Three games, two of which are recent purchases and one that has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. Here’s my first impressions after a couple of games or so.
A small box party game about drawing – not really my cup of tea, but after hearing about it on the Shut Up and Sit Down Podcast I thought it sounded fun, and more importantly, something that the rest of my family would enjoy.
The concept is simple: Roll the seven dice, consult a card, and draw something that falls within the chosen category.
If only it were that easy!
You see, the dice have symbols on them – straight line, curve, triangle, and such like – and you can only use each of these symbols once to make your drawing – see, simples!
Let’s rewind a little. There are two game variants to choose from, co-op and competitive. The co-op version sees each player simultaneously drawing something to do with the indicated category and then the players work together to try and guess what each person has drawn. To be honest, this version falls a bit flat on its face.
The idea is that you consult each other to guess the drawing (obviously not with the person who drew it) and then take it in turns to say what you think it is. Once everyone has had their guess the title is revealed, and ticks are given for correct answers and crosses for wrong. Wrong guesses also see a die removed from the pool, making it a little harder next round. The game ends when a player has received a certain number of crosses, if you’re reduced to 1 die, or 5 rounds have been completed.
It states that the aim is to complete 5 topic cards to win the game and we found that this wasn’t much of a challenge. Also, what’s the point in conferring if you each give a different answer? We always gave the same answer, and was very rarely wrong, but when we were it usually turned out to be something none of us had even considered, so we felt justified going with our answer.
Things looked up when we turned to the competitive game. Here, the dice are rolled, a category is revealed, and each player must draw something within that category, but this time there’s a limit to how many of the dice can be used, maybe 5, maybe 3, etc.
Players then take it in turns to show their drawing and the first person to raise their hand can then guess the title, scoring two ticks if they get it right (the artist also gains a tick at this point). If they guessed wrong, they get a cross and the next player can take a guess. Once all have had their drawing displayed then a new round is started, doing it all again. A player reaches 5 crosses the game ends and the person with the most ticks wins.
You also get crosses for drawing the same thing as another person, so being creative is the way to go, though this can get you scratching your head when you’ve only got two curves and a triangle to play with!
We had a lot of fun with the competitive version and there were a lot of laughs to be had looking at some people’s drawings, trying to figure out what they were. I was amazed how often two or more people drew the same thing, even when it was something a bit bizarre, but even then, they rarely looked alike, as players interpreted the dice totally different ways.
But, I’ve yet to mention the ability cards – they’re rubbish, throw them away and play without them!
Each player is dealt two ability cards at the start of the game, they’re one use only abilities and here’s a run down of them…
Use one extra symbol – Pick which symbol you want to use and include it within your drawing. This got used twice in the four or five games we played. It made things too easy.
Use the symbol indicated once – These are symbols you don’t find on the dice, such as something that looks like a skull. These weren’t used at all and couldn’t really see why they were included in the first place.
Put a removed die back into play – Only used in the co-op game and makes it far too easy. I suppose if you’re playing at a higher player count (game plays up to 5) and you all guess wrong then the these would be needed, but at three players they stayed in the box.
The components were fairly good, decent dice, nice canvas boards and markers, and it’ll make for a jolly laugh down the pub, or at least it will if we ever venture out again. The rules are a translation and have a few minor issues, it wasn’t so much as what they say, more what they don’t say that caused the problems, but it was easy enough to work out in the end.
The co-op variant fell flat and we soon lost interest in it, but the competitive game turned out to be a nice little party game, which provided a good hour or so of entertainment (around 15 to 20 minutes a game. The ability cards felt like an add-on and didn’t bring anything to the game; I doubt we’ll ever use them again.
Legends Untold: The Weeping Caves Novice Set
I bought legends at the UKGE last year but have only actually played it a handful of times, and it’s an odd one really.
Once into the game I don’t actually mind playing it, but one game is usually enough before it goes back on the shelf and that causes me issues, as we shall see…
Legends Untold is a fantasy adventure game where the players (1-4) play an unlikely bunch of characters – Farmhand, Forgehand, Student, Evicted Noble – struggling to relocate their people after suffering invasion. The game uses location cards to reveal the playing area, mapping out the caves, and these combine with various other decks to provide encounters, such as loot, barriers, and of course, the monsters.
For a small box game, it certainly contains a lot of things, symbology being one, but most of all it has rules… lots of them.
There are two booklets in the box, one, The Weeping Caves Book, walks you through a pre-set scenario, sets up the campaign, and features a card almanac – In total 48 pages.
The walkthrough was okay, but after playing it and then moving on to set up and play my first game proper, I found that it hadn’t really taught me the rules just presented me with an idea of how the game is played; I felt like I’d wasted an hour!
The other booklet is of course the rulebook. At 60 pages long this is somewhat daunting, especially when you consider that Gloomhaven comes in at 52, and that’s a much deeper and more complex game. To be fair, though, the rulebook is packed with examples, but it could do with streamlining.
Once you’re playing and familiar with the symbology, it does feel like a simple set of mechanisms and you wander how they’ve managed to fill all those pages, but it does take a few playthroughs to get to that point, and therein lies my issue. It doesn’t grab me enough to make me want to play again in one sitting, in fact I’ve only played it four time in the last 12 months, and every time I get it out I have to trawl through the rules again because it isn’t very intuitive. Most games I have I can jump right into with only a few glances at the rules, but not this one, it’s a time hogger!
To the right person Legends will provide hours of entertainment and it has plenty to like. The way the cards link together to create the map, which is randomised to a degree, works really well, though once again they’re covered in symbols that you’ll have to become familiar with in order for the game to flow.
The way tests are carried out is also quite interesting, with most obstacles offering a choice of which attribute to test against, but as with many things in the game it isn’t as simple as maybe it should be. There are plenty of ways to modify tests, such as Mastery or Weakness, talents, outfits, kit. Then a roll of 3d6 is made and the respective attribute and modifiers are applied before comparing the result to the test difficulty. That’s just a basic test, there are also table tests and staged tests, oh, and party tests too!
Combat was equally as involving, and contained more symbology, but it never felt overly engaging. I didn’t like the system of player damage, which sees you ‘drain’ a talent for each point of damage you take. Whilst I don’t mind losing abilities as damage is caused, I found this system quite harsh and I found managing damage became quite a prominent part of the game, and quite limiting.
I like the way that attacks can be melee or ranged and this brings a little strategy into the proceedings as ranged attacks are carried out prior to melee ones. Foes also have to pass morale checks, whilst players have the option to retreat if they so wish.
There are various decks that get made up by following instructions on the scenario cards – Barriers, Events, Obstacles, and the adventure deck – and these are the main meat of the game. The location cards display symbols related to these decks, for example: one may indicate a barrier card must be crossed if you wish to proceed to a certain point on the map, or maybe a monster is lurking in the depths…
As I say, there are some good ideas here, but bear in mind this is being pushed as a ‘Novice’ set, but it doesn’t feel that way, it feels cluttered, with too much crammed in, and the game becomes a bit of a stop-start over complicated slog of a thing rather than flowing. The amount of rules confer an amount of depth to the game, but it was complexity rather than depth to be found here, and I expected a little more.
To enjoy this game you have to stick with it, play it over and over until the rules become second nature, and then I’m sure there can be a lot of enjoyment to be had from it, especially when combined with the other novice set and boosters.
For me, though, Legends is on my pile of games to go, it just isn’t for me.
From prolific game designer Uwe Rosenberg, Nusfjord is a worker placement game centred on developing a fishing village. Certainly, it’s an original theme and one that may not appeal to all, but the gameplay is solid and presents the players with a pretty puzzle to solve.
So far, I’ve managed a 2-player game and a couple of solo run throughs, and I’ve been pretty impressed.
First set-up was a little fiddly: there were quite a few components to sort out and a number of things have to be set to player count, such as the Elder and building cards, but once familiar with everything set-up became quick and easy, especially resetting between games.
The aim of the game is to accumulate victory points, which come courtesy of buildings, ships, and shares, but the driving force of the game are the resources, money, wood, and of course, fish!
So, there you are, having brought your ship into harbour and unloaded your catch, it’s time to distribute the fish where they need to be. Some to keep the village Elders happy, the ones you’ve recruited to your side that is – you scratch their back they’ll scratch yours, kind of thing. A few to keep the shareholders happy, including any shares you have in your own company. And then you fill up your own reserve space within your harbour, hopefully you have room, otherwise they get thrown back!
This first phase of a turn sees all players acting simultaneously, which is a great way to speed things up. From there things continue in turn order – place a worker, take the action – until all players have had three turns. These three turns produce a nice tight game, as it never seems enough to do what you really want to do and so you have to do some careful, but not overly complicated, planning.
Placing a worker can get you gold, transfer your reserve fish to your personal supply (the only place you can use resources from), serve fish at the banquet table (earning more gold), build a building, issue or buy shares, do various things to your woods, build a ship, or, and these are the words on the board, take an Elder and use him immediately!
Actions are restricted to a number of workers each round – first come first served – which brings some much needed player interaction into the game, otherwise it would be a heads down, concentrate solely on what you’re doing kind of game. You can start out with a plan of action, but in the few games I’ve played so far, it’s best to see how the initial turns pan out before you decide on strategy.
Here, though, there are several interesting paths you could take. Building ships gives you a greater catch of fish, but you need to make sure you can feed them into your personal supply, otherwise they’re a bit of a waste. Clearing your woodland gives you plenty of, well, wood, but the downside is that it creates empty space, which if not filled with buildings provides you with negative VPs come end game scoring.
Elders and buildings can prove very useful, but to make the most of them they need to work within your strategy. This typifies the game: basically, you’re putting together an engine, a little village that works in harmony – the right ships to provide just enough fish; just enough woodland to keep you in wood and yet provide space for buildings; buildings that not only provide plenty of those all-important VPs, but also give bonuses that can be exploited time and again, such as when you ‘take an Elder’; Elders, which, once you have them in your harbour, can be actioned by placing a worker on them and they often prove the difference between an average engine and one that’s been tuned by Mugen… of course, though, you’ll have to feed them fish!
I really enjoyed both the 2-player and the solo game, which I’ll talk about shortly. As I said, the game is all about resource management, sustained through good engine building, which in turn comes from worker placement. The worker side is where all the player interaction is along with all the difficult choices. The action spaces are limited, but not so tight as to make things frustrating – I found there was always a useful alternative if an action was already taken, though it usually meant playing reactive rather than to a set strategy, which I didn’t mind.
Turns were speedy and the game passed surprisingly quickly, though it didn’t end too soon and was actually quite satisfying. The number of rounds is limited to 7, with certain things happening, such as buildings been added to the display, on set rounds.
The satisfying part comes from a job well done, when you look at your final village and think, ‘yeah, that all worked out quite nicely’, or as I thought, ‘well, it looks good, but it hasn’t scored me much!’ In the end I found that the final scoring felt secondary to the fun that was had in playing, and that is a vital requirement for a game that features a solo version with the sole aim of trying to beat your own highest score.
I’m not much of a fan of games that employ this solo methodology, I’d much rather have a bot to beat or a specific goal to attain than just trying to rack up a decent score – usually I get bored, or figure out the game so that the only aim is a perfect score, at which point I give up as soon as I know it becomes unattainable.
The solo version uses two sets of workers, one colour used one round and another the next, with the workers just placed being left on the board for the next round, thus filling up those actions. This creates a pretty puzzle, one that involves some thinking ahead, and so far, and bear in mind that I have only played it a few times, the enjoyment of playing the game and the satisfaction of seeing the things in my village work together has been a good experience.
So, Nusfjord. A game I enjoyed and definitely want to explore further. It’s a light to medium Euro game with worker placement as it’s central mechanism and features a reasonable solo variant, at least at first glance. The theme runs through the game quite well and the mechanisms tie into it – more ships give a bigger catch, making sure the Elders are fed, buildings and Elders that give appropriate bonuses, that kind of thing. Play time is quick and so hopefully, I’ll get it to the table enough to do a review pretty soon.