Wes Baker

The Re-Review: Rolling Dice and Taking Actions

July 20, 2015

Elysium

Elysium

  • 1 play with 3 players and 1 play with 2 players in the past two weeks
  • Played before

I’ve mostly played Elysium with 3 or 4 players, so it was nice to finally be able to try the game with only 2 players. With 2 players, it’s definitely a much faster game since the number of cards drafted stays the same. Also, I feel like your choices open up quite a bit as each player can develop an individual strategy.

I’m not sure if it plays best at any particular player count though, it’s just different. If you’re looking for a tighter game, play with more players. If you want something a bit more relaxed, try it with 2 players.

The Voyages of Marco Polo

The Voyages of Marco Polo

  • 1 play with 2 players in the past two weeks
  • New to me

I held off on this one as no one seemed to be covering it and that’s typically a clue that it’s not worth playing. However, Tom Vasel reviewed it and my co-worker was telling me about it as well, so I gave it a shot.

In The Voyages of Marco Polo you’re tasked with earning victory points by acquiring goods and money and fulfilling contracts. In that way, it’s almost like playing Lords of Waterdeep. However, you also need to move across Asia in order to go to different towns to setup your trade routes and acquire goods.

The way you’ll be doing all of this is by rolling dice and then placing them on the available actions: gain money, gain trade goods, travel, take contracts, take a good and some camels. You’ll be placing one or more dice on these actions and then taking what you’re owed. These dice determine the “strength” of your selected action, typically allowing you to gain more or do more of something, with the lowest die determining how much. In addition, most spaces can be used by multiple players if they pay money equal to the lowest die being placed, so you’re never completely shut off from the various actions you may need.

Finally, each player has a role card that “breaks” the game in some interesting way. I say “breaks” because they all seem broken in their own unique way: not having to roll dice, getting another die and contract each turn, starting at the end position on the map, traveling easier, and so on. Without these, the game would be fine, but with these it really kicks it up a notch. Asymmetry always makes me appreciate a game just that much more.

This is definitely a game I recommend playing and picking up if any of the above sounds interesting to you. If you’re interested in theme, I feel like this game does a pretty good job of giving you a theme, even if it’s a little thin when looking at the actions.

Arcadia Quest

Arcadia Quest

  • 1 play with 4 players in the past two weeks
  • Played before

There are a few games I wish I had made part of my 10x10 list and this is one of them. Arcadia Quest is all about getting a few friends together and chucking some dice in less than an hour (without rules explanation). It has campaign play and begs to be played that way, though one-offs aren’t too bad either.

The general gist is you have three heroes and so does everyone else. There are always four PvP (Player versus Player) quests available which are about killing the other players’ heroes and there are also PvE (Player versus Enemy) quests that are about killing monsters, picking up a token, or something else involving just the board. You earn gold for completing these quests and for killing monsters and other players’ heroes. The game ends when someone has completed three quests (as long as one is a PvE quest) and that player “wins”. I put “wins” in quotes because for a campaign, you’ll need to do that a few more times to find the winner. And besides, this game never quite feels like it’s about winning or losing, just playing a game and messing with the other players and I love that unabashed honesty and simplicity.

If you don’t like dice, steer clear, and there’s not much optimization to be done, so understand you’re playing a pretty light game.

Viticulture

Viticulture

  • 1 play with 5-6 players in the past two weeks
  • Played before

This is the first time I’ve played Viticulture that wasn’t solo and there’s quite a bit more game here than I expected. The shifting availability of different actions combined with the grande worker’s ability to ignore those slots—but just once a year—made for a lot of difficult decisions and hard cuts.

I do think the game went a bit long with six, but so long as the players know the game, I’d expect this one to play in under two hours with 5 or 6. I’ll agree with the majority of whiners out there and say the cards are a bit too random, though it’s not so bad to ruin the game.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Escape: The Curse of the Temple

  • 1 play with 5 players in the past two weeks
  • New to me

I had backed this on Kickstarter, but ended up selling it with the expectation that I wouldn’t play it much, and after playing it once that was a good decision. However, it is a pretty great game, one I would never turn down.

The basic premise is you (and 2 to 4 of your friends) are stuck in a temple and need to get out in 10 minutes. You’ll discover new rooms, move between rooms, place gems in rooms to appease the temple, and eventually escape. And you’ll do all of this by rolling dice as fast as possible because Escape is played in real-time. You can roll your dice as much as you want, but you’ll eventually roll dice that can’t be re-rolled unless you get another die face to “unlock” them. It’s possible to be completely locked, in which case you’ll need a friend to come over and help you out, so it’s best to not completely split the party (but you knew that already).

In my one play, we had a full compliment of 5 players and the game hummed along. The soundtrack did it’s job of making us even more tense than we otherwise were and the 10 minute timer is absolutely perfect, this game can’t overstay it’s welcome.

So why am I glad I didn’t buy it? It’s a fun game, but it’s one I would only get played in groups and I have so many other games to play with larger groups. Such as…

Spyfall

Spyfall

  • 3 plays with 6-8 players in the past two weeks
  • Played before

People are always confused about how Spyfall works: everyone is given a card. All but one of those cards tells you where you are and what your role is in that location. The remaining card tells that player that they’re the spy. Then there’s eight minutes of players asking each other questions one at a time in order to determine who knows enough about the location that they aren’t a spy.

Here’s my favorite example: you’re on a space station and you have a pretty good hunch that Scott is the spy, so you turn to him and ask:

Hey Scott, how often do you open the windows around here?

He looks at you for a few seconds, thinks, and responds:

Every now and again.

Well, you now know who the spy is.

The more I play this game, the more I love it. It fits perfectly next to One Night Ultimate Werewolf as a party game that doesn’t over stay it’s welcome, doesn’t have player elimination and is more about the play than winning.

Imperial Settlers

<img src=“../assets/covers/imperial-settlers.jpg” alt=“Imperial Settlers” class=“image-right” />

  • 1 play with 3 players in the past two weeks
  • Played before

I quite like Imperial Settlers, but the more I play it, the more I wonder how long it’ll stay in my collection. The game rewards repeated play, while at the same time forcing players to deal with a random draw of cards. That being said, I do enjoy my plays of Imperial Settlers.

During this game, Scott was the Egyptians, Dane was the Japanese, and I was the Romans. Scott got off to a hell of a start and was raking in all sorts of resources using a card from the expansion Why Can’t We Be Friends?. Meanwhile, Dane was attempting to build some sort of production, but was having a hard time of it. I was also struggling to get a good start, but my engine started humming along in round three. I was building Roman builds which earned me points just for having them, and I was stealing deals, destroying buildings, and generally finding all of the ways I could earn points.

Final scoring had me winning with 50, Dane with 47, and Scott with 42. A nice close game.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

I don’t get to play Star Wars: Imperial Assault as much as I would like to. There must be some kind of curse on Fantasy Flight Games and my gaming group. However, I was lucky enough to con a friend into trying out a skirmish match. He was the Imperials and I was the Rebels, we were on a moisture farm trying to accumulate enough moisture and destroy enough units to win and get out of there.

There was quite a bit of back and forth as he cleverly moved his units around the board and dispatched two of my units pretty quickly. However, I managed to eek out a win by collecting more moisture and killing just enough units to win 40-34.

I’d like to play this more and potentially get a campaign going, but I think I’ll have to wait until the fall.

Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica

I always forget how quickly my wife and I can play Terra Mystica because when teaching this to new players it can easily be a three hour game, but if playing with experienced players you can be done in two hours or less. In fact, my wife and I finished in under an hour.

For this particular game, my wife played as the Riverwalkers and I was the Giants. I had seen the Giants played before, but managed to always play something else and the Riverwalkers are new from the expansion, Fire & Ice. I was off to a good start and thought I was doing well, even if I never bothered to improve my spade efficiency, but Shannon managed to pull off one heck of a win by combining all of her disparate towns into one mega town giving her enough points to win.

I think the Riverwalkers might be the strongest race in the game, but I’m not sure I can call that after one play. There are statistics that back up my hunch, but I still would like to reserve judgement.

If you haven’t played Terra Mystica before, go ahead and do yourself a favor: read the rules, and then find someone who owns it to play with. If you like euros of any kind, I suspect you’ll like it.


Wes Baker

I’m a programmer who lives in Fredericksburg, VA. I enjoy board games, puzzles, and making things work. When I’m not in front of a screen of some sort, I’m probably spending time with my wife, my son, my animals, my board games, or my books.