Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming from the Krewe de Gumbo. With the Southern Board Game Fest in the books, it was time to get back to our regular game nights at Anubis Game & Hobby. We also snuck in a quick trip to Dat Dog for our monthly Brew & Board Game night. This week there was a packed house with tables full of experienced gamers and newcomers alike.
Enough blather, let’s get to the games!
We All Need People
I love mail day, especially when the mail carrier brings a Deluxified Kickstarter game! When Tasty Minstrel Games announced that they had the rights to reprint Gentes, a Spielworxx release designed by Stefan Risthaus, I did a little digging. After looking at some game play information and listening to Sean from the Dukes of Dice’s glowing praise, I was in.
As an aside, Tasty Minstrel is the absolute best I’ve seen at packing their Kickstarter deliveries, and this was no exception. The game was tightly packed, completely safe, and delivered in pristine condition. But the best part was inside.
Gentes is a card driven civilization game that plays out on a beautiful board depicting the early Mediterranean. It is not your typical ‘trading in the Med’ game, however. Instead, players explore the map and their double layer player boards using an innovative system of action tiles and time markers. These action tokens range in cost, both in coin and time, and taking more powerful actions could force you to spend more time and have less actions this round or the next.
The game is geared for two to four players and plays in about ninety minutes (we took about two hours with the set up and teach), and the production is gorgeous! All of the buildings are big and chunky, the population markers are wooden components built like cave paintings, and the board itself has beautiful art from Harold Lieske and Adam P. McIver. I was not happy that the cardboard player boards and playing cards warped a bit in the delivery, but that was my only complaint (it’s also fairly common when dealing with Louisiana humidity).
Gentes plays over three eras, each consisting of two rounds. In each era, players will compete for the most powerful cards on the tableau, vie for population growth in the ever changing market, and go tit-for-tat against other players in taking actions to play cards or build buildings. Cards give you immediate bonuses, victory points and sometimes and end of the round or end of the game bonus. The buildings on the cities on the board can be even more powerful — you can get immediate points, or cubes to help you manage population, or even coins. Or you could establish hometown bases that give you more modifiers for even more powerful actions. But again, you have to manage your time carefully or you will have less actions in the next round.
Bradly and I both went big money at first. We gobbled up five of the first six buildings in the Mediterranean that generated coins. Sara and Nate went for cards, looking to chain up victory points with each successive play. After the initial plays, my goal was to always zag when others were zigging. If I need population, I waited until someone made the type I needed less expensive, and used a card I had played that gave me bonuses both on costs and numbers of people. I kept my eye on the bonus tiles, but lost focus for a while and Sara snuck the “six building” bonus right from under my nose! Bradly scored 100, but the rest of us were bunched around the 70s, a good score for me.
Roux Dat says: Gentes feels like a call back to your classic 90 minute Euro. I love the euro-style player interaction that comes from deciding when is the best time to take an action or go for a bonus tile. It has a classic feel, but at the same time, feels fresh and innovative.
Bradly says: There is a lot going on in this game, but that’s the kind of Euros I like. For people who like something simpler, this may not be your first choice. You have to manage your population, your actions and the time they require, where you want to build, etc. Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this game and will be looking to play it again in the future. I think the time mechanic is particularly clever as well as where you build. The board is separated into three areas by color, and when you build you get the bonuses of any building you already have in that colored area, but at the end of the round you get a single bonus from each area where you’ve built.
Angry Auctions Are the Awesomest
Next up, we played a game that has been a grail game for me: Turin Market from Dark Flight / Jordan Draper games. It was a small print run back in 2016 that got some good buzz from a few ‘casters, and I’ve had it on my trade list for a while. I finally closed a deal for it this week, and I was anxious to try it.
We sat down for a five player game. Spoiler alert: I loved the game, but auction games are a genre that I love. From No Thanks to Raccoon Tycoon, from Flow of History to Castles of Mad King Ludwig, I love the delicious decisions that pop up when you either set a price for something, or outbid someone. Am I good at them? Of course not, but that’s never stopped my enjoyment! Unfortunately, the gang that played Turin Market with me was a lot less enthused about auction games, so it made for a rough game!
In Turin Market, players blind bid for eighteen cards, each containing various amounts of different food products, and each coming one at a time from each player’s hands into a market of cards. For instance, in a five player game, there would be an opening round of three, and then after that, each player will donate one card to the auction for three rounds. Each of those goods is worth a different amount of coins, but they only pay out at the end of the game, and only to the person who has the majority.
The auction is just brutal. First, you have limited money, just 15 coins to start. (You can take one loan during the game — you may have to — but it is only for 10 coins, and you have to pay back 15 at the end of the game.) Players that lose the auction lose half their bids, so it really hurts to lose one. But, if you win cards, they go face up in front of you, and everyone can see who is leading in each category. Once all eighteen cards are bought (or discarded), players count out from strongest food product down to the least valuable food who had the majority. If you did, you win a set amount of coins. But watch out — if you “invested” in that food, by having at least one food on one of your cards, you owe the winning player one coin. Yep — if you go in, you gotta win the entire skin or pony up!
Oh, it is more than brutal, it is a fork fight in a frankfurter package! Each round, my money disappeared rapidly, and there is so much to focus on. You would not think that the crunch level could rise to maximum crunchiness in a game with only 18 cards, but it really does. I kept my focus on cards that boosted me to the top or close to the top of three food majorities, and tried not to invest in more than five or six total. I passed on some good cards, but it would have given other players more points.
Midway through the game, I had to take a loan — but it came in handy! I was down to just a handful of coins before taking the loan, but getting it allowed me to geaux big with a 9 coin bid, that let me grab the two cards I needed to win not three but FOUR categories. Each of those paid me back close to 3 extra coins per good from other players, plus the coins I had left over, to give me the win. Was it lucky? Sure, since I can only control the delivery of one card in each market it was certainly fortuitous that the cards I needed came out at the right time, but lucky or not, it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Roux Dat says: Turin Market is a small box game that is not going to impress anyone with its minimalist production. But if you like auction games, and want to distill them down to their bare essentials in a 20 minute very thinky filler, you gotta check this one out.
Bradly says: I generally enjoy auction games and games with an auction mechanic; Cyclades and Flow of History coming to mind first. Blind bidding, however, I am usually not a fan of. I just find it a lackluster mechanic in general, and typically more luck driven than having any real strategy. Also, I think taking a loan is all but mandatory in this game, which takes away one of the biggest decisions players are given. Being able to set a card you acquired aside to try and sell it to other players is interesting, but overall I found Turin Market very lackluster.
Where Did I Put That Flux Capacitor?
I love time travel movies, especially when they can make me forget about the underlying “science” that they try to establish, and just go with the consequences. I’m always looking for a game that uses time travel as a mechanic, hoping that I’ll find one that gives me that wide eyed experience.
We tried out Chrononatus next, which bills itself as a time traveling adventure card game, where players go backwards and forwards in time to use a time machine to make sure that events happen the way we remember them happening. At least that’s the premise — but in our game, it felt more like a take that, set collection type of game just with a tableau cards.
The object is to either collect ten cards in your hand at the end of your turn (not an easy thing to do!), or fulfill the goals of either your “ID” or “Mission” cards. My ID card suggested that I had to have three events lined up correctly out in the universe, things like preventing the Kennedy assassination. My mission card was a little weird – I needed four seemingly unrelated artifacts to be played in front of me.
We each took turns grabbing a new card off of the deck, which consisted of artifacts, time reversal cards, action cards, and some really funny “screw you” type cards. Bradly had fun collecting all of the crazy action cards and playing them right whenever I had a combo lined up! Looking at the tableau, I felt like my three time cards that needed to be lined up just right was probably the easiest thing to work on, so I dug into the deck as much as I could to line up the cards I needed to make sure that the events happened. Even though Bradly stymied me the first two times, the third time was the charm and I was victorious.
Well, sort of. It turns out that Sara had the winning condition for a couple of hands and didn’t notice, so I was happy to give her a shared victory. As an end of the night game with a bunch of friends, I would play it again. It is not too thinky, and does have some laugh out loud moments with cards that shake up the deck, or make you exchange hands with other players, or even reshuffle all of the cards in everyone’s hands. But those are not generally my type of games — the mechanic of screwing with people’s hands was fun when I was a teen, but loses a lot of luster as I have become a more experienced gamer.
Roux Dat says: I love the premise, and in fact, I loved the smart ways the different events reacted to each other. Flip over one card, and it would chain react to other related events. That felt pretty clever, but ultimately, Chrononauts was a little too long for me. Not sure if I would play it again, although the time / history theme is appealing.
Bradly says: Chrononauts is another in a long line of ‘draw one, play one’ card games. It’s entertaining enough, but leans heavily on the humor in the game. If you don’t find it especially funny to travel back in time to capture a living brontosaurus, that you then name ‘Emily’, then you’re probably not going to enjoy this game. It’s a fun ‘activity’ game that has no real strategy to it, but can be brought out and played with almost any group in under 30 minutes.
I Think You Need More Stone In Your Town, No Really You Do
Work trumps gaming sometimes, so unfortunately, I had to reschedule a Gumbo Live! chat with Peter McPherson, the designer of Tiny Towns from AEG this week. Peter and I have been messaging back and forth since the street date of Tiny Towns was announced, and he was gracious enough to send us a review copy. Plus, I had fun this past weekend doing some demos for Envoy with the game. I think I’ve played or taught the game nearly a dozen times already!
Tiny Towns is a 2019 release that we reviewed recently. Each player has a four by four grid, and will try to place resources called out by each player in turn on that grid in patterns that generate buildings. Each game has seven unique buildings to build (and each of them have variants), plus players can complete secret objectives to build their own “monument” for even more points or special powers. Players will unfortunately lose points for resources that are stuck at the end of the game and cannot be converted into buildings, so careful placement and planning is the key.
One of the players saw some of the posts and wanted a try, so we set up a six player game to end the night. When I played it with the Gumbo Krewe, we tried to play a lot more quickly than the game intends, I think. I don’t find that this game is AP inducing, but it is certainly more enjoyable if you take thirty seconds or a minute on your turn to think out what your next move will be. By speed playing it on Sunday, most of us made early mistakes that can make the game drag on when you are out of the running.
This time, we played a little slower (but still at a good pace), and I was able to complete my monument and get most of the building combos I wanted. I went for a wells next to fed cottages strategy, and tried to supplement it with the taverns that had a good multiplier on them. But unfortunately, I couldn’t get the resources I needed to build the last tavern and well that would have scored me big points. I finished in third, so it was respectable.
Roux Dat says: Tiny Towns has been my wife’s most requested game lately. We love all of the variable powers from each of the different buildings, and we have yet to play all of the monuments. There’s a lot of replayability built in, with the variability that the designer added in the starting set ups.
Bradly says: After a single play of Tiny Towns I wasn’t too enthused about it. The gameplay mechanics are interesting but essentially it boils down to a semi-Tetris style puzzle game. I was really hoping that the variable buildings would add some much needed excitement to the game, but after my second play I didn’t really see anything drastically new. I do think this is a very excellent entry-level game, but for my tastes I’d much rather play Imhotep.
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!