March was a good month for gaming, with a convention and numerous lunch time plays at work as well as some hefty Sunday game days as well.
As noted in my March gaming post, I played 21 games!
Seven of them were even new to me, which made my fellow Cult of the New to Me members very happy.
But then they looked at the publication years of all these games and they went from happy to furious.
I tried to mollify them with the 2018 game I played, but they weren’t having any of it.
Way too many 2023 games!
They actually accused me of being part of the Cult of the New.
I promised I’d do better next month (and I’m already starting, playing a 2015 game yesterday).
So, without further ado (all of my ado was shot down over the trenches anyway), let’s begin!
Aces of Valor (2022 – Legion Wargames) – 5 plays
Designer: Erik von Rossing
Artists: Vincent Bourguignon, Randy Lein, Mark Mahaffey
I love me a good solo game (at least since the pandemic lockdowns) and even better is a World War I flying game!
I enjoyed this one enough that I even reviewed it, so check it out there and I will say no more.
War Chest (2018 – Alderac Entertainment Group) – 4 plays
Designers: Trevor Benjamin & David Thompson
Artwork: Brigette Indelicato
A lot of my friends have been talking up this game, including the Players’ Aid wargaming site, but I never had the chance to try it out.
When Alderac had a “no shipping charge” sale recently that included the base game and both expansions, I had to try it out.
I’ve been wanting to for a while, but this was the perfect opportunity.
It’s a great lunch time game as it takes about 30 minutes or so, and it’s actually quite a good game!
It’s kind of abstract, almost chess-like, except that each player has four different unit types that will do various things depending on what they are.
The board is very abstract and you are trying to take control of six VP spaces (8 if you play 4-player with teams, though I haven’t played that way yet).
Each turn you will draw 3 coins from your bag and each coin in your bag will represent one of the four units you have.
You can play a coin to deploy it onto the board if you don’t have that unit there yet. Or you can bolster one that’s there (meaning you put the coin on top of its unit, making it able to absorb more attacks). You can also use the coin face-down to recruit another coin of one of your units, or maybe take initiative (meaning you will go first next round). You can also discard the coin face-up to have the matching unit either move a space, attack an adjacent unit, use a tactic, or take control of a VP hex that it occupies.
Tactics are unique to each unit and they may allow you to break the rules, or maybe just do something different (like the Light Cavalry being able to move 2 spaces, or the Lancer moving 1-2 spaces in a straight line and then attacking).
The game is a back-and-forth affair, almost like chess, but you are trying to take control of these various hexes. You start with two, two of them are fairly close to your lines so you can take them easily, and then the others will be heavily contested.
I have played this four times now, first using the recommended units, then using the remaining units that weren’t included in that. Then we randomized the 8 units, and finally using the remaining 8 units that weren’t used in the third play.
It’s a really great game where you have to figure out the best way to use your units, maybe trying to decide when it’s best to move your unit, or maybe bolster it. Or maybe recruit more coins to your bag.
Sometimes, when units are eliminated (if the coin is attacked and removed, it’s gone for good), the remaining coin(s) in your bag for that unit are only useful to recruit others or maybe take initiative or whatever. If you have a coin of that unit on the board and one more coin in your bag, losing that unit will mean the coin in your bag is only good for recruiting/initiative or whatever.
There’s no theme to this game, of course. It’s abstract chess with a lot of unique ways of using your units, and it’s so much fun.
And it’s playable in 20-30 minutes!
A review of this will be coming soon, but spoilers…this is a great game.
Wayfarers of the South Tigris (2022 – Garphill Games/Renegade Games Studios) – 2 plays
Designers: Shem Phillips & S J Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
This is the first of the upcoming “South Tigris” trilogy from Garphill Games, and it’s also a really great game.
The South Tigris trilogy is going to involve using dice, and Wayfarers of the South Tigris uses them in very interesting manner. (Spoiler: when I get one or two more plays in, a review is coming).
This game is also a space hog, so be ready for that!
Between the journaling board (shown above) and your tableau, where you are going to be spreading out to the left and right, make sure you have enough space for it.
In the game, you are exploring the the world from your base in Baghdad, both the sea and the land, acquiring cards to your tableau
You start with a caravan and both a city and a sea card (essentially, even though it’s not technically a card).
You will be placing dice to do an action, depending on what cards you have. You have default actions on your board but if you have taken Land/Sea cards that give you other actions, then you have more options.
When you take a Land or Sea card, sometimes it gives you an instant benefit, or maybe another place to use a die, or maybe just a new effect.
In the above picture, when I took the Ocean card on the right of my tableau, I was able to take a new Land card off of the top of the deck.
The Caravan at the top of your player board will show you what symbols you get when you cover them with upgrades. But the Camel (1) and Telescope (6) are symbols you get when you use that number for an action.
When you add upgrades, those may give you other symbols when you use the die, but when you cover the symbols you will get that thing (like a provision, a coin, or moving influence).
You can also hire townsfolk to go beneath cards in your tableau that will either modify actions or maybe give you additional bonuses when you do the action.
Above, the land action (on the left) requires a camel and a pigeon. However, placing a die there gives you a camel and a pigeon due to the townsfolk card beneath it, so you can use any die to do the action.
Finally, you can acquire Space cards, though they have to go above a Land or Water card, so you have to make sure you have space for them.
These will give you endgame scoring, such as the third card above that gives you one point per Stars card you have in your tableau.
The game’s timer is the journal board. Usually, when you rest (meaning you either don’t have any more dice to place or you don’t want to and you only have one die left to use), you can journal. Some other cards let you journal, and influencing the black guild will let you journal again if you spend influence there.
Journaling will give you additional benefits and when somebody reaches the end of the board, that triggers the end game.
There are also three guilds where you can have influence. Spending influence can let you adjust dice, or maybe give you a ship when you need it, or journal again as mentioned above. Having the most influence in a guild at the end of the game will give you 3 points, but it’s more important to use the influence to help your game, i think.
It’s a very intricate system that I’m not going to go into great detail on (mainly because a review is coming but also because it’s quite intricate!), but I really really enjoy it.
I need some more plays just to see if my opinion still stands, but right now I regard it very highly.
It is a long game, so you do have to prepare for that. It may be variable depending on how familiar people are with it.
My two plays of it so far, the 3-player game was 3 hours and the 4-player game was 2 hours and 40 minutes. At least until players get used to it, be prepared to budget a lot of time.
But it is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to play it again (in fact, I did last Sunday! And it only took just over two hours).
I can see now why this made Chris Yi’s and so many other Dice Tower people’s top games of the year list.
Earth (2023 – Inside Up Games) – 2 plays
Designer: Maxime Tardif
Artist: Conor McGoey
My first exposure to this great tableau-building card game was on Boardgame Arena playing it asynchronously, and I have to say that while it seemed pretty good, I had a bit of trouble understanding it.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I played it twice on the table, and this is so amazing!
It’s essentially a card game similar to Wingspan where you are playing cards to a tableau and some of them will activate when you choose a certain action, giving you a lot more options.
The difference, and why I just may prefer this to Wingspan, is that when the active player chooses an action, each other player can use a lesser version of that action.
So you choosing an action could let you play two cards to your tableau and draw some cards. The lesser version that other players can do is to play one card and draw a card. You choosing it lets you play two cards and then you draw 4 and keep one (giving you a lot more options).
This makes the game much more interactive and there is literally no downtime for players. It’s a great addition to the genre.
You are building your own ecosystem by playing terrain cards and flora cards to your tableau. You spend soil to do that, so you need to collect that (maybe taking the second action, giving you 5 soil).
The cool thing is that many of the cards in your tableau have actions that let you do them when the same action is chosen. If your card has a teal (kind of light blue-green) action, then you can do that action when it’s chosen (even if you didn’t choose it)
That means you’re really involved no matter what action the other player chose. At least as long as you’ve played cards with that action.
The flora cards you play will have spaces for sprouts (the green cubes) as well as growth (the discs in the top right corner). These will give you points at the end of the game but some card effects will let you spend them to do other cool stuff.
The game has such intricate combinations and also has some endgame goals. The goals are both on your board but also publicly available that you are trying to satisfy.
The brown cards are in-game goals that you are racing to complete. If you’re first to complete them, you get 15 points at the end of the game. If you are 4th, you only get 6 points). But the green cards are the endgame goals.
This is just so much more interesting than Wingspan, though I’ll need some more plays before I decide whether or not it takes its place.
I’m a sucker for card-based tableau-building games and Earth meets that in spades.
And now that I’ve played it on the table, it makes more sense so asynchronous plays of it will be much better!
I actually won a game on BGA that I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing.
I would willingly play this one on the table again and again.
Stationfall (2023 – Ion Game Design) – 1 play
Designer: Matt Eklund
Artists: Madeleine Fjäll, Anne Isaksson, Josefin Strand
Stationfall is chaos personified in boardgame form.
It’s fitting that the Astrochimp is on the cover, because this game will give you the chaos that monkeys usually give you if they were let loose in a lab or something.
Essentially, you are all on a space station that is plummeting to Earth (hence, Stationfall) and each player has their own agenda for how they are trying to score points by the time the station burns to a crisp.
Sometimes you want to escape. Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you want others to escape. Sometimes you don’t.
Depending on the number of players, a certain number of characters are going to be in play.
Their markers are going to be put on the board wherever they are supposed to start (the Botanist starts in Hydroponics, for example).
For five players, for example, there will be 14 characters out.
Each player will then be dealt two character cards from the 14 that are in play.
One of these is you!
One of these is your bonus identity.
Whichever character you choose to be your bonus will score you extra points at the end of the game depending on whether they are your grudge or your friend. If they’re your friend (the two above are both friends, as the two points shows at the bottom of the card), you get two points if they escape.
If they’re your grudge, you get 2 points if they are “downed” (basically dead, though downed characters can be revived).
The board has all of the rooms on the station.
On each player’s turn, they will influence one of the characters (they become “conspirators” at that point) by placing influence cubes (or maybe just one) on them.
Then you can make them do two actions (if nobody else has used them in the last turn) or one action (if somebody else’s activation disc is on it already).
You can also, once per game, bribe a conspirator to do one action. Or maybe you picked up some compromising material on them, which means once in the game you can blackmail them to do something.
The trick is, and the hardest thing to get your head around, is that these are conspirators. You can influence anybody you want to do stuff. You don’t have to limit it to your character.
In fact, since which character you are is secret, the sky’s the limit on what you can do!
As long as you have enough influence. You have to be at least tied for the most influence cubes on a conspirator in order to make them do anything.
You’re going to be moving these conspirators around the board, picking up stuff, maybe getting a helmet so you can go into outer space or into hazardous areas.
Or maybe killing other conspirators (or “downing” them). Though if you do that to a human in a room where the lights and cameras are still on, you become “suspect.”
Somebody might produce evidence of what’s happening on the station and send it to the authorities. If that happens, all suspect players are moved to “guilty” and you can’t win the game no matter how many points you earn.
The only way to prevent that if you are guilty is to escape the station and bring your own manufactured evidence.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there are only a certain number of turns (or “minutes”) before Stationfall happens and the game is over. You have to fulfill your character’s agenda to score points.
As I said, some characters want to escape the station. Others don’t but want to help others.
The Station Chief, for instance, gets one point for every other human that escapes, with an additional point if they have the “Officer” trait (like she does). She also gets 2 points if she’s on the station at Stationfall. She’s looking out for others.
On your turn, prior to choosing who you’re going to activate, you can reveal your identity. Doing this removes all of the influence cubes (you get yours back) on it. Nobody else can make you do anything (other than a possible bribe or compromising material, though you can choose not to do the action requested). You also get a reveal ability.
The Station Chief above can perform a free basic action with another conspirator in the same room as them, or with an Officer that’s anywhere on the station.
That can come in handy!
There are multiple ways to escape the station, but the most common way are escape pods.
These can be launched once Abandon Ship has been ordered.
There is a lot more to this game than what I’ve said above, but I’ve yammered on enough about the rules.
This game is full of chaos as nobody knows who is who until it’s revealed (or unless you’ve made it obvious by your actions). You can make a conspirator do one thing on your turn, but then somebody else will suddenly move them in a completely different direction, foiling your plans without even realizing it!
Or maybe they did realize it?
The teach of this game can be very difficult unless you understand the game well and setup is a bitch until you know your way around the map more.
Once you’ve done the teach, though, it’s a fairly straightforward game and we finished our 5-player game in 2 hours.
Also, make sure you bring your reading glasses if you need them. The print on the cards can be quite small.
Finally, on a rectangular table, the more players, the more difficult it will be to see all of the conspirators and what they can do.
This would probably work really well with a big circular table, maybe at a convention. I’d like to try it there!
Starship Captains (2022 – Czech Games Edition) – 1 play
Designer: Peter B. Hoffgaard
Artists: Mergen Erdenebayar, Jiří Mikovec, Radim Pech, Jakub Politzer, František Sedláček
I talked a bit about Starship Captains in my Terminal City Tabletop Convention post, so I won’t go into too much more detail here.
Essentially, players are starship captains who are using their crew to go around the galaxy fulfilling missions, taking on space pirates, and trying to score as many points as possible.
It has an rather interesting method of getting your crew ready to do actions as they have to be in your “ready room”. They also each have specialties (red, yellow and blue) though some have no specialty because they haven’t been trained (the grey cadets).
As you’re going around the board, you’re finding planets with missions. These missions will get you points and possibly other benefits, but they will use up your available crew.
In the above mission, you need three crewmembers. For each colour crewmember of the appropriate type you use, you get the bonus next to that colour. But you could do the above mission with two red and a yellow crewmember. It’s just you wouldn’t get the blue bonus.
You can also get ship upgrades as well as places to put cargo (or maybe even pirate tokens if you defeat them) which will add to your ship. You can spend the blue/yellow/red artifacts to count a crew member as that colour, in case you need a red crewman, for example.
Turns go around until everybody passes for the round.
You will get extra abilities and points as you move your marker around three different tracks. These can be done in a variety of ways, such as the red crewmember bonus in the mission above.
This is an extra way to score points, but as you cross certain thresholds, you will also get bonuses.
At the end of four rounds, total up the VP and whoever has the most is the winner!
I saw this out for demonstration at the Czech Games Edition booth at SHUX in October, but never got a chance to demo it.
I’m so happy that it was brought to Terminal City as I’ve been wanting to play it for a while.
And it’s a lot of fun!
It’s also fairly short, just over an hour, and it’s a relatively easy teach.
I definitely look forward to playing this one again.
Bot Factory (2023 – Eagle-Gryphon Games) – 1 play
Designers: Vital Lacerda, João Quintela Martins
Artist: Pedro Soto
Finally, let’s talk about a Lacerda-lite game.
Bot Factory is kind of a simplified version of Vital Lacerda’s classic (and very complex) game Kanban.
In this one, instead of building cars, you are building robots.
You’re still trying to do so as efficiently as possible and you still have Sandra (the apparent forewoman or something) to deal with, but in this one she’s not that mean.
She just makes things more expensive to do.
Bot Factory still has a production line where you go from getting blueprints to getting robot parts to building the robot and then getting contracts to get points for them.
You’ll have some blueprints to start with and you need to have the right coloured robot’s blueprint in order to build that colour bot.
The turn spaces are at the bottom of the boards (or tops in this case, considering I was on the opposite side when I took the pictures).
You move your worker to an open space and Sandra will move to an open space in the next section from where she currently is.
Actions are then done in order from left to right. If Sandra is in your area, she’ll make the action a bit more expensive, but that’s the extent of her hassling the players (though she will do a specific action in each areas of the factory).
As you are collecting blueprints and robot parts, and then assembling them, you will then move to the contract area and fulfill the various contract opportunities there.
Depending on whether you are first to have done so (though you can reserve the contract prior to fulfilling it…you’d just better hope you can fulfill it at the end of the game!), you will get more endgame points.
The main “currency” in the game is the talk bubbles shown above. You will be getting them when you place robot parts on the assembly line, and you will be spending a bunch of them.
It’s an intricate game, but nowhere near as intricate as most Lacerda games.
The thing about building the robots is that it’s a community assembly line.
You can place the head and torso of the robot on the line, but if somebody comes in and places the bottom (legs or jets) piece onto the robot, they get the robot! So you have to be careful with that too.
The game ends when somebody has completed 6 robots or if all of the available robots of one colour are built.
Total up the points and whoever has the most is the winner!
There’s obviously more to the game than that, but it gives you a bit of the flavour of the game.
I enjoyed this one and it makes me really want to play Kanban now. I think I would finally understand it better.
The game is simplified, but it is by no means simple.
There’s some meat to this game.
It took us less than 90 minutes to play, which is nice. And you get a lot of bang for your buck.
If you want to see what you think about a Lacerda game, this is a good place to get an idea without diving into the deep end.
That’s quite a load of new to me games for a month, and that makes me happy!
What new to you games did you play in March?
Let me know in the comments.
Glad you have enjoyed War Chest. I need to get the expansions for sure.
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You were kind of the final push I needed to get it and try it out. 🙂
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Quite a month for new stuff for me. In order of release:
Bohnanza (1997) – coworker brought it in from a local game library
Ra (1999) – 25th Century Games crowdfund fulfilled
Takenoko (2011) – played on the tabletop via my library after I discovered that the app, while implementing the rules correctly, didn’t have the proper amount of each tile…
QWIXX (2012) – friend with three kids bought it for my family as a game even my kiddo could learn, we really enjoyed it as a group
Galactic Strike Force (2014) – interesting ideas and my 🇨🇿 compatriot and I enjoyed our first play, but the card text is virtually unreadable… we’ll try again
Healthy Heart Hospital (2015) – fairly punishing coop game that my wife has been recommending for years, finally found a copy
Atheneum (2020) – because we liked Ex Libris and the book shelving theme appealed to my wife
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Sounds like you’d be a great member of the Cult of the New to Me. Want to sign up? You get one of these great key rings. And a t-shirt!
High praise for Earth! Sounds like Wingspan meets Puerto Rico (“I do an action, everyone else gets to do a lesser action”). Very enticing!