designed by Peter Mariutto , published by Freshwater Game Company
[Note: this is a prototype submitted to the reviewer by the publisher in advance of their Kickstarter campaign, which can be found here].
Players: 2-6; Playing Time: 30 min.; Good for: Abstract game fans, people who like bright colors
Outwit your opponent in this duel to make the world’s ugliest checkerboard. Well, actually, to score the most points by laying down tiles to form different patterns on the board. Tiles feature four colors, two different colors on each side, and players take turns placing tiles on the board. The only rule is that matching colors cannot be put next to each other (basically opposite dominoes). Players thus use these orthogonal placements to form patterns simple patterns like “the line” and “the x” or more complex patterns like the “big w” to score points for the shape in that color, as well as bonus points. The game ends when the last tile is placed and the person with the most scoring cards wins! Or you simply go color-blind from all those colors on the board…you can do that too.
Like other games of this type, the key is figuring out the best placement that will allow you to score points but to prevent setting up your opponent. The fact that the tiles are double-sided with different colors AND that you can put tiles on top of previously placed tiles allows for some brain burning strategies. But getting a cascade of different shapes when scoring points can be pretty satisfying. But with so many choices, it can also promote some crippling tunnel vision.
One Line Verdict: Abstract fans will probably enjoy this, but if you struggle with too many choices, you might want to stick with Qwirkle.
Review by Paul
“Thurn and Taxis”
designed by Andres Seyfarth & Karen Seyfarth, published by Rio Grande Games
Players: 2-4; Playing Time: 60 Min; Good for: Mailmen, Eurogamers, and fans of “Ticket to Ride”
Return to the thrilling days of yesteryear as you compete to build the finest postal system in Bavaria and its surrounding regions! Each round, you must draw a card showing one of the cities on the board. Then, you must play a card down in front of you to either continue a route you already started, or if the city doesn’t link to your current route, discard that route and start a new one. Finally, you can score your current route by placing a postal house on the cities in that route: either a house in every city in one province, or a house in one city in every province the route passes through (more complicated than it sounds). Score point chits for building in all the cities in a province, or having one city in all provinces, or having routes of different lengths. Finally, collect carriages for building longer and longer routes. When the level 7 carriage is built or when a player uses up all his postal houses, the game ends, making sure all the players take an equal number of turns. Add up all the points scored from the bonus chits and carriage, minus the number of remaining cities, highest score dominates Bavaria and the mail!
It’s like a next level “Ticket to Ride” with the card-play driven route building, but with easily the most esoteric theme in all boardgaming. The Bavarian postal system in the 16th century? C’mon? Really? However, the press-your-luck aspects of building the route and chasing your opponents for the points makes for difficult decisions and tight gameplay: do I try for the longer routes to end the game, or the quick short routes to maximize points? Choose wisely, but still lose by two points. Ugh.
One Line Verdict: Push past the theme and pick up this great little gateway to complete your Spiel des Jahres collection. After all, when you control the mail…
designed by Michael Kiesling & Wolfgang Kramer, published by HABA Games
Defend the kingdom from the rampaging fog creatures by collecting swords, magical herbs, gold, and bold companions, lots and lots of bold companions! Everyone starts with their 8-10 (depending on the number of players) on the top left corner of the board. Each turn, each player will draw two cards that will direct them to place one of the items (sword, herb, companion, gold, or fog monster) by grid coordinate (A-K, 1-10) on the board. Then players have two moves. They can move one adventurer twice, or two adventurers once. Here’s the catch: players can move their adventurers any distance down or to the right on the board, but they can’t move up or to the left. In other words, everyone heads inevitably to the bottom right of the board. Once an adventurer stops in a space, he will pick up the item in that space: swords and herbs help in combat, gold scores points at the end of the game, and companions will join the player’s meeple, forming a party that moves with that adventurer, making it easier to fight monsters along the way. Or he’ll fight a fog monster! Once the companions and swords run out, the game ends, and scoring begins!
Three different scenarios offer different scoring and different strategies, giving this game lots of different strategies, with the first scenario easy enough for kids, and the last is a clever area control game. Even though the same objects will always appear on the same space, the order that they appear is random from game to game and thus forces interesting strategic decisions, especially since your adventurers can’t go back or up once they pass a space. But invariably, someone just gets a massive army of dudes that end up chilling in the castle at the lower right of the board.
One Line Verdict: Gather your friends, the grand adventure awaits!
Review by Paul
designed by Rüdiger Dorn, published by HABA
Be the first brave explorer to find the mysterious lost temple in this…wait didn’t I already write this review? Oh, but this is a tile-laying game and there are multiple temples to get to. Race your explorers to their matching temples in this clever little tile-laying game that feels a bit like bingo. One player places her stack of tiles face down, and each turns draws a tile and calls out the number of the tile drawn. The other players find that tile, and everyone places the same tile somewhere, anywhere on their own personal game board. Or, players can discard that tile to move an explorer a number of tile spaces they’ve already played on the board equal to the number of road spaces that lead off the tile. Score points to be the first to lead your explorer to each of the temples, or by picking up diamonds gold nuggets that appear on certain tiles. The person with the most points when the tiles run out wins!
In essence, everyone has the same tile to place and their explorers and temples are start in the same place, but the real strategy shows up when you decide what to do with tile: do you place it down to build your path? Or do you discard it to move? Or do you keep it for the gold, even though it gives you good movement? Simple gameplay and lots of choices makes this a great family game.
One Line Verdict: Yet another trip into a jungle? But a different one with new scenery. Grab your hat and go already!
Review by fasttrackxf
designed by Richard James, published by AEG
You are all traders attempting to load all your goods onto one poor camel. The camel has a load limit of fifty and players will take turns playing one card, either adding or subtracting from the total load. Some cards, like Furniture will add 9 to the total, but the Flying Carpet will subtract anywhere from 2 or 9! Whoever plays the card that pushes the camel’s load over fifty breaks the camels back and gets nothing while all OTHER players will score the point values of the cards remaining in their hands. Except, if you play the Straw card. If the load is exactly fifty and you play the literal Straw that breaks the camel back, only you get points for that round and everyone else gets nothing! High score wins after playing as many rounds as there are players!
While the Straw card adds a nice bit of thematic strategy, the rest of the game turns into holding on to your high point value cards and only playing the bad cards (either 0 or negative points), causing the load to rise very, very slowly at times, much to the chagrin of the more impatient players in the group.
One Line Verdict: Not quite straw into gold, as the game turns to tedium pretty quickly.
“Lanterns: The Harvest Festival”
designed by Christopher Chung, published by Renegade Game Studios
Create beautiful floating lantern displays and win the favor of the Emperor in this gorgeous tile-laying game. Players start with three lake tiles in their hand. You collect lantern cards as you lay the multi-colored tiles around the lake. Each player will collect a lantern card that matches the direction that they are seated around the table. Earn bonus cards by matching lanterns of the same color to tiles already on the table. Score points by dedications: turning in lanterns in different sets (four of kind, three different pairs, or one of each color) at the beginning of your turn. Earn favor tokens by placing lake tiles next to special platforms on some tiles, and use those tokens to trade in lantern cards for the colors that you will need. The player with the most points from dedication tiles after all the tiles are placed wins!
Tricky tile-laying strategies as you try to maximize the cards you get while avoiding giving your opponents the cards they need as well. Time your actions carefully, as you can only score points at the beginning of the round with your dedications, and the amount of points you earn from dedications decrease with each dedication. Another game of seemingly great beauty and serenity that ends up in cut-throat action as you watch your opponent invariably dedicate one turn before you can.
One Line Verdict: Simple and elegant gameplay allow for complex strategies in this beautiful game.
designed by Steffen Bogen, published by Z-Man Games
Can a game about racing cartoon animals around a pyramid and then betting on what is basically a randomly determined result really be a Spiel des Jahres winner? As it turns out, yes. On your turn take one of several options: bet on the winner of a leg, try to sneakily influence the movement of the camels by placing a desert tile in their path, bet on the OVERALL winner or loser of the race, or move a camel randomly by pulling a die out of the pyramid. The camel matching the color of the die that appears from the pyramid will move that many spaces around the track. But, if a camel ends his turn on another camel, he will create a stack of camels, and the whole stack moves together, creating an insane image of a pile of camels moving around a track. After all five camels have moved, winnings are collected by according to the betting tiles, and the next leg begins!
Great movement mechanic that keeps the game tense and picking up betting tiles really amps up the excitement in a sort of chunky, fun way. But it really is about playing the odds and understanding how the camels will move.
One Line Verdict: If you hate randomness, avoid this game like the plague. All other will have some light, gateway fun cheering, and guessing, and betting.