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New Releases : 22nd April 2009


New releases this week

Genoa – is a re-named traders of Genoa in a bigger box (and price unfortunately) . A 2001 classic from Rudiger Dorn

Zooloretto Exotic add’s new animals and mechanics to the 2007 Spiel de Jahres winner

Panzerblitz ; Hill of Death is a re-implementation of the 1970 classic that is seen as the granddaddy of tactical wargames

I'm rather excited about the following games - they are not on general release in the UK, however the guru has mamaged to secure a supply

Diamond’s Club – another game from Rudiger Dorn, and my tip for Spiel des Jahres 2009. It plays in an hour, is family friendly yet is equally rewarding for the experienced gamer. I have played this a lot since it arrived on Wednesday. I will provide English rules

Powerboats – a race game for 2 – 6 players that uses three dice to simulate the movement of the boats. The course is made up of 6 modular boards that you place randomly to ensure replay ability. It’s very easy to learn, takes half an hour to play and is a great family game or way to end the evening after more serious fare. It comes with English rules as standard

Space Alert Vlaada Chavatil of Galaxy Trcker, Through the Ages and Talisman is the Renaissance man of board gaming – he can seemingly turn his hand to any genre and master it immediately. In Space Alert he has created a co-operative game quite like no other – players have to fight off alien attacks dictated by a sound track on a CD and to a time limit. Is this the future of Board Gaming? A lot of geeks think so. This is the English version of the game from Czech Games Edition

Agricola O (Austrian) deck. It’s in German – it has 12 new occupations and Minor improvements. And they are both tongue in cheek (the Ski Instructor has an effect on family growth) and more serious (Therapist). I will provide an English translation of the cards

Planet Steam Huge box, components are fabulous. This is a serious economic game set in the 25th Century. Players are miners on Planet Steam. From reviews and a read through of the rules the market mechanism looks as good as, if not better, than that used in Power Grid. I can’t wait to get this to the table. I will provide English rules

Valdora –One of two 2009 releases from Michael Schacht of Zooloretto fame. This is a ‘pick up and deliver’ game that plays in less than 60 minutes. Gorgeous to look at too. Touted as an outsider for this years Spiel des Jahres

Next Week we should see the arrivals of 2 de Mayo and Mecanisburgo from Spanish games company Gen x games. I’ll post details when they arrive.

Other games that arrived with the Germany shipment are: -

· China , an area majority game (“8.5/10 - El Grand lite – perfect with 3 players” – Tom Vassel) by Michael Schacht

· Entdecker (“Carcassonne on steroids” – the Guru.). Both are in the Guru special offers section at half the price you would normally pay in the UK.

· TransamericaAvery simple railroad connection game, this has been out of print in English for over six months. The game is language independent and I will provide English rules

This has been a great week for re-stocks as well.

Stone Age – the game that should have won the 2008 Spiel des Jahres is back in stock. This game has grown on me. My first impressions were that it did nothing new or original and that it was too short. Now I think it is a clever, distilled down Euro that is perfect for times when you don’t feel like committing hours to longer games. Plus how can you not like a game that has a Love Shack for two of your meeples?

Other restocks include Power Grid, Taluva, Descent : Road to Legend, Ice Flow, Arkham Horror, Marvel Heroes (now in the special offers), Hammer of the Scots, Silent War and Borneo

With rain forecast and so many new and exciting games I predict a rather wonderful weekend


New Releases : 15th April 2009

There was only one new release last week, The Halls of Montezuma from GMT games a card driven game recreating the 1846 -1848 MexicoUSA war.

Next Wednesday see the release of Eve : Conquests , a sci-fi game based on the online game of the same name.

Kingsburg has been re-printed for release next week. Kingsburg is a fantasy themed dice fest; it feels like a cross between yahtzee and a classic euro game – but is a lot more fun than that description sounds.

Three Pewter miniatures have been released for Descent.

I am going to be adding some rather exciting games to the range in the coming weeks – these are games not yet distributed in the UK which have received rave reviews. Some titles of note are ‘Diamond’s club’ and ‘2 de mayo’. I’ll let you know when they arrive.

For the younger gamer : Army of Zero

Army of Zero,

2 players, Ages 8+
, Reviewer Nigel Buckle

This is a strange mix, you get a fairly simple game aimed at boys and a puzzle with a £1000 prize. I won't comment about the puzzle other than to say the solution wasn't at all obvious!

Packaging is an oversized and flimsy box containing 3 decks of cards and some dice. Given the target audience (boys) I would have much prefered a more portable and sturdy smaller box - I can't see the packaging lasting very long.

First thing you notice is no rulebook, instead the rules (and the contest entry) are on the cards. This is fine, they've numbered the rule cards so it is easy to work out the order to read them.

Game is relatively simple, feels a bit like top-trumps with dice.

You get 3 combat cards (2 attack, 1 defend) and 10 warriors. The game comes with 84, so in theory there is lots of variety in the team you will get.

Each warrior has 4 ratings, all run from -2 to +2, Speed, Combat, Weapon and Armour, and I think the total on each card is zero (haven't checked all of them).

So you might have Speed 2, Combat -1, Weapon -1, Armour 0. Or Speed -1, Combat +1, Weapon -1, Armour +1, etc.

You are dealt a hand of 10 warriors and you select the order they will fight. Each turn you flip over the next warrior in your stack and then decide your combat action - either you fight (play an attack card or defend, play the defend card).

What happens next depends on the choices the players make:

* Both defend, nothing happens, discard the warriors, pick up all combat cards (more on this below)

* You attack, opponent defends - you roll your die (regular d6) and modify it with your combat rating (-2 to +2) and your opponent does the same. If you equal or exceed the defender you've hit. Then roll for damage, you roll your die and modify with weapon rating, your opponent does the same but uses Armour. If you equal or exceed the defending warrior is dead (remove from the game), otherwise it is discarded.

Your warrior is then discarded, and your opponent gets back the defend card, but you don't get back the attack card.

* You both attack. In this case you both roll a die and modify using Speed. Highest roller can then attack by rolling the die and modifying with Weapon rating, and the defender rolls modifying with Armour.

Surviving warriors are discarded, but the attack cards are put to one side.

You only get back your combat card when you defend, but you get back all the cards you've played. This means you can at most attack twice in a row, then you must defend (as it will be the only combat card you have left). This is where the order of your warriors becomes important, you want the warriors with high armour to appear when you want to defend, and there is an element of bluff and double bluff - do I attack, attack, defend or defend, attack, attack, or attack, defend ...

In an attack/attack round you want a high speed rating, if you are attacking vs a defender you want a high combat and weapon rating.

Once you've fought 10 combats each player gets back their surviving warriors and reorders them, then you repeat until one side has no warriors left. It all sounds quite interesting. The cards are nice card stock and all individually illustrated. There are a number of clans, and the clans seem to specialise in an area, so the Zebra clan for example are usually 'fast' (high speed).

You could play variants where you get cards from a clan or two rather than a random mix.

How does it play? Rules are simple and after the first couple of battles it is very intuitive, however after a while it gets a little repeative - having to go through the deck over and over to reach a resolution starts to show the problem. A game typically takes 20 minutes.

Depending on the mix of cards you're likely to see one side end up with fast characters left and the other with high armour, and then it gets tedious. One side nearly always wins combat (high speed) but can't inflict the kill (low weapon vs high armour) the other side doesn't die but can't win. Yes you can't keep attacking, but the die roll mechanic means if you have an armour 2 character it is hard to kill unless you can match it with a weapon 2 character.

We played 4 games and each one ended up with this 'stall' end game, usually when one side was down to 3 characters. Once a player runs out of characters both sides scoop and restack, which means if you have less characters than me I can put my 'weakest' characters at the bottom and they never have to fight again. I think it would be better to play a certain number of combats rather than a fight to the death. It would also cut the playing time down a bit too.

Overall, quite interesting if a little frustrating in the end game. Gamers who like more control would prefer a version where you draft your warriors rather than getting a random mix, but for the target audience the random method is fine.

My son (who is 9) said the game was fun, but got boring at the end where one side was winning but couldn't finish off the other - we both agreed playing 5 times through the decks would be better.

If you are looking for a quick, simple 2 player combat card game for your 8-12 year old, you could do a lot worse - not sure there is much here to appeal to girls or adult gamers though.

For the target audience I'd give it 8/10, for general gamers a 5 or 6 depending on how much the theme and the mechanic of ordering your warriors interests you.

Our Favourites : Small World

During my last game of Vinci (a game now out of print) a strange image popped into my head. I saw the Prince of Wales at the Spithead review, celebrating his mum’s Diamond Jubilee, in 1897 surveying the greatest navy the world had ever seen. He turns to her prime minister, the Marquis of Salisbury and says:

“This is as good as it’s going to get. Shall we go into decline?

"Yes Sir . With your highness’s approval I suggest we come back in the middle-east with special tech oil development"

“Make it so my lord, Prime Minister"

Unfortunately the one Special Power that all real empires share is the special power ‘can’t go into decline until forced to’ So, to me at least, the idea of putting an empire into decline seemed a bit silly, yes they decline but there is no guiding intelligence behind it. Now that personal thematic tick is totally removed in Small World - you are chucking Elves, Giants and amazons around the fantasy Small World - historical reality does not matter.

And what a great fantasy world it is - not only do you have Halflings but they can be pillaging, you can have Stout elfs and Diplomatic Trolls. The oxymoronic mish-mash of fantasy races and powers is a joy. My first play was punctuated by laughter as race/power combos were revealed. Attracted to the silly combos I was duly thrashed by the very sensible combos of Dragon Master Sorcerers and Berserk Amazons. I think every one knows this is a remake of Vinci. The basics are very simple and the rules are available on the Days of Wonder website.

In summary:-
1) You choose a race special power combo,

2) You conquer provinces of Small World with said race,
3) You score points for provinces occupied on board,
4) Repeat 2) and 3) with your race until it has gone as far as you think they can then put them into decline

5) Start your next turn by going back to 1) with a new race power combo.

It plays quickly, requires good timing and an eye for a good combo.

Apart from the fun factor game play what really stands out for me is the production values and the care and attention that have gone into making this game.

1) The artwork is fantastic, funny and informative
2) The rules should be a template for rules writers everywhere they are so clear and concise
3) The player aids are 12 by 12 double sided sheets in full colour. See points 1 and 2 above
4) There are two double sided map boards to provide a different map board for 2, 3 4 and 5 player games
5) It comes with a tray for the race counters

6) The RRP is much lower than games which seem to have terrible rule books, or counters that rip upon punching out

Days of Wonder have fabulous production values and they have excelled themselves with this game - other producers take note - This is how it should be done- no errors and totally customer focused

For the Vinci owners amongst you (I include myself in that number) it does not feel like re-themed cash in on an old title. Why?

1) There is an improvement in play balance,
2) The hidden VP’s helps to stop ‘bash the leader’
3) The game ends after a set number of turns rather than a set number of VPS which improves ability to plan ahead
4) It scales well from 2 - 5 In conclusion

I am glad Vinci has been in to decline and we have a new power,
Small World.