Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – 2021 (Part 2)

From Yucata, at some point we slid (not into DMs but) into Boardgame Arena. The BGA interface for creating games is horrible compared to the simplicity of Yucata and it’s a real barrier to entry. But the drive for gaming variety led us to overcome. BGA is much slicker for card games and bidding games with its ability to provide one-touch turns (Yucata insists on extra end-turn urgh-I-forgot-again clicks) but for the heavier games, Yucata seems  to provide better, more intuitive experiences.

 

Anyway, our online hero game over the last year has been Russian Railroads, and that’s our spotlight game this time around. Yucata gave us the chance to explore German Railroads and American Railroads, both of which I prefer over the original, with the former being my favourite of the three due to the ability to tailor your own track. All held up well to multiple replay and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to explore them more fully.

 

In regards to other new games, well it’s still a bit less than stellar at this point through our online journey, but starting to pick up.

 

BANDIDO (2016): Rank 2209, Rating 6.5

A co-op of taking turns playing route cards to extend a common map, aiming to engineer it so the routes circle around and all close down in dead-ends. It was more of a filler than anything, with nothing much clever going on. We played sensibly and it came out first time, so there didn’t seem much point playing again.

Rating: 5

An older review, more positive

 

BOOMERANG: AUSTRALIA (2016): Rank 3252, Rating 7.1

Nice little game in the Fairy Tale mould. 7 cards, keep 1, pass the rest, continue until done, score your kept cards at the end of the round, play 4 rounds. There are 5 different ways to score cards using various combinations of icons, and each round you want to score in different ways and use different cards from those you’ve used in previous rounds, which makes the decisions on what to keep a touch harder with each round. Nothing mind-blowing, but pleasant and good for its length.

Rating: 7

CARAVAN (2019): Rank 4292, Rating 6.8

A classic feeling Euro, placing camels in a chain to pick up cubes and then move them across your chain to deliver to their destination city. It’s nicely playable but we had the sense that you’ll do better if the board refills drop cubes on your camels in the colours that you can already deliver, or close enough to, rather than have to pick up all your camels and start elsewhere on the board. As such, it’s an action efficiency game where it helps getting lucky.

Rating: 6

 Dale’s review is here

CLOUD CITY (2020): Rank 4612, Rating 7.1

Take the leftover monorail bits from Barenpark and voila, we have a game of building monorails/skyways. You want to plan (as many turns ahead as you can) what the best way to lay out buildings are on your grid to maximise the number of high value walkways to connect them. Buildings are at different heights so walkways can criss-cross – the more criss-crosses, the more walkways, the more the score. But then the tiles you draw (that dictate what you build) stuff you up so you have to change your plan on the fly (which can cause AP) and then you have to watch for the walkways running out in the length/colour you want which causes more AP. Or you can just wing it to keep the game moving along and that’s kinda what happened, The cost is that everyone ended up feeling somewhat out of sorts at the end because they felt they could have done better with more time, but no one felt they would have enjoyed it more if we’d AP’d it either, leaving it in a nebulous place.

Rating: 6

 Dale liked it better, and he’s not even a fellow Aussie

FLAMING PYRAMIDS (2018): Rank 15694, Rating 5.6

The first player to clear their stack of tiles wins. Your ability to place a tile is dependent on what the players play before you (you must match colour or number with either of the two tiles below it in the pyramid, and the number must be lower than the sum of theirs) so that part’s a lottery, and if you can’t place legally, you must pick up all the tiles below it and add them to your stack. If you want it to be, it can be fun watching people crash and burn and adding piles to their stacks … as long as everyone accepts it’s completely random and it’ll go for about double the time it should.

Rating: 5

 

LUCKY NUMBERS  (2012): Rank 4181, Rating 6.1

In the Finito family. Pick a number tile, and place it such that each row and each column have tiles that ascend in number order. Any tile you replace goes into a common pool that anyone can draw from. The only real trick is to place such that your final gaps are as high as possible to maximise your chance of drawing the “lucky number” that fills your last gap. It’s quite good though in that very light opener category.

Rating: 7

 

PENNY PRESS (2015): Rank 3108, Rating 6.5

Take turns putting meeples out on tiles (aka stories) or various sizes, and at some point, when you’re winning enough tiles to fill your board (or close to), spend a turn “printing” those stories, scoring, removing the tiles from play, and flip out some new tiles for further play. Repeat until someone has printed 4 times, and then add bonus scores for each story category in which you’ve collected the most story stars. How well you do mostly depends on whether people leave you alone or compete for your tiles, which will happen more if you compete for the most popular stories (ie the biggest tiles with the most stars). The game was more about the fun of the hosage rather than being clever, but it’s nicely neat and tidy if that’s what you’re after.

Rating: 6

 

RAJAS OF THE GANGES : THE DICE CHARMERS  (2020): Rank 2149, Rating 7.6

It works just fine in the manner that roll-and-writes work. Each round a bunch of dice are rolled that allow you to tick off various things, and each player chooses one from the pool, start player rotates, new round, roll all the dice again. Tick off things, get tick-off bonuses for ticking off sets of things, and try and tick off things that will allow you to score faster than the other players, dice willing. It resembles the board game in looks but not the game-play – the tension of the action spaces and tile spaces is replaced by the taking of the dice, and that doesn’t feel tense because all the bonuses provide multiple ways to skin your cat. The strategy is similar though – keep progressing on whatever you’ve built so far, dice willing, to progress it harder, better, faster, stronger than the other players.

Rating: 6

 

SCHRODINGER’S CATS (2015): Rank 8102, Rating 6.0

This is a nice variant of Bluff. The differences are that it’s played with cards, there’s only 3 numbers/types of cards, plus wilds, and if you make a wrong call you’re eliminated from the game. Just a little cutthroat, and brings a lower rating accordingly. To offset that a little, each round is played with 1 fewer card (aka dice) per player, meaning the rounds get quicker and quicker and getting eliminated isn’t as tough as it might be, especially because there’s still fun to be had in watching the rounds play out themselves.

Rating: 7

 

SPOTLIGHT ON RUSSIAN RAILROADS (2013): Rank 91, Rating 7.8

Very good worker placement game that flows well and easily. It’s an interesting scoretrack progression mechanism, having to spend actions to push the lower scoring markers along to make room for each successively higher scoring marker. I also liked how there were choices to make between actions that cost 1 worker or the same action with 50% more power that cost 2 workers. It combines freedom and room to move. Plus the variable actions that the game introduces each round, but which can also be “won” for your personal use. In fact, there’s lots of things to like. Not so great is that the theme is non-existent … it really is a pure Euro worker placement game designed to force you to specialise so as to maximise your points and hope that other people leave you the actions you want to maximise that strategy (ie do what others aren’t!). Still, it’s very elegant with obvious replay.

Rating: 8

 

Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers:

Larry:

Caravan – I like this a little more than Patrick does.  I think it’s very elegant and I haven’t found the luck factor to be too high in my games.  It’s an ideal family game that’s deep enough to keep more experienced gamers entertained as well.

Rajas Dice Game – I’m in line with Patrick on this one.  It’s engaging enough, but pretty much everything you do helps you out, so it lacks tension.  Perfectly fine, but not my favorite roll and write.

Russian Railroads – I love this game; I just wish I was better at it.  I usually struggle with it, but sometimes I dominate, which is bizarre.  The way you score for your track is very clever and the worker placement mechanics feel quite refined.  I’ve only played the German version a couple of times; not enough to judge it against the original, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen.  I’ve yet to try the American variant and really want to do so.  Great game, but a real challenge for me.

Fraser:

I don’t play Russian Railroads very often, but when I do I really like it.  I think I have both the expansions and should really try them out sometime.  I haven’t tried this on-line.

I have been playing Lucky Numbers on Board Game Arena (turn based), it really is mostly about attempting to mitigate the luck of the draw.  Enjoyable enough and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Tery: I had never really played Russian Railroads before the pandemic (other than one rushed quarter of a game with little rules explanation, so that hardly counts), and I am really glad I have learned and now have played it 6 times, both on Yucata and BGA. I don’t care about the theme; I just enjoy the clever mechanics. I am looking forward to hearing more about the rerelease/big box.

I really like Rajas the Dice Charmers. Sure, everything you do helps you out, but you have to figure out how to do it better and faster than your opponents. It distills everything I like about the boardgame into a nice, quick game. I did pick up a physical copy, but the implementation on Yucata is also quite good and it would be easy enough to learn there.

I am not a fan of Lucky Numbers. I don’t mind games that have a lot of luck if they are fun and engaging, but this one just falls flat for me. It is fairly short, so it isn’t painful or anything; it’s just not for me.

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