Queenz: To bee or not to bee
Technical note 9.5 / 10
The material is very good except the individual trays (even if finally it is used very little). The rules are clear and the game is very fluid. The rules are very readable and everything works fine.
My score BGG 10/10
(Exceptional - will always enjoy playing)
More than a racing game, a fun nugget. Fun, catchy, fluid, surprising, tense, original, thematic ... A game that you should not miss, especially if you like racing games.
Combined score of 9.75 / 10
And now, it's up to you to play ...
wacky Races (2019) Review
Do you remember this old cartoon Wacky Races. No ? Ah, but that does not have to stay that way. You must rush out and discover this. So many childhood memories. And this is not new. Indeed, Wacky Races is an American cartoon created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The cartoon was born in 1968! It even had a sequel / reboot in 2017.
If the title of the cartoon does not necessarily speak to you, the two main protagonists will be known to you. Dick Dastardly and his dog Muttley, during each episode, try to win the race by preparing traps to make the others racers lose. And like the Coyote, these attempts are constantly turning against them. But in Wacky Races, all shots are allowed for the eleven participants, all more colorful than the other.
What was a surprise to see was a game adapted from this license. And from CMON Limited in addition. So that's something that could potentially make us happy, or on the contrary, make us run away. The theme is not necessarily the easiest to adapt.
Wacky Races: The Board Game is a game by Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola. They created two versions of the game. The normal version is the one you find most easy to access. CMON made pre-orders for a deluxe version with pre-painted figures. This one (rather successful) is scheduled for the end of 2019. The version I got is a normal retail version.
To be honest, what made me crack was clearly the license. Being able to find all the drivers of my childhood and being able to play with them in a board game, it seemed very nice. The illustrations of Giovanna BC Guimarães are very faithful. They put you directly in the arena.
The principle of Wacky Races: The board game is very simple. Each player chooses a driver and takes their model and individual board. Also taking the four "abilities" cards that are placed on that board.
For the drivers, we have the joy of finding the eleven from the series:
- Vehicle # 0: Dick Dastardly & Muttley in the The Mean Machine
- Vehicle # 1: Prehistoric Men: Slag Brothers: Rock Slag & Gravel Slag in The Boulder Mobile
- Vehicle # 2: The Gruesome Twosome inThe Creepy Cup
- Vehicle # 3: Professor Pat Pending in The Ring-A-Ding Convert-a-Car
- Vehicle # 4: Red Max in The Crimson Haybailer
- Vehicle # 5: Penelope Pitstop in The Compact Pussycat
- Vehicle # 6: Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly in The Army Surplus Special
- Vehicle # 7: The Ant Hill Mob in The Bullet-Proof Bomb
- Vehicle # 8: Luke & Blubber in The Arkansas Chug-a-Boom
- Vehicle # 9: Peter Perfect in The Turbo Terrific, a dragster
- Vehicle # 10: Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth in The Buzz Wagon
Then you’ll create the circuit. This one is composed of map / tiles laid more or less randomly. More or less because the tiles are separated into two halves. At the end of the first half of the circuit (after 8 tiles), there’ll always be the gas station. Then, continue laying the remaining 8 tiles, being careful to add one special tile (choice of four). The number of spaces to finish the race is theoretically always the same (there is nothing prevents you from playing with everything). The normal circuit is composed of 18 tiles.
Each race participant is randomly placed on one of the starting locations. One character per tile, only six in each race (seven if you count the Mean Machine). The goal is to arrive first on the finish line. Logical, this is a racing game. The game announces a 10 to 15 minute per game and it does not lie. We are clearly in the game very fast.
The normal tiles are each a different landscape. Landscape that you’ll find repeated several times. They range from the desert, the forest, the meadow and the farm. Added to this are special tiles with obligatory gas station and another one to choose between either the marshes, the crossroads, the railway crossing and the ACME factory. Of course you’ll always finish at the finish line. Special tiles act as a joker for moving. It is important to know this because all the movement of the racers will depend on the type of tile which they are on.
Each player has three cards in their hand. Each card represents one of the landscapes mentioned. The first action of a player is mandatory. They must discard a card (any one) to move a tile. After this move, they can then discard another card that corresponding to the terrain they are now located on, to advance a second time. This can be repeated a third time (after inevitably the player has no more cards in hand, so their turn is over). The cards played must match (except the first one played) the driver's location to allow them to move one space. Each tile has two spaces, which can accommodate up to two drivers. If a third wants to move onto that space, it is automatically placed on the next free box ( not counting the tile full). Then the player draws back up to three cards.
Finally, at the end of the player's turn, Dick Dastardly and the Mean Machine are moved. This car participates in the race but in a particular way. Indeed, as in the cartoon,Dastardly and Muttly try to trap their competitors to win. Their car is placed on the tiles and not on one side or the other, like the players. It does not count in the limit of two cars and is not played by a player. For his move, look at the discard pile. The last card played indicates where the Mean Machine will go.
For example: a desert is on top of the discard pile. The Mean Machine goes to the next desert tile no matter the distance. If a wild tile is on the way, Dastardly must stop there (except for the Station Service tile because "refueling is for losers"). If there is no movement possible, then the Mean Machine runs out of gas and must give up (because without fuel "you may not be a loser but you can not win").
Fun little detail, if Dick Dastardly & Muttley lead the race, they take the opportunity to place a trap card. You then take the first card of the associated deck and put it on the tile. Thereafter, if the two cheaters must go through this tile, if there is still a trap, it does not count as a movement space. After placing a card, as it takes time, they fall back to last place.
With less than six players, there remains a last step. Indeed, all drivers who do not belong to a player, are considered neutral. They have their own way of moving forward. At the end of a round and just before the first player starts playing again, all neutrals advance one space. Then, you reveal the first card of the deck. If the terrain matches, the drivers involved advance one space. Again a second, then a third time. If a neutral racer reaches the finish line first, they win. In a game with two players, after the neutral stage, Dastardly plays again.
And there you go. Now to finish with the details ... When a player reaches a space with a trap card, the card is revealed and the trap activates. There are eight different types of traps: falling rocks, log, oil slick, false tunnel, broken bridges, sabotage, mud pool, false signam. There is also the possibility of falling on a plan that has failed (which is good for racers).
During the installation, I told you about cards abilities. Each racer (neutrals do not have one) has four cards. These cards can be used at any time of their turn. Just flip your card once used. There are ways to avoid certain pitfalls, the ability to pick or renew his hand, to advance faster, to invert tiles ... These cards can sometimes give you a good boost and sometimes counterbalance a capricious chance. To know that once the last driver has passed the gas station, all the players can reactivate all exhausted cards again.
So what about this Wacky Races: the board game? From the start, we know what to expect. The game is not meant to be a complicated game. Its duration for one, its short rules, the possibilities of gameplay, it is a family game, easy and quickly. Wacky Races is a driving game for the family, very simple and possibly too simple. Compared to its price, one wonders if the publisher has paid too much on the license. Still, the game has good ideas.
Already, the respect of the series is a very appreciable thing. Thematically, visually, we are there.
It's a good thing to have eliminated Dick Dastardly & Muttley and made them an aggressive neutral player. The idea of traps is interesting, but quickly finds its limits. Already, this does not necessarily happen much in one game and can disadvantage the same player several times. The number of traps available is quite small, it does not allow for big surprises when discovering the cards and created a lack of variety which is heavily missed.
The game system is pretty good, but relies far too much on the luck of the draw. If you have the right combos at the right time, you will advance much faster than your competitors. It also plays on neutral management. Very good idea, but unique to each game, this system will create tension ... or nothing if the cards do not really allow them to move forward. We understand that the idea of making a simple family game was paramount, but the trouble is that in this state, it is limited like if we had rolled a dice, and that on the right number we advance (and again the die would be more fun). Cards can become very frustrating and very unfair. And it's not really the idea of abilities that will save things. On paper, that's fine. This allows for a slightly different and personalized drivers. In fact, the powers are very similar and with little variety.
The duration of the game, quite short, allows to reduce some feelings evoked without removing them. Rules for a championship mode (rather anecdotic) are included.
The miniatures are rather successful. A lot of details and we are plunged into this crazy world. On the other hand, the rest of the material is quite surprisingly poor. It is true that the publisher has accustomed us to good or very good. And there, see the cards / tiles very thin and not detailed, it surprises. The trap cards are very simple and do not have their own illustrations. The decor of the tiles is quite hollow, without relief and flavors. The cards capacities are at their limits ... The players boards are also very thin and their machine construction plans, which look strongly reminiscent of Victorian Masterminds (also a CMON title) could have been a little more worked. Except the miniatures, the rest leaves me really doubtful.
Moreover to return on the racers. It's a pleasure to know that there are eleven of them. But ... why are we so limited to only six players (so seven cars in play at the same time)? Why could they not have proposed more tiles to make longer circuits and thus incorporate additional drivers and make it more like the cartoon ??? No ... here you will only have the right to only have six drivers at the same time. What a disappointment. A few more tiles, a few more special tiles, that would clearly not have been luxury.
I am very annoyed with this game. I would like to love it, I would like to advise it, I would like to share with you my joy to play it ... But ... I can not. Deception would be a fairer word. I expected maybe too much. It happens sometimes. And yet, when the game starts and you are the required number, it turns out well. With children or family, it works. But between players, spent the discovery ... the atmosphere starts on a flat calm. Where is the fun? Where is the madness of the series?
The game is clearly not bad. But it really lacks something to make a good game. As it stands, the thing that can make you come back is the nostalgia side. The desire to plunge you back into this crazy world. To face Dick Dastardly & Muttley, to drive the The Army Surplus Special or the Compact Pussycat ... Finally, it did not need much more. More varieties in the powers, more variety in the traps, more varieties on the special terrain, more tiles, the possibility to play with all the drivers, more devious tricks to play, the possibility may be to lessen chance with a small side risk taking (and again it can pass thematically) ...
That's it, you know what to expect. To be honest, despite its many faults, I enjoy playing it. Even if I can not convince others to play another round. The game is still quite pleasant. Without necessarily leaving a playful imprint, it will satisfy you during this short period of time.
If you are a fan of this cartoon, you can even find your child's soul. The actions, the atmosphere stick thematically. But if you are big players and looking for a challenge, I can only advise you to think twice. A family run game, very well with children even as a game for an appetizer. But who misses the finish line because of road exits a little too frequent. Too bad, it really had potential.
Technical note 7/10
Apart from the cars that are very successful and the illustrations, the rest leaves something to be desired. Tiles too thin, not very detailed and varied. Fine cards and offering little variety. Player boards with little interest ... The rules read well.
My score BGG 6/10
(Ok game, only with the right audience)
My love of the cartoon stands out on my note. A family game that will not go down in history, despite interesting ideas and a very pleasant background. A disappointment compared to expectations. Quick and easy to play. To advise with children or with family.
Combined score of 6.5 / 10
And now, it's up to you to play ...
Tanuki Market (2019) Review
Before I start talking about the upcoming game, I'll remind you what a Tanuki is. It is a small carnivorous mammal that looks like a raccoon. In France it’s called a raccoon dog. The only canine to hibernate.
In Japan, it is known as Tanuki (bake danuki). This name is not insignificant because it is also associated with a Yōkai of the forest. Renowned master of disguise, it was in the Middle Ages that this spirit began to be mainly represented in the form of Tanuki. Symbols of prosperity and opportunity, it is a benevolent figure of Japanese beliefs. Represented very often with a giant scrotum called kinbukuro (money bags) or kintama (golden balls), a straw hat and a bottle of sake, the Tanuki is also sometimes a little mischievous, but always kind.
But why am I telling you about this animal? Simply because the game that follows puts you directly at the head of a team of five Tanuki. Indeed, in Tanuki Market, you will have to collect food to feed a group of this little jokers at the expense of Mamie Reinette. Tanuki Market is a little card game by Alexis Allard released by Superlude Éditions. It allows 1 to 5 players to compete to recover the best possible combinations of cards to feed their Tanuki.
The village market is in full swing. The stalls are full of food and other local products. Within this village, not too far from the forest, Mamie Reinette's famous grocery store is open every day. Mamie Reinette runs her shop with an iron hand but ... sometimes she has her back turned or becomes a little sleepy. When these moments occur, the Tanuki, not far away, benefit. Without waiting, led by a Polo the Pilferer who is in top form, they try to grab the crates of fruit into their trolleys, heading towards the forest and the good belly of these adorable little beasts with hair. Everything is going well until the return of Mamie Reinette. This one will have no pity and will chase them as fast as possible.
It is therefore in a childish atmosphere that the game will unfold. For the set up, each player chooses a color and then takes the five cards associated Tanuki group. These cards have panels numbered from 1 to 5. These represent the tables on which the fruits will be stored. Small detail, the numbers represents the order in which to display these cards but also the value of points that each card posed here will bring back at the end of the game (I will come back to this). Then you take as many trolleys as players. Mixing well the rest of the cards (having first place the Mamie Reinette card as indicated) and you are ready.
The first player receives the Polo the Pilferer card. They will have the heavy responsibility of starting and distributing the fruit. Begins with placing Polo on one of the trolleys available. Polo occupies one space in this trolly (yes, it's a bit strange). From the moment Polo is placed, the round begins and each player, including the first player, can at any time retrieve a trolley. A player can only take one.
The player, who place out Polo, is called the pilferer during this round. The pilferer must draw a card from the deck. Drawing and looking at one at a time. Two choices are then available:
- Refuse the card: then places it face up on one of the trolleys of their choice, with a limit of three cards in each.
- Accept the card: they keep the card and takes one of the trolleys still available. Obtaining four cards instead of three.
Whether the pilferer has taken a cart or not, they continue to fill others by renewing this action. If they have already taken a cart, they can only draw and directly put the card on one of the trolleys still available. If they can not put the drawn card down because the trolleys are already full and they have already taken one, they must then rest this card on the top of the deck without showing it to others.
But aren't there games like this already? Unlike other that use this system for example Coloretto or Zooloretto, Tanuki Market opts for real time. Indeed, from the moment Polo is laid, a player can collect an available trolley, whether it is full or not. Sometimes you'll be able to steal a cart from the pilferer before they can pick it up. The author has incorporated a (light) system of the speed mechanism, to what is already a little deceitful game. This small subtlety give another interesting aspect to this little card game and differentiate it somewhat from its "playful predecessors".
Once a player has recovered a trolley, they are out of the race for that round. But now that they have brought a trolley back to the forest, they’ll need to display the fruits on the tables. Always starting by filling the leftmost empty table. On each table, there can only be one type of fruit. As said before, the table number also corresponds to the value of points that each card will bring back at the end of the game.
For example: if I have three cards on table 1, each card will score 1 point.
I already have a strawberry on my table 1 and a watermelon on my 2. I just picked up a fig, a strawberry and a banana. I have the choice to put my fig or my banana on the table 3 and the other on the 4. My strawberry will necessarily be on my table 1 with the other. Each table has only one type of fruit and each fruit needs to be placed on a table already holding that fruit.
Once each player has chosen a trolley, it's the end of the round. The trolleys are returned to the middle and the player who has picked up the Polo card becomes the Pilferer of the new round. Play continues like this until the appearance of Mamie Reinette (which happens to be the sixteenth card from the end). Mamie Reinette perceiving that fruit is being stolen, will end the game at the end of the round of her appearance.
You count the points and ... no, that's not all. The fruits are not all identical. Some cards have small subtleties to them. Some have immediate effects.
This is the case of the moving of fruits. When such a fruit is added to a table, all the contents of the table must move left or right. If there was already one type of fruit, you swap the two types. It is mandatory. Sometimes it's good, sometimes ... we do it anyway. There are also effects that do not engage at the end of the game.
- bonus points for 5 different fruits;
- bonus points for a group of the same type of fruit;
- points lost for fruits already eaten;
- a sign that replaces the score on the table (reporting three points per card instead of those indicated by the table whether 1 or 5!).
You must then pay attention to the types of fruit that players recover but also their abilities at the risk of being trapped. Turning a 5-point table into a 3-point table hurts the final score. This idea adds a lot of replayability and welcome tension. The scoring of the points is done according to the collected cards and tables, as well as bonus of three points for whoever holds the Polo and Grandma card during the last round.
For players looking for something deeper, an expert variant exists. This replaces the basic trolleys with special ones having each one of their own peculiarities. Each special cart is double-sided, thus offering different limitations. We can’t lie, once we understood the game, we played with this variant to increase the pleasure and replayability.
As a fan of “Push your luck”, I was curious about this game that uses a system that I like a lot in Coloretto. Without necessarily renewing the genre, Tanuki Market offers very nice, small additions that spice up the game. The game is very family-friendly and it is not the beautiful illustrations of Naïade (Xavier Gueniffey Durin) that will make you think otherwise. Very colorful, quite childish, very cute, the illustrations put you in the mood of a sly sneak thief.
Level iconography, everything is clear. Once the rules are read, you will not return and everyone easily enjoys playing without the difficulty to understand. The powers of the cards are visible and easily decipherable. The game can be played relatively everywhere (taking up a little room on a table but it can be more or less compact).
A solo version exists. But just like the two player version, this remain anecdotal. Indeed, the more of you there are, the more interesting the game will be. With less than three, you can do whatever you want and even at three it remains light. Which seems logical enough for this type of game.
Without necessarily taking big risks, the game has trouble finding it identity. On the other hand, for those who do not know its predecessors, Tanuki Market offers itself as a good little family game, fluid and cunning. Simple to play, visually appealing, it can easily bring together young and old for fun and short games. The choice of special trolley cards offers the game a lot of replayability. The interaction is very present especially with many playing. The open ended side, to choose a trolley when you want can surprise in the first game but soon you’ll take your bearings and pay more attention to what you want, what others want and what to avoid. But sometimes speed will deceives you and make you trap yourself.
Tanuki Market offers a good colorful family entertainment. Simple to get out and explain, a mix of collection mechanisms, risk taking and real time will find its place and delight for the young and old. A card game to put place in anybody's hands assuredly. Beware of your neighbors, maybe one of them is a disguised Tanuki. I invite you to play a round with the soundtrack of the excellent Pompoko (studio Ghibli).
Technical note 9/10
The iconography is very clear. The game installs quickly. It is easy to access for young and old. The illustrations are effective and childish.
My score BGG 7/10
(Good game, usually willing to play.)
The game offers quite well-found ideas even if it is difficult to emancipate from its playful predecessors. Simple and fast, it offers some moments of fun. The real time may surprise but once you get used to it, it adds interest to the game. The trolleys available in the variant allow good replayability.
Combined score of 8/10
And now it's up to you
Misty (2019) Review
It's raining again. A real deluge … We can not go outside. What are we going to do? Oh, what ... On my window, the mist seems to be forming something. And if I added that ... and that. Ah yes, it's starting to look like something. Oh, the cool car. And there, a rocket. And there, oh no, a monster that attacks the plant! My window is turning more and more into a real story.
Oh, the pleasures of being a child. These moments where our imagination allowed us to travel while staying at home, thanks to our "talents" of imagination. These talents, which, it must be admitted, were in fact very far from resembling what we believed. But what mattered was the fact that we believed in them and that it made us travel far. Well, our parents were laughing less when they had to clean the windows behind us, because of the traces left. But what memories.
It is with this approach that Misty was born. Misty is the latest game (at least as I write this article because, game designers never stop) from the designer Florian Fay. An author who derives from already known and proven mechanisms, sometimes improbable ones, creating a new life with this mixture to a perfectly well working game. Games like Apocalypse Chaos, Greenville 1989, Mesozooic or WonderZoo are all perfect examples. With Misty, the author revisits card drafting and programming by simplifying it and allowing as many people as possible to discover it.
Misty was released at Helvetiq in 2019. This game fits straight into the range of small boxes from this publisher. This is probably close enough to the minimalist "Japanese" small box games.
Inside, a fairly short game rule, 54 cards and that's it. The cards are of a format adapted to the box (but not necessarily to sleeves for the most addicts of you). Easy to carry, easy to play.
A bit like Mesozooic, Misty offers an original experience. In the end, each player will have twelve cards with which he will have to create a window. On the final form, you do not have to choose from the beginning of the game. Your window will come alive as the game progresses. At the end, it must form a rectangle of:
- 4 cards in length and 3 cards in height
- 4 cards in height and 3 cards in length.
At the end of a round, players win points. Whoever has the most wins. The goal is to win two rounds. The first to whom it happens, wins the game.
Now that we've seen how we win, it's time to find out how we play. The game is played in two phases. In the first, each player will receive six cards. Misty is a real time game. In other words, there is not really a turn. Each player plays at the same time.
You will choose a card among the six in hand. You will put it face down in front of you and you will pass the rest of the cards to your neighbor (right or left, following what you all agreed at the beginning of the game because we do not change on the first six cards! No, I said. We must follow strictly ... sorry, I get carried away ... Hum resume ...). Once each player has chosen their card, you reveal it together. This is the principle of the draft.
Now, you will have to play this card to form your window. If it's the first time it's simple you put it where you want. On the other hand, for the following ones, it will be necessary to place them adjacent to another one (vertically, horizontally or diagonally). This can be done in height, length but within the limit of the maximum final size of your window. Not always so simple.
You’ll do this five times, the last card is also added to your window ( this one you do not have the choice necessarily). Once the first six cards are in front of you, your window begins to come to life. Yes, that's right. There will be holes, especially to form the twelve locations. So guess what? Yes, you’ll receive six new cards. And this time, you have to fill these holes. It is also better to change the direction of the draft.
Once the twelve cards are laid, it's the end of the round. The draft is finished. Now it’s time for the resolution of the programming, and for me to explain the second part of the game. The draft is only one of the gears of the game system.
Once the card laying phase is over, we move on to the activation phase. At this point, you will have to activate all your cards. Fortunately, you will choose which order. Without being complicated, the choice of your activated cards will become important. For each card with an arrow, it moves a "space" on your window or outside (if it was placed on the edges of your window). Each uncovered monster goes greedily towards a plant. The others remain in place.
Displacements are important. It will be well to visualize the best way to position your cards and the order in which to activate them. At the end of a round, you’ll move to the scoring phase.
- Each uncovered "normal" card will earn one point.
- Each card removed from your window will not earn you any points.
- Each card covered by another becomes blurred and will not earn points because blurry drawings are deemed ugly.
- Each visible plant will earn you two points (watch out for monsters!).
- Each Smiley card that you have successfully positioned directly adjacent to another Smiley will earn you three points.
Felix Kindelan's illustrations work perfectly with the theme. The childish side and fogged images puts you directly in the mood. The choice of drawings alone is a return to childhood. The indications are also very clear and the fact of putting them in the direction of laying cards is a very good idea. This allows a simple and effective reading direction. Players quickly learn how the whole thing works.
The game offers an introduction to drafting and programming for 6 years olds. I admit I did not have the opportunity to try the game with a child of that age, but as it stands it may seem a little complicated. Or you must accompany your child with each turn. It may also be practical to leave two unused cards, face down and in two different directions, in front of everyone, to give an example of the window templates. This can avoid mistakes and make it easy.
In its aspects of child's play, Misty managed to confront you with a game system very fun, but not so obvious, in a simple way. Offering some moments of reflection, Misty offers a beautiful playful time, especially for three players. Indeed, a game with two offers less challenge, which does not allow the game to have any interest.
The designer offers us a first approach of the game of programming coupled with a system of draft, sometimes a little deceitful (but finally too rarely in the majority of the parts), ideal therefore for those of a small appetite. A game that takes little time. The rounds are fluid. The choices are logical in most cases. For the less experienced, it is possible to take a little more time to better plan future acquisitions / positioning. As time goes by, this time will be lessened.
It is true that for expert players, the game will quickly find its limits despite an "expert" variant. But at the same time, Misty is not necessarily meant for them. Playing it is a bit like abusing good treats for others, a little guilty pleasure but very pleasant.
Misty is a game that feels very nostalgic. Nostalgia for those carefree childhood moments. From those steam drawings that amused us so much. And this time, we do not fear the reaction of our parents, on the contrary, we drag them with us into this little crazy world. Some will even go so far as to be able to train their kids or their family to bring out their good old RoboRally ... With such an interesting "training ground", would they be wrong to deprive themselves ?
Everything fits perfectly in the box. The iconography is very clear. The rules are pretty good and the drawings display the theme well. Even if it is quickly forgotten.
My BGG score 8.9 / 10
(Very good, enjoy playing and would suggest it.)
For this style of play and the intended audience, Misty passed the test. Simple, fast, easy to transport, install, explain and play, everything is a big plus. Perfect entry into drafting but especially for programming (especially because it is not so common), it will convince young and old. To try it is to adopt it.
Combined score of 8.95 / 10
And now it's over to you...
Star Scrappers: Cave-in (2018) Review
For several years, the authors of Eastern Europe have continued to distinguish themselves by games with original themes and refreshing mechanisms. At this level, the two people we immediately think of are Vlaada Chvátil and Ignacy Trzewiczek. But behind these two great talents, many other authors have managed to impose their styles like, Oleksandr Nevskiy (Mysterium), Adam Kwapiński (Nemesis), Michał Oracz (Neuroshima Hex!), Adam Kałuża (K2). And I'm not talking about illustrators who are more and more numerous and who also bring their own styles. Not to mention also the publishers who have found their places on the international scene as Awaken Realms, Czech Games Edition, Rebel, Portal Games ... As such, Poland is a country that tends to pull out of the game. Authors and creations are constantly increasing. And best of all? The majority of these games are good or very good. Faced with a current production that constantly seeks to renew itself, the contribution of these new visions offers a significant fresh wind.
I discovered the game I'm going to talk about today thanks to the Institut Polonais de Paris. For more than three years in particular, this institution seeks to highlight the board game made in Poland. And rightly so. Present especially during events like Paris is Ludique (French games festival), it is above all players who seek to share their passions playful. If like me, you like Polish productions, I can only invite you to get closer to this institution to discover more because the Polish ludique landscape deserves to linger and devote time to.
Star Crappers: Cave-In is a game produced with Kickstarter. The game is now finally available in 2018. Released to a bit of anonymity, this game made by Filip Miłuński (CV) and Jan Zalewski (Andromeda) is published by FoxGames and Hexy Studio.
As often in games from Kickstarter, the game has benefited from exclusive elements. My version being a "retail" version does not have this additional material. Some are only aesthetic as an improvement to the faction busts, but others are used in gameplay as new objective cards. It is difficult for me to judge their contribution and their interests without having played. That being said, let's get to the game itself.
Star Scrappers: Cave-In is a futuristic apocalyptic game. Fifty years after the last interstellar war, civilizations have found common ground and live in relative peace. The commercial war thus ignites the universe especially after the discovery of a new resource: Xendryd crystals. These resources offer power and influence to those who possess them. This is how many companies, coming from all different races, meet on the moon of the planet Cyrkon Prime: Corund. You end up at the head of a mercenary company. Your mission is to extract as many crystals as possible in order to impose yourself and sell to the highest bidder.
The installation of the game is fast enough especially if you ask the other players to contribute. Once done, each player starts by drawing three cards (one level 2 and two level 1’s). At random? Yes. Do not leave, not only is it a very small bit of chance but especially it is the only bit of chance in the game (except of course the pick at the resets, but hey, if you weigh on it we can not do anything anymore for you...).
Armed with your three cards, the game will begin. On your turn, you will be able to perform two actions. Sometimes, some cards will allow you to perform an additional action. The two actions are chosen from four available. With our normal actions, it is forbidden to do the same twice. But nothing prevents it if you have specific bonus actions. Example: for my first action, I extract a crystal. In my second action I can not do it again unless I have a card that tells me precisely "you have an action to extract more crystal". If so, I can do another different action with my second action.
The available actions are:
- Recover new mercenaries
- Acquire an artifact
- Extract crystal
- Use the abilities of a member of your team.
The main game engine is the management and use of its cards. Star Scrappers offers an interesting mechanism for this management. We are dealing with a mix of Splendor and deckbuilding. The cards recovered in hand will be played to carry out the actions. Cards recovered during a turn can be played directly after the action. The combo factor is therefore important in this game.
Here, no decks or picks. The cards played will be discarded face up in front of you and accumulate. Each discarded card is placed over the previous card. This is your base. The card visible, so above your stack, will become your leader. There can only be a maximum of seven cards in your base, which also corresponds to your maximum number of cards. This principle is very important to assimilate well in the game, but we will come back to this. Thus, each action will ask to use certain combinations of cards according to their colors or their numbers.
To recover new mercenaries, you have to pay the price. The mercenaries are divided into four levels. They form a pyramid, therefore you have more level 1 than level 4 cards for example. At the end of the round, if a mercenary has been recovered, it is replaced by another of its level. This feels a little like Splendor. Each mercenary has several values and informations to take into account. Already, there is its level which corresponds to a number going from 1 to 4. Then, one finds its color (depending on its race). Finally, each mercenary has a capacity that can be immediate or permanent. These three bits data are important depending on the action you want to take later. To recover a character, it is enough to pay his cost by discarding mercenaries from his hand. A level 1 requires only one action. A level 2 requires an action and a card (any color) with a minimum value of 1. A level 3 is an action and a value of two and finally level 4 is an action and a value of three (this can come from several cards). The choice of recruitment is important throughout the game. The chosen card goes directly into your hand and it becomes available right away. Discarded cards join your base.
Mercenaries in hand, can now go in search of victory points. The first way is the acquisition of artifact. These cards are face-up and can be purchased by all players. Their cost varies according to their importance. Each card is divided into two parts. Most often, the artifacts are a way to win victory points and has a power or a very interesting ability to help players (improved action, cost reduction, ...). The subtlety is found at the time of the purchase of such a card.
When a player acquires it, they must choose one of the two sides and position it under the card of their faction so that everyone sees only one of the two texts. It will match the chosen capacity and can not change for the rest of the game It has to be said that both sides are very interesting and that the choice is sometimes very difficult. To recover one of these cards, you must pay the cost with mercenary cards. Regardless of the color and the number of cards, it is sufficient that your total value corresponds to at least the number written on the artifact (you can discard for more). Artifacts are often expensive to buy but offer abilities or ways to score very important points. It is important to take those that best fit your way of playing and not necessarily leave them to other players.
After all that, maybe you will have to get a little work done. You're not there for sightseeing, are you? So you will be able to send your mercenaries to harvest the precious minerals. A little like the mercenary cards, the crystals are arranged in a pyramid on the other side. They correspond to four levels. Levels 1 are easier to acquire than Levels 4. To recover a crystal, you must discard mercenaries from your hand. The value of discarded cards must be equal to or greater than the value of the crystal. But that's not all. The color of the cards played is important. Indeed, all the cards discarded must be of the same color between them and of the same color as the wanted crystal. The crystals yield victory points shown on it. But beware, not all crystals are the same. Some have symbols that at the end of the game, will offer more significant points, depending on the different symbols obtained.
The last action focuses on your mercenaries. Each card has a special ability. These abilities most often allow you to circumvent the prohibition to perform the same action twice. But it can also be a bonus cost reduction during your turn. To benefit from a capacity of a mercenary, it is necessary to play the card for its power. Small exception for your leader, if it has a permanent power, it will be active all along when it is not covered by another card. At first glance, this action does not always seem the most important. And yet, it can allow you to make some pretty interesting combos.
We have gone through the normal actions available during a game turn. But, there is one that gives, almost alone, all the peculiarity to this game. This is the action "Attack a base". Attacking a base is an action that requires you to spend both your actions on your turn. In other words, unless you have an additional free action, you will only do this. Yes it's expensive, especially for a game where the concept of race for victory points is important. You are free to target any base. It can be an opponents or yours. Yes, you can attack your own base (I do not see thematic logic, someone explain please). But what can this serve? Besides the fact that it adds a little interaction, this action allows essentially more strategy. After choosing the targeted base, you automatically win. Obviously, they are too busy with their mining to protect their achievements. But being attacked is not so punitive.
Already, the defender recovers their leader into their hand. This card is never lost. This notion is very important during the discard phase of your cards when you are playing. Benefit from a permanent power or protecting another card ... The choice of your leader is in itself an important notion. In exchange, the attacker receives the leader token of the faction's color. Attention, not the player but the recovered leader mercenary card. Owning a leader token to a permanent reduction of 1 during the crystal extraction action on the same color. Finally, permanent ... until you no longer have the faction counter in your possession.
Then, the attacker can steal as many cards available from that base and fill their hand to their card limit. Remember that a base is limited to seven cards, and that the hand is also limited to seven cards. The hand can never exceed seven. If you have to draw a card while you are full, it's impossible, simply. Paying attention to your hand is a very important notion.
The action attack a base is one of the most interesting things in the game. Far from penalizing other players (especially that it is possible to target oneself), this action is very strategic game-wise. You have to know how to play it at the right time and maximize the gains it can bring you. At the same time, knowing this, you will be led to think more about how to play your own cards and especially when. Wait for the right moment, when the other players have well-filled hands to try to recover their cards the next round. Try to create an unattractive discard pile to prevent others from coming to you. But to do so means to deprive oneself of actions that can be powerful to you.
This notion is finally quite new and little used, even if it is not non-revolutionary. These hesitations offer a quite fun experience. Because in the end, even if you steal the cards you have patiently accumulated, you can steal them at the right time. Without going through the system of bluff / counter-bluff, this system adds a little tension and some tasty moments of reflections. Not to mention that it is one of the main factors of the interaction of the game. A real good find this mechanism!
But how does it end? By dint of drilling everywhere, the stability of the moon is less and less assured. On some crystals, there is a cave-in symbol. When one of these crystals is extracted, the collapse marker is advanced one notch. This is also the case when one of the slots becomes empty. Once the marker reaches the number of players (shown on the central board), this is the last turn before the site collapses.
Star Scrappers: Cave-In is a surprising game. At first glance, the game seems to correspond to a kind of inverted deck building with a strong connotation of Splendor. Until then nothing extraordinary. But the addition of the choice of artifacts and the method of using them (goal point of victory or permanent bonus), the method of recovering crystals and the way to use cards make it an interesting game. I was not counting the fact of this adding a layer of pleasure. The Attack the Basics action gives the game a sizeable hint of additional strategy and optimization. And this, without necessarily complicating the whole or weighing it down.
Star Scrappers is indeed a fluid game. In turn, the number of available actions are not important, however each mistake can be expensive. Under its few aspects of game development and card management, Cave-In is a race. A race for victory points but also against time. You have to be able to optimize your choices so that everything works for the better. But it's not so easy. With a chance close to zero (except in the appearance of cards), the game offers a highly interesting challenge.
With its gaming system, it goes off the beaten path and offers an experience, not new, but different. With a relative simplicity of approach and mastery, the game offers significant depth.
But the game is not free of defects. You can sometimes blame it on it’s repetitive side when everything goes according to your plan. Finally, if you summarize it, roughly you could assimilate it to "I take a card, I get a crystal". "I take a better card and I get something else." But that would be to forget a big part of what gives the charm of the game. To make abstraction of the present tension and some, not so easy choices to realize.
Being a little picky, we can also blame a little lack of theme and similar illustrations too. Indeed, even if the work of Mateusz "Draegg" Stanisławski and Łukasz Witusiński is interesting and gives a certain atmosphere, it is regrettable that too many cards have the same artworks (method well known fans of FFG licenses). A little more customization would have added immersion. Especially when we see the talent, we want to have more.
Star Scrappers is unfortunately a game that has not had the success it deserves. I'm not generally fond of this kind of optimization game. And yet, the sauce really sticks well. Simple, fluid, accessible, it offers a very appreciable challenge. Unlike many games of this style, it brings through its mechanisms an interesting and welcome interaction. The world of the game is inspired by a miniatures game developed by Hexy. An interesting universe that deserved to be more highlighted.
The replayability of the title is present by the implementation and the fact that at each game the available factions are not always the same. Another good idea lessening the winning combo. I can only advise you to try this game and discover the system of "discard-building game" (that's what they call it, not me).
Star Scrappers: Cave-In is a game that can put you directly in the mood and competition. Simple to access, it offers a pleasant depth. It also benefits from a fairly soft price choice, especially compared to the pleasure it brings. Playable from two to four, it is pleasant to play in all configurations. A very good surprise for a surprising game.
Technical note 9/10
It is unfortunate in view of the artistic quality of the illustrators to benefit only to have the same cards with illustrations so similar. More variety and customization would have been a bonus, especially for immersion. The rule is well written and the iconography is clear.
My score BGG 8/10
(Very good, enjoy playing and would suggest it.)
For this style of play, Star Scrappers offers one mechanic and an interesting challenge. Not devoid of any defect, it tries to transform known mechanisms to obtain a rather original play style. Without renewing the genre,ise proposes a style of its own, fluid, simple and yet worked. A nice surprise to try without delay for those who like the genre.
Combined score of 8.5 / 10
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