Posted in Fanatic games, Full length

Snowdonia Deluxe Master Set: board game

‘It’s a train game, but … not really. Actually it’s a slightly mad, complex, deep, balanced worker placement game – full of scenarios and every variant and twist you could think of.’

Summary:

Snowdonia Master Set is a Fanatic¹ level game of Full² length for 1 to 5 players.

Here’s what we mean when we rate game ‘weight’ or level or game length or player count.

The best bits of this game are:

1. the challenging decisions it forces on you as you balance the order and availability of actions – just when you think you’ve got your next few turns planned…. that weather mechanic!

2. the ‘events’ mechanic which sees events happen in a predictable order, but with unpredictable timing. This is just great – it gives each game a feeling of progression and requires flexibility and risk mitigation; and

3. the sheer breadth and range of the scenarios – you don’t have to settle for the original Snowdonia railway: travel to Germany, Japan, Tibet or even time-travel as you play.  I mean, when it includes scenarios put together by designers as eminent as the great Hisashi Hayashi – and that’s just one of 18 major scenarios – this is a lot of game!

The worst bit of Snowdonia Master Set is the stencilling on the wooden pieces – the workers and surveyors look weird and pretty ugly, to be frank, and the goats (mini-expansion, included) are hideous. Also, this game has a significant cost and limited availability.

This review does not cover the Botdell solo mode in detail – I’ve played against that once, am still getting the hang of it, and will probably do a separate solo play review of that.

Review:

Snowdonia really captures the feeling of toiling to carve out a rail line up a mountain – clear rubble, lay track, prepare the stations, and race to the top! There are multiple ways to gain points as you play, and you’ll probably need to exploit all of them to some extent, if you want to do well.

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The board is double-sided, with two different art presentations

Contract cards introduce a neat dynamic: end-game goals which can deliver big chunks of points, but each also has a one-off in-game benefit, which can be a real boon.

The engine building in Snowdonia is limited, but literal- you build engines (but just one at a time) which are a sacrifice to build, but deliver ongoing benefits.

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A modest selection from the enormous range of engines.

The components in this game are fantastic – chunky, colourful and well produced.³

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Each scenario has slightly (or sometimes significantly) different setup rules and this is well handled in the scenario book, which is easy to follow and apply.  The scenarios preserve the basic gameplay but add twists and extra interest.

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The ‘Mount Hakone’ scenario introduces electric powerlines, special track cards and trains and optional hot tubs!

In addition to the scenarios there are a range of optional mini-expansions included – for example seasons, and wagons, which I think I would include in every game from now on, and … more whimsical ones like the Abominable Snowman, which might only get a run occasionally.

Tip: When learning this game, I continually forgot to take the final step and refill the workshop with extra cubes, so keep an eye on that to save yourself some heartache.

Replayability? Well, it’s ridiculous. With 18 major scenarios, mini expansions and countless promo expansions (you use 6 trains per game but they give you over 100 😵) – I think you could play this game hundreds of times and still find it challenging and interesting.

BoardGameGeek rates this game as 2.89 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review). Honestly I think that is way under what it would be rated if the many, many scenarios and variants in the box are taken into account.

Availability

Snowdonia Deluxe Master Set is expensive and of limited availability – currently just via Guf in Australia ($200). Totally worth it though, and definitely comparable or superior in content to similar deluxe games like the Eagle-Gryphon games.

These are, of course, our opinions only.

Footnotes:

¹ I debated whether to rate this as an Enthusiast or Fanatic level game. I consider the decisions about when to excavate, build, convert and take other actions to be quite tricky, and a suboptimal choice can be quite punishing and hard to recover from- there are no significant catchup mechanisms in this game. For me, that puts it into the Fanatic category. Besides, if you buy this massive beast of a game, you’re clearly a fanatic 🤣😝

² some scenarios are quicker than this, and over time you’ll definitely get faster, but this game has a significant setup and pack down time, mainly due to the vast number of cards, options and scenarios.

³ except for the horrifying goats mentioned previously. Seriously, you might have nightmares.

Posted in Fanatic games, Full length

Cerebria: The Inside World – review

It’s a bit like the movie Inside Out – but wayyy more complicated

Summary:

Cerebria: the Inside World is a Fanatic level board game of Full + length for 2 to 4 players.  It has a native solo mode which I have not played, so that is not included in this review.

Here’s what we mean when we rate game ‘weight’ or level or game length or player count.  For example: this game theoretically plays 6 with the ‘Forces of Balance’ expansion (was available, but we didn’t use it), but I can’t imagine how convoluted that game could be!

The best bits of this game are:

  1. the distinctive art and design – you will love it or hate it (or perhaps, like me, admire it while feeling slightly disturbed…)
  2. the way in which the Spirits carry their theme into the gameplay, and the way that Emotions trigger actions which align with their descriptions.  When you play “Guilt”, the action it triggers makes sense – as though the other team feels guilty!

The worst bits of  Cerebria are:

  1. the learning curve for new players and the consequent teaching and setup time: it is steep, and the time commitment is significant!
  2. the catchup mechanism for the losing team seems very weak, and so a runaway winner is totally possible – perhaps even likely.

Review:

Cerebria does feel a lot like a battle for dominance, inside a human brain.  You have to summon up Willpower and Essence to manifest Emotions (i.e. to play cards in particular areas) – but will Team Bliss come along and undo the ‘important work’ of Team Gloom?

Willpower and essence are scarce, but become easier to gain as you influence the Realms and Frontiers of the mind (the game board¹).

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Game board in starting setup.  Team Gloom (Hatred and Anxiety in this game) vs. Team Bliss (Empathy and Harmony).  Go Team Gloom!

Dominating each area (a Realm, or Frontier) of the mind grants minor additional benefits (but the small benefits really add up over time through the gameplay). This “area control” mechanism is also a major factor in scoring (which occurs indirectly through 6 to 9 Revelations, determined by player actions during the game). 

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Anxiety (Team Gloom) has played Loneliness.  Loneliness has more power when played alone (theme!) and contributes to control of this Frontier and the adjoining Realms

Also, each Emotion played has its own power – getting these to work together with your Spirit’s theme and with the other Spirit in your team² is a major factor in successful play.

The art is well displayed on large, thematic Emotion cards and player boards.  I was lucky enough to play with the extra miniatures (cardboard standees are standard) which are large, detailed and beautiful (or appropriately ugly…).

I’ve skipped over a part of the setup and gameplay – you get to build a deck of possible Emotions for each Spirit (choosing 8 from 16 options).  In my first game, I just made thematic choices, but you can follow a recommended starter deck – or spend ages building a customised preferred deck before you even start the main game, if that’s your thing.

Each spirit has a specific power – give them a good trip or two around the block, as they will help you learn the way the game flows, and can be really powerful when deployed consistently.  It’s important to know that this is a team-based game – part co-operative, part competitive.  I really liked that, but it may affect your view of the game differently.

This is a lovely game with great production values, which oozes theme³.  It requires complex decisions and you must keep an eye on many factors – the board is constantly changing.  I enjoyed it a lot, but it won’t be for everyone – it could get pretty slow with four players, and it is complex.  This is a game-lover’s game.

 

 

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Team Gloom dominates! Let’s not dwell on the dark and twisted Identity emerging….              [Also, please forgive the rules error of not adding this fortress before the capping piece, I think…]
Each team has 4 Spirits but will use only two in each game.  Each Spirit has 16 Emotions but will use only 8 in each game (and each team has 8 ‘Strong Emotions’ to advance to – we didn’t even get into 15/16 of the ‘Strongs’ in our game).  The Aspiration cards (a major source of scoring) will occur in a different order in each game and some may be skipped or removed.   This extensive content means that the game should have excellent replayability.

BoardGameGeek rates this game at a colossal 4.32 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review).  That seems a little high to me, but there’s no doubt it’s an intricate board game which could be ‘bewildering’ [that’s a quote from the rulebook…] for less fanatical players.

Availability

Behold Games (I’m a repeat customer of theirs – excellent service from a game loving store owner) has this available for $71 – excellent value as the typical price is near $100. I doubt that includes the plastic miniatures, as they were most easily obtained in the Kickstarter campaign for the Cerebria board game and are probably pretty tough to get now.

These are, of course, our opinions only.

Footnotes:

¹ the game board is HUGE – you’ll need a big table.

² this reminds me a LOT of aspects of the gameplay in Spirit Island.

³ motif?  Thesaurus.com took a beating while I was writing this review – ‘theme’ does not have many useful synonyms!