Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not Exactly On The Cutting Edge of Boardgaming

I finally got to play some of the "new" crop of games this last week - actually, I got to play stuff that was new to me. Here's my eeny-teeny-tiny capsule reviews of them:


Man, I wanted to like this one. I'm a sucker for Days of Wonder production (got to admit, the wooden pawns dressed up with togas & laurels are pretty darn cool) - this game is no exception. I love the look of the board, the clarity of the graphics, and the general theme of the game.

But I found myself caught on an interesting dilemna in the game: if I played "to win", I needed to concentrate & crunch the numbers & consider all the possible scenarios that my fellow players might try, while if I played to have fun, I needed to attempt to ignore this and play "by the seat of my pants." All of the game information is open, so it's possible to do all the figuring necessary - but doing so slows the game to a glacial pace.

That leaves you with a game that is unsatisfying either way - which, well, blech. I rated it a "5" on BGG, which roughly translates as "I'd play it again but I took it off my wishlist."

The actual game was enjoyable... and close. At the end, I was tied for the lead with another player only one point behind the two of us. We had the same amount of cash, so the "more stars" tiebreaker finally decided the game in his favor.

We did have one rules question: can you bid based on the potential cash of your medals or do you need to cash them in? We decided "cash them in".


Take the bland "agony" card game of Coloretto (much beloved by people other than me) and add a delightful theme, a wider range of tactical choices & nice graphics, and you have the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year in Germany) winner, Zooloretto.

This isn't a spectacular game - it didn't wow me - but it's solid as a rock & fun to play. If you're an expansion junkie, there are at least 3 expansions released online by the designer already.

I rated this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translates as "I'm happy to play this and might pick it up if I found a good deal on it."

Before The Wind

If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, then this game had the unfortunate moniker that launched a thousand fart jokes - but, flatuence-inspired humor aside, it's a decent game. (And that's a lot to say, considering it was published by Phalanx, whose Hector & Achilles is still stinking up my trade pile.)

It's yet another "shipping goods" game - but with really nice art & some interesting game mechanics. You have to acquire goods, then take yet another action to place them in your warehouse, and finally take a final action to move them onto the ships.

I'm not sure I'd enjoy this game with 4 players, but it worked just fine with 3 players. This is not a game to play with serious card counters, as they'd wipe the floor with you.

I gave this one a "6", which roughly translates as "I'd play it again, but only with people who play quickly."

Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge

I'm realizing that I still have some wargamer tendencies... and the A&A battle games (D-Day, Bulge) along with Memoir '44 & Battlelore do a terrific job of scratching that itch.

Bulge is long (3.5 hours) in comparison to D-Day (2 hours) but it has a similar feel. Now, I'm not saying they're the same game - far from that! What I love about this series of games is that they "feel" historical... you may or may not make the same decisions as in the actual battle, but it becomes pretty clear why the commanders did what they did 60+ years ago.

Bulge features a new combat system using strips to dole out damage - don't ask me to explain. It'll take too long. Just trust me that it's a good thing - it encourages combined arms attacks & defense, which makes good sense.

There's also a supply system that's vital to recreating the problems that the Germans faced in making their offensive work. This was the one place in the rules where I desperately needed the FAQ - I could not figure out how trucks worked from the rules as printed.

Even with losing my first game (the Germans reached 24 points on the final turn - sigh), I rate this game a "7" on BGG, which roughly translates to "I enjoy this game, I'm glad I own it, and will gladly play when I can carve out 4 hours."


With terrain pieces that look like refugees from Java, I was worried that it was going to make my brain hurt as badly as Java. (I shudder even thinking about that... game. Brrrr.) But Taluva is actually a Carcassonne-ish placement game... or maybe it's more like Fjords. I dunno.

Either way, it plays quickly & cleanly with nice wooden bits & the aforementioned chunky terrain tiles.

I rated this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translated means "I'd play it again but I don't need to own it."

On The Underground

I really like connection games... and On The Underground is a doozy of a connection game. We played with 3 players, which means that each player is managing three colors of subway lines in London.

I fell way behind early, but caught up a good bit near the end as the passenger ran to the western area of the board (which I controlled).

A couple of questions to make sure if we played correctly:

  1. When the passenger moves, he moves to ONE express station and then to ONE normal station, right?! If he doesn't have an express station, he just moves to a normal station?
  2. We were all out of track with about 2/5ths of the deck still to go... we just kept running the passenger until the deck ran out - is this correct?

Assuming we got the rules close to right, I'm going to give this one a "7" on BGG, which roughly translates into "a sweet little connection game that works differently than any of the other connection games I own."

Disney Magic Kingdom Game

Anyone who reads the blog knows I'm a bit nutso for the Disney parks, so I've been looking at this kids game for a long time. With our trip to see the Mouse looming in less than four months, I finally broke down & bought it (thanks to a coupon for 20% off).

It's a pretty standard roll-n-move, but with some nice twists. Each players has 5 attractions they have to visit, one in each section of the park. (It's Transamerica for the 6-year-old set!) Planning your route is key, as is wise use of the autographs (which allow you to cancel an event card.) It's not going to set the gaming world on fire, but the decorative board pieces are very cool & the gameplay quick & enjoyable. (Braeden made us play 4 times the first day I got it.)

I'm going to rate this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translates into "an enjoyable roll-n-move that I'm glad I own, esp. for my boys."


ladypuppy said...

I like Colosseum, but agree with you that it comes down to either playing to win or playing to have fun with that one. It's a little unwieldy. And I'm glad to see another gamer has Magic Kingdom! Being a huge Disney fan and a gamer I was thrilled to get this. It's pretty cute. Disney also recently reprinted four of their classic games from the 50s and 60s themed after different lands. I have those as well, and have played one or two of them, but they're not great. If your kids are into The Little Mermaid at all, her board game is pretty good. I got that for my niece's 4th birthday and was pressganged into half a dozen games each day for the next three days til I left town.

PS-- This is Erin from Fast Food Franchise here. Hello!

huzonfirst said...

Our tastes seem pretty similar with regard to these games, Mark. I like Colosseum a bit more than you do, but the game's pace and studiousness can certainly be a problem. My best game of it was with three, so maybe that's the sweet spot, since it'll move along a little quicker. I haven't really finalized my decision of it, but I'm not sure it'll be coming out any more on game night, so I may not have a chance to do so.

Zooloretto isn't different enough from Coloretto for me to get at all excited about it. It isn't bad, but the luck factor is too high for my tastes, particulary since it isn't all that short. I still think that Yspahan would have been a much better choice for SdJ than this one.

Before the Wind is decent, but I kinda wanted it to do more. I'd play again, but feel no real urgency to do so.

I haven't played Taluva, but I share your horror of Java. We only played once and the scars still remain. Poster child for downtime.

And I'm not nearly as fond of On the Underground as you are. I find it very abstract and the passenger cards mean that you can't do much look ahead, which slows things down. Once was enough for me, thanks.

But hey, if you're playing games, how bad can it be?

Dani In NC said...

I enjoyed the translations of your number ratings :-).

Rob Cannon said...

As for On the Underground, your first rules question is correct: if there you only have one type of station available (whichever one), that is the only type of station the passenger will visit.

As for your second question, we have never come close to using all of the track. I think perhaps you have done something wrong. With 55 cards, you will have approx. 28 total turns. Between 3 players that is approx 10 turns per player. Each player can build only 4 tracks sections per turn, thus 40 track sections per player in a game will be built but each player has 50 pieces of track in a 3 player game.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Rob... I figured out what we did wrong. We only moved the passenger after all three of us had played track, rather than each player laying track AND moving the passenger.

Well, darn. Have to try it again the RIGHT way, eh?! :-)