What's Eric Playing?: Week of March 18, 2019
This is an exciting week; five reviews, again! That’s exhausting but, what can you do I’m doing it next week too. Let’s check out what we’ve got. As always, click the title to read the full review!
Overall, I think Ocean Crisis is great! I’m personally a big fan of thematic games, cooperative games, and games with path-building components, so, that’s all here and I’m here for it. Generally speaking, I think the game is nice; high-quality components (as you’d expect from Shepherd Kit) certainly help, but there’s also just a lot of content. The game’s pretty big, lots of difficulty levels, lots of modes and scenarios and missions to choose from; you could spend a lot of time with this (and use it as a pretty compelling lesson on the impact we can have on ocean conservation efforts, in my opinion). That’s a good theme for a game, though. It presents a global challenge and tasks the player with coming up with workable solutions. It doesn’t make it seem like it’s an insurmountable problem, but rather a problem that can be chipped away with the right team. It’s an optimistic game (and a fun one), and I’m really glad that it’s been made. Anyways, if you’re looking for a cooperative game with a fun conservation theme that’s family-friendly and pretty challenging, I’d definitely recommend checking out Ocean Crisis! I’ve enjoyed it a lot.
Overall, I think Vadoran Gardens is a solid little game! Like I’ve said, a bunch, it definitely occupies a similar space to the Kingdomino / Queendomino family, but I think I’d put it in between those two. It’s a bit more complex than Kingdomino, since there’s a directionality to the pieces (but it adds an Achievement system that I wish Kingdomino had [it’s similar to the expansion, to be fair]), but it doesn’t have the “ever so slightly too much” that Queendomino has. That said, I tend towards lighter games, so that should give you a pretty good idea where the needle is on this one, for me. Beyond that, I think it’s a smart design, with constraints designed to both challenge players and reduce analysis paralysis (which is always good) and increase play-to-play variety. While randomly extending the game length is annoying, it’s … not the worst thing in the world, especially for players that desperately need one more turn. Either way, if you’re looking for a relatively quick and light card-laying game (or you’re really into fantasy garden construction), I’ve enjoyed Vadoran Gardens; maybe you will, too!
Overall, Sheep Dog is solid! I mean, the obvious advantages to it are pretty clear without even opening the box: the art is great, the game is astonishingly compact, and the theme is pretty unique, as well. That alone is usually enough for me, but I’m pleased that the actual game itself is pretty solid. Personally, a pure bluffing game is a bit hard for me to get into, but thankfully, only one player really needs to bluff; the other player needs to try and crack the bluff. It’s that part that makes it really interesting and gives players the flexibility to play a style that suits them. Also, it’s a short enough game that it’s not really a problem if you’re getting read by your opponent; finish the game and switch roles! Then see if they can out-bluff you! The major issue with this one is that it … doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, right now, but hopefully there are companies locally that would be interested in picking it up! It seems like a natural fit for Letiman Games, to be honest. Either way, if you’re into two-player asymmetric games or you’ve got an affinity for bluffing (or figuring out other players’ bluffs!), Sheep Dog is a pretty cute game; maybe you should check it out!
Hey, look, it’s happened; there was an Oink Game that I didn’t particularly like. Maybe that’s why it’s so much harder to find than the others, but who knows. Either way, I just don’t think I particularly “get” this one. Half of the time, for me, it’s just watching other people steal from each other and then challenge, meaning that one person ends up with even more money. They subsequently get robbed, challenge, and then one person has even more money. This kind of cycles upwards until it’s either too late to stop the person with all the money or they make a bad call and they lose the game. Either way, it’s not the most exciting experience for me, but that’s okay. It might be more for you if you enjoy the idea of being able to rob other players but never quite know if you took enough or too much. I think it’s a cute concept, but I don’t think execution quite lives up to what it could. I’d love to see a version of this with more structure. It’s not a bad game to play; I just find it kind of forgettable (part of why this review took so long to write). That makes Oink roughly … 15 for 16, in my book, and show me a publisher with numbers like that. Either way, worst case scenario, you get a bunch of sacks and metal coins, which you can use for just about anything, so, that’s still fine.
Overall, Life Siphon is interesting! I think, being honest, it’s a bit too combat-focused for me. That’s pretty common, though; I’m not a huge fan of combat in games in general, and this is pretty heavily tilted towards it. What I do like about the game is everything about the theme and presentation. I love silly magic stuff in games, and this manages to filter it through a nice (and dark) lens that’s interesting, novel, and kind of sad (I mean, dragons took over the whole world). My complaint about the spell system is the same complaint I bring up for any games with a “reaction”-style mechanic; I think it’s still kind of ill-defined and I hope that it’s cleaned up a bit before the final release. What I will say, is, having played Dragoon, I think this is an improvement, personally (at least at higher player counts). It trades the dice luck for more card luck, which may not appeal to everyone, sure, but it is nice in that it lets players choose between the two as to what appeals to them most. Similar to the Dragoon series, it seems like expansions are highly likely in the future (more Familiars and Aspects, mostly), and I’m certainly interested in those. Lay Waste tends to be innovative, and I respect that, even if the combat heavy games aren’t my absolute favorites of theirs. If you’re into that sort of thing, though, and you’re ready to bring the fight to your cursed friends to try and escape your dark fate, you might get a kick out of Life Siphon!