Kickstarter Blitz #15

Time for another monthly roundup of projects currently funding on Kickstarter.  On with the show!

image by BGG user Floodgate

image by BGG user Floodgate

Vault Wars (Jonathan Gilmour/Ben Harkins, Floodgate Games) is a game about bidding on the treasures left behind by adventurers that never return (think Storage Wars for D&D).  Each player has a contract with two heroes, one of which will give you bonus victory points at the end of the game.  You’ll also draft a hand of vault cards (3-5, depending on the number of players).  Each player chooses a vault card and reveals simultaneously.  You can then hire a worker to help you.  After this is an auction, and each vault card will be on the block in turn.  Each vault card will tell you a number of vault cards to draw (hidden), how many must be revealed by the auction master, and how many may be peeked at by the other players.  You then bid on the lot, and the winner gets the contents of the the lot, paying the auction master or the bank (if the auction master wins).  After everyone has auctioned their vault, you can sell items or keep them.  Once all players have auctioned off all vaults in their hand, the game is over and the player with the most points wins.

I’ve said many times that I just don’t like auction games.  However, this one has an interesting theme, and that counts for a lot.  You can see the upcoming auctions, and you know part of what’s in the lot.  It seems like a fun one.

  • End Date: March 27, 2015 @ 8:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $10,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2015
  • To Get a Game: $20
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough
image by BGG user JoystickJunkies

image by BGG user JoystickJunkies

Thunderbirds (Matt Leacock, Modiphius Entertainment) is a game based on the 1965-1966 British television show that use marionettes as the main characters.  The object of the game is to avert all disasters in The Hood’s scheme before time runs out.  The Hood is the main adversary of the series, and also the game.  In the game, players take turns to do three actions and draw a mission card.  Your actions could be to move, to attempt a rescue by rolling dice, to plan by taking a FAB card and advancing The Hood, or scan to move a mission card back one slot.  When you draw a mission card, you’ll either end up advancing The Hood or the mission cards.  You lose by running out of time to complete a mission, or The Hood triggers a disaster that the players can’t avert, or the mission card pile runs out.

Matt Leacock is the designer of Pandemic, and you can see that system all over this game.  It looks like a very different game, but it uses the action point system, the multiple ways to lose, and constant attack from the game as in Pandemic.  I’m not familiar with Thunderbirds lore, having never watched the show, but it does have a cult following and this game is funding very well.  So check it out.

  • End Date: March 29, 2015 @ 2:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: £20,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2015
  • To Get a Game: £40
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough
image by BGG user Justinschaffer

image by BGG user Justinschaffer

Far Space Foundry (Dan Manfredini, Terra Nova Games) is a game about mining crystals and transporting them between space stations (foundries) to earn points.  In the first half of the game, players use the Alpha side of the foundry board.  On your turn, you play a pilot card from your hand.  This card will allow you to either land a shuttle at a particular dock on the foundry or transport ore from your warehouse to your freighter.  If the dock you want to land in is full, you move around the rondel to the next available dock and collect more ore for the inconvenience.  If there’s no shuttle in the dock you want to use to transport ore to your freighter, you move around the rondel to the next occupied dock and move more goods for the inconvenience.  In the second half, you flip the foundry board to its Beta side.  Here, you will be transporting ore to the foundry, then using it to make robots, med kits, and deflector dishes.  The player who has earned the most points when the game ends is the winner.

This game looks like an interesting take on the rondel mechanism.  I like that it’s played in two halves – I tend to like games like that (though there are exceptions).  It has a nice look, seems fairly unique, and looks like a good mental exercise game.  Take a look.

  • End Date: April 2, 2015 @ 3:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $25,250 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: December 2015
  • To Get a Game: $39
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough
image by BGG user dknemeyer

image by BGG user dknemeyer

Tesla vs. Edison (Dirk Knemeyer, Artana) is a game about the battle to bring electric lighting to the masses in the late 19th century.  Players can be Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Elihu Thomson, Charles F. Brush, or Sir Hiram Maxim.  At the beginning of the first, fourth, and seventh rounds round, there’s a luminary auction where you can get some help from someone.  You then reveal propaganda for the round, and then players can start taking actions – send one or more luminaries to claim a project, advance in technology, engage in propaganda, participate in the stock market, or collect outstanding invoices (aka pass).  After everyone has used all of their luminaries, you collect money and evaluate inventor popularity, number of projects, and popularity of the different systems.  After nine rounds, the game ends and the player who has the highest valued stock at the end of the game wins.

Historical games interest me, particularly when they’re not about some obscure battle.  There’s a lot of history out there, and it’s good to see a company tackling something that can be just as tense without involving bloodshed.  I like the theme here, and the game seems pretty good – it’s kind of like worker placement, but more about speculation and money management.

  • End Date: April 2, 2015 @ 10:59 PM CST
  • Goal: $20,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: September 2015
  • To Get a Game: $49
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough
image by BGG user heya

image by BGG user heya

Addictive Alchemy (David Lupo, New World Alchemy) is a game about drinking potions for their power, but possibly getting some weird side effects.  Six side effect cards are placed in the center, and ech player gets a 15-card deck of potions.  You begin the game with five potions in your hand, one of which goes to your discard pile and one to your scrap pile.  On your turn, you will drink (play) two potions.  These have effects which occur immediately.  When it gets back to your turn, the potion combination you played will produce a side effect, which you follow.  These could be good or bad for you.  If you cannot draw a potion when asked to because your deck and discard pile are empty, or if you cannot play a potion when asked to, you are addicted and out of the game.  If you are the last person standing, you win.

This seems like a fun, quick game.  They’re calling it a deck deconstruction game because cards will be going out of your deck to the scrap pile, rather than adding new cards to your deck.  There’s player elimination, sure, but there’s also a mechanism in play to speed up the game once someone is out (other players take damage at the start of their turn automatically).  So I think it will work.  Looks good to me.

image by BGG user Debate

image by BGG user Debate

Lord of the Fries (James Ernest, Cheapass Games) originally came out in 1998, but Cheapass has been Kickstarting new editions of a lot of their old catalog, so here comes this zombie fast food game.  In the game, you are building combos out of random ingredients.  Each round, someone will choose an order from the menu, calling it out or rolling for it.  In turn order, each player sees if they can fill the order from the cards in their hand.  If they can, they play the cards, then choose a new item.  If not, the next player tries.  If no one can, it goes around again and players have the ability to leave stuff out.  Once someone has played all of their cards, the round ends.  You get positive points for cards you played and negative points for cards still in your hand.

This looks like a silly hand management game where you’re just trying to get rid of all of your ingredients.  I’ve played Give Me The Brain, which is set in the same zombie fast food restaurant (Friedays), and enjoyed it, though it is completely different from this one.  It’s not a brain burner of a game, just a chance to be silly and make random food with random ingredients.

image by BGG user muka

image by BGG user muka

Tumblin Dice (Carey Grayson/Randy Nash/Rick Soued, Eagle-Gryphon Games) was originally published in 2004.  This is a dexterity game where players are rolling dice down a staircase to try to score points.  Each player slides four dice down the stairs, and then points are scored based on where they land.  There are 1x, 2x, 3x, and 4x areas on the board, and you use that multiplier with the side the die ended up on.  After four rounds, the player with the most points wins.

I’ve heard about this game for a while, but have never gotten to play it.  It seems like a pretty fun dexterity game in the tradition of curling.  You can shoot to knock other dice out, improve your position, and of course try to get a high score.  I’ve always wanted to try it, so I’m glad it’s coming back into print.

  • End Date: April 4, 2015 @ 12:35 AM CDT
  • Goal: $25,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2015
  • To Get a Game: $60
  • Video: Dice Tower Review
image by BGG user angelkurisu

image by BGG user angelkurisu

Adorable Pandaring (Chris Cieslik, Asmadi Games) is a game about adorable pandas trying to get bamboo.  On your turn, if there are four or more adorable pandas in play, you score the red panda, which awards bamboo to players with adorable pandas.  If this scoring happens, you’ll get to choose a new panda law, which determines which pandas are currently adorable.  After this, you hide a panda from your hand, then play one, performing its effect.  You end your turn by drawing up to four cards.  If you are the first to five bamboo, you win.

This is a cute quick little game that is apparently going after the Exploding Kittens market, even though there are no explosions or kittens.  It still has a looooong way to go to catch up.  But it does look really cute, and I think it will be a good filler to bring out with the family.

  • End Date: April 9, 2015 @ 3:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $5,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: August 2015
  • To Get a Game: $12
image by BGG user MrGlubGlub

image by BGG user MrGlubGlub

Train Heist (Sean McDonald, Tower Guard Games) is a cooperative game set in the Old West.  Players are working together to stop a corrupt sheriff and the rich people of Notting County from stealing the town folks’ money (see where this is heading?).  On your turn, you draw up to five poker cards, then can take four heist actions.  These include moving, moving a horse, looting the train, dropping off loot at a town, flipping a railroad switch, trading cards with another player in your space, taking a bullet (which effectively saves an action for later), or escaping from jail.  There are also some free actions – using card abilities based on your poker hand, or mounting/dismounting a horse.  At the end of the turn, you move the train.  If you reach the predetermined goal of loot deliveries, you win the game.  If the event deck runs out and the train reaches a switch junction, or if the hangman’s noose reaches the bottom, you lose.

Old West games seem to be making a resurgence lately, and honestly, they have been hit or miss for me.  I haven’t played Colt Express yet, but I liked Spurs and really disliked High Noon Saloon and A Fistful of Dinero.  This one looks different from all of those, and combines pick-up-and-deliver with the cooperative genre.  This is one I’d like to try sometime.

  • End Date: April 14, 2015 @ 10:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $17,000 CAD (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • To Get a Game: $46 CAD
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough
image by BGG user Mad Scientist

image by BGG user Mad Scientist

Wizard’s Academy (Gregory Carslaw, 3DTotal Games) is scenario-based cooperative game where a group of bad magic students have to work together in order to succeed.  Each player has a character, each with its own special ability.  The academy is randomly generated each game (both position and orientation of the tiles).  There’s a board of spells, which may or may not be visible (known).  On your turn, you first play the disaster card that you’re holding, and then you draw another for the next turn.  This means you can prepare.  You can then take up to three actions – move, use the power of a room you’re in, or cast a spell.  After this, you endure any threats in the room your in (possibly resulting in injury or death), then can share one of your glyphs with the other players.  If you complete the given scenario, you win.  If you fail, you lose.

This looks like a pretty deep game.  A lot of strategy in how to use spells and how to complete scenarios.  The bits look great, and it seems to be getting a lot of good buzz.  So give it a look.

  • End Date: April 17, 2015 @ 2:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: £30,000 (not funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: April 2016
  • To Get a Game: £50
  • Video: Box of Delights Runthrough
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Best Treehouse Ever (Scott Almes, Green Couch Games) is a card drafting game about building and outfitting the best treehouse.  At the beginning of a round, each player is dealt six cards.  You’ll choose one card, reveal simultaneously, then pass the rest.  The card you chose will be built on your tree.  You have to keep your tree in balance, not making it too heavy on one side.  You’ll end up playing five cards in the round.  You score after each round – each color is worth a point, but there are modifiers players can play to double or nullify a color’s score.  The player with the highest score after three rounds wins.

This is a light game, much simpler than something like 7 Wonders.  And I have to say, the treehouses you are building look REALLY COOL.  This looks like exactly the kind of quirky game that would make good bait, and maybe even as a good gateway to deeper drafting games.  I’m calling this one my PICK OF THE MONTH.

  • End Date: April 18, 2015 @ 8:00 PM CDT
  • Goal: $15,000 (funded)
  • Estimated Delivery: November 2015
  • To Get a Game: $16
  • Video: Rahdo’s Runthrough

Thanks for reading!

As gamers, we have our own vocabulary.  And sometimes we throw words around without really thinking that others may not know what we’re talking about.  This post (and a few more after it) will attempt to define some of the terms we use a lot in the board game hobby.  This edition is going to look at some big picture terms, namely those that we use to label what we’re doing.

GameA competitive activity involving skill, chance, and/or endurance where players act according to an agreed upon set of rules for their own enjoyment or for that of spectators.

This definition was based on the definition I found at Dictionary.com.  There are several key points I want to highlight here.

  • Competitive: Games are competitive.  You can be competing against other players, or you can be competing against the game itself.  If you’re not competing, even marginally, then you’re not playing a game.  This is why I contend that a lot of party “games” are not games at all, just activities.
  • Players: You have to have people for it to be a game.  Games cannot be played by no one.
  • A set of rules: Games have to have rules, and rules should be set before the game begins.  If you’re making it up as you go along, you’re not playing a game.  Unless the game is Calvinball and the rule is that you can’t play the same way twice.
  • For their own enjoyment: If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?  Now, fun is a very subjective term, and different people have fun in different ways.  I don’t have fun at Agricola, but I would never say that it’s not a game because of that.  But a game is an activity you enter into with the intent to have fun – whether you do or not is not what makes it a game.

Tabletop Game: A type of game that can be contained to a relatively small flat surface, such as a table.

A big problem in defining the hobby is “What do you call it?”  Some people like to call them analog games, to differentiate from digital games.  Tabletop games seems to be the current accepted term that refers to all games that can be played on a table.  You can also play on the floor, on the roof, in a meadow, whatever, but the point is that you can play them on a table.  Does that make ping pong a tabletop game?  Sure, I’d be happy to call ping pong a dexterity game.  More on that next time.

Board Game: A type of game that uses some form of board as an essential component.

Card Game:A type of game that uses cards as its main component.

Dice Game: A type of game that uses dice as its main component.

When someone refers to “board games”, they are often referring to these three categories as a whole.  Certainly on BoardGameGeek, the three are interchangeable.  But there is a distinction.  Board games have boards, obviously.  But these boards are also integral to play.  Many dice games and card games also have boards, but these are usually used for storage and organization purposes rather than having an essential role in the game.  King of Tokyo and Marvel Legendary are two perfect examples of this.  A board in a board game, however, really is necessary to make things work.  In Ticket to Ride, for example, the board is necessary so you know where all the routes are.  The cards are very important in the game, but without the board, you’re just playing rummy.

So what about tile laying games?  Where do these land in the gaming spectrum?  I say they’re board games because usually you’re building the board as you play.  Look at Carcassonne – the playing surface is constructed throughout the game.

What about games that are played on the table and don’t have a board, cards, or dice?  I’m thinking in this case of dexterity games like Jenga or Animal Upon Animal.  I would still call these board games, and propose that the table itself is the board.  You think it’s not a necessary component?  You try playing one of these games without a table.

What about scoreboards?  Are those enough to categorize something as a board game?  No.  Cribbage is my all-time favorite game and it has a 121-hole peg board.  But it is far from necessary – you can keep score on a piece of paper.  Cribbage is a card game.

Board games can also have cards and dice as well, but the question I tend to ask myself is, “What is the most important component in this game?”  If it’s the cards, and everything else is just supporting the cards, it’s a card game.  If it’s the dice, it’s a dice game.  But if the board is there and essential to gameplay, it’s a board game.

Roleplaying Game: A type of narrative game where players assume the roles of different characters in fictional settings.

Roleplaying games, or RPGs, are free form games that are usually all about the story.  There is usually some sort of game master that runs the game, and players make choices that affect the world they are inhabiting.  Dungeons & Dragons is the classic RPG, but there are many different types out there.  Often, players will be deeply involved in character creation, campaigns, and building the world.  It may not be as competitive as some games, but the main objective is always to tell a great story.  Players are working together to meet certain objectives, and there are lots and lots of rules.  It’s usually a flexible experience, and one that creates a lot of enjoyment amongst its characters.

Miniatures Game: A type of tabletop game that uses miniature characters in a scaled simulation.

Board games and roleplaying games often use miniatures.  However, miniatures games exclusively have miniatures that follow real-life rules of movement and are used to simulate combat rather than abstracting it.  They often use rulers and other forms of measurement to figure out what movement is possible.  Players typically put a lot of care into their miniatures, painting them and setting up detailed terrain maps in order to play out their scenarios.

MechanicsThe details about how a game works.

Mechanics are the forces in the game that cause it to work.  This includes how you move, how you score, different actions you can take, and in general what makes the game flow.  You’ll often hear someone refer to a specific mechanic of a game.  This drives me a little crazy because a mechanic is someone who works on machines.  The proper term when talking about the individual systems is mechanism.  It is a series of mechanisms that make up the overall mechanics.

Why people in the hobby care about mechanics is that they are little DNA molecules that can carry over from game to game and help you to learn them.  If you are a big fan of Dominion and I show you another deck-building game, you’ve already got some idea of what you’ll need to be doing in order to be successful.  There are 51 mechanical styles listed on BGG, and lots of those encompass several different styles into general groupings in order to help you find more games you might appreciate.

Theme: The story of a game.

The theme of a game is basically what it is about.  Why are you moving those pieces around?  What are you trying to accomplish?  Why should you care?  There’s a very wide range of possible themes out there, and while every game has some sort of mechanical system in place, not every game has a theme.  Some games are completely themeless, while others have very weak themes that are just there to help the player remember what’s going on.  Still others have very strong themes and really seek to immerse you in the created world.

EurogameA style of game that originated in Europe (specifically Germany) and tends to emphasize high strategy and deep mechanics.  Eurogames also tend to have low luck, little to no player conflict, and theme that has little to do with gameplay.

Eurogames (often shortened to Euros) were among the first to be referred to as “designer games” because they credited the designers right on the cover, just like a book does with its author.  They developed primarily in Germany where conflict in games was discouraged due to the high volume of family gamers.  Indeed, Germany is still the center of the Eurogame movement, but Eurogames are now made everywhere, even outside of Europe.  The name refers more to the style than the location of creation.

The most notable thing about Euros is that they really emphasize mechanics over everything.  Many Euros are criticized for being soulless because they are just about pushing cubes around with no sense of story.  You’ll often heard the term JASE (just another soulless Euro) or Trading in the Mediterranean thrown around as derogatory descriptors of these games.  However, they often provide great depth of strategy and can really give your brain an workout.

AmeritrashA style of game commonly associated with the US that emphasizes theme above all else.  These games tend to have high amounts of luck, lots of player interaction and conflict.

Ameritrash was initially used as a derogatory term to describe the smash and bash dicefests commonly found in American games.  Fans of the style decided to embrace the name, and now it is used as a badge of honor.  There is still controversy about the name, however, with many feeling that it still gives a negative connotation, especially to people unfamiliar with its usage.  There is a movement afoot to rename it Amerithrash, but I don’t think that has completely caught on yet.

Ameritrash games are very centered on their themes.  All mechanisms in the game are in support of the theme, and games can often feel very lucky because of it.  This means that strategy is difficult to develop, and critics often call them dumb games because of it.  However, if stories are more important to you than gameplay, you can’t go wrong with a good Ameritrash game.

We’ll end it there for now.  In the next edition of this series (whenever that may be), I’ll be talking about some specific types of games you may encounter.

These definitions are not intended to be definitive, but rather a jumping off point for discussion.  Think I’m way off base?  Tell me!  Have some additions?  Tell me!  Have more terms you think should be defined?  Tell me!  Let’s define the hobby for anyone who wants to know!  Thanks for reading!

Game Buzz: Specter Ops

Plaid Hat Games is an anomaly in the current gaming market.  They are a relatively small company that works independent of the big companies, and are one of the few that don’t use Kickstarter (or at least haven’t yet).  And yet, their games are still wonderfully produced with lots of great bits and great gameplay.  I can’t say I’ve been a fan of everything they’ve come out with (City of Remnants was a meh for me), but I can’t deny that they put everything into their releases.  So they always get my attention with their new products.  Including

image by BGG user screamingtruth

image by BGG user screamingtruth

Specter Ops is a new game from Plaid Hat Games (in conjunction with Nazca Games) and designer Emerson Matsuuchi.  It’s a 2-5 player game that takes around an hour.  It’s described as a kind of sci-fi version of Scotland Yard – one player is a terrorist from an organization known as ARK, sneaking around and wreaking havoc at Raxxon Global while the others try to catch him.

The game comes with a board, a pad of movement sheets, 4 hunter figures, 4 secret role cards, 4 agent figures, 2 six-sided dice, 1 occupy vehicle card, 4 agent character cards, 4 Raxxon hunter character cards, 4 unique agent equipment cards, 8 generic equipment cards, and 23 tokens.  One player will by the ARK agent, others will be Raxxon hunters.  The ARK agent will roll a die to determine the location of each of the four objectives, marking the appropriate spot with a blue Raxxon token.  The agent also secretly selects an agent and three equipment, keeping them hidden so no one else knows what they are.  Each hunter gets their own character, placing their figure on the occupy vehicle card to start.  In a five-player game, each hunter will get a secret role card, and one will be a traitor (dun-dun-DUNNNN!!!)

The agent takes the first turn followed by the hunters.  The agent tracks their progress on the movement pad.  As the agent, you can move up to four spaces, orthogonally and/or diagonally.  If you end in a space that can be seen by a hunter, you put your figure on the board.  If you move through a space that can be seen by a hunter, but don’t stop, you place a “last seen” token there.

The agent is trying to complete missions.  All you have to do to complete a mission is start your turn adjacent to one.  Then you flip its token over to show that it is completed.  If you complete three, you can then try to escape by ending your move on one of the 3-4 escape points on the board.

The hunters take their turn after the agent.  Hunters move up to four spaces at a time, orthogonally or diagonally, but move their figure in view of everyone.  If a hunter is in a vehicle, it can be moved up to 10 spaces, but only on roads.  Additionally, the vehicle can only be moved 10 spaces per ROUND – that means all hunters have to split this total.  If, at the end of the hunter move, the agent can be seen, the figure is placed on the board.  You don’t get a last seen token if you pass the agent.

If a hunter can see the agent, he can attack.  Roll a six-sided die, then count the number of spaces to the agent.  If the number rolled is greater than or equal to this number, the agent is hit.  A 1 is an automatic miss.  A 6 means you can reroll and add the next number to the six.  If the agent’s hit point total gets reduced to zero, he’s dead and the hunters win.  If the agent escapes through one of the 3-4 escape points, the agent wins.  And if the agent hasn’t escaped by the end of round 40, the hunters win.

This does seem like a fairly straightforward “one-vs-all” game.  I’ve never played Scotland Yard, but it does seem quite similar to Clue: Master Detective (which I like, so take that as a compliment).  These games are always best when the players can coordinate their strategies while the hidden player figures out the best ways to sneak around.  Turns look like they move very quickly, and it looks like this is a pretty intense tactical game.  It looks fun – we’ll see how it does when it comes out.  Thanks for reading!


Time to review a popular two-player card game:

image by BGG user SpiderOne

image by BGG user SpiderOne

Lost Cities was originally published in 1999 by KOSMOS, with Rio Grande distributing it in the US.  A new English version is due out soon from KOSMOS.  This two-player game was designed by Reiner Knizia and takes around 30 minutes to play.  The basic idea is that you are putting together expeditions in order to gain the most points.

The game comes with a board and 60 cards.  Included in the cards are 12 cards in each of five colors – 9 expedition cards numbered 2-10 and 3 investment cards.  At the start of the game, each player is dealt a hand of eight cards.  On your turn, you play a card and draw a card.

When playing a card, you can either play into one of five expeditions or one of five discard piles.  When you discard, you discard by color.  To play into an expedition, put a card into its matching color column.  Number cards can only be played into an expedition if they are the next card in sequence.  This means that you can start with any number, but the next number played there must be higher – if your first card is a 4, the next card must be 5+.  You can also start any expedition with an investment card, and I’ll explain how those work when I get to scoring.  You can play up to three investment cards per color, but once you play a number, no more investments can be played.

You end your turn by drawing a card.  You can either draw from the draw pile, or the top card from any of the five discard piles.  The game ends when the draw pile runs out, and players calculate their scores.  Each number card scores points equal to its value.  However, each expedition that you have started costs you 20 points.  So if you have cards in all five piles, you start at -100 points.  Investment cards serve as multipliers – each one will increase your risk, but will double your reward.  One investment card means that you begin that expedition at -40 points, but all point values are doubled.  Two investments starts you at -60 with triple rewards, and three investments starts you at -80 with quadruple rewards.

Once you’ve added up all of your scores, the player with the highest total wins.

COMPONENTS: The components are fine.  The cards are oversized and fairly well illustrated.  Each color expedition has a progressive picture – each successive number goes a little farther towards the end treasure.  It’s not a polyptych where the images all make a single picture, but rather each moves slightly.  Like this:

image by BGG user Terraliptar

image by BGG user Terraliptar

The board is useful for storage purposes, but not really necessary.  It really just gives you the place where the discard piles go, and convenient place to line up your expeditions (they go off the edge of the board).  If you just carry the cards around, you’ll still be able to play.

THEME: This game has a slapped-on archaeological theme that really doesn’t affect gameplay at all.  No one ever feels like they are placing cards in order to progress through an archaeological expedition, they are placing cards to score more points.  The art helps somewhat, but the theme is very weak.

MECHANICS: This game is primarily set collection as you’re trying to build up as many cards as you can in sequence to earn points.  The sequences are very rigid, and once you’re locked in, you can’t go back.  The investments add that trademark Knizia convolution to the scoring, and causes you to do more mental arithmetic as you remember to double, triple, or quadruple values for that expedition.

On our turn, you only do two things, and have two choices per action – play a card in front of you or to the discard, and draw a card from the discard or the deck.  There aren’t a lot of extra steps, which helps with ease of play.  The deck also provides a nice timer for the experience – when it runs out, the game ends, so you get some idea of how much longer the game will run as you watch it.

Overall, there’s not a lot going on here, but the mechanics of the game that are there run very smoothly.

STRATEGY LEVEL: This game does have plenty of strategy to go along with a good dose of luck.  You have to make a determination of which expeditions will be most profitable to start, as well as to know which cards you can safely discard.  There’s a healthy amount of luck pushing going on, particularly as you try to get the cards you need.  There’s only one of each card in the game, so if you miss something, it’s gone.  You have to try to keep an eye on what you’re doing as well as what your opponent is doing in order to succeed at the game.

ACCESSIBILITY: This game falls solidly in the gateway category of games.  It is very simple to learn and play, and you’ll have no trouble teaching it to non-gamers.  The only thing that really gets sticky is the scoring, particularly as you use investment cards.  Still, not that difficult.

REPLAYABILITY: The differences in the ways the cards come out mean that games will play out slightly differently.  And the relatively short length of the game means that many people will want to play again as soon as it’s done – this will particularly happen the first time you teach it to someone because they want to give it another try now that they understand.  For me, however, I’m usually done after one or two.  I haven’t played in a while at this point because there are lots of other two-player games that I’d rather play than play this one over and over.

SCALABILITY: It’s a two-player only game, so there’s not much scalability.  Knizia has put out a four-player variant, but it requires two sets.

INTERACTION: The biggest source of interaction in this game is trying to figure out what your opponent needs and not giving it to them.  For example, if the next red card they need is a 5 and you have it in your hand, you might want to sit on it for a while.  Then, when they play the red 6, you can safely discard it.  There’s also some interaction in the timing of the game – if you think your opponent needs a little extra time to score points, you might want to be drawing from the deck to make the game go quicker.

FOOTPRINT: This game doesn’t take up much space at all.  You don’t need the board, you can just carry around the cards.  If the cards were standard size, this could probably be a game you could play on an airplane.

LEGACY: Lost Cities is often lauded as a great “couples” game, meaning that significant others who don’t usually play games will play it with their spouses.  That has not been the case for me – my wife hates it.  I like it more than she does, but not enough that I feel like pushing the matter.  It’s the third highest rated game of the KOSMOS two-player series, behind Targi and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.  It came out in an era when Knizia was in his heyday, and I wonder if it would get as much attention if it came out for the first time today.  I doubt it.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? There’s no doubt that this is a well designed game.  It’s accessible, and a lot of people are big fans.  I’m not one of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the game and I’ll play it if someone else wants to.  But it doesn’t really do anything for me.  Therefore, on my Yeah-Meh-Bleah scale, I have to give it a


Thanks for reading.

Today’s preview covers three different games currently on Kickstarter.  They’ll all be finished before my next Kickstarter Blitz (one was featured in my last KSB), so I wanted to give them a little attention.  Let’s start with the first campaign to finish.

image by BGG jameystegmaier

image by BGG jameystegmaier

Between Two Cities was designed by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset, and is going to be published by Stonemaier Games.  It’s a 3-7 player game that takes 20 minutes and is all about building cities.  The name is derived by your position – as you play the game, you are building cities to your left and right and are therefore sitting between two cities.  It’s a game that is reminiscent of 7 Wonders, but seemingly with a LOT more interactivity.

The game will come with 108 building tiles, 24 duplex tiles, 14 city tokens, and a scoreboard, as well as 7 reference cards.  A city token is placed between each player, and the matching city token is placed on the scoreboard.  The duplex tiles are shuffled and stacked, and the building tiles are shuffled in the box.

The game is played over three rounds.  In the first round, each player draws seven tiles.  You choose two and pass the rest to the left.  Once everyone has done this, you reveal, and then you need to determine where you will place your tiles.  You’re going to be building up the cities to your right and left, and will therefore need to work with the players to your right and left since they are also working on one of your cities.  You can discuss your choices with your neighbors, but one tile must go to the right and the other must go to the left.  You need to keep in mind that your final city must be a 4×4 square when placing.

Round one continues until there is only one tile left from the initial deal (three placement phases).  At this point, you move on to round two.  Here, you draw three duplex tiles, choose two, and discard the other.  This will be placed in your city just like the regular buildings, except that duplexes are the width of two tiles.  Round three is played just like the first round, except that you pass to the right.

After the third round, you score.

  • Shops are worth 2-5-10-16 points when in a straight connected line.
  • Factories are worth 2-3-4 each depending on majority – the city with the most gets 4 points per factory, second most gets 3, and all others get 2.
  • Taverns are worth 1-4-9-17 points for a where all taverns are different.
  • Offices are worth 1-3-6-10-15-21 for a set.
  • Parks are worth 2-8-12-13-14… if in a connected group.
  • Houses are worth one point each per different other building type in the city, but only one point if adjacent to a factory.

Your final score is the lower score of the two cities you helped build.  The player with the highest score wins.

This game just sounds brilliant to me.  It takes one of the biggest complaints about 7 Wonders (low interaction) and completely turns it on its ear by making you play with your neighbor.  You have to cooperate and build a really good city, but then you can’t neglect the other city since it’s your lower score that wins.  So it becomes a weird conglomeration of cooperative-partnership-cutthroat-competitive game.  And, according to the time on the box, it only plays in 20 minutes.  It sounds great.  The campaign for this one ends on Monday March 16, so go back if you’re interested – it’s already well-funded, and Stonemaier has a history of making some really high-quality stuff so you know if will be well produced.

image by BGG user mechanicalfish

image by BGG user mechanicalfish

Above and Below is a new game from Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games.  It’s a 2-4 player storytelling/worker placement game that could take up to two hours to play.  In the game, you are building a village both above the surface and in the network of caverns you’ve found below ground (hence the title).

The game will come with a reputation board, 24 house cards, 4 starting house cards, 25 outpost cards, an explore book, 56 goods tokens, a round marker, 4 turn order tokens, 7 dice, 8 cubes, 4 player boards, 30 cave cards, 12 starting villagers, 17 other villagers, 4 special villagers, 10 key houses, and tokens to represent coins, potions, and cider.  Each player gets a player board, 7 coins, and three starting villagers.

Above and Below is played over seven rounds.  In each round, players will take turns taking actions until all have passed.  There are five possible actions:

  • Explore: Draw a cave card and send two or more villagers to do the action.  You then roll a die and compare the result to the chart on the card.  This indicates the section of the explore book that will now be read to you.  This will give you a choice of an action you will attempt, each one needing a certain number of successes.  Once you’ve heard the story and make your choice, you will roll one die per villager you sent to the action.  Each villager has certain rolls that are needed in order to get successes, and some villagers give multiple successes if you roll well enough.  If you need some extra successes, you can choose to exert villagers for automatic success.  Whether you make it or not, the result will be read to you.  The villagers you used are then exhausted (unless exerted – there are separate sections on your player board for each).  If you succeed, you keep the cave card.
  • Build: For this, you need a villager with the build skill.  Exhaust it and pay for one of the available buildings.  You can always build a house above ground, but you must explore successfully in order to have a cave card for building outposts underground.
  • Harvest: Exhaust one or more villagers to harvest goods from houses or outposts.
  • Train: Exhaust a villager with the train skill and spend some money to hire one of the five available villagers.  This villager comes in exhausted.
  • Labor: Exhaust one or more villagers to gain one coin for each.  The first player to labor each round gains a cider, which can be used to wake someone up.

Additionally, you can buy or sell goods.  Once everyone has passed, you move on to the new round.  You can rest one villager per bed you have (you start with three).  If you rest an exhausted villager, it becomes ready.  If you rest an exerted villager, it becomes exhausted.  You will also collect income.  This is determined by goods you have on the advancement track.  After the seventh round, the player who has the most points is the winner.

I’m sure Tales of the Arabian Nights will be invoked in every review of this game, even though this is quite different.  TotAN is more of a pure storytelling game while this one has elements of storytelling to go with the city building aspects.  The whole way the game seems to flow looks very unique to me.  The art, which was done by Laukat himself, looks great.  Overall, the game looks great, and I look forward to seeing how it comes out.

image by BGG user ckirkman

image by BGG user ckirkman

Bottom of the Ninth is a new 1-2 player baseball game from designers Darrell Louder and Mike Mullins that is being published by Dice Hate Me Games (which has recently merged with Greater Than Games).  The basic premise is that it’s…well…the bottom of the 9th inning.  The game is tied.  The home team is up to bat.  Who will take it all?

The game will come with 20 player cards, 2 reference cards, 2 playing field pieces, a pitch die, a pitching control die, a swing die, 4 wooden base runners, 4 wooden pitch tokens, 3 wooden out markers, 2 wooden strike markers, 3 wooden ball markers, 2 wooden fatigue markers, a batter ball and strike count marker, 15 event and scenario cards for solo play, and a sticker sheet.  One player is at bat, the other player is pitching.  The batter chooses four batter cards and sets the order in which they will be taking turns.  The pitcher chooses two pitcher cards and selects one to start.

Each at bat follows the same sequence.  First is the STARE DOWN.  Each player secretly chooses a direction (inside/away) and location (high/low) of the pitch and reveals simultaneously.  Bonuses are awarded to the batter for matches, and to the pitcher for incorrect guesses.  Each pitcher has an Ace Pitch, and if they choose any part of it, they get some fatigue for the parts they used.  If they fatigue an entire direction or location, they cannot use it any more.

In THE PITCH, the pitcher rolls the pitch die to determine if it is a ball, strike, or in the corner.  For THE SWING, the batter rolls the swing die to see the result – ball, strike, foul, or contact.  Bonuses and penalties from the Stare Down can affect this result.  If it’s strike three, the batter is out.  If it’s ball four, the runner advances.  If it’s ball 1-3, strike 1-2, or a foul, go back to the stare down.

If contact is made, it’s time to RUN!  Both players roll a die (the swing die for the batter, the control die for the pitcher) until one player gets a 5 or 6.  If the batter gets it first, they are SAFE!  If the pitcher gets it first, it’s an OUT!  However, if contact is made against a strike with a 6, the ball has been crushed, and the batter rolls again to see what he got – 1-4 is a single, 5 is a double, 6 is a home run.  If a home run is hit, the pitcher rolls the control die.  If they get a 6, the outfielder has made a miraculous catch by scaling the wall and nabbing it, crushing the dreams of some poor six-year-old who thought he was going to catch a home run ball.

At the end of the at-bat, it’s time to CLEAN UP.  The pitcher moves fatigue markers up a total number that equals the number of empty bases.  If the pitcher records three outs, the visiting team has forced extra innings, and most likely will win in the tenth because they are a league powerhouse.  If the batter gets four base runners or a home run, the home team has defied the odds and emerged victorious in front of a jubilant crowd.

Baseball is one of my favorite sports because it can provide such great drama on every pitch.  There is skill and luck involved, but the face off between a pitcher and batter can provide one of the most tense moments in sports.  And baseball is unique among sports because anything can happen – in timed sports like basketball or football, a big lead means that everyone is just going through the motions in the end.  But, in baseball, as Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  I like the concept of this game – rather than playing out an entire baseball contest, you’re just coming in at the very end to see if the home team can pull it off.  And it looks like it will be very fun, if pretty dependent on luck.  I like that there’s a real time dice rolling contest going on if there’s contact, and I like that there’s a “clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me” situation going on in the stare down.  Looks like a fun, quick baseball game, so check it out!

So there are my previews for today.  Thanks for reading!


Last month, I did a list about roll-and-move games, trying to find some good titles that use the mechanism.  Most people will cite that or player elimination as their least favorite mechanisms.  It’s never been that way for me.  For me, my least favorite has always been auctions.  It’s usually because I just can’t figure them out – I either end up not being able to win something I really want, or I way overbid for something I don’t need so much.  That’s not the game’s fault (usually), but to me, it’s not really very fun.  However, as I’ve grown in my game playing repertoire, I have found a number of auction/bidding games that work for me.  So this month’s list is going to catalog a few of those, and in the process, try to find some common threads that will get me to play an auction game.  Here we go.

image by BGG user muka

image by BGG user muka

Cyclades (2009, Bruno Cathala/Ludovic Maublanc, Matagot) is a game about gaining the favor of the ancient Greek gods in order to build two cities on a group of islands. In a round, players will taking turns bidding on one of the available gods.  The first player bids on one, then the second player can bid.  If the second player outbids the first, the first player must then immediately bid on someone else.  This continues until everyone has won the favor of a god.  Players then take actions based on the god they won.

  • Poseidon gives you a ship, and you can pay gold for more.  You can also pay to move a ship up to three spaces, as well as to build a dock.
  • Ares gives you a soldier, and you can pay gold for more.  You can also pay gold to attack another island – you need a ship or line of ships that connect the island you’re on and the island you’re attacking.  Ares also lets you pay to build a fortress.
  • Zeus gives you a priest, and you can pay gold for another.  These reduce the amount you need to spend when bidding.  You can also pay to build a temple, which reduces the cost of mythological creatures.
  • Athena gives you a philosopher, or you can spend gold for another.  You can also build a university.
  • Apollo is basically the pass space – you don’t bid on him, you just go there if you can’t or don’t want to do anything else.  He gets you one gold if you own multiple islands, or 4 if you own just one.  He also gives you a prosperity marker for one of your island, and it earns more gold at the start of the round.

There are three ways to get a metropolis – discard one of each type of building, OR discard four philosophers, OR conquer someone else’s metropolis.  At the end of a round where someone has gotten their second metropolis, the player who still has two wins.

Cyclades is a kind of Euro-wargame hybrid, with auctions and resource management combined with trying to spread influence and conquer islands.  The auction here is a very important part of the game, and it’s a kind of a White Elephant style.  White Elephant is called by a lot of different names, but it’s a Christmas gift exchange game where one player chooses a gift, then the next player can steal or choose a new one.  Here, it makes this into a little bit of a game of chicken – often, you’ll want to bid on something you don’t want to drive the price up for those that do, and so you won’t necessarily get knocked out of the one you want later.  Cyclades is a beautiful game that I’ve only played once, but I found the auction here to be one of the most interesting aspects of it.


image by BGG user Gambiteer

For Sale (1997, Stefan Dorra, Eagle-Gryphon Games) is a light 3-6 player game about buying and selling real estate.  The game is actually played in two halves.  In the first half, players take turns bidding on a slate of properties.  As you drop out of the bidding, you pay half of what you had previously bid (rounded down) and take the lowest valued property still remaining.  The winner of the bid has to pay all of their money, but they get the most valuable property.  Once all properties have been claimed, you move into the second half of the game.  A number of currency cards are laid out, ranging in value from $0 to $15,000.  Each player chooses one of their properties, then reveals.  The highest revealed property gets first choice of currency cards, and lowest gets whatever is left.  Once all have been claimed, the player who has collected the most money (currency cards plus leftover cash) is the winner.

This is a filler game that takes 20 minutes to play.  It’s very simple and streamlined, and it works well for what it is.  On the surface, this is not a game I should enjoy – the bidding style is last-man-standing in the first half, and blind bidding in the second.  It’s a pure auction game, and those usually don’t sit well with me.  But I like this one.  I think part of its appeal is that you’ll always get something if you “lose” the bid, and you’ll get it for a discount.  There’s some strategy there as you try to figure out when it’s OK to settle.  Turn order really matters in the game, which I think is a weakness due to the random distribution of cards, but the game is so quick that it’s not too much of an issue.

image by BGG user Funforge

image by BGG user Funforge

Isla Dorada (2010, Bruno Faidutti, Funforge/Fantasy Flight) is a game that took most of its inspiration from Alan R. Moon’s 1998 Spiel des Jahres winning Elfenland.  So much, in fact, that Alan R. Moon is given co-designer credit.  The idea is that you’re an explorer trying to collect treasures and explore an island.  However, there’s a single expedition, and everyone has their own idea about where to go.  Players begin with a curse card (a location they do not want to visit), a destiny card (a goal for more points), two treasure cards (which can be collected when you visit the indicated location), and six adventure cards.  In each of the 16-17 rounds, you will have a round of bidding where players can attempt to direct where the expedition is heading via cards in their hand.  You can travel by land, sea, or air depending on the cards you play.  The winning bid gets to move the party to their desired location.  At the end of 16 rounds, the player who has scored the most points is the winner.

There are several different ways to move – yaks move you along mountain paths, camels move you through deserts, gonogos move you through jungles, kayaks move you on water, drakos and zeppelins move you through the air.  So when you bid, you combine the cards to announce how much you’re bidding.  This is a last-man-standing style bid and really works for me because you know exactly what the stakes are for yourself.  If someone is trying to move you to your cursed site, you want to try and subvert that.  If someone is trying to move you to one of your treasure sites, you probably want to let them.  Your currency is movement, and it works very well.  I liked Elfenland as well when I played it, but this game has the advantage for me because it is really a beautiful game.  It didn’t make much of an impact on release, but it’s one I really like.

image by BGG user Richard Breese

image by BGG user Richard Breese

Keyflower (2012, Sebastian Bleasdale/Richard Breese, R&D Games) is the seventh game in the so-called Key series, which is just a general prefix for these medieval-themed games.  In each season, tiles are laid out in the center and players take turns bidding on them.  You have a certain number of meeples behind a screen, and will place some either next to a tile you want to own or on a tile you want to use.  If there are other meeples there, you must play more but must keep them the same color.  Once everyone has passed, the winners of each bid claim their tiles and any meeples that are on them.  As the game progresses, you’ll be trying to upgrade your tiles in order to earn points – the player with the most at the end of the game is the winner.

This game is a very interesting combination of a worker placement game and an auction.  Each turn, you must decide if you want to use your meeples to bid on tiles or to use them.  If meeples are played on tiles you own, you’ll get them back.  If you lose a bid, you’ll get your meeples back.  However, bidding and using tiles that are up for bid will lose those meeples for you.  It’s a very clever system, and there’s a lot going on.  When I play, I often find it difficult to narrow in on a certain strategy, but I enjoy it.

image by BGG user vekoma

image by BGG user vekoma

Metropolys (2008, Sébastien Pauchon, Ystari Games) is a city building area-control game where players are putting up skyscrapers around the city.  In each round, a player will put a building in one of the regions of the city.  The next player may put a higher numbered building in an adjacent region or pass.  When all but one have passed, that player claims the region by flipping their building upside down while all others get their buildings back.  If the region has a token, you’ll collect it.  When one player gets rid of all their pieces, the game ends.  You score for collected tokens, highest building in a region, and secret objectives.  The player with the most points wins.

This is a last-man-standing bidding style, but adds the extra twist of making it an area control game.  You’re bidding by building.  You can also direct the bidding by going in a certain direction, and you can bluff bid to make others raise their own bids or go somewhere they didn’t want to.  It’s quite a fascinating game, and probably one of my favorite auction games that I’ve played.

image by BGG user duskblade

image by BGG user duskblade

Nanuk (2009, Mark Goadrich/Brett Myers, Steve Jackson Games) is a game about hunting and boasting in the Arctic.  In each round, players will take turns planning a hunt by boasting about how many animals they can bag in how many days (I think we can get two seals in two days!).  To continue the bidding, the next player must then increase the number of animals (I think we can get three seals in two days!), or increase the number of days (Three days!) or both (I think we can get five seals in six days!). You can also change the type of animal if you increase the animal number (six fish in six days!).  Eventually, one player will pronounce that the hunt is doomed (DOOOOMED!), then all other players (except for the one who made the last bid) decide who they agree with.  Those who agree with the hunt can seed it with some animals while the naysayers ante up a card each.  For each day that was declared, a card is revealed from the deck.  If you get all six fish in six days (from our example), those who went on the hunt split the pot.  If not, the doomers do.  If a Nanuk symbol is revealed when drawing, the hunt fails unless someone has played a statue.  After the deck has run out, everyone scores a point per pair of animals and three points for a full set.  The player with the most points wins.

This game is very much like Liar’s Dice, only with more of  theme and a lot more strategy.  It’s got a real push-your-luck bidding style, accompanied by some negotiation and cajoling to get people on your side.  The auction involved here is basically deciding who gets to lead the hunt.  There’s a set collection aspect to the game, and it’s a lot of fun.  I don’t know if it’s still in print, but if you can track down a copy, do it!  I need to play this one again…

image by BGG user Zman

image by BGG user Zman

No Thanks! (2004, Thorsten Gimmler, Z-Man Games) may seem like an odd choice for this list, but hear me out.  This is a quick 20-minute game where the object is to NOT get points.  One player flips over a card (numbered 3-35), and then can either take it or choose to pass by putting a chip on it.  Eventually, someone will take the card as well as all chips that have been accumulated.  At the end of the game, you get points based on the value of each card you took minus the number of chips you have left.  Cards that are in sequence (i.e. 21-22-23) are only worth the number of points of the lowest card (in this case, 21 instead of 66).  The player with the lowest score wins.

The first time I saw “auction/bidding” listed as a mechanism for No Thanks!, I immediately thought “That is NOT an auction game.”  But the more I think about it, the more I think that this is a perfect anti-auction game.  Players are “bidding” to NOT take a card through chips.  The eventual “winner” of the card not only gets his chips back, but everyone else’s who did not want it.  So you’re getting paid to get something, and everyone else is paying to not get it.  If you think about it like that, the game hits a whole new level of awesome.  Great game.

image by BGG user aarontu

image by BGG user aarontu

Power Grid (2004, Friedemann Friese, Rio Grande Games) is not a pure auction game, but there is an auction step.  In Power Grid, you are trying to supply power to cities all across the country (US or Germany in the base game, with many other maps).  The first thing that happens is an auction step, where players bid on one of the available power plants.  Once you win one, you’re done for the round.  It’s a last-man-standing type of auction.  Power plants use resources to power a certain number of cities, and these are purchased in the next phase.  Then you can build cities, creating a network,  Finally, you power as many cities as you can and collect income.  The game is over at the end of the round where someone has built their seventeenth city, and the player who can power the most cities wins.

This is a game that is about route-building, but there’s a lot of resource management going on.  One of the most important things for your strategy is this bid for power plants.  You want to be collecting the right kind of resources and powering cities as cheaply as possible, so you need the right kinds of power plants.  One of the things that makes this auction interesting is that you have a slate of four power plants to choose from when starting an auction.  But you can also see the future market as there are four more power plants visible.  So you may want to wait for one of those, or you may want to snatch up another plant.  The auction is not my favorite part of the game, but it does work and it is very important.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Skull (2011, Hervé Marly, Lui-même) is the only game I know of that is entirely played with coasters.  Each player has a deck of four coasters, including three roses and one skull.  You also get a player mat.  At the start of each round, each player chooses one coaster to play face down on their mat.  Then, in turn order, each player can choose to play another coaster on top of the pile or make a challenge.  If you challenge, no more coasters will be played.  You announce how many coasters you intend to reveal, and other players may increase the bid or pass.  Once all but one have passed, the challenger must reveal the announced number of coasters, first from his own pile, then from other piles is applicable.  So if you’ve played three coasters and challenge with 5, you’ll have to reveal all three of yours and two more from your opponents’ tiles.  If you turn over a skull, you lose a random coaster from your hand.  If not, you win the bet and flip your mat.  If you win two bets, you win.

This game, like Nanuk, follows the Liar’s Dice model of bidding by making educated guesses about what others are doing.  If you want to look at it as an auction, you’re auctioning off the right to flip coasters and possibly win a bet.  The stakes are high because you lose a coaster if wrong, which is a quarter of your deck.  The game is a lot of fun, moves really quickly, and is an example of bidding that I like.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Speicherstadt (2010, Stefan Feld, Z-Man Games) is a pure auction game with a pretty unique bidding mechanism.  At the start of each round, a supply of trade cards equal to the number of players plus one is dealt to the board.  Players then take turns placing one of their three workers above a card.  Once all workers have been placed, it’s time to purchase.  The player in the lowest position above each card must decide if they will buy the card or pass.  The cost of the card is equal to the number of workers above it – if there are four workers there, it costs four.  If you pass, the next player decides if they want it, but now the cost is reduced by one since one worker has passed.  You’re trying to collect goods to ship, contracts for those cubes, merchants to sell those cubes, firemen to avoid penalties, and other special cards.  When the final fire happens, the player who has accumulated the most points is the winner.

I’ve only played this game online, and I can’t say that I’ve completely got the hang of it, but I wanted to bring it up because it is a very cool bidding system.  By placing a worker first, you are ensuring that you will get first crack at purchasing the card.  But by placing second, you ensure that the first player will have to pay more money.  It’s really clever, and makes the decisions very critical.  I like it, and would love to play the real version sometime.

image by BGG user CleverMojo

image by BGG user CleverMojo

Sunrise City (2012, Isaias Vallejo, Clever Mojo Games) is a city-building game that uses worker placement, drafting and a clever scoring mechanism.  You begin the game by drafting some role cards, and you play one at the beginning of each round.  You then proceed to a zoning phase where you play tiles, and then comes the bidding.  Players take turns putting a chip on one of the visible squares.  You can outbid another player by placing your chip on top of theirs, but if you place one on top of your own, it is locked and no one else may take it.  You can then place a building tile on one of the spaces you control – these buildings will take up two spaces.  The buildings keep going up.  As you play, you score points, and every time you pass 10 points, you get a star.  If you land on 10 exactly, you get two stars.  After four rounds, the player who has collected the most stars is the winner.

The bidding here is more like worker placement than an actual auction, but the ability to outbid others by stacking on top of them makes it more than just claiming spots.  It’s a pretty cool game with some great components – the tiles are REALLY thick.  I’ve only gotten to play it once, and I really liked it – the scoring method is interesting, the bidding works well, and you’re building a city up as well as out.  It’s a good one.

Now that I’ve talked about some auction/bidding mechanisms that I like, let me tell you about a few I do NOT like.  Generally, I do not like blind bidding – this is where everyone makes a bid in secret, then reveals.  I do not like once-around auctions, where you only get once chance to bid on something.  I do not like speculative auctions, where you’re bidding on something with no idea of what its value will be later.  I do not like bidding for turn order – it’s stupid.  I do not like it when games that have nothing to do with auctions throw in one single auction mechanism on some card somewhere.  That’s right, Robosmokies, I’m looking at you.  As much as I love Galaxy Trucker, that card is no longer in my game.

I also want to make mention of the Dutch auction, which is something I’ve heard about but have never played in a game.  This is where a price is set, then it starts dropping.    As soon as someone bids, the item is sold.  So it’s kind of a push-your-luck thing – how long are you willing to let it go before buying it?  That’s a fascinating system, and I’d love to try it out sometime.  Might be a little nerve-wracking.

Anyway, there’s my list.  Let me know some auction games you like or dislike.  Thanks for reading!

Last Saturday, my game group had its monthly all-day game day.  I was glad to be able to make it out for a while – gaming time has been a little short for me over the last couple of months as I’m currently playing Augustus Gloop in a community theatre production of Willy Wonka.  This month’s game day was held at Mr. Sweets, our friendly local game store that specializes in games AND candy.  Here now is the rundown of the games I got to play, as well as a few thoughts on the experience.

image by BGG user bpovis

image by BGG user bpovis

I got there just as a game of Battlestar Galactica was cranking up, and knowing that would take awhile, my friend Brian and I pulled out my copy of Morels.  It was Brian’s first play.  Morels is a game of collecting mushrooms on a lovely forest walk.  On your turn you can pick up one mushroom from the path, or take all mushrooms from the decay, or play a pan, or cook three or more like mushrooms, or sell two or more like mushrooms for walking sticks that will allow you to go further on the path.

Brian started off the game getting two of the three Morels in the deck.  They’re worth six points each, and I wasn’t able to stop him from getting the third, so that was 18 points right there.  He ended up cooking a bunch of other low scoring mushrooms, and I was able to get more of the middle scoring ones, so the final score proved to be pretty close.  However, he also got a butter and an apple cider cooked, which gave him the 54-47 win.

This game has really blossomed into one of my favorite go-to two player games.  The ever-changing path really provides for some tough decisions to be made.  For the path, I do find that I like using the ring instead of the line of cards.  Just not as much shifting to do.

image by BGG user barandur

image by BGG user barandur

Brian and I had both called a seat in AquaSphere, which Ryan was setting up as we finished up our game of Morels.  We were joined by a guy named Cannon.  Ryan explained the rules, but no one at the table had ever played a full game (Cannon and I were complete newbies to the game).  This is a Stefan Feld game where players are scientists in an underwater laboratory.  As you play, you are programming robots to go off and perform little tasks for you. You can send them to collect crystals, or get you more time for movement and other actions, or dock a submarine, or expand your lab, or research new cards, or fight the octopods that are accumulating on the lab.  The game lasts four rounds, and there’s an intermediate scoring between each round.  After a final scoring, the player with the most points wins.

As with most Feld games, my eyes started to cross as the rules were explained.  However, as soon as we started playing, everything became clear and the game moved fairly quickly.  I tried to get all my submarines out for some bonus points at the end, but fell a little short.  I also forgot that I needed to be clearing out octopods or risk losing exponential points, but I was able to recuperate and lose fewer than I would have.  Brian did very well managing his resources, and ended up with the 90-69-56-55 victory (I was in second).

Feld takes a lot of flak for a) point salad games, and b) games with really weak themes.  This game has a relatively strong theme – well, strong compared to other Feld titles – and is very much a point salad game (point salad just means that there are lots of ways to get points).  I enjoyed this one quite a bit.  I think I might have done some things differently knowing then what I know now, but I was reasonably happy with my first performance, and did like the game.  Ryan, who owns the game and is a big Feld fan, didn’t end up liking it so much, but Cannon and Brian both did.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

We had seven people standing around, and according to our group bylaws, that means we have to play 7 Wonders.  Unfortunately, no one had a copy, so I instead taught The Walking Dead Card Game (we were down to six at that point).  This is a repackaged version of Wolfgang Kramer’s 6 nimmt!  There’s a deck of 104 cards, numbered 1-104, and each player has a hand of 10.  A column of four cards is laid out in the center.  Everyone simultaneously chooses a card from their hand and reveals.  Beginning with the lowest value, each card is placed in the row where it is the next sequential number.  If you can’t place in a row because your card is too low, you take a row.  If you place the sixth card in a row, you must take that row.  Each card has a number of bullets on it, and you don’t want bullets.

Our game ended up lasting three rounds.  According to the rules, that’s how long a game is supposed to be, but I play by original 6 nimmt! rules which state that you play until someone has 66 points.  Joe had a rough first round, scoring 32 points, and I got hosed in the second round.  However, overall, it was Nolan that had the worst game, and he ended up with 85 points.  Ryan got the 19-32-39-40-48-85 victory (I had 48).

I got this game because it’s the only version of 6 nimmt! available now.  The theme is practically non-existent, and the cards are not great quality, but I love the quick play and fun luck-pushing aspects.  There’s a heroic variant where you try to get points that I have yet to try – I still like the original game too much.

image by BGG user Mr Penguin

image by BGG user Mr Penguin

Looking for another quickie, we pulled out Tsuro and played a six-player game with the same group (substituting in Brian C for Ryan).  This is a tile placement game about building a path.  You have a hand of three tiles, and on your turn place one.  Your piece then moves along the line created all the way to the end.  If it goes of the edge of the board or crashes into another tile, you lose.  The last one standing wins.

This game is usually over very quickly.  I got first blood, sending Joe off the edge, but on the very next turn, Brian C sent me to my doom.  He, the other Brian, and Nolan all went out after that, leaving Brad as the only one standing, and surprised that he had won – the others had knocked themselves out without him having to intercede.

The first time I played Tsuro, I was not a fan.  But it’s grown on me since then.  It’s luck-driven, sure, but it’s quite beautiful and does have a decent amount of strategy to it – at least, for a really short game.  There’s player elimination, but it usually happens so quickly that you hardly notice.  This one was fun, and everyone enjoyed themselves.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The Battlestar Galactica game was finally over, and some of our group merged with some of their group to play In The Year of the Dragon.  I was all Felded out for the day, so I volunteered to teach Brian C, Joe, Nolan, and Brad the game Sheriff of Nottingham.  This is a bluffing game where players are trying to sneak goods past the Sheriff, perhaps bribing him not to look in their bag.  Each player gets two opportunities to be Sheriff, and everyone else has to present a bag of one type of goods.  You can have whatever you want in the bag, but you have to declare the exact number and only one type of good.  If you are caught in a lie, you have to pay a penalty.  If you get falsely accused, the Sheriff pays you.  In the end, you want to have collected the most goods, snuck in the most contraband, and collected the most gold – the player with the highest monetary value of all these things is the winner.

As I mentioned, I was the only one to have played before.  Everyone quickly got into the spirit of the game.  I was the first Sheriff, and didn’t open any bags.  A little bit of contraband snuck through, but I also got bribed $5 not to open one bag, so I was OK.  I unsuccessfully tried to sneak something through in all of the first rounds, but I ended up with a lot of stuff.  In the second round, I had several rounds in a row where I had four or five of the same good and was able to really build up my market.  I ended the game with no contraband, but I was in second place for every single good.  I wound up coming in second for the game.  First place had a lot of cash left, as well as some good contraband.

I really enjoy this game.  I’m not good at bluffing, but this game makes the process more fun for me than in most games.  Definitely recommended if you haven’t tried yet.

image by BGG user angelkurisu

image by BGG user angelkurisu

I ended the day with a two-player game of Innovation.  This is a civilization card game where players are trying to be the first to get a certain number of achievements (with two players, six).  On your turn, you get two actions.  You can meld a card from your hand to the table, placing on top of same colored piles and continuing a splay if applicable.  You can draw from an age deck that is equal to the highest level top card in your play area.  You can achieve if your score is high enough.  And you can use a dogma action of one of the top cards in your play area, though if someone else has equal or more of the matching symbol, they get to do the action first.

This was Brad’s first play of the game.  He started out by building up his civilization quickly, getting to age 3 before I got out of age 1.  I decided that I needed to try to focus on my score so I could get more achievements, and I ended up getting to four.  But then the power of his civilization caught up to me, and he was easily able to get to six.

I love this game every time I play it.  It never plays the same way twice.  To some people, that’s too much chaos, but I really like it.  Brad enjoyed it to, so that’s good.

All in all, a very fun day, even though I won exactly nothing.  But I liked everything I played, and had a great time with some fun people, so I consider that to be a win.  Thanks for reading!



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