Shards of the Jaguar (2020) first impressions
What’s it about?
Kahanur, your tribe's founding father, long ago defended your people by transforming into a spiritual Jaguar. But the enemy eventually learnt how to curse this spirit and break it into crystal shards. As an Initiate of your tribe, you have vowed to find these crystal shards from a sacred temple. Doing so will grant you the great honor of becoming the heir of Kahanur...But others at the table will be doing the same thing for the same reasons. To be successful over your adversaries, you will need to be devious and lay traps to slow them down.
Remember that these are first impressions of a prototype. Rules, mechanics and components may be different from the final version of this product.
How do we play?
After players have chosen their characters and decided player order, they will collect their starting amulet and another from their chosen entry into the temple. They now have 8 rounds to enter this sacred place, find treasure, amulets, perform rituals, and find map pieces that will lead to the Shards of the Jaguar. 6 of these rounds will allow the players to explore 3 out of the 4 board areas of the temple, while the last 2 rounds open up this final quarter. This area is where you’ll use any map pieces you have, to pinpoint the Shards of the Jaguar. Followed by a bonus round where they need to escape with the movement points allocated by their remaining health points.
Each round is constructed of 4 phases.
Points can be earned, not only by trapping other players but also by your collection of gems, performing rituals and your remaining health points. Points can also be lost from the amount of curses you have received or if you take damage and have no health.
Respect for the theme?
Traps and treasure go hand in hand, just like Indiana Jones and artifacts. The fact that you are all from the same tribe, maybe even related and are deliberately trying to hamper the other players feels a little wrong. You feel obliged to be the nasty player, even if you just want a fair and friendly competition. Poisoning others or having them pricked by a handful of arrows is essential to scoring points but not amusing if you are a passive player who just wants to use skill to go in, collect stuff and get out. Luckily, you don’t always have to set off traps that damage other players (and possibly yourself). There are two “so called” traps that do no damage. One is a secret passage that you and only you can use to jump around the board. The other is a flood of water that will displace all played 2 spaces in any of the 4 directions (north, east, south, west) but with a small benefit for you, as you were prepared for it.
The collection of amulets and crystals fits right into the universe, as they are things we have seen in games like this many times. It’s nice to see that they have more than one reason to be there apart from earning point. Amulets give you powers when used. Allowing you to heal or traverse walls, but most importantly, granting an all important extra action. And using crystals to pray at altars, leading more points your way if you are the first to do so. The only thematic thing that seems out of place is this forcefield that prevents players entering the last quarter of the board until round 7. It would fit perfectly into a sci-fi universe, where robots are decrypting codes and laying traps, just until the shields are removed, allowing them to get the hidden rebel plans and jettison in an escape pod. But apart from those things, the theme works.
This game screams interaction. You are snatching up things before others get to them. Deliberately trying to damage them, just to gain points. And constantly trying to out think them and predict where they will go. You will be forever in each other's face, laughing as they fall in your trap, growling at you as you pick up that map piece they were going to grab. The game is constant backstabbing and playful unfriendliness.
Dive into the mechanisms?
The 4 phases are simple to slip into. From determining player order, which is logic, to the movement and trap setting. Having a restricted number of actions keeps the game very tight and slick. Movement is orthogonal, an action point is required to pick up things, use things and move. This leads to lots of calculating on what you want to do on your turn and where you think you will finish your movement. Very important this, as you do not wish to set a trap beforehand, only to be sat in it. And this calculation is very important if you play the more experienced level, where after round 8, you NEED to escape the temple but can only move as many spaces as your life point tracker indicates.
This restricted action point mechanism didn’t work too well in the 2 player version, as there are slightly different rules. With 2 players, there are 2 extra phases. You’ll set a trap, use 2 action points, set a second trap and use your remaining points. This stop and start is a little frustrating, as you may have something planned for the round, but because you are only doing half of it before the other player activates, they can screw you over. Running to the location you hoped to get to, making you have to change your plans halfway through a round. Remember, action points are very tight in this game. You won’t be able to do everything that you plan.
There are a lot of moving pieces in the game. So much going on. You move here, pick that up, this lets you get points, using this means you discard it. The game is simple in principle, but there are many things to remember. You may get bogged down and forget to level up when your score tracker passes a certain point. Or you may be so concerned with your gem collection that you forget to heal yourself, then you fall into not one, but two traps. Taking your health below zero and removing points from your score track. This has the look and feel of a family game, but there is a thin layer added to make it a little more intricate.
Remember, this is a prototype that I am talking about so not everything has been made correctly at this time. For one, the colours on the board and tokens are very dark and sometimes a little difficult to see. This made the setup a little longer than it should have been, added to that is there is a lot to setup. More differentiation between the types of tiles would smooth it out, also larger icons. The icons get a bit lost in the artwork themselves, although they are relatively simple to learn.
The artwork is nice and fits the feel of the theme of a temple. It was relatively simple to distinguish which traps were where. The main board we had was a set layout, whether the final version will be modular or have more types of map is unseen as I write this. I presume that later the wooden components will be replaced with more elaborate looking bits. Even if they aren't, you quickly become accustomed to what they represent.
With two versions of the game (an introductive and normal level) the rules themselves are relatively simple to pick up. There are a lot of little things to remember, so during a first playthrough you’ll probably have to go back through the book to check a few things. A second or even third play and you will have mastered it. You will probably always need a reference card though, to remind you of what each amulet's power is and each gem's value at the end of the game, as some have standard points while others are cumulative. And the added exception of checking on each character's special powers.
Yes, each character can level up and collect amulets as they go and when fully maxed out, they have their own unique power that bends the rules. From defending against traps to transforming amulets. And there is so much choice in what you can do. Do you go for the gems for their end game value? Or collect them to make tributes to score bonus points and level up? Do you grab all the map pieces that let you claim the high scoring Shards of the Jaguar? Do you grab the amulets and abuse their powers to your own evil needs? Finding a good strategy in amongst all that is a challenge as you weave in amongst each other, trying not to get hurt or cursed by the traps that appear in all the chaos.
I feel that the introductive version of the game is best suited to families who like games like Survive: Escape From Atlantis. As it removes the character powers and makes amulets a little more available. It also removes that bonus round after round 8 of getting out of the temple on the life points you have remaining.
Aside from the two player version which felt too “stop & start”, having more players became more intricate. Planning your moves, based on what you thought the other players would do or where they would set off traps adds a nice bit of cat and mouse to the game. Sometimes this would backfire and you may find yourself falling in everybody else's traps and no one falls in yours, giving those an instant boost on their score, leaving you trailing behind. As long as this doesn't happen every round, you should be ok. But there are points aplenty and there is always a possibility of catching up with the other players by doing other things. But is it balanced? I can not tell at this time.
One thing that didn’t feel balanced is the characters final and permanent powers. Having two scoring markers that both move when someone falls in your trap is quite powerful. The scoring track itself is not 1 point by 1 point. It jumps in increments of 3 and if you manage to get to the end of it, it goes up in increments of 5! Compared to the power to try and guess which trap will hit you on a round. Guess correctly and you take no damage from that trap. They seem balanced in a two player game, but with more players and more traps, more traps means a more likely chance of someone falling into one. Enhancing one of these powers while diminishing the other. Or the ability to use a blue amulet to move 2 spaces. I suppose that it gives an objective for that player to collect blue amulets when they unleash that power. And getting to that level can be easy or difficult depending on where the gems and tribute posts are. Plus whoever is unlucky enough to fall into your traps.
There are a lot of moving parts in this family style game. Maybe too many if you play the full version. Even the introductory level, I feel could be lightened to make it more accessible to a younger audience. With a lot of moving of components from one space to another, things may get forgotten in all this shifting of tracks and items collected. A little heavier than your average family style game, but no less fun. With the push your luck element of “what should I take” and “how far should I advance” that you will find in games like Clank. Infact, playing this will probably appeal to that audience more than a kid friendly one. But all of this ties up nicely into an exciting race to get the most points. While stepping on the other players toes, hoping they fall into your devious traps. Tense and exciting, if you don’t mind the luck factor.
5,4,3,2,1 ... GoldoCubes go !
De quoi ça parle ?
Que faites-vous quand vous vivez au Japon, que la terre commence à trembler et que soudainement, des Kaiju font irruption dans votre ville? Eh bien, vous construisez une entreprise, un grand Mécha, des bâtiments pour produire des ressources et vous les affronter ... Et au passage si vous pouvez affaiblir la concurrence c'est un plus...
C'est un peu les prémisses de New Osaka, un nouveau jeu en ce moment sur Kickstarter publié par Daso Games, qui vous propose vos types préférés de monstres japonais, une multitude de bâtiments différents à construire... et vous avez juste besoin de votre gros cerveau pour gérer les ressources et la main-d'œuvre dans le but de sauver ce petit coin du monde.
Important : N'oubliez pas que ce sont les premières impressions d'un prototype. Les règles, la mécanique et les composants peuvent être différents de la version finale.
Comment on y joue ?
Chaque joueur devra choisir une société qui a son propre point de départ désigné sur le plateau principal. Il récupère ensuite un jeu de cartes de combat personnel à chaque faction, de l'argent en yens, des cubes pour marquer les ressources et deux plateaux de joueurs. L'un pour marquer vos progrès et l'autre pour garder un œil sur vos employés et votre productivité. Vous jouerez pendant 9 tours et chaque tour est divisé en 4 phases. Dans chacune d'elle, chaque joueur effectuera continuellement une action, jusqu'à ce que tout le monde passe. Le moyen le plus simple de comprendre le jeu est d'expliquer ce qui se passe à chaque phase puisque chaque action mène à la suivante.
Un joueur après l'autre attribuera un ou plusieurs de ses meeples ouvriers à un bâtiment sur la carte. Il peut s'agir de bâtiments publics, ouvert à tous, ou d'un bâtiment personnel (ou de son QG). Ces bâtiments correspondent à vos constructions ou à ceux que vous avez volé à votre adversaire.
En plaçant un ouvrier et en payant le coût en yens pour cette ressource, vous collecterez autant de ces jetons qu'indiqué par votre plateau joueur. Dépenser 2 ouvriers sur votre propre base vous permettra de construire l'une des quatre machines possibles (voitures, machine d'ingénierie, machine robotique et chasseur) qui sont utilisées pour améliorer les bâtiments, aider au combat ou simplement servir comme simple ressource.
Dans cette phase, tous les ouvriers qu'il vous reste peuvent être utilisés pour déplacer votre Mécha dans la ville ou simplement pour collecter des yens. Il y a 4 cases Action, chacune avec des quantités différentes de points de mouvement ou de yens à collecter. Mais seulement un maximum de 3 de ces espaces (un meeple par case d'action) peuvent être utilisés par tour. Parfois moins selon les dégâts subis par votre Mécha ou le nombre d'ouvriers qu'il vous reste après la première phase. Déplacez votre Mécha pour faire face au Kaiju que vous souhaitez rencontrer (afin de libérer de l'espace pour une éventuelle future construction) ou allez tenter de vous emparer d'un bâtiment contrôlé par un autre joueur. Dans ce cas, il est possible qu’une phase de combat soit déclenchée entre les méchas de deux joueurs.
Dans cette phase, vous pourrez choisir de construire de nouveaux bâtiments, parmi les 6 visibles, en dépensant vos ressources durement gagnées. Chacun d'eux a son propre coût. Si vous n'aimez pas ceux disponibles, vous pouvez dépenser entre 1 et 2 yens pour défausser et piocher respectivement 1 ou 2 nouveaux bâtiments. Chaque construction entre en jeu sur la face «en construction» ou «non active». Pour activer un bâtiment et pouvoir l'utiliser dans la première phase, vous devrez payer un autre coût indiqué. Chaque joueur à son tour peut soit acheter un bâtiment, soit en améliorer un déjà sur le plateau, soit investir dans la reconstruction de New Osaka. C'est une construction commune à plusieurs étages et dont chaque partie apporte des points d'influence à celui qui la construit.
Très simplement, tous vos ouvriers reviendront à la maison ainsi que votre Mécha, qui reviendra à votre base principale. Tout Kaiju retiré en raison d'un combat verra son espace vide à nouveau occupé par un nouveau.
Le combat est une action simple. Vous allez jeter votre propre D12. Que vous combattiez d'autres joueurs Méchas ou l'un des Kaiju, c'est votre attaque de base. Celle-ci peut être améliorée en dépensant des roquettes ou des chasseurs à réaction que vous avez construits préalablement. Sans oublier votre propre deck de combat personnel. Vous aurez 10 cartes en main et vous pourrez jouer l'une de ces cartes. Toutes ces augmentations optionnelles à votre attaque doivent être décidées avant que quiconque ne lance l'un de ses dés. Les Monstres Kaiju (quatre types possibles) qui seront exposés à côté du plateau, ont tous des dés différents à utiliser en combat (de D6 à D14) ainsi que différentes récompenses. Parfois des Yens et parfois une mise à niveau pour produire plus d'une certaine ressource. Lorsque vous combattez un autre joueur, vous vous battrez probablement pour le contrôle d'un bâtiment. Celui qui gagne prend le contrôle du bâtiment tandis que le perdant rentre chez lui avec un jeton Blessure (le défenseur s'il est victorieux peut voler des yens). Toutes les victoires (type de Kaijus ou contre d'autres Méchas) sont enregistrées sur votre tableau de progression. Ce sont des objectifs communs que les joueurs doivent viser.
Le but du jeu est d'avoir le plus de points après 9 tours. Les points sont marqués en accomplissant les objectifs communs (premier arrivé, premier servi), en construisant ou en améliorant des bâtiments, en construisant une partie du château d'Osaka, en détruisant des Kaiju et en remportant des combats contre votre adversaire.
Respect du thème ?
Barry : C'est un jeu avec pour thème du style japonais typique : mélange de Méchas et de monstres, ainsi que de sociétés maléfiques (si vous vous considérez comme diabolique). Les monstres eux-mêmes semblent être sans but, plus un peu comme des canards assis sur un étang. Ils ne servent qu'à marquer des points, gagner de l'argent et des ressources. Comme le jeu n'a pas d'objectif global et que les joueurs peuvent aller comme ils le souhaitent pour obtenir des points pour gagner, le thème est plutôt dans l'esprit visuel que dans le gameplay.
Guilou : Un jeu se déroulant au Japon, un univers futuriste, des méchas, des Kaijus, de la construction ... Sur le papier, tout est là pour me plaire. Mais on oublie vite le pourquoi et le comment. Le problème vient du fait que ce mélange de genre se perd un peu au milieu d'une accumulation de mécanismes qui sont finalement assez abstraits. Les Kaijus ne sont là que pour justifier une amélioration de nos capacités et une contrainte à construire. Ils ne bougent pas, ne se battent pas (ils ne se défendent que contre la barbarie des humains expansionnistes) et réapparaissent sans véritables explications (d'ailleurs quel est leur but dans la vie?). La construction de New Osaka et de son château n'a pas vraiment d'impact (à part gagner des points de victoire). Le développement de sa société se fait de manière assez abstraite.
Sans hésiter, l'auteur est passionné par ce style d'univers, on le sent dans ce qu'il veut nous transmettre. Mais malheureusement le jeu n'arrive pas à retranscrire efficacement cette passion. Dommage car avec un peu plus de background et quelques changements de gameplay on pourrait se laisser séduire par cet ensemble.
Qu'en est-il de l’interaction ?
Barry : Nous avons joué une partie à 3 joueurs et nous avons choisi des sociétés aux quatre coins du plateau, en nous séparant bien. (Comme il s'agit d'un jeu à 5 joueurs, l'une des sociétés du plateau principal est coincée entre deux autres.) Notre partie était très tranquille car nous en avons découvert de plus en plus sur le jeu au fur et à mesure que nous jouions. La principale interaction entre nous provenait uniquement des bâtiments publics. En tant que premier utilisateur de l'usine de plastique par exemple, cela signifiait que vous n'aviez besoin que d'un seul ouvrier (plus le coût en yens) pour obtenir la ressource pour l'activer. Si vous étiez le deuxième joueur à aller dans la même usine, vous devrez dépenser 2 ouvriers. Et 3 ouvriers si vous étiez le 3ème.
La majeure partie du jeu a été consacrée à combattre les Kaiju, car ils semblaient être une bonne forme de revenu: soit en yens, soit dans la productivité de la génération de ressources. Et comme certains des objectifs communs étaient de tuer un montant «X» de l'un des quatre types de Kaiju, cela semblait être une voie facile à suivre.
Ce n'est qu'au tour 7 ou 8 que nous avons commencé à ne pas nous éviter les uns les autres. Quelqu'un a construit un bâtiment qu'un autre joueur a trouvé intéressant, car il produisait une ressource très rare, et cela a déclenché de nombreux combats entre nous. Il existe une multitude de bâtiments et 12 ressources différentes, dont certaines sont très difficiles à trouver: soit produites par le bâtiment lui-même ou elle ne peut pas être fabriquée directement et doit être transformée à partir d'autre chose.
Très vite, les joueurs forts se sont imposés sur les faibles. Qu'est-ce que je veux dire par là? Eh bien, tout le monde peut voir combien de roquettes, de chasseurs à réaction et de cartes qui restent entre leurs mains. Ainsi, si vous voyez que quelqu'un en a moins et que vous en avez une multitude, vous attaquez alors juste pour l'attaque.
Guilou : Le jeu oscille entre interaction directe et indirecte. Cependant, l'interaction directe semble gagner la plupart du temps. Tout semble vous pousser à faire attention à ce que font vos adversaires. Mais paradoxalement, vous pouvez vous retrouver à jouer une bonne partie des neuf tours dans votre propre coin. L'interaction directe se retrouve au niveau du choix de construction des bâtiments (mince je voulais celui-ci et tu me l'as volé) ce qui peut déclencher des affrontements entre joueurs pour leurs possessions. Il y a aussi la course à l'objectif qui permet de maintenir une certaine tension.
Même si se battre avec un autre joueur peut devenir rentable (gagner des points de victoire et contrôler un nouveau bâtiment), cela peut aussi être très (peut-être trop?) punitif en cas de défaite. Cette sanction peut rapidement vous faire réfléchir et hésiter s'il faut attaquer l'autre. Ajoutez à cela le coût des vaisseaux ou des missiles et le coût de récupération des cartes, le choix d'attaquer l'autre est de plus en plus discutable. Ainsi, vous pouvez facilement rester dans votre coin, vous développer tranquillement et éventuellement en dernier recours vous tourner vers les autres.
Heureusement, pour surmonter cela et ajouter un peu d'interaction directe, l'auteur a pensé à intégrer une sorte de système d'enchères sur l'utilisation des bâtiments. Pendant la phase de ressources, le premier à arriver à un emplacement n'utilisera qu'un seul travailleur pour produire. Le deuxième deux et le troisième trois. Sachant que chaque joueur n'a que sept ouvriers, le choix devient plus judicieux. Mais pour que cela fonctionne et ajoute de la tension, plusieurs joueurs doivent se concentrer sur les mêmes objectifs ou sur les bâtiments publics, car les bâtiments privés souffrent moins de cette «ruée».
Enfin, la construction conjointe de New Osaka aurait pu être une bonne idée pour augmenter le défi entre les joueurs. Cependant, les étapes sont très coûteuses, avec des ressources très dures et longues à produire,pour n'apporter finalement «que» des points de victoire. Cela peut rapidement décourager les participants. Tout ça pour dire que "oui, il peut y avoir une interaction assez forte entre les joueurs" tant que tout le monde joue le jeu. Sinon, elle aura du mal à se développer au mieux. Vous devrez alors vous contenter d'une interaction moins présente basée sur «il a attaqué le monstre que je voulais» ou «il vient de construire ou de produire sur le bâtiment que je voulais».
Plonger au coeur des mécanismes
Barry : La chose merveilleuse à propos de ce jeu était la facilité avec laquelle il était simple de s'y plonger, en grande partie grâce au fait que le livre de règles découlait du gameplay. Ou peut-être était-ce parce que ce jeu semblait un peu similaire à beaucoup d’autres.
Le premier mécanisme principal est le placement de l'ouvrier, qui n'est pas trop lourd ou qui suscite la réflexion au début de la partie. Mais au fur et à mesure que le jeu avance et que le plateau se remplit de plus en plus de bâtiments et que de plus en plus d'options apparaissent, chaque travailleur devient de plus en plus vital. Éviter les dommages à votre Mécha est vital, car plus vous collectez de jetons de dégâts, moins vous pouvez utiliser d'ouvriers. Sans compter les actions pour déplacer votre Mécha et générer de l'argent.
Le deuxième mécanisme principal est la gestion des ressources. Gagner de l'argent et générer des ressources semble très simple et l'est. Mais cela ressemble à une montagne. Du début à la fin, il semblait y avoir une évolution très, très lente de votre entreprise. Tout semblait durement gagné. Entrer dans ce jeu sans se fixer d'objectif ou sans savoir quels types de bâtiments peuvent être construits pendant le jeu peut être un gros challenge pour un nouveau joueur. Un calcul à froid est nécessaire à chaque action. Ramasser une ressource que vous n'utiliserez jamais ou dont vous n'aurez jamais besoin, vous coûtera cher. Bien entendu, vous pouvez vous sentir poussé de vous laisser guider par les ressources que vous avez collecté pour construire n'importe quel bâtiment. Mais celui-ci peut ne pas servir votre objectif voir tenter les yeux d'un autre joueur.
Le troisième mécanisme est le combat. Encore une fois, cela est intuitif pour quiconque a joué à des jeux de société, car cela nécessite de lancer des dés. Il y a donc la chance des dés, mais cela peut être modifié par les cartes et les forces supplémentaires que vous avez fabriquées. Ceci est rapide à réaliser et ne laisse pas les autres joueurs attendre leur tour.
Le mécanisme le plus important est celui qui permet à chaque joueur d'effectuer une action avant de passer au joueur suivant, puis de revenir vers vous, permettant une autre action (si possible). Cela fait une fluidité dans le jeu et vous rappelle que vous faites partie de ce monde. Vous avez peu de temps pour jouer avec votre téléphone ou faire une pause aux toilettes (sauf si vous passez). Vous serez collé à la table.
Guilou : Un peu comme un jeu comme Scythe, New Osaka est un jeu qui mélange de nombreux mécanismes. Nous commençons par du placement d'ouvriers. Nous devrons aller trouver les bonnes ressources pour optimiser au mieux leurs prochains achats et actions. Vous avez sept travailleurs qui devront être utilisés de la meilleure façon. N'oubliez pas qu'ils vous serviront en deux phases distinctes, veillez à ne pas les épuiser trop rapidement.
La phase Mécha ajoute un petit côté ameritrash avec confrontation directe (Kaiju ou bâtiments adverses). Les combats se résolvent de manière simple avec le lancement d'un dés 12 enrichi par l'utilisation de ressources (missiles ou vaisseaux) et par la chance du tirage de cartes. Simple mais pas simpliste car la défaite coûte chère tout comme les ressources de renforts.
Vous vous retrouvez ensuite avec la construction de bâtiments ou leur amélioration qui dépendent beaucoup des ressources accumulées précédemment.
Enfin, il y a une notion de course pour le premier qui atteint des objectifs différents (les mêmes dans chaque jeu) et l'apparition d'un immense bâtiment qui peut être construit par n'importe qui.
Tout est fluide et facilement assimilable. Mais vous voyez beaucoup de mécanismes différents qui se chevauchent et s'entrelacent tout au long des neuf tours. Il peut alors être difficile de jongler entre une demande d'optimisation avancée et une chance assez présente qui peut venir tout détruire pendant un tour. Le jeu ne pardonne pas et chaque choix est important. Le droit de commettre des erreurs peut être très coûteux sur le long terme.
New Osaka est clairement un jeu qui se joue rapidement mais qui prend beaucoup de temps à vraiment maîtriser. Il vous faudra plusieurs parties pour commencer à développer de vraies stratégies gagnantes et à sortir des coups de chance. Notez que malgré les choix apparemment simples, l'attente entre deux tours peut parfois être longue, surtout si vous avez mal optimisé et que vous avez passé.
Un petit détour par le Matériel :
Barry : Le jeu est très coloré et il y a une tonne de composants différents. Des cartes aux jetons, des dés aux figurines et bien sûr tous les plateaux des joueurs. Le plateau principal lui-même n'est pas trop grand, ce qui laisse de la place pour que vos Méchas et vos jetons soient bien positionnés. Rien ne semblait trop perdu dans le déluge de couleurs qui vous étaient présentés. Bien que les icônes auraient pu être agrandies pour le rendre plus évident sur les bâtiments et leurs fonctions. Il y avait aussi une déconnexion entre les icônes de chacun des Kaiju et leurs illustrations sur leurs cartes. Pendant un certain temps, nous avons eu l'obligation de regarder le dos des cartes pour voir la couleur et l'icône correspondantes au type du monstre.
Chaque ressource était facile à distinguer par sa couleur et sa forme, même si comme dans ce prototype, tout ne sera pas des cubes, je suppose. Les illustations sont phénoménales ainsi que la conception graphique simple qui a facilité la création de connexions (à part les monstres susmentionnés).
Guilou : Difficile de s'exprimer sur l'ensemble vu que rien n'est terminé. Après avoir joué sur le proto, il reste encore beaucoup à améliorer et à définir. D'après ce que nous avons vu, l'ensemble devrait être efficace. Les ressources seront chacune différentes sous la forme d'un jeton spécifique. Les illustrations sont bien choisies que ce soit sur les cartes Méchas, le visuel du plateau ou sur les Kaijus. Un petit rappel entre les jetons Kaiju et les types de cartes associés peut être le bienvenu.
Les figurines (même si ce n'étaient que des rendus en 3D) sont vraiment belles, avec des poses bien choisies et assez détaillées. New Osaka est un bâtiment à assembler directement selon ce que nous avons choisi de construire, ce qui le rend amusant. L'ergonomie du jeu est bonne, l'iconographie est facile à comprendre et lisible rapidement.
Le KS actuel promet beaucoup d'améliorations aux plateaux qui rendront tout agréable à utiliser. La boîte a l'air pleine et généreuse.
Et si on lisait le livre de règles ?
Barry : C'est l'un de ces jeux simples à apprendre et difficiles à maîtriser. Je me retrouve normalement à dire cela lorsque je joue à un eurogame, mais pas à un jeu de ce genre. Les règles elles-mêmes sont très légères et rendent ce jeu plus simple qu'il ne l'est en réalité. Il n'y a rien de nouveau et d'innovant, ce qui est bon et mauvais à la fois. Il permet aux joueurs de se glisser dans le jeu très rapidement. Encore plus si vous êtes habitué par le placement d'ouvriers dans la collecte de ressources.
Guilou : Les règles sont assez claires et tiennent finalement sur quelques pages. Tout est clair et bien illustré. Pendant le jeu, nous ne sommes pas revenus au livret de règles. Certaines choses manquaient d'existence (comme ce qu'il fallait faire en cas d'égalité) mais la version finale devrait y remédier.
Le jeu est facile à apprendre et les explications sont simples. Mais ce n'est pas si simple à maîtriser et il vous faudra plusieurs parties pour y arriver.
Alors, cette première impression ?
Barry : Cela a probablement été dit 1000 fois à propos de ce jeu, c'est Scythe pour les joueurs inconditionnels. De la mise en place sur la carte, de la figurines en une pièce par faction, du placement de meeple, de la collecte de ressources, des objectifs communs et du bâtiment au milieu du plateau, vous aurez l'impression de jouer au même jeu mais dans un univers différent. Il y a plus de combat et un peu plus d'agressivité pour vos objectifs. Il faut aussi être plus économe en argent et en ressources. Vous serez debout "sur les orteils des gens" pour être le premier dans un bâtiment, pour dépenser moins de travailleurs qu'eux ou retirer délibérément les bâtiments exposés parce que vous pouvez voir qu'un adversaire a les ressources pour le construire. Et bien sûr, vous attaquerez "ceux qui sont plus faibles" que vous, parce que vous le pouvez. C’est une salade de points sans objectif final.
Ce n'est pas un jeu auquel vous pouvez jouer une seule fois et dire que vous l'avez maîtrisé, car la seule chose que vous maîtriserez, ce sont les règles. Il existe 4 niveaux de ressources différentes qui nécessitent différentes méthodes d'obtention, certaines plus faciles que d'autres. Vous pourrez les construire directement ou en convertissant une ressource en une autre. Vous ne verrez probablement pas toutes les tuiles du jeu. Cela ajoute une stratégie à votre façon de jouer qui rendra chaque partie différente. Il existe également un certain nombre de cartes d'attaque, encore une fois, vous ne les verrez pas toutes en une seule fois, car il peut être rare que vous piochiez tout votre deck. Votre main de 10 cartes diminuera rapidement et ne se reconstituera peut-être jamais, en raison de bâtiments rares.
Donc, tactiquement, ce jeu est très profond et très rapide à prendre en main et à jouer. Mais avec la lente progression de votre société, ce jeu donne l'impression que vous êtes assis à table depuis une éternité (plus de 2 heures dans notre réalité de jeu à 3 joueurs). Au fur et à mesure de la partie, de plus en plus d'options deviennent disponibles sur le plateau. Vous pourrez voler les bâtiments d'autres personnes ainsi que les bâtiments que vous pouvez déjà utiliser, la paralysie de l'analyse entre en jeu. Certainement un jeu pour ceux qui aiment la confrontation et les choix profonds et significatifs. Il a l'air magnifique sur la table et si vous aimez frapper quelques fesses de Kaiju, ce jeu pourrait être pour vous.
Guilou : Bien sûr, il est impossible de donner un avis complet en jouant juste au proto et surtout avec si peu de parties. Il s'agit d'un premier avis basé sur des premiers sentiments, il reste important de le souligner.
Le jeu offre un mélange de gameplay qui fonctionne bien séparément mais peut surprendre tout mélangé. Vous aurez besoin de nombreuses parties pour maîtriser vos coups sur le long terme. Contrairement à ce qu'il pourrait laisser entendre, New Osaka n'est pas un ameritrash classique. Nous sommes plus dans un jeu d'optimisation avec une touche de thème. Même s'il est vite oublié, le jeu propose un challenge et une rejouabilité appréciable tant que vous aimez le genre.
En revanche, un sentiment de frustration peut s'emparer rapidement des joueurs: trop peu d'actions, course pour récupérer de l'argent, difficulté à obtenir des ressources rares si la pioche des tuiles est mauvaise, des Kaijus qui sont juste là pour servir à scorer (bon pas seulement, parce que ils nous permettent de nous améliorer) ...
Il y a beaucoup de bonnes idées partout. Il est cependant regrettable que l’impression de ne pas vraiment savoir pourquoi nous faisons cela demeure. Nous avons terminé le jeu avec un petit arrière-goût en bouche.
Le jeu peut devenir long dès qu'il y a des joueurs qui aiment explorer toutes les possibilités tactiques possibles. Et pas seulement très long, mais surtout long entre les tours et la sensation du trop. C'est également le cas de ce mélange de genres.
Jeu créé par un passionné, j'ai l'impression que l'auteur a voulu mettre tout ce qu'il aime dans un jeu. Des mécanismes sur des mécanismes qui fonctionnent, mais qui ne fusionnent pas forcément au cours du jeu. C'est dommage car le jeu a un réel potentiel.
Veuillez noter que c'est un jeu pour expert. L'erreur peut vous faire mal et est difficilement rattrapable. Chaque action est importante et chaque choix a un impact à long terme. Malheureusement, il nous a semblé, notamment en raison du système de blessures, qu'un aspect win to win peut se faire sentir (mais cela mériterait plus de parties pour vraiment le confirmer ou non). Cela peut donc ralentir le plaisir du jeu.
Nous n'avons pas eu le sentiment d'une montée en puissace tout au long des tours. Chose habituellement ressentie dans ce genre de jeu, mais tout s'est accéléré dans les deux derniers tours. Enfin, c'est l'impression que nous avons eue. Bien que cette accélération soit peut-être plus due au désir des joueurs de forcer la routine du jeu qu'à la logique naturelle du jeu. Montée en puissance plus rapidement pourrait être préférable pour garder l'attention et l'intérêt des joueurs sur le long terme.
New Osaka est un jeu intéressant, un hybride mécanique qui tente d'innover en mélangeant des mécanismes qui ont fait leurs preuves et qui sont à la fois faciles d'accès mais profonds dans leur application. Parfois, on se demande quand même si un peu plus de simplicité dans la multiplication des phases et surtout dans la construction n'aurait pas été la bienvenue. En attendant, il reste un jeu agréable qui peut encore bénéficier d'améliorations avant sa sortie physique. Si vous aimez l'univers Kaiju et Mécha, New Osaka pourrait être l'eurogame qu'il vous faut.
Vidéo en anglais
5,4,3,2,1...thundercubes are go
Whats is about?
What do you do when you live in Japan, the earth starts to shake and from that shaking, Kaiju Monsters erupt into your city? Well, you build a company, a big Mecha Robot, buildings to produce resources and beat the crap out of them...And also each other.
That is kind of the premises of New Osaka, a new Kickstarter game from Daso Games, that has a load of your favorite types of Japanese monster, multitudes of different buildings to construct, and it just needs your big brains to handle the resources and manpower to save the small corner of the world.
Remember that these are first impressions of a prototype. Rules, mechanics and components may be different from the final version of this product.
How do we play?
Players will choose a corporation that has its own designated space on the main board. Collecting a deck of unique combat cards, some money in Yen, cubes for marking resources and two player boards. One for marking your progress and the other to keep tabs on your workers and productivity. You’ll play for 9 rounds and each round is broken into 4 phases and in each phase every player will continually perform one action each, until everyone passes. The easiest way to understand the game is to explain what happens each phase as each action leads to the next.
Combat is a simple case of Rolling your own personal D12. Whether you're fighting other players Mechs or one of the Kaiju, this is your basic attack. Your attack can be improved by spending any rockets or any jet fighters that you have constructed. Not forgetting your own personal combat deck. Of which you will have 10 cards in your hand and you can play one of these cards. All these optional add-ons to your attack must be decided before anyone rolls any of their dice. The Kaiju Monsters (four possibles types) that will be on display next to the board, all have different dice to use in combat (from D6 to D14) as well as different rewards. Sometimes Yen and sometimes an upgrade to produce more of a certain resource. When fighting another player, you're probably fighting over a control of a building. Whoever wins gets control of the building while the loser goes home with a wound token (the defender if he is victorious can steal yen). All victories (type of Kaijus or against other Mech) are recorded on your progress board, as there are some common objectives for players to aim for.
And the overall objective of the game is to have the most points after 9 rounds. Points are scored from completing the common objectives, building buildings, upgrading buildings, constructing part of Osaka Castle, destroying Kaiju and winning fights against your opponent.
Respect for the theme?
Barry: This is a typical Japanime Style themed game with a mix of Mechs and monsters, plus evil corporations (if you consider yourself to be evil). The monsters themselves seem to be aimless, more like sitting ducks on a pond. Which serve only as a function to score points, gain money and resources. As the game does not have an overall objective and the players can go whichever way they want to get points to win the game, the theme is kind of there more in the visual spirit than the gameplay.
Guilou: A game set in Japan, a futuristic universe, mechs, Kaijus, construction ... On paper, everything is there to please me. But I quickly forget the why and how. The problem stems from the fact that this mixture gets lost a bit in the middle of an accumulation of mechanisms which is ultimately quite abstract. The Kaijus are there only to justify an improvement in our capacities and a constraint to build. They do not move, do not fight (they only defend themselves against the barbarity of expansionist humans) and reappear without real explanations (besides what is their goal in life?). The construction of New Osaka and its castle does not really have any impact (apart from earning victory points). The development of its corporation is done in a fairly abstract way.
Visually, I feel that the designer is passionate about this style of universe, but unfortunately the game does not manage to effectively transcribe this passion. Too bad because with a little more background and some gameplay changes I could be seduced by this whole.
Barry: We played a 3 player game and we chose are corporations from there the four corners of the board, keeping ourselves well apart. As this is a 5 player game, one of the corporations on the main board is slapbang in between two others. Our game was very tranquil as we discovered more and more about the game as we played. The main interaction between us was purely from the public buildings. As being the first player uh at the plastics factory for example, meant you only needed to spend one worker (plus the cost in Yen) to get the resource you needed. If you were the second player to go to the same factory, you are required to spend 2 workers. And 3 workers if you were the 3rd.
Most of the game was spent fighting the Kaiju Monsters, as they seemed a good form of income, either in Yen or in the productivity of resource generating. And as seen as some of the common objectives were to kill “X” amount of one of the four types of Kaiju, this seemed like an easy route to follow.
It wasn't until round 7 or 8, that we started to actually not avoid one another. Someone has built a building that another player found interesting, as it transported one resource into a very rare resource, and this triggered a lot of fighting between us. As there are a multitude of buildings and 12 different resources, some of which are very difficult to come by. Only by the building itself or it cannot be manufactured directly and has to be transformed from something else. Then the strong players prayed on the weak. What do I mean by that? Well, everybody can see how many rockets, jet fighters and cards are left in their hands. And if you see that someone one doesn't have these but you have a multitude, you attack for attack sake.
Guilou: The game oscillates between direct and indirect interaction. However, direct interaction seems to win most of the time. Everything seems to push you to reach out to each other and take care of what your opponents are doing. And paradoxically, you may find yourself playing a good chunk of the nine rounds in your own corner. The direct interaction is found at the level of the choice of construction of the buildings (damn I wanted this one and you stole it from me) which can trigger fights between players for their possessions. There is also the race to the goal aspect which allows to maintain a certain tension.
Even if fighting with another player can become profitable (gain victory points and control a new building), it can also be very (possibly too?) punitive in case of defeat. This sanction can quickly make you think and hesitate if it is necessary to attack the other. Add to this the cost of fighters or missiles and the cost of recovering cards, the choice to attack the other is more and more questionable. So you can easily stay in your corner, develop quietly and possibly as a last resort turn to others.
Fortunately, to overcome this and add a little direct interaction, the designer has thought of incorporating a sort of auction system on the use of buildings. During the resource phase, the first to arrive at a location will only use one worker to produce. The second two and the third three. Knowing that each player has only seven workers, the choice becomes more judicious. But for this to work and add tension, multiple players need to focus on the same objectives or public buildings as private buildings suffer less from this "rush".
Finally, the joint construction of New Osaka could have been a good idea to increase the challenge between players. However, the stages are very expensive, with very hard and long resources to produce, finally bringing "only" victory points can quickly discourage participants. All that to say that “yes there can be a strong enough interaction between players” as long as everyone plays the game. Otherwise, you will already have a hard time trying to develop yourself at best. You will then have to be content with a less present interaction based on "they attacked the monster I wanted" or "they have just built or produced on the building that I wanted".
Dive into the mechanisms
Barry: The wonderful thing about playing this game was how easy it was to slip into, due in large part to the fact that the rulebook flowed with the gameplay. Or maybe it was because this game seemed a little similar to many others.
The first main mechanism is the worker placement, which is not too heavy handed or 2 thought provoking at the beginning of the game. But as the game goes on and the board fills up with more and more buildings and more and more options appear, every worker becomes more and more vital. Avoiding damage to your Mech is vital, as the more damage tokens you collect, the fewer workers you can use. Not only that, you will have list options open to moving your Mech around and generating money.
The second main mechanism is resource management. Making money and generating resources seems very simple and is. But it feels like a grind. From beginning to end, there seemed to be a very, very slow evolution of your corporation. Everything felt hard-earned. Going into this game without setting yourself an objective or knowing what types of buildings can be built during the game can be a setback to a new player. Cold calculating is needed on every turn. Picking up a resource that you will never use or need it will cost you. You may feel urged to be guided by the resources that you collect to just build any building. But that building may not serve your purpose or it might light up the eyes of another player.
The third mechanism is the combat. Again, this is intuitive to anyone who has played board games, as it involves rolling dice. So there is the luck of the dice, but that can be modified by the cards and any extra Arms that you have manufactured. This is quick to carry out and doesn't leave the other players waiting to have their turns.
The most important mechanic is the one that lets each player perform an action before passing to the next player, then coming back to you, allowing another action (if possible). This keeps a fluidity in the game and reminds you you are part of this world. Leaving little time for you to play with your phone or go on a toilet break (unless you pass). You will be glued to the table.
Guilou: A bit like a game like Scythe, New Osaka is a game that mixes up many working mechanisms. We start with worker placement where we will have to go find the right resources to best optimize their next purchases and actions. You have seven workers who will have to be used in the best way. Remember that they will serve you in two distinct phases, be careful not to exhaust them too quickly.
The mechs phase adds a little ameritrash side with direct confrontation (Kaiju or opposing buildings). The fights are resolved in a simple way with the throwing of a 12 dice enhanced by the use of resources (missiles or fighters) and by the luck of the drawing of cards. Simple but not simplistic because the defeat is expensive and also the resources of reinforcements.
You end up with the construction of buildings or their improvement that depend a lot on the resources accumulated previously.
Finally, there is a notion of a race for the first which achieves different objectives (the same in each game) and the appearance of a huge building that can be built by anyone.
Everything is fluid and easily assimilated. But you see a lot of different overlapping and intertwining mechanisms throughout the nine rounds. It can then be difficult to juggle between a request for advanced optimization and a fairly present chance which can come to destroy everything during a turn. The game is not forgiving and every choice is important. The right to make mistakes can be very expensive in the long run.
New Osaka is clearly a game that allows you to learn quickly but take a long time to really learn. It will take several games for you to start developing real winning strategies and pulling out lucky draws. Note that despite the seemingly simple choices, the wait between two rounds can sometimes be long, especially if you have poorly optimized and you go quickly.
Barry: The game is very colourful and there are a ton of different components. From cards to tokens, from dice to miniatures and of course all the players boards. The main board itself is not too large, leaving space for your Mechs and tokens to sit nicely. Nothing felt too lost in the wash of colours that were displayed before you. Although the icons could have been enlarged to make it more evident on buildings and their functions. Also there was a disconnect between the icons of each of the Kaiju and their artwork on their cards. For a while we were worth looking at the back of the cards to see the colour and the icon on to match the name of the monster.
Every resource was easy to distinguish by its colour and it's form, even though in this prototype not everything will be cubes, I presume. The artwork is phenomenal as well as the simple graphic design which made it easy to make connections (apart from the aforementioned monsters).
Guilou: Difficult to express oneself on the whole. Having played on the proto, there is still a lot to improve and define. From what we have seen, the whole is going to be effective. The resources will each be different in the form of a specific token. The illustrations are well chosen whether on the Mechs cards, the board visual or on the Kaijus. A little reminder between Kaiju tokens and associated card types may be welcome.
The figures (even though they were 3D rendered) look really beautiful, with well-chosen poses and quite detailed. New Osaka is a building to be assembled directly according to what we have chosen to build which makes it fun. The game's ergonomics are good, the iconography is easy to understand and readable quickly.
The current KS promises a lot of improvements to the trays which will make everything pleasant to use. The box looks full and generous.
Barry: This is one of those simple to learn and difficult to master games. I normally find myself saying this when playing some type of euro game but not in a game of this genre. The rules themselves are very light and make this game seem simpler than it actually is. There's nothing new and innovative, which is good and bad at the same time. It allows players to slip into a game very quickly. Even more so if you're into resource gathering worker placement.
Guilou: The rules are quite clear and ultimately take a few pages. Everything is clear and well illustrated. During the game, we did not return to the rulebook. Some things lacked existence (like what to do in case of a tie) but the final version should fix it.
The game is easy to learn and the explanations are simple. But it is not that easy to master and you will need several plays to get there.
Barry: This is probably been said 1000 times about this game, this is Scythe for hardcore gamers. From the map layout, the one piece miniature, the meeple placement, resource gathering, common objectives, and the building in the middle of the board, you will feel like you're playing the same game but in a different universe. There is more combat and a smidgen more aggressiveness to your goals. It’s more frugal with money and resources. You will be standing on people's toes to be the first in a building, spending less workers than they do or deliberately discarding buildings from those on display because you can see an opponent has the resources to construct it. And of course, you will be attacking' those who are weaker than you, because you can. It’s a point salad of decisions with no end objective.
This is not a game that you can play once and say that you've mastered it, as the only thing that you will have mastered is the rules. There are 4 different levels of resource that require different methods of obtaining, some easier than others. Either building them directly for by converting one resource into another. You will probably not see every single tile in the game. This adds a strategy to how you play that will make every game feel different. There are also quite a number of attack cards, again you won’t see all in one sitting as it may be rare that you draw from your deck. Your hand of 10 will quickly diminish and possibly never replenish, due to rare buildings.
So tactically this game is very profound, and very quick to pick up and play. But with the slow progression of your corporation, this game feels like you've been sitting at the table for eternity (over 2 hours in our 3 player game reality). As more options become available on the board in the form of stealing other people's buildings as well as which of your buildings are you going to use, analysis paralysis kicks in. Definitely a game for those who like confrontation and deep meaningful choices. It looks beautiful on the table and if you're into kicking a few Kaiju butts, this game could be for you.
Guilou: Of course, it is impossible to give a full opinion while playing the proto and especially with so few parts. This is a first opinion based on first feelings, it remains important to underline this.
The game offers a mix of gameplay that works well separately but can surprise all mixed up. You will need many games in order to master your games in the long run. Contrary to what might be implied, New Osaka is not a classic ameritrash. We are more in an optimization game with a hint of theme. Even if it is quickly forgotten, the game offers a challenge and a significant replayability as long as you like the genre.
On the other hand, a feeling of frustration quickly seizes the players: too few actions, race to recover money, difficulty to obtain scarce resources if the drawing of tiles is bad, Kaijus who are just there to serve to argue (good not only because they allow us to improve) ...
There are many great ideas throughout. It is however unfortunate that the impression of not really knowing why we are doing this remains. We ended the game with a little aftertaste in the mouth. And at the same time, the game can get so short that there are players who like to explore all possible tactical possibilities. And not only really long, but especially long between turns and the feeling of too much on display. This is also the case with this mix of genres.
Game created by an enthusiast, I have the impression that the designer wanted to put everything he likes in a game. Mechanisms on mechanisms which work, but which do not necessarily merge during the game. It's a shame because the game has real potential.
Please note, this is a game for players. The mistake can cause you to lose unexpectedly. Every action is important and every choice has a long-term impact. Unfortunately, it seemed to us, especially due to the injury system, a win to win aspect can be felt (but this would deserve more games to really confirm it or not). This can therefore slow down the pleasure of the game.
We didn't have the feeling of increasing power that we can feel along the round in this kind of game, but everything accelerated in the last two. Finally, it is the impression we had. Although this acceleration was perhaps more due to the desire of the players to force the routine of the game than the natural logic of the game. Starting a little faster might be better to keep players' attention and interest for the long haul.
New Osaka is an interesting game, a mechanical hybrid which tries to innovate by mixing mechanisms which have been proven and which are at the same time easy to access but deep in their application. Finally, one wonders if a little more simplicity in the multiplication of phases and especially in the construction would not have been welcome. In the meantime, it remains an enjoyable game that can still benefit from improvement before its physical release. If you like the Kaiju and Mecha universe, New Osaka might be the Eurogam for you.
Everybody likes to build things. And in my case, it's a beautiful garden. Whether it be a game like Agricola, where you are building up a family farm, or a game like Cottage Garden where planting flower beds is the name of the game (and having pesky cats help you out). Even planting flower beds in Queenz, to attract those wonderfully pollinating bees. We all love this wonderful building feeling and profiting off our hard work. Autofarmer does a little bit of the reverse, where you start with a nice garden and you need to protect it and keep it in pristine condition allowing you a profitable harvest at the end of the game.
Autofarmer is not about growing your usual plants. This is a game about growing cannabis, marijuana, ganja, whatever you want to call it. And why are you growing it? Well apparently you're interested in using it to create cosmetics or food crops. You can even have it transmuted into a natural plastic from it's vegetable fibres to be used in furniture, cars and boats. Yes, this is an organic product that has some Environmental benefits. And that is why you're growing it.
The game is for two to four players and involves playing cards, dice and large amounts of sabotaging of your opponents gardens. It has already been published in the Czech Republic for a few years now, and now it’s coming to Kickstarter so it can hit the global market. The link to the Kickstarter is just below here.
So how does it play? Depending on the number of players will determine the number of rounds that are played. So with a four-player game, 4 rounds are played and at the end of each round players will record their scores from their remaining crops. Each round is broken down into three phases. The sprouting phase, the flowering phase, and the harvest phase. After a start player has been chosen, they will roll a pair of dice 2 times, remembering their results. The highest result will allow them to collect that number of seed cards while the lower value they scored would tell them how many of those seeds have actually started to grow. So a very simple case of taking “X” amounts of cards and only revealing “Y” amounts of cards. In turn order each player will do the same. Some players may end up having more cards than others while other players may have more seeds then plants. This is the start of the deliberations and Alliances that will be formed over the game.
Every grown plant has a weight of 40 grams. What you want to do is to try and keep these plants at that weight or higher by the end of the round. As their weight is your score. Things will be happening to those plans during the course of the game. They may get Mites that will eat them, or molds that will destroy them. But you will have the chance to protect them with some products that you can spray to remove these diseases, as well as the opportunity to do a little harvesting before the harvest phase. Which would be kind of like banking some of your hard-earned money without killing your plants. And that's the basis of the game. Protect your garden to gain the maximum amount of weight at the harvest phase while spreading diseases amongst your opponent's or stealing their healthy plants.
The start player will have the 3 phase cards in front of them. Every time it comes to their turn they reveal the next card. Each card symbolises the three different phases, sprouting, flowering, and harvest. In every phase the players who perform the same actions in turn order. 1) Draw 3 cards. 2) Possibly exchange some cards. 3) Play cards. 4) Spread any diseases, before ending their turn and allowing the next player to do the same.
So step one requires the player to draw from a deck of 63 playing cards, which contains 13 different types of card. Some more common than others. After drawing 3 cards, you will have the chance to discard either one, two or three of those cards and replace them with however many you discarded. This is done only once before you have to start playing cards. Some of these cards are harmful to the plants while others are helpful. Some cards are one-shot only and will be discarded immediately after being played, while others will stick to the flower pot that they are attached to. The icons on the top right hand corner clearly indicate which does which. As well as the icons on the bottom of each card which inform on which phase they can be played. So remembering which phase it is when you draw your cards at the beginning of your turn is an important thing. Nothing worse than holding a card that you can't play due to the fact that it can not be played in that phase.
The game is relatively simple to play and you will not spend a lot of time thinking about what you are going to do with the cards that you have in your hand. It is a simple case of sabotaging your opponent's and maybe saving some good cards for yourself, for when your opponents try to sabotage you. Every round teams will form depending on who has the most points on the last round or who has the most current points on the table. Players will gang up and trample over the player they believe is going to win, without trying to make themselves their next target.
You are not obliged to play all your cards on your turn. And therefore it is possible that you can build up a reserve of cards right up until the harvest phase. And then devastate your opponent as long as the card can be played in that phase. But at the end of every turn, when you have finished playing cards, diseases on your plants will activate in the order of their ferocity.
Mold has the highest danger level and therefore will activate first. It destroys immediately that plant that is attached to it and then it will move on to the healthiest plant in that garden. Healthiest as in the highest weight in grams. Whereas the Mites will remove 20 grams from a plant and at the end of your turn they too will move on to your next healthiest plant. They're a bunch of tokens, negative and positive that you will be constantly placing on your plans as they get either munched on by the mites or possibly boosted by sunlight or special fertilizer. But any Mold or Mite that remains on any plants at the end of a round will score you nothing. This is when you total up the weight of all your remaining plants and any grams that you have already harvested with the sickle card. Everybody writes down their score before beginning the next round. All cards are collected and reshuffled before you start again by rolling the dice and seeing how many seeds you collect and how many plants grow. At the end of a number of rounds, whoever has the highest score wins.
The game comes with a mini expansion called “Strains”, which gives each player random different plants to add to their garden. These strains of plants have different weight values compared to the base game. Dropping as low as 20 grams or climbing as high as 80 grams, each also has a special power connected to it. Some are disease resistant while others automatically harvest on a player's turn. There are male and female plants which have different effects on the garden and there are plants that cannot be harvested by the sickle, so keeping them healthy until the harvest phase will be a battle.
As you can see, this is a pretty light game with very little strategy but lots of interaction from the players. A player's turn can be pretty quick depending on the negotiation that happens between everybody. And you won't be stuck wondering what to do with the cards in your hand as they are pretty self-explanatory and pretty brutal. Yes, I'm going to steal your healthy plant then I'm going to spray my “Final S” to boost the weight of all my plants. There is a lot of slapping in the face with this game.
I feel there are a few missed opportunities in regards to not having different types of diseases that act in different ways. Also a little disappointed that you don't keep your garden from round to round. And it may have been nice to have some kind of strategy in the layout of your garden. But the game is clean and clear. The rules are simple to follow and the icons on the cards and little descriptions are all easy to read and comprehend. Some players were a little off-put by the artwork but maybe that's something that will change with the final Kickstarter. Not advisable for two players but definitely the more than merrier. If you've played games like Munchkin or Baby Blues and you like that style of game, then this is for you.
Welcome to the future. And that future is now. Your table top has never felt so alive as it does now. With litalry things popping out from a 2D landscape to the third, tactile dimension. But getting there is not an easy road, as with anything adventurous and experimental as this. ArmPal sees you arm wrestling against an opponent, without your arm. And technically without “the wrestling.” Hydraulical controllers will manipulate a “wooden” robot Arms that will pick up objects with a claw, a pale or a magnet, in a race to do more or better than your opponent. But is a 10-15 hour investment in the construction of these animatronical trees worth it?
Let me start this off by reminding you that I am writing about a prototype of a game that is looking for public financing to be made into a reality. And so my thoughts and feelings do not reflect the final product, only the product at this stage of its life.
Build your own Ikea robot
This is an Ikea type game. So straight off the bat, this may deter some of you as there is a lot of construction involved before play can commence. But not me, as I like buying this Sweedish furniture and proving to my wife that I am better than her at at least one thing. In it’s modestly “Kemet” sized box, you’ll find lots of laser cut wood to punch. Screws. Springs. Pumps. Pipes. Instructions and an assortment of other tiny things. Oh! And some wooden cubes. Blisters and shouting are not included but may arrive at some stage. Neither are there tools, which you will have to provide yourself. Things like a screwdriver, scissors, wax to mention a few. One of the things that surprised me is that there were no rules! This is a game, right? What will I be playing after my time and effort was used in the construction of this high tech marvel? Well apparently, there are three game modes which were shown to me in a promotional video.
The three game modes include:
If you have gotten this far and can feel that there is a negative air to my words, you are not far wrong. They are about to get a little bit more negative as I go into the construction phase of this product. But I am hoping that by expressing myself like this, the publishers are made aware or are already aware of some of my concerns and are making changes to alleviate some of the problems I encountered in this prototype. One of those problems was the instruction manual, which they are aware of. Some of the images were unclear and the numbers for each individual piece were missing. Easy thing that they are currently correct. Something positive....the punching out was easy to do. There were no issues with the laser cuts, plus they include some spare parts for some of the smaller, fragile bits. A big bonus. Most of the construction went smoothly, but when it didn’t, that was another matter. A lot of what I am about to say depends on your temperament for being a handyman or woman, as things got a little tricky from time to time. Sometimes you were slotting pieces in between other pieces with very little work space. Fear of something snapping because you were using a little too much force to click an item into place or squeeze it between others constantly plagued us (yes, my wife helped immensely). This is definitely not something for those who have chubby fingers.
Then there are the pipes. Black rubber pipes that you have to cut to size and number...with a black pen! Not really effective. We tried stickering them, but they just fell off, although we did manage to muddle through and attach them in the right places. These were a nightmare as they had to be squeezed into small holes in small confined spaces (with chubby fingers). This tried my patience for a while. Forcing them into position was hard work. Also attaching them to the syringe like pumps. Have I put them on properly? As some could slide on easier and further than others. Leaving me with the sensation of nervousness, and wonder, will the water pressure blow them off?
The answer was “no”. Although, I managed to blow one of these corks off of the hydraulic cylinders. Mainly because I did push it on enough, a jet of water came flying out in one sharp spit. Good thing we did this outside. And lucky it was with water, as this part of the construction was a bit messy. Real hydraulic fluids would not have been fun. This is a two person job, even though I muddled through on my lonesome, I managed to inject water into the pipes and cylinders. On the table…. And on myself. There were moments of excitement as parts of the Arm or the controller started to move as the pressure of the water did its magic. Then larger moments of frustration as I discovered the calibration of each Arm reacted differently to the controls. This meant more time getting wet and trying to figure out why the Arm didn't turn right or didn’t go up as high as the second Arm. It was all explained in the manual how to resolve these problems, and I prayed that I didn’t have to resort to the final measure of taking the thing apart to find something not lubricated enough or a pipe too bent. Luckily not the case. So this added another hour or two to the construction time. With everything working and my family eager to play, it was time to go to the shops to buy some chickpeas and paperclips.
SkyNet in action
The game comes with a lovely roll out mat, that needs quite a bit of space or a large table. Indicated on this map are the positions of where the Arms go, and there are two choices depending on the game you play, and also the zones for cubes, beads, the scales and other items that will be manipulated around. So placing the Arms in position and the controllers nearby, we start to get a little excited. Everything looks cool as we place the Cubes into the centre area and attach the claws to the Arms. And then we have a little tinker to see how cool it moves. Only to find out that they don't move as well as they did a day or two ago. One Arm only rotated from the centre to the right while we noticed the other didn’t raise as high as the second. This is a simplish case of recalibrating the cylinders and the amount of water in each. Again, luckily we are playing outside so any water spilt is easy to clean up. This again takes a little time and removes a tad of pleasure from the experience, as we were hoping just to jump straight in and do some break dancing. By now I am becoming quite fluent in which cylinder syringes are connected to one another.
(Watch the video to see the game in action)
Off we go, taking our time trying to stack cubes into a tower between one another. Giggles and laughter can be heard coming from my opponent and then loud cheers as they successfully place the first cube on top of another. It's a very delicate procedure as you slowly get used to the controls. Little by little, the feeling of control over your extended appendage becomes apparent. While the flexibility and control is a little sluggish, it's the eerie creeks of the controller that gave me some concern. Was I being too forceful? Was the fear of losing stressing me, that I applied my aggression a little too much on the joysticks in my hand. Then “PING”, a trigger button flies off as I flick it out, all because I wanted the claw to close a little quicker. A jet of water follows the button onto the mat. Not a problem, it's only water. But then I have to attach it back and refill it, just so it functions correctly.
Onto another game.We attached the excavator buckets and chuck a bowl of pasta into the middle. Again, laughter can be heard but then it dries up as the game drags on and we struggle to achieve anything. Maybe the bowls in the wrong place? Maybe the bowl is the wrong size and shape? Maybe the pasta is too small or too big? All of these things affected our experience. By then, frustration started to kick in as we found the Arms were not moving as well as they did when we first started playing. Once more, one Arm was not pivoting all the way to the left side, which made it impossible to do the job that it needed to do. Some more tweaking ensued, then we carried on playing. We even swapped controllers and noticed that they had a different feel and movement. I then begin to curse myself, believing that it may be my fault that they are responding like this. Sadly, by then our enthusiasm had waned. Then came the part of putting the game away. The question was, where?
This is a game that won't squeeze back in the box. In fact, when constructed it's twice as large as the box, maybe more. This is one of the downsides of this product, the storage. Where do you put it? Most gamers like to get a game out, play it, then put it back in the box and on the shelf. This is not that. Ideally, this is something that you would leave out on your coffee table, workbench or if you're lucky enough to have a hobby room, somewhere on an open table. I know that there are gamers that own a Crokinole table or pool table that is constantly on display. This is a game that fits that category. Mine is sat in the garage and may only come out if we have a barbecue…. and some friends want to have some fun (you thought I was going to say “chuck it on the barbecue”).
This is a feat of technical magnificence and it is truly a beautiful thing. It's amazing to see this inanimate wood, plastic, screws and water, come to life. And I'm sure that if I had the technical skills and a bucket load of patients to get this aperture functioning correctly, this would be extreme fun. If not for me, but for my kids. In fact, one of them has just knocked on my door and asked me if they could have a go at stacking a tower again. This is a great and cool idea, that unfortunately won’t be for everyone. You don’t want your board games to give blisters, needs constant fine tuning and not go back into its box....If you manage to get past the hours of building and have fun doing so, then great. If you are a competitive player, you may be dissatisfied when you play and your Arm does not function as well as the other. This is something for those who are into wood building kits and have ample patience, plus are looking for a talking piece for your pool parties. A kind of hobby kit meets activity.
Do you remember the game Crossbows & Catapults?
Coming to Kickstarter in June is a game called Walls of Scydonia. A peaceful realm with guilds, Gods and inhabitants that thought they were Gods and decided to prove it by destroying the other prominent rulers. I’m not going to dive deep into the lore and history of Scydonia because, like the game, this build up is not as fun as the action sequence. The fun comes from the dexterity part of the game, where you'll be flicking objects at an opponent's kingdom, in essence to reduce their guild towers to rubble. Although this concept may sound shallow and reminiscent of Crossbows & Catapults, there are some major differences to make this game stand out. Most notably, the components.
This version of the game that I have played is of a prototype, printed by the designer on his 3D printer. Apart from the fact that it is wonderfully colorful, exceptionally detailed and extremely large, everything has a designated place in its box. This was the first thing that struck me as I opened the box. The organisation and structuring of the insert. All of this already will put a vast majority of game publishers to shame, so a great first impression and preview of the dedication of the designer. And yes, this is a big box game which you can only find in a Kickstarter project. Not everything in the box will be used in every game, in the essence that there are three levels of game mode. From the apprentice to the journey man, and finally for the tactical gamer in you, and master mode. That is when you use EVERYTHING.
At its core, every mode is basically the same. Each of the modes removes certain rules and elements, right down to the apprentice mode that will probably be the closest that resembles Crossbows & Catapults. But basically it boils down to this. Players will roll out a hex mat on their side of the table (or floor) and place their 4 guild towers on spaces they deem the best. Then collect a selection of wall (tetris like) pieces, the number of wall chunks will vary depending on the mode played, as will the number of support pieces that come from the four guilds connected to your towers. Each beautifully rendered and painted support piece has a different form and weight depending on the guild. A pile of logs for the lumberjacks or ornate windows for the glazers. Players also get four wooden dice which are used as ammo for the catapult. And then there is the one amazingly sexy catapult (more about how sexy it is later). Other pieces that you may need to get ready are the tower upgrade, the supershots, action tokens, coins, city cards and strategy cards. As you can see, there is a bit of slow set up as you gather the bits from the box, but that is it. Once out, the action sequence starts.
Every game runs for 10 rounds and there is a D10 to remind you which you are on. Every round is broken into four phases, and that is relevant for each of the three game modes. Each is very simple and easy to understand, as they tie in with their names.
The object of the game being that sometime in the 10 rounds, one player would have destroyed all four of their opponents towers, making them the victor. The game has a mechanic to make the finale interesting and increase the chance of a definite winner. At round 8 and onwards there is a meteor storm, where players will then take potshots for free at the beginning of an attack phase with the supershot that looks like a rock. This is not an easy potshot, as you have to balance this uneven rock on the back of your hand and fire at the other players mat from over your own. Some slight skill is required, but this is a fun part of the game as it helps intensify the tension in the game and hopefully prevent a dull draw between players (there are tiebreakers).
The Apprentice mode is basically a build and reconstruct your walls before attacking and then removing destroyed pieces from the board. There are no cards or currency involved in this mode. More a survival of the best shot-ist. Where the journeyman mode introduces a few action points and currency to allow players to buy new bits of wall or upgrade their towers. As you can tell, the master mode will allow you to also include the cards, giving you all kinds of superpowers. So there's a bit of everything for everyone here. An inexperienced player can have fun bashing it out, whereas gamers can game it and introduce strategies with the cards of the same name.
Now, let me talk about some of the little details of the game before I blurt about how fun it is to destroy your enemies heart encapsulated constructions. If you are playing the master mode, this gives you access to the city cards. There are 16 in the proto that I have, each with a unique power for you, usable once per round. La-Rys gives you 6 wall pieces for free whereas Belyhn lets you use an action token from your opponent. All very powerful and disruptive to the other player. Each is linked to a guild, giving you the additional power of that guild. The strategy cards are the little “take that'' element to the game. Collected at random from round to round, or discarded as a currency to gain you a coin or a two for one swap on another card. These can allow an extra attack or some kind of movement in your kingdom. And there is a card that blocks the action of a previously played card, this is the reason that I say they are “take that”. But the fact that there is more variety, makes it not so annoying when someone plays a nasty card on you. They make you go “that’s cool”. These cards are well laid out, with some sweet artwork and icons that are easy to understand from their descriptions in the rule book. But I feel that the icons could be enlarged a little to make them not so eye squintingly hard to see.
The tower upgrades are an important part of the game. Number one, they create a more sturdy tower, as the base tower on it’s own is top heavy. Meaning a wooden die can easily topple it. Each upgrade, of which there are two, creates more weight at the bass and gives a large foot to its body, helping it stay erect. These upgrades are inserted into the tower, unseen but they are also sculpted and coloured. A nice attention to detail. The second reason the upgrade is important is when you fully upgrade a guilds tower to level three. This gives you the power of that guild to use it’s supershot item as ammo in the attack phase. The rock, anvil, window and log are bigger and heavier than the dice and make easy work of walls and level one towers. Their different shapes have an effect as they ricochet off the mat or buildings. And can be finicky when placing into the catapult. This makes for some interesting shots as a supershot might not leave the cup of the catapult in a straight line.
Keeping these towers alive in the game is a bonus as they help keep your kingdom safe. During the build phase, you’ll start with two support items from each guild. These can be used as walls or bolster your walls and towers. But losing a tower means you lose that guilds support. In the cleanup phase, if a tower is toppled or is not sitting on the mat squarely (and I mean even one edge a single millimeter in the air) it is destroyed. You remove it plus any support items belonging to that guild. These resources are a little more weighted than the wall pieces and therefore more reliable at surviving an attack. Their irregular shapes make them hard to stack or position sometimes and losing them is as a major setback as the tower itself. And the rules themself about what is considered “destroyed” are very clear. As mentioned, if it’s not sat squarely on the mat, it’s out. Plus, if wall pieces become detached from other wall pieces, they are out of there too. So you may find yourself spending some actions and coins just to build back up your defences. Whereas the support piece can only be brought back with the power of cards, making them quite valuable. This leads towards some of the strategies in the game, in regards to which towers you protect or upgrade, just for their supports or their super shots.
Luck raises its head in the form of the random card draw, but not too detrimentally. The other avenue that luck likes to walk down is dice street. This is where we get to the meat by talking about the fun and climax of the game… The Attack Phase. Apart from being rolled at the start of the game to see who plays first, they are used as ammo to destroy other buildings across the way. One face of that die has an icon of a coin. If during your attack, a die hits a tower or flys off the table, even pokes your friend in the eye and the final result is this face up coin, guess what! You get an extra coin. Bonus! It’s a one in six thing but can swing a game in the favour of one player if luck sits on their shoulder. An area where luck is at its lowest (unless you count a misplaced shot that ricochets at weird angles, destroying everything you made) is with the elegant catapult. There are rules on where you fire from and how to utilize this wonderful contraption, but at its core there is a pin that holds the angle of the shot. So you can get it to fire in a straight line or project it into space before it plummets down. And then there is a finely detailed power gauge, which is useful to note the force of your attack. You’ll pull this back and release to fire your shot. Simple and precise, as long as you hold the base in place, as the recoil on the spring is tightly wound. When the catapult “clacks” at its firing arc, this recoil will jolt your shot by a millimeter at your end, missing your intended target. But man, is it fun to use!!!! You bet.
And therein lies the pleasure of the game. Firing stuff to destroy stuff. I even activated one of my destroyed towers, through a strategy card, as ammo against my enemy. BOOM! It was pleasurable. You shouldn’t worry too much about getting hurt as if you are the player being attacked, you’ll hold the box lid (with a nice backdrop inside) behind your construction to prevent these flying pieces coming off the table and hurting people or destroying something that is not in the game. Again, the components are damn sturdy and solid. This prototype has had a lot of play before it got to me and everything still looks in top condition. Although there was one piece that needed a bit of glue before I got to play.
Walls of Scydonia is a stunningly beautiful looking game, due in part to the designers passion for this project. The different weights of all the projectiles along with the tactile feel, turn this game into something which we’ve never seen before. Elegant and fun. The precision of the catapult itself means that you get practically the results you want while you play this game. But it’s simplistic rules and climatic finale, make for a fun time at the table. Added with the various player powers and strategy cards which add gameplay, plus change the game slightly every time you play. Hopefully some stretch goals will add other mechanisms or guilds with their own special powers which will extend the diversity of the game. I say this as the longevity of the game might be too short for you. But then again, you may just be happy to knock down each other's sandcastles for some time.
Wargaming 4X Refined! by Syther Gaming
Area control, tabletop space warfare... with a twist!! It's wargaming 4X Refined!
Includes a unique utilization of cross-genre gaming mechanics generally un-used in wargaming such as drafting, engine building, worker placement and semi co-op components... all wrapped inside of a classic area-control wargame wrapper.
Visually stunning, 2 to 4 player gaming, with a 5th and 6th player via an expansion add-on.
All-new game mechanics such as zero-setup time, and brand new characters unlike anything in gaming that brings the story into the game and the game into the story in a brand new gaming way.
While you come to play "OverBattle: The All War" you leave with an experience that stays with you and drives an exciting level of replayability. Each game is unique and no two setups or experiences will ever be the same.
Over 1000+ pieces, Full color game mats and elements, 40xD12 & 4x D6 color specific dice, 4-Piece Modular Game mats at 30" x 72" total size via 4 sections (76cm X 183cm) for the full deployment, 30" x 36" for 1v1 play (76cm X 92cm). Modular system fits a standard US folding pop-up 6 foot table exactly.
Also utilizes the all-new, multi-tier / multi-dimensional 3D playing combat surface known as the "CASy: Combat Assault System".
But don't just take these words, listen to the explanation I got from the designer himself, in this interview...
Geodes (2020) first impressions
Coming to Kickstarter very soon is this family weight, tile placement game where players are going to be constructuring five different types of gems called Geode. With each gem that you complete you will collect a contract from a client that will hopefully want your gem, depending on the value /size of it, which will then boost you with your prestige points. This simple and elegant game can be explained in minutes and played very quickly, even in a large group. Reminiscent of games like Carcassonne, but more with a lighter feel. But is this something you should invest in? Read on...
One of the things I need to mention before we delve into this is the fact that I have played only a prototype of the game and therefore things may have changed or evolved since this copy was produced and arrived at my door. So I know nothing of extra tiles or bonus rules and expansions for the game. These are things that you should remember while reading this.
The game will see 2-5 players constructing a board, made of tiles that have two quarters of a gem. Whether they be Amethyst, Citrine, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, or even the white joker style Diamond. Each tile will have a combination of any of the two colours that represent these precious stones. Beware though, there are not as many diamonds as you think there will be. All of these tiles are stacked into two piles of 40. Each player will then draw a hand size of two tiles and the starting play then places a random tile from the stack to create the playing area, before laying one of their two tiles. Also, players will have a number of coloured chips, depending on the number of players playing. These are to mark gems that you have completed. They also indicate the end of the game when one player has placed all their chips out or when there are no more tiles to draw from the two piles. Once the endgame has been activated, the game will stop before the starting player gets to take their next turn. Meaning all players have the equal amount of turns.
So far so simple. One of the nice restricting features is that the playing area is confined to an 8 by 8 grid size, which adds a little tactical play to the game. There is a rule that will allow you to go beyond this size but only if a player is blocked and cannot place one of their two tiles out successfully. Each tile placed must touch another and all sides must have matching colours, which is simple to do as two sides will be one colour and the other another. Or even simpler, all sides will have the same. Making this an easy game for anyone to get a grasp of. Young or old. Again there is an exception to the rules if that is not possible to play a tile, and in the few games that I've had, this had happened. A blocked player that has nowhere to place any of their two tiles will place one of their tiles face up in front of them and draw another, thus ending their turn. If on another turn they can place this face up tile into a space, they will have to do so and then play a tile from their hand. Always before play passes to the next player, you draw up to your hand size of two. Which can be a little restricking for some players. More about that later.
When a player adds the fourth quarter of a gem, it is deemed finished. Each quarter of this gem will have numbers from 0 to 5. You will need to add up these four values to give you the total value/size of this gem. This is an important factor of the game as you can only score big if your completed gem is the same value as a contract you have. Having completed a gem you’ll place one of your chips on it to claim it as your own. You can then take a contract from one of the 5 piles available. Each pile has a number denomination of the gem values/size. They range from 4-6, 7-9, 10-14, 15-17 and 18-20. So in each stack there is a random gem value and two different scores. The higher of these two scores will be collected at the end of the game if you can match one of your gems to the value of the contract. Where as the lower will be given to a gem that doesn't match this value. All these contracts are kept hidden until the end of the game, when you do your final scoring. A nice touch is that the small and large size contracts have bigger point values. I have found that in the games that I have played, most of the gems created were in the 10-14 size range. This leads to players trying to make very high or very low value gems.
The first contract you will choose, of course will probably be in the realm of the value of the gem you have created. If you are lucky enough to draw exactly the contract value of said gem, this is a bonus. If not, you now have a target value to aim for. Say for example, can you create a gem of a value of 11. You draw a contract from the pile marked 10-14 and reveal a contract with a value of 10. You'll then be on the lookout to complete a gem with that value. This is easier said than done. Depending on the number of players, the tiles you have in your hand with their are different colours and numbers assigned to those colours, this can be a difficult feat to achieve. Four out of the five games I played were won by a player collecting as many contracts as possible to conquer your opponent's. Only one case had a player with slightly fewer tiles winning, but that was due to them drawing contracts that matched their gems. Lucky...Yes, yes randomness seems to be a killer here.
I can say that the experience of playing this family style game is very therapeutic and relaxing. There never seems to be any real stress to find a space to place one of your tiles unlike in other games of this ilk. But then again, you are kind of restricted to placing a tile either in one, two, possibly three or 0 positions on the board. This leads to giving your opponents the chance to score points. Only in a two player game does this “forcing” feel strategic. Playing a tile to make it possible to complete a gem, but only if your opponent has exactly the correct two coloured tile. And with that, if you have the opportunity to finish a gem, you will probably dive straight in, regardless of the total value of this precious stone. Then hope for the best that a contract matches the value of one of your completed circles on the board.
Talking about the board, there is none. Although there is a restriction on the playing area the game feels that it actually does need a playing board. The tiles in this prototype are quite large and because there is very little information on these tiles, the game could probably profit from having smaller ones. This could also nicely tie in with a small size playing board, probably of a 9 by 9 grid, where the starting tiles starts bang in the middle. There were many stops and start moments where the players would verify by counting how many tiles across or down, just to make sure their placement was legal. There is a nice feeling of not being restricted with a grid on your table, but this game feels like it needed it. Qwirkle is great because you can sprawl to the edge of your table and still score points. Whereas having a restricted area to play in makes the game more tactical, especially if you're trying to set up your second tile in your hand with your first. Creating corners or spaces in the middle of the playing area can sometimes work to your advantage, where you know that you have a tile that will fit perfectly and the chances of anyone else having the same tile are very slim. This is not the case, as I have found out. Too many similar tiles.
There are also frustrating moments when you draw tiles and the player before your next ture sets up a third piece of a gem and it just needs the fourth piece, but you don't have the colour or possibly the value that you wish. There were moments when I felt I was just passing the time helping other players as the restrictions on my tiles limited me to playing them in certain spaces. Again very restrictive if every time you draw a tile, both corners of the same colours. A double blue or a double green. Luck is extremely present in a 5 player game. One player brought the game to a very surprising quick end, while another player failed to score anything. You may find yourself only setting up the other players to score, while never having the chance to score yourself. And there were noticeable differences when playing with experienced players and newbies. In an expert game, the grid sprawled out like a spider because no one wanted to give away points, until the restriction of the grid or tiles in hand forced you to give points to your adversaries. Whereas the newbies would make the playing area slower, filling in spaces anywhere they could. A slightly different experience but all with the same ending. The winner was the lucky one who drew the lucky tiles.
But how is that different to Carcassonne or even Qwirkle in that case? With these games, you have more choices on your turn. Even if you are restricted by the size of the playing area at the beginning, as the game goes on, there are more and more possibilities. Even with the one tile in Carcassonne, there are many places to play it and to achieve different things. Extend your road. Try and steal a castle. Set up a big farm. Qwirkle gives you the power to play one or many pieces to either play cautiously or to cycle through your hand. Score big points from a single tile or set a trap for another player to give you a Qwirkle. Geodes doesn’t have this. There is a monotone feel as the game goes on. The unbalanced luck of the draw from either the colours and numbers you draw to the ever so important contracts fish, will leave you with the unpleasant feeling that you have participated in an activity. Building a colourful puzzle.
If you are looking for a game to pass the time with some non gamer friends, this could be a game for you. A 2 minute explanation will get anybody to play. A 30 minute run time at any player count is not too long to drive players insane. The gameplay is very fluid and very rapid, plus it’s colourful and pleasant to play. This game could be your gem. Especially if you like games like Uno (and you don’t score). If there were some tweaks to the rules (plus playtesting to make sure it feels more balanced) like, having visible contracts for players to aim for or a greater hand size or something else to remove the vast amounts of luck in the game, then I could recommend this to a gamer. Although everyone who has played enjoyed the experience and said that it’s neither a great game or a bad game, just “ok.”
Red outpost (2019) first impressions
(Remember, this is a first impression and not a final review. The game was played on a well rendered prototype, of an upcoming Kickstarter game. These words and thoughts are of a one-time play play with a 3 player count.)
If you're looking for a game with a unique theme and gameplay, here is a game that should pique your interest. Theme wise, Red Outpost is about the Russians winning the Space Race. And instead of going to the moon, they crash on another planet and start inhabiting it. Mechanics wise, this is a worker displacement, resource gathering and and Influence scoring game. Where are all the workers and resources are shared between all players. But this is no “co-op game” by any shape or means. Players are going to be scrambling to manipulate these workers for their own benefits and mainly trying to hold the others back from doing the same. Each, trying to keep their head about the water, at the same, submerging the heads of others.
The ruleset for the game is very simple. You’ll move an unused worker to a unique empty location, place one of your influence tokens on that workers image, possibly change the mood of that worker, before taking the action as indicated on the location. As simple as that. Although so your first game, you may occasionally forget to place out your influence token. This can sometimes screw up the game. Or at least your score, if you forget to do so. But that's an easy player error to make in your first game. Quickly forgotten in this very rapid, slick, elegant game. To help the game run smoother, it has its own simple to read, iconography at each location. This, players will pick up very quickly and make your gaming experience run very smoothly. But with all that being said, this game is easy to pick up and play (with a possible error...lol) but is no easy game to master.
The game is played over 2 rounds, which represents 2 days. Each day is broken down into 5 phases. Morning, first half of the day, lunch, second half of the day and evening. All of the six unique workers will start their day in the barracks, sleeping. Waking up from they're wonderful dreams and preparing for that hard but yet satisfying day of work. In the morning, lunch and evening phase, each player will be able to move a worker to a new unoccupied location. Whereas as in the first and second half of the day, players will activate all available workers until they have all been utilised. This may mean at certain player accounts, some players will activate two workers while others only one in this phase. Here there are some little thematic ideas that play into each of these times of the day. For example, any workers that are not moved in the morning phase will sleep in and instantly be satisfied, augmenting their mood level. That's true in the real world, yes? The kitchen space is only open at lunchtime, but you're not obliged to send a worker out there to elevate their mood. Again in the evening, the barracks is the only place that you can send a worker. And not all workers will go there, but any that do will have their mood increased.
To add a bit of variety to this, the game comes with 3 morning and evening tokens. These can be placed out randomly or in set locations, rendering them closed for that part of the day. Reducing the amount of locations during two phases of a round. This is not as restrictive as it sounds, although it will make a few players feel claustrophobic, as they become first play and have free reign of the board. But that one action they want to do is not available! But it will add a little more to your thought process from game to game. Plus with the restriction of only one worker being able to move to an unoccupied location, will consume a little bit of your grey matter.
Let's talk a little bit about these locations and what they do. Most of the locations will gather resources, like wheat from the fields or coal from the coal mine. A few of them will allow you to draw cards to see whether you collect resources, like whether you catch a fish from the lake. All resources are pooled together the storehouse. For each resource your worker collects, you will move your token on the production wheel. Once it passes a certain space, you're received two points and a crystal, which is its own unique resource. More about these crystals later. If at the end of your turn, you have added a third resource of the same type already stored there, you’ll score some additional points. This is an action that can be stolen from you by other players, so don’t try to think too far ahead. Two of these resources are removed while the other is placed on a resource score track. At first, this track will only give you one point. Over time, as more players contribute to this resource gathering, that score we'll go up to a level before caping itself to a solitary point. Making resource gathering important but at the same time only at certain stages in the game. As the game goes on, players may be forced to collect resources and add them to the pool, which in turn may lead to another player scoring off of that action.
Other locations may require the aforementioned crystals. Going to the beer house will allow you to spend a crystal that will allow you to manipulate the mood tracks of 2 of the workers. While going into the palace will allow you to drop off a crystal to contribute towards the construction. Leading to another way to score. If at the end of the game you have contributed the most, there are some bonus points up for grabs. Going to the storehouse will allow you to use the resources to manipulate mood or collect crystals. Going to the administration will allow you to move other players influence around. This all sounds great and well, but most of these locations also have benefit or malediction depending on the worker that is sent there. Again this ties in with the theme of the game and can lead to some interesting decision making.
Let’s say you send the minor to go mine at the mine (that's a lot of mines). This will benefit you with 2 coal resources and no penalty. As the minor is used to working in the mine and will not be upset with the working conditions. Send any other worker to the mine, and as they are not at proficient as the minor, they only collect one coal. And as they are not accustomed to working in the mind, and their mood will decrease by 2 to. Making them a very sad bunny. And that's how most of the locations work. They will give you something but they also may change the mood of the worker that you have used to do that task. Each space thematically ties in with the worker. Another example is the commissar, who will lose morale if they visit the beer house (dull chap) but will gain morale every time another worker goes to the palace to contribute to the construction.
So I have done a lot of talking about morale, moods and influence. These are all important at the end of each day, as they will also add points to your game. Or lose them! Once the workers have gone to bed, your tally each of your your influence markers that you have used on each of the workers. If you have the most or are joined for the most influence on one of these meeple, you will gain or lose points depending on their mood. This adds an entire heavier level of planning in regards to just sending “so and so” over there to do this or that. It also prevents a player from using the same I'm working over and over again, due to too many of the locations making them sad rather than happy. Added to that is the restriction of only six different workers, which will force players to play dirty. Maybe leaving behind the last worker for you to influence, knowing they are on negative points. Just like real life, if we are all contributing to make this world better, but stabbing each other behind their backs.
This influence and mood scoring track is probably the hardest ball to juggle in the game. Sometimes it feels just like luck that you have been left with a certain meeple to manipulate or a certain location due to others being occupied. But that's part of the give-and-take of the game. Using a character and figuring out how to get a special bonus in a special location but also penalizing yourself we'll have you head scratching for awhile as you search to see if it is beneficial in the long run. But this can be overthrown by another who is quicker or wiser enough to manipulate the workers moods.
Is this all sounds too simple for you, then don't fret. There are also some special cards that you can add to your game that will make your decisions a bucket load more interesting. At the beginning of the game you can be dealt two cards. One location and one worker. Each has its own extra benefit when you either visit that location or use that worker. This variant of the game that we played with, did make the decision making process of your action a hell of a lot more interesting. Adding an additional level of though as you want to use that power, but it may hamper other benefactory ideas further along. Also these cards are open knowledge to all the other players, they may deliberately occupy that worker or location, just say you can't benefit from your special powers. I would definitely recommend playing with this variant if you have a group of experienced gamers.
So this game has a lot of interesting and thematic ideas in tangled inside it's small framework. And left me with the sensation of playing a kind of Mediaeval Academy meets Outlive hybrid. Even though the artwork and theme were reminiscent of Scythe. And a game does seem to be a cold logical puzzle, where you are having to adapt to what is available and whatever the other players are doing. Saying that, one detractor from the game is the luck factor.
There are two small decks of cards located next to the lake and the spaceship. Going to these locations is a bit of pot luck, as some of the cards don't contain resources, but a whopping big red “X”. Meaning there is nothing there and you have practically wasted an action. This can definitely sting you. And players adapted to this by not going to the spaceship or they use the fisherman and only the fishermen to go fishing at the lake. This guaranteed a resource. And then there's the nasty action which a player can take. Sending the bureaucrat to the administration office. Or spending crystals to create mood swings,not only to the workers, but also the players. This then just blatantly let's them move one of your disks of influence from a worker that will probably get you lots of points to another that's going to give you negative points. This can sometimes feel like a real kick in the nuts action to take. Even if it costs a crystal. Points win the games, while crystals can also contribute.
Apart from that, this is a real solid and interesting euro game. It seems well balanced in how you get points. Either from scoring from resource collecting and crystal depositing. To the influence and mood scoring. Though some players may have trouble trying to manage this second part of scoring or losing points, as it is player dependent. Plus it's a mechanism that is not frequently used, worker displacement and influence. Have to play with the leftovers of other players feels refreshing and also a little confusing. Possibly not everyone's cup of tea.
Even for a prototype, the components are very well realised for a euro style game. The rule book was very easy to digest, with a few added corrections and clarifications, it is near perfect. And the footprint of the box itself will not eat up a lot of shelf space. But saying all that, some of that is subject to change depending on the Kickstarter. There may be other components that add to the size of the book. Other rules that will add to the replayability or upgrades. These we will see in time. But if you're looking for a different type of solid and fluid euro, that has you thinking in a different fashion, as well as being fantastic themed, this is one you should be clicking on.
Starting on the 10th of September, is a Kickstarter based on a war that took place not far away from where we live. The Ardenne.
During one of the toughest battles fought in World War 2: the Battle of the Bulge, you face the difficult task to conquer three important roads in the Belgian city of Bastogne.
Clash of the Ardennes is played by 2 players, facing each other. The game board (+/- 20 x 40cm or 7.90 x 15.75 inch) exists out of 7 roads, which are empty at the start. Each player has 21 units and 4 special units at his or her disposal.
Each player takes turns. Each turn consists out of 4 action points. You can place a unit (1 action point), retreat a unit (2 action points), retreat a blocked unit (3 action points) or move a unit forward (2 action points). Eventually you will make contact with your opponent (clash) and need to decide what to do. Attack, block or retreat.
After different clashes on different roads, someone will eventually conquer a road by hitting the end of that road. He or she has 1 point. 2 to go...
Beware of a few things. Try not to use all of your units in the beginning, because at the end you will need them even more! Use the strength of your special units, they make a big difference. AND watch out for the spy!
Me, of course!