Board Gaming · Review for Two · Worker Placement Month

Review for Two – Raiders of the North Sea

Thank you for checking review #61 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An Overview of Raiders of the North Sea

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Raiders of the North Sea is a game designed by Shem Phillips and was published by Garphill Games, and later by Renegade Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60-120 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 2.57.

Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As Viking warriors, players seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. Players will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie. So gather your warriors, it’s raiding season!

Aim of the Game

The aim of Raiders of the North Sea is to impress the Chieftain by having the most Victory Points (VP) at the game’s end. Victory Points are gained primarily by raiding Settlements, taking Plunder and making Offerings to the Chieftain. How players use their Plunder is also vital to their success. The game ends when either only 1 Fortress raid remains, all Valkyrie are removed, or all Offerings have been made.

 

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are no differences in setup or gameplay on this game based upon player count. The end game triggers also remain the same, regardless of player count.

My Thoughts

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 The first thing that I fell in love with in this was the use of worker placement. You will never have more than one worker. You place a worker, execute the action, then remove a different worker from the board and execute the action on the space it left. That mechanic right there is sheer brilliance, allowing you to plan ahead and to react tactically to moves your opponents make. This functions so differently from the standard “place all your workers then bring them back” approach that it feels genuinely refreshing every time I play it. I hope more games find ways to use this approach, because it is a really fun and interesting twist on the genre.

 Three colors of workers are in the game, each one capable of going to specific spaces on the board. This aspect works really well with the above worker placement mechanic, allowing you to swoop up that white worker they just retrieved from a raiding space (for you, no doubt) and placed down in the bottom section. I like the progression here, and that the black starter workers have a benefit with the money generation space. It almost is enough to tempt me to keep one around all game. Almost. I like the approach taken here, and the fact that they don’t have powerful abilities is perfect. This approach is just right, opening up higher spaces on the board that require more resources to raid.

 Artwork by the Mico is so fun and uniquely his that I absolutely love the life he brings to the games. It is a flavor all of his own, and it is stamped firmly upon this game. I couldn’t tell you if I prefer him or Beth Sobel, but they both are guaranteed to catch my attention with their artistic work.

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 Valkyries are the best resource I have ever seen in a game, hands down. Not only are they thematic as can be (okay, I wish they weren’t a black skull but I get it needed to be a similar shape to the other resources to help randomize drawing from the bag in setup), but they provide a big struggle for the player in terms of when to take a space with a Valkyrie (or worse, multiple ones) since it will cause them to lose some of the cards they paid to recruit. But those Valkyrie can be worth a lot victory points at the end of the game, and there is quite the swing in points if one person gets them and another ignores them. This can especially happen in a 2-player game where there is less rush to compete for spaces on the board.

 Multi-use cards are always a thing I enjoy. In this game, most of what you’re likely considering is the cost to recruit them and the ability they can provide for your group. Since you’re limited to 5 in play as a maximum, there comes a point where you need to be selective. Thankfully, those Valkyrie can help you cycle out cards that lose usefulness (such as ones that might provide benefits from raiding Harbours) so you can modify your group strategically as the game progresses. However, don’t underestimate the value of playing a card at the Town Hall location! Some of those abilities, although one-time use, can really help you get ahead or catch up to your opponent.

 Dice are a negligible component in the game. You can recruit a team of people with really high strength, and complement that with a lot of time pumping up the Armory, to where you are going to get points when raiding the higher spaces regardless. Or you can play it a little riskier, going through with just enough to get the space and hope the dice help you get a few additional points along the way. I appreciate it being able to cater to both crowds there, and that there are higher rewards in VP for those who can hit really high attack values.

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 I haven’t done it yet, but this game can be played in sequence with the other two in the North Sea Trilogy to make an overarching gaming experience. How cool is that? I can’t report on how it works or how well it plays, but I plan to eventually. Regardless, more games should have something like this, to where you can string them together in a small campaign of sorts that can be completed in a single game day.

 There are three ways for the game to end, something I really like. However, in a 2-player match, it has only ever ended when 5/6 Fortress spaces were raided. The same was true in a 3-player game we’ve played of this. We’ve come close on Valkyries before, as we both tend to try and max out those points (me moreso than her in the early game) but have never cleared them all. And we haven’t even come close to wiping out the stack of tiles, since you need to trade in resources to get those and sometimes those resources are better used in other places. So while I like the idea of three ways to end the game, I imagine that those other two really come into play with the full player count rather than with 2-players.

 The game can feel same-y after multiple plays on the board. Sure, there are small things that change: the resources on each space, the tiles you can gain at the Long House, and the cards you’ll draw into your hand. But, ultimately, you’re doing the exact same thing every time with minimal variance. That is the biggest downfall in so many worker placement games, where it becomes repetitive. If you like a fresh experience every play, this isn’t going to provide that (at least the base game alone). However, even within this weakness of the genre there is enough in the game to where you can make strong tactical plays to squeeze out points more efficiently than your opponent in order to win the game.

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 The game as a whole gets repetitive within a single game experience, too. Get money to recruit cards. Gain provisions. Go on a raid and pay provisions/resources/cards. Repeat, this time needing more of everything to go higher on the board. While the game is fun and exciting, there is a lot of repetition even as you get further into an individual game. That is its biggest weakness, as the spots that you go to outside of the town are all one-shot spaces. So you’re spending about 75% of the game cycling through the same handful of spaces in order to go to a single space up above.

Final Thoughts

There should be no surprises about my thoughts if you saw my Top 25 Games. This game appears there, and I see no reason why it won’t be there for the long-term as I gain expansions for this game and add the rest of the North Sea Trilogy into my collection. The unique approach to worker placement in this is a refreshing change from the others, and I’ll admit I love the theme and the artwork enough to give this game a slight boost beyond what it might otherwise earn.

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The base game here is really good. There’s no way around that. I’m excited whenever I get this game to the table. I’m even more excited to pick up the solo variant at some point so I can play (and revisit in a review!) the solo experience for this game. I’m looking at the various expansions out there and trying to determine which one I should pick up first to expand and enhance the experience…knowing full well that my wife is almost never a fan of expansions. I’m thinking Fields of Fame, since it adds enemy Jarls which should make things more interesting in trying to raid.

The progression arc in this game is enjoyable, even if it is predictable. How you approach building your engine is what makes this game fun, just like any deckbuilder or engine optimization game out there. The wrinkle comes with those Valyries, a resource that you shouldn’t completely avoid because of its end-game point potential but comes with a heavy cost in losing part of your team of Raiders. This is the aspect of the game that really shines, even moreso than the worker placement aspect, because it is where you gain some variety.

Do I want more people to recruit? Yes, so that the deck dilutes and you can’t count on getting 2-3 of X in order to reap a ton of benefits at a certain part of the game. The team you choose to hire, and the raiding spot sequence you choose, can make or break your chance of winning this game. The game’s mechanics are balanced on the edge of a knife, as you’re going to earn a lot of the same points in the same places. The difference comes in those smaller details. And that is something I really, really appreciate. It enables a veteran to be able to see that ideal path while also allowing for newer players to keep it a close game and potentially spoil the best-laid plans and steal a win.

If you like worker placement, you definitely need to try this game. If you like engine building, you should try this game. If you hate optimization games, where the more efficient player will win more often than not, then it might not be quite right for you. But this game I definitely cherish having in my collection, and I look forward to getting all of the North Sea line of product eventually on my shelves.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Raiders of the North Sea. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

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Bonus: Renegade Games is generously providing a giveaway for a NIS copy of Raiders of the North Sea. Be sure to enter to win!

Raiders of the North Sea giveaway

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Board Gaming · Interview · Worker Placement Month

Interview with Dan Hallagan, Designer of Obsession, and GIVEAWAY!

I had a good friend of mine raise my awareness about Obsession when it was running its Kickstarter campaign. It caught my eye because the theme was unique and, with my background in English/Literature (including taking an entire course focused around Victorian Literature!), it was really interesting to me. So when I was thinking about worker placement games releasing soon, I really wanted to highlight this one. Thankfully, Dan was willing to answer some interview questions for me about the game, and has graciously offered to provide a copy to give away (see the bottom of the post and/or the Giveaways link at the top of the page to enter the contest). So here’s a little summary of info about the game, followed by his excellent interview.

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Obsession, designed by Dan Hallagan. Published by Kayenta Games. 1-4 Players, 30-90 Minutes. 3.60 Weight Rating on BGG.

Description from the publisher:

You are the head of a respected but troubled family estate in mid-19th century Victorian England. After several lean decades, family fortunes are looking up! Your goal is to improve your estate so as to be in better standing with the truly influential families in Derbyshire.

Obsession is a game of 16 to 20 turns where players build a deck of Victorian gentry (British social upper class), renovate their estate by acquiring building tiles from a centralized builders’ market, and manipulate an extensive service staff of butlers, housekeepers, underbutlers, maids, valets, and footmen utilizing a novel worker placement mechanic. Successfully hosting prestigious social activities such as Fox Hunts, Music Recitals, Billiards, Political Debates, and Grand Balls increases a player’s wealth, reputation, and connections among the elite.

Each turn, players choose a building tile representing a room or outdoor space in and around their 19th century British country house. The tile chosen dictates the event that can be hosted and the guests to be invited. Players must carefully plan, however, to have the proper staff available to service the event and support guests as needed. The reward for success is new investment opportunities, permitting further renovation of the estate (acquisition of more valuable/powerful building tiles), an increase in reputation in the county, an expanding circle of influential acquaintances, and a larger and highly-trained domestic staff.

Throughout the game, a competitive courtship for the hand of the most eligible young gentleman and lady in the county presents specific renovation and reputation objectives. The player who best meets these objectives while accumulating victory points will win the hand of the wealthy love interest and the game.

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  1. Let’s talk about the first thing I noticed when I saw Obsession’s box: it has the style of a Victorian novel that I might find in paperback form at my local bookstore. I absolutely love it! What inspired the 19th Century setting for your game? Are there any Victorian-era books, movies, or shows that helped to inspire the theme of this game?
  • As for the box, I did indeed pattern it after the “classics” version of a Jane Austen book cover in my library.
  • I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970s and 80s and stopped gaming as I moved on in life. About 5 years ago, a friend persuaded me there was a new breed of board game that was a cut above Monopoly. He recommended Dominion and 7 Wonders, which simply blew me away. I had no idea such games existed. My family also became addicted, with my sons dragging me in the direction of fantasy and space. My wife and daughter did not share an interest in such fantasy/creature/battle-driven memes, and so I conceived an idea to pursue a theme my wife and daughter did love: Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey. I split the difference between Regency and Edwardian England, settling at last in the Victorian 1860s.
  1. Obsession is your first published game listed on BGG. Was this game your first design, or have there been others that haven’t seen the light of day yet?
  • I first attempted a fantasy game (it is still a project), but when my brother (an avid gamer) heard of the Obsession concept, he insisted I pursue it. He believed (and I agree) that it filled a neglected niche in gaming: a heavier Euro with a romantic theme. All other such games we researched were lighter, and my family likes deeply strategic games.
  1. Let’s talk about the design process for a moment. What were some of the most challenging things that you ran into while designing the game? Did you hit any major snags during playtesting that made you have to overhaul any aspects of the game?
  • Oh my. I hit more major snags than I can count. The game as originally conceived in few ways resembles the production version of Obsession. Here’s a comparison between the earliest player board and the final one!

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  • The most challenging “mechanics” issue I faced was when I had to eliminate EVENTS from the game, which I felt were intensely thematic; events like illness, inheritance, war, favorable laws, fire, death, etc. The problem was they introduced too much randomness into the game; for example, the most skillful play could be devastated by a fire in the player’s manor house. The game really started to take off and reach its final form when I stopped taking major changes personally and focused on the “elegance” of the gameplay.
  • But the largest issue of all was that my prototype reviewed by Rahdo was judged during the crowdfunding campaign to be ugly. This was a hard blow for my ego. I had been so obsessed (pun intended!) by making the mechanics as elegant as possible, that I never thought to give my utilitarian design a facelift before the Kickstarter. After about 48 hours of denial, I reached out to the backers in the campaign and asked them to help me redesign the game completely. It was a difficult but powerful experience, and I owe a debt of gratitude for the support and advice from backers and for the refreshing optimism and sense of community one finds everywhere in the world of board games. Now Obsession is gorgeous; the box art just got recognized for its design, and the game got premium upgrade after premium upgrade, so much so that it now weights 6.5 pounds! Here are the custom meeples (the workers) that came about as part of that project:

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  1. The theme has been heralded so far for its integration with the game’s mechanics. For a reader unfamiliar with the game, could you expand a little on how those tie together?
  • When I play other games, I do not like game mechanics that have no thematic basis. I played Panamax yesterday, and even though the theme is strong and unique in that game, most of the actions are completely arbitrary. It’s still a good game, but I think arbitrary mechanics jolt a player out of the theme. One purpose of playing a game is to be transported to a different time and place; clunky, non-thematic mechanics are jarring and hurt that experience. For Obsession, I created a 28-page Glossary which, in part, is designed to show the coherent connection between mechanics and theme. That Glossary includes a history of the love interests in the game and gives thematic reasons for all pieces, icons, and actions. Here is an example (excerpt) from the Glossary:

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  1. Were there mechanics that you originally wanted in the game that had to be scrapped because they didn’t work well thematically?
  • The above referenced EVENTS had to be scrapped because they didn’t work well…but they were intensely thematic. I had another mechanic where dice were used to enable a player to host activities (you can see that in the “old” player board above); there was no reason for using dice (other than I love dice manipulation mechanics), and that mechanic had to go because the inherent randomness made no thematic sense. Here’s a prototype tile from that early design phase side by side with the final version:
  1. You’ve married two of our favorite mechanics into the game: deckbuilding and worker placement. Were those always planned to be a part of the game, or did they come about over the course of testing and design? Were there any other games out there that you looked toward for inspiration while designing Obsession?
  • They are favorites of mine, as well, and those mechanics have always been part of the game. However, I changed the deckbuilding from a blind draw (a la Dominion) to active hand management, and that turned out to be a revolutionary improvement. Also, I am proud that I think I’ve invented a worker placement mechanic: players must manage their workers (bulter, housekeeper, underbutler, valets, lady’s maids, footmen) so that they are available to provide service (placement) for both activities hosted and guests invited, and such workers are mandatory. Stated differently, you have a service staff that is busily about the maintaining the country estate and performing the usual domestic chores. These workers cycle in and out of availability. When an elaborate soirée is hosted, the player must manipulate the availability of their domestic servants so that the demands of something like a Music Recital or Grand Ball can be hosted with the style and elegance demanded by the Victorian social elite. So not only does a player place six different types of workers to obtain benefits, they must maintain the right mix of those workers and have them available at the right time…or social events cannot be hosted and reputation will suffer! Here is an example of the workers supporting an Afternoon Ride:

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  • Dominion inspired the deckbuilding and Stone Age inspired the worker placement on cards. Obsession has moved very, very far away from any Dominion-like mechanic, but the Stone Age mechanic is similar.
  1. Let’s talk solitaire play for a moment: was that always intended to be part of the game, or was it something added over the course of the Kickstarter campaign? I see there are varying levels of difficulty – is this a beat-your-own-score style of experience or is there a win-loss condition to overcome?
  • Honestly, it was added just before the Kickstarter campaign. I had no idea there was such a robust Solitaire community out there, but I learned quickly. However, when I made a move to add it, it was a natural. The central gameplay mechanic of Obsession is the hosting of events, which is an action that takes place independent of one’s competitors. As a result, Obsession naturally lends itself to solitary play. And once I perfected that, I had a wonderful tool for playtesting; whereas I usually had to round up playtesters, now I could bang out a half dozen Solitaire games to test a variation.
  • It is definitely a win-loss Solitaire game. You choose a Solitaire opponent, and that base score is augmented by events during the game. The player’s actions can lead to the Solitaire opponent being harder and harder to beat. It works very well.
  1. Thank you for your time! How can people learn more about you, Kayenta Games, and Obsession: Pride, Intrigue, & Prejudice in Victorian England?
  • My pleasure! Great questions, very insightful. Five tons (!) of games just made it onto two ships headed for the US and UK (EU), and they will reach port in about 5 weeks (ETA, ~ 9/24). Until that time, I am offering discounted pre-orders with fixed shipping. When fulfillment begins, the game will be available online. Details are at https://www.kayentapublishing.com/ and I am happy to answer any questions directly at hallagan@kayentapublishing.com. Thank you!

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Giveaway link:

Obsession Board Game Giveaway

Board Gaming · Worker Placement Month

Fast Placement #1: Snowdonia, The Manhattan Project, Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, Alchemists, BarBEARians

There are more worker placement games out there than could ever be covered in a single month. Even with daily posts, the task would be impossible. So while there are more reviews still sitting in the pipeline, I’m going to have the two posts where I mention a whole host of games and why these particular worker placement games stand out to me as being worth looking into. These are games I haven’t had a chance to play yet, but are on my short list of worker placement games I really want to try.

Be sure to stick around until the end of this post, as there is a giveaway for some digital app codes for Galaxy Trucker, courtesy of Czech Games Edition

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Snowdonia, designed by Tony Boydell. Deluxe by NSKN Games, previously published by Indie Board & Cards and more. 1-5 Players

(Check out the new deluxe Master Set on Kickstarter right now! This game looks incredible, and is the way to get outstanding production value, expansions, and promo cards for a game that already has a ton of existing content out there. The price may seem steep at first glance, but the value based on what will be in this box is ridiculous and well worth every penny being asked: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nskngames/snowdonia-deluxe-master-set?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=snowdonia )

Game Description from BGG:

The peaks of Snowdonia rise before you, encased in mist, their summits barely visible. The highest is Snowdon (Wyddfa) herself at 1,085 metres. The year is 1894, and the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Limited has been formed to build a branch line from Llanberis to the summit. You can scarcely believe it’s possible!

In Snowdonia players represent work gangs providing labour for the construction of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Unlike other train games you will have to excavate your way up a mountain side, as well as make and lay the track, construct viaducts and stations. All this in competition with the weather of the Welsh mountains (and the game itself)!

You may be assisted by a train (though that’s not always best) and you’ll be able to collect essential materials from the Stock Yard. You will obtain special work contracts that give you bonuses.

Can you contribute more than the other players to the magnificence of the Snowdon Mountain Railway?

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Why it is on my list:

Honestly, this one is here based on the merit of Tony Boydell’s other designs that I have played. I’ve been impressed by the games he has put out, and this is the glaring hole in my plays of his games. Beyond that, I’ve heard excellent things regarding this game from solo gamers and from those who enjoy worker placement games. The theme is interesting, especially after we had such a great time with Coal Baron: The Great Card Game (minor spoiler for that upcoming review…) so I think we’d enjoy building railways in the game.

I’d be curious to know which expansions are considered to be essential by those who have played the game extensively. There are a ton of them, and truckloads of promo cards out there. Even more reason to back that Deluxe Edition on Kickstarter, right? And if that doesn’t appeal to you, there is a pretty good chance that there will be a plethora of Snowdonia on the secondhand market next year, probably right around the time that the deluxe delivers to its backers. Out of all of the worker placement games I haven’t played yet, this one is king in terms of games I really want to try soon. Maybe at Gen Con I can find a way to get in a game of this…

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The Manhattan Project, designed by Brandon Tibbetts. Published by Minion Games. 2-5 Players.

Description from BGG:

Global Power Struggle Begins
Which nation will take the lead and become world’s dominant superpower?

The Manhattan Project makes you the leader of a great nation’s atomic weapons program in a deadly race to build bigger and better bombs. You must assign your workers to multiple projects: building your bomb-making infrastructure, expending your military to protect it, or sending your spies to steal your rival’s hard work!

You alone control your nation’s destiny. You choose when to send out your workers–and when to call them back. Careful management and superior strategy will determine the winner of this struggle. So take charge and secure your nation’s future!

Additional description:

The Manhattan Project is a low-luck, mostly open information efficiency game in which players compete to build and operate the most effective atomic bomb program. Players do not “nuke” each other, but conventional air strikes are allowed against facilities.

The game features worker placement with a twist: there are no rounds and no end-of-round administration. Players retrieve their workers when they choose to or are forced to (by running out).

An espionage action allows a player to activate and block an opponent’s building, representing technology theft and sabotage.

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Why it is on this list:

Two words: no rounds. That in itself interests me, even though we’ve now played a few games (like Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia) that have that same sort of format where you spend your turn recalling workers. This also screams of having more direct player interaction with the espionage action, which is something I like in a game. One of the many reasons that Argent: The Consortium is currently my favorite Worker Placement game is because of the ability to zap your opponent’s workers, after all.

While the theme itself has no appeal to us, a lot of aspects of the game’s mechanics speak to us as games. Low-luck, “mostly” open information…those speak well to the experience that we can expect with this game. There’s a reason that there have been sequels to this game, and we should start our Manhattan Project experience right and try out the one that started it all.

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Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar, designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini. Published by Czech Games Edition. 2-4 Players.

Description from BGG:

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar presents a new game mechanism: dynamic worker placement. Players representing different Mayan tribes place their workers on giant connected gears, and as the gears rotate they take the workers to different action spots.

During a turn, players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker. Actions located “later” on the gears are more valuable, so it’s wise to let the time work for you – but players cannot skip their turn; if they have all their workers on the gears, they have to pick some up.

The game ends after one full revolution of the central Tzolkin gear. There are many paths to victory. Pleasing the gods by placing crystal skulls in deep caves or building many temples are just two of those many paths…

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Why it is on this list:

Oh please, as if there is something more to this placement than those rotating gears! I’ve seen the game played. I’ve heard it talked about. Often. I’ve had local gamers tell me I need to play this and, well, it hasn’t happened yet. It needs to happen. I know it needs to happen. To add to the personal hype, Heavy Cardboard recently reviewed the game and had great things to say about it as well. All signs point to this being a game we’ll really enjoy with a mechanic that is going to set it apart from any game in our collection.

(Fun post to share, courtesy of CGE: https://www.facebook.com/CzechGames/photos/a.431323206905142.91230.421376374566492/1366072243430229/?type=3&theater)

Okay, let’s be serious for a moment. Those gears are what make this game stand out, and even moreso when painted. Have you painted your gears? Let’s see some pictures of them! Also, tell me what we’re missing out on…maybe you’ll convince us to beg for a game of this even faster.

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Alchemists, designed by Matus Kotry. Published by Czech Games Edition. 2-4 Players.

Game description from BGG:

In Alchemists, two to four budding alchemists compete to discover the secrets of their mystical art. Points can be earned in various ways, but most points are earned by publishing theories – correct theories, that is — and therein lies the problem.

The game is played in six rounds. At the beginning of the round, players choose their play order. Those who choose to play later get more rewards.
Players declare all their actions by placing cubes on the various action spaces, then each action space is evaluated in order. Players gain knowledge by mixing ingredients and testing the results using a smartphone app (iOS, Android, and also Windows) that randomizes the rules of alchemy for each new game. And if the alchemists are longing for something even more special, they can always buy magical artifacts to get an extra push. There are 9 of them (different for each game) and they are not only very powerful, but also very expensive. But money means nothing, when there’s academic pride at stake! And the possession of these artifacts will definitely earn you some reputation too. Players can also earn money by selling potions of questionable quality to adventurers, but money is just a means to an end. The alchemists don’t want riches, after all. They want respect, and respect usually comes from publishing theories.

During play, players’ reputations will go up and down. After six rounds and a final exhibition, reputation will be converted into points. Points will also be scored for artifacts and grants. Then the secrets of alchemy are revealed and players score points or lose points based on whether their theories were correct. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

Flavor text:
Mandrake root and scorpion tail; spongy mushroom and warty toad — these are the foundations of the alchemist’s livelihood, science, and art.

But what arcane secrets do these strange ingredients hide? Now it is time to find out. Mix them into potions and drink them to determine their effects — or play it safe and test the concoction on a helpful assistant! Gain riches selling potions to wandering adventurers and invest these riches in powerful artifacts. As your knowledge grows, so will your reputation, as you publish your theories for all to see. Knowledge, wealth, and fame can all be found in the murky depths of the alchemist’s cauldron.

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Why it is on this list:

One content creator put this on my radar: The Board Boys Podcast. Their episode on the game introduced me to a game I honestly hadn’t even heard about before, and that was enough to convince me to give it a shot at some point. This game sounds so unique, from the use of an iOS app as a key component of gameplay to the points being based on reputation and theories (correct theories, that is).

Fantasy themes speak to me, and while I’m not too big on Alchemy this game promises to deliver an experience that will stand out from the crowd. Will it be a game we should own? That is hard to say – I could see the iOS and the theory-crafting being a huge miss for her even if I really enjoy it. But it is definitely a game that has my interest and needs to be played.

***

BarBEARians, designed by Walter Barber and Ian VanNest. Published by Greenbrier Games. 2-4 Players.

Game Description from BGG:

BarBEARians is a simultaneous secret-action, dice-puzzle, worker placement game for up to four players. Become one of four clans of adorable bear-warriors out to build the best neighbearhood in the forest! Don’t expect this to be a picnic: your bears aren’t the only ones fishing for glory, so be prepared to ward off attacks from your furry rivals. By gathering resources, pillaging your neighbears’ villages, and developing your home turf, the tale of your clan will become legend. Are your bears worthy enough to be every cub’s bedtime story for generations to come? It’s time to gather your clan, bear down, and hold on to your honey.

(For a lot more, check out this page: http://press.greenbriergames.com/sheet.php?p=project_barbearians)

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Why it is on this list:

I’ll admit, this one is probably going to look like the black sheep of the lot here. That’s because it was a game I discovered by accident while looking into whether or not Grimslingers was a deckbuilding game (it isn’t) for my upcoming Deckbuilding Month. While looking through the rest of their catalog, I came across this cutesy-looking game about bears using worker placement, secret (and simultaneous!) action selection, and a little bit of dice rolling (which I won’t tell my wife about that until she’s ready to play…because it isn’t just a little bit but it is all done at the start so you know what you’ve got for the round) in the mechanics.

Words like glory and raiding stand out to me as being very Viking-like. In fact, you could probably replace the bear theme with burly Viking warriors and have the same game. While it will have some randomness due to die-rolls, this promises to provide a fast-paced, heavy-interaction game where you’re allocating your workers onto your home board spaces. If you want a family-friendly game where you’re working to raid your opponents, this one looks like it could be a ton of fun.

***

Enter to win a redemption code for a copy of Galaxy Trucker’s app:

Galaxy Trucker App Codes

Board Gaming · Gaming Recap

Gaming Recap Q2 2018

Last year I did a monthly tracker of the games I played, breaking it down to keep a tally on win/loss vs. my wife and in solo gaming. This year I am taking a much more relaxed approach, going with a quarterly breakdown of the games played.

Q2 Games played:

161 Total Plays, 78 unique games, 42 new-to-me games (italicized below)

Husband/Wife Record:

Me – 27 Wins, Nicole – 23 Wins

Dimes

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Nickels

BattleCON: Trials of the Indines
ORC
Herbaceous Sprouts

Others (in alphabetical order)

7 Wonders Duel
Agent Decker
Among the Stars
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
Assembly
Azul
Between Two Cities
Black Sonata
Caesar & Cleopatra
The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Charterstone
Circuit Breaker
Coal Baron: The Great Card Game
Concordia
Count of Nine
Constantinople
Cutthroat Caverns
DC Comics Deck-building Game
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Fairy Tale
A Feast for Odin
Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
Fire in the Library
Firefly: The Game
Five Tribes
Fuji Flush
The Game
The Game of 49
Gladiator Gauntlet
Glass Road
Habitats
Hanamikoji
Herbaceous
Hero Realms
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
Hunt for the Ring
In the Year of the Dragon
InBetween
Keyper
Kingdom Builder
Lignum (Second Edition)
Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game
Lord of the Rings: The Duel
Middle-Earth
Mini Rogue
Mr. Jack Pocket
Mystic Vale
Nations
Notre Dame
Oh My Goods!
Onitama
Ora et Labora
Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game – Rise of the Runelords
Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game – Wrath of the Righteous
Port Royal
Power Grid
Raiders of the North Sea
Rococo
Seasons
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Shadowrift
Shadows Over Camelot
SOW
Sprawlopolis
Star Fluxx
Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Unbroken
Vast: The Crystal Caverns
Vikings: The Board Game
Vinhos
Viticulture: Essential Edition
War of the Ring (Second Edition)

2018 Games Played:

331 Total Plays, 127 unique games, 71 new-to-me games (italicized below)

Husband/Wife Record:

Me – 45 Wins, Nicole – 43 Wins

Quarters

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Dimes

Final Fantasy Trading Card Game

Nickels

BattleCON: Trials of the Indines
Charterstone
Hanamikoji
Herbaceous Sprouts
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Kingdom Builder
Oh My Goods!
One Deck Dungeon
ORC

Scythe
Sentinels of the Multiverse

Others (in alphabetical order)

1960: The Making of the President
30 Rails
7 Ronin
7 Wonders Duel
878: Vikings – Invasions of England
Above and Below
Agent Decker

Albion’s Legacy
Among the Stars
Android: Netrunner
Arboretum
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Ars Alchimia
Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
Assembly
Azul
Between Two Cities
Black Sonata
Caesar & Cleopatra
The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Century: Golem Edition
Circuit Breaker
Coal Baron: The Great Card Game
Codenames
Concordia
Count of Nine
Constantinople
Cutthroat Caverns
DC Comics Deck-building Game
Reiner Knizia’s Decathlon
The Draugr

Eight Minute Empires: Legends
Elevenses for One
Endless Nightmare
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Fairy Tale
A Feast for Odin
Fields of Agincourt
Fire in the Library

Firefly: The Game
Five Tribes
Fuji Flush
The Game
The Game of 49
Get Bit!
Gladiator Gauntlet
Glass Road

Guilds of London
Habitats
Harvest
Herbaceous
Hero Realms
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
How to Rob a Bank
Hunt for the Ring

Imperial Settlers
In the Year of the Dragon
InBetween

Innovation
Islebound
Keyflower
Keyper
Lignum (Second Edition)
Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Lord of the Rings: Dice Building Game Lord of the Rings: The Duel

Lords of Waterdeep
Mage Knight Board Game
Middle-Earth
Mini Rogue
Mr. Jack Pocket
Mystic Vale
Nations
Neverland’s Legacy
Notre Dame
Odin’s Ravens (Second edition)
Onitama
Ora et Labora
Outpost: Siberia
Patchwork
Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game – Rise of the Runelords P
athfinder: Adventure Card Game – Wrath of the Righteous

Police Precinct
Port Royal
Power Grid

Race for the Galaxy
Raiders of the North Sea
The Ravens of Thri Sahashri
Rococo
The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade
Sagrada
Seasons
Sellswords: Olympus
Shadowrift
Shadows Over Camelot
Sherwood’s Legacy
SOW
Sprawlopolis
Star Fluxx
Star Realms
Terra Mystica
Terraforming Mars
Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary Edition
Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Unbroken
Utopia Engine
Vast: The Crystal Cavern
Vikings: The Board Game
Vinhos
Viticulture: Essential Edition
War of the Ring (Second Edition)
Yokohama

Progress on the Games I wanted to play in 2018 (In order that I enjoyed them):

7/20

Ora et Labora
Rococo
Vinhos
Keyflower
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Arboretum
Terra Mystica

Board Gaming · Interview · Worker Placement Month

Interview with Richard Breese + Giveaway!

Welcome back, readers! Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I conducted with none other than Richard Breese, designer of Reef Encounter and the Key-series of games (among others). He is commonly associated with being the first to design a game using Worker Placement as a mechanic, so without Richard there might never have been games such as Agricola to hit the market. Maybe Uwe Rosenberg would be bagging groceries instead of forcing us to feed our workers and heat our homes in games!

In my few interactions with him so far, I’ve found Richard to be a fantastic guy. I’m genuinely honored that he agreed to answer a few questions, and I wanted to share these with all of you in celebration of Worker Placement month. Also, as an added bonus, I’m giving away a few copies of the Keymelequin promo for Keyflower! You can enter for that down at the bottom of this post and don’t worry…this won’t be the last giveaway happening this month!

***

  • Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Richard! Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in designing board games.

Thank you for the invitation and for your interest in my games. I currently live part time in Stratford upon Avon, famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and part time in London. I trained as an accountant and as well as designing board games I am Finance Director for a commercial property development company. I have three sons who live nearby. I’ve always enjoyed playing games. I was lucky that my parents had a few when I was young, including, Chess, Chinese Chequers, Cluedo, Draughts, Mah Jong, Monopoly, Risk, Wild Life (Peter Ryhiner ), etc. and I’m sure that they sparked my initial interest in games and designing. From the age of about 10, I then tried to develop my own games. One was a wild life game that I mention on the box notes of Inhabit the Earth (2015). Then later, after I’d discovered D&D, I created a game that was based on the movement of the different character classes. That got simplified into an abstract game which became my first published game Chamelequin (1989).

  • One of your earliest designs was Keywood, the first entry into what would become the Key series of games. Tell us a little about that game, how it came to be, and how that inspired a continued series of games in that same Key-verse.

Keywood (1995) came about as an entry into a design competition run by Sumo, one of the first board game magazines, and became the winning entry. I created 200 hand-made copies, which amazingly have now sold for as much as $1,200 on Ebay! I first discovered ‘German’ (now known as ‘Euro’) games when in 1991 I visited Spiel for the first time in order to promote Chamelequin. I loved that these German games were accessible, positive, had fun themes, were family friendly and were more skill than luck based. I resolved to try to create a similar game and the design competition which acted as an incentive came at the right moment. I needed a name for my new game, which was based on a land with a benevolent ruler. At the 1991 Spiel I had chance to meet and play a game with American gamer Keywood Cheves and he was he personification of the character I had envisaged as ruling the land. I used his name and happily when he found out he was quite chuffed and actually bought six copies! A good investment! The land the game was set in became the Keydom (1998) – the second game in the ‘Key’ series. I was fortunate that the ‘Key’ part of the name was convenient and useful prefix.

  • Keydom was the next title and is widely viewed as the game that started the Worker Placement mechanic for games. How did the idea for that mechanic come about? What struggles did it present in the design process?

Klaus Teuber’s seminal game Settlers of Catan, the Euro game that transformed the world of gaming, particularly in the US, was published in 1995. I enjoyed Settlers, but was not fond of the luck factors inherent in the dice rolling. I wanted to achieve the same effect but without the dice, just by direct placement of the workers on the board. This became the central mechanic in Keydom, which as you mentioned, is now recognised as the first worker placement game.

To quote Stewart Woods in his impressive chronicle of the development of Eurogames entitled ‘Eurogames’ (2012): ‘… worker placement first appeared … in Richard Breese’s Keydom. In Keydom, players allocate a number of worker tokens to areas of the board that provide a variety of resources and actions. While any player may place as many tokens as they wish on most of these spaces, hidden values on the underside of the tokens are subsequently used to determine who receives benefit from the space.’ Woods goes on to note that ‘Breese employed the worker placement mechanic in a purer form in his later game Keythedral (2002)’.

Keydom was re-issued by Hans im Glück (HiG) as Morgenland and Rio Grande as Aladdin’s Dragons and befitted greatly from the input of Bernd Brunoffer and his team at HiG. They refined the game end conditions, but the worker placement mechanic remained the same in principle.

  • For someone who has never played a game in the Key series, what would they be able to expect to find in terms of common traits among the games in that series?

The traits are those that I enjoy in games. In particular player interaction is indirect, i.e. through the game mechanism, not of ‘take that’ nature directly between players. Actions are constructive, generating a positive feeling, not negative, conflict driven or destructive. The aim is to damage another player by making a good move for yourself. There will be a small amount of luck only. Players will be allowed do things, as I try not to restrict options. There is a family friendly medieval theme (with the exception of the present day Key to the City – London (2016)).

  • How has the Worker Placement mechanic evolved in your own designs since that first implementation? Which of your games would you say is the most unique in regards to using Worker Placement?

I try to introduce something new in each of my new games. In Keydom the number value of the worker placed was important. In Keythedral there is an adjacency restriction whereby workers can only work in fields adjacent to their cottage. In Keyflower the twist is the requirement to match the colour of workers already played. In Keyper the joining and laying down opportunities are introduced. I think the Worker Placement mechanisms in both Keyflower and Keyper are used in unique ways. In particular I like the way that in Keyper, running out of keyples can be beneficial in giving you lucrative lay down opportunities.

  • Keyflower is a title in the BGG Top 50 and is widely considered to be the best game in the Key series. I personally love and enjoy that bidding mechanic in the game and the scarceness of the green keyples (at least at the start of the game!). Did the success of this game surprise you? What is it about this game that you feel makes it unique from other games, both in the Worker Placement genre and in the Key series of games?

From the play testing with Sebastian Bleasdale I felt confident that Keyflower had the possibilities of being well received. I think the introduction of the expansions, the Merchants expansion in particular, make the game very engaging. Keythedral also reached the BGG top 100 when it was released. I think all of the Key games are unique in their own ways. With Keyflower I think it is the bidding with the same coloured keyples (workers/meeples) mechanism which makes the game shine. Also there are lots of possible actions and the tile mix means each game will be different with its own set of challenges. The game is positive as players are building their village and creating opportunities and combinations. Also players are not locked out of actions as they can use other player’s tiles, but at the cost of sacrificing one or more of their keyples.

  • Let’s shift gears for a moment. Here at Cardboard Clash, I focus a lot on how games play with 2-players. My understanding is that all of your game designs are playtested extensively at that player count, which is something I really appreciate as a gamer who often plays against my spouse. What are some of the games you’ve designed that you feel play best at 2?

Yes, that’s right. I enjoy two player games with the shorter down time and the fact that you are pitted against an individual, without other players interfering. Keyflower would be at the top of my list, particularly with the Merchants expansion. I also enjoy Keyper. It plays differently as there is often not a lot of joining with two players and the game becomes a lot more tactical. Reef Encounter (2004) is also a favourite and plays well with two.

  • Keyper recently released and has been getting a lot of high praise. I’ve heard several mention this is the best Key game since Keyflower, and talk about the unique board-folding mechanic in there and how it integrates well into the game. Where did the folding mechanism come from and what challenges did you encounter in designing a game to use that?

I initially encountered the folding board being promoted as an advertising aide at a trade show. I was convinced there was a game there, but it took about three years of to think of a combination of mechanics – worker placement, joining and laying down keyples – that I was happy with. I wanted everything to be positive, and I particularly like the mechanic that allows players to benefit from playing their keyples quickly and gaining extra turns. So when you join, not only do you get extra resources or actions, you also gain an extra turn later in the season (or reduce those of your opponents).

I very much wanted to minimise the AP (analysis paralysis) that the board permutations could give rise to and gave a lot of thought to this issue. That is why in the game you only manipulate the board three times, at the end of spring, summer and autumn and also, on each occasion, the choice is restricted to only four different alternatives. In addition players manipulate the boards simultaneously, which minimises the down time. All of the possible permutations are given in the rule book.

  • My understanding is that the next game in the series is Key Flow, which is a card-based game. What can you tell us about this game and what makes it unique from the ones that have come before it?

Key Flow is a joint design with Sebastian Bleasdale and Ian Vincent. The idea for the game was conceived by one of my long standing play testers Ian, who wanted to design a version of Keyflower that he could be Sebastian and me at! Originally the game had square cards similar to the Settlers card game. Then Sebastian proposed that we adopt the two row village layout, with keyple cards activating building cards in the top row. The card drafting mechanism is similar to Seven Wonders. But the keyple card activation is very different, with a different colour of keyple card used in each season. The game has been very well received in demonstrations.

After the Gathering gaming convention this year American game designer Ralph H Anderson wrote on Facebook ‘I got to play this [Key Flow] brilliant game both at last year’s and this year’s Gathering of Friends (with subsequent improvements over the interim). I concur with Scott Alden [Founder of BGG] and will add it is a fast and elegant implementation from the board game to the card game. I always enjoy sitting down to a game with Richard Breese and particularly when it is one of his own.’ Scott added: ‘So awesome! And just to clarify I still love Keyflower! But I can see myself playing this [Key Flow] one a lot more.

  • I assume that you’ve got another project or two in the pipeline after Key Flow. Is there anything you can tell us about what might be coming in 2019 or 2020 from you?

Due to popular demand I’m planning a re-issue of Key Market at the end of 2018/early 2019.

I‘m currently working on a Keyper expansion, which is likely to take a modular approach. There are new country tiles – including some rather extreme tiles known as the Leader and the Partner`, a new folding country board, fish meeples and sea creature tiles and a new ‘Fresh Fish’ board. There is also a season board which introduces the rather mind blowing concept of non-coterminous player seasons.

My games generally take at least a couple of years from conception to be ready for publication and the 2020 game is also taking shape in the background.

  • Thank you so much for all of your time, Richard! If someone wanted to learn more about you, find you online, or order some of your games where could they go?

My pleasure and good questions. One day I will create a website, but life is too busy and at the moment and I prefer to spend my time designing the games. The best place to visit is my profile on Boardgamegeek, which links to all my published games. I announce my new games on BGG and on Facebook first, where I am happy to be befriended by interested gamers. The recent R&D games are generally available and are distributed by Game Salute in the US and by Huch elsewhere.

Thanks again for your interest and questions.

***

Cardboard Clash Keyflower: Keymelequin Giveaway
https://js.gleam.io/e.js

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Worker Placement Month

Review for Two – Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Thank you for checking review #60 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: A review copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

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Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a game designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone and was published by Stonemaier Games. The box states that it can play 2-6 players and has a 60 minute play time and a BGG weight rating of 3.12.

You find yourself in a dystopian cityscape with a few workers at your disposal to make your mark on the world. Like most people in dystopian fiction, your workers are oblivious to their situation. This world is all they’ve ever known, and you may use them at your whim.

The world as we know it has ended, and in its place the city of Euphoria has risen. Believing that a new world order is needed to prevent another apocalypse, the Euphorian elite erect high walls around their golden city and promote intellectual equality above all else. Gone are personal freedoms; gone is knowledge of the past. All that matters is the future.

The Euphorians aren’t alone. Outside the city are those who experienced the apocalypse firsthand—they have the memories and scars to prove it. These Wastelanders have cobbled together a society of historians and farmers among the forgotten scrap yards of the past.

There is more to the world than the surface of the earth. Deep underground lies the hidden city of Subterra, occupied by miners, mechanics, and revolutionaries. By keeping their workers in the dark, they’ve patched together a network of pipes and sewers, of steam and gears, of hidden passages and secret stairways.

In Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, you lead a team of workers (dice) and recruits (cards) to claim ownership of the dystopian world. You will generate commodities, dig tunnels to infiltrate opposing areas, construct markets, collect artifacts, strengthen allegiances, and fulfill secret agendas.

Euphoria is a worker-placement game in which dice are your workers. The number on each die represents a worker’s knowledge—that is, his level of awareness that he’s in a dystopia. Worker knowledge enables various bonuses and impacts player interaction. If the collective knowledge of all of your available workers gets too high, one of them might desert you. You also have two elite recruit cards at your disposal; one has pledged allegiance to you, but the other needs some convincing. You can reveal and use the reticent recruit by reaching certain milestones in the game… or by letting other players unwittingly reach those milestones for you.

Your path to victory is paved with the sweat of your workers, the strength of your allegiances, and the tunnels you dig to infiltrate other areas of the world, but the destination is a land grab in the form of area control. You accomplish this by constructing markets that impose harsh restrictions of personal freedoms upon other players, changing the face of the game and opening new paths to victory. You can also focus on gathering artifacts from the old world, objects of leisure that are extremely rare in this utilitarian society. The dystopian elite covet these artifacts—especially matching pairs—and are willing to give you tracts of land in exchange for them.

Four distinct societies, each of them waiting for you to rewrite history. What are you willing to sacrifice to build a better dystopia?

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

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The game plays the exact same with 2 players as any other player count, with the only changes being the number of spaces covered in each of the four areas for star placement (one star per player can be placed, meaning 4 spaces get blocked off per area) and the number of workers that are needed to build a new building (2 workers in a 2-player game).

My Thoughts

 There was a ton of thought that went into the theme of this game. From the simple idea of knowledge (more on that later) and its thematic placement (your workers are becoming more aware of being in a Dystopian society and, if they realize it, they will leave to find a better life) to the names and costs associated with the markets: this is all excellent for thematic immersion if you’re willing to consider it. You can play without reading those things and noticing the theme (isn’t that true of most games?), but taking the time to see these details really helps bring out that thematic experience gamers seem to crave. It isn’t tied to the mechanics like Viticulture, but it is still strong throughout.

 The dice work in this game. Not just because they are the workers, either! You’re sending a team of people you’re recruited out to do the tasks, but there is a chance they will gain knowledge about the conditions of their world and walk away. It presents a clever system where you want more workers to do more things, but the more workers you have the higher chance you have of losing one of them (the highest # rolled, when it happens). 3 workers seems like the sweet spot for most of the game, with there being enough risk that you feel comfortable with the cost associated (as long as your base knowledge stays at or close to 1). Another great factor comes in how the main resource spaces are used: you can’t get the maximum quantity with just one worker on the space. You need 9+ to reap the best benefit, so every worker going in helps you get that much closer. But 1-4 is great, too, because it lets you advance that faction on their track (letting you get closer to possibly flipping your face-down recruit and place a star on matching recruits.

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 The best part of the dice comes from the doubles. Enough so that it gets its own entry. Roll doubles and you can place both of those dice on your turn. Same with triples. Or quads (if you’re lucky enough and roll low enough, of course). That back-to-back action can let you start and finish a market construction in a 2-player game if you have the resources, allowing you to get a star advantage on the board and granting them a temporary disadvantage. But it is an easy mechanic to forget about in the heat of the game, so some players may never take advantage of this due to forgetfulness…

 The bump mechanic, something I enjoyed in Charterstone, is something I enjoy even more in this game. Not only is there the chance to bump your own worker in order to keep cycling your worker pool back to yourself, but you can also be strategic in bumping an opponent. Why? because they have to reroll the worker when it comes back and, if they are sitting within 5-6 of that 16 Knowledge, this could make them lose a worker. Those who thirst for direct interaction in their games should take note of this. Bumping is a good thing when it happens to you…except when it isn’t…

 Component quality has always been a mark of Stonemaier Games, and this one is no exception. Nice cards, colorful artwork, wooden tokens, and custom dice. An easy-to-navigate rulebook, a reference sheet, player reference cards. If you’ve played any Stonemaier title, you know what level of quality to expect in here and it delivers.

 They found a way to make the player reference card a part of the game with the Ethical Dilemma card. I enjoy the concept, and the ability to turn it in at some point to either gain a star or a new recruit card. However, I can’t tell you how often I forget it is there until I am at a point where I am trying to find out what stars I can earn quickly in order to close up to 10 stars.

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 Icarus feels powerful. Twice I’ve been in a game where a player kept two Icarus recruits. Twice they’ve flipped and starred those recruits really quickly. Do they still need to expand out beyond Icarus in order to win? Sure. But they seem overpowered if someone focuses hard on them.

 I really like that there is a penalty tied to anyone without a star on a market when it flips. Honestly, I do. It adds incentive to try and jump onto the building spaces as soon as someone else places a worker out there. However, sometimes these can be absolutely punishing. Case in point: the Apothecary of Productive dreams. You cannot place workers in Icarus if you don’t have a star on here. That one market allowed me to close the gap and almost steal victory from her. Most of the time they are inconvenient. Other times they can really hurt.

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 With the 2-player experience, we just don’t see too much completion for the miners. I like the concept behind them. Those spaces can be a great way to pay small amounts of resources to gain cards and better resources. However, only once have we seen a miner reach the end. With more players, I imagine this would be far more common to see.

Final Thoughts

This game combines a thing I know my wife loves (worker placement) with a thing she loathes (dice). I had no idea if this crazy combination would work, or if it would be well-received. After our first play, she was so against playing this game because our friend won it while both of us had just 5 stars. She blamed the dice. I convinced her to try again the next night with the two of us. I won by 2 stars. She walked away bitter. I let it sit on the shelf for a bit. About a week later she was texting me the games she wanted to be sure I kept when looking to part with some of my collection. This game was on the keep list, much to my surprise.

So we played it again and she won, finally coming to embrace the nature of chance and press-your-luck that the workers-as-dice can add to the game. Every game has been enjoyed since, and this is a keeper game for sure now. That should be a ringing endorsement that she likes the game in spite of her aversion to dice.

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And honestly, I have a lot of great feelings about this game. I think Viticulture is probably still my favorite Stonemaier title to date, but this is a close 2nd. I enjoy the bump mechanic, and the die faces of the workers being useful both in the generating of resources and being able to use doubles to place both workers in a single action. Especially in a 2-player game, that can be super powerful. The theme is found in every corner of the game, and I absolutely love it. Seriously, take the time to read the locations and think about the costs associated. It enhances the experience.

One of the things I appreciate the most with the game is that the end of the game is likely to trigger just as fast regardless of player count, keeping a fairly consistent play time. There are a lot of shared stars to be earned, whether via construction of markets or through the stars placed on recruit cards. No single star is going to take a ton of time to gain once the game gets going, making it a game that is always churning out rewards for your actions. Even when something really awful happens to set you behind, it won’t take more than a few well-planned turns to clear the obstacle and get back into the race.

The recruits are the thing that add to the replay value of the game, providing variance through a fairly thick deck of cards. Most games you’ll have 2 of them for the game and make use of their abilities when face-up (only one starts that way). Recruits not only provide unique abilities (of varying usefulness), but also ways of generating some extra stars through heavy progression of their faction. They are the aspect of the game, apart from the unique dice-workers and the knowledge balance, that make this game stand out. However, I foresee the game becoming repetitive after a while as prominent strategies begin to present themselves. I may be wrong, as it will take at least another dozen or so plays with the same circle to see if the same winning strategies continue to play out, but I’m hoping the upcoming expansion (which is adding solo!) will help add variety.

That being said, most of my experiences with this game have been surprisingly positive. I’ve really enjoyed the game and, as mentioned before, it has earned its place in my constantly-culled collection. It does things that few other worker placement games (that I know of) contain, and that in itself makes it a worthwhile experience. If you like worker placement at all, or have any interest in the theme, this is definitely worth the time. And if you, like so many others, enjoy the other Stonemaier Games titles, you definitely don’t want to miss checking this one out. Just because it was one of their first games doesn’t mean it is an inferior game! Some designers take time to build up to their best games. Jamey and Alan came out swinging from the start!

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Interview · Worker Placement Month

Interview with Isaac Childres, designer of Gloomhaven

I was fortunate enough to have Isaac respond back after reaching out to him about an interview. My intent was to have it be focused around Worker Placement, as when I first heard about Founders of Gloomhaven that was one of the advertised mechanics. It still has that mechanic listed, although (as you’ll see), he hesitates to even consider it a key piece of the game. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this excellent interview, and come back again soon as I continue to kick off Worker Placement month with reviews of Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia and Keyper, an interview with Richard Breese, and a giveaway for some Keyflower promos!

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  1.    Let’s start off by talking a little bit about your history with board games. What games did you play early on in the hobby? Were there any that stood out from the others and really made you want to look more into board games?

I started as most people start with Settlers of Catan, but it wasn’t until I started playing Puerto Rico and Agricola that I really wanted to get deeper in the hobby, as those sort of dice-less engine-building Euros are really what I enjoy.

  1.       What made you decide one day that you wanted to design a game? Was it something that you grew up tinkering with and eventually matured into something larger, or was it a passion you discovered later in life?

Definitely later in life. The more I got into the hobby, the more my brain started filling up with my own ideas, so I decided to pursue them.

  1.       Let’s talk about Forge War. Everything about this game drew me in, from the name and the box art to the “mini-game” aspect of mining to the forging of weapons that get equipped to complete quests. Was this one of your first game designs? Where did the idea for this game come from?

Yes, this was my first design. Two concepts that I really wanted to explore in the design were, 1. Incorporating a spatial reasoning component into an economic Euro. This was inspired by Trajan and its Mancala mechanism, and came through in the mining of resources. 2. Incorporating time-delayed rewards that encouraged long-term planning. This was inspired by Tzolkin and the way worker actions get better the farther along the wheels they move, and came through with the quest management, constantly having to advance and add resources to your quests to see them succeed.

  1.       What challenges did you encounter in the process of designing Forge War? Did the epic mode present different challenges to design than the standard, shorter game?

Well, the shorter game was a solution to the main challenge of the epic game, which was that it took too long to play. It is a great, epic experience, but I felt it needed a version that wasn’t 6 hours long. This was also my first design, so when I started I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until I learned that every piece to the game should have a valuable purpose, and that every decision a player makes should be meaningful, that I was able to turn it into something great.

  1.       You followed that game up in a big way, quite literally. Your second release was Gloomhaven, which currently sits at #1 on the BGG rankings and on so many Top 10 lists. What motivated you to pursue such a large project as your second release? What has surprised you most about the overall reaction to this game?

I never really intended Gloomhaven to be so large. It is just what emerged from what I wanted to do. I needed all of that content to build a real world that players could inhabit and enjoy for a long time. Just the overwhelming positive reaction was the most surprising. I knew it was a good game, but #1 on BGG was far beyond my expectations, and we are still selling out giant print runs of the game. Everyone is so excited about it, it just blows my mind.

  1.       One of the things that people enjoy about Dungeon Crawlers is that experience of feeling like they are a part of that character, and watching them grow and progress over a narrative arc from a weak adventurer into a full-fledged killing machine. I imagine that this choice, more than any other in the game, has led to some fairly passionate messages being sent your way! What inspired the decision to have characters retire in the Gloomhaven campaign rather than to have them infinitely level up along the way?

Because of the length of the campaign, I realized early on that players would probably get tired of playing the same thing over and over. Plus I wanted to make this variety of characters, so I actively wanted to encourage players to switch from one character to the next. That’s really all the retirement system is – encouraging players to try something new.

  1. Founders of Gloomhaven will obviously capture attention just from its name and the association with Gloomhaven. Can you tell us a little about Founders of Gloomhaven: kind of the who/what/how version of the game for players.

Founders is a competitive city-building, logistics game that tells the story of how Gloomhaven was built. Players will take turns playing from a limited hand of cards to place resources out onto a shared board, combine those resources into better ones, and then connect them to prestige buildings to earn points. Also every action your opponents take influences what you can do, so there is a very large amount of player interaction.

  1. I understand that the game itself has some aspect of Worker Placement that remains within its mechanics. You also integrated some Worker Placement into Forge War. Is that a mechanic you enjoy playing? Are there some Worker Placement games that have inspired you as a designer?

Worker placement is really just a specific way of doing action selection. In Founders, that’s really all it amounts to – if you build houses, you are able to take specific special actions when you would normally only get to take a basic action. I hesitate to even call it worker-placement because it is not a particularly good example of it. I think worker-placement really thrives when there is a scarcity of actions and resources, but there is also a diversity of actions to give players some avenue of hope even when their plans are blocked. I don’t think anyone’s ever done it better than Agricola. Action spaces in Founders are not necessarily scarce, though, and they are not meant to be. They are just there to provide a diversity of choices as a reward for delivering resources to different buildings.

  1. I know things are likely subject to change, but can you tell us a little about what you’re working on next?

Now I am spending all my free time on a big Gloomhaven expansion. I still have no idea how long it will take to complete, though.

  1. Finally, where can people find and interact with you on social media, order your games, sign up to keep up-to-date with your latest releases, and more?

People can find me on Twitter @Cephalofair, and the third printing of Gloomhaven should still be available in stores for a limited time. Founders will be coming out next month. And you can sign up for my monthly newsletter here: https://forms.aweber.com/form/11/560184811.htm