Time once again to take a look at the boardgames that are new to me in 2012. I’m fortunate that between my Sunday group and my Tuesday group I have a lot of opportunities to try out new things. Let’s see how I feel about them. (Note, part one is here, and for both parts I’m mostly cribbing from here.
The Manhattan Project — Worker placement game with great graphic design, tough choices, and some direct interaction. There’s a lot going on in this, but it still moves fairly quickly (I don’t know that I’d like playing with the max of five). Theme works pretty well too. I talked more about it here. Rating: 8
Junta: Viva el Presidente! — I’ve never played the original Junta, so I can’t really talk about how well this game captures the essence of it. I can say that this fell kind of flat for me. I didn’t feel like the choices I had to make were particularly significant or interesting. Rating: 3
1955: The War of Espionage — I got this based on reviews I read which made it sound like a light, quick version of Twilight Struggle. I can sort of see the comparison there (apart from the obvious theme similarity) but it’s a little bit of a stretch. Still, it’s a tense, strategic tug-of-war game with a lot of possibilities. Nice look to it as well. Rating: 7
Triumvirate — I like trick-taking games, with my faves being Sticheln, Wizard, and Bottle Imp. We took a look at the rules for this and were utterly baffled. But once we started playing, it clicked. This is a supremely tricky game, and it takes a lot of finessing to get the result you want out of it. In the tie-breaking game I even felt I was screwed because, as luck had it, I got almost no scoring cards, and the ones I had were in a single color. I didn’t see how I could get yellow to win, but I was able to play what I had to fish out a victory. I imagine as we all know the game more, that will get even harder to do. Rating: 7, but could go higher if I play it more.
Nefarious — Straightforward light game about competing mad scientists. It’s silly and fun, but has enough meat for a gamer to chew on, I think. It’s hard to talk about after one play because the Twist cards that change the game environment can really alter the dynamics. In our game, inventions ran twice, so it was pretty easy for one to cause a huge swing. Still, short, fun, and clever. Rating: 5
Last Will — Oddball game in which the goal is to lose all your money, so “buy high and sell low” becomes a strategy. And there are multiple strategies. A lot of moving parts, and it seems a little odd and overwhelming at first, but they all fit together pretty well. Ultimately it’s not that different from a standard economic engine game, but it shakes things up enough to stand out. Rating: 6
Prêt-à-Porter — This is pretty much a straight-up economic engine game, with a few details added for the theme. For example, after your collection is shown you sell it, but the selling price is increased depending on how well you did in the show. Also, there are different markets from which you can buy your materials, and this affects the quality of your finished product. It’s tense and unforgiving, and big ups on a novel theme. I talked about it here. Rating: 8
Hawaii — Hawaii is an odd little game where you are generating feet and shells and fruit in order to build huts and tikis and sometimes go fishing. It sounds light and goofy, but it’s actually a fairly unforgiving (and oh so fiddly) economic game. (With, it should be stated, a horrible rulebook. An essential rule is not actually mentioned in the rulebook, but in the stupid supplement. Guys, make a single rulebook, and put all the rules in it.) The key is to know right away that it’s an economic game, which I kind of didn’t. I assumed each round would provide a low but workable number of feet and shells, and I was wrong. By the fourth round (of five) my failure to prepare for this scarcity was my undoing, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. That’s not the game’s fault, it’s mine. Rating: 7
Sunrise City — This is another Kickstarted game and it shows: gorgeous, lavish components and all kinds of extras, supporting an okay game. After some tussling with the rulebook (which of course didn’t have rules for the bonus KS tiles) we got going and had a pleasant enough time with it. It’s a perfectly fine game, kind of light, kind of random, plays quick, but it’s also not particularly captivating. There’s also a weirdo scoring thing that doesn’t really serve any purpose other than to wonky things up a bit. Rating: 6
Fresco — Fairly standard Euro with one pretty neat idea: hidden worker placement. It’s odd, though, in that when you start your workday seems to determine a lot of what happens, and you often don’t get much of a chance to decide that for yourself (especially in a 3-player game). Not bad, but nothing to write home about. Plus we all know how I feel about Cathedrals. Rating: 6
Takenoko — Let’s get it out of the way: this game is gorgeous. Absolutely wonderful components that make the game look great during play. The game itself? Not bad. It’s very light and quick, and that’s fine. The only issue I have is that the points scored for achieving objectives seem really skewed. Some really tough objectives give few points while easier ones give lots. So that’s weird, but not a game killer for me. Rating: 6
Android — This is a game from 2008 that I avoided for a long time (which wasn’t very hard — it’s not like I turned down any offers to play it) because I thought it was probably not for me. I’ve now played it and discovered how wrong my preconceptions of this game were. More detail is here. Rating: 9
Infiltration — I read a review of this game and thought, “Huh, I’d like to try that out!” And then that very night, my friend Jim brought his new copy to game night! So I’m kind of using the power of The Secret. Anyhow, this sounded like DungeonQuest in the future, with a little more player interaction. Sadly, it’s just not as much fun as DQ. The linear nature of the facility, while I’m sure designed to maximize player conflict and minimize headaches for managing NPCs, just makes everyone race to clean out a room. The tech lock and lab worker things are weirdly done too: you can’t do them without proper items, so those with lucky item card draws only get the options, yet unlocking/killing them may benefit other players more, so even then you might not want to do it. So it’s a game about infiltrating an enemy base in which you’re mostly just slap-fighting the members of your own team. There’s a decent game in here, but it doesn’t quite come together in a meaningful way. Starting to think DXV just isn’t a designer for me. Rating: 5
Knusper-Hexe — The 4.5 year old wanted to play the witch game, so we played the witch game. I cannot support this game as it teaches stealing candy from old women until you destroy their houses. Also my big stupid fingers made me lose (it’s something of a dexterity game). Rating: 6, with kids.
Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League — A pick-up and deliver game with a fairly straightforward approach, except for a few interesting things: flying away from the sun is harder than flying towards it, goods eventually disappear, and it’s pretty damn MEAN. If you don’t know what cards are available and what can be done to you, you won’t be expecting some of the jerk moves that can be made. This definitely raises it up a notch! I think this will become a favorite 2-player game. Rating: 7
Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game — I’m a big fan of Scripts and Scribes/Biblios and also like dice games that aren’t just themed Yahtzee with dice-fiddling mechanics. Ergo, I was pretty eager to try this one out. It’s an interesting beast: a dice game with auctions! It’s very reminiscent of the original (being that the theme in both is pasted on, this isn’t saying much) except that, unlike the original, it’s more difficult to change course if things aren’t going your way. I liked it. Rating: 6
Dungeon Command — I was sent a review copy of (Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lolth) and Matt and I took a shot at it. Unfortunately I can’t really say much about it. This might be the best skirmish-level miniatures game out there but I have no way of knowing because skirmish-level miniatures games are just not my thing. They’re worse than not my thing — I don’t enjoy playing them that much. I try to play them but end up ever so carefully moving my guys around and then watching them get slaughtered because I just never have any idea what I should be doing. They’re not fun to me. This one didn’t change that, but again, that doesn’t say anything about this game in particular because for all I know, people who like this sort of thing love this instance of it. I am probably going to pass my review copies on to someone who will have a better shot at enjoying this. Rating: 4 (that’s just how it appeals to me personally.)
Village — This SdJ winner offers a couple of novel ideas. First, it’s not quite worker placement, though it looks like it if you squint. Second, the workers that you sort of place but sort of don’t eventually die off, which makes for some tough decisions. That said, it reminds me of a Stefan Feld game (specifically Trajan) in which there’s a big mishmash of things you’re already kind of tired of linked by a single innovative mechanism. It’s not terrible, but it’s also nothing particularly special. I can’t imagine people will still be thinking much about it in a few months. Rating: 7