“The Oracle of Delphi”
designed by Stefan Feld, published by Tasty Minstrel Games
Race around the Mediterranean to be the first to complete the tasks assigned to you by the gods! Build your course with a wonky modular board and that still oddly creates a challenging course for you to navigate your ships. Be the first to complete the myriad tasks set before you: pick up some statues or other material and move it to another place or erect each of your temples on designated items. You will have different randomly determined objectives each game. To accomplish these tasks, each round you roll your three action dice. The color of dice determine the types of actions you take: maybe you can move to a green space (up to three) with your green die, or pick up a green statue or investigate a green space. Or you can you use favor tokens to advance the die to a different color on your action rondel. Earn god powers along the way and recruit heroes to give you some game-breaking power to be the first to complete all your tasks and race back to Zeus and be crowned winner! Or come in a close second in a race of inches as much as feet.
At last, a Stefan Feld game that ISN’T a point salad. Clever use of a dice color system that is both random enough and elegant enough that even new players catch on quickly after a turn or two. Lots of components and a daunting set-up, but a game that plays silky smooth and moves quickly from turn to turn.
One Line Verdict: Not quite the future of gaming, but drop in on the Oracle for a quick spin.
designed by Bruno Faidutti, published by Stronghold Games
Be the first brave explorer to find the mysterious lost temple in this role-selection game! Each round, players will choose one native from a common pool to help you move spaces on the jungle board towards the temple. Each native will grant the player special powers that may change the player position or steal from another player or allow her to pay gems to move a certain number of spaces. Players take turns according the number order of the card they chose (from 1 to 9) by taking one gem from the supply and then playing the card they chose and executing the special power on that card. End your movement on chance spaces and have something good (more gems or extra steps!) or something bad (lose gems, go backwards, or drop a machete) happen to you. Cut your way past deep jungle spots with machetes and cackle as you steal away someone else’s gems or weep as you are moved from first to last by the Shaman.
So, yes, it’s basically “Citadels,” but not as mean. By turning the game into race on the board rather than building a tableau, this games feels both different and more dynamic. The chance spaces on the board adds a fun random element while the deep jungle spaces provide an interesting additional challenge. The choice of cards even make thematic sense as you are engaging the help of the natives you move through the jungle.
One Line Verdict: This particular jungle is worth exploring.
(Check out the review for Citadels here)
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.
“The Heroes of Kaskaria”
designed by Benjamin Schwer, published by HABA
The evil trolls have stolen the Golden Amulet of the Kingdom of Kaskaria! Race on your cliff jumper and scaled griffin to retrieve this valuable treasure! On their turn, players will either draw a card or play two or more cards of the same color to advance their pieces, collect gold, or to add cards to their hand. The first player to arrive at the nest and recover the amulet ends the game, but gold is earned for being furthest along either the cliff jumper track or the scaled griffin track. Whoever has the most gold from collecting it along the way or placing wins! Did I mention this was a HABA kid’s game? My six year-old won and she liked it!
Enough gameplay options to both challenge the kids AND keep the adults in the game without them having to hold back. But with so many colors, it’s sometimes hard to figure out which colors actually match.