After the rather dead January for New to Me games, February really picked up. So much so that my last game session I had to try and play some previously-played games just so that I didn’t overload myself (this writing stuff is hard!). That resulted in a fun game of Terraforming Mars, so it was a win-win that day.
But you’re not here to hear me wax poetic about that brilliant game, are you?
(You aren’t, are you? If so, please tell me so I can start writing about it).
No, you’re here to see what new games that I played in February so you can all drown in your dark pool of jealousy.
So before I start writing in Middle English, let’s get started!
Clans of Caledonia (2017 – Karma Games) – 1 Play
Designer: Juma Al-Joujou
Artist: Klemens Franz
This is a game very much in the Terra Mystica vein. In this case, you are spreading out from the starting hexes, getting resources from your workers who are working the land and also from the production buildings you’ve built on neighbouring lands. You’re spreading the influence of your Scottish clan in order to get…wait for it…the most victory points! You can get these points by fulfilling contracts, linking your buildings together into concentric hexes, and a bunch of other ways.
I liked this more than Terra Mystica just because I felt like I was actually “getting” it much faster than that other game. I didn’t do well in my first game, but I didn’t feel like I had no idea what I was doing. My first two games of Terra Mystica, I was lost. (Subsequent plays on the app have helped that somewhat, but it’s still opaque)
Definitely a game I would like to try again.
Valletta (2017 – ZMan Games) – 1 Play
Designer: Stefan Dorra
Artist: Klemens Franz
This is a deck-building, resource-collection and city-building game that I had never heard of until I was asked if I wanted to play. I was surprised that there hadn’t been much of a buzz in my ear about it (there may have been a buzz out there in the real world, but I don’t know. I live a sheltered life).
As with most deck-builders, you start with a small deck of cards with characters who will be helping you build buildings in the city of Valletta. You’ll be collecting resources to help you build those buildings (the cost is on the top left of the building) and you will then get the associated card for that building. You’ll add it to your deck and then it will be available to help you in later turns.
You’ll be getting victory points for the buildings (even more if you pay to improve them) as well as points provided by certain cards that give you points every time you play them. Thus, the 25 point scoring track in the middle is kind of misleading. You’ll roll over at least twice if not three times when you do final scoring.
It was a fun little game. I enjoyed the thinky aspect of what buildings you’re trying to go for. It helps to have a bit of a concentration on building types, but even then you do need some variety as well.
Definitely on the “must play again” pile.
Mystic Vale (2016 – AEG Games) – 1 play
Designer: John D. Clair
Artists: Storn Cook, Andrew Gaia, Katherine Guevara, Heather Kreiter, Kiri Østergaard Leonard, Matt Paquette, Kiki Moch Rizky, Martin de Diego Sádaba
AEG is known for it’s “card-crafting” games where you start with cards but use add-on sleeves to increase the card’s power. I bounced hard off of Custom Heroes, mainly due to the time factor.
However, I really enjoyed my play of Mystic Vale.
I liked the card-crafting aspect of this game and how you are building your deck by buying new upgrades for your deck with the “mana” (I’m not sure what the term is in this game) your cards played produce. I also like the “push your luck” aspect of laying out your tableau for the turn.
You lay out cards until you get a third blight card. You then place that on top of your deck. On your turn, you can play that top card into your tableau, but if you draw another blight, your turn ends immediately.
The benefit of that, in addition to getting through your deck of course, is that the “extra mana” token that you get and can use to spend an additional point for buying upgrades gets reset when you fail a push. It may be good to push on a turn where you’re not getting much just so you can reset it.
You can also buy vales that either give you abilities each turn or points (or sometimes both), which is pretty cool too.
The artwork on the cards is gorgeous, and I really enjoyed my play.
Definitely another play is warranted!
DREIst! (2016 – Ravensburger) – 2 plays
Designer: Janet Kneisel
Artist: N/A (She draws a lot of great stuff)
This is a quick card game where you are trying to empty your deck before anybody else.
You can play cards of the same number in a column or the same colour in a row (in consecutive numbers, of course) and you can draw a card if you complete a group of three (e.g. 2-3-4 purple in a row or red-blue-yellow 2 in a column). Whoever gets rid of all cards in their deck first is the winner!
This game took 10-15 minutes per game, so we played two while we were waiting for another group to finish their game. It’s fun, it’s chaotic, and there is always lots of laughter when playing it.
There is one bit of “take that” in the game, when you play all of the cards in your hand (there are 5), you can place two cards from your deck into another player’s.
I really enjoyed this one. Will play it again any time.
Heaven & Ale (2017 – Eggertspiele) – 1 play
Designer: Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt
Artist: Christian Fiore
This is a game about monks and beer-making. What a great combination.
It’s the first game of this type I’ve played, where you choose your actions by going around the board, choosing anything you want to do. The only thing is that you can’t go backwards on the circle and you can’t choose something that somebody else has already done.
It’s a resource-management game where you’re trying to upgrade the production of various beer ingredients as well as the quality of your brewmaster. You do this by taking tiles from the board and placing them on your player board in a way that will eventually either get you money or get you the resource in question.
It’s an intricate puzzle as you need to increase things relatively evenly. If you don’t, at the end of the game you reduce your highest-produced ingredient in order to increase the production of your lowest. This happens until you meet in the middle, and then you get points based on the quality of your brewmaster and where your ingredients are.
It’s actually kind of an opaque scoring system that I didn’t understand that well until I experienced it once. But it’s actually really cool.
This is definitely a puzzle game and it’s quite thinky. You have to wrap your brain around it and not everyone can. I think I would need another play to see if I like it just as much or whether it was the freshness that I liked.
I didn’t do too badly, though. At least I didn’t have a negative score!
Metropolys (2008 – Ystari Games) – 1 play
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Artist: Mathieu Leyssenne
Finally! An old(er) game!
I found this really interesting and a nice, quick game where you have to think a little bit.
It’s a bit of an auction game, but it has a bit of a twist as you are auctioning where you are going to be placing your buildings. It’s not like somebody chooses a space and then everybody bids on that space.
Your bid moves so the initial bid will never be where you started it (unless nobody ups the bid). It’s a game of reading players and what they want, even more so than other auction games I think.
Can you manipulate them into moving the bid into an area you want?
I ended up winning because of fulfilling a lot of my goals, as both me and another opponent had spent all of our big buildings while the third player only had his 4 big buildings left. So he just placed his buildings on 4 different areas of the city (since we couldn’t outbid him) and ended the game that way. Even with him having all of that choice, I ended up winning by 3 points.
The board is really ugly, which is sad. Way too busy and hard to read at times.
I’d play this again, though it’s not something I’m dying to play again.
Lords of Xidit (2014 – Libellud) – 1 play
Designer: Régis Bonnessée
Artists: Xavier Gueniffey Durin and Stéphane Gantiez
(Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures)
Interesting programmed movement game set in the same universe as Seasons. You definitely have to keep an eye on what things may be like in the future of your turn when you’re programming your moves (but that’s standard, I guess).
You’re moving around the board, either recruiting things for your army or defeating threats (the cities on the board either have a threat looming or they are places you can recruit), but you do have to keep in mind that you are programming 6 moves ahead. Maybe that city’s resources or threat will be gone by the time you get there?
You never know.
I didn’t find this as satisfying as Colt Express (the other programmed game that I’ve played) but it’s not a game I would avoid either.
Sanssouci (2013 – Ravensburger) – 1 play
Designer: Michael Kiesling
Artist: Julien Delval
This game is literally a walk in the garden.
You are building a flower garden for the Sanssouci palace so that the nobles in attendance can have a really nice walk (because nobles like to do that, I guess).
This is a tile-laying game where you will be choosing a tile from the 8 available and placing it in your garden.
You do this with a deck of cards. On your turn, you will have two cards in your hand, that will say (for example) “a purple or blue tile” or “a fountain”.
Pieces have to go in a certain column based on where they are on the board and what type of tile it is. If none of the tiles match the cards in your hand, then you can choose any tile.
Once you place a tile, you will move one of the nobles on your board further along the path. They must end up in the same column they started in, but they can take any path that’s available to them. You then get points based on the row they end up in. They can go all the way to the bottom in one move if you have it set up right, but then you’ll never be able to move them again.
You may not want to do that.
I really enjoyed this tile-laying game, probably helped by the fact that I won my first play (though there should be an asterisk as I played the Gardener wrong…but nobody corrected me, so I guess that’s on them!).
It’s fun guiding your nobles on their sojourn around the garden. Stupid nobles always having to end up in the same column! That always makes it hard.
But I managed to keep my wild card until the end, so was able to do whatever I wanted on my last turn. Made it a lot easier.
This game is pretty easy to teach and quick to play, and I’d definitely like to play it again (correctly this time)
So what did you play last month that was new to you?
Let me know in the comments.
New games for me in February: I played a 2-player game of Here I Stand… and am now preparing for a full six-player game in April!
I’ve only played Valletta from your (many!) newly met games. Our group found it solid, but a bit uninventive. But great to hear you had a lot of fun with it!
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I really want to play Here I Stand! Almost bought it for $52 US from Coolstuff in their current sale, but I don’t think I would ever get it to the table.
Yeah, I can agree with the “uninventive” description of Valletta. It was what we were in the mood for, though. That was a day where I played 4 of these games, so it was a nice way to end. 🙂
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$52 is a pretty good price! I hear it plays very well with three people as well, so maybe that looks more doable for you. The two-player version was cool as well, but presents only one area of the game (Papacy vs. Protestants).
As for Valletta: Not every game can be groundbreaking (and well-known mechanics/themes make learning definitely easier). We were playing it at a game fair, though, so we were in the mood for exciting new things, which Valletta didn’t really feel like. But was still a pleasant experience.
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Oh, I know it’s a good price. I was so tempted. But I just can’t justify it to myself. It’s so much the number of players (though that can be an issue), it’s how long the game is as well.
Who knows? That may change. But I would like to play it before buying it anyway. That’s quite an investment for something like that.
I can see the thrill of Valletta not being there if you were gunning for new experiences at a game fair. For a pleasant game day, it was quite nice!
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