Essen 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

For me, Friday at Essen means more time playing games and less time shopping.  This posts covers several topics: (1) what’s hot, (2) what I played, and (3) some preview details on “Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten”, which is currently topping the Fairplay list this year.

If you missed the post last night, I had initial impressions of Evidence and Luna Nova. On Wednesday, I had them for Anubixx, Azul Summer Pavilion, and Chartae.

What’s Hot

Like always, let’s discuss the Fairplay and Geekbuzz lists.  The Fairplay list is generally reliable because publishers can’t easily manipulate it like the BGG list. The first list was released this morning, and then it was updated this afternoon. (We retweeted it if you want to see the photo.) To get on the list required 10 votes from scouts with ratings of 3.5 or more:

  • Die Crew – 4.5
  • Res Arcana – 4.4
  • Crystal Palace – 4.1
  • Carnival of Monster – 4.1
  • Kitchen Rush – 4.0
  • Azul: Summer Pavilion – 4.0
  • TEAM3 vielfarbig – 3.9
  • Cooper Island – 3.8
  • Nova Luna – 3.8
  • Harry Potter – Kampf um Hogwarts – 3.8
  • Palm Island – 3.8
  • Calavera – 3.7
  • Ecos – The First Continent – 3.7
  • Dinosaur Island – 3.7

For those of you that had not heard of Die Crew, I hadn’t either until this morning. I put details on it below.

The following games had good ratings but not enough ratings to get on the list: Barrage, Cartographers, Glen More II, Mandala, Marco Polo II, Pictures, Root, Rune Stones, Terramara, and Trismegistus.

And now the top 20 on the Geekbuzz list:

  • The Magnificent
  • Aquatica
  • Ecos: First Continent
  • Bruxelles 1897
  • Trismegistus
  • Black Angel
  • Its a Wonderful World
  • Maracaibo
  • Cooper Island
  • Sanctum
  • Last Bastion
  • Terramara
  • Underwater Cities: New Discoveries
  • Trails of Tucana
  • Offshore
  • Orleans Stories
  • Pharaon
  • Barrage
  • Rune Stones
  • Glen More II Chronicles

What a weird couple of lists. I thought the GeekBuzz list last night actually did a better job of capturing the convention.

I normally say the truth is in the overlap, but that includes only Ecos: First Continent and Cooper Island, though Azul (#23) and Luna Nova (#29) would have made it if I had gone down just a bit further on the BGG list.

What I Played

Tricks and the Phantom, Designed by Takashi Saito, Published by Oink Games

I was interested in this game because it has a bit of deduction and a bit of trick taking. There are just 11 cards in the game, each with one of three colors. The highest card played in a trick is the “murderer,” although some cards have powers that can overrule this. When you play a card, you have to give a clue token about what color you played (although the 1 can have any color put on top of it). Then, before the trick is revealed, everybody makes a guess about who the murderer will be. You get points for a correct guess, points for being the murderer, and sometimes points from the power on the cards.

I wanted to like this game, but ultimately, both the trick taking and the deduction fell a bit flat. There really isn’t trick taking, because you can’t see the cards when you play them, and nobody really wins the trick. And the deduction is really more of educated, chaotic guessing. I’d be willing to play it again, but I took it off my buy list after my one play.

Initial OG Rating: Netural

Lost Cities: Auf Schatzsuche, Designed by Reiner Knizia, Published by Kosmos

Just like in other games in the Lost Cities / Keltis series, you’re taking on missions by gathering tiles of different colors in ascending order. Each tile has a number of footprints that earn points at the end of the game, and some have the handshake ability to double or triple the score of that color’s mission.

The big difference (other than the switch from cards to tiles) is that the dice are the main mechanic. You can roll (and selectively re-roll twice), and then you take a tile matching the pips on your dice. If (and only if) you rolled a handshake, you can take take one of those tiles. Along the way, you can earn 10-point bonus tiles for completing runs, gathering a set number of tiles in a mission, or gathering sets of numbers/colors. The game ends when the 10s run out or a set number of bonus tiles, and the player with the high score wins.

I love the Lost Cities / Keltis line, so I was always going to like this. But this game is actually tense and engaging, a cool press-your-luck game (the dice can get worse with each re-roll). The bonuses make for interesting strategic decisions, and they’re a fresh addition to the Lost Cities experience. I’ll probably be playing this a lot when I get home.

Initial OG Rating: I love it!

Preview: Die Crew: Reist gemeinsam zum 9. Planeten

Until this morning, I hadn’t experienced the top game on the Fairplay list being a game I had never even heard of. Worse, I always closely study upcoming trick taking games, and this was listed as one on the BGG preview, so I have no idea how I missed it. Nonetheless, I found lots of additional details today. I bought a copy, sat for a demo with Kosmos, and read the rules (which Opinionated Gamer James Nathan translated for our group). I just haven’t had the chance to play it because I couldn’t find English-language players at the Kosmos area!

But here are the details:

Die Crew is a cooperative trick-taking game with 50 different missions. In many ways, it is a standard trick taking game: players must follow suit, there are trump cards (which can only be played if you can’t follow suit), and the highest value of suit led wins unless there is a trump card.

Players are trying to complete the mission, and there are 50 missions in the campaign. A mission usually has a number of jobs to complete, and a job is represented by a small card that a player has in front of them. The player with that card has to capture the trick in which the matching big card is played. So if you have the small green 5 in front of you, you have to capture the trick in which the big blue 3 is played. Sometimes jobs need to be completed in order (and there are tokens to track that). Additional restrictions can be added to a mission, such as “one trick must be won with a 1-value card” and “no trick can be won with a 9.”

That sounds simple, but players generally aren’t allowed to communicate about what cards they have in their hand. A player can share limited information once a mission before a trick starts by putting a card on the table, then placing a token to indicate if it is their only card of that color, the highest card they have of that color, or the lowest card they have of that color. If one of those three things isn’t true about the card, they can’t put it down. Other information can’t be shared.

I’m incredibly excited to give the game a try. I’ve only ever played one other cooperative trick taking game — Familiar’s Trouble — and it was much less dynamic than Die Crew. Some of the missions here look easy to experienced trick takers, and some seem downright devious. But it has been a long time since I was this excited for a trick taker, and it seems original enough to justify its sky-high ratings on the Fairplay list.

I’ll do a post once I’ve found some fellow players and given it a chance!

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7 Responses to Essen 2019, Day 2: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

  1. Matt Johan says:

    You note that Glen More II and Trismegistus had good ratings but didnt make the list…but then they appear in the list :-). Maybe you updated the Geekbuzz list later in the day?

  2. Matt Johan says:

    Oh you can ignore my other comment. I see now that the list of games that did not make it into the top slots were for the Fairplay list not the Geekbuzz list. So many lists!


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