Simon W’s first takes of Essen 2018 Games

Reef
Rating: I love it!
Abstract Game from Plan B where you are able to draw “recipe” cards from a common display. Playing them will allow you to put down two pieces on your coral reef (in one of 4 different colours) and score. Scoring is for different combinations of colours and heights of the pieces making up  your reef and is never related to the pieces you have just played, so planning ahead is essential. It’s a fast abstract game with limited interactivity, lovely pieces, and very engaging.

Richard Breese, all sold out!

Keyflow rating: I love it!
Richard Breese’s latest endeavour in the Key series, this game is not really “Keyflower the card game” but more a new game using some of the ideas from Keyflower to construct a tight experience worthy of the Key name. It’s main attraction is that it is “thinky” and yet can play through with6 players in less than an hour. Players draft cards from a deck which changes every four seasons and either play cards to their home area or play Meeples on their or their neighbours home areas to activate cards and gain resources. As usual with the Keyflower games there are a number of ways to score some of which are seeded at the beginning of the game and the rest of which come out in the last round.  Excellent.

Gūgōng rating – I love it!
This is a worthy successor to Raja of the Ganges with beautiful artwork and a decent theme, where players are playing cards into different areas of the board to get points in different ways. Where it excels is in a new mechanism whereby each play requires the use of cards and cubes: cubes are hard to manage and cards places must replace an existing card which then comes into your hand and is firstly scored at the end of the round and secondly used in the following round. The tricky thing here is that the card you play must be a higher in value than the card your replace (thus degrading your hand) or it must be compensated for in a bribe (which usually costs you cubes or a missed turn). Lots to think about but medium weight and smooth as silk.

Aeraial: rating Neutral
A game emulating Tetris for up to 4 players with a street-party-in-Portugal theme, Aeraial looked really good but wound up being too slow for my taste. The Knizia Tetris game Bits has more depth and variability.

Black skull island Rating I like it
A fun and chaotic “take that” party game for up to 9 players, we have played this as a light 20 minute filler twice and it got a lot of laughs. The winner is not really related to anything but you have a lot of fun along the way.

Forum trajanum : Rating I love it!

Stefan Feld is back to form in this medium weight, nicely made game which I’ve already played twice. Here, rather than dealing with randomness thrown up by dice, players must make best use of 1 of two citizen tiles they have drafted from their player boards, simultaneously choosing one tile and giving the other to their neighbour. They then may use either or sometimes both tiles they have to take workers in various colours or coins. Coins are used to avoid the usual Feld penalty for not doing something at the end of each 4 turns – in this case they must pay citizens you have used on your player board. Other citizens are placed on a central board where your collect points from filling in areas of a certain colour; being close to an eagle symbol; or just having citizens next to one another. Meanwhile on your slowly emptying out player board you create spaces to place buildings which may be scored in various ways, with citizens providing bonuses. This is Feld at his best if you like Castles of Burgundy. A must buy for me.

NEOM: Rating I like it.

Lookout’s new tile laying game where tiles are phased in three rounds, here you try to lay tiles on a grid so that heir roads connect and you maximise your income which is VPs at the end of the game. The trick here is that some tiles generate resources which must be used by you and other players to lay some tiles; however purchasing resources from your neighbours may be possible but will be expensive. It’s a clever tile placing game with some Kingdomino aspects but has a nice feel and a good theme. It is however expensive for what you get in the box, hence my 3 rather than 4 rating.

Profiteers – Rating: I like it!

la mame game with amateurish production values and a high price point (25 Euros but already sold out) –  a great design which will hopefully be picked up next year. Very interactive game where you switch sides to try and make money from the US civil war.  You can also open a saloon or an undertaking business to line your pockets.

Luxor – Rating Neutral

this SdJ nominee was a big disappointment with nothing original in the game. Hard to see how it would play well with 2 players. 
Karate tomate….not good (boring) knizia cars game, rating 1

Lighthouse run Rating Neutral.

decent family game with nice bits.

Mercado, rating Neutral.

Ok Rüdiger Dorn game harking back a bit to Louis XIV in look but not in play. Pull counters from a bag and compete for favours from various characters.

reykholt – Rating I love it!

very interesting new Uwe Rodenburg game with a farming theme (what a surprise) lots of actions spots (again) but a totally new game in which you try to optimise your vegetable production by seeding greenhouses with different vegetables (similar to Gates of Loyang) and then use the actions to prepare a table of different foods to attract tourists. This is a real forward planning game which was very thinky without feeling overly so. There is a story mode which looks legacy-like ( with numerous scenarios) which I didn’t try yet.

Just one: Rating I love it! 

 Repos party game where all players try to help the active player guess a word which he cannot see. All players may give one word clues but duplicates are removed. Lots of fun and plays up to 7, this was also enjoyed at the Gathering. 

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5 Responses to Simon W’s first takes of Essen 2018 Games

  1. Aaron Downing says:

    Reef has fallen flat for everyone I have introduced it to. I’ve tried it with various groups and gamers of different ages and it was all but panned. It just isn’t that compelling.

    • Johnny Five says:

      I don’t get the mixed reception that Reef gets. I love it too. Definitely requires more than one play to see the nuances. I could not only play this game anytime but would even play it twice in a row.

      • Aaron Downing says:

        You don’t get differences in opinion? For us, Reef offered little to no interesting decisions after a couple of plays. There simply isn’t much there to explore. I think it’s a nice design, but “nice” just doesn’t cut it these days. There about two dozen little fillers I would choose over it.

        • jaxommm says:

          By the way, we played Reef over two dozen times trying to find something in there. We didn’t discover anything. It’s shallow. No game about coral reefs should be shallow.

  2. Nice Post, thank you for your toughts on all these new games.
    By the way, it’s not Aeraial: it’s Arraial ;)

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