3rd August 2021
Tuesday is here and I'm in Woking with the Woking Gaming Club at The Sovereigns pub for gaming night.
The game of the night was Above and Below. Published by the same company who also produce a game called Near and Far.
Left and right, up and down, in and out: wiggle it all about, here and there, out and about, Far and Away and Home and Away! Some great suggestions for naming more games!
As the name suggest, the players will concerning themselves with the above ground settlement and exploring the caves below the village.
What's in a game?
The game makes good use of its cartoony artwork, particularly with the green, grassy landscapes and cloudy blue skies that appear on many of the cards. Buildings and villagers are also well illustrated. Finally, the underground cards have evocative, mildly forbidding artwork.
There is little iconography used throughout Above and Below and what there is of it, is easy to comprehend.
How's it play?
Beginning with the starting player and going clockwise, each player performs a single action using 1 or more of their villagers, play continues clockwise until all players have used all their available villagers or have passed. After this, the next round begins.
Once seven rounds are completed, the game goes to scoring, victory points can come from a variety of places.
Reputation: Whoever has the highest reputation gets 5 victory points and 2nd place gets 3.
Each house and outpost: Regardless of what it is, earns a victory point.
House/outpost bonuses: Some houses and outposts will confer additional bonus points, these may be straight up points or situational points, e.g., 1 point per barrel.
Advancement tracker: Players earn points for each good on their advancement tracker, depending on where the good is positioned. 2 goods on the 1st space would earn 2 victory points in total, 2 goods on the 8th and final space would earn 12 victory points! The type of good makes no difference here. The advancement tracker can earn a lot of points.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
For the most part, mechanically speaking, Above and Below is a fairly straightforward, unremarkable game. Players use their workers to increase their resources to acquire more workers and buildings create a strategy to earn victory. Pretty standard stuff, not that there's anything wrong with that, no need to reinvent the wheel.
Even so, there's some depth here and quite a bit of balancing to perform. There's little good acquiring workers without the ability to rest them which means acquiring buildings with beds instead of other benefits, particularly to ability to acquire goods and so on.
This brings us neatly to the merchant track, which is one of the game's two interesting mechanics. Firstly, it more-or-less forces players to diversify in goods in order to reach the higher scoring spots.
Secondly, it does something unusual with the game's 8 goods; which is that the rarity of a good has no bearing of it's worth for victory points, position on the track determines a good's worth and this is likely to be different for each player, meaning they may have different priorities for different goods, regardless of rarity.
Finally, it gives players a conundrum to navigate: Logically, players will want to put the most common goods on the later, higher scoring spots because, well, there's more of the common goods available to stack up for more points. This means using rarer goods earlier in the track, but rarer goods are harder to come by. So should a player start filling out the merchant track as quickly as possible with whatever they get to reach the later spots? Or should they hold off, hoping to get the scarcer goods and use them to fill the earlier spots.
It's an interesting decision to consider.
The second interesting mechanic is exploring, Above and Below really stands out from the crowd when exploring the below. The inclusion of a 'lite storytelling' choose-your-own-adventure element with flavour text and all, is both fun and meaningful, presenting players with sometimes story-based choices and risks to take which directly affect what they earn from their exploration. It's cool and a great addition beyond the usual board game fare. It makes Above and Below worth trying.
13th July 2021
It's a Tuesday evening and I'm at The Sovereigns in Woking with the Woking Gaming Club.
Where would eurogaming be without Renaissance Italy? The pageantry, the politics, the scheming and the vying for power, you know how it goes: A seemingly limitless mine of game design opportunities.
This is where Lorenzo il Magnificio comes in, a game where players control noble families in Florence competing to be the most prestigious, famous and of course.... most pious!
What's in a game?
The boards and tiles are suitably thick, the resource cards are of a standard quality as you'd expect.
Tokens are all made of wood, which I always like, including the nicely rounded dice. The standout components however, are the family workers, instead of discs, they're these tall cylinder shapes that are easy to pick up. It makes sense as I'm sure they're going to be the components that get handled the most; practical and appealing.
Lorenzo il Magnificio features attractive artwork throughout, the boards all display pretty, somewhat stylised art work cleverly produced to incorporate all the game's worker spaces.
Art on the cards is little pared back to make room for iconography. Talking of which, all the game's symbols and text was easy to read. Lorenzo il Magnificio has good, solid components and presentation.
How's it play?
Lorenzo il Magnificio is played over 3 periods, with 2 rounds per period, which equates to 6 rounds in total.
Each round has its own setup phase before the players act in turn order, additionally at the end of every period (2nd, 4th and 6th rounds.) there's an additional step; the Vatican report step.
A round progresses as follows:
Calculate points from the following:
Current score plus points for acquired territory cards and character cards, end-of-game victory points for venture cards.
The player with the highest military score gains an additional 5 victory points, 2nd highest acquires 2 extra victory points.
Finally, every set of 5 combines resources scores an additional point.
All points are tallied, highest score wins.
Lorenzo il Magnificio sits towards the heavier end of games in my opinion, mechanically speaking, at it's core it's not a particularly complex game, but there's a lot of exceptions and variations to consider when trying to buy those all-important development cards and managing faith and military scores and the resources required to do all this. Don't forget those 2 engines you'll need to build either in order to gain and change those resources, or the abilities that character cards confer or the endgame points that venture cards grant.
Like I said, a lot to think about.
The game uses 4 types of resource and 3 types of score (Two of which can also be spent at times.) and mixes a few types of game mechanics; there's a bit of worker placement, a bit of engine building and a bit of resource management. Where it throws a spanner in the works though, is the use of dice to randomise the value of workers. A couple of low rolls can force players to change their strategies, particularly when competing for development cards, however, the use of servants can potentially mitigate low rolls, even so, players will have to adapt to circumstances.
Furthermore, players have relatively limited moves to play with, each player has 4 workers they can use over 6 turns, giving 24 placements in total, which is why building the engines that essentially get triggered for free is so vital. Synergy and move optimisation are also key to this game.
There are several approaches to scoring points in Lorenzo il Magnifcio, although these strategies are down to which development cards are acquired, development cards are the game's most vital element to winning and most actions are in service of getting those cards. However, the game seems a fairly well balanced, nothing felt overpowered or unimportant, decisions always felt meaningful and because of limited moves, these decisions generally felt tricky.
If I had one criticism of the game; it's the excommunication tiles, they feel negative, but I guess that's the point of them.
If someone wanted to play this, I'd have no qualms joining in. It's not one of my favourites, but it's still enjoyable.
If you have a hankering for a heavy-ish worker placement game set in Renaissance Italy, you'll probably like this.
4th July 2021
It's a Sunday evening and I'm logged into Board Game Arena. the next game of the night is Railroad Ink. Do you spend a lot of time coming and going? Because that's what you'll be doing in Railroad Ink.
Caveat: we've only ever played Railroad Ink digitally online. Additionally, we've only played the basic version of Railroad Ink Blue without the rives and lakes dice.
What's in a game?
Since we only played railroad Ink digitally, there's not much that can be said about the quality of the components.
Neither does the game have any significant artwork to speak of, the boards look bright and cheery, but that's about it.
How's it play?
Railroad Ink is played simultaneously by all players over 7 rounds.
Once all 7 rounds have been completed, the game goes to scoring.
Railway: Each player scores their single longest unbroken railway line, gaining 1 point per connected square.
Road: Each player scores their single longest unbroken road, also at 1 point per connected square.
Centre: Each of the 9 central squares on the grid scores the player an additional point for a railway or road that runs through it.
Exits: Each player scores their single biggest network of connected exits, it scores differently to railways and roads and there's a chart to calculate this. Generally each exit in the network scores 4 points, except if you manage to connect the 12th and final exit, which scores 5 instead!
Dead end: Each player loses a point for each route that is a dead-end, i.e. does not connect to anything or does not connect to the edge of the grid (does not necessarily need to be one of the 12 exits though.).
Final amounts are tallied, highest score wins!
Railroad Ink is a game that hits that sweet-spot between rules-simplicity and depth-of-choice that has good potential crossover appeal to non-gamers.
From the relatively short length of this blog, you can see that it's an easy game to learn, consisting mostly of; well, drawing what you see!
However, it also gives players lots of choices, all of which will have impact right from the start of the game. The game's grid has 49 spaces and the maximum that can be filled in (In a basic game!) is 31, enough room to manoeuvre and also enough room to commit error.
Players must try to maximise networks and connections and also minimise their potential losses. This involves equally trying to anticipate what they need and also adapting to rolls that don't give them that.
It's a game of shifting optimisation.
Railroad Ink has a lot of randomness and for gamers who like strategizing, this can be an anathema, but in Railroad Ink, the randomness is partially mitigated because it more or less affects everyone equally, i.e., everyone uses the same dice results.
Obviously one player may be luckier than another if the rolls go their way, but it never feels like the dice are treating you worse for you than any other player. Ultimately, despite the dice rolls, it feels like player decisions are still of paramount, finding a way to use a route die that initially seemed bad can be satisfying and it's this blend of randomness and decision-making is what I like about Railroad Ink.
27th June 2021
Sunday is here and I'm logged into Board Game Arena.
Playing board games is a great way to escape your troubles and ignore what's been happening outside your window and across the globe for the past 2 years and to do that, we chose to play a game about not 1 pandemic, but 4 of them!
The first game of the evening was Pandemic.
What's in a game?
The components in Pandemic are all of a reasonable quality as you would expect, nothing feels particularly cheap. The pawns are made of plastic and not wood, but that's a trivial quibble. The other markers are constructed of satisfyingly thick plastic.
The plastic 3D research stations are a nice touch as are the colourful, translucent, acrylic disease cubes, it also makes them easier to pick up and move - which for the cubes will occur frequently.
Artwork on the board is functional more than pretty, which is fine and everything's easy to understand, the same is true of city and infection cards which show locations on the board as opposed to containing illustrations.
The small amount of artwork in the game mostly appears on role cards, which each have a good quality unique illustration that depicts their role, event cards also contain some unique artwork.
How's it play?
On to play
The turn structure for Pandemic is as follows: The active player has their turn, which consists of 4 actions, then they draw 2 cards from the player deck, finally the 'board' has its go. Once all of this has been completed, the player to the left becomes the active player.
Play continues until one of the following conditions is met.
If the marker on the outbreak track reaches its 8th and final space; the players collectively lose.
If, at any time a disease cube needs to be added to the board and none are available in that colour; the players lose.
If a player needs to draw 2 cards from the player deck and cannot do so because none or only one is available.... you guessed it; the players lose.
If all 4 diseases are cured, then the players immediately win. Diseases do not need to be eradicated in order to win.
Well, Pandemic.... what's there to say about this game?
Pandemic is a pillar of modern cooperative games that has been followed up not only by a slew of expansions and spinoffs, but also a number of differently themed games such as Horrified that employ similar mechanics.
Some of Pandemic's elements and mechanics may seem a bit trite nowadays, but that's simply because they're part of a game that popularised those mechanics in the first place and is a testament to Pandemic's longevity and influence.
Pandemic utilises the tried-and-tested game flow of alternating between player turns and card-driven board actions in a game that is a globe-trotting race against time. In a turn, players are faced with the difficult choice of trying to stem the spread of the 4 diseases or instead trying to interact with the other players and swap the cards necessary to cure those diseases. Ultimately, players will need to find a balance between the two approaches.
As with other cooperative games, bad luck may play a major role in Pandemic and mitigating that bad luck is vital to winning.
Decisive actions, recognising priorities and acting on them are also vital to success, as are knowing when to use role special abilities.
Pandemic is also hard, I think this comes down to Pandemic's rules for swapping city cards between players which requires them to be in that card's city in order to do so. It's unlikely players will be able to collect 5 cards of single colour on their own so coordination between players is vital.
We've played a few of the iterations that followed Pandemic and it always felt like this rule has been softened a little. Is that as bad thing, I suspect YMMV?
Pandemic does a good job at evoking the feel of a spreading global crisis and the desperate worldwide fight to contain it.
I have to admit, considering the events of the past 2 years, we haven't had much compulsion to play Pandemic. Even so and despite the difficulty, I feel that if you like cooperative games, it's still worth playing, it challenges players with making difficult decisions at nearly every avenue and is satisfying to win.
4th June 2021
It's Friday evening and we're logged into Tabletopia.
This evening we will be playing the first part of Pandemic Legacy: season 0. Time to battle the Soviets to save the world during the height of the 60's cold war.
Caveat: we've only played this game digitally online.
Caveat No. 2: This is a legacy game and we only played the prologue, so I'm not going to blog about it at length.
What's in a game?
Season 0 is a prequel to the other Pandemic Legacy games, none of which I've played.
If you've ever played a Pandemic style game before, then a lot of this will be familiar to you.
There's also a lot of components to deal with the legacy element of the game.
How's it play?
The setup for Pandemic Legacy: season 0 will differ for each scenario as they have their won objectives, but will include the following:
Players of other Pandemic games will recognise most of the play mechanics. There are some other elements, but mostly during their turn, the active player will have 4 actions points to spend and their turn goes as follows:
Each mission will have it's own unique objectives to complete, when they are all either completed or failed, the mission immediately ends.
Missions will also immediately end if the following criteria is met:
Cards cannot be drawn from the player deck.
There are no more agent figures that can be used.
There are no more incident markers that can be used.
If the mission ends and there are any incomplete objectives, they are marked as failed.
Then players will be rated as succeeding, adequate or failing, this will have an affect on later missions.
Incidents that occurred during a mission will impact the board for later missions as well.
There are 12 missions played over a period of 12 months, making it a busy year. There will also be numerous other actions will occur with regard to further missions, this being a legacy game.
I'll start by saying that I know some people gush over legacy games, but I've not really played much of any legacy games and I'm pretty ambivalent towards them.
I understand the appeal of an evolving game where player decisions have an impact on further games over time. At the same time, I'm so sure about a game where you have to play it 12 or 20 times to get the most out of it.
Anyway; since I've not played the legacy components of Season 0, I'm not really going to blog about them, instead I can write my thoughts about the general mechanics of the game.
If you've played a Pandemic style game, then a lot of this will be familiar. It has the same, recognisable gameplay elements of racing against time and having to make difficult meaningful decisions to balance completing objectives with firefighting the spread of in this particular incarnation, Soviet agents.
Like all cooperative games I've played, mitigating bad luck is a key component to succeeding.
Reskinning Pandemic's mechanics for Season 0 could have been lazy and bad, but actually, they work and fit the theme pretty well, the changes introduce interesting concepts, although some of the changes only apply to long term play.
The addition of teams is an inspired change, instead of running around and doing actions myself, I could instruct teams of agents to do it, provided they had the correct aliases of course. Not only did it give players and extra decision to manage, it made me feel more of a spymaster than a spy, which I found quite appealing, it gave the impression that more was going on at any one time, it made the game feel bigger and that's good.
These changes differentiate Season 0 from Pandemic, but is it enough of a change to justify owning both? For me, as an owner of the original Pandemic; I'd say no. Would I play someone else's copy? Probably.
I have to say it would cool to have seen the agent mechanics employed in a standard spy-themed Pandemic game.
If you're a big player of legacy games and can commit to them, it's definitely worth a look. If you're also a fan of Pandemic, it might also be for you.
28th May 2021
It's a Friday night and we've met up at Simon's for some impromptu gaming.
Have you ever had the urge to run around being chased by Dracula? Or The Wolfman, or any other of the Universal movie monsters in a cooperative turn based race against time to defeat them? Then welcome to Horrified.
What's in a game?
Horrified is a cooperative board game in the vein of games such as Pandemic and has some loosely similar rules.
The monster figures seem good quality and stand about 32mm high. All the tiles and tokens are made of suitability thick cardstock, the standees are also fine. The quality of the 2 decks of cards what you'd expect.
The game's art is universally good, I particularly liked the board which is eye-catchingly coloured in blue and yellow.
All the art used on the monster components is also excellent, wisely drawing inspiration from its iconic source material, this includes the monster figures which are reasonably sculpted for game pieces and easily recognisable by anyone who knows their universal monsters.
Art on the other tiles, character and villager standees is also good, the same is true for the monster & perk cards.
Item tokens only feature monochrome illustrations and that's fine since the tokens are quite small and there will generally be a lot of them. Besides, just how exciting can you make a clove of garlic or a pitchfork look?
How's it play?
In Horrified, players are tasked with travelling round the board to collect item tokens and use them to complete tasks to make monsters vulnerable, then they can be defeated. All the while, the players must avoid the monsters and also protect the very hapless villagers.
On to play
When the active player has their turn, it will be split into a character turn and then a monster turn.
Let's start with the character's turn, each character will have 3-5 action points to that the player may spend per turn, they can be spent as follows:
The monster turn is dictated by the monster card which is drawn. Each monster card has 3 elements to it.
Horrified has 2 ways to lose.
If the marker on the terror track reaches 7, then everyone flees the village in errrr, well terror!
If, when it comes to a monster turn and there're no monster card to draw, then time has run out and it's game over! Monster overrun everything.
Players win the game by completing the objective for each monster and then vanquishing all monsters.
Horrified uses some interesting mechanics that set it apart from similar games.
The asymmetrical objectives that need completing for the different monsters is genuinely inspired game design.
Objectives like curing The Wolfman, solving The Mummy's sliding puzzle or proving the existence of The Invisible Man thematically it fits the monsters and mechanically it adds variety and longevity to the game.
The damage mechanic is also an excellent idea; forcing players to choose which item(s) to discard can be a meaningful and painful decision, choosing either to lose an important token that is needed or a high value other token is tough. It also does away with the need to track health or hit points.
Villagers too, are a good addition, keeping them alive can be a burden, but is also vital to keeping the terror track under control. If character manages to escort a villager to safety, then the reward is a perk card. Perk cards can be extremely useful and turn things around when played at the right time, they can be game winners.
Horrified is a little bit less finicky than it's counterparts but that doesn't make it an easy game, whenever we've won, it was only with a couple of actions in hand and when we've lost, it's been by a few actions as well.
Like every other cooperative game I've played, Horrified uses luck - or bad luck more precisely, to provide a challenge to the players, some bad dice rolls or an unfortunate monster card draw can really throw a spanner in the works. Like all those other cooperative games, how players manage the bad luck is important to victory.
Furthermore, every decision has to count, Horrified is a tightly balanced game. Since there are only 30 monster cards, that means that players basically have 30 turns to win, or on average 120 actions to spend. There's scant time to waste.
Horrified is a fairly accessible, fun to play and well presented game. It's one of the best cooperative games I've played and I'm to play it again.
23rd May 2021
It's Sunday evening and I'm logged into Skype and Board Game Arena on my PC and it's time for the final game of the day.
Drafting. Rawr! Dinosaurs. Rawr! T-rexes. Rawr!
Draftosaurus has it all, drafting and well... you get the idea. This is a game where scientists have discovered how to clone dinosaurs and now parks of them are opening everywhere, all in a completely non-copyright infringing manner of course!
Caveat: We've only played Draftosaurus digitally online.
What's in a game?
There's not much more I can say, I can't talk about the physical components which also include a draw bag.
How's it play?
Draftosaurus is about placing dinosaur meeples into the pens, different pens have different requirements, which is explained below.
Once the 12th and final dinosaur meeple has been placed by all players, the endgame is triggered.
Players score all of the sets they've created on their board, plus any bonuses or penalties. Highest score wins.
When playing Draftosaurus, more often than not, players will find themselves having to place meeples into unexpected pens thanks to the placement die. Without this element, the game would be too predictable.
How players deal with, manage and anticipate these these situations is key to victory. Often there will be a conflict between which set to increase or start on and keeping a pen open for another type of dinosaur.
It also pays to try and remember which dinosaur meeples will be coming round.
The winter side of the board makes it harder to collect different sets and provides more challenge but somehow a little less fun?
It's hard to find a lot more to say about Draftosaurus, it's quick, fairly light game to learn and play that's also quite luck based. If you don't like this sort of game, Draftosaurus will probably infuriate you. I think that maybe it's a bit too luck based for me to play extensively.
Not taken too seriously and played as a filler game and Draftosaurus is a reasonable diversion.
23rd May 2021
Sunday night game rolls on and I'm logged into Skype and Board Game Arena.
The final game of the night was Forbidden Island: A cooperative race against time to escape a mysterious island about to be swallowed by the ocean.
Forbidden Island is the older sibling of Forbidden Desert, you can read my blog about it here.
Caveat: We played the game digitally but in the past have played the physical game.
What's in a game?
Eye-catching, good quality artwork is used on the flood cards & island tiles, they also come with suitably evocative names such as Temple Of The Moon, Cave Of Embers, Breaker's Bridge and so on. Art on the treasure cards is also good and matches the nicely sculpted figurines.
All-in-all, the components are good.
How's it play?
Forbidden Island is a race against time to recover 4 treasures (In the form of the 4 figurines.) and escape the ancient island as it collapses into the ocean waves. Collecting treasures is done by heading to certain locations with a set of cards and acquiring them,
During their turn, the active player will have 3 action points to spend on various actions. Once all players have had a turn, then the game gets to have its turn.
If, during play either of the decks is depleted, simply shuffle the discard pile back into a deck.
As a cooperative game, the players collectively win or lose. Forbidden Island has several ways to lose and 1 way to win!
There are 9 'critical' island tiles on the board.
Each figurine has 2 tiles which are used to acquire the it, if both tiles for a figurine sink before it is acquired, then it's game over as there's now no way to get that figurine.
Similarly, if the Fool's Landing island tile (Which contains the helipad sinks.), then there's no way to escape and it's also game over.
If a tile with a character on it sinks, the character must swim to an adjacent tile, if there are no adjacent tiles, then unless that character is the diver, they will meet their water end! If any character is lost then it's game over for all players!
Finally, if the marker on the water level reaches the skull & crossbones, then well.... you get the idea. Glub!
Winning; easier said than done!
Any single player must collect 4 identical treasure cards, then must reach one of the 2 island tiles associated with that treasure and spend an action to acquire that treasure's figurine. This must be done for all 4 figurines.
That's not the end though, now all the characters must reach the helipad and a Helicopter Lift card must be played by any player to escape to victory.
Like other cooperative games I've played, Forbidden Island injects a dose of luck into the gameplay in order to consistently challenge players and how players manage that luck is key to victory.
Broadly speaking the gameplay is; player shores up island - game tries to sink island - player shores up island and so on. Players have to keep the island a safe as possible long enough to survive and get the cards they need to win the game.
It's not as straightforward as it sounds though, the 3 actions points each player is given to do stuff never seems enough. Players have to choose between working towards objectives or saving the island and the clock is always, always ticking.
The way the flood deck works means that tiles which have already suffered a flood will be more prone to suffering further floods because when a Waters Rise! card appears and refreshes the flood deck, cards that were already revealed are put back on the top of the flood deck, meaning they will be the first to be revealed again.
Obviously protecting the critical island tiles is.... well critical but choosing to protect other tiles is a harder choice. Sure you can allow a unimportant tile at the edge of the board to sink and it won't immediately affect the game, however, when a tile sinks, its flood card is removed from the deck, slimming it down and meaning that flood cards for tiles you are trying to protect will appear more often. Keeping cards in the flood deck can act as a buffer against other parts of the islands sinking, provided you're willing to spend the action points of course....
A hand limit of 5 is also another area of the game which forces players to make decisions, just like action points, the hand limit never seems enough.
It takes 4 cards to gain a figurine, giving player's space for only 1 other card in their hand! Through gritted death, players will frequently have to discard useful cards because they're not useful right now.
To win Forbidden Island, the players will need to cooperate, coordinate and optimise the use of action points, they'll need to make every decisions count and use special cards appropriately and decisively.
Choosing when to let a tile sink or save it, or when and what card to give to another player are all vital decisions and most of the time player's will be forced to make compromises, rarely will their decisions be no-brainers.
I find Forbidden Island to be an enjoyable cooperative game and I'm happy to play it.
Sometimes the luck of the draw can go with and give you a slightly easier time or it screw you over (Nothing like drawing Fool's Landing in the starting 6 flooded tiles, drawing Waters Rise straightaway and watching Fool's Landing immediately sink....).
But if it was always easy or fair, what would be the fun it that?
2nd April 2021
It was a Friday and I was logged into Board Game Arena on my PC.
As the name suggests, Stone Age is a game about the trials and tribulation faced by the inhabitants of prehistoric communities.
Caveat: The digital version of this game was played at this time, but we had played the physical version on previous occasions.
What's in a game?
Stone Age is a worker placement game and at its core takes place on a central game board which is divided into various different locations, into which workers can be placed to activate the associated action. Some locations may contain any amount of workers, others are limited by numbers.
The game board has a bright and colourful depiction of a stone age community on the edge of the wilderness that's quite eye-catching. The player boards have similar, if plainer artwork, again this is fine since most of the time they'll be covered in components.
The civilisation cards essentially all use the same piece of artwork with elaborate game iconography providing some variation and the same is true of the building tiles. It's nothing to write home about (Or blog about I suppose?) but is perfectly acceptable.
For the most part, the art is good.
How's it play?
Gameplay is broken up into 3 phases, place workers, resolve workers and end of round.
Again starting with the first player, they must remove all of their workers from one location at a time from every location they've placed workers and immediately resolve the associated actions as they do so, returning the meeple to the player's board. Players are free to remove their meeples in whatever order they see fit (This can have significant impact on game play.). The following actions are available:
There are 2 conditions that can trigger the endgame.
If any of the building tile stacks have all 7 of their tiles purchased, it triggers the endgame, the current round is concluded and the game goes to the end game and then scoring.
At the end of a round, if there aren't enough civilisation cards to fill a 4 spots on the board, then the game immediately ends and goes to scoring.
In both instances, tribes must be fed for a final time.
Final scores are tallied by adding the score from the victory point track, points that come from sets of civilisation cards and 1 point for each (Non food) resource the player possesses.
Highest score wins.
If I have one criticism of Stone Age, it's that the first 3 opening moves in any given round are generally always no-brainers, that's because the tool maker, hut & field locations are such a high priority because they confer very good rewards that would usually be stupid for players to pass up. If you're the 4th player, you won't get a look in unless another player is really desperate for something else or doesn't know what they're doing.
I'm not sold on the resource gathering mechanic either, yes it's quite nice but it can leave you at the mercy of the dice rolls that makes low rolls feel frustrating but somehow high rolls not feel satisfying.
Otherwise Stone Age is a mid-to-light worker placement game that is fairly easy to learn but feels perhaps a little generic, however, it does provide a fair level of depth.
The game manages to generally provide a choice or two too many for players to cover with workers, forcing them to prioritise their actions and making meaningful decisions. An extra worker is good, so is the agriculture required to feed them, the tools can help with gathering resources which are useful to buy cards and tiles and so on.
So if you want to play a worker placement game that isn't too taxing on the grey matter, you could do a lot worse than Stone Age.
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.
I play, I paint.