News Bits: 10/28/2013


News! This week was the big game fair in Essen, Germany. I’m sure we’ll be getting more news this week. And I’ll pass along what I find out to you.

Essen, Essen, Essen! [Opinionated Gamers, MetaGames] This week was the world’s largest board game fair in Essen, Germany. As much as I would have loved to go, alas! I was stuck at home. However, several writers for the Opinionated Gamers blog were able to be there, and they have detailed their experiences (some are more about the games than others). Also, James from the MetaGames blog has been posting periodic tweets about games from Essen and usually posts fuller reviews on his blog a little later. And I will be watching for more news as it’s revealed this week. (And be sure to check out the GeekBuzz list on BGG.)

Mayfair Games buys controlling interest in Lookout Games [LinkTime will tell whether this is a good thing. I’m betting it will be.

MeepleTown interviews William Attia (Caylus, Spyrium) [Link] Spyrium is one of the best games I played at Gen Con. This interview focuses primarily on the development for this game, but it’s an interesting read. Also interesting: how many game designers claim not to watch TV or movies.

Grant Rodiek discusses public information in game design [Link] I liked this post. For my part, I like knowing what other players can do (generally), but I prefer hidden information. It might just be my groups, but with some players I regularly game with, the more information they have, the slower they go, because they think that if they just…stare…at…the…board…one…moment…longer, they’ll find the perfect solution to the game. This drives me crazy. But completely hidden information games usually rely on some element of luck. A healthy balance here, as in most things, is necessary.

Tuning value in game design [Link] I didn’t link to any of Grant’s posts last week, so I’m making up for it this week–and with good reason. This is a good post on examining player choices to determine whether an option is viable (or appears viable to players) and tuning appropriately to (dis-)incentivize the option as needed. I’ve noticed this in playing Carcassonne with new players. They usually undervalue farmers because they cost a player piece for the remainder of the game. What they don’t see at the outset is that farmers usually pay off big time.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Twilight Imperium review, Libertalia review, Lie Your Face Off preview, Rockwell preview] We looked at four different games last week. On the docket for this week are three reviews, a preview, and possibly a guide. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • Ninja Dice: Just about every theme has its own dice game. Well, now ninjas will. Really cool packaging on this one. $25.
  • Keep the Crown: This looks like a fun abstract (and Jason previewed it here). $40.
  • Star Realms: This is a deck-builder with player vs. player combat (think a deck-builder that’s similar to Magic: The Gathering). It’s also by one of the designers of Ascension, and it has gorgeous art. $25 for a two-player set.
  • 2014 gaming calendar: I don’t really use a printed wall calendar, but if I did, this would be the one to get. The photos included in it are gorgeous. $25.
  • Emu Ranchers (app): This is an app version of a game based on the Decktet system. We’ll have a preview up soon, but it looks like the development on this will be used as a toolkit to help port other games to mobile devices. Various levels.
  • Pandante: This is a new Poker-inspired game from David Sirlin (Yomi, Puzzle Strike). It has pandas, lying, and special powers. $35 (or $300 for the super fancy version).
  • Get Lucky: Kill Doctor Lucky was one of my very first hobby games, so it occupies a special place in my heart (and on my shelf). This is a shorter card game based on the board game. $20.
  • Brew Crafters: It’s always an event when Dice Hate Me Games launches a new Kickstarter, and Brew Crafters is no exception. This is a worker placement game about running a brewery. $60.
  • Tug o’ Lords: This is a tug-of-war-style fantasy card game with player powers and special abilities. It looks interesting. $29 for the basic game/$49 for deluxe.
What We’ve Been Playing
  • Libertalia: I reviewed this game last week, and after my review, one of my coworkers wanted to play this for our Friday lunch game. We had a full game, with six players. In the first round, I did very poorly, scoring only 17 doubloons (and that includes the ten I started with!). However, I was playing somewhat for the long game, as we were dealt very high numbers in the first campaign, so I tried to save some of these for later. My gambit paid off, and I was able to win the game by three doubloons. In other words, I won by my restraint. If I had played my Monkey instead of my Merchant on the last day of the last campaign, I would have lost by three doubloons. I’m glad I reined in my desire to stick my opponent with curses. (FarmerLenny)
  • Dominion: I don’t play this game face-to-face too often anymore, so I was glad when game night began with this staple. It was a four-player game, and the players took divergent strategies. Futurewolfie went the traditional route of deck-thinning, trying to load his deck with lots of valuable treasure. (We were playing with Platinum and Colonies, and Junk Dealer was one of the kingdom cards, so it makes sense.) I decided to follow a “junk” strategy, organizing my deck around Crossroads and Harem, with a few “helper” cards like Cartographer and Conspirator for good measure. The other players tried a mixture of our two strategies. Had the game lasted longer, I think Futurewolfie would have had me, but with all players snapping Colonies up (and my Harems counting as money and VPs), I was able to edge out the competition for the win. (FarmerLenny)
  • Paradise Fallen: Futurewolfie was sent a preview copy of this new game from Crash Games, so we played it at game night. First of all, I was blown away by the components. These are seriously outstanding, and the art is very nice. Paradise Fallen takes place in an alternate reality Hawaii, and players are trying to be the first to explore six of the nine islands in the game. (The board is modular, different from game to game.) Players use rations to explore, and there are aberration cards that can hinder progress and maneuver cards to speed your own. The game itself was diverting, but it felt forgettable as I played. There were some interesting player choices, and I enjoyed the hand management, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of game that would replace anything in my collection. (I’d rather explore other hand management games more deeply.) That said, if the theme appeals, this is a fine game that works well. I enjoyed it and would play again. I think Futurewolfie will have a review up soon. (FarmerLenny)
  • Lords of Waterdeep: We had five at game night, and one of the players really didn’t like Paradise Fallen, so he picked the next game. He chose Lords of Waterdeep, which I hadn’t played before. Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game with a Dungeons and Dragons veneer (and really, veneer is the best word here). I’d been told in advance that this game might serve as a bridge between my theme-loving friends and my more mechanics-driven approach to gaming, but I really didn’t like this one. The “theme” was more of a veneer in this game than even in some Knizia titles. I don’t understand how this would be a draw, except that there are fantasy-clad people on the box cover and some of the cards. The game itself is very dry cube conversion, even for my tastes. And that’s what I really didn’t like about it. The game is meant to reach out to non-Euro gamers with Euro mechanics, but the mechanics put forth are not a sampling of what’s best. The game just felt boring. I found the choices uninteresting and the game watered down. There was a little too much kingmaking and attacking for my tastes, especially when it was hard enough to accomplish anything in the first place, and not in an Agricola, “farming is hard!” kind of way. (This may be a scaling problem: we played with a full complement of players.) I mentioned on Twitter that I didn’t care for this game, and I was told that it is good as a gateway worker placement game. Maybe, but I’d take just about any other gateway worker placement game (see: Stone Age, or even Fresco), or even most other gateway games, over this. Of course, I did lose, so you’re welcome to write my opinion off if you so choose. I wouldn’t necessarily turn this game down, but I would much rather play something more interesting. (FarmerLenny)

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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