21st March 2020
Saturday is here and normal Saturday gaming has not resumed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the last meeting of the Woking Gaming Club, Simon & Colin invited us to play a final game, provided that an opportunity would present itself. And that opportunity did present itself - on Saturday 21st March.
So we're at Simon's for a Saturday as his wife and children are away.
The game of the night was 'Maracaibo'.
If you've ever favoured yourself as an adventurer, explorer or trader jobbing your way round and round in circles for years in the Caribbean. Then maybe, just maybe. This is a game for you.
What's in a game?
Maracaibo is a big game with a lot of components, cards and tiles:
How's it play?
There's quite a lot of setup to this game.
Since we're not playing the campaign, some of the components will be left out.
So now we're ready!
The basic principle of Maracaibo is to travel from location to location in a loop from and back to Havana. Stopping at different places will allow players to perform different actions in pursuit of victory points.
A player's turn consists of 3 phases, sailing, main action & drawing cards.
Let's start with city actions:
Players keep taking turns until a round ends. A round continues until any player reaches space 22. There's a game mechanism that prevents a player immediately ending a round (Players must stop at space 21 first.). Then the following actions occur.
Players can purchase a project card or gain 2 VP.
The money and victory point economy tracks are dealt with.
A new prestige building is revealed and new quest cards are placed on the board as required.
The new first player is the player who ended the previous turn.
Play continues until the end of the final round.
Points can come from project cards, player boards, prestige buildings, rank with nations and of course the scoring track.
Final points are tallied and highest score wins.
TLDR; right? Although I've probably made it sound more complicated than it actually is.
Maracaibo definitely sits at the heavier end of the complexity scale.
Some of this complexity is down to rules, but much of it is due to having so many things going on at the same time. Not only is there the main track and project cards and ship grades and personal objectives, there's the exploration track. Then there's the influence and rank tracks. I've probably missed something too!
All of these are ways to score points
It's a lot for a player to think about and take in, particularly with potentially very limited turns!
There may be 22 spaces on the main track, but if a player races round, they can end the round after about 4 turns. A sneaky player can end the game quite quickly and if players don't pay attention, they may get caught flat footed.
So players need to think of ways to optimise their strategy, manage their resources and play to the strengths of their personal objectives.
They also need to keep an eye on what other players may be doing with regards movement and also to influence and rank, high rank with a high influence nation can be the source of a lot of victory points.
This is not a confrontational game by any means, but influence represents the only way players can mess with each other (Even though it's indirectly.). Lowering a nation's influence after another player has increased their rank with that nation can cost them a lot of victory points.
Its mechanics suits its themes fairly well as what players are doing is following trade routes whilst buying and selling.
Whilst Maracaibo is not the most complex or heaviest of games, but it's complex enough.
It's a game that will take a couple plays to understand a learn, so it's not very accessible. But if you like heavier games, then you'll be used to that.
If you like heavier games and you like the theme, you'll probably like Maracaibo, although it typically requires a few hours to complete, around 3 hours I'd say.
For me, I'd like to play it again, but it sits close to the upper limits of complexity I like dealing with.
11th February 2020
Tuesday night with the gaming club at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking continues.
The final game of the night was 'Glory to Rome'.
Glory to Rome is a game about the glory of Rome, well sort of. It's a game about rebuilding Rome after the 'great fire of 64 A.D.'.
Become a leader of Rome by building fountains, villas and statues, even the Basilica! Of course, players also get to build a latrine... glory to Rome indeed. Well... I guess someone has to!
Glory to Rome is an engine building card game which has an interesting central premise; which is that the function of cards change in the context of how they're used. This isn't something new or unique to Glory to Rome, however I've not seen it used as extensively as in this game.
What's in a game
Glory to Rome has a lot of cards and some of these cards serve multiple functions.
By far the biggest stack of cards in the game, order cards have multiple uses:
When constructing a building, it needs a site to lay the 'foundation' on. There are site cards for each of the 6 different types of material. Site cards are covered in stripes
These cards are 'jack-of-all-trades'. They are wildcards.
Rome demands card
This oversized card goes in the centre of the playing area and is a discard pile/pool for order cards.
There are 6 bonus cards, one for each type of material. When scoring at the end, the player who has the highest amount of a material in their Vault acquires it's bonus card. Each bonus card is worth 3 victory points.
Used to represent the first player in a round.
That's it for cards.
Player boards (Or camp board.) serve 2 functions. They are a player aid and they also track certain cards and actions the players have played. The boards track influence, clientele, stockpile & vault.
The quality of the components is pretty standard, nothing standout, but by no means nothing bad either.
The art on the cards is minimal, almost simplistic and feels a little bit amateurish. It does however, give the cards a distinct look, is uncluttered and clean looking. I guess it's down to taste.
How's it play?
Setup is pretty simple.
Whoever is the first player decides to either 'lead'... or think!
When all players have completed their actions, all cards that were played as role cards are placed in the pool. Any Jacks played are returned to their stack.
Play proceeds to the next turn and the Leader card moves to the player to the left.
That's the basics out of the way, now on to what the role cards actually do.
The player board has 4 sides and each side has a function.
I think that is more or less it for most rules.
There are several criteria that trigger the end of the game.
Play continues until all site cards for all materials have been used, out-of-town site cards do not count towards this.
The deck of order cards is depleted.
The catacomb building is completed.
The Forum Romanum is built and the player who built it has at least one of each type client in Clientele and one of each material type in their Stockpile. If this occurs, then that player wins an outright victory! Victory points are not tallied!
When any of these conditions are met the game immediately ends and points are tallied (Except in the case of a Forum Romanum victory.).
Players score 1 point for each Influence point.
Players score the cards hidden in their Vault.
Players score bonus cards for the materials in their Vault.
All victory points are tallied, highest score wins.
Glory to Rome is pretty straightforward to learn once you get your head around the central premise that your hand represents, people, buildings, materials and more.
Like other games that use similar mechanics, it forces players to make difficult decisions on what cards to use for what.
Glory to Rome is an engine building game on 2 tiers.
How cards are placed on the player board on the Clientele side is essentially building an engine. Giving players extra or bonus actions.
Placing buildings is the other way of building an engine.
Together they give players quite a few options to explore.
The game's owner stated that certain cards can break the game, but that wasn't my experience when we played it. Upon looking at some cards after the game ended, I could see what he meant though.
Glory to Rome also asks players to watch each other and see what they do and in particular, what they put in to the pool. The pool is the best source of cards - provided it has what you need and you have the cards to get them.
Glory to Rome is perhaps a little too long to play for what it is, but otherwise it's a fun game.
9th February 2020
It's a Sunday and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. There's no 50 Fathoms this week as 3 players are absent.
Instead we are playing 'Puerto Rico'.
William Shakespeare wrote:
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
Well if you happen to play a plantation owner in Puerto Rico, you will play 7 roles, I dunno about 7 acts though.
What's in a game?
The quality of the components is mostly quite good.
What artwork there is in the game is OK, but it's not particularly memorable or interesting.
How's it play?
As always, we begin with setup. It looks quite long, but it's actually straightforward.
In Puerto Rico there are 2 ways to earn victory points; by shipping goods out and buying buildings.
Each round, in turn order, each player will assume 1 of the 7 roles and carry out the action associated with that role. When a player chooses a role, all players can the also carry out that action, but the player who chose the role can do it's bonus action instead. When players chose a role, they take the relevant role card from the display.
The roles are:
Players return their role cards and the next player in turn becomes the new first player and a new round begins.
There remains one last thing to discuss - what function do buildings serve. Firstly, they earn player points. Some buildings are necessary to process goods. Other buildings confer bonuses when trading and shipping or allow players to 'break the rules' in some way or other. Finally, the 5 large buildings give extra victory points according to the conditions on each individual large building tile.
There are 3 manners in which the endgame can be triggered.
Players then tally their scores, highest value wins.
Puerto Rico is not a complicated game, but it is a fairly involved one and the rules are fairly detailed. The game has minimal 'downtime' as it allows players to act in other player's turns. This keeps players on their toes, being able to take advantage of another player's role is key to optimising strategy.
It's also a game of very little luck. The only random element is drawing the plantation tiles, everything else is down to player actions and choices.
Talking of choices, the game mostly provides players with useful and meaningful decisions to make. There's always the balancing act caused by there being one too many actions that players will want to do, pushing them into making tricky choices.
The trading and shipping rules give Puerto Rico a little bit of a competitive edge. Players need to watch what each other are doing, because as mentioned above, a decision that the active player makes can aid another player.
Since the trading tile and ship tiles are not emptied until full and even then only at the end of their respective actions. Players can screw each other (And themselves to be fair.) by initiating trading or shipping at particular times, this can and probably will deny certain players the benefits of trading or shipping. After all there are 5 types of good, but only 4 spaces on the trading tile and 3 ships.
Since the game has 2 ways of scoring points. There are broadly speaking, 2 strategies for winning.
These are; accumulate victory points by shopping goods out, or buy buildings and accumulate victory points that way.
In the few times, we've played it recently, it seems to be that acquiring buildings might be a better way of accumulating victory points. Perhaps the trading approach has a harder learning curve?
This is about the only negative I can think about the game.
But other than this, Puerto Rico is a game that rewards thoughtful play and that's always a good thing.
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.
21st December 2019
It's the last Saturday night before Christmas and we're at Matakishi's for some board games.
This is a game about accumulating stocks in railway companies, running railway companies and paying out dividends.
Yep, this is 'Irish Gauge' and not 1830.
Irish Gauge is a game that simultaneously is the same as and also completely different to 1830.
That is, it shares the same themes as 1830, but is a quite different game.
What's in a game?
Irish Gauge components.
How's it play?
We begin with setup, which is pretty simple.
Before normal play commences, there is a 'initial auction' This is where players get to bid on and auction one share from each of the 5 companies.
In their turn, the active player can perform 1 of 4 actions, these are: Place track, place a special interest, auction a share and call for a dividend.
This is probably the most common action in the game
The game ends when there are no more cubes in the bag, either because of a dividend being called or placing a cube as a special interest on the board.
All players tot up their cash plus the initial value of the shares they own. Highest cash wins.
Irish Gauge is a railway building game with stocks and shares and companies.
It's actually quite a common theme in board games. But Irish Gauge plays nothing like any of these other games.
It seems like the basic strategy is that players need to build railways, to issue dividends, to buy shares.
Simple, right? Not necessarily.
Whilst players may want to maximise their railway network before calling dividends, to get as much money as possible to have more funds when bidding on shares during an auction.
Waiting a long time to buy shares is a risky move.
Why? There limited opportunities to call for dividends because when the game starts, there will only be 22 cubes in the bag and each dividend uses 3 cubes. So there's maximum of 8 times a dividend can be called - and the last dividend will be with 1 cube! This is of course, provided nobody uses cubes to upgrade towns.
So shares bought later in the game will benefit less because there will be less dividend pay outs. This isn't so bad if you get a shares at the initial value, but that's unlikely to occur. So paying an extra 20 to get a share that only pays out 5 twice is actually a loss of 10!
This means players will want to get shares as quick as possible, but at the same time, it's prudent to wait and see if other players have low funds as this is a great time to trigger an auction, since they may have to pass, giving the active player a share at the initial value.
It's like some sort of horrible balancing act.
There's more as well. If a player thinks they benefit from a dividend more than anyone else, then they might ignore buying shares or improving their network and may just call dividend after dividend and 'run out' the game. However there's a random element to dividends, so they may scupper themselves.
After playing the game a couple of times: It seems to me that how a player places their railway lines is a bit of a 'no-brainer'. But on reflection I don't think this is as much of an issue as I first thought. Perhaps when to call for dividends may seem more vital for the game than anything else - provided the right cubes are pulled from the bag of course.
There's a lot to think about here, which is good.
Finally, Irish Gauge plays as fast as a roadrunner with it's backside on fire.
If you're used to slow and meaty railway games, Irish Gauge may feel quite fresh with it's relatively short play time.
I'm not certain if Irish Gauge will stand up to extended play. But it's worth giving it a couple of plays at least.
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,
17th November 2019
Sunday lunch time has rolled around and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. The 50 Fathoms hiatus continues.
Today we played 'Concordia'
Concordia is a resource gathering and economic expansion game set in the Roman era Mediterranean and surrounding areas.
Ah, where would 'euro style' games be without the Roman era Mediterranean? Probably set even more in Renaissance Europe!
What's in a game?
Concordia has quite a lot of components.
It's worth mentioning the games resource tokens, normally it would be typical for the components to be coloured wooden blocks. Not so in Concordia, the tokens are shaped like the resource they represent. Thus the brick tokens look like clay bricks, wine tokens look like wine jugs and so on. It's a nice touch.
Hows it play?
Concordia has a fairly detailed setup. So, here we go.
The very basics of Concordia are simple: The active player plays a card from their hand carries out the action(s) listed on it.
Personality cards can be acquired which perform other actions or are better versions of the starter cards.
The starter cards are:
There are more types of cards available in the personality deck. There are specialist cards for each type of resource that allows the player possibly gain extra resources. There are also improved versions of starter cards and cards that make certain actions easier to perform.
There are some more rules, but this is the gist of it
There are 2 ways to trigger the endgame. If all the personality cards are bought or if a player builds or their houses. Then the final round is completed.
Scoring is quite detailed and involved, in fact almost convoluted.
All cards are attributed to 1 of 6 Roman gods such as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars etc.
Each 'god' is scored differently: Mars for example, will score a player 2 victory points per meeple they have on the board per Mars card.
All victory points are tallied, highest score wins.
Here's the thing, I quite like Concordia, but I can't put my finger on exactly why?
Maybe it's because it's a game about expansion and empire building, but a mercantile empire and not a military one. There is no direct conflict and the worse you can do to another player is to buy a personality card they want, or maybe block a route they want to use. It's all feels very 'eurogame'.
Or maybe it's the deck building element. I feel there's something engrossing about having limited actions and needing to optimise strategies accordingly.
Thinking about it, if there was too much direct competition between players, the deck building and planning wouldn't work so well within the game.
Finally, I thought I would mention the scoring. Because there's 6 different ways to score, it's almost as if you don't need to think about the scoring and can just concentrate on building up your trade empire and let the points take care of themselves.
But anyway, all in all, Concordia is a game I enjoy playing.
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.
I play, I paint.