What's Eric Playing?: Week of September 30, 2019
Back with another four reviews last week! We’ve got the Funkoverse, a magical garden, an art exhibit, and a new spin on ocean defending! As usual, please click on the game’s title to read my full review.
Overall, though, I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised by Funkoverse! I generally have a (in my opinion justified) suspicion of licensed games, but Funkoverse seems to have a solid game system in place for the sort of tactical grid-based skirmish games that a lot of people like, but it can be played in less than an hour. I’d be a bit happier with the game if it shot for the 30 minutes or less space, but that’s a personal preference. This is definitely a dangerous game in that if you’re committed to getting it as a collector, there are going to likely be a lot of sets with a lot of different types of characters, but I think it’s nicely placed as a solid gift for your friends who are lightly into games and like licensed properties. I think a worry that I have about this whole property is that it and Unmatched (Restoration’s skirmish game) might be cannibalizing each other a smidge, and I’m hoping that won’t be the case since they seem to be targeting two different audiences (I’ll know more about that once I get a chance to try Unmatched). Until then, I’m going to keep an eye on which Funkoverse sets get released. I’d love to finish out the Golden Girls set, yes, but there are a lot of Funko Pops and I feel like there are a lot of licensed properties that would be amenable to being included in something like this. If you’re excited about that kind of crossover potential, you’re a Funko collector looking to get into casual gaming, or you’re a really big fan of tactical skirmish games, Funkoverse might be right up your alley!
Overall, I think Horticulture Master is a nice title! I think its main strengths are that it really should appeal to the peaceful gamer, one who looks for a game without direct conflict and aggression. That said, that should be pretty obvious from the cover, which I appreciate. It’s nice when the theme and the gameplay match up pretty well. For me, my favorite parts of the game are building your board and collecting the Animal Tokens, but I find the Element Card management puzzle to be interesting, as well. I think many players will enjoy the challenge of trying to set up big turns for themselves or trying to block their opponents’ turns. Hard to say. Either way, it would be interesting to see what would happen if this one got localized; it’s functional, but having some extra care put into the translations I think would decrease the (already admittedly not terribly high) barrier to entry, which I think could be cool. In the meantime, though, it’s a pretty game and it’s fun for me, so if you’re looking for a really peaceful game of garden management or you just like games with solid art, I’d recommend taking a look at Horticulture Master! I’ve enjoyed it.
Overall, I think ArtSee is solidly fun! I think the nice thing that it’s got going for it is that it’s solidly a pleasant, relaxing game, and the lack of direct conflict (beyond snatching a Masterpiece Token that another player was eyeing) makes it easy for players to just politely chat while playing the game, which is awesome. The light engine-building component is also something that’s satisfying for players, since they are (or should be) consistently scoring more points over the course of every turn, leading to higher and higher totals. My one worry is that it seems very possible for a player to unrecoverably fall behind the others without much recourse beyond “don’t play wide; play a few really tall columns” or something. That’s not the worst thing, but if the game runs long and you’re stuck in a rut, it’s certainly not the most exciting time. The game makes up for it a bit with a fun theme and some cute art, not to mention some really nice color work, so it might be a great fit for players who want to learn some light engine-building but aren’t ready for something like Gizmos (which, personally, I’m still not). Either way, if you’re a fan of artsy games or you just want a quickish card-based engine builder with pretty much only pleasant player interaction, ArtSee might be worth checking out! I’ve certainly had fun with it.
Overall, I think I like Frontline Defence more than the base game of Ocean Crisis! That said, I’m assigning it the same rating because I think it makes some trade-offs in other places and hits some pitfalls that Ocean Crisis managed to avoid. One thing that Ocean Crisis did a bit better, in my opinion, was thoughtfully manage its own difficulty level; it included additional cards to allow players to step things up (or down!) to their need, and I’m a bit disappointed that Frontline Defence does not. While I do still really like the art, the decision to use the same art as the base game was flummoxing, to be honest, and I worry that will confuse people. I’ve never seen it happen, being honest. So on the reviewer end, I should emphasize that while these games have a lot of elements and themes in common, they are different games. I think this one is successful because they chose to focus on and refine what made Ocean Crisis already strong: a great theme, some slight luck elements with a good amount of luck mitigation, strong cooperative elements, and a sort of modular gameplay that easily accommodates 1 – 6 players. By trimming some of the other elements away, they let the core of the game shine, and I think that’s really awesome. Now I’m just waiting to see what they do with it next. If you’re looking for a quick cooperative game with great art and a great theme, I’d recommend checking out Frontline Defence!