Roux Dat #55: Free Radicals, Tenpenny Parks, Long Shot: The Dice Game

Hey board gamers, my voice is finally back after the long SoBo weekend two weeks ago. For a recap of what we played at SoBo 2022, make sure to go to our SoBo 2022 recap for all of the highlights!

Southern Board Game Fest introduced me to a few games I had never gotten a chance to play but finally did. We’ve got our Twitch Tuesdays going strong. And I need to make my monthly visit to Anubis soon, but work has gotten pretty busy lately! That means that I’ve got plenty of games to talk about over the next few weeks, that’s for sure.

That’s enough blather, let’s get right to the games we’ve been playing lately. This time we are chatting about Free Radicals, Tenpenny Parks, and Long Shot: The Dice Game.

Seaux Many Choices

Jerod and I have been fascinated lately with asymmetric games like Merchants Cove and Empires of the North and Root. I like the ones that are more family friendly, that don’t crunch my brain too much.

When WizKids sent us a copy of Free Radicals, designed by Nathan Woll, I could tell just based on the premise that Jerod would want to explore it many times in a row. I was right. So far, I’ve played two different characters (Hoteliers and Paladins), but Jerod’s already gotten through almost half of the 10 different factions in the box.

In Free Radicals, it’s the distant future, where society has broken into various groups who are trying to learn new technologies from the “Free Radicals” – these giant weird tech breakthroughs dropped on Earth by aliens. At least, I think that’s what the conceit of the game is!

What is Free Radicals really about? Each player will take on a faction to try to score as many points as possible with each player playing the game differently. For instance, one faction could be using a programming mechanic, while one will be placing polynomials. Yet another player will score all of their points through some light deck building. You get the drift.

It would be fair to call this game Merchant’s Cove in space, but it would be unfair at the same time because in Free Radicals, the players are not only unique in how they play the game, they are also unique in how they actually score points in the game which is a nice twist.

In our first plays of Free Radicals, it feels like it’s all about the data cards that allow you to build the ten main faction buildings in the game. Those ten buildings each give special bonuses to those who build and interact with them, and figuring out the right combo of buildings to work on is a satisfying puzzle in each game.

ROUX DAT SAYS: Some gamers are intimidated by asymmetrical games, but Free Radicals turned out to be one of the easiest asymmetric games to teach. We’ve been getting up and running in minutes thanks to the excellent player guides for each faction. Jay loved the art, Jerod loved the gameplay, and I loved all the different ways the factions were unique. We will definitely continue to explore the game’s factions, so that’s a good sign for shelf life.

A Penny For Your Parks

My love affair with amusement park games continues, this time with a new game from Thunderworks Games designed by Nate Linhart with gorgeous art from Vincent Dutrait. Way back before the pandemic, I had interviewed Tim Virnig about the game on Gumbo Live! and I have been waiting to play it ever since, so thank you to Thunderworks for sending it our way.

The gameplay is simple, and you can easily enjoy a game in under an hour. Players each have their own double sided player park board to place tiles representing amusement park rides and concession stands. We like the board sides that have different starts, but you can play the reverse side which are all exactly the same if you like.

As Walt Disney’s brother Roy knew, it takes money to open up a park and keep “plussing” it each month, and Tenpenny Parks has a tight economic engine that you really have to master if you want to do well. You can invest in various attractions and stands that increase your park’s joy, awe, and excitement, and that’s a great way to get bonuses like the first player token or more money or an extra worker, but you really need a money engine established early to do what you want in the last rounds.

Any marketing whiz knows that you can build the best park in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you’ll just end up eating a lot of Mickey bars and stale popcorn for dinner. The more we play, the more we realize that advertising is very important, and yep, that costs money, too.

Speaking of best parks, kudos to the production team for putting together an amazing board presence. There is a carousel at the top of the board which not only gives it that 3D look as in Ulm but is also functional in that it allows the first player to affect the prices of the attractions that are available that round. It’s kind of a drilled down version of the auction mechanic in Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but in my mind, this works a lot better – it’s way more elegant.

ROUX DAT SAYS: I’ve played quite a few amusement park games in my gaming days, and this is the closest game in my mind to the hours I spent enjoying the original Rollercoaster Tycoon PC game. The combination of gorgeous art, light economy, spatial puzzly goodness, and quick play makes this an absolute winner and an early leader for the top six games of 2022.

Ils Sont Partit

Dave and I like racing and betting games, so I was excited when he picked up a copy of Long Shot: The Dice Game. Hey, did you know it has the same amount of dice as the original Long Shot game? Neither did I until Zee said it on The Dice Tower last week.

I digress.

Long Shot pairs two perfect parts together perfectly – it’s a roll and writer plus a horse racing game. Players will roll two dice which control which horse moves so many spaces each turn. Each horse “drags” other horses down the stretch by activating them for one space of movement, too. Simple, right?

Yes, but then the fun starts. Each player can then use the dice results to reshape their own player board. You could place bets or increase your initial bet on a horse to win, place or show. You could upgrade your board by getting more money or greater freedom to bet. You could even buy one of the horses so that you get their special power the rest of the game AND take all the winnings if they place.

Long Shot: The Dice Game is designed by Chris Handy (who designed the original Long Shot) with art by Clau Souza, and published by Perplext. Just for the fact that it plays up to eight players and takes only about a half hour to play (from teach to finish) makes it a game to recommend to most groups. Each turn, there’s such a deliciously juicy tension built right in – what will you do with that one die roll you can pick? It feels like there are so many right choices each round, and the game plays so quickly, that at the end I had a strong desire to just set it up again and try a different strategy.

ROUX DAT SAYS: I honestly was not expecting much based on the small footprint, and I’m not sure why, because I love games exactly like this one that deliver a big game in a tiny package. Long Shot is one of the most unique randowriters I’ve played the last few years. I’ve only played it at two and three players, and I’m hoping to meet Dave up at one of the Wednesday night game nights at Anubis to try with a bigger group. If you are a fan of racing and betting games, you should check out Long Shot: The Dice Game.

THE WRAP UP:

So, that’s it for our first impressions and post-game musings of three new-to-us games. The Roux Dat will be back with more commentary and reviews about the games we are playing. Is there a game that you would like us to play? Let us know in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook @boardgamegumbo and we will see if we can get a copy!

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

– BJ

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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