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Kickstarter Blitz #8

It’s time for my eighth monthly Kickstarter Blitz.  13 projects to cover this time, so let’s get to it.


image by BGG user ChrisHandy

image by BGG user ChrisHandy

Pack o’ Game (Chris Handy, Perplext) is a collection of micro games.  Initially, there were four planned for the project.  Two more have been unlocked, and more are coming if stretch goals get met.  The interesting thing about these games is that each fits into what amounts to a pack of gum.  Each game consists of 30 narrow cards.  The games that have been unlocked so far are as follows:

  • HUE: An abstract game where players are trying to form the largest contiguous area of single colors.
  • TKO: A two-player boxing game where players are simultaneously choosing actions (punch or block) to try to score points and win the TKO belt.
  • GEM: Players are collecting jewels to try and gain the most valuable set.
  • FLY: A dexterity game where players are trying to drop a fly swatter onto flies.  Any flies completely covered by the swatter get collected by the player.
  • TAJ: A voting game where players are trying to arrange rugs in the Taj Mahal in specific color schemes.
  • LIE: Essentially Liar’s Dice with cards (that have dice printed on them).
  • BUS: A pick-up-and-deliver game where you are dropping off passengers around a track.

There’s a possibility of two more games in the stretch goal queue right now, so we’ll see if they get funded.  I like the concept behind this project a lot.  These anthology collections of small games (i.e. the Level 99 Games Minigame Library and the Dice Hate Me Rabbits) really appeal to me.  I appreciate the work involved in putting together a cohesive set, and these are definitely distinctive.  The games are all different, but use the same aesthetic – thin cards, small decks, unique packaging, and three-letter names.  I’ll be interested to see how this does beyond Kickstarter.

  • Project Ends: August 30 @ 11:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $30,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2015
  • To Get A Game: $6 for one, $24 for the original four plus all stretch goals, $44 to add a POD (carrying case)
image by BGG user ezeqiel

image by BGG user ezeqiel

Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf King’s Quest (Jake Thornton, Mantic Games) is this month’s big miniatures game.  I haven’t gotten a chance to read the rules yet, or even watch the hour long demo game video on the Kickstarter page.  But from what I can tell, it seems like a fairly standard dungeon crawl with a modular board where you’re taking your party in, killing a bunch of stuff, leveling up, and moving on.  One player is the Necromancer, trying to prevent the party from succeeding at their goal.

I think what has gotten this game around half a million dollars so far is the miniatures.  Mini games often do super well on Kickstarter, and this one seems to be falling right in line with the trend.  I honestly don’t know what sets it apart from something like Descent, but it’s doing quite well.  Check it out if interested.

  • Project Ends: August 31 @ 5:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $50,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2015
  • To Get A Game: $100
image by BGG user jguitarstring

image by BGG user jguitarstring

Fidelitas (Jason Kotarski/Philip duBarry, Green Couch Games) is a game about medieval citizens trying to become the most influential leader.  It’s a card game where players get secret missions to complete in a race to 10 points.  On your turn, you’ll play a character card from your hand to one of the locations out on the board.  Characters have special abilities that trigger when played.  If your play has completed a mission, you score it and take a new one.  Otherwise, you draw a new character and that’s the end of your turn.  The first player to ten points wins.

This game seems to fit in the base attack genre, similar to games like Smash Up, Balloon Cup, and Blood Bowl Team Manager – there are locations, and you’re spreading out your cards to try to accomplish your objectives.  The difference here is that you’re not scoring the locations, but trying to get locations to certain levels in order to score.  It’s pretty compact, looks like it’s fast playing, and looks like something I’d really like to play when it comes out.  They’re well funded at this point, but you can still get in on the action.

  • Project Ends: August 31 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $12,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: January 2015
  • To Get A Game: $19
image by BGG user krakengames

image by BGG user krakengames

Asking for Trobils (Erin McDonald/Christian Strain, Kraken Games) is a worker placement game set in space, where you are trying to rid the star system of Trobils (which are a kind of pest).  On your turn, you do one action – place a ship on the board, or retrieve your ships from the board.  The different locations allow you to do different things – collect resources, collect Trobils, throw Trobils into a star for money, collect Riffraff, collect Traps, and gain new ships.  When the final Trobil is captured and the final city is revealed, the game ends.  The player with the most points from Trobil cards is the winner.

This game has a very distinctive look.  The board and bits all make heavy use of the color orange, which really makes it stand out.  Certainly, that’s what made me take notice.  It does look very nice.  The game itself seems to be a fairly light worker placement game, kind of like a sci-fi Lords of Waterdeep.  Because of its distinctive look and what seems to be very simple gameplay, I’m making this my PICK OF THE MONTH.  Take a look, and consider backing it – I know I’m very interested to see it when it gets released.

  • Project Ends: September 1 @ 11:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $25,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: March 2015
  • To Get A Game: $42
image by BGG user gsquirrelgo

image by BGG user gsquirrelgo

Pack the Pack (Meg McGinley, Games by Play Date) is actually on its second campaign, having cancelled the first in July.  This one looks at what happens in a dungeon crawl once all the monsters have been vanquished – you have to get the loot out somehow.  In the game, you’ve got 88 treasure tiles, five of which are face down in front of you.  On the word “PACK”, everyone flips up their treasures and tries to make them fit in their pack.  You are trying to make completed gems of the different colors.  As you place treasures, you can take more from the center.  If you want to return a tile, you yell “JUNK!”, put it face up in the center, and take two new pieces.  When you have tiles touching three sides of your pack, you can say “TO TOWN!” and you’re done.  Once the second to last player has said this, the round is over.  You then score points for each completed gem, plus bonus points for the order you made it back to town.  The player with the most points wins.

This is a lot like Galaxy Trucker in the frantic placement of tiles.  There’s no journey at the end, but I get that vibe from the puzzle.  That alone is enough to pique my interest.  It does have a post-dungeon crawl theme, but I think it’s more of a game about making patterns than anything terribly fantastical.  Also, I’m unsure why you would want to stop first – the bonus points don’t quite seem like enough.  But I haven’t played, and maybe it will make more sense if I ever get the opportunity.  So, this is something I’d like to see once it’s out.

  • Project Ends: September 3 @ 2:01 PM CDT
  • Goal: $5,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2014
  • To Get A Game: $35
image by BGG user Eagle_Gryphon_Games

image by BGG user Eagle_Gryphon_Games

Clockwork Wars (Hassan Lopez, Eagle Games) is a fantasy-steampunk war game that features a modular board for increased playability.  There are four races – Purebreeds, Troglodytes, Rhinochs, and Mongrels, each with unique units and traits.  There are seven turns in the game, grouped into three ages.  The ages determine available discoveries and when scoring takes place.  During a turn, players take Spymaster actions, recruit workers, deploy units, engage in combat, and research discoveries.  Scoring happens after the second, fourth, and seventh rounds.  The player who has the most points in the end is the winner.

That’s of course a very simplistic breaking down of what looks like a fairly complex game, and I’m not going to go into all the rules here.  I really like the look.  The map tiles are double sided, with terrain on one side and a more functional abstract design on the other.  The art looks pretty good from what I’ve seen, and there is a ton of stuff in the box (hence the high price tag).  If this type of thing is something you enjoy, be sure to check it out.

  • Project Ends: September 3 @ 8:54 PM CDT
  • Goal: $25,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: July 2015
  • To Get A Game: $79 (early bird)
image by BGG user toyvaultinc

image by BGG user toyvaultinc

But Wait, There’s More! (Jay Cormier/Sen-Foong Lim, Toy Vault) is a party game from the designers of Belfort, Train of Thought, and This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 2-4 Of Us (which is my favorite title for a game ever).  The idea here is that you’re trying to pitch products in a 30-second infomercial format.  Each player has a hand of features, and at the beginning of a round, a random product everyone is selling will be revealed.  You select a feature to go with that product, and then you have 30 seconds to make your pitch.    About halfway through that pitch, you must say “But Wait, There’s More!” and flip over a random feature from the deck.  You must include this in your pitch.  Once everyone has pitched, players vote on their favorite pitch (not their own).  At the end of the game (three rounds), votes are tallied, and a new Billy Mays is crowned.

Since the release of Apples to Apples in 1999, many many party games have adopted the voting format for determining a winner.  This one varies from the model a bit by having everyone vote on their favorite.  This helps take away some of the inherent bias of voting party games – the majority rules here, not just one person.  So I’m glad to see this varying from the model of other pitch games like Snake Oil and The Big Idea.  It seems like it will be pretty fun, and it is streamlined to the point that it shouldn’t drag on too long.  With a lot of players, it may be tough to keep track of all the pitches, but if something is particularly memorable, that shouldn’t be a big deal.

  • Project Ends: September 5 @ 10:59 AM CDT
  • Goal: $3,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2014
  • To Get A Game: $25
image by BGG user HoggerLogger

image by BGG user HoggerLogger

Hogger Logger (Shaun Duenas/Ryan Shapiro/Charlie Winkler, Hogger Logger LLC) catches my eye JUST because of the title.  It is described as a “fast-paced, cutthroat guessing game with lumberjacking pigs.”  Each round begins with four face down cards and one face up card.  If it’s your turn, you choose one face down card and guess if it is higher or lower than the face up card.  If you’re right, you guess again.  If not, the player to your left becomes the new guesser.  The player who guesses the last remaining face down card wins.  This in itself would be pretty boring, but there are ways to mess with your opponents.  Anyone can play a number card at any point to increase their own odds or decrease their opponents.  If you play an 8, or play the same number that is the active card, you get an action card.  These give you different abilities.

This seems like a pretty silly game.  It’s not necessarily one with a lot of strategy, but I can imagine a lot of opportunities to mess with each other.  As much as I like the theme of lumberjacking pigs, it’s not really important to game play.  The name Hogger Logger came from Higher or Lower, they just wanted to make it more fun to say.  It looks fun, so check it out.

  • Project Ends: September 14 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $9,500 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2014
  • To Get A Game: $14
image by BGG user JustChristine

image by BGG user JustChristine

Heist (Pair-A-Dice Games) is a card game about art theft.  It takes exactly three minutes to play.  It comes with 36 cards, a timers, and 4 pawns.  Four rooms are laid out face down, and then each player gets five cards.  On your turn, you play a card then draw a card.  These cards will help you to steal cards from others, move your pawn forward, force others to discard, etc.  If you make it to the Vault and play an Art card from your hand, you win.  If time runs out, whoever is furthest along wins.  If there’s a tie, play again – it’s only three minutes.

This is a game that I think is a little big to be called a microgame.  It’s still very small, but I see microgames as being smaller (the debate over the definition of microgame can wait for another time).  Pair-A-Dice is calling it a pocket game, and I like that designation.  It’s a race, and it’s a quick real time game, one that I think will be pretty fun.  I don’t know if it will conquer the world like Love Letter did, but at least it’s only three minutes.

  • Project Ends: September 15 @ 12:00 AM CDT
  • Goal: $3,500 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: July 2015
  • To Get A Game: $10
image from Kickstarter project page

image from Kickstarter project page

Slap .45 (Gnarwhal Studios) is a Wild West duel that involves…well…slapping.  Each player gets a home base that goes between themselves and the player on their left.  The six members of that home base go in front of you.  This is your gang, and it has a special power.  On a turn, you flip over a card, then everyone reacts to it.  If the card revealed is a gun, you can slap it and making a pistol at another player, or slap a home base to protect yourself from being shot.  If it’s gold, you slap it to claim it.  If it’s a Move card, you need to slap a home base.  If you get shot, or are the last person to make it to a home base, you lose a gang member.  The last gang standing wins.

When I was in college, my friends and I would spend HOURS playing ERS, which involved a lot of slapping.  After some injuries, we had to make it a rule that no jewelry was allowed.  I haven’t played that much since leaving college, but this is the exact group this kind of game is meant for.  It’s not something I’d play a lot of now, but it would be good for some of those loud social occasions with some silly people that don’t mind getting a little violent.  If that describes you or your group, take a look.

  • Project Ends: September 17 @ 10:23 AM CDT
  • Goal: $18,850 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: April 2015
  • To Get A Game: $35
image by BGG user Brando Calrissian

image by BGG user Brando Calrissian

Clockwork Kingdom (Brandon Allen, Mr. B Games) is ANOTHER steampunk game about battle for control of an empire, though this one is more of a worker placement game than a combat-based game.  On each turn, players take turns placing workers around the board, then resolving the actions.  These actions could be acquiring resources, acquiring alchemy stones, taking or completing schematics, searching for ancient technology, doing battle, training professionals or acquiring new workers, acquiring production facilities, or determining turn order for the next round.  Whoever has scored the most points after nine rounds is the winner.

Mr. B has been coming on strong of late, especially with the recent successful Kickstarter releases of Spurs and Alien Uprising, so most of my interest lies in seeing what they do next.  This game has an interesting look to the board, with a round kingdom kind of like a clock.  It’s a worker placement game that doesn’t really look like it does much new mechanically, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game.  If you like steampunk, or worker placement, or are just interested in what Mr. B is doing, or some combination of these, check it out.

  • Project Ends: September 23 @ 4:30 PM CDT
  • Goal: $20,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2015
  • To Get A Game: $45
image by BGG user binarysunrise

image by BGG user binarysunrise

The Pirate Deck (Jared Bond) is on its second Kickstarter drive.  I covered the first one back in Kickstarter Blitz #4, so I won’t say a lot here.  It’s a light card game where you’re trying to match up coins in order to make money.  I got a chance to play the prototype and make some suggestions, and it’s a game I like.  It’s got a nice puzzly feel to it, and is fairly simple to pick up.  Plus, there are pirates.  Do check it out – it’s about halfway to its $6000 goal.

  • Project Ends: September 24 @ 5:01 PM CDT
  • Goal: $6,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2015
  • To Get A Game: $12 (early bird)
image by BGG user tartujik

image by BGG user tartujik

Skyway Robbery (Philip duBarry, Game Salute) is all about being a notorious criminal aboard an airship cruiser line.  The game is a kind of programmed action deck building game where players are simultaneously playing three secret action cards, then resolving them one at a time.  You can try to catch opponents red-handed, acquire new assets, pickpocket to gain more cash, perform a local heist, bust gang members out of the brig, start a turf war, do a side job, or repeat an action you played previously in the round.  When the airship reaches the end of the location track or the last location’s loot card has been taken, the game is over.  The player with the highest reputation is the winner.

This game looks great.  The art looks fun, the game looks like it plays really well, and it has the pedigree of a designer like Philip duBarry (making his second appearance on this list) to boost it up.  But I think some people will be scared away from backing it because of the involvement of Game Salute.  Game Salute has not been doing well in recent months, delivering late, breaking promises, and ticking off designers.  And I wonder why their name is NOWHERE on the Kickstarter page – their logo is not even on the box they show (though it is on the image included on BGG).  I also find it interesting that there’s no stretch goals, and they don’t intend to include any.  You can make assumptions from this information as you will – I’m sure conspiracy theories will abound.  But I also think Game Salute is ready to start correcting some mistakes they have made in the past, and want nothing to get in the way of this being a great game.  I think you should check it out – it does look very good.

  • Project Ends: September 25 @ 7:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $32,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2015
  • To Get A Game: $45

That’s it for this month’s edition of the Kickstarter Blitz.  Thanks for reading!

Buzzworthiness: Citadels

Time for a review.  Today, we look at

CK

Thank you, Eric Summerer.  Seriously though, today’s review is for

CK

Dude.  Enough.  We get it.  Here’s my review of

image by BGG user meehael

image by BGG user meehael

Citadels was originally published in 2000, and was designed by Bruno Faidutti.  Fantasy Flight publishes this game in the US.  It’s a game for 2-7 players (or up to eight with the included Dark City expansion) that plays in about 90 minutes.  This is a classic role selection, and is one of the first games that incorporated that mechanism as the heart of the experience.  In the game, you are trying to construct buildings in your city to bring you the most prosperity in the end.

The game comes with 66 district cards, 8 character cards, 30 gold pieces, and a wooden crown marker.  The Dark City expansion adds 10 new character cards and 14 new district cards.  Each player begins the game with four district cards and two gold.  You’ll choose 8-9 characters from the basic and expansion sets (you’ll need numbers 1-8 or 9 all represented among the characters – more on that in a moment), and one player receives the crown, becoming the first player.  You’re now ready to play a game of

CK

**(For those of you who don’t understand the reference, Eric Summerer of The Dice Tower does not like this game.  And whenever someone mentions it, he yells CITADELLLLS!  So, there’s your explanation.  Back to the review.)

The eight or nine character cards are shuffled up, and a certain number are removed, depending on the number of players.  One card is placed face down on the table.  In a four player game, two are placed face up, and in a five player game, one is placed face up.  There are variant rules for 2 and 3 players that I’m not going into here.  Once the characters have been removed, the player with the crown takes the remaining cards and chooses one for himself, passing the rest to the left.  This will continue until the last player has made their selection.  At this point, the final character (if there is one) is discarded face down.

Each player will then take their turn, in order of the numbers on the character cards.  So the player who took #1 will go first, all the way up to #8 or #9.  Not all numbers will be used since some cards were out at the beginning.  On your turn, you first take an action.  This can be to take two gold from the bank, or to draw two cards from the draw pile, keeping one.  After taking your action, you may build one district card from your hand by paying its cost in gold and placing it face up in front of you.  You can never have two of the same card in front of you.

During your turn, you’ll be able to use your character’s power.  Here’s what they all are:

  1. Assassin – Name a character (not a player).  If the assassinated character is in play, they lose their turn when it comes to them.
  2. Thief – Name a character (not a player).  If that character is in play, you take all of their gold when it is their turn.
  3. Magician – At any time during your turn, you may either exchange your entire hand with another player’s entire hand, OR you may discard and draw an equal number of cards.
  4. King – For each noble district (yellow) in your city, you receive one gold.  Additionally, you are the start player for the next round.  If no one else takes the crown from you in subsequent rounds, you remain the King.
  5. Bishop – For each religious district (blue) in your city, you receive one gold.  Additionally, you are protected from the Warlord.
  6. Merchant – For each trade district (green) in your city, you receive one gold.  Additionally, you get one extra gold after taking an action.
  7. Architect – After you take an action, you draw two extra district cards and keep both.  Additionally, you may build up to three districts in a turn instead of one.
  8. Warlord – For each military district (red) in your city, you receive one gold.  Additionally, you may destroy one district card belonging to any player by paying one gold less than its cost.

Those are just the base cards.  Here’s what you get with the Dark City expansion:

  1.  Witch – After taking an action, name a character and end your turn.  If that character is in the game, they are bewitched.  They get to take an action, and then you take the rest of your turn in place of theirs, using all of their powers in your city.  They do not get to take the rest of their turn.
  2. Tax Collector – Any player who builds a district this turn must pay you a gold if they have any left.
  3. Wizard – You may look at another player’s hand and take a card.  This card can either go into your hand, or you can pay to build it.  This doesn’t count as your one build for the turn.
  4. Emperor – Take one gold per noble (yellow) district.  You also take the crown, plus a card and gold from the person who previously had it.
  5. Abbot – Take one gold per religious (blue) district.  The person who has the most gold then must pay you one gold.
  6. Alchemist – After spending gold to build districts, you get it all back.
  7. Navigator – After taking an action, you either take four gold or draw four cards.  You may not build any district cards.
  8. Diplomat – Take one gold per military (red) district.  At the end of your turn, you may trade a district from your city with a district from another city, paying the difference in value.
  9. Artist – Put a gold on one or two districts.  This card is now beautified, and the cost of destroying/exchanging is increased (as is the points you get at the end). / Queen – If sitting beside the King, you get three gold.

When one player builds their eighth district card, the game will end once all players have had a chance to play during the round.  You get one point per gold symbol on your built districts, three points for having a district of each of the five colors, four points for being the first player to eight districts, and two points for everyone else who gets to eight districts.  The player with the most points wins.

COMPONENTS: There’s not really a whole lot to talk about, component wise.  The cards are all well illustrated.  There are prestige buildings with special abilities, but these also include text so you know exactly what they do.  There are a couple of controversial cards in the deck – the Prison shows a dead person being eaten by crows while another one is falling to his death overhead.  Additionally, there are a couple of subtle naked people on some of the cards, so be warned.  Most of the cards are fine, really – just warning you if you pay attention to that.  The art overall is pretty good, though you’re not necessarily paying attention to it.

The other physical components of the game are the gold pieces and the crown.  The crown is a good size, and makes it clear who the first player is.  The gold pieces are plastic discs that look a little like butterscotch candies – don’t eat them.  Overall, though there aren’t many components, what is there is pretty good.

THEME: This is a Eurogame, so you have to expect a bit of a disconnect with the theme.  Essentially, all you need to know is that you’re trying to get cards in front of you that will build your cash supply and points for the end of the game.  You can think about it as a city building game if you want, but it’s really about building a tableau.  The cards are illustrated to give you some flavor, but the only bits of information you’ll really be paying attention to are the coin symbols and the color (sometimes the special powers in the case of purple districts).  The roles are probably the most thematic part of the game – each character acts in a certain way, and it makes sense with who they are.  The assassin assassinates.  The thief steals.  The merchant gets you extra money.  The warlord destroys.  And so on.  The theme is generally pretty weak, but there are some areas where you can make it work.

MECHANICS: The conversation about Citadels has to begin with role selection.  Citadels was not the first game to use the mechanism, but did refine it into the main focus of the game.  It was an inspiration for later role selection games, including Puerto Rico.  Still, it’s different than a lot of role selection titles.  For one thing, you are selecting roles blind, and you’re never quite sure what anyone else has taken.  The first player will know what the face down card is, and the last player will know something that no one took.  But no one has all the information.  This introduces some extra thinking elements to the process.

The roles themselves are fairly well balanced.  Some seem more powerful than others – the Architect, for example, will almost always get taken when in play since it gets you extra money or cards.  There are checks in place that keep everything close – the Assassin may feel like you’re taking a random shot, but you can usually make an educated guess based on what is available and what others are trying to do.  Also, by having them numbered, the roles are resolved in a specific order, meaning the Assassin has no information about precisely what anyone else has, and the Warlord has all the information about what everyone has done.

Building is very straightforward – simply pay your gold.  As I mentioned, there are districts that give you special powers, and these are good to use where you can.  The colors also have relevance to the roles and the color bonus at the end of the game.

Citadels is a fairly simple game.  Turns are easy – take an action, buy a card.  It’s the roles that add some more complexity and strategy to the game.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Luck definitely plays a role in Citadels.  Particularly, there is luck in the cards you get, and wild swings in the number of points each one gets.  Additionally, you never know exactly what roles WON’T be available from round to round.  However, these usually seem to balance themselves out – the lower point cards are cheaper, and so you can generally build more of them anyway.  And, as I said, there are a number of checks in the roles, so if you can’t have exactly what you want, there’s usually something else good you can do.  The biggest swing in luck is that some of the purple districts have some really devastating abilities, and if someone manages to get several of them, they’re probably going to be unstoppable.  This is where the Warlord comes in handy, but I’ve found people are usually unwilling to take the bullet since it typically costs so much gold.

The biggest strategic decision to make in a round is which role to take.  You are generally doing this with a combination of what you need and what you think others need.  So you decide if you’re going to take this role that will get you an extra coin or two, or are you going to take this one that your neighbor would probably use on you?  There’s a lot to think about, and generally, the role selection can take more time than the rest of the rounds because of it.

ACCESSIBILITY: As I’ve said, Citadels is a fairly easy game to learn.  I think it’s an upper gateway game because there are a number of foreign concepts there, but I think it’s a good one for teaching people about role selection.  I think non-gamers can get it, and have in fact used it with non-gamers to some success.  You might want to start with something a little easier, however.

REPLAYABILITY: There’s some good replayability in the box with Citadels.  There’s a wide range of available districts, and the roles really make the game change even from turn to turn.  Throw in the Dark City expansion, and you get even more roles to choose from.  Plus, you get a wide range of play styles from your opponents, and that helps increase the fun.  So this is a game you can play a lot, and get enjoyment out of each time.

SCALABILITY: This is a 2-8 player game, but not really.  The two- and three-player versions are variants that I’ve never tried.  I think the game really plays best with five people (which I see is the recommendation on BGG as well).  I’d rather play with six than four, but I think seven and eight is a little too much for the game – you’ll be waiting far too long as people select roles, and there’s a little too much chaos at that point.

FOOTPRINT: Citadels does not take up much space.  Each player needs room for eight districts in front of them, and there needs to be a spot for the set aside roles.  Other than that, you don’t need much space at all.  Plus it comes in a narrow box that doesn’t take up much room.

LEGACY: Marcel-André Casasola Merkle is often credited with inventing role selection in his games Verräter and Meuterer, but it’s Citadels that really took it to the next level.  And while the mechanism isn’t as popular as, say, worker placement, it’s one that I really like and would always love to see more (see my list of eleven role selection games for more).  And while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (Summerer, don’t you dare interrupt this post again), it is one that has so far stood the test of time and will be around for a while to come.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  If you like role selection, this is a great game to play.  If you like trying to outthink your opponents, you’ve got it here.  If you like theme, go elsewhere.  But overall, I would definitely recommend this game.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Fine.  One more time.

CK

This year’s GenCon was apparently chock full of great new games.  Today, I’m going to take a look at two unrelated games that both were pretty big successes at this year’s Con.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

King of New York is the sequel to the popular 2011 game, King of Tokyo.  This second offering from Richard Garfield and IELLO Games takes the system in new directions while still remaining familiar.  The game is for 2-6 players, and takes 40 minutes to play.  You are a monster menacing New York, and your goal is to either rack up the most points or be the last one standing.

The game comes with eight dice, a board, 66 cards, 46 effect tokens, 6 new monsters (with dials and stand ups), 45 building/unit tiles, and 50ish energy cubes.  In the beginning, each player takes a monster (Drakonis, Mantis, Captain Fish, Kong, Sheriff, Rob, or any monster from the base game or expansions).  Each player sets their dial board to 0 VPs and 10 health.  Each player chooses a borough of New York to place their monster – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, or the Bronx.  Each borough can hold up to two monsters at a time.  Additionally, there are building/unit tiles spread around the board.

On your turn, you roll six dice.  You then keep whichever ones you want and reroll the rest.  You can do this one more time, and then you’re stuck with what you have.  You’ll then resolve the dice based on the symbols showing on each face.  There are six faces:

  • Heart: Heal one point per heart by increasing your health dial.  It can’t go over ten, unless you have a card that allows it.  If you’re in Manhattan, you can’t heal.
  • Lightning Bolt: Gain one energy cube per bolt symbol.
  • Claw: If you’re outside of Manhattan, you attack the monster(s) inside Manhattan.  If you are in Manhattan, you attack all monsters outside of Manhattan.
  • Star: Rolling three of these gains you the Superstar card, which is worth a point plus another point per star beyond three you roll.  From that point on, every time you roll a star, you get a point.  If another player rolls three stars, they take it from you.
  • Building: Destroy building tiles or unit tiles in your borough of value equal to the number of symbols you rolled.  This will gain you a reward.  Destroyed buildings are flipped and become military units.  Destroyed units are discarded.
  • Skull: If you roll one, each military unit in your region does damage to you.  If you roll two, each military unit in your borough does damage to you and another monster unfortunate enough to be there.  If you roll three, all monsters in boroughs with military units take damage, and you get the Statue of Liberty card.  This gives you three points, which you lose if someone takes it from you.

After resolving your dice, if there’s no one in Manhattan, you enter Lower Manhattan.  If there is someone in Manhattan, you can move to any other borough.  Going to Manhattan gets you a point.  If you’re still there at the beginning of your next turn, you get a point and an energy and move to Midtown.  Remaining there gets you two points and an energy, and you move to Upper Manhattan.  From there, you’ll be getting two points and two energy every time.

Also after resolving your dice, you have the opportunity to spend energy on a card.  These give you special advantages that you can use throughout the game, or possibly a one-time use.  The game ends when someone gets 20 points, or when all but one player have been eliminated.

I love King of Tokyo.  It’s a very fun game.  And I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of KoNY at first, wondering if it was just a big reskin of Tokyo.  However, there seem to be enough interesting changes to justify its existence.  It seems to amp up the destruction level, allowing you to go after buildings as well as monsters.  I’m kind of glad they did away with the numbers, which seemed to encourage more of a points strategy – I always have someone that is just trying to roll numbers, not going after anything else at all.  This one has one chance with the star, but is also able to open up buildings and some possible extra pain.  I think this is probably a more aggressive game, but still not a directly confrontational system.  I know Richard Garfield has said King of Tokyo was designed out of a desire to have a fighting game where you couldn’t pick on anyone.  This seems to take that to a new level.  So I’m really looking forward to getting to play this, hopefully sometime in the near future.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Sheriff of Nottingham began its life in 2006 as Hart an der Grenze, published by Kosmos.  This year, a new edition is being published by Arcane Wonders as the first game in the Dice Tower Essentials Line (which basically means Tom Vasel likes it).  It was designed by Sérgio Halaban and André Katz (with Bryan Pope developing the AW edition), is for 3-5 players, and lasts about an hour.  In the game, players take turns being the Sheriff, and trying to stop people from smuggling illegal goods into Nottingham.  When you’re not the sheriff, you will be a merchant that is trying to do the smuggling.

In the box, you get 216 goods cards (legal, contraband, and royal goods); 110 gold coins; a Sheriff marker; five merchant stands; and five merchant bags.  Each player begins with a merchant stand and a bag (which is an envelope with a clasp), as well as 50 gold and six goods cards.  Two discard piles are created, and the player with the most actual money on them becomes the first Sheriff.

There are five phases per round – market, loading, declaration, inspection, and the end of the round.

MARKET: You may set aside up to five cards from your hand, then draw back up to six.  You can draw from the top of either discard pile, or you can draw from the face down draw pile.  Set aside cards go on top of one of the discard piles.  This is done in clockwise order.

LOADING: Each player selects 1-5 goods from their hand, and places them in their bag.  Once your bag is closed, you can’t change your mind.

DECLARATION: In clockwise order, each player looks the Sheriff in their eyes and tells them what is in their bag.  You can only declare legal goods, you can only declare one type of good, and you must declare the exact number of cards in your bag.  So if you have three chickens and a silk in your bag, you would say that you have four chickens.  Or four breads.  You can’t say you have three chickens, and you can’t say you have silk because that’s contraband.

INSPECTION: After everyone has declared, the Sheriff can decide to inspect any of the bags.  The Sheriff can threaten the player whose bag he is inspecting, and that player can offer a bribe to avoid inspection.  This negotiation can go back and forth, but eventually the Sheriff must either let the player pass, handing the bag back and accepting any bribes; or inspect the bag.  If you pass, you put legal goods face up on your market stand, and keep contraband face down.  If the Sheriff inspects and you were telling the truth, the Sheriff must pay you a value equal to the penalty on your legal goods.  If you were lying, all legal goods you told the truth about are allowed into market.  The other goods are confiscated (discarded), and you have to pay the penalty of the discarded cards.

END OF ROUND: Pass the Sheriff marker, and all players draw back up to six cards.  Once all players have been Sheriff twice (three times in a three-player game), it’s over.  Cards in hand are discarded.  Reveal your contraband cards, and add up the value of all goods, plus your remaining gold, plus any bonuses you may have received.  The player with the highest points wins.

This is a pure negotiation game, with lying encouraged.  In fact, you’ll probably have to lie at some point.  It’s just a question of timing.  Bribes can be used, and I can see how that can get pretty heated.  It seems like it will be a very interactive game, and probably really needs the right group to succeed.  No Robin Hood in this one (that I know of), but it’s good to have a game that examines the scurrilous nature of the Sheriff.  I’d be interested to try this one out sometime as it looks like a pretty fun game, but it remains to be seen if it would be something I really enjoyed enough to want to play over and over.  Thanks for reading!

Buzzworthiness: Rattus

The 14th century was the time of one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.  Over the course of about six years, half of the population of Europe died.  So, let’s make a game about it!

image by BGG user Nekrataal

image by BGG user Nekrataal

Rattus was originally published in 2010 by White Goblin Games (Z-Man in the US).  The game was designed by Henrik and Åse Berg, plays with 2-4 people (more with expansions), and takes around 45 minutes to play.  During the game, you are trying to build your population and avoid the ravages of the plague, but you just can’t save everyone.  Only the person with the most population on the board when the game ends is the winner.

In the box, you get a map of Europe divided into 12 regions.  You also get 80 cubes (20 in each player color), 6 class cards, 49 rat tokens, and one plague marker.  To set up, you randomly place the starting rats in different regions of the board, then randomly place the plague piece in one of those regions.  In turn order, each player will get an opportunity to place two cubes in a single region; then, in reverse order, each player will place two more cubes in a region.

On your turn, you will place cubes and may possibly take a class card and/or use special abilities.  These can be done in any order.  To place cubes, put as many cubes as there are rat tokens in a single region (there can never be more than three rats in a region).  To take a class card, you simply take any class card (even if someone else currently has it) and place it in front of you.  It will stay in front of you until someone takes it.  You can have multiple classes, and you do not have to take one during a turn.  Each one has a special power:

  • King – You may move one cube from a region containing no rats to the palace area.  This cube is now safe, and cannot be removed from the board.
  • Knight – You can move the plague piece up to two regions instead of one.  If you wish, it also counts as two people for counting purposes.
  • Merchant – You can move up to three cubes from one region to a neighboring one.
  • Monk – You can move one rat token from one region to a neighboring one.
  • Peasant – You may add one additional cube to a region when adding.
  • Witch – Look at two face down rat tokens on the board, then switch them if you wish.

These powers can be used once per turn.  Once you’ve finished moving cubes and claiming class cards, it’s time for the plague to spread.  Move the plate piece into a neighboring region.  If that region has no rat tokens, nothing further happens.  If it has one, place a new rat token in a neighboring region.  If it has two or three, place two rat tokens in neighboring regions, either together or split up.  You then reveal any rat tokens in the affected region, and resolve them.  Rat tokens give a number (2+, 4+, etc.) that tell you how many cubes must be present for the plague to affect the region.  There are then a number of symbols, and any eligible player then must discard a cube from that region for each symbol.  Symbols either affect one of the six classes, or whoever has the majority, or all.

The game ends when either one player has placed all 20 cubes on the board or when all the rat tokens have been used up.  At this time, all regions suffer one more round of plague, and the game is over.  Whomever has the most cubes remaining on the board wins.

image by BGG user EndersGame

image by BGG user EndersGame

COMPONENTS: I would say the components in Rattus are largely unremarkable. I don’t mean they’re bad – they’re quite functional for what they are.  But they don’t really stand out.  Your population is represented by cubes, which you place out on a fairly bland map of Europe.  The plague piece itself is a black pawn with a little hat.  The character cards (which is kind of a misnomer since they are really oversized cardboard tiles) are well illustrated with the person, and also have a symbolic description of what the character does.  The symbols on the characters could be clearer – I usually have to look at the rules to double check that I’m using them correctly.

Everything is a really good size in this game.  The board isn’t huge, but it’s just big enough that nothing feels cluttered (that is, until you get to higher player counts).  The character cards are big enough that you won’t have trouble telling what they are from across the table.  And the rat tokens manage to fit all pertinent information in a small amount of space – there’s never trouble telling what the plague does to a region.

Overall, these components are fine.  Not necessarily anything to write home about, but definitely a case where the publisher emphasized function over form, and it all works well.

THEME: The Black Plague is one of the darkest periods of time in human history.  A deadly disease obliterated half the population of an entire continent, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.  This was the 14th century, they didn’t know NEARLY as much about medicine as we do now.  And so it’s a little odd that, seven centuries later, we’re simulating it in a light-hearted family game.  I wonder how the victims of the plague would feel about that.

That said, it’s not like you’re having to actually kill anyone, or do anything to clear away the bodies (I’m not dead yet!).  Using cubes really abstracts the theme out.  You also have to suspend some disbelief as it’s not really realistic that you’d be able to direct how the plague moves.  However, the random way cubes leave the board is a reasonable representation of how the plague just hit everyone.  It might even be a good springboard for some discussion about that topic.

MECHANICS: Rattus offers some interesting twists on some familiar mechanisms.  Area control games are very popular, and while Rattus IS technically an area control game, the entire board is the area you’re trying to control.  People familiar with the mechanism may look at the map and think that they need to have majorities in areas.  To an extent, this is true…you definitely want as many cubes as possible on the board at once.  However, the presence of rat tokens makes that a risky maneuver – having a majority gives you an extra chance that you will lose a cube.  The different regions basically serve as a way to get your cubes on the board, but you want to gather them as safely as possible.

The process of placing your cubes is fairly easy to grasp – one per rat token.  This provides a strange impetus to go into plague-afflicted regions.  If there are three rat tokens in a zone, you can place three cubes there (four with the peasant).  However, once the plague is sent to that region (as it inevitably will be), you’ve got three rat tokens to sweat through.

This game also falls into the role selection category.  Players are choosing different roles to give them advantages.  Most role selection games have players choosing roles that will be theirs for the remainder of a round, meaning that those roles are unavailable to other players.  In Rattus, roles are always available, even when in front of someone else.  The powers are all useful at different times – they’re all pretty well balanced.  The rat tokens help provide a check on the powers since the more you have, the more likely you are to lose cubes.

The arc of the game is basically a push-and-pull, trying to manipulate the plague into taking out your opponents while getting as many of your people as possible to safety.  The endgame can be pretty climactic as you reveal all rat tokens left on the board to see who is going to get knocked out of contention.

Overall, the game is very simple to learn, and doesn’t have a ton of things to keep track of from turn to turn.  It works very well.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There is a lot of luck in this game.  There’s no two ways about it – the rats provide a ton of chaos.  However, it’s all about playing the odds.  You want to limit your roles, and try to have the plague hit regions where your opponents have a lot of cubes, or conversely, where you have few.  The numbers on the rats go from 1+ to 6+, so a region with six or more cubes has a higher risk of getting ravaged by the plague (if symbols don’t match, you’re safe).  If you have one cube in an area, you have a much better shot at not getting hit, though it’s by no means a sure thing.

There is strategy in where you place your cubes, and strategy in where you move the plague piece.  But the best source of strategy in this game comes from the roles.  It’s critical to know when and how to use them.  The king is great for getting cubes to safety so they never disappear.  The witch is great for finding rats and trying to position them to your advantage.  The monk is good for getting rats out of a danger zone, and the merchant is great for getting cubes out of a danger zone.  The knight is good for attacking someone across the board, and the peasant gets cubes out much quicker.  Knowing when to use them, and how to use them together, is critical.

ACCESSIBILITY: Rattus is a very simple game to learn and understand.  The subtleties of the strategy may be beyond you at first, but you can at least be playing quickly.  I would say this is a pretty good gateway game, though maybe a bit on the more complex side.  Maybe a next step.

REPLAYABILITY: Because of the different ways you can use the roles, as well as the distribution of rats, each game will play out differently.  However, those differences aren’t always noticeable, and games can feel the same.  The interaction between players helps to increase the replayability, and the game is fast enough that I don’t think people will mind playing it again and again.  Plus, it has a fairly fast set up – you just have to randomly distribute 12 rat tokens.  The expansions add more boards, roles, and rats, which definitely increases the replay value.

SCALABILITY: This is a 2-4 player game, with more players possible in the expansions.  I don’t think it plays well with two – you aren’t bumping into each other as much, making it easier to avoid the plague.  It may be a little less chaotic, but I happen to like the chaos in this game, so I prefer it with more players.

FOOTPRINT: Rattus is a relatively small game.  The board is not huge, though it is just big enough to fit everything.  The roles are on big tiles, but they still don’t take too much space.  This is a game that could be played on a fairly small table.

LEGACY: I don’t know a lot to say about Rattus’ place in the pantheon of games.  It’s fun, and it takes a different look at role selection and area control.  I don’t know how revolutionary it is, but I like it.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  It’s a fun, quick game that can be used to start off a night, and provides some good strategy among the chaos.  If you don’t mind a lighthearted look at the Black Plague, I’d recommend you check it out.  Thanks for reading!

Buzzworthiness: Kingsburg

This week’s review is of a classic dice allocation game:

image by BGG user tanis

image by BGG user tanis

Kingsburg was designed by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco, and was originally published in 2007 (Fantasy Flight first published the game in the US in 2008).  It’s a game for 2-5 players that takes around 90 minutes to play.  The game is all about trying to build up your province for maximum prosperity, all the while keeping an eye on the hordes of goblins, demons, and barbarians that will attack after each year.  The game comes with a large board, 15 colored player dice, 6 white game dice, 15 player discs, 60 goods cubes, 85 building tokens, 20 “+2″ tokens, 5 province sheets, a royal envoy pawn, a season marker, a year marker, and 25 enemy cards.  Each player gets a color, and puts a disc on the score track, soldier track, and turn order track.

The game lasts for five years (what?!? I thought the box said 90 minutes!!!), and each year follows the same sequence.  First is the Aid from the King phase, in which the player with the fewest buildings receives an extra die for the spring (tied players all get a good of their choice).  There is then a spring production round, in which all players roll three dice.  The player with the lowest total will go first, and the player with the highest total will go last.  Players will take turns placing at least one die on one of the 18 advisors.  The total on the dice must equal the number of the advisor you’re influencing, and there are modifiers you can use to change the result.  You can’t place on an advisor that already has a die or dice on it.  This continues until all players have placed all of their dice (or can no longer place any more).  You then resolve the advisors in order:

  1. Jester: Gain one point.
  2. Squire: Take one gold.
  3. Architect: Take one wood.
  4. Merchant: Take one gold OR one wood.
  5. Sergeant: Recruit one soldier, marked on the soldier track.
  6. Alchemist: Transmute one type of good into the other two.  So gold becomes wood and stone, wood becomes gold and stone, and stone becomes gold and wood.
  7. Astonomer: Take a good of your choice, plus a +2 token.
  8. Treasurer: Take two gold.
  9. Master Hunter: Take one wood and your choice of gold or stone.
  10. General: Recruit two soldiers on the soldier track, and peek at the enemy for the year.
  11. Swordsmith: Take one stone and your choice of gold or wood.
  12. Duchess: Take two goods of your choice, plus a +2 token.
  13. Champion: Take three stone.
  14. Smuggler: Pay one point to take three goods of your choice.
  15. Inventor: Take one gold, one wood, and one stone.
  16. Wizard: Take four gold.
  17. Queen: Take two goods of your choice, gain three points, and peek at the enemy for the year.
  18. King: Take one gold, one wood, one stone, and recruit a soldier.

Once resolved, it’s time for a building phase, where players can spend resources to build structures that will give them certain advantages in the game.  You do not have to build.

After the spring building phase, it’s time for The King’s Reward.  The player with the most buildings gains a point (tied players all get the point).  There then follows a summer production round, which is just like the spring production.  After resolving advisors and building, it’s time for The King’s Envoy to be assigned.  The Envoy goes to the player with the fewest buildings (ties are broken by goods, but further ties mean no one gets it), and allows you to place on an already influenced advisor once during the next three production seasons.  Next is the fall production season, which is just like spring and summer.

Everything changes in the winter.  You get one opportunity to recruit more soldiers, with each costing two resources.  You then roll a die to see how many reinforcements the King sends to everyone, then reveal the year’s enemy.  All players whose defense exceeds the number on the enemy gains a small reward.  All players who have less defense than the number on the enemy card suffer a harsh penalty (which is often worse than the reward is good).  Players who tie get nothing, but also lose nothing.

Play continues for five years, with enemies getting steadily tougher.  After the fifth year, the player with the most points wins.

COMPONENTS: Kingsburg is a very attractive game.  The art is really nice and does not distract from the game play at all.  The board is laid out in a very logical manner, with the advisors set up in a kind of pyramid.  There’s also a track so you can keep track of the season, another for the year, another for turn order, another for soldiers, and another around the board for score.  The symbols are all fairly easy to follow – gold, wood, and stone are all represented by icons showing the actual item.  The soldiers are represented by a shield and crossed swords behind it, goods of your choice are represented by bags, VPs are represented by flags, and the ability to peek at the enemy for the year is a weird little pink flame thing.  These symbols are present on the buildings as well as the advisors.

The building board features four rows of four columns each.  Each building has some text and symbology to remind you of their special abilities.  It’s well laid out.  The building board itself pretty thin, made out of cardstock, and tokens will easily slide around on the glossy surface if you aren’t careful.

The dice in the game are fairly lightweight.  They are made of wood, and are in different colors to correspond to the players who control them.  The dice I roll always seem to roll really low, which may be a problem with the physical components rather than my dice luck.  I have heard other people comment that certain dice in each copy never seem to roll as well as others.  In my copy, it’s the black dice, which happens to be the color I always play with.  Seriously, people think I’m joking when I say the dice hate me in Kingsburg.  The last game I played, I got over 11 over my three dice one time.

Overall, I think the components in this game are very nice.  I might change the player boards to make them have a little more traction, but other than that, everything is great.

THEME: When this game came out, there were not a lot of Eurogames with fantasy themes.  This one broke some new ground, and now we see them everywhere.  The theme here is kind of generic – you’re building up your empire in preparation for enemy attacks at the end of each round.  In fact, if not for these enemies, this game could just be a standard medieval theme.  That little extra twist helps open the game up to new audiences that might not try it otherwise.

MECHANICS: Kingsburg is a dice allocation game.  That means you roll the dice, then assign them to different places in order to gain certain advantages.  It’s kind of like worker placement, though your “workers” are variable from round to round since they must be rolled first.  The randomness of this dice roll is mitigated by the number of modifiers you can potentially get (+2 tokens are readily available, and certain buildings also allow you to change what you roll), as well as being able to split the dice and combine them in different ways to influence your preferred advisors.

There is a heavy dose of resource management in this game as well.  Throughout, you will be collecting resources – wood, gold, and stone – and trying to spend them in such a way that you will help your kingdom out the most.  Another resource you’ll have to keep track of is your defense.  You can build structures to increase your protection, but you’ll probably also want soldiers.  Getting soldiers costs you dice, and will be hotly contested, especially in the later rounds.

The yearly enemy attack is in place to force you to think about defensive positioning, and possibly distract you from other paths.  Early in the game, the enemies are fairly easy to defeat, but they do get tougher as the game goes on.  One aspect of the enemies I find most interesting is that the benefit of defeating one is not as good as the penalty is bad.  For example, defeating the first year goblins might get you one wood.  However, LOSING to those same goblins will cost you a wood, a stone, a point, and a building.

It’s nice that the game follows the same sequence from year to year, and even has three production seasons before you hit the baddies for the round.  The Aid from the King and King’s Envoy are good catch up mechanisms, while the King’s Reward gives some nice bonus points for someone concentrating on building.  The rounds tend to flow smoothly, with a nice climax at the end with the reveal of the enemy.  Overall, the game flows very smoothly.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There is a lot of strategy in Kingsburg.  Though the central mechanism involves rolling dice, there’s still the determination of where you want them to go.  Do you use that 4-5-6 on the 15 and get one of each resource, or do you try to get three soldiers (the 4-6 and the 5)?  Or do you use the 4-5 to get one wood and one stone, then use the 6 to turn the wood into gold and stone?  Of course, you can look at other people’s dice, see what they’re trying to do, and try to get in their way to meet your own ends.

The buildings provide an interesting extra level of strategy.  There is no interaction between player buildings, but you can give yourself certain advantages by building wisely.  Some people will build all of the military strength they can.  Others will go the economic route to make things cheaper in the long run.  Still others will go for straight points.  There are many paths, but all seem to work well.

There’s also some strategy in holding back on your building.  Getting that extra die or the King’s envoy can be huge, while the King’s reward is only a point each year.  So you might want to not build as quickly as some other players, lying in wait to strike.

While there is luck, there’s still a lot of strategic opportunities.  The game is well balanced, and this is evident in a game I played a couple of years ago where all three players were tied at the end.  We had to go to the last tiebreaker (resources) to determine the winner (it wasn’t me – I came in third of all tied players).

ACCESSIBILITY: Kingsburg is not an overly complicated game, but it’s also not one I would recommend to people who have never played hobby games before.  I see it as a good next step game – once someone has dipped their toe in the ocean of gaming, this might be a good place to take them next.  There’s a lot going on, and while it’s all fairly intuitive, I can see it being pretty overwhelming for a complete newbie.

REPLAYABILITY: Because of the multiple paths to victory, and inherent luck of the dice rolling, there’s some good replayability in the game.  However, I can attest that it does tend to feel a bit samey after a while.  The advisors never change, and the buildings never change.  The expansion apparently ramps up the replayability (I’ve never tried it, so I can’t say).

SCALABILITY: Kingsburg is a game that I think plays quite well with all numbers.  With two, there’s not going to be as much bumping into each other, whereas having more increases the tactical decisions of where to place your dice.  I tend to like it with multiple players, but I think it does well with all numbers.

FOOTPRINT: This is a pretty big game that needs quite a bit of space.  The board is 22 inches square, and has storage places for all tokens and resources.  But then, each player has their own building board and needs a place to roll their dice.  So I’d suggest a medium to large table.

LEGACY: When Kingsburg came out, there weren’t a lot of Eurogames that had a) heavy reliance on dice, or b) a fantasy theme.  It was one of the games that, I think, turned the tide and started producing more of the hybrid games we see now – it’s a resource management game with dice and monsters.  It still stands up these seven years later as a great example of how to really make the two poles of gaming work together.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  I think Kingsburg is a great game that everyone should try.  As always, your mileage may vary and it won’t necessarily be a game for you.  But it’s a great example of how dice allocation works, and is a fun and beautiful game on top of that.  Thanks for reading!

The Eleven: Bait Games

This month on The Eleven, we’re going to look at Bait Games.  This term, I believe, was introduced by Scott Nicholson to describe games that are used to lure people to the table.  Games are  visually appealing, easy to teach, and quick playing.  They are games that can be set up on the table before an event, and when someone comes over to say “What is THAT?!?”, you have something ready to teach and play at a moment’s notice.  So here are eleven games I would classify as good bait.


image by BGG user kaylex

image by BGG user kaylex

Animal Upon Animal is a children’s game that is published by the German toy and game company Haba.  It was designed by Klaus Miltenberger, and was originally published in 2005.  Each player has a matching set of seven wooden animals – a monkey, a snake, a penguin, a sheep, a lizard, a hedgehog, and a toucan.  There’s also a die and a wooden crocodile.  At the start of the game, the crocodile is on the table, and a player rolls the die.  This will determine what happens.  They may need to stack one or two of their animals on the existing pile (which animal might be their choice or an opponent’s).  You may be able to give an animal to another player to place.  Or, you may be able to place an animal next to the crocodile, extending the surface area of the pile.  If you knock any animals off, you have to take two into your hand.  The first player to successfully get rid of all animals is the winner.

This is a very easy game that is very visually appealing – the wooden animals are really cool.  This is primarily a children’s game, but it is very engaging and challenging for all ages (the box claims that it’s good for ages 4-99…so if you’re 100 or older, you’re out of luck).  The die roll may introduce some extra luck into the game, but it’s a dexterity game, so people with a steady hand will excel.  But even if you don’t, the collapse is very satisfying, and doesn’t take as long to set up again as, say, Jenga.  This is some very good bait, check it out.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

AttrAction is a game designed by Jeff Glickman and published by R&R Games that features 25 magnets that are spread all around the table.  On your turn, you choose a magnet on the board (or in your hand if you have any) and flick it.  You are then allowed to pick up any magnets that stick together as a result of this flick (but only one set if multiples are created).  Once all magnets have been claimed, the player with the biggest stack wins.

This game is all about the magnets, and people are going to hear them before they see the game in action.  The magnets are really strong, and come together with a loud CLICK.  Of course, if you come at the wrong polarity, your magnet you flicked is going to veer off in the wrong direction and you will say bad words.  This happens to me ALL THE TIME.  When it’s all said and done, this game lasts five minutes (if that), and you WILL play more than one at a time.  This works really well as bait – you might say people are attracted to it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Ca$h ‘n Guns originally came out in 2005, but the box you see here is from the 2014 reprint by Repos Productions.  The game was designed by Ludovic Maublanc, and plays with 4-8 people.  The idea is that you are a gang of criminals splitting up the loot from some big heist.  However, there’s no honor among thieves.  In each of the eight rounds, players will choose a card from their hand (CLICK or BANG), then everyone will simultaneously point foam guns at each other.  If you have a gun pointed at you, you can either choose to back away or stay in.  Everyone then reveals their card, with BANGS wounding the player being aimed at.  Anyone that did not back away or get shot then gets to split the loot, with players taking turns choosing one of the cards involved.  The player with the most money at the end of eight rounds wins.

This is definitely a game that will catch people’s attention.  If you’re walking through a convention center and see a bunch of people pointing foam guns at each other, you’re going to be intrigued.  (I will say that the original edition had orange guns, but the guns in the second edition are black, so exercise caution in where you play it.)  There’s deceit and bluffing involved throughout, and it’s fun to see where all the guns are pointed every time.  Every time I’ve played, they’ve mostly been pointed at me in the first round.  It’s a game you can really get into, and there’s usually a lot of Reservoir Dogs references going on.

image by BGG user toulouse

image by BGG user toulouse

Dexterity games are prime candidates to be bait, and Crokinole is the king.  This 19th century game is played on a round board, and can either be played 1-on-1, or in two teams of 2.  The goal is to be the first to score 100 points.  On your turn, you’re going to flick a disk.  If there is nothing on the board, the disk must end in the center ring or it is taken off.  If there are any pieces belonging to your opponent(s) on the board, your shot MUST hit one of theirs, or it is taken off.  If a disk goes in the center hole, you remove it and place it to the side.  Once everyone has taken  all of their shots (12 in a two-player game, 6 each with 4), you score.  Pieces on the line are removed to the next lower region.  Pieces that went in the center hole score 20, pieces that ended in the center ring score 15, pieces in the middle ring score 10, and pieces in the outer ring score 5.  Whoever scores the most points is awarded points equal to the difference.  Alternately, you can play a best-of-whatever match so scores don’t look so lopsided.

Crokinole is a very attractive game that you can just keep set up.  It’s easy to figure out – take turns flicking your disks, try to score more points than your opponent(s).  The game is very fun, and had a nice charm to it.  The downside is that boards are ridiculously expensive, but believe me, you’ll get your worth out of playing them.

image by BGG user l10n0fjudah

image by BGG user l10n0fjudah

Incan Gold was originally published as Diamant in 2005, but this is the 2006 version (now published by Gryphon Games).  In this Alan R. Moon/Bruno Faidutti design, players are delving into different levels of an Incan temple to try to collect as much treasure as they can.  On each flip of a card, every player must decide whether they are going to go further in, or if they are going to leave.  If you leave, you get to keep all treasure you have collected in the round so far, plus you divvy up any treasure that was left over on the path between you and anyone else who left that turn.  If you go further on, you’ll see what the next card is.  If it’s treasure, you divide it equally among people still in the temple, leaving any remainder on the card to be picked up later.  If it’s a hazard, nothing happens…as long as it’s the first time that particular hazard has appeared.  If a hazard appears a second time, everyone still in the temple loses everything they have collected during the round.  After five rounds, the player who has collected the most treasure wins.

This is not the flashiest game on this list – it’s primarily cards, with some plastic rocks representing the gems.  There are some cool tents included in this edition, but it’s not the components that are going to draw people over.  It’s going to be the shouts of dismay when a second hazard appears, or the cheers of joy when a single person gets a 17 treasure all to herself.  They’ll learn the game easily, and because of the five round structure, you can jump in at any time and have just as much of a chance of winning as anyone else.  The more the merrier.  I think this is great bait.

image by BGG user Steverino

image by BGG user Steverino

Jungle Speed originally came out in 1997 from designers Thomas Vuarchex and Pierrick Yakovenko.  In this speed game, the object is to get rid of all of your cards.  You take turns flipping one card over from your personal deck until a pattern is matched.  At that time, the two players who matched are considered to be in a duel, and must simultaneously reach for a totem in the center of the table.  Whoever gets it gives any cards they have played to the loser, who puts them on the bottom of his deck (along with all cards he has played).  There are some special cards (all flip, all grab, and color match), and you have to be careful because a lot of patterns are VERY similar.  Once a player has successfully gotten rid of all cards, they win.

This is a very fast and frantic game, and will attract people to your table with the shouting and constant cries of anguish because of mistakes or being too slow.  The totem is a pretty cool component (and I’m really glad I have a wooden one instead of the rubber one included in the most recent copies).  The cards are unique, and this game is a blast.  A must if your are building a collection of bait games.

image by BGG user henk.rolleman

image by BGG user henk.rolleman

Loopin’ Louie is a rare mass-market game that has caught on with hobby gamers, partly because of its bait appeal.  Originally released in 1992, this Carol Wisely design involves a battery-operated crop-duster buzzing farms to scare the chickens.  Each player has a plastic arm which they use to try to bounce Louis away from their chickens, which are represented by little disks.  If Louie’s plane hits a chicken, the disk will drop.  Each player has three, and the last player standing is the winner.

This game is a ton of fun.  It’s pretty brainless, but it tends to be pretty loud.  It’s fun to play, it’s fun to watch.  It’s a kid’s game, but you will mostly see adult gamers with this these days.  You should always play with four people, and you can play a bunch of games in a row since it’s so quick.  Perfect bait.

image by BGG user laiernie

image by BGG user laiernie

PitchCar is a flicking race game where players are trying to get around a track.  This Jean du Poël design came out in 1995.  It’s really simple – you set up a track, then players take turns flicking their disks around the track, trying to be the first to cross the finish line.  If you go off the track, you go back to where you were.  There are curves, rails, and jumps throughout.

The visual appeal of this game is what makes it god bait.  You can set up the track any way you want, and the more expansions you have, the longer and more complex you can make it.  Your cars are disks, and they really fly if you’re not careful.  I know I always end up on the floor when playing.  This game leads to a lot of cheering, bad mouthing each other, and is really appealing to passersby.  It’s excellent bait.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Rampage (soon to be renamed Terror in Meeple City) came out last year from designers Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc.  In this game, players are giant monsters terrorizing a city made of meeples, the little wooden pawns made famous in Carcassonne.  It’s another dexterity game (last one, I promise).  On your turn, you have two actions – you can move by flicking your paws disk; you can drop your monster on an adjacent building; you can use your breath to try to blow things over; or you can pick up vehicles and flick them across the board.  At the end of your turn, you can eat some meeples in your area based on the number of teeth you have.  You can also eat floors of buildings once they are clear of meeples.  When all floors are gone, the game ends and players score 10 points per complete set of different colored meeples they have eaten, two points per tooth belonging to other monsters they have eaten, one point per floor they have eaten, and individual points based on their character.

I think this game has more setup than any other game on the list (except maybe PitchCar), but it also has a lot of visual appeal and is really easy to learn and play.  The scoring is kind of wonky, but you don’t really have to pay any attention to that.  Odds are good that you won’t be paying attention until the end – you’ll just be trying to cause as much destruction as you can.  It’s a lot of fun, and will definitely draw a crowd.

image by BGG user Mr Penguin

image by BGG user Mr Penguin

Tsuro is a path-building game designed by Tom McMurchie and originally published in 2004.  The board consists of 6×6 grid of squares.  The outer squares have two hash marks on the outer edge.  Each of the 2-8 players gets a stone and three tiles.  Each tile shows a series of lines that are used to build a path.  Stone begin the game on one of the hash marks.  On your turn, you play a tile from your hand directly in front of your stone, and move the stone along the created path.  If your stone ever leaves the board or crashes into another, you (and the person you crashed into) are out.  The last player standing wins.

Tsuro is an incredibly simple game to learn, and plays very quickly.  There is player elimination, but the game is so fast, you hardly notice.  It’s a very beautiful game to look at as well, and the visual appeal will help bring people to the table.  It’s fast and fun, is easy to set up and break down, and is a perfect example of bait.

image by BGG user unfathomable

image by BGG user unfathomable

Finally, Word on the Street is a 2009 word-based party game from Out of the Box and designer Jack Degnan.  In this one, two teams are playing a kind of tug-of-war involving letters of the alphabet on a five-lane street.  On your team’s turn, you will draw a card, and you will get a category like “An animal that can weigh over 100 pounds.”  Your team then has 30 seconds to think of a word that fits in the category, then move the letters of that word towards your side of the street.  So, if you said “Hippopotamus”, you’d move the H once, P three times, the T once, the M once, and the S once (no vowels in this game).  If a letter ever goes off of your side, you score it.  The first team to eight letters wins.

Party games are often good bait, either because they are really funny and loud (like Telestrations) or because they have interesting gadgets (like Tapple).  Word on the Street can get loud, but it’s more of a thinky game.  The arguments will come from whether or not a word REALLY fits the category, or sometimes even whether it’s one word or two.  The thing that I think will really draw people to it is the bits.  It’s got a nice long board, and plastic tiles for the letters that show different street signs.  It looks pretty interesting, and makes you want to find out more.  Then you can reel them in.


Please let me know if you have any other games you like to use as bait.  There are probably a thousand good options out there.  You can also go check out the GeekList Scott Nicholson started for some more ideas (some of which are on this list).  Next month, we’ll take a look at what comes next once you have gotten someone to the gaming table.  Thanks for reading!

Game Buzz: GenCon 2014

With GenCon a mere week away, I thought it was high time I put together a bit of a preview.  These are games I’m interested in knowing more about.  This is far from a comprehensive list – for that, go check out the BGG GenCon guide.  And, since I’ve already talked about them, this list does not include anything about Lords of Xidit, Five Tribes, or Abyss (which happen to be three of my most anticipated for the show).  I’m also not including games that are there just for demo, with Kickstarters or releases scheduled for after the con.  This is a quick rundown, not a lot of detail, and is organized by publisher.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Arcane Wonders, publishers of the Magic-esque dueling game Mage Wars, are coming out with their second title, Sheriff of Nottingham.  It’s a kind of party game where players are merchants trying to sneak goods into the city.  Players will also take turns being the Sheriff, and get to decide what goes into the city, and what stays out.  This game is part of the so-called Dice Tower Essentials line, which means Tom Vasel likes it.  It sounds like it will be fun for people who like deception and negotiation in their games.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Asmadi is a good small publisher that tends to come out with some pretty engaging games – Innovation, for example, one of my favorites.  This year, they have four titles at the show, three of which will be for sale.  This includes Consequential (a Carl Chudyk/Chris Cieslik co-design that will be on Kickstarter at some point in the future), Heat (a small recently Kickstarted game), and the recently released Impulse (another game by Carl Chudyk – this is one I must play at some point).  They also have an abstract game called Equinox, which looks very interesting to me.  Players are drawing pieces from the same pool, but pieces have two sides – one white, the other black.  These pieces have special powers, and the object is to have the most of your color showing at the end.  Sounds pretty interesting to me, I’m looking forward to hearing more.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Bezier Games has been since 2007, but was primarily known for Ultimate Werewolf for a long time.  In 2012, Suburbia came out, and a lot of people (myself included) gained some new respect for them as a force in the industry.  They’ll be demoing owner Ted Alspach’s game Castles of Mad King Ludwig ahead of its release at Spiel this year, but their big GenCon release is a new game in the Suburbia line, Subdivision.  This game, by Lucas Hedgren, is a dice rolling tile placement game that doesn’t play anything like Suburbia.  However, with the respect that Suburbia has garnered over the years, it will be interesting to see how this one does in its wake.

image by BGG user ezeqiel

image by BGG user ezeqiel

Fantasy Flight hasn’t revealed anything it will have at GenCon, though you can assume there will be X-Wing and Netrunner stuff by the score.  It’s also presumed that Ignacy Trzewiczek’s The Witcher Adventure Game will be there.  This one is

based on a popular video game franchise that I know nothing about.  But it’s Ignacy and Fantasy Flight, which means there are a LOT of people interested.

Also, I want to speculate about something that may or may not ever even happen.  It’s not uncommon for FFG to be very secretive, then drop some big announcements of reprints, next editions, and big licenses at GenCon.  I’m going to say that, this year, I think they’re going to announce Android 2.0.  The original Android, which came out in 2008 and was designed by Daniel Clark Kevin Wilson, was not really an overwhelming success for the company.  However, the universe captured people’s imaginations, and with the mind blowing success of Android Netrunner, I think they’re going to want to redo the original.  If we don’t see it this year, I’m going to assume it’s coming sometime in the very near future.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Flying Frog is always popular, and this year’s big release is Shadows of Brimstone, which is described as a fully cooperative dungeon crawl set in the Old West.  There are actually two versions of the game – City of Ancients and Swamps of Death.  The system was Kickstarted last year, and won’t really be available for general purchase yet.  However, it’s a massive game, and they’ll have enough there that I’m sure it will be talked about by a lot of people.

image by BGG user Funforge

image by BGG user Funforge

Funforge is a French company that has a lot of very well made, beautifully crafted games.  This year, they are continuing their relationship with designer Antoine Bauza to bring us Samurai Spirit.  In this cooperative game, players are samurai trying to defend their village from bandits.  It’s basically Seven Samurai: The Board Game, and continues Bauza’s tradition of designing games set in Far Eastern cultures.  Bauza’s a really great designer, and this looks to be a fun one.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

IELLO is another French company, and one that made a big splash in 2011 with Richard Garfield’s King of Tokyo.  This year, we’re getting the sequel – King of New York.  This is a standalone game that uses the basic mechanisms of KoT, but adds some new stuff – specifically Fame, which gains you VPs.  I don’t really know a whole lot about the new game, but it adds more monsters, has a board with more districts (and everyone trying to fight over Manhattan), and power cards that are unique to KoNY.  Definitely one I’m looking forward to trying since I’m a big fan of the original.

Mayfair made their name on Settlers of Catan, and has been very successful with that and a lot of other games since.  While I’m not terrible interested in their other products, I am interested in this:

Cones of Dunshire is a fictional board game created, with Mayfair’s assistance, for the show Parks and Recreation.  I’m a big fan of the show, was excited to see them branching out into the hobby world (Ben played Settlers of Catan for his bachelor party), and wish I was able to be at GenCon for the live Cones of Dunshire event.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to see some highlights at some point.

image by BGg user Deithos

image by BGg user Deithos

Paizo Publishing started out as a Dungeons & Dragons fan company, then began publishing the Pathfinder RPG in 2008.  In 2013, they made a big splash in the board gaming world with their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords.  This year, the second base set, Skulls & Shackles, is coming out.  The system is based on bi-monthly adventure packs – you’re playing through a story with your characters, getting new scenarios and cards every time.  It’s more like a Living Card Game than a Collectible.  I’ve played the original Rise of the Runelords, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ll be looking forward to hearing how the next set is going to be received.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Plaid Hat Games has been experiencing some delays with Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, but it should be out soon (if not already).  I wrote about Dead of Winter previously, but to recap: this is a “cooperative game” where players have their own agendas, and are working together to achieve their own objectives.  You only win if you have completed your objective, and there can be one-multiple-no winners.  There are zombies, but it seems that the game is less about them and more about the characters and story.  So I’m interested…I may even get to play BEFORE GenCon.  I’m also hoping that there might be some early looks at the upcoming SeaFall from PHG and Rob Daviau, but I haven’t heard anything about that.  We’ll see.

image by BGG user trzewik

image by BGG user trzewik

Portal is a Polish company owned by Ignacy Trzewiczek, and comes out with some very popular and well respected games every year.  This year, their big release is Imperial Settlers, which is based on a previous game (51st State).  In the game, you’re constructing buildings and sending workers there to collect resources and abilities.  The object is to score points.  It seems odd to me that they’re taking a science fiction game themed game like 51st State (which incidentally was the second game I ever talked about on this blog) and are making it into more of a Eurogame.  That seems opposite of the trend these days.  However, the game is getting a lot of good buzz, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

image by BGG user MadMoses

image by BGG user MadMoses

Posthuman Studios is a company I don’t really know much about. But Shinobi Clans catches my eye simply because it’s about ninjas. I don’t know much about the game, but it looks to be all about building a clan by drafting cards, then carrying out secret missions, all the while trying to thwart your enemy’s plans. It seems very ninja-ish in the things it’s trying to accomplish, and has some very interesting art that looks almost water-color. Will this become the ultimate ninja game? Time will tell.

20140804-134657-49617100.jpgRio Grande has long been a force in the game industry, but their influence seems to be waning a bit as more and more domestic companies are springing up to take over foreign licenses. They haven’t really had a massive hit since Dominion came out in 2008. But now, they are teaming up with designer Donald X. Vaccarino again to bring us Temporum. This is a time manipulation game where players are trying to alter the course of history in order to become stronger. The board will show the current path of history, as well as where it could go from here. It seems like a fascinating concept, and Donald X. is always worth checking out, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

image by BGG user Mr Pouple

image by BGG user Mr Pouple

Space Cowboys burst onto the scene earlier this year with Splendor, and promptly got nominated of a Spiel des Jahres. Their next game, coming out at GenCon, is Black Fleet, a nautically themed pick-up-and-deliver game from designer Sebastian Bleasdale. You’re in control of three different ships – a merchant vessel, a pirate ship charged with robbing other players’ merchants, and a Navy ship charged with sinking other players’ pirates. Space Cowboys already has a great reputation, and add a quality designer like Bleasdale, and this becomes a game that is on my watch list.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Z-Man rounds off this preview. One of the things they’re doing this year is expanding their Pandemic line with Pandemic: Contagion, where you are playing the disease. I’m hoping there will be more information about Pandemic: The Cure (which is the Pandemic dice game) and Pandemic: Legacy, but no word yet. The one most people seem to be looking forward to is The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade, a board game that is a major throwback to 80s arcade games. That one should do pretty well.  I haven’t really looked into it much, but it’s got some good buzz so far.

And so ends my look forward to this year’s GenCon.  It’s probably a good thing that I’m not going – I don’t think my wallet could take the strain.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

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