Copenhagen: Roll & Write (2019) review
Bonjour and welcome to this beautiful city of Copenhagen. Capital of Denmark, this big city has its own charm. Among the treasures it shelters, you will have the opportunity, during your strolls, to notably discover The Little Mermaid of Eriksen. This emblem of the city sits proudly in the port ....
Sorry? What do you mean? Have you ever read that somewhere? But that's impossible, this is a new game. I would not dare to repeat the same sentences and repeat the test. You want me too? Checked ? If you insist. So Copenhagen ... Ah. Yes indeed. We’ll forget all this and start again?
Right now, one of the game mechanisms that is all the rage is roll & write (in other words, " throw dice and write results"). These are simple little games to learn, playable anywhere and generally everyone having a huge success with. Many publishers or designers therefore decide to adapt their great classics in this format. This transformation is often done most often for the worse ... but sometimes also for the better.
Copenhagen Roll & Write is therefore an adaptation of the Copenhagen game. I had the chance to play the latter and I gave you a review some time ago. You can find it here.
For this new version, released during Essen 2019, we find the same team behind. The duo of designers Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen immerse themselves in the charm of this Scandinavian city and called on Markus Erdt for the illustrations. The publisher in charge of this game is also the same: Queen Games. There is no denying that we are on familiar ground. And that's just the beginning.
Indeed, after reading the rules, the game takes us back into this atmosphere. If you've played the board game, the version Roll & Write will be very familiar to you. We thus find our buildings, composed of columns, in order to create the façades as well as possible. The coats of arms are also there. The facade tiles will be used again to efficiently fill our buildings. But then it's the same game? Yes ... but above all no.
Roll & Write requires, the material of the board game gives way to paper and dice. Each player has an individual sheet. The large grid will represent the building (on the right) and new tracks corresponding to the colors of the facade tiles (on the left). Above each, there is its own score track. But that's not all. In the center of the table, you will have previously installed a Facade block. This block will simulate the façade tiles still available for purchase. Finally, exit these pages, making way for the dice. You have a nice set of five dice representing colors.
In Copenhagen Roll & Write, the goal of the game is to have the most points at the end. The game ends at the end of a round where a player has reached or exceeded twelve points. If you don't pay attention, it can quickly happen. It is important to keep this in mind. The game makes the racing side feel more strongly than its predecessor.
On their turn, the active player will roll the five dice. Depending on the result, they will be able to select one and only one facade tile to add it to their building. Of course to collect a tile, they must respect certain constraints.
But before talking about them, a little detour on the facade block. This is divided into two parts. The part on the left, under the infinite symbol, corresponds to the tiles which are always available. On the other hand, those on the right, under the extended X symbols, are for single use. First come, first served.
Facade tiles are therefore the forms that you will use to fill your building. To use a tile, you must have the right number of dice equal to the size and equally that they are all of the same color. For example, if you want a red tile with four squares, you must have four red (or white wild) dice. In addition, the chosen tile must still be available, without it being crossed out. If the chosen tile is in the single use section, you must cross it out after, to indicate that it has been used.
Once you have made your selection, you will draw it on your building. You’ll find the rules of construction the same as the original game. You can orient the tile as you wish and you must draw it on the lowest available square or directly on top of another tile. After drawing, you must put an X (the walls) in one of the boxes of your choice and in the rest of the O (the windows).
You’ll find the same system of notations. If by drawing you complete a row or a column, you immediately score points.
Small subtleties, you may have to unlock a coat of arms by designing your facade. The thing is very simple, you just need to complete a row or column attached to a coat of arms. The coats of arms are fairly strong bonuses that will help you with your goal. Once a coat of arms has been validated, you must tick it to indicate it has been done. Each completed coat of arms gives you one action out of two:
So now is the time to tell you about this little novelty, the capacity tracks. The active player's turn at this time is over. But the others are not to be outdone. Among the remaining dice (therefore not used), and I insist on that, the other players can choose a dice and fill a box on one of their tracks according to its color. The tracks will allow you to unlock bonuses (the +) or capacities (the star) that can be used at any time. Bonuses are used to modify the results of the dice by increasing their number up to two (using up to two bonuses). Capabilities allow rules to be changed while they are in use. However, to achieve this, there must be dice to select ... If the active player uses everything, you can not check off anything. And that's all.
This is how the explanation of this little game ends. I must not hide it, the two games are very very close. One can even wonder about the interest of having created this version. The rules are almost the same, the way to play remains similar, the operating logic could come closer. Copenhagen and Copenhagen Roll & Write are a bit like playful twins. And yet.
Despite these very close resemblances, Roll & Write manages to offer different sensations. Certainly, you lose the interest of touching the pieces of the board game but you win the chance to roll dice, the stronger possibility of controlling it with the abilities. Surprisingly, over the duration of the game, the two games are announced as being identical. In fact, Roll & Write seems less sluggish, less repetitive or even more pleasant to play.
Transportable everywhere, or almost, the game remains limited to four players (maybe because of the length or lack of tiles). It is fun to play it in all configurations, and this time you can even play it alone (even if you lose a lot of interest).
Why “transportable almost everywhere”? Isn't that the advantage of Roll & Write? Normally, this is actually one of their advantages. This is also the case here ... but the sheets of paper are large. This provides undeniable visibility and playing comfort. On the other hand, you lose on the side "we’ll play in a very small corner" and take it anywhere. Even if it is true that there is always a way to mitigate that, the game is less practical than other competitors.
The idea of the facade block is really well instigated. While offering a rendering close to physically pocketing tiles, it accentuates the racing side of the game. The unique tiles can quickly melt in the sun if you take too much too think about them. Admittedly, filling your building with simple tiles greatly lengthens the construction time and further reduces the possibility of victory. But the important thing is to have the pen in the eye and the overview to succeed in beautifying this beautiful city.
It would be an affront if I didn’t talk about the theme, absent, or the fact that there are still no bags in the box (good ok here it is useless). Another unfortunate thing, the absence inside the box of pens or pencils. I always find it difficult to understand that for a game of this type, this kind of accessory is not provided. Japanese publishers do it well, so why not Western publishers?
However, I wanted to come back to one positive point: the size of the box. I already talked a little about it with Clash Of Vikings. Here, Queen Games has created an intermediate box size. This size is quite unique but has the big advantage of not offering anything superfluous. At a time when space is running out on our shelves, and being fed up of empty boxes, we are beginning to be heard. I don't know if this will be a new habit on their part, but if it is, I can only encourage it. Everything fits in the box and when opened there is no vacuum. Hope it lasts. In any case, a good point for Queen Games.
Replayability level, the game offers enough challenge and renewal to allow you to play it again and again. I would even dare to say that you get tired of it less than your elder. Which is quite strange considering the proximity of the two games.
Copenhagen Roll & Write is a good surprise for me. Far from being a simple true copy of the original, it offers different playing sensations. The little tricky side in addition allows you to try to catch the others. Even if it happens quite rarely in the end, it offers this welcome little pressure boost. If we lose out on the tactile tiles, we gain by handling dice and creating our own facade with our pen. This little Tetris side is always present for our greatest pleasure. The size of the box and the fact that it can be more easily transported make it an advantage. Even if the question of duplication is completely legitimate, as is the question of questioning the need for both.
Copenhagen Roll & Write is a clever, simple, transportable and easily playable game (the front block as well as the player cards still take up a little space). For once, given the low price, it would be a shame to deprive yourself. Unfortunately, the game arrived at the height of the, Roll & Write boom. Faced with other serious competitors, with better visibility, the game was put forward with a little less boom. It's a shame because it has real good ideas and interesting assets. Without being an essential in the field, Copenhagen has everything of the great games. It is part of this very pleasant family of games, but drowned in the mass of outings like it. And yet, it is with pleasure when the games are linked.
Technical note 9/10
For a game of this type, the components are adequate. Even if it improves the comfort of play, the size of the blocks and sheets is a little large to facilitate transportation easily. It looks like the game is between two worlds: the board game and the roll & write. The icons are readable, the rules well written and everything is explained quickly. A big plus: the size of the box. But no pencils inside ...
My BGG score 8/10
Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.
Relatively similar to its big brother, roll & write offers a little more fun. At a low price, you have great replayability and some light moments of reflection. We can however regret the lack of real novelties which would completely differentiate it from its elder and which would justify its existence. Without being "THE writing game", it deserves in any case more light than others in its category.
Combined score 8.5 / 10
Now it's your turn to play ...
Frontier Wars (2019) review
The second world war is one of the most discussed and used themes in any medium. Of course, in our playful passion is no exception. Infact, one of the first things that comes to mind when we bring up the subject, is the big wargames. You know, these games with lots of rules and pieces of cardboard as units. These games which make us relive the event for hours and which require a minimum of commitment. These games that ... oops sorry. Yes ... you know what I mean.
Our game creators are however very inventive on this theme. The mechanics used are quite varied from one game to another. If you take for example: Mémoire 44 , Blitzkrieg !: World War Two in 20 Minutes, V-Commandos, Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition or Hitler's Reich: WW2 in Europe, the five games talk about the same theme or rather the same context but their treatment is totally different. Finally, this period and this event in particular are sources of constant inspiration. I must admit, for our greatest pleasure.
The game we are going to talk about today takes you back to the heart of the Second World War. Frontier Wars is a Spanish Kickstarter game from the publisher Eclipse Editorial, in partnership with Draco Ideas. The author, Manuel Agustín Burrueco Pizarro, suggests that we head one of the four main belligerent nations.
But here, we are not fighting for control of a continent, we are not reliving the events of the Second World War. The scale chosen is much more limited and less historic. Frontier Wars is a zone control game on fictional maps that you have just constructed. You are free to create new "historic" missions or to build on what already existed. The basic idea is enticing: immerse yourself in an experience close to an RTS (such as Command & Conquer or Hearts of Iron). Attractive isn't it?
First of all, you will have to choose from the four factions available: USSR, Germany, Great Britain and the United States of America. Each faction has its own troops (represented by figurines) and especially its own individual board. Each of them has two sides. Both sides offer you different starting resources and life points for your headquarters. To know that each faction has different initial resources and capacities. The game offers a little asymmetry between the factions.
Once the destiny of your nation is in hand, move on to the general installation. You will need to prepare the three decks of cards according to their types: attack orders, defense orders and tactical orders. Then you need to install the tray. You have the choice to take a predefined scenario (your choice in the booklet depending on the number of players) or create one by yourself. You’ll prepare by placing the starting troops and draw the cards provided ... that the battle begins.
There are three ways to win the battle:
The game is divided into several rounds, themselves divided into several phases.
At the start of the round, you’ll check who has the initiative. Calculating the points each player has and the player with the most points becomes the first player. Attention, except for the medals, the points from territories are not permanent. If you lose them ... you lose the associated points. But everything is recounted only in this phase. It is also at this time that the players check if there is a winner.
Then, each player will draw a number of cards equal to 1 + the cities under their control. Players are free to choose which deck to draw from. Then comes the reinforcement phase. Depending on the buildings constructed or owned, players can recruit a troop in locations.
Now move on to the most intense phase: the action phase. You are free to do one or more actions, but the order of execution is strict.
You can play one (and only one) attack order card and apply its effects. These cards are powerful and must be played at the right time. However, as you have the possibility of drawing every round and your hand has a limit, be careful not to keep too much.
You can now move your troops. Each troop has its own movements, in other words the number of spaces it can cover. But be careful, as soon as a unit passes through a hostile zone (containing enemy figurines), it must stop to engage in combat. With the exception of planes that can fly over areas carrying troops (in total: two infantry / artillery).
If you are in an enemy-free zone, outside of a city or an airport or a marsh and there is not already a construction there, then you can sacrifice a troop to create a factory or a camp. Attention, for this structure to be active, you must have an infantry available on the tile. If there is none, not only is this building inactive (it earns you nothing and you will not be able to recruit on it) but in addition it does not belong to you. Each player begins the game with a limited number of structures. When you build a building, you earn a medal as a reward.
Once all this is done, you’ll move on to the resolution of the battles. Battles are initiated if new units enter a contested space. The attacker chooses in what order the clashes will resolve. For each engagement, the players will position their figurines on the battle board. Each type of troops has its location and its attack turn, which itself is different depending on whether you are attacking or defending. You start the battle with the unit having the highest initiative, then continue according to the table. Each troop attacks once and causes damage. The units are destroyed in order of priority (infantry first ...). The winner of the battle wins a medal (whether attacking or defending). For each confrontation, the assailant can play a defense card and apply its instructions.
Sometimes, following clashes, buildings can be destroyed. They are not removed from the game but simply put on their ruined side. A player can decide to repair it by spending a troop on this space even if it is not the source of its construction. This does not grant them medals but it can use them normally and according to normal rules. This possibility is also available for conquered enemy headquarters (in a game with more than two players).
Last possible action, play a tactical order. Like attack orders, you can only have one tactical card per turn.
The last phase of a turn before "clean up", corresponds to the arms race. At this point in the game, you can choose a resource card from your hand face down under your board. Each card has a value ranging from 1 to 3. Generally, the higher the value, the more powerful the power is (therefore sometimes difficult choices). These added values give you your technological advancement. If it reaches the limit indicated in the scenario, you win immediately. Be careful though, the number of possible cards is limited by your number of medals.
Finally, one proceeds to the “clean up” of the troops in excess on the spaces and of the cards in excess in his hand. Then it's the next player. Continue like this until there is a winner.
Unfortunately, I missed the kickstarter and, to date, I only have a retail version. I admit having recovered this a little bit by chance. Big thank you to the one who gave it to me. As Frontier Wars is a real surprise, and a very good one above all.
Under the air of simple games, barely eight pages of rules, Frontier Wars offers a real challenge. Far from being a simple positioning and area control game, the game is a real race where each action counts, each card played can bring you closer to victory, but each bad decision or badly timed thing can make you fail. Simple in operation, it provides immediate pleasure. The game has great ideas, like the medals. These earn you permanent victory points, but only every two medals. Suddenly, you are a little forced to try to win, especially since the arms race also depends on them. So, you are forced to play with others to try to acquire them by fighting or building. Impossible to play alone in your corner. Especially since the map is generally small.
This constant pressure reinforces a pervasive interaction. You always have to be careful what other people are doing, where they are, what they are doing, the cards played, how many are there, etc. There may be welcome reversals. The choice to have made the majority of points won non-permanent increases this pressure. The technological race offers a round counter, which, if you are not careful, can hurt a lot. At the same time, thinking about the use of powerful cards to obtain it can cause long periods of hesitation. The choices are multiple and feel great when found.
The system of contested tiles is also very well thought out. You are forced to bring in new troops to try to conquer the area, or you must leave it at the risk of letting the other earn the bonuses. It can also be used as leverage to prevent a player from scoring points or receiving bonuses. As in chess, you have to know when to lose in order to win better.
Regarding replayability, it is very important. In addition to the available scenarios, the possibility of creating random maps, the choice of boards A or B, drawing cards, adding mini rules to make the whole more complex (such as fog of war, special tiles, trenches ...), the ability to play as a team and the weather, the game also has two expansions: trucks and new armies. Trucks were mini extensions available during the kickstarter. Unfortunately, I only have the rules and not the components. So, I haven't tried it yet. As for the real expansion, it adds two new factions: the French and the Japanese; new maps and some variations. Unfortunately (again), I can't find a copy and haven't been able to play it yet (but if you know a way I'm interested and I will hasten to make a return and I do not speak to you not buildings and ...). The slight asymmetrical side at the start also allows a bit of renewal.
Component level, I was at the start a little puzzled about the choice of tiles. But once assembled, it gives the stamp of an old war map. This looks really good and justifies the scale of the figures compared to the rest. Matias Cazorla and Jaime González García, the two illustrators, did a very good job. It is regrettable, however, that the individual trays as well as those of scoring and battle are too thin (which makes them a bit fragile). Only downside, because the rest is really good. The iconography is clear and once in the game, you’ll have no questions. As for the figurines, this is classic Risk.
Frontier Wars behind a mechanism that may seem artificial, is in fact extremely thematic. Even if it does not offer the possibility of reliving the great moments of the second world war (at the same time so many games do it already). On the other hand, it plunges you into the hell of the countryside with a lot of pressure, joy, frustration and sadness. Luck is relatively rare, except in the drawing of cards. Despite this, the reversals of the situation exist and the advantage of a good card can quickly diminish the next time.
Going completely unnoticed, the game offers a real challenge for 2 to 4 players(6 with the expansion). Do you want more? There is even a solo version and even the possibility of adding an AI during games with other players. And all this for parts of a relative but respectable duration. Big plus, it is very much fun in all configurations. It is sure that depending on the number you are going to be, the way of playing will be different. At the two player count, it’s more controllable, calculating and direct mode. In addition, your nerves will be even more put to the test and you will have to pay attention to the threat that can arise from everywhere. All of this offers delicious, controllable chaos.
As for the RTS side sold with the game, it's a bit like the fact that Scythe is sold as a 4X, in other words it is far from this reality. There are a few ideas that come close to that, it's true. But far from matching a video game of the same type and we are far from the richness of a real RTS. However, the possibilities of construction in progress offer interesting decisions to be made and being able to capture those of the enemies and to be able to use them, brings a little variety. The different troops with their own characteristics also makes it possible to make sometimes crucial strategic choices.
Frontier Wars allows you, not to relive History, but to relive moments of war. Pleasure and immersion are really present. Behind immediate accessibility, the game conceals a very welcome depth of play which only needs to be tamed. Of course, we are far from the complexity or the correctness of a classic wargame, but the game conceals these little moments of decision making that are sometimes difficult. A very good surprise, a game that deserves to be played and shared. A tense game, well thought out and which has a great replayability. Too bad it is so difficult, here, to find the other components as the other factions. Frontier Wars deserves to cross borders (yes it was easy that one).
Technical score 9/10
9/10 Too bad the individual trays and those of battles and scoring are too thin. The overall finish is good. The rulebook is well done and reads quite well. The rest of the components are pleasant to handle and everything is very readable. Of course we can criticize the quality of the figurines, but they do their job.
My BGG score 9/10
Excellent - very much enjoy playing.
I really enjoyed the games I had the opportunity to play. Despite sometimes abstract limit mechanisms, the theme is very present especially if one delves into it. With two or four players, the game turns out really well and offers quite different sensations. Simple in learning, it remains deep and offers good deceitful moments or reversals. A war game in the big feeling for the race to victory.
Combined score 9/10
Now it's your turn to play ... (well, if you can find it)
Clash of Vikings (2019) Compte Rendu
Barely has the deconfinement started in France, whereas elsewhere the festivities resume. Indeed, far from home, on a small forgotten island of Covid, Vikings gather to confront each other in their annual fight. Barely recovered, mead flowing in their veins, these valiant cloistered warriors will join the arena. The rules here are easy, and the fights are intense ... but fast. So without further ado, choose your champion and your cards, ready ... play!
Clash of Vikings is a game from Anthony Rubbo and illustrated by Dennis Lohausen. For Anthony, this is far from being his first project in the gaming world. You can find his talent on titles like Hansa Teutonica, Merlin, Rajas of the Ganges... He has more than one title created from his pencil. His latest, Clash Of Vikings, is published by Queen Games. Please note: To date, it is not available in French.
Fighting against other players is not the only objective of this game. It is also ultimately the secondary objective, primarily collecting bracelets is the first, but in the long term, the use of force becomes necessary. It seems that dwarf blood (I know, “hello stereotypes” ) runs through the veins of our brave warriors. Because the ultimate goal is to collect the most treasures, represented here by bracelets. These twisted bracelets are made of three materials ranging from simple steel to gold. Of course, the values obtained correspond to the material, in other words the more precious the metal the more points you will earn.
The game board corresponds to the combat arena. It is a circular board of a moderate size to build at the start of the game. Rest assured, it's a two piece puzzle, so not to head scratching. It should be fine. On this central board you’ll randomly place bracelets taken from the reserve, onto specific spaces. Each player has a Viking token and an individual board (for the active player) recounting the possible actions. Add to this three bracelets of values 1,2 and 3 and a deck of cards. Each has an identical deck (only the color changes).
There it is ... Ready? Go!
Sorry ? You don't know how to play? Do not panic. I explain this to you over a horn of mead or two. Each player has a hand of three cards. The active player will have to play two, one after the other. For each card played, a sequence, which will ask the other players to follow, will be put in place.
The active player, whom we will call Björn (yes it came to me like that), will therefore play his first card face down. Each card corresponds to an action. When Björn plays this card, he will announce the action he wants to do. Then, he puts it face down in the column of his individual tray which potentially corresponds to the action mentioned.
Potentially? Yes, because the salt of the game is here. You don't have to tell the truth. What? Yes, Yes. You can bluff. In other words, the action indicated on your card is not necessarily the action that you announced out loud. Of course, faced with this possible lack of honor, the others can respond. Finally, only those who are fashionable and who already have a bracelet. Nor should we exaggerate. A viking who has the right to speak is a viking who has taste. Houlà, it seems that I am getting lost. Only one other player can question Björn's word. But it doesn't have to be the case ... Isn't Björn someone who deserves our trust?
If nobody talks about the right to bluff, then the active player performs their action without revealing their card. Otherwise, verification is required. If Björn did not bluff, he steals a bracelet (face down) from the one who unjustly accused him and performs his action normally. But if he inadvertently lied, the other player takes a bracelet from him and his action is lost.
And we repeat this sequence for both cards. Then it's the other player's turn. At the end of his turn, Björn draws up again to have three cards in hand. Simple, right?
As far as actions are concerned, you’ll be on familiar ground:
Finally, there is one last action that is played in response to an attack. These are the shields. The Shield can be announced in the same way as a normal card following an attack (except against slam). Why announce? Because it works like a normal action, you can bluff and not actually have shields. The active player can therefore call a bluff or not. If the person was not bluffing, the player loses their action and the defender steals a bracelet from them. Otherwise, the defender loses a bracelet and the attacker performs their action.
If at the end of a round, a bracelet space that ends up without a bracelet or a viking on it, gets replaced from the reserve. The end of the game comes when there are no more bracelets in the reserve. Whoever has the most points wins. Thank you Björn you can return to sit down.
As you can see, Clash of Vikings is by no means a difficult game. It is also announced for 8 years and up. Even if the game mechanics could be considered for younger children, the principle of bluffing and its use generally starts from this age. Also marked for 2 to 4 players. Suffice to say right away, it's mostly a game of 4. Three is playable, two is avoidable.
Regarding the theme ... is it really necessary to talk about it? Vikings who are fighting in an arena to recover bracelets ... Well ... So uh ... Why not? Shall we go on?
As for the board, there is a front / back side. The placement of bracelets and puddles is different on both. This brings a slight bit of replayability. It is true that I did not tell you about the rivers and the central hut. For the latter, it's simple, it's a place where you can collect more bracelets by starting your turn on them. Some spaces on the board are covered with water. These boxes prevent movement and can engulf the unfortunate bracelets which may have the idea of falling into it. No luck. So be careful where you throw your bracelets ... unless ...
Clash Of Vikings is reminiscent of some bluff party games like the Perudo but with a notion of moving on a set. On paper, the idea can be attractive. Unfortunately, once in play, you go around in circles quickly and sometimes the rounds can last without having valid reasons. The first part can be fun. The following is a little less. There is an official variant that offers to bring even more bluffing into the game. Indeed, this way of playing brings new life to the game. But it will not make you last for hours.
On the other hand, it can be considered as a little bluffing game for the youngest to learn. The rules are simple, well understood and the explanations quick. The iconography is clear, the graphics are pleasing and the material is pleasant to handle without being exceptional.
The box is a bit special format. It is not a big box or a small one. It’s an in-between size. On the other hand, it is of sufficient size for all the components. There is no loss of space. Even if there are still no storage bags, I must salute Queen Games for having the initiative to use this template.If you are like me, tired of seeing big boxes filled half empty. Seeing this game will remove that syndrome, it feels good. An initiative to be repeated more often.
It is therefore a shame that the playful quality is not on the same plateau as the basic idea. Halfway between the ambient game and the short board game, Clash Of Vikings does not really manage to convince most players. However, during a few games, the youngest will find their feet (as long as they play four). Quick games, an omnipresent bluffing (maybe too much?), an interesting action system based on cards, everything is not to throw in this little game. But it’s clearly missing the little something that keeps you coming back, which amuses you and renews your games. Maybe it needs real mead?
Technical note 8,5 / 10
The rules are clear, everything is read quickly and retains well. The boards are good qualities and the thickness of the cards does the job. Big plus for the size of the box, adapted to the content. Without being exceptional, everything is functional and easily understood. Always regret the absence of a bag, but the size of the box compensates for it.
My BGG score 5/10
Mediocre - take it or leave it.
Unfortunately the game is not at all up to the expectations it could give. It is relatively simple, fun and easy to get out with anyone. These positive points are quickly offset by the repetitive side of the game and its lack of challenge. Far from being bad, the game could serve as an introduction to the world of bluffing for the uninitiated or the youngest.
Combined score of 6.75 / 10
And now it's your turn to play ...
This could be a board game. It has the simple mechanisms of a board game. Dice allocation….or drafting. I’m not sure what it should be called on BGG. But it should be on BGG in our future. This could be a board game, but it’s not. It’s a video game that I have had the chance to preview on Steam. It also has a life on the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch too.
The story sees you in control of a spaceship hurtling through space to Tharsis. To be precise, on the volcanic equator on our nearest planet, Mars. But along the way the ship is damaged by a meteor storm. One crewmember has their candle blown out in the sky full of candles. And the remaining four must adapt without them (possible with them inside their bellies) and arrive at their destination, all the while this ship suffers from a number of technical problems. Think of Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 or Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Bad crap happens, and continues to happen enroute, like what happens to Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 or Sandra Bullock in Gravity. All of this plays out in the tutorial which will help you get into the game and then you're on your own to try and survive. Playing just the main game will skip all this and concentrate on the remainder of the journey.
The tutorial takes you through the basics in a step by step fashion. You’ve been learning about each character's special ability and the importance of the life points as well as their morale. At the same time you’ll be pointed out the importance of each capsule in the spaceship. Like the greenhouse capsule that will allow you to generate food, or the maintenance room will allow you to repair the hull of the ship. You’ll get the chance to taste several turns before the main game kicks in and lose one crew member. A sad and shocking start (maybe I should put a spoiler warning!) Each round of the game is made up by moving a crew member to a capsule, where they will then roll some dice. You can then allocate these dice into five different parts of the screen. Once you’ve allocated all the dice, you choose another crew member and do the same. After you’ve activated every single crewmember that is still alive, any remaining technical problems or incoming damage will be dealt to your crew and the ship. If the ship is still functioning and there are still crew aboard, you then advance a week in time, closer to your destination and you do the same thing again.
This simple mechanic of rolling dice and allocating them to spaces it’s nothing new. Games like Role Player and Alien Frontiers have all done this well in board game form. But here also the implementation is a good match for those looking for something new. It’s not simply a case of using the dice to fulfill a need, as there are many little avenues that pull you in different directions. This is what drives the adaptability of the game, the delicate decision making that could mean life and death of your team. The main needs of the game is to fix broken down components on the ship that will, at the end of a round, destroy the hull of the ship or cause some damage to your crew. Then hopefully you will move on to the next round or get to your destination. But there will be temptation to use a die to activate the power of that crew member. Be they a medicine, they can restore a health point to all crew in the same capsule. Be they a mechanic, they can add a point of integrity to the hull. Or maybe use a die or two on the capsules specialty. Reduce crew stress in the operations capsule or gain dice in life support. All of these sections will do the best to pull you away from your main objective, repairing the ship.
This is a team effort, as all characters can go to any capsule and attempt to repair the damage. Damage is just a value, for example 18. From the dice roll, you’ll need to assign these dice to repairing that should equal or surpass the value of 18. Once done, that danger has passed. Also, crew members will no longer take a point of damage when they traverse that section of the ship. And that is important as it resembles the Discovery One from 2001. One long sausage with some bits sticking out. Plus, sometimes it’s not always possible for one character to repair all on their turn, as the value may be too high or they are tempted to use a power OR they roll poorly. But this is a team, so another member of the team can join them and use their dice to help. If the capsule is not fully repaired, you will suffer the consequences at the end of the round, but the sweet thing is, any remaining value will carry over. For example, you may remove 15 points from the 18. But someone else can remove the final 3 on their turn or in the next round, the same character can try again to get rid of the last three. It’s all nail biting stuff and very stressful.
Every character gets a reroll of the dice. There is even a holding area where you can place some dice, if you like the results on them, while you roll the rest. Giving you the chance to get a more agreeable result or the chance to think a little longer on your options. This is very important as any capsule with a fault in it to be repaired, comes with some danger. Those dangers are “stasis” that lock dice up from being rerolled, “voids” that remove that die and “injuries” that remove a life point of the active crew. These are visible on the overview of the ship, so you can predict the dangers of trying to fix it. A value will be assigned to those dangers and by rolling that number, that’s what happens to that dice. It locks, it vanishes or tries to kill you, giving you another level of problem solving to get around and there are ways of getting around these hazardous events. Do you send the character who rolls the most dice but has the least life points into a 18 problem, with a great chance of getting injured? Or do you send someone else? Having one crew member solve one problem is fantastic, but when it needs several to resolve it…
Now, this all sounds very difficult. Believe me...it is. This game is tough, even in easy mode. Although, help is on hand, in the form of “research projects.” Yes, another section to deviate your dice into is this section, that requires one of every value of your six sided dice (I should have mentioned if before, there are no d20’s here.) Three random special actions will be displayed here, each with its own dice requirements. You may be able to collect 2 foods by spending three dice in your research section. Even add hull repairs, diminish damage or add assist that stop dice going into the void, deal damage or freeze. One used, the power is replaced with another. You can even burn a dice to replace all three powers with new ones, if you deem them too expensive or not practical. There is a lot of choice here and this section should never be forgotten as it could mean a lot to surviving the game. It’s also useful as on some turns you may find that you have nowhere to place your dice, or may not feel that placing a “1” in repairs is adequate. That’s a great thing, that there is always something to invest your dice into….most of the time.
Now this is not a board game, but could quite easily be. The mechanisms are all there, there would just have to be some refinement in the decks of cards that generate the events. This would lend itself to creating the various difficulty levels in the video game. Plus the video game has some other story like challenge modes. Not just an easy, medium and hard, but a mission, so to speak. Survive with just one crew member. Or keeping fires under control and make it through three weeks. There are also other characters to unlock with their own special abilities. All this adds longevity to a quite tough game, so you have these new challenges right from the get go. You can also plan ahead, as the distance bar from your target, at the top, tells you the severity of the next incoming problems. Green, yellow and red. I guess you can guess which is which! Sometimes it’s one or two, and other times...more. And they are random from game to game, much like the characters states and positions.
One of the harder parts to translate into the board game would be the stress levels of the crew, as this plays a part in the main scenario. In between each round, some delemers accur. You will have to make a choice from two circumstances, both with a positive and negative effect. You may have to sacrifice food to repair the ship's hull. Or take some extra stress to gain an extra die. The more stress your crew has, the bigger these effects are. Not just gaining or losing things by small percentages, but bigger ones. Another thing in this lul in the game is the chance to feed your crew with anything that has grown in your greenhouse. Each food will give that character three extra dice, upto the total value of five. Not only that, whenever a crew member eats vacuum and dies, their body doesn’t go to waste. Eating a fellow member will give them two bloody dice (yes, blood splats out when you roll the dice. It increases stress and in my case, makes the luck of the dice rolls a little more on the smaller value side. But that just might be me.
This game is a real challenge and a pleasure to play. It’s not an eyesore either. The graphical presentation works well. There are animation crew members, who have a very early Pixar look to them but they emote to the stress and life point they have. The ship is 3D too so you’ll be zipping from module to module with vast smoothness. Unsure what this or that means, all information is just a click away. Playing the main story comes with well presented animations and excellent voice acting, although they are fixed to the story. You can skip them with a swift tap of the space bar but I would have liked to see an option to remove them entirely. Or have some different stories play out every time. The sound effects are subtle and effective while not being in your face. And the music is a perfect fit. Instrumentals created by the group Weval pop in and out, killing the monotony of the drone of space (although they say there is no sound in space).
My BGG score 8/10
Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.
This, not being an actual board game, is the score I would give it if it was. Working very well as a solo game and also a multiplayer game, with a player taking on the role of one character. But beware that there may be some player elimination as death is final. It could also have the alpha-gamer syndrome. Plays comfortable in an hour or less. A simple idea that feels fresh in this format. A neat game that has you puzzling out the results of a random dice roll.
how to play multiplayer
my thanks to paul grogan for letting me appear on his livestream
Tiny Town (2019) review
Wooden cubes have been in games since the very early days of the modern age of board gaming. They were used to represent troops, workers, resources and even viruses, plus possibly many other things. And as time has gone by, they have been replaced by more complex shapes such as the meeples, different shapes or miniatures. It's been kind of sad that they have been phased out, as we gamers have become more accustomed to having our components look like the object they are supposed to represent instead of having this abstractness. But the cube is not dead and gone, as it is still a cheap alternative for new publishers to get their games onto store shelves. Unless they're going through Kickstarter.
So it's nice to see in Tiny Towns, that tip of the hat to days gone by, as the cubes are back. Replacing resources as we know it like wood, glass, straw, stone and brick with their traditional colours (brown, blue, yellow, grey, and red). These are the things that are going to be used by 1 to 6 players, to build their Tiny Towns. All in a spacious, yet claustrophobic 5 by 5 grid.
The premise of the game is that players are all going to build their own town at the same time with the same resources. One player will be named the Master Builder and will choose one of the five resources. All players will have to take that resource and add it to an empty space on the player board. If you have no empty spaces, you are out of the game and will have to wait until all players have their boards filled. Otherwise, if you have laid out enough resources to match a building schematic, you can build that building. Then the Master Builder role is passed to the player on the left. There, you have all of the rules. You can now go away and play this game. And that is one of the elegant things about this game, it’s simplicity. Within a few minutes, you’ve explained the rules.
So where is the fun of the game? Well, the fun lies in the different buildings that can be built. There are eight different buildings in a game that will be available, seven of which are common and the eighth is unique to each player. Even the common buildings have four different variants in the base box, apart from the cottage. This gives you some replayability as you can mix and match these buildings or take them at random. On top of that, the unique buildings come with 15 very different structures that all have unique scoring abilities and powers. At the beginning of the game you will pick out one of each of the common buildings and place their card in the middle of the table along with the large pile of individually different looking wooden buildings that come with the game .If you’re feeling adventurous as gamers, you can deal out an individual unique building to each player. These are kept secret until complete. This takes a little time as you may need to explain the scoring conditions of each building.
Each card is laid out with all the information clearly visible on these large Tarot size cards. From the unique beautiful art of what the building would look like, and its associated playing piece. Plus a description of how it scores points at the end of the game and a plan of how the building can be constructed. This plan is simply a formation of the resource cubes. Once you have it laid out on your player board, the correct positions and colors of the cubes, that means that you can construct that building. Constructing the building is a simple case of placing the building you’ve constructed in one of the spaces of the resource matching the plan. Then all the resources are returned to the general pool, leaving you space to and new resources and build more buildings. This is a fantastic puzzle aspect of the game as you know what you want to build but the other players do not. Everyone has their own idea of how their city should look or functions, but due to the fact that everyone’s going to be choosing different resources yet using the same resources, can lead to some interesting cube formations. You’ll need to do a little bit of forward planning and leave yourself open to constructing two or more buildings at the same time, possibly from the same resources. Space is going to be of a premium as the game goes on. Head scratching will start with the “what do I build” to “where should I put this.” As the game goes on, you’ll find yourself struggling to construct or squeezing in resources that you don’t need onto your small little town. On top of that, how can you milk the most points out of the things I don’t need.
Each of the buildings will score in different ways. Some will score points if they are adjacent similar buildings or different buildings. Others will score if they are in a particular part of the town. And the basic cottage will only score points if they receive food from one of the farming buildings. This is a basic requirement for every game. Some of the interesting buildings like the warehouse, once built, whenever you have to use a resource that you have no space for or do not wish to disrupt another formation, you can place it in your warehouse. And later on when you are asked to add another resource to your town, you can swap it out with one in your warehouse and use that instead. Of course this is a great benefit but it also has its own penalty. Like the bank will give you lots of victory points for each one that you build but every time you build one, you will have to place a resource on it and you can no longer call that resource out when you are the Master Builder. A really interesting way to screw yourself up but also pretty sure way to get ahead of the pack.
With colourfully whimsical art, chunky wooden pieces and clearly explained rules and scoring conditions, this is a very well thought out production. Although the yellow and orange or red and orange building can sometimes be confusing to distinguish due to the proximity of the colour pallet. The insert holds everything in place and with baggies to hold your components separately, you’ll only be sorting out at the end of your session. A very large score pad that won't have you squeezing in digits, although they won’t be lager. With scores generally around 20 to 30 points, it will not take you long to find out who the winner is, unlike other larger group playing games. Again, games take the same amount of time regardless of the number of players. So if you are eliminated because you didn’t manage your resources wisely, you will not be hanging around long waiting for the others to wrap up.
The game is basically, everyone is being dealt the same hand of cards. But it depends on what you do with them, that determines how well you score. Think multiplayer Tetris. All players have the same blocks that fall. Some players will complete line after line, gaining minimal points, where others will stack them up in hope of squeezing in that long thin shaped one. Boom. Big points. This is something you may see in Roll & Write games or if you have ever been to a convention, you would have seen the “Pandemic Survival.” Everyone's town will start relatively the same, but as rounds go by, they develop into their own thing. And this is the aspect of the game that I adore. It is a real challenge against the other players. You all have the same level playing field (if you play without the unique buildings). It is interesting to see how your town starts going in a direction that is different to your neighbours. And you will need to keep an eye on them too. To try to predict what resource you think they need and will call out, then you will be prepared to slot it in an advantageous space or start building another building to what you had planned.
Or the reverse, on your turn, call out a resource you know they don’t want. Yes, there is a literal element of “screw your neighbour” in the game. You can sometimes shoot yourself in the foot. Although most of the time, you can get by. Unless you are advanced in the game. As space becomes tight, turns take a little longer, but not so long as to annoy anyone. The game has it’s restrictions, at the same time feeling very open to interpretation. With so many combinations of buildings and the way they interact, fitting them spatially on the board, plus the order that changes naturally or the resources makes this a fun battle to play with family and friends.
You can also cater the game to your liking. Giving younger players the chance to mulligan up to two resources during the game. This is a nice way to get those inexperienced players the chance to challenge the more expert ones. Or maybe last a few more rounds than usual. And if you have no one to play with, there is a simple solo mode to jump on to. A small deck of cards are used to dictate which resources are available from round to round. Not as fun as playing in a group but a sweet little puzzle for those who like that sort of thing. And with an expansion coming later this year, more buildings are rule will ensue, expanding this already replayable game a little further.
Technical score 9.5 / 10
Basic cubes that don't bug you and are easy to remember. Cute art and solid components, from the insert tray, to the wooden buildings. Easy to read text on cards and easy to read rulebook with examples galore. Apart from some confusion over the colours, there is nothing that I couldn’t recommend to be changed
My BGG score 10 / 10
Outstanding - will always enjoy playing.
Simple to teach. Simple to play. A great puzzle challenge for anyone in your neighbourhood. Playing on a level playing field is what makes board gaming great for me. I’m always left with that “I could have done that better” taste in my mouth. A great family weight game. Possibly this generation's Catan.
Combined score 9.75 / 10
My cup of tea, maybe it's yours too. Try it...
Points Salad (2019) Review
Hello, please take a seat. On the menu of the day, a salad of points. Just that. Here is a 100% Vegan approved game ! (yes the joke must have been made thousands of times)
Point Salad a game from Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich and first published by Alderac Entertainment Group, and now in France at Gigamic in the metal box range. Because yes, it is a small deck of cards.
Here is the recipe for a good point salad.
Depending on the number of players, you’ll remove a certain number of cards of each type.
Once done, mix everything you have left. Do not hesitate to insist on the mixture. It is important that all the cards are well shuffled to avoid any residue from the previous games.
When your mixture becomes homogeneous, divide your cards into three piles, face up. Please note, the cards are double-sided. Each side is important. On one you will have the vegetables, which will be necessary to achieve your goals and on the other, the recipes that indicate how you earn points. It is not necessary to count the cards of each of your piles as the distribution of each pile is done quickly by measuring.
Take two cards from each of the pile previously made, and put them directly below the respective piles.
The preparation phase is now complete. We will be able to move on to creating the dish.
On your turn, you have the choice between two actions. Once this is done, it is the other player's turn and so on. Point salad is a dish that can be enjoyed by several, from 2 to 6 players.
The first possible action is to "eat" food. Take two cards face up and put them in front of you. Your turn is over. Before the other player starts, replace the cards taken with the top card from the respective deck. This means that the recipe that was previously visible will turn into an ingredient and a new recipe will be available. Keep this information in mind.
The second action is even simpler ... for a dish to be successful, you must follow a recipe. You can then choose to take one, and only one, recipe card instead of two ingredients. The recipes are the objectives of the game. They will tell you the combinations to complete to hope to gain points, but watch out for those that make you lose them. Everything will depend on the ingredients that you manage to recover during the game.
To help you in your quest, once per turn, you can also transform a recipe (and I did say a recipe and not food!) Into a vegetable. And this definitely! No turning back , choose well because you will lose the recipe on the other side and the points it brought you.
You’ll continue like this until all the cards in the game are collected by the players. If during one turn, one of the three piles empties completely, do not panic, it is enough just to divide the largest pile remaining in two. And so on. When there are no more cards, we go to a tasting.
The tasting corresponds to the final counting of points. Each ingredient can be used for any of your recipes. Please note, each recipe will be counted only once, however each ingredient can be used on several recipes. You don't spend your cards to meet your goals. A carrot card can be used for several recipes.
Thus, each player counts the gains or losses, collectively or not, of each recipe card they have. This will give you your final score. Whoever has the most points wins the game.
On the recipes, you’ll find points by type of vegetable, by set of specific vegetables, but also even or odd numbers. There are also majorities on specific vegetables or minorities ... And finally you can lose points if we have recovered certain types of ingredients. There are a variety of recipes and ways to score points.
Point Salad was released at GenCon 2019. Immediately, it knew how to find its audience and made a little buzz. So much so that it was located fairly quickly. Highlighted by a lot of youtubers or players, I was quite curious to try it.
Point Salad is a quick and easy card game. Simple in its rules, as you saw earlier, it can be explained in five minutes, watch in hand. There is no return to the rule, no questions of rules or points of contention. Everything is clear right from the first play. You take the cards, you settle in and you're ready to play. Fast because indeed, one can easily have a tendency to chain games together, encouraged by the fact that each one of them is very short. Allow fifteen minutes (or less) to finish one.
The possibility of making choices allows you to think a little about your way of playing and imposes certain decisions that are not always easy to make. As I pointed out to you, it is sometimes difficult to choose between taking a recipe or ingredients that tempt us at the risk that the recipe that we wanted will disappear.
However, the importance of chance makes this pseudo strategy disappear relatively quickly. We no longer find ourselves playing in a “mechanical” way without necessarily having a long-term vision of the game. We find ourselves more looking for the right opportunity. This is especially true for more players where there is so much change that it is relatively impossible to predict anything. The two-player game, although limited and quickly redundant, may offer a little more control over how to play.
The installation of the game could also have been a little faster. Removing the cards of each type according to the number of players requires you to carry out some slightly superfluous manipulations. Even if the idea is certainly to allow a limited game time, ultimately we come back to wonder why not play with everything since the game remains short all the same. Even if you play (for example) often in pairs, you will have to repeat this manipulation regularly. Why ? It’s simple. The recipe cards are not the same behind the ingredients. Thus, to avoid falling into the excessively redundant side between each game, it is important to re-sort the cards randomly.
Level of graphics, there is not really much to say. It's colorful, you can see big vegetables ... The game is neither ugly nor beautiful. But it is illustrated effectively and the iconography is well thought out and very understandable. Each card is read very quickly and even if there is text on some, it is a keyword very easy to understand.
The game is fluid, the turns are linked quickly. In addition, the game offers ubiquitous interaction. Even if it is not a direct interaction, you have to be careful what the others choose and how you can possibly slow them down without being penalized too much. The game is never mean. And the fewer mistakes that can be made can be repaired or at least reduced in a fairly simple way.
Depending on the players, the game can also be transformed into a calculation game. All the choices can trigger positive or negative points. So if you play with people who like to calculate everything and find the best way to score, the playing time may increase and the pleasure (especially if you are not one of them) decreased. Where one of the strengths of the game resides is in its important possibility of scoring but also in its fluidity. If we turn it into a slightly longer game, I’m not sure that the interest remains intact. On the other hand, it is not a "fun" game as you’re locked in a game where you have to think (as much as possible) and where the goal is just to make points. Despite its format, it is not an atmospheric game.
Point Salad is therefore a very accessible little game. You can play it with friends (gamers or not), with family, family and friends, between adults, with children, between children,… you will understand, the game can turn in all hands. And if in addition, your children can learn to recognize vegetables, it's even better, right?
Point Salad is therefore still a good pick for Gigamic, which offers a very simple and refined collection game here. No fuss, you are right in the thick of it. Accessible, fluid, fast, easy to learn, playable everywhere, a small price, the game seems to have everything on its side to let itself be tasted and savored. Especially if it's your style of play. As a reminder, you are not in a trick taking game but a family collection game with a pinch of optimization. Between two meals or accompanying stronger games, Point Salad will keep you entertained. After, you’ll see if it can last the test of time ...
Technical Note 9/10
Even if the graphics are not extraordinary, "they do the job". The iconography is very well thought out and the rules are clear. The small metal box format is very suitable.
My BGG score 6/10
Ok - will play if in the mood.
The game is not without charm and is played relatively quickly. Very accessible, it will allow you to add a dose of optimization in your playful learning. Chance is very present and it is sometimes difficult to anticipate things. Replayability may be affected. However, the durations of very short games allow you to qualify everything. Ideal for many.
Combined score of 7.5 / 10
And now it's your turn to play ...
Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game