Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year Games

The Christmas game sessions I hope to catch up with later – they are half written, however hot off the press is the New Year games session, there are no reviews in this article, just an overview of the games we played.
Wendy and I got to spend New Year with Chris and Julia, other guests over the two days included Jay, John, Jens, Beth and Mike. We all had a lovely time, Chris and Julia as always being fantastic hosts, whilst Beth supplied a superb vegetable pie (those simple words do not do justice to how marvellous it tasted). However on to the games. When we arrived Jay, Chris and Julia were playing Kingdom Builder, a game by Donald X Vaccarino, produced by Queen games for 2-4 players aged 8 and over. I got a quick rundown on the rules and I began to see what the current interest is in this game and I look forward to playing it sometime. In brief (very brief) it is a territory claiming game with points awarded for various goals which are on view to all but change from game to game, so each game is different.
We all then played Last Will another game I had heard a lot about. It is designed by Vladimir Suchy, produced by Czech Games Edition and Rio Grande. It is aimed at 2-5 players aged 11 and above and plays in about 60 minutes. The game is all about losing your money as fast as possible, one cannot help but draw a parallel with the excellent Richard prior film, “Brewster’s Millions”. On your turn you use a marker to select from six possible action groups; dependent on which one you choose, it will give you from 0-6 unknown cards from chosen decks, one or 2 hat moves (special actions to collect specific cards), and from 1 to 4 player actions. The better the selection, the later in the round you will go next turn. The actions allow you to play cards to your playboard which chew up cash at various rates. If you have chosen your cards correctly you will get to play multiple cards at a time chewing up even more cash. Houses devalue, but MUST be sold before you can declare yourself bankrupt and that money also squandered away. It was an enjoyable game and I was able to win in a true Brewster manner, with a big party.
After lunch the first game was MOTO GP, designed by Rafael Nunez-Maturana and published by Games for Table Races S.L. (Spain), playing in about 90 minutes for 2-8 players aged 8 and over. It is essentially a Motorcycle race round a track, the rules are relatively simple and consist of on your turn selecting a card from a hand of 3, playing it and suffering the consequences. Cards run in value from 5 to 9, should you play a 9, or an 8 or 9 in a bend, or “bully” through blocking bikes on the straight, or have to play a card you cannot fully use then you roll 2 dice, a 5 or less and you suffer 1 damage point. You have a total of 6 damage points and as you accrue them the you have to do more checks when using lower value cards, you crash when you get your seventh point. You are supposed to play a 3 lap race, however we thought that 1 lap would give us a feel for the game when we could choose to do more laps if we wished. We got a feel for the game after the first 4 bends, however we still  persevered to the end of the lap. I cannot say the game was bad, but inconsistency in the rules, a lack of choice in moves and no real opportunity to plan ahead made it a dull game. It really needs a proper gamer to overhaul the rules;  there is a game there but it still needs a bit of work. This should not detract from Mikes superb gameplay to get the win.
Next up was Kaleidos, designed by Spartaco Albertarelli and published by Edtrice Giochi, a game for 2-12 players aged 10 and up playing in about 60 minutes. This is an excellent observational game, each player gets the same picture to look at, a dial is spun giving a letter of the alphabet and an eggtimer is then turned over and you get a minute to write down as many items you can see in the picture beginning with that letter. At the end of a minute everyone stops writing and lists compared, you get 2 points for a unique answer, 1 point for a shared answer and lose a point if everyone except one person has the answer (as does everyone else with that answer). Play a number of rounds and whoever has the best score wins. Chris won this one with about 20% higher score than anyone else. The pictures are a mass of items and animals and curiosities within a common setting and the artists Marinna Fulvi and Elena prette are to be commended. It was a fun game with many discussions – some very short lived such as my claiming an Alley-Cat for the letter A when everyone said “no – it’s a Cheshire Cat” to the slightly longer for Beth’s “It’s a Mammoth” for M with everyone saying “It’s an elephant” – no one though got Mammal!!!
The next game was Take it Easy XXL, produced by FX Schmid and designed by Peter Burley, it plays in about 20 minutes and takes from 1-8 players aged 10 and up – though I know 8 year olds that could cope with it. A lovely game, each player has a small hex board with a set of hex tiles, each tile has coloured lines going across it with various values  for example 1’s ,5’s & 9’s go N-S. On a turn a caller draws a tiles and then says what numbers are on the tile, everyone takes that tile and places it on their board. A tile placed cannot be moved. Play continues until all boards are full and then you score up. Each completed line scores the value of the line times the number of tiles in the line. We played two rounds with me winning the first and drawing in first place in the second, though most of the others were first timers to this game.
I think it was here when we played Duck Duck Go, designed by Kevin G Nunn and produced by APE Games, it plays 2-4 players (you can actually play up to 6 with another couple of ducks) aged 8 and up in about 30 minutes. The game consists of playing cards to move ducks on a board, the ducks race round trying to tag bouys before crossing the finish line – which is a plughole. Cards are played simultaneously, revealed and played in numerical order, this blind play often leads to collisions and mishaps. It is a fun game not to be taken seriously, strategically it is a nightmare as you never have the correct cards at the right time – but the ducks are so cute you can forgive the high luck element. A review of this game will follow soon.
The last game of the day was Olympos by Ystari games,  designed by Philippe Keyaerts, its for 3-5 players aged 10 and up (I would say 12 and up) and lasts about 90 minutes. The game consists of a map of Greece and Atlantis sectioned off into areas with resource counters thereon. The winner of the game is the player who gains the most victory points which are gained for areas owned at the end of the game, power cards picked up and not used and for “additional power” tiles picked up during the game. The game revolves about a time track, everything you do takes time which is recorded. On your turn you can add troops to the board and conquer areas thus gaining the resource counter or you can buy a power tile; both take “time”. Saving time is essential, as is collecting the right tiles, I missed on both these essentials until it was too late and then it was a fight to stay out of last place. I cannot say I enjoyed the game, the mechanism does force you to attack someone at some point to improve your position and I don’t generally like those sort of games. A game is either a war game where there is the ebb and flow for all participants or it is a resource game, a resource game which has a small amount of combat usually end up being “pick on the weakest” with no catch-up mechanism; such was the case in this game. Jay attacked me to obtain a specific resource he wanted, however I also needed the resource so I attacked him back, we both lost time to the other players putting us a turn behind them – with no material gain by either of us. The game was won by Wendy in rather dramatic style, Julia had established a strong position, however Wendy had concentrated her efforts in just the right areas to overtake Julia at the end.
Day 2 saw us start with Powergrid – The First Sparks produced by 2F Spiele, designed by Friedmann Friese for 2-6 players aged 12 and above playing in about 75 minutes. This game is about expanding tribes on a map made up of hexes that have one of four resources, Grapes, Bears, Fish or Mammoths. Players gather these resources to expand and feed their tribes, to assist in this there are cards to be bought from a deck in a similar manner to powergrid. When someone reaches 13 the turn is played out and furthest past the post wins with food in hand being the tie-break. Julia won this quite easily with John being the only real challenge, I suffered a glitch mid-game by running low on food and Wendy started off a bit too slow and ended up a turn behind the rest . I have to draw the conclusion that the game is unforgiving with mistakes, it is simpler than Powergrid and really a different game though it draws its mechanisms from its “parent”.
The next game was Alles im Eimer published by Kosmos, designed by Stefan Dorra, aimed at 2-6 players aged 10 and above. A card game where you start off with a hand of 12 cards, they can be of numbers 2 to 8 and in any of five colours. On your turn you must follow suit and beat the previous players total, you can do this by playing 1, 2 or 3 cards. If you do so, play passes to the next player, if you fail then you lose a colour token matching the cards you failed to play. The coloured tokens are placed in a pyramid, when you lose a coloured token, any it is supporting you lose as well. Matching numbers switches direction of play. It was a good game where I kept my head, but not the majority of my tokens; this game was won by Mike carefully avoiding the tit-for-tat battles going on and playing some high combinations to avoid losses.
The next game was In 80 Tagen an die Welt designed by Michael Rieneck and published by Kosmos, it plays from 3-6 players in about 75 minutes. The game consists of a number of travel routes round the board which require either Train and/or Ship cards to move by, each card has a number of days thereon which is kept on a tally round the board. The idea is to complete the round trip in less than 80 days. Each turn a number of cards are placed face up dependent on the number of players next to an action space. On a turn a player takes a card and the associated special action and may also complete one Route section. The game plays well, there is an element of luck with die rolls replacing cards, but this is at the players choice, special action cards also have an element of luck to them. All in all the game is well balanced with Mike getting his marker to London first in just under 90 days, on the following turn John, Wendy and Julia also reached London but with an accumulated time of 80 days or less with Julia taking the shortest time. In the meantime Jens and I failed to reach London choosing (I would like to think) to put our feet up in America for a while.
The last game of the day was Nefarious published by Ascora Games and designed by  Donald X Vaccarino , a card driven game for 2-6 players aged 8 and up playing in 30 minutes. It is a light card game with little depth, you each have a game board, some mad scientist tokens and 4 action cards. Each turn the players simultaneously choose one of their action cards, they are all revealed and then played in numerical order. The choices are 1, place an investment counter, 2 get 2 cash and an invention card, 3 create an invention, 4 grab 4 cash. The invention cards generally have additional actions you can carry out but cost money, however they also carry the victory points you need to win the game. We played a 4 player game, due to event cards money was tight, I was very bad at balancing the books, and came last, John came first a well deserved win. I hope to review this game at a later date.
Most of these games were new to me and the two I enjoyed most were Last Will & Kaleidos. Thank you once again to Julia & Chris

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