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The Little Prince: 16 Tiles of Awesomeness

Don’t be fooled. There’s awesomeness inside!

In case you missed it, last week was GenCon. That meant thousands of people (49,000+) visited Indianapolis for the convention and nearly all of them bought board games. One of the games I picked up, despite my lack of interest in the artwork, was The Little Prince, co-designed by famed designers Bruno Cathala and Antoine Bauza.

I love tile laying games. So when I watched W. Eric Martin’s video preview of the game I thought it could be really interesting. And since Bruges was sold out before I even got to GenCon I had a little extra money to spend on other thingsFor $28 this seemed worth it.

In The Little Prince you will play 16 rounds of the game. On any given round, whomever went last during the previous round gets to choose a type of tile. There are four types of tiles: Characters, Left Curve Edges, Right Curve Edges, and Centers. So the player will choose one type and draw as many tiles as there are players. They are placed face-up. They will then choose a tile, and then they get to choose who gets the next tile. Once all players had chosen then the next round begins.

Here’s a look at the setup (note that you do not actually need the scoring track on the box, but it’s kind of nice to look at):

Here’s the setup. Could it be simpler? (Yes, but not by much)

With fewer players you’ll use fewer tiles, but the gameplay is the same (except for with 2 players). There are also a few things to watch out for in the game. Baobab trees are awesome! Unless you have too many. If you ever get to the point where you have three baobabs on your planet then those three tiles will get flipped over. That’s bad because then you cannot use them for your scoring condition.

Also, volcanoes are no good. Whoever has the most volcanoes on their planet at the end loses a number of points equal to the number of volcanoes.

At the end you will have four scoring conditions that give you points for the things you have on your planet (roses, sheep, lamp posts, etc.). Your goal is to have the most points.

The Upside:

Simplicity: 16 tiles doth a planet make! That’s such an easy thing. It is very simple to play. Just choose a tile and place it down. The location doesn’t even matter so long as you are forming the shape of a planet.

Complexity: 16 sounds like a light game, but there is a lot of strategy in this game. The more players, the better off you’ll be. There are interesting choices of taking a tile that may not score you as much, but could cause another player to lose even more points. There are interesting choices about trying to get in the right spot in turn order. And then near the end of the game there are interesting choices. This game is filled with interesting choices.

The Downside:

Artwork: Originally I was not a fan of the artwork. I’m not familiar with the French story so there is no nostalgic connection for me to the artwork. While I can understand that others may enjoy it, I would definitely be on board to re-theme this one. I could consider myself a fan of the artwork on the basis of others enjoying that nostalgic feeling.

Designer Perspective: What would I change?

Other than re-theming there’s only one change I would make. I would add more scoring characters so that there are no duplicates. In my first game I had both lamp post scoring characters, and I had 13 lamp posts on my planet. With duplicate scoring characters there is a potential for making a huge killing. While I understand that there is also strategy inherent due to the duplicate scoring cards, I’d prefer there be no duplicate scoring cards.

Beer Pairing:

Parfait! (That’s French for “Perfect”)

What we have here is an interesting conundrum. First, the game is based on a French book, so I’m inclined to choose a wine pairing instead of beer. (No worries, that sort of blasphemy won’t happen here!). Second, the game itself is so simple and light, yet so deep with strategy. I have to choose a beer that fits that characteristic. I’d like to choose a French beer, but unfortunately France just isn’t known for it’s beer. So my preferred beer pairing for this light yet deep game is Stella Artois. (It’s close enough to France!) This beer meets the characteristics of the story and the game. It is a lighter beer but has a beautiful depth to it. I think with it’s hoity toity glass with the gold rim (not pictured), it would be a very nice fit with The Little Prince.

Overall Rating:

Disclaimer: I’ve only played the game twice, but I think it was a lot of fun. My wife played it with me and immediately afterward wanted to play again. That makes me bump the rating up a little bit. This game is very accessible. It has some awesome depth to the strategy. And it plays quickly. This will hopefully become our group’s go-to filler for a while. I know that I won’t turn down a game of it! For now I’ll rate this a 9 on the BoardGameGeek rating scale.

Excellent game.  Always want to play it.

Excellent game. Always want to play it.

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Terraforming Rocks! A Review of Alien Frontiers

Friday means it’s time for a board game review. And since the Alien Frontiers Kickstarter campaign just ended I suppose I’m a day late putting up this review. But after seeing that the campaign received 75 times the funding level they were after I doubt my review would have had any effect on the campaign. Let’s get on to the review.

Spoiler: It’s awesome!

Alien Frontiers, at the time of it’s release in 2010, used a very innovative dice placement mechanic for claiming different portions of the board. Your dice represent ships and based on the rolled values you can dock your ships at several of the orbital facilities.  Throughout the game your goal is to colonize the planet, and doing so can give you special bonuses in the game.  When you’re ready for an outer space adventure, and curiosity about the temporal warper has reached it’s peak, then get your friends together for an intergalactic kegger and enjoy Alien Frontiers!

Here’s a look at all the components in the base game (image via BGG user GremlinMaster):

Newer versions are even more awesome!

Since the game was released there have been three other printings (including the Kickstarter that just ended). There have also been expansions, which I am not reviewing today, since I have not played them. Time to launch the rocket and get into the details:

The Upside:

  • DICE PLACEMENT: I think this is one of the first games that really had an elegant dice placement mechanism, combining not just the concept of using a die based on its number, but also using combinations of the numbers you rolled. I think that it makes it really interesting because sometimes you want equal numbers and sometimes you want different numbers.
  • ARTWORK: The artwork for this game is really beautiful. It doesn’t go over the top. It’s family friendly and visually easy to understand. And everything fits the theme of the game.
  • SCI-FI NAMES: A really cool thing they’ve done with the game is name the different regions on the planet after science fiction authors, including Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury. That’s just a really cool feature that associates the game with sci-fi literature that fits the theme.

The Downside:

  • THE ENDING: I don’t often like games that just end. This one is like that. Once someone gets to the right number of points it just ends. There’s no final move to try to claim victory. It’s just done. There’s something nice about how a game of Ticket to Ride ends where everyone gets a final turn when the endgame is triggered.
  • ANALYSIS PARALYSIS: This game offers so many cool options to do on your turn that it can lead to some AP. I love options, but I hate AP and the slow play that it causes. I suppose this could be mitigated by playing with the right people. Not really too much of a downside here, though.
  • BALANCE ISSUES: It feels to me like some of the cards that players can earn are a little too powerful. These can allow for some huge moves in the game. And if the other players gets a few of these then you’ll likely lose. Or so it seems.

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

Based on the downside above I’d probably try to balance the cards a little bit better. This is a pretty weak answer for this section, so I’ll go out on a limb and make up something more awesome: Player boards where you can change your capabilities of adjusting your dice rolls! OR Factions where each player has a different ability. Oh wait… that’s been done! Aye… it seems they’ve got a very complete and awesome game here!

Beer Pairing:

This just seems so appropriate!

Werner von Brown Ale. This just seems so appropriate!

This game could be paired with many different beers. I could choose something complex because there are so many options on your turn. I could choose something elegant because the game is elegant and beautiful. I could choose something light because it is pretty easy to understand and play. But instead I’ll do like the game did with the naming of the planet’s regions and choose a beer based on someone associated with space: Straight to Ale’s Werner von Brown Ale. While I haven’t had it, it just seems like a good fit for this game.

OVERALL RATING:

I really enjoyed playing Alien Frontier’s. I love the awesomeness of the dice placement mechanics. The theme fits really well. I love the concept of having a fleet of ships and sending them off to do different things. Sometimes you have to send ships off together. Don’t forget about Terraforming! I wish my friend hadn’t traded it away. And I wish I had $95 I could have thrown at the recent Kickstarter campaign. I’m looking forward to playing this again. I’ll rate it 8 out of 10 on the BoardGameGeek.com rating 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.

BGR: Guildhall

I’ve had the privilege of playing Guildhall four times now so I figured I’m overdue to review it. So since it’s Friday and I post game reviews on Friday I figured better late than never. Let’s see what I think of the game!

He’s smiling because of bacon!

Guildhall by Alderac Entertainment Group is a card game where players try to fill the halls of their guilds (imagine that). To fill a guild you have to have five different colored cards of the same character. There are Farmers, Weavers, Dancers, Historians, Traders, and Assassins. Each character type provides you with some different ability. For example, when you play a dancer you get to draw a number of cards equal to the number of dancers in your guild and you get an extra action. Players have two actions per turn.

This game is played to a certain number of points. Points can be earned in two ways. The Farmer cards allow you to earn points if you have a certain number of Farmers already in your guild. The other option to earn points is by completing a guild hall and turning it in for a card with a point value on it. The winner is the first player to 20 points.

Here’s a look at Guildhall on the table (Image via Trent Hamm via BoardGameGeek.com):

This is Guildhall. A big game in a small package!

 

The Upside:

  • OPTIONS: So there’s only six different types of cards, how many options can there be? Well, each card does something slightly different based on how many of that card you have in the guild. So 6 cards with 3 categories means 18 options every turn. But it’s even better because you can combo things, which is awesome!
  • INTERACTION: This game has a great amount of interaction. You are constantly messing with other players guilds and they are doing the same to you. You are constantly hoping that they won’t mess up the guild that you’ll be able to complete on your next turn. This game definitely has a nice back-stabby layer to it!
  • WEIGHT: This game is just a big deck of cards and a few coin chits. But beneath the surface is a pretty deep and tense strategy game. Players can’t plan too far ahead but it’s important to make good plays with at least your next turn in mind. This game is heavier than one would expect. And that’s a good thing!

The Downside:

  • QUALITY: I’m sort of a stickler for good quality. In this case it’s not the physical quality that bothers me but rather the visual quality. My problem with it is that in the copy I’ve played there are different shades of the background colors. For example, the green Farmer will be a different green than the more limey green Trader. It just bothers me. This does not affect gameplay though.
  • LACK OF CONTROL: Often in the game it feels like you don’t have much control over what’s going to happen to you. If you jump out to an early lead, beware, because they’ll probably all come after you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. That bothers me, but only a little.
  • THE BOX/INSERT: The box for Guildhall is ridiculously large. Like I mentioned above, this game is just a deck of cards and coin chits. The box is just oversized for the amount of components you receive. This does not affect gameplay though.

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

The only thing I don’t really like about the game is that once you’ve filled a guildhall you basically just turn it into points. And if you’re wise you’ll likely grab the highest valued point card available. As a designer I’d like to see the ability to use the completed guild halls in a more interesting way. My suggestion would be that the face up cards that represent points would require sets of completed guildhalls (like Farmers and Dancers). This could make it more strategic if all the players are really trying to complete the same guild.

Beer Pairing:

This game feels like a light beer but plays like a heavy beer. There’s one beer in particular that fits the bill for me and that’s Guinness, which drinks like a light beer but feels like a heavy beer. (I guess that’s the opposite… oh well)  So I’m pairing Guildhall with a classic brew, Guinness Draught. This beer is a very enjoyable beverage that is deeper than one might originally guess. Just like Guildhall.

OVERALL RATING:

I didn’t care much for this game when I first played it. That’s due to my lack of understanding of how the cards could really interact with each other. (Maybe I shouldn’t review games after only one play!) But now that I’ve played four times I can really see how well this was designed. Not only is there player to player interaction, but card to card interaction. My favorite combo is to “weaver a dancer” and then play a dancer to get the extra card and action. I’ll rate this game an 8 out of 10 according to the Board Game Geek ratings 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.

Board Game Review: Belfort by TMG

Gnomes, Dwarves, and Elves. But no Pixies… yet!

It’s Friday, which means it’s Board Game Review day! Today I’m reviewing Belfort by Tasty Minstrel Games, which currently has an awesome expansion available on Kickstarter (KS link) for only $20. So since the Kickstarter campaign is live I figured now is as good a time as ever to post this review!

In Belfort players take on the role of a builder who has been hired to build the castle Belfort. Unfortunately, other builders were also hired in a mix-up. So you are tasked with being the best builder of the castle.  To do that you have to make effective use your elves and dwarves with a worker placement mechanic in various spots throughout the city.  Leftover elves and dwarves can be used to claim wood, stone, metal, or gold. Decisions in this game get tough and heavy. But that makes it awesome. The other part of the game involves building the buildings of the castle to claim a majority of a district. That’s how players can obtain points, which are needed for victory. When you’re ready to visit the Pub for some Master Dwarf action, or the Blacksmith to get some metal, then grab your friends and sit down for a game of Belfort!

Here’s a look at all of the awesomeness that is Belfort (image from BoardGameGeek.com):

This game is awesome!

I’ve played this game a bunch and I totally love it. But the real question is who can find the Ton Ton from Hoth on the game board first?

The Upside:

  • ARTWORK: I must start with the artwork. This game is so visually stunning that I sometimes set it up just to stare at it (not true). It just looks so good that I must give a shout out to artist Joshua Cappel! Excellent work!
  • STRATEGY: This game looks too fun to be a heavy strategy game, but that’s exactly what this is!  There is a lot of strategy behind each decision from the first turn throughout the whole game.  Players have to optimize their workers capabilities and then optimize which building to build and where to build it.  There’s a lot to think about in this game!
  • THEME: The theme of building a castle with your hired elves and dwarves is a lot of fun.It is easy to get immersed in this game and feel like you are really putting your elves and dwarves to work. And everything works together thematically, which always makes a game better!

The Downside:

  • ANALYSIS PARALYSIS PRONE: While I am a player that enjoys heavy strategy and tough decisions, there are some players that I play games with that would struggle mightily with indecision throughout this game.  There would be times where they wouldn’t know what to do or why they are doing it. Beware that this can lead to long games.
  • SETUP TIME: This game has a ton of components. Thus, it requires a higher than average setup time. If you know you’re playing this game during your board game night perhaps you should set it up beforehand!

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

Belfort is a brilliantly designed game of worker placement and area control. The upcoming expansion looks like it will enhance the game greatly, so I won’t offer anything that the expansion is already doing (or at least that I know of it doing). If I were to change anything I think I’d add the ability of players to swap buildings between districts. This would add a huge “screw-you” factor to the game, but might also unbalance the game. By being able to swap my Inn in district 1 with you Inn in District 2 I could gain the majority in both! Bonus!

Beer Pairing:

I would normally pair this game with a heavy beer since the game is a heavy game. However, I just can’t imagine the worker elves and dwarves sipping a heavy, gentlemen’s beer after a hard day of work on the castle. So my preferred beer pairing is one that drinks easily, tastes great, and would work perfectly in the hands of elves and dwarves. And that beer is New Glarus‘ Cabin Fever Honey Bock. It is a very tasty beer brewed with clover honey, but not too much. And it goes great with brats, BBQ, and Belfort!

OVERALL RATING:

This was at the top of my Christmas list a couple year’s ago and it has lived up to that! Belfort is a great game that is a ton of fun to play. There is deep strategy, awesome artwork, and a lot of tense decisions. I can’t wait for the expansion to come out! I will rate Belfort 9 out of 10 on the BoardGameGeek rating system!

Excellent game.  Always want to play it.

Excellent game. Always want to play it.

BGR: Last Will

Yes. It’s like Brewster’s Millions.

Another Board Game Review! This time I’m reviewing Last Will by Czech Games Edition and designer Vladimír Suchý.

In Last Will you have received an inheritance of sorts from your deceased Uncle. But before you can “earn” the inheritance you have to prove yourself worthy of it! How do you do that? By spending an allotment of cash faster than your cousins. You’ll have to buy residences, farms, and mansions. You’ll have to throw extravagant balls. You’ll have to hire outstanding workers. And more! If you can go the furthest into debt, then you win!

This game has players fighting to get rid of their money the fastest. Can you outwit your cousins and spend you allotment first? Or will you be stuck with valuable properties? If you’re ready to spend spend spend, then it’s time to play Last Will (Ben McQuiston’s 2012 Game of the Year! – personal shout out)

Here’s a sneak peek at the game:

Okay… that’s obviously not the game, but it’s the same idea!

Here’s a look at the setup of the game (Image from BoardGameGeek.com):

Look at those awesome Top Hats! This shows a two-player game.

The Upside:

ARTWORK: This is easily some of my favorite board game artwork! Everything is thematically cohesive. It looks amazing. The colors are brilliant. And they spared no expense! I also like that they avoided game-dependent text on the cards, despite the fact that I have to reference the back page of the rulebook for the iconography about two dozen times per game. Really outstanding artwork!

THEME: The theme for this is fresh, unique, and interesting. Having a game where you have to get rid of all your money is so different than the majority of games out there. But all of the mechanics in the game fit the theme really well.

DOWNTIME: One of the things that can take a good game and turn it sour is an abundance of downtime. In Last Will there is very little downtime. This is because in the main action phase all the players can perform their actions at the same time. That’s pretty solid game design!

The Downside:

FIRST PLAY: The first time you attempt Last Will will likely be rough. New players typically have no idea what to do. Why should they buy a building? How does depreciation work? What do companions do? There are a lot of areas where they can get confused. If you’ve only played this game once and were confused, I highly recommend giving it another shot.

ICONOGRAPHY (SYMBOLOGY??): There are a lot of icons (symbols?) in this game. Like I mentioned above, I have to reference the table on the back of the rules multiple times throughout the game. This can be overwhelming to non-gamers or light-gamers.

AP-PRONE: Yes, there are an abundance of decisions to make in this game. And they are tough decisions. I don’t recommend playing this with your AP friends unless you plan on talking with your non-AP friends a bunch during the game. Or you’re incessantly patient.

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

As a designer I can really appreciate how well this game is balanced. The design process must have been a beast for this game. There are so many interweaving things within the design. The gameplay works really well. The artwork is outstanding. And the theme is great. The only thing I would be tempted to change is the iconography. It looks nice, but I think the icons could be a little more clear on what they represent. They just are not very intuitive.

Beer Pairing:

This seems like a gentlemen’s (lady’s) game and I prefer to play while enjoying a gentlemen’s beer. And to me a fine example of a gentlemen’s beer is a Scotch Ale. I’m keeping it close to home with this beer pairing and I’m recommending Lake Louie’s Warped Speed Scotch Ale. It’s an excellent beer that goes well with this excellent game! A secondary local option would be Ale Asylum’s Sticky McDoogle! That’s also a great Scotch Ale that is as enjoyable as this game. Either way, you can’t go wrong!

OVERALL RATING:

I’ve played Last Will a half dozen times. I’ve enjoyed each play. There is a great amount of variability. The theme and artwork are awesome. And there is a lot of awesome strategy that keeps me wanting more. I yearn to be better at this game. I’ve won at least once and I’m hoping to win again soon, but just playing this one is a lot of fun!  Just get past that first play and this game really becomes outstanding. I’ll rate it 8 out of 10 according to the BoardGameGeek rating system:

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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