Battlestar Galactica (Base Game – No Expansions) – Fracking toasters..
September 8, 2016
Battlestar Galatica’s main mechanics are hidden identity and a one/multiple against many mechanic. Depending on how many players you have will have one or multiple Cylons infiltrating the group. Now these may not appear at first as the total amount of cylons possible are shuffled into a deck with twice the amount of loyalty cards as players but by half way through the game, there will be this many Cylons among you. So what do the cylons do? Well, the humans are trying to complete 8 distance via jumps and then a final jump to Kobol. The cylon players in the groups goal is to stop this from happening.
Every time a player has a go there is a crisis which is solved by playing resource / action cards of specific colours. Each card has a value which totals toward the required value given on the crisis card. If a crisis card is passed, either nothing happens or something positive does. If they do not meet the required value something bad will happen. This normally consists of reduce in one of the resources (Population / Food / Fuel / Moral) which if one reaches 0 the game is over and the cylons win. Failure states can also have actions such as sending a player to the sick bay.
Cylon players who have not revealed themselves are able to cause chaos by putting off colour cards into skill checks that count as a negative towards the total. The ingenious thing about BSG is that it muddies the water with these skill checks. There is a destiny deck which consists 2 of each action cards of each colour. Once all cards are used the deck is remade. They are shuffled and each time an action check is made, 2 cards from the destiny deck are added. This allows the Cylon to be more tactical, blaming that -5 on the destiny deck, which it obviously was…
If Cylons choose to reveal and they are not in the brig, they get a special ability on reveal, be it damaging galactica or reducing a resource. They then get access to more powerful things they can do to disrupt the humans plight such as activating any Cylon ships in play or triggering a super crisis. However they are also limited to putting only one action card in any action card check such as crisis cards.
I have never seen a game not go past the half way mark (Traveled a distance of 4) so we have alway had the second phase which means all of the loyalty cards are in play and all the Cylons are out. The beauty of this game though is that people will start to pick up on innocent things as proof that they are a Cylon. Often the Cylon does not have to do much before accusations are flying across the table. This is what I love about this game, people will be screaming that each other is a Cylon, even as good friends. All the while we loose another population because someone put a high value red card in.. The amount of hidden information lets this happen, you always know there could be X cylons trying to sabotage your efforts and the game is hard enough without any Cylons trying to kill you all. That fact leaves everyone a little bit suspicious about everyone else… There are also cards and crisis which specific roles have to choose. such as “president chooses” crisis or the location card on a successful jump for the admiral. These are never good and adds more spin to the suspicion in the room.
(Please ignore the blackout at the end, we experienced a power cut)
For me to play a long game such as Firefly or Battlestar it has to have a good theme. People tell me to play Twilight Imperium but I am not invested enough to devote that much time to something I have no interest in the subject matter. That being said battle star would work even *if* you aren’t a big battlestar fan. It is however a massive time investment. I don’t think we have ever played a game under 3.5 hours but the experience is fun and exhilarating. After introducing a new player to BSG, it instantly became their favorite game. Though there is a massive rule dump for the game it is quite intuitive when you get going and there is a reference page on the back of the manual for combat roles ect. I would implore everyone to give it a go but do throw yourself into it. Nothing like calling your friend a fracking toaster then throwing them in the brig….
Gloom – Not all doom and gloom..
August 27, 2016
Gloom and I have an interesting relationship. The macabre theme with some competitiveness and some story telling means it is a game I have been trying to get to my table for a while. Gloom is a competitive play 2 action game where you are trying to make your family the most miserable around the table before killing them off. Players are encouraged to embellish on what happened to their characters to cause such pain and misery, which builds a narrative around the game.
The story is needed, with out it the game would just fall flat. Functionally it would work without the story but there is not enough depth to the game to allow it to be carried on that alone. That having been said , it would still not be *that* quick of a game depending on who was playing. There was a lot of analysis paralysis into what cards to play on whom. You can also give your fellow players characters positive things in their lives, ruining that low score they have worked on, which makes decisions more difficult. Do you improve your score or stop your opponent with the monster score who can be killed off next turn…
We were playing the “unwelcome guests” expansion which allowed us to play 5 players. If I run the game again I would remove one member from each family, 5 players just took too long with 5 members. The unwelcome guests part of it added an extra bit of flavor to the game which I approved of. They guests would follow certain events and give benefits (or detriments) to the family they had wiggled their way into. There were some combo card which allowed you to discard them for a useful effects. It certainly made the families and what people could do at any one point a little more dynamic.
Though I enjoyed Gloom, it was analysis paralysis-ed to a point where I don’t think it would work with certain groups. Recently I have had a lot of discussion around whether a game should require you to “bring the fun” to a game. Gloom falls in this camp as the story is required to make the game feel whole but the story side and the AP of trying to win are at a constant battle with each other. For select groups I think it could work, I feel there are better action card games out there and there are better story games out there. In trying to be both, Gloom just seems to sit in an odd space where it does neither well enough to be a shining beacon of the genre.
Steampunk Rally – Keep on rolling…
August 22, 2016
As one of many iconic inventors from throughout time, you have pledged to prove yourself the best inventor via the medium of racing, with wacky contraptions of course. You will be building a racing machine via drafting mechanics (Pick one and pass) adding up to 4 new parts to your machine per round. You can either use the cards you draft as actual parts in your machine or recycle them to gain dice (How your machine moves) or to gain cogs (Used for clearing dice out of your machine).
The second phase is a venting phase. When you activate parts in the race phase they are blocked up by the dice you use to activate them. This is where the cogs come in. You can spend cogs to reduce pips on dice to eventually remove them from a part and free it up to be used again. This is an interesting mechanic as it means you have “maintenance rounds” if you go gun-ho with part activation, resulting in a close race at the end of the game. Cogs can also be used in the race phase to change the result of dice or even re roll them.
During the race phase, all dice you earned in the 1st phase get rolled and used, unused dice are lost between rounds. Dice are used to activate parts and depending on how expensive activation is, you will get 1 or more items or movement. Parts can generate dice (which are rolled and used immediately), cause actions (Such as free venting), gain cogs, gain armour (Counters damage) or give you one of the 2 movement types. Flying movement (gold) tends to be slower and more costly, but allows you to bypass dangerous areas on the board damage free. Normal (grey) movement tends to allow you to move further for your investment but if you travel over a hazard on the track you will take damage. At the end of each leg, any damage that takes your machine below 0 results in you loosing that many parts from your machine. This tends to be bad as your parts are what allows you to move. Occasionally it can be used tactically! Can’t vent a part? Just leave it to fall off later! I’m sure someone will clean it up….
I got this game because of the theme and it really stands strong there. The rules seem more complicated then they need to be but once you get your head around them they make sense, but feel convoluted. Some players did not like that the amount of damage you could do to other players was limited. Though I can see their point as a valid concern (One of our players got into the lead and stayed there), I personally see that as a positive as I prefer to just focus on what I am doing and hate it when that is screwed over. This could possibly be balanced in another way but I’m not quite sure how. I would like to play this again as it is an interesting take on the engine builder, quite literally. The dice add an interesting spin on it as you have to take into consideration bad rolls which I feel levels the playing field a bit.
Catan: Not a gateway game for me
May 7, 2016
I own Catan and in fact it was one of the first games I bought. I still don’t think it is a gateway game. It may be one of the first games that a lot of people have heard of, but I do not feel it is a game I would ever introduce new players to board games with.
Catan is primarily a resource management game where certain points on the map produce and you need to use those resources to the best of your ability to gain points. You can do this through building new settlements, upgrading existing settlements to cities or building the longest road. There are also development cards that will either give you bonuses such as gaining resources off of others, building free roads or direct victory points.
There are a couple of issues with Catan, even with the base setup which is why I won’t use Catan as an introductory game. The first issue is that certain points on the board are more powerful then others. This can be by number (ie 6 is most commonly rolled after 7) or by pure chance (i.e 4 lots of 5s are rolled in a row). This can cause some players to end up starved of resources where others are in a powerful position in both resources and with trading power. Although British players are renowned for trading resources far less than the European players, I don’t think additional trading would alleviate this issue. Trading and the robber is supposed to balance this.
The robber gives the risk of keeping a high card count in hand as the robber will steal half your hand if over 7. This is supposed to make players want to trade cards away to get cards to use and get their hands down, while also scoring. From experience, players with fewer cards will only trade away if they only require ONE card to complete say a road or say a settlement, as they are already on the back foot on resources they really do not want to help the player with the most resources. However, even if trading does happen, that player will still have the most cards and can do the most, so this causes a “richer gets richer” effect. Once players start getting new settlements down, they will start getting more momentum through new resources (likely ones they are missing from their first 2 settlements) and just their lead will continue to grow.
The second issue is the resources are reliant on the dice which means it’s possible you could never gain any resources because the dice never brought up your numbers. I was unable to ever gain wheat because the location I chose never came up which left me crippled and at the whim of other players trading. This then causes the first issue again. I am a firm believer that the first play through of a game is paramount for the enjoyment of that game. As someone who has played a lot I’ve come to be able to realise when I have just had a bad game and when the game is just not enjoyable. New players don’t have such experience to tell the difference. This is why I will not introduce players with this game – It’s too unpredictable to tell if the player will feel like the game is screwing them over.
The mechanics of this game are solid enough but are also flawed. Two of our players spent more time talking about the flaws of the game then playing the game itself. This is by no means to say the game is not enjoyable. As a once in a while, Catan still has its place and I feel everyone should at least play it once. Will I go and say to my friends they should rush out to play it ? No, which is a shame. Back in the day Catan was a ground breaking game for the board gaming scene. Unfortunately with so many options these days, its blemishes shine through.
Rhino Hero: An impressive little game
April 17, 2016
Most people who are into board gaming circles have probably heard of this one. It is a small little dexterity game where you have to build a block of flats higher each turn. The rooves you play change the game play by changing which pattern of walls have to be put down and possibly make you move the rhino figurine, which for some reason in my head is named Henry.
I have played this a couple of times and it will vary how many times it will get round – I think the maximum amount of goes i’ve seen with 5 players is 3 rotations with a couple of miss goes in between. It’s a simple, quick and easy game to play and doesn’t break the bank. It is also suitable for the majority of ages.
One issue I do have with the game is that the win condition can be meta gamed due to the nature of it. The win condition when the tower falls is the player with the lowest hand count wins. This makes x2 cards SO powerful as you get rid of more cards. Every game I have won I have played a 2x card. Though I understand why they have done this, it does mean that you may get the same people winning. That having been said, because of the physical game play element of this game, I don’t think it matters. The fun in this game seems to be around building and the state of the tower created. The overcoming of that wobbling tower that could fall at any moment…. everyone holding their breath….
A wonderfully simple and elegant game at a low price that will suit any group. Would be even better if it came in a smaller box – Possibly a game to get a deck box for.
Lords of waterdeep: A game that needs no theme
April 9, 2016
Much like Nations dice, I am embarrassed that this game has stood on my stack of shame for so long. Full disclosure, I’m not a massive DnD fan so all of the lore and theme is somewhat lost on me. This makes it that much more impressive that the game stands up on gameplay alone.
LOW is a worker placement game that is played over several rounds. For the first 5 rounds you are limited to 3 workers that you will place around the city of Waterdeep and keep the benefit the location that it produces. These are can be warriors, priest, wizards ect. For all intents and purposes, what they are doesn’t matter. You can, like me, just refer to the colour. This makes it far easier to get into the game by not bothering with the official titles. You are trying to collect these resources to complete quests which give you victory points. Later in the game you will gain a fourth worker and this is where things get interesting. Up to this point you will always have some choice where to go. With the addition of workers, this choice becomes smaller and smaller.
However, another option for your workers will be to build a building. This benefits all players by giving them more options of places to go and ways to gain resources. This also benefits you twofold. Each round a Victory Point is put on each the available buildings to build, if you decide to build one you get those straight away – Excellent! The second benefit is if anyone activates the building you built, they get the buildings resources but you also get an additional befit laid out on the card.
Additionally to quest cards you get intrigue cards. I used these heavily as I had good cards that worked well together. They are single use and can only be used in the dock which means when using them you cannot do other things. They consist of stealing off of players, getting money or getting resources directly and some others uses thrown in the mix. Though you don’t get to pick a resource on your first turn with your worker when using the dock, all workers played at the dock are redeployed after all others have been. This means you have less choice with them but you got to play an intrigue card.
There does seem to be an advantage to players who had played before, though with the scores being about 20-30 out it wasn’t drastic. This game suffers again with a lot of explaining up front but once you get into it, it almost becomes second nature. Intrigue cards are only useful if you get the right ones but can be powerful if you do. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and will be on my table again soon.
Titan Races: The only race that matters
April 2, 2016
This is one of those games I picked up on a whim and I’m glad I did. It isn’t a heavy hitter like Catan or Tokinoko, but is charming in it’s own right. You control a mythical character / beast and race against others across the board, either 3 times in normal mode or once per board in marathon mode. As we had played before we tried out the marathon mode here.
The way you move across the board is with dice, however the dice will be rolled by the first player. Being the first player gives you the most choice as you rolled and get first pick. The next player gets one less die to choose from and so on until the last player who re-rolls the dice. This is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of this game. We have checked everywhere online and we are still not sure exactly *how* to do the roll turns. If the turns don’t rotate like the manual seems to suggest then first and last place have significant advantage. If they rotate then the flow suffers and the “whos turn is it” comes up often, but we feel this is the right way to play it.
You can only attack players by pushing them out the way ( This is only done once per turn ), by using bonus card (These are collected by points on the track) and by some characters special abilities. You can only use one bonus and your special ability once per turn and can only use them before or after you move. So though they may not seem the most effective use of your turn, using a die to push and/or end up next to another player may be viable.
Death is a temporary set back, you will spend one turn getting back on your feet and next turn you will regain your health. This is important as the special ability of one character takes one health off of a character, with health. It took us a couple of attempts to work this out and I would advise a couple of reads of the manual before trying to play this as there are a lot of small odd details.
A wonderful game with some set backs due to odd phrasing in the rules. The models provided are well moulded and generally well made (I had to repair one model due to the man falling off). I would suggest playing the one board variety more then the marathon as special abilities such as laying traps are more potent when you have to traverse the same land you were just on. This allows you to forward plan and make the next laps harder to navigate without damage, though this can come and bite you in the ass.
Tsuro of the seas: A classic re-themed
March 27, 2016
Tsuro of the sea is a charmingly themed, simple game where the aim is to merely survive. This has to be one of the most played games in my collection, especially if the box wear is the metric in use. I tend to use this game to introduce people to gaming if the mention of mechanics causes a player to look like a deer caught in headlights. The game is so simple it also allows for socialisation on the down time between your goes.
The game play consists of having a hand of 3 tiles in your hand and lay one in front of your ship. You then follow the path drawn on them to the end. The aim? Stay alive the longest. You can “die” by falling off the edge of the board or, because you have no other possible action (Says in rules you can’t do this, unless of course it is the only thing you can do) crash into another ship, taking you both out.
Tsuro of the seas comes with dragons but I never throw them into the mix. They add too much randomness to a game that is purely decision based (based on the cards you have). You can forward plan your next three moves, add in the dragons and you can have it thrown into disarray by an angry sea dragon.
Tsuro is one of the games I use to introduce new players to gaming due to its simplicity. The artwork on the board is gorgeous, and as another player has said, it’s a shame to be covering up the artwork with tiles. This will remain in my collection for years to come.
Between two cities: A fake co-op game
March 26, 2016
Well, this game certainly knows how to get me into arguments with my friends. You and your neighbouring players are building a 4×4 size city together with a “sushi-go-esque” mechanic. Each round you start with 7 tiles, you will pick two and pass the rest to the left or right, depending on the round. Once everyone has picked their two tiles the meat of the game starts.
You now need to convince your partners which of your tiles should go in their city and which of their tiles should go in yours. Obviously you are going to have two people trying to influence each person. But here’s the kicker, you only score you’re lowest scoring city, so trying to bulk up one of your cities is a dangerous way to play. The best way to play this game seems to be keep track of both cities points and keep them on about par. Unfortunately with such a obtuse scoring rules this is easier said then done. However, with two people trying to get you to boost their city at the same time, like me, you may be convinced you are over valuing another city and tricked into boosting the wrong one.
This suffers again with heavy up front rules due to the scoring system being so convoluted, but once you get going the game play is simple. You pick tiles then discuss (or argue, depends how you feel at the time) about which city to put the tile in. That’s it, rinse and repeat. The main issue here is the scoring system. Certain tiles interact with others to boost or increase how much they score and this creates the long explanation time up front.
I found this game really frustrating. Though mechanically it works, a clash of personalities can really kill the game. One of my partners I talked through with and the other butted heads with. I want to like this game, I really do, but you never know if you will clash with your partner or not. I tend to be a logically minded person and when someone doesn’t follow a logic that you both seem to agree upon, it is the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced. Though their actions make perfect sense when you consider them going against it to keep their cities at the same score. I shall give it another go, hopefully it can leave a more positive impression next time.
Alhambra: Build the best!
March 23, 2016
The game is based around building your Alhambra using different building types, each represented by a different colour. Each of these types will gain you different amounts of points at each scoring round. Well they will if you have the most. The first scoring round only awards points to the players with the most of each colour so having a unique fortress pays off early in the game. However, later rounds split any tied colours in terms of points, and additionally award points to second and finally third in the final round.
Each building is bought with money corresponding to the colour shop they are bought from. This can seem a little confusing as you may be buying a blue building with green money, as it matches the store you are buying it from. This becomes second nature though as the colours differ enough that you associate the cash with the stores rather then the buildings themselves.
On buying a building to add to your Alhambra, if you pay by exact change, you will get an additional action. This can chain… a lot… This is also any additional action you can take on a turn, essentially you get an extra turn. For example you could buy all 4 buildings (they do not refresh till your go is over) and then take some money or rearrange your Alhambra, if you always payed with exact change. Once you buy a building you can either add it to your current structure immediately (assuming it adheres to placement rules) or put it in reserve to play later. Though you may want to buy and put into reserve to deny players tiles, it is always better to immediately place if you can as it will cost you an action to get those out of reserve and onto your structure.
I shall not go into all the placement rules here, but the basic gist is that all tiles must connect to the centre with no walls blocking the way and any connections on tiles must be the same (wall or no wall). This means that some tiles that may be amazing for others can be absolutely trash for you as you cannot place them. Unless you are going aggressive in buying to block, you may end up at times in a position where there is nothing viable to buy.
Though I am realising I am terrible at these types of games, the mechanics seem solid and game play simple enough. The game does have a heavy up front rule dump, but is more simplistic then the rules hint towards. There are a few weird rules like buying for others is viable and there are a few rules for placement. This is why the game is rule front loaded, but is necessary. This is a game I think you should experience, but I don’t see it hitting my tables in a massively frequent fashion.