New to Me – October 2021

Now this is more like it.

October was a great month for gaming, with me playing 19 different games in the month.

This included six new to me games and two new to me expansions!

What a cornucopia of games!

Well, those aren’t games, but at least there’s a pumpkin for Halloween.

Given the publish date for these games and expansions, though, the Cult of the New to Me was giving me a bit of the side-eye this month.

They think I’m getting perilously close to “Cult of the New” status, which they can’t have!

I may have a rebellion on my hands soon.

Maybe next month I’ll play some older ones.

That may placate them for a month or two.

Anyway, without further ado (all of my ado was stolen by some tinpot Scythian warlord anyway), let’s get started!

Imperium: Classics (2021 – Osprey Games) – 1 play

Designers: Nigel Buckle, Dávid Turczi

Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski

Players: 1-4

Wow, a deck-building civilization game?

Who woulda thunk it?

Imperium: Classics (along with its companion, Imperium: Legends, which wasn’t included in our game) is a new deck-building game where each player is an ancient civilization that is trying to reach “Empire” status. I think the Legends game has some more mythological civilizations, but Classics just has ones like the Roman Empire, the Scythians, the Greeks, etc.

What’s really interesting is the concept of each civilization having their own cards to be gained (or bought if you’re in the Empire stage) each time your deck runs out but you are also buying more generic cards that can be bought by anybody.

I was the Romans in our game and they get points for having population at the end of the game.

Civilizations start as Barbarians, which means you can play the cards with the red flag with an axe on them, along with cards that don’t have any of those symbols. However, you can’t play any cards with the blue Empire symbol.

Once you become an Empire, you can’t play Barbarian cards anymore.

It’s a rather cool system.

Some cards that you will gain (including at least one at the start) are Unrest cards which basically clog up your hand. These cards are also negative VPs if they are in your deck at the end of the game.

On your turn, you can “Activate” (up to 3 times though you can earn Activation tokens to give you more activations) in order to play cards from your hand.

Some cards that you’ve already played have “exhaust” abilities. You have 5 “exhaust” tokens (unless you’re a civilizations that has fewer) so you can exhaust up to 5 cards to use their abilities.

The stack on the left are the cards you can gain/buy when your discard pile empties

Some of your cards will let you buy other cards, but most of the cards you can take (other than “Land” cards) also get you an Unrest. So be ready to deal with those!

Some cards will let you gain cards from the market. If you simply “gain” the card, then you also get the Unrest that’s underneath it. But if you “Breakthrough,” then you can either ignore the Unrest or you can take the top card from the pile instead of the one that’s out.

The game has some interesting mechanics, like “garrisoning” cards and putting them into your “History”.

Garrisoning cards under your Land cards gets them out from your deck and thins it some. If you’re a Barbarian civilization, it’s a good thing to do with any Empire cards you get since you can’t actually play them yet.

Don’t worry. There are many ways for your Lands to go back to your hand. When that happens, any Garrisoned cards go there too, so these cards aren’t gone forever.

After you have done your three (or more) Activations, you can either discard cards from your hand or not, and then draw up to your hand size. That’s one way this is different from many deckbuilders. You can keep cards in your hand. That does mean you don’t draw as many cards. However, if you wanted to play that card this turn but didn’t have enough Activations, you can do it next time.

(unless you’re playing Cal who keeps on making you return your Lands to your hand and thus you can’t actually play the card you want to play)

The game ends when there are no more cards in the main deck, a player develops the last card in their stack of development cards, the “King of Kings” card is flipped down (this means that all of the “Glory” cards have been taken, Glory cards being cards you can acquire that can be super-powerful) or a few ways that are civilization-specific.

The land cards that you can play in front of you are pretty cool too. Each one has a different ability and depending on the type, you can gain certain resources during the game with them.

You may notice the “Solstice” keyword on the City of Rome above.

Solstice happens after the round is completed and everybody has had a turn. The Solstice happens so any cards on the table with Solstice effects happen. The City of Rome lets you discard a card to either gain a population, gain a resource, or draw a card.

This was a really cool game and it’s one I’d like to play again.

It took me until the end of the game to realize the little tricks you can use, such as garrisoning your Empire cards to get them out of your deck and let you cycle through faster.

You don’t become an Empire until your done gaining your Barbarian cards, so the more often you get through your deck, the better. I was the Romans and I didn’t become an Empire until almost the last turn.

I have to rectify that!

This is a good way to get rid of all your Unrest

Anyway, the art on the cards is cool and I love how all of the concepts go together to make a civilization-building game just from a deck of cards.

This game is so fun and I think it will be more fun for me now that I have an idea of what I should be doing.

But then I could play another civilization and have to shift my strategy completely!

All the better…

If you get the chance to play Imperium (either Classics or Legends), you should.

It is an amazing game.

Storm Above the Reich (2021 – GMT Games) – 5 plays

Designers; Mark Aasted, Jeremy White

Artists: Antonis Karidis, Mark Simonitch and Jeremy White

Players: 1-2

Storm Above the Reich is a solo game (well, it could be played 2-player, but that doesn’t seem too fun) where you are heading a squadron of Luftwaffe fighters trying to defend Germany from American bombing.

Each mission may take about an hour or less so it works perfectly over a lunchtime when I’m working at home.

At least as long as I set it up beforehand.

Anyway, I did an After-Action Report on my first two missions and you can see it here.

The post also explains basically how to play, so I won’t go into it here.

The third mission is here.

The fourth & fifth missions will be posted this week.

Suffice to say that it’s a great game! At least so far.

Mariposas (2020 – AEG) – 1 play

Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave

Artists: Indi Maverick, Matt Paquette

Players: 2-5

Who knew that a game about butterflies could be such a great hit?

Elizabeth Hargrave is the designer of the stellar Wingspan and this is another design by her.

Is it good?

It’s definitely interesting, but I’d have to play it a couple more times before I decide my true opinion on it.

Mariposas is a game about the migration of butterflies from Mexico into the northern United States and then back to Mexico.

Each player starts with two Generation 1 butterflies in Mexico and they are heading north.

I think maybe they heard some good things about Montreal poutine and they want to try it.

I don’t know.

The game is played over three seasons (Spring, Summer and Fall) and you will be using movement cards to send your butterflies forth to be fruitful and multiply!

Each season, you will have a hand of two action cards. On your turn, you will be playing them to move one or more of your butterflies on the board. You then draw another one so you will always have two in your hand.

You will be trying to fulfill each season’s goals as much as possible, as that will give you victory points!

For the Spring, you get 6 points if you have a butterfly on an orange and a red space north of Atlanta, or if you have one on a yellow and blue space east of Houston

Sometimes it may not be worth trying, though, or maybe you’ll just sacrifice a butterfly or two in order to get the goal.

The reason for that is you get a bunch of points at the end of the game for having Generation 4 butterflies back in Mexico.

Getting butterflies in Michoacan at the end of the game gets you points!

Is it worth it to try and get that?

Maybe something else will be more points?

That’s the decision you have to make!

When you land a butterfly in a space, you get to collect that flower. Landing in a Waystation will get you a bonus (a Life Cycle card or perhaps a random flower die roll) and if you’re the first person there, you will get a random flower!

Gaining all of the pink cards will get you one point if you have at least one of each flower at the end of the game.

If you collect all four of a certain colour of Life Cycle cards, then you will get a bonus as well. Not to mention the fact that each card is worth a point at the end of the game.

Each season is progressively longer (Spring is 4 turns, Summer is 5 and Fall is 6) so you’ll have more time to do what you want to do.

But action cards can be limiting in how far you can move your butterflies, so you do have to decide which ones you will sacrifice to make sure you get some 4th Generation ones back to Mexico.

Not only that, but each season when you go into the next one will kill off a generation of your butterflies. After the Spring is over, your Generation 1 butterflies will disappear.

It’s a push and pull as far as what you want to go for to get points. Maybe the season bonus cards will get you good points but you have to sacrifice some of your older butterflies in order to get them?

There’s even a couple of Waystations on the northernmost row!

The Waystations are scattered all over the board. Is it worth to try and get the Life Cycle bonuses? You don’t even know where the bonuses are until somebody uncovers them. You may get something totally random (but still maybe get a point).

After the sixth turn in the Fall, endgame scoring is done and whoever has the most victory points is the winner.

I had trouble wrapping my head around this one, but that’s not the game’s fault. I only got 22 points in my one play of the game while the winner got 37. He really was able to maximize his gains during the game. Even then, I think he only got 2 butterflies back to Mexico.

You have to decide what works best for you and maybe you won’t send anybody back to Mexico? I can’t imagine that, but it may be possible.

I did enjoy my play of the game, but before I can really make a decision on it, I’d have to try it again. It’s definitely something I’d like to retry, though.

Anno 1800 (2020 – Kosmos) – 1 play

Designer: Martin Wallace

Artist: Fiore GmbH

Players: 2-4

I know I was totally astonished at this one.

A Martin Wallace game without loans. (Is that joke getting old?)

Anno 1800 is based on the video game of the same name and it’s not quite a civilization builder but instead almost a 4X (without the actual “conquering” part of the 4X).

This is actually a really cool game because it’s a game where you are collecting cards to do things but the way to end the game is to play all of your cards.

So you don’t want to collect too many or you’ll be left behind.

You will start with a certain number of cards in your hand, based on the workers that you have (I think everybody starts with the same types and number of workers).

On your turn, you will be playing cards from your hand and possibly putting workers in different industries that will give you the resources to play these cards (like above, the left card requires some clothing and some kind of soap (I think)). Playing the card will give you the benefit on the card (in this case, getting a red worker).

The industry board is where you will be putting these workers in order to produce what you need for the cards (or for other actions).

Two red workers in the coat factory

The trick is that when you get a new worker from a card, you have to draw a card of that colour and add it to your hand, which means you now have more cards you have to play before ending the game.

You can also trade with other players to get a resource you need. You have to expend a trade token and they get gold based on what level the industry you need is. In my play of the game, I don’t think I traded enough and thus I inhibited my growth.

You can also spend exploration tokens from your ships (you start with two but you can build ships to give you more). These will give you exploration cards, or maybe end-of-game scoring cards, or possibly even another card to add to your hand but it will be a more powerful action.

Each card you play will give you victory points at the end of the game, based on what type of card it is. That makes the playing of cards even more important because not only are you getting the benefit, but you’re also getting the points.

You can upgrade workers (either through card effects or spending the resources necessary to do so) and if all of your workers are out on your industry tiles, you can spend a turn to recall all of them (both those on your industries as well as those you had to spend to do some actions).

The exploration tiles can also be spent to give you more “Old World” tiles to build industries on. These will always give you one extra benefit as well as some spaces to build new industries on (rather than placing new industries on top of old ones).

This can be good or bad.

You can also use them to get “New World” tiles which give you resources that only have access to, though it does cost you a “Trade” token to get them. Some of the industries you will want to buy require these resources, so it’s good to get them.

Alonso Graves costs a lot but gives you an extra action on your turn. The Zoo gives you bonus VP for each end-game animal you visit.

Finally, there are end-game scoring goals, or perhaps cards that will give you one super-action if you pay enough for it. These are laid out and can be used at any time as long as you can pay for them (or will give you points at the end of the game)

I only played this one time and it was a brain-burner. I definitely want to play it again as I realized when we finished that I shouldn’t have spent so much time building up industries and spent more time trading for the resources I needed to play cards. I had a lot of industries but only scored 81 points while the winner had 131.

This game is intriguing and I definitely will play it again.

The Search for Planet X (2020 – Foxtrot Games/Renegade Game Studios) – 1 play

Designers: Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset

Artists: James Masino, Michael Pedro

Players: 1-4

The Search for Planet X is a deduction game (not a “social deduction” game, for those of you who don’t know the difference) where each player represents an observatory looking for the elusive 10th (or 9th if you don’t think Pluto is a planet) planet in our solar system.

The game has an app that has many different combinations of puzzles and one random one will be chosen. This will have the location of all the astral bodies and when you do your actions, the app will tell you what you find.

The board represents 12 sectors of the night sky (or maybe 18 if you play the Advanced version) and each sector (except for 2) will have an astral body of some sort in it.

It could be an asteroid (out of 4), a dwarf planet, a gas cloud (out of 2), a comet (out of 2) or the actual Planet X. There are also two empty sectors.

Each player will have a screen that shows all of this as well as hiding your research board.

Each player, based on their position around the board, will be given a couple of unique pieces of information that no one else will ever get, which is nice.

The board is also a Time Track as only certain parts of the sky are available to search each turn. As the observatories move around, the cover rotates, opening up different sectors.

The observatories will take turns moving around the board by doing one action a turn.

These actions are:

1. Survey for an object (select a range of sectors and what you’re looking for and the app will tell you how many of that object are in the range)

2. Research a Topic (select one research topic and the app will reveal one logic rule that applies to the topic)

3. Target a sector (target a specific sector and the app will tell you what’s there, but this can only be done twice during the game…and remember that Planet X shows as an empty sector)

4. Locate Planet X (select which sector you think Planet X is in *as well as* the astral bodies in the adjacent sectors)

Each action will cost a certain amount of time, and that’s how many sectors your observatory will move around the track. The observatory in last place is the active player, so it is theoretically possible to take two moves in a row.

But you can’t take the Research action twice in a row.

When you do an action, you record the information you find on your note pad.

You also record what every other player did, both to see if you can get a clue on what they know as well as to keep everybody honest in case somebody tries to do a Research action twice in a row.

If you think you made a mistake, on your turn you can do the same exact action again before doing your actual action, as the information will be the same every time you do it.

When the cover rotates around and reaches a “Theory Phase” symbol, each player will choose whether or not to publish a theory about a sector. If you publish a correct theory (the app will tell you if it’s correct) and you are the first person to publish the theory, you will get an extra point at the end of the game. Others can publish the same theory as long as the correct theory hasn’t been revealed yet.

Once it’s known, it’s known and it’s not a theory any more!

You record what you know is in each sector (or what you know is not in a sector) on another sheet behind your screen

Once somebody successfully finds Planet X and identifies the two bodies adjacent to it, each other player will get one more chance to either try to find Planet X or maybe publish a theory to get at least some points.

It is possible that the winner of the game is not the person who successfully found Planet X, depending on how many correct theories have been published.

Whoever has the most points is the winner!

I’m not normally good at deduction games, but I really enjoyed this one for one simple reason: you can check your work.

I’m always afraid in these games, especially the first time or two that I play them, that I wrote something down wrong or forgot to write it down at all.

In The Search for Planet X, you can just rerun one of your old actions to make sure everything is correct. That’s why you note on your sheet exactly what you did and when.

I actually managed to find Planet X in our game and won by one point!

I really enjoyed this one and would love to play it again.

Subastral (2021 – Renegade Game Studios) – 1 play

Designers: Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Artist: Beth Sobel

Players: 2-5

Subastral is a new set collection card game that plays in around 30 minutes.

And it is very very cool.

First, the breath-taking artwork by Beth Sobel, illustrating all eight biomes (you could call them “suits,” but then you miss out on the Majesty of Nature, and yes I did capitalize that), is amazing.

Just look at that!

The game itself is great too.

Each player starts with three cards in their hand. There are six Cloud cards placed out in sequential order with the #1 at one end and the Sun (next to the #6) at the other.

Each Cloud card gets one card placed on it and then two more cards are drawn. These cards (which can’t be the same number) are placed on the Cloud of the same number as on the card.

Then players take turns playing one card to the same-numbered Cloud. They then take one pile from a Cloud either with a lower number or a higher number.

If you take from a lower number, then you put those cards in your hand and draw a card from the top of the deck.

If you take from a higher number, you place them in your Journal on the table in front of you.

When you place cards in your Journal, you have to first place cards of a biome that you already have with those cards. You don’t get two different columns with the same biome. Thus, you can have a maximum of eight columns in your Journal (the number of different biomes there are).

Then, any new biomes are placed to the right of the ones you already have (you choose the order if you get two or more new biomes)

This continues going around the table until the “Game End” card is drawn. Players finish the round back to the First Player and then each player gets an additional turn.

The scoring is what makes this game so neat and a bit of a brain-burner even for a quick filler.

First, you score for mixed sets of biomes, but you go from left to right. So your first set is going to be the number of different biomes you have. The second set will only go from left to right until there isn’t a card in the column. Even if you have columns to the right that are larger, the mixed set scoring doesn’t count them.

In the picture below, the first mixed set is 5 cards but the second and third ones are only 2 cards because Column 3 only has 1 card. You don’t get anything for mixed set scoring for the 4th card in the 5th column.

Secondly, you score your two largest sets of the same biomes.

Each card in the set is worth a number of points equal to the column it is in. So if the largest set is 4 cards in the 5th column (as above), then you get 20 points (4 cards worth 5 points each).

Then you score your 2nd largest set.

If any sets are tied for number of cards, then you always count the one furthest to the left (thus you get the fewest number of points, like above where your second set would be in Column 1, getting you 3 points).

All of this makes you really have to think about where you position cards in your journal. Do you want to pick up that stack with two new biomes in it?

Maybe, but maybe not if instead you can take one card that’s the same biome as your largest set and that column is the 5th or 6th column in your Journal.

Our first game took 27 minutes and that’s with all of us being new to the game.

It’s quick and easy to play, but still has the crunchiness of decisions that can make your brain hurt.

I’ll definitely be playing this one again.

Now let’s take a look at that amazing art again.

Expansions:

Shards of Infinity: Into the Horizon (2021 – Stoneblade Entertainment) – 2 plays

Designers: Gary Arant, Justin Gary, Ryan Sutherland, Jared Saramago, Mataio Wilson and Jason Zila

Artists: Kris Aubin, Jessica R. Eyler, Rod Mendez, Aaron Nakahara

Players: 2-4

A great expansion to a great game.

Rather than me blathering on about it here, why not go read the review?

Ecos: New Horizon (2021 – AEG) – 1 play

Designer: John D. Clair

Artist: Sabrina Miramon

Players: 2-6

Wow, 2 expansions with “Horizon” in the title! That’s like, eerie or something.

I first played the base game, Ecos: First Continent back at CascadeCon in 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I picked up the expansion during Lockdown but never got it to the table.

So I was happy to do so this month!

I first talked about Ecos in my January 2020 “New to Me” post, so the basic gist of how to play can be found there.

What does New Horizon add?

It adds some new animals and some new cards that you can play, but the main thing it adds is Landscape Feature tiles and cards.

What are these?

Mainly just real-world habitats that can be placed into your newly-created world if the tile configuration requirement is met.

These are cards that will stay in your hand until the right tiles are out on the board in the right configuration. You can then play them at the end of an Ecos phase.

So for the Serengeti, there have to be six land tiles (can be either desert or green) in that order on the table. There can be only one tree in these six hexes and no mountains.

If you see that on the board at the end of an Ecos phase, you get to place this card in front of you.

You get one point, and then each time an animal is placed on one of the Serengeti tiles, you get a point. Also, if any animal already on a Serengeti tile moves, you get a point.

The Sahara Desert tile is the more lightly coloured 5-piece desert tile

Another Landscape Feature is the Sahara Desert.

We discovered that this tile can be very powerful if you get it out during the first round.

One player played it in that round in our game. Every time a Wild element is drawn, you get to remove an adjacent tile and turn it into a desert tile (effectively making the desert bigger each round) and get one point!

At the end of the game, if the Sahara is the biggest habitat on the table, the player gets 7 points.

It was amazing.

Of course, when you remove and replace a tile, any animals on that tile go away as well.

My storks died out every time before I could build them up.

I really liked what this added to the game. It made building the world even more strategic (or tactical, I guess) because you are trying to manipulate the tiles and habitats to get what you want.

Having more regular cards available is never a bad thing either, though I haven’t played the game enough to get tired of the base game (and there aren’t *that* many new ones anyway).

These cards just give you new options as they work the same as the other cards.

Maybe with some cooler effects.

This play of the game was marred by a never-ending final round that all of us just wanted to get over. The leader in points ended the previous round with 77 points. As soon as somebody hits 80, it’s the final round but the round continues until a Wild element is drawn, and the Harbinger just wasn’t drawing a Wild (through no fault of her own, of course).

Time was also moving forward, it was getting a bit late and everybody was tired.

I would like to play this again without any of that happening.

We’ll see whether that’s a possibility.

So there you have it.

A lot of new to me games last month!

What new to you games did you play in October?

Let me know in the comments.

2 Comments on “New to Me – October 2021

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