Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Board Game Review – Part 3

This is a continuation of my game reviews of games played at Lone Star Gaming Fest 2011. In Part 1 I reviewed Hamsterrolle (a.k.a. Hamster Wheel), Inca Empire, Defenders of the Realm, and Martian Dice (along with Zombie Dice). In Part 2 I reviewed Endeavor, Shogun, Age of Steam, Fortune & Glory, and Factory Fun.

Mondo (1-4 players)
Mondo is an odd little game where the players are racing each other and a clock to build a world for point. Each player has a world board, which is a small grid of empty spaces. One side has water borders, the other’s edge is quartered with each quarter having one of the four environment types: water, desert, plains, forest/jungle. When the timer starts (7 minutes for a 3 player game), the players draw from a common pool of tiles to fill out their world board. The tiles have one to three of the environments on them and you use the multi-environment tiles to form the borders of each biome, which is important as you lose points for mismatches and you can’t move the tiles once they are on your world board (honor system rules used here). There are tiles with bonus points for first to stop building (completed world or not) and you have to grab those. Once you take one of those, you may no longer add tiles to your world, even if you finally spot that perfect piece that will complete your world. Oh, and the pieces are double sided, so the cool piece you want that perfectly borders your desert and ocean biomes? Another player may have played that tile for the flip side, a blank ocean square. Tough luck.

Once time runs out or all the players are done building, scoring happens. Points are scored for animals on tiles, completed biomes (bordered all the way around like a city in Carcasonne), and order you finished. Points are lost for active volcanoes (and all the best pieces seem to have active volcanoes), tile mismatches, and empty spaces. Then you clear the boards and play two more rounds, highest score at the end of the three rounds wins.

I liked this very much and will likely buy a copy sometime this year. The down side is my wife doesn’t enjoy this style of game, wanting more time to contemplate her selections and not having to compete with the other players for tiles, so I won’t get to play it at home a lot without having enough people over to run two games at once so she can play in the other game. Luckily, this happens about once a month when she hosts a tea, so the game is viable for me. In college, this game would have been played often.

King of Tokyo (2-6 players)
In King of Tokyo you play one of six giant monsters fighting each other to be King of Tokyo. The game has stand-ups for each of the monsters, which include a giant ape (The King), a giant robot controlled by a rabbit (Death Bunny), a Godzilla knock off, a Cthulhu knock off, and two others I can’t remember off the top of my head. The board has three locations: the suburbs (where all the monsters start), Tokyo (big enough for one monster stand up only), and Tokyo Bay (equivalent to Tokyo, but only used in 5 and 6 player games). There are 8 dice, but normally you only use 6 of them. Each die has a clawed hand, a heart, a lightning bolt, and the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on them. You get three rolls, keeping what you want each time and rerolling the rest. After your third roll (or if you stop earlier) you apply the icons you have. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 score points if you have a three-of-a-kind and score the number shown, so three 3s scores three points. Each extra of the same number scores a single point more, so five 2s scores (2+1+1=4) points. Hearts heal damage you’ve taken, unless you are in Tokyo. Claws do damage to the monster in Tokyo if you are in the suburbs or ALL the monsters in the suburbs if you are in Tokyo. If you are in Tokyo and get hit, you can yield Tokyo to the attacker (remember you cannot heal while in Tokyo, only take an do damage). Lightning bolts score power cubes, which can be used to buy power-up cards from a deck, the top three cards of which are face up beside the board (so you have a selection to purchase from and know how many cubes you need). In addition to scoring points from the dice, you score one point when you enter Tokyo and TWO points if you start your turn there. First person to 20 points or last monster standing wins the game.

This is on my must purchase list. I had so much fun playing it the first time (even though I died early) I immediately played three more times. Strategizing which dice to keep and which to reroll provides just the right amount of strategy for a game like this. My favorite card was “Throw a tanker”, which gave me two victory points whenever I did three or more damage on my turn, simulating my monster throwing an oil tanker on the other monster(s). Least favorite: poison spit – it was too easy for monsters to get rid of the poison tokens, so I never did more than a single point of extra damage.

Cargo Noir (2-5 players)
In Cargo Noir you are playing a pulp era criminal group fighting for control of ports so you can smuggle goods to buy things: extra freighters, syndicates, extra warehouses, or things for sheer victory points like dive bars, the film industry, or even a principality of your own. “Combat” is done by committing resources in the form of one of you freighters and a stack of gold coins. Control of the port goes to the highest bidder after the other players either don’t send anyone there or withdraw their bid if they did send a freighter there. The port gives you one to four cargo tiles (number is fixed and based on the port and randomly stocked from a bag of tiles), which you either store in your warehouse or turn in sets to buy the cards showing the things mentioned above. At the start your warehouse only holds six cargos and you only have three freighters, so an expansion plan is necessary to get the cargos to pay for the more expensive goods (victory point cards) and the means to expand. Additionally, you can send freighters to either the Black Market or casino in Macao to swap cargo tiles/draw a new one from the bag (Black Market) or make 2 coins (Casino), which is the only way to get the coins to bid for control of the ports to get the cargos to buy the victory points.

There’s a lot going on in this game and I’m skipping a few bits to simplify this, but it is a very fun game. Since the convention I have purchased my own copy of the game and plan on playing it at the tea this weekend. If you get a chance, play this game – you’ll probably want to get your own copy shortly after that.

One note, you cannot return to a port you’ve abandoned in the same turn and syndicates are single payouts, not each time you abandon a port. We missed this one game and it warped game play to an unfun spot. Afterwards we re-read the rules and found our mistake.

Olympos (3-5 players)
In Olympos you are moving your tribe (in the form of counters) across Greece, parts of Turkey, and three isles of Atlantis (which appear on the board south of Greece, but not in the real world). The turn structure is fairly unique: the outer edge of the board is a time track and you move your marker based on the cost of the action you performed. When you finish, whoever’s counter is further back goes next. It often happens that one player gets to take a few small turns in a row if the other players make expensive actions on their turn. Placed on spots around the time track are Olympos cards that represent the gods getting involved and either help or hinder a player based on the god and who has the most or least Zeus tokens.

On your turn you can do an explore action or a discovery action. The explore action involves moving one piece on the board and involves combat if you land in a territory previously controlled by another player. You always win, but how many actions it takes depends upon your combat “technology” (for lack of a better term). Discovery actions involve allocating resources you have under your control to make tech discoveries or build wonders. Examples include horse riding (which makes movement on land dirt cheap in actions), medicine (which makes it cheaper to bring new tokens into play), and things that have swords on them (representing fighting technology – more swords is better). You have two pools of tokens: personal and general. General is used on the tech chart to grant a bonus of some sort for discovering a tech (examples include tokens for your personal pool, one use resources, or hour glass tokens that reduce the cost of your next action). The personal pool is all of the tokens you have to place on the board. As you need to leave a token on a territory to claim its resource (to buy discoveries), you always need more, especially if you are feeling ambitious. Points are scored once all the players pass the last Olympos card, which marks the point where each player gets one last turn. While this could mean that several players have to wait while the other player(s) finish, in practice the players tend to hit this point at about the same time.

This is described as a “gamers game” and I agreed. Sending a piece across the board may look tempting, but it takes a lot of actions to do, meaning it will be a while until your next turn and you may get bored waiting. I plan on buying this game this year. It probably ranks above Mondo and Age of Steam, but I don’t NEED it right now.

That’s it for this year. I’ll post reviews if I play anything new this year before the next Lone Star Gaming Fest. In the meantime, I’ll be posting Aldelle Group adventure journals until I catch up – I’m five sessions behind now as it is and Things Have HappenedTM.


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