…when you get to hang out with friends for a weekend.
A long weekend.
From Wednesday evening to mid-Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed the hospitality of Dale Yu (the grand poobah of the Opinionated Gamers) and enjoyed the company of two other OG writers, James Nathan and John Palagyi.
In roughly 90 hours, we managed to play 34 different games for a total of 40 plays. 25 of those games were completely new to me. Dale & I also managed to take in a MLS soccer game between our home teams (Nashville FC and FC Cincinnati) that ended in a 1-1 tie.
And now I’m going to spend some time giving you quick capsule reviews of all of them.
Rather than deal with the weekend chronologically, I’m going to sort them by our OG rating categories… and sort them alphabetically under each category. Please note: these are MY ratings. Your mileage may vary – drastically. (Reviews linked are here from the OG… but not necessarily written by me.)
- Dice Realms (played twice)
- Already one of my favorite new games of this year… it was fun to get it to the table again. The manipulating of the die faces is clever, the iconography clear (once you understand how it works), and the game play quick. Our second game was my first random scenario… and I managed my first completely negative score thanks to trusting (unwisely) in my early success on the first couple of turns.
- Flamme Rouge (played three times)
- Dale & I started three mornings with a stage race of Flamme Rouge (while watching Tour de France coverage), using the excellent iOS app (unofficial) to do tour scoring. My wins in the first two stages exhausted my team – so Team Poobah came roaring back on the final day to win the Tour de Cincinnati.
- Note: there is an official Grand Tour expansion for Flamme Rouge on the way… which I’m looking forward to.
- Free Radicals
- This weird game of everyone doing their own thing on their own board with only some overlap in how you deal with the buildings on the center board should not work. Seriously – I was playing 4 games of Tetris, John was doing pick-up-and-deliver, James had a mancala thing going, and Dale was dealing with some kind of tech tree. The crazy thing is that it does work and is a lot of fun to play. I’m excited to try a different faction the next time I play.
- nana (played twice)
- A delightful Japanese card game that mixes Go Fish and Memory… and adds a splash of gamer-y fun with the magic of the number 7. I can’t recommend this highly enough. (Also, love the art – it’s perfect.)
- Nemo’s War – Ultimate Edition
- My love for Nemo’s War has long been on display in my solo gaming posts as it is one of the best “pure” solo games out there. What the four of us attempted was a cooperative version of the game which is found in the recent Ultimate Edition (and in the Journey’s End expansion) – and I was pleasantly surprised how well it worked. I still think the optimal way to play is as a solo game, but this works well to divide up the responsibilities and force actual discussion of options.
- We were not defeated, btw, as Nemo explored the world, but we were Inconsequential.
- Northgard: Uncharted Lands
- I received my Kickstarter copy of the blinged-out Warchief version of the game just a week or so ago… so this was my first chance to bring it to the table with four players. It did not disappoint – for a 4X game, it moves quickly, has some interesting choices, and promotes a variety of tactical and strategic decisions. I ended up starving my people to get second place to Dale as we both had to stop James & John from automatic wins with developed territories.
- Note: I previewed this game here on the OG from a KS prototype – I’m happy to say that the published version is more polished and feels really solid. In fact, I’m going to write more about it next week!
- This is the first “new” auction game I’ve played in a long time that made me excited – thanks to the very creative “what you bid affects the value of cards you’ve already purchased” mechanic.
- Wacky balancing game that includes a communal stack in the center of the table as well as individual stacks you hold in one of your hands. My complete inability to balance my personal stack is why you have a picture of Dale playing the game in the collage at the top of this article.
- I’ve been enjoying this Alexander Pfister design as a crunch-y solo game… and this was my first opportunity to go head-to-head against another player. I think it works well as a two-player game, but the time sink + down time issues with adding a third or fourth player seem pretty daunting to me.
- Dead Reckoning (played twice)
- Dale & I played a two player game of this to get our head wrapped around the rules (the rulebook is not particularly well organized)… then the four of us played the next morning. Similar to Boonlake, I think four players felt like it outstayed its welcome. I’d be willing to try it with 3 players (and folks who played before would speed up the game).
- With all that said, I’m finding myself still thinking about the game – I like the strong theme, the high-quality production, and the interplay of a lot of different elements. I’d really like to try the solo mode and see what I think of that… I don’t have a good solo pirate game.
- Dinosaur Island: Rawr’n’Write
- Another game I’ve been playing solo… and it’s clear from my play against other players that my conservative style is not enough to win. It’s my favorite of the Dinosaur Island game series – I like that they’ve condensed down the building/running of your park to a couple of sheets of paper while giving you a lot of freedom in how your park is laid out. (You actually draw the map of your park!)
- Quibble: the amber dice look cool but are still hard to read across the table (so we used a small dice tray to pass them around).
- Dungeons, Dice & Danger
- Once you get the official errata from the designer (Richard Garfield), this roll’n’write dungeon crawl/race is actually a lot of fun. I’m really tempted to get a copy to play with my boys.
- The errata changes the game end from “one player kills all the monsters” to “when all the monsters have been killed by at least one player” – which substantially shortens the game.
- First Empires
- Similar to Eric Vogel’s previous game (Kitara), First Empires is a ‘dudes on a map’ game where no dudes are actually removed from the board – just shuffled around so they can attack again next turn. The trick here is to use the action cards, dice, and dudes in wise combinations to build up your empire’s points while denying other empires the chance to do the same.
- Also similar to Kitara – I’m intrigued by how the game works and enjoyed playing it, but I’m not sure I need to own it.
- Golden Animal
- Another clever auction game… this time, you are splitting your hand into three sets for three simultaneous auctions. The end comes quickly, so you have to watch what you’re doing.
- It’s a Wonderful Kingdom
- I taught Dale this two-player version of It’s A Wonderful World… I really like the “you split, I choose” dynamic in the game, but it’s trickier to figure out how to score well than it is in the original game.
- We used the Advisors module, which I’ve come to believe is the easiest module for new players with some gaming background.
- Living Forest
- I finally got to play the winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres… and I liked it. We had a lot of discussion amongst the writers here at the OG about which strategic path was strongest – and I find it a net positive that the folks talking didn’t agree.
- Quibble: cardboard standees with cardboard “feet” that don’t stay attached are frustrating.
- Lum Lum Party
- I’ve often called Rise of Augustus “gamer bingo”… well, now it has a competitor with an ACTUAL bingo game where you get to choose your own numbers and have some control (ah, dice, my closest friend and greatest enemy) about what number gets picked next. Lum Lum Party was great fun… though I wonder if the “choose your own numbers” part would be off-putting for non-gamers.
- Potion Market
- My commanding win in this mancala-based engine-builder was due to zigging when everyone else was zagging… and then the inexorable power of a working engine rolling over the competition. It would take another play to figure out if that’s a common occurrence or just a fluke.
- Roll & Write Railroads
- As implied by the name, a roll’n’write game of train line building… heavily abstracted but filled with the chance to build nifty combo plays. My one concern: it would be easy to make a mistake and difficult for anyone (including yourself) to catch.
- Roulette-Taking Game
- Trick-taking meets roulette… win a trick, you can place a bet. The winning number will be the winning card on the last trick played. Add in some very ar
- Schnipp & Weg
- Once upon a time, I was good at dexterity games. Those days are gone. But this is still a really good dexterity game/duel for two players.
- The Siege of Runedar
- We’ve had fun with Runedar at all player counts… but our one foray away from “easy” setting left us battered and bruised. So, we set this cooperative Knizia game up with the “easy” setting… and still lost.
- It’s a nice combo of deck-building and tower defense, with a 3-D board in the box and nice bits.
- Bag of Chips
- It works… and I think “the river” mechanic of betting on what the final result will be is fun. But it’s pretty slight.
- Though the BGG description mentions poker, Exhaust is actually a climbing game (like The Great Dalmuti or Tichu) played out in multiple dimensions. I’m willing to play again, but I’m concerned that the wrong hand is just doomed to lose.
- My “neutral” response is due more to my ineptitude at partnership trick-taking games rather than a comment on the game design itself. The interplay of a two-part trick (one team member plays the number, the other plays the color) is pretty cool.
- Rainforest City
- While I like the idea of the game, some of the graphic design makes it more difficult to play than is necessary. It reminds me a bit of Honshu in your need to create patterns to make later plays possible.
- Sync or Swim
- If you enjoy real-time cooperative games, Sync or Swim is extremely portable, fast-moving, and relatively forgiving of early mistakes. It’s also app-driven, which is a positive for some and a turn-off for others. Last but not least, it’s designed by one of our own here at the OG, Lucas Hedgren!
- Wonder Book (played twice)
- We played the first two chapters of Wonder Book… which reminded me of the storybook games coming out over the last few years (Princess Bride, Adventures of Robin Hood, etc.) and Stuffed Fables. The pop-up book board is unusual (and pretty impressive looking) but the miniatures are too big for some of the spaces (esp. If you have 2 or more miniatures in a space) and the intro game (chapter 1) runs long for what should simply introduce you to the game systems.
NOT FOR ME
- I’m not sure the insert card mechanic really adds a lot to this trick-taking game… and that’s exacerbated by the punishing scoring system.
- Okyu No Kazari Eshi
- More of an activity than a game – you blind bid in order to color in parts of your identical paintings.
- Remote Viewing
- Using a large map like MicroMacro, one player uses cards of varying difficulty to quickly describe the map location. Some areas are much easier than others – and from our limited experience, it became too easy to figure out what elements to use/say to get people to choose the right spot.
- This Is It
- A “try to mind meld with the other players” game that just kind of sat there. (There are also some cards which have stronger resonance in particular cultures that could cause the game to break down – we simply skipped them and went to the next card.)
OK, so thanks to doing this write-up, I realize that I’ve got a number of reviews to write for y’all: Nemo’s War, The Siege of Runedar, Dinosaur Island: Rawr’n’Write, and revisiting Northgard.
One other note: of the games I brought to the weekend, only Northgard: Uncharted Lands was a review copy.
I very much enjoy Boonlake at 3 and 4 players. Of course the game takes longer, and if that’s an issue for someone that’s all they need to know, but I don’t find that there’s a feeling of downtime due to the follow on actions on every player’s turn. More players also makes contention for board positioning and in particular cows more interesting, and as such I find 4p to be the best. If you can afford the time.
I need to find the time to try that, Curt… the game itself is really nifty.