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K2 Review - Digital Eyes

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Sprawlopolis Review

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What BOARD GAME(s) have you been playing?

09 Apr 2021 11:15 - 09 Apr 2021 11:49 #321855 by JoelCFC25
This probably doesn't count as actual play, because we only finished a turn due to a late start and having the same East Coast player with kids on TTS with us, but we did dive into Liberté. I've periodically flirted with wanting to try this, and lately have been binging the French Revolution podcast, so it got into our queue.

So far I think I'm going to really like this one, a first Wallace game that hasn't flopped for me. Tight rules, fast play, and a really different trio of victory conditions--standard VPs, radical takeover of the government, or royalist counter-revolution--the latter only kicks in during the final 2 of the 4 possible turns.

Last edit: 09 Apr 2021 11:49 by JoelCFC25.
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10 Apr 2021 11:48 #321883 by DukeofChutney
Over the past few weeks i have mostly been playing traditional card games. I think i've played one game of Babylonia and of course a TTS game of John Company.

I the list article I posted I think i over rated Bezique and under rated Sixty Six. Sixty Six is probably the best marriage trick taker that i've found. You need to card count at least trumps and aces to play well, but the low card count - 24 cards, makes this viable. It plays quick and tense, a much better trick taker than many on the market. Bezique on the other hand kind of plays out, either you collect 4 aces or 4 kings and build a big score, or you don't.

A better alternative to Bezique is Penchant, a single deck melder/trick taker combi game like Bezique, but it weights the scoring much better and
allows you to set trump in play when you drop a jack queen combo.

I've also learned Jo-Jotte a 2 player bridge alternative from the 1930s. It is essentially Klabberjass with Bridge bidding and scoring attached. Works well but a bit more random than Sixty Six.

I've also been playing a bit of Oh Hell! with 3, which is dead easy to teach and a lot of fun. Bid the number of tricks you will take and hit it exactly or get negative points for the hand. That's essentially it, but it allows for some great screwage.

Traditional card games are great.
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10 Apr 2021 14:41 - 10 Apr 2021 14:44 #321884 by charlest
I finished the main story/campaign in The Initiative. This a quality game from Corey Konieczka and a great launching point for Unexpected Games. I don't think this will blow most people's minds, but there are a couple of really satisfying twists.

It does lose much of its charm once you finish the story, despite having 25 more standalone missions. I looked through them and some have some interesting changeups in the game, but to me, The Initiative is the interplay between the comic storyline, the main co-op game, and some neat meta-ciphers you have to decrypt. Once the comic and meta puzzles go away the game is simply OK.

Still, overall an ambitious thing and I dig it.

I'm getting ready to explore Stardew Valley (the board game) a bit, but first I'm getting in a few rounds of this neat little series called Hunted. There are two small box solitaire games here. The first is Hunted: Kobayashi Tower and it's totally a Die Hard game. Doesn't at all hide it.

The core system of this series is drawing from a deck that has threats, items, and hostages. You spend symbols off one card to activate another, claiming the equipment, rescuing the hostage, or moving through a door to the next area. Ultimately you're trying to get to the rooftop where you confront Lars and rescue your wife. Yippe-Ki-yay.

It's not a brilliant design or anything, but there is a neat sense of progression and movement. If you flip a terrorist card the tension is ratcheted up. You have to fight the terrorist if a second one enters the cardrow, or if a terrorist is in the row and two other cards have bell (noise) symbols. So there's a push your luck element as you balance whether to draw or not.

Instead of drawing a new card you can hide which wipes all of the cards from the row. That of course can suck if there's some good stuff there, such as the machine gun which is just nasty.

You have to manage ammo which is done relatively cleverly, and your health dwindles along with a time track.

Totally neat game that takes about 20 minutes to play and has spectacular stylized art.

Hunted: Mining Colony 415. however, looks to be the stronger of the two. This is a blend between Alien and Aliens. The card row works similarly, but there are two big changes here. One is that if you don't rescue the hostages (or crew members in this game), they are impregnated and are removed in favor of adding an alien card to the deck.

The bigger change is that combat is not rolling dice for target numbers (which can feel very random in Kobayashi Tower), but instead you toss tokens onto an alien silhouette in the box. I love that little dexterity mechanic but I generally really enjoy gimmicks like this. Hell, I designed a game where you physically toss cards in an otherwise non-dexterity game.

Besides those two changes they're almost identical. Not sure these are worth seeking out over deeper solitaire card games like Friday and Space Hulk: Death Angel, but they have a solid amount of atmosphere and tension in a really tight physical product.
Last edit: 10 Apr 2021 14:44 by charlest.
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11 Apr 2021 05:38 #321896 by mezike
Continuing on the hotness train with Lost Ruins of Arnak, which I enjoyed albeit with some reservations.

It's a very familiar game in that it bites off from a lot of other designs which it slathers with it's own style, like a 'greatest hits' compilation by a pub cover band. While playing I kept getting flashes of de ja vu - the split board with two markers moving up a climbing score track on one side is straight out of K2, the deck management from Aeon's End, the mechanism of gathering resources to travel to a spot to fight a monster whiffs of Champions of Midgard, there are bits of Rune Age and still more reflections that you keep catching sight out of the corner of your eye. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, all creative works are derivative to some extent, but spinning off other works does create a specific problem in this case which is that layers of unnecessary complexity are the glue that is used to hold everything together.

As an example, the K2-esque exploration track requires you to collect and spend resources to move up to the next scoring space, and there are places where you have a choice of two divergent paths that then change the cost to get to the next level. These are however just brief stepping stones before the path comes back to the same location so although there is nothing ostensibly wrong with the concept it adds a couple of extra rules to the game that don't really add much of anything to the experience. It would have been cooler to have more distinctly separate exploration paths, or simpler to keep to one path, but instead we have the least satisfactory option in place. At the same time there are actions and bonuses that 'upgrade' resources, except only three of the five resources are within the group that can be upgraded and only in strict order - again it's extra rules to remember which don't particularly justify inclusion other than being another 'cool thing' to add a further point of differentiation. The game is riddled with stacking conditional elements like this, something which most gamers will likely take in their stride but which immediately puts up an unwarranted barrier of complexity. A more restrained approach would have put this at El Dorado level of accessibility and would have made this an instant purchase for me given that there are a lot of things that I really enjoyed.

The concept of the game, that you are exploring the environs around a temple in order to help you unlock the secrets of it's past, are well represented. Cards can function either as a mode of transport or to generate the various resources that you need to get things done; if you go into the wilds then you need a jeep, tackling the river warrants a boat, or you can always pay to hire a small plane to take you anywhere. The deeper you go then the greater the cost, and the discoveries that you make directly help you decode your way through the temple. It all makes perfect sense and creates and immediate sense of engagement. If you encounter a monster and fail to defeat it then you take a fear card, which not only blocks your deck with a negative VP card but which is only useful to travel by foot - your explorers are literally too terrified to leave the safety of base camp - and this is perhaps the most compelling use of these kinds of deckbuilding waste/wound cards that I've yet seen.

Another really neat element is the way that the turns progress. There is a market of five cards that you can purchase, and which come in two different flavours - equipment that you purchase with cash, and artifacts that you gain with exploration. The round marker splits the display into four equipment and one artifact and then slides across at the end of each round to change the balance until eventually there are more artifacts than equipment. It's not just a clever visual way of marking time, it also drives the game forward as you move away from an initial cash injection at the start to the more important business of adventure and discovery.

Overall I enjoyed playing, there is a lot to like, but I hesitate to enthuse about it because of that 'gamer' veneer of non-thematic non-strategic complexity that adds nothing. It feels like a game that already has a couple of expansions and some promo cards mixed in, and what I really want is a slightly stripped-down version that would be just a bit more compelling and approachable.
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11 Apr 2021 16:21 #321910 by DukeofChutney
18Chesapeake on .

This is a really good online implementation of 18xx games. A good interface and can be played live or over several days/weeks. We played 18Chesapeake for about 4 hours with 3. It is a simpler 18xx game, and was fun but, 18xx games do drag. Its not just that they are long, but often the last 30minutes feels unnecessary, you just refine your routes and run for the last few operational phases but it still takes ages. I went to the kitchen and prepared a loaf of soda bread between operating phases for my companies there was so much route optimisation going on, even with the app calculating all the numbers for you.

Thing is when i try shorter simpler games trying to be 18xx, like Chicago Express, they are ok, but they leave me feeling empty, because they are not 18xx.
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12 Apr 2021 11:46 - 13 Apr 2021 11:57 #321938 by Shellhead
With both Sleeping Gods and Cursed City on the way, I wanted to get a couple more plays out of Masters of the Night and Marvel Champions before shelving them for a while.

Masters of the Night: played solitaire with 2 and 4 characters. Two-player was a tight win, but I lost the four-player due to a couple of particularly nasty cards in the late game. Each vampire needs to get a pentagram in play before they all meet up to perform the winning ritual, and both of those goals require the sacrifice of minions. It takes both action points for a vampire to create a new minion. So it takes at least 3 turns to prep for a win, and a nasty surprise or two can move victory completely out of reach before the final turn. I also came damn close on two occasions to getting wiped early due to unexpected hits on the Veil.

Marvel Champions: Went with the original Avengers (minus the disappointing Wasp) versus Kang for a solid win. I was worried that running a combination of two Aggression decks (Hulk and Thor) and two Leadership decks (Iron Man and Ant-Man) would be a problem, but thwarting is less crucial when you have Hulk and Thor beating the daylights out of everything in sight. Then I started the Red Skull campaign again, with Cap's Kooky Quartet. I was expecting an easier ride with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but actually it's been a rough fight against Crossbones so far. We just finished beating Crossbones stage I, but all of my heroes are currently at 4 or less hit points. It hasn't helped that Baron Zemo showed up early on, so we have extra Hydra and Heil Hydra in the mix.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2021 11:57 by Shellhead. Reason: Ant-man, not Cap
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13 Apr 2021 11:28 #321996 by Gregarius
I think I am done with Masters of the Night. It just kicks my ass every time. I'm not sure what it is that I'm not getting. The one time I came close to victory I realized that I had missed a rule when placing Agents which would have beat me down more.

I'm playing with three vampires on the easy setting. I feel like two actions just isn't enough. I recognize that three would probably be too many. Maybe if the starting player had a bonus action?

Anyway, I'm not having fun. I can't tell if it's the constant beatdowns or whether I just wouldn't enjoy it even if I finally won. I remember it was a long time before my group finally beat Ghost Stories, but we always felt close and enjoyed the battle. Maybe I'd like this one more if I weren't playing solo.

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13 Apr 2021 12:15 #322002 by Shellhead
I have been winning Masters of the Night about 2/3 of the time. One rule that is easy to mess up is when to reduce the Veil. When a card makes you move two Agents into a location with one of your Vampires or Minions, you only reduce the Veil once per location, not once per Agent. Unless you run out of Agent tokens in which case you reduce the Veil one per Agent token that you were unable to place. Another rule to watch is that the action to reveal an Agent reveals all the Agents at your location, not just one of them.

As for strategy... you want to try to control most or all of the locations with either a reward or penalty for who controls the location. Control the Train Station, and your dice pool gradually improves. Control the Police Station, and you can reveal all the agents at a location. Etc. Try to get control of the Museum early, so you can get Relics as early as possible and enjoy those advantages for most of the game. Once your vampires have Relics, feel free to relinquish control of the Museum and focus on other areas.

Fight Agents early and often, with all of your Vampires. You need to get your body count to nine for each Vampire before the end, and sooner is better so you can unlock more of your abilities. You also don't want to run out of Agent tokens when required to place new Agents, because that can run the Veil down quickly.

As for the Veil itself, it pains me to say this, but if you are playing more than 2 Vampires, you should probably leave a Vampire camped out at the Radio Station for the whole game. You will almost certainly need to raise the Veil by at least 2 every turn, and a Vampire at the Radio Station can reliably handle that 2 points every turn. Switch out which Vampire is at the Radio Station at least once per game, so everybody has a chance to run up their body count.

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13 Apr 2021 13:19 - 13 Apr 2021 13:20 #322005 by charlest
Stardew Valley is fine. I think the SUSD review is harsher than my take, at least at the moment.

It's an incredibly random game, that gives you just a few opportunities to mitigate the necessary dice rolling, but it has a very light-hearted tone that makes me not care so much about applying the rigors of deep strategic consideration.

It's not mindless, but I've played it more loose from an emotional standpoint, aiming to accomplish my objectives but not at all stressing about the "too much to do with too little time".

As someone who enjoys rolling dice, I do get some joy from the various mini-games that are relatively varied. They're all shallow, but there's enough there to make for a fun exploration.

I do sort of hate the objectives the game places on you, which is very much NOT Stardew Valley. It feels more like those one year community challenge speedruns.

It's also too long for larger groups at 40 minutes a player.

This isn't a game I'm terribly fond of, but it's fine and I think people who have a board game or two on their shelves may find this hitting where they want.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2021 13:20 by charlest.
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13 Apr 2021 16:07 #322018 by dysjunct
TINY EPIC PIRATES. Another solid entry in the line. Weirdly, it uses a rondel-style mechanic. But everyone has their own, and the spaces are randomized via tokens that you shuffle and place face down, then flip. So although everyone has the same actions, it creates a nice diversity as everyone starts with different easily-attainable actions. You can skip spaces by assigning crew members to them, but then they aren't available to make you better at sailing faster, fighting better, or making money. It makes absolutely zero thematic sense, but it works in the game, as it makes you all go in different directions while still ensuring that everyone does piratey things. It's a race to be the first one to bury three treasure chests, so efficiency is really key. Deciding when it's worth it to skip over actions is tough.

XIA. Pretty fun little sci-fi sandbox; there's a lot there. However as a sandbox I prefer Western Legends -- it's more accessible since everyone gets the theme right away. Within sci-fi as a genre, there's a ton of diversity (just within FTL travel, you could have warp bubbles, hyperspace, jump gates, wormholes) so it takes longer to explain "what kind of sci-fi this is." Anyway, fine game but I'm glad I played a friend's copy.
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13 Apr 2021 16:46 #322025 by Jackwraith
I've gotten a couple games of TEP in and want to get a couple more before attempting a review here. I agree with you that the rondel mechanic is wonky from a thematic/"realism" perspective, but it does work well. It's definitely one of the more involved mechanics of the series and it took me some time to get new players adjusted to how it works. Once you get it down, though, it ends up being pretty natural. One thing that kind of disturbs me about the game is that, despite many opinions that the TE series are just smaller versions of other games, before Dinosaurs, they all tended to have something that gave them their own identity; from the oddness of Western to the perfectly thematic goals of Zombies. But in the case of the last two games, they really do strike me as just smaller versions of something that's already extant. In the case of Dinosaurs, it's Dinosaur Island, despite TED being a version that cuts out the amusement park chaff. In the case of TEP, it's Merchants and Marauders. Again, you could argue that it cuts away a lot of the random event/story stuff that makes M&M what it is, but I confess to being a little less impressed with the recent productions. It may be that I've finally reached the jaded point of simply having played too many games.
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13 Apr 2021 19:32 #322027 by dysjunct
I haven’t played TED, but I thought M&M was bloated, so “like M&M but highly streamlined” is a selling point for me.
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13 Apr 2021 20:51 - 13 Apr 2021 20:52 #322028 by sornars
Maglev Metro - I played this with mezike and Ah_pook last weekend and really enjoyed it. The choices presented were somewhat overwhelming but each choice was relatively intuitive and thematic, the mental tax came in deciding what you were trying to do. I came out with a win but I also (inadvertently) cheated a fair bit by putting the wrong coloured meeples in the upgrade track a few times. I'm hesitant to criticise after only one play but the individual goal cards seem to vary wildly in the effort required to achieve them despite giving similar amounts of points. Playing this on TTS was more than a bit fiddly but I can imagine the physical game is a lot of fun to play around with.

Unlock: Exotic Adventures: This was my first escape room game and I found it to be the definition of a mixed bag. Some of the puzzles were incredibly clever and others were incredibly frustrating. Oscillating between these highs and lows was sufficient for me to complete all three adventures but I definitely won't be looking up any others in the series as the random nature of some of the puzzles reminded me of the worst aspects of the point and click adventure game genre. Knowing you have the right approach but not being able to translate that into the correct answer is rage inducing. The app integration is simultaneously the best part about this game as well as the worst
Warning: Spoiler!
The brilliance of the genre is apparent but the lack of consistent quality within any single adventure is what makes this so disappointing.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2021 20:52 by sornars.
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14 Apr 2021 03:03 #322041 by Michael Barnes
I’m glad folks are finding Maglev Metro agreeable...when I was writing it up I kept wondering if I was overselling it. But I think it really is a great train game and I’d rate it at the very top of the genre.

Played a couple of games of The Gallerist. Lacerda is, I think, the Kubrick of game design.

Like Kanban, it is spectacularly complicated. It’s also idiosyncratic, and even though it has the “worker placement” tag it doesn’t really work like other games in the genre. The actual mechanics of placement are different, and they occur at different levels. And like Kanban, there are layers of interconnectivity to discover that aren’t apparent at first.

But I also think it is somewhat easier- the goals and methods are easier to grasp because it is straight up a game about investing and making money. To do this, you invest in artists, buy or commission their work while they are hungry, promote them to the high heavens, and sell their stuff when you push the value up. There is a hint of Modern Art conceptually to be sure. But you also have to manage attendance/patronage at your gallery which means handing out tickets to three different types of patrons that all have different impacts on your influence, money, and trends.

It’s a lot to sort out but really there are only 4 spaces to move to with two possible actions each, and then there are two actions you can do when you get “kicked out” of a spot, one of which is to do the action you were booted from. So it’s really just 7 possible actions.

Where it gets complicated is that lots of things have bonuses so picking the right one at the right time is a big decision. You also have to manage a retinue of assistants, which can be left behind to intentionally trigger kick out actions. But you also have to hire these and they also are needed to activate some bonuses.

The solo game is extremely easy to run, it’s not an AI but a blocking and timing thing. I did feel like having more dynamic escalation of artist value driven by multiple players would make this feel quite different. But I really enjoyed it alone. It’s supremely thematic, specific, and detailed like Kanban.

I’m digging the Lacerda thing but to be honest I am surprised his stuff is as popular as it is. The two titles I’ve played are quite a bit more demanding than most heavy Eurogame fare. He is definitely an auteur, and these games feel very arthouse.

I also think he makes for an interesting counterpoint to Rosenberg- his games are almost industrial, driving simulation through raw mechanics. Rosenberg’s more, direct and organic approach create themes and narrative through simple conversions and processes.
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14 Apr 2021 04:42 - 14 Apr 2021 04:43 #322043 by mezike
re: Maglev Metro I had super hard time grokking the game, since playing I've tried to solo a couple of times and it's still a total disaster for me.

We discussed this during our TTS meet but I think the difficulty that I am personally having is that it is a very procedural game in that you need to do this thing and that thing before you can reach your immediate goal but everything is compromised and limited so there is a complicated set of hoops that you have to jump through. I'm fine with complex games, combo-building and long term strategy but there's just something here where I cannot for the life of me see the path through the tangled layers to make it all work. Do it well and you can move forward efficiently, do it badly like me and your engine throws a rod. I'm at a point where it's either going to suddenly click into place or the frustration is going to turn into stress and get the better of me!

I am also 100% sure that I inadvertently cheated because it is super easy to forget (and maybe TTS is the problem here) that you can no longer pick up two because you moved a robot, or that you've put a bronze dude in a gold spot by accident, or moved a human by mistake. This definitely needs the Board Game Arena treatment to keep you honest.
Last edit: 14 Apr 2021 04:43 by mezike.
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