Space Gate Odyssey (2019) tested
This is a first impressions of a game that a friend owns. Therefore, I have never read the rules and will not be using the correct terms of Space Gate Odyssey in this article. But this is the impression that I got from playing it. A game where you will be building a space station from a control center somewhere on another planet. And your goal is to populate other planets with your colonists, using a Stargate system. Beam em up, move em about and zap them out there. A worker placement, construction, puzzle, go forth and multiply game.
The games main mechanic is worker displacement. There will be a control room board depicting five rooms, each with a 3D table in it. Each room has its own action and each player has a number of scientists in each of these rooms. On the players turn they will take one of their scientists and move into another room to perform the action they wish to take. Each scientist in that room, of the same players color will be able to perform the action. Move a third scientist into the teleport room and you can teleport three groups of colonists onto your space station. Which can be great for you. It's a party in the teleport room. Woopie! But what the bummer will be is moving a scientist into a room where they are alone, meaning you perform the action only once.
And to add a downer to the bummer is if another player has three or four of their scientists in that room, they can perform the action on your turn as well. Three or four times, depending on their number of scientists. So you are basically allowing the other players a free pass to do what they want as well. This means you’ll have to plan your actions carefully and either space out to your scientists or group them together for powerful actions. At the same time you’ll need to think about if you want to help out the other players or not. This lends itself to a nice back-and-forth between the players and also lots of interaction in the game even when it’s not your turn.
Each player will have their own individual space station in front of them made up of a number of tiles. A teleport room will provide you with some colonists that will help build the station and colonize other planets. You’ll be expanding this space station with the help of your scientists in the control room, as one of the actions will allow you to draw tiles. Think of it as building an ant farm or creating a route for the lovable Lemmings (Oh No! pop). These tiles come in three different colors and have three different functions.
The functions include Teleporting rooms, where your colonists will arrive at your space station. Corridors, that when constructed will allow you to recruit more scientists in the control room, or robots (which are non-moving scientists) or upgraded scientists (which have the power of doing an action twice). And finally for lack of a better turn, the Stargate tiles, which when half full of colonists will zap them to one of the planets chosen at random at the beginning of the game. The color of the tiles is very important as you build your labyrinth of a space station. As three of the control rooms match those three colors. Moving a scientist into the green control room will allow one of your colonists to move from an adjacent tile into a green tile. Whether it be Corredor, Stargate or Teleport room. Again the more of your scientists in that room the more colonist can move about the space station.
The game seems to be about efficiently constructing a maze for your colonists to run around in and then finally get out of, to score you points on planets. And it does this, and I have found it interestingly enjoyable. But then you have the planets. Each of the planets are chosen at random at the beginning of the game and only a certain amount of planets are used per game. Each planet has its own way of being scored once they’ve been colonized. Some score you points just for the number of colonist you have on that planet. While others will score points for majorities on separate islands or sectors or if you were the first to reach a certain space on the planet.
There is an intriguing balancing system to the game, to stop runaway leaders. As your score goes up, the amount of colonists and scientists at your disposal goes down. You’ll be using these meeples to keep track of the tens of units of your score. This hurts a little when you have to use a colonist. But it hurts a great deal more if you have to remove a scientist from the control room.
There is also an added scoring section at the end of the game which can be adjusted by certain spaces on the planets. Placing a colonist on this special space will allow you to change two tiles on a track on the home planet. This track is the end of game scoring and you will score points on whether you have the most tiles on your space station of a certain color or if you have sets of colored tiles. And obviously each position on this track will have a different amount of points. Moving the green tile to the furthest right space will give the player with the most green tiles on their station, a large chunk of points. Building your entire station of green tiles might be great for those points, but will it be effective moving your colonists around?
Once a planet has its complement of colonists it is removed from the game and scored. And the Stargate moves on to another planet. If there are no more chosen planets left, the Stargate moves on to the home world and colonists which go through that Stargate will score points directly. When there are no more planets to explore and all the Stargates have been placed on the home world the game ends. You’ll do the final scoring which also includes a penalty for any open doors on your space station, a little like Galaxy Trucker (in space, everyone knows who left the door open). So constructing this in an adequate manner is important, not only to be efficient but also to be complete.
The game is small and cute but still takes up a lot of space. Control room, planets, piles of tiles, everybody's space stations sprawling everywhere. With mini meeple colonists which can be a little finicky and meeple sized scientists that have suits that they slip in and out of accidentally. It’s sad to say but it’s all a little bit too miniaturized. Yes the game takes up a lot of table space and fits nicely in a ticket to ride size box but it suffers with the finicky components. Plus there are very small icons on the space station tiles. This can sometimes lead to forgetting that you have a teleporter or a Stargate portal on the tile. And in a game where there is this much player into action, it would be useful to look across the table to see your opponents station and easily discover what they have built.
But apart from my slight component dislike, I really enjoyed puzzling this game out. As I have said the interaction between players keeps you fully engaged in the game. You are always constantly planning or doing something even when it is not your turn. There are different planets to use each time you play, and they work differently for the different number of players. You’ll hardly notice the art of Vincent Dutrait’s handy work, but you will notice the robots resemble Dr Who’s foes. It’s enjoyable to see your labyrinth space station, live and work how it’s supposed to work. A little bit like watching Simcity and seeing where the traffic jams are and where the freeways make traversal of the station fluid. This is a game that merits replaying, just to see the different types of planets and to try out different combinations of a space station.
tested - liked -want to play again
Dinosaur Island (2017) review
* Warning : all the components presented in the photos of this review come from the KS version, the retail version may be slightly different. *
Who hasn't dreamed of being able to manage a park of living dinosaurs? To be able to play with DNA while offering its visitors an intense and magical experience ? Dinosaurs were for dreamers, then Spielberg pushed the concept even further with his movie Jurassic Park.
Since then, there has always been this desire to find a game with a gameplay equivalent that could take us back to this wonderful adventure. Strangely, few games with this theme have emerged. There was an old MB game that came out many moons ago, but we were far from the possibility of managing a Jurrasic style park. License costs are certainly very high, fear of attacking this well loved monument, or simply a lack of interest ... The reasons are certainly varied to why a game like this never came to market.
Since the release of Jurassic World, licensed games have emerged. Aimed at the family audience and not necessarily the gamer, who wanted to control the management of the park itself. In 2017, an "expert" game came to Kickstarter and surprised us, with this thematic flavor: Dinosaur Island from Pandasaurus Games.
The first thing that was surprising in this game was the art. Everything is very flashy (maybe too much?) Illustrators Kwanchai Moriya (Catacombs), Peter Wocken (Dead of Winter) and Anthony Wocken, had free rein to their madness and offered us unique and surprising visuals. A breath of fresh air in a world where production tends to be more and more standardized. This art gave a unique cachet to this game. Clearly, from its aesthetics, it can be cutting.
The designers Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter) and Brian Lewis (Titan of Industry) offer us with their game, the opportunity to be at the head of a company that embarks on the exploitation of dinosaurs to attract tourists into their amusement park. Does it remind you of anything?
Everything is there. Creation of dinosaurs (thanks to the recovered DNA), creation of enclosures, levels of security, booths of goodies, food stands, attractions, specialists, dinosaurs, ... Even the rules offer a lot of tributes and funny references.
We are in a game as faithful as possible to the monument that is Jurassic Park without having the film footage and stepping on any rights.
In Dinosaur Island, the goal is to make your park lively as possible. Playable for 2 to 4 players (you have also a solo mode), each is the head of a scientific corporation. Your park is represented by an individual player board, on one side is the possible locations, on a kind of grid and on the other the actions that your workers can do. The game is played in several phases.
The first is the specific resource search. You are going to send your scientists to bring back DNA, to find dinosaur "recipes" (yes I do not know what else to call it), or to transform them into mundain workers.
We are in a fairly conventional job placement. The choices are represented either by dice or by locations, as is the case for dinosaurs. Moreover, there are two types of dinosaur"recipes": Herbivores and Carnivores. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Herbivores are easier to create and generate fewer problems but they attract less visitors. On the other hand, Carnivores are the opposite.
The taste of danger brings back more people. With Carnivores, you have two types : small and large (which are more difficult to create). I take the lead and I answer you right away ... Yes, there is the Tyrannosaurs. Each species of dinosaurs is represented only once. So if you like this one especially, buy it immediately!
During the second phase, you will be able to recover equipment, build buildings and recruiter specialists to improve your park. No, you can't find John Hammond, Dr. Grant or Ian Malcom ... Though, if you look a little closer, maybe...
So you can get goodies, attractions or food stalls, each of which yield different benefits. The equipment offer you new actions for your workers. Specialists are there to give you bonuses during the game. Be careful, all places are limited and it costs money. If nothing interests you, it is possible to recover DNA instead. Each player will have the right to two purchases. Apart from taking the tile that interested the other players, the interaction is low.
Here in the third phase, each player will use their workers to develop their park. It is at this moment that we will create our dinosaurs for example. What's the point of a park without dinosaurs? To come into the world, these charming creatures need a type of DNA according to their "recipe". They will bring you victory points at the end of the game but especially points of interest, that's what makes the audience come. They will also need a large enough enclosure. Apart from the joyous aspect of genetic transformation, it is at this stage that you will be able to improve your security, your money (advertising costs) and your paddocks. Here, everyone plays at the same time.
The fourth phase is the fastest. We check each park one by one and the doors open. We draw a number of tourists equal to our fame. But beware, some tourists are not there to just visit. But pose more problems, than profits. In front of all that are the crowds and is your security sufficient to protect them? Because if you have been too greedy or unscrupulous, your dinosaurs can, for a very short moment, break out of their paddock and have fun with your visitors. Nothing serious. After all, some deaths do increase the fame of a park, no! ... No? Ah! ... So you will lose a few victory points based on these unexplained disappearances. But rest assured, they had still paid their entry before their death. Also, since the world has a short memory, the next turn, your park will reopen. You'll adjust your score and start again.
The end of the game will come when all public objective have been won. These randomly chosen goals at the beginning of a game can be modulated to increase or shorten the game. There is also a “first come first serve” race between the players.
Dinosaur Island is a game with simple rules. You explain and understand everything quickly, without having to go back to the rule book. Games can be more or less long and none are really alike. I'll admit it, I love this game. And yet, let's be honest, it's not perfect. Besides its design (pink dinosaurs!), one of my first critiques is that it appears to be a solitary game. Indeed, apart from a little pressure on the objectives or which dice to choose in phase 1, the interaction is very weak or non-existent. Players create their park in their own corner and then occasionally look at where other players are. Usually, this is something that bothers me.
But, I admit that I let myself be so transported by my imagination in this game that it does not remove my pleasure. And, it always makes you smile to see another player forget the importance of security. In general, game does not offer a very difficult challenge. It is rare to be really stuck and we always end up doing what we want... almost. For players looking for complexity, you will be disappointed. Another point more anecdotal, the customization of the park is also a little limited especially by meeples dinosaurs that closely resemble the others (but hey, it would have been much more expensive to have different meeple dinosaurs for each species). There is no such thing as a specialty or a specific thing to watch depending on the dinosaur taken. It's pretty generic.
In spite of all that, I continue to love this game. I dreamlike feeling transports me into the game. Its simplicity makes it easy to take out and play. No need to go back to the rules at every game.
The replayability is present by the choice of public goals, the choices during the game and what the dice offer ... The material is very nice and quite neat. I see myself at the head of an entertainment company, choosing my dinosaurs carefully, develop my park, protect (or not) my visitors ... This game really has a magical aura.
I think the relation to Jurassic Park is not insignificant. If the game was talking about something else, with the same mechanisms, I'm not sure it would please me as much. The theme and the nostalgia therefore occupy very important places in my appreciation of the game. The first player token, a visitor's bracelet for the KS version, puts you directly in the mood.
Dinosaur Island is a particular game. The choice of graphics, the choice of the gameplay, the choice of theme, everything has been carefully worked for our greatest pleasure. We can of course expect more. After all, with such a theme, our imagination is racing very quickly. More customization, more differentiation, more challenge, more choice ...
But then we would have a different type of game. Finally, is not it the will of the authors to have created a simple game but not too simplistic. A game open to all and playable by the vast majority, while keeping a strong identity and an ounce of difficulty? In any case, I can only recommend this game, which even if it does not invent anything and remains fairly traditional (a mix of mechanisms), makes you plunge into of your childhood dreams . A success simply.
Note that following the success of the game, an expansion has been realised. Totally Liquid offers the possibility to play up to five, new types of dinosaurs (sailors), new paddocks, new specialists ... A new experience that I will review soon.
At the same time as this expansion, they released a special version for two players, Duelosaur Island. If you are interested, I could also review that for you?
Technical Score 9/10
The components of the game are very good quality. The boards are hard cardboard, very resistant. The meeples are funny. The rules are well written and everything is installed quickly. The graphics and the choice of colors can disorientate or even run away. Yet this daring choice brings a breath of fresh air into the current production.
BGG Score 9/10
(Excellent game. Always want play it.)
A game with simple, catchy rules that makes you relive the adventure Jurassic Park. An excellent game to spend a good moment of reflection between players or with you family.
Combined Score 9/10
Great Score for very good game. And now it's over to you...
Barry's first impressions
The game does capture the essence of building a theme park. With so many tiles to buy, cards to collect and different Dinosaurs to play with, there is a lot of replayability. But with that come a big load of boards. A board for each phase, is a little too much for a coffee shop to play with, but everything is thematic and interesting.
I did enjoy playing the game although I felt it was unbalance with this “short term memory” world. If a visitor died tragically at a theme park, there would be a bit of bad press and the loss of income or point. This game captures that. But a massacre at a park should be devastating to a park owners score...not here.
Globe Twister (2018) review
Many people spend many hours connecting tiny pieces of cardboard together to complete one image. My wife and daughter have just started doing one right now. A 1000 piece puzzle of London landmarks. Eventually this puzzle will be glued together and then hoisted up and mounted on a wall somewhere in our house. Hopefully out of my sight. This is something that I think we are all addicted to as children. If fact, this pastime has been turned into a board game, called Puzzle Battle. Where players are racing to complete their puzzle before the others.You can check out a review I did here.
The natural progression was then the slide puzzle. A plastic or wooden framed toy with an image, broken into many squares and left with one space in which to shuffle the pieces into the correct order. This too has been transformed into a board game.
In Globe Twister, players are trying to put their memories of their holidays back together. The game comes with five unique individual images for five players. And one universal image on the back of these double-sided tiles. Again it’s a race to finish your puzzle before the other players but unlike puzzle battle, it’s not just a one on one affare, plus you can adjust the difficulty level for each individual player. And on top of that it is a logical programmation game.
Players will have a handful of cards and each card will have an action depicted on it. For example one card will have a rotate a tile 90° left,while another card, 90° right. There are cards that will make you switch the positions of two tiles, either adjacent or on the opposite side of this 3 x 3 grid. The other neat twist to this concept is the fact that you’ll be placing these cards in an empty frame that represents the 3 x 3 tiles of your image. The position that you placed your card in this frame will corrisponde to a tile, dictating its action. Each space can only contain one action card. So as soon as you have placed all the actions that you can possibly do or are a little out of actions that you need to do you can stop.
So you'll be racing to use your logic to get these tiles into the right spaces. Each card that you have has one unique action whether it be a rotate or a move. And placing each card in its correct space becomes very important when it comes to your turn to carry out your programmation.
Your puzzle will be given to you at the beginning of the game from another player who will be shuffling the tiles before hiding them behind an image of the final photo. Sometimes your puzzle will be handed to you, and a majority of those tiles will need rotating. Where as the puzzle you shuffled for another player may just need them to place their tiles in the right space is, without rotating. This is where the only technical bug of the game lays. In its unfairness of the shuffling, may require one player to do more programming than another.
Where this could be great is where adults are playing against children and the adult gets the harder puzzle. It’s not really that big bug as it only affects the generic image that has only one orientation. Where as the unique images can be made any way up, the puzzle becomes which way is the quickest to complete.
If you are the first player to finish programming, you will place your image over your puzzle and turn the sand timer. This gives 30 seconds for the other players to finish playing cards before the end of the round. Then players will, one by one act out their programmation. And this is where the fun begins.
The programmations are carried out in reading order, meaning that the first card in the top left hand corner of the frame activates first. After it has activated or there is no card there, it goes to the next card to the right of that. And all the way down to the bottom right hand corner. Fun you say! Well yes, sometimes you will move a tile to a different position where you have a rotate tile. And if you have not correctly thought this through you may rotate the tile that didn’t need rotating. This can lead to giggles from your children if you are playing against them. Or banging your head against the table when you’re playing against your friends.
After everyone has carried out their programmation you start again. Just until one player has completed their image, ending the game.
This is a perfect game for a family or for people new to hobby gaming, due to the fact that it is relatively simple. You are doing a picture puzzle and everybody can relate to that. I just think the adjustment of the difficulty level is an added bonus. As there are two powerful cards that can be removed for experience players. These allow tiles to move anywhere that you wish and rotate at any angle you wish too. A major rule with these cards is once they are used they are removed from the game. But if you see fit your children could keep these cards and carry on using them throughout. Also the images reflect the varying degrees of difficulty. The five unique images are very colorful and very mixed with their design. They are also very much like a fish lens image going all around the outside of the puzzle. Where is on the backside of the universal image, has a horizon.
Gameplay is relatively quick and within 10 minutes, your puzzle will be complete and you'll probably play again with a different image. Unfortunately it lacks more images that could add to replayability. Maybe down the road they’ll be a new version with a 4 x 4 grid and more picture postcards for you to complete.
The art is jolly and colorful and the components are of good quality. The rulebook does and exceptional job at explaining everything in good detail, from each of the different cards powers to how the programmation works. It also has some suggestions on how to play without the timer or without the frame. And there is even a solo mode, where you will have to complete a set puzzle in a set amount of turns. This could be very interesting when playing with experience players. Either as a group logic puzzle cooperatively. Or as a competition to see who can complete their puzzle the quickest. It’s all packed into a nice small size box which makes it a nice game to take away on holiday. There is enough game play here for young children. And with the imagery of different cultures from around the world will give them something to talk about as they play. I do enjoy the logic puzzle aspect of the game but it gets a little old, too quick.
Technicals score 9/10
Small and portable. Simple and well presented. Colourful and easy for anyone to play.
My BGG score 7/10
(Good - usually willing to play)
A good logic puzzle that is 10 minutes of fun, then sadly forgotten.
Combined score 8/10
and now it's over to you...
A Handful Of Stars (2017) review
A Handful of Stars is the latest game in a "Deckbuilding" trilogy by designer Martin Wallace. This trilogy was initiated by A Few Acres of Snow and then followed by Mythotopia. As often with this designer, the classical mechanism is transformed into a rather interesting mix. In this series of games, Wallace has fun with deckbuilding. We start with a mechanism that we know but we will quickly end up with a gameplay quite different.
A Handful of Stars is a very playable game even with 2 or 4 players. The story is set in a science fiction universe where a very strategic confrontation will take place. You’ll embody a faction, an alien race and our goal is to conquer the galaxy. A Handful of Stars is a game that does not forgive, especially with only two players where the conflict is even more brutal. At three or four players, the forces involved can balance out and unofficial diplomacy plays a non-trivial role.
Aesthetically, the board and the overall rendering is beautiful. It sounds stupid to say that, but Wallace games are not famous for their graphics especially those edited by Treefrog Games (of which this was the last). But rest assured, we plunged into the "normal" when we talk about the tokens spaceships.
Each player starts on their native world, chosen among the choice in our hand. We embody one of seven alien races available. Each being asymmetrical. When set up, the planets that make up the galaxy are randomly placed. This ensures tremendous replayability, as even roads that connect planetary areas can be blocked by black holes. The initial arrangement of the board will only rarely be identical. This will also affect how the players start the game. Indeed, from one game to another, you may be lucky and begin with an advantageous start ... or, if you don't, pretty disastrous one. But you’ll have to deal with it. You don't become Emperor of the Galaxy without challenge.
Every planet under your control brings you cards. These cards will be your deck. Do not forget that this is a deckbuilder ... with an integrated 4X system ... or the other way around ... The more you will spread in the Galaxy and conquer systems, the more you will be present on the board. But the bigger you get, the bigger your deck will grow. The need to purify your deck or draw THE ONE card you need, will therefore diminish according to your warlike appetite. This aspect, thematic level, is reminiscent of an Empire lost in the middle of bureaucracy and its inertia due to the amount of planets controlled.
The concept of deckbuilding is quite important in the game. But not in the traditional way. Indeed, here no rivers of cards to buy. The cards that will form your deck will come from your conquests or your ability to invest in technology. With six cards in your hand per turn, you can play as many as you want. At the end of a round, you only draw until you have six cards again. Yes, we can keep cards from one turn to another. You don't have to play all your hand during a turn. But the more cards you keep, the less you renew your hand. In order to plan future actions or put aside cards until the right time, we find the action , thanks to Wallace, to "Reserve." In A Handful of Stars, on the individual player board, we have two "Reserve" slots. The first slot stores cards based on its capacity limit. This is one of the possible actions that gets rid of your hand or your deck while keeping the ability to play them later. The second slot is for some special cards that will have a permanent effect as long as they are visible. This is a very important notion in the game and above all very useful.
With the help of the resources present on the cards, we will gradually build our civilization. Each card can have several resources, but only one is used when played. The choice can sometimes be difficult. There are four resources available. Developing your research, allows you to acquire new technology cards. Recovering energy sources allows you to move. Acquire a special kind of material that will be used during spaceflight. Finally, capturing or pacifying populations will allow to settle on new systems.
The possible actions are quite numerous: put cards in reserve, move, recover cards technologies, play cards technologies, create front posts, settle on habitable planets, create your troops, remove a single card, discard one card or pass. To be honest, the last two actions are not useful in this game. Among all that, we can only choose two per turn.
One of the important points of the game is the fight. To become Emperor, peace is beautiful but it does not last forever, especially when others have the same goal as you. Suddenly, it poses a problem quickly. We realize that the Galaxy is not so big and that if someone could disappear, it would not be as annoying. The attacker will therefore go to the neutral planet or one belonging to another player. For this, they must spend energy to move their ships or bases. Each having it's own fighting force. We then have two possibilities. If the target is neutral, we look at its strength on the token. If the attacker has at least +1, they win. They can stay to eventually later settle down on that planet. If it's a player, the fight can become bloodier. Once the attacker has moved, the defender has the opportunity to do the same (also paying with energy). Players also play potential technological cards. They compare their forces, then half of each of the armies are slaughtered (rounded up or down depending on who wins). The winner remains, the loser flees their home (otherwise they perish). It's a violent game. Those who do not like to suffer or to be attacked, look away NOW! In space, the law of the strongest reigns supreme.
But how does this fierce struggle end? Again, Wallace has created a pretty clever system. The central mechanic is deckbuilding, therefore each player has their own deck to build. Once their deck is empty, they shuffle it. So far so good. Except that once a player (anybody) shuffles their deck, the turn token is moved one step further. When it reaches the end of the track (depending on the number of players), it's game over. Management and speed with which one will or will not play their cards, will count enormously. If player play too fast, or someone's deck is too small, the game will move much faster.
A Handful of Stars is an extremely clever game. Wallace has once again create a unique game in its mechanics while drawing heavily on what exists elsewhere. The tension is ubiquitous. The game is nasty, brutal and doesn't forgive much. The replayability is enormous due to the random set up, the choice of its race, and the way of playing ... The interaction is very strong. You must constantly monitor the others. Their place in the universe, their ability to move, the number of times they puts to mix his deck. Many factors to consider for a game that ultimately is not so calculating. With this game, I feel that Wallace has reached the end of his approach : transcended and transformed the essence of deckbuilding to make it even more intense and concrete. Be careful, the duration of the game is quite important. A game that will not leave you indifferent but that will require several plays before it can be tamed.
This game also has a small taste of bitterness. Even though it is very good, it will always have this little end flavor. Indeed, this was the end of Wallace, not to create games fortunately, but the adventure of his company, Treefrog. It may be anecdotal but it counts for me. This game is a little unnoticed as of its release and continues to be hard to find. Maybe it's a bit of that ... Anyway, if you like the 4X system and the deckbuilding go for it, you're in front of an excellent game.
Technical Score 7/10
You either like or don’t like old school graphics of this game. All components are correct without being extraordinary. Rules are very minimalist in their design but are ok.
BGG Score 8/10
(Very good game)
A very good mix between 4X and deckbuilding. Naughty and ruthless, the war is raging and will leave no one indifferent.
Combined Score 7,5/10
And now it's over to you...
One of the greatest films of our time is Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” I believe.
It was such a gritty, realistic view of the future. A group of co-workers on their way home, after a long haul, are requested to pull over to check out a vehicle that has crashed. When one of the team brings back a pet that picks them off, one by one, while they are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Leaving them helpless and alone.
Well, that’s kind of the story. The things I love about the film are its cramp corridors, the slow tension, the isolated setting and the philosophy of the creature. Things that make for good horror and storytelling. In the past, thanks to technology, we have had the chance to experience this situation by playing the Playstation 3 game, Dead Space. And now we can kinda capture that experience on our table top.
You may have missed out on it’s original release as it was a Kickstarter only project, with two pledge levels. The basic game and version with 3D board. Luckily, it is coming back to Kickstarter as of February the 14th 2019, with some promised new bit for those who own the first version and the opportunity for those that missed its first tour around the sun, to catch up.
Link to alone kickstarter
But should you back it?
As always, I am here to help with my first impression of the game. And I have compiled them into a video and a written article that you can see below. Yes, I love the theme, and yes, I love this genre of game, so take that into consideration when I say that I can’t wait to play it again. And as always, I hope that this helps point you in the right direction to decide if this is a Kickstarter for you, or not.
Wildlands (2018) review
Wildlands is one of the latest games by designer Martin Wallace. If this name still does not tell you anything, it's high time you go and find out more and try out his games. He has created a few dud games, but usually, most of them are very good, and is one of the most original and talented authors since the 90's. He is credited with titles such as Age of Steam, A Few Acres of Snow and God's Playground. All very good, I tell you. In 2018, there were no less than three publications of his games that were available. Two from a Kickstarter: Auztralia and the new Brass: Lancashire. And one that went direct to retail: Wildlands. It is this title that we will talk about here.
Wildlands came out at Essen 2018 from Osprey Games, a rather surprising English publisher. Little known to the general public, Osprey Publishing specialize in book publishing or wargame rules. Their origins include famous wargames / figurine games like Frostgrave, Dracula's America or Bolt Action. They did not neglect the board game, by branching out and creating Osprey Games, with titles like Escape For Colditz, The Lost Expedition, London (another Wallace). An editor searching since a few years to stand out.
Following a fierce battle between Good and Evil, the capital of the kingdom has been ravaged. It is indeed in the middle of this territory that the final struggle took place. The victory of the Good was not without consequence and the capital was carried away leaving Wildlands (hence the name of the game) devastated.
Today, enemy factions find themselves in search of treasure, glory and fame. These are your goals, as you play one of these factions and impose yourself against others.
Wildlands is a game for 2 to 4 players, based in a fantasy world. Each player embodies a faction composed of several miniatures (5 per faction in the base game). The four factions are The Guild, The Lawbringers, The Gnomads and The Pit Fighters (one per player, of course!). Each offers a different gameplay. Not in the mechanisms, but in the way of apprehending and controlling them. To impose yourself? Nothing easier. You just have to be the first to win 5 points. You will earn one point if you manage to recover a crystal of your color or if you knocked out an opposing figure. A character out of play will of course not return. Once a player loses all their miniatures, he loses. So beware of being too adventurous.
In the game, there are two types of actions: default and flags.
When you play a card with your character icon :
Each card has several icons. When a card is played, you can activate only one miniature regardless of the image and the number of symbols. Yes, the whole game is based on choice. Doing this or that action will deprive you of other choices.
You also have Wild cards that give you three choices : move any character, draw two cards or interrupt. Interrupt is another rather malicious gaming mechanism. With such a card, you can intervene in an opponent's turn.
Once a player has finished an action during his turn, you can play a card for its interrupt ability and play as if it were your turn. But be careful, that player too can do the same, as too can the other players. Very quickly, everything can come one after another and can lead to hurt. Once each player has stopped and played their actions, the game returns to the current active player.
That's all? Almost. The game gives you the freedom to play as many cards as you want, but at the end of your turn you will only draw three cards, with a seven card limit to your hand. And when you interrupt a player's game, you won't draw again until the end of your turn.
With an air of a skirmish game (clash of small bands), Wildlands offers a little more than that. You can try to kill the characters of the other faction but you can also very well win without doing a single point of damage. And claim the shards of your color. Or even do a mix of both. It's a very competitive point race. You must constantly pay attention to what the other is doing. The interaction is very strong especially with the potential threat of an interruption on your turn.
We are clearly in a game that will not please everyone. Its strengths can also become its weaknesses. The impression of an omnipresent chaos (linked to the interruption mechanism). The great presence of luck (linked to the draw of cards that will determine the possible actions). The immediate victory without finishing the round. And the ease of access are some of the many points which can scare or even remove many players.
But Wallace is a well-known designer for cleverly mixing German-style gaming mechanisms with Ameritrash style. Wildlands is no exception to the rule.
Chance is indeed present, whether from the set-up or in full play, it is the cards that will allow you to carry out your actions. Sometimes, when you don't have a good hand, it can make you angry. But it's also one of game's wills, to force you to adapt to each situation. It is almost impossible to get stuck if you know how to change strategy at the right time.
The ability to interrupt the game of another brings, it is true, a little surprise effect, but it is far removed from "great chaos". Performing this action is both dangerous for the opponent but also for you. Because if you miss your shot, you will start your turn (and enemies' turn) with greatly reduced possibility. And it can hurt.
As for the immediate victory, which isn't very rare for a skirmish, it adds a real pressure to the game.
Wildlands seems like a simple game, maybe too simple. And yet it's not.
It has the huge advantage of offering high accessibility. The rules are short but above all very easy to understand. Even if you can explain the game in less than 5 minutes, it does not mean that a player will master it. Each faction offers a very different gameplay in its reactions. For example, while one will go more towards melee confrontation, the other will go to dodge and speed. You will have to try to adapt, to best your opponent, who will do everything to take the advantage. It isn't uncommon to think and search for the best use of your hand, what card to play or not to play. And when is the best time to play it. The interaction is really ubiquitous. Whether it is your turn or not, you must always have an eye on the situation.
Freedom and adaptation are two words that fit perfectly well with the game. You have many choices, and you have a lot of freedom to accomplish them. But each action will be done to the detriment of another. You will therefore have to think carefully and accept the fact that we can't control everything. At the same time, this is not the goal of this type of game where the "take that" is very anchored.
Contrary to what you think, the game is short, or very short if you do not pay enough attention. This duration thus makes it possible to avoid the impression of not being in control and the frustration that can result from seeing one's actions fail while the plan of the other unfolds without a hitch. But it also offers the opportunity to play the revenge and try the different factions without having an impression of weariness. Still, of course, you have to like the style of games.
So, what's in the box? Inside, we will find the four factions with their deck of cards and colored bases, gems, damage tokens and a double sided board. Yes that's all. There is not necessarily a lot, but it is true that for the price of the game, it may surprise you. Going a little further in the inspection, we can see why and understand it.
The general composition, without being exceptional, is well made. The front and back board offers two battlefields with slightly different rule sets. The rendering is clean and visually pleasing. The art is by Alyn Spiller and Yann Tisseron. Particular care has been given to the miniatures. They are sculpted by Bobby Jackson (CMON) and Tim Prow (expansions of Cthulhu Wars). Despite a style a little retro for some, they are beautiful, fine and detailed. They have benefited from a black wash (rather well done) that gives them a real stamp (a bit like in Mechs vs. Minions). Good to be honest, when you remove the inserts (plastic), it's still a big empty box. The inserts are a little smaller and space to accommodate future expansions would have been appreciated. We also hope in the future, new colored base to avoid having to remove from the miniatures at the end of each game (at the risk of damaging them).
We still feel that Osprey took care to do a great job and wanted to offer a visually attractive game at the expense of a high price.
Wildlands is a game a little too much unnoticed after Essen 2018. It clearly didn't have the success it deserved. The price is unfortunately not foreign to me. It's really too bad especially since it's a good game and it does, not matter the number of players. In dual, it will offer you a more tactical challenge. At 3 or 4, the tension is higher and situation reversals can occur at any time.
Although it is true that the theme is quickly forgotten, the game is nervous, immersive, fun, fast, smart and cunning. Due to its high accessibility and simple rules, it could easily be used to introduce to non-skirmisher players.
Wallace and Osprey have already announced to follow their range. A first expansion was released shortly after the base game : The Unquiet Dead. This one offers a new faction (made up of 6 nice miniatures) that can be used instead of another, or that can serve as a neutral encounter. Be careful though, this expansion doesn't allow to play 5 players.
In 2019, other expansions are planned: whether new factions (the Adventuring Party with new rules) or new map.
A very good surprise, if you have the opportunity to try it do not hesitate a second.
Technical Score 8.5/10
Even if there is sparing amount of components, everything is really good. The miniatures are beautiful, detailed and well done. The wash effect is great. The rules are short and effective.
My BGG Score 8.5/10
(Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.)
Easy to play, easy to get out, easy to learn but not so easy to master. The game is super fun and offers a good challenge.
Combined Score 8,5/10
And now it's over to you...
Hello Chaps and Chapette,
You may or not be aware of the time restrictions that fill our lives. The amount of time spent watching top ten lists on Youtube or the hour and a half a week that you are sat doing your business on the toilet. I personnel have stopped the top ten list, but am probably spending more hours in the bathroom (getting old, you know. =) )
I want to produce more content, but am restricted with family life (mainly because player 4 is very young) and new work that is coming in. I am even struggling to get a video a week posted. It won’t fit into my working day of music, music and more music...And maybe more after. So I ask a friend if he could help. Not with the music, because I have heard him sing. But with creating articles for the website and to give you another side to gaming here in France.
(Guillaume and I at Paris Est Ludique 2017)
I have know Guillaume for over six years now, and he was one of the first gamers that I encountered when I relocated to the land of baguettes, cheese and wine. From our first encounter, there was a magic in the air. Due to his infectious laughter and colourful personality, he has been in my thoughts for a long time. His kind and generous nature in helping where he can, with providing all the promos I give away, testing prototypes with me, correcting the rules error I make and giving me food for thought after the game has finished. In the passed, we talked of doing videos together and maybe a podcast (in French) but nothing came of it. And now he has moved out of my local area, I see him less and less, but think of him more and more. That’s when I came up with the idea of getting him to write with me, to which he graciously said yes. He will be giving different opinions to myself about games we have played as well as telling you about the latest games (he is a cult of the new dude).
I could tell you more about his background, make up some interesting stories, but it’s probably better that he do so himself. So I’d like to introduce to you, my fantastic French friend Guillaume:
“Wow !!! What a presentation! Right now, that really puts the pressure on. I do not know if I want all these compliments. Already 6 years that I have supported you? ... It shows how tolerant Barry has been. ;)
“I'll introduce myself as Guillaume, Guilou or Slave (for the intimates). I have the honor and the pleasure of joining the adventure alongside Barry. I will try to transcribe to you as best as possible my passion for games through my articles. I think we can say that I am a big player. But I'm not limited to just one style of games and I am open to everything. I fell into gaming as a child, like Obelix in the Magic Potion, and I never really got out. Unfortunately for my bank account ...
“I'd say that I am a curious gamer and love to discover, but also play and replay. Very inspired at a young age by games like Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons or Magic. I love games that tell you stories, that make you live adventures, that make you dream. So, I naturally got closer to Ameritrash, Card Driven and Deckbuilding style of game, but not only those. For the rest... you will discover as we take a fun trip into reviewing.”
And there you have it. My gaming buddy, supporter and festival traveling friend is now helping me, point you in the direction of what games you should or shouldn't part with your hard earned cash.
Catch The Moon (2018)
Let’s start by saying that dexterity games are not my bag, baby. Although I do own one, that I got as a christmas present many moons ago. Wobbally is it’s name and I find it amusing because it’s a tower constructed from coloured marbles. And like Jenga, you’ll need to remove one every turn, without knocking the tower over. I have adapted the rules from the different variations that came with the base game to create my own fun version. But, all in all, I don’t hold dexterity games with any great esteem. I prefer to use the muscles in my brain than the muscles in my finger tips.
So why am I reviewing a dexterity game?
Well, number 1) I have demoed this game a lot for Bombyx and have found it fun to teach and also amazing to see the smiles and strange structures created. And 2) I do find it an interesting and elegant little challenge.
The story for the game (yes, this is a dexterity game with a story) is that the moon is feeling sad and lonely. And you, the players, want to cheer him up by paying him a visit. The only way to do that is to stack up all the ladders you can find and climb on up, without knocking any ladders over. Doing so will cause the moon to cry. A sweet, poetic story. Cute and adorable for families, but also serves to explain a little bit about the rules.
Players are going to take turns rolling a die and then add a ladder to the existing pile of ladders. The die will dictate the restrictions to how you add your ladder. It may be allowed to touch only one other ladder, or maybe two. Then again, it may have to be the highest ladder in the structure. If after letting go of your ladder, if it falls or others fall or the ladder breaks the restrictions of the die, you make the moon cry. Boo-Hoo! By doing this, you’ll collect one of the seven wooden teardrops that act as points and timer for the game. The game will end when a player takes that final teardrop and they will also be eliminated from final scoring for making the moon very, very sad. Whaa-Haa! The remain player with the least amount of tears wins the game.
Simple rules that make for a quick explanation and then your friends at the coffee table can jump straight in and play. With its small box it makes it very transportable and great for taking on holidays or just round a friend's house. The box insert can even host the game It suggests that you remove the gamebase from the box and place the ladders inside the insert. But equally you could leave everything in the base and place the ladders in the lid.
Another thing that makes this game stand out is the fact that you can manipulate the other ladders by using your “chosen at random” ladder. Wiggling it into place. Tipping another stack of ladders one way, so that you can touch two ladders instead of three. But if something falls or touches the the table or the cloudbase, you end your turn and collect a tear. Before the next play continues to enlarge the structure. Yes, even if you know most of the ladders over, play continues as does the construction on the remains for your carnage. Keeping the game fluide and interesting. And then it comes down to that last tear, which is the game changer. Do you place your ladder in a simple fashion, or tempt fate...
It also has an elegant look to it. From the fluffy looking cloudbase that you stack the Salvador Dali style ladders, to the cloudbase itself. Which has various holes that you can place the starting ladders in to, therefore making the difficulty level for the start player a little bit more interesting, instead of giving them free reign of a simple placement. It is these ladders which are the key element to the strategy of the game. Admittedly, on my first game, I stacked the ladders in a very simple fashion. And totally missed the intricacies of sliding ladders in between other ladders or hooking them in such a way that created beautiful sculptures. Pictured in the last page of the Rulebook are examples of these beautiful types of combination of ladders and how to hook them together. This one page opened up the game to me.
The game is all about being careful and gracefully placing your ladders. Tempting fate and forcing players to use your previously placed ladder, which is not stable is amusing and satisfying when at least one ladder falls. Plus having a good idea about balance and gravity will help out play your opponents. And that's about it. A very simple dexterity game that has an underlying strategy and has a dreamlike elegance. After playing you may feel the urge to replay. That's one of the bonuses of a quick playing dexterity game I like this. As well as being a good physical dexterity game it is also a cerebral aesthetic game. The only thing missing is a larger version which you can place in your garden come the summertime and a few little variants, that will turn it into my favourite dexterity game.
(Tested is a format that I use to give a first or second impression of a game. Therefore, this article is not a final review, as I like to know all the ins and outs of a game before I score it. And this should be treated as giving you an idea about the game.)
Dungeon Crawlers have always been a one sided affair. A team of gallant Heroes would stand off against one evil play or dungeon master and their minions. Alone turns that on it’s head and has a team of devious masterminds hinder a lonesome Hero from achieving their objectives. It’s a nice twist in the genera. Placing it is a sci-fi setting also makes it stand out from the other board game counterparts. Giving a fresh feel and making my wish that is had the Alien licence thrown in. Even Dead Space from EA games would have been nice too. But luckily, if you know nothing of these two titles, the game feels like it’s own beast.
Let’s start with the set up, which is a little time consuming as at first. The Hero player will need to choose what suit their character will don. Each suit has its own special ability, from the Medic Suit that lets you recover a life point and mind point, to the Captain Suit that lets you reroll a die in combat. Added with that, there is a detailed miniature of each suit to represent the Hero on the main board. And a nice nod to Dead Space, instead of creating a doctor character called Ash and captain called Sheridan. Another nice touch is that all the suit not chosen may possibly be used in the game as companions that you may encounter in the quest. As you can just play a basic game (which is what I have done twice) or from a scenario from the scripted campaign book (something I haven’t looked at yet). In a basic game, there is the random drawing of the three mission cards, that are the objectives of the Hero. Kind of like what Riply did. Set the self destruct, grab the cat and get out of Dallas.
Each mission must have a different destination, so if two are in the laboratory, for example, you would redraw until you have three different ones. Two of these missions are primary missions. One will offer an upgrade for the Hero while the other gives the Hero a penalty to one of their normal actions and a reason to get this neutralised. The Hero needs to complete one of these before they can go directly onto the final mission, and win the game. Final missions consist of escaping in a pod or killing a boss creature. The 21 mission cards give a good mix to the replayability of the game. And with this Kickstarter (coming back in February 2019), there were some bonus mission added too. The Hero will then fill up the data sheet/player board with tokens, recording life and mind point, round tracker, locations for missions and turn tokens.
It’s at this point that the Evil players will stroke their evil beards, then be able to start setting up, as they now need to generate the two levels of the dungeon. Sorry, spaceship map. These are two, double sided small boards, that have corridors and room spaces layed out in different formations. And the reason that the Evil players have to wait this long to set up is so they know what locations the Hero is searching for, as they have to place the room tiles onto the map. They’ll also choose which part of the ship the Hero wakes up in. Obviously, the further apart you can place the Heroes destination, the harder it is for them to complete their missions. After placing these locations strategically, you get to add few nastie creatures from your pool of worms, parasite, hybrids and cultists. And all this will be concealed behind a screen from the Hero player, until they discover it while exploring the dark desolate vessel. And the final thing the Evil players do before the game can begin is select two of four decks of card to play with. Fury, Speed, Terror and Traps. Each give a benefit to either combat, speed of your creatures, mind damage and damage in general. These cards are reaction card, because the Evil player doesn't really have a turn. It will be the Hero who takes all the actions. The only way that the Evil player can disrupt the Hero is to play a card that says you can play it if the Hero moves. Or operates something. Then... WHAM!
The game contains a vast amount of components, from boards, cards and tiles, to more tokens than you’ll ever need. Oh, and a handful of mini’s. In the games that I played, there were never been a swarm of enemies on the main map, which I believe justifies only having 23 minis in the game. They are well detailed and again, we have hardly used many in the games we have played, lending an air of “Alien”, and not “Aliens” to the game. There are some nice “in the box” trays that you can pull out and place next to you. This lessens the burden of sorting out bits from baggies and speeds the placement of everything on the table immensely. And your going to need a big table to play this on. As well as, situate the two sides in the right way, so all the Evil players can see the minimap and relay everything the Hero encounters onto a main map area. While having the Hero, not to far away, so they can see this main map and have space for the items they collect. Depending where the Hero goes and how ever far they go, this main map could take a vast amount of space, as it stretches out with each exploration. This is until the Hero swaps floors or more likely, at the end of each round. When a round ends, any parts of the map that are not in the Heroes line of sight, are removed. Making this a memory game for them. Luckily, there is a segment on their board that they can use to trace their steps, using some of the myriad of tokens at their disposal.
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of the game play. The Hero will wake up in their location, not knowing where they are and have to complete two of three objectives to win. The Hero player will perform all the actions that you come to expect from a game of this ilk. Mainly move, fight, search and interact. With every action announced before it is performed, the Evil players then have the chance to play a reaction card and move the world around. Each card can be used in two ways. If the Hero player claims they are going to search, card marked with the search icon can be played against them. These may say that an item found is damaged and not working correctly. Or, while searching, a distant creature moves closer. Very “take that” in essence, but of course, very thematic at the same time. Hero and Evil players then do these actions in the order indicated on the card and then it’s the Heroes next turn. Do this eight times and it then it’s the end of the round.
There is a limitation of two cards maximum that can be played each turn. Because bad shit doesn’t happen in one chunk, unless your me. It is spaced out. Building up to the climatic finally. And depending on your playing style, you could create the classic “little bumps in the night” up to the “mass attack.” Or mix it up with a loud, aggressive attack in the intro to shock your Hero and then recoop before the final onslaught, like a modern horror film. These cards go onto a track above the Hero board. Once the track is full, no more cards can be played. This has another interesting limiting device, as if two cards are played on a turn, one of those cards if placed horizontally to take up two spaces, filling the track faster. But you may have stunted the poor Hero enough to justify this risk. Filling up the track will unfortunately stunt you as the Evil players. At the end of every round, a collection of danger tokens are given to the Evil players, depending on the number of spaces left open on this track. These danger help the Evil player immensely. They active a bonus power on the reaction cards, if they are played when the Hero is in a zone with a danger token. As well as give a bonus to combat.
Now I mentioned a second use for these cards. You can spend one or two of them to spawn or move one of your existing creatures. Again, these cards go onto the track, clogging the amount of actions, you as Evil players can take. But this is a nice way to mitigate bad cards in your hand. Discarding them, so to speak. Every movement and spawn will have to be communicated to the Hero. Whether it be a “Sluuurping” sound, 4 spaces from their west or a “Haunting Gurgle” from the other floor. And all the while, the Evil players will be trying to communicate with their team, in code. Pointing. Humming. Making words up. As your not allowed to see the other players cards and you don’t want to tell the Hero what you have planned. But you want to convey the plans you have concocted in your head to the rest of your team.Giving some interesting aspects to the Evil teams play. Unless you are playing ALONE. This is a nice roll reversal on the discussion front from games like Descent, where the heroes talk about how to take out the tribe of goblins.
So with the Hero taking actions, the Evil players occasionally interfering with those actions. They are also responsible for doing the bookkeeping of the game. They adjust the hidden mini map whenever they or the Hero does something. They also update the main map for the Hero to see where they are and what’s about. Whenever a unseen creature spawns or move, they inform the Hero or move them if they are visible, while making strange noises to insight fear. All this storytelling is meant to enhance the Hero players experience. And I kind of felt that after two times playing on the Evil player team, this game is exactly that. The Hero is playing a game and the Evil players are reading the story. Although playing as the Evil player made it easy to explain the rules to both side...While playing. Which is a bonus.
For our Hero, they are having to use the items that they have collected. They are having to use their memory, to map out the ship. They are mainly going to have to use the actions wisely, because there are not many of them. Eight actions per round and only four round, which is enough to move and map out the entire ship, but you’d fail the mission. But our Hero has a little bonus in adrenaline tokens that can be used on a turn, to either heal a point of damage or go into bullet time. This lets the Hero perform two actions instead of one and prevents the Evil player from interfering with a reaction card during those actions. A little advantage for Mr No-Friends. This can be very useful when scanning for a location, in which the Evil player will tell you how many spaces away that room is and can’t react, which will allow them to lie about this information. Or even where a monster is. Knowing when to switch lights on and in which direction is also important. As the ship is in total darkness and the darkness is your enemy. It makes the creatures attacks stronger and it also makes you crap your pant. If ever a creature jumps out on you in the dark, you can kiss you mind points goodbye. Knowing when to search and after you have found an item, do you upgrade it, burning a component from another item you own? Which is again thematic and cool. And should you fight or run? Running can be a good option, as time is against you. But fighting is also a bonus. Defeating two of the same type of creature gives you a special ability. Seeing a door means there is a room. Could it be the one the Hero needs? And will there be any surprises behind it? Lots of choice for the Hero and tons of good ideas in the design that seem to balance out nicely.
Lorenzo Silva is fastly becoming a designer who’s input in any title seems to be a fresh twist to any genera of game. From Steam Park to Dragon Castle, there is always some little nuance in the rules that I like. And the same is true with this co-design here. There is a lot more to the game that I can explain here, like the combat dice that have three results. Hit, miss and a possible hit, depending if it’s dark or light. Some many nice little ideas that convey the sensation of one of the greatest horror films ever, but I’ll leave that for a final review. Everything I encountered in the game was thematic and fitted in this world of lost in space. Ever rule and mechanism, while being slightly chunky and clunky, fitted into the experience of the game. And I’m sure with more plays that it will get smoother, and timing issues will disappear, like a xenomorph out an airlock. As I mentioned earlier, this may feel one sided, where the Hero is playing a game and Evil players are story telling, but I still haven’t played as the Hero to confirm this. And I have played with two different groups, and I have trouble getting a feel for a game while teaching it. But so far from what I have played...
Tested - Liked - Want to play again soon
(Just needs a cracking soundtrack to play with ;) wink)
Cuzco - Tested (2018)
(Tested is a format that I use to give a first or second impression of a game. Therefore, this article is not a final review, as I like to know all the ins and outs of a game before I score it. And this should be treated as an giving you an idea about the game.)
Tile placement and world building is the name of the game here. Just like in Carcassonne, you and the other players at the table will be generating a landscape, from which you will profit in the form of points. But so will the others, using the stepping stones that you have already created to boost their scores.
Cuzco is the 3rd in the “Mask Trilogy” from Kiesling and Kramer, that has been rejuvenated by the team at Super Meeple. Although this game has not kept the same name of Java, it still has a small component upgrade just like Mexica and Tikal had before it. And having never played any of these game before, I will be coming at this with a fresh perspective. I can’t tell you if the games rules have been changed or improved, but I can obviously see that the has been a facelift done on the temples and meeples, that are physical improvements to the aesthetics of the game. And man, the game looks more and more beautiful as the game develops. So let's talk about the game.
As an Inca dignitary, you’ll spreading out your tribe over virgin soil to cultivate and develop the villages you construct into cities. Constructing temples will earn you prestige points as well as being the tribe that offers the most gifts to the gods at a temple, when a festival is held there. Irrigating ponds to water crops will also give big points too.
The land on the main board will terraform very quickly as each player has six, sometimes seven actions points to use on their turn, if they decide to use one of three bonus tokens. Most of your action points will be use to add a tile to the board. You’ll have a personal reserve of special tiles, made of one and two hex’s, but you’ll mainly draw from the general pool. This pool consists of a three hex tiles, each has one village hex while the others are fields. You can place these on any of the spaces of the main board and even go off the main board, as long as one of the hex’s of the tile sits in a space. Which is an interesting prospect that can change the game, when you think all is lost in the closing stages of play. Tiles can also be stacked, giving you a 3D terrain, that is not only pleasing to look at, but also gives the games main strategic mechanism. Connecting the village sections of tiles together, make a village bigger. The bigger the village, the bigger a temple can be constructed inside it, transforming the village into a city. Which mean the architect of this monument reaps a bigger chunk of prestige points.
But to be able to construct, you need to have control of the village. Having one of your Incas on the highest village tile, gives you this control. And it’s this control mechanism that is the main strategic mechanism I mentioned earlier. Adding an Inca of your colour to the board will cost an number of action points, depending if they enter the map from the forest side of the board or the mountain side. Which doesn’t sound like much, but as the game goes on, the Incas will stop entering from the cheaper forest side of the board and start coming from the action point eating, mountain side. As it may be quicker or cheaper in action point spending to get your Inca to where you want them. Your Incas can move about freely on one type of terrain, field or village. But as soon as you cross over from one type to the other, that eats up an action point. Seen as your opponent's Inca’s will block routes, you may have to weave in and out between them. Or it may be more beneficial to move one you placed earlier to get to where you're going. Having your Inca of the highest level tile in a village, gives you the right to construct a temple, or enlarge one that is already there. Giving the 3D meaning to the game and leaving you fighting for this higher ground. Or terraforming for.
Building costs an action, but will give you those much needed points. The larger the village, the larger the temple you can construct. And the stone like pieces of the temple components look stunning as you build here, there and everywhere. Adding depth to the board, with its colours and shape, making for a easy reference in the game. As do the little flame tokens that are place on top, when a festival is held there. With the increments of the temples at 2/4/6/8/10, which also tie in with the village size, you will find yourself following a pattern on each of your turns. You’ll start by making the village sections as vast as you can, getting an Inca to the higher ground of said village, before finishing your last action on the construction. And possibly hold a party after, gaining bonus point. See, burning the candle at both ends does pay off…
Then the next player will come along, enlarger that city, insert an Inca and add levels to the temple on their turn. Receiving a larger chunk of points than you did previously. Maybe have a better party than you did too! Before the player after them, maxes out the city, sending the temple to its highest level and parties like it’s 1999. Which at first will make you think that this is just a rinse and repeat game. And it can be that for lazy players. Or you could “PLAY THE GAME.” It’s always advisable to get in the other players way, while helping yourself to the largest piece of cake. That’s where the pleasure of the game comes. Placing tiles out that make your opponents think “what are you doing!” Or getting to a temple, just to finish it off, amassing the largest score possible. Even block main routes with you Incas, forcing other players to use more actions to get to where they want to go. And even just simply, laying the foundations for your next turn. And even though there is this slight nastiness between players, it is hard to see, but occasionally felt.
Many Inca’s in the same village may jussel about to get the privilege to build. As ties can be a frequent occurrence. If players are joint on the highest level, the deciding factor goes to the one who has the next highest Inca. So on and so on, meaning a village may be swarming with players Inca’s, which can be a good and bad thing, as a village can be cut into parts. A strategically placed tile can replace that one village hex with a field, making that once larger city/village into two smaller ones. Again, having a Inca in the right place can play havoc on this possibility, retaining this man made settlement in it’s form.
Yes, villages and cities can be reduced as well as be enlarged, as long as there is only one temple in that zone. And as long as the tile placement rules are followed. What’s that? More rules? Well, nothing overly complicated. But something else to carefully plan as you play. If you play a tiles on top of another, it can not stack in the same way as the one beneath it. So in the case of a three hex tile being played, it can not be directly placed on top of another of the same size. Meaning that it has to be placed on top of different tiles. Although placing a smaller tile on top of a larger one is permitted. This prevents a back and forth of, “this was a feild, now a village, now a field, now a village…” And lends itself to a deeper way of thinking, as the tiles need to sprawl out and not stack like a two year old stacks the same size Lego blocks together. This cuts down on the “I’ll just place these willy-nilly on the board” moments that unthinking players do. You may find that you will have to place two or more other tiles on the board before placing the one that you need to fulfill your dream. As you can see, there is a little more to this game than in other tile placement games, due to this 3D aspect. As 1) being higher allows you to build temples and basins, 2) let’s you shape the map and 3) make for a sexy tabletop experience.
Not only can you build temples, cities and villages. Small and large basins of irrigation water can be created. These can gain you a small or large chunk of points in one fail swoop, if you pay attention. These basins can only be created on the board itself and never on top of tiles already placed. If while placing tiles, you leave a hole of empty board spaces, totally surrounded by tiles, for an action you can transform them into these water pools. Collecting three points for each single irrigation tile placed. That can sometime be a large chunk of points. Again, as long as you are have the highest Inca adjacent to this body of water when you build it, you will get these points. So being careful not to give points away or lose them in a tie is always a think to look for.
As I mentioned early, the game can follow a repetitive formula of, place a few tiles, move an Inca into a village, build the temple, score point. Added to this simple pattern is the prospect to earn extra points by using a free action at the end of your turn, holding a festival in a city. Any city on the board that you have an Inca in, can be used. If there are other players, with Incas in the same city, they also can participate in this mini game. Players will start the game with a few cards in their hands, depicting one or two gifts for the Gods. More cards can be collected by spending one or two action points to receive one or two cards, each turn you take. And these are always blind from the draw pile. With only three types of gift on these cards, you could draw the same thing every turn. That can be a benefit and a curse where festivals are concerned.
Some of these cards are spilt, holding two different gifts, so they can be used as one or the other. The discard pile will dictate which gift or gifts the Gods hold as the flavour of the month. These images are of statues and masks, but it’s the colour of the background that makes them easy to distinguish. When a player holds a festival in a city, they play a card that has the same colour background as the card on the discard pile. Each other player, in the same city may also offer the same gift to the Gods. And so on around the table, until all players are fed up with giving or can not give any more. That’s when you count to see which player has offered the most gifts. That player then earns some bonus points, depending on the size of the temple and if there were other players at the festival. Before all played cards are discarded and a new card from the draw pile is place on top of the discard pile, create the next fashion that the Gods wish the Incas to follow. This mini game breaks up the play a little and adds a little layer of marzipan to the already nice simple icing covered sponge cake. You may feel that wasting an action to draw a card is a pointless affair, but it is one you should not forget. Festivals can be frequent occurrences and other players will get fat on the juicy points that are left behind. No sugar rush included. And after the festival is finished, a touch is lit on that temple, signifying that another festival can not be had there until the temple has been developed to a higher level.
The game comes to an end when the general pool of tiles is empty. From then on, each player has one more turn to scrape up any point that they can get, plus move their Incas to prominent positions in each city. Because after you have used your last action point, it is time to do your final scoring. A simple case of looking at each of the cities and seeing which ones you have control over. Remember, control is the Inca that is on the highest level in that city. For each city you have in your control, you win the points indicated by the size of the temple there. As you can see, you may have control of a city at the end of your turn, giving you points, but then the next player can then take control, scoring from the same city. This makes for an intriguing last turn. You may just try to take as many points as you can or try to make it hard for others to claim control over the cities, by dividing them or moving one of your Incas to a hex, that makes players spend more actions than they should. Oh, so sweet, when you can reduce someone's potential final score from 55 points to only 30.
All in all, this is my type of euro style game. The rules are relatively simple, with a few exceptions. Like Carcassonne is simple to explain and then you get to the Farmer scoring rule. But once you get your head around all of the little intricacies and start playing, you’ll take to it like a duck to water. This is a game that could be classes as just one of those classic euros, with very little variety and small replay value because it’s the same thing over and over. Much like Splendor and Pastiche, games that I can see myself playing many time, adapting my strategy and learning new ways to get the most points. This is definitely a game that an experienced player will walk away with, in regards to final score. And there is no sign of luck helping you. You’ll just have to use your keep eyesight, imaginative perception and mathematical calculation to be a master at this game.
Tested - Liked - Want to play again soon
Barry Doublet &