Quick Impressions: Post GenCon part 4

This is the last of my post GenCon acquisition. There was just so many new games that made their way into my collection around that time frame that what started as being just a series of very quick impressions about them turned into a 4 part series. Either I got too many games during that time or I’m just not fast enough…

Keep in mind that this post is just that: quick impressions. This is often after having read the rules and pushed some pieces around, and in some cases getting one play in. I don’t consider that enough to be able to fairly evaluate a game so please keep this in mind. My opinion about these games is likely to change as I get them to the table a few more time.

Enough small talk, let’s talk about new games!

BurgooBurgoo (Tasty Minstrel Games) by Dan Manfredini: A small, micro game about making a community stew (heck, it even comes with the recipe for that stew!). The game was originally going to be release with a 16 cubes in 6 different colors, but got changed due to a stretch goal during the Kickstarter campaign, coming with 96 tiles instead of cubes. I think I would have rather have the cubes (or even better, veggie meeples), but the tiles at least help with the theme.

Burgoo is very minimalist as far as materials is concerned and could easily live in your bag or your desk drawer at work. It comes with a rule sheet along with the 96 tiles, which represent 6 types of veggies. The aim of the game is to have more ingredients left over in your hand when the stew is complete. Chefs will start with 2 of each types of ingredient randomly arranged in a line in front of them, with one end towards them and the other towards the middle of the table. They will also start with one of each ingredient in their hand. On their turn, they will add ingredients to the stew, sample the stew or split their line of ingredients. By doing these actions, they will not only get rid of the line of ingredients (thus ending the game), but gain new ingredients from the burgoo as well.

A very simple, short game with what look like interesting decisions. With the right group, could be lots of fun.

OrtusOrtus (Fablesmith) by Joost Das: I love a good 2 player abstract game and, while Ortus has a Japanese theme, it’s pretty much an abstract. I backed this when it first came on to Kickstarter and was very much intrigued. Having the rulebook on the KS page helped greatly as well as the promise of delivering the game fairly soon after the campaign ending. As the campaign progressed, a digital version was announced. Like many KS campaign, the game was almost a year late and the digital version is still not out (although it should be out soon). Didn’t help that my copy got lost in the mail, although in all fairness, Fablesmith acted promptly when made aware of this.

What is Ortus? It is a game where you are either trying to control the five wells that are placed in the playing field or bring your Guide to the center of the arena. Each player has 2 of each of 4 different types of warriors (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water), which not only move differently but also have different types of attack. In a clever twist, the players get energy at the start of their turn which they use to bring back warriors and maneuvering them in the arena, but they can keep some of this energy to defend against attacks during the other player’s turn. The game is fairly simple, with two levels of difficulty (the first has simplified movement/attack rules and the advanced has full rules with different abilities for each type of warrior) and a short, clear rulebook. However, the standard saying of “easy to learn, hard to master” might just apply in this case as the movements and attacks of the different pieces are quite different.

The game looks good, even if it requires a certain amount of assembly (the playing pieces come in three parts, requiring a bit of wood glue to put them together) and should be great fun. More details when I get a few games in.

Coup: ReformationCoup: Reformation (Indie Boards and Cards) by Rikki Tahta: the expansion to the great bluffing game Coup, this box adds enough cards to allow the game to play up to 10 players. The meat of this expansion however is the Reformation mechanics, which makes the player declare their allegiance to either the Catholic or Protestant factions. While both factions are around, you cannot attack another member of your faction. However, you can always, by making a small donation, switch camp, allowing you to attack an old friend. Of course, if one of the two camps is ever eliminated completely, the infighting will resume and players will be able to attack each other openly.  There is also a new role, the Inquisitor, which replaces the Ambassador and adds some additional wrinkles.

Very simple mechanics that nonetheless seem to add a nice new layer to an already excellent bluffing game. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a 10 player game going, but the faction rules look more than worth the price of this expansion.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co.Great Heartland Hauling Co. (Dice Hate Me Games) by Jason Kotarski: I’ve been hearing about the Great Heartland Hauling Co. as being a nice, simple implementation of a pick-up-and-deliver game, but that nonetheless had some meat on its bones and when Dice Hate Me Games offered it as an add-on (along with the Badlands expansion) during their Kickstarter campaign for Belle of the Ball, I jumped at the chance. The game comes in a little box, with just a short rulebook, about 100 cards and some wooden tokens. The components are very nice, with a very bright color palette which helps underline the family-friendly vibe of the game. With rules explanations, the game can probably be played in an hour or so.

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. is a card-based pick-up-and-delivery game. As such, all actions that the player needs to take on their turn will involve playing one or several cards. At the start of their turn, players will have to either use fuel cards to move their trucks or failing that, pay victory points to move at least one card (the map of the game is made up of cards, ensuring a different map each time the game is played). Once on a new card location, playing matching set of cards allows the player to pick up matching goods onto their truck or drop said goods if there is demand on that card for this type of goods. Failing that, the player can simply discard some cards. Last thing, players draw up their hand from either the 3 face up cards or from the top of the draw deck. Game ends when a player a specified amount of cash. Everyone gets one more go and points are counted.

From the rules, this feels like a nice pick-up-and-deliver game with some good hand management thrown in. Not too complex, it should be a hit with regular game players as well as those who don’t play many games.

CarnivalCarnival (Dice Hate Me Games) by Cherilyn Joy Lee Kirkman: Another one of the games that were offered as add-ons during the Belle of the Ball Kickstarter, it comes again in the same size box as Belle and as Great Heartland, which makes it a perfect companion when you want to bring several games to game night. It shares the same nice, clean graphic design as the other games as well as a short, clear rulebook. The biggest difference is that while it is a card game, this time it uses dice as well which dictate what you can and can’t do on your turn. I’m a little disappointed that the theme doesn’t come across more strongly in the mechanics, but I’ve yet to see a game that really brings out the carnival/traveling circus theme across.

The aim of the game is to be the first player to build 4 out of the 5 attraction at their carnival. Each of the attractions is made up of 4 different parts, represented by cards. On their turn, players have to choices: either discard a number of cards from their hand, drawing back the same number from the draw pile; or roll 3 dice, choosing 2 and performing the actions dictated by them. Actions include either drawing cards from the draw deck or the discard pile; stealing cards from another players hand or trading cards with them; or taking cards from their unfinished attractions or trading unfinished attractions. Once this is done, you can play any cards to unfinished attractions or start new ones by playing at least two different parts of the same attraction. Any attractions that are complete are turned over and are immune from the meddling of other players. You can also get tickets for completing rides which allow you to re-roll dice, add/subtract one to any rolled dice or block another player from doing an action.

Again, this might not be the deepest game, but it looks like it can have some fun interaction and while there is a certain amount of luck with the dice, they do not seem to be central to a winning strategy. It should make either a good starter or a good closer when a heavier game is played.

Templar IntrigueTemplar Intrigue (Tasty Minstrel Games) by Michael Mindes:  Another game that is part of the Tasty Minstrel micro-game explosion, Templar Intrigue is a social deduction game. I hesitated at first since it only plays at 7 to 10 players, which is a very high player count, but the cost and the theme drew me in. After all, at $5, even if I played only once or twice, it would still be worth it. This is a very small micro, with the entire game being made up of 10 cards and a rule sheet. It plays in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how long you make the discussion phases.

In Templar Intrigue, players take on the role of either King Philip and his men or of Templars. The goal of the Templars is to protect their Grandmaster, who King Philip is trying to find. Unlike most social deduction games, the players know what team they are on at the start of the game, but they do not know what exact role they have. Each side has 3 different roles: on the Templar side, there is the Grandmaster, the Archivist (who is a traitor and works for Philip) and 3 Knight Templars (ordinary schmoes); on the other side you have King Philip; 2 Templar Traitors and 2 Benidictine Monks. Give a card to all players and place them face down in front of them. The King identifies themselves to all other players and then, in secret, the Templars tell each other who is the Grandmaster, followed by the Grandmaster and the Archivist identifying each other. To start the round, King Philip picks one of his Monks to be his Inquisitor who will investigate (look at the card of) one of the players, reporting back to the King without showing the card. Discussion ensues, after which the King may chose a different Monk to be his Inquisitor. When the King has decided that enough information has been gathered or there are no more Monks to be sent, the King then has to identify both the Grandmaster and the Archivist. Guess correctly and all who are loyal to King Philips get a victory point. Fail and all the Templars get a victory point. If someone has scored 3 points, the game is over and all who have the same allegiance win.

This is a fairly short, fairly quick social game. The player count will mean that it will be hard to bring to the table, mostly because even if it says 7 players minimum, it really feels that you need the full 10 players in order for the game to be interesting. Since the number of Inquisitors you can send out is limited by the number of Monks that are present, having only 7 players mean that you’ll only send out 2 Inquisitions, with one of them being done by a traitor. Should be fun, but we shall see.

Ars VictorArs Victor (Trip West Games) by Stephen DeBaun : I’m always curious and intrigued when new, simple skirmish/tactical games are released, even more when they claim that they are easy to play and learn. Ars Victor not only claims this but also that any given game could be played inside of an hour. Quite bold, indeed. I ended up backing it on Kickstarter mostly because the designer was not only enthusiastic about his game but he seemed to have long term plan as far as where he wanted to take the game. As always, having the rules and a free print-and-play version helps convince players that you have a solid product with some new ideas. Although the game was late in delivery (not surprising for a Kickstarter) and that there were issues in getting it outside of the US (non-US backers like yours truly got it over a month later), I can say that I really like what I’ve seen so far.

The core of the game is solid, straightforward tactics game. Players start with building the battlefield and then using their 80 points to purchase their units. Any points left over will be the player’s Glory points, which are a kind of reverse victory points. Lose a unit during the fight and lose the unit’s cost in Glory points. Should you reach zero, you lose the game. Note that you can also “bleed” the other player of Glory by occupying key hexes at the start of of your turn as well as having your HQ on the map when the other player doesn’t. Each player has a deck of 24 cards, broken down into 4 suits in 2 different colors, with a number of activation going from 2 to 7. On your turn, you play one card from your hand of 5, using the activation points to either move (cost of 1) or attack (cost of 2). Pay 1 more activation point to move a unit of the same color but different suit. Which suits belong to which unit is up to the player since this is determined when the unit is brought onto the battlefield. All the info for each unit is on the counter and the game is fairly straightforward, with the designer always opting for the simplest solution for any given situation. For example, while there are Zone of Controls, they are simplified in that units that start their turn next to an enemy unit cannot move away. Simple, clean, fast.

I’ve had the chance to play once so far and the game does deliver on the promise of an engaging skirmish in an hour, and this even with some rules explanation. There seems to be some depth to the game, encouraging the player to carefully consider the terrain and the units they will field as well as being careful as to how they engage. Even a simple decision like what suit to associate to a unit is a big decision since being able to synchronize specific units is important. The material is really nicely done, with big terrain boards, very oversized unit pieces but… the art is atrocious, which is a shame. I wouldn’t be surprised that people who might enjoy this game would pass it up simply because of the art. A review of this surprisingly good game is coming, once I’ve got a few more games in.

Race to the RhineRace to the Rhine (Phalanx Games) by Jaro Andruszkiewicz and Waldek Gumienny: I don’t own many 3 player games. Not games that can be played by 3 players but rather games that are specifically designed to be played by 3 players. Of all the 700 odd games that I own, I have exactly 4 (Cosmic Eidex, the excellent End of the Triumvirate, the under appreciated Trieste and Suspense) and with Race to the Rhine, I now own 5. I guess the main reason people don’t design games for 3 players is that they are a very tricky beast to design. Most of the time, a 3-player game devolves into a 2 versus 1 game until one player is bumped off, at which time the game becomes a 1 versus 1 game.

Race to the Rhine attempts making a war-themed game into a 3 player race: which of the 3 generals (Patton, Montgomery or Bradley) will make it to the Rhine and thus claim to be the one who finally defeated Germany. While the theme here is that of war, it is more a game that is concerned with logistics since you’ll need transports, fuel and ammo in order to keep on going towards Germany. It’s not an easy tasks and to make matters worse, each general plays slightly differently, drawing from a different deck of action cards and having a different path that they must follow.

The game looks quite interesting and while it provides rules for both solitaire and head to head play, I’ve heard many claim that the only real way to play this game is with 3 players only. Maybe I can call for a special 3 player evening… after all, I do own 5 3 player games now…

Whew, that’s it for all the games that have come in in August/beginning of September. I’ve slowed down a bit as far as getting new games (I really should stop completely, but there’s new games to be had and… well, I must get them). The next few blog posts should return to reviews so, until then…

Happy Gaming!


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