2016 Meeples Choice Award Winners

The Spielfrieks user group has selected its three winners of the Meeples Choice Awards.  70 voters participated in the election and the winners are:

TERRAFORMING MARS
GREAT WESTERN TRAIL
YOKOHAMA

TM and GWT had a comfortable lead over the rest of the pack.  Yokohama narrowly edged out Scythe.

Yokohama is the first game outside of Europe and the U.S. to win an MCA.  In fact, it’s one of the few games from the Far East to seriously challenge for an award (Love Letter finished fourth in 2012).

This is the first MCA win for each three of the designers, Jacob Fryxelius, Alexander Pfister, and Hisashi Hayashi.  Pfister has produced six MCA-nominated games over the past three years; now that’s a hot streak!

Here are the complete vote tallies for the final round.  The first number after the game listing is the number of votes received during the last round, while the number in parentheses is the votes accumulated during the preliminary round.  Congratulations to all the winning games!

  1. Terraforming Mars – 26 (40)
  2. Great Western Trail – 24 (32)
  3. Yokohama – 19 (24)
  4. Scythe – 17 (22)
  5. A Feast for Odin – 13 (21)
  6. Fabled Fruit – 8 (17)
  7. Lorenzo il Magnifico – 8 (11)
  8. Star Wars: Rebellion – 8 (11)
  9. First Class – 7 (16)
  10. Imhotep – 7 (7)
  11. Kingdomino – 7 (8)
  12. The Oracle of Delphi – 6 (14)
  13. Arkham Horror: The Card Game – 5 (7)
  14. Clank! – 5 (16)
  15. Flamme Rouge – 5 (10)
  16. Oh My Goods! – 5 (8)
  17. The Colonists – 5 (12)
  18. Captain Sonar – 4 (8)
  19. Santorini – 4 (7)
  20. Colony – 3 (7)
  21. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition – 3 (8)
  22. Tramways – 3 (7)
  23. Fuji Flush / Doppelt und Dreifach – 2 (8)
  24. Honshu – 2 (7)
  25. Mystic Vale – 2 (8)
  26. Railroad Revolution – 2 (9)
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Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – June 2017 (Part 1)

Patrick Brennan: Game Snapshots – June 2017 (Part 1)

This month’s picture of Patrick

Similar to May, there are so many games I played for the first time in June that I’m going to split this month’s snapshots article into two parts so as to keep it manageably readable. I’ve been on a roll.

In non-first gaming this month, we finished off the last adventures in D&D: Temple of Elemental Evil. I thought this set of adventures (when compared to Ravenloft, Ashardalon, and Drizzt) were the most interesting and innovative. We won’t be going through any of these adventure sets again though – one and done – but maybe there are some downloadable adventures worth exploring. Don’t know.10 Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Monopoly Gamer

 

Monopoly Gamer

  • Designer: not credited on box/rules
  • Publisher: Hasbro
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with review copy provided by Hasbro

Well, Monopoly is one of those games that probably everyone who is reading this has played at least once.  Of course, it’s also probably just as certain that everyone who is reading this has also not played that game by the rules provided in the box.  This newest version of Monopoly keeps some of the familiar aspects of Monopoly but it is really an altogether different game.  I’ll pretend that you don’t know anything about Monopoly and explain the game anew.

Continue reading

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Startups — Review by Jeff Lingwall

  • Designer: Jun Sasaki
  • Publisher: Oink Games
  • Players: 3 – 7
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Times Played: 2 (with 4, 5 players)

Startups is a new card game from Oink Games, the Japanese publisher of other micro-box games like Insider and Deep Sea Adventure. Like those games, there’s a good amount of game in a very small box. I’m not sure there’s the depth of Deep Sea Adventure or the charm of Insider here, but I enjoyed my plays and am eager to play again.


Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Review of Stroop

 

Stroop

  • Designer: Jonathan Chaffer
  • Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 10-15 minutes per game
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Grand Gamers Guild

From my university days, I remember learning about the Stroop effect in Psychology 101.  The Stroop effect is a delay in a subject’s reaction time due to some sort of interference.  Named after a British psychologist named Stroop (though the literature seems to show that it was published earlier by a German) – the Stroop Test is one of the tests commonly used today in clinical psychology.

Though I’m sure that I’m oversimplifying it – to my non-psychologist brain, the test is set up to see how well your brain can process conflicting information.  The subject might be presented with the names of different colors printed on a card.  The catch here is that many/all of those words are printed in a different color than the written color.  There are then a number of tests that can be done – such as asking you to name the name of the color of the ink or perhaps the color that is written.

The game Stroop pits players against each other in a race to rid their hand of cards – while dealing with the Stroop effect.  In the basic game, there are 65 cards, each of which has a single written word on it.  Each word has four different characteristics:

  •         The color
  •         The capitalization (BIG or little)
  •         The form (solid or outlined)
  •         The number of letters in the word (3, 4, 5, or 6)

The game is played in two rounds, each with slightly different rules. To start the game, the deck is shuffled, and each player is dealt a stack of fifteen cards (Face down).  These cards remain on the table in a face down stack.  Another card from the deck is dealt face up to the table – this is the start card for the round.

In the first round, the goal is to play cards from your hand that match the written attribute on the card.  For instance, if the first card was the word “red”, any card with a word printed in red ink would be valid.  Each player starts the round with no cards in their hand, and they can freely draw cards into their hand one at a time.  There is no limit to the number of cards in their hand, the only limitation is that they can only draw one at a time.  As any player plays a valid card onto the stack, they must announce out loud the word printed on their card.  Other players can check to make sure that the card played is valid.

two example cards on top with legal round 1 plays below

This speed process continues with players racing to play cards from their hand.  Once a player has drawn all the cards from his deck into his hand, the round could possibly end.  When a player no longer has any cards in his hand (i.e. he has played the last one to the stack) OR when a player has drawn all his cards and none of those cards can be played legally, that player can say “STOP” to end the round.

Whenever the round ends, all players immediately stop playing cards.  Any cards left in their hand are returned to their facedown decks.  The pile of played cards is then shuffled and then split up into equal stacks, one for each player. If the cards don’t split up evenly, you can use undealt cards from the start of the game to even things out.  Each player adds their stack to their remaining deck and shuffles them to make a new draw pile for the second round.  Note that players who did better in the first round will now have a smaller deck to start out now.

In the second round, the rules are slightly different. In this phase, you now can only play a card that accurately describes the card on top of the pile.  For instance, if the card had this word written on it: “red” – you could play cards with the word “black” (word written in black ink), “little” (as it is lower case), “solid” (the letters are solid), or “three” (three letters in the word).  Otherwise, it’s the same race to get rid of your cards.  The round still ends the same way, either when a player is out of cards in their deck/hand or when there are no playable cards in his hand.

a starting card on top with four possible legal Round 2 plays underneath

At the conclusion of this second round, the game is won by the player who has the fewest cards left in his deck at the end.  If there is a tie for fewest cards, the player who declared “STOP” to end the second round breaks ties.

There is an advanced version of the game which uses a second deck of 45 more cards that is shuffled into the deck.  These cards introduce the idea of text direction into the game as well as the words can be written forward (normal) or backward (mirror image).  These cards work with all the other attributes except for the number of letters as neither forward nor backward can be described by “three”, “four”, “five” or “six” – though my group thinks you could consider the direction to be normal or mirror which would then be a legal match for “six”.

My thoughts on the game

Stroop is an interesting speed/reaction game.  The game doesn’t seem that difficult at first, but once you try to perform the task at speed, it becomes devilishly difficult at times – which is exactly the sort of interference the Stroop test is meant to deal with!

In the game, it is certainly possible for errors to be made.  If an incorrect card is noted to be played, the offending player must pick up the card and allow play to continue.  The rules do not state this, but we now make the offending player count off to a 5-Mississippi penalty count in their head before they are allowed to play another card.  If a player declares “STOP” incorrectly (and still has playable cards in his hand) – play is allowed to continue but the offending player simply is not allowed to play any more cards for the rest of the round as his penalty.

The game is not one for socializing – I have found that I pretty much need to fully concentrate on the task at hand while playing.  There isn’t much chatting or joking as a result.  It does seem to be one that attracts attentions from passers-by though; at the occasions where we’ve been playing this in a group/party setting, it has never failed to attract spectators.

Like most speed games based on ability, this one is plagued by the fact that a player who is only slightly more adept at processing the conflicting information will be far more successful at the game; and there really isn’t much for the less skilled player to do about it.  I suppose that after a few plays, you could determine the difference in skill and handicap the better player with more cards in his/her stack – but in a single game, someone who just “gets” it will always do better than those who don’t.  

This can lead to a frustrating experience for that slower player.  On the bright side, those games tend not to last very long, so that guy is probably only out of about ten minutes of his game night before he can move onto something else…

The basic game is interesting, and the advanced cards definitely add more brain warping things to wrap your head around.   There really is no artwork to speak of – the cards simply have the words printed in a clean font on a white background.  The card quality is good as my decks show no sign of wear after our initial plays.

If there were an expansion, I’d like to see the game have rotating rules even within a round – perhaps a two sided card that told you what the rules were, and then a die which had the attributes written on it.  Each time a card was played that matched the die, the rule card could be flipped over and the die re-rerolled to give you the new criteria for flipping.  That would be fun… (I think).  Other options might be to change the font used on the cards as another attribute.  Or maybe put a colored background on the cards so that you had to deal with that as well as the font color?

Stroop has been fun, and we have definitely discovered that one of my family members is far and away better than the rest of us at this game.  We’ve found that even giving him a deck which is 50% thicker than the other players is not necessarily enough to stop him from winning! (But, at least we now have a fighting chance…)

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

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The Many Versions of Hanabi

In honor of the Fourth of July, I wanted to post about my favorite fireworks-themed game, Hanabi.  Hanabi has been in my personal top 10 for the past couple of years, and it is one of only two games (the other being Tichu) where I collect the various editions.

For fans of Hanabi, this will likely be a fun post walking through the history of the game and its various iterations.

I wrote my history of Hanabi a couple of years ago as part of our SdJ Re-Review series, and in the review portion, I talked about my favorite iterations of the game.  Here’s a brief overview of the different editions on the market. Continue reading

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Nominations Set for 2016 Meeples Choice Awards

The Spielfrieks user group has finished their first week of voting for the Meeples Choice Awards.  26 games have received nominations.  During the coming week, the voters will select their favorites from that group and the top three vote getters will be crowned as the MCA winners for 2016.

Here is the list of nominated games.  Doppelt und Dreifach is the name of the game that Friedemann Friese anonymously sent to a bunch of notable gamers and that was eventually modified to become the published game of Fuji Flush.  We felt it made the most sense to combine the two games into one entry.

A Feast for Odin
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Captain Sonar
Clank!
Colony
Fabled Fruit
First Class
Flamme Rouge
Fuji Flush / Doppelt und Dreifach
Great Western Trail
Honshu
Imhotep
Kingdomino
Lorenzo il Magnifico
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Mystic Vale
Oh My Goods!
Railroad Revolution
Santorini
Scythe
Star Wars: Rebellion
Terraforming Mars
The Colonists
The Oracle of Delphi
Tramways
Yokohama

 

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Cartagena (2017)

 

Cartagena (2017)

  • Designer: Leo Colovini
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Players:2-5
  • Ages: 13+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes, depending on version
  • Times played: 4 with 2017 version (one of each game type) – probably 50+ games in my life of the base game

I did not even know that there was a new version coming out of this classic game, and I was quite surprised to see it arrive on my doorstep from Rio Grande.  This had always been one of my favorite games way back when, though it honestly has found itself mostly on the shelf in recent years as most old games are wont to do in my collection.  However, the fact that I still own a copy says a lot about it.

In this new version, I was pleased to find that the original version as well as the main expansion in the box.  Even better – two new game varieties are also included in the box, making this a one-stop box for all things Cartagena.  The game tells a story of the great 1672 jailbreak from the fortress of Cartagena.  Each version of the game tells a different part of the story.

THE BASIC GAME

The Basic game is about controlling your group of pirates that are trying to escape the fortress jail through the cave tunnels underneath to their escape sloop.  I’ll paraphrase the description once penned by Greg Schloesser…

The board is comprised of six double-sided pieces (out of eight possible in this 2017 box), which can be assembled in a variety of fashions. Thus, the layout of each game will likely be different with each play. Each section depicts six symbols along a cave path, including a pistol, keys, jug, grappling hook, lantern and telescope. A deck of cards has matching symbols, 17 of each image.  The jail starts the path while the escape sloop is found at the other end.  Each player places six of his pirates on the jail space.

Players initially begin the game with six cards.  On a turn, a player may take up to three actions which can be some combination of:

 

1) Play a card and move a pirate to the next vacant symbol on the board that matches the card played.  If there are no vacant matching symbols, the player may move a pirate all the way into the boat. This, of course, is a favorite tactic: play several cards of the same symbol and ‘leap-frog’ your pirates ahead on the board. Of course, since you don’t know which cards your opponents possess, they can also take advantage of this maneuver.

2) Move a pirate backwards on the board to the next space which is occupied by one or two pirates. This is the only manner in which a player can acquire new cards. If choosing this option, a pirate must stop when it encounters a space occupied by either one or two pirates. If that space is occupied by just one pirate, the player draws one card from the deck into his hand. If it occupied by two pirates, the player draws two cards into his hand. Falling back in this manner is necessary in order to gain new cards, so it occurs frequently throughout the game.  When doing this, you skip any spaces that are empty OR have three pirates already.

3) In the rare case that you have no cards left, you can skip your entire turn and draw a single card.

 

Believe it or not, that’s it. The rules are that simple. First player to get all six of his pirates into the boat is victorious.  The components included in the box here allow to modify the Basic game as you wish – you can alter the length of the path from 4 to 8 pieces, you can also alter the number of pirates from 4 to 6.  You can even use the flip side of the path pieces (and the sloop) to replay the second part of the escape story – where the pirates land their flooded sloop on the shore of Tortuga Island and then must get their way through the jungle to the safety of the cove on the other side.

THE MORGAN GAME

The next version of the game is the Morgan version – named after the famous pirate Captain Morgan – this is what was found in the Cartagena 2 game.  This game uses many of the rules from the Basic game with one exception.  In this game, you earn new cards in a different way.  Rather than moving your own pirates backwards, you now must move one of your opponent’s pirates forward to the next space with one or two pirates (and then drawing one or two cards accordingly).  It could be possible that you move your opponent’s piece to the end of the track.  If you do this, you get to draw two cards.

THE WHOLE JAILBREAK

Now, whether you use the Basic rules or the Morgan rules, you can also further change the game as the “Whole Jailbreak”.  In this version, you make two smaller paths (each at least 3 tiles long) – one from the jail to the sloop using tunnel tiles, and a second path from the flooded sloop through the jungle to the cove.  The catch here is that there is only one sloop.  Players now have an additional action option – which is to move the sloop.  You are allowed to move the sloop from the tunnels to the island only if you have a pirate of your color on the sloop.  Note that you are limited to ever having three pirates of your color on the sloop.  Once you reach this limit, you must move them off the sloop onto the island before you can rescue more from the jail tunnels.  You are allowed to move the sloop back to the tunnels FROM the island only if you still have pirates in the tunnel.  As a bonus, if at the start of your turn, you have the highest number of pirates on the ship or tied for the highest number, you can move the ship once at the start of your turn without it counting against your turn limit of three actions.  When playing this version of the game, you can choose either method of card drawing (Basic or Morgan) or you can even assign a different type to each portion of the race!

A short course of the whole jailbreak

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN

This is the newest form of the game, and one that I had not encountered until I opened the box this month.  In this version, all the cards also have special abilities.  When you play the card, you can either use it in the traditional sense to move one of your pirates, or if you say the magic words “Black Magic Woman” as you play it, you release its special abilities instead…

Gun – look at one opponent’s hand and take a card of your choice.  The opponent draws a random card from the top of the deck

Rum – Draw N+1 cards from the deck, look at them and keep 2.  Then distribute one card to each other player

Lantern – Draw 3 cards, keep one and place the other two back on the top of the deck in any order

Parrot – play 2 parrot cards as any other card symbol of your choice

Hook – Play together with another card.  You then can move two of your pirates which are in the same space to the icon shown on the second card.  This pair of cards counts as two of your three actions.

Treasure Chest – there are 8 treasure chest tiles in the box, one is randomly placed on each treasure chest space in the path. If you have a pirate on a chest tile, you can use this card to open the treasure chest – flip it over, you will either draw 1-3 cards or you might find the snake which causes you to move backwards to the first available rum spot.

The end conditions do not appear to change.

My thoughts on the game

Cartagena is one of the first games I can remember “playing to death”.  It was a favorite in one of my first game groups and rare did a game session go by without at least one play of this classic game.  I have taken a whirl with each of the four main versions offered in the box, and after this first go-round, I’ll have to admit that I still just love the basic version of the game the best.  The rules are elegantly simple yet the game offers plenty of tense strategy in a 30 minute time window.

That being said, I love the versatility that I can now have with the game with the additional board pieces as well as option to play the whole jailbreak scenario.  I could see that, in time, this two part race becoming the most favored version of Cartagena because it extends the game a bit, and when you use different card drawing rules on each part – it really makes each portion of the race feel different from the other.  As this game only gives you eight total tile pieces, the whole jailbreak scenario doesn’t end up to be that much longer than the regular six tile Basic Game – though you almost have to add in a tile’s worth of time with the extra logistics of getting the boat to and from the two sections of the board.

And, if that version might become the favorite, at this point, it’s pretty clear that my least favored version of the game will be the Black Magic Woman variety.  The special actions really seem to take away from the clean elegance of the original game.  Further, a number of the actions involve players drawing multiple cards from the deck and then figuring out what to do with them, and this really seems to add a lot of downtime to the game as some of these decisions can take a long time. For me, this added fiddliness and game time worsens the game rather than improving it.  However, the beauty of this composite Cartagena box is that each group can find the version of the game that they like to play the best.

The components are exactly what you’d expect from Rio Grande – good thick tiles that punch out easily, wooden pirate meeples.  The artwork is clean and functional – which is much in line with previous versions of this game.  And, best of all, all the bits come in a small Carcassonne sized box.

The only thing that I wish to be changed in this version is the title.  One of my other favorite games, Agricola, also now has multiple versions with the exact same name, and it can get confusing.  For my own sanity, I would have liked “Cartagena – ultimate edition” or really anything else to make it easily distinguishable from its predecessors.   I would definitely take this 2017 version over all the others as it combines everything into one compact box and gives the gamer a variety of ways to enjoy this great game.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Jonathan F.: If you can handle a slightly dry game, this a tremendous game with a small ruleset and delicious decisions. It also packs down nicely, as you could remove the bits from the box and just have 6 pieces of cardboard, a deck of cards, a sloop piece, and some pirateeples and you are all set. At the same time, it is slightly thinky, so it can be slightly twisty at the start with non-gamers.

Fraser: I heard about this from a FLGS just last week, what’s with the redoing it again was my initial thought.  I have only played the original and like that, but never tried Cartagena 2.  The Morgan version sounds good though, especially since it was technically possible to put yourself out of the game with the first edition.

 

BTW try googling 1672 Cartagena jailbreak, when I did it a while back all you got was BGG :-)

 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y, Erik Arneson, Jonathan F. (basic version)
  • I like it. Fraser (original edition)
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

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Bärenpark (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
  • Publisher: Lookout, Mayfair
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 8 and Up
  • Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 5

Barenpark.jpg

In Bärenpark, you enter the business of building a zoological park of bears.  The game is centered around polyominoes — those tetris-like pieces that have been popular in recent games — and involves “skillfully fitting together enclosures, animal houses, and green areas.”  

The game is a fun and remarkably simple twist on the polyomino genre, and we’ve really enjoyed our plays.   Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impressions of Throne of the World

 

Throne of the World

  • Designer: Zong-Ger
  • Publisher: Good Game Studio
  • Players: 2 – 4
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes per game
  • Times played: 2 (both 2p), with review copy provided by GGStudio / Taiwan Boardgame Design

Throne of the World is a set collection card game from a company which I had not heard of before, Good Game Studio.  In this game, players take on the role of one of thirteen different races fighting for the Throne of the World.

This is one of those games that it is easiest to start at the end and then circle back around.  Why?  There are four different ways to win the game, and without knowing that from the start, it’s hard to understand what you want to do during the game. Continue reading

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