Folded Space is what your games need!

I just got my game box inserts from Folded Space today. They are a company out of Sofia, Bulgaria that makes lightweight, board game organizers that fit inside the original game box.

First, they arrive as sheets. You follow the instructions to punch out pieces and fit them together. Folded Space recommends “dry fitting” the pieces together first, and later gluing them once you know how every piece fits Assembly Instructions.

–Some of the sheets

— instruction sheet and my son Oliver putting boxes together

— a bunch of dry-fit boxes

Next you assemble all the components. The instruction sheet shows 1) where each insert goes in the game box and 2) what game pieces go in each insert.

Last, you load up the game pieces into the organizers and stack them in your game box.

Here is a dry-fit example of the game Near and Far:

— the inserts with game pieces

— the fully loaded game box

The Verdict

Folded Space inserts rock! My Near and Far box had previously been a mess of game pieces stuffed into plastic bags. Now it’s organized into neat little trays and everything fits. The box lid does stick up maybe 1cm but that’s a small issue.

Now I have to take everything out and glue the inserts to strength them. Then it’s on to my Folded Space organizers for 7 Wonders, Scythe, Scythe: Rise of Fenris, and Eclipse. Sweet!

Can You Survive on the High Seas? A Review of 7 Wonders Armada

The new Armada expansion to 7 Wonders has been released! Now you can take your empire building to the high seas. Armada promises to increase the strategic nature of your 7 Wonders games while also adding more fun.

Does Armada live up to the hype? We gave Armada a spin, so read on my faithful followers and find out what we thought about it!

What Does Armada Add?

Armada adds a brand near board for each player that tracks their naval accomplishments. True to 7 Wonders game play, the new naval board tracks a player’s fleet in the four areas of development: military (red), commerce (yellow), diplomacy (blue) and science/exploration (green).

— the new naval board. Note the four columns, each devoted to progress in a different color.

Each time a player plays a card, they can in addition pay the cost on the naval board–in the same color as the card played (ie play a yellow card, you can pay the next cost in the yellow naval column)–in order to move the corresponding boat up one space. In the photo above, all boats start on the bottom space of each column. If the player plays a yellow card, they can in addition to paying for the card, pay one wood to move the yellow boat to the next space up the yellow column. Also, each board has one column that has a pyramid symbol. When the player builds a stage of their wonder, they can also build in the column with the pyramid.

— in this photo, the player has advanced three boats one space, and the yellow boat two spaces

As the boats advance, the player gets a bonus. Red advancement gains naval shields (which work like land warfare but are a separate naval warfare at the end of each Age). Yellow gains coins. Blue gains victory points. Green leads to exploration of islands, which produce bonuses (eg resources) on special island cards.

The basic idea is that players can choose to use resources as they build normal cards to also advance their naval fleets. As such, the Armada expansion adds a second “play” each turn, if a player has the resources to pay for it. The naval board goes next to the player’s Wonder so that it is easy for each player to see what naval advancements are available.

— the naval board next to my wonder

Another twist is that at the end of each Age, there is naval combat. The naval board generates naval shields. Combat is global, so players are ranked from strongest to weakest. The weakest player gets a marker with negative victory points, and the stronger players get positive victory points based on order and Age (ie the strongest player gets more points, points are greater as the Ages move from I to II to III).

Armada also includes cards for each age that are themed to the new Armada expansion. This increases the fun as players must now contend with new and different cards with some unique twists (I won’t give any of it away, you need to buy Armada to find out).

Game Play

The Armada expansion significantly lengthens game play. Each turn, players can effectively make two “plays”: a card and naval advancement. The effect of this is multiple-fold (is that a real word? I don’t know, but I will use it anyway): 1) each turn takes almost twice as long, 2) players will be buying more resources from each other, and 3) you gotta watch each other because honest mistakes (or dishonest ones) are much more likely to happen (especially in Age III).

— here is what the table looked like at the end of our game!

More ships, more strategies!

We discovered that the Armada naval boards now allowed for more strategies. In the game in the photo above, I went for naval shields and domination of both ground/naval warfare (I am in the bottom left); Lee (top right) went for a Boston Harbour (his term for it) strategy of advancing all his boats; Stew (bottom right) went for scientific achievement and advancing his green boat to explore; and Bob (top left) went for diplomatic/governmental victory points.

These differing strategies led to all of us scoring lots and lots of points.

— the score sheet at the end of the game. I won by 6 points!

The Verdict

Armada turns 7 Wonders from a quick, simple game into a much longer highly strategic contest. We had a good time with it and would play it again. The downside is that the game was twice as long and man, we needed Bob’s entire dining room table PLUS the extra leaf we put into the table!

As such, this expansion seems like a welcome addition to those who want more complexity and a longer, more strategic game. If you are looking for a short, enjoyable game of 7 Wonders, Armada might not be for you.

Oh….and Armada is much, much better than Babel. We played the Babel expansion about a dozen times and nobody ever really liked it. I can tell you hands down that Armada is way better than Babel. The naval boards, plastic ships, naval combat, and island exploration both add a good deal of strategy and also are themed very well. It does feel like you are sailing ships and building ships. Armada fits the 7 Wonders theme very well in a way that Babel never did. In fact, I am thinking of listing Babel on Boardgamegeek to get rid of it.

Okay you landlubbers, get out your sailors and set sail!

3 New and Good Games

There are so many games out there, it is literally impossible to play all, if not most, of them. So which games should you play? Well my faithful reader, I am here to help you out! The following are three new and cool games that I think you should check out!

1 – Horizons

In Horizons each player explores stellar systems for planets, places energy and metal collectors to mine resources, builds colonies to control systems, and generally tries to amass Knowledge (i.e. victory points). On its face it seems like another 4x space game, but the similarity to those sort of games is not where Horizons shines.

— a game of Horizons from the perspective of a player

Each turn a player can take 1 of five actions (explore, build, etc). However, and this is the key part of strategy in Horizons), if the player has an Ally card that triggers from the chosen action, the Ally card adds an extra free action. Thus, in Horizons each player should try to take two actions each turn: 1 chosen action and 1 free Ally action.

The first difficulty is in recruiting the right Ally cards. The Ally decks are quite small, and the top Ally card of each pile is always face up and sometimes other players nab the Ally that you wanted. The second difficulty is that each Ally can only be tapped twice before the Ally is sent back to the bottom of its corresponding Ally card pile. Knowing when to use the Ally is important, but use that Ally twice and then another player can recruit it, so watch out!

Thus, Horizons becomes an area control game, a resource management game, a victory point accumulation game, and a game about maximizing actions (similar to card management cards with combination card play). Through in the expansion with aggressive Ally cards that mess with opponents and some random suns that effect their stellar system to make the game more strategic and even more fun!

2 — Night Clan

Night Clan is a quick (maybe 15-20 minutes) card game. The premise: a troll is coming to the village to carry off the rich man’s wealth and daughters. As a player you need to hide your daughters and wealth. Beyond carefully hiding these goodies, you can use your night watch to move them around and mistletoe to negate the troll.

Each player has the same set of cards, has only 3 of them in hand each turn, and must play 2 cards. The “board” is a set of locations at which plays place their cards (like Smash Up, Camelot Legends–wait, you’ve never heard of Camelot Legends?!? It’s from 2004 and it was ahead of its time, go get it). The twist is that some cards are played face up (daughters, night watch) but other cards are played face down (treasure, troll, mistletoe).

— the tableau of Night Clan

Once all the cards are played, the player with the most cards at each site wins the victory points at that location UNLESS a troll is present. If any troll (each player has one troll to play) is at a location, all the cards are lost UNLESS there is an equal amount of mistletoe present, which negates the troll!

The combination of equal decks and facedown cards forces players to calculate where the trolls are, where the treasure is, and whether mistletoe has been played on the trolls.

— the winner’s victory point haul at the end of the game at the bottom, another player’s points to the right and another on left. The player at the top had no points (good job troll!)

Night Clan is a fast game that can be played multiple times in one session or as a quick filler in between longer games. It is a bit deeper than it initially looks and is fast and fun. The only downside is that the colors on the cards are too similar and can lead to confusion as players try to figure out if blue or green has the most cards at a location.

3 — Imperius

The third game, and my favorite, is Imperius, a card game set in a Dune-like sci-fi world or competing noble houses. It is another location card placement game. And like Night Clan, each player has the same set of cards (1 commander, 1 noble, etc). But unlike Night Clan, the cards of each noble house are slightly different in their power and abilities. One house has a great assassin, one has the strongest noble, etc. In particular, each House can choose a single elder card from among many choices, and each elder has a very distinct power that is unique.

— the tableau of Imperius. The locations are at the bottom with played cards in each column. And yes, I was seated on the “upside down” side of the table so lay off on the comments about the upside down photo. The board can’t face everyone at the same time!

And here is another twist! All the player’s decks are shuffled together to form s single deck before cards are dealt. But wait there’s more! Not all the cards are dealt each round. Once cards are dealt, there is a drafting and card-passing phase. This way players can get an idea about what cards are available, and also plot a strategy of grabbing their own cards or drafting their opponents’ cards.

The round proceeds as each player plays a single card to a location. But wait there’s even more! Only 5 cards can be played at each location. But wait….there is still another twist! No way!!!! Yes way! Two cards at each location can be played face down! This is important because like Night Clan there are deadly combinations: assassins can kill nobles but not if a guard from the noble’s faction is also at that location.

After all the cards are played, effects are resolved in initiative order at each location. Victory points might be scored at this time by nobles, commanders, ambassadors, and events. once any player gets to 20+ points, the game ends and moves to final scoring.

— victory point track at the end of a 4-player game

In another twist, the played cards are shuffled and put on the bottom of the draw deck. Thus, in the next round, all of the cards that were not dealt in the previous round are dealt in the next round. Thus, clever players know what cards must be in this round even if they don’t see them in the draft. Pretty cool, huh?

But there is still one more twist!!! Wtf!?! Yes, one more! Commanders and some cards place control markers on locations. At the end of the game, the victory points on the locations go to whomever has control of them. Each House has a limited set of control markers that they can place, trying to get control of locations.

— a player’s house mat with unplaced control tokens. On the bottom is a negative vp track. Each time your noble gets assassinated you move it one space to the right.

Okay, it seems like a lot of mechanics but it really isn’t. Moreover, Imperius FEELS like a battle of noble houses fighting for planets. It does seems Dune-like. And if you have visited my Top 10 Games list you will know how much I love the old Avalon Hill game Dune. I am serious, run, don’t walk, to get a copy of Imperius!

-—

Okay, now get out there and play some games!

Tell them Neal sent you!

What did we play? Clank! Sunken Treasures!

Do you love racing through dangerous dungeons in pursuit of treasure? Do you want to stealth around and steal a dragon’s eggs right from under the great beast? Clank! simulates that fun! It’s a deck building game from Direwolf and Renegade Game Studios where players explore a dungeon looking for artifacts while simultaneously trying to not make noise (ie clank around) and wake up the vengeful dragon.

Sunken Treasures

Sunken treasures is an expansion to Clank! that adds underwater action. It has two new maps, penalties for staying underwater without SCUBA (Sorcery-Created Underwater Breathing Apparel), new cards, treasure rooms, and more. The game is the same as before: grab an artifact and other goodies and then race to get out before the Dragon knocks you out.

— one of the Sunken Treasures boards. My Meeple (I am yellow) has raced very deep under water to grab the 25-point artifact.

Game Play

The game is basically the same, except if you start your turn in a space underwater and you don’t move through or end your turn in a space with air, you suffer 1 health (hearts) damage. As in regular Clank! the board is a complicated map and players can go different directions in search of goodies.

Stew mainly raced along the top of the map, gobbling up whatever secrets he could find. I delved deep for the 25-point artifact and then Lee eventually followed the same path to grab Monkey Idols. Bob had great luck getting cards, bought a Master Key in the Market and unlocked paths that the rest of us couldn’t explore.

— I made it out first!

The Endgame

After grabbing the 25-point artifact, I quickly raced out of the underwater cave system and headed for escape. Stew and I both had a lot of damage from the Dragon, Lee was deep underwater, and Bob with his great cards had no worries at all about Dragon damage.

I made it out first and thus the endgame clock started ticking on the other players! For the next 4 rounds, every time it was my turn the Dragon would attack the other players. On the last turn, the Dragon knocks out any thief who has not yet escaped.

Stew, Bob and Lee raced for the exit! Stew got unlucky and his health cubes got drawn out of the Dragon bag and he got knocked out. Bob made it out on the third turn. Lee was the deepest in the underwater cave system…and he just quite didn’t make it out.

— The end of the game! Stew (red) and Lee (green) got knocked out, missing out on the 20-point bonus for getting out of the dungeon.

The Winner

We counted up all the victory points from gold, cards, artifacts, and other treasures….and Bob won! He used those two more turns he had (I didn’t get those turns because I was already out of the dungeon) to pick up a bit more loot and to nab a Secret Tome. In the end, that made all the difference as he beat me by 5 points.

— Bob’s stash of cards and loot that won him the game

The Verdict

Sunken Treasures doesn’t change Clank! very much, but having new maps and some new cards adds a bit of novelty to the game. The game is still fast, easy, and intuitive for players of all skill levels. If you love Clank! already, you should enjoy Sunken Treasures.

What Did We Play? Near and Far

This week we all got together to try out Near and Far from Red Raven Games. I picked up the game at Gen Con (actually, I got the next to last copy from the Red Raven Booth) this year. It is a sequel to Above and Below, a game that I have never played but have heard good things about. Fortunately, you do not need to own Above and Below to play Near and Far.

Near and Far advertises itself as a storytelling game, an atlas game, and a campaign game! That sounds like a lot…and it had me intrigued when I saw the game at the Red Raven booth. Then I noticed the artwork! I was hooked!

— Clockwise from top left: Storybook, Atlas, Town Board (dusk side shown)

The Basics

The overall goal of Near and Far is to accumulate Journey Points. You do this by preparing your character in the town and then adventuring on one of the maps contained in the Atlas.

The game is essentially an action-taking game where each turn a player places their character standee on a town location and performs the action(s) listed there. Generally, you are trying to load up on food, coins, friendly adventures, etc so that you are ready to travel out of the town on the map.

On the map, you move around looking for quests and establish camps. The camps allow you to collect coins or gems, and also allow for less exhaustive movement across the map (ie it costs fewer “hearts” to move).

— The map for the first game, as contained in the Atlas.

The game ends once one player has placed all 14 of their camps (on the map, in the mines, and/or on Threat Cards). Journey points are awarded for camps played, trade routes covered, artifacts found, threats defeated, coins, gems, faction tokens, Chiefs obtained, Reputation, and any other card/board bonuses.

Gameplay

Everyone in my group expressed that the basic standee placement and action-taking mechanism closely resembled games like Raiders of the North Sea. Turns are completely fairly quickly and each player has a chance to get something accomplished on their turn.

Exploring on the map takes a bit longer. Once a player travels to the map, they move in a point-to-point system more similar to strategic war games than typical abstract board games. If a player stops on a quest, another player reads the corresponding lettered quest from the Storybook. Each quest has two alternative acts available for the player to choose from among (e.g. help the old lady or ignore her plight) similar to games like Scythe. Usually a skill or combat roll resolves the chosen action.

Players alternate their time from loading up in town and exploring on the map, much like a pen and pencil RPG. This adds a storytelling/role playing element that adds to the fun (it also allows even players falling behind in Journey points to have a good time questing).

— my player board early in the game. I had placed two camps, recruited two adventurers to my party (next to my faithful cat companion), and added a pack bird.

In the game that we played, it seemed like each player tried a different strategy. I was trying to collect as many artifacts as possible, Lee was placing camps on the map for resources, Stew was going after quests, and Bob was mining a lot.

— The game a few more turns after the last photo but still in the early part. Note that camps have started appearing on the map as we began exploring outside the town.

The game lasted about two hours. It was our first play and it took a while to figure out what the best options were each turn. Eventually my artifact grabbing rewarded me with a very narrow victory over Lee.

— My board close to the end of the game. I was well-prepared to explore and my loot of faction tokens and gems would allow me to buy plenty of artifacts from the Mystic.

The Verdict

From one play of the game, all of us agreed that Near and Far was quite fun. Everyone felt that they were “in” the game and that no one got left behind early. Also, the exploration on the map added a nice touch that broke up the monotony of standee placement in the town.

In short, we are looking forward to trying the Campaign game and adventuring on new maps. The gameplay is solid and fun, the rules clear, and the art gorgeous. If you haven’t tried Near and Far, I recommended that you give it a shot.