Roux Dat #8: 7 Wonders Armada, Pioneers, Evolution, Space Base, Bushido and BSG

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 night QB-ing after our recent Board Game Gumbo Night at Anubis Game & Hobby this week.

The word of mouth and buzz about the upcoming Festival is heating up our game nights, and this week was another example. There were always four or five tables of gamers playing games, everything from Arkham Horror the Card Game to a big group playing Battlestar Galactica on the stand up war game table. I was so busy playing and teaching that I did not even get pics of all of the games!

Enough blather, let’s get right to the games!

It’s A Wonder We Ever Finish A Game

The best games are those that just keep coming back to the table, allowing you to dig deeper into the gameplay to unearth new strategies, new experiences, and new ways to lose. I play 7 Wonders religiously on-line — on Board Game Arena, you can play asynchronously with people from all over the world, and the computer does all of the dirty work — but there is something about the tactile nature of playing with the big cards, tossing the money around, and eyeballing your neighbors’ tableaus that is so much better in person.

One of our main Gumbo reviewers, Bradly, finally played 7 Wonders and he has been hooked since then, grabbing all the expansions to boot. We have all played so many other pick-and-pass games before, so it is not a like a new experience for him. But I think there is a lot of joy in discovering the elegant nature of the base game’s design. 7 Wonders without all of its expansions sets a template for game play — watching your opponents, watching what comes out on the table, and strategizing as to what will be available because no one else is going down that same path. And, the expansions add so much more to the experience, making the game deeper and changing the strategies with each iteration.

Last night was my second time playing with the Leaders and Armada expansion. I am going to go against the grain here; I don’t like the Leaders expansion as much as everyone else at the table (or in the blogosphere apparently). In fact, here’s a hot take — 7 Wonders is best played with only ONE expansion, not two or three mixed together. (Take that with the grain of salt that I’ve only played three of the expansions, and even then, only one or two times).

Faulty opinions about Leaders aside, I love what Armada brings to the table. Multiple decisions cascade now from your initial decision whether to play brown cards versus one of the other colors. There are multiple attacks to defend, and Bauza’s ingenious decision to make the naval combat significantly different than the land combat is brilliantly executed.

Bradly won again, but Brandon was right behind him. Brandon is very good at these drafting games, and just barely misses first place when we play them. It would not surprise me that he pulls a win here in the future — and I know there’s a lot more 7 Wonders future for the Gumbo Krewe even after so many years.

One complaint: 7 Wonders with seven players with four full tables of gamers around us whooping and hollering was a little tough, and it made the scoring an adventure, but Ben’s 7 Wonders app was the bomb.

Roux Dat says: 7 Wonders is still the king of the pick-and-pass games, but I still like playing others of the genre like Fairy Tale, Sushi Go and Paper Tales. It is a great mechanism, and it is awesome to see designers continue to innovate in that design space. Next up, I want to try 7 Wonders with just Armada and see if I am right that it is the best expansion so far.

Go West Young Man, Go West To Mamou

I love the State of Games podcast with Chris Kirkman, TC Petty III and Daryl Louder. A lot of the games that they like match with my gaming tastes. But, Chris’ pick of Queen Games’ Pioneers as Game of the Year for 2018 was curious. The box art and the description made it sound like a more fiddly version of Ticket To Ride. Queen Games are always pretty nicely produced, with amazing rule books, but is this light-looking game really Game of the Year material?

I’ve played Pioneers three times now, but this was the first time I got to break it out with the Gumbo krewe. I set up a four player game with me, Sagan, Bradly and Melissa. The game is easy to teach even though I had not played it in a month or two. The rulebook is so well done and so well-organized that even when I had a question or could not remember a rule, I found it at a glance.

Pioneers is basically a route building game, but using an interesting mechanism of dropping off your meeples at locations on the routes not only to score end game points, but also to give yourself special abilities during the game. It plays up to four players and easily fits into that One Hour Wonder window.

I’ve tried a couple different strategies, but this time, I really focused on trying to get pioneers and track laid out and connected, always looking for ways to branch out to continuously put down favorable pioneers. I especially tried to buy stage coaches with blue pioneers. First, I have to shorten the game with Bradly and Sagan and Melissa playing because they will figure out how to maximize their scores with too many rounds, so “marshalling” out extra railroad tracks definitely quickened the endgame. Second, it gave me a chance to put tracks out where ever I wanted or needed, so I could focus on getting the other colors.

This was the first time I’ve seen someone really slide the coach all over the board. Both Sagan and I had extensively long networks, and we used them to pop around and snag the tiles we needed. Plus, we got a little lucky as Sagan and I had early access to the banker and the merchant tiles, which give you more money and more actions. That allowed me to stay close to the top, and for Sagan to sneak in a win with some good pulls on the nuggets and a lot of points from his connected pioneers.

Roux Dat says: Pioneers is my kind of game. Just enough luck to make each game interesting, just enough player interaction available so that players can watch the table, and then feel like their decisions matter not only to their own board but also to other players’ decisions, a very breezy pace of play, and a nice mechanism of players joining in on other players’ turns if they have the money and meeples to do it. Not a contender for my top ten of all time, but could Be solid choice for one of the top ten games of the year, and certainly a great family style game.

 

The Next Generation of Game Player

I had an exciting announcement at game night: Dominic Crapuchettes, owner and chief designer at North Star Games, is coming on Gumbo Live! this coming Tuesday. Dominic designed my favorite party game of all time, Wits & Wagers, and has published tons of games that we still play at family and scout game nights.

But one of the games from him that I have not yet played is Evolution. Dominic is coming on the show to talk about the next big expansion for Evolution, called Oceans.

Adam is a big fan of Evolution, and so he brought it to Gumbo Game Night to introduce it to other players before the show. While I was playing Pioneers at the next table, I kept walking over to watch Evolution unfold.

ROUX DAT SAYS: I polled the other players after the game, and all said that Evolution was even more fun than it looked on the table. Lots of interesting decisions, and the Oceans expansion looks amazing.

Dave says: I like dat, me.

 

In Space, No One Can Hear You Roll Fives After Fives After Fives

Ah, Space Base, how do we love thee / Let me count the ways! Sagan and I agree on a lot of things, and one of those is this: anytime we have five available players, Space Base is on the short list to get played. It plays great no matter if you have two, three or four, but there is something about the tension in playing five players that is amazing.

Space Base is that dice chucking, engine building, Macho Koro destroying game from John D Claire and AEG that we have played every month since we got a copy. Players each have a player board consisting of slots for the various numbers that result from a dice roll of two dice.

The twist is that your rolls on your turn give you points or coins or a “bank” of money, which allow you to buy cards to strengthen those numbers for the next roll — BUT — you also can take a benefit during other player’s turns. While the individual benefits might be smaller on other turns, you can even stack cards you buy onto each number. For instance, if you are Bradly, you can stack three cards on the five stack and watch as Sagan and BJ constantly roll fives over and over again, giving you seven to fourteen coins EACH PLAYER TURN.

Yes, I’m still a little frustrated, but hey, it was a great strategy, and Bradly rode those fives to a good victory. But, here’s what I like about Space Base. Everyone of us had different strategies. Sagan and I dumped points: Sagan was trying to pop the “you win” card, and came very, very close, while I was trying to move some huge point cards from the 11s and 12s slot down to more manageable numbers (but ran out of time). Melissa and Glenn each had their own strategies, and Melissa almost won just drafting point cards and taking benefits each round, slow and steadily.

Roux Dat says: Space Base is still getting played and for good reason. It is easy to teach, looks amazing on the table, and has that right combination of luck / strategy that keeps everyone in the game. Heck, Sagan and I scored only five points together, and yet we were in the game throughout. More Space Base, please AEG?

Everybody Was Bushido Fightin’, Everybody Was Fast As Lightnin’

There are a ton of players that come to Gumbo Game Night that love two player battle card games: Magic: The Gathering, KeyForge, Yomi, Battlecon, Exceed, etc. I’m not as big a fan of one on one card playing games (other than Baseball Highlights: 2045, but that is because it is one of the greatest games ever invented with a theme about the greatest game ever invented). But, if the game play is quick, there is just a little bit of deck building, and there is some fun luck involved, then I’m all in.

That’s why I like Bushido. Bushido is a two player card battle game from Grey Fox Games and designer Pedro Mendoza. Players draft a small deck of cards based on various schools of martial arts combat, and then take turns trying to put enough damage on the other player that armor, dodges and dice rolls are not enough to prevent the player from being knocked out (zero health or an instant kill).

Unfortunately for the three of us playing and watching, the store had to close early and announced it right as we got started. So, we had no time to do a real draft, and just used the base cards. I rushed through the instructions as best as I could, and then we start hitting away.

The game play came back to me pretty quickly, but with just minutes to play, we both started taking wild swings with not much defense. I got knocked out after missing out on a big maneuver (even though I rolled something like seven or eight dice!) when I boosted one of my moves. Good news is that Sagan and Jeremy had just enough of a taste to want to try it again.

Roux Dat says: Bushido flew under the radar even during its Kickstarter launch, and that’s disappointing. This is a great and inexpensive two player card battle game, that has a ton of gameplay in the box and also has expansions and promo cards that really add to the experience. Looking forward to more plays of Bushido.

 

Who Got The Super-Genius Vote?

What was the big game of the night, on the big stage at the front of the store? Battlestar Galactica, of course. If Carlos is in town, there’s gonna be some misbehavin’ going down….wait, that’s the wrong sci-fi series.

BSG, as it is affectionately known everywhere geeks get together to play games, is a masterpiece of strategy and intrigue based on the hit reimagined series. I’ve only seen the first two seasons, but it was some of the best television I’ve ever seen. And my one play of BSG solidified it as my personal favorite Big Game To Play.

Roux Dat says: The table was full, there were lots of bystanders wandering in and out to see the commotion, and eventually, the Cylons won as they are wont to do in our group. That’s not the kind of game I like to play on our Wednesday game nights, but with Mardi Gras coming up, I smell either BSG or TI4 in the air.

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!

— BJ

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