Simon W’s 2nd set of Essen First Takes

Blackout: Hong Kong

Rating: I love it!
There was massive demand to play this gem – high expectations for the next Alexander Pfister – Eggert game following Great Western Trail which remains a personal favourite for me.Blackout Hong Kong is quite different: the theme revolves around a disaster in Hong Kong, where you play the role of rescue teams trying to sort out the mess following a city-wide power cut. The game board looks a bit like a pandemic board with lots of locations on it where you can place district markers to gradually take back control of areas (this earning bonus markers); there is also a nice player board which is divided into a number of areas showing rows for different phases of a turn and giving you space to place cards which you can later purchase with accumulated resources.. 

There are small similarities to the two previous Pfister Board games:  like in Great Western Trail, here “Specialists” can be recruited to your hand once paid for; and similar to Mombasa, these and your starter cards (“Volunteers” and specialists) are played to your player board on three different columns to be  activated, but you may take only one column of cards back into your hand. However the similarities end there. Volunteer cards played in the three columns show one of three colours and when activated allow you to place cubes on one of six spots on the main board. Each spot on the board corresponds to a supply: rice, water, gasoline, medical supplies, tools, or manuals: the actual spots available to be played on are determined at the beginning of each round by rolling three dice in the three colours mentioned. Once placed, resources obtained can be used to meet requirements on Specialist cards which are then placed in your hand and can be re-used; however the further challenge is to place cards in the right order in a column to fulfil more challenging objectives on “Contingency” cards which gain you so-called checkmark bonuses. These can be triggered at the end of the round. The end result is a gradual build-up of better cards in your hands and more actions available to take until your reach ap point where your engine starts to take off and you can rapidly progress through the game. Progress through the game is extremely smooth: and has that nice feeling of building up something while thematically you begin to regain control of Hong kong district by district. The overall result is a full and engaging game which is challenging and fun to play. Another great game from Pfister and Eggertspiele!


Crown of Emara

Rating: I love it!
Played on this last day, this off-my-radar 34 Euros game comes with not one but two game boards, each one showing a 4-space rondel on which players place a wooden figure. One board is a farm area: moving round this board’s rondel gains you resources (stone, cloth, wood, and wheat); the amount obtained can be increased by building workers on the farmland in a fashion reminiscent of Village. The other board shows the town with its castle: here you may recruit advisers by paying resources as well as obtain gold coins (which are joker resources) books Building and citizen points: to win the game you must score higher than other players on your lowest-scoring track of the two (which as you may imagine is quite tricky!). The title of teh game stems from the ability to collect royal rings and gold coins and cash them in for a promotion at the palace: from Baron to Count to Prince and so on. The quicker you reach these ranks the more points you earn: the same is true for some other actions which yield points.each round 0layers draw three cards from their deck of six and must play them one at a time into a column. The column itself gives movement around one of the two rondel: 1st column one step, second column 2 steps and 3rd column three steps. The challenge here is to combine the cards and their position on the count to move your workers to the spot which works best for you: confusing at first, this rapidly becomes clear and it is enjoyable to plan how best t optimise your move without being too taxing. Once all 9 cards are played (in three rounds) they are shuffled and 3 more rounds played, with variety being introduced by the event card deck which has a slight impact on your play each round. The game, while having no truly original mechanisms, is an extremely pleasant experience to play and will suit anyone who likes a medium-weight game where you can strong moves together. All three of us who played it enjoyed it tremendously and immediately got a copy. two of us managed to finish with our citizen and house markers on the same spots and we were separated by 3 points. 


Wallet

Rating: I like it
Wallet is a fun party game which plays up to 7 players. The scenario is that you are all at a party of a mafia boss when you hear the police are about to show up. The boss has left his wallet lying around so you all try to grab IDs, money, jewellery, and credit cards to make yourselves look innocent. Guiltiness depends on the ID you wind up with: a millionaire would be guilty if he has less than $500 whereas a spy is guilty if he has less than 2 IDs. Most other IDs require that you have less than $500 in cash and since cash comes in various currencies, there are restrictions on how many you can hold.  In reality this translates into a fun game where in turn you may either give or take cards from the wallet (which contains the main deck of cards) whilst playing special cards (2 are dealt to each player at the beginning of each round) which screw other people over. If you manage to get a police ID and a badge, then at the end of the round you can accuse one person of being guilty, and if correct take their money as part of your winnings; at the end of each round the innocent player with the most money wins some VP tokens; with 2nd to 4th players also getting (less) tokens.  The game is well thought out and a lot of fun, so I highly recommend it for groups.

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