RONE (2018) 1st impression
The post-apocalyptic, Magic the Gathering card game without the endless years of collecting. That's one way to describe this card game. As you are a hero who is picking through the remains of a destroyed planet, possibly Earth, collecting technologies and other warriors to fight for your cause.
Let me start by saying that the version of the game we played was of the second edition. So some of these comments might not apply to the future installments of the game. Again remember that these are first impression of a “One Time” play, of a two-player game. Therefore different configurations of players may change the overall feel of play
The rules of the game are pretty straightforward, especially if you are familiar with dueling card games. Each player will have a deck of cards and they will be using these cards to attack their opponents. Simple as that. But there are some interesting mechanisms and differences between this game and others of its ilk.
One of those differences is the set-up. For the base game, you'll be randomly constructing your deck and randomly picking your hero. As this is not a collectible card game, we found a very large selection of cards of each type in the game. This randomness in constructing a 24 card deck fits the theme of you picking through the ruins of a destroyed City, finding technologies, and other fighters ready to fight for you. With about 250 cards to choose from, and what looks like only two copies of each card within the deck, everytime you distribute cards you will have a different setup. And therefore play your strategy on the fly, with each card you reveal. This leads to a lot of random gameplay and possibly put off players who have to adapt quickly to what they have. But the alternative is to either give your deck a good looking over before playing or to play the advanced rules and build your own deck.
After our first play, I can admit that I wasn't too enthralled by this prospect, although I see the possibility of multiple plays leading to a better understanding of the game. Again multiple plays would also lead to faster smoother gameplay, less pausing and rule book reading. But my feelings were also tainted by the poor luck that I had. First impression, remember! In the game, your deck is your life points. Burning through your deck is not an option as these cards will go into your graveyard and when you have no more cards to draw or in hand, it's game over for you. Every time you take damage from an opponent, a card from your hand or your deck will have to go into the graveyard. I had the disadvantage of chance when everytime I took damage I discarded a card from the deck. Which all happened to be Unit cards. And every time I drew a card into my hand, it happened to be a Tactics card. What's the difference?
A nice element about the game is, there are these two types of cards. Units will fight for you, while tactics are like one shot effects. Can you now understand my frustration? In hindsight, I should have kept the tactic cards instead of playing them to try and melt my opponent's life points. And then when damage was taken, I would discard these for my hand and instead of blindly drawing from the deck. Not only are there two types of card, each type of card comes in one of three levels. These are to correspond with the level of your hero character. Which again could be a problem for some players who don't level up their hero at the beginning of the game. There's nothing worse than drawing cards that you can use, due to a restriction.
So apart from my quibbles of randomness in the game, there are some interesting and exceptional ideas. Unit cards and the Hero have attacks or powers that, once used will have a cool down period. This is signified by the numbers on each side of the card. A simple colour system will remind you of the duration of the cooldown. Making tapping your card a simple affair, although it took a little while to remember in which direction the card should be turnt at the refresh phase at the beginning of your turn. For some reason we have a natural affinity to turn things clockwise. Where as in this game, it's anticlockwise.
Combat in the game is simple and logical. Some units have weapons that can shoot at a distance while others are hand-to-hand combat only. Leaving way for some interesting decisions that you will make while trying to take out your opponent. Two characters with the same attack is simply a case of the numbers and who has the most highest. Both doing damage to each other as well as exhausting themselves for a round. Where as, someone with a gun going up against a hand to hand expert has different consequences. The gun will always fire first, before the puncher I can punch. Realistic and interesting, as well as refreshingly simple.
When cards go to your graveyard, you have a choice of placing them either on the top or the bottom. This can be an important tactic because you can bring cards back from the dead, if they are on the top of the graveyard. Each card has its own recycle value, which means that you’ll eject that number of cards from your graveyard to bring the top card back into play on the battlefield. Plus there are other ways and power that will allow you to do this.
Now let's talk about the heroes. There are about 20 in this version of the game, each coming in three levels. Each will bring you a certain amount of water at the beginning of your turn. It is this water that is the currency of the game, allowing you to recruit and play cards into the Battlefield. Also this water will permit you to level up your Hero so they can activate more powerful cards from your deck. In fact, you may spend your first 3 to 5 turns doing so, while your opponent starts chiseling at your life points. Not only do they give you access to more powerful cards but also themselves, collect more water or even give the ability to draw a card into your hand each turn. All have the same regular power, of an additional water or card, but each also has their own unique power to discover. We also played with the optional rule all of technology cards. Again, these are dealt out at random. Of the five cards dealt to you, only three of them can be played into the game. These changed the balance of the game as they were introduced, once more leading you to adapt your gameplay to what you have in your hand. Plus giving each player a unique playing style.
The quality of the product is pretty high. The card quality is good, although there is no proper storage solution in the box. The tokens for marking damage or power-ups and power downs are chunky and easy to read. In fact the whole icon system is simplicity itself. The dark apocalyptic art is somewhat lost in the cards, but if you stare at them closely you can appreciate the wonderful details the artist has created. The rule book is nicely spaced out and easy to read. But could still do with some “easy to find” chapter markers and possibly being a bit more profound in its descriptions and definitions. We did run into some questions that we could not answer from the rule book or even the videos that we watched.
This is definitely a Board Game that Everybody Should probably get better at, with time and an understanding of some of the hundreds of cards. A great idea for those who just want to jump in a card battle, without having to collect or trade from blister packs. Plus very little down time to explain the rules. It's theme of scavenging the wastelands of a destroyed utopia is there at the beginning of the game but slowly dissipate into dust as you realise that this is primarily a two player Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh card game. But you can also play as 3 or go up to 4 players team matches, which is a bonus for this type of game.
As I said, these are the thoughts and feelings after one play of the second edition. The complete edition with expansions is currently running on Kickstarter. If this sounds like your type of thing, click on the link below to be zapped to an alternative universe.
Is he a Cool Mini or Not? Peter Shirey is here to talk about being CMON's Play Manager and Retailer Relations Coordinator. Or Not? ...
This is an interview show where I have taken the idea of the tv show “Quantum Leap”, and put our guest in the shoes of Sam Beckett. Time traveling into people's bodies, in our case people we know. And finding out one of two things. If our Sam will walk in that person's shoes, absorbing a character trait or admiring their life. Or if our Sam will change something in their life, for better or worse.
Who will he jump into? And what is coming from CMON in the future? Maybe some Zombicide 2nd edition? Watch and see...
Joined by Eli Mamane, first time designers and publisher, who thinks he is here to talk about his Kickstarter game Vector Wars...Maybe he will, if he can make it through the Quantum Quiz. Join us Live.
Look out for Vector Wars on Kickstarter on the 20th of October
What is vector wars?
Vector Wars is set in a Tron-style universe where the world has run dry of resources and clans fight in a virtual arena to gain one of the last remaining energy sources for their people known as Zetta Orbs. Vector Wars is a 2-player area domination game based on a 9 square board known as The Grid. You place one of your 9 character cards face-down, which gives little to no information to your opponent as to the strength of the card placed. These cards flip to give you an individual flip ability, which you may use to battle to keep control of the grid. Your job is to try and gain the most victory points by maintaining a tactical advantage over your opponent, which will ultimately gain you the victory.
Poule Poule (2019) review
Making a movie can be a difficult process of casting the right people to fit the story. Choosing the scenery and settings while keeping everything under control and stopping outside influences from strolling in front of your camera. Balancing the action scenes with the plot points, to keep your audience guessing and enthralled. Not going over budget and finally, remembering that someone else has to edit this footage into the final film.
Poule Poule takes all of this and narrows it down into a fun and mind stimulating family card game. A game where one player will direct the movie by revealing cards, while other players are the movie editors, poised to make a cut at the right moment.
This memory and slightly mathematical puzzle is played out with a deck of cards. The deck can be set up for a very simple basic game, involving very few actors and props. With increasing difficulty levels depending on the amount of extra characters, walk on parts and additional props you wish to add. The game also offers some blank cards for you to draw your own characters and create extra rules of your own. Getting back to the basics game, your constructive a deck containing 10 chickens, 10 foxes, and 15 eggs. And the gameplay is very very simple…
One player would take on the role of a Director, who is making a film about Poule Poule. They will take the deck of cards and shuffle them ready to present to the other players, who are the Film Editors. The Director only want to see 5 uncovered eggs in their film. These editors will then watch the film reel that the Director has captured, as they play their film by revealing the top card of the deck. This will then be followed by the next card, which is placed on top of the first card. This continues at the speed the Director wishes to flick through their flic. And what the Editors are looking for is a place to cut the film. This cut should be when the fifth uncovered egg is revealed. This, in itself is very simple, as the Editor will slam their hand on the cards and shout, “Cut”. At which point the film stops rolling from the Director. Before anything else happens, any of the other Editors could challenge the one who has stopped the film, if they believe that they have missed counted the number of eggs. But if there is no challenge, this Editor wins themselfs one of three points, which are made up of egg shells. Winning three points, or completing the egg, will win you the game. But there’s a little more to it than what it sounds…
Remember that there’s not only eggs in this deck of cards but there are chickens and there are foxes, each of them has a role to play in this film. Whenever a chicken is revealed, if an egg has been played before it arrives in the scene, this chicken will sit on the egg. If there are no eggs in the film already or the previous eggs have been sat on by other chickens, this one walks off set. Remember that you are cutting the film directly after a fifth egg is available. Yes, you may have seen seven egg cards during the films playing, but how many of them were covered by chickens. And that is where the fox comes in. If a fox comes along and no chickens have been seen, it goes on its way. But if there is a chicken or two sat on an egg, guess what…? Let’s keep this child friendly. The Fox chases away one of these chickens, revealing the previously covered egg. This can throw a fun spanner in the works, as your brain is trying to recount from memory. And before you know it, someone has already won a point or lost a point if you are playing with a variant. After which the deck is passed to the next player and they become the Director.
You can probably tell by now if this game is for you or not. But I will add that you shouldn’t pre-judge this game juuuuuuuust yet. I would say that this is not only a game for children, but adults too can have great fun (especially when playing with all variants). The game is a simple memory game of adding one or minusing one every time a chicken or a fox comes along. Teaching your young ones logic and simple math while being a cerebral challenge for you and your drinking buddies, as there are 7 extra characters to play roles in these films. For example, the dog, who will wait around for the next fox to arrive and then chase it away. The ostrich egg that counts as two eggs, and cannot be sat on by the chicken. Or the farmer, who will collect all previously uncovered eggs, resetting your count to zero. As I mentioned earlier, there are blank cards for you to draw and create your one rules and characters. On top of that you can penalize players who make mistakes with incorrect gases or failed to call the bluff on another. All of this will add complexity and extend the extremely short five minute playing time into and longer challenging party game.
With a very interesting color palette and unique art style from Pauline Berdal (Kami) that makes every character unique and stand out from the others. This all leads to gameplay that is smooth and the roles of each character easy to differentiate. The rules themselves are extremely simple but deciphering them from this very small rulebook can be head scratching. Although the text is written in a lighthearted manner that reflects the theme of the game, it is unfortunately in a shorthand that you need to have some background on before you can play. Or at least watched a video on. Charles Bossart (75 Gnom' Street, Stumblewood) has found some interesting combinations in memory games to create and interesting rapid past time. Although the theme is very present on the cards, and kind of reflects cell by cell movie reels as you reveal the cards, it doesn’t translate well into the game and is quickly forgotten.
Once you know the rules, the gameplay is very very quickly. In fact, I've had some 5-minute games due to the fact that one player at the table was very observant and very speedy at cutting the film. Within 3 turns, they had won the game. This can sometimes destroy the morale of those who are not quick or retentive and put them off playing this game in the future. Sometimes while playing you will see these players slide out of the ambience of the game, leaving victory with a slightly sour taste in your mouth. So I can see this is probably just a fun game that adults can play to have a laugh. Or this is for adults who think that they are intelligent and can challenge each other with. But mainly I can see this game working with parents and their children. Possibly best with the parent playing the directing role throughout the game. Definitely a good laugh with 4 or more players. Anything less is a little drab, like being the Director and not being able to participate in a challenge or the count itself. The game states that it can go up to 8 players, although that maybe a squeeze around a table. But there's a good chance there's a lot of giggles and laughable arguments.
Oh, I forgot! I also was commissioned to create music for the game. You can find it on Spotify, Deezer and many more streaming sites.
Technical score 9/10
Sweet looking art, quality cards (with different coloured backs) and a small box that can travel anywhere. A good like insert for the cards but no baggie to hold the point making egg shells. The rulebook lets it down by using its own language and does not explaining these terms, that hinder learning the game.
My BGG score 7/10
Good - usually willing to play.
A game that pleases me and makes me feel clever. I am a sucker for this logical mathematical game. Enjoyable if you like challenging others with you reflexes and brain power (of counting 1,2,3…) Although, it's not everybody's cup of tea and playing with these players hinders the game. And again, the game can be unbalanced depending on the level of the players playing. A good quick filler game when you have a group of 4 or more.
Combined score 8/10
And now it’s over to you
Cupcake Empire (2018) review
It’s not very often I get inspired by a board game, which immediately after playing, I wish to do what I did in the board game. In this case, I immediately wanted to make cupcakes after playing Cupcake Empire (and eat them too). But in no way do I wish to run a chain of stores .
This colorfully attractive game uses dice as workers. So expect a bit of a random play as you roll the dice and allocate them to their specific numbered jobs. Of which there are five professions which use those numbers of the dice. If you’re dice workers turn out to be number 1’s, they will help in the production of the sponge bases which forms your cupcakes. Number 2’s will produce the icing while number 3’s will help you construct outlets. Building outlets on different streets will allow you to make deliveries in that street, which correlates with the number 4’s, that will do your deliveries. 5’s represent the manager and has some managerial actions like, hiring new staff which will give you extra dice, building bakeries and the possibility of performing any of the other actions already mentioned.
Each of these actions get more and more powerful the more dice there are in that column. So for example you could create a nice simple sponge base by having three number 1’s. Having five number 1’s will allow you to create a special sponge base. And finally having six will allow you to produce a simple and a complex sponge. Considering you only start with eight dice, what are the chances of you rolling six number ones to perform that special and action. Don’t worry, as you’ll have five experts with you.
Each of the different jobs don’t only have a number allocated to them but they also have a color too. Therefore five of your eight dice will be colored to correspond with the five actions, while three dice are grey. These colored dice are experts in their field. Having your expert dice in the right action column will allow you to perform the action superior to what you can perform with your dice in that column. For example, going back to sponge base making, if you have three number 1’s in the column, this will allow you to create a simple sponge, remember! But if one of those dice happens to be the expert purple dice, this will allow you to perform the action above that, which normally requires five dice. So you’ll be able to create the special sponge. And if two of those three dice are purple, you’ll be able to perform the super action of getting two sponges. The manager, which is the pink die, is an expert in every column, therefore boosting every action. But wait a second, you’re probably saying that the chance of rolling the dice and getting these experts into their correct column is very wild. The good thing is there are lots of ways to mitigate the dice in the game.
For one you will notice that I haven’t mentioned what happens to the number 6’s! Whenever you roll a 6, that worker is tired and will go and take a vacation. Vacations will give your staff a chance to have a good idea, which is actually a token, of which you can collect a maximum of three. The bad news is that this vacating dice is kind of out of play, as it takes its holiday. Other bad news is that it gives the other players a chance to have a good idea as well. Each player has a track on which a cube will move along every time someone put a dice on holiday. Although you yourself will immediately get a good idea, whenever this cube passes a certain point on the track, those players could possibly have a good idea as well. These good idea tokens can then be used in all manner of different ways. Spending a maximum of one good idea on your turn can sometimes lead to some interesting decision-making, as the things that these good ideas can do are quite powerful. And if circumstances don’t go your way, you may be led to make tough decisions on how to spend this one good idea per turn. You may have more than one worker on holiday, which limits the amount of actions you can perform. But spending a good idea token can bring them back from holiday. And what’s better news is that you don’t even need to roll them to tell them what action to do. You just place them in whichever column you want. Which is a great advantage if you have an expert dice on holiday, as you can place them directly into their designated job, therefore boosting that action to a more powerful one.
Other things good idea tokens can do include, buying a power up or shifting a dice from one column to another. Again, these are two powerful actions that can change the outcome of the game. Moving an expert into their designated column so you can perform a more powerful action then you have lined up, is a bonus. But on top of that, buying a power up, that can be activated when you perform an action is a super bonus. Each player will start the game with a random power, which they will allocate to the beginning of one of their columns. Every time you perform that action and use the dice next to this powerful token, you get to activate it. These powers can be chained to an action, three at most. Or you can spread them out so you are always performing a special power on every action that you perform. These powers will allow you to gain victory points immediately, to building an outlet or make a small delivery. And also help speed up the process of getting good ideas and acquiring sponge bases and icings for your cupcakes.
Winning the game couldn’t be simpler. As every round you are going to score points. Once someone score more than 70, the game comes to an end. Every player has a cooking skills of level of two and in economy of level of one. At the end of your turn, you are always going to score the number of points depending on which of these tracks is the lowest. In other words at the beginning of the game, every player is going to score one point at the end of their turn, due to the fact that their economy track is on one. Unless on your first turn you manage to raise the economy by either building an outlet. Delivering cupcakes is one of the major objectives of the game, as there is a separate board with all your bakeries and outlets laid out next to streets, where clients are waiting for cupcakes. These clients come in the form of Meeples, beautifully decorated in the same colors of the cupcakes that they wish. For example one meeple has brown trousers and a red top, meaning that they want a chocolate-based sponge with a strawberry icing topping. And there are many different combinations of these meeples, as there are four different icing flavors and two different sponge base flavors. An important thing to take note of is the distance that they are away from your outlet or bakery. The further away they are, the more powerful your delivery action will need to be. Not only that but the further away they are, the more they boost your economy and possibly give you victory points at the same time.
You’re cooking skill track will go up every time you create a cupcake, combining a base and a topping. Basic toppings and basic sponges will make this track augment by one per article. Where as the more complex sponges and icings will lift it by two each. The great thing about this is the simplicity of creating a cupcake. Not only is it just combining two beautifully delicious looking tokens together but also, once that recipe has been made, you can continually sell that type of cupcake to any client who demands it. And as these client Meeple are randomly placed out on different streets at different distances, this is where the puzzle solving lies of what you are going to cook and when are you going to deliver it.
And that is basically the game. Turns can go by very quickly as the action are very simple. On your turn, you choose the action you wish to perform. This takes mear moments. Then you roll the dice that were used in the action and allocate them to the corresponding column. Before finishing off by scoring points from your lowest track. Play them passes to the next player. These mechanisms are very very quickly picked up by new players. And you may find a game for two players ending in 30 minutes. Which shows you how light and family-friendly this game is. In fact the game looks more complicated than it really is. And I was a little disappointed as I thought there would be more time to invest in the game, building and developing your business. But like all good games, it ends at the right moment, leaving you with that sensation of, “if I had one more turn I would do this.” Always a good sign of a good game in my opinion. And making you want to come back and play more.
With plenty of options on your turn, although at the beginning, you may feel a little restricted depending on what you have rolled, this is a medium weight fun game. With the addition of random bonus objectives, this is a racing game to score the target points before the other players. And even them, you may not have won... Players can then calculate ways to boost their final score. There are many routes to success. You don’t necessarily have to go all out and deliver, deliver, deliver. You can also use the power ups to give you the advantages in certain actions to push you ahead as well. Or just carefully balance your economy and cooking skill track, as you will gain a constant amount of points each turn.
There is some interaction between the players as there are limited resources, in this case the flavors of icing. There is also a limit of spaces to build your bakeries and outlets, which can sometimes and very rarely lead to territory wars. As you can remove someone’s bakery outlet to place your own. This then has an effect on that players economy and cooking skill track, making them step back a bit. And the finishing touch is that even though there is the random dice rolling, you will never feel really stuck on choosing which action you want to do. There is a fair amount of dice mitigation. Even if you feel screwed over at the beginning of the game, you can sacrifice your starting five victory points to move dice or collect good idea tokens.
On the aspect of production, this is a very colorful and attractive looking game. With chunky player boards and beautiful cupcakes that you combine together. This game will leave you hungry. The Meeples, with their different colored trousers and tops is a subtle but effective visual aid to the game. And I kind of wish that they were used more often. The packet of dice that you get in the game are of very good quality, with nice rounded corners. The colors on them make them look very edible as well. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are the player pieces which, number one; come in some very strange and unattractive colors. Which is understandable as you would not wish to confuse your playing pieces with the generic playing pieces of the game. And number two; are a little bit small and finicky. They are easily dislodged from their spaces whenever the table moves, which can be annoying. But again the production has a way around that, as everything on the boards is indicated with numbers and colors. So even if you do knock your playing board and you can’t remember where your cubes and pieces go, you can reference to something to re-calculate your scores. And the other small tokens which are finicky are the power tokens, that don’t look or feel so special. On a side note, these are a tad annoying to organize at the beginning of the game, but that’s a minor gripe.
Technical score 8.5/10
Mechanisms and rules are simple to pick up and well explained in the book. The components are a mix of solid and gorgeous looking, while others are too small, fiddly and seem like they are from another game. Icons and actions are simple to digest. Plus fantastic look, app style graphics.
My BGG score 7/10
Good - usually willing to play.
A nice family game with some interactions and a smidgin of nastiness. Personally, I thought the game was deeper, but it’s lightness lends itself to a larger audience. Great theme that is not so much about making the cake, but business building. Plays in less than an hour with very little time taken between your turns. Works well with two players but shines with 3 or 4, as you battle for space and recipes. Plenty of room to move and adjust your strategies to push you score, even with the luck of dice rolls.
Combined score 7.75/10
Now you need to test it...
Clash of the Ardennes