Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here back with more tales of gaming down on the bayou. Hit us up on Twitter or on Facebook and let us know what games you’ve been playing 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 The Red Cathedral, The Court of Miracles, and The Goonies: Never Say Die!
Dice Dice, Basil
Mitchell P from Board Game Battles stopped by The Gumbo Pot to show off his copy of The Red Cathedral from Devir Games. We got super excited to play this when Jeremy Howard from Man v Meeple stopped by to talk it up on Gumbo Live! earlier this year. The Red Cathedral pits players against each other as they move and manipulate dice around a rondel trying to score points as they build up the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia.
Players will build this tiny little engine that they get to run each time they use a certain die on the rondel, but have to make tough choices as to when to add oomph to the engine, when to get it started, AND when to dominate the influence on the buildings themselves.
That’s right — in addition to a cool dice use mechanic where the die result tells you how far you can go on the rondel, not only does the color of the die matter for your bonuses, not only does the spot you land give you a triggered effect plus additional bonuses, but when you build up the cathedral, you are really trying to out influence the other players for big end game points!
Players have so many choices, which belies the small nature of the package. We also debated the production on the stream, and all of us agreed, the publisher did a fantastic job of combining classic wooden pieces and cardboard, understated muted art with very easy iconography that makes getting up to speed in the game very easy to do.
ROUX DAT SAYS: Holy Combolicious, Batman! From start to finish, we enjoyed this game. The amount of game you get in this tiny box, basically 45 minutes of good, thinky, interactive fun is astounding. Plus, Mitchell showed us the number of ways each game can change depending on how the game is set up and the cards that are used. Thumbs up after our first play, and we want to get a copy in the Gumbo.
You Wont Be Around To Reveal What You found
Lucky Duck Games has been on a roll lately, leveraging their past experience with technology into making some of the most innovative cardboard-plus-electronic combos in the business. But they are not just good at publishing wiz bang types of games, as we found out this week. Welcome to Paris, circa the 16th Century, where The Court of Miracles gives players a chance to establish their renown throughout the City of Lights.
Bradly showed off all of the components and gameplay of The Court of Miracles earlier this year, and has been playing the game a lot. But, I had never gotten a chance, so with Mitchell at the table, we fired up a three player game. So what is The Court of Miracles? You could call it a worker placement game, since you start out with three workers of hidden strength (and can add a fourth). You could say it is a blind bidding game, where each player uses those workers to stake out authority in each quarter of the map of Paris. But it’s all that and more.
Continuing the theme from above, the playtime of this game at about 30-40 minutes belies the depth of the decisions you will have to make. There are two timers in the game (first to put out six wooden influence pieces, or moving the Penniless King to the end of the track) that you must keep an eye on, especially the second one because at certain spots, events are triggered that can really change the strategy.
But even more than that, the fact that each turn is so quick and each action creates a cascade of other reactions means that every game (at least according to Bradly) plays out completely differently, especially as you mix different people into the group. Some players will favor upgrading their workers, a random event but one where getting the right worker can set you up beautifully for winning spots all over the board. Some players will favor rushing the influence tokens, while others will focus on the King’s movement.
There’s a lot to take in, but it is one of those games that the deepness of the gameplay comes as an Aha! moment sometime during the second or third turn in the game. And lest I forget my absolute favorite part — the game comes with a tarot deck that players draw powers that absolutely wreck the gameplay in a good way. Trust me, each card feels like it is giving you a chance at an insane combo, if only you could get the pieces to line up on the board correctly.
ROUX DAT SAYS: This is why I play new board games. Every once in a while, the joy of discovery comes back when you find a game that takes familiar mechanics but combines them in a way that brings excitement to the table. I love playing my medium weight, 90 minute euros, but sometimes I just want a game that can be taught in ten minutes and played twice in an hour. That’s The Court of Miracles for sure. My only disappointment is that there was no discussion of the Hunchback of Notre Dame while we played, but that’s only because I forgot to ask if Mitchell is a Disney animated feature fan. Next time.
Never Say Never
My college roommate was a huge Cyndi Lauper fan, so you can imagine that I heard The Goonies R Good Enough plenty enough around Baton Rouge. I liked the movie well enough, but the idea of the folks from Prospero Hall / Funko putting their spin on a mass market one versus many adventure game intrigued me more than the theme.
In The Goonies: Never Say Die, players relive the adventures of this classic 80s movie, albeit with less singing and lots of skeletons. One player is the Goondocks Master (GM) while the other players play their choice of Mouth, Chunk, Data, Mikey or Sloth. They’ll get help from familiar teenage characters in the movie (like Thanos himself) and run into fearsome foes that the alliteration of this joke should help you guess the identity. The first few adventures in the book run pretty parallel with the movie, but after that, it’s all new adventures for your favorite Goonies.
The mechanics are fairly standard for dungeon divers. Players have health for battles and surviving traps and a resource called “wishes” that they’ll use to influence the many dice checks that come in the game. In fact, that’s about 90% of the playing part of this game — rolling lots of translucent dice that you can upgrade to give you a better chance at success. The map is all laid out, but the entrances and exits to each cave on the cardboard are only revealed as the map is slowly explored.
I guess the twist here is that the winning condition is only known to the GM during most of the adventure. The Goonies will know the basics of the module, but after that, they’ll rely on clues from the GM to figure out what they really need to do to win. If they accomplish their goals — and they’ll find lots of treasure along the way to help as well as baddies and boulders to slow them down — before the GM can make the sand timer run out, they win.
Our first play took about an hour to play, including a short rules teach, but the book does a good job of organizing the rules, so even though you have to reference it a lot, it’s all there within easy reach.
Determined to play it right, I talked Jerod into coming over last night and playing the intro scenario for his first time. What a difference! He played Data and Mouth together, a lethal combo for the cave, but I also threw everything at him. The risks were greater, the pace quicker, and the story shined. It was a much better experience, and so we’ve decided to put Mice & Mystics away and play this on our campaign nights instead.
ROUX DAT SAYS: The good news — I highly enjoyed being the GM. I loved watching the players interact with the traps, using my GM deck to influence the game, and watching the players agonize using their wishes or groan when their dice rolls misfired and gave me more GM tokens. The bad news? A series of bad rules teaches (by me), a lack of advanced prep and knowledge of the adventure book (me again), and some mechanical dislikes (finally, something not by me!) made the experience less than ideal for the other players on our first play.
But the game sang when Jerod and I played it correctly, and grabbed us from start to finish. It is surprisingly an excellent two player experience because of the back and forth strategy between the sides (even as I kept sight of the “it’s supposed to be a movie” mantra). Looks like this one is going on the “Me and Jerod only” shelf, for now, but big thumbs up from us.
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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