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...
Stellarium (2020) first impressions
Please note, these are first impressions of a prototype. Rules and components may change before final release.
There is nothing more relaxing than on a hot summer night, than to lay out on the cool soil of your garden and letting your eyes wonder at the little dots that are so far away. Living out in the country allows me to see the trillions of stars that line the dome around our globe. It’s something that I adored doing as a kid and speculating on what those twinkling lights are. In Stellarium, you’ll be doing the same thing. But with a little astronomical experience. Knowing the names of constellations and using them to navigate your way around the seas.
1 to 4 players (yes, there is a solo mode, that I haven't tried) will have two star constellation cards at the beginning of the game. A basic very easy starting formation and an easyish one too. Each card has a selection of the three different coloured stars scattered on square spaces. These indicate the distance between each star and their colour. Fulfilling a card, by observing it in the playing area, or night sky will score you a number of points and tiles as marked on the bottom. And in between all of the players, a grid of random tiles will be drawn from the bag and placed out. This is the night sky. Somewhere in this Sky is the formations that you seek. But sometimes not. A majority of the game will be spent staring at this night sky and trying to catch stars that match your constellations you are searching for.
So far, this sounds like a quick fire observation game. But this is not a race against the other players but a race against the clock. Players will take 30-second turns to point out their constellations in the night sky that match their card. If you fail to find one or mistakenly point out the wrong stars, either in colour or distance, you miss a turn and the opportunity to score points. When you do find one, the other players must concur that you have placed tokens on the tiles that correspond to your constellation, you’ll score that card at the end of the game. An added bonus is provided on that card. It will tell you how many tiles you can take as a bonus. But only the tiles that you place the tokens on. These also score at the end of the game. One point per star on a tiles you have. So there's some benefits of taking a tile which has three stars depicted on it instead of one. The remove tiles up replaced with random tiles drawn from the sack. And now you have the choice of drawing a new constellation card, this time you'll have a choice of the difficulty.
There are three difficulties in the game. Choosing the very hard formations to find will obviously give you more points if you do find them at the end of the game and also let you collect more tiles. But of course, these will be harder to find as they have have large areas of the sky and more stars in the correct position to pinpoint. There is also a variant with the game which has another deck of constellation, and these are even harder. One is revealed to all the players during the game, meaning that any player, on their turn can discover and score this card instead of one of their own. There are only a handful of these and they are quite possible of finding. If playing with this variant, there will always be one on the table for all players to search for.
The good thing about having turns, where each player is put in the spotlight to try and score points, is it eliminates those very powerful observant people from winning. We’ve all played a speed observation game, like Ghost Blitz or Set, where one play racks up points because they can process everything rapidly. These players don’t stand out as much in this game. They have their own turn to talk and take actions, as well as push themselves to pick the harder constellations to find. Yes, these are more point than the easy and medium difficulty cards, but they are darn hard. Sometime hard to find in the time limit but occasionally because of the random layout of tiles, sith their 3 colours and numbers. So the game has a kind of balancing mechanism for different skilled opponents. If you're playing with the variant, they may accelerate their score rapidly by finding these mega point cards instead of the two they have in hand. Plus, if you're playing at the full player count, if you’re a slower player, you'll have much more time to try and find your constellations, even before your turn starts. But sometimes that time is never enough, possibly because you're constellation does not exist...
Yes, yes it is possible to look into the night sky and not find what you're looking for. But you shouldn't freet, as this sky will be changing when players collect tiles. On top of that, these bonus tiles that you have collected can be used to force your constellation to appear. A really nice touch is if you are struggling to find what you're looking for, for you have the power to place out one of your collected tiles. This is kind of a forfeit, as you will be losing the points from it. But by placing this one tile out, it will help you advance a little in removing a card from your hand that might be difficult to complete. This is great if you have a three starred tile as it acts like a joker. The sad news is, you will be losing those three points, as this tile cannot be collected from the selection of tiles that you collect. Being observant and resourceful can really be a big payoff in this game. Making stupid mistakes, like placing out one of your tiles to complete a card. Then finding out that the constellation is still not correct will have you kicking yourself as you have missed your turn, but also lose your tile with its points. That then becomes a permanent fixture in the sky and helps out another player.
The game continues until there are no more tiles to replace the empty spaces in the night sky. It's at this moment players count up the amount of points from constellation cards and from the stars on your tiles to see who has the most points. This ending seems a little unbalanced and is very swings and roundabouts. Having another player complete more cards due to the fact that they had more turns will seen a little unjust. And like any speed observation game, even though this one gives each player that own slot, is still unfair to slower players. Faster players are always guaranteed to score more, especially if you play with the verient. Where as slowest player may miss a turn due to not finding the most advantageous constellation. But it kind of even outs. Only playing many times will tell.
The game is quite tranquil as you gaze at a bunch of tiles, trying to to find your objectives. I enjoy observation games like “word searches” and “spot the difference”, so this game appeals to me on that level. As well as the theme and mechanism. And again, more relaxing with more players, as you will have time to find your constellations a few times over. If someone takes a tile from that formation before your turn, you can adopt from the new tiles or fallback to the second card in your hand. But that's it. It is pretty shallow and repetitive, but doesn’t drag out. A game can last for about 20 minute and at that point, you'll be ready to move on or play again. With all the playtester I encountered, some found it relaxing and pleasurable, while some found it stressful and frantic, and others found it a tad dull and drab. Not only in the colour palette but also so in the gameplay itself.
Now, this is the prototype version that I played, that had missing pieces. Again, I am unsure if the style of the games art and design will be the same or change. But what I had was all clear and easy to interpriate. Games ran smoothly. We even player without a timer. This was not as fun. Maybe if you were playing with children, this would be an option. I’ll finish by saying that this is a great introductory game for those getting into the hobby and a sweet family game. Short and easy to understand. Some interesting ideas, but not enough to keep coming back. Extra rules or a fourth colour or larger night skies, would all be nice. We shall see when the final version comes to stores later this year from Precisamente.
Azul (2017) review
With three versions of the game now in print, (Summer Pavilion, Stained Glass of Sintra and the basic version of Azul) the sky seems to be the limit for Next Move Games. All three games are abstract tile placement games, share the delightful tactile feel and have had some generus buzz built around them. Winning an award or 10 in the progress, like the 2018 Spiel des Jahres and the As d'Or. Having never played the to newer versions, I cannot give you a comparison or rank the titles in any shape or means at this time. Maybe in the future this will come to pass.
Two to four players will have the privilege of collecting these delightful otherworldly tiles and try to apply them on their wall. Of course this sounds very simple, but there are ways and means of collecting and attaching them to your wall, that will add a challenge. Each player will have their own plateau to place their tiles on and score their own points. While in the middle of the table, tiles will be randomly placed on a number of beer coasters, (there is no other way of saying it) to squabble over. This is technically the heart of the fun, or discomfort of the game. Planning ahead and calculating what the other players will take or discard will take up a vast amount of your gaming experience. And the great thing about it is you can still play the game haphazardly and probably still fair well by the end of the game. Making it an easy game for any level of experienced gamer. Just like anybody can slip on a pair of socks but weather there a matching pair all the correct way round doesn't really matter.
So let's go back to the beer coasters. When your turn comes around, you can select one of these beer coasters and remove the tiles from it. From those removed, you can only keep one set of the same pattern. As seen as there are only 5 different patterns (or colour) in the game, you're more than likely keep one or two of the four tiles that are placed there. All of the remaining tiles will be removed to the centre of the table. The centre of the table is treated like one giant coaster. At some stage in the game, a player may decide to collect all of the tiles of one pattern from this space. As the game goes on, more and more tiles will be added to this. First player to do so will have the benefit it of being the first player in the next round. Of course it has an advantage but it also has a disadvantage explain later on. Taking from this pool can have some benefits of its own, as you can grab a greater number of same coloured tiles in one action. Totally beneficial. Also someone could leave you with no choice but to pick up large group of same coloured tiles to add to your board, which could lead to your downfall. This is one of the great dilemmas of the game. Calculating what you need and guesstimating what the others will need. Picking and choosing while forcing the other players to leave you the best scraps. This is not evident in the first and possibly second round, but as the game goes on, you will find and that this is all you're doing.
Let's go back to the tiles that you have decided to keep. These will go to your individual player board, where you have a 5 by 5 gridded wall to try and decorate. But before you can add these tiles to your wall, they will have to be placed off to the side of a column that you wish to add them to. As soon as all of the tiles from the coasters and the middle of the table have been collected, this is when they can be applied to your wall. But only if you have the correct amount for the column. Each column requires a different number of same coloured tiles before they can be added to your wall. One column requires one tile. Another two tiles, three tiles, four and then five. It is only now that they can be added to the wall and you will score points for each that does. Again restrictions are in place to make the game a thoughtful, challenging and hopefully fun experience. Each pattern can only be attached to the wall all in a column that doesn't already have the same pattern. Think sudoku. Not only are you trying to get the correct colours in the correct column, but also so in the right quantities. If you do not have the prerequisite to move a tile onto your wall, the tiles you've collected it was stay in that saved space until you do have the required amount. This can lead to missed opportunities in scoring. And the hope of getting them fulfilled the next round. Observant players may take a gander at your previous rounds treasures and play it to their advantage, as I stated before, taking the things you need leaving the tiles you don’t need to collect in you negative point box...
Moving onto scoring, there are multiple ways to get points from this game. These are all relatively simple, but the strategy relies on how and which spaces on the wall you fill. Placing a tile on the wall will give you a point. Adding a title to an adjacent tile will give you a number of points depending on the number of adjacent tiles, either horizontally or vertically. So as you can see, placing a tile in the right column at the right moment can give you big numbers. This is the strategy that will separate the mice from the men. But it relies on what tiles come out of the bag and onto the coasters, what tiles the other players leave for you to take and which columns you place these tiles into. To win every time you'll need to be a clairvoyant. Or just aware of the scoring strategy. Two things I haven't told you about the scoring are 1) there is a bonus chance to get extra points at the end of the game and 2) you can lose points by taking the wrong pattern or number of tiles.
The bonuses are very simple. You get extra points for each column horizontal or vertical. On top of that, if you manage to add 5 of the same coloured tiles to your wall, they score you mega points as well. But the gut-wrenching part of the game is losing points from round to round. How does this occur? Going back to the very beginning, when you collect tiles from a coaster or the middle of the table, your add them to one column next to your wall. These all need to be of the same colour. And the correct amount needed for the column. If you have more than you need, they cannot be added to another column. If you have no space in a column or it cannot be added to a column due to the fact that you already have that colour attached to your wall in that row, these count towards negative points. At the bottom of your bored there is the negative point boxes. You will add these unused tiles to this one by one, from left to right. And even the first player marker, which is a tile, will go there as well (see, being first player has benefits and negative effects). When a scoring round comes along, this is when you total up every negative point that every negative tile gives you. If you miss plan or have other superior players screwing you over, this can really sting, as each box gets a little more negative. One time that this happened to me, made me hate the game immediately. If I had reviewed the game then and had been a vain critic, my rating would have been very poor. But that's not the kind of critic that I am. Everything deserves more than one chance and not be judged by its cover. Plus this is it go-to game for my wife, hence I have no choice but to play. LOL
Even if you're not enjoying the game, they never tend to last very long. Normally after five rounds the game or come to a close. As the finishing condition is when one player or more has as five tiles in a horizontal line. This is very easy to achieve as the first column only requires one tile of one colour. As long as someone one fills this column each round, round six never exists. It is then that you look at your final scores to decide who the winner is. With relatively simple rules to follow and a rapid playing time, this is a perfect family weight game in a family sized box. Play loose or play it with profound concentration, the choice is yours.
Chunkiness is the key. The boards are thick and sturdy. The tiles are gloriously smooth. And the sack is not bad too. Although I'm not a fan of the black cube, which you place on your board to keep your score. This sucker will slide around from time to time, with so much movement having to move and removing tiles from your board, the board with shuffle or the cube will get knocked. All very minor when you consider the rest of the presentation. Presentation is at its best in the accompanying Rulebook. Well written and well presented with plenty of examples. There is even a variation to the game. By simply flipping your player board over, you will go from a wall that tells you where to put a particular tile, to a wall where you have to decide where to put a particular tile. Still following those Sudoku rules.
Technical Score 9.5/10
The game is brimming with wonderful tactile components, although it a little dull to look at. Simple rule set and quick dplaying time makes for a good family game.
My BGG Score 6/10
(ok -will play if in the mood)
I will hand it to Azul, that it is a very interesting game. But it feels restrictive and repetitive. You have to learn how to be good at it, with a little card counting, bluffing and of course luck. You could say the same about Carcassonne, but there's something enduring and pleasurable about building a map in my opinion.
Combined score 7.75/10
Now it's over to you...
Going back to the darker days of board gaming. When a slightly younger version of me was making segments for The Dice Tower "Barry Thinks..." There, I was a disgruntled little man with opinions on what is right and wrong with our hobby.
And here I am, doing it again. But why?
Well, I received a package the other day from a Kickstarter. And it lead to this...
What do you think?
Please feel free to write comments in the section below. I would be happy to respond and hear your side of things.
And if you missed out on those Dice Tower videos, here are a few of them for you to muse over.
Red outpost (2019) first impressions
(Remember, this is a first impression and not a final review. The game was played on a well rendered prototype, of an upcoming Kickstarter game. These words and thoughts are of a one-time play play with a 3 player count.)
If you're looking for a game with a unique theme and gameplay, here is a game that should pique your interest. Theme wise, Red Outpost is about the Russians winning the Space Race. And instead of going to the moon, they crash on another planet and start inhabiting it. Mechanics wise, this is a worker displacement, resource gathering and and Influence scoring game. Where are all the workers and resources are shared between all players. But this is no “co-op game” by any shape or means. Players are going to be scrambling to manipulate these workers for their own benefits and mainly trying to hold the others back from doing the same. Each, trying to keep their head about the water, at the same, submerging the heads of others.
The ruleset for the game is very simple. You’ll move an unused worker to a unique empty location, place one of your influence tokens on that workers image, possibly change the mood of that worker, before taking the action as indicated on the location. As simple as that. Although so your first game, you may occasionally forget to place out your influence token. This can sometimes screw up the game. Or at least your score, if you forget to do so. But that's an easy player error to make in your first game. Quickly forgotten in this very rapid, slick, elegant game. To help the game run smoother, it has its own simple to read, iconography at each location. This, players will pick up very quickly and make your gaming experience run very smoothly. But with all that being said, this game is easy to pick up and play (with a possible error...lol) but is no easy game to master.
The game is played over 2 rounds, which represents 2 days. Each day is broken down into 5 phases. Morning, first half of the day, lunch, second half of the day and evening. All of the six unique workers will start their day in the barracks, sleeping. Waking up from they're wonderful dreams and preparing for that hard but yet satisfying day of work. In the morning, lunch and evening phase, each player will be able to move a worker to a new unoccupied location. Whereas as in the first and second half of the day, players will activate all available workers until they have all been utilised. This may mean at certain player accounts, some players will activate two workers while others only one in this phase. Here there are some little thematic ideas that play into each of these times of the day. For example, any workers that are not moved in the morning phase will sleep in and instantly be satisfied, augmenting their mood level. That's true in the real world, yes? The kitchen space is only open at lunchtime, but you're not obliged to send a worker out there to elevate their mood. Again in the evening, the barracks is the only place that you can send a worker. And not all workers will go there, but any that do will have their mood increased.
To add a bit of variety to this, the game comes with 3 morning and evening tokens. These can be placed out randomly or in set locations, rendering them closed for that part of the day. Reducing the amount of locations during two phases of a round. This is not as restrictive as it sounds, although it will make a few players feel claustrophobic, as they become first play and have free reign of the board. But that one action they want to do is not available! But it will add a little more to your thought process from game to game. Plus with the restriction of only one worker being able to move to an unoccupied location, will consume a little bit of your grey matter.
Let's talk a little bit about these locations and what they do. Most of the locations will gather resources, like wheat from the fields or coal from the coal mine. A few of them will allow you to draw cards to see whether you collect resources, like whether you catch a fish from the lake. All resources are pooled together the storehouse. For each resource your worker collects, you will move your token on the production wheel. Once it passes a certain space, you're received two points and a crystal, which is its own unique resource. More about these crystals later. If at the end of your turn, you have added a third resource of the same type already stored there, you’ll score some additional points. This is an action that can be stolen from you by other players, so don’t try to think too far ahead. Two of these resources are removed while the other is placed on a resource score track. At first, this track will only give you one point. Over time, as more players contribute to this resource gathering, that score we'll go up to a level before caping itself to a solitary point. Making resource gathering important but at the same time only at certain stages in the game. As the game goes on, players may be forced to collect resources and add them to the pool, which in turn may lead to another player scoring off of that action.
Other locations may require the aforementioned crystals. Going to the beer house will allow you to spend a crystal that will allow you to manipulate the mood tracks of 2 of the workers. While going into the palace will allow you to drop off a crystal to contribute towards the construction. Leading to another way to score. If at the end of the game you have contributed the most, there are some bonus points up for grabs. Going to the storehouse will allow you to use the resources to manipulate mood or collect crystals. Going to the administration will allow you to move other players influence around. This all sounds great and well, but most of these locations also have benefit or malediction depending on the worker that is sent there. Again this ties in with the theme of the game and can lead to some interesting decision making.
Let’s say you send the minor to go mine at the mine (that's a lot of mines). This will benefit you with 2 coal resources and no penalty. As the minor is used to working in the mine and will not be upset with the working conditions. Send any other worker to the mine, and as they are not at proficient as the minor, they only collect one coal. And as they are not accustomed to working in the mind, and their mood will decrease by 2 to. Making them a very sad bunny. And that's how most of the locations work. They will give you something but they also may change the mood of the worker that you have used to do that task. Each space thematically ties in with the worker. Another example is the commissar, who will lose morale if they visit the beer house (dull chap) but will gain morale every time another worker goes to the palace to contribute to the construction.
So I have done a lot of talking about morale, moods and influence. These are all important at the end of each day, as they will also add points to your game. Or lose them! Once the workers have gone to bed, your tally each of your your influence markers that you have used on each of the workers. If you have the most or are joined for the most influence on one of these meeple, you will gain or lose points depending on their mood. This adds an entire heavier level of planning in regards to just sending “so and so” over there to do this or that. It also prevents a player from using the same I'm working over and over again, due to too many of the locations making them sad rather than happy. Added to that is the restriction of only six different workers, which will force players to play dirty. Maybe leaving behind the last worker for you to influence, knowing they are on negative points. Just like real life, if we are all contributing to make this world better, but stabbing each other behind their backs.
This influence and mood scoring track is probably the hardest ball to juggle in the game. Sometimes it feels just like luck that you have been left with a certain meeple to manipulate or a certain location due to others being occupied. But that's part of the give-and-take of the game. Using a character and figuring out how to get a special bonus in a special location but also penalizing yourself we'll have you head scratching for awhile as you search to see if it is beneficial in the long run. But this can be overthrown by another who is quicker or wiser enough to manipulate the workers moods.
Is this all sounds too simple for you, then don't fret. There are also some special cards that you can add to your game that will make your decisions a bucket load more interesting. At the beginning of the game you can be dealt two cards. One location and one worker. Each has its own extra benefit when you either visit that location or use that worker. This variant of the game that we played with, did make the decision making process of your action a hell of a lot more interesting. Adding an additional level of though as you want to use that power, but it may hamper other benefactory ideas further along. Also these cards are open knowledge to all the other players, they may deliberately occupy that worker or location, just say you can't benefit from your special powers. I would definitely recommend playing with this variant if you have a group of experienced gamers.
So this game has a lot of interesting and thematic ideas in tangled inside it's small framework. And left me with the sensation of playing a kind of Mediaeval Academy meets Outlive hybrid. Even though the artwork and theme were reminiscent of Scythe. And a game does seem to be a cold logical puzzle, where you are having to adapt to what is available and whatever the other players are doing. Saying that, one detractor from the game is the luck factor.
There are two small decks of cards located next to the lake and the spaceship. Going to these locations is a bit of pot luck, as some of the cards don't contain resources, but a whopping big red “X”. Meaning there is nothing there and you have practically wasted an action. This can definitely sting you. And players adapted to this by not going to the spaceship or they use the fisherman and only the fishermen to go fishing at the lake. This guaranteed a resource. And then there's the nasty action which a player can take. Sending the bureaucrat to the administration office. Or spending crystals to create mood swings,not only to the workers, but also the players. This then just blatantly let's them move one of your disks of influence from a worker that will probably get you lots of points to another that's going to give you negative points. This can sometimes feel like a real kick in the nuts action to take. Even if it costs a crystal. Points win the games, while crystals can also contribute.
Apart from that, this is a real solid and interesting euro game. It seems well balanced in how you get points. Either from scoring from resource collecting and crystal depositing. To the influence and mood scoring. Though some players may have trouble trying to manage this second part of scoring or losing points, as it is player dependent. Plus it's a mechanism that is not frequently used, worker displacement and influence. Have to play with the leftovers of other players feels refreshing and also a little confusing. Possibly not everyone's cup of tea.
Even for a prototype, the components are very well realised for a euro style game. The rule book was very easy to digest, with a few added corrections and clarifications, it is near perfect. And the footprint of the box itself will not eat up a lot of shelf space. But saying all that, some of that is subject to change depending on the Kickstarter. There may be other components that add to the size of the book. Other rules that will add to the replayability or upgrades. These we will see in time. But if you're looking for a different type of solid and fluid euro, that has you thinking in a different fashion, as well as being fantastic themed, this is one you should be clicking on.
RONE (2018) 1st impression
The post-apocalyptic, Magic the Gathering card game without the endless years of collecting. That's one way to describe this card game. As you are a hero who is picking through the remains of a destroyed planet, possibly Earth, collecting technologies and other warriors to fight for your cause.
Let me start by saying that the version of the game we played was of the second edition. So some of these comments might not apply to the future installments of the game. Again remember that these are first impression of a “One Time” play, of a two-player game. Therefore different configurations of players may change the overall feel of play
The rules of the game are pretty straightforward, especially if you are familiar with dueling card games. Each player will have a deck of cards and they will be using these cards to attack their opponents. Simple as that. But there are some interesting mechanisms and differences between this game and others of its ilk.
One of those differences is the set-up. For the base game, you'll be randomly constructing your deck and randomly picking your hero. As this is not a collectible card game, we found a very large selection of cards of each type in the game. This randomness in constructing a 24 card deck fits the theme of you picking through the ruins of a destroyed City, finding technologies, and other fighters ready to fight for you. With about 250 cards to choose from, and what looks like only two copies of each card within the deck, everytime you distribute cards you will have a different setup. And therefore play your strategy on the fly, with each card you reveal. This leads to a lot of random gameplay and possibly put off players who have to adapt quickly to what they have. But the alternative is to either give your deck a good looking over before playing or to play the advanced rules and build your own deck.
After our first play, I can admit that I wasn't too enthralled by this prospect, although I see the possibility of multiple plays leading to a better understanding of the game. Again multiple plays would also lead to faster smoother gameplay, less pausing and rule book reading. But my feelings were also tainted by the poor luck that I had. First impression, remember! In the game, your deck is your life points. Burning through your deck is not an option as these cards will go into your graveyard and when you have no more cards to draw or in hand, it's game over for you. Every time you take damage from an opponent, a card from your hand or your deck will have to go into the graveyard. I had the disadvantage of chance when everytime I took damage I discarded a card from the deck. Which all happened to be Unit cards. And every time I drew a card into my hand, it happened to be a Tactics card. What's the difference?
A nice element about the game is, there are these two types of cards. Units will fight for you, while tactics are like one shot effects. Can you now understand my frustration? In hindsight, I should have kept the tactic cards instead of playing them to try and melt my opponent's life points. And then when damage was taken, I would discard these for my hand and instead of blindly drawing from the deck. Not only are there two types of card, each type of card comes in one of three levels. These are to correspond with the level of your hero character. Which again could be a problem for some players who don't level up their hero at the beginning of the game. There's nothing worse than drawing cards that you can use, due to a restriction.
So apart from my quibbles of randomness in the game, there are some interesting and exceptional ideas. Unit cards and the Hero have attacks or powers that, once used will have a cool down period. This is signified by the numbers on each side of the card. A simple colour system will remind you of the duration of the cooldown. Making tapping your card a simple affair, although it took a little while to remember in which direction the card should be turnt at the refresh phase at the beginning of your turn. For some reason we have a natural affinity to turn things clockwise. Where as in this game, it's anticlockwise.
Combat in the game is simple and logical. Some units have weapons that can shoot at a distance while others are hand-to-hand combat only. Leaving way for some interesting decisions that you will make while trying to take out your opponent. Two characters with the same attack is simply a case of the numbers and who has the most highest. Both doing damage to each other as well as exhausting themselves for a round. Where as, someone with a gun going up against a hand to hand expert has different consequences. The gun will always fire first, before the puncher I can punch. Realistic and interesting, as well as refreshingly simple.
When cards go to your graveyard, you have a choice of placing them either on the top or the bottom. This can be an important tactic because you can bring cards back from the dead, if they are on the top of the graveyard. Each card has its own recycle value, which means that you’ll eject that number of cards from your graveyard to bring the top card back into play on the battlefield. Plus there are other ways and power that will allow you to do this.
Now let's talk about the heroes. There are about 20 in this version of the game, each coming in three levels. Each will bring you a certain amount of water at the beginning of your turn. It is this water that is the currency of the game, allowing you to recruit and play cards into the Battlefield. Also this water will permit you to level up your Hero so they can activate more powerful cards from your deck. In fact, you may spend your first 3 to 5 turns doing so, while your opponent starts chiseling at your life points. Not only do they give you access to more powerful cards but also themselves, collect more water or even give the ability to draw a card into your hand each turn. All have the same regular power, of an additional water or card, but each also has their own unique power to discover. We also played with the optional rule all of technology cards. Again, these are dealt out at random. Of the five cards dealt to you, only three of them can be played into the game. These changed the balance of the game as they were introduced, once more leading you to adapt your gameplay to what you have in your hand. Plus giving each player a unique playing style.
The quality of the product is pretty high. The card quality is good, although there is no proper storage solution in the box. The tokens for marking damage or power-ups and power downs are chunky and easy to read. In fact the whole icon system is simplicity itself. The dark apocalyptic art is somewhat lost in the cards, but if you stare at them closely you can appreciate the wonderful details the artist has created. The rule book is nicely spaced out and easy to read. But could still do with some “easy to find” chapter markers and possibly being a bit more profound in its descriptions and definitions. We did run into some questions that we could not answer from the rule book or even the videos that we watched.
This is definitely a Board Game that Everybody Should probably get better at, with time and an understanding of some of the hundreds of cards. A great idea for those who just want to jump in a card battle, without having to collect or trade from blister packs. Plus very little down time to explain the rules. It's theme of scavenging the wastelands of a destroyed utopia is there at the beginning of the game but slowly dissipate into dust as you realise that this is primarily a two player Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh card game. But you can also play as 3 or go up to 4 players team matches, which is a bonus for this type of game.
As I said, these are the thoughts and feelings after one play of the second edition. The complete edition with expansions is currently running on Kickstarter. If this sounds like your type of thing, click on the link below to be zapped to an alternative universe.
Is he a Cool Mini or Not? Peter Shirey is here to talk about being CMON's Play Manager and Retailer Relations Coordinator. Or Not? ...
This is an interview show where I have taken the idea of the tv show “Quantum Leap”, and put our guest in the shoes of Sam Beckett. Time traveling into people's bodies, in our case people we know. And finding out one of two things. If our Sam will walk in that person's shoes, absorbing a character trait or admiring their life. Or if our Sam will change something in their life, for better or worse.
Who will he jump into? And what is coming from CMON in the future? Maybe some Zombicide 2nd edition? Watch and see...
Joined by Eli Mamane, first time designers and publisher, who thinks he is here to talk about his Kickstarter game Vector Wars...Maybe he will, if he can make it through the Quantum Quiz. Join us Live.
Look out for Vector Wars on Kickstarter on the 20th of October
What is vector wars?
Vector Wars is set in a Tron-style universe where the world has run dry of resources and clans fight in a virtual arena to gain one of the last remaining energy sources for their people known as Zetta Orbs. Vector Wars is a 2-player area domination game based on a 9 square board known as The Grid. You place one of your 9 character cards face-down, which gives little to no information to your opponent as to the strength of the card placed. These cards flip to give you an individual flip ability, which you may use to battle to keep control of the grid. Your job is to try and gain the most victory points by maintaining a tactical advantage over your opponent, which will ultimately gain you the victory.
Poule Poule (2019) review
Making a movie can be a difficult process of casting the right people to fit the story. Choosing the scenery and settings while keeping everything under control and stopping outside influences from strolling in front of your camera. Balancing the action scenes with the plot points, to keep your audience guessing and enthralled. Not going over budget and finally, remembering that someone else has to edit this footage into the final film.
Poule Poule takes all of this and narrows it down into a fun and mind stimulating family card game. A game where one player will direct the movie by revealing cards, while other players are the movie editors, poised to make a cut at the right moment.
This memory and slightly mathematical puzzle is played out with a deck of cards. The deck can be set up for a very simple basic game, involving very few actors and props. With increasing difficulty levels depending on the amount of extra characters, walk on parts and additional props you wish to add. The game also offers some blank cards for you to draw your own characters and create extra rules of your own. Getting back to the basics game, your constructive a deck containing 10 chickens, 10 foxes, and 15 eggs. And the gameplay is very very simple…
One player would take on the role of a Director, who is making a film about Poule Poule. They will take the deck of cards and shuffle them ready to present to the other players, who are the Film Editors. The Director only want to see 5 uncovered eggs in their film. These editors will then watch the film reel that the Director has captured, as they play their film by revealing the top card of the deck. This will then be followed by the next card, which is placed on top of the first card. This continues at the speed the Director wishes to flick through their flic. And what the Editors are looking for is a place to cut the film. This cut should be when the fifth uncovered egg is revealed. This, in itself is very simple, as the Editor will slam their hand on the cards and shout, “Cut”. At which point the film stops rolling from the Director. Before anything else happens, any of the other Editors could challenge the one who has stopped the film, if they believe that they have missed counted the number of eggs. But if there is no challenge, this Editor wins themselfs one of three points, which are made up of egg shells. Winning three points, or completing the egg, will win you the game. But there’s a little more to it than what it sounds…
Remember that there’s not only eggs in this deck of cards but there are chickens and there are foxes, each of them has a role to play in this film. Whenever a chicken is revealed, if an egg has been played before it arrives in the scene, this chicken will sit on the egg. If there are no eggs in the film already or the previous eggs have been sat on by other chickens, this one walks off set. Remember that you are cutting the film directly after a fifth egg is available. Yes, you may have seen seven egg cards during the films playing, but how many of them were covered by chickens. And that is where the fox comes in. If a fox comes along and no chickens have been seen, it goes on its way. But if there is a chicken or two sat on an egg, guess what…? Let’s keep this child friendly. The Fox chases away one of these chickens, revealing the previously covered egg. This can throw a fun spanner in the works, as your brain is trying to recount from memory. And before you know it, someone has already won a point or lost a point if you are playing with a variant. After which the deck is passed to the next player and they become the Director.
You can probably tell by now if this game is for you or not. But I will add that you shouldn’t pre-judge this game juuuuuuuust yet. I would say that this is not only a game for children, but adults too can have great fun (especially when playing with all variants). The game is a simple memory game of adding one or minusing one every time a chicken or a fox comes along. Teaching your young ones logic and simple math while being a cerebral challenge for you and your drinking buddies, as there are 7 extra characters to play roles in these films. For example, the dog, who will wait around for the next fox to arrive and then chase it away. The ostrich egg that counts as two eggs, and cannot be sat on by the chicken. Or the farmer, who will collect all previously uncovered eggs, resetting your count to zero. As I mentioned earlier, there are blank cards for you to draw and create your one rules and characters. On top of that you can penalize players who make mistakes with incorrect gases or failed to call the bluff on another. All of this will add complexity and extend the extremely short five minute playing time into and longer challenging party game.
With a very interesting color palette and unique art style from Pauline Berdal (Kami) that makes every character unique and stand out from the others. This all leads to gameplay that is smooth and the roles of each character easy to differentiate. The rules themselves are extremely simple but deciphering them from this very small rulebook can be head scratching. Although the text is written in a lighthearted manner that reflects the theme of the game, it is unfortunately in a shorthand that you need to have some background on before you can play. Or at least watched a video on. Charles Bossart (75 Gnom' Street, Stumblewood) has found some interesting combinations in memory games to create and interesting rapid past time. Although the theme is very present on the cards, and kind of reflects cell by cell movie reels as you reveal the cards, it doesn’t translate well into the game and is quickly forgotten.
Once you know the rules, the gameplay is very very quickly. In fact, I've had some 5-minute games due to the fact that one player at the table was very observant and very speedy at cutting the film. Within 3 turns, they had won the game. This can sometimes destroy the morale of those who are not quick or retentive and put them off playing this game in the future. Sometimes while playing you will see these players slide out of the ambience of the game, leaving victory with a slightly sour taste in your mouth. So I can see this is probably just a fun game that adults can play to have a laugh. Or this is for adults who think that they are intelligent and can challenge each other with. But mainly I can see this game working with parents and their children. Possibly best with the parent playing the directing role throughout the game. Definitely a good laugh with 4 or more players. Anything less is a little drab, like being the Director and not being able to participate in a challenge or the count itself. The game states that it can go up to 8 players, although that maybe a squeeze around a table. But there's a good chance there's a lot of giggles and laughable arguments.
Oh, I forgot! I also was commissioned to create music for the game. You can find it on Spotify, Deezer and many more streaming sites.
Technical score 9/10
Sweet looking art, quality cards (with different coloured backs) and a small box that can travel anywhere. A good like insert for the cards but no baggie to hold the point making egg shells. The rulebook lets it down by using its own language and does not explaining these terms, that hinder learning the game.
My BGG score 7/10
Good - usually willing to play.
A game that pleases me and makes me feel clever. I am a sucker for this logical mathematical game. Enjoyable if you like challenging others with you reflexes and brain power (of counting 1,2,3…) Although, it's not everybody's cup of tea and playing with these players hinders the game. And again, the game can be unbalanced depending on the level of the players playing. A good quick filler game when you have a group of 4 or more.
Combined score 8/10
And now it’s over to you