The board of high frontier makes me want to play the game. The lineup of cards on the side with a lot of text makes me not want to play.
The more rules-affecting text there is on the average card in a game, the less likely it is that game is good.
I can explain those cards - there are only 10 of them and they’re in every game. They’re essentially achievements, bonus 3vp rewards for doing missions that are particularly glorious or prudent. In true Sierra Madre Games fashion, most of it is flavor text about the glories of space exploration and the future of humanity and such.
Five of them are for taking a manned mission to a specific site and returning them safely to Earth - Mars, Mercury, one of the moons of Jupiter, a comet.
Four are for having a number of claimed sites of a specific resource, and they convey special abilities - after you get 4 claims on Carbon sites you personally have access to space elevators on Earth and Mars, which can also be granted to other players as part of a deal.
The last card has a picture of the Challenger explosion and is called “Heroism”. You can claim it as long as everyone at the table agrees… which might soften the blow if the van allen belts around Jupiter melt your radiator and you end up tragically exploding on impact.
That was coincidentally posted while we were playing HF Basic last night. And I found the thread where the guy who owns that set posted all his custom bits (cards for Futures, action markers for the Colonist module etc). I guess it’s High Frontier season.
I see someone was able to get an orbital Robonaut to Vesta which went a lot better than mine did.
Anthony’s dice were on fire - it was like three 1s in a row on that orbital prospect check. And then Dan did the same thing on a synodic comet. I ended up calling an audible and using Jupiter to slingshot out to Titan.
Quartermaster General - I had not played this favorite outside of a convention in a long time, probably because it’s hard to find a full table of 6 people to play a game that looks like Axis and Allies. Plus I think it’s hard to believe it will take just over an hour, even though we absolutely need 6 people.
Root - Still my favorite game of 2018 by a fair margin (what else is even close? Perhaps John Company?) Even when the birds won’t stop agitating the subjects of the Marquise’s benevolent rule until a riot breaks out, every time.
High Frontier - Maybe THIS could qualify as a late addition for my favorite of 2018, though I got it secondhand from someone that gave up on the rulebook in 2017. But what a tremendous box of toys. There are so many extra goodies to plug in, it reminds me of being 13 years old thumbing through D&D sourcebooks.
Thunderstone Quest - Someone finally made a dungeon feel like something other than shopping for cards with attack dollars, possibly the greatest accomplishment of any multi-currency deckbuilding game.
Bring root to PAX unplugged I know people who want to be otter merchants.
Among new games last week, the winners were Chronicles of Crime and This Guilty Land.
Chronicles of Crime’s main advantage over the recent game Detective is that the characters in every case we’ve played feel like… characters. They might be unpleasant but innocent, suspicious or envious of someone, or wander off and get themselves into trouble while you’re still investigating elsewhere. The stereoscopic glasses for crime scene investigation are flashy, but CoC gets the little things right, too.
This Guilty Land is incredible. Uncomfortable, not because it’s about slavery but the outcome of seeking compromise with something abhorrent. The political tightrope-walking is baked into the mechanisms of the game - the cards themselves are stripped down to four basic actions in a completely open hand of cards that love to come out in unfair, frustrating, completely arbitrary ways. Too-bad-you-just-have-to-deal-with-it. And the cherry on top is that you CAN deal with it, because the game is f’ing good. A violent, explosive arm-wrestling match.
High Frontier, up to the Supports module. Going to use the no-events no-politics variant next game, because it’s difficult enough to spend 15 years piecing together a rocket to take to the asteroid belt without space debris and budget cuts forcing you to develop a new reactor (I launched a mission early and camped out on Deimos for three years just to avoid hitting all the crap in low Earth orbit.) Maybe we’ll add politics back in after we add the unique space colonists and habitats… at least then we have constituents to vote for us.
I learned 8 games last week, because it’s just that time of year. Somehow this is still happening, even though half of the games I learned weren’t actually newly-published.
Goodcritters - in the same general category as Sheriff of Nottingham, probably best with a lot of people, but the 4p game is still interesting in the way that these games often get at their lowest player count.
Endeavor - make your euro engine go farther than the other guy’s (think 51st State). It’s a good one of those. I like the extra modifications you add on top of the rules at the start of the game.
Ankh-Morpork - picked up in the BGG Marketplace. Excellent Martin Wallace bluff/counter-thrust game (think A Study in Emerald). I don’t have any particular connection to the Discworld license, and it still holds up.
Tokyo Metro - investment / worker placement / subway riding game. It’s definitely a train game, and it’s not like any other train game, so that’s good.
1830: Railways and Robber Barons - I hadn’t played '30 before. Quite good, although it’s about twice as long as '89 (unless someone goes bankrupt). Half of the companies don’t start near anything good, and there’s a lot of ground to cover, the track development feels like it offers a huge possibility space.
Northern Pacific - I knew this was good but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did… maybe my favorite first play on this list. Cubes, one train that everyone has to share, and the position you happen to be sitting in turn order - that’s all you have to work with. Very good.
Sheep & Thief - been a few months since I played a new Japanese game. This does all the good stuff you want in a game from that specific design culture, a tiny amount of really important decisions.
Bios: Genesis - big messy Phil Eklund game with a million edge case rules. It might have the most of those - or maybe it’s just difficult for me because I never went past 100-level Biology. I did manage to solidify my understanding with some solo games on Sunday though, when my single-celled life made landfall as a Snail before getting extinct-ed by 200 million years of drought, only to have the resulting de-evolved eukaryotes come roaring back 400 million years later as… insects.
This review made me nervous that once I understand the game it might not be fun!!! I thought this review was pretty good, though he adds a lot of corny stuff in it.
Welcome to Shut Up & Sit Down reviews in a nutshell
I’m 20 games in. If you don’t find highly political and aggressive interaction interesting, then the game is over once you “learn” all the factions. If you only play learning games with new players, you will see similar patterns emerge over and over. Their positional heuristics are completely wrong because It’s Complicated, and the greatest beneficiaries of a new player who cannot possibly know better are the Woodland Alliance and the Vagabond. Importantly, the most obvious way to “hurt” the Woodland Alliance (by moving and attacking their sympathy) is almost always less effective than simply imposing martial law on the rest of the map and occupying their bases with large standing armies so they can’t organize.
The artwork and presentation has snuck an incredibly unfair, mean, amazing game in front of a lot of people. After you learn the factions, it’s all politics and posturing and reading the game and wonderful bullshit.
This is a week or so late, but over the Thanksgiving weekend, a friend hosted a big board game weekend and I played a bunch of games.
Concordia x3 - I love this game. Heck, I pretty much love all Mac Gerdts games. It’s nice to see this game getting the attention and plays it deserves.
Endeavor Age of Sail - Reprint/Updated version of Endeavor - I haven’t played Endeavor since 2008 or so, so I was a little fuzzy on the rules, but quickly got back into the swing of things. Endeavor was always a solid Euro, and the new version just cleans it up and makes it better.
Great Western Trail - Played this late at night so didn’t fully grok all the rules, but I understood enough to run my one strategy over and over again as I went around the board. Came in second, and enjoyed the game, but definitely need to play again when it’s not 11pm and I’m tired.
Skulls - Great party/social deduction game. Amazing art.
Deus - Fun Euro action selection game. I really love how when you play a card, it activates all the cards of that color, creating some really cool combos and interactions. Need to try it with the expansion.
Imperial 2030 - Another Mac Gerdts game. Possibly my favorite board game of all time. Love the shifting alliances as players buy more stock in various countries. Love the general idea that players don’t have turns, countries do.
This was my weekend, including last night after PAX
Northern Pacific - I’m way way above the BGG average rating on this and I’m not surprised. Same thing happened with Paris Connection.
Spring Meadow - Rosenberg’s best polyomino game, it accomplishes a lot with a little just by making the scoring a checkpoint race.
Root - far and away my favorite 2018 game. A beautiful unfair bastard that thousands of perfectly nice people have been fooled into playing.
Tokyo Highway - create non-aesthetic game states just by playing it! Especially with four players you end up with a big tangled pile of popsicle sticks and wood. I wish the rule for knocking over the structure was different, since putting it back together when it collapses interrupts the flow of the game.
High Frontier - I’m still teaching this to people and ruining my voice by talking strategy for an entire two hour game, because I want people to have a good experience.
Treasure Island - four times this weekend. Long John finally won last night when I made a coin flip between two possible locations and lost, because I trusted the wisdom of my fellow pirates.
Turin Market - a fascinating game I picked up from Jordan Draper’s booth at PAXU. The bidding in Turin Market is more difficult than the bidding in The Estates, and bidding “too much” is often correct.
Pipeline - the only game I demoed at PAXU is all kinds of wonderful, a great balance of competition for scarce public resources and personal-scale problem solving.
Brass: Birmingham - Brass is once more out of the dust, even though we only played the canal era before we had to go home. I started to play like the original Brass and was quickly caught off by the industry tiles that aren’t strictly better when you develop past them. This feels like Birmingham’s most distinct feature, at least on par with the different mix of industries.
Queen’s new reprint of The King of Frontier called Skylands; there are probably 500 copies of The King of Frontier out there and it deserves some attention. I don’t know if it’s going to get it, but the small rules changes are good for me. Treasure Island is still a blast and will probably get to 10 plays at least. And Captains of the Gulf is a slow burn as an engine builder - the ROI on everything you buy after the first round demands some very careful consideration.
The Grizzled: Armistice Edition has a number of new expansion modules on top of the existing small expansion. Pandemic: Fall of Rome is really pleasing thematically, I love how it bakes in the “barbarization” of the military in the late empire without making it explicit.
High Frontier is still incredible - I finally learned some good ways to use a solar sail and was able to bust out some really neat solar-powered missions to Saturn’s moons (and one that ended as debris in Saturn’s rings)
You told me the solar sail couldn’t really get that far, but Saturn is pretty far for mission 1!
This was Mission 2 - the first one was the factory on the right side of the picture that ET produced a better solar sail that gets free boosts from radiation hazards. Flying through Jupiter’s van allen belts gets 8 free boosts with it.
I’m actually not sure it was fully legal, because the solar sails get decommissioned by aerobrake hazards, and I needed to use an aerobrake to get captured in Saturn’s orbit.
… ok no, it was fine, rules say you can keep spending free burns even if you lose your thruster. But I would have lost the sail on the way to Enceladus with exactly enough free burns to spare.
In a longer game, my follow-up would have been claiming all of the smaller “C” moons of Saturn at once and setting up a third factory, which gives me a complete setup to ET produce my refineries ( M ) and robonauts ( C ) and start colonizing Uranus next door.
Ah, an upgraded sail made in space. Makes sense. That starter sail did not look strong. It really reminded me of Power Grid power plant number 10. The single solitary windmill that gives 1 energy.
The amount of places you can get with a white solar sail are pretty limited, and I think I know all of them now. They all require you to have mass 4 or less on your rocket for the +1 net thrust, so you need to deliver the robonaut and the refinery in separate trips, with 2-3 turns of setup to park the rocket in the right spot near mercury for maximum initial thrust, and especially in the Colonization game radiation becomes a big problem because you’re moving so slowly through a lot of radiation hazards at the beginning.
My initial mission was a sail, a robonaut, and a reactor to power it. It would fly somewhere, prospect it, and then I’d have to decommission it if it busted. Once I finally got a claim, I left the robonaut and the reactor floating next to the site, and loaded my crew and the refinery on a second solar sail, joined the other two parts, and landed using the crew’s thruster.
I industrialized a small C site so I could ET produce a better solar sail (I had both patents) and park the ‘good’ sail near the sun with an ET produced robonaut, then meet it with the crappy sail carrying a new refinery and crew to launch the second mission to Enceladus.