Dale Yu: Review of Twice As Clever

  • Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
  • Publishers: Stronghold Games/Schmidt Spiele
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 30 min
  • Times Played: >15 with review copy provided by Stronghold Games

So, I have mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again — I’m a big fan of Wolfgang Warsch (the person), but I am pretty much bipolar on his games.  I’m not the biggest fan of partial communication, and some of his games (The Mind) have left me wanting…  But, like them or not, I think it would be hard to argue that there are many other designers that have produced such a wide array of games of different types/genres.  It seems like every month there is a new WW game on the market, and they tend to be completely different from all the others. 

Well, I’m sad to say that that streak is over.   Twice As Clever is the follow up to last year’s Kennerspiel des Jahres nominated That’s Pretty Clever – and it’s really quite similar to the original game.  Twice As Clever uses the same premise as Ganz, six dice, six different colors, six different scoring areas.  How you score points has changed dramatically though – many thanks to Brandon Kempf for this description. 

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Dale Yu: Review of Monster Lands

Monster Lands

  • Designers: Gorka Mata, Victor Fernandez, Sergi Sole, Daniel Schloesser
  • Publisher: Second Gate Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 90-150 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Second Gate Games

Monster Lands is one of the many dice placement games that I saw at SPIEL 2018.  I had set up a meeting with the publisher to look at the game at the show, and I’m happy to say that the booth was getting such a great response from the crowd that they were at risk of selling out of games… As such, I was set up with a review copy from their US distributor which came in the mail around the holidays.

In this game, players each lead their own clan of warriors trying to be the one which gets the most glory and Victory Points in order to become win the crown of the Lands of Discord.   Each of your clan members will be represented by one or more dice (red=strength, purple=magic, yellow=persuasion) – and these dice will be placed on different areas of the board to give you actions.

Continue reading
Posted in Essen 2018, Reviews | 5 Comments

ALTIPLANO: THE TRAVELER

Designer: Louis Malz, Stefan Malz, Reiner Stockhausen

Publisher: DLP Games

Players: 2-5

Ages: 12+

Time: 60–120 minutes

Times played: 3, with a copy I purchased

I picked up Altiplano at Essen 2017 and it was one of the first games I played when I got home. I liked it immediately, but felt like I had trouble getting it to the table. There were a lot of great games at Essen that year, and I think this one got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now that I’ve played it many times I think my rating borders on love, rather than just like.

I was happy to hear about the expansion, not because I thought the game needed any sort of improvement, but because I was looking forward to a new twist on a game I really enjoy. Sometimes expansions fix a problem with a game while others add absolutely nothing but chrome. I am happy to report that neither of these is the case here; the expansion adds a new dimension to an already-good game.

(If you haven’t played Altiplano or would like a refresher on the game, check out my previous review here.)

You set up Altiplano as normal, adding in one new house card, one new boat card and five new order cards.  If you are using the mission cards that came with the original game, add the new card to that deck as well.

There is an additional board– the trading point – that is put in the center of all the location boards. Players use a colored bit to mark a space as theirs, and the asset cards are placed on this board as well (more on those in a minute).  Players also take a traveler board and place it above their main player board. The traveler pawn is placed on the road location.

                                                                    

The expansion also adds thirty-seven event cards, of which you will use twenty-eight in any game. These cards are divided by letter and stacked near the board.  A new phase, phase 0, has been added. During this phase the start player reveals the top card of the event deck. If it has a lightning symbol the event happens immediately; otherwise it affects players for the entire round. The event cards are all positive and provide additional resources or options to do things that are beneficial.

                                           

Phase 1 is still the normal drawing phase and nothing about it is different.

Phase 2 is still the normal placement phase, but you now have the 2 additional spots on your traveler board where you can place goods.

Phase 3 is still the action phase, but now you have additional actions you can take. In order to take these new Traveler actions you must be on the same space as the traveler pawn, which moves from one location to another at the start of the round.

  •  You can remove one or more goods you placed on your traveler spaces to purchase one or more opals (one opal per good).
  • You can buy a good by paying the listed number of opals to take any good from another player’s trading space or the neutral trading space (which gets seeded by event cards); the opals are returned to the general supply.
  • You can also buy an asset card. There are 2 asset decks, Stage 1 and Stage 2. Stage 1 is available from the start of the game, while Stage 2 comes into play via an event card about halfway through the game. Asset cards have a cost printed in the upper right corner; Stage 1 cards cost any one basic good, while Stage 2 costs one of a higher-level good. Asset cards provide either a continuous benefit, which the player can use immediately, or provide a traveler action, for which you must place goods on the card during Phase 2. Like the house, canoe and order cards the deck is face up and players can choose the card they want from the entire deck.

Phase 4 is still the cleanup phase, and the only thing that changes is that you move the traveler pawn to the next clockwise location that is unoccupied.

End of the game scoring is the same with the addition of one point for every two opals left in your supply.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME

I really like the expansion. I like the base game and am still happy to play just that, but I feel like the expansion adds dimensions to the game, particularly for experienced players. The expansion may shorten the game a bit, but it’s a minor amount and isn’t a concern, especially since it makes the game even more enjoyable.

Each component of the expansion is optional, so you can choose to play with all, none or some. I’ve only played with all and I have to say that I like them all.

I was most nervous about the event cards, since I wasn’t sure adding a random element to the game was a good idea, but they are all well-balanced, well-timed and positive; they provide a way to get a good or take an action that otherwise might be fairly hard or give you a nice bonus of something you can use right away. However, since many of them are different every game you can’t count on them or the order they will appear in. They also help seed the traveler space on the trading point, so that there is always a supply of goods to choose from.

The traveler actions are great. Depending on the start role you are dealt there will always be a particular good or set of goods that will be harder for you to get, and this helps immensely as you have a way to buy it rather than earn it, try to buy a tile or try to get the single canoe card to get one. Players are incentivized to put things in their markets, since it helps them trim down what is in their bag.  For example, stage 1 asset cards let you spend any one resource – including food- to obtain them. That food is now on the market space and not clogging up your bag. In addition, some of the event cards add resources to the trading point.

The asset cards can be really helpful and give you a sort of superpower – my favorite so far it the one that lets you move your pawn to another location when you pass at the end of a round – or give you another option for actions, much like a tile that you would purchase.

You do have to be on the same location as the Traveler pawn to use the traveler actions, but that isn’t so hard to do; you know where the pawn is at the start of the round before you place your goods, so you can plan accordingly.

The expansion doesn’t add player interaction. You don’t interact with other players at the market; you’re just taking what they left there with no trade or discussion. I don’t have a problem with this, since I enjoy a good multiplayer solitaire game, but if you don’t like this style of game this expansion will not solve this issue for you.

The components are of the same quality and the artwork matches well with the original game. The new start player marker isn’t nearly as impressive, but it is easier to pass around.

It comes in a box that is the same size as the original box, but not as deep. Others tell me they can fit the expansion in the original box with no help, but I could not make that work no matter how much reorganizing I did, and I didn’t want people at events I bring the game to trying to make it fit.  In the end I bought a game organizer that incorporates the expansion and makes it easier to set up the game, since it divides the bits up by number of players. It also just fits everything into the original box, but just barely.

THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it! Tery

I like it.

Neutral.

Not for me…

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Dale Yu: First Impression of Embark

Embark

  • Designer: Philip duBarry
  • Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Tasty Minstrel Games

I have always been interested in Philip duBarry’s games – I think that he has an interesting way of looking at game mechanisms, and I’ve been lucky enough to playtest some of his works in progress as he is relatively local to me here in Ohio.  I had not heard about this one prior to the email I received from TMG, but I was all for a new worker placement/area control game – advertised to come in a small package as well!

Continue reading
Posted in First Impressions | 1 Comment

Congratulations to the 2019 Spiel des Jahres nominees!

The Spiel des Jahres jury announced their nominees and recommendations this morning. Congratulations to the nominees!

We’ve listed them below, but we’ve only put in the names of the German publishers. Links are to our past reviews.

Continue reading
Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Silver & Gold (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Artist: Oliver Feudenreich
  • Publisher: Nurnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5

“I bet you thought I was going to sing that Burl Ives Christmas song, didn’t ya? Well, you were right!”  

          -John 5/4/19

Phil Walker-Harding has to quietly be one of the most prolific and successful designers of board games working today. From Archaeology The Card Game to Barenpark he has been designing and releasing some of the most terrifically designed games around. Always streamlined to a perfect point and adding just enough decision making choices to appeal to the gamer in all of us. His newest offering, Silver & Gold, is no different, and this time we see him dipping into the “Flip & Fill” portion of the “Roll & Write” design market.

In Silver & Gold players have map cards in front of them and these maps represent the islands that you are exploring. On the island are various things, coins, palm trees and X’s. You are going to try to complete as many maps as possible, to score the most points in order to win the game.

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Game Market Anticipation Post (ゲームマーケット2019春プレビュー)

I’m not attending Tokyo Game Market and never have, but wanted to highlight some titles that are being released and other things about the convention. Some of these will be ones I have my eye on acquiring, and others will be just be things I’m happy to see existing. I started this post a month or so ago and things have been changing almost daily as news and updates either appear or fail to appear. This is the latest information I have today.

HYAKKATEN
Designer: 奥空 武志
Publisher: NSGクリエイト
Booth: I02
Exhibit Day(s): Saturday and Sunday
English Rules Included: Yes (expected 5/22)

I’ve been seeing tweets about Hyakkaten in my feed for awhile and am glad to see it finally being released. The colors and escalators are quite visually engaging. Players are running a department store business (competitively), including advertising and creating the arrangement of the departments.

ゴシップアンドザシティ (Gossip and the City)
Designer: シマムラロックボーイ
Publisher: ハレルヤロックボーイ
Booth: M20
Exhibit Day(s): Saturday
English Rules Included: No

A card game about exposing or catch-and-killing celebrity gossip stories. You can’t see it in the preview above, but each suit has a shadow of the celebrity which shows what they’ve been up to. From a rough translation of the game’s description, it has aspects of Arboretum (where you want to collect certain cards of a color, but the rank of other cards you hold of that color will factor into your scoring) and one of those games with end game dq-conditions (e.g. the player who did the most of something won’t get to score). Also a little Ponzi Scheme/QE where there are secret trades/offers and not everyone will end up with the same information.

The overwhelming majority of titles that will be released can be pre-ordered, but Gossip and the City is one of the few I’ve seen where the pre-orders were closed several weeks early as all copies were reserved. I hope I got in on time.

Continue reading
Posted in Convention Report, Preview | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

chu’ Quj chenmoH Decrypto

toH, isn’t Dochmey motlh mo’ normally tera’ Hol versions Quj reviews neH wIlo’bogh ‘ach je beQDaq case lurIHbogh chenmoH maH. wa’vatlh legh Gathering jup wepDaj ‘op ‘Itlh copies upcoming expansion nob mI’ writers decrypto.

‘ach ghov tlhInganpu’ behavior vaQ, veS rur ghaj. Hembogh DujDaj define characteristic. bladed nuH jI’ovlaHbe’ ‘ej culture lo’laHghach bISuvtaHvIS Hembogh DujDaj raghpu’bogh Hoch latlh pong Hach chaH. chaH greet ‘ej vabDot mate Hoch umqu’ ghot violence ‘ej brutality.

Continue reading
Posted in Preview | 5 Comments

The Opinionated Gamers (Try To) Predict the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres – 2019 Edition

For the past few years, our group of gamers has taken their best guess at trying to read the minds of the Spiel des Jahres jury members.  The nominations for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced Monday, and the award winners will be revealed this summer.  

As has become our habit, we will do this in two parts.  This first survey is done prior to the actual release of the lists, when just about any game was open for consideration.  Once the lists are out, we will then do a second round of voting, limited only to the actual nominees.

The usual caveats still apply.  It’s hard for us to know which late releases in 2019 make the cut for eligibility.  Also, as we only have two or three active OG writers in Germany, there are probably a few games that are big over there that we simply don’t know about as there is no English version.  We did not really generate a list of games and have people pick from it; OG writers were just told to vote for five games.

This year, we used a similar system to what we’ve used the past two years.  Each OG writer was invited to rank up to five games that they feel will win the SdJ and KdJ, with the most likely game receiving 5 points, the next likely 4 points, and so on.  Totals are below.

If you’d like to see the official information on and criteria for the award, please check out the Jury’s website.

Continue reading
Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dale Yu – Review of T.I.M.E Stories: Madame

T.I.M.E Stories: Madame

  • Designers: Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: suggested 90 minutes
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA

T.I.M.E Stories: Madame is the ninth expansion to the T.I.M.E Stories franchise.  Though some of the more recent expansions have had a lukewarm response in these parts; I was quite excited to play this particular scenario after reading this in an interview written by fellow OG’er, W Eric Martin: “ T.I.M.E Stories: Madame, due out in Q1 2019, is the final title in the “white cycle” of T.I.M.E Stories, and it brings the current overarching storyline to a resolution of sorts.”  https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/86202/space-cowboys-resets-time-stories-revives-jaipur-r

Continue reading
Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments