What's Eric Playing?: Week of July 29, 2019
Another five reviews this week! Catch fish, teenagers, the moon, the gods, or your enemies. A lot to catch. Check them out! As always, clicking on the title of the game will take you to my full review.
Overall, I think Tonari is really solid! I particularly like how quick it is, even at two — at two, it’s essentially an abstract with some really fast game-ending scenarios, which is kind of interesting. At higher player counts, the emergence of the semicooperative gameplay turns it into something else very interesting, as you try to balance helping others with helping yourself. You still want to get the most, naturally, but helping your co-player get the second-most isn’t a bad situation by any means; you’re just exercising your benevolence. And that’s an interesting concept for a game, the idea of competitive benevolence. It means the game isn’t nearly as aggressive as you’d expect for a quick game like this (though it can get that way at two players). It also means that the negative point tiles are not something you want to mess around with, since that might hurt you (if it hurts the player going after you). All of that alone is quite good, but, it’s also got some pretty great art courtesy of Kwanchai Moriya, and it’s bright, colorful, and engaging. It’s a really solid gateway-weight title, and I hope players will check it out. If you enjoy that sort of thing, like the odd abstract, or just enjoy colorful or semicooperative games, Tonari is definitely worth checking out! I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
Overall, I think Campy Creatures is a lot of fun! It’s a nice and light deduction game, which I appreciate, but it also sticks to what I expect of Keymaster, at this point, which is fairly easy-to-learn games with some fun configurations and extremely impressive art. That’s not a bad niche to fill, if I’m being honest. The theme itself doesn’t particularly do much for me (not a horror fan and these particular B-movies are a bit before my time), but I could see it fitting in quite nicely with Sweets Stack, Shaky Manor, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Haunt the House, the One Night Ultimate Werewolf series, Werewords, or any of the kinda-spooky / kinda-horror games that usually end up in a Halloween Game Night. That is the one disappointing thing, actually, that I’m writing about this so far in advance of Halloween; thankfully, there are plenty of spooky games that I haven’t reviewed, yet, so got that to look forward to. Either way, the game’s got great art, quick gameplay, and it’s plenty easy to transport, so I’m a pretty big fan of Campy Creatures. If you’re looking for something that fills that gameplay area for you pretty nicely, I’d recommend it!
Overall, I’m a pretty big fan of Moon Base! Generally speaking, I like all the different components that it’s bringing together: it’s got a fun theme; it combines stacking with abstract strategy; it’s got solid artwork. All of that is great, and when you combine it it becomes exceptional. The place where this kinda throws me off a bit is that it’s a bit longer than other entries in the space (specifically, Santorini casts a very long shadow, here), so that loses it some points in my book. With these kinds of games, you tend to have to be very cutthroat if you want to win (and you do, here; that board is not as big as it looks), and it’s hard for me to maintain that type of mindset for 30+ minutes to play the game. It’s possible that the games don’t take that long, but they certainly start to feel long because you’re spending a lot of time thinking about strategy. Naturally, this means that AP can start to filter in, and now you’re trying to analyze all your available decisions, making the game even longer. That’s unfortunate, but, I think there are going to be a lot of people who love this game because of that. It demands some strategic planning and foresight because it provides you with all the information at the start of the game, essentially. No surprises beyond who takes what in what order, and even that shouldn’t be terribly surprising. What you end up with, though, is a really cool little base on the moon. It looks great and getting there was fun, too. I love what people are doing in the stacking space, specifically with space stacking. Anyways, if you’re looking for a solid two-player abstract game, I’d recommend checking out Moon Base! You might end up thinking that it’s out of this world.
Overall, I think Kami Nine is a solid little game! It’s an interesting spin on trick-taking, for sure, but I do think it’s a neat one. I’m mostly organizing a lot of these in my brain to eventually go through how they do different things, between this, Skull King, Oboro Ninja Star Trick, Trickster; all of those games. I like it a lot when a game comes in and adds something new to the genre, and games that are a hybrid of two genres are really neat. Now, that isn’t to say that this is my favorite trick-taking game; I think it’s a bit hard to catch up to a player in the lead, and I think that often players fall into a Prisoner’s Dilemma where they either need to help the player in the lead or fall even farther behind the other players. Neither option is good, unfortunately, and that can make the game feel like it’s a bit hard to control. I do appreciate that you have the opportunity to try and score 0 in order to get a (frankly preposterous) 20 points; shooting the moon is always my favorite part of a trick-taking game (Skull King has a similar benefit, if you’re bold enough to attempt it). Either way, in the family of trick-taking games, I think Kami Nine is an interesting title, and if you’re as big of a fan of the genre as I am, I think you’ll probably enjoy it!
Overall, I think Proving Grounds is pretty fun! There’s a fair bit to keep track of, especially if you’re using all of the modules, but it is, at its core, a solid solo game (and it seems to be part of a longer gambit, if the Solo Hero Series is to be interpreted as written). Klenko’s understanding of real-time dice games really shines here, as the game is quick, snappy, and complex in a way that forces me to think, and the modularity of the game is very interesting, as well. I think, for me, there’s a bit too much variance happening in specific rolls, at times (this is probably why I prefer Sprawlopolis as a solo game, since the cards tend to not be as much at once). But that’s okay! I still quite enjoyed Proving Grounds, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what’s coming next from the Solo Hero Series. If you’re looking for a solo dice game, you enjoy real-time games, or you want to play as a badass lady mowing down her enemies to take back the throne, Proving Grounds may be right up your alley!