Orleans The Review

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

Orleans Cover

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

Orleans 1

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

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

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

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

Orleans 2

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

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

Orleans 4

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

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

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

Orleans Metal Money

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

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

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

Orleans The Stickering

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

I wonder what Orleans Invasion brings to the game.

Hmm

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

 

Podcasts That I Listen To & Enjoy

Podcasts

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

Edit: Brawling Bros is no longer on my list of downloads or listens, their inability to grasp that they honestly should not be using “Engrish” as a tool for their brand of “humor”. Not to mention the other characters that border on racist caricatures. This sucks as I honestly thought Brandon & Josh were going to make changes in their show, after all, they claim to care about each and every listener. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gold West

Gold West

Designed by J. Alex Kevern

Art by Adam P. McIver

Published by Tasty Minstrel Games

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

Prospectors

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

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

Wagons

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

Beginning Player Board

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

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

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

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

The Board

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

Player board turn 9

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

Final Board 4 player

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

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

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

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

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

First Play Thoughts on Kahuna

Kahuna Box

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

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

Kahuna Board Above

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

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

Kahuna Board

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

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

Kahuna Board And Cards

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

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

Two player stack

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

Kahuna Pairing

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

Teaching the Game-Patchwork

Patchwork

Patchwork Box

A game for 2 players from Uwe Rosenberg and published by Mayfair and Lookout Games

In Patchwork two players are competing to build the most appealing quilt on your personal 9×9 grid. In the game you are going to be purchasing patches using the buttons which serve as the currency in the game and placing them on the grid in hopes of filling the empty space as efficiently as possible. Those blank spaces will cost you in the end. The player who has the most buttons leftover at the end of the game, minus penalties will win the game and have quilted their patchwork masterpiece.

Setup

To start with, give each player their quilt board, either in green or yellow. Also give them their time token of the same color as their quilt board to be used on the Central Time board which you will set in the middle of the table and give each players five buttons to start with, while putting the rest of the buttons off to the side within easy reach. Each player will take their time token and place it on the starting space of the time board, the board is two sided, you can use either the spiral or the square, both have exactly the same number of spaces. Next take the thirty three regular patches and randomly place them in a circle around the time board, this circle will be fairly big so allow some room to spread out a bit when setting up. Next, find the smallest patch, it’s a size 1×2, when you locate it, place the neutral pawn token and place it between this patch and the next patch in clockwise order. Find the special 7×7 tile and sit it off to the side, place the special 1 space patches in their designated spaces on the time board. Decide on the first player, the rules say the player who last used a needle, and you are ready to play Patchwork.

Patchwork all set up and ready to play
Patchwork all set up and ready to play

Gameplay

In Patchwork the player turns are not necessarily going to alternate.  The player whose token is furthest back on the time track is going to be the active player, even if that player just had a turn. Sometimes that leads to multiple turns in a row for a player, which can be a pretty important strategy in the game. If ever both time tokens are on the same space the player whose token is on top goes first.

Okay, so now that that is settled, what exactly do you do on a turn?

Well, on your turn you take one of two possible actions, you can either advance your token along the time track until it is in the space directly in front of your opponent and take one button per space you have moved your time token OR You can purchase and place a patch on your player board. There are five steps to take when you purchase a patch.

First, you choose the patch, you can choose any one of the three patches that are in front of the neutral token in clockwise order.

Secondly, when you take a patch, you move the neutral token into the spot vacated by that patch.

Thirdly, you have to pay for that patch(What? You didn’t think they were free did you?). The cost of the patch is the indicated on the patch itself by the number to the left of the button icon.

Button cost
Button cost

The fourth step of this action is to actually place the patch on your player board. There is only really one rule to remember when placing your patch on your board and that is that your patches cannot overlap.  You may turn your patch however you like before placing it on your quilt board, just make sure you place it where you want it, because you aren’t going to be able to move it later.

Last thing you do after purchasing a patch is that you move your time token along the time track. The number spaces moved is indicated to the left of the hourglass symbol on the patch.

Time Cost
Time Cost

The Time Board has a couple special features that you need to remember. Remember on the board where you placed those special 1 spot patches? The first person to pass over a patch takes that patch and uses it on his player board. These one spot patches are pretty important, they are the only way to fill in those one spot holes that always magically appear on your player board.

1 spot tile on Time Board
1 spot Patch

Also, you may have noticed those buttons on the Time Board. Well, when you pass by a button on the Time Board, you get paid! You receive a number of buttons equal to the number of buttons on your patches on your player board.

Buttons That You Pass on the Time Board
Buttons That You Pass on the Time Board
Buttons on the Patch
Buttons on the Patch

Lastly, remember that special tile I said to sit off to the side, that tile is worth 7 buttons at the end of the game to the first player to completely fill a 7×7 sections of squares on their player board.

Example of a completed 7x7
Example of a completed 7×7

The game will end after both player’s Time Tokens end up on the last space of the Time Board. Your move ends on the last space on the board regardless if you still have extra time to count. Also, if you were to take the advance to receive buttons action you do only gain buttons equal to the actual number of spaces moved, you don’t get that one extra to jump ahead of the person already at the end.

Now, it’s time to score those masterpieces of patchwork quilting. Count up the number of buttons you have left in your supply, adding in the 7 bonus points for the special tile if you have rightfully earned that one.  Then, from that score, subtract 2 points for each empty space on your quilt board.

May the best quilter win!

 

 

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!