Big chunky wooden blocks! Yay! This was a fun little game to try out, in which you take your turns either loading blocks onto various-sized boats, collecting more stone from the quarry, or sending those boats off to dock and unload their stones exactly where your opponents didn’t want you to send them.
The talk of the town right now is the mysterious Imhotep that is currently nominated for the SDJ award. Any game that gets a nomination while not being well known is immediately tossed into the spotlight. Matt was lucky enough to snag one of the few copies available (thanks Dan!) and we all looked forward to see whats up with this title. Players are trying to use their available stones, which are essentially workers/action points, by loading them up on ships on different sizes and then trying to get those blocks to one of the 5 available location tiles. Each of these tiles are different, and offer a sort of mini game for scoring, most of which are types of area control with specific placement rules. I did find out that we were playing one part of it slightly wrong; when placing a cube in a boat, you are allowed to place anywhere in that boat instead of just the next available space. I think playing this again with this rule in mind may change the game much more dramatically and strategically since the blocks unload from front to back. We played the intro game and there is some mixing and matching of the location tiles to ramp up the difficulty. I have a feeling that Imhotep will be the sleeper win for the SDJ and it totally deserves it.
One of the hot games of the con, only 200 copies of Imhotep were onsite at the KOSMOS booth and they were rationed across the first three days of the convention. Dan managed to snag me one and I got in a four-player game soon after. The game revolves around placing cubes on ships and then offloading those cubes onto one of five different scoring locations, each with their own rules to follow. It’s not a complex game, but I found myself pleased with the variety in scoring options and the interactivity of loading and unloading the ships each round. I can see why it was nominated for Spiel des Jahres and I wouldn’t be surprised if it won.
Imhotep from @ThamesAndKosmos with @IneptGamer & @phillier937 #origins2016 #boardgames pic.twitter.com/LQsB6zpnwN
— Nonsensical Gamers (@LeagueNonsense) June 17, 2016
After backing this empire-building game from Kickstarter, I took the opportunity to get in a first game of it at Origins, using all of the fancy bits and bobs such as the gigantic map and the building sets that I didn’t order. Surprisingly quick to play, I feel that this ended up being the downfall of such a sprawling game. In a game in which victory can be obtained by collecting unique resources, the trade leader (who has more options when deciding who to trade with, or what to trade) has a distinct advantage, and no one else on the table even tried to threaten or curtail him with military. There was barely any time to build up and have a quick one-turn skirmish with the Greeks before the game was over.
We sat down for a demo of Crazy Karts and the rules were taught fairly quickly and we were able to jump right in. This is a team game where players are operating different parts of a racing cart. One person has control of turning the wheel and hitting the brakes while your partner has control of the speed and weapons. Once you realize that you can’t communicate in any way with your partner, that is when you start to realize how badly things are about to go. Once you start to get into the mind of your partner and try to predict which actions they will take, it will have you laughing at how badly you crashed into a wall or really frustrated that one of your opponents grabbed a power-up before you could get there. I did enjoy it, but there are things I would do to make it better, like having a random and goofy track setup. I think I would like to have this in my collection at some point, but it’s nothing I am running out to get right away.
Crazy Karts, from Portal Games, was one of the bigger releases for the con, but not one I was all that interested in. Watching Rodney Smith’s rules tutorial on YouTube prior to the convention left me with the impression that the game was bland, long and uninteresting. After my demo, these thoughts were indeed confirmed. While the back and forth of a team-based racing game (with cannons!) is fun in theory, Crazy Karts fails to capture the hilarity of Mario Kart like it wants to. Instead, it uses a slightly convoluted HUD system to help you manage 10 different actions between the two teammates. The end result of the game is an experience that ends with more frustration than excitement, and then you have to do it all over again, as each game consists of two races. Bleh.
I was a little elf, riding unicorns and clouds and dragons across Elfenland to see all of the cities and leave my mark on the world. I only saw half of the cities. It’s very difficult to ride a unicorn through the desert and I didn’t have many dragons to help me. Maybe my boot and I will have better luck next time. (This was a neat little game – rather difficult, but quite enjoyable).
Since my early gaming career I have heard about this out-of-print game by Alan R. Moon that became the early inspiration for the massive Ticket to Ride franchise. I was able to buy this from a fellow BGG’er at the Origins Math Trade. We initially thought we had some missing components, since some of the icons from the book and chits did not correspond to each other, but realized that they just did not take the time to update the rulebooks to match the components when making the new reprint of the game. This game was much thinkier than I had expected. You need to plan out your paths ahead of time using your hand of cards and available modes of transportation around the map. I look forward to more plays and trying out the other variants; I am curious to see how this works out for my TTR-loving family.
Eflenland has been on my radar for a while, so I was excited to see Steve grab a copy at Origins. We got in a single play and I’m not sure where I stand on it now. The goal of the variant we played was to build pathways and traverse the board, stopping at as many of the 20 cities as possible. It played quickly and was surprisingly tricky, but the gameplay didn’t excite me. I can see it going over well for groups in between Ticket to Ride and other route/train games, but it wasn’t flashy enough or streamlined enough to wow me from either direction. I’d play it again, but Elfenland is no longer something I’m seeking for ownership.
The Grizzled: At Your Orders!
One thing I know about The Grizzled is that it’s very difficult. I had so many wound cards this game, I am honestly surprised our game lasted as long as it did. The new expansion adds mission cards that can be either helpful or make the game even harder. Regardless of how hard this game is, it’s excellent.
I’ve been wanting to try this game out for absolutely ages, and finally signed up for one of the teaching sessions that were available. It’s definitely a different beast than what I expected, with very simple rules, but an utterly unforgiving (and semi-random) disaster mechanic. Do not play if you can’t handle your entire empire falling apart from a continent-spanning network to a handful of huddling refugees in a single turn. Like me.
Mission: Red Planet
Dan actually owns the reprint of Mission Red Planet, Bruno Faidutti’s steampunk area control game, but I had yet to play it before this past Origins. It is pretty much Citadels with area control, but that’s not a bad thing at all! The play was quick and the rules are simple; the challenge is in navigating the 9 different role cards and how to use them to the best of your ability. I liked that I wasn’t bogged down with limitations and could focus on developing a strategy. Six players, several of us new, was a bit much, but I could see it working well with four or five experienced players.
This is a lovely area control game with simultaneous action selection and excellent astronaut minis. By launching space ships with your minis on them, you get yourself to Mars, where you try to outnumber your opponents in the various areas of the planet. You can bump other players out of your favorite part of Mars and blow up their space ships and launch your ships early to run away from everyone and get to Mars first. It’s excellent.
Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space
On a whim, I grabbed this game from Osprey Games because of its sleek design and how it was described as “Alien, the board game.” How could I pass up a pitch like that!? As it turns out, they weren’t lying! The game is both a hidden movement and a hidden role game, where nobody knows who is an alien and who is a human. The aliens work to hunt the humans, and avoid accidentally killing their fellow aliens, and the humans attempt to flee the dangerous space station via one of four possible escape pods. The game works extremely well and we managed to have fun with 2 players and 5 players. Going all the way up to 8, and offering a slew of items and special powers, I can’t wait to explore this game more!
This is a new hidden movement game where everyone’s movement is hidden… from everyone. You’re either an alien trying to eat people, or you’re a person trying to get to the escape pod before you’re eaten by an alien. The trick is that no one knows what anyone else is. So not only are you trying to find your playmates, you’re also trying to figure out if they’re friend or foe. I was an alien when we played, and got attacked by another alien, who I was planning to attack on my next turn. We both thought that the other was a person and it ended in alien on alien violence, which is not a good way to go. This game is pretty crazy. You have no idea whether people are lying to you about where they are or if they’re getting ready to kill you in space. I look forward to many more plays of this one.
Another sleeper hit (at least for me) that came out of nowhere was a little game that has you escaping a space ship or hunting humans as aliens. The trick to the game is that everyone’s movement is hidden, such as games like Letters from Whitechapel and uses a dry erase pad to mark movements. Most games have just one person who is hidden and doing secret things but this brings in every player to have that experience. What really shoots this game to LV-426 is the dangerous area spaces on the maps. When you are in one of these spaces you must draw a card off the deck and announce where you are because you are making noise, or lie and announce some other space to throw others off the scent. You also have no idea who is who since roles are hidden at the start of the game. This is such a great game and highly thematic with minimal components. Matt and I also were able to pull off a few 2 player games during the car ride home. I would highly recommend this for any large group for game night.
Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone where I am. Or that I’m an alien… #boardgamegeek #boardgames #Origins2016 #nonsensicalgamers
A photo posted by @sinuhmuhnbuhns on
Gimmick or no, I’ve always been in love with the Gloom-style transparent cards, and found this game to be an interesting idea in theory. The press-your-luck mechanic of dealing through your deck was rather hit-or-miss, however, as it was incredibly painful to miss your entire turn in case you got unlucky. Speaking of missing your turn, there were quite a few turns in which it wasn’t possible to buy anything, due to the fact that there are so few level 1 cards for purchase compared to the expensive level 2 / 3 stacks. For those able to get an engine running, however, they could plow through the offerings with ease. You’ll need to be careful the first few times you play this, as the plastic card inserts tend to stick to each other due to the protective coating.
Running with the Bulls
Running with the Bulls, the first of Calliope Games’ “Titan Series,” was another game I was interested in, primarily because this was my first chance to see what Calliope’s ambitious Kickstarter effort would produce. Unfortunately, Running with the Bulls was not what I was hoping for. Akin to the Price is Right favorite, Plinko, this game involves a cascading movement mechanism where dice traveling along pathways based on their facing – even or odd. Each turn you have the option to play cards to reroll dice and try to save your precious people from the rampaging bulls. If they make it to the bottom of the board, they score points and you do it all over again two more times. Unfortunately, Running with the Bulls is almost completely devoid of meaningful decisions. It is a big box Zombie Dice that actually manages to provide less control over the end result. I suppose it may offer something for the light gaming crowds, but there are definitely better options in that realm of games.
Demoing #runningwiththebulls @CalliopeGames with @SinUhMuhnBuhns & @realDanlicata #origins2016 #nonsensicalgamers pic.twitter.com/prg6JbERF8
— steebin (@steebin) June 18, 2016
Le Havre: The Inland Port
This was my brain burner game of Origins by far. Paired up against Smee in a resource collecting, engine building game will have anyone sweating bullets. This one no doubt had our brains in a knot from turn one. There are so many things to contemplate since everything you do triggers in future rounds. Planning ahead is the absolute key to this game. I really liked this one once I figured out exactly what I needed to be doing and had my engine going pretty good. The player board with the spinner was a new idea that worked really well and nothing I have seen in a game before. I did however lose track of how many actions I had taken and how many I had left each round. We did end up using coins to remedy this since it’s such a big key to your plan. I really was surprised at how much I liked this one. A dry, soulless euro for two!