Opinionated Gamers – Quick Takes, Part Deux…

Well, we’re back for round 2.  A lot of the Opinionated Gamers have had a chance to play more games, especially those who had a chance to go to BGG.con.  This is our second round of quick comments on the new games – you can find our first 175 comments here… This time around, it’s closer to 150…

Like last time, the comments have been randomly placed in order… for the most part.  There were a few comments which were paired or meant to be read one after the other; those comments have been kept together – and it should be fairly obvious that they go together.

We’ll be starting our reviews up for real in the next week or so, and then we’ll probably have enough new games to get us thru February or so!   We keep track of the games that we’ve played, and thus far, our group has played 188 different “Essen games” this year, with over 800 ratings given to those game – below is a selection of what we’ve played and what we’ve thought about them.

Key Flow – It’s like 7W, but in this game, scoring feels like it is based less on strategic drafting and more on speculative drafting.  The majority of your scoring cards come in the final round’s draft; and at that point, there are no more production cards. Sure, you can use your opponents cards to make stuff, so you may not necessarily have to have the right cards in your own village – but still, you spend 3 of the four seasons gathering stuff without really knowing how you’ll use them to score in the end.  

Key Flow –  While one can certainly compare it to 7 Wonders I think comparing it to Keyflower is more instructive. In Keyflower you see fewer scoring opportunities ahead of time and you can be sure that any that other players are holding that are particularly good for you will be thrown out. In Key Flow someone can only prevent you from getting a good scoring card by taking it themselves.

Sunflower Valley: Simple family-oriented roll’n’write. I’d play it again but I don’t need to own it.

Concordia: Venus: I can’t compare it to Concordia… because I’d never played Concordia before. (I know, I know… revoke my cool kid gamer card for missing a very good Euro game.) I really liked this version of the game – it reminded me of a more fleshed-out take on Eminent Domain: Microcosm, a little 2-player card game that I’m a big fan of. (We did not play the “team variant”, which is evidently a big selling point for the Venus expansion.)

Blöde Kuh is growing on me – I’ve played three times now, and each play has been a bit more interesting.

Teotihuacan – Of all the new Essen releases, this was the one that most caught my attention.  It has the same designers as Tzolkin, a game I always enjoy. Plus, it has been getting favorable reviews from many circles.   Sadly, I was majorly disappointed. The game has a ton of working parts and mechanisms, but the end result felt bland and uninspired.  I was never excited while playing it, nor did I feel I was having fun. All the parts worked, it just failed to generate any excitement.  It probably didn’t help that I felt I was a step behind my fellow players throughout the game, and many turns there were really no viable options.  Not one I need to play again.

Lift Off – on the plus side, up to five plays of Lift Off, and it’s now my favorite 2018 release…)

Lift off -I found it rather repetitive

Gingerbread House:  A pleasant surprise.  Due to the theme, this is one I likely would have overlooked.  However, Chris Wray was enthusiastic about it, so I gave it a try.  I was happy I did, as I found it engaging and fun. I think it will make for a wonderful entry-level game and be popular with casual gamers and families.  

Azul Sintra  – it’s fine.

Airship City – In a 4 player game all liked it and one person wanted to buy it.(Good luck!) The game plays over a maximum of 20 turns with each player having 2-4 actions. You manipulate the 4×4 grid board with one resource and more your airships to collect resources or carry out actions. Donating airships score VPs but selling them provides the most gold, which is a scarce resource. Potential AP later in the game but very enjoyable.

Helltoken: Remote Control Robot – a dystopian yet delightful deduction game. A sort of Battleship, but you also don’t know where your own ships are. The madness ends when the opponent(s) bases are sufficiently damaged, or you enter the password into the remote control of a giant SdJ poppel, with the password being the location of your bases.  

Raiatea – The Polynesian setting deterred me but fortunately I was persuaded to overlook this. The game has two different round types – collecting resources then applying them in a novel way. It’s an engaging Euro with clever game systems so will probably get to 5 plays which is a high for me. It has many icons but good player aids and the icons can quickly become familiar. Like it and could be love it.

Qwantum – for me, this was the Essen that proved that roll and writes have jumped the shark.  They all feel the same now, and nothing has stood out from the crowd – either the cohort from SPIEL 18 or the genre in general.

The River – this game may not have caught me at my best but I really disliked it. It felt clumsy to play, I didn’t like the huge amount of luck involved (matching resources and cards) and I really didn’t like that limit in available resources that could leave you with nothing to do on your turn. Other than that it felt like someone has made a particularly bad version of Stone Age without the set collection element. Truly a huge disappointment, what were DoW thinking??

Mayfly – cute, but -not a whole lot there.

Animale Tattica – nice for two, but doesn’t really work very well with more.

Forwarder of Xanadu – very Kuro game, but not one that stands out.

Fine Sand: Played two games using the solo mode – seemed to work just fine but I had trouble seeing from the rules where there would be much more game by adding more players to the table. It’s a Fable game (which I usually like), but my limited look at it feels like the base game is a little thin to hang a longer series of games on…

Fireball Island – played Fireball Island FOUR times last night… Restoration has actually made a game out of what was just an incredibly cool chance to roll marbles down and knock things over. Essentially, the original version was a jungle-themed pachinko machine with a roll’n’move race game added. Oh, yeah, there were action cards, but the game funneled everyone to essentially the same points and cranked the randomness up to 11. It was great fun to play with the boys when they were younger, but the concept was always better than the execution. Fast forward to the new version – not everything works perfectly (we still have questions about the pirate ship expansion), but there’s actually a game here that uses the original idea and allows players to make meaningful decisions. There is still PLENTY of chaos and hot lava death – but it’s fun chaos. This is a family game – and we’re enjoying it immensely.

Ceylon – I did not enjoy this game much.. Play cards and you take the action on one half of the card while everyone else does what is on the other half – five action from games in the late ‘90s with lots of majority scoring at the end.

Just One – A lot of fun, but really more of an activity than a game.  Doesn’t lessen the enjoyment, but this is maybe one more for the ride than the result.  I wish the cards were a bit more curated; some clues are harder/impossible for teens and kids, though I can’t seem to figure out a way (other than a different set of cards) where you could separate these clues without giving away a clue as to what they were…

Neom –  I really enjoyed this tile-laying, drafting city building game. I can’t wait to play it again.

Belratti – Other people I played this with loved it, but I do not. If you like Codenames I think you will probably like this, but it fell flat for me.

Reykholt – I’ve only played Reykholt 2 player, and found it incredibly dull; I was hoping it would be more interesting with more players.

Railroad ink – I’ve played the blue basic version 3 times with different groups and providing you do not dislike puzzles, it is a very interesting diversion for 20 minutes or so.

Monster Lands: Dice/worker placement game that is dripping with fantasy combat theme – a little rules heavy but much fun was had. However, our first 4 player game ran 2 ½ hours, which is too long for what it is. (I had similar issues with Roll Player – another nicely thematic game with “when does this finally wind down?” issues.) There’s a clear end to the game – but it took us a while to get there. I’d like to try this again with 3 players, which would cut down on the playing time.

Pechvogel – it’s a poor excuse for a poor excuse for a game

Brikks – entirely harmless.  At least there won’t be debates about whether or not it’s a game…

Betrayal Legacy – it is Betrayal with an overarching structure. Not yet far enough to go OMG, but the group makes the game and I’m in a great group. Will have more to say in a few months.

The Great City of Rome – I really liked this one, and we had a suboptimal game because we had to make a lot of decisions based upon no knowledge of the possible cards.  Yes, the card breakdown is actually in the rules, but we chose to play without it for a first go. And, despite that, it was a good to great game.  Would likely be even better with the added strategy created by knowledge of the possible card distribution. Our game was 75 minutes with rules, but I could see this going 40-45 min once people understood the cards, etc.

Reykholt – works.

Hokkaido – doesn’t

Reef – meh – too abstract.  Nice pieces.

Axis & Allies & Zombies – rules are the same, but an infantry deaths adds a zombie which weakly attack each turn.   Seems (so far) even more chaotic than normal A&A but decently captures the zombie outbreak theme.  Sporadic outbreaks mean you can’t just leave holes in your back lines Yes, tanks can be upgraded with chainsaws (See Mythbusters for chainsaw effectiveness)

Futuropia:  Thinky, yet approachable game.  I like it, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t feel samey after a half dozen or so games.  When playing for the first time, I’d recommend to start with the basic rules, play one or two cycles of the action tiles like that, then start over with the Upgraded game–that’s where the real game is.

Blue Lagoon:  I heard some positive remarks about this Knizia release, so was anxious to try it.   It has some similarities to Knizia’s Through the Desert, but the decisions here are far easier and the goals quite simplistic.  My first play was with just two players, and I was not impressed at all. The game was a simple one of positioning and quickly building walls to cordon territories.  I played again later with four players and the competition resulting from multiple players made it a better game. I still found it too simplistic and not terribly engaging.  Not one I’ll be keeping in my collection.

Architects of the West Kingdom – a solid game; takes a known (but not quite tired) genre of worker placement and adds a bit of novelty and excitement to it.  There is constant time pressure in the game; all of my games have ended before I wanted them to do – which tells me that I’m trying to do too much and I need to focus my strategy.

Blode Kuh: Very light family card game about passing the pain (in the form of increasingly shaggy-looking animals) around the table. (Seriously, the sheep looks like he’s been living in the gutter on the bad side of the farm.) Lots of laughs and a perfect choice for playing with non-gamer family over the holidays.

Prehistory – Two separate boards with resources scattered across both to collect. Set collection, advance down tracks. The new idea in the game is how cubes are collected from different locations that translate into resources and actions on six discs. It could have been clever but was instead was convoluted. Which was disappointing.

Realm of Sand:. It technically works, but even in the advanced game it just felt flat and tactical. It’s hard to dream about what you might try to do differently next time when your choices will be just as limited by the few cards that come up.

Gügong  – The beautiful deluxe version did add to the enjoyment of the game which provided more depth of play than i anticipated. It was also good that the game had a tiebreaker outcome between people who pursued different routes to follow with other players (4 player) close by. I liked the fact that one action area could point to another so there was a decent amount of planning but not too much downtime.

Shadows: Amsterdam: A real-time team vs. team puzzle, using pictures as clues for other pictures. Enjoyable for a play, but I don’t need to play it again.


Impact – it’s like Strike, but with a smaller box.  The new “expansion” rules don’t do anything for me.

Western Legends:  Here is one I would have definitely passed on as it seemed to be more of an American style game involving traditional American mechanisms such as dice rolling, combat, equipment, etc.  I figured it would be another “Zombies” game set in the Wild West. Fortunately, I was wrong, and the game proved to be lots of fun. I thought it was a nice blend of mechanisms, both European and American.  The game’s theme lends itself to some fun roll-playing…and playing Western movie theme songs helped! I do have some concerns about the balance between playing outlaws versus marshals, but I look forward to further plays to see if this concern has merit.

Lighthouse Run – on my final turn, I had two ways to win the game and one to lose it.  I didn’t come close to caring enough to calculate this.

The River – has hopes of mediocrity, but fails to reach it.  Not enough building cards come up to come close to balancing out.

Gingerbread House – better than Lighthouse Run or The River.  Not actually good enough to rate at neutral, though.

Neom – This certainly is 7 Wonders: City Building.  That’s fine, as I enjoy both 7 Wonders and the genre of city building,  I did find that there was a bit of icon overload, not all of which were easy to interpret or understand.  This forced players to regularly consult the tile explanation sheet, which slowed the game. I also found tallying the scores to be tedious and far too prone to mathematical errors.  Indeed, I was declared the winner, but a subsequent recount handed the victory to someone else. I felt as though I was involved in the Florida elections! Still, it is a decent game that I wouldn’t mind playing again.

Downforce – Played it a few times now, usually with four players.  I have enjoyed it a lot. When to bet on yourself or somebody else, blocking people in corners.

Men at work – Get a balancing task on a building site. Everyone who played it diol over or liked it because of the way it looks and is great fun.

A pleasant journey to Neko – quite good for a middleweight dice drafting game. Card synergies, points in big or small chunks, bidding with dice on cards that fit in a tableau. Nice art and a but fiddly, but I would play it again.

Cryptid: I’m not a deduction game fan – but this scratched more of a Tobago itch than a Black Vienna itch. Another one of the “don’t need to own but wouldn’t refuse to play” games.

Bingolino – so, I’ve played it 4 times, and I think I finally have the rules right.  I now know that I can only flip over one instance of a tile when that number is rolled – I used to flip them all over.  I also now know that if I fail to flip over a tile on my turn, I have to make a facedown tile in my display flip over to be face up again.  While it makes the game slightly longer, it does make it more interesting. And, it makes the dice management (i.e. when you choose to roll 5 dice versus 2 dice) a much more meaningful decision – well, as meaningful as a decision can be in a game that usually takes 10 minutes.  Is it as good as Completto? I think so. Others did not.

Airship City – better than Lagerstätten last year, but – bland.

AuZtralia – It was just ok to me.  Resource management with combat

Tag City – cute, but I’d never suggest it.

Cryptid – Man, I want to love deduction games (also want to love induction games) – but I’ve never found one that is a bonafide winner.  My search still continues. Everything works fine in this game, and the puzzle part is neat. In fact, I spent a fair amount of time thinking of the algorithm that needed to be developed to determine unique hiding places on the map that could be specified with 2,3,4, or 5 clues.  The game itself felt more like work than fun. Like most games in the genre, it is 100% dependent on players being impeccable in their answers; and we did manage to have one wrong player response in our two games – it was caught fairly quickly; but still, it is something which can ruin the game if not caught.  I like it better than Tobago, and I mention it because people constantly seem to compare the two – but neither this nor Tobago is the game I’m looking for.

Dice Settlers – I’m not at all convinced it works.  Less painful than Teotihuacan…

Forum Trajanum – I enjoyed my one play, but need to play it again to more fully form my opinion. There’s a lot going on, but one round in it flows well.

Blackout: Hong Kong – this is more Mombasa Pfister than Great Western Trail, and with our first 4 player game coming out around 3 hours, it’s a real brain burner. There are plenty of choices and decisions to be made, but I feel that with repeated plays most of these could be done simultaneously. The game offers multiple paths to victory, but not obvious ones, and I enjoyed the theme of trying to rescue a city plunged into darkness. The new mechanisms and ideas involved –  like tick box actions, the way you collect and spend resources, the scouting – are plentiful and refreshing. It’s not a game for those who tend to AP but so far, I like it!

Blackout: our first game of Blackout was 2 hours, which was perfect. But I agree … I would NOT play with AP prone folks.

Cold War – Using the same system as the original the WWII version but for 3 people. This is the 90 minute simulation with lo ts of tension and story development that was played multiple times at our con.

Fine Sand – Simultaneous card play sounds cool, but it fell flat for me. I wasn’t engaged at all.

Black Skull Island: Imagine if someone played Coup and thought “What this needs is more randomness and pirates.” The nicest thing I can say is that it functionally works as a game.

Neom: played 3 times in one day… 1 solo & twice w/4 players. This is a really enjoyable blending of 7 Wonders drafting and Suburbia-ish city-building. Different strategies work… there doesn’t seem to be a “best” way to approach the game. The iconography is pretty clear – except for the Cornerstone tiles, which are drafted at the start of the game and are all unique. A player aid would have been helpful… or at least a separate folio with the explanations so the back of the rule book doesn’t have to be passed around. All that said, I’ve had fun each time I played and look forward to playing again.

Patchwork Express – meh.  Less interesting than the original, and I don’t consider the original worth owning.

Scorpius Freighter: This should have been the licensed game that went with the Firefly franchise… it’s a tightly designed game with three cleverly disguised rondels for picking actions. While the theme is somewhat abstracted by the design, the artwork and really nice production carries the day. It ran a little long on our first 4 player game… but I think this will end up being a 90 minute game for 4 once everyone has a game under their belt. It also looks like it will scale well for 2 or 3.

Merlin (Arthur Expansion) – we are big Merlin fans and this didn’t disappoint. With some of the weaker spots on the rondel removed, an extra track for Arthur, Picts to compete against, a new rule to make the environs more interesting…clearly a lot of thought has gone into this expansion.

The Great City of Rome – not great, not noticeably Rome, and even city is a bit of a stretch…

Shadows: Amsterdam – too frustrating to be fun; the structure of Dixit and Mysterium help avoid the frustration of poor matches in a way that’s missing here

Horizons: More science fiction theming… but it’s pretty much a complicated way to build an area control game. I won by pushing the timer hard. The UI has issues- players all need to be able to see top cards of five alien piles as well as those cards in front of other players and the thematic art eats up too much real estate on the cards to make that possible. I don’t need to play it again.

Blackout Hong Kong – Second play revealed quite a few key rules played incorrectly at Essen. All improve the game and I now love it. But…definitely don’t play with AP players unless you’re ruthless with a timer.

Spirits of the Wild – an interesting 2p where there’s definitely positioning in the timing to use cards. I’m wary of the power of the bonus cards.  Some seem much more powerful than others, and if you use one you may reveal a better one beneath it that your opponent will then get to use

Ground Floor – Second edition streamlined the rules and redythe turn number from 9 to 7 rounds. Many rough edges smoothed out and this is a better game as a result. The are more building floors to consider so multiple paths to follow your plans. Solid development game.

Forum Trajanum – I hate it. I cannot for the life of me keep straight trajanums, envoys, citizens, consuls, legions, etc. It is a typical jumble of Feldian mechanisms. You score for so many things. Several things seem linked together “just because”.  My opponents all had looks of incredulity as I explained that not only do you score the current round value for your column, but also 1 point for each citizen you have, because, you know, just like in real life. They were all happy to move on to Reykholt. I, on the other hand, had a huge smile on my face as I puzzled through my turns. Which special action will I choose with my new citizen? But that won’t score me extra points for neutral buildings in that row! But it will let me upgrade my scoring strip widget. I love it.

Narabi – after one play, I’m looking forward to more plays, but I can see being finished with it after a number of plays -though I’m not sure what that number is, and I could be wrong.

Lift Off – A pleasant time; I’m happy to play again, but okay if I don’t.

Keyflow:  I was not the biggest fan of Keyflower, but enjoyed the Key to the City: London version as I felt it streamlined the game and made it less fiddly.  I wasn’t particularly eager to play Keyflow, as I understood it had strong similarities to Keyflower. It was described to me as a mix of the 7 Wonders “take a card and pass the rest” mechanism with the Keyflower system.  This proved to be a very accurate description. The game was fine, but not different enough from Keyflower to warrant acquiring.

Airship City – We weren’t impressed with Airship City at all. It works but is quite predictable and dull. Nothing much interesting happens except the board manipulation, and that isn’t enough to carry the game.

Seals – a mindless card game not for me because it felt so random – faster than Uno

AuZtralia – a 2nd (solo) play of AuZtralia confirms my positive opinion of the game – though I’m not sure Martin Wallace actually designed it. It moves too smoothly and the systems make sense. :-)   the narrative of that world is what leads to the story behind this particular game. The Old Ones have been forced out of Europe/America… and now the desperate humans have been able to explore and settle new territories in their search for unspoiled lands & resources. Australia is particularly attractive… but it turns out that the Old Ones went & hid out in the Outback. So, players don’t fight each other – but do have to fight the Old Ones (NPC) as they “appear” and attempt to destroy what the humans have built. (The Old Ones appear about 1/3 of the way into the game.) The game uses the timing mechanic from Thebes and a deck-driven combat/movement system for the various types of Old Ones and their minions. The action assignment system is pretty straightforward – but does cause players to need to “reset” or end up paying a lot of gold to the game system over time. Players score vps by building farms (and keeping them from being blighted), killing monsters, mining phosphate and fulfilling personality card objectives.  Like I said, I’ve enjoyed both plays of this and am looking forward to playing 1-2 times again this week

Gingerbread House: I hadn’t heard much about this before seeing it – but it’s a nicely produced building/collecting game – as you are witches using your ever-expanding gingerbread house to lure unsuspecting fairy tale creatures in for points & glory (and dinner). Very enjoyable in just under an hour with four players – and it looks like it would scale nicely.

Fertility – vaguely approaches being a game.  Never quite gets there.

Outback – pleasant enough, but I don’t regret not getting a copy

Astro Drive – A cute little space race game in a small box. It works well.  For some reason, none of us could remember the card icons. This would have been improved with player aid cards to remind people of the characteristics of all the special board spaces as well as the card icons.  For a fifteen minute game – it’s harmless.

Manitoba  – Beautiful bits and it tried hard to match its theme, but the play itself just wasn’t interesting to me.

Promenade – Pre Kickstarter demo version in use. This game has excellent systems. It is a deck builder with most cards being paintings in different styles (colours). The acquisition cost steadily increases but so does the value of paintings. Your deck can be thinned by exhibiting paintings in museums scoring more victory points. 60 minute game which I’ll post a full review. Kickstarter in 2019.

7 Wonders: Armada: As others have said, this could well be the best 7W expansion yet. After one play (where I came in last), I think it would combine REALLY well with Cities to make a slightly longer but very enjoyable “epic” game. It’s on my must-buy list – but no one is surprised by that.

AuZtralia: I don’t usually love Martin Wallace’s game designs… and I’m rather tired of people pasting on Cthulu themes. And yet, there’s actually a really good game here about the Old Ones hiding out in the Australian outback, fighting against the encroaching colonists and their farms. Note: it’s helpful to have some idea of what the Old Ones might choose to do (the Revelation cards) before you start playing – high-level baddies spawning on temples played havoc with our strategic plans.

Lighthouse Run: Pretty game of sailboat racing – reminiscent of Selecta’s Viva Topo, except there’s a storm cloud rather than a cat. Perfectly playable, but a big tricky for younger kids due to moving around the beacons. It would be a difficult game for parents and older siblings not to run over younger children.

Claim Kingdoms – dreadful

Hasp – not dreadful

Newton – lots of sound and fury, but failed entirely to convey the theme for me

Luxantis: HABA uses an LED-loaded board to create a “maze” game of sorts – actually a cooperative adventure. We had a great time with it – there are different ways to adjust difficulty, though I think the rules could be clearer about how shadow creatures move on the castle board. If my boys were still young, I’d buy this in a heartbeat.

Keyforge – I played three times with the same deck and lost all three, though two were really close. I liked the combinations, the uncertainty of what would turn up and the understanding  I gained of my deck by game three. It has many attractions and my next two decks covered more of the houses which was lucky. I was taught my first game by an “expert” who’s played 6 times before but with some significant rules that varied from the printed ones, though still interesting. I can see multiple new houses added over the com8ng 10 years.

Monster Lands – Use your heroes to fight monsters and choose where to line up against them. Too early and your dice might not be sufficient letting in the next person. Dice rolls can be improved by weapons and armour and should have been more fun. Wrong environment for a first play. Ok game.

Bad Bones – an analog version of a tower defense game.  We only played the competitive version, but it was a blast.  This is a huge surprise for me. I did not know about it prior to the show, and I’m got one of the 500 advance copies.  I hate tower defense games on my phone, but this one was a nice blend of chaos and pressure from the never ending skeletons that come at you.  Next up would be the cooperative version where you work as a team to fight them off – hopefully later this week!

Fast Forward: Fortune: Just got about 1/3 of the way through the deck in our first set of plays – it reminds me of Flee, which was our favorite of the first crop of Fast Forward games, so that’s a positive.

EXIT: The puzzle – we had a lot of fun with the jigsaw puzzle part.  It had been a long time since we had sat down and just done a jigsaw puzzle.  Took about 14 manhours total, with breaks for homework, phone calls and life in general.  We probably would have done it in a single afternoon if we had not been interrupted. The EXIT puzzle part was interesting enough and we solved it without needing any clues.  For us, the ending was not awesome, but YMMV.

Merlin: Arthur Expansion: All the changes are for the good. Manors nerfed, less used spaces removed and more interesting ones added. But, one new action each turn adds 20% game time. My first play was pretty slow, but hopefully faster next time.

Architects of the Western Kingdom – we did not use the black market and several other spaces, so the game felt quite generic as we snowballed.  It seems unfair to judge the game based on using half the spaces, but I’m not sure we are heading back to the Western Kingdom

Blackout: Hong Kong: Nicely crunchy Euro with some thematic tie-in (especially on the objective cards). The puzzling out of how to play your cards for maximum effect was really interesting. We played a 4 player game with newbies in 2 hours (not including rules). I really liked it… but I’d avoid like the plague with anyone with AP tendencies.

Star Realms: Frontiers (& Commanders) – I enjoy co-op games and this new base set comes with 8 “challenge” cards to play against in co-op.  There’s a surprising amount of changes in the setup for each challenge so they feel and play different.  The “Commander” packs available as part of this release significantly upgrade players’ initial hands but don’t mesh as well with the solo/co-op options in the release

Roll to the top – Fill in your grid of squares (shaped as a famous building) to win the game by combining dice. Simultaneous play makes the game fast (20 min). Liked by all for an end of evening game.

Dubbe – it’s a trick taking game.  WIth a scoring board/track that makes absolutely no sense as it is split into three pieces.  And coasters that pass between players constantly. Once we figured out the rules, we took tricks, tried to score points correctly and passed coasters amongst each other.  Then aborted after the first hand. The story about the beer glasses in the preface of the rules was interesting and informative at least.

Trade on the Tigris – After mixed early reviews I was concerned that this might not be fun, but it was excellent. I loved the trading (3 player) which concluded in 2 minutes most rounds. One component seemed to be printed the wrong way but this did not detract from th3 high level of enjoyment had by all players. This was a big success.

Western Legends: The game system works – turns are quick and players have lots of opportunities to do Western-y things. Billy the Kid trying to rob the same bank 6 times and only succeeding twice got funnier & funnier with each attempt. However, I think there are serious balance issues – this lovely looking game has the feel of something that was playtested by a small group of folks. 18 year old me would have eaten this up with a spoon; [middle-aged] me was glad for a chance to play but probably wouldn’t make time for it again.

Tokyo Highway – my latest dexterity game. With 4 players it becomes quite a complex interconnection of roads and introduces some strategy as you have to plan where you place your roads in order to be able to cross over or under other players roads in future turns. I like it and with more plays I could love it

Cubirds is a fun light game

Valparaiso – Unsure. We had a decent game, but we misunderstood the rule/signficance of selling off achievement cards.  We ended up selling them off mid-game which made our action decks weaker, not realizing that they would score no matter what at the end.  Therefore, the only reason you would sell a card off early is in the very last round if you could surprise someone with the game ending a round earlier than expected. The downside (at least for me) is that if we hadn’t sold off cards along the way, the game would have been 2-3 rounds longer… and it was plenty long with our artificial shortening of the game.  That being said, it might flow better with the better actions in your hand, and perhaps the game wouldn’t last as long with the better actions. Requires another play to be sure, and I’m not against playing it again.

Blode Kuh –  I finished one round with my wife and son and they were like, We can stop this now, yes? I just need a different family, I think.

Blackout – Probably one of the best games that I never want to play again.  I loved the card/deck building mechanism – the way buying the cards work with multiple times around the table, possibly decreasing prices, (and yes, refilling immediately if empty), the fact that buying it wasn’t enough – I then need to complete the bottom of the card to get it into my hand, the way some cards are completed by getting the right color combinations in the columns was a nice puzzle with the programming of the cards I wanted to use, and which cards I wanted in which pile for re-drawing, using the searching as a way to trash cards, jockeying your hand size to allow you to redraw.  But. I’ve never had a game with my group where we were so distracted from the usual forward momentum of playing a game. Something about the way the turn structure goes. It was herding cats. Just no focus. If I was playing with strangers, I might say it was them, but I’ve been playing with these folks weekly for years, and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t us. I didn’t think the rules were fiddly, but I think it is fiddly in execution of the game play. The turn structure, but also the wheel for tracking resources. Everyone using the same wheel – it’s odd to have your resources not in front of you or on your mat, the wheel gets crowded, it’s easy to knock resources into an adjacent slice, its hard to see which resources the cubes are when the slice is crowded, reaching across the board, etc.

Just One – so, it seems like REPOS pretty much makes 7Wonders expansions and party games now.  And, you know what, I think they do a damn good job at both. In this cooperative game, the group tries to get the guesser to say a target word, with each player using only a one word clue.  Duplicated clues are eliminated – and, of course, the group must write down their words secret and simultaneously. So far, we haven’t managed a perfect game, but we did get 12 out of 13 last night.  Should also note that the boards/markers work awesomely.

Walls of York: Nice bits, playable game – but I don’t need to play it again. The idea is clever – but the game itself doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. (And, once again, there are some unclear rules – come on, people, rules need playtesting as well as the game.)

Raccoon Tycoon: Massively over-produced (the start player marker could be used to bludgeon another player)… and yet, this was actually quite enjoyable. Turns are quick and there are a number of ways to work to acquire cash, resources and victory points. The buildings are extremely powerful – and the order in which they come out will affect the path of each game. (Another “should have been fixed in playtesting” gripe – the text on the chunky & attractive building tiles often needs clarification in the rulebook. They act in some ways that are non-intuitive.)

Fortune – I have cured myself of Fable curiosity for the foreseeable future

Marble Bobsleigh:  Release marbles from a hidden chute, then quickly pull the right color flag if the the released marble matches the color of a previously released one.  You can blow on your marble to quicken its speed, but not too hard lest it jump the track, resulting in a horrible crash. This should be a fun, quick filler with racing excitement, but our game took about 45 minutes to play.  That is far too long for something as light and silly as this.

Fast Forward Fortune – The whole Fast Forward idea of reading the rules as they appear during the game works so well with non-gamers introducing them to the hobby. My family are really enjoying this game.

Just One – sad to say that for me, each card fell into the too easy or too hard category, and not enough in the gooey center.

Reykholt – Lots of emerging complexity from relatively simple choices, in a 40 min play time. Would get old were it not for the Uwe-ish deck of special actions, and looking forward to the story mode

Ceylon:  I really liked the concept of the game–planting, harvesting and shipping tea–and it appeared to have a nice mix of European-style mechanisms.  It even included a Puerto-Rico style mechanism wherein the active player selects one of the three available actions from a card, after which his opponents each choose one of the remaining two.  Unfortunately, there was so much going on, much of which was beyond a player’s control. My friend Trip Godel explained that it the feel of trying to steer a plane in a hurricane. For me, the game simply lacked excitement.  The ratings from all four players were perfectly mediocre.

Trailmazer – it’s like Mattel stole the idea of Tron Cycles and made a board game out of it.  Challenging fun that feels familiar (in fact, so familiar, I wonder if someone has done it before).  The rolling pieces are neat, when they actually work.

Forum Trajan not a bad Feld, I’d play it again but don’t think I need to own it

Oziland – unexciting tile matching with a veneer of a theme.

Fortran – the best new-to-me game I played at BGGCon

Crown of Emara – A neat game, somewhat complex on the first play; it took me about 2/3 of the game to figure out what I was trying to do.  Interesting action mechanic system where you use a card to choose an action, but you also get a second action depending on where you put it on your board – and it was this interplay that took me awhile to grasp.  There are two scoring tracks in the game, and your final score is the lower of the two – an interesting challenge to figure out which track to try to score on at different times in the game. Definitely one I want to play again.

Valparaiso was ok, I’d play it again but it didn’t really grab me.

Spirits of the Wild – a two player game about collecting gems and figuring out how to score them. The rules could have used a bit of extra explanation on some of the bonus cards.

Orbis:  Swimming against the tide, I was never a fan of Splendor, so I wasn’t too eager to try Space Cowboys’ latest release.  The game has a puzzle-life feel, as one must carefully plan his pyramid of tiles so that he doesn’t get “stuck” and find himself unable to place one or more tiles.  That part is reasonably interesting, but the game just lacked excitement or intrigue. The need to validate certain tiles was at times frustrating, and the gods tiles seemed to be irrelevant.  This was universally panned by all four players.

Belratti – OK, still fun. Definitely group dependent.  But, was with a good group, and we had fun.

Trailmazer – some depth there but not sure if the cool factor of the rings will be enough for me to overcome my abstract aversion

Crown of Emara I liked a bit more, a bit more interesting with the two rondels

Marble Bobsleigh: Silly but quite enjoyable real-time marble racing game – improved by having a crowd of people around to cheer & laugh. I don’t need to own it, but I’ll gladly play it as a late-night closer.

Trapwords: What if you made Taboo more difficult…? Well, this is it. The clue-giving rules are even nitpick-ier than Codenames, but with the right crowd (and we had the right crowd), it was a lot of fun. I’m afraid, however, that this one could flop with the wrong group. (The box does contain a wider variety of “map” tiles which can make the game easier – with kids and with folks who don’t normally play word games, I’d start out with the “1” or “2” tile.)

Teotihuacan – I like playing this game as there are so many different paths to victory that it provides different experiences with each play. However some members of my gaming group find it fiddly with trying to remember the bonuses/technologies that may need to be applied to the various placements around the board. Additionally, it is quite analysis paralysis prone and it can take a while between each of your turns. With these issues it may not got the table time I was hoping for which is disappointing.

Valparaiso – clever space payment system, but if you program cards correctly, it is sort of a non-issue.  Card purchasing and rushing the end game seemed strong. Merchants were suckers as the river travel cards broke the toll station income stream.  Not really fun and no big moves.

City of Rome really didn’t work for me at all

Astro Drive: Fast moving space race that would easily fit in a backpack and can be played on a small table… and actually has some fun things going for it. It plays in less than half an hour and still offers a number of chances for clever decisions. Wish they’d added a “what does this space do?” cheat sheet apart from the rulebook, but it’s not difficult to remember all of the various dangers.

The Walls of York – not a bad game at all – the description I heard of being a roll-and-write without writing is apt.  Would play again.

KeyForge: Played for the first with two decks that weren’t starters… and was pleasantly surprised that the game seems reasonably balanced and had lots of opportunities for clever play. A concern: I wouldn’t want to get decks that were similar in composition – I’d like to make sure I have variety IF I was going to go down this particular gaming rabbit hole.

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Essen 2018. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Opinionated Gamers – Quick Takes, Part Deux…

  1. Aaron Downing says:

    These “quick takes” are rather pointless. I wouldn’t miss them if they vanished after this 2nd attempt.

  2. Jon Peoble says:

    I really enjoy these quick takes! Nice, quick first impressions of a game that give me a general feel for what was enjoyable or not. I think this is a great way to sum up your Con experience.

  3. dbvanderark says:

    These would be a lot easier to read and comprehend if you sorted them by game, so all the comments about Lift Off were together, etc.

    • I completely agree. Please group the quick takes for games together.

      Personally, it would also be useful to know who thought what. My tastes mesh with some of the OG crew, but not with others. Without knowing who thought what, the information conveyed in the quick takes is a lot less useful.

  4. Roy Tan says:

    Kudos to the quick takes, it gives me a very good insight into what to keep and cull from wish list!

  5. Will Colton (DaGreenMachine) says:

    I love the quick takes! Keep them coming! I do like the idea of sorting by game and possibly including the name of the quick taker? Maybe defeats the purpose. I would rather have more of the same than nothing at all!

  6. Oliver Dienz says:

    Another vote for keep doing them. I could live with the unsorted presentation but the takes would be vastly improved by knowing who supplied the statement.

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