Barnes v Maths
This week's review at the Review Corner is Valeria: Card Kingdoms. This looked like a cool blend of Catan-styledice-rolling, Machi Koro-style tableau-building, Thunderstone-like monster smashing, and Splendor-style card drafting. All in a very accessible package with unique illustrations. Well, it is all of that. And that's kind of a problem because it isn't as good as any of those games and it's kind of egregious. The root of the problem is that the math in the game doesn't work. I can't believe I'm saying something like that, I have never said anything like that in 15 years of games writing. But it doesn't.
The widely reported "too many resources" issue is definitely not make-believe. Each game I've played starts out well enough, with decisions to be made about which cards to buy and weighing their potential benefits. But halfway through, after getting something for each die and the sum of a 2D6 roll on every player's turn AND THEN more if you roll doubles and have multiple cards of a particular number...it just gets kind of stupid when you've got 20, 30 resources to spend. And there's not really a "Robber" mechanic to keep you spending them. With more players, the problem is even more pronounced. The tacked-on solo game isn't particularly interesting either.
So not very favorable at all on this one, I think it's a game that has a good foundation but it just is not executed well. I think that younger gamers that haven't played the games that influenced it are liable to rate it higher, and as a sort of "advanced" Machi Koro/Splendor surrogate it's not bad. But I'm already quit of this one.
Baseball Highlights 2045 on the other hand is EXXXXXXCELLENT. Great card game, whether you care about baseball or not. I do not. But the competition, the drama, the team-building, etc. transcend all of that. It is actually a cool setting though, sort of an old-timey baseball thing with robots and cyborgs. The deckbuilding is tight (and appropriate to the setting), the cardplay is exciting and simple. I've played with two and really loved the back-and-forth, and the solo game is just as fun even though it lacks the psychological elements of bluffing and trash-talk that puts it into the top tier. The only issue is that the rules are awkward. The entire process is like a half a page. The FAQ is ten pages. There's always some corner case, timing issue or confusing situation that sends you back to the phone to look at the document. It smooths out- especially the weird IGO (u kind of go) UGO (I kind of go) structure.
I've also been enjoying Cruel Necessity, VPG's English Civil War game. It's all about Cromwell, beating back Royalists and their deviltry, smashing King Charles at every turn, dealing with Irish troubles, and big pike and shot battles. It is by far the best States of Siege game, it's a lot closer to feeling like a full on GMT-style wargame than the others. It's SUPER dicey, but a big part of the challenge is in measuring when to take a risk on a roll to push a political marker or to battle an army back. There is a lot of dimension and lots of depth in terms of how you can approach or manage situations. The battles take place on a side tactical mat with its own event cards. So far I've just run through the first ECW but I've gotten destroyed every time. You can run all three as a campaign.
Valeria actually got traded for Pax Porfiriana, I thought it was time to give it another shot since I kind of just shrugged it off before. Well, it is still Phil Eklund and all that entails. So you get what Frank Branham has called Eklund's "Dr. Bronner style graphic design", which makes the game unusually complicated and hard to grasp. But I stuck it out a little more this time, and now I think I finally get it. But I doubt anyone I play with will have a lick of interest in it- historically, Phil Eklund games have had a huge failure rate with folks I game with other than Frank. It's a crazy little game...I mean, how do you come up with 200+ cards for this setting? I got the old edition, but it looks like I am not missing anything but the board (which looks terrible) in the "collector's edition".
I've got some good stuff inbound...Warfighter and Thunderbolt/Apache Leader...trying Imperial Settlers out again...trying to get a review copy of Hoplomachus...and in the mail is a little game called Star Wars: Rebellion.