Dale Yu: Review of Tokaido Crossroads Expansion

 

Tokaido: Crossroads Expansion

  • Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Publisher: Funforge, distributed domestically by Passport Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Times played: 4 with review copy provided by Passport Games

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The Crossroads Expansion for Tokaido is being distributed domestically by Passport Games, and they were kind enough to send a copy of this expansion to me for review.  I have played Tokaido plenty in the past few years, and while I did not write the OG review for it – I’ll copy Ben McJunkin’s description of the base game here for anyone who is unfamiliar with the base game.

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Taxi Wildlife

 

Taxi Wildlife

  • Designer: Florian Racky
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 5+
  • Time: ~10 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by HABA USA

Taxi wildlife

I’ll stick with the theme of finding wooden animals with touch alone by reviewing Taxi Wildlife.  Players act as crazed taxi drivers in the game trying to pick up the most passengers as they drive through the jungles of Tasmania.

There are 48 route cards, and they are separated by the numbers on their backs (1, 2 or 3).  Three draw piles are created and the top card of each is flipped up.  The two pouches are set up with each of them holding two of each of the different animal types.  Finally, each player takes a starting road card as well as a colored player card – once player colors are set, the duel cards that involve the colors in the game are separated and shuffled into a duel deck. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Master Fox

 

Master Fox

  • Designer: Frederic Vuagnat
  • Publisher: IELLO
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 7+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Times played: 3 with review copy provided by IELLO

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Master Fox is one of the new summer 2015 releases from IELLO.  In this game, players take on the role of foxes that are competing with each other to be the best thief.  The first player to score 10 points will take home the victory.

In the first round of the game, the 24 basic shapes are put in the bottom of the box.  Then, the deck of loot cards (one of each of the 8 basic shapes) is shuffled and three cards are drawn.  Everyone makes note of these cards – and the goal for the round is to collect one matching Loot pawn for each card.  The lid is placed on the box and shaken so that the pieces are mixed up. Continue reading

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SdJ Re-Reviews #17: Die Siedler von Catan (a.k.a. The Settlers of Catan)

  • Designer:  Klaus Teuber
  • Publisher:  Multiple (Originally Kosmos)
  • Players:  3 – 4
  • Ages:  10 and Up
  • Time:  90 Minutes
  • Times Played:   > 50 (On Various Mayfair Games Editions)

Siedler Cover

Die Siedler von Catan: The game that changed everything…

The Washington Post has called it “the game of our time.”  Wired described it as a “Monopoly killer.”  The game has inspired songs and a novel, and there are dozens of references in pop culture.  With more than 22 million products sold in more than 30 different languages, there is no Eurogame with as big of a footprint as Die Siedler von Catan.   Continue reading

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Review of The Voyages of Marco Polo

The Voyages of Marco Polo

Designers: Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini

Artist: Dennis Lohausen

Publisher: Z-Man Games, Hans im Gluck

Players: 2-4

Time: 40-100 minutespic2461346_md

 

I’ve waited a long time for a Marco Polo themed game that would pique my interest, The Voyages of Marco Polo manages to do that and more, which in today’s Cult of the New climate is quite a feat.

Coming from Hans im Glück Verlags-GmbH, renowned for such Euro classics as El Grande, Carcassonne and the recent Russian Railroads, I expected nothing less than a solid resource management game.  I was quite anxious to try the game out when I heard about it and I’m glad that it has exceeded my expectations.

The game is a dice driven placement game in which the dice are used in a worker placement fashion. Each player starts with 5 dice which they roll and then apply 1 or more dice to an action. The bottom half of the board presents the actions that may be chosen. The top half represents the travels of Marco and or his friends and relatives.

imageEach player has a player board which holds contracts, resources, money and dice. They also start with 2 objective cards for trading post locations. Each player also gets a character tile which has a special ability.

There are several actions that can be applied, collecting money, gaining the favor of the Khan, going to the market to obtain resources (camels, spice, cloth and gold), gaining new contracts to fulfill, or traveling. The actions require different numbers of dice; for example, getting gold from the market requires 3 dice whereas getting camels from the market only uses 1 die. For actions that require more than 1 die, the lower valued die limits the action. If a player wishes to place their dice at the same action that another player has already taken, this is possible. It does however require payment in money equal to the value of the lowest die used.

In addition to these dice actions, there are free actions available every turn: completing a contract, taking 3 money, re-rolling, getting a die bump or taking an extra die.

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The top half of the board is a map. Some routes require not only the basic travel costs to travel them but also extra camels or even extra money. There are oases which are stops along the path, cities which give a bonus as well as access to a new die action from a randomly placed city card and towns which provide income. As a player travels, if they end in a city or town,hey place a trading house to gain these extras. If a player makes their way to Beijing from Venezia, they earn bonus points at the end of the game. Some routes require not only money to travel them but also extra camels or even extra money.

The game is won with the most VP. VP are gained from fulfilled contracts, for placing all of your trading posts, from city die actions with bonuses for most fulfilled contracts and reaching Beijing. You may also convert money to points and leftover goods for points if you have a trading house in Beijing. You also earn points if you’ve reached your objective card destinations.

I have really enjoyed playing Marco Polo. I’ve played 10 times so far which is quite a lot for me in the short time I’ve had the game. While it seems that none of the mechanisms are novel, the game feels very fresh. I think it is because the game has tons of replay in it. The city cards are placed randomly and there is a good sized deck of cards to deal from provided variability not only in which cards come out but also where they are located on the map. The town tiles and their income are also placed randomly in the advanced game, providing more change. The main point of interest for me are the character tiles. There are several characters and players choose them in reverse turn order. Each character has a special ability. The interactions of the characters with the board set up is quite challenging. It may seem like certain characters are way overpowered at first but really they can all be exploited to your benefit if you can figure out the strategy needed, a great challenge. The game also only lasts 5 rounds so it is really over before you expect it. There are a lot of tough decisions packed in a tight time frame. There are definitely many routes to victory. I’ve also played with 2, 3 and 4 players and enjoyed all of my games. Already one of my best of 2015.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (6 plays): I wrote a full review of The Voyages of Marco Polo for The Gamer’s Alliance, so I’ll just summarize here – I really enjoy the game, but my hopes that it would grow to become an all-time favorite have faded.  In particular, fulfilling contracts is too important to make a focus on travel viable as a primary strategy, which detracts something from the game for me.  But at worst, it’s a game I’ll get a dozen enjoyable plays from – and it’s got a reasonable chance to be a long-term keeper.  For now, it’s my second favorite game of 2015 so far.

Dan Blum (7 plays): I’m still enjoying this, but like Joe I am not sure that it will be something I want to keep playing indefinitely. However, it still might be, and it’s certainly a strong design that is well worth trying.

I disagree somewhat with Joe about whether focusing on travel is viable. You certainly can’t win the game without completing any contracts if the other players are any good at all, but I have seen a winner who completed few contracts and got most points from traveling. Like much in this game I think it is situational: some characters in the game are good for traveling and some aren’t, so if you have the only such character a travel focus is possibly viable.

Larry (5 plays):  I’m still trying to figure out the best ways of playing each character, but so far, I’m enjoying this a lot.  There’s many ways of playing the dice you roll each round and getting the most out of your character’s special abilities is a tough and very interesting challenge.  So far, it’s my favorite game of 2015 and I like it more than anything I played from all last year.

Mary Prasad (3 plays): I really like the game play, although I wonder if one or two of the characters are more powerful than others. I noticed that some of this might have to mitigated by other players. For example, one of the characters gives one resource to its controller whenever another player uses the market – other players may need to minimize using the market in order to balance play. There are quite a lot of good and interesting character powers – I just haven’t played enough to know how balanced they are. So far I’ve enjoyed my games though, and plan to play it again. When I first played, I thought it was OK/good; with two more plays, I’ve moved it up to “really like” (sort of in between ratings).

Chris Wray (2 plays):  I thought Marco Polo had some clever mechanics.  It didn’t excite me enough to keep it, but I was impressed by my two plays.  Like Mary I question whether the game is truly balanced: nothing seemed too out of line, but I could see a couple of characters that I thought had better powers than others.

I Love It: Lorna, Joe H, Larry

I Like It: Dan Blum, Mary P, Chris W

Neutral:

Not for me:

 

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Geek Top 10 Games Through Time

I’m sure many of you have seen the Geeklists of JonMichael Rasmus, who regularly lists the games in the Geek’s top 100 and analyzes their trends.  About a week ago, he released a Geeklist in which he listed all the games that have been in the top 10 since he started tracking them 10 years ago.  Here’s the link:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/193639/who-replaced-who-top-ten

I love this kind of stuff.  More than anything, if you aren’t already convinced that the Geek has a severe bias against older games, this should do it.  Here’s some of the things I observed.

  • The initial top 10 game in JonMichael’s first chart (back in May of 2005) are the following:
    • Puerto Rico
    • Tigris & Euphrates
    • The Princes of Florence
    • El Grande
    • Power Grid
    • War of the Ring
    • Europe Engulfed
    • Wallenstein
    • Die Macher
    • Paths of Glory
  • Of those games, only Puerto Rico is still in the top 10 (although Power Grid fell out only a couple a months ago).
  • Only two of these games are still in the top 25 and two of them have fallen out of the top 100 entirely. Here’s the position these great games currently hold:
    • Puerto Rico – 5
    • Tigris & Euphrates – 33
    • The Princes of Florence – 61
    • El Grande – 26
    • Power Grid – 11
    • War of the Ring – 34
    • Europe Engulfed – 480
    • Wallenstein – 181
    • Die Macher – 94
    • Paths of Glory – 44
  • Just as an aside, later in 2005, Go briefly made the top 10. It’s hard to imagine a traditional game doing that well these days.  Go is currently ranked 65th.
  • Here are some other top 10 games that have fallen precipitously in the rankings, together with the year that were last in the top 10, and their current ranking:
    • Ra (2007) – 95
    • BattleLore (2008) – 148
    • Shogun (2008) – 76
    • Space Hulk, 3rd edition (2009) – 118
  • All told, 34 games have resided in the Geek’s top 10 over the past 10 years. (Technically, the total is 35, because the Anniversary Edition of Puerto Rico made the list late in 2012, but then it was decided that such deluxe editions would not be ranked, so I’m not including it, as it wouldn’t meet the standards of today.)

Thanks to JonMichael for putting this very interesting list together and summarizing the Geek’s trends over the last decade.

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Game Review: Crash Cup Karambolage

  • crash cup boxDesigner: Heinz Meister
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6+
  • Playing Time: 15 minutes

Review by Mark Jackson on a review copy provided by HABA Games (7 plays with Crash Cup Karambolage, 20 plays with the original 1995 edition)

There are a LOT of flicking games out there… from the classics like Crokinole & Carabande/Pitchcar to newcomers like Flick ‘Em Up & Cosmic Kaboom – and then there’s oddballs like Hobby World’s Desktopia and Z-Man’s Ascending Empires. (I do love Ascending Empires.) So how do you vary up a game genre that, by definition, has some pretty specific limits?

Over a decade ago, the game Cairo used a die roll to determine which digit you had to flick with… hardly a major innovation, but still a nice idea. (Cairo also had you flicking a die… two years before the much-more successful Tumblin Dice.)

But what if you added a piece of string?

Seriously – that’s the innovation behind the original Karambolage (which won the Kinderspiel award back in 1995)… and the updated version of the game recently published by HABA, Crash Cup Karambolage. Wooden discs are flicked by putting a short piece of string behind the disc and pulling the string taut – thus shooting the disc forward like a slingshot. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Dark Tales

 

Dark Tales

  • Designer: Pierluca Zizzi
  • Publisher: dV giochi
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by dV

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Dark Tales is a card game that is inspired by classic fairy tales, retold in a dark style. This game was originally available at Essen 2014, but I only heard about it late on Saturday afternoon, and by that time, I was frankly out of both space and time for any more games!  However, a few gamers I know took home copies of this delightful game, and they had given me positive reviews of it over the past few months.  As it turns out, the game is now getting wider release in the United States, and dV was nice enough to send me a copy in advance of GenCon.

The land of Dark Tales is populated by disturbing creatures and sinister characters, and the interaction between cards and magic items is the key to success: A character, event, or sword used at the right time can determine the fate of the game! Thanks to the many setting cards, the items you collect change their power from game to game. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Stockpile

 

Stockpile

  • Designers: Seth Van Orden, Brett Sobol
  • Publisher: Nauvoo Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 45-60 mins
  • Times played: 4, with both a published copy as well as on a review copy provided by Nauvoo Games

stockpile box

Stockpile is the maiden release for both the designers and their game company, Nauvoo Games.  I met them briefly at Origins, and I was excited to get a copy of the game to review.  From their website:

“Founded in 2014, Nauvoo Games is the byproduct of a life-long gaming hobby, which brought Brett and Seth together in high school. We aspire to share the countless hours of laughter and excitement that games have brought to us.

We believe that games offer the chance to intellectually and emotionally interact with friends and family. Our hope is to make these interactions enjoyable, but also unique. By offering a fresh perspective on game design, we aim to provide new ways to play games and ultimately have fun. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of ModX

ModX

  • Designers: Mark & Joan Wilkinson
  • Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 15+
  • Playing time: 20 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Cryptozoic

mod x

ModX is a departure from the usual sort of game that I expect from Cryptozoic – it is a strictly abstract game.  The game is an 8×8 grid – set up on a plastic board.  At the start of the game, each player takes all the X-shaped pieces in their color.  Additionally, 5 clear X’s are placed on the board which act as wild markers.

Continue reading

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