November was an interesting month for boardgaming.
I went to my second convention this year, a relatively small (compared to SHUX, anyway!) local wargaming convention where I was finally able to get a bit of wargaming done!
Considering how many wargames I now have, that was probably a good thing even though none of them were actually mine.
The month ended with me not having played a game in over a week, which means I managed to squeeze a lot of gaming into a short amount of time.
And it did!
Surprisingly, I played a total of ten new to me games in November. One of them was even ancient! (Well, 1998, but might as well be ancient).
That satisfied my fellow Cult of the New to Me members enough that they didn’t try any kind of coup.
This month, at least.
December is going to be shortened by Christmas and it won’t have a convention, so I’m sure it won’t be as packed as this month was (though it’s December 5 and I’ve already played 3 new to me games, so maybe?)
So without further ado (all of my ado flew away in the brisk Vancouver wind anyway), let’s get started!
Kites (2022 – Floodgate Games) – 2 plays
Designer: Kevin Hamano
Artist: Beth Sobel
Let’s start the month off with the gorgeously-illustrated, stress-inducing game of Kites.
In Kites, players are trying to play kite cards of different colours to flip the same coloured sand timer and keep it from running out.
It’s a cooperative game, naturally.
There are five colours and then a white master sand timer as well.
Each player will play a kite card from their hand to the table. Whatever colour it is, that sand timer will be flipped. The next player will then have to play a card and that timer is flipped. They then quickly draw another card.
Some cards are dual-coloured, and both of those timers are flipped.
Or you could play a one-coloured card and flip the white timer instead.
If a timer runs out, the game ends! Otherwise, you play until all of the cards have been played.
Your final score is based on how many cards are left to be played, both in the deck and in players’ hands.
This is a very quick game (we played two games in something like 10 minutes) so it doesn’t really bust through my “no real-time games!” prohibition.
I’m still not a fan of them, but the simple game play makes it a lot easier. You’re not having to make huge decisions in a split second (I’m looking at you, Factory Fun).
Instead it’s just “What timer is running out? Play that card if you have it!” Communication is encouraged, so saying “I can turn blue on my turn” will make it easier for the current player if both red and blue are running out.
Don’t forget the white timer, though!
The cards are gorgeously illustrated by Beth Sobel so it’s a beautiful game to look at.
It’s definitely fluff with no substance whatsoever, but it’s fun fluff.
Arcana Rising (2021 – Grey Fox Games) – 2 plays
Designer: Tim Armstrong
Artist: Yaroslav Radetskyi
Arcana Rising is a game I backed on Kickstarter in August 2020 and it’s taken a while for fulfillment, mainly because of the huge increases in shipping costs during the pandemic lockdowns.
But it finally came a couple of months ago, and I’ve managed to get it to the table a couple of times.
Arcana Rising is a card drafting and engine-building game that has some similarities to 7 Wonders, mostly in the drafting and relatively quick turns. This game won’t take you much more than 45 minutes even with 6 players, which is really nice.
Players get a spell board and six cards to start with. They will choose a card and pass the rest to the player on the left or right depending on what round it is.
At the beginning of the round, the moon tokens are randomly placed on the Casting Board. These will tell you what type of spells can be cast in the current round.
When you take a card, you can either pay the resources required to put it on your player mat in the correct discipline or you can discard it to cast your already-played spells in the two disciplines that are eligible. You will cast each spell in the discipline from top to bottom.
Purchasing the card, you will put it under your mat, giving you more spells to cast of that discipline in future turns.
But remember that each discipline is only cast twice per round.
The final turn of the round, players can still purchase the card but if they cast, they can cast the bottom spell in all disciplines going from left to right.
This continues for three rounds. Some spells will give you points immediately, some are endgame points. Some spells are immediate events (usually letting you cast a discipline’s spells or something like that).
Some spell cards, like the “Treasures of the Master,” will give you endgame points.
Most spells have a certain cost of one type of resource or a higher cost that can consist of any resources, which is a nice touch.
You definitely have to build an engine of spells but you also need to cast them at the appropriate times, which can be quite tricky.
Most disciplines will give you one endgame point per three resources you have in that discipline, though gold is a one to one ratio. And blood makes you lose points!
The Kickstarter came with a mini-expansion (I’m not sure if it’s in the retail version or not) with decree cards.
One decree is chosen for the game and it will in effect break one of the rules. The Decree of Equality lets players place a spell in the wrong discipline if somebody else has more spells in that discipline than they do.
None of us used that one.
The Decree of Plenty gives players a resource of their choice (not gold) at the beginning of each round, so three resources.
That wouldn’t be bad.
I really enjoyed my two plays of this. It’s a great filler that plays 6 players which works great for our game days.
There is no “these cards are only used with 6 players, these for 5-6, etc” though. You just remove a certain number of random cards based on player count.
That could make things a bit wonky.
But who knows?
Anyway, this one (at least so far) is a keeper that I can see coming out multiple times.
Almoravid: Reconquista & Riposte in Spain in 1085-1086 (2022 – GMT Games) – 1 play
Designer: Volko Ruhnke
Artists: Iván Cáceres, Chechu Nieto
Ah, the first wargame (not including Combat Commander: Pacific where I have played one scenario with a co-worker) that I have played on an actual table in probably 30+ years!
And it was a great one.
Almoravid (I’m not typing that whole name anymore, sorry) is the second game in the Levy & Campaign series of games designed by Volko Ruhnke (more entries are forthcoming, not all designed by him). The series began with Nevsky, which I didn’t buy but I’m on the P500 list for the reprint.
This is a wargame that’s about both making war and also levying your forces to keep them in the field because they have fealty to their lords, not to you.
Almoravid is the account of (to quote the game entry on BGG) “a pair of tumultuous campaigns in the Spanish Reconquista – Leonese King Alfonso VI’s advances against the 11th Century’s fractious Muslim Taifa states, and the resulting intervention by a fundamentalist African Muslim army seeking to roll the Christians back.”
Players take the role of either the Christian forces or the Muslim forces vying for control of the peninsula.
In the game, players will be mustering their forces and equipping them for the coming campaigns across the country.
Each lord that you can call to service brings their own army and provisions, though you will need to get more provisions and resources (carts and mules) for moving around the countryside. Whenever you fight or move, you will have to feed everybody!
The turns in the game take place over 40 days and consist of levying and provisioning your forces and then going out on campaign.
During the campaign, players will form a deck of command cards using cards from each lord that is currently on the board. This is your planning stage as each lord requires a card to be played in order to act during the campaign phase.
If you want a lord to do two full rounds of actions, you need to make sure two of his campaign cards are in your deck. You place them in the order you want the actions to happen, so it becomes a bit of a “what is my opponent going to do and when is he going to do it?” game.
During the campaign phase, when the lord acts, you will be using the lord’s marker out on the board. You can move from point to point, lay siege to castles, or maybe just spend an action round resupplying because you know you’re going to need food for the next action round.
There is a calendar on the map divided into the 40-day time periods. Lords’ markers are placed in a future period when their time of service will be up. That can retract if (for example) you don’t feed them or something like that.
We played the “Arrival of the Africans” scenario, which takes place from mid-Summer 1086 to Autumn 1086, so we didn’t have to deal with the Winter months.
The battle and siege system in Almoravid (and I assume Nevsky and the others as well, with some modifications) is really interesting.
Forces are placed on a battle mat and resolved in a certain order (mounted units then foot units). It’s very possible that some units may not get to attack before they are eliminated.
I’m not going to go into great detail here, of course, but the system is very cool.
Victory points are gained in a number of different ways, from conquering cities (or having them become Muslim Taifas, anyway) to ravaging the countryside (which makes it impossible to provision from there!) and other things as well.
It’s just such an elegant system and I really liked it.
Of course, four rounds in this scenario took 2 hours for us (though I hadn’t played it before) means that the full campaign game is going to take a long time!
Still, I did enjoy my one play of it enough that I have now bought it. I should be getting it in January and even if I don’t get it played again for a while, it will be a worthy addition to my collection.
Commands & Colors: Medieval (2019 – GMT Games) – 1 play
Designer: Richard Borg
Artists: Rodger B. MacGowan, Chechu Nieto
As I said in my November Gaming post, I was so happy to finally get a Commands & Colors game to the table, even though it’s not one I own!
Soon for that, I guarantee it.
Anyway, at Bottoscon Saturday night, the first weekend in November, I saw a guy talking to somebody else about Commands & Colors. I listened for a bit and the guy asked the other guy whether he had a spare 90 minutes and wanted to play.
Sadly, the other guy had a prior engagement.
While he was picking the game up (he had unboxed it some to show some of the pieces), I started talking to him.
After a brief conversation about all things Commands & Colors, he asked me if I had a spare 90 minutes or so.
Why yes, yes I did!
We chose Commands & Colors: Medieval over the Samurai one, mainly because it’s a bit more straightforward.
I can finally say that I’ve played a Commands & Colors game.
Commands & Colors: Medieval is a tactical block wargame with scenarios depicting the Byzantine Empire against the Persians. We played the first one and he gave me the favoured side (many Commands & Colors fans play both sides in a scenario and total up the victories since many scenarios can be lopsided a bit).
Each player will have a number of Command cards in their hand, based on their Command Level.
A card is played to activate and give orders to certain units on the board.
The board is divided into three sections: Left, Center, and Right.
A card that orders two units on the right, for example, will allow you to move/fight with two units on the right side of the board.
Combat consists of rolling a number of dice depending on the unit attacking, trying to roll the color of the defending unit (green circle for Light, blue triangle for Medium and red square for Heavy). Some units also get hits with swords, or if a leader is supporting the attack the leader symbol can cause hits.
Rolling a flag result makes the defender retreat, though some units or situations will allow some flags to be ignored.
Units consist of 4 blocks and each hit removes a block. When the whole unit is gone, the other player gets a victory banner.
Scenarios are played to a certain number of banners, ending immediately as soon as one player hits that number.
The Medieval version of the game also has tokens that can be spent to do certain actions or to make actions more powerful.
My friend Michal is a big fan of this game and having played it now, I can see why. I loved this play and I want to play more.
And get my two versions to the table.
That would be nice.
Sniper Elite: The Board Game (2022 – Rebellion Unplugged) – 1 play
Designers: Roger Tankersley and David Thompson
Artists: Jose David Lanza Cebrian, Edouard Grould, Ed Savage
It’s funny, but I haven’t played many deduction games and I think only one (maybe two) one vs many games.
Sniper Elite is really both!
Though my play was actually a 2-player game.
What that means is that I played all three of the German units trying to track down and eliminate the American sniper (really, he’s more of a saboteur than a sniper) before he can fulfill both of his objectives.
Typically there are three German players and each one runs one of the coloured units. They talk about their strategy for trying to find out where the sniper is.
Me? I just had to wing it myself.
And that actually worked!
There are a few different scenarios and maps to use but we just did the first one (I think, it wasn’t my game).
The map is divided into three coloured areas (yellow, black and red) along with a few spaces that aren’t actually in a colour. The Germans can set up their guards in any space within their coloured zone.
The American sniper draws two objective cards and those are the two things he has to do by the end of the game.
The two objectives cannot be in the same colour, forcing the sniper to have to travel a bit to fulfill them.
Also, the sniper has to enter the map in a space where the colour is not one of his objectives.
The sniper player then uses their hidden movement board to track what he is doing each turn.
The American moves first and can move a certain number of spaces and can also do some other things.
The trick is to avoid making noise in hearing range of a German soldier. If you move one space, you’re fine.
If you move 2-3 spaces and you move adjacent to a German, you have to tell the Germans that this specific guard “heard something.”
Each objective has 10 turns to be done. If the sniper hasn’t accomplished it in that time, then he loses.
If he does accomplish the first one, the clock resets (and he’s also revealed!) and he has 10 turns to do the next one.
The Germans have several options on each turn, with each coloured unit being able to do two actions. They can search specific spaces next to a guard, they can shoot at a hex they think the sniper is in, they can even spend an action to ask if he’s in that coloured zone (which I used to great effect at the beginning of our game).
Each German unit also has a commander. Three commanders are chosen and assigned one to each colour. These commanders have a special ability.
One can put dogs in certain spaces that will always alert the German player if the sniper enters the space.
One can shoot just like the sniper rather than having to only shoot into their own space, while a third lets him shoot into an adjacent space.
The game goes back and forth and it can be very tense.
The Sniper can be shot twice before he loses the game.
I don’t know how it plays with a team of Germans rather than just me. I think I had a bit of an advantage because I was able to do my own deduction without having to worry about a teammate who couldn’t deduce that it was raining outside when they see all of the people holding umbrellas.
Nope, it was just me.
And I won. The sniper fulfilled his first objective, but I got him before he did the second!
He was trying to run across the submarine while my guys were looking in the courtyard, but I figured out he had to be doing that and shot him with my Jager leader (the commander in yellow right next to the sniper).
There’s more to the game, of course. The sniper can use some equipment to maybe cover his tracks (my opponent did use a noisemaker to hide his dash past my guys at one point).
I’d love to try some of the different maps and maybe be the sniper (though I’m terrible at being devious…I guess that’s something a devious person might say, though, isn’t it?).
This was a great game and one day I will play it again.
Great job by David Thompson and Roger Tankersley!
Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition (2022 – Greater Than Games) – 1 play
Designers: Christopher Badell, Adam Rebottaro
Artist: Adam Rebottaro
This is a type of game I haven’t played in a while: a fully cooperative game!
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a superhero cooperative game that became popular before the franchise Marvel/DC characters hit it big in the board gaming universe.
This is the Definitive Edition (which I mentioned back when it hit Kickstarter and that’s actually why I ended up getting a review copy from Greater Than Games) so it’s been revamped and streamlined from the original edition.
I’ve only played the original edition in app form and thank God for the app because the bookkeeping would have really turned me away.
However, the Definitive edition really makes that a lot easier.
In the game, a group of heroes is facing off against an evil villain who is out to destroy or take over the world (they all like to do that for some reason). The villain has its own deck of cards.
Each player is a hero (or, if you’re playing two player, each player has two heroes since you need 3-5) and has their own deck of cards.
The mission is also taking place in an environment, which also has its own deck of cards!
The environment cards can help the heroes, hinder them, or just hinder everybody (even the villains).
The villain always goes first, then the heroes in turn order and then the environment.
The heroes do any Start Phase actions on already-played cards. Then they can play a card from their hand, followed by using a Power that’s on the table already. They then draw from their deck and do any End Phase actions.
If you bring the villain down to zero health before all of the heroes are defeated, the players win!
I do like how, even when a hero is defeated, they are not out of the game. A defeated hero can do one of the three (I think?) actions that are listed on their defeated side. That’s usually something that will help the other heroes, like letting them activate a power or play a card, or maybe even heal damage.
This is a fun game and I really liked the artwork. It works perfectly as a lunch time game at work, at least so far.
Unfortunately, work issues and people being off at different times has meant I haven’t been able to get a second or third play of the game in. That’s why there hasn’t been a review of it yet.
But I hope that will happen before Christmas!
Between Two Cities (2015 – Stonemaier Games) – 1 play
Designers: Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset
Artist: Beth Sobel
Between Two Cities is a game of semi-cooperation in the sense that you are trying to build a prestigious city with both of your neighbours, the people on your left and right.
I had already played Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig a couple of years ago, which is based on this game.
This one plays a bit faster and I think I like it a little better.
It’s a tile-drafting game where you will be drafting two tiles from your hand of tiles and placing one in each city, both to your left and to your right.
The city starts with a 3×3 gride with some spaces that can’t be used.
You will then be building a 5×5 city on it. What direction you are building out to is completely up to you and your neighbour!
Tiles can be placed in the open spaces on the board or on the table adjacent to your board, but you can only go 5×5. So no rows of 6 tiles!
Each tile has its own scoring method at the end of the game.
Red tiles, for example, score for sets of different types (symbols in the red diamond). Other tiles will score based on how many contiguous tiles of the same type you have, or if they are adjacent to certain types.
There’s also district scoring for contiguous tiles of the two colours in the district.
That scoring is randomized every game.
At the end, you’ll have a city like this.
Players will score each city and your score will be the lowest of your two city scores.
This game is quick-playing and plays up to 7 players, which makes it a great game day filler.
The tile-drafting is great but the decisions are often kind of obvious. You do have to make sure both of your cities are doing well since your score is the lowest. So you can’t just concentrate on one of them.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed the game and will play it again if it comes out.
Rapido (aka: Excape) – (1998 – AMIGO) – 1 play
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Olivier Fagnère, Melanie Friedli, Franz Vohwinkel
Wow, an old game! My cultists were definitely pleased about this.
Excape is a push your luck game of dice rolling, but with an interesting twist.
Each player has a pair of dice: one with numbers from 1,2,3,4,7,X and another with 1,2,3,5,6,X. You roll your dice and read them with the highest number then the lowest number (so a 7 and a 6 would be 76).
The first roll, if one of your dice comes up with an “X”, it doesn’t matter. It just counts as “0” so the roll above would be 70.
However, if you decide to reroll, if you roll an “X,” then you’ve busted and have to move back one or two spaces (depending on how many X symbols you rolled)
If you roll a pair of ones, twos or threes, then you immediately move up the track that number of spaces.
Then you have to decide if you want to keep the pairing or reroll.
If you keep it, you place it on the ranking chart in the middle of the board, but you have to be careful (this is another kind of “push your luck” thing).
Placing the pair high on the track will let you move further. But you are more susceptible to being kicked off the chart before your next turn, which is when any move would be made.
When you place your dice, you bump any dice above you that are lower or equal value to your dice. (You don’t affect anything below your dice, even lower numbers).
So my placement of the yellow 53 above bumped the white 52.
If you place your pair on the 1 space, then somebody would have to hurt themselves to bump you off as they would be placing their dice on the 0 space, so they won’t move.
If your turn comes around again and your dice are still there, you move that row’s number of spaces.
The first player to get to 21 wins!
This is the first of two Knizia games that I played in November and it’s actually quite fun though extremely light and fluffy.
I’m not sure if I’d actively choose to play the game, but I will enjoy it if somebody else wants to play it. It just took 30 minutes, so it’s a perfect lunch time game and it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
From the pictures I’ve seen, I definitely like the Rapido version of it compared to Excape, but your mileage may vary.
Caesar’s Empire (2022 – Holy Grail Games) – 1 play
Designer: Matthieu Podevin
Artists: Alexandre Bonvalot, Joëlle Drans
Caesar’s Empire definitely has some Transamerica vibes where you are building routes across the country (in this game, across Europe and Africa).
There are a bunch of differences, though, that make this game interesting.
The board is laid out with each city getting its marker and goods tokens being placed it.
On your turn, you will be connecting a city on the map to Rome using the networks that are already out on the board.
You’ll do that by placing one of your legions on the path. Some paths will require two legions!
You collect that good and the city token and place the good on your player board.
Each player who has a legion on the shortest route back to Rome (including your just-placed legions) will get a point per legion. If you took a gold from that city, then these points are doubled!
Endgame scoring will consist of both sets of each good (up to 20 points) as well as sets of diverse goods (up to 46 points)
The highest value city token of each region (colour) will also give you that number of points.
The game ends when all city tokens have been removed from the board.
Goods scores, city token scores and gold scores are totaled, as well as the player who has the most legions remaining getting 10 points.
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
This was an enjoyable and (again) short game. It’s not something I would want to play that often, but it’s a decent game that I won’t turn down.
And I’m not saying that just because I won.
No Mercy (2021 – Pixie Games) – 1 play
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Vincent Burger, Miguel Ángel Galán
No Mercy is another Knizia push your luck game, this time with cards.
It has fun artwork and a lot of smack talk during the game and it just takes about 20 minutes!
On your turn, you turn over the top card of the deck and keep it in front of you.
You also will take any of that number’s cards from any other player who has them.
You then decide if you want to keep going or to stop.
If you draw the same number you already have, then you bust and have to discard all of the cards in front of you.
If you stand, then it goes to the next player. If they draw a (for example) 10, then they take those 10s in front of you and put them with the card they drew. They have similar decisions to make.
When it gets around to you, if you still have any cards in front of you, they go to your score pile and will count for points at the end of the game/round.
If you have more than a certain number of players (I’m not sure what the cutoff is), then you go through the deck twice, scoring your score pile at the end of the first deck.
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
This game got a lot of laughs during our play of it. There’s nothing to it but drawing and cards and deciding whether or not to stop, but sometimes the simplicity of a game allows the joy of playing with your friends to shine through.
Be careful, though. If you have enough players to run through the deck twice, make sure it’s really shuffled before playing the second time. A lot of the same cards are going to be together because they were in score piles.
In our game, there was a lot of busting without even pushing your luck in the second round.
But this is a fun one that I will play any time.
And there you have it.
Ten whole games in November!
Who would have thought?
I know this has been a long one, but I hope you enjoyed it.
What new to you games did you play last month? Have you played any of these?
Let me know in the comments.
Dave, I am so glad for you! You know, you can always count on me with Almoravid and Medieval 🙂
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I do know that! Always good to know…
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As always, a lot of interesting games! Which are the two Commands & Colors games that you own?
Between Two Cities also looks cool – intriguing premise! Would not turn down the opportunity to try it!
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Glad you got through all of those! (The post is like 4500 words LOL).
I have Ancients and Samurai Battles for Commands & Colors. I am on the P500 list for Medieval but who knows when/if it will actually happen.
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I’ve always been most curious about Ancients and Napoleonics… but both base games start with battles that I’m not super interested in (Rome vs. Carthage; France vs. Britain/Portugal).
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I can see that (though I don’t know about Napoleonics). Ancients is definitely a good introduction to the system, but if you’re not interested in what it’s portraying, it can be more of a slog.
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Oh, don’t get me wrong – I am interested in the Punic Wars (have even written about them on the blog some years ago). It’s just that when I think of ancient battles, I’m thinking of the Persian invasions of Greece, of the Peloponnesian War, of the Wars of the Diadochi, of the Roman Civil Wars… and then maybe of the Punic Wars 😉
So, I’d totally play C&C: Ancients if I happened upon it!
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Looks like we both need to go to the store and restock our supply of ado.
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Mine keeps getting stolen!
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Fame has a way of attracting knavery like that!
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