Don’t play on an empty stomach: Food Chain Magnate, Splotter Spellen 

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Pre warning: My 5th bullet point kind of contains spoilers! 

I spotted FCM back in December last year, and upon realising it had sold out (and was only available on eBay for some ludicrous price) well I was majorly disappointed to say the least. I also read rave reviews and heard it was brilliant, cue further disappointment. With that I pre-ordered it in the 3rd print run and it turned up almost 10 weeks later. Needless to say I was psyched to play.

So was it worth the wait and does it live up to the hype? Um, well in a word….yes. It would probably be a more refreshing read for me to say it sucks, and list all the negatives. But that would be a lie. Because it’s really good. I pretty much expected it to be. You can usually wade your way through the hype with some genuine research; watch some videos, check out the rule book, read some articles and make an educated decision. Some games I can automatically say ‘looks cool, but it doesn’t look like a great game’. Ghostbusters for example. I was initially really excited, then after having a better look realised it didn’t have much to it.  Having read some other reviews since I  know that I made the right choice with that one. Another i’m dubious about is Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (I posted about this a few weeks ago). Again I got very excited, it  looks beautiful and it would be a great collectable. But until I see a solid unbiased review or a rule book I’m taking a cautious approach. Anyway…. back to FCM. It’s good!  I thought i’d summarise with some short bullet points as to why it’s continued popularity and acclaim is much deserved.

  • It’s extremely challenging without being unnecessarily complicated. You randomly lay out the tiles of a small town and each place your first restaurant. You start with a CEO and you make an initial recruit….and that’s it. May your time as food chain magnate begin! The various employees you recruit allow you do various actions;  you can place different  advertisements, build houses and open new restaurants. You can make food, pick up drinks, and train other employees. You make your profit at ‘dinner time’ and you pay your employees wages thereafter. The base of the game is that simple. The only areas that are a bit more fiddly are 1/ deciding where the customers are going to eat at dinner time, this is based on your product value and distance from each house 2/ The employees have to be trained to their next stage, which allows you to make bigger and better moves. The training stages are outlined in the handy ‘player menu’ which you will find yourself checking on quite a bit. The real complexity of the game is with how to use these tools,  and which strategy to take. It also becomes very challenging when your opponents  unintentionally (or intentionally) start  messing up your best laid plans.

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  • There is so much freedom in this game and many paths to explore. There are so many strategies you can take and things to achieve. A good idea is to familiarise yourself with the ‘milestone’ cards right from the start, because these can really help you hit the ground running in terms what you set out to achieve. There are so many ways to play FCM that you literally want to play again straight away to play differently.
  • It’s incredibly smooth. Each round is lightning fast and there’s no build up, you just jump straight in there, get on with it and ride it out till the end. I can’t think of many other games I’ve played where I couldn’t wait for the next round to begin, and literally didn’t want to stop playing (you know to do mundane necessaries like get a drink or go to the loo. Now there’s the mark of a good game!)

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  • Don’t be put off my the estimated game duration. I think every game i’ve played so far has been around the two hour mark, but it’s definitely one of those games where time just disappears. It could easily go over 4 hours with more than two players, but you can control this somewhat with the reserve cards. The game ends when you break the bank twice. The second bank run is determined by the reserve cards you play in secret. However, if you all agree to go for a shorter or longer game you could always discuss beforehand what reserve to put in.
  • A negative, I guess if you want to look it that way, is that it’s a pretty unforgiving game. If you make some bad choices in the early rounds you really find it hard to come back from it. If you’re a bit sloppy with your strategy then your plan can go way off track. But I don’t really see this as a negative, it means you work hard to find a good strategy and plan carefully in advance. A quick heads up: The Executive Vice President, Luxuries Manager and CFO can make drastic changes to the game. Waitresses, coaches and trainee managers are a must!
  • Another negative/positive (depending on what kind of game style floats your boat) is that it can be extremely cut throat. I think some people might raise an eyebrow at some of the profanities I’ve used whilst playing. I do love a game with a bit of vicious competition. But it’s not for everyone.
  • The theme works perfectly with the mechanics, and I love the simplistic and evocative art work (I heard that Splotter actually used free clip art images!). The design is fantastic. Even the back of the cards look like fast food packaging. Each restaurant’s name is a nod to another Splotter game which I thought was really cool, and I love the player menus and food shaped components. Don’t play on an empty stomach!

So that’s it from my thoughts on FCM. Rating….dare I say 10/10?!

 

 

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Games, Games, Games!

First off I must apologise for being a bit quiet of late, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although i’ve been playing games as much as possible  i’ve been lacking in time for blog posts and game design. Hopefully now I can get back on it a bit.

Something I love to do in my spare time is look up new releases, up and coming games and expanding my already pretty full games wishlist. For fun if nothing else. I guess that’s what a lot of boardgames do! A few weeks ago I posted about games that I’m excited for this year. Well i’ve now found yet more games that look and sound fantastic, and here I am going to share them with you! First up….

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Domek: A lovely family game from Poland. In Domek you build your dream home, where your board is actually a house (complete with cat in the front garden and treehouse) to fill up with furniture and rooms. You achieve this by card drafting, set collection and pattern building. End scores are based on good functionality, quality and design. The artwork is ludicrously cute! Cannot wait for this one, due this year, but no release date as yet.

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Hit Z Road: Ok, I don’t know if excited is the right word for this one. I’d say more curious. I can categorically say that i’m pretty much over zombies. Which is sad, I used to love zombies. But like a lot of things that are over produced it becomes a bit stale.  But if there’s anything that could get me interested in zombies again it might be this game. I don’t like the title (I preferred Route 666, there’s a whole thread about this on BGG that made me chuckle) but I love the artwork. I had some quibbles with Study In Emerald, but I like Martin Wallace. I’m into the kitschy 50’s take. But is it a good game? To be honest it’s too early to tell, there’s not a huge amount of information or rules available at present, but i’m keeping my eyes and mind open for this one.

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The Last Friday: Ah ha ha. I’m a horror nut, I grew up watching films like Friday the 13th (and have hated every single slasher flick 90’s onwards, i’m much more into supernatural/weird horror) and although i’ve seen a few games that are capturing the essence of a horror movie i’ve not seen one that’s compelled me to play. This looks different. I’ve seen a few forum gripes that it’s a bit similar to Letters To Whitechapel (which I wanted a couple of years ago but never bought) but my feelings are kid of like ‘and? If something is a direct and obvious rip off of another then that pretty much sucks, but I feel that most games (especially those that need to use a certain mechanic) will always seem reminiscent of something else and most games have been inspired by another in some way. Nothing exists in a bubble as I always say! But indeed those that pioneer completely innovative stuff well that’s another story. Anyway, this is a hidden movement game/deduction/hunting game where you are stalked round a campsite by a weapon weilding lunatic. The usual cat and mouse horror movie type scenario ensues, played across four chapters. It just looks good! Due for release in August, i’m going to play this out the garden with marshmallows and a horror movie soundtrack. That should please the neighbours!

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Anachrony: With over 2000 backers and another two weeks to go this already hyped mega-game looks just a little bit mind-blowing. It’s a post apocalyptic/sci fi/time travel themed table hog, played over 7 eras involving a two tiered worker placement system and travelling back and forth in time thus altering the path of the game.  Following on from what I said in the previous paragraph I’m always impressed with designs that are innovative especially with the mechanics. Anarchrony involves worker placement, gaining influence, scoring victory points, playing for dominance, all familiar territory so far. But it gets complex. Very complex. So complex in fact that after burning my brain and testing my (not so great) writing skills this afternoon, I gave up. I think if you want to get the full grasp of this game you should definitely go and visit the BGG summary and the official Kickstarter. Much better than me trying to summarise it here! It looks amazing, really. If it’s super heavy you’re after then this is your game. The pledge levels and stretch goals are all worth going for and if I do get the chance to back (lack of money is the bane of my life right now!) I would personally go for the ‘Leader Box’ for the amazing miniatures alone because I feel that I really need more futuristic robot miniatures in my life.

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Shakespeare Backstage: I absolutely love Shakespeare and have played many good games over the last few months. It works beautifully, is straightforward and fun but still requires much thought and strategy. I posted about this a while back and my only concern was once you’ve cracked it the replayabilty is limited. But hey, fear not, we have an expansion on its way. It’s called Backstage and all we know so far is that we’re getting new characters, costumes and stage set. I’m in!

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Days of Ire: Budapest 1956: This looks fantastic. I’ve been waiting for a new war/political themed game that actually looks like something I would enjoy playing and not leave me feeling a bit icky (if you know what I mean?) This could be the one! It’s a co-op game for 1-4 players where one player is the Soviets, the others are Hungarian revolutionaries, in a historically inspired card game spanning 7 days. I won’t go into all the details- you can read a perfectly good summary on BGG! But it does seem reminiscent of GMT’S Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth (TS being a big favourite of mine) and the art by Sami Laakso (of Dales fame) and the designer Katalin Nimmerfroh looks fantastic. I do like good art in a game. Also I have to add that I am very, very pleased that one of the game designers is a woman. I don’t think it should be made a big deal of, and there are women designers out there, but as far as I’m aware (please correct me if i’m wrong, really!) but they never seem to be attached to any well known games, so I hope that this one blows everyone’s socks off. As a woman designing a game it fills me with confidence (‘I can do it too!’ type confidence). I’m stoked! No rules available yet and it’s still due for a Kickstarter (date still unknown) so could be quite a wait for this one.

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Islebound: Ships! Merchants! Sea monsters! Pirates! All wrapped up in an adorable bundle. I’ve been contemplating various nautical themed games and Islebound definitely looks to fulfil that need in the way that others haven’t quite tempted me. In Islebound you sail around collecting resources, hiring crew, commissioning buildings, recruiting sea monsters and pirates to conquer towns or completing events to befriend other towns. You will win the game by being the wealthiest player with the most impressive capital city! Sounds fun, interesting and a game you can get on the table and play without too much faff. I really like the idea of taking different paths to achieve the end goal, meaning much replayabilty, and I like that it seems like innocent fun in a sophisticated package, in the way that other nautical games haven’t quite captured for me.

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Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters: I was late to the party with Dale of Merchants but I finally got my hands on it last week (at a great discounted price!) and I was expecting a tough little card with some interesting choices to be made and adorable animals to say (or squeal) ‘awwwww!’ over. I can gladly say it definitely lived up to my expectation! So Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters, has a great backstory (see here) and it can be played on its own or combined with the original. It’s now 4 days away from the end of the Kickstarter campaign. I’m pleased to say it’s majorly over exceeded its funding goal, so stretch goals will be unlocked meaning more decks (penguins! Beavers!) better quality components and more amazing artwork.

Wow, I think I’m done for now! Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon! Rococo: Jewellery Box

I recently discovered that there is an expansion on the way for the Euro gamers favourite Rococo. So stoked for this!  Jewellery Box will add 28 cards with new bonuses to change up the game without changing the rules. As the title  suggests it also attaches a jewellery option accompanied with lovely new tiles and you can receive a master craftsman’s diploma. All for the RRP of £12.95 (in the UK) not bad hey?

Despite its release in 2013 I only bought and played Roccoco this year after a bit of umming and ahhhing. I’m glad I did and could immediately see why it’s a firm favourite. Some games you find just work. The Castles of Burgundy, Suburbia, 7 Wonders, Twilight Struggle, Puerto Rico and Concordia to name a few. They seem to play out smoothly, make sense, are challenging without being horrible excruciating and are just…fun. I find that it’s usually games that aren’t overly complicated, that don’t have 10 million rules that you have to check up every five seconds, then go online to double check and triple check. They cultivate healthy competition without you wanting to reach across the table and strangle another player. They make you think, you strategise, but you don’t have steam coming out of your ears in sheer frustration. You definitely care if you win but won’t be too pissed if you don’t, because you had fun in the process. These games allow the player to gain as they go and feel a sense of achievement. Lastly the theme and mechanics in ‘games that just work’ all meld together nicely.

Roccoco is one of those games. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and on the surface I guess that making dresses for a lavish ball may seem a little feminine, although all the characters (except for the queen) are male. But none of that kind of stuff matters when the game itself is one that works. Everyone can get down with a bit of frivolity and 17th century fashion if the game’s a good one!

Roccoco is a clever take on deck building, there are some tough choices to be made, you are constantly in close competition to your opponents for area control, hiring employees first, nabbing the best monument spots on the board and obtaining the correct requirements in time to make your garments. At the end you are able to reap lots of rewards in the form of prestige points which is always nice (aka not an abrupt ‘is that it then?’ ending) Also, let’s face it the game itself is hella pretty and biiiiiig.

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Having said all this I never win it, ever! My partner clearly has more fashion prowess than me.  I am most definitely looking forward to playing it with the Jewellery Box expansion next month! If you have yet to play Roccoco I suggest you do, it’s a real gem. I’m so corny in my posts sometimes *blush*! More info

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