Weekly Game Report – 1/18-1/24

Settle in y’all, it’s been a good week for gaming! Not only did I go to game night this week, I was also able to meet a friend and play games ALL day long on Saturday! I played two new games at game night, and several games from my collection on Saturday, so I have a lot to talk about!

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Brief Overview – Cacao

Brief Overview

pic2404009_mdCacao is a tile laying game in which you are the chief of a tribe leading your people to prosperity by way of the fruit of the gods, the cacao plant. Cacao is a game for 2-4 players, it was designed by Phil Walker-Harding, and is published by Z-Man Games. Each player has their own set of village tiles, each of which has some configuration of workers printed on the four sides (always totals four workers on the tile). There are also jungle tiles of various types, cacao farms, markets, mines, temples, etc… The board starts with two jungle tiles. Each turn the player places one of their village tiles adjacent to a jungle tile. Any side of the village that has workers that are adjacent to the jungle tile, activate that jungle tile for each worker symbol. For example, if you place your village that has one worker on each of the four sides, and one of those sides is adjacent to a cacao farm and another is adjacent to a two-gold market, then you can activate the workers to grow a cacao fruit, then sell that cacao fruit at the market for two gold. Or, if you are at your cap of five cacao fruit, you could instead activate the market first to sell a cacao fruit for two gold, then activate the farm to replace the fruit that you just sold. If there are any “gaps” in the board, i.e. a space where two village tiles could both be adjacent to a jungle tile, then a jungle tile is placed in that space, again activating any village workers that are adjacent (including those of your opponent). In this way the final board is a checkerboard of jungle and village tiles. Once all of the village tiles have been placed, points are calculated based on your position on the river, the number of sun tokens that you have, and which temples your control. All of these things are converted into gold, and the player with the most gold is the winner.

Discussion

I find Cacao to be very interesting. There is not a whole lot of player interaction, aside from vying for control of the temple tiles, but you do have to be careful how you choose to place your village tiles and how you add the jungle tiles to the board as well. You want to maximize what your villages are doing while also not triggering free actions for your opponents. Once again, a relatively small box packs in quite a lot of game in my opinion. I apologize for the shortness of the discussion, but I plan on writing a full review of Cacao in the near future.

Brief Overview – Cartagena

Brief Overview

pic174082_mdCartagena is a game all about breaking pirates out of jail! Cartagena was designed by Leo Colovini and my copy was published by Winning Moves (most recently published by Ravensburger). Cartagena is for 2-5 players and a game takes about 45 minutes. The board is set up with six tiles, each is a hallway with a different configuration of several symbols (every symbol appears on every tile). Each player starts with six pirates at one end of the board, and one empty boat awaits the pirates at the other end. Players start with a hand of cards, each of which has a symbol matching one of the board symbols, and on their turn they may take three actions. The player may play a card to move one of their pirates to the next available matching space on the board, or they may slide a pirate backwards on the board to the previous space which contains one or two pirates. Sliding backwards is the only way to obtain additional cards in the game. If you slide back to a space containing one pirate you take one card, and if you slide to a space containing two pirates, you take two cards. The first player with all six pirates in the boat at the end is the winner.

Discussion

Cartagena is one of my all-time favorite games. It is incredibly simple, yet has a surprising amount of strategy. You want to move your pirates as far ahead as fast as you can, but doing so can leave a trail which the opponents can follow easily. For example, if I play hat, hat, hat and now have pirates on boards one, two, and three, all my opponent has to do is play another hat to have a pirate on board four. In addition to moving forward, you have to be careful of the backwards possibilities that you leave open to your opponent. Essentially, you don’t want to give them any opportunities to get two cards right away (moving backward to a space with two pirates). It becomes a fine line and I’ve found that you have to move your whole group of pirates slowly up the board rather than making huge leaps… I mean, if your opponent leave a huge leap open for you to take, then you have to take advantage of it, but try not to leave those opportunities for your opponents.

Brief Overview – Taluva

Brief Overview


92ca7d_9fcda51798654683996c0871455f0822Taluva
 is a territory building, tile laying game with a twist. You can build up as well as out. Taluva is played by 2-4 players and was designed by Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle. My copy of the game was by Rio Grande Games, but Ferti is the current publisher. In Taluva players take turns placing tiles around or on top of the existing island. Each tile consists of a volcano and two other terrain spaces. Tiles placed to expand the footprint of the island must share an edge with another tile. Tiles placed to expand the height of the island must overlap at least two tiles, and the volcano on the new tile must be directly above a volcano on one of the tiles under it. No overhanging terrain is allowed. Tiles may be placed over top of existing huts which are then destroyed (removed from the game, not back to the player), provided that they are not wiping out a complete village. Towers and temples may not be covered over. Once the terrain is placed, the player plays one or more buildings consisting of huts, temples, and towers. To start a new village a hut must be placed at sea level, on an empty hex (not necessarily on the tile just played). A player may also expand an existing village by choosing a terrain type and placing huts on each space that matches the chosen terrain that is adjacent to the existing village. If this causes huts to be placed at level two or higher, then huts equal to the level are placed on the space (i.e. on level three, three huts would be placed). The player may also play a temple which must be placed in an existing village (with no other temple in it already) that has buildings in three or more hexes. Towers are similar in that there has to be an existing village which can not have another tower in it, but towers may only be placed at level three or higher. If a player does not have enough buildings to complete a move then they can not choose that move, and if a player is literally unable to place any building on their turn, then they lose the game instantly. The game ends in one of two ways; the official end-game is when all of the terrain tiles have been placed the game ends and the player with the most temples is the winner (tie goes to most towers and then most huts). The “quick” victory happens when one player plays all of two types of their buildings, then that player wins immediately.

Discussion

When I first obtained Taluva and played it, I didn’t really grasp the tactical nature of the game. There are many levels of strategy involved and a lot of decisions that must be made each turn starting with where to place your terrain tile. If you place the terrain tile in a way that your opponent can exploit, then you give them an advantage. In general I’ve found that trying to keep the opponent at sea level as long as possible while giving yourself options to expand up is the best approach. Typically a player tries to win by placing all of their temples and towers (you have three and two respectively), and each player’s goal should be not just to play out their buildings, but also to inhibit the ability of the other players to do the same. The game is really brutal with just two players, as any wrong move can give the opponent a deep advantage. Then it becomes up to the opponent to make a mistake so that you can catch back up.

Brief Overview – Cyclades

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Brief Overview

Cyclades is a game for two to five players by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, released by Asmodee. Cyclades is an area control game in which the players bid to obtain the favors of the Greek gods Ares, Poseidon, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo. Each god grants a specific action, for example Ares allows you to place and move troops and Poseidon allows you to place and move fleets. Each god, except for Apollo also allows you to build certain buildings. The positions of the gods changes each round such that the actions will always be taking place in different orders and the last person to place a bid will be the first to place a bid the following turn. The goal of the game is to control two metropolises at the end of a turn, if you do, then you win. To build a metropolis you must build all four of the available building types or gather four philosophers from Athena. Space is tight in the aisles of Cyclades and you must battle your opponents for space. The more islands you control, the more income you generate which helps you gain the favor of the gods. If you conquer an opponent-controlled island which also contains any buildings, you gain control of those buildings as well. Gather troops and fleets to move them from island to island and battle for control. Finally, as if the favors of the gods weren’t enough call upon mythological creatures like the pegasus, cyclops, and the mighty kraken to help you in your fight!

Discussion

Some people are most fond of Euro-games while others are Ameri-trash fans. I like all types of games, barring some issue that I might have with a specific one. Cyclades is a balance of several game types. It definitely has a euro-game feel with the area control, bidding, and civilization building aspects, but it also fills that Ameri-trash role with the combat (die rolls!) and awesome miniatures. I think it does what it wants to well, and keeps the players engaged. A balance between fleets, troops, and the economy are important to keep, and you want to be expanding out to the various islands to gain economic advantage, but you really have to watch yourself to make sure that your assets are protected, because anyone can just swoop in five troops on a pegasus to steal your island, and therefore your gold!

Brief Overview – Tiny Epic Galaxies

Brief Overview

pic2349732_mdTiny Epic Galaxies is a dice game by designer Scott Almes and published by Gamelyn Games. It is the most recent game in their “Tiny Epic” line, preceded by Tiny Epic Defenders and Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Currently the next title, Tiny Epic Western is available on Kickstarter (campaign ends on 2/4/16). Tiny Epic Galaxies plays 1-5 players and a game runs about 30 minutes long. Each player tracks their empire and resources on their own player mat. On their turn each player rolls a number of dice dictated by the current level of their empire. The different symbols on the dice are activated to do various actions; generate culture or power, launch a ship to land on a planet, activating it’s power or launch a ship to put it in orbit around a planet, increase your position in a planet’s orbit, or upgrade your empire. The goal is to earn twenty-one or more victory points which are gained as you upgrade your empire and whenever you colonize a planet (move your ship around the orbit until you get to the final space). When you colonize a planet it moves off of the center row and stacks under your empire board, and the planet’s ability becomes a choice whenever you activate the empire die (which initially only upgrades your empire). Whomever gets twenty-one points triggers the final round. Once all players have finished their turns, the game ends. Players then reveal their hidden goal, and the player with the most points is the winner!

Discussion

I’ve backed quite a few Kickstarter games in my time. Some are better than others, but Tiny Epic Galaxies is among my favorites. This has been stated about a great many games, but they really pack a lot of game into a little box. Most dice games are fairly un-interactive. You roll, take your actions, and the next player then takes their turn. Tiny Epic Galaxies has one action that you can do which solves this problem. It is called following. Whenever a player activates one of their dice I can spend a culture point and “follow” that action. When I follow an action I get to use that same action as if I activated that die face myself. I don’t have to do this in the same way as the player who activated the die initially. For example, if my opponent activates the launch face of a die and puts one of their ships into orbit around the planet Helios, I can follow and also launch a ship. I could put that ship into orbit around Helios, but I could also land it on Helios or land it on another planet, or put it into orbit around another planet. The follow action removes  the down-time that accompanies most dice games as well as truly giving the players interaction and increases the tactical decision making aspect of the game. As the end of the game nears, you have to really pay attention to who has culture and who doesn’t, and be cognizant of which players can follow your actions and steal points right out from under you. TEG may have been my first Tiny Epic game, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Brief Overview – Bananagrams

Brief Overview

pic2463443_mdBananagrams is a word-tile game designed by Rena Nathanson and Abe Nathanson, and is published by Bananagrams. Each player gets a certain number of tiles at the start of the game and the goal of each player is to be the first to use all of their tiles to create words in a crossword pattern. If you have a tile that you just can’t figure out how to use you can yell “BUNCH”, put that tile back and take three more! If you use all of your tiles you yell “PEEL” and then each player (including you) takes a new tile. The first player to complete their crossword with no remaining letters either in their hand or in the center of the table yells “BANANAGRAMS” and wins!

Discussion

Everyone has heard of Bananagrams and the many, many fruit-encased games that have come after it. I had never played the game before, but I must say I really enjoyed it. The game isn’t as serious as Scrabble, as everyone is racing to use all of their tiles first, and you aren’t worried about points or anything like that. But the tension builds as you struggle to find words for that “X” you just picked up, and you are hoping that the last tile in the middle is a stupid “Q” or something so that you can get your tile into place before your opponent! I enjoyed Bananagrams quite a bit. For such a relatively simple game, it really builds the tension and excitement.