Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 5: Council of Verona

Council of Veronaas seen on Tabletop – is a quick, light filler card game where you’re all nobles who’ve noticed how the citizens of Verona are all so sick of that whole Montague vs. Capulet thing, so you’re making a council in the hopes that’ll help keep everything under control. Really though, you’re just leveraging the feud, your noble rivals, and the council, to increase your influence in the city. It’s fun and takes only a few minutes to play.

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You draft some cards, keeping some for yourself and passing others to your opponents.

At least one card will be removed from play without anyone seeing it.

Play couldn’t be simpler. Place one of your cards (there’s only 17 in the game) in the Council or Exile, use that card’s ability if you like, then decide if you’d like to place an influence token (numbered 0, 3, 5 – plus an 4 in the 2-player game). That’s it.

The key, though, is that the influence tokens you’re placing are face down, and can be on any card that’s been played. Romeo and Juliet don’t care if they’re on the Council or Exiled, as long as they’re together. Aww. Heads of the Capulet and Montague households want more of their people on the Council than the house. And the neutral Prince just wants an even Council or several Neutral people on the Council. Poor guy. He’s just trying to run the city. Meanwhile, Mercutio’s sick of everything and just wants more people Exiled than on the Council.

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You can throw your lot in with any one (or several) of these people and their agendas. You play your influence tokens face down, so it may look like you’re rooting for the lovers, but you’ve really given Romeo your 0 token, and don’t want them to get together. Doing this could fool others to add their more valuable influence tokens to that card, thinking they’ll be riding your coattails.

So there’s a bit of guess work to suss out whether your opponents actually want to see the agenda succeed, for the card they’ve just placed a token on, or if it’s misdirection.

Add into that a few cards that let you look at our even swap placed influence tokens, and suddenly that tricksey 0 you placed gets swapped with your 5 and your whole game plan changes.

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It’s a very quick game, nice card art – though that box cover is a bit weird – and the second edition comes with the Poison Expansion, which – very thematically – gives every player a Poison and an Antidote token that look just like the influence tokens. Any character with more Poison than Antidote at the end, is killed an their influence along with them.

This game’s great for when you want to play something, but don’t have too much time. Interesting decisions, but nothing too complicated. While they play very differently, and there’s certainly room in your game library for both, Council of Verona reminds me a bit of Love Letter, with the noble theme, deduction, some cards being removed, and trying to outfox your opponents. And it plays so quickly you may find yourself playing it several times in a row, like we did.

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Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 4: Star Realms

Star Realms is a sci-fi deckbuilding game where 2 players clash in space wars!

Also, space commerce.

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What makes this game shine is when you really get a good engine humming along. If you play your cards right, you can get crazy combos that let you draw more cards, do more damage, get more money, buy cards for free, discard opponent cards and more. It’s a great feeling when you pull it off – mostly…

We’ll come back to that in a bit. First, the basic premise and mechanics:

Both players have 50 authority (like health, but with no maximum) and the first to reduce their opponent to 0 wins. To do so, you as a galactic mover and shaker will be recruiting the ships and bases of four factions, the Trade Federation, the Blobs, the Star Empire and the Machine Cult.

You start with the same basic deck of cards as your opponent and draw 5 each turn. You build your deck as you play by buying cards from the communal Trade Row. You get money by playing cards with the yellow Trade coin near the bottom. For instance, in the photo below, the Trade Pod on the right initially cost me 2 Trade to buy, but every time I play it I get 3 Trade. Play a few Trade cards in a turn and you’ll be able to buy more useful and powerful cards.

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You can have cards from any combination of factions, but playing two cards of the same faction allows you to use additional abilities (in the photo above, the 2 red Combat on the Trade Pod and the “Draw a card” ability of the Battle Blob – they’re both useable because I’ve played two green Blob Faction cards this round). And because you can’t hold onto cards from round to round, focusing on a single faction can be useful – though when it comes time to buy from Trade Row, cards from your favoured faction may not be available, so you may have to branch out a little.

So, your opponent’s got a handful of ships and they’re damaging your authority. What do you do? It’s all about that base. Get some bases into play and they’ll act as shields, taking damage before you do. And your opponent has to do enough damage in one round to destroy them – they can’t just whittle them down over time.

Some bases are outposts and those bases have to be destroyed before your other bases. So you can have two lines of defence. Ships are played then discarded until they’re shuffled in again when your deck depletes. Bases, though, stay in play. So, every round you’ll already have some faction card (like my Blob Wheel below) that you can use to activate the ally abilities of your ships. Also, the base’s powers are active each round, too. (Below, Suz is getting 2 Authority or 2 Trade each round and I’m getting 1 Combat each round).

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With only 128 cards and a rules sheet, Star Realms is a tiny, portable package. There are expansions, and they won’t all fit in the box. Removing the rules, we managed to also fit one of the games many expansions, the Gambit Set, which gives new surprise abilities and provides some foes to tackle as a team.

And it looks like we may need to move onto that cooperative mode for a bit, as our last few games have been very one-sided. It could be that Blobs are just awesome, or one of us is getting good draws and the other bad. It didn’t seem like either of us was too diversified.

Either way, our last game had a 30 point difference and when you start with 50 points each, a score gap that wide is disheartening for the one on the losing side and the victory is bittersweet – the Death Star versus a helpless planet. Is it really a victory to celebrate?

So, we’ll play more games of Star Realms and we’ll definitely try the Gambit Set co-op options (not to be confused with the Cosmic Gambit set). I may update these impressions (or add a new article) once we’ve tried the co-op.

Despite our misgivings, we still recommend this game and will be playing a lot more of it. The combos you can get going in your deck are so satisfying, the game’s easy to teach, turns are very fast, and when games are closer, it’s very fun. Especially for only 30 Aussie dollars, this little game packs a big bang!

Posted in Board Games

Game-a-Day Fortnight 2016 – Day 2: Best Treehouse Ever

dCome play with me in the Best Treehouse Ever! It’s got a bowling alley, a petting zoo, and an observatory! What? Yours has an ice cream shop, a hammock room, and a hot tub? Maybe yours is the best treehouse ever!

Best Treehouse Ever is a fun little game for 2-4 players with a free half hour.

You’re all competing to build the best treehouse ever, by selecting cute coloured rooms (each with unique art!) to add to your treehouse. Keep the tree balanced, though! Build on the left and your balance marker (an acorn) shifts left, so you have to build on the right to balance it again.

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Complicating the process further is a kind of kiddie feng shui, as all rooms of a colour must be touching. If you block one off, you’re done with that colour.

Players pick one of the coloured rooms from their hand, everyone places their room, then passes their hand to the next player. So, like in other drafting games like Sushi Go, you have to keep an eye on what other players seem to be collecting, and weigh up taking a card you want or a card they need.

Guiding your overly ambitious carpentry efforts is a hidden goal card, different for each player. If you can build these coloured rooms in this pattern, you get extra points at the end of the game. In the meantime, at the end of each of the three rounds you get one point for each room. Or, you would. But before scoring, each player selects a colour that will be worth no points this round. In 3-4 player games they can instead select a colour to double.

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So, you want the most rooms of a colour, but not so many more than other people that they will stop that colour from scoring. Diversifying is good, too, so at least you’ll get most of your points, but if you happen to block off a colour in your tree, you can never build it again. In some ways, that’s a good strategy. Culling down and focusing on a few colours.

It’s a quick game, and it’s always fun seeing the art of the different cards. Even if you don’t win, it’s nice you end up with your own treehouse to admire. Why are these kids drinking coffee, and what’s cooler, a water slide or movie room?

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I can see the 3-4 player game having more decisions – in a good way – but the 2-player game is a fun, if more limited experience. Best Treehouse Ever is cute, easy to teach, quick and easy to play, hard to master. Nothing we’re dying to get to the table, but certainly a keeper – a good, quick, filler game.