Board Game Gumbo: Roux Dat #11
Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming from the Krewe de Gumbo. It feels like summer already down here in South Louisiana, but that just means more hot games on the table at Gumbo Game nights at Anubis Game & Hobby. We had some newcomers this month who marveled at the crowded tables of happy gamers and are going to bring Joan of Arc by the store next week if anyone is interested! We also snuck in some late night gaming and weekend gaming, so we’ll touch on those plays here, too.
Enough blather, let’s get to the games!
Double Your Pleasure with Doppelt So Clever
The Krewe de Gumbo sans BJ spent the Memorial Weekend at BGG Spring Con, and brought back a present. Doppelt So Clever from Stronghold Games, one of the many new ‘randowriters’ on the market. This 2019 release is from Wolfgang Warsch, the Robert Johnson of board game designers. On the surface, it is essentially the same game. Roll some dice three times, grab up to three of them, leave the rest for your friends to use on their boards.
But if it were the same, it wouldn’t be twice as clever, now would it? This time around, Warsch plays around with the same general mechanics but adds unique twists. The green section really blew our minds, as you take pairs of numbers, and subtract the second from the first for your points. That’s right, you could get negative points if you put the wrong numbers down. Instead of a straight linear progression in the yellow area, you mark yellow numbers for bonuses but have to mark them twice to score points. Sure the bonuses help, but can you really ignore end game scoring? There’s even a pink die with lots of bonuses that take certain number thresholds to hit, and I love the silver die and its unique way of potentially chaining up a lot of bonuses.
The table was mixed, though. Some felt it was just more of the same. That might be true for someone with limited experience with the original Ganz Schon Clever, but if you are like me and have already played dozens (or more) games of GSC, you will appreciate the new challenge.
Roux Dat says: Doppelt is a keeper. There’s just no reason to play the original once you try Doppelt.
Hit Z Table
Next up, we played a game that I missed a few years ago, but really wanted to try just based on the production. Hit Z Road is a 2016 zombie themed game from Martin Wallace. For a small box game, this packed a big punch. Even more importantly, Space Cowboys took no short-cuts in the theme and setting of this game. Picture a brightly colored version of Cormack McCarthy’s The Road, if The Boy entertained himself with a homemade board game along the way to the Coast. Every bit and every square inch of cardboard carries the setting to the max.
Part resource management game, part push your luck dice game, part wickedly take that bidding game, and through it all a true blood Ameritrash thriller, each player takes on the role of a zombie apocalypse survivor who has to tank up the ride and make it out alive. If you survive all eight rounds of zombie attacks, and let me tell you, that ain’t easy, the player who survives and has the most points wins.
I saw the Krewe play this at Bradly’s office back when it first came out, but never got to try it. I was really caught up back then with all of the hidden little things in the game that carried the theme. Most of the bits and cards are made to look like recycled goods the family would have picked up along the way to reuse them into a home brewed board game.
As for the game play, all I can say — it was tough! But even though I died right before making it to the coast, I had a good time looking at all of the story and thematic elements that are incorporated into the assets of the game.
Roux Dat says: We moaned and groaned and cheered our way to the final two cards, but Carlos and I were no match for Bradly’s zombie killer instincts. Not one I need to own, but I would definitely play it in the right situation.
Dan Simmons Approved Gaming
So, back at Anubis, the owner has an awesome stand up square four by four wargaming / big game table. We’ve played everything from Scythe to Heroes of Air Land & Sea on it lately. I walked in to game night this week, and lo and behold, Dave had set up Lords of Hellas on the table. The game was already in progress, and already I was bummed that my son Jack was out in California and missed a chance to re-try his stunning loss at the hands of Medusa.
I won’t pretend to know anything about this game. It’s got cool minis, a big giant map, combat and tokens and upgrades and a pretty cool theme that seems to be Greek Gods and Heroes clashing with each other over supremacy of the Peloponnese but with alien tech. Well, that’s what it looks like to me.
I’m not even sure who won, but there was a lot of smack talk and thinking going on at the big table.
Roux Dat says: As a big fan of Ilium and Olympos (rumors of a movie continue to bubble, by the way), I love the premise of the game. Other than Scythe and maybe Kemet, and to a lesser extent Game of Thrones, these dudes on a map type of games just aren’t my jam. But, the theme alone intrigues me. Maybe when Jack gets back I’ll see if he wants to play. But probably not.
Eight Minute Game In Less Than Twelve Minutes = Success
If you watch Gumbo Live! on Tuesday nights, or read this blog, then you know that I am a fan of Red Raven Games. I am slowly making my way through the games that I have missed over the years, and waiting for Jack to get back so he and Matt and I can finish up our campaign in Near & Far.
We had two newcomers pass by Gumbo Game night, and the father was willing to teach us 8 Minute Empire, designed by Ryan Laukat. I’ve always been curious about the title. Could you really play an empire building game in under 15 minutes? I guess the better question is, how good can an empire building game really be in that short of a time?
First off, this is not like Islebound or Above & Below or Near & Far, so don’t go into it thinking it is. This is more like Artifacts, Inc., where Ryan Laukat explores a mechanism in a small form. In this one, players take on nameless civilizations bent on spreading across a vaguely familiar landscape. They each are assigned money and a handful of cubes in their color.
There are four continents on a too tiny map separated by oceans, and players will spend those *very* limited coins (we only had nine total in a five player game) to buy cards from a marketplace. The cards give you cubes at the starting location (or spawn points, if you are lucky enough to get one) or movement points to shift your cubes around the world. After all the cards are purchased (after a certain number of rounds), the players will count their score by looking not only at the areas they have majority in, but also the regions as well as a set collection mechanic.
Roux Dat says: It is a weird combination: set collection and area majority, but I think it works, maybe because it comes in a small box and does not take up a lot of time or table space. I definitely do not need to own this one — Joraku does what I want in this genre with its combination of trick taking, area control and point management — but I would not turn down another game. It’s just 8-10 minutes, right?
Buy. Sell. Buy. Sell. No, Buy The Expansion Today!
My first Gen Con was in 2016, and one of the games on my must play list was a game from a start up publisher, Nauvoo Games. Stockpile had done well on Kickstarter, and the designer, Seth Van Orden was teaching the games out in the hall while the other designer, Brett Sobol (who has been on Gumbo Live!) was manning the booth.
Phillip and I bought tickets to play the game as we are both interested in the subject matter: stock selling with inside information. But would it be a boring spreadsheet-y slog, or a fast moving bluffing and hunch taking festival?
Thankfully, Stockpile was the latter. I bought it immediately after the play through, and played it two more times that evening at the Secret Cabal meet up. And it has been a regular, every six months or so, at Gumbo Game Night since then.
Carlos noticed that I owned the Continuing Corruption expansion (which I bought in a package deal from Brett at Gen Con that year) but had only played the forecast dice module. So, we fired up all of the modules and through them in. (All except the bidding for personalities one. Maybe next time.)
We got a full complement of players to the table, with two of them being brand new to the game. The game is very easy to teach, and in fact can be taught while you are playing the first round. It was a close one, but for the second time in a row, I came out just ahead. I went heavy on bonds early, scooped up a bunch of commodities using the money I earned in interest, and rode the Steel company to victory.
Roux Dat says: I insta-backed the new expansion (“Illicit Investments”) from Nauvoo Games. If you have ever been curious about Stockpile, they are offering an incredible deal to get the game in all of its Epic Kickstarter glory, plus all expansions, for less than $60. I will happily play this game in a regular rotation and it is almost always a big hit on the table. Geaux check it out yourself.
Life Is The Bubble Under The Sea
In the circle of twitter heads that I follow, there has been one heavier game that just keeps coming up. Underwater Cities is a 2018 release designed by Valdimir Suchy and published by Delicious Games. Many people I respect really enjoyed it, and favorably compared it to Terraforming Mars, a game that gets high marks from the Gumbo Krewe.
The store closed a little early, but we found an empty table at a local undisclosed location and played a very late night game. None of us had played before, but I watched Jon Gets Games’ playthrough and teach, and read the rulebook a few times. I had most of it down, but the guys pitched in when necessary to get us up to speed on the not-always-so-obvious iconography in the game.
Visually, Underwater Cities has everything I like about gaming. It sits in my mind as a 3D version of Terraforming Mars. Instead of just a tableau of cards showing the development of your city, you will watch as the plastic bits representing the cities, farms, plants and labs spread out across your play mat.
Players will take turns playing cards from their hand to take one of a whole slew of worker placement slots. This is truly a worker placement game on steroids, with the added wrinkle that the cards and spaces come in three colors. Matching the space to the card is not required, but it’s almost essential to maximizing the power in your hand to build out your city.
I wish the publisher had spent just a little more in giving us better playmats — take a page out of Gentes from TMG please — but the mats were functional, I suppose. The rest of the production was fine and what you’d expect from this style of game.
However, none of us were big fans of the bits representing the multiples of kelp, etc. The publisher provided some bits that were supposed to represent three of any one resource, but they were clunky to use and tended to hide the rest of the resources in our bit bowl.
But those two small quibbles aside, I really enjoyed my first play of Underwater Cities. I would gladly play it again. Got two hours to spare? Gimme a ring.
Curiously, I was the only one who felt the Terraforming Mars vibe from the game. And unfortunately, our play came with mixed reviews. Carlos felt it was too much Euro: The Euro Game despite all of the thematic touches that I just loved in the game. Ah well, not every game can be Hit Z Road.
ROUX DAT SAYS: I am not ready to say that I like Underwater Cities better than Terraforming Mars. But I can say what I do like better about Underwater Cities: the beautiful way that the miniature ocean cities blossom on your tableau. You can almost feel the kinetic energy flowing through from city to city as the inhabitants race to produce enough kelp to feed all your people.
The Monkey’s Raincoat, Revisited
Let’s talk some Detective: L.A. Crimes. For our last game, we dived into the second scenario of the new expansion for Detective.
Detective (the Base game) made my Top Three games of 2018 all just based on one solitary, albeit three hours in length, play of the convention scenario back at Gen Con 2018. I was anxious to try the new 1980s version, but missed episode one. Would it hold me back from enjoying episode two?
LA Crimes had everything you expect from a company whose tagline is “Board Games That Tell Stories”. The crime was intriguing, straight out of a 1980s police procedural, and as a fan of the detective novels from Robert Crais (born and raised in the Bayou State, by the way!) from way back, playing through the game felt like experiencing an early Joe Pike / Elvis Cole adventure.
Kudos to Portal Games. They knocked it out of the park with this franchise. Based on this one play, I am so tempted to back raise my level of Detective above Coimbra as game of the year for 2018. But, in the end, there’s just not enough cube pushing in Detective to do it.
ROUX DAT SAYS: Yep, Detective: L.A. Crimes has everything I expect from Portal: an intriguing story, awesome components, typographical errors in the cards and story that don’t really affect game play, and an amazing way to spend a couple of hours with friends. Get to a game store and pick it up, and grab me a coffee on the way back, will ya?
THE WRAP UP:
So, that’s it for Gumbo Game Night and our post-game quarterbacking session. Roux Dat will be back with more commentary and reviews about the games we are playing. Is there a game that you would like to suggest for the next Roux Dat? Send me a tweet @boardgamegumbo and let’s chat about it.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!