New to Me – January 2023

It’s a brand new year and hopefully it will be better than last year.

Though last year wasn’t too bad, compared to the two before.

It’s January (or February, but we’re talking about January) and that means a new beginning where we’re not sure what all we’re going to play for the year.

Last year I played 111 games. When January came around, I had no idea what games those would be!

I do have some new year’s resolutions.

I do want to get Time of Crisis played again, especially now that I have a nice storage solution for it.

January put 2023 off to a good start as far as “new to me” games go. Going to a convention definitely helped with that one, though I got some old favourites played as well (that post will go up Monday!)

Given the fact that I have games from 2006, 2015, and 2011 on this list, not to mention some newer games, the Cult of the New to Me was actually very happy!

That was them listening to my New Year’s speech.

Anyway, there are nine new to me games on this month’s list. Quite the impressive showing!

Maybe there will be enough during the year for me to do a Top 25 games played series in 2024?

That would be nice.

I doubt February will have as many new to me games, but March has another convention so we’ll see!

Anyway, without further ado (all of my ado was adopted by a Roman Emperor anyway, so I guess it will be the new Emperor some day!), let’s begin!

Commands & Colors: Ancients (2006 – GMT Games) – 4 plays

Designer: Richard Borg

Artist: Rodger B. MacGowan

Players: 2 (possibly 1 with the CDG Solo System)

I’ve watched tons of gameplay videos of Commands & Colors: Ancients, especially from my good friend Patrick Pence.

Another good friend, Michal from The Boardgames Chronicle, is an avid fan of the game.

I bought it a little while ag but didn’t have any victims opponents to play it with.

That changed when one of my two co-workers who plays game was away and my other co-worker was willing to try it out.

And we played four different scenarios!

He won three of them, including two of them where my side is favoured.

I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Anyway, Commands & Colors: Ancients (the base game, anyway) is a block wargame about battles between the Roman army (or the Syracuse army, anyway) against the Carthaginians.

This is an amazing game of dice and card play where in each scenario, each side has a “Command” rating, which dictates how many cards they can have in their hand (and it means something when the card says “do something equal to Command”).

You play a card and it will let you order certain types of units, either on the right, left, or middle of the board, or maybe all Light troops (those with the green circles) or all mounted units, etc.

This will enable you to move certain units on the board, then maybe engage in close combat with your opponent’s units (or maybe just fire ranged weapons, like slings or bows).

When I first saw this game, it just seemed like a game of dice chucking.

Now that I’ve played it (and watched many other plays of it), I know there is definitely some strategy and tactics involved.

This is just an amazingly fun game.

The Medieval version of the game made my Top 10 Games Played in 2022 since I played it at Bottoscon.

I hadn’t played Ancients yet, but now I’ve played it a lot.

That’s a lot of Roman losses on the table behind the board!

The system is just wonderful and I have no idea which one I would prefer right now.

I think I need to play them all first!

I still have Samurai Battles, which I will play one day once we’re done with Ancients.

Unless I manage to actually get some of the expansions before that.

We’ll see.

I want to keep playing this one, and maybe to the point where we play each scenario twice, switching sides (since the scenarios aren’t exactly balanced, for the most part).

Great Western Trail: Argentina (2022 – Eggertspiele) – 1 play

Designer: Alexander Pfister

Artist: Christ Quilliums

Players: 1-4

I’m a big fan of Great Western Trail, having put the original game on my Top 25 games played of all time back in 2019 (it fell off my list in 2022 mainly because I hadn’t played it much).

When I heard there was a “sequel” (of sorts) coming out, with another one coming in 2023 (New Zealand), I knew I had to play it at some point.

That point was at OrcaCon at the beginning of the month! (It did come to our Sunday game day in December but I was playing something else).

I talked about how to play Great Western Trail when I first played the original edition, so I’m only going to talk about the changes and what I think about this one.

Great Western Trail: Argentina removes the hazards that you might have to pay to bypass in the original game, instead making them farmers.

The deal with them in this game is that you can pay to bypass them as normal, or you can pay even more to recruit them to working for you.

Farmers will get you grain, which you need to ship cattle to the various ports in Europe that you can go to.

You’re still building a deck of cows that are in your hand and in your deck, and when you reach the end of the rondel, you will ship the cows in your hand for money depending on how many different types of cows you have.

The player boards have some additions (including a row for farmers), but the basic concept is the same. When you ship, you will be removing discs from your board that will enable you to do different actions (or make some actions stronger).

I did very well in this game, unlike my previous games of Great Western Trail. I’m not sure if it’s because I focused on one or two things (I got a lot of cowboys to let me get good cows) or whether it’s because this one is easier to “get” than the previous one.

Even though our play of it took almost 5 hours (that wasn’t really a problem with the game, but more with one of the players) and took me until 2:45 am on Friday night to finish, this was still an amazing game and I’d love to play it again and see whether I do truly get this one or if that was just a flash in the pan.

Core Worlds (2011 – Stronghold Games) – 1 play

Designer: Andrew Parks

Artists: Alex Figini, Chechu Nieto, Jim Parks, Maciej Rebisz, Sergey Rumyantsev

Players: 2-5

Another game that took longer than it should have, but this was a fun one nevertheless.

I’m not sure if I would play it again at 5 players, though, unless maybe everybody know how to play (three of us didn’t).

Core Worlds is a deckbuilder with a little bit of a twist. This time, the twist isn’t that you are also placing workers or moving things on a board.

Instead you have a player board that you keep track of energy on and you have to spend actions and resources to play cards out into your army for use in invading various worlds (cards) that come up.

On the left side of the board are your action options and you can do one action each turn (though you can spend multiple actions to use the “deploy X units” where you have to spend “X” number of actions to deploy “X” cards.

Each player has a starting deck along with one Hero (the variable player power).

You do get multiples of some cards, so you have a starting deck of 10, I think

The game consists of 10 rounds, with each pair of rounds giving you a different number of actions in that round.

There will be a row of cards that you can purchase as well as a row of worlds that you can invade.

Argos 1 requires 2 ship strength and 1 ground strength to invade

The worlds you invade will give you energy in the next round and points at the end of the game, and they require a certain amount of ship strength and ground strength to invade, which are generated by the cards that you have played in front of you.

Thus, you have to prepare to invade by spending a turn deploying troops.

Those cards that you use to invade from your tableau are then moved to your discard pile, waiting for you to draw them again.

The game has some nice push and pull and requires some preparation. You have to plan out your strategies ahead of time based on the cards you have and the worlds that are available. It’s easy to get sniped and have somebody invade the world you wanted because you needed that one extra turn to prepare.

This was a fun game, though as I said earlier I’m not sure I would play with a full complement of players.

Or maybe if everybody knew how to play.

I’d definitely be up for it again most of the time, though.

Minigolf Designer (2020 – Thematic Games) – 1 play

Designer: Alban Nanty

Artists: Gul E Raana, Xiaolong Wang

Players: 1-5

Who doesn’t enjoy minigolf?

Shut up, you in the back.

I haven’t played minigolf in ages, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t design a course!

And that’s exactly what you do in Minigolf Designer (does it make me old that I always call it “miniature golf”?)

In Minigolf Designer, players have a married couple (or maybe not married, who knows?) who wants them to design the best minigolf course possible.

And they have some requirements.

Most of them are standard ones for every game and then each one has their own that’s randomly drawn each game (assuming you’re playing the more advanced version).

It may be “points for short holes” because one of them is lazy and doesn’t want to walk. Or maybe “points per benches” because they need a lot of rest.

Each player is given three possible layouts and chooses one. Some of them are harder than others but they’ll give you more points at the end of the game.

You’re also given a starting piece that you will be building from.

I was building the WoopyGolf course!

The layout you choose will tell you how you need to project from your starting piece.

Any tile you lay that doesn’t fit into that layout will cost you points at the end of the game.

Blue chooses first this round

The game uses the Kingdomino way of putting tiles out to choose from. A row of tiles will go out and when you choose a tile, you place your marker there.

The order of markers once the row is empty will determine turn order next round.

The lower-value tiles may be just what you need, or you may want to take one of them because there’s a juicy one next turn that you want first dibs at.

If you don’t want any of the tiles on offer, or if you just want to really make sure you go first (or early, anyway) next round, you can always just pass and put your marker on the bench.

Each hold in your course needs a tee and a hole, and perhaps one or two tiles in between.

You will get more points if you have a hole that leads directly to the next hole’s tee, but it’s not required. You can even order the holes at the end of the game once you know how your course looks.

Each tile will add a “par” value to the hole and you want your holes to average 4 par (so 36 par in total). Less than that and you will have extra cubes left that will cost you points.

More than that and you will have to use black cubes on your par sheet, which will also cost you points.

You will also have the opportunity to promise things to the owners.

At the beginning of the game, you choose one of your promises to try and fulfill.

(Which we didn’t realize we had to do…oops).

Twice during the game (if you are playing with this rule, of course, as a more family-friendly version of it doesn’t have them), you can make more promises.

These will get you points at the end of the game.

After all that, you will get points for a bunch of different things, really too many things to name here.

Whoever has the most points is the winner!

This was actually a pretty neat game. I’m not a huge tile-laying fan and this is another one with a spatial element that I’m not very good at, but it was fun!

I would definitely play this one again.

And maybe we’ll get all of the rules right this time!

The Bloody Inn (2015 – Pearl Games) – 1 play

Designer: Nicolas Robert

Artists: Luis Francisco, Weberson Santiago

Players: 1-4

I was really surprised to see this game on Zee Garcia’s Top 100 games of all time list as I hadn’t really heard a lot about it until I played it.

This has a really interesting theme where you are hotel operators who are trying to make money by…murdering your guests.

But you have to make sure the police don’t come investigating before you’ve had time to bury the bodies!

Or you could just kill the cops that come.

But that could result in a cascading problem.

Each round, the hotel is going to be ceded with new guests that you can either kill, allow to live, or maybe even bribe to help you (i.e. go into your hand).

You will have to discard some cards in order to do pretty much anything (kill, bribe, or bury) but some people will have more of an affinity for doing one of those actions, reducing how much you have to discard.

Once you have murdered a tenant, you will have to then (at some point, though not necessarily right away if there are no cops around) bury them in a building on the hotel grounds.

Which means that you will have to “build” the guest card that will give you room to bury one or more bodies.

The Mechanic can hold (and already is holding) one body…while the Distiller can hold two!

Sometimes buildings will just be played to get you more money or points, and that can be handy too.

Except they don’t help you bury the bodies.

Basically you are trying to have the most money at the end of the game. After the deck of cards runs out, you shuffle the discards and keep going for a second round. Of course, some of those cards are out of the deck because they’re…well, holding bodies (or in your hand) so the second round won’t have as many cards as the first.

This was a fun game with a zany (if dark) theme and it was a lot of fun.

I don’t think I would ever call it my favourite game, but it has some interesting choices about how to play your cards in the right way to make sure you don’t get caught (though really that just costs you money to bribe the police anyway) and get the bodies buried for maximum gain.

I’d love to play this one again just for the theme alone.

Calico (2020 – Flatout Games/AEG) – 1 play

Designer: Kevin Russ

Artist: Beth Sobel

Players: 1-4

Calico pre-dated Cascadia, but of course I never got a chance to play this one while I’ve played Cascadia multiple times.

That changed with OrcaCon!

Calico is another puzzle game where you are laying tiles out to try and get things like adjacency bonuses, making a quilt that will make any cat happy by taking swatches of cloth.

It’s a crazy quilt!

Unlike Cascadia, you have a set board that you are placing these tiles in, so you can’t place them willy-nilly (I also have no idea where that phrase came from).

You get points for certain patterns, including fulfilling one or both scoring criteria on three tiles on your board.

Above in the bottom left, for example, you get 7 points if you either have a pattern or a color around it in the specified way. In this case, that would be three tiles of one colour and three tiles of another colour (or pattern). If you happen to do this with both colour and pattern, then you get 13 points!

And I managed to do that with two of my three scoring tiles, getting the smaller amount of points for the third tile.

You also get points if you satisfy patterns that the cats in play like.

When you do, you place that cat tile over it.

Finally, you get bonus points (the food tokens above) for having tiles of a certain colour adjacent.

Each turn you choose one of the three tiles on offer and place it somewhere in your quilt.

Since there are no placement restrictions (just restrictions on what will get you points), the game is basically played until all players have filled their quilts.

Whoever has the most points, from food, cats and their scoring tiles, is the winner!

This is definitely a cute game. I did surprisingly well at it considering that games with spatial relationships and patterns give me a headache.

I tied for first place, losing the tie-breaker! (I think it was whoever had the most cats).

I think I do prefer Cascadia because there are mechanisms to change up what you have to choose from as well as it being more free-form (you can build anywhere as long as it’s adjacent to something that was already there).

But this one is good too and I would play it again.

9 Lives (2015 – – 1 play

Designer: Taiki Shinzawa (新澤 大樹)

Artist: N/A

Players: 3-4

It seems like every month (ok, two months in a row, anyway), we play a new to me game that we play just totally wrong.

Last month it was my fault.

This month?

It was not.

9 Lives is a trick-taking card game with a couple of twists, one of them which we didn’t use!

There are four suits (colours, in this case) of nine cards each, so a total of 36 cards.

Each card has really cute cat artwork, with the same cat on each number (thankfully not the same for each colour, as that would get boring).

One of the twists is that the backside of the cards show you what colour it is. So people know what suits you have!

Each round (one per player or if somebody hits 9 points the game ends), players get to see their hand of cards and then try to determine how many tricks they will win.

They then put that estimate using a cat on the scoreboard.

The neat thing is that it wraps around. So Blue is saying that they will take either 2 or 6 tricks.

You get more points if you make (and are correct) at a guess like that.

Brown will get fewer points because they’re predicting a range of tricks. Either 2, 3, 6 or 7 tricks.

Once a space is taken by a cat, nobody else can take that space (though they can go on the other side if that is free, like brown and blue above). So you could be shut out of the bid that you want.

And you have to hit your bid exactly.

9 wins the trick!

Now, here’s the twist that was missed.

When you win a trick, you take one of the cards from that trick INTO YOUR HAND.

What a game-changer!

That means that round won’t end at a pre-determined time!

The round ends when somebody is out of cards in their hand. That means that you can’t end the round on a trick that you win. You have to take a card back!

As with most trick-taking games, there is a trump suit. Purple in this game will win a trick if played against any other colour.

There is, of course, no cheating (“I don’t have any blue!” “Neal, we can see that you have a blue card”). And just because you’re out of a suit doesn’t mean you will always be out of it, if that suit was played on a trick you won.

The game the way we played it was fine. Nothing special, but fine.

I really want to play this one again with the actual rule because much like Cat in the Box, I love novel takes on trick-taking games.

And this sounds like it’s a brilliant one.

Time will tell, though.

Bites (2020 – – 1 play

Designer: Brigitte Ditt, Wolfgang Ditt

Artists: Filip Gavril, Anca Gavril

Players: 2-5

Bites is a bite-sized game (sorry about that) (Editor: “No you’re not”) about ants collecting food and trying to get to the top of the anthill.

There are 5 different types of food tokens in the game and they are spread out in a winding path from the anthill, similar to Deep Sea Adventure without the “OH MY GOD ARE WE GOING TO RUN OUT OF AIR????” thrills.

The five ants are placed at the end of this string.

There are also going to be 4 cards in the game: Anthill, Chocolate, Wine and Special Rule (though one of the Special Rule cards is literally “there is no special rule.”).

On your turn, you’re going to advance one of the ants as far along the path as you want, then taking one of the food tokens that is next to the ant (not the one you landed on).

Ants can’t go backwards, so eventually they’re going to reach the anthill and go to either the top or bottom available space, depending on the anthill card.

Each ant has a food type colour associated with it. You will get points for each piece of food you have collected, based on where that coloured ant goes on the anthill. Top gets 4 points each, and so on.

Chocolate and Wine collected gives you other benefits, depending on the Chocolate and Wine cards that are out.

Chocolate can be used during the game for its effect while Wine is end-game scoring.

Why ants have the same tastes as a very romantic evening for a human, I have no idea…

Anyway, whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner!

This was a fun game for what it is. It’s a light, 20-minute filler game, family-friendly and the components are amazing. The food tokens are actually thick!

It’s not something that I would really suggest too often, but if it’s offered, I wouldn’t say no.


Yukon Salon (2021 – Atlas Games) – 1 play

Designer: David Fooden

Artist: Robert Tritthardt

Players: 2-4

Probably the less said about this one, the better, though maybe that was because it’s not really good with two players.

Players are running a hair salon up in the Yukon, where your only customers are bears and lumberjacks.

Each player has some hair styles in their hand and then there is a row of customers to choose from (based on player count).

On your turn, you can take two actions (unless one of the cards you have played gives you more).

You can either seat a client from the row into your salon, draw a style card, or use a style on one of your seated clients.

The style cards will go as hair styles for the bears or as beard styles for the lumberjacks (with toques on all the time, I guess they don’t need their hair styled!)

When you put a style on a client, you add the numbers on both the style and client together and then you have to roll that number or higher. Otherwise, the client is pissed off.

For each point you missed by, you can discard a style card to make up the difference.

If you still can’t, then you have to “make claims,” which is giving your client the number of unique compliments equal to the number on their card. If the bear has a 4 on it, then you have to give it four suitable compliments about how good this style really is (basically telling them that they’re full of shit for not liking your style).

All this does, though, is give you a chance to reroll the dice.

Total failure makes you discard the style but you keep the client (they didn’t walk out in anger?).

The game goes until the last client is seated. The player who seated the last client finishes their turn and then each player gets one final turn.

Points are the total numbers on the styles and clients for all successfully-styled clients.

Some clients and styles give bonuses during the game or endgame scoring.

This game could be funny but the “making claims” bit just turns me off. I guess it would work in kind of a party setting where everybody has maybe had a few too many and they want to talk to the cards in front of them.

I think it was also hurt by the fact that at 2 players there aren’t that many clients available (you only use 9 of the available 18).

I really enjoyed playing a game with Dan (Boardgame Feast) but it’s too bad this was that game.

I don’t really need to play it again.

There you have it. Nine “new to me” games, mostly played in the first two weeks of the month. I actually made a point of playing some older games at our Sunday game days just so I didn’t have to make this post be huge.

I hate writing huge posts.

This one already is!

Any of these sound interesting to you?

Is The Bloody Inn on your top 100 of all time?

What new to you games did you play in January?

Let me know in the comments.

5 Comments on “New to Me – January 2023

  1. Pingback: January 2023 Gaming – Dude! Take Your Turn!

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