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.
22nd December 2019
Sunday is here at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. 50 Fathoms is still on hiatus so for the final get together before Christmas we're playing board games.
The first game was 'Agatha Christie's Death On The Cards'.
Will the other players learn your darkest secrets? Will you catch the murderer? Or will you manage to get away with murder! Only the cards can decide in... Death On The Cards!
What's in a game?
Death On The Cards uses 3 different types of cards. Secret cards, game cards and the 'Murderer Escapes!' card , game cards are further divided into other cards:
How's it play?
First there's setup, which is a little different depending on the number of players.
What's social disgrace? When a player has all of their secret cards turned face-up, all of their secrets have been revealed and they're disgraced.
What does this mean? It means that when they become the active player, all they can do is discard exactly 1 card and draw 1 card.
It is possible to come back from social disgrace as there some cards that allow secret cards to be turned back face-down.
How the game ends will depend on the player's role in the game.
'Death On The Cards' plays with 2-6 people and what's interesting is how the game changes depending on the number of players.
With 2 players, there's no secret to who's the murderer. The game is a war of attrition.
Now, for some maths (Hopefully my maths is correct.).
Let's look at it with 3 players.
Now lets look at a 6 player game.
This means it becomes easier for the murderer to get away with it in bigger game. Now I don't see this as a flaw, but it is definitely something that changes the dynamics of the game.
With 3 players for example, 'Death On The Cards' can be played as a straightforward card game.
With 6 players, it's much harder to capture the murderer. Players will need to form alliances and target suspicious players as quickly as possible. But then, this gives the murderer and accomplice opportunities to bluff, lie, double cross and sabotage their 'allies'. It becomes a lot more like a hidden role game.
Anyway, regardless of the mathematics, the game mechanics fit the theme very well. 'Death On The Cards' can learned quickly and plays quickly too . It's a great filler game and even though I'm not a fan of hidden role games, it's a lot of fun.
It's definitely worth giving it a try.
3rd December 2019
It's Tuesday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking with the board game club.
This means board games! And tonight we played 'Wayfinders'.
'Those magnificent men, in their flying machines.'
'They go up tiddly up up.'
'They go down tiddly down down.'
That's enough of that!
Wayfinders is a colourful little game about flying and exploration.
It's also a fairly light worker placement and resource management game.
What's in a game?
Wayfinders is played over a 5x5 grid of tiles:
Apart from the aforementioned worker meeple issue, all the components are solidly made and bright and colourful.
On the island tiles. All the resources are delineated by both colour and symbol except for the resource in the bottom right corner, which is represented only by colour.
However the resource tokens appear to have their symbols printed on them and they may wear off over time and use.
How's it play?
In Wayfinders, there are only 2 main actions, although the 2nd action has a number of sub actions that can be performed.
1st action, place a worker:
The endgame is triggered when a player has 2 or less hangars remaining in their supply.
The current round is completed and scoring commences.
Resource and Permanent effect tiles have a static score.
But scoring tiles tend to have scores dependent on what the player as achieved in the game. For example: A scoring tile might score 3 points for each tile in the same vertical line as itself that the player has put a hangar on to.
Unused resources and workers on the hangar board in the endgame also score.
Final scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Wayfinders is a pretty simple game, but there's a couple of interesting things going on in this game.
Acquiring resources is an unusual blend of worker placement and drafting with a dash of push your luck.
Players will probably find themselves competing over certain resources, particularly if that resource is scarce in the hangars.
This can lead to some tricky decisions. A player can keep putting down workers so that when they are returned, the player will get the maximum resources. But if that player needs a certain resource, this delay can lead to them losing that resource to another player.
Or perhaps a player needs a resource that is 3rd in line at the hanger. Do they try and play 3 workers to get at it? Or do they place a single worker and hope that someone takes a resource ahead if it.
Watching where other players put their workers can be insightful.
Whilst there is little direct interaction in Wayfinders, particularly on the tiles. Another reason to watch what other players do, is that when they place a hangar in a tile, that tile becomes accessible to other players for free. This can make it easier to reach tile beyond it and will open up the playing area and also open up more choices and strategies.
Conversely, getting to a tile that may prove popular with other players and putting a hangar on there first is a great way to earn resources as other players must pay to you instead of the bank.
This is a lot more useful than it sounds. After moving a plane and placing hangars, a player can only retain 3 resources. So even if that player maximizes the placement of their workers, they can only start a move and build action with a maximum of 8 resources.
However if during a round other players have to pay out to you to put their hangars down, it's possible to start with a lot more resources.
This can be a great advantage, as being able to put down 2 or 3 hangars in a turn really lays pressure on other players as they'll be forced to play catch up.
Remember, players start with 10 hangars, but 1 goes on the home tile, so in reality everyone starts with 9 hangars. And the endgame is triggered when any player reaches 2 or less hangars left. So a player only needs to place 7 hangars to trigger the endgame.
As well as being a fairly easy game to learn, Wayfinder is a quite short game and playing speeds up over the course of a game as the board inevitably opens up.
Optimizing your actions and taking advantage of circumstances are key to winning. A canny player can end the game abruptly, leaving their competitors in the lurch.
The only criticism I have is that it's a little too long for a filler game, but a little short for a main game.
But that criticism aside, Wayfinders is a easy to learn and fairly fun game to play.
26th November 2019
Tuesday evening at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues.
The second and final game of the night was 'Architects of the West Kingdom'.
As an architect it's your job to rebuild the errr.... West Kingdom!
So it appears that in this game, you'll be rubbing shoulders with virtuous members of the clergy and getting 'down and dirty' with shady criminals. The life of an architect, eh?
Architects of the West Kingdom is a pretty standard worker placement game, but a worker placement game with a couple of extra little twists.
What's in a game?
There's quite a lot to Architect of the West Kingdom and this is reflected in the components.
Hows it play?
There are 3 ways to place workers in the game, this is dependant on the symbol used on the game board:
And there's still a bit more to go in explaining the game.
Play continues until the Guildhall has been filled by workers (Different according to the number of players.). When this happens, all players get one more turn and then scoring begins. There are several factors that affect scoring:
There are a couple of interesting mechanics in Architects of the West Kingdom, particularly how they interact with each other.
Being able to put multiple workers into a space to gain increasing results seems overpowered. But when a player puts a lot of workers into a single space, they can just become a target for another player to capture. Obviously when capturing workers, players will want to do it as efficiently as possible, because there's money to be made when putting them in prison.
If a player can predict their opponent's moves, stealing their workers can really screw with them.
Another thing to consider is that players have no way to get their workers back other than having them captured by other players or capturing them themselves.
Being able to manage your workers in this way can avoid those pesky debt cards, which themselves are a clever little addition to the game.
The virtue track, black market and cathedral also add an extra element that helps differentiate the game.
I enjoyed this game, I think it's fairly good.Generally I felt like I always had options and meaningful decisions to make. Which all I really want from a game.
If you really like worker placement games, you'll probably like Architects of the West Kingdom. It's just different enough to justify its existence.
Or, if you don't own any worker placement games and you want one. You may want to consider this game,
29th October 2019
Tuesday night gaming at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking with the board game club continues.
The final game of the night was 'Grand Austria Hotel'.
It doesn't take much imagination to realise that this is a game about running a hotel. That's right, keep those restaurant customers happy. Manage all those hotel rooms. Maintain the prestige of your establishment. All the fun!
Joking aside, Grand Austria is pretty good game. The rules are fairly straightforward to learn, but there's a lot of things to think about and take into consideration. A lot of things!
What's in a game?
Grand Austria Hotel has a lot of components. They are all quite colourful and well made.
How's it play?
We begin with setup.
The turn order is a little unusual in Grand Austria Hotel. Every player gets 2 turns in a round. All players are given a token with 2 numbers on it - which is when their turns will occur.
Turns proceed clockwise until all players have had their first turn, then goes back anticlockwise so that the last player was also the first player.
In a 4 player game, the first player will have a token that shows '1/8' and the fourth player will have a token showing '4/5'.
The first thing the active player can choose to do is to take a guest card from the main game board. Depending on which card is taken, the active player may have to pay for it.
The further the card is to the left, the more it costs. Gaps in the row are replaced by sliding cards from the left to the right and adding new cards on the furthest left. This is a 'conveyor belt' mechanic.
Actions in Grand Austria Hotel are determined by dice. The number of dice used depends on the number of players. In a 4 player game, 14 dice are used. The first player rolls all the dice and and places them as required on the action board.
There are 6 columns on the action board. After the dice have been rolled, they are placed in their relevant space. If 3 1's have been rolled, they are placed into the '1' column, this is done for all 6 columns.
This determines both the effectiveness and number of each action that can be performed. The more dice there are in a column the more effective that action is and the more often it can be performed. Every time an action is performed, a die from that column is removed. If a column has no dice, that action cannot be performed (Unless performing the 'copy action' action!).
The 6 actions are:
As well as the actions listed above, players can perform some extra actions.
Grand Austria Hotel is played over 7 rounds, thus each player has 14 turns to use.
Prestige is scored at the end of rounds 3, 5 & 7. During prestige scoring, before prestige is scored each player's prestige score is lowered by 3, 5 or 7 in each related round. Prestige points translate in victory points, but if a player's prestige points are too low, that player will lose victory points instead.
Additionally, if a player is above the prestige threshold, they get a bonus, if they are below, the receive a penalty. This depends on the 3 prestige reward/penalty tokens that were placed on to the main board.
At the end of the 7th round, points are scored from various sources, such as staff cards, occupied rooms, remaining food, drink & money, objectives and prestige tokens.
Any guests left in your restaurant loses points.
All points are tallied, highest score wins.
So Grand Austria Hotel is a game about acquiring customers, fulfilling their needs and preparing rooms for them in your hotel.
The game is quite a balancing act as it forces players to juggle preparing rooms and fulfilling the needs of their customers.
Players also need to pay attention to the prestige track, as failing to acquire enough prestige can be seriously detrimental.
The bonus objective can earn quite a lot of points.
Money too can be a problem, it's quite hard to accumulate money and is also something you need to think about.
Whilst there's a lot going on in this game, the rules aren't too complicated.
Optimising strategies is really important here. But the available actions and their effectiveness is unpredictable.
So Grand Austria Hotel forces players to both think ahead and be adaptable, whilst providing players with lots of meaningful decisions.
These are things that make Grand Austria Hotel a good game.
5th October 2019
It's been a Saturday evening of gaming goodness at Matakishi's place.
It's been an evening of small games.
The fourth and final game of the night is 'Iunu', which is actually pronounced as er... 'uh wah nu'.
Iunu is a card game set in the ancient time of the legendary Pharaohs of Egypt. With deserts and the Nile and the pyramids... or at least some four-sided dice.
What's in a game?
All the art on the cards is a clean and smooth almost minimalist style that is quite appealing. I guess it's also designed to resemble hieroglyphs?
How's it play?
So we begin with setup.
There's no mention of afterlife cards, what do they do?
Well when a 'priest' citizen card is played, the active player take a afterlife card and keeps it face-down in their area.
Afterlife cards provide the opportunity to gain extra points during scoring.
Players can only have 1 afterlife card each. If a player acquires more afterlife cards, they draw another one and keep one of the two. The other one is shuffled back into the afterlife deck.
Dice are rolled every round, what for?
Certain citizen cards make use of these vaguely pyramid shaped dice.
The 'noble' card will earn the active player currency equal the result of all 3 dice (The dices' values are lowered after this.).
The 'baker' citizen card can buy up to 3 bread tokens at a cost equal to the highest single dice.
Talking of bakers, what do bread tokens do?
After acquiring bread tokens, the are placed on citizen cards that have been played to increase their value in the endgame scoring.
Additionally, bread tokens on your 'farmer' citizen cards will protect them from being 'enticed away' by pesky 'soldier' citizen cards.
Once the citizen deck is depleted and all players have had an equal number of turns, we go into scoring. There are 5 ways to score:
Iuni is a game with some interesting mechanics.
Having to return 2 cards to the forum during every turn forces players into making some hard decisions, because not only are you discarding cards which may be useful, you're also giving other players the opportunity to take them.
The dice are also an interesting idea and not something I've seen before in this style of game. The randomness can throw a real 'curve ball' into players' strategies.
Once players have gotten their heads around the slightly unusual way the game works, it's quite quick to play and would be good as a filler or finisher game.
5th October 2019
Gaming night at Matakishi's is underway.
The third game of the night was 'Campy Creatures'.
Put yourselves in the shoes of a 'mad scientist'. Misunderstood, never trusted and unloved. But there's a reason why the mad scientist is the way they are and why they kidnap innocent people. It's to stop those other pesky mad scientist from doing it first!!
Campy Creatures is a blind bidding game where you bid to capture teenagers and other hapless victims and put them into sets in order to score points.
What's in a game?
All of the cards in this game are nicely illustrated with art that wouldn't look out of place on posters for the 'creature feature' movies that this game is emulating.
How's it play?
As always we begin with set up.
Campy Creatures uses blind bidding. The highest bid gets to go first and pick the victim card of their choice.
Campy Creatures is played over a total of 3 rounds. After the final round, final scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Campy Creatures is a quick and interesting game to play.
This is down to the special abilities on the monster cards. They can really throw a spanner into the works (And player's plans.). Special abilities include cancelling other cards special abilities, acquiring 2 cards instead of 1, forcing someone to discard a card they captured etc.
Learning to watch other players is important. Looking at what cards they have collected gives you the chance to anticipate what other cards they will want. This means you have the opportunity to mess with them! It gives the game an extra level of depth, which without the game would be too simple.
Even so, with so few special abilities (That are identical for all players.), after prolonged play, the game could become 'samey'. But as a occasional filler game, Campy Creatures is a good game.
24th September 2019
Tuesday evening is here and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking for games night.
It was an evening of several short games.
We begun with 'Sushi Roll', this game is a follow up to the rather good 'Sushi Go!'. Will Sushi Roll live up to expectations? Let's see.
What's in a game
Sushi Roll comes in a largish box and a whole bunch of components. These are solidly made and of a good quality.
How's it play?
We begin with set up:
And we're ready to go.
There's a lot to like about Sushi Roll.
There's a pleasant tactile sensation to be had when you slide or hand the conveyor belt tile over to another player.
The same is true when using chopsticks to snatch away a die from someone else's conveyor belt. The theme fits the game perfectly.
The mechanics with the dice is very clever. You can see what dice are coming your way, but since the dice are rolled again, you don't know exactly what you're getting. It does a very good job of replacing the card mechanic from Sushi Go!. No need to try and memorise cards now!
Everyone I've played this game with, preferred this version to its predecessor. It's less portable and takes a little set up time, but it feels more tactile, it's a little more 'open', therefore giving players more choices to make. The scoring and pudding tokens make it a bit more 'user friendly'. Meanwhile the chopsticks and menus lend the game a bit more strategy.
So, is it worth getting Sushi Roll if you've played Sushi Go!? In a word; yes!
22nd September 2019
Sunday lunchtime at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. Unfortunately 50 Fathoms is still on hiatus. Instead we shall play some board games.
The first board game of the day was 'Roll Player'.
Have you ever enjoyed creating characters for an RPG more than playing them? Then maybe, just maybe, Roll Player is the game for you.
Roll Player is sort of a set collecting, dice rolling, worker placement game that's all about creating what is ostensibly a D&D character.
The main of the game is that players use dice to generate their stats, but it's not a case of just rolling the dice.
What's in a game
The components for Roll Player are of a good quality.
How's it play
Firstly there's set up: This is fairly straightforward.
After a player takes a die, they must place it on to their character sheet board. When doing this, there are 3 things they need to bear in mind in order to maximise their scores.
There are several different types of card available to but from the market. When a player takes a market card, it is placed alongside the character sheet board in it's specified spot.
A new row of market cards is dealt every round.
Play continues for 18 rounds until all 6 stats have 3 dice. Points can earned from several sources, these include:
Roll Player is a game with an intriguing theme. Because placing a die has so many consequences, play slows down quite a lot when both choosing and placing a die, so there feels like there is a lot of downtime between turns.
Apart from this, the game fine to play and when you complete Roll Player you will have an interesting character.
My first Roll Player character was: 'A concentrating, knowledgeable, intimidating, dedicated, honest, famous, chain-armour-wearing, blessed-mace-wielding, druidic, elven chosen one who's good at sleight of hand. His name is Derek!'
I play, I paint.