Spies, Prussians and Lanterns

This weeks quiz picture with a geek rating of only 3.85 is at the low end of the gaming spectrum however I would not dismiss this game out of hand, okay it is not for adults but it does have a lot going for it despite a lot of gamers criticisms which seem to forget the games target audience. 

Last weeks game was Belfort by TMG, a territory control game which has some interesting mechanisms, the only downside is that it does have a long playing time but as there is usually something going on that you are involved in you do not notice the time pass.

The club had 3 tables on the go this week, table 1 started with Spyfall, the box contains numerous small decks of cards which each consist of one spy card and the rest showing the same random location, a deck is taken without looking at its location and 1 card dealt to each player. Only when a player first looks at the card will they know what the location is – all except the player who has been dealt the spy card – all they know is that they are the spy.

 The Spy card

The Spy card

Each player in turn then asks a question of one other player a process which continues until the timer sounds, through this routine the spy is trying to discover where they are whilst the others are trying to guess who the spy is. There is a lot of fun in this game as players very warily ask one another searching questions in a non-obvious way.

Table 2 played Friedrich  which is essentially a war-game based around events in and around Prussia of 1756. It is for 3-4 players and is all against Prussia each player with their own objectives (flags on the map). Please note I am not a war-gamer so if you enjoy wargames you will enjoy Friedrich, my comments are from a non-wargamers point of view.

 Friedrich board with Prussia (the main player) in the middle

Friedrich board with Prussia (the main player) in the middle

On their turn a player receives cards for their country from a deck (valued 1-13 in one of 4 suits) the amount of cards they get is dictated by the country they are playing, they then may decide whether to recruit some units adding them to their armies and then they get to move their Generals and supply stations on the map board after which they can engage any enemy General they are adjacent to.

 A French General sitting on border of Hannover territory but will soon be heading for Prussia

A French General sitting on border of Hannover territory but will soon be heading for Prussia

Combat is simply the difference in the two players armies, then in turn the one with the lower value can play a card (or cards) until they have the higher value, then the other player can respond, this continues until someone gives in and loses. The loser loses a number of armies equal to the difference and gets retreated the same number of spaces by the winner. The interesting thing about combat is that a player can only play cards of the suit for the area they are in (as dictated by a grid overlay on the map board), so by watching what other battles are being fought you can deduce how weak an opponent is in a particular suit and therefore picking your battlegrounds can be crucial.

 France pushes Hannover off the board - but they soon come back

France pushes Hannover off the board - but they soon come back

The game ends as soon as someone has captured the areas flagged for them or if Prussia outlasts the other players. So how did it play? For me (playing France) it was a dull game, my choices were limited – not through bad choices, bad planning or bad play but by game design. My turns lasted no more than 30 seconds whereas other players turns were lasting between 2-5 minutes and at best I was actively engaged in the game about 1 minute in 10 – that is a heck of a lot of downtime. On the positive side it is an excellent re-enactment game accurately depicting the historical period, the combat system is interesting (though I have reservations here) and map movement tactical. It is well deserving of its high geek rating (brilliant game balance) and is positioned 39 on the War Games list out of over 7600 games.

Table 1 then moved on to Nations: The Dice Game, this is a nice dice rolling game with tight options.

 Nations Dice Game Player board during era 2 of 4 eras.

Nations Dice Game Player board during era 2 of 4 eras.

It maintains a nice level of tension throughout and although derived from the highly successful Nations boardgame it plays in a quarter of the time.

Table 1 had finished their game and split into 2 groups, those that remained played The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet a tile collection game. Each turn a number of tiles are turned over equal to the number of players, then each player as nominated by the start player takes a tile, the last player becomes the next start player.

 Players board part way through the game

Players board part way through the game

You are trying to build a planet with the tiles and you get rewards based on the persons inhabiting your planet and the number of objects that you have there that they like.

Those who went to table 3 started off with Madame Ching. Although I have still not played this one I am quite keen to give this one a go. Players on a turn play a card in front of themselves, the card played must be higher than those already played and while they are able to do this they move their boat across the board.

 Madame Ching showing the remaining treasure tokens

Madame Ching showing the remaining treasure tokens

When they can no longer travel they take a treasure from a square of a lower value than where they end up. Cards played can give extra bonuses from power cards to points boosts.

The next game table 3 played was Lanterns: The Harvest Festival a tile tessellation game, I like this one a lot as it ticks a plenty of boxes for me, matching patterns, planning in other players turns and resource management.

 Lanterns part way through the game, match tile sides to collect resources

Lanterns part way through the game, match tile sides to collect resources

It is a pattern recognition game and no matter what you do you are always helping the other players so it also has a slight “do-good” feel about it.

I had been knocked out of Friedrich so I joined table 3 for their next game – Sushi Go!, I got hit badly in round 2 by collecting Sashimi only to then find the player feeding me cards was taking all the Sashimi first, fortunately I came back in the last round by dominating the puddings – I am a sucker for Ice Cream.

With most games ending there was a quick shuffle round and I joined a game of Zombie Dice  on Table 1, this went the way most games go for me, but I do love the pimping of this game through the addition of skull beads.

 Skulls as victory point chits for Zombie Dice

Skulls as victory point chits for Zombie Dice