Once again the second Saturday of the month rolled around, and once again we played games all day. I’d missed the board game nights this past week catching up on work from the days I took off when Jillian was here, so I was looking to make up for some lost time. After nine hours and five games, I’d say I did. And most of the games were either new or ones I don’t play very often. Not all of them were hits, but you never know until you play.
Orcs Orcs Orcs — As the name implies, this game is just loaded with orcs. Big orcs, small orcs, wizard orcs, warrior orcs, you name it. This is a deckbuilding game where the object is to kill as many orcs as possible, scoring points depending on what type they are. But it’s also a sort of castle defense game, because if an orc reaches the castle at the center of the board, it reduces how many points orcs of that type are worth. Killing enough of each type of orc also unlocks special abilities for the player, such as drawing an extra card, taking extra actions, and immunity to random events. You can also gain the ability to give other players curse cards, which clog up their decks and score negative points when the game ends. There’s spellcasting similar to Magic: The Gathering as well. It’s a melange of mechanics that seems like it shouldn’t work together, but it all meshes pretty well into a light, fun game that you don’t take all that seriously.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple — Think of Yahtzee on speed and you’re on your way to getting what this is about. Everyone has five dice they all roll simultaneously as they travel through a temple. In order to escape said temple, the players need to place gems on special spaces that require a certain number of a specific symbol to be rolled. Each space also requires a certain set of symbols to be rolled in order to enter it. Complicating things is that one of the symbols locks the die its rolled on until someone unlocks it with another symbol. On top of all that, the game has a timer which goes off at regular intervals, requiring the players to move back to the starting tile before time runs out or else they lose a die. Chaotic doesn’t begin to describe this, as everyone is rolling and shouting out what they rolled and moving around the board. It’s maybe a little too chaotic for my tastes, but it only lasts ten minutes, so it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
London — London sees Martin Wallace once again applying his “every card is good for three different things” philosophy as seen in A Study in Emerald and Mythotopia. Here you’re rebuilding London after the Great Fire, with your cards representing new buildings that can be used to generate money and victory points. You can also claim burroughs of London, and there’s a neat mechanic that ties these two things together. You subtract the number of cards in your hand and in play from the number of burroughs you control, and if that number is negative, you gain poverty points; basically, you’re penalized for cramming too many buildings into too small a space. Poverty points are a huge penalty at the end of the game, so mitigating them is key throughout the game. I think I enjoyed this more than Wallace’s other two games. It’s simple, flavorful, and, oh yeah, I won it.
Rattus Cartus — This really felt like a case of the designers coming up with a mechanic and slapping a theme on top of it. Because while your ostensibly trying to gain influence in a Medieval town while avoiding the Plague, it’s really about playing cards with more total value than your opponent to gain points while matching the suit of where you’re playing them to avoid a penalty. Only the suits are things like merchants and the Church and chivalry, and the penalty is gaining rats. Which is bad because there’s a predetermined number of rats you have to be below at the end of the game or else you lose. It was diverting enough, but didn’t really offer up enough substance for me to want to play it again.
Dark Seas — I really want to like this game more than I do. It’s got a neat pirate theme, some great components, and the germ of a good idea. Each player has a group of ports their ship moves around, each with a different symbol on it. Movement is determined by rolling dice with those same symbols, with your ship only able to move through a port that had its symbol rolled. Each port you move through activates any tiles that are attached to it, earning you Infamy (victory points), letting you recruit pirates, gaining dubloons, or acquiring new tiles to place on your ports. This goes on for twelve rounds, then Infamy is totaled up and a winner declared. It seems neat, but the randomness of the movement can doom you to not being able to do much on your turn. You have a captain that can mitigate this somewhat, essentially acting as a wildcard and allowing your ship to move through the port he’s on, but I spent too many turns stuck moving only one space and not gaining anything. Luck games are fine as long as there’s a way to manipulate the luck (re-rolling dice, changing symbols, etc.), and this just doesn’t offer enough of them. On top of that, the manufacturer made a huge error where the dice symbols don’t match the tile symbols. The colors still match, so the game is playable, but for colorblind people, it’s annoying, and a really bad mistake for a major game company to have made.
Still, even a disappointing board game is still playing a board game. And there was pizza and good company, so in no way was the day a loss. I’m just hoping for some more satisfying games next time.