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Macabee

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Go to the Power Grid page
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9
Go to the Eminent Domain page

Eminent Domain

92 out of 109 gamers thought this was helpful

Eminent Domain does very little that is new, but sort of like a Stefan Feld game, it takes disparate game mechanics and puts them together to form a synergy: they add up to a better game than they were apart.

There is a lot familiar here: deck building, role selection, production/trade. It’s sort of a Race-for-the-Dominion mashup. The designer, Seth Jaffee, posted an article discussing his design process and influences here:

The game play is fast and light, with some tough decisions, and there are many different strategies. I’ve only played a few times, so I am no expert yet, but the strategies do seem balanced, with good opportunities for victory. The rules are simpler than the source games, and the game comes with good player aids (which also act as the starting player selection). Starting planets are different for each player, and are randomly determined with extra planets for added variety.

Graphically the game is spectacular, with vivid colors, large images, and clear text. The wood and cardboard bits are all unique and colorful. The plastic ships are aesthetically pleasing, and black (which gets an extra nod from me) though unnecessarily large and varied.

I really love this game, and find myself thinking about the gameplay for days after each time I play. TMG has itself another winner here.

9
Go to the Luna page

Luna

38 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

I really like this game, as I do most Feld games. He has an interesting habit of taking familiar mechanics and twisting them in unfamiliar ways. He also has another design priority, which is my favorite: multiple paths to victory. This game has that, in spades!

Visually, the game is gorgeous, with it’s multi-island variable setup. The main island has a setup that varies by number of players, and by random placement of temple sections. The wooden bits are also nice.

Players represent different factions within the Moon Goddess’s temple. The High Priestess, Luna, is about to retire, and your faction is vying with the others for the right to nominate your leader to be her successor. Wow, is that a strange theme or what? It works in this game though, and blends with the gameplay.

The central island is the temple. Each outlying island represents one industry run by a priest of the temple: the Quarry for stone, the Observatory to learn about tides, the Herb garden for Magic Herbs (hrmmm….), the Port for boat travel, the Mine for gold (used for bribery), etc.. There are seven small island, each with a different function. You can collect a favor by working on each island with one of your “workers”, representing priests in your faction. You can’t collect a second favor from the same island until you use the one you have.

Each favor has a specific use, and balancing the use of them is the main part of the game. The point of the game is to score influence, however, and none of the favors grant that directly.

Influence is scored by multiple means: sending your workers to the temple, flocking around Luna on an outlying island, being the person to end the round, and advancing your place in the Council of Elders.

Other actions you can take involve movement and recruiting. The game play is balanced and interesting, if non-sensical. Each worker, when exhausting their action, take a dip in the waters off of the island. Maybe they are bathing, maybe swimming, maybe they sleep in the water? Anyway, mechanically it works, and is very enjoyable.

9
Go to the Through the Ages page

Through the Ages

109 out of 118 gamers thought this was helpful

This game is not a gateway game. REPEAT: THIS IS NOT A GATEWAY GAME!

This is one of those games for people who love games, love civilization games, and loves “brainburners”. There is so much depth here, managing your tech and production development, getting a science and a vp engine going, and having to keep up on food and military, or having to pay a steep price.

Slight mistakes can cost you the game, and you will make mistakes. Even if you don’t, the game can conspire against you by denying you needed cards. Every decision matters: what cards you “buy” cost you actions that you need for other things. The hand limit can bite you when you take more cards than you can use.

It’s important to build a balanced civilization, but also to focus on a strength. Balance will give you defense and let you progress, but focus will give you victory.

A lot of people knock the components, but they work for this game. The wooden bits can be very fiddly due to the small size, but if they were bigger they wouldn’t work. Maybe an alternate method to track food and resources could have been used (like SM’s Civ:tB G’s wheel). It works for me: sort of like a board game version of a PC game.

The colors are bright and easy to tell apart. The art on the cards is minimal, but enough to add color. The score track sucks, as most of the spaces are half the size of the cubes used to track scores.

My only gripe is this: never play a four player game. Two player games are great, and three player adds a lot of depth to the gameplay, introducing treaties and making it less a ***-for-tat slugfest. Four player only adds one thing: downtime. I would rather play Tic-Tac-Toe with my one year old for four hours than play this game with four players again. I would rather chew off my right arm at the shoulder than play this game with three other people. Yes, it’s that bad. It might be more tolerable if every player played a two-player game with each of their neighbors while they waited, but then again, it might not. Learn it two player, play it with three, or two if you can’t find a third. Never with four, unless you need long naps.

8
Go to the 7 Wonders page

7 Wonders

69 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

I know this game is one of the hottest of the year, and I think deservedly so. It gives us something new that our hobby seems to sorely lack: a fun deep experience that can be had in any size group from two to seven (eight with the expansion) that can be played in under an hour.

WHAT? A game that’s fun with small, medium and large groups? Unheard of!
A fairly light game that has depth and a civ-building theme? Ridiculous (except for the Yahtzee-esque Roll Through the Ages, another fine game).
A Civ game that takes less than an hour to play regardless of how many you play with? Well, sort of.

7 Wonders is billed as a Civilization game, but that element seems a bit abstracted, so much so that it didn’t resonate with me. It did feel like a WONDER building game, and with it’s name, and the fun I had playing it, that was enough.

The game is started by everyone getting a wonder card to build, which will determine your basic strategy in the game.
The main gameplay comes in two parts over three “ages”. First, in every age, you draft your cards. This means that everyone is dealt a hand, and just like holiday dinners, you take one and pass the rest to your neighbors. This goes on until every card is chosen. In small groups you will see the same cards come around, and try to build a strategy around what options are available: deck-building or set collection, what have you. In larger games you might never see the cards that you pass come back to you. There are duplicates, though, so options will still be available.
Finally, everyone simultaneously chooses cards and plays them, either “building” them by paying their costs, using them to complete stages of their wonder, or discarding them for coin. This phase continues until one card is left to each player, which is discarder. Everyone then moves to the next age (or the end of the game).

There is a lot of game here, and the only thing preventing this from being a perfect Gateway game is the complexity of the iconography and the vast array of options available to you. Once the basics are grasped by all this game is fast and fun!

9
Go to the 7 Wonders: Leaders page

7 Wonders: Leaders

41 out of 46 gamers thought this was helpful

If you love 7 Wonders, then you will love this expansion.

The added wonder lets you play with up to 8, or adds a little variation if you’re getting tired of the original wonders (plus the Mannekin Pis promo available through Spielbox magazine, or from BGG’s store).

The leaders add an extra round of drafting to the beginning of the game, which is great, as your difficult choices of who to take and who to give to your opponents is a lot of fun, if you like that sort of thing (and if you like 7 Wonders, you no doubt do). I wish they had included a player aide listing the descriptions of the iconography on the leaders, but they are contained in the rather small rules pamphlet. No doubt some enterprising sort will create a great player aide for that.

The only qualms I have about the expansion is the huge variety in the utility of the leaders. Some basically are useless, and a few are very powerful. You might get stuck with worthless leaders, while an opponent gets a huge advantage from theirs. I guess the balance comes from the draft: if you let the other players get two or more great leaders, then the fault is your own (not really). Game balance is less of an issue in such a short game, though, as if you get screwed and lose badly you can just play again. 🙂

All in all, the leaders add a great new layer of depth to the game, another fun round of drafting, some much needed larger coins, another wonder (which can only be played with the leaders), and more fun. WINNING!

It loses a star from me due to the choice to use cardboard for the 6 value money coins instead of wood (like the first edition of 7 Wonders), though you’ll like that if you have the 2nd edition of the game.

10
Go to the Power Grid page

Power Grid

133 out of 141 gamers thought this was helpful

When you look at Power Grid it’s easy to be distracted by the area control elements and the resource market, even by the power plant auctions. The key to this game is that while all of the above is important, the real key is managing your economy, and never spend more than you must.

Power Grid is a game where each player is a competing Power company, trying to power the most cities at the end of the game. Money is only a tiebreaker.

This goal is accomplished via several actions:
1) Buy power plants in the auctions. Every round you have the option to buy one (and only one) power plant in the auction phase. This is optional unless you don’t have ANY plants (which only happens on the first turn). Each plant converts fuel into enough energy to power a certain number of cities. Each plant is all or nothing, on or off. You can have at most three power plants (four in a two-player game). If you buy one more than your limit, you must discard one of your old plants. During the game, the plants generally get more expensive and efficient as the game goes on. You want to selectively improve your energy output, and make sure that you can output enough energy to be competitive at the end of the game.

2) Fuel your plants with resources, bought from the resource market. Simple enough: buy at least enough fuel to activate enough plants to power your cities, and maybe reserves for future turns.

3) Expand your companies power grid by buying a franchise in new cities. You do that by paying the franchise cost (10/15/20 depending on how many people are already there, and what phase of the game it is), and any connection cost from your existing grid to the new city. The game ends on the round where the first player reaches a certain number of cities (depending the number of players).

4) At the end of each round you get income based on the number of cities that you provide power to with your plants, fuel, and franchises. If it’s the last turn, if you provide power to the most cities, then you win. If it’s a tie, the one with the most money wins.

The game shines in it’s player interaction, and game balance. The player in the lead must start the first auction, and can be locked out of better plants later in that phase. The buying of resources and expanding power grids takes place in reverse order, to give last place players an advantage. You must adapt to the other players strategies and actions, as they can have serious consequences. Too much competition in either geographical areas or resource consumption can be disastrous for all players involved.

This game is all about it’s Economy, pure and simple, and that’s why I love it.

8
Go to the Pastiche page

Pastiche

43 out of 45 gamers thought this was helpful

Pastiche is a fairly new game about being an artist and restoring paintings. This is done with an interesting mechanic, which makes up the bulk of the gameplay: laying little hexagon tiles into an existing layout, and collecting either one primary color from it’s center, or the other colors made by the intersections with the tiles that you place them with.

There’s a bunch of combinations (there are 17 colors in the game, but several can only be gained by trading with the bank: Black, White, Grey, Bisque…). You have to be conscious of the tile array that you leave after placing, because you can give the next player too good an opportunity, making the game easier for them.

There is a hand limit, so you can’t just keep collecting pigments. You must use them to complete paintings, turning in the required pigments listed on each work. The painting vary in value and difficulty. The game ends when one player reaches a certain score, though everyone gets the same number of turns (play to the end of the round, thank you!).

You have hidden paintings in your hand that you can try to complete, plus several layed out in the public gallery. You can also trade paintings in your hand for paintings in the gallery (one per turn) to prevent someone else from painting it before you can. You also get bonus points for completing multiple works by the same artist.

All-in-all, I felt that this game ended too quickly. It was so easy to learn (deceptively so), though not so easy to keep track of playing for the pigments I needed while also not leaving behind too good an opportunity for my wife. I’ve played three and four player, and it was equally as fun and exciting. I wanted to play more, and found the depth good enough for a “gamer’s gamer” like myself, while being accessible enough for a lighter gamer or newbie.

6
Go to the Ascension page

Ascension

31 out of 37 gamers thought this was helpful

As it now stands, this is my least favorite of all of the deck-building games that I’ve played. Don’t get me wrong: it’s fun enough to play, and I play it a lot on my iPhone. I won’t buy it though, and here’s why:

There were several design choices that were a major turn off to me. The only real choices that you have to make during your turn is what cards am I buying or killing. What else would you choose, you ask? Let me explain by comparing this game with some others:

In Thunderstone, on your turn you must choose whether to go to town (buy), to the dungeon (fight), or pass (and maybe trash a card). You most likely will only be able to buy one card in town, or fight one monster in the dungeon. Resident Evil is very similar to this, plus you need to worry about ammo for your weapons!

In Dominion there are endless possibilities, and even with only one base set, there are many different combinations of cards that fundamentally change the strategies and gameplays: maybe there will be no additional actions available, so your one action has to matter. Maybe there will be no addition buys available, so the progression during the round is much more static, and decisions are more important.

All of this subtlety is lost in Ascension. Every round you can do everything that your hand allows: you have mana and you have strength, and you can spend your mana any way you like, on as many “buys” as you can, and you can kill any combination of monsters as your strength allows. Your decisions there matter, but mostly in the order that you do things, and the specific choices that you make.

You don’t ever have to choose: do I buy one big card or one minor card that really emphasizes your deck. You can buy the little card, but still buy more with your change. That mitigates not buying the expensive card. You might get more points killing two little monsters than killing one big one. You might not have any monsters available to kill, but don’t worry, there’s always the trash mobs, so don’t worry about going combat-heavy! Meh.

9
Go to the Catan: Cities & Knights page
69 out of 76 gamers thought this was helpful

Wow! Like many, I was introduced to Euro gaming through Settlers of Catan, which will always own a special place in my heart and collection. You may even say that I am obsessed with Catan, as I own almost every Catan game and variant out there, including both Anniversary editions. I even have a custom player set (Black, because that is my preferred color), and carrying case for all of the 4th edition sets and extensions.

I will not play Settlers anymore, though. If I play Catan, there a minimum standard: it must include Cities and Knights. It can also include Seafarers, maybe a variant from Traders & Barbarians or Das Buch, or maybe not. It simply must include C&K. Here’s why:

More ways to get VPs
Sheep are not only more useful, but essential
Progress cards in different technology areas (Science, Civics, Religion) are so much better than Development cards (see below)
Knights (the new unit) not only are necessary, but have gameplay functionality: you can chase the robber off of your hexes, or evict other players weaker knights, and block road building.

There are balance improvements with the cards: Monopolies only take two resources per player (or one Commodity), and specializations are rewarded by more Progress cards. There are still some new balance issues: one type of card lets you swap the number counters on two hexes. This can be crippling to a player.

You can’t buy Progress cards, however. They are gained by improving your civilization’s technologies using a new type of good: commodities. There are three commodities added to the five resources. Mountains now also generate Coins in addition to ore, Pastures generate Cloth in addition to sheep, and Forests generate Paper in addition to wood. Cities next to these regions generate ONE resource plus one commodity. Settlements only generate the base resource as in Settlers. As you spend commodities to improve your techs, you gain progress cards more frequently during the die roll resolution phase.

You must now also defend against barbarian raids. If your collective armies of knights are not strong enough, the weakest player can lose a city (it becomes a settlement). If ever a player has no cities, they can no longer improve their technologies until they build a new city.

As you can tell, this is a much deeper game than Settlers, and much more complicated, though it’s still not a Caylus or Power Grid on the complexity scale. It is however, much more satisfying to play. There’s more potential screwage though, so bear that in mind if your group doesn’t like that.

10
Go to the Homesteaders page

Homesteaders

33 out of 35 gamers thought this was helpful

This game is right in my wheelhouse: an economic building game with multiple paths to victory and gorgeous bits. I have the first printing, bought directly from Michael Mindes at BGG two years ago, and fortunately had no problems with my copy, other than the misaligned counters. I hate the cardboard, and absolutely love the wood. None of that really matters, as the gameplay is the true star of this rodeo.

The game centers around two phases each turn: income/auction bidding, then resolution and building. The auction scales with the number of players, but I think it works best with four players. There is always one auction available less than the number of players (so one to three possible auctions per turn) and all bidding is concurrent: bidding begins with the starting player, and continues clockwise. When it’s your turn to bid, you basically pick an auction and place your marker on the bid that you make. You can only bid if you have no bid down, or have been outbid; if you have a current bid you are locked into it. If you don’t want to bid, you can pass, and advance of the tech track for your compensation, where you get something for nothing: ranging from a Trade token, through a railway, a resource of your choice, up to three VPs.

When all bids are locked in, you resolve each auction in turn. Winner of the first auction is the next starting player. Pay your bid, taking loans or selling goods as needed, then do what your auction bought you: generally each auction is for a zoning permit to build a building type: residential, industrial, commercial, or special. There are other types, or bonus options, but it’s quite simple to figure out.

Most of the strategy, other than the auction bidding (and passing), is in exactly what building you choose to bid, and what economic engine you strive to build up.

There are many ways to get VPs: high end resources are worth two each at the end of the game, building can be worth VPs when you build them, others generate VPs during income, you get a VP for every good you sell; heck, you can even get VPs by passing!

There are some nice synergies that you can get with different combinations of buildings. Really, I find this one of my perfect games, and I love introducing new players to it.

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