22nd March 2021
Monday night gaming on Board Game Arena continues with the final game of the evening; Sushi Go.
Like sushi? Like conveyor belts? Then you'll like this.... probably!
Caveat: This was played online, but has also been played with the physical game, photos are from my copy.
What's in a game?
Sushi Go comprises of a single deck of 108 cards with 8 different types of cards.
The art is clear, distinct and colourful with appropriately themed cheerful faces on all the foods.
My copy came in a little steel tin.
The only component that the game is lacking are scoring counters, as it stands, scores at the end of each round need to be recorded somehow on scrap paper or a phone or something. On the other hand, adding scoring tokens would increase the game's size, making it less of a neat compact little package, so your mileage may vary.
How's it play?
Shuffle and deal a hand of cards face-down to each player, the hand size depends on the number of players, the remaining cards form a draw deck for later rounds, then the game is ready to begin.
On to play
Once the 3rd round is over and scored, the puddings are scored.
Scores are tallied, highest score wins.
As you can see from the short length of this blog post, Sushi Go's rules are simple, accessible and easy to learn. The game's depth comes not from rules complexity but from decisions available to each player, which is great game design in my opinion.
The game also fits the theme of having food going round on a conveyor belt remarkably well.
Sushi Go constantly forces players to make decisions and some of these decisions will be gambles, based on the hope that another right card will come around further along the game.
Players will also get the right card at the right time on random occasion, but this isn't perceived as a no-brainer, they're seen as spots of good luck to be exploited.
Canny players will try to memorise hands that get passed along, they might also spend time looking at what cards others have put down, trying to predict their decisions. If 2 players look like they're trying to collect the same set of cards, then they're going to be a premium and those players aren't going to pass those cards on.
Then there's puddings, the wrinkle in the rules that produces the pudding war of escalation that forces players to think about what cards might be played in the future rounds and play cards just to avoid losing points!
It makes Sushi Go a blend of calculation and unpredictability. There is no winning strategy, players must adapt to not only the cards dealt to all players but other player's strategies
Sushi Go comes in compact package, is easy to learn, quick to set up and play and enjoyable experience. A great filler game.
22nd March 2021
It's a Monday evening and I'm logged into Zoom and Board Game Arena on my PC.
We started with a game of Love Letter.
You can see what I wrote about Love Letter here.
The version of Love Letter that we played online had extra cards to accommodate up to 8 players. This adds new cards with new abilities and most significantly it adds card with new ways to score points. This changes the game, is this an improvement? In my opinion; no.
When Love Letter was a 4 player game with a 16 card deck, it was a tightly focused experience, elegant and well balanced.
With the 5-8 player variant a 32 card deck is used. Immediately it makes it trickier to guess who is holding what card because more cards are in play.
The additional 16 cards added are not just duplicates of the original 16, instead they add new abilities, these new abilities feel a little gimmicky and don't add anything to the game.
Most significantly, they add extra ways to score points. I know why this was added, in a 8 player game where someone needs to get 4 points, it could take a long time. Again I felt it was a detraction.
For example: We played a game where James was at 3 points and no one else was higher than 2 points. With his second card, James announced he had won the game, because if he won the round, he got his 4th point, the card he had just played awards him a point if he is knocked out of the round. I suppose theoretically there was a chance that James might've reached the end without being knocked out and lost when comparing card values.
Even so, it was a long shot and essentially ended the game there, making the remainder of the round almost futile; something I've never seen in Love Letter before.
I applaud the intention of wanting to add more players to a game, but in this case it takes a concise game and bloats its rules and play times. It felt like it was trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist, like trying to put a square peg into an octagonal hole.
Better to have 2 games with 2 16 card decks in my opinion.
21st March 2021
Sunday afternoon gaming continues; I'm logged on to Board Game Arena and Zoom, the second game of the day is Tokaido.
I know several people who have visited Japan but to my knowledge none of them had made the 500km trip along the Tokaido route.
If you like the idea of taking a hike to enjoy hot springs or staying at an inn or looking at beautiful scenery, then maybe this is the game for you.
Caveat: We played a digital version of this game, we have also played the physical version previously.
What's in a game?
Art on the board looks quite minimalistic with white as the dominant colour, consequently the Tokaido route draws the eye's attention. However, the symbols used to represent the different destinations along the route are quite small and look samey despite being distinctly coloured from each other. It was something found to occur on both the physical and online version. This is only a minor gripe.
How's it play?
Each player is given a meeple and a randomly determined character tile, the 7 decks are prepared and placed on to their allotted spaces on the game board. The starting order is determined at the first inn, then money is then given to players according to the starting order.
On to play
Game play is very simple to understand, the purpose of Tokaido is to travel to the eastern end of the road, having the most pleasant journey, this is done by stopping at the various locations along the way.
Play continues until all players have reached the last inn.
Souvenir sets are now scored.
Then achievements are scored. There are achievements for completing panoramas first, having the most encounters, donating the most money to temples and so on. One achievement earns victory points for spending the most on meals at inns - which explains the varying costs for meals.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
Tokaido is a fairly straightforward game to play, on the surface the game gives players a simple decision to make - where to stop and what to collect? It's a little more involved though, the question is; how much do you want to visit a certain spot?
As the active player, someone can choose to move their meeple as far as they need to in order to reach a specific spot, however, moving too far means that a player will end up sitting around as other players get multiple turns. Conversely, moving too slowly risks locations being filled with other players. It feels like quite a balancing act.
Generally we found that there's a basic strategy of moving as little as possible in an attempt to maximise the number of turns that are available and just collect what you can.
The games other balancing act is money; knowing when to keep money and knowing when to spend it is important since spending money can earn victory points and it needs to be done as efficiently as possible.
There's minimal player interaction here and generally player's can't interfere with each other. A canny player can try and predict where other players are looking to go (All cards are kept face-up.) and try to get there first but it mostly it hardly seems worth it.
All of this makes Tokaido a gentle, laid back game to play, it sort of fits the theme of talking a walking holiday.
Players used to heavier games may find that they feel like nothing is happening during the game. This may be partially down to playing online.
The online version doesn't feel as good as the physical one. Being able to collect and build panoramas or complete souvenir sets with physical components feels a lot better than when they're collected in the online version. It's a small sense of achievement but a sense of achievement nonetheless.
If you want a light and chilled game to play though, you can do worse than Tokaido.
21st March 2021
It's a Sunday lunchtime and I'm logged on to my PC in the living Room and signed into Board Game Arena.
The first game of the day was Takenoko, a game about gardening in Japan... and pandas.
Caveat: We played this game online, but I own a physical copy which I've set up for the photos.
What's in a game?
All of the cartoon-like art is uniformly bright, colourful and appealing, even the rulebook is filled with it. It shows a nice touch.
Finally I'll add that there's a giant sized Takenoko that was released a while back.
How's it play?
On to play
After a starting player is chosen, play proceeds clockwise.
Some actions do not count towards the usual 2 action limit. The active player can carry out any number of free actions at any time during their turn.
The endgame is triggered after someone has played a certain number of objective cards, dependant on the number of players.
The player that triggered the endgame immediately take the Emperor card and conclude the rest of their turn normally. Then continuing in clockwise order, every other player has one more turn.
After this, scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Firstly I'll mention how the game is uniformly nice, presentation is excellent and component quality is good, nothing to criticise here.
Since there are always objectives to work towards in Takenoko, there are generally always meaningful decisions to make.
The game's player interaction comes from conflicting objectives such as one player getting the gardener to grow bamboo and another getting the panda to eat it.
This is also a game about recognising opportunities and adapting to the card and plot tiles you draw and to a lesser extent the results from the weather die and not about strategizing too much.
There is some strategy regarding the uneven distribution of bamboo (Generally objectives that involve the less common bamboo score more points.) but that's about it. I suppose there could be a high level strategy where you watch what other players are doing and try to anticipate what objectives they're going for and try and scupper them but you'll probably scupper yourself as well in the end.
Optimising your actions per turn seems to be very important.
Takenoko is a relatively simple and straightforward game to play, the concepts behind it should make it a fairly accessible crossover game. For dedicated gamers there might not be enough meat on the bone to satisfy them though.
Ultimately Takenoko is a light somewhat gentle game that you shouldn't take too seriously if you play it. If you want something heavy on strategy and direct interaction, it's probably not the game for you. However, if you're in the mood for an undemanding game, it's a reasonable diversion.
14th March 2020
It's a Sunday night, I'm on my PC in my living, logged on to Zoom and the Tabletopia website.
In Paleo each player controls a tribe of cavemen and is a cooperative card about life & times in a prehistoric times. According to Paleo, our caveman ancestors were pretty obsessed with woolly mammoths, either chasing or running away from them!
Caveat: Paleo was played virtually on the Tabletopia website, so I cannot attest to the quality or lack of regarding the components.
What's in a game?
Paleo is a card game with a lot of different types of cards, the majority are encounter cards (Explained Below) but not all cards and tokens are used in every game.
Paleo uses a base set of encounter cards and also employs a module system which determines which other sets of cards are used, each game uses 2 modules from a selection of 10, this will also affect the games difficulty. The rules suggest combinations to use for easier and harder games ranging from 1 to 7 in difficulty. Ultimately you can even choose your own set ups. Modules can add a narrative flavour to the game as most modules are themed.
How's it play?
Paleo is played over any number of rounds, each round has a day phase and a night phase. The vast majority of gameplay occurs during the day phase, the night phase is mostly for managing what happened during the previous phase.
What actions a player can under take will depend on the situation and what encounters they errr.... encounter!
Play continues during the day phase until all player tribes have gone to sleep, the day phase is now over and the night phase commences.
The night phase is much shorter than the day.
All tribes must collectively discard an amount of food equal to the number of people cards in all their tribes. If they cannot manage this, a skull is added to the night board.
Furthermore they must also meet the conditions required on the 2 module specific missions. Each one they fail adds another skull to the night board.
Once the night phase is concluded, all the cards on the discard board are put into a single deck, shuffled and dealt out to the players again, then the next day phase begins.
Play continues until the players have accumulated all 5 victory tokens, in which case they immediately all win.
If 5 skull tokens are placed on to the night board, then the players immediately lose.
Some mystery cards may contain alternate ways to win the game.
First thing I'm going to talk about are 2 interlinked mechanics.
The exploration mechanic of drawing 3 face-down cards and choosing one from the card back is excellent. It feels a bit like exploring, does a player choose to go to the forest or the mountains? They'll have a pretty good idea what to expect but it's not guaranteed. They most likely will get the wood or stone or whatever they're looking for but they might encounter a rockfall or a dangerous animal.
Additionally, players will also get an idea of what's coming in future turns
It's a great mechanic.
The other equally great mechanic is how each player's own deck also represents their tribe's time & energy, completing encounters frequently forces a player to discard 1 or 2 cards from their deck, so when it's depleted - so is the tribe for the day. When the game begins on day 1, players will have 15 cards, so it's possible to burn through a deck very quickly, why is that significant?
Essentially the encounter deck is another resource that needs to be managed. In most games, my instinct would be to gather as much food/wood/stone/resource as possible but in Paleo you sometimes have to fight that urge. You have to ask the question, what resource do I really need?
For example; near the end of a day I had 3 cards left, 2 in my deck and a forest encounter. Turning the card over, I had the option to discard 2 cards for 3 wood, 1 card for one wood or help another tribe. The others didn't need help from me, so I was free to collect wood but collecting 3 wood would send my tribe to bed. Because we knew the top 2 cards on everyone's deck, I knew that another player potentially had a mammoth hunt coming and would probably need help. We didn't need the wood for now so I chose to ignore my card and I also ignored my other 2 encounter cards just so my tribe would be around for 3 more turns to help other tribes if needed. Realising this gave me an appreciation of the game's subtleties.
As well as managing encounters, players will need to ensure they generate enough resources to pass the night as well manage discoveries and crafting.
Creating a few tools gives the game a good sense of progress as it increases the capabilities of a tribe significantly. You can almost feel a the game transition from scrabbling to survive encounters to being able to go on mammoth hunts, it's quite gratifying to complete encounters that had to be ignored earlier in the game.
Like all good games, collectively there were always meaningful decisions to make. Before long we learnt that we needed to communication and coordinate on which encounter cards to keep and when they were then revealed we frequently had to coordinate on which encounters to complete, rarely did all players manage to individually complete their encounters.
For example; if all players for some reason chose mammoth hunt encounters, it would be most likely that all bar one would be ignored. Mammoth hunts generally required a lot of strength thus cooperation but also gave significant rewards, including on occasion victory tokens. Coordination is vital and it feels like players coordinating.
As a result I liked Paleo quite a lot, it's a game I'd happily play again.
21st February 2021
It's a Sunday and I'm on the PC in the living room logged on to Zoom.
Time for the final part of our Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion campaign.
Matt and I came into this campaign in the latter half and now we've reached the conclusion.
Despite the awkward circumstances we made it work, it's been a positive experience and as someone commented, being able to play something during the lockdown was something of a blessing for them.
See what I thought about Gloomhaven here.
5th February 2021
In the living room and logged on to Zoom on my PC.
What better way is there to spend a Friday night other then playing the concluding part of our adventure in Forgotten Waters?
You can read my thoughts about it here.
29th January 2021
Friday and I was in the living room, logged on to Zoom on my PC.
It was time for another adventure in Forgotten Waters, read my blog about it here.
21st January 2021
It's a Thursday and I'm in the sitting room logged on to Zoom on my PC.
Time for a another question in Forgotten Waters.
Read my blog about it here.
I play, I paint.