A couple more games off my pile of shame on Monday. This week we played Master of Orion the board game and The Ninth World a Skillbuilding Game for Numenera.
Then on Saturday, at game night at The CG Realm, I played more Master of Orion and also got in games of Sagrada and Villages of Valeria,
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Master of Orion
For some reason this game is way under the radar. Every time I talk about this game (I’m sure this blog post will be no exception) I have multiple people point out that they had no clue that there was a board game based on Master of Orion.
Now a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that the board game hasn’t been well received. Having now played it I understand why. Like many geeks, I loved the PC game Master of Orion (aka MOO) and loved MOO2 even more. It’s up there with the best PC games of all time, along other games like Civilization and XCOM. MOO is a huge 4x Sci-fi game. This board game, tries to recreate that, in a quick filler card game. That’s where the problem comes in.
MOO was a game you played for hours. It was expic. You grew your civilization from one planet and took over an entire galaxy. Trying to cram all that into a half hour to an hour card game just doesn’t feel right. I think a really good MOO board game needs to be an epic affair like Twilight Imperium and that’s not what this is.
That said, this is actually a really good quick sci-fi board game. It reminds me of games like Race for the Galaxy or Core Worlds. If I ignore the fact the name on the box is Master Of Orion I find a lot to like in this game.
So far I’ve only played twice so I’m going to hold off on a full review. I will say it’s a tableau building game that uses an action selection mechanism. Players get a number of actions based on their production. These actions include: propaganda (to raise morale), research (to get more cards), attacking (gets you victory points and costs the target morale), building (putting new cards into your tableau), exploiting (spending cards from your hand for resources) and trading (swapping one resource for another). There are only three resources in the game: food, fleets (military strength) and resources.
Each player’s tableau can hold four rows of cards and each row can only have five cards in it. There’s a neat bit where only the card on top of a row can actually be used, so there’s some cool decisions to be made for what order to play your cards in. Another thing I really dig is the way combat works. Unlike most of these 4x games, combat is really no big deal. If you have more fleets than someone you can attack them, you spend two fleet, getting two victory points while your opponent loses one morale. While it rewards the attacker, it’s really not that punishing for the target.
So far I’m really enjoying this game. There’s obviously quite a bit more to it than this short summary, but I actually do recommend picking up this game. Just don’t expect it to really feel like the Master of Orion series of computer games. The only thing that really translates over is the names of the races and names and art on the cards.
The Ninth World a Skillbuilding Game for Numenera
The Ninth World a Skillbuilding game for Numenera, What a terrible title. Besides being long and making up a game mechanic term and using it like it’s something everyone should recognize (seriously what the heck does skillbuilding mean?), the title implies this is somehow an expansion or something for the pen and paper roleplaying game Numenera. I’ve played this, this isn’t FOR Numenera. It’s a card game set in the same setting as the RPG. A Numenera Skillbuilding game would have been better.
In a way, the odd title fits. That’s because this is an odd game. It’s a unique mash of mechanics that isn’t quite like anything else I own and I’ve got a soft spot for unique games.
So in this game players pick a character, then together you pick a region of the map you want to explore. The map is built right into the box of the game. Once you have a spot you lay out five destination cards representing interesting sites in the region you have picked. Each round your party moves to a new spot and then goes through a series of actions.
First, players can scout the area. This lets them explore the wilderness and mark things they have found. Next, players can tinker with cyphers and oddities, funky bits of tech they find on their journey. After tinkering players can try to charm allies and start quests. Combat follows this, where characters can fight things in town or creatures they have marked in the wilderness. Finally characters get a chance to focus, improving their skills (there’s the skillbuilding part).
Now the funky part is that each of these phases are driven by auctions. Each round players blind bid skill cards. The winner of the big gets to go first in each segment and then spends the number of points they bid to do stuff. Most of this is done to either defeat cards for points or to place cards into a tableau. This earns the player valor and the player with the most valor wins. To bid in these auctions, players have to spend skill cards and each player only ever has five of these. There are cards for each phase (scout, combat, focus, etc), and players start with two skills at level one and three generic skill cards. During the focus phase, players can replace those generic cards with named skills or level up existing skills.
It’s a really funky mechanic that you really need to see in play to fully grok.
The game we played is competitive but there is a way to play cooperatively as well. At this point I’ve only played once, so I don’t really want to say too much more. That one play was enough to tell me that this game is unique and, as I said, I dig unique.
CG Realm Game Night
One of the things I love about gaming at The CG Realm is the fact that we often get to fit in a few different games with different groups of players. This past weekend we got to do exactly that.
We started off with more Master of Orion. I wanted to show this game off after playing on Monday. The big thing this game taught me is that there’s a big difference in how you play once you know the cards. Knowing that there are cards that are going to give you points for organizing your systems in a certain way had a big effect on how I played this game. Knowing that grey cards can always be exploited to let your draw four cards and keep three was also very useful. That tells me that this is definitely a game that rewards multiple plays and that’s something I usually see as a strong positive.
After Master of Orion the group split up a bit and we had only three players. It was then that we decided to play Sagrada. It had been some time since I’ve played this dice drafter and I really enjoyed getting it back to the table. The more I play Sagrada the more I enjoy it. I still really love how variable it is due to the fact that the scoring system is randomly generated each game. I do have to admit, I didn’t play well. The pattern I picked for my player board was a very bad choice based on what tools were out, but I do dig that I can recognize that mistake even if it took me half the game to make the connection.
We finished off the event with Villages of Valeria. We used both the Monuments and Guild Halls expansions, which I initially talked about back in February. This was a learning game for one of the players and I’m pleased to say I didn’t feel any need to pull the expansion cards out in order to keep the game simple. While they do add some complexity to the game, it’s nothing an experienced gamer would be overwhelmed with.
I did notice one small annoyance with the Events part of the Guild Halls expansion and that is that it modifies setup. You need to pull out the Events, shuffle the deck, pull out so many cards (I think it was twelve) and then shuffle the Events into the deck that’s left and then put the twelve cards on top. That isn’t much, but it’s more work than just shuffle the deck and go.
I’m enjoying Villages of Valeria more and more each time I play it. Most of the expansion material was seamless, we didn’t even really notice the new cards, they just meshed with the rest. Monuments on the other hand still really sticks out and this game was very different from our last, as most of the players had built, or were in the process of building, two monuments.
So those were my #WhatDidYouPlayMondays games. What did you get to the table this past week?