Brent Reviews

These reviews were left by Brent.

Food Chain Magnate

Splotter's...

by Brent

Splotter's take on the Euro engine builder. Predictably ingenious and brutal with a metagame built right in as to which employees your opponents will play each turn. The game drags at higher player counts, 4p is kind of the edge of tolerance. It becomes a grind at 5p (this really doesn't need to be a 4-hour game), but 2p is zippy and brutal and fun.

1/25/2019

by Brent

Interesting timing element added to what is otherwise a paint-by-numbers worker placement resource conversion engine builder. Very restrictive in terms of resource collection and moderately punishing thanks to the asinine "feed your people" mechanic, which I rarely like. The gears are interesting and do call attention the fact that your turns are actually resources (which is true for many games, but here it's codified by the movement of your workers).

1/25/2019

Mexica

Excellent ...

by Brent

Excellent competitive area majority spatial game.

1/25/2019

Twilight Struggle

Highly tac...

by Brent

Highly tactical 2p tug-of-war with incredible amounts of tension thanks to opponent events auto triggering and DEFCON. A game that rewards careful study and experience, and a game that calls for players to achieve mastery. There is a lifetime of gaming in this box.

1/25/2019

by Brent

This game feels overwrought, which is a strange thing to say about a Winsome. Kind of feels like 2-3-hours worth of ideas played out in 60 minutes, and not in that "they pack a lot of game into a short time" sort of way. Ideas are spilling out of the sides of this thing and rotting on the floor.

1/25/2019

Sidereal Confluence

This game ...

by Brent

This game has a ton of potential to be amazing. It's just a LOT to take in. The mechanics aren't complicated. Trade cubes and cards for better positioning in your VP-generating engine. However, there is so much information flying around the table, digesting it all in a single play is impossible. If I sat down with the game and studied each faction, I could at least get my arms around what makes each economy run. The enforcement of binding agreements is a critical part of what makes this game interesting. There is no backstabbing here, which makes the game feel more like legitimate contract negotiation that rewards identification of opportunity, rather than deception. Not that I don't like games with non-binding agreements, but it's refreshing to see something different. Really changes the game for the better. The "universe" the designer has created, on the other hand, is a terrible. Absolutely horrendous, and a net negative on the gameplay experience (word is the designer wants to create RPG in this world, which... yikes). Honestly, this game would be better stripped of all the asinine half-cocked sci-fi nerd veneer and just called called "Themeless Asymmetric Cube Swap." Trade Condition Notes: All components in like-new condition Box is split (has been repaired with tape)

1/25/2019

Suburbia

MPS engine...

by Brent

MPS engine builder. Bonus point for the sly sense of humor, otherwise it's nothing special.

1/25/2019

by Brent

Elegance and intelligence wrapped into a thematic design. Sekigahara is an accessible, replayable, engaging, delightful experience. The card play is a distant cousin of Friedrich and Maria, though in some ways more constraining (you need the cards for everything) and in others looser (a personal deck means card tracking is easier, and the deck will turn over once or twice during the game). The game's biggest shortfall is a series of poor UX decisions. The blocks don't really stack as high as the game wants you to stack them., there's a lot of toppling over going on. The stacks of blocks also block off visual access to the roads, cities, castles, resource locations, etc., meaning you have to move the blocks around (more toppling). unless you the board down cold. The latter is easily solvable by printing out a Castle/resource location tracker (though why they didn't include a set of black and yellow chits to track these along the Impact Track is beyond me). The former issue is less obvious. Short, squat blocks would go a long way to prevent toppling, but then they require more physical space. It doesn't prevent the gameplay itself from being good, but it's physically fiddly in a way most games aren't.

1/25/2019

Southern Pacific

In the Chi...

by Brent

In the Chicago Express family, but with a fixed Operating order that creates synergies among specific companies. Southern Pacific is all about raiding treasuries and embezzling and shuffling funds around the companies. The fixed operating order and ability to buy track from other companies is reminiscent of Iberian Gauge, and the two kinds of auctions can be used as totally different kinds of weapons. The OR open auction seems to be a defensive measure for the president of the company. The idea is something like this: Auction off a share if you can guarantee you'll win it by plowing all your money into the company. Operate, earn income, and pull all the money back out by issuing a dividend. The Bull Market once-around auction can be offensive or defensive: offer up a share of a company you want to dilute, or one you want to endanger the presidency of, or one in which you have a portfolio position you want to defend. From a gameplay perspective, the income adjustments are a fiddly pain in the neck. The Winsome-iest Winsome I've played to date, this is a Train Game (Capital T, Capital G) for train gamers.

1/25/2019

by Brent

Adds some modularity to it to boost "variability," but I don't think it really changes the gaming experience all that much. Coal is a much bigger change to the game, but it's not an improvement. I could play with or without it.

1/25/2019

Ricochet Robots

It's a com...

by Brent

It's a competitive slide puzzle. Uninterested in playing this ever again.

1/25/2019

by Brent

The richly-integrated adventure theme makes it feel like more than just a "system" you're trying to best, and the story is earned. Difficult and replayable, it's my a terrific solo game, but playing it with others leads the expected quarterbacking problem that haunts almost every co-op. I'm sure I'll play this out eventually, but for now, I'm enjoying the adventures.

1/25/2019

by Brent

The stock market does a surprising amount of variable tactical and strategic choice to what is normally a pretty static game, though it does lengthen the game somewhat, especially if steelworks are being taken with multiple players high up on the stock track. I think this is probably better than German Railroads since it adds a level of decision-making that actually influences your opponents' play.

1/25/2019

by Brent

The base game is excellent with enough depth and variety to play for a lifetime. This expansion is superfluous. It adds nothing of value to the game. The people paying over $100 for this on the secondary market are nuts.

1/25/2019

Medici

Another pr...

by Brent

Another probabilistic valuation/positional advantage game that makes my gambling-loving heart sing. Probably my favorite Knizia, though the player count requirements are somewhat prohibitive (5p is fine, 6p is amazing, anything less just turns wonky as your remove 1/3 or more of the deck each round). The rules can be taught even to non-gamers in about 5-10 minutes, and unlike a lot of auction games (Winsome, cough, cough), valuations aren't inscrutably opaque for new players.

1/25/2019

Modern Art

A thematic...

by Brent

A thematic shapeshifter of a game that takes on the characteristics of its group. The game is dead simple and plays reasonably quickly.

1/25/2019

Metropolys

Basically ...

by Brent

Basically a game of chicken, trying to manipulate people into bidding into areas you don't really want with their higher bids, but your opponents have their own hidden goals which makes actual influencing nigh on impossible, except in maybe a 2p game.

1/25/2019

Merkator

Accumulate...

by Brent

Accumulate cubes. Exchange cubes for victory points. Exchange victory points for money. Exchange money for more victory points. Wash, rinse, repeat.

1/25/2019

by Brent

Stock purchase restrictions in this game slowly invert the incentives in an interesting way, though it's not easy to figure out how to balance it. This game will benefit from strong meta-game development. Initially, it seems unnecessary to keep dividends in the company, but I imagine as players catch on to low capitalized strategies, they will avoid purchasing those stocks to starve the company of capital. Like Iberian Gauge, being the last to operate means companies that lease your track are infusing extra capital into your coffers. The added benefit is other companies are likely to purchase tech before you. London & Northwestern has the 'president makes all the decisions' framework, though the presidency never changes, and since someone will almost certainly have a more share value than you in your own company, it's not clear when to flip the switch from building your company to sabotaging it. I'm guessing Tom Russell experimented with the stock pricing going down a la Iberian Gauge. I suppose since the president makes the only decisions, stock tanking would throw the game out of orbit, and the endgame just becomes a game of capital destruction. Update: I'm not sure this in an improvement on leasing mechanism from Iberian Gauge. The way stock purchase restrictions in this game slowly invert the incentives seems interesting at first, but it kind of loses its flavor after a few plays. Build your railroad out for the first 3-4 ORs, then start squeaking out maximum dividend value while suppressing stock price rises. Managing your resources so you have enough money to buy at least one share in each round is crucial. Another issue: It's extremely weak at 3p. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

Jaipur

Uninspired...

by Brent

Uninspired, but mercifully short 2p filler that I use to pass the time while I wait for other people to show up at game nights. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

Kanagawa

This is ba...

by Brent

This is basically 7 Wonders Duel for 5 players, which I suppose is praise or criticism depending on your opinion of that particular game. It does have a lot of fussy mechanics and bizarre iconography for a game that's supposed to be light, however. There's almost nothing intuitive about it... very confusing.

1/25/2019

Keyflower

Very dry m...

by Brent

Very dry mechanical buffet (auctions, tile laying worker placement, route building) that forms together into a run-of-the-mill resource conversion game. The auction is kind of neat, but not interesting enough to make it stand out from the crowd of other games of its type.

1/25/2019

SMG John Company

This reall...

by Brent

This really needs a group willing to commit to multiple plays to explore the space. I say that about all of Cole Wehrle's games, but this one is especially true. Working up to the Full Campaign is like a 6-7 play commitment... Early Company two or three times... Post Monopoly two or three times, then maybe launch into a two or three plays of the full campaign. And then... maybe then... you can actually start to get your arms around what this game has to offer. But this is definitely not a game you can introduce to someone with the intention of playing it only once or twice, and then turn around and play it with a new group of people. If you have a gaming group of 4-5 people who are enthusiastic about this, then I am very jealous. It does have that core weakness of every negotiation game, though: the game is only as good as the least interested person at the table. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

An Infamous Traffic

This is a ...

by Brent

This is a very strange game, I'm at a loss for what to think about it. Flow of play is so herky-jerky, it's almost non-existent. The cadence is... sit and think for a while. Then take your action, which takes three seconds or less. And so on and so on. For a game of its type, it has to be among the clunkiest games I've ever played. The rules need to be checked and re-checked after almost every turn simply because there are so many details, exceptions, and restrictions. The decisions are interesting. Warrants more plays to get past the stickiness of the thing, but unless you have a group breaking this out on a regular basis, the game will never play smoothly.

1/25/2019

by Brent

This game is peak Chudyk: Swingy as all hell, and utter chaos at anything over 2p. The paradox is at 2p, the game typically ends before you have a chance to get to the crazy powerful cards, but at 3-4p, the game overstays its welcome.

1/25/2019

Iberian Railways

Too much o...

by Brent

Too much of a Euro to fit into what I like about Winsomes. Worker placement with a weird binary scoring system.

1/25/2019

Iberian Gauge

With only ...

by Brent

With only $40 and the restriction of buying only one share in a company per SR, couples with the lack of ability to sell shares, Priority Deal becomes incredibly difficult to manipulate. It's frustrating because Priority becomes [i]everything[/i] in the final two SRs as the shares become scarce, and buying the last share of a company becomes the only way to differentiate your portfolio from opponents. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

God's Playground

God's Play...

by Brent

God's Playground is a devious "every player for themself" game disguised as a semi-cooperative experience. While upon first blush, it appears that the game system is brutal, it doesn't beat up on the players up in quite the same way something like Agricola or Dungeon Petz does. It's unique in that navigating the carnage is the game, insomuch as you're trying to use your opponents as a shield so that you can hang back and score points. The rulebook is a quite the mess, and makes the game seem far more complicated than it actually is. The Turn 3 Habsburg/Ottoman rules have quite the reputation for being inscrutable. After unraveling the rules through BGG, I was surprised to see how simple Turn 3 actually was when it came to play. It seems Martin Wallace went out of his way to make it impossible to figure out.

1/25/2019

by Brent

The designers originally intended this to be the base game, but stripped it out in order to make the game less complex. If you prefer the game with a more tactical necessity, then play just the base game. If you like to add a bit more strategic flavor, then K&I will make that happen. In either case, I consider this essential for any player count under 5. The base game at under 5 is okay, but the decision points are less interesting since all five decks of cards are available at all player counts. K&I scales the available actions down to the number of players, and it really makes a huge difference. The biggest problem is the setup phase where players have to draft their initial hand of Power Cards. With 31 to choose from to make a 13-card hand, it can become interminably long, especially with new players. Even trimming it to the recommended 18 still causes long periods of hemming and hawing in the pre-game.

1/25/2019

by Brent

Way too opaque at the outset. The asymmetric company abilities/penalties make share valuation a meta-game challenge that is bordering on insurmountable for inexperienced players. Accidental kingmaking in this game is even easier than it is in most Winsomes because of the high-wire act of uncertainty. Some positives: The turn order mechanism is quite fascinating. I think it's ingenious, though it's easy to see why people wouldn't like it. Once you understand why it exists, though, it brings to light that playing the game well has little (if anything) to do with laying track and everything to do with the auction. Unfortunately, Queen's design of the game is a criminal act of bad UX implementation. Company shares are too hard to distinguish at a glance because of the color scheme, and there is no player aid on the board to identify company abilities and penalties. You really need to create your own components to fix these issues, which I guess isn't too hard. But still, really?

1/25/2019

by Brent

Simple euro/wargame hybrid with my favorite combat system. The constraints on the non-Prussian players are difficult to manage toward victory, and playing Prussia is can be a nightmare. Two major downsides: First the length-to-depth ratio. If Prussia is doing well, this game can go interminably long. I understand the unpredictable length is part of the "game," but Friedrich is just a grind once you hit four hours. Second: Playing as Russia can go from fun and stressful to interminable bore if the Tsarina dies early. Getting stuck with Sweden for an undefined number of turns is just brutal, and almost indicates that Friedrich might be better as a 3p game. And if I'm playing this 3p, then I'd really prefer Maria, which drastically improved on this game. Trade condition notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

Coup

It's a blu...

by Brent

It's a bluffing game with a stupid theme. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

Dragoon

Dice-chuck...

by Brent

Dice-chucking luckfest with a ridiculous amount of randomness built into nearly every aspect. Literally nothing about this game that I liked. Even the metal components are dumb.

1/25/2019

by Brent

The semi-co-op is lightning-in-a-bottle good. You actually have to work together really to balance the needs of the world with your own agenda. Just trundling off to do your own thing without coordinating with your opponents at the table will almost certainly end in disaster. The design is typical of Lacerda's incredible integration of his mechanisms. And the theme-- though maybe more abstract than in Lisboa or The Gallerist-- still drives the action more than your average Euro. CO2 is Lacerda's game with the lowest rules overhead, which is grading on a bit of steep curve, but it's an order of magnitude simpler than Lisboa or The Gallerist. I'd compare it to something like Great Western Trail. The new co-op version is the same "solo-by-committee" experience that nearly every co-op game is. Quarterbacking is supposed to be mitigated by the inability to discussion hand cards, but it's a trivial barrier for someone who has played the game at least once. If someone is placing a scientist on a summit, there's really no functional difference in a between saying: "I really wish you wouldn't do that." and "I need to complete a summit on my own for us to win." The solo/co-op game is more deterministic than your average "bad things happen, fix bad things" game. The fossil fuel plants are the only random factor, and the number of VPs you need to spend to drop emissions is more predictable than in most games of its type. For an optimization puzzle, it's reasonably satisfying and an okay solo experience, but the co-op/solo game is just a bonus content for the competitive game, which is the real dynamite gaming experience, here, and not worth buying the game if you're into it for the co-op/solo.

1/25/2019

Duck Dealer

There are ...

by Brent

There are so many problems from a gameplay and thematic design standpoint, it's hard to know where to begin. -The tech tree is a meaningless hodgepodge of symbols. It's impossible to remember what makes what; it almost seems like a satire of a gaming tech tree. -The downtime during the turns is among the longest in any game I've ever played. You could go make a sandwich and watch the local news in between some turns. -It's possible for one player to just swipe action cubes to shorten up the game, which I consider to be a mission of mercy. A real miss from Splotter.

1/25/2019

by Brent

I feel like there's a better way to lay out the instructions on the individual cards so players aren't running to the appendix every two minutes. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/25/2019

1868

Can easily...

by Brent

Can easily be finished in under 3 hours, which bodes well for opportunity to play, but with the scarcity of companies, and the glut of tokens, positioning is pretty fragile. Leads to a conservative "run good companies game."

1/25/2019

by Brent

Virgin Queen makes me reflect on the very strengths and weaknesses of games in general. While I typically enjoy the metagame, there is so much metagame here, it's almost like the cards and the board and the chits get in the way of what's really going on. In the strangest of ways, this game reminds me a lot of Tammany Hall, which probably sounds insane considering Tammany Hall is a dead-simple 90-minute game with a ruleset that can be taught in about 15-minutes while Virgin Queen is an 8-hour epic experience that really can't be taught to a group in any functional way unless each of them has spent a decent amount of time with the 44-page rulebook. If you get ahead in this game, the other players are going to gang up and tear you apart. And then you'll have to sit through another one or two more 90-minute turns just annihilates you. Now, this incentive structure is inherently built in to just about any multiplayer area control game (which Virgin Queen essentially is), but this is also a negotiation game, which means table talk is part of the very fabric of the gameplay experience. One of the great paradoxes of this gang-up-on-the-leader structure, of course: the targeted player never actually ends up winning. It's usually some flying-under-the-radar type who managed to keep his head down, had a few things not go his way early to deflect the attention off him, and then sprinted out ahead at the last second to claim the win. It happens regularly, and yet you point this out to the other players and no one seems to care. By annihilating the leader, four of the other players are just kingmaking someone else inadvertently through the collective madness of incentivized destruction. It's not like the five of them are gathering around during the secret negotiation phase and agreeing on whom the actual winner should be. Worse still: in this game specifically, you can have everything lined up to squeeze out the points for your faction in every way you can, and then whiff on die rolls, and the game gives you no tools to get yourself to the finish line. I get it: it's supposed to be that way. What I'm saying is you need to give a player some sort of ripcord, otherwise what's the point of having a new player come in and try to play a game against experienced players? The dice chucking in this game is really obnoxious. Now I've grown accustomed to dice, and in most wargames I play, I find dice to be integrated into the fabric of the experience so well, and tie in thematically to the degree that I enjoy it. But here, the die rolls are everything: Battles, piracy, assassination attempts, religious conversions, science bonuses, artists, fucking marriage outcomes... all decided by a die roll. It's maddening for a game of its length (and how rare scoring opportunities actually are), how razor thin the margin for success and failure actually is. Moreover, the card distribution is maddening. Maybe 40 cards get dealt a turn, and the entire deck is re-shuffled at the end of each turn, so you might never see some really crucial events, while some weird/devastating ones might pop up on the regular. The game ends up with this undulating, herky-jerky pace where some players' impluses take 30 seconds while others take 5-10 minutes. The CP-to-action ratio is totally berserk. In a game where there are maybe five 90-minute turns, getting stuck with 1,1,1,2 on turn one is devastating. And for all of this experience, you have to spend hours pouring over a 44-page rulebook of systems-- many of which are just tacked on-- and then spend 8 hours unraveling them.

1/23/2019

Tammany Hall

I hear peo...

by Brent

I hear people frequently say how mean Tammany Hall is. I understand what they mean by this, but I'm not sure it's accurate. It's not a mean game insomuch as that it refuses to allow players to ignore the fact that area control games are about ganging up on the leader. The social environment that this creates can be a spiteful one. Table talk is an essential part of this game. It creates a metagame environment where an adept and gentle social player can redirect all the heat onto someone else. This can create a problem in the gaming experience with new players, though, since it's easier to sway them into believing that the person in second place at the end of the first term is more of a threat than the person in last. It's nearly impossible to convince new players that the person in last is actually a far bigger threat, What results is new players get frustrated by the fourth term and start egregiously kingmaking out of spite, making irrational decisions because they just want to make everyone else as mad and frustrated as they are. In the end, the experienced player ends up saying, "This is exactly what I said would happen." To which, the response: well don't play with players who make irrational decisions. To which I respond: and how do I identify those people? The answer, I guess, is don't play this game at all? The weird thing is this game isn't any meaner than, say, El Grande. And people get just as frustrated and spiteful playing that. The difference is nobody is actually talking about it at the table.

1/23/2019

Tokaido

Candy Land...

by Brent

Candy Land for Japanophiles.

1/23/2019

Rialto

Turn order...

by Brent

Turn order: the game.

1/23/2019

Rococo

Uninspired...

by Brent

Uninspired. There's a lot of potential here that just kind fails to come together. I like how it takes the trappings of deck building and removes the variance out of it. Your gumming up your deck and ruining your next round is entirely your fault, not because of the shuffle of the deck. I like the theme in concept, but the gameplay lacks thematic integration. It's a dry, mechanical experience about area control and hand management. For the theme, Pret-A-Porter is far superior. For the mechanisms, I'd rather play Mombasa.

1/23/2019

Princes of Florence

Delightful...

by Brent

Delightful auction game with a straightforward rules set that quickly spirals into interactive complexity and opaque relative valuation. The forced incremental auction system makes this particularly interesting, as the active player needs to contrive how to get what they want through strategic selections of items that they don't necessarily want. I really like auction games, but they need experienced groups to balance them out. Valuations are tough, and new players can't figure out what is worth what.

1/23/2019

Pax Porfiriana

To borrow ...

by Brent

To borrow a phrase from a friend of mine: "Munchkin for Adults." A take-that game with a patina of historic legitimacy. Typical nightmarish Eklund rules overhead, with war crimes-level of horrifying graphic design. Glad the system spawned Pax Pamir and Pax Renaissance, though. Trade Condition Notes: Like new. Cards removed from shrink, but unplayed

1/23/2019

Mage Knight

No Review Title

by Brent

No Review Description

1/23/2019

Love Letter

Filler fod...

by Brent

Filler fodder.

1/23/2019

Innovation

No Review Title

by Brent

No Review Description

1/23/2019

Hive

Chess with...

by Brent

Chess with bugs. Don't like Chess, don't like bugs.

1/23/2019

Great Western Trail

Another me...

by Brent

Another mechanism buffet from Pfister (deckbuilding, rondel, set collection, etc.). Minimal player interaction through some minor blocking/taxing with buildings, and the oft-praised 'multiple paths to victory' feature, which in this particular game makes me wonder what game I'm supposed to be playing. I still find myself wanting to play it more than your average Euro. It's more fun than most MPS efficiency games, and it's popular so it gets played a lot. The expansion sucks, though.

1/23/2019

Grand Austria Hotel

Multi-play...

by Brent

Multi-player solitaire Euro cube pusher that puts you in a straightjacket. Downtime in the 4p game can be an issue if players are particularly AP prone. Not as big of a deal in 3p, and a total non-issue at 2p. The real problem is-- as with most MPS cube pushers-- it's not hard to figure the game out after a few plays, and it turns into a mildly competitive optimization puzzle, and a race for who can get the better guests, some of which are just flatout OP (I'm looking at you, Egizia).

1/23/2019

by Brent

It's the Great Zimbabwe/Concordia mash-up that nobody asked for! This is an excellent example of a game that iterates on older ideas in a way that makes them far worse while managing to add nothing new. Furthermore, it's nigh on impossible to read the game state since the graphic design features form way, WAY over any semblance of usable function. It make look nice to railbirds, but to the people sitting around the table, the board is an inscrutable mess. This game is impressive in the worst possible way.

1/23/2019

Ganz schön clever

I'm over i...

by Brent

I'm over it.

1/23/2019

Fuji Flush

Uninterest...

by Brent

Uninteresting.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Napoleonics is quite good, but it is not as much of a rollicking good time as Ancients. There's a lot more nuance and subtlety to the maneuvering and battling. While unit capabilities in CCA become easy to remember after just a few scenarios, the impacts of terrain, unit size, movement, and various bonuses make the details in CCN much harder to keep track of without all the necessary player aids. The net result is a thinkier, more complex experience and less of a clash-head-on battlefest.

1/23/2019

by Brent

No Review Description

1/23/2019

by Brent

By removing the jigsaw puzzle aspect of the original, this game throws open the decision space and makes the game [i]so much[/i] more interesting. The house/keep mechanic, the bonus tiles, the illusion of freedom that reveal itself to actually be self-directed levels of constraint are all ingenious. Since I almost exclusively play Carcassonne 2p, I don't really see a reason to play the original anymore. Leave it to Knizia to make the best game in the Carcassonne franchise.

1/23/2019

Brass: Birmingham

The edges ...

by Brent

The edges have been sanded down from its predecessor, far less aggressively competitive than the original due to the new resource constraints. What results is less of a knives-out fight for rail network territory and more of a nuanced balance of parallel competitive interests. With three industry goods, the game is open to "multiple paths to victory" that so many people laud as a positive attribute. I usually find this dull as it often pits you against the game more than your opponents. This paradigm is more apparent at the lower player counts, since two or three players can pursue different paths without bumping heads. In 4p, someone is going to get in your space on at least one-- and potentially several-- of the directions you're headed. Beer is kind of the exception to this. On the one hand, beer is to blame for the new restrictions that tie players' hands, slowing down the double-rail spam strategy forcing people down the one of the aforementioned "multiple paths." On the other hand, beer is the one resource that all players really need in the Rail era, and I wonder if the knife fight appears with breweries as players become more skilled. There's still an important timing aspect to getting breweries out. If you want to use your own breweries, you had better make sure nobody else can access them. I don't like Birmingham [i]better[/i] than Lancashire, but I do like it [i]differently[/i].

1/23/2019

Burgle Bros.

Another sn...

by Brent

Another snoozer of a co-op.

1/23/2019

Bear Valley

Trade Cond...

by Brent

Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/23/2019

7 Wonders

Don't like...

by Brent

Don't like card drafting. That about sums it up.

1/23/2019

Yspahan

Unremarkab...

by Brent

Unremarkable themeless dice drafting cube pusher with a turn-order catch-up mechanism that really hurts the game: the person to the right of the player with the lowest score goes last in Rounds 2 & 3. This means in a 4p game, that person goes last twice and only goes first once in each of those rounds. This is an asinine and arbitrary punishment that players have zero control over.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Frustrating dice worker placement game that locks you in a box. The game is who can wriggle out of it the fastest. For a game which is ostensibly about traveling, exploration, and trade the traveling action is maddeningly difficult to do.

1/23/2019

by Brent

An good game, though the CDG system that this game pioneered does feel dated since OPs cards are separate from events. The chunky 110-card deck that results leads to extremely swingy plays. If the Brits get NJ and Penn Line Mutinies early, it can short circuit the Continentals entire game. Trimming the deck to Hannibal levels would go a long way to making more consistent experiences, but after 25 years and a redesign, that's unlikely to happen. I also find the Lord North's Gov't Falls cards to be particularly annoying since they're mandatory events that cost you an impulse. At the very least, they should give the active player 1 OP to manage with. Regardless, this is a fun area majority battle for 2p, more similar to Twilight Struggle than the actual war games that WW can claim as children of the design. The rules aren't particularly difficult, and it acts as a great intro step on the way to Hannibal RvC, which is the game I really want to play (though WW is significantly shorter).

1/23/2019

Yokohama

Yet anothe...

by Brent

Yet another themeless resource conversion game about gathering stuff and filling contracts for that stuff. It's kind of a middle ground between Concordia's loose, free, and easy attitude toward resources and Marco Polo's straightjacket-and-vice combination.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Draws comparisons to Twilight Struggle for lots of reasons, but it is a vastly different game. It's far more asymmetric, significantly more strategic/less tactical, and it has far less luck. The shared card pool creates a different type of tension, as the game is no longer about hand/crisis management, but more about trade-offs. There are some very powerful events you may have to pass over so that your opponent doesn't get a huge leg up.

1/23/2019

Vinhos Deluxe

A lot of c...

by Brent

A lot of complexity built into a WP game where you only get 12 actions. It's too long for what it ends up being and rarely worth the effort to teach. I appreciate that the theme is richly integrated, and it's not as linear and rote as Viticulture, but I'll probably never break this out again because if I'm going to spend the time and effort to teach a Lacerda, it's going to be The Gallerist or (more likely) Lisboa.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Linear and boring.

1/23/2019

Thunderstone Quest

It's relat...

by Brent

It's relatively brainless, but the theme is solidly implemented despite the fact that this is just a multiplayer solitaire deckbuilder. Leveling up and earning XP is enjoyable, and some of the side quests and Legendary Cards are really fun. There is a baffling amount of content here, though I'm not not convinced it makes the game all that different with the different sets of cards. There's really only one strategy: Kill monsters, earn XP. This is a pretty classic example of a game that plays you. Which cards to buy is reasonably obvious, Village/Dungeon turn is simply a matter of calculating whether you can beat a decent monster. There are almost no meaningful decisions to make. Dominion gets away with it because games are so short. A game of Thunderstone Quest is 3-4x longer. For a game this light, I want it to be finished in an hour.

1/23/2019

Tigris & Euphrates

A unique c...

by Brent

A unique competitive positional battle. Random tile draws are a little frustrating, but this is among the deepest tactical games I know of.

1/23/2019

Trajan

Six mini-g...

by Brent

Six mini-games bolted together and loosely integrated through a somewhat clever mancala-based action selection mechanism. The mancala is essentially the entire game, and the multi-player solitaire feeling is off the charts since your inevitably going to be more focused on how you can move your mancala pieces effectively than you are on what your opponents are trying to do. Not an unpleasant game, necessarily. It kind of fits in that same Feldian, mid-weight relaxing, point salad MPS frequency that Castles of Burgundy does. But CoB has focus. Trajan is all over the place.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Somewhere buried underneath all the fat of this 6-8 hour grind, there is a fun 3 hour game.

1/23/2019

by Brent

The design is so drum-tight and integrated, it runs circles around any other heavy euro in terms of systems and play. Even though it is essentially an engine-builder/resource management game, it feels absolutely nothing like any of the other games that drive down the same road. TtA hits the sweet spot of tactics-meets-strategy, as you have to pivot effectively based on what the card row gives you and what your opponents are doing. And yet, core strategies drive individual players' play styles which are varying. Top players can adapt to the game state nearly instantly and make decisions that seem puzzling to the uninformed, but are usually just angles you haven't considered yet. Overall the systems are balanced, but there are some cards that don't come in to play very often due to optimal strategies. Age II is particularly wonky with problematic leaders. Napoleon is always useful, no matter what your build looks like. Newton runs the gamut from incredibly strong (if you're short on CAs and high on Science, he's a beast) to useless, and Max is generally good. The other three (Cook/Bach/Shakespeare) are-- in that order-- decreasingly useful and increasingly situational. On the margins, some of the techs need a bit of tweaking, particularly the Age I Blue techs (except Code of Laws, of course), and some non-military Age III techs that are expensive without a lot of time to have them pay off. A lot of these changes are in the works in the forthcoming expansion, from new Leaders and Wonders that can be played in any combination, to a rebalancing of the base game cards. Having said all that, it is still an invigorating gaming experience challenged by no other. It is a game that begs its players to achieve mastery, and yet mastery always feels just out of reach. There is Through the Ages, and then there is everything else. It is the game against which I measure every other game I've ever played.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Yeah, I'm officially out on this game. It's way too much of a grind. --------------------------------- This game tests the upper limit of my tolerance for dice chucking. In most games with dice-based combat, I'm able to wrap my head around the need for the variance, so games like 1754, Hammer of the Scots, and Commands and Colors don't bother me at all. But here, everything is based on dice. Dice for the crisis table. Dice for barbarian invasions. Dice for combat. Dice for voting. Seems like the event deck could have been used to better impact to drive the crises, and there's got to be a better mechanic for voting. Blind binding maybe? Just anything to strip away the monotony of throwing yet another fistful of dice. The deck-building element is ok, but there is no variety to the cards you can buy. You can choose from... 9 cards. And you're not really choosing much. You buy the Quaestor because you need the yellow points, not because the event is helpful. If there were an alternative 2-point yellow card, then choices would be more interesting. The 4-point cards are extraordinarily situational, which is weird for a card that's particularly hard to get (unless you get an early Pretender card and can just rack up points like crazy). The pace is incredibly slow, and grinds to a halt as it heads toward the endgame. Turns take a lot longer when you have 10 or more points to spend on actions, and downtime can be incredible long. The game can go in some really weird directions, too. If someone is getting slammed by barbarians, they can be taken entirely out of the political/territorial battle going on in the center of the board. It's almost like they're playing an entirely separate game, and hilariously, they can win that way just by winning tons of battles. I want to like this game, and I'm willing to give it a few more chances, but it's on thin ice. Trade condition notes: Excellent condition. Rulebook must be printed out from SMG's website, since the rules that came with the game are out of date (typical of SMG's rules).

1/23/2019

Through the Desert

A perfect ...

by Brent

A perfect information game with straightforward, yet difficult decisions. Arguably the best of Knizia's tile-laying trilogy.

1/23/2019

Troyes

Stressful ...

by Brent

Stressful straightjacket dice drafting point salad. Lack of resources can be frustrating, especially in the four-player game where they become incredibly scarce.

1/23/2019

Trick of the Rails

A decent g...

by Brent

A decent gateway game for your friends or family who love Hearts, Euchre, Spades, or Bridge. Despite the thematic similarities, this is [i]not[/i] a train game. Train gamers who get this game thinking it is will likely be disappointed. Trade Condition Notes: Excellent condition

1/23/2019

Ticket To Ride

Appreciate...

by Brent

Appreciate that the popularity of it has opened people's eyes to the fact that boardgames extend beyond Monopoly.

1/23/2019

Terraforming Mars

Overlong w...

by Brent

Overlong with way too many cards that chain together in the name of "variability." It's not a complicated game, but it's not nearly as epic in scope as it wants to be. Playing without drafting is madness, but it also adds significant time to what is already an interminably long game. Legitimately perplexed as to why this game has such a following. Will never play this intolerable mess again.

1/23/2019

Splendor

Quick, sim...

by Brent

Quick, simple, and satisfying engine-building race.

1/23/2019

Stephenson's Rocket

Acquire-is...

by Brent

Acquire-ish with no luck and more positional elements to take into account. There are no liquidity issues in this game, but vetoing adds an element to portfolio management that Acquire lacks, which is interesting. The "Knizia" scoring here is especially convoluted and hard for players to remember, and the fact that there's no capital investment on the players' part keeps this from being a true stock-and-rails game. Make a move, get some stock for free, so it's more typical points accumulation but VP is just disguised as money (except in the new Grail Games edition where the publisher just did away with the illusion of money altogether, and now you score "prestige points".). For Knizia tile-laying goodness, play Through the Desert at a third of the playing time. For stock-and-rails game, give me Chicago Express any time. There's a reason the forthcoming edition is the first time the game has been re-issued in almost 20 years.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Delivers on what it sets out to do, but I rarely ever [i]want[/i] to play it. If I'm going to play a bluffing game with non-gamers, it's probably going to be Coup. Mostly because it's short.

1/23/2019

by Brent

10 Choose your own adventure stories sold as a set in a board game box. Fine if that's your thing*. *Not my thing.

1/23/2019

by Brent

A bugnutty, zany gaming experience with an off-the-wall amount of narrative chrome. Many complain this game is fiddly (thus the 2nd Edition), but I find drives home the narrative experience of navigating the crazy world the game inhabits. The endgame scoring is both wonderful and infuriating. Getting players to understand the central conceit (only one player wins!) is key, but difficult. Especially when playing with euro-minded optimizers. The fact that the game keeps you on the edge of your seat even when it's abundantly clear who is vying for which side is a pretty incredible feat. An all-around excellent game. While there are of lot of games that share its mechanics, there are none that share its dizzying narrative drive.

1/23/2019

Shipyard

A miserabl...

by Brent

A miserable grind of an optimization puzzle with an overly complicated moving rondel mechanic that serves no functional purpose except to show how clever someone can be with a rondel. The problem is it's unintuitive and difficult to figure out who is where and where the "lead action tile" is located. When four highly experienced gamers have difficulty figuring your mechanic out, you have a UX disaster on your hands. The four of the main actions are-- themselves-- rondels, which are straightforward, but this game should just be called "Rondels". The game is a boring, multiplayer solitaire affair where your opponents don't matter except to block you from actions you want to do and take things you maybe want, and even then you may be able to do the action if you have enough money to pay for a bonus action. Scoring a ship pauses the game while you awkwardly sit and watch the other players count up the little baubles they've put on their ship, and then sail it and count up bonus points, which takes far longer than it should. This game outstays its welcome long before it ends. It is a repetitive action-selection experience with a jigsaw puzzle element that I abhor almost universally. I found absolutely nothing engaging; I will never play this again.

1/23/2019

Sushi Go!

I think ca...

by Brent

I think card drafting games suck. I'd rather just have a deck of regular playing cards or something.

1/23/2019

Samurai

Good littl...

by Brent

Good little abstract strategy game with low rules overhead, and plays in 30-45 mins.

1/23/2019

Sankt Petersburg

Passable, ...

by Brent

Passable, if dry, tableau builder. Not much to the actual game mechanics, though not without some interesting decisions. Straddles a fine line between dated and quaint.

1/23/2019

Russian Railroads

A standard...

by Brent

A standard worker placement point-accumulation machine. Nothing special or groundbreaking here, but it is satisfying to see your points crescendo into 100-150 points in the last round or two. Does get a bit samey after a few plays. The expansions add variability to an extent, but I have philosophical problems with expansions that make the game. The only reason I have them is because I received them as a bundle in a trade. Not remotely a train game, which is odd considering the designers' 18xx pedigree. So, if you like train games and are expecting a train game, you will be sorely disappointed. Trade Condition Notes: Some minor shelf wear on the box, otherwise excellent

1/23/2019

Roll For The Galaxy

Fun and ea...

by Brent

Fun and easier to teach than Race. Race is the deeper, better game, but I like them both.

1/23/2019

Roads & Boats

It's proba...

by Brent

It's probably the least traditionally "fun" game I've played, but it's enjoyable as an occasional intellectual exercise and I think an exquisite example of genius of design. However, I feel like I need to come up for air after bearing the weight of this thing on my chest. As excellently designed as this game is, my real question is: how many times do I actually want to play it? It is, by a large margin, the most mentally taxing game I have ever played. Minute-for-minute, no game comes close to requiring the mental stamina necessary to play this game. Even the most sprawling 12+ hour 18xx games or all-day wargames don't require the focus this game does. The cognitive load is incredible, truly a mental marathon. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this game, and I stand in awe of people who can bear to play this beast more than once or twice a year.

1/23/2019

Root

This is th...

by Brent

This is the first game I avoid playing because I don't wnat to deal with teaching it. Strange, too, because I'm willing to teach almost anything to willing participants. The rules overhead is extremely high for a game that is so (paradoxically) straightforward. Asymmetry is great during gameplay, but a pain in the neck to explain. Even one new player means you have to go through everything in detail so they can understand what the various factions are capable of. The fact that it's a 45-minute teach for a 60-90 minute game is really frustrating, and I suppose I would be more inclined to play if I knew everyone already knew the rules. If this were a 2-3 hour game, I think I might be a little more willing to invest in the game. Typical of Cole Wehrle's designs, Root really needs a regular group. Not to the degree that John Company or Pax Pamir require, but the high level of tactical interactivity means the game state is unwittingly (and violently) changed turn-to-turn by new players who don't know how to deal with managing three wildly different enemies. After 4-5 plays, things will start to take shape and the metagame (which Wehrle really excels at) can finally emerge. As the new hotness, people are clamoring to play this, but I find the juice is not worth the squeeze. Especially since the people who express interest in this don't really know what they're getting into. Eurogamers are not prepared for this type of tactical, euro-style war game, and are often turned off by it when they realize what the game actually is. So you're left with the GMT crowd who is often put-off by the cutesy theme, and would rather just play a COIN. If I'm going to go through the effort of teaching something with this level of detailed complexity, I'd much rather go with Pam Pamir or Pax Renaissance (both of which are better games), Lisboa (which is more likely to appeal to the people who say that want to play Root), or if they really want a high-wire act light war game experience, Maria or Friedrich.

1/23/2019

San Juan

It's among...

by Brent

It's among my go-to gateway games because it serves as a great bridge to Puerto Rico, and other role selection games like Mottainai and RftG. Far simpler than Race and the Puerto Rico-style role selection system maintains a semblance of player interaction for beginners that doesn't appear in Race until you get good at it. Ultimately, Race is the better, deeper game. Trade Condition Notes: New in shrink

1/23/2019

Rising Sun

The UX is ...

by Brent

The UX is a nightmare. The minis are huge and get in the way of reading the game state. And since there is no iconography of any type to indicate what power each Oni actually has, there is a constant conversation of, "Hey wait, what is that guy's name? Oh. What's his power? If you're lower in honor? Are you... hold on a sec... and then how much force is he worth now?" The gameplay itself is frustrating. It has that not-so-magical ability to make a 2 hour game feel like a 4-hour game. You can be frozen of the game so easily by faction selection and the fact that your position has nothing to offer anyone. Alliances can form before you've even had a chance to figure out what has happened, and you can be isolated out into irrelevance very quickly. This game is not fun.

1/23/2019

Ra

A simply-d...

by Brent

A simply-designed system of probabilistic valuation and positional advantage. Really good at 3p, okay at 4p, at 5p, play Medici.

1/23/2019

Race for the Galaxy

Even thoug...

by Brent

Even though San Juan is the game I use to introduce concepts of role selection and multi-use cards, this is a far superior game. Much has been said of the learning curve, and it is a multi-step process, to be sure. Teaching the game is a bear; expect an hour of open-handed discussion before you can even play a proper "learning" game. It will take two or three games for an engaged player to pick up the iconography and game flow, and then another 5+ games to start to understand how the basic strategies snap together. The time investment yields incredible returns, though. The game is excellent at all player counts, games are 20 minutes long with experienced players, and it has eternal replayability.

1/23/2019

by Brent

Internal, solitaire Tetris-style roll and write that I think I'd play by myself on an airplane or something. It's a time killer more than it is a game.

1/23/2019

Red7

At 2p, it ...

by Brent

At 2p, it hits the sweet spot for card game: relatively simple rules, quick play, high replayability. Not recommended at any other player count-- you lose control over how the decisions impact your opponent (most notably: you lose the power to fold in order to sacrifice short-term points for long-term gain). Genuinely don't understand why people choose to play this game without the advanced rules. It's light years better with the special actions.

1/23/2019

Quadropolis

Mechanical...

by Brent

Mechanically simple, but very fiddly scoring.

1/23/2019

Puerto Rico

The left-r...

by Brent

The left-right binding issue is a major problem with players of unequal skill. But if you have 3-5 players who have equal skill level, it's wonderful. I don't think the "unequal" skill is a reason to not play the game, however. How else is someone supposed to get better at a game if you never play it with them?

1/23/2019

Pax Renaissance

The best P...

by Brent

The best Pax game. It takes the innovations that Pamir developed off of Porfiriana, and still plays great across all player counts. Despite Phil Eklund's attempt to inject this game with his off-putting Randian philosophical views, in execution (and hilariously so) the game acts as a criticism of Eklund's own philosophical bend. Pax Renaissance feels much more like what a Game of Thrones game would be if the players were competing to be the Iron Bank than what the the game posits itself to be (which, in a nutshell, is "Capitalism enabled the Renaissance"). In that way, this game is kind of the interactive model of why "authorial intent" is often irrelevant in art and media. I think it works out great. There's something about Machiavellian global political manipulation that I find deeply satisfying.

1/23/2019