Times played: probably at least 40, but 3 in past month with new review copy provided by Japanime Games
Tanto Cuore is a game that I have played for almost ten years now… I first got a copy of a game from a friend in Japan back in 2009. As you probably know, I had a hand in Dominion, and as a result, I’ve been very interested in all forms of deck builders since then. Tanto Cuore was one of the first games to use the basic deckbuilding ideas from Dominion but offer a few different twists to the recipe.
Times played: 2, with preview copy sent by EmperorS4
EmperorS4 has been one of the most consistent (IMHO) Taiwanese publishers since I have started to follow games from the region. Walking in Burano, Round House, Shadows in Kyoto, Burano and Hanamikoji have all been well received here. This year, I received advance copies of two of their games, and Trial of the Temples was the first one to hit the table.
The publisher describes the game: “Every century the most powerful Archmages gather at the centre of the world — “Mages’ Arena”. They must enter the trials at the three temples to compete for the title of “Supreme Master”. Each Archmage will refine crystals and create magical barriers to block their opponents in order to complete the trials and find the best timing to surpass their opponents. Archmages will aim to cast a spell from the spellbook to create an amazing spell chain! Who will win and receive the ultimate title?”
This is a review of one of the most controversial games of the year. The game is Barrage and the reason for the controversy is its recently completed Kickstarter campaign run by its publisher, Cranio Creations. Without going into too much detail, it appears that Cranio badly underestimated what it takes to run a successful KS campaign, so delivery dates were missed, promised components either weren’t included or fell far short of their expected quality, and many backers were bitterly disappointed. Needless to say, the complaints about this situation have been loud and numerous.
Despite all that drama, the events surrounding the Kickstarter campaign will not be a part of this review. There are two reasons for this. First, I wasn’t a KS backer and am only peripherally aware of all of the many alleged shortcomings of the campaign, so I’m really not qualified to discuss them in depth. More importantly, though, I don’t honestly feel they’re relevant to this article. The way I see it, the audience for a review of this game, or any game, are folks who are curious about the title and want to know if they should play and/or buy the game. Promises that may or may not have been made in the past aren’t really a concern for these readers—they just care about how the game plays and the quality of the components. I will certainly discuss Barrage’s components; in fact, because of the controversy surrounding them, I’ll devote considerably more words to them than I normally would. But this will be a review of the game I played recently and not the one that so many of the KS backers thought they’d be receiving. It’s not that the details of the KS campaign shouldn’t be discussed; it’s just that this isn’t the time or the place for that. The question at this point in time is, given all the controversy surrounding this game, is it something that a prospective player or buyer should investigate? That’s the question I’ll try to address in this review.
Now that the elephant in the room has been discussed, let me get to the subject at hand. Barrage (which, in addition to its normal English meaning, is also the French word for dam) is about generating energy. Specifically, hydro-electricity. The players represent industrialists from four post-WWI powers who believe that the best way of satisfying the enormous power demands of the future will be by harnessing the incredible power of flowing water. They have all gathered at a promising spot in the Alps to test their theories and devices. And getting in the way of one’s rivals is not only satisfying, but could lead to world domination. Continue reading →
Designers: Keegan Acquaotta, Scott Gratien, Jennifer Graham-Macht, Jesse Haedrich
Time: 30 minutes
In Kibble Scuffle, players try to get their cats to eat the best (most valuable) food out of the three food dishes by the end of the game. Each player starts with their own deck of 20 cards. These are shuffled, and each player draws a starting hand of five cards from their deck. The box itself is the start player marker, and it’s not your usual box. In one of the corners, there is a spout actually in the box, and the 55 food cubes are placed inside the box, and they will be shaken out of said box via the spout! The three bowls are placed on the table, and four cubes are randomly shaken out onto each dish.
One of the general trends that I’ve noticed in the past few years is that the release calendar is slowly but surely trending backwards. When I first started seriously playing games, it felt like most of the new releases were timed for the Tuesday/Wednesday of Essen week. Each year, as I was acclimating to the time change on my first walk through the halls on setup day, I saw plenty of folks anxiously awaiting the arrival of the pallets of their new games, straight from the factory (or at least straight from LudoPack).
I don’t know whether this is a consequence of the Scheer meltdown where a bunch of companies missed Essen entirely, now it seems like games are ready earlier – in order to build in a cushion to make the show. That has been going on for awhile now.
Then, in the past two or three years, it feels like the release schedule has been backed up to the point where now many games are launched (either fully or softly) at GenCon in August. Games now come to market here in August, and then they have their European release in Essen in October. It makes sure that the production of the game is done in time for Essen, but it also helps get a little bit of buzz going about a game going into the main convention of the autumn.
Men at Work is a well-known Australian band from the 1980’s. Despite not being around for long, they have a couple of songs that seem to still be played today. Oh, wai – that’s not the Men at Work I am supposed to be talking about. I am supposed to tell you about meeple-men at work.
Men at Work is a dexterity game for 2 -5 players. Players take on the role of construction workers, trying to safely build their piece of the structure. Sounds easy, right? Well, not so much – you’re going to be asked to do some things that are not quite standard building procedure.
There are support pieces, which form the base of the structure, as well as wooden girders in four colors that are used to grow the structure. In addition you have a supply of wooden bricks and beams, along with meeple construction workers.
There are also cardboard safety certificates – every player gets a certain number to start the game – as well as victory point tokens and an instruction deck.
The instruction deck is shuffled and the Boss Rita card is inserted about a quarter of the way down into the deck. The start player decides where the supports will go and then places one girder of each color onto the supports. They place one worker on a girder of their choice and the game begins.
On your turn you flip over the top card of the instruction deck. The card that is still face down on the top of the deck will tell you what you have to add to the site – a girder or a worker – and what colors you may use. The card you just flipped over will give you the specifics of that action. So if the card that is face down shows a girder, you’d look at the girder instruction on the flipped-up card and follow that instruction – place a girder touching another girder of the same color, touching only one other girder etc. If it shows a worker you place that worker following the instructions; workers can be placed alone, or they can be required to have a brick or beam. In the latter case you would place the worker first, and then place the brick or beam on them.
There are some rules for how items can be placed. You can only use one hand, and your hand cannot touch anything except the piece you are placing. You can use said piece to try to move or adjust other pieces already in play.
As long as your piece and the structure stay upright and nothing hits the table, you’re golden and you’re turn is over . However, if any piece hits the table you have caused an accident. You lose one of your safety certificates; if you lose your last safety certificate you are out of the game.
Oops = cleanup, aisle 7
After the accident, the next player uses the cleanup hook to retrieve all pieces that fell on to the table; these pieces are returned to the general supply. Since nothing but the supports can touch the table any girders with one end touching the table must be pushed back on to the structure. If any pieces fall to the table during cleanup, that player loses a safety certificate and passes the hook to the next player.
Once the Boss Rita card comes out, players get a Worker of the Moth award (victory points) at the end of their successful turn if they have placed a piece that is the highest piece on the site. The cleanup hook has a handy measuring stick on it for those situations in which the highest piece isn’t clear.
Play continues until either one player has the required number of Worker of the Month certificates (between 3 and 5, depending on the number of players), in which case that player wins, or until only one player has any safety certificates left, in which case that player wins. The game could also end if you run out of construction materials, but this is unlikely; if it were to happen the player with the largest combination of safety certificates and Worker of the Month awards would win.
The rules include some variants. One, the foreman, gives each player two cards at the start of the game. On their turn the player can choose to play one of their cards to replace one of the instruction cards.
The next variant is called Crane and involves placing the cardboard crane in the middle of the site at the start of the game. The crane can be used as part of the structure.
The final variant (and the only one I haven’t tried) is called Skyscraper. Instead of using supports to build the structure on the table you place the girders directly on the box insert and build from there.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME
I am not normally much of a fan of dexterity games. No one has ever called me graceful without a sarcastic tone in their voice, and I can bump into things or knock things over like nobody’s business, so dexterity games generally are not my forte. Give me a good old-fashioned strategy game any day. However, I do often play games with non-gamer friends and family; having something that will draw them in or work well for a wide range of ages is a plus. This one grabbed me right away, and I ended up purchasing a copy. It is the kind of game that can be played by a wide variety of ages and gaming abilities, and it has the potential to draw in the non-gamers at a family gathering. Sure, you have to have some skill in placing the construction bits, but you always have some choices in where to put them, and there are usually options that at least might work. The structure is stable enough in general that you don’t have to hold your breath, although players do have to be careful not to jostle the table. The cleanup aspect of the game is also pretty fun; it’s a different challenge trying to fish that brick out of the somewhat collapsed structure without knocking anything else off.
The insert for the box is great,; it is well-designed to hold all of the bits and keep them from shifting around.
And the bits? Well, the bits are, well, they are adorable. I mean, meeples wearing yellow construction helmets? What more could you want? Aside from the cuteness, everything is well-made. The building components and the meeples are all wood (well, minus those hats) and are smooth with no rough areas or imperfections. The safety certificates, crane and cleanup hook are all cardboard but seem to be sturdy enough to hold up.
THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS
Brandon Kempf: Colin Hay is one of the most underrated songwriters and vocalists of the 80s, but that’s not what we are here to discuss. Pretzel Games has a knack for producing quality dexterity games, I love that Plan B has branched out into this market with their label. Men at Work is indeed their project that seems more non-gamer friendly, and it works for what it does. Some of the moves are a bit more difficult to pull off than the others, balancing bricks or beams on the shoulders of the workers while finding the correct place to place them but nothing here screams overly difficult, and it is a stunner to see on the table when you walk by. I prefer Junk Art, but Men at Work is a fantastic stacking game.
Fraser: As I come from a land down under, I only came here for the vegemite sandwich.
Two player games are a genre unto their own. At one end of the scale are classics like chess, while more recent classics like Lost Cities have similar slimline set of rules to challenge the players. In the last year there has been a string of two player card based war games published that are at the lighter end of complexity but provide a fresh take on the genre. This article covers reviews of three such games and at the end of the article I will summarise my thoughts on the merits of each.
Designers: Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pederson
Publisher: Sidekick Games
Time: 30 minutes
Times played, 2 with preview copy provided by Sidekick Games
This time of year is the most exciting time to be a board gamer. If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely anticipating the upcoming SPIEL fair in Essen. Sure, not many of us get to actually go, but many new games will soon be released at said fair, and those games will quickly make it back to your game table to be played. This time is also busy for my mailman, as there are plenty of games that we get a chance to preview – in part so that pieces like this can be written so that everyone can learn more about those games prior to the fair!
Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by publisher
EmperorS4 has been one of the most consistent (IMHO) Taiwanese publishers since I have started to follow games from the region. Walking in Burano, Round House, Shadows in Kyoto, Burano and Hanamikoji have all been well received here. This year, I received advance copies of two of their games, and as usual, I have been glad to get them on the table quickly.
Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Taiwan Boardgames
Each fall, I look forward to a care package sent to me from my friends at Taiwan Boardgames. I have felt for a long while that the games from the Far East are underappreciated, though their exposure seems to be improving each year! Sure, there are always hits and misses in each box, but I do love the exploration of the new games…