What's Eric Playing?: Week of January 21, 2019
More previews and reviews! This week was Gardening and Vending Machine Week, Apparently, so please help yourself to reading about four new games from Cackleberry Games, Soso Studio, Jordan Draper Games, and Breaking Games! As always, click the title of the game to see my full review.
Overall, I enjoy Gardens of Babylon. I think, for me, tile-placement games need to innovate in some way to really earn a spot on my shelf, and this is a decent innovation, what with the waterfalls and the cascades. Thinking about the literal downstream effects of my actions can slow the game down a bit, but it’s a nice thought exercise and it’s an absolutely great game to look at. Having variable options to make the game shorter or longer that don’t seem to particularly change the game seems like the obvious right move, so I’m glad they so wholeheartedly went for it in their game. To be fair, Kickstarter games need to set themselves apart to have any chance of funding successfully, so its attempt to cover a lot of bases is probably (cynically) somewhat of an attempt to capitalize on two different audiences, but honestly I’m fine with that, so whatever. This game’s definitely going to appeal to fans of tile-laying, pyramids, or a bit of take-that, so if that describes you at all I’d recommend checking out Gardens of Babylon when it launches on Kickstarter! I’ve had fun with it.
Overall, I think Strange Vending Machine is a solid game. The main complaint I have with it is that it takes some time to really get, which is good and bad, in a way. Like Fantastiqa Rival Realms (which I mentioned earlier), it gets better as you play it more and get more familiar with it, but I worry that with a lot of board games people aren’t necessarily willing to give a game that doesn’t blow them away another chance (I mean, I only almost played Tower of Madness before putting it away in a huff because we had a bad magnet and setup is a pain). With multiple games in a box, it takes time to understand each game, especially given that they play so differently and the strategies are definitely not the same. It also … takes a while to review, but here we are. That said, I enjoyed both games as i played each one (Ingredients and Recipes of the Mysterious Wizard being my favorite, but Muscle Man’s Purchase Challenge is going to be a similar weight to, say, Bugs on Rugs, in my opinion), so if you’re looking for a silly collection of vending machine games, Strange Vending Machine isn’t a bad choice!
I had a fair bit of confusion as to how I was going to rate this one, but I’ve already covered similarly ambitious titles in my reviews of DropMix and Stonehenge and the Sun. I think there’s something to be said for that kind of ambition; it’s bold and, while it’s not always exactly right, it’s almost always impressive. I think JIDOHANBAIKI is similarly impressive. Some of the games I’ve played are a lot of fun! Others, I’ll be honest, I put down after one play and likely won’t pick up again. It’s a hundred floors of frights; they can’t all be winners, I think the saying goes. And that’s okay! Part of the experience seems to be the joy you find in everyday objects and how that can influence a game design, and I’m totally here for it. I have not yet shown the collection of games to someone who was not delighted by it; the aesthetic is amazing, the components and the tactile experience are excellent, and like I said, the ambition is clear. I’m pretty enthusiastic about the whole TOKYO series, and if you’re looking for a game that’s going to push that envelope (or a game that’s going to be even more expansive than, say, The Lady and the Tiger or Jabberwocky), I’d definitely recommend taking JIDOHANBAIKI for a spin! It’s super neat.
Overall, Trellis is also … fineish. I think I’m cutting it a bit of slack because it’s short and pleasant, whereas if it were longer I’d probably be a lot less enthused about it. I think the issue I have with it is that there aren’t a lot of options for recovering in a game once a player gets ahead, and it would be nice if there were fixes for that. As it stands, it’s a pretty game without a TON to it, structurally, that I’m interested in, and while that’s all well and good it means that I’d only really be breaking it out as a light filler between games, and, well, I already have a lot of those that I like a lot more (it’s tough to beat Catch the Moon, practically). That said, I think there are many ways that the game could turn around and appeal to me personally a bit more — adding board events or strange tiles or something to break it up a bit would be kind of neat, because as it stands the game feels almost determined once one player (usually the first player, in our 10 games) has had a chance to make a solid move. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for, but for me I’m finding that there are other games that do what Trellis tries to do in ways I’m more interested in. That said, there are some things it does well — again, great insert, and wonderful presentation — the table presence of the game is superior, far and away. I think I just wish that the game had more potential on my shelves than it does on my wall in, like, a shadowbox. Oh well. If you’re looking for a light tile-laying game that you can play quickly as some filler, Trellis might be a game worth trying!