After an August that was gangbusters, September slowed down on the “New to Me” front, but I still did enough that I was able to keep my role as cult leader.
There was no attempted insurrection this month, though that could have been because I secretly switched the coffee in the lunch room to decaf.
I’m evil that way, but aren’t most cult leaders?
It’s a good thing I did, too, because they could have come after me. Most of the games in this month’s list came out in 2018, except one that came out in 2017.
That’s hardly avoiding the “Cult of the New” phenomenon!
In my defense, though, I only own one of these (the 2017 game), so it’s not like I succumbed to temptation that much. (Editor: UPS driver at the door with your latest 401 Games delivery).
That’s not what it looks like…
So without further adieu (all of my adieu hopped a train and headed west anyway), let’s begin!
Designer: Scott Caputo
Artists: Jason Boles, Stephanie Gustafsson
Whistle Stop is a very interesting game, because it is essentially a Pick Up & Deliver game, but it’s kind of stripped down to the bare bones compared to some others in the genre (Merchant of Venus, I’m looking at you) but yet it still is pretty fun.
There is no “running around the board picking up stuff and then trying to figure out where to take it” like in that game, and while you are laying track in Whistle Stop, there is no terrain that you have to worry about (which I’ve heard is slightly changed in the expansion) so it’s not like Steam in that sense.
Essentially, you are trying to get as many of your trains as possible from one side of the map to the other side, picking up stuff on the way and delivering it to either other spaces on the map or the end spaces.
The thing I like is that you are essentially building the map as you go, because you only start with one column of tiles at the beginning and one column at the end, and then you are filling in the rest as the game continues.
Each player starts with a certain amount of coal and a whistle, and these are what you use to move around the board.
Each player has an action board, and it shows you have up to four actions on your turn. Also, as a free action, if you have the cubes you can buy an upgrade that will let you do other things (the little cogs). When you spend your resource, it goes in the action spot so it’s easy to see how many actions you have left.
You can spend one coal to move one of your trains to the next stop on its route. For example, the pink or the green train on the edge of the board can move to the grey cube stop in front of them.
You can move backwards on the same tile, but you can not move backwards to a previous column of tiles with coal.
You can if you spend a whistle, though.
If you spend a whistle, you can move two stops (jumping over an opposing train that’s otherwise blocking you) and that move can be backwards if you want.
Either way, if your movement will take you off into the wilds of unexplored space (otherwise known as your table because there’s no tile there), you get to place one of the three tiles in your hand to your best benefit.
See? You’re building the map.
If you land on a city tile (like the St. Louis Express tile above), you have to turn in the cubes shown (blue and green in this case) to get the points indicated (10 points in the pic) and one share of the appropriate stock (St. Louis Express in this example). If you don’t have the cubes, you lose the indicated number of points (3 in this example).
Each turn, each player will get two coal (or once, late in the game, they will get one whistle instead) but there are other ways to get coal. There is a Coal Yard (shown in the pic above) where you can get two coal, or a Whistle Stop where you can get a whistle. There are also other “special” tiles that let you do things (the Trading Post will let you make up to two trades, trading one type of good for another, for example). Some of them will come out on setup (there is always a Coal Yard, Trading Post, Whistle Stop, one other special tile, as well as two town tiles in the center column), but others will come out in the normal tile distribution and will be placed by the players.
There are lots of ways to get points in this game. There’s turning in the cubes for stocks, there are end game points for stock majorities, points for reaching the end of the line and turning in the right types of cubes, and also gold nuggets you can find in the gold mine. The gold nuggets have a value from 3-5 points.
You also get points for unused goods cubes at the end of the game.
I tried this game solo to try and teach it to myself and missed that each round should have two coal per player, and thus resources seemed really tight and I had no idea how anybody could get across the board. Now that I get it, it’s actually a really cool game.
I played this as a two-player game, and I love how the map is never going to be the same twice. Because you’re building it!
I sort of lucked into a great combo that kept me going. The Caboose improvement (pay a coal to stay in the same space and get that resource/good again) and the Coal Yard to never really be out of coal (spend a coal to get two coal. Not a bad investment!).
If we were more experienced in the game, it may not have been as powerful, though. But both of us were new and I think it takes a game or two in order to pick up on the combinations you can achieve.
I definitely liked it, and want to play it again with more people and see how it scales.
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Gizmos is a fairly quick card-drafting, tableau-building game with a lot of similarities to Splendor.
You are essentially collecting various types of energy in order to power your machines to get you more energy and build more machines until somebody has built 16 of them.
Each player starts with a dashboard and one “file” card.
There are a display of gizmos that will be available to build to add to your tableau. But buying these requires energy. The energy cost is the number on the bottom left along with the colour that’s right above it (red, yellow, blue, black).
You collect energy in your little storage area, with a maximum of 5 marbles able to be stored (you can upgrade that).
On your turn, you can do one of four actions. You can take a card from the display and file it away to be completed later (limit of 1 until you upgrade your file capability).
You can pick an energy marble from the six that are displayed coming out of the marble machine. You can build either a gizmo you have on file or a gizmo from the display if you have the available energy. Finally, you can research, which will let you choose a pile of cards from the display area, look at the top 3 (can be upgraded to more) and either file/build one of them and put the other two on the bottom of the stack, or you can put them all on the bottom of the stack if they all suck.
The gizmos you build will have various effects that can be used once per turn. In the picture above (lower right of the picture), there are some converter gizmos. One of them lets you turn one blue energy into two blue energy. Another turns one of your choice to another one of your choice. And the third you can either convert one blue energy to two or one yellow energy to two.
Achieving combos with your gizmos is the way to win!
So of course, I was terrible at it. (Editor: It’s a good thing you don’t try to claim this is a game-winning blog)
As soon as somebody builds their 16th gizmo (they already start with one, so technically you’re building 15), that triggers the end game. High score wins!
This was really a lot of fun. I like the combo system that you can set up, and it definitely feels like a step up from Splendor in terms of what you can do. In that game, all you are doing is taking gems and then spending them to buy cards. The cards themselves don’t do anything (they can count as a gem so you don’t need to spend as many, but they don’t actively do things).
I love the conversions and combinations you can string together. Oh, building a yellow gizmo gives me a free pick, and I have two gizmos that say when I pick a yellow, I get to draw one at random from the marble dispenser, so I’ll pick a yellow one.
One of our players (needless to say, not me) was able to string these together so that every time she built something, she essentially rebuilt her energy supply.
It was grand to see.
At 30 minutes, this is another great lunchtime game, and one that I’d be pleased to play again.
Designer: Cole Wehrle
Artist: Kyle Ferrin
Players: 2-4 (1-6 with the expansion)
Root is a game of asymmetric Woodland combat and (somewhat) area control.
We played both the base game and with both expansion animal factions for a massive 6-player game, which I would not recommend too often, especially as a learning game. However, I did win it, so my editor can go pound sand. (Editor: How rude!)
The Woodlands are full of strife as various animal factions have taken control of them, or conceded control and are trying to get it back. Meanwhile, other animals are trying to eliminate the oppression and ultimately live in peace.
Other animals just want to trade with everybody, go around
stealing trading stuff and going on adventures.
Root is completely asymmetric, so each animal faction has its own abilities and way to play them. The six factions are (with the expansion)
- Marquise de Cat – Cats who occupy the Woodland and are geared toward military/industrial aspects
- Eyrie Dynasties – Birds who were once rulers and want to establish dominion again
- Woodland Alliance – the various other woodland creatures who are trying to gain sympathy from other creatures in the Woods and perhaps cause rebellions in the forest
- Vagabond – playing all sides of the conflict while going on quests to gain victory points. A good trader because they can trade cards to players who have crafted the goods they need. But also gets points for killing warriors of a faction that is hostile to them.
- Lizard Cult (expansion) – Spreading the gospel of the Lizards, can establish gardens in clearings to give them victory points. Can also use their warriors removed in combat to become “acolytes” and perform conspiracies to spread their influence around. Trying to radicalize the animals in the forest
- Riverfolk Company (expansion) – an economic faction trying to take advantage of the Woodland conflict, they are trying to sell their services to whoever will pay for them. You can even pay their warriors to fight for you or to help you gain control of a clearing.
Here are the boards for the Eyrie and the Lizard Cult:
As you can see, they are quite different.
The board consists of a bunch of clearings that are considered one of three types: mouse, rabbit, or fox.
The various factions’ warriors are set up depending on how many players there are and the setup instructions for that faction. Above is our 6-player game, early in the game.
Each turn, there are three phases: Birdsong, Daylight, and Evening.
A faction has specific steps and actions it can do during each phase. (you can see the Lizard Cult and the Eyrie actions in the pictures above)
I’m not going to go into great gory detail about how everything works, but basically the first player to get to 30 points wins the game.
There are Dominance cards that can be played once you’ve reached 10 points. If you play one, you remove your VP marker and you can no longer win via the VP route. Instead, you must fulfill the conditions of your Dominance card during the Birdsong portion of your turn (basically, each player has a chance to stop you once you’ve achieved the victory conditions, since the conditions have to be present at the beginning of your turn).
I simply loved this game and see why it is being hyped as much as it is.
I love how each faction is different (which sadly means I’ll probably never get a full review of it done for this blog, as I don’t think I could do it justice until at least 6 plays). Each player has a strategy that they have to do, but they also have to look out for others as well.
The cards and board are beautiful in a stylized way. Very simple and just pleasant to look at.
It is kind of a COIN (Counter-Insurgency) wargame at heart, with a bit of area control mixed in. Some of the rules (such as building placement and movement) require you to control an area before you can do anything (the Eyrie wins ties with this, which was nice in my play).
It’s not straight area control as you don’t get points for it, but it enables you to do some of the things which get you points.
This game is just so meaty, I want to sink my teeth into it again and again. Just to see how it works. I did well with my Eyrie in my first game, but was that all a fluke? (Editor: Probably).
This is the sign of a great game.
The expansion not only comes with the two new factions (along with bots that allow solo play), but also some Vagabond variants, so you can switch up your Vagabond style. Which is kind of cool.
Designer: Benoit Turpin
Artist: Anne Heidsieck
The “Roll and Write” genre of games has become very popular recently, where you have a piece of paper in front of you with lots of pretty designs. You roll dice and fill the sheet up with things related to what you’ve rolled.
So why wouldn’t “draw and write” or “flip and write” games start coming out where you’re using cards rather than dice?
Welcome To… is one of those game where you are given a sheet with three streets on it, along with some scoring icons.
You will be writing numbers that are drawn into the individual houses on each street, but they must be in ascending order (don’t want the Post Office people to get mixed up!) You can skip numbers, but you can’t write the same number in and you can’t write a number that’s smaller to the right of a number.
One of the ways to score points (and end the game) is to fulfill the three “City Plan” card goals (n1 and n2 shown below).
Instead of rolling dice or even just one deck of cards, you will have three decks (really just one deck split into three piles, but I like the word “deck” so will use “deck” as often as I can. Because it’s such a deck thing to do).
These cards are what you will use to determine what you fill in on your sheet.
The decks (Editor: Piles!!!) are placed number sides up. On each turn, the top card of each deck (Editor: I give up) is turned over to reveal the next number. The top of the card that was flipped reveals the effect you can use with that number.
In the picture above, the 11 can be used with the “Real Estate Agent” effect, the 12 can be used with the “Surveyor” effect and the 6 can be used for the “Temp Agency” effect.
What do these effects do?
The Surveyor will let you draw a fence (solid line) between two houses on a street. This is how you’ll be dividing your streets into “Estates” of varying size from one to six houses. These estates will get you points at the end of the game if each house in it has a number.
The Real Estate Agent effect will let you increase the value of one of your Estate types.
The Temp Agency will let you add or subtract one or two from the number before you write it down.
There are other effects (Landscaper, Pool Manufacturer, Bis) that will give you other benefits, but this isn’t a review so I’m not going to clog the post up with more detail.
Suffice to say, the game ends when either somebody completes all three City Plans, a player has been unable to do an action on their turn three times, or somebody manages to fill in every house on their streets.
At the end, you total up your points from everything, and you’ll have a sheet that looks like this (though hopefully better).
I’ve said before that Roll and Writes really aren’t for me, especially those that have you drawing diagrams. Thankfully, Welcome To… doesn’t do that. I can write numbers and draw fences, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be good at it, this is one that I’d always be willing to play.
It was a lot of fun.
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Artist: Isaac Fryxelius
This expansion to the wonderful (and I think kind of divisive) Terraforming Mars doesn’t add a whole lot, but what it does add is pretty good.
The main thing it adds is a deck of 35 “Prelude” cards to the beginning of the game.
Players are dealt four of them along with their Corporation choices and their initial 10-card hand. Looking at all of that, they will then decide not only what corporation to be and what cards to buy, but also two of the four Prelude cards to play.
In turn order, players will play the two Prelude cards they chose before the first turn of the game.
These cards will give players a small boost to start the game, adding some resources, perhaps raising some of the Global Parameters, or some other benefits.
Many of them also come with tags that will remain in play for the rest of the game. So Smelting Plant, for example, gives you basically a free Building tag, which is pretty cool if you start with (for example) the Mining Corporation that likes Building tags.
Since Prelude gives everybody a step up at the beginning of the game, it can shorten it. This is something that was much-needed, as it can begin to drag. Some of our plays have reached 3 hours and, even though I’ve enjoyed the plays, it really feels like it needs to be ending before that.
Prelude will help, though Stronghold Games says that it should really only shave about 15 minutes off.
Our first game with Prelude took just over 90 minutes, mainly because the combination of cards we had ended up pushing the Global Parameters up quickly (two of us had cards that let us boost Oxygen each generation).
We were fooled a bit and decided to try the game again.
The second game took around 2.5 hours, which is more in line with what we’re used to.
The expansion also adds five new corporations and seven new cards to go into the regular deck.
It seems like it’s a bit of an expensive expansion for basically 47 new cards, but since two of my friends own the game, I don’t have to buy it!
I can just enjoy what it brings to the game.
So what new games did you play in September?
Let me know in the comments.