Monday, October 19, 2015

New Games to me in Recent Months

Amerigo - A big box game of island exploration. There are seven phases in five turns. Each phase you toss wooden cubes into a tower and the number and color of cubes that make it back out the bottom determine the available actions for all players in the phase. Each player can only pick one of the available actions, which is typically decided by what benefits you the most at that point. However, achieving good island positions or acquiring the better bonus ability cards lead to some strategic decisions. It's a good game, with the downside of some phases near the end of the game being very limited in available useful options. A gamer's game for 2-4 players (3-4 is better).

Among the Stars - A card drafting, civ building game ala 7 Wonders, but with square cards that you arrange into a space station. The distance you place each card from other cards (color or type) affects its cost and/or value. Played over 4 phases. Seems pretty nice, with the usual luck of planning to get certain cards and then not getting them. 2-4 players, good game.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig - I played this after playing Suburbia (see below), and I think whichever game you play first is the one you like most. It's actually nearly as good as Suburbia: better because of the interesting rearrangement mechanic for the tiles each round, but worse because this rearrangement, and the oddly shaped buildings, are less elegant. Some of the rules were hard to figure out on the first play. Gamer's game for 2-4 players.

Dixit Odyssey - Dixit is an incredibly good game for non-gamers, and also enjoyed by gamers as a break from stratgeic thinking and an outlet for creativity of a different kind. This game is simplya copy of Dixit, with brand new but equally good cards, and the ability to play up to 12 people instead of 6. No better or worse than the brilliant original.

Ergo - I bought this with the assumption that I would like it after using the fixes suggested by gamers, but even with them the game seems to be unplayable as more than a teaching device. There must be some way to do something with it. Too bad.

Exploding Kittens / NSFW Deck - An exceedingly bad game. This game offers amusing pictures and stunningly bad gameplay, unfortunately like so many other games that come from non-game designers. On the other hand, after I quit the game, I heard many of the other players laughing while playing. That's because it is a straightforward "take-that" game of randomly drawing cards and playing them on other people, who have to randomly draw cards to counteract the attacks. When they do or don't, this amuses people. 3-5 player, not for serious gamers (best enjoyed with alcohol).

Five Tribes - A meaty game from Days of Wonder, this is a nearly all tactical game of moving pieces around the board and taking off sets of them to score points. It's pretty and interestingly balanced, but the long-term strategies (Djinns) don't always work as planned: you have to constantly work out how many points you are spending and receiving for each play, and how many points you're leaving over for the next guy. 2-4 players, gamer's game but suitable as a second gaming experience (after Ticket to Ride, for example).

PDQ - A light and quick word game on par with Anagrams. Flip three cards and place in order; take the cards if you call out (first) a word that used the letters in order. The official rules allow you to use the letters in either direction, but I don't find that to be necessary. I also don't know why you can't just play with Scrabble tiles. Any number of players. Fun game for those who like word games.

Suburbia - See Castles of Mad King Ludwig above. This is a nifty civ building game that seems to have been designed for a computer rather than as a board game. As a board game, you have to take care of checking the effects of each tile you place against every other tile in the game, which is not as bad as it seems, but still a bit of a hassle. Other than that, this is an excellent gamer's game of placing tiles and scoring for each. It's mostly tactical, but you can invest in certain types of tiles and hope you get first crack at them when they come up. This makes it similar to all of the other card based civ building games, like 7 Wonders and Among the Stars, as mentioned above. 2-4 players.

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