Reviews written by Black Barney
I love this game so much. I find it super hard and it really makes me think. My friends ALL hate this game. They hate that my fiancee turtles up and usually wins. They hate any game that they feel gives advantages to turtling up. But I always explain to them that someone that plans their conflicts well should always beat the person who turtles. Or you build monuments to draw them out.
Anyway, I think this game is fantastic.
I was probably a victim of my own high expectations here. I was so excited to try this game, that I was probably setting myself up for disappointment. Luckily, the disappointment didn't happen until a couple dozen games in. Which means I had a great run with this game.
One of the best rule books I've ever read. It's clear and concise and illustrated and answers all your "yeah but..." questions. Very high quality pieces and such as well.
I love the gradual ramp up in rules to introduce you to the game's many rules regarding different units, terrain, and eventually lore (magic spells). My fiancee and I LOVED our first 20 games of this. After that, we were hungry for more so we started mixing in the monsters quite a bit which has mixed results (the spider is lots of fun but the hill giant is sort of overpowered and the earth elemental makes no sense to us).
Battlelore mostly suffers from having some of the worst expansions I've ever seen for a game. The ONLY good one was for Epic battles (and NOT for making them multiplayer-playable, which is HORRIBLE), but for expanding the battlefield to twice the size and making the rules more exciting and engaging. Those epic battles are MONEY. However, Call to Arms and all the other expansions are REALLY bad. I received 4 of them as a birthday present and exchanged them for other board games cuz I know how bad they were.
Battlelore is a great game in the beginning (like Shadows over Camelot) but eventually wears VERY thin after a couple dozen games.
Disclosure: I have a soft-spot for games with Economic mechanics
I was so worried this much-hyped game was going to disappoint but it did not. I totally love it and everyone I've played with so far feels the same. I used to be a pretty heavy CCG player and gave it up in 2005, so this game feels like runnin' home to Mama.
It's difficult to pin-point exactly what I like most about this game but there are just so many moments that are fun:
-Grabbing a truck-load of sheep and throwing them in the cooking hearth while keeping one as a pet is just hilarious.
-The rushed feeling of the next upcoming harvest is a very adrenaline-pushing moment. I have felt the panic of not having enough food several times (unfortunately, still winning the game while having 2 begging cards has made this less scary but it's still there).
-I love how this game gets faster and faster near the end. I LOVE THAT. Some games like Power Grid actually lose steam in the end game but this does not at all. It becomes frantic.
It's also the first game that I feel tempted to upgrade pieces into fancier-looking animals and stuff since I really get into the game when I play as do my friends and family. I'm introducing the game this weekend to my sister and brother-in-law and I can't wait.
I'll admit that this is a good game on paper and I've heard tons of stories from friends who loved their experiences. Yet, I've tried this 2-3 times and I've HATED it everytime. I even won once and I still hated the experience.
One of the ways you know you have a fairly distant, cold and harsh board game is when it's actually better suited to be played by e-mail. That was my first hint that this is probably a game I should not play.
I know of no other game that illicits such strong reactions from people when it is suggested as the next game to play. Everything from groans to glee.
Overall on the good side, you have LOTS of player interactions, VERY challenging (to stay awake), obviously 100% skill-based (like selling a used car), and the rules are very easy.
However, on the weak side, combat is really weird, the different starting powers are CLEARLY not balanced, VERY repetitive and worst of all, WAY TOO LONG.
So yeah, I'll give it a passing grade but I don't ever wanna play it again.
I'm quite sure that Power Grid is probably my 3rd favourite board game of all time. I've bought 3 expansions for it and I just love it (although the Benelux expansion is POUBELLE). It's a game that you have to be in the 'mood' to play cuz it's quite math-heavy. In fact, in our play groups, we authorize the use of a calculator to speed up gameplay which can totally jam up during auctions (best auction game of all time, btw).
I've come to recently appreciate this game on another level as my fiancee made some new friends who don't really speak English and not much French either. Language barrier was a big problem between us and I taught them Puerto Rico which went well but I think Power Grid was probably the way to go since there are absolutely no words at all in this game. Plus, as bad as the rule book is, it is some of the easiest rules to grasp ever.
As long as you don't have 5-6 players, it's a very fast game as well. Most of our games run 2 hours. When you throw in 6 players, it can get daunting in length though.
Lots of player interaction through the bidding auction process of acquiring power plants which is fun. You can really screw other players by over-buying resources which can leave some feeling sour.
It's also a beautiful game. Lots of colours, gorgeous play pieces, cards, boards. I highly recommend the new power plant expansion pack. Replace your old power plants with the new ones and it's like playing a new game!
One of the WEIRDEST things about this game is that although I think it's a perfectly designed game and well-balanced, I don't have nearly as much fun playing this as I do Agricola or Puerto Rico. So it's very rarely one I suggest to play. It's fun 2-player as well though which is good when you have a gaming significant-other.
When I used to be into this game, I originally thought of it as Risk for adults. Now, I think Twilight Struggle fills that gap far better. I have some fond memories of Axis and Allies and many not-so-fond ones. Could that set-up time be any longer?! I remember starting to play it on PC just to avoid the set-up and that's where I realized how average this game really is.
This game is UNPLAYABLE with anyone that suffers from Analysis Paralysis (*looks in mirror* **waves back**). There are so many decision tree points in this game that I really gotta think. In the end, I forced myself to only play as Russia cuz the decisions were easier.
I tend to be a bit of a gaming judge as well (I don't know why, it's just natural) so many times during games I become suspicious that a player removed or did not remove enough units during a battle. This stuff drives me nuts.
And once again (as in my review of Settlers of Catan), you can easily find better games that have the same mechanics and same themes as this one:
You like the whole area movement aspect of units? Play War of the Ring, it's INCREDIBLE.
You like WWII games? Play Combat Commander Europe if you like something heavy, or Memoir 44 if you like something lite.
You like wargames? Twilight Struggle it up, yo.
The one aspect I LOVE about Axis and Allies is the economics. I LOVE economic themed games. But of course, the Euros always handle this better. Both Agricola AND Puerto Rico have more fun economic-themed gameplay. Heck, Power Grid and Caylus as well.
Axis and Allies does many things good but is not excellent in ANYTHING. And for that, I'm happy I gave away my copy of the game (never been played) to my brother-in-law.
Yeah, this was my first introduction to Eurogames as well and I did really like it at the time. I loved that my g/f (of the time) and all her friends loved playing it as well. Getting to game with females was a new thing for me and I liked the social aspect of involving the g/f.
Nowadays, I can't stand this game and far prefer Agricola, Puerto Rico, Power Grid and the like. The trading aspect of Settlers of Catan just drives me nuts cuz, like Monopoly, he who can manipulate the others the best seems to do well. It's not really why I game and is why Diplomacy is my most hated game of all time.
It's also difficult to go back to dice. I like how dice are used in Twilight Struggle. I hate how dice are used in Settlers of Catan, Risk, Axis & Allies and all that jazz. Oh man, don't get me started on Battlelore either.
Overall, it's a good game, even a great game maybe. But I'm sure I can fire off 30 better board games off the top of my head. There's always something better to be played.
In terms of game mechanics:
You like the trading aspect of the game? Try Pandemic, it's better.
You like playing with a modular board? Hmmmm? Find that fun, do you? Battlelore is way more fun.
You like rolling dice in a game? You're Chinese or something? War of the Ring is like the best die-rolling game of all time.
You like building routes and networks? Power Grid ftw.
In terms of themes,
You like the Civilization aspect of the game? Obviously Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization is a FAR better Civ-themed game. Man, I love that game.
And if you actually, unlike me, like Negotation in a game, then play Twilight Imperium 3rd edition instead.
My point is that Settlers of Catan is a stepping stone for getting into much better games. I don't think it really deserves much play time once you've grown up and moved on.
This has been my favourite board game for years (only very recently was it dethroned). I grew up playing the usual fare (Game of Life, Monopoly, Risk) and got introduced to Euros with Settlers of Catan which I really liked at the time (I don't enjoy it as much nowadays). I then discover BoardGameGeek and am obviously drawn to Puerto Rico out of curiousity. I get it as a gift and the rest is history. It's become the number one game we play when we get together with my family on vacations/holidays, etc. It's the first game I teach new non-gamers and gamers alike. I think in the dozens of people I've taught this game, only one has not liked it.
I personally LOVE tactical/strategic gameplay and this obviously delivers this in spades. NO LUCK! What an amazing concept. I can barely play Battlelore anymore because of that awful feeling I get after several key bad rolls.
The mechanics in this game are truly unique and unlike anything I had ever seen. The selection of roles really adds something special. There is an insane amount of depth (not to the amount of Caylus but enough for me to never get bored) and I'm always amazingly surprised at how different each game is. My mom and sister seem addicted to the Hospice (as was I in the beginning) where my fiancee and I love the Small Market. She loves indigo, I love coffee.
Although an effective strategy is important, it is completely dwarfed by how much tactics are important. And I think that's why the game is such a great fit. You can have little to no long-term thinking in this game and you can very well win just on that.
I suffer from immense Analysis Elbow and I find I don't get jammed in this game too much. I even played in the Canadian Puerto Rico Finals (I got 3rd :( and still didn't suffer from overthinking.
It's a great game to talk about after each match. You can really dig into which plays were key and which were obviously a mistake.
I grew up sometimes playing 5-6 hour board games which is something I hate now. I think 90 minutes is a perfect amount of time and I always finish games of this in under two hours. Perfect.
An insanely terrific game which after dozens upon dozens of games, I'm still nowhere close to getting sick of. I loves it.