Above and Below
Above and Below, at its core, is a simple worker placement and resource collection game, coupled with exploration and storytelling mechanics. The artwork and theme lived up to my expectations and the gameplay was pretty fun. The storytelling aspect, sadly, seemed to take a backseat to everything else, when I felt it should have been the primary focus. The narratives are random and disconnected. It would have been cool if we were adventuring through one story each time. In the end, it was pretty enjoyable and I would welcome future plays. We even got Dan to join in!
With a single play of this under my belt, including a 1 a.m. rules explanation, I fall squarely in the middle with my opinion of Above and Below. While my fellow League players felt that the narrative element lacked and held the game back, I found it to be the one thing that stood out as engaging. The rest of the worker placement style play was familiar, in a been-there-done-that sort of way. With a better grasp on the rules and strategic options, I look forward to discovering more in Above and Below and deciding if this was a worthwhile Kickstarter endeavor to support.
I picked up a copy of The Game late last week simply because of the Spiel des Jahres nomination it received. After many plays, it’s safe to say that the game’s title is the worst in hobby gaming history, yet entirely accurate. This is “a game” and that’s about all there is to say about it. Clever in its simplicity, but simultaneously dry and repetitive, The Game has proven worthwhile as a 20-minute filler, but I honestly have no idea how it received such high marks as to be nominated for an SdJ.
The Game is a deck of numbered cards with very little, if at all, theme. Well, there is a skull on them, so maybe some type of horror situation? Players work cooperatively to play numbered cards on four piles—two ascending, two descending—trying to keep them in sequential order as best you can. Simple enough, off hand, but not as easy as it sounds. You are only allowed minimal communication with the other players so you may often not be making the most optimal of plays. It seemed to be divided among the group as to if The Game was fun or not, but I did enjoy it for its simplicity and quick play. Perfect for in-between games or waiting for your food at a restaurant.
The Game is, indisputably, the lamest name for a game. To hold the title “The Game,” your game would have to embody the very essence of board gaming, not be an elementary card…activity…that’s on the same level as Solitaire. And, to couple that with a dark, skull ‘theme’ is just weird. Ultimately, a forgettable filler.
The Palaces of Carrara
After finally getting our first play in of The Palaces of Carrara this weekend, I myself was an instant fan. The game mechanics are pretty simple and it all hinges on timing. The race was on to collect resources to strategically construct your city in order to score its victory points or gain currency. If another player scores one of the six cities, all other players are then locked out from scoring the same city. The coolest element of the game is the rotating wheel on the board which sets prices of the resources (bricks) to build structures in specific cities. Rotating this wheel can make things cheaper for you, but you are ultimately helping your fellow rivals, as well. Timing and efficiency is key, since you only have limited scoring opportunities. I highly recommend trying this one out and I’m looking forward to my next play.
I’ve come to realize, I’m not a huge fan of Eurogames. They all start to blend together for me. And, the tedium of managing resources while attempting to plan for scoring in one of the eleventy billion ways possible can be overwhelming. The Palaces of Carrara does, however, incorporate some interesting mechanics. Most notably is the choice for when you score your points. Otherwise, it was your typical fare—collect resources, build structures, obtain victory points. Then, score them a few more times because of some other bonuses. All in all, The Palaces of Carrara wasn’t my favorite board game, but in terms of euros, it was one of the better ones I’ve played. (Note: I’ve been informed this was the “advanced” game set-up, which added several features. Perhaps, I should try it again with the simple set-up!)
The King is Dead
With Arthur and Mordred each slain by their respective hands, and the Saxon threat looming large, the English isles cry out for a new leader and King, one that will unite the three factions under one banner once more. The King is Dead is an area-control and majority game with a bit of a twist, the colours and pieces on the map do not represent your units or figures, but rather one of the three factions struggling for control of that territory. Each player begins the game with an identical hand of eight action cards, each of which may only be played once per game. Coincidentally, there are eight rounds to the game, but players are allowed to play multiple actions, or none at all, during each round which ends only when all players pass in succession.
How do you win? Well, every time you take an action, you must remove one of the cubes from the board and add it to your holdings. At the end of the game, the player with the most cubes of the faction which controls the most regions on the board is crowned King. The interesting little tidbit here is that every time you remove a cube to strengthen your chance of winning with that faction… it depletes the board, and makes it more difficult to fight for the remaining countries!
While I’m not typically very fond of programmed movement as a mechanic, this game totally grabbed me, though, and I found it to be much easier than I anticipated; especially given that we played with six players. I was excited to play it, don’t get me wrong – the colors and the components are engaging and the idea of having to balance my little guy on planks across a river was enticing.
Codenames was a hit with everyone in The League and I came fashionably late to the party. I finally had a chance to play it this weekend (after a gameless weekend prior) and I must agree, it’s a great party game! It’s an excellent, light choice for casual gamers and can easily infiltrate its way between some meatier experiences. Fans of games where you guess things and come up with creative clues for teammates, will be right at home attempting to identify their agents, all the while avoiding the other team’s agents and the elusive, lethal assassin. Coming in at 5–10 minutes a round, it’s mission impossible not to recommend Codenames.
…And Then We Held Hands
Relationships are really hard. It only took Matt and me 3 tries to actually get through this game without breaking up. Also, not talking while you play a cooperative game is really hard, especially for those of us whose first memories of getting in trouble in school were related to talking in class. Really this game is super cool. Our copy is the print and play edition, as opposed to the version that just Kickstarted, and we had a little trouble with some of the rules – we did a little checking during our play- but we got the hang of it really quickly; it was just a matter of not messing each other up and coordinating our moves via telepathy.