Please note other players comments shown as bullet points. This quiz picture shows the pieces and the board mid-game. The added clue is “I would say more 15”
The photo last week was of the board from Small World the fantasy version of Vinci, some members may be familiar with the game from the Halloween/Birthday event earlier this month. It is well themed and works well but I think the system is a bit “messier” (it certainly has a lot more bits) than its predecessor which I personally prefer.
Three tables this week, with Table 2 starting early with Get Bit! a card playing race game where players are a line of swimmers trying to escape a shark. All players simultaneously play a card face-down from identical starting hands, they are then revealed and swim order decided by their values with tied cards not moving. The swimmer at the back gets bitten by a shark, loses a limb and is placed at the front of the line; lose all your limbs and you are out, the swimmer in the lead when only two are left is the winner. It is an excellent short warm up game and does tend to engender the odd bad pun.
Table 1 started with Porta Nigra a resource management game where players gain victory points from conducting building work in four of Augusta Treverorums (present day Trier, Germany) great buildings. On a turn a player plays a card from a hand of two, the card dictates how many actions the player has and what those actions may be, which are to purchase a brick, undertake a build action, take a torch token, take an influence token or take money. When you have finished your actions it becomes the next players turn, this continues until your deck of cards is played out at which point you can take a cash injection or take part of the income in victory points, then you do it all once again before final scoring.
Players gain the much sought after victory points by undertaking a construction action at one of the four construction sites, to construct part of a building you must pay with the correct number and type of bricks after which you place a soldier on top to denote your part in the construction of the edifice, at the games end you get bonus points for majorities of bricks in each of the four buildings.
There are some nice mechanics in the game, influence tokens are traded in for special cards which either grants a specified bonus action or endgame victory points, torch tokens can be traded in for a bonus action from your played card, the tokens and bonuses can occasionally be nicely chained together; timing can be crucial in brick gathering or taking building actions where several players can be after the same bricks and builds, money is tight but provided you plan ahead should not be an issue.
The game played well and seemed balanced until the last 2 cards of the game where building plots were scarce and I think we all felt that the actions the cards provided were effectively useless at accomplishing anything, the “wrong bricks” were available to match the plots and the influence cards were equally unhelpful and therefore the actions felt wasted, this could have been bad planning on our behalf or a mechanic of the game with 4 players. I had played it once before 2 player and although the plots were again limited towards the end of the game I did not feel the same restrictions or frustration, despite this kink in procedures I enjoyed the game however as with a lot of Euro-games these days pre-knowledge of the cards (in this case the influence cards) is an advantage.
- I enjoyed Porta Nigra and would definitely like to give it another play, having now got the rules straight in my head. Its a nice resource management game, although not up there with russian railroads and viticulture in my opinion (I particulary like those two). The one slightly frustrating thing was the luck element of which order you get your activity cards in. It's only a small thing, but I was left with cards I couldn't do much with at the end of both rounds. Also, in future I would make sure I had more coins, as I ran out towards the end. Still overall, as I said, a good game.
Table 2 next played Hunters and Gatherers a game belonging to the Carcassonne family, for those unfamiliar with Carcassonne it is a tile laying game where on a turn a player places a square tile orthogonally adjacent to those already in play and must match tile features like for like against touching edges (e.g. river – river, field- field etcetera).
After tile placement they may put a meeple on any feature on the tile they just played provided there is no other meeple on the extended feature, then any completed features are scored. In Hunters and Gatherers you get points for fish in rivers, tiles in forests and for deer and mammoths in fields. The advanced play mode introduces bonus tiles for completing forests with a gold blob.
Table 3 started off with Champions of Midgard a worker placement game which seemed to surprise everyone how quickly it played. I know little about it other than workers are placed to gather resources, you also have warriors which combat various monsters from Norse mythology, points I believe are gathered from different achievements. Despite my lack of knowledge it has intrigued me and I am keen to give it a go sometime soon.
Really enjoyed Champions of Midgard as a worker placement game - quite a short one but there was healthy competition for places and there is a nice mix of actions you can do to get points. I think in our game we had a split of people focusing on the Troll/local monsters to fight, and the rest going out to see to fight the higher point monster. It was interesting to see that this balanced out at the end with the final score, with end-game bonuses and shame tokens for negative points. Would definitely play again.
Table 3 also played Welcome to the Dungeon a nice light push your luck game where on your turn you either pass to let others battle the monsters in a dungeon or you select a card (thus volunteering to enter the dungeon yourself), the card will depict a monster which you can either place in the dungeon to be battled later or banish it from the dungeon by losing a piece of the heroes equipment.
Play continues until only one player is left “in”, they must now battle the monsters in the dungeon with what is left of the equipment either gaining a trophy for defeating the dungeon or losing against it, two failures and you are knocked out, two wins and you win the game.
Table 3 was rattling through the games quite rapidly and Bohnanza was their next choice an Uwe Rosenberg hit from 1997, in the game you plant one or two bean cards in the two plots available to you then turn over 2 cards from the deck to trade with other players after which you draw three new cards. Trading is the heart of the game and helps you manage the cards in your hand as well as the fields in front of you, it is an excellent game, well balanced and those that enjoy trading games will love this one, however it is not a game I personally like but then I do not enjoy trading games that much.
- Had never played Bohnanza before but found the haggling for beans a good laugh, and the scores were pretty close in the end.
On table 1 we finished the evening with Cornwall a tile placement game which has been compared to Carcassonne both favourably and unfavourably. The tiles used in the game are groups of three hexagons which have 2 or 3 different terrains on them (one to each hexagon), the tile may also contain a cottage, church or flag. On your turn you take a random tile and place it on the board so that 2 edges are connected and at least one terrain type is expanded, if you match multiple terrains you collect coins, after tile placement you may place a meeple on any of the terrains, coins allow you multiple placements or even placements where meeples already exist, meeples also come in three different sizes and strengths, any completed areas are then scored, with flags giving a boost to the points which mainly go to the player with highest strength.
The game does play differently to Carcassonne but you cannot help drawing parallels and in Cornwall I felt restricted in my plays, if you draw a tile that you cannot match to get a coin then all other options of multiple placements are also withheld from you I felt frustrated to have to make repeated single plays to be followed by someone who then made a double play over me. Oddly enough the restrictiveness and lack of choice I felt in this game was not dissimilar to what others felt in Porta Nigra and like Porta Nigra I highly suspect that the number of available options increases with fewer players.
- Cornwall with the right rule was fun for me, but another player made the point that he felt he lacked meaningful control. I do see the point: depending on the tile you get and the state of the board, you can end up with little choice in its placement, and I began to feel that towards the end of the game, though not at the beginning. However, I think that I will try a few more times with different strategies before I call it one way or the other on the control asepct - I get the feeling that there are ways to mitigate the draw somewhat by conserving cash. I also think maybe different player numbers (we played with 4) may have an impact too.
Table 2 in the meantime played Tiny Epic Galaxies which has been briefly covered before. I think I overheard that the game was won with a score of 26, the player gaining enough extra points from their secret bonus card.
The last game on table 3 was Coloretto a Michael Schacht game from 2003 more recently released in a 10th anniversary edition, the game consists of a deck of coloured cards. On a turn a player has a choice to either draw and place a card against one of the stacks on the table (limit of 3 to a stack) or to take one of the stacks at which point they are out until all players have taken a stack, then a new round begins. The rounds are repeated until depletion of the deck then scoring takes place, players positively score their 3 longest suits and negatively score the rest, scoring is based on triangular numbers. The game plays nicely and will appeal to both those that like to calculate and play it safe as well as those who like to take a risk and gamble and as all sets are open there is plenty of opportunity to stitch up your opponents.