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.

img_2142
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.

img_2255
A modest selection from the enormous range of engines.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

img_2141
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 Family games, Short length, Solo play review

The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire – solo play review

highly competitive worker placement / area control plus car bombs, extortion and general mayhem

Summary:

The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire is a Family¹ + level game of Short + length.  It is playable by 1 to 5 players.

This review focuses on the solo play experience.

The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire has a fan-made solo mode designed by Martin G which is available at BoardGameGeek.  Martin has designed the solo mode with 3 distinct ‘personalities’ of the AI player available – Don Vito, Michael and Sonny and has even gone to the trouble of making printable cards for each.  I’ve played with Vito alone and with Vito and Michael (solo vs. 2 AI players) – this is quite manageable, shows off the different ‘personalities’ of the opponent and is a rewarding solo play experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

The best bits of this game are the quality of the worker placement / area control decisions within the gameplay – this is a quality, thought-filled game.  The excellent miniatures, suitcases for your ill-gotten gains, and board, and the strong theme which carries through all aspects of the game also greatly enhance the play experience.

The worst bit of The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire is hard to identify, actually – this is a solid, under-rated game.  Some people may dislike the theme, but it’s everything you’d expect from the game title and movie folklore.

Review:

This game oozes theme.  The box is slightly menacing.  The miniatures are detailed and look outright dangerous.

img_8899There are two types of workers – family members and thugs, and each has different action spaces.  You’ll get access to extra family members through the four Acts (rounds) of the game, and you may get more quasi-members and quasi-thugs (Allies) through . . . . bribery and corruption, of course!

Placing a worker gets you an immediate benefit, but also factors into area control for the next Act, which might get you extra benefits (depending on what your opponent does in future) – and also factors into end-game area control and scoring.  So, there are short, medium and long-term consequences of each action you take and the game deals with these elegantly.

Another great part of this game is that it’s not enough to earn your ill-gotten gains – you also need to launder the money and tuck it away in your family suitcase.

img_8897

Martin’s decision to include three distinct personalities for the AI player adds to the replayability of the solo game. ² The game is already quite diverse because it has 18 Ally cards, and you won’t use more than 6 of them in any solo game (9 if you play against two opponents). A different mix of new businesses each game also adds to replayability.

Every time I have played this game multiplayer, everyone’s had a blast ³ and that fun continues into this solo mode.

BoardGameGeek rates this game as 2.60 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review), though that rating doesn’t distinguish between solo and multiplayer games and so is not adjusted to reflect the changes involved in solo play.  I think this reflects the game’s decision complexity well – but, it remains easy to teach and quick to play.

Availability

Used to be fairly easy to find, but a bit scarcer now – try Gamerholic.

Footnotes

¹ it’s a Family ‘level’ game in complexity, because that’s one of our four categories.  You could debate whether a game themed around extortion, illegal goods and the occasional murder or two could ever be considered a ‘family game’…. your family may vary 🙂

² I haven’t tested the “Sonny” AI player.

³ Yes, that’s a car-bomb pun 😉

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. Franz Kafka

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Burger No Thanks

Gave Burger Up a go tonight.

Did not like it.  It’s an interesting idea but  is pretty slow going for such a light game, and has little player interaction.

The player interaction basically comes from missing out on cards you want because others choose them first.  Planning ahead is tough because of this, so basically you have big breaks between your turns with little to do.

Best thing about this game

The large square cards are pretty cool and look great.

The ‘upgrade’ idea for building a 10+ ingredient burger is neat. 

Worst thing about this game

It was boring. I won’t play it again.

Posted in Uncategorized

Imperial Assault

Started a mini-campaign of Star Wars: Imperial Assault (including the Twin Shadows expansion) with Jacques (Empire), Howard (Jyn Odan), J (Fenn Signis, K (Biv Bohdrik) and me as the medical droid MHD-19.

Here’s the mission setup in starting position:

We had a few new players so took a while to get going, but had a good mission.  Here we are with Biv and MHD-19 just having broken down the door:

We managed to squeak out a win on the last turn, just before the Empire won. Basically we ran away from the enemies through the exit just in time.

Best thing about this game

It looks fantastic, the miniatures and sets are just brilliant.  Also, it’s quite well-balanced due to the round limit which forces you to focus on the mission rather than slugging it out.

Worst thing about this game

Nothing to complain about really.  Takes a while to set up.