Friday, May 1, 2015

Short game reviews

Agricola – Number of players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes for two players
Synopsis: This is a worker placement game where you take turns placing your family over 14 rounds.  You try to build your farms and buildings to score the most victory points.  You can only take as many actions as you have members in your family. If you don’t expand your family, you will be able to take 28 actions. 
Why it should be ranked higher: By serious boardgamers, including the voters at BoardGameGeek, this game is ranked very high.  There’s heavy strategy involved and since you have a limited number of actions every move has increased significance.
Why it should be ranked lower: Mostly because I’m a sore loser.  I don’t think I’ve won this game since we bought it.  Beyond that, I haven’t developed a strategy for this game and I end up spending most of my time worrying ab out feeding my family which is a criticism Keith Law has of the game, as well.

Coloretto- Number of players: 2-5
Time 15 minutes
Synopsis: The game is simple enough.  You try to match up your chameleons of three different colors .  During your turn you either place a card in the card row or take all the cards in a card row.  Try not to collect more than 3 colors otherwise you will score negative points at the same rate you gain them.
Why it should be ranked higher: It’s pretty tough to be ranked higher.  The price to fun ratio for this game is off the charts.  The game is so simple to teach.  This is easily our most taught game that we own.  We generally teach this game after showing how to play one or two rounds.  As my brother said after he played his first game, “I can’t believe a game this simple was so much fun.”  Trying to screw over your opponents lends itself enough strategy to make the game easily replayable. 
Why it should be ranked lower: The simplicity of the game may turn off some people, especially hardcore gamers.  The two player version of the game is not as much fun but still more fun and competitive than many other games, as with more people but those are really only the negatives, as far as I can tell.

Morels- Number of players: 2
Time: ~30 minutes
Synopsis: Your goal at the end of the game is to end up with the most points (surprise, surprise).  You do this by cooking up three or more mushrooms.  You receive more points for cooking up rarer mushrooms or adding butter or, weirdly, apple cider to your mushrooms.  You can sell your mushrooms to get foraging sticks to move up in the card queue to get a card that you really want or need.  During your turn you take a mushroom from the forest, cook up your mushrooms, or sell them for foraging sticks.
Why it should be ranked higher: We got this game for Christmas and have played it pretty consistently since then.  The Destroying Angel card helps prevent your opponent from getting too many of the cards that they want but it also affects you.  If you’re paying attention to what cards your opponent takes, you have a chance to block them and develop a strategy.  Sometimes the strategy takes a long time for it to develop which allows pleasure delayers to take additional pleasure in the game.
Why it should be ranked lower:  Even with the added foraging sticks to help move your way up in the queue, it is ridiculously difficult to get the rarest mushrooms, Morels or Shitakes.  In all the games that we have played, neither of us has been able to cook up Morels by the end of the game.  It is even difficult to be able to use your cider or butter, although I have been able to use both cider and butter to cook up 9 Honey Fungus).   

Eight Minute Empire – Number of players: 2-4
Time: 15-20 minutes
Synopsis: During your turn, you use your coins to purchase a card from the shared card row.  The cad gives you a resource and allows you to place an army, place a city, or move an army.  You receive points at the end of the game for regions you control (the most armies + cities in any one region) as well as a point for each continent that you control, meaning that you control the most regions on that continent.  You also receive points for your resources based on the scarcity of the resources.  These points are exponential. 
Why it should be ranked higher: Like the game implies, it is a short game with heavy strategy.  Using the coins to purchase cards from the card row allow you to actually buy the cards you most want and give you an option to prioritize your strategy.  The game is very easy to learn.  I think we learned the game and played it within 30 minutes.
Why it should be ranked lower: The biggest negative of the game is that it does not have a lot of replayability.  We play the game every once in a while but we don’t get this game out as much as others on this list.  The game has a two player variant but it is much more fun with more than two players so you could knock it down a bit. 

Mr. Jack- Number of players: 2
Time: 20-30 minutes
Synopsis: One player is Jack the Ripper and the other player is the inspector trying to catch Jack the Ripper.  At the beginning of the game, the player who is Jack draws a suspect card.  At the beginning of each turn, there is a selection of four witness cards and those are the four witnesses that can be moved during the players’ turns.  At the end of each turn, Jack has to answer if his suspect token has a witness meaning somebody next to him or next to a light.  If there is a witness all of the tokens that do not have witnesses are flipped over and vice versa.  The game continues for a set number of turn, if the inspector catches Jack the Ripper, or if Jack the Ripper escapes.
Why it should be ranked higher: The game itself is very simple, but like chess, every move has insanely high stakes.   Trying to maximize your chances to either escape or catch Jack means that you have to think a few moves ahead but not an inordinate amount of moves ahead like chess.  I think it’s a nice compromise between the two. 
Why it should be lower: This is probably the most stressful game that we own.   We usually play two games back to back real quick so we each have a game as the inspector/Jack.  Each move in the game requires a lot of thought and stress

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small- Number of players: 2
Time: 30-45 minutes
Synopsis: The two player version of Agricola focuses, as you can imagine, on acquiring farms and having a lot of animals.  It still follows the same basic outline of Agricola meaning that it’s still a worker placement game with a set amount of rounds in the game.  Unlike the original Agricola, you don’t have to feed your family.  Your main goals are to have as many animals as possible, which you can house by building fenced-in pastures, stalls, stables, and feeding troughs.  But you only have so much room in your farm so you do need to expand and fill up, as quickly as possible.
Why it should be higher: Like Agricola, the game requires you to think through your turn each time with a low luck factor.  There is the storage building which gives you points for your resources at the end of the game but even with that building, you don’t win every time that you have this building.  Despite the heavy strategy, it’s not very hard to learn how to play and the game length is just about perfect whereas the original Agricola game, you feel like the end of the game comes up way too quickly.
Why it should be lower:  My biggest complaint about the game is that you essentially have to choose between being able to complete buildings and hoarding animals.  This shouldn’t really be a problem but more of a strategy aspect but still.  I’m a complainer.   In the original game, there are just not that many options for the buildings , which of course is sold separately in expansions.
Are the expansions worth it?  We purchased the expansion More Creatures Big and Small which adds more buildings to the game.  The buildings add more strategy and complexity to the game and even crack me up with some of the buildings, such as the insemination center.  If you begin to get tired of the same strategy in the original game, I’d recommend purchasing the expansion.


Zooloretto- Number of players: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Synopsis: The game is another take on Coloretto.  Instead of matching chameleons you are trying to move animals into your zoo.  You also have different attractions that you can put in the zoos to try to earn extra points at the end.  During your turn, you can expand your zoo, put a tile in the tile row, or take a tile row.
Why it should be ranked higher: It’s one of the easier games to learn and to play but still provides a lot of strategy and thought during your turn. You can expand the game to add more animals to the base game which should it make more challenging and fun than Coloretto. We’ve only played the two player variant of this game so it’s possible that with more than two players, the game will be more fun, if it’s anything like Coloretto.  The two player variant works fine, though.  You also get additional actions if you don’t like what is in the tile row.
Why it should rank lower: For some reason, the game doesn’t grab my attention like the others above it.  It’s one of the few games on the list that we don’t own so it’s difficult to really determine how many times we would play it compared to the rest of our games.  

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