June 2015 new and noteworthy

Age of War: Horrible game. Simple filler game, roll dice and conquer tiles by rolling the right symbols. In theory pretty good, but gets really annoying really quick, because conquering the tiles is seriously difficult. Avoid.

Age of War, an exercise in frustration. #boardgame #boardgames

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Nations: The Dice Game: I first tried this in November, but finally got my own copy in June. It’s pretty good, and whatever concerns I had based on the four-player game are non-existing in the two-player game. That’s what I’ll mostly play in the future, it’s a decent game that way – less so with four players. Suggest.

The Roman civilization is amazing, as usual. Nations: The Dice Game is fun. #boardgames #boardgame

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Cacao: Family-friendly tile-laying game. Simple, looks pretty good, is fun to play – but I’ve now played ~5 games and am somewhat bored, already, so not a keeper in the end. But if you’re looking for something for the family, this might be worth trying. Indifferent.

Cacao – seems like a fun little tile-layer. #boardgames #boardgame

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

At the Gates of Loyang: I’ve had good experiences with Uwe Rosenberg games recently and this was no exception. Kind of fiddly, so I get it why this hasn’t received the love Uwe’s better titles get, but I like this: the game suits my tastes quite well. Suggest.

Serving customers, unhappy as they are. At the Gates of Loyang is a fun game. #boardgames #boardgame Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Lost Legacy: Advanced Love Letter. Not quite as good, but this’ll see at least ~10 plays before I’m done with this, the interplay between cards seems fascinating enough. (My kids really like Love Letter, by the way.) Suggest.

Serving customers, unhappy as they are. At the Gates of Loyang is a fun game. #boardgames #boardgame

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties: I had skipped the kickstarter (well, at least the second, successful one), but when people started talking about stock running low, I decided I have to get this. Mike Hutton does wonders, I really like 1860, so this seemed like a good move. I got to play the game, and yeah, it wasn’t a miss. Lots of stuff in it, and it is quite confusing to begin with, but everything makes sense in the end and as is typical for Hutton, the end game, often the weakest part of 18xx games, is well done. Suggest.

Been a while from my previous 18XX game. 1862 seems like a good game. #boardgames #boardgame #jycon #18xx Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

1846: Noteworthy, not new. I had owned this, then sold it, then repurchased it from Golden Spike Games, skipping the queue. It was worth it. This is one of the best 18xx games and I really want to have this in my collection. Couple of reasons: there’s good variability in the setup; I really like the private draft instead of an auction; the game can be played in less than three hours, and it still doesn’t feel like a short game.

Survey Party is an interesting helper app for playing 18xx games. #boardgames #boardgame #jycon #18xx

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Roads & Boats: Another bought-sold-rebought game. I got this one last year, and today had a chance to get it on the table with my son. We played a game, he seemed to enjoy it and I managed to produce my first share ever (that’s the ultimate achievement in Roads & Boats, the best thing you can do; of course, then you can set the goal to producing more shares). So, success. Next, I’ll introduce him to Antiquity

Two competing kingdoms in Roads & Boats. #boardgames #boardgame #splotter Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

I decided I’ll try to give this old blog a bit of a boost, so I’m going to post these posts once a month. Let’s see how many months I can do; I’m betting on three.

Co-Mix

Co-MixI have done the Finnish translation of this game, and got a free copy from the Finnish publisher.

The game: Co-Mix by Lorenzo Silva, published by Horrible Games in 2014.

Elevator pitch: Story-telling game, where you create your story by laying picture cards on a six- or nine-panel comic page. Stories are then told and scored, but there’s a clever twist in the scoring.

What’s in the box? Box contains five player boards, quite a big pile of cards and lots of cardboard tokens for players. There’s a nice scoring track in the box insert. Art is nice. The cards remind me of business cards more than playing cards, thanks to the material and the sharp corners, and I’m afraid they’ll get worn in play. Other than that, no complaints about the components.

What do you do in the game? The game play is really simple. A story title is chosen. Everybody gets twelve cards (doublesided, so 24 pictures to choose from!). Players must then lay six (or nine, for the advanced version) cards on the board to form a story.

First player to complete the story turns the 90-second timer, and if you’re not done when the sand runs out, you have to fill the rest randomly. Better be quick, then!

Stories are then told. Players must include every picture somehow and in the correct order. Feel free to embellish the story as much as you want, but keep it fairly short.

Stories are then rated. Each player has five scoring tokens: two neutral tokens and one for originality, one for composition and one for the emotional excitement. You must give each story – including your own! – one token.

Tokens are then revealed. Neutral tokens are discarded. Then consensus is found: for each category of tokens, find the story that got the most tokens. Those tokens remain, the other tokens in that category are removed. Repeat this for all three categories.

Now, every token remaining on your story is worth one point, and each of your tokens that remains is worth two points. So, it’s important to both tell a good story (be it original, exciting or well-composed) and also to rate honestly.

The scoring is really quite clever and works well to keep players honest and the game interesting.

Lucky or skillful? Co-Mix is a light party game. There’s some luck – your hand of cards may or may not be helpful in telling the story – but the rest is up to you. Tell a good story, and you’ll get points, but you also need to read the other players and evaluate the other stories. Skill rules, but Co-Mix doesn’t feel like a heavy game.

Abstract or thematic? The comic panels are interesting and have lots of potential for interesting stories. Highly thematic, I’d say.

Solitaire or interactive? Creating the story is something you do yourself, but the essence of the game is in telling the stories to the other players.

Players: Large range from 3 to 10. There can only be five stories, though, so from six players on the game is played with two-player teams. To me, that sounds horrible, so for me Co-Mix is a 3–5 player game. Others may disagree.

Who can play? Box says 8+, which is decent – my son could play the game – but that depends very much on the child. The players must enjoy story-telling, and that’s somewhat restrictive for adults as well.

Length: Each round takes about 10 minutes or so, and you can play as many rounds as you wish. Three is nice for a short game, but nothing prevents you from playing longer if you’re having a good time.

What’s to like: Nice, coherent art; clever scoring mechanism; supports a wide range of player counts.

What’s not to like: The card material is weak; team game sounds iffy.

My verdict: I see what this game is trying to achieve, and I think it does a marvelous job at it. Most of the games like this are fun to play in the right company and are a way to have a good time, but often fall a bit short on the scoring. Co-Mix doesn’t, the scoring works really well.

That said, I can’t see myself playing this more than once or twice per year; I simply don’t play these kinds of games. It’s not the fault of this game, it’s just the way it is.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidCo-Mix gets Indifferent from me, but if you play these kinds of party games, Co-Mix is well worth a Suggest.

Co-Mix story

150 plays of Star Realms

I just finished my 150th recorded play of Star Realms against the Hard AI opponent on iOS. I started recording the results of the games, because I was interested in gauging the level of luck in the game.

It seemed fairly high, that is. I doubted if anybody is even able to get 60% win percentage against the Hard AI – there’s so much random in the game.

Another hypothesis quickly formed: the game is strongly biased against the starting player, who only gets three cards in the initial hand.

After 150 plays, I think I have enough plays to draw some conclusions here. The most obvious conclusion? This is an excellent game.

Starting player bias

The bias against starting player might or might not be there, but at least it’s not strong.

In a single game, it can be strong, but then again, the first player may get something great on the first round, while the second player gets only an Explorer or something else that’s not so great.

Currently at 150 plays, the second player has won 78 games and the starting player 72 games. If you flipped a fair coin 150 times, a result at least this unbalanced would come up about six times in ten. So, well within the usual random variation.

Me vs Hard AI

It seems quite clear I play better than the Hard AI. Initially the matches seemed quite balanced, but perhaps I’ve learnt something, because now I win more than I lose.

At the moment, I’ve won 89 games, while the AI has 61 wins. In a random coin flip series, a result at least this unbalanced would appear only once every 74 times. The more convincing explanation is that I’m better.

As a second player, my win percentage is slightly over 60%; as a starting player it’s 58% and overall it’s 59%. Can it be better? Yes, I think so, but not much. I don’t think I can get to 70% and 65% seems pushing it. There’s just so much randomness in the game that sometimes winning just isn’t possible, no matter how well you play.

(One thing I’ve found quite biased as well is the starting player selection: I’ve started 67 times and played second 83 times. I’d expect this to be random. Odd!)

Kyoto Protocol

This review is based on a review copy given by Roll D6. I know the designer and have met him several times in Finnish game events. The game: Kyoto Protocol by Petri Savola, published by Roll D6 in 2015. Elevator pitch: Power Grid: The Filler Card Game. An energy-themed filler card game with a very flexible player count (2–7, and … Continue reading Kyoto Protocol

Gaming Year 2014

Another good year, can’t complaing. 2013 was good, and 2014 improved upon that. We bought a house this year and moved in, and that meant I got a bookshelf in my office I could use for games. With most of my games visible there, my son’s interest was piqued, and we ended up trying lots of different games. … Continue reading Gaming Year 2014

Jungle Rumble

The game: Jungle Rumble by Eros Lin, Nightsorrow Chou and Zeldaaa Ling, published by ErosGames in 2013. Elevator pitch: Puerto Rico action selection meets Agricola farming and feeding in a small box with cute kittens. What’s in the box? The small box is packed with field tiles, kitten tiles, action tiles, cardboard food tokens and wooden bits for water ways, stores and … Continue reading Jungle Rumble

Games with my son

My son has become my most regular board game opponent. We often play in the mornings: on weekends and on schooldays when his school starts on 9. He’s eight years old, and quite the gamer, and here’s what we play now: Agricola — We play the family game, and recently started using the Farmers of the … Continue reading Games with my son

My 2014 top 100: 20–1

Here’s the final installment of my list. See the previous part. Now we’re getting to seriously good games. 20–19 String Railway — Build railways of strings. Simple, sometimes frustratingly imprecise, but all the same very charming. This is a delightful game, a lovely filler in a small box that works with a full range of … Continue reading My 2014 top 100: 20–1

My 2014 top 100: 40–21

Here’s the previous part. 40–39 Australian Railways — The third Early Railways Game on the list. The three games are almost identical, but this one’s different, and the best: it features organic link growth. So, instead of railroad links appearing in the middle of nowhere, they form a contiguous network. That’s pretty clever, huh. This … Continue reading My 2014 top 100: 40–21