I spent most of Saturday participating in tournaments, and I left the convention shortly after noon on Sunday, but I did get the chance to try out a few more games generating buzz around the convention. Here are some snapshot reviews of Medieval Academy, New York 1901, Ninja Camp, and Bad Beets. With the exception of Medieval Academy, all of these reviews are based on one or two plays, so these are merely first impressions.
Medieval Academy by Nicolas Poncin and Iello
Medieval Academy received a U.S. release at Gen Con, and as of right now the game sits at #13 on the BGG Geekbuzz list. I saw a few people playing it around the convention, and I jumped in on a game. I first played Medieval Academy back in May after importing a copy from Europe, so while this is a Gen Con release, it wasn’t truly new to me.
Each player is a “Squire” who wants to earn Chivalry Points (i.e. victory points) from various categories. The main mechanism is 7 Wonders-style card drafting, with the cards chosen moving players around various scoring tracks that interact in interesting ways. The game has basic and advanced variants. For a good overview of the game, check out the BGG overview video from last year.
I loved Medieval Academy when I first played it, and it has been a big hit with my family. This is one of the outstanding Eurogames of the convention, so it is no wonder it sits so high on the BGG Geekbuzz list. The gameplay is intuitive, and new players seem to pick it up with ease. The drafting mechanic mixed with moving around the score track is simple, but there is a surprising amount of depth here. This is an excellent family game, and I suspect we’ll be hearing praise for Iello’s version in the coming months.
Initial OG Rating: “I love it!”
New York 1901 by Chénier La Salle and Blue Orange Games
New York 1901 was one of the more talked about games of the convention. It sold out within a few minutes of opening each day (they split their supply among the four days), and it currently sits at #8 on the BGG Geekbuzz. I overheard praise for the game at several points, with attendees frequently describing it as a gateway game.
Dale Yu wrote an excellent overview and review of New York 1901 last week, and I recommend checking out his post. In short, the game is an easy-to-learn tile placement game. There are only two choices on a turn — (1) acquire land and/or build, or (2) demolish — so the real strategy comes from determining when and where to build and demolish, as well as when to use special action cards each player has.
The game board and components are beautiful, the gameplay is approachable yet strategic, and the theme — which comes with a few historic tie-ins — is fun. The game reminded me of Andreas Seyfarth’s Manhattan mixed with Uwe Rosenberg’s Patchwork. Like other reviewers I question whether I’ll want to play this game 20-30 times, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, and in the end I’m happy if I get 10 plays or more out of a game. This is certainly a game to watch over the next several months.
Initial OG Rating: “I love it!”
Ninja Camp by Adam Daulton and Action Phase Games
This game was towards the top of the BGG Buzzlist for the entire convention, so I decided to give it a try. The game is simple enough: each player takes two training cards (each which have a way to move one of the ninjeeples and a set number of points), a clan card (which gives them a once-per-game special power), and a few ninjeeples (we played with three, but there were more sitting on the table, so I’m not sure if there are variants using more of them). The rest of the training cards form a large game board; I believe ours was 8×7. On a player’s turn he discards one of the training cards in his hand (or his clan card) to move one of his ninjeeples, taking the training card his piece started on into his hand. Each card has a value and a movement mechanism, so players must balance taking points versus being able to move their ninjeeple on future turns. The game ends when two players pass because they can’t move. A full walkthrough can be found at the Kickstarter campaign.
Despite the game’s ease of play, there’s actually quite a bit going on here. Players must balance their movement ability against points, which is surprisingly challenging, while anticipating the antics of the other players’ ninjeeples. It is easy to get a ninjeeple trapped if you’re not paying attention to which training cards you are taking, so thinking a turn or two ahead is a must.
My only complaint is that the game went on a bit long for what it was — I think our play lasted a little over half an hour. I suspect that will happen frequently, as this is the exact sort of game that can induce AP: there are a lot of possibilities. Nonetheless, I’ll be backing it: $19 isn’t bad for a game that would be a refreshing addition to my collection.
Initial OG Rating: “I like it.”
Bad Beets by Justin Gary and Stone Blade Entertainment
This game was also towards the top of the BGG Buzzlist for the entire convention, so I decided to give it a try. Bad Beets is a card-based bluffing game. On a player’s turn they will have two cards. They look at both and hand one to the next player clockwise, giving that player two cards for the start of their next turn. They then claim a card (i.e. they can bluff) and move beets out of their hand. If they go unquestioned, they get rid of their beets, but if they get caught lying, they take them back and the player that called them out gets rid of a beet. The first player to get rid of all of their beets wins.
The comparison to Love Letter and Coup is fair, but I didn’t enjoy Bad Beets nearly as much as either of those games. It isn’t as streamlined as either: I found a couple of parts (particularly the tattletale and the “Nuh-Uh!” card) counterintuitive. But worse, it has the potential to go longer than either of those games, since you can spend a lot of time just shifting beets around the board. The theme is family friendly, and there is no player elimination, but I’ve never found that to be a problem with either Coup or Love Letter.
Bad Beets seems like a fine game, and my fellow players seemed to enjoy it, but the theme didn’t appeal to me, and I kept thinking about how much I’d rather be playing Coup.
Initial OG Rating: “Neutral”
I tried about two dozen games at the convention, most new releases, but some merely new to me. There were a few decent Eurogames in the end — Artifacts, Inc., New York 1901, Medieval Academy, Broom Service, etc. — but I still think this was the “filler filled” convention.
I’ll be providing detailed reviews of a few games — Tides of Time, the new Mysterium, etc. — in the coming weeks.