While Megan convalesces at home following a bit of a traumatic week, Andy and Darren popped round for tea and games… a semi-regular occurrence, though lately not as common as I’d like!
I have a range of games we’ve not yet tried and a bunch I’ve only played a handful of times. On my current list of unplayed games (within visual range!) are La Isla, Hospital Rush, Ynnan, VivaJava: The Dice Game, Room 25, Guilds of Cadwallon, 404: Law Not Found, Wits & Wagers and The Secret of Monte Cristo. Along with those few, Darren brought around The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, a recent bargain he picked up from ebay.
The Doom That Came To Atlantic City
We started the night with that one… a quick history lesson for those that don’t know, The Doom That Came To Atlantic City (let’s just call it Doom from here…) was a Kickstarter project shrouded in controversy. The original project raised over $120k back in June 2012. However, that money resulted in nothing but disappointment for the 1,246 backers as the project creator did a runner with the funds, or what was left of them, after spectacularly failing to realise any of the project goals.
In an act of ultimate awesomeness the game publisher Cryptozoic stepped in, bought the rights to the game from the co-creators/designers who didn’t steal the funds and published the game according to the project specifications. Last year the game was finally published, the backers received their copies (despite Cryptozoic not getting a penny of the Kickstarter funds, good on em) and the game was launched to retail.
Sadly for the game, it didn’t necessarily prove to be a particular hit and Darren was able to pick up a copy for just over a tenner from a seller on eBay recently. Considering the game has an RRP of about £50, this was a bit of a deal. However, the game has a bit of baggage with it due to the way it was published and also how it plays. In essence the game is a ‘roll and move’ type game and is a bit like a reverse Monopoly. Instead of running around the board and buying properties you are Great Old Ones (of Lovecraft fame) roving the streets of Atlantic City, laying waste to the buildings and fighting your fellow monsters for dominance.
For some gamers this is just too simple, too random and overall a bit aimless. However, we found it to be quite entertaining overall. The quality of the components is very good, the artwork is nice (think Fallout or Bioshock type artwork) and the Cthulu and fellow Old Ones miniatures are awesome.
The gameplay is simple, yes. It’s random (dice for movement, luck of the draw etc), yes. However, it plays quickly and is just entertaining enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. While I wouldn’t suggest it’s worth £50 (in fact, I would definitely suggest it isn’t) it’s well worth what Darren paid!
The winner of the 2014 Kennerspiel Des Jahres, Europe’s most prestigious gaming award… or one of the three at least (Kinder Spiel and Spiel Des Jahres being the other two)… Istanbul is a game of resource gathering, worker placement and, ultimately, a race to the effective finish line of 5 rubies.
The board based on the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and is made up 16 market tiles (warehouses, tea room, black market, caravansary etc) and players control a stack of workers and a merchant. Each player can move up to two spaces in each turn, dropping off one of their workers each time. Once they are out of workers they either need to visit the fountain and gather them all back up again or retrace their steps, picking up workers one at a time and taking the same actions as before.
It’s a game of good variety. While it only offers two main paths to victory (buying gems with money or trading for them with goods), the path to getting these gems is varied due to the manner of movement and where the other players are located on the board.
Since I picked up my copy last year I’ve become enamored with it and despite never having won a game will happily play it any time. The only complaint I would have is due to the modular board. Too often you end up bumping the board tiles and nudging everything around. That’s a small complaint, but not one that bothers me too much.
VivaJava: The Dice Game
It’s actually called VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, but that’s one hell of a clumsy title, so I shorten it. It’s another game that has its origins on Kickstarter, successfully funding with nearly $60k in July 2013. I’m a sucker for a dice game and this one looks lovely. When meeplescorner.co.uk got some copies back in stock I had to grab myself a copy. It’s only about £15 and for that you get a set of custom engraved dice, some nice quality coaster player mats and boards, a bunch of thick cardboard tokens, markers, score pad and a really nice hessian sack to put it all in – the most thematic dice bag I’ve seen!
The game is ultimately a bit of dice rolling with little to no choice. Some will be critical of it for that reason. Players roll five coffee dice – if you roll two to five of a kind you can create a Feature Blend, earning a victory point. If your blend is unbeaten by the time your turn rolls back around you get another three victory points. Your blend can be beaten if other players roll a better combination of dice (example: a feature blend of three level two dice is in play. Player 2 rolls three level four dice and beats the existing blend). When this happens the existing blend is replaced and the game continues.
You can also make a Rainbow Blend. If a player rolls one of each colour of dice they can make the rainbow blend and score a victory point – if they still hold the rainbow blend coaster at the start of their next turn they get another two victory points. Unlike the feature blend, players with the rainbow blend continue to roll dice to earn research points or make a feature blend. However, you can only hold one of the two blends at any one time.
If you cannot beat the existing blend you must research instead. On each player score sheet are spaces for research against each of five faces of the coffee dice. Players tick off one section for each dice they roll. The various die faces can give players a range of extra abilities to use on their turns, like re-rolls, upgrading dice or blocking bonus actions for other players. Once the research track for a trait is complete it is no longer usable, but the player scores the corresponding number of victory points instead.
I am officially the worst at explaining rules. I fudge through it as well as I can, but others are much better at it than me! So after a couple of clumsy turns and referring to the rule book for clarification we finally twigged it, worked out what the cards are for etc. However, we finally got into the swing of it and it plays very quickly and easily. If it played more than 4 players it would make for a great filler game on our regular game nights.
I picked up a copy of Machi Koro a few weeks ago and gave it a go that same evening, at our regular gaming night at Farmers Union in Exeter. It’s a very simple game, ultimately, of Japanese origin. The artwork is striking in its brightness and simplicity, complemented well by its gameplay which shares both traits as well.
It’s a simple enough card game at its heart.The turn phase starts with the active player rolling one die (or two, depending on whether they have built their train station landmark). Depending on the number rolled the buildings in their or other players’ tableaus activate. For instance, wheat fields activate on a roll of 1 and give one coin to for wheat field card for every player.
There are a range of 15 different common buildings and four landmarks which each player can build. The first player to build their fourth landmark is the winner. Each building, from the lowly wheat field to the fruit and veg market, has its own ability depending on its colour. There are four main coloured buildings in the common pool:
- Blue buildings: these activate on anyone’s turn
- Green buildings: these activate only on the active player’s turn
- Red buildings: these activate on the active player’s turn, but only for players other than the active player
- Purple buildings: these activate only on the active player’s turn, but affect other players
Play is ultimately dice rolling, income generating and buying of buildings until you finally unlock the fourth landmark. It’s a very simple game, as most Japanese themed games are, and yet offer a nice level of strategy and tactics. It’s easy to learn, quick to play and an ideal starter for those getting into the hobby or a nice filler for in between bigger games.
There are two expansions, Harbor which is out already and Millionaires Row which was announced recently. As there’s plenty of room in the main box for more cards, I might just have to add these two expansions into the mix at some stage!