Feld Madness

Stefan Feld can be a polarizing game designer.  Many love his games; many love to hate his games.  The Opinionated Gamers recently came together to rate all of Feld’s games that we had played over the years on our classic scale (i.e., Love it, Like it, Neutral, Note for me).

Aggregating these ratings, we’ve come up with the “definitive” OG ranking of Stefan Feld designs.  This ranges from a tie for the greatest with an average 3.2 out of 12 ratings (we consistently like these games!), all the way down to game # 18 with a mere 1.2 average (a resounding not for us).

In addition to providing our aggregate ratings and resulting ranking, we have listed all of the individual ratings that went into this, along with some commentary from the Opinionated Gamers about the basis for these opinions.  As you’re sure to see, we have quite a diverse set of opinions on Feld’s games, with the same game often running the gamut from “love it” to “not for me” ratings.  So where does your favorite Feld game fall… how would you stack up his 9-year oeuvre… and where do you think La Isla will fall later this year?

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Dale Yu: Review of Rothbo

So, I’m sure most of you have read the title of the column and are trying to search for a game called Rothbo.  You won’t find it that way, because the Rothbo isn’t a game – but rather a “rotating board game platform”.  We were given the opportunity to give one of these a whirl and see how the Rothbo could improve our game playing experiences.

Rothbo

The Rothbo is a fairly large sized platform that is mounted on a lazy-susan like rotating base.  The surface of the Rothbo is large enough to hold a 33” x 22” board – in otherwords, almost any Eurogame will fit on this accessory.  On their website, there are pictures that show boards as large as Axis and Allies fitting on the surface.  There are rows of pre-drilled holes on the Rothbo, and you use bracket pegs  pushed into these holes to fix the game board in place. The platform is constructed from MDF (medium density fiberboard) with a nice black matte finish on it.  The rotating mechanism twirls smoothly and silently.

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OP Mailbag – Game recommendation sought

Occasionally we get comments via email from readers of the blog.  Just this week, the following question was posed to us – and I thought it would be a good idea to run the question by the writers of the blog so that you could get opinions from many of us!

Name: Brent

Comment: Great site; I was looking for some advice and thought who better to recommend something I’ve never heard of and come out feeling optimistic that I’ll like/love it sight unseen!  In short, I really enjoy some lighter games such as:

- King of Tokyo

- Wurfel Bohnanza

- Keltis: Le Jeu de Des (the dice version)

- Piraten Kapern

- Las Vegas

- Fistful of Penguins

- Heck Meck

- Exxtra (Excape)

Given that, I was wondering if you had any suggestions of other games of similar ilk that my friends and family would enjoy.  I really appreciate your time and look forward to your insight if you can spare the time.  Thanks again for a great site!

Comments from the Opinionated Gamers

Dale: Well, you seem to love dice games – I will limit my suggestions to games that also use dice…

1) Yspahan from Ystari, 2006 – this is one of my favorite family style dice games.  Luck certainly plays a large role in the game, but the randomness of the dice keeps you on your toes.

2) Steam Park, Cranio, 2013 – is a quick game where you are vying to build the best amusement park.

3) Bang! The Dice Game, daVinci, 2013 is a great dice version of the classic card game – though a bit more streamlined, and it removes the chance that you will be eliminated without a turn.  Finally,

4) Blueprints, Z-man, 2013 – a fun little game about building buildings using the dice themselves as building blocks.

Finally, 5) Camel Up, Pegasus, 2014 – this most recent Spiel des Jahres winner is a nice little race game with the added benefit that it can take up to 8 players.

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Abluxxen Wins Austria’s Spiel der Spiele Award

Unhappy with the results of the SdJ award?  Maybe you’ll feel better about an announcement made a little south of Germany.

The Spiel der Spiele, which is Austria’s national game of the year prize, was awarded a couple of weeks ago to Abluxxen, the tricky card game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling and published by Ravensburger.  This title was an early favorite to win the SdJ, but it didn’t even get a recommendation from the Jury.  Hopefully, the announcement will reduce the sting of what many viewed as something of an injustice.

The SdS awards began back in 2001 and this is Kramer and Kiesling’s third winning game.  The first two were Pueblo, from 2002, and Asara, in 2011.  Only Knizia, with four winning games, has more SdS victories.

The SdS committee also posts a list of recommended games each year, organized in various categories.  Here are the cited games this year:

Special Prize:  Raben Stapeln

Games for Experts:  Caverna; Russian Railroads

Games for Friends:  Blood Bound; Concept; Norderwind

Games for Families:  Camel Up; Tortuga; Voll Schaf

Games for Children:  Die verrückte Vogelscheuche; Flizz & Miez; Geisterei; Hetzen nach Schätzen; Speed Cups

Yes, the gaming award season is now upon us.  Next on the docket is the DSP award, which is usually announced sometime in September.  This tends to be won by heavier games and Russian Railroads, the only game of any complexity mentioned by both the SdJ and SdS, might well be the favorite.  Can it bring home the prize?  We’ll soon know!

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Yunnan

Design by Aaron Haag
Published by Argentum Verlag
2 – 5 Players, 90 minutes – 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

yunnan01m

Ever since I was a child I heard variations of the phrase, “I wouldn’t do that for all of the tea in China!”  As a child, I didn’t realize that China produced a lot of tea, so assumed the phrase meant that you wouldn’t do that something for just about any price.  Only later as an adult did I come to realize that China was a large producer of tea, a fact that no doubt influenced Aaron Haag’s game Yunnan, which deals with tea production in the provinces of China.

Apparently the most desirable tea was Pu’er, which was primarily grown in a difficult-to-reach region.  The path through the provinces was difficult and the journey arduous, but the profits were worth the effort.  The road actually existed until the 1960s, until it was finally supplanted by a safer, more efficient one.  Yunnan attempts to recreate this tea trade, as players must travel to these remote areas to harvest the tea and ship it back to the market in Pu’er for sale.  To do this, however, they must plan properly, insuring they have the proper number of horses, border passes, traders, influence and, of course, money.

Yunnan uses an auction mechanism that is similar to one pioneered in Philippe Keyaerts’ Evo.  It also includes movement and construction aspects.  All action occurs on the one main board, which depicts sections of the city of Pu’er and its surrounding provinces.  There are also helpful charts and a score track depicted, but the board is uncluttered and easy to decipher.  Each player begins the game with three traders, a handful of coins and one horse.  They will be able to acquire up to four more traders during the course of the game, as well as construct bridges, trading posts and tea houses.

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Russian Railroads

Design by Helmut Ohley & Leonhard Orgler
Published by Hans im Glück / Z-Man Games
2 – 4 Players, 2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Russian Railroads

Designers Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler are train and railroad aficionados.  They both have a history of designing train games, with a heavy concentration on games utilizing the 18xx system.  They are quite popular within that world, but up until now, they have not really ventured into the realm of traditional European (German) games.  Until now.

Russian Railroads is the train duo’s first major foray into the world of European game design.  Set in Imperialist Russia at the end of the 19th century, the Tsar has ordained a major project:  construction of the Trans-Siberia Railroad.  To help usher Russia into the modern world, several lines on this railroad must be constructed.  As these railroads progress, improvements are made, new industries arise, and brilliant engineers add their expertise, all helping the railroads to expand at an even greater rate.  Russia will not be left out of the industrial revolution that is sweeping the world!

Interestingly, although the designers’ are heavily immersed in the 18xx world and system, there are few if any traces of that system in Russian Railroads.  Rather, the game is unmistakably a worker-placement affair.  Players will alternate placing workers on various spaces in their efforts to construct three railroad lines, acquire improved locomotives, recruit new workers, establish factories and more.  Points come in droves, especially in the latter stages of the game.  It is not unusual for players to score 400 or more points.  Yet, with all of these points being scored, I’ve seen victories determined by just one point.

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Linko (Abluxxen)

Design by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
Published by Ravensburger
2 – 5 Players, 20 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Abluxxen

One cannot help but admire the incredible diversity of designers Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.  They are equally adept at creating deep strategy games, entertaining family games, children’s games and even card games.  Their body of work is amazing, and they continue to release top quality games that any designer would be proud to have created.

The latest in this line of outstanding games is Linko (Abluxxen in German).  It is a quasi-climbing game with similarities to games such as The Great Dalmuti and their own Who’s the Ass?, yet it has some clever new twists, including a highly original mechanism that I’ve not seen in any other game.  It is a delight to play, and seems one of those rare games that keeps both gamers and families engaged…and it is accomplished with what is essentially two decks of playing cards.

The game consists of 104 cards–eight each of values 1 – 13–plus five jokers.  Each card depicts a sly lynx, which I suppose is somehow related to the game’s title.  No explanation or theme is provided, but Herr Kramer provided the following information:

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Dale Yu: Review of Helios

 

Helios

  • Designer: Matthias Prinz & Martin Kallenborn
  • Publisher: Z-man / Hans im Glueck
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~60-90 min
  • Players: 2-4
  • Times played: 7 (3 on review copy provided by Z-Man)

helios-box

Helios is a new spring 2014 release from Hans im Glueck which has just had an English version release from Z-Man. It is on the thinkier side, and (when viewed with Essen 13 release Russian Railroads), it hopefully heralds a return to more complex games from HiG.

While the varied mechanics can be overwhelming for a first game, once you are familiar with the game, it actually is pretty streamlined – I will try to give an overview of gameplay here –

The game is mostly played on the two different player boards in front of each player.  There is a common supply of tiles that sits in the middle of the table, but most of the rest of the action happens on the individual boards. Continue reading

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Guest Column – 1963 Game Diary – Sid Sackson – An Overview by Chris Kovac

From time to time, the Opinionated Gamers are happy to host writing from some noted gamers.  Chris Kovac is a good friend of mine, despite his Canadian-ness ;), who asked to contribute a piece on Sid Sackson.  This is a timely request given Joe Huber’s recent article on Acquire.

 

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1963 Game Diary – Sid Sackson

 

An Overview by Chris Kovac

 

 

The following is an overview of a bit of gaming history, namely the 1963 Game Diary of the game designer Sid Sackson (1920-2002). Sid Sackson was a major North American game designer of the 1960’s – 1980’s who created such games as Acquire, Can’t Stop and Focus/Domination among others.

 

First some background on how I got a look at this game diary at the Gathering of Friends gaming convention Dan Bloom managed to organize a small behind the scenes tour of the Strong National Museum of Play. The Strong museum is located in Rochester New York and its mandate is collect and preserve toys and games as well as related material by American designers from colonial times to the present day. This includes collecting board and video games. Nicolas Ricketts one of the curators at the museum was nice enough to give us a behind the scenes tour showing us the storage rooms containing the board games of the collection including many of Sid Sackson prototypes. As part of the tour we got a chance to visit the research library at the museum where much of Sid Sacksons papers now reside including the game diaries. Julie Rossi one of the archivist at the library showed us a selection of the Sid Sackson papers including the diaries (from 1963 to mid 1990’s) and correspondence files. She was kind enough to forward to those that were interested the only diary which has been digitized (1963) and the correspondence files of Sid Sackson relating to the 3M company which published Acquire among other games. Now onto the overview of the game diary.

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Game Preview: Hyperborea

HYPERBOREA_coverDesigner: Andrea Chiarvesio and Pierluca Zizzi
Publisher: Asterion, Yemaia
Players: 2-6
Ages: 12+
Time: 90 minutes
Times played: many plays at different stages of development but this preview is about the final rules of the upcoming release

The game release is planned for this summer

Was almost 2 years ago that I played Hyperborea for the first time and was love at first sight. I really like Andrea Chiarvesio design and I think this one could be his best one.

Hyperborea is a tactical “bag-building” game where players develop a civilization getting new technologies, improving production, conquering new territories and fighting enemies. Everything in simple-to-learn, not-so-easy-to-master for a 2-3 hours gaming experience.

Over centuries, six rival reigns were born from the ashes of the hyperborean civilization: the militarist Red Duchy; the Green Kingdom and its death delivering archers; the Purple Matriarchy fanatically worshipping the goddess of life; the skilled diplomats and merchants of the Golden Barony; the Coral Throne with its efficiently organized society and finally the secluded and enigmatic Celestial Reign.

It is a strongly thematic game, with combats, explorations, developing with well-tested core mechanics: the perfect mix of the best from American and German design school.

[Liga] Theme and materials are typical for an American style game but I know you are more fashinated by german mechanic. What do you think Hyperborea really is ?

[Chiarvesio] An hybrid. It’s a fancy American car with a strong and reliable German engine (and stylish Italian bodywork). It’s likely closer to the American style gameplay (direct interaction with your opponents, fighting, territory control) than to the German style of building stuff and scoring victory points, but it has elements from both worlds. Extremists of both genres won’t like this mixture, but other games have proved there are people out there that like to experiment different gaming styles. It’s a game for people tired of playing so many different games that all will leave you with the same feeling at the end.

In this preview, as you seen, are included also the answers to some questions I have done to Andrea Chiarvesio.

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