Bretagne, Marco Pozzi 

  
I really fancied trying Bretagne because for some reason the idea of building 19th century lighthouses appealed to me. It looked quaint, and didn’t disappoint on that front. It’s an attractive, fairly peaceful game with a slower place. It is classed as an economic/area control game but it has worker placement elements. You can use workers (cubes), engineers and resources (coloured wooden pieces) to complete lighthouses and when you complete all lighthouses in each area then the improved abilities on the nearby harbours are activated.
  
It’s best to work together to get lighthouses completed, but you need more workers on your section of it, so you can use the cards you’ve collected to their best ability. The lovely weather gage cards tell you how the elements will affect your building and how many engineers you’ll need each round. You use your components to trade for others and to get workers on the harbours to gain cards or workers each turn.
  
It’s definitely got some strategy involved but not overly heavy, but it is quite ‘thinky’ which is good! As with a lot of area control/WP games there doesn’t seem to be enough time to achieve everything you want to but with repeated plays it should fall in to place a bit more.
  
The board, though very nice looking is kind of badly laid out in some respects and the lamented pieces are slippery AF and the awkward placing causes bits to fall all over the place which can get really annoying! The only other complaint would be that the cards and symbols are a little counter intuitive and the rule book translation isn’t fantastic, so it’s a bit difficult to get your head around. But all in all Bretagne is a fun game. It isn’t mind blowing but I’d recommend it if you like moderate strategy, a slower pace and lighthouses! I’m glad I bought it and look forward to future plays. More Info
 

A Study In Emerald, Martin Wallace

*Bear in mind that these thoughts are based on a two player game. And that it was mainly composed at 2am when my daughter wouldn’t sleep. 

IMG_0210

I wanted to love A Study In Emerald. So that was possibly my first mistake. I’m rather into the Lovecraftian genre. Not on a massive scale but I’ve read quite a bit of Lovecraft over the years and enjoyed films and games based on the Cthulhu Mythos. So I thought this game is perfect for me; deck building, secret plotting, Sherlock and Cthulhu, I’m there!  There are some parts to this game I really like, for a start the art work is gorgeous. It looks like something out of an Oz book, and I love the board and cards, it’s just so darn attractive with some hideous Elder God cards to boot, perfect! But I found it hard to shake the initial disappointment after being so excited for it.
IMG_0163
I thought it was going to be one of those games I’d instantly click with, so I was a bit perplexed that I was struggling to grasp the concept during the first couple of plays. I really enjoy deck building and the mechanics seemed like familiar territory. I’m pleased to say that after a short while it all became clear. Well clear-ish. The rule book was slightly problematic, at first it seemed to be well written and but there are a few ambiguous parts that left us (and Jon being a big rules man) like ‘whaaaa?’ and having to look up online for rules explanations etc. I’m aware that the second edition is more streamlined, and a lot of er loyalists to the original think this version is a travesty. Having had no experience of the first edition and being that it’s no longer in print, that doesn’t really matter to people who have only just discovered the game. Anyway my point is that if this was an opportunity to improve on the original then why not make the rule book a bit better?
IMG_0216
Onto the game itself. I’m not going to talk in depth about the rules because you can find that information anywhere. But to give you a the general idea I’ll outline the basics. You spend most of ASIE as you would any other deck builder, by collecting cards that work for you and enhance your turns with weird and wonderful things. You have a secret ID, you’re either with the elders (Royalists) or you’re fighting against them as a Restorationist. You move your agents around the city spaces and grapple for influence to get the card you want (you need more pieces on the city to get first dibs). The symbols on the cards let you do certain things like move, pick up etc. You need influence cubes to pick up the cards and the cubes go into ‘limbo’ when spent, so ideally you want to claim a card that lets you retrieve all of them so you don’t spend all your turns just picking up cubes. You can also spend turns performing assassinations on your opponent or killing the creatures. If you’re a Loyalist you can get a card that means you ‘claim’ the creatures for final points.
 IMG_0156
So this brings me to the pointy issue of points. Because the main aim of any game is to get points and win. So it’s a pretty big deal when it doesn’t quite work. The end triggers when you reach 28 on the score track, 10 on the influence track, if all your agents die or you lose sanity. You score by getting neutral points on city cards, performing assassinations, claiming certain character and creature cards. So there’s a lot to think about there. In a two player it’s quite difficult to keep your ID secret, but if you want to bluff you have to be careful not to get too many cards that will lose you points at the end. Because when the end triggers you deduct any points that were not helpful to your faction. E.g- you’re a Restorationist who wants to appear as a Loyalist so you’ve assassinated another agent but this will lose you points at the end for this. Likewise for the Loyalist, when you get Loyalist characters you have to roll the sanity dice. Lose three sanity and you go mad! So my issue is that in an already complex game with narrow time constraints, what is with the influence track? This was a real problem for us and my main bug bear. You can move the marker on this track up and down depending on whether your the Royalist or Restorationist faction and this affects how your points on the scoring track move. You can use it to speed up or delay the game pretty much using the number of difference on the track. Since reading a few posts on BGG I’m relieved it’s not just us that struggled with it! We ended one game on what I thought was a close call and then I lost all my points to the dreaded track and was a bit like ‘well why’s that happened?’ So I lost all the difference because I was one point behind on the Loyalist track?  I went down to zero? Still so confused! Is it meant to be evocative of the theme? Because it drove me mad! I felt a bit deflated and Jon felt a bit shitty and we were left thinking it would be far better without this odd mechanic. I personally think it doesn’t really achieve what it intended and should of been scrapped. Because it’s not that fun to use. But the rest of the game is good so it’s an irritant. I suggested that maybe we should house rule this in some way or leave it out entirely for future plays. But as Jon said, quite rightly, that with so many other games out there that are all round solid winners why would we play a game where we’ve had to change or leave out a main part of it because it sucks? Whilst this is true, I think as I enjoyed the rest of the game I want to make it work for us. But still  don’t really like the idea of changing the mechanics in place. I think we’d definitely have to give it a couple more turns using the influence track and perhaps finally figure out how this works to advantage without destroying yourself at the end. But if not I’d be happy to play without it. Kind of. In a nutshell;
The negative;
– Influence Track
– A WTF rule book
–  With two players it’s over very quickly and you’ve barely made a dent in the game. We house ruled to put the city cards at the bottom of the draw deck spaces because if you score the city points in the initial few rounds it’s all over in ten minutes.
– Generally with a lot to play around with it’s a shame that the end of game can trigger so quickly.
– Hard to keep your secret identity secret for long with a two player.
The positive;
– A gorgeous game.
– Secret Plotting is great fun.
– The deck building element.
– The theme.
– I like the fast pace, with sudden death imminent there’s lots to get done and turns are lightening fast.
– Much to think about and opportunity to secretly strategise (just not enough time to employ it all!).
– The character cards with some nice surprises (Freud! William Morris!).
– Some gruesome new elders like Gloriana.
If you’ve had a completely different experience in a 2 plus game please do share!

Gum Gum Machine, Stefan Dorra, Ralf Zur Linde

FullSizeRender-1

We played Gum Gum Machine for the first time and I am happy to say it was a lot of fun. Pretty much what I expected, it’s not going to set off intellectual fireworks or bust your brain. It’s a cute silly game about making ‘gum gums’ and that’s about it!

IMG_2316

I found the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory aesthetic particularly pleasing, and the modular board is a great addition. It reminded me of games I played when I was a kid like 13th Dead End Drive, and you can interchange the components to change it up a bit each time. Also check out the box inlay….ooooh.

FullSizeRender

So I played a couple of games employing no strategy whatsoever, just having fun with it and lost both times. If you want to win then you can try and memorise bits and pieces to get the gummy you need, make the biggest gummies and get the most points.

The board sends you to different areas and randomises your turn so to memorise the board and find a strategy is tricky and fun. That’s why I like the board because you can make your next game different and it doesn’t get stale. Not the kind of game you’d play nightly because I can imagine it would lose some novelty but as a filler game or something light and fun then it’s a must buy! More Info

 

 

My Board Game Musings

Just a few thoughts i’ve had whilst mulling over my love for board games…

Board Gaming Improves Quality of Life!

Well, put it this way, before playing games, me and my partner Jon used to do regular couple-y things, but most of it ended with drinking, and we used to drink a lot. Which pretty much would result in a lot of wasted money, feeling ill and arguing. Maybe once at the police station. More often than not eating pizza and passing out. Looking back, generally it wasn’t all that fun. So it’s fantastic that since playing tabletop games (which probably began in earnest at the end of 2013) we have had so much more fun together and i’m pleased to say drinking responsibly (or in my case not really) and behaving like actual adults (who play games like kids) has been so much more of a great way to live. It’s also a perfect way to actually interact with one another, and spend time together doing an activity that isn’t eating whilst binge watching shows and movies (that’s our other favourite thing!)

Babies can destroy your board gaming dreams….for a while.

It’s a sad fact, but so very true, that babies will destroy the quality of your board gaming. But the good news is that it’s not for long! For a few months last year we wasn’t too involved in the board gaming sphere, I didn’t lose interest as such, but was very preoccupied with having a baby! The last game we really enjoyed before we had our daughter was Doomtown. We played everyday for like a solid month I think, though I did spend a lot of that time crying with back pain and taking ‘bouncing-on-birthing-ball-breaks’, playing games whilst heavily pregnant is rubbish. It’s like I really really want to finish this epic 3 hour game of Doomtown whilst listening to Western music on repeat, but I might collapse in the process. Awful. So, gaming post baby, well after the initial few weeks of being completely overwhelemed with the change , you move on to the sleep deprived brain dead phase. Which lasts a long time, but somehow you get used it to. I think that it was only at the end of last year that we finally allowed ourselves to think about getting back into board gaming, because for a while there we thought ‘we will never game again’. You dare to dream. We’ve now got our evenings back again since our baby settled into a night time routine, and board game madness ensued once more, yay! The only thing now is the evenings are usually for shorter games because we don’t have long before the need to sleep becomes too great, or the dreaded thought of having to be up at 3am.  So epic long games are generally saved for those weekends here and there, when our helpful relatives can take Gwen.

But….Children’s Games….

And the even better news is that I now have lots of ideas about all the fantastic children’s games I’m going to play with Gwen and as a family. Games about ghosts, witches, pandas and pirates. Iello do a fantastic range of children’s games based on fairy tales and fables and cute stuff like Friday The 13th, Night of the Grand Octopus and Ghooost. It makes me sad that there is so much old rubbish in the mass market, bloody Pie Face etc, I mean c’mon people, hello??? There’s so much more engaging, fun and cool stuff for your kids out there.

So Many Games!

It’s just ridiculous the amount my wish list grows. It never minimises it just gets longer, though the games I want move up and down in ranking. There are so many fantastic games that I’m discovering both new, old, to be released, card games, board games, dice games, print and play. Wow. The only trouble is when I get a bee in my bonnet about desperately needing a game in my life, it’s usually something out of print, hard to get hold of or has sky rocketed in price.

And Everyone’s Playing

A couple of weeks ago I created a new Instagram account and have been happily surprised that there are so many people boardgaming all over the world. It’s not news that it’s a popular hobby, there are so many people reviewing, blogging and making online shows, posting on Reddit and Board Game Geek. It’s really cool. So it’s strange that me and Jon pretty much only play together and don’t really know other board gamers. We’ve converted a few people but no one who can pop over any time and play. Since a board game cafe opened near Jon’s workplace he has been visiting and playing with workmates, but as he works so far away and I’m with our baby I’m not really able to participate. I love playing with Jon as he’s my favourite person, but it is a shame I don’t have any other board game friends and don’t get to play 3 player plus games often! So when I think a game looks awesome I always have to check before getting too excited, like is it 2 player, because if not, it’ll go on the wishlist but not one i’ll be in a hurry to purchase. I am pleased to say that we have managed to play a few of our 3 plus games like Space Alert, Cosmic Encounter, Once Upon A Time and Betrayal At House On The Hill, but they do sit idly in our collection which makes me a bit sad.

Making Your Theme Come To Life

I think that the only thing I enjoy more than boardgaming is making a big deal out of a theme. I’ve not gone to the extreme of wearing full fancy dress, but lighting candles, playing themed music or wearing a cowboy hat (for Doomtown!) makes for a great time and definitely adds a little something. What I love about themes is that you can immerse yourself in a different world with every game you play. On my birthday weekend when I got a stack of new games I did think wow, this weekend i’ve been a ’40’s movie producer, built 19th century French lighthouses and traded and settled across Ancient Rome. Very cool.

Reliving Your Childhood

When we have visited board game shops it’s like being a kid again. Our trips to Leisure Games in Finchley and Orcs Nest in Central London have always been great fun. Heart palpations when I see a game I’ve had my eye on, finding a rarity, being overwhelmed by a vast choice right in front of me (as oppose to online shopping) and coming home with a  bag of new games, it’s such a good feeling. I call it kid in a toy shop syndrome.

It’s Made Me Smarter! I Think

I mean it must have right?! I’m rubbish at maths but counting coins and calculating points has re engaged my brain slightly and strategic thinking and solving puzzles on almost a nightly basis can’t be a bad thing for the brain!

Experience Makes You Wiser

In my early board gaming days I thought everything was good, all games were cool, every theme was brilliant. It’s actually quite nice in reflection to know that i’ve grown as a player. I’m a bit more analytical in my thinking now. I can see what makes a good game and what makes a brilliant game, what could of done with improvement and what should just not have been done at all. So when browsing games for buying it’s good to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff (see what I did there with that kind of Agricola, Catan esque pun?!) and fill our collection with wonderful games. But i’m still learning (see my last post on The Producer to get the idea!) so I think I have a long way to go.
In case you can’t tell I love board gaming and as I’ve said before I can’t think of a greater hobby. Pop a comment in the box if you want to share any of your board gaming stories!

The Producer (1940-1944), Manlio Zaninotti

I’m crediting Jon with this one as well, because these thoughts were borne out of our many animated conversations after playing The Producer….
IMG_2284
I spotted this game whilst online browsing and thought ‘wow, could this be any more up my street?’ I love movies, I love that golden era and Hollywood glamour and I couldn’t of been more excited to play it last week. So, in hindsight maybe perhaps should of researched a bit further before making my mind up. Because most people who have played this have pretty much said the same thing. It’s not bloody finished. I don’t know what happened here, if it was rushed out or just not tested enough or whether they just thought fuck it lets not bother. And it’s such a shame. Because here we have a gorgeous looking game with lovely shiny components and thick luxe cardboard and the skeleton of a really great idea. It looked super heavy with loads going on. And as you will see from the pictures it’s a sprawling game that you need crazy table top space for. It’s a game you don’t have to be a ‘gamer’ to play, and if, like me, you love the theme then it’s perfect to have in your collection.
But I can’t ignore the fact that many of the rules are unexplained or non existent, the event cards (which could make the game more difficult and exciting) don’t actually make a blind bit of difference for the most part and some of the effects they have just don’t do anything period. For example, ‘if your actor is married but having an affair they lose a star’. But how do we know if they were married, like Jon said are you meant to Google for further information? Because this is not stated anywhere on the cards. Just weird stuff like that is a big no no. Per turn you can do a number of things, but at the core of it there’s not much going on. Joining the mafia seems pretty pointless, ruining your opponents reputation makes little difference, and getting themed sets doesn’t really add anything of value to the end game. Argh, it just doesn’t add up and it’s so frustrating because there are lots of things this game could of done differently.
IMG_2276
Much of the game centres around making money from your movies, and you do this by getting scripts and actors. You use certain cards to increase your audience values and then take your movies to the Oscars. And that is the fun part in my opinion but is actually pretty simplistic. I think that the audience values could be a bit more varied because no matter what you always seem to make around the same revenue per movie. And you make all this money but no receive no bonus points for having it. You have a better chance of winning against your opponent at the Oscars if your movie scripts match up with the correct actor and director cards, which is tricky because there are so many of them. But to spend every turn just getting cards out to try match up them doesn’t seem worth it. There’s a chance that it could be better with more players, but I can’t imagine how long your game play would be, we played the ‘short’ three round version with two players and it took 2.5 hours. I think i’ll have to play again, just to see if there’s anything else that can be done to add something more, or maybe there’s something glaringly obvious we missed. I have a bad feeling it will just present more unnecessary flaws. So in a word, i’m gutted, because as I said there are some enjoyable parts but the all over game is just a bit of a mess. I think they’ve had trouble with copywriting in the US because of the use of the images and people, but if by some chance this gets a re-release or second edition in the future, and the issues are ironed out, well it could be a fantastic game. But until then, as much as it pains me, it’s a really crushing disappointment. More Info
IMG_2053

Broom Service, Andreas Pelikan Alexander Pfister

IMG_2179

This game was released during my brief hiatus from gaming, so I didn’t  know it existed until recently. When Jon mentioned it I was instantly in love the theme as I’ve had a long term interest in witchcraft since a teenager. Being an 80’s child in the UK I grew up reading The Worst Witch and Puddle Lane and the gorgeous artwork on Broom Service is very reminiscent of that era. It’s also the first ‘pick up and deliver’ game that I have played.

FullSizeRender

It’s super twee and cute and the Meeples have witches hats and it’s pretty much just adorable. So it was a pleasant surprise that this is one hell of a vicious game. Vicious! There’s something about it that is so competitive and infuriating and just makes me go ‘arghhhhhhh!!!’ For me it’s because I have plans and strategy that gets completely screwed every turn, but that’s why this cutesy game is so clever, because you’re having to strategise on different levels. You’re constantly figuring out what your opponent is going to do, what your plan is and what your back up plan is. I love this game, I did want to throttle Jon a couple of times, nothing like a bit of healthy competition and murderous feelings I say!

I really like the dichotomy of the theme with how you play it, and the really good thing is that you can add extra rules and components to the game if you want to make it more challenging…which we do! This was one of the best games we’ve bought in a while and I think everyone needs to don a witches hat and play it. More Info

Concordia, Mac Gerdts

IMG_2076
I love the fast pace of Concordia! I must say that this is the first game for a while that has made me genuinely excited to be playing, and really engaged. Concordia actually works great with only two players, and i’m so anxious to beat my highest score each time it’s ludicrous. I definitely find the challenge of playing games, and bettering myself each time the best part of playing. I like winning when i’ve continuously lost a certain game, but in general the ‘winning’ aspect i’m not too fussed with. So I really love Concordia and I look forward to buying the expansion Salsa, hopefully very soon! More Info

IMG_2089