Liga: Essen First Impressions round 1

This are times of restless playing with huge piles of new games waiting to find their place on the tables. I got yesterday from my father in law a new table for my gaming room: an 120cmx120cm square table that can host almost everything.

Playing at home with my family, at school with kids and at Club TreEmme with old and fat gamers. Of course it is not easy, in these days, to have time to play a game more than once or twice but, of course, the better ones will find place also in the future. Here my list of first impressions. I’ll not go in the details of the games (that I think are already covered somewhere else) but focus on impressions. I also condensed my impressions in a “two cents” sentence. Here my first round of preview including 7 games.

Al Rashid
1 session with 5 gamers and an half session with 3 gamers

Really a gamers games. That means a lot of decision, a lot of things to manage, a well done structure and the right amount of details. It is an area control games with some nice new ideas.
In turn order players place their pawn (in 3 differents kinds and values) in city places and/or lands. Then, in turn order, the player decide which area resolve and, really important aspect, it not need to be an area with that player pawns. The city places will give you titles (abilities and points) and pawns (more actions and points). The lands will give you resources that are used to buy titles and pawns in city places. The order of resolution of the areas is really important and this is add a level of strategy/decision in the game considering that there are titles and a city place that allow player to move pawns from land to land : which area resolve first ?
The economic system is also great: you have no money but 5 different resource that are worth according to their variety, from 1 to 15 gold.
I’m not really impressed by the graphics and disappointed by some “artistic” decision like the font for the name of titles and lands the dimension of the writings on the titles cards. Really nice the pawns on the other side.
I like it. For sure a game will hit again my tables: a title for gamers and people looking for something to think a lot.

Proabaly you will like/love it if you are looking for a deep and challanging area control game and you will be able to go over some not well chosen art decision. You will not like it if you don’t like games where you can interact also in a distructive way with other players.

Card City
2 session: 1 with 2 players and 1 with 3 players

You are building a city in a 5×5 grid trying to get points building Residential districts as bigger as possible with a triangular score system (1,3,6,10,15 for a district with 1,2,3,4,5 cards).
Every turn each player get 2 building cards from a special draft mechanism than place it in his city. Finally it could be that the city evolve.
All the game is about how get the better buildings and how to build the city in the most efficient way. There are strict building rules that you have to follow: you can’t place two residentials adiacent not two commercials. You need to play 5 coins to place a Leasure and you need an industry every 5 buildings. Industries and residentials can’t be adiacent.
Every residential district adjacent to more leisure than his actual dimension will expand (take a residential card and place adjacent to one residential of the district). The same will happens with commercial district adjacent to residentials. Commercials are needed to get money that are needed to place leisure that are needed to make residential district grow that is the way to score points. But you need also industry to grow.
The game works, it is nice and easy. You get the feeling of a growing city and the draft system works fine. Actually I like it Card City.

I think you will like it if youy challanged by light games with also some “puzzle” elements and if you are not scared by games where errors in the beginning will make you almost out from the victory. Not the right game with people looking for thematic games.

more than 5 session with 2,3 and 4 players: i think I’ll go for a full review in the future

Probably the Essen game actually impressed me more. It is an area control game with some nice twist that really simulate the idea of the continuous loyal shifting of the courtiers. You have to take control of different courtiers to make approve petitions. There are 4 public petitions and every player has a secret one, so it is quite easy to look what your opponents are working for and there is a great fight. Courtiers are also grouped and have the control of a group (lik The Church or The Military) will grant some benefit. The turn sequence is easy: play a card (usually adding a cube on one of the courtier or moving cubes already placed), check if you fulfill the condition of some petitions and then refill your hands.
A great game than can be played easily in no more than an hour. I love it!

If you are looking for an area control game that implement well the idea of quickly shifting majorities this is your game. If you don’t like games where the satus of the map change easily between your turn and you need to adapt more than plan this is not for you.

Fairy Land
more than 5 session with 2,3 and 4 players: probably I’ll go for a full review soon

One of the greatest Essen hits for me in the light games category. Every player start with a deck of fairy cards numbered from 1 to 7. Every turn draw two cards from the wood deck and add one each to two of the three glades (piles). Than you have to decide if you want to take a card from the Queen deck, from the Druid deck or start a one round action for all the cards in a glade.
You pay everything with your fairy cards and you have to plan well how to use. Points are gained in the ends from flowers cards (according to the variety and also to the number of flowers of the same kind) and from each species of animals (being the one with most cards of that specie). Card from the Queen deck will give you special power during the game.
Simple rules, nice cards, important decisions and interaction between players. A great game that lie in the wide area between fillers and deep games. Actually one of my preferred Essen release. I Love it.

This is a perfect game if you look a not too long auction game with a nice scoring system and really few randomness getting better play after play. If you are not interested in light card games avoid it.

Jungle Brunch
more than 5 session with 2,3 and 5 players: probably I’ll go for a full review someday

Animals will fight each other in getting the better (most valued) food. Elephants, buffalos, monkey and warthogs will eat vegetables (bananas, nuts and herbs). In turn order each player will play two cards from the 6 in his/her hand: one face down and one face up. When all players have played the face down cards are revealed and animals are resolved from highest valued to lowest. Usually the sequence is Elephants. Tigers, Buffalos, Monkeys and Warthogs with some overlap between adjacent species. Tigers will eat buffalos or monkeys. Every player has his own deck of 22 cards and the game end after 9 rounds (so every player will end with 4 not played cards). The game is simple but really funny and also you need to use your deductions and bluff skills to win. Every round are drawn some vegetables cards and, of course, the type and value of the drawn cards will affect the decision since the animal eat different kind of food.
Snake, bat and vulture will add variety and strategic options. Of course it is a light game with some randomness but with enough decision to make it a nice filler. I Like it.

If you are not scared from randomness and you like games with also bluff and deduction play it. If you are looking for strategic card games and also something working well in 2 players go from something else.

Love Letter
endless session with 2,3 and 4 players

Actually my Essen top filler. Like the publisher says a game of risk, deduction and luck. All the players go through a 16 cards deck numbered from 1 to 8. Every turn you have a card, draw one and play one. Every card you play has a special power. The idea is to be the one with the highest card in hand at the end of the deck. Since the cards played are public and also the deck composition it is easy to have an idea of the cards still in play apart from a secret single one that is removed from the game.
The 8 different powers and how the combine is really great: on the single hand the effect of the luck is really high but to win a 4 players game you need to win 4 hands and you need also to play weel, bluff and deduct.
Probably a filler will find place in my games bag for a long time. I love it

If you look for a really light filler of risk, deduction and luck play it and play it and play it and … otherwise use the nice red bag from something else.

1 session with 3 players

It is a card game about building a town, actually Oddville. There are resources, building cards and coins. During your turn you have to build a building or select one of the four available worker cards in your hands and play it to carry out one of the three possible actions: get money, get resources or get building cards. You can take from 1 to 3 coins. You need money both to get resources and building cards. Get a resource means place a worker in the corresponding area on the resource board and pay from 0 to 2 coins. Building cards are taken from a row of 6 cards: the first are free and the last cost you coins. The worker cards played affect the number of coins you can get, the type of resources you can get and which building cards you can take for free.
Building cards are played on a common area (the town) following building rules. The building will give you points in the end and special bonus also activating bonus from neighbouring buildings. Finally, after the built, you will get the flavour of a guild member of the corresponding guild.
There are many interesting mechanic and the game flow easily. You have the idea of the growing town and also the different guild members add variety to the game with their powers. My first impression id of a nice but not impressive game. Well designed but not really too much intriguing for me. It looks like some guild power are better than others but, of course, it is just a first impression. I need for sure at least another play but at the moment it is for me in the “Neutral” score area

It is a game for people looking middle-weught games with some new mechanic and some interaction. If you think for a real strategic game it is not Oddville

More games on the next round. I still have an huge pile to digest and I’m also buying the missing ones!

good play and best wishes

About Andrea "Liga" Ligabue

Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is a game expert contributing to many games related international projects including Gamers Alliance Report, WIN, ILSA Magazine and Boardgamenews. Member of the International Gamers Awards Committee is coordinator of Play - The Games Festival and founder of the project Ludoteca Ideale.
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