Dale Yu: Review of Umbra Via

Umbra Via

  • Designer: Connor Wake
  • Publisher: Pandasaurus
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Pandasaurus

In Umbra Via, players compete to control and complete the most cunning paths in a hidden garden.  Each player has their own planning area hidden behind a screen, they also get a bag matching their player colors to keep their flowers in.  Each player placed their soul tile near the board and then places 11 of their soul flowers (in their color) on their tile.  The first person to empty their Soul Tile and then collect it will win the game.

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Brandon Kempf – Three Games of March

I have a lot of games. A lot of games that are on my shelves, or on my table being played, that I have told myself that I want to review at some point. For one reason or another, this doesn’t always happen. My goal here on The Opinionated Gamers is that I want to get about one review out per week, but I’d like to write about more games. So I’m taking a page out of Patrick Brennan’s playbook, and we’re going to start writing about games in threes, in snapshot form. This should be a good way for readers to get to know me and my gaming tastes a bit better, and also another way for me to talk about games that I maybe don’t really want to dedicate two thousand words to. Welcome to Three Games.

March was a bit of an improvement game playing wise. Instead of only twelve plays, March saw nineteen plays of thirteen different games. Amazingly, nine of those thirteen were new to me. One of those new games was already reviewed by me, Three Sisters. Two of them, I am probably going to review in the near future, The Initiative and Fairy Tale Inn. Both on that family game scale, but whereas The Initiative is a cooperative puzzle solving game, Fairy Tale Inn is a two player head to head game with that CMON flair. But to be honest, March saw me go down a completely different rabbit hole, vinyl, but that’s another story, for another blog. 

Forgotten Waters

Designed by Mr. Bistro, J. Arthur Ellis & Isaac Vega

Arrrrrr, there be pirates, matey! Plaid Hat Games has always been something of an enigma to me. On one hand, I think that Summoner Wars is probably the finest two player skirmish game around and Dead of Winter was a favorite of mine for awhile as well, but outside of those titles, I have not had any luck with enjoying their stuff, until now. Forgotten Waters is a cooperative game where you are a group of pirates off on an adventure. This is a Crossroads styled game, like Dead of Winter, but there are no possible traitors or anything here. You all are just doing your best to improve your piratey ways and complete the mission. Every location that you visit has a place in the book that tells the story and each spot has locations within that location to visit to gain things, or fight things or just go to the bar. So pretty simple, but it’s not. We failed miserably our first try, second try turned out much better. The cool part about Forgotten Waters though is that the entire game is ran through a wonderfully done app through the Plaid Hat Games website, so no more reading of a bunch of cards as it’s all done for you with professional voice actors. Really, really well done. We have a large table so we set up a 36” tv to the computer at the end of the table so that we were all fully immersed in the story. Looking forward to more plays and hopefully a review, but I definitely want more plays first. 

Five Tribes

Designed by Bruno Cathala

Most games don’t make it past two or three plays around here, that’s just the nature of the hobby for us. So when a game has a dozen plays it’s a pretty good sign I think. Then it sits on the shelf for awhile and you get that itching feeling that you should play it again, so you do and low and behold, it’s not really the game you remember liking so much. Well, let me rephrase, it’s the game I remember, but I don’t think that I’m the gamer I used to be. Super simple in theory, pick a tile, move some meeples in Mancala style, drop one every place along the way until you run out and you get to take some actions and hopefully claim a tile. In theory really light weight and quick playing, but it never works out that way, especially at four players. The board state changes so much in between your turns that you honestly can’t plan anything that far ahead, so you have to wait and do the math real quick like in your head on your turn, only it’s never really that quick. It’s a shame, it really is a good two player experience, from what I remember, but why would I reach for a box like this when we have numerous other games sitting around that are actually made for two players. So, with a heavy heart, after fourteen plays, we bid adieu to Five Tribes, it’s not the game, it’s me. Maybe.

Isle of Skye

Designed by Andreas Pelikan & Alexander Pfister

Now, how about one that just joined the dime list and is always a wonderful time. Isle of Skye has two of my favorite things in gaming, tile placement where you are building your own map and a market where you can set the prices for tiles for sale that round. I think it’s that valuation that is my favorite thing here. You have to be paying attention to what everyone is building and what scoring tiles are in play for the round. Then take that knowledge and put it all together and decide a price that you think others are willing to pay if you want to sell it, or not pay if you want to keep it. It’s a delicate balance, and one that is key to any success you want to have in Isle of Skye. it all helps that your island that you are building is fantastic looking and is kind of a puzzle in and of itself. Closing in areas completely can lead to bigger points, so planning your island needs to be another priority. I know that other folks will swear by the bigger, meatier games of Pfister, but I think they’re wrong, Isle of Skye is probably his design masterpiece and one he should be proud of. 

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Osaka and Tokyo Spring Game Market 2021 Anticipation Post

Hi folks – As I usually do twice a year, I want to highlight some of the titles that have recently been released in Japan, or will be shortly; I’ll touch on games that I’m eager to play, games I may never get to play, and some titles that bring a smile to my face, just knowing they exist. (I’m timing this one specifically in case we have any English language readers who may be waiting in line to get into Tokyo Big Sight for a convention that opens in a few hours and is looking for some recommendations! – though some of these were also from the Osaka convention a few weeks ago.)

This post will be a bit different as you’ll hear from some of our other contributors as well as me. So from here down, we’ll label who’s adding which bits.

James Nathan: This post will also be a little different as it’s the first Game Market in a few years where I don’t have a friend picking up most of the harder to find titles I’m interested in, and will be relying on finding things at online stores or later in the used market.  It’s also different because starting in the fall, I plan to start attending regularly myself — first vaccine dose is in and fingers crossed that Japan’s visa policies allow me to visit by November.

Rand Yelmel: Thanks for inviting me to join! James Nathan’s anticipation posts are some of my favorite reads through the year. We often share DMs of our finds back and forth, purchasing plans, and sometimes even shipments — whether knowingly or unknowingly ;) — so it’s a pleasure to contribute to this iteration of the post.

James Nathan: One last difference, and I suppose it’s slightly a disclaimer, but I have a new position with boardgametables.com where I choose games for them (us) to license. It’s a dream and knowing my tastes, that probably means they’ll be doujin titles that I picked up at Game Market.  It means I’m still buying and playing games as I was before, but the family budget uses a different bucket of money to cover those costs, and if it turns out I love any of these, I have a new avenue to bring them to you! (The first title I signed, Time Palatrix, has been announced, with the new theme and name “Ghosts of Christmas”.)

The pandemic shift, and, well, now being more in the future than time that is in the past, has made more titles available at online outlets like booth.pm and bodoge.hoobby.net, so by the time I post this, some of these games will already be in hand.

I track the games I’ve bought and want to buy in a spreadsheet, and this time has more rows than any other Game Market in the last few years!  Let’s start with the first line in my sheet:

盆暮れ正月両彼岸 (2021春 両-オ32)
James Nathan: The game’s title translates roughly as “Bongure New Year’s Equinoctial Week”, which well, probably doesn’t make much sense.  But, here’s an explanation.  It refers to times of the year when in Buddhist traditions, extra thoughts are paid to your ancestors. The game is themed around visiting the graves of your departed family members, and it is designed by 向井真人, a Buddhist priest at a temple in Tokyo, who often makes games with Buddhist themes.

Promotional image from the publisher

Rules wise I haven’t made it far in attempting to translate this one, but it’s a trick-taking game; the cards are beautiful; and I’m drawn in by the theme -who want to go with me to visit grandma’s tomb is a compelling reason to “follow suit”!  It was previously crowd-funded on the Japanese site campfire.jp.

Fugu Sushi(No booth)
James Nathan: The designs from るりるり (Ruriruri) continue to push the design envelope in ways that surprise and delight my mind.  This time, that includes this game that sees the players as sushi chefs, and includes dissection of a “soft” pufferfish. There are a few hard bits, like the serving trays, but the whole thing has a sort of Claes Oldenburg vibe.  The Ruriruri rules are some of the most difficult for me to translate, and while I buy each of their trick-taking releases, this is one of my first forays into the creative-component region of Ruriruri’s mind. 

Promotional image from the designer/publisher’s Twitter account, @ruriruri_games
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The List of Lists

After 25,708 words this week about our collective recent favorite games, all-time most underappreciated games, popular games that are “not for me,” and published games that we most want to try, it’s time to conclude this wonderful week of lists.

Recent Favorites

  • The Crew (Runner Up: Pax Pamir)

Underappreciated

  • Reef Encounter (Runner Up: Spyrium)

Popular “Not For Me”

  • Cards Against Humanity (Runner Up: Dominant Species)

Want to Try

  • Barrage (Runner Up: Gloomhaven)
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Top 20 Most Want to Try

Barrage Cover Artwork

This week the Opinionated Gamers have been publishing a series of articles ranking games in a few different ways based on data collected from many different contributors.  Today’s topic is the published games that we haven’t tried yet, but we most want to try playing sometime.  Sixteen contributors voted on their picks for games they most want to try to come up with today’s list, including Alan How, Brandon Kempf, Chris Wray, Erik Arneson, Fraser McHarg, James Nathan, John Palagyi, Larry Levy, Lorna, Mark Jackson, Matt Carlson, Patrick Korner, RJ Garrison, Simon Neale, Talia Rosen, and Tery Noseworthy.

It was a thrilling race with 81 different games receiving at least one vote.  While only a single game from my picks made the list below, I’m seeing a lot of interesting titles on the list, and some personal favorites of mine that I’m now eager to teach to my fellow OG members.  There were also a few honorable mentions that just barely missed the list: Beyond the Sun, Parks, and War of the Ring.  I don’t know much of anything about the first two, but War of the Ring is my favorite board game of all time.  I used to wrestle with whether that title should go to Through the Ages, Antiquity, Twilight Struggle, or Netrunner instead, but I can’t deny my overriding love for War of the Ring any longer.  I’ve played it over 60 times now, and the thrilling narrative that unfolds over the course of 3 hours is incomparable.  I’ve been known to wander conventions for days lugging this gem around trying to get it to the table day in and day out.  But without further ado, here are the 20 published games that the OG collectively most wants to try playing:

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Tokyo Game Market Preview

ナナイロアジサイ (Nana Iroi Ajisai = The English name is still in the works)

Lorna:

Ajisai is a beautiful 2-3 player game. It plays in 15 min or so. The game is based on the colorful Hydrangea, a popular flowering shrub in Japan, well known for its delightful color and blooms during the rainy season. As the flowers change color a feeling of movement is instilled and the designer tried to capture that in his game.

In a 2 player game each player controls 3 flowers. The goal is to have the most flowers in one color. The game makes use of a “color rotation system.” 

Players take turns playing flower tiles onto the board.  A placed tile must result in a color change unless a white flower is placed. Each color can change the color of adjacent tiles to itself if the adjacent tile is the next color on the rotation system. For example if you place a purple tile next to blue flowers, the blue flowers will be replaced with purple flowers. In addition like in Othello, if you place a flower tile on the end of a line that matches the other end, you flip all the flower colors in between to match the end.

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