Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming from the Krewe de Gumbo.
Right before the outbreak, we were able to sneak in a few games. (Since then, all of our gaming has been online or with family at home.) Who knows when we will get together again? Until then, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook (@boardgamegumbo) with your thoughts if you have played any of these games.
Enough blather, let’s get to the games!
It’s Only Illicit If You Don’t Get Caught
One of my top ten favorite games of all time is Stockpile, and I am not the only one in the Gumbo who holds it in high regard. After the latest Kickstarter, so many of us backed the project that I think we now have four copies in the Krewe!
Stockpile is an easy to teach stock simulation game designed by Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol for two to five players. Needless to say, I was excited to try the latest (perhaps last?) expansion from Nauvoo Games.
Illicit Investments has three cool elements:
- A brand new investor card;
- Cool variant for first player decision; and
- A new deck of cards, action cards called “Investment Strategy” cards
Obviously, any new investor cards are welcome, and I love the new first player determiner. A card is placed into the bid piles that moves the first player token to that player. It adds one more tiny layer of decision making in addition to the other cards in the stack.
But of course, the biggest addition are the Investment Strategy cards. Players have a chance in the action phase to play cards that can really change the strategy — like moving the stock prices of stocks, or getting a large infusion of cash, or even peeking at some of the secret cards.
We were lucky enough to play Stockpile a couple of times during the last few weeks before the COVID-19 crisis. We threw in every last bit of the base game and all expansion content to date, and the game feels like the perfect stock game. Even with all of the new content, it is still a very intuitive, elegant design. None of the additions feel like unnecessary bloat, and in fact, with all of the additions, the game feels “right.”
By the way, I scored a respectable 167k in the game, but in the last two games, Carlos and Bradly have been killing it with scores in the $350ks. If you like big money games, the new expansions make for a killer amount of trading, speculation and profits.
Roux Dat Says: Two thumbs up for a great addition to the Stockpile universe. This is a must buy for any Stockpile fan, and the base game itself is a must have for any gamer collection.
Burning Up A Fuse Up Here But Not Alone
Next up, we played a game from 2017 that has been a little hard to find. Faithful readers know how much I love engine builders, and Space Explorers from 25th Century Games has long been on my to-try list. I looked all over for it these past two BGG Cons but could not find a copy in circulation. Thanks to a quick trade, I’ve got the game in hand, and I am happy to say that it included the beautiful Kickstarter playmat, too.
In Space Explorers, players are competing space agencies trying to launch their space program and score the most points. Sure, it will feel very familiar to most Splendor fans, and it is definitely part of the progeny of that game. But there are a couple of cool twists.
First, purchasing cards to your tableau … err… recruiting scientists to your “hub”… not only makes future purchases of similar cards cheaper, but some of the cards also have special powers. That makes for some very granola-type crunchy decisions as you weigh the points on the card versus the benefits of the discount against the potential cool game breaking powers you get.
But that’s not even why I got this game. In addition to the amazing retro space sleek artwork, that looks like a combination of 1950s baseball cards and Mad Men personas, the game has the most unique economy I have seen in an engine builder.
Each player starts with chips representing each of the costs of the game. To purchase cards, players will have to spend those chips — and they don’t go to the bank. Instead, they are passed to the player to the left for use on their turn. What a cool, crunchy decision it is to decide whether to purchase a card knowing that your purchase eventually (or even immediately) helps the next player?
I only have one play in, a two player game at that, so there is a lot more to explore. Space Explorers is something I want to launch again in the future. Sagan loves engine builders too, as do the gang at the HS board game club, so I am anxious to get it back to the table, whenever those public gaming tables re-open. So far, it is firmly in the “I like it” category.
Roux Dat Says: I was hoping for something a little more than every other engine builder out there, and I got it with the unique economy. Is it enough to sustain more plays? I’m not sure, but I am willing to find out! The artwork and theme alone and core game play are enough to draw me in for additional plays.
Paw, Get My Six Shooter Before This Game Kills Us All
My ancestors emigrated to Louisiana right around the time of the Revolution, so I am fascinated with that time period. The events that followed the Revolution, leading to the opening of the western part of the country, are a mix of dark and inspiring events, all at the same time.
When I first heard about Legends of the American Frontier, I was instantly intrigued. Start with a Richard Launius design, mix in a Revolutionary era game dripping with theme, and then dust it off with a hint of story telling? I’m in.
Legends was not easy to find, and it became a grail game to me. The search for a grail game usually leads to confirmation bias when I get it, but sadly not in this case. In Legends of the American Frontier, players choose a frontier character starting out right after the Revolutionary War, and tell his or her story by completing Adventures and earning Rewards through a card collection mechanic, mixed with a random “destiny” deck for crucial elements of the game.
The box is evocative of a sweeping story game, where the history of your character will flow out through the gameplay like Ol’ Man River himself. The game itself has built in mechanics that force even the most non-RPG playing gamer into at least considering the back story and future of their character. Unfortunately, the experience did not live up to the beautiful artwork on the box and inside the contents or the suggested gameplay.
Life is full of dice rolls, yes, and things can happen without any rhyme or reason. But most gamers crave certainty mixed with a little randomness. In our experience, the course of play was dictated so much by luck and things out of our control, that it felt like we were swept up in chaotic and turbulent times, just a minor character in the background shot of a big chase scene in the latest vapid Hollywood blockbuster. We came on the scene, we played some cards, and then a random draw either won it or lost it for us. Then it was on to collecting more resources. End scene.
I really, really wanted to like this game, but unfortunately, it fell flat and it is going on the sale pile. That’s okay — Launius is an amazing designer and there are plenty of other designs of his still left for us to enjoy.
Roux Dat Says: If beautiful artwork, a unique theme, and a very interesting setting were the only requirements for a hit list of games, this would be an A+ collection essential. But board games also require fun, and the randomness in this game was just way too much for us to overcome.
Let’s Do The Time Warp Cackle
The stay-at-home policies we are under effect reminded of our own now-ironic plays of a card game at Christmas that I forgot to include in an earlier Roux Dat. (editor’s note: Or did I include it, but later went back and edited it out before I actually saw it?) CrashStache Games sent us a copy of Chicken Time Warp, a 2019 successful kickstarter project designed by Jesse Harding.
I was happy to play the game strictly because of the theme. English speaking scientist chickens (!) are experimenting with time travel — as they do — with unfortunate consequences (probably not unexpected, right?) The lab itself is being sucked into a “time vortex” (which can also describe my daily life since the virus hit). There is an escape hatch, but only one chicken can fit in. You are probably questioning the so-called expertise of chicken scientists who forget to include enough escape seats, but hold your questions until the end of the presentation.
The gameplay is pretty simple: Players each get a character, and unfortunately, the game designer missed the opportunity to have any differences in the choice other than art work. Booooeaux. Then, the “timeline” is created, with ten cards face down plus the face down “Escape Window Is Open” card (signifing a chance for someone to win if it is flipped over and the escape hatch card is played.) Next, players start with four cards, and take turns flipping over the next “minute” in the timeline and then choosing to play card out tof the hand. Draw back up and it is the next player’s turn. There are only ten different cards in the deck (lots of repeats) so learning the card play is pretty simple. And kudos to the publisher for including a “handy dandy cheat sheet” that helps players quickly grasp the concept of each card. Every publisher should do that!
This is a party game with a central mechanic that I just don’t like in most games. To win, the player must get lucky in card draw, and even luckier in card play, all while surviving lots of take that action (or dishing it out themselves.) The game has a spiritual kinship with Munchkin but strictly with cards and no monsters to battle.
The game also carries player elimination to a new level. Players can be knocked out of the game with just a random card draw that says, appropriately and in a big typeface: “YOU DIE.” Then, the game throws in a card that lets you come back into the game at a later point — but only if the time line has not advanced too far and past you. Kind of clever in an evil sort of way, right? Don’t answer that yet.
I do have to admit that the game has an easy pace of play and an easy set of rules, so that’s something positive going for it. Plus, if you like chicken jokes, and frankly, who doesn’t, the artwork is fun and will engender terrible puns from the usual suspects in your group (i.e. probably you.) .
But in the end (or should we say, before the beginning?) I cannot recommend this game as anything other than a diversion game, a super-light party game for those not very deep into the hobby. For my money, if I am going to play a filler game that has some light player interactivity and plays quickly, I will pull out No Thanks! or Point Salad or even Silver (although it is a little longer to play).
Roux Dat says I love the theme. I don’t like the gameplay. I love the chicken jokes and the chicken art on the cards. I’m not impressed with the rest of the graphic design or artwork. As you can see, I’m a conflicted chicken scientist game playing reviewer, but I will always and forever be a sucker for time travel games. There is a game in here somewhere, and with a little more development, a lot less chancy take that cards, and a clux capacitor, we might be able to find it. Until then, I think I will stroll right over to the escape window.
THE WRAP UP:
So, that’s it for 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!