Brandon Kempf – Three Games of September

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

Let’s kick off the Three Games of September by mentioning a couple games that we played in September that will have reviews coming in October, fingers crossed. Aqualin, Conspiracy Abyss Universe, Coatl & Enigma Beyond Code all saw their first plays this month and will have reviews incoming shortly. Four pretty different games, but all pack a pretty good punch in a short play time, with Coatl playing the longest. We had our first remote gathering for gaming in September, when our family and a couple friends and their families met at a centralized location and holed up in an Air BnB and played games for a couple days. It felt good to play games with people we don’t live with again. In all, September was a pretty good month, with 39 total plays, of 29 different games. In total I learned 14 new games in September, the most new games I have played in a long while, let’s look at three of those. 

Nokosu Dice

Trick taking games are a long time favorite genre of games for me, but rarely do they get played by me and my family, as we are usually groups of two or three. So, it’s always nice to get to play some when the groups are larger. Nokosu Dice has already been reviewed here on The OG by James Nathan, so I won’t dive in too deeply here. Just know that it’s a unique trick taking game that uses both cards and dice, and after the cards are dealt, there is a draft where everyone picks dice from a central offering that is a bit different each round. The last die in the center will denote the color of the trump for the round, and also will denote the “supertrump” number. So the hierarchy goes, “Supertrump”, the Trump Color, then the Highest Valued card, or die, played. You kind of expect it to be a convoluted mess of a trick taking game, but in reality, it all plays super smoothly. The die that everyone has in hand will always be open information, so this will create some fun situations where maybe you are trying to lead an opponent out of something, knowing what they have in front of them, but not always knowing what is in hand. The ultimate twist to the game is that you play a set number of hands, and you will always have one die left over at the end of the hand, unless you declare a nil bid, and that die will denote your “bid” for that hand. Match the number on the die and gain extra points based on the other players that hit their “bid”, miss and you’ll only gain one point per trick you took. Absolutely brilliant, and easy to play, but still has enough of a twist to it to make it a bit impossible for me to teach to my parents, but it’s a great one to break out with the game group. 

Maglev Metro

 Of all the games that we played over the weekend away that stood out, Maglev Metro has kind of been stuck in my head, for a couple different reasons. One, I have this incessant feeling that I should own it, because I absolutely enjoyed the heck out of it. Two, I shouldn’t own it because my wife would absolutely freeze up during hte game and we’d never get it played again after the first try. Maglev Metro is a wonderful pick up and deliver game and folks will immediately feel a connection between it and Age of Steam, but there are a couple things in Maglev Metro that made me really enjoy it a lot more than my plays of AoS. One, there are no auctions, this speeds things up tremendously. Two, the flexible “tech tree” that you can manipulate as you play to best suit your needs each turn. I honestly cannot think of a game that does this. This is also probably the biggest downfall with Maglev Metro, at least here. It will cause some analysis issues as you try to play that balance game each and every turn, especially in the middle of the game. I think at the beginning and end you are going to be focused on certain things, but during that middle of the game you are going to be more flexible with what you can and should do. Really fun design that I want to play again, I’m just going to have to rely on others to make that happen. 

Sea of Clouds

A simple, card drafting, set collecting game of piracy on the really high seas. Each player on a turn is going to draft a card from the three in the offering, or add a card to a stack and choose another one. At most a stack can have three in it. When choosing these cards, you will add them to your ship, they’ll be anything from crew members, to rum that you are collecting, or other valuables. Some cards will even have actions that you have to take and then discard. Every set number of rounds, a battle will take place among the players. At that point players compare their combat value from items collected and crewmembers, with the winning pirates gaining advantages and plunder. Part of the fun of the drafting is that the cards are face down when being drafted, but the card backs will give you clues as to what they are, different types of cards have different backs. At the end of the game, the pirate with the most plunder, doubloons, wins and is the king of the high seas of clouds, or something like that. This one wasn’t awful, it was a nice change of pace game with that typical Iello production value. There is a lot of push your luck going on here, and a lot of take that, but if you have a group that enjoys that kind of thing in a short time frame, Sea of Clouds is not a bad choice. Another one of those games that will never be the main course of a game night, but it certainly can fit in nicely as an appetizer or dessert. 

September was a good month, and October was looking to be a good month as well, but we have a kid home quarantining at this time due to a “close contact” tracing at her school so everything is on a hold at the moment. Maybe this will give me more time to write, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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