Hits & Flops April 2017

It’s time for everyone’s favorite column: Hits & Flops! This is where I pass sweeping judgments on board games after a single play. Of particular note in this post is the fact that several of these games were brought to me by other members of the Muskegon Area Gamers. Indeed, all of these are games that I was taught instead of having to read the rules myself. This is rather new to me. And I really appreciate the others who did the heavy lifting! Now let’s see if I liked the games or not.

 

Board Game Hits & Flops April 2017

 

Burgle Brothers

Tim Fowers' Burgle Brothers
Tim Fowers’ Burgle Brothers

After watching Tom Vasel give a strong recommendation for it, I added Burgle Brothers to my want list. The game was self-published and was going for $200 on eBay. If I wanted to drop that kind of money on a game, I’d pick up one of my grails . When the game came available at Out of the Box for MSRP, I picked it up.

Accessory floors for Burgle Brothers
Accessory floors for Burgle Brothers

In a game of Burgle Brothers, players work cooperatively to crack all the safes in a high security building. There is one safe on each floor of the game board and there are three floors total. After cracking each safe, the players must exit the building to win.

There’s only two things preventing the players from accomplishing this: several rooms have alarms or locks–and each floor has a security guard.

Players enter the building on floor one. They must find the safe, crack it and then find the stairs to floor two before the guard finds them. If a guard enters the room you are in, you must cough up a “hide” token (think of these as hit points). If you cannot discard a hide token, then the guard has found you and you (and everyone else) has lost.

The rooms and guard of Burgle Brothers
The rooms and guard of Burgle Brothers

Each room has different characteristics. Some have alarms. And there are several different alarms. Some alarms are motion detectors: if you move through the room by spending only 1 action point,  you trigger it. Some alarms are thermo-alarms: if you end your turn in it, you trigger it. If you trigger an alarm, the guard moves 1 space faster and he moves towards the alarm instead of making his normal rounds.

Tools and loot cards for Burgle Brothers
Tools and loot cards for Burgle Brothers

Once you find the safe room, you must crack the combination. Once cracked, you draw some loot cards. The loot cards can sometimes be beneficial or detrimental. You can’t drop the detrimental loot because the goal is to loot the treasure and escape! You may also pick up some tools along the way. These are usually use-it-once-and-done. A stethoscope will help you crack the safe and the blueprints will give you information about the rooms.

Burgle Brothers is a good game. It’s a good for a lark. Or it’s good as a gateway game. The coop nature makes it a good game for couples as well. Each player gets a different character to play: the rook, the raven, the rigger, etc. And each character has a basic and an advanced ability so there is lots of replayability. Burgle Brothers is the type of game that will hit the table about three times a year and everyone will enjoy it.

Verdict: HIT!

 

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars from Stronghold Games
Terraforming Mars from Stronghold Games

Brian has been coming to The Gaming Annex for about a year now. Every Thursday it seems he has new games in tote. Recently he brought over Terraforming Mars.

I was aware of Terraforming Mars from the “hotness” on BGG. The game did NOT look interesting to me. It looked like a heavy Euro with a pasted on theme. After our monthly SeaFall game, we decided to try Brian’s copy of Terraforming Mars.

Player board for Terraforming Mars
Player board for Terraforming Mars

In Terraforming Mars, players take on the role of corporations that are seeking to terraform Mars. Players score points for increasing the temperature of Mars, developing water sources on mars or by creating forests. Each player is given a player board as seen here. Players track six different resources. My first thoughts when I saw this was, “Uh-oh! This looks like a heavy Euro! I’m going to hate this!”

Some patents in Terraforming Mars
Some patents in Terraforming Mars

Players have a hand of cards. These cards are called, “patents”. It was the card designs on BGG that really intimidated me about this game. They are super-busy with tons of information on them. I thought I would get a headache trying to managed six resources and then manage all the cards. But it turned out the iconography on the cards was far more intuitive once the rules explanation was complete. And the card title was thematic to what the card effect was which made the card (or “patent”) management much easier.

At the beginning of each round players draw patents into their hand. They may purchase the rights to these patents, discarding the ones they do not want. Each patent is unique and there are tons of them. You will use these cards to steer you strategy in the coming game rounds.

Page 14 of the rules
Page 14 of the rules

Each game round you will produce resources based upon your player board. You can spend these resources to further your score. You spend money to play the patent cards. The heat is spent to increase the temperature of Mars. Plants are spent to make forests. Energy is used to create heat. And the other two resources are discounts to playing patents that have those icons: either steel or titanium.

Terraforming Mars has a interesting turn structure: you can either take 1 action, 2 actions or pass. If you pass, you can take more actions next time your turn comes up unless all players pass in sequence. This confused me at first: why wouldn’t you take two actions every time? But this sequence actually works well for this game.

After playing Terraforming Mars, I was really surprised at how much I liked it. The different resources were easy to manage because the components were helpful not hindering. The iconography and text on the cards was easy enough to understand but allows for lots or replayability and depth.

Verdict: HIT!

 

New Angeles

NBN and Weylund Corps
NBN and Weyland Corps

New Angeles is a semi-cooperative game of negotiation and backstabbing set in FFG’s Android universe. I’ve played two other games set in this universe: Android and Netrunner; I disliked both. But New Angeles seems like it would break this trend.

Players are given control of a futuristic corporation. Each corporation gets money (victory points) in a different way. Players are given a secret objective at the beginning of the game. This tells players what they must do to win. All but one of the objectives say, “you must have a higher score than the Corporation ‘X'”; if you control “Corporation X” then you must have a higher score than three other players.

The other secret objective is the federalist. This player needs to get 25 points AND have New Angeles’ threat reach 25.

The nature of the objectives is quite interesting. Several people can win but at least one person must lose. If the federalist wins, he wins alone. As such, all players except the federalist are working to save New Angeles from a rising threat. And everything seems to make threat rise.

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The active player draws cards from the decks per his corporation sheet. Those familiar with Battlestar Galactica will recognize this mechanic. Then the active player must play one as “an offer”. Other players may make a second offer, playing cards out of their hands. Then players may spend cards out of their hand to “vote” for one of the two offers. Whoever wins the offer gets a powerful asset card to be used throughout the game. And the winner gets to do what the offer says. Most of the skill cards will allow players to mitigate threat by moving tokens or pieces. A few of the skill cards are just flat out money grabs where one or two players get victory points.

Players may negotiate with each other. The trading can be votes, promises or outright gifting of victory points. Players may NOT trade skill cards nor may they make mention of their secret objective. The last part about not being able to mention your secret objective has thrown some for a loop. It doesn’t bother me. I can infer from others what their intentions are without them explicitly saying their objectives.

Game board with chrome minis
Game board with chrome minis

I typically like strategy games that have negotiation in them. Think Diplomacy or Twilight Imperium. But there are also negotiation games that I don’t like such as Republic of Rome. And New Angeles, unfortunately, falls in the latter category. New Angeles works as a game. But it’s not the type of game that I like. It’s an experience more than it is a strategy game. And since it is not a simulation like Junta or Battlestar Galactica, I must reluctantly call it a flop.

Verdict: FLOP!

 

Camel Up: Supercup

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Camel Up is a light family game of hedging your bets. It was critically acclaimed, winning Spiel des Jahres in 2014. The game is mildly fun for a lark and it is definitely family friendly.

Dusty broke out the expansion, Supercup, a couple of Thursdays ago. This was our group’s first play of the expansion. Everyone had played the base game already so we were interested in what the expansion offered.

Add-on board and extra dice
Add-on board and extra dice

Supercup comes with four modules which can be added a la carte to the base game. Seen here is the extended track and support dice. The track can be longer, seemingly making the game last longer needlessly. But the support dice fix this. Normally you will roll camel’s dice once. But the support dice let you roll more times. This is an additional action afforded to players. Due to the sudden death nature of the round, it’s possible you could throw the extra blue die into the pyramid but the round will end. This module is almost a “must” if you want to raise Camel Up to a stronger strategy game.

Photographer from Super Cup
Photographer from Super Cup

The next module is the photographer. The photographer can be placed on a space on the board. If one or more camels land there, the player who played the photographer gets some money. This is the worst add-on for Supercup. I would not recommend using it because it adds little in the way of player choice or agency.

The next two modules modify the way in which bets are taken. Players may bet on position instead of just 1st place. And players may take a “partnership” with another player, essentially getting the same benefit as them. Both of these modules add depth to the game without adding much complexity.

I was very impressed by Camel Up: Supercup. I didn’t think an expansion would do much for a light family game. But they managed to make a light family game in a slightly meatier family game. They added depth without adding much complexity. And for that, I will call this a “HIT”!

 

Where Hits & Flops occur with some regularity