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Month: January 2017

Iris Kickstarter Preview

Iris Kickstarter Preview

So today I’m going to take a quick break from my look back at 2016 to do a review of a game that is currently on Kickstarter, called Iris. I’m a big fan of cooperative games. I love working together with your friends to beat a game. Iris is a cooperative game in microgame package. Let’s take a look.


Designer: Dustin Vance

Play Time: 20 minutes

Player Count: 1-4 players

Iris is a cooperative microgame published by Captive Publishing. In Iris, you play as a group of humans trying to manage human population settlements and clone work forces. The goal of the game is to keep as much of the population alive as possible. At the beginning of the game, you place out the 4 planet cards on the table. You then shuffle the clone deck, discard two cards without looking at them, and then place one clone card above each planet. The remaining clone cards are dealt out to each player and kept with the clone data side down. The clones are, in fact, evil and trying to kill off the humans at each planet.  On the back of each clone card is the clone data, which is one of the letters A, B, M, or O.

Examples of the clone data cards.

On your turn, you can take the standard turn, which is to scan a clone (look at the ‘data’ or back of the card), place a clone above a planet, and then place a population token. You can also take an alternate turn, which are listed on the front of the clone cards. Over the course of the game, you are trying to place the clones in such a way that the words, Bomb, Mob, and Ammo aren’t spelled out using the planet cards and the clones at each location. If those words are spelled out, the human population at that location will decrease. In the easy game, you are trying to achieve the human survival goal of 7 tokens, while the standard game has a goal of 9 tokens.

Things I like:

  • The puzzle. This game is puzzley. There’s a memory component as you try to remember what cards you’ve placed at which location. It can get really difficult as you try to remember letter patterns at the different locations combined with the cards that you’ve moved around. It can get even more difficult as you start using the alternative actions to look at cards in your hand as well.
  • Play time. This game doesn’t take long to play. The packaging says 20 minutes and I think that may even be a little on the high end. You can whip out a game, check to see how humanity fared, and then shuffle up to play again. It plays really quickly.
  • The Location Art. The copy that I’ve played with has prototype components. The art is decent as it is, but having seen the final art on the Kickstarter page, I really like the new location art. It adds some nice color and pop to the game.

The Location Cards without the new artwork.

Things I don’t like:

  • Theme. This one is tough for a microgame. Generally speaking, it’s tough to have a hugely thematic experience in a package this small. That happens here as well. It doesn’t really feel like you’re trying to save human populations from an evil clone workforce. It mostly feels like you’re trying to solve a memory puzzle.
  • Difficulty. This may sound like a strange one, but I’ve found that in the plays I’ve gone through with this game, I’ve been a little more successful than I would like. I like when a cooperative game is a little more difficult and smacks me around a little bit more. The more we played this, we consistently tried to complete the standard puzzle, trying to keep even more than 9 tokens on the board.
  • Foot print. For being a microgame, this one takes up a lot of space on the table. This is a minor point, but make sure you have some space to play.

Final play space at the end of a game.

Overall, this is a decent little game. I wouldn’t say it’s anything earth shattering, but I don’t think you’re going to find that in many micro games. I think for this one, it’s just not my style of game. It’s got some nice puzzley aspects and it plays pretty well solo too. If you’re looking for a quick little cooperative microgame, this might be one to check out.

GLG Rating: 5.5/10

Check out the Kickstarter Here, or on Captive Publishing’s page Here.

New Bedford Review

New Bedford Review

So, for the first review of the 2016 review set, I’m going to go with one of the games that I was most excited to get, New Bedford. I was fortunate enough to get to playtest this game before it was kickstarted by Greater Than Games and Dice Hate Me Games, and ever since that first playthrough, I was excited to get the final copy. This review is also going to cover some of the expansion material from New Bedford: Rising Tide. The expansion adds some modular material, most of which I’ve used, but the thing I like about it the most is the addition of a 5th player. Let’s get to it.

New Bedford

Designer: Nathaniel Levan

Play Time: 75 minutes

Player Count: 1-4 Players, 5 with the expansion

New Bedford is a worker-placement/resource management game in which you take on the role of a whaling captain in 1800’s New Bedford. Over the course of the game you are trying to construct as many buildings in town while also sending out whaling crews to catch whales to earn points. On your turn, you have 2 meeples that you will place on the board. When the game begins, there are only 5 spaces to place your meeples, but that will increase as the game goes on. The actions start with basic gaining of resources, which then allow you to build ships and then send them out to sea, or construct buildings to place in town. Buildings that are built become new action spaces for subsequent turns. After all the meeples have been placed, the ships out to sea move one space closer to land and begin the whaling portion of the game. There is a draw bag which is full of whales and empty sea tiles.

The Ocean Bag, with the whales and empty sea tiles

The ship that is the farthest out to sea in the 1st position gets the first pick of the available whale tiles and it then proceeds from player to player as the ships get closer to land until every boat has picked a tile or there are only sea tiles left. If, when the ships move closer to land, any ships reach shore, they have to pay their crew for each whale that was caught, and if they are unable to, they can sell whales to the other players to help cover their costs.

The whaling board, with ships at sea

Play proceeds in this order until 12 rounds have been played and then the ships at sea get one last opportunity to process their whales. At that point, each player totals up their points earned from whales and buildings and whoever has the highest score is the winner.

Things I like:

  • Theme. This is such a unique theme. I love unique themes and this one is so cool. I know that Greater Than Games took some heat when this game released because people didn’t like that you killed whales, but I don’t think that’s worth getting upset over. It happened. It was a way of life for a lot of people. And the rulebook even talks about the negative effect whaling had on whale populations and that overall it wasn’t a good thing. Either way, I really like the theme.
  • Quick Turns. Each player has 2 meeples. Once they are both placed, that phase is done. Turns move at such a quick clip in this game. When you tell someone a game will last 12 rounds, it can sound daunting, but not so here. It’s great for the pace of the game.
  • Light press your luck. There isn’t a lot press your luck, but the longer you’re at sea, the more whales you can catch. Which is great! If you can pay for them. You might bring in a huge shipload of whales, but if you can’t pay for them, your opponents get the opportunity to buy the points right out from under you. Which may cost you the game. It’s a fun balance to find.
  • Tight scores. Each time I’ve played this game, the scores have finished over a spread of 7 or less points. That makes the above point about not giving your opponents whales, an even bigger challenge.
  • The Board. As you construct buildings, the tiles are placed on the board facing you. It’s a great way to keep track of which building belongs to which person.

The board for the 5 player version
  • The buildings. A majority of the buildings become actions that are available to all the other players. Each building can only be used once per round, and if someone other than the owner uses the buildings, they have to pay the owner 1 coin to perform that action. It can make certain buildings very profitable early in the game. Additionally, the expansion adds more buildings to the game, so there is variety in every play. One last thing to mention about the buildings is that each building tile is 2-sided. The back has the exact text which explains what the building does, but once you know the iconography, you can use the front of the tiles which are fully colored and much prettier to look at.

The top 3 buildings with the back side up, while the bottom 5 have the full artwork.
  • Bits. I know. Broken record. Really cool pieces in this game.

Wood, Brick, and Food
  • The Art. Again, broken record. But this game is really beautiful. And I’d be remiss to not throw a shout out to a fellow Michigander, artist Nolan Nassar.
One of the player boards

Things I don’t like.

  • The whaling. I love the theme in this game. I’m not the biggest fan of the execution of the whaling though. There is a big bag of tiles that you draw from when whaling. You draw the number of tiles per ship whaling plus one. I’ve played before where someone gets a boat out to sea early to get the advantage, and then they don’t get a good draw of whales. It’s the one big piece of luck in this game, and there isn’t a great way to mitigate it. That is, unless you are playing with the Ship’s Log cards         which includes the Providence deck and Omen Deck. When using these decks, you display the top card of the deck face up, and you can choose to take one of these cards instead of taking a whale tile. This helps make this something that bothers me much less.
3 Providence cards on top and 3 Omen cards on bottom
  • The player colors. Sounds nit-picky, right? Usually I don’t care about these things too much, but it causes a problem in this game. The colors included are blue, orange, yellow, black, and green. This is only a problem with the ships. The pieces for the ships are great, but they are all white with colored keels. This is fine for the blue, yellow, and orange. In poor light, the green and black are almost indistinguishable, and it’s even tough in good light. Like I said, it’s minor, but it bothers me.
The different ships. The 2 on the left are blue, and the 2 on the right are the black and green, in that order.
  • The Expansion. This may sound contradictory, but let me explain. The expansion is fantastic. That being said, I think the base game and expansion should have all been in one box. The expansion material isn’t necessary, but adds so much and fixes some things that I didn’t like, and keeps the game fresh.

Overall, this game is a success for me. I wouldn’t say it does anything that blows me away, but at the same point provides a very solid entry into the worker placement category that doesn’t feel like every other worker placement game. I really like it and would definitely say it’s worth taking a look at. Really solid game from 2016.

GLG Rating 7.5/10

Check it out on Greater Than Games Website Here

Check it out on BGG Here

Finishing up the year

Finishing up the year

So it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted. It’s been busier than normal. I finished up my most recent job contract on the 13th and we moved yesterday, the 14th, from Oakland, CA, down to Woodland Hills, CA, which is North LA. Like I mentioned, it was a whirlwind of a couple weeks. We spent 4 of the 5 weekday evenings last week hanging out with friends that we had made in Oakland, and we were playing games on 2 of those days. The other day was spent packing up all of our stuff and getting ready for the 5-and-a-half-hour drive. All in all, it’s been a good week, although busy.

It’s also the season where all the board game media outlets, whether that be bloggers, youtubers, or podcasters, have been putting together their best of 2016 lists. I have probably casually read or listened to at least 10 best-of-‘16 lists, and that is without really searching them out. And that’s a little bit about what I want to talk about today.

Starting for the next few weeks (not entirely sure how many), I’m going to start doing weekly(hopefully), reviews of games that came out in 2016. I won’t be doing a big top ten list or a countdown, or anything like that. I’m just going to try to highlight some of the games that were really popular this year and that were swept up in the “hotness.” While traveling around, I don’t always get to play the new games that have all the buzz, but this year we’ve done a decent job of at least playing a lot of them, and buying some of them too. That’s the big reason I won’t do a top ten. I don’t feel that I’ve played enough games to base that on.

Some of the games that will be coming in the next little while are Cry Havoc, Inis, New Bedford, Great Western Trail, and many others. Like I mentioned above, the plan is to try to get one review out per week, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, maybe more. It’s going to be kind of a miniseries/retrospective on 2016 games.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts, and if there are any specific games that you think I should try to feature, feel free to let me know on facebook at the Great Lakes Gamer page or on twitter at @TheGLGamer!