Larry Levy: First Impressions of Pan Am

Pan Am

  • Designer: Prospero Hall (Lead Designer – Peter Lee)
  • Publisher: Funko Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times Played: 1

I recently got to play my first face-to-face game in 5 months.  If you had asked me at the beginning of my COVID lockdown which game would reintroduce me into the Land of the Living, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have guessed it would be a Funko Game title.  These are popular designs, but many of them are thematic games featuring large-headed minis of celebrities and that’s not exactly my gaming sweet spot.  But Pan Am is very much a Euro, it has an attractive theme, the early ratings are good, and it is both affordable and easily accessible (under $30 at both Target stores and Target.com).  So I decided to give it a shot.

When I was researching the game on BGG, I was also able to investigate the enigma of the mysterious Prospero Hall.  It turns out that Funko has a group of in-house designers and all of them collaborate on each of their games.  To emphasize this team effort, their designs are all attributed to the fictional Prospero Hall.  However, each game also has a lead designer and it’s no secret who they are, as those are the people who are answering questions about their game on the Geek (and who are readily identifying themselves there as lead designer).  The lead designer on Pan Am is Peter Lee, an experienced designer who previously worked at Wizards of the Coast.  His titles include Lords of Waterdeep, Tyrants of the Underdark, Legend of Drizzt, and Horrified.  So it’s reasonable to assume that Pan Am is Lee’s baby, while acknowledging that other Funko designers also had a hand in the final product.

So what has Mr. Lee & Co. wrought?  In Pan Am, the players own small airlines during the early days of commercial aviation (the game runs from the 1920’s to the 1960’s).  Their goal is to claim routes between the major cities of the world, which generate profits.  At the same time, aviation pioneer Pan Am is aggressively expanding by snapping up such routes, including those of the players.  However, we players rarely mind such poaching, as Pan Am is willing to pay a pretty penny for those routes.  In fact, we’re so impressed by the company that we grab shares of Pan Am stock every chance we get.  At the end of the game, the player with the most shares of stock wins.

The game board shows a map of the world, with about 40 cities highlighted.  The world is divided into five regions:  North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Pacific.  The map also shows potential routes between pairs of cities, with each route including a number (from 1 to 4) that corresponds to its length.  Longer routes are more profitable, but harder to claim.  There are two decks of cards.  Destination cards each show one of the cities; Directive cards each have a useful ability.  Each player has units in their color, including Engineers (the “workers” in the game), Airports, and Planes in four sizes (again, rated from 1 to 4).  The players each begin the game with two Destination cards (these are always placed face up in front of the player), one Directive card (which are kept face down until used), a number of Engineers based on the player count (5 with two players, 4 with three players, and 3 with four players—these numbers won’t change over the course of the game), three of their smaller Planes, and some money.

The heart of the game is claiming routes, so let’s spend a little time seeing how that works.  In order for a player to claim a specific route, they must have Landing Rights at both of the cities at the endpoint of the route, as well as an available Plane with a value at least as large as the length of the route.  There are four ways to get Landing Rights at a city:

  • Have one of your Airports placed in that city on the board;
  • Own a Destination card corresponding to that city;
  • Discard a Destination card from the same Region as the city;
  • Discard two Destination cards that match each other’s Region, but which are from a different Region than the city.

If one of the first two methods are used, nothing is used up and the Airport or Destination card is available to be used to claim future routes.  Destination cards aren’t easy to obtain, so the last method, in particular, can be expensive.

A game of Pan Am consists of 7 rounds, with each round having four phases.  Here’s how a round plays out.

Event Phase – There is a group of Event cards provided, which includes four cards for each of the game’s seven rounds.  During setup, one card for each round is randomly and secretly chosen and a 7-card deck is formed.  That round’s card is revealed in this phase.  Each card has three portions.  First, its event is carried out—some are bad, most are good, but all of them apply to all players.  The second portion affects the share price of Pan Am stock.  Each card either raises the price by a dollar, lowers the price by a dollar, or resets the price to a fixed value.  The third area has to do with the expansion of Pan Am and I’ll discuss that in a bit.

Engineer Phase – During this phase, the players assign their Engineers to action areas on the board.  This is done one Engineer at a time, in player order.  There are five different types of actions that can be taken, each in its own area.  There are one or more tracks in each area and you reserve an action by placing one of your Engineers on a space on a track.

There are two types of tracks:  Bidding Tracks and Work Sites.  Bidding Tracks have dollar values on each of their spaces.  When you place an Engineer at a Bidding Track which has an opponent’s Engineer on it, you must place yours on a higher valued space (in essence, outbidding them).  The opponent’s Engineer is then returned to them, to be place later during the phase.  There is no such competition at Work Sites; instead, you just place your Engineer on the first available space.  Multiple Engineers can be at the same Work Site track.

The first three areas use Bidding Tracks.  These include an area with a track allowing the high bidder to place an Airport on any unoccupied city space; an area with four tracks, each with a Destination card (chosen randomly), where the high bidder gets to add that Destination card into their hand; and an area with one track for each of the four types of Planes, where the high bidder gets to add one of their Planes of that type to their pool of available Planes.  The last two areas use Work Sites.  The first one allows the players placed there to claim routes and the second one lets the players there draw a Directive card.

The Engineer Phase continues until each player has placed all of their Engineers.

Resolution Phase – This is when the Engineers placed in the previous phase carry out their actions.  Airports are placed, Destination cards added, and Planes acquired.  On the Routes track, the first player in line claims a single route, by showing that they have Landing Rights at two adjacent cities and then by taking a Plane from their pool that has a level at least as large as the route’s length and placing it on the route.  The route must have been unclaimed and the player keeps that route for the rest of the game (unless it is sold to Pan Am).  The player then increases their income by the length of the route.  Then, the next player with an Engineer in the area claims a route, and so on.  Because of the rules for Landing Rights, it’s entirely possible for more than one player to be able to claim the same route, so the order in which the players have placed their Engineers here can be important.

Pan Am Phase – This consists of three steps.  First, Pan Am (a non-player airline controlled by the game) expands.  Pan Am always begins in Miami (there’s a variant provided where it begins Rome) and there are three separate route paths it can expand on.  There’s a die where each face contains one or two of these paths.  Remember that each event card has a third area?  Well, it shows how many times this die is rolled (it’ll be 1 to 3 times) and Pan Am claims the next available route along each path that shows up on these rolls.  If the route is claimed by a player, they must sell, but the money the bank gives them for it is sufficiently large that this is almost always a welcome development.  They do have to reduce their income by the length of the route, but they also are able to reclaim the Plane that reserved the route, so they’re free to reuse it starting next round.

In the second step, the players receive their income from the bank.  Finally, they can buy as many shares of Pan Am stock as they wish, based on the current share price of the stock.  The share price can bounce around a bit, but it tends to rise over the course of the game, so the tension here is wanting to buy as many shares as possible at a lower price, while still maintaining enough funds to conduct your actions next round.

That’s pretty much the game.  The Directive cards give some nice benefits.  Each card indicates exactly when it can be played (this is a nice touch, removing any possible confusion about how these can be played) and the owning player can play them at any appropriate time.  20% of the cards let the player claim one share of stock at the end of the game, which is reason enough to keep drawing these cards right up to the very last round.

After 7 rounds, the game ends.  The player with the most shares of Pan Am stock wins.  If there’s a tie, the tied player with the most cash on hand is the winner.

My only game of this was with 2 players.  Because of the way the worker placement mechanics work (for most of the actions, it’s essentially a series of extended auctions), I suspect the sweet spot for this might be with 3, since there will be more contention for the tracks (with 4, I wonder how tough it would be to get things done with only three Engineers, although others on the Geek report that it works well with that number).  Still, we both enjoyed our 2-player game and I’d be happy to play it again with that number.

Figuring out how to employ your Engineers leads to some nice decision making.  Airports, Destination cards, and additional Planes all have their uses.  The rules for using cards to obtain Landing Rights encourages you to maintain a steady supply, as they’re quite flexible.  The fact that there’s multiple ways of using these cards adds to the fun.  At the heart of all these decisions is whether you should use your cash to win crucial bids or keep it for buying stock that turn, since the stock price is likely to rise in future turns.

I like the take on worker placement here.  Placing an Engineer early on at a location, in order to claim it for the “optimal” price, is definitely worth doing.  But you’re not locking out your competitors when you do this and if they’re willing to up the ante a bit, they can outbid you.  So there’s still the interaction that WP features, without the lock-out aspect that many players find frustrating.  And yet, there’s still the scarcity of actions that make for a tight game:  only one Airport can be purchased per round, along with only one of each size of Plane.  Plus, there’s the mix of the two different kinds of tracks, which is employed smoothly and logically.  I usually avoid games that are just vanilla WP, as it’s been so overdone in gaming over the past 10 years, but this is a fresh approach that I thought was nicely implemented.

The goal of acquiring the most shares of stock may seem a little strange, but it does fit the theme (the game is called Pan Am, after all) and serves multiple functions over the course of the game.  Sucking cash out of the players’ hands reduces the advantage of an early leader.  And it gives the players a nice puzzle of how to balance share purchases and operating capital.  Essentially, it’s just a measure of your profits during the game, but it’s also an indication of how well you took advantage of the share prices.  I’m not sure I’m entirely sold on the random way that stock prices vary.  The investment choices are most meaningful when the prices rise slowly from round to round, so why not just have them go up by $1 each round?  The way it actually works does provide for some variety, but it might also prove to be unfair to the player who sinks a load of moolah into shares early on, only to see the stock price stubbornly stay low for most of the game (to cite just one example of potential unfairness).  The rest of the game is solid enough that I’m willing to give the designer the benefit of the doubt here, but it remains a small lingering concern for me.

Despite this being, mechanically, a Eurogame through and through, the theme is very well integrated into the workings of the title in a very non-Euro way.  True, there are no passengers depicted, but the requirements for claiming routes make logical sense, the way in which Pan Am expands is similar to how it historically operated, and the details of the events and the gradual introduction of the larger planes are all based on what happened in real life.  It definitely adds to the immersiveness of the game and makes the appealing theme even more enjoyable.

My main impression of the game is that it’s a well polished design.  There are lots of small touches which show that the designer knew what he was doing in order to create a tight and well balanced game.  It’s the sort of approach that makes me interested in checking out other Prospero Hall games, assuming that they start publishing Euro-ish titles like this one.

In my game, my opponent and I were following different strategies.  I focused strongly on selling to Pan Am, so my Airport and Destination card purchases were concentrated on those that allowed me to claim routes that were likely to be purchased by the titular corporation soon.  I also kept things lean and mean and usually had a low supply of leftover Planes and Destination cards at the end of each turn.  My opponent, on the other hand, decided to grab the longer, higher income routes.  So she went harder into the purchase of Planes than I did, particularly the larger ones, and bought more Destination cards as well.  The two strategies turned out to be very well matched, as at the end of the game, we both found ourselves with the same number of Pan Am shares and the exact same amount of cash!  However, at that point, I revealed a Directive card which awarded me a free share of stock, giving me the win.  Now, I had obtained that card a few rounds before and even if it had only netted me a $1 benefit, which was highly likely, it would have been enough to earn me the victory.  Still, it made for a somewhat peculiar, if very memorable, ending of the game.

And that leads me to my one caveat for the design.  Pan Am is not a game for everybody.  If you prefer titles where you can plan for all contingencies and map out your strategy well ahead of time, you might want to avoid this one.  It has a fairly high luck factor, including the Event cards, the way the Destination cards come out, which Directive cards you draw, and, perhaps most strongly, the way that Pan Am expands.  The good news is that this should give the game plenty of variety and make it nicely replayable.  And the fact is that I usually don’t care for games with a lot of randomness, but it didn’t really bother me at all, so that’s an indication that the luck here is manageable.  Still, it’s very much a feature of the game, so be aware of it before you buy or try.

One thing I plan to make my future opponents aware of when I teach the game are the Round 7 events.  These are particularly dramatic (for example, one of them has Pan Am buying all of the players’ routes!).  Peter Lee has explained that they’re there to make the “claim lots of routes” strategy competitive with the “claim routes in front of Pan Am” strategy, as well as to encourage players to buy Planes and cards during the last few rounds.  This makes perfect sense to me and represents another nice design touch.  However, making players aware of the wild things that can happen during the game’s last round is probably a good idea, lest they be caught unawares.

The components are quite nice.  The map resembles a polar projection of the world, which works well and makes for a stylish presentation.  I wish they had done a better job distinguishing the colors of the cities and routes, but there are also icons for each region, so that not only alleviates the issue, but makes the map color-blind friendly as well.  The cards and stock shares are sturdy and nicely coated.  The differently sized plastic minis for the planes are appealing and they thought to put a number of stripes on each wing to show the planes’ range—a very nice and useful touch.  The money is cardboard disks and while they have no heft factor, they do work well and are surely preferable to paper money.  There are removable plastic trays which serve to contain the piles of money and route markers during the game.  The insert actually works very well and lets you store the cards without additional bagging.  And the whole thing comes in a reasonably small box with a minimum amount of air in it.  All in all, it’s an attractive and well thought out presentation.

So there you have it.  Pan Am is a solid, entertaining, well themed, affordable, and reasonably innovative middleweight.  It should make a pretty good crossover game, as there’s enough meat there to satisfy the more seasoned gamer, while not being so intense as to scare off more casual players.  There are multiple strategies, some thought is required to play it well, and it appears to be eminently replayable.  The listed duration of 60 minutes might be a bit on the short side, at least for first-time players, but games should clock in at no more than 90 minutes, so it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome.  And it’s all bound in a quite attractive package.  My first foray into the Funkoverse proved to be surprisingly enjoyable, so if your tastes are similar to mine, you shouldn’t wait to experience the game about The World’s Most Experienced Airline.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

Joe Huber (1 play):  As with Larry, this is one (of a few) games I had the chance to play in person recently.  And, as with Larry, I was pleased by the production of the game, which is well done.  And I even enjoyed the game well enough.  But at the same time I have a number of concerns.

First – the explanation for the seventh turn events – doesn’t quite hold water with me.  Buying non-Pan Am routes is made viable by – a 1 in 4 chance they’ll be bought out on the final turn?  I’m all for supporting multiple paths in a game – I believe it’s a key element to replayability – but there’s something misguided about a plan that depends upon the right random event showing up.  Now, many (but not all) of the events provide some advantage to having built up a network of routes, but still – it’s resolution luck, something which I know typically bothers Larry; I can only conclude that five months without gaming has softened him, somehow.

And second, the auctions are – not nearly so interesting as they could be.  In Amun-Re, the auctions are interesting because everyone will get something, and the difference in what you get makes for interesting bidding.  In Pan Am, bidding was either minimal – I don’t think we ever saw more than two bids on a location card, and rarely even that many – or goes straight to the maximum.  A first round airport for $9 when it adds $7 in income and provides strong options for route-building is a fairly clear choice; late in the game, airports were barely worthwhile, and there was no competition for them.

While not a major concern, the layout of the board takes some getting used to; even at the end of the game, it was still a challenge to find some of the cities quickly.  And the directive cards are not particularly well balanced; there is often a big difference in the value of the cards, not to mention their timeliness.

In sum, although these concerns are sufficient that I wouldn’t agree with Larry’s observation that it’s a “well polished design”, it’s still a fine game.  A little long for what it does, not an ideal story arc, and a few quibbles, but pleasant enough.  I hope to play it at least once more, to be sure of where it really falls for me, but I will be surprised if I’m still playing the game next year. 

Alan H (1 play):  I had heard positive things about the game so through a combination of car rides, local post office in California and international post I obtained a game, though my cost was considerably more than Larry’s. I enjoyed the game and the presentation but like Joe the auctions were not meaty, so were ok but were more functional than exciting. I’m looking forward to getting this to a wider audience.

And a question to those who might know better: what is London not in the routes for Pan Am?

Craig M. (2 plays):  Not much to add beyond what is already said. I’d love to see the auctions be a little more meaningful, but overall the game is a net positive for me. I think it could have spent a little more time in development to tighten a few things up, but I’m happy to play this again. If the game clocks under 70 minutes (which it should) its a lot of fun. Over that and the game starts to drag.  

Lorna:  I found the theme quite interesting, as I can vaguely remember the airlines. The game I think fits its niche in the gateway games fold. I’ve only played with 2 a few times but didn’t find the overall gameplay that interesting. It might be a bit more interesting with more players? I did like the way they incorporated the airline’s history into the events. Perhaps they could make an expansion where the players are trying to prevent Pan Am’s eventual bankruptcy as a gamers game.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it!

I like it.  Larry, Alan H, Craig M., Lorna (vacillating between I like it and Neutral)

Neutral. Joe H.

Not for me… 

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD

DESIGNER: Frederic Guerard

PUBLISHER: La Boîte de Jeu

PLAYERS: 1- 5

AGES: 14+

TIME: 30 – 60 minutes

TIMES PLAYED: 8 plays, with a copy I purchased

My Dad playing a different version of It’s a Wonderful World.

My husband and I are both boardgamers, and we often buy each other games as gifts. Someone asked me once if that wasn’t really more like buying a gift for myself, since I’d also be playing. I had never really considered that angle, but after thinking about it a while I decided it was not. Sure, I am likely to be playing any game I buy him with him at some point, but generally I use a gift-giving occasion as a chance to find a hidden gem, something off the beaten path or something that did get the love it should have when it was released that I know he will enjoy, and he does the same.  Mark’s birthday was a couple of months into the pandemic, so my shopping options were a bit limited, anyway, and my strategy of giving an experience instead of a thing was right out the window. A friend had been talking about how much he was enjoying this game, which I had never heard of. After a little research I decided to pick it up, and I am very glad I did.

It’s a Wonderful World is a card game in which you are attempting to create and expand your empire faster and better than your competitors are. It combines the mechanics of card drafting and engine building, and takes place over four rounds.

There is a central board that contains materials of five different colors as well as a small board that holds three different resources – generals, financiers and krystallium.  There is also a deck of 150 development cards.

Side A is easier and Side B is more advanced

Each player gets an empire card, of which there are five in the game. Players can collectively choose to use the easier side, where each player starts with a different set of materials, or the harder side, where each player starts with exactly the same materials.

Each player is dealt a hand of 7 development cards and the game begins with card drafting. Each player looks at their hand of cards, chooses one to keep and then passes the remaining cards to the left (rounds 1 and 3) or right (rounds 2 and 4).

After everyone has selected a card players simultaneously reveal the card they have selected, placing it face up in front of them. They then pick up the cards they were passed and continue this process until everyone has seven cards in front of them.

Next up is the Planning Phase; players must decide what to do with the seven cards in front of them. Cards they want to build are put into construction by placing them next to the empire card  Cards that they do not wish to keep are recycled, players collect the recycling bonus printed on the card (one of the five basic materials) and discard the card to the discard pile.  The bonus is either placed on a card under construction if a matching space is available or, if not, is placed on the player’s empire card.  Cards that are constructed will give you income every round, but sometimes you need a particular material to help with that construction, so recycling is a good option to help with that.

I get 4 white, 8 black, 3 green, 5 yellow and no blue.

The final phase is the Production Phase. This phase progresses through all five of the materials in order across the board. Players look at their empire card and any buildings that have been fully constructed to determine how many of a particular material they produce and announce that number; all players take that number of the material and the player with the most takes the bonus item printed on the board as well (a general or a financier). 

Ssssh – don’t tell anyone, but I am building a secret laboratory. . . .

Materials are immediately placed on any available cards under construction if possible, and on your empire card if not.  As soon as a card is fully resourced it is built and can be used immediately for the rest of the income round. Materials on your empire board can never be used for construction, but once you have five you turn them in for a red krystallium, which can be used as a wild resource.

At any time during the game you can choose to discard a card under construction to get the recycling bonus; you lose any materials that had been allocated to the card and the card is then discarded.

After all 5 materials have been distributed a new set of cards is dealt and play continues for a total of 4 rounds.

At the end of the 4th round players tally their victory points. You get the points printed on the cards, any bonuses for having cards of a certain color and points for your generals and financiers; they are generally one point each, but there are cards that will increase their value.  The player with the most VPs wins the game; ties are broken first by the number of constructed cards and then by the number of financiers and generals.

There are slightly different rules for the 2 player game; each player gets ten cards, and you draft, passing the cards back and forth, until you have three cards in your hand. You keep one and discard the other two. Everything else remains the same.

There is also a solo mode that has you drawing a pool of cards from the deck and choosing from those cards, and that modifies the bonus structure for producing the majority of a material.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME

About halfway through the first game of this I thought “how have I not heard of this game before?”. I am a fan of card drafting and engine building, and this game does both of these very well in a very short amount of time.  It’s nice to find a game that feels meaty but is quick to set up and quick to play; our first game took about 45 minutes, but since then they have lasted no more than 30 minutes with 2 players.

The game mechanisms work very well. The cards are interesting and are balanced between their difficulty to build and the reward you get for that effort. The fact that every card can be useful to you means you are never stuck with something bad; if you don’t want to build it, you recycle it and get a material. It may not be a material you need, but once you have 5 “useless” materials you can get a krystallium, so you’re still making progress.


That said, you are definitely going to be best rewarded for building an engine that flows materials to you so you can build more cards and maximize majority bonuses for victory points, and it is very satisfying when you can do so. Since you see the cards you will potentially have for the round during the drafting you have an idea of what you will have available to build and what may be available to recycle. 


The fact that they included adjustments for 2 players is great, and while I haven’t yet tried the solo game it seems like it will give you much of the feel of the regular game, and it is especially relevant in our current situation.


The components are of good quality; the cards are holding up well, and the other components are well-produced. 

My only concern is minor, and it’s that I have a sense that the game may start to feel repetitive without expansions to add new cards. One expansion was funded on Kickstarter; it appears to be due out in November 2020. Unfortunately I didn’t play this until after the pledge period closed, but I look forward to its release. It’s a minor concern, though; the game comes with a very large deck, and it doesn’t yet feel repetitive, but I am worried that day is coming soon.


And, if like me, games (and everything else, really) make you think of songs, this one has an obvious choice right off the bat.

COMMENTS FROM OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS

Mark Jackson: Nine plays in… and I’d agree with Tery. My solo games have been enjoyable (like NEOM, Wonderful World uses a packet system to ‘imitate’ card drafting & pass that works very well)… but it really shines as a 2-3 player game. The trickiest decisions are deciding which cards to build and which cards to chuck for resources.

When I first saw this played post-Essen, other groups seemed to be agonizing over their choices and stretching out the game. Once you have a game or two under your belt, it’s easier to pick a strategic lane and make decisions without quite as much angst. (Note: you’ll also get better at hate-drafting cards the other player[s] might need to burn them for resources.)

Joe Huber (1 play): Needs more Louis Armstrong.  I’m not a fan of drafting, as a central mechanism for games, and this did nothing to change that for me.  Everything works, but I didn’t enjoy the game at all and have successfully avoided a second play.

Craig Massey (3 plays): I had the chance to explore this a bit back in November as part of the Lobster Trap collection where it saw pretty regular play during the event (Tery, how did you miss it?). I definitely enjoyed the game. It was easy to learn and teach and felt refreshing. I do have a similar concern that over time the game might start to feel repetitive. After some general confusion about what I was doing in my first game, everything clicked in future plays and play time was down significantly as Mark noted above. I will absolutely look forward to seeing what an expansion adds. 

RATINGS FROM THE OPINIONATED GAMERS

I love it! : Tery, Mark Jackson

I like it.: Craig M.

Neutral.

Not for me: Joe H.

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Matt Carlson: Virtual GenCon 2020 – Publishers N to Z

My notes from GenCon 2014…

It’s big, it’s back, and it’s the final column of our not-at-GenCon but lets pretend we are anyway run-down of publishers and their games.  I have only scratched the surface of what is or would have been out there, but I hope you find some things new and even possibly something of interest.  If you missed the first two, be sure to hop back and those round-ups as well.  As before, I’m trying to substitute my annual GenCon crawl by checking in with some personal contacts supplemented with a bit of web surfing.  Thankfully, we here at OpinionatedGamers eschew video productions so you can’t tell if I am writing these with my pants on or not!  It’s old-school text-only (well, and a few pictures) from here on out.  Long live the written word!  I’ve dug up plenty of newish-game goodness so I’ve broken my post into three parts in roughly alphabetical order by publisher.  Full disclaimer today, I only say we’re going from N to Z, but I really don’t have any publishers after “W”.  If you’re a publisher that starts with “X” or “V” let me know.  (“Z” would just be far too easy.)  At this point, I’m going to concede that any errors in dates, times, or misspellings are the result of my building madness after having made it thus far.  Don’t go blaming the publishers.  

(Special note: If, for you, the play’s the thing then there are quite a few publisher-sponsored  Tabletop Simulator versions of upcoming games that you can play for free right now!)  

Today’s focus: Publishers N to Z

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Matt Carlson: Virtual GenCon 2020 – Publishers D to M

The written word is back again to explain to you just what is not happening at GenCon this year.  It may be happening in the virtual world, but if a vlogger falls in a forest, does anyone care?  Here, we care, we care a whole little bit.  Every year I try to scour the convention as my big deal of the year and try to cover as much game-related stuff that I can.  Well, there’s nowhere to go this year but I’m trying to make up for it by checking in with some personal contacts supplemented with a bit of web surfing.  Thankfully, we here at OpinionatedGamers don’t have a need to produce any video content of things we can’t see.  It’s old-school text-only (well, and a few pictures) from here on out.  Long live the written word!  I’ve dug up plenty of newish-game goodness so I’ve broken my post into three parts in roughly alphabetical order by publisher.  All errors in dates, times, or misspellings are the result of a conspiracy so secret, I’m not even aware that I’m a member.  Don’t go blaming the publishers.  

(Special note: If, for you, the play’s the thing then there are quite a few publisher-sponsored  Tabletop Simulator versions of upcoming games that you can play for free right now!)  

Today’s focus: Publishers D to M

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Matt Carlson: Virtual GenCon 2020 – Publishers A to C

GenCon is here once again… but then it isn’t. What we have is a virtual cacophony of announcements, YouTube channels, streamers, Tabletop Simulator games, and who knows what else. (Special note, there are quite a few publisher-sponsored Tabletop Simulator versions of upcoming games that you can play for free right now!) Every year I try to scour the convention as my big hoo-hah of the year and try to cover as much game-related stuff that I can. Well, there’s nowhere to go this year but I’m trying to make up for it by checking in with some personal contacts supplemented with a bit of web surfing. Thankfully, we here at OpinionatedGamers don’t have a need to produce any video content of things we can’t see. It’s old-school text-only (well, and a few pictures) from here on out. Long live the written word! I’ve dug up plenty of newish-game goodness so I’ve broken my post into three parts in roughly alphabetical order by publisher. All errors in dates, times or misspellings are my own, don’t go blaming the publishers. (Well, you can blame Dale Yu. Shame on you Dale…)

Today’s focus: Publishers A to C

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Matt Carlson: Virtual GenCon 2020 – RPGs

GenCon is here once again… but then it isn’t.  What we have is a virtual cacophony of announcements, YouTube channels, streamers, Tabletop Simulator games, and who knows what else.  Every year I try to scour the convention as my big hoo-hah of the year and try to cover as much game-related stuff that I can.  Well, there’s nowhere to go this year but I’m trying to make up for it by checking in with some personal contacts supplemented with a bit of web surfing.  Thankfully, we here at OpinionatedGamers don’t have a need to produce any video content of things we can’t see.  It’s old-school text-only (well, and a few pictures) from here on out.  Long live the written word!

Today’s focus: Role Playing Games

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Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designer: Isaac Childres
  • Artists: Francesca Baerald, Cat Bock, David Bock. David Demaret, Alexandr Elichev, Jason D. Kingsley & Josh T. McDowell
  • Publisher: Cephalofair Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 30-120 Minutes
  • Times Played: 5 (9.5 hours so far)

DISCLAIMER: This review will be as spoiler free as it possibly can be. Some of the photos may contain information that is unknown at the start, but I will tell you nothing about how any of it turns out. Pictures will be there to just show mechanisms involved in the game, plus the look and feel. If you would like specifics on gameplay or story or components, feel free to ask away in the comments and I can find a private way to share, this review is not going to get into that stuff. 

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Dale Yu: Review of Football Highlights 2052

Football Highlights 2052

  • Designer: Mike Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
  • Players: 1-4, not including 3
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 40-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Eagle-Gryphon Games

Football Highlights is the second game in the futuristic sport series designed by Mr. Fitzgerald – a few years back, we looked at the first game, Baseball Highlights 2045.  In this new version of the game, robots play a drastically different sport – teams can now Run, Pass and Maul (because the future football ended up borrowing more parts of its spiritual predecessor, rugby).  Oh, and it’s gender equal – there are both men and women players in this futuristic sport!  In this game, players or teams use 10 cards to show the highlights of a half of a football game.

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Brandon Kempf – Three Games Lightweight Anticipation

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.

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Dale Yu: Review of Legacy- Hellas 2019 (An escape room game)

 

 

Legacy: Hellas 2019

  • Designer: Mathias Daval and Johanna Pernot
  • Publisher: Argyx Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 13+
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Argyx Games

In this game, which is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign (that has already been funded), your group tries to solve the mystery of your family history.  There are two episodes included in the box, and we were given a chance to try the second.

 

In the first, Eiffel 1889, you try to track down your ancestor who was involved in the construction of the Eiffel Tower – the star of the World’s Fair that year.  You have a lot of different sources of information at your disposal.  Now, I haven’t had a chance to see this first episode, but luckily, it is not needed to play the second.  The two stories are meant to be standalone from each other.  In Hellas 2019, the story now moves to Greece, where you work with your cousin and his travel agency to try to find your family’s treasure.  This is the part of the game that we got to experience this weekend.

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