The Day in Gaming, September 12, 2019: Shards of Infinity: Relics of the Future

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Tonight I just had to play a solo game of Shards of Infinity tonight since I reviewed it for the most recent episode of The Five By (go here to download). While the base game didn’t have a solo option, the Relics of the Future expansion added solitaire rules.

Like other deck-building games, Shards of Infinity follows the basic script: each player has their own starting cards, plays five on their turn and spends resources to gain more cards from the display or deal damage to their opponent. What Shards does so well is get to the heavy action right away: instead of a slow churn to improve your deck, Shards gives you a chance to start hitting those big combos after only a few turns.

Go listen to the episode to learn more about the game and hear my thoughts. I’ll be back tomorrow with another post about another game.

The Day in Gaming, September 11, 2019: Spirits of the Wild

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Last month my buddy Daryl introduced me to Spirits of the Wild, a two-player game by Mattel. Yes, that Mattel. The company known for toys, but not for board games. They release popular games like Uno and Apples to Apples, which are perennial big sellers, but not the type that hobby gamers are too interested in playing.

With Spirits of the Wild, my opinion of Mattel has changed. This two-player set collection game reminded me of the excellent Herbaceous, which I absolutely loved. Like Herbaceous, you’re trying to collect different types of sets, like all gems of one color, all gems of different colors, pairs of colors, etc. Each are worth different points depending on how far you get in completing them.

The theme is something about animals and their spirits, but it’s secondary to the solid game play of Spirits of the Wild. You and your opponent each have the same set of action cards. Choose one and perform the action, which can be taking a stone to add to your scoreboard or adding stones to the supply, or a mix of the actions.

After you’ve taken three actions, you may reset your actions and take one of the special actions that cycle through the game. I like the action that gives you an immediate extra turn.

When one of the “bad” gems shows up, you can add that to your board, thus blocking off that section, but also giving it double the points at the end of the game. When the fifth bad gem shows up, the game ends.

I liked Spirits of the Wild from the first turn I played. It reminded me a lot of Herbaceous, with its style of set collection and that little bit of push-your-luck. This game, though, has a little take-that, especially when you place the coyote on your opponent’s board. The coyote is triggered through certain card actions and it blocks your opponent from placing gems in one of section of their board. To move the coyote, you have to use one of those card actions.

It plays in about 15 minutes and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Games that are easy to learn yet provide a deeper experience than other 15-minute fillers can go a long way in establishing Mattel as a quality board game producer.

Spirits of the Wild is sold at Target for $15 MSRP and you can get it for cheaper since Target regularly discounts its merchandise. No matter what price you pay, though, Spirits of the Wild is a bargain.

The Day in Gaming, September 10, 2019: Oaxaca

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I was bummed when I missed the Oaxaca Kickstarter last year. I loved the theme and I’m a fan of dice-chucking games, but for some reason I didn’t back it. Thankfully, my buddy Ben was kind enough to trade a few games with me and Oaxaca was one of them.

In Oaxaca you’re a craftsperson making goods to sell to the tourists. You do this by rolling dice and either gathering raw materials or to crafting goods. When you gather, you’ll draw cards that match the good you’ve rolled. When you craft, you’ll get one step closer to crafting a good that gives you victory points and either ongoing or one-time abilities.

This is a light dice-chucking engine builder and tonight I solo-ed it for the first time. I appreciated the different ways you could mitigate dice rolls by either using a special ability or by using two dice to set one to the side you want.

The solo game caught me off-guard with how fast it played. It’s no more than a 15-minute game that adds a few solo mechanisms while keeping the game play intact from the multi-player game. Some people don’t like the beat-your-own-high-score style of solo play, but I’m fine with it. While the game isn’t a brain burner, it is certainly a solid engine-builder that should appeal to a bigger audience.

The Day in Gaming, September 9, 2019: Point Salad

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

With cute art and a title that’s both clever for non-gamers and inside joke-y to gamers, Point Salad is a wonderful filler game that has seen lot of table time lately.

Point Salad didn’t wow me when I first heard of it earlier this year, but at my buddy Patrick’s birthday last month I got to play a game and was immediately hooked. In this deceptively simple set collection game, you’re trying to score the most points in your salad/play area.

On your turn either select any two vegetables from the two rows available or select one scoring card from the single scoring card row, then place in your play area. What’s clever about this game is each card is double-sided: one side is a veggie while the other side is a scoring condition. When veggies are taking from the display, scoring cards are flipped to their veggie side to refill the display.

It’s a simple yet effective mechanism that forces you to make a decision every turn: are one of the scoring cards something you want? If you don’t take it, then it’s most likely going to be gone by the time it’s your turn again. Now, if you do take it, then will you be able to grab enough veggies to score?

Each scoring card is different, so every game you’ll be trying to collect something else. Cards give you points for certain veggies, certain combos of veggies, the most veggies of one type, etc. One other small yet useful optional action each turn is the ability to flip a scoring card to its veggie side. This allows you to make use of any “dead” scoring cards if you haven’t been able to collect those veggies.

For a quick game (no longer than 20 minutes at the full six-player count; I’ve played two player games in 4-5 minutes), Point Salad offers a nice bit of tension and tactical decision-making in a short amount of time. I like to joke that it should be titled, “Point Salad: The Hate Drafting Game” since you’ll draft a lot of the cards your opponent to your left may need to fulfill their scoring goals.

It’s not personal, of course. It’s Point Salad.

The Day in Gaming, September 8, 2019: Mint Works

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I had a great day filled with gaming yesterday, playing 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon, Shards of Infinity: Relics of the Future, Troyes, Point Salad, and Tapestry. Today I didn’t game until the very end of the day, after a fun day date with my wife as we celebrated Philippines Cultural Day at the USC Pacific Asia Museum. It was a wonderful event highlighted by performances from local music and dance groups. We’re big fans of cultural events like these, especially when they’re focused on our shared heritage.

Two other highlights from our day: I scored a brand new copy of Time of Crisis from a local gamer I’d met on Facebook. This is a wargame I’ve been wanting to play based on a recommendation from my friend Meeple Lady. The other highlight was meeting up with our friends Geraldine and Mike, who are known as To Live And Dice In LA on Instagram. They’re a lovely couple and Michelle and I instantly bonded with them when we all hung out earlier this year (I’d met them last year at Strategicon). We caught up with each other over delicious fried chicken at Crack Shack, which is one of my favorite restaurant names ever.

Back home I caught up with some work before playing a quick game of Mint Works. I’ve loved this worker placement game since I snagged a used copy two years ago. The game fits in an Altoids-sized tin and your workers are little wooden pieces that look like Altoids. There are action cards that you place your worker on to perform the action. Basically, you’re trying to buy plans for buildings, then constructing them in your neighborhood to earn points. The first player to seven points wins.

It’s an extremely fast game (my solo game lasted all of five minutes, in a loss to one of the AIs), and I love how it feels like a bigger worker placement game. Everything is stripped down to the basics, but there’s still some of the feeling of the bigger worker placement games and you can plans to block your opponents from spaces.

I love the idea of small-box games like this (and Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games and Tiny Epic Galaxies from Gamelyn Games) and I’ll never turn down a play, thanks to their quick play time and solid design.

The Day in Gaming, September 7, 2019: Tapestry

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Let’s cut to the chase: Yes, Tapestry is fantastic. Although I haven’t received my shipping notification yet, my friend Jin received his copy today and within an hour we met up and got a four-player game in with our friends Jose and Amanda.

Now here’s the thing about Tapestry. If you’re a Stonemaier Games fan I’m almost positive you’ll love it. Like other games in their small-but-impressive catalog, Tapestry is smooth-playing and a gorgeous production. The player boards and reference sheets explain everything you need to know about game play. I love that.

I don’t think it’ll have the mass crossover appeal of Stonemaier’s other huge hit of 2019, Wingspan. Tapestry is a gamer’s game and isn’t meant to appeal to everyone. But what I love about Tapestry is that for a midweight game it doesn’t feel like it. It plays lighter than you’d expect, but as you reach the second half of the game it feels a lot deeper than that first round of basically collecting your income. I’m excited that this may be casual gamers’ gateway into heavier games.

I know I just said Tapestry won’t have the crossover appeal of Wingspan, but I’m not making any predictions. If there’s one thing I learned after initially dismissing a game about birds, it’s never bet against Stonemaier.

The Day in Gaming, September 6, 2019: Architects of the West Kingdom

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Tonight I solo-ed Architects of the West Kingdom. This game surprised me last year; I’d liked Raiders of the North Sea (even better with the expansion) from the same designer and artist team, but Architects is the better game. The solo game features an Automa-style deck, which does a good job of simulating an opponent.

What appeals to me most about Architects is its wide-open feel. You’re never really blocked from any space and the more workers you have on a space, the more actions/resources you get. One of my favorite mechanisms is related to this: you can capture your opponents’ workers and hold them hostage. If you want you can then send them to prison for money, where your opponents can waste an action to bust them out. Or, if they can’t wait, they can rescue them from your player board by paying the cost.

It’s a solid worker-placement game that one was one of my favorites last year. For new gamers I’d recommend Raiders of the North Sea (without the expansion), but for veterans I’d play Architects.

The photo above is from a game I played with my friends Amanda, John, and David. We got together one warm summer afternoon to help David get closer to his goal of playing the Top 100 BGG games in 100 days. That’s a lot tougher challenge than blogging every day for a month.

The Day in Gaming, September 5, 2019: Gentes: Deluxified Edition

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I backed the Gentes: Deluxified Edition Kickstarter last February and after a few delays, the game arrived earlier this year. I’d never played the original non-fancy version, but knew of Stephen Risthaus’ reputation as designer of Arkwright.

Tonight I played a solo game in about 45 minutes, which is about how long it usually takes me. In Gentes (apparently the Latin pronunciation uses the G sound like “giant,” but here in Southern California my friends and I use the H sound from the Spanish word for people) you’re building your civilization through three eras, with points coming from various sources. You’ll train your population, build monuments, and establish cities throughout the Mediterranean.

The game is a solid midweight Euro for up to four players and I like it all player counts. At its heart Gentes is an action selection game and I love the use of time as a resource in Gentes. For every action you take you’ll usually pay some money, but you’ll also pay time, which is represented by little hourglasses. These take up space on your player board so that you’ll eventually run out of room to perform actions each age due to the action tiles and hourglasses clogging up all of the spaces.

To me it feels like a reverse worker placement mechanism. You take the action tile and if you’re the first one to do that particular action you get the better “price” for it while others that follow you have to pay either more money and/or time. You’re not blocking your opponents, but in a way you are since you can take the cheaper actions and force them to spend more time/money, leaving them fewer open spaces for more actions.

Like other Euros you’re trying to be as efficient as possible, unlocking ongoing abilities that get you cheaper actions, either in price or hourglasses or in being able to take the action without using one of the tiles. There’s a lot more to the game, but it’s this time and money management that I really enjoy trying to balance.

The game has flown a little under the radar, probably because it originally came out in 2017. Everyone who’s seen the Deluxified version loves it and I was impressed by it as well. There are chunky wooden meeples to track your population, metal coins, and an awesome Folded Space insert to keep everything organized.

I was fortunate to play Gentes with my friends John and Monique at Strategicon last weekend and even though I hadn’t played it since the last con in May, I was able to get through the teach and the game ran smoothly. Gentes is such a solid design and every one of my gaming friends has picked it up right away and enjoyed it. I was happy that John and Monique did, too.

The Day in Gaming, September 4, 2019: Thurn Und Taxis

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I scored a German copy of Thurn and Taxis last weekend at Strategicon and I brought it to game night tonight. After my first game I understand why it’s so highly regarded. It’s basically a next-step Ticket to Ride, featuring simple-and-familiar player turns with more depth and strategy.

In Thurns Und Taxis you’re creating postal routes in 16th-century Bavaria. The game is based on the historical Thurns und Taxis royal family, who were instrumental in building the postal service in Europe.

Ticket to Ride fans will feel right at home with the open market of cards, the map of connected routes, and the colorful pieces on the board. On your turn you draw a card, then play a card in front of you. You’ll eventually build a tableau of cards that represent your current route. If it’s at least three cards, then you can turn them in and place your post offices on cities matching your cards in one province OR in one city matching your cards per province. There are carriage bonuses from three to seven if you’re able to convert the appropriate route length.

What I liked are the optional abilities that four different characters give you once per turn: resetting the available cards, taking two instead of one card, playing two instead of one card, or claiming a carriage bonus even if you’re one or two short.

It’s a neat game of network building and offers a deeper layer of strategy than TTR. You don’t block your opponents from routes since any number of you can have a post office on any city; what you’re trying to do is efficiently place your post offices to maximize your scoring. It has a race element to it since the faster you complete routes and fill up provinces with your post offices you’ll receive higher bonuses.

Thurn Und Taxis was an instant hit for me and it seemed like my gaming group enjoyed it, too. It won the Spiel des Jahres back in 2006 and for my money it still holds it own today.

The Day in Gaming, September 3, 2019: The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I love The Castles of Burgundy. It sat on my shelf for far too long unplayed until my buddy Mike brought his copy in and taught it. Castles is one of my favorite Eurogames, thanks to its straightforward game play and clever use of dice. Unfortunately, the game does bog down a bit with more players and I prefer to play it with two players these days.

But there’s an excellent alternative to getting my fix of Castles: the roll-and-write version. The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is a clever reimplementation of the original game and can be played in a fraction of the time.

Once again, dice are used in clever ways within the game. In the original you’re placing tiles onto your estate; here, you’re using the dice rolls to write down the required numbers for each type of building. There are plenty of ways to mitigate bad dice rolls so there’s more strategy here than you might think.

I’m not gonna get into the details of the game, but if you’re a Castles of Burgundy or roll-and-write fan like me, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of both, then definitely check it out.