What's Eric Playing?: Week of June 24, 2019
We’re back with five reviews this week! Three games from Japan, one from Korea, and another Button Shy Gen Cant winner! As always, click on the title of the game for my full review!
Overall, I think Wing Spirits is a hoot! I’m mostly a fan of Tower Battle, again, that’s the one we played like, thirty times, but the other games are cute, too! To be fair, I’m mostly giving this the rating for my favorite game, rather than trying to average or amortize the ratings (especially since I generally don’t skew towards party games, so Dare didn’t really happen). That said, I think that not only is there a lot here, but it also provides an interesting design constraint: what is the sixth game you’d make? Can you figure something out? It’s kind of why I like The Lady and the Tiger and Jabberwocky so much; they both also have that nice mix of some solid games, here and some potential for more stuff given the right designer. This definitely deserves to be in the same conversation as those, especially since all the games here are dexterity games. If you’re a big fan of dexterity games, like I am, you’ll probably find something you like here, as you might imagine, but I think this also could have some legs as a well-liked family game, too. Either way, yeah, I really enjoyed Wing Spirits, especially the Tower Battle game; I’d recommend checking it out!
Overall, I quite enjoy Seasons of Rice! It’s everything I like in a Button Shy game: major spatial component, variable scoring options, bright art, portability, decently easy to learn, and a fun theme. Honestly that’s kind of what I generally like in a game regardless of publisher. This one in particular shines for me because it’s pretty quick and games with a major spatial component tend to be closer to my heart. That’s not to say I prefer it to Sprawlopolis (although I might be inclined to bump this up a bit if a solo component emerges), but I definitely have been enjoying it, given that I think we played it six times in our first session of it. The nice thing about the variable scoring configurations is that they push you to come back and try it again, to see if you can do better with a few variables changed. That’s a fun part of gaming for me, and I think Button Shy has a lot of good sense about the titles that they pick up. I value that kind of consistency, and it makes me excited to see what they come up with next. If you’re looking for another solid wallet game with a fun spatial component and bright art, I think Seasons of Rice is definitely it, and I’d recommend checking it out!
Ah, dang. I wanted to like passtally more than I do. I mean, I don’t dislike it, and I kind of like it a bit, but I really wanted to love it. It’s got all the things I like. It has paths! It has tiles! It has great colors! It’s simple! But, it’s also, slow. It’s intense. It’s methodical. It’s thinky. And it might be too much of those things for me at any given point. I think part of that is inherent in the blocking interaction; it’s a bit like if Tsuro let you cover parts of your opponents’ tiles for some reason. It’s inherently a bit unfriendly, and as a result players have to be a bit more engaged in what their opponents are doing. But building all that up builds some investment, and I’ve seen multiple players get pretty frustrated after a really well-done block. Sure, that’s a consequence of the people I play with, but I think their frustration (and mine, in some cases) made the game a bit less enjoyable for me. I think it was well-summed-up by one of my group who asked me why we weren’t just playing Factory Funner, and I’m unfortunately inclined to agree. I think this is a perfectly good path-building game, but there are others I like so much more (such as Eco-Links) that it kind of gets eclipsed. With the right players (and a time limit), though, it’s easy to get to the table and play; it’s just that as more games come out in a similar genre, I’m less likely to do so. That said, if you’re okay with getting in other players’ business and you like path-building games, passtally is pretty fun, so maybe it’ll be a good fit for you when Pandasaurus brings it stateside!
Overall, I really like Tribe! Like I said, I’m generally a sucker for stacking games, anyways, so it’s rare to get one that doesn’t really excite me, but add in some bold colors and whimsical shapes and I’m pretty much sold. The one thing that doesn’t excite me as much is that it’s much more about balance than verticality, which disappoints me when I compare it to my favorite stacking games, Rhino Hero: Super Battle and Catch the Moon. I want to send this stuff into the sky, you know? That said, it’s far from bad; I quite enjoy it, and it will probably make its way onto my 30×10 this year. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Jordan Draper does with it by way of Cactus, when that releases later. The bonus game, Chronicle, is a delight as well, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re finding that the basic game is getting too basic for you. The forced clockwise placement and the random pulls from the bag make it a lot harder to be choosy about what you think will get you the most points, which is a welcome improvement. Either way, I’m really a big fan of Tribe, so, if you ever get a chance to check it out, I’d definitely recommend it!
Overall, Sailblazer is interesting! I think my current complaint about it is that it’s not quite sure what kind of game it wants to be. On one hand, it’s definitely an Age of Exploration game. Build up your ship, explore around, discover new islands, fight pirates; you can do it all in this. On the other, it’s really got a bit of the humorous soul of a storytelling game, but it almost feels like it was afraid to commit fully to that. As a result, it occupies two pretty disjoint spaces, and the players can kinda feel that indecision in a lot of parts of the game. The game’s a bit heavy on luck, the rich get richer, and trading isn’t really fleshed out to the level I’d want it to be. The thing is, games like Betrayal have those problems, too, but they’ve fully committed to being An Experience, so die-hard fans are more willing to dismiss some of their holes in favor of their narratives. Sailblazer has the beginnings of that, but I would absolutely love to see more work developed on that side. The core gameplay is there and it’s fun; it just could use some tweaks to make it feel a bit less variable (or some additional weight on the Story Cards so that the variability feels like it’s in pursuit of a story). Either way, I thought it was a cute game, so I’m hoping to see an expansion or something for it so that I’d be able to get it back to the table. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some adventure on the high seas and don’t mind a bit of luck, Sailblazer might be worth checking out! It’s interesting.