Roux Dat #3 Big Game Sunday!

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 a recent Big Game Sunday, where we try to play at least one longer euro or campaign game.

The Krewe de Gumbo came up with a little contest this year — we each picked a game we want to play more, and committed to teaching it and playing it with everyone in the Krewe. After everyone has played everyone else’s game at least once (and preferably a few times), we will secretly vote on the best game. The Krewe member who nominated that game gets a new game for free!

WE RE-BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK & ROLL

My pick was Lisboa, and though I have a few games in with two and four players for one age only, I’ve gotten only one full play in with Kyle at And Books Too. This time, we were determined to finish a three player game, and enlisted Bradly to join. Kyle and I were still familiar with the rules — although there were a few questions here and there — but Bradly needed a quick teach again, which took about a half-hour because we talked strategy as well as rules issues.

Lisboa is a 2017 release from Eagle-Gryphon Games designed by famed euro designer, Vital Lacerdo. It plays from one to four players in about two hours, with a good solid 30-60 minute teach required for new players. There’s also an excellent instructional video from Paul Grogan that every player should watch.

The city of Lisboa was destroyed in the 18th century by an earthquake that spawned fire and tsunami damage, wiping out most of the buildings. The king and his Marquis hired a builder to rebuild the city, who did it based on upon the furious work of two famed architects. Players play as the assistants to the city building, working for favor among the King, Marquis and Bulder, as well as the church, to rebuild the downtown with shops and public buildings. Players can also increase the commerce of the city by producing goods and sailing them to far off ports. Royal Decree cards will give lots of end game bonus scoring, if the right ones are chosen for the player’s plans.

Players must be efficient in their plots and schemes to rebuild Lisboa, however. Time is limited as players will have only two ages (either rebuilding two lines of rubble on their excellently designed and produced player boards, or using up three of the four available action decks) to accomplish their goals — plus a Vital signature “one last round” phase.

As usual, the first round or two of a Lacerda game was a bit intimidating. Lisboa feels like a “sandbox euro” where there is no obvious first moves to take. Buy a ship so that players cash in (they will run out of money early and quickly) and score points and influence? Build a shop on the five real spot to lower the cost? Grab royal favors to follow your other players? There’s so much to think about!

Once the game got cruising, Bradly was able to pick up steam and score some points along the way. He seemed to be keying on the influence track and production from his buildings. I was focused on dominating the biggest point street and getting the right public buildings. I also added a ship or two for points, and grabbed appropriate end game scoring cards from the decree line. Kyle stayed on top of his plan to build shops in another area and increasing his production.

As we got deeper into the game, the math and the tactics melted away into more of the theme of the game. Buying ships naturally led to people producing more goods, so that they could fill your ships. Streets began to take shape and have flavor. When we weren’t buying decree cards, we were “bribing the nobles” or “rebuilding that city”.

Bradly was victorious, but it was a surprising close score, with all of us breaking 100. I’m still the biggest fan of the artwork out of the group; both of the other players found that the monotone color and muted look made it a little harder to see in the dim light of the Big Game Stadium.

Roux Dat says: Everybody agreed that Lisboa was one of the best euro strategy game experiences we have had this year, and we are all ready to play it again. Impressive art, thinky and thematic design, with lots of little frustrating but important rules, Lisboa is still on my list for top ten games of 2017.

SECOND TIME IS THE CHARM?

Next up, we had just enough time to play one more strategy game, albeit a little bit lighter than Lisboa. Bruno Cathala’s designs are some of my favorites (Shadows Over Camelot, Abyss, 7 Wonders Duel, Kanagawa, and Kingdomino to name just a few of my favorites). But, the first time I played Yamatai, his 2017 release from Days of Wonder, I was left pretty flat. Would that hold true again?

Yamatai is a beautifully produced 2-4 person game from Days of Wonder designed by Cathala and Marc Paquien, with gorgeous art from Jeremie Fleury. Players take on the roles of builders in the land of Yamatai, competing to score the most points by building out palaces, torii, and their own buildings. The game uses an interesting action mechanism: players will have five available tiles each round to choose (with five more waiting in the wings).

Each action is stronger in terms of the ships they will receive for choose that action, which can be used to explore the land and place buildings down, and can include strong break-the-game-rules actions (like eliminating other ships). But, the stronger actions will also force a player lower in the player order for the next round (a mechanism that Bruno drilled down to its simplicity in Kingdomino to great effect), which means that players may miss out on the best buildings to build the next round.

And to add to the strategy, players can choose to forgo a build action to claim “sand dollars” from the land that they have explored, which can be turned in for permanent power cards (called “specialists” as I recall) that can really ratchet up the scoring.

When I played it the first time, there seemed to be a lot of wait time between turns, as players tried to math out the best moves. I did not since much exploration, just naked grabs for the best buildings with a lot of take that from some of the players. (This game has cards that give actions that can really interact with other players’ moves, not to mention the fact that players can pretty much figure out what other players want to do on their turns and spoil it with a well-placed boat or two.) There’s nothing wrong with player interactivity (see our very happy look at The Flow of History), but it cannot be the end all of the game if that is not really the intent of the design to entice me.

This session with Kyle and Bradly went much better. Oh yeah, there was plenty of player interactivity. Each of us kept an eye on the other player’s areas, looking for ways to force players into taking a less ideal move. I even went all in on ‘take that’ strategy, choosing a bonus power that gave me money from other players every time they built a building next to one of mine.

I figured out really quickly that I did not have to worry about money for the rest of the game, but just focused on building buildings right down the center of the board. The other players had practically no choice but to play next to one of my buildings, and watched the clock carefully because they knew I was putting a building down on almost every round.

Did I win? Of course not, but it was a pretty close race for second. (Bradly grabbed the money / points tiles and ran away with it with a huge vault of cash worthy of Uncle Scrooge’s envy.) More importantly, it was a great experience this time, looking over the cards, spying the actions that were out on the board (and the ones that had a 60% chance of coming out next time) and plotting out my moves. Each of us had a different strategy that was dictated in a way by the special powers we picked up along the way. The rotating action tiles, ever changing buildings and those oh-so-sweet specialist tiles give me the impression that replayability is probably not a problem here.

Fair warning — if you are not a fan of spatial puzzles or math-ing out your next move, then you may want to sail past Yamatai (and its distant, but inferior in my mind cousin, Five Tribes) and look for other ports. There will be times when a player takes “your action” right before your turn, and you will have to hit pause as you rethink your next move. (Color me experienced in that regard.) But if you get past those two downers, and it still sounds interesting to you, then check out Yamatai at your next game day.

Roux Dat says: Yep, second time is the charm. I really enjoyed this play of Yamatai, and this time I had a little more time to look at the board and tile art, which is impressive. Not only that, I saw more the interlock between the action tiles, buildings, and specialist cards. There’s not one way to win, but multiple paths to victory at least on second glance. Yamatai is a game I don’t need to own, but I am happy to play it when it hits the table.

CONCLUSION:

So, that’s it for Big Game Sunday and our post-game day quarterbacking session. Roux Dat will be back 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.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

— BJ

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