Spirits of the Rice Paddy, Tokaido and A Study in Emerald

The quiz photo this time is of a 2 player abstract strategy that plays in 5 minutes and is of British design.

The last quiz photo was of Spirits of the Rice Paddy which was one of two new games that adorned the tables this week at the club.

  • Just a reminder that other players comments are bullet pointed in bold.

The other was played on Table 1 and was the 2015 release A Study in Emerald , a revamp of the 2013 game, this is not one I know in either of its guises, however everyone enjoyed the game agreeing it had quite a bit of depth.

  • A Study in Emerald...well: I enjoyed it very much, but - like some others around the table - when the game ended I was scratching my head a bit, thinking "What just happened...?". And what happened, I feel, was that we played a game with a lot of interlocking mechanisms that it will need a couple of plays to get to grips with, but which, I suspect, will reward that commitment with some very interesting and fun decisions. For example, we pretty much ignored one of the central mechanisms of the game (the Loyalist/Restorationist tracks) until right at the very end, when some last-minute actions meant that the final scores (which are affected by the positions on those tracks) changed quite a bit. Now, had we all known the game better, I think *maybe* we would have been keeping a closer eye on the tracks, and the Loyalist players would have countered that threat...but then again, maybe they wouldn't have: one of the things I liked about the game is that there's the potential to pursue several paths to victory, but without it feeling like the "point salad" of some other designers' games.
  • Game of the night for me was A Study in Emerald. I really want to play it again to explore it further. The game is beautiful with a great theme, easy to learn and hard to master.

Table 2 played Tokaido, an interesting game of set collecting where the board consists of a pathway along which are a large number of stopping places of various types for example a Temple or an Encounter, on a turn a player moves their piece east along the path to an empty stopping place and then takes a card from the relevant stack.

 The board in Tokaido

The board in Tokaido

As you can never travel back along the path and never share a stopping spot with another player planning your route is important to get the maximum benefit from your move. The idea of the game is to gain the most victory points by collecting sets and for each category of set there is a bonus to win, the cards themselves mostly provide between 1 and 3 victory points. There is no direct interaction between players but with limited stopping spaces it is important to choose carefully where you are going to move, usually  to either maximise your set collections or secondly to prevent opponents getting to theirs.

 A closer look at a section of the board, the small round spots are the playing piece stopping spaces

A closer look at a section of the board, the small round spots are the playing piece stopping spaces

  • I think I like Tokaido, but both times I have fallen a long way short of the leader. Not sure if this a design flaw, where if you start in a good position you can run away with it, or poor strategy on my part....would happily accept a replay sometime to find out!

My table played Spirits of the Rice Paddy a recent release from APE Games, as the title suggests the game is about growing rice the tokens of which also double as the victory points and the cash, it is essentially a worker placement game with some card drafting, the only pain is that the rules explanation is lengthy there are many interactions which need explaining but once you get into it the game plays quite smoothly.

 My player board midway through the game, the worker options are on the right side of the board

My player board midway through the game, the worker options are on the right side of the board

On a turn everyone simultaneously selects a power card, these are then revealed which dictates turn order for the round then everyone uses all their cards that they have played so far for various bonuses, everyone then assigns workers to different jobs such as building walls to create paddy fields, removing rocks, weeds and pests, harvesting or planting rice. Dependent on the tasks your workers or livestock are to complete the paddy field needs to be either flooded or water free and there are only 2 phases in which water is permitted to flow through the paddy’s.

 Some of the cards from Spirits of the Rice Paddy

Some of the cards from Spirits of the Rice Paddy

Most of the skill in the game is controlling the water flow through your paddy’s ensuring that you have the water in the correct place for the tasks you wish to undertake, timing of the harvests can also be significant as there is a good bonus for the last round harvest, the power cards you take can assist greatly and choosing wisely to fit in with a specific game plan can be crucial to helping you win. The game plays well, I have played it several times now both solo and with two, three and four players, each time I have enjoyed it and it is one I would recommend others to try.

  • I really enjoyed Spirit of the Rice Paddy. Once you got past the lengthy rules explanation, the gameplay was actually rather neat. I would be interested in playing it again, with a better idea of how achievements and spirit cards all interact.

Table 2 moved on to Nations: The Dice Game which I have covered before and has been a repeat game at the club several times, it is well liked and nicely balanced.

  • I like Nations Dice more each time I play it, having a dozen multicoloured dice to roll is very satisfying. My impression that is that it's best to keep everything ticking over to stay in contention - get blue dice early to keep yourself ahead on the book track, and to ensure you have enough stone to build wonders regularly, pick up some of the countries to get you reroll tokens to try and go for both the famine and war bonuses if possible....lots to think about and meaty without being weighty.
  • Nations dice is always fun for me. Me and the missus have played quite a lot 2 player, and I think it scales well across all player numbers...

Table 1 played Cacao next, it is a nice simple tile laying game which requires a small amount of preplanning, in the end game you get to overlay up to three of your own tiles so some preparation needs to be done in not only collecting the special tokens enabling you to do this but also having tiles placed in key areas which by overlaying gets some high scoring done.

 Cacao towards the end of the game

Cacao towards the end of the game

  • Cacao is wonderful as always. I have fun playing it even though I haven't figured out how to win yet.

Whilst other tables were finishing their second game my table had a quick dabble at Sushi Go! This nice filler card game currently leads the clubs list of “most played games”, this was its eleventh appearance four games ahead of its nearest rival which co-incidentally was the next game we played. There were three of us battling it out and going into the third round we all had 3 puddings so we were all trying to keep a straight face as we all looked at hands bereft of the crucial last puddings.

 One of the Pudding cards we were all looking for in the 3rd round

One of the Pudding cards we were all looking for in the 3rd round

At the end of the evening we amalgamated the tables for the diehards to play BANG! The Dice Game, this lovely dice game is a lot of fun. In the first game I was the Sheriff and with no pretenders the Deputy was easy to identify, this helped solidify our alliance and together we dealt with the rest of the players quite rapidly although one was particularly tenacious hanging on to his last life point. In the second game I was lucky enough as an Outlaw to get 4 shots to hit the Sheriff in the first turn, thus by my actions I had identified myself  NOT to be the Deputy I had also significantly weakened the Sheriff, on their turn the other Outlaws also piled in, the Sheriff did not last long.

 This character deserved a medal after surviving a hail of bullets from the Sheriff and then the Deputy

This character deserved a medal after surviving a hail of bullets from the Sheriff and then the Deputy

  • Bang: the Dice Game is always fun to play with the group. I learned that I'm an excellent Deputy but a terrible Sheriff
  • As for Bang, after getting only 2 rolls between both games, its obviously not my forte, although at least I was better at that than Skulls and Roses!
  • Bang is always good fun, I'm glad you and I could put our differences aside Kevin in order to beat sheriff Jeric
 Dice for Bang the Dice game

Dice for Bang the Dice game

The last game of the evening was Skull a deduction game which I can just cope with as it deals with probability choices as well as making deductions on other players decision making. You have 4 tiles (large beer mats) three of which have roses and the other has a skull. Everyone places on tile face down then on a turn players either place another tile or start a bidding round, however once someone starts bidding no more tiles can be added by anyone. You are bidding to declare how many roses you can find among the tiles in play, if you are the winner of the bid you start by flipping all your own tiles after which you can choose which other ones to flip, you immediately fail if you reveal a skull. Two successful bids and you win the game.

 One of myCoasters which may have a rose or skull on the reverse

One of myCoasters which may have a rose or skull on the reverse

Winning a bid when you have played a skull yourself is generally bad however the games winner did exactly that with two tiles played and a bid of only one.

  • I was surprised to win Skull. This was the longest game we've played. We had 2 people eliminated in a 6 player game.
  • Skull should be mandatory weekly playing, the mind games are outstanding.