27 Dec 2006

Game Review: Initial D

Name: Initial D
Genre: Collectable Card Game
Designer: David Williams
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Category: Street Racing
of Players: 2 Players
Cost: ???
Quality of Components: High
Age of Players: 8+
Rules: Simple
Strategic Depth: Low
Learning Curve: Very Low
Set up Time: Minimal

This is collectable card game based on the manga with the same name. The game is about challenging an opponent to a car race. I got to play this game due to a friend (Renato) , that lend KGB two pre-made decks.

The game play is simple. There are 4 types of cards. One is the car. There is only a single car per player. These cards have two three values: engine power, traction and cost.

To improve the performance of the cars there are mods that can be applied to them. Mods are another type of card. Up to three mods can be placed on a car. Pilots are also on this category.

Another type of card are track cards. Each of these cards have segments, that can either be straits, curves or obstacles. Each player will have 3 of those.

The car is placed on the board along with the mods, and the tracks are put on a separated pile. The other cards are the action cards. These are the cards that will determine the curse of play, and the outcome of the race. Each action card belongs to a certain category: speed, turn or tactics; each have a strength in each segment type and a strength to counter other types of action type cards. They also have a requirement that can either be engine power or traction.

So for example, a speed card requires 6 engine power to be played and has a strength of 7 for straits, 3 for curves and 4 for obstacles, with a counter of 4 in speed, 6 in turn and 2 in tactics.

The game play is simple. The owner of the most expensive car (including mods) is the challenger, and will race on a randomly selected opponent's track. The owner of the track starts in front. The objective is either to win two consecutive stages or to be in first at the end of the track's last stage.

Each player draws 7 cards. The owner of the car with the most style points will get an additional card, just like the person who's in front. The front player starts playing a card. To play a card, the player's car must meet the requirements of that card. If not, for each point needed, the player must discard a card. The strength of the manoeuvre is determined by the type of stage the players are in.

Using the above example, to play that card I needed 6 engine. However, my engine power is only 4. So in order to play the card, I needed to discard 2 other. Now let's say that the stage is a strait. The manoeuvre has a strength of 7.

Then the opponent gets to play a card, trying to counter the opponent's manoeuvre. The card played (besides the requirements) must have a counter of the previous manoeuvre, equal or greater to that manoeuvre's strength.

Using the card I gave as an example, to counter that same card. My opponent's engine power is 7, so it's fine. But the previous speed manoeuvre has a strength of 7 and this can only counter a strength 4 for that type of action, so in order to play it, my opponent has to discard 3 cards. The manoeuvre also has a strength of 7.

The play goes on until one player runs out of cards or if they can't play any of the remaining. That player loses the stage.

The race proceeds to the next stage. New cards are drawn, and the car in front get to chose if they want to keep any of the remaining cards.

This game has a few problems. First of all, it's a very short and simple game for a CCG. I believe that it would be better if this was just a card game without the collectible components. Then it's the starting player. Being the challenger the most expensive car, unless I change my deck, the starting player will always be the same.

The standard winning are weak. Unless you play a 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 5, where the the winner is going to be the next challenger, the game will seem woefully repeating. It also makes little sense that I'm preparing an uber-expensive car and still have to throw some tracks that I know I'm never going to race on them.

Theme is a little weak when playing the game. Have the car and it's mods, and a set of “home” tracks is cool. However, the manoeuvres.... I know it's not simple to put the manoeuvres into card draws, but I think they could of done a better work. A simple text describing the manoeuvre would suffice. Nonetheless, the art on the cards is super, and it's really a pleasure looking at them.

Also, a negative mark must go to the pre-constructed decks I've trying. Both had a card that could not be played, and one had a track that hurt the deck more than it would benefit it. I've seen this once and in my opinion it's preferable to put a card that does not benefit the deck but it also would not hut it.

Besides the artwork on the cards, the rare cards are also a plus. Just lovely to know that these cards are foil, making them even more beautiful.

My final thoughts about the game: it's not worth it. The game can be resumed in playing cards until someone can't play. The game is not involving (I didn't get the feeling I was racing someone), the game play is to simple; strategically it's almost a no-brainer. The artwork does not compensate for the poor mechanics. This game will probably only please the fans of the series.

But I do recognize it might be a good game for kids to play. Boys just love cars, and this game could be extremely appealing if they also like the Japanese cartoonish look of the cards.

Game Review: Shadows Over Camelot

Name: Shadows Over Camelot
Genre: Board Game
Designer: Serge Laget & Bruno Cathala
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Category: Adventure / Medieval / Mythology
Mechanics: Co-operative play / Hand management
Nº of Players: 3 to 7 Players
Cost: High
Quality of Components: Very High
Age of Players: 10+
Rules: Simple
Strategic Depth: Average
Learning Curve: Very Low
Set up Time: 2-3 Minutes

I bought this game as a replacement for Ticket to Ride Europe, that was unavailable when my order was processed.

Before launching myself in reviewing the game I must explain what a cooperative game is, since it's an unusual mechanic. Cooperative means that all the players are on the same team trying to beat the game, and the outcome of play (win or loss) is shared. This means that either all win or all lose. There are no individual winners. A cooperative game can also put a single player against all the other players, which is always nice, and usually, everyone wants to be that player.

The first thing to notice when you open the box is the quality of the components. From the cards to the boards and miniatures, they look awesome. The miniatures of the knights and the relics came in a plastic box case with spaces for each of them; just lovely.

The objective of the game is to fill the round table with swords. There are two types, white for completed quests and black for unsuccessful quests. To win the game, the round table but be fill with at least 12 swords and the majority of those being white. A draw always benefits evil and the game is lost when that situation occurs. The game is also lost when all the participating knights are killed or when the 12th siege engine is placed around Camelot.

The rules of the game are very simple; each turn, the current knight will perform a progression of evil action, followed by an heroic action. There are different actions but the principles are these.

The theme can be felt during the game, and even when a game is won, most of the time the knights are never comfortable with the way evil is progressing and there is always a felling in the air that the game could be lost in just a couple of moves. The presence of a possible traitor among the knights augments that feeling because, if not revealed before the game ends, the traitor flips two white swords turning them into black swords.

Depending on the game flow, this game could require some high strategic thinking, but since this is a cooperative game, all the players share the same effort. Because of that I've introduced this game to new players in a lot of success, but leaving the traitor outside the first time we play.

Overall, I love this game. The cooperative mechanic is something that is quickly becoming my favourite. I really enjoy the possible presence of the traitor, making the environment of the game very tense and sometimes stressful.

24 Dec 2006

Podcasts Update: 2006-12-24

Boardgame Babylon

Episode 29 released in 2006-12-20

Have Games Will Travel

Episode 82 released in 2006-12-23

The Dice Tower

Episode 80 released in 2006-12-24

23 Dec 2006

Report of 23rd December Session

This session was different from usual as we had the oportunity to try a new game: Lord of the Rings - A cooperative game where the 4 hobbits tried to destroy The One Ring.

After 2 games where we failed miserably, we decided that the task was beyond our strenght...
indeed the game can be very difficult as the right decision is not always evident.
Also luck is a big factor in the game.

Even so we were a bit closer to win the last of the 2 games as we didnt do any major mistakes. I believe the next few tries will still see us struggling against the mighty shadow of Mordor.

Then a friend of mine (Pedro) appeared and we played our easiest game - Bohnanza. That game was a bit slow for our standarts as we needed to explain the rules to the newcomer :)

Davide Bação took advantage of the game passivity to take huge stacks of crops and along with good trading with the other players won by a couple of points.

The second player was Filipe Nunes with a strange but working strategy of not buying a 3rd field, adapting easily to the increased number of players and less time for planting and reaping crops.

After that our guest went home, and we decided to play Shadows over Camelot. The 1st game was easy to win, even though there was a traitor among us, he made a couple of less than good actions that led to a correct accusation. Indeed a traitor among veteran players can have a really hard time.

The 2nd game was quite the opposite with the knights stumbling across several failed quests and a stalemate versus the shadow that was slowly eating our resources away. We won by 1 sword and only because there was no traitor. Very close call.

KGB - session 9

Next KGB session will occur Thursday 28 December, 2006 at 14:30. I may bring a friend to the session.

My picks:

Shadows Over Camelot.

If my friend doesn't come:

Puerto Rico

22 Dec 2006

KGB - session

Next KGB session will occur Saturday 23 December, 2006 at 14:30.

My picks:

Lord of the Rings (boardgame)
Puerto Rico

18 Dec 2006

Podcasts Update: 2006-12-19

Boardgames with Scott:

spectial episode release in 2006-12-17

The Spiel:

episode 19 released in 2006-12-18

PS: I appreciate the email Stephen send me, and the link he added to The Spiel website. I hope he and Dave gain a few listeners from our site. Thanks again Stephen!

Session 7

(D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes)

Back to the Saturday regular session and some of our favorite games.

We kicked of the session with Bohnanza, which is a great session starter. It's friendly rule set and sociable game play allows the players to settle in their game mindset and prepare for more challenging games. We often take advantage of the game's simplicity to chat about other stuff, as was the case, only applying ourselves on the final stretch, which resulted in a low score tie.
This fun little game has a great entertainment value for it's price; we must do a review some time soon...

Bohnanza winners: D. Ferreira / D. Nunes

For the next game, after some dispute, The Princes of Florence was chosen. I must confess I was pushing for Puerto Rico of which I'm a huge fan.

We started the first game with D. Ferreira taking the first turn.
On previous session the first player always managed to win but this time was not to be. Being on the last spot I made sure my adversaries paid a good price for what they wanted on the auction phase, a strategy that already gave dividends on previous sessions. The last spot is also great to choose your construction timing.
Players will try to make big score works at least every two turns to rack up the bonus for the best work. Seeing what your opponents are doing allows you to strategically postpone your big work for the next turn or pickup a bonus card to give you the edge required to top your opponents.
Being on this privileged seat I managed to pickup most of the bonuses allowing for a large margin win. D. Ferreira had problems fitting all the buildings on the board and fought hard for his second builder which helped my strategy allot.

On the second game F. Nunes took the first turn and everyone rushed to get builders. This seems to be a recurring theme in our sessions since a building costs a whopping 700 without any builders (1 builder reduces the cost to 300).
While everyone focused on getting builders I chose to focus on delivering works as frequently as I could and postponing the acquisition of buildings until i got a builder, which interestingly never appended.
With the builders disappearing at the speed of light I knew my opponents wouldn't surrender one without a fight so I profited from this situation by engaging on several builder auctions but never making the final offer, which dried resources around me while I used jesters and bonus cards to increase my work's scores and avoided buying buildings.
On the last turn I bought my first building (700 florins ouch) to deliver the last work which allowed for a tight but flavorful win.

I must confess I'm impressed with the strategical depth this game allows as long as your prepared to think outside the box.
This session quelled my concerns regarding this game but I still think it as room for improvement. The addition of more players will certainly make this game more interesting.

Princes of Florence winners: D. Nunes
D. Nunes

To end the session we switched to Puerto Rico, a favorite among the knights.

I started on the first game and played conservatively as the stressful work week started to weigh on my shoulders. Investing heavily on the constructions axis I managed to maintain a narrow lead which clinched a very tight win.

The second game broke our first man wins rule, with some brilliant plays from F. Nunes, featuring a balanced investment in all axis and using the wharf to great effect. This allowed him great success in goods deliveries and a severely hindered our options, allowing for large margin win.

The third game ended up revealing one of the few downsides of this great game. By this point I was starting to get really tired and stumbled around in the first turns.
Having a very slim chance to recover the lost time I forced the game end by choosing the mayor action as often as possible. On these unusual condition D. Ferreira adapted he's strategy well, profiting from highly successful trade sessions and took a well deserved win in what must have been the fasted Puerto Rico game we played.

Since the previous game was so fast we decided to play one more.
Once again being the starting player I tried to lead a balanced game, as did my opponents and despite some early mistakes ended up snatching a narrow win.

I must confess this game never ceases to amaze me. The available depth of play is seemingly endless and although the first turn actions are starting to solidify game always flows in unexpected directions leading to very enjoyable games, not unlike chess as D. Ferreira suggested.
On a personal note I must try to include the wharf (featuring heavily on F. Nunes recent strategies with great success) on my strategy portfolio.

Puerto Rico winners: D. Nunes
F. Nunes
D. Ferreira
D. Nunes

17 Dec 2006

Podcasts Update

Boardgames To Go:

episode 66 released in 2006-12-13

The Dice Tower:

episode 79 released in 2006-12-15

15 Dec 2006

Board Games for Christmas

You want to offer a board game to a friend or family member for Christmas? Are you short on budget? Want to buy a new game for yourself? You might want to listen to episode 18 of The Spiel.

13 Dec 2006

The Podcasts

Name: Boardgames To Go
Hosts: Mark Johnson

This was the first podcast about boardgaming I've listen. I discover it in the first days of October, when searching for new podcasts to listen. Searching for "boardgames" on itunes, it was the first on the list.
I started to listen to episode 1 (from the website), when Mark was less comfortable in front of the micro, talking about games and sessions, and I was astonished, imagining how great it would be to play those games. In a way, Mark's podcast was the main force behind my current interest in boardgames.
My favourite episodes were the ones with is son and daughter.

Overall, I like the podcast. I think Mark has a good voice, and he's not annoying despite being the single host of the show (in some episodes he has a guest). The only think I dislike is the current length of the show. I believe that 20-30 minutes for a solo host is the ideal.
Although he does less episodes than he used to, it still a podcast I like to hear.

Mark has released a good intro episode for those who are new to these kind of boardgames. Here's the link.

ps: it took me more than a month to listen to all of the episodes.
ps2: it was from listening one episode of this podcast that I decided to buy bohnanza.

Name: Boardgame Babylon
Hosts: E.R. Burgess

I think I discovered Boardgame Babylon through Mark's podcast. Again, I started listening from episode 1, that had a unique feature; it was recorded while Erik was driving home from work. I found that fabulous, but unfortunately (or not) he started recording at home. The sound quality improved but it lost something that the podcast had on the first two episodes.

The style is similar to Mark, in deep reviews, session reports, guests in some shows. However, I think this show is more scripted than Boradgames To Go (at least when he's solo), which is a less polished podcast. I usually prefer a less scripted approach (perhaps because of my storytelling background), but nonetheless, Erik does a really good job, and I can't really decide which of the shows I like the most.

Name: The Dice Tower
Hosts: Tom Vasel (the man who puts the views in game reviews) and Sam Healey (the man who just love to play games)

By far the most professional looking podcast I've ever heard. These guys put an episode every week; unless in special episodes, they follow the same structure on all episodes; each regular episode feature at least 5 contributors of each with its own segment; each segment has an intro done by Mike Fitzgerald, just like the ending and starting of the show, all look very professional; and of course, a weekly top ten. After more than 2 month, I'm finally getting up to the lastest shows.

I've began to listen this podcast from episode 51, since the first 50 when of the air. My favourite episodes so far are the Origins 2006 review and episode zero that I advice everyone who is new to board games to listen.

Name: Have Games Will Travel
Hosts: Paul Tevis (freelance writer and game reviewer)

I decided to listen to this podcast after it been mentioned on the previous podcasts. Unlike the others, this podcast is also about RPGs. It's also the podcast with the best and more detailed in-depth reviews, and that's the main reason that I enjoy this podcast.

Although is a solo host of the show, is style is very distinct of the other shows I listen. I also enjoy Paul's voice and the accent when he says “last year”. Sorry Paul, I just couldn't write about your podcast without mentioning that.

PS: The main reason to why I bought Shadows Over Camelot was the detail description of the game in one of the podcast's episodes.

Name: Board Games With Scott
Hosts: Scott Nicholson

This is the only videopodcast on my list (and I believe it's also the only one about boardgames). On each episode Scott presents a game, explains it and briefly review it, to help us decide if it's a game we might want to purchase.

Scott does a really good job on each episode. Each game is explained in great detail. I didn't read the Ticket to Ride Europe manual before I played it with my brother because we both saw the episodes that he talked about the Ticket to Ride games.

Overall, I think Scott's objective is fulfilled. I greatly recommend this podcast to people that might be interested in a game and are new to boardgames. The video is always the best way to explain how a game is played.

Name: The Spiel
Hosts: Stephen Conway and David Coleson

This is my favourite podcast. It's last on the list because it's the last I discovered. But it's really nice.

What's unique about it? The segments. Games news and notes is a normal news segment. The List: these guys have a huge list of unplayed games, and in each episode they play at least two of them and review it. Backshelf Spotlight, where they bring two old games and explain why they are great. Truckloads of Goober : never seen anything like it on any other podcast. They select a game with tons of components or one with a very unique component. Game Sommelier : each week, ,one of them issues a challenge to the other, where they must select 5 games for a particular occasion or group of players. These last two, for me, are the heart of each show.

I'm hoping to find more podcasts. I know of a few more, but I haven't tried them. In another post, I will review one podcast that is discontinued, but it had a lot of quality.

KGB - session

Next KGB session will occur Saturday 16 December, 2006 at 14:30. I might not be able to attend it, so I won't select any game for the session. I leave that to you guys.

I hope to upload an audio report for the session last Saturday, an I hope someone else posts the report of Friday.

4 Dec 2006

KGB - session

Next KGB session will occur on Friday 8 December, starting at 14:30.

Since the list of game is getting bigger, besides confirming our presence, we should also chose the game we want to play. Because it's the only small game I have, Bohnanza will always be present, even if we do not play it.

My picks:

Ticket to Ride Europe

Hopefully, this time we'll be able to play Carcassonne.

3 Dec 2006

Session 5

(D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes, D. Bação, R. Dias)

We decided to make this session on Friday (holiday), so that Renato could join us for a while.

The session started with a game of Puerto Rico, that was initially intended for 3 players, but bação arrived before the end of the setup, and he also joined. I think it was not the best game for him, since he was a new player, and the game isn't easy for first time players.

The game began with D. Nunes taking an early lead, by the time Renato arrived. When we decided to make room for him to seat, Bação accidentally destroyed the game setting, and we decided not to continue and play Bohnanza instead, with all 5 players.

Puerto Rico: unfinished

This was the first time a game of bohnanza was played with more than 3 players, and we where anticipating that.

The first thing notice was the lower number of points of the final score. We usually manage to get 20+ points in a 3 player game, but in this game D. Ferreira only had 15 ( the highest point player) . Renato, who add to keep one eye on the game and another on his like kid, was second tied with D. Nunes.

Overall, it was fun, and I got the impression that the game works better with more than three players and the game was faster, even with the third run through the deck.. We still need to play the game with 7 and see how it scales.

Bohnanza: Davide Ferreira

Renato had to leave, while we finish to setup Shadows Over Camelot.

I've already tried this game alone (controlling 3 and 4 knights) and with my brother (each controlling a knight) with a small rule change. Unfortunately, that change made the game easy and my brother had a bias opinion of the game. he was reluctant in playing it.

Unlike in the games played before the session, loyalty cards were distributed. I had a feeling that the possible presence of a traitor would change the game from the experience me and my brother had.

The game was a litte slow at first, since Bação and Ferreira didn't knew what to do first. Some mistakes happened (the main one an incorrect use of King Arthur's special power). In the end, the knights won the game with only 3 black swords on the round table. The loyalty cards revealed no traitor.

Shadows Over Camelot: The knights (D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, D. Bação, Filipe "Sir Runegarth" Nunes

The previous game was really fun, and because (since we had time), we decided to play another. Only two of the knights were the same, and the other 2 changed, and for the first time Sir Kay was in play.

The game had a bad start. Bação started moving to the grail quest and placed a couple of grail cards. During the first turns no despair cards came out, and he manage to fill 3 spots with no despairs on the table. I when to the Excalibur quest and the other knights stayed in Camelot.

A few turns later, both Bação and D. Nunes were at the grail quest and this is were the game started to be difficult. Bação saw the top black card (he had Sir Percival) and said it "it's very bad", and the knights began to sacrifice life points or adding siege engines. The card was later revealed and it was a dispair card. But by the time the grail quest was completed and another siege engine was added (7 or 8 total), and we had only a few white swords. To add more trouble, the Pict and Saxons had no progression on the quests and already some warriors where there.

At this point, the game was true to it's name; there really was danger to Camelot, and we had to fight wars on almost every front. One time during the 10 siege engines were outside Camelot with 3 Picts on the table.

It was only a matter of time before the game was lost, and I gave the final stroke by adding the 12th siege engine and revealing myself as the traitor.

Shadows Over Camelot: Traitor (Filipe "Sir Runegarth" Nunes)

I received some criticism after the game saying that I didn't do enough to betray the knights. But the fact is that in the beginning of the game I when to the Excalibur quest and discarded all my grail cards and my Merlins, when I could just move to the grail quest and help with it. After, I obtained the Lancelot's armour and I got the ability to chose the worst card for the knights. I didn't always chose it because Bação sometimes saw one card and decided not to use it. Finally, for most of the game I was a bit lost, moving to one quest and dropping a card, moving again to another, always reluctant to sacrifice life points.

I could of been exposed when I chose to play the Morgana that played the next 3 black cards, but no accusation was made, and in the next turn, I added the final siege engine, and Camelot fell.

I admit that I could of done more as the traitor, but the other knights did half my job, by adding early in the game siege engines to Camelot, and there was no need to over-expose myself. I could just wait a few turns and select the worst black card to play, and eventually the knights couldn't cover all the holes and I would attack the weakest flank.

After the session ended, everyone wanted to be the traitor next time.

2 Dec 2006

First Impressions on Puerto Rico

Name: Puerto Rico
Genre: Board Game
Designer: Andreas Seyfarth
Category: City Building/Economics
Nº of Players: 3 to 5 Players
Cost: Average, good value for components
Age of Players: 13+
Learning Curve: Average
Setup Time: 5 to 10 minutes

It´s actually a very good game.

First of all it has a deep amount of strategy yet the number of actions each turn is limited. As you can see from the previous posts it was the most played game so far :)

The components are of good quality and the rules are simple enough to play out of the box, any doubts we had the rulebook answered them.

The goal of the game is to have the most Victory Points at the end. You get victory points by either delivering goods or buying buildings.

The game ends when there is no more colonists to ship to Puerto Rico or when one player completes all building spaces. At that time the Victory Points are counted to see who wins.

Altough the game is good with 3 players, i believe its even better with 4 or 5 due to an increased difficulty on players guess what their neighbours will do, as each action you take affects all players.

First Impression on Puerto Rico i will rate it 8/10 that will probably increase if your average playing group has more than 3 people.

1 Dec 2006

Session games and winners

Session 1 (D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes):

Bohnanza - Filipe "Sir Runegarth" Nunes
Bohnanza - David Nunes
Puerto Rico* - David Nunes


Session 2 (D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes):

The Princes of Florence* - Davide Ferreira
The Princes of Florence* - David Nunes
Puerto Rico - David Nunes
Puerto Rico - Davide Ferreira


Session 3 (D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes):

Puerto Rico - David Nunes
Puerto Rico - Filipe "Sir Runegarth" Nunes
Puerto Rico - Davide Ferreira
Puerto Rico - David Nunes

Note: The winners were the players who started the game.


Session 4 (D. Ferreira, D. Nunes, F. Nunes):

The Princes of Florence - Filipe "Sir Runegarth" Nunes
The Princes of Florence - David Nunes
The Princes of Florence - Davide Ferreira
Bohnanza - David Nunes

Note: The "Princes of Florence" winners were the players who started the game.


* The game was payed with one bad rule that had a significant impact on the gameplay.