First Impressions from Essen
We’ve decided that we’re going to hold off on writing our group reviews until around Thanksgiving – in order to give as many of our writers a chance to play the games at the fall conventions (Great Lakes Games, Sasquatch, BGG.con, EuroQuest, Basement Con, Lobster Trap, etc) and allow for as many comments as possible on the new games.
In the meantime, I thought I would write up some quick mini-capsule reviews of some of the new games that I’ve played. Most of the games have only been played once, so clearly my opinions are still forming on the games – but I know that many people are trying to figure out which games they want to buy/try first, and to that end, any opinions will be helpful. These thoughts will eventually be edited/incorporated into the full review that will come in the next few months, but I will try to talk about the new games a little bit at a time until we’re ready for full reviews. I will try to give a short description of the game(s) in each piece and some quick thoughts about them. The rules are not meant to be comprehensive – merely enough to give a flavor for how the game works.
Dice Games part 3: Quantum, Trains and Stations
- Designer: Eric Zimmerman
- Publisher: Funforge
Game Idea: Players use dice to represent spaceships in their fleet. Higher number ships are faster (they movement is equal to their number), but are also weaker (worth the inverse of the number). Starting with three ships, you try to take control of planets – this happens when the value of your ships at a planet exactly match the value of that planet. I think all planets were 8, 9 or 10. If you land your ship on an opponent, there is a fight. Both ships roll a d6 and add that rolled number to the number of their ship – the lowest number wins! Each time you win a battle, your aggressiveness goes up – when it reaches 6, you get to place a marker on a planet for free. First to place 5 markers wins.
Thoughts – a very interesting game, and lots of special abilities on cards (as well as innate to the ships) that keeps things interesting. I’m normally not much of a combat guy, but this game is more like a puzzle game. Each turn, I’m trying to figure out how to move my ships, who to fight, which special abilities to use. As with any game with special ability cards, there is the chance that a nice combination can dominate a game, but I think folks who like this sort of game will expect this sort of interaction. Turns are fast as your options on any given turn are limited in number. Fighting takes about 30 seconds, so that doesn’t slow things down either. The game length (under an hour) makes sure that this type of game, which isn’t my first choice, doesn’t outstay its welcome. That being said, the fighter-types in my group say there is enough here to give them a satisfying game.
Trains and Stations
- Designer: Eric Lang
- Publisher: Wizkids
Game Idea – Players roll 5 dice each turn. Trains get converted to tracks on the map. As cities are connected on the map, players who have dice in the route score VPs with bonuses going to the player who has the most. Other dice faces like longhorns or mining carts will allow you to place farms, mines, etc in the cities if you get three of a kind. These buildings are important because you can get a “share” of wheat, gold, etc each time a route is scored containing a city where you have a building. Finally, if you roll money, you collect dollars. This is important because each time you re-roll dice, you have to spend a buck. At the end of the game, bonuses are paid out for having the most of each type of share.
Thoughts: this game needs another play. In our first game, it was a bit disjointed. Not sure if it was groupthink or not, but the players in that game didn’t want to work together that much to complete the longer lines. Instead, most of the routes were shorter routes that people could mostly do on their own (3 or 4 rail segments). As we were all concentrating on the routes, we placed very few buildings and the table as a whole didn’t deal with the shares much. I think we missed part of the game as a result – and after only one late night play, I don’t think I can even determine if the game is fragile or not. More likely, it’s just group think OR we maybe missed a rule along the way. I want to try it again to see.
I’ve read several first impressions of Trains & Stations that came down to the same worries as yours, so it does seem the game is fragile.
If you do build buildings and longer routes (as happened in the game I played at Spiel with my son and a French couple), it’s decent fun and seems balanced – although it doesn’t achieve greatness.