Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dice Tower Con 2018 Games Played, Part I

The big draw of Dice Tower Con is playing lots of games. And I played lots of games at the convention this year. Here's the first batch with mini-reviews.

In this 2-4 player game, players start with a hand of seven cards. On their turn, they draw two cards from a deck or from discard piles (each player discards to their own pile) and then play a card and discard a card. The deck is made up of a variety of trees (each has an individual color) numbered from one to eight. Players play down the cards in rows and columns, keeping the numbers in ascending or descending order (the colors can be mixed). The game ends when the draw deck runs out. Scoring happens color by color. First, everyone shows the remaining individual colored cards from their hand. Whoever has the highest total in that color gets to score for that color (e.g. the Three and Six of blue would beat the Seven of blue). That player counts cards between the lowest number and the highest number in that color on their play area. The intermediate cards need not be the same color. Bonuses are added if the scoring player uses the One card, the Eight card, and/or if all the cards are the same color. Highest number of points wins.

My arboretum

I like this game. The idea seems simple but it is actually a lot trickier because a player needs to play a set of cards but also keep a high card or two in their hand in order to score those cards. Laying out the cards is more strategic than is immediately obvious too. The game is fun but sadly out of print.

Castles of Burgundy Dice Game
This roll-and-write game lets players select their initial castle (four of them are on the sheet) and then build out from it by using combinations of dice colors and numbers. As the players expand their little empire, they gain more special abilities (like being able to change a die number or color) to make future moves easier. The game is played in three rounds (an extra die works as a timer, ticking off one or two time units per move), with players scoring points as they complete colored zones on their sheet.

My CoB sheet

At first, I thought this might be a little dull or too similar for each player (one roll of dice is used by everyone simultaneously, so they do the exact same thing). The end result had a lot more variety than I was expecting. It goes fairly quickly and the decisions are not too difficult though varied enough to be interesting. The fellow I played with said the game has a lot of the flavor of the original Castles of Burgundy game without the extra complications.

Ticket to Ride New York
This stripped-down version of the classic train game has players putting down taxicabs instead of traincars on routes in Lower Manhattan (and a bit of Brooklyn). Players have fewer destination cards and the same sort of drawing options (two of any color cards or one wild card; choosing new routes). Play proceeds like the original game but goes quicker since players only have 15 cabs to place and the map is a lot smaller.

Ticket to Ride New York in progress

I found this a fun introductory version of the game. It plays in under twenty minutes, making it a good filler. I'm not sure I want it for my collection unless I was trying to get my youngest into the Ticket to Ride franchise.

Flow of History
This civilization building game has players acquiring cards from a line of five to add to their tableau. Each color represents a type of building or resource in a nation (red is for military, blue is for government, green is for science, yellow is for leaders, etc.). A player first bids on a card, placing their one token on it and some money. In a subsequent round, the player can collect that claimed card (retrieving their claim token and putting the money in the reserve)--unless another player swipes the card by paying how much the first player put down. The first player gets that money and half the money that accumulates in the reserve. Some cards have special abilities that either trigger immediately or can be done later instead of claiming or collecting cards. The game cards are divided into various ages.

The game box

The rules are not written very clearly and the game has a lot of moving parts that are hard to track in a first game. We found the special abilities hard to use and wound up cycling through the claim and collect actions. The abilities weren't confusing, they just never seemed applicable. Not recommended.

Broom Service
Players manage two witch pawns on the board, who collect victory points by delivering potions to towers in various locations. The locations are highly reminiscent of Small World, with plains and hills and mountains etc. The art style is very close. Players choose four cards from their set of witches, druids, and potion collectors. The witches and druids can only operate in certain places. The potion collectors bring more potions to the player. The trick with the game is that each card has a "brave" power and a "cowardly" power. When a player plays the Wood Witch, they must declare if they will be brave, meaning they move and deliver a potion in the same turn. The coward option only allows movement (no delivery and no scoring). If another player has the same card, they have to play it and make the same choice. If a second person chooses to be brave, then the first brave person does nothing with that card. So the game has an element of bluffing and counting cards.

Broom Service about to start

The cutesy art belies the strategic depth of the game. In addition to the challenge of bluffing, if a player plans to play their four cards in a certain order, that's likely to get messed up when other players play the same cards in a different order. Choosing for maximum efficiency is almost impossible; planning to be flexible is the way to go. I found it a fun challenge.

Players are explorers delving ever deeper into a pyramid, collecting treasures when they have enough of their meeples on the same tile. The meeples work their way to the center where the valuable sarcophagi are. Once the two sacrophagi are taken (or looted depending on how you look at the game), the game ends. Players score for the treasures they've found and the rooms where their meeples are located (the walls show a score).

Luxor ready to go

This light, quick playing game is fun and a little thinky. Players have five cards in their hands. On each turn, they play one card to move one of their adventurers, but only a card from the left end or the right end of their hand. After moving and resolving any actions that causes (like grabbing a treasure or moving further), they may have the opportunity to draw an even better movement card from the advanced decks or a regular card from the draw deck. That card goes in the middle of their hand of cards, so it is not available for play for the next two turns (possibly longer). The locked hand of cards is interesting, making the player have to think about their next move or two as they play. Of course, the other players' movements may cause complications.

I liked the game and the components are high quality.

Century: Eastern Wonders
This sister game to Century: Spice Road has players as merchants trading various resources (represented by little colored cubes) in order to deliver goods to the ports on the board, thus gaining victory points. As their boats wander around a randomly-generated hexagonal tile board, they have the opportunity to use the action on the tile or gain two basic goods. As the players build on each tile, they can get new abilities or extra points. They race around converting individual cubes or sets of cubes into other cubes that eventually can be traded for victory points.

A crowded board

The board gets a little crowded as the game goes on, making it important for players to pay attention to a lot of different things. The game requires planning a few moves ahead in order to accomplish goals. Making a delivery for victory points is very satisfying.

Plague, Inc.
Players are various plagues trying to infest the world. The board has space for six continents which get populated with countries from a deck of cards. Players place a country on the board and then get to spread their infection. Special options like Airborn or Waterborn allow diseases to move from continent to continent if the countries have airport symbols or anchor symbols. Other countries may have heat or cold (like Egypt or Sweden), so the viruses would need other characteristics to infect those countries. Fortunately (for the players, not for the world), a hand of trait cards can give the needed attributes or other special abilities. Once a country is full of infections (there are between three and eight spaces), the player with the most of disease cubes rolls a die to see if the country dies. Each country is worth points and killing the most countries in a continent gains more points at the end of the game.

Despite the grim topic, the game is abstract enough to be enjoyable. I like having special powers and the ones in this game are thematic and entertaining. Wiping out a country is a bit like when the White House gets blown up in Independence Day, a very exciting moment. I thought the game was fairly standard in the area-control genre of games.

This sequel to Kingdomino adds some new mechanics to last year's hit. A new area (red land) is included where players can build buildings that will give victory points or special powers. If a player has the most castles, the queen visits their kingdom, conferring bonus points if she stays till the end of the game. Players can also play knights to collect taxes (you need the money to buy the buildings).

The game in action

Cool new bits

I enjoyed the game but think it is too close to the original. Sure, it is a deeper and more challenging game, but it might be too much for young kids. And we haven't gotten everything out of our own copy of Kingdomino yet. If you don't already own the first game, I would recommend the second.

Players are scientists at a world's fair trying to put together the cleverest contraption ever. They start out with a basic device and start collecting new components (cards with various bonuses) and energy spheres (marbles with various colors). Players spend the spheres to add the components to their machine. The fun thing is each component can add to the action. For example, one card lets a player draw a random marble from the hopper if the player collects a yellow marble. A second card may give another bonus when the player collects a blue marble, so if the random marble is blue, the player does even more actions.


The game is a lot of fun. It starts slow but as the machine is built up, players can have a grand time activating power after power (though they can't create an infinite loop since each card can only be activated once per turn). Building a cool engine is more fun than winning the game.

More games to come in a future post...

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