What's Eric Playing?: Week of May 06, 2019
Less big of a week than last week, but still have five solid reviews to share with y’all. Two games hitting Kickstarter this week, the start of another busy Kickstarter month!
Overall, I think Hex Roller is a lot of fun! I like the shape of the game and I think it’s got a lot of dynamic play based on what you roll. Do you take a 3 when you see it so you can lock in some points? Or do you wait and hope that your number gets rolled down the line (and potentially assume a lot of risk?). That’s a fun decision for players and I think Hex Roller knows how to push that tension to the surface. Thankfully, it’s not done in an aggressive way; players using dice doesn’t remove those dice for other players and there’s no interaction between players. That might not be a selling point for you, though, so keep that in mind. Either way, I’m kind of a huge roll-and-write fan, so it’s tough for me to ignore a fun new abstract one. If you’re looking for another one to add to your quiver or laminated book or convention attendance bag, though, Hex Roller is a rock-solid choice!
Overall, Matryoshka is fun! I’d say it’s about the same weight as a lot of Oink Games I’ve played before; it’s not particularly heavy, and it doesn’t have that many pieces or mental overhead to the point that it would cause me issues. It’s a nice, light, fillerish-weight game with some great art, and there’s always room for those around here. The major thing I’ll say in its favor is that I don’t think I’ve ever played anything quite like it; it’s simple, straightforward, and all about trading, but there’s no negotiation. It’s essentially a single-bid auction game, but your cards aren’t consistently the same value. Sometimes you want to underbid, even, because you don’t want the card. Sometimes you’ll trade for a card you immediately put back up for trade so that you can get the card you actually want from another player. And that’s totally fine! That’s just how things work. If that kind of fast-paced card trading sounds up your alley, or you really enjoy nice art and stacking dolls, Matryoshka might be worth checking out! I’ve certainly liked it.
Overall, I think Dino Dig is fine. There’s some understanding that a kids’ game, and I get that, but even then I think it leans a bit heavily into luck to the detriment of player agency, for my tastes. Interestingly, I’m surprised the game doesn’t have any sort of Events or round effects; I think that’s a pretty easy way to increase the variability of the game in ways that can be fun or thematically interesting. Otherwise, you just sort of pull cards from stacks until the game ultimately ends. Naturally, the things the game shoots for, it does pretty well, though; the art on the cards is cute, the game plays pretty quickly, and it’s easy to get places. I think it just occupies a slightly uncomfortable position where it’s not fully committing to being a very light kids game, but I’m not necessarily sure if the expert mode is enough to bridge the gap between that and lighter strategy card games (like Troika, for instance, which I think would be a game with similar features). That said, though, I don’t have kids myself, so I’m analyzing this from the perspective of a hobby board gamer who ends up playing a lot of kids games because they’re rad, like ICECOOL or Rhino Hero: Super Battle. If you’re looking for something that will help your kid learn the basics, this might be a solid fit for you, or if you’re looking for a quick game of digging up dinos, Dino Dig might be worth checking out!
Overall, I think The Bears and the Bees is fine. It strikes me as a pretty solid family game, both in theme and gameplay, and I think that’s the right niche for it. Among some of the people I used to play with, I fear this would be a nightmarish game; their desire to analyze every move and find the best outcome is a slow algorithm, at best, and that makes for a long game where you can’t do much planning since the board state changes so much between turns. My other gripe with this game is that the two-player mode underwhelmed me, a bit; you mostly end up planning on your own structure and occasionally building on your opponent’s, if it’s expedient. At higher player counts there’s no real concept of “your own” structure, which is nice. I also wish the Bears felt better integrated into the game; by my current understanding of the rules, it doesn’t seem like they’re particularly easy to play, especially if other players are playing even slightly adversarially. That’s okay, though. I think, while I like combo potential, in games, it actually hurts this one, since it adds another thing to the pattern-matching for players to stress about. This is in contrast to other family-weight tile games, like Kingdomino, which eschew it in favor of simplicity (which works), or Eco-Links, which adds in the real-time threat to help tamp down the analysis problem. That said, if you really like combo potential in tile games or games with cute bear art (which this game has plenty of), The Bears and the Bees might be for you!
Overall, I’ve been having a lot of fun with The Bark Side! It’s a cute, quick card game with fantastic, bright, and fun art, which always kinda sells me on a game (especially a small one, to be honest). My major complaint is that I don’t feel a ton of ability to direct the game beyond “away from me”, but that’s not the worst thing; I can’t lose the game if I never take the final trick, so I just try to focus on that and see where that gets me. Generally speaking, eventually everyone gets hit with a final trick, but sometimes you can end the game before your number comes up for that rotation. That’s kind of ideal, in my opinion. Beyond that, yeah, it’s a quick ladder-climbing card game that’s reminiscent of trick-taking, which are two mechanics I’m quite fond of. If you’re looking for a quick game in that vein or you just love dogs, The Bark Side is worth taking for a spin! I’ve had fun with it.