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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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. 

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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.
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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?
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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.
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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!