, you could, but that afternoon would turn into evening which may in turn, turn into morning. So over the previous couple weeks, I sat and I read the rule book, and I read the rule book and I read the rule book, which isn’t to say that the rulebook is difficult to get through, in fact it’s the opposite, the rules are very well written and everything is pretty clear. I was reading over and over in preparation of asking my wife to play. You see, this may have been the most difficult question to ask my wife since she asked me to marry her, wait, so that wasn’t even that difficult for me. This may have been the most difficult thing I was going to ever ask of her!

Finally, one cold Sunday afternoon I worked up the courage and asked her, “Hey, you wanna play an era of The Colonists”? And to my surprise and bewilderment she agreed and we sat down to play it.

For a game that calls itself The Epic Strategy Game and possesses a rule book of about 30 pages and has two supplemental books as well, it’s relatively easy to jump into this one. Really, I didn’t take much more than 5 minutes or so to explain a bit of flavor and what was going on action wise to Kerensa and we were off and running. This is such a huge bonus for a game of this size, of this magnitude, to be able to hop in and be ready to play in about 5 minutes. Now that didn’t include setup, which took me a bit as I’m still working on storage solutions for the game to facilitate easier setup, but we were really up and running in 5 minutes. The concepts at first are simple you have a Steward on the board, and that Steward is running around among the 12 available spaces at the start of the game. They’ll be gathering resources, building things with those resources or trying to set up alliances with one of the available colonies. It’s really basic stuff, but don’t take it too lightly as this basic stuff is what you are building your base for in the future. If you’ve played any Euro in the last 5 years, the actions, the planning, the way you go about it, will all seem familiar and come to you fairly quickly, and that’s what the first Era is, setting yourself up for the next 3 eras.

As you progress through the game, you are going to be adding more rules, more resources, more Stewards, more Colonies and more, way more, options on that player board. You see, each era, you are going to be adding 12 locations to that board, 12 locations that the first player gets to place and build the map as they please. They could be a jerk, like I was and not really pay attention to where they are building new locations with respect to the old ones, or they could be thoughtful, like Kerensa, and try to find the best place to build them so as to facilitate easier completion of their goals. Here comes one sticking point as far as our AP(Analysis Paralysis) goes. Kerensa did take a bit long to go over in her head what was going on, and what would best help her in placement, even looking down the road a few turns, I didn’t, I saved my AP for deciding where that damn Steward was going to go next, which could have partially been an easier decision, had I actually planned out better where to place those locations.

So that first era builds nicely, going from 12 locations up to 24 by the end of the era and you begin to see where the game is going, what it is building, but still, you may not be ready for the scope of what is about to unfold before you. We called it quits after that first era, but I kept everything on the table as we wanted to play era 2 the next day since the kids were at school and we would be at the house by ourselves for a few hours. We recorded a bit of our thoughts after that first play as well, you can hear them on Week 111 at around the 1:21:28 mark, after we talk a bit about another game.

Monday(at least I think it was Monday)

We arrive home after taking the kids to breakfast, make some coffee and some snacks and sit down to era 2 of The Colonists, we were so naive at that point, we had no idea what was about to unfold before us.

Before continuing I just thought I’d mention that Kerensa likes to play games till there is an end, a verifiable winner or loser, even in cooperative games, who won or lost is important, but I completely forgot that as I was pushing to continue, just one more era, in reality, I could have just kept playing and not even mentioned anything, just keep putting out the new era cards, the new era tiles and setting it up, she would have wanted to finish, but I kept leaving the option open. We could quit here, or keep on playing, and keep on playing we did.

So, Era 2 begins and the importance of those colonies start to become apparent. At the beginning of the game you randomly pick 4 different colonies that you can affiliate yourself with, our 4 were:

The Altruist Colony which is all about charity about sharing of resources. As you progress through the Altruist Colony and gain more diplomacy with them you have more choices of resources to gain from them at the end of every year

The Storekeeper Colony, they are all about storage of goods. They start out by expanding your Storage and Warehouse, but eventually give the benefit of increased storage over those who do not affiliate themselves with the Storekeeper Colony. (More about storage a bit later as it is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY important)

The Industrialist Colony, they are all about the refinement of goods, taking that wood and turning into planks and clay into bricks, etc.

The Alchemist Colony, which is all about exchanging goods of one kind for another.

The Colonies cannot be ignored, they just cannot be. First off, most of them allow you to expand your storage early on, even if it is just one extra spot, that spot is so important as you need to have access to these resources to build your buildings on your Community board.

Oh, what’s that? I haven’t even touched on your Community boards and we are already nearing the end of Era 2?!? Let me remedy that. On your Community board you will start with 2 farms and each of those farms gives you a Farmer to employ into other buildings that will be built. In the regular game, your Community board allows you to grow to 20 buildings, that can expand later on through the building of the Community Hall, but I get ahead of myself. The Community boards are where you build the buildings that will bring you the workers who you then employ in other buildings to gain resources, to be able to store goods. Got it? I told you this was easy!

What do you mean we’re nearly 3 hours into the game?!?!

Era three starts out and your board is now full of 36 different locations to visit and you may have an extra Steward, but probably not, there may be an Altruist on the board to move as well, which is a good thing, trust me, but that decision tree keeps getting larger and larger! What happens when the decision tree gets larger? More time to think about each and every thing you want to do, or even need to do. Because, once you move past your farmers and start attracting Citizens to your board and you start employing them, you have to make sure that they are fed, after all, they aren’t farmers any longer.

In The Colonists, there are 3 different Colonists that will work on your Community Board, the first is the Farmer, the farmer is self sufficient and can work but does not need to be fed at the end of a year, after all, he’s growing the food, right? Next up would be the Citizens, they can come around in different ways, either your farmer tires of the Farming life and becomes a citizen, or you build an apartment to attract new Citizens. Citizens do need to be fed, so you need to make sure that you have 1 food per Citizen at the end of the year to feed them. After Citizens, come your Merchants. The Merchants are a bit higher maintenance, but then again, they can do some pretty important work. They cost you 2 food and one Robes to sustain them at the end of the year. I believe you can start creating robes and obtaining Merchants in the 3rd Era.

So wow, it’s been how long?!?! Did you just say that we’ve been playing for 5 hours?

After each Era, I offered to end the game to Kerensa, just in case she was tired of sitting and playing, but she said “NOPE!”, so we pushed onward.

The 4th Era, man, the 4th Era. This is where the wheels hit the pavement and you see how well this engine you’ve been building runs. But also, this is where the wheels of the game wobble, just a little bit, at least it did for us. You see, you’ve done all this work, you’re building your engine and then you hit this final Era and all you do is try to min/max your points. It’s still fun, it’s still stressful, and you still have to continue to produce and build, but at this point it most of your thoughts turn to that end of game scoring, and it can seem just a tad bit anti-climatic. Nothing horrific, it’s not enough for me to put it away and not want to play it any longer, if anything it makes you want to try again, and we did, the next week.

Seven and a half hours, that’s what it took for us to play through The Colonists, we played the first Era on a Sunday evening, and played 2-4 on the next day in one sitting and it was worth every minute.

Addendum:

I wrote this about three weeks ago, and the surprising thing is, we went right back to The Colonists the next week and we knocked out another 4 era game, in the same time, with decidedly different endings. Our Colonies were different and we had very few ways of increasing our storage other than just the regular upgrading so we had to juggle storage issues a bit more. This is kind of what makes the game difficult, you can’t keep more than you can store, so you are constantly juggling what you need from your warehouse to your Storage and even buffers. Only goods in your Storage can be used, if it is sitting in your warehouse or on the buffers, the goods are unavailable, so you have to have those moved around and ready before your actions.

So two plays in about a week’s time and 15 hours of experience later am I still wanting to play? Your damn right I am. This is the type of game that just cries to be played over and over again, with all the variability and the myriad of ways to get what you want, it just cries for replays. I do worry about that 4 Era a bit being strictly a min/max era and I do worry that money is a really strong strategy, that’s what Kerensa kicked by butt with the second matchup, but I think that it’ll be fun trying to figure all of that out, I really do.  Oh, and you can hear what Kerensa and I thought after our second play on Week 112 at about the 1:34:09 mark.

Flamme Rouge: A Review by Eric Booth

Flamme Rouge

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Designed by Asger Sams Granerud

Published by Lautapelit.fi 

Art by Ossi Hiekkala, Jere Kasanen(You should check them you on BGG as the art in Flamme Rouge is excellent. I love the 1920s feel of the images.)

You can listen to Eric’s thoughts on Week 100 of the WDYPTW Podcast at the 21:47 mark.

Flamme Rouge, AKA Red Flag, is quick bicycle racing game that takes place in the last kilometer of a race. You will be controlling 2 riders, a Roller and a Sprinter. How you control your riders is done through a clever play of cards. Each rider has their own deck of cards and you will draw 4 cards from one rider and pick one card to play and the ones you didn’t pick are returned to the bottom of the deck face up. (Recycling) them. Then you do the same for the other rider. This choice has to be done one rider at a time. So you are gambling on what cards you might draw for your other rider. Each card has a number on it which will determine how far along the track that rider can travel. You’ll be wanting to try and keep your Roller out in front of your Sprinter to soak up the exhaustion cards you will inevitably be getting throughout the race. Then when you are getting close to the finish line your Roller will be full of exhaustion cards and this is when your Sprinter should start using his big cards to, well, sprint to the finish. It’s a very clever mechanic that is very thematic to how actual bike races work. You have the team pulling (Slipstreaming) the sprinter along then they move out of the way for that last push at the end of the race by your Sprinter.

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Now that you know how the cards work, let’s move on to how the movement works. After each player selects which cards they are going to play for each of their riders, all players will reveal them simultaneously. Then in rider order each player will move their rider along the track. A rider can pass through other riders but can’t stop their movement on another rider unless there is a free lane next to that rider. If there is no free lane the rider is placed behind the rider they would have landed on. Which can actually be a good thing as it could save your rider from getting an exhaustion card. This is repeated until all the riders have been moved. After this is done the Slip-streaming phase happens. You start at the back of the pack and you’ll look at each pack of riders, which can consist of only one rider, and see if there is no more than one square between them and the next pack of riders. If there is only one square between them you will move the riders up to the next pack of riders creating an even bigger pack. You will continue to do this until you have closed up all the one square gaps between the riders thus creating one huge pack of riders. If there are more than one square between the packs they are considered to be out of the slip-stream and will not be moved up to the next pack. Oh and there’s optional hills that can be added to the track that add another whole dimension to the race depending on whether you’re going up hill or down hill. There are some more movement subtleties that I’m not going to go over here but they are very easy to learn.

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Now it’s time deal out those dreaded exhaustion cards. These are the cards that will gum up your deck with that puny little 2 speed card. Why is this so important and painful you might ask? It’s because the cards you picked to move your riders earlier are removed from the game so they’re out of play forever. So in a weird way this is almost a deck building game, sorta, but your deck just keeps getting worse as the race goes on. So you need to be very tactical on what cards you play and when to play them. How your riders get exhaustion cards is determined by whether or not they have an empty square in front of them on the track after the slip-streaming phase is done. This exhaustion card is added face up to bottom of that rider’s deck to show it’s ugly face later on in the race
This pretty much sums up the game. Very simple with some very important decisions to be made in order to crosse finish line first. Oh yeah did I mention that the person who crosses the finish line first isn’t necessarily the winner? It’s the rider who goes furthest past the finish line that wins. Now let’s find out what I think of Flamme Rouge.

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Likes:

  • What do I like about Flamme Rouge? Almost all of it as a matter of fact.
  • The simplicity of the game play along with the tough decisions on which cards to play and when to play those cards. Flamme Rouge doesn’t get bogged down with overly complicated, needless rules. In fact the rules for the game are only 4 pages long and 1 of those pages is an overview of the game components.
  • There’s no tokens to keep track of. No dice to be rolled. It’s all down to when you play your cards.
  • I feel Flamme Rouge could be an excellent gateway game to new gamers or your non gamer friends. I know this is thrown around a lot but I really believe it with this game.
  • The game is very scale-able between whether you want an easier track to a more difficult track by removing or adding the hill tracks to the game to accommodate who you are playing with.
  • As for the components? They are top notch. Super thick cardboard for the player boards and the track. Highly detailed miniatures for the two different riders which leads me to the one thing that will be in my Dislikes column.

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Dislikes:

  • Now what did I dislike about the game? Sometimes if can be very hard to distinguish between which rider is the Sprinter and which rider is the Roller. There is a little itty bitty S on the back of the Sprinter and an itty bitty R on the back of the Roller but they don’t stand out at all. This can lead to some confusion sometimes on whether you are picking a card for the correct rider or not. And this is truly a very minor thing. After a few plays you will just be able to tell them apart easily.

So in conclusion, I’ve really enjoyed every play of Flamme Rouge so far. And, from what I could tell, so did everyone else who played it with me. The simplicity of the game play is what I would call it’s greatest strength. So, if you’re able to get a copy and you’re a fan of racing games then I would highly recommend Flamme Rouge to you.

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Haspelknecht

Haspelknecht

Designed by Thomas Spitzer

Published by Capstone Games

Art by Johannes Sich at Jojosich.de

A Review by Eric Booth – @EricBooth

You can hear Eric’s Review of Haspelknecht at the 44:49 mark on Week 99 of the What Did You Play This Week Podcast.

 

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In Haspelknecht you are taking on the role of a 16th century farmer who, according to the rules, accidentally discovers coal on the surface of his farm. During the game you will be battling the ever present pit water that keeps seeping into your pinge, surface mine, and your actual coal mine shaft, preventing you from removing or mining that precious dusty, black gold. You will be acquiring new developments that will give you a one time benefit or some excellent end game scoring. Or these developments can be extra buildings you can add to your farm to make your mining endeavors more efficient. When you start the game you’ll only start out with a Farmer, Farmhand and a Digger.

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This leads to what I think is the heart of Haspelknecht, the action selection draft. There are 3 colored action discs in the game. Brown, Yellow and Black. You will be drafting these discs in two rounds and these will dictate what your workers will be able to do during the action selection phase. With the Yellow discs you can acquire much needed food. With the Brown discs you can acquire the much needed wood to build the supports in your pinge and later in the mine shaft itself. The placement of this wood will dictate where you will be able to dig out the coal. Then there is the Black discs that will let your workers either remove water from the pinge or to actually mine that precious coal. Now how does this work you say? Well let me tell you.

During the 1st round of drafting discs you will pick one of the Action Pools and pick one of colors of the discs and remove all of those discs and place them on the wheelbarrow labeled with a 1 on your player board. The disc you place on the wheelbarrow labeled 1 will dictate player order for the rest of the season, after the action drafting phase. During the second round you will pick one of the Action Pools and pick a color and take those disc and place them on the wheelbarrow labeled with a 2 on your player board to a maximum of 5 total discs unless you were able to get more than 5 discs on the 1st round of the draft. After figuring out the player order you will move onto the action selection phase. This will be when you get allocate all those wonderful discs you just received during the drafting phase.

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Now let’s talk about your initial workers. You have the digger that can only remove coal and pit water from your pinge. And this guy thinks a lot of himself as he requires either one yellow disc or one food or one Thaler to do his job. Where as the Farmer and Farmhand can use any of the discs you’ve acquired earlier. There’s a few rules to placing disc onto workers. You can only place like colors on Farmhand and the Farmer to complete tasks with one exception. The Farmer is also able to acquire developments which use various combinations of discs. So if you’re going to use the Development task of your Farmer you place the needed colors required by the development you want on the Farmer. When you’re done allocating your discs, in turn order, you will take the actions in whatever order you want by removing those disc from your workers and returning them to the bag to be drawn later to fill the action selection pools.

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OK, I think I’ve talked that action thing into the ground. Let’s move on to what happens when you’ve removed all the easy to access coal on the surface in your pinge. Well this is where the namesake of the game, Haspelknecht, comes into play. As soon as you remove all the coal from your pinge you will move any pit water you have into the mine shaft. You will retire the bedraggled digger and bring in your miner and the hard to pronounce Haspelknecht. Now these two guys are just as greedy as the digger was, but more efficient. What can they do for you, you might be asking? Well, the Haspelknecht removes both coal and pit water, in fact he is the ONLY person who can remove pit water from the mine shaft. But he requires one of these 3 things. Either a yellow disc, a food, or a thaler. And the miner is even more proud of himself. He requires a food or a thaler but he is able to mine up to 3 coal from the mine into the mine shaft to be later removed by the Haspelknecht. Now your other two available workers are still able to mine coal but they are less efficient in doing it. And remember they are no longer able to remove any water from the mine shaft. That is a job for your Haspelknecht.

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Wow that was all a mouthful. Now onto the developments. I’m not going to go into all the available developments you can get. But I would like to do a quick rules clarification how you can place your token on a development, as the rule book is just a tad confusing on how this is done. On the first row you can place anywhere regardless of adjacency. On any other row you have to place adjacent to one of your other claimed developments unless you are placing one of your tokens onto a development that an opponent has already claimed. You do not need to be adjacent to one of your other discs to do this but you will have to pay the person who was the last to claim that development a fee. That fee differs with each subsequent row. Doing this will extend your adjacency requirements for later developments. Now all this craziness you have to do has to all be done over 4 seasons and 3 years with the winter season being the coal scoring, pay the government, store you stuff, season.

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Enough rambling let’s move onto what I think of the game.

Likes:

  • Haspelknecht gives me that same feeling I get when I play that wonderful game Orleans. What I mean by that is every round you just get the feeling that you’re doing something amazing but just short of what you need to accomplish everything you want to do and I love that in games.
  • I really like how Haspelknecht truly gives you several different paths to victory and that was shown to be true in our last 4 player game. It was a very tight game and each of us went on several different paths during the game. One player was still in the running and did very little actual mining.
  • I’ve played with all player counts and it played great at all player counts. The game scales very very well.
  • The components are all top notch. Nice thick cardboard. No flimsy card stock. Cough, Terraforming Mars, cough cough.

Dislikes:

  • Now what did I dislike about the game? There’s a few confusing places in the rule book like the placement rules on the developments.
  • Some of the icons for the end game scoring are very small and can be hard to read.
  • The only other thing I can think of is that the Action Disc Selection phase can be a little ap inducing. You are trying to see exactly what discs you can take to accomplish what you want to do this round and seeing what discs will be available the next round. Me, I just pretty much ignored the discs in the reserve pool for the most part.

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In conclusion, I really like Haspelknecht. If you like what is lovingly called, point salad, many paths to victory, type games then this just might be a game for you. Now know that I didn’t cover everything you can do but I hope enough that you a good idea of what you can do during the game.

booth-haspelknecht-2I give Haspelknecht Two black lung thumbs up.

 

Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion
Designed by Stefano Castelli, Adrea Crespi & Lorenzo Silva
Art by Giulia Ghigini
Published in North America by Cool Mini or Not

Potion Explosion Cover

So let’s get started, by skipping to the end, if all of my finals were like this in high school, I would have absolutely loved taking tests.
In Potion Explosion, you are witches and wizards about to take your final Potions exam, the rules of the exam are fairly simple, use the available ingredients, Unicorn Tears, Dragon Smoke, Ogre Mucus and Fairy Dandruff, to make the best spells and score as high as you can on your final. You are racing to get skill tokens as when those skill tokens run out, the exam is over and only the finest students will be awarded a passing grade, otherwise known as, the win.

The ingredients that you will be using will be in an ingredient dispenser and you’ll only see a certain amount of them, you have 5 rows of ingredients with 8 available ingredients in each row. For game purposes those ingredients are differently colored marbles that will be in the dispenser.

Potion Explosion 2

So on your turn during the exam, there is one thing that MUST do and several others that can be done or may be done. First and foremost you MUST take an ingredient from the dispenser. In doing so, this may trigger explosions of ingredients. If in the process of removing an ingredient, two ingredients of the same color collide, that causes the explosion and you as the active student/player get to also take all of those like ingredients of that color when they explode into your ingredient collection. If in the process of taking those ingredients out, more explosions happen, you keep taking the ingredients until no explosions happen.

Now that you have the ingredients, what are you going to do with them? Well, in front of you, you have two flasks that have on them the ingredients needed to complete the potions you have chosen to concoct, you match them up by placing the ingredients in their proper spot in their flask. If in doing so, you complete a potion by filling in all the needed ingredients, remove all ingredients and put them back into the dispenser as randomly as possible and flip your flask over and put it to the side. If you need a bit of help gathering ingredients you can always ask the professor for a bit of help, but this comes at a -2 pt penalty on your final at the end of the exam and he allows you to take an ingredient from the dispenser, but no explosions are triggered.

Potion Explosion 4

When you have completed potions, you can then use them in future turns to have specific benefits in helping you through the exam, but choose wisely when you use them, as they are one time use only, unless you complete some Sands of Time potions as well. In all in an exam you will have six different potions available to you to create, each of them with different abilities, for example the aforementioned Sands of Time potion allows you to activate again the effect of one potion that you have already used, it’s quite a helpful potion, as are all of them.

Also, while finishing potions, if at any time you have completed three of a kind or a set of five different, pick up one of those skill tokens and add 4 points to your final for a bit of an extra credit score. When the last Skill Token is picked up, you finish the round and then you add up your points for completed potions(each potion has a point value to it) add in any Skill Token points and then subtract any points lost from asking the professor for help and the student with the highest total wins!

Potion Explosion 1

The toy factor in Potion Explosion is through the roof, with the cardboard dispenser that Gabby and I had a lot of fun punching out and assembling, the marbles that go in the dispenser that really give you a great tactile experience while playing the game, it’s all really well done and makes the game stand out. The art on the potion flasks is bright and vivid to match the rest of the game, and when you flip the flask over after completing it you see a really nice potion, just waiting to be drank. So production wise and art wise, Cool Mini or Not have knocked it out of the park here and that’s kind of important as this is a game that is targeted to the family gamers I think. Anyone can enjoy it, but this is a light weight set collection game with toy appeal, families if they find this are going to eat it up, even at that $50 price tag.

Potion Explosion 5

Gameplay itself is light and fun, your turns are pretty easily spelled out for you, and you know what you can and cannot do. The trick of the game comes from being able to read the ingredient dispenser and utilizing your potions to their maximum effect, you gotta know when they are going to help you, you don’t just take ingredients just because you can as you can only store 3 extra ingredients on your board that are not in potions, so space is limited. Also, storing ingredients can be a bit risky as there are people out there that create potions that allow them to steal your unused ingredients, so be careful.

Among all the positives that I’ve found with Potion Explosion in our plays so far, the only negative I can hit on is as the player count increases, meaning when you play with 4 players, the state of the ingredient dispenser will change an awful lot I between your turns, and this can lead to a bit of AP in players, I kind of liken it to the Five Tribes AP, but with fewer options on the board, just more options of special things you can do with your potions. It doesn’t bother me in the least at home, but there may be some folks who you won’t want to play this with, folks who have to maximize each and every action they take may cause a little bit of a headache. But that nitpick is small and if you are playing with 2 or 3 players, I don’t think it will matter all that much. Or if you aren’t playing with vindictive 6 year olds, sheesh, AnnaBeth is so mean to me in this game, she just takes everything she can from me.

Potion Explosion was one of the big hits at Gen Con this year, I’m not sure how many copies they sold, but I saw it in an awful lot of folks’ bags and being carried around. By the time I got to the booth on Sunday and had made my mind up to purchase it, the supply had dwindled down to about 30-40 left in the stack, now who knows, they may have had more coming as we were always seeing CMON shirts carrying boxes, but it’s safe to say this one sold pretty well, and rightfully so.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I like this direction that Cool Mini or Not is taking, separating their brands a bit, they’ll still do the big bombastic Kickstarter mini games, but they are also going to putting out more titles like this and even the other CMON game I picked up at Gen Con, Ta-Da!, which is lighter yet and just as fun, but more on that one in the weeks to com.

If you are looking for a fantastic set collection game with some really nice table appeal, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one, we’ve all enjoyed it, from my youngest daughter at 6, all the way up to me at 43. This one gets the WDYPTW(Kempf Family) Flask of Approval.

Potion Explosion 3

Rocky Road A la Mode

Rocky Road a la Mode

Joshua Mills-Designer

Adam Maciver-Artist

Green Couch Games-Publisher

 

ICE CREAM MAN!!! Every kid has yelled that at one time in their life, when they’ve heard the ice cream truck music coming down the road. Well now you can relive that excitement from the other side. Now you get to be the Ice Cream Truck Driver and you are driving around town, trying to attract customers in order to sell your fantastical frozen treats in the newest game from the team of Joshua J Mills and Green Couch Games, Rocky Road a la Mode.

Please note that this is the Preview version from Green Couch Games and the game art and components have not been finalized.

Set up is super easy, here we go, first, set up the roads that your Ice Cream Trucks will travel.

Next, line up your Ice Cream Trucks in a random order, the truck on top always goes first.

Then, let’s put some Rocket Pop tokens out on the board on the three pothole spots.

Everyone gets an Ice Cream Truck Card to place in front of them

and three treat cards randomly dealt to them

Stack the rest of the treat cards near the road and lay out three face up next to the draw pile. Also, near the road place out the eight location bonus cards in four coordinating piles with the highest value bonus on top.

Now you are ready to play Rocky Road a la Mode.

In the game you are Ice Cream Truck operators, trying to gain the most loyalty points by selling your ice cream all over town, ultimately the game is a race, sort of, to 9 loyalty points, I’ll explain later how that may not always be the case.

In the game, the players are not going to have a set order, the truck that is furthest back on the road is always going to be the player on turn, like in the game Tokaido or in Patchwork.

So, on your turn you are going to take one of the three possible actions.

  1. You can Restock, which is drawing or taking 1-5 cards from the draw deck or face up row of treat cards. The player must announce prior to drawing how many they are going to take and then must move their ice cream truck that many spaces on the road track.
  2. You can attract customers. To do this, take a look at the treat cards above again, you see that number that is on the top right where the speaker is, you know, that speaker that’s playing that music that makes kids go wild, when you choose a card with the customers you want to attract, you move your truck forward the number of spaces dictated on the card in that spot. Then you take that card and you tuck it under your truck card with only the customers and their wants showing.
  3. The last action you could take on your turn is to Serve your customers that you have attracted, to do so, you start with the topmost customer and you discard treat cards from your hand that match the large treat symbol on the top left of each card with what the customers want. When you serve that customer you slide the card up to cover it up and move your truck one spot along the road track. When you have served the second customer on the card, you take the card and you spin it so that only the icons on the bottom of the card are seen coming from the back of your ice cream truck card.These icons are now permanent bonuses. So the next time you fill a customer order, you don’t have use quite as many cards from your hand. These cards also can have loyalty points on them, these count towards your goal of 9 loyalty points to trigger the end of the game.

Along with getting permanent bonuses from the cards, if you collect the correct number of bonuses you gain location cards that grant loyalty points. Players can only collect one location card of each type.

Along the road, when you land your truck on the Rocket Pop Token, you get to take that into your collection and it can be used as a wild to fill customer orders. When spent, the Rocket Pop Token goes back on to the road in the Pothole space that is in front of the truck token that is furthest ahead on the track.

The game ends when one player has nine or more Loyalty Points. Play will continue however until the player who triggered the end of the game’s Truck Token is furthest back on the road. This player does not take another turn. Be careful, in our games the player who triggered the game end has been the furthest back on the Road Track several times, meaning no one else gets a turn, gotta get those points when you can, and do it quickly. Everyone adds up their Loyalty Points and the Ice Cream Truck driver with the most Loyalty Points wins the game!

Great little games that make great big connections. Every time I preview one of these titles from Green Couch Games, I think that Jason could not have come up with a better tag line for the company. These little small box filler games are quickly becoming the jewels of our collection, from Fidelitas to Avalanche at Yeti Mountain we’ve enjoyed each and every title in our family. Rocky Road a la Mode continues that tradition.

This is a fun set collection game that gives off a bit of a Splendor feel, the collecting of cards and using those cards to fill orders to gain permanent bonuses that allow for easier filling of future orders. But it plays quicker and let’s face it, the theme is a ton more fun, I know I’d take selling ice cream over jewels, and that kind of shows if you get to meet me ever in person.

It’s fun trying to build your engine in Rocky Road a la Mode but you better be well aware of what the rest of the players are doing, focus too hard on getting yourself rolling and forget to deliver the goods that can gain you Loyalty Points, and you’ll find yourself scrambling to catch up as this one plays quick, 20-30 minutes tops but there is a lot of fun and decisions to be made in those 20-30 minutes.

I can’t wait to see the finished product, and I should have asked Jason some of the plans for the Kickstarter before writing this, but he’s been a busy man at Origins this week. I can envision some cool Truck tokens and the Rocket Pop Tokens will surely be a lot of fun as well, and probably another play mat for the road!! Oh man, now I’m really wondering what they’ve got in store. One thing I don’t have to wonder about is gameplay though as Rocky Road a la Mode is fun, a lot of fun.

Watch for Rocky Road a la Mode on Kickstarter, 6/20/2016!

Orleans The Review

Orleans
Designed by Reiner Stockhausen
Illustrated by Klemens Franz
Published by Tasty Minstrel Games and DLP Games

Orleans Cover

Orleans is a worker placement, action selection game where 2-5 players(with the deluxe version) fill their bags with the characters that will best allow them to compete to become the most influential and dominant player in various areas of Medieval France. While fighting for this dominance players will collect various goods, coins and victory points in hopes that at the end of the game they have the most points and therefore, the most influential in all the lands, or at least your table.

Orleans 1

Orleans is played over the course of 18 rounds with each round having 7 phases.

In the first phase of the round, the first player of the round will flip over the topmost hourglass tile from the hourglass stack. These tiles have two purposes in the game, the first being that it is the timer for the game and secondly each tile has one of 6 events that will affect the current round.

The second phase is a simple check to see if anyone is alone in the lead on the farmer track, if they are, they gain 1 coin from the bank. Also, if there is anyone alone in last place on the track, they owe 1 coin to the bank. If there are ties for first or last, no one gains or owes a coin.

Third phase of the game is where you get to pull your characters from your bag, yup, this is where the bag building fun starts to rear it’s head. Each person simultaneously pulls character tiles from their bag equal to or lower than the number indicated by your location on the Knight track, at the beginning of the game, everyone starts at four, thus you’ll pull all four of your starting character tiles from the bag and place them on your marketplace which is located along the bottom of your player board. Each player can pull as many characters as their Knight track allows, but can not have more than 8 characters on their Marketplace unless they have a building that allows more, ie The Gunpowder Tower.

Orleans 2

Now is when we start planning, each player simultaneously assign their characters from your market to activate actions in Places that are on your player board. Each of these Places will have different actions associated with them and different characters needed to activate them. Place the required characters on the corresponding action spaces of the Place that you want to activate, a Place is considered activated as soon as all of its action spaces have a character tile.

Phase 5 is where everyone gets to carry out the actions that they have activated. In player order, starting with the first player, everyone completes one action around the table until all of the players pass. We’ll dive into the actions after the phase summary.
Resolve the event shown on the Hour Glass Tile of the current round, one tile does not need to be resolved, Pilgrimage affects the entire round as opposed to having one affect at the end.
Pass the starting player token to the player on their left and rinse and repeat.

Orleans 4

In that action phase is when a majority of the action of the game takes place, through these actions you are going to build your pool of characters and execute actions that will move you closer to your dominance. When you activate one of the buildings on your player board in the City, you get to take the action associated with it. For example the Farmhouse requires a Blue Boatman and a Brown Craftsman to activate it, when you place those characters on the required spaces to activate it, in return for activating the Farmhouse you receive a Farmer character to put in your bag, you move up the Farmer track and collect the goods according to where you are on the track. Pretty simple, other tracks will let you acquire Knights, the red characters that allow you to increase your draw based on where you are on the track, at most you can pull 8 characters, but remember, only 8 can be in your marketplace. In the Village you get the choice between three actions when you activate it, The Boatman allows you to get Boatmen and gain money for your hard work fishing, The Craftsman allows you to move up the Craftsman track and gain a technology tile which you place permanently on a character spot on your board, the first one has to go on a Farmer space, and there are a couple other limitations. Last in the Villages is the Trader, he moves you up the Trades track and gains you access to a building that will become yours to use the remainder of the game, those buildings grant different effects and still have to be activated just like any other spot on your player board. The University allows you to take a Scholar tile, advance on the track and then gain the depicted number of Development Points. The Development Points and the track are pretty important, as you move up the track, you can gain coins, you can gain followers and you can gain an increase of Development Status which is important to end game scoring as it increases your multiplier, which we’ll touch on at game end. The Monastery action allows you to gain a Monk, these Monks are wild Character tiles, they can be used in place of any of the other Character Tiles.

There are a few other spaces in your village to cover as well On the main board there is a map of France and you have a Merchant, who starts in Orleans. On this map are routes, some roads, some are rivers and there are goods along these routes that your merchant can pick up. The goods are worth varying amounts of points at the end of the game, which once again, we’ll talk about later. But back to these other actions, you can ship, which allows your Merchant to move along the river to the next town and pick up a good along the way. Your Merchant can also use the roads by taking the Wagon actions and do the same thing, except move along the road. Lastly you can build a Guildhall in the town which your Merchant is located. Only one Guildhall can be located in each town, except Orleans which can house one of each player’s Guildhall. If you have the Deluxe version of the game, the Tavern, a building that the Trader action allows you to build, will break those rules and allow you to build a building in the same location as someone else.

The final two action spaces on your player board that I haven’t talked about are the Scriptorum which allows you to move up one spot on the Development track and then the Town Hall which is the only action that permanently removes Characters from your collection. The Town Hall action requires one or two character tiles of your choosing to activate. When you take the action, move one or both of your Character Tiles from the Town Hall to any free appropriate space on the Beneficial Deeds Board. You receive a bonus of coins or Development Points, whichever is appropriate where you have placed your characters. Once these Characters have been placed in the Beneficial Deeds Board, they are there to stay and do not go back to your bag.

Orleans Metal Money

So for the most part that is the game, there are some other smaller rules, but we won’t get into those here. Such as penalties if you can’t pay for Census or Taxes. But at the end of the game points are tallied and the winner is whomever has the most. Coins gathered are worth 1 point a piece. Goods are worth varied points from 1 point for Grain to 5 points for Brocade. Your Trading Stations and Citizen Tiles are added together, with the person who has built the most Trading Posts getting the bonus Citizen Tiles. That total is then multiplied by your Development Status point. Add all that together and that’s your points for the game.

Orleans is by no means a heavy, thinky game, but it is an absolute joy to play. The bag building works perfectly here and with the deluxe version there is really nice tactile feeling to pulling your characters from your bag. Now, as with any game that has you randomly pulling things from a bag, there is a certain bit of luck to the game in the drawing and I’ve been on the wrong side of that luck a handful of times and it can be downright frustrating, but with Orleans, there are so many ways to mitigate and so many different things you can do, that will still allow you to progress towards your ultimate goal of more victory points.

I like how the designer has integrated a “culling” mechanic in this and made it a benefit to do in more ways than one, because along with thinning your bag and allowing you to get the character pulls you need, you can also gain benefits by culling them to the Good Deeds board. It’s a nice touch, rather than just sluffing them off like some deck builders where the only benefit you gain from it is that it’s no longer a part of your deck or in this instance, draw bag.

Orleans The Stickering

I’ve heard rumors and folks saying the game is broke, but I kind of feel like I’m doing the game a disservice by even bringing it up, because I have yet to see it in our games. Our strategies have been varied and minus one game where Gabby wasn’t all that competitive at the end, all our games have been tightly competitive in the scoring department. It can be a bit point salad-y, and it can honestly it’s more than a bit multiplayer solitaire, especially in the lower player counts, but with more players there are a couple ways to interact or at least negatively affect what your opponents want to do rather than just being a free for all. Honestly, that’s my biggest gripe, it’s too solitary and I like multiplayer solitaire games for the most part, but Orleans just screams for some interaction, some blocking, some honest to goodness meanness, something to push it into that Top 10 of mine. So while I do enjoy Orleans quite a bit, it’s missing that one thing, maybe that’s a good thing, I’d hate to have to bump one of my Top 10 games out of the Top 10, but it could happen.

I wonder what Orleans Invasion brings to the game.

Hmm

And I do recommend the Deluxe version, while some may say the cardboard chits for the goods are easier to randomly pull from a bag to put on the map, I don’t care, the deluxe bits are fantastic. But, if you can’t, or don’t want to spend the extra money on the Deluxe version, go ahead with the regular, I don’t think you can go wrong here.

 

Podcasts That I Listen To & Enjoy

Podcasts

I will be adding links to this article very soon, in order to make it easier for readers to find these fine podcasts.

It seems about every other day there is a question on Facebook, Board Game Geek, Twitter or Reddit from a new board gaming podcast listener wanting to know what podcasts they should be listening to and every time there are 100 answers. But, of those 100 answers there are only about 5-10 different shows recommended. Rightfully so some might say, some shows certainly do deserve to get a lot of the attention, but for every The Dice Tower, The Secret Cabal, Rolling Dice and Taking Names, The Dukes of Dice, Shut Up & Sit Down or Heavy Cardboard, there are many more trying to get your attention, just trying to get you to give them a shot, because what they say, may resonate with you.

So, with that in mind, here are some that I listen to, I currently have 78 “gaming” podcast that I subscribe to and that I listen to. I may not listen to these shows all the way through, I may pick and choose what I listen to on their shows, but I do subscribe and I listen for one reason or another.  Just to note, the ones I listed above, I subscribe to and listen to as well, I’m not saying don’t listen to them, I’m saying if you have the time and the inclination, give these fine podcasts a chance as well, who knows, something they say or how they say something may strike a chord with you.

  • Boards AliveBoards Alive is a podcast where we talk about tabletop games. Our goal is to show that tabletop gaming can be just as exciting and engaging as Hollywood movies or big budget video games. We try to highlight games that have a rich theme that connects with the mechanics of the game. We want to help people escape into tabletop games and enjoy the competition and camaraderie of gaming.
  • The SpielThe Spiel is a show covering the world of board and card games since 2006. 
  • Flip the Tablea podcast about The Other Side of Board Games. Most board game shows focus on the latest-and-greatest, or time-tested classics.  We have taken it upon ourselves to comb our local charity shops and salvage stores for the other stuff…we’re talking licensed cash-grabs, kids games that kids are too smart for, gimmicky games with strange (and only occasionally functional) gadgets, and all the other games that tend to gather dust in the back of closets with the rest of the third-string Nintendo 64 cartridges.
  • Phantom Cast(Hiatus)A podcast of the tabletop design gaps.
  • Theology of GamesWe’re here to give you reviews and news on the board gaming industry from a ministry point of view. Board games are getting huge out there; it’s not just Monopoly anymore. Sometimes the games contain subject matter that may be questionable or elements of culture that may not be “kosher” for all. We aren’t here to draw lines for anyone, but we’d like to clear up some of the gray areas and let you know through our reviews where some of the questionable content may lie in these games. If there’s nothing to say, so much the better! Plus we want you to know if the game is fun!
  • Perfect InformationA podcast where the information, like the hosts, is perfect in every way. Contains adults using adult language. For some reason.
  • Punching Cardboarda sometimes monthly, sometimes more often podcast emanating from a dungeon somewhere in the hipster wasteland of Portland, OR. We mostly cover mid to heavy weight Euros with some omnivorous consumption of American style and war games to keep things interesting! Beware, we have opinions and aren’t afraid to use them.
  •  Draft MechanicWe talk about craft beer, hobby board games, and the crossover between these two great hobbies. We produce an hour long, bi-weekly podcast that releases every other Monday morning. Each episode we discuss recently played games, do a game and beer pairing, and talk about hot topics in craft beer.
  • The Good, The Board and The UglyHi! I’m Joe Sallen, and I love playing games. I love talking about games as much if not more than playing them. I tossed out the idea of a podcast at my game group, and I was lucky enough to sucker in Trent Hamm and Jonathan Pierce to start one up with me. We are The Good, The Board, and The Ugly. We hail from central Iowa, and we fortunately get the chance to play together once a week on average. On top of that, each of us has other groups that we meet with throughout the week. This way, we can offer opinions on many games we have played together as well as discuss games that only one or two of us have played.
  • Breaking Into Board GamesBreaking into Board Games is a podcast about breaking into the hobby game industry. Every week, we interview a person of note, and give tips and tricks to make your way into the business of games.
  • Cardboard ArchitectsTGIK Games is a board game design studio and publisher. We makes games for the hobby gamer, casual gamer and educational games.
  • Game Designers of North CarolinaGame Designers, in North Carolina, talking about the board game industry from a designer standpoint.
  • Vox RepublicaFounded in 2012 and based out of Lowell, MA, The Cardboard Republic aims to be a credible site for gaming-related news, reviews, articles, and more. With decades of collective experience, our team hopes to bring our own voice to the world of non-video games. This includes all manner of card games, board games, and conventional pen & paper tabletops.
  • Blue Peg, Pink PegBlue Peg, Pink Peg is the Boardgaming podcast for families and couples.
  • The Cardboard JungleA podcast all about board games and board game culture.
  • The Cubist(Hiatus)Bill has been an active part of the tabletop gaming community for the majority of his life, having started gaming at the ripe old age of six (he’s well into his forties now). He’s worked at all the major game conventions as an exhibitor, organizer, volunteer, staff member, and event judge at various points in time. He also is a regular contributor to The Dice Tower with his “Con Cred” segments, and he’s the moderator of Dice Tower: Showdown. In his normal non-gaming life he’s a mobile disc jockey and karaoke host, an active member of local community theaters, a semi professional voice, stage and film actor, and a proud patron of the arts… and he takes a damn fine picture, too.
  • Botch GamesA podcast of board gamers talking about board games. News, plays, reviews, hype. Join us to hear all about our take on the Board Gaming world.
  • Brawling BrosThe Brawling Brothers Boardgaming Podcast is a biweekly podcast that focuses on board games, card games and RPGs. The original Brawlers (Josh and Brandon) are 2 friends who like very different types of games. The show focuses on these differing preferences and (hopeless) attempts to sway each other’s opinion. Each show includes light, friendly banter, a game review (in print), a combative segment called “Brawlin’ and Boardgamin’”, a check in on BGG’s “Hotness” and a brief discussion of a topic that has importance to us… Well, one of us, at least.
  • Ludology
  • Your Turn Go
  • Punching Cardboard
  • Devon Dice Presents
  • Punched and Played
  • The Tattered Board
  • Board Games to Go(Hiatus)
  • How to Play Podcast(Permanent Vacation)
  • Docking Bay 94
  • Gaming Rules!
  • Meeple Nation
  • Garrett’s Games and Geekiness
  • The D6 Generation(My Oldest Subbed Podcast, easily)
  • Gaming Nonsense Uncensored
  • Not Just Another Gaming Podcast
  • Play Better Podcast
  • ULP
  • Podcast of Nonsensical Gamers
  • The Broken Meeple
  • On Board Games
  • 20 Minutes of Filler
  • Board Gamers Anonymous
  • Start Space Podcast
  • Gaming Nonsense
  • Ding & Dent
  • The State of Games
  • The Geek All Stars
  • The Long View
  • Low Player Count
  • Spaghetti and Meeples
  • What Did You Play This Week Podcast Thing(that’s me, and this is a shameless plug)
  • Whose Turn Is It Anyway?(Hiatus)
  • Power to the Meeple(Hiatus/Permenant?)
  • The Fellowship Gamer(Retired)
  • Beyond the Wall(AGOT LCG Specific)
  • The White Book(AGOT LCG Specific)

And we haven’t even hit on the RPG podcasts.

  • Gosh Darn Fiasco
  • Going in Blind-Going in Blind is a podcast in which a group of Vision Impaired players sit down at a table, roll a few dice and together tell a story.
  • Gaming and BS RPG Podcast
  • Houses and Humans/Board with Life Radio
  • Potelbat
  • Out of Character
  • The Adventure Zone

There is content for just about everyone out there, from the 15-20 minute pods to the 3-4 hour opus podcasts. Give ’em a try and find the ones you like. Most importantly if you do like something, let the creator know, reach out to them!

I will try to keep this post updated, if something new shows up on my subscription list, I’ll put it on here, if something changes in the Podcast, ie the creators quit producing content or take an extended vacation, I’ll make a note of that as well.

Let me know if there are any I have missed that I need to try out, I love podcasts and I am lucky enough to work in an environment that allows me to listen regularly, a lot.

Also, just because, these are my non-gaming podcasts.

  • Welcome To Nightvale
  • Alice Isn’t Dead
  • The CUSP
  • The Space Inside
  • Coverville
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
  • Revolutions
  • In Our Time

Gold West

Gold West

Designed by J. Alex Kevern

Art by Adam P. McIver

Published by Tasty Minstrel Games

Howdy Prospector, welcome to the Gold West. Do you think you have what it takes to thrive and build the ultimate prospecting empire?

Prospectors

In Gold West 2-4 players compete to build the biggest and best mining empire, fighting over the resources of the new Western Frontier. You have to carefully use those resources or they may go to waste though, careful planning is a must.

As with a lot of Tasty Minstrel Games’ titles Gold West has a really nice puzzle piece modular board, absolutely one of my favorite ways to make boards, no warping, no folding. It lays out in a really nice looking overhead map style where you can clearly see the differences of all the terrains. Each puzzle piece for the board has a mixture of 7 terrain spots on it, Forrest, Gold, Silver and Copper and each of those spots has a random tile of that terrain placed on it, each terrain token will have on one side of it, a mix of 2-3 resources. Also on the board are a couple spots that we’ll talk about a bit later, the Boomtown and the Shipping Track.

Wagons

Each player will also receive a player board that houses their 12 camp pieces and 12 influence tokens. The player board will also be used to keep track of your resources, in the Supply Track and also will keep track of the influence that you have over each of the terrain types for end game scoring.

Beginning Player Board

Along the bottom of these player board a player’s turn is spelled out for them in three easy steps:

  1. Activate Supply Track
  2. Use Metals
  3. Build or Loot

So, the Supply Track on the left hand side of your board is made up of 4 compartments and this is where you store your resources as you gather them. Each player gets a starting setup tile with their starting resources listed on it and where they go on the track, but after that, as you acquire resources, you place them into one of the bins and then score victory points based on which bin that is, either 0, 1, 2 or 3 points. Now, what does it mean to “Activate Supply Track”, well, while the resources are in the bins, they are not available to use, so when you activate you pick up one bin and all the resources in it and move them upward as many spaces as possible, leaving one resource in each space as you pass. The resources that end up above your player board are available to be used this turn, and they must be used this turn or they go to waste. Kind of a neat little Mancala mechanism there to complicate your resource usage planning.

After you have completed the first step of your turn, you now may use any metals that you have available to be used. How does one use the metals you may be asking, well, remember those two spots on the board mentioned a bit earlier, Boomtown and Shipping Track? Well, this is where these come into action, plus the 8 random investment cards that are randomly chosen at the start of the game. When you use metals, you can ship any number of them and move your stagecoach along the appropriate Shipping Track, scoring any of the appropriate bonus points along the way. You may also fulfill an investment card. The Investments are public goals that any player can claim on their turn, in order to claim the Investment Card, simply discard the appropriate resources and take the card, scoring any victory points and taking any bonus special abilities allowed by the card. A player may claim only one Investment Card per round. Last thing a player can do with metals is to claim an office in Boomtown. The Boomtown offices are variable, there are 12 tiles in the box and you only use 4 per game along with a single 4 victory point tile. The 5 tiles are place in the 3 by 3 Boomtown grid. In order to activate a Boomtown office the player will need 2 metals. The three different metals are located above the 3×3 board and along the side. So you choose one metal along the top and one along the side that you have and you place an influence disc where the two metals intersect, gaining that benefit at the end of the game.

The Board

The final step of a turn is to Build or Loot. You must do one of these actions. If you have either a wood or stone available you may build a camp. To place your camp, you choose a revealed Mining Token and replace it with one of your camps. The player will receive the resources on the Mining Token and place them on your Supply Track, you then take the Mining Token face down on the proper Influence Track to track your influence. If you have both a wood and a stone the player may build a Settlement. Everything works the same for the settlement except that you also place an influence token down underneath the camp and when you place the Mining Token for Influence you skip one space when placing it so it shows two influence in that terrain type. Lastly, if you have neither wood nor stone you have to loot. You take a campsite from your player board and place it in the Wanted section of the board, immediately lose 1 victory point and then the player may take a revealed Mining Token from the board and receive the resources, but they discard the token from the game instead of placing it on their Influence Track they remove it from the game. At the end of the game, the player with the most camps in the Wanted section loses 1 point for every camp they have in there and the second most loses 1 point for every two.

Player board turn 9

Play goes just as described above for 13 rounds, the 13th round no one will have the ability to build as all of their camps will be in the game already, either on the mining board or in the wanted area. Once the 13th round is over, end game scoring takes place. Each player scores 2 points for every camp or settlement in their largest contiguous grouping on the map. Players score their Boomtown Offices and take any Looting penalties from the Wanted Board and then Terrain bonuses are given for majorities. Player with the most Victory Points wins the game.

Final Board 4 player

In a nutshell that’s a game of Gold West. There are minor things that we didn’t talk about, some bonus points, but literally the game can be taught in 5 minutes or less. But just because it can be taught fairly quickly and it plays relatively quick as well, don’t let that belie the game play which is fairly tight.

Component wise, Tasty Minstrel has knocked it out of the park, the game looks fantastic, the cardboard is nice an thick and heavy duty and the wooden pieces are great, my only complaint would be the really cool Stagecoaches that really don’t fit all that well on the Shipping Track if you are playing with 3 or 4 players, you end up having to stack them and move them around to make them fit, but otherwise Gold West is a knockout.  Oh, and I can’t stress this enough, I love the puzzle piece board, no need for the Unabridged Dictionary to flatten the board before playing or even riskily bending it backwards, YIPES!

You start the game knowing the resources on only 12 of the Terrain/Mining tiles, but as people make more camps and mine the resources, you reveal everything in the surrounding area so the available choices continue to get bigger as the game progresses.  That ever expanding board is a lot of fun and makes those decisions on where to build increasingly more meaningful.

Planning how to properly use your Supply Track is where most of the complexity lies, and even that is not all that complex, just a bit of a different way of thinking. I really enjoy using that Mancala mechanism to move my goods up the conveyor belt in the proper order to maximize every turn, because you really do need to maximize every move in a game that only allows for 13 turns. While the initial reaction is to just throw everything in bin one so you have access to those materials every turn, you can’t cheat yourself that way, you need to build up resources in different bins in order to properly fill those Investment cards and you need those points you would cost yourself doing that. But I will say, there are multiple ways to score points so you don’t necessarily always need to concentrate so hard on doing one thing in particular, you can do a lot of different things and still do really well and be competitive.

This one gets a thumbs up from me, it’s not going to blow the minds of any of your regular gaming group I don’t think, but I do think it’s entertaining and “thinky” enough that it’s a good 1 hour game for almost anyone. Just keep in mind, that where this one is really going to shine is for those people tackling the Ticket to Ride type games and maybe ready to move on to something just a bit more dramatic, a bit more complex. It’s not a Gateway Game, the multitudes of ways to score really can hinder teaching new players, but I think it’s a great step up from those type of games.  

First Play Thoughts on Kahuna

Kahuna Box

The really great thing about coming into the board gaming hobby later than a lot of folks is that I continually will find games that are new to me, but not necessarily new to everyone else and that’s the case with this little gem. I had the privilege of being a co-host on the What We Played portion of the Gaming Rules! podcast, you can listen HERE. I’ll go ahead and wait. But no,  really the reason that I bring this up is that it was on the podcast that Paul introduced me to Kahuna. We then proceeded to play a game online, but it was before the first scoring round that I had ordered a copy from Amazon. It arrived on Friday and Kerensa and I played it three times on Saturday evening in a Best of 3 match up that left our brains a bit strained.

Kahuna is a Hawaiian word that means priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession and in the game Kahuna two players are competing sorcerers who are competing for dominance over an archipelago of twelve islands. There’s the theme, but in reality, Kahuna is really just a flat out fantastic abstract game.

Kahuna Board Above

In the game, each player starts with a hand of three cards along with 10 Kahuna Tokens and 25 bridges of the player’s color of choice. The board is laid out in the middle of the table and there are three cards that are placed face up beside the board and the remaining cards will be left face down in a draw pile. On a players turn there are a couple things they can do, they can:

  1. Play an Island Card- When you play a card you place a bridge of your color on a free connecting line on the map that starts from the island indicated on the card and goes to any neighboring island. You can do this as many times as you want until you run out of cards, you can never have more than 5 in your hand. Kahuna Card
  2. Control an Island-If you have placed your own bridge on more than half of an island’s connecting lines you now control it and can place one of your Kahuna Tokens on the island marking your control. When you do take control of an island you remove any of your opponent’s bridges that they have connected that island, returning them to your opponents supply.
  3. Removing Kahuna Bridges-You can also remove your opponent’s bridges by playing cards. To do this you must play two cards that each show one of the two islands connected by the opponents’s bridge, the two cards could be the same island or both islands connected.
  4. Draw a card-At the end of your turn you always draw one card, either from the face up cards or face down cards, remember, you can only have 5 cards in your hand. You can abstain from drawing, unless your opponent has done so their previous turn. If your hand already contains five cards, you cannot draw another card unless your opponent has abstained on their turn immediately prior, in that instance you must discard one card to draw another. Once you draw, your turn is over and play rotates.

Kahuna Board

There are three scoring rounds in Kahuna, each of them triggered when the draw pile and face up cards are all drawn, in the first two scoring rounds scoring takes place immediately after that happens, in the final round each player gets one more turn. Scoring is easy, in the first round if you have more islands controlled than your opponent, give yourself 1 point. In the second scoring round, if you have more islands controlled than your opponent, give yourself 2 points. In both instances if there is a tie, no one gets any points. For the third and final scoring round, the player who controls the most islands receives points equal to the difference in islands controlled. Highest points wins and calls themselves the Big Kahuna.

Kahuna really turned out to be a pleasant surprise, I knew after playing the first game online that I would enjoy the game, but that online play really didn’t showcase just how fun and how maddening(in a good way) this one could really be. The constant back and forth between the players as they vie for control is really  what drives the game and it really drives it well. You are constantly engaged with the game, which is a necessity in a good two player game.

Kahuna Board And Cards

If you look at the photo of the board you’ll see the red turtle on one side and the yellow dolphin on the other, this is to help you orient your cards to face the right direction, it’s really a nice touch that really aides the players in figuring out just where they islands are on the board, you simply rotate your cards to match the symbols. I really love when designers/publishers/developers think of the small things like this.

I’m really happy to have Kahuna join our growing ranks of two player games on our shelves, and I look forward to many more battles for supremacy over this Pacific Archipelago.

Two player stack

Oh, and it also pairs well with Boulevard Chocolate Ale with Raspberry.

Kahuna Pairing