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Raptor: 2 player brilliance in the Jurassic era

Raptor: 2 player brilliance in the Jurassic era

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Raptor

  • Designer: Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti
  • Artist: Vincent Dutrait
  • Publisher: Matagot
  • Player count: 2
  • Play time: 25 minutes
  • Mechanics: Action point allowance, hand management, simultaneous action selection.

Mamma Raptor has escaped from her run and laid her eggs in the park. A team of scientists must neutralize her and capture the baby raptors before they run wild into the forest.

Overview:

Raptor is a 2-player, asymetrical card game from the design duo of Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faiduti. 1 player plays a group of scientists who want to capture and study the baby raptors. The other player plays the raptor family consisting of 5 babies and one very cranky mama raptor.

The board is set up using square tiles in a 3 x 2 grid. Also, there are 4 L-shaped exit tiles which go on each end of the board. On each of the double sided central tiles, you place rocks as depicted on the art. These block movement and line of sight for both scientists and the raptors. The raptor player places the mother on one of the 2 middle tiles and one baby on each of the other tiles. The scientist player initially places 4 out of his 10 scientists, each on one of the exit tiles.

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Nowhere to run!

Both players have a deck of 9 cards and will have a hand of 3 available to them during each round. These cards have a number from 1 to 9 on them and an associated action. For instance, the scientists player can set fire to the jungle,call in reinforcements or put baby raptors to sleep. The Raptor player has completely different card abilities. The mother can possibly disappear from the board to ‘scout’ placing her back on any spot after the scientists used their action. He can then wait with selecting a card until after the scientist reveals theirs.

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sample cards

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Sample cards 2

A round resolves as follows: After both players have selected and revealed a card, the card with the lowest value gets to perfrom the action of the card. The other player gets action points equal to the difference between the two cards. If players would reveal cards with identical value, both would be discarded without effect. The action points can be spent on several things, again varying per player. The Raptor player can use these actions to move the raptor babies one space, move the mother in a straight line, eat adjacent scientists, wake up sleeping babies or put out fires. The Scientists can use their points to put to sleep babies or put a sleep token on the mother raptor (restricting her movements in the future), catch a sleeping baby raptor, move scientists one space or calm down scared scientists. One thing to note is that each scientist figure can only do one agressive action each turn, so it’s impossible to put to sleep a baby and capture it with one scientist in a single turn.

Play continues untill one of the victory conditions are met. For the Raptors this means either having 3 baby’s escape off the board or ending a turn without scientists on the board. For the scientist it’s either capturing 3 baby’s or subdueing the mother (putting 5 sleep counters on her).

 

The review:

When I play boardgames, more often then not it will be in a group consisting of at least three players. That being said, I have a really big soft spot for 2 player games. Especially ones with an Asymetrical nature. I’ve read about this game just before Essen 2015 and I was immediately intrigued by the idea. Especially when I heard that my favorite duo of Bruno’s were going to be the designers. It’s taken me quite a while to track down a copy of the game, but I’m really happy I eventually did. Man this game is so good. It ticks all the boxes of what I like to see in 2 player games.

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Box contents

What I like about the game:

  1.  Component quality: The game is beautifully illustrated. From the cards to the tiles. A couple of things stand out: The tiles are double sided, with different art on them. Absolutely unnecessary, but a lovely little detail. The second thing that stood out to me is the 10 unique figures for the scientists. Really nice!
  2. Well presented theme: The art is really evocative and the miniatures help in this regard as well. I can really see myself in Jurassic world while playing.
  3. easy to setup and teach: The rules for this game are very easy to teach and you can get a game going in less then 5 minutes.
  4. Play time: The game easily plays in under half an hour. It’s really easy to play multiple times after each other.
  5. Clever mechanics: I really like the cardplay in this game. Especially the action points you get for the difference between two card. This makes for some very interesting decisions.
  6. Great player aids and rule book: These are just outstanding. They even had Dutch rules which were actually not just thrown through google translate. As this is a bit of a pet-pieve of mine I really think it deserves a special mention.
  7. Dinosaurs: Nuff said!

What I didn’t like as much:

  1. Balance?: It might be a little bit early to say after 5 plays, but to me it seems a bit easier to win as the scientists. I’m pretty sure the game is actually very well balanced and it will equal out after more plays. I do think that the scientists are a tad easier to play at first, though.
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Clever Girl!

Final Verdict: 8,5/10

 

Elysium: Build your own Olympian legend

Elysium: Build your own Olympian legend

Elysium

  • Designer: Matthew Dunstand, Brett J Gilbert
  • Artist: Various
  • Publisher: Space Cowboys
  • Player count: 2-4
  • Play time: 60 minutes
  • Mechanics: Set collection, drafting, Tableau building

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Mythic Greece. As an upstart demigod, you want to earn the favor of the Olympians and become a figure of legend yourself. Gather heroes and powerful artifacts, please the gods and bear their power to write your own epic tale.

Let your allies achieve their destiny and enter the Elysium, home of the glorious and the brave. Once the stories are written, only one demigod will be chosen to stand at the side of Zeus.

Overview:

Elysium is basically a card drafting game where players recruit cards and quests from a common pool each round, using a very innovative mechanism (more on that later).

The game is played over 5 rounds. During set-up of the games, 5 of the available 8 families are chosen and shuffled together to form the playdeck. The 8 families each have a deck of 21 cards, with every deck being very different from the others. The following families are available in the game:

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a sample of some Hades cards.

  • Zeus (lots of extra scoring possibilities)
  • Ares (introduces prestige points. Another way to score points)
  • Hades (Focuses on transferring cards to the elysium)
  • Poseidon (messes with other players)
  • Apollo (adds the oracle to the game. An additional set of 4 cards)
  • Hermes (uses powers from other player’s cards)
  • Athena (powerfull abilities, but gives opponent something as well)
  • Hephaestus (Focus lies on gold)
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A sample of some Zeus cards

Once a card is recruited, it is immediately placed in a player’s domain. This is the area above his personal player board. Quest tiles, once selected, are placed next to your player board and determine a couple of things:

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Quests

  1. player order (activates in the next phase)
  2. the amount of gold and possibly victory points a player gains
  3. the amount of cards a player is allowed to transfer to his Elysium (the area below his player board)

Each player has a set of 4 different colored columns. These are what determines which cards you can acquire during your turn. Each card has a combination of colors in the top right corner. You need to have the columns in those colors available to be able to take a card. After your selection you need to discard one of your columns. (not necessarily one of the ones you used this turn to bu a card.) This means that as the round progresses, you’ll have less choice. The same goes for quests, apart from the fact that you need to discard the exact color of the quest you took. pic2683021_md.jpg

In some circumstance you might not have the resources to aquire a card during your final actions. In that case, you take a citizen card. (represented by the back of all cards). These count as wild cards f

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A citizen card

or set collection purposes, but penalise you during end scoring. If you don’t have a column left to get a quest, you flip one of the remaining ones and flip it. These broken/failed quests give considerably less rewards.

There are several types of abilities on each card. Some are activated instantaneous once you recruit them. Others are activated once, once per turn or at game end for instance. Below you can seen a nice picture with all different abilities.

Cards only have abilities once they are in a player’s domain. At some point however, players will try to transfer cards to their Elysium and build legends with them, as that’s what scores points at the end of the game. transfering a card to the elysium costs money, depending on the level of the card.  Legends can be built in 2 different ways. either by family or by level. A complete family legend consists of a level 1,2 and 3 card of the same family. For each family in the game there are 2 bonus tokens, rewarding players that complete a family legend first. The legends by level consists of up to 5 cards of different families, but of the same level. There are bonus tokens for these available as well, but these are held onto by the player currently in posession of the largest legend of that level.

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Level bonus tokens

During end scoring a couple of things are scored. Whoever has the most points after this scoring wins the game:

  • per legend points are scored based on the amout of cards in it.
  • bonus tokens
  • points gained during play
  • Chronos powers on cards in your elysium
  • Prestige points (If Ares is used)
  • deduct points for citizens in your elysium

 

The Review

For those of you that have read the entry of my top 10 games for 2015, it might not come as a surprise that I really enjoy this game. The overal presentation is very well done. Each family deck is illustrated by a different artist. Even though ther art styles are very different, it somehow still feels very cohesive. The box insert is very clever. The quality of the components is fine for the price point. I’ve sleeved my copy as I think the cards will suffer from multiple plays. Even though most mechanics used in the game are very familiar, I think the restrictions in selecting your cards was really well done. The game can be easily expanded upon as some of the greek gods were missing from this game                  (I personally would love to see decks for Aphrodite, Hera, Dyonisus and Artemis) Maybe stand alone expansions with other pantheons would be an option as well, but I don’t really see that happening.

In another review I’ve seen a variant where the Oracle, which normally only gets used if Apollo is present in the game, is allways used. I have yet to try this variant, but I think the bit of foreshadowing for the next round could be a welcome addition for some players.

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The oracle

What I like about the game:

  1. Replayability: With only 5 families in each game, there is tons of replayability. Each set-up has a very distinct feel
  2. Overal Presentation: I mentioned most of this already, but I love how this game looks
  3. Rulebook: Well layed out and very easy to understand
  4. Plays well with all player counts.
  5. Clear iconography: No need to check the book very often.
  6. play time: By no means a filler, but the 60 minutes on the box is very accurate. Ideal for it’s ‘weight’.

What I didn’t like as much:

  1. Very thin theme: Even though I like the theme, it’s really only pasted on very thinly. I somehow don’t get the feeling I’m a demigod trying to find my place in Olympus.
  2. Take that: It can be very nasty at times.
  3. Ares: I get the feeling that you can simply not neglect prestige points when they are present in the game. The difference between 1st and 3rd place (16 to 4) is very big in my opinion. In my plays with Ares (5 at this point) were never won by the player who scored 3rd or 4th place in Presitge points.

 

Final verdict: 8/10

 

Champions of Midgard: Definitely not a LOW clone

Champions of Midgard: Definitely not a LOW clone

Champions of Midgard

  • Designer: Ole Steiness
  • Artist: Victor Pérez Corbella
  • Publisher: Grey Fox Games
  • Player count: 2-4
  • Playtime: 60-90 minutes
  • Mechanics: Worker placement, dice combat

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Champions of Midgard is a middleweight, Viking-themed, worker placement game with dice rolling in which players are leaders of Viking clans who have traveled to an embattled Viking harbor town to help defend it against the threat of trolls, draugr, and other mythological Norse beasts. By defeating these epic creatures, players gain glory and the favor of the gods. When the game ends, the player who has earned the most glory earns the title of Jarl and is recognized as a champion of Midgard!

Placing workers allows for the collection of resources and warriors, which players may then send on journeys to neighboring villages or across the sea to defeat monsters and gain the glory they need for victory. Resources are used to to carve runes, build ships, and feed your followers. Viking warriors (custom dice) do battle with the myriad enemies the town faces.

Overview:

The game is played over 8 rounds, which each follow the exact same structure. A round is divided in the 5 following Phases:

20151108_132453_8e31: Round setup: This phase has several small steps that need to be taken to proceed.

  • Monsters will be drawn from the top of their respective decks and will, in the case of trolls and draugr, replace any current ones. In the case of the journey monsters, only refill the empty spots.
  • Place a face down journey card on each empty journey space
  • Reveal the top card from the merchant ship deck
  • Add the appropriate die to the swordsmith, hafter and blacksmith locations
  • add a food cube to the smokehouse location

 

2: Worker placement:

In this phase, starting with the player holding the first player marker, players place their workers on the locations on the board. Doing this they gather resources: Wood, Food, Favor, money and warriors (dice) in three different varieties. There are also some spaces on the board where other things can be obtained. Rune cards give the player some additonal abilities during the placement or battle phase. Destiny cards can provide end-game scoring opportunities and ships can be either bought or hired to take your warriors on perilous journeys.20151108_133016_5b4(1)

3: Assigning viking warriors:

Any player that placed their workers on a troll, Draugr or longship location will now assign the warriors (and in the case of a journey food cubes) they wish to send into battle. If a monster has a no spears/axes/swords symbol on it, dice of that color can not be sent into battle with the particular monster.

4: Combat resolution:

The basics of combat are very simple. Each enemy has a wounds stat and an attack stat. If you roll enough sword/spear/axe symbols to equal their wound total it is killed. For each wound the enemy inflicts on you, you lose a die. Wounds can be negated by shield results. You can spend favor tokens to reroll any dice. This step can be repeated by spending additional tokens. Combat ends either when the monster has taken lethal damage or if there are no viking warriors left to combat the monster.

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  • If a player placed warriors in the hunting grounds, he rolls his dice and gains the appropriate amount of food.
  • If a player battles a troll, combat is resolved against the troll. If the troll is not killed, all players take a blame token. If the Troll is killed however, the player may discard a blame token and force another player to take one. If nobody decided to battle the troll menacing their village, all players take a blame token as well. These blame tokens detract points at the end scoring, nicely detailed on a graph on the board.
  • In the Draugr spaces, combat is resolved from left to right.
  • For the journey spaces, follow the following steps, starting with the leftmost location:  Reveal and resolve Journey cards, feed your viking warriors (unfed warriors die and return to the reserve. Food is returned to supply even if there’s any left), combat the monster.

5: Clean up:

Some minor things need to be done in this step. Retrieve your workers from the board. Discard any undefeated Draugr and troll cards. Add 1 money to each undefeated monsters on the bottom and progress the round marker. If you’re in round eight, proceed to final scoring.

Final scoring:

Apart from the points scored during the game, you will score the following things during end scoring.

  1. Destiny cards: If you have statisfied the condition of a card, score the larger amount of Glory points depicted. If you’re tied, score the smaller amount.
  2. Sets of enemies (red/Blue/Gold). Score 5 points for each set collected
  3. Rune cards: Score the amount of glory depicted on the card. (both for used and unused cards)
  4. Private longships: If you’ve built one, score the points indicated.
  5. Favor tokens: Each unspent token is worth 2 glory points.
  6. Gold: Score 1 glory point for each 3 gold you have left.
  7. Blame: Lose points according to the track, depending on your amount of blame tokens.

 

Whoever ends up with the most points, wins the game.

 

The Review:

Before we address the elephant in the room, let me talk a little bit about what I think about Champions of Midgard itself. I have to say I succumbed a little bit to the Dice tower hype about this game, as they gave it a seal of excellence. I really couldn’t wait to get my grubby little hands on this title.

What I like about the game:

  1. The artwork and style throughout is absolutely gorgeous. The board especially is really pleasing to look at.
  2. Ease of rules. The rules were extremely simple to learn and teach to others. It’s a very beginner friendly game.
  3. Playtime: The gamebox says it plays in between 60 to 90 minutes. For me, the plays are closer to the 60 minute mark, which seems just right.
  4. Use of dice. Off course, dice add a luck element to the game. In this case however, I don’t mind at all. It makes the completion of ‘quests’ or battles feel very climatic.
  5. Small mechanics. As an example I really like that getting an additional worker, costs less when you’re not the first person to do so.
  6. Variable player powers. There are 5 different clan leaders that each have a unique ability. Allthough these are not mind blowingly different, they add just a little touch of variety I like.
  7. The designers are very reactive to questions on the BGG boards. A lot of people initially had some questions, but the team behind the game seems really committed to adress these.20151108_132350_0b7

What I didn’t like as much:

  1. Replayability. With only a small amount of marker tiles, setup will often look similar. Also, the monsters could have been more diverse for my tastes.
  2. The rulebook. I know this sounds a bit double, as I put ease of rules as a plus. For me the thing I didn’t like about the rulebook came down to the layout and they way it was written. The rules themselves are pretty straight forward and easy.
  3. Very limited player interaction. Really, apart from taking a spot someone else wants, there is no interaction. I strongly feel that the game would benefit from an expansion that would tackle this issue.

The comparison to Lords of waterdeep (Because all the cool kids are doing it)

Off course, there are some similarities between both games. In both games you collect resourses and complete quests. Also, both games use a resource that detracts points at game end (technically, the expansion to LOW adds this, not the base game)

Is that a crime? Not as far as I’m concerned. The game also have a lot of mechanics that feel very different. Lords of waterdeep is much more interactive. Resources switch hands and you can screw around with your fellow players. It doesn’t have the thrill of combat that Champions of Midgard has. Also something I really feel where the games take a different route is the way the end scoring works. In LOW, you know up front which type of quests will give you game end bonuses. In COM, the addition of set collection and the destiny cards make for a very different approach. In my eyes one game is not necessarily alot better then the other. I don’t see why you couldn’t have both in your collection.

In the end I liked this game well enough, but I would love to see some interaction and replayability added with a future expansion.

Final Verdict: 7,5/10

 

 

 

 

First Impression: Blood rage

First Impression: Blood rage

This post is a bit of an experiment. I’m not planning to do a full review for this game (as I’ve only played one game so far, but I just wanted to write down some thoughts in it. Please let me know if this is something you like to see more on this blog, or maybe you think I should just stick to the more extensive reviews….

 

A friend of mine shot me a message a couple of days ago, asking if I was interested in trying out his copy of Blood rage. The general consensus seems to be that this is a great game so I was more than happy to oblige. We got a group of 4 together and after a quick rundown got straight into it.

12317430_465174030336201_25577445_nIn this game you are a clan of norsemen trying to gain the most glory by invading and pillaging your way through midgard and fighting glorious battles. It’s played over three rounds, which all start with the players drafting 6 cards out of a hand of eight. You can get upgrades for your clan, setting you apart from your opponents, call in the aid of terrifying monsters and upgrade your warriors, leader and ships. There pic2777360_mdare also battle cards and quest cards thrown into the mix and especially in the first round, we were all still looking for what would work for us. Each clan also has three stats they can improvpic2777361_lge during the game: Rage, Axes and horns. Rage is used as currency for getting warriors and monsters out and moving around the board. Axes depict the amount of glory points you get for winning battles and horns depict the maximum number of figures you can have on the board.

The board is divided into several regions that can each be pillaged. This is where combat between players can (and probably will occur). If a region has free spots left, other players in an adjacent region can answer the call to battle and join in. Every participant plays a card and higher value (figures + cards) wins. The winner gains glory and if he was the pillager an upgrade to a stat. He ditches his card though. The losers mini’s go to valhalla, but he retains his cards.

A round lasts until either all regions have been pillaged or everybody is pic2706844_mdout of rage. Ragnarok happens (in a region marked at the beginning of the round) destroying figures, but gaining glory. Also quest cards you played will be scored. If you have cards left, keep one and then go to the next round. Rinse and repeat two times and the game is done.

 

My thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure how I should rate Blood rage. The card drafting was really fun and it was nice to see everyone explore different strategies. The mini’s are stunning and the game has a nice pace to it. Somehow though, our play kind of left a very bad taste in my mouth. One player was going for a ‘loki strategy’. Through a combination of cards, losing battles and models got this player more points then all players winning battles. He sapped the other players of combat cards (you have to commit a card during every combat) and then went ahead and lost, gaining a crapload of points and keeping his own cards. A viable strategy to be sure, but somehow this really felt counterintuïtive to me. The monsters were great and had some pretty nice abilities, so that was a plus for me. It also felt less ‘ameritrashy’ to me then I expected (Hooray for diceless combat). To be completely honest, it actually felt like I was playing an area control game with really nice looking miniatures.

All in all, there is a lot speaking for this game, but I’m not nearly as enthousiastic as most other people I’ve heard about it. I think I’d rather play chaos in the old world..

Initial rating: 7/10

7 Wonders Duel: Cathala VS Bauza

7 Wonders Duel: Cathala VS Bauza

7 Wonders Duel

  • Designer: Antoine Bauza, Bruno Cathala
  • Artist: Miguel Coimbra
  • Punblisher: Repos productions, Rebel.PL, Asterion press
  • Player count: 2
  • play time: 30 minutes
  • Mechanics: Set collection, Card drafting.

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Overview:

7 wonders duel is the new 2 player game set in the massively succesfull 7 wonders series. Where the original game caters up to 7 people, this one is especially designed as a two player game. I’ll give you a brief overview of how the game is played, before I’ll give you guys my opinion of it.

It’s probably not necessary, but I’ll treat this overview as if you’re unfamiliar with regular 7 wonders. Please bare with me on this one, as some things could be familiar.

7 wonders is played over three ages, represented by three decks of cards. Each age, a tableau of cards is set up and players will take turns acquiring these cards for the expansions of their empire. Different card types are divided by color. There are 8 types of cards in the game:7 wonders duel card types

  • Brown Cards: Basic resources. Aqcuiring these helps with the costs to pay for other cards
  • grey cards: Refined resources. Same as above
  • yellow cards: These have various effects, but generally give money/points or influence the price you pay for resources
  • Green cards: Technology cards. 7 different symbols. They give points and if you acuire a pair of the same type will give you a benefit the rest of the game. If you manage to collect 6 different symbols, you immediately win the game by a scientific victory.
  • Red cards: Military cards. By acquiring these cards, move the military dominance marker along the track towards your opponent for every symbol on the card. This give points and can cause the opponent to lose money. If you manage to reach the end of the track you automatically win by Military victory.
  • Blue cards: Civilian cards. These cards generate points.
  • Purple cards: Guild cards. Score points/money. If you acquire a guild card (only 3 available in third age) you score points at the end according to certain conditions.

wondersAt the start of the game, players will draft wonder cards, till both have 4. From 10 available science tokens, 5 are placed on the board. When selecting a card form the display you have 3 options: Build the card in your tableau, looking at the cost of the building. Any resource you don’t have can be bought from the bank. The cost for these is calculated as follows: You pay 2 money, plus 1 additional for each of that type of resource your opponent does have. You pay these costs to the bank, not your opponent. Your second option is building a wonder. You select a card and place it beneath the wonder, paying costs as normal. You then immediately gain the bonuses on the right side of the wonder card. A third option is to sell the card. For this you gain 2 money, plus an additional 1 for each yellow card in your tableau.

Each round the display is arranged in a different way, with rows of face up and face down cards. As soon as a card is uncovered, it becomes available for selection. If none of the alternative victory conditions (military or scientific) are met before the third age ends, points are scored and whoever has the most points is declared the winner.

The Review:

Let me start off by saying that I’ve played regular 7 wonders qui20151104_124156te a bit, including all expansions. I’ve liked some better then others, but in general I really like the game. Before playing this game I had a question nagging in the back of my mind: Is a 2 player game really going to add something for me? The short answer: Hell Yeah!

What I like about the game:

  1. Playtime is quick. You can bang out a game in less then 30 minutes.
  2. Interesting design decisions. I really like the alternative way military and Science works in this game. Additional ways of winning open up some new strategic avenues to explore. The Mah-jong style card display  has some hidden information which I really like.
  3. The science tokens. I love bonuses that are only for me.
  4. Artwork. This is really top notch, from the box art to the cards and especially the wonder cards.
  5. Still gives that 7 wonders feel. Makes the game playable with 2 which in my opinion it wasn’t before.

What I didn’t like

  1. The rulebook and I’m talking specificcaly about the Dutch rules included. Being Dutch myself, I always like it when rules in my own language are added to a game. Here however, the rules are translated so badly that I highly suspect a bad google translate job. From a publisher as well known as Repos, I think this is unacceptable.
  2. More luck. Since some of the cards in the tableau are face down, you miss out on some information. Some of this can be covered by carefull planning, but it could be that the card you really needed gets revealed right after you choose. This is a small nitpick for me though.
  3. Card size. Even though the cards are very clear and well laid out, I feel the size could have been a bit bigger.

Final Verdict: 8/10

Porta Nigra: An Essen 2015 smash hit

Porta Nigra:  An Essen 2015 smash hit

Porta Nigra

  • Designer: Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling
  • Artist: Michael Menzel
  • Publisher: Pegasus Spiele, Eggert Spiele, Stronghold games
  • Player count: 2-4
  • Play time: 75-120 minutes
  • Mechanics: Area control / Area influence, resource management, action programming, hand management

The largest Roman city north of the Alps in the late Roman Empire was Augusta Treverorum. Founded in the times of Caesar Augustus and built up by generations of Roman architects, this was the Emperor’s residence and a world city during this period. The remains of these most impressive structures can still be visited today. Foremost of these great achievements in the city is the massive “Porta Nigra”, a large Roman city gate located in Trier, Germany that dates to the 2nd century.

Overview:

In Porta Nigra, players take on the role of master builders who move around the board buying bricks and building parts of 4 great structures in the city of Trier. Each player starts our with a master builder which they place in one of the 4 quadrants of the game board. They also start with 5 workers (out of a total 15), 20 cash and one torch token. Each player has an identical deck of action cards containing 8 cards. Players always have a hand of 2 of these cards available and when it’s their turn, they choose on of the two.porta-nigra  The card shows the possible actions of the card as well as the number of actions a player can choose. With his three action markers he selects an amount of actions equal to the torches on the card. Torch tokens can be used to do extra actions of that card, but never more then the available actions on the card. There are 4 different action types on a card.

  1.  Money: Take the amount of coins equal to the depicted icon from the bank
  2. influence token: Take one influence token from the supply
  3. Build. Build in your current section (or pay one money for each quadrant that you move clockwise.
  4. Buy bricks. If the symbol is colored you can buy that type of brick if you’re in the right area (or move same as above). If ? then buy any type of brick if you’re in the correct spot. White bricks can always be acquired, regardless of your place on the board. If for some reason the colored brick is not available anymore, treat it as a ? symbol.

The brick supply is refilled each time the total available bricks reaches a number lower then 7 at the beginning of a player’s turn. For this you use the 10 supply cards, refilling till at least 14 bricks are in the market.

There is a supply of 12 available honour cards, which can be bought paying the appropriate amount of influence tokens (depicted on the card). These give varying immediate bonuses such as free bricks, extra build actions, money or torch tokens. Some of the cards also function as building cards or offer greater bonuses for completed sets of building cards. I’ll touch on that a bit next.

When you build, it is possible to obtain building cards. The board is divided into 4 quadrants, each representinportanigrag a different prominent building in Trier. You score end of game points by having majorities in each section of the city. In a player’s turn, there are always 6 building cards on display. These show one of the 4 buildings and a colored brick. If you build in that section, using those color bricks, you take the card. There is a set collection aspect, where you can score up to 20 points for a full set of 4 different buildings. Each spot on the board is linked to a color, so you can only build there using that color. White is an exception, apart from white it can be used of bricks in any other color as well. When you build, place one of your workers on the top brick, so you can distinguish who the owner is. Each section also has a bonus action associated. Each time the total of bricks you build in a certain area reaches a multiplier of three, you can take this bonus action.

Once all players used their 8 cards (or 7 in a 4 player game) we have an intermediate scoring round. Players count up their bricks built and double the amount. This can be divided into money and victory points at your own choice. The player with the least points gets to pick the new start player for the second (and final) round. Once the players played all their cards a second time, the game ends and points are scored for majorities, building cards and resources you have left. The game can end in two different ways as well. Either if the bricks run out or one player uses up all his workers. During my plays though, this has not yet occured.

The Review:

I like to start my reviews by talking a little bit about the components and general looks of the game. Porta Nigra is illustrated by Michael menzel and that shows. He has a very recognisable style which I find very pleasing to the eye. This is no exception. I absolutely love the bricks used in the game, it’s lovely to see a whole 3D setup at game end. I am less enthusiastic about the rest of the components though. The money and other cardboard tokens are pretty small and thin. I’ll be replacing the money with some spare parts from another game. I’ve demoed this game during Essen this year for stronghold games and one of the comments we often got was: Why are all the bricks grey. Why not use colored ones? While I understand the sentiment and agree it would have looked cool, I get why they didn’t. The game comes with 90 bricks. If we included all 5 colors, this amount would have been a lot higher. This would have driven production costs through the roof so I think it’s a good decision on the publishers part.

I’m a big fan of the action selection mechanism in this game. It seems you don’t have a lot of choice with only 2 cards in front of you, but the constantly changing board state makes for a lot of interesting decisions. The extra torch tokens go a long way in adding at least a bit of control for the player. The area majority scoring, different in each region, is also a very nicely worked out concept. Especially the Black Gate itself can be a goal in and of itself. I just finished a game where one player built 8 white bricks there for a total of 77 points! As much as I like the collecting of the building cards, I really didn’t care much for the honor cards that increased the point value of complete sets. That might be just me though. Replayability can be an issue I think, as there isn’t much variability in the setup.

The play time on the box seems a bit long to me. Usually we finish a 4 player game in just a bit over 90 minutes. A perfect time for a game of this medium weight.

I’m a big Kramer and Kiesling fanboy, so Porta Nigra was one of the games to watch for me this year. I’m very happy to have picked it up and it will stay in my collection for now. I even got to meet Mr Kramer at the stronghold booth this year, together with his wife. They gave me a very nice compliment which makes the game hold a bit of sentimental value as well. Even though it’s not my favorite of the duo (that would be Coal baron if you wanted to know) I think they delivered a real gem that deserves a bit more attention then it has been getting.

Final Verdict: 8/10

Signorie: Another gem from what’s your game

Signorie:  Another gem from what’s your game

Signorie

  • Designer: Andrea Chiarvesio, Pierluca Zizzi
  • Artist: mariano Iannelli
  • Publisher: What’s your game
  • Player count: 2-4
  • Play time: 90-120 minutes
  • mechanics: Dice selection, influence, set collection, rewards

Italy during the 15th century was a country full of intrigue and magnificence. The tumultuous political conditions created the perfect breeding ground for the birth of a new form of government (called Signoria) and the rise of the most ambitious noble families. After having acted in the dark for a long time, the time has finally come for them to take control of the cities and shape Italy’s future. Their stories will go down in history.

Overview:20151027_222203

In Signorie the players take on the role of a lord of one of the most prestigious families during the Reneissance. The game is played over 7 rounds, regardless of player counts. At the start of each round, the pool of dice gets rolled (1 die per player per color) and get placed in the appropriate space. 10 assignment tiles will be placed randomly on the available slots on the board. Each player starts with 3 male and 4 female meeples, representing their children. They will also start out with 5 Florins. Each round in turn order players can take an action by taking one of the dice from the pool and placing it on their board. You have up to 4 of these actions available to you each round, but you can only ever have one of each color of dice on your player board. pic2680074_mdThe value of the die you select matters, as you have to pay an amount of florins if you place a dice with a lower value then the slot it is place on, equal to the difference. Does that mean you should always try to go for a high a dice as possible? Not necessarily, but I’ll get into that a little later.

When you place a die, you can perform any of three actions:

pic26800951: Hire a helper: When you chose this action you take a white helper disc and place them on one of the 3 available slots of the color indicated on your action space, paying the amount of Florins depicted in the spot. This doesn’t do anything for you at this point, but it can help you in the future during other actions. You can have multiple helpers active at any given time and you can chose whether to activate them or wait for a better opportunity. Once you take the helper action, the disc is removed from your board.

2: Signoria action: The Signoria action is different depending on the color of dice you choose. A brief description:

  1. Yellow: Take 3 florins from the bank
  2. Red: Arrange a marriage for one of your female family members.
  3. Purple: Offspring. Your married children produce offspring. Roll a white die for each White worker on your board and take new meeples from the supply depending on the result
  4. Grey: Send one of your male family members on a dimplomatic mission.
  5. Turqoise: 4 movement points on the initiative and career tracks.

During these actions you are allowed to take any helper actions available in the column of the same color you placed your die in, don’t forget.

3: Assignment action: At the beginning of the round the 10 assignment tiles are randomly placed on the available slots. When you decide to use this action, you can spend meeples depicted on the spaces to perform actions. For each color there are 2 actions available and you can chose to take either one or both actions. To do this, pay the amount and type of m

pic2680076_mdmeeples as depicted on the tile and board and perform the action. Some have set numbers you need to pay, others give you an option to pay up to three. In that case perform the action an amount of times eaqual to the meeples you have spent.

Next, I’d like to get into some of the actions in more detail, as this is where the real meat of the game comes from in my opinion. The board has five cities printed on them, each with room for 10 meeples and 2 spaces for alliance tiles. Alliance tiles are drawn from a face down pile and show 6 different family crests and a point value ranging from 2 to 5.

Diplomatic missions: With one of the dice actions as well as with one of the assignment tiles, it’s possible to send your pic2686591_md(grand)sons on diplomatic missions to one of the five cities. This is a multistep process. First off, your sons are place on one of the career tracks (Poltical, Clerical and Military.) There are several actions available to move your sons along on these tracks. When you send a son on a diplomatic mission, remove a meeple of your choice from any of the tracks and place him on one opic2686592f the spaces of the city, immediately gaining points equal to the value he was on said track. These values can go up to thirteen points! You always place the meeple on the lowest available spot, but you need to take into account the rank it was on on the career track. It needs to be at least as high as the value depicted in the spot you want to place it. Then, take one of the available alliance tiles and place them on the corresponding spot to the right of your player board.

Arranging marriage: When you arrange a marriage, take one of your available female workers and place them on the lowest available spot on one of the cities. Then, you pay at least the amount of Florins depicted on the spot you took and take 2 points for each Florin spent. You can chose to pay more, up to a maximum of 4. If there’s an alliance tile available, take it and place it on the corresponding spot next to your board.

At the end of the game, you can score these alliance tiles. You score each row where you have placed at least three tiles of pic2686593_mdthe symbols matching your player board. It’s unlikely you’ll score all 4 of these, so it might be a good idea to focus on some of them.20151027_222332

At the end of a round there is a reward phase. 7 reward tiles are laid out at the beginning of the game, showing an end round bonus for each of the rounds of play. Remember I said it didn’t have to be a good idea to take high numbered dice? I’ll explain why: Each player who has a total value of 13 or less on their dice gets to take either the bonus action or 3 florins. Apart from that, you can also place a white token on your board, marking the amount of your sons which are married. This amount influences the amount of dice you get to roll during the offspring action. In later rounds in the game, you also get an additional 2 florins. The tiles for round 6 and 7 are taken from a seperate pile and instead of a bonus give scoring opportunities. In these rounds, players qualifying for the round bonus also have the option of trading in 5 Florins for 5 points. After 7 rounds, payers score their alliance tiles and score half the points for any meeples they have still on the career tracks (rounded down). The player with the most glory points wins the game.

The Review:

To be very short: I love this game!!!

Now that would be too simple, wouldn’t it? I’ll try to elaborate on the points that really make this game shine for me. Components are of good quality and enough are supplied with the game. I personally like the artwork, but I’ve heard some people call the board a bit bland, which I can relate too. I personally love the dice that come with the game, especially the color choices.

I have a thing for multi purpose options in a game. Be it cards or in this case dice. I think the mechanic they use with the dice in this game is pure brilliance. It gives a player a lot to think about. Should I save my money and take a high dice or should I spend a bit to make sure that I reach the end round bonus, lovely. The number on the dice also effect some of the helper actions, so that gives it yet another layer of thought.

Money is really tight in this game. It’s a real balancing act to make sure you have enough to do everything you want. There are several ways to earn money during the game and to me it give a great sense of fulfillment when I can minimise the amount of actions I need to take just to get more cash.

There is no real direct player interaction in Signorie, but it doesn’t feel like I’m doing a solo thing. Interaction comes in the form of players taking the dice you might have wanted, beating you out on the initiative track or t20151027_205000aking the alliance tile you needed to complete your set. This is exactly the kind of interaction I like in a euro-game.

I have played several what’s your game games over the years and so far they have yet to disappoint me. Out of their 2 essen releases this year I’m not sure which one I’d rate higher, but both are remarkable games that any eurogamer should at least look into.

Final Verdict: 8,5/10

Disclaimer: I’ve used a couple of images from board game geek user and creator of great overview videos: Paul Grogan. The photographs are my own.

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