Monday, 20 November 2017

#ReducingThePile October 2017 update

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame. You can find the other posts in this series under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

It's been a busy November, so it took me some time to be able to get this out there. Sorry for the delay. Due to an #ExtraLife preview event I got in lots of games in October, eight of those were new to me games and you can find a short review of each below.

Chinatown - This game has been on my wishlist for years. It was also out of print for a very long time and when it came back into print it sold out very quickly. Due to Geektropolis closing (RIP), I was finally able to get my hands on a copy and I got it to the table only two days after picking it up. 

This is a fantastic negotiation game. It is the purest negotiation game I've ever played. You can bargain with just about everything in the game. This doesn't just include your 'resources' in hand but areas of the board that you own that are already in play. The actual game is a set collection area control game and on it's would probably still be solid but, with the ability to buy, sell and trade absolutely everything, it becomes amazing. 

The only problem with Chinatown is that it requires a few plays to really figure out the value of the businesses. This also means that an experienced player is going to have a serious advantage over a new player. I personally suggest that, for your first game, toss out the AP and just buy and sell and trade to see what happens. Then go back a second time when you have a better idea of property values etc. and play a 'real game' of Chinatown.

Yokohama - The thing you hear the most about this game is how much of a table hog it is. Believe that. This game takes up a lot of room. The other thing you will hear is that it's a lot like Istanbul. I don't agree with that. Except for the fact that you are moving on rectangular tiles that change orientation and layout every game, and the fact that it's mostly a pick up and deliver game, I did not find Istanbul and Yokohama all that similar. 

The big thing in Yokohama is strategy. Planning ahead. Thinking about your next three to five turns is normal. It's the kind of game where you decide you want to do a thing. But to do the thing you need to first do this other thing. To do that other thing you need a resource. To get the resource you have to first stop on one specific spot. It's also the kind of game where you get that resource, then completely forget what you needed it for. 

Making this long term planning even more fun is the way that other players can mess with it. So in addition to having a good plan you have to be able to react and change that plan when needed. If that's not the recipe for a great Euro I don't know what is.

Kronia - This one was donated by the awesome folk at CMON for us to play at #ExtraLife. It's a rather small box with no minis in it. Kronia is a good reminder that CMON doesn't just do big thematic miniature filled games.

What we have here is a blind auction, set collection game that starts off with perfect information. Players get a set hand of cards (everyone's the same), and a set of coloured coins are put in a bag. Everyone knows what cards everyone else has and the distribution of the coins. A small number of coins are drawn (based on the number of players) and players use the cards in their hands to blind bid on them. The neat bit here is that after bidding each player has a chance to move their bid (either to the top of the pile they are on or to another pile). This happen in the reverse order that bids are placed. Highest bid gets the coin. Bonus points for winning with a low bid. Final scoring is based on collecting sets of coins of the same colour. The game includes a Hades expansion that we didn't try but it ads black coins that are worth negative points. 

There isn't much more to Kronia, but I found I really enjoyed it. There's some social deduction there, trying to figure out if your opponents are bluffing or not and whether or not they may be moving their bid. The components are top notch, including cool 3D temples to put the coins on during the bidding round. 

Gekido: Bot Battles - The first thing you will notice about Gekido: Bot Battles is how awesome the miniatures are. These are more like small toys than board game pieces. They are the quality of those Disney Infinity figures or the Nintendo Amiibo figures. Unlike Kronia Gekido points out exactly what CMON are known for: cool minis. 

Unfortunately the miniatures are the only awesome thing about the game. This one was also donated by the fine folk at CMON for #ExtraLife and I've got to admit I'm glad I didn't buy it. The game itself is just a really fancy Yahtzee based dice game. Players battle their robots by trying to roll Yahtzee sets. You have to commit to what set you are going for after the first roll. If you make your set you damage our opponent and if you fail you take damage instead. There are some neat bits where once you start taking damage you get some new powers but most of these are just ways to modify the dice. 

Overall for a game with similar theme and mechanics I much prefer King of Tokyo. It is possible that kids may dig this one, and maybe that's where the audience for Gekido is, especially with the toy like pieces. 

Baseball Highlights: 2045 - I have been meaning to try this game since Origins 2015. My wife and I spent a lot of time in the Eagle/Griffon booth that year trying out a variety of games. Until that event I paid no attention to some cyborg baseball game. The thing is that while we were there beating the designers of Fleet at their own game and learning Francis Drake, we kept seeing all these people come up and talk about Baseball Highlights. So we tried to get in a demo game but every event for the rest of the weekend was booked solid so we never got to try it. Well, during the Geektropolis Extra Life warm-up event, the first game I got to play was Baseball Highlights 2045. It was worth the wait. 

This is a deck building game that reminds me quite a bit of microgames like Love Letter or Lost Legacy. It also reminds me a lot of Millennium Blades. The reason for this is that you play each round of the game with a very small set of cards and each round is over in about 15 minutes. Actually you can just play the game that way, in a quick 15 minute, one baseball game, series. Even that is fun.

The game really shines when you play a full series. These include a three game mini season and a full world series. Here you take that tiny deck, and use those cards to make that deck better and better after each game. By the time you are in the final game of the series, your deck should be a well oiled machine. Of course your opponent is doing the same. 

The one disappointment for me was the fact that the game is for one or two players only. The fact the box says two to four is misleading. There are four teams in the box, and four people can play, but not all together. You would have to split off into two pairs. The rules also include rules for running leagues and tournaments, something I'm tempted to try at some point.

Mammoth Hunters - This one was sent to us from Rio Grande Games for us to play during Extra Life. It's an older Alea game that I will admit I had never heard of before.

As expected from a Rio Grande Alea game, Mammoth Hunters is an abstract Euro with a pretty much pasted on theme. It's designed to be more functional than pretty and that's pretty obvious. Actually I would go so far as to say this is an ugly game. It does have mammoth meeple and they are pretty cute.

I'm pleased to say that the gameplay is far from ugly. Mammoth Hunters is a very solid area control game. It does some things I've not seen before and that's always awesome. Most of this is based on a unique economic system where you have to pay to play cards that help you, but the only way to get the money (stones) to pay for those is to play cards that help your opponents. 

There is a really big "take that" element in Mammoth Hunters and if your group isn't into screwing each other over make sure you stay away. Our group is pretty easy going and even with us I think there were a couple hurt feelings after some particularly nasty moves.

El Caballero - Another game that was donated by Rio Grande for our Extra Life Event. I have been curious about El Caballero for a long time as I love it's big brother: El Grande. 

El Grande is probably the most well known most pure area control game out there. El Caballero is what you get if you mash that with the most well known and most pure tile laying game out there: Carcasonne. This is a tile laying area control game that has some funky ways of doing area control. 

I had a hard time explaining the rules and I'm certain I can't explain the game any better in text here, so this is going to be vague. Basically you play cards that determine your player order and how many guys you get to place. But then instead of placing actual guys (or cubes or pawns for that matter) you place tiles. One tile each turn makes the map bigger but then the other tiles you place represent your guys, your Caballeros. How these tiles connect to the land tiles shows who owns what chunk of land. You have to trust me on this, it works, it's just hard to grock at first, even while playing the game with the tiles in front of you.

El Caballero is a nasty, nasty area control game. If you thought that you could screw someone over in El Grande, you have to try this one. That leads me to what seems to be a problem with this game. You can get screwed over, really screwed over. So screwed over that you are basically out of the game. That's what happened to me. This would be cool in a quick filler game but this is no quick filler. Our first game went almost 3 hours. That's a lot of time sitting there playing a game you know you can't possibly win. 

Flick Wars - technically I've played Flick Wars before. I even did a full review of it which you can check out here: Flick Wars: a strategic dexterigy game ending soon on Kickstarter.

As you can tell from the title of that blog post, my review was of a prototype pre-production copy of Flick Wars. Sadly back in 2014 when I wrote this post, Flick Wars failed to fund. The designer, Andrew Tullsen, didn't give up and brought the game back this year and tried again. This time it funded.  This was my first play of a production copy of Flick Wars. 

I still really dig this game. The rules have changed since I played the pre-production copy, as have some of the components. The biggest thing component wise is that the game now comes with a great neoprene mat to play on and lots of scenery to place both above and below the mat. The rule changes were all good, especially in regards to how bases work. The game is just a bit tighter and better balanced now.

I've got a soft spot for dexterity games but I find most of them are very light. I think it's really cool that there's a game out there with some more strategy to it. It's not just about flicking discs, it's about managing your resources and building an army and adapting to what your opponent is doing. That said this is no Euro game, it's still a game where you try to flick your disc into your opponents. 

That's it for the new to me games that I got to the table in October. How is your Pile of Shame looking?

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