Welcome to the Foo-ture Ginkgopolis Review and Overview

Ginkgopolis is a 1-5 player game from Z-man Games. I love it!

Skip ahead to minute 20 to skip the rules overview. Play from the beginning to… not skip the rules overview.

Overall I’m delivering a 7.5/10!! Loves it!

Components are top notch. Nice-feeling cards, lots of wooden bits, not-useless(almost) player screens.

The gameplay is rather simple, but the rulebook is tangential and hard to decipher.

Playtime is short due to simultaneous action selection.

Fantasy Flight Dusts off Diskwars

Fantasy Flight put out a press release for Warhammer: Diskwars. Diskwars was a quickly overlooked CCG license from the late 90’s. Overlooked until you shove it into the realm of Warhammer I guess? They’ve announced that this should not be considered a CCG, and its core set will have everything a player needs. So maybe this will become a living card game, without the cards?

disk-anatomyI like the novelty of the disks, and using them to measure movement is just smart. Now will this put the constructible boosters back into vogue? A reboot of Pirates of the Spanish Main would be so, so cool.

The disk’s anatomy looks plenty intuitive. The game plays by the disks flipping on top of one another, pinning the other in place. It’s due in stores early next year, so i’ll be keeping an eye out.

Preorder for Omen is active!

ImageZOMG, Pre-orders went live this week for Omen: Reign of War!!

This is a STUNNING two-player card game from Small Box Games. They are only making 1000 copies, so most who would like copies will be pre-ordering them now. For twenty bucks, I couldn’t resist.

The game itself is a 2-player war game. Players use units of soldiers, spirits and beasties to gain rewards and accomplish feats for victory! Lots of neat card interactions in this.

I’ll be sure to post up some thoughts when it comes out later this year 😀

Last Will… mini update

ImageTonight my gaming group dusted off the game Last Will from Czech Games Edition and Rio Grande Games. I had completely forgotten this little gem!! The designer, Vladimír Suchý, is best known for 2009’s Shipyard… I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more games from him in the coming years, as his designs are wonderful and fresh.

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care of movieguy247.com

The theme of Last Will is what sells it. At least this is true for 90’s kids like me. It is basically the story of Brewster’s Millions! Your crazy uncle has pitted you against your siblings in a race to learn the true value of money. The first heir to blow their wad will inherit an even larger fortune; no strings attached.

Over the course of 7 rounds. players send out their errand boys, buy and sell formerly-swanky properties, and throw lavish parties. If someone can run out of money first, they’ll win the day!

This game is all about building an engine, and taking stuff from your neighbors. I’m looking forward to more in-depth plays of this one… maybe pairing it up with Ladies and Gentlemen for a lark!

 

Come and Play Day in Seattle

This past weekend found me spending my time learning new games, meeting new people, and looking at the upcoming season of games at GTS’ come and play day. This is a small two-day meeting of northwest game stores and representatives of game companies (local and not).

It was really great to see my friends in the industry. It was also a wonderful opportunity to try out a few upcoming releases.

krosmasterFirst on my list was Krosmaster Arena from Japanime Games. Japanime Games is the company responsible for importing the awesome Tanto Cuore and Kanzume Goddess. These games are taking pretty traditional deck-building mechanics, and making them flirty anime fun.

Krosmaster Arena is very different for them, as it is a tactical minis game that was based off of a video game. I have never really checked out this video game. ( no surprise, I am not so good with the video gaming). The board game pits two teams in a tactical match. Each team has four characters with cool abilities and inherent fighting stats. It was adorable! Each character has unique abilities, and the team play was interesting. I liked having to maintain my own characters’ health, as well as helping out my partner.

Next we played a giant set of King of Tokyo! KoT is a silly king-of-hill game I have dubbed ‘monster yahtzee’. So, not king of tokyosomething I would play in my group, but something I’d break out when kids are around, sure. The standees were my own height. The dice were about the size of my head. This is something GTS whipped up, which will be hopping around to different conventions. I can’t recommend it enough!! We basically had to throw the cantaloupe-sized dice against the wall to roll them.

Last, but certainly not least, I had a devastatingly small round of High Command. High Command is Privateer Press’ new card game. They have created WM High Command_3Da deck builder with the personality of a skirmish game. This was fabulous! Each player chooses a faction (Warmachine factions will premiere first, with Hordes to follow soon enough). Players get an interactive game, fighting over territory. The casters are familiar, but I do not think the cards reflect their abilities in the regular game. I did love that they each had a card game equivalent of a ‘feat’ like in Warmachine.

I’m glad I’m starting to get invites to this sort of event, and I think I’ll have to plan to send myself to some of the bigger ones in the coming year!

Wordsmith: A Quick and Clever game on Kickstarter

This week I had the pleasure to meet Alistair Wong, designer of a new party game on Kickstarter, called Wordsmith. He politely offered to show off the game play, and pulled a pretty-looking deck of cards out of his bag.

Setup entails setting out 10 cards on the table facing up and handing each player a hand of four cards. Each card has two letters, with a value from 1 to 5. The numbers act as a score at the end of the game. The higher the number, the more difficult the pair of letters is to create a word. Wordsmith has no turns, so play begins and players can use one card from their hand to create words, using cards on the table. Players leave the card from their hand on the table, taking the cards that began on the table into their score-pile.

Alistair was lightning fast, but I started getting a flow after a little while. It was quite fun to try and play cards from my hand in quick succession, hoping he wouldn’t pluck them up before I could. The play reminded me a lot of playing Set for the first time.  It was very fun and the style is nice and efficient.

All-in-all the quality of the cards and novelty of play should make this game quite popular.  I can see taking this along to dinner parties or happy hours. It’s simple enough to not intimidate non-gamers. I do have a preference for games that will fit into my purse though.

Libertalia First Impressions

My first impression of Libertalia tonight was a mix of swarthy joy and uncertainty. Will this Imagestill be fun in two months? Can i maintain a pirate voice for more than ten minutes? Should i just play Citadels more?

Libertalia is a card game for 2-6 players designed by Paulo Mori. Players get a set of 9 identical cards. Every player will choose their card at the same time. Cards are displayed and arranged in order of rank. The lowest ranked card will activate first, moving upward. Then, the remaining cards will take turns splitting up the booty for that round.

This continues over 6 turns. Then another 6 cards are added to each players handand play begins again.(eventually there are 3 rounds)

This was fun. Trying to find neat combos, sending out a powerful card, only to have it discarded by a lower-ranking pirate. Cursed booty passed around the table and pirate jokes abound.

ImageThere was a great influence of Citadels and other role-selection games here. The quick and light nature made it feel fresh.

I’ll have to play a few more games to be sure, but i’m excited to do so. I love interactive gamer’s party games. I can see this going hand in hand with RoboRally. Just quicker to play!!

What i would want to see in a more sophisticated version is a draft to determine the opening hands…

Zooligans Review

This last week I tried out a new game, Zooligans from 800steps.  This is a children’s card game which plays in around 20 minutes. In Zooligans, players of all ages bid to fill their zoos with special animals from around the world. This game was sent to me by the creator, while the kickstarter is still active.

What did I think? strong bones, if not a little rough around the edges.

Hippo animal

Hippo animal (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Theme 7/10: Oh yes, these animals have real pictures. I love the credit for the Flickr ones. I feel a little bad for

‘capturing’ endangered species. I think this was more educational than ignorant though.

Components 5/10: The tuck box provided was a little flimsy, but i liked the color scheme. It did not allow for card sleeves. The cards themselves were slick and pretty, but easy bent during normal play with children.

Length 10/10: I can see why this would be a fun exercise during snack time. 20 minutes to your own personal zoo!

Mechanics 7/10: Whelp, i wish that 800steps would have waited through a little more playtesting before pulling the trigger. The auction round, as I will detail later, is unbalanced and underwhelming. The goal cards are fun and the exhibits are possible. I feel this game could be teachable to all your little ones.

Animal - Moose - Alaska

Animal – Moose – Alaska (Photo credit: blmiers2)

So, how does it play? A couple of end-game goals are revealed. Three zoo exhibits are dealt into the center of the table. Each round, a player is dealt a number of animal cards in hand, with values from 2-10 gold each. One special animal is dealt facing up from the auction deck.

Players may all use cards from their hands to bid on the animal to obtain them for their exhibits; upping eachother to a higher valued animal as they go.

As an adult, i wish that cards in hand could be combined to bid on the auction. To teach children, i feel this basic arithmetic would not be unwelcome. Also, with ranges in value from 2-10, i would have preferred five cards in hand, as opposed to three.

What’s so special?

Zoo-keeping is fun. It makes our imaginations work in overtime examining our love for exotic creatures and birds.

What’s the rub?

This game could have used slightly nicer components and a more sophisticated bidding system. With so few cards in hand, the player with 7-10 gold to spend has all the power.

A small aside as well, some of the ‘fun facts’ about the animals were lazy and unimaginative. This may seem nit-picky. I

About 200 Snow leopards, an endangered species...

About 200 Snow leopards, an endangered species, are believed to live in Ladakh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

accept that. Facts are easy to look up, and there was already room on the cards.

I support 800 steps in their efforts. They have a great sense of what kind of games kids are looking for. I very much wish they had refined a little bit.

Review of Terra Mystica

game setup

setting up the board

This week begun my journey into Terra Mystica. I’ll start this impression by saying that i loved this game even before the second playthrough.  It was like Hansa Teutonica, but even more advanced!! I love the use of non-randomized favor pools, asynchronous play with different factions, and many paths to victory. This one is going in my plus column, so i’m not going to be objective.

The nitty gritty:
Theme: 9/10  I love how each race has their own strategy and motivation. No one faction feels out of balance with the rest of the game. It has been so much fun just to discover all the different races(i’ve played 7 out of the 14 so far) and try to best compliment their strengths while slowing down my opponents.
Components: 8/10 Big, chunky wooden bits and beautiful player boards/maps. My only complaint was my box splitting down the side after a week. Purple duct tape to the rescue!!
Length: 40 minutes per player the box says 30, but it’s going to take some time to get to that point. Most plays will include one or more new players, playing new factions.
Mechanics : 9/10 What a lovely dance!! The motivation for players to directly compete for space  is great. Each action seems to serve a great purpose. The rivalrous nature of the power actions as well as the map make for tense sessions.

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a look at the player board (a little messy, whoops!)

A little explanation of gameplay: The game involves a number of cultures, each of whom would like to expand their home territory. Each faction has a kind of terrain and the power to terraform surrounding terrains into their own. Each faction also has an inherent ability. This ability ranges from where they build, how they build, and methods of moving up in the temples of various cults.

The game takes place over six rounds. Players spend each turn taking one of seven available actions until they pass. Once a player has passed, they will choose a bonus for the next round and wait until all other players have also passed. Each faction is trying to expand from their initial placements by creating new dwellings, houses and temples. Each new building has a power value. Towns are founded when a player creates a group worth seven points. Towns net an immediate bonus of some victory points and a resource bump.

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mid-game in the first playthrough

In our second game, we used the recommended beginner’s setup. This means we had halflings, mermaids, nomads, and witches. The halflings’ strategies seemed pretty straight forward. The halfling player wanted to terraform and soak up each bonus victory point that they could. The Nomads had an advantage of a free terraform each turn; He went to set up many different townships to turn them into cities in the last few turns. The witches get to set out dwellings on an extra green space each turn. He spammed out the board and worked toward bonuses on the cult track. The mermaids can make cities over river spots. I floundered a lot. I needed to spread out quickly and then work on making cities. I worked on leveling up my player board first, allowing my fellows to corner me out of much of the map.

 When a player builds adjacent to an established building or buildings, the established player will have an opportunity to exchange victory points for power. Power is used to gather any of the basic resources, or to take special actions. This keeps players interested in cozying up to the other players, so they can glom some free stuff as players work on establishing their towns.

 The six rounds of the game feel as if they fly by. Each is marked at the beginning of the game with a bonus marker. Bonus’ are accrued by some means during the turn(such as 2 points for building dwellings) and a cult-track bonus at the end of the round(a worker for every space climbed in the air cult). The end of the game replaces the resource bonus with the end-game scoring for the most connected structures on the map and the highest levels achieved for each cult.

Why is this game so special?

TM is reminiscent of Hansa Teutonica, Eclipse (and a little Settlers thrown in

the cult track to begin

the cult track to begin

for good measure). Terra Mystica still stands on its own, giving players neat interactive play. The 14 different races included are so well-designed. There are literally 100’s of ways to play it.

What’s the rub?

A game with this many decisions can lead to long decision-making. A group prone to analysis-paralysis should be weary. That and my poor, poor game box splitting is the only thing i can fault TM for.

Whatever its faults, this is one of the best designs I’ve played in a while. I cannot recommend this game enough. From what i’ve seen it is selling out everywhere so pick it up if you see it in the wild!!

Top Ten 2-Player Games!

Two-player games remain to be the brass ring in many relationships. Folks want a fun experience that fits into their busy schedule. A great many games which list ‘2-4’ players will feel as if a competitive element is missing with only two participants. Other games will even use a facsimile third player to shoehorn the game into working for just two.

Let us start by compiling a list of my favorite options for two-players for all levels of skill and interest.

 

Battleline Cover

Battlelinelearn it in 10 minutes/30 minutes to play. Similar to Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities, Battleline is a tactical bluffing game that uses a poker-like scoring system. It plays in just thirty minutes, and is easy to learn. Players will battle to break through either five of the flags between them, or three flags in a row. Each turn they will play a card in front of a flag, and then draw a card. There are two stacks to draw from. One deck is full of troops. Each troop is a unique number from 1-10 in six colors. The other deck is a tactics deck. Players may play a tactic on any battle to change one value or rule in that flag. Players may never play more tactics than the other player. Once a flag has three troops, that battle is locked until either player can prove a decisive win.  Battleline can also be carried around in a small deck box, meaning i can throw it in a normal-sized purse!

Hiveten minutes to learn/20-30 minutes to play–  An intuitive chess-like abstract. A game of Hive lasts only thirty minutes. Players make an interconnected hive of bug pieces. Each bug has its own kind of movement. The goal is to trap your opponent’s queen bee by surrounding it with pieces. The expansions for Hive are definitely the way to go, as it makes for a quicker pace in-game. I like that playing with the same partner over many games stays really fresh, as both players find new traps and tricks.

Dominion20 minutes to learn/ 60 minutes to play– Dominion is a deck-

Dominion (card game)

Dominion (card game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

building game where players build their decks as they go. Great low-interaction game for those who don’t like as much competition. Each side begins with a dinky 10-card deck. Each turn they’ll have an opportunity to purchase new cards to build up the strength of their deck.

 The player with the most point cards in their deck at the end will win. The same point cards have no effect during the game, so a balance must be found. Players may especially like Dominion if they’ve played many combo-based card games like Magic: the Gathering. Dominion is all about trying to combine effects of cards and eeking out free actions

Netrunnerone play-through to learn/ 70 minutes to play– This game is an asymmetrical card game. One player is a corporation attempting to further their own agendas. The other is the hacker, trying to expose the corporation’s secrets.

The runner plays the aggro deck, jumping out in the beginning of the game, netrunnerputting pressure on the corp, and trying to pick up a few easy points. Slowly the corp will build up a defense. Everything the corp does though, is hidden until later it can be activated. The cat and mouse nature of this is why Netrunner is addictive and greatly varied. Fantasy Flight Games also puts out a non-randomized pack of cards monthly to edit the decks and keep the format fresh.

Carcassonnelearn in 15 minutes/60 minutes to play– Carcassonne is a tile-laying game with a tricky system of timing. Players take turns building out a map and placing their pieces along the roads, cities and farms hoping to score big points as the map is completed. The interaction in this game can be very mean as the easiest way to maximize your points is by discounting your opponents’ work with a couple well-placed blocks. Criticism for this game should mainly be given to the scoring mechanic at the end being a little clumsy.

Word on the Street learn it in 3 minutes/plays in 45 minutes: This is a fun word tug of war. Players have thirty seconds to think of a word for the category drawn. Once their word is declared, they’ll pull the letters in that word one step toward themselves on the mat. The goal of the game is to pull eight letter tiles completely off the mat on your side. As the letters start dropping off, players have to best use the letters left over to keep earning tiles!

Catacombs-boardCatacombs-learn it in 5 minutes/play for 60+ minutes– Part RPG, part crossfire. Catacombs pits the overseer of a dungeon against four brave heroes.  The combat and movement in this game is done by flicking disks representing your character toward the minions of the Overseer. Combat can be done melee or ranged. Each hero has a special ability, adding to it’s power, financing or range.

The game’s outcome is very much skewed toward the overseer; The overseer gets to attack the heroes room after room before facing them himself. This game can be a lot of fun when you’re done with your thinking for the day and would like to have a good chuckle.

Innovation10 minutes to learn/60 minutes to play– This is a quirky civilization builder with a lot of interaction. As your society moves through the different ages, they will pit themselves against fellow civilizations, marking their achievements and possibly stealing their technologies.

Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold Warone play-through to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlearn/ 90 minutes to play– Part puzzle, part Stratego— all awesome. Players must direct their spies to gather a briefcase from the center of the board and sneak it across enemy lines. Players do not know how their own pieces move, instead deducing each unique movement with a series of questions posed to the other side. Fun, if not a little confusing to learn.

Cribbage15 minutes to learn/25 minutes to play– An oldie, but still a favorite with me and mine. A card game of estimated guesses and quick math. Cribbage makes for some great fun, with just enough luck of the draw to keep it interesting.

My honorable mentions go to Citadels and Race for the Galaxy for their awesome two-player variants!! Also do not forget Babel, though i wouldn’t write it up ’cause it’s soooo hard to find.

protip: those looking for new games: most games which encourage players to competitively bid, control territory or trade among each other will waffle a little at the two-player level. These are simply not mechanics which work well without a group.