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.
Why have GenCon 50 thoughts nearly a month after the convention? Because it was my first GenCon and yeah, it does take a while to process and think about everything that I saw and then to ruminate on things that other people (bloggers) have talked about and maybe about things that aren’t always so obvious.
I’m a convention veteran: but not necessarily with boardgames. Comic books, anime: those are the conventions I’ve gone to, but last year was Origins and this year was GenCon, and one of the coolest things about flying into Indianapolis? Having the convention greet you at the airport.
This is the view as you descend down to the baggage claim from the terminal.
And as you wait for you flight out? Here’s a table to play a game.
Cool. Unless of course your flight is delayed and you barely made your connection in Denver to get back home in time to make it work and school the next day…
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.
designed by Satoshi Nakamura, published by Z-Man Games
Card-drafting? Set collection? Cool anime inspired fantasy art? All plusses, adding up to a neat little game that plays quickly with some neat strategies with the different card effects. Each round, players will get five cards, and then draft five cards. With their new hands of five cards, players will play cards one at a time in front of them, but they only have to play three. Cards are played for points, but some powerful cards will cause cards to flip. Flipped cards don’t score in the endgame, which occurs after four drafting and four playing phases. The key to the game is drafting scoring combos: some cards are “friendly” with other cards and require them to score, while others require a majority or type. Lots of scoring options transforms this into a next level “Sushi Go.” And watching players misread the text is always a hoot.
Multiple scoring options and wide variety of card effects really makes this a next-level card-drafting game. The visual style is a bonus. Well, for fans of anime maybe.
One Line Verdict: Don’t hesitate to enter into this gorgeous fantasy realm and leave the Sushi (Go) behind!
Save your organs from horrifying Afflictions all the while spreading illness and disease to your opponents in this medically-themed cardgame based on the Awkward Yeti webcomics. Players get three or four different organs in front of them, ranging from such as well known ones as the Brain and the Heart to lesser known ones like the Spleen or the Pancreas. Luckily, each card is delightfully, humorously, and factually illustrated with original art by the makers of Awkward Yeti. Players will take turns playing Affliction cards against their opponent’s organs: specific Afflictions will affect specific organs or use Wild cards to affect any organ. Two Afflictions, and an organ is destroyed and you’re one turn closer to losing. Mix the game up with Immunity Boosts and Necrosis and other actions cards that both help and hinder. Last person with organs left wins! Just like in real life.
Specific Afflictions affecting only specific organs sometimes make you feel like you don’t have many choices, and the Sedate and Vaccination cards which either takes a player out or defends a player for two turns seems to allow the players using them a little too much sway over the game. And everyone else begging not to be attacked.
One Line Verdict: A little like “Munchkin” in its “take that” elements, only shorter, with less strategy, and more educational. Finally find out with a spleen actually does!
“Survive! Escape from Atlantis!” – 30th Anniversary Edition
designed by Julian Courtland Smith, published by Stronghold Games
Escape from the sinking island of Atlantis by putting your 10 survivors on boats while sending sharks, whales, and the dreaded sea serpent to your enemies. Each turn you move your hapless survivors off of the sinking island of Atlantis and closer to safe isles, either on a boat, or through an achingly slow swim. Then you draw a tile as the island “sinks.” Maybe a shark or whale or appear, or even a boat, or you can get a tile you can use later to speed your progress or impede your opponents by moving the whales or sharks out of your path and into theirs. Finally, roll the dice to move the shark to eat unfortunate swimmers, the whale to wreck their boats, or the dreaded sea serpent to devour both boats and swimmers. The game ends when the volcano tile is turned over and everything on the board is destroyed. Add up the points of the survivors on the safe isles, highest total points wins.
All kinds of fun as you try to maneuver your survivors onto boats while trying to avoid the beasties the other players are sending towards you. Special tiles give you special powers and adds a fine strategic element to the game. Lots of “take that” as you sink boats, eat swimmers, and watch people get sucked into whirlpools. And laugh at your own feeble attempts at sabotage that ends helping the other players: as in, “ha, fall into the water, and, oh, here’s a boat.”
One Line Verdict: Pay a visit to this particular tropical paradise. Just make sure you catch the first boat leaving.
designed by Koto Nakayama, published by Quick Simple Fun Games
Journey to the mysterious geisha district of Edo in this gorgeously illustrated two-player card game. Seven geishas are lined up between the players, valued between 1 to 7. Each geisha is lured by a specific element: maybe a flute or a fan or some other appropriate item. Players take turns taking one of four actions: saving a card from their hand, discarding two cards from their hand, or more importantly, placing cards matching each geisha to influence her to your side. Two actions let you place cards, but the catch is, they also let your opponent place cards from your hand! Players take turns until they each perform all four actions, and then scoring takes place. Players will lure the geisha if they have the most cards featuring that item on their side of the table. Whoever has either four geishas or 11 points in geisha value wins. If not, repeat until a winner is determined!
With so few actions and the “I split, you choose” mechanism, the gameplay is very tight and strategic. You have to make difficult decisions almost every round trying to anticipate what your opponent will do. Except for a little vagueness in the end of round rules, this is a thrilling little game in a small box.
One Line Verdict: Take this particular trip to the mysterious and ancient Orient and spend some time with these pretty ladies.
Race to build the grandest pyramid for the dying pharaoh in this small box game from Japan’s Oink Games. Each round, a lead builder will roll the dice allowing players, one at a time, to draft different shapes in order to build their pyramid. Choose from a rectangle, a big triangle, a little triangle, and a square in order to complete your pyramid, from base to capstones and following the rules for laying tiles But be careful, the square also represents the pharaoh’s life, and if you take the last square, you automatically lose the game for killing the pharaoh. Likewise, make sure you actually complete your pyramid before the pharaoh’s life runs out. The player who scores the most points (length of pyramid x height of pyramid – the number of capstones) wins and has the honor of having a moldy, dessicated mummy reside in their grand creation.
A potentially simple and elegant tile-laying game is hampered unclear scoring rules for the endgame. The definition of different legal placements for the tiles feels unclear at times and turned the game from strategic tile-laying into, “I don’t think that counts as legal” arguments. Sometimes less means more, but here less just led to confusing. And definitely one of the most brutal instant lose conditions out there.
One Line Verdict: Great concept with flawed execution; leave this one buried in the desert sands.