Dale Yu: Review of Stack-A-Biddi

Stack-A-Biddi

  • Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman
  • Publisher: Game Factory
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30 min
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by publisher

Stack-A-Biddi was a game that I first learned about at the press show on the Wednesday at Essen.  While walking around the Novelty show, I heard a clatter of pieces on a table, and I quickly turned to see what was going on.  What I found was a speed building game, and before I knew it, I was playing a demo game… Continue reading

Advertisements
Posted in Essen 2017, Reviews | Leave a comment

James Nathan: Keyper

James Nathan: Keyper

Game: Keyper
Designer: Richard Breese
Publisher: R&D Games
Players: 2-4
Time:  90-120 Minutes
Times played: 2 times with a friend’s copy

For my group, the deluge of Essen titles to dig out from underneath feels like it’s coming to a close – so much so that we only played titles we had played before this week! (This sentence is from January 5th).  At some point, we’re also wrapping things up to clear the slate for Pandemic Legacy 2. (We’re now concurrently playing Charterstone and PL:2 in the same session once a week; this sentence is from January 20th).

This week there was less pressure to try something new, and I’m not sure that any of us brought something new-to-us (outside of a few small card games). Looking around at the options, I opted for Keyper.

So, here we are.

mvimg_20180103_230019684017213249351269.jpgFollowing in the lineage of Keyflower, it will involve placing meeples via a mechanic that is sensitive to their color; placing upgrade-able buildings in a home area; play over four seasons; and the meeples you take back each turn, will not be the ones you placed.

Past that, things start to diverge. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2017, Reviews | Leave a comment

Tokyo Game Market Part 2

Hidden Roooms

I don’t often play solo but I do love puzzles. I was pleased to find Hidden Rooms which has a fantastic look and lots of nice handmade touches. It seems to be a reimplementation of the designer’s print and play Kidnap Machine from a few years ago. 

The game play is pretty simple. A random tile is drawn indicating which page of the monster manual to use. You are trying to move the child from the bottom right corner of the board to the upper left corner.

The child can only move orthogonally along already placed tiles. In order to move you draw room tiles randomly. You can succeed in your movement if the new tile has the same number or higher or if the tile is the same color.

After the child’s turn the monster moves twice along it’s set path. The monster of course has it’s big eye out for the child and if the child is within it’s vision the monster will veer from it’s path and chase the child.

Sounds easy right? well it’s more challenging than it looks and trying to find a safe path and play the odds makes a great puzzle. The wonderful production makes the game even more pleasurable to play. It’s quick but addicting.

Blend Coffee Lab

Saashi and Saashi continue with the coffee theme they started with Coffee Roaster in ブレンドコーヒーラボ (Blend Coffee Lab.). Coffee Lab is a trick taking game that incorporates winning a trick with being able to select one or two of the cards from the trick for scoring. 

The game is playable with 2-4 players but like with most trick takers the 2 player version seems less interesting so far. What makes BCL different from most standard trick taking games is as follows.

First following “suit” in BCL means you must if possible play a different color card than the ones previously played.

There is a “trend” which is determined at the beginning of the hand from the previous trick. It determines whether high cards or low cards will win “priority.”

Priority allows a players to choose one or possibly two cards from the trick to use in scoring. The last unpicked card determines the trend for the next hand.Winner starts the next trick like usual.

Players are collecting cards of 3 “roast” levels to make cups of coffee. A cup consists of one each of available color cards of the same roast level.

Cups of each roast level are scored for each of the three rounds with the best of each roast being scored for the finally tally.

It took me a few plays to see how best to try and play BCL. Winning tricks is obviously great but trying to figure out how to play your hand isn’t always easy. Trying to control the trend I think is important so deciding whether when to try and win a hand vs throwing out a card that may go unpicked to change the trend more favorably is key.  If you like trick taking games BCL is worth a try.

Little Town Builders

One of my favorite games to come from TGM in recent years is The King of Frontier which is a delightful mash up of role selection and tile placement. I was really excited to see they had a new game this year, Little Town Builders but a little apprehensive because sometimes the follow ups just don’t quite meet expectations.

Little Town Builders manages quit nicely in being a great follow up game. I’d call it a mash up of worker placement and tile placement. It comes with a double sided board for variety which is really nice. There are preprinted resource areas on the map which is made on a large grid. Each player gets a set of workers and a set of buildings. The game also comes with building tiles reminiscent of King of Frontier, wheat fields and a set of goal tiles (Japanese text, English paste ups made the game easier for us). Each player also gets a hand of random goal tiles. 

Game play is simple. 

Players can place their worker on any open space on the board and activate the surrounding tiles directly orthogonal and diagonal. If the tile has a tree or mountain you collect wood or stone. If there is a pond you collect fish. If there is a building and you own it you may use its ability. If your opponent owns the building you can pay them 1 coin to use it.  

You can build a building if you have the resources for it by placing your worker on a building area. In addition to abilities buildings are also worth points.

At any time if you meet one of your goals you may show the goal and collect the points.

At the end of the round after everyone’s workers have been played, you must feed you workers with either 1 fish or 1 wheat.  Hungry workers loose points.

The game last only 4 rounds and the player with the most points wins.

Desktop Hebocon Battle

Are you ready to rumble? Desktop Hebocon Battle will definitely not prepare you for the sumo ring or any other combat but it’s one of the coolest games I’ve played in a while. The game is themed around the real life Hebocon: The best worst robot competition. It is strictly for the technically challenged nonprofessional.

The goal of the game is to create and program your robot to do battle in the ring but not do it too well.

There are 2 phases. The first is making your robot. Your robot will consist of differently shaped polyominoes with various programmed movements or actions. You take turns collect programming pieces to eventually place on your player board similarly to other polyomino type games.

 Once everyone has collected their parts, the simultaneous building occurs. The first player to complete their board starts a timer included in the game and the rest of the players have 1 minute to finish. Players earn points equal to the number of spaces on their board covered but if you manage to cover all the spaces you get a high tech penalty of minus 8 points!

The second part of the game involves the battle. Players now take turns activating the polyominoes one at a time and move their robot or their board accordingly. The board has bonus chips for points and well as penalty spots. The big goal is to eliminate your opponents. If you push your opponent out of the ring you gain points and they lose points. The game ends once all players have used all their programming pieces (you must use all your pieces even if you don’t want to!) or if there is only one robot left standing in the ring. Bonus points for anyone still in the ring.

 

Way back in the day when I first got into the hobby, RoboRally was a huge hit for us with its silly random and chaotic movement and cute little robots. I tired of it since most games went on too long. Desktop Hebocon provides the same fun in a much more streamlined manner with a fixed game end. It’s really challenging to get much accomplished with your robot but it fits the theme perfectly. I’m sure some people will be able to see ahead and create and program their robots well (although maybe we should handicap them since it is a Hebocon) but for the rest of us it’s lots of laughs and groaning. The sumo battle is great and I feel like there should be side betting! I’m normally not into direct confrontation but in this case it’s all in good fun. Love it and looking forward to more plays.

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Tokyo Game Market Part 1

A quick review of some of the titles that were available at TGM Dec 2017. I wasn’t able to attend but that didn’t stop me from coveting some of the games that would be sold there. I have managed to acquire a few of them and here are my impressions along with a quick summary of the games.

Era of Voyage the Dice Game . 

Era of Voyage (航海の時代) the original is a nifty rondel game. I’ve heard rumors it’s been picked up by another publisher. It’s successor the dice game is also a trading game but removes the rondel movement and replaces it with dice.
On a turn you roll 2 dice which are to be used independently to either gather resource or “invest” in an island which will allow you trade powers to use instead of gathering resources. Everyone starts with the same basic income card where a die roll may get you a resource, mone, or VP. There is a port which also has an income on it. There is no board but the main port and islands are represented by cards.  

The dice limit your actions to the islands/cards with the same number of pips or the same basic resource actions dependent on roll. If you invest, you place one of your tokens on the island. If you have the most tokens on the island at the end of the game you will earn the island’s VP.
The game is triggered by using a number of VP from a shared pool based on player number. You also earn VP by having the most investments on islands. 
This is a fun and fast filler and we’ve really enjoyed it. The are several island cards and 3 starting port cards which give a nice variety. The game can go very quickly or be more strategic dependent on how the rolls go. I like it, fast to set up, simple to teach, comes in a small box. Recommended and I would be at all surprised to see this game picked up by another publisher.

コプラス (COPULAS)

I am huge fan of games with polyominoes. I saw a picture of Copulas and had to have it. 
Like Blokus, Copulas comes with nice translucent polyominoes in player colors but only “U” and “cross” shapes. Players use the pieces to cover up or capture Copulas, small cosmic lifeforms scattered in the night sky on the board. The Copulas are worth varying values.

The board is modular which adds nice variety. Players the must take turns playing their pieces and alternating shapes on each turn. Pieces played can not cover more than 9 points of Copulas and must touch previously played pieces. 

Endgame scoring is based on captured Copulas as well as scoring based on how their pieces are grouped or not. Bonus points are given if all of a player’s pieces are connected.

Players get negative points for isolated groups and individual pieces on the board.
The end game scoring provides lots of incentive for area competition and clever placement. The modular set up is always a plus for variety. It’s a fun fast game like others in this genre and it’s small size earn a place in my collection. (It easily fits inside the Blokus box )

Troika

Troika is the newest game from Oink Games. I love, the look of Oink games. Initial games from Oink were innovative and exciting. The last few have seemed less innovating and exciting but they still look good. Troika, the newest game is space themed. Troika comes in the nice small Oink box. The tiles might be a bit on the thin side but there are a lot tiles to fit in that small box! The game involves collecting gems but you also must refuel. Game play is a pretty simple game of drafting tiles and push your luck. On a turn you can “excavate” a face down tile or a face up tile. If it is face up it goes in your container face up in front or you or if face down it can be one of 3 tiles kept secret from other players (hand limit). Alternatively you can discard a tile from hand or container back to the excavation field and the tile maintains its face up or down orientation.  

You must collect 3 tiles of the same number to be used as fuel,if you don’t have fuel you are stranded and take negative points. Runs of numbers on tiles in sets of 3 are considered gems and will score equal to the right most single digit of the set. That means if you have an 11 at the right most spot you would score 1. The round ends when some yells Troika (meaning you have a fuel set and more than 5 tiles in your container) at the end of their turn or if all the tiles in the excavation area aare face up. Points are awarded to the player with the highest score in the round. The game is played over 3 rounds.

So Troika makes a nice filler and it looks great next to all the other Oink games on the shelf… Being able to end the round early with a Troika adds a nice push your luck element to the tile draw. I think I would still rather play Deep Sea Adventure for push your luck fun. If I wanted something with some semblance of control via drafting, Troika might be a choice. The scoring is also clever were bigger numbers are better but not always…

Fool’s Field

Fool’s field is a nifty little 2 player game from Kuuri Keikaku (空理計画). The game consists of only 23 cards. The characters on the cards are nicely done. Each card has one of 3 symbols on the each of the 4 sides. They symbols are swords, shields and flowers. The goal of the game is to be the first to empty your hand of 6 cards after the draw deck has emptied.
Ona turn a player may “deploy” by playing a card into a 3×3 card grid.
The trick of course is that only 2 out the possible combinations of pairs of symbols on the edges of the cards can be played next to each other.
When one of the players  chooses or can no longer play they may “retreat”, picking up all the cards in the playing field and discarding down to 6. The other player fills their hand from the deck but gets to play first into the grid. 
The game is deceptively simple but the distribution of card symbols amongst the cards make it quite a challenge. “Retreating” can be a great action but it allow your opponent to set the tone of the grid by playing first. I love little card games like this, portable with simple rules but a reasonable amount of tough decision making. 

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Opinionated Gamers’ Review of Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

 

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

  • Designers: Brett J. Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan
  • Publisher: Funforge
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 7, with review copy provided by Funforge

Says OG writer, Eric Martin (originally on BGG):

Professor Evil owns a time machine, and he’s been ripping off all the best historical items from times both past and future. Your team has been charged with confiscating these items and returning them to their proper locations in time, so you now need to infiltrate the mansion and abscond with four items before Prof. Evil can secrete four of them in locations inaccessible to you. Thankfully the old soul is a bit daft and won’t evaporate you should he catch you lurking through the mansion, but simply scoot you out the front door where he’ll forget about you immediately. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2017, Reviews | Leave a comment

Matt Carlson: Review of Wartime: The Battle of Valyance Vale

Wargames can be long, arduous affairs as players think deeply about current and future moves but then have to start over when their opponent takes their turn. (No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.) This naturally pauses the game every turn and can quickly bog down a game. Wartime attempts to do an end-run around such problems by having players move their pieces simultaneously. Players use multiple sand timers to activate their troops. A troop can’t act again until its timer runs out and new troops can’t act unless there is a free timer available. While this sort of time pressure limits the possible complexity of the game, it greatly speeds up the pace and brings out the split-second decision making that occurs in actual combat.

Wartime: The Battle of Valyance Vale

Designers: Christopher Guild, Brad Lackey, Christopher Parks, Joshua Tempkin
Publisher: Wizkids
Players: 2
Ages: 14+
Time: 10-30 minutes
(review copy provided by publisher)

Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dale Yu:  Review of Ex Libris

 

Ex Libris

  • Designer: Adam P. McIver
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by the designer himself

So, if there is anything that I love more than playing games (and writing about them!), it’s reading books.  I spend a good portion of every day with my Kindle in my hands – whether it’s getting ready for bed, waiting in the car through a soccer practice or whatever.   Strangely enough, I no longer log my board game plays, but I still log my books that I read.  In any event, the theme of Ex Libris, a new release from Renegade Games, definitely appeals to me – in this game, players vie to be the Grand Librarian of their gnomish village.

Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2017, Reviews | Leave a comment

Simon Neale: Review of Majesty for the Realm

Majesty: for the Realm

Designer: Marc André
Publisher: Hans im Glück and others
Players: 2-4
Ages: 7+
Time: 15-40 minutes
Times played: 8, with German copy purchased at Essen Spiel.

Majesty was a game that I had completely missed in scanning the lists of new releases in my preparation for Essen Spiel. Looking back on things now, I cannot understand why it didn’t grab my attention but I’ll use the traditional excuse of there being far too many new games to make a realistic cut of which games warrant checking out at the show. After many hours spent walking around the halls, with the timely opportunity of a free seat at one of the tables demoing Majesty, I thought that I would give it a go. What I didn’t realise at the time was that Hans im Glück were actually running a tournament and if you won two successive rounds of the game, you got your own copy of the game. I won against my first three opponents but then came third in the final round against three previous first round winners. The upshot was that I liked the game enough to buy my own copy, which due to a lack of English language versions, is in German. With minimal text in the game it is easily understandable and has not caused a problem.

fullsizeoutput_19aa

Majesty: for the Realm is a card game set in medieval times with players competing by adding Citizens to their Realm with the aim of becoming the wealthiest. Majesty is well produced and comes with a functional box insert which holds the components securely. Each player starts with a set of 8 Location Cards (numbered 1 to 8) which are laid out in a line in front of them starting with location 1 on the left and increasing left to right. These location cards are double sided (A and B) and whilst the locations are the same on each side (e.g. Brewery) how they function in the game is different which allows for plenty of re-playability. I recommend playing with the A sides for the first few games to get to understand how the different locations interact with each other. These Location Cards make up a player’s Realm to which Citizens will be added during the game.

A number of Worker Cards equal to the number of players, but always including the Worker Card with the Start Player icon, are shuffled and one dealt to each player. The player with the start Player icon becomes the start player. Each player takes 5 small white meeples (Workers) and places them on their Worker Card, with any remaining Workers forming a supply.

fullsizeoutput_19b1

The coins in the game are small, plastic casino style chips in various denominations (1, 2, 10, 50 and 100) and these are placed as a supply. The aim of the game is to develop the wealthiest realm in the kingdom and thereby win the crown.

There are two decks of Character Cards: red backed tier 2 cards all of which are used in every game and green backed tier one deck which is reduced by a number of cards depending upon the number of players (e.g. 7 cards are randomly removed in a 4 player game). Both decks are shuffled and then the green deck placed on top of the red deck to form a draw pile. Six Character Cards are then drawn from the deck and placed in a row next to the draw pile. It is these Character Cards that players will take and place in their Realm where they become Citizens of that Realm.

The game is now ready to begin with the starting player and continuing clockwise. On a turn a player takes one of the Character Cards from the central display and places it in their Realm. The Character Card furthest from the draw pile is free but other cards have to be paid for by placing a Worker on any cards further from the draw pile than the card chosen. For example to take the third card (counting from the card furthest from the draw pile) a Worker needs to be placed on the first and second Character Cards. When card is taken, any Workers on that card are taken as well and are used to replace any spent Workers on the player’s Worker Card. As the Worker Card can only hold a maximum of 5 Workers any surplus Workers returned to the supply and the player receives 1 coin for each returned Worker.

The Character Card is placed below the appropriate Location Card and then the action described on that Location Card is performed. Each Character Card has a colour which indicates which Location Card it is to be placed below. Some Character Cards have two colours and it is upto the player to decide which of the two Location Cards the Character Card will be placed under. It is the action that takes place when a Character Card is deployed that is the crux of Majesty and how the Location Card actions work in combination.

Below are the actions for the side A Location Cards:

1 Mill: For each Miller citizen: gain 2 coins. As the action is performed after placing the Miller, then the Character Card just placed counts towards the total. For example: placing the third Miller will gain the player 6 coins.

2 Brewery: For each Brewer citizen: gain 2 coins and 1 Worker (surplus over 5 are returned to supply for payment of 1 coin each). Additionally: All Players with at least 1 Miller citizen gain 2 coins.

3 Witch’s Cottage: Remove the topmost Citizen from the Infirmary, if any to and return to the appropriate Location. Additionally for each Miller, Brewer and Witch citizen gain 2 coins.

4 Watch Tower: For each Guard, Soldier and Inn Keeper citizen gain 2 coins. Each Guard will defend the Realm from attack by another player’s Knights. The defence value is equal to the number of Guard citizens in the Realm.

5 Barracks: Attack all other players with a strength equal to the number of Knight citizens. For an attack to succeed the Attack strength must be  greater than a player’s Defence value. If the attack is successful then the defending player’s left most Citizen (i.e. the one below the lowest numbered Location Card) is placed face down below the Infirmary Location Card and on top of any citizens already there. Additionally: for each Knight citizen gain 3 coins.

6 Inn: For each Innkeeper citizen gain 4 coins. Additionally All Players with at least 1 Brewer citizen gain 3 coins.

7 Castle: For each Noble citizen gain 5 coins and 1 Worker (surplus over 5 are returned to supply for payment of 1 coin each).

8 Infirmary: This location is just used for citizens removed after an attack.

fullsizeoutput_19b2

Once the action is completed then the Character Cards are moved away from the draw pile towards the start of the row and to fill the gap and a new card is taken from the draw pile and added to the end of the row nearest the draw pile. Play now passes to the player on the left. The game ends once every player has 12 Character Cards in their Realm.

Final scoring has three stages. Firstly each player pays 1 coin for each citizen in their Infirmary. Next count the number of locations (not including the infirmary) in a Realm that has at least one citizen and that number is then multiplied by itself (i.e. squared) and earns that number of coins. For example if 4 of the Locations had citizens then that player would gain 4 x 4 = 16 coins. Lastly, each Location is compared between the players to identify which player(s) has the most citizens in that location. All the player(s) with the most citizens gain the number of coins shown on the Location Card (i.e. 10 coins on the Mill side A Location Card). The player with the most coins wins the game with ties enjoying the glory of a shared victory.

My thoughts on the game

At its heart, Majesty is a card drafting game where you select cards from the common central pool and use them to build a tableau. Where the interest for me comes into this process is how collecting Character Cards and their combinations effect both your own wealth accumulation and that of your opponents. Collecting multiple Noble Citizens is a powerful way of gaining a lot of income for each additional Citizen. In fact most of the Character Cards benefit from collecting multiples of them during the game and in the final scoring. But the twist is that to maximise your final scoring you need to spread your Character Cards across as many Locations as possible, so concentrating on just a few Locations may not give you the victory. To encourage you further down this route, even single Citizens such as the Miller and Brewer gain you income if other players place certain Character Cards in their tableau. Citizen combinations add a further level of interaction as collecting multiple sets of Citizens can have great benefits such as the Miller, Brewer and Witch all of which generate 2 coins per Citizen when a Witch Citizen is added to the realm.

The “take that” element of the game comes from the Knight Character Card but can easily be defended by the Guard Character Card. Obviously a single Guard is a worthwhile investment as it adds to your final scoring and will defend against single Knight cards (which most players will play during the game in order to maximise their own final scoring). Here is another decision to be made as to whether you can take a hit on your leftmost tableau cards if attacked by another player in order to pursue your own strategy or you need to divert your attention to defend your realm. Majesty is a game where you need to keep a close eye on what your opponents are doing so that you can minimise their income from your own card placement whilst maximising your own income from their card placement. The benefit of this is that the game keeps players interested throughout and, with minimal downtime, the game really moves along swiftly.

I think that in Majesty, designer Marc André has created a very good game with plenty to think about (single, multiple and combinations of cards) that plays quickly and leaves players wanting more. With only 12 cards to place in your tableau, players need to be thinking about which cards to select right from the start of the game. Majesty is an easy game to learn (even with the German version) and with the Location Cards being double sided there is plenty of re-playability. There are very few games that deliver a sufficiently enjoyable experience for their runtime but Splendor is one of them and I am pleased that by chance I played it at Essen and it is now in my collection.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Alan H: My first three games were over before I blinked, playing with people who had played before. The game is fast or at least should be – I had one game last 20 minutes which seemed like ages. The game is fun and easy to play and teach, so it quickly builds up enjoyment with gamers and non-regular gamers alike. Like Simon, I bought the German version in Essen and the hardest aspect was dealing with the queue at the Hans im Glück booth, so someone else got my sale. The game is great to play and the plastic coins add to the value of the game. It easily becomes a favourite with anyone who plays it.

Joe Huber (8 plays): Majesty is light and fast and easy to teach – but as I played it more, I realized that for me it was also a bit empty.  Not bad – I enjoyed the game enough after three plays to be ready to buy a copy.  But after six, I was questioning that; after eight, I knew I didn’t need to.  I’ll still be happy to play the game – the short duration makes it very playable – but I’ll live without it ever making it to my previously owned list.

Fraser (14 plays): We picked up a German copy at Essen and it has been in high rotation ever since.  Even with a newbie or two who don’t read German and a rules explanation it consistently takes us 5-6 minutes per player total.  I really don’t know where they get the 40 minute time frame from!  It is short and sweet and because you never use the all of deck 1 there is always a variation in what cards are going to be available for that play.  It’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is short, sweet and has enough game in it for its length.  My only gripe is that designers and/or publishers are not aware of the Greedy Algorithm.  Currency should come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50..  I would estimate if it did come with that currency mix our play time would drop to 4-5 minutes per player as you wouldn’t be making change or cashing in five twos for a ten so often!  There is quite a difference between the A and B sides and I notice that the insert has room for C/D and possibly more!

Larry (3 plays of the prototype):  I consider this an “I Like It”, but just barely.  The game plays fast, but you don’t necessarily feel in control.  Too often, it seems, the card you need so much doesn’t show, or is too expensive, while an opponent finds their needed cards falling in their lap.  The A side seems a little simple for my tastes; the B side is more interesting and that’s what my rating is based on.  Splendor bored me to tears; Majesty is definitely better, but they’re cut from the same cloth and it may not take too long for me to consider bowing out of requests to play the latter, just as I currently do for the former.  Hopefully, that won’t be the case, because a good, fast-playing filler is always welcome.

Jeff A (3 plays): Like Joe, I enjoyed my first couple of plays in Essen and considered buying a copy.  It’s the perfect quick game for that convention, but afterwards, a further play gave me the same sentiment as him and Larry: there is not really enough control or depth to warrant buying my own copy for my gaming groups, and it’s a little too dry and mathy for more casual game nights with family and friends. However, it’s fast and the components are top-notch, and I wouldn’t refuse a game if someone else brought their copy.

Chris Wray (12 Plays): The gameplay is clever and family-friendly, and the production value is stunning.  The first thing players notice about Majesty: For the Realm are the coins, which are small poker chips that harken back to the designer’s most notable game, Splendor.  But if Majesty draws players in with its production value, it keeps them with its exceptionally clever gameplay.  Marc André is known for building “micromovements” into his designs, and his clever approach to game design shows in Majesty, which features fast-paced turns that each have a bigger effect than players may notice.  This is among my favorite Essen games.

James Nathan (3 plays): I picked up the German version at Essen, and after I finish adding these words, I’m going to put my copy in the marketplace for a song. I thought I liked it, but it may have been a little denial.  “It’s fine” – which really is my review for 80% of the things I play.  The polygraph for me was packing games so many times over the past holiday weeks: I felt no compulsion to put it in my bag, and if those weren’t the perfect occasion for it, nothing else is going to be. Cut bait.

Simon Weinberg (lots of plays): I attended Essen with my 15 year old son this year who is a seasoned fan of Splendor and loved Majesty immediately. This fast, easy to understand game nevertheless has depth in the sense that various different strategies based around getting majorities in different character cards is possible, and so it does leave you wanting to try it several times in a row. As a 20 minute filler game it is absolutely perfect.

Dan Blum (several plays): I like the design in general but I don’t always like how it plays out. It’s a bit too common to have turns without meaningful decisions. More importantly, contrary to Simon’s assertion that people normally play just one Knight, I have been in games and heard of others where several players played multiple Knights; getting the Guards to protect against this is difficult enough that this generally devolves into a game where most players have lots of cards in the Infirmary, which is just not that fun. That being said, like Larry I will give it a weak “I like it” since it’s fast enough that I don’t really mind when it degenerates.

Dale Y (5+ plays): I really like this one.  I am a fan of the micro-transaction game – which really just means that I’m a Marc Andre fan, as most of his games are some sort of riff on that theme.  Sure, there are times when it feels like the game is playing you – especially when “your” cards don’t come up – but, for me, that’s the challenge!  You have to adapt to what’s available, and you need to keep a close eye on what your opponents are doing in order to maximize each of your twelve cards.  Some players have complained that they sometimes feel like they don’t have a good decision to make on their turn, but I have found that in those situations, I’m often able to take a card that another player really wanted – and that’s a meaningful action in my book.  For me, this is going to be a great gateway game on the A side, and a good super-filler on the B side.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue (several plays): I like it. In the interesting vein of quick strategic game it shines! I really like the idea that how you have to manage your 12 actions/cards to optimize the scoring and how your score is deeply connected to what other players are doing. Deep interaction (in the sense of looking what other players are doing), strategy in a 20-30 minutes experience. Excellent!

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it!  Simon N. Alan H, Fraser, Chris Wray, Simon W., Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

I like it.  Larry, Dan Blum,Dale Y

Neutral.  Joe H., Jeff A., James Nathan, Lorna

Not for me.

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

Dale Yu: First Impressions of M/S Batory

 

M/S Batory

  • Designer: Filip Milunski
  • Publisher: Granna
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Granna

The M/S Batory was an actual seagoing vessel – construction started in 1934 and was launched on July 3, 1935.  It was built to be a transatlantic ship to bring Polish citizens abroad.   It was impressed into service of the British navy in 1939 during World War 2, and transformed from a tourist vessel to a cargo ship.  After the war, it returned to a touring ship, and later, it was repurposed as a floating hotel.  However, this didn’t go over well, and the ship was decommissioned in 1971. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2017, First Impressions | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of Castles of Burgundy the Dice Game

 

Castles of Burgundy the Dice Game

  • Designer: Christoph Toussaint, Stefan Feld
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 8 (5 multiplayer, 3 solo) with review copy provided by Ravensburger

So, when the Castles of Burgundy first came out, it quickly became one of my favorite games.  The combination of planning and the variance of the die rolls was a great fit for me.  A few years ago, there was a Castles of Burgundy card game, and while it was fairly well received by other gamers, it felt (to me at least) that it was pretty much the same game – and, in fact, took up about the same amount of table space!

This year, Ravensburger quietly rolled out a dice version of the game.  As I have said many times already this fall, I was not able to do my usual amount of pre-SPIEL research, so I was actually surprised when I heard about this one at the Ravensburger press event on the Friday of the show.  As I loved the base game, I was intrigued to try it out. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2017, Reviews | Leave a comment