Friday, November 28, 2014

135) Lagoon: Land of the Druids

An interesting tile building game where each tile with one of your workers on it grants you special abilities or actions. Each turn consists of you refreshing (flipping up) three of your workers. You then use workers to build new tiles, move to an adjacent tile, activate the ability on a tile you're on, or destroy a tile that you have a worker on. Using a worker causes them to flip face down and become inactive until the next turn. The goal of the game is to collect resources and destroyed tiles, which count for points at the end of the game. The trick is only certain resources or tiles are worth points based on which tile resource is most prevalent on the board at the end of the game.

Ready to start 
Mid-game tiles 
End game board

The potential for this game to be really awesome is there. The difficult part is figuring out how to make your pieces do what you want. Everyone playing felt very limited by the amount they could do. So often my pieces were in the wrong spot and there was just no way to move them to where I wanted. Each turn felt like an insurmountable struggle to get anything done. Part of that is learning how to play, but the more interesting part should be trying to solve the puzzles that each new combination of tiles presents. There is a bit of a learning curve, but it feels like once you figure that out this game will be really fun.

134) Valley of the Kings

This is a set collection game combined with the deck building mechanic. It plays very similar to dominion where each turn you have five cards in hand. Each card can be played for money or its special ability. You can buy cards from the bottom row of the pyramid (seen in picture two). The twist is that on each turn you can take a card from your hand and remove it from the game. This card will then be scored when the game ends. Some cards are worth a set amount of points, but most cards belong to a set of like colored cards and you get a lot more points for each additional card in the set that you collect.

Setting up the game 
Available cards for purchase 
My hand 
End game score

This game felt a lot like a deck management game rather then a deck builder, which was a unique twist. The built in ability to remove a card from your deck every turn made for some interesting choices, especially in the first few turns when money is fairly tight. It did feel like some cards were overly powerful and could break the game, but after only one play its very difficult to know this for certain. The one annoying thing is that you're constantly shuffling your cards. My deck size remained around 10 cards the entire game and I was able to draw my entire deck most turns so I was constantly shuffling. Apart from that it was very fun and I would happily play this again.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

133) Rumis

This is a neat tetris style game. Initially a map is chosen and placed on a neat spinning center board. Then players take turns placing one of their pieces. The first three pieces placed must all be touching and each subsequent play a player must have the played piece touch one of their other pieces on the board. Additionally, no piece may go higher then the fifth row. Once all the pieces have been played you look down on the board and count up how many of each color is represented. The high score wins.

Ready to start 
Just getting going 
To branch out low or build high?
End game score

A great little game that we all enjoyed enough to play a second time. About half way through the first game a light bulb went off and I said "oh, this is an area control game". Then one of the other players said roughly 'so it I see how to play.' I guess I shoulda kept my mouth shut until the end of the game. Despite the games simplicity there is a quite a bit of strategy. Trying to figure out the area control aspect is difficult. There is also a balance of trying to build to the top level and assure points as opposed to grabbing lower locations in the hope that everyone else runs out of time to cover your pieces. If you can find a copy of this I would recommend giving it a try.

132) Praetor

An interesting game, which upon first glance appears to be amazing and everything I want in a game. In this game you're using your workers (dice) to gather resources and money by placing them on buildings. Additionally, you can purchase new buildings and build wall segments, again using your workers and the resources you've collected. Many of these actions result in points and whomever manages to get the most points by the end of the game wins.

Just starting our 3-player game 
Building and activating buildings 
Individual player board
End game buildings

After playing, no one was sure exactly how they felt about the game. We loved the mechanics and what your actually trying to accomplish in the game. We really had questions about how balanced the game is. Since printing there have been some official rule changes due to broken or overpowered buildings, but this only adds to my questions of how easy it is to break this game. Without playing a few more times I'm not sure how to address this potentially huge issue. But what I can say is the thing I disliked the most about the game is that it reward players for being last to the extent that a strategy could be to do poorly for the first half of the game...ugh. The thing I liked the most about the game is that you never roll the dice. The dice are actually used to show the age/experience of your workers and eventually the end up retiring, which is a great mechanic. That said, the jury is still out on this game so approach at your own risk.

131) Jenga

Who doesn't love a good old game of Jenga. This is a classic game where you must remove one of the pieces from the stack and put it on top without knocking the tower over. Sounds simple enough.

Can you find our error 
Getting sketchy down there 
Risky moves 
The inevitable

I had forgotten how much tension there is in this game. Each time your turn comes back around your heart sinks and then you try and figure out which piece is loose as the entire tower wobbles all over the place. Then when its not your turn you must remain perfectly still as one miss-movement could be the one that shakes the table and ends the game. Thankfully with high tension comes a high level of enjoyment.

130) New England

In this game you're buying tiles to place on the board and cards that give you points and occasionally special abilities. Each round players select a turn order/price per item bought token in turn order. Then in order of highest token value to lowest players may purchase up to two items currently available for purchase (which each cost the value on their token). Once this is done the start player shifts and the market is reset.

Initial placement 
The bits 
My early game action 
Getting down on their level 
End of our four player game

A fairly easy game to learn with a moderate level of strategy. It's perfect when you're in the mood for a lighter game although there are still meaningful decisions to be made throughout the game. A lot of the skill in this game comes in knowing when to spend your money, which directly relates to which turn order token you take. All in all a good game that I recommend playing, but do realize that (at least for me) this is a game I only pull out once every few months as it would get a bit boring if I played it more frequently.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

129) Quilt Show

In this game you're attempting to build the fanciest (and most expensive) quilt. If successful you'll win first place and collect lots of money. In order to do this a player collects cards which then allow them to buy quilt pieces (tiles). Once a certain number of tiles have been purchased players build and reveal their quilts for judging. This is repeated a few times and at the end of the game the player with the most money wins.

Getting set up to start.
Just getting started
Building quilts was never easier

All the glory of a two player game
I love the theme of this game, unfortunately the game itself falls a bit flat on multiple levels. First, the card draw mechanic makes you believe that having wild cards would be valuable as taking them is more expensive, but in reality card quantity is much more valuable. Second, it felt backwards that buying less valuable (2 point) quilt pieces was more valuable in points per card spent then the more expensive quilt pieces. Third, there is so much luck involved in which quilt piece you flip up next. It seems so unfair when one player buys tons of cheap tiles and the next player is stuck buying less efficient and more expensive tiles. And finally, the quilts you build are generally fairly ugly. Despite these tiles looking like they belong together in a certain way you are never rewarded for what your quilt actually looks like. The game only cares about if you have the correct color or shape and what the point value of the tiles is, not whether you're able to arrange them in a certain way or make a neat pattern.

I should note that we played this as a two player game and it may be a bit better with more players, but I think the above issues would carry through to more players and because of this I wouldn't recommend this game (which makes me sad because I so wanted this to be an awesome game).

128) Cardline (animals)

This is one of many timeline games, which range from history to pop culture to animals as seen below. Each version has you guessing the correct order for cards in your hand based on categories, in this case you could choose length (height), weight, or life span. On one side of the card the categories are hidden and thus you don't know the card values until you attempt to play the card. On your turn you get to play one card somewhere along the line of cards such that the chosen category fits in order from low to high. If you're correct you play the card. If incorrect you discard that card and draw a new one. The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.

Comes in a nice tin.
Correctly played cards
Tuna is longer then me? 
A pelican is longer then a gazelle. Hmm.

This is a fun game that can sometimes surprise you as seen in the two bottom pictures. It's a light game that acts as a good starter game. It's easy to learn and everyone is involved and interested in each other players turn. I would certainly recommend this game (or others in the series, although I haven't played them).

127) Quoridor

This is a great two player game. It takes seconds to explain and is quick to play. Each player starts with their piece on one side of the board and eight walls. On your turn you either move your piece one space or place a wall. The first player to reach the other side wins.

Dark Quoridor 
Race to the other side

We ended up playing this game a few times in a row. It's so quick to play and after each game you want to try a different strategy or idea. That said, I feel like after 10-20 plays this game may start to get a bit boring or predictable as we started to get a good feel for how to play after our few games. But, if you get the chance to try it out I highly recommend it.

And, you may notice the pictures above are the same board state. The amount of strategy and planning required completely sucked me in and I forgot to take more pictures.

126) Elfenland

The goal of this game is to move your boot around the board and visit as many cities as possible. When you get to a new city you remove your colored marker from that city. Whomever has removed the most of their makers at the end of the game wins. Each round players draft transportation markers (hopefully corresponding with cards in their hand). Then players play transportation markers on roads (only one per road) to define what type of cards can be used to travel along that route. Then players spend their cards and move their boots to as many cities as possible.

A box like that really draws you in 
Just completed the first round
Start of a new round

This is a fun game that really challenges a players ability to plan ahead and be flexible in what they're doing. It's also a very tight game where players often have very close scores making each decision even more valuable. Overall a good game that doesn't take too long to learn and offers some fun and unique challenges.

125) Stone Age

I can't believe its taken me this long to play this game! This is a classic worker placement game where you're gathering resources, buying cards and buildings (huts) to gather in-game and end-game points. Just don't forget to feed your people at the end of each round.

Individual player board 
Shared center board
Two players got all 8 relics!

This is a great game that I highly recommend playing. It has just the right amount of planning ahead, being preparing for future turns, and tension with other players potentially taking the spot you wanted. The one issue some people have with the game is there is a starvation strategy in which you choose to lose points each turn by not feeding your people. If done correctly, the benefit of not having to use workers to get food every few turns pays off in your ability to gather more of everything else. I love this strategy as it adds a new twist to the game, but it doesn't lend itself to the overall theme of the game. Regardless of this the game is amazing, and despite having dice, I still love this game so give it a try if you haven't already.

124) Chaos & Alchemy

A fairly straight forward and quick card game. The goal of the game is to get cards out in front of you totaling 10 points. On a players turn they get actions equal to 1 + the number of successful dice rolls they have. Actions are used to draw or play cards and failed dice require a player to discard cards. Each card has a special ability that influences the game in different ways.

Starting set-up is easy enough
My starting hand 
Our four player game
Some cards I managed to play

Unfortunately this game failed on multiple levels. My over arching dislike is the amount of luck involved in this game although more specifically: In our game the player going last had most of his cards taken by other players leaving them at a huge disadvantage before even getting a turn in the game. On top of that, the player to the right of the last player influenced the dice on multiple turns, which meant that the following player had to roll 6's in order to get additional actions. This essentially left the last player having no good cards to play and no actions to recover from the deficit. This was all decided before this player had any ability to do anything in the game. That by itself is enough to discourage future plays.

Additionally, there is the issue of complete random luck of what you draw on your turn. Everyone is drawing from a shared pile of cards. Some cards will be better then others. The player that wins will often be the one who randomly draws the better cards.

If you can't tell already, I'm not a big fan of this game and wouldn't recommend this one.