June was a slow month for new games, which I know is seriously disappointing to my fellow cult members.
Hey, we all have slow months! Besides, I was busy setting up the Cult of the New to Me fundraiser so wasn’t able to find the time for more.
We raised 50 cents!
Sure, that was when I searched my couch for lost change, but what can you do? It’s not my fault that I gave the print shop the wrong date for the flyers.
Anyway, even with only four games, it was quite the eclectic scattering of new games on my list this month. Sadly, it only had one real stand out, though the jury is still out on at least a couple more.
So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was stolen by a Dwarf who got pissed off at me for not getting his drink to him on time), let’s go!
Cavern Tavern (2016 – Final Frontier Games) – 1 play
Designers: Vojkan Krstevski, Ivana Krstevski, Maja Matovska, Toni Toshevski
Artists: Mihajlo Dimitrievski, Vojkan Krstevski
The life of a tavern server can be a tough one, especially in a typical fantasy realm with lots of impatient adventurers who just want a drink to calm their frazzled nerves!
And with a boss like the mean little dwarf named Nasty.
Cavern Tavern is a dice placement game that has some similarities to Kingsburg. Each player is a waiter in the tavern, tasked with making drinks for all of the thirsty patrons. You will be using your dice to cobble together the ingredients for these drinks, as well as doing other chores and kitchen duties.
Each player is given a character that has a special power that can be used twice in the game.
Each round, everyone will be placing dice on spots and getting the benefits.
You start the turn by rolling your dice (the player in last place gets an extra white die, which is kind of cool)
You can do four different actions on your turn.
1) Take an order from the Mess Hall (put it on your player board, put your meeple on the table where the order came from, and put your disc on the time track)
2) Place dice on a location
3) Complete an order
4) Play an item card
If it’s your first turn of the round and you don’t already have an open order, you must take an order.
The number at the top of the card is the points you get if you complete the order this round. The ingredients list is what you need to “spend” to complete that order.
What are the other bubbles?
This is the time track that counts the rounds in the game. When you take an order, you place your disc on the track for the turn you took it. Whenever you don’t complete an order in a round, you keep it and you have to try to fulfill it in upcoming rounds.
When you fulfill the order, you count the number of rounds from the time you took the order to completion, look at the appropriate box, and get that number of points instead (so if it took 2 turns, that’s +2 and you would get 6 points for the Dwarf’s Banquet).
Also, each round that you don’t complete the order, Nasty gets a little more pissed off. You move your counter down the Nasty track. If you hit a Nasty Says spot, you draw a Nasty Says card and it could be anything from “discard an item” to “make me a drink”.
Also on your turn, if you have any dice to place, you have to place at least one die on the board.
You can place a single die or multiple dice on a spot, as long as the total pips add up to the number on the space. So you have to use at least two dice to go to the “Roast the Meat” kitchen action (#9). But even the cellar, where you get ingredients, can use multiple dice if you have to (e.g. if you need a 6 but rolled two 3’s).
You get the ingredient or bonus action (or both) for that spot and any points that are shown on the space as well.
There’s a lot more, but I don’t want to drag on when this isn’t a review. Basically, you do ten turns of this dice placement, fulfill orders, get Nasty annoyed with you, etc until the game ends.
Each player has a goal given to them by Nasty and you will get the endgame points for that as well. There are a few other ways to get endgame points which I’m not going to get into.
I have to say, this was a fun game but if you just use the base game, there is a *lot* of luck involved and not much dice mitigation. Once you’ve advanced the Kitchen and Chore track enough, you can adjust some dice in order to use Kitchen/Chore actions, but that’s it. If you need some syrup for the order you’ve had the last three turns and you don’t roll dice that allows you to place them to get syrup, you’re hooped (though there are a couple of places where you can exchange ingredients or steal them).
Again, not many.
I haven’t played with the expansion, but reading the rules for it, it does sound a lot better.
This is a fun game that I would definitely like to try again (with the expansion).
Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis, 1860-61 (2018 – GMT Games) – 4 plays
Designer: Mark Herman
Artists: Knut Grünitz, Rodger B. MacGowan
(This will be just called Fort Sumter from now on, because I’m a lazy git).
This is an excellent card-driven game from esteemed wargame designer Mark Herman. Fort Sumter is about the crisis that led up to the American Civil War, the Secession Crisis where southern states one-by-one seceded from the Union as sides became entrenched due to states rights issues (namely slavery) and the limitations of federal power.
If you want the quick response, I loved this game.
If you want more detail, then see my review here.
Bärenpark (2017 – Lookout Games) – 1 play
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artist: Klemens Franz
I take to shape-placing Tetris-style games like a bear takes to driving a car: I don’t really fit, my paw can’t manage the gear shift, but I occasionally manage to move forward in fits and starts (and I get to roar at the people around me too).
In Bärenpark, you are trying to set up a park for bears (bears like to run and play just like we humans do!).
To do so, you start with an empty field with a bunch of symbols on it. You’ll also start with some tiles to place on the field.
Where you place the tiles and what you cover up will determine what area of the main tile board that you can take a new tile from (and you can take multiple tiles if you covered up multiple symbols)
Covering up a construction crew will get you a new empty field to attach to your park, in any configuration as long as nothing is below the front door to your park (seen at the bottom of the above-shown starting tile).
Players will take turns placing tiles on their fields, some of which will be bear-homes and some of which will be sidewalks or restrooms (for the visitors, of course, not for the bears who will crap wherever they want) or whatever.
You cannot cover the hole that’s on your field until every other square on that field is covered. When that happens, you take a statue (the hexagon tokens shown just beneath the tile board above) of the highest VP value left and place it on the open hole.
The game ends as soon as one player has completely filled their fields (and thus you can be sure that I will never end the game).
Like I said, I don’t mix well with spatial puzzles whatsoever. I’m not sure why Patchwork (at least in app form) works for me, but that’s the only one that does.
It’s not that I am unwilling to play them, but I know going in that I’m not going to do well and I take it for what it is.
Thus, while I can say that Bärenpark seems to be a fine specimen of a tile-placing game, it’s not something that I will be gravitating towards.
The artwork is cute, it even has koala bears (complete with an explanation for why they’re in a bear game that is wonderful to behold). It’s colourful and it looks great on the table.
But it’s not for me.
Gaia Project (2017 – Z-man Games) – 1 play
Designers: Jens Drögemüller, Helge Ostertag
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
On the extreme opposite complexity scale from Bärenpark is Gaia Project, the “sequel” (of sorts, but not really, but maybe kind of a bit) to Terra Mystica. It has a lot of the same concepts of TM but changes a few things around, streamlining some and adding some new things, and taking it out into space!
I’m not going to get into too much of a rules explanation like the other games above, because I’d probably still be writing this during the reign of King Louis of England. (We’ll see how many Americans get that joke)
Suffice to say that each player is a race of alien beings (except the Terrans, of course, who are only alien to those who aren’t Terran) (Editor – My Overblown Philosophy Meter just exploded).
Each player is going to be spreading their
filth hegemony throughout a galaxy that’s made up of a series of space tiles that have a bunch of planets on them.
Each race has a “home” colour of planet where they feel the most comfortable (kind of like Yankees fans). Colonizing those planets is easy and doesn’t take any extra resources.
However, each player board has a chart of planets that shows the increasing number of terraforming steps it takes to make that planet hospitable to your race. How much extra ore this terraforming costs depends on the level of your terraforming technology.
You can spend knowledge points (or when you earn tech tiles) to move up on six different technology tracks, and each of these will give you some bonus during the game or perhaps a one-time bonus. This will help you build your economic engine more efficiently.
You’ll first be placing Mines on planets that will give you ore income, but you can then upgrade them to Trading Stations (money income), then upgrade those to either your Planetary Institute (special bonus determined by what race you are playing) or Research Labs (Knowledge income). Then Research Labs can be upgraded to Academies which will either give you more Knowledge income or a special action to earn Q.I.C (Quantum Intelligence Cubes).
Don’t even get me started on the whole “gaia project” knowledge track and action that lets you terraform purple planets into green ones that you can then colonize (and hence gives the game its name).
Suffice it to say that there is a lot of stuff to do in this game, and the best path to victory will partially depend on which race you choose to play. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses and will give you an idea of what you need to do.
Variable end of turn and end of game scoring also helps make replayability a great thing. There are ten round scoring tiles of which you will only use six (and their order is randomized anyway) and six final scoring tile of which you will only use two.
When I talk about a brain-burning game, Terra Mystica and now Gaia Project are exactly what I’m talking about.
Not only are there so many options to choose from, but so many of them are bad for you depending on who you are. I have a horrible time focusing on engine-building games, especially when there are not only a wealth of choices, but many of them are actually not good for you (even if they’re fun to do, like eating two bowls of ice cream in one sitting).
I do like it better than Terra Mystica though, mainly for things like the technology track replacing the cult track and thus giving you a lot more variety, or how you can actually gain energy in this one, so burning it isn’t quite as punishing as it was in the first game.
I also like the components a lot more, and the fact that you don’t have a swarm of terrain tiles to show what a hex’s colour is. In TM, you can terraform a space without colonizing it, or you can just partially terraform it. Thus you have to put these terrain tiles on the hex to show what terrain type it currently is.
None of that in Gaia Project. If you can’t put a mine on it, then you can’t terraform it. Thus, the fact that your building is on there shows it’s the proper terrain.
I can definitely tell that it is a good game, but I’m not sure if it’s for me or not.
I’ve only played Gaia Project once and I think I’d need to play it one or two more times before I can really tell for sure.
I don’t think I will ever be good at it, though.
Maybe I should practice with the Terra Mystica app some more, to see if I can wrap my head around the concepts.
I will give you an update at some point.
So what games did you play that were new to you in June?
Let me know in the comments.
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