Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in August 2018

This is the August entry for my series where I post five games I enjoyed playing in past month that I didn’t have time to do full reviews of.  As always, I limit it to five titles, of which there’s a combination of old and new games. Given that this is the month of Gen Con, there are more new titles here than normal.  

In case you’re interested, I also have a Geeklist going called One Sentence Reviews of Gen Con Games.  I’ve also published reviews of Lost Cities: Rivals, Terraforming Mars: Prelude, and Nimble.  

Overall, August 2018 was one of the best months for games I’ve had in awhile!

blue-lagoon-box

BLUE LAGOON

Blue Lagoon is my second most played game of the month, with 6 plays.  Reiner Knizia’s latest creation has been one of my post-Gen Con fascinations.  I’m a long-time fan of Through the Desert, and Blue Lagoon feels like Knizia created an addictive point-salad game by sacrificing some depth from Through the Desert in favor of more approachability.

Dale did a full review a few weeks ago, but here’s a short summary: the game is played in two phases, the exploration phase and the settlement phase.  On your turn, you simply place a token or a hut: depending on the number of players, you have 20-30 tokens and 5 huts.  In the exploration phase, you can either put your token anywhere at sea, or on land if adjacent to another one of your tokens.  Huts can only go on land adjacent to other tokens. In the second phase, everything is wiped off the board except your huts, and then you can only place adjacent to them.

After both phases there is a point-salad type scoring.  You get points for being on 7 or 8 of the islands, for how many islands your longest string of tokens touches, for having the most pieces on an island, and for collecting resources or sets of resources.

It’s extremely simple and extremely fast-paced.  Like Through the Desert, there’s clever blocking, and it is all about building efficient routes.  I love there being two phases of the game: I like trying to set up for the second phase. And I love how several different mechanics mash up into a cool game playable by just about anybody.  This has been out for a few days, but it already feels like a classic Euro.

Gizmos.png

GIZMOS

Though my copy of Gizmos won’t be here until next week, I’ve been playing with a copy a friend bought at Gen Con, and I’ve gotten in four games.  It is one of my favorites of 2018, and as I suspect this will take the hobby by storm in the coming weeks.

Dale did a full review last month, but in short, Gizmos is an engine-building game in which players pick energies (marbles) to buy cards, which given them both victory points and combo-licious ways to earn further resources and cards.  On your turn, you can pick marbles, reserve cards, build cards, or even research (i.e. take several cards and then keep or build one), but almost any feature can become better for you as you build better and better ways to do each action.  

It’s an easy game to learn, but finding the right combos can be challenging.  Gamers love engine-building, and this is one of the best with the mechanic. If you like games that have it, I suspect you’ll love Gizmos.  

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RAILROAD INK

Railroad Ink came in two versions — Blazing Red and Deep Blue — and both sold out each morning shortly after the doors opened at Gen Con.  Both versions of this Roll ‘n Write contain the same base game, but differ only in which expansions are included in the box.

The BGG description of the game is spot on: “Your goal is to connect as many exits on your board as possible. Each round, a set of dice are rolled in the middle of the table, determining which kind of road and railway routes are available to all players. You have to draw these routes on your erasable boards to create transport lines and connect your exits, trying to optimize the available symbols better than your opponents.  The more exits you connect, the more points you score at the end of the game, but you lose points for each incomplete route, so plan carefully!”

I played each “version” of the game 3 times, for 6 combined plays.  But I have yet to use the expansions, as I’m still enamored with the base game.  I’ve been skeptical of Roll ‘n Writes in the past, but 2018 has so far proven me wrong.  Railroad Ink and Ganz schön clever have caused me to realize that maybe… just maybe… I actually enjoy good Roll ‘n Writes.

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ULTIMATE WEREWOLF LEGACY

My favorite game of Gen Con 2018 remains Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, which is also my most-played game of August 2018.  It is the first game I’ve given a perfect “10” to on BGG in years, and I think this is the single best social deduction game I’ve played.  I should have a full review coming in the next few days, but in the meantime, I’ve written up my top tips for a successful campaign.  

What makes it so good?  Basically, in UWL, you’re getting 15 amazing games of Ultimate Werewolf, in campaign mode, with an excellent overarching story.  The production value is top-notch — the leatherbound diary was an especially clever add — and the script in the diary makes it very easy to moderate.  I’ve had some minor rules questions (as I seem to always have with Legacy-style games), but overall, I’ve been highly impressed. I don’t have many games that I’m still thinking about hours after I play them, but Ultimate Werewolf Legacy has been one of them.

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WIZARD EXTREME

I did take a break from the Gen Con hotness to play a couple of my favorite trick-taking games, and I remembered just why Wizard Extreme is so good.  The game goes by various names, but the most notable is probably the Amigo version by that name, or the English version called Sluff Off! (which is how it is listed on BGG). The Amigo version is part of the Wizard/Witches/Druids family.

Wizard itself has never been one of my favorites because I’m suspicious of the merits of an increasing/decreasing number of tricks, but Wizard Extreme fixes that problem while keeping a clever betting mechanic.  Put differently, Wizard Extreme got rid of the part of Wizard I hated, while keeping the best part.

The game largely follows standard trick-taking fare, and it is an exact bid game.  The novelty is that you have to bet on the color of tricks you’ll take, hence the “extreme” part.  At the start of the hand, you take chips in those colors, returning them to the supply as you take tricks in the appropriate color.  You lose points for taking extra tricks, taking tricks in the wrong color, or not taking the tricks you said you would.

It’s decently easy to learn, and I think it is simply a better betting system than can be found in games like Oh Hell or Wizard.  Wizard Extreme is probably my favorite “exact bidding” game in the genre.

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COMMENTS FROM OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS

Faser: I thought Wizard Extreme sounded familiar, just like Die Steven Seagal as we know it around here.  When I went to look up the real name of our copy which is Die Sieben Siegel I found out that Wizard Extreme is the latest renaming of this fine game.

Based on descriptions and pictures, Gizmos is a game that I certainly want to try.

 

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4 Responses to Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in August 2018

  1. What is the relationship between Wizard Extreme and the game Wizard by Ken Fisher?

    • Jeffrey Allers says:

      Marketing. It was first released as “The Seventh Seal,” but since Wizard is a best-selling game, and both are “exact bidding” trick-taking games, more people will be aware of it now.

  2. @mangozoid says:

    A great collection of games – have heard many good things about Railroad Ink and Gizmos. I had written off Blue Lagoon as just a water-themed clone of Through the Desert, but will have to take another look, now – thank you! UWF is one I’m hoping to try soon. Am pleased for you (and jealous!) that you’ve managed to squeeze in so many games last month – well done!

  3. Pingback: Chris Wray: What I Enjoyed Playing in September 2018 | The Opinionated Gamers

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