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At the Gates of Loyang

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At the Gates of Loyang is one of my favorite games with a solo component. I’ve never actually played it at any other player count, and that’s perfectly fine with me. Uwe Rosenberg does a fantastic job of integrating solo mechanics in a lot of his games, and I’ve found At the Gates of Loyang’s solo game to be extremely satisfying.

At the Gates of Loyang is a trading game in which you are able to produce goods by planting them and later selling them to customers. You can use the abilities of some helpers to increase your income or production.

Fields, customers, helpers, and miscellaneous objects are represented by cards. Each player receives two of these cards per round distributed by a bidding/drawing mechanism in which you end up with one of the cards you draw and one of the cards of a public offer filled by all players. Additionally, to these cards you always receive one field for free each round.

Placing one good on a field fills the complete field with goods of this type. Each round, one unit per field is harvested. After planting, harvesting, and distributing cards, each player can use as many actions as he wants, only limited by the number of his cards or the number of goods he owns. At the end of his turn, he can invest the earned money on a scoring track, where early money is worth more than late money. The game ends after a certain number of rounds, and the player who is first on the scoring track wins.

Everything is tight in At the Gates of Loyang. Money is used not only to purchase resources, but also to ultimately move up the scoring track. Planting the correct resources and having enough of them to complete customer needs is crucial to getting more money. It’s one of the few games where I feel every decision counts and one wrong move means not being able to move up on the scoring track.

As with a lot of solo modes, the ultimate victory is beating your previous score. I find I can get to 15 pretty often, but 16 and higher is a real challenge. I find I’m just short of being able to move just one notch further.

I took a look back at my last play of At the Gates of Loyang and was surprised to find I hadn’t touched it since 2014. I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t have broken it out for roughly five years, but now that it’s hit the table again, I’d like to make it a point to play it at least once a month. I also want to finally try it with more players to see how that stacks up to the solo experience.

January 31, 2019
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Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

Posted in Brettspiele

Our play through of the game library continues with Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar. I bought Tzolk’in roughly around the time it was released in 2012, so we’re looking at six-plus years without a single play.

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar presents a new game mechanism: dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots.

During a turn, players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker. Actions located “later” on the gears are more valuable, so it’s wise to let the time work for you – but players cannot skip their turn; if they have all their workers on the gears, they have to pick some up. 

The game ends after one full revolution of the central Tzolkin gear. There are many paths to victory. Pleasing the gods by placing crystal skulls in deep caves or building many temples are just two of those many paths…

CGE Games

So how was were the gears in practice? Brutal, absolutely brutal. Having to keep track of where your workers will be is key. Start them on one gear to get resources in order to build later means you need to pay attention to when you need to place a worker on another gear in order to be able to build when you want to. Needless to say, planning is critical in Tzolk’in.

I had a rough time of it as the game went on. We were getting close to the end when I turned to M and told her I had no idea what I was even doing. There is so much to go for, but if you haven’t planned to focus on anything from the start, you’re going to have a rough game.

That said, I really like it. The gears are a clever addition to the worker placement mechanic. It works really well with two players, as you’ll add dummy players to the gears, which can really block your placement options more than you think they would. The game with two is fast as well. With limited actions on your turn (pick up or take back your workers), the main gear really hums along.

M loved it. The sign of a good game is how much she talks about it and the possibilities it offers, and she definitely talked a lot about Tzolk’in when we finished. Much like Haleakala, she would have played it immediately again if we were able. I love it when a game hits her like that. I love the feeling I get when a game really clicks with me, so it’s exciting to see a similar spark in her, especially with games from our library.

Initial Verdict: Tzolk’in is a keeper and will see many repeat plays.

January 22, 2019
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Snow Gaming

Posted in Brettspiele
board games

We were snowed in for the majority of the weekend, so we decided to spend a lot of our time working through our game library. I’ve been collecting games for roughly ten years and I’m not proud to admit I haven’t actually played a good majority of them. Turns out, this was the perfect time to break some of them out.

Megaland – A nice and easy press your luck style game with elements of engine building. Decide how far you want to go into the dungeon and escape with treasure you can then turn in to build up your city (and potentially provide ongoing bonuses). M and I both liked it, though I felt it was a little too quick to get to the ultimate goal of 20 coins. My only negative is the city building aspect reminds me a little too much of Machi Koro at first glance, a game I really dislike. Initial verdict: This will be a good starter game for the evening.

Haleakala – I was drawn to Haleakala because of the cover art and that it was two player. Miniature Market had several copies on their dent and ding shelves, so I got it for a steal (and it was completely un-dent and dinged). Haleakala is more of an abstract game. You move around the island placing totems and picking up assorted island goods. Twice the volcano will erupt and potentially knock those totems down. Both M and I loved Haleakala, though I was a little mad at myself for missing a couple of rules during the game. Initial verdict:This one will be going into out regular rotation for sure.

Stone Age – I’ve actually played Stone Age before, though it was via a mobile app several years ago. I’ve owned the physical copy forever, but have never managed to get it to the table. Stone Age is a “classic” worker placement game. Place workers on the board and take those actions where they’re at. Once some piece or token runs out, the game ends. I really like Stone Age, but having played other worker placement games in the years since its release, I feel like it’s a somewhat dated (basic) experience for me today. That said, I definitely want to play it more, especially at least once with the expansion that came out for it. Initial verdict: Fun, but may need a little coercing to play.

Africana – I went through a pretty heavy Michael Schacht phase many years ago, and Africana was one of the games I picked up during that time. Another game I’ve never played, Africana with two is just okay. At the heart of it, it’s a game about completing routes, kind of like Ticket to Ride. With two players, there wasn’t much tension to complete routes in the quickest way possible. I liked that it could be seen as an alternative to TTR though, mainly because I know a lot of people who still covet TTR, while I’ve soured on it. Initial verdict: Kind of meh at two players, but we want to play it with the full four before deciding if we want to keep it in the collection.

January 14, 2019
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Flamme Rouge

Posted in Brettspiele

Flamme Rouge

Flamme Rouge was on the top of “must buy” list for the longest time. Like a lot of games, it had come out in Europe months before an American publisher picked it up. Retraining myself from picking up a European copy was difficult, but I’m happy to say Flamme Rouge has finally been released in the US by Stronghold Games.

Flamme Rouge is a race game with a cycling theme. Score! Each round, you play a movement card for each of your two riders. One, a Sprinteur, has both super high value cards and super low value cards. This is obviously meant to simulate the bursts of speed sprinters are know for. Your other rider, the Rouleur, has average value cards, so he’s meant to keep up with the pack.

After cards and riders have been moved, you calculate fatigue and slipstream, adding fatigue cards to your deck or moving lagging riders up closer to the pack. Thematically, it’s brilliant and makes total sense. The tracks can be configured different every race, which adds to the replay value. There are even track segments meant to simulate steep inclines and declines.

So far, I’ve only played one 2-player learning game with M. It took us roughly half the game to really start seeing how the movement cards were truly meant to be played. All too often we’d have to play the high number sprint cards to get the Sprinteur caught back up with the pack, which is kinda the reverse of what the Sprinteur should be used for. That said, once it clicked, we both really liked it. As a 2-player game I think it’s okay, but we both think it would really sing with the full four players.

I was extremely excited when I started seeing pictures of Flamme Rouge pop up on Instagram. I immediately knew I was going to buy it when it eventually came out over here, and I’m so happy it turned out to be a great game, even after just one play.

Flamme Rouge

August 29, 2017
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Game Night(s)!

Posted in Brettspiele

ticket to ride

I managed to play quite a few games while M and I were in Madison last weekend visiting one of her sisters. I’m also ultra lucky to be joining an extended family who loves playing board games. It gives me hope I’ll finally be able to play all the games that have been sitting on my shelves for years. For last weekend, I brought a few, bought a couple while there, and played one her sister owned. It was good times and we all had a lot of fun.

games

Ticket to Ride: India and Switzerland. We play the India map on Thursday night after a long day spent at the airport and on planes. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but feel it’s maybe a little too skewed to picking up and completing as many tickets as you can. I would definitely play it again, but I’d have to change my normal TTR play style up quite a bit.

Zooloretto: The Dice Game. I brought this one as a way to introduce the truck loading mechanic used in the original board game version. The dice game version is okay, but the more I play it, the less I think I like it. It does really make me want to play the board game version though, so I will have to break that out with M at some point soon.

Felix: The Cat in the Sack. I’ve owned Felix for years, but have only played it once. I remember having rules issues with it that first time playing, but found relearning it to be quite easy. While it’s really meant to be played with four or more, it did play well for at three using the dummy player in the first slot. Felix was probably my favorite of the weekend. It will definitely be getting more attention in the future.

Fuji Flush. Fuji Flush was one of the two new games I bought while in Madison. It’s a quick card game along the lines of UNO. There’s a mechanic or two that takes a bit to wrap your head around, but I think everyone really liked it when we got the hang of it. It gets a lot of grief on BGG for being too simple like UNO, but I grew up on UNO, so Fuji Flush could be just as good after a few more plays.

Unexpected Treasures. Like Felix, this one got a play or two when I first bought it, but quickly went on the shelf because we didn’t fully understand the rules at the time. I had a much better handle on it this time though, and it plays really well. This is another one that will be seeing more plays in the future.

February 6, 2017
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