SNCF, Innovation, Cartouche

I’ve had to skip the Wednesday games every week during October, but this week I managed to participate — to witness a huge crowd of gamers. Well, huge and huge, but we did have four tables playing games at the same time, which is rare.

SNCF box coverSNCF. This quick train game from this year’s Winsome set got good press. It’s very simple. Six railroad lines start from Paris, players start with couple of random shares of the lines and start building and collecting shares. Shares and track are same cubes, so more shares are out the less track the company can build. A turn is either build track (1-5 cubes of one railroad) or get shares (return one of your own cubes, take 1-2 cubes of one railroad). The game is over when a line hits Marseilles or five of the six railroads runs out of cubes. Each railroad then has value depending on how many cities it has visited and each cube is worth the value and whoever has most wins.

It’s a simple, clever game and I like it. The response in our group was varied, from mildly positive to mildly negative, I think I was the only to really like this one. It’s a strange kind of game, but it plays fast (about 15 minutes) and packs some punch to such a short time. More of this, please!

Innovation coverInnovation. I got couple of interested newbies to join me for a game of Innovation. I’m glad to report the three-player game works well and is perhaps more fun than two players. Our game took a while, about 40 minutes, but the game was fairly easy to teach and the newbies spent less time reading the cards than I expected. I managed to win thanks to my superior experience, but it was close — another player was already at four achievements when I started collecting. Well, I got achievements 5, 6, 7, 8 and then secured the victory with Wonder achievement. Smooth.

I still like this one a lot. The card interactions are what makes the game tick for me. It’s a bit tactical, yes, and maybe a tad more chaotic than I’d prefer, but still, building your little empire and adjusting its skills is interesting.

Cartouche coverCartouche. This one looks pretty bad and is a little bit too complex to teach, but when we played the game, it made sense. Well, at least one of the players didn’t like it, but I found it ok. I’ve currently rated it 7, and I think it’s unlikely to rise, so nothing spectacular. But, building your deck had some strategy involved (I tried to focus on soldiers and warmongering, which went down well except I lost, thanks to some floods and locusts).

I think the cards are too small, a bit cryptic and hard to use (the colors are easy to confuse and even though the different colours have different icons, all the icons look too similar to really help), but the game behind them is decent. With better execution, Cartouche would be just fine. Apparently the game isn’t that available, either, so I guess no harm done. But based on this, I’m not very keen on buying more Small Box Games products, I don’t think I got enough value for my money here.

In any case, I’m going to play Cartouche a bit more before it heads to trade pile.

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