Friday 28 April 2023

Horseless Carriage


The Game

Horseless Carriage (2023) is the latest game from Splotter. I am a big fan of their games, and by now I have reached the stage I can confidently buy-before-try. They are the only game designer team I can say that for. Their previous title was Food Chain Magnate (2015), which was 8 years ago. These guys take their time. 

Horseless Carriage is about the early days of the automobile industry. Cars are a new product on the market. As car manufacturers, you need to work out what exactly your customers want, so that you can develop the right products. At the same time, you are also shaping what the market perceives to be important features. Car buyers are fickle, and tastes regularly change. You need to be able to handle the ever increasing customer expectations while at the same time competing with your opponents to sell cars. The richest player at the end of the game wins. 

The most important part of the game board is the 8x8 grid on the left. This represents the car market in an abstract way. The X and Y axes represent two different types of requirements of car buyers, e.g. safety, speed and range. Buyers at the lower left corner have no expectations, while those at the top right corner expect many features to be available in your cars. Naturally those who have high expectations are also willing to pay more. 

The rest of the board are various tracks, including for turn order, scores and production capacities. 

You have your own player board, which is your car factory. This is the most important part of the game - how you place various tiles in your factory. I think of the player board as not just a factory. It is a representation of your car company. In addition to your production lines, you also place your dealerships, marketing departments, research departments and planning departments here. 

This is a countdown timer track. You play at most 7 rounds in a game. However some actions trigger this timer. If the timer hits zero before you complete 7 rounds, the game ends early. If the game ending early is beneficial to you, you can deliberately manipulate the timer. This also means sometimes you need to think twice before performing certain actions, because your action may cause the game to end earlier than you prefer. 

Cars placed on the board represent buyers, i.e. market demand. Purple cars are regular cars (sedans), the golden ones are trucks, and the blue sports cars. There are black squares along the X and Y axes. They represent how many features of a specific category that the buyer expects to see in your car. For example the Y axis is currently associated with safety features (light brown). Near the top left there is a truck in the row marked with two black squares. This means this particular buyer who is looking to buy a truck wants a truck with at least two safety features. 

These frames represent the reach of your dealerships. The more marketing departments you have attached to a dealership, the bigger the frame you can use. Bigger frames let you reach out to more customer segments. 

When selling cars, you place the frames on the board like this. Your dealership must fulfill the requirements of customers in all segments covered by the frame. When players' frames overlap, it means they will be competing for the same customers. Turn order for selling cars becomes crucial.  

This is a factory, i.e. player board. The tiles with cars are the mainlines. They are the hubs for producing cars. They must be connected to dealerships - those white tiles with cubes. Cubes on dealerships represent how many features and in what types the cars sold here have. The four sides of a mainline are in white and three different shades of grey. These four sides allow the mainline to be connected to up to four separate assembly lines, which I'll call sublines. Let's take the orange truck mainline as an example. On the A (white) subline, there is a workstation producing doors. All tiles in the A subline must have the same white background and must be eventually connected back to the A side of the mainline. There is a purple arrow pointing at the door workstation. This indicates that the workstation is producing a purple, i.e. design, feature. This allows you to place a purple cube on the connected dealership. 

On the B subline (light grey) there are two workstations. The interesting one is on the right. It has two arrows pointing at it, green and red. This means it is producing two features, a green range feature and a red speed feature. These allow the green and red cubes to be placed on the dealership. Notice that this B subline is at the same time serving the other mainline making purple sedans. If you can get separate mainlines to share some sublines, you will save much space and heartache. 

My truck mainline has no D (dark grey) subline, because I have no space for it. I have no option to use any dark grey workstations. Tiles once placed on your factory floor can never be removed or shifted. This is very much a Splotter design philosophy. You have to plan carefully and know what you are doing. An early mistake can ruin your game. 

You will place more are more cubes on your dealerships, meaning your cars will support more and more features, in order to meet customer expectations. 

These are the tech tracks. There are five of them in total. Two will be placed next to the main board, to represent the two types of features buyers want most this round. The other three which are off board are still important and you need to pay attention to them. At the end of every round, one of the tech tracks at the main board will be replaced with one of these three off board. What buyers expect will change every round. The white bars on the three off board tech tracks represent the minimum requirements of the market. You must fulfil all minimum requirements to be able to sell your cars, and not just those two types on the main board. 

The player markers on the tech tracks represent your research level. Research level grants you access to specific workstations as shown on the tech tracks. One important rule is if your turn order is ahead of other players, you can use their techs as if you own them. This is called using their patents. It is difficult to develop all techs by yourself, so turn order is an important element to pay attention to. 

Players' research levels influence which types of features will be demanded by buyers. The more you research a tech, the more it will get prioritised to be moved to the main board next. If you want to manipulate which tech goes next and which doesn't, this is how. 

Every round you get to develop new market segments. By doing this you generate regular new demand on the main board. This particular card will create demand for four sedan cars from now until the end of the game. 

When you develop new demand, you place those tiny square tiles. Every round these square tiles generate new customers (i.e. car pieces). This is predictable and you can plan how you want to compete and which customers you want to serve. 

The Play

Horseless Carriage is a 3 to 5 player game. Han, Allen and I did a 3-player game. We were all new to the game. My gut feeling is it will be more interesting with more players, because competition will be more intense. 

Han and I had read the rules, and we both agreed that it was hard to imagine how the game worked. The rules were not that complicated. As veteran gamers, normally by reading the rulebook we can more or less figure out how a game works and what the general strategies will be. With Horseless Carriage, we felt lost and had little idea what we should be doing. It feels like having read a sentence, and despite knowing every word in it, I still don't understand what that sentence means. We had to sit down to play to start learning how the game actually works. 

The core of the game is laying tiles in your factory. It's all about planning. You start with a large factory floor. Every round after placing as many tiles as you want, you get to expand your factory floor in preparation for the next round. You will be doing this six times. By the seventh round when the expansion tiles run out, it is time for the game to end. All those tiles you get to place on your factory floor are free! The mainlines, the workstations, the dealerships, the planning departs. All free. If this game were designed by someone else, each department and function may have a different cost, and you have to make money and save up to buy them. In the end it becomes complexity for the sake of complexity. In Horseless Carriage, the designers had decided that these aspects were not the core of the game, and did away with them. I admire that. 

Every tile on your factory floor, once placed, can never be removed or shifted. This is very much in the spirit of other Splotter games. You'd better know what you're doing. This is not the kind of game that you can happily do random things and explore at your leisure and expect to be able to steadily work things out and catch up by game end. This is an unforgiving game. An early and bad mistake can doom you for the rest of the game. This is the kind of game that Splotter makes. They don't give you child guards. No catch-up mechanisms. No protection from doing stupid things. If you are going to play a Splotter game, you have to remind yourself you are an adult now and you will take responsibility of your own actions. 

By Round 2, Han, Allen and I were already stunned staring at our factory floors and repeating oh crap oh crap oh crap in our minds. Mistakes in the first round already started haunting us. It was like having dropped a pound of salt into the broth and now we had to think how to save the mess. It was disaster management. We needed to work out how to not further screw ourselves. It was funny to have three grown men brooding over a table muttering what am I doing. 

The ever increasing customer expectations are a constant source of pressure. We needed to plan ahead and predict what the market would want, and then design our factories accordingly. We had to allocate space for workstations which would help us fulfil customer expectations. There were five different types of requirements, and customer priorities changed every round. It was challenging to keep up. This is a game about long-term planning. While working towards meeting market expectations, we were also competing among ourselves. 

We didn't compete too directly in the factory building aspect. We couldn't mess with one another's factories. However the quantities of the workstations were limited. If one particular type ran out, it would be bad news for anyone who still needed that type. We still needed to watch closely how others were designing their factories, so that we could plan how to compete on the main board. You gotta know your enemies. 

More direct competition came from selling cars. If our car features were about the same, we would be competing for the same customers. Players have some control over generating market demand. If you know there are certain expectations which only you can meet and no one else, you'd want to create such customers. You would monopolise that segment. With three players, the game board felt rather spacious. However we often couldn't serve many of the customers. So maybe the game does need that big a board. Or maybe we were just horrible at playing. 

I was the only person making trucks (the golden pieces). I thought having a monopoly would mean big bucks coming in all the time, but that didn't exactly happen. Most of the time I didn't manage to produce trucks with many of the desired features, so I mostly sold to low-end customers who had little or no expectations. I only had myself to blame. Allen and Had did consider competing with me, but the truck mainline was a large piece, and they already had enough trouble managing their factory floors. They didn't want another major project to have migraine over. 

Being able to expand assembly lines from the mainline tiles is of utmost importance. This is how you keep up with customer expectations. Ideally you want to keep your options open for all four sublines A, B, C and D, but that's difficult to do. This is very much a spatial game. If you are producing two types of cars, it is best if they can share some sublines and workstations. That's going to save you a lot of pain. 

We only played 5 rounds. By then, the result was clear. Han produced sports cars, and he managed to create a group of high-end buyers which only he managed to sell to. His sports cars had many features and round after round he focused on selling expensive toys to these rich boys. Sports cars themselves were already more profitable than regular cars. Being able to serve the high requirement segment meant even more profit for Han. Allen's sports cars couldn't compete, and I didn't make sports cars at all. By Round 5 we knew it was impossible to catch up to Han. 

The Thoughts

Horseless Carriage did not disappoint. It is a heavy Euro strategy game, very much in the Splotter style. This is the kind of game hardcore gamers like. I like that the game doesn't rely on too many rules or too complicated rules to create a rich and interesting strategy space. It is not minimalistic. It uses just enough to make the game work. Some simple and seemingly innocent rules have much tactical consideration behind them. No doubt this is a heavy game, so it is not for players new to the hobby. 

Designing and expanding your factory is a spatial challenge. It is the bulk of the game. It reminds me of Uwe Rosenberg's polyomino games. That's essentially what you're doing right? But here the gameplay is much more complicated. It is not just about filling spaces and leaving as few holes as possible. There is much more you need to consider. Horseless Carriage also reminds me of Martin Wallace's Automobile. They share the same setting. The mechanisms are vastly different. Automobile is less complex, but not by any means a light game. I like them both. Horseless Carriage made me itch to play Automobile again. 

Some of the earlier Splotter games like Antiquity and Indonesia get complaints about being fiddly. Indeed they have some components which are tedious to manage during play. I am not too bothered, as the enjoyment is worth the trouble. The fiddly part of Horseless Carriage would be those flimsy plastic frames. When we played, if we could tell apart our dealership ranges easily, we didn't bother to place the frames. Only when we had overlaps, and thus direct competition, then we used those frames. They are still a useful visual tool, just a bit difficult to handle. 

I thought about whether Horseless Carriage has enough player interaction. You can't mess with your opponents' factories, so that part of the game, which is the most important part, feels a little like multiplayer solitaire. In our game, Han cornered the billionaires sports car market, and there was squat Allen and I could do. Eventually I concluded that there is plenty of player interaction. You do have to be acutely aware of what your opponents are doing, and you have to think about what they are planning to do. You have to decide where to compete and where to concede. In our game, there were parts I felt helpless about, but it wasn't due to a lack of player interaction. I had already missed the opportunities to do something well before I got to the helpless situation. Horseless Carriage can be a brutal game, and I love that. It has both a rich strategic layer and a complex execution layer. You can't neglect either one. I like how important the strategic layer is. If you fare poorly at that level, no amount of good execution will save you. 

This is the way. 

Saturday 22 April 2023

Beethoven vs Newton voting ends soon


Voting for the BoardGameGeek 2023 Two Player Game Design Contest ends at the end of April. My submission is Beethoven vs Newton. The last time I participated in a game design contest on BoardGameGeek it was a 9-card dame design contest. The main restriction was we could only use at most 9 cards. There was no restriction about the number of players, but my submission then - Dancing Queen - happened to be a pure 2-player game. Beethoven vs Newton is a pure 2-player game too. The contest this time allows entries which support more than 2 players, as long as 2 players is a valid player count. I see quite a few entries which support 2 to 4 or 2 to 5 players. In my case I went for a game that is specifically designed for two. 

Beethoven vs Newton is a microgame. You only need 18 cards. Download for free here

After younger daughter Chen Rui drew the cartoon versions of the scientists and artists for me, I had an urge to do funny captains for them all. For example: 

Chopin (thinking) "What a retarded question"

Marie Curie (thinking) "God I'm explaining this for the third time and you still don't get it. Did you even graduate from primary school? " 

Schumann (thinking) "What? Never seen handsome before? " 

I just realised Chen Rui had secretly added Squidward to the background. How did this get past me? 

What caption would you add to these characters? Submission are welcome. They will be considered for the physical game if I get to the publishing stage. 

My playtest copy is still an older version using artwork I Googled. 

Scientists are blue

Game in progress

Beethoven and Newton

Voting period ends 30 Apr 2023. Please come support my game. 

Game details, including links to download the rulebook and game components: link

Contest details: link

Voting form: link (must have a BoardGameGeek user account) 

Friday 21 April 2023



The Game

9upper is a party game from Hong Kong, and it is in Traditional Chinese. Initially I didn't understand the name and I wondered whether it was supposed to be a variation of the word supper. Only after I learned that it is from Hong Kong that I understood the humour behind the English name. It is based on the Cantonese phrase "9-up" which a colloquial way of saying "talk rubbish". BS, if you will. 

9upper is nominally a trivia game, because there is trivia in the game, but more accurately speaking it is a lying game. If you happen to know the obscure trivia in the game, you will have an advantage, but the game may not be fun. Here's how the game works. 

The cards in the game have a term or phrase on the card back, and a description of what the team means on the front. The game comes with a huge stack of cards will all sorts of obscure facts, related to history, arts, geography, politics, biology. Every round, one player takes the role of the judge, and the judge's identity is open information. The identities of the others must be kept secret. Among them one plays the genuine and the rest are liars. 

Only one card will be used each round. Everyone except the judge takes a turn to pick up the card and read the description. The genuine player simply reads the passage as is, but the liars must say something else. They must pretend to read and try to convince the judge that they are actually reading from the card. After all the reading is done, the judge tries to pick who is genuine. If the correct person is picked, both judge and genuine score points. If a liar is picked, that liar scores points. If the judge is positive that certain players are liars, he can do a side bet, condemning these liars. If he turns out to be right, these condemned liars lose points. However if he is wrong about one of them who turns out to be genuine, he himself suffers a stiff penalty. 

You play a number of rounds depending on the number of players. Once done, the highest scorer wins. 

The Play

This is a game with high player interaction. It challenges you to speak like you know stuff when you don't know anything. How good a liar, or con-sultant, are you? This can be hilarious when people conjure very convincing stories. This is not actually a trivia game. If the judge knows the obscure term for the round, the game doesn't actually work. He will easily make the right judgement based on his knowledge. That's no fun and that's missing the point. What this means is there is a lifespan to the game. Once you've played it enough times and know most of the terms, it doesn't quite work anymore. That's why you need 9upper 2 and 9upper 3

In the group I played with, we discussed the problem of how difficult it is for liars to lie. They have to pretend to read the card by moving their eyeballs line by line while at the same time spewing nonsense which sounds sensible. That's hard! Eventually we played using a different procedure. Before a round started, we closed our eyes for 20 seconds so that the genuine player could take a look at the card. When the round started, we didn't pass the card around. We just took turns to explain the term on the card. This made it a little easier for the liars. 

The Thoughts

This is the rowdy type of game, a party game. It works well at boardgame cafes. This is more of an extrovert's game. It helps when you are good at talking and making things up on the spot. If you are an introvert this may be challenging. But it may be just the kind of game that'll be helpful to you. It certainly trains you to be more outspoken and creative. 9upper is a good ice-breaker. The variety of topics can trigger interesting discussions. 

Tuesday 18 April 2023

War of Tarot


The Game

War of Tarot is a deduction game for 2 to 4 players. There are 23 cards in the game, numbered from 0 to 22. At the start of the game you have to pick a card from your hand to be your secret. You place it face-down in front of you. In this game you try to guess your opponents' secrets. Whoever's secret is guessed correctly is eliminated from the game. The last person standing wins. 

The cards are large and the artwork rich.

On your turn you only have 3 options. The first is to simply play a card and use its power. When you play a card, the number value is exposed, so you are releasing information to all players. The available information in the game keeps growing, and it becomes easier and easier to guess your opponents' secrets. The card powers mostly help you narrow down the possibilities of what your opponents' secrets are. E.g. you can play a card to force players whose secrets are an even number to discard a card. Some powers check whether your secret is larger or smaller than a particular number. Some check whether it is a multiple of a certain number. 

The cards that have been played are sorted into four groups, for convenience. The 0 and the 22 are in one group. The other three groups are for the ranges 1 to 7, 8 to 14 and 15 to 21. At the top there is a hidden information area. During game setup three cards are placed there face-down. This is information that no one knows yet. Some card powers give you access to this information. 

The second option on your turn is to make a guess. You get to play a card face-down to the hidden information area, then reveal one card there and move it to the open information area. You then attempt to guess an opponent's secret. If you are right, your opponent is out of the game. 

Your third option is to change your secret. This is a powerful move, but also a costly one. You have to reveal your old secret and another card from your hand, and then make yet another card in your hand your new secret. 

The Play

At first the game felt difficult, because every card has a different power, and there is text to read and digest. The artwork looks complicated and that created an illusion for me. Once I understood the game better, I found it pretty straight-forward. The card powers are easy to understand and there are just a few variations. When playing you do need to focus and try to remember the possibilities that have been eliminated. You need to keep track of answers and responses you have received from your opponents, so that you know for each of them what the remaining possibilities are. As more and more information is revealed, there is a sense of escalation. If you don't quickly guess your opponents' secrets, they will guess yours first! 

When deciding which card to play, you have to consider whether that reveals useful information to your opponents. If your opponents know your secret is an odd number, you probably want to delay playing any odd number to avoid giving up more information. You want to delay helping them guess your secret. 

The Thoughts

War of Tarot is about the process of elimination. It is the kind of game that works well at boardgame cafes, i.e. good for casual gamers. Easy to learn and not too long. There are only 23 cards so it almost feels like a microgame. I categorise it as a light game. It plays in about half an hour so it works as a family game too. 

Friday 14 April 2023

Reef Stakes

The Game

Reef Stakes (2018) is a game designed and produced in Malaysia. It is designed by four marine conservationists with the aim of bringing awareness to the masses. This is an educational game and it is now in its third edition. 

During setup, every player gets a role card. Your role determines which three missions you get assigned. The first player to complete all three missions by playing them onto the board wins the game. The missions are Level 5 cards, and they are either nature missions or development missions. The tourism operator above has one nature mission and two development missions (icons at bottom right). 

The game board (well, actually a mat) is a 7x7 grid on which you get to place your cards. Most cards in the deck are cards of Levels 0 to 4. The Level 0 cards are simply rocks. These are the only cards which can be placed directly onto the game board without any restriction. Level 1 to 5 cards come in two types, nature or development. Level 1 cards can only played attached to a Level 0 card. Level 2 cards must be attached to Level 1 cards, and so on. You can attach a Level 1 nature card or a Level 1 development card to a rock (Level 0). The rock itself doesn't have a type. From Level 2 onwards, the card type must match. A Level 2 nature card can only be attached to a Level 1 nature card, and not a Level 1 development card. 

If a card is directly on the board, you can attach a card to its north, south, east or west, as long as there is space for the new card. You can even stack the new card on top. However if a card is resting on top of another card, the only way you can attach a new card is on top of it. The easy way to imagine this is when you are on the ground floor, you can grow in any direction, but once you are on the first floor, you can only go up. Side note: this is the British way of naming floors. The American way would be first floor in any direction vs second floor and above only upwards.  

There are some action cards in the game, e.g. the rightmost card in this photo. They have various powers, and some of them let you remove cards from the game board. In the most severe case, you remove a series of cards from Level 5 tracing a path of destruction all the way back to the Level 0 rock. This can be disastrous, but it also means an opportunity to start over and space freed up for new expansion. Space is a finite resource after all. 

The game ends once a player plays his or her third Level 5 card and wins the game. 

The Play

We did a 6-player game, which is the highest player count. The game is simple. On your turn you just draw a card and play a card. The cards have flavour text, and they are all related to challenges in preserving our oceans and marine life. 

One issue we had with the game was it was highly risky to play any Level 4 card, because you would be setting up for your opponent to score. When one player first played a Level 4 card, the other players quickly played their mission cards (i.e. Level 5 cards) attached to this Level 4 card. By the time it was this player's turn again, there was no more space for him to play his own mission card. All he had was gratitude from the others. 

The players' remaining missions is open information, so before you play any Level 4 card, you can see who will benefit from it and count whether there would be any space left for yourself by the time your next turn comes. Still, I find this Level 4 card conundrum an issue. 

There is some variety in the action cards. They create some unpredictability and player interaction. 

Cards can be stacked on top of other cards. 

The board can get quite crowded. 

The Thoughts

Being a jaded old-timer, once I tried Reef Stakes I could quickly tell this was not a game designed or produced by a game company. It is a game created for educational and awareness purposes, and not a pure game product. It works for non-gamers and casual gamers, but it may not be very interesting for hobby gamers. 

If you are interested to explore the topic of marine conservation through game form, check this out at . 

Tuesday 11 April 2023

boardgaming in photos: Carcassonne - The Discovery, Saint Petersburg, Maori

18 Mar 2023. TTGDMY  did a playtesting session at Boards & Brews. This was Cedric's prototype. It looks like chess. Each player has 7 ninjas, each in a different colour. One of them secretly holds a scroll, and you don't know which among your opponent's ninjas is the scroll holder. To win you need to kill that scroll holder. You use dice to perform actions. Every round the dice are rolled, and the two players take turns claiming a die until each has three. One die will be unused. You then use the dice you have claimed to take actions. You need dice in the right colours to activate specific ninjas. You also need dice with the right values to perform specific actions. E.g. to get the light blue ninja to throw shuriken at an opponent ninja, you need to have both the light blue die and another die with the value 3. 

Boards and Brews is a nice new boardgame cafe. The owners have been running boardgame cafes for many years, but this location is new. It is more a cafe with boardgames than a cafe you go only for boardgames. The fee is based on minimum order amount as opposed to an hourly charge, so it's less stressful and you don't need to keep looking at your watch or hurrying your opponents. You can AP (analysis paralysis) as much as you want. The photo above shows a TCG area so it looks like a tournament setting. The other side of the cafe is like a coffee house. I like the ambience. Comfortable and relaxing. 

I am working on a dice game using 8-sided dice. This is already the third version. The first two didn't work and I had to restart. Only now the core mechanism feels somewhat feasible. There's more work I need to put in to get this to be a viable game. 

I asked younger daughter Chen Rui to play Maori with me. This is a light to medium weight game with a spatial aspect. You claim tiles from the centre of the table to add to your personal board, to form islands. You score points based on the various features of the islands, from palm trees and huts to flower circles and sea shells. 

This 4x4 grid is shared. The position of the boat indicates the row or column from which you can take a tile. On your turn you must advance the boat. If you take the tile right next to the boat, it's free. If you want to take a tile further away (but in the same row or column), you have to pay. 

This is my completed player board at the end of the game. Trees are normally worth just 1pt, but on an island with at least one hut, they are worth 2pts each. My large island at the top gave me 18pts! 

I played Saint Petersburg with elder daughter Shee Yun and Joti. This is a 2004 game, older than my daughter. Saint Petersburg can be described as a distillation of 80% of Eurogames out there. In a gist, make money in the first half, score points in the second half. You build your engine in the early half of the game, and then switch to running your engine at max speed to score as many points as you can before the game ends. Sounds familiar no? Many Eurogames sound like this. 

Shee Yun had two observatories, and put them to good use. She grabbed extra workers early, and that gave her an insurmountable lead. By game end, she scored more than 100pts. Joti and I couldn't beat her even after adding up our scores. A complete bloodbath. Observatories are powerful and we should not have let her buy two of them so early in the game.  

I like the artwork in this first edition of the game. Simple but unique style. The latest version has different artwork. 

This is Carcassonne: The Discovery. This was designed by Leo Colovini, and not by the designer of the original Carcassonne, Klaus-Jurgen Wrede. A few years ago I almost gave this game away, because I hadn't played it for a while. However this was vetoed by my wife Michelle. She's a supporter of Carcassonne (although at the time she too hadn't played this game for a long time). Now this game is out-of-print, and if you ask me now whether I'd give it away, I'd probably say no. I'm glad I hadn't given it away earlier. This is why you should listen to your wife. 

Carcassonne: The Discovery shares the same basic rules as the original Carcassonne. However when you sit down to play, it feels very different. I find it more a gamer's game than a casual game. You can play Carcassonne in a relaxed manner. Carcassonne: The Discovery presents many difficult decisions so you can't run away from some brain exercise. 

One difference from Carcassonne is that the scoring of completed features is not automatic. You don't just take back your meeple (pawn) immediately. You have to spend an action to take it back and score points. On your turn, you must place a tile, and then you may perform an action. Your options are either place a meeple, or recover a meeple. When a feature is completed, your meeple still stays put. You need to spend an action to get it back. 


There are only three scoring methods in Carcassonne: The Discovery, compared to Carcassonne which has four. However they are more complicated. You score points for having your meeples on mountains, plains or seas. Unlike Carcassonne, there won't be majority competition on the same feature. Everyone who is involved gets to score points. You can't deny other players by placing more of your meeples than them. You can at most try to prevent them from joining their feature to yours. Without the majority competition, the player interaction is still pretty high. There is still incentive to collaborate. You don't lose much in the strategic richness of the game. 

Michelle and I are Carcassonne veterans. Yet we played Carcassonne: The Discovery like we were newbies - slow and ponderous. It was embarrassing. Yes, the rules are different, and we hadn't played this for a long time, but I believe the biggest factor is this is a more challenging game. It felt great rediscovering this game. We did a four player game, with Shee Yun and Joti. At game end, Michelle and I tied for the win. That was amazing, since it was a game with scores above the 100s. 

Box cover. Mine is a German edition. 

I recently received my copy of Horseless Carriage, the latest game from Splotter Games. Their previous game and a huge hit was Food Chain Magnate in 2015. So it has been 8 years. I'm a big fan of Splotter and am now confident to buy their new games without having tried them. After punching out all the game components from their sprues and bagging them, they no longer fit inside the box. There are many bits inside this game! Now the box lid is slightly lifted. 

Saturday 8 April 2023

Please support Beethoven vs Newton


I signed up for the BoardGameGeek 2023 2-player game design competition, submitting Beethoven vs Newton, a pure 2-player game I have been working on since August 2021, about one and a half years now. This is a microgame which uses only 18 cards. Every card is a famous scientist or artist. Every personality has a unique scoring method. You compete to assemble a team which scores more points than your opponent. To grow your team, you need to draw cards, but drawing cards is a risk. If you draw a dud, it's going to doom your team to 0 points. These are all prideful people, and they cannot tolerate any dunce. This is the core design concept in this game - how do you work towards scoring more points while at the same time managing the risk of everything collapsing due to one weak link. 

The competition is strict about art copyrights, so I cannot use anything I download from the internet. I asked younger daughter Chen Rui to do the art for me. Do you recognise these personalities? 

The photos below show the current prototype I am still using for playtesting. 

Da Vinci is an unusual guy. He is both a scientist and an artist. 

Marie Curie and Albert Einstein are from the same era. 

This is how the game looks like in play. 

You only need 18 cards, and maybe 5 tokens for score keeping, so this is easy to self produce. 

Please support my design! 

Beethoven vs Newton game information, including downloadable rulebook and game components: link

Competition details: link

Voting form: link (only BoardGameGeek users can vote)