It was a pretty lean month in June for new games. There were a few that I played for a second time, but that doesn’t count (or so the mean-looking guy behind me holding the truncheon says).
Only three new games in June, which is a pretty poor record. I will have to do better in July (he says, having played two non-new games on the first weekend of the month)
Still, the three that I did play were very good, with only one that I’m lukewarm on, and that could be because Martin Wallace is a sadist (I kid, though I wouldn’t be surprised if when he makes his kids clean their rooms, there is a way they could do it where they’re stuck doing it for months and can’t come out until they’re done).
So why don’t we start with that game?
Automobile (2009 – Mayfair Games) – 1 Play
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artists: Mike Atkinson, Czarnè, Peter Dennis, Klemens Franz
A Martin Wallace economic game from 2009, after Brass?
This game charts the rise of automobile manufacturing from the late 1800s to early 20th century.
Each turn (there are 4), players can buy factories, research new and improved car models, send salesmen out to make sure your cars sell even if the demand for them isn’t really that great, or close down old and outdated factories. If you keep older factories alive, the player starts accumulating inefficiency cubes (and everybody knows that the worst thing you can be called is “inefficient”).
The progression of the automobiles and the demand for them is really interesting, and this is definitely a fairly heavy (at least as far as Wallace is concerned) economic game. So much so that it made my brain hurt on my first play.
It is not uncommon for people to get out the calculator to make sure they are able to sell all of the cars they produced during the last turn.
On my one play, I managed to get stuck in a rut that didn’t let me do much of anything for at least one turn. I built a few factories on the first luxury cars spot, and following that are a bunch of economy factories before the next medium demand (I’m not sure what they’re called) factories show up. It costs research cubes to move forward in factories, so jumping the three spots or so would have taken much more than I had.
But salesmen can only move up or down one level (economy, medium, luxury) and all of my salesmen were on the luxury track. I couldn’t move them down to economy so it was pointless to build many factories there.
It felt stifling, and I know that you can get into that economic dead end in other Wallace economic games too, which is why he’s a sadist.
Or maybe I was just in a bad mood.
I’d like to try this one again and see if I can avoid doing that, and I can certainly tell that it’s a well-designed game (most Wallace games are), but I think it will be a little while.
Ethnos (2017 – CMON Limited) – 1 Play
Designer: Paolo Mori
Artist: John Howe
This is a game that I’ve heard so much about, and a lot of that is definitely true.
It’s ugly. Ok, not exactly ugly, but if it was walking down the street toward you, you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. It does not have abs of steel.
It has abs of putty.
But if you just stop it on the street and start talking to it, it’s actually got a lot to say. You may find yourself very compatible with it.
If you just stop and listen to it for a moment.
Sitting down in front of it at the table, your first thought is “this looks rather boring.”
If you’re a gamer, your second thought is probably “C’mon, this can’t be a CMON game! It doesn’t have tons of miniatures! And it looks rather boring!”
Even if you’re not a gamer, you may not look thrilled at it.
But then once somebody teaches it to you or you start playing through it, exploring the different races that are in the game and what powers they have, and you experience the rather cool mechanics, you find yourself really starting to like it.
I love the set collection mechanic where each race has a different ability when you lay down the set. I love the area control aspect of the game, the varying victory points that can make an area worth almost nothing throughout the game if you choose the tiles that way. How you have to play increasingly large sets in order to increase your control of an area of the map.
I especially love how when you lay down a set, you have to discard all of your other cards to the table so that others can perhaps pick up a card they’ve been desperately looking for. That really keeps players from hoarding cards while looking for just the right one.
Sure, this may not be a game that you take along to show all of your shallow friends.
Or maybe you do, but you convince them that there’s more to liking something than just the surface images, and if they just sit down and talk to (or play, I guess) it for a little while, it will win them over as well.
That was my experience with Ethnos.
Notre Dame – 10th Anniversary Edition (2017 – Alea/Ravensburger) – 1 Play
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Harald Lieske
This Stefan Feld classic came out in 2007, and the 10th Anniversary edition just came out this year. This edition includes some new character cards and also the expansion cards to the first edition.
I had never played the original, so this was totally new to me.
Like most Feld games, almost anything you do can get you victory points, but the trick is to maximize the efficiency of the VP flow so that everything goes together without any hitches or pauses.
There are multiple ways you can do that.
It has an interesting mechanic in that each players’ deck of cards has all nine action cards in them. And you will go through nine cards in each round (or turn; like many Feld games, there are turns with multiple rounds or rounds with multiple turns, and I can never keep the terminology straight).
The intriguing thing is that each turn (we’ll call each subset a turn), you deal yourself three cards from your deck. You then choose one and pass the other two to the player on your left. Next, you choose one of the two that were given to you by the player on your right and pass the remaining one to your left.
So you will get three cards to play on your turn, but you may get the same action twice. You will always see all of your cards in a round, but you will never be sure if you’re going to get somebody else’s version of a card that you gave away.
Plus, you can only use two of the three cards when you are actually taking your turn, so one of them will go to waste.
I really loved this game, and like most Feld games that I’ve played, I didn’t have much of a clue on how to efficiently score points. So much so, that I definitely want to try it again at least a couple of times to see if I can figure out what strategy works best for me.
And that’s a sign of a good game (at least for me).
So did you play anything new and good last month?
Let me know in the comments.
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