Last Bastion (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Artist: Nastya Lehn & Pero
  • Publisher: Repos Productions
  • Players: 2-4 Players
  • Time: 45-60 minutes 
  • Times Played: 6

Back in October, Dale took a “First Look at Last Bastion”. I am going to give a bit of a longer rules overview than Dale did, so if you prefer the shorter overview, go check out Dale’s and come back for my thoughts. A long awaited re-working of the insanely difficult to win cooperative game, Ghost Stories. Ghost Stories was legendary in it’s difficulty, maybe not Yggdrasil levels of difficulty, but still, Ghost Stories was known as an unforgiving and unrelenting game and that helped push it up the rankings. Currently Ghost Stories is sitting at number 238 on BoardGameGeek

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Dale Yu: Review of Gloomy Graves

Gloomy Graves

  • Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers
  • Publisher: Renegade Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 14+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Renegade Games

Gloomy Graves was one of the titles I was most looking forward to in early 2020.  Rolnicy is a game that has been talked about on this site before, but as it was a relatively obscure Polish release, it wasn’t the sort of thing that was easy to find.  The game now has a second life, and a theme change – instead of farming five different types of crops; now you are a gravedigger trying to arrange corpses of five different types (cyclops, unicorns, goblins, pixies and dragons).

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Dale Yu: Preview of Square Meal

Square Meal

So, as most of you know, I generally don’t do Kickstarter previews.  Certainly, I don’t do paid previews.  But, from time to time, I come across projects that catch my eye, and I want to write about them.  Square Meal is one of those rare birds.  Philip duBarry and I have worked together over the years serving as judges for game design contests at local conventions.  I have also had the honor of coming to guest lecture his university course on game design at Northern Kentucky University. 

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Brandon Kempf – Surviving the Purge 8

Over the next few months, instead of going with my Three Games articles, I am going to take a look at my collection and try to discuss why certain titles survived the great purge of 2019. During this process I may take a look at some games that didn’t survive, but only as a measuring stick for what did survive. Since I am silly, like a lot of gamers, I use Ikea Kallax shelves to display the games that we own. This makes it pretty easy to break things down cube by cube, so that’s what we’re going to do, twenty-four cubes, plus a top shelf for games that don’t fit in the cubes, over the course of a few months. I hope you enjoy!

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Surviving the Purge: Finca (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Wolfgang Sentker & Ralf zur Linde
  • Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
  • Publisher: Hans im Gluck & Rio Grande Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 45+ Minutes
  • Times Played: 13

Edit: After writing this, I noticed that we already had a review of Finca on the website, by Simon Neale who I think was writing his when the Kickstarter for the reprint was coming. 

The fine people of the island of Mallorca need fruit. They love fruit, it truly seems that it’s their way of life. If they don’t get their fruit, you as a fruit farmer will have failed at your job. In Finca, that’s what each player is, a farmer delivering their fruits to the people of the island of Mallorca. Each different section of the island will want different fruits, so you have to pay careful attention to what you are harvesting for delivery in order to effectively do your job.

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ECOS: FIRST CONTINENT

Design by John D. Clair
Published by AEG|
2 – 6 Players, 1 1/2 – 2 hours|
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Set at the origins of the earth and the emergence of the first continent, Ecos: First Continent poses the question, “What if the formation of the Earth had gone differently?”  An intriguing question which conjures-up a multitude of scenarios. What if land masses had formed differently?  What if jungle creatures dominated the land? How would vast oceans affect life on the land? The questions boggle the imagination and make for an intriguing theme for a board game. 

Ecos: First Continent is designed by John D. Clair, whose true claim to fame is Mystic Vale, a highly creative and entertaining game that has spawned numerous expansions.  This game is very different and, indeed, bears little, if any similarity to his breakthrough title. I appreciate originality and creativity in game design, so the designer gets kudos for not resting on his laurels and past ideas. 

Ecos is a combination engine-building and tile laying affair, one that is easy to learn and play.  The board is formed throughout the game by the placement of large hexagonal tiles, each depicting one of three types of terrain:  desert, water or grassland. Upon these tiles will be placed a variety of animals (over a dozen different types), mountains and/or forests.  Four tiles form the initial board. Players each receive a “dial” token, which shows the distribution of the eight different element tiles, all of which are placed in the included cloth sack.  Players also receive seven “energy” cubes and a starting deck of 12 cards, three of which begin in the player’s display. In subsequent games there is an advanced method of drafting cards to form each players’ initial deck.  All remaining cards are separated into blue and brown decks. 

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GAMING IN ASHEVILLE, NC

In keeping with Joe’s post about Parks yesterday, I thought I’d include a photo from Dupont National Forest.

I was lucky enough to spend the end of last week playing games in Asheville, North Carolina at Gulf Games (and lucky to have spent the whole week in the area, which was a lot of fun). I played 23 games, and while a few of them were new, it became apparent after a couple of days that I was leaning towards some older games that I hadn’t played in a while, most of which held up very well. Here are some of the highlights.

AGRICOLA

I know what you’re thinking – if I am such an Uwe Rosenberg fan, how have I not played Agricola? Well, I kind of missed the boat on this one. I played it when it first came out and liked it, but then everyone I knew was playing it a LOT when I wasn’t around and learning all the card interactions and adding a draft of cards and when I got back to playing it I just felt like I couldn’t catch up on the learning curve, and when Caverna came out I gravitated towards that. I’ve always wanted to get back to it, though, so I grabbed some fellow Uwe fans who also had not played a lot and we were off.

We played the basic game with no card drafting, and I am happy to report that I really enjoyed the experience. We all did fine with figuring out how to make the cards we were dealt work for us, and it came back to us fairly well after a brief rules refresher and a couple of rounds. It held up well as far as actual mechanics, and a week later I find myself thinking about what I would do differently next time – because yes, there will definitely be a next time.

WAS STICHT?

I love this game, but it’s been about a year since I have managed to get it to the table. It’s old enough that it doesn’t have a full review on Opinionated Gamers, so here’s a little overview.

Players start by drafting goal tiles before the game starts – the little yellow squares in the picture above. These tiles say things like “take the most tricks”, “take the fewest tricks”, “take no red cards” etc. The harder the goal, the more points you get for making it.

The dealer shuffles the two trump piles and secretly looks at the bottom card of each stack. She then lays the cards out in a grid, based on the number of players – each column will contain one card per player. Players take turns taking a card from a column; at the end of the “trick” the dealer notes who led and who won, eventually enabling the other players to have a guess at what the trump suits will be – one can be a color or no trump, and the other can be a number or no trump. The dealer flips over the decks. All players except the dealer simultaneously choose one of their previously-selected tiles that they think they can make and reveal. If you make your goal you score that tile; if you don’t it remains in your stack. Meanwhile, if you failed and the dealer succeeded in reaching your goal they may score one of their own chips.

The game ends when one or more players have scored all of their chips, and the person with the highest value wins. I managed to get rid of all of my chips, but so did Kurt, and we tied in point value, so we rejoiced in our shared victory. I have never gotten rid of all of my chips before, so I was very happy, even if I had to share the glory.

SAN JUAN

I played San Juan a LOT when it first came out in 2004; it was often the closer at the end of the night at our weekly game group. It had a brief resurgence when it was re-released in 2014, but I haven’t played it since. It has also held up well. It streamlines Puerto Rico’s actions into a card game, although it doesn’t really feel like “Puerto Rico: the Card Game”; there are enough differences to make it its own game. I love the engine building aspect, as well as the fact that you do things on everyone’s turn. It also seems to work well with any number of players. I have played The City a lot lately, and this seems to scratch the same itch for me.

MEDICI

Leon wisely put stickers on his board to better indicate the colors, which is very helpful in this edition.

I do not like bidding games at all, with very few exceptions. However, Medici is one of them. This game from 1995 captivated me when it came out, and I continue to enjoy it. The game has five commodity tracks with a deck of cards that correspond to these tracks; cards have a value from 0 to 5. Players start with some points, since points are used as bidding currency. Players take turns flipping one, two or three cards face up. The player to the left of the dealer bids first, with the dealer having last bid. The dealer can outbid or, if no one has bid, choose to discard the cards from the game.

Once you take cards, you add them to your boat, with a limit of 5 cards per boat. If more than one dealer has discarded cards from the game there may not be enough cards to fill everyone’s boat. At the end of the round you do two things. First, you add up the total value of your entire boat, regardless of commodity; the top 3 values score bonus points. You then move your pawn up one space for every card you have in each commodity, regardless of value. The players in first and second place on each commodity gain bonus points, with extra bonuses for reaching the top 2 levels.

Lather, rinse repeat for 3 rounds, and the player with the most victory points wins the game.

Why do I like this one? I think part of it is that it is “once-around” bidding, so it isn’t endless. It is agonizing sometimes to know what the right bid is, or whether you should go a little higher. Since it is possible that you won’t fill your boat, when do you make the hard decision to take something that is less than ideal? For some reason all of this agony is enjoyable to me.

I don’t love the newest printings of the game; some of the colors are not clear and it doesn’t add anything. I much prefer the original.

Other Interesting Things I Played

I also played 3 games that were completely new to me that I quite enjoyed were:

Forbidden Sky, the latest entry in the Forbidden series of games, where you are building an actual electrical circuit; if you have done it right, the rocket will light up at the end.

Chickapig, an abstract strategy game that had cute bits AND a lot more strategy than first met the eye.

Catch the Moon, a dexterity game where you are placing ladders based in rules set by the roll of a die.

Opinionated Eaters

Asheville is a great food town. Before the gaming started we went on a food tour, where our awesome guide Stu introduced us to 8 great spots. One of my favorites was Aux Bar, where we had Cheerwine sangria and rice porridge with pork belly, peanuts and chicken cracklings – and where we managed to eat dinner two more times, since it was so good.

We also had a great time with some of our fellow gamers at the high tea at the Biltmore estate. A scone course, a sandwich course, a cheese course and then a dessert course left us very full and very happy.

Also, 2 points to anyone who can explain this mural outside of Burial Brewing Company to me; they also have a velvet paining of Tom Selleck inside.

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Review of Parks

Parks

Designed by Henry Audubon and published by Keymaster Games

The Game

I set a lot of gaming goals.  Almost every year I set at least one goal for myself, and it’s not uncommon for me to set additional goals during the year.  For example, last year after I’d met my goal of playing all of my favorite games – those I rate a 9 or 10 – at least once, I decided to set a goal of playing them all at least one more time.  But I don’t really have any big, long-term goals for playing games; the closest is my goal of playing 2038 in 2038.

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Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2020 (Part 4)

It’s a wonder that Patricio can even play games. First, survive bushfires. Next, swim out of 100-year floods. I’m guessing locusts are next week’s report.

The cream of the crop are the games I’ve played more than twice each year over the last 5 years. For those who’ve been reading along over the last few years there won’t be much surprise, but for the record, for the years 2015-19, they are:

All of which I rate a 9 or 10, as you’d expect.

There are only two other games in the running to join the list for this year:

The Game – this is its first year of eligibility, and

Schnappchenjagd – this has had multiple plays every year since 2000 with the sole exception of 2015, so it’ll be taking its rightful place once more among the elite.

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Dale Yu: Review of Rumble Nation

Rumble Nation

Designer: 与儀新一 (Shinichi Yogi)
Publisher: Hobby Japan
Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Time: 20-40 minutes
Times Played: 4 times with review copy provided by Hobby Japan, 5 plays with first edition (by 77spiele)

Rumble Nation was a highly anticipated SPIEL 2019 game for me; I had been introduced to the original release (then called Tenka Meidou) by James Nathan; but, of course, like all of the great JP games of his that I have played, it was essentially out-of-print and quite unavailable by the time that I learned about it!

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