This is my first year at the Gathering of Friends, and I figured I’d do quick reviews of games I played, plus write a bit about the experience. I’ve played a number of new games over the past couple of days, so today I wanted to highlight three that stand out: Century: Spice Road, Nmbr 9, and Wind the Film.
The Gathering has been a great time. Meeting gamers from around the world has been fun, and it has been especially memorable chatting with some of the other Opinionated Gamers, many of which I’ve talked to online but never met in person.
I’ve got a red badge — the sign of a first-time attendee — and people have been very kind in introducing themselves.
The event started yesterday and is 10 days long. I’m here through Tuesday night.
I’ve noticed one big change from other conventions: there are prototypes everywhere. I’ve played a couple, and I’ll try to get permission to chat about them in a future post.
What games are people playing?
Terraforming Mars seems to be getting a lot of play time. At one point, I saw five different tables playing it at once. I’ve seen Great Western Trail on a decent number of tables too, and the same goes for Clank!, which seems popular.
Among newer games, I’ve seen several plays of Nmbr 9, which I discuss below. Plus, I’ve seen several prototypes getting a lot of play time. And by Saturday evening, Century: Spice Road had become wildly popular.
Century: Spice Road
Century: Spice Road, by Emerson Matsuuchi and Plan B Games, is incredibly simple but incredibly deep. Throw in how beautiful it is — especially with the optional play mat — and I think this will be a really hot game in the next few months. (It’ll be released at Origins.) So far, this is my favorite game of the convention.
The goal is to buy cards worth victory points. For example, in the picture above, you can see in the top row a card that costs three red cubes and two green cubes.
To get these cards, you’ll take one of four actions on your turn: play a card from your hand, buy a card from the market, complete a card worth victory points, or take the cards you’ve already played back into your hand. The cards in your hand either give you cubes, allow you to upgrade cubes (from yellow to red, for example), or allow you to exchange cubes. You start with a couple of cards, but you can get newer, better cards from the bottom row in the picture. You play until a set number of cards with victory points have been purchased.
Everybody I played with loved it, and I expect this to get a lot of attention at the Gathering. It reminds me a lot of Splendor, but others at the table said it reminded them of Sid Sackson’s Bizaar. Either way, it is tense, easy-to-teach, and incredibly fun. This is a phenomenal family-weight strategy game.
NMBR 9, by Peter Wichmann and Abacusspiele, is another great little game with simple rules. It is currently out in Germany; I’m not sure if there are U.S. release plans.
There are 20 cards in a pile, and each turn, one will be flipped over, revealing a number from 0-9 (with there being two of each in the deck). Each player takes a polyomino that represents that number and places it into their structure. The number on the piece times the level it is on is the victory points at the end of the game. Pieces on the table don’t get points, since they are on level zero.
The catch is that you can’t place a piece over an empty space, so you’ve got to build solid spaces below the upper levels. You also must place adjacent to existing pieces, and on upper levels, you’ve got to place over more than one polyomino.
This is a cool twist on games in the polyomino genre, and it is simple enough it could be played by just about anybody. (I intend on buying a copy to play with my tetris-loving parents.) One cool feature of the game is that it can handle any number of players. Four people can play per copy, but like Take It Easy, with a few copies you convert this into a game for a crowd. I’m kinda hoping that happens at the Gathering!
Here’s the best structure I’ve seen so far, worth 91 points, and completed by Robin H. of Ohio.
Wind the Film
Wind the Film, by designer Saashi and publisher Saashi & Saashi, isn’t exactly new — it was released a few months ago and was briefly available through the BGG store — but it is new to me.
Lorna did a review a few weeks ago, so I’ll skip the rules explanation and go right to the mini-review.
Basically, this is Bohnanza mixed with Keltis: Das Karenspiel, and given that I love both of those games, it is no surpise that I really enjoyed Wind the Film. There’s the hand management from Bohnanza — the cards in the left of your hand will be played down, which could be good or bad, since they may end up being negative points — along with the rising or falling number schematic of Keltis. The result is tense, fast-paced, and simple fun. I’m hoping copies become available again through BGG or gets picked up by a U.S. publisher.