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

House of Borgia Preview

House of Borgia

  • Designed by Scott Almes
  • Artwork by Ian Rosenthaler and Benjamin Shuler
  • Published by Talon Strikes Studios and Gamelyn Games
  • Kickstarter Campaign is Live!!

It is 1492, and the pope is dead. As a cardinal who served under the late Pope Innocent the VIII you have always vied for the position, but you could never win the election yourself. The Conclave already knows of your “gray” methods of getting things done. However, some of the other Cardinals are less hardened than yourself. More malleable. If you could position yourself as their advisor and get them elected then it would be you pulling the strings. 

Let’s go ahead and admit it, you’ve always wanted to pull the strings, you’ve always wanted to be the one who made sure that the right people, your right people are in charge, but you’ve never had that opportunity before. Well puppet master, now you do in the newest game from Scott Almes and Talon Strikes Games, House of Borgia.

If you’ve ever played Liar’s Dice or one of the other myriad of games using that same type of mechanic, you’ll take to House of Borgia really quickly, but even if you haven’t, like me, you’ll take to it with minimal effort. House of Borgia is quick to teach and learn, but hard to master as I’ll be the first to tell you. You gotta know when to make your move and you can’t be too obvious or you’ll be found out and never have the chance to exert your power.

A game of House of Borgia plays out like this. Shuffle up the Puppet cards and deal out one to each player, put the unused cards in the box, unseen by the players. Keep your card secret, this is the Cardinal that you are wanting to influence and manipulate to the top. Then you are going to shuffle up the Cardinal Cards and place them in a row in the middle of the table. Put your influence cubes nearby as you’ll be using them quite often during the game. Each Cardinal will start the game with 2 influence on them so go ahead and do that now. Each player is now going to receive a set number of dice based on the player count. Now put the rumor cards out on the table as well next to the Cardinals for use as the game progresses. Also, don’t forget the Anti-Pope marker, place it out there as well. Now, you’re ready to exert your influence.

The game is played in a series of rounds and ends when one player has no more dice remaining in their pool.

The round is played out as follows:

  1. Bidding and Action-At the beginning of a round the players will roll their dice and keep them behind their player screen, making sure no one can see them. All the dice have 5 symbols on them and one “Fate” symbol, which is a wild card, it counts as any other symbol as needed. To make a bid you choose one of the actions and bid on how many of those symbols you think are on the table behind all the player screens, so you could say “Three Judgment” if you think there are three total out there. The next person clockwise may then either call the bluff or they can let the active bidder perform the action that they bid on. After that action is taken, the next player in clockwise order gets to bid but they must increase the bid by at least one, so they could say “Four Bribe” and then it’s up to the next person to call or let it go. Now, what are those 5 actions?
    • Bribe– the player moves one of the Cardinal Mats to the very top or to the very bottom of the ladder of Cardinals. One has to be moved
    • Poison– the player removes two Influence Tokens from one of the Cardinal Mats, it can be two tokens from one or 1 token from two different Cardinals
    • Judgement– the player moves two Influence Tokens between Cardinal Mats, once again it can be two from one Cardinal or 1 from two Cardinals, but you can’t just move influence back and forth amongst the same two Cardinals
    • Accusation– This action allows the player to place the Antipope marker on one of the Cardinal Mats therefor this Cardinal cannot gain or lose Influence, but it can still be influenced by Bribe
    • Rumor– the player throws a rumor card at another player, accusing them of being in control of that Cardinal. Rumors can only be removed if someone else starts a rumor about you. Then the rumor card in front of you is replaced by the new rumor.
  2. Calling a Bluff– If the next player in turn order calls the bluff of the current bidder, play is stopped to determine whether or not they have the proper amount of symbols to complete the action. All players reveal all their dice behind their screens and if the bid is the truth then the active player gets to take the action and the caller loses one of their die. If the active player was bluffing, then the active player loses a die and takes no action.
  3. Rallying Influence– In this phase the Cardinal Mats will game Influence Points based on their position in the Influence Ladder, with the top Cardinal gaining three, second Cardinal gaining two and the third Cardinal in line gaining one. If one of the Cardinal Mats has the Antipope Marker they do not gain any influence and the influence does not trickle down.

After that if all the players have at least one die left in their possession you set it up to play another round with the player who just lost their die starting everything out. If one player is without dice, the game ends and the Conclave is now ready to vote.

All players reveal their secret card and the Cardinal with the most influence, after everyone adds two Influence Points per die they have left in their possession to their Cardinal, is elected the next pope and the player that controls that pope wins the game. If there is a rumor card in front of you and that rumor is true, you cannot win no matter how much Influence you have.

So, do you think you have what it takes? I hope so, because I surely don’t. I love a good deduction/bluffing game and especially one that throws a unique theme and some fun mechanisms. I’m just not good at them. My wife, my daughter, my game group, heck my Mom will probably tell you the exact same thing. I don’t remember the last time I even won as a villager in One Night Ultimate Werewolf. But in spite of that track record with these kinds of games, I keep coming back and trying, and this one, will probably be a fixture for me in our collection.

The art, even in prototype form is absolutely spot on and amazing, Jason and Scott did a fantastic job in finding the right artist for this one. Rules wise this was a breeze to teach and it was a breeze to play and I am pretty sure the only thing that anyone disliked about playing it, was that they were playing it with me, the worst deduction/bluffing game player in existence.

I really like the dice rolling nature to this and the risk management that always gets a bit more tense as a round progresses. Someone is going to lose a die, it happens every round, but when it happens is the fun part. Knowing when to call and when to just let the action go through is really crucial, along with knowing when and how to manipulate your Cardinal so that others don’t catch on. Don’t do like I did one game and immediately move my Cardinal to the top via the Bribe Action in the first round, I thought for sure folks would think I was bluffing, but it didn’t work and almost immediately I had a rumor card on me and my Cardinal was dead in the water.

I have not gotten to play it at all player counts, only at 4, 5 and 6 players, but I think like most games of this nature, the more the merrier, although if I do get to play it at lower counts I will ammend the preview and let you all know what I think.

Be sure to check this one out on Kickstarter, it’s scheduled to launch on the 15th of February 2016.

Use this link to preview the campaign and click the star on the campaign preview to be notified when it goes live!

 

Fog of Love Preview

Fog of Love

Fog of Love Cover

Fog of Love is a 2 player card game where the players are using card play to tell the story of their love affair, from the first sparks of attraction to the hopefully happy ending. All the things that can happen in between may or may not happen, fights, reconciliation, meeting the in laws, children, you just never know.

First things first just to get this out of the way as I know this will be the first thought among some people. Fog of Love is much more than just a game that tells a story, there are choices to be made in this that ultimately lead to one of the three possible endings. Both players can win, one player can win, or neither can win, it just all depends on how they play their cards and where they take their relationship.

I’m not going to go to in depth with the setup here, I think I’ll add a video of that to show the setup, just know that the setup is ultimately where you start the game. You do have choices to make here that will ultimately help determine what direction you take the relationship. So in essence, the game starts as soon as you start setting up. The first choice you get to make is the scenario, now, we only had 2 scenarios in the preview copy but there will be more. The scenario sets the four chapters of the game, we’ll talk about that more in a minute.

Chapter Card Backs

After you decide on the scenario everyone goes ahead and chooses color and decides on the sex of their character they are playing. Based on that choice some story cards may or may not need to be removed from the game.

Then, we get down to  the choices that need to be made, think of this as “rolling” your character if you were playing an RPG. You get to decide on some traits that may, or may not, carry with you for the rest of the game. Your traits are yours and yours alone, you do not share this information with your partner. The traits will give you some direction in where you want your choice points to go on the game board, which we’ll discuss later. Each player gets 5 random traits from the trait deck and gets to keep 3, the rest go in a face down pile on the board.

Traits Features Occupation

Next, your character has to have a job right? So you both get to choose an occupation. Deal out 3 of the occupation cards to each player and then each player selects one and places it face up on their player board, the rest are discarded and put away back in the box. After occupations, deal out each player 5 Feature cards. Each player will then take a turn choosing 1 of the 5 Features and assigning them to their partner until you have given your partner 3 Features, discard the rest and put them back in the box.

Game Setup and Ready

Now that you have your Occupations and your Features you’ll notice that there are symbols on the bottom of these cards, these symbols will tell you where to place your beginning choice points on the Personality Factors. There is a symbol to tell you which Personality Factor is affected, and an arrow to tell you which side of the track to place the token on. The Trait cards tell you where you want your choice points to be at the end, if at the end of the game you meet your Trait requirements, you will gain Heart, or Love points. The Occupation and Feature cards in theory should get you started on that road, but sometimes they can conflict and make things a bit difficult. Luckily, throughout Fog of Love, there are cards that do help invoke personal change, allowing you to change the way you are.

Three Personality Factor Tracks

Board After Choices

Now we deal out 5 of the Story Cards to each player. On the board there are three different sets of story cards, Sweet cards which are the more romantic experiences, they are the building blocks but they also do not have much larger consequences. There are Serious cards, these are the more important and serious things that happen during a relationship, these help evolve the relationship. Lastly are the Drama cards, these have bigger effects and lots of risk, these are the cards that evoke change in the relationships, secrets, conflicts, surprises. Each player starts the game with 3 Sweet Cards, 1 Serious Card and 1 Drama Card.

IMG_2881

You are now set to begin your relationship.

Part of the attraction to Fog of Love for me was the ability to sort of “role play” if you want to. While this is not necessary for the game to be fun or to even be played, it can add a little bit of excitement and a bit of flavor to the game. We do the whole introduction of our characters to each other, we give them names and we try to tie in our features and occupations to that description as best we can. It always helps to know that Stasia is sitting across from you, as it may help distance yourself from personal feelings during the game. While I may not want to make a choice in real life, Rico may have no problem with it regardless of the effect of that decision.

While playing the game there are a few things to remember. Do not reveal your Story Cards on hand, do not reveal your Story Ending Cards(which we’ll discuss in a bit), Do not reveal your traits and your goals and do not openly discuss decisions to be made on individual and simultaneous choices. Follow those rules about open information unless directed differently by a story card.

Chapter 1

The first played card of any chapter is the Chapter Card that starts the corresponding chapter. The chapter card is going to tell a bit of your story, the first chapter card will be how you met, what do you remember. There is a choice on the Chapter Cards and these will ultimately help you or harm your choices. The first Chapter Card in the scenario we’ve played awards Heart/Love points if you and your partner pick the correct corresponding answers. The Chapter Card also will list how many cards are going to be played during this chapter and will tell you what Story Card pile or piles you can draw from to replenish your hand to five after playing a card.

Sweet Story Card Example

Let’s get into actual card and game play and how a chapter is played out, it’s really pretty simple, but don’t let the simple game play mechanics belie that there choices to be made here. A wrong play of a card and suddenly your choice points balance has fallen all out of favor and you have to struggle to make things work in your favor later. Anyway, what a player does on their turn is they play a Story Card and then you resolve the choice on the card. Most cards will have either a choice for the other player or a simultaneous choice for both. Based on these choices the players will get choice points on the Personality Factors and sometimes even Heart/Love points. The active player places their played card in the discard pile and refills their hand to 5 cards from the appropriate stack or stacks. There are other types of cards that can be played, Location cards impact the next card played, Reaction Cards can be played as a reaction to a response, sometimes a response of your partner’s or your own and then there are Secret Cards that are played and played face down and not flipped unless a story card instructs otherwise. If they are not flipped during the game they will be flipped at the end and will have choice points or Heart/Love points for you to score.

Now may be a good time to tell you a bit about those Story Ending Cards that are in front of you, because as you progress through the game, some of the Story Cards or the Chapter Cards are going to tell you to discard Story Ending Cards or retrieve them from your discard pile. The story ending cards are basically your end conditions that you need to have met in order to win the game and as you discard and retrieve, you have to pay close attention to what you are discarding and how you are doing on the choice points during the game as ultimately if you chose the wrong ending to shoot for, you lose. Some will simply require you to have choice points in a certain row, along with Heart/Love points and your partner to not break up. Others will require more of a concentrated team effort of choice points and Heart/Love points.

Story Ending

After the final Chapter Card is revealed, the players will begin scoring and seeing ultimately where their relationship will end. First reveal your Story Ending Cards, as I said, these ultimately give win conditions for the players. Secondly, resolve any Secret Cards that may have not been revealed. Thirdly, we are going to score trait goals. each trait goal achieved is worth 5 Heart/Love points, each trait goal not achieved costs the player 3 Heart/Love points. If for some reason you have 2 Trait Goals that are similar, same personality factor in the same direction, the balance requirements for the second trait goal are doubled and tripled if there is a third. Now, consult those Story Ending Cards and find out how the relationship ultimately moves on to Happily ever after or if things are so irrevocably broken that it falls apart and the partners go their separate ways.

Whew, that was actually more than I thought I was going to talk about with Fog of Love, I hadn’t intended on actually giving the rules that thoroughly, they just kind of came spilling out as I was writing this out.

From the beginning, Jacob had set out to create a game that isn’t like other games, that doesn’t necessarily play like other games. What started out as a game that Jacob and his wife could play, turned into something different, it struck a chord with people who played it so he continued to share the game with others and more and more folks started taking notice of how games could be designed a bit differently from the conflict heavy games that dominate our landscape now. The game is personal, it can evoke emotions and in tabletop this is a rare thing unless you are playing an RPG, at least it seems that way to me.

Design wise, Jacob and his wife Lotte have nailed it on this one, it looks the part of a modern designed board game that isn’t like anything else even in its preview form. The card design is well laid out, easy to read and the art on the cards really makes it really stand out. I really can’t wait to see this in final form with the actual board and wooden choice point markers, I really do wonder what they have in store or if they are going to go with the simple Blue and Pink wooden circles, they work perfectly fine if a bit fumbly for my non-dexterous fingers, and that is a small an issue with a game that tracks points on different sides of the board. But once again, I’ve not seen the final plans yet, only preview copy.

We’ve played the game both procedural and with trying to act out the parts as much as we felt comfortable with, my wife and I are not well versed role players, so this is kind of a newer experience for us, and almost an exercise and I’m sure she will mention that in our audio review where we talk about playing. But what I want to reiterate though is that we enjoyed our plays either way, because at it’s core, this is a card game, it’s just that the cards aren’t providing the main answers, we are. The cards are the nail and we are the hammers so to speak, sure the cards will hold the game together and make it what it is, but without the outside influence and personal choices made by the players it doesn’t work. What I mean is that you don’t play a card to answer a card like we do in so many card games. You have to come up with the answer on your own.

The first few turns of Fog of Love really do feel like that “getting to know you” phase of a relationship, the cards are generally lighter in meaning and meant to be a way to find out who your partner really is. As Fog of Love progresses, the questions get heavier and the decisions have a more lasting effect and can be more difficult to answer in a way that truly helps you in the game, but may help your partner. The possibilities of an unplanned pregnancy, or a sex tape being discovered or even infidelity by one of the players could come into play and completely change how the game progresses. Which Story Ending Cards you choose to discard becomes increasingly difficult as you move deeper into the relationship, are you staying together or is it going to end in a break up, it’s hard to tell sometimes.

I am curious how non-couples will adapt to this and play the game, I did not get to play with anyone other than Kerensa even though I really wanted to give it a try and I still may and if I do I will amend here and let you know how that goes. The only reason I wonder is because, well people may still have hangups about how to act or play a game with sexual implications with people that they don’t know that well or even someone of the same sex, I don’t really think it should be a problem but I do imagine that may mean that it isn’t a game for everyone, which is kind of sad.

Fog of Love will launch with 3 different scenarios and I imagine that more are in the works via stretch goals, but I have no verification of that. We’ve only played the one scenario and each time it has played a bit differently, but having more scenarios is always welcomed, along with more of those fantastic story cards that drive the game. We do have one other scenario in our possession and it’s a more traditional cooperative scenario and I’m hoping we get to that one soon and it’ll be part of the audio preview.

Launching on February 14, 2016 on Kickstarter for $39 including shipping here in the US and France, Fog of Love is really a no brainer for people who want a two player game that they can play with their significant other that has fun role playing and story telling elements, but most of all Fog of Love should appeal to people who want a truly unique and fun gaming experience unlike anything they have played before.

Kickstarter should be live at 2PM Danish Time which I believe is 7 am in the Central Time Zone in the US. 

 

Wok on Fire!

Wok on Fire 8

Wok on Fire!

Note: This game is still in prototype/preview form, things may change during production to make things look a bit different. Originally distributed in Japan by Poki Design, this one is being brought to the rest of the world via Green Couch Games.

Have you ever thought that you had what it takes to be the world’s finest stir fry master, should you be flipping vegetables into the mouths of adoring customers who show up as much for the show as they do for the food? Well now is your chance to try it out without the fear of hurting yourself or others, well, mostly without that fear, I guess there is always that chance.

Wok on Fire! is the newest in the Green Couch Games line of “great little games that make great big connections”. We’ve had fun battling for supremacy in Fidelitas, we’ve built our treehouses to the sky in Best Treehouse Ever, we’ve battled our dinosaur packs in JurassAttack! and we’ve raced Yetis down the mountain in Avalanche at Yeti Mountain. Now, it’s time to cook!

Avalanche At Yeti Mountain should be here in a couple months to join the Green Couch Games Collection
Avalanche At Yeti Mountain should be here in a couple months to join the Green Couch Games Collection

Wok on Fire! is a set collecting, dexterity game about cooking the best stir fry. Every player will get a spatula card that the players will use during the game, they’ll also get two player aids that they will place in front of them that will act as the boundaries of the wok. There are 50 ingredient cards in the deck, shuffle those up then deal 24 face down to form the draw pile and then disperse the remaining 26 as evenly as possible within the boundaries of your wok. Now, you are ready to show your prowess in stir fry flipping and cooking.

The player's weapons, I mean spatulas!
The player’s weapons, I mean spatulas! Plus Player Aids that also serve as boundaries in the game.
Wok Area
Wok Area

On a player’s turn, you have three things to do in specific order.

Edit: In the video we show picking up ingredients by using the spatula, I’ve been informed that we’ve been creating our own variant for the game and making it a bit more difficult than intended, when you pick up ingredients you use your hand, not the card. 

First you perform two “Stir Fry” actions. To do this the player takes their spatula card, slide it underneath an ingredient card that is in the wok and then they will flip that ingredient upward in hopes that they flip it to land face up to know what it is. Do this twice, you do need to at least flip one ingredient so if both times you try you fail, try again, practice will make perfect, young wok star.

The next step that the active player takes is that they are going to choose two face up ingredients and then attempt to pick them up and bring them to your player area. There are a few rules for doing this, you do need to indicate which ingredients you are going to pick up before you start, both ingredients. You need to do your best to not disturb and move around other ingredients in the wok. The center circle of the ingredient card must be visible, you don’t have to see the entire picture of the ingredient, but the circle does at least need to be visible. At least one corner of the ingredient card must also be visible as well. Lastly, if there are ingredients falling out of the wok area, they may not be chosen, with one specific exception that we’ll discuss later when we discuss the specific ingredient cards. These rules do mean that if there are fewer than 2 ingredient cards face up, you’ll pick up fewer than two on your turn.

Some ingredients flipped
Some ingredients flipped

The final thing that the active player will do on their turn is they will perform the “chop” action. What the chop action is, you take two ingredient cards from the top of the draw deck and place them face down in your palm with your palm above the wok area. Then with your other hand you take a “chopping” type motion chopping those ingredients into the wok, some may land face up, some may land face down, leave them how they land, unless of course they land outside the wok area. If there are cards outside the wok area, pick them up and chop them back into the wok, this includes any ingredients that may have been flipped or dropped outside the area during your turn as well.

Play then passes to the player on the left and continues until the ingredient deck runs out, when this happens, each player will get one more turn each.

Shrimp, Pork and Mushrooms
Shrimp, Pork and Green Peppers
Wok on Fire 3
Onion, Garlic and Mushrooms

Now the question arises as to why we are doing those things, why are we flipping and collecting ingredients, well, we do this in order to make the best possible dishes which will score us the most possible points. Because of course, the player with the most points will be the winner. What you will do is you will consult your player aid and see the combinations of ingredients that will score the most points for you. Each ingredient can only be used for scoring one time, meaning you can only use it in one combination or by itself. There are currently 11 different ingredient cards in the game and each of them will allow you to score things a bit differently. Take for example, the chicken. The chicken by itself is worth two points each. But if you pair that chicken with a garlic, you can triple the points of that meat. Or, if you combine the chicken with one vegetable and the rice, you get a flat 15 points, or if you use the chicken with a vegetable, one condiment and the noodles you score 25 points. So you see, how you collect and arrange your sets will vary quite a bit, it’s all about maximizing what you’ve collected.

Score Cards
Player Aides with scoring on them

One other note about the ingredient cards, remember when I said there was one exception earlier? Well, some ingredient cards have specific instructions for them whenever you pick them up, like if you are picking up the chicken, you must pick up all viable chicken cards at once as one single pick up action when you are gathering them, or the Green Pepper, which if there are ANY green peppers visible when you are picking up ingredients you must always pick them up first, even if they have fallen out of the wok, plus the first time you pick up a green pepper on your turn you immediately perform another stir fry action and then pick up another face up ingredient, if there are any.

So that’s all there is to it, you have some dexterity, you have some fun set collection and decisions to be made on how to combine your ingredients to best score your points. The cards special powers do add a bit of thought and a little bit of tactical strategy in the game since sometimes you can’t always pick up exactly what you want to get. Getting the most out of each turn by picking up the garlic or the green pepper can always add a lot to your collection. The dexterity involved is a bit harder than it seems, sometimes the cards flip nicely, sometimes they don’t, also, picking up specific ingredients can prove a bit challenging from time to time, especially if you are picking up something on the bottom of a stack of ingredient cards trying to get a little extra for your collection.

All of this is done in a span of about 20 minutes, the game plays fast, loose and fun, more than living up to that motto of Green Couch Games. We’ve had a great time with this one.

Wok on Fire 2

First Play Thoughts on Carson City-Big Box

Carson City Big Box First Play Thoughts


Carson City 8

Carson City Big Box was a very successful Kickstarter in 2015 for Quined Games. Carson City itself was released back in 2009, to some modicum of praise and success, but never enough to get reprints here in the United States. So this work of Xavier Georges kept going up in price on the secondary market to the point where the ones who would really enjoy it, weren’t going to be spending that much to buy it. So along comes Quined Games, who I believe had a part in initial printings, and they create the Carson City Big Box, which included both expansions for the game and improved the bits in the box 100 fold all for about the price that some were asking for the original at that point. Being a huge Xavier Georges fan, Ginkgopolis is honestly either my number one or two game, just depends on the day of the week. Add on top of that  the fantastic Troyes and Tournay and you know why Carson City was numero uno on my Grail List and is now thankfully in my collection.

Game set up and ready to start
Game set up and first round begun

So, first off, what exactly is the game of Carson City all about? Well, Carson City is really a mish mash of mechanics that I love, you have role selection at the beginning of each of the 4 rounds. You have worker placement, or rather Cowboy or Cowgirl placement. You have tile laying and even a little bit of Area Control and some dice rolling to help with the duels. That’s right I said duels, but more about those later. In Carson City, you are going to be using those mechanics to the best of your ability to build the city of Carson City. It takes hard work to build a city in the Wild West, and you need mines, ranches, saloons and other buildings, but you also have to be quick to claim the right parcel in order to best strike it rich from your careful planning.

Getting closer to the end
Getting closer to the end of Round 4

In a round the players will start off the round in turn order choosing a role. These roles will determine the turn order of the current round, they’ll give the players a specific ability during the round and they will also limit how much cash they can carry over to the next round. After role selection the players take turns placing their cowboys or cowgirls on the action track to take specific actions, or place their cowboys on parcels of land to claim them, or they could even place their cowboys on other players properties in order to steal income from them. Remember those aforementioned duels? Well, in Carson City you don’t block others from taking actions by taking that spot, the other players are welcome to come in and try to take the right to that spot away from you in a duel. The winner of the duel gets to take the action and the loser goes home if they are lucky. The action spots allow the collection of income, the purchasing of plots and buildings and also the ability to turn resources into victory points.  When you claim a parcel of land, you usually do so in order to build on it in the future. Building will produce income and score differently based on what surrounds them and what the specific building wants to be around, like the Ranch, which wants empty parcels all around it, or the mines that need to be built next to mountains. Over four rounds of this your version of Carson City will come to life before your very eyes, roads leading to new areas of the town, drugstores and hotels popping up in the busiest sections.

End of the game Kate had 53, I had 43 and Brad had 26
End of the game Kate had 53, I had 43 and Brad had 26

The first printings of this game had the mountains and buildings strictly as tiles, but in this new upgraded edition we get beautiful components made of wood, nice mountains, houses, roads, guns and even horses. The original game was still fantastic looking with tiles, but the wooden bits give it a bit of that something extra.

Houses and Mountains
Houses and Mountains

I really enjoyed my play on Saturday night, and I think that Brad and Kate did as well. Brad had a couple issues in the 3rd and 4th rounds due to not understanding something I had said about the rules and that in turn caused some bad planning to happen, but we re-wound the game as best we could and helped him fix it up. Still, he finished a distant third with his mostly mining company. Throughout the game I thought the duels would come more into play, but I guess with 3 players the duels may not play as big of a role, I think we had 3 total duels over the 4 rounds and none of us tried to steal income from a building and that really may have helped me get a bit closer to Kate’s score of 53. But as it was I lost by 10. I’d really love to see this one with the full player count, just to see how it goes, the town has to fill up quickly and you’ll be more likely to interact with everyone else I think. We played the game with the basic first play setup, roles 1-7 and just the basic buildings. Next time I think we’ll randomize it up a little bit, while the basic roles were fine, you kind of got the feeling that their is more to the rest of the available roles that we didn’t see, plus each role card is double sided with a more “complex” ability on the other side.

All the STUFF!!
All the STUFF!!

Kerensa and I will probably play this as a two player game next and we’ll utilize the River side of the board to cut the board in half. I do worry about the amount of choices causing a little bit of Analysis Paralysis with her, but I think after a game or two she’ll fly right through it. While it can be a bit of a complex game, the rules are really easy to grasp and once those sink into the background the strategies and everything you need to do should come to the forefront. We have a tendency to play two player games a bit solitarish so I do worry that Carson City may lose a bit of that flair because of that, but who knows, I’ll certainly have fun finding out!

Look for more on Carson City in the weeks to come!!

Carson City Big Box