Roux Dat #29: First Impressions of Tidal Blades, Godspeed, and Karmaka

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. The pandemic has made it tough to get multiplayer games in, at least in person, but luckily, I have a few gamers at home, and some steady friends who will get together online frequently. So, as usual, our first impressions are generally either with small play counts (2-3 players) or online only.

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! This month, we are discussing Tidal Blades, Godspeed, and Karmaka.

Tidal Blades of Glory

When Jeremy Howard of Man v Meeple speaks, we in the Gumbo listen! Jeremy was on the show a couple of months back super excited about Tidal Blades, one of the latest Kickstarter deliveries from Druid City Games. We watched his solo play, and started to get a little juiced up. Druid City sent us a review copy, and I played a three player game with Jay Bell and Bradly this week.

Tidal Blades depicts some kind of interesting new world, where players hop from island to island trying to complete challenges — picture an aqua version of American Gladiator or a serious version of Taskmaster. We got a little bit of a Champions of Midgard vibe in our play, which is not a bad thing because Champions is one of our top worker placement games ever. But, that’s true of a lot of worker placement games, and Tidal Blades definitely has some unique things going for it. First, we played the Kickstarter copy which is waaaaaay over the top in terms of production. That should be no surprise to fans of James Hudson’s releases!

But more importantly, I dug some of the things that Jeremy pointed out in our chat. The player character boards have four dials on it, and each one of them affects the parts of the game differently, things like how many dice get refreshed each round, or how many dice you can take into a contest. Almost every time you do anything anywhere in the game, designers Tim & Ben Eisner give you upgrades to your player board that really ramps up the experience.

From the first round, where my player character felt a little puny and weak, to the last round, when we had four workers, three player card upgrades, and tons of dice and boosts on the dials. The downside? The double monster island was underwhelming, and the fact that you lose all of your dice if you compete in that challenge really is a let down. We bandied about a few house rules if we added this game to our regular rotation.

Roux Dat says: Druid City Games has a real hit here. Every couple of years, a new worker placement game comes out that is friendly to new gamers and is the benchmark for people of that year getting into the hobby: Caylus, Stone Age, Viticulture, Champions of Midgard, Lords of Waterdeep, and Raiders of the North Sea come top of mind right now. I think Tidal Blades has that kind of potential. I’m game to try it again.

Karmaka, Karmaka, Karmaka, Karmaka, Karmakameleon

Jay brought over a 2016 game that was unfamiliar to me and Bradly. Karmaka was published by Hemisphere Games back in 2016, and I did not see much about it back then. But, I was pretty busy that year playing Scythe, Terraforming Mars, Great Western Trail, and Clank! so it was probably me, not the game.

Karmaka is a small box card game themed around reincarnation. Players race up a track to reincarnate themselves four times, each time with a tougher and tougher goal. If you do not meet the points by the time you run out of cards, no worries, you will get a karmic ring that gives you a bonus for your next try. It’s essentially a set collection game, but your deck is only about six cards, and two of them are drawn right away. (I say “about” because you have slight control over the size in later rounds). Players will try to play cards of the same color in front of them totaling up the points required for reincarnation.

But there’s a catch. The cards are multi-use. They have a color and a strength (starting at one and going to four if I recall correctly), which you play as the “deeds” you need (the combination of numbers) to meet the threshold for the next reincarnation. Or, they could also be played for the action that is represented in the text of the cards, generally the stronger the action, the larger the number. Or they could even be stashed into your “future life” (your next round’s deck). Yes, that means you have juicy decisions as to whether to keep that big three card (which would probably get you over the reincarnation hurdle) or play the card for its strong action like messing with other players, letting you draw more cards, or playing more actions.

And sure, it is fun to play those strong cards for their actions, because that’s how you do your shenanigans, that’s how you break ahead or slow another player down. But there’s one more catch — cards that you play are then offered in turn order to the other players to keep for the next round! That is one slick mechanic which really affected our decision tree.

Roux Dat says: The game ran just a smidge too long, even though we are very fast players. This game looks and feels like something that should be played in about 15-30 minutes, but it stretched closer to 45-50 minutes. But I adore the artwork on the cards, which is a cross between dreamy and impressionistic, and I was fascinated each round with the delicious decisions presented by the multi-use cards. Definite keeper for early or late in the game night. Warning to all who do not like “take that” games, there is a lot of player interactivity in this design, but not so much that it wrecks your game.

Dragon Tales & The Water Is Wide, Pirates Sail & Lost Boys Fly

Pandasaurus Games always has games at Gen Con that I want to play. Every year, it is one of the must stops on my tour around the Convention Center. With no Gen Con this year, I had to scour the socials to see what PG was up to for this season, and Godspeed was top of the list. Pandasaurus sent us a review copy, and I was happy to break it out. Who is up for space games? I am! (Check out our unboxing and overview of game play video here.)

Designed by Clayton Hargrave and Adam Hill, Godspeed has an interesting premise. What if the Moon Landing was a lie — but not in the way you think. What if Mankind had already been out of the Solar System and Neil’s One Small Step was as small as he hinted?

That’s the theme. Players are scientists from different competing space nations, trying to score as many points over ten rounds by building out your player tableau with racing up four tracks regarding space exploration, completing round by round objectives, claiming Civ Milestones, and other point salad type spreads. Godspeed is basically a medium crunchy taco with extra worker placement sauce on it.

I’m not a fan of the board art, and was a little meh on the game play, but I was the only one among me and Jay and Bradly that felt that way. The other two seemed to love the way that the iconography was easy to understand, that the turn structure was laid out basically on the board, and how players compete with so many different systems — worker placement, auction mechanics to bid on extra resources and the first player marker, beating each other up the tracks, and of course, responding to the Events back on Earth or out in space.

Roux Dat says: I made some critical errors in understanding the scoring in the first half of the game that slowed up the development of my country’s stamp on space civilization, and in all honesty, that probably contributed a bit to my underwhelming play. The back half of the game was much more pleasurable, and I probably would not turn down a second play.

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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