I thought I’d take a chance to pour my heart out about my feelings on all the board games that I play throughout the year. I try not to clog up the podcast too much with board game talk since we are a video game podcast first and foremost – OK, 90s references first, but then video games. Some of my ramblings will be mini reviews, some will just be impressions.
For those who aren’t initiated in the board gaming world, the way games get reviewed is drastically different from how video games are reviewed. A video game is a solitary experience that takes 10-40 hours to complete at the least and is an online competition that may have tons of depth but can be reviewed with a handful of matches clocked with decent accuracy. A board game, a deep strategic board game, has depths that unfold over months instead of hours. Some of my favorite games have accrued 40+ plays and my opinion of them continues to evolve. As such, I won’t have an “official” opinion on a board game until about a year after I first play it.
I know. Crazy.
So hopefully this will be interesting for those of you looking to see what board games are getting play here in Cleveland or for those looking to get into the Luddite version of gaming…
I’ve gotten my hands on second printings of recent popular games and been introduced to quite a few new games due to Origins Game Fair, so I haven’t had the chance to return to older games for a while now.
Eclipse – This is the definition of a “big boy” game. Enemies will be made, ships will be clashed, planets conquered and tears shed. I’ve been looking to grab this game since its first edition sold out almost a year ago. The price for used copies was above $300 dollars, but thankfully the price I paid for a new copy was $100. That would be an amazing price even if I were paying for the amount components alone. There is a metric shit-ton of cardboard chits in this game.
But it doesn’t matter how many things are in the box if the game is no good. I’ve only played a two player game but I can safely say that the game certainly held up to the bits in the box. The amount of depth to the direction you can take you galactic empire is impressive for the brevity of a play (~30min per person). There will be more plays of this game for sure, and the next time I write one of these, I’ll definitely have more to say.
Quarriors – Those familiar with Dominion and its multitude of expansions and imitators will be very comfortable with Quarriors. Quarriors is a game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve; the box even has a couple tongue-in-cheek fake review quotes that exclaim, “Basically: it’s a dice-building game.” The concept couldn’t be more simply explained than that: you have a bag of dice that functions like a deck of cards, you draw and roll dice like you would your hand of cards in Dominion, and they either turn into creatures, money or spells.
The game seems to have gone over well with the group here in Cleveland but the game does have a very healthy amount of luck to it. I’ve definitely enjoyed my plays of Quarriors in spite of having gained almost zero glory (the game’s arbitrary victory point replacement)Â in any play through. If I was attempting to analyze the available creatures and formulate a winning strategy, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the experience at all. The reason someone looking to min/max the game might have a bad time is twofold: luck, and luck.
First, you have to get lucky with what dice you randomly grab, and then you have to be lucky with what side of the die you roll. Every die has a 1 in 3 chance of simply becoming money each round, meaning that expensive quake dragon you bought might never become anything more than a glorified silver coin. There are plenty of re-roll effects in the game to mitigate this but it still stands that the “perfect” mix of dice will still lose to a generic pool of “bad” dice with a decent amount of frequency.
The expansion includes a set of advanced rules to prevent the kinds of short, one-sided games this luck tends to generate by making you give up your powerful dice to score them. This makes runaway victor situations less likely. I don’t think I’ll be playing the game without the advanced rules anymore. It just lets more players get a chance to have a big turn, kill every else’s creatures and score a ton of points.
All in all, if you like rolling tons of dice and you don’t mind having your analytical ego bruised by a bad streak of rolls, I totally recommend grabbing a copy.
Lords of Waterdeep – One of the newer entries in Wizards of the Coast’sÂ series of board games stands to be one of the most refreshing. I only have two plays of the game but it’s a very competent worker placement game, a type of game where players have limited actions that they must share amongst the other players.
What’s so refreshing about the game is the speed at which it plays. Both plays of this game were with the full complement of five players and played extremely briskly, rules explanations not withstanding. This game fills the same slot in a collectionÂ as Stone Age, the light worker placement game, which means it’s a great way to get into playing the dense Euro style board games without the 40 page rulebook and 4 hour playtime.
Conquest of Nerath – I barely count this as played; we attempted to learn the rules to the game and ended up cutting short of finishing. (Sometimes you have to do this just to make the game fit into a future session.) The game does a great job of sprucing up the conventions of a Risk-style strategy game. The D&D flavor certainly adds a lot even if you aren’t with the particular plane of the D&D universe this inhabits.
We didn’t get to even get to the short game goal but it was nice of the game designer to includeÂ a short and long version. I could see this hitting the table soon for a full game with the right players around.
Sidenote: both Conquest of Nerath and Lords of Waterdeep feature brilliantly designed box inserts, which you might not appreciate if you don’t have a board game collection. However, the amount of time saved by these inserts is incredibly noticeable!
Tournay – You can file this game in the “first play impression” category, as well. Tournay is the follow up to the popular title Troyes that I’ve played 20+ times online (but only once with the physical copy I clamored to purchase). (No, I’m not bitter at all…) It’s not the same type of game; Troyes is a dice-based worker placement game, while Tournay is a card-based worker placement game. Tournay has a lot of the same flavor of its older brother, but it plays in 30-45 minute sessions (after you learn the game, which took us almost 2 hours).
It also includes the same sweet medieval art style as Troyes, which is a total plus for me because it’s so different than the same old 17th century hand-drawn map style that most games have. I’ll look to sneak this onto the table soon just because it’s got such a short theoretical play time, and I should be much more capable of explaining the game having a play under my belt.
Ora et Labora – I didn’t get to finish the learning play-through of Ora either, but I knew the moment I read the rules for the game that it was right up my alley. It’s the direct middle point between the designer’s two most popular games: Agricola and Le Havre. It skews more towards the latter, which is my favorite of the two, and I couldn’t be happier.
The giant rondel that is the focus of the game streamlines the most fiddly part of Le Havre: the constant refilling of all the piles of goods. Instead, you rotate the dial of goods and adjust the amount of resources available for all goods at the same time. Brilliant!
The player boards that you build throughout the game are more reminiscent of the farm you construct in Agricola. The availability of expansion and different building combinations makes this version more compelling to me, since you aren’t struggling to merely get by like in Agricola or Le Havre. Instead, you are building towards the end game.
Some of the people playing interpreted this open-endedness as aimlessness, which could certainly be how this game may feel to some. Most likely, your feelings about Le Havre will be similar to Ora et Labora, so only grab this if you’re a fan of Uwe Rosenburg’s prior games.