It’s December! And too many days into December for my New to Me Games post for November, so my apologies.
I do have a good reason, though.
The Cult of the New to Me was having a fundraiser, but unfortunately it didn’t go well.
We did manage to raise $10 for the Board Games for Terminally Ill Alpacas fund.
I’m not sure why more people didn’t give. In fact, that $10 is mine. For some reason, people just gave me odd looks before averting their eyes and hurrying by.
But we shall persevere! These poor things shall not want while I’m around.
It did cause me to take time away from writing this post, though.
November didn’t look like it was going to be a busy month, but it steamrolled near the end to a massive seven new games. And most of them were good!
So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was taken by some scumbag architect who sold it at the Black Market for a piece of marble and a piece of wood), let’s get started!
Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
This is the standout of the month.
In Architects of the West Kingdom (Editor – Why do you keep typing that as “archictects?”), players are architects vying to impress the King (this takes place around 850 AD in Western Europe) with their building prowess. Part of that prowess can be just building buildings, while a large chunk of it may be contributing to the construction of the grand cathedral in the city (what’s that old saying about “too many cooks…?”).
You can lead a virtuous path or you can get down and dirty and deal with the thugs and lowlifes to get building materials and blueprints cheaper and easier than your colleagues.
You will be gathering resources, hiring apprentices, and building the building cards that are in your hand that will give you points at the end of the game, as well as potentially rewards during the game.
Each player starts with a character card. You can play the basic game where everybody starts the same way and money is distributed based on who is first player.
Or you can play the variable character setup, where you may start with some resources, some workers in prison, a certain amount of virtue, etc.
It has a rather unique worker placement mechanism that I really like.
Each player starts with 20 workers. On your turn, you will play one of them somewhere (shocking, I know!).
The resource spaces will give you some of that resource, the number determined by how many workers you have there. So the first time, you will get one of that resource (or two, if it’s the clay mines or the Silversmith which give you one plus the number of workers you have there). The second time, you will get two of that resource (or three for the Silversmith and clay mines).
Other spaces allow you to take an action, and the number of actions you can take there is determined by how many workers you have already placed there.
One of the main mechanisms in the game, and a good way to get money (along with preventing somebody from getting tons of a resource), is to capture other players’ workers at the Town Center. You place them on the top left corner of your character sheet in that box.
You can then go to the Guardhouse and turn them in for silver. What a deal! You’re cleaning up the town *and* making money.
If you need to return your workers from the Guardhouse, you can do that too by placing a worker there (he’s the guy who has the bribe for the guards…or who has the letter from the King stating that they really did nothing wrong).
Another important aspect of the game is hiring Apprentices.
Each apprentice will give you a benefit in one of the areas, either in resource production, another action at the King’s Storehouse, or perhaps giving you a gold when you sell your prisoners to the Guardhouse (sorry, turn them in for the reward).
In addition, each one has one or more of three symbols in the top left corner of the card. This becomes important when you’re constructing the buildings in your hand (more on that in a moment)
The main source of points in Architects of the West Kingdom is your building cards and building in the cathedral. No matter which you want to do, you have to place one of your workers in the Guildhall. The worker you place there will never come back (I guess the parties are just that good in the Guildhall…who would ever want to leave?)
Building part of the cathedral requires the discarding of a building card and the resource matching the level you’re moving to. So moving to the first level will cost a gold and a card. The number in the yellow flag is the number of victory points you’ll receive at the end of the game, depending on what level your marker is at.
The other option in the Guildhall is building one of your buildings.
The resources required to build them are on the left side of the card. What’s the symbol on the top left of the Monument? Those are the symbols that are on the top left of the Apprentice cards. You have to have an apprentice with each symbol or you can’t build the building.
I don’t want this to go on too long (Editor – Too late!), but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Black Market and the Virtue track.
The Black Market is the shady part of the city where you can get resources or hire new apprentices for cheap. However, no virtuous soul would ever be seen going there, so taking a spot there results in a loss of virtue.
For one silver and a loss of virtue, you can get the resources on the left. For two silver and virtue loss, you can hire any apprentice or get a new building blueprint (draw five building cards and keep one). For three silver and a virtue loss, you can get the resources on the right (a lot more!).
Once all three spaces are full (only a single worker can go in each space), the market resets. All three workers go to the prison and new resources are available, as well as potential virtue loss and accumulation of debt. Also, any apprentices with Black Market reset actions take effect too.
Virtue is an interesting part of the game. If you are extremely virtuous, then you can’t go to the Black Market but you will get a decent amount of victory points at the end of the game.
If you go shady and lose virtue, then eventually you can’t build into the Cathedral and if you’re still there at the end of the game, you will lose points.
On the other hand, while you live the shady life, you end up not having to pay some of the taxes! Any time a silver cost for an action is shown in red rather than grey, that cost is a tax that will go to the Tax Stand rather than to the bank (you can also lose virtue by going to the Tax Stand and stealing all the money! Which can be quite lucrative).
If you’re not virtuous, you’re certainly not going to pay taxes. So you may get a one or two silver discount by not having to pay the tax cost of an action.
There is a lot more, but them’s the basics. (Editor – your mastery of slang is very impressive).
The game end is triggered when the Guildhall is full. Once somebody places the last worker there, everybody (including the player who triggered it) gets one more action. Even though the Guildhall is full, your action can be to build something or in the Cathedral.
Total up your victory points and whoever has the most wins!
I love love love this game! If I can get it to the table one more time, I’m going to do a review of it. Shem Phillips has hit another one out of the park, and this is much better than Raiders of the North Sea (a game I also love). I’m not sure how much of the design was Phillips and how much was MacDonald, but whatever it is, the team-up is a brilliant one.
There are many avenues to victory, which can make reading BoardgameGeek fun. Competing threads titled something like “Is the Cathedral over-powered” and “Is the Cathedral a waste of time?” really make me laugh.
Anyway, full review hopefully coming, so I’m not going to give too much more nuanced opinion (Editor – Because you do nuance so well), but I’ll just say that I love it and highly recommend it.
It desperately needs a pad of scoresheets, however.
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Artist: Chris Quilliams
Reef is an interesting-looking filler by the designer of Century: Spice Road. It has lots of little plastic pieces that are quite colourful and will probably attract a lot of attention if you’re playing it out in public.
In the game, you are trying trying to get pieces of plastic “coral” to add to your player board in order to get victory points.
How do you get the points?
By satisfying the conditions on your cards.
There will be three cards laid out on the table, plus the top card of the deck is exposed as well. You will also have a hand of cards too.
On your turn, you can do one action. You can take one of the three cards available or pay one victory point chip (placed on the lowest-numbered card in the market) to take the top card of the deck.
Instead of taking a card, you can play a card from your hand. When you do, you take the number of plastic reef pieces shown on the top of the card and place them on your board. You can place a piece on top of another piece and they don’t even have to be the same colour.
Then you look at the bottom of the card and score the indicated number of points depending on how many times you have that iteration on your board (a given piece can only be used to score a card once). You do this by looking at your board from above, so you’ll only be paying attention to the pieces on the top of any stack.
Some cards will ask that you have (for example) two purple pieces next to each other on the 2nd level. That means to score, you must have two columns exactly two pieces high and that a purple piece must be on top of both of them. A stack with 3 pieces where the 2nd is purple doesn’t count.
Play continues like that around the table until there are no pieces left of any one colour. Play continues to the end of the round (back to the first player). Or, very rarely, the game ends immediately when the deck of cards runs out.
After all of that, each player with cards in their hands can score those cards. However, they can only score them once, no matter how many times the pattern appears in their reef.
Whoever has the most victory points is the winner!
Reef is a very simple game, yet it does have some interesting decisions. The trick behind the game is that the cards you play won’t give you the coral to score the points that are actually on that card. For instance, if the card gives you red and yellow coral pieces, the points scored on the card are guaranteed to be only from purple or green coral.
Thus, you have to build up some combos that you are ready to score. But you can’t take too long, because other players are doing the same thing.
There is no player interaction in the game whatsoever, other than “hey, you took my card!” (Editor – Something Dave shouts a lot at game days).
The plastic pieces do kind of remind me of Fisher Price toys when I was a kid, but they do give a nice tactile feel to the game.
It’s definitely a game I would like to play again. It’s a perfect lunch-time game at 30 minutes or so.
Designers: Jun Sasaki, Goro Sasaki
Deep Sea Adventure is a press your luck game that would be better titled “Everybody Dies.” Or maybe “Gasping for Oxygen.” Or maybe “We Really Need Individual Breathing Apparatus Instead of a Group One” (ok, that last one might be too long and not marketable).
All of the players are on a submarine and doing deep sea dives for treasure. But as human nature goes, sometimes your eyes are too big for what’s really good for you.
All players start in the sub and the possible treasures are strung out below the sub. It could be in a straight line, but that doesn’t look as cool, so winding it around like in the picture is a much better bet.
On your turn, you decide if you are descending or ascending, and then roll the two dice. There are only 1,2, or 3 pips on each dice (two sides each of all three numbers), so the highest you can roll is a six. That is the number of spaces (treasure chips) that you will move in the chosen direction.
When you land on a chip, you decide whether you want to take it as a treasure or not. The chips go in descending order of value. The chips with one dot have a value of 0-3, chips with two dots 4-7, etc all the way down to four dots.
If you take a treasure, you replace it with an “X” tile and keep it hidden in front of you (you can look at it). However, that starts the air clock.
Whenever it’s your turn, the collective air tank goes down by the number of treasures you have (not the value, the number). Also, when you roll the dice, you subtract the number of treasures you have from the number you rolled. It’s very possible you won’t be able to move at all if you’ve
stolen claimed too much.
There are only 25 spaces on the Oxygen tank, and everybody uses it. At some point, you’re going to need to ascend back to the submarine. If the air reaches zero and you haven’t reached the ship yet, you die and all of your collected treasures sink to the bottom of the ocean (i.e. the end of the string).
This goes for three rounds. At the end, whoever has the highest total treasure value is the winner!
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. You will die a lot in this game. I won the game with 11 points (all gathered in the last round) and one of the other players scored no points.
That being said, it’s a quick game that causes a lot of laughs. We were chuckling a lot as we watched the air slowly fade away (what else can you do when you realize that you’ll never make it back to the ship, other than laugh?). Or when somebody had two treasures and was so close to getting back to the ship, but kept rolling a two and thus was unable to move.
No deep decisions in this game, but what there is of the game is fun. (Editor – Oooo, I see what you did there)
Deep Sea Adventure is not a game that I would seek out or suggest, but if somebody brings it and wants to play, I’m more than happy to.
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artist: Atha Kanaani
Archaeology – the New Expedition is a revamp of the old Archaeology card game from 2007. It’s a set collection game where you are collecting treasures and selling them to a museum (i.e. placing them in front of you).
Each game, you will choose one of the monuments that might contain a hoard of buried treasure! Fifteen treasure cards are placed next to the monument chosen, based on the monument instructions.
The treasures are a deck of cards with trinkets and other valuable items in it, as well as maps, thieves, and sandstorm cards.
There will always be a marketplace of cards laid out on the table for people to exchange goods for.
The number in the circles at the top of the card is the trade value (more on that in a bit).
On your turn, you will start by digging for treasure (i.e. drawing a card from the stack).
If the card is a treasure, you keep it in your hand. If it’s a thief, reveal/discard it and take a random card from somebody else’s hand. If it’s a sandstorm, reveal and discard it and players might have a decision to make.
Everyone is given one Tent card at the beginning of the game. You can choose to discard your Tent to avoid a sandstorm.
But you can only do so once.
After that, or if you choose not to use it, you will have to discard half of the cards in your hand (rounded down) to the marketplace. The player who drew the sandstorm then digs for treasure again.
After digging, you can do three actions (two of them as often as you wish).
Once the Treasure deck is empty, players take turns doing the actions (without digging for treasure) until everybody passes. Then players “sell to the museum” in player order until everybody is done.
Calculate your total points sold to the museum, and whoever has the most is the winner!
Archaeology – the New Expedition was actually a very fun card game. It takes about 30 minutes and is easy to explain. The set collection aspect is simple, with only the Monument searching being maybe a little fiddly depending on which one you are using.
It’s a perfect lunch time game, and I would definitely like to play it again.
Designer: Andreas Steding
Artists: Andreas Resch, Noah Adelman
Gùgōng is a really interesting game that has a lot of variety. Maybe it helps my opinion that I actually won my first game (Editor – Nobody was more astonished than Dave). In 1570 China, things were in disarray. Corruption was rampant. Mongols were invading constantly, which meant that the Great Wall needed to be strengthened and fortified. Heavy bureaucracy created massive corruption, and attempts to thwart this corruption ended up not working.
This is because those officials in charge got around the rules while still seeming to enforce them. Instead of accepting bribes, they exchanged gifts with people who wanted them to do something. If you exchanged a higher-value gift than what they gave you, then they might do what you wanted them to.
Gùgōng makes use of this mechanism by giving players gift cards with different values that they must exchange to do an action.
For example, in the picture above, the bottom section of the board has a “5” gift card there already. To take that action, you would have to play a higher-value gift card (up to “9”, which is the highest card). You can play a lower one, but you have to spend two of your available servants in order to do so. In other words, you’re not giving them as valuable of a gift, but you’re having two of your servants do something for them as well.
Each player is given a player board where they can keep their available servants, the gift cards they’ve exchanged for, and other things.
When you play a gift card, you first take the action that’s on the card itself (if there is one). It will often be the action of a different space than where you played the card, but not always.
When you take an action, you can do either a basic action or you may be able to spend additional servants to do more stuff. For example, in the Palace of Heavenly Purity shown above, when you take the action you can move your envoy up one space, making him closer to getting an audience with the emperor.
Or, you could spend two servants to do that *and* advance on the Intrigue track.
Once you’ve done the action on the card (if any), you then do the action of the space where you placed the card, following the same rules.
There are a number of actions on the board, most of which I’m not going to detail here.
You can travel, sending your traveller around China to collect taxes for the Emperor. This could just be points, it could be jade, it could or it could be more servants, or many other options.
You can participate in the renovation of sections of the Great Wall, which can definitely score you points and also help your envoy move up toward the Emperor.
You can collect Jade, which will give you end game points depending on how much Jade you have.
Maybe you want to participate in palace intrigue? You can give a gift to the Shady Official (really, that’s his title!) to move up on the Intrigue Track. This will allow you to do certain things when the Great Wall scores, and is also the tie-breaker any time there’s a tie for something.
I’ve already mentioned the Temple, but you can also exchange gifts with the Decree Official who will (depending on how many workers you
sacrifice spend, will either give you benefits during the game or end game scoring points).
Finally, you can sail the Grand Canal, which can give you bonuses or points, including a double servant that counts as two servants in every way except when you “gain” a servant. Gaining “a” servant actually lets you bring the double servant back into your available pile.
There are four days in the game, each one divided into three phases. The Morning phase lets you use any Morning Phase decree abilities, as well as determine first player, refill the Travel tiles, roll the Destiny Dice (not going to detail that part, but that name certainly sounds like it’s out of the The Princess Bride) and receive your new servants.
The Day Phase is where you exchange your gifts and do your actions.
The Night Phase has you checking your received gift cards against the Destiny Dice to see if you get points and move your Palace Envoy upward. Then all of the ships on the Grand Canal move forward one space.
At the end of the 4th day, you total up all of the juicy end game victory points, and then
declare me determine the winner!
First, I have to say the art in this game is gorgeous, and the symbology is actually fairly straightforward once you get it. It looks very busy when you don’t know what any of the symbols mean, but once you’re familiar, it’s very easy to see. The gift cards are a luxurious red, and pieces are thick cardboard with the servants being nicely solid wood.
And I’m not sure if these are only in the Kickstarter version or not, but look at the first player markers!
Gùgōng is another game that has multiple avenues to victory. There are so many interesting choices. Do I travel a lot? Do I concentrate on the Great Wall? What about all of that Jade? If I get five pieces of Jade at the end of the game, that’s 15 points!
Yet I won my first game (Editor – I could have sworn you’d mentioned that already) with only one Jade. The end game decrees can be powerful and shouldn’t be ignored, and you have to advance on the Palace track. Not only do you get more points for being the first one to reach the top than the last one, but if you don’t reach the top at all, you can’t win. You are actually disallowed from winning, I guess because the Emperor took no notice of you (which is kind of the point of the game). That being said, if you don’t get any points from the Temple, I don’t see how you could win anyway, so it’s kind of moot.
This was a fascinating game, and one that I would love to play again.
Designers: Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen
Artist: Jacob Walker
After playing and reviewing a more recent game from Granerud and Pedersen (Iron Curtain), I had heard a great deal about their earlier game on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eventually, I had to give it a try.
13 Days is a game of influence placement and area control about the Cuban Missile Crisis, with players representing the Soviet Union and the United States.
The game has a board that represents “battlegrounds” during the crisis. It also contains the Defcon track that has three separate lines: Military (Orange), Political (Green), and World Opinion (Purple). Each Defcon track colour corresponds to three Battlegrounds on the board. The Prestige track at the top starts at 0 and swings either +5 to the US side or +5 to the Soviet side.
There are three rounds in the game. At the beginning of the round, players will draw three Agenda cards and place one of their three flags on each Battleground or Defcon track on the cards they draw. Then they’ll secretly choose one and put the other two back in the deck. This is what you’ll be scoring at the end of the round.
The flags give your opponent an idea of what you may be going for, but they don’t know which one you actually chose.
Then each player will be dealt five Strategy Cards.
Then each player, in turn order (the player trailing in Prestige chooses who goes first, with the Soviets choosing if it’s a tie), will play a card. If the Event on the card is yours, you can choose to either Command influence cubes (up to the number of cubes shown on the card) into one of the Battlegrounds on the map or you can execute the Event.
If it’s your opponent’s Event, then first hand it to them to choose whether or not they want to execute it and then you can Command the cubes. The Events are more powerful but more focused as well. UN Events, either side can use when they play them.
When you “Command” cubes, you place or remove (but not both) your cubes in a Battleground. Commanding one cube isn’t an issue. However, if you do more than one, you may have Defcon issues.
Those of a certain age will be familiar with what “Defcon” means, basically the alert level of the opposing forces to essentially cause World War III. If the US (I’m not sure if the Soviets had a version of Defcon, or even used the same term, but maybe Clio could fill us in?) went to Defcon 1, then you knew war was imminent (as was basically the end of the world).
In 13 Days, if you command more than one cube into a Battleground, then your Defcon level in that area (Political/Military/World Opinion) will go up by the same number of extra cubes. Alternatively, if you command them out of the Battleground, then your Defcon goes down.
After four cards have been played, the fifth card is put into the “Aftermath” area and will count towards possible prestige at the end of the game.
Both players reveal their Agenda cards and resolve them, moving the marker on the Prestige track as required. If a Defcon Agenda is revealed, the first step before resolving the prestige gain is to increase any Defcon marker of that area in the Level 2 band by one.
Then the fun starts. After the Prestige track is set, you take a look at the Defcon track. If anybody has a Defcon marker in Defcon 1, they trigger nuclear war and lose the game. If that doesn’t happen, then check Defcon 2. If all of one player’s markers are in Defcon 2, the same thing happens. If both players trigger nuclear war, then no one wins.
Assuming the world is still standing at the end of the round, repeat this until you’ve reached the end of Round 3. Then you resolve the Aftermath cards (I have to leave something for the review!). Whoever’s side of the Prestige track the marker is on is the winner!
I loved Iron Curtain, so I thought I would probably enjoy this. After playing this once online via VASSAL (which is a bit clunky considering the opponent’s event cards) and once on the table, I have to say I love this even more. We’ll see how subsequent plays go, but I’d have to say right now that this is a wonderful, and relatively short so it’s playable at lunch, 2-player game.
I really want to play this again.
Designers: Brett Sobol, Seth Van Orden
Artists: Jacqui Davis, Ian O’Toole
Holy crap, is that an Ian O’Toole sighting? Who would have thunk it?
Anyway, Crosstalk is a word-guessing game (oh my god, did I just play a party game?) that consists of two teams trying to figure out a word, object, or phrase. And there are a lot of them, as there are tons of cards (Editor – really! he counted, and there were tons) all with six possibilities on them.
I’m not sure there’s a word in the English language that isn’t there somewhere.
Each team will have a clue-giver and the rest of the team is trying to figure out the right answer. Clues can only be one word, and they can’t be words that are part of the answer.
There are a couple of twists, though.
First, you’ll be giving your team a secret clue. The other team won’t see this at all.
Then, you are the clue-giver for the other team. You will write your clue on the clue board and the other team will try to guess the answer.
So you don’t want to be too on the nose, but maybe you want to link it to your secret clue for your teammates? Or you can try to mislead your opponents with a bad clue (like “bakery” and “rocket” above).
Then you can give your team a hint.
For example, you could cross out the Black #1 & #2 to tell your team “ignore those two clues.” Or you could draw a combination line to link two of your clues. Or whatever you want to do.
But you can only do this once. So make sure it counts.
We only got a few rounds in (the winning team has guessed 5 answers correctly), but this is a party game that you could easily play just for fun without keeping score.
And you can literally play this forever and not use the same answers.
It was a lot of fun, and I’d definitely play it again.
So what new games did you play in November? Let me know in the comments.