This Year’s New (to Me) Boardgames, Vol II

(Vol I is here.)

In the second quarter of 2013 I didn’t play as many new games as the first, partly because I didn’t play as many games, period. A combination of one of my regular game days going on hiatus and burning out a little on board games combined to slow me down. But here’s the new stuff I did play.

City of Remnants – I read a review of this that sounded good and was able to secure a copy. It’s an odd little beast, with a bit of a kitchen sink approach: area control, auctions, combat, resources, deck-building — kind of surprised you don’t have to place workers or draft opening hands. It all combines to make a sloppy, drunken, slugfest of a game. Even the theme wants to punch you: it starts off talking about the Yugai, galactic conquerors, but then tells you where you fit: you’re refugees who’ve already been conquered, fighting for scraps in Yugai controlled slums. I’m not sure how essential this is compared to, say, Nexus Ops or Neuroshima Hex, both of which are similar in feel and both of which deserve to be played more often. I’d like to give it another shot, but no one else was too crazy about it. Rating: 7? Maybe?

Monolith: The Strategy Game – Oh hey, yet another Kickstarter game with a horrible rulebook. Another Kickstarter game where we almost immediately have several rules questions we just have to all agree on because even though they’re pretty basic, they’re not covered anywhere. Thanks to Kickstarter, getting your little sister to do the artwork for the game is no longer an option, since artwork gets funding, but you can pass off the writing and editing to your friend’s boyfriend, who does pretty good at Words With Friends. The thing is, there’s a not-bad game idea here. You roll dice and place them one at a time into spaces on cards that grant you action cards, VPs, gems (used to power some cards and advance on the score track), or attack abilities that hose your opponents. Action cards also feature attacks and the ability to manipulate dice, though this isn’t too useful since the spaces that require a certain die face are pretty small. Unfortunately, since action cards don’t have to be given up to use (and don’t cost anything to use), a player with a powerful attack (or two such attacks) can just do them over and over and there’s nothing you can do about it. In our game one player played two “Tithe” cards every turn, which gave him six points a turn, made all of us lose 2 points a turn, and cost him nothing. There was nothing for us to do about this except just take it, over and over. By Round Four it was pretty much a lost cause against him. There’s a lot of variable setup, so games will turn out a bit differently each time, but as with most KS games, I don’t prefer fixing an almost-there design to playing a different game that works. Rating: 5

Québec – An odd one, this. It was a lot of elements that shouldn’t really work together, but somehow do. There’s sort of worker placement, sort of area majority, and an interesting balance of cooperation and competition. The theme is the historical development of Quebec, but you’ll have to take their word for it; it’s largely an abstract cube-mover. On paper this shouldn’t have done much for me, but it was pretty neat and engaging. Rating: 6

Core Worlds – Unless its expansion makes some changes, this is the game I will want to be playing when I’m playing Eminent Domain. This is the deck-building space game to go for. (To be fair, though, there isn’t much interaction short of “I need to grab that before you do” and it goes on WAAAAY long with 5 players.) This one feels like I’m conquering planets and building up a space empire. As with Thunderstone, it’s a deckbuilder in which I do more than just shuffle cards around and get more cards. I’m curious as to how it plays with 2, and I’m also curious about the expansion. (I have heard that, like Eminent Domain, this too can get repetitive after only a few plays.) Rating: I put it at 8 but in my heart I know it’s probably more of a 7.

Uchronia – I’m not sure I’ve ever played a complete game of Glory to Rome, the game this is a rework of. Every time I tried, it seemed to go on forever and was a learning game for someone. But there seemed to be something there, so a rethemed (though pointlessly so) and more streamlined version was something I was looking to try. This is certainly something I’d rather play than GtR, but it’s still a bit of a mess. It just plays like throwing as many things in as one can, hoping there’s a strategy game that comes out of it. It pretends like it’s in the same family as San Juan, but in reality it reminds me more of the dry piecemeal tedium of Agricola, where everything you want to do takes a million steps. Unlike Agricola, though, what stymies you isn’t so much the other players taking your actions but having the right cards in hand. (I’m starting to think that if you have a rule where you can use X cards of one type to represent a different type, maybe you need to re-examine why that rule is there.) A description of this as “San Juan on steroids” might be accurate, so long as you remember that steroids turn perfectly fine people into bloated, misshapen freaks. Rating: 5.

Quarantine – In a fair world, I shouldn’t even be talking about this game. We played wrong in like 12 different ways, so we weren’t experiencing it as intended. I’m not one of these clowns who believes you can’t form an opinion on a game until you’ve played it at least a dozen times, but in all fairness, we didn’t play this game, we played some effed-up version of it. Sadly, ours is a fallen, flawed world. There are some nifty things here. The wait line, and the strategy of sending folks to others’ hospitals, is a nice idea. The fact that the way you design your hospital might score you more points, but also makes you vulnerable is another interesting idea…in theory. In practice it engenders a “take that” element that results in most of your actions being wasted on removing contamination instead of doing what the game is supposedly about. The game is called “Quarantine”, however, so it means to put its most un-fun and annoying idea front and center. There’s interaction and conflict, and then there’s petty slap-fights, and this is the latter. Still, I’d give it another shot. Rating: 6

Pirate Dice: Voyage on the Rolling Seas – Someone on BGG made a “Roborally Express game”, which translated the original into a fast-paced dice game This is that, only rethemed (in a way that I GUESS makes sense). I’d never played RRE but I love Roborally, so I was totally down for this. Like its grandfather, it’s a lot of stupid fun, and well designed to keep the game from bogging down as Roborally can. I like the additional tweaks, like the anchor and the rum barrel, and it really seems like a lot of thought was put into it. If you regularly bitch about randomness stay far away from it, but I thought it was a lot of fun. In fact, I ended up getting my own copy after playing it and have introduced it to others. Rating: 7

The Convoy – I am a huge fan of The New Era and Neuroshima Hex and have been looking forward to this one for some time. It’s an asymmetrical 2-player game in which the scrappy human fighters must take down an unstoppable legion of killer robots. The rulebook is intimidating, but it turns out it’s not as complicated as it might seem. I played Moloch and Matt played Outpost and I won pretty solidly. I started out strong and Matt came back some towards the end, but we both felt like he just had no chance the whole time. It’s likely he just had a weird draw of the cards (plus the usual first game, not really knowing exactly what’s out there and how to manage it). The second time we played (playing the same sides), Matt won, so I think that first game largely came down to unfamiliarity and weird card draws. It’s a neat game, and I’m eager to give it more chances. Incidentally, I posted this bit of foolishness about the game a while back. Rating: 7, could go up.

Rialto – Stefan Feld is the current hot designer and almost all of his games are everything I am utterly tired of in Eurogames. The same dumb, pointless bullshit, only with a single novel element on it, as though that will make all the difference. Even by his standards this is run-of-the-mill, done-it-a-thousand-times, why-does-this-even-exist. Rating: 3

Dominant Species: The Card Game – Well, it’s at least shorter than Dominant Species the board game, which it otherwise has nothing in common with (this on the surface isn’t too bad; I didn’t like the board game.). It’s a card game in which you either have good cards for the round or you don’t. You see what’s worth points and play whatever cards you think might get you some. If someone had more of those things, oh well, better luck next round. If Dominant Species the board game is like playing two area control games at once, this is like playing two games of “War” at once. Rating: 3

Augustus – It’s described as “bingo for gamers” and I guess, yeah, it’s that. (The “bingo” part is accurate, but “gamers” usually want more than what this offers.) It’s goofy fun and suitable for rain-dancing or finishing out a night, but I can’t see anyone making an appointment to play this game. Rating: 6

Nightfall – I have the iPad version of this and tried it but even with the tutorial I had no idea what was going on. When I had an opportunity to pick up the analog version for $10 I figured it would help me learn the iPad game. Matt and I played it twice last night and I think we both liked it. I like that it’s a deckbuilder with some actual conflict in it, not just a race to do something before anyone else or create a VP factory. (I don’t have a problem with Thunderstone or Core Worlds, just glad to see this game doing something a little different with the deck-building thing.) I imagine it plays very differently with 2 than with more. I’m now curious about what the expansions add to it. Rating: 7, which might be a little high.

Guildhall – I shouldn’t really add this because we didn’t finish the game (another player showed up and we weren’t close to the end, so we bagged it). However, I think I played enough to get a view of it. Shame on AEG with this one. This is a really nice, fun, confrontational, strategic game that they saddled with a same-old-crap title, artwork, and theme. Going solely by the name and cover, I thought this was the usual Euro junk, and who could blame me? But it’s not, it’s a card game that is light on its feet and full of intrigue and action. Don’t do like I did and overlook it. Rating: 7, but I’m tempted to just go with 8.

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