19th October 2021
Tuesday evening has come around again and we're at The Sovereigns with the Woking Gaming Club.
The first game of the night was Unearth; a dice-rolling, worker placement game set after a distant apocalypse where players command a band of 'delvers' searching for lost wonders of the long past age. Basically archaeologists sans the bullwhips and giant rock chases!
What's in a game?
For the ruins cards, Unearth uses some distinct eye-catching colour palettes and isometric cuboid artwork to depict the long destroyed structures.
For the delver cards, an almost cartoony style is used to illustrate the workers/dice.
Overall, I like the art style.
The game doesn't make much use of iconography, what there is of it is pretty simple to comprehend.
How's it play?
On to play
In Unearth, players take turns and are attempting to use delvers to acquire sets of ruin cards, that is place rolled dice on ruins card and also build wonders by accumulating and placing stone.
Broadly speaking there can be 2 phases that the active player acts in, the delving phase and the building phase.
Play continues until the end of age card is revealed, any instructions on that card are immediately resolved, then play continues until all ruins cards have been claimed.
Players then score for each set of the same colour they've collected. Sets range from 1-5 cards and score 2-30 points per set. there are also points for sets of each colour collected.
Players can then score points from the individual wonders they've built, they also score for building 3 or more wonders.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
The sum of Unearth's parts make it a fairly unusual game. It provides 2 distinct paths to scoring points and neither can be entirely ignored.
Set collecting is one way to earn victory points and the card collecting mechanics are quite solid, giving players who fail to acquire a card some sort of other benefit and the range of dice available to players that give them a couple of options is key to this. Players can play for the card or try and play for the stones - the eight-sided die has a slightly better chance of roll higher than a six-sider and four sided die has a 75% chance of rolling 3 or lower, they each give advantage but don't guaranteed success.
The other path to victory points - building wonders requires players to both plan ahead and also adapt to opportunities and changes as they appear, collecting stones of a particular colour can always prove tricky, especially if another player is also on the hunt for stone tokens. There are also some restrictions on how stone tiles are placed and depending on what a stones a player is trying to get, placing them may require a small amount of planning and forethought.
I found Unearth a little unengaging and I can't quite put my finger on why, maybe it's the game's slightly abstract nature or maybe that it feels like little is ever happening.
Very little seems to occur in a player's turn, quite often a player rolls a dice and there's no immediate effect, sometimes they get a stone, sometimes they don't, occasionally they get a ruins card. Often it felt like that despite my decisions, little was in my control.
All of this makes the game sort of light on decision making. Players choose which ruins card to gamble a doe on and when to use a delver card, or where to place a stone token when they gain one and that's about it. There's just not that much to it.
I can't find much to fault Unearth but then I can't find much to praise it either. It's all a little unexciting.
12th September 2021
Up from the depths.
Thirty stories high.
HIS HEAD IN THE SKY!
….and Godzoo- OK, that's going too far.
Take on the role of a kaiju as they rampage against each other for the right to flatten Tokyo!
What's in a game?
The dice are very well constructed and feel satisfying weighty to heft, which is good because they be getting a of of use.
The boards, cards and standees are lavished with brash, colourful and cartoonish art, it's comical style perfectly fits both the game's style and over the top theme.
The game has little iconography which is easy to understand.
How's it play?
On to play
In King of Tokyo, players take turns rolling and re-rolling dice, then using those results to try and gain some benefit to work towards their objectives. During play there will always be a monster inside Tokyo, while the others are outside, in a 5+ player game, there can be 2 monsters inside Tokyo.
A turn goes like this.
Play continues until one of two conditions are met.
A player has reached 20 victory points - in which they immediately win or all monster bar one have had their health reduced to 0, in which case the last monster standing wins.
King of Tokyo is a push-your-luck game with a difference, most other games of this type task players with essentially beating the odds and doing so more efficiently than other players, getting to whatever the victory criteria is first. But King of Tokyo has an extra wrinkle, in King of Tokyo, players can target and eliminate other players, I'm not a fan of player elimination but it gives the game an extra approach and dimension to gameplay. Not only that, players will look to prioritise different results at different times, if they're low on health; they'll want hearts. If there's a power card they like the look of; they'll want energy.
The rules for getting into Tokyo compliment this well.
Getting into Tokyo works for scoring points or attacking enemies.
There's an inherent risk to do so, because it makes that player the central target. Managing to stick it out in Tokyo however, earns the player 2 victory points per turn, which on the surface might not seem like much but is actually 10% of the required victory score. Additionally, being in Tokyo is the best way to dish out damage to all other players, hit them hard enough and they'll probably want to heal instead of attack, giving the player in Tokyo more time, because sometimes, attacking the player in Tokyo is a risk. A canny player might yield Tokyo to another player who is low on health because it then puts them on the spot!
Throw the usage of power cards into the mix and King of Tokyo becomes an enjoyable blend of strategy, risk and reward and push-your-luck mechanics. Furthermore, players will need to adapt to the unpredictability the game sends their way.
King of Tokyo is a easy to learn, light and fun game not to be taken too seriously, it's perhaps a little too long for a filler game but is definitely worth trying, especially if you're a fan of push-your-luck games.
29th July 2021
Thursday is here and it's time for some gaming on Board Game Arena.
If racing isn't your thing but rolling is, then maybe you'll prefer Roll for The Galaxy to the excellent Race for The Galaxy.
Roll for The Galaxy is a follow up to the aforementioned game and both are thematically similar. Both games have the same 5 phases (Although not in the same order!) and both are about are about building settlements and developments to create an engine building tableau in order to win.
Mechanically, there are numerous differences though. Roll for The Galaxy uses lots of different dice and dice rolling to manage phases as well as provide workers to build with. Gone is the card-based economy of Roll for the Galaxy.
What's in a game?
All the games tiles are made of sturdy grey board and are suitably thick.
The currency meeple is a nice little wooden token that matches colour with a dice cup, speaking of which, the cups are made of pretty standard plastic but are easily tough enough to stand up to repeated use.
Finally, the victory tokens are made of standard card token chips and are probably the most average component in the game, which is to say the components are all good quality.
Anyone familiar with Race for The Galaxy will recognise the art style on the tiles. How much of it is new and how much is recycled from Race, I couldn't say. Ultimately though, it's fairly good artwork.
How's it play?
Roll for The Galaxy is played out over 5 different steps, each player carries out each step simultaneously.
Play progresses until either a player has completed the 12th tile in their tableau, or the supply of victory point tokens has been depleted.
Players now calculate the total cost/value of completed tiles in their tableau and victory points accumulated, furthermore; some developments will have criteria that score players additional points.
All points are tallied, highest score wins.
Players of Race for The Galaxy (Like me!) will recognise a lot of familiar theme and ideas in Roll for The Galaxy, it's quite clever how this has been achieved, although there are some differences.
For example; in Race for The Galaxy, a player's hand is also their currency, in Roll for the Galaxy though, players have no hand. The game introduces a currency track to replicate this and at first I thought it felt a little superfluous, after all, currency is only used to recover dice from the Citizenry space, then I realised without the need for currency, the decision to choose between a game tile and currency in the Explore phase becomes unnecessary as does the decision to to choose between victory points and currency in the Ship phase.
There is no military score, instead military dice provide extra opportunities to develop and settle.
Curiously, Roll for The Galaxy swaps the Produce and Ship/Consume phases round and trading is now the 5th and final phase. I guess that this decision was taken to make it a little easier to players to produce and then trade goods in the same round?
Additionally, because Roll for the Galaxy is a 5-player game, it possible for all phases to be activated. It's never been possible to activate more than 4 phases in Race for The Galaxy.
Finally; constructing developments and settlements is quite different: In Race for The Galaxy, it's a all-or-nothing affair, either you have the cards to pay for a development/settlement or you don't. Roll for The Galaxy allows player to incrementally pay for them, however, this ties up dice in construction, as a consequence players will have less dice and therefore less choices When rolling at the start of the round.
But enough of talking about another game, let's talk about Roll for The Galaxy.
In Roll for The Galaxy, players will be to some extent at the mercy of the dice they roll at the start of a round. If you're looking to finish constructing a settlement and you get no settlement dice - tough luck!
Obviously there are rules to mitigate some of this and furthermore, correct usage of the different types of dice (Provided you get hold of them.) at the right time can be helpful and skew results in a player's favour. But on occasion, players will have to react to dice rolls that just don't go their way! Adaptation is the key here. Even so, it can prove frustrating at times when you can't do what you want to. Additionally, acquiring certain types of dice which may push players into strategies they hadn't considered before,
Another aspect to remember when assigning dice, is to pay attention to what other players have been doing, successfully anticipating another player's choice of action can prove useful and provide extra actions to spend.
Players must balance the need to acquire developments and settlements with the need to produce and trade, this also means balancing the use of limited resources to construct improvements with the need to have actions.
Building an engine is vital, getting the special abilities provided is important, but so is acquiring extra dice to roll, which gives players more choices elsewhere.
Players will want to do all of this as efficiently as possible to outpace their opponents
In short; Roll for The Galaxy always provides players with meaningful decisions.
I'd happily play Roll for The Galaxy again in the future, but given the choice between this and Race for The Galaxy, I'd choose the latter every time. Roll for the Galaxy is a good and fun game but I sometimes find the randomness off putting. If dice games are your thing over card games for some reason, Roll for the Galaxy is definitely worth a look.
29th July 2021
It's a Thursday and we're logged into Board Game Arena for some gaming entertainment.
The first game was Martian Dice, it turns out that in Martian society abducting humans is a highly popular and competitive past time, players take the role of opportunistic Martians, flying around looking for hapless humans to kidnap as well as those old favourites - cows and errrrr.... chickens? Meanwhile, they'll also have to dodge all those pesky Sherman tanks sent by the US Government to harass them.
Caveat: We've only ever played Martian Dice digitially.
What's in a game?
You'll be unsurprised to learn that Martian Dice is a dice game that comes with 13 standard 6 sided dice. All dice are identical and come with the following symbols on their faces.
How's it play?
Martian Dice is a pretty straightforward push your luck game and players can continue rolling dice until they choose to or are forced to stop.
The game continues until a player scores 25 or more points, then the current round is concluded.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
This is usually where I blog about what I think of a game, but with Martian Dice, it's a little trickier. This is because at the time of writing, we've only ever played the game digitally and the version of Martian Dice we played on Board Game Arena appears to be quite broken!
In a word (Or acronym.); R.N.G. - random number generation. Computers can't actually, truly, generate numbers randomly, they can only do an approximation of it and any game that contains any random element will be affected by this to some lesser or greater degree - and that's probably most tabletop games on Board Game Arena!
So why am I singling out Martian Dice?
In game that's only about throwing lots of dice, when the randomness does go skew-whiff, it can become readily apparent. Look at the examples below.
I don't know the odds of the rolls that occurred above, but they must've have been very long. These kinds of results weren't particularly uncommon either, every few rounds something would pop up that just looked too improbable.
This skewed randomness did however, generally appear to affect all players equally which mitigated it somewhat, but it did alter the way we played the game.
Anyway back to my conclusion.
Martian Dice really only ever gives players 2 decisions to make.
What dice shall I keep?
Should I continue my turn or not?
Luckily, at least 1 of these decisions is generally always a meaningful decision.
Players will only get 3 scoring opportunities per turn, they'll sometimes be faced with the decision of scoring fewer points now and locking out that scoring type or hoping to get a better result later at the risk of getting 0 points. It can put players in a painful predicament - in a good way!
The other key hard decision players will have to make is choosing to put aside scoring dice or death-rays to battle tanks, especially as invariably a couple of tanks will have turned up.
Go for the points now and hope to be able to deal with the tanks later?
Or deal with the tanks now and hope points will turn up on another roll, albeit one with fewer dice?
Perhaps a player will get lots of death-rays early on; they could put them aside to deal with tanks that will appear in later rolls, on the other hand, putting aside this many death-rays lessens the chances of getting scoring results.
Finally players will frequently have to decide whether to push their luck or not. Because of how the scoring mechanism works, it obvious when there's no point pushing on and when it's got a chance to score more points. The question is; is it worth the risk? Sometimes players will have to roll because they've got too many tanks in play, other times - well getting just one of that type a player hasn't got would score 4 extra points! However, if the tanks and death-rays set aside are close in numbers, an unfortunate roll will bust they player.
All of these decisions will of course be contextual, but the game gives players a fairly clear risk/reward choice to make.
Martian Dice is a light, quick to learn and play, luck-based (sic) game, it definitely has some nuance and strategy but it will also appeal to fans of push your luck mechanics.
If you want a game not too taxing on the grey matter and works as a filler, Martian Dice could work well for you. We found it a good finisher at the end of an evening of play.
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.
30th June 2021
It's a Wednesday and we're round Simon's for some gaming.
Star Trekkin' across the universe,
On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
Star Trekkin' across the universe,
Only going forward 'cause we can't find reverse.
This sort of sums up Space Base in a roundabout kind of way, a game about launching spacecraft into space, only for them to disappear into the void and never return, well except for the victory points and money they sent your way!
What's in a game?
As you'd expect, all the components in Space Base are of a good quality; the player boards are sturdy and the plastic dice, while not as nice as wooden ones, are nicely rounded and roll well.
The cards are also good quality, it's understandable that they were made half-width, otherwise the game would have a massive footprint!
A lot of the ship cards have special or unique rules and their iconography is mostly easy to comprehend.
The little acrylic cubes are colourful and distinct, while the dice have a 'cosmic' sparkly finish and the '1' result has been replaced with a rocket.
The ship cards all contain a varied amount of detailed and neat, colourful illustrations of spaceships, along with their names, designations and classes, some are just palette swaps, but that's OK. It's unfortunate that these illustrations are so small though, as they tend to be overlooked. A nice touch is how the background art on the cards matches the background art for their sectors on the player board.
Ship cards are also marked out in bright blue and red, while the colony cards are bright yellow and it all combines to give the game a distinct and overall, eye catching look, it's a great use of primary colours.
How's it play?
On to play
Thematically, as the name suggests, this is a game about managing the spaceships docked at the titular space base, which I guess makes the players glorified intergalactic space traffic wardens! Collect those parking fines!
In Space Base, a player's turn is broadly divided into 2 stages, rolling dice and activating cards, then buying a card.
Play progresses until a player reaches 40+ victory points, then the current round is completed so all players have had an equal number of turn.
Victory point scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Space Base is a bright and cheerful, well made game that at least initially, is a lot of fun to play and gives players lots of options.
The idea of beginning a game with an already built up tableau is a good one, it means that the active player will always gain something on their turn and it's never wasted.
It's also a fairly accessible game and the basic rules are easy to learn; roll and choose dice, activate the relevant cards and buy more cards.
However, the game does become a lot more complex when more cards come into play, many cards allow the players to shift which cards are activated or purchase more cards, or have charge cube based abilities and so on, some of which can prove confusing.
Being able to split or combine the dice roll when activating cards is an intriguing rule and superficially give players a couple of choices on how to play their actions and build up their tableau. Splitting the dice gives the player the option of activating cards in the 1-to-6 range twice instead of once in the 7-12 range, however, balancing means that the cards in the 7-12 are more powerful, giving greater gains. Should a player choose lower gains more often, or greater gains less often?
That's the theory anyway.
Let's look at how this might work in practice.
The chance of rolling a 12 or double 6 is 1/36. the odds of rolling a 6 on 2 dice is 1/3, which means activating a 6 is 12 times more likely than activating a 12. However thinking about further, a 6 would activated twice when a 12 is activated, taking the ratio up to 13.
Thinking about it even further, I realise that a 1+5, 2+4, 3+3, 4+2 and 5+1 give 5 more ways to activate 6, taking the ratio up to 18-1! Does the 12 sector generally gain a player 18 times the benefits of sector 6, It doesn't feel like it?
I've scrutinised the manual and the developers are aware of all these odds (Although they discount a double-result as an extra activation), so it must be as designed.
Why is this important? It's all to do with which cards a player deploys and how the rolled dice are used. Even taking balancing into account, it seems that deploying cards in sectors 1-6 seems much more beneficial than 7-12.
Once a player has covered all first 6 sectors, it means they're guaranteed 2 actions per other player's turn, whereas there's no such guarantee of even 1 activation for sectors 7-12. Even partial coverage seems much more beneficial. It becomes more apparent when you play with more players, in a 5 player game, it'll get you 8 activations between turns!
At the time of writing, we've played Space Base over half a dozen times or so and for the last few games, I've concentrated only buying cards for sectors 1-6, not worrying too much about what benefit it gives me, only looking to increase my deployed cards; and it's been more successful than not - so far!
It's possible I was lucky to get the cards I wanted, but realistically half of the cards must be for sectors 1-6, so they'll generally always be available. Or it might just have be some lucky dice rolls going my way, or they didn't go well for the other players?
Ultimately, it seems to be that buying and deploying cards to stack up in sectors 1-6 seems like a bit of a no-brainer decision to me, which can be bad for a board game, because if that's the case, it removes meaningful choices.
Having said that, it's not something I'm 100% sure about and I'm still enjoying Space Base, I found a lot to like about it, rolling the dice and seeing what it gives you is always fun. It's a game I'm happy play again when it comes up.
15th June 2021
It's a Tuesday evening at The Sovereigns in Woking and if memory serves me correctly, the first time that I've met up with the Woking Gaming Club have met Since October last year!
The first game of the night was Roll For Adventure, a cooperative, dice roller where players must unite to foil the machinations of a Dark Lord wannabe and save the kingdom!
What's in a game?
In Roll for Adventure, our heroes must join forces to defeat The Dark Lord Saur-errr Master of Shadows; how is this done? By collecting the power stones to activate the magical artefact; how is this done? By making lots of dice rolls of course!
The dice are of the smaller variety, which is fine by me, they're made of plastic and finished in a 'marble' look, their edges are nicely rounded and their dots are indentations and not printed. Good quality dice overall.
The territory die is a larger size and has rounded edges, it has artwork related to the territory boards printed on 5 of its 6 sides, the printing seems to be good quality and doesn't look like it'd rub off easily.
The game's variety of boards and tiles are all printed on thick card, as are the components.
The enemy cards are pretty standard quality cards.
Finally; special mention goes to the completely unnecessary and therefore cool little 3d plastic skulls used to track damage on the 4 territories.
Artwork used on the territory boards is fairly minimalist and functional by necessity as space is given over to holding dice. The palette used for the 4 territories extends to the enemy cards and some components.
The quality of artwork used on the enemy cards, hero and adventure boards is all reasonably good. The bright colours scheme used to represent the power stone is pleasantly eye catching.
All-in-all, the components in Roll for Adventure are all of a good quality.
How's it play?
On to play
Like a lot of cooperative games, Roll for Adventure alternates between a player's turn and then the board's actions before moving on to the next player's turn.
The basic principle behind a turn in Roll for Adventure is simple: The active player rolls all their available dice and uses one or more of them of the same number, then rolls their remaining dice and so on, until they've used all their dice. What those dice are used for however, is the crux of the game.
If the damage token for any territory reaches its final spot, the players collectively lose the game.
If at anytime all the players collectively have no dice to roll for whatever reason, then the players lose.
If the players manage to collect the last power stone for their adventure board, then the players collectively win.
Roll for Adventure is an interesting combination of cooperative gameplay and some unusual dice rolling mechanics.
A good example is the Vortex of Resurrection: Using the vortex ends a player's turn immediately. Early in their turn, it's possible a player have the double 5 or double 6 which will be high enough to trigger the vortex, but doing so is a waste of a turn (And dice rolls.), however, waiting until a player only has 1 or 2 dice left means that getting a good result for the vortex is tricky.
Roll for Adventure has no 'set aside' rules or mechanics in Roll for Adventure here, after players use dice, the remaining ones are re-rolled and you can kiss those other useful results goodbye. It forces players to make decisive moves about what they have available now and collectively players need to really cooperate in these decisions too as spreading dice too thinly throughout the board can be a costly error, dice stuck on half completed tasks are a problem waiting to happen. Players need to concentrate on a couple of tasks only if possible and maintain the loop of using dice and then getting them back to use in the following turn.
The same is true of enemy cards, if they're not dealt with quickly, they can linger and repeatedly attack the board, particularly lower rank enemy, which will be commanded to attack the most often.
Balancing the need to get power stones and the need to defeat enemies is key, along with mitigating bad luck that tends to accompany cooperative games. The extra wrinkle here is the need to also manage your dwindling resources - dice!
Actions (Or inactions.) will frequently have an impact on the game and that's a good thing.
That's not to say the game is without some criticism.
With 4 double-sided territory boards, Roll for Adventure has 8 subsystems, at least 4 of which must be learned to play the game. In my opinion, this makes the game feel a little overly complex for the experience it delivers, which a shortish, almost abstract experience.
The game's theme doesn't gel entirely well with its mechanics for me. Do the dice represent various actions of the the player's hero? Or are they minions of the hero sent off on different missions? Whatever the answer, it felt a little unengaging, closer to an exercise in comprehending probability than going adventuring.
Having said all that: The game's balancing kept the outcome in the air all the way throughout and the tension high at the end. If you like cooperative games, Roll for Adventure is worth a look. If you've spent a lot of time playing those coop games where you spend action points to run around a map to perform tasks, this could give you a fresh take on the cooperative playstyle.
30th May 2021
Sunday night gaming on Board Game Arena continues with Dragonwood.
Those woods there, there be dragons in those woods, that must be why it's named Dragonwood! There are many monsters to capture, so to assemble brave adventurers, take your cards and take your dice and head off into the forests, there're adversaries to be struck, stomped or screamed at!
Caveat: We've only ever played Dragonwood digitally online.
What's in a game?
Well, there's not much that can be said since we've only played it digitally. The art on the carts is bright, cartoonish and pleasant, text is clearly written and easy to read.
How's it play?
The objective in Dragonwood is to capture creatures cards which are worth 1-7 points each.
Each turn, the active player will have a choice of 2 actions.
Then it goes to the endgame.
Players score the victory points for each creature they captured.
The player who has captured the most creatures earns an additional 3 points.
Once points are tallied, highest score wins!
Decisions are based around how much you want or need to push your luck and when to or when not to try and capture cards, managing this is key to Dragonwood.
If a creature has a value of 10 for one of it's target numbers, then it's not hard to figure out that 4 dice will give the active player a 50% chance of capturing it and they'll need to play 4 cards to do this. 9 or lower and the odds swing in the player's favour, 11+ and well, it's not a push your luck game for nothing!
Sure, someone can play it safe and draw cards to get better odds, but this consumes turns while instead, competitors could be capturing those creatures. A handful of adventurer cards scores nothing at the game's end.
Conversely, rashly trying to capture cards and failing will cost players their adventurer cards, it's a clever little balancing mechanic.
Even though the decision to capture a card or not is a simple, almost no brainer decision, the need to outdo other players generally means it never quite a meaningless one.
We found that acquiring enhancements early on (If they appear early on that is.) could be a big advantage. There are enhancements that add 1 or 2 to capture rolls, it might not seem like much, but in a game about averaged dice rolls, it can swing the odds quite a lot.
It's obvious that Dragonwood is a light game that skews towards younger players and with that in mind, I don't think it's appropriate to be overly harsh on it.
With it's fairly simplistic choices and reliance on randomness, fans of 'heavy' games probably won't find much to engage with here, unless they're looking looking for a undemanding filler for around 30 minutes to allow their brains to cool down between other, heavier games.
However, I do think that younger players will find the game enjoyable and dice rolling exciting, casual gamers may also find it entertaining.
4th April 2021
It's Sunday and I'm logged on to Board Game Arena for some gaming.
The first game of the day was Dice Forge, a game about errr forging dice in a mythically themed way! Also about the hunt for glory to impress the gods, which can in part be earned by rolling dice, which may not seem a glorious undertaking, but who am I to judge.
Caveat: This game was played digitally, but the physical version had been played previously.
What's in a game?
There are quite a few components to Dice Forge, so let's get started with the most important.
This could easily have proven a real problem but it's not the case. These components are very well made. A little tool is used to remove faces and new faces fit firmly into the dice with a satisfying click, none of the process of changing faces feels flimsy or too fiddly and its doesn't seem like these components would break under normal usage. Finally, the dice always roll smoothly.
It's important that this element of the game always functions correctly and it does.
The remainder of the components as would be expected are of a good quality.
The quality of the art direction on the cards is good and in particular the art on the game boards is quite eye catching, depicting the card spaces as islands the player must visit, which fits the game's mythic quest theme suitably well.
Player boards have the space for a single piece of colourful artwork but most of the board is taken up by the various tracks, however, they are bright and colourfully highlighted.
Overall, Dice Forge is very nice aesthetically, it does a lot to present it's theme of mythic forging.
How's it play?
At the start of every player's turn, all players roll their dice and acquire whatever resources are shown on the result, this can be gold, red or blue gems or glory points, these are immediately added to the player's board, any resources earned that exceed the player's space limit is lost.
Even though all player's have rolled their dice, only the active player can act and they have a couple options.
Once all players have had their turn, the round is completed.
Once 9 or 10 rounds have been completed - dependant on the number of players, then the game has ended.
Players tally the glory on their player boards with the glory accumulated on the cards they've acquired.
Highest score wins.
Dice forge is a bit of a strange beast - sort of an deck building game that uses dice in place of cards - mostly!
Building up dice is unsurprisingly at the core of the game and is very important early in the game as they provide the games currencies and it presents players with options and choices to make. Not only do they have to decide which of gold, gems or glory to upgrade each time, they must decide how to distribute those upgrades.
For example; a player could choose to load 1 die with their first 6 upgrades - this guarantees that 1 die will get a good result, but they will only get 1 good result per roll, spreading the upgrades over 2 dice lessens the chances of upgraded results coming up but increases the chances of getting 2 upgraded results. This can be more important than it initially seems because they're 3 different currencies to consider as well as acquiring glory points.
It could have been a gimmick but instead it's an interesting proposition.
Acquiring cards may give a player several advantages, cards always give players glory points, the most expensive cards normally confer the player a lot of glory points. The bonuses that cards give the player don't seem particularly useful but they tend to tip things in a player's favour in other areas of the game. The are some once-per-turn abilities that can prove useful if acquired early enough in the game.
Of course red gems have an additional use and can be spent to gain additional actions, this can prove very useful considering that usually, players only get 9-10 actions per game.
It's hard to sum up how I feel about Dice Forge, modifying dice forces players into making significant choices, which is a good thing and rolling the the dice was undeniably fun but somehow, it all felt a little unengaging? It's possible that an upgraded die face never gets rolled in a game and maybe that's it, devising a strategy that's at the mercy of luck to succeed will never entirely satisfactory? Or maybe I'm just over thinking it?
It's easy to learn and play Dice Forge, however, I feel that in the long-term, the game is a little shallow and repetitive, the available selection of die faces never changes from game to game and the sets of cards all feel samey and interchangeable.
By no means do I think it's a bad game, if you want a mostly straightforward, light, easy-to-play, undemanding and somewhat luck-based game about optimizing dice rolls, then Dice Forge might be a good choice.
29th October 2019
Tuesday night at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking and it's game night at the Woking board game club.
We started the evening with 'Heckmeck' AKA 'Pickomino'.
Have you ever wondered what is a chicken's favourite food? It turns out that a chicken's favourite food is worms. But not just any worms, but roast worms! And not just any roast worms either, but BBQ roast worms! How many BBQ roast worms does a chicken like eating? As many as it can get. How does it get as many BBQ roast worms as it can? By pushing it's luck of course!
That's what Heckmeck is about. Pushing your luck to accumulate as many BBQ roast worms as possible.
What's in a game?
There are 2 versions of Heckmeck, standard and deluxe.
We played the standard version of the game. They use the following components:
How's it play?
First there's setup.
The goal in Heckmeck is to roll and accumulate dice to get a score high enough to claim a domino. But here's a twist, at least one of those dice must have a worm result.
How's this done? Keep reading.
Stacking is one of the things that makes Heckmeck stand out.
Like stacking, stealing is something I've not seen in a push your luck game before.
Play continues until there are no more face-up dominoes in the supply to collect.
Players tally the worms they've collected, highest number of worms wins.
Heckmeck is easy to learn and fairly quick to play. It has several excellent mechanics that give players tricky decisions to make.
Choosing which sets to keep is crucial because of it 'locks out' numbers. Do you really want to take that single 5, because that means you can no longer get any more 5s. Decisions, decisions.
The worm mechanic is also cool. Needing to have a worm result is an extra thing that can go wrong. Making a worm worth a 5 is genius, it puts players in the same quandary as rolling a 5. If a worm was only worth 1, taking it when it's only 1 worm would be a no-brainer.
Finally, the stacking and stealing together is another great idea. If players just laid their tiles out in a line, then stealing them would be a bit too easy as the choice would be wider. However, since the dominoes are stacked, stealing is uncommon. When it does occur, it's something that should be taken advantage of!
All of this adds up to make a good push your luck game.
Heckmeck has very quickly become a favourite with nearly everybody I play it with. And deservedly so.
I play, I paint.