Funny how things change – just a few years ago, this sort of post was the mainstay of the Boardgamenews à Opinionated Gamers coverage of SPIEL. Lots of little 300-400 word summaries of games coming to market that interested me. Now, it’s more than just little tidbits of information that are available to us – by and large, rulesets are available online, and as the gaming calendar evolves, there are plenty of “Essen” games that are available to play and review prior to the show!
R&R Games has always been a publisher that I have turned to for party games or light social games. Examples of the lighter stuff that I have really loved in previous years includes Spellcaster (2014) and Attraction (2012). In the past few years though, Frank D has brought some more serious games to the market – such as New Haven and Spike. This year, the R&R lineup includes three games that should appear to the veteran gamer.
(NB – my one 4p game played at the GoF lasted about 3 hours including a rules explanation and the inevitable interruptions from friends that always happen when playing at a con with popular gamers such as Jennifer Geske and Ben McJunkin!)
Mombasa may be the “heaviest” or “crunchiest” game that R&R has ever done. They are co-producing this with Eggertspiele, and it is a complicated multi-layered game. (NB: As far as physical weight goes, I’m not sure that this will compete with New Haven in actual grams… New Haven was competitive with Caverna for heaviest game to bring home from Essen!)
Larry Levy had this to say about it from the Gathering of Friends in April: “This is a meaty gamer’s game (and a Hippodice competition winner), just the sort of thing we’ve grown to expect from eggertspiele. The designer is Alexander Pfister, and I may have to start paying attention to his games. His previous releases include The Mines of Zavandor and Port Royal, both of which are well regarded lighter games. 2015 will be a big year for him: besides Mombasa, he’ll be bringing us Alea’s Broom Service (which just snagged a Kennerspiel nomination) and Lookout’s Isle of Skye. Don’t look now, but we may have a rising star on our hands.
Mombasa combines card selection and worker placement, set during the colonization of Africa. Four trading companies do their best to rape the Dark Continent of its natural resources and the players can buy shares in (and help to expand) any and all of them. One of the game’s central mechanisms is a simple, but clever way of playing cards. On each turn, you play 3 cards from your hand, one to each pile in front of you. Each pile has its own discard pile, made up of the previously played cards. At the beginning of your turn, you claim one of those discard piles and add it to your hand. So you slowly recycle your cards, but you have some control in how you do it.
The game is multi-faceted and there’s a lot to think about, with several interesting sub-systems. I enjoyed my two plays a lot and see this as a must buy when Eggert publishes it (the current release date is September). If you like involved, heavy, but not super-complex designs, I can definitely recommend Mombasa to you.”
I was also able to play a game of this, and it took me nearly the whole game to grok the playing cards to the piles and figuring out how to collect the right piles at the right time in order to have the action you want in your hand at the time that you need it. You are competing for position on the map on the board, competing on four different score tracks around the board as well as vying for different action spaces on the board with your opponents – as each space can only hold a marker from a single player. Sounds complicated, right? Well, it is – but the rules themselves are otherwise easy to grasp. IIRC, Peter Eggert was able to teach us the rules verbally in about 15 minutes, and we really didn’t need to ask him many questions when we started play as far as the mechanics went.
I’m definitely looking forward to playing this one again.
Rome: City of Marble
- Designer: Brett Myers
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 12+
- Time: 60 mins
Rome: City of Marble appears to be a nice middle weight tile-laying game from Brett Myers, a fairly new designer – the only other design of his that I have played is the Lord of the Rings Dice Building Game. Players are working together to build Rome from the base of three of the 7 Hills. The city itself is represented by a grid made up of equilateral triangles, and the building tiles are rhombi made up of two of these triangles put together.
Players will get 2 actions each turn
- Draw Tiles – draw two tiles from the supply
- Expand Aqueducts – extend an already started Aqueduct using special Aqueduct wooden bits
- Recall a Magistrate – take a Magistrate back
- Play Neighborhood tiles – Play a tile to the board, you may play a Magistrate on it. Tiles must be adjacent to another placed tile or one of the three starting hills. If you finish a Construction site – i.e. fill all six verticies at a site, then you pause to build a building (see below). If your tile touches a water source, you start an Aqueduct. If you cover a Bridge space, you build a bridge – these are worth VP at the end of the game.
Building civic buildings –
First, you figure out which type of building is built – this is determined by the number of tiles needed to fill out the hexagon.
Second, look to see who has the most influence – this is done by counting Magistrates – but then only on the color of tiles that match the type of building being built! If there is a tie, you put a fountain there instead. If there is a single most influential player, the building is built and the that player scores VPs. That player may also send a magistrate to the Imperium section of the matching color and get an Imperium tile which can be turned in later in the game for additional actions.
At the end of the game, there is some final scoring. Each civic building that is connected to an Aqueduct or adjacent to a Fountain will score bonus points. You also get bonus points for having the most Imperium tiles of each color.
The game is rated at 60 minutes, and it looks to have a lot of interesting strategy revolving around filling up the building sites and trying to figure out how to get your magistrates on the right color tiles in order to control the building sites.
I am generally a big fan of tile-laying games, and I’m hoping that Frank will maybe let me borrow a copy for an early play on Tuesday when we arrive in Essen (hint, hint)…
- Designer: Stephen Glenn
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 30 minutes
Continuing to slide down the scale of game complexity, we come to the third of my anticipated R&R releases for this year, Gobblestones. This game features some fairly kid-oriented art, and based on the age range in the rules, it should be able to be played by many of the younger gamers out there.
The game is played on a modular 3×3 board. On each of those nine tiles is a 5×5 grid with different colors and numbers on each space. There is a bag that is filled with tiles in the five colors that you find on the board sections.
Players start by drawing 5 tiles from the bag. The first tile must be played in the center space of one of the boards (with the tile matching the space on the board). After that, tiles must be played orthogonally adjacent to a previously played tile. However, you may never play a tile such that you create a 2×2 filled area of tiles.
On a turn, you can play 0-5 tiles, as long as they are all in a straight row. You score points based on the numbers covered by your tiles. Then you get to draw tiles – but this all depends on how many tiles you played. You draw a number of tiles equal to the number you played subtracted from 5. Thus, if you only play one tile on your turn, you will draw 4 from the bag. However, if you play 5 tiles from your hand, you will not draw any tiles!
Play continues until someone cannot draw the appropriate number of tiles from the bag to replenish their hand.
It appears that this is a nice light tactical game – which will be slightly different each time due to the random modular nature of the board. I really like the idea of the pacing of the game. You could choose to play slow and steady – playing 2 or 3 tiles at a time and then drawing a similar number back to your hand OR you could choose to take a turn or two off to build up a large set of tiles in your hand to then pounce on a nice scoring situation. If your hand is large enough, you should be able to match any color combination on the board…
I am anticipating this being a nice light title that I can pull out with the whole family or with non-gamers. Kind of the same appeal as Qwirkle, but with a little bit more math involved…
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor