Game Buzz: Ex-Whistle

Time to look at a couple of recent releases.  We’ll start with

image by BGG user toulouse

Whistle Stop is a game designed by Scott Caputo and published by Bézier Games.  It’s a train game for 2-5 players that takes about 75 minutes.  The plot of the game is that you’re making your way west across the country in the late 19th century, picking up goods and dropping them off while also grabbing shares in other railroads.  The goal of the game is to collect the most fame points by the end of the game.

Whistle Stop comes with a game board in four pieces that basically serves as a frame to be filled up with some of the 78 hex tiles (which include 50 train routes, 2 trading posts, 10 town tiles, a gold mine, 2 coal yards, a general store, 2 whistle factories, and 10 end tiles).  You also get five player boards, 12 upgrade cards, 30 railroad shares, 60 resource tokens, 25 trains, 24 whistle tokens, 5 score markers, 20 gold nugget tokens, and 100 coal tokens.

At the start of the game, you’ll set up the board.  There’s a natural empty space in the middle.  You’ll shuffle the ten end tiles and deal eight of them into slots on the western edge.  You’ll then shuffle a coal yard, a trading post, two town tiles, one other special tile, and three ordinary train route tiles together, dealing those to the center of the map.  Finally, you’ll deal nine train route tiles to the eastern edge of the map.  The remaining tiles (special and ordinary) are shuffled into a draw pile.  The turn track is seeded with coal and whistles, and two more upgrade cards than there are players are plead face up near the board.  Each player gets one whistle, three random tiles, 3-5 trains (depending on player count) and 2-4 coal (depending on player order).  Trains are placed on east coast stops one at a time in reverse player order.  Each stop can only have one train.

image from theplayersaid.com

On your turn you may do two things: move and upgrade.  These can be done in any order, and can even be skipped.  To MOVE, spend up to four tokens (coal or whistle).  If you spend coal, you move a train along the track one space to the west, or up/down within your same column. A whistle will allow you to move 1-2 spaces in any direction, including east.  Your movement may cause you to enter an empty space, in which case you play a tile from your hand.  There are several different spots you may stop:

  • Resource: If you land on a circle with a cube, you get the pictured resource.  You can hold a maximum of ten resources.
  • Trading Post: Trade any one common resource for any one common resource, a whistle or two coal; OR trade any one rare resource for two commons or one rare.
  • Coal Yard: Gain two coal.  You’ll gain more coal at the start of each round in general, but this gives you some bonus coal.
  • General Store: Gain a resource of your choice.
  • Town: Either turn in the pictured resources to gain fame, or don’t and lose fame.  If you do manage to gain fame, you’ll also gain a railroad share.
  • Gold Mine: Gain a gold token, which will be worth 3-5 points.  Keep it secret.
  • Stock Market: Gain the indicated fame points for each railroad share you have, then discard a share.
  • Whistle Factory: Gain a whistle.
  • End Stop: As with the town, turn in the indicated resources to gain fame, or don’t and lose fame.  Either way, the train that made it to the end stop is removed from the board and placed on a resource space to gain the resources there.  This train will no longer be used in the game.

In addition to moving, you can UPGRADE.  To do this, pay the indicated cost of an Upgrade tile and take it into your area.  This will give you a special power you can use on future turns, though most of these cost coal.  If you use a special power, the coal cost will come out of your movement budget.

A round ends after everyone has taken a turn.  You get coal based on the round, and the start player passes.  The game ends after the last round, or at the end of a round where a player got their final train off the board.  The player who has amassed the most fame points is the winner.

image by BGG user MissJekyll

Several different things interest me about this game.  It’s pick-up-and-deicer, but with a variable setup and many different paths to follow.  The game is being published by Bézier, and if nothing else, Ted Alspach has really proved himself to be a pretty great developer.  Scott Caputo doesn’t have many games to his credit, but I really enjoy Volüspá, so I’m interested to so where this one goes.  The trains look cool, and the whole aesthetic of the game just looks really unique.  On the negative side, it’s got a quasi-action point system as you have four tokens to spend on your turn, which means that the game might be prone to AP.  Also, I’m not big on train games, so who knows how this one would really appeal to me when playing it.  However, it looks like a good enough experience that I’d like to try it sometime.

image by BGG user ad7m

Ex Libris is a game by Adam P. McIver that is published by Renegade Games.  It’s for 1-4 players and takes 30-60 minutes.  In the game, you are a gnomish book collector who is trying to organize his/her library before the Mayor’s Official Inspector comes by to check it out.  You’ll get points based on shelf stability, alphabetical order, and variety.  The player with the most points in the end becomes the Grand Librarian.

The game comes with a town board, as well as an Official Library Inspection Form (which you won’t use until the end of the game).  There are 12 library tiles, 18 locations tiles, 12 standard assistant meeples, 12 special assistant meeples, 152 book cards, 6 category tiles, and a first player token that looks like a crystal ball.  During setup, each player will choose a library tile from two options, taking the matching special assistant and two standard assistants.  The Diviner’s Hut location is placed below the town board.  You’ll deal one category card to the Prominent Works space on the town board (books you do want), and another to the Banned Books space (books you don’t want).  Each player then gets dealt one of the other category cards to indicate their library’s focus.  Each player gets dealt six book cards, and you’re ready to go.

image by BGG user punkin312

Ex Libris is played over a series of rounds.  Each round has four phases: Preparation, Placement, Resolution, and Cleanup.

PREPARATION: Deal out location tiles to the center until there is one per player.  Remember that the Diviner’s Hut is already there at the start of the game.  Some locations may need some cards dealt there at the start of the round, so do that.

PLACEMENT: Place one of your standard assistants or your special assistant on an available space on either a location or your library tile.  Special and standard assistants function identically, but the special assistant has a power tied in with your library.  Locations each have different actions associated with them.  Assistants placed on your library card will allow you to draw a card or shelve a card.  To shelve, just play a card onto your shelves.  This is an area that can be no more than three rows tall, and all cards must be placed orthogonally adjacent to another placed card.  Your goal in shelving is to place cards in alphabetical order by the letter and number in the top right corner; to place them in a stable manner with cards stacked on top of other cards, leaving no gaps; to collect Prominent Works; to avoid Banned Books; to have a variety of non-Banned books; and to collect books matching your library’s focus.

RESOLUTION: Once all players have played all assistant, move on to Resolution.  In this phase, any actions that had Delayed Effects (as opposed to Instant) are resolved in numerical order by location.

CLEANUP: The first location in numerical order is added to the town board as a permanent location for people to visit for the rest of the game.  The others are discarded.  You’ll then check to see if someone has ended the game by having the requisite number of cards on their shelves – 16 with two players, 14 with three players, 12 with four players.  If not, keep playing.  If so, play one final round and then score.  The player with the most points after the final inspection is named the Grand Librarian.

image by BGG user as7m

This is a great idea for a board game – organizing books and such.  I’m married to a librarian, so I might be biased, but I think this looks like a lot of fun with some very interesting worker placement ideas.  My biggest negative thought is that there may eventually be way too many possibilities for placement as you continue, which will probably really make the game drag near the end with more players.  But still, this is definitely one I want to check out (GET IT?!?).

And with that, I take my leave.  Thanks for reading!

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