Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß

MondoThere’s a new edition of Mondo out there. The new edition is much smaller and cheaper than the original Mondo, but there’s also less game inside the box.

The game: Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß by Michael Schacht, published by Pegasus Spiele in 2015.

Elevator pitch: The clock is ticking – pick up tiles to build a 3×3 island that scores as many points as possible, while avoiding mistakes.

What’s in the box? There’s couple of cardboard frames, containing a total of 48 tiles, sized 3 cm × 3 cm, and a ziploc bag to hold them. No boards are involved. The players need to provide means for keeping score and a timer, there’s no timer involved. The tiles look the same as in original Mondo.

What do you do in the game? Everybody must build a 3×3 island. Since it’s an island, it must have water on the outside edges. The timer is started and everybody starts taking tiles. Once you place a tile in your grid, you can’t move it.

When everybody is ready or the timer runs out (four minutes, that’s plenty of time), the islands are scored. Failing the water (no water on the outside edges, water in inside edges) is fatal, and means you score zero points. Other than that, you get points for completed landscape areas (landscapes on tile edges match) and animals on tiles. First player to finish gets a bonus and the player with the most volcano tiles loses one point per volcano. Mistakes and missing tiles cost points, too.

There are three rounds. After that, the player with the most points wins the game.

Lucky or skillful? Mostly skill. You need to think clearly under time pressure. There’s a bit of chaos, though, as somebody might grab the exact tile you need for your island – there aren’t many copies of similar landscape layouts.

Abstract or thematic? Quite abstract, really, but building islands is fun.

Solitaire or interactive? Original Mondo had task cards that added some interaction. This is a pure race. The tile set is limited, so it’s not totally solitaire, but there’s very little interaction outside the race to grab the tiles you want.

Players: 2–4. Two is probably the best, because then you have enough tiles to build 4×4 islands, which makes the game more interesting.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+, which sounds good to me. As is usual for the speed games, the more skilled player will prevail most of the time, but of course it’s not always obvious the adult is the faster player…

Length: 15–20 minutes, depending on how much time you spend scoring. The game takes 12 minutes (and can be faster, as you can remove minute or two from the timer without really increasing the time pressure).

What’s to like: Simple idea; cleanly done; no unnecessary frills.

What’s not to like: Repetitive game play; not much game in it; weak replay value.

My verdict: Looks like I’ve played the original Mondo once. It was ok, but I felt very little need to play it again. The new edition doesn’t fare much better. Since my kids like this, I expect this’ll reach few more plays. However, I already felt after the first play that I’ve seen what this game has to offer – the replay value seems really quite weak here.

Then again, the small box is easy to carry around and the rules are very simple to explain, so it’s easy to play a game with just about anybody, in a short amount of time. If these are significant upsides for you, Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß might be a fine choice for you.

If my kids end up liking this a lot, I’ll get a copy of the original Mondo. It may be more expensive and come in a bigger box, but it sure has a lot more game in it than this one.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidMondo: Der rasante Legespaß gets Indifferent from me.

July 2015 new and noteworthy

Another fine month of gaming. Next month will see some downward trend, as the summer holidays are over and the school year starts. No more morning games, on most mornings…

Dale of Merchants: This is very current, as the game was involved in a Kickstarter campaign that ran for the July. I’m happy to note the campaign was a success, collecting slightly over $20k of funding, when $14k was necessary for publishing. Hooray! I’m very happy, as the game is really good. I got a print-and-play copy of it, and I’ve enjoyed the game a lot. I expect it to see 20 plays or so before the game is even released. Suggest.

1846: One of the highlights of July was two games of 1846, played with just week apart. Both three-player games, I managed to end up last and second. I’d like to see more of this kind of repeat play. 1846 is a fine game, and this already made it sure it was a good idea to buy a new copy of the game. Both games included a newbie and two other players with little experience, yet we managed to play both in just three hours or so. Suggest.

Another fine game of 1846. PRR ran 5 and 7/8 for 80 in the end. #boardgames #boardgame #18xx Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

The Game: I had to try this Spiel des Jahres nominee with an un-googleable name, since it can be played with a 6 Nimmt deck (it’s just cards 2–99, really). Clever thing, reminds me a bit of Hanabi, as this too is a co-op game where you build card stacks. Here you have to build two stacks from 1 to 100 and two from 100 to 1. Every turn, you must play two cards, and you can play more. The stacks must follow the direction, with one exception: you can leap exactly ten numbers in the wrong direction, so in a descending pile, you can play 45, 44, 54, 52, 62 and so on. Clever, simple, but not really my cup of tea. Probably won’t play again, unless my son asks me to. Indifferent.

Imperial Settlers: I had heard nice things about this game, so I got a used copy. It had to wait a while, but I managed to get the cards translated in Finnish. Since the game seems to me to be mostly a two-player game, I thought this is something I’ll play with my son.

The game turned out to be a bit of a hit, we’ve already played four games (once with each nation, of course). It’s a fun game: I like the way you can combine different things, come up with ways to get more resources and get lots of things done in just five rounds. It’s a bit long, it takes us almost an hour to play, but generally it’s worth it. Suggest.

Makings of a Roman civilization in Imperial Settlers #boardgame #boardgames

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Toc Toc Woodman: I’ve only played this twice so far, but this is certainly a silly game. Build a tree with plastic tree parts, then use a plastic axe to knock out bark pieces from the tree? Also, the lumberjacks score points for collecting bark, but get heavy penalties for actually collecting some wood? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. But the game is fun – not Coconuts fun, but fun nevertheless. Suggest.

The Little Prince: Make Me A Planet: This tile-laying game is based on the famous book (though apparently not famous enough), and like the book, it seems like something for the kids, but actually might be better for adults. This game is quite simple: build a planet from 16 tiles, 12 of which contain scoring features and 4 of which contain scoring rules that determine your points, with the goal being to maximise your scoring by matching the features with the rules. The tile distribution is simple, yet entertaining: starting player draws n tiles from one of the piles, picks one and then chooses who gets to choose next. That player picks one and passes the turn to someone else. The last player to pick is the next starting player. Of course, the turn order generally tends to be manipulated in a way that makes people get the tiles they need the least. That can get slightly nasty. Suggest

I built a planet for Little Prince! #boardgames #boardgame Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Port Royal: I played this a while ago and didn’t enjoy the game at all. Now that I got the Finnish version, I gave it another go, and it was better. Not my favourite game, but something I can actually volunteer to play. That’s something. I think we might have played the game a bit wrong the first time. I’m not a huge fan of the push-your-luck element in the game. Indifferent.

Glass Road: I’ve been on the roll with Uwe Rosenberg games, so getting Glass Road wasn’t a hard choice. This was advertised as a Rosenberg conversion engine game that doesn’t take long to play. It sure is pretty swift, a two-player game doesn’t take much longer than 30 minutes. However, it’s not the overall length that is short, it’s the internal game length: it’s just four rounds. That isn’t a lot, and the game feels really short and constricted. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t be doing much in this game. My first game left me a bit dumb-founded, but in the second game, we did much better, as things started to make sense.

What’s really important here is the fact my son managed to beat me in our second game! That has never happened in Agricola, At the Gates of Loyang, Agricola: ACBAS, Le Havre: Inland Port or Fields of Arle. Glass Road has a bigger luck element – it’s a game where in order to win, you have to play well and things need to fall your way. That’s fine with me. Suggest.

Resource wheel from Glass Road, what a clever idea. #boardgames #boardgame

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Quartermaster General: This light WWII game for six players got good buzz from the GCL Amoeba folks, so I thought I’d give it a go. I don’t really have particularly good six-player games in my collection. This is a simple war game, so simple that the units don’t even move, for example. To expand, you need to build new armies, and make sure they’re being supplied. Every turn, you get to play one card: build an unit, battle something, improve your situation with status cards, play response cards for future use and so on. Just one little thing! Each of the six nations have different capabilities: Germans and the US have lots of status cards that give them extra power, while Japanese have lots of sneaky responses and so on. It’s all quite clever, plays quickly and looks really good. Suggest.

Fighting the Second World War with Quartermaster General. Italy is not doing well… #boardgames #boardgame

Kuva, jonka Mikko Saari (@mikkosaari) julkaisi

Spyfall: This game is all talk. Some people hate that, and I’m not a huge fan of the genre either, but this game is… clever. Players are people in a setting – say, submarine, space station, zoo, embassy, school, hospital, something like that – except for one, who is spy. Spy doesn’t know the setting. She tries to find out what the setting is, while other players must out the spy.

The game is played by asking questions. “What do you see when you look around?”, “When was the last time you went home?”, whatever comes to mind. It’s a balancing act: the spy needs to blend in, while the other players must ask questions that are specific enough to be hard to answer correctly, without giving out the location.

We had just four players, which means it’s pretty hard for the spy to survive. I was really happy to survive twice as a spy. A nerve-wracking game, but in a very curious way. Suggest.

Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß: This is a new, smaller version of Mondo. Create small 3×3 islands from the tiles as quickly as you can, then score for animals, completed landscapes and avoiding mistakes. Simple and entertaining, a nice filler – after all, the timer makes sure the three rounds don’t last more than 12 minutes plus couple of minutes for scoring. Also, the four-minute timer is way too much, it can be reduced to three minutes without problems, and most people should manage two minutes without much stress. Indifferent.

Dale of Merchants

Dale of MerchantsDale of Merchants is currently running a Kickstarter campaign. I backed it, because the game looks interesting, has nice art, was cheap and is Finnish – plenty of reason to back a game, that is. Since I’m something of a big name in the Finnish board game scene, the designer asked me if I’d like to get a set of PnP cards for the game so I could try it out, and I agreed. Thus, if you care about things like that, yes, I’m rather biased here.

The game: Dale of Merchants by Sami Laakso, published by Snowdale Design in 2015, hopefully (if you wonder about all those dales, “Laakso” is “dale” in Finnish).

Elevator pitch: Quick and easy-going deck-building game (but not a Dominion clone!), where you have to sacrifice cards from your deck in order to win.

What’s in the box? There’s 110 cards, a small board and a die. The board is not essential, you can live without it if you prefer portability. The card art is also by the designer, and while that often is not a good thing, in this case it is: the art is lovely, for the most part. The card design is also clean and easy to use.

Since all I have now is a PnP version, I can’t speak of the quality, but the Kickstarter campaign promises heavy cardstock with linen finish.

What do you do in the game? The goal is simple: whoever first builds eight market stalls wins, right away. The stalls are sets of cards with values 1–8 in ascending order. Each stall may only contain cards of one colour (each colour is a type of animal, and in each game you choose n+1 animal types to include in the game; there are six in the set and if the game is successful, there’s more to come).

On your turn, you do one action: buy a card, create a stall, play a technique card from your hand or discard cards from your hand. Then you do not discard the rest of your hand, but instead just draw up to five. Also, when you buy a card, you take it directly to your hand.

Cards are bought from a market queue of five cards. First card bears no extra price, next one costs +1, the third one +2 and so on. Cards have a value, which is both the price and their value as currency or in a stall.

There are three kinds of cards: technique cards that do something interesting (and may grant you another action), passive cards that let you bend the rules by just having them in your hand and advanced action cards that also let you bend the rules, for example to create a stall that has mixed colors.

So, in order to win, you need to acquire helpful cards, then create stalls out of them. That empties your deck, so you need to acquire more cards and so on. There’s a plenty of combo potential. The actual flavour of the game depends on the animals chosen: for example the Thieving Northern Raccoons have lots of cards that let you mess with the other players, so the game will feel very different whether the Raccoons are in play or not.

Lucky or skillful? Dale of Merchants is a light card game, so of course there’s plenty of luck. However, there’s also room for skill, as you must consider timing, come up with combos and so on. I’d say the skilled player will most of the time, but not always. If you include the Lucky Ocelots, the level of luck and chaos will jump up.

Abstract or thematic? The animal art is cute. The game would feel a bit abstract, but since the different animals have very different styles of play that gives the game some thematic flavour. A bit like in Blue Moon, really.

Solitaire or interactive? Add the Raccoons, and it gets really interactive. Without the Raccoons, there’s less direct interaction, but given the sudden death ending, pacing yourself with the other players is crucial. Solitaire-ish, but you have to keep an eye on your opponents.

Players: 2–4, and based on my experiences with two and three players, I’d say the full scale should work just fine. I’ll probably prefer the smaller games myself.

Who can play? Age recommendation is 12+, but that’s too high. My son who is nine plays this without problems (well, would play, if the cards were in Finnish), so I’d say 8+ for experienced gamer kids, 10+ for others. Were the cards in Finnish, I think my son could play this with his friends without my help.

Length: 20–30 minutes, this is not a long game.

What’s to like: Lovely art; simple, yet interesting game mechanics; new take on deck-building; variability from the animal decks.

What’s not to like: Light; lucky.

My verdict: I wasn’t disappointed. I like deck-building games and don’t mind lighter games. For gamers, Dale of Merchants is a filler, but it packs quite a bit of game in a small package. I like that, and the game has certainly enough interesting decisions. It’s also good that it isn’t a Dominion clone.

I’m really hoping the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, because I think the game is fun. I also hope it’s successful enough so we can see some additional animal packs – the basic structure of this game is built to be expanded, and ideas are already running fast on BGG forums.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidDale of Merchants gets Suggest from me.

Dale of Merchants cards

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 2. 06ta 2015 klo … Continue reading June 2015 new and noteworthy

Co-Mix

I 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 … Continue reading Co-Mix

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