notes

New to me, January 2015

by james mathias / 2015 / games

Roll for the Galaxy

Roll for the Galaxy

I’m a big fan of the Roll for the Galaxy’s spiritual grandfather, Race for the galaxy. The one draw back of Race is it’s card based game play that relies heavily on a non-standardized hieroglyphic language that all the players must learn, and memorize before they can play without help.

Fortunately, Roll doesn’t suffer from the same steep learning curve, it’s iconography is neatly accompanied with explanatory text, which in turn makes Roll much friendlier and easier to get into. Overall, I prefer Roll to Race. I love rolling dice, and all the mechanisms that come with the move from a card based system to the dice based system, it just feels and plays more smoothly in my mind. This game is tied for game of the month for me, and it’s a huge plus that Lu liked it too!


The Staufer Dynasty

The Staufer Dynasty

The other game of the month for us. Lu and I really like this one. Andreas Steading is the designer of another game I greatly enjoy Firenze. Both of these games are very clever and smooth playing, they require little to no rule book referencing, because the mechanisms and resulting game play just make sense.

Staufer Dynasty is an area control game that resets every round. You have two action choices per turn, you’ll either hire new envoys and nobles, or have your nobles and envoys take seats in regional offices on behalf of the king. This is the kind of game where it seems very straight forward, but then somewhere in game two, your mind explodes.

Absolutely love it.


Murano

Murano

Murano is a brilliant game. A public action rondel that all players use to decide their action for the turn. The clever bit is that the rondel is seeded with several gondolas, and you can only move forward as far as there is not another gondola blocking you. You can mitigate this by paying coins to move other gondolas out of the way first, but this gets exceedingly expensive.

The goal of the game is to build shops, glass factories and palaces on the island of Murano in a mad dash to fulfill the most end game victory point conditions, which you obtain during the game. Thereby giving you new goals, and flexible choices through out keeping things interesting.

I can’t wait to get this one back to the table soon. It’s the kind of game that you think about when you aren’t playing.


Sanssouci

Sanssouci

As I’ve said in the past Kiesling is a great designer. Sanssouci is no exception. The game is on the lighter side of the spectrum which makes it perfect for playing with my youngest son Cameron.

In Sanssouci you are building several garden paths on an estate in order to help a row of nobles tour further into the garden. It’s quite simple, and the choices are very clear. However, the ways you can move the nobles deeper into the garden is where the planning and clever placement comes in.

Sanssouci is a keeper.


Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama

I’ve had Vasco da Gama on my game shelf since last Christmas, I purchased it as an add on to a preorder for another game in the What’s Your Game line.

It’s a worker placement game with a board that looks like a spreadsheet, albeit a beautifully designed one. So the intimidation factor was high, and I was unable to get any interest in the gamers around me. So she sat, on the shelf, taunting me with her promise.

Finally, just two days ago, I set her up, and got Bryce to agree to try a game. And wow. This game is terrific. It’s interesting, different, and smooth playing once you get the beat.

My only complaint would be that there is really only one path to victory, and you must pursue it to have any chance of winning. However, the twist on worker placement and action ordering makes the game feel like a much more varied thing than it is.


Patchwork

Patchwork

So I have a history of misjudging what I think Lu will like in a game. It’s not that I don’t know her very well, it’s that she is a true enigma when it comes to what she likes in gaming. Patchwork is a game I thought she’d enjoy. However, from the moment I started setting it up she was razzing me about being old, and looking like a biker that wanted to build a quilt.

In Patchwork, that is exactly what you do. You build a quilt using tetromino shaped quilt pieces and earning income in the form of buttons.

Needless to say while I really liked this game, it likely will never get back to the table, due to a gross error of rules explaining on my part, costing Lu the game due to her working towards a goal opposite that of the actual goal of the game.


Port Royal

Port Royal

Port Royal is a game I thought seemed pretty interesting. Push your luck; you draw cards until you bust (drawing two of the same color); gaining powers, gold, and points as you go. Fortunately this game is available to play online, so my gaming co-workers and I took it a for little spin. Port Royal is not a bad game, but it’s not something I feel compelled to own. So the online implementation will do for when I feel the itch to play this quick card game.


Red7

Red7

I picked up Red7 because of it’s promise of being a small, quick playing card game (something Lu enjoys) combined with a less than straight forward, puzzle like game play that I’ve come to expect from Mr Chudyk. Unfortunately, this little guy is misleading at best, and it fell flat with Lu and I. I will be adding this one to my trade/sell list.

On the surface Red7 seems like it’d be straight forward and fast to play, and perhaps it is once you grasp it’s inner complexities. The basic gist, on your turn, you must be winning the game. To accomplish this you need to either play a card to your tableau, or change the rule for winning, and then play a card to your tableau that wins you the game. If you’re not winning, you’re losing and game over for you. See sounds simple. On paper. In practice, it’s far more frustrating.


AquaSphere

AquaSphere

I’m a card carrying member of Team Feld. He is far and away my favorite game designer. That said, I have run across two of his games that I just didn’t enjoy playing. In The Year of the Dragon was the first, I played it once and promptly sold it. ItYotD was too tight and stressful, it felt like cooking hamburgers at a McDonald’s during the lunch rush, when the high school kids show up.

The second, was Aquasphere. Again, it felt too constricted and that wasn’t fun so much as it was frustrating.

I played Aquasphere one time, super excited for it’s promise and found my self very disappointed with the overall game play. It’s not a bad game, it’s just not the kind of game I want to play. I sold it in my last auction.


Samurai Spirit

Samurai Spirit

Antoine Bauza is the designer of many of my family’s most enjoyed games. 7 wonders, Ghost Stories, Rampage... But he’s also designed this beautifully illustrated version of the old card game War, and somehow made it unnecessarily complex for the sake of selling copies of the game.

This is literally one of the biggest disappointments in my gaming tenure. On your turn, you flip a card, and make one of two bad choices, and after a while you no longer have a choice at all. You just put the card in place and take the damage. For me the game had little game in it, and zero fun. I will be selling/trading this game away post haste.

dismiss

This was a month of new games! Playing catch up on 2014 Spiel releases mostly. Two games came in way above the heap, and three others were huge disappointments, everything else was pretty good.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats circa 1899