- Designer: Ralph H. Anderson
- Publisher: Z-Man Games
- Players: 3
- Ages: 13+
- Time: 45 minutes
- Times played: at least 5 – with review copy provided by Z-man and with copies at Gathering of Friends
Chimera is a fairly complicated card game which I was first introduced to at the Gathering of Friends in April 2014. One of my all-time favorite card games is Tichu, and it’s the kind of game that you will see constantly in play at gaming conventions. While it is one of my favorite games, it doesn’t get played much at home (Actually, almost never!). Tichu is a partnership game which plays specifically four players. Additionally, there is a pretty decent learning curve to the game that keeps non-Tichu players away from learning it.
Having played many a late night game of Tichu with Ralph Anderson, I know how much he loves the game. While there is 3-player variant ruleset of Tichu, the somewhat cleverly named “Three-chu”, it just doesn’t seem to capture the same fun as the base game. Ralph took it upon himself to come up with a similar climbing game that is meant for just 3 players – the result is Chimera. Continue reading
Design by Andreas Seyfarth
Published by Alea / Ravensburger
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Puerto Rico by award-winning designer Andreas Seyfarth is widely recognized as one of the best boardgames ever designed. It has won numerous industry and hobby awards, and has sold millions of copies worldwide. For years it was rated as the top game on the Boardgame Geek, the hobby’s premier boardgame website. Mechanisms within the game have been borrowed / copied by numerous other designers, and the game continues to influence game design to this day.
It was no surprise that a card game version of the game was released shortly after the boardgame’s success. San Juan also proved quite popular, capturing the feel of the boardgame in a card game format. Sadly, it was out of print for many years, but has recently been republished by Ravensburger under their Alea label. This new version incorporates the “New Buildings” expansion as well as one brand new building. Other than these additions, as well as a slightly larger box and new cover artwork, the game remains the same.
In an effort to become San Juan’s most profitable citizen, players will acquire production buildings and use the resources produced to purchase more valuable buildings. Many buildings supply special powers, enhancing one’s efforts to achieve wealth and prosperity. The game ends when one player constructs his 12th building, and the player amassing the most valuable buildings emerges as San Juan’s wealthiest citizen and wins the game.
7 Wonders: Babel
- Designer: Antoine Bauza
- Publisher: REPOS (distributed by Asmodee)
- Ages: 10+
- Players: 2-7
- Time: ~40 minutes
- Times played: 5 (twice with review copy, three times in playtesting with Mr. Bauza or REPOS)
7 Wonders: Babel is the most recent expansion to the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner, 7 Wonders. While I would expect that most of the readers of this blog would be familiar with 7W, if you aren’t – take a minute to go read a wonderful review of the base game written 3-and-a-half years ago by Larry Levy:
There, now that we’re all on the same page – let’s talk about this new expansion – which is actually two separate expansions in one box, and they can be played either independently or together. I will describe them separately…
TOWER OF BABEL EXPANSION Continue reading
- Designer: Sebastian Dujardin
- Publisher: Pearl Games
- Ages: 14+
- Players: 2-4
- Time: 60-90 mins
[This game was originally previewed on 9/10/2014 for the blog, but now that we’ve had a chance to play it… now we can do a full review!]
Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Pearl Games Continue reading
It’s that time of year… For about 11 years I’ve been posting holiday boardgame suggestions to the “videogame masses” over at GamerDad.com. Those who want a peek into my cluttered, way behind in the hotness mind can go take a look at: Unplugged: Holiday Guide 2014. Many games have practically been released this year while a few more are from years back but relatively new to me. It’s written for the non-gamer so if you’re too lazy (or don’t want to be responsible for the results of recommendations), feel free to send your non-gamer friends on over to check it out.
- Designer: Alexander Ushan
- Publisher: Hobby World
- Ages: 12+
- Time: ~10 minutes/round
- Times played: 2 with review copy provided by Hobby World
Spyfall is an different sort of social deduction game. The game is played over a number of rounds, and in each round, one player is designated as a spy while all of the other players are not. The game consists of 26 mini-decks of cards. Each of these decks corresponds to a different location – one card in this mini-deck is a spy card (and all it says on it is “SPY”) while the rest of the deck tells you the location as well as your “role” at that location. Continue reading
Design by William Attia
Published by Asmodee
2 – 5 Players, 1 1/2 hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
While not a big science fiction fan, I must admit that I find the steampunk genre to be highly creative and original. For those not familiar with this science fiction subgenre, steampunk is usually set in the 19th century British Victorian or American West era. Electricity has never been invented–or the technology has been lost due to an apocalyptic event–so all machines are powered by steam. Fantastic inventions ripped from the pages of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are common, and the fashion is a bizarre combination of Victorian, Wild West and punk. An entire steampunk culture has emerged, with conventions, shows, literature, movies and more.
While I am not surprised that the theme has crept into board game design, I am surprised that it has not been used more often. There have been a few titles, but not many. Perhaps the genre is not one that has wide appeal amongst boardgamers, or perhaps the right game using that theme has not yet been published. Time will tell whether or not the theme proves popular.
One game from a major publisher using the steampunk theme is Spyrium by renowned designer William Attia, author of the award winning Caylus. Spyrium, a powerful mineral with remarkable properties, has been discovered and is revolutionizing industry. Players head industrial conglomerates and are frantically acquiring and improving their factories and patenting new technologies, all in an effort to acquire great wealth and bring glory to Her Majesty’s empire.
Design by Yannick Gervais
Published by White Goblin Games
2 – 5 Players, 1 ½ hours
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Egypt is such a rich subject for game themes. The grandiose pyramids continue to enchant and enthrall visitors over 4000 years after their construction. The exotic ancient culture—with its arcane rituals and myriad of gods—is ripe fodder for mysterious, magical and even spooky stories. The country’s prominent role in Biblical history, as well as its ancient military exploits, also contribute abundant possibilities for creative game designers to mine.
Thus, it is no wonder that games using Egyptian themes continue to be published each year. I can only assume that publishers have enjoyed good experience (i.e., sales) with the theme. One Egyptian-themed game that was released back in 2012 is Pyramidion from designer Yannick Gervais and published by White Goblin Games. The game was largely overlooked by gamers, which is a shame, as it is a very good game that is challenging, tense and fun to play.
At the bequest of Pharaoh Khufu—commonly known as Cheops—players are charged with the task of supplying the necessary resources to construct the great pyramid of Gizeh. These resources are gathered from eight different sites throughout the kingdom, and the gathering process is often brutal and corrupt. Players will employ the services of government officials, priests, goddesses and even unsavory characters such as thieves, bandits and torturers. The player best employing these assortment of characters and fulfilling the most orders will earn the privilege of placing the final block onto the pyramid and win the favor of the Pharaoh.
Design by Maxwell Mahaffa & Jonathan Oberto
Published by Promethean Games
2 – 4 Players, 15 – 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
Ahhh, Kickstarter. While there have been a few pleasant surprises, experience has taught me that most games that are ultimately funded and published have not been fully developed and, as a result, feel unfinished. It is easy to understand why established publishers may have passed on these games. They may contain a nifty idea or two, but as a complete game, they simply don’t measure-up.
Such is the case with Enter the Arena from Promethean Games and designers Maxwell Mahaffa and Jonathan Oberto. The game is set in ancient Rome, with players entering the arena for brutal and bloody gladiatorial combat. The videos for game tout the unique “style” mechanism, wherein players attempt to predict the success of their card play by enhancing it with style. This represents an unusual or exciting maneuver that thrills the crowd. If successful, the players earn style points, which ultimately determine the victor. Fail and those points could be stolen by one’s opponent. While this may be original, it does not save what is otherwise a mediocre, lackluster affair.
Each player begins with an identical set of cards consisting of three attacks, three defense (both valued 1 – 3) and two style cards (valued 1 or 2). Each turn, all players place one of their attack or defense cards face down, revealing them in turn order. When revealing their card, a player must name the target of an attack (If an attack card was played) and decide if he wants to add one of his two style cards to his card. This decision must be made immediately, often—due to turn order—without seeing the type and value of cards played by one’s opponents. No method is provided to indicate the target on one’s attack, which can be problematic in a multi-player game. A few tokens from other games can help rectify this, but a method should have been provided.
Once again, Ben, KAS, and Larry (Tom would join us in the evening) intrepidly plowed our way through more of our Essen haul last Saturday. What with BGG.con coming the following week (sadly, I will not be attending, but the rest of them will be) and the non-gaming event known as Thanksgiving following the week after (bloody game-hating Pilgrims!), this may have been my last shot at new game playing for a while. Did we make it count? Read on, Macduff!
Clinic: This game about building and running a medical clinic is from designer Alban Viard. Viard is best known for his many Age of Steam expansions; lately, he has been producing abstract city-building games with a strong spatial element. This is easily his most ambitious title.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a game with so many strong thematic elements where the gameplay routinely trashes that theme. Because all the aspects of running a medical practice are here: doctors, nurses, patients, operating rooms, etc. And then you play the game and you find that it’s frequently advantageous for players to let their patients get sicker before treating them. Or that nurses and staff members are sometimes more expensive to hire than doctors. Or that players often care more about the length of hospital corridors and the availability of parking spaces than they do about healing the sick. Or that highly trained doctors have much more difficulty treating less seriously sick patients than poorly trained ones do. Or that those same highly trained doctors get stupider every turn. And on and on. Unless you have a particularly jaundiced view of the medical profession, that’s hardly realistic. It’s a Euro, so you just have to accept things and enjoy the game, but those who were more attracted to the title’s theme than to its mechanics should probably stay far away from this one.