21st September 2021
It's a Tuesday and I'm at The Sovereigns in Woking with the Woking Gaming Club.
In honour of Talk Like A Pirate Day, the first game of the evening was Jamaica, a game of pirate racing.
However, before we move on:
"My wife's gone to the West Indies."
"No, she went of her own accord!"
With that out of the way, let's continue.
What's in a game?
The overall art direction for Jamaica is colourful and makes use of a cartoonish style that suits the game's comical theme. The gameboard is brash with brightly coloured art but the standout are the player decks; not only do they share the board's style, they can be placed side-by-side to create a single long picture.
The game doesn't use much iconography, what there is of it is easy to understand.
How's it play?
On to play
In Jamaica, the Captain rolls the dice and assigns them to the game's 2 different phases per turn. Each player then chooses 1 of their 3 available cards to play and then performs the day and night actions on those cards. how effective those actions will be are determined by dice rolled and allocated to day and night.
Play continues until a ship reaches the start/finish, upon which the current turn is completed and the game goes to scoring. There are 4 sources of scoring.
Players score points according to where their ship finished, the start/finish scores 15 and points go downwards from there. If a ship failed to pass the -5 space, then they lose 5 points.
Every gold token a player has on their player board scores a points.
Treasure cards score their points and cursed treasure cards deducts from the player's score.
Points are tallied, highest score wins.
In Jamaica, players must balance the need to load resources with the need to move along the game track, doing too much of one or the other will probably be detrimental. They'll need to judge when it's the right time to move with the right amount of resources. The rules limiting how players fill their holds forces players to make decisions about what they carry on their ships.
Players will also need to mitigate bad rolls and unfavourable cards, e.g., playing a red arrow backwards move when the die shows a 1.
At the same time it's also a good idea to keep an eye out for other players. If another player is 3 spaces away and one of the dice rolled a 3, there's always the risk that opponent will end moving on to your space, provoking a fight, which could prove costly. Perhaps it might be a good time to load some gunpowder...
Obviously, all of this is to some extent is influenced by the dice rolls, having all the gold in the world wont help if a player can't reach a port! It means players will need to adapt to this randomiser and change strategies when the dice - and sometimes the captain don't give player the results they need.
Jamaica is a cheerfully colourful game with fairly light programming game where players 'only' have to think 2 moves ahead, with a theme that fits well with the mechanics. Jamaica also has elements of resource management and a touch of player interaction and conflict. It's an easy to learn programming game that is fun to play, particularly if you like a little bit of jostling between players and generally presents them with meaningful choices to make.
27th October 2020
Tuesday evening is here and I'm at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking with the Woking Gaming Club.
Time for the first game of the evening; Karuba.
Have you fancied yourself as an explorer just landed on some unmapped jungle island? Well in Karuba you control not just 1 explorer, but 4! All in a rush from beach to jungle in order to find temples, treasure and ultimately glory first before everybody.
What's in a game?
How's it play?
The set up for Karuba very straightforward, if a tiny bit time consuming.
Gameplay for is very straightforward. Players are trying to move their explorers to the temple of the same colour. Unsurprisingly, this is done by laying tiles and moving the explores along the paths that are created.
Karuba has no turns, everyone makes their choices at the same time.
Play continues until one player has moved all 4 of their explorers to the relevant temples, or as is more likely until the caller has depleted their entire stack.
Players add the points of all the scoring tokens they've collected and the gold and diamond tokens, gold is worth 2 points and diamonds 1 point.
Highest score wins.
Despite the simplicity of the rules, Karuba gives players lots of decisions to make nearly all the time.
The most common of these is whether to play a tile or discard it for movement.
This is a very elegant mechanic, the best tile to build paths with is the crossroads, because it gives you the most options. But the crossroad is also the best tile to discard for movement, as it give you most movement.
Early in the game, you'll obviously be wanting to play the tiles more often to build up your paths, but you can't afford to play them willy-nilly. A meandering path is something players will want to avoid.
You may end up putting tiles in seemingly unconnected, random places, hoping to get the right tiles later on!
Players have limited rounds in Karuba and will want to build their paths as efficiently as possible. The game has an absolute maximum of 36 rounds.
If you look the photo of my gameboard from the end of the game. All 36 tiles were drawn. This means I played 19 tiles, which means I moved 17 times, whilst I managed to get 3 explorers to their destination, the blue explorer barely managed to leave their starting spot.
Movement may also provide difficult decisions.
For example; you may have an explorer who is just 1 step away from a treasure or a temple but have just drawn a crossroads tile which grants you 4 movement, using it on 1 movement can be a waster. Do you use it to move another explorer to maximise it's value, or do you use 1 movement to complete an objective and waste the rest of the movement?
Also, when moving explorers, players will need think ahead a little, a badly placed explorer can block their colleagues, meaning it might require an entire round to clear the path.
Only towards the end of the game, when I had connected everything up and reached 2 temples, did the decisions become no-brainers. But because the game is played simultaneously and other players were more or less in the same situation: There was little downtime between rounds, which passed very quickly.
Karuba is a quick game to play anyway, if a player spends 1 minute deciding their move, the game has a play time of 36 minutes.
The only small criticism I could level at Karuba is that there is no interaction with other players. Not a problem for me personally, but it can be for others.
Otherwise I thought it was a good game.
Quickly and easy to learn, quick and fun to play.
Anybody can learn and play Karuba. It's such a visually driven game that players should quickly comprehend what they need to do.
It's a game that's definitely going on my list.
24th November 2019
Sunday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. The 50 Fathoms hiatus continues, so it's board games instead.
We began with 'Tsuro: The game of the Path'.
And that's what Tsuro is, a game about paths, quite figuratively. It's also quite abstract and there's not much to say about the theme.
What's in the game?
The game comes in a small package.
How's it play?
Set up is quick and simple.
Play continues until one of the following conditions are met:
Tsuro is a small game, quick to setup, quick to learn and quick to play.
It is essentially a light 'programming' game that requires a small amount of scrutiny and forethought to try and predict your moves.
The real danger in the game however, comes from the other players, it's impossible to predict what tiles they will play and its impact on you. Essentially you can't rely on planning more than 1 move ahead and have to adapt to other player's moves as they occur, this is particularly true later in the game as the board becomes fuller and options become smaller.
All this unpredictability makes Tsuro fun, as long as you don't try and think too much about what moves you can make.
Additionally, Tsuro plays with up to 8 participants, combined with it's accessibility make it a good choice for party games and fillers.
4th June 2019
Tuesday night and it's game time at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking with the board game club.
Does the idea of game about slowly growing trees excite you? If the answer is yes, then Photosynthesis is the game for you!
What's in a game?
All of the components of photosynthesis are made from card. All of the of the tokens, even the trees. There are no plastic meeples or soulless wooden cubes here.
And even though this is the case, they are still good components. When a bunch of trees are all on the playing board. It looks impressive.
In photosynthesis there is a main playing board and a sun marker to indicate the direction of the sunlight. Additionally, each player has their own board that contains most of the seeds and trees needed to play the game.
Players also start with some seeds and trees that are not on the player board that are 'available' to use. There is an important difference between the two that will explained a little further down.
How's it play?
The premise of Photosynthesis is to plant seeds, grow the seeds until they become the largest possible trees and then score points from those trees.
In a normal game, play continues until the sun has completed 3 revolutions of the board. It takes 6 rounds to complete 1 revolution. Thus players each have a total of 18 turns to win the game.
Each round consists of 2 phases.
So now that all the players have calculated their light points, play proceeds to the next phase.
That's it for the basic rules. There are, however a few other rules to remember which are very important.
All of these rules basically serve one purpose - to slow the game down. And that makes complete sense, this is a game about growing trees after all. It forces players to think a few turns ahead.
It takes time to score points. A tree can only score points when it is a 'large' size. It takes 4 actions to plant a seed and then go to a small, medium and large tree. Then it takes a 5th action to score it.
Furthermore it will take more actions and light points to 'buy' the seed and 3 different sized trees from the player board in order to do this.
Photosynthesis is a peculiar beast: It's a little bit like a worker placement game with trees earning light points from their positioning and it's a little bit like an area control game, where larger trees will shut out surrounding smaller ones.
It's simple to learn but forces players to adopt a 'ent-like' mentality towards the games varied choices, strategies and occasional hard decisions. It's slow place means players cannot burn light point to do one thing quickly. Sometimes it's possible to speed events by sacrificing seeds or trees, but this can be tricky choice as it's permanent. I'm sure there are ties when it is prudent to do so. But slow and steady, that's the way to go.
I think all of this good and makes for a good game. I'm sure Treebeard would agree!
19th March 2019.
Another Tuesday and another evening of gaming fun at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
Tonight we played in a 3 player game of 'K2'.
K2 obviously refers to the mountain K2. People on the internet who claim to know more about mountain climbing than me (and that's not hard, I know nothing about mountain climbing) state that K2 is harder to climb than Everest.
With that in mind, it's best that I conquer K2 from the confines of a board game sitting in a semi-comfy chair.
In K2, each player controls 2 climbers. The higher a climber goes, the more points they score at the end of the game (provided they're still alive at the end). Each climber scores, so your final score will be the combined score of both.
Climbers only have 1 stat for you to worry about and manage. That stat is 'acclimatisation'. If this drops to 0, then the climber dies.
The game rules are quite straightforward.
Each player has their own personal deck to draw cards from to create a hand of cards. There are basically 2 types of card.
Climbing to the top is simple, when you move one of your climbers to a new space on the mountain, it will have movement and acclimatisation cost that the climber must pay.
Thus; if you have played a 3-point movement card and you moved a climber to a space that costs 2 movement, you would still have 1 movement left.
At the end of a turn, climbers may gain or (most likely) lose acclimatisation points dependent on their position on the board.
There you go, rinse and repeat until you reach the top. Simple, right.
Except I've not mentioned 2 elements of the rules, which are what make K2 a good game.
The first is:
You see, the weather can influence the movement costs of moving to another tile and also the acclimatisation costs that climbers must pay.
Clear weather incurs no extra costs, but worse weather can affect, one, the other or both. Interestingly, the weather may only influence climbers at certain altitudes, it's possible to be above bad weather.
The game uses tiles to depict the weather, each tile shows the weather for the next 3 days and there are always 2 tiles turned face up. When the end of the first weather tile is reached, a new tile is turned over.
This means that players are able to see what the weather will be like for the next 3-6 days.
Why does this make K2 a good game? It makes K2 a good game when combined with the other rule I was talking about, which is:
The Hand of Cards
Each player has 3 cards in their hand at the start of a turn. Players then draw 3 more cards from their decks.
Giving them a hand size of 6.
From this hand of 6, players must play any 3 cards. Leaving them with 3 cards remaining in their hand
Why is this such a clever mechanic? Because it allows a player to plan their moves in for the future. Because you figuratively 'bank' 3 cards.
When you play cards, the weather will influence how effective they are.
This will influence which cards you play, but will also influence which cards you don't play.
So when the weather forecast shows bad weather ahead, you don't want to be climbing much, because you'll be hindered and wasting movement. Any good movement cards should 'banked' and not played.
Then, when eventually there's a stretch of good weather, hopefully you will have kept those good movement cards in your hand. So that regardless of what cards you draw, you'll have at least 3 good movement cards so that you can exploit the break in the bad weather to climb higher.
That's why it's such a good mechanic, it emulates the feeling of sitting around in your tent enduring bad weather, waiting for a window of good weather to open up and then surging for the peak.
There are some other rules about risk and turn order and like. But this is the gist of the game. And a good game it is.
Tuesday 15th January.
Another evening in 'The Sovereigns' with Woking Board Game Club.
On this evening we played 'Lords of Xidit', a game where you 'program' in your next 6 actions. The game is a fantasy themed 'pick-up-and-deliver' game, tasking you with recruiting heroes to fight against monsters as they appear on the board.
Cities (used to recruit heroes) and monsters appear randomly on the game board. Although, you can always see what the next tile is going to be. So astute players can take advantage of this when programming their moves.
What really makes this game stand out is the end-game scoring mechanic, which will influence how you play the game.
Throughout the game you will accumulate three types of 'scoring'.
These are; wealth, influence & reputation. Whenever you defeat a monster, there are rewards to be had in all 3 categories, but you can only choose to take 2 out of the 3 rewards.
Why does this matter, because scoring is done by rounds of elimination.
In the game we played:
In round 1, the player with the lowest wealth was eliminated.
In round 2, the player with the lowest reputation was eliminated.
In round 3, the player with the highest influence won the game.
But the order in which the elimination rounds occur is randomly determined at the start every game. So the rewards you need to choose will be determined this.
Furthermore, each of the 3 types of scoring is accumulated differently.
Wealth is kept hidden behind each player's personal screen and has no limit. Wealth is scored on a 1-to-1 basis. The higher, the better.
Reputation scoring is done in areas of the board which can be contested by all players, only the top 2 players in an area score for its reputation. Each player is limited to 20 reputation markers. A player's reputation score is calculated by adding up from all the areas where they can score.
Influence markers are placed on specific spots on the board, only one player can ever have influence in that spot. The most markers that a player can be placed in a single spot is 4. Players have 15 influence markers. Influence markers are scored in a 1-to-1 basis.
So all of this means that your approach to the game will need to adapt to the random placements that occur.
The only problem with this is that really you require at least 4 players to play the game properly, playing with 3 people requires you have a 'dummy' player that is added. And the game does not play for to at all.
We played it with 4 players and I enjoyed it (not just because I won ;)), I think everyone did.
The game was also enhanced by Andy B painting all the heroes prior to playing.
I'm not a particular fan of programming game, but I do think this is a good game: It plays well and the turns don't seem too long or too complicated.
Not only that. It's only a TENNER on Amazon at the time of writing. - my copy is waiting for me at the post office. I'm off to get it right NOW!
I play, I paint.