Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming. This week, our gaming happened at a local pub, Dat Dog, where Board Game Gumbo teams up with Southern Board Game Fest for a monthly Brew & Board Game night. We had a packed house with tables full of experienced gamers and newcomers alike. Plus, we snuck in some Sunday night gaming, too.
Enough blather, let’s get to the games.
If You Ain’t Rubbin’ Cards, You Ain’t Racing Cars
The Krewe de Gumbo is in charge of a bunch of demos of big games on March 30 at Southern Board Game Fest. But we are also manning the Gateway Games area. One of the games that we will have on the table — thanks to the generosity of our friends at Restoration Games — is Downforce, which we reviewed way back in 2017.
We ended up teaching Downforce to four new groups of gamers on Wednesday night! It was definitely one of the hits of our Brew & Board Game Night. I asked some of the participants, a group of young college grads who were not (yet) into board gaming, what attracted them to the game. First, the table presence intrigued them, with the colorful little racers, and the large board with the oversized track. Second, it looks like just another racing game, but the auctioning for the cars starting position and unique powers amps up the thrills. Finally, they loved the twist that the three bets provided during the game. (Note: we played with a little house rule, you can only bet on a car once during the game, which encouraged players to bet on varied cars and it was harder to figure out who was going to help which cars.)
We have not only the base game for play at the Fest, but we also have a copy of the expansion. We covered everything you need to know about the two new tracks here. We did get some great news out of Restoration Games last week, when they announced two new tracks.
Roux Dat says: More Downforce? Sign me up! Can’t wait for the new tracks.
We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Oxygen Tank
Next up for the group was a deep dive into the Deep Sea Adventure push your luck game from Oink. Surprisingly enough, we have never reviewed Deep Sea Adventure here on the Gumbo. I’ll have to take a trip with Eric Yurko at Gen Con 2019 to visit the Oink booth and rectify that situation — Oink usually has a special deal at Gen Con where you can pick up multiple copies of games at a discount.
But back to Deep Sea Adventure. Up to six players take turns exploring the depths of the sea underneath a submarine. The sub has limited oxygen, which is used up faster and faster the more treasure players pick up. The deeper one goes, the better the loot, but will there be enough oxygen to get all the way back up? Tough call, because the loot not only burns oxygen, but it also slows the players down on their way back up!
Sagan suggested this one for a group of buddies who were generally new to gaming, and it was a blast watching them rag each other or make friendly little alliances as they explored.
Roux Dat says: It’s a close tie between Deep Sea and New York Artist for my favorite Oink Games game, but after watching these friends laugh it up for a good half hour, Deep Sea has the current lead.
These Aren’t The Geishas You Are Looking For
When I saw that Hanamakoji, the diabolical little two player mind game from Emperor S9, was on tap for the Gateway area this year, I knew I had to get it back to the table. Matthew Ward of the Dukes of Dice, who is a friend of the Gumbo and has written some excellent blog posts in the past, had taught me the game on a convention trip to the Big Easy back in 2017. I could never even take a single game from him. Would there be a better outcome against Sagan’s wife, Emily?
Yes. Well, sort of.
Yes, Emily won two out of three, but at least I took a game from her.
I love the depth that this small box, limited card set game has. Two players try to outguess each other in playing their hand of cards. Each player is trying to store more influence on each of the geishas on the board, with each geisha worth a different amount of points from two to five. Players win by either scoring eleven points total, or by having influence on a certain number of geishas.
The twist? Players only get four actions, and half of them are the “I split, you choose” variety, a mechanic that is just not used enough in gaming. Here, it is done to perfection, and frankly, Hanamakoji would have long fired the two player version of Lost Cities if I had a copy in my collection. (I’d rather play Jaipur, if I’m looking for a quick two player card game of this nature, however.)
Roux Dat says: We replaced The Fox In The Forest this year with Hanamakoji, and after playing again on Wednesday, I can see why this is a good choice.
There were so many other games played that night, on so many tables, that I just could not record them all. But, Big Game Sunday came around, and we had some more games to play!
Noble Heroes and Tortured Souls
At the Gumbo, we love engine builders. We’ve collectively played dozens and dozens of games of Splendor. (Heck, on the app alone, I’ve probably got fifty plays). But designers are taking advantage of the idea of choosing stronger and stronger cards from a market and using that mechanism is new and better ways.
An interesting twist on the mechanism was our play of Call To Adventure, published by Brotherwise Games. I vaguely remember this Kickstarter, because it promised expansion content from two of my favorite book series: The Kingkiller Chronicles and Stormlight Saga.
When Carlos brought it out, it had all the markings of a Kickstarter production. Gorgeous art, player boards, lots of mechanics seemingly cobbled together, and overproduced bits — including a system of runes (like flipping a coin basically) that you “cast” or “tossed” for the results as you try to meet goals to capture cards to your portfolio.
But within a few turns, I realized that this is not just another Kickstarter game, it truly was an interesting take on the engine building mechanic. What if instead of just getting random points generated from purchasing cards, but instead, your player character followed an interesting arc? What if the cards you purchased influenced his or her story, and limited or expanded your options for further growth?
That’s Call To Adventure in a nutshell. Sure, for some, it will probably be just a game all about scoring victory points, but unlike Splendor, CTA gives game groups a chance to bite on a moist and juicy game system that allows for funny or inspiring or heroic or tragic combinations of cards.
My player started as a lonely orphan sailor, but through study, especially of forgotten knowledge and dark magic, became a powerful warrior who eventually defeated a dastardly colossus and saved the kingdom. (And scored a ton of points to boot.)
Roux Dat says: I will definitely play this one again, and can’t wait for the content from Rothfuss and Sanderson.
They Call Me The Fireman, That’s My Name
Carla Kopp’s Weird Giraffe Games has had a lot of success finding small box games that take about a half of an hour, but really dive deep into one mechanic. She’s a frequent guest of Gumbo Live! so I know that art and theme are important to her, too. Her attention to art and theme was why I was excited to receive my Kickstarter copy of Fire In The Library, the push your luck game from Tony Miller and John Prather, with art from the always trusty Beth Sobel.
As can be expected, Fire In The Library is a gorgeous production. The box is small, but looks exactly like a colorful book, complete with binding, indention for the cover, and a magnetic clasp that holds everything together. The cards are thick and luxurious, and the box cover even doubles as the scoring system.
Players will try to score as many points as possible before a great magical library is burned. Players will draw big chunky cubes out of a “fire bag”, hoping to minimize the fire tokens while maximizing their ability to save books (hopefully the better point scoring books, too.) Once one section of the library is burned, the game ends immediately.
If you have played games like Can’t Stop or Celestia , then you are familiar with the push your luck fun of Fire In The Library. I think the intended audience for this game is a game group that enjoys light, beer & pretzels type games that have some excitement and tension. The delicious decisions in this game come surprisingly early each round, when players divvy up the turn order cards (which double as your book collection point cards, too), but it is not so heavy as to bog down novice players. That’s the kind of group I frequently play with on scout game nights or at the Brew & Board Game nights, but for Big Game Sundays, Fire In The Library falls a little flat.
A game like Celestia not only combines the tense decision of pushing your luck, but also incorporates some bluffing and a little take that and some mitigation, too. The addition of the tool cards here is supposed to help with the player interaction and luck mitigation, but it feels just a little thin in that area.
Roux Dat says: I actually enjoyed Fire In The Library even more than I did Big Easy Busking, probably because point scoring and push your luck are much more in my wheelhouse than area control. But Fire In The Library is a game I see myself playing more at our Gumbo Game Nights at the local FLGS or brew pub rather than with the serious game crowd that forms our Sunday Big Game Nights.
Don’t Put All Of Your Hogs In One Basket or Else….Operation: Bacon
The Kickstarter for Tsukuyumi is in just a few days, and we have been getting our plays in for a preview. I love the way the Boar Warriors play, so I was happy to grab that faction again.
Unfortunately, choosing that faction was probably the last good decision I made all night.
Tsukuyumi is a multiplayer 4x style game (although the “explore” part is very limited) set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Moon suddenly did a face plant onto Earth’s big green and blue sphere. Tsukuyumi has amazing ratings on BGG, and so far, I can see why. The game has a deep back story, and tons of different factions, each with unique abilities.
The game play is also pretty unique — turn order changes constantly, and players not only use their special faction powers but also action cards that are drafted each round to power up production, exploration and combat. Knowing how to wring the best production and combat out of your faction, while also knowing what the other players’ special powers are, is a key to winning this tight game. And through it all, you have to deal with the Oni — the NPCs that the Moon has thrown down on the face of the earth that guard and protect the valuable center of the board.
There is a key to losing the game, too, that I quickly discovered. When offered the chance to start your home base far away from two of the three players in your group — take it.
I didn’t, and the Boar clan, my favorite of all of the factions that I have seen, were stuck in a vise grip between two other factions who unmercilessly and gleefully celebrated a Cajun cochon de lait festival on my hapless krewe of brave boarwarriors and their beloved BoarMother. Would you like some fries with your BBQ?
Roux Dat says: I only have two plays, but the rest of the gang has dived pretty deep into the game. Sure, I made some foolish mistakes in game two, but it did not lessen my enjoyment of the tactical and strategic decisions that come in the game. I like the bite sized nature of the three round format we have been playing, and would be happy to play again.
Combolicious Card Play On The Thames
Sometimes we get prototype games that we will play a few times, then put away as we wait for the real production copy to come out.
Not so for Nanty Narking.
This might be one of the most played prototypes we have ever received. Despite the fact that the board is breaking down the middle and some of the pieces have lost their hats and canes, we just keep playing it!
Nanty Narking is a game by Martin Wallace that re-imagines his previous Discworld game. In the version we are playing, players take on the role of Victorian characters like Moriarty or Fagan or Sherlock or one of the local lords in their quest to meet the victory condition.
That’s the twist in the game — in almost every game, players will have unique win conditions, like getting a certain amount of money or putting a certain amount of pieces on the board or even controlling a few areas. The conditions are secret, and half the fun of the game is trying to suss out what the other players’ goals are.
Players have a small hand of cards, each with special abilities. Some allow you to move agents around the board, others get you money, but all are intended to further your goal or to mess with the other player’s end game goal.
I was one of the Lords, who only needed to put nine pieces out on the board. I tried to pretend I was burning through the deck as Sherlock Holmes would do, to keep the scent off my trail. I did a double move using some comboed cards that put ten pieces on the board, plenty enough for the win, only to discover that I had added just enough trouble markers to help Fagan win that turn.
In my defense, (and I usually need a good defense lawyer to explain my Sunday Big Game Night moves) …. by that time, we were all convinced that Fagan was not in the game this time (the distribution of the characters is random, and not all are used each game) so we all thought we were safe.
That’s one of the best parts of Nanty Narking, trying to keep track of everyone’s potential winning condition based on the board state, and doing your best to keep moving to your end game goal while preventing other players from doing the same.
Roux Dat says: I can’t wait to see what Phalanx Games does with the production later this year. In just a few months, the Krewe has dozens of plays of the game already, and so far at least, there have been no disappointments.
Speaking Of Over Production
Jack and I got a taste of Tasty Minstrel Games’ production of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done way back at Dice Tower Con 2017, and I was excited to try it again after my first full play earlier this year. On Sunday night, we played a breezy four player game in well under forty-five minutes.
In Crusaders, players use a rondel board with six main actions, that are powered mancala style by the strength of the cubes on the action. Players take the action (or actions if the ‘action wedge’ is updated), and then drop off the cubes on the rest of the rondel.
There is also some engine building in the game, everything from the combat power you have through mustering, to the buildings you place on the board that provide benefits in combat, influence and more building, plus there are bonuses all over the board as you explore.
The production is over the top. The player boards are thick with embedded spaces for all of the bits and the rondel (which can be randomized if you choose.) The board is bright and colorful, and has plenty of room for all of the knights and the enemies, too, and the victory points were all made of metal. Even the special player power boards feel more like a brick than regular cardboard. I’m assuming this was the deluxified version, so if you can get your hands on a copy to play, you should check it out in its full glory.
Roux Dat says: It will be hard to pass up Crusaders when it jumps on the table, because it scratches so many cool itches: it is quick to play, the mancala mechanic is interesting, and I’ve seen lots of different winning strategies.
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!