The Good Ol’ Euros

I talked for England in my little Essen Wishlist videos (thank goodness I cut them down to 6.5 mins) and I was toying with writing an epically long blogpost, then decided against it. Because essentially it would just be a long list and re workings of Board Game Geek blurbs and really, who wants that? No one I should think. So moving on swiftly; if you want to see my general and rather insane BGG Wishlist i’m under LindsayJoMiller, I cut such a lonely figure on BGG, so we should be friends!

I thought I would briefly summarise the end of my Wishlist for 2016 in this post. I was tempted to talk about Rising Five: Runes of Asteros which I must say looks to be super fun, and is another app included tabletop game, however it’s currently on Kickstarter and probably will be in retail at the end of 2017. So for those of us who simply cannot afford hefty pledges right now, well that’s a bit of a wait. As excited as I am about all these cool, innovative and exciting games springing up, to be perfectly honest I’m more of a traditional Euro gamer at heart. It’s the warm familiarity; it’s comforting, it’s cosy, it’s often bloody difficult and I love it. I often talk about themes I like, because I love stories and settings and beautiful illustrations and flashy components. But again, when it comes down to it, and I really think about it some of my favourite games are’t heavy on the theme. I’ve also mentioned that I like a bit of fighting in my games, a bit of battle. Which I do! But again, my all time favourites don’t involve super heavy conflict. It’s actually the quiet, slow burning kind that gets my brain working that I enjoy the most. I like gameplay that’s not too random, there’s not much left to chance.

So firstly I wanted to mention Rhodes and this is definitely one I can see myself enjoying. Read all about it on the link above. It sounds medium-heavy, so it would get me thinking, planning and plotting my potential glory, without my brain combusting (which I do like in its place, but I could’t play super heavy strategy games non stop). It’s an ancient city setting, fullfiling objectives by pick-up-and-deliver and developing your land into a fruitful paradise. Place workers, set up buildings and gather up VPs and cash to win the game. It sounds a bit Puerto Rico esque, but having read the rulebook it’s different enough. Which is ok sometimes y’know? I’m not always looking for something monumentally different. So, Rhodes, I shall look forward to a UK release.

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Secondly and finally, I think that Round House deserves a mention. Visit the link to discover what it’s all about! This looks to be a super interesting economic simulation game, pretty medium-heavy, with sturdy and well established mechanics. I love the sound of moving your player token around the modular rondel board, (I am yet to play a game with a rondel, yippee!) to get the most actions out of your family members. And did I mention it looks beautiful? Always a plus, especially when it’s not a case of style over substance.

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Well, for the past month I’ve talked about new releases, up ‘n’ coming games and future frontrunners, and I am all out of wishes. So I’m really looking forward to actually relaxing and playing more games, because sometimes, between everything else i’m up to I often forget that it’s ok to just sit down, breathe, switch game brain on and forget everything else.

Happy Essen week, and happy gaming!

 

 

The Bloody Inn, Nicolas Robert

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The Bloody Inn. This game made such a big splash last year, and for the few months it was out of print I was desperate to get it. However as I knew it was a card game (no big board, too many components or miniatures etc) I refused to pay a completely unreasonable price for it since I knew it would be back for another print run. So I waited patiently until a couple months ago I finally bought it for its RRP. And this is what I thought.

I’ll start with….it’s an unusual one. It’s a grower. I think perhaps after that anticipation it fell slightly flat first time round (no huge surprise after months of coveting) but as I’ve played it more I’ve grown to like it more. It’s medium strategy, easy to get wrong if you’re not careful and does require a bit of brain burning.

Ok let’s go back to the start. So in a nutshell you’re running an Inn and you kill your guests. Dark right? But fun.

  •  You begin by randomly drawing 6 cards from the central deck, and these are guests frequenting your hotel of horrors. You pop them in their errr lovely little room (on the board) and each player owns rooms, represented by coloured key tokens, some of which are neutral and belong to no one.
  • Each card/guest has a pick up cost. You can spend your two starting cards (‘peasant’ cards) and can either kill guests outright or you can pick them up and use them to kill somebody else, or use them to build annexes (places to bury your corpses).
  • Some cards have instant monetary rewards, some give you money when you build an annexe or when you bury a body.
  • You move along the score track as you earn and can use an action to launder money, so you go back on the track and pick up cash tokens instead.
  • At the end of each round you can gain points for any of your rooms with guests still present and are deducted points for cards left in your hand.
  • All cards used go into a spent pile.
  •  Your only allowed two actions per turn
  •  Building up your annexes means you can use the card abilities/bonuses to help you gain more money and spend less cards.
  • The game ends when your guest cards have depleted and the player with the most money (in both money tokens and on the score track) wins the game.
And that’s the general game play!
So why is this game such a tricky little thing? Well the trouble starts when your Inn is populated by ‘the law’ (constables, sergeants and the like) because if you end your turn with any unburied bodies you pay a pretty hefty fine (lose money/points) and lose the body. Only having two actions per turn is tough, especially when you have to use an action to get your peasant cards back. You have to play carefully to get some necessary end of round points by having your rooms still populated, (and making sure your opponent doesn’t) and somehow end the round by having no cards, all bodies buried but minimising how many times you spend a precious action next round getting your peasants back. All whilst figuring out the best times to launder money and stay ahead of your opponent. How do you achieve this? I wish I knew, I still haven’t cracked it! And therein lies the fun, it seems the more I play the more I realise this game is a challenge. I tend not to play games to hammer other people but to better my score and improve my strategy. This is how I have concluded that it was worth the wait and worth the purchase. I still don’t think a price point about £20 would be reasonable, but I’m glad I held out for it.
My only criticism would be that I think it could have developed on the bribing/trading between players. You have to work together somewhat when the Inn is overrun with the law, and you can bury a body under another players annexe. It would of been cool if you could of bribed an opponent to use your annexe or kill a police officer for you, or traded a card someone else might need for money. But I guess the designers had their reasons for not taking it there. That’s it! More info here. Ps- the art is weird and gorgeous, all these abstract angular faces and beautiful colour. Always a plus!
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Rococo: Jewelry Box Expansion Review

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I acquired two new games last week, Broom Service the card game and the Rococo Jewelry Box expansion. I decided to write about Rococo and make a little video on Broom Service (coming later this week). As I mentioned in my post a few weeks back I absolutely love Rococo, its a beautiful Euro and up there in my top ten.

So what does Jewelry Box add to the game and is it worth purchasing? Well you get 28 additional employees, an exam card, jewellery box board and jewellery tokens, and yes I believe it’s worth purchasing (for a vey reasonable £12.50 RRP.)
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So what does it do? Well first off there’s the personal ‘exam’ cards. You take the exam using your apprentice and journeyman cards to meet the three set requirements (same for every player and easily achievable e.g- use an action with your apprentice to buy a yellow or red material) Once you’ve completed the exam you spend an action trading in your standard journeyman/apprentice card and pay the hiring cost to choose one of the special guys. These let you add on a cool free action e.g. – make a dress for free and sell only (instead of placing it in a hall, and hey that extra money is always welcome!) you can take the exams as many times as you like. The jewellery itself is displayed on a separate little board and consists of coloured ring and necklace tokens. You can only purchase these when you make a dress and as the game progresses and they are purchased you can move them along the board and lower their cost. When you buy a piece of jewellery this gives you income every round. If the one that you buy matches the colour of the dress you made then you can pick up a free material. I find this comes in handy because personally I dislike spending too many actions purchasing! Some of the expansion cards are shuffled into the regular deck too so you can snap one of those up as a hiring action.
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In my opinion if you like Rococo you’ll welcome this expansion and probably enjoy it as much as I did. I love that it adds more to an already tough game and makes choosing what to do next even more challenging. I only wish it added on an extra round because this game seems to end so quickly as it is, and you feel like there’s so much more you could achieve if you had just a bit more time. There’s the inevitable ‘check the rule book 500 times to remember what the symbols mean’ but that’s to be expected when you first start playing a language independent game. The jewellery box and the exams seem to give you quite a bit more income to play around with too and can earn you some valuable extra prestige points early on, so it definitely feels like you are gaining more which is always nice.
It’s an all round good review from me, a must have if you own the game and an incentive to give Rococo a try if you haven’t already!
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Empty packet of Revels optional! 

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?!

 

 

Neanderthal, Phil Eklund

I’m taking you way way back, to 43,000 BC Ice Age Europe in fact, to talk about…Neanderthal!

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I acquired Neanderthal well over a month ago and have played it several times since. I didn’t want to post about it until I formed a solid opinion. We had a game this afternoon and I’m afraid to say I’m still struggling. So at this point I thought I’d write about it anyway, because it’s such an interesting game.

It’s a 2015 small box game, which I love. A box hardly bigger than a coaster is crammed full of discs and cubes, an intense little rule book (with a huge amount of notes in the back on the subject matter) and a ton of cards chock full of text, images and symbols. It took a while to get to grips with the rules, it’s not badly written there’s just a hell of a lot to take on board. As with most games, when you start playing it through your objectives become clear, but it’s one of those games that leaves me, much like Cro-Magnon (wo)man, scratching my head at points saying ‘whaaaaaaat?’ or ‘whyyyyy?!’

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You start off with your chosen cave man, hunters and ‘vocabulary’ discs. You have a north row and south row of ‘biomes’, cards depicting various prehistoric creatures and tools, to be hunted, invented or taken as trophies. You spend turns revealing event cards that are also female (or daughter) cards. First they tell you if there’s a blizzard, a catastrophe, if there’s global warming or cooling (which rearranges the biomes) and you roll for your tribes elders to see if any er…die. You then bid to claim the daughter card which will allow you to achieve certain goals. The winner of that card must remove the vocabulary discs bid so that she matures and only then can she use her ability.  You do this by hunting on the biome cards, to give you more family members and free up vocab discs in different areas (on your daughter card or your main character card for example) . This phase is achieved by dice rolling (the required numbers are outlined on the biome cards) so it all gets a bit luck based at this point. Depending on what you roll and which creature you’re hunting, you can end up losing half your hunters to a tusky predator. The last phase is using vocab discs (if you are able, this is where the daughter cards come into play) to place knowledge into your character’s brain. This can unlock various abilities. If and only if you get all 6 discs into the brain then you can flip the card and ‘go tribal’ allowing for even more interesting actions, like the inventing tools and gaining animal trophies. Wow. There’s a lot going on here. I could continue or go into greater detail but I’ve pretty much told you the basics of what to expect.

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I think the problem I have with Neanderthal (which may not be a problem for someone else) is that it’s so damn hard to get to the tribal stage, I’ve only got that far twice, both times we were only one card away from the end of the game. It’s hard. I think if you played Neanderthal many times, probably over a course of days then you could crack it. As yet I haven’t found a good strategy. It’s not the kind of game you can pick up and play after a few weeks and it all falls into place again. You have to relearn it rather than build on your existing knowledge. Or maybe that’s just us!

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The reason it’s hard to form a good strategy is because so much of it is luck based, due to dice rolling and the random events. Which very much tallies up with the theme itself. It just becomes increasingly frustrating when I’m not getting anywhere fast. But I like it. I look forward to playing it and I want to crack it. It just feels too much like hard work. Hats off to Phil Eklund, it’s a hell of a smart game. It’s the frustration of not achieving the necessary because you made a lousy roll, when you want to do all the cool things that the game has to offer, but rarely get the opportunity to do so. This game can also be integrated with it’s predecessor Greenland (Neanderthal is a prequel) but for now….I think i’ll skip it. More Info

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The Gallerist, Vital Lacerda

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I heard many great things about The Gallerist and after watching a review I agreed that it looked like a lot of fun. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype or to the slightly hefty price tag. I am pleased to confirm that on both accounts it certainly did. It is a great game, and once you see the and feel the quality of the box and components it is definitely worth the money. The box is huge, the board is big, the pawns with their nice little hats are made of vibrantly coloured wood. The tiles and money tokens are thick cardboard and the art work displayed on the tiles is actual art that was submitted for the game. The graphic design is neat and functional. So aesthetically The Gallerist gets a big thumbs up from me!

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The game itself is smooth and fast moving, with plenty of tough decisions to be made. As always I won’t go into the rules, but a quick overview; You move your pawn around the board to the action spaces. Your aim is to discover artists, buy art, sell art and set collect for bonus VP’s. It sounds fairly simple but the reality is bloody tricky. You also have to decide what you want to achieve most; a great selection in your gallery, money for the art you sell, to have  certain sets (as outlined by your objective cards) to discover as many artists as possible to buy at a commissioners rate….there’s a lot of thinking to do here.

So what makes it tough? Without people in your gallery or plaza there is a limited amount to what you can do, you need tickets to get those cute little art lovin’ meeples in the door, you need meeples in your plaza to take actions to generate money, gain influence (which will gain you money at the end of the game) bring out new meeples, take tickets etc. You need money to buy more art, contracts to sell it, assistants to help you achieve this and don’t forget about the international market. This is where you go gain the piece of art on display that will gain you some lovely bonus cash in the end scoring. You need to spend some time getting your assistants in the high value market spaces in order to win the piece. I could continue but I think that you get the idea. So we’ve gone from this sounds simple to ludicrously complicated but fear not! It works. It’s fast paced and enjoyable, it can be head-in-hands frustrating, but it’s such fun! Making these tough choices around what your opponents are doing is one of the hardest parts. The ‘kicked out’ actions allow you take the same action as another player but it means they’ll get a free turn. I didn’t think this seemed that bad but actually you really notice the difference when your opponent starts steaming ahead of you!

All in all The Gallerist is very fun and well worth the money. Jump on the bandwagon and play it! More info here. I was really hoping to make a video this week but i’m still waiting to get a tripod. Hopefully next week!

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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