Saturday, August 29, 2015

A game review: Coloretto

Number of players: 2-5
Time: 10 minutes
Complexity: Very low
Style of game: Set collection

For some of you, you will be able to play this entire game before you finish this review.  In all honesty, just do it, it's a great game.  The game is one of the simplest games I've found but still one of the most fun.

On your turn, you do one of two actions.  You can flip over the top card of the deck and place it in a card row or you take all of the cards in a card row.  That's it.  The card rows indicate the maximum number of cards that can be placed in each card row.  Once the maximum number is reached, no more cards can be added to the card row.  Once you take a card row, you are out for the round and will not play again until a new round starts.  The new round starts after all the card rows were taken

Your goal, in the standard game, is to collect the most same color chameleons. You want to collect as many chameleons of the color, as you can.  But you only score points for your three colors with the most chameleons.  For each color after three you lose points at the same rate that you would gain them.

When you play a card in the card row, you want to maximize the number of points that you can get; tempt other players to take card rows early; or minimize the number of points your opponent can get.  Ideally, you will want to do all three.  A simple but strategic game.

Pros: Quick game and easy to learn.  We got this game at Christmas of 2014 and taught my girlfriend's family within minutes.  We taught my parents how to play and were able to enjoy themselves (so much so that they got a copy for themselves).  Despite being such a quick game, there is a little bit of strategy to placing the cards and trying to trick your opponents to taking a card row.  It can be confrontational to an extent which is a good thing, in my opinion.  For the price of the game, the choices are this or Love Letter and I much prefer this game.

Cons: I think it plays best with more than two players.  Ideally, you would want, at least three players.   There is a two player variant but I don't think it plays nearly as well.

Score: 87/100

A game review: Valley of the Kings

Number of players: 2-4
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Medium
Style of game: Deckbuilding/set collection

Let's face it, I'm a sucker for deckbuilding games.  I also enjoy the various takes on deckbuilding. Valley of the Kings is a really interesting take on it and is not like any others that I've played so far. Like all deckbuilding games (that I'm aware of) you start off with the same cards as your opponent(s).  In this game, set in ancient Egypt, you have four shabti's, three urns, two boxes of food, and an offering table.  The goal of the game is to have a number of different objects in your tomb at the end of the game.  You score points based on squaring the different sets of objects that you have in your tomb at the end of the game.  For instance, for three different books in your tomb, you would score nine points.

The cards that you use can either be used for currency to be able to purchase cards or can be used for their various action texts on the card.  The market for the cards is a pyramid, in which you can only purchase cards from the bottom row.  There are various cards that allow you to manipulate the pyramid's bottom row to change which cards you can purchase.  The cards fall down the pyramid and the top card of the stock is added to the pyramid.

On your turn, you can play cards from your hand, use the cards in your hand as currency to purchase cards from the bottom row of the pyramid, or entombing a card from your hand (placing a card from your hand in your tomb).  Once you place a card in your tomb you're not able to use it, again (unless you happen to have a card that brings it back from the tomb).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the scoring of the cards in your tomb.  You score points based on completing the sets (there's only two copies of each card) and only score points for cards that are actually in your tomb at the end of the game.  Start entombing cards too early and you won't be able to complete your set.  If you wait too long in the game to entomb your cards, you will end up woefully behind your opponent(s).

The game is a little more complex then it first lets on.  There's quite a bit of strategy of remembering what cards you have, your opponent has/needs, thinning your deck, and disrupting your opponent's chances of getting the cards that they need.  If each player is willing to make the game confrontational, it can get quite nasty.

Pros: Quick game which allows for a lot of decisions.  Each game is going to play differently due to the randomness of the cards.  Picking the right time in each game to go after entombing your cards as opposed to purchasing the more powerful cards is always going to be different which is part of the fun.  The game allows you to thin your deck quickly and allow for the best cards to be played, which of course, can be countered in this game, so another good thing.

Neutrals: Can be quite confrontational, as I mentioned above.  I've been known to destroy cards from the pyramid that my opponent needs with a shabti rendering a lot of their strategy useless.  Of course, that turns the game a little bit. At first, I thought the non-combining of the currency would be a con as I would have to separate out my coins to maximize the cards but I've really come around on this and think it's really great.

Cons: There are very few cons in this game, that I can think of.  I'm a little disappointed in myself for not playing this more, as it is a game I really enjoy.  Unfortunately, our favorite game is Dominion and Legendary is fairly close so we have a lot of deckbuilding games competing for our attention.  My only complaint is the Censer which only seems to be played when I purchase a card before my opponent can and they get it from me but I'm certain that it's a feature not a bug.

Overall: 81/100

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A game review: Tokaido

Number of players: 2-5
Time: 20-30 minutes
Complexity: Low-Medium
Style of game: Set collection/point-to-point movement/racing (well, sort of)/meeple placement

The game is simple but a lot of fun.  During your turn, you place your meeple on an open tile and follow the instructions for the tile.  Whoever is in last place for the race gets to take their turn.  This makes for interesting gameplay.  Each tile on the board presents you with a different card (or manipulates your coins).  You can move as far ahead as you'd like, remembering to stop at the inns, but remember whoever is in last gets to go, again.  It is possible for you to take multiple turns in a row.  It is important to plan your turn so you can maximize your cards, coins, and points.  The different cards and to an extent your coins will give you points.  At the end of the game, whoever has the most points wins the game.

With two or three players in the game, you cannot stray off of the road to place your meeple on a space that is already occupied.  You do not have this issue in a four player game.  The black tile on the board is the souvenir shop.  When you land on this tile, you draw three cards from the souvenir card deck.  You can buy as many as you can afford.  There are four different types of souvenirs that you can purchase.  The souvenirs are part of sets that you complete.  You can only have one type of each souvenir in each set that you have.  If you purchase or acquire a souvenir of a type that you already have in a set, you begin a new set.  For one type of souvenir, you score one point, for your second type, you score 3 points, third type 5 points, and fourth type 7 points.  You score the points immediately after playing the souvenir type in your set collection.  That sounds really confusing but I assure you, it's not.

The temple tile allows you to place up to three coins in your color's temple.  You immediately score one point for each coin you put in the temple.  At the end of the game, the player with the most coins in the temple scores 10 points and so on (all written on the game board).  The farm tile allows you to take three coins from the bank.  The coins can be used later to purchase souvenirs, food, or can be placed in the temple.

The hot springs cards (tealish looking cards) are worth the victory points listed on the card and are scored immediately.  This brings us to the panorama cards; the cards are pasture, a mountain, or a beach.  When you place your meeple on one of the panorama tiles, you take the respective panorama card from the panorama deck.  You take them in ascending order and form a beautiful picture when completed.  The first time you land on the tile, you take the 1 panorama, 2nd time you take the 2 panorama, etc.  You score points immediately for taking the card equal to the panorama level you just played.

The encounter (pink cards) are actually pretty easy if you can handle the rest of the tiles.  When you draw a card, you follow what the card says.  Some of the cards would allow you to take the top card of the souvenir deck.  Or they let you put a coin from the bank into the temple.  Or they let you take a panorama card.  The point is you follow the card.

The inns are where you get to purchase your food.  On the board there are various inns in the middle of the gameboard on the way to your destination.  You have to stop at each of the inns on the board.  When each player on the board gets to the inn, you draw a number of cards equal to the number of players, plus one.  Each food is worth 6 points immediately.  They cost between one and three coins.  You can only have one of each of the foods in your collection at the end of the game.  The first player at the inn gets first choice and it goes in the order of who arrived at the end.

At the end of the game, you score achievement cards.  The achievement cards are given to who has the most encounter cards, hot springs cards, souvenir cards, and who spent the most on food at the inns.  The first person to complete each of the panoramas gets the achievement card for that panorama.  Each achievement card is worth 3 points.  The player with the most points wins.

At the beginning of the game, you can choose to play with the character cards.  The character cards allow for special bonuses for each player and determine how many coins you start you with for the game.  The special abilities may include getting to draw an encounter card when you reach the inn or acquiring a souvenir card for one coin on your turn.  We've always played with them and they do add quite a bit of enjoyment and strategy to the game.

Pros: The game is easy to teach.  Since the game revolves around very basic mechanics and what is on the tile, people are ready to play in a few minutes. The game is fairly quick, as well.  I've said it again in these reviews but I'll repeat it, I really enjoy this mechanic that changes which player's turn it is by the use of time or meeple placement.  Some people are not fond of games in which every action allows you to score points but I don't really mind that, in general, and think that this game allows you to try to maximize the number of points you score, fairly well.  The game also allows you to block your opponent from being able to place their meeple on certain actions.  This can make it more competitive and a little more strategic.

Cons: It doesn't play the greatest with two players.  The two player variant listed on the rule allows for an imaginary player who the player in the lead controls.  The game just doesn't seem to work that great.  The con is really a con on the fact that we have problems finding people to play this game with us.  The game can be a little luck driven.  If you can't find the right encounter card or if another player seems to be able to complete sets of their souvenirs, etc. I could see how that would be annoying but have not really run into that as much, so far.

Score: 84/100

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Thebes: The Tomb Raiders - a review

Number of players: 2-4
Time: 20-30 minutes (with 2 players, at least)
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Set collection/Hand management

Before I begin the review, I should be honest and say that I've never played Thebes only this game.  I got this game off of a BGG auction after reading a recommendation for the larger game.  This game offers a fun experience with a couple of interesting mechanics that I haven't found in a lot of games (as of yet).

For set up of the game, you will fill out the card row with knowledge cards, scientists, tomb raiders, assistant professors, and thieves.  Once the card row is filled out and the top card of the deck has a green back, the game begins.  For each card marked with a "P" (also with gray backgrounds) you set aside in the storage area, marked by the board.

Cards that do not have a green back go in the respective piles indicated by the board.  These are your artifacts that you are trying to raid.  They are worth victory points at the end of the game; are worth knowledge points; or are rubble, in which case they are added back to the artifacts pile.

The normal sized cards are dealt to each player.  These are your excavation cards.  These are finite and have to be played if you want to excavate (which you do as it is the main way of scoring victory points).  The only other way to excavate is the general excavation cards that will be available in the card row.

During your turn, you have a couple of choices for what you can do.  You can take a card from the card row paying its cost in time.  If it is a knowledge card (showing books) you get to add it to your play area signifying how much knowledge you have in that subject.  If it is a person, such as a thief, a tomb raider, a scientist, or an assistant professor, you add it to your hand.  The other card is that added to your hand is the general excavation cards.

You can take a presentation card, either the museum or the exhibition cards and pay the time.  The museum cards allow you to trade artifacts in to score more points.  The lowest museum point total is 4 points, which only costs 1 artifact.  You can essentially trade 1 victory point for 4.  The exhibition cards can be purchased from the card supply if you have the required artifacts listed on the card.  As you have more artifacts, the time cost for the exhibitions will decrease.

You can play a card from your hand.  To play a card from your hand, you must pay a time cost.  Each of the cards do separate things.  The scientist allows you to look through a given stack for the tomb.  A thief allows you to take any one of the cards from a tomb (excluding rubble from what we understand from the rules).  A tomb raider allows you take any one artifact from a tomb.  For each of these, you draw the cards from the tomb and you are able to look through and select the card of your choice.

You can choose to excavate.  To excavate you look at the number of knowledge points that you have for that tomb color and decide how many weeks you would like to excavate.  You look at your chart for excavation and see how many cards you flip over from the tomb color.  The artifacts are worth various amounts of points.  When you choose to excavate, you can play an assistant professor from your hand to increase your knowledge points.  You do have to play an excavation card to excavate or a general excavation card.

When you have 4 or more knowledge points in a given color and more than your opponent, you receive a card with 8 victory points at the end of the game.  This card can be taken from you if another player plays more knowledge points in a given color than you.

I keep talking about time in this review.  In this game, whoever is behind on the time track is the one who gets to go.  This is an interesting twist as it changes the normal flow of play of going back and forth between the players.  This allows you to strategize for your turns.

The game ends when the deck runs out.  You score all the victory points on your cards and bonuses.  The person with the most points wins.

Pros: The time determinant for who gets to go next is very interesting.  I really enjoy this mechanic (is it technically a mechanic, I'm sure someone on BGG will correct me) in Tokaido and even moreso in Patchwork (oh, how I enjoy Patchwork).  The game is full of interesting decisions which is why I got into board games as a hobby, in the first place.  The search for artifacts in the tombs is fun and makes you decide on when you need to excavate.  You need to balance out how much time you want to spend with how many cards you may need.  The presentation cards also presents interesting decisions to decide when you want an exhibition and if/when you want a museum.  The game allows you to prevent your opponent from getting too many artifacts from the tomb if you can excavate before them or you can steal from the tomb.

Cons: Those dumb small cards.  I hate these small cards.  It is the reason why the 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride is so necessary.  Given normal sized cards, there are very few complaints about this game.

Overall: 78/100 (trending up)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rise of Augustus: A review

Number of players: 2-6
Time: 15-30 minutes
Complexity: Low
Style of game: Set collection/press your luck

The game is often described as gamer's Bingo which is a fairly accurate description.  Each player receives objective cards that they attempt to complete by placing meeples.  Each objective card requires various symbols to be able to be completed.  The objective cards provide various bonuses to the player who completes them.  They provide victory points, to be scored at the end of the game.

Victory points are also given out by various bonus tiles that are in the middle.  A player can take a bonus tile for completing a number of pink, orange, or green tiles; completing one of every type of tile; or, completing a number of Senator objective tiles.  If your objective tile depicts gold or wheat, you may be entitled to take the gold or wheat bonus tile, respectively.  You have to be the first one to complete an objective with gold or wheat or have completed more of these tiles than your opponents.  The final way to take a bonus tile is to take a tile based on the number of objectives you completed.  You can only take one of these tiles so you have to time it out right so that you score the most points for your objectives being completed.  After you've completed one objective, you can take a new objective to complete from a shared row.

The gameplay is very similar to Bingo.  You try to match the objects that are drawn out of the bag to what is on your objectives.  Some items are rarer than others so if you're waiting on a dagger to complete your objective, you might be waiting a while.  If the tile drawn from the bag matches what is on your objective card, you can choose to place one of your meeples on the item covering it up.  Fortunately, for strategy's sake, you only have a limited amount of meeples to place.  Once you place them, you can only move them laterally, meaning that you can only move it to an identical item on another objective if that item was drawn.

The game ends when a player reaches his or her 6th objective completed (sorry if that's wrong, it's been a while since I've played, I'd recommend looking at the rules).

Pros: It is pretty easy to learn.  The mechanics of the game are similar to bingo, so it's not that difficult to explain how to play.  There is some element of strategy in the game which it makes it a little bit better than playing bingo.  The objective tiles/cards are interesting to look at, at the very least.  After a few plays, you begin to see where the strategy comes in.  For instance, do you want to load up on Senators to get the bonus tile for the Senators and for completing your tiles quickly or do you want to risk being able to complete all of the different types of objectives to score more points.

Cons: It's heavy in luck; your starting tiles may give one of your opponents the ability to complete an objective with gold and no other gold tiles are in play the rest of the game.  As a 2 person game, it seems like it's just a race to be able to draw the right items out of the bag.  With more than 2, there was a little bit more interaction.

Overall: We bought this game during the Cyber Monday/Black Friday deals off of Amazon and have played a couple of times with 2 players and once with 4.  Despite the relative easiness of the game, my parents still didn't quite take to it.  That's unfortunate because I feel like it would be better with more than two people.

While it is a step up above bingo, it's just that, a step.  There's a lot of luck with very little room for strategy.  I enjoy playing the game because, well I like most games, but this is definitely a game that stays on the shelf.  Perhaps when the little one is a little bit older, we an start playing with her.  If you're looking for a similarly weighted game, I feel like I would point you elsewhere quickly.

Rating: 65/100

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lost Cities: A review

Number of players: 2
Time: 10-30 minutes (depending how many hands you play)
Complexity: Low
Style of game: Hand management/Set collection/Press your luck

This is part of the Kosmos 2 player collection and is recently back in print.  It is designed by Dr. Reiner Knizia and is pretty addicting.  You and your opponent are going on adventures to have a profitable journey.  But be careful, each adventure that you seek costs you 20 points.

Each of the five colors on the board have cards numbered 2 - 10 with three handshakes of each color.  Each player is dealt 8 cards at the beginning of the game.  During your turn, you can either play a card under the journey color or discard a card by placing it in the card row.  After you played your card, you draw a card either from the deck or take a card from the card row (you can't take the card that you just placed there).  The game ends when there are no more cards in the deck.

Your goal is to score more than 20 points on each journey that you start.  You do this by playing cards under the journey color in ascending order, starting with the lowest number and going all the way up to 10.  At the end of the game, you add up the total of numbers in each journey you started.  You subtract 20 from your total in each journey you started.  Then you add up the total number of points for each card row.

The handshake cards allow you to gamble to earn even more points.  You can place the handshakes under the journey color before you place any numbers down there.  There are three handshakes for each color.  For each handshake you place, you can have a multiplier for your journey.  The first handshake will take your score (after you subtract 20) and multiply it by 2, two handshakes will multiply it by 3, and three handshakes will multiply it by 4.  Be careful, though, a handshake also indicates a journey starting so if you don't get up to 20, you have to minus points with the same multiplier.

There is one other bonus, if you are able to play 8 cards in one color (including handshakes) you receive n additional 20 points at the end.  I believe the rules call for a game to last three rounds with the highest total score winning but we usually best 2 out of 3.

Pros: The game is quick to setup and quick to play.  we typically get our best 2 out of 3 done in about 15-20 minutes.  The rules are very simple, as well.  It's really up to you as the player to decide when your journey should start, do you only start when you have 20+ or do you start with much lower numbers hoping you can work your way up to 20 by the end.  You also have a lot of say in how quickly the game goes.  If you don't have your 20 and the deck is getting smaller, you may want to take cards from the card row to slow it down.  Or if your opponent doesn't have his/her 20, you may want it to go quicker.  The cards for the game are fairly large and really easy to shuffle which is a huge positive compared to such games as Ticket to Ride (without the 1910 expansion) or Thebes: The Tomb Raiders.

Neutrals: The game can be a little confrontational, at times.  If you see your opponent struggling to get to 20 and you have the card that they need, you can hold onto while watching them suffer.  It can be a pro or con depending how you feel about that.

Cons: There is a lot of luck involved that you can work to negate as the game goes on but if you can't get the handshakes, your opponent can build a more profitable journey.  If you're really big into themes (which we're not), it may be knocked down a bit as it is not the most thematic game out there.
Overall: The game is fun, easy to learn, and just the right amount of strategy for a quick game.  Plus it is specially designed for 2 players.  After nearly 60 plays since we got it in April of this year, we still haven't gotten bored of it.  It is our favorite 2 player only game and is played all the time.

Final ranking: 97/100

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Republican Debate #1 Drinking Game

Because life is short here is a drinking game to make it shorter for the first Republican debate drinking game.

Sip for any mention of repealing Obamacare
Sip anytime a candidate says that the media took them out of context or accuse the moderator of “gotcha” questions
Sip for each mention of Obama’s overreaching executive power
If someone makes fun of Donald Trump’s hair
If someone slips and mentions a racial slur when referring to Ben Carson
For how long an ovation lasts about executing a criminal or boos for not executing enough people (callback to the 2012 Republican primaries)
Donald Trump
Take a sip for each nationality he degrades when he calls an immigrant group: murderers, rapists, and drug dealers
Take a sip each time he mentions the Trump tower, the Apprentice, or his negotiating skill
Take a shot (3 sips) if he unveils a plan for destroying ISIS
Chug all of your alcohol if he shows that his toupee is real hair
Jeb Bush
Take a sip each time he mentions that he can reach out to Latinos
Take a sip each time he mentions he can speak Spanish
Take a shot  (3 sips) if he mentions his dynastic family positively
Chug all of your alcohol if he talks about the 2000 election and mentions his role in purging the voter rolls to make sure his brother won
Scott Walker
Take a sip each time he mentions Badgercare
Take a sip each time he mentions his recall election or teacher unions
Take a shot (3 sips) if he mentions his fundraising ties to the Koch brothers
Chug all of your alcohol if he says he is the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan
Ben Carson
Take a sip each time he mentions Detroit
Take a sip each time he compares something to slavery
Take a sip of your water for each of your Republican Facebook friends that you’re convinced only like him because he’s  black and want to point to him as their explanation that they’re not racist
Take a shot (3 sips) if he compares himself to Obama
Mike Huckabee
Take a sip each time he mentions abortion
Take a sip each time he talks of Christians being under attack
Take a shot (3 sips) if he defends his raising of taxes in Arkansas
Chug all your alcohol if Huckabee announces that he’s an atheist
Ted Cruz
Take a sip for each time he mentions the government shutdown
Take a sip each time he talks of Christians being under attack
Take a shot (3 sips) if you think Ted Cruz looks like a used car salesman (1x only please)
Marco Rubio
Take a sip for each time he mentions his immigration reform bill or backing away from it
Take a sip each time he talks about the importance of expanding the Republican base
Take a shot (3 sips) if he talks of needing to reform our dealings with Cuba, Iran, or the PATRIOT ACT
Rand Paul
Take a sip each time he talks about the NSA spying invading our privacy
Take a sip  each time he mentions drones or his filibuster
Take a shot (3 sips) if he talks about some trivial manner that doesn’t matter like how he’s a lowercase “D” democrat
Chug all of your alcohol if he calls himself America’s greatest defender of freedom
Chris Christie
Take a sip when he attacks another candidate
Take a sip when he talks about balancing the budget or cutting pensions
Take a shot (3 sips) when he talks about his past polling victories
Chug all of your alcohol if he talks about why he took the easy way out for losing weight
John Kasich
Take a shot (3 sips) when he defends the Medicaid expansion
Take a sip if he invokes God into defending a non-traditionally Republican issue such as accepting Medicaid expansion.