Snakes & Blogs
2014-01 ‹ By Month
Big games got you down? Snakes & Lattes Chief Game Guru Steve Tassie introduces 4 small, yet satisfying microgames.
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Sometimes games just call to me. The theme, the art, the mechanics; something just grabs hold of my attention and I feel compelled to add it to my collection.
Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island by Ignacy Trzewiczek captivated me as soon as I heard about it. A really difficult, Euro-style, worker placement, cooperative game… what's not interesting about that? I was also drawn in by the theme. Being trapped on a cursed island having to, not only fight the elements, but find enough food to survive and complete tasks to fulfill the scenario you're facing.
Well, after picking up Robinson Crusoe, unpacking the beautiful box and cracking open the dense rule book, I realized that the helpless feeling of being stranded on a desert island would be well conveyed in this game.
Now I'm not going to lie, before I was even able to get this gem to the table it took several readings of the rules and several youtube tutorials. Once you start to get a grasp of the rules they all make sense and flow together thematically. There are just a lot of rules to get through.
I've played the intro scenario (one of six included in the game) twice. We've been shipwrecked at the end of summer and we need to build a shelter, hunt for food and survive the harsh winter weather coming our way. Those tasks alone are tough enough, but we also have to discover fire and collect enough wood to build a signal flame large enough to grab the attention of a passing ship.
In Robinson Crusoe, there is never enough time to do all the things you need to do to both accomplish your goals and keep everyone safe and healthy. Some rounds you're going to have to take a hit for the team.
Most cooperative games suffer from Alpha Player Syndrome. The most experienced player will make the decisions for the rest of the group and it can feel like you're just sitting and watching. There is some potential for that in Crusoe, but that really shouldn't occur too often. During the action phase the players will plan their day. Working together they'll decide if it makes more sense to explore more areas of the island, build the shelter, hunt for food and so on. With so many necessary tasks to accomplish it's up to the group to decide how their time will be best spent.
Storytelling is a big aspect of your adventure. Each round you'll deal with Event cards that have an immediate effect and a lingering threat. When you go off on your own to build, scavenge or explore you'll roll the dice to see if you have an adventure along the way. You might stumble across a cabin and have to decide to go in or not. Will there be a useful tool waiting inside or a trap? This immersive element of the game is central to the experience.
So far I've really enjoyed this game. Well worth the investment of time and money. I'm looking forward to exploring the other adventures and Z-Man has already uploaded a new scenario on their site, so there's high replay potential. Is this game for everyone? No, it does take patience to get into and you have to be looking for a tight, tense cooperative. I think if you're a fan of Euro-style worker placement games this might be a perfect fit for your collection.
Ok, so maybe it's not surprising that a game like Kemet would get some love from me. It's received a lot of great buzz this year and currently sits at 7.8 on Board Game Geek. People really respond to this game.
Players take on the role of ancient Egyptian gods bent on controlling the lush Nile valley and the temples and fortresses that abound there. It is an area control game for 2-5 players designed by Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage. The double sided board is not only beautiful, it's really well designed. Each player controls a city and although they seem spread out each one is exactly four spaces away from any other city on the board. Temples can provide prayer points (the currency of the game) if you can hold them and the Sanctuary of All Gods will provide you with victory points if… you know… you sacrifice some of your loyal soldiers to the Gods!
Kemet utilizes a unique card-based battle system that takes away chance and adds bluffing and slight of hand. Each Battle Card has stats on Strength, Damage and Protection. Every card is strong, but the right card to use totally depends on the battle you're in.
Now what would a Matagot war game be without some pretty cool miniatures, and Kemet has those in spades. Throughout the game players can increase their knowledge in three different powers by paying prayer points to advance one of their three pyramids. White generally helps in the prayer point department, Red will give you power in battle and Blue helps with defence and recruitment. Investing in any of the powers can lead to victory and trust me, you're going to want to invest. All three powers will also yield access to some pretty terrifying creatures that can lead you into battle. Your army is going to look a lot more fierce riding on the back of a giant scorpion or harnessing the power of a mystical mummy. The stats of these creatures are intimidating enough, but the absolutely amazing miniatures complete the image.
The goal of the game is to get 10 victory points. Points are awarded in a number of different ways. You can get temporary points for controlling temples and advancing your pyramids to level four. Permanent points are awarded for battle victories (if you're the attacker), controlling certain powers, sacrificing soldiers at the Sanctuary of All Gods and controlling two temples at the end of a day.
So what's so great about Kemet?
I love the Euro style elements in the game. Action selection is worker placement and the powers tech tree give the sense of developing and building your society. However, for me, it's the point system and the approach to battle that set Kemet apart. A natural instinct in a war game is to turtle in your home base to build strength. Kemet won't allow this. Players are awarded the all important permanent VPs for successful attacks. You're not as much trying to control areas of the board as you are looking for ways to generate points. Staying safe and secure in your city will do you no good while your opponents are fighting it out and racking up points for their bravery. There are a lot of rules in this game, but they flow well together and with players who know what they're doing games last only about an hour. I don't play a lot of area control games, but Kemet is one that I'll be coming back to again and again!
RAWRRRRR! STOMP! SMAAAAAAAAAAAAASH! The monsters are coming to town, and they are HUNGRY!
Rampage is the game world's latest take on the giant monster fighting game, joining the ranks of King of Tokyo, Monsterpocalypse, Monsters Menace America, and numerous Kickstarter projects. Less abstract than King of Tokyo but less strategic than Monsterpocalypse, Rampage takes the theme and injects it with the mutation-inducing super serum that is dexterity game mechanics.
This game is not for everyone. If you're looking for heavy strategy and well defined rules, this game is not going to be for you, but if you want to smash buildings and eat meeples and don't mind having to interpret rules on the fly, you will find this game a blast.
Rampage is payed in Meeplecity, which contains eight neighbourhoods to ravage and seven buildings to topple. Buildings are constructed using cardboard floors held up by the same meeples you are trying to eat. At the end of the game, monsters score points for the number of building floors, how many meeples, and how many enemy's teeth they have eaten. Each player will also have a character card that allows them to score bonus points in a unique way.
The game ends when either the last building has been demolished or when a certain number of meeples have fled the city (any meeple that is flung off the board is considered to have fled to safety).
On your turn you get to take two actions, eating any floors you clear on the way, and then you get to eat the meeples running around your neighbourhood in a panic (the number of meeples you can eat is limited by the number of teeth in your monster's mouth). On your turn you can move your monster using a Crokinole-like flicking mechanic, drop your monster onto a building it is touching in an effort to demolish it, blow at the board with your monster's terrible atomic breath, or fling a firetruck, army humvee or other vehicle at a building or enemy monster.
In addition to the character cards, each player will get a power card that gives them a unique way to interact with the rules, as well as a secret super power that can be used once over the course of the game.
The biggest drawback to Rampage is that the rules are fairly vague in some areas and very specific in others, and this can cause more rule-oriented players a great deal of consternation. But flexible players who are prepared to make ad hoc decisions and who are looking for some zany, chaotic fun will be very satisfied with Rampage. The second most common complaint about the game is the high set-up to play time ratio, but if everyone at the table helps construct Meeplecity, it really doesn't take too much time to get into the game.
Rampage is for 2-4 players and plays in about half an hour.
Rampage is designed by Antoine Bauza & Ludovic Maublanc and published by Repos Productions.
CATCH! Oh man you totally didn't catch the nondescript sports game ball that I threw at you. Come to think of it, I didn't do a very good job of throwing it either. We should play some dexterity games and get better at doing things with our hands!
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Welcome back to the Curator’s Collection. An interesting thing has happened to my personal collection since I began working at Snakes & Lattes: its growth rate slowed. I still buy games, and my collection is in the area of 300 titles, but having access to the cafe’s selection has allowed me to weed out games that I don’t need to buy. I have many games that, had I tried them before I bought them, I would not have bothered. Then again, there are games that I buy sight unseen. I just know.
Firefly: The Board Game is both an intersecting AND a diverging game from the Snakes & Lattes collection. Intersecting because we sell Firefly (quite a bit of it, actually), yet diverging because it cannot be found in our play library.
"Why not?" comes the cry of Browncoats everywhere. It's simple. While I love the game, Firefly isn't a good fit for the cafe, both literally and figuratively. Firefly is a massive game. My gaming table at home (which sometimes doubles as a dining room table) is 2'9" wide and extends to 8' long. This is just big enough to get a four player game of Firefly. There is literally no table big enough at the cafe to fit the entire game on. In addition to the main board, which gives us the 'Verse of the show, each player has a board for their ship and needs space for their crew cards. Add to that a baker's dozen decks of cards, ten of which need readily visible discard piles, and you begin to grasp the scale of this monster.
In addition to the size, the game has a lengthy play time, especially for first time players (which is what most of our customers would be). The box says two hours to play. As someone who's played it numerous times, I can say that is accurate, IF all the players know the rules AND you make the exact optimal moves every turn AND nothing ever goes wrong for anyone. Failing all that, a 60 minutes/ player time frame is more realistic. 90% of our patrons are not interested in a four hour game.
So why does it make the private reserve? Firefly is beautiful and richly narrative, and is proof that the folks at GaleForce9 are huge fans of the show.The game drips with theme, from the core rules to the game components. Jayne's hat is a piece of equipment, and you can hire different versions of Yosaffbridge [editor's note: spoiler's ahoy on that link] on three different planets. But how does it play? At its heart it is a pick up and deliver game. Players visit bosses to get jobs that are either "pick up X at planet A and deliver to planet B" or "go to planet C and perform a crime" to get paid. Often, one end or the other of the delivery run will require crime stuff to be successful.
Along the way players can fill their ships with crew (from the main characters like Zoe and Simon, etc. to minor and unnamed people like Bester and the Hill Folk), ship upgrades and equipment (you can buy Vera). The journeys from place to place are perilous, but also offer opportunities to make extra money (and other goodies) en route... but watch out for the Reavers and the Alliance, as both these enemies can ruin your day.
In the final tally, Firefly: The Board Game is a lengthy love-letter to the short-lived series of the same name (and one of my favourite shows of all time). While the mechanics lean heavily to the luck side of the spectrum (numerous decks of cards to contend with and skill rolls needed to commit crimes), the shopping for equipment and hiring of crew can mitigate or even negate the luck element if you do it well (having crew and gear with a variety of green "key words" can allow you to bypass many of the risks entirely).
It even comes with a cardboard stegosaurus to use as the first player token. I very quickly replaced mine with a plastic one.
At Snakes & Lattes, we love games and the people that make them. Try as we might though, we just can't seem to find that same love for the utter lack of credit given to the creative forces behind a lot of games.
Check us out on The Dice Tower's Board Game Breakfast!