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Monday Brews – Cinco de Mayo 2014

Hola! Welcome back to Boards & Barley for an awesome Cinco de Mayo! According to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is also known as El Dia de la Battala de Puebla (Day of the the Battle of Puebla). It celebrates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the french forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Now we commemorate by eating lots of chips, salsa, and guacamole and enjoying oversized Margaritas. Bummer… now I’m hungry for quacamole.

It’s Monday so here on Boards & Barley I like to recap the games and beer that I enjoyed in the past week. I’d love to hear what you enjoyed this past week. Feel free to leave a comment below! Let’s start with the Barley…

The Barley:

Belgians brew great beer!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Karmeliet Tripel

I had never had the Karmeliet Tripel before, which is a travesty for someone like myself who really enjoys the Belgian Tripel variety of beer. The new local establishment that I keep mentioning had this on tap and served it in the glass shown in the picture. It was an excellent beer and I would definitely enjoy it again.

  • NEW! Duchesse de Bourgogne – Another amazing Belgian Beer! I think I could easily get by with Belgian beer if it were the only country from which I could enjoy beer.
  • Spaten Optimator

The Boards:

No spotlight this week. I played a few games but would rather just list them.

  • Crokinole – Played with 4 players (6 discs each). We added a cool scoring rule where you score 10 points for each opponent’s disc that you knock out of play. However, if your disc also goes out of play on the same flick then it is a scratch and you do not get the points. This added a fun level of play to the game.
  • Unpublished Prototype – This is a four player 4 card game that I don’t want to say too much about other than it is really awesome.
  • Unpublished Prototype – I played a friend’s co-op game about healing patients. This game was very enjoyable and had an interesting and dynamic time aspect.
  • Unpublished Prototype – This was a stock market game that had some interesting elements and worked well. I sure would love to see a different theme, though.
  • Forbidden Island – I played with my kids and we lost on the VERY FIRST flood card (Fool’s Landing). I’ve never lost that quickly. You’ve technically only got a 19% chance on losing on the first draw of flood cards (16.7% on first card). And those percentages are ONLY if Fool’s Landing was one of the first six flood cards during setup. After we lost we reset the board and played again. But my kids lost interest before we could finish even though we had three treasures and a very good chance of winning.

Designer’s Corner:

I worked on Brooklyn Bridge this week. However, I have a problem in that there are about four different routes I would like to try with the design. I have several large changes that I would like to get playtested, which means my road to a “completed” game is going to be a much longer one that it was for Scoville. That’s fine though since I think this game has a lot of potential. Currently, however, it is more “Large Chunk of Stone” rather than “Finished David Sculpture.” I’ve just got my work cut out for me.

I also really want to dive into the design for Armada Galactica. I’m holding back on this because I don’t want to get into a cycle of 50% completed games. I’d rather keep my focus on Brooklyn Bridge and get that to the state where I could show it to a publisher with confidence. Sorry Armada Galactica… you’ll have to wait.

Also, I came up with what I believe could be a REALLY interesting tactile abstract game. I think this has the potential to be in the Qwirkle or Ingenious realm so I’m not going to give away any details just yet. Unfortunately this too will be waiting in the design queue for Brooklyn Bridge to progress.

Horizontal Rule

Alright everyone. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed some Boards or Barley last week. If you tried something new that was awesome, let me know!

There’s Fungus Among Us! My Review of Morels.

“Amateur Mycologists have questionable Morels” ~ from Brent’s shirt at GenCon

During my trip to Gen Con 2012 I was able to meet a nice guy named Brent Povis with Two Lanterns Games.  Brent was a really nice guy and so was his wife, who taught my friend Jeremy and me the game.

Morels is a two player game that has you going on a hike in the woods foraging for mushrooms.  Should you pick the mushrooms at your feet?  Or do you want to hike a little further for that other mushroom that looks a little tastier?  Players are on a foraging hike that will allow them to gather mushrooms of different kinds. Once you’ve got three or more of the same kind, go ahead and fry them up!  You’ll get bonus points if you can use butter with 4 of a kind (+3 points) or cider with five of a kind (+5 points).  Some mushrooms are worth more points, but there are fewer of them.  So you have to plan accordingly on your hike.  On any given turn you can grab one of the first two cards available, or you can pay any number of walking sticks to walk further down the path and grab a card that you would rather have.  There is definitely a lot of strategy with your choices in the game.  When you’re hungry for mushrooms, or ready for a great two-player game, then pick up a copy of Morels!

Here’s a look at the setup to start the game:

This is the special version with hand whittled sticks and plastic frying pans. I’m jealous.

Each player starts with three cards. Eight cards are placed along the foraging trail. And each player starts the game with one frying pan. On your turn you can take one of the first two cards. Or you can pay sticks to forage further along the trail. You pay one stick for each card you walk beyond the first two cards. So if you take the fourth card from the end you would be paying two sticks. When you’ve got a set of three or more like mushrooms you can fry them up by laying your set down by the frying pan, or by laying it down with a frying pan card. That’s the basics of how you play.

The Upside:

Length of the game: As I have gotten more and more into awesome games my wife has kind of been left behind.  So I am always on the lookout for a new, lighter game that she’ll enjoy. That’s one reason I picked up The Little Prince at GenCon this year. She also doesn’t care for games that are over an hour.  So to have a game like this that takes a half hour at most with people who know how to play, it’s perfect for us.

Theme: I don’t like mushrooms.  It’s mostly because of their texture (I have a weird texture-sensitive palate).  However, I love looking at mushrooms and other fungi in nature.  So the theme of walking through the woods on a foraging hike actually sounds pretty cool to me.  Plus, you’re not trying to build a castle or earn victory points.  This is just a mushroom game where you get points for cooking mushrooms.

The Downside:

Endgame: While I could almost equally put this in the Upside category I’m putting it in the downside because there are often situations at the end where you don’t really have any decisions to make. I enjoy games where decisions get more important right to the end. You can have a play of Morels where, based on the last cards to come up, you just don’t have any fun decisions to make. I can forgive that because it’s not always the case and because the game plays quickly. But it needed to be mentioned.

Designer Perspective: What would I change?

This game works pretty well overall so it was a little tough to think of something to change. Basically this is a set collection game where the ability to procure sets is very structured. There is strategy in what mushrooms you take as you are collecting the sets, but there isn’t a huge “Take That” capability in the game. It never feels like I can really strongly affect my opponent. My change to the game would be to add a few cards to the game that each player starts with. These cards would be one-time use abilities. One specific ability I would like would be to take a card without having a card decay. Another ability would be to take a card and replace it with a blank spot along the foraging trail. Both of these abilities could add interesting twists to the strategy while providing a little of the “take that” concept.

Beer Pairing:

“Ommegang! This is so good!”

For a mushroom foraging hunt one might suspect bringing along a light beer that goes down easy. They’d be wrong. For most meals with mushrooms you’ll find the Belgian or French beer styles quite accommodating. So my preferred beer pairing while playing Morels would be the Ommegang Abbey Ale, which is a Belgian Dubbel style ale.

Ommegang sounds foreign, but they are a New York based brewery. So don’t let the name fool you when you go into the beer store looking for a nice foreign beer. For those looking specifically for Trappist beer, which comes from Trappist monasteries, there are only 8 recognized Trappist sources: Achel, Chimay, Gregorious, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Of those I have had all except Gregorius and Westvleteren, which I am hoping to remedy in the near future.

Overall Rating:

I’ll rate this with two players in mind and thus it’s rating is compared to only two player games. The fact that I can get my wife to play this game means a lot, and that helps it’s rating. Overall I enjoy this little gem. We specifically love playing this game when we are camping since it feels like we are actually out foraging for mushrooms. I’m giving this game 8 out of 10 on the BGG scale:

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I’ll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

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