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!
Gear & Piston
This one wasn’t technically a first game for us, as we had played it before on Board Game Arena, but it really made a lot more sense seeing the board and tiles in person (as games often do). This is a game that takes place at the end of the 19th century when the first automobiles were coming into existence. Players compete to build the best cars for the randomly selected investors, who want specific parts on the car, or who value power, comfort, or speed above all. Gear & Piston is a worker placement and (somewhat) tile-laying game. In each round, players decide if they want to use their actions to get a new part at the Patent Office, a junk part from the Junkyard, build their car in the Workshop, or take a shady Back Alley action like muscling their way to the first spot in one of the other areas or stealing a car part from an opponent’s hand. Gameplay proceeds over several rounds until one of the stacks of tiles is depleted or one of the players has build a car consisting of 12 parts. Besides the desires of the investors, which will get you points at the end of the game, there are requirements that each car must fulfill. These are all pretty obvious: you must have at least two axles, at most one steering column, each motor must have a corresponding fuel supply, and so on. In the end, you’ll have a car that probably looks a bit ridiculous, and you’ll score points from investors and your largest contiguous area of one color (motors, fuel supplies, and improvements come in three different colors). You can also lose points from volatility, which come from unreliable junk parts. The player with the highest-scoring car wins!
When we played this game on BGA, I really had to idea what the hell to do. Even after reading the rules and having Ethan explain it to me while I play, I chalked it up to just not liking it and never playing it again on BGA. But this was on sale on Miniature Market on day and it was this was Ethan’s list so I figured, “Why not?” When we got it out last night and gave it a whirl, it made SO MUCH MORE SENSE IN PERSON. Oooh, I’m building a car. It needs certain car things to make car things happen. And some people will be REALLY happy if you make it a certain way. It made the game much more enjoyable and, more importantly, the game actually made sense. It might be nice to play the game again with a few more people, as we weren’t really competing for parts and sometimes I like a nice challenge. While looking this game up to record our scores, it looks as if there may be expansions, which may eventually be needed as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variety in game play. Overall, I’m happy with this purchase and would like to see how it fluctuates with different numbers of players.
As I mentioned in the overview, this is a game that we’ve played online before, and I’ve probably played it more times than Amber, so I was mostly familiar with how it worked. This game can be played with 2-6 players, with the only major differences being that there are a few more tiles added for 4-6 players, and more available action spaces for any number greater than two. Other than that the gameplay is the same, and since it played pretty well with 2, I have to wonder how it is at the higher player counts. The game was pretty straightforward, and our action selection followed a definite pattern for most of the game: the first player to act chose the Patent Office (where they’d get a new tile), then the second person would do the same, then the first person would choose the third spot there, and the second person would take the last available spot. After that, the workshop seemed like the best spot, as going there earlier let you place more of your car parts. The fourth action generally seemed to split going to the Junkyard or the Back Alley (though doing the latter gave you one fewer action for the next round, so occasionally there wasn’t a fourth action to worry about). Because of this fairly predictable pattern of action selection, I would dare to say that just four different areas is not quite enough variety in a worker placement/action selection game like this. Even Stone Age, which is often viewed as a fairly introductory-level worker placement game, has at least 10 different places to place workers. So with not too much complexity or strategy going on, Gear & Piston came down at times to luck of the draw where you’d be hoping to get car parts that matched the type of motor you were building. That really hurt Amber in the last round of the game when none of the 6 face-up New Parts tiles were what she needed. She was still able to get it complete, but didn’t quite score as highly as she probably could have if the right tiles had come into play. Altogether, this is a decent game, and if you’re a fan of the theme (building really old cars) it might be worth checking out, but if you’re just going after the mechanic (no pun intended), I feel like there may be better games out there. We’ll have to see how it fares on future plays and trying it with more people.
Equinox is, as of yesterday, the newest game in our collection. I’ve remarked before that Asmadi Games seems like a really bipolar publisher: their games are either silly and light, like Meow or We Didn’t Playtest This Game, or they’re complex games in small packages like Innovation and Mottainai. Equinox definitely falls into the latter category. It consists of 47 hexagonal tiles which are black on one side and white on the other (except the gray Stone tile, which starts the board). On a player’s turn, they play two tiles, taking the action printed on them. Some tiles can flip over neighbors, some can move tiles around or force your opponent to take a certain action, some have lasting effects, and others affect end game scoring. All the tiles have the same text and action, and players can choose whether to lay them down as black or white. There are also point tokens that can be earned if one’s opponent takes a tile that was just drawn at the beginning of their turn, or by various card effects. At the end of the game, players count up the number of tiles that are their color as well as any bonus point tokens they’ve accumulated — highest score wins!
As soon as we opened the box and started taking pieces out, I asked, “Did the people who made Innovation make this,” which we come to realize it was the same company, Asmadi. This game was a very interesting abstract, something we don’t get a lot of chance to play as we don’t own many abstract games. The fact that we were on separate times fighting to have the dominant color on the board wasn’t super impressive to me, except the fighting part. I love trying to figure out how to maximize the number of tiles I could turn, how to best set up my end game, and how to CRUSH my opponent. However, it wasn’t a totally and complete crushing, as I barely squeaked a victory with two points. What would be interesting for me would be to play this game with other people, as I can imagine it wouldn’t take much time to learn the kinds of moves your regular gaming partner would do.
I don’t even remember where I first learned about this game, but I know I was immediately interested, and it’s been on my CoolStuffInc wishlist for a while, so I was excited when I received it from Amber as a gift. We don’t have a ton of abstract games, so I was hoping this would be a good one, and I’d say my hopes definitely came true. The mechanics were very cool, where the tiles you played could have an immediate effect, or a prolonged effect, or not do anything until the end of the game (if they were even still on the board!). The end goal to get the most of your color face up made it like a very thinky version of Othello — in this game too placement is very important, and it’s not just so easy as going for edges and corners. It was cool to try to strategize so that most of your tiles would be gaining points at the end of the game by the effects of blue actions, and I even messed up by putting the Magic tile (which protects itself and its neighbors from blue effects) next to the Theft card, which steals point tokens from adjacent tiles. By doing that and limiting the number of tokens I could steal, I ended up losing by 2 points. The closeness in score, though, shows that it can be a very balanced game, which is important when playing with 2 players, so I can’t wait to try this one again! I found it interesting that the Destiny tile, which can be used to select which two tiles your opponent plays on their turn, was the very last tile played — we never found it essential to use. Because of things like that, I can see this being a game where dominant strategies form after repeated plays, so it’ll be interesting to see how the next game goes.