Roux Dat #13: Marvel, Barrage, Tapestry and Cartographers

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming from the Krewe de Gumbo. There’s a big pigskin game coming up this weekend, but all eyes were on cardboard and wooden bits instead of leather last night. We’ve got a quick recap of the board games we played at Gumbo Game nights with our friends at Anubis Game & Hobby, as well as a couple of bonus games played at our recent Brew & Board Games day at Dat Dog.

Enough blather, let’s get to the games!

Photo by Carlos, game mat not included. 

Spidey’s Shoulders Are Killin’ Him, Cap

By now, we should probably rename the Internet. I think Marvel Champions Net would be appropriate. Every time I turn on social media, I am seeing people play the new Marvel Champions game from Fantasy Flight Games. Does it live up to the hype?

Marvel Champions is Fantasy Flight’s latest entry in the living card game genre. It is a co-operative game for one to four players, each taking on the role of the big ones in the Marvel super hero comic book universe. There are enough cards in the starter box to flesh out all four decks, and compete against big bad villains and their minions whiele you try to thwart their evil plans. There were two tables of gamers (and four copies of the game) being played, so it’s really popular in our town.

I was a little late getting there, but could see when I arrived that they had picked a pretty significant villain. I knew they might need my help. I grabbed a Spidey protection deck and started slingin’ webs. After a quick thirteen second teach of the rules, it was time for some back flips and counter punches. We defeated the villain pretty handily, thanks to Spidey’s awesome attacks and some skillful combo play.

Best. Picture. Ever. 

Not really.

All kidding aside, we won, but I basically played with training wheels on all game. It is tough jumping into an LCG when the rest of the table knows how to play, so the first few rounds were fairly ragged for me. But, the text on the cards is pretty clear, and once I understood the counter-intuitive energy and exhaust system — as one player said it, it is almost like reverse-M:TG — I started getting the swing of things.

I liked the fact that the characters and cards are very thematic. This is Amerithrash combolicious card play to the max. I also liked the quick pace of the play, and the fact that the action plays out in comic book form, with ebbs and flows, rising danger from the minions and schemes, and a pretty satisfying conclusion. It feels like a game designed the way comic books should be brought to life. That being said, it seems to be crying for some sort of overarching campaign, like the Arkhams series had. I’ve heard that this is in the works?

Roux Dat Says: I totally get why Marvel Champions is popular, and it is clearly well designed. I just don’t see myself jumping into it in any fashion other than a casual game or two. It might be something that my son Matt and his friends enjoy, and it is clear FFG has a hit on its hands. We will definitely see it being played at Anubis a lot, because it is popular!

When The (Cardboard) Levee Breaks

Adam came by last night with his giant Kickstarter two box edition of Barrage from Cranio Creations, designed by Tommaso Battista and Simone Luciani (who is best known for T’zolkin, Grand Austria Hotel, and Voyages of Marco Polo, among others). I’ve been seeing this on social media a lot, so it was a pleasant surprise to have a chance to play it before BGG Con.

Barrage is a standard worker placement euro about scoring points when generating hydroelectricity. Players will build dams and power stations to control the flow of water and rev up an engine to deliver increasing amounts of power over four rounds. Bonus points can be scored for meeting objectives, too.

I can hear the Marvel game guys snickering already. Yes, the theme seems pretty dry, but if your complaint about dry euros is just the theme, well , don’t worry, there’s plenty of other games with zombies and Vikings in them.

There are a couple of unique twists here. Players spend resources on a rondel, a sort of miniature Tzolkin looking contraption, that is in essence a cool down mechanic for your resources. In other words, they are never really spent, just taking out of your player’s resource pool until enough moves are made to cycle them back to you. Plus, the way the water flows from the headwaters down to the main dam is pretty cool to see, almost like my eighth grade Science Fair project.

The production is over the top, of course, with a 3D board and wooden bits and cardboard everywhere. It is hard to evaluate a game of this weight just off of one play, but I’ll tell you what I did like. One would think that a game about building dams and churning electricity would be basically Math: The Power Grid Sequel, but Barrage actually feels thematic. There’s a sense of wonder as you add dams and power stations and whatever those round things are called to the lakes below, then watch the water droplets meander down the river. Kudos to the designers for really marrying theme and mechanics.

I didn’t like some of the design issues with the production. The wheel doesn’t really work well, and the water droplets are downright dumb. But Adam says that Cranio is fixing these with some upgrades. Just ditch the bedazzled drops of water and use crystals!

Rout Dat Says: Barrage is an interesting take on worker placement. I’m always satisfied when a dry euro theme gets me involved because the mechanics and the theme are tied well together. I would not call it elegant, however, and there were a lot of frustrating turns and problems with the production value. I would play it again, now that I understand the …. ahem … flow of the game.

Three Is A Magic Carpet Ride

Another game day, another game of Tapestry. People really do want to check it out! At our Brew & Board Game Day, hosted by Soutern Board Game Fest, we jumped into a three person game of Tapestry. This time, I played the Heralds, and again, that is a faction that is right up my alley. We had one new player, John, but after a quick twenty minute teach, we were off and running.

I had a lucky one two punch pull with the Heralds. They allow you to glom off of Tapestry cards that you or other players play, including in the first income turn. A combination of a tapestry card that lets me score based on my position on the track and the Heralds civ gave me a quick 28 points in the first two eras! But after that, players were pretty hesitant to play “when played” Tapestry cards, so the points were harder to come by.

John grasped the mechanics of moving up each track pretty quickly, and although he started slow, had a big last turn to pull ahead of everyone else. He used the isolationists very efficiently, while Sagan struggled with his Architects. We agreed that none of us have a good handle on a winning strategy with the Architects civ, which relies on getting extra resources by placing houses in a unique way on the capital city.

Roux Dat Says: Each play of Tapestry is getting better. I’ve gone from “meh” to “yeah” on the game. I am still researching and thinking about each civ after I play each session, which is a great sign for some longevity.

Let Me Draw You A Map

Sagan also brought a game ostensibly in the Roll Player universe called Cartographers. It is a rando-writer, this one of the “flip and fill” variety. Players take turns using the tetris like polynomial symbols shown on the current card to fill in a “map”. Completing objectives on the goal cards — in a rotating fashion a la Isle of Skye —- score you points, but you sometimes have to deal with a monster, too.

Monsters are sections on your map that will cause you to lose points unless you defeat them by surrounding them with buildings. The catch? Monsters are placed on your map by opposing players for maximum damage!

I love rando-writers, and this honestly felt like a fresh take on the genre. It is a little bit of a smash up between Welcome To…. and Tiny Towns, with maybe a little take that (but not much) thrown in. Sagan tricked out the game with color coded erasable markers and laminated sheets, and all in all, it is not a game I need to own, but I would definitely play it again.

Roux Dat says: Cool little spatial puzzle in the vein of Welcome To… or Railroad Ink. The theme falls kind of flat, but I really enjoyed the Isle of Skye type scoring and the tiny little bit of player interaction.

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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