The Re-Review: The Summer Doldrums

Forbidden Stars

Forbidden Stars

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

My first play of Forbidden Stars was pretty abysmal, resulting in something of a rage quit. However, my second game went much better—thankfully.

The general gist of the game is you’re one of four Warhammer 40k factions attempting to recover enough objectives to win within eight rounds. You’ll do that by conquering certain planets which will require some movement (and combat), upgrades, building/recruiting, and domination (extracting resources). Most of these actions are straightforward—with combat being an exception—but the way you plan your turn is very interesting: you have eight order tiles (two of each action) and you play the tiles face down on the sector tiles and resolve them from the top down. If there are other tiles already there, you play on top, so you can now prevent that person from using that action for a bit. The game ends in eight rounds, and the person with the most objectives wins, in case of a tie you use planets, if that ties, you use units.

Like the first game, I played the Ultramarines, figuring I’d like to try the faction I failed so spectacularly with the first time. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that the Ultramarines are all about morale—they want to just outlast the other guy and win by surviving. My strategy revolved around upgrading a lot of cards and focusing on defense, rallying units, and throwing wrenches in my opponent’s combat plans.

The final score in the fifth round was 3-3-2. The first tie breaker was the number of planets and we were tied at 7. The second tie breaker was units on the board and my opponent had 14 and I had 9.

I’m glad I gave this game another shot as it’s a lot of fun, but I’d recommend taking some time to look over your faction’s cards before starting the game, just so you can figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and an overall game plan of how they should play.

Colt Express

Colt Express

  • 1 play with 4 players
  • New to me

I’ve enjoyed RoboRally in the past, but had soured on it because of it’s length. I didn’t mind the frustration of the game because it was so silly, but taking 2+ hours to play a game of this weight was far too long. Colt Express came along promising a game with similar game play, but a defined game length and fewer options to get tangled in.

In Colt Express you’re a train robber moving from car to car (these are 3D train cars) and stealing purses, jewels, and the strong box in order to have the most money at the end of five rounds. You start each round with a hand of 6 cards that let you move between train cards, move into or on top of a train car, move the marshall, pick up treasure, punch another player (making them drop a purse), or shoot another player (putting a dead card into their deck). You’ll put anywhere from 4-6 cards, typically face up, into a pile one at a time and then that pile is turned over and each card is played one at a time. Sometimes you’ll play the cards face down, sometimes you’ll play two cards at once, and sometimes you’ll play in reverse player order. At the end of your five rounds, whoever has the most money wins.

I think this largely replaces RoboRally for me, and that’s a tough realization. I really like what RoboRally does and how funny it is, but it’s just too long for what it is and ends up becoming frustrating as a result. Colt Express on the other hand, lives up to it’s name, playing in about 45 minutes to an hour while giving roughly the same feeling.

Spyfall

Spyfall

  • 5 plays with 5 players, 5 plays with 6 players
  • Played before

This was quite the hit on vacation as we ended up playing it 10 times in one night. However, the more I play it, the less I enjoy it. Instead of enjoying being the spy, most people come to loathe it and that means someone is usually having a bad time. I do love the questions that come out of the game, but unless I can figure out a way of relaxing that anxiety, I’m not sure this one will stick around in my collection.

Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter

This is my favorite game and I managed to play it with my favorite group and I managed to (jointly) win! In this particular game, I was the Extortionist which meant I could take half of all defender rewards and compensation. It didn’t come up much, but it was still handy to get cards when I shouldn’t otherwise have. I think my favorite part of this game was that we had a Changeling who kept moving around the table as that player kept claiming someone else’s alien power. I really should play this more, it’s an excellent game.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

This was the game that made me realize that I have never fully read the Imperial Assault rulebook and my friends ended up paying the price as I read and re-read the rulebook while we were playing. Still, we had a very good game.

I was playing the Imperial player and my opponents were playing a character each and sharing a third. Having played Descent in the past, one of the players was very nervous about the balance of it and for the majority of the game, it felt almost predetermined that I would win. However, about two thirds in, they figured out the plan that would win them the game, keeping my units busy and drawing the one they needed to kill out.

This game is still quite a bit of fun, but I need to properly read the rulebook before our next play.

Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

This was a fast game as I was going for broke with a very development heavy strategy, but I ended the game far too soon as a lot of my developments and planets were worth 0 or 1 points. I always enjoy my plays of Race for the Galaxy and I should bring it out more often, but the idea of teaching it keeps me away.

Tsuro

Tsuro

  • 1 play with 7 players
  • Played before

Tsuro is an okay game. I’ll almost always play it when offered as a filler, but would never ask to play the game. It’s great to play while talking at the end of the night, but don’t expect too much more than that.

Wits & Wagers

Wits & Wagers

  • 1 play with 7 players
  • Played before

I have a lot of random trivia in my head, but it’s typically not the kind of stuff in trivia games. However, Wits & Wagers is a trivia game that I really enjoy because every answer is a number and you end up betting on the number you think is the closest without going over. You don’t need to know the answer, you just need to either have an idea of who does or a ballpark estimate. For example, how many Earths could you fit into Jupiter? Would you bet on 50 or 1000? The answer is somewhere near 1300, so 1000 would have been the correct bet.

I enjoy Wits & Wagers for what it is, a light trivia game where you don’t need to know the answer to the question, just have a general hunch or follow those that seem in the know.

Medieval Academy

Medieval Academy

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • New to me

I like drafting games to some degree. 7 Wonders has been in my collection for a long time and will likely stay for a while. I enjoy the simplicity of a drafting game and really enjoy seeing the progression of ages and specializations of different players. Sushi Go is okay, but I probably won’t buy it, it’s just a little too light for my tastes.

With that in mind, I approached Medieval Academy with some trepidation: would it fall more on the 7 Wonders side of things where there’s enough meat for me, or on the Sushi Go side where there’s not quite enough. It’s definitely on the 7 Wonders side and I hope to play it a bunch more.

Much like the aforementioned games there is a series of rounds where you are dealt a number of cards. You take a card and pass the remaining cards to your left or right. However, unlike 7 Wonders or Sushi Go you don’t play the cards until you have a full hand of five cards. At that point, in turn order you play cards in whatever order you want. That little bit of flexibility makes this different enough from 7 Wonders to warrant keeping and I think I enjoy it just a bit more.

On the other hand, the game is thematically weak when compared to 7 Wonders, which is also considered thematically weak in the board gaming community. In other words, the theme is pasted on. However, considering the quality (good) and length (roughly 30 minutes for 3 players) of the game, I’m okay with that.

The Voyages of Marco Polo

The Voyages of Marco Polo

  • 1 play with 2 players
  • Played before

Dice are kinda my jam these days, but it wasn’t always that way. There was a time where dice were the bane of my gaming existence and I focused on individual die rolls and how they ruined my plans, and therefore ruined my fun. Well, I’ve moved on and I’m glad I have because The Voyages of Marco Polo is an excellent game that involves dice.

I continued my winning streak (two games, woo) with a 75-50 win mostly due to large contracts. I didn’t move much on the board, but I did start in Beijing, allowing me to move to Sumatra and take advantage of the cards in that city.

The more I play this game, the more I enjoy some of what it offers: tough choices, mild interaction with other players, and route planning. I enjoy the artwork and the nice graphical touches that keep everything really cohesive.