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!

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris – Episode 4: Fenris

After the big ending to Episode 3 where the Saxony player transformed into the Vesna Faction, we were intrigued as to what Episode 4 had in store for us. Inquiring minds what to know! So my intrepid readers, read on and find out!

Setup

Episode 4: Fenris begins with a narrative that the “strange soldiers with glowing eyes” had returned to Europa. And sure enough, the setup instructions say to Open Box B and place one new “Fenris Agent” on each tunnel and two agents on the Factory.

— Box B and the “Fenris Agents”. Note: these are the upgraded meeples available thru Stonemaier Games/Meeplesource

The Special Rules included the way to “combat” these Fenris Agents. In short, a player that encounters these agents must draw a combat card for each agent, total the combat strength on those cards, and then discard any combination of power, coins, and popularity equal to that amount to defeat the agents.

Another special rule was that the game could end normally (i.e. when a player places their sixth star) but it also would end immediately when the 8th and final Fenris Agent was defeated.

Getting Started

For the first time so far, the Wind Gambit was an allowed component of an Episode, so we decided to include the Airships.

— setting up the board with the Airships deployed!

And of course, Neal would now give up playing Saxony and have to play the Vesna Faction. This faction’s special power is to draw 3 random Factory Cards at the start of the game. The Vesna player can use each card once, discarding it after using it. Vesna also has a random draw of unique Mech Mods that can be used to customize the Vesna board every game.

— the Vesna components. Love the color!

The Vesna player ended up deploying a combination of previously purchased Mech Mods and random Mech Mods: Underpass, People’s Army, Comraderie, and Speed.

After passing out factions and random player boards, we had the following turn order:

Bob – Clan Albion

Stew – Rusviet

Lee – Crimean (switched at end of last episode from Togawa Shogunate)

Neal – Vesna

We shuffled and randomly chose the following Airship cards:

Aggressive: Bombard (use resources to reduce opponent’s power)

Passive: Boost (+1 Speed from home base or hex with the Airship)

Gameplay

With Boost, all players sprinted out toward encounters and the Tunnel spaces. It promised to be a mad rush to get to the Fenris Agents. We didn’t know what benefit would be procured by defeating them, but with Boost we were going to find out quickly.

On Turn 3 Vesna completed the first Objective, Machine over Muscle by having 1 Mech, a Factory Card, and less than 3 workers. That was a very lucky card draw indeed since Vesna starts with Factory cards.

But on Turn 4 Rusviet matched it by completing Stockpile for the Winter by having 9+ resources and 1 of each type.

Then we started quickly dropping the Fenris Agents! First Vesna got 1, then Crimea got 1, then Rusviet got 1 too!

Crimea got too close to the Vesna Airship which used Bombard to decimate the Crimean Power which allowed a Vesna Mech to rout a Crimean Mech. Vesna now had 2 stars.

The combination of Boost and the alternate ending caused the game to accelerate rapidly. Rusviet used its ability to move turn after turn to nab its 2nd Fenris Agent. Clan Albion then got 1. Rusviet moved again and got a 3rd. Crimea managed to build its 4th Mech and get a star.

But soon thereafter Rusviet decided to end the game by descending on the Factory and capturing the final 2 Fenris Agents which ended the game immediately.

— the end of the game with Rusviet units at the Factory

Final Scoring

Because the game length was unusually short, no player had more than 2 stars. Clan Albion, Crimea, and Vesna were at the second stage of popularity while Rusviet was at the bottom stage. Crimea occupied the most territory and Clan Albion had a stash of coins and resources. Because Rusviet had moved so many times and fought so many Fenris Agents, it had no coins and few territories. After counting, Crimea won quite handily:

Crimea 38

Clan Albion 29

Vesna 27

Rusviet 19

Episode Rewards

But there was a pay off to Rusviet! After final scoring, each player gained a Setup Bonus for each subdued Fenris Agent rounded up. So while every other faction got 1 bonus, Rusviet got 3!

Also, after Episode 4 the Infrastructure Mods became available to campaigns that in Episode 2 were at war (if your campaign was at peace in Episode 2, you now have access to the Mech Mods).

The Verdict

This was a very fun game! The absolute speed of the Airship Boost ability combined with the special objective of subduing Fenris Agents turned the game into a mad dash! Most games of Scythe can be a bit plodding…but this Episode was completely different. It was a very pleasant break from the usual.

Cool Games that We Played Recently: Maximum Apocalypse, Kami-Sama, and Enchanters: Overlords

Welcome back my intrepid followers! Hopefully all of you have been getting in some fresh rounds of games. Well…we’ve been busy playing games over here too! Today I’ve got three games for you to try and why we think that they are fun and cool!

Maximum Apocalypse

— a mission layout

In Maximum Apocalypse, a team of heroes drives a van (yep, it’s like the A-Team) to a site and attempts to complete a mission. It might be rescue a scientist, check out a ufo, defeat the vampires, etc. Maximum Apocalypse has multiple scenarios where the “enemies” are represented by a unique pack of cards special to a unique set of missions (e.g. there is a zombie deck for missions against zombies). The heroes play cooperatively, taking turns exploring the map.

So each hero roams the map trying to find gear and the objective, while having to defeat the monsters that pop up and keep hunger at bay.

— the Surgeon with some of his cards and a zombie dog attacking him

Each hero has their own deck of cards with special abilities and items. As each player takes actions, they can place their unique items or scavenged items into play, thereby using their cards and abilities to maximum advantage (did you catch that joke?). Once the objective is found, the hero’s must deal with it and collect fuel for the van.

— a fueled up van ready to extract the heroes and the scientist.

Why this game is cool: A game of Maximum Apocalypse feels like a classic horror movie. You have to get in, complete the objective, and get out before you die from the baddies or multiple other problems. The random map allows for multiple replays of each mission. And heroes will die, so complacency, bad luck or poor planning gets punished. If you get the Gothic Horrors, or other expansions, you should have about 2 dozen possible missions, allowing for almost infinite replays.

Kami-Sama

In this new game, each player is a different Kami, or spirit, who controls a particular aspect of nature (you know, stuff like water, death, the earth, etc). Each Kami is unique and have special actions that no other Kami has. The game is played over three years with each year having 4 seasons. Victory points are gained in many ways and determine the winner. in short, players use their actions to place their shrines into regions and remove/move opposing players’ shrines.

— the victory point track. This picture is at the end of the game. The white disc player won with 56 points.

The board is circular and it rotates 90 degrees at the end of each season. Players typically can only place shrines onto the board slice that is in front of them (some actions allow placement elsewhere). Players try to strategically place shrines to gain favor and nature (which are worth victory points), create patterns that score bonuses, and to control regions.

— Kami-Sama main board in the middle. A player board with the top of it shown sits at the bottom

Why this game is cool: Kami-sama combines area control, set collection (you collect villager cards at the end of years), some light drafting (again, the villager cards), strategic placement, and asymmetrical player boards. Oh and did I mention that the Art is fantastic and evocative of the theme of Ancient Japan? I didn’t? Well, now I just did!

— a villager card

Enchanters: Overlords

Enchanters: Overlords is a fairly light game (no, not it’s physical weight, it’s complexity of play) that simulates fantasy adventuring. Each player starts with a Fist of Enchanting which they upgrade by buying items and enchantments. Each new item or enchantment is placed over the top of previous cards.

— this player now has Plate Armor of Light instead of just a worthless fist!

Attack and armor bonuses are on the top and/or bottom of each card. Newly purchased cards cover up bonuses on the top of other cards but bonuses on the bottom remain. Also all special abilities on cards can only be used if they are visible (i.e. on the top card).

To start the game, each player chooses a 25-card deck of villains/monsters (such as Bandits, Dark Elves, Angels, etc) and all of the chosen decks are shuffled together to form the adventure deck. Six cards are dealt into a community area and are available for purchase. As cards are purchase and monsters defeated, the top cards form the deck replace them. The game ends when there are no more cards to purchase.

— You can see the row of cards to be purchased in the middle of the photo. Purchase cost in crystals are listed under each card, from zero to five from left to right.

Each turn a player can either purchase (by using crystals) an item/enchantment, fight a monster, rest (to get crystals) or fight the Overlord. In this manner, the game is simple enough for anyone to play it. Basically the game is like Talisman or other D&D-ish table–top games: build up your character and then slay monsters.

Why this game is cool: Enchanters: Overlords is a fun game that remains light but does have some strategy for the more serious players. And if you look closely enough at each card, you will see that the chrome text and card names have some great witty humor. You need an example? How about the card “Grey Dragon” whose flavor text is “it comes in fifty shades”

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!