Dale Yu: First Impressions #1 of 2012 Essen Games

OK, finally finding some time to start writing up games again – between work and spending a lot of time actually playing games, something had to lose out!  Until we’re ready for full reviews, I thought I’d write up small thoughts about the games I’ve played so far.  Please bear in mind that I’ve probably only played the game once, and as such, my final opinion has not yet been made.

Heck, I’m not even sure that I’ve managed to play the games with the correct rules!  (By my unofficial count, Luke has emailed me 4 times on the day after gaming to let me know that we’ve missed some sort of rule – but only one of them was a “gamechanging” misread of the rules… the other 3 were just niggly things).   If it helps, for the most part, someone has pre-read the rules to the games before we play, so I think that we have tried to make the process as ideal as possible.

OK, enough of the boring stuff – on to the first batch of games

QIN  (Reiner Knizia: R&R / Eggert)

Times played: 2

Interesting abstract typical of Herr Doctor Knizia.  You play a domino tile (red, yellow or blue) on each end – trying to make areas of a particular color. If you make a new area, you can mark it with one of your pagodas. If your area gets to size 5, then you can place a second pagoda on that area.  There aren’t a lot of choices to be made on your turn, you have only 3 tiles in your hand to choose from on your turn.  But, to be honest, it’s that sort of simplicity that creates the appeal of the Knizia abstract, isn’t it?  When playing with my kids, there is some L-R binding issues, because if one player continually leaves out an unmatched stub for the next player to easily make a new area, the game can be a bit lopsided.  I did not see this issue in the game I played with older gamers.  Also, the board is double sided, so there is a bit of variety in play offered there – so far, I’ve only played on the “easy” side.


Screen shot of game in progress from iOS version


Myrmes (Yoann Levet: Ystari / RGG)

Times Played: 2

Surprisingly complex game about managing an ant colony.  Thus far, this is vying for hit of the show for me.  I previewed the rules here if you want to refresh your memory on it…  The game involves a lot of advance planning because you have to figure out where you want your nurses to go in order to make the right sorts of ants for the exploring phase.  Then, you also have to plan your exploring phase so that you get the right sorts of cubes that you need for the atelier phase, and make sure that you have the right numbers of soldier ants to kill prey, etc.  In addition, you can’t do things too well, because there is a fairly tight limit on cubes at the end of a turn.  All of the planning needs to be done at the start of your turn though because it all cascades together.  And there’s always the chance that your opponent’s move can screw your plans, so you should be flexible enough in your planning to allow a backup move.  I love this sort of game, but I recognize that it’s not for everyone.  Though the themes are very different, the gameplay here has a very strong Age of Steam feel to it because I think the planning is the same – starting with deciding how many shares you need to make sure you have enough cash to build track, and then forseeing how many cubes you’re going to be able to pick up, etc.  The game appears to have several different viable strategies, and I also like that in these complex games.



Love Letter (Seiji Kanai / AEG)

Times Played: 2


So far, I have only played the AEG version of the game which is apparently slightly different than the Japanese version – which is coming to my game group in the mail, so we’ll soon have that to compare to!  This is a super small game of only 16 cards where you are trying to have the highest ranked card at the end of the hand.  You start with a hand of 1 card, and on your turn, you draw a card and then play one of the two that you have.  Each of the cards has a special ability on it that is put into effect when you play it.  There isn’t a ton of strategy to be had here, but there is enough bluffing, guessing, etc. to keep everyone interested!  And, each hand only takes 3-5 minutes, so there’s enough in the game for that span.  Two small niggling things – First, it is possible to be eliminated from a hand without even getting a chance to play, but in a 3-5 minute hand, that doesn’t bother me that much.  Second, the rules as printed have you play until one player has won 4 times.  We’ve found that to be a bit too long, but playing to 2 or 3 feels right.  This one is definitely a keeper for me, and the added bonus that it is super portable will get this one to the table over and over.

Example of one of the cards

Banana Matcho (Thilo Hutzler: ZOCH)

Times Played: 2

A cute monkey/banana themed push your luck dice game which includes a squeaky dog toy banana as a prop.  There are two sets of dice, one set of 6 fruit dice (6 different fruits) and one set of monkey dice (5 blank sides, 1 monkey side).  Active player rolls fruit dice trying to get scoring combo (3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, 5 of a kind, 6 of a kind, 3 pairs, rainbow, etc) while the monkey player tries to roll 3 monkeys.  At any point, active player can end turn by squeezing the banana and scoring whatever he’s got (between 2 and 12 points based on combo).  If monkey gets 3 monkeys, he squeezes banana and scores 1 point.  Dice rotate around table and this goes on until someone gets 30.  It’s a lot of fun and the race aspect is actually pretty exciting.  Lots of sweaty palms at the Banana matcho table…  Full game only takes 15-20 minutes, so it doesn’t outstay its welcome.  We had a small hiccup in one game due to over-exuberant banana smashing which then caused all the dice on the table to jump, but once we convinced the kids to pick up the banana to squeek it, that problem was fixed.  The downside is that only 2 players are actively doing something – there was a bit of downtime issue when playing with the full 6 players, though turns usually take less than 30 seconds, so it’s not a super huge issue.  However, when playing with 4, it worked out just fine.  A fun filler, and ties for the most amount of cheering and laughter at the table – tied with Love Letter.

I intend to write at least once or twice a week with a few more first impressions each time!  And I still need to finish my recap of the Essen Packing Experience (TM) this week too!


Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor




About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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7 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions #1 of 2012 Essen Games

  1. Cliff says:

    Skipped Myrmes at GLG cos I hadn’t heard Terra Mystika was being printed by Z-Man yet. But everytime someone says/writes about it, I get focused on it again. Missed Love Letter, too, but will catch BGG Zoom video. Tx!!

  2. jeffinberlin says:

    I agree that 4-5 cubes is way too long for Love Letter. 3 Cubes feels just right (especially when everyone has 2!).

  3. Lucas Hedgren says:

    FWIW, as a service to others, here are the rules we missed/got wrong:
    1. In Myrmes, in order to claim a level 2 objective, you must claim a level 1. Same thing with level 3 and level 2. We accidentally played that you could claim in any order.
    2. In Copycat, we accidentally played that a card could be “doubled” twice (for a total of 3x). In fact you may only “double” a card once. You can copy and double, but not 2x double.
    3. We also were cycling too many cards at turn end in Copycat. Figured it out mid-game, though.
    4. Some important pre-play errata for Ladies of Troyes is here. I had a funny feeling about this one: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/10428903#10428903

  4. Ben (chally) says:

    Thanks for the impressions, Dale. Myrmes has me very intrigued. It is one of the few games I could not get my hands on in the immediate aftermath of Essen. Your Age of Steam comparison is tantilizing. It will be among my very first plays at BGG.con, no doubt.

  5. Garry R says:

    Also really enjoyed my play of Myrmes as well at GLG. Alot of forward thinking required in that game, as well as resource management as you don’t get to carry many cubes (food, dirt, and stone) over from turn to turn. I’ll be picking it up when it makes it over here!

  6. Dale Yu says:

    Garry – missed being at GLG. Myrmes would have been the first game I would have recommended to you (having played it before). I’d also guess that Terra Mystica would be your speed, but I haven’t received mine in the mail yet – though the box should be arriving any day now!

  7. Garry says:


    We missed seeing you at GLG too. I also have TM on order…just waiting for the group order I’m a part of to make it stateside. Really enjoyed my play of it at GLG.

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