Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming. It’s time for more post-game QB-ing after our Gumbo Game Night this week. Our game night on Halloween was a little slower than normal last night, which is not surprising because of the weather and because of the trick-or-treating, but we still managed three tables of gamers.
The Krewe de Gumbo loves to feature a game once a month as our “Board Game Gumbo Game of the Month.” We realize that our FLGS only stays open if there is traffic to the store, with happy customers buying games, cards, paints, snacks and sodas. So, we came up with this GotM series to get some free publicity for the store, and also encourage people to try out a game we love or a game we are interested in playing.
MIND YOUR ELDERS
What better game to feature on Halloween night than Fate of the Elder Gods, designed by Chris Kirkman, Darrell Louder, and Richard Launius? The game is for 2-4 players, and plays in just a little over an hour. For a full recap of our thoughts on the game, check out our blog post here.
The designers have flipped the usual Cthulu scenario on its head. Each player takes on the role of a lodge of cultists, bent on summoning their own Elder God before their rival cultists do. Investigators are out to destroy your ability to summon your Elder God by sealing the connection. Your only hope is to visit as many of the powerful locations on the board, and grab powerful artifacts, ready spells, and disperse your many minions across the landscape. There is a lot of dice chucking and player interaction, and yes, a lot of chaos, too. But the chaos can be managed a bit through the use of the spell cards and artifact cards.
It is surprisingly deep for what is essentially a euro/ameritreasure hybrid, especially due to the multi-use spell cards. Although the decision tree is not long, making AP not much of a factor, there are still juicy decisions to make — do I ready this spell for later use (or for its value in reducing the cost of other spells), or do I hold it in my hand to ensure I can move the action piece to the spot I want on the board? So juicy.
We played with four players, which is my favorite number for this game. Bryan did a great job with the rules overview, and Adam and Ben caught on quickly. I raced out to an early lead using my elder god’s Dark Gift — I could snatch up other cultists, and devour them for points. That put an easy target on my back, but having other players curse you to get a leg up is actually one of the best parts of this game. When a player is cursed, bad things happen — but the player does not know what will trigger that bad event! Only the player to the right of that player knows and has to watch out for the trigger. At one point, I had two curses going, so I knew it might go downhill pretty quickly.
And it did.
I went from zero seals on my lodge, to eight in two turns, and was fighting off any more when another curse triggered and gave me two more to end the game. Bryan snuck out the win with some heady play, getting rid of his seals right at the end. All in all, we had a rollicking good time.
If there are any complaints about the game — and these are few and far between, because the gameplay is solid, the artwork is amazing (some of it from our buddy, Nolan Nasser), and the production quality is AMAZING — it is the fact that there are three or four important but tricky rules to remember. It is not the design’s fault, but some of the rules just need constant referencing, especially if you have not played in a while. Lucky for us, Chris Kirkman has a great video that explains five common rules that are forgotten, and even better, the game comes with two excellent player aids for each player that explains almost everything you need to keep the game running smoothly.
Adam and Ben enjoyed their first play. Bryan’s beef with the game is that it can be very swingy, and most of the time devolves into “King of the HIll” type scenarios. Ben’s only comment was that he “enjoy(ed) Fate of the Elder Gods” and that he likes “take that” games. (Well, he put it in more colorful language than that, but you get the drift.) Great way to celebrate Halloween!
Roux Dat says: I get Bryan’s take, and frankly, most games end with piles of seals on everyone’s boards, but I’ve also seen a bunch of victories come when a player develops a good engine and can churn out the summoning points needed to win. Hey, the game is basically advertised as a dice throwing, spell casting, backstabbing-the-other-cults-while-you-scramble-for-points game, so no one can say that there’s any false advertising in this game. I give it fourteen smoked tasso out of eighteen sauce picantes.
A CURE FOR WHAT ALES YOU
We finished off the night with another play of Heaven & Ale, from Eggertspiele. I was the only one who had played it before game night, but luckily, it is a quick and easy teach. Heaven & Ale came out in 2017, and had a lot of good buzz when it hit the hobby. It is a single worker placement game that plays 2-4 players in about an hour to an hour and a half.
Heaven & Ale first caught my eye for the artwork, and also because it looked very thematic when it came out. I love thematic euros, but does the brew making theme really hold up?
Well…….not exactly. While the artwork on the box is gorgeous, this Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt design ditches the theme pretty quickly in favor of some very interesting mechanism choices. Sure, you have a brewmaster who moves up a track ostensibly to show his prowess in brewing expertise, and I guess you are buying ingredients for the “shady” and “sunny” sides of your player board, but really it is just an efficiency engine.
Let’s look at what you need to win. There are only four ways to score points: Get your ingredient & brewmaster tokens on the track high enough to get a good multiplier; Collect barrels signifying milestones along the way; Pile up some cash for a 10-1 point ratio; and finish as the last person to hold the “first player spot” for one extra point. And you have to do this faster and better than the other players to win.
Understanding the play of the game is surprisingly easy. There is only one thing you can do on your turn — move as far on the rectangle track that goes around the board as you want and take the action that you land on. There are four different actions — buying monk tiles, buying ingredient tiles, using the very limited activation discs, or claiming end game victory point barrels.
The monk and ingredient tiles that you buy will either go on your shady (normal cost) or sunny (double cost) sides, and give you back money (ingredient tiles) or moves on your brewmaster track (monk tiles) or moves on your ingredient tracks (ingredient tiles) respectively, when you activate them with the purple discs or close off an entire circle of tiles. Closing a circle also gives you the potential for moving your brewmaster even further up the track, too.
The final action is to land on one of the two barrel spots, and claim any and all of the large and small barrels that you have fulfilled with your board. There are only two of each worth either four or two points, so it is a race to be the most efficient player to earn the barrels as quickly as possible. (Well, technically, the final action is reaching the end of the board’s movement track and claiming money, ingredient moves, brewmaster moves, or the right to be first player, but it is really just a benefit of passing until the next round.)
That probably seems pretty dry to some of you. If it sounds like I did not enjoy my play, I apologize, because I have enjoyed the heck out of every play so far. The Krewe de Gumbo knows that I will tolerate a lack of theme with some really strong play, and Heaven & Ale has it in the suds. The decision how far to go down the movement track, and whether someone will jump just ahead of you to take the token or disc or barrel space you really need, is as freaking delicious as eating smoked boudin on gameday. Those tough decisions have caused me to stare at a token next to the one I wanted just to try to bluff the other players into taking it instead of the one I wanted! (It did not work.)
Games like Heaven & Ale are not for everyone, admittedly. But even Ben, who loves thematic games and “take that” games, said he liked his first play. I think what would would make Heaven & Ale attractive to even ameritrash players is the puzzly nature of the game. It is similar to the decisions one makes when opening up a room in a dungeon for the first time, and puzzling out how best to take out the monsters, but instead of throwing axes at baddies, you are plotting out the most efficient way to enclose your garden shed with barley and hops.
Sounds fun, right?
And if you are into player interactivity, don’t worry, there’s lots of finger pointing and trash talk. Taking a tile or purple disc right before another player does just feels so smooth. You can really mess up another player’s plans if you think it through.
Adam and Ben both played for the first time. Adam was content to ignore the fight between me and Ben for the 1s and 5s scoring barrels, and instead seemed to just focus on moving up his ingredients. It paid off, and he mopped up, doubling our scores. That was not too hard, because Ben and I didn’t get our ingredients far enough to score any multipliers, a death knell for any plan to win the game.
Roux Dat says: This game is right up my alley. It has cool art on the cover, interesting twists on the action selection mechanic, a wonderfully delicious system of getting money and moving up your tracks using the exact same tiles, and just enough player interaction to satisfy my social needs. I’ll sum it up quickly — I need more Heaven & Ale. Come find me at BGG.con and we’ll get some brewing done!
TINY EPIC RULES:
The last game of the night, on a different table from ours, was Tiny Epic Zombies. Kent had two buddies join him, and it looked like they had a good time. I think they were playing the one versus many rules this time.
This was the second time I saw people playing Tiny Epic Zombies at Anubis, and both times it seems that the stumbling block for this game was rules questions. I have never played the game, so I am definitely not reviewing it here. But, Kent says TEZ needs better explanations in the rule book — about half the time, players disagree over interpretations to what is supposed to be pretty simple rules.
Roux Dat says: Hey publishers — invest in a rules editor, streamline the game, and let the mechanics get out of the way of your games! This should be an epic themed zombie fest, but it comes down to a lot of rules arguments instead. But, thumbs up for some cool meeples.
So, that’s it for Gumbo Game Night and our post-game night quarterbacking session. Roux Dat will be back with more commentary and reviews about the games we are playing. Is there a game that you would like to suggest for the next Roux Dat? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo and let’s chat about it.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!