October 2015 new and noteworthy

October was a busy month, lots of games. That’s good! I didn’t attend Spiel at Essen, and only followed the Essen game flow superficially. I did join the Finnish Board Game Society Secret Santa, which forced me to create a wishlist and got me thinking about new games.

I now have a small notebook at the BGG, my interest list, which is a view to what’s interesting me at the moment.

Age of Craft is a Japanese combination of Dominion and Catan, pretty much. There’s a selection of cards you can buy, but this is not a deck-builder. Instead you buy those cards to your tableau, where you can use them every turn. There’s plenty of dice, but they are used as six different randomly produced types of goods, and you can trade them as in Catan and there’s also a danger in stockpiling them, as in Catan.

All in all this is a fascinating game. The graphic design is pretty hideous, I think I could do better, and it’s all in Japanese, but hey, it’s quite interesting and seems to be worth it after the couple of games I’ve managed. I have some concerns over balance, but playing the game is fun, so I’m not complaining. Suggest.

I used to own a pretty complete set of Memoir ’44 and thought about keeping it until my son is old enough to play it. Well, it took a lot of space, and I sold it away, but when I saw a copy sold at the FBGS forum, with Finnish cards included, I immediately bought it.

No surprises here: my son really liked it. So, now I only have the base set, but it’s going to last us for a while now, and the Finnish cards (pasteups, as the game has never been published in Finnish) are a huge bonus. Suggest.

Codenames is a party game from Vlaada Chvátil. It’s one of the season’s hit games, and no wonder, as it’s criminally fun. I don’t have the game yet, I’m waiting for the inevitable Finnish edition to arrive (as far as I can tell somebody’s doing it in Finnish), but I have a bunch of homemade Finnish word cards and the Codenames Gadget for iOS, which makes testing the game real easy.

And it is great. The challenge for codemasters to describe the words in a suitable way, and the challenge for the agents to figure out the clues the codemasters are giving are both interesting. This is a keeper, a proper large-group party game that’s very much a game: the scoring will keep the game tense until the end. Suggest.

Favor of the Pharaoh is a remake of To Court the King. A Yahtzee-like dice game, this game has you using the dice rolled to buy cards that give you more dice and various powers. The new version adds the number of cards a lot – To Court the King had a static set of cards, while the new version has more cards of which a subset is in play.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed at this – I was expecting a bit more, but so far my game experience has been bland. I’m giving this a go or two, with gamers, but if it doesn’t click (it certainly doesn’t click as a family game), off it goes. Suggest for a while, but looks like it’s heading to Indifferent.

Taste of Poland is a pretty game. The card art features really gorgeous images of delicious meals from Poland. Unfortunately the game play is a bit bland, and not particularly inspiring. Indifferent.

CS-Files (aka Deception) is a murder mystery game. Each player has four evidence cards and four means of murder cards. One of the players is a murderer, who chooses a pair of evidence and means of murder. Another player is a forensic investigator who knows the solution and must communicate it to the other players by using hint cards.

The basic idea is solid, but playing the game is not very interesting. Being a murderer is boring, as there’s only so much you can do to hinder the investigation. The other players can discuss, but mostly just wait for the forensic investigator to come up with the hints. Not very interesting really. At least the game is short. Indifferent.

CV is another Yahtzee variant. The game mechanics are boring, but the cards have funny artwork and the game has some good narrative. You’re essentially coming up with a story of a life. For example, in my first game, I started my career as an intern, then advanced to managerial position and ended up as the CEO. I was married, but divorced and started a boardgaming club. After some psychotherapy, I also became a Wikipedia author.

Silly and fun. I bought this cheap as a family game. It’s probably not a keeper, but something fun for a while. Suggest for now.

Epic, a new game from the makers of Star Realms, was news to me when it was reviewed in Lautapeliopas. I got immediately interested, and soon bumped into a copy (I now have three copies, as it happens; in case there’s a chance for some cube drafting). We couldn’t finish our first game in time, but what I’ve seen so far has impressed me.

Epic is a TCG-like game, but instead of the usual mana curve, players have one mana per turn and each card costs either 0 or 1. So, even the biggest monsters can be played on turn one. Everything is awesome! Of course the spells to block those monsters are equally available. Sounds crazy and entertaining.

This isn’t quite as easy to pick up as Star Realms, and it would be preferable to play this with some drafting (you can just shuffle and draw 30 card decks, but drafting is better). Suggest.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Secrets adds couple of things to the game. The most visible are the moats. Instead of Foyer, you start with a Barbican that has a moat, and you can expand the moat to go around the castle. That’ll restrict your building space a lot, especially as you can only build Outdoors rooms outside the moat, but in reward you’ll be given lots of points (each moat is worth 3 points + 1 point per each non-Outdoor and non-Corridor room in your castle).

There are also new tiles, with swan tokens, and swans can be converted into money during the game and into points after the game. Nice, but minor; some of the new rooms are funny, though. The third addition is secret passages, which can be placed between rooms, to connect rooms from a small distance, while at the same doubling their connection bonuses. This can score some pretty amazing points when combined with Living Rooms.

All in all this is a solid expansion, pretty similar to Suburbia Inc. really, as it adds interesting things to the game without making it too heavy. We had some total Castles newbies in a game, and they didn’t have trouble absorbing the expansion at the same time. Suggest.

Suburbia 5★ is the new Suburbia expansion, and not quite as successful as the before-mentioned Inc. This I’d only play with experienced players. There’s a new thing to track: stars. Stars determine turn order between each turn and there are bonuses for climbing up the star track. Also, the player with the most stars gets extra population, while the player with least stars loses. So, you must get stars! They tend to be expensive, though.

The expansion also adds fifth player, which sounds like pure madness, but my son didn’t mind getting green bits. I know a friend of mine who’ll also appreciate the new colour. That’s a bonus.

So, while I think Secrets is a must-have expansion like Suburbia Inc. is, I’m not so sure about 5★. Experienced Suburbia players will find it interesting, though, and I’m glad I have it – I’m just not going to use it all the time. (I also got the Suburbia: Con Tiles expansion, and that’s not going to see play; I didn’t like that at all). Suggest.


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