Dale Yu: Review of The Legend of the Wendigo

 

The Legend of the Wendigo

  • Designer: Christian Lemay
  • Publisher: IELLO / Masked Scorpion
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by IELLO

The Legend of the Wendigo is a cute all vs one game from Masked Scorpion.  I’ve played a number of Christian Lemay’s games, and many of them are whimsical and fun for families.  This one is no exception.  As the story goes, there is a campout of Chipmunk Scouts and the dreaded Wendigo is attacking the camp, stealing a scout from the camp each night. OK, so most family games don’t revolve around the abduction of small kids – but hey – it’s a game! Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Gathering Memories: New Games

Well, another Gathering of Friends has come and gone and, as usual, I had an amazing time. Thanks so much to Alan Moon and all the other folks who do such a terrific job of providing good gaming and good fellowship for a week and a half.

This year, the focus seemed to be on medium weight and lighter games, particularly those that play very quickly. I was able to find some heavier games among the prototypes I played and some of those will be appearing later this year. I do tend to prefer more meaty games as a rule, but quite a few of the lighter games played very well and I had a good time exploring them.

Since I played over 50 different games while in Niagara Falls, I’m going to divide my report into three parts. This segment will discuss the new games (that is, those published during 2017) I got to play. I will talk about the older, new-to-me games and the prototypes I got to sample in my other two articles. But here are my impressions on the new titles I played, beginning with the designs I enjoyed the most. The number in parentheses is how many times I played the game during the week.

Valletta (2) – This is a fast playing deckbuilder by Stefan Dorra and Hans im Glück. Players begin with an 8 card deck, have a 5 card hand size, and play 3 cards each turn. Cards allow you to acquire or trade for resources, buy victory points, or build or upgrade buildings. The buildings are shown on tiles laid out in a public display and each can only be built once. There is an associated card on each tile and when the building is built, the building player puts the card in their hand. These cards are all more powerful than the starting cards. The buildings also have icons, which increase the yield of some of the cards. When one player builds their eighth building, each player shuffles their deck and plays until it is exhausted, with the most VP’s winning.

I struggle with most deckbuilding games, so this is the ideal level of complexity for me. The game plays very quickly and the publisher’s estimate of 20 minutes per player seems accurate. The quick turns are a good feature, but I also like the fact that there appears to be multiple ways of approaching things. In my first game, we didn’t do much deck-thinning, so I made a point of doing so early in my next contest. However, one of my opponents rushed the game end by building a bunch of inexpensive buildings. He didn’t win, but he showed it was a viable strategy; unfortunately, it hurt me, since my aggressive deck-thinning meant I had fewer cards to play after the ending was triggered. So there seems to be more to this than first meets the eye and it’s important to pay attention to your opponents’ plans. Very entertaining stuff, just as you’d expect from a pair of pros like Dorra and HiG.

Century: Spice Road (2) – This was one of the most played games at the Gathering and just about everyone I spoke to liked it. It has a bit of the feel of Splendor, but I thought it was considerably better than that title, since you’re building an engine. Turns go super-fast, but there’s still thought involved: first, in deciding what engine to build and when to stop building; and second, in properly executing that engine. It ain’t rocket science, but it’s still engaging, and far more interesting than I ever found Splendor to be. It’s also a gorgeous looking game.

I don’t know if this has a serious chance at an SdJ nomination (the timing may be wrong or the publisher too small), but it’s the kind of game I want to be nominated: very easy to teach, playable by families, but still of interest to more experienced gamers. My fear is that the current Jury will consider it too complex; hopefully, they will prove me wrong.

Bärenpark (1) – Phil Walker-Harding has certainly been moving up the publisher food chain. He began by self-publishing, then placed releases with Abacus (Cacao) and then Kosmos (Imhotep), which were, respectively, recommended and nominated by the SdJ jury. His latest design, Bärenpark, was picked up by Lookout, quite possibly because it features polyominoes, but also because it plays very well.

This is another title that’s super-fast and dead easy to teach. Each player begins with their own park area divided into 16 squares, in a 4×4 array. Some of the squares have symbols on them, which are associated with collections of differently shaped polyomino tiles (which are all bear-themed). Each player begins with one such tile in their supply. On their turn, the player places one of the tiles from their supply on their board; if any symbols are covered up, they get to take one tile from that group of polyominoes. One of the symbols allows the player to take another 4×4 park area, which they add to whichever side of their existing displays that they want. When someone completes four of their park areas, the game ends.

That’s the whole game. Some of the tiles have VPs on them; players also receive VPs for completing their park areas—the earlier, the better. In the “expert” variant, there are also some achievements that the players can reach, with more VPs for the players who manage those first. But even the expert game plays very quickly.

Despite the simple rules and fast play, this is quite engaging and requires some thought. Plus, the self-replicating tile concept is clever and a lot of fun. Like Century: Spice Road, I can see this being a big hit with mixed groups, or as an opening or ending game for experienced gamers. And, like C:SR, it’s the kind of game I’d like the SdJ jury to consider. Given how straightforward it is and Walker-Harding’s previous track record, I’d say it has more than a fighting chance.

Jump Drive (3) – Race for the Galaxy is a game I admire, but am not very good at. I struggle with the icons, as well as deducing what actions my opponents will want to take in anything close to real time. Consequently, I play this like a MPS, which obviously misses the point of the game. So if you think that a stripped down, fast-playing version of Race makes sense for me, you’d be right.

With only two types of cards (planets and developments) and a limited number of other icons, this is all about quickly building up your income, then finding a point-scoring combo and milking it for all it’s worth. It only takes one game to figure things out and then it’s off to the races (pun intended). It’s the cotton candy version of Race, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want. It should be perfect as a palate cleanser or while you’re waiting for the last player to arrive on game night. More good stuff from the very racy Mr. Lehmann.

Sagrada (2) – Sagrada must have been one of the most-played games of the week. This made me very happy, as it’s co-designed by one of my favorite Gathering buddies, Daryl Andrews. When I met Daryl a few years ago, he was trying hard to get one of his designs published. Now, he has not only arrived, but has a ton of games that will be published this year or in the near future. It’s nice when good things happen to good people and particularly when it’s someone who works as hard at his craft as Daryl does.

Sagrada is a dice drafting/placement game. Players draft differently colored dice to fill their displays. Points are scored for certain placements and achieving certain patterns. There are also ways of manipulating your dice. Finally, there are restrictions on which dice are placed where (for example, you can’t have dice with the same value or the same color be adjacent). It only takes about 45 minutes, has an attractive theme (stained glass windows), and the physical production from Floodgate Games is superb. It’s a solid game that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers and one I’d be happy to play anytime.

Yamataï (2) – This had to be the heaviest newly published game I played at the Gathering. Since it’s really only a moderately heavy middleweight (after all, it’s a Days of Wonder title), that neatly summarizes the lack of complexity in the new designs that were available for play. I played the prototype for this last year and really enjoyed it. For some reason, when I played the published version this year, it fell a little flat. Still enjoyable, but it didn’t wow me quite as much. It’s still an interesting game, albeit a bit abstract, and one I want to explore some more. Hopefully, this last play will prove to be an aberration and my future plays will reflect the enthusiasm I felt when I tried it for the first time.

Twenty One (1) – It’s funny how things change. 15 years ago, dice in games were scorned by most experienced gamers; today, we can’t seem to get enough of them. In response to that love, we’ve seen a ton of pure dice games pop up lately. This is one of the most recent, in which you have to fill in your sheet based on the values rolled (by you and your opponents) on the six differently colored dice. It’s pretty good, but I’d much rather play Qwinto; even the simpler Qwixx might be slightly preferable. Still, I’d be willing to give this another try, to see if there’s more here than I first observed.

Pyramid Poker (1) – I had heard some good things about this 2-player game, so I gave it a try. It’s played with tiles which show playing cards from an ordinary deck. First, the players build a pyramid from the tiles they draw, then they draft the tiles, one at a time, in order to form highly ranked poker hands. Unfortunately, I really didn’t care for it. The luck factor seemed quite high and coming up with decent poker hands was difficult, which made it feel pretty boring. It’s simple enough, so it might be a decent entry into boardgames for a pair of poker lovers, but there are much better 2-player games which are equally easy to teach. So I can’t really recommend it.

Those were the newly published games I got to try. Most of these titles are already available or will be available soon. The English language version of Valetta should arrive by July. The English version of Century: Spice Road should hit the shelves by mid-June. Bärenpark should be available by the end of June. And the Kickstarter copies of Sagrada have already been delivered; the retail version should be available soon.

In my next column, I’ll discuss the new-to-me games that I got to try during the Gathering. Highlights? Lots of stuff from Japan and yet more dice games!

Posted in Convention Report, Gathering of Friends, Preview | Leave a comment

Century: Spice Road (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
  • Publisher: Plan B Games
  • Players: 2 – 5
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 14

Century-Spice-Road.jpg

Century: Spice Road — a game designed by Emerson Matsuuchi and published by Plan B Games — will be released in the United States in June.  Plan B had a few copies flown into the Gathering of Friends, and the game was an immediate success, becoming one of the most-played games of the Gathering.  

This is the first game by Plan B Games, and they have subsequent titles in the “Century” series for 2018 and 2019.  Each game will be stand-alone, but they will also be “mixable.”  Each is set in a different century with a slightly different theme.  

So far Spice Road is my favorite game of 2017 (although we still have several months left), and I could see this being a hit of the summer. Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of Deckscape: Test Time (Spoiler Free)

 

Deckscape: Test Time

  • Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 1-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: ~1 hour
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by dv Giochi

The puzzle game genre has been rapidly growing over the last few years – there have been many entries in this field over that time period.  Many of the initial forays into the puzzle area have been big-box affairs, some with electronic solving devices – allowing for multiple expansions that use the same hardware.  The catch with most of these games are that they can really only be played once – because once you know the solution to the puzzle, you can’t really experience the solving of the same puzzle again…

The new movement in the genre looks to be in making the puzzle solving experiences more portable. There are at least two different series of games coming out that attempt to give you the same experience in a single deck of cards.  Deckscape from dv Giochi is the first such game to hit my table (the other is the Unlock! series coming soon from Asmodee). Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

Veggie Garden (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Kelly North Adams
  • Publisher: Quick Simple Fun Games
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 14 and Up
  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5 (On Review Copy from the Publisher)

VeggieGarden

Quick Simple Fun Games is a relatively new publisher, and a couple of their titles — particularly Hanamikoji — have really impressed me.  They specialize in games that “strive to be quick to setup, simple to learn, and provide a truly fun experience.”

So when I recently saw Veggie Garden and Moons on the BGG hotness list, they caught my attention.

My family and I played Veggie Garden several times over Easter weekend (as part of our tradition of playing games with rabbits), and we enjoyed our plays, so I wanted to do a quick review.   Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of NMBR9

 

NMBR9

  • Designer: Peter Wichmann
  • Publisher: Abacus Spiele
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Times played: 16, with review copy provided by Abacus Spiele

NMBR9 is the newest entry in one of my favorite genres – the simultaneous puzzle with identical pieces genre – which really needs a better name, maybe simultaneous solitaire?  The first game of this type that I came across was Take it Easy – but many others fall into the category including Cities, Kreuz & Quer, Traexx, Finito and others.  There is also a offshoot of this genre which use dice: Wuerfel Bingo, Mosaix, etc. Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | 3 Comments

Dale Yu: Review of Blindes Huhn Extrem (Blind Chicken Extreme)

 

Blindes Huhn Extrem

  • Designer: Michael Schacht
  • Publisher: Abacus Spiele
  • Players: 3-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~20 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Abacus Spiele

Blindes Huhn Extrem is a second generation game of the somewhat classic 1997 trick taker Blindes Huhn.  Germans apparently have a thing about games involving blind chickens – and there are actually multiple unrelated games with the same title.  However, as I mentioned earlier, this is a re-do of the card game by the same designer.

In this game, a deck of numbered cards (from 0 to 49) is dealt out to the players.  Ten of the cards have blind chickens on them, three of the cards have pigs on them and the 0 card has a sow on it.  Some of the cards also have a yellow “play facedown” icon on them.  Certain cards are removed based on the player count so that all players have the same number of cards in their starting hand. Continue reading

Posted in Reviews | 3 Comments

Kingdomino (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Bruno Cathala
  • Publisher: Blue Orange Games, Pegasus Spiele, Others
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 15-20 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 10

Kingdomino

I love family-weight strategy games, but so far, there haven’t been many that have stood out in 2016-2017.  Kingdomino is an exception: this is one of my favorite games of the past year, and if I were pressed to predict the Spiel des Jahres today, Kingdomino would be one of my leading choices.

Dale Yu offered first impressions of the game back in November, but more of us have had the chance to play since then, and the game was recently reprinted, so I wanted to do a re-review.  

As a good friend commented after our first play, “Kingdomino is like Lay’s Potato Chips.  Just as you can’t eat only one chip, you also can’t play Kingdomino only once.”   Continue reading

Posted in Essen 2016, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tery’s Experience at the Gathering (through Wednesday evening,anyway)

I arrived at the Gathering late Friday afternoon. Often, as Chris and Dale have already noted, time at the Gathering is spent playing upcoming releases and prototypes, but I have done very little of that this year; my focus has been on playing some longer games that I don’t get a chance to get to the table or that are newer to me.

I got my 4th and 5th plays in of Terraforming Mars, and I still really like it. I haven’t seen the imbalance that I’ve heard other people talk about; all scores have been within 10 points or so from leader to last place.  All of my games here have had at least one new player, so we’ve gone with the standard card deals; I am curious to try the drafting mechanism again (which I tried once pre-GoF), which I think I will prefer. I will also be curious to see how this plays with 2 or 3 players versus 5.

I’ve also played Viticulture twice; this is a game that I first played last year at the GoF and picked up almost immediately; it has only seen a couple of plays at home though, since there are always new and shiny games that our group wants to try. We played once with the base game and once with the Tuscany expansion. I really enjoyed both games and look forward to getting this out more often; there are a lot of interesting choices and paths in both games, although I might have a slight preference for Tuscany.

I also managed to get Ora & Labora to the table. This is an Uwe Rosenberg game that came out in 2012 and that I played a lot when it first came out; it has been gathering dust on a shelf since then. I brought it with me in my attempt to play all our games that haven’t been played in more than a year. I am glad to say it has held up well, and it was an interesting comparison to Uwe’s more recent games like Glass Road, Fields of Arle and A Feast for Odin.

Our most epic long games was yesterday- a 10 player, 2 board game of Eldritch Horror that we are calling “Eldritch Horror: Parallel Universes”. Each board had its own set of players/characters. We used one Mythos deck and one ancient one for both boards. Each group went through their own plans; once a player got devoured or lost in time and space they transported to the other, parallel board. It worked very well and was a good way to integrate everyone into one game.  It didn’t make things any easier, though, and our rolls were pretty pathetic. The doom track moved right along at an alarming rate and Yog Sotthoth eventually got the better of us.

Now it’s time for a walk around Goat Island before another full day of games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Chris’s Gathering: Wrap-up

GatheringPlayers.JPG

I have a work commitment on Wednesday, so I’m flying back home tonight, though the Gathering doesn’t end until Sunday.  I wanted to do one final post about the Gathering, a sort of conclusion, with thoughts on the coming year in gaming and my experience at the Gathering.

What are people playing?

Same answer as yesterday and the day before: Terraforming Mars, Century: Spice Road, NMBR 9, Sagrada, Yamatai, and Clank! all seemed to be very popular.  I’ve also observed a few groups playing Gloomhaven.  Plus, there were several popular prototypes.   Continue reading

Posted in Gathering of Friends | Tagged