The introduction of A Feast For Odin on BGA led me to bring my physical copy out to much acclaim in a return to face-2-face gaming love. The thought of optimising a 100 different polyominoes on personal tableaus online gave us the willies – much better physically when you can all go at it simultaneously at the end of the round. Which still isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a sin we’ve been forgiving given the game offers so much space to explore.
I’ve actually played lots of excellent new games recently to fill my new-game coffers before this upcoming federal election sucks up all my free time and drives me into yet another gaming hiatus, however we still have a backlog of chaff and warnings to wade through, so onwards …
LAS VEGAN (2022): Rank 16195, Rating 5.9
Trick taking where you know what the scoring rules are at the start of the hand (they change each hand), but only as the hand develops is it determined whether each rule is positive or negative. A rule is set by someone winning the third top card in a suit (which is typically delayed until near the end of the hand once the lay of the land has been determined) and it will be set (by definition) to the disadvantage of the other players. Most of the rules must be negative so it’s mostly a misere game but by the same token don’t let any one player dominate a rule if there’s a chance they can set it to positive. It was fine enough, but there’s not a lot of hands and the swing between being able to set a rule to +ve or -ve in one unfortunate hand can kill you and overwhelm your game.
LITTLE FACTORY (2020): Rank 6640, Rating 6.5
Your turn is to pick up basic resources for free, or trade them in for advanced resources, or trade these in for point-earning buildings, racing to be the first to 10 points. It means the game is grind, grind, grind your way through continual upgrade paths, trying to overcome conversion delays caused by the resource you want not appearing in the draft or being hoarded by other players. The main point of difference for the game is that the resource decks are small and cycled through regularly. In practice, get a nice building or two as early as you can with effects you can parlay into VP earning efficiencies. Which isn’t bad and it works, it’s just that the wash-rinse-repeat conversion cycle over a longish game time didn’t sit well in the end.
LIVING FOREST (2021): Rank 2011, Rating 7.4
It has overtones of Mystic Vale (one of my favourite deck builders) in the way you keep drawing until you have your corruption quota, and may continue if you wish but at the risk of losing 1 of your 2 actions (which can be worth it) rather than your whole turn. Then either buy cards to improve future turns, or work towards one of the victory conditions – buy trees (for permanent ongoing benefits) or collect fire tokens. Or aim for a mega turn where you have cards + effects showing 12 flowers. Your victory chances are severely hampered if other players wind up going for the same condition as you (so yes, it’s a little player fragile), and there may not be too much to learn once you get a feel for what’s required in each of the 3 strategies, but it’s a nice game at a nice length that allows me to enjoy a deck-build do-I-push-for-more game that’s similar to but different enough from Mystic Vale to keep me interested. An older review posted last month
NARABI (2018): Rank 8242, Rating 6.1
The sequence cards are laid out randomly amongst the players, and each sequence card is paired with a secret effect card. The aim is to swap the cards around so they’re in sequence, but what you can swap (and where) are limited by the effects. Not so easy. Once one of your cards swaps to another player, they can read that card’s effects but you have to remember the effect, which requires significant memory and concentration to remember not only each card but what players know what effects. Which treads mightily close to that fine line of being more work than play. We managed to get it out each time relatively comfortably so I’m not sure there’s much more play in it for me.
PIER 18 (2021): Rank 16268, Rating 5.8
Cute 18-card micro game for 2-3 players. Let’s not kid ourselves with the theme though (trying to get customers/stalls aligned along an English seaside pair to attract revenue), it’s a game of drafting a card each turn and placing it next to your previous card such that the coloured dots on both long-ways sides of the cards are in the highest score combinations (ie some colours want to be together, others want to be apart, etc). You’re also trying to satisfy your game-end scoring effect which helps drive a direction. You only get 4 or 5 drafts, so it’s a 5 minute game of hoping the cards you want come along in a staggered fashion and the other players don’t want them. There’s not enough turns to have much of an idea what the other players want so hope for the best and, if it doesn’t work out, it’s short enough to play again.
SHIFTING STONES (2020): Rank 3908, Rating 6.6
With your 4 actions, move and flip stones around the common 3×3 grid to get the right colours into a position that matches a scoring configuration on one of your 4 cards. With luck, score two cards that turn! With tremendous luck, more!! You’re completely dependent on whether the cards you draw match whatever configuration your right hand opponent leaves you, and the luckiest player wins. It’s not bad as a filler, but there’s too much luck for the weight of the game (given turns take a bit of effort and time while you analyse the board state handed to you and ensure you’ve maximised your action effectiveness).
TUCANO (2021): Rank 6801, Rating 6.7
A turn is to add a card to each of the three piles and then take all the cards from one pile. There are about 15 different types of cards, all with different scoring rules aimed mostly at collecting as many as you can but some are negative. There are some special effects cards to steal cards, get rid of cards, and lock cards away. Continue until the deck runs out, which takes about 10 minutes. It’s a lottery whether the cards you’re collecting are available to pick up on your turn or if they’ve been picked up randomly by other people just because they’re in a pile that contains other cards they want. As such it’s a pretty mindless filler with a touch of memory required but to its credit it times itself appropriately for its luck factor.
TWIN PALMS (2022): Rank 13205, Rating 6.5
Bid how many of the 5 tricks you’ll win and lay a bet if you’re confident. But you’re not playing tricks so much as pair combinations, and you can play any cards in any combination you want. This means whoever plays last each trick mostly decides if they want to win the trick or not, similar to Sticheln (the motherhood play-anything-you-want game) with much the same issues. While you can bid and bet based on likelihoods, the addition of wild cards mostly rips plans asunder and we didn’t find enough control in the game to bid with confidence or to lure us back. A similar conclusion was found in our earlier review.
YANIV (n/a): Rank 16706, Rating 5.8
It’s touted as a simple traditional card game played by backpackers, but it’s not much more than a game you’d play with children. Play 1 card (or a set of same value or a run in the same suit) and then either draw the last discard or from the deck, aiming to be the first to pull out with a total face value less than each other player,. Score face value, least points wins. Some rounds end without you having a turn if someone gets a great deal. Getting rid of sets reduces your hand size, always good. The strategy is to draw well. It’s fine for something quick to pass the time but, well, you get the picture.
SPOTLIGHT ON: A FEAST FOR ODIN (2016): Rank 22, Rating 8.2
The obligatory 8 for a Rosenberg for providing a plethora of paths to explore and massive replay. I like how Rosenberg here has moved his farm-resource genre away from the race towards building super-power buildings (to gain massive end-game points). Instead we’re building an accumulation of advantage by navigating wisely through an abundance of chosen actions, each providing power variations at different levels. And there are many, many options. For mine, it’s the right level of sandbox – the game provides so many actions that you can always get stuff done, but there’ll come a time when more than one player will want to do a key action. I’m not sure I’m a fan of all the mucking about placing your acquired pieces just so on your board to find the right balance between covering and non-covering of bonus spaces, income spaces, and VP spaces. This involves working out the right balance of pieces to get it just so, and the actions to acquire them, and resolving whether it’s worth the bother, or just continue down your chosen path. It could all get a bit much, but with players who are happy with that downtime, it may be rewarding. The other downside that might hold off a purchase is that to get the most out of this game, you’ll want a group of gamers who *really* want to explore it, and not just do a couple of games playing at surface level without grokking the whole. The learning curve is up there – it’s not one of those where you feel you understand it after a single play. And that, of course, is the big plus. Worthy of more play.
Thoughts of other Opinionated Gamers:
Larry: I’m very much a fan of Feast for Odin, but I do not care for the, as Patrick puts it, “mucking about placing your acquired pieces just so on your board”. My poor spatial sense makes this even more of a chore. So I always make a point of picking up an Exploration board as soon as possible, since some of those are squarish and much easier to place pieces on than the home board. I place my polyminos on the new board first, snarfing up the bonuses it provides, and then, only towards the end, place pieces on the home board, but usually only to cover up penalty spaces. This allows me to be competitive at the game, without having to struggle over matching pieces to the oddly shaped home board (a process which, I admit, many other players love). Rosenberg’s design of the game is sufficiently deep that he allows players with differing abilities do well, by playing to their strengths. That’s the sign of a good design and a great designer!