Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming. If you follow me on social media, you know that Gumbo Game Night has moved to a new location, Anubis Games & Hobby. Our new game night has really taken off since we moved it to the shop. Each Wednesday night, we are seeing anywhere from 20-30 gamers wanting to play the latest thematic hotness from BGG or an old familiar classic Euro.
Like a lot of you reading this blog, we have almost as much fun talking about the games in the parking lot after the store closes as we do playing them. This series will be a recap and quick overview of the plays, with a little bit of commentary throw in after talking with the other players.
WHAT’S NEW, ANUBIS?
First up, I got there a few minutes before everyone else, so it gave me a chance to wander the store a bit and see what is new on the shelves. Anubis’s wonderful owners are bringing out some of the small box games from Games Workshop. Dustin and I have an irregular lunch game of Shadespire and Blitz Bowl going (which we affectionately call “Lunchspire”), and it is nice to see that Anubis is carrying even more of the new factions. I hope to get these new factions to the table soon — well, as soon as Dustin picks them up!
FALL OF TRIBES, BJ STYLE:
Next up, we had enough players straggling in to get in a game of Rise of Tribes, from Breaking Games. Bradly has the Kickstarter edition, so our experience is with the upgraded bits and cards. Rise of Tribes was designed by Brad Brooks with art from Sergio Chaves., and plays 2-4 players in about an hour. Players are the leaders of prehistoric tribes, who will build villages, explore the area, gather resources, upgrade their civilizations, and, of course and inevitably, tangle with other tribes in a fight for supremacy.
This was my second play of Rise of Tribes, and now that I am comfortable with the system, I am really appreciating the fact that the designer has pulled off a truly 4X game that can be taught in five or ten minutes and yet checks off all the boxes. I love the dice system (even as I got hosed last night by lady luck), and the small size of your deck means that more plays brings familiarity with long term strategy in digging through your available cards.
Plus, rolling doubles on the action dice is always exciting, because it brings out a new event, which may not be the heart of the game, but certainly is one of the exciting elements. Each set of doubles has a chance to bring out different ways to affect resource gathering or conflict or even bring out new elements to the board like a Wooly Mammoth or Volcano. The new elements never overstay their welcome, and are not very over powered, but are just strong enough to amp up your move, or even distract you from your goal of scoring 15 points before any one else.
My only quibble is the tile choices — some of them from a distance look pretty closely like the other tiles, and one has to remember which tile does which. It is one of the most critical aspects of strategy in this game, knowing what the tiles do and how they can benefit your short term and long term strategies. If there were just a little player card included in the game with a cheatsheet to all of the tiles, it would have helped so much. Players (like me) are hesitant to ask questions about tiles because that could signal a big move before it is your turn.
It is a minor quibble, though, because the game is stunning to look at on the table, easy to teach, and plays quickly. If you like conflict, this is a great game for you, because with a crowded board, there’s always gonna be some fightin’. Bradly and a yet-to-be-named player duked it out all game, and Bradly took the win.
Roux Dat says: Two thumbs up for me for Rise of Tribes — but stay away if you do not like the eXterminate part of 4X games.
TAKE THAT, HISTORY
On another table, enough players had arrived, and Bryan started up a four player game of The Flow of History, published by Tasty Minstrel Games, with Kent, Chris and Sagan. This is probably our most played game in the Gumbo in 2018 (although Azul and Root are pretty close), because it plays so well at three, four and five players, and looks amazing on the table when new gamers pass by and see the tiny little metal money and the cool player pieces.
Jess Li, the designer of Ponzi Scheme, showed off his bidding and player interaction chops again in this one hour long romp through civilization building via this tableau building, card bidding, card stealing, and card upgrading game. (See our linked post for a full review).
I heard one or two murmurs last night, however. Gumbo Game Night is a time for a lot of gamers from different game groups to hang out together, try new games, and bring the best back to the regular groups. One of the players said that The Flow of History went over like a lead balloon with his home group, because the three actions (investing, stealing, and harvesting) were so different in the way the resources were handled that it was confusing to some of the players. I get that complaint, but it only takes a half of a game or two to get the…ahem…flow of the game.
Another player confided in me after the game that he “can’t stand the game” — because the “take that” element in the stealing of the cards is just too mean. I get that complaint, too. I have seen a fair amount of red faces during a game when a player is pretty aggressive on stealing cards (and might be guilty of a red face or two myself — those $#@%# red military cards!!), but generally, players understand that since this is a card based game, the mechanism is necessary for balancing the game and for creating that player interaction that is the hall mark of the eXterminate in a 4X game. Now, this is not to say that The Flow of History is a 4X game, but most civilization games have to include a way for the civilizations to expand and encroach on other player’s territories. Aggressively taking cards from other players can backfire, however, especially if that player you took from has invested heavily in the trade symbols.
Roux Dat says: The Flow of History is still award worthy, but you have to have the right group dynamics to enjoy it.
BACK TO PORTUGAL, ANYONE?
When we finished up Rise of Tribes, David and Sara asked to play Coimbra, the new hit from Eggertspiele and some of the same design team as Lorenzo il Magnifico, Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli, with absolutely amazing art from Christopher Quilliams. (Check out our full review here.)
The teach-and-play took about two hours, a little longer than normal, but there was a lot of discussion during the game about strategy and tactical decisions on all part of the board, which was fun to do. Since I have played the game more than a half dozen times already, I thought I would try a new strategy I saw on BGG, focusing on the movement and monastery tiles to build up a big score at the end.
I kind of lost focus in the middle, because I was pretty short handed when it came to shields and coins, so I fell short, but it was a pretty fun strategy to try. Rosemary — who we are all sad to see is leaving our little Krewe to head back home – and I were competing neck and neck for the same cards almost the entire game, and that probably hurt us in the end.
David had been in last place almost the entire game, but had some good investments in the discovery voyages and one end game scoring card that really helped him maximize his investment in diplomas, so he took the win, but just barely because Sara really cranked out the points from the scoring tracks and game very close.
Roux Dat says: Still my favorite strategy game of the year, but we have a few coming in this week, so I’m still open. I think I like it best at three players.
Battlestar Galactica on a Gumbo Game Night? Yep, the dream is real! While I was playing Coimbra, I could not help but look back and ask for updates on how the game was going.
As is par for the course, Bradly was an early Cylon, but had some help from another Cylon who also got the card early in the game. The heroes on the BSG ship could not overcome this very powerful combo, and when I last heard, the Cylons were easily victorious over Chris, Kent, and Bryan.
The Gumbo has the Pegasus expansion coming in, so cannot wait to get in a full game of Battlestar Galatica with the entire Krewe. Maybe we can get in a game with Carlos at BGG.Con?
Roux Dat says: One of the best pure game experiences, and I’m ready to try the Pegasus expansion.
Behind our table, we had a new visitor to the group, Robert, who is finishing up his Master’s and has some free time for gaming. Sagan jumped right in, teaching him Sola Fide: The Reformation from Stronghold Games. Sola Fide, designed by Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard with art from Harold Lieuske, is the spiritual successor (I hear) to Twilight Struggle, which held the top spot on BGG for so long.
In Sola Fide, two players will attempt to battle over the effects of the Reformation to the Holy Roman Empire, in a card driven game that lasts about forty-five minutes. I remember well when Stephen Buonocore, the president of Stronghold Games, came out in monk’s robes during the Dice Tower Live show back at GEN CON 2016. Some day I will get a chance to play this game.
Roux Dat says: Listening to the back and forth going on behind me juices me up for playing this game. Maybe next week?
FALL OUT BOYS AND GIRLS
On one of the back tables, a large group of players were playing the base game of Fallout, a 2017 science fiction exploration game from Fantasy Flight. It is designed by Andrew Fischer and Nathan I Hajek, and plays 1-4 players in about two and half hours. The owner of the game, Jeremy, who taught it to the players was pretty happy with the play, but it sounded like he is angling for the expansion to fix some of problems. Ben called it a basic dungeon crawler with a familiar theme from the video game he has played. He is looking for another play, now that he understands the rules better.
Roux Dat says: I have never played this game, so I do not have much details. Not really my type of theme or game, so I’ll have to wait until Ben and Jeremy play it and the expansion for more info.
Finally, we finished the night with two games, one an old favorite of the Gumbo, and one a new game that just arrived from Kickstarter.
SUPERTALL AND SUPERSMALL
On our table, I convinced Rosemary and Sagan to try Nat Levan’s entry in the Wallet series from Buttonshy Games called SuperTall. Nat is the designer of one of my favorite all time worker placement games, New Bedford. He went away from the coastal and historical whaling scene to dive into a building themed game.
SuperTall plays 2-3 players in about 20 minutes, and consists of a small deck of cards (not too sure at the moment how many, as I threw in the expansion ‘municipal’ cards into the deck, but probably around 24 or so) which are designated as five different types of additions to a tall skyscraper. Each different type of building addition scores differently when placed at the top of a player’s two playable towers (basically stacks of these cards), and each tower is adjacent to the towers of the players to the left and right.
There is also a city hall tower in the middle, which is also adjacent to every player’s towers. Whatever type of building addition is on top of the city hall tower will not score at the end of the game, so you can see that the entire game is a tug-of-war between the players trying to maximize points in their own towers while ensuring that the city hall tower only affects the other players.
We kind of struggled through the first game, because each card has three or four different elements that are all used differently. Each card can be used for its immediate effect (then discarded to the draw decks), or as a scoring card (placed on top of your tower), or to influence the end game scoring (by cancelling other players’ towers from the city hall tower). You even have to consider the tax value of the building’s addition, because that affects where you can place the card and can also give you two points of bonus scoring at the end if you have the most expensive towers.
I kept trying out every combination of how to play the cards, just to get a feel for the mechanics, and so Sagan and Rosemary took advantage to claim first and second, respectively. Nat, the designer, cleared up a few questions on Twitter so I am anxious to try it again.
Roux Dat says: This was the first multi-use twenty five card deck game I’ve ever played that is supposed to fit in your back pocket and take less than a half hour. That’s an ambitious goal for an end of the night learn-and-teach, but now that we have the basics down, I think the next games will be a lot easier on the brain.
JUST SOME HONEST CHICKENS AND APPLES HERE
Over on the other table, the final game of the night was the always popular Sheriff of Nottingham. Sheriff is a 2014 release from Arcane Wonders that is one of the best bluffing games out there. Designed by Sergio Halaban and Andre Zatz, with art by Lorraine Schleter and David Sladek, it plays 3-5 players and lasts about an hour.
Oh, what tangled lies we weave during this game! Players are merchants — honest or otherwise — seeking to score the most points by drafting cards and collecting sets. Can they sneak contraband past the nosy but bribable Sheriff of Nottingham? Last night, it sounded like the same team of Bradly and the yet-to-be-named player were tearing up the market, and Bradly was able to sneak past the win with a few sneaky trades. Kent, Bryan and Chris could not overcome Bradly’s treachory, at least for one night.
Roux Dat says: Still one of my favorite bluffing games of all time. I wish my dad were still alive to play it — he would have gotten a kick out of this game.
So, that’s it for Gumbo Game Night and our post-game night quarterbacking session. Roux Dat will be back in future weeks with more short commentary on our games. Is there any game that you suggest for the next Roux Dat? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo and let’s chat about it.
Coming up: Heaven & Ale, Sol, and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!