In this first episode, we talk about Origins, games, channel news, and a group review for Century: Spice Road.
In this first episode, we talk about Origins, games, channel news, and a group review for Century: Spice Road.
Written by Chris King
Today, I’ll be reviewing Bethel Woods by Garphill Games This game was successful on Kickstarter . Bethel Woods is a co-operative game for 2-4 players ages 12 and up, and about 40 minutes to play.
In this game you and the other players are trying to construct all 6 pieces of the Daydreamer machine to protect the orphanage from the terrors of this futuristic world that this game is set.
Setup for this game couldn’t be easier. The game comes with a double-sided game setup/ malfunction player aid on the back. NOTE: When setting up, none of the machines can be in a critical state. More on that later.
Randomly deal 1 of the 8 available character cards to the players.
There are enough cards for everyone to have a character and an unused card for the player aid which is a nice touch.
So this is what a game will look like when all done:
The start player will take all pawns at 1 machine in a single direction, start dropping them off 1 at a time using a mancala-type mechanic. As soon as you drop of a pawn onto a machine, check to see if the pawn you placed matches at least 1 of the colors of the Malfunction at the machine. If the colors match you get to take the malfunction off the board. (ex: your last pawn is a blue on #5 and 1 blue is already there. Therefore you remove 2 blue malfunctions from #5.) Any malfunctions removed this way are taken off the board and now known as Knowledge You can never hold more than 7 knowledge at one time, discards any extras/
Once knowledge is gained, it can be used in 3 primary ways
To end your turn, you must place 3 malfunctions from the bag and place them accordingly The next player in clockwise order now takes their turn.
Spies/Machines Going Critical
If at any point a machine gets a 4th malfunction, that machine goes critical and a spy will enter the board. When a machine goes critical 2 things happen.
A spy will lower the number of malfunction needed at a machine to go critical by 1
On the spy it tells you where to place it, and which two colors are need to remove him.
In order to remove a spy you must drop your last pawn at the spy’s location and discard the required knowledge. Once defeated, the spy will return to the bottom of the spy stack
Note: Multiple machines can go critical at a time, but only spy will be placed a turn
Constructing the Daydreamer/Winning
To win, all you need to do is construct the 6 pieces of the Daydreamer! Easy right? Nope! Each of the machine are connected to a path in the center of board. Each path has 2 color options Only 1 of the 2 will be used. You need to end you movement in the center with that color pawn and discards 1-6 of 1 type. of malfunction. It doesn’t have to always match the color of the pawn placed.
Keep in mind that once you send a pawn into the center it will stay there for the rest of the game!
Lastly there are 3 ways to lose this game
Here are some pictures from one of my last games:
We ended up losing! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
So what do I think of Bethel Woods? This is a very solid game. For starters, this game is a breeze to set up everything needed can be found on the setup card provided! The Mancala style gameplay makes this game really simple to play, but also gives some strategic depth to the game. I am a fan of co-op games and this one fits right in. Bethel Woods could be a cousin to Pandemic but played in less time. It has the same level of tension as the game goes on. On you turn it is very simple. Pick a group, move in a single direction picking up malfunctions along the way. Don’t be fooled though, while turns go quick in this game, the game can turn bad just as quickly with the spies and the machines going critical all around you. I find this balance of your choice will alter the game for better or worse with one move!
Okay, so, on the negative. There’s not a lot to say here but if you play a lot of co-op games this next statement won’t be a shock. Depending on the players this game can suffer from Alpha Gamer Syndrome or AGS! I have noticed AGS once during my plays and it was kind of annoying. I know they mean well but sometimes you can’t think three turns ahead.. So just be aware of AGS!
This games also reminds me a little bit of Five Tribes with the ever-changing board state. In these types of games, I have a little mantra that helps me during games. “Don’t look at the board, don’t look at the board!” It’s hard to plan but I do best when it gets closer to my turn.
So, to date I have played this 4 times now and lost every time. We’ve gotten close but never won! This I think is a good sign of a co-op game.
“If we can just get past the hall monitor…….”
Over the past couple of years, dexterity games have become quite popular, with many titles coming into the marketplace. Building off of some concepts of games like Crokinole, a new flicking game is out that puts a play on cutting class in school, trying to avoid the hall monitor and get into some mischief.
Enter………Ice Cool from designer Brian Gomez, published by Brain Games Publishing. Ice Cool is a dexterity game for 2-4 players, ages 6+, and it plays in about a half an hour.
QUICK GAME SUMMARY
In Ice Cool, the game is played over multiple rounds. In each round, one player takes on the role of the Catcher (hall monitor) with the other players taking on the role of Runners. The Runners goal is to skate around the school, through certain hallways to gather up fish and collect points. The Catcher’s goal is to catch the runners and take their IDs to score points. A round will end when either any Runner has collected all 3 fish tokens of their color or The Catcher has caught all Runners. Then start a new round and repeat. The game ends when each player has been the Catcher once.
OVERVIEW OF GAME PLAY
I am not going to go over all of the rules in-depth, but if you want to read the rules, click the link –> GAME RULES
The first thing that has to be done is to assemble the game board, which is made up of smaller boxes that all fit together to form the play area. All of the boxes are numbered
and each of the doorways is color coded to match up.
When everything is finished the board looks like this:
Each player chooses a color and takes their player pieces.
One player takes on the role of the Catcher and places their penguin in the kitchen. All of the penguins are plastic with the pieces weighted at the bottom where when the piece is at rest is stands up straight. All of the Runners will place their fish tokens over the doorways that are marked with a fish icon.
A bit about the Runners…
In turn order, starting with the Runners, each one will start in the classroom and flick their penguins around trying to get through hallways to collect fish and score points.
Players need to move completely through a door with a fish token to be able to collect it.
This is accomplished by flicking the penguin in a way that it will move through the doorways to score.
There are a number of different techniques that can be used to flick the penguins around. The video below produced by Brain Games shows some great moves that can happen in the game.
If a penguin is flicked out of the game play area, just place it back where it started, however the turn is over. Penguins can be flicked over doorways, but in order to collect fish the penguin must go THROUGH the door. When a penguin goes through a door with a fish token of its color on it, the token is taken and a fish is collected. A card is drawn from the fish card deck that awards points. Each fish can be worth 1 to 3 points. The fish cards are placed face down in front of the player, partially covering their color reminder.
Eventually, the Runner will be caught by the Catcher. If this happens, the Catcher takes that Runner’s ID. The Runner can still collect fish to score points.
A bit about the Catcher…
The Catcher’s goal is to catch the Runners and take their IDs. For a Catcher to take an ID, all it has to do is touch the Runner. The Catcher is always last in turn order.
In the pictures you see red lines on the boards. These are used as boundaries to place a penguin on if it is too close to a wall to flick or gets stuck in the middle of a doorway. The rulebook explains how to deal with those situations. Also, if your penguin is moved when it is not your turn, either through a doorway or into the Catcher, you resolve those effects. That means it is possible to gain a fish card or lose your ID when it is not your turn. If a player, including the Catcher wishes, they can gain an extra turn by revealing two cards that have a value of 1 on them. There are ice skate icons on the bottom of the cards. Revealing the two cards at the end of the turn gives that player ice skates and allows for an extra turn. Multiple extra turns can be taken in a row if there are enough cards to be used.
A round will end when either a Runner collects all three of their fish tokens OR the Catcher catches all the Runners. At the end of the round, starting with the Catcher, each player draws 1 card for each ID card they have. So a maximum of 4 fish cards can be gained by any player at the end of each round. Reset the board for another round just like the start of the game, with a different player taking on the role of the Catcher. The game will end after each player has taken on the role of the Catcher once. There are rule variations for a 2-player game where each player has to be the Catcher twice. The player with the most points is the winner.
Ice Cool is my first experience with Brain Games since they are rather new to the US market. I have to say that Ice Cool is fun game. It is no wonder that the game has won awards, most notably 2016 UK Games Expo Best Children’s Game, and 2016 Game of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine. Now to me Ice Cool is not just a kid’s game. Adults can enjoy this as well. I like the theme of the game, with a fun play on cutting class to go get some food. I like that the rules are simple and players will be up and running in just a few moments. There is even a nice tutorial in the rules that shows flicking techniques and has the players do a practice lap around the board.
The game play itself is rather simple. Flick your penguin to do what you need to do… either collect a fish token or catch a Runner, depending on what your role is. The design of the penguins, with their shape, offers some cool moves, like making them curve, and also making them jump walls. Now me, personally, I am like a bull in a china shop when it comes to flicking games, with bad aim, and no finesse when it comes to the flick. However, I was able to make my penguin jump a wall. I think this is the strongest point of the game. All the while, when flicking the penguin around, players are developing fine motor skills. So Ice Cool can be used in Occupational Therapy sessions besides being played as an activity. The points collected are purely based on the luck of the draw, but I do like the “catch-up” mechanic where players may reveal two “1” value cards to get an extra turn. This can help at least give a jump on getting another scoring opportunity. The game plays quickly, in under 30 minutes making this game great for schools for rainy-day recess as well as a lunch game at work. And one thing I really like is the way the game stores, with each box being slightly smaller than the next and they stack inside each other.
I did have a minor issue with the boxes staying perfectly aligned during game play. The boxes are held in place with 1 wooden clip and I had instances of the boxes shifting. It is not a major issue, but it does have an effect on the size of the door opening.
In the picture above, the two boxes are supposed to be offset, but notice the dots in the doorway, as they have shifted during play. I do like that the game boxes stack inside themselves for storage, but I do wish there was alternate board setups to change things around. Again, not a big issue, but after while, seasoned players will have a strong feel for the board layout and that will work to their advantage over players with less experience.
Ice Cool is a quick, fun game that can be enjoyed by a lot of different types of people. With a 30 minute or less play time, younger players will stay engaged the whole time without losing interest. The game is great for developing fine motor skills when it comes to flicking techniques. With uses for school and also Occupational Therapy, Ice Cool branches out beyond the gaming table. If you are looking for a dexterity game that involves flicking, Ice Cool is one you will want to check out.
For more information on Ice Cool, click HERE
*Disclaimer* This copy of Ice Cool was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
In late 2015, HABA stepped out from their famous yellow-boxed line of games for young children and rolled out a new line of board games that were more suited for families to play along side their famous yellow boxes. These games were the next step in developing thinking skills for kids, but also enough depth that adults can enjoy them as well. That first lineup included the 2016 Spiel des Jahres nominee Karuba. The next game in this family series is Meduris – The Call of the Gods from designers Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde.
Meduris is a strategy game for 2 to 4 players, ages 10+ and plays in a bit over an hour. The game is illustrated by award-winner Miguel Coimbra, who also did the artwork for the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres award-winning game 7 Wonders.
In Meduris, following the call of the gods, your people strike out to settle at the foot of Mount Meduris. The mountain is dedicated to the most important of the Celtic gods and has fertile soil and plenty of raw material awaiting brave settlers. The fields are full of juicy grass for your sheep, and there are quarries, mines, and dense forests. The area at the foot of the mountain is divided into nine districts, whose rune stones indicate the worship of various gods. As the four chosen ones, it is your task to develop the settlements and delight the gods. Your workers obtain the materials for constructing huts and temples on the high plains of the mountain. Only a player who obtains enough materials, cleverly selects the site of their huts and temples, and gains the mercy of the gods by making offerings to the druid will be selected as leader of the tribe.
OVERVIEW OF GAMEPLAY
Depending on the number of players, choose the appropriate side of the board as marked on a stone in the corner of the game board. At the beginning of the game, the various resource chips are placed in the appropriate spaces on the high-plain areas that surround the mountain in the center of the board. Players will take their components and place them in front of their player screens. In the picture above, notice the huts and temples in front of the blue player’s screen. Players then take one of each resource chip and place them hidden behind their player screens. Players, alternating in turn order, will place their workers in the different regions of the high plains. This is how resources will be gathered. In a 3 or 4 player game, players have 2 workers; in a 2 player game, 3 workers will be used by each player. Workers can be stacked on top of each other, with a limit of 3 workers.
The druid is placed on his temple in the corner of the board.
Play commences in a clockwise direction. A player’s turn always consists of two parts. The first part of the turn is called the small yield. This is done by rolling the die.
The six-sided die has four of the faces that show +1s on them in colors that match up with the four resources in the game: wool (white), copper (metallic), stone (gray), and wood (green). If one of these faces is the result, players will take obtain 1 resource chip of that type for each worker they have in that region and place into their supply behind their screen. The other 2 faces of the die will result in either each player taking a resource chip of their choice, or returning a resource chip from their supply back to its corresponding region of the high plains.
The second part of a player’s turn offers 3 options. The first option is called a Big Yield. This is a way to obtain more resources. Move a worker from one region to another. The worker can be taken out of a stack to be moved. In the new location the worker is placed on top of the stack. Depending on where the worker is in the stack determines the number of resources gathered.
In the picture above, the red player moves their worker onto the wool region. Since there is one worker below the one just placed, the red player will receive 2 resource chips. If the red worker was alone, only 1 chip would be obtained, and if the red worker had 2 workers below it, the red player would take 3 resource chips.
Another option is to build a hut. Each player has a number of huts that must be built during the game. In a 3-4 player game 8 huts; a 2 player game requires each player to build 12 huts. If you want to build a hut, you must choose an undeveloped field in the area of the board that surrounds the high plains regions. Each field has 2 resource icons. These are the resources that must be used to build a hut on this field.
Players return the required resources from behind their screen to the high plains areas and place a hut on that field.
Some spaces have bonus chips on them. If you build on these spaces, you will gain the benefit offered: gaining extra victory points, building for free, or even making a free offering to the druid (more about him later).
Sometimes, building a hut results in a settlement, which is two or more huts standing directly next to each other. They are divided by temples and undeveloped fields. When building a hut in a settlement, the resource requirements increase. For example, the second hut in a settlement will require 2 of each resource to be used, if it was the third hut, 3 of each and so on. Expanding settlements is costly, but…..rewards are greater too. More about that in a bit.
Once a hut has been built, the player takes the rune stone that matches the field the hut was placed on. These rune stones can be taken from other players if necessary. The rune stones are used for scoring points during the game.
Once the hut is placed, the druid moves. The first 3 moves the druid makes will be on the stone fields coming from his temple. After that, the druid moves around the board in a clockwise directions to occupied fields that have either huts or temples on them. I will talk more about the druid later.
A player can also choose to build a temple. A temple must be built on an undeveloped field that does not have a bonus chip on it. A temple is built similarly to how huts are built with the exception that required resources do not multiply like they do in settlements. So each temple requires 2 resources as noted on the undeveloped field. Each player has 2 temples that have to be built during the game. Temples create a border for settlements and offer players opportunities to score victory points based on the size of the settlement(s) directly to the left or right on them.
When placing a temple, a player does not receive a rune stone. After placing a temple, move the druid.
So let’s talk about the druid, since he has been mentioned several times now. The druid will visit huts and settlements where he will perform offering rituals. Think of the druid sort of as a door-to-door salesman. He visits a single hut, or he visits each hut in a settlement.
When the druid moves to a hut in a settlement, the owner of that hut has an opportunity to make an offering , where the druid performs an offering ritual that invokes the favor of the gods, which results in victory points being awarded. What the druid requests for an offering is the 2 icons on that field that were required to build the hut. Players can offer one or both of the requested resources in order to score victory points. Returning 1 of the requested resources earns 1 victory point, but returning both requested resources gives as many victory points as there are huts in the settlement. For example, if there are 6 huts in the settlement, 6 victory points are rewarded. So it may be worth the investment to build into a big settlement in order to gain a lot of victory points.
If the druid visits a single hut, only 1 resource is necessary to offer since only 1 point can be rewarded.
If a player chooses to not make an offering, then 1 victory point is lost, and that player’s marker is moved back one space on the score track.
One more thing we need to discuss about the game play is some interim scoring throughout the game. There is a section of the board that has the Great River on it. Whenever the druid’s movement causes him to cross the Great River, the game pauses and there is an interim rune scoring phase.
During the interim rune scoring, players receive 1 victory point for each rune stone currently in their possession. Then play resumes as normal.
The end of the game is triggered as soon as a player has placed all of their huts and temples. All other players take one more turn and then a final round begins. During the final round, use the die to mark the druid’s position and he does a final complete lap around the board for players to make offerings for scoring victory points. There is no interim rune scoring during the final lap.
At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points is the winner. There are several layers to break ties, but there is a chance for more than one winner.
I have been impressed with HABA’s offerings in this family series of games so far. And Meduris – The Call of the Gods does impress me. Stefan Dorra has designed many games, with one of them being a favorite of mine, For Sale. HABA does a great job with production quality for all of their games. This game offers nice, bright wooden pieces, that are chunky. Also, the artwork for the both the box and the game board is awesome. I also find the MSRP of $49.99 quite fair for what you get, because there are a lot of wooden pieces in the game. In addition, the game is very approachable for families to play together as well as an evening of adults getting together to play.
The game uses mechanics that are similar to other games. For example, the resource gathering is very similar to Catan with the rolling of the die. It is very easy to get into and start playing the game because the rulebook is well written with plenty of illustrated examples. There is also a rule summary page as well. I found the gameplay overall to be engaging and turns do move rather quickly. It does a great job of challenging players to manage their resources, especially when it comes to building huts in settlements, with the multiplied resource requirements as the settlements expand. This is a great aspect of the game because it really helps younger players to develop skills to manage resources. Challenges arise for players as to timing for building huts or temples, both for possessing rune stones and erecting temples to border settlements. Players have to be aware of both what they themselves are doing as well as what their opponents are up to as well. Do you take multiple turns doing big yields to build up a large amount of resources and then build? But then you may miss out on getting in a large settlement with one of your huts before it is bordered by your opponents’ temples. Do you try to stop the expansion of a large settlement by placing a temple, only to deprive yourself of more victory points if you had placed your temple next to it when it was larger? Do you anticipate the druid’s movement and build in an area to grab a rune stone so you have it when the Great River is crossed? These are just some of the questions that you will ask yourself as you play Meduris.
The game also has some points that can be of concern. Because as settlements get larger, the resource requirements increase, and as a result it takes longer to build huts. This can sometimes make the game feel like it is dragging because there may be multiple turns that will be nothing but big yields. This is most noticeable in a 4-player game, where in some cases the game can feel a little long. Not a big concern but just something I noticed. I also feel that as a 2-player game, the experience is not so good. It is just a back and forth race and it just seems dull without additional players to compete with for points. I prefer the game with 3 or 4 players. I do like that the game will scale with players with the 2-sided game board. I think my biggest complaint has to do with the final round. The druid makes a final lap around the board to each settlement for offering rituals. If a player has all 8 (or 12 in a 2-player game) huts out on the board, that means a player has to be pretty stacked with resources in order to make offerings without losing victory points. This goes hand in hand with the game feeling a bit long; to really score, you need to prepare for the last round with a large amount of resources to make offerings.
Overall, I found Meduris – The Call of the Gods an enjoyable game. I found it challenging in the management of resources and also the timing of building. I like the amount of tension the game offers as players work to gain victory points while trying to get all of their buildings onto the board. I think the age recommendations are appropriate for Meduris, but some 10 year olds may be challenged by the game. I think this is a fine representation of a resource management game where having what you need, when you need it is of vital importance. I really like the quality of the components, artwork and overall presentation of the game, as it looks great on the table. I am a bit disappointed in the way the final round carries out, but I guess moving forward in future plays it will go into planning of the resources. I can say if you are planning on playing this game primarily with 2 players, you may want to try it before you buy it, as I do not recommend Meduris at 2 players. I prefer it with 3 or 4 players, even if it can feel a bit long at times at 4 players. I prefer the 4 player game because of the competition with 3 different opponents, but the 3 player game is played on a smaller board and it does offer some tight competition as well. Despite my feelings about the final round, I think the game is fine and is definitely worth taking a look at if you are planning on playing with at least 3 players.
For more information about Meduris – The Call of the Gods, here is a link for your convenience —> http://www.habausa.com/meduris-the-call-of-the-gods.html
*Disclaimer* The copy of Meduris – The Call of the Gods used in this review was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
Deck building games are still a rather new breed of board game. I’m always shocked when I’m reminded that the granddaddy, old geezer of deck builders, Dominion, is not even ten years old yet; however, its safe to say that the genre has made a big splash and there are deck builders at every turn clawing at your wallet like some massive horde of raving undead screaming “BRAAAAINSSSSS…and don’t forget to shuffle well….”
It’s pretty clear that the market for deck builders has not wavered in the slightest as more and more games get released with countless expansions. Deck builders have a way of forming an almost cult like presence with its followers. There are purists that insist that Dominion is the end all, be all and every game that has come after are just wannabes, while others have latched on to highly interactive deck builders like Star Realms and then there are the new kids on the block…deck builders with a game board! Woah!
So where does that put Draconis Invasion, the new deck builder from designer Jonathan Jeffrey Lai and Keji Inc.? Let’s find out.
I think we need to get something out of the way right off the bat. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Draconis Invasion is clearly inspired by its great granddaddy, Dominion. It just has a lot of similarities. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no.
The similarities are seen in a lot of deck builders of this ilk. The core mechanic of using a starting hand to slowly build a better deck throughout the course of the game is here. A fixed market of better cards that you want is there. Junk cards are often put in your deck which may inhibit a turn you’ve been setting up for. In this game, they call them Terror cards and we will get to those in a second because they are much more important in this game than others. There are three types of cards: money or gold, action cards, and attack cards…wait…attack cards? Oh yes, my pretties, be patient for a moment.
So it has the basic formula for a deck building game. But then it does some things that make it stand out just enough without trying to jam a bunch of NEW, SHINY STUFF down your throat.
And I appreciate what they have done here.
On a turn in Draconis, you can play a single action card from your hand to do cool stuff like trash junky cards or draw cards or give other players terror cards (I suggest you cackle wildly while doing that) and then you can do one of a few options. You can buy an action or defender card from the open market with your gold. The more expensive the card is, the better it is usually. That’s a pretty standard, yet essential part of any deck builder. It lets you hop in the driver seat and attempt to build the best deck you possibly can.
And now get ready for some different stuff.
The second thing you might do on your turn is get new campaign cards. These cards act like secret agendas. Accomplish whatever task the card says to do and you will get bonus points at the end of the game. I love it when games do things like this. They help direct your game should you choose to pursue a secret quest dealt to you.
What kinds of things do these secret missions, campaign cards want you do, you ask? They simply want you to kill more stuff!
You see the way you get points in Draconis is a little different. There are big hulking monsters that are called Invaders. You wanna kill em and kill em good. You do this with your attack/ defender cards that you’ve been acquiring from the market. Kill a creature and its worth points at the end of the game. The secret missions on your campaign cards will grant you bonuses if you kill specific monsters. It’s all very simple until you realize that your Defenders are super greedy monsters as well! That’s right. Nothing is free in the game of Draconis Invasion (well…except those cursed Terror cards that I’m gonna get to…I promise). Those Defenders will help you, but you have to pay them with a specified amount of gold from your hand. This is a great design move because it forces players to really diversify their deck through the choices they make in market purchases.
Okay…time to talk about the Terror cards. Because I really think this is my favorite part of Draconis. Terror cards are junk cards that don’t help you do anything at all. They just occupy a space in your hand where a better card could have been. You get these from a variety of places, sometimes self inflicted…but that’s not the cool part. The Terror cards act as a crazy train of a game timer. Every time somebody plays a terror card from their hand this evil little D6 die goes up once. If it ever ticks up to 6, then an event card is revealed. These are cards that punish the players, especially the player that is currently in first. It’s an awesome catch up mechanic that you don’t see often in this style of deck builder. It also acts as a timer because there is a limited amount of event cards and when they run out, the game ends. So it leads to some interesting situations. Sure you want to give your opponents lots of terror cards, but at the same time it will dramatically speed the game up and if you aren’t ready for that it could blow back up in your own face!
On top of all that, Draconis Invasion is a simply stunning game. The artwork is top notch, components are great, the custom terror die is a nice touch, and it even came with nifty labeled dividers for every card type. It’s definitely not lacking in the production department.
So let’s run Draconis Invasion through the FRAK! Test.
Fun? It is. I’ve enjoyed playing Draconis a good deal. It’s simplicity is nice and it certainly would be a great deck builder to start with. The player interaction is pretty minimal but I think that’s okay for this style of deck builder.
Replayability? There’s a lot of variety here since you get to select what cards go into the market. Play with a different market and you are playing a different game. There are a lot of different cards in the base game alone and seeing how half the box is empty I see expansions are inevitable.
Affordability? It costs about $50 or so which is pretty standard for these bigger box deck builders. I’d say based on the art alone the game is worth that and the high replayability ensures you will get your hard earned moneys worth.
Keep? Totally. This one will see play at my table. Is it one I will grab all the time? Maybe not, but since it’s so accessible when it does hit the table we will be able to get down to business very quickly without having to consult the rule book every time. That’s a small blessing but a big part of why I like Draconis Invasion in the first place. If you enjoy easy riding, smooth deck builders with great production, look no further.
DISCLAIMER: The copy of Draconis Invasion used in this review was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Designer Bruno Cathala puts a twist on the classic game of dominoes placing players into the roles of lords seeking new lands to expand their kingdoms in the latest game from Blue Orange Games, Kingdomino. Kingdomino is a tile-laying game for 2-4 players that plays in 15 minutes.
The object of the game is to build a kingdom in a 5×5 grid consisting of various land types…….wheat fields, pastures, lush forests, mines, lakes, and mountains in order to score prestige points. Some tiles are more valuable than others so players will be competing with each other for the prime lands. This is performed by drafting dominoes from a lineup and adding them one at a time over the course of several rounds.
OVERVIEW OF GAME PLAY
The game comes with 48 dominoes, 4 starting tiles, 4 castles, and 8 kings (2 in each color). At the start of the game each player will choose a color, take that color castle and king(s) and a start tile. The castle is placed on top of the start tile. When playing with only 2 players, both kings will be used by each player, otherwise use 1 king. The dominoes are shuffled face down and depending on the number of players, some dominoes may be removed. The dominoes used in the game are then placed back in the game box to hold them. The unused dominoes are placed off to the side.
Each round 4 dominoes will be placed out to be drafted. The first round the first 4 dominoes are placed next to the box and arranged face down in numerical order.
The dominoes are flipped over so players can start drafting them.
Each domino will have either 1 or two land types on them. Some land types will have crowns on them. The crowns are very important. They are used in final scoring of the game and any property that does not have at least one crown will not be worth anything.
The first round, player order is determined by a random pull of the kings from a player’s hand. As the kings come out, players will select one of the dominoes available and place their king on it. For the rest of the game, turn order will be determined by the order of the kings on the line of dominoes. In the picture below, blue will select the next domino first.
Once the players have selected their desired dominoes, 4 new dominoes are added next to the ones previously selected, again arranging them in numerical order, then flipping the dominoes over to reveal the land types.
In player order, each player will move their king to one of the new dominoes that came out. This will determine the turn order for the following round, thus creating this “moving sidewalk” of dominoes. This process for drafting order will repeat for each round of the game.
The domino that was previously selected is then taken and added to the player’s kingdom. There are restrictions for placing the dominoes to the kingdom. Each domino must either connect to the start tile
or connect it to another domino matching at least one of its land types forming land groups called properties.
When building the kingdom, the dominoes must be able to fit into a 5×5 grid. If a domino does not fit or cannot be placed due to non-matching land types, that domino is discarded. So at times at the end of the game, a player’s kingdom will not completely fill a 5×5 grid.
At the end of the game, players are going to score points for their properties that contain one or more crowns. The way scoring is performed is: 1 point per square of that property, multiplied by the number of crowns in it. There may be multiple properties for each land type. Properties without crowns have no score. Using the picture above, here is the scoring for this player….
The winner is the player with the most points. In case of tie, the player with the most expansive property regardless if it has a crown or not.
The game does include some additional rules than can be used to make the game more strategic. Players can mix and match the variant rules to their tastes.
Blue Orange is know for putting out family style games that develop skills while playing them, and their offering of Kingdomino delivers, developing spatial skills to all who play, restricting players to fitting their dominoes into a 5×5 grid. Each turn, players need to be mindful of the dominoes they are selecting, both to fit into the grid as well as to enable a property to be scored. While speaking about the publisher, the production quality for Kingdomino is awesome. The box size is compact with a functional insert that is used during game play. The domino tiles are very thick and durable with a nice glossy finish on both sides. The artwork from Cyril Bouquet is wonderful for this game making it look nice as it is on the table. The king figures are great and the 3-D castles add a nice element to the game. All this in a game with an MSRP less than $20.
Bruno Cathala continues to show his width and variety in game design ideas. Here, Bruno takes the classic game of dominoes, and adds a twist to create Kingdomino, making it a nice addition to the tile-laying games on the market. Although, building territories using tiles is nothing new, Kingdomino presents itself as a quick-playing territory building game that feels fresh thanks to the interesting tile drafting method in the game. Overall, the higher numbered dominoes have better offerings, and players have to weight the risk vs. the rewards when selecting dominoes because it has an effect on turn order for the following round. Is it worth the gamble to take a less desirable domino in exchange for selecting first the next round? Or do I sacrifice what I will have to choose from the next round in order to select a domino this round that will guarantee me a scoring opportunity at the end of the game? Do I draft a domino that I may not necessarily need, but it will totally mess up my opponents score? These questions are what engages the players in the game and to me broadens the audience that Kingdomino will appeal to.
This game has a 15 minute playing time listed on the box and yes it does play in 15 minutes. This game flows so smoothly and it is quick! And in those 15 minutes the game offers a fun experience.
I see Kingdomino best fitting in with families as well as casual gamers, however, I think the low level of complexity will have some of the more serious gamers passing on this one. I think there is enough game there to keep players engaged because each round you have to think about what you are doing as well as being aware of what other players are doing at the same time. However, this game does not have direct player interaction so it can feel like multiplayer solitaire and players can easily get “tunnel vision,” meaning that they can become focused only on their player area and miss what other players are doing.
I do like the added variant rules that slightly increase the strategy of the game by adding different scoring options. It does scale well and plays nicely at all player counts. I am not sure if Kingdomino has the legs to stand up to a lot of plays or not, but I am enjoying it now.
With an MSRP of $17.99 I do feel you can get enough plays of the game to justify purchasing it. Couple that with a 15 minute play time and to me Kingdomino is a game that I would recommend adding to your game library to scratch that itch for a quick tile-laying game.
*Disclaimer* The copy of Kingdomino used in this review was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
by David Taylor
This is a preview article for a project currently on Kickstarter
Game Designer Sean Howard of Good Knight Games has created a new game that challenges players to navigate through a mysterious Victorian mansion to save “Uncle Alfie.” Uncle Alfie has been researching interplanar travel and unfortunately has become stuck in one of the planes of existence. To free him, players must navigate through the mansion to free him. The problem is…..every room is locked and they can only be opened by using a runic key.
At its heart, Unlocked is a race game that is driven by a set collection mechanic. Players will be collecting rune cards, casting them to build keys that will allow players to move through the mansion, where each room is locked, trying to be the first to save Uncle Alfie and win the game.
This is easier said than done because Unlocked: The Mansion of Mana has some interesting twists to it:
Let’s take a quick look at the flow of the game. If you wish to view the complete rules, here is the link to the rules: http://www.good-knight.net/Unlocked-MoM/Unlocked-Mansion%20of%20Mana-rulesv17-final.pdf
For setup, the key deck is prepared by first removing any necessary keys, shuffling the remaining keys, and arranging a number of them in a tableau of 5 columns. The number of cards used will vary based on the number of players. The remaining cards in the key deck are set aside in a face-down pile.
Then the rune cards are shuffled , 4 cards are dealt to each player, and then “The River” is created in the center of the table based on the number of players. The remaining rune cards are placed in a face-down draw pile, with room available for a discard pile.
A quick round of Wizard’s duel will determine first player.
Before we jump into the actual game play, we need to take a look at the Key cards themselves. Each key card has information on them. First, there is the key image itself and the name of the key. There are a number of different icons on the cards, but a reference cards is available for each of the players that explains what they mean. Each card has a rune requirement on the left side of the card. There are a number of runic symbols in a vertical column(s) that show what runes are required to build the key and/or upgrading certain keys. Each key has an ability symbol on it, an activation track which shows if a key is ready or exhausted, and also a symbol that explains when the key is active.
A player’s turn has 4 phases that are executed in order.
Phase 1: Activate Keys – during this phase reuseable keys that have been exhausted are readied, and any keys that a player wishes to use during their turn, players will exhaust.
Phase 2: Draw Runes – during this phase, players will draw new cards into their hand. Players will draw 2 or 3 cards depending on if the cards were drawn from the face-down draw deck, the river, or the discard pile. These cards will either be runes or special cards. The special cards can be played at any time during a player’s turn.
Phase 3: Cast Runes – during this phase players play rune cards to the table in front of themselves in order to build keys. This is where the heart of the game lies. When players cast runes to build the keys, the runes must be cast in sequential order of the rune requirements on the corresponding key card. Players can play out as many cards in their hand as they want during this phase, but they are limited to having 2 unfinished keys in front of them. When a key is built, that player claims the card in the tableau by placing a token on it in the ready space of the key’s activation track and then discards the rune cards used to build the key. Multiple players can claim the same card, and players can claim the same card multiple times to gain the key effects for multiple times.
Phase 4: Meditate – During this phase, players must be down to their hand limit, which is 3 cards plus any key effects that increase hand limit. After cards are discarded, the river must be reset by shifting all remaining cards away from the draw deck and filling in replacements moving towards the draw deck. If no cards were removed from the river, the oldest card (the one furthest from the draw deck) is discarded and the cards shifted and a new one is placed into the river.
To win the game, a player has to be the first to have token on a key card in each column, showing a path from start to finish, ending the game immediately.
There are enough things going on in this game to make it worth taking a look at. The biggest thing to mention is the artwork. I have to give credit to the artists Scott Rogerson and Margarita Kiseleva for creating a visually appealing presentation. Second, the game itself is engaging and will offer a quite a bit of replayability because of the sheer variety of key cards in the game and the number used. So the combination of cards will change the feel of each game.
The gameplay is very straightforward with the set collection, however, the need to play the runes in sequence is what gives the game some meat to it. So there is a lot more game that one may initially see. This challenges players to have to plan ahead in order to complete the keys. The special abilities of the cards are very cool, giving little twists here and there to make the game more interesting. The special cards are quite powerful and can really throw your opponents for a loop if used at the most opportune time.
The iconography on the cards is not too bad, and I am happy there is a reference card to use. But the first few games will be a little clunky trying to read the cards and looking up the icons.
I think there is a good balance of a euro style game, working to complete what you need to, and adding some player interaction that can create some “interesting” moments in the game, like swapping cards, stealing runes, or even adding a new column to extend the game.
So if you are a fan of set-collection games, this one has a little more substance to it and certainly worth a look.
To visit the project on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/goodknightgamesllc/unlocked-the-mansion-of-mana?ref=nav_search