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 The Rival Networks, Beez, and Lonely Undead!
Any Thing’s Better Than A Test Signal, Right?
Gil Hova designed one of our favorite games last year, High Rise, and is also the designer of one of our favorite word games, Wordsy. But as much as we wanted to like The Networks because of the cool theme, it seemed a little too long for what we were getting out of it. I was excited to try out The Rival Networks last year at Gen Con Online, but even more excited when a physical review copy showed up, hoping that my wife would dig it.
The Rival Networks pits two players against each other, each running low rated television stations with terrible programming. Your job is to draft a new show for each of the three time slots, and attach “stars” to increase viewership. You’ll get the help of “ads” (essentially money) that you can use to buy Networks cards, which are all big in game bonuses or end game scoring. Plus, the shows themselves all have themes — sports, drama, sitcoms etc. — and if you can match up those themes in your time slot and in your reruns, you can score even more bonuses.
The goal is to win each time slot AND also keep an eye on the end of the season goals, like having the most popular show, or having certain kinds of stars in your line up. There are only three seasons, so the game plays quickly and can easily be set up and played in under an hour.
ROUX DAT SAYS: This was a huge hit with my wife, just as I thought. It feels like a grown up version of Lost Cities, with so many cool ways to sling shot your way to big scoring especially by the third season, when all of the shows and powers seem to ramp up. This is a strong contender for one of our top ten games of the year, and definitely one of the best two player games we have played recently. Now if only I could get my wife interested in Watergate and The Shores of Tripoli….
I Hear It’s Getting Lots Of….Buzz
Next Move Games has a permanent place in our collection with AZUL and REEF, two games that my friends and family really enjoy. So I’m always on the look out for their next games. 5-2-1-1 was interesting, but BEEZ had that look that I figured would showcase well on our table and get my casual gamer friends excited.
Beez is an abstract game about moving a bee around a field of flowers, bouncing from one color to the next each round collecting nectar to turn into honey (and victory points, natch). Players aim to score the most points after collecting 12-13 honey drops, but the points come only from meeting public and hidden goals which change every game. There are three public goals, which usually have to do with collecting colors or patterns, and two private goals which are similar but different enough that choosing the right two cards is essential to winning. Players should shoot for goals that synergize well, helping you to score multiple points for basically collecting the same nectar.
And it’s the collecting that is the most brain burning in two different ways. First, the bees will never fly straight over the course of the game, flitting around in different ways each turn. Printed on the side of the hexagonal base of the bee are sets of numbers depicting how far you can geaux in that direction.
Those numbers also correlate to the spaces on your honey pot, where the nectar turns into honey IF you have an open spot on your board that matches the number of spaces you went to collect that nectar. First player to turn 12 nectar into honey triggers the end of the game, and then the suspense builds as each player reveals their private goals.
ROUX DAT SAYS: I’m two for two in new games with my wife and family! We played Buzz almost every night this week, and I have yet to beat my wife at the game. She is really good at choosing goals that work well with the public goals, while I struggle to bounce around the hive. We played it with the kids too, and although it is a little slow for the boys (even though the bee miniatures are so cool looking), but Allison was a big fan. I’d much rather play Azul (especially Summer Pavilion) or even Reef before playing Beez, but I have to admit, it looks fantastic on the game mat and is super easy to teach. It’s a keeper for me, especially because my wife loves it, but if not for that, I would probably pass it on.
Hey Tom, Is This Really Your Plan, To Stay Inside A Mall All Day?
Last but not least, we played a few games of a new game coming to Kickstarter this week called Lonely Undead. it is the first game from designer Shelby Matussak and Dead Lemon Games. (You can check out our quick preview here.) Lonely Undead is a twist on the zombie genre, where players are Zombies competing to “make friends” with the living persons in a small town. First one to “befriend” seven people — i.e. infect them and turn them into zombies — wins the game.
Some of the elements of Lonely Undead are as you would expect — there’s lots of random zombie body parts that are used for health points, six different characters have cool special powers, and the flavor text on the cards is pretty spot on funny and good for a chuckle each time you see the cards. Surprises to us were how much fun the end of the round event cards were — at the end of each turn, each player draws a “reaction” card, which is basically the town reacting to the zombies’ actions of stalking down innocent townsfolk. Dogs will turn up loose on the outskirts of town and chase zombies around the board, doing damage if the canines can catch them. And there’s a hilarious mechanic where cards get triggered to zoom down the middle of the board, right where unsuspecting zombies are ready to reach out and “touch” some nice stranger. The fact that players have some autonomy over these actions is smart and slick and a blast.
On the down side, some of the reacts are not very fun, things like skipping a turn and probably shouldn’t be in a modern board game. I also wish that the designer would smooth out the actual ‘infection’ process, as it feels just a little too clunky for what should be a quick playing beer-and-pretzels game. Zombie games like this should have a tempo where the action is fast and furious, even if the zombies are ponderous, and the three step infection mechanic is just one step too long. Plus, I would have liked to see just a little bit more diversity in the main characters and townspeople, although kudos to the designer for including lots of different looking friendly faces in the citizens.
ROUX DAT SAYS: All in all, Lonely Undead is a good first outing for Dead Lemon Games. As a bit of lagniappe, the game comes standard with a double sided board — one side is preset to a town with lots of action and unique buildings, but the back side is a modular board that let’s players set up the town the way they want, giving lots of replayability. We played a prototype copy, and the rules are still being tweaked and formatted, so here’s hoping that there is a lot of interest in the project and backers give good feedback on how to strengthen the game. As is par for us, we don’t rate or review Kickstarter projects, because there are usually so many changes from the announcement of the project to the final product. Our thanks to Dead Lemon Games for sending us a copy.
THE WRAP UP:
So that’s it for our recent plays. Roux Dat will be back for more early looks at recent plays.
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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