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All images used in the article are of a prototype and may differ from the final product
live long and prosper
Civilization games have many things in common. You play as a race of homo-sapiens with different starting stills. You start with small buildings and then make bigger and better ones. You spread out like a virus on your table top. And then you attack your neighbours with sticks then swords. All to make yourself triumphant.
The latest game from Holy Grail Games is very much like that. Apart from the latter. Dominations: Road To Civilization, is more about getting your civilization to where it needs to be, without war and aggression. In fact, most of the time, everyone is helping everybody else, in some fashion. You place a domino to gain knowledge, adjacent another domino that contains another players city, and they gain knowledge as well. Another player starts construction on a Wonder next to your city, you gain victory points instantly. A player generate a lot of one type of resource, you gain one, grace of them. The player who's house your playing in, turns on their Michel Bolton greatest hits and all players experience the same pleasure...
There is a “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” feel to it although you are not deliberately trying to scratch anyone's back. And all of this is the fault of the domino's.
steppingstones to civilisation
Another difference to other games is that fact that it is an abstract game. There are no hillocks to build a fortress on, no forests to collect wood from and no units of workers to move around. The world that the players will construct will be of some Tron style universe. Coloured, triangular domino's that generate resources. Each is composed of three of six different colours in each corner and one central colour, called the “Camp.” In the Expansion Phase of your turn, you'll add a domino to the “Cradle Of Civilization,” connecting two faces. The adjacent touching colours and the “Camp” of your domino, then generate resources that you add to you player board. A bonus can be scored in many ways. If the colours adjacent are the same, they produce one extra. Playing next to a domino with a city already build upon it will allow the owner of the Provence to gain a resource based on the “Camp” colour.
As the game goes on, you'll have more and more choices on where to place you domino, as the Cradle grows and expands. Each turn will take a little longer as you search for that optimal place that will help in the next two phases of your turn. But as your hand size reduces, your options are a little more clear to see. As every tile you place, you are trying not to help the others. Or even set them up for a big scoop resource ice cream.
Building A Domino Rally
After placing a domino, you then have the chance to build in the (you guested it) Build Phase. You won't need bricks, wood or sheep (however the help, I'll never know) to create cities and monuments. This will all be done with the power of know-how. The resources in this game are knowledge, Commerce, Craftsmanship, Art, Science, Government and Religion. Players will be racing to gain as much as they can so they can create a civilization that resembles their own, as indicated in their secret objective card. Spending three of the same knowledge will allow you to create a level 1 city on the corresponding coloured “Camp.” If no such colour is available, you can't build a new city. These cities are important at the beginning of the game as they help collect bonus resources. They'll increase the size of your reserves of knowledge, meaning you can hold more information about how Government works. Also giving you access you more expensive items to purchase. You'll also gain influence points that are scored and used to make you extra intelligent. Having the most at the end of an age, grants to the chance to learn something from the other players.
As the game unfolds and you unlock vaster holds for your resource, Wonders can then be constructed. These are multi layered buildings that have conditions on how they are constructed. Each layer has a different resource as a requirement and gives out very different rewards. Some big points here and there or maybe a power that may come into effect later in the game. Most importantly, they give you a card that can be integrated into your technology tree, that helps with end of game scoring and your secret objective. All players can contribute to it's construction and maybe you'll be the one that claims it as your own, by constructing the most segments of this wonder.
There is always this dilemma of “what to build?” As building a city opens up your reserves and may gain you a bonus if someone builds next door. But maybe that Wonder will help boost your score, help in your technology tree or give a unique power. Or should you not build at all! Saving the resources to master a Mastery. And a powerful one at that.
House Of cards
After the Build Phase has terminated, you move into the Mastery Phase, to master a skill or ability from a large selection of Mastery cards. Each knowledge has three levels of these cards and within each level there are around three or four different types of card to add to your tech tree. This tree relies on connecting coloured nodes or Nodus as they are called in game, together to form a complete circle. Each side of the card has different colours in the Nodus and luckily, each Mastery card has multiple versions with the colours shifted to a different edge.
Building your technology tree is a puzzle in it's own. “What Mastery cards do I need to complete my objective? What cards have the best powers? Which have the coloured Nodus I need to gain extra points? And what position should I lay them out?” This mini game is a nice little addition to a what seems to be a dry euro game. As playing multiple times will give you the upper hand, having foresight in some of the card and how they interact in the game. Everyone will start their trees with the basic level one cards that are all identical for each knowledge. Swap 1 colour x with 1 colour y. If another player collect 3 of a colour, you gain one too. And these are easy to keep tabs on.
But as your tree grows, you capacity of powers grow and the time between turns does to. As each time a tile is played, you are franticly looking at your tree, like someone looking for their lottery ticket, trying to find that card that tells you that you have inherited something as well. But not all cards have powers. Some have straight up victory points. And each card can be upgraded to a more powerful side that may offer both. But which do you choose? So many decision and options that will leave you thinking, “next time, I'll try that.”
And that is a great aspect about the game. It's leaves you with this replay feeling. As your first games will be part of a learning curve. How and when and where to build your cities. And how should I develop my tree.
the end of time
Player will preform these three phases, five times before this signals the end of an age. This is a chance for you to regroup your thoughts and collect more domino's. You'll gain points for your cities and the player with the most has a little power over the others. They have proved their dominance in this universe and require to absorb a Mastery from another player. Not taken directly from the play, but from the pool of cards, this player adds it to their tree...if possible.
Experts are then assigned to each player. For each knowledge as play has the most remaining resources, they get to collect a role card that gives VP's and has a power that can be use in the next turn. Some are weak powers, but contain lots of VP's, while other are the reverse. So, is it best to save your penny's for that rainy day or go all out? Or maybe, like me, you ride the waves as they came. Another dilemma that the game gives you. As after role are assigned, all knowledge is lost. Yes, you may have ten points in Art and seven in Crafting, but they are now gone. Be happy you have the roles.
Three ages will be played in the game, meaning you'll have placed 15 tiles and built 15 times as well as mastered 15 things, it's time to count the points and see who has domination.
living up to your dominations
Dominations is a game that is for those euro players that like a deep and reflective experience. You will be constantly interacting and reacting to the other players as each action will have an effect in game, on you or on others. With it's vast array of options, pre-planning is hard to narrow down. Unless you are strictly abiding to your objectives, sticking to your guns and blinkering yourself. But doing so could loose you lots of points or worse, resources.
The mechanism's are very simple as they are the basics of most tile laying games. Therefore, anyone could pick this up and play it. Although it is quite a profound game with lots of layers, as it is wrapped in real history. Eric Dubus, one of the designers is a professor of history and has added real elements from our past into the game. From the technology's, to the race based objective cards. Maybe due to the art or the mechanism's, this does not stand out. You will be constantly saying “I collect five red,” and “I'll spend three green...” Which I suppose helps simplify the games entry level.
Every decision is an important one as you'll need to balance your resources, watch your opponents, build the right buildings and make sure that you remember where you are taking your race. There are a myriad of details that you need to check and remember. It can be quite easy to forget that you are trying to have eight cities completed while you opponents take the majority of a wonder away from you. Forcing you to preform an action that you did not want do this turn.
This is a very interactive, yet non aggressive, abstract, strategic civilisation game. Deep in decision making, that will take a while to unfold. Although lacking a little in theme, this is a very thought provoking puzzle of a game with a thousand different possibility's. One that will bring you back to the table again and again, just to try a different approach to constructing your glorious civilisation.
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Having someone knock at your door, which you foolishly open, only to get stuck listening to that someone go on and on about something or other, is a memory that I am not fond of. And I couldn't just slam the door in their face or say "get the fudge off my land," with my Dorset accent. In fact, it's more that "a" bad memory. It's many bad memory's.
That's why I'd like to live in Small Town. If someone knocks on your door there, it's normally just a quick call to check who is there or what weapons you have. And normally, it's a detective. Some very Small Detectives.
Small Detectives is exactly that...Small. It's a mini Cluedo. It comes in a mini box. It has some mini decision for you to make. And a mini memory aspect too.
In this 2 to 5 player game, each players is trying to get to the root of a murder that has happened in Small Town. As the Police can't handle such a thing, they have contacted you and many other detectives (1 to 4 others, if your keeping count) to get this mystery solved. Doing some footwork, going from door to door, you will be collecting evidence that will eliminate the four suspects and four possible murder weapons. Being careful not to step on the toes of the other detective going around town, as this will reveal nothing. Occasionally, popping into the local bar for a swift pint and pick up some rumors as well. And finally, going to the Police Station to make your accusation.
The game uses a card drafting mechanic to move you around the town, getting you from door to door. Every turn, players will simultaneously place a card in front of themselves and then when everyone has concluded this action, they reveal this card, that dictates your action this round. These cards are also numbered, starting with the lowest, each player will preform their action. They may move the detective around town a number of spaces. The may send them straight to the pub (I need a card like that). They may make the houses in the street, swap places.
Each house in Small Town hides a secret. The backside of each house tile has either a person or murder weapon marked on it. At the beginning of the game, one of each of these categories is removed and placed under the Police Station. These are the murderer's identity and the weapon they used. By visiting the other house's in play, our detective players will deduce which of these two tiles have been removed.
The problem come (but also the fun of this game) from the possibility of another detective knocking on the same door as you. When all action are carried out, detectives that are alone at the door to a house, get the chance to see whats inside. Or technically, whats on the other side. Having two or more detectives on the same tile means no one get's a peak at the evidence, leaving a bitter taste as you walk away this round, empty handed. And then, when you are alone on a house, you look on the underside of the tile, only to see that it is a clue you've already seen! Somebody switched the tiles...GRrrrrr!!!
A point of interest is the local bar. There, you will have the chance to question one of the other detective about what they have seen. You present them with 1, 2,or 3 items that relate to the crime and they will respond with a "yes" or "no" response. Being careful about who you ask and what you ask is important in narrowing your search for the truth. But also a reliable way to get lots of answer, quickly.
And after a hard days work, in this case, the end of the round, players collect the card that the player to their left have just played. Meaning, if you were stuck with some un-useful cards in the last round, you may pick up better ones later, as you pass your ones on. Do you play you powerful 'Go Go Go' card now, allowing you to move wherever you want. Leaving this card to another to use or not, on their turn. Or do you save it for when you need to be the first player at the Station, catching the murderer.
This is a light, family style affair that will probably replace that space in your heart that was called Cluedo. It's speed of play will have you tense at the table for about 20 minutes. Just long enough for your tea to arrive at a drinkable temperature. You drink. Then you start you revenge rematch.
It's simple to learn, making it great for a family sit down. The memory aspect is not to large as there are only a total of six things to remember that you seen. Although, remembering where you saw them as them dance around the place could make your head scratch. The light iconography is quick to pick up and within a game, you'll know it all.
Playing with more players introduces more card with more specialize actions, such as; being able to look a two tiles or switch two played cards around, so you can collect a useful card for the next round. And more players means more chaos. More houses get shuffled around and there are more feet to step on as you walk your beat and knock on doors. Getting no response, of course. As the other players block your progress. This is a race against the others. Being efficient and retaining information is the key.
The box is small and portable. The components a small and solid. And the game is small, not taking up much of your time.
Technical Score 9/10
My BGG Score 6/10
(It's OK - will play if in the mood)
Combined Score 7.5/10
Can't Stop is a game that is almost as old as my wife. 38 years ago, this game hit the store thanks to Parker Brothers. A game driven by the luck of dice but leaves you feeling that you have control...until you literary "CAN'T STOP!!!"
Players can climb up to ten mountains. Each Mountain has a value that you can get by adding two dice together. Players roll four dice and pair them up. They can move three mountaineering teams on three of the ten mountains but will need the results of the dice to correspond with the number of the mountain they are climbing. If with the dice you have the same value as the mountain your team is climbing, you can advance them. If you can not advance any of them, the fall off the mountain and restart from their last camp.
Ending your turn is your choice. If you stop before your teams fall off, they will set up camp. Therefore saving their progress.
A very simple concept that evolved in the days when Yahtzee was the only other dice game. And unlike it's predecessor, is still a great deal of fun. Although the Yahtzee mechanism has
been implemented into many game since King Of Tokyo hit the market, there are none that have this addictive dice rolling. Making Can't Stop unique and great fun for all.
have a look for your self
"This is the voice"
Yes, Chaps and Chapettes, welcome to the finals of THE VOICE. Where we are searching the finalists for that one perfect, loudest song in all of the forest. And all we have to do is coach them, hinder their rivals and bet on them to win, to win yourself!
So, will it be the Red Robin? The Mountain Bluebird? The Green-Finch? Or the Long-Tailed Tit?
It's you that decides in Songbirds ...
Songbirds is a small, compact classical style card game that can play up to four players or even solo. With a premises so simple, anybody can understand. Back the bird that sings the loudest.
But even with this simple game, players stumble over the first obstacle...How do I play to win?
The game is simply playing a card from your hand into a five by five grid. Your card needs to be adjacent the starting card in the middle or another played card. On the outskirts of this grid (the forest) are some randomly placed score tokens. There is one for each line horizontally and vertically. These you are trying to win for your bird by having the values of that coloured bird being higher than the other birds in that column.
It's simplicity in game play, a math game where each suit of card is added together to see how has the highest score, is actually quite difficult in a few aspects. Difficult to teach so players see the objective and difficult for players to see a strategy that will win them the game.
But coming from a card playing background and when I say that, I mean of the 52 deck variety, players should find it a walk in the park. Your dealt a hand of cards and you play them to the best of your ability's, in competition with the other players. Same as a trick taking game. There is card counting and math...
There are many things you can do with your cards. Playing a card that will help one of the suits have a higher total in a column is one. In the image above, Red win 12 points with a total of "8".
But also playing a card that make the totals of the highest suit equal the same, will cancel these two suits out of the chance of scoring. Imagine the Red "1" was Blue. Blue and Red would be eliminated from the running's of winning the 12 points, so it falls to the next highest suit. Which in this case is a number "2". But both Green and Grey have a total of "2" meaning that no suit wins the 12 points. As I said, mathematical. And done on a 2D grid, so your not just effecting one column with your card, but two.
On top of that, you need to be calculating which suit is in the running's to win lots of points, keeping a card of that suit in your hand. But do you keep a high number, giving you more points or do you play the high number which gives a better chance of winning points.
Decisions, decisions...and all in a small little card game.
With some cute, but non essential art and a few variants for solo play and team play, this is a board game for all those who like small little classical style card games. Not really my "cup of tea," but a game I don't mind playing.
Technical score 8/10
My BGG score 6/10
Combined score 7/10
This is a simple game of moving your coloured tokens from one tile, on the Tic-Tac-Toe grid to another, to create a stack of three tokens. Hopefully with yours on top and with a bonus of scoring a point marked below on that space...That's all!
But there are many benefits that make this game stand out from the dullness of that previous paragraph. Take the the amazing playing pieces:
Your playing pieces, apart from being big, chunky and cute are thematic Tiki's. These Tiki's are used to create Totem Poles. As a God, you are trying to influence the villagers on the tiles by making them worship you and give you the fruits of their labors in a offering. And when I say fruits, I mean "fruits." Pineapples are your fruit of choice, and the first to collect four of them will win.
Each village/tile has a different number of pineapple that you collect if you manage to influence them. From 0 to 2. There is even a village that has a -1, which means that one pineapple will go sour and rotten. If you manage to make the tribe there go wild for you and you have already collected a fruit, it goes bad and you have to flip the token over to show it. That's one less point in the game for you and your opponent. As if you didn't have any, one pineapple from the reserve spoils.
Like all classic abstract games, the rules are simple and not complex. The complexity of the game comes from what you do with these actions. Tiki, is no different. You can either place one of your coloured Tiki's into an empty village or more a Tiki of your colour one village adjacent. Or if there is another Tiki under your own, you can move to two other villages, dropping off the lower Tiki in the first before resting your own in the second.
This is how you stack the Tiki's into a Totem. Every stack of two, with your Tiki on top is one that you control. So it is possible in a round that you have the only movable pieces on the board. But if after moving, a stack of three is in a village, that tribe is active and makes an offering to the God who has the influence. This meaning, if your Tiki is on top...you win some fruit (or maybe not!)
This Totem is remove and the game continues until a winner is found.
The game is about cold calculating your actions, forcing your opponent into a corner and make them move where you need them to, giving you the win you need. Two expert player will go head to head for a good 10 to 20 minutes, until someone slips up. While people like my self, who play fast and loose can knock out two or three games in the same time. So if your looking for either of those in a, this is for you.
It's colorful nature and sweet tactile feel gives the game a family vibe. And kids will pick up the rules easily while twiddling the Tiki's between their fingers like a professional poker player.
If your thinking that this is just a one shot game, a thing to remember is that these villages are tiles and can be moved around. Creating a slightly different lay out that will give you a slightly different way of playing. On top of that, there is a variant in the box that changes some of the villages into a swamp. Where the Shaman lives.
Getting influence in the swamp mean that you can place the Shaman between two villages, blocking the route. No movement can take place between these villages and you will have to make your way around.
If you are lucky enough to grab a Kickstarter version of the game, you will find four (technically three) more variants in the box. Two sets of different village tiles that let you move villages or swap Tiki's around. Plus a BAD Tiki that acts like your own, if you have control over it. And then the forth variant is to mix the villages as you wish. Quite a bit of reputability if you own this edition.
All in all, a very simple, two player, abstract game. A quick playing, light, fun puzzle with great production values. Although it is in a box that is slightly bigger than you'd like to pack in your holiday bag, so you can play it on that golden beach you are heading too. But well worth it when it is too hot to do anything else.
Technical score 10/10 (although missing the KS variants rule book)
My BGG score 8/10
Combined score 9/10
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