Category Archives: Reviews

Century: Spice Road

Century: Spice Road

Emerson Matsuuchi-Designer

Fernanda Suárez-Artist

Plan B Games-Publisher

What originally was going to be Caravans from Plaid Hat Games, became Century: Spice Road from Plan B Games and it grew into what will become at least a trilogy of games. Does the first one kick off with a bang or limp in with a whimper? Let’s take a look and find out!

In Century: Spice Road the players are leaders of a caravan travelling the famed Silk Road to deliver spices in an attempt to be the best merchant.

To do this is really simple, well, at least the rules are simple, as there are only four things that you can do on a turn and you can do only one of those four each turn.

  1. Establish a Trade Route– aka, take a Market Card. Alright, so the Market Cards, there are 6 of them available on a players turn and they cost based on their location from left to right, so the leftmost Market Card is free to take and the right most Market Card will cost you 5 spices from your caravan to pick up. You pay that by placing one Spice on each Market card to the left of the one that you want to purchase. These market cards are the fuel for your engine that you are trying to build, they will allow you to collect more spices or they will allow you to trade combinations of spices for other spices. You are establishing a trade route to gain your resources. When you buy a Market Card, it goes straight to your hand and is available to use on your next turn.
  2. Make a Trade or Harvest Spices– This is playing a card from your hand. You have three types of cards, one type simply allows you to collect the specified spices on said card. The other type allows you to trade specified types of spices for different specified spices and the third allows you to upgrade spices from one to another. You see the spices have a heirarchy, they go from Tumeric, to Saffron, to Cardamom, to Cinnamon, or as people are wont to do, Yellow to Red to Green to Brown. You play a card from your hand, you take the specified action and leave the card on the table in front of you. 
  3. Rest– This is the action that allows you to bring all of your played cards back into your hand in order to allow you to use them again.
  4. Fulfill a Demand– This is what you are ultimately trying to do, fulfill the demands. There will be 5 Demand Cards out and each card will have different spices that need to be delivered and each card will have a victory point value on it. The far left Demand Card will also start with Gold attached to it, which is worth 3 victory points at the end of the game and the second most left card will have Silver attached, that is worth 1 victory point at the end of the game. The number of Gold and Silver is equal to two times the number of players. When a player fulfills a demand, they simply discard the correct spices and take the card and gold or silver if they fulfill the corresponding Demand Card. Ultimately, the Demand Cards are the end game trigger, when someone collects their 5th Demand Card(in 3-5 player games), or their 6th(in the 2 player game), the round finishes and whomever has the most Victory Points is ultimately the winner.

That’s all you gotta do in order to be the best Spice Merchant, you just have to remember and figure out how to best use your one action per turn to build your Spice Empire.

Let’s start with a couple negatives, first up, does this look color blind friendly to you? To me they are fine, I have zero color blindness issues, but I’ve heard from folks that these are a bit problematic if you are on the Color Blind Spectrum.

And the second negative being that they are just cubes, just different colored cubes. Now, mind you, I realize this is just a component nitpick as I don’t know that anyone would produce a game like this without  just using cubes, BUT even Splendor(shudder) used Poker Chips as a draw.

That’s it, that’s all I can think of to say negatively about the game as it is really a great little engine builder. The fact that you play your cards and have to actually take the time to refresh them, makes all the difference in the world vs that other game that I mentioned just above. You are building an engine here, not one that just works in spite of what you do, it works because you help it work, you play the cards and you have to decide when to refresh those cards, they don’t just sit there and let you reap the benefits the entire game. You have some decisions to make.

You also will know, immediately, that some cards are more valuable than others, and yes, that can be a bit of a crap shoot when they come out from the deck and into the Trade Market, but somebody ahead of you is really going to have to want that card to pay that cost, so it’s not always going to be gone when your time rolls around, that Trade Market and the way you pay for it, ala Firenze, is really a nice touch and helps even that luck of the draw out a bit.

Two players to five players, Century: Spice Road keeps you on your toes and really doesn’t give you the opportunity to relax, some may like that, some may not, but it is a game that moves at the correct pace for this type of game. I won’t say that the game moves fast, as I never want to say that fast is a selling point, but the game moves at a brisk pace that doesn’t ever make you feel like it has overstayed it’s welcome.

The art is warm and inviting, Fernanda Suárez, who previously worked on Ashes and Dead of Winter  has done a beautiful job  illustrating and gives the game a genuine feel that is warm and welcoming.

I have the playmat to go with the game and while it is completely superfluous, it really is a nice touch. You are going to be moving cards along a row quite a bit, and we all know that sliding cards along tables, especially without sleeves, can cause wear on said cards, the playmat prevents that, plus it gives you specific spots to place your cards, coins and spices. The insert works perfectly with the bowls holding the spices, just sit the rule book on top of the bowls and they don’t spill. I will rarely praise a game simply because they did an insert right, but Plan B Games definitely did the insert right.

Now, this isn’t going to the centerpiece of your game collection, Century: Spice Road simply isn’t that game, but what it is going to be is a really good 30-45 minute Gateway level engine building game that really inspires it’s players to search out and explore for the combinations that will work best each game. Sometimes those combinations work, sometimes they don’t, but you know what, it’s only a quick setup and another play away from trying it again.

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

the-colonists

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.

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.

 

30043563492_b940707e79_o
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.

30144133701_57b2c2f28d_o

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.

30267653745_905f5c9132_o

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.

29599423254_56491ab202_o

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.

29970905230_507f34ac61_o

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.

30152123352_bd467d2d36_o

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.

booth-haspelknecht-3

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.

 

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

Mahola Preview

Mahola is a 3-4 player card drafting game from SP Hansen Games. In it, the players are trying to put together the highest scoring Native American dance to win the round and ultimately be the first person to collect three wins.

The game of Mahola itself plays very easily. At the beginning of each round the players are dealt a special character card, there are four different ones in the game, the Shaman, the Maiden, the Hunter and the Chief. Each of these characters have a special ability that can alter your tableau of dances that you are building in front of you and they are kept secret from the other players until you reveal them at the end of the round before scoring. After everyone is dealt their character card, the dealer will then deal each player 5 Dance Cards for their starting hand, placing the rest of the Dance Cards onto the center of the table to act as the draw pile.

Card Examples

Gameplay moves like this, each player will select a card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. Once each player has selected a card, they are revealed and placed into their tableau. The players then choose a card to pass to the player on their left and a card to pass to the player on their right. After they receive two cards in return they draw a card from the top of the deck and repeat the procedure until each of them have five cards in their tableau. The important thing to remember when placing down the cards is that they can only be placed on the ends of the tableau, you cannot place them in between cards in your tableau. After the five Dance Cards have been played to the players tableau, the players then reveal their character card, take the action allowed by the character card, if they so desire, and score their dances.

Scoring Example

The scoring for each round is pretty straight forward, but it has a lot to do with coordinating your plays correctly and getting the cards in the correct order in the tableau. First off, each character card is either red or black, if your character card color matches the color of the number in the upper left of the Dance Card, you gain that many points. If your color does not match, you lose that many points, unless the spirit animal on the Dance Card matches the spirit animal on your Character Card, then you score zero. After scoring those points you add to that the points from the secondary dance icons if they match the card they are right next to. Also, there is a chance to score an additional 2 points on a card if you manage to have the correct dances adjacent to the card. If that all sounds a bit odd, well, it may be that way the first time through, but once you see the scoring in action it makes perfect sense. The highest score wins the round and takes the Wampum token to show that they have one win. You repeat this until someone has three Wampum tokens and that person wins Mahola.

Mahola Cards

To start with, the art for Mahola is absolutely fantastic and those who love the Native American theme will love examining the cards to soak up each and every detail on them, and that’s made a bit easier because the cards are larger than normal playing cards which is another bonus. That all being said, this was a Preview Copy of the game and I can only imagine that they’ve got some ideas to keep improving the look for the final product, and I can’t wait to see what they are.

Mahola Cards

Graphic Design was there were a couple small issues we had with the cards, mainly when trying to score, it was kind of off-putting how you had to look at the lower banner at the adjacent dance and then glance to the top of the two adjacent cards to read and see if you matched them. But it looks like Scott has already thought of that and they have color coded the dances to make them easier to pick up at first glance, which you can see in the photo above. This will be a great help when scoring your tableau.

Gameplay wise, this is a pretty straight forward drafting game that takes some careful planning to build your tableau to perform the best dance. Knowing what to pass off to the other players can be a pretty big advantage for you if you can figure out early on what they are going for. My only issue with it being that in a four player game there is going to be one player that each player won’t interact with at all, so you have to hope that everyone else is paying as close attention as you are when passing the cards. But, that would probably be easily solved by switching up the passing directions and adding a pass across the table as well. The chaining of the dances in the tableau make for a really nice mural that you are creating in front of you, I can’t state this enough that the artwork is fantastic.

The field is getting more and more crowded with these small box games that play in 15-30 minutes. It’s getting tougher and tougher to set yourself apart from the field and I think that Scott has done that with this one, the unique theme, the fantastic artwork and the ease of play with decisions to be made each round make this one an easy choice to back at $15, or $18 if you want the Wampum Beads to go with your game.

Mahola is scheduled to hit Kickstarter on the 26th of January.

Be sure to check out the preview page ahead of the launch!

World’s Fair 1893 Preview!!

World’s Fair 1893
Designed by J. Alex Kevern
Published by Foxtrot Games
Coming to Kickstarter September 29th, 2015

The preview for this game is being done using a review copy provided to us by Foxtrot Games. Please note all game photos are using a prototype or renderings, final product may be different.

World's Fair 1893 cover

On May 1st, 1893 the fair grounds were first opened to the public for the start of the Chicago World’s Fair. Forty six nations participated in the fair, constructing exhibits and pavilions over 630 acres in Chicago. This is the fair that first gave us Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Quaker Oats and Juicy Fruit gum and demonstrated many breakthroughs in science, technology, entertainment and culture. Most may also know that this was the fair that gave us the first Ferris wheel, a creation 264 feet tall brought to the world by George Washington Gale Ferris, in its original form, it could hold 2160 people and took approximately 20 minutes to make a complete rotation. The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair provided us many fantastic firsts and fun stories, it continues to do so today with the game World’s Fair 1893.

World’s Fair 1893 is a set collection, area control game that is played over three rounds with two to four players. Players will be sending their supporters to the different areas of the fair to collect cards that will be turned into exhibit cards in that area, given that you have enough influence there.

World's Fair 1893 Proto Board
World’s Fair 1893 in action

To set up the game, you place the Ferris Wheel board on the table and place the Ferris Wheel Car at the bottom of the wheel track, this is the start spot. This Ferris Wheel Car will move around the track clockwise when certain actions happen, when it reaches back to the start spot, this signifies the end of a round and a scoring round takes place. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After placing the board on the table, randomly place out the five areas of the fair around the board. These areas are Transportation, Fine Arts, Manufacturing, Electricity and Agriculture. (Setup will vary differently in a two player game, but we’re just going to cover the 3-4 player game setup here). Shuffle the deck of cards and then place two cards in each area around the board and put the rest of the cards next to the board as a draw pile. Set the scoring tokens aside, give each player 22 supporters of their color and determine who is going to start the game by whatever means you would like to use. Depending on starting position you’ll get a starting bonus card, perform the action specified on the card and you’re ready to go.

board-transportation board-fine-arts

On each player’s turn they are going to perform 4 actions, first and foremost is your primary action which is to get your supporters in areas that you want them in, you do this by simply placing one of your supporters in one of the five areas of your choosing. Next, if you start your turn with any Influential Figure cards in your hand, you play them now, in any order that you choose however they best serve your needs. These Influential Figures cannot be held onto for multiple turns, they must be used the turn after they were collected. After any cards have been played that need to be played, the player collects all the cards in their chosen area. You place all of your cards face up in front of you in your personal card supply. Some of those cards may be Influential Figures, some may be Exhibit cards and others will be Midway Ticket cards. The Midway ticket cards are what moves the Ferris Wheel Car around the Ferris Wheel track, acting as the game’s timer. For each Midway Ticket card you collect, you move the Ferris Wheel Car forward one space. If the Ferris Wheel Car reaches the starting spot, it stops there and immediately you will have a scoring phase. The fourth and final action on a player’s turn is to put new cards around the board. Draw a card from the top of the draw pile and place the first card in the area that the player has just emptied. Continuing clockwise place one card on each of the next two available areas if there is space for them. Each area has a maximum amount of cards allowed on them either three or four as indicated by arrows on the outside edge of the area. If the area is full, skip it and place a card in the next available area. Once the player has placed three new cards out, the next player clockwise gets to take their actions, continuing this way in a clockwise manner.

Midway Ticket
Midway Ticket

There are three card types in World’s Fair 1893, we’ve already explained what the Midway Tickets do during the game, they advance the Ferris Wheel Car, but they also are scored at the end of each round. The player who has collected the most tickets receives a two point Midway coin. All players, including the majority holder, redeem their collected Midway Tickets for one point each.

Bertha Palmer
Bertha Palmer

The Influential Figure cards represent the favors that you can ask the influential people of the time period for. These are the cards that you have to play the round after you acquire them. They allow the player to perform different actions such as adding a bonus supporter to the area that you chose to send your first supporter to or adding a bonus supporter to one of the areas you sent your supporter to, or even moving one supporter, yours or an opponents from any one area to any other area. There are also Influential Figure cards that let you add a bonus supporter to the area specified on the card.

An Agriculture Exhibit card
An Agriculture Exhibit card

Your Main Exhibit cards represent your proposals for the main section of the fair. When you first get them they are considered “proposed”. During the scoring phase you can have them approved if you are one of the leaders of the corresponding area. You only earn points for these cards by having them approved and the more variety of approvals you have, the more points you will score.
So, how does the scoring work? Well it works a little something like this. When the Ferris Wheel Car hits the starting spot, you have a scoring round. There will be three of these in the game. First you score the Midway Tickets, everyone gets 1 point per Midway Ticket in their hand and the player with the most gets 2 bonus points, if there is a tie for most tickets, all players tied receive 2 bonus points.

All right, now the fun part, scoring the five areas. Starting with the area at the base of the board and proceeding clockwise the player with the most supporters in an area gains ribbons worth either 4 or two points, and matching exhibit cards they have collected for the area being scored may be approved. The number of players determines the number of points gained and how many matching exhibits that can be approved. After every area has been scored and the players have had their exhibit cards approved each player reduces the supporters they have in each area. For every two supporters you have, you remove one of them, always round in your favor though. After the first two scoring phases, play will continue clockwise as normal, after the third the game ends.
End of game scoring each player will score their midway coins, their leader medals and their approved exhibits. The approved exhibits are scored in sets of different non-matching categories with a full set of 5 getting you 15 points, 4 gets you 10, 3 gets you 6, 2 gets 3 points and 1 is just 1 point. The player with the most points wins!

24 points
24 points

If you just read or listened to that rules overview, I am pretty confident that you can now sit down and know how to play the game. It plays as smoothly and easy as it sounds. Yet within those 45 minutes or so you are playing, there are lots of little strategies and tactical moves that can come into play based on what is going on around the board. Sure it sounds easy enough, play one cube, pick up some cards, replenish, move on but if you play it like that, you probably won’t win.

The theme in this one shines through in the wonderful artwork by Beth Sobel and Adam McIver really help implant you in the 1893 World’s Fair. Even in a prototype form with some cards still missing pieces of information, the cards not having finished back design and such we couldn’t keep ourselves from noticing and admiring all the little details.

Weight wise, this one is going to be your go to game if you want to teach others about Area Control, I’m telling you this one has a place on your shelves right next to that tattered well-loved copy of Ticket to Ride that you break out every once in awhile for yourselves, but more often to try to show a friend that there is more to board games than dice and random luck. There is strategy even in the simplest of rule sets and fun to be found in finding out how to sneak into that last spot you need to get that last exhibit approved to complete that full set of exhibit tokens.

If there is one negative to the game, it’s that it can sometimes seem to end just a little too soon. You may find yourself just wishing for one or two more rounds, but you know what, maybe we shouldn’t think of that as a negative. Maybe that’s just the game pulling you back in, making you want to set it up and play it back to back to back, which we have done.

I’ve previewed a handful of games since I first started blogging and podcasting about our gaming experiences here, and my family has enjoyed each and every game we’ve previewed to varying degrees, but there hasn’t been a single one that seemed to grab my game group as soon as we sat down and started playing. Sure, they’ve enjoyed games that I’ve brought in the past, but I don’t remember them asking to play one more than once or twice. World’s Fair 1893 broke that, as soon as we sat down and started playing it, the wheels started turning and the chatter started and didn’t stop for a half hour or so after that first game was over.

World’s Fair 1893 launches on Kickstarter on September 29th. For $29 including shipping in the United States you can pick this one up. Shipping goes up for our Canadian friends and friends all over the world. I really can’t wait to see what Randy Hoyt over at Foxtrot Games has in store for this one during the campaign, I haven’t seen any stretch goals yet, but I trust that they will make the game even nicer to look at and to play.

World’s Fair 1893 Kickstarter Preview Page

I did it, I previewed a game about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair without one mention of H.H. Holmes!!

cover-crop

Week 42!!!

Week 42!!!

This week’s Geeklist on BGG

This week’s Forum Thread over on BGG

Fall has fallen, so yardwork and hiking are on the agenda for us as long as the weather stays like this. I just need to find someplace that’s permanently 75 degrees and little to no humidity, it’d be perfect and we’d get so much more accomplished and feel so much better, well, except for the allergies. But hey, you can’t have it all, right? Anyway decent week of gaming going on this week. Got to play some two player games on Tuesday evening with Mike, Friday evening saw an online play with a couple friends and Saturday saw a couple games with AnnaBeth and then a three player game with Gabby and Kerensa, let’s get to it! Oh, and don’t forget, the Codenames contest starts this week, be sure to listen for the rules and the first clue!!

As I said, on Tuesday evening I took a couple games down the road a bit to Mike’s with the intention of just getting some two player games on the table. Well, we only got one game that is truly two player, the other two just play better with two. We started off with a two player matchup of Baseball Highlights 2045. This is one that I really enjoy playing but it doesn’t get brought out very often, but Mike had been reading up on it and was trying to decide whether or not it would be a good one for him and his son to play so we broke it out and gave it a go. I taught it pretty quickly as I think this one really teaches easier as you play it, so I always just play a single matchup to teach everything and then do a buy round after it before starting the three game series. Baseball Highlights 2045 is a deck building game about baseball, but just not modern day baseball, this is the future of baseball, with robots and cyborgs and a few naturals. The game is a pretty abstracted look at a baseball game and it plays quick, with each game being just six or possibly seven cards each player. Five to ten minutes tops from the first play through the buy round that happens after each game. One of the things I really like about this deck builder is that even though you are building your deck and adding new cards, you don’t ever get your deck over fifteen cards. When you add a new card, another card is sent to the “Minors” and out of your hand. Really makes everything streamlined and love not having to worry about culling on the run. Anyway, I won the first game 2-0 and we bought our Free Agents and moved onto the three game series which I won 2-1. After you play the three game series, the players then go against each other in a 7 game World Series, for the World Series I brought out the Managers Expansion for the first time. Each player is going to draft four managers, the managers will give you a “power” so to speak that can be used in one game and then discarded. I took the first two game at home and then once we went on the road the wheels fell off and Mike rallied to win the next four games taking the series 4 games to 2. Hopefully when the next edition comes out more gamers will pick this one up as it really is a fantastic game. I need to open up the other expansion packs and add them in next time we play. All they seem to do is give you more keywords and just change up the game a little bit, nothing major.

We followed Baseball Highlights 2045 up with a game that Mike really enjoys and doesn’t get to play nearly enough, Neuroshima Hex. I’ve only played this one other time and that was against Gabby, I haven’t had the heart to open the box back up after the water spilling accident that took out one army. Well, this was Mike’s copy and it was stocked full of just about every army available but I stuck with the basics and I believe I played the Hegemony, I can’t recall off the top of my head what Mike picked, but whatever it was, he walked all over me. Well not at first, we stayed pretty even through the first battle or two I believe, but after that, I drew twice and drew no troops, only action tiles and man that just basically ended the game right there as Mike just mopped the floor with me after that, beating me by 14 or 15 points. I like Neuroshima Hex, just not a fan of my drawing abilities. As much as I get confused about initiative and such on the board it really didn’t get too bad this time around, so maybe I’m finally coming to grips with it. But it’s for that reason alone that the app will probably always get more plays from me than the actual cardboard will. I’m lazy when it comes to tracking this stuff, so if something else is available to make my life easier with a game, I’ll play it. Doesn’t mean I’m any good at it, I don’t think I’ve won a matchup of this yet, even against the AI. This one will get more plays in the future I have a feeling.

We ended the evening with me teaching Mike the only true two player only game that we played, Akrotiri. Kerensa and I played this one a couple weeks ago and our play took a bit longer than the box advertised, so I kind of warned Mike of this and started teaching, knowing that the end of the night may happen before the end of the game, but that was cool as I just wanted to refresh it all in my head and give him a taste of it. Akrotiri is a tile laying game where you are creating a map filled with islands that have the goods that you need to deliver in order to make money in order to excavate and find temples. This one played a lot quicker than Kerensa and I did and we ended up actually finishing this one with me winning by one point. I’m not sure what Mike thought of it, as we really kind of rushed through the game in order to get it finished, but I enjoyed it and I’m confident the next time Kerensa and I play it’ll go a lot closer to the advertised play time, just hoping I can get her to play it instead of Targi the next time we sit down for a two player only game.

No other gaming throughout the week although I did fall down the GMT Games Rabbit hole and ended up P500ing a couple titles they have coming down the line, 1846 and Mr. President. I even printed off the old 2005 rules for 1846 and started reading thorough them in anticipation of ending up with my first 18xx game on our shelves and hopefully on our table. Mr. President is a solo only game about managing the job as President of the United States. Really sounds like an interesting title and I’m looking forward to learning more as we get closer to this one being produced.

Friday I got an invite to play some Seasons on Board Game Arena with Bill and James. It’s been awhile since I had played Seasons over on BGA, but it’s one of our favorite games around here, at least for Gabby and I, we’ll talk more about that though in a little bit. This one I drafted originally to go heavy Crystal, light power cards, I just wanted to get out on the board what I had and churn through and convert as much energy as I could as quickly as I could. It didn’t work out that way as I ended up being last in turn order and on the first turn I had to draw another card, in fact, the first three times I was last in turn order that’s what I ended up with. I got lucky on those draws as they weren’t really expensive to get out and they ended up helping the Crystal conversion as they eventually came out. Bill ended up having a pretty off game, I think once the bad die luck left me he ended up with it. James made a huge push at the end of the game and ended up getting a little closer than I thought he was going to get. Final scores ended up being 243-198-149 with me hitting a high score for myself by a huge margin. Towards the end of the game I think I pulled out close to a 50 point transmute and that was the difference. Great game guys, I’m looking forward to future challenges. I’ve got the rule book for Troyes sitting on the nightstand, going to start reading it tonight!

Saturday saw nice weather and I decided that I should head outside and do some yard work that I put off doing because it had been too hot and miserable. While doing that, I was mowing over some of the tall weeds I found a spray paint bottle, that’s always fun, having it explode and shoot paint out. Luckily it all shot forward instead of back at me, but it got my heart racing a little bit nonetheless. Then after a bit more mowing after slowing the heart rate down I went to the truck to get my gloves so I could do a bit weed pulling. As I was standing there digging the truck, I heard a loud crash and about 25 feet or so in front of me a lady had veered to the right and plowed into the back quarter panel of the car parked there. Smacked the Hyundai hard enough to hop the curb and push it another 20 or so feet downhill. Luckily everyone involved was okay, the lady was coming back from breakfast with her three young children. The kids were a bit shaken up and had some seatbelt bruises, but all in all pretty lucky and hopefully recovering well. With that, I decided it was time for me to just stay inside the rest of the day. Didn’t need my heart racing any more. So Kerensa, AnnaBeth and I sat down to some DrachenStark.

DrachenStark is just a race game that uses a memory mechanic to race your dragons around the volcano and it’s become one of AnnaBeth’s favorite games. She loves finding the right tile to flip, but we’re still working on helping her become okay with finding the wrong thing. She still has a tendency to flip the wrong tile and then quickly flip it back over pretending that she didn’t really pick it. At five we’re struggling with what to let her get away with and what to call her on and make her stick with and I think this one has been a pretty good game to work on that with her. Gabby has kind of gotten to the point where she doesn’t want to play with AnnaBeth because she doesn’t want to follow the rules and Gabby is on a big rules kick. Thing is, without cheating AnnaBeth won one of these matchups, she “won” the second one but we kind of went a bit lenient with her on a couple things. This is another fun little game from Haba, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything but it’s fun with the little ones.

We wrapped up the gaming week with a three player game of Seasons with Gabby, Kerensa and I. After Friday evening’s online play I figured Gabby would want to play this one again as we really do like it here. We invited Kerensa to join us and we were off, well, we were off after a brief rules recap for Kerensa. We did the draft for this game and maybe we shouldn’t have as Kerensa had a bit of trouble remembering what the cards would do and how they should be played out and when, but after about 20 minutes or so we were ready to roll some chunky dice and play some cards. I love the combos that can be chained together and it makes for some really fun turns and this one had a few of those. I really worried about Gabby as she just kept adding card after card to her hand and I knew I hadn’t seen any of the cards that allow free summons or even any that helped bump up your summoning gauge so I kind of worried she had bitten off more than she could chew. Even after the first year she only had 1 card summoned and I think 5 in hand before taking her second year cards. Kerensa on the other hand was methodically working her hand and putting cards out. I went the same route as my game on Friday night, getting cards out that helped give crystal bonuses when summoning power cards and extra energy. Beginning of the third year it was pretty close and Gabby had gotten more cards out but still had a lot in her hand and wasn’t scoring any crystals in the process. In the meantime I had reached 100 points on them and had cheap to summon cards left. Kerensa was getting a bit frustrated with some of my turns as it always seemed I was doing three or four things to her one, but I think in the third year she started to see how things work together. Gabby was a summoning fiend in the third year and slowed the game down quite a bit by using the Temporal boots and then making sure the season marker only moved 1 or 2 spots at the end of rounds. This one ended with me breaking 200 again, I hit 217, Kerensa came in a hard fought second with 157 and Gabby, in spite of having 13 power cards summoned, only managed to get 153 points, she just didn’t have any crystal production going through the game. Even though Kerensa came in second, she was pretty frustrated with the game. Not knowing the cards is huge in this game and the fact that all the expansions were in there further pushed that frustration. Seasons almost feels like one of those lifestyle games where it’s what you play all the time so you can actually know what will work with what and when you should play it, should a card be in your starting hand or save it for the later years. I tried to help out as much as I could at the beginning, but it’s kind of hard to do when you know there are certain cards that you want and also just hard because Kerensa doesn’t want someone to tell her what to do game wise. After the game we talked a bit and kind of talked about it. I get the feeling that Kerensa likes what the game can do and she enjoyed it but if we are going to play it, we both agreed that we need to play it more often, which was A-OK with Gabby and I. So look for more Seasons plays in the future I have a feeling.

Star Realms plays happened again this week, nothing too bad, nothing too good. If memory serves correctly I am right where I left off last week at lvl 9 7 out of 10 but I did have some fun games with Adiliberto and I also finished up our season in Awberman’s BGG league finishing up at 5 and 6 after winning my final round matchup using a really fast, smaller hitting deck and got lucky that our buy row was just outrageously overpriced from the beginning for the most part. I’ll be back next season, hoping to finish over .500 and keep on keeping on in the same division that I’ve been in the entire time I’ve been playing. I’ve only sniffed a promotion once and lost on the play in to get moved up.

Acquisitions
No acquisitions this week, so instead of talking about that, we’ve got a review for you. This one comes from Patrick Hillier. You might remember Patrick as our first guest on the Meet the Gamer segment that I need to re-start, or you might know Patrick from the What Did You Play This Week Geeklist over on Board Game Geek, but either way, we’ve got him here and he’s going to tell us a little bit about the new Pandemic app and he’s promised to do this all while not wearing the vest that that other App reviewer made famous.

Patrick’s Review can be heard at the 15:49 spot on the Week 42 Podcast.

Kickstarter
Once again, nothing new for me popping up on Kickstarter this week so I’ll just kind of remind everyone about Avalanche at Yeti Mountain, GemPacked Cards and Tabletopia over there. If you are a Kickstarter frequent backer make sure to give these a look. We previewed Avalanche at Yeti Mountain last week, it’s fun, light, quick race game that offers some exciting play. GemPacked Cards we previewed a couple weeks back, it’s a fun little gem swapping, gem trading game with some absolutely adorable artwork. Tabletopia possibly has the ability to change board gaming forever for the better with its digital implications.

This coming week look for Campaign Trail from Cosmic Wombat. We’re supposed to get a preview copy soon so hopefully I can tell you all more eventually, but for right now just know that I’ve read the rule book and it looks like it’s a really fun, easy to learn card driven election game.

Also, watch for our World’s Fair 1893 preview coming up in the next week or so. It’s set to launch on Kickstarter on September 29th.
Podcasts

Just a note about a couple new podcasts that are up and on iTunes as of this week. The first is the Game Designers of North Carolina podcast, this one is hosted by designer Matt Wolfe and the first episode has guests Burke Drew and Mark Mcgee. This week they discuss how to get started in designing board games. Really a great first episode. Also launching this week is the Cardboard Architects. This is actually their second episode this week but it is the first week they’ve been available over on iTunes. This one is hosted by friend Chris Renshall and it’s all about board game design as well. Give both of these podcasts a listen, they both really deserve some ears.

Alright to finish off the podcast Eric Booth joins us to talk a bit about theme in gaming, well, sort of. We’ll just let Eric take over now.

You can hear Eric at the 21:59 spot on the Week 42 Podcast. 

Well that’ll wrap up week 42 of the What Did You Play This Week Podcast Thing. Be sure to let me know if you want to be on the podcast. If you have a review you’d like to do, or something you want to talk about gaming wise. We’d love to have you contribute. Reach out to me via email or find me over on Twitter or Board Game Geek and just let me know what you’ve got in mind and we’ll see if we can get you involved. The more voices the better in my mind.

Thank you all for listening, have a great week!

Wait, I hope you haven’t left yet, I almost forgot about the contest!!
Okay, so, since I was antsy, I ended up getting an extra copy of Codenames and what better way to celebrate my disorders than by giving away the unopened, brand spanking new hotness from Czech Games Editions. So what I’ve done is this, I’ve taken a photo of a game board which I will post on the blog and I am going to give clues this week and the next two weeks. What I want you all to do is email me the words that you believe will match up with the clue to wdyptw@gmail.com. Each correct guess will get you an entry into the contest. After three weeks, I’ll put all the entries into a bowl, or a random number generator, whichever works easier, and we’ll get a winner and they’ll get a brand new copy of Codenames. This contest will be open to everyone who wants to enter and I will cover shipping here in the United States, outside the United States I will cover the first $10 in shipping and if you want the game, you cover the rest and we’ll send it your way. I know, that sucks, but unless I figure out that shipping for it won’t be too bad I’m going to have to ask for a bit of help. This one is going to sell out, and sell out fast, I know that Cool Stuff Inc and Miniature Market both are out of copies so hopefully we can make some listener pretty happy and get them this wonderful game.

The clue is: Bob Marley-2

Codenames Week 1

Now, have a great week everyone! Thanks for listening!!

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain Preview

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain Preview!!!

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain Kickstarter Page

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain on Board Game Geek

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is a race game, kind of themed after those ridiculous 1980s skiing movies, at least it seems that way to me. The players are engineering students who have perfected the “rocket-powered skis” and you are now out on the mountain testing them out to see just how well they work by having a race to the bottom of the mountain. But, along with racing down the mountain against your fellow engineering students, you are also trying to avoid the Yeti who is out to keep you all off of the mountain and the oncoming avalanche that is being caused by your constant use of the rocket powered skis.

The entire game of Avalanche at Yeti Mountian is played using a deck of 60 cards and pawns and markers. The cards are dual purpose, they are used at the beginning of the game to create the mountain to race down, and this is done by placing 12 cards side by side on the table. Each player is then dealt 4 cards for their starting hand. Each player is given a Rocket status card which is set to the ready at the start of the game and then each player then chooses the color pawn that best represents them racing down the mountain.

The cards themselves contain all the information for playing the game, in the upper left hand portion of the card there is a number and a symbol, these are used for movement when played from a player’s hand.

When it is on the table as part of the mountain, this is the symbol that is used for rocket jumping, but we’ll get more into that later. Also on the card are two tracks that are followed, one by the racers and the other by the Yeti. The card is also divided into either 2 or 3 sections noting how far the avalanche can move on that card when the avalanche is triggered. So, to start the race, each player selects 1 or 2 cards from their hand. The numbers on the card is the speed that you might move this round. You can only play two cards if the symbols on them match, then your speed is the total of both cards. But beware, there is a safety speed limit on the mountain, and if the players exceed that speed limit then the players that are going the fastest crash, this limits them to only moving one spot on their turn.

After checking the speed of the racers, the racers get to move, taking into consideration any crashes of course. Starting with the player who is moving fastest each player will move their pawn down the mountain the number of spaces that your speed allows, if you were to ever stop on another player, you move forward to the next available spot. Now that all of the racers are on the mountain, they could in theory use their Rocket Jump ability the next round. To do this the players must play a card of a matching symbol to the card that their pawn is currently on. But beware, if others use that same symbol to rocket jump, the player who is furthest behind of the players who used it gets to use the rocket jump. There is one other way to Rocket Jump, you can play from your hand, two cards of matching symbols, the matching symbols act as a wild so to speak and allow you to rocket jump regardless of what everyone else on the mountain does.

When you successfully execute a Rocket Jump, your skier jumps completely over the next card (ignoring any remaining spots on your current card) and then begins their normal movement. Each time a Rocket Jump is used, the avalanche speed increases by 1.

After all the racers have moved, the person who was moving the fastest down the mountain now gets to move the Yeti a number of spaces equal to how fast the fastest player was going. The Yeti has their own path down the mountain, it weaves in and out of the racing path, if while moving the Yeti, you ever cross a spot that contains one of the racers, that racer loses the ability to use their Rocket Jump next round. The Yeti can be moved down the mountain or up the mountain, but you can never change the direction of the Yeti once you have started movement one way.

After the Yeti has wreaked their havoc on the mountain, the avalanche starts moving down the mountain, it moves the number of spaces as indicated by the Avalanche tracker. As was noted earlier, some cards have 2 spots for the avalanche, some have 3, as the game continues and players use their Rockets, the avalanche will increase in speed. If at any time the Avalanche moves through or stops on a space that has a racer, that racer is eliminated from the race due to being buried by the Avalanche. After Avalanche movement, any player who was not hit by the Yeti flips their Rocket status card to the ready side and discard the cards they played this round and draw one more card, even if they played two this round. The game ends as soon as the first player skis off the final card of the mountain.

So there you have it, that’s the quick how to play for Avalanche at Yeti Mountain and it really explains that quickly and easily, if not quicker. This is another fantastic offering from Green Couch Games and designer Matt Wolfe. You may recall that Matt is also the designer of one of our most anticipated games this year, Wombat Rescue. This one is a bit lighter than that and it fits in well with Green Couch Games’ growing stable of fantastic lighter weight filler games. This one, more so than the others, can be a bit random and sometimes that can lead to a bit of frustration, I’ve seen it on a couple occasions, but it moves fast enough that you really don’t care if you are the one caught in the avalanche, well, you might care but the game will be over so quickly you’ll be ready for the next race. There are a couple variants in the back of the rules to add some variety to the game including a nice two player variant where each player is controlling two racers. Also in the box will be solo play, so that should appeal to some as well.

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain is currently running on Kickstarter, with 23 days left in the campaign, it is currently sitting at $9.2k of its $15k funding goal(as of 9/9/15). $19 gets you the game and shipping in the United States, only $23 for the game and shipping anywhere else in the world. Get on it, or the Yeti will find you!!

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain Kickstarter Page

GemPacked Cards Preview

GemPacked Cards Preview!!!
A What Did You Play This Week Kickstarter Preview

GemPacked Cards
Pencil First Games
Designer: Eduardo Baraf
Illustrator: Katherine Waddell

The What Did You Play This Week Podcast was provided a copy of GemPacked Cards from Pencil First Games in order to do this preview. Photos are using prototype pieces and do not represent the finished project.  

The newest offering from Pencil First Games and the follow up Kickstarter to The Siblings Trouble is the completely adorable GemPacked Cards. Eduardo Baraf is back with this gem swapping set collecting game for 2-5 players that plays quickly at all player counts and has some really fun gem swapping to help you get the victory points needed to win the game.

Gemino Pips

Setup
Begin your game of GemPacked Cards by shuffling all the goal cards. Then draw and place one more than you have players on the table. These goal cards give you gem combinations to shoot for during game play in order to gain victory points when you trade in the proper combination out of your hand.

Goal Cards

After that, you’ll set out a number of Sun and Nova cards based once again on how many players are playing. These cards also grant victory points for trading in the proper gems to win the card.

Sun & Nova Cards

Next up, you will set out the right amount of Gemino Pip Tokens, again based on number of players, each player will then draw two of these Pip Tokens for their starting hand. These Pip tokens will represent six of the available colors. Next up you’ll shuffle the GemPacked cards and deal out the number of cards necessary based on player count, for 2-3 players that is nine and for 4-5 players that is twelve. These cards are comprised of the Square and Diamond Geminos that you are going to be trading for with your Pip tokens and other cards. Reshuffle the deck and sit it off to the side as the draw deck and now you are ready to play.

Board set up for 2-3 players

Gameplay
On a player’s turn they will buy Squares, Diamonds or any of the Goal Cards or Sun and Nova cards. When the last Pip token is drawn each player will get one remaining turn before the game ends and players then count up their score. But how do you do all that, you may be asking, well, here we go. At the start of a player’s turn if there 7 or more Diamonds on the board(or 9 in a 4-5 player game) the player MAY refresh the whole grid from the draw deck, ignoring any Action Cards that may be dealt. More about those Action Cards later. After the player assesses the board, they draw two Gemino Pips from the draw pile and add them with their collection of Pips. Then the player may perform any of the following actions, in any order and as often as they choose to do:

1) The player may buy a Square from the card grid for two Pips that could create that Square’s color. You can see the combinations that can be made using the chart shown below.

2) The player may buy a Diamond from the card grid for two Square that would combine to create that Diamond’s color.

3) The player can sell a square for two pips that create that Square’s color. Those Pips are collected from the common pool of Pips that have been used previously.

4) The player may buy a Sun, Dwarf or Nova card using the combination needed to purchase those cards. Three Pips for the Sun Card, Five Pips for the Dwarf Card and 3 Squares of any combination of colors for the Nova Card. Each of these cards, along with the goal cards can only be bought once.

5) If a player does not take an action, they can then draw one extra Pip from the Pip pile, essentially passing their turn.

Mixing and Matching

Remember, these actions can be done in any order the players want and as many times as the players like or can which can make for some really short turns and also for some fun nice comboing turns where you are just mixing and matching a lot to get what you want. It should be noted that the board does not refresh though until your turn is over and play passes to the next player.

Also in the Pip pile and in the card grid are multi colored pips, squares and Diamonds, these are Wilds and can only be acquired by combinations as given below. These Wilds may be used in place of another Pip or Square when buying a normal color.

After the player ends their turn the active player refills any cleared spaces on the board with cards from the draw deck. If any of these cards are action cards, this is when those actions take place as soon as they are drawn, starting with the active player and going clockwise, once the card is resolved it is discarded and a new card is placed in its spot until the board is back to the original number of cards on the board. The action cards do different actions, anything from allowing each player to discard a card from the board that is adjacent to the Action Card(Comet) to allowing players to draw more pips(asteroids) or even allowing one player to buy the Sun Card for 3 Pips and adding it to their hand for the victory points. Depending on when they come out these Action Cards can have a huge impact on the game. The Asteroids in general can speed the game up quite a bit and depending on when it happens, can end the game rather abruptly.

Action Cards

Game End
As previously noted, once the final Pip is drawn the players all get one more turn to do what they can with their remaining Pips, Squares and Diamonds in order to gain more points. Once everyone has had their final turn, the players tally up their victory points from their cards and the highest Victory Point total wins the game.

Thoughts
GemPacked Cards is Eduardo Baraf’s and Pencil First Games’ third game and the first one that I have had the opportunity to play. We’ve backed the previous Pencil First Games title, The Siblings Trouble as it looks like a fantastic entry into Role Playing within a board game, something that I hope works perfectly for my family. All of the previous games from Pencil First Games are family focused games, and GemPacked Cards continues that trend with this lighter weight game. And it is light, it’s a filler type game with cute artwork from Katherine Waddell. It’s a perfect filler game to play when you have 20-30 minutes to spare before bed, which is when it saw the most play time for us and it would also make a fabulous addition to a lunch time game rotation. The mixing of colors has actually been a great thing to teach our 5 year old. Two Primary Pips equal a Square Pip of the same color, but you can also mix and match a little bit to get some secondary colors, Purple, Orange and Green. The younger players may miss a lot of the extra things that you can do to prolong a turn, but they definitely will have fun mixing and matching and making colors. Amongst all that cuteness and light hearted play there is a bit of a thinky element, as long as things stay set up for you, you can set up the turns pretty well and you may have quite a bit to do on your turn with trades to make and goal cards to purchase.

Game in Action

There are a couple of small issues with the game, mainly just dealing with randomness, which is easily forgiven and forgotten in a short lighter weight game like this. A little more annoying, at least in our games, seems to be a first player advantage mainly because the first player is always operating with more Pips than the rest of the players. But once again, that may be our grouping and it’s also easily forgivable in a game like this.

GemPacked Cards feels a lot like you are playing one of those puzzle apps on your phone when you are playing GemPacked Cards, which makes complete sense given that Eduardo has been developing an App for GemPacked Cards right along with the table top game. The app is also super fun so look for that soon, I believe it has been recently accepted on iOS, so it will be available when the Kickstarter campaign launches. The app while fun has no multiplayer and you are strictly trying to solve color and shape mixings as efficiently and quickly as possible, so while it feels similar it’s definitely a separate and fulfilling experience.

We have enjoyed our time with GemPacked Cards and look forward to backing our own copy. Look for GemPacked Cards to land on Kickstarter on September 1st. It will launch with a backing price of $25 plus $5 shipping.

GemPacked Cards Kickstarter Page Link

GemPacked iOS in the App Store!!!

JurassAttack Preview!!!

This preview is also in audio form on Week 32 of the WDYPTW Podcast at the 3:49 mark.

JurassAttack!

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that our family has been playing a new two player game from Green Couch Games. A couple weeks ago Jason Kotarski contacted us and asked if we wanted to preview a little two player dinosaur fighting game that was going on Kickstarter on July 10th. If you remember, we enjoyed previewing and ultimately backing Best Treehouse Ever, their previous offering, so I jumped at the chance to preview and let you all know how we felt about their newest game to come to Kickstarter, JurassAttack!.

AnnaBeth Learning the Cards

 

It arrived in the mail this week on Monday. I sat down and read the rules over lunch and I was kind of curious as to how it would work. The instructions read like it was just a variation of War with variable card powers. So I was wondering if this one would be as fun as I was hoping. In JurassAttack each player has a deck of 27 cards, each card is either one of 7 different dinosaurs or Eggs. Each different dinosaur species card has a special power that they can use, it has their Ferocity in the upper left hand corner and their value in victory points at the end of the game in the bottom right. Eggs are strictly victory points that you or your opponent can win. Each player starts with a hand of 5 cards and on your turn, you pick a dinosaur or a pack of dinosaurs from your hand and place them face down in front of you.

Plotting our Attack

A pack of dinosaurs can consist of the same species of dinosaurs or dinosaurs and eggs. There are also specific rules on some cards that allow for dinosaurs to be packed. After you have placed your cards face down in front of you, your opponent places their choice in front of them and then, if you are like us, on the count of three you both reveal your dinosaurs and your dinosaurs “fight”. When you reveal your dinosaurs you are comparing the ferocity level of your chosen Dinosaurs and the highest total wins. Whomever wins takes their opponents dinosaurs and place them in a victory point pile and then they take the dinosaurs that they played and place them in a discard pile. Any eggs that were played also go into the victory pile. After that, the loser of that round draws their hand back up to five, the winner does not, in fact if the winner has no cards in their hand they only draw one card to play next hand. The next round starts with the winner of the previous round being the first to lay their cards down so their opponent can see how many they have played. That’s it, the game ends when one player has no more cards to play from their hand and has no cards left in their draw pile. Each player then counts the victory points in their victory point pile and the highest total wins the game.

The Card Backs

JursassAttack! looks to be the first published game from Ryan Cowler and I believe he has a nice, light, fun game on his resume with this one. The cards, even in pre-production format, are fantastic. I love the art and design on them, and I also love that they are tarot sized, it is about dinosaur fighting after all, so the cards should be bigger than normal, right? The play is quick, which is kind of important in this as it isn’t meant to be a big full game, it’s a fun directly confrontational filler that plays in about 10-15 minutes or so and there are some good opportunities for bluffing your opponent. There are some choices to be made, do I run out of cards here by playing a big pack, or do I hold back and keep a couple just in case. The fight over eggs kind of seems to take a back seat to the dinosaur fighting sometimes, but we’ve had more than a couple matchups that came down to that one point difference so the Eggs did make a difference. The variety of the dinosaurs is pretty nice and the powers that each have can be useful and fun if played at the right time to get the best advantage. I’ve had a good time playing with my 11 year old who has really shown a liking to it, but she lives for games with direct confrontation and our 5 year old has had fun with it as well even though she can’t read everything on the cards. We kind of taught her beforehand who can pack with whom and what each dinosaur can do and she has had a lot of fun with it, even got the two girls playing together without my wife or I encouraging it, so it’s a winner based on that alone. JurassAttack! will be hitting Kickstarter on July 10th and just know that even though we’ll happily be playing our demo copy for quite a while, we will be backing this one to get a production copy as well, can’t wait to see what Green Couch Games does with the production on this one.

AnnaBeth Won