What's Eric Playing?: Week of August 19, 2019
Another five reviews this week! Make some magic, or some pizza, or make merry, or make a canal, or make potions. Lots to make in these reviews. Check them out! As always, clicking on the title of the game will take you to my full review.
I love Hiktorune. It’s exactly up my alley. Fun and colorful game, interesting dexterity mechanic, and it’s cooperative! That’s a blast, for me. I think I’m the only person I know who loves Hiktorune, which is also just my fate, but I’ll get into that solo mode sooner or later. I think the nice thing is that even in spite of me only having most of an idea of how the game works, we’ve found a way to play that’s been really fun for everyone (or at least me, since I love this kinda stuff). I’m genuinely hopeful that some publisher brings it stateside (putting some bets on Ninja Star Games, since they localized Sweets Stack, and Hiktorune features a crossover promo quest, which is delightful). Part of this hope is that I really would like a full-English rulebook, since I currently don’t 100% know if I’m playing the game totally correctly. That said, I really do enjoy the way I’m currently playing it, so if you’re into cooperative games and especially if you’re into cooperative dexterity games, I’d recommend taking Hiktorune for a spin! You may just have to come up with a few rules on your own.
I mean, after the last one, this is a pretty marked improvement, in my opinion, as far as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games go. It’s just … not quite there, for me. It would be fine, but the pizza cards being as difficult to shuffle as they are ends up being irritating more than anything else. Beyond that, it’s not bad, honestly. It’s a quick real-time game about slamming down pizza slices that pretty much plays the same way for 3 – 4 rounds as players accrue points. Given the … offbeat nature of some of the pizza types, I could see this actually being a pretty huge hit with kids, especially if they’re not really playing to win from a strategy point of view. If you are, you’re going to notice pretty much immediately that once you run out of cards, you’re at the mercy of how quickly your opponent moves. If they don’t, and the player after you does, you’ve messed up and given them enough cards to knock you out in a round. That’s, I feel like, a missed opportunity in the game to try and figure out a way to speed up another player; maybe it’s if you have no pizza slices to give me, I can take one of yours, or somethingthat incentivizes all players to move as quickly as possible. It’s a cute game, but that interaction causes it to fall pretty flat for me, especially when compared to other real-time assembling games that I love, like Lovelace & Babbage or Eco-Links. That said, if you’re a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, gross pizzas, or know someone who is, it’s a very quick game and they might enjoy it? I just think that it’s targeted for a different audience than the one I’m in.
Overall, Triumphus falls a bit flat, for me. I think that’s due to it occupying a space that I’m not super keen on: the spot between filler and a light game. Due to its usual playtime, I think that it strikes me as more of a light game than a filler, but it is definitely streamlined like a filler would be. This isn’t much of a problem, per se, but it means I went in with a certain expectation that I don’t think the game was equipped to satisfy. That said, it does have some positives: I really enjoy the art, for one; it captures the time period well and looks stylized but still colorful in ways that I appreciate. I’d honestly love a deck of cards that had a similar art style to the Supply Cards. It’s also, as I mentioned, very portable, and that’s always good (even better for a filler game). I just don’t think I’m particularly engaged by the core gameplay elements of it, as it reminds me of an engine building game without the actual engine, which isn’t my particular cup of tea (I had a similar problem with Chocolatiers). To wit, I’d probably rather play Splendor or Realm of Sand, since the engine-building is a major part of the game and I feel less like I’m cycling cards. If that’s not a big deal to you or you’re looking for a pretty casual card game, however, Triumphus may be your speed.
So, weirdly enough, I think I’m going to give Venice Connection: Mint Tide a pretty high rating. My general problems with it are the print job, which I’m hoping is kind of limited to just my particular set, and that it doesn’t fix all the things I don’t like about the base game. That said, I actually do think that if I did like the base game, I’d want to have the expansion pretty much all the time, so in that sense, it’s a good expansion? It’s a weird mood. That puts it pretty firmly around an 8, but, I still don’t really enjoy the base game, so, I’m not sure what to do with it. Hence, a 7.75. I think it’s a very well-made expansion, especially for its size, but I don’t think it can do enough on its own to pull the game up to something I actually want to play. That said, if you really enjoy the base game, I’d highly recommend this one, but I think I’m going to call my recommendation there. Venice Connection: Mint Tide is a thoughtful and interesting expansion on an underwhelming game, but at some point the core game is eventually what everything boils back down to. Oh well; that happens, sometimes.
Overall, I think Animalchemists is fun! There are a few things that give me pause, sure, but I think it’s just a bit simpler of a game than what I’m looking for, right now. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but I think for my personal taste it seems to be caught between a light game and a filler game without a real desire to commit to either. This means you’re getting some filler game elements, like portability, quick gameplay, and low complexity, but you’re also getting a game that lasts a bit longer than you’d expect from its weight and cognitive overhead. There are some people who will like that, and that’s totally fine; I think that the art will also help smooth that over a bit, because it’s an absolutely beautiful game. Just, for me, I’d like it to either run faster or have a bit more engine-building or something going on to keep me engaged for longer. It might be that the potions cause the game to run a bit longer, and that’s about where it starts to slow down, for me? Unclear. I made a similar comparison to Triumphus, which has a two-stage market rather than a three-stage market. Its cycle is simpler, but it also moves a bit faster as a result. I didn’t care much for it either, but I think a simpler cycle may help Animalchemists target that filler-level game, if that’s what they’re going for. If not, some extra variability, maybe by way of events or challenges or non-single-use player powers might be things to help bolster the gameplay up to a light strategy level. I’d just like to see it commit one way or another. That said, I have enjoyed playing it, so if you’re looking for a quick game with fantastic art and magical animals, Animalchemists might be up your alley, too!