Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Games I Tried at the UK Games Expo 2013

One of the great things about going to a board games convention is getting to play random games with random strangers. Everyone has the opportunity to try out new games and make new friends in a fun environment. You don't even have to bring games with you, the convention had a games library with a wide variety of classic and new games. So here's a run down of games I played but didn't buy (which does not mean they weren't good, just that better games claimed my limited budget).

St. Petersburg by Rio Grande Games
This game is set in Czarist Russia and players work to build the town of St. Petersburg into a great city. Each player starts with 25 rubles and dreams of fame and fortune. Then players draw little tokens to see who will go first in each phase of a round.

The rounds are divided into four phases corresponding to the four types of cards in the game: worker phase, building phase, aristocrat phase, and trading card phase. The board starts with eight worker cards and the person who drew the worker token goes first. During the phase, each player has one choice of four actions:
  • Buy a card and put it face up in front of you
  • Pick up a card and put it in your hand (hand limit is three, with a -5 point penalty for any cards in your hand at the end of the game)
  • Play a card from your hand, pay its cost, and then put if face up in front of you
  • Pass
Play proceeds clockwise until the next phase, the building phase. At that point, all the remaining worker cards are moved across the row and building cards are placed on the board until there are eight cards for purchase. Then the person with the worker token goes first, etc. After the the final phase (trading cards), the tokens rotate to the left so a new person starts the next worker phase.

At the end of each of the first three phases, victory points and money are awarded for any face up cards players have of that category. Thus, at the end of the worker phase, each player receives something for each worker currently face up in his play area. Typically, workers give money, buildings give victory points, aristocrats give both. The trading cards are special cards that upgrade the other three types of cards, so to buy them a player has to replace a related card already in their play area. Often these double the reward of the original cards or provide special bonuses, so they are worth considering.

The game ends when one of the four decks of cards runs out. The players finish the final trading phase and then tally their victory points. Additional victory points are awarded for the variety of aristocrats players have (one aristocrat gets one point, two get three points, etc.).

The game was a little confusing to figure out from the rules book. It took a few rounds till we understood how to restock the cards and some of the special power cards (like the Observatory) were hard to understand how they worked. The game moved pretty quickly, which was nice. It's fun too once it gets going if you play well early on. I managed to blunder into some good moves and won the game with beginner's luck. I would play it again, though it didn't make the "must purchase" list.

Shadows Over Camelot Card Game by Days of Wonder
A group of adventurers set off on quests to find Excalibur, fight a dragon, fight Picts, fight Saxons, and search for the Holy Grail. But one of the players may be a traitor, trying to make the quests fail. Either all the good players win when seven quests are completed or the bad player wins when seven quests fail.

At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt an alignment card. They look at it to see if they are good or bad. The deck has two more cards than players and has one evil alignment card, so it might be that everyone is good. Most likely, someone is evil.

The game then begins with a deck in the middle of the table. Players turn up one card at a time, putting the card in a face-up pile. Each card has one quest symbol and a number or a question mark. In order to win a quest, the total of the numbers for those quest cards have to equal 11, 12, or 13. The question mark cards are worth the total number of question mark cards (regardless of suit, I mean, quest type) in the face-up pile. So players need to keep track of the math. Once someone thinks a quest is winnable, they need to say "we're going on a quest" when that quest's card is on top of the face up deck. Then all the cards are sorted into quests and the totals are tallied. If the number on the selected quest is 11, 12, or 13, the group is awarded a white sword. If it is different, they get a black sword. Also, for secondary quests that go over 13, each one earns a black sword. If a secondary quest is in the 11 to 13 range, that also gets awarded a white sword.

Adding to the challenge are various special cards that change things. For example, the Morgana cards might force players to read the card out loud and place it face down on face-up deck, requiring the players to remember from hearing rather than seeing (and enabling a bad guy to bluff). Or players may have to draw a card from the two remaining alignment cards and then decide if they want that card or keep their original.

Also, players can challenge another player, claiming that person is the traitor. If the accusation is correct, the group gets a white sword. If it is incorrect, they get a black sword.

I wasn't quite ready for this game. I had a very hard time keeping the numbers straight in my head and we seemed to fail almost every time. So people who had the evil alignment won every time! I might get better at this game but I didn't enjoy it enough thematically to want to play it again.

Word A Round by Thinkfun
This light card game plays with a round deck of cards. The card has three circles with letters inside. The letters spell a word either clockwise or couter-clockwise, and the first person to shout out one of the words gets that card. Then a new card is dealt out. Once the deck is done, the person who gained the most cards wins.

We had a lot of fun playing this game. Sometimes the words were really obvious to one person and they'd get it immediately to the amazement of others. Sometimes we'd spend 30 or 40 seconds trying to figure one of the words out. Occasionally there were ties and near ties as people shouted out words. The group I played with was really great about crediting the first person to shout out. If it was too close to call, the two players would play rock-paper-scissors to determine the winner.

The deck is pretty large (100 cards) so I don't think players can memorize cards though they may develop skills to figure out words faster. I think it is pretty replayable and would be fun for all.

Coup by La Mame Games
Each player represents a medieval family that wants to take over the town. Each player has some influence, but they may lose it if they are not careful!

Players begin the game with two coins and two influences, represented by two face down cards in front of them. The cards have people who grant special actions, like the Captain who can extort two coins from another player or the Duke who can take three coins from the treasury. A few of the character can also block other players actions, like the Contessa who can stop the Assassin from killing one of your cards. Players can use a special action on their turn or take one of the regular actions: take one coin as income, take two coins as foreign aid (which can be blocked), or spend seven coins to reduce someone's influence.

The game is all about bluffing. Players may claim to have a power to attack or block another player even if they don't really have it. An attacked or blocked player can say, "I don't believe you have X." If the person does have X, then the accuser has to turn up one of their hidden cards and can't use that ability. The accused then shuffles the X card back into the remaining cards and draws a new face-down card, so people don't know what it is. If the accused doesn't have X (i.e. they bluffed), then the accused has to turn up one of their cards. Players are eliminated when both cards are turned up.

We had fun playing this though I am not good at reading other players' bluffs. We had six players, providing plenty of interaction. The first game I was eliminated pretty early. The second game, I was third place. The game is enjoyable in its simplicity, relying more on the bluffing aspect than any card strategy.

Sitting Ducks Gallery by Playroom Entertainment
Players have a set of five ducks that must survive being out on the pond during hunting season. The ducks are represented by cards with different colored ducks (the players keep the sixth card of the same color so they remember what color they are). All the cards are shuffled together with some blanks creating a draw pile. A board with six spaces on it represents the pond. Each one is filled from the deck. If a duck is shot, everyone move up one space and a new card comes out.

The players are also dealt three cards from the action deck. The actions include aiming, shooting, exchanging places with other ducks, hiding behind other ducks or under water, or moving the whole row one forward, with the first card going to the bottom of the draw pile. Players each take a turn to play one action card and then draw a replacement. If an aim card is played, a cross-hairs token is place above one of the six spaces. When the ducks move, the aim is on a new duck. Playing the shoot action allows the player to remove one of the ducks underneath an aim marker, which is removed along with the duck. The nice thing is that even if a player's ducks are all removed, the player still plays actions cards (maybe a chance to get vengeance on whoever eliminated you?).

We liked the lack of player elimination, it kept people involved in the game. It's light and fun and easy enough for children to grasp and enjoy. We may get it for our own children.

The games I played and bought (Caylus: Magna Carta, Smash Up, Forbidden Desert, Ticket to Ride 1910) will get individual reviews after a couple more plays. Look for them in the future!

No comments:

Post a Comment