Recent Board Gaming


I’m pretty sure I played more new games at PAX South this year than any other PAX thus far. The only repeats were Root and one game of Bohnanza Duel. Really enjoyed Wingspan, it was one of the few games I managed to win over the weekend. Almost all of the new games came from Chris and Anthony’s library, so The Bloody Inn, Web of Power, Pax Renaissance, An Infamous Traffic, all of which I enjoyed (though I have no idea how to play Pax Renaissance yet). Got to be in the Dune game, which was fun to watch, I don’t feel like I made much impact on it. Got really close to winning my first game of Amun-Re too.

The only game I did play that @pence didn’t mention was Uwe Rosenberg’s newest, Reykholt, in the First Look area. Katie and I both really liked it as a two player game, it’s much more direct than a lot of his other games and plays very quickly. The heuristics are also easy to grasp since you are essentially spending resources directly to gain victory points. It was kind of a surprise how much it stuck out for me over the weekend. It felt more elegant than most of the other new games. I suspect that it will be a quick to master game once an obvious best path is found, but the addition of randomized bonus cards might keep it fresh anyway.


Back to normal.

Wingspan has legs - the level of interaction is just right for broad appeal, sitting at the exact midpoint between managing your own hand of cards and pushing/pulling against the other players for resources and bonus points.

Underwater Cities takes a half-step away from the other players at the table, a wrestling match with the cards in your hand. Nice, enjoyable, not nearly as long with 4p as online discussion would have you believe… but I actually find Wingspan a bit more compelling.

We played through era 1 of SpaceCorp - limiting the game to the first board gives focus to all the interesting little tradeoffs present even at the small scale of the inner solar system. There’s actually a bit of Food Chain Magnate’s milestones to the contract board; once you internalize the paths leading to the scarce bonuses, that competition becomes more meaningful.

Finally, big box of plastic Twilight Imperium. Another game that’s not as long as you’ve been led to believe, as long as someone handles the rules. The combat in TI honestly feels less like a bucket of dice than the combat in Eclipse. But part of that could be the wonderful distraction of everything else… buying votes, selling promises to your neighbors, extracting points from an uncaring game.


It’s light enough that it doesn’t require heavy thought for any individual player. So you can be pretty social during it.

I only needed to track 1-2 data points for other players, plus my own main strat and backup strat, so it became pretty easy to mostly plan several rounds in advance.

As long as I didn’t play Wingspan dozens of times in a short span of time, it’ll have a lot of staying power.


These days, I honestly take whatever people say the game length is and halve it.


It’s funny that you mention that you liked Wingspan’s level of interaction. A bunch of my friends played it on Friday and they all seemed to agree that there wasn’t much interaction. Additionally, the guys over at The Opinionated Gamers all seemed to think that Wingspan didn’t have enough interaction either, for what’s that worth. They seemed to damn the game with feint praise, calling it “fine,” and more flash than substance:


I feel like if Dale Yu had reviewed it for OG it would be more his speed. My “interactive” assessment is in comparison to other similar popular engine building games - Everdell, Imperial Settlers, etc.

I said Wingspan points you at the other players more than Underwater Cities. I think a lot of people would reach a different conclusion - worker placement gets a bit more credit just because you “have” to worry about it.


In Wingspan you have to really only worry about other players in terms of scoring. But your options are limited. At best if you recognize you can’t rank 1st this round, your only real option is to bail and start working to insure first place in the next round instead.

In Underwater Cities you have to worry about other players taking your preferred action on a round by round basis as well as for some end of game scoring biz.


For some reason some reviewers went into Wingspan knowing it was a light engine builder but expecting it to have way more interaction than any light engine builder I’m aware of.


I’ve played two sessions of Gloomhaven lately, and both have fallen flat for me. It’s probably more to do with the group I’m playing with than the game itself: I’m part of a group of four, and 7 minutes isn’t a bad estimate for the time between turns as people analyze their options, reanalyze, then realize they’ve wasted cards since the enemies they were about to hit have disappeared. These are some old D&D guys too, so it’s been a hassle to convince two of the players that it’s a board game and not a pen & paper RPG. No, you don’t just pick up all the loot once a room is clear, and no, there aren’t any rules about the damage dealt by pulling enemies into logs.

I plan to skip the next session, to let them see if it’s better with fewer people playing. Because as-is it’s taking us 3+ hours to get through single scenarios.


FWIW Gloomhaven reminds me a lot of Slay the Spire and that’s probably the best mindset to play with.


Tell them to hurry up and take their turns.


Hit them.

Hit them fifteen times.


I broke 100 points in Underwater Cities. To paraphrase Anthony, “it’s a game you can get better at.” It’s also a game that’s easy to speed up by handling various administrative tasks.

Twilight Imperium is a dangerous galaxy that’s just a little too crowded for everyone, even with 3p. I lost my second space dock to early aggression from the L1Z1X (that’s the Borg) and it was the nail in the coffin for ever having a forward base.

Martin Wallace’s AuZtralia is incredibly interesting as a game. But it’s also interesting as a bit of a dodge. Like A Study in Emerald, it uses Mythos creatures to avoid overtly addressing British Empire and imperialism, while still using it for broad thematic strokes.


AuZtralia has a few neat ideas! The use of time as a resource is fascinating, and combat has this blackjack vibe that I got into. There’s a bit too much variability from what I’ve seen though, in my playthrough it felt like half the face down monsters were kangaroos and character have a wide power range.


I’ll see how I feel in another game or three - the fortune / misfortune of the unknown in the outback feels good, and you can roll straight through most of the opposition you run into. And the 2p variants are more intriguing than most.


I played a game of Nemesis today, which is more or less Aliens, the board game. The players each control the a character from a crew that recently woke from cryonic sleep due to an emergency, finding another crewmember dead next to them. Due to cryonic sleep induced amnesia, they only remember the rudiments of the ship’s layout, giving the ship some fog of war effect. In addition, each player has two objectives from which they will choose one and discard the other. You win by fulfilling the objective and surviving by either fleeing inside an escape pod, or ensuring that the ship will survive and going back to cryonic sleep. Since you don’t have time to check everything yourself whether the ship is in good order, you also have to trust other players to an extend. Oh yeah, and there are a bunch of aliens who want to eat you, which you have to avoid, flee from or kill. They can also infect you which has the risk of killing you even if you survive the game and complete your objectives.

This game was a lot of fun. It cribs a lot from other games. Most notable similarities I found with Dead of Winter and Massive Darkness, at least among the games I have played before. And of course the flavor has a lot from other fiction franchises with similar premises, i.e. Alien and Dead Space. But it was a lot of fun. It helps though when everyone at the table your are playing at is a massive geek, rattling off more sci-fi tropes and joking about the idiotic layout of the ship etc.

The game itself had unfortunately was also a bit hard. Three of us players were almost immediately covered in slime, which makes it far easier for aliens to spawn, and as it turned out the room which lets you remove that state was not in that specific game. My personal objective also required the comms room to send of an emergency signal was also one of the last we found, though that also more or less covered with the other part of my objective of exploring every room on the ship.

Basically I had all my objectives done, but I also found I had been infected with an alien parasite. This meant that I needed to head to the surgery room which was unfortunately a ways away, particularly with me hobbled by both a serious wound which affected the number of cards I could have in hand, and the fact that I had the infection card in hand which blocked one of my hand slots. However, other players also needed to head there which I thought would let us fight together. But out of the blue our Soldier unlocks an escape pod with a key card he had found while basically searching every time he could, and the other three players including myself are just “wtf”.

Next players turn happens and I couldn’t shut my mouth, telling him that he is close enough that he could escape instead at the risk of dying to a possible infection himself, and he takes opportunity, as well as the next player instead of joining up with me to go to the surgery room. A three player battle over the pod ensues, with the soldier coming out ahead anyhow and fleeing. So I had to slowly trudge to the surgery room, spending all my resources to fend off aliens, while the other people were now farther behind.

I managed to do the surgery, but in the end an event triggered an overload of malfunctions, ship lost hull integrity and everybody on board died. Only our soldier, who with his escape also robbed us of our greatest source of firepower to kill aliens, managed to survive, and the bastard even completed his objective: escaping with an emergency pod while holding seven item cards. Had the others just let him be, we could very likely have managed to make it to surgery, head back to the cryonic pods and everybody could have me their victory conditions.

Still this was a lot of fun and I’d like to play it again or even own it. Unfortunately it appears the game was a Kickstarter only thing, which a) makes no sense whatsoever, and b) means that unless I will play with more or less the same group again, I will never be able to play it again.


Nemesis isn’t kickstarter only. It’s just not in retail yet. Awaken Realms is one of those companies that can never get its shit together and either give realistic dates or speed up their production cycle.


Haha, I just got an upgrade pack for my copy of This War of Mine from them. They sure do put out a lot of stuff, don’t they?


We played Cerebria (and the expansion that adds Balance) twice this week - lots of things to analyze and think about, but it’s very easy to lose sight of medium-term plans and disappear into short-term tactical decisions. It seems useful to think at least one turn ahead.

On a similar note, we played Antiquity on Friday. It had been over a year since I played, and I completely forgot everything I knew - optimal build orders, schedules for when goods should arrive… but it worked out and we were all equally bad. Only Bill (who had never played before) had an excuse.

Summit, as an incredibly silly palate cleanser on Saturday. Anthony has promised to teach the competitive game at some point, which sounds like a cartoon scramble to the top of K2.

Quartermaster General: The Cold War (ie. the 3p QMG). Works great, even with three teams. The QMG system is solid, you still get the fundamental goodness of managing builds and battles and statuses, even with extra phases to play cards. You can also share spaces with your enemies now, and look uncomfortably across the table at the tactical nuke that’s sitting face-up in front of them.

I can’t imagine playing this game and not escalating to nukes - QMG’s Cold War can be bloodier than its WWII.

Also Combat Commander, if you count reading the rules and working through the example of play. I had no interest in hex/counter wargames until I found out CC was also a card game