If you haven’t had the chance to do autumn in New England, you are missing out. It is the area’s best season with fall color bringing visitors from all over the country. In Salem, fall means getting ready for Halloween. October is a month long festival with parades of all types, street performers, craft fairs, costumes, a horror film fest, and much, much more. Its nuts in Salem right now. Tourists fill the streets, shops, and restaurants which make regular life a bit hectic on the weekends.
For our game group, October means getting ready for our annual gaming event, Lobster Trap which brings about a different type of hectic. It means new games and lots of them. We have spent the past six weeks reviewing the Essen Preview here at BGG in an effort to develop a list of games we hope to bring back from Essen to share with Lobster Trap attendees in an effort to create a “try before buy” weekend.
Many of the new games are starting to arrive, so we are starting to use our regular sessions to try new games and parse rule sets in an effort to be well armed for teaching a host of new games at Lobster Trap. Three of us (Derek, Scott and myself) were able to get together to try a few new titles that recently arrived.
Crystal Palace – Derek was excited to teach this upcoming release from Feuerland and Capstone and was fortunate enough to be in possession of a pre-production copy. After some set up and rules explanation, we were off. The basic idea behind the game has players representing different countries attempting to find fame and fortune at the first world’s fair in London in 1851. This is done over a series of rounds leading up to the opening of the fair.
Players use dice to claim a variety of spots over several different boards. Dice aren’t rolled, but rather set by the players to faces of their choice. The catch is players must pay for their dice based on the total of pips. The higher the value of a die, the more flexibility in placing on the board to claim the best/most productive spots. But cashflow is tight so managing this decision is not easy and provides the tension in the game.
So what are players vying for with their dice? There is a large variety of places to choose from during the dice placement phase. There are areas that increase income and cashflow, allow drafting of patents and inventors/personalities, gain necessary resources for said patents, or promote your country’s upcoming exhibits just to name a few. Setting your dice and placing them goes on for five rounds with the player with the most prestigious exhibits (in the form of points scored) winning.
The flow of the game was easy to understand once we got into the first round. The number of choices for placing dice was overwhelming at first, but that disappeared in short order. The depth of choice felt similar to Raja of the Ganges or Last Will. Lots of options, but in choosing one, you are likely ceding another good choice to your opponents. The game feels like it is on the heavier side of the spectrum, but not too heavy.
Derek jumped out to an early lead, but Scott and I hung around and eventually both passed him in the last round. Scott was the star of the fair a handful of points ahead of me. Derek called me more than a few names throughout the course of the game when I swiped a key spot from him. Enjoyable first go and it merits a second play.
The Quest for El Dorado – The Golden Temples – Scott, Derek and I have been anxiously awaiting this release as evidenced by the fact that we all got a copy in a recent shipment. It has become a group favorite and evergreen title. I’m still of the opinion the original title should have won the SdJ a few years back.
We excitedly opened and punched the game, gave the rules a cursory glance to see what types of changes Herr Knizia came up with and were off and running (Cue the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack in the background). Both Scott and I have pimped out our base games with a large variety of Lego mini-figures which totally adds to the fun and ridiculousness of the game. Scott chose Huey, one of Donald Duck’s nephews with a slingshot, while Derek stuck with the classic Indiana Jones mini-fig with whip and pistol. My Rocket Racoon with Baby Groot and blaster rounded out the intrepid group.
Mechanics are the same with a new type of terrain requiring torches. There are new base decks and a totally different card market. The goal is to retrieve three gems from three different temples and get them back to the start area. We each took off in a different direction and crossed paths several times. Scott and I were able to run really lean decks which gave us a pretty big edge. Scott got out first, but I was right behind him and had a tie breaking edge. Derek was likely a full turn away from escaping. Great stuff! We are looking forward to both adding the full complement of players as well as mixing it up with the base game.
Photo by Scott Ferrier
Promenade – This was the last game of the night. It arrived in the mail while we were starting up Crystal Palace. It’s a deck building game where you are purchasing paintings from local galleries in an effort to build up the most valuable collection while having paintings from your collection hang in great museums. The unique twist is the paintings in your collection can be used as currency for further purchases. As you purchase paintings, the value of paintings in the same genre goes up which increases your purchasing power. You can also purchase more valuable gold cards to increase your efficiency. Gold cards can also be trashed for larger sums. At the end of the game, your collection will be worth points based on the value of the different genres of paintings as well as the gold cards in your deck. Throw in some endgame bonus cards and you have yourself interesting speculation game using deck building.
I attempted to run my deck super lean and count on the increasing value of my collection of paintings to win. By the end of the game I had no gold cards in my deck and had put the most paintings up for exhibit. Derek and Scott were more balanced in their approach finishing with significant amounts of gold in their deck and holding onto more paintings in their collection. Derek scored a good chunk of end game points with the gold to point ratio hitting 1:1 by the end. It would be enough to propel him to victory over me by a handful of points. I think this game is going to stick around long term. It has tough decisions and nice variability given the speculative nature. If you get the chance, I would try to track a copy of Promenade down.
That’s all for now. Look for a few more quick previews in the coming weeks.