I don’t think there’s much doubt that the hero game on BoardGameArena is 7 Wonders. Especially in terms of reducing the noise-to-sound ratio. It turns out once you eliminate all the noise (preparing decks, shuffling, hand swapping, scoring) and the game is condensed to just the card selections, a 30 minute game is played in under 10 minutes. That’s a rather dramatic noise-to-sound ratio, leaving us a quality game that can be played as a light filler if wanted, or studied in the search for the ideal strategies and choices for any given player count, card spread, and player takes. I kind of straddle the two depending on mood.
It can be tricky finding games that work online well with 5 players (count 7 Wonders as one of them), and a few games here were explored in the hope of finding more.
BALLOON POP (2017): Rank 17853, Rating 5.4
This is a light bit of fun – rolling dice to move up Can’t Stop type ladders, but scoring way less if you accidentally hit the top level. You want other people to pop the top while you’re still on the big point spaces. The horror is that if you re-roll to get rid of an unwanted result, you have to roll another die, which is a nice kind of laugh-inducing fun, but it’s probably hurt by too little control in the end. (Another review here)
BATTLE SHEEP (2010): Rank 1477, Rating 6.6
It’s a cute enough abstract in a “Hey, That’s My Penguin” meets “Fjords” kind of way. Split your stack of 16 counters into two, and move the top stack as far as it can go in a direction of your choice, claiming the empty space it lands on. Continue splitting and moving stacks until all the spaces you can fill are filled, trying to block off land and block in opponents, and whoever claims the most spaces after 15 turns wins. It plays decently fast which saves it somewhat from its essential abstractness. The replay would come through analysing and playing out different board layouts, but that is not of enough interest to draw me back given the one-dimensional nature of each turn. (Dale reviewed this awhile ago)
KANAGAWA (2016): Rank 624, Rating 7.1
Coloretto on steroids. After taking a set, the cards can be used in either of two ways – either build your ability to put out cards as pictures, or put it out as a picture. Continue taking sets, aiming to be the first to complete various picture combinations of trees, houses, colours and the like for bonus points, while building as long a train of pictures in one season as possible for more points. The cards have too many elements to do everything you want all the time so you tend to aim simply to make the best of what comes along, and that was fine, but not much more.
OH SEVEN (public card game): Rank n/a, Rating n/a
This trick-bidding game available on BGA uses a standard card deck with cards 0-7 (using the Q as a 0). Everyone chooses a card (from their hand of 7) with a value equal to the tricks they’re going to win, simultaneously reveals, and trumps is that of the highest bid card shown. You score based on whether you hit your bid or not. The limitation of bid choice makes for quirky decisions and interesting card play highlighted by trick avoidance, and everyone has a “I was shafted by the cards” story at the end of each round, and yet it’s fun to see if you can make each hand work. It’s a nice alternative to Oh Hell and the like.
PAPAYOO (2010): Rank 7862, Rating 6.1
There’s no reason to own this when you can simply play Hearts. It’s the same gameplay, but here you have a 4 card pass (making the game more random re short suiting) and there’s a fifth suit of 20 scoring cards (valued 1-20) which turns the scoring ballistic and way more random. There’s some fun to be had if you simply like playing cards and everyone can accept the randomness without emotional investment – things will go horribly wrong at some point regardless of how well you play! (Dale felt the same way back when)
SMALL ISLANDS (2018): Rank 2900, Rating 6.9
A touch of Carcassonne but with busier tiles. At the start of each round, you choose your scoring objective and try to set up islands that meet that objective for scoring. The issue is you can only score each island once, so it can be hard to know if you should score it now or wait for a later round and score it then using a different objective card for more points (or less!). The game is slowed by having to choose between 5 tiles each round, and finding the ideal place for one of them, which drags it out intolerably.
TEKHENU: OBELISK OF THE SUN (2020): Rank 424, Rating 8.0
It’s a difficult game to wrap your mind around, for sure. So many moving parts, so may inter-dependencies, so many ways to score points. The number of times each action can be taken is restricted so you can’t depend on a specialisation strategy. They also fluctuate every few turns in a weird way which makes planning difficult but rewards experience. It’s difficult to enjoy on a first play as a result, but I can see the potential reward in understanding the game well as a whole and having a plan come together, and I’ve rated it on the basis that I want to play again at some point to see how it settles, and whether it rewards repeat play or remains a make-the-best-of-what’s-left type of game.
TREKKING THE WORLD (2020): Rank 1844, Rating 7.2
It has a Ticket To Ride feel in that there’s a lot of picking up cards in order to get the key stuff on the board before the other players. You spend cards to move each turn – if you’re the first one to have landed there you pick up its cube (points for most in each colour, and for sets, so that’s one thing to consider) but mostly you’re trying to be the first to a spot that has a big-points contract on it, with the requisite cards to claim it. This is really swingy – if you miss out on the one you’re aiming for, there may not be another that suits (that’s close by and requires the cards you have), and this swingy-ness is why it didn’t win us over. But it’s nice enough to play while you’re in it. (Older review here)
VIA MAGICA (2020): Rank 3305, Rating 6.9
Same comment and rating as its predecessor, Rise of Augustus: It’s like Bingo turned into a real game. Choose what cards you want to commit to building – each will have different build requirements, different VP’s, different completion effects, and will help you towards the various bonus tiles awarded to those who complete this or that fastest. Then the drawing of tiles commences. As each tile is drawn it may or may not help towards a build requirement on one of your tiles. As the last build req on a tile is done, complete it and choose / draw another, aiming to get 7 done as fast as possible to end the game, but not really caring who ends the game as long as you have the most VP’s. It drags a bit when there are multiple completions in quick order and people are deliberating over what card to go for next. There’s some probability analysis to be done, balancing of tiles and build requirements, effect synergies … lots of things to take into consideration … and then it comes down to the drawing of the tiles. It’s a nice lightweight Euro affair for those who don’t mind a ton of luck to see how their selections fare.
SPOTLIGHT ON PERUDO aka BLUFF (1800): Rank 686, Rating 6.9
I played Perudo for the first time on BGA. It surprised us a little as it has different rules to Bluff in regards to what you’re allowed to bid, but it’s essentially the same game. It worked just fine but it did lose a little joie de vivre in the online play. I think we all preferred our ftf raucous version of Bluff so let’s roll out the Bluff commentary once more to remind us of times gone by:
200+ plays. This gets better as the group you play it with gets better and it becomes mostly about the smacktalk. A perfect opener for us. Working out the odds on what the likelihood of a particular call being true or not is just a starting point. What people are betting on really is which number has deviated significantly from average this turn and how far, so if you keep gambling on the average being the right number, you’ll be off. The question each turn is, can I make a claim that will be believed and raised and get me off the hook based on what’s gone round, regardless of the odds. Funnily enough, and knowing this, if someone’s passed me something outrageous, it’s probably more likely to be true. Doesn’t mean I’ll take it, because calling may be low risk, but it could be low risk to escalate as well! Then there’s the whole ducking out and betting on stars to minimise dice loss whilst the crowd derides your manhood. But it keeps you in the game at least. We occasionally play a variant that if you claim stars and you’re called and you lose, instant death, which can be fun. Anyway, 20 years on and the game still gets requested more nights than not.
Patrick will be back in about a fortnight.