You know what?
Yes, I do. Not only did I manage to get five new to me games played in April when I only was able to play eight in total, but two of those five games are more than ten years old, and one is almost ten years old! (Who cares that all three of them were reprints and I played the most recent editions. Ssshhhhh!!!!!!)
Yes, that just reinforces that being in the Cult of the New to Me is much better than Cult of the New.
I should make t-shirts.
Anyway, things have been pretty good in the cult recently. There haven’t been any rebellions at all. It’s actually been very quiet.
That could be because they’ve been trying so hard to avoid Avengers: Endgame spoilers, though, they’re too busy to think rebellious thoughts.
Some people have said that I have America’s ass. Let’s hope that’s enough to keep them in line next month!
So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was lost in the Apocalypse anyway), let’s get started!
51st State Master Set (2016 – Portal Games) – 1 play
Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek
Artist: Grzegorz Bobrowski
It’s after the Apocalypse (and you know you have to capitalize that because it’s not just any apocalypse), and the survivors are trying to survive (ha!) and rebuild their civilization.
You do this by constructing buildings for your little town, making deals with people outside of your town, and maybe raiding other people’s towns for resources.
I was very familiar with Imperial Settlers from before, but ended up selling my copy of it, but I had heard that 51st State was better than it anyway. Even more so with the Master Set.
You start out with your faction board, and each one is just a little bit different.
The Mutants Union, for example, get a Gun resource in production and their advantage is in getting red contact tokens used to raze buildings. Other factions may get better options to make deals, or maybe build things more efficiently.
You’re going to start with a hand of cards and the first phase (Upkeep) will have you drafting two more cards for your hand (there is no hand limit). These are cards that, with the right resources, you will be placing in your tableau.
There are Production buildings that will give you resources, both immediately and in every Production phase.
Feature buildings will give you modifiers in some fashion (one card gave me a red contact token if I produced at least one gun in the Production phase and another let me store up to 3 resources).
Action buildings will let you take that action once per turn (unless the card says you can do it twice). Usually it’s to spend resources to get VPs, but it could be something else.
How do you do things?
You do them with contacts and resources.
Contacts (the arrow tokens) come in three colours: red, blue, and grey.
Grey ones are how you build your buildings. You need to spend a number of grey contact tokens equal to the Distance on the card. You then build the building. No resources required!
However, you will most likely be spending those resources to get the contacts in the first place, so there’s that.
Red contacts let you raze buildings, either from your hand or in other players’ towns. It costs a number of red contacts equal to the distance to raze a card from your hand. If you do, you get the Spoils (top right of the card) and you discard the card.
Other players’ buildings can be razed by spending 3,4,5 red contacts (depending on whether it’s a production/feature/action building). If somebody has placed a shield on a building, then it will cost one more red contact.
Blue contacts let you make deals with neighbouring settlements. You can spend blue contacts equal to the Distance on the card to make a deal with a card in your hand (bottom of the card). You flip it over and slide it under your player board so that only the Deal resource is showing.
When you make the deal, you get the resource immediately, and you will also get that resource every Production phase.
You can also Develop a building by spending a brick or a bulldozer token and placing a card with at least one common symbol to replace one on your tableau. Distance doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even have to be the same type of building (you can replace a Production building with an Action building).
Also, when somebody razes one of your buildings, that card is flipped to be a Ruin. A Ruin counts as any symbol and thus can be Developed for any card.
Developing a building also gets you a VP!
The game ends at the end of the round where somebody has reached 25 VPs. You will have a tableau of cards just like above (though hopefully a better one). End-game scoring amounts to just 1 VP per building in your settlement.
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
I really liked this game a lot, though I really enjoyed Imperial Settlers a lot the first time I played it too so I would really like to play this one again to see if it holds its luster.
It’s an engine-building game, which I suck at (I love Space Base but I’m terrible at it too), but it’s still a lot of fun. And I really enjoy the post-apocalyptic artwork and setting in this one.
Probably not going to buy this one, as a friend has it and I’ve been burned once before, but I definitely want to try it again!
Newton (2018 – Cranio Creations) – 1 play
Designer: Simone Luciani, Nestore Mangone
Artist: Klemens Franz
Another engine-builder! Kind of.
In Newton, you are a young scientist trying to make your name in the world during the 17th Century. You travel around Europe, visiting universities, studying, working and basically trying to elevate your status in the scientific world.
You do this through interesting action selection and card play.
You start out with a library player board, with all of the choices being slightly different from each other. They basically make one of the six actions stronger.
You also start out with a hand of cards. These will perhaps have some books on the top of the card, but they will have an action symbol on the bottom.
What can you do?
You can travel around Europe, dropping cubes in the various universities that you visit. This will remove cubes from your player board, and if you do that enough, you’ll start to get victory points.
You can also move your students around the technology board. This can bring great things for you. Maybe instant rewards, maybe some endgame scoring. If you time things right, it will even combo well with your map travels.
There is a bit of deck-building involved, as you can also do Lessons and “hire” a new card for your hand.
You can do a Book action to fill your library if you meet the qualifications. This will let you cover a spot in your bookshelf and if you do that enough, you may get points at the beginning of subsequent turns.
There’s also a Work action that will move you along the Work track and earn you money. Even a student may have to do manual labour to pay for their studies!
The interesting thing about Newton is that you will play 5 cards on your turn, doing the actions on them, and the strength of the action is dependent on how many of the action’s symbols are on your board already. For example, if you play the Lessons action with only one graduation cap, you can only choose a card from the first row. You need more caps on your board to take better cards.
Also, at the end of each round (there are six), you will place one of the cards you played under your board so that the action symbol is showing. In subsequent turns, that will help strengthen your actions.
However, if you’re not careful (like I wasn’t), you may do that with the only card in your hand with that symbol. That means you can’t even do the action (by playing a card with the action) until you get another one! That can delay you somewhat.
As always, you are attempting to collect victory points with these actions.
After six rounds of doing this, calculate any end-game scoring bonuses you have and whoever has the most is the winner!
That’s a bit of a simplified description of what you will do in this game, and I have to say that while I did enjoy it somewhat, it’s not my favourite. I don’t know if it’s because it’s an engine-builder and we had just played another one (51st State) right before it that I enjoyed a lot more? I’m used to there being lots of options and paths to victory in engine-building games, but this one just seemed a bit too broad for me.
There’s too much to do and I felt even more lost on how to score points efficiently than I usually feel. It didn’t help that I ended up strengthening my Travel option with the end-of-round action of putting a card under your board and thus making it so I couldn’t do the Travel action without getting another card first.
Not a knock on the game itself or trying to say it’s a bad game, but it didn’t do much for me.
High Society (2018 – Osprey Games) – 1 play
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: Medusa Dollmaker (that’s what it says on Osprey’s site, so I assume that’s the case for this edition)
This classic 1995 Knizia design got a beautiful reprint in 2018 from Osprey Games, but I’ve never been able to sit down and play it before now.
I’m not a huge auction fan, but I do like some (Ra and Modern Art to name two, and hey, they’re both by Knizia too!).
The thing about High Society is that it only takes about 20 minutes or so and it’s a blast to play.
You are given a bunch of money cards and this is how you will be buying the luxury cards that come up for offer.
The deck of luxury goods is shuffled along with the four blue cards that are hidden somewhere in the deck.
When the fourth blue card comes out, the game immediately ends. None of this pansy-ass “one more round” stuff. Nope, it ends immediately!
Here’s the deal, though.
Each turn, the top card of the deck is turned over and then auctioned off. You bid for it using your cards, but there IS NO CHANGE. Yes, if you’ve spent all of your low-value cards already, your starting bid has to be 20,000.
Sucks to be you.
Secondly, any negative cards that come out (like the -5 or the 1/2 above), you are bidding to *not* take it. You can take the card whenever you want and everybody else has to pay what their last bid was.
That all sounds well and good, right?
As I said, the game ends immediately when the fourth blue card comes out.
At that point, everybody totals up their points, and whoever has the highest points is the winner!
See, whoever has the least amount of money isn’t eligible to win. At all. Never. You have lots of great stuff but you have no more money so everybody still hates you.
Thus, if you have the most points but the least money, than the second-highest number of points wins.
This is a really fun and chaotic game that brought out a lot of laughter.
There’s almost a push your luck element to it at times, as you’re just hoping that the final blue card doesn’t come out until you’re able to get something. I ended up getting the x2 card and was really trying to get a high-value card figuring that I’d do fine with two, maybe three cards.
Nope. Never got in on another card, and the game ended a bit prematurely, leaving me out in the cold. What’s two times nothing? Oh yeah, still nothing.
Yet it was so fun!
I’d definitely play this again. It’s a great light filler to end a game day on when you only have a short time to play. It’s easy to learn and will get you laughing in no time.
Or cursing. Maybe a little of that too.
Embark (2018 – Tasty Minstrel Games) – 3 plays
Designer: Phillip duBarry
Artists: Robert Gonzales and Matt Paquette
This game was a lot of fun, but I’m not going to talk about it much here.
That’s because you can read my review here!
However, I can say that my cat liked it. (For those who don’t follow me on Twitter or Instagram and have already seen this)
Conquest of Paradise (2007 – GMT Games) – 1 play
Designer: Kevin McPartland
Artists: Herb Kane, Rodger B. MacGowan, Leland Myrick, Mark Simonitch
As with most GMT Games, Conquest of Paradise gives you a great historical feel, in this case about empire-building in Polynesia. Don’t worry, it’s not filthy European or American colonization, though. We’re talking Polynesian empires around 500 AD and the spread of civilizations such as Samoa, Tonga, Hiva, or Raiatea.
Setup is very easy. You start with these four civilizations in a 4-player game (remove Raiatea in a 3-player game and both that and Hiva in a 2-player game). These are your home islands, and will be the core of your mighty island empire!
Each turn will consist first of determining who will be start player that turn. The person who determines that is the one in last place on the VP track. That person can choose anybody to be first player, and also which direction around the table the turn will go.
Or, in an advanced variant, that person can choose to draw a random event card (once somebody has hit the appropriate VP level once). Some of these will be good (like this one). Some will be bad and you can inflict it on another player (or more than one).
Since many of the ones we happened to draw can affect other players, it seemed almost a no-brainer to choose the event and let somebody else determine first player.
But that’s up to you.
On your turn, you can send a ship out to explore the oceans near your islands. Maybe you’ll just find open ocean, or maybe you’ll find…even more islands to absorb!
You do this by drawing a random chit. It will tell you if it’s ocean or an island, as well as how many knots it took you to explore. (Ha! I get it…ocean, knots…). If you have drawn 1-4 knots, you can push your luck and keep exploring. Hitting 5 knots makes you stop exploring. However, if you hit 6 (because you pushed your luck after hitting 3 or 4) then your Explorer is lost at sea. It goes to the “Lost” box and you’ll get him back next turn *instead of* exploring.
Once everybody has explored (if possible or if they want to), the movement/battle step happens. This is where you will be setting up your empire by moving the canoes you have on the board.
For an island group to be considered part of your empire, there has to be a string of canoes in each hex beginning with your home island and ending in the island group in question.
You can build war bands and war canoes later on (you do start with one war band anyway) that will let you sail to other island groups and attack the owner of them. This is how you can inhibit other players as well as building your own empire. (we discovered it may not be a good idea to ignore this aspect of the game).
Once movement and combat is over, everybody builds using building points generated by the villages (those little houses) on their island groups. The interesting part of this is that you can only combine your building points generated by all of your islands if they are connected to your empire (i.e. your home island).
If you have villages on an island group you own that somehow got disconnected (because you moved a canoe in the chain that was connecting it), those build points can only be used on that island group.
Finally, determine current victory points by counting your villages and island groups that are connected to your home islands. Thus, your VP can fluctuate depending on how you’ve moved your canoes. Lowering your VP temporarily can be lucrative if you want to be the one to choose the turn order/random event next turn.
That’s assuming nobody declares victory before that.
During the Victory step, you could reveal Arts & Culture cards that you have previously “built” in the Build step that would push you over the VP threshold (a different VP threshold depending on how many players you have).
If somebody does that and is above the threshold, the game ends and everybody reveals their cards. Highest count wins!
And you have a beautiful map too.
I really enjoyed this game a lot, but there are a couple of issues to keep in mind.
First, the exploration is totally random. As you can see from the above map, Yellow got really lucky with its island/atoll draws, as did White. Red (me, sadly) didn’t have much around it.
The map is incredibly tight, which is a virtue if you play the game better than we did. In a four-player game, there needs to be some player combat, especially if you end up not drawing many island tiles yourself. You have to take other people’s in order to succeed.
The second issue, and it’s just something to be aware of rather than a problem, is the Build phase.
While the rulebook does say that it can be done in turn order, it’s basically designed to be done simultaneously. Everybody builds their stuff and you have to trust that they are doing it correctly.
You also, we discovered, have to keep an eye on people. The winner of our game (yellow) had been building Arts & Culture cards each turn, and we weren’t really watching him. I wasn’t even aware that he had bought more than one or two!
When he declared victory, he had something like 5 or 6 cards. Most of the Arts & Culture cards have VP on them and unless you want to use their ability, you don’t have to reveal them until you declare victory.
Imagine our surprise when suddenly he declares and he’s way ahead of the rest of us.
Lesson learned: watch everybody even if you are building simultaneously!
Overall, I’d love to play this one again. We got so many rules wrong that it’s almost mandatory that we do.
And there you have it!
What new to you games did you play in April?
Let me know in the comments.
5 new games – that is an achievement! I own 51st state and see that new edition has quite improved graphics. Nice and interesting game, although when we played it lasted longer then designer predicted 🙂
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Have you played Imperial Settlers? I know there are some similarities, and I’m not sure if the original 51st State is widely considered “better” than it or if that came up with the new edition.
You definitely rock! …not only because you have a cat, but it doesn’t hurt either 😉
High Society looks really interesting (and gorgeous!), and so does Conquest of Paradise!
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Awwwww you say the nicest things. 🙂 High Society is a great game, even though I lost terribly. 🙂 Conquest is definitely interesting. I’d have to play it again to make sure of my feelings on it, though.
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Cult of the New to Me. I’m going to start using that one. Which Kool-Aid do I drink?
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When I’m in a good mood, it has to be cherry.
When I’m mad…definitely lime. 🙂
Yes sir, you totally rock! Though why do you have Captain America’s ass? Doesn’t he need it? I haven’t seem Endgame yet, so I don’t know if “missing ass” is a plot point. That would be weird, actually.
Um, anyway, I haven’t played any of these, so thank you for the assessments. I don’t think I played anything new last month, just things I’d already played. Wait–no, I played Sagrada with a large group for the first time, and that was fun. The 5-6 expansions definitely works well.
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Thank you! Once you’ve seen Avengers, you’ll know what I mean about the ass. 😛
And I haven’t played the Sagrada expansion! I’m definitely looking forward to that one.
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