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Author Topic: Short game reviews  (Read 6874 times)
ghost
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Reply #35 on: January 17, 2021, 05:11:31 PM

Heroes of Land, Air and Sea-  This is a 4X game with a fantasy setting in which you have four (in a four player game) very closely connected continents in which to grow your race and do all the 4x type shit.  There is an action selection mechanism that allows for some actions to be followed by other players, such as recruiting new people or building stuff, and some actions that cannot be followed, such as marching an army or moving other units.  The exploration part of this is definitely a backseat component.  The winner is the person with the most victory points, which are earned with combat actions, and by building your army and by building towers and portions of your main keep.  With expansions there are 10 races to play, and they are all (in theory) different to play. 

The production of this game is pretty average, overall.  The miniatures are basic and a fair notch down from your Games Workshop stuff, and the majority of the components are of cardboard that you have to cobble together into buildings and vehicles.  The esthetic is nice, but it just seems like McDonald's french fries, full of carbohydrates and no real substance.  The gameplay is okay.  I feel like it should be shorter than what it is for the level of depth that it provides, but I appreciate that it isn't super rule heavy.  I guess I'm on the fence about this one.  The boxes are giant, the production is.....decent, and the gameplay is decent.  I do like it, though, but it's not a game that I think you can actually be competitive about and expect to have fun.  I don't think I recommend this one unless you can play it first.  It's too big and expensive for the risk. 
ghost
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Reply #36 on: January 20, 2021, 10:24:47 AM

Trajan-  This is an older Stefan Feld game that is probably the poster child for "point salad".  It's got a mancala mechanism for taking actions, where you have additional actions if you line up the colors of the things you put into the last mancala spot.  There are essentially four mini-games.  The first involves set collection of cards.  The second involves moving a pawn around to "build buildings".  The third involves moving a pawn around to "invade territories".  The fourth involves end game goals.  Most points wins. 

This is a pretty classic euro, and honestly probably has been the inspiration of any number of otters games.  The production is pretty average, at best, and I bought the little composite tokens from the boardgame geek store that look and feel better.  It's a good game, and I did enjoy it.  That being said, it does feel very dated, and I doubt I will play this more than once or twice a year. 
eldaec
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Reply #37 on: January 20, 2021, 01:40:49 PM

I really dislike Trajan.

Simultaneously abstract and inelegant.

Lacking in any feeling of accomplishment.

Lots of others like it though.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2021, 07:24:39 PM by eldaec »

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schild
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Reply #38 on: January 20, 2021, 01:54:16 PM

Loved Trajan when it came out. Sold it last year.
ghost
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Reply #39 on: January 20, 2021, 02:11:57 PM

Feld just seems to miss for me.  When you have designers like Alexander Pfister, Vladimir Suchy, Uwe Rosenberg, and Simone Luciani around, it's tough to recommend the Feld games.  I'm even pretty down on Castles of Burgundy, but I think I'd give it a 7. 
ghost
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Reply #40 on: January 25, 2021, 10:14:28 AM

Maracaibo-  This is a 1700s Caribbean ship themed game with rondel mechanics from Alexander Pfister.  The rondel is different than the typical Mac Gerdts offering in that there are multiple different ways around the rondel, and the actions will change in particular locations from game to game.  There are also multi-use cards, as are typical in Pfister's games.  This is a fairly complex game, not necessarily in how the game works, but in how all the pieces fit together to score you points.  You have a ship that you can upgrade by delivering goods (cards) to spots on the rondel.  This can give you better powers or points.  You can "build" cards by paying for them and putting them in your tableau, which will also give you powers and points.  Then there are two tracks on the board which can give you points, one for exploration and one for increasing the power level of the three nations of the countries competing for control of the Caribbean in this era-  Spain, England and France.  

This is a cool game.  The integration of the parts is hard to describe in a short blurb, but overall it is easy to play and fun.  I have an issue with the game, however, and that is that you can play the game as a race as a strategy, and essentially zoom through the rondel to hit the locations that allow you to gain influence with a particular nation.  If you do this, and it is a very powerful strategy, it really shortens the game, increases the luck, and limits the amount of cool stuff that you can do with the game.  It is powerful because it effectively shortens the game for everyone involved, as once you reach the last spot on the rondel (which you may be able to do in as little as 5 turns), you will end the round.  Therefore, if you choose this strategy, you choose it for everyone.  I'm sure there is a counter, somehow, but I don't know if I see it yet.  And shortening the game really increases the luck factor involved with the cards.  If you don't get the cards that allow you to form a cohesive strategy, you will be hosed.  There will be no way to cycle through new cards effectively enough to combat the rush.  But then again, I'm left thinking about it, and how to improve my strategy.  So I guess I would recommend it.  There is a lot of good here.  
lamaros
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Reply #41 on: January 26, 2021, 05:25:54 PM

Got a few more games in of The King's Dilemma. I don't mind it, but it has issues. Mostly I think of two sorts. There is limited interlinking between the overall narrative and the player stories, both mechanically, and specifically. I don't know why they made so many generic options for player houses - they would have been better off just having 5, and linking those house narratives better with the overall kingdom story. There is also often a disconnect between short term goals and longer term ones (and limited information about wtf long term ones really mean), which causes players to act in inconsistent and out of character ways, no matter what decision they choose. The disparity because narrative motivations and mechanical ones is often too great. It's close to a very good game, but you need to link player and house agency in a bit closer, so you aren't as arbitrarily polarised in choices, and you need to feed players personal stories and developments as they go along, not just the kingdom ones. A few other tweaks might help (like maybe stickers for the world map to show developments there, etc) give some more player investment. As it is the balance between player agency and distinction, and overall narrative is wonky.

Eg, for outcomes they should have things that directly call out some houses, like if you've voting on something that impacts the poor "if this vote was carried by House X that house gains 1 crave, and 1 prestige", or stuff like "the leader who carried this vote gains Item X" as a sticker on their player board, and then when item X comes up again int he future they gain some bonus (or negative).

Or just do away with starting house narratives altogether, and just make the first few games have a lot of events that cause houses to pick up traits and inclinations. Solve a few of those issues all at the same time. Let the secret goals be picked up by players as they play. "First person to carry a vote around gaining knowledge picks up the discover knowledge narrative goal", etc.

Edit: The secret agendas, for example, are crap. They are too arbitrary and unthematicly integrated. No reason they should weight the scoring quite so heavily.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2021, 05:38:22 PM by lamaros »
schild
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Reply #42 on: January 26, 2021, 07:31:27 PM

The King's dilemma is a masterpiece of a board game and mostly a role-playing game. If you don't fully buy-in as a group (as in every single person) and play your house as you envision them, you're just not really playing the King's Dilemma.

It sounds like you were too attached to the rules and not attached enough to the drama between players.
lamaros
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Reply #43 on: January 26, 2021, 10:03:55 PM

You can play lots of fun roleplaying games without needing the clunk of King's Dilemma. Just because it can work with a group of people who are all in doesn't mean it couldn't be better so it could also work with a few people need a little help along.
schild
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Reply #44 on: January 27, 2021, 08:33:48 AM

Sure, but not every game has to be for everyone. It's ok to be extremely niche to shine. There's already games (like tales of arabian nights and agents of smersh) for people that need help with this shit.
ghost
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Reply #45 on: January 28, 2021, 01:27:20 PM

Western Legends-  So this is a western themed "sandbox" game where you can rustle cattle, play poker, pan for gold, and shoot at each other.  It is a fairly thematic game with some mundane tasks added on.  The rustling cattle is a pickup and deliver thing.  The panning for gold is a dice rolling deal with an "exploding dice" component.  The poker is reasonably compared to actual poker, with similar hands and mechanics.  The fighting is done with card play, with highest card winning (typical card suits) and some special power stuff added in. 

The production of this game is decent.  The art is good and the board is cool.  We played this with three players.  I expected to like it more than I did.  I like the poker hand and card management on paper, but in practice it was pretty boring.  This game just had no tension at all, to me, and would probably be better with 5 players.  Still, I think I would prefer Xia to this, and that was pretty meh for me too.  Xia is the much better game,  particularly at lower player counts. 
lamaros
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Reply #46 on: January 28, 2021, 04:29:34 PM

Played 18Ireland a few times recently. Short review says: Unless you're super into trying every 18xx out there, give this a miss. Lots of better stuff to try instead.
schild
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Reply #47 on: January 29, 2021, 12:01:09 PM

I'm trying to find a "longish" (300m+) 18xx to own that plays well at 3-4, but besides that my plan is to only own 18Ches, 1889, 1860 and *possibly* 1849.
lamaros
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Reply #48 on: January 29, 2021, 07:02:58 PM

Played 1817 or 1822? Or 41?

49 is my favourite, but as with all things, it depends what you enjoy.
schild
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Reply #49 on: January 29, 2021, 09:47:45 PM

I err towards smaller games in general because my playgroup is more safely 3 than 4 the majority of time. The long-ish game may end up being Harzbahn 1873 which mixes in some Euro to hit 5 hours.
ghost
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Reply #50 on: February 08, 2021, 11:53:37 AM

Cloudage-  This game is a lighter Alexander Pfister game that has the theme of blimps collecting resources in a postapocalyptic world.  The theme in this game is about as tenuous as in any of his games.  You are moving a blimp piece around a board to "fight" some sort of militia things in towns to get a reward (water, metal, power, or more project cards- see following descriptions).  You do the movement and fighting by drawing cards from a starting deck that you can alter a little bit over time, deck builder style.  The numbers on the cards will give you movement points or ability to fight, depending on the phase of the game.  Then, there is a building phase in which you can buy cards to improve your movement/fighting deck, improve your blimp or build "project cards", which are basically just cards you put out in a tableau to give you benefits, either ongoing, end of game, or instant.  The game goes for either 7 or 8 turns, depending on the number of players.  There is also a campaign situation, as Pfister seems to like to do in his games.

This is honestly a game that I don't know if I needed.  I tend to like Pfister's games, like Maracaibo, Newdale, and Great Western Trail.  Those are all pretty heavy entries, though, and this is a nice, middle to light weight game.  There's nothing really new with this game, but I do like it, possibly better than some of the other games in his library.  Some things to know about it-  there is almost zero player interaction.  The only interaction to speak of is taking a spot on the board where someone wants to land their blimp.  Card draws are random and hidden, so you can't game people by taking what they want.  It is an optimization puzzle with luck, and there may be more luck involved than some people will like, for this type of game.  I would give this good marks, overall, but don't necessarily recommend it unless you really like Pfister's games. 
Goldenmean
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Reply #51 on: February 08, 2021, 01:53:08 PM

I agree with the broad strokes of everything ghost said, but man, Cloud Age is as close as I've come to just straight up hating one of Pfister's designs. Probably because I'm one of those people who really doesn't want to see more luck in a game and Cloud Age's only really novel mechanic is that the tableau of city cards are contained in card sleeves with cloud stickers on them which semi-obscure the card. All cards give all of the resources, but they give them in proportion to how much of that resource is visible on the card, and you can only pick one resource, so you can play a little guessing game of "Well, I can see a big patch of orange sticking out from under that cloud, so I bet it's either the first or second most prevalent" or "Well, I see a wrench icon in that patch of grey resource, so I know if I take that, I'm guaranteed to get a bonus even if there isn't actually much grey on the full card". It's... I don't know, it's new I guess, but I didn't find it very interesting. Other than that, yeah, it's a light optimization game with a whole bunch of output randomness. It's not like he's incapable of doing lighter games. I love Isle of Skye, but Cloud Age is in an uncanny valley of thinky enough to make the luck elements really annoying for me.
ghost
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Reply #52 on: February 09, 2021, 01:29:20 PM

Blackout Hong Kong has been the game of Pfister's that I hate the most.  There was nothing about it that I liked, from the upside down, giant player boards to the black hole of a theme.  I'm a bit on the fence about Pfister's games currently.  There is just too much luck in his games for what they are.  Generally, his games require you to cycle through a lot of cards in the deck to produce a viable strategy, and that is never easy.  In Maracaibo you seem almost better off to forget the cards, generally, and just hit heavy on the combat actions. 
Goldenmean
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Reply #53 on: February 09, 2021, 09:15:37 PM

Blackout Hong Kong has been the game of Pfister's that I hate the most.  There was nothing about it that I liked, from the upside down, giant player boards to the black hole of a theme.  I'm a bit on the fence about Pfister's games currently.  There is just too much luck in his games for what they are.  Generally, his games require you to cycle through a lot of cards in the deck to produce a viable strategy, and that is never easy.  In Maracaibo you seem almost better off to forget the cards, generally, and just hit heavy on the combat actions. 

I've had some absolute blow-out games of Maracaibo from a heavy card play strategy, but we haven't played it a ton, and it's a very weird game to talk about in a vacuum because the tempo of the game is so determined by the players. I think card play strategies would suffer from shorter games, so it's possible that more experienced opponents would have been able to see that happening and just race to end the game early and make that not a terribly viable strategy. Who knows.

I did enjoy Maracaibo though, but largely I agree that his recent output has been subpar. The big box version of Newdale was fine, but nothing terribly special. I like Blackout:HK, but yeah, the theme was a mess, the board was ugly as hell, and most of its good parts had already been seen in Mombasa. Great Western Trail was definitely the high water mark and he's been trending downwards since, but man, that was such an incredibly high water mark that it's hard for me to hold his more recent "meh" stuff against him too much.
ghost
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Reply #54 on: February 11, 2021, 12:05:49 PM

Yeah, I can tell you from experience that a rush strategy in Maracaibo doesn't necessarily guarantee you a victory, but it really forces the strategy for everyone in the game to the combat track.  I think that this bugs me in games, quite a bit, the situation where if someone picks a strategy in a game that has multiple viable strategies, that becomes the dominant strategy for the game.  I guess you could call that "balance", but it's not quite that since everyone still has the same opportunity to win. 
ghost
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Reply #55 on: February 26, 2021, 12:45:34 PM

Songbirds-  I bought this because it looked like it might be a decent filler.  You basically have five rows and columns that you are playing cards into to try and have one of the four suits be available to score points at the end of the game.  You end up with one card in your hand, and you score the points for that suit. 

Summary-  shite.  Avoid.  Go with Arboretum instead, which is also questionable, really. 
schild
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Reply #56 on: February 26, 2021, 03:00:15 PM

Songbirds-  I bought this because it looked like it might be a decent filler.  You basically have five rows and columns that you are playing cards into to try and have one of the four suits be available to score points at the end of the game.  You end up with one card in your hand, and you score the points for that suit. 

Summary-  shite.  Avoid.  Go with Arboretum instead, which is also questionable, really. 

Thought you were talking about this: https://johnbattle.itch.io/songbird

And was *extremely* confused.
ghost
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Reply #57 on: March 01, 2021, 01:40:54 PM

Forgotten Waters-  This is a pirate themed game from Plaid Hat Games, I believe their first effort after Colby Dauch bought the company back from Asmodee.  This is an app assisted game with a semi-cooperative situation where you are sailing around doing small tasks as you attempt to complete a larger overall mission.  Each person will act as the gunner or the first mate or the boatswain or quartermaster or what have you.  The draw for this is supposed to be story telling, and the app and book will provide you with some goofy stuff that you can laugh at.  Of note, there is a pirate name generator on the back of the rulebook, so you can come up with interesting and fun names for your characters, like Murderbones McMuffins.  Basically, it is an action selection game with some dice rolling for skill checks.  There is a little bit of turn order importance, since some actions are required, and you may be stuck doing one of the required actions if you go last.  There are 5 scenarios in the base game which will take between 2 and 4 hours to complete. 

I think that this game is way too long for what you get out of it.  It is basically in the realm of "flip a card and roll a dice", just with an app instead of cards to flip.  The stories are okay, but I certainly don't think the narratives are strong enough to keep the game interesting for me.  In the end, there just isn't much game here.  Contrast this to Chronicles of Crime, which seems very interesting to me, and has even less "game" to it.  One caveat-  this may be a good activity with kids.  Mine like it, but we haven't played everything yet. 
ghost
The Dentist
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Reply #58 on: March 01, 2021, 02:46:43 PM


Thought you were talking about this: https://johnbattle.itch.io/songbird

And was *extremely* confused.

 ACK!
Mosesandstick
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Reply #59 on: March 16, 2021, 02:57:38 PM

Escape Tales: Low Memory - The second game in the Escape Tales series. We really enjoyed starting this one but the ending and final puzzles were a big letdown. The story is a stronger element, with some more creative ways of tying in the story to the escape room format. While it's initially interesting the ending is disappointing, mainly because it fails to tie the choices and narrative in the 3 different acts together coherently. The puzzles are also mixed, with more reliance on "pixel peeping" on the cards and some really annoying and abstruse puzzles.
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