Board Game Review – Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Overview

Quick Facts

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier & Alan Stone
Genre: Worker Placement
Players: 2-6
Time: 60 minutes

Growing up, life in your society seemed so peaceful, so utopian, so… euphoric.  But little did you realize that actually underneath the surface, that society was actually quite dystopian, subjugating its citizens by keeping workers happy, dumb, and loyal.  Now that you know the truth, you’ve decided that you can make this world your own and become one of the ruling elite.  Now, armed with a couple of workers, recruits, and your own knowledge, you’re ready to make your mark on the world!  But it isn’t going to be easy…

Euphoria is a game all about achieving dominance in a dystopian society.  To do so, you’ll need to gain influence among the four factions who inhabit the world: the city-dwelling Euphorians, the Wastelanders who reside outside of the city walls, the hard-working underground Subterrans, and the mysterious Icarites who hold stock over the sky from their zeppelins.  Can you use your workers wisely to gain enough influence to wrest control over the euphoric dystopia?

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At First Glance – Gear & Piston and Equinox

No, that’s not one long, strange title… last night we had the chance to play two of our as-yet unplayed games and get a good first impression of both.  We went from building cars in the late 1800s to fighting for dominance in an abstract strategy game.  Read on to learn more about these two games and our experiences with them!
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At First Glance — Seasons: Path of Destiny

While we typically only review games that we’ve played a handful of times, sometimes first impressions can be helpful as well!  In a new segment called “At First Glance,” we take a look at games and expansions that we’re playing for the first time! (Or, in Amber’s case, the first time she can remember *Cough Eminent Domain Cough*)

A Quick Overview

IMG_1145Path of Destiny is an expansion for the card- and dice-drafting game Seasons by Régis Bonnessée, which requires the base game in order to play.  Path of Destiny adds a few new things to the game that can be added in part or in whole.  The first of these is two copies of each of 21 new Power Cards, which have a variety of fun new abilities.  Next, there are 10 Enchantment cards which add something new for each game.  These can change the card drafting, how you transmute energy into crystals, or other such rules changes.  Finally there are six special ability tokens, which add to those found in the other Seasons expansion, Enchanted Kingdom.  These add a one-shot ability for each player that they can choose to use once during the game, earning or losing points (based on the ability) if they choose to do so.  We didn’t play with this module, so won’t be reviewing/previewing it quite yet, but we did try the other parts, so here’s what we thought!

Amber’s First Reactions

So, just the name of the expansion prompted me to sing not only “Pick of Destiny” by Tenacious D, but also prompted Ethan to sing Destiny’s Child.  I have kind of a tough time with the game Seasons because there is a definite benefit to knowing some of the other cards in the deck.  Which I can’t remember what they are.  So let me tell you, I rolled my eyes a bit when I had to shuffle even MORE cards, which didn’t fit into my tiny hands.  IMG_1146The set up was basically the same as Seasons with the addition of the Enchanting Deck of Destiny.  Ethan vetoed the first card I drew (rude) and picked a new one.  The card chosen allowed us to, instead of using the action on the dice roll the destiny die and do the action on their.  This added an interesting option to the game, but honestly, we didn’t really use it.  Ethan used it once during the game and I used it on my final turn to prevent Ethan from gaining twenty points from the destiny counters.  But to be honest, the real addition this provided to the game was in the extra cards.  We came across some real winners in the new additions and was definitely worth it just for those.

Overall, it was nice to have a new little mechanic as well as the additional cards, but our first play didn’t really show the need for the new die.  Hopefully with more plays and using different destiny cards will make the new mechanic a bit worth while.

Ethan’s First Reactions

When I first opened this expansion and looked at all the cards and components, I was particularly excited by the Enchantment cards that all added something new to the game that could be accessed by all players.  We tried selecting a card randomly, but the power, which would give extra points when transmuting at least 15 points worth of energy, didn’t seem like it would come up that often.  So on a second try, we got the Divine Destiny card, which adds the ability to roll the Die of Destiny(TM) instead of using the ability of the Season die you picked in a round.  This die can give prestige points, which by themselves do nothing, but if you have the most by the end of the game you get a bonus 20 crystals (points).  In addition, the die can give you energy, crystals, and summoning power, just not in as great of quantity as the regular dice.  I was hoping this would be used at least a few times throughout the game, but with the pace things were going with just the two of us, we each only used it once.  I think it might see more play if you’re competing with three other people to get the most prestige points.  IMG_1158Plus there are still nine more Enchantment cards to play with, so I’m interested to see how they change the gameplay and strategies.  The new cards that we got to see (probably about 5-7 of the new 21) were pretty great and seemed to integrate well with the base game.  My favorite was the Argosian Tangleweed, which lets you turn off the ability of an opponent’s minion card.  I was able to use that to prevent Amber’s Thieving Fairies from stealing points from me, until she Tangleweeded my Tangleweed, releasing the lock on her Fairies.  Amber seemed to like Io’s Minion, which you can pass to an opponent to prevent them from earning crystals, but I was prepared to be able to sacrifice both of the ones she gave to me, so they didn’t hurt me for long.  Altogether the new cards add some pretty cool abilities, and don’t seem to dilute the deck at all.  This is a fun expansion that doesn’t add too much different to the game, so I think we’ll always be able to play with it.

Board Game Review – Jaipur

Overview

Quick Facts

Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Genre: Set Collection
Players: 2
Time: 20-30 minutes

The glint of gold and scent of exotic spices attract your attention as you enter the bustling marketplace.  You are a trader, newly arrived in the city of Jaipur with the hopes of attaining the lofty position of the Maharaja’s personal trader.  However, you won’t get the job without facing some tough competition! There happens to be another trader vying for the job who seems to be just as qualified as you are!  You’ll have to use all of your skills, cunning, and a little bit of luck in order to secure the place at the palace for yourself!

Jaipur is a 2-player set collection game in which players collect various goods (as well as a camel or two) from the marketplace and try to sell enough goods to earn more than their opponent, which will gain them the Maharaja’s favor.  The game is played over 2 or 3 rounds, with a best-2-out-of-3 approach.  It’s a fairly light and accessible game that can be picked up quickly and played in less  than 30 minutes.

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Board Game Review — Hanabi

Overview

Quick Facts

Genre: Cooperative, hidden information
Players: 2-5
Time: 20-30 minutes

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. A firework explodes in the air. Or maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. It’s dark, you can’t see the fireworks, and you’re trying to work together to create the best fireworks display you can. In Hanabi, 2-5 players work together to place cards in order from 1-5 by color. Except only your partners can see your hand. That’s right, you have no idea which fireworks you’re holding. Can you work together to create an excellent, crowd-pleasing fireworks show, or will it blow up in your face?

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GenCon Event Registation — Disappointment at the Click of a Button

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, I mean, we got all of our events last year and most of our events this year.  But let me tell you how this works first.

So every year, the GenCon event list is released on a certain date; this year the list was released early may and registration was Sunday, May 15th.  Before the registration date, patrons are encouraged to look through the events and add ones they like or are interested in to their wishlist, which they can submit at noon Eastern time on event registration day.  There are many different types of events to choose from; while game playing is a majority of the events, there are also events based around video games, anime, LARPing, miniatures, and many more (including a cool event about learning to make sushi, which I’m totally doing this year.)

On the day of event registration, everyone submit their event lists and get a number in line.  The way this is done is still slightly a mystery to me, but my understanding is that VIGs (Very Important Gamers, the $500 tickets, woohoo) get to pick their events first, and then everyone else after that is randomly assigned a lottery number, where they wait for all the people “in front of them” in line to submit their wishlists and buy their events, all the way until they get their own turn.

This year, when Ethan and I submitted out events, we were in the two thousands and three thousands respectively.  We pressed submit at 11 and both had our events paid for by about 12, so the process went by rather quickly, much more quickly than last year, so it seemed.  The problem with this year was that one of our events sold out lightening quick.  No problem, we still had a few other events and it was an event similar to one we’d done before, so no big.  Then, our number in line wasn’t getting updated.  Luckily I was refreshing often, but when I didn’t, it stayed on the same number for a quite a long time.  Ethan got his wishlist first and submitted his loner events as well as the events we were doing together, and luckily all but the one event was still available.  About20 minutes later, my wishlist was up, which contained all my solo events.  I put everything in the cart, and submitted it, when I realized that there was only one event submitted.  I went back and checked again, and I realized 3 of my events were never shown as sold out, but were sold out when I submitted.  So, I only got one of my solo events.

Now, I know this is really only a minor issue.  The wait was fine and sold out events happen, but I don’t understand what happened with the website malfunctions.  We’re not the only ones that had similar problems either, Reddit and Twitter both showed instances of the same thing happening.  Many people cried out that it was partially because of this lottery system, and how it was really unfair anyway!  And people such as Rob Daviau, who should just be an automatic VIP because who wants to piss off the guy with the number one game on BGG, didn’t even get their events.  Is it time for GenCon to reevaluate the way they handle people’s wishlists?  Is GenCon becoming to big for itself, as it was suggested?  Or are people just getting bent out of shape?

As much as I’m a bit heart broken that I won’t get to try out Trickerion, or do an Escape Room, or play Werewolf Survivor, I’ll live.  And I’ll have fun.  Because nothing’s better than not recognizing one of your favorite game designers and meeting a ton of fantastic people.

Now that we’re not competing with tens of thousands of people for spots at these events, here’s a look at what we’ll be getting up to during Gen Con 2016!

Gen Con Schedule

But what are we looking forward to?

Amber

I think the one event I’m looking forward to the most is the Burlesque.  Last year, we saw the D20 Nerdlesque and it was amazing!  Not only were there scantily clad women (and a man!), but they were hilarious and super well done!  We got to see a great show (and Burlesque Carl Sagan and an Ent, what what) and helped support a great bunch of people.  I have friends in the burlesque community that have really opened my eyes to the fun and exciting (18+ only kids!) event that promotes artists and comfort in sexuality.

Oh, and Pathfinder.  Being a part of a thousand person game of Pathfinder was an amazing experience.  Unfortunately, our DM was a bit lacking, but it was crazy to hear everyone roleplaying, rolling dice, and contributing to the greater Pathfinder Society Good.  Though I don’t always agree with the Pathfinder Society’s methods (don’t tell Kreighton Shaine, whom I hate with the fiery passions of a thousand suns), it’s nice to have missions for the greater good of the world.  My drunk barbarian and I will have a grand ole time, as long as there’s a pub around.

AND SUSHI.  I love eating sushi.  How will I do at making sushi?  Who knows.  Who cares.  It all ends up in the same place, right?

Ethan

One of my favorite things to do at Gen Con is participate in tournaments.  I enjoy them partly because it’s a chance to play some of my favorite games in a different context than playing at home or game night, and partly because it gives me an opportunity to be super-competitive without worrying about having fewer friends (or having to sleep on the couch) afterwards!  This year I’m entering tournaments for Liar’s Dice (which I’ve played online, but never in person), Onitama (which I got to play for the first time on Tabletop Day this year and enjoyed greatly), SET (for which I want redemption from my defeat last year), and most importantly, Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Last year I didn’t manage to actually win any tournaments, but I did get some consolation prizes and promos for participation.  I’m hoping for a better showing this year, but even if not, I still enjoy the opportunity to compete!

Though it’s technically also a tournament, I’m also highly interested in the One Night Ultimate World Championship purely for the spectacle of it.  From the description, it will consist of 22 simultaneous games of One Night Ultimate Werewolf/Daybreak/Vampire, with the same roles and soundtrack for all the games.  The One Night games were very popular with our gaming group when they came out, and they saw plays at just about every meetup for a while, until they got played out.  However, seeing 176 people in one big room all playing games of One Night that are the same but separate should be enough to bring back the novelty.  And while I’m not expecting to do that well (after all, it is a social deduction game with complete strangers), I definitely think it’ll be enjoyable!

One other thing I’m excited for is World Championship Russian Roulette, and no, it’s not just because I’m inexplicably drawn to events with “Chamionship” in the title.  This is a game that we were able to preview last Gen Con, and I’ve been looking forward to its release ever since!  While it will be starting a Kickstarter campaign next Tuesday, May 24, I’m assuming that it won’t be released until Gen Con or later.  The game is a great combination of bluffing and press-your-luck, and I’m really excited to play it again!

Game Night Recap – 5/12/16

Hi, Ethan here with another solo gaming session report.  It feels like a while since we’ve done one of these, and in fact it’s been almost a month since we last headed to Kryptonite Kollectibles for a regularly scheduled Meetup — our NMA gaming weekend was at the end of last month, and we needed a few weeks’ beak afterwards.  Nevertheless, this Thursday, I was really jonesing for some gaming, so fortunately I got to play a few good games with a good group of people.  So, enough with the introductions, let’s get to the games!

Shipyard

I may have mentioned this previously, but one of my favorite parts of game night is getting to play heavy or involved games with a lot of bright people.  A lot of times, games don’t play as well (or at all) with two, so just Amber and I can’t play them at home, and sometimes we don’t want to just go at each other in the heavy competitive games anyway.  So it’s always nice to get a chance to play a thinky game with a full complement of four people.  And Shipyard is a great game to scratch that euro itch, and to play with a full four people at game night.

Shipyard is, as you may imagine, a game that centers around building ships.  Over the course of the game, players buy ship pieces, parts to add to their ships (smokestacks, propellers, cannons, etc.), passengers for the ship (captains/officers, businessmen, and soldiers), and waterways to navigate.  Players can also buy employees that give them special powers or extra actions, and can buy and sell train cars full of resources (coal, iron, and grain) for money or ship components.  Every player has government contracts they’re working on as secret goals that will give bonus points at the end of the game, and they also earn points from taking the ships they build throughout the game on shakedown cruises, which are the shipyard’s version of test runs.

Three out of the four of us playing (Rob, Paul, and me) had played this game before, while the fourth, Brock, was new to this game.  And since it had been a few months since the rest of us had played, it took a while for a rules explanation/refresher.  Shipyard has a lot of moving parts, with about 8 different actions and rondels associated with most of them that all required a thorough explanation and understanding.  In addition, there is a bit of complexity to the midgame scoring coming from shakedown cruises and symbology on the end-game government contract secret goal cards, so it was important that everyone knew what they were working towards and what would earn them points.  By about 6:00, we were ready to start!

With the action selection mechanic of Shipyard, each turn a player puts their marker on one of the available actions, which leaves it unavailable for the other players.  Then, on subsequent turns, you must move your marker to any of the actions besides the one you just did and those occupied by other players.  Because of this mechanic, there were a few turns where there were no available actions that I particularly wanted or needed to do, so I had to improvise as best as I could.  The game also allows you to pay 6 guilders (the currency of the game) to take any extra action on your turn, so there is a possibility for mitigation, albeit a pricey one.  I did take advantage of the extra action a few times over the course of the game, as did my three competitors, but we often didn’t have enough money to do so, or our money was better spent elsewhere.

Overall, my strategy centered around one of my government contract cards, which gave me points for launching ships made up of exactly six pieces, up to 17 points for three such ships.  This worked out nicely, since when building ship parts, you’re able to buy up to three each time.  So I typically bought the three cheapest (or free) components to try to launch six length ships as quickly as I could.  And in fact I was the first one to send a ship out for a shakedown cruise, but because I didn’t bother adding any propellers, smokestacks, or sails, it only had a speed of 1 and did not score me very many points.  Meanwhile, the other three players, who took their time building their ships, earned a lot more points test driving their ships.  However, by the end of the game I managed to launch my three six-length ships, and on the last one scored a lot of points for soldiers and cannons (which tied in with my second secret goal), so wasn’t too far behind before end-game scoring.  Then, after successfully earning lots of points with my secret goals, I pulled out a narrow win with 86 points, with Paul and Rob scoring 82 and 80 points, respectively, and first-timer Brock coming in with a very respectable 67.

I really like Shipyard, and had been wanting to play it again after trying it for the first time last year.  After this second play, I can definitely say that Shipyard is a game where strategy is heavily dependent on your secret government contract cards which are used for end game scoring and can contribute almost half of your score.  The way I played this game was definitely different from the last, where I had completely different goals to work towards, and I imagine if I play again it’ll be different still based on my goals and what my opponents do.  So it’s certainly a game that rewards repeated play and adaptability, so I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to try it out again.

 

Dixit

After all the brain-burning of Shipyard, and because there were only 45 minutes left in the Meetup, I decided to finish the night off with something a bit lighter, and wandered over to another table to join a game of Dixit that was just getting started.  Dixit is a family-weight game where all of the players submit cards featuring strange and surreal artwork based on a clue given by one player.  Then, all other players try to find the card that player submitted based on their clue and what they know about that person.  The clue-giver only earns points if some people correctly guess their card, but not all, so it’s to their advantage to give somewhat vague clues or ones that they know only some people at the table will understand.  This is definitely a game that’s best played with people you know fairly well.

I’m usually pretty good at Dixit.  I can often give clues that are just vague enough so that only some of the other players can get them — this is where it’s good to play with Amber because I can give clues that only she will get for sure.  On the flip side, I’m usually good at picking up on a wide variety of pop culture references, which are often good candidates for Dixit clues.  However, for whatever reason I was really off my game this night.

On my first turn of the game, I knew right away which card I wanted to submit, as I’d been eyeing it ever since it entered my hand.  It was a card depicting a white raven amongst a bevy of black ones.  I laid down the card and gave the clue “Citadel”, a reference to the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones), where white ravens are sent from the maesters at the Citadel to herald the changing of the seasons.  I was really hoping that the one other person at the table I knew had read all of the books would get the reference, but when all the cards were revealed and he looked as lost as everyone else I knew I was in trouble.  I guess the clue was a bit too vague.  Then, as everyone else took their turns, I was missing out on clues left and right.  “Geppetto”, “Guilty”, and others were all misinterpreted by me.

In the end we weren’t able to play a full game with the time allotted, but I insisted on taking my last turn since I wanted to redeem myself.  I played a card featuring a dragon with some paper lanterns, and gave the very specific clue “1988”.  I waited with bated breath as everyone submitted their own cards and then pored over the results, wondering what to pick.  In the end, only one person got it right, as I’d hoped — the one person at the table who had been born in 1988, the year of the dragon on the Chinese calendar.  So I was able to have my moment of redemption, even though I still came in dead last with 10 points, while the leader when we finished had 20, and everyone else was somewhere in between.  I’ll chalk it up to playing with two couples and not having Amber there to balance things out, but it was still a ton of fun.  I can’t wait for the next game night!

Amber’s Most Embarrassing Moment: A GenCon Story

Because we’re super pumped about GenCon event registration, I must tell this story.

So I have to preface this by saying while I love board games and know the names of lots of different games, but I have a terrible time remembering the names of game designers.  It’s not that I don’t want to know their names, but my memory for names is really terrible; hell, I hardly remember the names of characters in my favorite books.  Here’s an example of all the game designers I can name off the top of my head:

Bruno Cathala, Vlaada Chvátil, Jamey Stegmaier, Stefan Feld,  Isaac Blah Blah Blah (you know, the Dead of Winter Guy), Jerry What’s His Name (Mice and Mystics), and Ted Alspach.  Ted is the most important, at least to this story.  Ted’s name is actually the first designer’s name I recognized and remembered; we played Werewolf at our first NMA, learned Suburbia the same day, and picked up Castles of Mad King Ludwig as soon as it came out.  So Ted’s name is a regular in our household.  His face, however, is a different story.

It’s GenCon 2015.  I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it.  I’m about to lose control, but I don’t, so we’re all good.  Being the nice friend that I am, I think of our Peghead leader Rob, and say to Ethan, “Gee Ethan, wouldn’t it be so great if we picked up someone Werewolf Cards for Rob at GenCon?  How cool would that be?”  Because Ethan’s my husband, he knows that I’m right, and we head over to the Bezier Games booth.  There stands a tall, dark man peddling Bezier’s wears.  We’re looking over the Werewolf items and having some general chit chat when I start asking the man if he knows what’s in each pack. “Do you know what’s in that one?”  He tells me the answer.  “What about that one?”  Gives me the answer.   I ask about one more pack when Ethan leans over to me and “whispers,” “He probably knows what’s in them.  He designed them.”  I look up quickly at the man’s name tag.  “Ted Alspach.”  My face looked a little something like this.

Shocked

I quickly thanked the man now known as Ted, who was laughing because he HEARD what Ethan said, and beeline the heck out of there as fast as I could.  Ethan caught up to me and was all like, “What?”  I replayed the entire conversation and said, “THAT WAS  EMBARASSING!”  I promptly avoid Bezier games for the rest of the day and only went over to the booth again when the coast was clear.

The next day, we were at Plaid Hat’s booth and good ole Jerry What’s His Name was chatting with us about Mice and Mystics.  He walked away and Ethan leaned in and said, “That’s Jerry, he designed…” I stopped him and said, “I KNOW WHO HE IS.  I read the name tag this time, ok?!”