It’s December! The last month of the year, the Christmas (or whatever end-of-year holiday you celebrate) season is upon us, but before we look forward to all of those presents sitting under the tree (or sitting under whatever your end-of-year holiday object is), it’s time to reflect back to a time long ago.
Two days is long, right?
Yes, that’s right. It’s the new to me games played in November! Even with Christmas coming soon, the leader of the Cult of the New to Me has responsibilities to the time before.
There is always an undercurrent of unrest in the cult, especially when I play a lot of brand new games in a month. They think I’m a sellout to the Cult of the New or something like that.
I don’t know where they would get that idea.
But it’s not true!
Hell, I even played a game from 1997 in November.
It was a nice bunch of games, seven in total which is amazing since I actually skipped a week. They were all fun in their own way, but some definitely better than others.
Amazingly enough, for somebody who’s not a big fan of word games, two of the new games are word games! One incredibly fun and one…not so much.
I’m looking forward to a December that’s also chock full of new to me games.
So without further adieu (all of my adieu was eaten by a giant worm anyway), let’s get this thing started!
Designer: Mike Elliott
Artist: Eric Hibbeler
I have never seen the movie Tremors, but everything I’ve heard about it (and everything I’ve heard about this game) makes it sound like Terror Below is basically a game of the movie but they didn’t get the rights to the movie so they couldn’t use any of the names or anything.
Since I’ve never seen it, I can’t comment on that similarity, but I can comment on the game itself.
Government experiments (because it’s always the government, am I right?) have created a huge pack of giant worms worming (ha! see what I did there?) their way through the Nevada desert, periodically coming to the surface to attack and lay eggs (because nothing gets a worm hotter than attacking a bunch of humans, I guess?).
(Is that enough parentheses for you?) (Is this?)
The players are trying to collect the eggs and deliver them to various locations on the map for points. Perhaps that location is looking for that type of egg? In that case, you get a bunch of points.
Each player is dealt three character cards and chooses one to be the leader. That character’s special ability is active as long as they’re alive. If they die in a worm attack, choose one of the other characters and that becomes your leader.
If you lose all three leaders, you’re out of the game, but that’s not a total tragedy. You won’t be sitting there watching other people play the game for three hours like some games.
No, if a player loses all three characters, then all other players get one more turn and then you count up the victory points. Whoever has the most wins.
Otherwise, as soon as somebody reaches 20 victory points, the game ends immediately and they win!
There are a bunch of cards in the games: items, weapons, worms, bounties, and vehicles.
The four initial worms attack, leaving eggs and rubble in their wake. Then, depending on player count, draw 1-3 more worms and resolve their attacks as well.
Then three more worms are drawn and these are the ones that will attack later. A target marker is placed in each of their starting coordinates (the red and blue number in the top right corner).
At this point, there should be a lot of eggs and rubble around.
Once players choose their starting locations, players can start taking their turns. A player places a vehicle card underneath one of the worms.
The arrows at the bottom of the card are “distractions.” You move the target on the board following the arrows. You then take your actions, using the number in the top left as the number of action points you can use that turn.
Actions can be moving a space, collecting rubble from an adjacent space (collect 3 rubble and get an item or weapon card immediately), “ramping” over another player that’s in your way (basically moving 2 spaces for 1 point), delivering an egg if you’re at a location, or picking up an egg from your current space.
If you pick up an egg, that ends your action phase. No picking up multiple eggs!
Finally, you resolve any special abilities on the card itself.
Each worm has a card capacity on it. Once the number of cards played beneath it equals its capacity, it attacks! Spray rubble and lay eggs according to the pattern on the card.
If any player(s) is in the attack zone, they have to defeat the worm or die. Players can use multiple weapons and item cards as necessary from their hand. If multiple players are in the zone, they can combine forces to try and kill it.
If they don’t kill it, then the leader dies. Time to choose one of your other characters!
There will always be four bounties available to satisfy. These can vary between delivering a certain type of egg to a certain location or perhaps killing a certain kind of worm. If you don’t have a bounty when you kill a worm or deliver an egg (So this is basically a pickup or kill and deliver game?), then you get a VP (and a bonus for delivering the egg depending on what location you deliver it to).
If you satisfy one of the bounties, though, you get that number of points instead.
As mentioned above, first player to 20 VP wins! Or if somebody is totally eliminated, then do one more round and count up who has the most. It could be the dead one!
Terror Below looks like it could be a raucous good time, but I wouldn’t know quite yet. My only play of it so far, and it was not by choice (some people didn’t show up to game day), was at 2 players and I have to say that the 2-player variant is really not fun at all.
In between each player’s turn in the variant, you draw a vehicle card from the deck and roll a die to see which worm it goes to.
If it just happens to reach that worm’s capacity, it attacks! If you happen to be in harm’s way, too bad. You can’t do anything to mitigate it like you could if it was your turn (and if it was your opponent’s turn, then that just means they took their opportunity to beat on you).
There’s a bunch of randomness in the game anyway, depending on what weapons you have in your hand. Adding even more randomness to the game just makes it worse.
The board is a fun egg shape which adds to the theme. The special abilities of the characters are pretty cool too.
I like the art style of the game, and I would really love to play it at 3-5 players, but at 2 players, I have no interest in trying it again.
Designer: Tom Lehmann
Artist: Julian Delval
Res Arcana is an interesting engine-building card game along similar lines to Lehmann’s famous Race for the Galaxy, but with some very cool twists.
Essentially, the mages (players) are vying for control of Places of Power, for it’s pretty hard to win without gaining at least one if not more of them.
How do you get these? By playing cards on your turn that will give you the proper resources for them.
The game begins with the players drafting their deck (or you can just start with 8 of them dealt to you, but where’s the fun in that?)
Your deck will consist of 8 cards, and you will start with 3 in your hand.
These artifacts can be creatures (like these illustrious dragons) or various other magical artifacts that will let you do things, produce resources, or
tap turn (sorry, Wizards of the Coast!) to convert resources into other resources.
Each player is a Mage who has a specific power that will let you do various things. The Necromancer above produces one “Death” at the beginning of the game, and lets you spend two “Life” to put 3 “Death” on the card for next round. Thus, if you do it right, you can gain 4 “Death” each round.
On your turn, you can do an action from among a few different options: Place an artifact from your hand (if you have the resources available), claim a monument of Place of Power, discard a card to get 1 Gold or any 2 other essences (both Gold and essences I’m just calling “resources”), use a power from one of your monuments/artifacts/mage, or pass.
Passing ends your round. You collect a new Magic Item and draw 1 card to your hand.
The other player(s) can keep doing their actions until they have to pass as well.
At the end of the round when everybody’s passed, check to see if anybody has 10 VP. If not, continue. If so, see who has the most points and declare the winner!
Some of the more expensive artifacts have a victory point or two on them. The Places of Power have victory points and then they get you more if you have certain other things (the Cursed Forge gives you a victory point for each Gold placed on the card).
Monuments also have their own victory points. Some have great victory point totals and no abilities, some have great abilities but low points, etc.
I only played this 2-player, but I can see how it would be even better with more players involved.
I really enjoyed the combinations of the cards (this is why drafting is so important, I think) and how everything can work together if you do it right.
It can also be unpredictable, which I love!
Remember how I said above that you check whether the game ends at the end of the round? So you could reach 10 points but then before the round ends, one of your opponents could move ahead of you if they’ve built their engine well. They’d end up winning.
I had claimed the Sorcerer’s Bestiary (pictured above) and had a couple of creatures and a dragon in front of me. That got me 4 more points, putting me at 11. My opponent had a healthy engine going and would easily get 12+ points by the end of the turn.
But the ability of the Sorcerer’s Bestiary is to check victory immediately.
Guess what? I had 11 points to his 5, I win!
Totally stunned my opponent. “I was not expecting that,” he said.
I really would like to try this again with more players, but this is definitely a game I will enjoy every time it comes to the table.
Designer: Ondra Skoupý
Artists: Dávid Jablonovský, František Sedláček, Lukáš Vodička, Michaela Zaoralová
Letter Jam is a cooperative word game where you are trying to guess the word that you have face-down in front of you, one letter at a time.
The letter cards are dealt out to everybody (divide the deck roughly evenly), and then each person chooses a 5 letter word made up from those letters, discarding the rest face down.
They then shuffle the letters up and pass them to the player on their right.
Now its the other player’s word to figure out.
You have the 5 letter cards face-down in front of you, and you then stand the first letter up so that everybody but you can see it.
Then everybody tries to come up with a word using the letters they can see as well as perhaps a “wild” letter.
So somebody might say “I can make a 6-letter word using player letters and the wild” or something like that.
The wild can be any letter, but it must be the same letter if it’s used twice.
Once everybody agrees to let somebody give their word as a clue, the person lays out tokens in front of each person in the order that letter is in the word. So if it was “eschew” with the “h” being the wild letter because nobody actually had that letter in front of them, they would put the #1 token and #5 token in front of the person who has an “e”, the #2 in front of the person with the “s”, #3 token in front of the person with the “c”, etc.
Players then use those tokens to try to figure out what word that person was trying to convey. This will potentially give the players an idea of what their letter is.
If your letter was “C”, then you would essentially have the following information regarding the clue given: es?#ew. (The “?” is your letter while the “#” is the wild)
Would you guess that your letter is C?
If so, then you can put your displayed letter down and then bring up your next one.
There are a certain number of clues available before the game ends.
When you give a clue, you take a red clue token. Or, if you have already given a clue during the game, you take a green token. Nobody can take the green center token until all of the red ones around it are taken.
Once all the clues are gone, it’s time to try and guess your word. You look at your guessing sheet, where you should have been writing down what you think each of your letters is, and try to spell a word from what you have.
Keeping the cards facedown, rearrange the cards in front of you to spell that word (remember, you should know what order the letters are in if you deduced correctly).
If you’re not sure of a letter, you can use the wildcard instead (or some bonus letters that might have come out). But only one person can use each card, so that’s not an option for everybody.
If you end up spelling an English word that everybody knows, and everybody else does too, then you all win! If not, you all lose.
I really don’t get this game, at least the ending of it.
Here’s the quote from the rulebook for the game end:
“You don’t have to spell the word you were given. If you were given HORSE, you can spell SHORE. You can use a bonus E to spell SHEER or even HEROES. Your goal is just a correctly spelled English word whose meaning you know without looking it up. And it counts even if you thought you were spelling something else.
If more or less everyone has spelled a word, then you have all more or less won.”
What does that even mean?
I get it. It’s a party game, so the goal is to have fun, not necessarily win.
I don’t even know if we won our game. I think I might have spelled a word after revealing my letters?
I’m not really sure.
All of my friends are raving about this game and I just don’t understand it.
It’s not bad, and I’m sure it makes sense to some people.
But for me, I think I’d rather be doing something else.
DOG (1997) – 1 play
Artists: Dennis Lohausen, Renate Matthews, Markus Zuber
Dog is a weird little game, almost like Sorry but for gamers to enjoy.
Not that Dog isn’t full of luck either, but it’s a mitigated a bit because movement is based on the play of cards rather than a Pop-o-Matic die.
The game is also played in teams, ideally with six players. There could be two teams of three (which is usually a bit shorter) or three teams of two.
Each player is trying to get all of their pieces from their at start areas (shown above) to the home base. They have to travel all around the board, unless you happen to have a card that lets you move backwards right after you leave the starting area.
How do you do that without a die?
That’s where the cards come in.
Cards are numbered 1-13 along with a “switch” card that lets you switch with another player’s pawn and a “?” card that lets you mimic any card in the deck.
Cards 1/11 and 13 also allow you to move one of your pawns in the starting area to the first space outside (FREEDOM!!!!!).
The 4 & 7 cards are also special. The 4 card lets you move backwards 4 spaces if you wish. The 7 card consists of 7 individual moves. This means you can split the moves between different pieces if you wish. Or you can use it to knock somebody else’s piece back to the start.
How do you do that?
When you land exactly on another player’s piece and it’s not currently sitting in a space of its own colour (like the entry to the starting area), you send them back to start. You also can’t move past them (even your own piece) if they are in a space of their own colour, so that can be an effective blocking technique.
You can’t move anybody else’s pieces except your own, unless you manage to get all of your pieces to the finish. When you do that, then you can play cards for your teammates instead.
Once an entire team’s pieces are at home, they win!
Dog can be a fun diversion, but it goes on a little too long for how light it feels and it’s still way too luck-driven. It’s not as bad as a die, but you are still being dealt cards that you then have to play.
Each round consists of a diminishing amount of cards (start at 6 cards, play them all, then 5 cards, play them all, etc until you get down to 2 when you then start over at 6). If you literally cannot play a card, you are out of the round.
One player in our game had that happen the first two rounds. He received no starting cards. At the beginning of each round, you pass one card to the teammate on your left and even then he didn’t get any.
His team still won, so I guess that means it doesn’t really matter?
All of that is fine if it’s a quick game, but our game took almost an hour.
It’s not a horrible game, and it is from 1997 so maybe that mitigates it some.
Still, not something I would choose to play that often.
Designer: Matthias Cramer
Artists: Klemens Franz, Alfred Viktor Schulz
(Edit – 12/20/19: The review is now live!)
The Watergate scandal was a huge political upheaval in the United States in the early 1973-74 and it’s only fitting that a game is made about it. From a German designer, too!
Watergate is a 2-player card-driven game where Richard Nixon faces off against the Washington Post editors in a cat and mouse game. The Post Editors are trying to connect evidence from two informers to Nixon at the center of the web.
Nixon is just trying to outlast the Editors and save his political life.
I’m not going to do a huge blow-by-blow account of how to play the game since I’ll be doing the same thing in my upcoming review sometime in December, but here are the basics.
Each player has their own deck of cards that they will be playing throughout the game. The Editors’ deck has the informants that will allow them to be put on the board face-up. The Nixon deck has the informants that will allow them to be put on the board face-down and useless to the Editors.
Other cards in the decks are conspirators (Nixon) and journalists (Editors) that let them do things, and also events that can happen and greatly affect the board.
Each card, in addition to having an event or an effect, has the ability to move evidence, momentum, or initiative tokens on the research track along the side of the board.
During the round, the player with initiative will have 5 cards in their hand while the other player has 4. The initiative player will go first (and last) in the round, giving them a big advantage.
What are the players fighting for? Each round will have the initiative token, a momentum token, and three evidence tokens will be pulled back and forth in a vicious tug-of-war until one side wins each one (or maybe not, as they could end up in the middle).
Nixon wins the game as soon as he has won 5 momentum tokens.
How do the Editors win?
Each piece of evidence that is won by the Editors can be placed out on the board in a space with the same colour (multi-colour pieces can be put on either colour). If Nixon wins the piece of evidence, he can put that evidence face-down using the same rules. This will block access.
Once two informers have been linked by a chain of evidence to Nixon in the middle of the board, the Editors win!
I’ve played this twice now and it is simply a phenomenal game. I love the push and pull aspect of the game. You can’t concentrate on one thing or the other player may run away with their own goal.
And anybody can win! You can see the board above, the Nixon player won a lot of evidence! But there was just one path remaining for me and I managed to make the connection anyway.
It’s a tense game that I will gladly play a lot.
(Keep an eye out for the review coming in a week or two)
Designer: Tom Lehmann
Artists: Klemens Franz, João Tereso
The City is a 2011 game from Tom Lehmann that just came out in English this year in a Kickstarter edition that a friend of mine had bought (I completely missed it or I might have gone after it too).
This is a quick little engine-building card game with some similarities to Lehmann’s Race for the Galaxy except that in this game you’re going to have “income” and there are no phases that you or other players are choosing.
Instead, you are dealt a hand of 7 building cards. Each card has a cost in the top left corner that says how many cards you have to discard in order to place the card in your city.
In the bottom left is the number of points it will give you each turn and how much “income” (card draw) you get from that card.
Each card in your city will (hopefully, if you do it right) combo together into huge points at some point (but first it’s good to build card income).
A lot of them will give you points per something else in your city. Thus, the Mall will give you 2 cards in your income phase because there are 2 cart symbols.
You really have to start generating card draw so you can play some of the more expensive cards that will rack up big points.
It’s imperative that you switch from drawing to points at some point though. I switched a turn too late and ended up losing (though I had a pretty good score).
That’s all this game is. Play a card to your city, add up your score, then draw your cards.
As soon as somebody hits 50 VP, then whoever has the most points wins!
This was a really satisfying filler game. It’s quick, it’s easy to teach, it’s a bit tactical in that you have to deal with the cards that you draw. The more cards you have, the easier it is to plan, so get that income up!
You’ll finally have a city like this, and it’s beautiful.
It seems like it starts really slowly, maybe getting a point on your first turn, maybe three points on your second. But it ramps up so quickly that it will only last 7-8 rounds.
We played it while we were waiting for others to show up to our game day, and it is a fabulous way to do that. Or something to play as the game day is winding down.
I highly recommend The City and I would love to play it again.
Designer: Ted Alspach
Artists: Jason Boles, Roland MacDonald
Wow. 2-20 players? Yep, Werewords Deluxe is the ultimate party game. We counted a good party if it had 10 people there.
This is another word game, but I like it so much better than Letter Jam because the goal is clear cut from the beginning.
One player (or two if you have a huge number of people) is a werewolf who doesn’t want people to guess the word.
Let’s start at the beginning, though.
Much like the various Werewolf incarnations, players are going to be one of several different characters (the base game only has Werewolves, Mayor, Seer and plain Villagers while the deluxe version has a bunch more).
One or two are going to be a secret werewolf while the rest are villagers of various types who want to kill the werewolf.
In Werewords Deluxe, you play out these roles while trying to figure out the Mayor’s secret word. Once the Mayor has chosen the word, the Seer gets to see it and then the Werewolf gets to see it. (Some of the other deluxe characters may get to see it too).
Then a game of 20+ questions is played, with each player other than the Mayor asking a Yes/No question.
“Is it a place?” “Is it a mammal?” “Is it Justin Bieber?” (Editor- I see you there, going for blog hits)
The Mayor can’t talk, but gives “Correct/Incorrect” chips out to players as they guess.
Even the Werewolf and Seer are asking questions.
If the villagers guess the word (it can be words, like “trailer park” above), then they win!
The Werewolf now has 1 minute to decide and/or guess who the Seer is. If they guess right, then they win!
If the villagers don’t guess the word, they get to vote on who the Werewolf is. If the majority votes for the true Werewolf, then the Villagers win. Otherwise, the Werewolf wins.
Thus, it’s on the Werewolf and Seer not to act too obvious when they are asking questions. If the question “Is it usually in the kitchen?” has already been asked and deemed correct, the Werewolf better not ask “Is it a sofa?”
However, if the Seer’s first question is “Is it Toy Story?” and of course it is Toy Story, then I think the Werewolf has a pretty easy path to victory.
The app leads you through the game brilliantly, letting you choose how many players are in the game, which roles you’ve decided to use, a number of different libraries of words to choose from. You can set the timer for how long everything is (how long should the word be showing before moving on to the next role? How long should the players have to ask questions? etc)
It’s wonderfully designed. I just wish Eric Summerer was still doing the app, but I guess you can’t have everything.
The narrator’s voice is very dynamic and fun regardless, so it’s not too much of a minus.
We got 4 games of this in during a lunch hour, and that was even with teaching. There was a lot of laughter and everybody had tons of fun.
We even had one game where the Werewolf was also the Mayor. He chose the secret word “stool” and then proceeded to treat it like it was “stool sample,” not “stool.” Totally led us down the wrong path.
Of course, we guessed he was the Werewolf right away once the word was revealed, but hey. It was a blast!
This will be a go-to lunch game whenever we have a full complement of 6 people. It’s a lot of fun.
So there you have it! Seven new games in November, and that was even with me missing a game day. Not sure how that happened.
What new games did you play in November? What do you think of these?
Let me know in the comments.