What's Eric Playing?: Week of January 28, 2019
More previews and reviews! This week we’re featuring the Nippon series pretty heavily, with both reviews of Honshu and the upcoming Hokkaido! Also featured are the latest games from Keymaster (PARKS) and KOSMOS (Ubongo, kicking off a whole month of weekly KOSMOS game reviews). As always, click the title of the game to see my full review.
Overall, yeah, like I said, PARKS is a lot of fun. It’s very much a come-for-the-art-stay-for-the-gameplay sort of experience, which, I suppose, is exactly what you want from a game with great art? Don’t get me wrong, this game still isn’t going to convince me to go hiking (I seriously did enough of that when I was a Boy Scout; stop asking), but it’s a great step in that direction if you have friends that love that sort of thing, but are looking for something a bit weightier than Trekking the National Parks, which we’ve also discussed here. Usually when I show someone the game their reaction is just “wow”, which, means that the art director for the game did their job and I respect that. I spend a lot of the time talking about the art, but don’t think for a second that that means the gameplay isn’t there; it’s literally just that the art is very good. Under the hood, the game’s got it, as well; it’s a slick game of blocking and resource collection that’s a bit Tokaido-esque with a more palletable theme. I’m a very big fan of it, and you’ll likely be too if you give it a whirl. If it sounds up your alley, it hits Kickstarter on 1/29; check it out!
Overall, though, I think Honshu is a lot of fun! I’m not terribly wild about whatever the trick-taking component of the game is supposed to be, but it’s a card-based city-building game, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty into that (I mean, I talk about Sprawlopolis basically all the time). The game is bright and colorful, too, which definitely helps it for me, and plus you get to make all these weirdly-shaped cities that are wildly different from game to game. For a fast, fun, and variable game experience, I don’t think you can do a whole lot better than games like these, to be honest, and I respect that. Hokkaido does enjoy the benefit of coming later, so we’ll see what lessons it’s picked up from Honshu. Either way, if you’re looking for a game that purports to be trick-taking but essentially allows you to bid for the cards you’ll add to your city with the cards you’d like to add (if that interests you at all), Honshu is a lot of fun! I’d recommend taking it for a spin.
Yeah, overall, I prefer Hokkaido. I think the removal of the weird pseudo-trick-taking system in lieu of simple drafting was a solid move, and adding mountains with weird placement rules to complicate the draft was a nice piece of smart design, personally speaking. The theme change is something that really resonates with me, just given my general preference for wintry / icy themes (see, my love for ICECOOL), but that’s going to be a per-person-sort-of-thing, so I’m not going to pretend that that’s universal. I think Hokkaido is a bit simpler to learn than Honshu, personally speaking, with only the weird rules about mountain placement being kind of obtuse your first game, and you can prevent that by just having one player check everyone’s town each round until they get a sense of it. It retains all the best things about Honshu, though; it’s a neat city-building game, it’s very portable, and it’s always neat to see how your cities turn out! It gives you a real sense of accomplishment. If you’re looking for a game that can do all that and still fit in a small bag, I’d definitely recommend checking out Hokkaido! I’ve really enjoyed playing it.
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun (in a small box) with Ubongo: Fun-Sized Edition! It’s quick to learn, plays fast, and is easy to transport. Naturally, the real-time puzzley bits appeal to me, and I’m a big fan of how bright and colorful it is. It’s nice that they repackaged the game to a much smaller form factor; in its current state, it’s about the same size as the EXIT games, which also drops the price nontrivially. I tend to tilt a little bit towards path-building over straight puzzle games, which leads me to have a slight preference for games like Woodlands or Eco-Links over this one, but it’s certainly still a lot of fun and a great game to give as a quick gift or to give the super puzzle fan in your life. It’s definitely designed for portability, even opting to have a player count down rather than putting in a sand timer, which is an interesting move. Either way, if you’re a fan of quick puzzley games and looking for something bright, colorful, and transportable, Ubongo: Fun-Size Edition is definitely a game worth checking out! It’s been a lot of fun to play.