Every year, the Spielfrieks user group conducts our Meeples Choice Awards voting, in which we select our three favorite games from the previous calendar year. The process is beginning, as we’re deciding on the pool of games to vote on to come up with our 25 nominees. If you’re a member of Spielfrieks, please help us out and head over to the Yahoo User Group to place your votes. If you’re not a member, but would like to help us with this most awesome of responsibilities, all you have to do is send an email to email@example.com and you will be signed up and ready to join us. It’s a three-week process and the more the merrier, so we hope to hear from a bunch of you!
Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA
I was pretty excited to get a copy of One Key as I liked the idea of a cooperative art guessing game. If you have played any other Libellud game – this will feel pretty familiar… (Dixit, Mysterium, Shadows: Amsterdam, maybe even Fabula) All of these have a common theme – that is, using pictures to somehow convey meaning; though each one has some sort of twist/new mechanic to set it apart. And, as I was reading up on this, I did see that there is even an upcoming game called Obscurio which will use my least favorite mechanism of all time: the traitor.
Designed by Konnov, Paltsev, Shklyarov, Trehgrannik,
Published by Board & Dice
Review copy provided by the publisher
Played 5 times
Games that are set in a specific culture tend to be careful these days about not offending the culture involved while promoting them at the same time. This balance is difficult to maintain as the game is about having fun while not poking fun. Sometimes making the game quite thematic to the history of a culture can prevent a game from being enjoyable; otherwise a game may take liberties with a culture and provoke a storm. The publisher decided to tackle this up front in the game by having an Inuit consultant engaged who commented on the game’s cultural links. Perhaps this is the way to do this because the storm appears not to be happening. But what’s the game like?
Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Gamewright
Sushi Roll is a new dice based version of Sushi Go!, one of my favorite drafting card games. The theme is the same – you are in a sushi restaurant trying to pick the best dishes as they pass by. Unlike the original game which used cards, this game uses dice. There are a few different types of dice: a white nigiri dice, a salmon maki die, a purple appetizer die, a green wasabi die and a pink pudding die.
Jonathan Franklin: Review of Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry
Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry [expansion]
Designer: Wei-Hwa Huang & Tom Lehmann
Publisher: Rio Grande Games
Time: 45 minutes
Times played: 9+, with review copy provided by Rio Grande Games
I am a Tom Lehman and Wei-Hwa Huang fan. I like/love all their games and my game group adores Roll. They playtest their games into the ground, which means you are getting a tremendous game out of the box and any balance issues are almost certainly your own misperceptions due to an inadequate number of plays. Their games reward replaying over and over because you can try new things, find new combos, and have fun regardless of whether you win or lose.
Roll for the Galaxy is a game that sits at the crossroads of Control Avenue and RNG Street. It permits planning, strategies, and requires an awareness of what the other players are up to. At the same time, you might find yourself cursing your rolls if they don’t align with where you thought you were heading. Unlike other dice games, you can sacrifice dice to convert other ones to what you want, so you can have more less good dice or fewer better dice for your plan.
Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Stronghold
Subtext is the newest design from the inventive mind of Wolfgang Warsch. In the past two years, he has burst upon the gaming scene with game after game; each one seemingly in a different genre. Though I know that this isn’t his only party game (I have playtested one other which should arrive this fall) – Subtext is a game where certain players have to try to communicate using only their (in my case – very rudimentary) drawing skills. If there is one theme thus far that I’ve found with WW – it’s that he loves to limit the ways in which people can communicate with each other. Sometimes it’s interesting (here), and other times it’s not (The Mind).
The concept here is simple – players try to draw pictures to convey the meaning of a word they get on a card. However, you don’t want to be too obvious about your picture because if you score points, you’ll be rewarded for having fewer other players recognize what you were trying to draw… Make sense? Yeah, let me explain more…
The world is full of public domain and newfangled trick taking games. That said, I will try any of them any time. I reached out to Soaring Rhino to try their new Pirate Tricks game; here are my thoughts from a few perspectives.
In Pirate Tricks, the main deck has three suits, red is always trump, and the suit length is adjusted depending on the number of players. The quick and dirty is that this is a lighter trick-taking game with three hands played in succession with different rules for each hand. At the end of three hands, the player with the most points wins.
Yes, there are tricks, yes, you generally have to follow suit if you can, but this game adds a closed-fist auction to construct your hand. Pedants will say that Tichu is a climbing game, not a trick-taking, game (and they are right). At the same time, imagine being dealt the first set of cards in Tichu, looking at them, then instead of bidding Grand or picking up the second set of cards, the second set of cards are splayed out in the middle of the table in four rows and you get to bid on which second set of cards you get.
In Pirate Tricks, after getting your first set of cards, the remaining cards are set out in rows equal to the number of players with all but two cards in each row face up and two face down. In the example above, there are four rows because there are four players. The players then bid for each row in order, spending victory points to get the row they want. Since red is always trump, you would think you always want the row with the most red showing.
Here is the second twist of Pirate Tricks. There are three special card types, Recruitment, Treasure, and Capture cards. Recruitment cards give you a way to score outside the trick taking part of the game. You might bid on a very weak row of cards because it helps you complete a high value recruitment card. Treasure cards set the goal for the hand which might be to take the fewest tricks, most tricks, predict how many tricks you will take, etc This is a key way to gain points in the game and the most points will win, but remember, points are also what you bid with. Capture cards can be negative points, so you might have trick avoidance cards where taking blue cards is extra bad. Suddenly trump sounds awful and you might pay just to not take the row with the high trumps.
After getting your first cards and bidding on your second set, you get to throw away two cards, so no one else knows exactly what you have, even if they can count cards. Of course, the discarded cards cannot count towards the recruitment scoring. After recruitment scoring, a regular trick taking game is played with the Capture and Treasure rules.
There are enough recruitment, treasure, and capture cards that you won’t see the same ones in a game, but they will start to reappear. Some are pretty bad, such as stealing points from other players, so don’t go into this seriously or you might be frustrated. I think it is probably best as a five player closer when you want to think, but not too much. The scoring can be swingy and the game does not really have a built in catch-up mechanism, so if your neighbor just hoovered up 6 of your points for their stash, that is a 12 point swing.
The theme and art are fine, but not really integrated into the game, unless stealing points is piratey. The art is darker and a bit neon, but it is legible. If you like Stichmeister, On the Cards, or other variable condition trick-taking games, but feel they might be a bit much for your friends, definitely seek out Pirate Tricks. It would also be especially good for people who like trick taking games and are starting out in Euros, as it adds variable conditions, closed-fist auctions, and strategic discarding.
I like it and would happily play it, especially with 5 players.
Dan Blum (2 plays): I agree with Jonathan’s opinion in general. It’s a decent enough trick-taking game with a lot of variability, but some of the scoring cards make it a lighter affair. (Of course one could always remove those.) However, it’s not as light as it could be because of the amount of information you have about other players’ hands – you see all the cards that are bid on and players might choose to show others to score for Recruitment.
Ultimately I feel it could have used a little more polishing to be really good, but it’s still pretty good – the occasional hand is not great but most hands are interesting and since a game is only three hands it won’t outstay its welcome.
Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Gamewright
Bloom is the latest entry in the now crowded genre of Roll-and-Write (RAW) games. In this small format game, players work together to use the dice to choose flowers the best from their sheets. There are 5 different sheet layouts in the game, and in each game, each player gets a different layout. There are six dice in the game: yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue and white. These same colors are found on the flowers on the sheets.
At the start of each round, the active player rolls the 6 dice. Then, starting with the active player, one die is taken from the pool. The color and number of the die tells you how many flowers of that particular color need to be chosen from your sheet. All of the flowers chosen must be orthogonally adjacent to each other.
I wasn’t an Opinionated Gamer when A Feast for Odin was first released (well, I was plenty opinionated and a gamer, but neither were capitalized just yet), so you can read Chris Wray’s great review of the original game here. However, if I had been, I would have been an enthusiastic member of the “I Love It!” club. The game has risen to be in my top 5 favorite games. While there have been some promo tiles and a mini expansion, this is the first full expansion for the game, and there are quite a few changes.
The first change is the action board; the expansion includes 3 main action boards that replace the boards in the original game. The boards are double-sided; the side you use depends on the number of players. The board includes some of the same actions but also incorporates new ones.
Some are twists on actions available on the original action boards – for example, there are new hunting and fishing actions that use only weapon cards and give you weapon cards if you fail.
There are now horses and pigs in addition to the cows and sheep; the rules for them are similar, but there are more action spaces related to the animals. There are now different ways to get more animals or benefit from those you already have. Horses breed just like cows and sheep, but pigs give birth during every breeding phase as long as you have at least 2.
There are new special tiles with a forge tongs symbol that you get by spending an ore; these tiles have their own supply board.
There is now the option to perform an emigration using one of your whaling boats; you return the boat to the supply and take a small emigration tile, which covers up one feast space and gives you 7 victory points. While it is worth less, it doesn’t cost any silver, so it’s much less expensive to do.
The action board also includes a new column where you can take an action by placing one or two vikings. One viking lets you take the action; two vikings let you take the action and play an occupation card. There is a catch, though – once you do this you are out of the rounds, even if you have vikings left.
For any action that allows you to play an occupation card you can instead choose to discard the card in order to take a victory point token of your choice. There are a total of 16 victory point chips; 2 with a value of 4, 6 with a value of 3 and 8 with a value of 2; the value 2 tokens are not limited, so you always have the option to utilize this action.
There are also 4 new exploration boards that are included; you also include additional exploration boards based on the number of player, or you can choose to include them all regardless of number of players. The boards indicate which action space and which ship you use to take that board. The expansion also includes upgraded versions of the exploration boards in the original game; the boards are the same except for the requirements to place them listed in the upper right (since the expansion actions for exploration boards are different).
Each player starts the game with a artisan shed; it doesn’t count against you if you don’t build it, The sheds are randomly distributed because each one is different; they range in base value from 6 to 8 and require certain tiles to be completed as well as give you the chance to earn income or other goods.
Each player starts the game with a artisan shed; it doesn’t count against you if you don’t build it, The sheds are randomly distributed because each one is different; they range in base value from 6 to 8 and require certain tiles to be completed as well as give you the chance to earn income or other goods. They are double-sided. so you have a choice as to which you’d like to build.
Scoring works the same way, with any victory points tokens added during the scoring for occupation cards and animals beyond cattle and sheep added to that scoring.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I am very happy with the expansion. It’s a twist on the original game and adds to the experience. It doesn’t address any problems with the original game, because there aren’t any major flaws. I also don’t feel like this was released as just chrome – there is actual, interesting new gameplay in this expansion. I would still be happy to play the original game, but it’s a great alternative.
Having a new action board mixes things up. My favorite thing about the new board is the option of taking a good action with 1 or 2 vikings as your last action, since that gives you some flexibility if other players have taken the spot you were planning on, as well as giving you another way to play an occupation card.
Being able to discard an occupation card for victory points is a nice addition as well; since occupation cards are drawn randomly you could have one or more that just won’t do anything for you, so it gives you way to benefit from them anyway.
I like the addition of the new emigration tiles, since it gives you a use for whaling boats if you decide to not use them anymore. They aren’t as powerful as the larger emigration tiles, but they are a lot easier to put up.
I have only recently been a convert to taking islands; the OCD part of my brain wants me to cover ALL of the negative spots on my main board first, but that is not necessarily a winning strategy. Taking an island gives you a chance for aditional income and bonuses, and it can greatly increase your score. The new islands offer different benefits, which makes for interesting choices and potentially the ability to choose something that fits well with your strategy.
The new sheds are helpful as well, as they give you another way to use up extra resources that aren’t doing anything else for you as well as earn bonuses/income and increase your VPs.
The original game works well with any number of players, and that is true with the expansion as well.
The expansion comes in a box that is the same length as the original box but only about half as wide. I do not see any way to fit the entire game into one box, although I have not investigated third-party storage solutions. The expansion box also includes a new tray that is only about half-full, which I hope means there are additional expansions in the works. The game is not stale for me in any sense of the word, but I enjoy it so much that I look forward to additional things being included.
The rules are very clear on what the differences in setup are between the base game and the expansion as well as clarifications for some of the new expansion actions (most of them are clear on their own). It also include rules for what happens with some of the occupation cards that are affected by the new items.
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.