The main problem with writing these catch-up reports is trying to come up with an even remotely sensible title from (in this case) 10 or so different game names. It doesn’t always work, especially when you have a lot of place names and/or foreign words. And sometimes, you just have to say “screw it!” and leave some out (as I did here with Deadwood Studios and Taluva).
Of course, the other problem with these things is that I tend to forget a lot of details when I’m thinking back 2 or 3 or even more weeks. But with so many games to write about, maybe cutting some of the commentary a little short isn’t such a bad thing…
Nanuk is sort of like Liar’s Dice with cards instead of dice, where players go around the table making boasts about how much they can kill in the next hunt. In addition to the type of animal (there are 4 different ones) and the number of them that will be killed, the boasting also includes, how many days the hunt will last (which I’ll come back to later).
Eventually, the next player will decide that the boast has gotten too high, though, and will take the role of the Doomsayer, pronouncing failure to the coming hunt. The really neat twist in the game then is that everyone other than the last person to boast (now called the Hunt Leader) has to choose (at the same time) whether to join the Hunt Leader in trying to make a successful hunt or the Doomsayer in saying doom, which all the sudden turns it into a shifty team game.
All those going on the hunt them choose cards from their hands (your hand is made up of only 3 cards) to contribute to the hunt, which are then shuffled up and turned over. Then, for each day of the hunt in the final boast, one card is turned over from the top of the draw deck. A lot of times, this is a good thing, because you could still get more the hunted animal that way. However, some of the cards in the deck also carry the Nanuk (polar bear) symbol, which causes the hunt to fail unless an Inuksuk card (a totem/cairn thingy that apparently scares off polar bears) is also included in the hunt cards. The winning side then takes all the cards involved in the hunt (plus an ante by all the Doomsayers) and drafts from them into their score pile, but I won’t get into the set-collection scoring right now.
In our game, I managed to win by being the sole Doomsayer in the last round. Everyone else joined the hunt, but they came up 1 animal short of the boast, so I took lots of cards and scored lots of points with them.
Time: 33 minutes
Score: Norton 28, Sceadeau* 12, Chip 11, Kenny 10, Keith 7
Ratings: Norton 7, Sceadeau ?, Chip 7, Kenny 7, Keith 6
I really like Nanuk a lot. I absolutely love Liar’s Dice, and Nanuk still manages to capture the basic feel of that while also bringing in some other cool twists that make it stand out on its own. In general, the whole bluffing thing is less important in Nanuk, but the choosing sides mechanic and the push-your-luck aspect of the hunt days add a lot of decisions to the game.
And even though it adds this whole other hunt resolution layer on top of the basic Liar’s Dice chassis, it still manages to keep its play short and engaging. And for whatever reason, I think that Nanuk is definitely an underrated gem that hasn’t gotten near the attention it deserves.
Speaking of a game that has received an inappropriate amount of attention, we also played what is probably my last game of Bruges.
I decided to focus almost exclusively on building canals this game, hoping to support that with a few characters here and there. It went fairly well for me, eventually getting both canal sections complete and taking the 2 highest-value statues. But what didn’t work out well was, really, anything else at all. I had just 3 characters in play worth just a few points, and only managed to activate my “most canals” majority.
Meanwhile, on turn 1 or 2, Chip played a character that gave him 3 extra coins every time he chose to get money from the yellow die. And it seemed like that almost exclusively solved any potential money problem he had, being able to get at least 4 coins on any turn, and on many occasions racked up 7-9 coins from each yellow card he played. By the end, he had tons of buildings with lots and lots of characters, had majorities in both people and on the prestige track, and won handily.
Time: 60 minutes
Score: Chip 57, Norton 49, Kenny* 42, Keith 39
Ratings: Chip 8, Norton 5.5, Kenny 4, Keith 4
The more I play Bruges, the more frustrating I find it. There’s just something wrong with that. I mean, usually, the better you know a game, the better you are at navigating its twists and turns. But there’s just so much randomness in Bruges that knowing it and wanting to make plans or strategies about it dooms you to failure and frustration. And even when things are going pretty well for me personally, it seems like in almost every round of every play I’ve had with it, someone is getting abused by bad card draws or at least a total lack of synergy between their characters.
I know that a lot of people rave about Bruges, but I just don’t see it. I’ll get more into my complete thoughts when I review it on the podcast soon, but I’d be very interested in hearing some counter-arguments about it.
I heard enough good stuff about Libertalia that I picked it up a few months ago. I had brought it to game night a number of time since then but never really pushed it, but I’ve had the chance to finally play it a few times over the last month or so.
The core mechanic in the game is that players all start with the same 9 cards in their hands, and each turn, they secretly choose one card to play. All the cards have values, so you arrange them in order and do some of their special abilities from low to high, then take booty tiles from high to low. Usually, the cards then go to your “den”, where some may have other powers that trigger after every turn.
After 6 turns (which is called a “campaign”), some other special powers on cards in your den may trigger, then everything is reset (dens and discard piles are emptied). Six new identical cards are added to each player’s hand (which still contains 3 cards left over from the first campaign), and you do the whole thing over again.
In these two games, I can’t really remember what exactly happened. Mostly, we just played cards, built combos, and had fun.
Time: 62 and 52 minutes
Game 1: Chip* 72, Keith * 70, Norton* 69, Kenny* 59
Game 2: Kenny 66, Keith 59, Jeff* 58, Norton 57
Ratings: Kenny 7.5, Chip 7, Keith 7, Norton 7.5, Jeff 10
Even though Libertalia is a relatively simple game, it’s still sorta hard to understand it without seeing the actual cards. And really, that’s what makes it so cool. Every time you play, you get to look at the cards and try to find ways to use them together to build synergy. For instance, if you have both the Mutineer (which kills other characters in your den and gives you points for doing so) and the Voodoo Priest (which gives you points for each character in your discard pile), then you’d probably want to play the Mutineer early in the round (to kill more characters) and the Voodoo Priest late.
But you also have to look around and consider what the other players are doing and what’s still in their hands. Some cards only work if you’re the only person to have them, or if you’re the person with the least or most of something, and generally, those will work better if you know that other people aren’t trying to do them as well, so maybe you hold off on them until a later campaign (since you will usually carry over those 3 extra cards).
It’s a pretty light game overall, and there’s a lot of chaos in it, but so far at least, I’ve found it to be very entertaining. So I’m definitely glad that Libertalia is on my shelf.
Speaking of games I’m glad to have, this little speed dexterity game from Blue Orange is just incredible. Basically, you have a board divided in two by a wall, but there’s a small hole in that wall just large enough to let a little wooden disc through. Each player starts with 5 discs on their side of the wall, and then by using just 1 finger to pull a disc back against an elastic band, you try to shoot discs through the hole until all of them are on (hopefully) your opponent’s side. It’s frenetic and exciting, and the biggest key to doing well is balancing your anxiety against the focus you need to keep making good shots.
The first play here was against Keith, and while Keith is a really smart dude that is great at a lot of games, neither speed nor dexterity are his strong suits. In the first game of the match, I think it took me 7 or 8 shots to win, and in the second game, I was 5 for 5 to win.
Kenny put up a little more fight, stealing the second game from me entirely, but I still managed to take the match 2-1.
Time: 2 and 5 minutes
Game 1: Norton 2, Keith* 0
Game 2: Norton 2, Kenny* 1
Ratings: Norton 8
Fastrack is such a great little game. Because while the actual, physical act of getting the little discs to go through the little hole isn’t all that hard on its own, having both the time pressure of trying to do it quickly and the distraction of discs flying back through from the other side makes it a wild and crazy good time. And especially for just $20, I can’t imagine any household with children of any age (or just fun-loving adults) not having a copy.
Pandemic (with the In the Lab expansion) [BGG]
Okay, so I’ve now been able to play Pandemic with the new In the Lab expansion about 6 or 7 times. These two plays were a little early on, with the 4-epidemic game being a cake walk and the 5-epidemic one being relatively easy. But in most of the other games I’ve played, it’s been a real challenge with 5-epidemics.
If you’re not aware of what it does, In the Lab basically overhauls the way you cure diseases and therefore win the game. Rather than just collecting 5 cards of that color, you now have to go through a multi-step process. It starts with any time you treat disease cubes, which you can now choose to place into one of two specimen containers. From a research station, you can then perform various “Lab Actions” to move the cubes from the specimen dishes to another dish that either keeps all of just one color or keeps one of every color. And then a third step (if necessary) can double the cubes in any one dish.
These cubes are used to fulfill the requirements of a “Sequencing” card that is used to actually assemble a cure. Some cards are used only to cure one color disease, while others have the option to choose between 2, 3, or all 5 diseases. So to mark which disease is being worked on, someone has to perform another Lab Action to place a card of that color on the In The Lab board. Other Lab Actions then move the cubes over from the different lab dishes to the sequencing card, play a second card to “Test the Cure”, and then finally, to play 3 cards of that color to complete the cure.
As you can see, it’s a lot more complicated than just assembling 5 cards of one color. And while it’s probably a notch more difficult, it’s actually not quite as difficult as I was expecting. Because with the “old” way, it was often a lot of work to coordinate getting players together to trade around to get that 4th or 5th card of a color. With In the Lab, though, there’s a lot of work involved in doing all these extra steps, but there’s usually very little if any trading that needs to happen (since it’s not uncommon for a player to have 3 cards of a color just from normal draws).
I like In the Lab so far, mostly because it’s a new wrinkle to a game I already love, and because it’s a lot more thematic way to actually cure diseases. But at the same time, it also seems to encourage certain roles to just hang out in research stations doing lab stuff while others race around the board taking care of treating people. Again, that’s actually a lot more thematic, but it feels a teeney-weeney bit less interesting as a game to me. But as you can see from my rating below, I still think pretty highly of the game…
Time: 38 and 39 minutes
Game 1: Humans (Chris, Norton, Jeff*, Ray*, & Sceadeau) – Win; Pandemic (4 epidemics) – Lose
Game 2: Humans (Chip, Norton, Keith, Kenny, and Sceadeau) – Win; Pandemic (5 epidemics) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 10, Chris 6.5, Chip 9, Keith 8, Kenny 8.5, Sceadeau 6
Deadwood Studios, USA [BGG]
Chris then introduced a number of us to Deadwood Studios, USA, an old Cheapass game that recently got a major facelift. The basic idea is that you’re an actor trying to find roles in a bad Western movie, played over 4 rounds, where you try to make money and gain experience to hone your acting skills and get better parts.
Your playing piece is a 6-sided die, with the number on top representing your acting skill. The different areas on the board are different sets/locations where scenes will be filmed. So you move around and claim a role that is equal to or less that your acting skill, and when the scene wraps, you’ll get paid out in money and experience. At some point, you can travel to another spot to spend either the money or the experience you’ve earned to “level up” your skill, of course.
I don’t know that there was a lot of strikingly remarkable events in our game, though. Well, except that I was apparently typecast, mostly filling roles along this sort of theme: “Dead Man”, “Sleeping Drunk”, and “Falls from Balcony”. Apparently, I do my best acting when I’m unconscious…
Time: 68 minutes
Score: Sceadeau* 96, Chip* 90, Kenny* 82, Keith* 68, Norton* 68, Chris 63
Ratings: Sceadeau 3, Chip 6, Kenny 5, Keith 4, Norton 6, Chris 6.5
Deadwood Studios, USA is not a really good game. But at the same time, I actually had a lot of fun with it. The scenes and available roles were really funny and entertaining, and I could see it being something good to pull out with a casual gaming sort of crowd or gathering. Our game wore out its welcome a little bit, but I could see that with less players that it could be really solid.
I practically wrote a whole review of Rialto in my last freaking ginormous game night report, and I’m going to review it fully in my next podcast episode, so I think I’ll skip any more commentary on it now…
Time: 61 minutes
Score: Keith 93, Norton 74, Chip 70
Ratings: Keith 7, Norton 7, Chip 7
At one point on the next game night, Sceadeau and I pulled out Taluva to kill some time while others were finishing up their games. I managed to take him out in the first game, and thought I had him on the ropes with him having just 3 huts left early in the 2nd, until he was able to get down his second Tower and take the win that way.
Time: 9 and 10 minutes
Game 1: Norton – Win (towers and huts); Sceadeau – Lose
Game 2: Sceadeau – Win (towers and huts); Norton – Lose
Ratings: Norton 8, Sceadeau 6
Again, I’ve been writing this report for a while now, so I’ll take another shortcut and just refer you to my full review of Taluva for more of my thoughts about this amazing abstract game.
And then we continued with the lighter games in playing Hanabi again. I won’t say much here either, other than I am falling more and more in love with this amazing little game.
Time: 38 and 27 minutes
Score: Chris, Norton, Kenny, & Sceadeau – 22 and 24
Ratings: Chris 8.5, Norton 9, Kenny 8, Sceadeau 10
Formula D [BGG]
To wrap up this report, I’ll actually talk more about this final game, which was my first play ever or Formula D. Yeah, that may sound a little odd that someone who has been around as long and gone as deep into modern baordgames as I have wouldn’t have encountered this tried-and-true racing game before, but stuff like that just happens sometimes, I guess.
I think that I was the only truly new person to the game, so right out of the gate, I seemed to be taking it a little more cautiously than everyone else. Chip didn’t seem to need caution, though, speeding away to a ridiculous lead based on lots of good choices and a string of incredibly perfect dice rolls. Feeling then pushed to try and keep up, Keith, Kenny, and Sceadeau all took a few too many chances to catch up and all ended up blowing up and leaving debris all over the track.
But much like the proverbial tortoise, I kept on going, slow and steady, even if it did mean that I was 3 or so turns behind Chip as we entered the second lap.
Then, however, fate seemed to turn. I was getting the hang of the game a little bit, while Chip’s dice went a little cold on him. And so turn after turn, move after move, I started to close the gap on him. It was still going to be a stretch to catch him, so I took some significant risks myself, but then on the last straightaway and into the last turn, I actually managed to do the impossible and pull past him to get into the lead.
Unfortunately, doing so had left me with no tire points and only 1 gear box left. So I downshifted as much as I could, picked my die… and rolled 1 higher than I needed to get my last stop in the turn. I didn’t totally crash, but I did spin out, which left me in 1st gear and limping towards the finish line, giving Chip plenty of time to pass me again and take the victory.
Time: 72 minutes
Score: Chip – 1st, Norton* – 2nd, Keith DNF, Kenny DNF, Sceadeau DNF
Ratings: Chip 8, Norton 7, Keith 7, Kenny 8
I’ve played a good number of racing games, and to be honest, had almost avoided Formula D/De in the past because I had made some unflattering assumptions about it. After this play, though, I’m a believer in it. The dice system is a lot more solid than I thought it would be, and the tension of trying to manage your speed going into and out of turns (since you have to make a certain number of stops through each one) is really cool and interesting.
Since the main group I’d play it with is my main game group (and Chip already owns it), I doubt I’m going to run out and buy it anytime soon, but I’m definitely going to be up for playing Formula D almost any time that others want to give it a go.
Other Games Played
Deadwood Studios, USA
Time: 80 minutes
Score: Chris* 87, Sean* 84, Shawn* 72, Darren* 68, Raymond* 45
Ratings: Chris 7
Time: 18 minutes
Score: Raymond 26, Chris 24, Shawn 17, Sean* 12
Time: 16 minutes
Score: Chris – Win, Sceadeau – Lose
Ra: The Dice Game
Time: 15 and 45 minutes
Game 1: Darren 32, James 23, Ken 21
Game 2: Darren 46, Keith 33, Josh 31, Chip 29
Ratings: Darren 9, James 9, Ken 9, Keith 6, Chip 8+, Josh 7
Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition
Time: 15 minutes
Score: Sceadeau* (the Werewolf) – Win; Chris*, Raymond*, & Shawn* (Humans) – Lose
Ratings: Chris 7.5, Shawn 7
Time: 23 and 24 minutes
Score: Chris, James K, & Sceadeau – 19 and 25 (5 suits plus the hard suit)
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Time: 39 minutes
Score: Heroes (Chris – Argent Adept, Darren – Haka, & Raymond – Bunker) – Win; Ambiscade on The Block – Lose
Ratings: Chris 10
Unnamed Game (as in, nothing was written on the sheet, but it may have been FITS)
Time: ?? minutes
Score: Sceadeau 14, Ken 11, Jeff* 0
Ratings: Sceadeau 7.5, Ken 7.5, Jeff 7
Time: 25 and ? minutes
Game 1: James K* 23, Chris 21, Ray -1
Game 2: Chip 21, Keith 18, Ray 2
Ratings: James 6, Chip 7, Keith 7, Ray 7
Time: 27 minutes
Score: Humans (Chris, Darren, James K*, Sceadeau, & Raymond) – Win; Forbidden Desert – Lose
Time: 24 minutes
Score: Raymond* 8, Chris 4, James K* 4, Sceadeau 1
* First play for that Person