Matt Carlson: Review of Welcome To…

Fill in your suburb wisely (in numerical order) to score points in this (sort of) Roll and Write style game of designing neighborhoods. Cards are flipped up from a deck and players must choose which cards to use and for what purpose as they fill in the blanks on their personal score sheet.


Welcome To…
Designer
: Benoit Turpin
Publisher: Deep Water Games
Players:1-100
Ages: 10+
Time: 25 min
(review copy provided by publisher)

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HOMESTEADERS – 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION AND NEW BEGINNINGS EXPANSION

DESIGNER: Alex Rockwell (base game) and Sean McCarthy (expansion)

PUBLISHER: Tasty Minstrel Games

PLAYERS: 2 -5

AGES: 14 and up

TIME: 60 to 90 minutes

TIMES PLAYED: Many, many playings of the original, 3 of the expansion, 2 with the anniversary edition, all of which I purchased.

2019 is the 10th anniversary of the release of the original Homesteaders. While it came out in 2009, I didn’t play it until sometime in 2010.  It came out among a sea of other good games, and it was not on my radar until someone at a con asked me if I wanted to play. It’s always a nice surprise to find a hidden gem that you missed when it was first released. This game has remained in my regular rotation since I first played it. It has been out of print for a while, but has come back in the 10th Anniversary edition, along with an expansion, which must be purchased separately.

In Homesteaders, players are pioneers working to build a new town in the Old West. The player that develops the best city will win the game.

Setup is fairly simple. A market of buildings is laid out on the table, along with the various resources, money, trade and victory point tokens.  The auction board is placed in the center of the table and the top cards of the auction piles are flipped over (the number of piles varies based on the number of players).

Each player gets a player screen, a Homestead tile that is the first building in their town, a worker and 5 silver. Each player also gets 2 player markers; one goes on the start of the Railroad track and one is used to bid. The starting player is determined randomly and the game begins.  

The first round of the game is worker allocation. Each player takes their workers and places them on the available spaces in their town; to start the game this is either a spot that will earn you a dollar or a spot that will earn you a wood. 

The second round of the game is income. Players collect the items their workers earn them plus any automatic income they earn, either from a worker-free spot on a building or railroad tiles. Income can include resources, trade tokens, victory points and money.

In the third round of the game, players must pay their workers. It costs one silver per worker you have, even if you aren’t using them. If you can’t afford to pay them you must take a debt, which gives you 2 silver and will count against you at the end of the game unless you pay it off for 5 silver at the end of the game.

In the fourth round of the game the auctions begin.The starting player places their cube (original game) or boot (10th anniversary edition) on the square that corresponds to their bid. Each face-up auction card tells you what you will be able to do if you win the auction – buy a building that matches the color(s) on the tile and/or gain another benefit, like a new worker.

The next player then bids; they can choose to bid on a different auction or can outbid another player. 

Players who are outbid take their piece back and can re-bid on their next turn, If a player chooses not to bid or re-bid they can move their train piece on the railroad track; doing so allows that player to take the resource depicted on the space they landed on or any previous space. Railroad tokens give you additional income each round; other options give you resources or workers.

In the fifth round players that won auctions purchase buildings and gain any other bonuses listed on their auction tile.  The cost of the building is in the upper left; some buildings are free while others cost various combinations of resources. Any special ability or end-game bonus the building might give you is listed in the middle, and any income the building provides is listed on the bottom.

At any point players can use the market to buy or sell goods to get income, a worker or goods that they need. To sell a good players spend a trade chit, turn in the good and take the income listed on the chart, To buy a good players spend a trade chit and the cost listed on the chart and take the good.  Players may go into debt at any time if they need the silver.

Everything is reset and cleaned up, new buildings are added and the game continues. The auction tiles serve as the game timer and after the round with the 10th auction the game will end. Players add up their victory point chips, victory points on buildings and victory points for advanced goods. They deduct victory points for any remaining debt chits they have, losing 1 VP for the first, 2 VP for the second, 3 for the third and so on.

THE EXPANSION

The expansion adds components for a 5th player, including additional auction tiles to accommodate 5; some of these tiles introduce new options. The new player pieces are purple (my favorite color, so 2 thumbs up for that), and match the upgraded pieces in the 10th anniversary edition.  There is a new auction board, since an additional auction is added when playing with 5. It also introduces some new buildings as well as a completely new element, event cards. At the start of every new cycle an event card is flipped over; the card is either applied to all players or is an option than can be taken by all players. They can be harmful, but in general are positive or at least neutral. It also adds larger resource pieces to be used to indicate 5 of a particular resource.

THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

The 10th Anniversary edition comes in a slightly larger box with a fancy 10th anniversary sleeve. It has metal coins and metal victory point tokens It gives you an upgrade on the player pieces as well; the cubes in the original game are upgraded to a train for the railroad track and a boot for bidding. 

MY THOUGHTS ON THE GAME

I really enjoy this game; I’ve owned the original since 2010 and buying the expansion was a no-brainer for me. I decided to upgrade to the 10th anniversary edition for the improved components, in part because this is a game that I expect will remain in my collection.  More on whether I am happy with that in a minute.

The game flows well. The rules are well-written and laid out in a logical manner. It’s fairly easy to teach, but there are many different paths to victory. Your strategy has to change a bit based on what auctions or buildings are available to you, and there is a good tension that exists in trying to do everything you want to do in the time you are given. If things go your way you can end up with a chain of buildings with intersecting abilities that lead you straight to the best town in the west, If they don’t go your way, you can still get there; you just need to buy your way to the top.

As a rule I don’t like auction games,. However, this is not a blind auction and the fact that you still get something useful if you don’t win an auction makes this okay for me; sure, you need to win at least some auctions, but you can guarantee you’re able to do that with what you choose from the railroad track and using the market effectively.

It scales well from 2 -4 players and now, with the expansion, to 5. There are additional rules for the 2 player game, and additional components in the expansion to accommodate the 5th player.

I am very happy with the expansion. It adds new buildings, which livens up the game for players who have played many times.  I was concerned that the event cards would be disruptive, but they are not; they add to the game and in general can provide you with a boost to do things more quickly.  The 5th player components are nice, but they don’t match the components of the original; the player screen is taller and the components are more thematic. Both of these are good things, but they are different than the original and that bothers me when they are all in play.

That difference led to my decision to purchase the 10th anniversary edition. Our copy of the original is fine; the first printing had some issues with moisture, but the second edition did not have those problems, and other than a cow and a worker missing a leg, everything was okay. However, I wanted all the components to match, and since we play the game on a regular basis I thought sturdier components would be a plus. 

Improvements in the anniversary edition include taller player screens; this is a plus, since your resources are supposed to be hidden from the other players and the originals provide adequate but not great coverage. The train and cowboy boot player pieces are much cooler. The metal coins and victory point tokens are really nice and while they don’t change the game play they do lend a nicer feel to the game play.  The expansion also fits into the box, which is great.

In fact, I only have one concern about the 10th Anniversary edition. The trade tokens are still cardboard. These chits are harder to come by, but they are in frequent use and to have then still be cardboard while the other similar items are now metal seems like a poor choice to me. I was pretty disappointed to see those in the box. It doesn’t change the game play, but I really expected them to be metal.

THOUGHTS OF OTHER OPINIONATED GAMERS

Nathan Beeler:

Unlike Tery, I adore auction games. Homesteaders is among my favorites of the genre, and one of my overall favorite games. What I tend to love about auction games is the feeling of control they give you: if you want something badly enough, you can generally get it. The trade market in Homesteaders ups that level of control, though it tends to make the game play a bit fiddly at first. Once you get used to what is possible, however, it makes the game really shine. Couple all that with the sorta-tech bumps the buildings can lend, and Homesteaders pushes all my buttons. It really is a wonderful game.

Having said all that, I have never played the expansion. This is doubly odd for me because I know Sean and I saw him developing it over the years. I wanted to play, but it just never worked out. I might have to seek out the 10th anniversary edition and upgrade my copy.

Michael Weston: Homesteaders has been a mainstay in my collection since first coming out, so it was a must-buy to upgrade as I had the first edition with terrible mis-cuts and other component aesthetic issues. Homesteaders provides enough other options that you definitely feel like you can still make progress on those turns where you didn’t get exactly what you wanted. Due to too many KS projects showing up around the same time and real life getting in the way, I haven’t gotten the expansion to the table yet, but do think it will be a solid addition to this great game.

OG RATINGS

I LOVE IT: Tery, Nathan Beeler, Michael W.

I LIKE IT:

NEUTRAL:

NOT FOR ME:

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Welcome to the Clank!-iverse…

When we originally reviewed Clank! here on the Opinionated Gamers website, I commented that the game “could well be the love child of Dungeonquest & Ascension.” Since I’m a long-time fan of Dungeonquest, that’s not a bad thing. (Side note: I don’t love Ascension with actual cards – but I’m addicted to the iPad app.)

The Clank! system is a melding of dungeon crawl/plunge and deck-builder… with the very clever “clank” mechanic binding the two together and acting a game timer and source of tension. The production is incredibly functional:

  • While there is a lot of witty color text, it’s small and doesn’t make the cards more difficult to read.
  • The graphic design of the cards is really smart – they have used consistent iconography and clear text instructions to make it easy to understand what the card does for you.

But I’m not here to talk about the base game – well, not all that much. My job (self-imposed, mind you) is to introduce you to the joys of the extended Clank!-iverse… up to and including the VERY recently released Clank! Expeditions: Temple of the Ape Lord.

As the Clank! games have been hits with my teenage boys, my gaming group and pretty much everyone who played my copy at Gulf Games, I’ve had plenty of experience with the game:

  • 53 plays of Clank!
    • 11 with Sunken Treasures
    • 7 with Mummy’s Curse
    • 5 with Expeditions: Gold & Silk
    • 5 with Expeditions: Temple of the Ape Lord
    • 2 with solo version on the Renegade Games app
  • 28 plays of Clank! In! Space!
    • 4 with Apocalypse
    • 9 with solo campaign version on the Renegade Games app

What follows are a number of short reviews that highlight what I think each of the expansions brings to the literal and metaphorical table… and, as you can see, my reviews are going to tend in the positive direction.

Clank!: Sunken Treasures

New stuff in the box: a double-sided board (two new maps); a bunch of water-related cards for the adventure deck, new cardboard tokens

Added rules & card types: in addition to the aforementioned water cards, there are a number of board spaces that are underwater – and require “scuba” gear and/or a willingness to take a wound to survive

Most notable addition to the system: A number of cards in this expansion add the ability to discard cards to gain something – this helps you dodge making clank as well as cycle your deck quicker… which leads to more interesting and powerful combos. (See my notes on combining expansions near the end of this article.)

Clank!: The Mummy’s Curse

New stuff in the box: a double-sided board (two new maps); a bunch of pyramid/mummy-related cards for the adventure deck, new cardboard tokens, wooden mummy & croc-a-dragon pieces, 4-sided mummy movement die

Added rules & card types: curses come into the game, both as payment for certain cards and a different kind of pathway payment… and there’s the whole “mummy hunting you down” thing

Most notable addition to the system: The mummy is probably the least successful mechanic added to any of the Clank! games… and it’s not a bad idea, but it just doesn’t seem to have all that much game effect in actual play.

Clank! Expeditions: Gold & Silk

New stuff in the box: a double-sided board (two new maps); new cardboard tokens, wooden giant spider and dwarf player pieces, and a completely unnecessary (yet delightful) Mister Whiskers standee

Added rules: both boards have neat twists (the spider webs and the gold veins) that change the game without adding any cards

Most notable addition to the system: the variety of the new boards

Clank! Expeditions: Temple of the Ape Lord

New stuff in the box: a double-sided board (two new maps); new cardboard tokens, wooden ape lord and adventurer player pieces

Added rules: both boards have neat twists (the gears on board #2 are particularly notable) that change the game without adding any cards; there are an interesting set of ‘campaign’ rules that link two games – one on each board – together

Most notable addition to the system: the gears

Clank!: the Renegade Games app

New stuff: this FREE app includes two modes…

  • a multi-player mode that adds both scoring and a random event generator (based on in-game events)
  • a solo mode for playing against the game

Most notable addition to the system: the solo mode is actually quite good… but my sons love the random event generator – either way, it’s free, so what are you waiting for?

Adding the Expansions Together

It is possible to stack the expansions – to make one giant pile of cards & choose the board you want to play. In practice, however, that means that there are some cards which are of limited use unless you’re playing with a particular board:

  • Any card that specifically deals with underwater stuff only applies to Sunken Treasures
  • Any cards that has you roll the Mummy die or take curses only applies to Mummy’s Curse

Each of the expansions include certain counters that don’t work with the other boards – whether they are things for purchase (diving equipment, ape tools, etc.).

All of that said, it’s not terribly difficult to cull out the problematic cards & counters to play with an expanded deck. Cards from the Sunken Treasures or Mummy’s Curse sets have an appropriate symbol (waves or pyramid) ghosted behind their text in the bottom half of the card.

Our experiences with this are actually pretty positive – we have tended to play a new expansion with the base deck to begin with and then add in the non-board specific cards on the second or third play.

Which One Should I Buy First?

So, let’s start with the biggest issue if you’re going to buy more than one of these expansions… you’re going to run out of room in the original box unless you throw out the very nice insert. My solution: save one of the “bigger” expansion boxes (Sunken or Mummy) and use it to store extra boards.

With that said, I like the cards added in Mummy’s Curse better than the cards in Sunken Treasures… but I like the board challenges on Sunken Treasures better than Mummy’s Curse. I don’t think you can go wrong with either set.

The Expeditions sets have more twists and nifty (but completely unnecessary) extra wooden bits… of the two, I think I like Temple of the Ape Lord slightly more, but that’s because I’m an Indiana Jones fan.

Note: none of these expansions (or the base game) were given to me as review copies – we have purchased all of them. I don’t regret any of the purchases.

Campaign Clank!

There are actually rules for a two game mini-campaign as a part of Temple of the Ape Lord (tokens you acquire in the first game enable you to better manipulate the gears in the second game). We’ve played it once and it works well.

But, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, I was reading Frank Schulte-Kulkman’s excellent Essen reporting (check it out at Kulkmann’s G@mebox!) and he mentioned that he & his wife have home-brewed a set of campaign rules for using all the expansion boards. He’s graciously allowing me to share them with you!

The objective is to have the highest total score after all boards have been explored (ahem, looted). For those of you keeping score at home, that means you will get to play 10 games of Clank!.

If a player escapes the dungeon on his own (and is not dragged to safety by the townspeople), he gains one purchase point. This can be used to keep a cost 1 skill card in his starter deck for the next game.

Another escape adds another purchase point… and the player can either add a second cost 1 skill card or scrap the original “kept” card and keep a cost 2 skill card instead.

“Kept” cards which are trashed during gameplay do not return to the player’s deck – but the purchase points are available to them before the next game.

I can’t wait to try it!

Final Thoughts

All of these expansions add enjoyable twists to the game – but don’t substantially change the play of the game. If you didn’t enjoy the base game, none of these will likely change your mind. On the other hand, if you enjoy Clank! in its elemental form, you will enjoy any and/or all of these expansions.

Clank! In! Space! is a world unto itself – I’ll need to write a second Clankiverse in Space post to cover those games.

And, yes, I know that Clank! Legacy is on the way… and that there are sub-expansions connected to it – but I haven’t seen any of them yet. (Check back with me in a month or two.)

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Chris Wray: Quick Thoughts on 5 Essen 2019 Games

We’re a little over a week past Spiel ’19, and I’ve played 25-30 new titles that were on the Spiel preview list. Like I’ve done in past years, I wanted to post quick thoughts on a few games I’ve played.

We at The Opinionated Gamers are working on writing up reviews of the games: it takes a while, because we try to play a game multiple times (and have various contributors play it) before we start chiming in.  Reviews will start rolling out soon, although I think Dale is planning a list of one-line reviews to release in the next couple of days.

These are just my personal initial thoughts, and some of the ratings below are after just one play, so keep that in mind.  Also, to cover all of these titles, I’m skipping any rule review and going straight to my opinion.  

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Slide Quest

Review of Slide Quest

  • Designed by Nicolas Bourgoin and Jean-François Rochas
  • Published by Blue Orange Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Playing time:  15-45 minutes

While crowds at Essen might convey a different impression, boardgaming remains a niche hobby compared to watching football, fad dieting, or criticizing politicians. Within our niche, there are smaller niches: wargaming, trick-taking games, and so on. Then, there are truly tiny niches. The small genre of “heavily themed dexterity games” is one of these. 2010’s Catacombs combined flicking pieces with a dungeon crawl, and 2011’s Ascending Empires did the same with spaceships to win galactic dominance. In 2019, Slide Quest combines RPG elements with a tilt maze. Yes, RPG elements … with a tilt maze.

IMG_6675

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Halloween Tricks

Designer: 常時次人 (Muneyuki Yokouchi)
Publisher: [none](EN Rules, JP Rules)
Players: 3-4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes

Halloween is not my jam. This polaroid is the only picture I could find of me in any sort of costume as an adult, and it’s just a few things from the lost-and-found at a house I was living in for a semester during college while Mike was in Bulgaria.

Yet, I’m writing you this “Happy Halloween” post because, well, there’s a Halloween themed trick-taking game I wanted to share, and my love of theme-based gaming is stronger than my Halloween ennui.


It’ll take me a bit to get there, but 常時次人 hid as a sort of Easter Egg (err…, Halloween Treat? Is there a “treat” synonym that starts with an “h” so that we can keep the alliteration?) in a deck of cards the rules for a trick-taking game.

常時次人 is one of my favorite designers, and you can read about several of his designs in Joe’s 2017 list of his Top 189 games. One game he doesn’t talk about there is Sweets Stack. I briefly mentioned it in a Heavy Con post, but Sweets Stack is a trick-or-treat themed pass-and-write(?) game where you are dropping polyomino shaped pieces of candy into the bag of the player on your left, Tetris-style, hoping to play tricks on them and bust their bag.

One of the things that has happened, is that 常時次人 has released a standard deck of playing cards with the Sweets Stack art assets. If you buy it, you’ll find a QR code inside that leads you to the Japanese-language rules for a Halloween themed trick-taking game you can play!

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Six Essen 2019 Quick Recaps – Simon Weinberg

Editors Note: I was supposed to post this on the Saturday of the fair, but due to some “technical issues” (i.e. I completely forgot), I didn’t get this uploaded until I got back home when the technical issues were resolved (i.e. I remembered). Keep your eyes posted for a bunch more quick recaps as we get the games played! DY

Expedition to Newdale
– I was slightly unsure of this: a Pfister game but capitalising on Oh My Goods which I felt had already run its course in terms of expansions. Very pleased to report that it’s an excellent game, with plenty of new parts to it while keeping the basic simple engine building with multi-use cards alive. A thinky enough game to deserve the Pfister and Lookout badges, not too long, and meaningful decisions. I bought a copy.

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Essen 2019, Day 4: Quick Wrap Up (Chris Wray)

I’ll have mini-reviews of lots of games in the coming days, but this is a sort of wrap up post, just quick thoughts on the Geekbuzz and Fairplay lists.

The big news on the last day is that attendance topped 200,000 for the first time. The attendance is turnstile attendance, and the initially reported number is 209,000.

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Father in the Messe 2019 – Day4 – back home

Sunday morning, rain is falling
Steal some covers, share some skin
Clouds are shrouding us in moments unforgettable
You twist to fit the mold that I am in

It’s raining and we are on our way back home. A Starbucks coffe at the airport waiting the flight to Bologna.

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Essen 2019, Day 3: What’s Hot, and What I Played (Chris Wray)

I wasn’t especially productive today, instead spending considerable time wandering around the used game stands. So today’s post just has quick coverage of the Geekbuzz and Fairplay lists, then some thoughts on Die Crew, which we did get some plays in of.

Last night, I had initial impressions of Lost Cities: Auf Schatzsuche and Tricks and the Phantom. On Thursday, I had initial impressions of Evidence and Luna Nova. On Wednesday, I had them for Anubixx, Azul Summer Pavilion, and Chartae.

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