Once again, I’m following in Dale’s footsteps here – and he has a long blurb on the start of his posts that explains his logic (which is sound) and intentions (which are good).
We’ll just skip that & get to the game previews – this time, both from designer Vlaada Chvátil (creator of such wildly different games as Through the Ages, Prophecy, Space Alert, Mage Knight: The Board Game & Dungeon Lords).
Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher: CGE, Z-Man
Main mechanics: Hand management, pattern recognition
Game Idea: A magical battle – either to complete tasks (in High Form mode) or to draw the applause of the crowd (in Deathmatch mode). Players place pieces on the board, seeking to create patterns that will enable them to play their cards and summon more pieces to the board that will enable them to attack & disrupt their opponent. The game includes 3 different faction decks (plus one duplicate) as well as smaller decks of legendary creatures and “flares” (which are used to recover from a bad position).
Thoughts: At first blush, this short (30 minute) game feels abstract & unbalanced… but after multiple plays, I’m fascinated by the way in which Vlaada incorporated the thematic ideas behind the cards into the forms & patterns on the board. This is a game where experience will matter – as will the ability to recognize patterns easily. I appreciate the variety built into the game: enough decks for 4 players, High Form & Deathmatch modes, team play & free-for-all… and a double-sided board.
For a very interesting (and much deeper) look at Vlaada’s design process and the strategy behind the decks, you can check out the Tash-Kalar website.
Galaxy Trucker: The Latest Models
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher: CGE, Rio Grande
Main mechanics: real-time, tile-laying, praying for lucky dice rolls
Game Idea: As if Galaxy Trucker wasn’t mind-bendingly difficult enough already, here are four more ships for you to build badly and watch collapse into a smoking hunk of metal hurtling through the void. You can assemble one of two models that deal with a rip in the space/time fabric, a ship modeled on a ever-so-trademark-aware “large spherical death planet”, and a collection of smaller ships that may (or may not) become connected mid-build.
Thoughts: I have a standard line when it comes to pre/reviewing expansions – “If you don’t like the game already, this expansion will not change your mind.” That goes double for The Latest Models – fans of Galaxy Trucker will have a blast working with the new ship templates, while nay-sayers will like the complications even less than the original design. Note: these are advanced ships – I would not start out new players on any of these models.