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 most recent Gumbo Game Night this past week.
This was one of the worst weeks for weather we have had in South Louisiana in a long time. Almost ten days straight of rain has left the roads flooded and the ditches overflowing — and yet, we had five tables of card and board gamers dueling it out with lots of varied games! That just goes to show how dedicated we are to board games down here, or maybe that we’re slightly off our rockers.
No Cthulu For You
First up for the Krewe? Bradly and I had been wanting to play AuZtralia, the new Stronghold Games release designed by Martin Wallace. It is a train style economic game that has an apocalyptic theme centered around the Cthulu mythos. The conceit is that Sherlock Holmes has defeated The Old Ones in London (remember A Study in Emerald?), but now they have taken up residence Down Under to wreak even more havoc.
Players build out their railroad network so that they can quickly shuttle armies and airships around the board, as well as harvest precious resources. You also build farms and try to settle the Australian Outback and collect Personality Cards (helpers) that provide either one time bonuses, permanent special abilities, or additional endgame scoring. Yes, it is a very weird amalgamation of themes, but surprisingly, the game feels very thematic.
We had a good time blasting back the zombies and other minions of the dark in a game that took about an hour and a half. I focused heavily on a farming strategy and only battled a few baddies; that turned out to be a poor choice. Bradly had a good mix of fighting, resource gathering, and farming, and was the clear leader, with Bryan nipping at his heels.
Kent took his usual “lay waste to the minions” strategy all the way through the end of the game, and easily had the best tableau of military personality cards, but was pretty lacking in points production otherwise. A couple of particularly brutal fiends laid absolute waste to his farms hurting his production at the end.
An interesting twist that Martin Wallace added was the time track. Instead of the usual victory point track around the board, the timer of the game (as well as the all important player turn order) revolved around the different actions you took. Each adds “time units” to the time track, meaning that if you took three time points to build some track through the mountains, then your marker went ahead on the board three spaces. That also means it is going to be a while for your next turn to occur, because the other players had to pass you before it was your turn again.
I also liked the fact that the baddies get a turn in the form of a marker that sits on the time board. Get too far ahead of the bad guys, and they will take turn after turn in a row.
My only complaint is that the game felt a little anti-climactic in the end. I was halfway expecting a big showdown with some bad guy who would be plopped onto the board, but once we defeated all of the bad guys, it was just a math exercise to see how many points we could score before running out of time.
Roux Dat says: The first Martin Wallace game I have played in a long while is a surprisingly thematic economic game. I enjoyed the game play, as well as the twists on fairly familiar mechanics. AuZtralia is not a game I need to own, but is a solid game that I would play again. By the way, Stronghold Games gets a lot of grief for their components, but not this time. AuZtralia is a great production with lots of thematic art and graphical choices, and some chunky pieces.
Bradly says: I haven’t played a lot of Martin Wallace games; Via Nebula and, now, AuZtralia being the only two to stand out in my mind. I like them both, although they are not my favorite style of game. Both games would rate a 7 for me. I really enjoy the time track of AuZtralia, as well as the effect of the bad guys getting their own turns. One thing BJ forgot to mention is that the Old Gods also score Victory Points at the end of the game, which I thought was very clever. So it’s possible for you to be the best ‘player’ at the game, and still lose to the Old Gods.
We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
While we were tackling the Old Ones, John brought the Southern Board Game Fest library copy of Captains of the Gulf. The designer, Jason Dinger, is a contributor here on the Gumbo, and a frequent guest on Gumbo Live! We saw the game being played all over BGG Con, but this is the first time the real production has been played at Gumbo Game Night.
What a beauty! John set up a two player game with Kyle. I popped my head over there a couple of times, and the game play was going pretty smoothly. Jason does a good job of answering questions on the BGG forums, so that is a big help, too.
Roux Dat says: I have not played this one in over a year, well before it was even signed. Can’t wait to try out Bradly’s copy on one of our Sunday game nights.
Bradly says: Though I didn’t play CotG this Wednesday, I feel the urge to plug a local designer. Dinger just announced that his next game, ‘Crescent City Cargo’, is being picked up by Spielworxx. I got to play it at BGGCon, and I enjoy it even more than Captains of the Gulf. It looks like Dinger’s Trilogy is only gonna get better, with his third game not yet announced. I may have gotten a sneak peek at BGGCon, but I’ll never tell.
Kyle says: My experience with Captains of the Gulf was that of a complex decision-making half-marathon. By that I mean my game was a 2-player variant, meaning only a few seconds between turns, resulting in constant brain benders of “if I do this, then I can’t do that, but if I do this, then I CAN do that.”
Now, the multi-purpose cards would be very difficult for new gamers to fully grasp, the repopulation of fisheries was a bit finicky, and the iconography required more than one trip to the rulebook, but despite those manageable shortcomings, this is a great game. The decisions felt real and impactful. Over-fishing means fish will struggle to recover. If you can’t manage your fuel, licenses, crew, and money, you will struggle to recover!
I was reminded of the action-selecting, tableau-building Lisboa. They share complex decision-making and multi-purpose cards, and while both offer dozens of decisions per turn, CotG felt a bit leaner and more accessible. Your resources felt much more “real”.
I mentioned half-marathon earlier because it’s important to think longer, but not too long-term in this game, as the game lasts several specified rounds. I won, which helps me to say I liked it, but I can’t wait to go offshore again, especially with a higher player count.
I Think I Know Where You Think I Am, But Do We Really Know?
Some games are what I call “peripheral vision” games. Every time I turn on social media, I see glimpses of a game with a cool theme, or shiny components, or good buzz about the game play, but I never see the actual game in the wild. It’s always in the corner of my eye but never right in front of me!
The biggest game that has caught the corner of my eye is Cryptid from Osprey Games. I’ve heard so many good reviews on podcasts that my interest was piqued. And yet, there have been quite a few naysayers, saying the complete lack of theme hurts the game.
John brought the game this week, and we set up a four player game. The premise is actually pretty simple. The game plays up to five players, who are each assigned one important clue about the whereabouts of a mysterious “Cryptid” located somewhere on a modular board. The board is made up of a bunch of different land types, likes swamps, desert, mountains and water. Clues could be as simple as ‘The Cryptid is definitely on a forest or a desert space’, or perhaps that the Cryptid is ‘within one space of a swamp tile’ or even an area containing standing stones or known to be frequented by certain animal groups.
Players can only take two actions on their turn — either ask yes or no questions of the other players as to whether the Cryptid could be on a particular space (which they will respond truthfully based on their knowledge of the clue given to them); or begin a search, which means that the players one by one have to admit whether the space is suitable. (The search stops, however, if any player in turn order puts down a “no” cube.) The game ends when a search reveals that all of the players have agreed this is a suitable space, and the player who initiated the search happily wins.
That description sounds like it would take a lot of computing power to generate an accurate set of cluse, especially with so many different questions for players to answer. Yes, a computer programmer co-designed the game! She created an algorithm that not only generated the proper clues, but also mixed up the clues correctly so that there can be only one ultimately correct answer for each game.
John called it the quintessential deduction game, and my take is that it is a much better game than others I have played in that genre. I thought Mystery of the Abbey was just okay, and I have found that a host of other deduction games had their problems, not the least of which is that if a player makes a mistake (which in some cases is not that hard to do), it can really
We liked the game so much, we immediately played it again. In our first game, we were pretty bad at ferreting out information, and all four of us ran out of cubes. In the second game, we were much more efficient, and ended up figuring it out fairly quickly. John scored the victory in both games, but it was pretty close.
Roux Dat Says: Cryptid, based on only two plays of course, is the best pure deduction game I’ve ever played. Sure, the theme is weak, but in a deduction game, it has just enough theme to be interesting but not interfere with the joy of listening to other people answer questions that give you enough information to guess the right answer.
Bradly says: Cryptid is one of those games that you immediately want to play again, and we did! That’s one of the highest praises I think a game can get. With deduction games the problem usually comes down to replayability, but with 54 cards that determine the setup of the game, that doesn’t seem likely to be a problem for Cryptid. I’m just trying to find out where this one will end up on my Top Ten list of 2018, because it’s certainly earned a spot.
Flippin’ Fish For Points
John was excited to try out a game we bragged about from BGG Con, Coldwater Crown published by Bellwether Games and designed by Brian Suhre. He had seen the pictures, and heard us talk about the interesting worker placement mechanism.
It was pretty late in the evening, so we had to hurry up and get it set up. Luckily, the publisher has a good rule book that covers the set up very well. (I still cannot figure out if the tackle box tiles like the reel and the line are hidden information, but I must be missing that part in the rules.)
Coldwater Crown is a worker placement game, where players fish three separate lakes using bait that they generate by going over to the dock to refill their tackle box. In player order, they get two actions — one action where they place an action marker on a spot on a lake or at the dock, and taking that action. The second action occurs when you pull off an action token from a different space. The cool wrinkle is that the markers are double sided with a “one” and a “two” on them. When you pull a marker off, the marker is flipped to the opposite side. That means you are not only looking for action spaces that match your intended plan, but you also need to think about how you can get those powerful “two” actions for your next turn.
Oh, there are some juicy decisions in this game. Players will be competing for so many fishing prizes: first to twelve catches, small fish collection, master angler tourneys, hidden weight challenges, and of course, the end of game scoring on the fish that you catch.
The turns go by quickly, and the artwork and colors are beautiful on the board. If I have one quibble, and it is a minor one, if the tackle boxes had been just a little bit bigger, then there could have been a handy dandy cheat sheet on there with the basics of the game and the actions and the reminder about the four equipment tiles. We were pretty spread out on the table, and for some of the players, it was hard to see the notes on the board about the equipment tiles, so we had to pass the rule book around a lot. But that’s a tiny complaint, because the production on this game is absolutely top notch. Even the box itself feels sturdy, like a stout tackle box in your hands.
Roux Dat says: This is easily my number one “new game to me” for 2018, just barely beating out Heaven and Ale to take that spot. I think almost any gamer would enjoy it, from the new person just getting into worker placement games to any seasoned gamer.
John says: Coldwater Crown is a hidden gem in the gaming community — I bought a copy right there that night! How is a game so good not getting more publicity? (ed note: Dennis Hoyle of Bellwether Games knows that Board Game Gumbo and Draft Mechanic Podcast are not to blame for that as we are big supporters!)
Bradly says: Worker placement is probably my favorite board game mechanic, so I love the introduction of the flipping tokens from Coldwater Crown. It’s such a unique theme as well, as I can’t name another fishing game off the top of my head (I’m sure BJ could). Coldwater Crown isn’t my favorite worker placement game, but it’s a solid 7 for me.
THE WRAP UP:
So, that’s it for Gumbo Game Night and our post-game 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!