Tiny Town (2019) review
Wooden cubes have been in games since the very early days of the modern age of board gaming. They were used to represent troops, workers, resources and even viruses, plus possibly many other things. And as time has gone by, they have been replaced by more complex shapes such as the meeples, different shapes or miniatures. It's been kind of sad that they have been phased out, as we gamers have become more accustomed to having our components look like the object they are supposed to represent instead of having this abstractness. But the cube is not dead and gone, as it is still a cheap alternative for new publishers to get their games onto store shelves. Unless they're going through Kickstarter.
So it's nice to see in Tiny Towns, that tip of the hat to days gone by, as the cubes are back. Replacing resources as we know it like wood, glass, straw, stone and brick with their traditional colours (brown, blue, yellow, grey, and red). These are the things that are going to be used by 1 to 6 players, to build their Tiny Towns. All in a spacious, yet claustrophobic 5 by 5 grid.
The premise of the game is that players are all going to build their own town at the same time with the same resources. One player will be named the Master Builder and will choose one of the five resources. All players will have to take that resource and add it to an empty space on the player board. If you have no empty spaces, you are out of the game and will have to wait until all players have their boards filled. Otherwise, if you have laid out enough resources to match a building schematic, you can build that building. Then the Master Builder role is passed to the player on the left. There, you have all of the rules. You can now go away and play this game. And that is one of the elegant things about this game, it’s simplicity. Within a few minutes, you’ve explained the rules.
So where is the fun of the game? Well, the fun lies in the different buildings that can be built. There are eight different buildings in a game that will be available, seven of which are common and the eighth is unique to each player. Even the common buildings have four different variants in the base box, apart from the cottage. This gives you some replayability as you can mix and match these buildings or take them at random. On top of that, the unique buildings come with 15 very different structures that all have unique scoring abilities and powers. At the beginning of the game you will pick out one of each of the common buildings and place their card in the middle of the table along with the large pile of individually different looking wooden buildings that come with the game .If you’re feeling adventurous as gamers, you can deal out an individual unique building to each player. These are kept secret until complete. This takes a little time as you may need to explain the scoring conditions of each building.
Each card is laid out with all the information clearly visible on these large Tarot size cards. From the unique beautiful art of what the building would look like, and its associated playing piece. Plus a description of how it scores points at the end of the game and a plan of how the building can be constructed. This plan is simply a formation of the resource cubes. Once you have it laid out on your player board, the correct positions and colors of the cubes, that means that you can construct that building. Constructing the building is a simple case of placing the building you’ve constructed in one of the spaces of the resource matching the plan. Then all the resources are returned to the general pool, leaving you space to and new resources and build more buildings. This is a fantastic puzzle aspect of the game as you know what you want to build but the other players do not. Everyone has their own idea of how their city should look or functions, but due to the fact that everyone’s going to be choosing different resources yet using the same resources, can lead to some interesting cube formations. You’ll need to do a little bit of forward planning and leave yourself open to constructing two or more buildings at the same time, possibly from the same resources. Space is going to be of a premium as the game goes on. Head scratching will start with the “what do I build” to “where should I put this.” As the game goes on, you’ll find yourself struggling to construct or squeezing in resources that you don’t need onto your small little town. On top of that, how can you milk the most points out of the things I don’t need.
Each of the buildings will score in different ways. Some will score points if they are adjacent similar buildings or different buildings. Others will score if they are in a particular part of the town. And the basic cottage will only score points if they receive food from one of the farming buildings. This is a basic requirement for every game. Some of the interesting buildings like the warehouse, once built, whenever you have to use a resource that you have no space for or do not wish to disrupt another formation, you can place it in your warehouse. And later on when you are asked to add another resource to your town, you can swap it out with one in your warehouse and use that instead. Of course this is a great benefit but it also has its own penalty. Like the bank will give you lots of victory points for each one that you build but every time you build one, you will have to place a resource on it and you can no longer call that resource out when you are the Master Builder. A really interesting way to screw yourself up but also pretty sure way to get ahead of the pack.
With colourfully whimsical art, chunky wooden pieces and clearly explained rules and scoring conditions, this is a very well thought out production. Although the yellow and orange or red and orange building can sometimes be confusing to distinguish due to the proximity of the colour pallet. The insert holds everything in place and with baggies to hold your components separately, you’ll only be sorting out at the end of your session. A very large score pad that won't have you squeezing in digits, although they won’t be lager. With scores generally around 20 to 30 points, it will not take you long to find out who the winner is, unlike other larger group playing games. Again, games take the same amount of time regardless of the number of players. So if you are eliminated because you didn’t manage your resources wisely, you will not be hanging around long waiting for the others to wrap up.
The game is basically, everyone is being dealt the same hand of cards. But it depends on what you do with them, that determines how well you score. Think multiplayer Tetris. All players have the same blocks that fall. Some players will complete line after line, gaining minimal points, where others will stack them up in hope of squeezing in that long thin shaped one. Boom. Big points. This is something you may see in Roll & Write games or if you have ever been to a convention, you would have seen the “Pandemic Survival.” Everyone's town will start relatively the same, but as rounds go by, they develop into their own thing. And this is the aspect of the game that I adore. It is a real challenge against the other players. You all have the same level playing field (if you play without the unique buildings). It is interesting to see how your town starts going in a direction that is different to your neighbours. And you will need to keep an eye on them too. To try to predict what resource you think they need and will call out, then you will be prepared to slot it in an advantageous space or start building another building to what you had planned.
Or the reverse, on your turn, call out a resource you know they don’t want. Yes, there is a literal element of “screw your neighbour” in the game. You can sometimes shoot yourself in the foot. Although most of the time, you can get by. Unless you are advanced in the game. As space becomes tight, turns take a little longer, but not so long as to annoy anyone. The game has it’s restrictions, at the same time feeling very open to interpretation. With so many combinations of buildings and the way they interact, fitting them spatially on the board, plus the order that changes naturally or the resources makes this a fun battle to play with family and friends.
You can also cater the game to your liking. Giving younger players the chance to mulligan up to two resources during the game. This is a nice way to get those inexperienced players the chance to challenge the more expert ones. Or maybe last a few more rounds than usual. And if you have no one to play with, there is a simple solo mode to jump on to. A small deck of cards are used to dictate which resources are available from round to round. Not as fun as playing in a group but a sweet little puzzle for those who like that sort of thing. And with an expansion coming later this year, more buildings are rule will ensue, expanding this already replayable game a little further.
Technical score 9.5 / 10
Basic cubes that don't bug you and are easy to remember. Cute art and solid components, from the insert tray, to the wooden buildings. Easy to read text on cards and easy to read rulebook with examples galore. Apart from some confusion over the colours, there is nothing that I couldn’t recommend to be changed
My BGG score 10 / 10
Outstanding - will always enjoy playing.
Simple to teach. Simple to play. A great puzzle challenge for anyone in your neighbourhood. Playing on a level playing field is what makes board gaming great for me. I’m always left with that “I could have done that better” taste in my mouth. A great family weight game. Possibly this generation's Catan.
Combined score 9.75 / 10
My cup of tea, maybe it's yours too. Try it...
the grimm forest (2018) review
Like any tale, it starts with a "once upon a time". The story I am going to tell you happened a long time ago. His Excellency, King Reginald the Gourmand, decided to embark on a huge project by developing unexploited land near the mysterious Grimm Forest. Far from thinking of the happiness and serenity of the inhabitants of the kingdom, the Lord imagined firstly to fill the coffers of the kingdom with the resale of these habitable lands. He therefore appealed to the legendary builders of the kingdom. Alas for him, the three little pigs, because it was them, have aged well since their last buildings. Their legendary abilities only seem ... legendary. From then on, his excellence was looking for replacements who can fulfill his wishes. This is how the famous title of Royal Builder is awarded in a competition.
That's about the beginning of this tale. The rest is up to you to write or rather to live. The Grimm Forest immerses you in an enchanted universe of tales. The game of Tim Eisner (March on the Ants, Tidal Blades)offers us the opportunity to embody the competitors as Royal Builders. It was funded on Kickstarter by Druid City Games in 2018 and will be published in French later in 2019 by Lucky Duck Games.
Playable from 2 to 4 players, the game really interesting at the four player count. The goal of the game is to be the first to make three houses on this land, in the three different materials: straw, wood and brick (just like the little pigs did). Of course, each type of house requires different resources. And is played in two phases.
The first is the search for resources. There are four different places: the forest, the quarry, the field and the market (four players). Each player has a card of each location in their hand. They then secretly choose one place and everyone reveals it at the same time, then places their pig on the destination of the card.
This guessing phase works a little like the game, Crossing. If you are alone in your area, then you take all the resources present. If you are several, you share equitably between you (there is the difference compared to Crossing, where we did not win anything). Simple, fun and cunning but not too punishing.
The second phase corresponds to the stage of construction and expenditure of resources. During this phase, players have two actions. Among these actions a pig can draw a Fable card, or recover a resource of any type, or build. Here you will be able to start building your houses. By spending the proper resources, you will be able to recover pieces of a house. The house consists of three pieces: the foundations, the walls and the roof.
It's easy to be builders right? Whenever a piece of a house is made, a friend (these are cards) will join you to help. You can keep this fairy friend or send it to another player. Each friend brings you more or less important powers. But you only have enough room for one friend (it can be expensive to employ outside help). So, if your opponent has a powerful ally, it can be fun to impose a new one on them. It takes the place of that powerful one and without your opponent having a say in the matter. The door is always wide open after all.
I also mentioned the possibility of recovering Fable cards. These are one shots that will help you in your fight or your construction. These cards usually bring a bit of Take That to the game. And as soon as it's played, it's gone.
And that's all ... Yes the game boils down to that. It is not a complicated game, nor a game too long. The game plays between thirty minutes and one hour. The interest of the game will be wholly in the resource phase and from trying to guess where the others will go, while going to a place that interests you. Fable’s cards will also play an important role. Whether in our production capacity and our ability to progress but also in the fun of a game.
The Grimm Forest at first glance could pose as a childish game by its graphics, its theme, its relative simplicity. But it is not so. With short and simple rules, it manages to offer a slightly higher challenge comparison to a child's level. On the contrary, the game is too simple for expert players to not get bored (too) quickly. So there are the families left.
But the problem that arises at this moment is the price. The game is quite expensive. I’m not saying that it's not worth it (I'll come back to that soon after) but for a family budget, it’s a little high. The Grimm Forest has a rather strange place but it has happened to find an audience.
The strength of the game does not come from the theme or mechanisms. It should not be ignored, the most important interest and attractions come from the material and graphics. The illustrations by Noah Adelman (My Little Scythe), Lina Cossette (Brass: Lancashire), David Forest (Charterstone) are magnificent. They have done an exemplary job on this game. Everything transpires the theme and the magic of these tales. As for the material, from the opening of the box, it’s an eye full. The figurines are superb. They are detailed and quite impressive. Which is even more impressive (it’s a pity?) since in the end, some will be not enough used. The resources are easily identifiable and pleasant to handle. The houses fit together perfectly and the rendering is top. The cards are good qualities. Hardware level, there is nothing to say apart from there is nothing to fault.
You'll understand, I love this game. I find the magical fairy side very appreciable. It exudes a charm due in large part to its artistic direction to small details. On the other hand, it is true that in terms of playful interest, the game will have difficulty finding its public. Even if it remains playable at two (the presence of a neutral player is a palliative to the lack of tension) or three, it is four that becomes really interesting. Below, the game loses its interest and especially its risk taking.
It is a game based on a race mechanism (first-come, first to build everything, first to win). For a family audience that is not afraid of exceeding playtimes of 45 minutes, the game can easily find a good home in the cottages. It remains a superb game, simple, interesting and very pleasant to play. Luck is of course present (as if luck was absent from the tales) in the decks of cards: Fables or friends. But it does not play a determining role in winning. The Grimm Forest is a bit like the tales of the Brothers Grimm, a good game with potential but not to put in everybody's hands.
Technical Score 9,5/10
The illustrations are superb. The cards are good qualities, just like the material. The figures are superb (too bad we do not use them anymore). The storage is really suitable (to be seen for the VF). The rules are clear.
My BGG Score 8/10
(Very good. play it and recommend it)
A good game that has a special care for its content. We can regret a lack of challenge that can occur between players, but in families it works really well. Even if you find yourself immersed in a magical universe, the theme is less enchanting.
Combined Score 8.75/10
And now it’s over to you...
The “Choose Your Own Murder Mystery Adventure” has landed and as well as crossing two game genres,(choose your own adventure & murder mystery) it also crosses two gaming mediums (board game, app game). It’s called Chronicles of Crime, and rightly so. There is a crime that has been committed and the clock is ticking. You’ll be investigating crime scenes, interrogate suspects and drawing your conclusions as quick as you can. Do this well and your team will get a high score. Failing slightly or terribly means that you can replay to see if you can do better. Or just look at the solution.
As you can tell, this is a team game or a solo affair if you wish. Both experiences make a little difference. Play on your own and you’ll be 100% engaged, but may miss certain clues or not be able to think out of the box. Playing in a team, your engagement level is as high as you want it to be. The more you participate, the more you get out of it. Being timid may leave you on the sideline, wishing you said “yes” to TI4 instead. And the more minds there are, the better the chance of succeeding at this puzzle. As this is what the game is. A tangled puzzle of what he said, she said, this clue, that clue and “I think it was…”
At the start of the game, after choosing a scenario, you’ll be given very limited information about a crime. Either a murder, theft or a disappearance. And away you go. If you have ever been on a Murder Mystery Weekend, this game will be very familiar. Instead of going away with some friends, to a hotel and dressing up in period costumes, you’ll be sat around a table, trying to decide what to do and where to go. And instead of bumping into character actors in the dining room or hallway, to get their accounts of what they saw and heard, you’ll have a deck of beautifully drawn character cards, with QR codes to scan. Scanning a card will be like talking to these actors.
But as I said, you will start with just one location or one character. By interacting, you will open up new locations and other characters. The game comes mainly from a very smart app that you will have to download to play. It holds a selection of stories for you to play and there are more in the works. Where as the table will hold a board, that houses locations, clues and characters. Everything has a QR code that you’ll scan into your smart device. A very intuitive system, where if you want to go to a location, you scan it and voila, your there. To talk to someone, scan them and they are now talking to you. But they need to be in the location that you are in. Ask someone about something, scan that person then that item. Scan, scan, scan. There is a lot of scanning in the game. More so at the beginning of the game, as you are collecting evidence and clues to a story you know not much about. There’s so much scanning, you may forget that this is a board game.
Talking of scanning...
If you have an older device to run your game on, you may like I, have trouble running the app. Or find that it freezes while searching for clues. Or it may struggle to scan codes, sending frustration through the group as you wait for a response from your number one suspect. Where if you have a brand spanking device, the game will run seamlessly. And fun will be had.
I’d say that around 70% of the game is on the device, the other 30% is at the table or in the imagination of players, trying to piece together this mystery. The game tries to get everyone at the table involved in the form of a light virtual reality, search the crime scene segment. One investigator will be given the app and using it, look around the location, calling out thing of note to the rest of the team. While the team will be flicking through a deck of clue cards, trying to find cards that correspond to what the investigator is seeing. The cards are vague in substance. Stating “bags” or “decorations.” The vagueness works well as player can discuss and debate whether it was a clue or not. It also leaves this items open for use in another scenario, as they could be shopping bags, hand bags or luggage bags.
The virtual reality that the game uses is like a 360 degree image that the investigator can either scroll through with a finger and zoom. Or if you have purchased the Kickstarter addon of the 3D glasses, you can slip these onto you screen and look around the interior of a bubble image. A very nice use of technology in a board game, as it inserts the player right into the world they are playing in. A time limit is added as well, meaning you will frantically be shouting out all kinds of things, in vain hope that your team can find the right clue cards. This adds some of the tension to the game, because as the titles states, you are up against the chronometer.
Every action you perform with the app, costs “in game” time. Your case may be on a time limit, were every minute count. As a team, you’ll be talking back and forth about what to do and what questions to ask. Every question, location change and search of a crime scene costs a different amount of in game time. Before you know it, it’s the evening, in game that is. And each character has a real life in this virtual world. Bob may be found in his Camden Town office during the day, but at night, he is at a little bar in Soho. And because of the way the game is written, Bob may be happy talking to you, up to a point. But asking him about one particular thing may result in him taking a dislike to you or maybe not wanting to see you at all. He may disappear entirely from the game. And that’s a hat tipping moment of the game, to the writers and programmers. You feel this world is alive.
The scenarios and dialogue are top notch. Nothing overwhelmingly complicated but still intriguing deep and perplexing. When characters speak, it’s not pages of exposition. It’s short, sweet, to the point and laced with clues. The language is not overly elegant like in Doyle’s Sherlock, but more in the realm of a TV sitcom, meaning everyone will understand what is being said. And everything that is said will make you go, “oooh!” In the scenarios I have played, there always seems to be a myriad of possible suspects or interwinding connections between the cast. The more you learn from the world, the more the path becomes clear. And before you know it, you are debating with your fellow detectives, that your account of the story is the correct one. Once you’ve persuaded them to take you to the station, to file your report to the chief, your in end game mode. You’ll answer a collection of question about the scenario, scanning the appropriate responses. Finally, you’ll get to see if your deduction skills have paid off, with a final score. This score will be made up from the correct answers plus the time that is took you to complete the story.
Each story will, after a time of discovery, get conversations started at the table. You’ll be recounting the events, drawing lines and connections between all the suspects. Laughing, arguing and brainstorming all the possible events that have come to pass, that have lead you to your conclusion. A real team game, where you may be making notes, taking names and placing bets on the outcome. You’ll soon forget that you are sat around a table will a smart device in your hand. You’ll actually feel that you are in New Scotland Yard, with Inspector Morse, Columbo and Jessica Fletcher.
Once you have completed a scenario successfully, it’s gone. You can replay it if you wish, but you’ll not be surprised by anything. Even if you play with a different group, months later. Something will trigger a memory and the answers will come flooding back. You could hold your tongue and let the others discovery the wonders of the game, but there’ll be nothing in it for you. Making replayability null and void. Although, replaying a scenario you failed at miserably, is a little more rewarding. But like the Choose Your Own Adventure book, when you die and restart, you’ll be zooming through the starting pages of text because you already know it. Until you get to that branching point in the story were you find something you didn’t see before or get a different response from a character. It is still satisfying when you finally get the correct conclusion. But again, unplayable after. A nice touch is that if you do fail, there is no obligation to replay, as there is an option to see the solution. Clicking on this option and you’ll get the who did it and why. So if your friends can’t come back next week, they have some closure to the story.
One other bug from playing a set in stone story is that, sometime you may miss a clue, not shown the right clue to the right person and feel that you have walked into a dead end. Not sure of where to go and what to scan, you do this frantically until something falls into your lap. Or not. The game does try to help you in the form of, if you pass a certain amount of in game time, you’ll receive a text from the chief of police. This will inform you that maybe someone else has been killed, and you need to get your ass to a location to interview someone. This puts pressure on you, but also help the story move forward. But if you are prudent about your scanning and not wanting to waste time, you may pass a lot of real game time, look blankly over the table, retracing your actions. What did you miss? Luckily, there are four, on hand experts that you can call on, who deal with forensics, medicine, data information and phycology. Always a phone call away. Another nice feature in the app is the ability to go back through the history of your scenario, reading everything that was said and done. A great feature if you have to stop playing for lunch, to recap “previously on…” And useful if you are all clued out.
Technical score 9.5/10
The presentation of the game is extremely well put together. From the wonderful (slightly to big) box insert to the simplistic rule set. And the artistic palette used in the locations and characters is pleasing to the eye. Cartoonie, but relatable. The fact that everything can be reused in another story and be something different. Like the characters, who are like actors. In one story, character 52 is a gardener and in another story, the politician. There are even linked stories that continue off from the previous ones. With the same roles designated to characters and seeing the repercussions of you solving a case. There is infinite stories that can be told with just this base box, as long as there are more available for download later on. And the app handles really well. Any bugs that crop up are cleaned up quickly, thanks to the quick response from the team at Luck Duck. Although the app lacks one small thing that will help immerce the players into the game further. Sound effect. The music is good (yes, I’m kissing my own ass as it was me that did it) but very repetitive. Many will just switch it off. Shame!
My BGG score 8/10
This is why we get around a table. To debate, discuss and have fun. And that’s what this games does. Although there is a long period at the start of every game of silence and scanning. Are real detective game that feels like a detective game. Just needs either a random element or a bucket load of scenarios to play...right now! =)
This game is my cup of tea
Hello Chaps and Chapette,
So many things have passed in the past month. More positive and upbeat. Let's start with the finish of a game that I have been helping promote by demoing, reviewing, blogging, chatting and even providing voices for. That is Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. It's not long finished on Kickstarter with a whopping $4.4 million dollars, making it the sixth highest funded board game. And the 24th overall KS.
On top of that, if you missed out, you'll be able to jump on board with a late pledge later in May.
There was also a few other Kickstarters that I was involved with:
Immortal 8 by Sorry We Are French
Chartered: The Golden Age by Jolly Dutch Productions
Chronicles of Crime by Lucky Duck Games
You can find out more these games by clicking the links above, their publishers name in the Shortcut menu to the left of watch the Blog video below.
What is "the Monthly Video?" 0:20
A Review of Reviews 1:32
Chartered: The Golden Age
Chronicles Of Crime
First and the Last 11:52
Mythic Battles: Pantheon
Clank: Sunken Treasure
Catch The Moon
The Monthly Giveaway 30:45
Have you played any of those games? What did you think of them?
And what do you think of the new look BGES? (better that looking at my ugly mug)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Have you ever wanted to play detective?
Where you ever let down by the shallowness of Cluedo?
Do you watch too many TV cop show?
Well here is a game that you should be looking at...
Team play and communication is what is needed to bring in the criminal. You'll be interrogating suspects, regarding crime scenes, evaluating evidence and getting expert help from Doctors and Psychologists. And all this is done through your smart phone.
The game comes with several decks of card, containing people and items. These people are like actors, playing roles in your cop drama. In one mystery, Joe may be a dodge drug dealer while in another the brilliant scientist. Each character in a story will will have a past, a present and possible future in the game. You will be taking everything they say and compile it into reality, making sure the liars don't slip through your net.
Getting around and communicating with these NPC is done simply with a quick scan of a QR code. The app takes card of the rest. Noting who is about, what they are up to and whats around.
Most importantly, there are some locations that can be explored and examined. In a 360 degree world, as displayed in the app, one player will be able to look for clues. Shouting out what they see, while other player collect cards that represent those items in the real world. These items can be then scanned to verify if they are clues or trash. Show them to the suspect and see if they wince, spill their guts and give you the last piece of the puzzle.
The game is hyper thematic, with a profound story and head scratchingly fun. Although there are those of us that dislike using phones and tablets in our gaming area, this is a necessary evil of the game as it generates in depth discussion between players.
It's an escape room on your table. It is what Time Stories should have been. It is a living breathing world were NPC move around and get on with their lives. This is the murder mystery game to end them all.
watch my first impression video