New to Me – February 2023

February is the shortest month of the year, though it can seem quite long (or did before a stat holiday was added to it).

It can seem even longer when you don’t get as many games played as usual!

As I mentioned in my February gaming post, missing two Sundays and a week of no games at work, it was only natural that fewer games would be played.

I still think playing 14 games in 28 days isn’t anything to be sniffed at.

I even managed to get five “new to me” games played!

That’s pretty good.

I’ll just pat myself on the back for that.

I even managed to get one of the new plays to be from 2015!

That kept any unrest in the Cult of the New to Me from manifesting.

I think they would prefer it if I maybe played something from 1963, though.

Anyway, they’re placated for now so I don’t care about them.

At least until the next fundraising car wash.

So without further ado (all of my ado was taken to Japan without my consent and given to somebody that they wouldn’t name anyway), let’s begin!

Hanamikoji: Geisha’s Road (2021 – Emperor S4) – 2 plays

Designers: Jerry Chiang, Eros Lin

Artist: Maisherly

Players: 2

I am a big fan of the original Hanamikoji, a very quick-playing 2-player game where you are trying to win the influence of five different geishas.

When they announced a sequel game, Hanamikoji: Geisha’s Road, was coming to Kickstarter, I was there in a heartbeat.

Now that I have it in my hot little hands (Boardgame Geek says it’s a 2021 game but I know due to shipping issues that it came to backers in 2022), I was eager to try it and see how it compared.

Geisha’s Road keeps its predecessors “4 actions, two of which have an ‘I split, you choose’ mechanism” mechanic and adds a bit more complexity to it.

Not a lot of complexity, but some.

In addition to the geishas themselves that you are trying to influence, you will be moving the geishas along the path of the teahouses and, depending on where you make them land, obtaining visitor tokens and perhaps even making a geisha’s influence even more powerful.

Each round still consists of each player playing an action token for its effects.

On your turn, you will play one of the tokens. You will have a hand of item cards. You will draw one and then play a token.

The first token lets you play an item card directly to its matching geisha.

The second lets you place one item card face down (to reveal and play at the end of the round) and discard a second one face down.

The third has you put three item cards on the table. Your opponent picks one to play on their side of the geishas and then you get to place the other two.

The fourth one has you put two pairs of item cards on the table. Your opponent chooses one pair and plays both cards on their side. You then play the other two on yours.

The item cards are played in front of their respective geishas. The strength of the items (numbers on the cards) will determine who has the most influence.

That’s kind of basically what the original game did.

What Geisha’s Road adds is the teahouses and visitor tokens.

If you play a 1-strength item card, you will move that respective geisha token one teahouse around the circle and then you will collect two visitor tokens (or the tie-breaker token if there are no more visitors and the tie-breaker is available).

If you play a 2-strength item card, you will move that geisha two teahouses around the circle and collect one visitor token (or tie-breaker, if available).

Playing a 3 or 4-strength card will move the geisha that many spaces but you won’t collect any visitors.

You’re giving up the visitors to have even more influence on that geisha instead.

If a geisha ends up moving back to her own teahouse, you will put one of the point tokens that were randomly put out at the beginning of the round on that geisha, making her influence worth more points!

At the end of the four turns, you’ll total up the points for the geishas players have the most influence on as well as for sets of visitor tokens.

You then reset and do a second round (not moving the geishas back to their home teahouses).

The rulebook says to give the lead player starting points in the second round equal to the difference between the two scores, but effectively you are just adding the two round scores together so I’m not sure why it says that.

Anyway, after two rounds, whoever has the most points is the winner!

The “move the geishas” rule sounds kind of complicated but once you get going in the game it’s surprisingly easy to keep track of (just make sure you don’t reset between rounds like we did!).

I love that extra little consideration the geisha movement gives you. Now there’s a reason to play low-strength item cards. Sure, you may lose out on influencing that geisha, but collecting visitors can also be quite rewarding.

It makes the “choose a pair of item cards your opponent puts out there” action even harder sometimes because not only are you considering the geisha influence, but you’re also considering where the geisha markers will end up.

The opponent plays the cards and moves the geishas before the current player does, so that’s something to keep in mind too.

This is a step up from Hanamikoji so if you’re introducing a non-gamer to it, you may want to start with that base.

Once you understand the base, though, Hanamikoji: Geisha’s Road is definitely the superior of the two games.

And it’s only slightly longer (though the original game can take a while as nobody wins until somebody has the most influence on three of the five geishas). Our plays took 20-30 minutes.

Give this one a try if you can.

Ride the Rails (2020 – Capstone Games) – 1 play

Designer: John Bohrer

Artist: Ian O’Toole

Players: 3-5

Do you like being a passenger and just riding around the United States seeing the pretty scenery?

If you do, then you might like Ride the Rails from Capstone Games…wait, maybe I should say you might like to be a passenger in this game.

When you actually play the game, you are establishing train routes across the country and then moving a passenger from one destination to another, getting points for each section of the rail that you have stock shares in.

This is kind of an 18XX-light game in that each round, you will be choosing which colour of rail to get another stock share in.

And then you’re moving a passenger from one location to another, trying to use as many rail lines that you have shares in as possible.

Even if you’re moving the passenger from Atlanta to Boston via Los Angeles.

Each player starts with a player board where they will be putting a rail marker for one of the colours for each stock share they decide to take.

Passengers start in most of the major cities of the country, just waiting for a rail line to reach them and then transport them to paradise.

Each round, players will choose which colour of rail they want to take a stock share from.

Thus, at the beginning, the map is covered in meeples.

Eventually, it will be covered in route markers.

On your turn, in player order, you will take a share from one of the locomotive colours that are in play (more come into play each round).

Then you will placing locomotives on the board, the number determined by player count.

This will fill the map with locomotive colours, as you can only place locomotives of the colours that you have shares for.

Finally, you will move one passenger from a starting city to an end city, anywhere in the country as long as you don’t backtrack over a route that you have used.

Players who have shares in specific colours will get money based on the routes of that colour you use (so hopefully you will use a lot of routes that you have shares in!). The routes are counted city to city, and you can meander all over the board as long as there are routes to support it.

If you have stock in Orange, you definitely are taking the long way around, who cares what the passenger wants?

Of course, as the player transporting the passenger, you do get a bonus as well.

This goes on for six rounds, with more and more train colours being available. In a 5-player game, shares of each colour will quickly be depleted, so make sure you have the ones you want!

Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins.

This is kind of a “train game lite” and it definitely shows.

As with many of these games, as perhaps a catch-up mechanism, whoever has the least amount of money will go first the next round. Of course, taking a share of a railroad is done in reverse turn order, meaning if you are moving passengers (and placing rails) last, you are actually the first person to choose shares.

It’s kind of interesting, but not really my cup of tea.

The components and board are definitely nice, but it’s just not a game that I’m going to request to come to the table again and again.

It’s fine, just not really for me.

I did enjoy my one play of it, though.

Inhabit the Earth (2015 – R&D Games) – 1 play

Designer: Richard Breese

Artist: Juliet Breese

Players: 2-4

I had never heard of Inhabit the Earth until my friend suggested it on game day a couple of weeks ago.

Inhabit the Earth is a game of playing species of animals to your tableau and having them move up the chain in a particular continent, or maybe even migrating to a new continent!

You will be playing creatures of six different types to your tableau, evolving them to have different traits, and maybe even allowing them to migrate to different areas.

Red Pandas are native to Asia, but you could play it for an evolution to let some other creature become native to Asia instead.

When you play a creature for the first time, you will put that creature’s token on the appropriate continent’s board.

These animal types have been played by Yellow and Blue

You will then be manipulating those tokens to do various things, or you might be playing cards to make those creatures more numerous or evolving their traits.

On your turn, you can do one of two types of actions.

These actions will let you improve or increase your current creatures, or maybe let you move them or breed (which lets you draw cards)

You are trying to move each species up in its current habitat continent, though it may be possible to move them to a new continent as well (but you want to make sure you hit Level 2 or 3 before doing that, because otherwise they start at the very beginning.

Each time you move your species marker, you will move it in its current continent depending on the environmental symbols that are currently on the card.

You are trying to reach the top of the continent’s spaces so because having two continents with a species reaching the top of it will trigger the endgame.

Moving the bird (the first blue) will require either an Australia icon on the bird or a wetland…then a desert, then mountain, etc

Each time you take a Movement action, you will move each species (in the order you played them, so that can be important) based on the symbols on the card and matching them with spaces on the continent.

Essentially Inhabit the Earth is a race game as you are trying to get maximum points (you get points for species at each level of each continent) for progressing the species.

It’s cool that you can play evolution cards that end up letting a North American (for example) species migrate to Africa.

Or like my Brown Bear in the picture above, it initially can only be in Europe but I played cards to it that would let it migrate to North America or Asia.

Here’s a picture of the continent maps near the end of the game. A lot of species have advanced!

Here’s an example of my creatures played out, next to the maps.

I think it’s cool how you can evolve creatures, or maybe just make them more numerous.

Each creature has a power that, if it’s face-up in your tableau, you can use that power for good things.

My Osterich can migrate to South America if I really wanted it to ! But there is so much desert in Africa and the South America card also lets me move through the desert, I may not want to.

Meanwhile, I have three Brown Bears (because of the three claw icons underneath it) meaning I have three Brown Bears whenever I need to know how many of a creature I have (some cards or actions do ask for that)

You get points for how far your species have migrated as well as some endgame scoring cards and whoever has the most points is the winner!

This game was quite enjoyable. I didn’t really “get” it on my first try, so I didn’t do very well, but I can defintely see how it works and would like to try it again while knowing what to expect.

It’s not a “oh, I must play this!” game, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t mind exploring further.

First Rat (2022 – Pegasus Spiele) – 1 play

Designers: Gabriele Ausiello, Virginio Gigli

Artist: Dennis Lohausen

Players: 1-5

Me and my wife being big fans of pet rats, there was no way I wasn’t going to at least somewhat enjoy First Rat, a game about getting the first rats into space.

But I was surprised at just how intriguing the game mechanisms were, even though this game made a number of Top 10 of 2022 game lists.

I was amused at the theme of this game and how rat families are trying to build spaceship parts to get into space, along with spending cheese to do various actions.

Each player gets a player board which does a surprisingly good job of showing what actions you can take on your turn.

Players will have rats on the main board, moving up the board toward going off into space. In the meantime, though, these rats are going to be doing various actions.

On your turn, you will move either one rat 1-5 spaces or multiple rats 1-3 spaces each and then taking the action/effect that they land on.

Rats start at the bottom left and move around the track

This could be getting resources (more cheese!!!! Or other resources, of course) or maybe moving other markers to get various things.

The amusing thing is that if you land on somebody else’s rat, you have to pay them cheese in order to do so (unless you bought the special ability to not have to do that, which is quite powerful!)

The trick with moving multiple rats is that they all have to end up on the same action space and then you do the action for all of them.

That can be quite lucrative once you get a lot of rats on the board.

The extra rats in the back are what you can earn when you move those pieces that are lying down around their track.

One action will let you move around a track which can either get you endgame points (eventually) or perhaps even more rats to put out onto the board (that’s probably what you’re going to want to do the first time and maybe even the second time you do it).

Some spaces let you get stuff if you have enough resources to pay for them, or you can “steal” them by moving the rat back to the beginning of the board. These things may be endgame bonuses or stuff that will let you avoid paying certain things. Or maybe they just give you a free spaceship part!

We stole a lot of stuff.

This isn’t exactly a rondel or a “ratchet” mechanism (where you move as far as you want to go but you can’t go backwards and you can’t do anything that you bypassed), but it does have a bit of a feeling for that. You move your rat(s) the certain number of spaces but you have to try and land on the same spots to get you stuff. If you bypass a space, you can’t go back for it (though maybe one of your later rats can land on it).

I do like the “land on a spot and pay the person who’s already there” mechanism, though in our game the person who bought the “you don’t have to pay cheese to land on a spot” player ran away with the game.

After one game, I’m not going to say that this is overpowered, but it did give us a bit of pause.

I also like how it’s a bit of a race as you are trying to get these rats into space. The first person who does so will get a lot of points, though maybe you want to spend more time building stable spaceships that have durable parts for them. That can get you a bunch of points as well.

The end of our game, with multiple rats in space and somebody using their last scoring cube

Overall, though, the game ends when a player has placed their last scoring cube or when a player moves their fourth rat into the launchpad area.

If the latter happens, then you just finish the round so everybody has the same number of turns.

If the game ends due to the last scoring cube being placed, then you finish the round and take one more additional round.

This gives players a chance to accumulate a few more points.

I really enjoyed this one, though I had trouble with how to score points at first. I didn’t do very well.

I’d love to play it again and see how I do now that I know what do with it.

I can definitely see why this made some Top 10 lists. It’s not there for me yet, but with multiple plays, maybe it would be?

Planet Unknown (2022 – Adam’s Apple Games)

Designers: Ryan Lambert, Adam Rehberg

Artist: Yoma

Players: 1-6

When was the last time that a game used a Lazy Susan? (And how did it get that name? Was Susan the creator’s mom or wife or something? And she didn’t like doing anything?)

I know some games would benefit from using a Lazy Susan, but actually require it?

Planet Unknown was a first for me in that respect.

It’s a tile-laying game where you are exploring an unknown planet, extracting resources from it, and colonizing it.

All with a turntable in the middle of the table!

This does make it a bit more difficult to play on a rectangular table, but it’s not bad.

The whole concept of the game is that the player whose turn it is turns the thing so that the piece they want to put on their board is in front of them. They then take one of the two pieces (from the inner or outer layer) and places it on their board.

The other players have to take one of the two pieces that’s in front of them.

You place the tile on your planet, where it has to have at least one square orthogonally adjacent to a tile on your board already.

My goal was longest connected water and most unconnected red terrain

When you place tiles on your board, you are sometimes trying to form groups of the same connecting terrain. Or sometimes you want a bunch of different areas where the same terrain type doesn’t connect!

This is also a game of going up tracks and scoring (or getting better stuff, anyway) depending on how far up the tracks you go.

When you place a tile (which always has two terrain types), you can go up one of the two tracks from the terrain you placed.

This can get you resources, better technology, the ability to move your rover further, and of course points at the end of the game.

Your rover will be moving around your planet, collecting meteors that have hit and rescuing lifepods.

My starting map with all of the lifepods deployed

If you place a tile over your rover or a lifepod, it is destroyed. Most of the time that’s bad (you won’t get the points for collecting the lifepod!) but sometimes it’s good (if you have a goal of the fewest lifepods collected, for example).

Placing a red terrain moves your rover track up and will then let you move your rover(s) a total of spaces equal to what your rover track says.

The rovers will be picking up these comets and lifepods for points. Moving up the rover track will eventually get you one or two more rovers to spread the wealth!

The game ends when either you can’t place either tile from the depot of tiles in front of you or if one depot is completely emptied (both tiles are gone).

My two remaining open spaces. That prevents that row from scoring and both columns.

You total up points from your tracks, your collected lifepods and meteors, all complete rows and columns on your board (more points for completing the longer ones in the middle, of course) and also the joint goals.

Oh yeah, joint goals!

Between players, a “Neighbor Objective” goal card will be dealt. Those two players are competing for that goal.

This one is why I had so many unconnected red zones on my planet.

Of course, I made neither of my goals.

I found this game fascinating, and I’m not one for Tetris-like tile-laying games!

For some reason, this one intrigued me a bunch.

I didn’t do very well, but it was fun!

I’d definitely play this one again.

There you have it.

A slower month and still there were five new to me games.

It’s March 6 and I’ve already played two new to me games and I have a convention coming up!

I have a feeling the March “new to me” post is going to be quite long.

That will be me after writing it!

What new to you games did you play in February?

Let me know in the comments!

2 Comments on “New to Me – February 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: