Spice it up! with Hand Off: The Card Football Board Game (LSU edition)

The Mad Hatter will no longer roam the Death Valley sidelines, looking for a tasty blade of grass to chew on during a tense late season game against the Crimson Tide.  News out of Baton Rouge on Sunday, September 25 is that head coach Coach Les Miles and his offensive coordinator were relieved of their duties by the athletic director, after a shocking loss to unranked Auburn.

LSU fans are divided over the firing, although the division was probably not 50/50. How best to quell the uncertainty as to who will lead the great LSU program for the time being and for next season, too?

If your team has started out this season in disappointing fashion, or is already mathematically eliminated from the college football playoffs after only four games, then spice up your game nights with a great college themed game, Hand-Off: The Card Football Board Game (LSU Edition)!


CSE Games sent me a review copy right after the Krewe got back from GenCon. True to form, the Krewe brought back a stadium full of new hotness from the convention, and we have been wading through those games. But, tugging in the back of my mind as each college football weekend unfolded was that brand new copy of a poker-flavored game just waiting for me to play. So, when LSU announced the news about Coach Miles, it was a perfect time to break open the box and try a few games.

LSU Hand Off is a card game that apparently streamlines the original game called Card Football. The game is geared for two players and plays quickly, in only about 45 minutes. The game is played over four “quarters”, with all of the different aspects of a good football game: time outs, special teams, big offensive plays, penalties and great goal line defensive stops.  All of these can and will happen during the course of a game.

The set up is easy. The board is a flat representation of LSU’s Tiger Stadium, affectionately known by Louisianians as “Death Valley.” Although the crowd noise and bourbon fueled frenzy does not come in the box, the field has almost all of the appropriate views of the stadium and field — with one exception, namely that Tiger Stadium marks the yardage in 5 yard increments not 10 yard increments — and there are spaces for four downs for each player. Shuffle the standard poker deck, and deal each player five cards. That’s it.

The game play is equally easy and fairly intuitive. Each player tries to build the best modified poker hand (high card < pair < two pair < three of a kind) during the downs, and are allowed to add cards to a play if they can help build one of those hands.  The highest hand at the time of that down gets to enact the play on the card, which could be anything from a big offensive play or a defensive stop, or even a penalty.  

The game comes with a football marker and a referee marker, which shows you were the ball is and how far you need to go for the first down. I do have to complain here, as both my son and I had trouble moving the markers down the field as each yard is pretty tightly placed next to each other. Making the board a little bit bigger (I would love to see it on the Ticket To Ride 10th Anniversary sized board!) would definitely have made that part easier.

Frankly, I was surprised at how much fun the game was, and how much it felt like watching a football game. There was momentum when you saw that you had a chance to combo some good cards into a long drive. There was drama as teams got into the red zone or a penalty potentially wiped out a big play. Field position — just like in real football — was crucially important, and you have to manage your time outs to give yourself a chance to get those good cards you need in the red zone. Kudos to the designers who must be big football fans, because this really plays like a football game simulator.

I like the addition of the trump cards, too. A number of LSU’s greatest teams are represented by a small card that each player chooses. These can be played as a trump card if the player ends up with that very card in his hand. The implementation of the trump cards was a little bit of a let down, as they were just small square cards with some facts about the team. Artwork, photographs, flavor text — any of those would have spiced up those trump cards and I think the designer missed on that part.

But the whiffs are few, as the game plays very smoothly. I have never played the original implementation, but it feels like this is a 2.0 of that game. If I had to quibble, the rule book does need a little bit of development, as I think it could have been organized better. An index would have helped, too. But those are minor quibbles, because we were able to stop play as needed to check the rules and almost always got to the rule we needed fairly quickly.

In summary, on the pro side, I love the speedy play, easy to pick up poker mechanics, and the drama that comes as a tense drive begins building up and crosses the midfield. The game is a breeze to teach, and should definitely excite any college fan. I imagine it is a great game for tailgating — and I will test it out at the Ole Miss game coming up next month to make sure.  

On the con side, the stadium is too small and missed out on some accuracy, the rule book needs a graphic designer and a developer, and the all time trump cards need some spice. These are not things that would dissuade me from buying the game, but they do need to be fixed in the future. 

Both my son and I really enjoyed playing the game, and look forward to many more plays this season. It is definitely staying in my collection, and although I cannot recommend it for everybody, I can definitely recommend it to any gamers out there who like college football and want a quick and easy game to play. Note that the game also comes in a Florida Gator version, too.

Until next time, laissez Le Bon temps rouler!

–B.J.

@boardgamegumbo

 

 

Spice it up! with Broom Service

Louisiana summers are hot. Ouai, ca fait chaud! But as hot as it has been in 2016 down in the Bayou State, the steamy heat that vented up from the Atchafalaya Swamp is nowhere near as hot as designer Alex Pfister was this year.

Just to recap the last few months:

  1. Mr. Pfister won his second Spiel des Jahres Kinnerspiel (connoisseur game) for Isle of Skye in ’16;
  2. Won the International Gamers Awards general strategy (multi-player) Game of the Year for Mombasa in ’16; and
  3. Garnered the 2016 Deutsher Spielepreis (people’s choice) Game of the Year with Mombasa again.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s three of the top awards in international hobby board gaming in just a few months. And we cannot forget the Spiel des Jahres Kinnerspiel won in ’15. Have you played on of his designs? If not, which one should you try first?

Does your game group love Libertalia, with its juicy decisions over which cards to play to maximize your points, while bluffing the other players as to your strategy?

Well then, spice up your gaming nights with Broom Service by Alexander Pfister!

 

I spy big points in that right hand corner, if you can get there quickly enough.
Broom Service is the 2015 release from Alea / Ravensburger which the Spiele jury awarded its prestigious Kinnerspiel award in 2015. Two to five players take turns moving their witches across a beautiful landscape of towers, delivering magic potions and dispelling angry clouds along the way.  The game plays over seven rounds, and there is a unique twist in its mechanics.

 

Players have not one but two witch meeples to keep track over over the board. All actions in the gamer, including movement of the witches and delivery of the potions, are accomplished by playing a hand of four cards from your ten role cards in your hand. Each player is given the exact same cards, namely a witch for moving quickly around the board, a fairy for dispelling rain clouds, gatherers for farming the potions, and Druids for delivering the potions. To make it even spicier, Mr. Pfister requires that when playing with only 2-4 players, a ‘dummy’ player is added whose sole purpose is to draw at random three cards which will cause players to take a three point penalty if they play that role.

 

$1 plastic box from Dollar Tree not included.
And you thought any of the above was the twist? Non, non, non. The real twist is that each role has two available actions, a “brave” action and a “cowardly” action.  If a player chooses the brave action on his or her turn, and no one else plays that role, the player gets the usually awesome brave reward. That could be anything from extra victory points to extra money. But if anyone else plays the brave action following the first player’s choice, unfortunately that choice is ‘trumped’ and the previous player gets nothing. (It’s all there in black and white in the fine print, Charlie.)

 

 

Hmm, what does the green and black witches know that the red and blue do not?
Ah, but the player could choose the cowardly action, and then that role is safe, albeit with a lesser benefit. After each player plays out all of the four role cards in his hands, the next round begins.

 

If given a vote, I would have voted this game as the 2015’s Top Game That Underwhelms Me From Its Description. Frankly, the box cover art, the reviews I read, and even the game play videos did not strike my fancy. Then I heard the Dukes of Dice extolling its virtues, and I kept reading and hearing the same theme everywhere after that — the beauty of Broom Service comes in the bluffing and backstabbery in the game. When you are the first player — and you get that honor by being the last person to have played a brave card — there is such a deep and delicious decision making panic that could overwhelm many players.  After surveying the other players on the board, the potential cards that have three point penalties on them, the cards in your hand, and the available towers and clouds, making that first move is such a gut driven decision! At least the way we play it is. — because there are lots of stares and questions like “Do you have that gatherer or not!” — and the hooting and holly ring is loud and fun every time someone is ‘trumped’.

img_0983
Take that, B.J, and the  brave witch goes down in flames.

So why is this game spicier than Libertalia?

Before we answer that, let’s clear up something first.  Libertalia is a game I still LOVE, and I will play it anytime it is offered. But, there are definitely some elements of Broom Service that give it a slight edge over Libertalia right now.

First, it is much more of a traditional board game than Libertalia. It has a very vibrant board, that is almost a little overwhelming or intimidating at first with the pop of color that is found all over the board. The board has lots of cute little graphics showing the various terrain and the different types of towers.  Within a play or two, I was reading and exploring the board ever more, and I have no complaints about the layout. If I had a minor quibble, it is that at first glance the bordes between the territories seems hard to define in some places. Repeated plays took care of this, so I do not see this as a stumbling block.

 

img_1012
One player seems to have a lot more resources than the other. Two guesses as to the winner of this game.
Second, the bluffing and card play aspect of Libertalia really gets amped up here. Even at two players, Broom Service is all about reading the table and the board together to figure out the best next play. Are all of your opponents away from juicy scoring opportunities in the hills? Then maybe that’s the direction you go, and you do it bravely not cowardly.

 

Third, and probably the biggest factor, is that the “take that” element of Libertalia is ramped up big time here — yet provides some forgiveness, something that is lacking in Libertalia.  In Broom Service, the ability to gauge the room or your own level of daring as to whether you want the base action or the bonus actions that come with chancing it on the brave side of the card is very elegantly designed.  Even the most cautious player can run around the board scoring points, albeit at a slower pace. And when the opportunity to be last on the board and play your brave actions come out, it is very satisfying.

 

img_0981
Empty coke zero bottle not included.
Are there any downsides? There’s a lot going on for new hobby gamers, with multiple paths to scoring points (clouds, towers, bonus points, etc.). The random round event cards can sometimes add a level of chaos or change the action of the game so much that it does not feel thematic to the experience. The plus side of having two witches and therefore two sets of actions to explore can be intimidating for younger players. But all of these are quibbles, and there is so much more on the positive side of this game.  It is tightly built, and one of the few games that should leave you asking “just one more round” when turn seven ends.

 

So, if your game group likes to play games that combine beautiful bits, a board, and cards too– with a game experience that lasts about an hour — then I have the game for you. Head on down to your friendly local game store and pick up a copy of Broom Service. I give it four out of five cayenne peppers!

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

–B.J.

@boardgamegumbo

Cry Havoc – a Gumbo review

Cry Havoc

Published by: Portal Games

Designed by: Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, Michał Walczak

Player count: 2-4 players

Playing time: 90-120 minutes

Reviewed by: Dustin Boatman (@dustin_boatman)

I LOVE area control games; it is a mechanic that has always interested me. My favorite style of area control game is by far the “dudes on a map” genre, or DoaM, for the acronym crowd. Something about mixing area control with elements of war games has always sucked me in. It is probably the competitive nature and tactical thinking, as well as the eye candy of all the plastic miniatures that these games typically have. So when I joined up with the rest of Board Game Gumbo Krewe to head up to Gen Con, I had one game in mind: Cry Havoc.

img_0835
Love those miniatures and the color on the board.

Now I knew Cry Havoc was going to be a hard one to get my hands on, so I made sure to pre-order before I left, and I am glad that I did. I heard that all of the retail copies were sold out before the doors even opened. Is this game worth the hype? Well let’s take a closer look and find out.

THE SET UP:

Cry Havoc is a card driven, asymmetrical game that brings a few interesting twists to the DoaM genre of games. Set up can take some time because you have a good bit of stuff to place out on the board, but there are helpful images printed on the board of everything you have to set up.

First, place blue exploration tokens representing things you find as you explore the planet, green Trog party tokens which represent the planet’s native species, and finally, little plastic crystals that represent the planets resource that everyone wants for various reasons.  Next, the players pick a faction and collect all of that factions’ building tiles, card decks, and skill cards. Finally, each player places their starting HQ tile on the correct spaces(also printed on the board), and adds 4 starting units to their HQ. That’s it, you are ready to play.

board-set-up
Machine’s Eye view of the basic set up.

As a side note, the set up is slightly different if you have less than four players. In a two or three player game the Trog faction isn’t played by a player, but is sort of controlled by everyone as you discover Trog units while exploring.

THE FACTIONS:

This is where the asymmetrical side of the game comes in, as all four factions play completely different. The human faction (yellow) is very good at being aggressive and taking control of regions. The Pilgrims faction (blue) is sort of the euro gamers of this battle, as it specializes in taking crystals from areas and either using those resources for points, or to activate certain skills. The Machines (red) are all about buildings. All of the other factions have three buildings at their disposal, but the Machines have five to choose from. Finally, there are the Trogs (green), who just want to protect their precious planet and its resources, and they are very good at swarming the map and laying traps for the invaders.

come-at-me-bro
Come at me, bro!

SCORING:

This game is definitely a competitive game, but scoring works differently than most games of its kind. The main way to get points is by scoring the areas you control, and scoring for all the crystals you have in those areas. Players also get points for doing different things in battle (more on that later), and can collect points here and there from certain skills and cards. Interestingly, there is no score for area control or crystals typically, unless someone uses one of their actions to enable scoring at the end of the round.

HOW TO PLAY:

I am not going to do a detailed section on all of the rules to the game, just a basic overview, because like most games in this genre, the rules are plenty and detailed.

The game will play out over five rounds, each round beginning with a global event token being resolved. These are usually good, like adding more crystals to the board, but can also have negative effects. After the event phase you will do kind of a cleanup phase where you see if the upcoming initiative track was changed during the last round, unexhaust player skill cards, and draw four cards into your hand.

Then the action phase begins. Each round the players can take three actions each. You will take turns in initiative order taking your actions until everyone has finished. The actions available to everyone are move, recruit, build/activate a structure, draw two cards and keep one, or enable scoring.

One of the most interesting parts about this game are the multi-purpose cards. Four of the five actions are all located on the cards in your hand. You have to decide how many cards you are willing to discard to take a single action taken from the multiple ones listed on each card. Some cards will also have text on them with the keyword “Battle” written on them. These cards can be used in battle as well as playing them for their actions during the round, so you have to choose wisely when to use a card for it’s action, or when to save it for battle. This brings a lot of tension and hard decisions to the game, because the whole time you are thinking, “I really want to take this action, but if I do, I can’t use this card for battle later,” or “I want to enable scoring so I can score points this round, but by doing that I am basically skipping one of my actions this round.”

card
Battle time. 

Now let’s talk about the most interesting thing about this game, the combat.

After everyone takes their three actions, you will resolve any battle tokens you have out on the board that were placed during the actions phase. The battle tokens are in numerical order so you just go through each one resolving starting at number one, and so on.

battle-region
Action Jackson.

This game comes with a separate little board that has three objectives printed on the top. The first one is for control of the region, the second for taking prisoners, and the third for attrition (murdering fools, yo). On the left of each objective there is a spot for the attacker to place miniatures and one on the right for the defender. The attacker must place his units first, so the defender has the advantage of seeing where the attacker is concentrating his forces. After the defender places his units each player takes turns playing cards. These battle cards can do anything from moving units around from one objective to a different one, add more units to objectives from your reserve or from other regions, or even mess with the order at which the objectives are resolved. The battle objectives usually resolve top to bottom. You see who wins area control first, then prisoners, then attrition. It is very important to keep track, because once you win area control, it doesn’t matter if your opponent kills all of your figures after that, you already won control.

The battle board is very well made, with all the important information written on it, as well as arrows pointing in the order at which you resolve them. You receive two points for winning the control objective, you capture a prisoner from the battle board for winning the prisoner objective which scores you points between rounds, and you immediately kill units and score one point for each unit placed on the attrition objective.

battle-board
Well done board.

The game will go on until the fifth round, or the fifth event is resolved, whichever comes first, and then final scoring happens. Highest points is the winner.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Now to answer the burning question, is Cry Havoc worth the hype?

Well, that is a tough question to answer, and the best response I can give is somewhat. I love this game, I gave it a 9.2 on Board Game Geek, right behind my current top two games, Forbidden Stars and Chaos in the Old World. It has a lot of awesome stuff going for it, an original battle system, multipurpose card play, and asymmetrical factions, but there are a few issues I have that keeps it behind, if only slightly, the other two games listed.

First off, I am not totally convinced the factions are balanced. That is a big issue with asymmetrical games, because it is so hard to make everyone so different but yet equally close to victory. In the seven games I have played so far, three were four player games and three were three player games and in the four player games the Trogs are 3-0 and the Humans are 3-0 in the three player games. The only game that I have played that wasn’t won by one of those factions was a two player game, and that was because no one used them. The biggest thing to note here is that in every one of those victories the newest player was either playing the Trogs or the Humans, with one game after the Trog player won he laughed and said, “seriously guys I have no clue what I am doing, how did I win?”

Another thing about the game is the battle system, I love it but it is one of those things where not everyone is going to like it. One guy in the Krewe said it feels like he is playing chess, which he found underwhelming.

Finally, there is the event token mechanic. Over the course of the game you will turn over a total of five event tokens, but these events are placed on the scoring track and if a player scores enough points to pass that unresolved event, it is pushed down to be resolved with the next event. This means the game can be shortened if a player has a big lead, which means a runaway leader will end the game early and pretty much guarantee you won’t have time to catch up. I believe this was done so if a player is stomping everyone they aren’t forced to play a long drawn out game, but this can also be seen as making it that much harder to come back from behind.

Overall, Cry Havoc gets a big recommendation from me, even with the balance issues, because at the end of the day I have a blast playing. The game brings its own flavor to the genre that lets this game stand on its own and earn a spot amongst my favorite DoaM games. With more expansions in the works (I hear), I am excited to see where this game goes.

—Dustin Boatman

 

Board Game Bataille — Dudes on a Map Games

In Louisiana, a young Cajun’s first experience with card games is usually the game called “Bataille,” otherwise known as “War.” The game goes ’round and ’round, with each player trying to win the other’s players cards by playing higher card ranks.

In the Krewe de Gumbo, we have lots of spirited “discussions” about board games. So, in the spirit of our favorite children’s game, we bring you Board Game Bataille, where the Krewe will discuss in a ’round and ’round fashion which game is the best in a specific genre, or with a specific theme or mechanic.

This month: Dudes on a Map games. Let the Bataille begin!

MODERATOR:

All right, Krewe de Gumbo, for today’s Bataille, Dustin suggested we talk about BLOOD RAGE v. CHAOS IN THE OLD WORLD v. KEMET v. FORBIDDEN STARS v. CRY HAVOC.

Here are the rules of the Bataille: (1) You must have played at least two of the listed games to participate; and (2) no hitting below the board game.

Combatants ready? Geaux!

CARLOS:bataille-logo

Okay, guys, Kemet is #1. Kemet is just so finely tuned. I’ll go with Chaos as #2, because it has those awesome dials that set them apart from the others. #3 is Forbidden Stars, then Cry Havoc at #4, and at #5 is Blood Rage. I’ve only got one play-through on each of these, but I’d rank them all somewhere around an 8 on BGG.

DUSTIN:

I have Forbidden Stars number one for the combat system and amazing order marker mechanic, not to mention stellar components (only Blood Rage is better in this category). Next, Chaos in the Old World, because it is asymmetry perfection. Then, Cry Havoc, I love that combat system as well, like a more strategic Kemet, and the multipurpose cards. Fourth is Kemet for the power tiles and streamlined gameplay. Last, but not least, for me is Blood Rage, I like the drafting and the components, just has a few issues that hold it back from being higher on my list.

<awkward pause>

You guys are so much fun.

BRADLY:

I’m thinking! Chaos is my #1. I love the Warhammer universe and Chaos seems to do it much better than Forbidden Stars. The only problem? Knowledge of the game is a major advantage, more so than most of the others.

DAVE:

I think Chaos is way more strategic than Blood Rage, but also way more fiddly.  I really enjoy the asymmetrical aspects of Chaos but the time on there is really killer.  The 5th player expansion adds way too much time.  I think the perfect number for this game is four.

DUSTIN:

I agree with Bradly that Chaos has that one flaw, if you can call it a flaw, that it is so asymmetrical, you have to know who can do what if you want to win. Plus, BJ hates the theme and gore!  I will also(for once) agree with Dave that Chaos is a 4 player game. I enjoy having the Horned Rat expansion to give players a new faction to choose, but I think you should stick to 4 players only. Which I guess is another knock on the game, it only really shines at 4, but if you have that player count regularly, it isn’t an issue.

CARLOS:

Chaos? It is a messy, messy game that could be much better with way less tokens, but because it is super fun, I’m willing to forgive it.

DUSTIN:

I agree, Carlos, but I think an easy fix for Chaos would be corruption tokens that say “+5” on them. The only real issue is how many tokens get placed! But I literally won’t turn a game of Chaos or any other DOAM game down. I wanted to play Vast with the Krewe the other night, but once someone mentioned Cry Havoc, I lost interest!

CARLOS:

I think you’d like Vast. You’d probably enjoy playing the goblins the most. Goblins are the dudes on a map faction.

DUSTIN:

I know I will. I told BJ I want in on the next game. It was the game that I wish I knew existed while I was at Gen Con. Just like I still want to play Star Wars: Rebellion. Not the same genre, but I really want to play. That could be the one game to compete with Fury of Dracula for my hidden movement crown.

CARLOS:

Rebellion is amazing but just really long. Gotta plan that night way in advance.

DAVID:

I agree with Carlos, Rebellion is an amazing experience, possibly the best thematic experience I’ve ever had in a board game.  It might just be my Star Wars fandom but I’ve never had a better thematic experience.  I need to play this again!

DUSTIN:

Yeah, that’s why I can’t bring Forbidden Stars every night, either!

 

bataille-logoMODERATOR:

Bradly, what about your #2?

BRADLY:

Blood Rage, no question. Some of the strategy combinations are really the only downside to the game, in my humble opinion. Otherwise…it’s damned good. Some of those combos are ridiculous, though.  Mostly I like it for its’ simplicity.  Out of the five games on the list, it’s the easiest to pick up and play, as well as teach.  Because of that it also gives the least advantage to experienced players.  If it wasn’t for my undying devotion to Warhammer, Blood Rage would be my #1.  I think it’s mechanically a better game, but theme counts for something and Chaos has theme for days.

DUSTIN:

I love Blood Rage, but I have to agree on the combos. Broken strategies can ruin some games. I would have it ranked above Cry Havoc and Kemet if not for that. I had to put it last because a few games I was literally frustrated and not having fun because of someone exploiting a strategy.

DAVE:

Everything in Blood Rage is great, and to me it has some of the best miniatures in any game but I do believe that a lot of the rules in Blood Rage can be exploited and ruin the experience for others.  I also see a problem with combat in this game but I just can’t get over the production value overall..

bataille-logoBRADLY:

Kemet is the last of the three that I have played.  Among those three, it’s last on my list. I played it three or four times now, and from what I could see some tiles are just substantially better than others. Plus sandbagging is a serious issue in the game.

DUSTIN:

I can see that. Going first is huge in Kemet. Plus, teleportation is a weird mechanic that takes away from the theme.

DAVE:

Hold up guys, everyone knows in Ancient Egypt that people teleported on a regular basis. I mean we are dealing with Egyptian Mythology here, haha.  Kemet is hands down, one of my favorite games on that list. Possibly my favorite game in my collection.  Everyone starts on an even playing field, no one has cards to draft, no one has an advantage over anyone. Unless you know how to play the game that is, which is almost every game though.  Yes Bradly some of the tiles are stronger than others, but everyone has the option or opportunity to get them. I also enjoy the huge swings in this game.

DUSTIN:
You like Kemet because you cheated me out of a victory!

DAVE:

I don’t cheat. Everyone knows you’re the cheater in the group.  You cheated me out of using my Molotov Cocktail in Hit Z Road! I am still steamed about that!

DUSTIN:

Oh really? (while playing Kemet) “No, Dustin, you shouldn’t move all of your troops out of that citadel, you should leave that guy by himself”. Next thing I know, Dave moves his whole army there, kills my one guy and wins. Hit Z Road was my bad, but that’s being new to the rules, not cheating. For cheating, see Kemet example above!

MODERATOR:

Settle down, guys. Okay, Bradly, what’s next?

bataille-logoBRADLY:

As for Forbidden Stars, I have only watched it played. By far it is the most complicated game on this list, and I don’t think it does the theme justice.  My #5, but I feel awkward ranking a game I haven’t played yet.

DUSTIN:

If you play it, Bradly, it might change your mind. The order marker placement is so tense, it is crazy! The only negative to me is its length.

DAVE:

Forbidden Stars is excellent, and I’m so worn out after playing that game, or at least my brain is. I think that the best props or kudos you can give to a game is that you’re not looking at your watch wondering when is it going to end and by the end of the game you’re mentally exhausted but in a good way.  This game has both in SPADES. I also believe in Forbidden Stars that no one is really out of a game, whereas in Blood Rage you can feel like you’re out of the game by year two.

bataille-logoDUSTIN:

Can’t forget Cry Havoc. I love the combat system, if it wasn’t for Forbidden Stars, it would be my favorite system hands down. I also love the multipurpose cards because it makes hard decisions during gameplay. Should I use all these cards for movement? Or hold onto them to use in battle? That brings a lot of tension to the game, and adds a good bit of strategy. Honestly, this one is the newest one on the list, so it may move up (or down) as I play more. The only negative thus far is that I am not convinced all the factions are balanced. Only time will tell.

BRADLY:

Cry Havoc is the other game in the group that I haven’t played myself, but have seen it played multiple times. Ranking it purely on that, I would put it at #3, moving Kemet down to #4; but it’s really close.  One a 1 to 10 I actually give both games a 7.img_0839

DAVE:

I think in Cry Havoc everything is great from components to card play but the combat mechanics aren’t what I’m digging. This game does have A LOT going for it but i think the combat play is going to be very polarizing.

DUSTIN:

I find this odd Dave, considering your favorite is Kemet, which I find this system is very similar to. I would almost call it an upgraded Kemet combat system. It has the objective choices of killing and winning control like Kemet, but adds the prisoner aspect as well(which is something none of the other games do), and is all represented by a board to easily see what is going on. Then add the card play on top of that and I find it very rewarding when you win. You actually feel like you “outsmarted” an opponent, not just “I happen to have better cards so I won”.

DAVE:

I completely understand all the points you’ve made. It is very Kemet-esque. The one big gripe I have with it so far though IS the card play.  To me that aspect is pretty uneventful. It’s almost as if all you’re doing is moving miniatures on a game board fighting for majority in area control, prisoner or killing. Taking away cards that you use for actions.  The cards that you use for fighting give you no bonus almost all they let you do is move from one spot of the board to the other. It doesn’t feel like I’m in combat, but a game of chess.

DUSTIN:

How is that any less eventful than playing cards with symbols? 😉 You still have the card play of Kemet, except adding the board to add even more choices. Plus, you also have to look at what terrain you are in, which adds yet more depth to the combat. And cards that say “add one troop from your reserve” is definitely a bonus. You might not feel like you are in combat playing Cry Havoc, but I sure feel like I am in combat right now.

CARLOS:

I think Cry Havoc was at its best when all of the factions were robots.

DUSTIN:

Lol, not funny Carlos, I was very upset over that one. I had this brand new, hot game ready to play at Gen Con and had my dreams crushed when I opened the box to all Robots. So I did what any mature adult would do, I refused to play until I had the correct toys to play with. Kudos to Portal customer service though. Ignacy saw BJ’s post on the Board Game Gumbo Twitter feed about it and promptly replaced my figures with all of the other factions I was missing.

On another side note, the Portal guys and the designers themselves, have been amazing on The Geek forum for Cry Havoc. They have been answering everyone’s questions quickly and politely, which to me, is a huge deal. It is good to know they believe in their product and not just throwing games out of the door with no customer support.

DAVE:

Robots are cool…

DUSTIN:

I know, Machines player for life….I just can’t win with them.

DAVID:

And don’t you just hate a game where someone who has ZERO clue on what they’re doing and wins…

DUSTIN:

Yes Dave, that is my one gripe with Cry Havoc, and the one thing that probably stops it from competing with Forbidden Stars for number 1. I have seen too many games won by a player who has no clue how to even play because his faction just scores tons of points easily. I have tons of fun playing though, so I look past it. After all, fun is the most important thing, right? Or is it total world domination? Hmmm.

DAVID:

NO,  I MUST WIN. THE DAY I WILL BEAT BRADLY WILL GO DOWN AS ONE OF THE GREATEST DAYS OF MY LIFE.img_0998-2

DUSTIN:

We all know how to beat Bradly. Play Splendor.

DAVID:

Gold.

 

Spice it up! with Celestia

One of my favorite genres of games is the classic push your luck games. I have played Can’t Stop hundreds of times, and I just love rolling the dice just one more time…even No Thanks! has a push your luck element that I can’t resist.

I have been on the look out for a good push your luck game to add to our game nights, one that would add a little more ‘game’, a little more theme to the mechanic. One of the Krewe de Gumbo members, Dustin, brought this game to our game group on the advice of Tom Vasel, and Tom was spot on with this one. At Gen Con 2016, we saw this game being played all over the convention, and we ended up picking up five more copies to bring back to our respective game groups and families!

Are your game nights getting a little bland? Is your game group ready for the next step in push your luck games?

Then, Spice it up! with Celestia.img_0741

Celestia is a 2015 release from Quick Simple Fun Games designed by Aaron Weissblum. The game play is simple: players take turns as captain of an airship floating from island to island. The object is to score more points (treasure cards in this case) than the other players by advancing the ship. Captains advance the ship by rolling 2, 3 or 4 dice (depending upon the island), and then match cards in their hands to the results of the dice rolls. Each island you advance to gives you a chance at higher point cards, and of course, the designer included special power cards that can be used to bend the rules (like force someone to jump out of the airship or to re-roll favorable dice.) The first captain who collects 50 points in treasure cards is the winner.

img_0660The game involves so many mechanics that I love. The captains take turns bluffing the players into thinking that they have enough cards in their hand to match the dice rolls, while the players push their luck on whether to drop out (and take the safe points) or push onto the next island.

Admittedly, the theme is a little pasted on, but on the other hand, it definitely has much more them than No Thanks! and Can’t Stop, which are all just about the mechanics. At least in Celestia, the airship and the artwork and the island boards all contribute to a vague feeling of adventure and treasure hunting. In the end, the theme is not enough to make or break the game, but it does help it…ahem…rise above the competition.

img_0850 The bits and pieces are perfect for this game. The islands have great artwork, and are sturdy cardboard. There are plenty of islands to make the rounds last just long enough to create juicy tension.

The cards themselves are easy to sort and the game is a breeze to set up. The airship even has a rotating propeller on it! The pawns could have been a little more thematic, but I am quibbling here.

The rules are fairly easy to understand from the small rulebook. If I had one real criticism, it is in the size of the print of the rule book — by that I mean, the pictures that are contained of the cards. Whether in the spirit of the game, one of the key calculations is to figure out how many good cards are in the stack in front of you. Unfortunately, the pictures of the cards in the rule book are too tiny, so tiny that they are useless in terms of calculation. Until I actually take the time to separate the cards and look at all of them, I will never know how large the point values can get in each treasure pile. Maybe that was intentional on the part of the designer?

img_0849I have had a lot of success teaching this game to newcomers to our hobby. It takes perhaps one round for even the most inexperienced game night participant to figure out how to play and pick up on some of the bluffing strategies. By round two, even the youngest gamer is picking up on the importance of kicking people out of the airship at just right the time, or bringing down the whole crew crashing if you are the captain and you pushed your luck one island too far.

But, the game also goes over very well as a good filler in our more experienced game groups.  Gamers that are familiar with each other’s ‘tells’ from other bluffing games will not be able to help themselves with trying to guess how many cards a captain has based on an eyebrow twitch or smirk.  And with a quick and easy set up, we can get a few games in while waiting for the main group to arrive, or play it at the end of the night when we just want to play “one more game.”

img_0851Celestia has been a big hit, and I am not sure why it has not gotten more love and buzz from the community.  For my money, it replaces Can’t Stop and maybe even No Thanks! too.

So, if your game nights are getting a little bland, and you really want to introduce a fun filler with lots of bluffing and push your luck elements, then get down to your friendly local game store and pick up a copy of Celestia.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J. 

 

Essen Preview 2016

Down here in Louisiana, there is a small German settlement called Roberts Cove less than thirty minutes off of the interstate.  German farmers settled here over a hundred years ago, and brought their food, culture and, of course, their last names.  By now, many of them have intermingled so much with the residents here in Acadiana that they speak French and consider themselves Cajuns, too. But, they still keep the German traditions alive each year in October at the annual Octoberfest.

So, the Krewe asks itself — why should we fly twelve hours away to the town of Essen, when we can get traditional German sausages and listen to German music right here in Louisiana?

Any board gamer knows that answer: there’s no Essen Spiel in Roberts Cove!  Is Essen the biggest, most important game convention? Or is it Gen Con?  Since the Krewe has never attended Essen, we do not have an opinion…………yet.

But with Essen Spiel in Germany taking place in less than two months, this is a great time to start looking at the games that we are most anticipating.

I am sure you have heard Tom Vasel proclaim that somewhere between 500-1000 games get introduced to the gaming world at Essen. I have yet to confirm this, but after looking at the huge list put together by Board Game Geek’s W. Eric Martin, I can believe it. (By the way, one of the BGG users  re-ordered in terms of popularity, and that list is already 20 pages long!)  That’s a lot of games.

What is Essen? The Internationale Spieltage SPIEL — or Essen for short, based on the city in Germany where it is held each year — is a trade fair put on by hundreds of board game publishers from around the world. On that basis alone, it is different from Gen Con (which seems more like a fan based con that industry participates in), but regular board gaming fans are also allowed to go to Essen for the show. For the last four years, around 150,000 board game aficionados browse, demo, play games and shop for four days in October.

(For an excellent recap of the differences between Gen Con and Essen and the other big cons, check out Paul Grogan’s excellent interview with Tom Vasel here.)

So, without further ado, Bradly and B.J., two of the Krewe de Gumbo members, share with you five of their most anticipated games, in no particular order.

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Ave Roma is a former Kickstarter project from A-Games out of Hungary that is just now hitting the European shores. It bills itself as a “worker drafting” Euro, and is for 2-5 players. From Krewe member, B.J.: The artwork depicted in the KS project is stunning, and the game play is intriguing.   Every player starts the game with the same workers, but after that it is every meeple for himself. It also hints at a different type of trading mechanism, one where over production is rewarded (as opposed to many Euros that favor a tight, controlled economy where the most efficient player usually wins.) It definitely looks to be a little bit too heavy for my usual game group, but I’ll bet the Krewe is ready for the challenge.

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Noxford is a territory building card game from Capsicum Games, designed by Henri Kermarrec for 2-4 players. From Krewe member, Bradly: The closest game I can relate to Noxford is dominoes. Players take turns laying cards. Cards can be related to their faction, neutral, or barracks. Faction cards are how you claim neutral cards. At the end of the game, the faction with the most cards surrounding a neutral card claims it as their own. Neutral cards are how you gain points, and Barracks are essentially attack cards that can cancel out opponent’s special abilities. The rules appear to be very simple: each card placed much about another card already placed, and the winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. This game looks really good. 

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Kanagawa is a new game published by IELLOdesigned by the dynamic duo that brought you Abyss, Bruno Cathala and Charles Chevallier. According to the Game Boy Geek, the game combines a cool press your luck mechanism with card drafting. From B.J.: I really love Abyss, and I see some elements that make it look like Kanagawa is a spiritual successor of that great game. I love the thought of more press your luck drafting. But, I am also drawn in by the original theme of playing painters decorating bamboo sheets with beautiful paintings. Definitely not Trading in the Mediterranean! Plus, the previews we have seen show some really incredible art from newcomer (at least to me) artist, Jade Mosch

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Age of Thieves is brought to you by Galakta, a publisher from Poland, and designed by Sławomir Stępień. It is an interesting card/miniature game for 2-4 players that plays between 1-2 hours. From Bradly: A group of master thieves have descended upon the capital in an attempt to rob the Emperor blind. But to do so, they not only need to break into his vault, but also escape the city with their ill gotten loot. Complicate this with the fact that they are not working together, and you have the basis for Age of Thieves.

 

delphi_cover_1200Oracles at Delphi is the impressive new Stefan Feld release from H@ll Games and Pegasus Spiele that is designed for 2-4 players. It carries a posted playing time of 70-100 minutes, and unlike many of Feld’s previous releases, the previewed artwork is gorgeous. From B.J.: The bright colors on the box cover, and the leaked images we have seen of prototypes look nothing like most of Feld’s other releases. It is a meaty game, but I like the posted time, and I like the description of the game play that I have seen so far. The idea of ship travel across the board, following in the footsteps of that great Greek hero, Odysseus, revs up the acquisition disorder for this one. Definitely one to check out. 

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J.

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