It’s a brand new year! And this time, I can actually say that while talking about 2020 games (unlike last month).
January was a busy month for new-to-me games. I went to two conventions on back-to-back weekends (that was a lot of fun but also very tiring). At least they weren’t long drives!
I did kind of feel a bit out of it after the second one, though.
The Cult of the New to Me was really happy with me, though. There weren’t even any attempted coups!
Maybe a few too many 2019 games for their tastes, but there are a number of 2017 and 2018 games in there (and even a 2009 game in the next part!)
Yes, I said next part.
I played a grand total of 28 games in January (34 plays). Fifteen of them were new to me games. There is no way all of them are going to fit in one post.
Thus, this is only Part 1.
Part 2 will be coming.
This also means that the descriptions of the games will probably be a bit briefer than usual. Maybe I should actually do that for all of these posts.
So without further adieu (all of my adieu was traded for some water on an alien planet anyway), let’s get started!
Designer: S J MacDonald
Artist: Sam Phillips
Circadians: First Light just sounded like a cool game from the Kickstarter description and I decided I had to have it and try it out.
So what’s the verdict after one play (and thus this is not a review, for those of you folk who are ready to pounce)?
It’s a decent resource collection/dice placement game, but doesn’t reach the heights of those other games.
In Circadians: First Light, players are explorers on an alien planet wanting to harvest its resources and form good relations with the three alien species on this world.
The harvesting part is done on the planet itself by moving your harvester around the board.
The good relations with aliens part is done at the Negotiation Board.
At the beginning of each of the 8 rounds, players will roll their available dice and secretly assign them to areas of their Research Base. They can either go to a Garage at the top of the base to be deployed later in the turn, or they can be assigned to a farm which will get you resources during the Harvest Phase of the round.
Then, in player order, the dice from the garages are assigned to various locations to either get you resources, perhaps buy an item card from your hand, or to negotiate with one of the alien races.
The first deployed die is free, but subsequent ones will cost algae. The location boards will do anything from getting you resources at the Market to getting new garages and farms to possibly mining some gems. You can also move your harvester on the planet at the Control Room.
These dice will return to you at the end of the round, but there are two places where your dice will be locked (don’t worry, you can get more): the Negotiation Board and the Depository (where you buy your items). Coincidentally, these are the two places where you will be getting victory points!
Once all of the dice in garages are deployed, the Harvest phase begins. Players collect the resources on the hex where their harvester is as well as resources from their farms.
The game lasts 8 rounds and then all of the victory points are tallied up from the Negotiation board, the items played in front the players, the victory points earned on the Research Bases (the more garages and farms you get, the more points you earn, plus some of them may be worth victory points just by themselves) and if a player’s harvester was sitting on a gem cache at the end of the game. Also, each gem in your possession is worth one point.
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
Wow, that is a very brief description of how the game plays, but I hope it gets the feel of it across.
The game is an interesting mix of dice placement and resource management. A lot of the things you can do appear to take a lot of resources so it feels like you shouldn’t be able to do much, but it’s not too hard to manage everything. You are walking a fine line between the three different resources (algae, power, and water) and if you’re not careful, you will find yourself lacking.
That’s where the game gets interesting, and sometimes frustrating as you find yourself just one power or one algae short of doing what you want. Or maybe you’ve neglected your algae intake and don’t have enough to deploy that third die.
The leaders that players can choose from each have a special power that can break all of the rules. These can guide you on the path you have to take in order to amass all of the victory points you need to win.
It’s an interesting game and it’s one that I will definitely keep in my collection and play a lot (or try to, anyway).
Designers: Rick Holzgrafe, Isaias Vallejo
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
The Valeria series of games from Daily Magic Games has always been kind of intriguing, but the only one I’ve played so far is Valeria Card Kingdoms.
Villages of Valeria is a much more compact game where you are simply building a tableau of cards (both buildings and adventurers) until a certain number of them have been built (based on player count).
Players are Dukes or Duchesses who are trying to build the most prestigious village surrounding their castle, both with buildings as well as attracting awesome adventurers to take up residence in them.
Each player starts with a Castle card which will give you one resource of your choice when building. Each player will have a hand of cards and on their turn, they will be able to take one action out of a number of options.
Once the player has taken the action, the other players may follow it. Either they won’t get quite as much benefit from it or it will be more expensive to do it.
The cards in your hand have multiple uses. They are the buildings you will be building in front of you, but you can also discard a card to put another one down as a resource. This will give you a string of resources to use.
These resources will cost gold, requiring you to put a gold piece on each resource that you used for that building. They won’t refresh until your turn (returning your gold pieces to you, they aren’t spent for good), so those resources are tapped until then in case somebody else chooses to build.
Somebody else, when they build something, could also use one of your resources if it’s still unused that turn. They will put a gold piece on it, which means you get the gold. Sweet!!!
There’s a market area where building cards are available to take or adventurers are available to hire (if you have the right types of buildings in your display to house them). As you can see, they’re all worth a number of victory points. The buildings will also give you benefits during various action choices as well.
Since each resource costs you a gold piece to utilize (you’ll get the gold back, of course), you have to also balance how many resources you want to make available to yourself and how much gold you actually have.
As soon as a player has the correct number of cards in their tableau based on player count, the game ends!
Whoever has the most victory points is the winner (of course).
Villages of Valeria is a really interesting little card game. I’ve heard it called a big game in a little box, and there is some merit to that. It’s basically a bunch of cards along with some gold pieces, so it fits easily into its assigned box. But it can expand greatly on the table.
I love that it plays up to 5 players and scales really well. It is pretty quick (our game took 30 minutes) so it’s perfect for lunch, and it’s not that hard to explain. The symbols can be hard to keep track of sometimes, especially for new players, but overall it’s pretty intuitive and after one run-through it’s easy to understand.
I have a still-in-shrink copy of the game I received at SHUX 2019 but I wanted to play it first before deciding whether to trade it away or not.
I think I may be keeping it after this play (though that will depend on my co-worker who also has the game, so maybe I don’t need it in my collection when it will be available to be played at any time? Decisions, decisions).
Definitely a good game for what it is, I look forward to more plays to further refine my thoughts on it.
Designer: Henry Audubon
Artist: Fifty-Nine Parks Print Series
Parks has many elements that Tokaido has in it. You are moving along a path, moving as far as you want in a turn, in order to take actions that will allow you to visit a number of different national parks scattered around the United States.
Instead of one huge board like Tokaido, though, your two hikers will make a swing through a much smaller path but doing it four times (once each season for a full year). Each season, the path will get slightly longer and the configuration will change, but it will be very similar.
Each space will give you the ability to do something, either gather a resource or take a picture, get some water or buy a canteen or something like that.
Unlike Tokaido, twice per season you can go to the same spot as another player (even your own hiker) buy extinguishing your campfire. This means there is a bit less blocking, but there’s still quite a lot of fighting for the space you want. Also, turn order just goes around the table rather than having the player with the hiker furthest back go next.
At the end of the trail (and potentially in one of the spaces before the end of the trail), you can visit one of the National Parks that are in your hand or out on the board. If you have the right resources to match them. This is the main way you get points, though there are a couple of other ways (like taking pictures in certain spots)
You can also get item cards in certain spots, which will help you either by making parks easier to visit or perhaps providing some other benefit.
The season ends as soon as all but one hiker has reached the end of the trail. That hiker is moved to the end and can activate one of the actions on that spot.
Then there’s a little bookkeeping involved, you turn over a new Season card (this will have some benefit or penalty that’s in effect for the whole season) and continue to the next season.
Once all four seasons are done, total up the value of the parks visited as well as photos and the secret personal goal each player has, and whoever has the most points is the winner!
This is a really pretty game and it’s a great advertisement for the United States National Parks system. I think pretty much every park is represented in the game if I’m not mistaken.
I also love the insert! This makes me very happy.
I really enjoyed my play of Parks. It doesn’t take very long, so it’s a great lunch-time game. It’s fun to play and pretty to look at. It looks great on the table.
It was being played a lot at OrcaCon, and I can definitely see why.
I’d love to play this one again.
Designer: Richard Garfield
Artist: Paul Mafayon
Bunny Kingdom is an interesting little game. I had heard a lot about it when it first came out in 2017, but I hadn’t seen it and didn’t have a chance to play. When I sat down to it at OrcaCon, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
It’s essentially a card-drafting area control game.
The game is played over four rounds. Each round, you’ll be dealt a certain number of cards (either 10 or 12 cards depending on player count). You’ll draft two and pass the rest.
These cards will either be building cards or territory cards, or they could be one other thing.
The building or territory cards will allow you to place one of your bunnies out onto the map. The territory cards have the coordinates for a territory on the map. The building cards let you put something on one of your already occupied territories.
You can also choose to draft Parchment cards. These will give you points at the end of the game.
At the end of each round, you will have a Harvest Phase where you will collect points for resources in each of your fiefdoms (set of connected territories that has at least one castle occupied by you).
You will keep doing this for four rounds, and whoever has the most carrots (victory points) at the end of the game is the winner!
I won this game both times I played it (it was so quick that we just cleared the board, shuffled the cards, and played again). For that reason, it must be a terrible game, right? It can’t be that easy for me.
In all seriousness, though, it was actually a really fun game with some introductory drafting mechanics in it. Both plays took about half an hour or so.
It’s easy to learn, but you do have to play with what you’re passed. You may end up with a lot of territories that just aren’t near each other. Sometimes you can make that work.
Or you can get lucky and get almost all of your points from Parchment cards at the end of the game, like I did in my second one.
The bunnies are cute, it has a great table presence, and I would definitely play this game again.
I might even pick it up for work lunches.
Designer: Michael Boggs, Nate French, Caleb Grace
Marvel Champions: the Card Game is a LCG (Living Card Game) put out by Fantasy Flight where you and your fellow players are heroes trying to defeat the evil mastermind before their scheme can be completed.
Unlike Marvel Legendary, there is no “semi-coop” around here (where you can lose as a group but if you win, then whoever has the most points is the ultimate winner). All players are trying to help each other.
The base set comes with five heroes and three scenarios, but you can buy expansion packs that will give you more of each.
In this game, I was Captain Marvel fighting with Black Panther and She-Hulk against the dastardly Rhino. Each deck comes with some Events, some Allies (like Spider-Woman above) and possibly some powers.
You also have some basic cards and some attribute cards (Carol Danvers has Leadership) that also get added to your deck.
On your turn, you’ll have a number of cards in your hand equal to your hero’s hand size (and that can change depending on whether you are in hero form or alter-ego form). Each player on their turn will play cards and do various things, like attack the bad guys, heal, play an ally in front of you so you can use them, etc.
Sometimes this will cost cards that you have to discard, so keep that in mind as well.
Once each player has taken their turn, the villain takes its turn. It may progress on the scheme it’s hatching or it may attack one or more of the players. Each villain is represented by multiple stages. Once its hit points are reduced to zero, you flip to the next stage and do it all over again. They get pissed off and become more powerful when you do that.
The villain may get minions who will end up attacking you or your allies as well, or other side schemes may pop up.
If you can reduce the villain’s hit points to zero on its final stage, then players win! If all stages of the main scheme are completed by the villain or if all of the heroes are eliminated, the players lose.
I did like a lot of the little interactions with all of the heroes and the things that could potentially go wrong.
Each hero has Nemesis cards that might come into play and have to be dealt with. Also, a family obligation may pop up that they can either deal with or not (but if they don’t, there will be consequences).
Because two of us were new (and the owner of the game had only played a couple of times), we did the introductory scenario with Rhino. It ended up being pretty easy and wasn’t the most fun that we could have. I think making it a little harder would have been nice.
But I enjoyed the game mechanics for the most part. There is a lot of different steps in the setup which can be kind of annoying (but then again, I love Eldritch Horror, so what am I talking about?)
There is also a lot of bookkeeping too.
As long as you don’t mind that, this is a pretty neat game to play.
Just watch yourself from falling down that rabbit hole of getting more and more expansions for it.
Designer: Corey Konieczka, Tony Fanchi
Artists: (a lot, sorry, I’m not putting down 45+ artists here)
Star Wars: Outer Rim is the pickup-and-delivery Star Wars game that none us knew we wanted but in actuality we really did.
But it’s more than that, really. It’s almost a bit of a sandbox take on the seedy side of the Star Wars universe.
Each player will be a character from the movies (or even the comics, like Dr. Aphra). You could be Lando Calrissian, Han Solo, Boba Fett, and a few others as well.
You will also get a starter ship, though you may be able to upgrade to something better at some point.
You are going to be flying around the Outer Rim of known space, visiting planets to maybe collect cargo to deliver, find a bounty to go after, or find some other job to do.
The Outer Rim is shown as a series of interlocking narrow boards that end up forming an arc that you are taking your ship along. This means that you can switch things up if you want. It may not be as balanced, but it will vary things a great deal.
In addition to the decks that do everything from giving you Cargo jobs to bounties, ships to items you can buy, there is also a story deck (not pictured) like in many FFG games like this.
Thus, a job or other card may tell you too look at “Card #82.” You would dig that card out of the story cards and resolve it as required.
A big part of the game is reputation with various factions: The Hutts, the Rebels, the Imperials, and the Syndicate. Patrols from those factions will be wandering the board, and many encounters will cause you to gain or lose reputation with one or more factions. This can make your game easier or harder, but also more lucrative as well.
What are you trying to do with all this? Gain money? While money is important, what’s even more important is fame!
Fame is what will determine when the game ends, and some encounters do mention “the most famous player” as having the effect happen to them.
So there’s that.
In a normal game, once somebody reaches 10 fame, the game will end. You can go to 12 if you want a really long game, but I don’t recommend it.
You can get fame by fulfilling your personal character mission, some of the other missions that you can draw from the deck, maybe even your ship’s mission if you upgrade. There are many ways to get fame, and there are many ways to die in the Outer Rim (though “dying” just means you go back to start and lose some stuff).
Much like every other FFG game I know (including Marvel Champions above), Star Wars: Outer Rim comes with a “Learn the Game” manual and a “Rules Reference.” This can be good or this can be bad. I’ve had good and bad experiences with this format in Eldritch Horror, but I didn’t have to access the rule book this time around (I just asked our teacher) so I don’t know how well it works in this case.
Overall, it was a fun, if long game. I think the playing time can come down when you don’t have half of the players asking stupid questions. We didn’t actually finish it, though I don’t know how much longer we had (we had to leave by 11:45 pm so they could close the room).
I would definitely like to play this one again. It definitely has the feel of a Star Wars game on the seedy side of the galaxy.
I’m concerned that too many plays would have too much repetition with cards (there aren’t that many cards in each deck in the game), but maybe I’m wrong.
That would require lots of plays!
This one is worth a shot if you have a chance to play it.
Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Artists: Dennis Lohausen, Wolfgang Warsch
A bag-building push your luck game where you can have your potions explode multiple times?
Where do I sign up? Will there be lots of death and destruction!
Sorry, I just watched The Good Place finale.
Anyway, yes, Quacks of Quedlinburg is a bag-building game where you will be drawing potion ingredients to try and make the best potion.
However, you’re essentially con artists, putting special ingredients into your potions to try and pad them out a bit and make money off the unsuspecting townfolk during this 9-day festival (hey, the game has 9 rounds…imagine that!).
Pull too many special ingredients from the bag, and your potion blows up in your face (both literally and figuratively).
Each round, you will be drawing elements from your bag, placing them on the curling track of your pot (shown above) a number of spaces equal to the number on the element. The farther out you get, the more money you will get to buy more elements as well as possibly rubies.
You will also be scoring points based on how far out you get (the pic above will earn 4 points).
However, there is a push-your-luck element to the game. You are putting a lot of different ingredients in your potion, but the white ones are cherry bombs. They give the “potion” a great flavour. But if you use too many, your potion will explode!
If you draw a white chip from your bag which will give you a total of 7 value or above in white chips for your potion, it explodes and you don’t get anything for that round.
You can mitigate that and increase the value of your potions, by buying ingredient chips to place into your bag. This will make it less likely you will be drawing white chips and will increase your score (and money available to buy more!). Assuming you don’t explode, of course.
Players whose potions don’t explode get both the money value and the victory point value of the space they reached in their pot. If your potion exploded, you have to choose one or the other.
Some of the chips have special abilities (like the green ones above, or blue chips which in our game let us take a number of chips out of the bag and choose which one (if any) we want to place next, which was really powerful!).
Do this over 9 rounds and whoever has the most points is the winner!
This was a fun, fast push-your-luck bag-building game that I really enjoyed. It definitely has a fair bit of luck in it, but that’s baked into the ingredients of the game. You know going in and since it’s a relatively fast game, it’s just a fun bit of chaos.
That, and there are ways to mitigate your luck by not pushing it and buying more ingredients to dilute your bag.
I really enjoyed this one, and it would be another great lunch-time game (ok, it may be a bit long for that considering setup and everything, but it is a good filler).
Designer: Levi Mote
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Horizons bills itself as kind of a 4X style game, but I’m not really seeing much extermination in the game. There is a lot of colonizing and building plants to get resources, though!
You start with a number of stars equal to the number of players out on the table. These systems will have planets discovered orbiting them which will can be mined for at least one of (if not both) the two resources in the game: energy or metal. Or you can just build a colony there too.
Players can take two actions on their turn, choosing between (and they can do the same action twice): Explore (adding a planet to a star system), Adapt (become adapted to a type of world), Build (build a structure on a world, either a collector or a colony), Harvest (gain 1 resource per collector you’ve built), Conspire (draw 2 Mission cards or 1 Mission & 1 Ally).
What are Mission cards? (Editor – Somebody forgot to take a picture of them. I wonder who that might be?)
These are cards that will give you endgame scoring if you fulfill the mission. It can be anything from having a star system with 4+ Arboreal world types to having zero resources at the end of the game (no metal or energy).
Ally cards will give you special bonuses in certain actions. However, they are turned sideways the first time you use them and are sent back to their home planet the second time, so use them wisely!
As the game goes on, players will be building stuff on planets various star systems. Control of these systems will give you points at the end of the game. You get one control point for a collector or two points for a colony. Majority gets you 6 points, second place gets you 3 points (Ties are different, obviously).
You also get one point for each knowledge token you have (you can get these during the game when you explore, but they can also give you powerful abilities if you spend them depending on your allies).
The game ends immediately when a player places their last colony on the board, even if it’s their first action. So plan wisely! None of this “everybody gets one more turn” crap.
I was kind of underwhelmed by Horizons, and I’m not really sure why. I didn’t do very well in it, having trouble planning out how to get my missions (they were pretty easy to foil for anybody paying attention). I don’t think that’s the reason, though.
I just didn’t find it that engaging.
We played the basic game with no player powers. The player boards are 2-sided and the second side gives you a race with a power. I really enjoy having a unique power, so that might help with my next play.
We’ll have to see. I would like to try it again and see if it was just my first impression that wasn’t very good.
So there you have it. Part 1 of a huge January!
Part 2 will be coming…sometime. When I get it done (I haven’t even started it yet!). My guess would be sometime next week.
Have you played any of these games? What do you think of them? Or what did you play that was new to you in January?
Let me know in the comments.
Category: Board Games, New to MeTags: Area Control, Bag Building, Bunny Kingdom, Caleb Grace, Card Drafting, Circadians: First Light, Corey Konieczka, Daily Magic Games, Dice Placement, Fantasy Flight Games, Garphill Games, Henry Audobon, Horizons, Iello Games, Isaias Vallejo, Keymaster Games, Levi Mote, Living Card Games, Lunch Time Games, Marvel Champsions: the Card Game, Michael Boggs, Nate French, North Star Games, Parks, Pick Up & Deliver, Point to Point Movement, Push Your Luck Games, Renegade Games Studios, Richard Garfield, Rick Holzgrafe, Set Collection Games, SJ MacDonald, Star Wars: Outer Rim, Tableau-building, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Tile-Laying Games, Tony Fanchi, Villages of Valeria, Wolfgang Warsch
This is a blog about board games, with the occasional other post for a bit of spice.