Sydney’s just gone into lockdown again because our moat isn’t being enforced hard enough and we keep importing the friggin’ thing. *sigh* Anyway, from this series’ perspective it means no face-to-face gaming for a while and new games will be mostly limited to those available online. I still have a backlog to work through though, even if they aren’t that exciting, so let’s continue on so at least you know what I plan to avoid in future.
In good news though, we did beat Tranquility on Jagged Rocks + 5 Sea Monsters in a 3p game!
New games to me recently include …
BUBBLEE POP (2016): Rank 3481, Rating 6.4
An attempt to make a 2p game of Bejewelled. It works pretty well. The jewels arrive in the middle 2 rows of the board and you get a shot at swapping two around and then choosing which two to drop down into your side of the board, maintaining their columns, the aim being to get as many sets of 3 in a row in the same colour as possible. There’s a different special action in each colour when you do. As long as both players are playing smart though there’s not much you can do to gain advantage and the game should devolve into who’s lucky enough to have the colours fall their way on the draw.
BATTLE OF LITS (2011): Rank 10195, Rating 6.0
Inspired by Blokus, here you’re trying to place polyomino pieces to cover up your opponent’s spaces and protect your own. The latter is managed with a bit of thought by making as many of your spaces non-playable as possible – you can’t fill the last quadrant of any 2×2 grid on the board, and you can’t place a piece adjoining one of the same shape. It’s simple and there’s not too much to think about, but it’s quick enough and playable enough to enjoy enough.
DINGO’S DREAMS (2016): Rank 4556, Rating 6.2
What gaming mechanism rhymes with Dingo? Yes, that’s right, bingo! And that’s what we have here. Each turn flip the ‘called’ card on your grid, and then manipulate your grid by pushing your spare card into a row/column, pushing all the cards along that row/column, and picking up the pushed out card at the other end, in order to change the positions of the called cards. The first to have called cards in every “win space” wins. While there are good and bad decisions to be made on how to manipulate your grid to quicken progress, there’s more than a smidgen of luck involved in whether the final calls (when you’re getting close) help or impede you. After a few games of being smoked, no need to play again.
HOARDERS (2020): Rank 6045, Rating 6.9
This generated a few laughs. It’s simple in concept. Be the first to collect 5 of the same card type. Each round, select two of your five available actions and take turns revealing them to variously draw a card from the deck, steal a card, protect yourself from a steal, repeat an action, or play the beaver – if you were the only one, draw 3 cards, otherwise everyone who didn’t play a beaver draws a card. This is the action that creates the high-risk plays that pretty much make the game. That and, because everyone’s collection is open information, once you get close, do you go for it … or protect yourself?? And let the other players guess the same! Lots of luck, but it’s a quick playtime.
GYGES (1985): Rank 4846, Rating 6.7
I can’t tell if this offers opportunities for insanely clever plays or will (with replay) bog down into a game of constant denial. It offers an interesting premise – your pieces are only those that are on the first populated row closest to your home row. All the pieces in the middle (once moved there) are common pieces that your piece can land on – and when it does, it can move again spaces equal to the strength of the piece it landed on – and can continue to move while it can. You’re trying to be the first to engineer a move of a piece from your rear row all the way across the board to one space further than your opponent’s home row. It offers plenty to think about, with the opportunity to pull off cool moves that emerge from the wilderness, and seemed to have interesting concepts to explore.
NAUTILUS (2012): Rank 8758, Rating 6.1
6 rounds of placing cards against the 5 points cards in the middle (highest played card from either side wins it). There’s only 14 cards valued 1-14, and 5 are dealt to each player each round so there’s a touch of hope and guesswork involved over what to play to each ‘battle’ and when. Each player gets a special event card to use each round, and there are some ‘move played card’ tricks you can pull off when playing the middling cards, but there’s otherwise not a lot you can do to offset a low draw except to hope that the luck evens out over the 6 rounds. Which seems kinda long though, playing the same game 6 times. (And it also loses favour for stupidly naming itself the same as a big box Euro already.)
REST IN PEACE (2021): Rank 10987, Rating 6.2
Another game that couldn’t find an original name. Honestly, how hard can it be? Here we’re playing with identical decks to win a series of battles (taking turns playing cards until someone decides to withdraw) where the winner gets the points token but the loser gets the special effect card for use in a later battle. Turns unfortunately come down to you play a card, I play 1 higher, you do the same, repeat, making it a dragged out affair. If you’ve drawn into low cards, withdraw early and hope to draw better. In the late rounds it comes down to who gets the most out of their special cards (so target which ones you want early) and who got unlucky re their high cards coming out late or not at all. What does offer replay is that each game can have a random selection of 9 of the 40 or so special cards, allowing some pre-play analysis. But the play after that is much the same given the identical nature of the small decks that you can count down.
APOCALYPSE AT THE ZOO OF CARSON CITY (2017): Rank 11120, Rating 6.0
Either place one of your character cards on the 5×5 grid and pick up the score card, or move an already placed card one space adjacent to do same. Some score cards will kill your card when revealed. You can capture and score an opponent’s card by moving onto it if it has a lower rank than yours. Continue until a player has no characters that can move, most points captured wins. 15 minutes of too much basic really, plus I wasn’t a fan of the art.
NIDAVELLIR (2020): Rank 204, Rating 8.1
Blind-bidding isn’t a favourite mechanism but this has quite the clever twist, providing the means to trade in a bidding tile for a more powerful bidding tile whenever you use your lowest bidding tile for advantage in future turns. There are 8 rounds of assigning a blind bid to 3 different sets of cards, meaning you’ll gain 24 cards in the game – this sounds like a lot of blind bids but it’s really only 6 or 8 decisions depending on the number of players. It’s all about set collection and maxing on a suit as best you can for the multipliers. But generalising also brings benefits by earning hero cards with benefits, so it’s hard to go too wrong really. It feels a bit same-y after a few games because there’s not the card variety and as many scoring paths as you may find in 7 Wonders say, but it’s a nice system to play with.
SPOTLIGHT ON RAILROAD TYCOON (2005): Rank 136, Rating 7.7
There could probably be a book written about the evolution of this game and all the designer shenanigans that went down. 20 years on … I’ve come to prefer the original Railroad Tycoon over Age Of Steam, liking the variety and the luck of the cards. The imbalance of the American map is unfortunate because approaches don’t vary much between games. The European map generates more competition, more route variety and an overall tenser affair. The auction is a touch too simplistic and unfair on the new last player, but there’s much to like in the game. The challenge is to identify and develop 4, 5 and 6 length routes and execute on them before other people steal the cubes, whilst needing to get small 1 and 2 length routes executed quickly so that your net balance (income over share cost) is ahead as quickly as possible. Therefore plenty to think about and plenty of competition to make life challenging.