Dale Yu: Review of the Can’t Stop expansion: Rolling Down the Highway

 

Can’t Stop: Rolling Down the Highway

  • Designers: George “Bud” Sauer, Jeff Horger
  • Publisher: Gryphon Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Ages: 7+
  • Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by Gryphon Games

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Can’t Stop is one of the classic games – being a nominee for the SdJ in 1982.  It was one of the first European Games that I owned.  The base game is a classic press-your-luck game where you roll 4 dice each turn, making two two-dice combinations.  You use those two summed numbers to move your markers up the tracks on a stop-sign shaped board.  The catch is this – you only have three markers each turn, and your turn ends immediately if you cannot make a combination that matches the track that one of your three markers is on.  So after each turn, you have to decide if you are going to keep going and press your luck or voluntarily stop your turn and lock in the progress that you’ve made that turn.  The game wants you to press your luck because each of the columns of the board can only be topped by one player – the first one to the top – so if there is a lot of competition for a particular number, you might want to keep going lest you get shut out of that column. Continue reading

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Desert Island Variants & House Rules

OGers’ Favorite Official Variants and House Rules as of the end of 2014

Acquire – Open Shares – Dale

Joe – That’s not a variant.  Playing with trackable information open is a play style choice, not a variant in my book – it’s functionally equivalent to having everyone track the data on paper, or perfectly track it in their head.  Some people – myself included – prefer that, but I’d never think of calling it a variant.

Larry – I’ve read that Sackson deliberately left the question open and, in fact, the original rules did not specify which way the game was to be played.  If a game’s rules say that holdings are hidden, then playing that game with open holdings would be a variant.  But, as Joe says, this can’t really be considered a true variant for Acquire.

Joe – I fear I was not entirely clear – playing with trackable data explicitly open is _never_ a variant in my opinion.  I prefer to play Euphrat & Tigris with open scoring, for instance, but I’ve never thought of that as a variant – just a memory aid.

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Korrigans

Design by Arnaud Urbon & Ludovic Vialla
Published by Matagot
2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

korrigans

What family with young children wouldn’t be attracted by the theme of leprechauns scurrying across the lush fields and hills of Brittany (not Ireland?) on the back of furry animal friends, searching for the fabled gold at the end of the rainbow?  It is an idyllic fantasy that children from many cultures have been taught, and the theme is one that has not been overused in board game design.  I am sure game publisher Matagot and designers Arnaud Urbon and Ludovic share these same thoughts and have high hopes that their game Korrigans will tap into the appeal of these childhood tales.

Unbeknownst to me, Korrigans is a term in Brittany referring to dwarf-like creatures that populate the countryside.  Some tales depict them as benevolent, albeit mischievous creatures, while others depict them as evil with glowing red eyes and pale white skin.  The designers have opted for the more friendly leprechaun interpretation, which is undoubtedly more suitable and appealing for families with younger children.

The designers seem to borrow from the Irish tales, with players scurrying their pair of leprechauns across the countryside in search of four-leaf clovers that either conceal treasures or attract friendly companions, the latter being used as modes of transportation.  While treasures are collected along the way, the big prize is the fabled pot of gold that is hidden at the end of the rainbow.  Just where that rainbow ends is a mystery that is gradually solved as the game progresses.

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Aquasphere

 

Aquasphere

  • Designer: Stefan Feld
  • Publisher: Hall Games / Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 120 min
  • Times Played: 2, with review copy provided by Tasty Minstrel Games

aquasphere

Aquasphere was one of the new releases at Essen 2014 which I left behind due to a combination of filled luggage as well as the knowledge (gained at GenCon 2014) that Tasty Minstrel was going to be distributing it here in the US without much delay.  Just after the turn of the year, a box arrived from Amazon with my copy of Aquasphere.

In the game, players take on the roles of researchers in a vast modular underwater research station.  Using their research bots, you’re trying to do all sorts of stuff to score victory points.  At the start of the game, you first have to construct the underwater research station.  In Feldian fashion, there are 6 weirdly shaped identical modules that are randomly arranged to create the station.  Each module has seven different areas, each colored differently, and each colored area corresponds to a particular action – more on that later.  There is a lock between each module which has a pre-printed cost on them. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2014, First Impressions

Why are Most Dice Games Light?

Do dice games need to be light?  Often they are lighter versions of card and board games, but why is that?  Yes, there are exceptions, including Roll for the Galaxy and the forthcoming Biblios Dice, but in general, they are fluffy trifles.

It feels traditional that dice games are lighter than card games and card games are lighter than boardgames.  Not always the case, but often enough to generalize.

With the spate of dice games based on board games, including Pandemic: the Cure, Nations: the Dice Game, and Roll Through the Ages, I wonder if gamers are outside the target for these.  Are they trying to appeal to people who like the larger games, or are they for people who like the themes of the larger games, but prefer a lighter game?

Intent should not matter when evaluating a game, but for me, all three have a level of abstraction that makes them completely disengaging.  They are dice games based on their larger sibling, but none of them capture the angst – tension in making decisions – of their predecessors.

My feeling is that card game versions end up being the more successful balance in capturing the tension of the original without the game play length or complexity of the original.  A few examples come to mind, such as Florenza vs. Florenza: the Card Game.

Why are dice game designs generally lighter than card game designs when based on the same board game?  Is it dice vs. cards or is it that we have an expectation that dice games will be lighter than card games, so that is what designers deliver?

Dan Blum: I think it’s broadly true that dice games will be lighter than otherwise similar card games, and that in large part this is due to the difference in their inherent natures.

Most card games include random drawing of cards and dice games always include rolling of dice (I would not categorize a game that uses dice without rolling them as a “dice game”). However, random card draws are fundamentally different from random dice rolls in that a deck of cards has “memory” and dice don’t; if you draw lots of card type X early you’re more likely to draw card type Y later, and eventually every card will be drawn by someone (barring a mid-deck reshuffle), but you could go all day without rolling a particular side of a die (hence the popularity of dice decks for certain board games).

It’s also easy to arrange a deck of cards to cause game state to change in a predictable way, to ensure that some cards are drawn earlier than others, etc. You could do similar things with dice but it would be more complicated.

Now, there are some other factors causing dice games to tend to be lighter which are more due to tradition than fundamental properties. For example, it’s common for card games to have persistent hands of cards; in some you get dealt a hand, use it gradually, and get a new one, in others you are constantly playing cards from your hand and drawing new ones. A dice game could have “hand management” in the same way – say you roll a bunch of dice at the start of a round and use one a turn until they’re gone – but generally speaking this is not done. (Those that I can think of that do something like this have very small “hands.”)

Card games that don’t have persistent hands of cards are either extremely light or are deck-building games, most (but not all) of which require you to start with a fresh hand each turn. However, the focus of deck-building games is usually on tuning your deck so that your randomly-drawn hands are predictable enough to do useful things with. There are similar dice-building games, but unfortunately (in my opinion) they use exactly the same deck/hand mechanism and add dice-rolling to the mix. It’s much harder to predict your hand when you have to draw the hand elements randomly and then randomly determine what they can do.

It’s also fairly easy to make cards multi-purpose. You could do this with dice as well, but there are fewer options for doing so as it’s difficult to print lots of different symbols on dice and have them be legible (Dragon Dice tried this with indifferent success). You could still allow dice to be spent to power actions (a la cards in San Juan or Race for the Galaxy), of course. This is another place where tradition is a factor; using dice like that just isn’t usually done.

Of course, if someone designed a game in which dice acted a lot like cards and so made the game a bit heavier than the usual dice game, the obvious question would be: why not just make it a card game? There’s not much point in designing a dice game if you don’t really like the way that dice work.

Matt Carlson:  Dice obviously introduce some randomness, and the longer the game the less (unmanaged) randomness is welcome.  (I am assuming a “meatier” game will tend to be a longer playing game.) To create a “meatier” game, one must find ways for players to mitigate the random process.

One solution is to have such a large number of dice rolls that any random factors are mitigated by the odds.  I find this solution unsatisfying – even if I know things may get better in the long term, no one enjoys a series of poor rolls.  One could argue a game of Settlers has enough rolls to make things even out, but just look at the number of people who want to use an evenly distributed deck of cards as a substitute for dice.

A better solution is to provide players with many useful ways to use the rolls of the dice.  One might have an “optimal” roll, but most results can still be useful if one is willing to make the most useful tactical decisions at any one time.  This can be fun for many players, but if the game lasts for a long time, each individual “tactical” decision will seem more and more isolated.  This results in a game that feels like you’re doing nearly the same thing over and over again with each “round” and long-term strategy is left behind.

The best solution is to provide players to manage the results of the rolls.  This can take the form of abilities that modify the roll of the dice, give a player more dice (providing more options),  allow die rerolls, or give players many useful ways in which to use the dice.  Games such as Airships and To Court the King are obvious examples where the primary goal is to increase the number of dice rolled as well as one’s control over the results of the roll.  However, games such as Alien Frontiers and Kingsburg provide some control (if a player chooses that path) but they do not focus entirely on dice and “dice-related power” building.

The best use of dice in a “meatier” game of which I am aware is Macao.  There is one set of dice rolled for the entire group, and each player chooses two dice to use.  The larger the number on a colored die, the more goods of that color will be granted.  However, that same number determines how many turns in the future those goods will arrive.  A set of rolled dice for a group reduces the occurrence of “poor rolls” affecting just one person.  Poor rolls can still happen when each player is seeking a particular matching sets of goods, but somehow it doesn’t feel as bad as when a player has their own unique poor roll (and can see the “good” rolls of other players on their turns.)  The ability to choose two dice out of six is an excellent way to manage the die results without resorting to direct dice control (modifying, rerolling, or adding additional dice.)

Having dice in a game is a great way to add those big “highs” and “lows” in a game where a critical moment depends on the roll of the dice.  One can increase the frequency of this occurring by adding in the chance for players to set aside and then reroll some or all of the dice resulting in a “press your luck” mechanism that can easily see players take high risks for high rewards.  Providing “highs” and “lows” with the result of dice is welcome (for many people) in shorter games, but not long ones – since no one wants to spend a couple hours playing and then lose the game on a roll of the dice.  Dice also are a nice mechanism for balancing a game between advanced and beginner players.  Hopefully the game is set up to give the advanced player a consistent advantage, but just having that small bit of randomness will give the weaker player a chance to win – or at least have their moment in the sun.  As a gamer parent, I find this an especially nice feature in games I play with my sons.

Larry:  Why do dice games tend to be fairly light?  One reason may be expectations, that most people expect them to be light.  That tendency may be fairly universal.  For example, I really like Roll Through the Ages.  I’ve also played The Late Bronze Age expansion for RttA and in theory, at least, it’s a better game–heavier, with more decision making necessary.  But since the expansion retains the same base elements of the original game (that is, rolling dice), there are questions if this greater complexity is appropriate for these mechanics.  Plus, a Yahtzee-style game with more complex mechanics just may not feel right.  Thus, even though I’ve enjoyed playing the expansion, it requires the right crowd, so more often than not, it’s the base game that gets played.  It will be interesting to see how Tom Lehmann’s new sequel, The Iron Age, which seems to make things even more complex, works out.

I thought Dan made some good points in contrasting the difference between cards and dice.  The one that seems the most telling to me is having a persistent hand of cards.  Hand management is very important in most card games, where something comparable in dice games is quite unusual.  There’s also the tracking of cards in opponents’ hands, at least in card games where the entire deck is dealt out.  Knowing which cards must still be out there is a vital skill in these card games, whereas such things are non-existent in dice games (even if you care about what dice faces your opponents have, they could have rolled anything).  There’s a transitory nature about dice games, probably because in so few of them do you ever retain your dice rolls for more than one turn.  This tends to make them lighter than card games and considerably lighter than boardgames, in which having your situation persist from turn to turn is the norm.  Not having your opponents retain “hands” of dice also makes player interaction in dice games more difficult to achieve, which might make them even more ephemeral in nature.

I think this trend may be starting to change.  Games with lots of dice are becoming more common, so letting players retain dice from turn to turn will be easier to do.  In fact, I’ve played a game in which just that thing happens–the prototype for Roll for the Galaxy.  I don’t know if you’re a fan of Race for the Galaxy, but the new dice version seems to be of comparable weight.  I actually like it better than the original.  I also have high hopes for the Nations Dice Game.  So today’s designers may be ready to answer your original question–Do dice games need to be light?–with a resounding NO.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I wrote this note just reading the introduction and not going through to all the other opinionists comments to be not influenced. Probably I’m going to tell things other colleagues already wrote.

Dice games versions of board-games are, for the most part, anchored to the traditional Yahtzee schema: roll, keep and re-roll, keep and re-roll with everything starting new each turn. This schema surely drive to light mechanics where is difficult to introduce long-term planning and/or hand managements that could be better introduced in card games. Standard board games with dice (like Kingsburg, Feld’s series, Quantum), on the other side, used the dice in different way with more deepness and innovation.

Second dice are the emblems of randomness and, of course, it is not easy to design dice games without it.

Third I think that a sort of “light and quick version” of the standard boardgames is what people are waiting from a dice game and is exactly what designers are offering.

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Dale Yu: Review of Musée

 

Musée

  • Designer: Alf Seegert
  • Publisher: Gryphon Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times Played: 4, with review copy provided by Gryphon

Musee

Musée is a quick little card game where players try to arrange their works of art in the most pleasing way possible.  Well, by most pleasing, I mean in the way that scores the most victory points.  Each of the players is a curator of a three story museum, and you want to have paintings of similar theme (people, animals, buildings, landscapes, seascapes) near each other because that is what is pleasing! Continue reading

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Lions and Tigers and Zombies, Oh My!

I’m so tired of shambling hordes, but the zombie games keep coming towards me.

What is your favorite zombie game and why?

Greg Schloesser: I am frankly perplexed as to the popularity of zombies.  Yes, they make for a good horror movie, but there is a zombie-mania throughout the U.S. and perhaps even the world.  How many TV series can be made that are centered on zombies?  I am not part of the mania, so as such, am not naturally drawn to zombie-themed games.  I have found most of them to fall within the “American-style” gaming category, an area of our hobby that tends not to appeal my tastes.  Move around, collect items, roll dice to fight zombies, lose health points, etc.  This mechanism is generally not one of which I am fond, and most zombie games that I have played use this system.  If forced to choose, I’d say Last Night on Earth was the one that appealed to me the most, and even then only modestly.

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Jonathan Degann – Review of Kanban: Automotive Revolution (Stronghold)

Design by Vital Lacerda

Published by Stronghold Games

2-4 Players  30 minutes per player (conservative)

Review by Jonathan Degann

Times played: 4

kanban box cover

Vital Lacerda’s latest game “Kanban: Automotive Revolution” puts players into a car factory where they’ll need to acquire plans and parts, get them onto the production line, and display their tested designs to impress the boss.  In this game, the boss actually has a name: “Sandra”, and players can choose to play with nice Sandra or mean Sandra, depending on whether they’d rather chase after rewards or avoid punishments.

Lacerda’s prior two games “Vinhos” and “CO2” were both gamers’ games with highly original themes.  “Vinhos” was not just about producing wine, it was about producing Portuguese wine. It was so embedded with theme that players not only had to deal with weather, aging, and the capricious tastes of vine reviewers, but players needed to decide which of Portugal’s nine wine regions their fare came from, and each one imparted different costs and benefits.  “Kanban: Automotive Revolution” is also complex and knotted with theme, while it still clearly maintains a Eurogame flavor.

FactoryIt is a worker placement game in which there are four functioning parts of the factory a player may visit to accomplish the basic goals of the game.  In the Design Department, a player can take designs for one of the five styles of cars.  In Logistics, he is taking any of six different components – from frame to brakes.  On the Assembly Line (see left diagram), he is pushing cars along a conveyor belt to production.  Finally, this pays off in the Testing and Innovation department, where he can use his accumulated designs to claim one or two of the newly produced cars, or else combine a design with a part to create an Upgraded Design.  In addition, there is the Administration office which is sort of a wild card.  A player who goes here can take the action of any of the other locations – but he’ll go last in order and will have fewer action points, here called “shifts”, to get things done.

The worker placement mechanism here is original and effective.  The five rooms described above each have room for only two workers.  One of the two spaces goes earlier; the other one gets more shifts.  They are executed each turn in a particular order: Testing, worker placementAssembly, Logistics, Design, and Administration.  The wrinkle is that each player has just one worker and they are not all removed at the beginning of each new turn, but rather each one is removed and replaced in order.  So with Design toward the end, if you got shut out of Design last time because both locations were taken, and instead went to Logistics, you’ll find that when it comes to your turn, you still can’t go to Design because those workers have not moved out yet.  The worker placement rules, so simple, cascade with interlocking consequences of the sort that make gamers salivate with eagerness to play again.

Although there are just four general places to go, they combine in ways that contain much interaction.  The designs come in five types (mini car, sports car, eg. distinguished by color) and any design might require a particular type of part to be upgraded.  When pushing cars down the assembly line, players must contribute a part, and as the game proceeds, often there may only be one or two permitted types of parts to be contributed for any given type of car.  Then as they get pushed off, two specified types will earn special rewards, further complicating a player’s choice and plans.  When he attempts to claim the car in the Testing and Innovation department, he’ll need the right type of design, and other players may jockey ahead to snatch it away – if they have the appropriate design.  All holdings in this game are open, so there’s no need to memorize what others have been acquiring.

training trackA Vital Lacerda game can be counted upon to have layers upon layers.  When visiting any of the five rooms, one may spend his shifts toward the normal actions or toward “learning”, which just involves moving a disk in that room up along a learning track.  As you reach the third level in any given room, you become “certified” in that specialty, which gives you a little more freedom there in the future.  Collecting certifications will also help your turn order in any of the following “meetings” where you’ll be competing to earn significant points.  They can also help you earn Sandra’s favor.  In addition to each player having a worker, there is a pink one to represent your boss, who moves to the next open room when it’s her turn.  She’ll block other players and perform some administrative actions (like clearing out tiles that have been languishing).  Then, if you’ve chosen to have Sandra in a “nice” mood, she may reward the players who are furthest up the learning track in that room with bonus points, and if she’s in a surly mood, she’ll penalize the players who are lagging.  This puts pressure on players to spend their shifts on things *other than* the primary action available in the room, but at a cost.  Each room has its own unique benefit for reaching the certification level, and this does start to create some mental clutter for players learning the game – or even playing it for the second or third time.

The game is not just a point salad – it is a virtual salvage yard of victory point opportunities.  You get points for pushing cars, for taking cars, for upgrading cars, and for meeting the right criteria when Sandra visits a room – and these aren’t even the primary sources of points.  The most critical opportunities for mid-game scoring occur during one of the (typically) three meetings that Sandra will hold.  Players then have an opportunity to show off in front of Sandra by meeting various criteria that appear on the four cards in the meeting room, and on one of their “pet projects”.  Depending on the cards showing, points production goal with chairmight be awarded for producing red cars – or lots of different styles of cars, or for having the “logistics” certification – or as many certifications as possible…  Furthermore, your ability to show off depends on how many “seats” you’ve amassed for the meeting.  Each one allows you to score on a single card, so you’ll need to simultaneously collect as many seats as practical, while also making sure that you’re working to fulfill the conditions that Sandra is watching out for.  Then at game end… there is another knot of scoring opportunities based on the combinations of cars and matching upgraded designs you’ve collected.  In my experience, this is what throws most new players off as there is nothing intuitive about what you’re trying to achieve.  The designer has an explanation of what it means in relation to the theme – but it is just not a goal which naturally follows from the game mechanics.

The designer and publisher have taken a chance with the style of the rule book.  Rather than writing a dry instruction manual, the rules are written from the perspective of Sandra, who is explaining what you need to do on the job.  It’s creative and it’s colorful and it’s fatally confusing.

“For theKanban Sandra very first Department Selection Phase, in which we enter the factory, I will go to my desk in administration… after that, the order in which we choose our workstations is left-to-right…”  Some rules are presented in a more straightforward manner, while there are also sidebars in Sandra’s voice advising you on what is important.  The bottom line is that I found my eyes glazing over each of the first three times I tried reading the manual (admittedly, without possessing the game) and only learned it once taught.  Many other players have expressed difficulty with the manual, and the designer graciously created a detailed “how to play” list on boardgamegeek available at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/174869/kanban-how-play-list

Indeed, both the designer Vital Lacerda and developer Paul Incao show themselves to be exceptionally committed to making the game a success and supporting the enjoyment of players.  They have, for example, invited players to contact them directly through boardgamegeek with questions that come up while playing the game and seem committed to a real-time turnaround when possible.  The game is not extraordinarily complex, and in play it moves along nicely.   Few moves seem to take too long and most have straightforward implications.  The game is not puzzly nor prone to Analysis Paralysis.  If you find that a player is engaging in AP, I recommend a house rule that Sandra fire the offender on the spot.  Even the “nice” Sandra has her limits.  Be sure to keep a cardboard box nearby so he can pack his desk.  However, the rules have sufficient small points that, four games in, I’m still discovering rules I’ve played incorrectly.  Fortunately, these are small points, and in no case have I felt that the game was ruined due to incorrect play.  If you like, think of your first play as “the basic game” and then all the rules you learn along the way as “free expansions.”

Naomi Robinson and the designer Vital Lacerda have created the graphics which are generally vivid, filled with flavor, and do their best to illustrate function.  Generally, they succeed very well.  Cards which illustrate goals rarely need an explanation.  Once the game gets moving, each section of the board does a good job of speaking for itself.  But again – what a hurdle to first leap.  The game board is so busy that when it was first laid out in front of me and a friend who also enjoys heavy games, we both burst in to laughter, realizing that this game was going to be crazy complicated.  Yet, I think it is busy because there is a lot going on, not because it is poorly laid out.

Kanban boardI and my fellow players have always had fun playing Kanban: Automotive Revolution.  As stated above, it moves briskly typically with moderate length turns which offer a very broad spectrum of competing objectives.  There is lots of player interaction.  You’ll be jockeying for position with Sandra in the meetings; you’ll be choosing your worker placement both with an eye to gaining position, blocking others, and to setting yourself up so that others won’t foil your future plans.  While the game is littered with different ways to score points, this does at least mean that every action has multiple ways to move you toward both short and long term objectives.  The learning curve to get started may be challenging, but so are the opportunities to tease out new tactics with each successive play.  If you like meaty games, expect to be picking your teeth for a long time.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

Joe Huber (1 play): Somewhere along the way, it became popular to design worker placement games – even when, as here, that mechanism doesn’t really (or really doesn’t) fit the game.  For those who aren’t too bothered by the disconnect – if you don’t mind suspending disbelief that you can’t find blueprints for a car, because two folks are in the blueprint office (even if they got there _last_ _round_), this might well be a game for you.  Once we got through the rules – by having an experienced player explain the game, as the rules are not particularly coherent – there were lots of interesting ways to manipulate the system, and (somewhat to my surprise) the game fit together reasonably well.  But for me, that wasn’t really enough.  The player who best manipulated the system won, but I never felt like I was making cars, or driving the development of cars – or doing anything more than trying to make the system work for me.  Because it did all work together reasonably well, I would play the game again, at least with experienced players – but I haven’t sought out a second play so far.

Ben McJunkin (1.5 plays): I learned KanBan at a convention.  Initially, I was taught by someone who had read the rulebook, but who had never played the game.  The game’s setup and rules explanation in that environment took well over an hour alone.  We played a few rounds that seemed to drag on, with additional rules questions cropping up along the way, and before long it was after midnight and no one had the stamina to finish the game.  A day or two later, I had another opportunity to play with a table that had all played the game before.  I saw the system being operated as it was intended to be and I thought it was a very solid design.  In my eyes, there’s not enough dynamic player interaction (as Joe notes, it is very much a game of engaging with a constructed system first and foremost).  And even with experienced tables, the game ran longer than I would have liked.  But I was happy with the experience and would not object to playing it again if others were so inclined.

I Love It:

I Like It: Jonathan D. (Like it a lot); Ben McJ.

Neutral: Joe H.
Not for me:

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Dale Yu: Review of Troll Hunt

 

Troll Hunt

  • Designer: Veli-Matti Saarinen
  • Publisher: Roll D6 Games / Game Salute
  • Players: 2-3
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Game Salute

troll hunt

Troll Hunt is a game from Finland that is being distributed in this country by Game Salute.  In this game, players compete to save their modular landscape from trolls – by shining a light from one of their lanterns directly into the eyes of a troll.

Before the game starts, players must assemble the 18 identically shaped terrain tiles to form a very large hexagon.  There are a few different landscapes on the map (fields, sand, mountains, lakes) as well as 18 letters (A-R) which show the areas where trolls will appear on the map. Continue reading

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Madame Ching

Design by Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc & Vincent Dutrait
Published by Hurrican
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

madame-ching_image

Set sail for rich treasures and high adventure, hoping to learn new skills and impress the infamous Asian pirate Madame Ching. Longer adventures are more lucrative, but also more dangerous. Only the bravest and most skillful pirate will win the right to captain Madam Ching’s China Pearl.

Such is the enticing theme of Madame Ching, the new game from designers Bruno Cathala, Ludovic Maublanc and Vincent Dutrait. As with most Hurrican games, the game is well produced with an interesting and, in this case, exotic theme. While there are decisions to be made, there is nothing overly complex present, so it is certainly suitable for family gaming.

The large board depicts a large section of the South China Sea and surrounding waters. A grid regulating movement is superimposed, and there are spaces for the various cards and tiles needed to play. Each player receives a hand of four navigation cards and two “junks”, which are Chinese sailing vessels. Only one is actually needed, with the other apparently serving to denote each player’s color.

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