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

Kyoto ProtocolThis 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 the whole range works well), simple rules and interesting player interaction.

What’s in the box? The sturdy and classy black box contains 117 cards, a sheet of tokens, rules and a die (which is not used in the game). The cards are of decent quality and look great. Good points for the looks, but I wouldn’t mind a slightly smaller box. (I’ve got my copy packed in a Ultra Pro Dual Deck Box with For Sale for easier-to-carry filler goodness.)

What do you do in the game? Players build power production by playing cards. On your turn, you can draw a card (from three open cards or from the draw deck), play cards (as many as you want, but only one type) or can clean out your game by flipping up to two cards you’ve played.

In the end of the game, each card you played is worth one point and after each of the three phases, there’s a scoring. In every scoring, there’s a minimum quota of cards you need to have played. If you’re short of the quota, it’s one point penalty per missing cards.

After phases two and three players get pollution penalties. For each of the five types of fuel (coal, oil, gas, wood and uranium) the player with the most cards gets a penalty. Heavy polluters like coal and oil are penalised more, cleaner (but rarer) wood and uranium pay less.

After three phases the player with the most points wins. Very simple, but there’s room for interesting tactics.

Lucky or skillful? This is a light filler with cards. There’s plenty of luck involved, as is appropriate. A skillful player will win more often than a weaker player, but not every time.

Abstract or thematic? Fairly abstract gameplay, but the theme is interesting, makes sense and makes the game easier to teach and understand. Very good theme for a filler, that is.

Solitaire or interactive? You have to constantly keep track of what other players do. The possibility of hiding cards adds to the interaction. Hidden cards are worth points in the end, but don’t count for production or pollution. You can sometimes hurt other players with clever play, but it’s hard to be intentionally mean.

Players: Box says 3–7, but there’s a decent two-player variant in the rules (no dummy players involved: play with half the deck). I’ve tried two, three and six players and based on that I’d say the game works well enough with the whole range. I wouldn’t buy Kyoto Protocol just for two-player games, though – there are better games for that particular niche.

Who can play? Box says 8+ and that seems correct to me. The game is easy, but there’s subtlety kids might not grasp. My eight-year-old son handles the rules, but not all the tactics. Kyoto Protocol works well for adults and families.

Length: Box says 45 minutes, but I don’t know why. Less than 30 minutes sounds better; this is a filler game, and doesn’t take a long time.

What’s to like: Looks really good; flexible player amount; meaningful, easy-to-understand theme.

What’s not to like: Slightly too large box.

My verdictKyoto Protocol has been around since 2006 in some form, and finally got published. That was great, because this is a good game – it’s just a filler, sure, but at the moment of my favourite fillers. The game is very flexible when it comes to the amount of players, the rules are a breeze to teach and the gameplay offers enough interesting decisions and player interaction.

If you want a quick filler that looks great, works with a large scale of players and both with hobby gamers and families, Kyoto Protocol will do the job.

On the scale of EnthusiasticSuggestIndifferent or AvoidKyoto Protocol gets Suggest.

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

My 2014 top 100: 50–41

Third part of my Top 100 list. Here’s the previous part. 50–48 Qwixx — Delightful filler game with dice. I’ve made an online score sheet for the game. Pantheon — This is the highest-ranking Bernd Brunnhofer title on my list, beating St. Petersburg and Stone Age. Is it a better game than the two, especially Stone Age? … Continue reading My 2014 top 100: 50–41