Friday, August 09, 2019

Procrastination Corner: A Plethora of Mini-Reviews from Mark “Fluff Daddy” Jackson

Jefe: We have many beautiful piñatas for your birthday celebration, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many piñatas?
Jefe: Many piñatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?
from ¡Three Amigos!
What follows is a collection of my thoughts about a plethora of games that other Opinionated Gamers have reviewed over the last year (or so). In some cases, I hadn’t played the game when the review was published; in others, I was just too busy/lazy (take your pick) to write up my thoughts at the time.

Hopefully, I have many beautiful reviews for you to enjoy, each one filled with little surprises.

Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas (3 plays)

I have two complaints:

  1. While the plastic “pathway to Machu Picchu” roads are look very nice, they are a pain to pick up once you have them placed. In a normal game of Catan, this wouldn’t be a big deal. In this particular version, where you lose your road network twice during the game (as your old tribe ages out and a new tribe moves in), it’s a pain.
  2. The misprint on the Longest Road card – though, to their credit, Asmodee is offering to replace the misprinted card via their parts website.

Other than that, this is a really great twist on standard Catan that manages to cure many of the complaints that my eldest son (who is NOT a Catan fan) and ½ of my regular gaming group (also NOT Catan fans) had about Die Siedler von Catan.

  • There are more resources to trade… and more ways to trade them, which makes it more difficult to get resource “stuck”.
  • Until near the end of the game, it’s much more difficult to get hemmed in with no alternatives, thanks to the old tribe/new tribe dynamics.
  • Warfare cards (aka “Knights”) not only help you get rid of the Robber – they also expand your hand limit for taxation.

It runs about 90-120 minutes with 4 players… 75-90 with 3 players. It’s officially a 13 point game, but the points you get at the beginning and at each transition make it a 9 point game. (For comparison, vanilla Catan is an 8 point game once you figure in your first two settlements.)

For a much more extensive review, check out what Dale wrote earlier this year on the Opinionated Gamers website.

Fast Forward: Fortune (4 plays)

I wrote a pretty extensive review of the original three Fast Forward games here… which you should go read at your earliest convenience.

We’ve played all the way through the deck and then started again (with a slightly different group)… and I’m pleased to say it’s my #2 game out of the four Fast Forward entries:

  1. Fear
  2. Fortune
  3. Fortress
  4. Flee

By the way, I don’t count Fine Sand as a Fast Forward game – it’s a Fable game. With that said, it’s my least favorite of Friedemann’s experiments with designing card games that develop as you keep playing them.

Fortune has a bit more math than Fear… but at its heart, it’s a similar “how do maximize my hand?” kind of game. The twists are fun – which is pretty much a requirement for the Fast Forward series – and it plays quickly and cleanly.

Chris Wray’s write-up does a better job than I can of giving you the details.

A review copy provided by Stronghold Games to Mark Jackson.

Gingerbread House (6 plays)

This is one of the more delightfully dark themes I’ve had the privilege to enjoy – where each player is a witch attempting to have various fairy tale creatures over for dinner. Literally.

Gingerbread House is chock full of opportunities for clever tactical play and has well-made/designed components. It’s received a positive reaction with pretty much every one I’ve played it with… because it’s a light Euro in the super-filler category that is family & gamer-friendly.

With non-gamers, the basic goals are just fine – but if the folks you’re playing with have any experience with board games, the “advanced” goals add another layer to the game that is an extra helping of fun.

The big chunky house tiles are a plus as well – not only do they make it easy to figure out whether or not you’ve finished a level, they’re just fun to play with. And don’t discount “fun to play with” as an important part of the gaming experience – that’s one of the things Gamelyn Games has figured out with the creation of Itemeeples. Love or hate the games, it’s just cool to give your ‘dudes’ tiny plastic weapons. (For the record, I like many of the Tiny Epic games… we’re really enjoying Tiny Epic Mechs right now.)

Greg Schloesser wrote the Opinionated Gamers review of Gingerbread House.

Monster Lands (4 plays)

Monster Lands is a sloppy, messy wonderful hulk of a game… and Dale was absolutely correct in assuming in his review that I would be a big fan. There’s dice placement – but less dice-rolling than you’d think – and some tricky decisions to be had on how much you’re willing to risk in your quest for reputation and glory.

My first play was with four new players – subsequent plays have been 2 and 3 player games. The rules are a bit much the first time through… but the clear/colorful iconography works well (and there’s a nice “card catalog” at the back of the rulebook when you’re confused.

Game length directly correlates to the number of players… and this is one of those games you should avoid like the plague if you have AP-prone players in your group. That said, the folks I’ve played with have been quick to play and not obsessed with min-maxing, so we’ve had a wonderful time, even when things go wrong. Our average playing time is about 30 minutes per player so far.

There are rules in the expansion for shortening the game by one round… which I’d recommend, particularly when you have players who don’t enjoy long(er) games.

I think we’ve become a little too cautious… I want to play again (soon!) and see if taking more chances with “cheap” heroes is a viable strategy.

Neom (11 plays)

My initial rules read of Neom (prior to seeing the game) made me think it would be an interesting but difficult to play 7 Wonders knock-off. I’m happy to say that the first day I taught/played (a few weeks after Essen 2018), I was proven wrong… and ended up playing it 3 times in one day. As soon as it became easily available in the U.S., I jumped on a copy… and it’s now in regular rotation here at Chez Jackson.

I’m a huge fan of both 7 Wonders and Suburbia – enough so that I own every expansion for both games and plunked down a C note in order to get the Collector’s Edition of Suburbia this fall. So, when a game can easily be described as combining some of the best bits from both of those games, I’m in.

And that’s the way I introduce Neom to gamers – the drafting is similar to 7 Wonders and the tile-laying feels like Suburbia. But the misses some of the innovations that make Neom more than just another chip off the old blocks:

  • Using a “bomb” draft item (Flood, Fire, Crime Wave) in each era that hurts others but denies you a turn
  • The initial “seeding” draft of cornerstone tiles – they do more to set strategy than the similar Leaders expansion in 7 Wonders
  • The simplified resource system – including the creation of trade routes and the ability to buy resources from someone farther away at a slightly higher cost

Most important is the reality after 11 games that there are multiple ways to win:

  • Focus on your cornerstone tiles
  • Build a suburb (lots of residences)
  • Be the resource king (and the $ that go with it)
  • Build a balanced city

Also nice – it plays well with 2 players (using a similar system to Fields of Green), balances nicely with 3-5 players, and even has a decent solo mode.

Teri Noseworthy’s review is as glowing as mine – and well worth your time.

Scorpius Freighter (3 plays)

Somehow, we (the Opinionated Gamers) managed to publish TWO reviews of Scorpius Freighter

Here’s my two cents: I think the biggest issue with this otherwise really enjoyable Firefly-ish game is the chance that some or all of the purchase/contract areas can stagnate. We haven’t seen an issue with that yet in our games… but the problem is inherent in the design as published.

There’s some online debate about how to fix this… so I’ll take a shot at it as well.

  • Each player may wipe one of the following areas when landing on the appropriate rondel space:
    • Ship upgrades
    • Cargo holds
    • Side jobs
  • The cost to wipe is 1 credit (orange) the first time; 1 hand (action) the second time; and 1 credit/1 hand for each subsequent time.
    • Thematically, the first time you buy the seller/buyer a drink. The second time, he’s not that easily swayed and you have to help out in some way. From then on, he expects you to grease his palm and accomplish a dirty deed done dirt cheap.
  • Contracts cannot be wiped.

I personally love the high-quality production of Scorpius Freighter – and the interesting gameplay. (The great theme is a bonus.) It’s a pick-up-and-deliver game without a map; it’s a rondel game that doesn’t make me want to run screaming from the table. Note: your mileage may vary.

This post originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.