3rd November 2020
It's a Tuesday and I'm not at the Woking Gaming Club, I am however in Woking, in Simon's converted home-office for what would be the last time I play a game with a friend in person before lockdown 2 began.
It was an unusual setup, two us were in Simon's office and Colin was dialling in via Zoom, able to view the game through Simon's phone which was clamped above the table.
Tonight we played Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, the little sibling of Gloomhaven. Like Gloomhaven, it's a cooperative RPG with a legacy element.
Caveat: This blog post may differ a little from the ones I normally write. When we played the game, a number of the components were not used, instead they were replaced with an app, it also allowed Colin to remotely log into the app and see the same information we did. Additionally, both other players were very familiar with the game.
What's in a game?
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion comes with a lot of components and a lot of cards.
What art there is on the components is good and the components are of a high quality.
How's it play?
The game follows the paradigm of an RPG; there are a series of linked scenarios that form a campaign. As characters progress from scenario to scenario, they accumulate experience points and become stronger. Characters are persistent and they and their progress carry over between scenarios.
There are also legacy elements here, decisions that players make during the game will have some sort of effect later on.
The setup is fairly quick and simple, mostly because the game uses map books instead of tiles.
On to playing
In each round, the players will choose 2 cards from their deck to play. Enemy behaviour is dictated by the game.
A scenario will end when its win/lose conditions are met.
If the players win the scenario they gain experience points, characters gain experience points according to the scenario. Additionally; certain action cards grant characters experience points when played, these are added up as well.
When a character acquires enough experience points, they will level up and gain whatever benefits it confers.
During the game, enemies that are defeated will drop treasure. If characters collect these treasures, they gain gold after the scenario ends.
Gold can then be spent to acquire more or better item cards.
Next, there is an encounter as determined by a randomly drawn city card.
After this, players are given the choice of what scenario to attempt next. This may involve adding a sticker to the map or some other legacy type action.
There's a lot to think about here.
There's a lot of components to the game too and it might be a bit fiddly. But it seems to me that most of this occurs during setup. I can't imagined how much setup the full Gloomhaven requires without the map books?
The character-gameplay is actually pretty straightforward, simple to learn and goes smoothly enough.
Enemy behaviour may be a bit trickier and it probably pays to have some one who is familiar with the rules (As we did.) when playing.
The action card mechanic was pretty well implemented, it not only gives players options and a bit of flexibility, but meaningful decisions to make.
The rest mechanic is also a good addition, it forces players to act, be decisive and deters them from trying to play overly safe and spend too many turns resting to regain hit points.
Since a character deck only has 10 cards, it means that a plaery will empty their deck in 5 rounds. Then they have to decide to discard 1 card and miss a turn, or discard one at random and continue, which can be a hard decision.
Now you have 9 cards and only 4 turns before facing the same dilemma. Additionally, some cards are discarded when use and so on.
All of this serves to create sense of urgency, a need to complete the scenario before player decks become too depleted. Players will want to minimise the time they waste carrying out long rests.
Combat is a bit of a mixed bag.
There are a good number of special moves, conditions and effects that play a role in combat. The four different characters can feel different in combat because of it.
I dislike the cancel result on the combat deck that waste an attack, I imagine that if a player has set up a powerful move using a card that gets discarded - only to have that entire attack negated, it must feel gutting.
I'm not sure how I feel about using individual decks as a randomizer for combat, I can see the appeal of having a customisable individual randomizer for each player, but it seems like having components for the sake of having components. It works well enough, but I'm sure a similar effect could achieved with a single bunch of dice that are collated for individual rolls.
Gloomhaven/Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion are 2 games that are sort of chasing a board game holy grail. These are games that are trying to an give RPG style gameplay and experience, but without a GM.
It's a tricky goal; too simple and it becomes bland and repetitive, too complex and the game gets bogged down in rules, rules exceptions and components.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion seems to straddle that line fairly well.
Although as I mentioned above, we did use an app to facilitate play. It did have the advantage of allowing a player to join in a board game where he played over zoom!
Maybe this is the way to go, where an app does the GM heavy lifting, I've seen at least one game that requires an app, no doubt there will be more games that do that.
But this raises the question of legacy, an older game can (And probably will.) be rendered obsolete if the companion app becomes unavailable.
Overall though; I was happy enough to play it and will be continuing with the campaign I joined.
28th January 2020
Tuesday is here and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking to play board games.
Popular opinion states that most restaurant fail in the first year, so running one is hard work (And believe me I know!). What could be harder? Running a whole chain of restaurants!
That's where 'Food Chain Magnate' comes in. Now you too can know what it's like to run restaurants without all the 'fun' of inconsistent staff, irritating customers, infuriating regulations and interfering local authorities.
What's in a game?
There's quite a lot to Food Chain Magnate and quite a lot of components too.
How's it play?
A round of Food Chain Magnate is played over 7 rounds.
Play continues until all the allotted money from the 'bank' supply is depleted, in which case any remaining money is paid out from the reserve supply.
The player who has accumulated the most money, wins.
Food Chain Magnate markets itself as a 'heavy' game and it's not kidding.
The aim of the game is to build housing and create marketing campaigns, this generates a demand for whatever particular food & drink the player decides advertise.
Then the player produces the relevant food & drink to fill that demand, this equals profit.
Except it's not so simple.
There is a lot to think here and all of it is important.
How a player structures their company is crucial. All of the other actions options will become avaialable based on the staff cards that you recruit and play.
A lot to think about.
You need food? Pizza chefs will produce pizza and burger chefs will produce burgers.
You want drinks? You need an errand boy to go and collect them.
Want to be more competitively priced? Get a pricing manager.
Need an advertising campaign. You'll have to get marketing staff.
Want to place more housing? A business developer is what you need.
Your staff need training to be more effective? Trainers are what you need.
You got too many staff? Get more managers!
Need to recruit people even quicker? Recruiters are what's needed.
And so on.
Marketing needs to be targeted. There are different types of marketing that target a player's audience at different 'ranges' and they tend to be of varying length. Players will need to optimise creating their demand.
Advertising can have a real sting in the tail. Because other players can benefit from it too. If one player creates a demand for burgers and another player then opens a burger joint closer to the housing that's been targeted, then the customers will go there instead (Customers have absolutely no loyalty!). Or if another player slashes the price of their burgers, then other restaurants will be ignored.
Sly players will definitely try and exploit other player's marketing.
This brings me to 'pricing'. This is a great game mechanic. Instinctively, players will want to increase prices to generate more revenue. But a player really needs to undercut their opponents, because less profit is better than no profit. Pricing is a real race to the bottom and forces players to make horrible choices - always a good thing!
Players will also need to think about food & drink production, as more and more demand appears, players will need to get better and better at production to meet that demand. Also, as demands get more complex, fulfilling those demands gets equally as complex (A house's demands cannot be only partially fulfilled and must be fully met.).
And don't forget milestones, the benefits they can confer can be very important.
When we played this game, the owner explained to us that he thinks at the start there's a couple of different routes to follow for 'opening moves' that there are 'no brainer' moves (These are to do with milestones.). It seems some of the milestones can be completed in the first couple of turns and only the first player(s) that complete them get the benefit, not following the 'no brainer' moves means a player can lose out on those benefits.
This implies that early moves (Or mistakes really!) can affect the entire game.
I'm not sure how I feel about this? I don't like 'no brainers', because what they do is remove choice from a game. On the other hand, maybe it was overstated. I guess the game would need to be played multiple times to see if this is the case
All of this contributes to make Food Chain Magnate a deep game that requires a lot of forethought and strategy. There is no luck or chance in this game. If you like genuinely heavy games, this may interest you.
For me though, I found it to be a little bit difficult to play the game on all the levels it required and mostly ignored the marketing side. It felt a strangely unengaging game, perhaps it was the theme?
7th January 2020
It's the first Tuesday of the year and we're NOT at 'The Sovereigns' (Which is closed for refitting.), instead we're at 'The Wheatsheaf' in Woking for board gaming.
Tonight, we're playing Taverns of Tief....err?
Taverns of Tiefe... err?
It's a game where you run a pub!
So this game tries it's best squeeze in as many game mechanics as it can.
Deck building - yep. Card drafting - yep. Dice drafting - yep. Dice placement - yep. Resource management - yep. Hidden Role - y... wait no, that's about the only thing missing!
What's in a game?
So Taverns of Tiefenthal comes with some optional extras or expansions, apparently we used all of them in the game we played. So there's a lot of components.
Many of the game's components are made of nice and thick card stock, including the beer mats. The artwork is quite nice and colour and there's some nice detail on the tavern board and tiles.
How's it play?
We begin with setup.
That covers most of the setup.
Now to explain what does what.
Let's start with the tavern board. Many of the abilities on the board are activated by placing dice of a specific value on them.
Guest cards are acquired by spending beer.
So at last, finally, we get to how the game plays.
Each round is player over several phases.
Play continues for 8 rounds.
Victory points are scored from the cards that players bought
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
Taverns of Tiefenthal requires a lot of explanation (As you can see above), but in play is actually quite straightforward.
It's more of a game about optimizing strategies than complex rules.
The game gives you a lot of choices and options. Occasionally these will be meaningless decisions because of how the dice fall, but most of the time you'll have to choose between different actions.
A player will nearly always have more options available than actions to perform them.
This is makes a good game in my opinion.
There's nothing particularly unique about the game, other than how it blends certain game mechanics together to emulate it's subject quite well. The game's presentation is also very good with well made components and colourful and well produced art.
The game's only drawback is its setup time, there's quite a lot to do. But I think the payoff is worth it as I enjoyed it.
17th November 2019
Sunday lunch time has rolled around and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. The 50 Fathoms hiatus continues.
Today we played 'Concordia'
Concordia is a resource gathering and economic expansion game set in the Roman era Mediterranean and surrounding areas.
Ah, where would 'euro style' games be without the Roman era Mediterranean? Probably set even more in Renaissance Europe!
What's in a game?
Concordia has quite a lot of components.
It's worth mentioning the games resource tokens, normally it would be typical for the components to be coloured wooden blocks. Not so in Concordia, the tokens are shaped like the resource they represent. Thus the brick tokens look like clay bricks, wine tokens look like wine jugs and so on. It's a nice touch.
Hows it play?
Concordia has a fairly detailed setup. So, here we go.
The very basics of Concordia are simple: The active player plays a card from their hand carries out the action(s) listed on it.
Personality cards can be acquired which perform other actions or are better versions of the starter cards.
The starter cards are:
There are more types of cards available in the personality deck. There are specialist cards for each type of resource that allows the player possibly gain extra resources. There are also improved versions of starter cards and cards that make certain actions easier to perform.
There are some more rules, but this is the gist of it
There are 2 ways to trigger the endgame. If all the personality cards are bought or if a player builds or their houses. Then the final round is completed.
Scoring is quite detailed and involved, in fact almost convoluted.
All cards are attributed to 1 of 6 Roman gods such as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars etc.
Each 'god' is scored differently: Mars for example, will score a player 2 victory points per meeple they have on the board per Mars card.
All victory points are tallied, highest score wins.
Here's the thing, I quite like Concordia, but I can't put my finger on exactly why?
Maybe it's because it's a game about expansion and empire building, but a mercantile empire and not a military one. There is no direct conflict and the worse you can do to another player is to buy a personality card they want, or maybe block a route they want to use. It's all feels very 'eurogame'.
Or maybe it's the deck building element. I feel there's something engrossing about having limited actions and needing to optimise strategies accordingly.
Thinking about it, if there was too much direct competition between players, the deck building and planning wouldn't work so well within the game.
Finally, I thought I would mention the scoring. Because there's 6 different ways to score, it's almost as if you don't need to think about the scoring and can just concentrate on building up your trade empire and let the points take care of themselves.
But anyway, all in all, Concordia is a game I enjoy playing.
6th April 2019
It's a Saturday evening, so it's an evening of gaming at Matakishi's.
And on this particular evening we played Trains: Rising Sun.
Trains: Rising Sun combines 3 key elements to make it what is is:
This game is a expansion/standard alone game (I guess that's where the imaginative name 'Rising Sun' comes from).
What's in a game?
Trains: Rising Sun uses a game board which depicts a map, a map that is overlaid with hexes (familiar territory for the players' of many, many train games) and you can build cities, connect rail links etc. Definitely familiar territory!
However the actions you take on the board are dictated by the cards you play from your hand of cards.
Each player begins the game with a deck of 10 cards, 7 of which generate currency and 3 of which 'do things'. Each player draws 5 cards from their deck into their hand. So far so 'Dominion'!
Currency cards generate money that allow you to buy cards from a selection of cards to add to your discard pile. These cards give you extra abilities, more revenue etc.
When your draw deck runs out, your discard pile is shuffled into a draw deck, allowing you to draw and use the newly acquired cards.
Other cards such as 'Lay Rails' allows the player to errr lay rails! However it costs to lay rails. So your currency cards are also required to build railways. This is great as it forces you to make choices. 'Do I want to make use of the lay rails in my hand right now and miss out on that card I want?' For example.
There's an additional mechanic in this game called 'Waste'. Certain actions and cards generate waste. Each time waste is generated by a player, they take a 'Waste' card from the relevant stack and add it to your discard pile. Sooner or later you'll start drawing waste cards into your hand. What do waste cards do for you? As you probably surmised, they do nothing for you and clog up space in your hand and just get in the way.
There are various cards and actions that allow you to take waste cards out of your deck and return them to their stack.
It's a clever little mechanic that adds an extra layer of consideration when choosing your actions.
The board is double sided and features different terrain. It has hexes, rail links at the edges, cities, rivers etc. It's all very familiar. You use the board to build and connect cities to score points according to the cards that you play.
That's the rules in a nutshell.
This hybridization of 2 different game styles works perfectly well. Without going into specifics about the rules, there's little more to write about the game.
Tuesday 8th January 2019; the first evening back at the 'Woking Board Game Club' at 'The Sovereigns' pub.
Several games were played during the evening, including much talked about Wingspan. However we played Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle.
This is a co-operative deck builder in the vein of Dominion.
You start with a deck of 10 cards and use your turns to buy more cards to make your deck stronger.
The objective is to defeat various villainous characters such as Draco Malfoy before certain conditions are met and the game is lost.
Mechanically the game is quite solid - if a little shallow. The game has 7 'chapters' of increasing difficulty (and also match the number number of books).
We played level 2. Twice we collectively got our arses kicked, but on the 3rd try we romped to victory. I think we got better at the game, but also that luck (or bad luck in our cases) plays a big part too. But to be fair, that's generally always the case with co-operative games.
I'm not a particular fan of Harry Potter, but of the game had a slight increase in complexity, I'd definitely be interested in it.
I play, I paint.