Archive for category Mini Reviews
It’s been a long time since I reviewed a game I’ve played. It also seems like it’s been a long time since I got new games I wanted to review. So it’s time to break my fast of game reviews with two E-G-Gs. That’s Eagle Gryphon Games’ small box series. Who doesn’t like breakfast food.
Jason Tagmire’s Seven7s is #7 in the E-G-G Series. And it is exactly the filler game I want it to be. So many games, especially light games, fall short of expectations. But Seven7s nails the strategic filler game with the right balance of strategy and randomness for the length.
- 49 Cards, plus some quick reference cards and the rules.
Really simple component list here. When your game is just a deck of cards, the card quality matters, and EGG has delivered. These cards shuffle beautifully. The box size is fixed as part of the E-G-G line, and hopefully the extra room will be used by an expansion in the near future.
The core gameplay is simply play a card, draw a card. There are seven suits of seven cards, and each suit is a famous set of seven things (Wonders of the world, deadly sins, etc.), numbered 1 to 7. Cards are played to one of 7 stacks, by suit, and the game ends when any stack has 7 cards. Score at the end is simply the value of the cards in your hand.
But each suit also has a unique power, activated when added to its matching stack. There are two special suits, Ages of Man and Colors. Each card is one of the seven colors, with different numbers having different colors in each suit. Playing a Color makes cards of that color wild, so they can be played anywhere. Ages of Man are always wild, but if played to the Ages of Man stack, players ignore cards with values of 7, 6, 5… for each card played. But cards of the current Color are always worth the maximum.
The game revolves around using these powers and trying to maximize your score for the end of the game.
I’m a sucker for games involving the seven Wonders of the world. But the gameplay really brings me back. It’s really easy to teach, but offers a lot of tough choices about what cards to play. for a Draw 1, Play 1 style game with a 3 card hand, it’s surprisingly strategic . And it still works all of your tactical muscles. It’s a balance of risk and reward holding onto the cards you think will maximize your score. The category powers add a twist to the simple equation, and the scoring at the end is really clever because the value of a given card can really swing during play. It’s everything I want for a game that plays in about 15 minutes with virtually no setup.
Very little for me to criticize in Seven7s. It would have been nice to see unique art on each card, but I know that would be expensive for a small game. Maybe we’ll get a deluxe edition in a few years. My biggest complaint is that I have to wait for an expansion!
I compared Seven7s to another small 7-based game, Red7. Red7 has a super simple highly random mode, and a super complex highly random mode. But I find Seven7s to be the far superior game. It knows exactly what it is trying to achieve and then does it. Light, but not too random, strategic but not too brain burning. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Wharfside is game #8 in the E-G-G series, set in the world of Fleet, and designed by the “Fleeples”, Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback. But Wharfside is an entirely new game with its own feel.
- 72 Goods cards, (shrimp, oyster, tuna, lobster swordfish crab)
- 20 Contracts, and 4 Buildings (similar to contracts but fixed points and generally more expensive)
- 7 Trophies
- 4 Captains (scoring reference, each with a bonus for a different catch)
Typical high E-G-G card quality. The art is recycled from Fleet, but that’s expected when you make a small game set in the same universe.
Players collect different types of fish, and shellfish at the wharf and sell sets of them to gain contracts that grant grant abilities. [Important notes: a more valuable set of fish can be played to obtain a contract, e.g. 3 of a kind instead of a pair, 3 lobsters in place of 3 shrimp, and a pair of goods can be used in place of any 1 good to buy or fulfill a contract or building] Players also use goods to fill contracts, and completed contracts earn points but lose their abilities. A turn can either be buying a contract or a building or using the wharf, which consists of using any abilities, allocating goods to contracts, and finally drawing two new cards from the three available “north wharf” or three available “south wharf” goods. When new contracts are obtained, the newly revealed contract also adjusts the market price for one of the contracts. Play continues until a player completes 4 or 5 contracts (including buildings), then it’s most points from completed contracts, captain bonuses, trophies (earned for being the first to complete various types of contracts), and any King Crabs which can be set aside during play.
A return to Ridback Bay is always welcome. Like the original Fleet, Wharfside is focused and well balanced instead of trying to do everything all at once. But you can still see room for expansions. The game plays quickly and should teach easily, since the fish cards have just one piece of information on them. The replacement of an auction with the contracts makes Wharfside accessible to new players while keeping a similar flavor. The game gives plenty of ways to adjust your strategy, and a great take on tableau and engine building, where you slow yourself down by converting to points. There’s actually a lot going on between the markets, allocating goods to contracts, and managing powers, that you’re trying to balance 3 turns ahead. But turns are still quick, because the actions are straightforward. For the box size, Wharfside has a lot of table presence, but it still feels very manageable.
The only real thing I can complain about with Wharfside is that it plays like a bigger game than it is. The theme was a little light compared to Fleet. You don’t ’re not catching fish or launching boats, you’re just moving sets of things around. You can occasionally get bitten by the randomness. There’s a little bit of randomness when activating abilities and drawing new cards, but that really makes the strategy overall randomness is pretty low because you can make almost any set of cards work in your favor. Interaction is also light, because you can’t do much to interfere with an opponent. But I’d rather have that than having my plans ruined. And these are very minor issues, because the theme, randomness, and interaction are all appropriate for the game weight.
Unfairly, Wharfside will likely live in the shadow of Fleet. But while there are thematic and mechanical similarities, none of it feels like a rehash. Wharfside is a great game in its own right. If you’ve got enough room to play Wharfside, you probably also have enough room to play Fleet. But that doesn’t really matter, because they fill different purposes, and are both worth carrying around. If anything, Wharfside might stay with me because it is more convenient to pack. If you’re fishing for a new game, Wharfside is an original experience in a familiar package, plenty strategic but light enough to kick back and play the next time you find yourself at Ridback Pub. While it’s a small game, it’s definitely not one to throw back.
Artist and Designer Ryan Laukat’s Eight Minute Empire: Legends (EME:L) is the standalone followup to Eight Minute Empires, with some changes to rules but the same core gameplay. I ran out and bought this after backing the expansion, because it was on my list to buy and I didn’t want to miss out.
I struggled with whether to make this a full review or not. It comes in a small box, but larger than Fleet, which got a full size review. It is nominally a quick game, but we played for a long time. And although it is dramatically simplified and streamlined from a full civilization game, it still has a lot of pieces and a lot of depth. Both the game and this review are somewhere between full-size and mini. So while I don’t need a lot of room to say that I like the game, it took a little more room than I was expecting to explain why.
What You Get
- 4 double-sided map cards for modular variable setup
- 34 action cards
- 4 score/turn order cards and 1 cost reference cards
- 18 wooden cubes (armies) and 3 wooden castles (cities) in 4 colors
- 36 cardboard coins
- Starting area marker, and several different expansion tokens.
The box is very thick and sturdy with plenty of room for the upcoming expansion. The map cards and cardboard tokens are very high quality. The castles are awesome bits. The art is all by the designer and is part of what makes this game so awesome. Every card and island has its own character. And you actually have time to focus on it and appreciate it. For the most part, the art and theme just act as flavor, but that’s fine for the level of game. The rule-book is fine, but I would have liked a card reference, or at least a count of how many vials, cities, and wings are in the game [13, 8, and 6, by my count].
What You Do
Players vie for control over a series of islands, based on area majority. The board consists of continents with one or more regions, connected by land and water. Players start with some coins, and 5 armies on the board on two separate regions, and bid to select the starting player. (Note, you can select anyone to start.) Each turn, the player buys a card from the 6 card display, with newer cards decreasing in cost from 3 coins to free. Each card shows one or more actions: add armies where you have a city or at the starting location; move armies, using 3 movements to cross water or 1 to cross land; build a city where you have an army; or destroy an army on a space you also occupy.
Cards also show bonus abilities, like extra armies or movement when you take that action, but also wings that reduce water movement cost, vials that earn 2 points for the player with the most, invincibility, coins, and points for collecting sets of cards with a specific word in the name. After a certain number of rounds, scores are tallied: points on cards, 1 point for each region you control (the most armies), and 1 point per continent you control (the most controlled regions).
The card choices are very tactical in a 4-player game, because you won’t see many of the same cards you saw in a previous round. But placement and movement are more strategic. Not only do you have to balance movement, building, and adding armies, but you have to consider the abilities, especially the point-giving ones.
What I Liked
The art is wonderful and evocative. The combination of abilities and actions on cards makes almost every decision interesting. The balance between all of the actions and the abilities is superb. Every option is a viable path. The abilities and art give it a lot of the feel of Small World, but with a larger variety of options, and the ability to play only two players. It also takes up a fairly small space on the table, without giving up depth.
What I Disliked
Our biggest problem is that since so many of the choices are tactical, it is very prone to over-analysis. Our games last more like an hour. But you can still plan on an opponent’s turn, and it was engaging the whole time. Almost any card can be a huge game changer. That’s good because you can make a big comeback, but it also means that luck of the cards plays a big part. The big swings in the last rounds especially can feel like king-making, but social gamers will really enjoy that aspect throughout the game. When combined with our long play time, that’s a little aggravating, so I’d like to see how it works with 3-players.
Often, when I want more from a game, it’s because it feels like it’s missing something. With EME:L, I just want more because it’s so good. So I’m glad there’s an expansion coming. There are lots of fun ways you can combine the actions and abilities, and it looks like the expansion does just that. Even though we play it more like Eighty Minute Empire, I look forward to returning to it again and again.
No Thanks often shows up in recommendations for casual gamers due to its speed and simplicity and recommendations for travel games due to its small size and cost. I thought it was decent, but it doesn’t have a place in my collection. Read the rest of this entry »
I talked briefly about Hanabi in my discussion of Game-like Playable Activities. My overall conclusion was that it is just on the verge of being a true game instead of just an activity, but it’s just missing a lot of the elements I look for.
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