City of Zombies (2013) review
While playing games, I forget that I am learning something. Maybe I’m being enlightened about a culture. Or maybe it’s about how to manage stock within boundaries. And maybe if I’m feeling really special, it’s about overcoming and escaping gravity. Games do a good job of hiding these little lessons. But here's a game that blatantly tells you that you should have played this in math class and possibly your exam score would have been higher.
Aimed clearly at the younger generation of app playing school kids, City of Zombies is a tower defence game with zombies, where players are using maths to fight off these hordes of undead. It all sounds exciting, doesn't it?
Getting into the game can be very easy by watching a tutorial video. Which is something that I should have done from the get go. As the rulebook is colourful and divided into lovely sections, but to read it is like examining a corpse that's been ripped apart by the Z's. There are bits of information here there and everywhere and sometimes you read the full breadth of the page while other times you read half of that all the way down and then go back up to the top. Again it's on a folded piece of paper, almost map like that makes it confusing a little. I would prefer a more straightforward page 1, page 2 etc, with the basic rules placed together and not miss mashed with the extra add-ons to make the game harder.
But apart from that, the game is relatively straightforward. The players are trying to protect a group of civilians at their camp. Just until the rescue plane arrives. The zombies will be approaching from the far side of the board and the players, in turn will have a chance to take pot shots at them by rolling three dice. So after the initial spawning of the zombies which again is done by dice rolling, each player will roll the 3 dice and you some math to take the zombies down. Each zombie card has a number on it which refers to the result you need to remove it from the board. These cards come in 4 levels, each level having harder zombies and possibly aliens to kill as well as different events that can help or hinder the team. Taking down a zombie can be quite easy with the level 1 zombie cards, as most of the values are 12 and below. Making easy math for the younger players.They may only have to match the value of one die to a zombie. Or do some addition and add the values of two dice together. With one exception. All dice must be used in the attack. If for any reason one die is left out, that player basically misses a turn. Once more for the younger players, this rule can be ignored. Bringing in a family fun air for the game.
After all players have had a turn at rolling the dice, any remaining zombies advanced by one space. Zombies that arrive at the safe zone will eat a number of civilians and clog up the barriers. This is bad but not in a way that you think. You could lose all of your citizens that you are trying to protect but that would not end the game, only give you a low score. As that is their only role in life. To give you points. When a zombie has had its fill of your civilians it will stay there until it is joined by 6 of its own friends. Basically once your camp is surrounded by zombies, the game ends and you loose.
Now there are varying levels that you can adjust in the game, making it harder for your team of players. As well as adding stronger zombies, that are well into the 30’s and 50’s, and some of them will be prime numbers. Now you may be wondering what prime numbers has to do with anything. Well as I said this is a math game and in the rules it's not just addition that you can use but also subtraction, multiplication and division. Which are all wonderful things that I forgot about over the years, and I'm sure you did too. Coming up with ways to defeat a zombie numbered 37 with three dice numbered 5, 2 and 3 becomes a race between players to see who can do it first. And it kinda feels like I'm playing against Carol Vorderman in Countdown, trying to arrive at the designated number before my fellow team members. Which isn't too bad a thing when I'm playing with my daughter but more of a fun challenge when I'm playing with my adult friends. Sometimes a player will shock another buy arriving at a solution before the other players. Which is amusing. Or when one-player suggest taking out one zombie by doing some complicated math, while another player finds a way to take out two zombies with some simple math.
A die can also be squared or cubed which gives a lot more variety in your numbers. And playing with players who are good at math, the game never seems as complicated. As it seems there is no die wasted. Which is good. After struggling to succeed with my daughter, I now see the possibility of actually winning with her in the future. Due to playing with brainiacs.
And that's a fantastic part about this game, as it can be adapted to the group that you are playing with. Making it harder by having the zombies spawn closer to the base or interjecting the higher or weird values. And also adding some variant rules which also come in the game. There are hero cards which the players can be given, each having a special power. There are heroes to be saved from the main board, that in time if touched by another zombie, they become a zombie too. And a very tough one at that. And there's also an apocalypse mode which gives each zombie a special power. So many nice ways to tweak the game to fit your group. And what better way to play with a group of children. While stretching their thought process by using math.
There is a bit of an unbalance in the game depending on the number of players playing. Playing at a lower count means that you have less turns to pick off zombies before they all advance on your position. Playing a 1 or 2 player game, you'll have two chances of removing zombies. Whereas in a 3 player game, you guessed it, you have 3 chances. Which is not too bad if in the Spawning phase you roll poorly. Again, playing with four or more players, six zombies will always appear. Again, do the math in relation to the amount of turns versus zombies spawning. This isn't a big negative against the game but something that experienced gamers will probably pick out. As this is meant to be a fun family educated game, these rules can be tweaked by the players to make it easier or harder.
This game is being used in the national curriculum in England, which is fantastic. And there should be more like it. It's a fun and addictive way to exercise your mind in a numerical way. With its colourful cartoon artwork which is adorable, and it's iconography clear and well defined in size, as well as in the rules. There's even information on the card of, which numbers are divisible by others, as a visual aid. The components are nothing to write home about. Basic dice, poker quality cards and a sturdy board. But there's enough they're to make this game a recommendable one. That's if you're into tower defence games, Zombies, educational math, and zombies... this is a no-brainer.
Technical Score 8/10
A tidier rulebook would have been a bonus. The box could have been smaller, as it is only a deck of cards dice and a twofold board. A condensed fourfold board may have made this game more compact and portable as well as reduce the price. Great art and fantastic iconography make for a slick playing session. Plus the simple mechanisms are easy to teach.
My BGG score 8/10
(very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it)
I want to give this game a higher score because I love the fact that it is an educational game, and an addictive tower defence game. Plus my family are big on zombies. Simplicity and clean mechanics make this an easy game to place on the table and have fun with, although there is not a lot of substance here for many gamers. It is a rinse and repeat game. But addictive for some. I am looking forward to playing more and adapting this as my kids get older.
Combined score 8/10
And now it’s over to you...
La Boca (2013) review
Tetris is probably one of the most popular and well-known video games ever (baring Skyrim). It's a simple logic puzzle against the clock which has hooked many of us with it’s simple addiction. Luckily this formula has transferred into the board game medium very easily. Blokus is one game that uses this entrapment mechanism. Ubongo is another very popular one. But I grew up with Skirrid, a game that I didn’t learn to play until I read the rules, once every year, for ten or so years (until I understood them). Placing these tetromino pieces down so they connect and give out maximum scores. And like Skirrid, this game has been out of print for a while as well. But it is coming back to store shelves very soon from french publishers Super Meeple & Tiki Editions.
La Boca (no, I’m not going to talk about the buildings that inspired the title) goes one better than these 2 to 4 player titles, by offering 6 players the pleasure of moving cubes around to create patterns. Ok, that doesn't sound as much like Tetris. But for me, it's the same visual logical puzzle using cubic shapes and going against a timer. Another thing that this game offers which is different to many others is the fact that it is semi Co-operative but mainly competitive.
The object of the game is one each round, 2 random players to arrange these cubic cubes into a pattern. And in the quickest time possible. The quicker the time, the more points both these players will win. That sounds simple yes? The only problem comes from the fact that these two players will be constructing two patterns with the same cubes. As both players will be sat at opposite sides of the game board. Which just by chance happens to be the box insert. A very nice touch. There are two levels of difficulty in the game and these come in the form of cards. These cards depict the patterns that the players are trying to make. Once a card is chosen at random, it is quickly slotted into the box insert, cleverly stood on one end. So one player can see the front of the card and the other player sees the back. These patterns coincide with the structure that both players will need to build. Here communication is essential.
Both players are trying to build the same structure but from two different perspectives. And these perspectives both must match. By chance, each block is a different colour, so you have a good visual clue to what goes where. It’s just arranging it so it coincides with the other players plan. Due to the fact that neither player can see the backside of this piece of architecture, they will be communicating which colours they see and don't see. As well as pointing out structural points of interest. Against the clock, this banter will be hot and rapid. Tempers may rise and frustration make kick in when things do not go to your plan. But in the end, once you and your temporary partner are satisfied, the clock stops and the relief drains from your body. The other players who are not currently participating will then inspect your plan and construction to verify whether you have arrived at your goal. If doing so correctly, you gain and number of points depending on which time band you have completed your quest.
Once all players have partnered up at least once with every other player in the game, the conclusion unfolds. This is where you total up your score from the tokens you received to see who is the La Boca champion. And that's the game.
It's simple in concept and elegant in its execution. The system for choosing who plays against who is a very simple one involving tokens. And this guarantees that nobody misses a turn. As in a clockwise order, you will take a token that you have randomly in front of you to reveal which player you're playing. The graphic design on these tokens is a bit lackluster and I presume they are abstract images of window and shutters. And they kind of do their job because players are going to be moving around. Switching chairs as the main board will rest in one place. Therefore the tokens will be left lying around and sometimes players will confuse their tokens with another players as they sit in their space while the other is playing. An upgrade of individual sacks for each player with tokens placed inside may prove better but we shall see what the reprint will do.
I like Tetris and some of the other board game variants around, another thing that makes this stand out not only in complexity is the challenge of thinking in three dimensions. These cubic shapes can be rotated and rolled in more than one way. Some can lay behind others, hiding them from view for one of the two players. Shapes that you normally would stand up in one fashion may be played in a way that you would not recognise the form. Partially covering one shape with another. Giving you different ways to interpret the structure you need to create. Is the pink cube on top of the grey cube or is it stood up behind the great cube?
And it's this semi co-operative aspect which is really interesting. As you want to get the quickest time which will generate more points for yourself. But every time you play you will have an opponent play with you. And if they play badly or slowly, this will affect not only their score, but your own. So motivating less capable players is a fun challenge. And creating a language that you and all the other players understand when it comes to your turn, or maybe a unique language for each individual player is a nice way to show off your management skills. And at the same time, this pairing of every other player balances the game to a point. Everyone will get to play with the novice and everyone will get to play with the expert. Then the winner becomes the one who is the calmest cucumber in every situation. Although the novice player will be a novice player in each game and accumulate a not so great score.
I love playing this game and I would love to say that it is going down every time I have played it, but that is not the case. Sometimes you may be sitting on the sidelines waiting for your token to be drawn or your turn, and this can be tedious for some players. Unless you are involved at all times by spectating and verifying the active players to make sure they are not cheating, you may find this game boring. And a few games I have played have gone this direction. Waiting players have gone off and had their own conversations, forgetting they are involved in a game, not only slowing the game down by having to call them back to the table but also breaking up their conversation. This is a real drag for a game that feels like a TV game show and should be a TV game show, or at least an aspect of it. With the right capacity of people, this game is a stellar idea.
Technical score 9.5/10
Great production values that use the box not only to store the component but also to play the game upon. A super specialised insert that holds everything in place. Good quality tokens and cards as well as nice chunky wooden blocks that seemed indestructible. Simple to read and digest page of rules. Unfortunately a little heartless graphic design in places.
My BGG score 8/10
This is a game that I want to play and love more, but cannot due to not finding other like-minded players. Playing three players is quick and leaves me wanting more whereas playing 6 players is exciting but long-winded when you are not involved.
Combined Score 8.75/10
And now it's over to you...
FUSE (2015) Review
Intruders have been detected. Alert! The space base has been trapped. Hurry up. No less than twenty bombs were detected. The whole base is being evacuated but time is running out. The location of the explosives is known. But we do not have enough people to deal with it. Hurry up. Your team must do the impossible. Tick Tock, Tick Tock. Only you can save the station. Quickly. Show cold blood and professionalism. The timer goes wild. Together you have to defuse all the bombs to prevail.
As you have probably understood, Fuse propels you into the shoes of a specialist group. Their mission? Defuse all the bombs that have been laid. Why so much hatred? How were the bombs installed? Is it because of the translation of the original title? Nobody knows it. The game does not try to answer this.
Fuse is a game of Kane Klenko, released by Renegade Game Studios in 2015. This is an upbeat ambience game for one to five players.
Fuse is a cooperative game. You must act together to be the best performer and achieve the most goals in the time allotted. Because yes, it is a game requiring a timer. You can use the one linked to the application, as a free download, or take any timer. The advantage of the application is that it accompanies the game with ambient noises.
Once the set-up is completed, you will benefit from a ten minute counter, to solve as many objectives as possible. The objectives are represented by the bomb cards. Each player starts with two cards in front of themselves. Once one of these bombs are defused, they immediately replaced it with another available.
You have a big bag of dice in the effigy of the game. One player will draw as many dice as players. Then, throw them (not too far... joke!). Each player must then take one, and only one, available die. Being careful to communicate well. Indeed, if a die can not be selected, it is removed and all players must discard a die of the same color or the same number. This can hurt a lot. It is very important to communicate well between all players but in a concise and precise way. Remember that timer is running out and there are no "pause" buttons while you play. The selected die is placed on the bomb cards that players have in front of them.
The bomb cards represent combinations of dice to realize to be able to deactivate them. Each combination is based on different things. The dice are normal six dice except that there are five different colors. The combinations to be made will play on it. Sometimes you will have to make sequels, other times superimposing them in a certain order or in pyramid fashion, not to mention recovering precise numbers or even numbers and specific colors ... There is a good variety of possibilities . Each bomb has its own difficulty to solve. Difficulties ranging from 1 to 6 (the latter being more rare and added to increase the difficulty of the game). When choosing your bombs to solve, be careful not to get stuck with two cards too hard to do at once.
To make your bomb defusal day job more complex, you will also come across cards Fuse. These cards are not bombs but represent the difficulties of progression. Immediately revealed, immediately activated. These cards have a color or a number. Once drawn, because they are well concealed within the bomb pile, the players must discard immediately what is indicated on the map, if they are able to do it.
Once a bomb is deactivated, you must put the card aside, discard the dice back in the bag and retrieve one of the five visible bombs, then repurpose a new card and eventually apply the revealed fuse cards. All this, of course, without stopping the clock. I can guarantee you that ten minutes is going to go very fast …
Fuse is a frantic game. Time is against you and you will soon feel it’s pressure. It's a very special but effective ambient game.
The graphics of the game are from Luis Francisco, Marc Mejia, Chris Ostrowski. The cover is beautiful. The cards are very simple or even have a mathematical aspect. Far from disturbing, it allows to better visualize the icons and to quickly identify what needs to be done.
Speed is at the heart of the system. Everything is done so that players lose time. You must be attentive at every moment. Think about where to place your dice, draw the right number, discard and recover a bomb in the process ... Little by little, you will have to find the right way to communicate while gaining the most time possible. No more long sentences, players find themselves screaming colors or numbers to be heard. Players will rage as time goes on and they must discard valuable dice. Or that a sabotage card appears so close to the goal ...
There is clearly a lot of luck in the game. This data is totally part of the mechanism and participates in frustration and rising tension. The game time is quite short, so it is very easy to get back on the adventure and find yourself chaining games to improve. Especially when the game is very hard. Different game modes exist and I can only advise you to start with the beginner level to understand how it works while improving your reflexes.
You could finally blame everyone a little bit as some will play in their corner. Even though it is completely cooperative, the game can sometimes push the players under the pressure of the timer to jump on the dice that interest them without necessarily worrying about the needs of their partners. You’ll advise players to get out of your corner and game together. Sometimes it works. But most of the time, you’ll end up with unusable dice, which means you’ll have to reroll them and lose things. Very quickly, the players realize that playing like this, pushes the victory away, more and more.
The difficulty of the game is not to be taken lightly. This is due in particular to the need to save time which leads from the inaccuracy of choice, to the strong presence of chance, to sometimes twisted combinations. Yes, the game is very hard. This can sometimes demotivate some players. On the other hand, that's what makes it so charming. A game of this category, without difficulty then brings no more flavor. Here, we will have to do our best to cooperate and adapt. The more you play, more the victory will reward you.
Fuse is very simple in its learning. In a few minutes, all players are ready to try the adventure. But behind its ease of access, the game is smart and extremely addictive. Stress is ubiquitous. It is not uncommon for players to start hurrying each other to go even quicker with manipulation with the speed of actions, with the risk of logical reasoning disappearing.
Fuse is clearly a very nice surprise. In the genre, it competes easily with other cooperative games. I can only advise you to throw body and soul into this fun experience that is really worth it. Fast, with a huge replayability, simple, frenetic, full-bodied, Fuse is a must for those into atmosphere games. Easy to get out, quick to install, short to play, it’s is waiting for you.
Technical Score 7/10
Many dice, sober cards (with a specific format), everything is functional without being exceptional. Everything works and the icons are easily readable and understood.
My BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game. Always want to play and would suggest it)
Simple to explain, hard to win. The game is frantic and very fun. It offers good moments of pressure allied to a need to communicate well. An excellent game of atmosphere, sadly with little exposure.
Combined Score 7,5/10
Now, it's your turn to play ...
Here Comes the Dog (2018) Review
I will not lie, what attracted me to this game is the box. Long before I knew what it was, this silhouetted dog and Chinese writing clearly intrigued me. Then, I saw that it was the publishers and the author who gave us Tokyo Highway, another game of rather original address. It did not take more to try this new game.
Here Comes the Dog is the latest game by Naotaka Shimamoto. The few illustrations that there are from Yoshiaki Tomioka and all this is published by itten. This publisher is famous for offering games with original themes but especially with always pleasant components.
Here Comes the Dog plunges you into a time far away. Humans lived among themselves and dogs were still considered dangerous creatures. The game offers us to relive the first contacts between the two species. The women and men of the village gathered at night around big fires to feast and feed. But fire attracts strange creatures too. Indeed, dogs quickly realized that the best way to find food is to get closer to these bonfires. Thus, every night, the villagers must have leftovers to feed the pack, at the risk that they will attack humans if not. While paying attention to what surrounds them, the villagers must also maintain the fire to avoid darkness.
With a theme finally quite dark, the game installs you in a special atmosphere. The campfire is represented by sticks of wood (which reminiscent of iced lolly sticks) of different colors. Therefore you’ll find red stick for fire, black for charcoal and the most important beige for meat. Once the fire is well established, the small villagers are placed around the fire (in front of us) and the dogs around the humans. I can tell you that on a table it looks really good. Everything is made of wood, which lends character to the game. The mixture of shapes and colors delight the eyes. Starting from a game that seems to lean towards the abstract, the material brings a lot for immersion.
All players start with three villagers in front of them. You will have to make sure that you survive at the risk of starting over again with only two villagers. On your turn, you’ll have two choices: throw the dice or make an exchange.
If the player opts for the dice, you’ll take the three available and roll them. The player can then choose two results out of the three and apply it. The six-sided dice have three different colors corresponding to the colors of the sticks. Thus, the player can choose two to remove them from the campfire. But you have to pay attention to your choices. Depending on what is left in the fire, events may occur.
If there is not enough coal to power the fire, it will go out. The dogs will then take the opportunity to attack the villagers. They will then go to the players who own meat. Each victim of the attack may try to defend himself by sacrificing two sticks of food, or by lighting a torch to scare off the dogs, in which case they will sacrifice fire and charcoal. But that's for every dog. As a result, dogs that have not fled ... feed directly on humans. This is one of the ways to see its population decline.
If there is no more meat around the fire, the feast is over. To avoid any trouble, the villagers throw their remains to the dogs. If you have two meat sticks, you can tame a dog. You can then give it the name you want. Class, no? It's even better because taming works for every pair of meat you have. In other words, if you have four, it taimes two dogs for you, etc. The dogs stay with you until the end of the game because they are faithful ... like Lassie.
If food and coal run out, the round ends but nothing happens.
Depending on the results of rolls, some events may occur.
Yes it can happen often. But do not worry, the one whose turn it was does not lose it. They reroll the dice ... at the risk of re-triggering an event. And so on.
But that's not all. There is one last possible combination. If all three dice are different, then the player can steal a stick directly from another player. Any, but just one, then the turn is over.
The other possible action is the exchange. You can very well choose to limit the dangers by exchanging your sticks with those of the fire. So you can give a coal for meat; a fire for two meats or a fire for two coals. But watch out for events.
The game is played over five rounds. At the end of the fifth, the player with the most domesticated dog wins the game.
But be careful, you can very well be eliminated during the game. As I already told you, when you lose your three villagers, you come back. You lose all your dogs and you have only two villagers . If they die, you have one last chance, this time with only one villager. If they disappear, you do too. The others continue to play without you. Fortunately, the game is fast. When you get eliminated because of bad throw, there is something rage.
Here comes the dog is a particular game. Particular in its theme but also in its way of apprehending it. It may seem simple but it can be difficult to explain without playing at the same time. The rules are short and not to complicated. But the logic of the game seems at first a little confused. You’ll often have the unfortunate impression of not mastering anything and suffering constantly. Some parts can even become nightmarish when nothing goes your way and you just die doing nothing.
Once the logic is understood, the game works. One might have thought this is a game of skill, considering the material, but it is not so. You are faced with a pure game of opportunist combined with the omnipresent chance. It is precisely this chance that makes it so special. While you could quietly select your combinations and think of long-term strategies, the game prevents this. The pressure of an imminent attack of dogs is present. All the time, every turn, every roll of the dice, no one is safe. This special atmosphere coupled with constant risk taking works perfectly and adds to the theme. In turn, we are facing real dilemmas.
The interaction is very strong. At any moment, you have to look at what the other person is doing. This is not necessarily a direct interaction (except for the flight) but what you will achieve on your turn, the sticks you collect or exchange, affect the game for the others. Behind a cute design, the game is actually at the height of its theme: naughty, bestial. Errors are fast and expensive. It's like a survival game but more minimalist.
There is also a variant included in the game: The dance of the villagers. This time, the dice are set aside. You will use the villagers to know what actions are available. Depending on the number of players, each will have a number of villagers to throw as dice. Depending on how it lands, the actions will be different. The goal is once again to win more dogs, but lighter. This variant may be a bit reminiscent of the Pass the Pigs, with one side more strategic.
Here Comes the Dog is really a title apart. It has a superb material that really participates in the immersion. Even though the first games may not be easy to understand, the game deserves to extend the experience. Once mastered, if you are not allergic to chance, it offers a special unique atmosphere. The publisher Itten has a catalog of unclassifiable interesting little games. Here Comes the Dog could finally be a kind of life lesson. Learning to train dogs is not so simple. However, it is priceless, except ... as is your life …
Technical Score 9/10
The material is really great. Everything is wooden, nice to handle. The rules are rather well written even if sometimes you’ll have to re-read it. A small box with content that makes its effect once installed. And besides, there are plenty of meeples! If that's not class.
My BGG Score 7/10
(Good game. Enjoy playing from time to time)
Starting from an original theme, the game manages to distil a particular atmosphere. It's bad, it's hard, the chance is very present. However, the game offers a different, pleasant experience. The price remains accessible for the material. Try it to get an idea.
Combined Score 8/10
Now, it's your turn to play ...
Rattus (2010) Review
Europe, 1347. A terrible plague falls on the known "world": the Black Plague. In less than five years, this disease will eradicate no less than half of the population of the time. It is well known that one of the agents of it spreading, was rats. These small rodents carrying the virus, infiltrated everywhere and contaminated everyone who crossed their paths. No one seemed to be safe. Divine punishment spared neither the poor nor the "well-born". But what if this contagion had a specific purpose?
Rattus plunges you into the heart of this tumultuous time. You are at the head of a cube population, without a fixed country. Your goal will be to try to grow your color in Europe where the mortality rate is extremely high. But that's not all, because in turn, you will be able to take possession of the personification of the Plague itself to prevent overpopulation.
Rattus is a game by Åse Berg and Henrik Berg. It was released in 2010 by White Goblin Games. It is a game of simple majority, in the vain of a light atmosphere game. Initially planned for 2 to 4 players, the game has several extensions and has translation into several languages.
The board represents Europe of the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the game, the players will be asked to place face down on the map, randomly the rats tokens. The rats represent the infection and who will infect the population with the Plague. On each token, you will find a number and symbols. The numbers correspond to the population level required for the Plague to take effect. The symbols indicate which characters, and by extension the players, are targeted. For each icon, the target player loses a cube in the region. If they do not have one, all the better for them. When a rat is returned, if the required number is insufficient, the Black Death does not kill.
At the beginning of a turn, a player may, if they wish, ask a character for help. The characters are drawn at random at the beginning of the game. They represent the local population who wish to help you in your survival. There are six categories of characters: nobal, warrior, merchant, priest, farmer and wizard. Each has their own power. But also their own symbol. When you choose to take possession of a character, you collect that tile. You are not limited by the number of tiles you can have at the same time. The more tiles you collect, the more help you can get. The powers of the characters you have can all be activated once in your turn. However, this can be double-edged. Remember the rat tokens? Each rat counter indicates specific symbols. As a result, the more characters you have, the greater the risk of suffering the plague. A pure dilemma. You can choose not to ask for help and to get by on your own. It is quite possible. You will be less focused. It also means that you will be more limited in your progress.
Once this optional character selection phase is completed, players will be able to expand their population on the map. You will choose a region and you will put as many of your color cube as there are rat tokens in that area. As you can see, the more dangerous a region, the more people reproduce. Again, there is a choice for you. Are you going to play small to protect yourself and not spread out too much or are you going to try the most infested areas and place more cubes? A region can have only three rat tokens at most. At this stage, you can also use each of your tiles once to help you ... or slow down others.
Finally, you will move the Plague counter. You can move it to an adjacent region, except if you have a special character. Be careful, the map is small and everything is more or less connected, so it’s difficult to hide. When the plague arrives in a region, the epidemic will first spread. You’ll count the number of rat tokens present in that region. The player takes the same number from the reserve (with a maximum of two) and places them on the neighboring regions. It can very well be placed in the same region or on two different ones (in cases when there are two rat tokens for example). If the plague moves on a region without rats, nothing happens.
Once this expansion is complete, the plague will do its job. The active player will therefore choose the order in which the one or more rats present in the region concerned is solved. They will then turn over the first rodent. The number indicated on the upper part corresponds to the value required for the disease to have an effect. This value is for ALL cubes in the region, regardless of color. If the number matches, the rats contaminate the local population according to the symbols below. For each of them, the players concerned loses a cube. You’ll resolve the icons from left to right, which can play an important role. In case of a tie, the players concerned all lose a cube. If the number does not match, nothing happens. The other rats are returned until there are no more rats or there is no more of the cube population (in this case the unused tokens remain in place).
The game ends when a player has successfully placed all their cubes onto the board or there are no more rat tokens in the pool. A bonus round then takes place. During this round, played in the reverse direction of the players turns, everyone except the one who has just finished, may activate their characters a final time. If they do not have one, too bad for them. Finally, all the rats remaining on the board are activated. The player with the most cubes at the end of the game wins.
Simple, no? Rattus is indeed a simple game, which can be learned and explained in a very short time. The turns are fluid and the decisions seem fast enough to take. Thematic level, even if you have fun killing others, it remains quite light. The game plays around 30-45 minutes, which is nice for this type of games.
Rattus has a fairly high degree of randomness. This is especially true when resolving rat tokens. But that's also what makes it charming. We felt a little pressure when we saw the arrival of the Plague in a region where we are present or relief when we decide to send it to others. Because yes, Rattus is a nasty game. If you want to play in your own area, avoiding any conflict, it is possible. But there is little chance that in the end it is really profitable. It must also be confessed that you will lose the charm of the game this way. You will have to play the opportunist, deceitful and not hesitating to be ruthless to others. The population addition system is, as such, rather well done. When you add cubes to a region, it depends on the number of rats present. So you can deliberately choose a region with three rats, so increase the local population significantly, why not, for example, in a region with a lot of opponents. And of course send the Plague right after. The carnage will only be greater.
The characters play a very important part in the fun of the game. All bring the same feelings. Some are no longer there to help you score victory points while others are clearly there to help you to wipe out the other players. The choice available is very important. In the basic game, you have six characters. However, with no less than nine extensions (more or less important), that will give you a choice of 51 cards of different powers to change the game. As much to tell you that the available combinations vary enormously. Even if all the characters are not as fun as each other, there is always something to do, especially when you only choose six. In addition, each character brings interest at one time or another during the game. At first glance, some seem more essential than others and yet all seem very well balanced (even if they require more control). It is of course recommended to choose at least one class each for each part. Besides the number, the mechanism of the characters are really interesting. Will I take one at risk of it falling on me? Will I choose an available one or will I pick one from an opponent? Sometimes, some players can tear themselves up for a character letting others take advantage to recover and keep those they want.
Luck is certainly important but it participates, as the choice of characters, for that very important replayability. Of course, this is not a game that will make you addicted, but you may have to bring it out fairly regularly in the presence of a family audience (as long as they are open to black humor or the Black Plague). Each game is different. Whether you play caution or attack, Rattus will delight you.
The game becomes really interesting with four players. At three players, it is nice and playable. With two, I can only advise you to choose something else. Not that it is bad, it’s just players are in each other’s face and the fun is replaced by optimization. Of course, you’ll lose a lot.
Rattus is a game that I can only advise you, if you are not allergic to luck and strong interaction. This little atmosphere game offers a lot of originality and cunning. This is certainly not the deepest game that exists, but in its category it stands out very much from others. You have to be opportunistic. To be fairly present on the board without being too much so as not to be the target of rats or other players. Juggle between protecting yourself or attacking others. The illustrations of Alexandre Roche put us in the mood. Personally, I like a lot. All the iconography is clear and easy to understand and the rules are simple. A very good game of majority, rules accessible, randomly present but important pleasure.
So there are no less than nine extensions to this game. Of these, only one brings real changes in the gameplay. The others correspond to combinations of new characters (attention: nevertheless it brings replayability).
Rattus : Africanus adds an extension to the plateau, North Africa. It also adds the possibility of playing up to six players. As new mechanisms, Africanus adds area cards that can protect you or give you points at the end of the game. Finally, we see the appearance from this extension of a new class power: Islam. New characters, new powers, and in five or six player games, you have the choice between six power tiles or eight. This extension brings a small wind of quite pleasant novelties. The game of six only increase the pleasure. But if you have little opportunity to play from five, Rattus: Africanus will not bring you much.
Technical Score 7.5 / 10
The graphics put in the mood. The power tiles are pretty thick. The rest of the material is correct. The iconography reads rather well and the rules are well written.
My BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game. Like to play and recommend it)
In its category, Rattus has everything of a big. Simple, deceitful, fast, clever. Some may blame the excessive importance of chance or the excessive importance of opportunism. But the replayability is huge and the extensions ensure it in the long run.
Combined Score 7.75 / 10
Now, it's your turn to play ...
Salmon Run (2013) Review
Being a salmon is not an easy thing, especially when the “love season” arrives. To be able to lay their eggs in pleasant areas, salmon swim up rivers by the millions. But it's not always safe. Besides the difficulty of the currents, danger also comes from other wild animals that take advantage of this period, to fill the stomach like bears or eagles. Of the many who wish to return to the sources, only a few will be able to do it. It's a kind of race to give life.
Jesse Catron started from this idea to create a rather original racing game. Salmon Run tells us about this intense journey in the form of a race between salmon. This game received a Kickstarter in 2012 and was released in 2013 by Eagle Gryphon Games, Salmon Run speaks to us with a very original theme that is little used in our game environment. This is certainly one of the reasons why the game went a little unnoticed. Yet it has many qualities.
It's a race. The faster and more efficient you are, the more likely you are to win. But beware, the current will not be a walk in the park. Like any salmon, you only have one goal: to arrive first. So you do not go backward. So you can only go forward ... even if sometimes it's not to your advantage.
The main mechanism of the game is deckbuilding. Each player has at the beginning the same number and same type of card. During the game, depending on the route your salmon takes, you will be able to collect other cards. These new cards will among other things, allow you to achieve new displacement or even to use other ploys to slow opponents. It is important to manage your deck and choose the future additions.
On your turn, you can play up to three cards from your hand. Except special cards, they allow you to move. Basic Swim cards are very simple to apply. If I play a “Swim Forward” card, I move one hex forward. This is how your salmon powers up the river. But beware, first worries, if you play three Swim cards in one turn, you will get tired. Getting tired is represented by drawing a Fatigue card. These cards serve no purpose other than slowing you down. Collecting cards, positive or negative, are added to your discard pile. Once your deck is empty, you’ll create a new one by mixing your discard pile. This is how you get your new cards into play (a bit like the majority of deckbuilding).
Fatigue is an essential element and quite smart game. Associated with a certain risk, you can very well choose to move faster or perform more dangerous actions at the risk of accumulating fatigue. These cards eventually come back and can sometimes slow you down significantly. It is however possible to rest. If you choose to do nothing, you can destroy one (by putting it back in the general reserve). But it costs you a turn. Fatigue cards are obtained when you force your fish to move three times, or when you make a jump, or try to escape a bear. Be careful to manage your condition well, in the long run fatigue can play an important role, or even serve you at the end of the game.
Each time you move, you will have to apply the effects of the hexes on the board. Some can be quite negative. But they can also allow you to recover new cards and add them to your discard pile. This is how you will customize your deck. But be careful, each type of card is limited in number. Later you’ll find cards with more efficient moves, wild cards that will serve as a wild card, opportunities to draw more, destroy cards in your deck, but also cards that will be used to slow down others.
Salmon are not necessarily tender to each other. Some cards may be played to decrease the abilities of your opponents. The case for example for “Rapids”, that will discard cards to your opponents (but also to yourself) according to the number of arrows on the box. You may also be forced to back off in case of strong current. You can also collect cards of eagles or bears to play on the others. The eagles allow you to discard a card of your choice, while the bears will increase fatigue. However, it is possible to counteract these negative effects. For this, you must discard a card identical to the one just played.
There are also special boxes: cascades. The cascades are not traversed in the same way as the normal squares. To go beyond a waterfall, you will have to play two Swim cards. The first will not be applied, while the second determines where you will arrive. This is called a jump. Jumping requires more effort for your salmon. As a result, you will gain a fatigue card following your jump. Some cascades will give you bonuses or penalties while others will be neutral. Crossing waterfalls can be an obligatory passage or an interesting risk to take.
The players will move their salmon and chain their turns until one of them arrives on the source area. At this moment, the end of the game sequence will trigger the end of the last player turn. If there is only one salmon at the source, then its owner wins the game. If there is a tie, the number of fatigued cards are calculated. Whoever has the least wins the game.
Salmon Run is a game that passed unnoticed. The deckbuilding aspect combines perfectly with the racing aspect. The interaction is very present, whether it is through the pressure of the duty to go faster than the others but also by the use of negative cards. These can slow you down without necessarily penalizing you seriously. The fatigued card system integrates very well with the theme while offering a well-thought-out risk-taking system.
Graphically, it is true that the game is not dreaming. Illustrator Eric J. Carter created a sober but not devoid of interest look. The icons are quickly assimilated and everything is easily identifiable. The meeples bear or fish are wooden and their representations are quite classic. There are no extras or extravagance, but all is ultimately effective.
Another strong point is its replayability. The game track is actually a set of tiles assembled to create the board. Each tile is double-sided and some make the course more or less difficult. We could have wished for a little more diversity in these boards or some of a greater difficulty, but there is already enough to vary the track. Between the chosen cards and the adjustable board, the game is rarely the same at each play. In addition, the duration of the game varies not only according to the number of players but also the size of the selected river.
Salmon Run is a real nice surprise. It's a game with simple rules (even if not always very clear). The game system is well thought out. The duration of the game is reasonable and in adequacy with the pleasure of play. It is possible to pull off some little tricks, without losing an opponent. The original theme fits well. Playable from 2 to 4 players, it works well in all configurations, even if the more you are, there are more possibilities. Not necessarily easy to find today, especially the various existing bonuses, like new tracks. This game deserved to receive a little more attention when it was released.
Technical Score 7/10
Even if the graphics are a bit dated, they do the work and the iconography is easily assimilated. The cards are good qualities. A little flat on the level of official rules that are sometimes a little blurry. The game is quick to install.
My BGG Score 7.5 / 10
(A good game. I have fun playing it)
Salmon run is a simple little game of racing but very pleasant to play. The theme really changes. A few more tiles would have been a plus. The game is fluid, tense, pleasant and a little deceitful.
Combined Score 7.25 / 10
Now, it's your turn to play ...
Gentes (2017) Review
Gentes is the new sensation for optimization. This is a game from author Stefan Risthaus, known for his highly calculating Arkwright. Gentes was born in 2016 at Spielworxx but has recently benefited from an update and a small tidying up by Tasty Minstrel Games and Game Brewer. There are two versions of the game: a normal one (which I'll talk about here) and a Deluxe.
Gentes is a game sold as a civilization game. Immersed 1000 years before Jesus Christ, near the Mediterranean, you will take in hand the destiny of a population and advance them in History through three eras. The goal is to leave a trace and prosper for future generations. Well, that's on paper. Concretely, we quickly realize that the theme is only there to justify the game or to sell. Yes, civilization games are very popular. And it is not the presence of an aged map of the Mediterranean on the board, that will save the situation. You are not in front of a game of civilization. Gentes could very well have talked about something else, it would have worked just as well. This is purely a German style game. This fact, you will be able to immerse yourselves in what makes the real interest of the game: its mechanisms.
Gentes shares a very simple mechanism. At first glance, this is a worker game. With the difference that to perform an action, the players do not place pawns but take pawns off the board. Each action corresponds to a specific area of the board. Each zone contains associated pions that will specify the action allowed and especially the cost to achieve it. In Gentes, there are two indispensable resources: money and time.
Money is indispensable for a large number of actions. In the majority of cases, the more one pays dearly, the more one has choices and especially the less time to spend. But finding money is not necessarily easy. You will have to develop accordingly and find a good income driver if you want to escape unscathed.
Time is the main mechanism of the game and especially what makes it original. Each action is linked to a cost in time. It is represented by small hourglass tokens. Each player has an individual board. On this plateau, there is a track on the top. This track is going to be used to put the hourglass tokens when taken. This temporal space is not trivial. Each player can continue to play as long as they have room available. If they can not add an hourglass then their turn is over.
You start to see the subtlety? It will be necessary to choose to optimize your actions in order to gain the right number of hourglass and not to be trapped in the fact of not having enough time to continue to develop. Fortunately, the author thought of us poor players. In order to torture us a little more, it gives us the opportunity to gain some time. How? When an action asks you to take and therefore to put two hourglasses, you have the choice to do it on two boxes or to put both on one box. Which means that, yes, you may be able to glean some future actions as well. Sorry ? Where is the trap ? At the end of a turn, players remove from their track all the unique hourglasses. In other words, if there are two hourglasses in one box, only one is removed. So there is still one left. And since it is only possible to add an hourglass to an empty box ... Yes, putting two hourglasses on a box will benefit you on the current round, but you will feel it in the next. Not that easy. You will have to choose between playing more now and then depriving yourself or playing less to play normally after. Knowing that there are very few turns ... Yes it will be hard to choose. The hourglass system is really cunning but at the same time very ingenious and gives a real interest to the game.
The game also has another originality: the citizens. What would a civilization be without its inhabitants? Or rather, its citizens. Your population is divided into six occupational categories (a healthy population must be occupied): religious, noble, blacksmith, trader, warrior and scholar. Your population is represented on your individual board. Each trade is grouped in pairs. In this blossoming society, you can only have up to seven members for each pair. In other words, if you have three of one type, you can only have four of the other. But if you want more? You will simply have to decrease the other side. Citizen markers will often have to move from left to right on your track according to your desires and your needs. Each decision is quite tense and if you get lost in too frequent changes, it can cost you time and therefore valuable actions. It is advisable to stick to a strategy even if sometimes changing it can save you the game. The management of the type of its population is a thing very well found and quite devious at times. It will be necessary to think beyond the current turn. Of course, fluctuating population is not free and each place is limited. You will have to be careful and act quickly.
The game is also based on a third mechanism directly nested within the citizens. During the game, you will need to recover civilization cards. These cards change according to the current era. They will be more and more powerful and you will offer bonus games or victory points. To recover a card, you must not only do the action (pay attention to your money and your time) but also have the prerequisites of each card. These prerequisites depend very much on a specific type and number of citizens. But what are they for? Each card can give you a bonus of victory points as well as a bonus for specific actions. Although you can choose to play without them during the game, they are essential for better optimization and better chances for victory.
Of course, that's not all. The map of the Mediterranean is not just there to make it "pretty". It also has a mechanical interest. You can build cities and gain specific resources from each. Or position these cities a space "foyer" which allows to benefit from permanent effects or a possible action in addition. Again, each action of this type is limited in spaces but also in number the number of cities available. And they can be expensive ...
The vast majority of actions are limited in their availability. So there is a kind of race between the players if you really have the optics to achieve the same. This offers a bit of interaction in a game that ultimately just a little. Many may blame Gentes cold side, calculating and where players plays in their own corner. Because the interaction is only indirect, it can, depending on the game, go from a little to zero. It is still rare that players do not bother for a position or for taking an action. But unlike the announced theme, no war, no interference in the others. You’ll stay at home.
To support a certain race aspect, there is also the presence of objectives which will bring back more important points to the first who realize them. These goals are based on three things: to have eight civilization cards in play, to have eight cities in play, to have eighteen artisans. The first to fulfill each of these goals will gain eight points and the other players four. There are thus twenty four possible points to win ... Even if it is not negligible, it is rare that it is the ultimate goal of a player.
The game is played in six rounds, divided into three eras. Each turn is divided into two phases: the climax and the decline. The climax is the phase where you will realize your actions. Decline is a faster phase. This is close to a maintenance phase. You’ll clean your individual trays, gain resources according to your cities and cards, and change the cards (in the case of a change in era). At the end of the sixth round, the points are counted. Whoever has the most wins the game. Be careful though, some things can be penalizing, like having still unplayed civilization cards.
Gentes has a solo mode too. There is not really any difference with a two-player mode for example. Here, no bot to beat, you just have to play to beat your scores from one game to another. An interesting way to learn to play, this mode is quickly anecdotal.
Gentes is a pure representative of german games. A theme quickly forgotten, absent of luck, a very strong dose of optimization, errors that cost dearly, and relatively absent interaction. So yes, you’ll watch each other, sometimes have to change focus, but it's still rather superficial. Some will also blame it for it’s third era is very focused on the points of victory. Indeed, it is essential to prepare for this phase. Not only can the points gained be huge, but not being prepared can cost you a lot. In terms of components, the rendering has a little old air that is nice, but the bits in general, with the simple version, is not a dream.
Still, the game offers interesting mechanisms. Time management and the citizen system are things that work very well. Having to take tiles to do the actions instead of pawns also changes a bit of what is traditionally done. With two players the game remains pleasant even if it really takes off at the three or four player count.
What marks especially at the end of Gentes, is its ease of access. The rules are clear and in the game, apart from some icons, the actions are fluid and easy to handle. There are no complicated things to understand or convoluted actions. It can serve as an entry point for players unaccustomed to the expert game. But be careful, behind an accessible aspect hides a game devious enough and having a certain depth.
Gentes is not the game of the century. However, it can largely satisfy players eager for optimization. The playing times are more than correct for this type of game. In terms of replayability, unless you are a fan of optimization and absolutely want to search for the perfect score, the game may suffer from some repetitiveness and run out of steam with time.
Gentes is a good German (or Euro) style game. Not without defects, it will still warm up your brain and offer you good moments of optimization. However, if you were looking for a civilization game, walkaway. The game offers pure mechanics without unnecessary complexity, uncomplicatedly mixing time management with the action race and card management. Mistakes can be expensive. Gentes can serve as a springboard for novice players who want to discover the expert german game. Without being complicated in its rules, the game holds in reserve a lot of surprises and reflection.
Technical Score 7/10
We feel that there has been a de facto effort in dusting the game to make it more attractive. The material has been reviewed and it is not unpleasant. But against a Deluxe version, expensive but beautiful, the normal version is pale in comparison. Visually, this is still close to the games of the 80s. In terms of iconography, it will take at least a game or two to understand.
My BGG Score 6/10
(Ok game, like to play from time to time)
Even if it has ingenious and well adapted mechanisms, Gentes suffer from an absent theme and a lack of real interaction. Because of the absence of luck and a relatively fixed board, in time, the game may also run out of steam against players looking for a bit of new challenge between games.
Combined Score 6.5 / 10
Now, it's your turn to play …
First Impressions of Arnauld:
Gentes is a fake civilization game. It is cataloged as such, but it is simply a management game. You do not see your civilization evolve, just your population is growing. But it is still an excellent game I did not play it until after the second Kickstarter. I expected a lot and I was not disappointed. The Deluxe version saving grace has a “Folded Space” insert and upgraded component.
The game itself can be defined as a reverse worker placement game. Action tokens are chosen on the main board until each player's line of action is full. Actions that usually waste time depending on the power or choice remaining. The objectives are many, but go through the construction of buildings that are a big vector of victory points.
Gentes offers original, unusual rules that give a fresh twist in this type of game. Served by illustrations that are simple but stick perfectly to the antiquity theme of the game, it is one of my most beautiful discoveries of early 2019. Adepts management games, this one is a very good choice!
A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King