The Alea Analysis, Part Nine: The Castles of Burgundy (#14), Artus (M#7), Las Vegas (M#8)

This article is the eighth in a continuing series that analyzes the entire Alea line of games. For past articles you can read about: Ra, Chinatown, and Taj Mahal in Part One; or Princes of Florence, Adel Verpflichtet, and Traders of Genoa in Part Two; or Wyatt Earp, Royal Turf, and Puerto Rico in Part Three; or Die Sieben Weisen, Edel, Stein & Reich, and Mammoth Hunters in Part Four; or San Juan, Fifth Avenue, and Louis XIV in Part Five; or Palazzo, Augsburg 1520, and Rum & Pirates in Part SixNotre Dame, In The Year of the Dragon, and Witch’s Brew in Part Seven; or Macao, Alea Iacta Est, and Glen More in Part Eight.

By 2011 and 2012, Alea was deep in Stefan Feld land, but that was only the big box series. The medium boxes proved that they were still publishing very interesting games from other designers. Continue reading

New to Me: Fall 2016 — A Key Quarter

Personally, Fall 2016 was the quarter when I started actively seeking out Richard Breese’s Key games, because of how much I liked Keyflower (2012). You’ll see a few of them on this list. More generally, it was a pretty OK quarter. Nothing stuck out as Great, though The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (2016) was close, but there was also a lot of stuff that was Very Good. And, nothing was absolutely horrible.

As usual this is a list of games that are new to me, and and as usual this listing ranks them by how much I personally like them, as a medium-weight eurogamer.

The Very Good

The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (2016). One of my playing group asked me if we’d hit peak worker placement and my knee-jerk response was, “yes”. But honestly I’m not sure. We’re a long way out from Caylus (2005), but worker placement has become an almost defining element of eurogaming. I’d swear there were more eurgames with worker placement than not; if so, we may not have hit the peak yet.

Anywho, Energy Empire is a worker-placement game of energy production and resource management. It’s got several elements that set it aside as a unique design. First, you can use a global action space that someone else is occupying, you just have to spend extra energy to do so. Second, after you use a global action space, you can also use personal action spaces (which is the biggest similarity to the original Manhattan Project), as long as their categories match. Third, everyone refreshes their workers at different times (another similarity to the original game); now, it creates even more interesting dynamics for the global spaces, since you’re constantly stacking up more energy than what’s there already.

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New to Me: Fall 2013

Though my new gaming was light in fall (primarily because my gaming was light in fall, due to the holidays), I’ve opted to publish my short list of new-to-me games while they’re all still fresh. (And it looks like I still managed almost a dozen new games.) As always this is an assessment of how much I like the games, rather than whether they’re great or not. I tend to prefer light-to-medium euros that don’t make me work too hard.

The Great

Caverna: The Cave FarmersCaverna: The Cave Farmers (2013). I thought Agricola (2007) was great the first time I played it, because it combined worker placement with scarcity and it also supported deep and thoughtful gameplay. It’s too long for me to play very often, but it’s still a great game that I love when I play. Caverna is essentially more of the same, but with fantasy theming, with some simplified game elements, with reduced randomness, and with an interesting new expeditions systems. Overall, it’s a great variant, that’s just (barely) far enough from the original that you might want to own both.

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Shannon’s Christmas ’13 Gift-Giving Guide

Last year, I published my first gaming gift guide. It was a look at new-ish board and card games that might make nice gifts for a variety of gamers. Last year’s listing may be a year old, but it’s still very relevant, and I still recommend the games on it. However, if you’re looking for things that are even newer, here are my top suggestions of games from the last year or two.

For the Family Gamer

These games might work well for the casual family that occasionally enjoys a game. I thought this category was particularly strong this year, with all the games in it being quick, light, original, and fun.

AugustusAugustus (Hurican, 2013, $40)
Super Short Play (< 30 minutes)
Designed by Paolo Mori

When I first saw this game, I was told that it was “eurogame Bingo”. That disconcerted me because it sounded really simplistic. However, it turns out to be a great description of the game and it’s a lot of fun.

In this game, a player gets a few different “BINGO” cards, each of which requires several icons to finish. Icon chits are then pulled from the bag one at a time. The game gains depth from the fact that: (1) you have to decide which card to place each icon on; (2) cards have special powers when completed that you can use to help yourself in the future; and (3) you’re also competing for achieving certain goals first. You add all thistogether and you have a colorful and evocative game.

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New To Me: Winter & Spring 2013

As with its predecessors, this article is intended to talk about the games that I played recently which I’d never played before. Most of them are games that were published in the last year or so within the United States, but on occasion I play a “new to me” game that is quite older; they’re all listed here.

I usually write this article on a quarterly basis, since that tends to offer up a good selection of new games. However, my new game selection in Winter was quite poor due to a combination of sickness and vacation (fortunately, not at the same time!). So I didn’t write the article in April, as I usually would have … then got deluged by new games in Spring. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about this time …

Keep in mind these are not my assessments of whether the games are good or bad, but instead my assessments of whether they appeal to me. Generally, I like light but strategic games that are euro designs but that don’t feel like work to me. They’re in roughly descending order of interest. Continue reading