The Ancient World

Instead of roleplay, we had a game night with Stan and Kristina to try out their new Spiel games. First up:

The Ancient World

The Ancient World is a game about building up your ancient civilization enough to do battle with the wandering titans and so gaining favor with the nomadic desert tribes. The first thing that hits you is how beautiful this game is. The artwork is just stunning and very evocative. The entire game has a very distinct style that really sells the theme. It’s like the computer game Journey got a board game brother.

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The artwork did trip me up once, when I failed to distinguish between two different types of tribe banners that were both kind of similar in color in shape: more artsy than distinct, if you know what I mean. Still, I’d be happy to give an extra warning to new players if it means putting a mirage of a game in front of them.

Anyhow, game play! The Ancient World is a worker placement game with a lot of card drafting where your end goal is to collect sets of favors for the different tribes. The worker placement has a small twist: multiple people can visit the same field, but you can block it for others or heighten the price with clever placement of your workers, who are numbered from 1 to 5. Some fields can only be visited by workers with the same number, and some only by workers with a higher number. So it’s a clever puzzle to see how you can get the most of out it, and disadvantage your opponents the most. Still, it’s only a minor part of the game and it still safely stays in the “euro zone” of player interaction.

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Mostly you are building up your military so you can go out and conquer Titans. This is a bit of an arms race, but there are usually enough Titans for everyone to go around. Though someone might beat the Titan that would have gotten you the most favor with your mountain tribe of choice.

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I quite like it. It’s fairly straightforward to explain, it’s fun to play and fairly quick even with four. You do end up recounting your military power over and over again, but that can’t be helped, I think. I wonder how it plays with two. Either way, I think this is a winner!

 

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Sushi draft

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Sushi draft was one of the games we picked up at Essen on a whim. We had a very relaxed way of visiting Essen: we went through all the halls to pick up our pre-orders, and whenever we saw an empty demo table we would sit down and play a game. If you ever go, that’s certainly the way to do it!

We got to try out a fair few games at the fair that we either ended up buying, or that we were happy not to buy. Sushi Draft was one of the former. The aesthetics of the game didn’t hurt either. Look at that cool tin box, scroll down and look at those awesome round cards! Into the Essen bag it went.

Once home, Sushi draft seemed like the perfect game to take to my parents. Easy to explain, fifteen minutes to play, and fun!

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Stepmom and boyfriend ready to draft!

In Sushi Draft you are competing to eat the most or the most varied stack of sushi (this is a theme I can get into!). You get a hand of sushi cards and each round you slam one down on the table, pick one precious card in your hand to keep, and pass the rest to your neighbour on the left.

Slamming and passing continues until you have one card left, and then it’s time to see who has most of each sushi – that person gets the appropriate token. The person with the most varied plate gets the dessert token. Each token has a variable amount of points on the back that you cunningly keep hidden. You play the game for three rounds and then total up your points. Aaaand you’re done!

sushi-draftMy parents asked to play it again right away. That’s a win for Sushi Draft!

As for me… It’s a fun quick game, but perhaps not as fun as I’d hoped. I’m not sure… Very light games do better if there’s a big surprise or something unexpected at the end, something to talk about.

For instance, Aquarius is a very light domino’s type game that can turn into riotous fun on the table. Often when I put Aquarius on the table the hardcore gamers snub their noses at it, only to have a lot of loud fun playing it. I called it ‘a stealth delivery game for fun’ a few blogs back.

Sorry to go on a tangent, but that is what I was hoping for for Sushi Draft: something that was easy, quick and got people hollerin’. Whereas the reactions I’ve seen so far are a more down-to-earth, “Oh, you also put down a second tuna sushi. Darn.”

I’ll have to play it more to see it in action with different groups. So far casual gamers have enjoyed it (more than me), and I can also see it work as a light beer and pretzel game on a bar night. I am also very excited about this as a gateway game, I’ll have a much easier time explaining 7 Wonders after I’ve already made people play Sushi Draft.

Finally, there’s an advanced version in the game in which the wasabi icons on the sushi cards come into play. I haven’t gotten to try that out yet, but I hear it makes for a bit more strategic play. So it’s a bit too early still to decide whether or not it’s a keeper.

7 Wonders: Cities

We got to try out the Cities expansion for 7 Wonders yesterday. We tried it out in 2-player. 7 Wonders’ two player game uses a third dummy player – it makes the two player game a lot more tactical and manipulative. As usual, the third city was Kittyopolis, our cats always ready to help out.

So anyway. I wasn’t overly impressed with Cities. Whereas Leaders really added a lot to the game play, Cities mostly just offers extra cards that expand on the existing game play. There’s cards that make other players pay money to the bank and incur debt tokens. There’s a few cards that can really swing the balance of the game, giving one person 7 shields or making all his wonder stages free… But we felt it didn’t change or add to the game enough.

We are fans enough of 7 Wonders that more is always better, but still, this wasn’t much more! With the added layers of cards, we are really starting to appreciate the 7 Wonders helper app, though!

Seasons

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We borrowed Seasons from Peter & Jen to try it out in two-player mode – it’s supposed to be pretty good! We only played it once before, so it’s hard to compare.

We were surprised at how fast the game ran with two. By the end of the hour we had huge fuck-off’s engines running at full magical speed. Well, Jan did, my engine was done a few turns ahead and I was running on empty near the end. He hadn’t spaced out his drafted cards very aggressively over the seasons, so lost out on a fair bit of points he could have been stealing from me. Whereas I had drafted rather negatively, denying him cards I wasn’t sure I could make full use of myself. I still eeked out a narrow win against Jan’s blanket of cards in the end.

We quite liked it! It feels like a relaxing race for the galaxy where setting up combo engines is a lot easier. It’s a lot more fiddly, though, what with the dice, the season engine, the summoning gauges. It seems less elegant than race, but still a lot of fun.

Edit: Played it again a few days later. Had a great combo: a card to get one energy back when you play a power card, a card that gave you an energy when you have one or less left, and a card that lets you peek at the power cards and play the top one for four energy. As long as I banked two extra energy every turn, I could play a card every time! Easy win, but fun combo’ing!