I got in a lot of different game plays this week. Today I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on the board games: Imhotep, Eminent Domain (and the Escalation expansion), Tyrants of the Underdark, Bastille, Bohnanza, Kingdomino, Funkoverse Harry Potter, Azul and Go Cuckoo.
The reason for such a variety of games this past week was due to two big events going down. First up was another game night at EZY Mode and the second was Windsor ComiCon, where I was doing demos of games and raising money for Extra Life.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. Some games mentioned in this post were provided by publishers for review purposes.
Monday night I taught a friend Imhotep and Tyrants of the Underdark.
Monday night there were three of us for our weekly game night at my place. It was Deanna, Tom Barker and I, and we started off the night with Imhotep Builder of Egypt. This was Tom’s first time playing so we stuck to the A side of the boards.
Imhotep is the kind of thinky filler that I thought Tom would enjoy and I wasn’t wrong. Since sharing my initial impressions of Imhotep, I’ve only grown to like it more. It really is a great getaway game but not only that, it’s also proving to be very popular with experienced gamers. Tom’s official final thoughts were, “That’s a good little game.”
Up next I broke out Dungeons & Dragons Tyrants of the Underdark for the three of us to play. It was interesting how different this game played compared to the first couple of times I played Tyrants of the Underdark. The big difference this time was how much promoting all three of us did to our decks during this game. Deanna, in particular, had a ridiculous number of cards in her inner circle by the end of the game. One of the things that this meant is that the area majority scoring of the board was not as important as previous games. I think the main cause of this shift was using the Drow “Half-Deck” for this game.
We finished off the night with a game of Eminent Domain using just the base rules. We stuck to the base rules because Tom, while having played before, hadn’t played Eminent Domain in a very long time. This was another eye-opening experience.
Since returning to Eminent Domain all of the games I had played up until this point had been with four players. This was our first time playing with three and it felt like a different game. At four players Eminent Domain almost feels like a race. It’s over very quickly and you are trying to get done what you can in a short amount of time. You are trying to build an engine but you are lucky if you actually get to run it. This completely changes with three players.
With three players the game goes on significantly longer, and not in a bad way. The feel of the game changes from feeling like a race to feeling more like a full engine builder. Not only do you build your engine and run it but you have some time to tweak it. Things like players buying 7 cost research cards are no longer a rare thing you see only in some games but rather a solid part of long term strategies.
At this point, I’ve got to say that I much prefer Eminent Domain with three players over four.
Friday night we gave Gloomhaven a break and played some more Eminent Domain and a bonus round of Kingdomino.
We started with the base game, just to refresh everyone’s memory and because it ended up that the last time Tori and Kat played Eminent Domain I messed up a rule and we were playing the eXtreme version (we weren’t looking at the backs of the cards when we did the Survey Role).
This was the first time Tori and Kat had played three players and they both agreed with me that it seems like this is the perfect player count for Eminent Domain. After that first game, we moved on to try using the first expansion: Escalation.
Our first game playing with Eminent Domain: Escalation we used all of the new fleet rules and technology cards but kept the scenario rules in the box. This was our best game using Escalation yet. The three of us are now getting used to the changes that this expansion brings and that’s making the gameplay much more rich. Knowing the various technology cards is very important to playing Eminent Domain well and that’s even truer once you add in all of the new cards from Escalation.
I personally took full advantage of the cards that reward diversity and having different planet types. Kat worked on a strategy that rewarded colonization and Tori was all about producing and trading resources. It was cool to see these various strategies playing against each other. All of them seemed like they were valid ways to potentially win and a close final score confirmed that.
Our second game using Escalation we went all in. We used all of the new rules.
This was my first time ever using the scenario rules and I have mixed feelings about them. What the scenario part of Eminent Domain: Escalation does is changes up the starting state of the game. Every player ends up starting with different starting worlds, different starting technologies and sometimes even a different starting deck of cards. This adds asymmetry to this deck builder.
Now usually I love asymmetry in games, and I think in the long run I will even love it in Eminent Domain, but I felt we just weren’t ready for it yet. We spent a very long time just trying to find the right starting technologies for each of our various strategy cards. Even finding the starting worlds took some time. Then when playing I found it difficult to figure out how I was supposed to play my deck. I was having a hard time getting my starting technologies to really work together. Now Tori, on the other hand, figured out his card combos right from the start and totally destroyed both Kat’s and my score.
While I dig the idea of the strategy cards I really think they are meant for advanced players who have already learned the ins and outs of the existing cards. At this point, I don’t recommend using these cards until you are very confident that all of the players at the table already have a firm grasp on the other elements of Escalation.
After we finished up with Eminent Domain we spent some time gathering up some games for Tori and Kat to demo at Windsor ComiCon which was happening the next day. I gave them copies of Azul, Icecool, Go Cuckoo, Imhotep and Kingdomino. After handing over Kingdomino to Kat, she pointed out that the two of them had never played!
While it was pretty late at night, Kingdomino is a very quick game, playing in under 15 minutes, so we played one quick game so that they could easily teach the game at the con. Kingdomino really is that simple to teach and play and I’m also pleased to say that they both actually enjoyed the game too. Seems they have another game for the “Tori’s Mom” list.
Tyrants of the Underdark, Bohnanza and Bastille at EZY Mode
While Tori and Kat were doing demos and raising money at Windsor ComicCon I was hosting a monthly game night at EZY Mode.
I started off the event setting up a two-player game of Dungeons & Dragons Tyrants of the Underdark. I still hadn’t gotten a chance to try this game with only two players. However, it wasn’t meant to be, while setting up the game some more gamers showed up to the event and one of them asked to play Tyrants. So we played a three-player game instead.
The only real change with this game from previous ones was that we used the Elemental Half Deck for the first time. I combined this with the Dragon Deck. The Elemental Half Deck adds in a mechanic that I remember first seeing in Star Realms and later Ascension, where some card powers go off when you play other cards with the same aspects. The aspects in this game are Ambition, Conquest, Malice, Guile, and Obedience. I really liked this new mechanic.
During this game, I decided to try to focus on promotion as my main source of points and it worked really well. I picked a couple of key spots on the map to focus on and ignored the rest of it. I just tried to make sure to keep a couple of sites that gave me additional influence to buy cards and let the other two players battle over everything else. I had a ridiculous number of cards in my Inner Circle by the end of the game and this overall strategy worked but not as well as I thought it did. While I did win, it was only by about 10 points.
Overall I’m digging Tyrants of the Underdark the more I play it and I’m glad to see that there doesn’t seem to be one way to win.
By the time we finished our game of Tyrants, a lot more people had shown up to the event and this included some pretty new gamers. Due to this, the next game I grabbed was Bohnanza, because of it’s accessibility to new players and the high level of player interaction. Surprisingly, two of the regulars from the gaming group hadn’t played Bohanza before, so it was more of a learning game than I first expected. That wasn’t a problem, this game plays well with both new and experienced players.
The game went over very well, only taking about two turns around the table before everyone was negotiating for beans like a pro.
The final game I played at the event was Bastille. This was only my second time playing and teaching this game from Queen Games about the French Revolution. One of the four players had played before, the other two were new to the game. One of the things that really stuck out this game play was how well designed this game is aesthetically. The board, the colours used, and the iconography all really facilitate being able to play the game smoothly and quickly.
This was only my second time playing the game and the big thing I learned this game was how much that mattered. While the board and icons are very clear, end game scoring can be a bit opaque due to how end game scoring cards work and how they tie to the civilian deck you buy cards from during the game. Players can score a ton of points at the end of the game if they manage to buy citizens in the right sets. The problem is, that until you’ve played the game at least once before you won’t know or remember what those sets are.
Now the game does include a large reference sheet listing all of the different scoring cards and all of the different citizens, but it’s extremely intimidating and overwhelming when you are already in the middle of learning a new game. There is also an aspect of learning how important the various action spots on the board are and how often you should use each of them, that you can’t really understand until seeing it happen at least once. This is the one big drawback I’ve found with Bastille, a player with even one play under their belt is going to have a big advantage over any new player.
Looking past that I do have to say that I found the game much more fun on my personal second play. Sean Hamilton (not Sean from Hamilton) was the other player who had played previously and he said the same thing. Sean noted how much better he did this game, how he was able to better plan ahead and not feel like he wasted actions, something that came up during our first play.
So far I’m enjoying Bastille but in the days of one and done board gaming, I can see how this game got passed over by many gamers.
Sunday I taught people to play FunkoVerse Harry Potter, Go Cuckoo and Azul while raising money for Extra Life
Tori and Kat (and another friend Ryan) took care of Windsor ComiCon on Saturday, but Sunday was up to me and my friend Jeff. Our main purpose for being at ComiCon was to raise awareness and money for our Extra Life efforts this year. As part of this, we were hosting a raffle for a couple of games including the new FunkoVerse Harry Potter games and Unmatched: Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot.
The most popular game we had was the Funko Pop! FunkoVerse Harry Potter Base Set. This is one of the large base sets in the new FunkoVerse Strategy Games series that features a huge variety of licenses, including Batman and The Golden Girls. All of these games are compatible and feature the same basic ruleset.
The Harry Potter version of FunkoVerse comes with four different scenarios and we used the Capture the Flag version for doing demos. Normally the game is a race to six points, but we knocked that down to four for doing demos. In the game, players are trying to score points by knocking out the enemy team, collecting crystal shards on the map or capturing the opponent’s flag.
Each turn players pick one of their two characters to active and do things like move around on a gridded map, grab crystals, cast spells, and attack each other. Spells have this cool thing where when you cast them you put a counter on a cool down track and you can’t use them again for a few rounds. The same goes for the crystals on the map, they take a few rounds to respawn.
The game is pretty simple to teach. All of the concepts are going to be familiar to anyone who’s played any kind of miniature game before. People with little to no gaming background had a bit of a harder time of it. One of the things we kept running into were players who wanted to start their turn rolling the dice because that’s what they do in every other board game they have played. In most cases, players had the basic rules down by the end of the second round and that went for kids as well as new gamers.
Doing multiple demos of this game taught me two things. One this game is going to be a huge hit with Harry Potter fans, and two I have no need to own it or any of the other FunkoVerse games. These are great mass market style games that are a good step up from traditional roll and move games but there isn’t enough meat there to interest someone like me who has played many more complex two-player battle games.
If you are curious to know more about Harry Potter FunkoVerse, check out my review. In it, I get into a lot more detail about the mechanics and my thoughts on the game.
The other game I brought that got a lot of attention was Go Cuckoo. As expected this was a hit with everyone that played it. It was great having a game at the con that kids could play and we got thanked by a bunch of parents for having something on hand accessible to little ones. Tori and Kat noted that on Saturday they were doing demos of Go Cuckoo all day long.
Azul was the final game I did demos of. This one caught the attention of the gamers in the crowd. I only taught three games of it but each was to someone who was already into hobby board games. In the case of two of the players, they already knew of the Azul and took this chance to get to try it out before possibly buying a copy. Everyone I showed the game to really enjoyed it and it was a great way to meet some other local hobby gamers and let them know about the various events I host or co-host around the city. I’m looking forward to seeing some of these new people out at our future events.
As for raising money for extra life, I’m pleased to say we raised over $200 during the event, which is awesome!
So that was a very busy but rewarding week of gaming for me. How about you? What did you get to play this past week?