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The Eleven: iOS Games

This month, I’m going to look at some board and card games for iOS (plus Android if applicable).  I’m only including ones I have played (which means games like Agricola and Lords of Waterdeep are excluded).  Also, I only have room on the list for eleven games, so there may be a part II in the future.  I will add the disclaimer that I am NOT advocating the elimination of physical games.  I’d say that, if anything, most of these apps have convinced me that I want the physical version.  But, if you want to play and there’s no one to play with, these are some good alternatives.  On with the list!

image by VGG user CleverMojo

image by VGG user CleverMojo

Alien Frontiers (2010, Tory Niemann, Clever Mojo Games) will forever be known as the game that started the Kickstarter craze.  In 2012, an iPad version was Kickstarted, and was released that year.  Clint Herron developed the app for Clever Mojo.  Alien Frontiers is a worker placement game where players roll dice, then place them in various items to produce resources (fuel and ore), take alien tech cards, steal stuff from your opponents, get more dice, or place colonies on the planet.  There’s also some area control as you are trying to have the majority in different regions of the planet, which gives you special abilities.  The player with the most points when someone places their last colony is the winner.

The app does a pretty good job of representing the game.  It’s only playable in portrait mode, and the entire board is visible at all times.  You need some knowledge of the symbols to know what all the locations do, but it’s not too difficult to remember what they are.  To find out what a card does, just click it and text will tell you.  The space is used pretty well on the screen, not too small and not feeling too cluttered.  The AI is pretty good, though it does sometimes take some time to make its decisions (not nearly as long as people do in the physical game).  There is no tutorial for the game – clicking on the “quick rules” link opens up a rulebook PDF.  The music is very etheral and spacey, and you can just turn it off id you don’t want it.

Overall, I think the Alien Frontiers app is very good.  You only get the base game (for now – I’d be surprised if Factions didn’t show up eventually), but there are four levels of AI so you’ll get a different experience depending on the level (I haven’t played the pirate level, but I hear it’s pretty brutal).  You can also pass-and-play with it.  Take a look - it’s a very good implementation of the game.  It’s only available for iPad, and will cost you $4.99.

image by VGG user sycbed

image by VGG user sycbed

Amber Route (2013) is one of only two games on this list that is not actually based on a physical game.  However, it is still a digital card game, and it’s one that I enjoy, so I wanted to bring it up.  The game comes from Mobile Wings Interactive, and is essentially a game where players are making a journey by playing cards.  You’ll be accumulating three types of currency throughout – runes, meat, and gold.  Meanwhile, you’ll be carrying amber across a map, which is different for each level.  You’ll have a hand of six cards, and can pay to play one by spending the indicated currency.  Cards can gain you currency, affect your opponent, move you forward, increase your amber, or do other things.  You can even spend 20 of one type of currency to purchase a super card which can give you a major benefit or cripple you.  Each space along the map has a benefit or negative effect, and you have to take that into account.  When you get to the end of the map, if you have completed a victory condition, you win.  If not, you sit there until you do or until your opponent wins.  Oh, and if you ever run out of amber, you lose.

By all accounts, this is a game I shouldn’t like.  It’s very lucky – if you’re not getting the cards you need, you’re out of luck.  The super cards are incredibly swingy – you don’t know what you’re buying when you spend your 20, and it could potentially lose you the game right there.  And yet, I really like it.  There’s a lot of strategy in the resource management, and you have to keep an eye on different conditions to make sure you are in a position to win at the end.  Each board has different locations, and you have to be careful where you step.  It’s fun, but it’s kind of a trial by fire game – no tutorial is included.  Not that it’s that difficult to understand, but still.  The art is nice, and there’s a campaign mode, as well as single missions.  You can also play it face to face with another player.  I’d recommend you check it out – this one’s available on iOS (iPad and iPhone for $1.99) and Android ($13.10).

image by VGG user sbszine

image by VGG user sbszine

Ascension (2010, John Fiorillo/Justin Gary, Stoneblade Entertainment was one of the early deckbuilders to come out in the analog market, and one of the first truly successful board game apps.  The app was developed by Playdek, and has earned almost universal acclaim since its initial release.  The game pits 2-4 players against each other with the goal of earning the most Honor points.  Six cards are dealt randomly into the center row, and players take turns playing cards from their hands to try and acquire cards that will get them points.  There are two types of currency in the game – Runes, which are spent to acquire heroes or constructs; and Power, which you use to defeat monsters to gain rewards.  You play until 60 Honor points have run out, and the player who has the most Honor (including earned points and points on cards in your deck) wins.

The app for Ascension is phenomenal.  It plays quickly, makes it easy to find all relevant information (including double-tapping on cards to look at them closer), and has very smooth controls.  The tutorial, too, is top-notch – it really is a model of how to teach a game by sending you in and teaching you as you play.  The biggest problem I’ve found is that, late in games, the computer player can bog down and take a long time to play.  However, overall the app works well.  Playdek listened to feedback after the inital release and allowed players to decide how many Honor points you want to play to (which is good – I always feel that 60 makes the game too short), and allows you to mix all expansions together.  I’ve said before that I don’t think Ascension is a game I would enjoy in the physical environment – it’s very random and has a few too many moving parts – but for a mindless iOS game, it’s very fun.  Playdek will no longer be supporting this app after this year (Stoneblade is doing their own), but for now, it’s FREE for iOS Universal.

image from iTunes store

image from iTunes store

Epigo (2011, Chris Gosselin/Chris Kreuter, Masquerade Games) is an abstract game for two players that combines elements of programmed movement with tug-of-war.  The app was developed by Red Finch Software.  The basic idea of the game is that you have seven numbered tiles on the board, and you want to try to push three of your opponent’s tiles off the board.  Players simultaneously choose three numbers, and then simultaneously reveal them one at a time.  The higher number goes first, and if it’s a tie, nothing happens.  The numbered tile will move in the indicated direction (if possible), and you’re trying to maneuver your pieces so you can knock off your opponent.

Epigo is a very simple game, but has some very deep and agonizing decisions to make.  The app itself really does a good job of implementing the game, with smooth controls and a good interface.  There are different levels of AI, but even the hardest is not too challenging.  You can also play online, which I’ve done once.  You wouldn’t think a programmed movement game would work well for asynchronous play, but they’ve found a clever way to do it.  You make your choices of your tiles, then your opponent does.  After the resolution (which is automatic – no decisions to be made there), your opponent chooses before the turn shifts back to you.  That way, you can get two turns done at once, and makes the game go much quicker…some other apps on this list could probably take a hint.  Epigo is available for iPad and iPhone for $3.99.

image by VGG user asutbone

Lords of Waterdeep (2012, Peter Lee/Rodney Thompson, Wizards of the Coast) is a light worker placement game that took the world by storm just because it was a Eurogame set in a Dungeons & Dragons world.  The app was developed by Playdek.  Lords of Waterdeep is a 2-5 player game where players take turns putting workers in various locations to earn resources that are then spent on completing quests.  Resources include money and cubes (the cubes represent fighters, rogues, wizards, and clerics).  Along the way, you can also play Intrigue cards to help yourself or hinder others.  Additionally, each player has their own secret role that gives them bonus points if they fulfill certain conditions (usually specific types of completed quests).  At the end of eight rounds, the player with the most points wins.

I wasn’t completely crazy about Lords of Waterdeep the first time I played it, but after playing it several times through this implementation, I’ve really gained an appreciation of the game.  It’s a very tight experience with people battling for resources needed for each quest.  The app is really good – it zooms right in on the board so you can see where you’re looking, and it’s easy to zoom back out for a wider view.  As with other Playdek games, the tutorial teaches you while you play, which is great.  The app is very smooth, and all relevant information is very easy to look up.  If you like Lords of Waterdeep at all, I’d highly recommend this app.  And if you’ve never played the game, I’d highly recommend this app.  And if you DON’T like Lords of Waterdeep…this probably won’t change that.  Unless your complaint is that it’s too long and fiddly, in which case you might want to give it a try.  It’s for iOS Universal, and you can pick it up for $6.99.

image by VGG user thequietpunk

image by VGG user thequietpunk

Neuroshima Hex (2006, Michael Oracz, Portal Games) is a 2-4 player abstract tactical wargame set in a post-apocalyptic future.  The app was developed by Big Daddy’s Creations.  In the game, each player has an army of hexagonal tiles, and takes turns placing up to two of them.  These tiles will either have a melee combat, or a ranged attack, or will give you some other benefit.  When the board is full, or when someone plays a special battle tile, it’s time for war.  The highest initiative numbers will go first, attacking simultaneously, with any destroyed pieces leaving the board first.  This goes util you get to initiative 0, which is the bases.  Bases have 20 hit points, and it’s the player with the most HP left on their base at the end who wins the game.

I’ve never played the physical version of Neuroshima Hex, but it’s one that interested me even when that was all there was.  With the app, I don’t have to do my own accounting and can just let the computer keep track of battles.  The tutorial walks you through the game, but you’re not actually playing.  The controls are not terrible intuitive – it took me a while to figure out how to pass a turn – but they can be understood.  It’s a game I really like (even though I’m terrible at it), and I would definitely recommend the app.  It’s for iPhone and iPad, and costs $4.99.

image by VGG user RighteousFist

image by VGG user RighteousFist

Puerto Rico (2002, Andreas Seyfarth, alea) is the game that ruled the top of the BGG charts for a long time, and the game I still consider to be the pinnacle of European game design.  The app was developed by Ravensburger.  In the game, 3-5 players try to earn points by shipping goods and building buildings in colonial Puerto Rico.  On your turn, you’ll choose one of 6-8 roles and enact its effects.  All other players will then get to do the same action, but you get a small benefit for choosing the role.  These roles could build your plantations, construct buildings, gain colonists, produce goods, sell goods, ship goods, or earn money for you.  When the colonist supply runs out, or someone fills all of their building spaces, or when the VPs run out, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.

I love Puerto Rico.  It’s one of my favorite games.  So getting the app was a no-brainer for me.  The app, while functional, is kind of difficult to get through.  The playing area is kind of cluttered as Ravensburger made the decision to try and get all player information on-screen at all times.  As there is no hidden information (other than points), that makes sense, but it results in everything being really small.  The app does highlight pertinent information, but it’s sometimes hard to see.  You can get advice on different plays to make throughout the game, though I tend to ask for advice and completely ignore it.  I would say to give it a look because all the pieces work – it’s just cluttered and small.  This one is only available on iPad, and will cost $4.99.

image by VGG user wizcreations

image by VGG user wizcreations

Quarriors (2011, Eric M. Lang/Mike Elliott, WizKids) is a dice-building game where players are trying to cast spells and summon creatures in order to score Glory points.  The app was developed by Icarus Studios.  In the game, 2-4 players take turns drawing dice from their bag and rolling them.  From the results, players can spend Quiddity (the currency of the game) to summon creatures and capture new dice from the wilds.  Each player’s creatures will attack other creatures, and if yours survive to your next turn, you score Glory points.  When a die scores, you can cull dice from your used pile, which is a good way to thin out the basic dice.  When one player gets to a preset number of points (20 in a 2-player game, 15 with 3, and 12 with 4), the game is over and they win.

Quarriors is a game that I was really excited about, and then was underwhelmed by.  I found it to be too short and too dependent on luck – luck of the draw AND luck of the dice, not really a great combination.  So, when the app went on sale for free back in March, I got it.  I find it to be a little better than the original in that it’s much faster, making it not quite as frustrating when I can’t roll what I need.  At the same time, I miss the really cool dice in the game.  The app itself works pretty well – they keep doing updates, so now it’s not crashing on me as much as it was.  The controls work OK, though it is a little annoying to tap a die for defense and have to look at the card for it again.  I would NOT recommend the online game – Quarriors does not work in its current format.  A player rolls and summons, then has to wait for all opponents to (in turn order) defend.  When it gets back to you, you can capture from the wilds, which you may choose not to do.  Then your opponent goes, and if they attack, you have to manually defend – defending is required, and you still have to manually doing it even if you only have one die to defend with.  It takes SO LONG, and your turns end up taking FIVE SECONDS.  TERRIBLE.

So, in summation: Quarriors is an OK app for an OK game.  It doesn’t wow me like the Ascension app, but it’s definitely worth what I paid.  You can get it for iPad for $3.99.

image by VGG user wizcreations

image by VGG user wizcreations

Small World (2009, Philippe Keyaerts, Days of Wonder) was one of the first iPad apps.  It was actually advertised with the first generation of iPads.  The game came out, and it was clean and functional and was held up as a standard to attain.  However, it was only two-player.  Last year, Days of Wonder Kickstarted Small World 2, and update that increased the number of players (you can play with up to five) and redesigned the app.  The game itself involves players taking on the roles of different races to rule a small world.  On your turn, you place your pieces out to conquer different regions, kicking out anyone who is there.  Each player will have a different race and power that give them different abilities, and every now and then, you’ll have to get a new pairing.  This is done by sending your active race into decline, then claiming a new one on your next turn.  At the end of a preset number of rounds, the player who has scored the most points wins.

Small World is a great light wargame, and the app is really a phenomenal implementation.  The first version was great because it pioneered iOS apps for the iPad, and the second version has taken things to the next level.  It’s a smooth implementation, with all relevant information easy to find and help remembering what you can do whenever you need it.  For example, if you are attempting to take over a region with not enough troops, a die icon will appear to let you know you’ll be rolling if you place there.  My only real complaint with the app is that the tutorial is a YouTube video.  Nevertheless, it’s a great app and you should get it.  The app is for iPad only, and costs $9.99.

image by VGG user celiborn

image by VGG user celiborn

Solforge (2013, Stoneblade Entertainment) is the second game on this list that is not based on a physical product, but it is partially designed by Richard Garfield, so I wanted to talk about it.  The game is a two-player collectible game where players are attempting to bring their opponents down to zero hit points.  Each player has five lanes, and will take turns playing up to two cards (creatures and spells).  Creatures cannot attack on the turn they are played, but do damage if they are attacked.  Each card has a certain number of hit points, and are destroyed if that is exceeded.  If there’s nothing in front of an attacking creature, the player takes the hit.  What sets Solforge apart is that there is a leveling up mechanism – whenever you play a card, you get a copy of the next level card for your deck.  So you have to think about, not only what’s going to be good for you now, but what’s going to be good in the future.  When one player reduces the other to zero, they win.

I first downloaded Solforge when it was first released in beta, and wasn’t too impressed.  However, I kept it on my iPad, and after an update, I gave it another shot.  And I really like it now.  I have not bought any decks, I’m just playing against the computer with the basic decks, and I have a lot of fun.  I love the leveling up aspect – it’s a completely new kind of deck building that would be completely impractical in a physical game.  The game can lag sometimes, but generally, I really enjoy it.  If you want to give it a shot, you can get for iOS Universal for free, or you can play it in Windows via Steam.  You can try it out for free (be careful – it’s collectible, so the first hit is free).

image by VGG user wizcreations

image by VGG user wizcreations

Suburbia (2012, Ted Alspach, Bezier Games) is a city-building game where players are trying to get the highest population through different buildings.  On your turn, you buy a city tile and place it in your suburb.  Depending on its placement, it may increase your reputation (thus increasing your population) and/or your income (thus increasing your cash flow).  Other players may end up playing tiles that also increase your reputation and income, and it’s entirely possible that you’ll play tiles that decrease your reputation and income.  There will be some shared goals players are competing for, and each player will also have secret goals they are working towards to increase their population.  When the tiles run out, the game ends and the player with the highest population wins.

Suburbia is a tough game to play in its physical form because there is SO MUCH to keep track of.  The app takes care of it all for you, and that makes it a good way to experience the game in a quicker format.  In addition to the solo mode with varying levels of AI and online mode, there’s a campaign mode where you can play through different scenarios to try and achieve winning conditions.  Right now, I’m stuck in Essen on easy mode, which is still pretty challenging.  The screen doesn’t always scroll well, and sometimes the tiles will get stuck in an odd position.  That’s the only issue I have with it.  I like the app, and I’m glad I picked it up.  It’s for iPad only, and you can get it for $4.99.


One more quick app for you before I go - AppShopper is an iPhone app that organizes different apps and lets you know when things go on sale.  I’ve been using it to keep an eye on a number of apps I want to try, including Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Stone Age, Qwirkle, Kingdom Builder, Agricola, Carcassonne, Fealty, Yggdrasil, and Eclipse.  It’s let me know about some really good deals so far (including the currently free Warhammer Quest, which I’m really liking), so do check that out if you want to not pay full price for these apps.

Hope you enjoyed this look at iOS games.  If you want to play me sometime in any of these, my GameCenter name is asutbone.  Thanks for reading!

It’s Tuesday.  Must be time for a review.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Hey, That’s My Fish! is a 2003 game by designers Günter Cornett and Alvydas Jakeliunas.  Fantasy Flight is the current US publisher, though you may find the previous (and MUCH LARGER) edition from Mayfair Games.  Hey, That’s My Fish! is an abstract game for 2-4 players, where each person controls 2-4 penguins in a race to collect the most fish before losing all of the ice.

The game comes with 60 hexagonal ice floe tiles, each showing 1-3 fish.  These are laid out in alternating rows of 7 and 8.  Each player then takes turns placing their penguins on one of the one-fish floes (2 penguins each in a 4-player game, 3 in a 3-player game, and 4 in a 2-player game).  Once all penguins are placed, players take turns moving one of their penguins.  The penguin can move as far as you like in a straight line, not crossing holes in the ice and other penguins.  You remove the floe you just left and keep it as your score.  This means that holes will begin appearing all over the playing surface, so you have to be careful not to get trapped.  The game ends when no penguin can be moved anymore.  Players count up the fish they have collected, and the player with the most wins.

COMPONENTS: The original English version of Hey, That’s My Fish! was ridiculously large.  It came in a large box, it had large tiles, and it had large (though very nice) penguin minis.  It was kind of overkill, and when Fantasy Flight picked up the game, they miniaturized everything.  The tiles are now tiny, the box is small and square, and the penguins are very small as well.  This makes it much more affordable (you can pick it up for $13 in a game store).  I think the miniaturization serves the game well – it makes it more portable, and is more suited to the lightness of the system.    The only information provided by the tiles is how many fish there are, and this is not hampered by size.  The penguins are pretty cool little plastic guys running around.  The components get a thumbs up.

THEME: This is an abstract game, but this is an example of an abstract that does its theme pretty well.  Penguins are racing around trying to collect the most fish.  You’re leaving a hole in the spot you leave, which you can rationalize by saying that you broke the ice to get the fish.  You are sliding across the ice to your next destination.  You could easily change the theme to something else, but I think it works how it is.  The theme is tied enough to the mechanics that it helps in learning the game and giving you a reason for play.

MECHANICS: The basic mechanism is the point-to-point movement as you slide your penguins across the ice.  More subtle, however, is an area enclosure mechanism where you are trying to lock up large areas of fish that only you can get to.  Or trying to trap your opponents in a very small areas, hopefully together so they can duke it out for just a few fish.  Overall, the mechanics are very simple and very intuitive, and lead to a lot of strategy in the game.

STRATEGY LEVEL:  The only bit of randomness in the game is the layout of tiles at the very beginning.  Tiles are randomly placed in their rows, leading to a variable setup every time.  The fish are distributed with 30 one-fish floes, 20 two-fish floes, and 10 three-fish floes.  This leads to 100 total fish on the board, which can be helpful in determining how many you need to lock up a victory.  You’ll find that the three-fish floes disappear very quickly as people tend to set up their penguins so they can get to a three-fish floe first.  However, if you look at it, there are only 30 fish available on the three-fish floes, and 40 on the two-fish floes.  So it might be worth it to try and lock up a bunch of two-fish floes while others are fighting over those three-fishers.  There are lots of opportunities to trap your opponents, and you have to be careful that you aren’t also falling into a trap.  There is a ton of strategy in the game, much more than you would think.  Personally, I’m terrible at it, but I’m getting better the more I play.

ACCESSIBILITY: This game is probably one of the best gateway abstract games out there.  It’s simple enough that kids can grasp it, but not so light that it will be uninteresting to gamers.  The cute penguins and fish provide aesthetic appeal, and the intuitive rules really help people to get into it.  The random set-up means that no one is going to be able to “solve” the game, and that will help gamers of all levels to stay competitive.  It’s good stuff.

REPLAYABILITY: You can knock out a game of Hey, That’s My Fish! in 15 minutes.  The biggest barrier to just setting it up and playing again is the amount of set-up required.  Still, every game will be different, and players can always find new ways to play.  You can fool around with the layout of the tiles, coming up with new patterns at the start.  This is also a game you can blow up and play a life size version of, with people as penguins.  Lots of replayability.

SCALABILITY: I think Hey, That’s My Fish! plays really well with 2, 3, and 4 players.  BGG users seem to think that 3 is the best, but I’d play it with any number.  You’re not going to get as many fish in the 4-player game, but each tactical decision becomes VERY crucial.  In the 2-player game, you have more penguins to keep track of, and that can make traps very dangerous – you don’t want your penguins too close to each other, or they’re going to get locked up in the same area.  Three player seems to provide a balance between the two, but again, I’d play with any of the player counts.

LEGACY: When I look at an older game, I’m going to start trying to think about the game’s legacy.  I think Hey, That’s My Fish! is a pretty important game in that it came up with an abstract title that could be played by kids without being dumbed down for adults.  I would put it solidly in the gateway category, and I would call it one of the greats.  It’s a model of efficiency in rules that can create great strategic experiences.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  This is one of those games I think everyone should own.  It can be pulled out in any gathering of game players, and will produce a good time with each.  Of course, the game does have its detractors – most calling it dull (not enough explosions) or too fiddly – but I think it’s a great one for the family and for the game group.

Thanks for reading!

Last year, the Level 99 Minigame Library came out featuring six small games in one package.  Following in the same trend, Dice Hate Me Games is currently Kickstarting a batch of six 54-card games for their Rabbit line (which they define as small quick games).  These were all winners in the 54-Card Challenge issued by DHMG last fall.  I really like the concept of releasing several smaller games as part of one package – it gives a lot of variety, and you get six games for what you might spend on one more component-heavy experience.  With the Kickstarter ending Sunday, I wanted to give this one a quick look.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

Diner (Matthew O’Malley) was actually the grand prize winner of the 54-Card Challenge.  It’s a 2-4 player game where players are waiters trying to make the most money in tips.  The game is kind of a real-time experience, with players taking actions simultaneously.  Each player begins with one action token (the player to the dealer’s left starts with two), and when the game begins, everyone can take their actions, then pass their token.  There are no turns, and you can only take an action if you have a token.  It’s possible one AP-prone person will accumulate all the tokens, which means others will be waiting and probably yelling at him to hurry up.

There are four possible actions.  You could draw, taking a plate  to your hand from the Kitchen stacks.  You could seat in your section by taking a table from the Lounge area and putting it in your section.  You can have as many tables as you want, but every one you don’t serve costs you money at the end of the game.  You can seat at the counter, which basically means you’re discarding a table from the Lounge to the Sink (discard pile).  Finally, you can serve by giving the table all plates they ordered.  The plates go in the sink, and the table goes into your tips pile.

When two Kitchen stacks are empty (for the first time in a 2-player game, and for the second time in a 3-4 player game), it’s closing time.  Whoever has made the most in tips wins.

This one looks pretty cool.  I really like the idea of the real-time aspect as players need tokens to take actions, and have to pass them once the action is taken.  There’s nothing to prevent you from hoarding tokens (though there is a variant where players can take them from you if you get all of the tokens), but I would imagine that you want to keep the game moving so you can get more points.  This seems like a game that someone with AP can ruin, but it seems quick enough that I can’t see it being too much of a problem.  This is one that I would really like to try sometime.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

Brew Crafters Travel Card Game (Ben Rosset) is based on the big box Brew Crafters game.  In the game, 2-4 players are trying to brew different types of beer to earn Rep.  On a turn, a player will first draw two cards, either from a face-up array or from a face-down stack.  You will then either play a card for its brewery effect, brew a beer, or pass.  Brewery effects are played in front of you where they will remain for the rest of the game.  To brew a beer, you simply discard the required ingredients and score.  If you don’t want to do one of these, you pass to end your turn.

Once a player gets to 21 Rep, the game ends once everyone has had an equal number of turns.  You apply bonuses and see who won.

I have to say that, just from a theme standpoint, I am less interested in this game than any of the others.  The theme is definitely unique, and kudos for that, but it doesn’t interest me at all.  I was aware of the Brew Crafters Kickstarter when it was on, but I didn’t look into it at all.  I don’t know how this game compares – it seems like a pretty light set collection game, with the added twist of cards that can serve as two things – brewery effects or ingredients.  Using a card as a brewery effect effectively takes its potential ingredient out of the game, so I’d imagine that that’s something to look out for.  The game seems solid enough, I just don’t like the theme.

image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

image by BGG user Bryan Fischer

Pie Factory (Bryan Fischer) is a game for 2-4 players where you are working in…well, a pie factory.  Everyone is trying to get a promotion by building and boxing pies.  The game is played over two days, or two times through the deck.  In each round, players will each take an action – draft an ingredient from the assembly line, play a card from your hand, box a pie (score a completed pie), or draw an ingredient from the deck to your hand.  According to the prep time for each player, turn order is adjusted, then cards that were played are placed in pies.  When the deck runs out the first time, each player must discard one unboxed pie (it goes stale overnight) and the deck is reshuffled.  The second time, the game is over.  The player with the most points wins the game.

I don’t like pies either, but I find this to be a better theme than Brew Crafters.  At least, it’s more family friendly.  It’s another set collection type game as players are trying to build the best pies.  This one has a time mechanism that adjusts the turn order much the same way as a time track game – each action takes you more time, meaning that you may have to go later next time (cards at the back of the assembly line cause you to discard in order to draft them).  I’m still unsure of the rules for building pies – you need a crust, but I don’t know if there are rules for the ingredients.  Still, it looks like a pretty good game.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

Easy Breezy Travel Agency (J. Alex Kevern) got first runner-up in the 54-Card Challenge.  2-4 players are travel agents working in Sheboygan in 1974.  Your job is to get people to New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Miami via planes, trains, or buses.  In the center of the table, there will be a ticker consisting of four money cards (1-4), as well as one destination card from each city.  This destination card tells you where you’re going, the method of transportation, and how many passengers can go there.

On your turn, you can recruit passengers (draw two cards from the face-up row or face-down stack), execute a departure (turn in the required passenger cards and earn money based on the position of the destination card on the ticker), or reorganize (exchange cards from your waiting area with another player’s waiting area).  When a destination stack runs out, the endgame is triggered.  You get extra money for bookings in your most common city, as well as in your most common transportation type.  The player with the most money wins.

This game features a variable market that is at very simple, but provides some interesting decisions.  I can imagine that it’s important to weigh the option of trying to get the fare up, but hoping someone doesn’t snatch it from you in the meantime.  Also, the ability to trade with waiting areas is kind of cool – you have a hand limit of four, so anything beyond that goes into your waiting area, which can then be ransacked by an opponent.  I think you have to keep a careful eye on what others are doing so you don’t inadvertently help someone else out.  This is one I’m really interested in knowing more about.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

The Fittest (Graham Russell) is a game for 4-6 players about competing in a reality show.  Each player gets a random contestant, each with different skill numbers.  They’ll then take turns being the leader.  The leader reveals a game card, which gives them a challenge.  There then follows a negotiation game where the leader is trying to recruit help because it’s doubtful they’re going to pass a challenge on their own.  Players can ask for a share of prizes for their participation, and all deals are binding.  During this time, anyone can play cards for their effects.  In the attempt phase, players involved in the challenge may play boosts to try to get their skills up, and one bonus flip can be used to add some more help to the attempt.  If the attempt succeeds, the leader collects the prizes and distributes them as agreed.  If the attempt fails, no prizes are awarded.  Anyone who did not participate in the challenge draws a card.

The game ends when someone needs to draw a card and can’t.  Prize values are totaled, plus players get a bonus two points for each prize that matches their highest skill.  The player with the most points wins.

I think reality competitions are ripe for games to be made about them, and I’m glad to see this theme here.  The game is kind of abstracted out, however.  There are names for the effects of cards, but no description of the challenges – that’s just comparing skill values.  I guess players are left to their own to decide what a challenge represents.  Nevertheless, this does look like a pretty interesting negotiation style game.  Players can hold out for more prizes if they are necessary for victory, but they can also try to con their way into getting better prizes.  That, at least, is just like a reality competition.  Definitely one I’d like to try.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

Isle of Trains (Dan Keltner and Seth Jaffee) is a 2-4 player game where players are trying to build the best train and deliver cargo.  The island is created with six cards, and each player begins with a level 1 engine and five cards in hand.  On your turn, you take two actions.  You could draw the top card of the deck.  You could build a card from your hand by paying its cost in cards.  You could load a card from your hand onto any player’s train car that can hold it – this gets you a special benefit.  Or you could deliver cargo to fulfill delivery contracts and receive cards.  If you fulfill a contract (one of the island cards), you claim it and flip it over, revealing two secondary contracts.  You can only fulfill one of those.

When the entire deck (draw pile and discards) is exhausted, or when a certain number of contracts have been claimed, the game is over.  Players get one more turn, then add up their points from train cars, completed deliveries, buildings, and loaded cargo.  The player with the most points wins.

It’s another train game!  And while that is not something that excites me, I was initially drawn to the game by the art and the idea of having an island of cards.  I like the idea of stripping down a pick-up-and-deliver game to its basics.  It has the Race for the Galaxy concept of spending cards to pay for cards, and I like that you can use other player’s trains to load goods.  You do need to watch out as that gives your opponents goods to complete contracts.  Looks pretty good.


 

Overall, this looks like a pretty good project.  I think most of the games look pretty good, and they all have something different to offer.  It’s more of a Euro set than the Level 99 Minigame Library, and that’s a good thing – keeps it separate and scratching a different itch.  The only ones that seem a little generic are the Brew Crafters game and Pie Factory, as they are both collect ingredients and make stuff games.  But everything seems pretty solid.

The Kickstarter campaign has three reward levels.  You can either get Diner, Brew Crafter Travel Card Game, and Pie Factory for $25, or you can get Easy Breezy Travel Agency, The Fittest, and The Isle of Trains for $25.  The other option is to get all six for $50.  There’s no way currently to mix and match.  I think the second set is probably stronger, but it’s probably worth getting everything – it’s less than $10 per game.  The campaign ends on Sunday, so go check it out – they are funded, but there’s always stretch goals.  Thanks for reading!

Happy Reviewsday!  Let’s kick April off with a review of possibly the greatest game of all time…

image by BGG user JBMallus

image by BGG user JBMallus

Tic-Tac-Toe is a classic abstract game for two players.  The creator of the game is lost to the winds of time, but the game remains a staple of the pen-and-paper set.  It’s a model of simplicity – the game is played on a 3×3 grid of squares.  Play proceeds with one player placing an X in one of the nine squares.  The other player then places an O in one of the eight remaining squares.  Play alternates back and forth between the two until one player has claimed three squares in a straight line, or until all squares have been claimed with no winner declared (a draw).

COMPONENTS: Tic-Tac-Toe is an extremely versatile game.  It can be played on beautifully crafted boards, or on a piece of paper.  Players have even been known to draw grids in sand, and mechanically inclined types may construct a grid out of items like twigs or toothpicks or pencils.  Your mileage will vary depending on how much you like your goober.  I’m kind of partial to this one from Ralph Lauren – if only I had $595.

THEME: As an abstract game, there is no theme to Tic-Tac-Toe.  However, as I mentioned, the game is quite versatile, and the use of Xs and Os is not the only way to play.  Any two opposing forces can be used.  Angels vs. demons.  Yankees vs. Red Sox.  Beatles vs. Monkees.  Axis vs. Allies.  Humans vs. aliens.  A battle for the fate of the entire world can be fought just using a simple 9×9 grid.  Quite an amazing thing.

MECHANICS: The beauty of Tic-Tac-Toe is its simplicity.  It’s just placing pieces and trying to create a pattern of three in a line.  This leads to tense decisions, shrewd planning, and clever placement.  The mechanics are simple, but they lead to the strategic appeal of the game.

STRATEGY LEVEL: Tic-Tac-Toe is often criticized for a lack of strategy, but I think those critics have missed the point.  Tic-Tac-Toe is the original microgame, with its small size leading to an incredible amount of choices.  If you think about it, the first player has nine choices for the first placement, but the second player then has eight.  Already, there are 72 different combinations.  With the 7 remaining choices for the third move, there are now 504 possible board permutations.  If the game makes it to the ninth move, there are over 362,000 ways the game could have gone.  Pretty remarkable for nine squares, no?

I’ve done a lot of study into the strategy of Tic-Tac-Toe, and I thought I’d share some of my findings with you here.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so go ahead and skip to Accessibility if you don’t want to be spoiled.

I’ve found that the ideal first move is in one of the corners.  This leaves your opponent with eight choices, and seven of them will lead to automatic wins if you follow my strategy plan.  Let’s say your opponent goes into another corner.  Your next move should be to go into another corner – if you go to a side space or the center, you will get into a blocking war and end in a draw.  In another corner, your opponent will be forced to block you in between yours.  This will then free you to make your third move set up two ways to win.  Your opponent will only be able to block one, and you will win on the fourth move.

Let’s back up.  You play in a corner and your opponent plays on the side.  Your next move should be to place in an adjacent corner (NOT the opposite corner – that will lead to a blocking war).  They’ll block, and you’ll be able to make your third move to give yourself that blessed two ways to win.

If your opponent counters your first move with a center placement, you will have a bigger kill to climb.  My suggestion is to try placing in the opposite corner.  If your opponent plays on the side, you’re most likely going to end up in another blocking war.  However, if he places in another corner, you’ll be able to block with your third move and set up that two ways to win scenario.

Beginning on the side or the center isn’t as much of a slam dunk, but you can still win.  I’ll leave you to figure out how.  Likewise, if you are the second player, it’s going to be much more difficult to win.  I’d suggest you always counter the first move with a placement in the center.  If they begin in the center, block on the corner.  Trust me.

ACCESSIBILITY: Tic-Tac-Toe is a game that anyone of any age can play.  All you have to know is what shape to use.  The subtle strategies of the game are perhaps not available to younger players, but it’s a game for all ages and skill levels.

REPLAYABILITY: I already said there are over 362,000 possibilities for a game to play out.  That’s a lot of replayability right there.

SCALABILITY: Unfortunately, Tic-Tac-Toe is only a two player game, so if you’re looking for a multiplayer experience, you’re out of luck.  However, the game is so quick that you could line up a tournament fairly easily.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? …No.  I almost kept it up, but I can’t do this with a straight face any longer.  Tic-Tac-Toe is terrible unless you are playing against a three-year-old.  Then the only joy is torturing them by always winning.  And since you would have to be a horrible monster to want to torture a three-year-old, just don’t play it.  Happy April Fool’s Day, and I’ll be back with something real later this week.  Thanks for reading!

Time for another Kickstarter blitz.  There’s a bunch to get through today, so let’s go.

image by BGG user johnnyudes

image by BGG user johnnyudes

Cave Escape (Devin Plowman, Anjis Games) is a game about trying to escape from a 5000 ft deep cavern as quickly as you can.  However, only the first person to escape will survive, so you have to sabotage each other to make sure you get out.  In each round, 2-6 players will be spending adrenaline tokens to gain special dice, some of which help you and some of which hinder others.  You then roll the dice as many times as you wish to try to gain distance and adrenaline to spend on the next turn.  However, rolled obstacles are set aside and having three of them will cause you to lose all progress for the round.  The round ends with players giving each other the purchased obstacle or sabotage dice they got at the start of the round.  The game ends when someone makes it to the top.

Cave Escape looks like a pretty light push-your-luck style game with some serious meanness.  If you don’t like take-that mechanisms, I’d stay away.  The campaign ends tomorrow, so get in on it soon if you’re interested.

  • Project Ends March 29 @ 3:34 PM CDT
  • Goal: $1,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: June 2014
  • Pledge levels: $15 PNP, $35 game, $45 game plus three exclusive characters
image by BGG user LudiCreations

image by BGG user LudiCreations

Town Center (Alban Viard, LudiCreations) is actually the fourth edition of a game that came out in 2012.  It’s a city-building game where 1-4 players are using cubes to create a three-dimensional city.  Cubes are drawn from a bag at the start of each round, and the first player creates as many two-cube towers as there are players in the game.  Players will each get two cubes, choosing one at a time to take the top cube from a tower.  Cubes are built into each player’s city.  Depending on the placement, residential and commercial development occurs.  Taxes are collected, and players can buy utilities and elevators.  The game ends when the bag is empty (10 rounds), and the player with the most points wins.

Town Center is essentially an abstract game, but one that makes an effort to have a theme.  The method of choosing cubes at the beginning of each round looks very important, and the first player has a very important job in choosing how to stack them.  After that, there are strategies in determining how to place everything to maximize your revenue and eventual points.  I think it looks pretty good, and the fact that it’s a fourth edition means that LudiCreations is pretty committed to making this into a great game.  It ends tomorrow, so hop on if you’re interested.

  • Project Ends March 29 at 8:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2014
  • Pledge levels: $60 game, $200 game plus custom map of your city
image by BGG user feeleash

image by BGG user feeleash

Höyük (Pierre Canuel, MAGE Company) began its life as a PnP game in 2006, and is now getting a full edition.  This 2-5 player game is set 10,000 years ago, and players represent one of five clans trying to establish dominance.  In each round, each player gets two construction opportunities to put up houses, pens, ovens, and/or shrines (determined by randomly dealt construction cards).  Elements are placed in blocks, and there must be at least two players in a block for it to get anything – being by yourself does you no good.  After a catastrophe phase, aspect cards are distributed to players with the lead in each element for the block.  Aspect cards can allow you to build an additional element or score points.  After a player builds their 25th house, the game ends and a final scoring occurs.  The player with the most points wins.

Hoyuk is one of those games that initially attracted me because of the beautiful art, but it also looks like a pretty good game.  There seems to be a lot of strategic options in determining how to build up your höyüks, and trying to get the majority of certain elements to get aspect cards seems like a big deal.  It looks like a pretty clever tile placement game, and I’ll be interested to see how it comes out.

  • Project Ends March 31 @ 3:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $15,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $50 game, $95 game plus expansions

This next one is not a game, but I wanted to give it a little attention as an accessory.  Pro Tabletop Gaming Audio (Wes Otis, Plate Mail Games) is a project to fund the creation of audio loops suitable for playing during gaming sessions.  It’s primarily intended for RPGs, but could probably be ported over to board games pretty easily.  The tracks are all thematic, and there are 40 different tracks up for grabs in four different 10-track bundles.  This is actually the third project they have run, and they’ve been fairly successful.  There are some track samples on the Kickstarter page, so go check it out.

  • Project Ends April 1 @ 1:00 AM CDT
  • Goal: $7,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $15 one pack of 10 MP3 loops, $27 two packs, $36 three packs, $40 all four packs, $300 to help record monster and crowd sounds
image by BGG user iamwaggle

image by BGG user iamwaggle

Lineage (Justin Waggle, Gray Wolf Games) is a martial arts game where masters are attempting to train their students in their particular lineage while the emperor and general are trying to unify everyone under one banner.  Essentially, the game is an abstract where some players (the masters and students) are trying to get their pieces to the center, and the empteror and general are trying to get pieces in all four corners of the board.  The game is played in seasons, and each season blocks different tiles on the board from use.

I wanted to bring up this game because it only has a few days left and it’s not even close to being funded.  I’m a little surprised by this, particularly since they did a BGG contest – hose usually give games a boost.  I’m guessing that their goal was a little high, and cleaning up the rulebook might help attract some people.  Just one I’m keeping an eye on.  It doesn’t look good for them meeting their funding goal this time – according to Kicktraq, they are trending towards only reaching 58% of their goal.  There’s usually a bump in the last few days, so who knows.

  • Project Ends April 1 @ 11:01 AM CDT
  • Goal: $40,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: February 2015
  • Pledge Levels:
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Gone Viking (François Valentyne, The Flux Capacity) is a Viking-themed trick-taking game for 3-5 players.  The game plays out like a standard trick taking game – the highest value in the led suit (plunder) wins the trick, unless trump was played.  There are a few differences – first, players may have god cards in their hands that might give them an advantage.  Next, you may be accumulating wealth throughout the game, and at the end of each round, the wealthiest player will lose half of their wealth.  You can also spend wealth to get new cards or to buy a ship (which still counts as wealth but cannot be lost).  The first player to get a certain amount of wealth (7-9, depending on the number of players) wins the game.

Gone Viking looks like a good entry into the trick-taking genre.  It adds some resource management as you’re trying to not lose all of your wealth, and there’s some strategy in playing the god cards (but as there are only four, I don’t know how often you’ll be able to get them).  I generally like trick-taking games (with some notable exceptions), so this is one I’d definitely be interested in playing sometime.

  • Project Ends April 1 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $5,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2014
  • Pledge Levels (in CAD): $10 PnP, $30 game, $300 autographed game plus four autographed prints of the Viking gods
image by BGG user DragonCat

image by BGG user DragonCat

I talked about Baseball Highlights: 2045 (Mike Fitzgerald, Eagle Games) last week, so I’ll keep this one quick.  Baseball Highlights simulates a season in a futuristic version of the game of baseball, utilizing some deckbuilding mechanics, as well as hand management.  It focuses on building a team more than winning individual games, which makes it a sports game in the tradition of Blood Bowl Team Manager rather than Pizza Box Football or 1st & Goal.  Take a look – it seems cool.

  • Project Ends April 3 @ 4:51 PM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $32 game, $47 game plus a Mystery Rummy game, $86 game plus all four official Mystery Rummy games, $350 signed game plus dinner wit designer and Eagle/Gryphon at Origins 2014
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Ancient World (Ryan Laukat, Red Raven Games) is a civilization game for 2-4 players that is a bit bigger than Laukat’s last game, Eight-Minute Empire.  Players are managing city-states to become the most influential.  The game is played over six rounds, and in each round players will be taking actions, which can include placing citizens on action cards or empire cards, or attacking a titan.  Players are attempting to collect cards (empire, district, and titan) with matching tribe banners to increase their points, and the player with the most points wins.

The Ancient World is one of those games that I’m just going to have to see to really make a determination as to how it’s going to play.  However, it seems fairly straightforward, and the art is gorgeous – I love the effect of the statue coming out of the clouds on the cover.  I think it’s worth a look, so check it out.

  • Project Ends April 3 @ 6:22 CDT
  • Goal: $15,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: October 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $50 game
image by BGG user Floodgate

image by BGG user Floodgate

Epic Resort (Ben Harkins, Floodgate Games) is a 2-4 player game about building a resort to attract tourists heroes.  Of course, with heroes come monsters., and the heroes may or may not protect your tourists.  Players begin with the same 13-card worker deck, and begin a turn with 5 cards.  Simultaneously, they’ll send workers to their attractions.  After resolving the tourists for each attraction, players take turns attracting tourist cards (gaining resource cubes); attracting heroes (paying star cost); hiring workers (pay the money cost, then hire to discard pile or training to upgrade a worker in your hand); upgrading attractions (paying and placing in one of the three attraction slots); or passing.  After a ship arrives (possibly with monsters), the clean-up occurs and the game continues.  The game ends when the monster draw pile is empty, and the player with the most hearts wins.

Epic Resort has a really fun theme.  I love the resort idea, and placing it in a fantasy world really appeals to me.  Add that to a deckbuilding style game (with some simultaneous play), and this looks like something I would really enjoy.  I look forward to hearing more about it.

  • Project Ends April 6 @ 8:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $20,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $40 game, $90 game plus Legacy: Gears of Time
image by BGG user cbatarlis

image by BGG user cbatarlis

Raiders of theLost Tomb (Christopher Batarlis/Jim Samartino, Everything Epic Games) is on Kickstarter as a pay-what-you-want microgame.  What that means is you can give them as much or as little as you want for a copy of the game, as long as it’s at least $3.  The game comes with 6 cards, a boss monster track, and a zip-lock bag.  Players have to contribute 87 cents (12 pennies, 8 nickels, 1 dime, and 1 quarter).  On your turn, you’ll “roll” your pennies, then possibly move to the next space.  You can also attack another player to try and get the Holy Grail.  If you get to the escape with the Holy Grail, you win.

I’m very interested in watching as the microgame craze develops.  There’s a lot that can be done with it, and this is interesting because you’re using coins instead of dice for what amounts to a roll-and-move mechanism.  It does seem a little simplistic and maybe not very strategic.  But hey, it’s only $3, so it may be worth a look.

  • Project Ends April 7 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $3,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: April 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $3 game, $63-$253 game plus Secrets of the Lost Tomb board game with Kickstarter extras
image by BGG user dyskamipublishing

image by BGG user dyskamipublishing

Worker Placement (Mark C. MacKinnonm Dyskami Publishing Company) is a worker placement game about running a temp agency.  So the title is both a mechanical AND a thematic description.  In each round of the game, after player order is determined and new jobs are revealed, players draft business cards from a hand of three (keep one, pass one to the left, discard the other).  From the discarded cards, hold an auction for three of them (random selection of which).  Players then place workers on the game board – this can get you resource cubes or advance you on the thumbs track.  You can also fill jobs using appropriate skills.  After a preset number of rounds, the player with the most cash wins.

Worker Placement seems like a fairly standard worker placement game, but one with the most appropriate theme I’ve ever seen.  You send workers to various schools to gain skills, and then place them in jobs.  It just makes sense.  The audacity to call this game Worker Placement catches my attention, and I hope it does well in its funding.

  • Project Ends April 10 @ 9:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: April 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $10 PnP, $40 game, $65 game plus expansion, $1000 copies of every game Dyskami produces for the next five years plus dinner with the designer at GenCon
image by BGG user PilotStudy

image by BGG user PilotStudy

Inceptor (Reid Cuddy/Bruno Gervasi, Pilot Study) takes place in the dream world, where players are trying to plant an idea in the dreamer’s mind.  It is sort of based on the movie Inception, though not officially sanctioned (though permission was granted by Warner Brothers).  The board consists of four concentric circles, each representing a level of the dream.  On your turn, you can move around your current level (roll two dice and move), or you can announce your attempt to switch levels and try it.  You could also play a subconscious card.  Depending on the space you land on, you could draw an idea card, plant an idea, draw a subconscious card, or have nothing happen.  As you plant ideas, you will be completing missions, and the first person to complete all four phases of their mission announces the end of the game.  Each player must make it back to level 1 before 15 turns are up, or they are lost in Limbo.  After the dreamer wakes up, each player adds up their scores,  You’ll then randomly draw a cube from the bag from all players who completed their mission to see which on the Mark carries out.  That player gets 15 bonus points.

To me, it seems that this game has a lot of problems.  It’s roll and move for one, and there’s not a whole lot to do to mitigate that.  Also, the game comes down to what amounts to a random cube draw.  However, I like the theme and just think that it needs some more refining.

  • Project Ends April 10 @ 9:07 CDT
  • Goal: $30,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: April 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $25 totems only, $59 game, $110 game in an aluminum briefcase, $140 design a mission card
image by BGG user unipat

image by BGG user unipat

Pay Dirt (Tory Neimann, Crash Games) is a game about excavating gold in Alaska.  It’s particularly notable as being designed by Tory Neimann, whose game Alien Frontiers is credited with starting the Kickstarter craze in the board game world.  At the start of each round, players will bid on new equipment, personnel, and claims.  During the work phase, workers will be assigned to use equipment (move, process, or finish processing), make repairs on the equipment, or go to town (sell gold or buy gear).  In the hardship phase, players will draft a hardship card (the least gold gets first choice), then resolve them.  Finally, in the income phase, players get $2000 and the game is reset for a new round.  The game ends the round after the temperature falls to zero, and the player with the most gold wins.

This game seems pretty different from Alien Frontiers in several respects.  They’re both worker placement games, but this one has far fewer locations, and most variety seems to be within the personnel and the hardships.  The theme is pretty unique – I don’t know of any other modern gold mining games (much less mining for gold in Alaska), so that’s an appealing part of the project.  It’s still got a ways to go before funding, but do check it out.

  • Project Ends April 11 @ 12:AM CDT)
  • Goal: $35,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: October 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $50 game, $90 two copies
image by BGG user enditen

image by BGG user enditen

Till Dawn (Richard Launius/Jason Maxwell/Mike Wylie, 8th Summit) is a vampire game where players are hunting for blood.  The game is for 3-12 players (though only eight vampires are in the base game).  During each turn, the hunt leader draws the top card of the hunt deck and read it out.  A feeding card means that all players gain blood tokens.  An invitation card means that players need to try to guess what the next moon will be (blue, red, or crescent) to get a pay-off.  Night lingers cards allow sunrise cards to be placed back on top of the deck.  Sunrise cards cause the sun to start rising, which burn vampires and lose all of their blood tokens if it gets to 6 and they are not in their coffins.  Vampire hunters lose you health or blood tokens.  Werewolves attack the person who drew the card.  Once the card drawn has been resolved, players must decide whether to continue hunting or to retire to their coffins.  The round ends when there are no more active vampires, or when the sun rises all the way.  After three rounds, the game ends, and the player who has collected the most blood (which turns into caskets) wins.

This game is basically Incan Gold with vampires.  It’s a push-your-luck game where players are just trying to get as much blood as they can before jumping in their coffins.  There are a few extra things (guessing the moon, taking damage from certain events), but it generally seems like the same concept.  The box looks pretty cool – it might be worth it just for that.

  • Project Ends April 13 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $8,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: October 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $24 game, $39 game plus four-player expansion, $58 game plus all expansions, $75 game and expansions signed by Richard Launius
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Catacombs (Ryan Amos/Marc Kelsey/Aron West, Elzra Games) was a 2010 game that brought dexterity to the dungeon crawl genre.  Now a new version with more family friendly art is being Kickstarted.  The basic idea of Catacombs is that one player controls the monsters and the 1-4 are heroes.  Each player flicks discs around, attempting to knock out their opponents.  As the heroes advance through the dungeon, they’ll pick up money and equipment.  Once they get to the final room, they have to defeat a big bad in order to win the game.  Otherwise, the overlord wins.

Catacombs was a big hit for Sands of Time Games (as Elzra used to be known), but I know it was tough for them to keep up with demand.  Hence the Kickstarter.  I think the art now (which I do like) will help the game get into more mainstream outlets.  This probably means that future expansions will be in the new style, and all adopters of the original edition will have to get the new game if they want stuff to be compatible.  This one doesn’t bother me as much as the Pandemic new edition did, however – probably because Elzra is not as big of a company.  If you have never played the game, I’d highly recommend it.

  • Project Ends April 16 @ 4:04 PM CDT
  • Goal: $40,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $55 game, $500 design a variant for a monster that will be included, $800 meet and play with Aron West, $1000 design your own monster
image by BGG user Aerjen

image by BGG user Aerjen

Pleasant Dreams (Aerjen Tamminga, Aerjen Games) is a 1-2 player game where players are trying to fight off nightmares.  The goal is to stay asleep by keeping your number between 0 and 5 (5 means you wake up screaming).  You’ll decide how many dream fragments you want to experience, then will reveal that many cards.  Cards will then be resolved, either increasing or decreasing your wakefulness.  Some cards can be flipped and placed back in the deck.  If you are still asleep when the deck runs out, you win.

This is a VERY light game.  I like it because it’s got some nice art, and I really like the dreamy theme.  The biggest appeal in the two-player game is that you may be trying to make your opponent lose by stacking the deck (flipped cards go back in secretly).  There are only 19 cards in the game, so I don’t know how that will affect replayability, but I do think it looks like a game that kids will enjoy together.

  • Project Ends April 20 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $3,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $15 game, $22 two copies, $60 game plus prototype soon after campaign ends so you don’t have to wait
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Last one – 1st & Goal (Stephen Glenn, R&R Games) has been out for a while, and is my favorite football game.  R&R is currently trying to Kickstart a digital version of the game (iOS, Android, PC, and Mac).  The project ends on the day I plan to release Kickstarter Blitz #4, so I thought I’d squeeze it in here.  Go check it out – it’s a very clever system, and I’m hopeful that the digital version will attract a wider audience to the game.  Still a long way to go before it gets funded.

  • Project Ends April 25 @ 10:59 PM CDT
  • Goal: $25,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2014
  • Pledge Levels: $9 mobile game, $15 any platform game, $24 for both, $500 to design a team for online community league

Whew.  That was a lot.  Thanks for reading!

I thought about doing this entire review with words that begin with the letter F.  Unfortunately, alliteration is not my strong suit.  So, I’ll let Friedemann Friese do it for me.

It was fabulous! Fearlessly, you found the 3 fetishes in the Finnish fjord. With light-footed and foxy feints you ferry the fetishes to prince Fieso in France to free the fascinating faerie Fabula. But Fieso is not fond of foreigners, what a fiasco! You land freezing and foolishly find yourself trapped in a frightful fortress with sinister corridors. Now you must flee Fiesos trap. Furunkulus, the monster, is a frightening freak, especially fond of foolish foreigners. He will feed on you if he is able. So you want to fool Furunkulus and flee to freedom.

image by BGG user ddkk

image by BGG user ddkk

Fearsome Floors is a 2003 game from designer Friedemann Friese, published in the US by Rio Grande.  I believe the game is currently out of print, but it is playable online at yucata.de.  The game is for 2-7 players, and takes around an hour to play.  The basic idea of the game is that you are trying to get four (with 2-4 players) or three (with 5-7 players) tokens through a labyrinth without being caught by the monster Furunkulus.  Furunkulus is kind of stupid, but very ravenous.

The game comes with a board, 17 floor tiles (double-sided), 8 monster movement tiles, a starting player tile, 25 player discs with stickers, and a monster building kit.  That’s right – you get to build Furunkulus yourself, so he can be different every single time.  The initial set up of the board involves placing the floor tiles according to a preset map, or players can take turns placing various elements (blood pools, stones, teleporters, crystals, and turning points).  Furunkulus is placed at the exit, and all players begin outside the entrance.

On your turn, you move on of your 3-4 pieces.  The distance you can move is shown on the face up side of each token.  You can only move orthogonally.  You can’t land on another piece, and you can’t move through Furunkulus or teleporters or stones (though you can push stones if nothing is on the other side).  If you step on a blood pool, you slide all the way across it in a straight line.  Once you have completed your move (you don’t have to move as many spaces as are possible), flip your token over to its other side.  This will reveal a new number (the two numbers always add up to seven) and a new shading on the sticker (to help you know which pieces have already moved).

Once all players have moved all of their pieces (only two in the first round), Furunkulus moves.  Flip over the top movement token to see how many steps he takes.  This can be anywhere from 5-10 steps, or until he eats one token, or until he eats two tokens.  Furunkulus always moves the same way.  He takes a step, then looks left and right.  If he sees someone in one of those directions, he turns and starts moving towards that token.  If tokens are equidistant away, he becomes confused and continues in his current direction.  He can’t look through stones, but can see through crystals and teleporters.  He follows the same movement rules as the tokens with some exceptions.  He can always push stones, even if there is something on the other side.  If he steps on a teleporter, he moves to the other teleporter that matches it.  If he walks off the edge of the map, he appears at the matching spot on the other side (all spaces are marked with a letter).  If he lands on a token, that token is eaten.  If it’s the first time through the movement tokens, that token just goes back to the start.  If it’s the second time through, the token is eaten and removed from the game.

As soon as one player has moved all but one of his tokens out of the fortress, he wins.

COMPONENTS: For the most part, I give the components a thumbs up.  The board is mostly a rectangular grid of squares with two of the corners shaved off. In between each square is a column – this prevents people from saying “Why can’t I move diagonally?” “Because there’s a column in the way.” There is a letter on each wall segment for easy reference when Furunkulus goes off the board – he simply reappears at the identical letter on the other side. There are also bloodstains around the floor, but nothing too gruesome.

The tiles for obstacle are pretty clear, and it’s nice that they are double sided – one side is the basic stone and the other is one of the more advanced options. I like that there are several different styles you can use for Furunkulus with several heads, torsos, arms, and legs. They all fit together well. The movement tiles are gravestones, and it’s pretty clear what they are – those with a number mean the monster travels that many steps, and those with a cross (of crosses) mean that the monster travels until he gets a certain number of hits.

My only component complaint is a minor one, and it’s with the player discs. The discs themselves are fine, made of wood and in different colors. It’s the stickers. I hate stickers. And I hate having to do them myself. Maybe it’s just me. Overall, the components are good.

THEME: Fearsome Floors is all about running away from a monster. If you think about most monster movies, there’s usually the point in the movie where someone is running away and the pursuit is just relentless. The monster doesn’t stop, or slow, or change his pace at all. He’s just coming, and you can’t get away. He knows all the shortcuts, and you don’t. Often, your only hope is that he gets distracted by someone else. It stinks to be them, but at least you’re safe(r). I think this game does a marvelous job of simulating that. Furunkulus may be dumber than a bag of hammers, but he’s not going to stop, and sometimes that’s even more scary. I always appreciate psychological suspense over the cheap tricks to make you jump out of your seat. This game doesn’t rely on surprises or gore to get across the tension – it’s just that relentless chase that makes this one of my favorite games in the horror genre.

MECHANICS: Fearsome Floors is actually a very simple game, mechanically. It’s a race to the exit, and players are not rolling dice or drawing cards to move – they just move a certain number of spaces. You always know exactly how far a piece will be able to move, and you always know what the next move will be. This means there’s a lot of forward planning in the game.

My favorite thing in the game is the artificial intelligence Friedemann Friese created for Furunkulus. It’s very strict, so you know exactly how the monster will move. And yet, he always seems to surprise people, even those who are familiar with the game. It’s brilliant, and it’s the central mechanism that keeps the game from getting stale.

STRATEGY LEVEL: There’s is practically no luck at all in Fearsome Floors. The only bit of randomness in the game is the movement tiles for Furunkulus. Other than that, it’s all strategy, trying to position your pieces in safe spots, or how to send Furunkulus at your opponents without endangering yourself. That little bit of randomness serves to amp up the tension (I’ll be all right as long as he doesn’t draw the two hit tile…aaaaaand he did).

One of the most subtle strategic points in the game is turn order. As the game is turn-based, players will be moving one piece at a time with other players in between. This means that you may want to hold off on moving some of your more vulnerable pieces to see what others are doing before committing. Of course, if they do the same, you’re just going to have to roll with it.

ACCESSIBILITY: This game is very simple to learn. The strategy may take a while, but anyone can figure out how to move a piece, and then figure out how Furunkulus moves. The art is not terribly graphic – the worst thing is the pools of blood, which do have some little chunks of bone and guts in them. Most of the art, however, is very silly – Furunkulus isn’t really that scary to look at – so I’d say this game could be used with a wide range of people, young and old, experienced and inexperienced alike.

REPLAYABILITY: When a game has very little luck, people will often say that it is solvable and not very replayable. That doesn’t apply in this case. With the variable board set-up, as well as the alternate movement tiles for the monster, this game will hardly ever feel the same. I highly doubt there is one prevailing strategy – just run for the exit. Very replayable.

SCALABILITY: You can play with up to seven players, and I tend to think the more the merrier. Two is not as fun, and seven can get very chaotic. 4 or 5 is probably the best, but I’d play this with any number.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? YES. Fearsome Floors is my favorite Friedemann Friese game by far. (Hey, I can do alliteration when I want to!)  I hope this game gets another reprint because I still don’t have it in my collection. It’s an annual tradition to play this at our game group’s Halloween get-together, but it’s a great game to play any time. Do check it out on yucata.de if you’ve never played, and hopefully we’ll see it again in the future.

Thanks for reading!

 

I’ve mostly been saving my Kickstarter previews for the Kickstarter Blitz I do on the last Friday of the month.  But this is one I definitely wanted to highlight (pun intended):

image by BGG user DragonCat

image by BGG user DragonCat

Baseball Highlights 2045 is a new card game from Eagle Games and designer Mike Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald is most well-known for designing the games that are officially and unofficially part of the Mystery Rummy series – Bonnie and Clyde, History’s Mysteries, MR: Jack the Ripper, MR: Murders in the Rue Morgue, MR: Jekyll and Hyde, MR: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld, MR: Escape from Alcatraz (upcoming), and Wyatt Earp.  Baseball Highlights 2045 is something different as it is more of a deck-building game.  It is set in the future, where technology has invaded the sport of baseball and changed the way the game is played.  Basically, pitchers now have bionic arms (Borgs), hitters are robots (Bots), and fielders are regular humans that also attempt to hit (Naturals).  The game is for 2 players, with 3 and 4 player variants.

The game comes with four 15-card starting decks, a 60-card Free Agent deck, 4 player stadium mats, 4 sets of wood cubes in three colors each, 4 runs scored markers, 4 games won markers, and 2 home field markers.  6 cards from the Free Agent deck are laid out face up in a buy row, and each player draws the top six cards of their deck.  One player is determined to be the home team, and will go second.

Baseball Highlights 2045 is more about simulating highlights of baseball games rather than entire games.  The standard mode suggest that you play a 3-game mini-season, and then play the World Series as a best-of-seven match.  A mini-game consists of each player alternating play of the six cards in their hands.  The active player plays a card, then resolves the immediate action if there is one.  Cards will also have potential hits, and you’ll be attempting to block the potential hits your opponent played.  You’ll then place cubes representing your potential hits on the home plate.  If your opponent doesn’t stop them, they will advance, and anyone who crosses the home plate scores a run.  The mini-game ends when both players have played all six cards.  If there’s a tie on runs, play extra innings.

After each mini-game (including during the World Series), players total up their revenue from each player in the In Play box, then buy players from the buy row.  For each new player you buy, you must send a player to the Minor Leagues – you can only have a 15-man roster (i.e. a 15-card deck), no more or less.  Then, you play again until a champion is declared.

I’m a big baseball fan.  It is my favorite sport, despite the fact that my team hasn’t won a World Series in going on 106 years (three guesses which team that is, and the first two don’t count).  But I admit, it’s not the most exciting of sports.  The excitement comes in the thrill of the chase, and it looks like that’s what Fitzgerald was trying to accomplish with this system.  Like Blood Bowl Team Manager, the game focuses more on the season and building a team rather than on individual games.  And I think that’s a strength – it’s very difficult to simulate an actual game, but you can get the excitement by simulating highlights.  In fact, I’ll be interested to hear some comparisons between BH2045 and BBTM once this one comes out.

Of the Mystery Rummy games, I’ve only played Jekyll & Hyde.  I think it’s a great rummy game, and I’ve wanted to play others – just haven’t had a chance.  This one is getting some pretty good buzz, and I’m excited to see how it comes out.  The game is Kickstarting until April 3 and is already funded, so go take a swing at it.  (Sorry, that was terrible.  My puns always seem to strike out.  I should take a walk.  Maybe my next post will be a hit.  I’ve got a good one on deck.  Hope you don’t think it’s foul.)  Thanks for reading!

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