Review: Qwixx

qwixxgamewrightSomeone accused me a while back of being a “Top 40 Gamer,” as in someone who only plays the “pop music” of board games. (R.I.P., Casey Kasem.) Though I hate pop music, I happily embraced the sentiment. I don’t have time to play tons of super-long hardcore games, and I often look to things like the Spiel des Jahres for interesting new games that might appeal to me. Last year, I hadn’t even heard of Qwixx when it became a nominee (later losing to Hanabi). Designed by Steffen Benndorf and published in the U.S. by Gamewright Games, Qwixx is a fast-playing, simple dice game that draws comparisons to Yahtzee despite playing nothing like it. Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

Components: I’ve talked a lot about how I love clean, elegant, minimalist components… and you can’t really get simpler than this. The box contains the rulebook, score sheets, and six dice. Yes, that’s it. However, Gamewright is always classy with their releases (look at how amazing Forbidden Island is compared to its MSRP), and they did a great job with their cosmetic upgrade of the game. The game comes in a kind of tuckbox that feels very sturdy and thick, not what you usually think of as a tuckbox, and closes magnetically. There are a lot of scoresheets in the box which are double-sided and look great. The dice are also a nice size and look good, if a little plain – but the plain look probably makes the game less intimidating for casual gamers. You also can’t really beat the $10.99 MSRP – between shipping, licensing, and so on, I can’t imagine they could make money on much less of a price. So, while there’s not much in here, it’s all done the best way possible. I guess if I had a complaint, it would be the lack of pencils or some other writing utensil.

 

Accessibility: This game is mind-numbingly simple. On your turn, you roll the six dice (just once!). The two white numbers from a number from 2-12 that anyone can cross off on any of the four colored rows on their personal scoresheets. Then, you can pair a white die with a colored die to cross of the corresponding number on that color’s row. The key to the game is that numbers can only be crossed off left to right – once you a skip a number, you can’t go back! The goal of the game is to get the most points by making the most crosses, but the points increase greatly if you cross off many numbers in the same row. Eventually, rows can get ‘locked’ which will end the game, or players will misthrow enough times to end the game. (If you don’t cross anything off on your own turn, you get a ‘misthrow’ which is -5 points.)

That’s the entire game. It took maybe two minutes to teach it to my parents. The only (very short) moments of confusion are when my dad thought the numerical value of the die was how many points you got (i.e. cross off a 12, get 12 points) and when he thought locking a row meant no one else scored for that row (it means no one can cross anything else further from that row). It’s a simpler game than even Yahtzee, and I would defy you to find someone who doesn’t understand the game and how to play it well enough to form a strategy during the first game.

 

Depth: Some other reviewers went so far as to say this isn’t even a game, due to the lack of decisions. I wouldn’t go that far. Each turn (even other players’) you have to consider the risk of crossing off a number to keep up with other players’ points against going past numbers you can no longer cross out. However, the endgame can definitely stall out (especially with two players) where you just keep rolling misthrows even though you’ve played well, because 2s and 12s are the only way to lock rows, and they aren’t exactly easy to roll. I think the ‘locking’ rows is supposed to bring in the interaction, but it’s so freaking hard to do it, that it’s rare that I can try and forcefully lock a row to block someone else who is really going to town in that row – and that’s even more so because you must also have five crosses in a row before you can lock it.

Aaand let me say that I wrote that last part a few months prior to this paragraph, which has included a dozen more 2p games. There’s much more to this game than I thought, and anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t played it enough. My initial strategy was just to always cross things off when given the chance, and it turns out that’s not necessarily the way to go. Part of it is intuition, but part of it is also appealing to the probabilities of a 2d6 – I read someone slamming the game for not taking 2d6 probabilities into consideration like Can’t Stop does – but I would argue the game actually does; it’s just on you to strategize around them.

 

Theme: Well, there isn’t one. This is a very classical game in the vein of Yahtzee and Farkle, and to be honest, I like that. It makes it appealing to people who are traditional dice chuckers and card players, without it looking unnecessarily fancy. Considering also just how simple the game is, I think the lack of a theme is extremely appropriate.

 

Fun: This is a good game if you want something easy to introduce to budding gamers or family members. My wife liked it because it was simple and quick, if we wanted to play something after a long, tough day with the baby, or while she takes a catnap. My parents seemed to like it okay as well. I’ve read a lot of people say that this has replaced Yahtzee for them and theirs – but, I think Yahtzee might have just a little more strategy, if less interaction.

At first, I couldn’t understand how this was nominated over La Boca and Escape: the Curse of the Temple, two amazing, simple, innovative games that were merely recommended. The more natural comparison for me is Las Vegas, the 2012 nominee which lost to Kingdom Builder (and should have won, in retrospect). Las Vegas is also an insanely simple dice game, but features a fitting, exciting theme that appeals to a broad audience, some seriously direct player interaction, and some great laughs. Qwixx first felt like “yeah, okay, I guess I’ll cross this off.” After playing the game a bunch more, I’ve found the joy and excitement of playing it, and it’s one of the fastest, simplest, easiest, games I have, and that’s what makes it a ton of fun. I would have argued against its SdJ nomination a while back, but now I certainly see it. Hardcore gamers may turn their nose up, but this has become my go-to dice game with the wife, the parents, or just about anyone.

 

 

I can see how Qwixx isn’t for everyone, but for those that enjoy fast, quick, easy dice games in the vein of Can’t Stop or Yahtzee, they’ll find a faster, quicker, easier, and even more fun game in Qwixx.

 

Rating:

4star

 

4 out of 5

Review: Shadowrun: Crossfire

Shadowrun CrossfireShadowrun: Crossfire is Catalyst Game Labs’ first real foray into boardgaming. It bills itself as a co-operative deck-building game, which I’ll admit piqued my curiosity.  I love Dominion-style games, and I love co-ops.  What could go wrong?

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: The box feels a bit sparse for a retail $60 game.  There are a few dozen thin cardstock “boards” for players and scenarios, a few various tokens, and about 240 cards.  The card quality is decent but not great, and since this is a deck-building game with a lot of shuffling, I’d recommend card sleeves at least for the Black Market cards (the ones that go in the player decks).  There are also several sheets of stickers, which can be used to create persistent characters; as players complete missions, they can affix the stickers to their player boards as “upgrades”, similar to how the board in Risk: Legacy evolves over multiple plays.  While there’s a decent amount of stuff here, everything would have easily fit into a box half this size, which hints at future plans for a lot of expansions.

In fact, there’s already one available.  Usually, we review only what’s in a game’s retail box, but I feel the need to point something out here.  Shadowrun: Crossfire – Character Expansion Pack 1 was being sold at Gen Con, and the staff at the Catalyst booth (as well as the text on the package) were pushing it as “all new characters and upgrades”.  This is pretty misleading; the expansion contains more of the same character types that are in the retail box, just with different artwork.  The “new” upgrade stickers are just more copies of the original stickers.  There’s not actually anything new in the first expansion, and unless you’re planning to play a lot — or just really want more character board artwork — this is a complete waste of money.

Accessibility:  Shadowrun: Crossfire isn’t a difficult game to learn.  Player turns consist of few steps, and all of the phases are printed on each player’s Role card.  The group ultimately wins by defeating a series of Obstacle cards, which are pretty straightforward: simply play cards matching the colored symbols on an Obstacle to deal “damage” to it.  Characters have distinct stats like money and health, but these are simple concepts that are easy to grasp.

The problem is the game’s absurd difficulty level.  Look, I love hard co-op games.  My all-time favorite boardgame is Space Alert, and I adore the ever-brutal Ghost Stories despite amassing an embarrassing record of losses.  The problem is, when I lose those games, I can look back on my group’s moves and figure out where things went wrong; I can see why we lost.

In Crossfire, difficulty is dictated by the Obstacle cards come up.  My issue is that the strength of the cards in these decks varies too widely.  In one game you might get a first round of high-health, high-damage Obstacles that will absolutely wreck the party.  In the next, you might get a bunch of easy Obstacles and breeze through the first wave in a round or two.  Sure, the harder cards yield a better reward (money that players can use to buy cards and upgrade their decks), but that’s of little consolation when the group finishes the first round with everyone a half-step away from death.

When I consider a game’s accessability, I’m not just thinking about how easy it is to learn or teach.  I’m also looking at the ability to analyze a game after the first play and come up with new ideas for strategies.  With Crossfire, when you lose — and you will — it’s difficult to look back and figure out how things could have gone differently.

Depth: Here’s my other big concern.  I haven’t played this very much yet, but I feel like I’ve seen all of the cards multiple times already.

Turns are often dictated by the cards in your hand.  In many cases, there will only be one or two Obstacles on the board that a given player is even capable of damaging.  The only alternative is to pass and do nothing.  It’s extremely frustrating to feel like you have no options.

And then there’s the most glaring issue: There are only three scenarios included in the box.  Three!  Considering the progressive nature of the characters (you “level up” as you complete scenarios), this is unforgiveable.  And only one of the three seems possible to win with entry-level characters, meaning you’d have to play it over and over (or cheat) to make the other scenarios viable.  There are a few other scenarios available online (including a convention demo that really should have been included as the “beginner” scenario), but I’m more concerned with the lack of content in the box.

Theme: I’ll admit that I know very little about the Shadowrun universe, but Crossfire’s art design and gameplay style convey the idea of a desparate band of misfits and outlaws trying to survive in a dystopian future.  The card art is consistently good with just a few rough spots, and the character boards are beautifully illustrated.  The integration of the mechanics is a bit weird; if I’m trying to evade the authorities by defeating obstacles as quickly as possible, why do I keep stopping at the Black Market to buy stuff every few minutes?

One of my fellow players has a long history with the Shadowrun role-playing game, and he mentioned that while the card art is faithful to the game, nothing in Crossfire’s mechanics made him feel immersed in that universe.  “It’s all just matching symbols”, he complained.  I can’t disagree.

Fun: We eventually managed to win a session, and then another — but there was little joy in our shared victory.  Compare this to my last play of Ghost Stories, where the final move of the game resulted in shouts of elation (and, I’m not too ashamed to say, a victory dance by yours truly).

Our two Shadowrun: Crossfire wins felt like we’d been through a grueling experience together.  We gained enough experience to put a “power up” sticker on each of our character cards, but we could tell from each others’ expressions that we were unlikely to ever take advantage of them.  Nobody wanted to play again, and we packed up the game in awkward silence.

Rating:

2 Stars

2 out of 5

Review: Las Vegas

vegasboxIn 2011, the Spiel des Jahres jury split the award into the original prize, intended for families, and a connoisseur’s prize (the Kennerspiel des Jahres), with games too complex for non-gamers (though there are certainly even heavier games than the ones that get nominated for the KdJ). One byproduct of this is that it seems lighter games are being more commonly nomianted for the regular SdJ award; this had already been happening somewhat with winners Keltis and DixitLas Vegas is one of the lightest games nominated for the award, and in fact, publisher alea rates it a “1” out of “10” on their complexity scale. Designed by Rüdiger Dorn, it’s a dice-chucking game of risk-taking at casinos… Can a game this simple also be fun? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

 

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

vegaspicComponents: There isn’t that much stuff in the box, which is alea’s standard medium-sized box. You get a pile of 54 bank notes (relatively standard cardstock), six cardboard tiles to represent casinos, a start player card, the rulebook, and most importantly – 40 (!) dice. The dice are relatively standard in size and look, but they’re solid and roll easily. The casinos and bank notes are where the art comes into the game, and it’s okay, but it doesn’t look as exciting as it should, because alea knows nothing about bright colors or fun graphic design. (I wish this game had been put by North Star Games…) Additionally, the scantily-clad showgirl on the spine is rather awkward when you pull the game out at a party, since the game is totally kid-friendly otherwise. The MSRP in the USA is $34.99, which I think is totally reasonable, although maybe a bit high for the mass market (and the game should be there).

 

Accessibility: I already made a stink about how light the game is, and I’ll prove my point by explaining the rules here. Each player begins the round with eight dice, and the game is played over four rounds. On your turn, you roll all of your remaining dice (once) and place ALL of one number on the corresponding casino (the casinos are numbered 1-6). You keep going around and doing this until everyone is out of dice (some people exit earlier in the round when they run out of dice). At each casino, whoever has the most dice gets the biggest bank note, whoever has the second most gets the next one, and so forth until the notes are gone. However, before you pass out the notes, any tied players have their dice removed from the race! You do this four times, and that’s it. The only other thing to note is that bank notes are put on each casino until the sum is over $50,000, so different casinos have different numbers of bills. So, yes – anyone can play this game.

 

Depth: Based on the last section, you might think this game is pure luck – and it’s definitely a dominant factor. However, I definitely feel like I have several good options often in the round, and the first roll is tough from the beginning. Do I commit a lot of dice to make sure I get one spot? Do I try to sneak in to each casino? What makes the game work is the “ties get nothing” rule. It can be intensely frustrating to roll your last die, which you have to place on the rolled number, and make yourself get stuck in a tie when you were going to make out with some cash. However, that danger is exactly what makes the game fun, and enhances the push-your-luck aspect of the game. It’s not, you know, Terra Mystica, but for a pure dice game, I think it offers more interesting decisions than Yahtzee, Farkle or Qwixx.

 

Theme: The theme for this game is just perfect, and it’s amazing that they could find such a fitting theme for a simple game that is pretty abstract due to its tiny, tiny ruleset. The gambling, push-your-luck feel of the game goes with the Vegas theme perfectly, as does the dice-rolling. I only wish that art was bright and colorful instead of being typical drab alea colors. I should say that the art isn’t that awful; I just think it could be much, much better.

 

Fun: This game is an absolute hoot. Somehow, that one tiny rule about ties not only gives you that risk-taking feeling, but also causes hilarious moments of ‘schadenfraude’ when other people get stuck in ties and lose out big. The rules are so simple that this is a great family game, full of cheering and moaning (depending on how things go).

I suppose this isn’t related to the fun of the game for me personally, but please explain to me why Castles of Burgundy (also by alea) is being sold in Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and this game isn’t. It’s just plain idiocy. This was a Spiel des Jahres nominee, perfect for families, and perfect for the uninitiated American gamer who might think Settlers of Catan is too complicated.  I can’t imagine anyone buying Castles of Burgundy sight unseen who isn’t an avid gamer being able to even make sense of the rules, or even being drawn to the cover. Las Vegas has a theme that Americans will immediately recognize and find appealing and fun. What the heck, alea? This game should be in Wal-Marts, Targets, and Meijers all over America. Yet another reason I kind of wish this game was with another publisher.

 

All that being said, this game is a fantastically fun one that absolutely anyone can play, and that’s far truer about this game than similar statements about other games. A true gateway game, a true classic, and the game that probably should have won the 2012 Spiel des Jahres. This game is an absolute pinnacle of game design – go check it out.

 

Rating:

5star

5 out of 5

Review: Hyperborea

HyperboreaExpectations are a funny thing.  Perhaps more so than any highly-anticipated release this year, I had no idea what to expect from Asmodee’s big-box release for 2014: Hyperborea.  Everybody I talked to wanted to try it, but nobody could describe exactly what it was.  A sleeker Through the Ages style civilization game?  The next Terra Mystica?  An Eclipse-killer?

Hyperborea contains elements of all of these games, but does it stand on its own?

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: Hyperborea’s communal “board” consists of several hex-shaped tiles, placed randomly in a manner similar to Mage Knight or Eclipse.  Each player gets a large player board, along with a cloth bag and a small army of fantasy-style plastic miniatures.  There’s also an impressive collection of counters, tiles, and other cardboard bits, and a big pile of your standard-issue Euro-game colored wooden cubes.  The amount of “stuff” in the box is fairly impressive, but it’s definitely not on the level of the aforementioned Mage Knight or Eclipse.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Hyperborea’s $100 retail price tag.  While the components are nice, I’m having trouble justifying the cost.  Let’s compare it to one of Asmodee’s other Gen Con 2014 releases, Lords of Xidit.  The number and quality of miniautres is similar, as is the amount of cardboard.  Hyperborea does include bunch of wooden cubes and cloth bags for the players, but it just doesn’t feel like a $100 game.

Accessibility: As I mentioned, there’s a lot of game here.  Six unique actions, and two separate boards to worry about.  Cubes, cards, bonus tiles, and armies, all jostling for your attention.  Fortunately, the rules are very streamlined, and turns generally boil down to placing cubes, taking the corresponding action(s), and possibly moving a figure or three around the map.  I had no problem teaching the game, and there were few questions about the rules once we started.  That said, the streamlining of a game with so many moving parts is both a blessing and a curse, as you’ll see.

Depth: I’ve heard Hyperborea described as a “4X” game — Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate.  I suppose most of these elements exist in some fashion, but the game lacks the epic feel of most civilization-style games.  Players draw colored cubes from a bag and place them on action squares on their personal boards.  Different colors correspond to different actions — for example, green is most often used for movement, and red tends to fuel combat actions.  Other options include building defenses, drafting armies, adding new cubes to the bag, or purchasing technology cards.

Aside from the action selection on the personal player boards, there’s the shared communal map consisting of random terrain hexes, each with one or more cities or ruins to exploit.  Most of the map tiles start face-down, but the exploration felt a little bit shallow.  Since the map is made up of relatively few tiles, the entire world can be visible very early in the game;  in every session I’ve played, all of the hexes were revealed within the first turn or two, as a player only has to move an army adjacent to a tile to reveal it.

Armies?  Oh, yes.  There’s an element of area control.  Armies are moved via the “green” player action, and they can attack other armies with the “red” action.  There’s no dice or bluffing here.  Combat is simple: For every figure you attack with, you remove an opponent’s figure.  Points are only awarded for the first combat won against a given player; further points cannot be gained until a figure of each other player has been defeated.  This helps prevent a situation where someone can score points by repeatedly beating up a single weaker player.  I enjoy the simplicity of Hyberborea‘s conflict, but it isn’t nearly as deep as a game like Kemet.

If anything, I feel like Hyperborea tries to do too much, and rules concessions had to be made to keep the game from being overly long or complex.  Still, there’s a lot to like, and I feel like the game mechanics will hold up to multiple plays.

Theme: Here’s where the game starts to falter for me.  The artwork and graphic design are presented in an attractive, if “generic fantasy”, style.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly memorable about the theme.  I’d use Terra Mystica — another mechanically sound game with a fantasy theme — as an example, but I actually remember most of that game’s races and the cool wooden buildings you place on the board.  In Hyperborea, nothing ever prodded my imagination.  Even the army figures, which are decently sculpted, single-color plastic, blend in to the drab terrain and dry feel of the game.  All of the technology cards have unique names and artwork, and after several plays I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one of them.  They didn’t feel like new and exciting discoveries; all of them boil down to “place an orange and yellow cube here to get access to a slightly better action”.

The problem is, Hyperborea is a cube-pusher at heart.  You’re drawing cubes to place cubes to take actions that will often result in, you guessed it, getting more cubes.  With all the time, effort, and expense that was put into the (admittedly attractive) artwork and board elements, it’s a shame that the theme doesn’t stand out.

Fun: Opinions from my fellow players have fallen across the board.  You may have noticed Hyperborea on Hillary’s personal “best of 2014″ in our recent Staff Picks article, while another player during one of my sessions claimed, “I get why this is a good game, and I have absolutely no fun playing it”.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.  There’s an interesting mix of mechanics that eclipses any thematic shortcomings.  Overall, Hyperborea is an engaging experience that borrows from other games while introducing an innovative “bag building” resource system.  My biggest issue isn’t with the game itself, but with its price tag, which ultimately lost it a point in my final review score.  As long as you keep realistic expectations, Hyperborea combines intriguing depth with an elegant design — but wait until you can find a good deal on it.

Rating:

3star

 

3 out of 5

Review: Mythotopia

mythboxFew game designers are able to make a living solely off of doing so, and even fewer are able to sell subscriptions to their upcoming games, but Martin Wallace pulled it off in 2014. One of the three games eager players signed up for was Mythotopia, a fantasy, multiplayer redesign of Wallace’s deckbuilding-with-a-board war game A Few Acres of Snow. That game was quite good, but seemed to struggle from bad press about a dominant strategy called the Halifax Hammer. Does Mythotopia fare any better? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

 

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

mythmapComponents: Drab and boring. The colors are all very, very beige, and what little artwork you see on the cards is very uninspired. Even the primary colors for each player are very dull. The components are sturdy enough, although cardboard chits don’t exactly feel like militias going to war. The MSRP ($50) is probably reasonable. Also, the rulebook has some errors; players get 4 starting cards, not 5. No idea why the score track runs from 12 to 68. Nothing to make me go on a tirade, but nothing to get me excited here.

 

Accessibility: The “goal” of the game design as I understand it was to make an accessible, multiplayer version of A Few Acres of Snow. I think the game succeeds in being relatively easy to understand for its weight class, although there are some rules we often forget (like when armies required food). The game’s set up is pretty clever in the way that a card can be used as a resource or for its primary effect. There’s definitely a lot of overhead at the start when you lay out seven different ways to score and sixteen different cards available for purchase, but those became easy to internalize after a few games. The rulebook also has a very handy glossary/FAQ for the Improvement cards. I can’t speak to how it would work for brand new players, because we’d all played A Few Acres of Snow, but I thought it was a really easy transition.

 

Depth: The game definitely allows for some clever decisions, since cards can be used in multiple ways, and even thinned out of your deck in multiple ways (simply removing from game or using the Reserve). There’s also the see-saw effect that conquering a province forces you to take the corresponding card, which are much weaker Improvement cards. We couldn’t figure out why you’d ever really build a road over other things except maybe to grab some VPs, but it’s possible we’re idiots.

The problem is that the end-of-game mechanic kind of ruins everything. For the game to end, you have to take the ‘end of game’ action at the start of your turn, which you can only do if you’re currently winning. So there’s a ridiculous game of bash-the-leader at the end, and even before that, sometimes a game of chicken where players don’t wait to meet the other game-end condition (four piles of VP counters gone). Even in a two-player game where I was well ahead and there wouldn’t be a bash-the-leader situation, my opponent couldn’t do something beneficial (ending a war he was winning) because it would let me end the game, which is really unsatisfying. There’s a lot of great ideas here – but the end-game is not one of them.

 

mythcardsTheme: On top of the very drab artwork, the setting is about as generic as Dominion, maybe even moreso due to the simple art. The only connection to the setting laid out on the map are the names, which are generic and even accidentally comical. If the card art and names (and board) had embraced the theme and made the world the least bit vibrant, I might have had less complaints about the mechanisms, but as it stands the mechanisms were the game’s only real hope.

 

Fun: I didn’t actively hate playing this game, but I don’t think I’ll ever play again. The mechanisms, while admittedly simple and streamlined (for a middle-to-heavy game), feel very tiresome and even broken. Combine that with the nonexistent theme, and there’s nothing worth pursuing here.

 

Unfortunately, Martin Wallace’s second take on A Few Acres of Snow is much more unsatisfying than the first. I’d stick with that game, or if you’re looking for a new Wallace game of conflict, check out Onward to Venus.

 

Rating:

2 Stars

2 out of 5

Review: Deus

deusboxTo put it lightly, I really dislike the game Troyes, which was a big hit from Essen a few years back. So when one of its co-designers hit it big this year with Deus, I was more than skeptical. But the buzz kept drawing me in, so I played a few games online at boiteajeux.net. And I found myself impressed, but often games do a much better job digitally than they do in physical form. Now that I’ve got the game in my hands, does it hold up? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

deuscomponentsComponents: Let me just say up front that this game is as ugly as everyone says it is. The problem isn’t any individual piece of artwork – the art on the rounded hexes could be a little better, sure, as could the card art, but it’s nothing particularly bad. I also really like the wooden buildings. What makes the overall scheme so unattractive is that everything has a totally different color scheme. The board doesn’t mesh with the cards, both of which don’t mesh with the wooden resource discs, all of which mismatch the VP and coin chits, and so on. It definitely looks like someone’s prototype copy of a game.

By itself, though, I really like the art on the cards, and I think the layout on the cards is superb. It’s clear what the cost is, the effect is written in English but is shown in symbols on the bottom, so you’ll know what it does when it triggers again. Two problems with the cards though. First, they further confuse the different color schemes. The icon for wood is green, but the actual discs for wood are brown (but VP chips are green). Second, the worse offense is that there are cards with identical art and identical names, that have similar, but ultimately different, abilities. If I hadn’t noticed beforehand, I’m sure we would have had a sour moment where someone’s plans went awry due to thinking they’d drawn the same card again and hadn’t.

On the other hand, I love how the boards are randomly set up and are also double-sided, giving lots of variety. All the components seem really sturdy. The MSRP of $60 is typical and reasonable. Not much else to say here – solid components bogged down by poor design choices.

 

Accessibility/Depth: I’m putting these together, because they’re so deeply intertwined. For a middle-to-heavy Euro game (in my opinion), I absolutely love how simple and streamlined the rules are. They’re ridiculously clever. You can do only two things on your turn: build a building (i.e. play a card) or make an offering (draw new cards). There are no phases to remember, at most one nitpicky rule (one building per type in each region), and the other rules all feel very natural and are greatly helped by the player boards. The best part is that both moves you can make are both natural and simple to learn, but allow for so much depth of play once you get going. Let me give an example for each.

When building a building, there are a bunch of rules attached, but they all make sense: you have to build on the edge, then adjacent to where you are, you have to have a building to build. Those rules are easy to learn, but they put lots of interesting wrinkles in the game, as you try to use troops to block people in and surround the barbarian villages. And then there’s that hook for the whole game: when you build a building, you activate all the previous buildings of that color. Again, very easy to understand, but it’s so powerful and interesting, and a ton of fun.

When you discard cards, it really surprises new players that you have that flexibility. You get to draw back up to five cards and you can get resources, coins, or whatever you need. It’s a fantastic way to keep new players from getting frustrated when they dig themselves into a hole. On the other hand, there are so many powerful things you can do with it, like drawing up to 10 cards so that you can take 10 resources in an attempt to lock other players out (resources are limited).

I’ll end this section with a couple of comments. First, one thing I have noticed is that new players can end up durdling around for most of the game when they don’t know how to get an engine started, so that’s one way the game fails in accessibility. Second, I’ve read a lot of comments both that this game has too much direct interaction and also that it does not have enough. I think it has just the right amount for me personally. The only direct conflict card I dislike is the one that steals coins. Stealing VPs is annoying, but the fun of the game is actually playing the cards, and stealing coins can potentially ruin someone’s next turn, which is never fun. However, I absolutely love the indirect-but-nasty moves of locking out resources, surrounding players on the board, and fighting over barbarian villages.

 

Theme: Halfway through a game with new players, one of them asked “What is the point of this game? I mean, what are supposed to be doing?” I didn’t have a good answer. Building a very generic civilization, I guess? The theme – the names, the colors, the art – it’s all about as generic as possible. I don’t mind when games are themeless, but I’d almost rather have that than such a sad attempt at one, which could have been really great with some imagination.

 

Fun: I love, love, love card games. And this game has that hook no other card game has – where playing the same color again triggers your old cards/buildings of that color. That is just so fun, so fresh, and so addicting. If all you want is fun and interesting gameplay, then this game is the bee’s knees. It was still a ton of fun for us despite the awful art and non-existant theme. If you think a game needs backstory and a narrative arc to be worth 90-120 minutes, then this probably isn’t your cup of tea.

 

Deus‘s fun, fresh spin on cardplay, along with its extremely clever and simple rules, overcome its shortcomings in look and theme. Any avid Eurogamer should give this one a look.

 

Rating:

4star

4 out of 5

Review: Cyclades: Titans

titansboxWay back when I first began reviewing games for MeepleTown, Cyclades was one of the first that I reviewed. I’ll never forget the first time I taught that game to some college friends, and how impressed we were with the game’s elegant mechanisms. Since then, Cyclades has fallen out of favor with me, and I’ve sort of realized why, but we’ll get to that in a minute. A lot of people have said that Titans reinvigorated the game for them – did the same thing happen to me? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

 

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

titanscomponentsComponents: You get quite a bit of stuff in this box – a new God tile, 10 cards, pieces for a sixth player and 3 Titans for each of the other five colors, some cardboard tokens, and most importantly, a brand new game board. I love that the new gameboard is simply double-sided and doesn’t consist of two parts – making the original board lay flat was really annoying. The plastic figures seem to be kind of bendy and fall over, but a friend’s newer copy of Cyclades does the same thing – some hot water should let you bend them back into shape just fine. Overall, the components are great, but the biggest problem is that this expansion is $60 MSRP! The base game is only $10 more on its own – that’s a little crazy. Bruno Cathala mentioned that they considered making this a standalone game, but decided against it. I think one option they should have considered is that, since this expansion is essentially a response to player complaints, they should have just make a Cyclades second edition. Fantasy Flight has had great success doing that with their bigger franchises, and this would have let them simply change some things about the base game, like Pegasus or Zeus’s power, instead of trying to “shove in” solutions. There’s also a ton of awkwardness between rulebooks, since “isles” are now “territories”, which could have been avoided.

 

Accessibility: As I just mentioned, there are some rulebook issues, but overall, if you’ve played Cyclades enough, this isn’t too much of a change. There are several new additions beyond the new board – Divine Artifacts, Special Metropolises, and Titans – but they’re not too complicated past the base game. The real confusion is just making sure how things interact with the differently-worded base rules, and they didn’t include a single word on possible weird interactions with the previous expansion, Cyclades: Hades. It’s almost like this expansion pretends that Hades doesn’t exist (we played Titans without it). I checked the rules forum on BGG ahead of time and we were generally able to agree quickly on any rules clarifications during play.

 

Depth: The key reason for Titans’ existence, as I understand it, is that the designers were shocked to find so many players having 3-4 hour games of Cyclades, due to long games of chicken where people refuse to build buildings, or unable to attack due to being outbid on Ares. Titans almost over-addresses those issues. The new board now consists of big islands with adjacent territories, so that Ares no longer requires the aid of Poseidon much of the time; the new god Kronos forces buildings to appear on the board (which also begins with four already placed) and allows players to buy Titans, which can move troops regardless of the god the player has won; and the Divine Artifacts give powerful abilities and an alternate victory condition (you immediately win if you control all five).

There are certainly more, and different, things to think about with this expansion. You have to be on your tip-toes from the very first move, when you bid for placement, because you can attacked very quickly with this new board. Additionally, my strategy has always been to focus on clever bidding to keep people at bay while I build my empire, but that simply can’t be done anymore, because I alone cannot block Ares and Kronos, and blocking Poseidon and then destroying ships no longer stops Ares (or Kronos) from coming to get me. I’m not sure if Athena is less powerful, but she feels so, or at least uninteresting…

 

Theme: It depends on how you think Cyclades should feel. The expansion is true to its cover, as the game is more aggressive than ever. Additionally, the Divine Artifacts do add some flavor to the game, but this isn’t as mythology-heavy as the Hades expansion. This one is more about correcting perceived issues with the game, and in fact, I think in one way it detracts from the theme, since the key reason for the game being called Cyclades was using that patch of islands as the central mechanism of the game, but now the game is about territories on only a few islands.

 

Fun: Playing this expansion and getting back into Cyclades reminded me why this game has fallen down for me over the years. My absolute favorite thing in games is to have a hand of cards, preferably with some special abilities. I just love doing cool card combos and I also really love hidden information and that sense of bluff and risk – I guess it comes from years of playing Magic as well as Hearts, Rummy and Spades with my family. Cyclades has none of that – sure, the gods are randomly ordered and the creatures come out randomly, but that’s established at the start of each round. Although money is hidden, it’s trackable. There’s no sense of bluff, no truly hidden information or surprises. Despite that, what I really enjoyed in the game wasn’t the fighting, but the clever bidding system, and the Cold War-esque game of chicken that evolves from it. Our games were a slow burn but never seemed like they took too long. Titans erases that feeling by making the game lightning fast, almost unsatisfyingly so, and puts attacking front and center. So I certainly understand why other players would be excited about that change, but for me, it de-emphasized the part of the game that I preferred.

 

Simply put, if you wish Cyclades was a quicker and more cutthroat game, Titans has you covered. However, if you enjoyed the slow build and the central focus on bidding, Titans won’t do you any favors in that regard. The high price makes it hard to recommend, but if you aboslutely love Cyclades and want to step up the conflict within the game, Titans might be worth it for you.

MeepleTown’s 2014 Staff Picks

Another year gone by, another slew of great games to consider! It would be a little ridiculous for us to make a Top 10 list, simply because we haven’t played nearly all the games of 2014, though we’ve played a lot. Instead, we’re going to each share a couple of our favorites, and then we’re going to give our “2014 Game of the Year” award to a game that we unanimously love, and we’ll each talk about why that game is so dang good. Here we go!

Derek:

splendorboxSplendor – I’ll never forget reading this game’s rulebook for the first time, which I admit is a weird thing to say. I hadn’t yet heard of Space Cowboys, and I only knew Marc André from the lackluster children’s game Bonbons, so I was not expecting much. Just reading these rules, though, got me extremely excited. This is my kind of game, a fast-paced engine-building card game. And this is one of the clearest rulebooks I’ve ever read in four years of reading hundreds of rulebooks.

It turned out that the gameplay was exactly as I imagined it would be, which is to say, a lot of fun. My wife was pregnant at the time and we couldn’t go out much during the polar vortex, so we ended up playing this five times on the day it arrived! It’s been a hit all year ever since, and deserves every accolade it’s gotten. I understand some people find it dry and boring, and the theme is unexciting, but it’s got that great engine-building feel of Dominion compressed down to a very simple family game, along with fantastic art and components (those gem chips!). I also recently discovered how much this game owes to Saint Petersburg, and just how much of a better game this is as well. Five and ten years, respectively, after its inspirations, Splendor does a great job of improving them in a way that brings engine-building card play to a wider audience.

starrealmsStar Realms – Much like SplendorStar Realms is a game that makes every effort to improve upon its predecessors, particularly Ascension. While I had several complaints about Ascension, they’ve all been addressed in Star Realms. The tableau no longer gets stuck with one type of card, because it’s now comprised entirely of cards to buy, and the damage is used to kill your opponent. It’s finally a proper cross between Dominion and Magic, but in space! And White Wizard Games has done everything in its power to make this game as successful as possible, and it’s worked. The game is only $10 at most OLGSs, and the free app ($5 IAP) works and syncs across iOS, Android, AND PC. App developers, take note. This is the premiere board game app in my opinion, even if people have small complaints about the interface. It’s kept me interested in the game all year long, and has been a great way to stay in touch with friends by sharing something together.

Of course, it’s not just the things outside the game that make this great. Gameplay is smooth and exciting, and allows for complete blowouts and surprise comebacks that typically don’t happen in a game like Dominion. The art is also growing on me – I think it’s really the subdued color of the cards that keeps me from loving the art, but it looks great on the app. With four small expansions just out, I imagine I’ll be playing his game for a very, very long time. To me, this is now the deckbuilder on the market, the go-to suggestion to teach new players or have them pick up. Easily one of the best releases of the year.

Christian:

Samurai SpiritSamurai SpiritI’m a long-time fan of co-operative board games, and Antoine Bauza’s Ghost Stories is one of my favorites, despite its brutal difficulty level.  When Samurai Spirit was first described to me as “Ghost Stories-lite”, I was intrigued.  When I read that it can handle 2-7 players in under an hour, I was excited.  Upon arriving in the vendor hall at Gen Con this year, my first stop was the Fun Forge booth to ensure that I could get my hands on a copy.

After nearly a dozen plays, I’m still enamored with Samurai Spirit.  The game is essentially the classic film Seven Samurai in board game format.  Players take on the roles of samurai tasked with defending a village and its families against three waves of increasingly powerful marauding bandits.  The gameplay mechanics are simple, but the decisions are not: Do you fight a bandit?  Attempt to protect a farmstead?  Assist another samurai who may be in peril?

One of the biggest issues I have with most co-operative games is the quarterbacking problem: one experienced player can dominate the table, making it a lot less fun for the other players.  Samurai Spirit‘s simplicity and level of randomness allow it to dance neatly around this issue; there are only a few possible actions each turn, and it’s rare that there’s a guaranteed “best” action.  We’ve found that the game is sufficiently challenging — but winnable — without over-analyzing every move.  It’s a brilliantly streamlined co-op game that is always a pleasure to play.

Also, did I mention the katana-wielding raccoon?

abyssboxAbyss – I have a good friend who will often declare a new game an “instant 10″ after he plays the first time.  My early opinions tend to be more reserved, and I often have to play several times before deciding how much I like a game.  Abyss is that rare title where I was hooked from the very first turn.

It’s impossible to discuss this game without pointing out the artwork, which would be a shoe-in if MeepleTown had a “Best Looking Game” award.  From the board to the cards to the five(!) different box covers, the underwater-styled art is not only breathtaking but very consistent with the theme of the game.  With many Eurogames, it’s easy to forget the theme altogether while playing — I adore Macao, for example, but it feels like a bunch of cards and wooden cubes.  In Abyss, everything you see plunges your imagination into the murky ocean depths.

Abyss is a hand-building game at its core, but the extra gameplay elements keep things interesting, from the initial quasi-bidding phase to the unique powers of the faction leaders.  And how’s that for a mechanic: the leaders allow you to build a resource engine, but in order to score points, you have to give up them up.  It keeps the game constantly evolving and ensures that a good early play doesn’t result in a runaway leader situation.

An “instant 10″?  Maybe not, but Abyss is a solid, fun game with an amazing aesthetic quality, and I look forward to many future plays exploring what it has to offer.

Hillary:

sheriffboxSheriff of Nottingham – When I first started hearing about Sheriff of Nottingham, I was thoroughly intrigued. I love bluffing games and was excited by the idea of one that wasn’t your typical two-sided, “lie so you can win, or figure out who the liars are so you don’t lose” kind of game like Resistance or Coup. The idea of lying straight to someone’s face or using negotiation tactics to actually DO something was an idea I hadn’t really come across in a game.

Luckily, Sheriff does not disappoint. The mechanics are not new, but they are used in a unique way to turn what would normally be a standard bluffing game or a standard set collection game into something more than the sum of its parts.

Even better is the part where you have multiple options on how to handle things. If you want, you can choose to negotiate or bribe instead of lying. If you really don’t want to lie, you don’t have to, and it is still possible to win. Or you can use lying and bribing in clever combinations to get the Sheriff to do what you want in a cunning plot to get the most items into the city and win! Or, if you’re more like me, attempt to use cunning tricks to sneak in high points goods, and fail hilariously.

Actually, the best part of the game is the hilarity of it all. Sure, Sheriff of Nottingham is a new take on an old idea, but the game’s biggest draw is how silly and fun the whole thing is. What this game lacks in complexity and deep thought, it makes up for in uproarious laughter and fun times.

Overall, Sheriff of Nottingham is a great social game that actually requires a touch of logic as well. The two come together in a clever combination to create a really fun and unique game.

HyperboreaHyperborea – Hyperborea is a very different game with a very interesting mix of mechanics. It’s so different, in fact, that it’s kind of hard to categorize. It scratches a similar itch to Small World or Eclipse, but it’s not really a territory control game. It has elements of civilization building and engine construction too, but it doesn’t quite qualify as those either. For some, this might be a turn-off. However, I’m all about games that are hybrids of different game types: too Euro to be Ameri-trash, and too Ameri-trash to be Euro; they aren’t easily categorized as one thing or another.

I am also all about games that are pretty, and this game is one of the most beautiful games that came out this year. The components are well-made, each civilization has its own stunning art style, and the board is both gorgeous and readable at the same time.

Hyperborea is somewhat deep without being hard to understand.  It is detailed yet elegant in play style, and it’s not quite like anything else I’ve played. While there are some things about this game that don’t feel perfect, it is unique and interesting enough to keep me engaged the entire game. Despite any minor flaws, and despite it not quite being what I expected, I thoroughly enjoy the unusual and interesting nature of Hyperborea every time we play.

 

And the MeepleTown 2014 Game of the Year is…

Five Tribes!

fivetribesbox

Derek: I’ll admit that when I reviewed Five Tribes, I was a little critical (Christian says I should have given it a 5/5). Despite all my nitpicks, when it comes to medium-and-heavier games I’ve played this year, this is the one we can’t stop playing. The central mechanic is very fun and tactile, it ties everything in the game together, and the game just comes together perfectly. It’s also got this really cool unique arc where the game kind of declines rather than building up – which I thought I would dislike, but in fact, just the opposite. As weird as it sounds (because they seem dissimilar), this game has about fired Castles of Burgundy for me. They both have lots of different abilities tied around a central mechanism (mancala in Five Tribes versus dice in Castles), but this game plays in half the time, is more tactile and less lucky, has much better artwork, and is just more fun.

To me, this is the medium-heavy game you use to let gamers move on to that next step. It’s also one that we can actually play when the baby goes to bed, because its short length (about an hour with experience) keeps us from pushing it aside when we’re tired and worn out. In The Year of Bruno Cathala, this game clearly stands tall above the rest as his magnum opus – until we see what he pulls off in 2015!

Christian: Five Tribes has quickly become the “go-to” medium-weight strategy game for my local group, especially when new gamers are present.  It’s everything a gateway game should be: attractive, accessible, and elegant.  The fresh take on the Mancala mechanic (Bruno Cathala charmingly described it to me as a “worker removal” system) is clever and engaging.  Executing a good move, especially one that your opponents failed to spot, feels incredibly rewarding.  I enjoy the way each session evolves over time, too: early in the game you have just about every option available, but as workers become more scarce, it can be a fairly tense race to squeeze out those last few remaining points.

In a year that featured jaw-droppingly beautiful games like Abyss and Helios, it’s a shame that the artwork in Five Tribes may have been slightly overlooked — it’s gorgeous, and the art design definitely lives up to Days of Wonders’ historically high standards.  Between the vibrant art and the colorful components, the game simply looks fun.  Then you play, and it is fun.

Five Tribes is a delight for new and experienced gamers alike, and despite Derek’s horrible oversight of not giving it a 5/5 score (just kidding, man!), it’s a clear choice for 2014’s Game of the Year.

Hillary: Aside from what’s already been said, what I love about Five Tribes is that it manages to create new and unusual dynamics, but makes them easily accessible. This game is like no other I’ve played, but I had no problem picking it up the very first time. It’s also great because this means that the game can accommodate different skill levels of players with ease. So many games are super punishing to new players or to those who can’t immediately understand what’s going to happen ten turns ahead based on one move. With Five Tribes, however, a new player can still come up with good moves, and even potentially win.

The other thing I find interesting about this game is that it’s kind of like riding a bicycle. I’ve only played a few times and had a big enough between plays that I was worried I’d need another rules explanation. However, every time I play that first turn, it all just falls into place again. The gameplay is both intuitive and memorable enough that you can come back to it time and time again without brain fog.

Bruno Cathala really hit the right combination of unique mechanics, fun game play, and ease of teaching here. There have been so many games that I loved when they came out but later stopped making it to the table for various reasons.  I see Five Tribes reserving itself a permanent place on our shelves.

Happy Holidays from MeepleTown!

We’re taking a break until January 5th, at which point you can expect a slew of reviews of games we’ll be playing over Christmas! Until then, happy gaming!

 

 

Review: Chosŏn

chosonboxAs Asmodee continues to expand their operations, they’ve begun bringing games over from other parts of the world – for example, South Korea! Gary Kim’s Koryŏ was brought over by Asmodee after first being picked up by Moonster Games, and now its spiritual successor Chosŏn has followed the same path. But what if, like me, you haven’t played Koryŏ? Let’s see if Chosŏn stands on its own. Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine  the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

 

chosoncomponentsComponents: The game is basically a small deck of cards and some cardboard tokens, in a small-but-weirdly-sized box. The tokens are nice quality, and the cards seem good as well, although riffle-shuffling with no sleeves caused a bit of scuffing. They’re also a really weird card size that doesn’t seem to perfectly fit any normal sleeve. However, the art on the cards is just fantastic. They have this feeling like they’re from a creepy, dark anime or something – bright and colorful art, yet creepy-looking characters (the Reaper has eyes and horns all over his skin, for example). It’s really all top-notch stuff, except that I think the MSRP of $30 is quite high for a card game this small. (However, I’ve seen it lately on sale for $15 at some online stores, and it’s a great buy at that price.)

 

Accessibility: First, let me say that the rulebook for this game is flat-out terrible. It’s really hard to grok as written, when in fact the game isn’t all that complicated. I’m not sure what’s so hard about the rulebook in particular, but it just didn’t click with me. I’ve read the rules to Koryŏ now, and though I haven’t played it, the games are very similar (this is basically Koryŏ 2.0), so I imagine this game will be pretty easy to understand if you already know that game. If you’re teaching the game, I think the toughest thing is being very clear about the event powers and when those happen versus the majority powers and when those happen. I also wish the cards had text, though they look really cool as it is. By the time you understand the icons, you’ve kind of got the game memorized and the icons aren’t all that important. They remind you of what you already know, instead of aiding with an initial understanding. All that being said, I was able to teach two other players and after one ‘learning game’ with a few misunderstandings, we easily shuffled up and played again, with everyone knowing what’s going on. It helps that the game is only about 5-7 minutes per player.

 

Depth: There are definitely some interesting decisions in this game, but the main thing that bothers me is that you get dealt a new hand each round, making the game almost completely tactical. I wish there was some sort rule that you could hold onto a few cards, or maybe some character power that allowed that, so you could plan ahead. Additionally, the number of cards you are dealt depletes each round, so the last few rounds allow for virtually no planning – in one game, I really needed to play an event, but couldn’t draw an event card in my 4- and 3-card hands. I would rather the hands escalate, because you can just pretty much play whatever the first round, and then you’d have more options to plan or be creative in later rounds after game states have been established. As it stands, the limited options in the final rounds make it a little anticlimactic. There’s still some interesting decisions to be made in the short time-frame, though.

 

chosoncardTheme: Well, to be completely frank, the game has a background story in the rules, but I didn’t look for that in the game. I saw cards with numbers for the most part, but I admit the really cool artwork had my imagination running about how the characters came to be as they are and why they were fighting, etc. The game is so short, that I don’t think there’s time to get into the theme, but I also don’t think the theme is strong enough to really care. I was more focused on killing the other player’s 7 so I’d have the most, etc. – thoughts that were interesting to play out, but abstracted away from the theme.

 

Fun: I was surprised by this game. For a 10-20 minute filler card game, it had some interesting decisions and a few “Aw, crap, you just ruined my plan” moments. I’d much rather play it than, say, Love Letter, just because the decisions are far deeper, and I don’t really have any other small card games that fit this niche of being a Magic-esque game of special powers and attacking each other in that time frame. This would appeal to some of those types over other classic fillers like Coloretto, For Sale, etc. Actually, this seems like a weird complaint, but I think I would value this game much more in this category if it had a somewhat smaller box. This would be a great game to bring on trips and bust out in hotels, etc. when you have nothing else to do and little luggage space.

 

Chosŏn was a pleasant surprise. As long as you realize that it’s a short, highly tactical game – and if you can get past the rules and high price – I think it’s worth a look.

 

Rating:

3star

3 out of 5