Viticulture, La Isla and Betrayal at House on the Hill

The quiz photo this time is a gameboard where the graphics and iconography should easily give it away.

The last quiz was Fuzzy Heroes an excellent game played with your favourite cuddly toys, this is from a participation game I organized at Beer & Pretzels a 2 day convention in Burton-on-Trent and combines Fuzzy Heroes with Escape from Atlantis and The Settlers of Catan.

Once again it was straight into the gaming and Table 1 went with Viticulture .This is one of my favourite games from 2013 and is a very nice worker placement and resource management game. Players each own a vineyard, grow grapes and turn them into wine which they then use to fulfil orders, to do this they place workers on the board to undertake various actions.

 The board, Spring on the left and Autumn on the right

The board, Spring on the left and Autumn on the right

The first phase of the game is placing on the Spring side of the board which enables you to collect money by giving a tour, build a structure on your own personal board, plant grapes, play a summer visitor card or a taking a new grapevine card; when everyone has passed in the Spring phase players start placing for the Autumn phase on the Autumn side of the board, the twist here is that you do not get back any workers from the Spring phase, workers can only be used once in the whole year.

 Player board, the glass tokens represent bottles of wine maturing in the cellar

Player board, the glass tokens represent bottles of wine maturing in the cellar

Autumn is the phase where players harvest grapes, turn it into wine and complete orders. There are several other nice mechanisms in play such as choosing player order with various bonuses, getting a small cash bonus every turn for wine contracts and the scoring track. It is a very nice game where money is very tight at the beginning and the correct choices with the money you do have can be crucial and some wise builds can get you nice bonuses later, however the main driving mechanism behind the game is the various card decks which provide in-game bonuses, grapes for planting and the all important contracts which are needed to win the game. Overall it is a superb game and one that has been requested at the club several times. Comments were :-

·        Really enjoyed Viticulture and rarely felt too blocked like can happen in some worker placement.

·        Viticulture is a game I always enjoy playing...it's one of those that seems to take an age to explain and yet once you start playing the mechanisms fall into place quite quickly - the strategy, however, has many possibilities, and that's the tricky bit.

·        I love viticulture, and am really glad I got to play it again.

Table 2 played La Isla a slighter lighter offering than his normal fare by Stefan Feld author of Luna and Aquasphere both of which have been played at the club before. La isla has numerous animal tokens spread across a board between various camping spots, to gain the tokens players have to place explorers on all the camps around it whereupon they collect the token and the points given on the board.

 The board at the end of the game with a few tokens still available

The board at the end of the game with a few tokens still available

The tokens represent “shares” for which their value increases throughout the game and explorers can only be placed by playing 2 tokens of the appropriate colour. The driving mechanism for the game are the cards each of which can have one of 3 different powers, each turn you get three cards and have to order them in preference of the bonus you want or need but only one of each. The aim of the game is to get victory points from the three sources (cards, the board and animal tokens) however it is how you play your cards that dictates how well you will do, in our game some were collecting tokens and/or affecting share prices whilst I was grabbing points from cards this all led to a very close finish with only a few points separating the leaders.

Table 1 next played Cornwall a game which to me is steeped in mysticism. There are mixed reports which compare it both favourably and unfavourably to Carcassonne, unfortunately our group missed a rule so I am leaving feedback on this game until it is next played, it is still one that intrigues me. Comments were :-

·        Sadly we missed one rule on Cornwall. The way we played it felt like Carcassonne plus a little complexity, I think with the rule played properly it would have panned out quite differently, probably requiring a different strategy to Carcassonne.

·        I'd also like to try cornwall again with the real rules in place - I think it would make it a lot harder to place your meeples as it seems money would be in short supply. This in turn would really make you think about your strategy.

 The Cornwall board as it develops

The Cornwall board as it develops

My table next played Betrayal at House on the Hill, to say this game is outside my comfort zone would be a bit of an understatement however I am always happy to try anything in gaming and it is normally a pleasant experience to play something a little different from what one is used to, Betrayal at House on the Hill was doubly so.

 The ground floor slowly being uncovered

The ground floor slowly being uncovered

The game is more of an experience or journey rather than about winning or losing, initially all players are working together to explore various rooms in a mansion – to this ends it is almost a dungeon crawl game enter a room see what happens and roll dice to avoid dangers, collect items and gain (or as we found lose) experience and abilities. The timing mechanism for the game is a deck of Omen cards which are triggered by specific rooms when revealed. Omens are additional events that happen after which dice are rolled and if you do not roll high enough a haunting occurs at which point a matrix is referred to which reveals a specific player to become the enemy.

 A secret door led to the basement

A secret door led to the basement

The game then becomes all against one, the betrayer who may have various minions or powers available to them to tries to defeat the other players whilst they in turn try to destroy that player. The game is well themed and atmospheric, everything is very uncertain until the very end of the game. No one knows who the betrayer will be and sothere is nothing to deduce with each player trying to improve their statistics prior to a haunting at which point panic sets in. All in all a very enjoyable experience and one which I am happy to repeat, if this is your type of game it is highly recommended. As an aside we did defeat Batman.

 Item on the left (which I lost by handing to my future self) and an Omen card on the right.

Item on the left (which I lost by handing to my future self) and an Omen card on the right.

Between Two Cities was our last game of the evening and was explained in full last week. It is a strange game with lots of interaction and negotiation where you are all trying to get the best for all the cities in play however when it comes to scoring (to me) it feels a little anticlimactic, the fun for me is in the playing not the scoring. We had a good game and it was all quite close.