New to Me – February 2020

We’re a little late with the “New to Me Games” post for February, but there is definitely a good reason.

Last week was the Cult of the New to Me fundraising car wash!

Unfortunately, the flyers I sent out and put up had the wrong week on them, so nobody ever showed.

Alone in the Rain

This was me on Friday. There was some other charity fundraiser happening inside.

They looked happy.

Anyway, as predicted, going to Dice Tower West also contributed to the delay, as I played four new to me games there!

But here now, finally, are all of the new to me games played in February 2020.

There being a 2016 and 2018 game in there, there weren’t even any attempted revolts this month!

Gotta keep them sated.

So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was intercepted and run back for a touchdown anyway), let’s begin!

Football Highlights 2052 (2019 – Eagle-Gryphon Games) – 1 play

pic4284648

Designer: Mike Fitzgerald

Artists: Garrett Kaida, Franz Vohwinkel

Players: 1-4 (though really, it’s a 2-player game with a solo mode and boards so you can have two simultaneous games going)

I finally got this great 2-player football game (much in the same vein as Fitzgerald’s Baseball Highlights 2045) to the table in February after having it for a few months.

I’m nothing if not punctual.

In Football Highlights 2052, the world of sports has changed and football even more so. Gone are the excessive padding and plastic helmets that could kill you if you are hit with somebody wearing one at any kind of fast speed.

While there are no robots or cyborgs in the game like there are in Baseball Highlights 2045, the game relies a lot more on skill than toughness.

Football Highlights - Cards

The game doesn’t simulate football at all, but instead it gives you the feel of a football game by showing you basically the highlights of it.

Each player will have a deck of 15 players and will have 10 in their hand. They can also set one aside secretly for an “audible” play (meaning a play that you instigate because you don’t like the current offense or defense that you see from your opponent) so you could have 11 cards out.

Football Highlights - Football

Each player will also have their football moving toward their opponent’s goal line.

Football Highlights - Offense

Each card is dual use in the game. The first player in the half (there are 2 halves, separated by a free agent draft from a stack of other player cards) places a card for the offense (where the footballs are).

Then the second player plays a card for the defense on the card (the helmets). You resolve the play based on the play type (run/pass/maul) first. If you do a run defense against a pass offense, for example, then you’re going to allow a huge gain with an Action card drawn.

Football Highlights - YAC

First, though, you resolve the play (the above picture is a 30-yard pass play), subtracting 5 yards for each helmet that’s opposite the football. Then you draw an Action card to see how many more yards you gain.

If the play type matches but you don’t have any helmets opposite the football, then you just resolve the offensive play without the Action card.

If the play type matches and all footballs are covered by helmets, then you resolve the defensive play instead.

The offense starts at 45 yards from the end zone and has 4 plays to get a touchdown. If they don’t, they can try and kick a field goal that’s 3 points instead of a touchdown’s 7.

Football Highlights - Board

The cool thing about the card play is that once the offensive play is resolved, the defensive player turns his card to the offensive side, using that for the offensive play. The other player than plays a defense to counter, etc.

Thus, not only are you playing the defense that you want to counter the other player, you have to be aware of what that card’s offensive play is.

Do you really want to play that card now? You could do an audible (changing the card, basically), which you can do three times a half by either using your set-aside audible card or, if you’ve already used it, drawing the top card of your deck.

This continues for all 10 cards before the half is over.

There’s the free agent draft at halftime (oh, I wish that were real!) and then you do the same thing for the second half.

I’ve only played this once so far but it feels like a really great game. It’s fast (we finished in 40 minutes after the teach) and it really does give you the feel of a football experience.

In the beginning, it seemed a little rote as we weren’t really gaining any yards. However, as your hand is depleted and you have fewer options, you will start seeing mismatches and lots of yards gained.

Our score was 24-9, and when I was doing 2-handed solo to teach myself the game, I ended up with some scores like 31-23 and the like.

You really start having to read your opponent a bit in addition to your own cards.

I’m definitely going to be playing more Football Highlights 2052. At this point, I’d even say I like it better than the baseball version though that’s subject to change.

Hopefully I’ll get enough plays in to get a review written.

Barrage (2019 – Cranio Creations) – 1 play

pic4336469

Designers: Tommaso Battista, Simone Luciani

Artist: Antonio De Luca

Players: 1-4

Barrage is a game about building dams and producing power from those dams in an alternate 1930s where fossil fuels are already depleted by advances in the industrial revolution, so water power has become supreme!

He (or she) who harnesses it best makes the most money.

But it’s not really as dry as it sounds (hell, there’s tons of water there!)

Barrage - Board

You start with the board, of course, representing part of the Alps mountain range. There are four water reservoirs at the top and then rivers going downward through numerous basins. You can build dams there to collect the water, power conduits to use that water to send that water to the powerhouses that generate the power.

While you must build your own dams (or use the neutral ones that are randomly placed at the start of the game) and your own powerhouses, you can use another player’s conduits. However, you have to pay them for each drop of water sent through their conduits.

Power generation ain’t a charity!

But let’s start at the beginning.

Barrage - Player Board
The special ability is in the bottom left corner of the board.

Each player is a CEO from a different nation, and each of those CEOs has a special power and a unique player board. This board will also contain the structures you can build.

I found the building mechanics very interesting in this game. You have 12 workers (Engineers) to use during your round and each action you can take costs a certain number of them. Building your first building costs one, and then two, and then three. Your fourth build also costs 3 Engineers and some money.

Barrage - Player Board with Rondel

To build, you have to have a number of Excavator and/or Concrete Mixers in your supply.  You also have a certain number of technology tiles that you can use (the kind of arc-like pieces that show the different building types or some other iconography).

Barrage - Rondel

The cool thing is the Construction Wheel.

You have to put the technology tile you want to use along with the appropriate number of Excavators/Mixers into the open space at the top along with the tile itself. You then rotate the wheel.

You will eventually get that tile and those pieces back, but not before your wheel makes a full circle (there are certain actions that will let you rotate the wheel). Until then, they are locked and can’t be used.

You really have to plan your builds because of this! Or you have to get combos going that will let you rotate your wheel a lot.

Barrage - Board in play 3
Green is going to have to use red’s conduit in order to produce any power from that damn. Well-placed, red!

These structures will go out on the board and that’s how you’re going to be generating power: by building dams, conduits, and powerhouses.

Barrage - Worker Areas

On the board, there are a number of action spaces that will let you do things like rotate your wheel, produce power, and other things. These will cost Engineers and may cost money as well.

Barrage - Power Track

The Energy Track is where you track how much power you’ve generated this turn. If you generate enough, you may get bonuses at the end of the round. If you don’t generate enough, you may lose whatever bonuses you might have gained.

This will also be money income gained next turn as well.

Barrage - Contracts

Finally, there are contracts that you can take and try to fulfill with your power generation. These will give you extra bonuses based on how much power you generate in one action.

Much like Terra Mystica and Gaia Project, you have to build an engine that will do what you want it to do. Otherwise, you’re going to be doing everything in stops and starts and you won’t generate VP efficiently at all.

The game goes for five rounds. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner!

Let me first mention the elephant in the room. Many people on BGG have been talking about component problems with this game, both with the Kickstarter edition as well as the retail one.

Thankfully, my friend who brought this to game day had a pristine edition with no problems.

Be aware of the possibility, however, if you’re thinking of buying this game. Especially with Asmodee’s new part replacement policy.

As for the game itself, it really burned my brain, but not in a way that drove me away from the game. I played terribly, of course, but it didn’t turn me off from the game.

Barrage - Board in Play 2

You really have to plan out where your buildings are going to go, as well as how you’re going to build them.

You have to pay attention to where the water’s going to flow and how you can take advantage of that.

Barrage - Player Board in use
I was getting money and Mixers/Excavators every turn! And was able to fulfill contracts that required 3 power higher than the printed requirement.

I like how building your buildings will then end up giving you bonus income each round. It gives you another incentive to get things out as soon as you can, though given how the Construction Wheel works, you may not be able to!

I don’t know if I love this game yet. I’d have to play it some more times.

But I’m definitely intrigued by it.

It’s well worth a try if you like heavy games at all.

On Mars (2020 – Eagle-Gryphon Games) – 1 play

pic4357658

Designer: Vital Lacerda

Artist: Ian O’Toole

Players: 1-4

On Mars is the latest Vital Lacerda extravaganza with lots of moving parts and players trying to figure out how to optimize everything.

What results is kind of a contradiction, as I found it to be one of Lacerda’s more straightforward games as far as understanding how things work yet it’s also one of the most complicated (for me anyway) in trying to get everything to work together efficiently.

Though maybe the fact that I actually didn’t do too badly undermines that last point a little bit.

I’ll go into a little more detail in a bit, but basically your astronaut is on one side of the board or the other, thus limiting you to actions on that side. If you miss the shuttle to the other side, you may be stuck doing your side’s actions for a turn or two (or you may have to be inefficient and spend an action to move to the planet without getting any of the benefits that usually happens if you do it in between turns).

Let’s take a quick look at it, though this is going to be a much more general summary than usual as it’s a Lacerda game: it’s by definition complex.

On Mars - Board - Overview
I feel like I’m in a teenager in 1985 again!

The board looks really cool, an area of Mars (which is probably just a pin-prick in a Terraforming Mars hex) where you will be developing buildings that produce certain resources, or perhaps shelters for all of your workers.

On Mars - Player Board

Your player board is where you’re going to be storing the technologies you develop as well as where you will be getting your shelters and storing your colonists. You’ll start with three colonists, and these will be the ones doing your actions.

On Mars - Shuttle
This is only the planet side of the Shuttle Track

The really intriguing thing about On Mars is the shuttle track. Where you are on the board (in orbit or on the planet) will determine what actions you have to use your colonists for.

Each side also has a turn order space which you will choose if you travel with the shuttle. Early in the game, the shuttle will be in the first space, so it will travel after each round.  Later, as the colony becomes more self-sufficient, it will start back in the 2 or 3 space, which means it will be that many turns before the shuttle travels.

If you decide not to travel with the shuttle, you can use one of your own ships but you have to get rid of the ship when you do that. Using the “Welcome a Ship” action will actually bring you colonists and get you points for each ship you’ve welcomed.

Using a ship to move from the planet to orbit or vice versa?

Nothing (in fact you lose 3 points because ships in your hangar get you that many).

On Mars - Blueprints
These blueprints will upgrade the buildings that are placed on the planet as well as give you another Executive Action choice!

The actions that you can do vary from getting blueprints that you can then use to upgrade buildings on the planet with to taking technology tiles, to actually moving your rover around the planet and setting up places that you can later build in and many others.

Like many of Lacerda’s games, you can always take a main action and then an executive action as well. In On Mars, you will pay for these executive actions with crystals (for the most part) so you’ll find yourself trying to hoard them as much as possible.

On Mars - Board - Later

As the game progresses, the map will start filling up with buildings that will give different resources if you happen to have upgraded them. Upgrading the buildings is how players exert control over the spaces. The more of the same type of building you have connected (called “complexes”), the better it will be for you.

On Mars - Technology

You can also use an action while in orbit to take a technology tile (or more if you have more colonists to spend). This will enable you to increase your ability to do things (such as build bigger complexes or move your rover further). The interesting thing is that any other player can use your tech, but you earn an oxygen resource that you can either store or you can use to upgrade that particular tech (if you can afford any additional cost).

So in some ways it is a cooperative game as well as competitive in that Mars must be colonized. Holding other players back will also harm you to some extent.

How does the game end?

There are Missions in the game that will give you a bonus when you fulfill them. They also have a marker beneath them that moves toward zero each time somebody fulfills the mission (it may be building a builder robot or it might be other things). Once that marker reaches zero, nobody else can get the bonus and that counts as one step toward game end.

Also, the colony will become more stable as buildings are built that do various things like produce oxygen, power, water, etc. When stability rises to a certain level (depending on how many missions have been fully completed as well), that will trigger the game end.

On Mars - Endgame Board Close

At the end, the board may look like this.

Total up all the points from building upgrades, contracts, how hot your partner is (ok, that last one is probably wrong) and lots of other stuff, and whoever has the most points is the winner!

I really enjoyed this, even as my brain burned a little bit. Like I said, I found this one of Lacerda’s most straightforward games to really understand how things work.

It’s still hard to be efficient and maximize your points in it (at least for me), but I could actually understand what I was supposed to do.

I actually only lost by 18 points! Much better than I usually do with Lacerda.

The game is beautiful, it’s fun, it’s crunchy, and I really want to play it again to see if I can improve.

It’s my favourite of his that I’ve played (only two others, though: Vinhos and The Gallerist)

Another complex game that you should try if you’re into that kind of thing.

Shards of Infinity (2018 – Stone Blade Entertainment/Ultra Pro) – 2 plays

pic4064509

Designers: Gary Arant, Justin Gary

Artist: Aaron Nakahara

Players: 2-4

I’ve been playing Shards of Infinity on the app ever since it came out. I probably have close to 100 2-player games finished on it. (Editor – Then why haven’t you reviewed it yet?)

However, I’ve never played it on the table, which is why it’s showing up in this article as I got my first two plays of it in with my wife at Dice Tower West.

Shards of Infinity is a game by Stone Blade Entertainment (makes of the wonderful Ascension game) and it really shows.

In fact, for someone who has played the Ascension app almost 7000 times, it may be a bit too similar in some cases.

Unlike Ascension, this games is a game where you are trying to destroy your opponent by bringing them down to zero health.

Shards - Champion
He looks…aggressive.

However, each player is a faction with a character, one of four different factions: Homodeus, Undergrowth, Wraethe, and Order.

The long-time Ascension player in me unfortunately keeps calling them by their Ascension names (Mechana, Lifebound, Void and Enlightened).

But one day I will stop doing that.

Much like any of these other games, there are two currencies: in this case Gems and Power. Thankfully they just call your hit points “Health” rather than making some other name for it.

Unlike others that I have seen, there is a third currency that will steadily increase as you play cards that give it to you (including exhausting your character once per turn): Mastery.

How do you get all of this stuff?

Shards - Cards

With cards, of course. You have a hand of 5 cards and the cards will give you one or more of the currencies to then spend during your turn to either acquire cards from the center row or to attack your opponent (or their champions).

Some cards will give you further benefits if your mastery level is high enough.

That includes the Infinity Shard. At 10 mastery, you’ll get extra power. At 20, even more. But if you hit 30? You get infinite power and win the game.

I love that concept.

Shards of Infinity also brings back the “unite” concept, where if you play cards of the same faction you will get even more bonuses. I really like that as it guides you on what types of cards to get if you can.

Finally, there are mercenaries, which I think is a great idea.

If the card’s cost has a red border around it (and the card says “Mercenary” on it), then you can either purchase it for its immediate effect as if you had played it from your hand but then it is removed from the game, or you can buy it like any normal card and it goes to your discard pile.

Champions are like constructs in Ascension (and many other games). You play them in front of you and you can activate them once a turn if they are eligible.

You go back and forth playing cards until one of you is dead.

And then I guess it’s time to find another opponent. Because this one’s dead!

Anyway, I have always liked the game on the app and now I’m really happy I got a chance to play it on the table.

I love how it adds to the usual deck-building concepts with things like mercenaries and the mastery thing is just seriously cool. I won one of the games using the Infinity Shard, and my wife almost won the second game the same way though I managed to defeat her before she could reach 30.

I think the Dice Tower West copy of the game may have just been used a lot, but I wasn’t happy that the health/mastery dials were pretty loose and kept getting bumped and changed slightly. I won’t hold that against the game, though.

Which faction your character is has no effect on the game when you’re playing the base game. You can just choose which one looks cooler.

Expansions for the game actually do take that into account, though, so I’m eager to try those.

This is a great deck-building combat game that I would almost play over Star Realms if it came down to it (though I’d play either one).

The Isle of Cats (2019 – The City of Games) – 1 play

pic4781085

Designer: Frank West

Artists: Dragolisco, Frank West

Players: 1-4

I’m not big on tetris-style “fill in your game board with differently-shaped tiles” games. My spatial recognition is not that great and I’m not very good at them at all.

At least I don’t mind it too much when I have time to think about it (I’m looking at you, Factory Fun!).

Especially when it’s one of the biggest games of the year, or at least one with a great deal of buzz about it.

In Isle of Cats, you are a ship that has docked at an island and you are trying to rescue a bunch of cats from it before an approaching dark army bent on destruction will come along and wipe them all out!

Oh, the horror!

Ok, it’s a silly theme. A tile-laying game with cats on your ship, why bring into the backstory a dark army that won’t only destroy these ancient noble creatures but also the entire world?

But anyway…

Isle of Cats - Island
The cats on the right side of the island are more demanding (5 fish instead of 3). By what right they make these demands, I have no clue.

You have your ship, and you have this island of cats. You need fish to lure the cats to your boat.

Each round, the cats are laid out on each side of the island, costing you either 3 fish to capture or 5 fish. Good thing you start with 20! Plus whatever you saved from previous turns.

pic5179430
Many thanks to BGG user choc oladevla for letting me use this picture! Because somebody forgot to take one…

Oh, and you have to spend fish to buy the cards that you are drafting as wellThe cost of the cards is in the top left corner.

You need baskets to capture the cats as well as fish. You always have one, but you need to play more basket cards to be able to capture more than one cat in a round.

Isle of Cats - Tiles

The cats are all lined up like they’re waiting to be wooed by the player. Here, kitty kitty. I got some nice fish for you!

And then it’s time to put them on your ship.

As with most of these games, you are trying to cover your entire ship with these cats. You get more points if you have cats of the same colour connected to each other.

Isle of Cats - Ship 1

And, as in so many other games, you lose points for uncovered spaces, though this time it’s only if a room (they have the same symbol on them) has uncovered spaces in it. It doesn’t matter how many spaces, you’ll still just lose the same number of points.

And lose one point for each rat that’s uncovered. Hey, you’ve done these cats a good deed by rescuing them.

Why not put them to work and make them earn their keep?

You can also find treasures on the island, some common ones that fill in some gaps that you had to leave and some rarer ones that will fill even more spaces. You can get points by completing Lessons that you bought during card drafting And a few different ways as possible.

Isle of Cats - Ship Complete

After five rounds, you’ll have a ship like this! Only hopefully it’s better.

Whoever has the most points is the winner.

I really did enjoy this game, even though I knew I was doing terribly at it. The couple who taught it to me said I did pretty good for a first-timer, but I think they were being kind.

I’m terrible at putting things together and having them fit, though I have to say that this one wasn’t too bad as far as that goes.

If I have to play a tetris-shaped tile-laying game, I can’t go wrong with The Isle of Cats.

Dead Reckoning (2020 – Alderac Entertainment Group) – 1 play

pic4650725

Designer: John D. Clair

Artist: Ian O’Toole

Players: 2-4

The highlight of Dice Tower West! And not just because it’s a cool game.

Check out my preview of it here.

Dice of Crowns (2016 – Thing 12 Games) – 1 play

pic4125934

Designers: Sean Epperson, Brander “Badger” Roullett

Artist: Darrin Michelson, Kris Quistorff

Players: 2-6

The king is dead.

Long live the king!

Or queen, of course.

Dice of Crowns is a game that’s basically Zombie Dice but there is actually player interaction in it.

And that’s what makes it so much better.

My wife and I had the pleasure of playing this game at Dice Tower West with one of the designers, Sean Epperson (full disclosure: I consider Sean a friend as we’ve met and gamed at a few cons).

Dice of Crowns 1
Thanks to Sean for providing the pictures, since your lazy writer here forgot to actually take any. It’s that fun of a game!

You have seven dice and on your turn you will roll them. There are crowns on them, bloody daggers, skulls, and scrolls.

If you roll three crowns, you get a crown token. Three crown tokens and you win!

If you roll three daggers, your turn ends.

Roll 3 skulls? You can end your turn and get a re-roll chip that will can be used to re-roll any die on the table.

Not just your dagger, but also another player’s crown!

That’s cruel…

Dice of Crowns - Put Away

Scrolls, you pass them to one or more other players and they re-roll them. If they roll a skull or scroll, the die comes back to you.

If they roll a dagger, they get to choose who gets it. That player must keep it (and will thus already have a dagger when their turn comes if it’s not currently their turn). They get to keep the crown if they roll it.

If you win three crown tokens, you are the new king or queen!

This was a lot of fun. It’s a great filler, it actually involves the player when it’s not their turn (no looking at their phone while waiting to see if you roll shotguns or not).

There aren’t a lot of decisions (it is a dice game, you know), but there are some and you are relying on the fickle finger of fate to see whether you are pushing your luck or not.

Unlike Zombie Dice, it’s not as much of a push your luck game as you might think.

Dice of Crowns - Pieces

Sure, if you roll skulls you have to decide whether to keep them or turn them in for a fate token (but only if you roll three of them). But otherwise, there’s no reason to stop rolling the dice if you haven’t earned anything.

You can’t stockpile crowns for future turns.

We played with some of the advanced rules but not all of them. Some of them look quite intriguing! Like if you roll extra daggers in a roll, you can pass those daggers on to opponents for when they start their turn.

I’d definitely play this one again. It’s fun!

Expansions

Terraforming Mars: Turmoil (2019 – Stronghold Games) – 1 play

pic4599496

Designer: Jacob Fryxelius

Artist: Isaac Fryxelius

Players: 1-5

With Terraforming Mars being in my Top 10 games played of all time, you know that any expansion is going to be anxiously anticipated.

In this case, what purports to be the final big expansion to the game, Turmoil adds politics and events to the chaos of trying to terraform the red planet!

This expansion adds three new corporations, some new project cards, and delegates to the Terraforming Committee, as well as a new type of card: Global Events.

TM - Turmoil - Event Cards

These events will have either good or bad effects, but they’ll show up two generations before you have to actually deal with them, so you have time to prepare.

So if you see the Jovian Colony Boom come up, you can start making sure you have some colonies to boost your megacredit income!

As for influence, that brings us to the Terraforming Committee.

TM - Turmoil - Political Board

There are six parties on the committee, but only one can have the Chairmanship of the committee in any generation. When each one is in power, they have a certain effect on how things happen in the game.

For example, in the picture above, the Green party is in power. So every time you build a greenery, you get four megacredits.

If the Scientists are in power (the token at the bottom of the picture with the chemistry glass), you can spend 10 megacredits to draw 3 cards as an action.

You can gain influence in the various parties by having a delegate in it. You get a second influence if you are chairman when it is in power (you get the chairmanship by having more delegates than any other player or neutral in the party).

So the Jovian Tax Rights event above, you get one Titanium for each influence you have. Some cards may give you more influence as well.

TM - Turmoil - Political Board & Events

Put all together, it looks like this and adds an extra phase to each generation.

Each generation, you can put one delegate into a party for free (as an action). Each additional delegate you wish to put out there costs 5 megacredits.

It’s an interesting twist on the whole thing and I like how you can plan for the events. They will definitely add shape to what you’re doing, as you may want to get the Unity party in power (for example) because you use Titanium a lot and that party makes Titanium worth one extra megacredit for space projects when it’s in power (just to name one example).

The new corporations are pretty cool too.

I loved our first play of this, though it does add to the game length, at least the first few times you play as you are taking more into consideration.

If you’re not ready for a longer game, best to leave this one out. Or make sure you have time.

I do like what it adds and would love to play it some more just so I can get good at it.

So better late than never, this was all of the new to me games I played in February 2020.

What new games did you play last month?

What do you think of these?

Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

7 Comments on “New to Me – February 2020

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