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Dragon’s Peak #4 – The Pre-Essen Special

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Essen 2014 is less than a week away now.  This means that I’ll be attempting to cram in as much pre-Essen coverage as possible before then.  Unfortunately I was a little too ambitious and couldn’t quite get everything done in time.  I spent this last week pouring over the Spiel 2014 Preview geeklist in search of the most intriguing games to cover.  I narrowed this down to just over a dozen games that are new to me.  My hope is that it may help you find some hidden gems.  To ensure that I’m being as thorough as possible I have personally read through every single rulebook.  Some were short and sweet.  Others were long enthralling journeys.  They were all a joy to peruse.  But all that skimming through Essen coverage and reading rulebooks meant I ran out of time to actually write about the games, whoops!  So to give you a glimpse of what’s to come I’ve put together a list in my usual format but without all the details.  I’ll be revisiting each of these games throughout the coming week in anticipation of Essen and filling in the details here as well.

In the mean time feel free to share some of the games that you’re looking forward to trying (if you’ll be at Essen) or hearing about (if you’ll be living vicariously through the internet).  And make sure to check back next week for my extended coverage of these amazing games.  I’ll end the week with a special Dragon’s Peak to top it off where I share my dream Essen 2014 shopping spree.

 

Here’s what I’ll be covering in the coming week:

The HighlightViceroy

 

The Highlight

There were a lot of games from this batch that I could have highlighted but the one that I want to play the most right now is:

Viceroy

Viceroy - CoverViceroy - Preview

Hobby World
Yuri Zhuravlev
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Hand/Resource Management, Tableau Building, Variable Card Powers, Blind Bidding

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

 

Game Discoveries

As far as I know all of these games will be at Essen in some capacity or another.  I’ll fill in the details as I cover them next week so check back for more information on the ones that sound interesting.  If you simply can’t wait there are links to the rules in each entry.  Hopefully you’ll find something that piques your interest below!

Arkwright

Arkwright - CoverArkwright - Preview

SpielWorxx
Stefan Risthaus
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rule: Basic – Advanced


Mechanics: Long Economic Beast, Basic and Advanced Versions

In Brief: Here’s an excellent basic game walkthrough while you wait for more details!

 

Canopy Walk

Canopy Walk - CoverCanopy Walk - Preview

TF Verlag UG
Dennis Kirps, Gérard Pierson
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Tile laying, Path Building, 2-player

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Dice Brewing

Dice Brewing - CoverSAMSUNG CSC

Board&Dice
Filip Głowacz, Ireneusz Huszcza
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

Mechanics: Dice Management

In Dice Brewing you’ll be running a brewery with dice representing the different ingredients used to brew beer (hops, light malt, dark malt) as well as your skill in crafting these ingredients.  The ultimate goal is to prove that you are the best in your craft by gaining the most mastery points.  Available recipe cards will present players with different combination of ingredients (along with minimum values) that can be used to test your skill and bring in rewards such as money, extra dice, action tokens, and coveted mastery points.

The interesting and unique thing about Dice Brewing is that it’s a game about dice management not just dice rolling.  Players are given plenty of options for manipulating their available dice and their values in a way that doesn’t simply reward lucky rolling.  Instead of having the typical “reroll your dice several times” mechanic that a lot of dice games use to let players have some semblance of control (or choice to push their luck) you’ll be rolling once and presented with options from there.  First you’ll decide which dice you want to store up for actions or recipes and which you’d like to reroll on your next turn.  Then you’ll be able to assign dice (and seed tokens) to your personal board in order to gain more dice, change their color or value, and take special actions.  After you’re done crafting ingredients in your workshop you’ll finally have the chance to use those dice to complete recipes.

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There are additional tokens that you can acquire at the market to help spice up your recipes for nice bonuses or take special actions to speed up your process or hinder your opponents.  While it’s not a traditional worker placement game you will need to keep an eye on what the other players are doing so that you don’t get blocked.  Once a certain number of players have taken the same action on a given turn it will become unavailable to the remaining players.  Everyone has their own area where they’ll be crafting their ingredients but there’s still plenty of room for interaction between blocking and competing for recipes.

Dice Brewing really plays on the idea of using dice to present the players with options while also making the goal straightforward – collecting sets to fulfill recipes.  You start the game with only a few dice and actions available to give you a gentle progression into the flow of the game.  Eventually you’ll be adding more ingredients (dice) to your stockpile and actively manipulating them rather than simply rolling them until you get the results you’re happy with.  This sounds like an excellent addition to the smart dice games that are really pushing how you can play with dice.  To top it off, the beer crafting theme is a nice novel touch!

Doodle City

Doodle City - CoverDoodle City - Preview

Aporta Games
Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Route Building (Drawing), Dice Drafting, Puzzly

In Brief: As the name implies Doodle City is a game where you are literally drawing up a city plan.  It looks and feels a bit like a multiplayer puzzle in the vein of Take It Easy, you have identical starting boards which you’ll be drawing roads on in order to score the most points.  But instead of presenting all players with the same option each turn, Doodle City uses dice drafting to ensure that everyone won’t be working at the exact same puzzle.

Your city is represented by a 5×5 grid that has different features spread across the board.  There are green squares that contain houses where your citizens live and white squares that show attractions around town: hotels, shops, and taxis.  There’s also a beautiful forest neighboring your city that you can preserve or chop down in order to draw up your plans more efficiently.  Each round one blue die and several white dice are rolled to present the players with their zone requirement.  On your turn you’ll select one of the available white dice and draw a road (or house on green squares) at the intersection of the dice with the column indicated by the blue die and row by the white.  Every time you draw a road you’ll score points for the type of feature that you drew through.  Hotels score based on the length of the road passing through it, shops score for connected houses, and taxis score at the end of the game if they are connected to another taxi.  There is also bonus scoring for being the first player to complete a shop at certain point values

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When a dice showing a 6 is used it indicates that any column (blue die) or row (white die) may be selected.  This flexibility comes at a cost, when a 6-value white die is selected a tree must be chopped down (crossed off).  Not being able to draw in the space that you selected (because it already contains a road or all houses are full) will also force you to cross off a tree.  At the end of the game the player with the most trees crossed off loses points and the player with the least receives a bonus.  Play continues until a player scores the maximum number of points from hotels/shops or crosses off their last tree.  Tally up your points from the hotels and shops that you scored during the game and add in points from connected taxis along with the bonus or penalty from tree chopping.  The player with the most points is declared the best city planner!

When I first heard about Doodle City I dismissed it as being gimmicky and cute without even taking a look at the rules.  That was incredibly shortsighted of me because of the similarities with a game that I’ve had great success playing with family, Take It Easy.  The fact that Doodle City looks cute just increases the likelihood that it will be well received by families.  The scoring is straightforward and easy to grasp, the design is clean, and the mechanics use two engaging elements that will be familiar to most people (rolling dice and drawing).  I particularly like the idea that players are each working on their own puzzle (due to being presented with different options through the dice) rather than competing to solve the same puzzle most efficiently.  It’s a clever twist on a formula that is already proven to be accessible and addictive.  If you’re like me and dismissed this one without even considering it for being too cute and simplistic I’d encourage you to take a second look.  Doodle City sounds like it will offer a fun puzzle that you can enjoy by yourself or with just about any group.

Green Deal

Green Deal - CoverGreen Deal - Preview

Karma Games
Juma Al-JouJou
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Economic, Tile Laying, Majority Scoring

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Isaribi

Isaribi - CoverIsaribi - Preview

Japon Brand
OKAZU Brand
Hisashi Hayashi
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Pick-up-and-deliver, Action Point Allowance, Upgradeable Abilities

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

La Granja

La Granja - CoverLa Granja - Preview

SpielWorxx
Michael Keller, Andreas Odendahl
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Economic, Multiple Card Uses, Dice Management

In Brief: Here are some Designer Diaries while you wait for more details!

 

Marchia Orientalis

Marchia Orientalis - CoverMarchia Orientalis - Preview

OSTIA Spiele
Stefan Risthaus
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Tile Laying, Majority Scoring, Individual Player Markets

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Massilia

Massilia - CoverMassilia - Preview

Quined Games
Alain Epron
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Dice Drafting, Resource Buying and Selling

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Orleans

Orleans - CoverOrleans - Preview

dlp Games
Reiner Stockhausen
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Bag Building, Upgradeable Abilities

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

OWACON (Old World And Code Of Nines)

OWACON - CoverOWACON - Preview

Japon Brand
BakaFire Party
BakaFire
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

Mechanics: Worker Placement, Hidden Scoring

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Panthalos

Panthalos - CoverPanthalos - Preview

Irongames
Bernd Eisenstein
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Icon - website Official Site
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Worker Placement, Upgradeable Workers, Dueling

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Rolling Japan

Rolling Japan - CoverRolling Japan - Preview

JAPON Brand
OKAZU Brand
Hisashi Hayashi
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules

 

Mechanics: Pen and Paper Puzzle

In Brief: Much like Doodle City this is a dice driven pen and paper puzzle game where players are competing to fill out their board the best given randomized options.  But Rolling Japan looks and feels even more like you are solving a puzzle right alongside your fellow players.  Rather than being accessible because it looks cute, this one is accessible because it looks familiar, almost as if it was pulled straight out of a Sudoku book.

The gameplay is incredibly straightforward.  Each round 2 dice are drawn from the bag at random and rolled.  All players must then pick an empty space with the matching color for each die and fill it in with the corresponding value.  However, if the value in a neighboring square is not equal to or within 1 of the number you are attempting to fill in then you must instead write an “X”.  For example, you cannot write a 3 in a square if there is a 5 neighboring it.  Continue doing this until six dice have been selected at which point you will put all of the dice back in the bag and the round is completed.  At the conclusion of eight rounds fill in all remaining empty spaces with an “X” and the player with the fewest X’s wins.

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There’s some added flexibility to give you extra decisions to make during the game.  First up there’s the wild purple dice lets you pick the color that you want to place it in.  You also have the option to change the color of a die 3 times per game when you’re in a pinch.

I’m curious to try out Rolling Japan.  It’s incredibly puzzly by nature which is something that I enjoy quite a lot from time to time.  The nice thing is that the ruleset is so simple that you can introduce this game to nearly anyone.  If someone enjoys doing puzzles, they should be able to pick this one up quickly and enjoy it a great deal.  Unlike the kind of puzzles that you’d find in a book, Rolling Japan randomizes your options meaning that it’s not inherently solvable.  This lets you and your fellow players still compete without danger of everyone coming up with the exact same solution.  Much like with Doodle City, I’m looking forward to trying this one out both as a light solo puzzle and an accessible family game.

Time Masters

Time Masters - CoverTime Masters - Preview

MushrooM Games
Pierre-Emmanuel Legrain
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Deck Building, Action Allocation

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

 

Urban Panic

Urban Panic - CoverUrban Panic - Preview

G3, ST Games
Krzysztof Matusik
BGG - Link Icon BoardGameGeek
Rules - Icon Rules


Mechanics: Action Allowance, Tile Placement, City Building

In Brief: More Details Coming Soon!

I love optimization and engine games with tableau builders and card driven ones being my favorite. This usually means medium-heavy euros and medium-light card games.

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