Saturday 23 November 2013


Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Rialto is an area majority game. What is special about it is the values of the districts being fought over are gradually determined throughout the course of the game, through players actions. Area majority scoring is done only at game end. There are a few other ways to score points, e.g. from buildings and from actions, but the bulk of the points come from the area majority competition.

The game is driven by a card drafting mechanism. At the start of each of the six rounds, a few sets of cards are dealt face-up for players to pick. These cards are used later that round to execute various actions. Actions are executed in the order of action types. To participate in an action phase, you need to play one or more cards for that particular action. The more cards you play, the stronger your action. The player who has played the most cards gains a special bonus. E.g. for the earn money phase the bonus is you earn and extra $1 (well, it's actually florin I think, since this game is set in Venice). Other actions include competing for turn order, constructing buildings, getting pawns from the general supply, placing pawns into the active district of the current round, and scoring points. Among these are two important bonuses. Firstly, in the score points phase (or bridge phase) if you win the bonus you get to place a good bridge between two districts, usually significantly increasing the value of the districts. Secondly, in the gain pawn phase (or gondola phase) if you win the bonus you get to place a lousy bridge (which is actually a gondola) between two districts, increasing their values by a paltry 1pt. You also get to place one pawn in one of these districts. This may not sound like much, but it can be very powerful because it means you can place a pawn in a non-active district.

With 4 players, we had 5 sets of cards laid out at the start of every round. The last player will still have two sets to pick from.

From left to right: The bridge cards score 1pt per card. The bonus is you get to place a bridge tile onto the board to increase the values of the districts at both ends of the bridge. The gondola cards let you take pawns from the general supply. The bonus is you get to place a gondola (i.e. lousy 1pt bridge) onto the board. The mask cards are jokers, and must be played with another card. The hat cards are for turn order. The coin cards are for money. This was still early in the game. In the background you can see that most spaces for bridges and gondolas are still empty. Also only one district has pawns.

When you select a set of cards, others can see what you have selected. However, you also draw two cards from the draw deck, and then discard two cards, before the action phases start. So your opponents will not be entirely sure what cards you have.

The building powers are mostly straight-forward. Some are related to drawing more cards and having a larger hand size. Some are related to playing one card as a card of another type. Some give points. All building powers need to be activated by paying $1, and they can only be used once per round. Money is only used for triggering building powers.

The player board has 7 spaces for buildings. There are three types of buildings, blue, green and yellow, and four levels in each type. The level (top right corner of the building tile) is also the point value. From left to right: (1) upgrade a building to the next level. (2) Draw one more card from those face-up or three more from the draw deck. Also handsize is increased by two. (3) Gain 3pts. (4) Gain 1pt and one pawn.

The Play

Having played Stefan Feld's In the Year of the Dragon and also other games where player order is something that can be fought over, I decided it must be quite important, and spent much effort keeping myself in first position. Heng and Ivan didn't really bother to compete, but Allen did, which meant I had to maintain my effort. It was an arms race.

There are six action phases in a round. At first I thought it would be a good idea to claim a good variety of cards, so that I could participate in many action phases. However I later found that this meant my actions were rather weak, and I would often miss out on the bonuses. The game forces you to make choices and sacrifices. At the start of every round, you should pay attention to what cards your opponents are taking, so that you have a rough idea of where they intend to compete. I didn't really do that though, since I was still learning the ropes and couldn't spare the extra effort.

In the early game it was difficult to plan which districts to go for, since the district values were not determined yet. So we had to fight first and talk scores later. Once you have majority in a district, you should try to place bridges that increase its value. Naturally others will try to award you stinking gondolas.

The building powers are all quite handy. I think they are very much worth the investment. You need to remember to maintain a stash of cash to trigger their powers though. Some scoring is done during the game, but most is done at game end, so you need to always keep in mind the end goal. The game is a constant manipulation of the end state, while you score some supplementary points along the way.

In the sixth and last round I made a mistake of underestimating Allen's determination to beat me in the turn order track. I was already 5 steps ahead, and I didn't think he would commit so many cards to try to overtake me. Even so, I kept one turn order card just in case. To my surprise, he committed 5 cards. That meant he moved six steps (taking into account the bonus) and I moved one. We landed on the same space, but since I moved first, his disc was atop mine, and he gained the lead. Aaarrgghh! This affected the end-game scoring of two districts, where he claimed first place while I had to settle for second, gaining half the points he scored. That was about a 13pt different - he gained 13pts more and I gained 13pts less. He won the game by a huge margin while I came a distant third. If I had committed more to maintain my turn order lead, I might have won, or at least come second place.

Game end. The doge track with the hat icon is the turn order track. Allen (blue) and I (green) were on the same space, but because his disc was on top, he had the advantage. The outer track is the score track. Allen outscored us by a mile!

The Thoughts

Rialto teases. There are many things you want to do, but you can't do everything. You are forced to choose. Turn order is certainly important. In this game I maintained the lead position most of the time, and didn't have to feel much pain. However I imagine it is painful for Heng and Ivan. They had fewer choices when picking the card sets, and during the card play, they were also disadvantaged when there was a tie for most number of cards played. Even as start player, picking a card set is painful. You not only have to think about what you want to do. You also have to consider that the card sets you leave behind will be used by your opponents to compete with you.

What makes Rialto stand out is how the district values are determined during the course of the game. This presents an interesting challenge to the area majority competition. The game is constant positioning and manoeuvring to set yourself up for the end-game scoring. Other scoring methods are not unimportant, but are supplementary. You need to always keep the end in mind.

My impression of Rialto is: cute. It is quite clean and succinct. It's a medium weight game, with still enough meat to chew on. It doesn't feel overburdened with multiple different mechanisms, like I feel there is in some other Stefan Feld's designs. Rialto is not bad. Crisp.

Friday 22 November 2013


Plays: 5Px1.

The Game

Concordia is one of the hot new games from the recent Essen game fair. It is the latest game by Mac Gerdts, designer of Antike, Imperial and Navegador, and inventor of the rondel mechanism which can be seen in all the games above. This time there is no rondel, but the action card mechanism serves a similar purpose - restricting actions, more-or-less enforcing a cycle, and forcing players to plan around it and to work it to their advantage.

Players are great dynasties of the ancient Roman empire. They send out colonists from Rome to Europe, North Africa and around the Mediterranean basin to establish trading posts and colonies. These colonies produce various goods, which generate income to fuel further expansion. The game ends after a player establishes his 15th colony, or when all action cards have been bought by the players.

The engine that drives the game is the action card mechanism. Everyone starts with the same set of cards. On your turn you play a card from your hand, and do what it says. You can move your colonists and establish new colonies (paying money and resources of course). You can make a province produce goods, and every player with presence in towns there will gain goods. You can buy and sell goods. You can buy action cards from the board. You can reset your hand of cards by taking all cards back. The game is many overlapping cycles of producing goods, making money, and then establishing colonies and buying action cards.

Action cards available on the board are what augments players' abilities. Most action cards are improved versions of your basic action cards, while some grant new abilities. Buying an action card means you'll have more cards to pick from, and you'll be able to do more of that particular action type. It also means you'll have more time before you must spend a turn to reset your cards. More importantly, action cards are also scoring cards. Scoring is done only at game end. Each action card awards points based on a specific criteria. If you are meeting that criteria very well, e.g. you have colonies in many provinces, then it is in your best interest to buy lots of action cards with this scoring criteria.

The action cards. The coloured bar at the bottom of each card indicates the scoring criteria for the card.

The player board is your warehouse. You start with the six goods on the right. The four spaces on the left are initially blocked by four colonist pieces. When you spend resources to create new colonists on the board, you move these colonist pieces off your player board, thus freeing up more space for goods. The prices of goods are fixed and are listed along the top. There is no market mechanism that drives prices up and down.

Competition between players mostly comes in the form of racing to reach towns, and buying action cards. There is no limit to the number of players who can establish a colony in a town, but the later you arrive, the more you have to pay. There can be a bit of cooperation, because of how production works. You may be reluctant to give others a free ride when you produce, but there is an incentive - one free good if you take the produce action.

The tombstone-shaped tiles indicate the goods produced at each town. They are distributed semi-randomly at the start of the game.

The Play

I did a 5-player game, which I suspect is the best way to play. I was the 5th player, which was challenging at the start of the game because everyone else had established colonies near Rome by the time it was my first turn. If I were to go for the same towns, I'd need to pay more. No wonder they give you much more starting money. I decided to try something different. I bought two action cards instead, hoping they would give me an early advantage. I'm not sure whether it was a good idea. No colony meant no production. No production meant no income. After that I quickly colonised and tried to catch up with the production cycles.

This was the early game. Everyone starts in Rome. Colonists (be it the land type or sea type) start in cities but once they start traveling, they go onto land and sea routes. They can establish colonies on either city connected to the route they are on.

Leeching off the effort of others is wonderful. That feeling of getting free stuff when it is not your turn (like in The Settlers of Catan) is great! When picking colony sites it is good to see where others are going, so that mutually beneficial arrangements can be made. The downside of course is if many people are expanding in the same direction, the cost of establishing colonies would become higher due to people needing to share towns. Being the monopoly in a province can be good. When you produce, nobody else benefits. But then if the province is lucrative enough, you can't really stop others from coming if they are willing to pay the extra cost. Also from the scoring criteria perspective, many colonies in the same few provinces may not be a good idea.

Ken and friend (sorry, forgot to ask your name).

My warehouse was full. I had bought one special action card which allowed me to produce grain in all my grain-producing colonies. This is different from the normal production card which produces all goods types but applies to a single province.

The game has a certain rhythm to it. It is an ongoing cyle of production, making money and further expansion using the money and resources gained, plus the procurement of action cards to enhance players' abilities. In our game, the focus was mostly on racing to build colonies. However once we reached about mid game and the action cards started to get attention, the competition became fierce. Every card was points!

Players have some control over the pace and the timing of the game end. If you think you have more or less maximised your scoring potential, but others still have room for growth, then you would want to try to end the game as soon as possible. However, how well everyone is doing can be hard to assess. There is no interim scoring. You can only rely on rough estimation based on the board situation and what action cards your opponents have bought.

Near game end - only four action cards remain in the card row at the top right.

With 5 players, many towns are shared by two or more players.

Our end game scoring took a while. Sorting out the cards, checking the board situation, doing the multiplications and then the additions took some time. As I totaled up my score, I saw that I was doing well, but Ivan was just one point behind. That was too close for comfort, so I recounted. My hunch was right. I had miscounted and I was actually one point behind Ivan instead. Jeff was watching us play and suggested to recount for Ivan too. To our surprise he had miscounted too and his final score was further behind. How can these seasoned gamers be so lousy in maths?! Now that I was confident to have won, Ken finished calculating his score, and he was ahead of both Ivan and I! Aaarrgghh... after all that trouble...

Ivan's scoring was very focused on the type of scoring card which awards point per province with presence. He had been collecting a ton of these cards, and I hadn't realised that and I didn't stop him. He had also been trying to distribute his colonies far and wide, mostly having one colony per province. I had expected this would be the most efficient way of scoring - focusing on one or two criteria - just like in Navegador. To my surprise, Ken and I who scored higher were not really strong in any one criteria. We did do well in quite a few areas, but we were nowhere near Ivan's level of focus. About two thirds of Ivan's score were from one criteria. So maybe I am wrong about Concordia.

Game-end scoring took a while, with much multiplication and addition. I joked with Jeff (who was watching) whether we would suddenly have a black-out, and then when the lights came back on, the results would change dramatically*.

The Thoughts

The rules and gameplay of Concordia are quite different from Navegador, but somehow they feel similar. It is probably the scoring mechanism that makes me feel that way. There are multiple ways to score, and you need to pick some to focus on, because trying to do everything will probably doom you. Concordia is very much a Eurogame. It is a development game. You establish your infrastructure to gain wealth and then use that wealth to further expand your infrastructure. It is non confrontational. You use action cards to specialise and to support your strategy. It has a very "Mac Gerdts" feel, and if you like his designs I think you will like this game too. I like his games well enough but I am not a particularly big fan. Concordia is well-crafted and well-tuned. The random distribution of goods production provides variability. Although I'm willing to play, I don't have a strong urge to revisit and explore. It's probably because it feels too familiar.

* For non-Malaysians, this is a Malaysian political joke in the election year of 2013. And also other years too I guess.

Saturday 16 November 2013


Plays: 5Px1, 3Px2.

Hanabi is Japanese for fireworks. It is the Spiel des Jahres winner of 2013, designed by Antoine Bauza, designer of 7 Wonders, the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner of 2012. Antoine, who also designed Ghost Stories, Takenoko and Tokaido, is certainly a hot designer now. Hmm... there seems to be something about him and Japan / oriental culture.

The Game

Hanabi is a card game and a cooperative game. I must admit this is the first time I hear of this combination. I can't think of any other cooperative card games. What's unusual about this game is you hold your cards the other way round. You don't know what cards you are holding, but you can see what everyone else is holding. The objective of the game is to play cards onto the table in sequential order. There are five suits (colours) with numbers from 1 to 5. The goal is to complete all five columns, one colour per column, with numbers going exactly from 1 to 5.

On your turn you have three options. You can give a clue to a teammate, pointing out which card or cards in his hand are of a specific colour or a specific number. That's all you can tell. Nothing else. When you give a clue, you use one of the eight clue tokens, which has to be flipped over. If at the start of your turn all clue tokens are face-down, you can't give a clue anymore, and must pick one from the other two options. The second option is discarding a card from your hand. This card goes to the discard pile and cannot be used anymore for the rest of the game. When you discard, you reset one clue token, making it available again. You have to be careful with discarding, because if the card you discard is the last card of a specific colour and number that has yet to be played, you will be terminating your progress for that colour. In each colour there are three 1's, two each of 2's, 3's and 4's, and only one 5. The third option is playing a card. Once you play a card, you check whether it can be added to one of the five columns on the table. If it can, congratulations. If it can't, you flip over one of the three bomb tokens. Flip the third bomb token, and the game ends early. The card played is discarded to the discard pile.

The game ends when the last card is drawn from the draw deck, and everyone takes one more turn. Then you score based on the number of cards successfully played, i.e. max being 25pts.

Ivan and Sinbad. I don't know what my own cards are, but I can see what they are holding.

We are currently at 14pts, 4+4+4+1+1. The three blue tokens at the bottom left are the bomb tokens. We have not touched those yet, i.e. no failed card plays yet. The others are the clue tokens. Seven have been flipped to the back side (black), which means we only have one last opportunity to give a clue unless someone discards a card.

The Play

Learning the tactics in Hanabi was refreshing. It certainly is something different. The idea sounds simple, but when I sat down to think about how best to give clues, there was more to consider than I had expected. A simple clue can be interpreted differently by different people. For example, if four 1's have already been played, and someone tells me I have two 1's in my hand. Is he trying to tell me these are the 1's of the fifth colour that I should play, or is he trying to tell me these are 1's of colours that are already out so I can safely discard them? Or perhaps he is only providing partial information and needs another player to tell me the colours of these 1's before I can know what to do exactly.

If you want to think real hard, you can consider the fact that the person giving you the clue cannot see his own cards, so he is giving the clue while having incomplete information. Looking at his cards may tell you a bit more than the clue that he is able to give you. Also you can consider the cards of the other players, which both of you can see. That may give you further hints too.

I imagine that as players play this game together more and more, they will develop some rapport, gradually being able to understand one another's intentions better and better. It may not be wholly a good thing though. Sometimes blunderings and misunderstandings are part of the fun.

There is a constant time pressure. You only have eight clue tokens. When they run out, your team will have less flexibility. So when you are down to the last token, you have to think twice before using it. Even if you have a splendid clue to give, you have to think about the next guy who may be forced to play a card or discard a card because he can't give clues anymore. Sometimes it may be better to do something else, e.g. discarding a card that you know is safe, and leave some unused clue tokens for others.

It's easy to cheat in this game, even if you don't intend to. When you are about to discard a card and you are unsure whether you are doing the right thing, it's hard to resist pausing, and looking at your friends' faces for any sign of alarm as your finger hover over a particular card. Playing this game makes me realise how rich human expressions and body language are. All those meaningful looks, sudden deep breaths, avoiding eye contact, screaming with your eyes, resisting to blurt out any warning, and also silent sighs of relief. Even the casual conversation and the tones used can give away extra information that you are not supposed to give. For example the tone in which you say, "I'm sure he knows what I mean when I give this clue... ". A passing remark of "I can't give her any clues, her cards are bad" in the early game would hint that the player probably has lots of 4's and 5's. You are not supposed to do all these. They are against the spirit of the game. Boardgames usually encourage communication, but Hanabi restricts communication instead. It can be funny to see how your friends try to keep a straight face.

The Thoughts

It's different. It's refreshing. It'll work as a party game, as a filler, and also as a family game. For seasoned gamers this will not be a main course, but it does provide a meaningful challenge. From reading the rules it didn't sound like much, but after I sat down to play it I found the deduction and logical thinking not exactly simplistic. Part of the game involves a lot of working out the logic and determining how to provide information efficiently. That part is quite deterministic and can feel like problem solving. Part of the game is about guessing what your teammates are trying to communicate. There is also a part where you just have to gamble and hope you get it right. Often there is simply not enough turns to provide a lot of information. Playing a card takes up one turn too. So sometimes you are forced to make a wild guess. I quite enjoyed the game and have bought a copy. Let's see if this works with my family.

Sunday 10 November 2013

It's the people? It's the games?

I have read many "it's the people" opinions from boardgamers, that the best part of the boardgaming hobby is spending time with friends and family. I've always felt a little uneasy about that, because to me, the boardgaming hobby is primarily about the boardgames. Of course you need people to play boardgames with, but the focus is on all those interesting boardgames, their innovative mechanisms, how they bring out player interaction and the battles of wits, and how they create memorable experiences. If it is all about people, sitting around a dinner table chatting would work fine too, or having a few rounds of beer at the bar, etc.

The people...

... or the game?

I am becoming quite the jaded gamer nowadays. That has probably been happening for the past 3 or 4 years. I must admit I have an involuntary disdain (I know I shouldn't, but I think I do) towards the Cult of the New - fellow boardgamers who still keenly chase after the latest games. I certainly used to do that myself, but my enthusiasm has been waning for quite some time. There is not a single game from the recent 2013 Essen game fair that I am particularly interested in, not even the latest Vlaada Chvatil or Martin Wallace designs. The only game I ordered around this period was Roads & Boats, which is a reprint of an old Splotter title. Few new games pique my interest. I'm getting lazy to read up on new games. I often dismiss a game after hearing its name, or seeing its box cover (e.g. Francis Drake), or learning of its designer (sorry Mr Feld; but I do love In the Year of the Dragon, and I like Notre Dame too), or learning it is a Kickstarter game. It is my own jadedness that caused the disdain towards people who still have the enthusiasm and the passion. I know I shouldn't feel that way and I shouldn't judge others who are having fun in a way that I don't anymore.

I do think people should play more of games they already own though, and I do think many good games are not getting the number of plays they deserve, and it is at least partly (or even mostly) due to the number of new games distracting boardgamers.

I had a minor epiphany recently. I realise it is not about the people and maybe it isn't about the games either. It is about the act of playing itself. The people you play with need not be your best friends, or your close family. The games you play need not be your favourite games, or games which are elegant, strategic, rich in theme, have multiple paths to victory, have meaningful decisions, etc etc. They may not even need to be particularly good games. What makes boardgaming special and fun is the participation, the interaction and the sense of discovery when you are engaged in a game. I recently played a number of games that I wasn't particularly keen to try, and I had a lot of fun. The games being decent enough certainly helped. I have not decided to buy any of them, but them having enough depth provided that platform for fun. I didn't mind learning new games, and I didn't mind playing games with many recycled mechanisms. I didn't mind the lack of innovation.

The people you game with being boardgame enthusiasts too is certainly important. They share the same passion and they give you plenty of challenge during the games. They know the in-jokes in the hobby, and they speak the same language as you do. So, it's still about the people afterall? I guess what I'm saying is you don't need to try to convert your best friends or family members into gamers. If they can at most handle (or tolerate) simpler games, there is fun to be had with simpler games. Go out there and meet new friends and fellow enthusiasts.

I suddenly feel at peace. Don't worry too much about who you play with. Don't worry too much about which games you play. Just play.

Tuesday 5 November 2013


Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Kemet is a multiplayer wargame set in a mythical ancient Egypt. Players are small nations vying for power. They build pyramids and discover new technologies to boost their abilities. They attack each other and capture temples for glory. The first player to reach 10 victory points wins.

VP's are gained by making successful attacks (successful defenses give no VP), by controlling two or more temples at the end of a round, by sacrificing units at the Sanctuary of All Gods, and by buying certain techs. The above are permanent VP's that you can't lose. You also gain temp VP's for each temple or control Level 4 pyramid (the max level) you control, but if you lose control of these, you also lose the corresponding VP. There are a handful of ways to score VP's, but being peaceful is not an option. You need to raise armies and send them out.

You get five actions per round, and your options are listed in three rows on your player board. Players take turns taking one action each, and whenever you take an action, you cover the appropriate icon on your player board with a marker, making it unavailable for the rest of the round. During a round you must use actions from all three rows. This is how the game imposes restrictions on your actions. Actions you can do include raising armies, marching (which will lead to battle if your army meets an enemy army), collecting money (I think the game calls it life points or something, but I just think of it as money), upgrading a pyramid, and very importantly, buying a tech tile. Tech tiles is the most important part of the game. There are 48 of them, 16 in each of the three colours. Red tiles are mostly offensive techs, blue defensive, and white economic. It is these tiles that give character to your nation and give you the needed edge over your opponents. You adjust your strategy through them, and try to make the most of them to help you win. E.g. one of the blue tiles gives you two extra soldiers when you build an army, one of the red tiles increases your army size limit from 5 to 7, one of the white tiles give you extra income at the start of every round.

The most eye-catching aspect of this game is surely the mythical creatures. You get them when you buy certain techs, and they accompany your armies and assist them in battle. Creatures never die. If the attached army is wiped out, the creature just goes home and waits to attach itself to the next new army.

The map, together with the tiles, are probably more important elements that define the game than the creatures. The creatures are afterall just a subset of tiles. The map in Kemet has few spaces. Everything is near everything else. Every space on the board is only a few steps away. This is because of the obelisks. You can teleport an army from a pyramid (your base consists of three spaces which allow building pyramids) to an obelisk by paying $2. This is a game that encourages offense, not just because only successful attacks give 1VP, but also because the map design makes every space easily accessible.

Battles are resolved via a simple card play. Strength is determined by army size, the single battle card played, and other special abilities from tiles and creatures. The loser, if he has any soldiers remaining, may choose to retreat to an adjacent space, or sacrifice all survivors and turn them into money. The latter is not uncommon, because leaving a weakened army on the board only invites further attacks. Successful attack = 1VP!

That fortress with three pyramids is a player's base. Troops are raised there. The pyramid colour and level determine what techs you can buy. The building on the right is one of the temples. This particular temple gives $5 at the end of a round, but you need to sacrifice a soldier to gain this benefit. One interesting thing about this temple is it is at a dead end. It has an obelisk (dark blue pillar with a golden tip), which means you can teleport troops in, but there are no bridges or crossings you can use to get off the delta it is on.

The Play

Han and I had scheduled a game session when he was in town recently. We played Sekigahara. We knew 2P is not an ideal number for Kemet, but we were curious so we went ahead anyway, just to see what it was like. We played the short game (8VP instead of 10VP).

The first thing I found was the techs are cheap. There really is no reason to not take advantage of them. The cheapest ones are only $1. The game is all about offense. Each successful attack is 1VP, which is a lot. Even it the standard game, that's 10% of the VP you need to win. The game is also a race to capture temples. The action selection mechanism restricts you somewhat - you can at most raise armies once and march twice in a round, but generally as long as you prioritise and plan ahead a little, you won't feel restricted much.

Han went the warmonger path, mainly going for the offensive techs, while I leaned towards economy. At one point I made more money than my treasury could hold (there is a limit of $11). What a waste! I should have made sure I did not have too much left over from the previous round. Our game was many cycles of back-and-forth attacks - he attacked me to score 1VP, then I attacked him with a new army to score 1VP, then he attacked me with yet another new army, and so on. I think things are less interesting when there is only one other player to whack. There is no balance of power or ganging up or temporary alliances to think about like in 3P (or more) games. Most of the time when I lose a battle, I let all the survivors die instead of getting them to retreat to an adjacent space. If I kept them around, they would just be low-hanging fruit for Han.

Han had more VP from attacks, and I had more VP's from controlling temples. The game was a race to score points. It might be because we were playing the shorter version, but I suspect even in the standard 10VP game, players would have to always keep in mind the goal. There is no time to waste. You need to keep up the pace and not fall behind. I like this sense of urgency and being on your toes.

In the end I was first to reach 8VP, but Han could almost have done it in the same round. Just before I claimed victory, we backtracked a little, because I thought he could have picked another action and beat me to 8VP. It turned out that he couldn't, because he had already used that particular action (buy a tile of a particular colour) earlier in the round. He actually also had an army in position to attack one of my armies, but he had used up his movement actions that round. I had thought the action mechanism in this game was not very restrictive, but surprisingly it turned out to be crucial in determining victory, at least in this game.

The elephant is one of the mythical creatures. Players only have one type of soldier. However every player has a different sculpture for his soldiers, which is a nice touch.

The Thoughts

One 2P game is not the best way to experience Kemet. I think the game will be much more interesting with more players. This is a Euro-wargame. The core mechanisms, the pace, and the leanness are all Euro, but this game has direct, in-your-face aggression. It's Brazil football (soccer) team - it's all about offense. The game encourages you to attack, and treats your soldiers as nothing but cheap tools for gaining VP's. The tech tiles and the combos they make are the crux of the game. You must make good use of them. In a 2P game there is a lot to choose from, but I imagine in 5P games there will be a rush to buy them, and if you don't get what you want, you will need to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Monday 4 November 2013

2012 games eagerness ranking

Roughly once a year I force rank the games published in a particular year that I have played, which I find to be an interesting exercise. Here's the list for 2012 games. This time expansions are mixed in. Previously I kept them separate because my eagerness to play an expansion usually corresponds to my eagerness to play the base game itself. So the ranking of an expansion does not really provide additional information. It would be better to compare the base game (usually published in an earlier year) with other games published in the same year. I'm doing it differently this time because sometimes I am more keen, or less keen to play a game's expansion.

    Keen to play

  1. Android: Netrunner - I only have the base game plus 3 expansions from the first expansion cycle, and there is already a lot to explore. I have not played that many games yet. I enjoy the games so far and I feel there is a lot more to learn. I think I will enjoy it even more when I learn to play better. This can be a lifestyle game, i.e. a gamer can play just this one game, like Magic: The Gathering, or competitive Scrabble, or Chess. I can't imagine myself playing just one game, but I'd like to spend more time on this game.
  2. The Great Zimbabwe - Very interactive Splotter game, which is best when all players know what they are doing - how to prevent runaway leaders, how to adjust the pace of the game, how to neutralise opponents' special abilities. Some strong plays need multiple other players to work together to counter, so the game shines when there is a high level of familiarity among the players.
  3. Clash of Cultures - a well-implemented civ game.

    Android: Netrunner

    The Great Zimbabwe

    Clash of Cultures

    Happy to play

  4. Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island - A punishing and rich cooperative game that has a lot of variety.
  5. Star Wars: X-Wing - A fun romp. Clean and quick dogfighting system. Pew pew pew!
  6. Shinobi: War of Clans - A clever card game where you need to hide your identity while secretly trying to help your faction win. Players need to carefully maintain some balance, because if your faction appears too strong, it will soon get cut down. There is also a timing aspect to it. If your faction can get a boost at the right time near the end, it will win even if it becomes obvious who you are working for.
  7. Mage Knight Board Game: The Lost Legion (expansion) - More variety for the base game.
  8. 1989: Dawn of Freedom - Similar to but different enough from Twilight Struggle.
  9. Fleet - A pleasant surprise. A quick card game where you need to make the most of special abilities you buy.
  10. CO2 - A tight game where you need to watch out not to set up good moves for your opponents, and yet sometimes it's hard not to.
  11. Ticket To Ride: The Heart of Africa - A map that is tough because of how the route colours are distributed, or rather, clumped. Variety is always good when you enjoy the Ticket To Ride system.
  12. Dominant Species: The Card Game - Not much like Dominant Species. Cards are precious and you need to pick when to fight and decide how hard to fight. Sometimes you need to know when to concede. It has brinkmanship, and even some player-negotiated cooperation if that's how you choose to play.
  13. Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - A "plan a few turns ahead" game. I didn't expect to like it because of the "worker placement" label, but it turned out that I enjoyed it more than I expected, even though it is a worker placement game.
  14. Ascension: Immortal Heroes (expansion) - I am playing all the available expansions on the iPhone almost every day. I have 5 ongoing games at all times. Since playing this is so convenient on the iPhone, I have zero urge to play a physical copy.

    Shinobi: War of Clans

    Dominant Species: The Card Game


  15. VivaJava: The Coffee Game - A game where you need to compete and cooperate at the same time. Pulling coffee beans out of the bag is exciting and has that gambling feeling. Best with a big group.
  16. Kemet - Part of the new generation of dudes-on-a-map games, like Cyclades. It has a Euro core, like Cyclades. While Cyclades is driven by auctions, which decide what you can do in a round, and thus require that you don't neglect making money, Kemet is driven by special ability tiles, which customise your nation, and also a limited action type mechanism.
  17. Edo - It has an interesting action selection mechanism. There is area majority competition on the board. Most memorable part is the aspect where when you send your samurai onto the board to do your work, you need to have either stockpiled enough rice to pay for their expenses, or you need to keep producing rice to keep them on the board.
  18. Escape: The Curse of the Temple - I have only played this in a family setting, and never with the full rules. We only used a simple timer and not the soundtrack, so we didn't need to return to the starting point at specific times.
  19. Sunrise City - Quite tactical. Most memorable is the scoring system - you are always trying to precisely hit the 10pt mark when you score points, because when you do so, you earn two stars instead of one (stars determine victory at game end, so they are the real victory points). Sometimes you "help" others score points to push them over the 10pt mark.
  20. Seasons - Dice game with card drafting. All about planning for the best use of your cards.
  21. Town Center - Burnt out on the solo game because I feel I have solved the puzzle. I'd be more willing to play non-solo games.

    VivaJava: The Coffee Game

    Rather Not Play

  22. For The Win - Perfect-information, abstract 2P game, a little like Hive.
  23. Zombie! Run for Your Lives! - Light card game with a lot of getting your friends killed by zombies.

    Zombie! Run for Your Lives!

Not Played

Here are some of the games published in 2012 that I know of or have heard of, but have not tried. Looking at this long list, I think I am no longer at the forefront of the gaming hobby. I don't mind though. I'm happy enough to just try a handful of newer games every year, as long as I have enough good games to play.

  1. Terra Mystica - A hot game with a lot of good buzz, and now an award winner too.
  2. Lords of Waterdeep - I have not read much about it. It seems to be just a regular worker placement game with a fantasy setting.
  3. Mage Wars
  4. Star Wars: The Card Game
  5. Mice and Mystics
  6. D-Day Dice - Allen has it.
  7. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
  8. Zombicide
  9. Love Letter - I wonder how much game there is to it. It's only 16 cards.
  10. Rex: Final Days of the Empire - I have played Dune once. It was good.
  11. Legends of Andor
  12. Virgin Queen - Allen has this.
  13. Archipelago - I have been following this game a fair bit. A game about exploring and development. One aspect that detractors don't like is how a losing player can force everyone to lose by letting the game devolve into a rebellion. I guess this depends on the group you play with.
  14. Suburbia
  15. 7 Wonders: Cities (expansion)
  16. Wiz-War (8th edition)
  17. Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
  18. Keyflower
  19. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
  20. Dominion: Dark Ages (expansion)
  21. Libertalia
  22. The Manhattan Project
  23. Space Cadets
  24. Andean Abyss - Allen has this too. Seems interesting, but probably needs four players.
  25. Myrmes - Some said it's a little like Antiquity. That got my attention.
  26. Infiltration
  27. Merchant of Venus (second edition)
  28. Samurai Battles
  29. Trains
  30. Yedo
  31. Snowdonia
  32. 1812: The Invasion of Canada - Sounds like an innovative Euro-ish war game in the vein of Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan.
  33. Tokaido - Very pretty.
  34. Coup: City State
  35. Star Trek: Catan
  36. Ginkgopolis
  37. Copycat
  38. Goblins Inc
  39. Morels
  40. Galaxy Trucker: Another Big Expansion - I'm no longer buying expansions because I don't play Galaxy Trucker often enough nowadays.
  41. Antike Duellum
  42. Atlantis Rising
  43. Africana
  44. Crown of Roses Allen has this. A multiplayer block wargame.
  45. Targi - Some interest. It can be a spouse game.
  46. Pax Porfiriana
  47. Spellbound
  48. Chicken Caesar
  49. Abaddon
  50. Urbanisation
  51. Alien Frontiers: Factions (expansion)
  52. Uchronia
  53. The Palaces of Carrara - Interested to try this.
  54. Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant - Martin Wallace design. Seems much less well received than Automobile.
  55. Las Vegas - Heard good things about this one.
  56. Le Havre: The Inland Port - I need to play Le Havre more.
  57. The Ladies of Troyes (expansion)
  58. Doctor Who: The Card Game
  59. Axis & Allies 1941
  60. Guildhall
  61. The Convoy
  62. P.I. - Martin Wallace design. But I prefer his heavier games and not the lighter ones.
  63. Samurai Sword (the Bang-like game, not Samurai Swords / Ikusa / Shogun)
  64. Kingdom of Solomon
  65. Garden Dice
  66. New Amsterdam - Heard good things.
  67. Starship Merchants
  68. Qwixx
  69. Zooloretto: The Dice Game
  70. Qin - Reiner Knizia design. Interested to try.
  71. Ruhrschifffahrt 1769-1890
  72. Legacy: Gears of Time - I followed this for a while some time ago.
  73. Divinare
  74. Oddville
  75. Zong Shi
  76. Tooth & Nail: Factions - Allen has it. Read rules. Still have not played. Forgot rules.
  77. Indigo
  78. Nightfall: The Coldest War (expansion)
  79. Sheepland
  80. The Doge Ship
  81. Flowerfall - A game about dropping cards onto the table. How's that for unconventional?
  82. Mondo Sapiens - I remember Mondo fondly, a real-time game of constructing your own world from tiles where you want to make sure the tile edges match. Mondo Sapiens is a standalone variant game.
  83. Pala
  84. Keltis: Das Würfelspiel
  85. Rondo - Reiner Knizia abstract game. Interested to try after reading about it in Spielbox magazine.