An eclectic mix for you today! Let’s get to it!
I was initially a bit middling on Colt Express, but I’ve come to appreciate it in the same way I do Camel Up: it’s a game for families made appealing by unique bits and a strong theme, which overcome the lack of strategy. It’s maybe a bit complicated for very young gamers, but they can still play without quite knowing what they’re doing, and they’ll still enjoy the 3D train. For adult non-gamers, it’s a great introductory piece. And I was so glad to see it win the Spiel des Jahres over the lackluster Machi Koro.
While winning the Spiel des Jahres inevitably invites expansions, this is the kind of game that requires delicate care. I’ve grown grumpy about expansions over the years, especially when they take a away a game’s greatest strength – its accessibility. While the additions in Horses & Stagecoach are somewhat interesting, together they turn both setup and gameplay into a far too complex affair, when the game was already pushing that boundary for its relatively low depth. While there are many more options, you are still victim to the cards that you draw, and the personal decks are even slightly larger now with the horse cards. The horses and stagecoach look fun, but it’s too many rules to remember at any given moment for a game this light. I could see playing with the whiskey tiles in every game, as they are an interesting twist that helps mitigate bad draws. Other than that, though, I think this one’s a pass, unless you have friends who really love Colt Express and play it all the time, the way some fanatics do with Catan or Munchkin.
If you backed the Twilight Struggle digital kickstarter, one option was to get some small expansions for the physical game. I backed for both Turn Zero and the promotional cards, but have not used Turn Zero yet. However, I will say that after we played with the promo cards, we have no real desire to play with them again. Some were certainly interesting – for example, one permanently changes Zaire’s stability number – but there are a couple of glitches with them. The biggest problem was somewhat unexpected: because of the added cards, when we got to Late War, we were one card away from not reshuffling in Mid War, which would have left a Late War deck with zero Scoring Cards. Slogging it for 3 turns just for final scoring seems like the game would be breaking down a bit. The card Kremlin Flu seems immensely powerful, but on the other hand, it’s no worse than most other Early War Soviet cards. Most of the cards were just “interesting” and not all that powerful, which is… okay, I guess, but I feel like then they didn’t add much. Also, the card First Lightning is ambiguously worded, which is a problem that has always plagued Twilight Struggle – but the game is over 10 years old, how could they not have figured things out by now? I’m also surprised that previously released promo cards were not included. All in all, these probably weren’t worth the purchase, except maybe as collector’s items. (I don’t know how available these will be later.)
One of the most played games in my collection is Qwixx; the game was a godsend when our child was firstborn and we wanted to play games together but couldn’t do a whole lot of high-level thinking. Qwixx gemixxt is nothing more than new scorepads for Qwixx, with no other rules changes. These do change the game considerably though – one scorepad type has the numbers in each row jumbled up, and the other has the numbers in order but the colors jumbled up. Both made the game considerably more thinky (though that doesn’t mean much for Qwixx), and I wouldn’t always play with them, but I’m excited to play them every once in a while. I especially liked the mixed up numbers – the shift in the probabilities meant that new strategies were viable, depending on the row you were considering, and it is considerably easier to lock a row on a 3, 4, 10 or an 11 instead of a 12 or a 2, eliminating a major complaint I had with Qwixx (too many games ended from misthrows). This is a fantastic expansion, and even though it’s small, it’s a model for what I think expansions should be: adjustments that shake things up without expanding the ruleset much (or at all, really). I had to import it, unfortunately – it’s available currently from GameSurplus. Hopefully Gamewright will release an American version – and hopefully those scorepads will fit in the box…
Next week (if I’m ever over this cold) we’ll get back to some big releases, but in the meantime, enjoy this serving of expansion soup!