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 time, we are looking at Destinies, Duel of Wands, and Trans-Siberian Railroad!
Board Gamer, It Is Your Destiny.
Lucky Duck Games sent us a review copy of Destinies, and we watched helplessly as everyone else in the board gaming universe played it before we did. Including our own Krewe de Gumbo, who all just HAD TO TRY IT before it got back to Gumbo HQ. But finally, finally, finally, we played!
Destinies is an app driven, exploration game for three people, at least with the base game. (With the expansion, you can play two v two apparently). Players play as characters in a strange but wonderfully fleshed out fantasy universe. Somehow, the designers (Michał Gołębiowski and Filip Miłuński) have translated a sandbox style point-and-click adventure into tabletop, complete with amazing art, lots of storyline, and tiny-but-really cool miniatures — gobs and gobs of them, in fact!
More importantly, each player has a different win condition that is triggered by their character’s “destiny” (actually, one of two choices for each person) in the game. Will those destinies harmonize so that the players work together toward the end, or will they compete for the challenges and resources scattered around the village? The app will be with you as guidance….always…
Surprise number one was how easy it was to explore the “map” (made up of oversized cards) in integration with the app running the story and encounters. Surprise number two was the unique leveling up and combat/check system. Players have three skills, and roll dice to meet challenges including combat. But, they have some control over how good their character is in each of the skills.
Without spoiling the game, players will make choices that will give them the ability to upgrade the ease at which even a low number can grant a success on the skill check. Those decisions as to which skills to upgrade and by how much give players a lot of agency in how their character develops. Plus, each choice seems to affect how the storyline plays out for your character — your decisions could really affect how you fulfill your destiny or hinder you from winning!
We played the prologue, which took a little over two hours from opening the box and teaching our way through the game to the finish. We all agreed that the time passed a lot more quickly than that! Our turns were quick and efficient but each one of them seem to bring us closer to our goals. The app was easy to use, and promises even more content so you get a lot of game in this box.
If we had one picayune quibble, it was with the teeny tiny miniatures that were hard for us to make out the differences with quick glances on the table, but otherwise, this is a beautiful production.
ROUX DAT SAYS:
Our family has really enjoyed adventure style games like Above & Below and Near & Far. I played this prologue with my son and his girlfriend, and Matt told me this was one of his best gaming experiences in years. Above & Below’s storyline choices were a big hit for Matt, and he said Destinies was just as fun but felt a lot more integrated into the actual world. For me, I’ll just say this — I cannot wait to dig into more of this game. As much as I like straight euros, I will gladly devote an entire game night to playing through one of these campaigns.
At Wand, We Duel
For the last two weeks, Duel of Wands: designed by Doug Levandowski and Luke Muench has hit the table. Renegade Games was kind enough to send us a review copy, and after reading the rules, we were thinking that the M:tG cross overs at the friendly local game store would enjoy playing it. We were right!
Duel of Wands is set in the Kids on Brooms RPG universe, and the conceit is that this is the game they play there. Made for two players, the opponents grab a small deck of spells (we’ve been playing with the advanced variant, where you can customize your deck just a wee bit with upgraded versions of your spells) and add some cards from the shared deck.
After that, the winner is the first one to make the other person unable to draw a card into their hand or sniff out that a certain card is in their hand and “name” it using one of the spells that can dispel that card.
As you can imagine, with small decks and quick turns, each game doesn’t last very long. We followed the rule book and and played a few games to the best of three, but I guess you could extend the game if you really wanted to do so.
The basic game is pretty easy to learn; the trickiest part is remembering which cards go into your discard pile (and can be brought back into your deck with a refresh type of spell) and which ones go into a banish pile. It takes just a round or two to get that in your head, and the rest of the game can be taught or refreshed from the cards themselves. The gameplay is slick and intuitive like that.
But, the group that tried it out with me had a lot more fun with the advanced rules, where players can switch out additional power cards that substitute for some of the basic cards in the deck. This lends even more replayability, but more importantly, gives players the feeling of a little more control in how the game plays.
ROUX DAT SAYS:
Duel of Wands plays like a fast, distilled version of two blue control decks whacking at each other. There’s lots of feints and guessing, bluffs and bobbing, and it has been a perfect game for two of us to play while waiting for more people to arrive or for another game to finish. A definite keeper for the game bag, and the FLGS regulars liked it so much, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them order a few for sale to the M:tG crowds.
In Russia, Trains Buy You
For years, the heaviest train game I played was Ticket To Ride and its european siblings. Then, I played Spike a few years ago and loved every play. We played that a lot for one whole summer, and I loved the aspect of building out routes, upgrading your trains, and delivering goods for points.
I had no need to get any deeper into train games. 18xx? How about 18NeauxWay!
Then we discovered the cube rail game system. In essence, the shared capitalization of the trains, stock system, and development were shrunk down from the bigger train cousins in 18xx into a bite sized palate to enjoy.
We’ve spent the last few weeks as we enjoyed gaming again at the game store exploring all of the cube rail games in our collective collections this summer: Luzon Rails and then Irish Gauge last week. But this week, we finally got to play Trans-Siberian Railroad, a game re-published (in this edition) by Rio Grande Games, who sent us a review copy.
Trans-Siberian Railroad pits you against your friends as an investor building up rail lines all across the Siberian area of the Asian continent. Grab stocks in railroads betting that you (and perhaps your fellow player competitors) can drive the value of the stock way up as you add rail lines. Eastward expansion is the key, although there is some money to be made in hitting the ports on the edges of the map.
We encountered some unique mechanics, at least for us newbies to cube rail. First, you need a majority interest in a rail once it goes public to add rail lines, meaning you have to watch what the other players are doing. (I’m assuming this is an 18xx thing?) Second, you need to keep buying shares when the stock is low to ensure your train company doesn’t run out of funds and cannot expand.
And expand it has to, because at a certain point in the game, the twist happens: two new train companies are added, increasing the pressure, and the government starts nationalizing the companies that are lagging in value.
Hoo boy, there’s a lot of tension in the game! I played terribly in that first play, not realizing how important it is to invest in stocks early and then expand, expand, expand! But as terrible as I played, I hung around the top two until the last turn when I couldn’t get the blue train company to get over the hump and keep from getting nationalized.
I know, I know: #playbetter
ROUX DAT SAYS:
Trans-Siberian Railroad is definitely a game that deserves another play! I feel like it takes a play just to get a feel for the rhythm of the game, which has a tempo all its own compared to the other cube rail games we have dabbled in. I admit, I was very skeptical about the graphic and art choices, but in all honesty, the cover art is pretty cool and the minimalist style of the board focuses you in on what this game is all about — investing, expanding, cooperating and then cut-throating your way to victory. Plus, I have to say, it has one of the best player aids that come with a train game that I have seen, with about 90% of the necessary info you need to play the game.
THE WRAP UP:
So that’s it for our recent plays. Roux Dat will be back soon with 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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