U.S. Telegraph from Super Meeple
Marcel-André Casasola Merkle
ages 10 and up
Video review at the bottom
A different type of outlaw
We all love building things. And board games give us the key to construct marvels in a short space of time with just a little sprinkling of brain power. Spaceships. Empires. Cities. Farms. While you are building whatever it is your building, you'll be building a score, hopefully larger than the other's sat at the same table as you. It is very rare for this type of to have any other reason to build, but meagrely to get points.
But what about building to win a race...?
This is exactly what you will be doing in U.S. Telegraph. You are building an enterprise that is trying to be the first to connect two cities with your new technological innovation that will replace the Pony Express. No points. No scoring. Just a race to be the first. And being first will make you the winner. Simple, yes! The game shines with simpleness from it's rules, game play and theme. But does that simplicity help or hinder the game?
This town ain't big enough
Every player takes control of a telecommunications company in the old wild west, as marked on their chosen coloured player board. Plus a number of building tokens, that are shuffled and placed in four stacks, face down. All players have the same building tokens that correspond to the images on their player board, which are grouped in different conglomerations of various amounts. Like four building connected to the railway industry or two buildings that relate to farming. None of that has any reference to the game, so having a ranch will not effect the blacksmiths business. It's merely there to create a chaining combo for those groups when built.
Each of the buildings of your colour connect your telegraph wire across the vast deserts that filled John Wayne's career. A number of hexagonal tiles, depending on the number of players, are placed in the middle of the table. With a number cities placed around the outside of this dust filled plain. These cities are the objective for the players, creating a continues line of their coloured buildings that connect one city to another.
How the west was built
Each building is going to require resources before they can be constructed. Some are scattered around the tiles that were places randomly. Other resources will come from a deck of cards, that players will receive in limited quantity, depending on the turn order. More cards can be gain in the game by sacrificing parts of your actions. There are two of these to chose from on your turn, making game play fast and fluid, like your favourite gunslinger. Due to the limited choices, the game is simple for the average player to slip into, like drawing your weapon. But knowing how to and when to use it is the dilemma in the game.
To draw or to construct are the choices available. It may not seem like much but as the game goes on, every action has consequences for you and the other players. The beginning of the game is a calm affair as you will be mainly drawing from your face down tiles, to see what you can build. This you can preform up to two times. If you decide to draw less than this amount, you get to draw a resource card. For example, you draw a tile and a card or you don't draw a tile but draw two cards. The latter is not really a good idea with this action, that you will see later...
The moment you draw a tile, you'll have to place it either on your player board in the allocated
area or you build it. Building requires you place it on an empty space, paying the resources from either your hand of cards or more practically, from the resources marked on the board adjacent this building. This is the start of your settlement and the commencement of your telegraph road. Starting a settlement somewhere else on the board will be a little more expensive, as you have to pay an extra wood, brick or whatever you wish, to do so. Connecting is cheaper and maybe free. If you build your viaduct (tile 61) next to your already constructed bridge (tile 60), you pay nothing.
The second action is to build. This is where you can place building that have already been revealed and placed on your player board, onto the main board. Again, resources will be paid or not, depending on the buildings you build and where you build them. A simple arrow system on your board shows the flow of which building can be built for free if place next to them. And this action you can preform three times on your turn. Which make more sense with the draw resource card option that I mentioned earlier. You could build one building and draw two cards for the actions not completed or simple play the wild card and take three cards straight up. And every time you build something, you'll place a marker down on it's image on your board, like playing Bingo. Completing a collection of the same group of the same coloured buildings will give you a worker to use on your turn to extend you actions. Utilizing a worker when you want will allow you to draw or build more times than normal. Playing them at the right time can be a life saver that will keep you in the game or help on the final sprint to finish the game.
wanted dead or alive
You will make enemy's in this game as they steal that space you wanted, while you block entry to a city, so they have to go around. If possible...
There will be times where there is a Mexican stand-off. The map has been divided into slices as you route of buildings start a one city but can't make it to another. This can be frustrating at times, as you have lined up a row of building that you could have placed on your next turn, but a border from another player cuts off you chance. And with the main board being one size, space becomes limited quickly, forcing decisions you didn't want to take at that moment of the game. But there is hope.
If on your draw action, you remove the last tile from a pile, you immediately get to add a hex tile to the main boards. Placing it wherever you wish, creating a trail that will permit you to build around this road block. Making the map bigger and giving other more growing space too. Strategically placing your buildings or settlements and joining them up at the key times to win is a trick that everyone is trying pull off. Because of the nature of these hex tiles, they fit nicely together like a tiled mosaic. Until you realise that the cities are a small space that creates a connection problems, like a horse shoe in a line of wagon wheels. Trying to build around the back of a city becomes interesting when the tile doesn't connect symmetrically but obscurely. Leave only one space touching another, limiting the route into the city. Creating another puzzle for you to solve. Timing and placement locations are part of the fun, but you won't be able to stop being get drawn into the Bingo frenzy. Drawing tiles until you have a full set of buildings, then gaining a worker. Helping to get your route complete.
But the west was not won just this way. Sometimes a stalemate might make you switch tactics to the second way to win the game. By being the first to build all of your buildings, filling your boards, like a Bingo card. Doing this makes the game a little longer and not always the first path to victory that is viable, but it's there.
Lucky Luke and the Dalton's
The drawing of tiles, some may see as a big luck factor. Considering that everyone will be drawing at the same time, the quick draws of matching groups can pay off. But it doesn't take much to take that lucky player off their tracks with just one well placed building. And the more players there are to gang up on that leading player, the more chance you will hold the reigns on their horses. Again, you may have to sacrifice an action ahead of it's time due to pressure place on you and you alone.
In fact, more players leads to a more intense race, as players are planing routes to different cities and you're never sure which they are. The free resources get eaten up more quickly and players settlements sprawl everywhere. Leaving a lot more of information for you to deduce their strategy and hiding route that you didn't see. The keen observers in the group will flourish.
Get off your horse and drink your milk
So, we have simple rules that lead to interesting and sometime difficult choices. But it's not all plain sailing, even with rules that are this straight forward as these, errors can happy easily as well. Forgetting to cross off your already constructed gold mine could cost you your game. Forgetting that have chosen the draw actions on your turn, because you build directly and therefore continue your turn as if you had taken the build action. These types of little error happen frequently with new players and, time to time with experienced players too, throwing the game into debatable territory. Or just making you win or lose in a non satisfying way, so a rematch is scheduled. Not that it's a big problem for most players, but disgruntled players may carry a chip on their shoulder until one of you gets to Boot Hill.
Not seeing your coloured tiles on the main board is another bug of the game, as the drab tile colours do nothing to pop out on the sandy tiles. Blue and green tiles are more distinct than the red and brown ones, that also share the same pallet as the buildings on these tiles. Where other games get around this by using bright, non thematic colours and 3D components that help locate you pieces, this feels like a missed opportunity. As this is just a re-theming of an older game Attika, and it looks like the same game. Although there is an art overhaul.
All in all, with those minor quibbles of easy mistakes players can make that could upset your game, it's a smooth and fast fun racing game. Without the racing theme. A family game that will have you replaying because you were so close to winning the last game. Simple in it's execution of actions but with a diverse number of choices for you to make after your third or fourth turn. Not only do you have to out-smarting your opponents, but be a “down right, dirt player” at the same time. 2 players is just a back an forth rodeo. You stand on their toes, they stand on yours. Where more players bring out a more interesting challenge. And as your pulling tiles off your piles, that sensations that your surrounded by hundreds of elderly ladies, with their heads down in silence, only to be broke by you, shouting “BINGO!”
the video review
Technical score 9/10
My BGG score 8/10
Combined score 8.5/10
A Space Odyssey
The space faring race that we believed we'd be by 2001 is sadly not here. And it dose look like the Babylon 5 timeline may be the last hope for peace and space travel (yes, I am a B5 fan). But that doesn't matter. Just getting to Mars at this time in life, is a challenge and a dream of it's own. But in the gaming world, you just need the right team, at the right station to get from one planet to another.
Ganymede (from Sorry We Are French) is a card drafting game where you will be transporting mankind into the star, ship by ship, while building up your corporation as you go. Each player will have their own board, depicting Earth, Mars and Ganymede. With a reputation track that shows your corporation status, but unfortunately, no indication of where Weyland-Yutani is. As your reputation grows, so does your score, as well as the chance to preform extra actions. Max out your track and you have the chance to send a vessel into the stars, from Ganymede. And that is the object of the game. To get as many of your scientists, colonists, leaders and other types of useful human launched from Ganymede, into deep space.
On your board, you will select two scoring cards to place on the two spaceports situated on Ganymede. Each port has a prerequisite for types of humans needed, before it can blast off into the void, scoring you end game point. One port needs one human from each of the four sectors, (marketing/communications, leaders/managers, engineers and healthcare) while the other just requires three from the same sector. Each sector is represented by one of four coloured Meeple. Each scoring card has a fixed point value or a condition for scoring like, 1 point for each engineer you have transported or score the same amount of points as your reputation. Some even give you a bonus after your ship has departed, like a point of reputation or a free recruitment from any of the sectors. Plus the occasional card that will allow a ship to leave its port with one less crew member.
One giant step for mankind
How is this all possible? What technology will we need to take mankind beyond the starts? Well, anyone familiar to Splendor will latch on quickly. In the middle of the table, there is a pool of cards and tiles to pick from. Taking a tile will either recruit a human onto Earth or let you preform another special action. Special actions will permit you to transport a human to another planet/moon (Ganymede is not a planet) or gain a reputation point for example. The chosen tile goes into one of three spots on your board and each tile has a coloured symbol in the corner. If on a future turn, you take another tile and it has the same corresponding coloured symbol as a tile already in your tableau, it will multiply the effect of the new tile. Meaning you can recruit two or maybe three humans onto Earth, if you have all tiles with the same colour. Or mix and match the recruitment with a special action, as each tile has a choice of two options.
Maybe, you all ready have a team on the Earth spaceport and it is filled to it's capacity of six Meeples. You're going to need to transport them to the next relay point, Mars. To do so, you'll need to take a Earth card that has the same coloured Meeple as you have on Earth. Only if you meet the requirements on that card, will you be able to take it, sending the spaceship and the chosen crew members, to Mars. The same is possible for Mars, that has a smaller capacity of five Meeple. But this time, you'll take a Mars card, if you have the required Meeple there and transport them to either of the two spaceports on Ganymede. Be careful, as shipping Meeple to an overcrowded planet could mean some are lost in space...
In Space, no one can see you be special
These card, once taken, will go onto your tableau like the tiles. They also have the same coloured symbols on them and a dedicated space for them to be placed into. If you collect all five colour types of card, this will allow you, like when you max out your reputation, to launch a ship from Ganymede, whether it has it's full complement or not. Collecting multiple Earth and Mars of the same colour also has it's benefits, as some have special actions on them. These actions get multiplied for each card the same colour too. Adding a forth blue card to your board, with a move actions means you can transport any four of your Meeple to another space, or the same one, many times. Very powerful and useful.
Special actions can be had for ejecting tiles from you board, into space. On your turn, instead of taking a card or tile, you can discard any number of tiles you have to preform the same amount of special actions. Actions like recruitment, move, gain reputation, change the colour of a Meeple and choose a new scoring card. In fact there is a forth row in the middle of the table, and that is for these cards. They can be taken into your hand with a special action or whenever you launch a vessel from Ganymede, giving you the chance to replace it. Once a player has launched their fourth scoring card into the unknown sectors of space, the game comes to an end...
The Final Frontier
Space travel has never been so quick and smooth as it is in this game. After an initial play through, games become quicker, from an hour to almost half that time. It's light mechanisms give you plenty of choice on your turn and even thought some of your Meeples may be stuck on planets due to no ship wanting to take them to the next relay point, there is always something else you can do. It may slow you progress in this space race but can turn your game around. Especially if you are watching the other players.
There is a mild bit of interaction in the game, mainly from the pool that players are drafting from, in the middle of the table. But you can be nasty by watching what the other players are doing and take cards away before they have a chance to take them. But it is really a light family affair, that is easy to slip into, unlike Ripley's spacesuit. It has a low entry level and a concentration level that will not burn your brain out like a Martian heat-ray.
This is a small, compact game that shines like a beacon in space. It's theme comes through, unlike it's counterparts (Splendor or Century: Spice Road) as a space race to colonize the far flung reaches of the galaxy. With it's fluid drafting actions and rapidly increasing tension, as player multiply there actions, bringing their crews to Ganymede quicker and quicker. It's exciting up to the last round.
The game could even be called pocket sized, as all the components are smaller than what they should be. Small Meeple and cards, conceal the really cool retro artwork that looks like if came from a computer game in the late 80's. Which is a shame. Only the player boards and rule book, justify the size of the box that resemble a Monolith in space.
May it live long and prosper...
Having someone knock at your door, which you foolishly open, only to get stuck listening to that someone go on and on about something or other, is a memory that I am not fond of. And I couldn't just slam the door in their face or say "get the fudge off my land," with my Dorset accent. In fact, it's more that "a" bad memory. It's many bad memory's.
That's why I'd like to live in Small Town. If someone knocks on your door there, it's normally just a quick call to check who is there or what weapons you have. And normally, it's a detective. Some very Small Detectives.
Small Detectives is exactly that...Small. It's a mini Cluedo. It comes in a mini box. It has some mini decision for you to make. And a mini memory aspect too.
In this 2 to 5 player game, each players is trying to get to the root of a murder that has happened in Small Town. As the Police can't handle such a thing, they have contacted you and many other detectives (1 to 4 others, if your keeping count) to get this mystery solved. Doing some footwork, going from door to door, you will be collecting evidence that will eliminate the four suspects and four possible murder weapons. Being careful not to step on the toes of the other detective going around town, as this will reveal nothing. Occasionally, popping into the local bar for a swift pint and pick up some rumors as well. And finally, going to the Police Station to make your accusation.
The game uses a card drafting mechanic to move you around the town, getting you from door to door. Every turn, players will simultaneously place a card in front of themselves and then when everyone has concluded this action, they reveal this card, that dictates your action this round. These cards are also numbered, starting with the lowest, each player will preform their action. They may move the detective around town a number of spaces. The may send them straight to the pub (I need a card like that). They may make the houses in the street, swap places.
Each house in Small Town hides a secret. The backside of each house tile has either a person or murder weapon marked on it. At the beginning of the game, one of each of these categories is removed and placed under the Police Station. These are the murderer's identity and the weapon they used. By visiting the other house's in play, our detective players will deduce which of these two tiles have been removed.
The problem come (but also the fun of this game) from the possibility of another detective knocking on the same door as you. When all action are carried out, detectives that are alone at the door to a house, get the chance to see whats inside. Or technically, whats on the other side. Having two or more detectives on the same tile means no one get's a peak at the evidence, leaving a bitter taste as you walk away this round, empty handed. And then, when you are alone on a house, you look on the underside of the tile, only to see that it is a clue you've already seen! Somebody switched the tiles...GRrrrrr!!!
A point of interest is the local bar. There, you will have the chance to question one of the other detective about what they have seen. You present them with 1, 2,or 3 items that relate to the crime and they will respond with a "yes" or "no" response. Being careful about who you ask and what you ask is important in narrowing your search for the truth. But also a reliable way to get lots of answer, quickly.
And after a hard days work, in this case, the end of the round, players collect the card that the player to their left have just played. Meaning, if you were stuck with some un-useful cards in the last round, you may pick up better ones later, as you pass your ones on. Do you play you powerful 'Go Go Go' card now, allowing you to move wherever you want. Leaving this card to another to use or not, on their turn. Or do you save it for when you need to be the first player at the Station, catching the murderer.
This is a light, family style affair that will probably replace that space in your heart that was called Cluedo. It's speed of play will have you tense at the table for about 20 minutes. Just long enough for your tea to arrive at a drinkable temperature. You drink. Then you start you revenge rematch.
It's simple to learn, making it great for a family sit down. The memory aspect is not to large as there are only a total of six things to remember that you seen. Although, remembering where you saw them as them dance around the place could make your head scratch. The light iconography is quick to pick up and within a game, you'll know it all.
Playing with more players introduces more card with more specialize actions, such as; being able to look a two tiles or switch two played cards around, so you can collect a useful card for the next round. And more players means more chaos. More houses get shuffled around and there are more feet to step on as you walk your beat and knock on doors. Getting no response, of course. As the other players block your progress. This is a race against the others. Being efficient and retaining information is the key.
The box is small and portable. The components a small and solid. And the game is small, not taking up much of your time.
Technical Score 9/10
My BGG Score 6/10
(It's OK - will play if in the mood)
Combined Score 7.5/10
next time someone asks if your a god, you say "yes!"
The Geek Gods are various and powerful and love playing games. As do we. But the only difference is that "we" are their game. They manipulate and transform us into mighty heroes or villainous monsters, making us walk the path that "They" want us to go down.
But now we have the upper hand as we can control those "all powerful" Gods to our hearts and whims delight. Mythic Battles: Pantheon is the evolution of an early Iello edition of Mythic Battles by Benoit Vogt. Although, this edition is pumped full of miniatures and additional characters and creature. Unlike it's predecessor, which was cards played on a grid. But the game is mostly the same. You will be choosing a God from the many livable (depending on the number of add-ons that you purchase) then draft an army around that God, consisting of Heroes, Monsters, Troops and maybe a Titan. Then combat starts...
Fortune is ally to the brave
The game is a combat game that takes element from games that we already know and meshes them into a simple to understand and play instantly game (minus the time to set up). Much like chess and it's learning curve, but also like a collectible card game that uses a deck to active characters. Plus some traditional and slightly tweaked dice combat with degrading player characters that wither away, the more injured they become. A game that the Gods would say, "this is walk in the park."
You will start with picking a God to be your avatar. Then create an army that benefits and complements that God. Whether it be Zeus, Ares or Hades, having the right combination is an essential key to your success when playing. Although, you could just experiment and mix and match to your hearts content, as there are enough units in the base game to keep you amused for months. Each unit has a wide variety of statistics, from life points, special powers to unique ability. So choosing the right ally that compensate another can take a little time to get your head around, as well as take a little real world time. And not only that, there is the battlefield to take into consideration. For example, having a team of flying creatures that are not hindered by the different levels of the terrain, will have a hard time dealing damage to your opponent's forces, if they are hiding in one of the many forests.
There are many type of terrain that will help or hinder movement, ranged attacks as well as hand to hand combat. Some of this terrain comes with physical trees and rocks, that not only make a picturesque playing field but make a difference to the game as it can be destroyed to remove, along with their penalty's and benefits. Because we all know the frustration of losing a game on the count of one small obstruction that prevented you taking a shot at a very weak God, who you'd like to kill before they have a chance to absorbs an Omphalos, winning the game.
Find, and fulfill your destiny!
Skirmish mode is the common way to play this game, two, three or four players. But there are also some campaign's and scenarios that will hold your attention. Where you'll race to find healing plants or rescue a princess. Even the possibility of cooperatively playing to prevent the Hydra from entering the local, defenseless village is available to play. You may play an all Vs all or team up in pairs. With a system that allocates points accordingly to the number of player and the side that they are on. A one verses three player game is also a viable. But no solo mode...Boo-Hoo!
But you'll probably play more skirmish's than anything. They are simple to set up from the scenario book and allow you the freedom to create your army's from the mutilated of units and characters. With a simple end game of either destroying the opponents God or getting your God to absorb more Omphalos than the others. As well as an easy way to get into the game, they also serve as useful way to see the potential in your warriors for future battles. This game is one massive and mythical learning experience.
Getting your head around all the powers and ability as well as accustoming yourself to the terrain can be a bit tricky if you are not into heavy, epic, strategic warfare. As there is hand management, card counting, spatial perception of the board and taking note of all your characters statistic that change with the damage they take. Even so, the game play mechanisms will sink in quite quickly, making it an enjoyable, flowing experience. Especially with the big reference cards available.
Call no man happy who is not dead!
Most games have your hero preforming dice combat to show their impressive sword skills or other ability for mowing down the opposing minis. Even when your character is on their last legs and final drop of blood, they are still swinging their weapon high, rolling the same amount of dice as they did at the beginning of the game. Not here...
Going back to my HeroClix's days, I remember the sensation of having a hero weaken in combat, struggling to survive. And they needed help from the my other character, just to stay in the game. And the win that I accomplished, even with this Achilles Heel was a gratifying one. The same is here. Each character has a life point bar that, when damaged, depletes. On it's way down to death, their strength of their attracts get weaker as you roll less dice. Also, their defense may go down, or their movement will be reduced. All leading to the demise of that character. Some may have powers that only unlock when reduced to one point of life, like the Phoenix. Making it a more realistic, down to earth system that is reflected in it's combat. If a Phoenix really excised, that is.
the bigger they are...
Talking of combat, what would an epic game like this be, without epic dice rolling. There is plenty of that in this game. Fortuna may not be your chosen Goddess, but that is no bad thing. You can manipulate your dice in an exploding fashion or sacrifice them.
Technically, five sided dice, even though they have six faces, only five of which have the possibility of doing damage. The blank face is an immediately remove dice when rolled. Any other number can be sacrificed and remove to make the value of another rise by one. Transforming a die from a three to a five by removing two other dice is a good way to hit those powerful Gods with a defense that is higher than the values marked on the dice themselves. I hear you saying, "how can I damage a God that has eight in defense but the highest value on a die is five?" The importance of have a five on your dice is they can be rolled again, adding it's new value to it's previous. Giving you those higher results with this exploding dice mechanic.
It leaves players feeling that they have some way to negate their dice rolls and manipulate the result to what they want, which many games don't give you. Unless you have a power. Added to that, the fact that when you remembered to add the bonus from the terrain and that characters special ability, will have your fist punching in the area when you achieve massive (maybe mythic level) damage.
titan against titan. it's all in the cards
If Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! is your thing, you may take solace in the fact that you will have the same power in your hands as in those games. Your deck of cards are made up of the characters you drafted and some special Act Of War cards. Every turn, you'll add one card from your deck to you existing hand and then play one or many cards that will summon minis to the board, or move that minis if already placed. With no text, these cards are easy to read, activating the depicted character leaving you with the hard choise. Which simple or complex actions to take. Using them wisely can bring a level of complexity to your plans as each character has a different amount of cards assigned to them. Leaving you card counting your opponents deck and second guessing who they will activate the next turn.
Burning the Act Of War cards or later in the game, Omphalos cards, are a way to preform other actions. Like playing and activating a second character or drawing more cards into your hand. You can even search the deck for that valuable card that you need right now. Hand management is key element in the fight to victory. Use your cards sparingly and your army is reduced to nothing. And running through your deck too quickly may not be advisable either, as your opponent will get to place their whole remaining deck in their hand. Giving them the upper hand (excuse the pun) in the vast number of cards to pick from.
this is how epic it is...
Release the Krakken!
This is a massive game. Not only massive in scope and game play but also as massive as some of it's mini's. In particular, the Titans that are very impressive figure with a great amount of detail. In fact, every single mini, carved die, character board and other component has been magnificently produced for this game. I can not state the amount of fantastically beautiful attention to detail has gone into producing this game. Of course the art work stands out, by far. This is a game that, if I could have on the wall, I would. But I would probably have to construct a few more walls to have sufficient space to place everything. As would you, if you were to back this project at it's highest level.
If your looking for a very deep warfare experience with high production values, I could not recommend a better one. This game has teeth, like a Krakken. Battles a satisfyingly profound after the placement of you army start to amass. And many expansions that need a Krakken size hole on your gaming shelf. With deep and thoughtful decisions to made every turn, players may play as quick a someone who has looked into the eyes of Medusa. Every battle is a real fight, even struggle between the players to become the victory. If this game is missing something, it's the word "EPIC" from the title. This is the EPIC miniature combat game to end then all.
my original KS videos
Technical Score 10/10
My BGG Score 7/10
Combined Score 8.5/10
Can't Stop is a game that is almost as old as my wife. 38 years ago, this game hit the store thanks to Parker Brothers. A game driven by the luck of dice but leaves you feeling that you have control...until you literary "CAN'T STOP!!!"
Players can climb up to ten mountains. Each Mountain has a value that you can get by adding two dice together. Players roll four dice and pair them up. They can move three mountaineering teams on three of the ten mountains but will need the results of the dice to correspond with the number of the mountain they are climbing. If with the dice you have the same value as the mountain your team is climbing, you can advance them. If you can not advance any of them, the fall off the mountain and restart from their last camp.
Ending your turn is your choice. If you stop before your teams fall off, they will set up camp. Therefore saving their progress.
A very simple concept that evolved in the days when Yahtzee was the only other dice game. And unlike it's predecessor, is still a great deal of fun. Although the Yahtzee mechanism has
been implemented into many game since King Of Tokyo hit the market, there are none that have this addictive dice rolling. Making Can't Stop unique and great fun for all.
have a look for your self