9th April 2019
Tuesday has come around again, so it's time for some gaming at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
Perennial favourite amongst many people I play with and a good starter for the evening is Port Royal.
You can read my blog about it here.
2nd April 2019
The second game of Tuesday at 'The Sovereigns' was an old favourite - Port Royal.
You can read my blog about it here.
26th March 2019
Another Tuesday comes round and another evening of pleasant gaming at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
We begin the night with Pandemic: The Cure.
Pandemic is a popular board game that was released a while ago. It's a co-operative game in which the players travel the globe against the clock in the search for cures before the hideous diseases ravage the world.
Pandemic: The Cure is another co-operative game. It replaces the game's movement and actions with dice and a push-your-luck mechanic. It also replaces the global board with an errr acrylic ring?!?
The set up
So the acrylic ring is placed in the centre of the play area. 2 pegs are placed in holes in the ring to represent the infection rate and number outbreaks.
6 'region' discs, numbered from 1 to 6 are placed around the ring. Each disc representing a different region of the world.
The 4 diseases are represented by 4 sets of different coloured six sided dice. They are all put into a bag. When you need disease markers, you blindly draw the required number of dice from the bag and then you roll them and place on the relevant. This gives you both the type and location of disease markers.
It's worth nothing that even though these are six sided dice, they are not regularly numbered from 1 to 6. For example one colour might be missing 3 and 4 and might have an extra 5 and 6. This means that certain types of diseases are more likely to appear in certain regions. This is something important to remember.
Some event cards are laid out, during the game these can be bought to grant the action described on the card.
Just like in the board game, each player assumes a different role like a dispatcher or a scientist. Each role has it's own set of custom dice, a card granting them a special ability or two and a meeple. Before the start of the game, each player places their meeple on to region disc 1.
When a player takes their turn, the first thing they do is roll their dice. This will give them their choices. You 'spend' a die to perform it's action.
Those are the basic actions, each player will have actions unique to the role that they are playing, but there's no need to list them all here.
Once a player has spent all their dice, there are some other actions they will perform.
If you are on the same region disc as another player, you mave give them all the researched disease dice of one colour - and your research dice along with them!
If a player has any disease dice (and research dice) on the role card. Then they can attempt to cure a disease once in their turn.
To do this the player takes all the dice of one colour (of their choice if there are more than 1 colour available) and rolls them and adds them up.
If they get 13 or more then the disease is cured, otherwise not. It's worth noting here that it will normally take at least 3 dice to get 13. Some colours of disease dice may not have higher numbers such as a 5 or 6, that means it will require even more dice to stand a chance of curing a disease.
The final action of a player is to spread infection!
The players draws dice from the dice bag, the amount that they draw is equal to the current infection rate.
The player rolls these dice and then allocates them to respective region disc.
That's it for what players can do. There are some other rules to note such as:
When things go bad.
There are a couple of things that can go wrong.
How you lose the game.
There are 3 ways to lose this game.
The players win the game, if they manage to research all 4 diseases.
That's it for the rules.
Is it a good game?
I like how Pandemic: The Cure manages to replicate some of the 'feel' of the original and also how it replicates the kind of decision making that will be familiar to players of Pandemic.
I also like how they've managed to incorporate a push you luck mechanic.
The game small and portable and has a small footprint on the table.
But, there seems one glaring issue with this game. It seems a bit too easy.
Whenever I've played Pandemic, there's always been a feeling of apprehension that you could lose the game!
After a couple of initial losses, we've never lost the game since really.
Tonight we played the game twice, once on moderate difficulty and the second time on the hardest difficulty.
We won the game both times, I think the second victory seemed even easier.
Maybe we were lucky, maybe we've gotten good at his type of game. I don't know.
But I do know that Pandemic The cure is a good game that is a little disappointing.
9th March 2019
Gaming night at Matakishi's continued.
The session of Oubilette had been short as it only part of chapter and the continuation of chapter 1.
This gave enough time to play something else. We elected to play a favourite of everyone; Port Royal.
You can find my blog on Port Royal here.
5th March 2019
It was gaming Tuesday at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
It was also a night of playing several small games instead of one long one.
We kicked off with 'Cloud 9', a sweet (both literally and figuratively) little push your luck board game.
The premise of the game is that all the players are passengers/pilots in hot air balloon. The higher you go, the more points you score.
How is it played.
The first thing to do is set up the board: The game board is long and thin, it depicts a column of clouds, dice and scores are depicted in every cloud cloud and the scoring track runs along the outside. Unusually it appears to made be of vinyl and smells suspiciously like being in old car!
The game also has a nice looking little model to represent the wicker basket. The basket has 6 spaces to hold up to 6 meeples (Cloud 9 supports up to 6 players).
When all the meeples required at placed into the basket, the basket is placed on to the lowest cloud on the board.
The game's custom 'Cloud 9' dice are 6-sided dice. However 4 sides on each die shows 1 of the 4 different colours. The remaining 2 sides are blank.
There are 4 Cloud 9 dice, these are placed into the playing area
One player is assigned to be 'The Pilot' at the start of the game.
Cards are then dealt out to all players. The remaining cards form a draw pile. There are 2 types of card:
The rules are basically quite simple:
How are the dice matched by the pilot's cards.
Talking of points, when a player earns 50+ points it triggers the end game. This means that the current trip continues until it ends (or crashes) and all final points from the trip are added: The player with the most points, wins!
And that's it for rules. There are some rules for what happens if only the pilot is in the balloon when it rises, but it's not really necessary to talk about them here, you get the gist of the game.
As a game it's simple to learn, it's a good introduction game for people who haven't played that many board games.
But it has some depth too. You need to think about how many cards the pilot has before making a choice to stay or jump. you can even try to remember what they did in a previous turn. EG, if they could not match a dice roll that included red and their current dice roll includes red, have they managed to pick up a red card from the draw deck?
Also; you need to remember if any wild cards have been played and by whom (there's 4 wild cards in the deck).
Another thing to remember is that when you're the pilot, you cannot jump out (unless you're alone in the basket). This means that you have to roll the dice even if your hand is empty! Well each die has 1/3 chance of coming up blank...
Finally, Cloud 9 has a curious element of co-operative play. It's actually hard to get to the higher clouds alone and you must work with other players to do it. Quite often after a couple of players have jumped, the remaining players will suddenly starting playing those wild cards to try and push it further - excluding the early jumpers from extra points.
Cloud 9 is a nice push-your-luck game that is a good starter or finisher game that plays with up to 6 players.
Another evening of gaming at Matakishi's place.
We started evening with a firm favourite; Port Royal
This is the 3rd time I've played it this year.
2nd game of the night at 'The Sovs'.
Tiny Epic Galaxies is a part of the 'Tiny Epic' line of games from Gamelyn. I guess that all of these games aim to deliver epic gameplay in a tiny box? Does Tiny Epic Galaxies deliver on this? See below.
Well, it comes in a tiny-ish box, so that's a good start.
Tiny Epic Galaxies is a card and dice game that combines elements of worker placement with push your luck to make a game about galactic exploration and expansion. Infact exploration and expansion are how you earn nearly all your victory points - and of course, the highest victory points wins the games.
To start with, each player is given their own 'galaxy mat'. The galaxy mat is used to track 3 scores. Energy, culture & galactic level (all explained below).
Next, each player is given 2 secret mission cards, they then choose one to keep hidden face down next to or under their galaxy matt. The unused card is discarded.
Then planet cards are dealt face up in a line. These represent newly discovered planet that players can exploit or colonise. Planet cards are explained in detail below, but it's worth noting here that there are always more planets available than players (by 1 or 2).
Finally the control mat and the dice are placed where everyone can reach them.
How to play
Very simply: You roll the dice and then carry out the actions displayed on the dice.
I think it's simpler to explain what some things do, then how play goes.
Let's start with the galaxy mat.
There are a number of features on every planet, all of them important.
When rolling the dice, player's will roll 4-7 dice (dependent on the level of their galaxy), all the dice are identical and have 6 different symbols. These are:
After rolling their dice, the player can choose to re-roll some or all of the dice they just rolled. A player can choose to re-roll 2 or more times, but each additional re-roll after the first will cost a point of energy.
There you have it, more or less all the rules.
Play continues until a player's victory points reaches 21 or higher, this triggers the end game. Play then continues until all players have had an equal number of turns and then points are totted up. At this time players reveal their secret missions, if the objective is met, the the points are added to the player's total.
Secret missions tend to add 2-3 victory points to the total, which is about 10-15%, so not insubstantial.
I've played Tiny Epic Galaxies several times now and I always enjoy it.
There are 40 different planet cards and they always appear randomly. I've found that quite often judicious use of their special abilities can give you an edge. So you need to pay attention to which ones appear, they're more than just victory points and resource generators.
Add to this the unpredictability of the dice and you have a game with a lot of genuine replayability.
There is one thing I will mention and that is the potential of the 'culture generation' strategy.
If you have at least 2 ships on planets that generate culture and keep at least a point of culture on your galaxy mat: Anytime another player activates a culture die, you can spend a culture die to follow them - and generate 2 culture, giving you a net gain of 1 culture at no outlay (other than the initial point of culture). You can do this as often as you want whenever someone else activates a culture die with absolutely no drawback.
Now this does requires a particular set of circumstances to occur, but they are not too uncommon (we encountered it the 1st or 2nd time we played it entirely by accident): I'm not sure if it's overpowered or not. It feels like it straddles the line between genuine strategy and exploit so I'm not too certain whether it's a legitimate criticism or not.
Ah well. Despite that potential issue, I think it's still a good game to play.
Is it epic? Well it's certainly good, although Tiny Good Galaxies' probably doesn't have the same ring to it!
Game Night at The Sovereigns.
The first time I saw 'The Lost Expedition' I though 'Wow - a Tintin game'!
It looks like a Tintin game. It's not a Tintin game, but it's still a good game.
Inspired by actual real reality! The Lost Expedition tells the tale of 3 intrepid explorers searching for 'The Lost City of Z', which as the name hints... is lost deep in somewhere nasty, somewhere you (and I'm assuming you're reasonably sane) would never want to go.
Additionally, each of the 3 explorers has an area of expertise, these are; Jungle, Navigation and camping. more on expertise later.
The Lost Expedition is a co-operative card game for up to 5 players.
At the game start, a series of 9 'expedition' cards at laid out in order from left to right. A meeple representing the actual expedition is placed on card 1. The game is collectively won by getting the meeple on to the last card.
Each expedition member is given 4 health tokens and the expedition is also communally granted some food and ammo tokens.
The basics of game play are:
Each player is dealt 4 cards, these are 'adventure' cards. Adventure is the game's way to saying 'really horrible'.
Each turn is broken up into a day phase and a night phase. During each phase, every player will (one card at a time) play 2 adventure cards from their hand. These form the 'path' that the expedition must follow for that phase. However, the order in which the adventure cards become the path differs between night and day.
So now we know that adventure cards have encounters on them, but what are encounters and how do we deal with them?
Dealing with an encounter usually involves spending some sort of resource, you may or may not get something in return for spending it.
For example; you may encounter a dangerous wild animal that gives you 2 red options (you must pick 1 of the available choices). These options might be:
The game is full of these choices where you have to look ahead and figure out what is the best approach. A lot of the time dealing with an encounter is a matter of diminishing returns (with regards to your resources). Which is what makes your decisions tough and therefore important, which is what makes the game good.
Spending resources; below is a list of the resources you will need to spend over the game:
So when you complete a path, discard all adventures cards and switch from day to night. When you complete a night phase, you spend a food and change back to day and deal new adventure cards to all players. Repeat until you reach the end of the game.
You lose if:
And there you have it. The lost expedition can also be played solo and competitively in 2 teams, neither of which I've tried.
But in co-operative play it's a good game, where every decision can matter and your constantly having to make hard choices. God alone knows how hard it was for real explorers. I'm glad that The Lost Expedition is as close to it as I'll ever need to get.
One last nod goes to Garen Ewing's outstanding illustrations. They lend the game a whole adventure story feel, which I really liked.
Port Royal - 02
2nd game of Port Royal.
You can find my original blog here.
Gaming night at The Sovereigns in Woking
Bohanza is a card game about growing beans and trading beans. Mostly it's about trading beans. Bohanza is a 'set-collecting' game with a great little wrinkle.
Unusually, it supports up to 7 players and on this occasion we got up to 7! I've never played it with that many people - excellent!
Gameplay is reasonably simple.
First, there is one important rule everyone must remember.
At the start of the game, each player is dealt a hand of cards.
This rule is the crux of the game, it's what drives the entire game. Here's why.
So you need to get rid of the wrong cards in your card before you have to play them. How do you do that? You trade them away of course.
Once the active player has played their mandatory card, they can choose to play another card from their hand.
After this, they draw 2 cards from the deck and places in them in front them in the play area. Now trading begins.
At this point, the active player can trade any card from their hand, or any of the 2 face up cards with any other player. The active player can also 'donate' cards to other players (although the other player can reject the offer). Curiously other players can try to donate card to the active player. Trades can only occur with the active player.
Once trading has concluded, all traded cards must be immediately planted. If the active player still as any of the 2 face up cards they just drew.
And that's how trading is done.
The only other thing to explain is selling crops.
Players can sell a crop at pretty much any time. This will earn them up to 4 gold, depending on how many cards they have collected for that set.
Different beans require different amounts of cards to earn gold.
The player then keeps a number of cards from the set as their gold. The remaining cards are placed into the discard pile. This is worthy of noting, because not all the cards from a set is put back into the set.
When the draw deck is depleted, the discard pile is shuffled and becomes the draw deck. This is done twice (thus the deck played through a total of 3 times). Once the deck is depleted a 3rd time, the game ends.
The player with the most gold, wins.
There you have it. Bohanza is good because it forces players to negotiate and trade. Most games that include trading have it as a option or a choice. But in Bohanza, choosing to not trade will probably have dire consequences.
Deep Sea Adventures
In Deep Sea Adventure each player is a treasure-hunting diver who is looking to score big. The game is played over 3 rounds and the player with the most valuable treasures after the end of the 3rd round is the winner.
Deep Sea Adventure packs a whole lot of push-your-luck fun into a little box.
Whilst this is a competitive game, it sneaks a co-operative little mechanic into the rules which in turn players can try to twist to their own advantage.
The game begins with all the players' meeples in a submarine. Beneath the sub is a winding trail of face down markers. Each marker represents a treasure that can be collected by a diver. The value of the treasures also vary, but the deeper you dive, more valuable the treasure. The more sides a marker has, the more potential value it has.
Play goes like this:
And that's it, that's it for the rules.
Ok, there's a bit more.
And that really is it for the rules. Deep Sea Adventure is all about pushing you luck.
Pushing your luck in picking up treasures (so tempting to pick up one extra treasure, just one little treasure - it won't make much of a difference, right).
Pushing your luck in movement. The hop mechanic can prove helpful or can push you way too deep into the depths.
Finally, pushing your luck with the communal oxygen supply. This is the game's best mechanic. This is what turns it from a 'OK' game into a 'good' game. The communal oxygen means that you have watch what the other players are picking up. It forces you to try and think a whole round ahead.
When playing Deep Sea Adventure, there comes a point when oxygen starts to matter. For a couple of turns, no one picks up treasure. Everyone wants something a little better and is willing to dive a little deeper to get it. But then, it all changes, as treasures are picked up, oxygen is used up. The change may seem quite subtle, but can actually be quite dramatic. No oxygen being used, to suddenly 4-5 every round. Being able to spot and react to this change is key to winning in my opinion.
In a six player game, at some point every player will have picked up at least one treasure, that means six points of oxygen will be used up before your next turn. That's about a quarter of all the available oxygen.
Some players will try and load themselves with treasures to burn up oxygen as they return to the sub, (this is in itself a risky strategy as it also slows movement - several times I've seen loaded down players one or 2 spaces away from the sub and not move at all until the oxygen runs out).
All of this means that you can never be complacent about the oxygen supply and this Deep Sea Adventure is good fun and a good game.
The 2nd gaming session of the weekend was in the evening around Matakishi's place.
We started the evening with Port Royal, a push-your-luck card game with naval/pirate theme.
In this game, players take the roles of profit seeking merchants who must recruit crews, fulfill expeditions, deal with taxes and see off pirates.
I have to say this has consistently been a popular favourite game with nearly everybody of I've played it with. Port Royal is one of the best £12 that several of us have spent.
Port Royal is won by scoring 12 victory points.
The first thing to mention about Port Royal is how money works. Port Royal is a card game with a deck of 120 cards. The cards also count as currency in the game (kept in pile face down next to you). This means that it is very hard to to card count, it also makes the game unpredictable. As it is impossible to guarantee or predict what cards will appear during play. As players accumulate and spend money, face down cards are constantly drawn from the draw pile and replaced into the discard pile. It's a great little mechanic for stopping the game getting too stale.
Each turn is broken up into 2 phases, Discover and Trade & Hire.
In the discover phase, the active player draws cards and places them face up in the central playing area (called The Harbour Display). The active player can continue drawing cards as long as they want to or until they go bust. What constitutes going bust? I'm glad you asked, that's where the push your luck mechanic comes in. Populating the deck are ships, they come in 5 different colours. If you draw 2 ships of the same colour you go bust.
Now you might ask, why would you continue drawing cards after the 1st ship has appeared.
The answer is; several reasons.
Once the active player decides to stop drawing cards, play moves on to the next phase; Trade & Hire.
Here the active may take a single action (unless they've acquired additional actions). The player has the choice of 2 types of action.
Once the active player has finished their trading & hiring, other players may now take trading and hiring actions (in the active player's turn). What's so good about this? Well, when they trade in a ship, you get a cut of the earnings, similarly if other players buy a card, they have to play you a little extra on top.
So you see, drawing extra cards has benefits. Quite often you won't have the money to buy a card and trade a ship in the same turn and must choose one or the other. This frequently gives you a hard choice to make. Having extra actions makes those choices easier.
Additionally, having a good selection of cards on display allows other players to buy them - which earns you more gold.
First player to buy cards with a total of 12 victory points, wins.
There are other events that occur during the Discover phase, such as expeditions and taxes (taxes are a good way to incentivize players to not hoard their gold - another neat idea in this game). But that is the basics of the game.
Nearly everyone I play this game with, ends up liking it. Plus it's cheap, has a low set up time and is small and portable as well as having buckets of replayability.
The only minor criticism I have of the game is that you frequently have to shuffle the discard pile into the draw pile - that's it.
A really good game in my opinion.
The 2nd game of the night was Machi Koro, another game we play a lot and is popular with everyone.
Currently there is the base game and 2 expansions. 'The Harbour' and 'Millionaire's Row'. Generally we only play with the first expansion. The base game is average, if I'm being honest. But The Harbour expansion makes it a much, much better game. None of us have been sold on the Millionaire's Row expansion and were not certain it adds enough to the game to warrant its inclusion.
Anyway enough of that and on to describing the game.
In Machi Koro, each player is the mayor of a blossoming city on the cusp of rapid expansion. The game is won by being the first player to build all of their city's landmarks.
Landmarks and city establishments are represented by cards.
The first thing to do is to create a marketplace, this involves turning over 10 different city cards and placing them in a central area. If you draw a double of a card you simply stack on the other one. You keep doing this until you have ten different cards available.
Each player then takes a set of landmark cards and put them in their own playing area face down. Each player then receives their starting cards, a wheat field and a bakery. These too are placed in their own playing area, but face up. Finally each player takes 3 coins from the bank.
Next I need to explain the anatomy of the cards before writing more about the rules.
Each city card contains 3 pieces of vital information:
Right - so this is how play goes.
First the active player rolls the die or dice, then cards may be become activated according to the rules above. Once this has been dealt with, the player has the choice of buying a card from the marketplace or building a landmark in a turn (or passing). Both of which cost coins.
Acquiring establishments increases the chances to earn more money, the more cards with different activation numbers the more chance that a card of some sort will be activated.
When a landmark is built, it grants the player a special ability.
First player to build all their landmarks, wins!
And that's it for the basic rules.
What I like about this game, is that there is no single winning strategy (Other than the Tuna Boats - we all know about the Tuna Boats!!!). The cards that appear in the marketplace are random and you have to adapt to what it available to buy. It keeps the game fresh.
Machi Koro blends quick set up and play-time with replay-value and enough strategy and depth to keep us interested.
This is a game that we've played a lot, probably more than any other single game in the last few years.
I play, I paint.