This week’s Game Night had one new face with many of the old cast of veteran gamers to the tables. The new and old classics were played and enjoyed once again with some new arrivals getting some love as well. One in particular that I recently received from Kickstarter. It was a very fun and successful night but I do have some ideas for changes I would like to make in the future. the crew of gamers seems to stray toward the lighter fare and the heavier stuff that I tend to enjoy more seems to hang back. It is usually due to a massive player count that these games can’t handle or I don’t want it to. In the future, I may start implementing a weekly sign up sheet that will have games on it that players can sign up for a week in advance. This may help get players coming back to game night and also get some more control over the decision paralysis people feel when asked what do they want to play. Enough about that and let’s get to the games from last week.
The Island of El Dorado
Total Plays at Game Night – 1
Last Played at Game Night – First Appearance
Top Ranked Player – Esther K. and Kyle H. (1 Win, 100% Win Percentage)
Most Total Plays – Eric B. (2 Plays)
The Island of El Dorado was a Kickstarter game that I just recently received in the mail and was excited to get played as soon as possible. I honestly didn’t really know what to expect as far as gameplay when I got this. I backed it without really looking into how it was played which I know better now. I looked over the Kickstarter initially and say the amazing production value with the artwork and the components which really sold me the game.
This game isn’t quite what I had pictured in my head. I hadn’t done much research on this so I’m aware that my thoughts about what this game could be are rather silly. The Island of El Dorado is a very light game of dice rolling in which you roll to acquire resources and move along a discoverable board. Resources are used to build fortresses, farmhouses, villagers, and offerings. Offerings are the goal of the game as each player must make one offering to each temple and grab the 4th shrine in the cave. That is about it which may sound simple but it truly is that simple.
The beginning is a bit on the slow side as players slowly reveal the size and shape of the board and pretty much stay out of each other’s way. Shines and resource locations will be found in which players will need to control in order to manage the pace of the game. This is where the game gets interesting is when the latter end of the game starts. Each player will eventually have 2 or 3 shrine offerings complete and it’s a race to get to the others before the other players. The game end right when a player gets all 4 so this can be a tense part of the game. The board naturally grows and is completely random as the players are drawing tiles from a random stack. This will create many different tile layouts with bottlenecks and dead ends all over the map. It is here that the combat system is revealed and starts to control the games rapid pace. The winner of each combat will be able to take half of the resources from the losing player and move their piece to a more desirable location. This makes for a lot of player interaction and tension.
I’m honestly unsure of whether I really like this game or not. I’ve only played it once and the game left something to be desired. I did see it’s potential for the game group though. Light, easy to teach, and heavy player interaction usually make for a great game night staple but I feel like it lacks the depth needed to stay relevant. I may be missing something with my limited experience but it is one that I will be looking into more in the future.
Total Plays at Game Night – 3
Last Played at Game Night – March 25th, 2018
Top Ranked Player – Ryan M. and Ruby F. (1 Win, 100% Win Percentage)
Top Score – 32 (Ryan M. on February 18, 2018)
Most Total Plays – David N., Bryan A., and Kyle D. (2 Plays)
Fool’s Gold was a title that we had picked up at our local convention in Grand Rapids called Grand Con. I say local but it is a bit of travel to get to Grand Rapids from Traverse City but I digress. Every year, when we go to Grand Con, we come back with way too many games that we need to play. Most of them take months in order to get some table time. This one was a game that was at the bottom of the stack last year. We were able to get this title for $10 as a sale item from the retailer that was at Grand Con. Usually, I’m very skeptical of games that are deeply discounted but I checked reviews on Boardgamegeek.com. The ratings were favorable with a low 7 rating with around 300 votes. I decided to pull the trigger and give it a shot which I tend to do a lot at Grand Con due to the convention high you get there. I swear its a real thing. It’s the acquisition disorder.
This game has seen the table a number of times at Game Night and it almost always seems to be at the end of the night when the drinks have been flowing. You may find that this would tarnish my opinion of this game but I have also considered this fact. Everything is awesome when your drinking. Regardless, I will forge ahead with my opinion of this game and try to leave my hyperbolic self out of this review.
In Fool’s Gold, players will be attempting to be the most profitable prospector by acquiring gold and gems. They will do this by deploying their miners to the various mining locations on the board. Each mine has a deck of cards that has gold, gem, silt, and hazard cards in them. Those miners will do a “Press your Luck” style mechanic of drawing cards from that deck in an attempt to not get skunked and claim some riches. The winner of the game is the player with the most points but the scoring is what makes the game very interesting. Each gold card will have a mine location on the back from which it came. Each player will count up all the gold they acquired from each mine and determine which mine yielded the most gold for them. That gold is thrown out and is considered Fool’s Gold (see what they did there) and will not be counted for points at the end of the game. Each gold nugget on the cards is a point each and the gems are a set collection mechanic which will yield points depending on how complete the set is.
This game does take a bit of time to explain to players as the rules systems are a bit different and aren’t as intuitive as I would like. I feel like this is of little consequence as most players will grasp the concepts after a round or two. It has a ramp-up system of only giving each player a couple of workers at the beginning of the game and progressively giving them more options as the game moves forward. I love that from a teaching aspect. It’s almost like a learn as you go system that gets players playing sooner. After the second round or so, the game starts to reveal itself to the players and the tension kicks in like a jolt of caffeine. During the mining phase, each player is watching the cards flip one at a time and biting their nails. Hazards will pop up from time to time and will have players grunting in pain and at times cheering as a high-value gold card pops up. I love this aspect! Everyone one is immensely engaged in the experience and is loving every minute of the game. I can definitely see this being a game group staple as a night ender. I have to also mention the artwork of Ian O’Toole which really brings the whole piece together. The printmaking style puts a style of the old west to it and brings everything together quite nicely. I really must congratulate the team putting all of this together. It’s quite a piece of art on the table.
Everyone needs to experience this game. It’s immensely entertaining and a pleasure to play. Ask for it at our Game Nights and I will be more than happy to teach and play a game with you.
Total Plays at Game Night – 11
Last Played at Game Night – May 20th, 2018
Top Ranked Player – Eric B. (7 Wins, 70% Win Percentage)
Most Total Plays – Eric B. (10 Plays)
This game has seen lots of play as of late. 11 total plays in the span of 2 months is quite the feat for our game group. We seem to always be moving from game to game. Oddly, I have only played this title once. This last Sunday is the first time I’ve been able to play it. I usually like to play something a few times before I place some kind of judgment so I’m going to leave this segment to an expert. Eric Benac has contributed to this Game Night Reviews before and is a far better writer than I. Let’s hear what he has to say about Santorini.
The following piece is written by Eric Benac.
Chess and checkers players who have burned themselves out on these games should definitely give “Santorini” a look. This tactics-based game has a Greek-god theme that is engaging and exploited in a few different ways. The basic design of the board resembles an 8-by-8 checkerboard, but all of the squares are green. While the gameplay varies depending on the number of players, you usually get two small tokens to control.
These tokens are builders who are constructing temples for the Greek gods. The goal of their architectural madness is to stand on top of the third story of a building. However, you are competing against other builders who are trying to do the same thing for their god and who can place a cap on the third story to prevent you from obtaining that hallowed goal.
The movement rules of this game are very simple, but the play possibilities are diverse and unique. In a two-player game, you take control of two tokens and can move one of them one space. You can then build an additional story either on the ground or on the first, second, or third stories of buildings in any space surrounding you. The ability to build on the third story from the ground may seem weird, but it is critical to this game’s strategy.
Other limitations include how your movement onto a building is limited to one story and the fact that you must move and then build before your turn is over. If you can do neither of these things, the game is over. That is the plain vanilla “Santorini” two-player, though it can be expanded to include three to four players.
The three and four variations switch things up a little. In a three-player game, everybody gets two pieces to control to achieve the game goal. However, in a four-player game, you partner up into teams, with each team getting control of two pieces. You can either take turns controlling one piece per player or work together to move either piece during your turn.
The basic setup of this game is pretty fun as-is and makes for a great family fun night. However, there are multiple god cards that you can use to make the game a bit more unpredictable. Some of these cards grant you a basic power, such as the ability to move an extra space or to build an extra piece on a building. Others are a bit high-powered and allow you to eliminate players, switch spots with units, or even gives you unique win conditions that only you can reach.
Some players may prefer the simple tactical game without the use of god powers. Others will enjoy the random element they add to the game. While the rules do state that you must use a god power in three and four player games, there’s no reason you can’t ignore them and play the basic game. And trust me: once you play your first game of this, you’re going to want to play second, third, and fourth ones. It has the same kind of simple-yet-deep gameplay that heralds so many classic games.