Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. This has been a tough time for getting in person multiplayer games in, but luckily, I have a few gamers at home, and some steady friends who will get together online frequently.
Hit us up on Twitter or on Facebook and let us know what games you’ve been playing during this crisis and what games you think we should play!
But that’s enough blather, let’s get to the games!
Beyond The Sun
Essen Spiel faire always means an onslaught of euro games hitting Board Game Geek and the social medias, and 2020 was no exception. Sure, there may have been only 450 entries this year, instead of the usual 1000+, but there were still a lot of games to investigate.
One of the games I was interested in was Dennis K. Chan’s space worker placement game, Beyond The Sun, published by Rio Grande Games, who graciously sent us a review copy.
Beyond The Sun has a big board, and that big playing area is all about the tech tree. Players are rival colonizing empires flying space ships through the galaxy, landing on new planets, and advancing up a tech tree to be the first person to get the best upgrades. Bradley and I played a two player game, exploring the mechanics and tech tree, and I was fascinated with this single worker placement game right from the start.
The other board in the game is even more interesting to me than the big giant tech tree, a “deep space” board where players move from earth to deep space and around the galaxy exploring and trying to dominate the new planets that come into play. I lost pretty badly, getting way to caught up in putting ships out all over the galaxy, forgetting that you need to do something with those ships!
This is one of those games where there is so many cool things to do, but you have limited space to do them. There are four levels to the tech tree, and you are going to want to do them all! There are tons of planets to explore, each with differing amounts of victory points or cool upgrades, and you are going to want to colonize them all! You have tons of spaces on your player board that needs upgrading, and you are going to want to upgrade them all!
But of course, you can’t. (Unless you’re Bradly.)
BJ says: Early leader in the clubhouse for best game I’ve played from Essen, just edging out Castles of Tuscany and a game I’ll talk about below. Sure, I’ve only played a few games from Essen so far out of the hundreds that were released, but I’m still thinking about my first plays of Beyond The Sun and can’t wait to try it again. If you like worker placement games and exploring a tech tree, fly your ship over to Beyond The Sun.
Whenever Stonemaier Games has a new game, my ears always perk up and I cannot wait to play it. You can usually count on Stonemaier to have an impressive production, and games that combine familiar mechanics with a twist or two that makes me think about my plays long after my friendly local game store game night ends.
Pendulum promised a very big twist: a real time worker placement game. That has been a hard sell in the Gumbo, as real time games are not the top of the Krewe’s list for “wanna play next”. I’m hot and cold myself, loving Steam Park and Cosmic Factory, but finding Escape: Curse of the Temple a big miss. I plunked down my credit card anyway and had a copy sent over. What could possibly geaux wrong?
I’ll be doing a full review after a few more plays, but here are three early impressions based on two plays, one with Bradly as a two player and one as a solo.
First, we were lucky enough to have no problems with our sand timers, so the game play went smooth. Second, I find myself setting the bar pretty high on Stonemaier productions, and for me, the board art and theme of this game was pretty lackluster. Third, I don’t have any other game like this in my collection, and the combination of juicy combolicious engine building, anxious-play-then-slow-down-to-think game speeds, and just enough player interaction made this a pretty fun experience for me.
Not so much for Bradly — he preferred the non-real time variant of the game, which I found pretty bland and vanilla. Why play non-timer Pendulum when you can play a dozen other worker placement games instead?
Roux Dat says: Pendulum was surprisingly a lot more fun than I was expecting, maybe because I saw and read so many lackluster reviews. I absolutely loved adding cards to my tableau, figuring out ways to meet the requirements of the bonuses, and the challenge of planning ahead between three separately timed timers. A keeper for my collection for now.
Lost Ruins of Arnak
The buzz has been growing lately now that Lost Ruins of Arnak from CGE has been getting in the hands of fellow board game reviewers and content creators. The game features a unique twist on deck building, but at its heart is a traditional euro with a cool theme. Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice Podcast and I grabbed a seat at CGE’s playthrough of the game as part of the wonderful BGG @ Home event this past weekend.
Hey, Jumanji! Meet your board game progeny. Lost Ruins of Arnak has an interesting theme to me, basically pitting the players against each other as intrepid adventurers staking their claims for research and discovery on a heretofore undiscovered island. Players will use resources and cards to grab equipment that can upgrade their abilities, help them tango with nasty mythical looking monsters, work diligently on cataloguing their finds on the research track, and in general, buy cards for their decks with the hope that this will generate big points by the end of the game.
Like any good deck builder, Lost Ruins has a way to “exile” cards from your deck, giving you the chance not only to get rid of those pesky negative point ‘fear’ cards, but also a way to keep drawing your entire hand each turn if you are a better player than I am. (Or you can just keep taking negative cards and get blown out by Alex and Sam, our teacher.)
Lost Ruins definitely has a classic euro feel, in the way that you trade resources to get opportunities to chain up cool actions, but I like how you can’t just do one thing well. In my mind, there were three or four main ways to get actions and points, and you had to use one thing to boost your other positions, so bouncing back and forth among the areas is definitely the way to get those big engine boosts in the later rounds.
Roux Dat says: I fully thought it was going to be a Clank! derivative, but it felt nothing like that dungeon dive. Instead, we discovered an awesome worker placement / engine builder, powered by the cards and tiles that you purchase (or earn) during the game. Lost Ruins of Arnak tickles all the right toes for me.
THE WRAP UP:
So that’s it for our recent plays. Roux Dat will be back for more early looks at recent plays, especially in this uncertain time when it is tough to get a group of gamers together for a more proper review. Is there a game out there that you or your friends are curious about? Hit us up with a tweet @boardgamegumbo and we will see if we can get our hands on the game!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo
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