Roux Dat #36: Crescent City Cargo, Uk’otoa, and For Science!

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. Our Gumbo Game Nights have been going strong of late, with a couple of dozen people showing up each Wednesday night at Anubis Game & Hobby in Lafayette to try out the latest hotness or our favorite classics. Plus, we are still getting together frequently online with gamers around the country to try new games.

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 Crescent City Cargo, Uk’otoa, and For Science!

Old Man River

My wife is from the Big Easy, and I’ve spent a lot of my personal time as well as business down in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes. The Crescent City is a giant pull for most Louisianians — it’s what people around the country first think of when they think about the Bayou State. Friend of the Gumbo, Jason Dinger, has been working on a trilogy of games about Louisiana, tied to specific moments in its glorious history. First up was Captains of the Gulf, a pick up and deliver game based around commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

We enjoyed Captains, but the premise behind his next game really intrigued me. In Crescent City Cargo, players are burgeoning owners of stevedoring operations in the early 20th century New Orleans, trying to build up their longshore operations and trade goods on trains, trucks, and ships down at the Port. Jason described the game’s development on a Gumbo Live! last year, and I couldn’t wait to play my copy from the recent Kickstarter deliveries.

Luckily, Andrew Bucholz was in town and had his copy ready to geaux, complete with his own player turn guide that you can find on BGG now. After a quick teach, it didn’t take Mitchell, Adam, Andrew and I long to be buried in the intricacies of the game. First thing to know is that Jason loves rondels in his games, and CCC features not one but two rondels you must navigate.

Players will move the worker meeples around a track representing the goods you can pick up (wood, meat, etc.) for transport on your personal trucks to the other rondel, representing the long docks at the Port of New Orleans. On that side of the board, you’ll find train tracks with cars ready for loading double loads of cargo big shipping containers you can stack goods in, and giant steam ships awaiting big shipments of the goods.

But to get the best results from those rondels, players will have to do some upgrading, as is typical for a Dinger design. Players have three tracks representing their organization: how much they can pick up, how much they can load, and how much morale their team has. The more morale, the more you can do any of the other tasks, because almost everyone of the eight actions you can do in the game spends morale points. Gotta make some good Community Coffee if you want to inspire your employees!

You can also upgrade your trucks, build “offices” on your work site (which give you special bonuses), or grab end game scoring bonus cards. There’s lots of nested actions here — we felt like we were rockin’ and rollin’ along, then we would hit a minor roadblock where we needed to upgrade something, then it was smooth sailing again.

ROUX DAT SAYS: Crescent City Cargo is exactly what I would expect from a Jason Dinger / Spielworxx game: gorgeous artwork from Harold Lieske, solid euro production values, and micro-turns that pass quickly but that have amazingly deep choices that can really affect your gameplay and final score. There’s never enough time to do everything you want, and never enough resources to feel like the game is playing on autopilot. You definitely control your strategy and how you meet the end game goals, and each of the actions feels very thematically tied to the game. Kudos!

Critical Rules

Carlos picked up a copy of Uk’otoa, the new game from Darrington Press. The team behind the publication is the same as Critical Roll, the hit web series where professional voice actors play D&D together live on Twitch. In Uk’otoa, which has one of the most annoying names to spell on an iMac keyboard, the dreaded beast has destroyed our ship, leaving our sailors stranded on the flotsam and jetsam of the wreckage. Who will survive?

The gameplay is simple and intuitive. Players team up a la Between Two Cities style, in other words partnering up with the player to the left and the player to the right. Each set of partners controls one set of colored sailor meeples which are placed all around the sinking ship. The tiles have arrows on them, and the start of those arrows resides Uk’otoa, who will slowly advance toward all of the meeples destroying the tiles and sweeping away the sailors she encounters along the way.

Already you are probably getting the premise of this game — players are cooperative until they are not, relying on each other to save the meeples, then abandoning any pretense at a partnership at just the right moment to save their favored crew. Because once the meeples are down to just one color (or both colors) controlled by one player, that’s the end of the game.

To accomplish the movement, players will draw and play cards each round, using the cards to move sailors, move Uk’otoa, use her “tail sweep” to kick sailors off of the boat, or draw more cards. The rules are pretty straightforward, and the game moves very quickly from stage to stage. It feels like it has the same weight as a Celestia or Deep Sea Adventure (although minus the push your luck element), with about the same level (or maybe a little more) of the take that elements of those two games.

I really enjoyed the card mechanic. Each card gives you something to do with your sailors or with Uk’otoa, but if you combo up the same cards, you can take more actions. Knowing when to play cards or when to draw cards is another juicy little decision and an interesting little twist that I was not expecting.

Like the other two, it is beautifully produced. I can see why some critics have judged it harshly based on its production, but that seems a bit unfair too. Uk’otoa feels like the stereotypical beer-and-pretzels thirty minute game, with a wonderful variant to set up the tiles the way players want that I would never play without. I won’t judge this game on a one hour wonder or 90 minute euro standard — instead, if I compare it to other 20-30 minute player interactive games, it surprisingly held up pretty well.

ROUX DAT SAYS: In the end, Uk’otoa is all about strategic timing, card draws, and take that, and if it were longer I would not have such a fond memory of playing it. Am I reacting a bit to the negative reviews I’ve seen? Maybe. But just as it is, I think it is a fine addition to a game bag, the kind of game you would play at the end of the night when people are a little punch drunk from brain melting games, and just want to throw down some cards in quick playing, take-that fashion.

The Professor and Mary Anne

We have a friend in our game group that is a tough nut to crack when it comes to Kickstarter backing. His tastes are…shall we say…”eclectic”? Anime, miniatures, social deduction, we never know what the next UPS driver will bring from some successfully delivered project.

But, recently, he received For Science! I saw the crowdfunding project when it went live and thought about backing it. It looked like it might be something that would stream well, so Bradly taught it to us for our Twitch Tuesdays stream.

In For Science! players are working cooperatively and are the only humans standing between the world and a deadly pandemic. (Hmm….that sounds vaguely familiar?) Each player takes on the persona of an unusual trope — eccentric lab workers, military people and seemingly regular folk attempting to find a cure. It’s a combination of a very puzzly game plus the stress of a timer and a stacking, dexterity game. It’s like playing Pandemic + Escape Curse of the Temple + Meeple Circus all at the same time!

Players will in real time take cards depicting connections between various types of wooden blocks, the same sort you find in a game like Junk Art. We added those cards to our lab, in hopes of meeting the objectives that allowed us to “solve” the virus. If we were successful, we earned things to help us buy puzzle pieces to “surround” the viruses, taking turns to earn those resources as best we could.

On the stream, we muddled through the rules as best as we could, took the timer off, and blundered our way to a couple of high points. After about 35 minutes, we called it a night and had a nice little puzzle put together. Although there were a lot of laugh out loud moments as we simultaneously cheered for and against each other, this was sadly a miss for us even as we got better at the game. The stress of trying to euro your way to a good virus solve while at the same time trying to put the best options for adding blocks that would score us resource was just too much.

ROUX DAT SAYS: For Science! was not For Us. Maybe it would be better if we played with a QB who knew the game really well and could keep us focused and moving toward our goal. We were all doing our own thing, and losing pretty badly at it. Adding a timer would make it even worse, but to be fair, Steam Park and maybe Pendulum are about the only real time games I have enjoyed. It’s just not my cup of tea.

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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