String Safari, Savanne and Port Royal Expansion

The quiz this time is something new.

Last week the board shown was that of 8 Minute Empire another great game in a small box, despite its title the game plays in about 15 minutes.

Three tables at the club this week, Table 1 playing Port Royal with the newly released expansion Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch..., which adds a number of new character cards and a few extra ships all of which add to the cash-flow of the game; there is also a new way to earn cash and victory points through contracts, to fulfil one all you have to do is match the criteria shown on one of those in play. The new cards increase cash flow and the contracts fit into the existing game but I personally do not think they add much more to an already nice filler game, others though commented :-

  • The expansion for Port Royal has added a whole new layer of strategy. I lucked out a win as others were busy trying to do contracts.
    • I strongly agree about the Port Royal expansion - the contracts really added a dimension. I'll be bringing it back soon, I think...

Table 2 started with Orléans a game that is on my “to play” list, I know nothing about it (sorry) other than everyone enjoyed the game and that it has a high rating on the geek. Here are some pictures showing some of the boards and bits.

Table 3 started with Champions of Midgard. After seeing it played at the club last week my interest was piqued enough to ask to play it this week. I am glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed the game and despite a myriad of rules the actual play mechanism is quite simple. The idea of the game is to collect victory points, these are mainly gained from defeating foes of which there are two sources one set are of low value and provide a little reward a second set which give more victory points but are harder to vanquish.

 Top end of the board with the weaker combats, some meeples are shown on worker spaces

Top end of the board with the weaker combats, some meeples are shown on worker spaces

There are only 8 rounds to the game and each round is split into 2 phases, the first phase is worker placement, workers are used to pick up combat dice, obtain resources (food, wood and gold), lay claim to a game end scoring card, claim an in-game bonus card or lay claim to one of the combats on offer. In the second phase players undertake combat with the various foes, combat is simple, you roll your dice which will show hits, misses or a shield, if you score enough hits you destroy the foe taking the victory points and any cash, each damage taken by the player not defended by shields causes the loss of a die.

 The combat dice are on a boat together with food, the small blue cards are events to overcome before combatting opponents at the bottom edge of the board.

The combat dice are on a boat together with food, the small blue cards are events to overcome before combatting opponents at the bottom edge of the board.

After combat any surviving dice are kept for the next turn; the resources are mainly to fund the battles against the higher victory point foes. The game is really just a race for victory points but the mechanisms allow you to feel some control over your destiny despite the luck of die rolling. One player joined after round 2 and although there was hardly any difference in resources the extra few bits the rest of us had obtained allowed us to weather any bad breaks in the die rolls later in the game, it was also interesting to note that the game is a little unforgiving for those that take unprepared risks.

Table 1 next played Traders of Osaka, I have only played Traders of Carthage the forerunner of this game so do not think I should comment until I have played this version and ascertained what (if any) the differences are.  

 Traders of Osaka

Traders of Osaka

Suffice to say it is a nice trading game where monopolies can make or break you dependent on the actions of other players. Others have commented thus :-

  • Traders of Osaka was waaay more fun the second time around. I learned that if you have a whole lot of one colour, everyone else will try very hard for that colour boat to not score. I also learned that if you're patient and have enough money, you will be able to cash in on a big market buy that can win you the game.
    • Traders of Osaka I like more every time I play it - it's deceptively simple in its rules for a game that actually has a lot of interesting psychological elements at work, I feel.


Table 2 played a number of short games all of which have been covered before, the first of these was Welcome to the Dungeon, it is a push your luck game however the balance always changes with different players and some of the skill in this game is reading your opponents.

They followed this with the nice filler game Love Letter: Batman which has been played at the club quite a few times now.

Then Table 2 played Hanabi which ought to be subtitled “the deduction game that blows my mind”. There are a number of games that I cannot play to any decent standard because my thought processes seem to be different to everybody elses. What may seem a sensible and fully illuminating clue to others will appear to me to be useless information that I cannot link to anything else I know. This though does not stop Hanabi being a good and popular game.

Our next game on Table 3 was Sawanna a simple, colourful race game aimed at kids but easily playable by adults. Each player has a team of animals any two of which when they cross the finish line will win the player the game. Each of the animals has 2 numbers on them and a special power, on a turn the player rolls some dice, they then choose one of their visible animals and allocates any number of dice whose numbers match the animal to that tile. They then choose to either stop and move each animal or roll the remaining dice again. If on a roll they cannot allocate any dice their turn ends and no animals will move. When moving animals must move the exact number of dice allocated to them.

 The Antelope can be moved with rolls of 3 and 4, the Lion with rolls of 1 and 2, their special ability is shown at the bottom of the tile

The Antelope can be moved with rolls of 3 and 4, the Lion with rolls of 1 and 2, their special ability is shown at the bottom of the tile

There is a stacking limit of 2 on any space and the special powers on each of the animals allows them extra movement, or to defend or attack other animals. The mechanism is sound and when you play your turn there is plenty to think about however the game is let down a bit by the downtime between turns and although this is the same in many games of a similar nature where players are sequentially rolling dice (Martian Dice and Zombie Dice to name but two) I found the downtime particularly noticeable. The other thing that is mildly dissatisfying is that the game seems to end after three rounds with no chance of benefitting from any tactical play, just being lucky enough to roll four similar faces seems to be enough to secure a win. I will have to do some minor rules tweaking before the next play and try with 3 players where I think its sweet spot may be.

The last game on Table 1 was Ra a simple set collection game with a push your luck element. On a turn you make a choice of either drawing a tile or starting an auction for tiles which have already been drawn. Bidding is done with sun chips with different values written thereon and you only get to win a maximum of three times each round.

 This player has bidding tiles 2, 4 and 10 and has collected quite a few monument tiles for scoring at the end of the game.

This player has bidding tiles 2, 4 and 10 and has collected quite a few monument tiles for scoring at the end of the game.

The tiles are collected for various sets which score you points for the round or for game end points, the values of tiles drawn vary dependent on what people are collecting or need to avoid loss of points, the winning bidding chit is also swapped for the spare chit, in this way the bidding values swap hands. On the whole I like Ra it has a nice balance of points collecting and damage avoidance, it is also fully engaging with hardly any downtime at all, players commented thus :-

  • As for Ra...I'd rather play sushi go.
    • Ra is - like most auction games - of those that takes a few plays to figure out what things are worth. But there's so many games competing for our time these days, and it's pretty venerable, so I understand why people might not feel like giving it another go. I just felt like I hadn't played it for years, so thanks for the game, everyone on Table 1...

The last game on my table was String Safari, where the idea is collect victory points from groups of tiles in play. The game consists of a piece of string and some square cards each with an animal thereon. Each animal has a number of factors, preferred time of activity, food preference, type of animal and between 1 and 4 victory points.

 Part of the play area the Zebra in the foreground has been claimed by purple

Part of the play area the Zebra in the foreground has been claimed by purple

A turn consists of first taking a random card from the animal deck and a victory point card, then in turn a player places their animal into play then uses a small loop of string to encircle as many victory point gaining cards as possible to match the victory point card they currently have. Finally the player then places an “interest” cube on an animal within their loop. The interest cube prevents others scoring from that animal for the rest of the game whilst preserving it for extra victory points at the games end. The game is fun and I think a lot of play depends on the victory point card you are able to grab, there was quite a bit of fluctuation between a high point scoring card and a low one, but that may have due to the types of animals in play at that time. Another commented :-

  • String Safari was good, it felt quick and scoring was easy and there are probably tactics that would make a second game even better. Particularly nice artwork too.