A Deckbuilding Look at The Quest for El Dorado

The Quest for El Dorado (2017) is exciting because it’s an entrant in the deckbuilding field by master designer Reiner Knizia. It’s also exciting because it’s one of the scant games that uses deckbuilding as an engine to drive play on a gameboard, with Trains (2012), Tyrants of the Underdark (2016), Automobiles (2016), and several wargames being among the few prior releases that did so to this same depth, and at this same level of quality.

The Game

The Quest for El Dorado (2017) is a racing game, and in fact it’s the game that encouraged me to write my current series of articles on racing games, in large part because it’s a pretty great one. The object of the game is to travel across several tiles to be the first to get to El Dorado. Each of those tiles is filled with hexes of a variety of terrain types, with the most important ones being green jungles, blue waters, and yellow villages. Players will actually get to choose their route across the tiles, strategically selecting between long but easy routes and short but difficult ones. Continue reading

The Anatomy of Racing Games: What Makes a Great Race

Racing games are the least common denominator of board games. Candyland (1949) certainly isn’t a well-respected game nor are other roll-and-move games. However, there are also plenty of modern racing eurogames which are great. I’ve got quite a few of them in my permanent collection, including Around the World in 80 Days (2004), Cartagena (2000), Fast Flowing Forest Fellers (2008)The Quest for El Dorado (2017), and Snow Tails (2008).

So what makes the difference?

I think six different attributes contribute to great racing game play — elements that have largely appeared since the eurogame explosion of the ’90s. I’ve listed them here in decreasing order of importance. Great racing games don’t usually have all of them; in fact, that’d probably be too much! But the really good racing games tend to feature several of these attributes, particularly the higher ranked ones. Continue reading

Deckbuilding Expansion: Ascension, Part Three: From Dreamscape to Shadows

Ascension Core GameAscension is one of the prolific deckbuilders out there. In the past I’ve written about the first eight releases in Deckbuilding Expansions, Part One: From Chronicles to Heroes and Deckbuilding Expansions, Part Two: From Vigil to Champions. As I said at the time, I wanted to discuss how these expansions “influenced the Ascension game and deckbuilding in general”

Since my last article, in August of 2015, several new Ascension expansions have appeared, but these new releases represent a change in how they’re produced: they’re no longer arranged into paired blocks that work well together. In fact, they’re on longer even lightly linked as was the case with the seventh and eighth sets; instead each expansion now feature totally disparate mechanics As a player I’m not fond of these change, because some of the games no longer feel like they have enough cards. As a designer, however, I’m thrilled that it allows me to explore that many more mechanics.

Because of these changes, new articles in this series will be talking about individual sets, rather than coherent blocks. This article discusses sets nine and ten, both of which were pretty feature rich.
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Support Mechanics & Meeples in 2018

Over the years, my board game writing has very much been a labor of love. So, once a year I like to remind readers that they can help to support this writing, and ensure that Mechanics & Meeples continues into the distant future.

If you’re interested in supporting the publication of Mechanics & Meeples articles, I encourage you to become a patron at Patreon. You can choose to contribute as little as $1 per new article I write (or even $1 per month), and in doing so you’ll work together with (hopefully) lots of other patrons to support this site.

Here’s the URL:


When you become a Patreon, you can also receive all of the notes I post on Patreon, where I do my best to post a link for every board game review I publish and for every old article that I revive here. So, it’s a one-stop shop for all of my board game writing (though only the new stuff is labeled as “paid” creations).

Even if you personally can’t become a patron, thanks for your readership and your thoughtful comments. That’s just as important as a little bit of patronage to keep me writing!

New To Me: Fall 2017

As usual, this is my quarterly list of games that I played in the last three months that I had never played before. Many of them are fairly new games, but sometimes there are older games too, that I’ve just now played for the first time. Also as usual, the ratings all match my personal enjoyment of the game as a eurogamer who likes medium-weight games. YMMV. 

The Very Good

Terraforming Mars (2016). One of last years’ most popular games finally got a play from  me this fall. It turns out that it’s largely a card-driven engine-building game, not unlike Master of Orion: The Board Game (2016), which I also wrote about recently. You’ve got six different resources, which get produced each turn, and various cards can give you more production, more resources, or the ability to use the resources. There also is a board, which lets you build cities, waterways, and forests, and there’s definite strategy based on board position, but it’s the least part of the game.

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The Eurogame is Dead! Long Live the Eurogame!

I’ve been seriously playing eurogames for about 15 years now. The Settlers of Catan was my gateway — both because it was the first euro that I owned, back in the ’90s, and also because it was the game that got me interested in the rest of the euro field, in the early ’00s. My first month of recorded games in October 2003 is a set of classics: Domaine (2003) x2, High Society (1995), New England (2003), Serenissima (1996), Starship Catan (2001), and The Settlers of Canaan (2003). It shows how heavily the special Ks of Kramer, Klaus, and Knizia impacted me in those early days of gaming.

In the fifteen years that I’ve been eurogaming, the field has transformed pretty notably. I mean, change is a constant; I tried to talk about the ongoing transformation of the field in yearly reports for 2005 and 2006 but I eventually decided that the board gaming field was too slow moving for that type of yearly reporting to be meaningful. 

But now it’s 15 years past my entry to the field … and you can see a lot of change in 15 years!

So, to close out this year, I’m going to talk about what I see as some of the major changes in the eurogame field between the start of this century and … today. Continue reading