DragonCon 2014 Gaming Review

As usual, we spent the $5 on a board gaming pass at the Hilton basement during DragonCon.  This allows you to check out games from their library and play them – they take an ID from you and you take a game.  We played a few games Friday and Saturday night, but by Sunday I was worn out from all the cosplay, and we spent quite a few hours in the cool air of the basement learning some fun new games!  This post will be similar to my Orkfest games mini-review – nothing thorough, but hopefully enough of a blurb to let you decide if you think you should give the game a try.

1.  Coal Baron

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This was my favorite game of the ones we tried. It’s a worker placement game, but you begin with the max possible workers. Spaces on the board can also be reused if you are willing to pay the last paid price plus one worker. The premise is that you are mining different types of coal from your mine.  Here’s my play area with my starting cash, workers, and work orders.

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Spaces on the board include ways to generate money, ways to send miners to grab coal from the mine, ways to purchase tracks with carts to place in your mine (this is how you get coal), ways to get coal orders which you fill to get victory points, and ways to turn in your coal orders.   As you buy them, your carts go in the appropriate color spot of your mining shaft (above), on either the lighted side or the dark side (shown on the cart card).  You have to keep the light and dark side even by the end of the game or you lose points!  You play three rounds and score points between each one. Here’s a shot of the game in progress.

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I liked this game, but it didn’t stand out to me the way Keyflower or The Manhattan Project did. If you enjoy worker placement, Coal Baron is worth trying. I would give it a 4 out of 5 – a little better than average.

2.  Urbania

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I am not sure what type of game this one is – maybe tile based?  It was quite different from most things I have played.

You randomly place building tiles on the game board with the run down side facing up, except you put five tiles in the center space all with the spruced up side showing. Then players take turns doing 2 of the following actions – drawing cards, renovating building tiles, submitting plans, or hiring specialists. The cards contain hats and coins. Coins help you buy specialists and hats help you fix buildings. You gain points for each building you fix and for hiring specialists, which have a worth system that increases over time and use.  You get bonus points at the end for three plan cards that you submitted during the game (Ex: “Fix at least 6 blue buildings”).  The game ends when a certain amount of buildings are fixed in an area of the board.  There may be other winning conditions, but that was the one that happened in our game.

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I give this a 3 out of 5.  The first play through was not good, but it ended too quickly I think – my husband did not seem to like it and tried to end it as fast as possible.  I like games that are unique, so this has some potential.  The human factors engineer in me was unhappy with how difficult it was to tell which side of the building tiles were run down and which were renovated.

3.  New Haven

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This game box looked new and shiny, but that it where my enjoyment of this game ended 🙁  It is a resource management game ultimately, with some elements of Carcassonne as well.  I guess it is also a city builder.

Each player begins with two square tiles containing 4 resources – some may be the same, some may be different.  You also have I think 5 circles to start.  The game has a main board where players place the square tiles in order to collect resources each turn.  And then you have an individual board where you use the circle pieces you have and any resources you have gather that round to build your town.

Here is a shot of the resource board near the end of our game.  You place tiles wherever there is space, but you only get resources based on the number of connecting like symbols (also a little bit like some casual video games like Bejweled).

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There is a space to count resources for the turn, then you have the option to use your resources to buy circles / buildings for your town.  If you leave any resources unused, the other players have the opportunity to use them to build their towns.  At the end of your turn you pick up a replacement square tile, and a number of circles based on your resource quantity at the end of the round.

There are some rules for placing circles in the towns – if you turn the circles with the number facing up, that circle must go on a spot with a corresponding number.  Face down it can be placed anywhere.  The first piece of a type (these match the four resources) can go anywhere, but after that each type must build off where you started.  Here is a sample town board.

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You get bonuses based on how many rows and columns have the numbers facing up.  It was hard to do.

I give this game a 2 out of 5.  The random element of which city tiles you had and which resources you earned that round made placing city tiles a little too difficult for my liking.  I’m not certain what exactly made me dislike this one so much, but I enjoy Settlers of Catan much more, even though it has a random element involved.

4.  Giza: The Great Pyramid

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This game was a worker placement that had some collaborative elements, but ultimately an individual winner.  It also had a very long rule book.

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Each round, players used their workers to do 2 actions – farm, fish, art, worship, or lift.  After your actions, you nominated a sled with a piece of the pyramid to be moved.  Players with workers on that sled then used a bidding mechanic to decide how much the piece got moved – food is the resource being bid.  Basically do you feed the Egyptian slaves enough for them to move the piece or do they starve?   In this game, you can never do too much farming or fishing!  Food is important!  Points were scored each time a piece was moved into place, with bigger contributors earning more points.  Art is used to decorate the pyramid when levels are finished, again using a bidding mechanic to see who wins the most points.  Worship gains you points in a similar fashion, but based on how many people you have in the temple at a specific time – and your workers have too much other shit to do to be in the temple.

I was not a big fan of this game either.  I give it a 2 out of 5.  Something about it was not working for me, and it was very slow going!  There are way better worker placement games out there; however I did like the Egyptian theme.

 

I enjoyed our time trying out these new games on Sunday, but was disappointed we didn’t find anything we liked better.  I guess this happens when you play as many board games as we do.  The selection in the game room was way better this year, though.  Jesse had his eye on a Shadowrun deck building game the whole weekend, but ultimately did not choose to play it or buy it.  He read up on it a lot and watched some videos, but we didn’t pull the trigger on this.  Maybe we will soon, but I’m not a huge fan of deck builders so he will have to be the one to push for that purchase.  We did snag a copy of Splendor from the dealer hall, so I’m sure we’ll be playing that in the near future a bunch!

 

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