The Re-Review: Woefully Behind

Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter

I seem to only be able to win this game jointly, which is probably a factor of teaching the game to new folks most of the time, but I still love the stories this game produces. In this particular game I had surged to a pretty early lead with three points versus some folks with two, one, or zero points. However, that’s never a good sign in this game and everyone started ganging up against me as the destiny deck dealt my color or wilds repeatedly. Sitting firmly with three points and everyone else but one person has four points, I’m now in last with one other person. Well, as I said before, we ended up winning due to a 40 point encounter card while allied with the other person in last and then I drew one more encounter card and it was his card. I said, “want to negotiate?” and, we both had the right card and that was a win!

In this particular game, I was the Parasite which meant that no one could refuse me as an ally. I’ve had this power before and I remember it being incredibly strong and perfect for my playstyle and I was happy to get it again.

Spyfall

Spyfall

  • 2 plays with 5 players
  • Played before

I still really enjoy playing Spyfall, but the more I play it, the more I realize that some people have a really bad time playing it. If you’re new to the game and get dealt the spy card, you’re likely going to have a bad time. If you’re the spy and have the first question, it’s probably going to be a short round. If you’re new, the spy, and have the first question, well it’s going to be over fast and suck.

However, with a group of experienced players who know each other and enjoy this style of game, it can really sing. It works best with multiple players and especially if they get into their role. Sure, you’re at an Airport, but why are you at that airport? What are you doing there? What kinds of questions would you ask of those around you? The more you treat this like a roleplaying game, the more fun it is.

7 Wonders

7 Wonders

  • 1 play with 4 players
  • Played before

I very rarely suggest a game of 7 Wonders, yet I don’t think it’ll leave my collection for a long time. It’s in this weird zone where I really enjoy it and never reach for it, so I appreciate it when others request it. It reminds me of how good of a game it is, especially when you start to mix in different expansions—my favorite being 7 Wonders: Cities closely followed by 7 Wonders: Babel with 7 Wonders: Leaders firmly in last.

In this particular game I heavily went for resources and largely ignored blue cards, which is essentially the opposite of my normal plan. In addition, I went for science points, another avenue I typically ignore. In the end, I didn’t do well, but I enjoyed trying a different strategy, though I should probably be playing a bit more tactically.

Stockpile

Stockpile

  • 1 play with 4 players
  • New to me

This game got a lot of dirty looks at my weekly meetup. I started to set it up to drum up interest and no one came over to even take a look. I guess the words “stock game” are anathema to fun. I decided to try it out with my in-laws since I had heard the game was a light-weight hour long affair and the goal of acquiring the most money is pretty easy to get behind. Well, an hour later, my wife had the most dough and everyone else around the table had a good time.

As I said before, your job is to acquire the most money. You’ll do this through acquiring and selling stocks while having a little bit of insider information about what the stocks are going to do this round: they may go up or down, or pay out dividends. If a stock goes up high enough, it splits, doubling the number of stocks you own. If a stock goes low enough, it goes bankrupt and the stock is now worthless.

In order to acquire the stocks, you’ll be bidding on “stockpiles” which are piles of three cards of stocks, action cards to raise and lower the value of certain stocks, and trading fees which just take more of your money. These stockpiles are empty at first and you deal one card face up to each and then the rest of the players are dealt two cards each and play one card face up and one card face down to any of the piles, possibly the same pile and possibly not.

There’s a lot to like here: easy rules, quick playing time, real world theme and goal. This is the Ticket to Ride of stock games and would be what I’d introduce to someone who said they like Monopoly and were trying to get into hobby board games.

Monikers

Monikers

  • 1 play with 8 players
  • New to me

I’ve played Cards Against Humanity a few times and while I enjoyed myself while playing, I always feel bad about it afterwards. I’ll typically play it as long as the group knows each other, but even then I’m not the biggest fan. I’ve tried to find similar games that produce as many laughs without the guilt, but I’ve never been really satisfied with any of them. Monikers on the other hand, does a great job of providing laughter while also having a fun game that doesn’t make you feel like a bad person.

Monikers is essentially Times Up! with updated cards. You create a card pool by dealing 8 cards to each player and having them discard 3. You shuffle those together and you’re ready to play. During a game of Monikers your goal is to end up with as many points as possible by correctly guessing clues. The game is played over three rounds and each round has one turn per player. In the first round you can use as many words as you want, in the second you can only use one word, and in the third you’re playing charades. During your turn, you’ll have one minute to provide clues in an attempt to get rid of as many cards as possible by having the other players correctly guess. At the end of the round, you’ll shuffle all of the cards you just played with and start a new round.

In our game we didn’t keep score, we treated it mostly as an activity which is exactly how I like to play these games. I’m here to have fun, not win. Still, you had a sense of how well you were doing, so it kept you competitive. This game is a perfect example of something short, simple, and rules light that’ll work great with a group of friends or strangers. I highly recommend you pick it up when it comes back into print.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

  • 2 plays with 8 players
  • Played before

This is another one of those party games which works well with groups of friends, less so with strangers. I like that it encourages the right kinds of discussions without overstaying it’s welcome.

I was a werewolf during both play and lost both times. During one of the plays we had a player who bent the rules a bit by flashing hand signals “at night” and then asked them what they saw to confirm or deny their roles. I’m not sure what the rules say about this, but it was definitely against the spirit of the game and one of the werewolves who was with me was new to these games and answered truthfully giving him someone to vote for. He talked about it afterwards and I flat out said don’t do that, it’s unfair.

I do enjoy this game, but be wary of players like this and discourage that kind of play if it comes up. It ruins the game.

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • New to me

I’ve seen lots of folks saying Isle of Skye fires Carcassonne for them, and after playing it, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. Yes, this game involves tile laying, but I think the meat of the game is in the buying and selling of the tiles you drew from the bag. Once you have the tiles, you then place them in your kingdom or lands or whatever it’s called and mostly try to line everything up neatly. I say mostly because you can ignore roads if you need to, though it’s better to connect them.

The gist of the game is you’re building your kingdom by placing these tiles. At the end of each round you’ll collect points based upon tiles that are randomly chosen at the beginning of the game. You might get points for having lakes, farms, sheep, money, boats, squares of tiles, and other things. In a given round you’ll get three tiles, secretly price out two of them by placing their money next to them, and select a third to be discarded. Everyone then reveals their tiles and in player order you can buy one tile from another player by paying them the amount of money next to the tile (that player keeps their money and collects yours). If no one buys your tile(s), you get to keep them but lose the money. Whoever has the most points after six rounds wins.

I enjoyed my play of this quite a bit, the meat of it being the pricing which reminded me a lot of Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but with a less interesting theme. On the other hand, it plays quite a bit faster and is quicker to setup. I’ll likely keep it, but I’m not sure for how long.

Alchemists

Alchemists

  • 1 play with 2 players, 1 play with 4 players
  • New to me

Woooo boy, this was one heck of a game. I knew going into it that this would be meatier than most games I play and that analysis (paralysis) was part of the game. I had traded for it and it just sat on my shelf for weeks and months before I even decided to try it, but when I did I’m glad I spent the time learning it.

I’m not going to go too deep into this one because it’s pretty hefty, but you’re an alchemist and your job is to figure out what ingredients do what so you can publish theories, sell potions, and show off at the exhibition. You’ll do this by trying out your potion on customers, students, and yourself by combining two ingredients using an app on your phone or tablet.

In two games my wife and I have each won once, both times within one point of the other and both times we’ve really enjoyed it. It’s one of those games that captivated her after our initial play and she’s now looking for chances to get it to the table. I’d recommend trying this game first, but it’s definitely worth that try.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

This covers the first two games of a new campaign with my Netrunner friends and so far we’re tied at a game a piece. Each game has been tense and close with smart plays and lucky die rolls barely deciding each game. That is why this game is worlds better than Descent, a game that, as the overlord, I continuously won even after giving out rewards for winning to the heroes.

Thankfully, I prevented the Rebels from gaining Chewbacca as an ally, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold out.

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

  • 2 plays with 2 players
  • New to me

This is a silly little game that I’ve been describing as a combination of Uno and “reverse”-Jenga. You’re building a tower out of cards (fun) and those cards tell you what happens next: play another card, skip the next player’s turn, switch the direction of play, or (the best) move the rhino hero to that card.

The winner is the person who gets rid of their cards first, alternatively the loser is the person who makes the tower fall over. This is a nice little filler that’s great to start or finish up a game night.

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

  • 1 play with 2 players
  • Played before

In this particular game of Ashes I played with Noah Redmoon’s base deck and did okay against Saria Guideman, even though I ended up losing. I like Ashes well enough, but I worry about whether or not I’ll end up playing it much since it scratches a similar itch to Netrunner which I enjoy much more due to my experience with it. Sure, I could play Ashes enough and get to the same point, but that’ll require another 247 plays and I’m just not sure I’m that interested.

Codenames

Codenames

  • 3 plays with 6 players, 2 plays with 11 players
  • New to me

Everyone was talking very highly of Codenames during Gen Con and every time I saw it I was underwhelmed. I didn’t quite understand the point of the game and never read too much into it and ignored it for a while, but eventually I just decided to buy it and make up my mind for myself and I am very glad I did.

I’ve played this with my meetup group five times now and two of those plays included the entire group and it was a blast. I enjoy playing as both the spymaster and their team and would be happy to play either. Crafting the clues is incredibly difficulty, but also a rush when you get one just perfect for your team.

The biggest problem is remaining straight faced as the spymaster and giving no clues about how accurate any guess is. No reaching for a card, no nodding or shaking of your head, no noises, no smiles, nothing. You have to sit there and be straight-faced, it’s a little exhausting. Still, the game is excellent and will be a go-to party game for a while.

Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica

Alright, we’re done with the party games for now and on to meatier fare. Terra Mystica is pretty fantastic and I always enjoy trying a new race. This game my wife played as the Dwarves and I played as the Alchemists. It was a somewhat close game, but it never felt like I could pull ahead and achieve a win, though I likely ignored the round bonuses and could have earned enough points there for a win.

Nations: The Dice Game

Nations: The Dice Game

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • New to me

I liked my play of Nations: The Dice Game enough to (briefly) add it to my want-in-trade list, but it didn’t last long enough for me to leave it there. It’s alright, but in the end it’s nothing special: roll dice, get new tiles that let you gain dice or recurring resources, get more tiles, accrue some points, rinse and repeat. I’ll play it again because it’s nice and short, but I don’t need to own it.

Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • Played before

Race for the Galaxy was a staple in my house for the longest time. My wife and I can still play it in under 15 minutes a game and it has great decisions for a game that short. This does not feel like a filler at all. My beef with the game is I really don’t want to teach it to new players, there’s too many symbols and not enough explanation for new players, so they have to play multiple games before it starts to click. Once it does click, it’s an excellent game, but it takes a few games.

Viceroy

Viceroy

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • New to me

I backed this game on Kickstarter due to Tom Vasel’s review and while I enjoyed the game, I feel like it’s a bit too long for what it was. It took us two hours for for players and all I could think about were the better games that I could have been playing. Not recommended.

Caverna

Caverna

My wife agreed to start using the larger set of furnishings which allowed us to try very different strategies. I went in whole hog on having as many dwarves as possible and managed to get all six of them netting me 16 points (with the furnishing that gave me 10 points for six dwarves). In addition, I was a complete pacifist which netted me another 8 points. I stuck mostly to farming and used the cooking cave to keep us fed, while using rubies to plow and sow my fields. In the end, my score was pretty similar to my other high scores, but I had fun trying a different strategy.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride

  • 2 plays with 2 players
  • Played before

We don’t play Ticket to Ride much, but it’s definitely a nice and relaxing game that my wife and I can play multiple times in a night. It reminded me that I should probably play it more often than I do.

Evolution

Evolution

  • 1 play with 3 players
  • New to me

Evolution is a tough game to talk about because our first play of it was so soured by what turned out to be a botched rule. However, that excites me because I love the idea of the game: you have your species and you help them evolve over time while starting new species and helping them as well. You can be an herbivore and mind your own business or you can become a carnivore and start eating everyone else.

The carnivores are were we started going wrong in our game. Each species consists of a body size, a population, and up to three traits. Whether you’re an herbivore or carnivore, you need to eat food up to your population size: you have four population, you need four food. However, an herbivore eats plant food from the watering hole and a carnivore eats the other species. When they eat another species, that species loses a population and the carnivore gains food from the food bank (not watering hole) equal to the attacked species body size. That’s what we got wrong, instead we just assumed one attack equaled one food and that led to a lot of species getting needlessly wiped out. In addition, it led to some interesting attempts at preventing the carnivore from winning the game by maxing out body size to make it harder for the carnivore, but in that case the carnivore would only need to eat once.

I’m withholding judgment on this game, but I look forward to trying it out again with the correct rules.