What's Eric Playing?: Week of February 11, 2019
More previews and reviews! This week we’re starting with a new Kickstarter game and then kicking off a month of EXIT game reviews! As always, click on the header to read the full review.
Overall, Big Easy Busking is pretty fun! I think the major group that this game will appeal to are people who are either looking for a very bright, colorful game to play (definitely a group I belong to from time to time) or people who are getting started with area control mechanics and looking for a simple and straightforward introduction to it. It’s definitely about the right weight for that, with the most complicated part of the game being the decisions around whether or not to buy songs or which venue to play at. Personally, I find that the games run a bit long at higher player counts, but if you’re not playing with players prone to heavy analysis this may not be an issue. My only major point of critique is that I wish the game achieved a bit more thematic synergy — as it currently stands, it feels like it could take place anywhere, and I’m hoping through the Kickstarter process it arrives at a place that’s a bit more engaged with New Orleans as a location. That said, if you’re a fan of area control games or you’ve always wanted to try your luck as a street musician, Big Easy Busking might be right up your alley!
Overall, I think Kitty Paw: Valentine’s Day Edition isn’t quite what I’m looking for. That’s not to say it’s a bad game (I’ve played bad games), but I think there are a few places where there’s a mismatch between what I want in a real-time game and what the game actually shoots for. I maintain that having a player end the round once they’re done is a problematic paradigm, structurally, as it incentivizes players taking the easiest puzzles to solve in the early game and then in the late game they’re often too far ahead for other players to have a meaningful opportunity to catch up. At higher player counts hopefully other players can beat them to the punch, but, that’s not always going to happen. This is a shame because conceptually I think the game is pretty solid — the puzzle elements are interesting, and late-game, they’re pretty challenging; every bit as much as Eco-Links or some of my other favorite real-time puzzlers. The problems I have with the game are mostly just that scoring system; I think other real-time games present it in a way that’s more satisfying for me, and I’d be interested to see how the game changes with a global timer and players taking small penalties for every spot they are after first (and giving first a small bonus or something; I’m not a designer). I think it’s more consistent with the current real-time puzzle landscape (which isn’t always good; be original, sure) but it also makes each round less defeating when you don’t immediately get first place. That’s just my two cents, though; if you’re looking to make those tweaks I’d love to hear how it turns out for you, but either way if you love cats and cute art, you’re looking for a seasonally-a-purr-opriate gift, or you’re looking for a very family-friendly real-time game, you might enjoy Kitty Paw: Valentine’s Day Edition.
Overall, Antinomy is a superb little puzzler! It’s got great art, it’s easy to learn, and it plays quickly, and that right there checks plenty of my boxes on games that I like and want to play, so, there we go. I also really appreciate that the catch-up mechanic can ignore the puzzley parts of the game, as it essentially introduces asymmetry into the game in a very interesting way. You can just follow your opponent around and try to beat them up every time they get a Paradox, in lieu of trying to solve the puzzle yourself. It’s weird, sure, but weird is good! I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought Button Shy is on the cutting edge of like, what can be done with just a few cards and a wallet, and they’re consistently surprising me with the range of possibilities they’re executing on. I think it’s good for board games that games like Antinomy exist, and I really thought it was quite fun, so hopefully it’s not the last I see of it in this timeline. If you’re looking for a quick puzzle game with some potential asymmetry and/or battling, Antinomy is worth checking out!
Overall, EXIT: The Mysterious Museum is a lot of fun! I’m willing to ding it a bit for having a puzzle that honestly kind of sucked to solve, but, I really enjoyed it nonetheless. It has one of my all-time favorite puzzles in an EXIT game (sharing that distinction with The Pharaoh’s Tomb), and I’d love to see similar puzzles implemented in future games (though they won’t be, because then you’d expect them). The nice thing for me is that seeing those makes me pretty confident that the series still has legs even after 10 (more than that, honestly) entries; they’re really pushing the envelope of what can be done with such a small-box game and they’re pulling it off really well. It’s kind of a gold standard of puzzle box games, and I’d still overwhelmingly recommend the series to anyone interested. The Mysterious Museum isn’t a bad starting point, though it kind of (as museums tend to do) celebrates a bit of the series’s history, so it might be more meaningful once you’ve played a number of them? That’s just my take. Either way, it’s another very solid entry, and I look forward to seeing where the series heads in the future! (Even if I already have some ideas.)