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!

Scythe: The Rise of Fenris — Episode 3: A Plea from Vesna

Coming off of Episode 2A, we were wondering where the campaign was going to go. As we started to set up Episode 3, we quickly found out.

Set-up

We decided on our Mech mods (purchased at the end of Episode 2A). Saxony added Camaraderie (no popularity loss from running off workers), Togawa took Stealth (move through enemy hexes without stopping) and Rusviet took Armor (enemy attackers lose a combat card and give Rusviet Power). Albion chose not to deploy any mod.

Then the rules told us to find Box A, flip it over and grab the Vesna card taped to the bottom!

— The Vesna card

The rules said to shuffle the Vesna card, plus 4 more Factory cards, into the Factory cards selected for the game. The goal of the Episode became to find Vesna (although victory would still be determined normally).

We each then selected and paid for perks and continued the set-up as normal. Based on random board draw, the turn order would be:

Saxony – Neal

Albion – Bob

Rusviet – Stew

Togawa – Lee

Game Play

Rusviet started lively by quickly deploying a Mech with Speed, jumping his character around to look for good Encounter cards. We had shuffled in the new encounter cards, and they looked to be game-changing in terms of their effects.

Case in point: Saxony found an encounter card that allowed his character to jump straight to the Factory! The Episode had a special Factory rule: 1) take an Influence token each time you enter the Factory, 2) draw Factory cards equal to your Influence tokens, and 3) if you find Vesna you have to take that card or if you don’t you may take a Factory card (or not if you don’t like what you got).

Saxony didn’t like its first draw. Already having Speed, Saxony left and returned…and found Vesna. As Saxony was looking for a good Factory card, they returned a third time. Rusviet took advantage of Saxony’s character being in the Factory alone and successfully attacked and won.

Rusviet completed an Objective and was quickly putting stars on the Triumph Track. Togawa eventually got to the Factory too while Albion spread out, gaining territory.

— the position late in the game with Togawa on the Factory

Rusviet got 5 stars on the Triumph Track and was trying to find a way to get its final star. But then Saxony struck, completing the last upgrade and fulfilling two objectives in one turn to place his last 3 stars to end the game.

— Saxony at the end of the game

Scoring

Scores were tallied and Rusviet beat Saxony 72 to 68! It was the second Episode in a row where Saxony lost despite placing all 6 stars. The difference was that Rusviet was the only faction to reach the top tier on the Popularity Track.

Episode Rewards

Each player could now select a Setup Bonus for each 2 Influence tokens (rounded up). Saxony got 2 bonuses and every other faction got 1.

The rules now stipulated that Saxony would now become the Vesna faction! The Saxony player would keep everything on their Campaign Log but would now play the Vesna faction using pieces from the Rise of Fenris expansion (from a punchboard and Box A).

— Vesna faction

— Box A – Vesna pieces inside

— the Vesna pieces inside Box A

But there was another twist: players could now also change factions! Starting with the faction with the least Wealth, a player could grab any unused faction. Albion decided not to change, Togawa switched to Crimean, and Rusviet chose not to change.

We finished by purchasing more Mech Mods.

The Verdict

Episode 3 was much more fun than Episode 2A. Also, the Mech Mods gave faction’s the ability to break the stalemate that we saw in the last Episode. The new Encounter cards (sold separately from Rise of a Fenris) also helped enliven the game

New Year’s Day 2019 Lineup

Here is the lineup of games for New Year’s Day 2019 tomorrow:

7 Wonders with Armada expansion

Scythe: Rise of Fenris–Episode 3 plus the new Encounter cards

Maximum Apocalypse with the Gothic Horrors expansion

It’s going to be a good time, I bet you wish you were invited!

Peace out and Happy New Year!

Raiders of the North Sea: Fields of Fame

— Fields of Fame expansion for Raiders of the North Sea

Fields of Fame

I am sure that you have heard of the worker placement game Raiders of the North Sea. It’s a pretty good game, but it can get stale after many plays. So…how about adding an expansion?

Fields of Fame adds a new board so that there are more places to raid. It also adds Jarls! At the start of the game you mix Jarl tokens into the plunder bag. Each time you sack a settlement and take a Jarl token, your crew has to face a Jarl. You can choose to 1) kill the Jarl, gaining Fame that will produce victory points, 2) subdue the Jarl and add it to your crew, or 3) flee the Jarl. Each Jarl card has fighting 5 or 6, so they are beefcakes–tough to kill or subdue, but great in your crew.

Play through

We got in a game with the new expansion…and it was super fun!

— the board with the new expansion components (the new board is attached on the right). Jarl tokens are light blue.

Facing a Jarl always wounds your crew members, but subduing a Jarl and adding it to your crew is a big bonus. And the VP gained from Jarl Fame adds a new way to get victory points, which adds to the strategic depth of the game.

Our game was quite spirited with Lee subduing Jarls early and often. Stew went for sacking settlements. Bob and I tried a mixed strategy of getting victory points from many different areas of the game (e.g. I was maxed on Armor).

In the end, Stew won by a single VP over me!

— Stew (yellow) with 43 VP, and me (red) with 42

Verdict

Fields of Fame is a must for any serious fans of Raiders of the North Sea. It extends the game by about 15 minutes, adds more strategy, and continues the basic ideas of the main game (do I sacrifice crew to kill/subdue a Jarl? Do I avoid Jarls and give up the VP to other players? etc). Get it…you are going to like it.