Traders of Osaka
I was thrilled when we sat down to play Saturday night and my wife was interested in joining us. This is a rare occasion – like Cubs and Astros making the playoffs rare. She enjoys playing games but with our little dude sapping a lot of her energy, she typically finds other ways to enjoy her peace and quiet. What I am really alluding to is that I married a shark! She kicked our asses.
I knew the Japanese theme and goods trading would ultimately appeal to Elsa who is a big fan of both. For those of you who don’t know, Traders of Osaka has a scoring mechanism that is not entirely intuitive when first introduced and I was worried this would throw off her interest in the game. Thankfully, once we got her over that hurdle it was smooth sailing (literally) from there on out. Here’s hoping that she’s up for more game nights in the future. I will gladly lose every one of them if that’s what it takes.
I do really like this game. I’ve been reading up on it because it’s the next review I’m working on and I’m learning that it really is a pain in the butt to explain to people. We taught the game when we played it this weekend and, as I learned when I began work on the review, the rules seem so much more complicated than actually playing it. I’m pretty sure I got my butt kicked in this one, but such is life. Dan’s wife is a natural and she killed it.
Through the Ages
Smee and I had our first experience with Through the Ages this past week at our local game store and oh what an experience it was! This game has been high on my “Want to Play” list for some time now, but I have been reluctant to pick it up for two reasons: 1) the time sink involved in playing this game in its full glory and 2) the expected revised edition due this year. Nevertheless, I agreed to try it out to satiate my curiosity. The first thing I noticed was that this is a civilization building game without a map (or even any dudes on said map). My entire civilization was represented on my player board by some of the tiniest, most annoying board game chits I have ever seen. After the first Age, the mechanics started to click and I slowly began to understand the synergies of my buildings, resources and population. There were still a number of areas that left me puzzled (Note: we didn’t have a chance to finish the full game due to time restrictions) but it was enough to pique my interest. I’d likely give this one another try later on, but the time commitment will ultimately prevent that in the near future.
Whoo, boy, where to start with this one? It’s a civ-builder, which I love, with some interesting resource-management mechanics, which I also love. It involves card drafting, with a (fast!) forced-discard from the card row, which I do not love, and also some pretty hard hate in the form of Aggression events and Wars, which I, again, do not love. We didn’t quite finish a full game, what with it being our first time playing and a couple of ‘just bloody take your turn already!’ incidents, but I’d be interested in giving this another try. With the new version coming out relatively soon, that may well be the right time to grab it.
Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh (Expansion)
Much in the same way that the Artisan expansion tacked on some extra bits to Five Tribes, the Istanbul expansion adds an extra column of tiles to the board, and includes an extra resource to collect and trade in for those sweet, sweet gems. Four new tiles are wedged into the board, along with replacements for the caravansary and the wainright to update their iconography. With the expansion upping the required number of gems to six for all player counts, and an increased board size to contend with, one might be afraid of extended playing times creeping in. This, I think, is counterbalanced by a number of additional movement-related bonus cards being added to the mix, along with a coffee-induced special tile that allows you unlimited movement in a straight line. Not a bad addition to the game, in my mind, but powering a winning strategy with copious amounts of coffee seems a touch more reward-ridden than other paths.
This game was really neat. I really liked the rondel twist on the economy, plus the way that the tile laying and meeple placement mechanics tied into each other, affecting each move you took. I really appreciated the zero cost built into the rondel because it made it so that taking a risk and spending more money to get a certain tile or Viking meeple wouldn’t 100% screw you in the end – you would still have an option for a Viking or a tile, you just might not be able to use them.
The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
I was able to snag the last copy of this elusive title at Origins this year. Dan had introduced me to this a while back and I really enjoyed it. After a little bit of time sitting on the shelf, we finally got in another play of this game. Heartland is a simple pick-up and deliver game that really gets tougher as the game goes on. In it, you are playing as truckers trying to fulfil orders at various locations on the board by drafting sets of cards that will be used for both the loading and unloading of goods. Each location can only accept so many of a specific type of good, so you really have to strategize and find your most optimal move. If you get stuck with goods in your truck at the end of the game you can take some pretty hefty fines on your final score. My wife seemed to really enjoy it and we look forward to playing some of the more advanced setups soon.
Arriving home from work, I was pleasantly surprised by a package waiting for me. Inside was a shiny new kickstarter game! I played a 4 player game with my family and we all had a lot of fun with it. It definitely took a round or two to get the mechanics down for everyone, but we were off and rolling pretty quickly. I really got a roulette vibe from playing this game as the main mechanic has you placing customers (bets) and manipulating the dice rolls in order to earn fruit cards and/or coins. You can place your customer on boats to wager on the total of the rolled dice pool or on building spots to manipulate the pool of dice. Some dice add to the total while others subtract. If your number comes up then you get to claim a fruit card! We played the long version on our first play and it started to drag out a bit. We will probably be sticking with the standard version in the future. This game is, however, a great blend of strategy and luck. I look forward to playing this beautifully produced game again soon.
…And Then We Held Hands
Almost a year ago, Kelly B. went out of her way to create a custom version of the …and then we held hands PnP that was floating around the internet. It was an awesome gift that I couldn’t wait to try out. Almost one year later, we finally did! This game provides a wildly unique experience, combining abstract gameplay with an abstract theme that makes the game strangely engrossing. You and your partner silently “work through the emotions of a failing relationship” and must work cooperatively to navigate the board and properly manage your open hand of cards. Deceptively simply, we actually failed (“broke up”) on our first two plays. Finally though, on the third attempt, we made it to the end goal…and then we held hands.