What's Eric Playing?: Week of August 26, 2019
Another five reviews this week! Space whaling, rapid-fire gardening, beekeeping, blocking, and a new kind of rock band await you this week! As usual, please click on the game’s title to read my full review.
Windward is certainly an interesting game, and I’ve enjoyed my plays of it! I think, if I’m being honest, I think it’s a solid game, but it’s definitely not the genre I typically enjoy playing. The emphasis on interpersonal combat is usually pretty exhausting, and with too many players the game can devolve into a slapfight while players try to rush a full cargo hold back to a Trading Post to score. That can feel a little irritating, especially if you’ve got a player circling the Trading Post like an obnoxious vulture. That said, there are things I definitely like about Windward, too! I think the elevation system is pretty inspired, and it looks great on the table during play. Thematically, I think moving it off-planet to stay away from real-world issues about whaling is enough for my brain, but I wonder if people more sensitive to the topic than I am (which, admittedly, I’m not very sensitive to it beyond “I like whales”) will find there’s enough distance between the themes to not bother them. The wind movement system and being able to loop the entire planet is pretty cool, not to mention that a modular board always wins some points from me for variability (plus, it looks cool). Anyways, I’ve enjoyed my plays of Windward, and if you’re looking for an interesting game that combines pick-up-and-deliver, combat, minis, and planetary resource management, you might enjoy Windward as well! I’d at least check it out for the minis.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Mini Garden! Like I said, I don’t love the scoring system (I feel it’s a little basic for a real-time game, since it’s you win or you don’t), and I think that I should probably stop reviewing games without English rulebooks due to the difficulties it causes me (mostly that it aggravates my Reviewer Impostor Syndrome since I’m not 100% sure I played the game correctly), but those aren’t huge deals in the grand scheme of the game, itself. It’s a very solid game for the small number of rules and components it has, and I generally like real-time games anyways. It helps that the theme and the art work together really well to sell the game, as well, so the final product looks very nice, too. What I think I really want to see from this is an expansion, to be honest. Add some more cards, add some modular components or something, and add some modifiers to make the game a bit more complicated for experienced players. This has the added benefit of introducing content you can ignore when playing with younger players so that the skill gap isn’t quite as pronounced (as it tends to be when you’re playing real-time games). That said, while I would like an expansion, I don’t think it necessarily needs one, and that’s fine too. If you’re looking for a fun real-time gardening game or you want to explore some games from outside the US, I think Mini Garden is a nice title! I’ve had fun with it.
Overall, I kinda love Queenz. I think it’s superb. It’s tough, because Realm of Sand is my normal “this game better not end up being underrated” choice, but since Queenz isn’t out yet I’m really hoping this one takes off. I think everyone involved did an impeccable job on it, and the end-to-end product really shines. The art and table presence are great; the tokens and pieces are thick, useful, and high-quality; the design seems solid and the game has multiple useful paths to victory; the various parts of the game are fun and engaging as it synthesizes two different genres of game into a superior product. I mean, you can tell, I’m pretty over the moon about this game. I’m excited that I got to review it! It was a very pleasant surprise. I’d say, as far as light strategy games go, this is definitely one of my favorites; so much so that I’m really hoping it ends up making a run for some of the awards. I think that’s a good place for it. Either way, I’m really hoping this sees a wider release, because I think Queenz is awesome! I’d definitely recommend checking it out, if you haven’t, especially if you like light strategy games with fantastic art and great components. I’ve really had a blast playing it, and I look forward to the next opportunity I get to play again!
Overall, I think BLOCK.BLOCK is pretty awesome. It’s fairly abstract, but it’s also a meticulous work of art; the pieces feel weighty and well-made, the bags for storing the pieces are nice, the wood on the board is sturdy, too. The whole thing is just a really impressive product and I’m so glad that I got a chance to try it and review it. That said, those sorts of things come with their own problems; it’s rather expensive, for one thing. That said, I’ve been reading a bunch of tweets from Pen & Dice about how they’re working to bring the cost down for a more marketable version (felt board, no bags for the pieces, things like that), so I’d say it’s less that the game is pricey and more that I got a Deluxe Version, I suppose. That’s cool, yeah. The game itself is very solid; it feels like it hearkens back to a simpler time in gaming where I used to play Othello or checkers; it would fit in nicely with those without much effort, though I’d say it’s a bit closer to a 3D Blokus or something. Anyways, I’ve been having a blast playing it, and if you’re looking for a solid (really solid, physically and gameplay-wise) abstract and you can appreciate an artfully constructed game, I’d definitely recommend checking out BLOCK.BLOCK if you can! I’ve had a blast with it.
Overall, I’ve had some fun with Battle of the Bards! I think, for me, it’s a starter deckbuilder that ends up being a bit more complicated than, say, The Tea Dragon Society, but it doesn’t quite have as much configuration as your Dominions or your Dale of Merchants series, which means it might struggle to find its place. The dice are definitely an interesting component and spin of the game, but ultimately I think I’d like to see a bit deeper gameplay with them beyond just rolling them and seeing what happens. Being able to use them to buy different things at different times is nice, but the nature of the game’s markets means that you usually can’t buy too many things, since you’ll run out of cards or dice fairly quickly. That can be a disappointment for players, too, since it’ll end up being a deckbuilder with very few cards bought, which is an odd state. That said, I don’t want to come down too hard on the game; it’s got a lot of interesting elements! It reminds me of Witches of the Revolution, a cooperative deckbuilder that was about building up elements to empower your Witches to turn the tide of the American Revolution, much in the same way you’re building up Performance Tokens to get Audience Cards. It’s an interesting task, and I think it’ll appeal to players who want something resembling light engine-building in a deckbuilder without the full-on headache that the genre can sometimes bring. What I think I’d like to see to boost my opinion of it is more cards entering your deck or more things to shake up gameplay so that I feel like I’m cycling my bards more and building up a stronger deck of veterans, but maybe I can try doing that by trashing more? Unclear. Anyways, if you’re looking for a deckbuilder that bucks some genre conventions or if you’re just wanting to win the stage for yourself, you might want to check out Battle of the Bards! It’s an interesting spin on deckbuilders.