On the Table

Boardgames I played last week. After an extended period of just being not too interested in gaming, I think I’m back to really enjoying it again.

I’m no longer a slave to hype. I don’t pay attention to what games are hot, what games are getting buzz, Kickstarter, Gen Con, Essen, and so forth. Very little is an “auto-buy” for me. But there’s one major exception to this, and that’s Portal Games. A publisher in Poland, Portal Games is one of the few companies I pay close attention to, and will often grab their games based on the Portal name alone. They have put out some of my absolute favorites: The New Era, Neuroshima Hex, Imperial Settlers, and Theseus all are up there for me. Portal tends to put out games that are a little different from the usual, and appeal to my desire for fun and narrative. They debuted three games at Gen Con and if I’d gone there, I would have bought them all. One of these was Tides of Time, which I played on Thursday. We played Matt’s copy because mine is in a pre-order order along with the other two of Portal’s Gen Con releases, and a Neurosis Hex army. Like I said, I’m a Portal fanboy.

So how is it? It’s pretty neat. It’s Portal’s stab at a “microgame” which is a genre I’m growing tired of hearing about, but this one is a little different. It’s a drafting game with only 18 cards. We played twice and enjoyed it, though I’m not sure if this is one that will survive the long haul. I’ll still be happy to get my copy.

We then played Medina, a game I’ve had on my wish list forever. I played it ages ago, and remembered kind of liking it and thinking it was really nice-looking, but that’s it. I finally pulled the trigger on it. Medina is from 2001 and it definitely shows that it’s from the pre-Caylus school of boardgame design, in that instead of trying to do a thousand different things, it focuses on one idea and commits to it. You’re placing buildings to form palaces, with the intention of claiming the best-scoring palaces. That’s it. There are things which affect how much palaces are worth, but it’s still all about position, control, and a bit of luck pushing. It’s also super attractive. This second edition has a two-player variant that worked just as well as the full four-player version; in fact, it’s almost a little more interesting. Really glad I finally got this one.

For Sunday’s games I started out with Medina again, and then The Ancient World, a game I hadn’t heard of. It’s by Ryan Laukat, who did Eight Minute Empires (which I like) and Artifacts, Inc (which I backed on Kickstarter and am kind of eh on.) It’s a civ-lite sort of game where you’re improving your empire, increasing your military, growing your population, and battling titans, as you did in those days. I was quite taken by this, as it did a lot of things that were a bit novel and did them pretty well. There was some weird gaminess in the design; your workers are numbered 1-5 and on most spaces there are restrictions on what you can put there. Nevertheless, I liked it and would definitely play again.

Felix: the Cat in the Sack is a bidding and bluffing game that I’ve had for a while and have hardly played. I threw it in my crate and it actually hit the table. It’s okay, but there are dozens of these types of things floating around now. It can go.

Roll for the Galaxy is one of the biggest delights of the year. I was a little unsure about it at first, but it’s become a welcome regular. I’ve gotten a little better at finding a strategy and sticking to it, but I still am not a big winner here. Still, I enjoy playing it.

Finished out with Lords of Waterdeep with both Scoundrels of Skullport expansions. This is one that got a lot of play for a while and then I think we all got a little worn out on it. It was nice to crack it open again. It’s a great design that, again, sticks to the idea and doesn’t introduce a lot of unnecessary faff.

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