Damn, I hate colds. Colds that work their way into your head and then just sit there, clogging up your sinuses until your head feels bigger than when you get a compliment from somebody you really admire.
But not in a good way.
The cold I’m currently suffering from almost made this post late, but thankfully I do most of these as I play the games, so there wasn’t as much to do this time around.
Conventions always make them a bit harder too, because I tend to get a lot of new games played at them.
So it’s a catch-22, as I get the joy of playing and discovering new games.
But then I have to write about them.
Not that I’m complaining! I love sharing these experiences with you.
Almost as much as I love my fellow Cult of the New to Me members, who have all taken pity on me because I’ve been sick.
In other words, there haven’t been any rebellions.
Instead, they’ve been bringing me hot toddies.
My food taster has had his fill of bourbon by this point.
So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was sold by my underling to somebody in Birmingham anyway), let’s get started!
Designers: Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, Martin Wallace
Artists: Lina Cossette, David Forest, Damien Mammoliti
When the new edition of the classic economic game Brass was announced to be coming on Kickstarter, the fact that there would be a “sequel” of sorts also available made a lot of mouths water at the prospect. The fact that it involved beer made a lot of beer-aficionados start salivating as well.
Brass: Birmingham is a game about entrepreneurs during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, from 1770 – 1870. Much like its predecessor, it starts in the “Canal” phase and then moves on to the “Railroad” phase.
Gameplay is much too complicated to provide a more detailed explanation of what you do, but I’ll summarize.
Players start with a player board that contains their available industries. These industries can be resource-based (coal, iron, and the ever-important beer) or could be goods (cotton, manufactured goods, or pottery). Each industry also has a level, which will be important for scoring.
The gorgeous map (there’s a “day” side and a “night” side, but there is no gameplay difference. It’s just what looks cooler) depicts Central England during that time. Each city can have only certain industries built there, as depicted by the boxes.
Gameplay is done through cards that will allow you to either build something in the city on the card or build the industry depicted in a city that is in your network.
What is your network?
At the beginning of the game, you can place an industry, or a Canal (remember, we start in the Canal phase), anywhere on the map.
Subsequently, you either must build in a city that you have a card for or a city that you can trace a path of controlled cities/links to.
You can build links (canals in the first era or rail lines in the second) between your cities, which will get you points at the end of each era as well as forming your network during the game.
Some industries require either coal or iron to be built. If there is a source of coal that you are connected to, then you must take it from there (say, if you built a Coal Mine that still has coal on it). For iron, if there is any iron on the map you will take it from there first even without a connection, as if by magic.
If there isn’t any on the board, then there’s always the Market. Again, Iron is magic so you can just buy iron from the market for the price that’s on the left side (moving upwards from the bottom).
For coal, however, you have to have a connection to a city on the border of the map (like the one above next to Derby). If you can’t trace a path (and it doesn’t have to be connected only with your connections) to one of those cities, then you can’t build something that requires coal.
What does this all do for you?
If you build a resource industry, a certain number of resources will be placed on the counter when you place it. However, those cubes will fill extra spaces in the market first (for coal, that’s assuming you have a connection as mentioned above). Any cubes left will remain there until they are used.
If the resources are gone, then the counter flips. This will cause your income to increase and will later get you points. Flipping counters is essentially what you are trying to do.
Goods industries, you are trying to ship that good to market.
If you have a path to a market, you can play a card (any card will do) and ship that good to the market. However, there are a couple of caveats.
First, the market must be wanting that good.
Secondly, you must have beer. No, not to drink, but to “grease the wheels of industry”. All market spaces will have a beer counter there which you can use if you are the first one to ship there (this consumes the beer). Using this beer will also get you a bonus.
However, if there is no longer a beer token there, or if you want to use up the beer on your breweries (remember, that will get you points too!), you can use a beer from any brewery you have on the board (beer is also magical, as any true beer-lover can tell you).
You can also use somebody else’s beer, but their beer isn’t magical so you have to have a connection to it.
This will cause the goods tile to flip, giving you income and points at the end of the era. Your brewery may flip too, in which case bonus! You get that income increase and points as well.
As mentioned, Brass: Birmingham is played in two eras: Canal and Rail. Once all of the cards run out (including in your hand) in the Canal era, you total up all the points of flipped industries. Then, all Level 1 industries (except Pottery) are discarded, as well as all canals.
Yes, you must start building all of your links again in the Rail Era.
When the cards run out in the Rail Era, you total up all points again (so if you built a Level 2 industry in the Canal Era, it will score twice!).
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
I really do like this game, even as it makes my head hurt. I’m not very good at the original Brass and I wasn’t very good at this one either.
However, it is definitely fun.
Money is tight (it is Martin Wallace, remember). You will find yourself taking loans (it is Martin Wallace, remember) which thankfully don’t have as huge of an impact on you as they do in some other Wallace games.
The effect they do have on you, though, is to reduce your income by three areas.
Yes, areas, not spaces.
If you look back up to the iron/coal market picture above, you’ll see the score/income track on the right side of the board.
Each area is divided into three spaces, and it shows a coin for each area. That is your income each turn.
Your income goes up by spaces.
Your income goes down by areas.
Still, even with all of that, it’s a great game. I really enjoyed my play of it, probably better than the original. The changes made to the original for this one are pretty much all beneficial. The idea of requiring beer for shipping rather than having a port is really interesting. The idea that you have more than one good (Cotton is the only good in the original) meaning that not every market wants what you’re selling is quite good as well.
I’d like to play it a few more times to really “get” it (Editor – yeah, like that will help) but I really enjoyed my first one.
Even though we got many rules wrong.
Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Artists: Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas, Beth Sobel
Part of me really wishes I would have waited just a couple days more to get my games played ranked for my Best Games Played Ever posts.
If I had, Wingspan would probably have been in the Top 25 somewhere.
Damn, is it good.
Wingspan is a tableau-building card game where you are going to be trying to place and raise birds in your personal aviary in the best way to score you the most points. Each player will get their empty aviary, some bird cards, and some food.
You’re dealt 5 cards and have one of each of the five types of food. You must then choose 5 in total to keep (3 cards and 2 food, 3 food and 2 cards, etc). You’ll need the food to place the bird in your aviary, as each one requires the food that’s listed in the top left corner of the card.
In each of the four rounds, you have a certain number of turns/actions (beginning with 8, but you only have 5 in the last round). On your turn, you can do one of four actions:
The dice there will show you what’s available. There are options to re-roll depending on how much food is left.
At the end of each round, players will rank themselves on the end-of-round bonus card, placing an action marker there (and thus losing an action for the next round).
This continues for four rounds, and at the end you’ll have an aviary that looks something like this.
Then you’ll also look at your end-game goal card (which you chose at the beginning from two you were dealt, and you may gain more during the game). You’ll also get one point per egg that’s left on your birds.
Whoever has the most points wins!
First, the art and production design on Wingspan is goooooorgeous! You can see from the pictures above how wonderful the cards look. Each card has a unique bird on it, which just adds to the whole thing (they may not have unique powers/abilities, but they are unique birds).
Everything looks and feels great.
The gameplay is also amazing (as long as you don’t mind tableau-building card games). The rules are easy to pick up and the teach is fairly quick. This is one of the rare first games where I don’t think we got anything wrong. And our teacher had just learned it a couple hours beforehand!
I definitely need to play this one again. I have a feeling it will be on my Top 10 Games Played in 2019 post next January. It’s just that good.
(Editor – Dave isn’t telling you that he won his first game, which may be why it’s so high)
I couldn’t possibly comment.
Dark Dealings (2016 – Nevermore Games) – 1 play
Designer: Michael D. Kelley
Artist: Rob Lundy
When the Kickstarter for the expansion to Dark Dealings went live, it looked like a cool, short card game that would be pretty interesting, so I backed it.
A year after it was originally supposed to come out, it finally arrived at the end of December.
While I haven’t played the expansion yet, I did get a game of the original one done and it’s a pretty fun game that fits into a very short time span.
Dark Dealings is somewhat of a card drafting game, but only for one step.
Players are evil overlords who are trying to fight off the heroes who want to come in and foil all of their plans.
All players are dealt nine hero cards. This phase is where you decide what heroes you’re going to want to face in the Combat phase.
You will take two of the cards and then pass the rest to the next player.
You’ll continue this way, taking two heroes and passing, until you have three left. You’ll then choose two and discard the last one. You should end up with eight heroes.
Then, the first player will deal out Defense cards equal to twice the number of players.
Each player will choose two of the Heroes in their hand and place them face-down. Once everybody has done so, you’ll start choosing defenses. The choice order goes by the Challenge Level of the Hero (that big number in the purple circle). The player who chose a hero with the highest Challenge Level goes first, then down to the lowest.
As they are used, Heroes are placed face down in a pile.
Repeat this process for all eight heroes, making sure that you keep your Heroes in order (Heroes chosen in subsequent rounds are placed on top of those who were chosen in earlier rounds).
You will end with eight Defense cards.
Finally, the Combat phase comes around.
In player order, flip the top card of the Hero deck you created over and then choose what Defense card(s) you will use to defeat it. Each Hero has Defense symbols on it to show what they are vulnerable to. If a symbol is not there, then that kind of Defense card cannot damage the Hero.
You’ll either rotate or discard the Defense card as it’s used (each card can only be used once per Hero, even if it has more than one charge on it).
To kill the Hero, you have to do damage equal to or greater than the number in the Shield on the card (Thieves are fun because you have to hit that number exactly).
You can also let the Hero rampage through your defenses and not kill it. This doesn’t do anything to you (usually), but that Hero will then be discarded rather than put in your victory pile.
Play goes around like this until all players have either fought or let pass all the Heroes in their deck.
Whoever killed the most Heroes wins! The tie-breaker for this is whoever has the most defense cards remaining in front of them.
This game is short and sweet once players grasp how the game works. Deal and draft Heroes, draft Defense cards, defeat Heroes, win!
The artwork is very cute (making you forget that you are essentially trying to slaughter all the heroes) and the card play is simple yet kind of elegant.
While you are at the mercy of how the Defense cards come out and you are choosing Heroes before you know what may be available, that is mitigated somewhat by the Challenge value of the Heroes you choose. The higher the value, the sooner you choose before anybody else does.
It’s kind of a push-pull type of thing.
It’s a nice filler to play while you’re waiting for others to show up.
I liked it.
Designer: Anthony Burch
Artists: Adam P. McIver, Weberson Santiago
I had heard a little bit about this game earlier last year, but it never really registered with me.
But I was between games at CascadeCon, waiting for friends to finish up, and was asked if I was interested so I thought I would give it a try.
Each player takes a team (the only difference is colour; there are no special abilities).
They also take six “Click” cards and a “Bang” card.
Each round has 6 phases.
First is the “Pocket” phase, where you choose one card to put under your team marker. This can either be a Bang or a Click card. If it’s a Bang card, then that means you won’t actually be shot in a round. But putting it there can have major consequences.
In the “Spin” phase, you’ll shuffle your remaining cards. As the rules state, proper etiquette is to not keep track of where your Bang card is. If you’re going to cheat (at least that way), why are you playing a push your luck game?
The “Bidding” phase has you bid for points. How many turns of a card from your deck will you survive without pulling your Bang card?
What if you pocketed your Bang card in the first phase, though? Shouldn’t you just bid 6 (the maximum)?
That’s where we come to the fourth phase, the “Challenge.”
If somebody suspects that you pocketed your Bang card, they can challenge you to reveal your pocketed card.
If it’s your Bang card, you’ve been caught cheating. The judge shoots and kills the cheating player (turns over one of their team cards, or their captain card if all of the other players are already dead). The accuser gets to draw three Action cards.
If you had pocketed a Click card, then you are innocent! You get to draw an Action card and the accuser has to pick up their gun deck, shuffle *another* Bang card into it, and then reset.
The “Trigger” phase has each player, at the same time, turn over the top card of their deck. If it’s a Click, then you survived. If it’s a Bang, then one of your characters is dead and you are out of the round. You do this until you reach the number that you bid. If you are killed and had any extra Bang cards in your deck from false accusations, you can remove them now. He paid for his sins.
In the “Point” phase, each surviving player gets the number of points they bid plus one point for surviving.
As soon as somebody hits 15 points, they win (if two or more players do it simultaneously and are tied at the end of the round, then they all play another round).
Action cards can be played in whatever phase they say on them. The above card would be played in the Point phase, and could cost somebody a character and a lot of points!
While this was an enjoyable filler game, it’s not something that I would bring out often. The theme is in questionable taste, of course, so your mileage may vary on that.
But taken as a pure push your luck game, there are some interesting little quirks about the game that make it worth at least one play.
I don’t regret playing it at all.
Designer: Seth Jaffee
Artist: Adam P. McIver
Wow, two games in a row with artwork by McIver. I swear I’m not stalking you, Adam!
Anyway, Crusaders (I’m shortening it, sue me) is an interesting action-selection game where you are using a mancala mechanic to seed your actions.
You start with a player board with a rondel on the left side and your buildings and troops on the right. The rondel will have action tokens distributed on it, normally two per wedge.
However, each player will also pick two factions randomly and choose which one they want to be. Part of that faction’s setup may be adjusting your action tokens. Each faction will also have a special ability. Montesa gets an extra knight to start with and always has +1 strength to the Travel action.
The board is a map of Europe and the Mediterranean divided into hexes. “Enemy” discs are randomly distributed as shown (Saracens = brown; Prussians = blue; Slavs = Gold)
On your turn, you will pick up the action point markers from one of your tiles. The action (or actions if you’ve upgraded it) are what you can do with those points. The points are the strength of the action. You have to pick up all of the action point markers but you don’t have to actually use all of them.
So if you pick up four markers on the Travel action, then you have four movement points for your knight(s) on the Europe map. If you have four markers on the Crusade action, then you can Crusade with a strength of four (plus other modifiers I’ll mention in a minute).
Once you’ve taken your action, you distribute the action points you picked up one at a time, starting with the next wedge, until you run out. Some faction abilities will affect this, of course.
One of your actions is the Build action. You have buildings on your player board that you will be putting out on the Europe map. There cannot be any enemy disc on the space you want to build, so you have to Crusade first to get rid of them.
Each building has a cost, and that’s how many action points you need.
As you build your buildings, you will uncover icons for most of the actions you will be taking. This will mean you have more strength for the action than just the action points.
For example, the bottom row of buildings will uncover Build icons (as shown above). If I had four action point markers on the Build action, and three more Build icons are showing because the bottom row is empty, this would give me seven Build points and let me build a more advanced building.
As you move across Europe and set up your faction’s buildings, you will be gaining influence.
At the beginning of the game, you set aside a number of influence required for your player count (260 influence for a 4-player game). Once all of the influence has been earned, that triggers the endgame. Each player gets the same number of turns, so once it is triggered, players finish so that everybody has taken their final turn.
There’s a lot more to it, but I could be here for days if I continued, so I’ll leave the rules explanation there.
This is an incredible game. I really love the mancala mechanic, though you have to be sure to come into this game fresh.
If you’ve played Trajan at all, don’t be fooled. This game is the exact opposite of that one (in Trajan, you distribute the action point tokens and then take the action from where you land, not where you started).
There has been some controversy about the theme, and I’m not going to get into that too much other than to say that I understand Jaffee’s reasoning (explained in the rulebook as well as on BGG) that this is about the Crusader factions and their attempts to gain influence in Europe.
If the theme is too much for you, then that’s perfectly understandable. But if it doesn’t bother you, you should definitely try this fantastic game.
Designer: Leonhard “Lonny” Orgler
Artist: Petr Štich
Oh, 18XX…I don’t know where to begin.
Just looking at any of your games just makes my brain hurt, and not in a good way. When I hear my friend talk about laying track and buying stock in companies and all of that stuff, my mind clouds over.
I try to listen. I really do.
But it’s hard.
However, said friend had borrowed 18Lilliput from somebody else and really wanted to play it at CascadeCon. It’s supposed to be 18XX for beginners!
That part is definitely true.
From what I understand, a lot of the mechanisms in 18Lilliput are simpler versions of what you would do in other 18XX games.
I’m not sure how detailed I can get about the game play, but I’ll do my best.
18Lilliput goes over 8 rounds (nine if you’re playing 2-player) and you are working to gain the most private property (you also have your corporation cash, which you must keep separate).
Each player chooses a colour and a starting character which will have special powers. Flimnap above can be turned in at any time for money (ten times the round number you are currently in). He also has one special track that can be laid only by him.
Each corporation will also have a starting bonus. The Glimigrim Valley Railway corporation starts with 60 pounds rather than 30.
You start with a 50% share in your beginning corporation and when you purchase a corporation, you will also get 50% of that company as well. Thus, unlike regular 18XX (from what I’ve been told), you cannot lose your corporation in 18Lilliput.
Players can buy 10% shares in your company, but you only have 3 available to sell (not sure where the other 20% goes).
On your turn, you will be taking one of the available action cards and doing one of the actions on it. The left card above will let you either lay two Gold track tiles or will give you 5 pounds to your private property.
The right card will give you either 20 pounds to your private property or some cash to one or more of your corporations’ cash depending on what phase you are in.
These actions will also let you buy trains, sell/buy shares, buy a new company, etc.
Tracks are laid out in a pattern with some special rules. Towns cannot touch other towns (except for the starting red tile, seen on the left of this picture) and plain tracks cannot touch other plain tracks. So you have to alternate cities and plain tracks.
Play goes around the table, and then reverses to do a second action (so the last player gets to do two actions in a row while the first player will take the first and last action of the round).
Then, depending on the number of trains you have, you calculate your income based on routes you control. I’m not going to go into how the the income is calculated, what the effects are if you withhold the money or pay it out to your shareholders, etc. Suffice to say that money gets paid out somewhere and your stock price may fall or it may not.
After eight rounds, with the final round paying out double dividends, each player calculates their total private property and whoever has the most money is the winner!
That barely covered things and my brain still hurts (though maybe it’s this cold I’m suffering from).
I have reconfirmed that 18XX games aren’t for me. This game just wasn’t that fun for me. I don’t think well when talking about stocks and shares and all of that stuff.
I know this is a very simplified version of 18XX, which means that there’s no way in hell I’m going to sit down for an actual 18XX game.
Somebody who is a fan of 18XX will have to tell me whether this game is too dumbed-down for 18XX fans or if they think it would be a good way to introduce some 18XX concepts to somebody who might be interested in it.
(Edit: And somebody did! Check out Jonas’ comment below for a wonderfully detailed look at it)
I just know that I’m not one of them.
Designer: Scott Almes
Artists: Naomi Robinson, Benjamin Shulman
I really love Tiny Epic Galaxies. It’s one of my favourite dice games to play when you have about an hour.
However, after repeated plays, it can get a bit…well, blah. You’re rolling the dice, trying to colonize planets, sitting there watching everybody else roll because you haven’t been able to get any Culture that is used to do the same actions as another player rolls…no, I’m not bitter at all.
Anyway, I do love the game.
I’ve been chomping at the bit to play the Beyond the Black expansion that adds pilots as well as exploring outside of the known galaxies (wow, that’s a lot of galaxies when you come to think of it).
You will be starting the game with four new ship options.
Above the normal planet row, you will have a row of available pilots to hire.
How do you get the pilots?
If you look closer at the pilots (here, how about a close-up?), you’ll see that they have the ability to pilot one or more of the new ship types.
If you roll two of the appropriate dice (diplomacy, economic, energy, etc), then you can hire a pilot from the row that can pilot that type of ship. Rolling three of the required symbol will let you hire any pilot, even if they don’t have the skill for that ship.
You pick up one of your ships and place it on the pilot card in the slot where the ship type is. You replace it where it was (on a planet, in your galaxy, whatever) with the new advanced ship.
These pilots will give you special abilities, as well as badges that will be used for a sort of set collection endgame scoring. They will also earn you a point.
You can replace pilots at any time by hiring a new one. You will still get the badges and the point for the previous pilot, but they’re now retired.
Beyond the Black also adds exploration.
As a fly action, instead of going to a planet, you can enter unexplored space. You place your ship there and then choose to either take one of the face-up exploration cards or you can draw from the top.
If you draw a green Discovery tile, you can either take it or place it face-up in the row (unless there are already three face-up, in which case you must take it). If you draw a red Danger tile, you must take it.
While your ship is in unexplored space, it still counts as being on a Culture tile, so you can gain culture from it.
The Exploration tiles and the Pilot cards give you badges which, at the end of the game, will give you points based on having the most of that tile. You’ll also get points for some of the tiles themselves (at least the Black Holes give you one of each badge and a point!).
I really enjoyed this expansion. It adds a lot of options and the badges make it so you really do have to explore or hire at least some pilots to have any hope of winning. The endgame is still triggered at 21 points, but now it’s a bit more possible for players who are a little bit behind to catch up (not as far back as I was, but a little bit).
I want to play it again and make more use of the pilots.
This is an excellent expansion and one I would be happy to play again.
There’s my January list. Quite a lot in there!
What were your new to you games played in January?
Let me know in the comments.