Tiny Town (2019) review
Wooden cubes have been in games since the very early days of the modern age of board gaming. They were used to represent troops, workers, resources and even viruses, plus possibly many other things. And as time has gone by, they have been replaced by more complex shapes such as the meeples, different shapes or miniatures. It's been kind of sad that they have been phased out, as we gamers have become more accustomed to having our components look like the object they are supposed to represent instead of having this abstractness. But the cube is not dead and gone, as it is still a cheap alternative for new publishers to get their games onto store shelves. Unless they're going through Kickstarter.
So it's nice to see in Tiny Towns, that tip of the hat to days gone by, as the cubes are back. Replacing resources as we know it like wood, glass, straw, stone and brick with their traditional colours (brown, blue, yellow, grey, and red). These are the things that are going to be used by 1 to 6 players, to build their Tiny Towns. All in a spacious, yet claustrophobic 5 by 5 grid.
The premise of the game is that players are all going to build their own town at the same time with the same resources. One player will be named the Master Builder and will choose one of the five resources. All players will have to take that resource and add it to an empty space on the player board. If you have no empty spaces, you are out of the game and will have to wait until all players have their boards filled. Otherwise, if you have laid out enough resources to match a building schematic, you can build that building. Then the Master Builder role is passed to the player on the left. There, you have all of the rules. You can now go away and play this game. And that is one of the elegant things about this game, it’s simplicity. Within a few minutes, you’ve explained the rules.
So where is the fun of the game? Well, the fun lies in the different buildings that can be built. There are eight different buildings in a game that will be available, seven of which are common and the eighth is unique to each player. Even the common buildings have four different variants in the base box, apart from the cottage. This gives you some replayability as you can mix and match these buildings or take them at random. On top of that, the unique buildings come with 15 very different structures that all have unique scoring abilities and powers. At the beginning of the game you will pick out one of each of the common buildings and place their card in the middle of the table along with the large pile of individually different looking wooden buildings that come with the game .If you’re feeling adventurous as gamers, you can deal out an individual unique building to each player. These are kept secret until complete. This takes a little time as you may need to explain the scoring conditions of each building.
Each card is laid out with all the information clearly visible on these large Tarot size cards. From the unique beautiful art of what the building would look like, and its associated playing piece. Plus a description of how it scores points at the end of the game and a plan of how the building can be constructed. This plan is simply a formation of the resource cubes. Once you have it laid out on your player board, the correct positions and colors of the cubes, that means that you can construct that building. Constructing the building is a simple case of placing the building you’ve constructed in one of the spaces of the resource matching the plan. Then all the resources are returned to the general pool, leaving you space to and new resources and build more buildings. This is a fantastic puzzle aspect of the game as you know what you want to build but the other players do not. Everyone has their own idea of how their city should look or functions, but due to the fact that everyone’s going to be choosing different resources yet using the same resources, can lead to some interesting cube formations. You’ll need to do a little bit of forward planning and leave yourself open to constructing two or more buildings at the same time, possibly from the same resources. Space is going to be of a premium as the game goes on. Head scratching will start with the “what do I build” to “where should I put this.” As the game goes on, you’ll find yourself struggling to construct or squeezing in resources that you don’t need onto your small little town. On top of that, how can you milk the most points out of the things I don’t need.
Each of the buildings will score in different ways. Some will score points if they are adjacent similar buildings or different buildings. Others will score if they are in a particular part of the town. And the basic cottage will only score points if they receive food from one of the farming buildings. This is a basic requirement for every game. Some of the interesting buildings like the warehouse, once built, whenever you have to use a resource that you have no space for or do not wish to disrupt another formation, you can place it in your warehouse. And later on when you are asked to add another resource to your town, you can swap it out with one in your warehouse and use that instead. Of course this is a great benefit but it also has its own penalty. Like the bank will give you lots of victory points for each one that you build but every time you build one, you will have to place a resource on it and you can no longer call that resource out when you are the Master Builder. A really interesting way to screw yourself up but also pretty sure way to get ahead of the pack.
With colourfully whimsical art, chunky wooden pieces and clearly explained rules and scoring conditions, this is a very well thought out production. Although the yellow and orange or red and orange building can sometimes be confusing to distinguish due to the proximity of the colour pallet. The insert holds everything in place and with baggies to hold your components separately, you’ll only be sorting out at the end of your session. A very large score pad that won't have you squeezing in digits, although they won’t be lager. With scores generally around 20 to 30 points, it will not take you long to find out who the winner is, unlike other larger group playing games. Again, games take the same amount of time regardless of the number of players. So if you are eliminated because you didn’t manage your resources wisely, you will not be hanging around long waiting for the others to wrap up.
The game is basically, everyone is being dealt the same hand of cards. But it depends on what you do with them, that determines how well you score. Think multiplayer Tetris. All players have the same blocks that fall. Some players will complete line after line, gaining minimal points, where others will stack them up in hope of squeezing in that long thin shaped one. Boom. Big points. This is something you may see in Roll & Write games or if you have ever been to a convention, you would have seen the “Pandemic Survival.” Everyone's town will start relatively the same, but as rounds go by, they develop into their own thing. And this is the aspect of the game that I adore. It is a real challenge against the other players. You all have the same level playing field (if you play without the unique buildings). It is interesting to see how your town starts going in a direction that is different to your neighbours. And you will need to keep an eye on them too. To try to predict what resource you think they need and will call out, then you will be prepared to slot it in an advantageous space or start building another building to what you had planned.
Or the reverse, on your turn, call out a resource you know they don’t want. Yes, there is a literal element of “screw your neighbour” in the game. You can sometimes shoot yourself in the foot. Although most of the time, you can get by. Unless you are advanced in the game. As space becomes tight, turns take a little longer, but not so long as to annoy anyone. The game has it’s restrictions, at the same time feeling very open to interpretation. With so many combinations of buildings and the way they interact, fitting them spatially on the board, plus the order that changes naturally or the resources makes this a fun battle to play with family and friends.
You can also cater the game to your liking. Giving younger players the chance to mulligan up to two resources during the game. This is a nice way to get those inexperienced players the chance to challenge the more expert ones. Or maybe last a few more rounds than usual. And if you have no one to play with, there is a simple solo mode to jump on to. A small deck of cards are used to dictate which resources are available from round to round. Not as fun as playing in a group but a sweet little puzzle for those who like that sort of thing. And with an expansion coming later this year, more buildings are rule will ensue, expanding this already replayable game a little further.
Technical score 9.5 / 10
Basic cubes that don't bug you and are easy to remember. Cute art and solid components, from the insert tray, to the wooden buildings. Easy to read text on cards and easy to read rulebook with examples galore. Apart from some confusion over the colours, there is nothing that I couldn’t recommend to be changed
My BGG score 10 / 10
Outstanding - will always enjoy playing.
Simple to teach. Simple to play. A great puzzle challenge for anyone in your neighbourhood. Playing on a level playing field is what makes board gaming great for me. I’m always left with that “I could have done that better” taste in my mouth. A great family weight game. Possibly this generation's Catan.
Combined score 9.75 / 10
My cup of tea, maybe it's yours too. Try it...
Points Salad (2019) Review
Hello, please take a seat. On the menu of the day, a salad of points. Just that. Here is a 100% Vegan approved game ! (yes the joke must have been made thousands of times)
Point Salad a game from Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich and first published by Alderac Entertainment Group, and now in France at Gigamic in the metal box range. Because yes, it is a small deck of cards.
Here is the recipe for a good point salad.
Depending on the number of players, you’ll remove a certain number of cards of each type.
Once done, mix everything you have left. Do not hesitate to insist on the mixture. It is important that all the cards are well shuffled to avoid any residue from the previous games.
When your mixture becomes homogeneous, divide your cards into three piles, face up. Please note, the cards are double-sided. Each side is important. On one you will have the vegetables, which will be necessary to achieve your goals and on the other, the recipes that indicate how you earn points. It is not necessary to count the cards of each of your piles as the distribution of each pile is done quickly by measuring.
Take two cards from each of the pile previously made, and put them directly below the respective piles.
The preparation phase is now complete. We will be able to move on to creating the dish.
On your turn, you have the choice between two actions. Once this is done, it is the other player's turn and so on. Point salad is a dish that can be enjoyed by several, from 2 to 6 players.
The first possible action is to "eat" food. Take two cards face up and put them in front of you. Your turn is over. Before the other player starts, replace the cards taken with the top card from the respective deck. This means that the recipe that was previously visible will turn into an ingredient and a new recipe will be available. Keep this information in mind.
The second action is even simpler ... for a dish to be successful, you must follow a recipe. You can then choose to take one, and only one, recipe card instead of two ingredients. The recipes are the objectives of the game. They will tell you the combinations to complete to hope to gain points, but watch out for those that make you lose them. Everything will depend on the ingredients that you manage to recover during the game.
To help you in your quest, once per turn, you can also transform a recipe (and I did say a recipe and not food!) Into a vegetable. And this definitely! No turning back , choose well because you will lose the recipe on the other side and the points it brought you.
You’ll continue like this until all the cards in the game are collected by the players. If during one turn, one of the three piles empties completely, do not panic, it is enough just to divide the largest pile remaining in two. And so on. When there are no more cards, we go to a tasting.
The tasting corresponds to the final counting of points. Each ingredient can be used for any of your recipes. Please note, each recipe will be counted only once, however each ingredient can be used on several recipes. You don't spend your cards to meet your goals. A carrot card can be used for several recipes.
Thus, each player counts the gains or losses, collectively or not, of each recipe card they have. This will give you your final score. Whoever has the most points wins the game.
On the recipes, you’ll find points by type of vegetable, by set of specific vegetables, but also even or odd numbers. There are also majorities on specific vegetables or minorities ... And finally you can lose points if we have recovered certain types of ingredients. There are a variety of recipes and ways to score points.
Point Salad was released at GenCon 2019. Immediately, it knew how to find its audience and made a little buzz. So much so that it was located fairly quickly. Highlighted by a lot of youtubers or players, I was quite curious to try it.
Point Salad is a quick and easy card game. Simple in its rules, as you saw earlier, it can be explained in five minutes, watch in hand. There is no return to the rule, no questions of rules or points of contention. Everything is clear right from the first play. You take the cards, you settle in and you're ready to play. Fast because indeed, one can easily have a tendency to chain games together, encouraged by the fact that each one of them is very short. Allow fifteen minutes (or less) to finish one.
The possibility of making choices allows you to think a little about your way of playing and imposes certain decisions that are not always easy to make. As I pointed out to you, it is sometimes difficult to choose between taking a recipe or ingredients that tempt us at the risk that the recipe that we wanted will disappear.
However, the importance of chance makes this pseudo strategy disappear relatively quickly. We no longer find ourselves playing in a “mechanical” way without necessarily having a long-term vision of the game. We find ourselves more looking for the right opportunity. This is especially true for more players where there is so much change that it is relatively impossible to predict anything. The two-player game, although limited and quickly redundant, may offer a little more control over how to play.
The installation of the game could also have been a little faster. Removing the cards of each type according to the number of players requires you to carry out some slightly superfluous manipulations. Even if the idea is certainly to allow a limited game time, ultimately we come back to wonder why not play with everything since the game remains short all the same. Even if you play (for example) often in pairs, you will have to repeat this manipulation regularly. Why ? It’s simple. The recipe cards are not the same behind the ingredients. Thus, to avoid falling into the excessively redundant side between each game, it is important to re-sort the cards randomly.
Level of graphics, there is not really much to say. It's colorful, you can see big vegetables ... The game is neither ugly nor beautiful. But it is illustrated effectively and the iconography is well thought out and very understandable. Each card is read very quickly and even if there is text on some, it is a keyword very easy to understand.
The game is fluid, the turns are linked quickly. In addition, the game offers ubiquitous interaction. Even if it is not a direct interaction, you have to be careful what the others choose and how you can possibly slow them down without being penalized too much. The game is never mean. And the fewer mistakes that can be made can be repaired or at least reduced in a fairly simple way.
Depending on the players, the game can also be transformed into a calculation game. All the choices can trigger positive or negative points. So if you play with people who like to calculate everything and find the best way to score, the playing time may increase and the pleasure (especially if you are not one of them) decreased. Where one of the strengths of the game resides is in its important possibility of scoring but also in its fluidity. If we turn it into a slightly longer game, I’m not sure that the interest remains intact. On the other hand, it is not a "fun" game as you’re locked in a game where you have to think (as much as possible) and where the goal is just to make points. Despite its format, it is not an atmospheric game.
Point Salad is therefore a very accessible little game. You can play it with friends (gamers or not), with family, family and friends, between adults, with children, between children,… you will understand, the game can turn in all hands. And if in addition, your children can learn to recognize vegetables, it's even better, right?
Point Salad is therefore still a good pick for Gigamic, which offers a very simple and refined collection game here. No fuss, you are right in the thick of it. Accessible, fluid, fast, easy to learn, playable everywhere, a small price, the game seems to have everything on its side to let itself be tasted and savored. Especially if it's your style of play. As a reminder, you are not in a trick taking game but a family collection game with a pinch of optimization. Between two meals or accompanying stronger games, Point Salad will keep you entertained. After, you’ll see if it can last the test of time ...
Technical Note 9/10
Even if the graphics are not extraordinary, "they do the job". The iconography is very well thought out and the rules are clear. The small metal box format is very suitable.
My BGG score 6/10
Ok - will play if in the mood.
The game is not without charm and is played relatively quickly. Very accessible, it will allow you to add a dose of optimization in your playful learning. Chance is very present and it is sometimes difficult to anticipate things. Replayability may be affected. However, the durations of very short games allow you to qualify everything. Ideal for many.
Combined score of 7.5 / 10
And now it's your turn to play ...