Dale Yu: First Impressions of Touria

 

Touria

  • Designers: Inka Brand, Markus Brand, Michael Rieneck
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~45 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by R&R Games

touria

Touria is the land of the dancing towers, or so the rules tell me.  In this kingdom, there are four towers, one in each corner of the board – I mean, kingdom…  These towers are cleverly constructed so that they rotate around their base, and this is the magic behind Touria.  The game itself is really a big boardgame version of the Bachelor/Bachelorette.  As the story goes, the king’s son and daughter are both of marrying age, and they are looking for the first adventurer to come to the castle with enough gems and jewelry and whatnot to be their spouse. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: First Impressions of Mondrian the Dice Game

 

Mondrian the Dice Game

  • Designers: Israel Cenderero and Sheila Santos
  • Publisher: Tranjis Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times Played: 2, with review copy provided by Tranjis Games

mondrian

I have always liked the clean blocky simplicity of Piet Mondrian’s artwork, and I was naturally drawn to a game with his name in the title.  I had seen some pre-show pictures of the game, and at least from afar, the game looked like it had you creating the distinctive color block patterns with cards…  Which was a little weird, because it was sold as a dice game!

At the show, I was given a nice demo of the game at the stand – and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is actually a dexterity game!  There is a grid of cards laid out on the table – in our 4 player game, this was a 6×6 grid.  The cards are placed face up so that you can see the color grid and point value on them. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: Review of Glux

 

Glux

  • Designer: Jakob Andrusch
  • Publisher: Queen Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 3

glux

Glux is a nice light abstract game from Queen.  I honestly didn’t know much about this game prior to the show as Queen is usually pretty close to the vest with information about their games until the actual release date.  I did manage to take in a quick demo at one of the Queen booths at the show.

The board is a simple affair with a grid superimposed over a dark blue background interspersed with light blue “rooms”.  In a four player game, each player starts out with a start marker in a room in a corner of the board.  Each player has a cloth bag filled with 24 chips (marked either 6/1, 5/2, or 4/3 on the two sides).  The chips are shuffled in the bag and one is drawn at random by each player.  Simultaneously, each player decides which side of their drawn chip they want face up on their start token; all the initial chips are placed on their respective start chip.  Then, each player draws another chip and then keeps it secret in his hand. Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | 1 Comment

Colony (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Ted Alspach, Toryo Hojo, Yoshihisa Nakatsu
  • Publisher: Bézier Games
  • Artists: Ollin Timm, Stephanie Gustafsson, Digital Imaginary Studios
  • Players: 1 – 4
  • Ages: 13 and Up
  • Time: 45-60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5 (With 2, 3, and 4 Players)

Colony.png

Bézier Games’s latest title, Colony, was demoed at Gen Con and then released at Essen, generating considerable buzz at both conventions. Colony was one of the highlights of Essen for me, and I’ve greatly enjoyed my plays since, so I wanted to do a full review.

In Colony, players construct and upgrade buildings, and those buildings help with future production, resource manipulation, and victory points. There’s a strong element of engine building, and a variable setup, so Colony feels a bit like Dominion meets Catan or Machi Koro. The resources in Colony are dice, but to reduce the luck factor, the game game features dice drafting.

Colony is Ted Alspach’s reimplementation of Age of Craft, a Japanese design by Toryo Hojo and Yoshihisa Nakatsu. Ted did a designer diary for Colony at BGG, and I highly recommend it if you’re into the history of games or how they’re developed.

As described below, setup is variable. There’s a free iOS or Android setup app for download to help in that process. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Chariot Race

 

Chariot Race

  • Designer: Matt Leacock
  • Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-40 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Pegasus Spiele

chariot

OK, so being the awesome boardgame journalist that I am, I actually had heard absolutely nothing about Chariot Race until I saw it on the Pegasus table at the Wednesday Press Event at the SPIEL fair this year. Sure, there are over 1,200 new games at the show, and it’s hard to know something about each of them – but man, this is from a well known designer with a track record of great games from a mainstream publisher. In any event, there was a good amount of buzz around the game, and when I had the opportunity to learn more about it, it wasn’t long before I had placed a request for a review copy as I was really excited to give it a try!

In this game, players are chariot drivers, trying to win a two lap race around the track. Each player chooses a color and gets a matching player board. Paper clips are used to denote the starting values in Damage (12), Speed (4) and Fate (3). Starting order is randomly decided and the chariots are placed in the starting positions on the track. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Lorenzo il Magnifico

 

Lorenzo il Magnifico

  • Designers: Virginio Gigli and Flaminia Brasini with Simone Luciani
  • Publisher: Cranio Creations
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 60-120 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Cranio Creations

lorenzo

Lorenzo il Magnifico was a well known moniker for Lorenzo de’ Medici, nominally the leader of the Florentine Republic in the fifteenth century. In this game, players are city leaders in this medieval city and trying to be the most prestigious citizen (by being the one with the most victory points, of course!).

The board depicts the city (sort of). At the bottom, there is a courtyard and an orange-tiled church which looks enough like the Basilica di San Lorenzo. There are three spaces there for excommunication penalty chips – one is randomly placed on each space. The Faith track is found directly beneath the dome. Above the dome, there are 4 towers – which look like a Campanile tower – though there is only one of these towers in Florence, not 4! Each of the four levels on this tower has a place for a card – and a place for a worker next to it. There is a deck of cards for each of the towers, and the decks are set up for play in three separate eras.

lorenzo-board

Each player has a set of four pawns: one each with a white die, orange die and black die on top of it, and a neutral colored pawn with their player color on top. Each player also gets a personal board with areas to store resources and cards on it. There is a bonus tile which is placed into the notch on the left side of the board. Markers are placed on the scoring track, the faith point track and the military point track. Each player receives starting goods, coins and servants.

The game is played over 6 rounds – 2 rounds in each of three Eras. At the start of each round, each of the towers has four new development cards dealt into it. The start player rolls the three dice and places them on the board – the numbers on these three dice set the value of all players’ pawns with matching color. Players then take turns placing one of their pawns on an available action spot.

Each of the spaces on the board has a die icon in it showing the minimum value worker that can be placed there to take the action. Remember, that the base value of each pawn has been set by the die roll – and the neutral colored pawn always starts at zero. You can discard a purple servant meeple to increase the value of your pawn by 1 for each servant discarded. Most of the spaces on the board only have room for one pawn, but there are three places which are unlimited in capacity.

In the four towers – cards are placed in each of the four slots. From bottom to top, the minimum value needed is: 1, 3, 5 and 7. If the space is available, and you have a pawn of appropriate value, you can place your pawn there, pay the cost for the card (found in the upper left corner) and then take the card. If you play at a 5 or 7 spot, you also get an extra benefit – which you gain before you pay for the card in the space. You should also note that there is an extra fee of three coins to pay to the bank if there is already any player pawn in that tower. Finally, there is a restriction of only one colored player pawn per player in any particular tower. A player is able to take two cards in a tower, but they must use their neutral colored pawn in addition to one of their colored pawns.

lorenzo-player-board

Depending on the color card, you will place it in a specific area on or next to your player board. Many of the cards have an immediate benefit – found in the center of the card next to a lightning bolt icon. All of the cards have a permanent effect seen in the bottom section of the card. You are limited to having six cards of any particular type. The four types of cards:

Green (Territories) – these cards actually have no cost. However, you must have enough military strength at the time of acquisition for each card. You can take the first two green cards without issue, but then you must meet a minimum value for all others – you can see the requirement on the space on your player board for the card. These cards generally have a Harvest permanent action – the die in the bottom left corner tells you when the action is activated during a Harvest action. More on this later. If you look at the player board, you can also see how you will score victory points based on the number of territory cards you are able to accumulate during the course of the game.

Yellow (Buildings) – these cards are bought with resources (wood, stone and/or coins). If you cannot pay the cost, you may not take the action next to that card. In general, these cards provide Production actions. The die next to the production gear will tell you how this will be activated when you take a Production action – more on this later as well.

Blue (Characters) – these cards are bought with coins. If you cannot pay the cost, you cannot acquire the card nor can you take the action space next to it. Most of these cards give you permanent effects that are always in play and you can use their effects at the suitable time. You will also score victory points arithmetically based on how many blue cards you have.

Purple (Ventures) – these cards are paid for with resources or sometimes with military points. These cards generally award victory points at the end of the game.

lorenzo-cards

In the center of the board, just to the right of the cathedral dome, you will find the Council Palace. Any number of pawns can be here with a minimum value of 1 – and multiple colored pawns per player can even go here. For each pawn placed here, you get one gold coin and then your choice on 1 Privilege (wood+stone / 2 servants / 2 coins / 1 Faith point / 2 Military points). Keep the pawns played here in left to right order – the order in which pawns are placed here will be used to determine player order for the next round.

Aside from the tower and council spaces, there are also a few action spaces near the bottom of the board. In the bottom left corner, there are areas for Harvest and Production actions. For each of these, there is a single spot with an action value minimum of 1. Next to these are larger areas which have no capacity limit though there is a “-3” value icon there – so you have to place at least a “4” here in order to meet the minimum needed value of “1” after you apply the minus 3. Also note that each player may only have one colored pawn in each general type of area (Harvest or Production).

When you place a pawn in a Harvest action spot, the value of the pawn becomes the value of the Harvest action. This can be modified up with Servants and it is modified down by 3 if you’re in the large spot. You then look at your player board at the harvest row. You automatically get the Harvest action printed on your bonus tile – as it triggers on a “1” and you have to have at least a “1” to take the action. Then, you go left to right across your row of green cards, and you then activate any card whose activation number is at or below the Harvest action value.

If you place a pawn in a Production action spot, the value of the pawn becomes the value of the Production action. This can be modified up with Servants and it is modified down by 3 if you’re in the large spot. You then look at your player board at the production row. You automatically get the Production action printed on your bonus tile – as it triggers on a “1” and you have to have at least a “1” to take the action. Then, you go left to right across your row of yellow cards, and you then activate any card whose activation number is at or below the Production action value. Some of the Production actions require you to trade in certain resources to get other things out of the card. All of these needed resources must be in your supply at the start of the Production action. You cannot use things gained from part of your Production cards in later cards of the same turn.

In the bottom right corner, you’ll find the Market – there are four spaces here which could give you: 5 coins, 5 servants, 3 Military points and 2 coins or 2 Privileges (you must choose two different Privileges). Each of these spaces has a minimum value of 1.

Each round ends when all players have played all their pawns. Depending on the dice rolls (and possible excommunication penalties), it might be possible that a player cannot place a pawn because they cannot meet the minimum requirements of any action space. In this case, the player simply passes their turn and does not place their pawn anywhere.

If you are in an odd-numbered round, you simply set the board up for the next round. First, determine turn order for next turn by using the order of pawns placed in the Council area. Players that did not place a pawn in the Council area move to the bottom of the line and keep their relative turn order with all other players who did not place a pawn there. Discard all unchosen cards from the towers and then deal out four new cards for each tower from the top of each deck. All players take back their pawns for the next round.

If you are in an even-numbered round, you must first support the Church prior to resetting the board. This is where the Faith track comes into play. There are three tiles in play (for use at the end of rounds 2, 4, and 6 from left to right). If you have a minimum number of Faith points (that is enough to be at least underneath the excommunication tile), you can choose to support the Church. If you do so, you lose all your Faith points and you can VPs equal to that printed just over whatever space on the track that you vacated. If you do not have enough Faith OR if you choose not to support the Church – your Faith marker remains where it is, you do not receive any VPs – and you must place your colored cube on the excommunication tile. There is a penalty on each tile, and if your cube is on the tile, you suffer the permanent effects of the tile for the remainder of the game. The first two tiles (rounds 2 and 4) tend to have penalties that affect your ability to take actions while the third tile (round 6) tends to affect the end game scoring.

Again, the game ends at the end of the sixth round – after the chance to support the Church. You now get end-game bonus points for your green cards (based on where you are on the track), your blue cards (based on how many you have) and your purple cards (based on what is printed on each card). If you did not support the Church in the final round, you still score the VPs for your final resting spot on that chart as well. You also look at your military strength – they player with the highest total at the end of the game gets 5VP, second place gets 2VP. Finally, you score 1 VP for each 5 resources you have left at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins. Tiebreaker goes to the player earlier in turn order as determined by the Council in the final round.

My thoughts on the game

Lorenzo il Magnifico is quite a complex game – our games have been clocking in close to the two-hour mark thus far; and I don’t say that in a pejorative sense – I just say that as a reflection of how long it takes to determine what you want to do in the game.

You only have 24 actions in the game – 4 pawns in each round – and like many games with a finite set of actions, I very much like engaging in this struggle for action efficiency. It’s impossible to take 24 cards as you will surely need to take a few actions to get more coins, servants or resources. Also, in order to take advantage of your acquired cards, you’ll need to take a few Harvest and Production actions as well. And, of course, you can’t ignore player order completely if you want to have better choice at actions in the next round.

You should also look closely at the excommunication penalties in each game. There are 7 different tiles for each era, so the combination of penalties will always be different. It’s not easy to get to the goal of Faith points in each Era – so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons from the very first turn. Some of the first Era penalties are not huge, but the fact that they will affect you for the final FOUR rounds of the game means that you can’t simply ignore them. In our games, the third round tile has been the one which can sometimes be overlooked as you could choose from the start not to focus on whatever endgame scoring bonus is being penalized.

As you can imagine, you have a multitude of options at the beginning of each round, and it admittedly takes a bit of time to look through them all and determine which actions are more valuable to you, and what you want to do. And then, during the round, due to the fact that most action spots only have space for one pawn, you may have to re-analyze your plan and tactics based on the actions left available to you at that time.

The cards in the towers come up in random order, and there is no guarantee that the cards at the top of the tower (in the 7 spot) are any better than those in the lowest 1 spot. Because of this, I find that player order is supremely important so that you have the best chance of getting the card that you want. However, it is somewhat counterproductive if you are spending one of your four actions each turn only to guarantee order in the next round. So, this is another difficult decision that you have to make in the course of a round.

There are rules for an advanced game which uses an extra deck of Leader cards. Each player drafts a hand of 4 leader cards and they can be played if you have the appropriate pre-requisites. The Leader cards have differing abilities. You can also discard a Leader card from your hand at any time to take a free Privilege. I’ve played it this way once, and to be honest with you, I really find this addition a step backwards for the game.

lorenzo-leaders

The issue for me is that the advanced cards make the game less interesting as well as asymmetric, which is a trait I prefer not to have in my eurogames. The four cards in your hand have absolutely no downside; there is no penalty for not playing them. Each of them can give you a super ability if you are able to play them to the table, and some of the powers can definitely alter how you play the game (i.e. don’t have to pay the fee for playing in an occupied tower, you can place your pawn on an already occupied single space, you get +2 to all three dice, etc). At worst, you can discard each one for a free privilege.

What makes this game so good is that you have a fixed number of turns, exactly 24, to get your stuff done. You will spend some of them getting cards, but there is also the logistical challenge of figuring out how/when to use actions to get resources or perhaps change turn order to improve your position. It’s a tight balance in the base game. With the cards, you get at a minimum 4 free privileges – which is at worst 2 free actions (though actually slightly more because unlike the 2 free action space on the board, you can take the same privilege twice in a row AND you don’t need to be the first one to the action location on the board). I’ll be glad to have an extension in the box for variety – but for now, I’ve not even felt it necessary to have it as the basic game is better IMHO.

Cranio seems to be making the sort of Euro games that are in my wheelhouse. Last year, I was a big fan of Council of Four, and this year, Lorenzo il Magnifico looks to be another hit for me.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Lorna: We didn’t play with the leaders either. I enjoyed the game, you always want to do more on your turn and trying to develop some kind of engine with minimal actions is very challenging. I like the many options and the tactical play.

Dan Blum (1 play): We played with the leaders and I thought it was fine that way, although I would be willing to play without them. Since they are drafted it is unlikely anyone will end up with a killer set, and if you’re not willing to take the time to draft, don’t play with them (in this respect they are similar to the staff cards in Grand Austria Hotel, designed by two of the designers of this game). The other caveat is to not focus too hard on the requirements for your cards; if it would distort your play too much to meet a requirement, just discard that card for a privilege.

Overall I liked the game and would definitely like to play more, although I don’t like it as much as Grand Austria Hotel. However, the games don’t actually have that much in common; while they both use dice for actions in interesting ways, they do so very differently (ditto for The Voyages of Marco Polo, which also shares designers with this game).

Larry (1 play):  I’ve played this once, with the Leaders.  I struggled quite a bit during the first half of the game, which was a bit frustrating.  It really felt hard to get things accomplished early on, since doing things can be so expensive.  I got more into the swing of things as time went on and started enjoying myself, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from finishing last.  The difference was the small number of VPs I scored during the game, as opposed to endgame points.  It seems that coming up with a VP engine for either the Harvest or Production actions is really helpful.

I have a few issues with the physical production of the game.  My biggest complaint is with the small text on the cards; several times, I had to stand up and lean over the board just to be able to read what the options were.  These could have easily been made clearer.  They were also kind of stingy with the number of wood and stone pieces provided; a few more single unit pieces would have definitely made things go more smoothly.

Overall, I liked this and am looking forward to playing it some more, hopefully with better results from my lessons learned.  It has a similar feel to Grand Austria Hotel, in which the key is utilizing the actions on the cards you place.  My first play of GAH left me in a fog, but it’s now one of my favorites, so I’m hoping for similar results with Lorenzo.  We liked the Leaders–they’re uber-powerful, but hard to get into play–and I’m sure we’ll continue using them.  Our 4-player game took us 2 hours, which is very acceptable for a game of this complexity.

Craig Massey (1 Play): My first play was with the leaders. Like Larry, I struggled in the first half of the game not seeing how everything was going to fit together and allow me to be competitive. After turn three, things clicked and I started to see how to get everything to work. Like most similar games, you need to focus on a one or two key things and not get distracted by the large number of options available. If you don’t, you end with a “jack-of-all-trades and master of none” type of score which is good enough for last place. I’m looking forward to my next play and see if the lessons I learned translate into a least a competitive performance. That is always a good sign for a game.

Doug Garrett (2 plays): Shelley and I really liked this game.  We played with the leaders, as we found that they gave each player a focused objective to script some of what they attempted to achieve.  We reviewed it on Episode 542 and look forward to playing it again.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Doug G.
  • I like it. Dale Y, Lorna, Dan Blum, Larry, Craig M.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…
Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of Dream Home

 

Dream Home

  • Designer: Klemens Kalicki
  • Publisher: Rebel.PL / Asmodee
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 7+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by publisher

dream-home-box

Dream Home is game about building your dream house, or at least building a dreamier house than all of your competitors.  In this game, each player gets a home board which has twelve room spaces in it – 2 upper floors of 5 rooms each and a two room basement.  There are two decks of cards in the game, one for rooms and one for resources.  In most rounds, players will get a pair of cards (one room and one resource) to use in building the home of their dreams. Continue reading

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A Feast for Odin (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher:  Feuerland Spiele, Z-Man Games
  • Artist: Dennis Lohausen
  • Players:  1 – 4
  • Ages:  14 and Up
  • Time:  30 Minutes Per Player
  • Times Played: 5 (With 1, 2, and 3 Players)

AFeastforOdin.png

Uwe Rosenberg’s latest design, A Feast for Odin, was a big hit in Essen.  The publisher describes it as “a saga in the form of a board game,” one in which players “raid and explore new territories” and experience the “day-to-day activities” of the Vikings.

Like many of Rosenberg’s bigger releases — Agricola, Caverna, Fields of Arle — his latest title is, at its core, a worker placement game.  But A Feast for Odin also has some of the resource conversion of Le Havre and the polyominoes of Patchwork or Cottage Garden.  In short, this feels like a mashup of several of Rosenberg’s popular designs, and if you’re a fan of his, I suspect you’ll enjoy A Feast for Odin.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Honshu

 

Honshu

  • Designer: Kalle Malmioja
  • Publisher: Lautapelit.fi
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Lautapelit.fi

honshu

I was immediately interested in Honshu after reading a short paragraph long description from the publisher – after all, I don’t think that I’ve ever played a trick-taking/tile laying game before…  I was already scheduled for a meeting with the nice folks at Lautapelit during Essen, and after getting the full demo, this was on my really-have-to-play-at-the-first-opportunity list.

The game itself is composed mainly of a deck of 60 cards and a handful of wooden tokens.  The game is split up into 12 rounds – each with a trick taking phase and then followed by a “tile laying” (or more specifically, a card laying) phase. Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Bohemian Villages

Bohemian Villages

  • Designer: Reiner Stockhausen
  • Publisher: dlp games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by dlp games

bohemian

Bohemian Villages wasn’t really on my list of games for Essen until about three days prior to the show.  This was mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t had much information to go on until that time.  I knew that it was from dlp games, and that is a publisher which usually makes games that interest me – but a publisher which also historically has been hit-or-miss for me.  However, since Orleans, I have definitely made it a point to always see what sort of game Herr Stockhausen has to offer!  Furthermore, I’m a big fan of the game’s artists, Klemens Franz and Andrea Kattnig.

Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, First Impressions