Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Board Game Review: Railroad Rivals


A few months ago at GenCon I had the pleasure of speaking with the team from Forbidden Games about their recent release of Railroad Rivals. After taking a cursory look at the game, I came away with a copy of it and a bit of excitement about getting on the table.

There are two different editions of Railroad Rivals available on the 20181019_215848Forbidden Games website – the standard edition (which is what I brought home) and the platinum edition. The latter features upgraded wooden tiles and components which are lovely to hold in hand, but even in the standard edition, the component quality overall is very high. I found some minor issues with my copy (a locomotive or two was not sized the same as the rest in the supply and one of the railroad stock counter tokens was missing) but the publisher took care of the problem quickly after I contacted customer service. The sturdiness and beauty of the components in the game is a reflection of the improvements in craftsmanship among board game manufacturers based in Asia.

The artwork featured in Railroad Rivals is clean and tailored and suits the theme well.

At a recent game night, I suggested we give Railroad Rivals a try and gathered together 4 other interested players. We opened the game and dug into the rule book. It’s easy to follow and features a detailed breakdown of each phase in a turn, which is very helpful. What would be even more helpful would be for the publisher to include player aid cards for each player listing the phases and key details so that we don’t have to keep passing around the rule book. This isn’t an omission exclusive to Forbidden Games; many publishers overlook this player friendly offering. 

We really enjoyed the game. The bidding of victory points for turn order mechanism employed in Railroad Rivals isn’t something I’ve encountered before and it was an interesting logical puzzle to consider. Should I be willing to give up victory points to go first? When is it worth it and when should you keep your place in line? I was last in line initially and could never stomach paying the high prices our bidding would raise so I remained last in line for all key actions the entire game. That definitely put me at a disadvantage and I lost the game. But so did 3 other players, all of whom paid the steep prices at least once to shift to first place. I’m looking forward to getting some guidance from my husband (PhD in statistics; he did not join in the initial game) on optimum strategy for the bidding phase.

20181019_215836Pictured: Player positions after a round of bidding first to last, from left to right.

After bidding for position, players take turns selecting (based on player position) railroad stock tiles to add to their portfolio and city tiles to add to their hand. Next, everyone takes turns (based again on player position) on laying down a new city tile, domino style, to expand the current rail network. Each tile laid down is secured to the existing network with the player’s railroad token and is stocked with the number of goods specified on the card (goods are pulled randomly out of a velvet grab bag). The last phase of the turn consists of delivering goods from one tile to another across a railroad link, rewarding the active player, the player who owns the railroad link used (as long as it isn’t the active player), and the stockholders of the railroad used.

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Win Condition: Most Victory Points

Inputs: # of times other players use your railroad links to deliver goods, # of times any player delivers good to a tile where your hotel is, type of goods you deliver (different goods are worth different point values), value of the stock you own x number of shares you own.

Strategy Tip: A winning stock portfolio is not necessarily a concentrated stock portfolio. In our game, the player with the most diversified portfolio won by a large margin. Having a little bit of every railroad company paid off - as the rest of us worked to drive up different railroad stocks for our own benefit, she benefited as well.

Railroad Rivals is subject to moderate analysis paralysis. The number of tiles to choose from during the drafting phase is equal to twice the number of players; there are typically several locations to connect tiles during the placement phase; and there are a handful of options for which goods to deliver during the delivery phase. All of these decision points can be a source of delay when an overly analytical player (like myself) is at the table. Know your opponents and their propensity to overanalyze, plan your time allotted for the game accordingly, and use any delays on their turns to plot out your play options.

I’m looking forward to playing Railroad Rivals again at different player counts and with different groups of gamers in my community. It’s going to take several games to hone a well-crafted strategy for turn order bidding, tile placement, and delivery choices; it’s a logic puzzle of sorts that will be fun to piece together.

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Publisher: Forbidden Games
Players: 1-5 (We played with 5)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 90 minutes
Game type: card drafting, auction/bidding, pick-up and deliver, tile placement
Rating:

review-OUIOUI

Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

 











Thursday, November 8, 2018

Board Game Review: Fate of the Elder Gods: Beasts From Beyond


A few months ago, I shared my thoughts on Fate of the Elder Gods in a lengthy review. The team at Greater Than Games has released an expansion, Beasts From Beyond, and I picked up a copy at GenCon earlier this year. This expansion adds fifteen new spell cards (2 of which can be used with the base game even if you don’t use any of the other expansion components), four new Elder Gods that cults may serve, and eight monsters who enjoy tampering with the cultists that can be called by the new spells or through Elder God powers.

As with the base game, the artwork featured in the expansion is beyond extraordinary, given the retail price point. The monster minis are rich in detail. The only improvement possible would be for GtG to offer a release with pre-painted minis for those of us with no painting skills.

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The new figures are not only beautiful but also sturdy. They should endure game after game with little wear or tear.

20181107_223130Each new monster provides strategic advantages to the summoning cult such as constraining or hindering other cults, movement of one’s cultists around the main board, or destroying investigators on the board. I made use of the Hound of Tindalos twice to prevent one of my opponents who was well ahead of me on the summon track from edging closer to a win before I could catch up, so I’m going to have to grant it the honorary status of my favorite monster. Byakhee is another favorite. It allows the controlling cult to move cultists two at a time to another location, making it easier for the cult to gain control. It’s especially powerful when paired with the Elder God that offers the ability to roll dice based on the number of cultists in a location and use the results to advance on the summon track. We’ve played two games incorporating the monsters so far and I’ve still got plenty of experimenting to do with the rest of the monsters to learn the best ways to use them.

Beasts From Beyond is a great investment for fans of Fate of the Elder Gods. It offers a challenging new playing experience.





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Publisher: Greater Than Games

Players: 1-4 (We played with 2 and 3)

Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 90 minutes

Game type: area control, dice rolling, worker placement

Rating:

Jenni’s rating scale:

OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.

OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.

OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME. 

NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Board Game Review: All Manor of Evil


I received a preview copy of All Manor of Evil from Kolossal Games a couple of weeks ago just in time for the Kickstarter launch. FYI, Kickstarter campaign page is HERE.

If you’ve already backed the game, then the information I’m going to give you will help you to better understand the details of gameplay so you’ll be prepped to play. If All Manor of Evil (AMOE) isn’t on your radar yet or you’re still on the fence about backing the game, the information will help you decide if AMOE is a good fit for your game library.

While the artwork is still in development, everything printed in the preview copy is beautiful. Kolossal has high production standards and I’m certain the finished copy of AMOE will delight.

20181106_083841Let’s dig into the game play. As with many games set in the Lovecraft universe, in AMOE, we try to minimize the steps toward insanity our characters take as they go about their activities. Under the baseline rules, the player who accumulates the most madness is devoured and eliminated at the end of the game before scoring. Not pleasant! The game is played in successive rounds, during which all players simultaneously select an action using the actions cards, and carry it out. These actions include improving sanity, stealing relic cards from the draw deck, or interacting with the rooms of the manor and the relic cards assigned to those rooms. Additionally, all action cards mandate a secondary action of stealing a relic card from one of the rooms in the manor to add to one’s personal cache (which is evaluated at the end of the game). Relic cards have a value associated with them in dollars and many also have a cost associated in terms of increased madness and/or pushing one of the Gods a step closer to awakening. These Gods add a layer of variability and complexity to AMOE - a subset of the Gods are put in play at the beginning of the game, each one changing a rule should it be activated through awakening (some rules affect scoring, others affect end game rules such conditions for being devoured; Gods are awakened when they have accumulated enough awakening tokens). More complexity is provided through roles that are assigned to players.  These roles change the standard rules in ways that can usually be leveraged to gain an advantage over opponents. For a seemingly simple card game, All Manor of Evil has a great amount of depth and opportunities for strategic play. 

Win condition: varies depending on the Gods in play and if one is awakened (if more than one is awakened, everyone loses). Otherwise winning player is the one with the most valued collection of relics who hasn’t been eliminated due to madness when the second clock card is drawn from the deck.

Strategy tip – once you’re certain you’ve met the win conditions under a God in play, force it to be awakened as this ends the game immediately and triggers end game scoring. I tried to do this in my last game. Positive that I had the most valuable collection of relics, I awakened the God that prevents cultists from being devoured. Victory was to be mine. Only problem was my role was not a cultist but a reporter. Oops! My opponent who was playing as the cultist immediately won by default after I was devoured for having the most madness. Bummer.

After the first round of play, AMOE is not subject to much analysis paralysis (AP) as only three of the four action cards that come in the box are available for selection (you cannot repeat your previous action) and the relic cards showing in the manor and in your hand tend to suggest definitive strategies. I was able to progress through my turns quickly and I am the queen of AP. We finished each game in 30-35 minutes. Repeat games sustain interest as the variety of Gods and roles offer a different play experience each time.

IMG_20181102_164118_845The rulebook is still in draft as of this date, but the copy I reviewed explained the rules and game play well and did not leave me with any unanswered questions related to how to play the game. 

Components for All Manor of Evil include cards, madness tokens, awakening tokens, and a first player token. Note that the madness and awakening tokens visible in my photos are not the standard ones from the game; for my preview copy I used alternative tokens.

I’m in love with all things Cthulhu so even before I ever read any details on how AMOE is played, I was excited about getting it on the table. As I’ve said many times before, I am usually drawn into games initially based on themes. Come for the theme, stay for the game play. And the game play here did not disappoint. Kolossal Games has done a great job with this release and I’m happy to add All Manor of Evil to my collection. You’ve still got time to add it to your collection too, if you mosey on over to the Kickstarter page and back AMOE before the campaign ends later this month.

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Publisher: Kolossal Games
Players: 1-6 (We played with 2 and I also played a solo game)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 30-35 minutes per game
Game type: card drafting, set collection
Rating:
review-OUIOUI
Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.