Day 3 is the Saturday and a busy day as more join for the weekend finale to the convention. This is a good day to scout Halls 4/5 only dropping into the main areas when lunch or other factors mean the hall volumes decrease!
Mutants: Started the day with a new kickstarter (live as this drops), which was a very exciting mutliplayer deck builder. Normally the combative nature of some deckbuilders can make anything above two player challenging, but with lessons learnt from Dominion this game allows for widespread attacks without targeting as well as plenty of strategies that do not rely on effecting your opponent.
You draw through a simple deck of cards and use them to unlock more cards. Each card has different powers and is worth different points. At the end you will be scored for removing cards from your deck and you can only do this when you recycle your discard pile or from card effects. Focusing on this element alone though is not sufficient as each round is a power struggle with the other players and the most powerful player in the round will walk away with a lot of bonus points – especially if they can achieve an early end to the round by being significantly more powerful than all the other players on the team.
The card drafting element of the game adds asymmetry and the need to defend / attack means that this is far from a solo game. The card art leaves a little to be desired, but if you enjoy a good deck building game this is worth looking into.
Potion Explosion: The first thing everyone says is that this game looks like an app! You are taking marbles out of lines and then getting more marbles if the marbles that collide are the same colour. Such a simple mechanic, but lots of fun.
You use these marbles to combine into potions that you have on your stand. The game ends when the bonus points for first to five different potions / 3 of a kind run out and then every player will get a chance to finish their potions.
On the face of it there is not much to this game, but skillful use of the potions as you go along and expert use of the free potion to take an additional marble (it’s only -2 points) can make for a lot of emergent game play that is not obvious to new players. Setting the board for yourself and not leaving obvious opportunities for others is key. A great, light, family game and well worth taking a look.
Build & Putt: A little golf based dexterity game. What it lacks in thematic appeal it makes up for in the building blocks that magnetically combine to create the course. Fun for a lot of players, but aimed at younger audiences – this game still makes a great break at a convention and a must try if you see it.
Fortune: The fable series of games is incredibly clever – you learn the rules as you go through a deck of cards in front of you. No need to prepare for the game, and a steady incremental build up of complexity. However, for us and Fortune (a game seemingly set in the gambling world of Las Vegas) this did leave us a little bit confused about who was winning, what we were meant to track and what was the point. I craved some guidance at the outset as to what good looked like here.
However, as an experience this is a very clever system. The designer, also behind many great solo games liked “Friday” and “Finished”, has created another clever masterpiece of mechanics and structure. The use of the cards to create a variety of adjustable rules is exceptional, but I would suggest blocking out an hour and playing through the deck in full to get the best experience from this.
Buurn: Straight from the Snakes & Lates stand – the first time the famous Canadian cafe had graced the convention. This little auction game had an interesting reverse bid system – all players counted down until the first player moved to grab the token that marked that they had taken the auction. The other players all then scramble to either get money, bonus cards or pay for another item that would be auctioned in the future (taking it off the market before other players saw it!).
The game is exceptionally clever and the different options are meaningful. Equally the different methods of scoring points meant that no two scores were close in their construction. Lots of varied set collection and a really clever auction make this game sound highly attractive, but there was a big issue for us about the layout of the game. Sat around the table and with the devices for the auction outcome between us there was a clear disadvantage to some players in reaching certain outcomes. I, for example, could almost never get the black market action just because of where I sat.
That’s manageable within the game strategies, but I would love to find a way around that problem for the next time we play!
Expo 1906: A medium to heavy weight Euro with tile placement onto a private player board to complete contracts. This game combined the poly-ominos style (i.e. tetris shape fitting) with the action selection of games such as Concordia to make a really clever game set in the world of inventions at the Expo of 1906. This is when Steam and Electricity were competing for prominence and players will get the chance to back a scientific method as part of their points scoring success.
There is so much to follow on this board with resources to buy, technologies to invest in and technology tracks that you want to move up along. Clever play will result in regular small scoring opportunities with a large end game bonus. This balance will leave players guessing as to who is actually in the lead and how the game will finish – especially if the contest between steam and electricity is tight. A gamer controlled finish to the game also highlights the interesting options to players who think they are in the lead.
A really enjoyable game, and one that our group took home from the convention.
King and Assassins (Pictured): The very precise name of the title is exactly what it suggests – a singular king fleeing through a city of potential assassins. This two player asymmetric game brings to life the old viking game of defending the king – with that player trying to reach the far edge of the board with only a few knights to protect him from a hoard of potential opponents.
The assassins will want to remain hidden and surround the king so that one slip can prove fatal. Good crowd pushing tactics by the guards can keep the townsfolk at bay. Multiple maps, variation in the assassin’s starting choices and emergent strategy would keep this fresh for a while, but very hard to communicate with a team player so more for a two player only group.
Sub Terra: This was a classic from Kickstarter a few years ago and on delivery suffered some complaints about production, however seeing the version at Essen I struggle to see the issue. This clever tile placement game offers a co-operative game structure with a difference. Players search through a cave, avoiding horrors, flooding and cave ins only to dash to the exit as soon as one of them can find it. Challenging to regroup the players along their paths and plenty of risks that need to be taken – this game is simple and yet hard to master.
With three boxes of expansions there is also plenty to be added to this game, but it’s out of print so getting this could be challenging. Check out the board game geek market, or your next convention is this does sound interesting.