21st March 2021
It's a Sunday lunchtime and I'm logged on to my PC in the living Room and signed into Board Game Arena.
The first game of the day was Takenoko, a game about gardening in Japan... and pandas.
Caveat: We played this game online, but I own a physical copy which I've set up for the photos.
What's in a game?
All of the cartoon-like art is uniformly bright, colourful and appealing, even the rulebook is filled with it. It shows a nice touch.
Finally I'll add that there's a giant sized Takenoko that was released a while back.
How's it play?
On to play
After a starting player is chosen, play proceeds clockwise.
Some actions do not count towards the usual 2 action limit. The active player can carry out any number of free actions at any time during their turn.
The endgame is triggered after someone has played a certain number of objective cards, dependant on the number of players.
The player that triggered the endgame immediately take the Emperor card and conclude the rest of their turn normally. Then continuing in clockwise order, every other player has one more turn.
After this, scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Firstly I'll mention how the game is uniformly nice, presentation is excellent and component quality is good, nothing to criticise here.
Since there are always objectives to work towards in Takenoko, there are generally always meaningful decisions to make.
The game's player interaction comes from conflicting objectives such as one player getting the gardener to grow bamboo and another getting the panda to eat it.
This is also a game about recognising opportunities and adapting to the card and plot tiles you draw and to a lesser extent the results from the weather die and not about strategizing too much.
There is some strategy regarding the uneven distribution of bamboo (Generally objectives that involve the less common bamboo score more points.) but that's about it. I suppose there could be a high level strategy where you watch what other players are doing and try to anticipate what objectives they're going for and try and scupper them but you'll probably scupper yourself as well in the end.
Optimising your actions per turn seems to be very important.
Takenoko is a relatively simple and straightforward game to play, the concepts behind it should make it a fairly accessible crossover game. For dedicated gamers there might not be enough meat on the bone to satisfy them though.
Ultimately Takenoko is a light somewhat gentle game that you shouldn't take too seriously if you play it. If you want something heavy on strategy and direct interaction, it's probably not the game for you. However, if you're in the mood for an undemanding game, it's a reasonable diversion.
15th January 2020
It's a Friday evening, I'm logged into Zoom on my laptop and I'm sitting in the living room.
So it's time to play Forgotten Waters, a co-operative fantastical pirate exploration game that we've only played over video chat.
Caveat: I've only played this game over video chat and never in person, I've also never actually seen the physical components for the game. So this blog will probably be a bit different to the usual.
Before we begin
Forgotten Waters is one of this new breed of boardgames that requires an app to play, not just an app to help, but actually required to play.
Additionally, the game has a Remote Play Assistant app available. This app is what has allowed us to play online and in this time of Covid-19 is a welcome feature.
What's in a game?
Because I've never seen the game physically and because the remote play assistant app replaces the need for some components, it's hard to gauge what exactly, is what?
It's hard to talk about the quality of these physical components though as I've never see them other than briefly over video chat.
But I can talk about the apps.
It's clear that the game's developers have put a lot of thought and effort into insuring the quality of the game app. It's very slick with professional voice acting and production qualities, scripting and dialogue is very well written and often witty. There were frequent chuckles at gags that hit the mark more often than not.
I'm not sure what to think though, like many people; the idea of a game needing an app to play sits uncomfortably with me. We all know the question, what happens to the game a few years down the line, how long will the developer support the app?
However, I doubt this game would even exist in this form without the app. The game seems to have hundreds of differing encounters that can contextually change according to the story mission being played. It would require a fairly elaborate book to manage all of this physically, slowing the game down and no doubt adding to the cost.
The remote helper does it's job well enough to facilitate remote play and is easy to use, apart from the occasional need to refresh the browser and put everything back in sync, it works perfectly well.
I cannot say enough about how useful it is though. We played a game with 7 players and someone commented how how this was the most people they'd talked to in a year. In these times of self-isolation it has proven to be a godsend.
One minor criticism I have is about the character sheet PDF. It is a slight oversight that it is not form-fillable as it could save on the unnecessary use of paper.
How's it play?
First of all, one of the 5 available missions is selected, this will give the players a series of objectives to aim for, then play can begin.
Essentially, the ship travels from hexspace to hexspace dealing with the encounters that are generated by each space.
Each encounter will have 7 pertinent actions. Players take turns placing their standee on the action they want to perform,
Some actions are mandatory, some can only be completed by one player and others can completed by any number of players.
Additionally, some actions become locked when they are completed whilst others can be repeated.
Some actions are specific to certain encounters or mission objectives and others are generic and frequently appear during encounters.
Players place their standees on the encounter spaces in order of the infamy track, Forgotten Waters utilises a real time mechanic during encounters. If players have not placed their standee/worker in the allotted time, they receive a misfortune token as punishment.
Once all workers have been placed, then actions are carried out but in the order shown on the encounter.
There are a great many different action in the game, related to combat, sailing, exploring, trading, objectives etc.
Often players will be given 2 or 3 sub-choices for their chosen action and sometimes they will have 2 actions they actions they can perform.
Many actions will increase one of the player's 6 skills, frequently this will then require a roll using the relevant skill, generally there are 3 different levels of outcome depending on how high the final roll is.
Once all actions have been repeated, the turn ends. Depending on the situation, players may have the choice of staying and repeating the parts of the encounter which are not locked (Like foraging for supplies, burying treasure etc.) or they have be forced to move on to another encounter.
This continues until the endgame.
There are numerous ways to lose.
If the ship's hull, supplies or crew are reduced to zero then it's game over.
If the crew's discontent value increase to or beyond the crew score, then it's also game over.
Finally there's threat rating. Threat can go up and down; the game will on a fairly regular basis call for threat checks, depending on the result this may generate a threat event, this is another type of encounter. The higher the threat rating, the more likely it is that a threat event will be triggered, when one does occur the threat rating is reduced to zero. If four threat events are triggered, then it's also game over.
If all the objectives of a mission are met then the player's collectively win.
Each character also has an individual ending though, depending on how many stars they filled in on their constellations, this may be bad, good or legendary. Bad endings are usually very bad comical demises for the character, explosions, drownings etc.
The good and legendary endings are as comical but obviously better for the character.
Forgotten Waters is a long game to play, a mission can take 4 or even more hours to complete and the developers are aware of this, all missions come with a natural breakpoint, which can be used a temporary stopping point and then picked up again at a later date.
Mostly the game gives players meaningful co-operative decisions to make and the timer forces them to think quickly.
It's also a well produced, smart game that is entertaining to to play, the app does add to the atmosphere and help with booking.
but I do have some quibbles to do with game balancing.
Firstly; when undertaking tasks, some tasks are more attractive to complete than others. One example, during ship combat:
Furthermore it exacerbates and perpetuates the imbalance. Once a character starts firing cannons, thus increasing their aim skill, it makes sense for them to continue doing that action, because they're more likely to get better results. So one player can be stuck loading cannons and earning little to nothing and another firing cannons and getting skill points and treasures.
Sometimes it's not so bad because with some actions, multiple characters can perform it but with single-character actions, it can be irritating.
Maybe its deliberate, it certainly can make the infamy track more important for actions that can only be done by one player.
Forgotten Waters is a mostly co-operative game, but it also a little edge of competitiveness as well, players can steal treasures from other players and so on.
Maybe the game wants to force players to choose between what's good for them and what's good for the mission?
Speaking of which, characters seem out of balance. When they earn bonuses, the usefulness of them seems to vary widely, some characters will get permanent items that confer constant bonuses whilst other characters get one-use-only less useful abilities.
Additionally, it appears that constellations are harder to complete for some characters than others for what appears to be no rhyme or reason why.
Luckily they don't affect the game too much, especially since it's co-operative. Other than that I've found it a fun game to play.
6th October 2020
It's Tuesday evening at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking and it's time for a boardgame.
The main game this evening was 'Pan Am', a game about building up airline companies over the years and then watching as they bought out by Pan Am in exchange for shares!
What's in a game?
This game is set in 'The Golden Age of Air Travel', which I guess covers from the 'inter-war years' to the late 1960's.
This is reflected in the games look and art, which has a cool retro look to it.
The game's components are all good and the game's art direction and quality are worth noting. This shows the game's attention to detail.
How's it play?
The set up for Pan Am is pretty straight forward.
Every round begins by turning over that round's event card. This determines some actions that will occur in the game.
This is where the majority of the game occurs;
Usually placing workers starts with the 1st player, but there is something called priority. This is explained in detail below, but basically any workers that were placed into the directive spaces in the previous round go first in placement order.
There are 2 types of spaces a worker can be placed into.
So we go on to the five different types of worker action available to players. Players can obviously place down their workers in any other, but below is the order in which they are resolved
Pan Am airlines starts the game in the Miami city space. The die is used to determine how and where Pan Am expands. The number of times the active player rolls it is dictated by the event card.
When the die is rolled, it will show one of two types of action.
Selling (Or being forced to sell.) routes is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be vital to winning the game.
This is because Pan Am actually offers reasonably good money for a route.
A 1 point route will earn a player 1 per round, thus if a player has it for all 7 rounds it will earn a maximum of 7 throughout the game. Pan Am pays 5 for a 1 point route. So long term, keeping a route earns more, but it's a slow drip of money. Selling to Pan Am gives the player a lump sum that can immediately be re-invested into claiming more routes (Or buying shares.).
A 1 point route is worth 5.
A 2 point route is worth 9.
A 3 point route is worth 12.
A 4 point route is worth 14.
Obviously, there are diminishing returns here, but remember the class 4 aeroplanes will not appear until turn 6 (Unless an event card changes this.) and will only generate income for 2 turns.
When a route is sold to Pan Am, the player reduces their income track by the value of the route and the aeroplane on the route is replaced by a Pan Am token. The aeroplane is returned to the player which is actually very useful. The amount of aeroplanes a player can have is limited to the number of aeroplanes available. Each player only has 1 class 4 aeroplane, so being able to use it, sell the route it's on and then use it again is the way to go.
Players not only get the opportunity to sell routes during expansion, event cards and directive cards can also allow players to sell routes.
Players earn an amount of money equal to their position along their income track.
Players can now buy shares, because this is the airline business, the only shares that matter are Pan Am shares.
Players may buy as much Pan Am stock as they can afford, the price of the shares is influenced by the event card played at the start of the round.
Since there is only ever 7 opportunities to buy shares, it's probably a good idea to try and buy them at every opportunity.
Once all players have bought all the shares they want, the round ends. The first player marker is moved left to the next player and new round begins.
In this game, no one cares about the little routes that you create, they only care about Pan Am.
After the end of the 7th round, players tally up the shares they have bought. Highest number of shares win. Remaining money counts as a tie breaker.
Pam Am does a good job of blending accessibility, depth and player options.
Very rarely was there a meaningless choice in the game. Most of the time I felt that I could do with an extra worker or two.
Maximising your workers is very important, as is knowing when to bid for something or not. The destination card and class 1 aeroplane auction tracks have a minimum bid of 0. There's potential to get stuff for free when other players have minimal interest in it.
The key to the game I think, is selling routes to Pan Am at the right time, the prices are set a sweet spot of being good but not too good. Generally it's prudent to sell routes to Pan Am, but it's never a no-brainer - and that's a good thing.
Ideally players will want to try and build routes close to Pam Am, hoping to get bought out. It's almost a counter-intuitive way to play.
Since the game is ultimately all about Pan Am shares, you obviously need to buy as many as possible and the game only gives players 7 opportunities to do this.
Stock prices generally start low in the game and rise continually throughout the game, this can put players in a quandary.
Do you buy shares in earlier rounds when they are much cheaper and run the risk of lacking funds to compete in bidding?
Or do you buy them later, hoping that your early investments pay off and give you more money to buy the invariably more expensive shares.
Finally, it's quite interesting watching as Pan Am unfailingly spreads across the board, consuming everything in its way.
I have the urge to play Pan Am again, that's always a solid indicator of a good game in my opinion. It's definitely worth trying.
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,
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!'
6th August 2019
We have arrived at Tuesday evening and thus come to gaming at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking.
Century: The New World is the 3rd and final instalment in the 'Century trilogy'.
You can read my post on Century: Spice Road here.
You can read my post on Century: Eastern Wonder here.
Century: The New World can be combined with the other 2 games to create one massive game, or in other combinations to create a total of 7 games.
Century: The New World differentiates itself from the other 2 games by being a worker placement game. I guess the game board represents plantations or farms and trading posts of the early settlers of the new world.
Whats in a game?
If you've played either of the 2 previous games, you'll be on somewhat familiar ground here and recognise some of the components:
How's it play?
First there is of course set up.
Taking turns, the active player can perform 1 of 2 actions.
The endgame is triggered when a player acquires their 8th card. In which case play progresses until the round is over. Upon which scores are totted up.
Points are earned from:
The game's core mechanic of trading cubes until enough are accumulated to buy cards that earn victory points is fundamentally unchanged from the first 2 games (Which is to be expected.). So if you like this, I imagine you may find Century: The New World appealing.
What this game adds is a fairly average implementation of worker placement rules. It's nothing to write home about, but it functions well enough.
However the cards and bonus tiles add an extra layer of depth to the game. When buying a card, you now need to consider factors other than just points value. Acquiring extra workers and spaces can be very useful (Although the latter is potentially useful to all players.).
Acquiring bonus tiles is also an important strategy to earning points. But taking tiles is an important decision, you get to have 3 and making a poor choice early on can hinder the potential to earn points. you have to try and think ahead.
The game gives to meaningful decisions to make and find the optimal method to accumulating commodities is key to doing well I think.
Century: The New World is not my favourite 'Century' game (That goes to Century: Eastern Wonder.) but I would have no reservation in playing this again.
29th June 2019
Gaming afternoon continues at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking and we concluded with 'Tiny Epic Galaxies'.
I've written about Tiny Epic Galaxies before here.
7th May 2019
It's a Tuesday, so naturally that means gaming down at 'The Sove...' er.. wait?
The Sovereign has its family dining area fully booked out and they didn't bother informing us? Marvellous! By that I mean crappy. So we need an alternative venue...
It's a Tuesday, so naturally that means gaming down at... 'The Wheatshef' in Woking.
The evening started off with 'Tiny Towns'.
Tiny Towns has a plot about being tiny animals building a town. It's strange because it's a meaningless addition to the game. Yes, it's a game about building a town, but whether it's tiny or not makes no difference.
What's in a game?
Game board: Each player has their own 4x4 playing board, in Tiny Towns you are building your own individual town and not a collective town.
Wooden cubes: Yes Tiny Towns is obviously a soulless cube pushing Euro. So the game comes with an abundance of wooden cubes in 5 glorious colours.
Buildings: Tiny Towns is always played with exactly 7 different types of buildings, no more, no less. What these buildings are will change from game to game. But there are 7 different shaped and coloured wooden blocks used to depict what buildings are used in the game.
Monuments: This is the 8th type of building in the game. Each player will have a single monument block to represent which monument they posses - all monuments are unique and generally confer some sort of bonus on the player
Cards: The game has a stack of oversized cards that represent both normal buildings and monuments.
Hammer: The game has a wooden hammer, used to represent who is the first player and thus also the round's 'master-builder'.
So all the components are placed in the centre of the gaming area and each player takes a game board.
The cards are used to determine which buildings will appear in this game. The cards need some explaining. Each of the 7 building types has 4 different cards (except the Cottage - there's only 1 cottage card).
Finally, there are the monument cards: 2 monument cards are dealt to each player at the start of each game. Each player will discard one monument and keep the other one (hidden until played).
Each monument is unique, they can give you a 'one-off' or ongoing benefit. They can give you points. When played well, a monument can help you a lot.
How's it play?
Constructing buildings is the name of the game. How is this achieved? Each building card will have a multicoloured 'tetris-like' shape on it. Generally this is always the same for each building type. Cottages always have 'L' shapes, yellow food producing buildings are always have a 2x2 square and green social buildings have a 'T' shape. However the colours of the shapes on the cards are different for each of the 4 types of each building.
To construct a building, you must place cubes on your personal board that match the configuration as depicted on that card.
For example: To build an Inn requires 3 blocks in a straight line and their colours must be 'yellow, grey and blue'.
The inn can be built from left to right, or up or down. As long as the 3 cubes are in a straight line and the middle cube is grey and the end cubes are always yellow and blue, then a tavern can be built (if you choose).
Then, to build it, the 3 cubes are removed from your board and a green building meeple is placed into one of the spaces vacated by the 3 cubes - and that's it. Well, that's not it, but that's a summary of the most important rule.
So this is how a turn goes.
When a player can no longer place a cube on their board, they are eliminated from the game. Eventually they'll only be one player left and they can continue playing until they too cannot place any further cubes.
Then scores are totted up and a winner is declared.
So, thinking about this game. I feel that there are two distinct levels of play.
The basic level of play involves maximising the placing of the cubes you receive. It is possible to place cubes in such a way that they can be used for more than one building. Especially since you do not have to construct a building if you have the cubes in the right place. This allows you to keep cubes 'in play' to be used for alternate buildings. It can give you strategies and options.
Then there's the higher level of play. Looking at the choices of the other players and trying to anticipate their strategies. Not necessarily to try and mess with them, (You'll mess with the other players accidentally more than anything else) but just to improve your own strategies.
Overall, I like Tiny Towns, it always gives you meaningful choices to make (Even if those choices are not entirely of your own making - which makes those decisions even more important!) and I think that's a good thing.
Tiny Towns also has a mechanic that I've never seen before - I always like that.
Play time is fairly brisk, a game seems to take no more than an hour. The first time I played Tiny Towns, everyone was up for a second game straightaway.
The one significant criticism I have of Tiny Towns is that it has player elimination. That's something I don't like. Luckily it seems that when players are eliminated, it's close to the conclusion of a game.
So, one grumble aside. Tiny Towns is a good enough game for me to get a copy of it.
30th April 2019
The last day of April is a Tuesday, so this means gaming in Woking at 'The Sovereigns'.
We played Kingsburg. You can find my thoughts about it here.
I play, I paint.