Played in April 2015

April was a good month. I played some older games for the first time, some newish games that I wanted to play for a while and an old favourite. There were some successes and some misses and I’ll give you a short description of some of them below.

Colt Express

Fighting each other on a moving train, punching, shooting and stealing valuables in western style, that’s what it is. That’s what you do in Colt Express. The game looks great with the 3-D train and the other thematic props you can place around the train to decorate your gaming table. It was incredibly hyped during last year’s Spiel, so I was glad to, finally, be able to give it a shot and see what it was all about. The goal of the game is to get as much money as you can, while everybody around you try to move trough the train or on top of it, you will be fighting your opponents and grabbing loot. You play movement or action cards onto a pile and at the end of the round, one after the other, the cards are executed. This, sort of, programmable movement makes this game very chaotic, but it’s kind of fun. It’s almost a party game, really, just punch your friends and have a laugh.

I don’t think it’s a great game, but it was fun for that one time and I play it again when someone asks. However it’s not a game I will seek out myself.

San Marco

An older area control game from Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum. I had not played it before, but it was pretty fun. Every player tries to gain influence in several districts in Venice.

I like the mechanic where one player divides the action and limit cards into several stacks and the other players have first pick in choosing a nice and useful stack of cards. With the action cards you can add cubes to the board, place bridges between districts, exchange an opponent’s cube with one of your own, remove cubes from a specific region or move the Doge to score a district. The limit cards, value one to three, just tells you when a game ends. If more than one player has ten limit points, the round ends immediately and if only one player has ten limit points, the other players have one extra turn and then the round ends.

After three rounds, the game ends and all district are scored.

I played the game with three player, so it’s a bit different from a four player game. The three player game was just very fun. It’s dynamic, there’s player interaction and the rules are pretty simple too. A good one.

Caylus

Oh, this is a great game. I already knew that, but every time I play it my positive opinion about it is confirmed. This time I played it with five players, which I find a bit too much to be honest, it takes a bit too long.  I like it best with three or four players.

Is it THE worker placement game? The one that started it all? I don’t know, but what I do know is that, although the game is ten years old, it doesn’t feel that way. You build buildings, gather resources, help to build the castle and get favours by doing so. The provost is a fun mechanism, you can move him forwards or backwards to activate or deactivate buildings that other players wanted to use and make the game go slower or faster. You have to think about a lot of stuff to be successful in this game and that makes it one of my favourite worker placement games.

I also play the iOS version quite a lot. It’s not as fun as real life board gaming, but it helps to scratch an itch.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

This is another game that got and still gets a lot of attention and hype. I’m not a zombie kind of guy, but the fact that so many people seem to like the game and the mechanisms themselves made me curious. The whole idea of the game is that you are survivors in small town and zombies attack or flood the whole area and you just have to stay alive. Everyone has a secret personal goal and you all have to work together to win the game, but every player has to succeed in their own mission to actually become a winner. There is a chance that there’s a traitor among the survivors, he or she obviously doesn’t want the group to be successful.

I played the game with four players and we even set the mood with a special zombie, post-apocalyptic, soundtrack and real survivor food, like cocktail snacks and tea. Oh yeah, we were prepared.

But I must say that it was one of the most boring gaming experiences in a long while. The hyped crossroad cards did not work at all. Most of them did not activate and the ones that did where far from interesting and so, the story elements, where everyone was so excited about, were not there at all. Also, there was a traitor in our midst, but he was fairly quickly exposed and I know that is not a fault of the game, but when the crossroad cards fail and the traitor element is out of the picture, Dead of Winter becomes a very basic game. Empty almost, like the mind of a zombie.

I do think that de game has some interesting elements, there’s a tiny piece of brain left. The individual goals you get at the start of the game make this a different kind of cooperative game than many others. So, there is something positive here, but, overall, I don’t think Dead of Winter was a big success.

Web of Power

Again an older, area control, game. From Michael Schacht this time. All the player vie for power in several regions of Europe by placing monasteries and advisors in those regions. With monasteries you try to secure a majority in a region and you can create a chain of monasteries to get extra points.

Advisors work a bit differently. In every region there can be as much advisors as the amount of monasteries the player with the majority of monasteries has. You place those two by playing region cards from your hand, you have three cards per turn, and after the draw pile is empty you get points for your monasteries and the second time the draw pile is empty, you get points for monasteries and advisors and after that, the game ends.

I found this game fun, but if I must compare it to the other area control game I played this month, San Marco, I must say I like that one a little better.

Web of Power plays a bit faster, but is also a bit more complicated with the two different ways of scoring majorities. Although it’s fifteen years old, it’s still a good and fun game and I’m glad I’ve played it.

Las Vegas

Next up is a very light family game called Las Vegas. You have six casino’s, each with a number, and every player gets eight dice in his colour. At the start of a round you draw money cards from the draw pile until there’s fifty thousand dollar or more per casino. So, there can be one or more money cards at one casino.

At you turn you must roll all your dice and then you have to pick one number and place all the dice with that number on the matching casino. You do that every turn, roll your dice and place the dice of one number, until you have no more dice to place. Then you check every casino if players have the same amount of dice. If so, all their dice are removed from that casino. Otherwise, when one player has the majority, she gets the money card with the highest value and the second best player gets the second highest card and so on. You do this for four rounds and after the fourth round you check which player has the most money and that player is the winner.

Easy, easy, easy. Las Vegas is just a very simple, very easy game and a quick game too. You can play it with five players and it’s a perfect filler game. It will not melt your brain, it is far from innovative, but it’s just fun, for once in while.

Camel Up

The last game I would like to discus briefly is Camel Up, the 2014 Spiel des Jahres winner. I played it for the first time about a year ago. I was not interested at all, but well, it won the Spiel des Jahres, so I had to give it a go. It was a massively underwhelming experience. I couldn’t see why they’ve chosen it as the winner. I was also very unimpressed by Splendor,  I found it just an OK game, so maybe it was just a bad year for me, SdJ-wise. Well, I got a chance to play it again and, although I still don’t find it SdJ material, it is almost too simple, I can appreciate its simplicity a bit more now. I can see why people would like it and I even thought the second game was quite fun myself.

New additions to the collection

Lumis: Der Pfad des Feuers by Stephen Glenn

The Voyages of Marco Polo by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini

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