Posts Tagged Fleet
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.
Ok, sorry about that pun in the title.
One of my early purchases when I was getting into board games was a little game called Fleet. For me and many others, this cemented the design team of Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle as designers to watch. They have been making their marks in the world of boardgames with original games that blend Euro style and American flair.
They are fantastically fun people to hang out with in person, but also very busy designers. You might think a team of two would have more time to chat, but they are always some of the busiest people I know at conventions. Fortunately, I finally got a chance to ask Ben Pinchback about how they make everything work. Read the rest of this entry »