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).

img_8821
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). 

img_8823
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.

 

 

img_8827
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! 

Posted in Family games, Short length

Wayfinders – review

Fly your cute seaplane from island to island, and build airstrips in the right places to win!

Summary:

Wayfinders is a Family level game of Short length for 2 to 4 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 (other than cute aeroplane models) are:

  1. choosing when to pick up your meeples – this is the most interesting decision which you will make in the game, and leads to solid player interaction; and
  2. the fact that other people can also use your airstrips to help their travel.

The worst bit of Wayfinders is the lack of a score pad or scoring track – this was an oversight (or a poor cost-management decision) – the game loses some theme when you have to score on a piece of A4 stolen from your printer.

Review:

Lay out 24 tiles from 3 categories in a grid around the central ‘home’ island, and reveal the 4 tiles closest to home, for all to see¹. Now is your chance to buzz your seaplane around, exploring tropical, desert, ice, farm and city locations, and establishing up to 10 airstrips to score points. The airstrips will give you resources, extra abilities and end-game points – but, placing them will also make it easier for your opponents to get around and establish their own bases.

img_8800

You’ll need Fuel to explore city locations, and spare Propellers to explore the ice.  Visit the hangars with up to 5 of your meeples to gain resources – but when you collect them is important – it’s when you pick up your team that they will take the top resource from each hangar (whether they’re first in the hangar, or not). (Worker placement, with a twist).  Timing this decision is one of Wayfinders’ interesting choices and one which may assist (or possibly enrage) your opponent.

img_8804img_8805

Fortunately, you can use two of the same resource as a ‘wild’ resource when travelling or when building airstrips, so this reduces the pain of not getting the resources you hoped for (a little).

The resource tokens are plastic, look and feel good, and do the job nicely.  The meeples are also plastic², which feels a bit weird when you’re used to wood, but I understand the choice they made.  The plane models and airstrip hangars are simple but cute, and the colours are ummm, ‘vibrant pastels’.  I liked the colours, but they may not be to everyone’s taste.

Aside: I have several gamer friends who are colour blind. If you can believe the ‘Color Blind Pal’ app, the player colours should be OK to distinguish – see samples from the app:

9d996217-3895-4b04-aedc-97eabfbc8a2e

The island tiles grant a variety of rewards from placing airstrips – from end game points, to extra instant resources, to permanent advantages (such as free travel through one type of terrain). This ‘route building’ element of the game adds to the appeal.

This is a fun game which includes enough challenge for a short game.  There are enough different scoring strategies available to favour a few different plans to play and win. You need to plan your moves carefully, but be willing to change your plans when other people ruin them (generally without malice).  There are some mild-strength ‘catch-up’ mechanics in the game which might reduce the risk of a runaway winner³. I liked it, and I think my wife and younger daughter will like it (always a big bonus).

I think that Wayfinders will have excellent replayability, due to the modular board.  Only 24 tiles out of 45 are used in any game, and the board layout is randomised, so you’ll definitely die of old age before fully exploring the 2341358678872016236727626235904000000 combinations of those things.

img_8808
These tiles are spare – extra variety for future games 🙂

I won’t play it that many times, but will look forward to playing this again!

BoardGameGeek rates this game as 2 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review), and I think that’s fair.

Availability

This game is a new release but widely available.  I happened to get mine via Amazon Prime very cheaply (about $44); Amazon prices are highly volatile in my experience, so alternatively, try the always excellent Guf ($56).

These are, of course, our opinions only.

Footnotes:

¹ using the ‘Exploration’ variant, which I think adds quite a lot of fun to the game, though probably at the cost of game balance for some scoring strategies.

² my meeples had weird little lumps from the mold / sprue on the bottom of one foot, which made them stand unevenly – but they came off easily with nail clippers.

³ I query whether the game might benefit from having an extra round after the final round is triggered – I haven’t played it often enough to have a strong opinion about that yet.

Posted in Uncategorized

Clank! Sunken Treasure

Playing Clank! (the Sunken Treasures expansion) this morning with Miss Ten.  She loves to push her luck, and delved deep aiming for the 30 point artifact. I settled for the 7-pointer and bolted for the exit.

The dragon caught her below ground, so zero points for her – but she still had a great time.

Best thing about this game

There’s a lot to like. If you’re behind the others, you can choose to grab a shallow artifact and bolt for the exit – this gives you an excellent chance to win. Or, go deep and grab a challenging artifact (or a backpack so you can grab two) for maximum points.

But the best feature: Clank, which occurs when you make noise while adventuring, and which makes it more likely that the dragon will wound you when attacking.  This is a great mechanic which makes you balance risk and reward through the whole game.

Worst thing about this game 

If only it could play 5 or 6.

Posted in Family games, Short length

Isle of Skye

Last Saturday night saw Isle of Skye hit the table.

For those not yet familiar with this little beauty, the aim of the game is to score points across 5 or 6 rounds by building your Isle, in a way which best follows the scoring goals.  The goals change from game to game – you’re always working on 4 goals, and score them progressively throughout the rounds.

My Isle ended up looking like this: 

This scored me plenty of points for 3 sets of brochs (towers), lighthouses and farms (goal B – 5 points for each set) but I underachieved on the other goals (due to a chronic lack of cows) and came 2nd.

Gameplay

In this game, each player chooses 3 tiles (blind draw) from the bag, then selects 2 to keep.  You must be able to place tiles to keep them.  Water, mountains and pastures must match edges to be placed.  Roads are desirable to match if possible – you usually gain extra income or points if you can manage to connect them.
The tricky part is that each player gets to purchase one other tile per round, from another player.  The selling player sets the price, but ‘protecting’ your most desirable tiles consumes income.  Get the price right, and you’ll keep your tile to add to your Isle.  Get it wrong, and you’ll lose the tile … but be cashed up to buy from someone else (either now, or next round).

This ‘auction’ mechanism means that you’ll end up with 3, 2, or 1 tiles to build onto your Isle each round. Or, if you’re rather unlucky, zero!  That’s not as bad as it may sound though, because if you keep zero tiles, you’re likely to have buckets of cash instead.

Balance

The game is well balanced – we played with 5 players, including 3 new players, and the scores were close – 69 for the winner, 63, 59, 51 and 40 in last place.

Thoughts from the family

Miss 13 approves of this game – the Isle building is a good puzzle, and buying someone else’s favoured tile is even better.

Best thing about this game

It is great fun building your own little Isle of Skye.  The tiles look great – who doesn’t like cartoon highland cows?!  The auction mechanic works well and has a sensible limit because you’re restricted to buying 1 tile.

A huge variety of goals and tiles means that you’ll never build the same Isle twice.

Worst thing about this game

Some of the scoring goals (e.g. 3 points for each set of at least 3 tiles in a vertical column) feel arbitrary.

Charterstone Chronicle preview

Just published – these pages from the Chronicle (aka rule book):





I am a little afraid of how much I am anticipating this game.  Will it live up to my hopes?

Since Viticulture, Scythe and Between Two Cities (from the same publisher / designer) are so freaking good, I think so.

Pre-ordered!