Stellarium (2020) first impressions
Please note, these are first impressions of a prototype. Rules and components may change before final release.
There is nothing more relaxing than on a hot summer night, than to lay out on the cool soil of your garden and letting your eyes wonder at the little dots that are so far away. Living out in the country allows me to see the trillions of stars that line the dome around our globe. It’s something that I adored doing as a kid and speculating on what those twinkling lights are. In Stellarium, you’ll be doing the same thing. But with a little astronomical experience. Knowing the names of constellations and using them to navigate your way around the seas.
1 to 4 players (yes, there is a solo mode, that I haven't tried) will have two star constellation cards at the beginning of the game. A basic very easy starting formation and an easyish one too. Each card has a selection of the three different coloured stars scattered on square spaces. These indicate the distance between each star and their colour. Fulfilling a card, by observing it in the playing area, or night sky will score you a number of points and tiles as marked on the bottom. And in between all of the players, a grid of random tiles will be drawn from the bag and placed out. This is the night sky. Somewhere in this Sky is the formations that you seek. But sometimes not. A majority of the game will be spent staring at this night sky and trying to catch stars that match your constellations you are searching for.
So far, this sounds like a quick fire observation game. But this is not a race against the other players but a race against the clock. Players will take 30-second turns to point out their constellations in the night sky that match their card. If you fail to find one or mistakenly point out the wrong stars, either in colour or distance, you miss a turn and the opportunity to score points. When you do find one, the other players must concur that you have placed tokens on the tiles that correspond to your constellation, you’ll score that card at the end of the game. An added bonus is provided on that card. It will tell you how many tiles you can take as a bonus. But only the tiles that you place the tokens on. These also score at the end of the game. One point per star on a tiles you have. So there's some benefits of taking a tile which has three stars depicted on it instead of one. The remove tiles up replaced with random tiles drawn from the sack. And now you have the choice of drawing a new constellation card, this time you'll have a choice of the difficulty.
There are three difficulties in the game. Choosing the very hard formations to find will obviously give you more points if you do find them at the end of the game and also let you collect more tiles. But of course, these will be harder to find as they have have large areas of the sky and more stars in the correct position to pinpoint. There is also a variant with the game which has another deck of constellation, and these are even harder. One is revealed to all the players during the game, meaning that any player, on their turn can discover and score this card instead of one of their own. There are only a handful of these and they are quite possible of finding. If playing with this variant, there will always be one on the table for all players to search for.
The good thing about having turns, where each player is put in the spotlight to try and score points, is it eliminates those very powerful observant people from winning. We’ve all played a speed observation game, like Ghost Blitz or Set, where one play racks up points because they can process everything rapidly. These players don’t stand out as much in this game. They have their own turn to talk and take actions, as well as push themselves to pick the harder constellations to find. Yes, these are more point than the easy and medium difficulty cards, but they are darn hard. Sometime hard to find in the time limit but occasionally because of the random layout of tiles, sith their 3 colours and numbers. So the game has a kind of balancing mechanism for different skilled opponents. If you're playing with the variant, they may accelerate their score rapidly by finding these mega point cards instead of the two they have in hand. Plus, if you're playing at the full player count, if you’re a slower player, you'll have much more time to try and find your constellations, even before your turn starts. But sometimes that time is never enough, possibly because you're constellation does not exist...
Yes, yes it is possible to look into the night sky and not find what you're looking for. But you shouldn't freet, as this sky will be changing when players collect tiles. On top of that, these bonus tiles that you have collected can be used to force your constellation to appear. A really nice touch is if you are struggling to find what you're looking for, for you have the power to place out one of your collected tiles. This is kind of a forfeit, as you will be losing the points from it. But by placing this one tile out, it will help you advance a little in removing a card from your hand that might be difficult to complete. This is great if you have a three starred tile as it acts like a joker. The sad news is, you will be losing those three points, as this tile cannot be collected from the selection of tiles that you collect. Being observant and resourceful can really be a big payoff in this game. Making stupid mistakes, like placing out one of your tiles to complete a card. Then finding out that the constellation is still not correct will have you kicking yourself as you have missed your turn, but also lose your tile with its points. That then becomes a permanent fixture in the sky and helps out another player.
The game continues until there are no more tiles to replace the empty spaces in the night sky. It's at this moment players count up the amount of points from constellation cards and from the stars on your tiles to see who has the most points. This ending seems a little unbalanced and is very swings and roundabouts. Having another player complete more cards due to the fact that they had more turns will seen a little unjust. And like any speed observation game, even though this one gives each player that own slot, is still unfair to slower players. Faster players are always guaranteed to score more, especially if you play with the verient. Where as slowest player may miss a turn due to not finding the most advantageous constellation. But it kind of even outs. Only playing many times will tell.
The game is quite tranquil as you gaze at a bunch of tiles, trying to to find your objectives. I enjoy observation games like “word searches” and “spot the difference”, so this game appeals to me on that level. As well as the theme and mechanism. And again, more relaxing with more players, as you will have time to find your constellations a few times over. If someone takes a tile from that formation before your turn, you can adopt from the new tiles or fallback to the second card in your hand. But that's it. It is pretty shallow and repetitive, but doesn’t drag out. A game can last for about 20 minute and at that point, you'll be ready to move on or play again. With all the playtester I encountered, some found it relaxing and pleasurable, while some found it stressful and frantic, and others found it a tad dull and drab. Not only in the colour palette but also so in the gameplay itself.
Now, this is the prototype version that I played, that had missing pieces. Again, I am unsure if the style of the games art and design will be the same or change. But what I had was all clear and easy to interpriate. Games ran smoothly. We even player without a timer. This was not as fun. Maybe if you were playing with children, this would be an option. I’ll finish by saying that this is a great introductory game for those getting into the hobby and a sweet family game. Short and easy to understand. Some interesting ideas, but not enough to keep coming back. Extra rules or a fourth colour or larger night skies, would all be nice. We shall see when the final version comes to stores later this year from Precisamente.
Azul (2017) review
With three versions of the game now in print, (Summer Pavilion, Stained Glass of Sintra and the basic version of Azul) the sky seems to be the limit for Next Move Games. All three games are abstract tile placement games, share the delightful tactile feel and have had some generus buzz built around them. Winning an award or 10 in the progress, like the 2018 Spiel des Jahres and the As d'Or. Having never played the to newer versions, I cannot give you a comparison or rank the titles in any shape or means at this time. Maybe in the future this will come to pass.
Two to four players will have the privilege of collecting these delightful otherworldly tiles and try to apply them on their wall. Of course this sounds very simple, but there are ways and means of collecting and attaching them to your wall, that will add a challenge. Each player will have their own plateau to place their tiles on and score their own points. While in the middle of the table, tiles will be randomly placed on a number of beer coasters, (there is no other way of saying it) to squabble over. This is technically the heart of the fun, or discomfort of the game. Planning ahead and calculating what the other players will take or discard will take up a vast amount of your gaming experience. And the great thing about it is you can still play the game haphazardly and probably still fair well by the end of the game. Making it an easy game for any level of experienced gamer. Just like anybody can slip on a pair of socks but weather there a matching pair all the correct way round doesn't really matter.
So let's go back to the beer coasters. When your turn comes around, you can select one of these beer coasters and remove the tiles from it. From those removed, you can only keep one set of the same pattern. As seen as there are only 5 different patterns (or colour) in the game, you're more than likely keep one or two of the four tiles that are placed there. All of the remaining tiles will be removed to the centre of the table. The centre of the table is treated like one giant coaster. At some stage in the game, a player may decide to collect all of the tiles of one pattern from this space. As the game goes on, more and more tiles will be added to this. First player to do so will have the benefit it of being the first player in the next round. Of course it has an advantage but it also has a disadvantage explain later on. Taking from this pool can have some benefits of its own, as you can grab a greater number of same coloured tiles in one action. Totally beneficial. Also someone could leave you with no choice but to pick up large group of same coloured tiles to add to your board, which could lead to your downfall. This is one of the great dilemmas of the game. Calculating what you need and guesstimating what the others will need. Picking and choosing while forcing the other players to leave you the best scraps. This is not evident in the first and possibly second round, but as the game goes on, you will find and that this is all you're doing.
Let's go back to the tiles that you have decided to keep. These will go to your individual player board, where you have a 5 by 5 gridded wall to try and decorate. But before you can add these tiles to your wall, they will have to be placed off to the side of a column that you wish to add them to. As soon as all of the tiles from the coasters and the middle of the table have been collected, this is when they can be applied to your wall. But only if you have the correct amount for the column. Each column requires a different number of same coloured tiles before they can be added to your wall. One column requires one tile. Another two tiles, three tiles, four and then five. It is only now that they can be added to the wall and you will score points for each that does. Again restrictions are in place to make the game a thoughtful, challenging and hopefully fun experience. Each pattern can only be attached to the wall all in a column that doesn't already have the same pattern. Think sudoku. Not only are you trying to get the correct colours in the correct column, but also so in the right quantities. If you do not have the prerequisite to move a tile onto your wall, the tiles you've collected it was stay in that saved space until you do have the required amount. This can lead to missed opportunities in scoring. And the hope of getting them fulfilled the next round. Observant players may take a gander at your previous rounds treasures and play it to their advantage, as I stated before, taking the things you need leaving the tiles you don’t need to collect in you negative point box...
Moving onto scoring, there are multiple ways to get points from this game. These are all relatively simple, but the strategy relies on how and which spaces on the wall you fill. Placing a tile on the wall will give you a point. Adding a title to an adjacent tile will give you a number of points depending on the number of adjacent tiles, either horizontally or vertically. So as you can see, placing a tile in the right column at the right moment can give you big numbers. This is the strategy that will separate the mice from the men. But it relies on what tiles come out of the bag and onto the coasters, what tiles the other players leave for you to take and which columns you place these tiles into. To win every time you'll need to be a clairvoyant. Or just aware of the scoring strategy. Two things I haven't told you about the scoring are 1) there is a bonus chance to get extra points at the end of the game and 2) you can lose points by taking the wrong pattern or number of tiles.
The bonuses are very simple. You get extra points for each column horizontal or vertical. On top of that, if you manage to add 5 of the same coloured tiles to your wall, they score you mega points as well. But the gut-wrenching part of the game is losing points from round to round. How does this occur? Going back to the very beginning, when you collect tiles from a coaster or the middle of the table, your add them to one column next to your wall. These all need to be of the same colour. And the correct amount needed for the column. If you have more than you need, they cannot be added to another column. If you have no space in a column or it cannot be added to a column due to the fact that you already have that colour attached to your wall in that row, these count towards negative points. At the bottom of your bored there is the negative point boxes. You will add these unused tiles to this one by one, from left to right. And even the first player marker, which is a tile, will go there as well (see, being first player has benefits and negative effects). When a scoring round comes along, this is when you total up every negative point that every negative tile gives you. If you miss plan or have other superior players screwing you over, this can really sting, as each box gets a little more negative. One time that this happened to me, made me hate the game immediately. If I had reviewed the game then and had been a vain critic, my rating would have been very poor. But that's not the kind of critic that I am. Everything deserves more than one chance and not be judged by its cover. Plus this is it go-to game for my wife, hence I have no choice but to play. LOL
Even if you're not enjoying the game, they never tend to last very long. Normally after five rounds the game or come to a close. As the finishing condition is when one player or more has as five tiles in a horizontal line. This is very easy to achieve as the first column only requires one tile of one colour. As long as someone one fills this column each round, round six never exists. It is then that you look at your final scores to decide who the winner is. With relatively simple rules to follow and a rapid playing time, this is a perfect family weight game in a family sized box. Play loose or play it with profound concentration, the choice is yours.
Chunkiness is the key. The boards are thick and sturdy. The tiles are gloriously smooth. And the sack is not bad too. Although I'm not a fan of the black cube, which you place on your board to keep your score. This sucker will slide around from time to time, with so much movement having to move and removing tiles from your board, the board with shuffle or the cube will get knocked. All very minor when you consider the rest of the presentation. Presentation is at its best in the accompanying Rulebook. Well written and well presented with plenty of examples. There is even a variation to the game. By simply flipping your player board over, you will go from a wall that tells you where to put a particular tile, to a wall where you have to decide where to put a particular tile. Still following those Sudoku rules.
Technical Score 9.5/10
The game is brimming with wonderful tactile components, although it a little dull to look at. Simple rule set and quick dplaying time makes for a good family game.
My BGG Score 6/10
(ok -will play if in the mood)
I will hand it to Azul, that it is a very interesting game. But it feels restrictive and repetitive. You have to learn how to be good at it, with a little card counting, bluffing and of course luck. You could say the same about Carcassonne, but there's something enduring and pleasurable about building a map in my opinion.
Combined score 7.75/10
Now it's over to you...
Going back to the darker days of board gaming. When a slightly younger version of me was making segments for The Dice Tower "Barry Thinks..." There, I was a disgruntled little man with opinions on what is right and wrong with our hobby.
And here I am, doing it again. But why?
Well, I received a package the other day from a Kickstarter. And it lead to this...
What do you think?
Please feel free to write comments in the section below. I would be happy to respond and hear your side of things.
And if you missed out on those Dice Tower videos, here are a few of them for you to muse over.
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.
RONE (2018) 1st impression
The post-apocalyptic, Magic the Gathering card game without the endless years of collecting. That's one way to describe this card game. As you are a hero who is picking through the remains of a destroyed planet, possibly Earth, collecting technologies and other warriors to fight for your cause.
Let me start by saying that the version of the game we played was of the second edition. So some of these comments might not apply to the future installments of the game. Again remember that these are first impression of a “One Time” play, of a two-player game. Therefore different configurations of players may change the overall feel of play
The rules of the game are pretty straightforward, especially if you are familiar with dueling card games. Each player will have a deck of cards and they will be using these cards to attack their opponents. Simple as that. But there are some interesting mechanisms and differences between this game and others of its ilk.
One of those differences is the set-up. For the base game, you'll be randomly constructing your deck and randomly picking your hero. As this is not a collectible card game, we found a very large selection of cards of each type in the game. This randomness in constructing a 24 card deck fits the theme of you picking through the ruins of a destroyed City, finding technologies, and other fighters ready to fight for you. With about 250 cards to choose from, and what looks like only two copies of each card within the deck, everytime you distribute cards you will have a different setup. And therefore play your strategy on the fly, with each card you reveal. This leads to a lot of random gameplay and possibly put off players who have to adapt quickly to what they have. But the alternative is to either give your deck a good looking over before playing or to play the advanced rules and build your own deck.
After our first play, I can admit that I wasn't too enthralled by this prospect, although I see the possibility of multiple plays leading to a better understanding of the game. Again multiple plays would also lead to faster smoother gameplay, less pausing and rule book reading. But my feelings were also tainted by the poor luck that I had. First impression, remember! In the game, your deck is your life points. Burning through your deck is not an option as these cards will go into your graveyard and when you have no more cards to draw or in hand, it's game over for you. Every time you take damage from an opponent, a card from your hand or your deck will have to go into the graveyard. I had the disadvantage of chance when everytime I took damage I discarded a card from the deck. Which all happened to be Unit cards. And every time I drew a card into my hand, it happened to be a Tactics card. What's the difference?
A nice element about the game is, there are these two types of cards. Units will fight for you, while tactics are like one shot effects. Can you now understand my frustration? In hindsight, I should have kept the tactic cards instead of playing them to try and melt my opponent's life points. And then when damage was taken, I would discard these for my hand and instead of blindly drawing from the deck. Not only are there two types of card, each type of card comes in one of three levels. These are to correspond with the level of your hero character. Which again could be a problem for some players who don't level up their hero at the beginning of the game. There's nothing worse than drawing cards that you can use, due to a restriction.
So apart from my quibbles of randomness in the game, there are some interesting and exceptional ideas. Unit cards and the Hero have attacks or powers that, once used will have a cool down period. This is signified by the numbers on each side of the card. A simple colour system will remind you of the duration of the cooldown. Making tapping your card a simple affair, although it took a little while to remember in which direction the card should be turnt at the refresh phase at the beginning of your turn. For some reason we have a natural affinity to turn things clockwise. Where as in this game, it's anticlockwise.
Combat in the game is simple and logical. Some units have weapons that can shoot at a distance while others are hand-to-hand combat only. Leaving way for some interesting decisions that you will make while trying to take out your opponent. Two characters with the same attack is simply a case of the numbers and who has the most highest. Both doing damage to each other as well as exhausting themselves for a round. Where as, someone with a gun going up against a hand to hand expert has different consequences. The gun will always fire first, before the puncher I can punch. Realistic and interesting, as well as refreshingly simple.
When cards go to your graveyard, you have a choice of placing them either on the top or the bottom. This can be an important tactic because you can bring cards back from the dead, if they are on the top of the graveyard. Each card has its own recycle value, which means that you’ll eject that number of cards from your graveyard to bring the top card back into play on the battlefield. Plus there are other ways and power that will allow you to do this.
Now let's talk about the heroes. There are about 20 in this version of the game, each coming in three levels. Each will bring you a certain amount of water at the beginning of your turn. It is this water that is the currency of the game, allowing you to recruit and play cards into the Battlefield. Also this water will permit you to level up your Hero so they can activate more powerful cards from your deck. In fact, you may spend your first 3 to 5 turns doing so, while your opponent starts chiseling at your life points. Not only do they give you access to more powerful cards but also themselves, collect more water or even give the ability to draw a card into your hand each turn. All have the same regular power, of an additional water or card, but each also has their own unique power to discover. We also played with the optional rule all of technology cards. Again, these are dealt out at random. Of the five cards dealt to you, only three of them can be played into the game. These changed the balance of the game as they were introduced, once more leading you to adapt your gameplay to what you have in your hand. Plus giving each player a unique playing style.
The quality of the product is pretty high. The card quality is good, although there is no proper storage solution in the box. The tokens for marking damage or power-ups and power downs are chunky and easy to read. In fact the whole icon system is simplicity itself. The dark apocalyptic art is somewhat lost in the cards, but if you stare at them closely you can appreciate the wonderful details the artist has created. The rule book is nicely spaced out and easy to read. But could still do with some “easy to find” chapter markers and possibly being a bit more profound in its descriptions and definitions. We did run into some questions that we could not answer from the rule book or even the videos that we watched.
This is definitely a Board Game that Everybody Should probably get better at, with time and an understanding of some of the hundreds of cards. A great idea for those who just want to jump in a card battle, without having to collect or trade from blister packs. Plus very little down time to explain the rules. It's theme of scavenging the wastelands of a destroyed utopia is there at the beginning of the game but slowly dissipate into dust as you realise that this is primarily a two player Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh card game. But you can also play as 3 or go up to 4 players team matches, which is a bonus for this type of game.
As I said, these are the thoughts and feelings after one play of the second edition. The complete edition with expansions is currently running on Kickstarter. If this sounds like your type of thing, click on the link below to be zapped to an alternative universe.
Is he a Cool Mini or Not? Peter Shirey is here to talk about being CMON's Play Manager and Retailer Relations Coordinator. Or Not? ...
This is an interview show where I have taken the idea of the tv show “Quantum Leap”, and put our guest in the shoes of Sam Beckett. Time traveling into people's bodies, in our case people we know. And finding out one of two things. If our Sam will walk in that person's shoes, absorbing a character trait or admiring their life. Or if our Sam will change something in their life, for better or worse.
Who will he jump into? And what is coming from CMON in the future? Maybe some Zombicide 2nd edition? Watch and see...
Joined by Eli Mamane, first time designers and publisher, who thinks he is here to talk about his Kickstarter game Vector Wars...Maybe he will, if he can make it through the Quantum Quiz. Join us Live.
Look out for Vector Wars on Kickstarter on the 20th of October
What is vector wars?
Vector Wars is set in a Tron-style universe where the world has run dry of resources and clans fight in a virtual arena to gain one of the last remaining energy sources for their people known as Zetta Orbs. Vector Wars is a 2-player area domination game based on a 9 square board known as The Grid. You place one of your 9 character cards face-down, which gives little to no information to your opponent as to the strength of the card placed. These cards flip to give you an individual flip ability, which you may use to battle to keep control of the grid. Your job is to try and gain the most victory points by maintaining a tactical advantage over your opponent, which will ultimately gain you the victory.
Poule Poule (2019) review
Making a movie can be a difficult process of casting the right people to fit the story. Choosing the scenery and settings while keeping everything under control and stopping outside influences from strolling in front of your camera. Balancing the action scenes with the plot points, to keep your audience guessing and enthralled. Not going over budget and finally, remembering that someone else has to edit this footage into the final film.
Poule Poule takes all of this and narrows it down into a fun and mind stimulating family card game. A game where one player will direct the movie by revealing cards, while other players are the movie editors, poised to make a cut at the right moment.
This memory and slightly mathematical puzzle is played out with a deck of cards. The deck can be set up for a very simple basic game, involving very few actors and props. With increasing difficulty levels depending on the amount of extra characters, walk on parts and additional props you wish to add. The game also offers some blank cards for you to draw your own characters and create extra rules of your own. Getting back to the basics game, your constructive a deck containing 10 chickens, 10 foxes, and 15 eggs. And the gameplay is very very simple…
One player would take on the role of a Director, who is making a film about Poule Poule. They will take the deck of cards and shuffle them ready to present to the other players, who are the Film Editors. The Director only want to see 5 uncovered eggs in their film. These editors will then watch the film reel that the Director has captured, as they play their film by revealing the top card of the deck. This will then be followed by the next card, which is placed on top of the first card. This continues at the speed the Director wishes to flick through their flic. And what the Editors are looking for is a place to cut the film. This cut should be when the fifth uncovered egg is revealed. This, in itself is very simple, as the Editor will slam their hand on the cards and shout, “Cut”. At which point the film stops rolling from the Director. Before anything else happens, any of the other Editors could challenge the one who has stopped the film, if they believe that they have missed counted the number of eggs. But if there is no challenge, this Editor wins themselfs one of three points, which are made up of egg shells. Winning three points, or completing the egg, will win you the game. But there’s a little more to it than what it sounds…
Remember that there’s not only eggs in this deck of cards but there are chickens and there are foxes, each of them has a role to play in this film. Whenever a chicken is revealed, if an egg has been played before it arrives in the scene, this chicken will sit on the egg. If there are no eggs in the film already or the previous eggs have been sat on by other chickens, this one walks off set. Remember that you are cutting the film directly after a fifth egg is available. Yes, you may have seen seven egg cards during the films playing, but how many of them were covered by chickens. And that is where the fox comes in. If a fox comes along and no chickens have been seen, it goes on its way. But if there is a chicken or two sat on an egg, guess what…? Let’s keep this child friendly. The Fox chases away one of these chickens, revealing the previously covered egg. This can throw a fun spanner in the works, as your brain is trying to recount from memory. And before you know it, someone has already won a point or lost a point if you are playing with a variant. After which the deck is passed to the next player and they become the Director.
You can probably tell by now if this game is for you or not. But I will add that you shouldn’t pre-judge this game juuuuuuuust yet. I would say that this is not only a game for children, but adults too can have great fun (especially when playing with all variants). The game is a simple memory game of adding one or minusing one every time a chicken or a fox comes along. Teaching your young ones logic and simple math while being a cerebral challenge for you and your drinking buddies, as there are 7 extra characters to play roles in these films. For example, the dog, who will wait around for the next fox to arrive and then chase it away. The ostrich egg that counts as two eggs, and cannot be sat on by the chicken. Or the farmer, who will collect all previously uncovered eggs, resetting your count to zero. As I mentioned earlier, there are blank cards for you to draw and create your one rules and characters. On top of that you can penalize players who make mistakes with incorrect gases or failed to call the bluff on another. All of this will add complexity and extend the extremely short five minute playing time into and longer challenging party game.
With a very interesting color palette and unique art style from Pauline Berdal (Kami) that makes every character unique and stand out from the others. This all leads to gameplay that is smooth and the roles of each character easy to differentiate. The rules themselves are extremely simple but deciphering them from this very small rulebook can be head scratching. Although the text is written in a lighthearted manner that reflects the theme of the game, it is unfortunately in a shorthand that you need to have some background on before you can play. Or at least watched a video on. Charles Bossart (75 Gnom' Street, Stumblewood) has found some interesting combinations in memory games to create and interesting rapid past time. Although the theme is very present on the cards, and kind of reflects cell by cell movie reels as you reveal the cards, it doesn’t translate well into the game and is quickly forgotten.
Once you know the rules, the gameplay is very very quickly. In fact, I've had some 5-minute games due to the fact that one player at the table was very observant and very speedy at cutting the film. Within 3 turns, they had won the game. This can sometimes destroy the morale of those who are not quick or retentive and put them off playing this game in the future. Sometimes while playing you will see these players slide out of the ambience of the game, leaving victory with a slightly sour taste in your mouth. So I can see this is probably just a fun game that adults can play to have a laugh. Or this is for adults who think that they are intelligent and can challenge each other with. But mainly I can see this game working with parents and their children. Possibly best with the parent playing the directing role throughout the game. Definitely a good laugh with 4 or more players. Anything less is a little drab, like being the Director and not being able to participate in a challenge or the count itself. The game states that it can go up to 8 players, although that maybe a squeeze around a table. But there's a good chance there's a lot of giggles and laughable arguments.
Oh, I forgot! I also was commissioned to create music for the game. You can find it on Spotify, Deezer and many more streaming sites.
Technical score 9/10
Sweet looking art, quality cards (with different coloured backs) and a small box that can travel anywhere. A good like insert for the cards but no baggie to hold the point making egg shells. The rulebook lets it down by using its own language and does not explaining these terms, that hinder learning the game.
My BGG score 7/10
Good - usually willing to play.
A game that pleases me and makes me feel clever. I am a sucker for this logical mathematical game. Enjoyable if you like challenging others with you reflexes and brain power (of counting 1,2,3…) Although, it's not everybody's cup of tea and playing with these players hinders the game. And again, the game can be unbalanced depending on the level of the players playing. A good quick filler game when you have a group of 4 or more.
Combined score 8/10
And now it’s over to you
Cupcake Empire (2018) review
It’s not very often I get inspired by a board game, which immediately after playing, I wish to do what I did in the board game. In this case, I immediately wanted to make cupcakes after playing Cupcake Empire (and eat them too). But in no way do I wish to run a chain of stores .
This colorfully attractive game uses dice as workers. So expect a bit of a random play as you roll the dice and allocate them to their specific numbered jobs. Of which there are five professions which use those numbers of the dice. If you’re dice workers turn out to be number 1’s, they will help in the production of the sponge bases which forms your cupcakes. Number 2’s will produce the icing while number 3’s will help you construct outlets. Building outlets on different streets will allow you to make deliveries in that street, which correlates with the number 4’s, that will do your deliveries. 5’s represent the manager and has some managerial actions like, hiring new staff which will give you extra dice, building bakeries and the possibility of performing any of the other actions already mentioned.
Each of these actions get more and more powerful the more dice there are in that column. So for example you could create a nice simple sponge base by having three number 1’s. Having five number 1’s will allow you to create a special sponge base. And finally having six will allow you to produce a simple and a complex sponge. Considering you only start with eight dice, what are the chances of you rolling six number ones to perform that special and action. Don’t worry, as you’ll have five experts with you.
Each of the different jobs don’t only have a number allocated to them but they also have a color too. Therefore five of your eight dice will be colored to correspond with the five actions, while three dice are grey. These colored dice are experts in their field. Having your expert dice in the right action column will allow you to perform the action superior to what you can perform with your dice in that column. For example, going back to sponge base making, if you have three number 1’s in the column, this will allow you to create a simple sponge, remember! But if one of those dice happens to be the expert purple dice, this will allow you to perform the action above that, which normally requires five dice. So you’ll be able to create the special sponge. And if two of those three dice are purple, you’ll be able to perform the super action of getting two sponges. The manager, which is the pink die, is an expert in every column, therefore boosting every action. But wait a second, you’re probably saying that the chance of rolling the dice and getting these experts into their correct column is very wild. The good thing is there are lots of ways to mitigate the dice in the game.
For one you will notice that I haven’t mentioned what happens to the number 6’s! Whenever you roll a 6, that worker is tired and will go and take a vacation. Vacations will give your staff a chance to have a good idea, which is actually a token, of which you can collect a maximum of three. The bad news is that this vacating dice is kind of out of play, as it takes its holiday. Other bad news is that it gives the other players a chance to have a good idea as well. Each player has a track on which a cube will move along every time someone put a dice on holiday. Although you yourself will immediately get a good idea, whenever this cube passes a certain point on the track, those players could possibly have a good idea as well. These good idea tokens can then be used in all manner of different ways. Spending a maximum of one good idea on your turn can sometimes lead to some interesting decision-making, as the things that these good ideas can do are quite powerful. And if circumstances don’t go your way, you may be led to make tough decisions on how to spend this one good idea per turn. You may have more than one worker on holiday, which limits the amount of actions you can perform. But spending a good idea token can bring them back from holiday. And what’s better news is that you don’t even need to roll them to tell them what action to do. You just place them in whichever column you want. Which is a great advantage if you have an expert dice on holiday, as you can place them directly into their designated job, therefore boosting that action to a more powerful one.
Other things good idea tokens can do include, buying a power up or shifting a dice from one column to another. Again, these are two powerful actions that can change the outcome of the game. Moving an expert into their designated column so you can perform a more powerful action then you have lined up, is a bonus. But on top of that, buying a power up, that can be activated when you perform an action is a super bonus. Each player will start the game with a random power, which they will allocate to the beginning of one of their columns. Every time you perform that action and use the dice next to this powerful token, you get to activate it. These powers can be chained to an action, three at most. Or you can spread them out so you are always performing a special power on every action that you perform. These powers will allow you to gain victory points immediately, to building an outlet or make a small delivery. And also help speed up the process of getting good ideas and acquiring sponge bases and icings for your cupcakes.
Winning the game couldn’t be simpler. As every round you are going to score points. Once someone score more than 70, the game comes to an end. Every player has a cooking skills of level of two and in economy of level of one. At the end of your turn, you are always going to score the number of points depending on which of these tracks is the lowest. In other words at the beginning of the game, every player is going to score one point at the end of their turn, due to the fact that their economy track is on one. Unless on your first turn you manage to raise the economy by either building an outlet. Delivering cupcakes is one of the major objectives of the game, as there is a separate board with all your bakeries and outlets laid out next to streets, where clients are waiting for cupcakes. These clients come in the form of Meeples, beautifully decorated in the same colors of the cupcakes that they wish. For example one meeple has brown trousers and a red top, meaning that they want a chocolate-based sponge with a strawberry icing topping. And there are many different combinations of these meeples, as there are four different icing flavors and two different sponge base flavors. An important thing to take note of is the distance that they are away from your outlet or bakery. The further away they are, the more powerful your delivery action will need to be. Not only that but the further away they are, the more they boost your economy and possibly give you victory points at the same time.
You’re cooking skill track will go up every time you create a cupcake, combining a base and a topping. Basic toppings and basic sponges will make this track augment by one per article. Where as the more complex sponges and icings will lift it by two each. The great thing about this is the simplicity of creating a cupcake. Not only is it just combining two beautifully delicious looking tokens together but also, once that recipe has been made, you can continually sell that type of cupcake to any client who demands it. And as these client Meeple are randomly placed out on different streets at different distances, this is where the puzzle solving lies of what you are going to cook and when are you going to deliver it.
And that is basically the game. Turns can go by very quickly as the action are very simple. On your turn, you choose the action you wish to perform. This takes mear moments. Then you roll the dice that were used in the action and allocate them to the corresponding column. Before finishing off by scoring points from your lowest track. Play them passes to the next player. These mechanisms are very very quickly picked up by new players. And you may find a game for two players ending in 30 minutes. Which shows you how light and family-friendly this game is. In fact the game looks more complicated than it really is. And I was a little disappointed as I thought there would be more time to invest in the game, building and developing your business. But like all good games, it ends at the right moment, leaving you with that sensation of, “if I had one more turn I would do this.” Always a good sign of a good game in my opinion. And making you want to come back and play more.
With plenty of options on your turn, although at the beginning, you may feel a little restricted depending on what you have rolled, this is a medium weight fun game. With the addition of random bonus objectives, this is a racing game to score the target points before the other players. And even them, you may not have won... Players can then calculate ways to boost their final score. There are many routes to success. You don’t necessarily have to go all out and deliver, deliver, deliver. You can also use the power ups to give you the advantages in certain actions to push you ahead as well. Or just carefully balance your economy and cooking skill track, as you will gain a constant amount of points each turn.
There is some interaction between the players as there are limited resources, in this case the flavors of icing. There is also a limit of spaces to build your bakeries and outlets, which can sometimes and very rarely lead to territory wars. As you can remove someone’s bakery outlet to place your own. This then has an effect on that players economy and cooking skill track, making them step back a bit. And the finishing touch is that even though there is the random dice rolling, you will never feel really stuck on choosing which action you want to do. There is a fair amount of dice mitigation. Even if you feel screwed over at the beginning of the game, you can sacrifice your starting five victory points to move dice or collect good idea tokens.
On the aspect of production, this is a very colorful and attractive looking game. With chunky player boards and beautiful cupcakes that you combine together. This game will leave you hungry. The Meeples, with their different colored trousers and tops is a subtle but effective visual aid to the game. And I kind of wish that they were used more often. The packet of dice that you get in the game are of very good quality, with nice rounded corners. The colors on them make them look very edible as well. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are the player pieces which, number one; come in some very strange and unattractive colors. Which is understandable as you would not wish to confuse your playing pieces with the generic playing pieces of the game. And number two; are a little bit small and finicky. They are easily dislodged from their spaces whenever the table moves, which can be annoying. But again the production has a way around that, as everything on the boards is indicated with numbers and colors. So even if you do knock your playing board and you can’t remember where your cubes and pieces go, you can reference to something to re-calculate your scores. And the other small tokens which are finicky are the power tokens, that don’t look or feel so special. On a side note, these are a tad annoying to organize at the beginning of the game, but that’s a minor gripe.
Technical score 8.5/10
Mechanisms and rules are simple to pick up and well explained in the book. The components are a mix of solid and gorgeous looking, while others are too small, fiddly and seem like they are from another game. Icons and actions are simple to digest. Plus fantastic look, app style graphics.
My BGG score 7/10
Good - usually willing to play.
A nice family game with some interactions and a smidgin of nastiness. Personally, I thought the game was deeper, but it’s lightness lends itself to a larger audience. Great theme that is not so much about making the cake, but business building. Plays in less than an hour with very little time taken between your turns. Works well with two players but shines with 3 or 4, as you battle for space and recipes. Plenty of room to move and adjust your strategies to push you score, even with the luck of dice rolls.
Combined score 7.75/10
Now you need to test it...
Clash of the Ardennes