New to Me – November 2021

Welcome to November’s “New to Me” post!

You may notice something odd about November.

No, it’s not that I had way too much Thanksgiving turkey (THANKSGIVING’S IN OCTOBER, YOU NON-CANADIANS!).

It’s that three of the seven entries on this list are from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG).

This is part of their “getting you hooked because the first one is free” plan that is as insidious as it is effective.

Two of them are free review copies of games that I’ve already reviewed this month. The other one is another Smash Up expansion from 2020, which you knew I was going to be playing once I got back to working in the office instead of at home.

All of the games were cool, though.

It also helps writing this post that I’ve reviewed all three AEG games! Not as much writing to do for this one.

This month, the other Cult of the New to Me members can’t even complain. There is a game from 2017, a game from 2015, and even one from 2005!

That is simply amazing.

No “cult of the new” accusations against me this month!

I think they’re biding their time and sharpening their pointed sticks, though.

So, without further ado (all of my ado was lost in a bid for the ultimate Wild card anyway), let’s begin!

TEN (2021 – AEG) – 3 plays

Designers: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich

Artist: Shawn Stankewich

Players: 1-5

A fun little push your luck card game with some auctioning and spending money.

What’s not to love?

Check out my review to see!

Whirling Witchcraft (2021 – AEG) – 4 plays

Designer: Erik Andersson Sundén

Artists: Luis Francisco, Weberson Santiago

Players: 2-5

Another lunch time quick game where you are trying to overload your opponents with good stuff (ok, maybe spiders aren’t good).

Check out the review!

Jump Drive (2017 – Rio Grande Games) – 2 plays

Designer: Tom Lehmann

Artists: Martin Hoffmann, Claus Stephan, Mirko Suzuki and Jens Wiese

Players: 2-4

Tom Lehmann likes to give people a wide variety of things to play, but with a lot of the same mechanisms.

There’s Race for the Galaxy and then Roll for the Galaxy, which the latter is a dice version of Race (and one I greatly prefer to Race).

Then he came up with the phenomenal card game, The City (which I reviewed after the game spent over a year in customs).

A friend of mine kept wanting me to bring The City to game day, but since I have limited space in my bag and I actually, you know, want to play some other things as well, I wasn’t bringing it every week.

So he went out and bought Jump Drive.

And it’s actually quite good! It’s a combination of The City and Race for the Galaxy, or, more to the point, it’s The City in the Race for the Galaxy universe so there are changes made to accommodate that.

Jump Drive has the same “get 7 cards to start and discard 2, then each person plays a card (or two in this case) face down to then develop for their empire/city/planet/whatever it is.

It even has a basic card that you can take (or buy) that will help you with your card draw at the end of each turn.

As with any ” – for the Galaxy” game, Jump Drive has cards that are either a Development or a Planet that you can colonize. In a break from The City, you can buy and place two cards per turn, as long as one is a Development and one is a Planet. You have to be able to pay for both of them by discarding cards (minus any discounts some of your previous cards may give you).

Not to mention that, just like Race for the Galaxy, some planets are Military planets and can be placed for free as long as you have the right amount of Military strength!

New Survivalists don’t get you any draw or points income, but they add two to your Military for future purchases!

That can make things easier.

On your turn, you can place one of each (Development and Planet) but you can also just do one.

If you only do a Development, then the cost of it is 1 card less. If you only do a Planet, then you get to draw a card after placing it.

If you only play this, then it only costs 1 card to play!

“Explore” kind of works the same way as Surveying does in The City, except the number of cards you get to choose from is dictated not only by the rules, but also by the number of “Explore” icons you have on your already-played cards.

As with The City, each turn after placing your cards, you get income based on the number of VPs on your cards as well as the number of “draws” your cards give you.

Some cards will give you bonus VP (or cards) based on how many of a certain type of planet you already have in your tableau. Again, much like The City.

As soon as somebody hits 50 points, the game ends and whoever has the most points is the winner.

After playing this, I actually prefer this to The City because there’s a lot more variety.

You can play two cards (if you can afford them). You can play Military Worlds if you have enough Military without having to discard cards for them.

It has some unique cards, like the “War Propaganda” above, where each turn before scoring, you compare everybody’s Military and you might have to give it to some other player if they’ve passed you.

I like trying to decide if you just want to play one type of card or the other, or maybe both.

It still does kind of have the “Luxury Homes” problem that The City had, this time with Galactic Trendsetters. However, I think in Jump Drive it’s mitigated by the multiple other ways that you can win.

The cards are a lot more diverse in this one.

It still has the same playing time (about 15 minutes) so it’s an ideal opening for a game day while you’re waiting for your food to arrive (if you’re playing at a restaurant like we are) or if you want a wind-down at the end of the day.

I really enjoyed this and will definitely keep playing it! (so yes, keep bringing it, James)

Vegas Showdown (2005 – Avalon Hill Games) – 1 play

Designer: Henry Stern

Artists: David Hudnut, Scott Okumura, Peter Whitley

Players: 3-5

Wow, a 2005 game? My cult is ecstatic!

Vegas Showdown is a game I’ve heard about but we’ve never really gotten to play it when it’s been brought to our game day.

Since we had a small group on one Sunday, we decided to bring it out.

And it was a lot of fun.

Essentially, players are building a hotel/casino complex and trying to make it the most prestigious out there (really, how many games is it where victory points are really “prestige?” I should write a post about that).

Each player starts with a sheet where they will be placing the rooms that they purchase.

On one side is the Hotel, which wants blue rooms (or maybe green). The other side is the Casino, which wants yellow rooms (or maybe green).

If you’re a bit dense, then let’s just say it’s obvious that “green” rooms are kind of a wild thing.

Ultimately, you are trying to fill up your casino/hotel with rooms and making it so that there is a continuous path (even if it winds a bit) from the Hotel entrance to the Casino entrance and vice versa.

This will maximize the exposure of your customers to both and make your place the one that they want to stay at!

There are some generic rooms that you can buy (slots, restaurants, lounges), but there are also more expensive rooms that will give you even more stuff.

When each room comes out, it will have a starting price minimum bid. However, that goes down one space each round that it’s not bought. So you could end up buying one for cheap.

Assuming the other players let you.

See, Vegas Showdown is kind of a bluffing game but also definitely an auction game.

On your turn, you will place your bidding token on a bid for one of the rooms (even one of the “regular” ones). The next player will place theirs.

If they overbid you, you get your token back.

But maybe they bid on something else?

If the other players also bid on something else, then the bidding round ends.

Essentially, each player has to have an uncontested bid before the bidding round ends.

Alternatively, you could “Publicize,” which takes you out of the bidding and automatically gives you one point.

You can also “Renovate,” which is a way to rearrange your rooms or perhaps build the room that you bought previously which you couldn’t place for some reason.

Each room you place has to trace a path from it to one of the entrances, so you can’t place something in the hopes that you will eventually connect it.

Each time one of the special rooms is bought, an Event card is turned over which not only adds a new room to that empty space but also will have some effect on the current round.

For example, the above card makes it so lounges and fancy lounges can’t be bid on this turn. Others may affect your income that round, or maybe make rooms more or less expensive.

Ultimately, you are trying to fill out casino/hotel with rooms to get the most victory points.

This was the winning casino! Even with one space left.

The game ends when one of the special room stacks is empty or when one player has successfully filled their casino/hotel.

Each time you place a room, you get bonuses added to your victory points or one of your two incomes (customers or money). At the end of the game, you also total up other victory points (based on tracing a path from one end of your building to the other, diamond symbols, highest income and customers, etc).

Whoever has the most points is the winner!

I really loved Vegas Showdown. It’s fairly quick, easy to play, and the auction mechanic isn’t too annoying. I don’t really like auctions as a mechanism, but sometimes they work (like in Modern Art). This is another great example of an auction mechanic that works.

It’s really interesting because this also has a bit of “trying to place tiles and fit them to the natural advantage”, which is something I’m usually really bad at.

But this time I was actually pretty good and it also didn’t break my brain.

I actually enjoyed it!

I would definitely play Vegas Showdown again, but I would also like to play Lords of Vegas just so I get to see how the two compare.

I almost got the chance to play that at a convention, but the last guy who signed up for the game actually appeared right as they were about to start, so I had to cede my seat to him.

Maybe one day.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea (2021 – Kosmos) – 4 plays

Designer: Thomas Sing

Artist: Marco Armbruster

Players: 2-5

The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine was one of the biggest games of 2019 but I never got a chance to play it.

However, its sequel/reimplementation, The Crew: Mission Deep Sea just came out this year and while we were waiting for a friend to show up to our game day, we played a few hands of it.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea is a cooperative trick-taking game where players are trying to fulfill missions. If everybody fulfills their mission, then the players win that round/game.

If anybody fails, then everybody fails.

The top two are Missions while the bottom two are the backside of the Missions that tells you the difficulty

These missions have varying difficulty and when setting up the game, you can choose how many points of goal cards to take. You then take cards equal to that difficulty point value (so for a 5-player game, the bottom two cards would be 6 points worth).

The missions will vary in both type and difficulty. For example, the first one above is that you will win exactly two tricks. If you win one, or if you win three or more, then everybody loses!

Taking the Green 5 and the Blue 8 may be a little easier, of course.

These goals are face-up on the table and you go around the table (starting with the Captain, or the person with the 4-value Submarine card) and choose a mission to complete. If there are more players than missions, somebody can pass (except the Captain, because that would be cowardly) and not take any.

As it’s a trick-taking game, each player is dealt a hand of cards of four different suits, numbers 1-9. There are also four “Submarine” cards (1-4) which are wild and always take a trick unless a higher Submarine is played.

It is a cooperative game, but you can’t communicate much during the game.

Only one time during each game can you communicate, and it’s only by placing a card on the table with the communication marker on it.

I only have one yellow card!

If you place it at the top, you are saying “this is the highest card of this colour I have.”

If you place it at the bottom, you are saying “this is the lowest card of this colour I have.”

Both of these mean you have more than one card of that colour.

However, if you only have one card of that colour, you place the marker in the middle of the card.

Since everybody can see players’ goals, all the players are trying to make sure that each goal is fulfilled.

Which can be harder than it looks.

After that, the game becomes a standard trick-taking game, where the “lead” player plays a card. Each other player has to follow suit (play a card of the same suit) if they can. Otherwise, they can play anything.

If they play a Submarine, then they win the trick (unless somebody else plays a higher Submarine).

You play all of the rounds, but as soon as somebody can’t fulfill a goal, the game ends (like above if somebody else took a trick with the Green 5).

Each game is very quick and there is a kind of progressive story if you want to do it, where each game has one more difficulty point than the game before it.

Otherwise, it’s just a light filler game, takes about 10 minutes per game (if that) and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

I find the lack of communication refreshing because there is no Alpha player. Nobody can tell you what card you should play. It’s all up to you.

There is so much to like about this game that I may have to go find a copy for myself.

For work, don’t you know.

Grand Austria Hotel (2015 – Lookout Games) – 1 play

Designers: Virginio Gigli, Simone Luciani

Artist: Klemens Franz

Players: 2-4

I have now played another game in the Top 100 on BGG! (Actually two, as I forgot to count Lorenzo il Magnifico when I played it in August). This makes half now, as I have played 50 of those games that are on the Top 100.

Grand Austria Hotel was in the bottom 10 of the Top 100 (#91 at the time) when I did the post about them, and in that post I said I keep missing it when it comes to the table.

Not this month!

Grand Austria Hotel has players running their own hotels in Vienna in the 19th century. Each player is trying to have the most prestigious hotel by checking in influential guests (who seem to never leave, actually).

The game uses an interesting dice drafting, action selection mechanic that I thought was really cool.

There are seven turns and each turn, you will be able to draft two dice and use their actions.

At the start of the turn, the dice are rolled and placed into their columns based on numbers. Turns go around in a kind of serpent fashion, so in a 3-player game somebody will go 1st and 6th, the next player will go 2nd and 5th and the third player will go 3rd and 4th. (This rotates each round).

You are trying to fill your hotel with guests.

On your turn, you will take a guest card from the row of guests, paying Krone (money) if you need to, and place them in your cafe at the bottom of your board (assuming you have an empty table).

The 2 right-most guests don’t cost anything but the next three cost 1, 2 or 3 Krone to attract them to you

You don’t have to do this, and late in the game you may not want to because you lose points if you have guests who haven’t checked in.

Then you take a die and do its action. The power of the action is based on the number of dice already there.

We used part of one expansion (apparently it’s modular) that gave players a red, blue and yellow die. If you drafted one of these (paying Krone based on how many white dice were still left with that number), then you got the benefit of the person in the appropriately coloured slot.

The Blue Countess wants a piece of cake and some coffee. If you check her in, she’ll give you three Krone.

If you use a One or a Two, then you will be getting food or drink that you will be able to feed your guests (because that’s what they want in order to stay at your hotel…maybe you spiked it?)

A Three will let you open a number of rooms in your hotel equal to the number of dice in the column. You may have to pay if you open rooms on the upper levels.

The flipped rooms already have guests, but there is one yellow and one red room still open.

You have to open a room before you can check any guests into them.

A Four will get you either Krone or “Emperor” points (based on the power of the column).

A Five will allow you to hire a Staff card from your hand, at a discount equal to the number of dice in the column.

The Dog Walker lets you turn 2 Wines into 2 points and 2 Emperor Points!

Staff will either give you endgame scoring points, a one-time action, a once-per-turn action, or an ongoing effect.

Finally, a Six can be used as any of the other columns, with the power based on how many Sixes are in the column.

What are these Emperor Points I keep talking about?

The Emperor Track consists of the numbers in the middle of the board

On the 3rd, 5th, and 7th rounds, the Emperor will come to inspect everybody’s hotel. First, you will subtract the number of points based on the round (three on the third round, five on the fifth and seven on the seventh) after getting points for where you are.

If you end up at zero or below, you have a serious negative effect.

If you end up at 1 or 2, then you are safe.

If you end up at 3 or higher, then you will get a nice bonus!

Play continues like this for seven rounds and then you total up the points.

Whomever has the most points is the winner!

As with many of these games where you have a limited number of actions, chaining your actions together is the key to this game.

Admitting the blue guest on the right above will let you hire two staff at a 1-Krone discount, thus saving you money and letting you do two actions without taking any dice.

Using your Staff actions or checking in guests are free actions that don’t require anything. You can also pay 1 Krone to distribute up to 3 food/drink from your kitchen to your guests.

Too many times in my first game, I took a die and did an action, and then it went to the next player. The next player seemed to do a bunch of actions because (for example) he obtained food that multiples of his guests wanted, so he was able to admit each one and do their action as well.

If you don’t chain actions efficiently, you are going to lose (though I did end up beating him, barely, while coming in second).

This is a fantastic game that I really want to play again. I realized a couple of avenues I should have explored instead of what I did.

With a ton of Guest and Staff cards, as well as endgame goals and Emperor bonuses, there are tons of different combinations that you can play with.

Yes, it’s a bit luck-driven in that there are dice and they are rolled.

You can always pass and, after everybody has taken their turn or passed themselves, you can trash a die and reroll the rest.

There are options.

But yes, it’s dice, there is randomness.

Doesn’t matter.

This game is amazing and well worth the current #78 ranking on BGG.

Expansions

Smash Up: Marvel (2021 – AEG/The OP) – 3 plays

Designers: Sean Fletcher, Paul Peterson

Artists: N/A

Players: 1-4

I bought Smash Up: Marvel during the pandemic lockdown in 2020, but since I only really play Smash Up at work, I never got it to the table.

Lockdown’s over and I’m back at work, so you know this got played.

Smash Up: Marvel is kind of a hybrid, as it’s a base game intended for people who have never played the game. It’s a co-production between Alderac Entertainment Group and The OP.

Thus, it has 8 factions in it and is designed to be a base game.

For me, though, it’s an expansion, and it was actually pretty fun with interesting mechanics.

Check out the review here!

So there you have it.

A nice amount of new to me games in November, with a fair number from one company.

I doubt that will keep up.

But who knows?

If you want to send me games, I will play them and review them!

What new to you games did you play in November?

Let me know in the comments.

2 Comments on “New to Me – November 2021

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