Games From the Demo Shelf!

7 Apr

As most of you should know by now, I work in a game store (Beyond the Board in Dublin Ohio, come visit!). One of my favorite aspects of the store is the demo wall of games.

In this spot will eventually be a picture of said wall…once I remember to take one >_>

Almost any time we are open, people can just stop in, grab a game off the wall, and play. Our library has recently blown past the 250 game mark. This is both good and bad. It’s good because people there’s a wide variety of things for groups to choose from. It’s bad because it’s hard to keep up and know how to play all those games. So our Monday game group decided to do nothing but pick games off the wall that none of us had ever played.

Game #1 – Forge War

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Forge War is a game where players are blacksmiths. You send your workers down to the mines to get the resources you need to forge the weapons that you then give to you hearty band of generic warriors so they can go slay the big bad menace. Resource acquisition in this game is done by a fun “Hey! That’s My Fish” style mechanic. Once you get your resources, you then go to the market where you can buy the plans for weapons, and special buffs that can help you on your quest. Finally, you go off and choose the quests you’d like to send your crew on. Some of these quests have multiple levels, requiring more turns to finish, but rewarding you with many more points. If you fail a quest, you may still be able to get some points based on how far into the quest you got before failing.

I didn’t expect to like this game as much as I did. The whole generic fantasy theme didn’t do a lot for me, but I found the mechanics of the game to work extremely well together. The turns flow in a logical sequence, and the player mats give you pretty much all the info you need to get through a turn. We played a basic game, which only last 7 turns, and doesn’t use all the features the game has to offer (in fact, the set up of the game in the picture is wrong because  we missed the tiny dots on the map tiles, though once we found one, the rest almost magically became obvious). There’s a short and an Epic variant to game play. The epic version can take 3 times as long as the short version (though there’s even a quick-start version of the epic game which will knock an hour off that). I’d like to give the full Epic version a try sometime.

A lot of people are comparing this to Lords of Waterdeep. I see that in the theme, but that’s where it ends. This game, even with the complete abstract nature of the mining, does a better job of conveying the theme than Waterdeep does…although I would still say I prefer Waterdeep in the long run. Forge War was a fun game, and a definite surprise.

Game #2 – Best Treehouse Ever

IMG_0936Best Treehouse Ever is an extremely charming card drafting game. Players are trying to put together a treehouse by building rooms. There are several different colors of rooms, and you are trying to get chains of rooms of the same color together to score points. If ever a color gets cut off, you can no longer EVER build that color room into your treehouse. The most frustrating part of this game is the balancing issue. When you place a room in your treehouse, you must check the balance of your tree. If one side has more rooms than the other, your tree begins to lean off-center (denoted by the acorn token). You are not allowed to place another room on that side of the center line until you have balanced it out.

The game is played by dealing each player a hand of 6 cards. Players will draft one of them, face down, and then pass the rest to the next player. Once everyone has chosen a room, everyone flips their chosen card up and places it. After 5 of the 6 cards have been played, a scoring round takes place. Players each have the chance to affect the scoring of one of the colors, either by doubling the score for all players, or by making one color not score at all. 3 rounds are played, and then there is a final scoring where the player having the most of each color of room scores bonus points. I really enjoyed this game as a 2-player experience. With only 2 (as it is in many drafting games) you have much more control over what cards you will see again, so you can plan your moves a bit more effectively. With more players, it gets more chaotic…which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, especially in a game this short. It can get to a point where if you’ve had to block off a couple of colors earlier in the game, you just can’t play anything, and that can be a bit frustrating.

This game fits in that same depth / game play range as Sushi Go. I think this only playing 4 players limits it a little bit, but if you’re looking for a small, quick card drafting game, The Best Treehouse Ever is a very colorful and fun one.

Game #3 – Lagoon: Land of Druids

IMG_0938Lagoon is many games in one. In the game, you control a group of druids. You go around exploring the lands around you, collecting “seeds” in the three colors of the game. You use these seeds primarily to “unravel” tiles of another color. These colors interact in a very scissors-lizard-Spock fashion. Unraveling a tile brings it to your control, and it might score you points at the end of the game.

Most of the game has you exploring for new tiles, and then finding ways to maneuver your druids into such a formation that you can use the tiles in concert with each other to do amazing things…and hope that nobody unravels the linchpin tile before you get to use it. In some ways, it’s like playing Magic: The Gathering with your cards exposed. You’re trying to secretly plan your moves, but everyone can always see exactly what you’re doing. Quite a challenge. I particularly like that your druids are basically the Borg. A druid standing on one tile can use the action of another tile as long as you have someone on that tile. Especially useful in the middle of the game when you may not have been able to refresh all your druids on a turn.

At the end of the game, one of the colors emerges “victorious” over the others (whichever color has the most tiles still on the board). Each player scores 1 point for each seed they have of that color, and 2 points for every tile they unraveled not of that color.

This is a sneaky-deep game. The tiles each have a mountain of text, which means it takes some mental gymnastics to work out how to best use the tiles on the board together. For that reason, I like this as a 2-player or 3-player game, but would probably shy away from it with more than that. It can foster analysis paralysis even in those of us that don’t normally suffer from it. I do feel like this is a game where if players fall behind, it can be difficult to come back. It requires both the resources to shut down the leader’s engine, and then the luck of drawing just the right tile to enable you to start your own engine. I need more plays to know for sure, but I felt that fairly strongly during this game. I definitely think it warrants more play.

That’s it for this time, next week we celebrate another birthday by playing my friend Tim’s favorite games…and we delve deep into the world of memes. This one’s gonna get dirty.

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