July was vacation month. I was off the entire month and was away from my normal game group for half of the month.
Thus, it’s not surprising that I only played two “new to me” games in July.
But tell that to the
rabble normal people in the cult!
You’d think I had killed John Wick’s dog, the reaction was so negative.
I seriously thought I was going to lose my position.
But then I showed them this and they all calmed down.
See? The Oregon Coast is calming even if you’re not actually there!
My position in the cult is safe…for now.
Even with only two new games played, one of them was so good that it really counts as two or three games just by itself, so I’m definitely coming out ahead.
So, without further adieu (all of my adieu was spent to get a gorgeous jewel for an Afghan warlord anyway), let’s get this thing on the road!
Designer & Artist: Cole Wehrle
Cole Wehrle is one of the most highly regarded game designers in the field today (or at least it seems to me).
I’ve only played one of his designs (Root), but I hear so many great things about his other games that I know I will be checking them out at some point.
Pax Pamir (2nd Edition) came out earlier this year and it’s the one that’s made the biggest splash that I’ve seen in quite a while. I’ve been itching to try it for months and, funnily enough, on my first game day back from traveling, three copies of it were brought to game day!
I knew right then that I would be experiencing this wonderment that day.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Pax Pamir (either version) is about 19th Century tribal leaders in Afghanistan where both the Russians and the British were vying for supremacy along with the Afghans themselves who were trying to form their own state after the collapse of the Durrani Empire.
Each player is a tribal leader and the game is played by making coalitions with either the British, Russians, or the Afghan government to try to help your chosen side achieve dominance. If you have the most influence compared to other players with the dominant side, you score points!
Essentially, the game is a tableau-builder, though, where you will be playing cards to your “court” in order to give you actions to take that will influence the map or the coalition you are part of.
Let’s start at the beginning, though.
Each player is given a player board with room for 10 of their discs, many of which will eventually go out onto the board or onto various cards.
On your turn, you can take two actions. You can either take a card from the market (paying one coin per card that you are skipping from left to right) or you can play a card from your hand. You can do the same action twice (if you can afford it).
You can also choose to do an action on one of your court cards (that Pashtun Mercenary in the picture above will let you fight, for example). Each card can only have one of its actions used once in a turn, though, even though you are very often given two or three choices.
What’s intriguing is that there are four “suits” of cards: Political, Military, Economic, and Intelligence. Political starts out as the “Favored Suit.”
What does this mean?
It means that any actions on Political cards in your court do not cost you an action. They’re free!
But some cards can change what the Favored Suit is, and then those actions become free.
You can do some nice combos with changing the Favored Suit status depending on the cards in your hand. Also, if you are doing some really powerful actions with your Intelligence cards while Intelligence is the Favored Suit (like happened in our game), it may be a good idea for somebody to change it!
Essentially, you are trying to get pieces out on the board for your coalition, as well as building up your own influence as well.
Armies are the pieces standing up on end while roads between provinces are pieces lying flat. British = Pink; Russian = Yellow; Afghan = Green.
Each player starts out by choosing a coalition that they are allied with (British, Russian, Afghan).
When you play a card, it will tell you the immediate effects (such as placing pieces on the board or spies on cards). If it tells you to place an army or a road, that army/road must be of the coalition that you are supporting. If you get to place one of your pieces in the region stated on the card, you put one of your cylinders (tribes) in the region.
If you have at least one tribe in a region and a plurality of ruling pieces (meaning tribes as well as coalition pieces that you are allied to), then you rule the region.
This will get you benefits from both the taxation action (it lets you tax players who have cards that match your ruled region instead of just taking coins from the card market) as well as when other players want to play a card from that region to their court (they must pay you one coin per tribe you have as a bribe, unless you choose to waive it because maybe them playing that card will hurt somebody else!).
You can only change your loyalty in a couple of ways. When you “betray” somebody else’s card (with your spy that’s been sitting on it), it may have a prize on it of a different coalition. If you take the prize (you don’t have to), then you will change your loyalty to that coalition instead. You’ll lose any other prizes or gifts that you made to your current coalition (they kind of hate you now), but you can then start building support with this new one.
The other way to change loyalty is to buy a Patriot card from the market with a different coalition symbol on it. You will instantly join that coalition instead, losing all prizes and patriots for your previous coalition (because they now hate you, you traitorous bastard).
But maybe they were wusses anyway and you’re better off with someone else.
Ultimately, you’re waiting for one of the four Dominance cards to come out to trigger a scoring round. Once the card is bought, or discarded from the card market (or if two of them show up in the market at the same time), a scoring round happens.
First, you check for dominance. If any coalition has four more pieces out than each of the other two (it has to be both, not just one), then that coalition is dominant. You then see who has the most influence with that coalition (through prizes, gifts, and patriots) and they get 5 VP. Second most gets 3 and third most gets 1. Ties result in the VP getting added up and then divided among all tied players. Further, all coalition pieces are then removed from the board, so we get to start again!
However, if no coalition is dominant (as happened in all three of our scoring rounds), then the player who has the most cylinders out (either on the board as tribes or on cards as spies) gets three victory points. Whoever has the second most gets one point. Again, ties are added up and divided (two players tied for most will get 2 points each).
Points in the final scoring round are doubled, so it may be possible for somebody to catch up at the end, which is very nice.
If after a scoring round (except the last one, which of course determines the winner anyway) anybody is ahead of everybody else by 4 or more points, they win immediately!
There is a lot more going on that I don’t really want to get into (this overview’s already long enough!), like spies on cards that can make taking those card actions expensive or could even result in betrayal.
Suffice it to say that Pax Pamir (2nd Edition) is such an intricate design, with all of the individual pieces meshing so well together. The blocks and the cloth map are beautiful, the card art is great and very atmospheric for the time period, and it’s just a joy to play.
The mechanics are fairly simple, but how they all go together is very complex and satisfying.
I really want to play this one again, and I’m almost positive this will be on my yearly Top 10 games played.
It’s that good.
Designer: Bruce Glassco
Have you ever wanted to play a game where everything is conditional on everything else when it comes to scoring?
“You get 5 points for this card, but if Jodi’s playing then you actually get 10. Unless Ben’s also playing in which case you only get 2 points because he’s such an asshole and everybody’s afraid of him. Then you get 50 points for this card, unless you’re playing on a Monday in which case you lose 10 points (the Monday Blahs), but if you have the Beer card then you actually get 20 points because Beer makes even Mondays ok.”
If you would have asked me last month, I would have probably said no.
However, after giving Fantasy Realms a try, I have to say that my answer is now an absolute…yeah, sure!
In Fantasy Realms, you have a hand of 7 cards. On your turn, you will draw a card either from the draw pile or the discard area. You will then discard a card to the discard area, so you will always have 7 cards.
There are 53 cards in the deck, consisting of 10 suits of five cards and then three wild cards.
Each card has a base strength in the top left corner of the card. This is the point value.
However, it could be modified based on other cards in your hand.
For example, the Warlord is base 4 points but then gets the sum of the strength of all Army cards (one of the ten suits) in your hand as well.
Lightning gives you 11 points, but gets 30 more points if you have Rainstorm also (I don’t remember, but I think Rainstorm is similar if you have Lightning in your hand)
You are trying to maximize the points gained on all of your cards by the end of the game. The game ends when there are 10 cards in the discard area.
Here is my final hand in our first game.
As you can see, my “base” score was 59. However, with all of the bonuses and other stuff, I had 192 points and won the game.
The game is extremely quick (all of our plays took about 10 minutes each) and it’s also extremely random (see that winning hand up there? I got 6 of those cards dealt to me at the beginning) but it’s so quick that it doesn’t matter.
Since you are working to maximize points, you will be spending a lot of time calculating your possible score when deciding what to discard each turn. If you don’t like math, this is not the game for you.
(Thankfully, there’s an app that will help you score at the end of the game)
I don’t mind math, though, and I found this game pretty fun, especially for its play time. I don’t think I would want the games to be much longer than they are, but this is perfect.
Thus, it’s a great filler with decent artwork and a lot of variation.
You have to kind of figure out what you want to do and then see if you have to adapt based on the cards you draw. Sometimes that “perfect” strategy will go nowhere! Don’t be afraid to change up.
All in all, a fun little game and I’d definitely play it again.
Except maybe on a Monday.
(Edit – 12/20/19: the review is live!)
I think my August new games will more than make up for the lack of new games this month. Dragonflight is in mid-August and I always get a bunch of new ones played there.
What new games did you play in July? Anything good?
Let me know in the comments.