Troll Hunt

by Mikko on July 30, 2014

in Reviews

Troll HuntI played a pre-release copy of Troll Hunt from the Finnish Board Game Society game library in Ropecon, kindly provided by Roll D6.

The game: Troll Hunt by Veli-Matti Saarinen, published by Roll D6 in 2014, after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Elevator pitch: Place and move mirrors on board so that the light rays from your lanterns hit the trolls on the board in the eye, petrifying them. 

What’s in the box? A modular board built of small pieces to add to replayability, a deck of cards, a bunch of cardboard chits, couple of dice. No actual light rays included. The art is a bit gloomy, but all in all the game looks neat.

What do you do in the game? The goal is to petrify trolls. Trolls pop up on the board during the game, and you petrify them by guiding the light ray from your lanterns on the side of the board to the eyes of the trolls (ie. one hex side of the troll chit), with the help of mirrors on the board.

Mirrors reflect either 120° or 240°, each player also has a prism that splits the light to every direction. In the beginning you only have two lanterns on the side of the board, and each turn you can add one mirror (or prism) on board. Instead of placing a mirror, you can also move existing mirrors: two steps if you still have mirrors left, or four steps if you have all your mirrors on the board already. It is also possible to rotate and flip the mirrors (they’re 120° on one side, 240° on the other).

In the end of your turn, you collect all the trolls you manage to petrify and add new trolls to replace them, so that there’s always the same number of trolls on board. The game is over when enough trolls have been petrified.

Lucky or skillful? There’s nothing lucky about player actions. The board is randomly built, but that doesn’t add any luck to the game. The only luck element is the appearance of new trolls: there are bunch of troll nests on the board, and each one can get one troll during the game, but the order is randomly determined. When a troll appears, the active player rolls a dice to determine the heading and can then place the troll anywhere around the nest hex, as long as it has the correct heading (that limits the options somewhat). So, there’s a possible luck element: if trolls appear better for one player, that player is going to win.

Most of the time, the winner should be determined by the skill with mirror placement, though, but I can see sometimes luck of the troll draw affecting the result.

Abstract or thematic? Abstract – the troll theme may be classic fairy tale stuff, but it would be really easy to switch it to something else. The game would also make sense as a themeless abstract.

Solitaire or interactive? More on the solitaire end of the scale. You do your thing, and hope you’re faster than the other players. You can use mirrors placed by other players, but there are rules that prevent you from blocking the links other players have built.

Players: 2 or 3. Both work fine. It’s unusual to limit the player amount like that, but it makes sense – I don’t think this would be a good four-player game.

Who can play? Publisher age rating is 8+, which sounds good. There’s no reading required, so smaller children can try this, but the level of planning and thinking required means that smaller children can’t do well. 

Length: Box says 45 minutes, which sounds ok. You can certainly play faster than that – our game took only 30 minutes – but there’s also potential for really slow play, if players like to ponder their options.

What’s to like: Simple idea, easy rules; while the idea is familiar, there aren’t many games like this; petrifying trolls takes enough work to be quite satisfying.

What’s not to like: The spatial challenge is not for everybody; plays only up to three players; the art is a bit muddy.

My verdict: It’s nice to see more Finnish game designers enter the market. Troll Hunt wasn’t a huge Kickstarter success, but managed to get the funding it needed, which is great to see, as it is an interesting and somewhat unusual game. It’s quite abstract, but with the familiar fairy tale theme tacked on, it’s also approachable.

It’s unusual to see games to only support two or three players, but it’s better that way than to just slap 2–5 on the box, no matter how well the game works. Here, while a four-player game might work somehow, it would also add way too much downtime.

This game is not for everybody: there’s a spatial element that some people are not going to like. I have no complaints on that, but I did find the game slightly dull. You choose a troll, then try to align your mirrors to hit it, then repeat that six times. There’s certainly room for clever play in placing your mirrors, but I didn’t find it that intriguing.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidTroll Hunt gets Indifferent, bordering on Suggest – I wouldn’t say no if someone suggested this.

Ropecon 2014

by Mikko on July 28, 2014

in More about games

First day of Ropecon – the largest non-commercial game event in Europe – done. The con got an interesting twist last year, when I decided to involve my now eight-year-old son. Now we’re here again. We’ve focused on board games, as the other program of the con has been somewhat uninteresting (or unsuitable for him). He’s eight, and quite the gamer already, and we got to play quite a bunch of new games, getting me a lot closer to my goal of 1000 BGG ratings (10 to go!).

Troll Hunt is a new Finnish game, Kickstarted recently. The copy we played was probably some kind of demo version, as it looked like 95% ready – some components looked a bit rough, and as far as I can tell, none of the backers have received their copies yet.

Troll Hunt is about placing lanterns and mirrors so that the light beams from lanterns is directed to the eyes of the trolls on board. Once you turn a troll into stone, new one pops out. The first player to petrify enough trolls wins.

The game is simple enough, and offers a nice little challenge. Not a bad game at all. The player scale is 2-3, which is somewhat unusual. My rating is Indifferent, but I wouldn’t say no if someone else suggested this.

High Five! was interesting, as it is a Lautapelit.fi release I haven’t played yet. Looks like I haven’t missed a lot: it’s not very good. There’s a deck of cards as tiles, and players take turns placing tiles on board to form poker hands, which score points.

That is just about as bland as it sounds like. I can see some mainstream potential here, but I think there are many games that are much better for that. My initial rating was Indifferent, but actually it should be Avoid – if somebody were to suggest this, I’d quickly come up with other suggestions.

Squeeky is a small box game from Winning Moves and the authors of rather bland Terra Nova. This one wasn’t too bad: players race their mice towards cheese, trying to reach it with as valuable mice as possible.

The catch? First part of the track is your personal color-coded track, where you are safe. The rest is neutral, shared track, and there if your mice is landed on or bypassed by other mice, it is snatched.

Mice have point values of 1–7 and score that many points for you if they reach the cheese. Snatched mice are points for the snatcher and negative points for the owner. The point values are hidden during the game.

This is not a bad filler at all, it was quite fun and it’s simple enoug that it should work well for families with smaller children. Indifferent, but I wouldn’t say no if somebody suggested this.

Rally Fally is a race, played on a sloped surface. Player discs have magnets that attach to the board to prevent them from falling down the slope, but some parts of the board are not magnetic. Players have to race around the board, visiting palaces in corners.

The idea is nice, but the game doesn’t work with two players. There’s little excitement. The magnet mechanism is interesting, but the board is quite small, so I suppose you learn pretty quickly where the non-magnetic areas are.

This might be worth playing with four, but at least with two, I don’t think te game will last repeat play. Indifferent, but I could try again with four.

Husch Husch kleine Hexe is an old Heinz Meister game. It took me a longer time to decide which game to borrow from the Finnish. Board Game Society game library available in Ropecon, than to actually play this game. Not very efficient…

This is a simple game. Five witches are covered with hats. Roll a color die and lift a hat. If the color matches the color of the revealed witch, proceed one step. If you reach the end of the board with your move, you win. The sixth side of the die has an arrow, which means you swap two witches, without looking.

Sounds a lot like Geistertreppe, doesn’t it, but Geistertreppe is a lot more interesting. Husch Husch kleine Hexe works well for little children, but only for little children. Geistertreppe remains interesting for older kids and to some extent for adults as well. HHkH gets an Indifferent – I’d only play this with small children that can’t play better games.

Villit kuviot (Wild Patterns) is another Finnish Roll D6 release. In this game, players move tiles around on a 5×5 board, trying to form shapes on their cards to score the cards. You can also score on someone else’s turn, if you see your pattern on the board.

The game started well and everybody was excited – there were plenty of chances to score and so on. Then the engine started to sputter… Once the easy cards were done, we were left with harder cards – and those were tricky, considering there were five players messing with the board.

The game might work better with two or three players. Five was too much, and the box claims the game works with six… Actually, six players migh work as a team game. Anyway, the end game is someqhat problematic, to the extent that the rulebook had suggestions how to improve it. That’s not a good sign – why not make the game better in the first place, instead of offering fixes as a variant?

So, kind of fun, but with problems. Indifferent, but I’d only play with small number of players, and I’d probably want to add some house rules.

Samarkand is as old as I am – this Sid Sackson game was originally published in 1980. The Rio Grande release I got is from 1998, and looks like a good old Euro game, complete with Doris Mätthaus artwork.

This is a game of trading. On the board, there are three kinds of squares. Nomad camps let you trade cards, oases sell you cards and in cities you can sell your cards for money – the larger the set you sell, the more money you get. Money is the ultimate goal.

Movement is quite restricted, just one step of the time in the direction of arrows, so returning back to where you came from takes lots of time. You can pay to roll the die, which can get you far in no time at all, but without much control.

All in all quite a fun game. I bought this in an auction on a whim, since people whose opinions I appreciate have said good things about the game, and I wasn’t disappointed: it’s a good game indeed. Rating is easy Suggest.

Rest of the evening was an interesting, low-conflict game of King of Tokyo and a quick filler game of Vegas. A very good day of games, I’d say!

Haste Bock? has the cutest components, but the rulebook is quite an off-putting wall of text. Well, we managed to figure out how to play, and after a while got a hang of what to do. This kind of pushing and shoving is not my cup of tea, but it was tolerable with just two players. Indifferent.

Mont Saint Michel looks great – it’s a Drei Magier game – but the rulebook is rather atrocious. I guess we figured out, it’s a fairly simple game in the end. Players move six pawns around, trying to collect points for the pawns. The trick is that nobody knows who is who. You get couple of peeks for the identity of the pawns during the game, and as it happened, I didn’t figure out my identity at all during the game. I only knew which two colors I wasn’t. Now that doesn’t help playing well… This was an odd game. Avoid.

Sorry! Sliders is a silly bit of sliding and bumping. I’ve got Compact Curling which is based in the same kind of sliding mechanism, but is a better game. I also have a Crokinole board. So, not much use for Sorry! Sliders, but since it’s such a quick game, I wouldn’t mind playing it occasionally – it’s decent fun. Indifferent.

Zauber Stauber is a program-your-flight-path game, and the flying is not easy – the paths are pretty hard to see well, at least for me. Not to mention other witches suddenly appearing in front of you, blocking your way. Fun idea, but not enough game in it, I think. Indifferent.

Rallyman

May 19, 2014

I saw Rallyman being played couple of years ago, and finally got a used copy for myself (actually the very same copy I saw back then). This seems like an interesting racing game. I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but this one seems interesting, and of course being a Finn, the rally theme […]

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For the Crown

April 27, 2014

This review is based on a review copy, kindly offered by Victory Point Games. The game: For the Crown (second edition) by Jeremy Lennert, published by Victory Point Games in 2012. Elevator pitch: Chess meets Dominion: a game of Chess, where you start with just a king and build up your army using a simple deck-building mechanism. What’s in the box? A slipcase […]

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Abluxxen / Linko

March 21, 2014

The game: Abluxxen by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, published by Ravensburger in 2014. The international edition is called Linko. Elevator pitch: Card game filler where you steal cards from other players in order to get rid of the cards in your hand.  What’s in the box? In the small, though not as small as it could […]

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Zeppeldrome

January 24, 2014

Zeppeldrome is currently looking for funding at Kickstarter. I got a review copy, and finally got it on the table. The review is a bit rushed; I’ve only played two two-player games so far, but since the topic is current and I’m not sure if I have time to play the game again before the […]

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Gaming Year 2013

January 12, 2014

2013 was a very good year of board games, just like 2012 was before it. My kids and I have continued to play lots of games. My son is now seven and half, and can play quite complicated games. My daughter, soon five, is also a bright little gamer, and much less prone to throwing […]

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Machi Koro

December 2, 2013

The game: Machi Koro by Masao Suganuma, published by Grounding in 2012. The name means something like “Dice town”. Elevator pitch: Catan resource production distilled into a 30-minute filler game. Roll dice to produce money, use money to buy your way to victory. What’s in the box? The smallish box contains cards, cardboard coins and two dice. Everything looks really […]

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Carcassonne: South Seas

December 1, 2013

The game: Carcassonne: South Seas, by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, published by Hans im Glück in 2013. Elevator pitch: First game in the Carcassonne Around the World series: an independent Carcassonne game set in the South Seas, featuring familiar Carcassonne game play with novel scoring system. What’s in the box? Usual Carcassonne-size box contains tiles, meeples, wooden resource tokens (clam shells, bananas, […]

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Nations

November 4, 2013

The game: Nations, by Rustan Håkansson, Nina Håkansson, Einar Rosén and Robert Rosén, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2013. Elevator pitch: Lead your nations from ancient times to industrial age, gaining glory and power while you’re at it. Through the Ages streamlined. What’s in the box? Large box has two central boards and player boards (thin cardboard, not actual boards), hundreds of cards […]

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