Essen 2014: The Aftermath

Home again and recovering. Had a great time as usual but I didn't buy as many big games as usual, mostly because some of them offered shipping post Essen and I hope they start arriving soon.

I purchased a number of expansions this year including Hansa Teutonica: BritanniaConcordia: Britannia / GermaniaKeyflower: The MerchantsRussian Railroads: Mini-ExpansionBruges: The City on the ZwinBrügge: Die Haustiere and of course Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice.

2 reprints, more or less, Fresh Fish and Uruk II: Die Entwicklung geht weiter

Several Japanese games, Taiwanese games and a few abstracts.

So on to the important part, games played and first impressions.

Deus this is a nice lite civ game. It's card driven. You start with 5 cards. There is a card drawing mechanism that's core to decreasing luck of the draw and allows you to turn over your hand.

There are 5 primary types of buildings (cards) you build for resources. Maritime, Production, Science, Military, Trade. You can also build temples for end game points. When you build a new building it activates previously build buildings of the same type. You place tokens matching the buildings onto the modular board. You can gain points by "attacking" barbarian villages. This means the barbarians must be surrounded and the person with most military tokens adjacent wins. There is no direct player conflict.

Game is over when all temples are built or all barbarians are conquered.

I liked this game a lot. Really looking forward to trying it again. It's a challenge to use the cards you have most efficiently. Have already played a second time. Kind of a civ lite that works for me.

La Isla I had mistakenly thought this was going to be an Alea big box game so was disappointed to see it was not and that it was a lighter family game. It's a decent set collecting game with a kind of stock market type track, but nothing really grabbed me. You randomly pick 3 cards and the have 3 different abilities on each card. You then choose and program the cards which allow you to gain a special ability, resources or score an animal set. There is also an action which allows you to place an adventurer on the board at the cost of resources. When you surround an animal you collect it.

Colt Express Played this, light and silly fun. Lots of "take that" play like there should be in a western. As some of the players commented, we just needed a good soundtrack to complete it. The 3D train is an integral part of the game and doesn't feel like a gimmick. I predict a hit.

Doodle City Cute little dice game. Played on the iPad several times on the airplane home, so plays quite nicely solo. It will be interesting to play against other people to see the differences in patterns I think. 

UPDATE: We played with more players, I still like it, but the trick is, that for a light and fun game the scoring is relatively complicated. I think once everyone knows the game better it will make a nice filler. It's basically a solitaire puzzle I like the challenge.

Flip 9 Speaking of puzzles, I tried this with the easy mode. Definitely do-able. Too jet lagged to go for the advanced mode which looks to be quite challenging. Beautiful graphics. Since it's only 9 cards super easy to bring along to fill some time. Winner for me.

Haru Ichiban Hands down one of the nice looking productions this year. Laser cut pressboard with great graphics. This is a 2 player pattern building game. Not a true abstract as there is a bit of bluffing involved and the presentation of the theme oozes with theme.

Each player takes 9 blossoms numbered 1-8 and 1 frog of their color. The water lily pads are laid out on the board a 5x5 grid. One lily pad is dark side up. Each player places a frog on one of the pads. The players draw 3 blossoms and simultaneously choose one. The values are compared and the player with the lowest value is the "little" gardener and the other player is the "grand" gardener. The little gardener places the blossom on the dark pad and the grand gardener places on any other pad. The little gardener may then have the wind "blow" a group of lily pads or single if no adjacency in the direction chosen orthogonally one space. The grand gardener then chooses a new pad to flip to the dark side for the next turn.

If the players choose the same number they ribbet. They place the blossoms on the pads where the frogs are and the player that made a frog noise first places their frog on a new pad.

If one of the specific patterns is formed by a players blossoms, the round ends immediately and the players scores points for the pattern. The first player to 5 points wins.

So a simple game with a fantastic presentation. The game is short and there is interesting play. It makes a good filler. The theme fits beautifully. I think there was a limited print run but it deserves more.

King's PouchKing's Pouch So this is a new twist on deck building, using a draw bag instead of a deck. In this game some of the resources have different shapes so you can tell what kind of resource (1 of 2 types) but not the color before you pull it out of the bag. You can then use resources to claim territories on the board, buy buildings which give more abilities or claim a character card for end game points.

My game was missing some wooden pieces and 1 card. Hopefully I'll be able to get replacements as I'd like to try the game again with a full 4 players. I think the game has a nice balance between the bag building and integrating the other parts of the game..

Update: the company was quite nice and has responded to my email for the missing pieces, hopefully they arrive soon!

Patchwork A 2 player game with a quilting theme. This game is squarely in the Tetris/puzzle-like game family so nothing new there but it has a nice mechanism for turn order and income. 

Players can purchase patches using buttons as currency to add to their quilt. Some pieces can give button income. Each piece also has a time cost. Players move along the track the number of time units need to place the patch. The player behind gets to take a turn and it is possible to have multiple turns. When you pass a button on the time track you collect income. 

I liked it but again you can see my preference for puzzles. 

The Ravens of Thri Sahashri Speaking of puzzles this little gem from Japon Brand is fascinating after the first play. It is a 2 player cooperative deduction game. The game play does take a bit to figure out. We had a mulligan our first batch, realized some things we didn't do correctly and then played a full game. We lost in the third batch. I can't wait to give it another try now that we know how the game flows.

Update: Played again. Oh this is a good one, may be my favorite from Essen this year. For such an unusual background theme the game is immersive. It really stays pretty tense through the game and you have to be on your toes.

Takamatsu Despite its name this a German designed game.
Interesting game with 5 players. Uses a movement mechanism like Heimlich & Co.

You start with 2 groups of samurai one on an outer track and one on an inner (there are crossover rooms where you can change tracks). 

When you move, you move the number of spaces equal to the number of samurai you take. You may empty a room if only has 1 or 2 tokens. If the room has 3 or more you must leave at least one samurai behind. If there is another color(s) of samurai in the room you must take at least 1 with you.

When the samurai get to a room of matching color the whole moving group stops there and the samurai matching the room color takes movement cards for the point track. Most are positive movement 1-5 and a few are negative. A few are kept face down to be scored at the end. First person to 20 wins. I liked the mechanism and the tactical aspect. Fun to try and advance yourself and strand opponents. I think maybe next time I might try it without any hidden points and have them all face up instead.

Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice We tried this. I didn't get to play one of the new races but they looked like a lot of fun. It was a bit tricky to do the new turn order. I like the alternate game end point tiles.
Update: Played again and got to be the Yetis. Lots of fun!

Carnac Nicely produced 2 player abstract. It has an interesting mechanism of giving your opponents a potential advantage to take a turn. Placement is key.

„When the samurai get to a room of matching color the whole moving group stops there and the samurai matching the room color takes movement cards for the point track.“

Lorna Dune

Villannex I'm not sure what to think of this one yet. The rules are so simple and it takes about 30 sec to play but figuring out the scoring is a challenge. It's a bluffing game with simultaneous card selection. Not particularly my favorite mechanisms but then again it's so fast it seems fun.