It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. I apologize for that. I’m going to renew my commitment to adding good content to this blog. While I’m at it, I’m going to go over my recent hits and flops. There’s been some doozies! Let’s have a look…
Hits & Flops April 2018
Welcome to Centerville
Welcome to Centerville is a bit of a departure from GMT’s normal offerings. You would expect some white-knuckled card-driven game about the Roman Empire or World War I. However, you would be mistaken.
Welcome to Centerville is a city building game from Chad Jensen. Jensen is the designer of two other GMT games: Urban Sprawl and Dominant Species. Both are heavy. So when GMT agreed to publish his next game, no one was surprised.
Welcome to Centerville is a dice game. You roll custom six siders. Keep the ones you want and reroll the rest. Then reroll again. Then spend your dice performing one or more actions. As Nick Sima says, it’s like King of New York on crack. This is mostly true. It’s actually Roll through the Ages on crack. Or some other narcotic.
You can spend your dice to place your cubes on the board. This represents urban development. You can spend your dice to claim vocation tiles. The more of the same type or the more of different types you collect, the more points you earn. Or you can spend dice to obtain public office which gives you a benefit.
The game is heavier than King of New York or Roll through the Ages. But the game is also longer. It has the same failings of these games without the virtues. This game lacks any player interaction which is problematic in a 1.5 to 2 hour long game. When it’s not your turn, there is nothing but downtime. I thought the game was mediocre with 3 players. It was interminable with 4. As such, it’s a flop.
Gaia Project is a par excellent example of a Dr. Steve game. It’s a heavy, math crunchy Euro. It’s a reimplementation of the insanely popular Terra Mystica (currently sitting at 8 on BGG). Gaia Project tweaks some stuff from its predecessor. But overall, if you like or dislike one, your opinion of the other will follow.
In Gaia Project, players will marshal several different resource types in order to build or upgrade their structures. To build the basic structure will require you to terraform the planet. But after that, you will only have to upgrade your structures to better ones. The different structures give you more resources, better technologies or more points.
Gaia Project, like most Euros, is all about timing. You take one action on your turn. Then your opponent takes an action. And so on until no one has any actions left to take. There are times when you want to wait to take an action. And other times when you want to seize the moment and take the action now.
This works very well for Gaia Project. You have tons of different ways you can affect the game slightly. But which slight effect will give you an advantage over your foes? This is the tension Gaia Project creates. In addition, the components are cool. Cute little structures that you place on your planets is alright in my book. And the theme works way better in Gaia Project than in Terra Mystica.
Gaia Project is a definite hit for me. I had Griffin’s Rest order me a copy 😀
When I learned what Cosmocracy was all about, I was not impressed. A party game with play acting? Count me out. I picked the game up last year for our Extra Life event. It was a leftover prize from our swag bags. I relegated it to the Shelf of Misfit Games.
The game kept catching Nick Sima’s eye. He harangued me to let him open it and read the rules. I acquiesced after months of badgering. Then he scrounged a group to play it. I played at the other table so as to not be subjected to a Cosmocracy debacle.
But the other table did not hate Cosmocracy. And Nick Sima kept mentioning Cosmocracy as a filler option over the next few weeks. I acquiesced again, agreeing to at least try it.
In Cosmocracy, everyone is dealt an alien race. The race has a few characteristics which you are supposed to role play. Then an issue card is flipped over. Two players debate the issue: one is PRO and the other is CON. The issues are always hilarious parodies of common contemporary political tropes. Both players have 30 seconds to state their case. Then there is a brief Q & A for the rest of the players. Then players vote on which person made their case best. Think Apples to Apples meets Twilight Imperium.
And it works. I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed it a fair amount. It moved me out of my comfort zone and forced me to play a role and do improv. It’s a game that can be a filler to cap off the night when you want share a laugh. It could also be a decent tool for theater students to practice their improv. The game had its critics in our group (Bruce and myself, namely). But both us liked it more than we should have.
I saw 13 Clues at Out of the Box recently. I was intrigued. A deduction game? Check. Plays quickly? Check. Accommodates up to six people? Check. I decided against buying, however. I have some reservations about quick deduction games. I’ve been burned in the past.
A couple of Saturdays ago our group had an outing at Out of the Box for their Conspiracy Room. We perused the game shelves after our escape room ended. Nick Sima bought the new game 13 Clues from Cool Minis or Not.
Everyone is dealt some cards. You place some on the front of your shield without looking at them. This is the solution to your mystery. You will also have two additional cards which you store behind your shield. You can thus see all the cards on the outside of everyone’s shield along with the cards on the inside of yours. Now you must use this information to ask questions to figure out your solution.
The cards have different suits and different types. You can ask someone a question about how many of suit or type they see. Everyone gets to hear the response. This could be very useful to someone, hopefully to you.
If it’s your turn, you may ask a question or make an accusation. If you make a successful accusation, you win. Otherwise, play continues. Unlike Clue, where you are eliminated if you make a wrong accusation, in 13 Clues you are not eliminated. Since everyone knows your solution, it doesn’t matter if you are wrong.
Despite the game checking several of my boxes, this game was a flop. My reservations about buying this were warranted. We played this twice now. Once with a full six players and once with five players. The rules a little bit different for 5 or 6 players. Since I played the game with different players and different amounts of players, my verdict will likely go unchanged. So why did I dislike it?
13 Clues isn’t much of a game. There are a few decision points in the game. The rest of the game is downtime. Maybe on your opponents’ turns they will ask a question that has significance to you. Otherwise it’s just downtime. It’s odd that a filler (13 Clues takes 30 minutes to play) could have downtime but here we are.
In addition to the high downtime to decision points in the game, 13 Clues often boils down to pure chance. Who happened to ask the right questions will win. But you cannot really improve upon your question asking skills because the questions you are allowed to ask are rote. Indeed, the questions you should ask on your turn are largely obvious. It’s just a question of whether the answer to your question will be useful. And since you have not control over whether the answers to your question are useful, 13 Clues is not much of a game.
If you are interested in learning more about us, visit our meetup group.