October was SHUX month.
SHUX is a 3-day boardgame convention in Vancouver that was simply phenomenal. I had so much fun, and would have had even more fun if I hadn’t felt so terrible.
Maybe next year!
You know what conventions mean, right?
No, not being told by multiple people that I need to take a shower.
That means a bunch of new to me games!
The Cult of the New to Me was very excited to hear I would be attending this convention. They wanted to see all of the new stuff that I would be talking about when I came back.
They also appear to be a bunch of lazy gits, because while they get mad at me for playing too many *new* games (not just new to me, but games that just came out), they never appear to actually play any “new to them” games themselves. I’m sensing some kind of scam here.
Are they just here for the free cookies?
Anyway, prepare for a *really* long post. There are ten games on this list. Usually, I go into a bit more of an explanation of how to play, but that’s a bit abbreviated this time.
Leo Tolstoy ain’t writing this blog.
So without further adieu (my adieu got covered in vegetables and thus I had to throw it away anyway), let’s get started!
Designers: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich
Artist: Dylan Mangini (A friend of the show!)
Let’s start off this monster post with an easy one.
I’ve heard so many great things about the crunchy little set collection game called Point Salad.
Of course, when I say “crunchy,” I mean because it has so many vegetables in it, not because it’s a brain-burner at all.
Let me tell you right now, you won’t be testing your brain much.
But that’s not the point! It’s salad! There’s nothing wrong with that being light.
You have a deck of double-sided cards. One side is point-scoring and the other side is a delicious…delicious…Ack! I can’t say it!
It’s a vegetable, ok? It’s a vegetable card.
Some cards are removed depending on player count, though a 6-player game uses all of them.
The deck is divided into three roughly equal piles, with their scoring side up.
Then turn over two of each pile so that you have a 2×3 grid.
On your turn, you can either choose one of the scoring cards or you can choose two veggies from the market. You can also flip one of your previously-taken scoring cards over to its veggie side.
Why would you do that?
Maybe you have some veggies that are giving you too many negative points? Many of the scoring cards give you (for example) 3 points for each carrot but -2 points for each onion.
You refill the veggie market after your turn, and play goes around the table until all of the cards are drafted.
When you’re done, you’ll have a tableau like this.
Total up the value of all of your point cards, and whoever has the most points is the winner!
What a fabulous little game. It’s quick (maybe 10-15 minutes?), it’s colourful, it won’t tax your brain but there are some decisions to make which is nice.
The artwork is amazing (yay, Dylan!).
I need to track down a copy of this so I can play it whenever I want.
This is a wonderful game.
5×5 City (2018 – Okazu Brand) – 1 play
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Artist: Ryo Nyamo
Another relatively easy one to describe!
Believe me, it gets worse (for me, I mean…for you, it should get better!)
5×5 City is a tile-laying game where you are building a…well, a city on a 5×5 grid.
Funny how that works.
In the game, you have a Building Plan that you’re going to be drawing tiles to fill out.
Each number will correspond to a Building Plot card that is drawn.
For each Plot card when it’s drawn, you will then lay out the number of tiles shown on that Building Plan for that Plot number (so two tiles for a “9” and three tiles for a “2”, for example).
Then, in turn order, you’ll draft a set of tiles to put in your city in the area denoted by the Plot number (no putting a useless tile in the corner unless that’s where the Plot number told you to go!)
You can flip a tile over to make a park if you wish, which may give you some benefit or just avoid a bad placement.
What determines where you want to put things?
The Building cards that are on display. These will give you the points scoring for the game.
These are 2-sided and either side can be used. The “A” side is recommended for new players.
At the end of the game, you will have a full city on your 5×5 card. You’ll score it based on the Building cards, and whoever has the most points is the winner!
This was also a fun little tile-laying game, but didn’t dazzle me like Point Salad did. I did enjoy my time with it, but I’m not sure I’m a city-building kinda guy.
I’m more into city destruction.
The art and components are also kind of weird.
I almost thought I was playing a prototype.
It’s a quick game (took us 30 minutes), though, and definitely a good filler to warm you up for the big guns coming later in the day (or in the post!)
Designer: Shem Phillips
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
SHUX19 gave me a chance to rectify at least one of those holes in my experience, with Explorers of the North Sea sitting in the library on Friday morning.
This game is a tile-laying game rather than a worker placement game, but you are still Vikings exploring the North Sea for booty. This time, though, in addition to raiding settlements (which is even more abstracted than in Raiders), you are also journeying into the unknown and bringing back livestock, along with defeating Enemy Ships and establishing outposts.
You choose a starting board and then will be laying out tiles from your hand of three tiles in order to build the world in front of you.
You will be putting vikings in your longship, dropping them off to make room for livestock (see that nice little sheep at the top of that pic?) to bring back to the Mainland.
Some of them may even end up going to Valhalla if you defeat an Enemy Ship (unlike Raiders, nobody dies when you attack a settlement).
Each turn, you will be putting out one tile and then placing the appropriate thing on there (it will either be a livestock, settlement, or enemy ship).
Then you can take up to 4 actions: Load your longship with Vikings, Unload a Longship (both Vikings and Livestock, which you will then deliver), Move Longship one space (plus destroying an Enemy Ship that’s on the tile if you have at least two Vikings on board), Move Vikings on land (and raid a Settlement if you have the strength), Transport Livestock from one land tile to an adjacent one, or Construct an Outpost (which takes 2 actions).
The game ends when the last player has placed their final tile and all of the tiles are gone.
At the beginning of the game, each player chose a Captain card from two of them that they were dealt.
This card shows the end-game scoring as well as the bonus that specific Captain gives. The bonus will point you in a direction that you’ll take during the game.
You get points for Livestock delivery, Outposts, destroyed Enemy Ships, raided Settlements, Viking deaths, and controlled islands.
Whoever has the most points is the winner!
This is a neat little game but nowhere near as interesting as its predecessor. It’s cool that you are essentially building the world for yourself and you do have to try and concentrate on a few things rather than spread out over everything if you want to get a good score. Enemy ships only get you 1 VP, for example (2 if you’re the Barbarian), so that might not be a great strategy on its own (though it can lead to Viking deaths, which can be lucrative!)
You essentially do have to control islands, though, either by outpost or by Vikings (though if you use Vikings to control, then you won’t get many points from their deaths, and doesn’t it sound harsh to say it that way?)
I enjoyed it, but unlike Raiders, I don’t feel the need to own it.
I’d definitely play it again, though!
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Artists: Andrew Bosley, Rom Brown
And here’s where the fun begins.
I finally got the chance to play this really obscure game that probably nobody has ever heard of.
It’s called Tapestry.
What? You have heard of it?
Good for you. You must really be deep into board games.
All kidding aside, Tapestry is a civilization-building game where you and up to 4 other players are trying to build the best civilization to score you those juicy little elusive victory points.
Unlike many of these types of games, though, you’re really not doing much on your turn. Or at least that’s what it seems like.
Each player starts with a capital city mat, a player/income mat, and a choice of two civilizations.
Each civilization has a special power or ability that you will use to take over the entire world!
Ok, maybe not *that* so much, but you are trying to expand your territory.
The board shows the entire world that you can spread across like a cat lying on your keyboard when you’re trying to type.
Players will be filling in this board with various hex tiles that will build the world.
You may notice the four tracks around the board.
That is what you will be spending the majority of your time playing Tapestry doing.
On your turn, you will either spend resources to move up one of the tracks, or you will take one of your four remaining Income turns (you can take five during the game, but the first turn for everybody is an Income turn, so there are only four left).
What are these tracks? They are Military, Science, Exploration, and Technology.
Advancing on the Military track will let you conquer and place red armories onto your Capital city mat.
Advancing on the Science track not only may let you put grey houses in your Capital, but also may give you new Tapestry cards and/or roll the Science die. The Science die may let you advance on a different track (though you don’t get the benefit for doing so except sometimes you can).
Advancing on Technology will let you get Technology cards, or maybe a Tapestry card, or put yellow markets in your capital, or maybe other buildings as well!
Advancing on Exploration will let you either draw territory tiles or place them on the board. It can also give you farms for your capital along with many other bonuses (especially when you hit Level 4 and take off into space!).
Each advancement costs a resource, and further levels of a track cost extra resources (along with at least one of the associated resource of that type of track). Hopefully some of these advancements will give you resources, or you may run out really easily.
When you do, it’s time to take an Income turn. This is where you will get resources and victory points based on the spaces on your building board that are empty (due to you building those structures) as well as getting points for your Capital city.
You will also be playing one Tapestry card from your hand, which will either give you an immediate bonus or an effect that will last until your next Income turn.
For example, I had one that I didn’t play that prohibited me from advancing on the Military track but gave me 3 points every time somebody else did.
As the game goes on, the board fills out and you can chain more and more actions when you advance on a track.
The game ends when everybody has taken their fifth Income turn. As you can guess from the way I described it, that means that you could be done while others are still going.
And that’s a feature not a bug!
Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
I would have to play Tapestry again to cement my feelings on the game, but after the first play I wasn’t that impressed. The Tapestry cards are really random for one thing. Yes, you can get more Tapestry cards so that you have a choice when it’s time to play one, but you are still at the mercy of a terrible draw.
Also, while this is a first impression, it does seem very weirdly balanced.
One of my opponents was the Futurists, the civilization that let them start at Level 4 of all the technology tracks, and he ran away with the game, finishing over 100 points higher than me in second place.
More plays may help with that, but while the game was interesting to experience, I’m not sure I would call it fun.
Still, would like to play it again just to make sure.
Designer: Jonny Pac Cantin
Artists: Jakub Fajtanowski, Michał Długaj
Sierra West is an interesting action-selection game that has four different modules that you can play which will vary up the experience a bit.
The basic gameplay is the same, though, with each player having a player board with room for four cabins on it, as well as a campsite.
There is also a Homestead scoring table where you will be going up on thee tracks to try and get the most points.
These points are multiplied at game’s end by your position on the Wagon Trail.
The action selection is really interesting as you have a hand of 3 cards and you have to decide how to play them onto your player board in order to do the actions. You have two different pioneers that you’ll be moving along the cards that you played.
One goes along the bottom path and one goes along the top.
The top pioneer will move and get a boot (movement either up the mountain or along the trail), then get some food, then the mule (a special bonus that can do things for you), one boot, and finally some stone.
The bottom one will get two stone, be able to pay a resource and dig (that’s how you get a new cabin or claim a mountain card), then two more wood, and finally another shovel. You can move them in any order.
If a pioneer reached the end of the path (you can always stop), then they may be able to do one of the three “Summit Actions” revealed on top of the three cards. This is how you typically move up the Homestead track but depending on the mode you’re playing, you could do other things as well (We were playing the Outlaws & Outposts module, so some of the Summit Actions were shooting bandits or reloading your gun).
Claiming a mountain card will add a card to your deck (possibly for points!) as well as slowly tear down the mountain as more cards are revealed to be picked up.
“Special” cards (what these are depends on the module) are added below the Wagon Trail when they are uncovered on the mountain, and are the timer of the game (along with possibly allowing you to do stuff or giving you benefits depending on where your wagon is).
Once the final special card is placed below the trail, you finish the round and do end-game scoring.
Most points wins!
I really abbreviated that (though it doesn’t seem like it, I know), because there are cabins you can get to give you bonuses (and prevent point loss) and animals you can hunt that will give you resources (and prevent point loss).
I’m not familiar with how the other modules work, but the Outlaws & Outposts one was really pretty fun.
It’s another optimization puzzle in a way, as you have to figure out how to get your wagon moving as well as your homestead score up as near the top as possible.
The artwork on the cards and the various pieces is really good.
This is just a charming game and I would definitely like to play it again.
Sadly, I played my friend’s copy right before he traded it away, so I’m not sure if anybody I know has it anymore.
But I’m open to it!
Another winner from Board & Dice.
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Artists: Julio Cesar, Cyrille Daujean
Corinth is the latest Roll & Write game about Trading in the Mediterranean (sorry, Tom Vasel). Everybody’s rolling dice, and then drafting them to fill in stuff on their sheet.
A player rolls all nine white dice and places them on the Harbor board according to their number.
The highest pip value rolled is placed in the top slot (Gold Coins). Then each number is placed starting from the bottom, as shown above. This means that some of the spots may be skipped!
Then each player in turn order takes a group of dice.
Whichever one they choose, they get to mark off a number of items of that type on their sheet equal to the number of dice they took. Pip value does not matter.
When they take a group of dice, players can instead move their steward (to right on the score sheet) a number of spaces equal to the pip value of one of the dice they took. This can get other bonuses as well as extra scoring.
At the end of their turn, players can spend gold coins and goats that they’ve earned to build some buildings which have different effects as well.
After a certain number of times each player has rolled the dice (6 times in a 2-3 player game or 4 times in a 4-player game), the game ends and you score your sheet!
I’m not a huge Roll & Write fan and while this game was pleasant enough, it didn’t really change my mind much. I’ll certainly play it and it was an enjoyable experience, but it’s not one of my favourite genres.
Still, as Roll & Writes go, this is a pretty good one. You can’t do everything and those who try will be punished. The Steward action seems pretty powerful, though. The winner of our game scored quite highly with that one.
It’s fun as far as the genre goes, but it won’t make you like it if you don’t already.
Designers: Brian Henk, Clayton Skancke
Artist: Loïc Billiau
The Zorro Dice Game is a game that’s on Kickstarter right now (until November 16, so there’s still time!).
It’s a quick little dice game, kind of push your luck and kind of team-based in that you are all trying to fight the various villains that are on the board.
However, only one player can win.
You are essentially trying to see who becomes the next Zorro (because I guess the old one retired? I don’t know).
Oh, I guess he’s getting old and he wants a new successor. Because like the Dread Pirate Roberts, Zorro is more of a role than it is a real person. (Editor – It helps to read the rule book before typing).
Anyway, each player will take a turn trying to perform heroic feats to prove your Zorro credentials. You do this by rolling dice, up to three times (just like Yahtzee) to try and get the needed requirements.
If you perform the feat, you get the piece of equipment, but be careful. You can only keep two pieces of regular equipment.
When you go to perform the feat, you can have one additional player try to help you. You get three rolls and you can use any of your equipment and also your partner’s as well as any Hero dice that you’ve accumulated. If you’re helped, your partner can do a fourth roll and use any of their Hero dice as well (though it’s unclear whether they can only roll what you didn’t keep or not).
If you complete two of the same colour Heroic Feat, you get a Heroic Die and the next player will fight the Scoundrel of that colour, which emerges because they’re getting tired of their plans being foiled I guess.
Defeating a Scoundrel gets you a piece of Premium Equipment! This kick-ass equipment runs rings around the basic equipment. Two wild resources? That’s amazing!
As soon as somebody gets a second Heroic Die of any colour (meaning somebody else performed 2 Heroic Feats of the same colour or you performed a third one of that colour), the Villain appears.
This is the end of the game.
Starting with the next player, each player tries to fight the Villain once. Whoever fails gets knocked over.
Whoever succeeds stays standing up. If more than one player succeeds, they duel to see who becomes the next Zorro. These duels involve players just trying to roll as many swords as possible (so it helps if you have equipment that gives you swords!)
The final winner of the duel(s) is the next Zorro and wins the game!
This is a neat little dice game, a fun filler for before/after the main games have been played. I don’t know if I would want to build anything around it, even a lunch-time game (though that’s a possibility), but it’s neat for what it does and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
We had a 3-player game, and I think it might be more interesting with more players (it does play 2-6). Would have to try it and see.
There is an expansion (Heroes and Villains) that is part of the Kickstarter, though the copy we played at SHUX didn’t have that so I don’t know what it’s like. The expansion makes it a 1-8 player game instead of 2-6.
For $15 + shipping, this isn’t a bad buy if you want something to fill your idle time with.
A decent game that I don’t regret trying out.
Designers: Tim Eisner, Ryan Swisher
Artists: Tim Eisner, Ryan Swisher, Peter Wocken
March of the Ants is tile-laying game about conflicting ant nests and the tunnels they inhabit. It is a bit conflict-heavy (which is why I wasn’t sure about playing this one with Paula Deming and her husband Lawson after our interview at SHUX, but it turned out ok) but it’s also kind of neat.
The Great Tunnel is laid out on the table and all players will have ants there. There can be no fighting in the Great Tunnel (it’s kind of like Switzerland).
The game takes place over 3-5 seasons (depending on how long you want the game to last) and each season will consist of a number of phases.
Each player has a nest where larvae and food can be put, along with a guide to what actions you can do and a place to hold your adaptations (because you have to evolve or die!).
The actions you can take all cost a food, so they can be limited in the early game (or maybe I just suck at it). Each action also has a reaction possibility for the other players (which is pretty cool, actually).
You can Explore (draw a tile and place it connecting a tunnel where you have an ant). You can March (move up to 5 steps, moving larvae to tunnels you inhabit first and then moving ants). You can Forage (draw two cards).
You can play a card (pay the coast in larvae and/or ants as called for by the card). These cards can be events, Colony Goals (scored at the end of each turn if you meet the conditions) or Evolution.
Evolution cards are added to your Ant Body to give you bonuses or extra benefits.
The final action is Resting. This effectively passes you out of the action phase.
In the Soldier Phase, tunnels that have ants from two or more factions and more ants on them than collection sites are considered “contested.” Battle ensues and it’s actually a neat mechanic because the defender is whoever occupies the “Control” collection site, even if that’s the only ant they have on the tile.
Invaders are everybody else.
You total up the number of ants you have, any evolution bonuses, then each player can play one of their cards face down. These cards have a number on them that is the “ferocity” and is added to their strength.
The loser loses ants equal to the Army Strength of the winner. The winner loses half of the Army Strength of the loser rounded down. (War is hell, even in the ant world).
This can happen again if there’s another faction of ants, but you will only battle each faction once even if the hex is still contested.
The Harvest phase is where you collect all of that stuff from collection sites on tiles. You then have to feed your ants. (What, was this designed by Uwe?) Then there’s the Queen’s Decree, where you can produce either larvae or food for the next round.
Finally, the Slumber phase is where you total up all the points for the round.
Continue this for the set number of rounds, and then determine the winner with the most victory points!
While I really enjoyed playing this with Paula and Lawson, the game itself didn’t really make me want to play it again that much. I found it too tight and very hard to do things through the first half of the game. With only four rounds (we played the medium-length game), it seems like half the game was getting set up to do other things.
I did enjoy the tile-laying aspect, though. The artwork is great on the tiles! It really makes you feel like you’re deep underground in an ant tunnel.
I wouldn’t mind playing it again to see if my first impression is still the same, but I’m not clamoring to do it.
Designers: Shem Phillips, S J Macdonald
Artist: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Can designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald hit another one out of the park?
Initial signs point to yes, though I definitely need more plays of this first (and my copy to arrive, which it hasn’t yet, damn you Starlit Citadel!!!!)
You’ve built a lavish city in Architects, but now it’s time to defend the city against the onslaught of outsiders, as well as improving your city both religiously and economically.
The really interesting aspect of Paladins of the West Kingdom is your Paladin deck that you will be using throughout the game. The game is played over 7 rounds and you have 12 Paladins in your deck. You’ll be using one per round.
Each Paladin will give you a special bonus as well as a number of workers for that round.
How do you get more workers?
By going to the pub of course!
Players will choose one Tavern card to give them the workers on that card to use in the current round as well.
You will be playing these workers on your player board, going around the table doing one action at a time. Some actions require workers of certain colours (or the purple ones as wild) and some only require workers of any colour. Many require both.
Your objective is to clear off as many of the items on your board as you can, as they will help you do things.
You can “Develop” to move the green workshops from the left side of your board onto actions on the right side. These workshops will take the place of certain of the workers for those actions, making them cheaper.
You can commission your black monks to go out onto the main board. Doing this will give you further benefits depending on where you place them. Garrisoning allows you to put the red garrisons on the board.
Absolving lets you move those jars (of holy water? Not sure) over to the right, getting rid of Suspicion and getting you another benefit. Fortifying adds strength to your walls.
You can also attack or convert Outsiders who are approaching your city. This will give you special one-time bonuses (for attacking) or end-game victory points (for converting) them.
You can also recruit Townspeople for either a one-time benefit or putting them to work to give you benefits for the rest of the game.
The main focus of Paladins is to move three attributes (Strength, Influence, and Faith) up the tracks to score points. Each action on the right side of the board requires a certain amount of one attribute and will give you a certain amount of another.
This is clearly shown on the board, though new players may have trouble remembering what does what.
Each round, either a King’s Order or a King’s Favour (or in Round 3, both) are turned over. The King’s Orders are the first three, and will give you victory points at the end of the game for completing them.
The King’s Favours will open up new one-time (per round) worker placement spots that are a bit stronger than the ones on your board. Once somebody takes it, nobody else can though the workers are cleared at the end of the round so it will be available next round.
After the 7th round, all the points are totaled up and whoever has the most is the winner!
This post ignores a lot of the intricacies of how to play this game (that will come in the review, I guess), but hopefully this gives an overall picture.
Once again, you can’t spread yourself too thin or you won’t get a lot of points from doing anything. In my game, I commissioned one monk, but I garrisoned and absolved almost completely. For those actions, you only get victory points if you get near the end of the track, so if you do a little of one, a little of another, and a little of another, you won’t get any points from it whatsoever.
But maybe you’re scoring points other ways? That’s certainly possible!
There are so many avenues to scoring. I played a 4-player game, and we all did it a bit differently. The scores were 65-62-58-55.
This is easily the most complex game I’ve seen from Phillips (and definitely from Macdonald). The rules themselves are fairly easy to pick up, but how to use them to win is a brain-burner.
In fact, that’s my only concern about this game: time.
Our play took a little over 3 hours. I’ve heard other people talk about 3 hours games as well.
I’d have to play it a few more times to see if we get the playtime down, but it just won’t get played as much if it’s a normally 3-hour game.
The mechanics, though, and the artwork and everything else.
Those are awesome.
I have a feeling this will be on this year’s Top 10 Games Played.
Designer: Denis Plastinin
Artist: Igor Savchenko
Finally, the last new game of October. Wow, my fingers are tired (I won’t tell you that I wrote this over a period of a week). This one is a Kickstarter that I finally received a couple of weeks ago.
War of the Worlds: the New Wave does one of my favourite things: combine a deckbuilder with some other mechanism. In this case, it’s total destruction!
The Martians from War of the Worlds are back, and once again they’re invading England (what is this, Dr. Who?).
England is divided into a bunch of zones, and there are 30 civilians that the Aliens have to kill.
Yes, literally 30 civilians. They’re very important!
(no, really, I’m sure they represent thousands of people…)
At the setup, the Alien Saucer, the Tripod, and the Invasion Ship are placed in the designated area at the top of the board. Three civilian markers go in each area that has three squares.
The cool thing is that the Human player cannot eliminate any Alien unit on the map. They are just relentless.
Instead, while the Aliens win by wiping out all 30 civilian markers, the Humans win by doing 30 points of “damage” to Alien buildings or Tripods (Saucers can’t be attacked). Thus, the human forces will slowly disappear from the map (though military units and buildings can be built) while the Aliens will never leave.
Each player will get their own starting deck of cards and their own offer deck where they can buy cards from. There are no “public” offerings of cards.
The cards will do everything from building a building (eliminating the card from the game, so you only get one!), an action that your units can do, or creating an army unit (and then moving that unit next time you get the card in your hand).
The game can get very tense as turns go back and forth. The Humans are at a huge disadvantage at first, and many civilians will get wiped out before they get on their feet. But spreading out and doing a bit of damage here and a bit of damage there will help them prevail.
This was the final situation when the Humans did their 30th point of damage to the Alien (me). They were down to two civilians but they were protected enough to be able to pull it out.
War of the Worlds is a really tense and exciting game, at least in our first one. We’ll see whether it keeps it up.
I love deckbuilders that have maps or some other method of doing things other than just the cards.
While this won’t rival my Top 5 games of all time (3 of which are deckbuilders that do other things), I can see this really livening up a lunch hour. It’s a 2-player game that can be played in an hour or less.
A review will probably be forthcoming in a month or so as I get enough plays in, but so far it’s a winner.
That was a massive post (almost 6500 words). I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
What new to you games did you play in October?
Or any opinions on these?
Let me know in the comments.