Board Games

Board Game Review: Wingspan

Wingspan Cover Artwork

Rating: 8.58 out of 10 stars

Intro

What I hope to accomplish with my board game review is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Wingspan is a competitive game where your goal is to collect diverse species of birds on your wildlife reserve.

There are two variations of the game.

One of the variations is more “friendly,” allowing all players to receive end of round points for meeting the round objective. Round objectives vary, but an example is receiving one point per bird in your water habitat.

The other variation is more competitive, and only the players who get first, second, and third place for the end of round objective get points. For example, if the objective provides points for birds in water habitats, only the players with the most birds in the water habitats would get points.

Personally, I prefer the “friendly” variation of the game because it rewards you for how much you have achieved rather than based on how you measure up to other players.

Gameplay (9 out of 10 stars)

Gameplay offers a lot of options for each player’s turn even though you can only take one action per turn.

One action you can take is playing a bird card in one of your habitats by paying its food and egg costs (if applicable.)

A second action allows you to obtain food from the dice rolled in the bird feeder. If there is only one food type left in the feeder, you can reroll all the dice and then choose.

A third action allows eggs to be laid by the birds in your habitats. There are restrictions on the number of eggs each bird can lay in its nest, which vary based on the species.

A fourth action is drawing more bird cards to put in your hand. These can be played in future turns after paying the cost of the card (in food and eggs).

The resources you get from completing the second, third, or fourth action increase based on the number of birds in the habitat. You always get the resources indicated on the space to the right of the last bird you placed in that habitat.

Birds that are placed have powers that occur either when first played, when activated, or between round. They are indicated at the bottom of the card.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile to note that sometimes you can convert resources to other resources. Two of any one resource can count as one of a different resource. Also, when taking the second, third, or fourth action you can occasionally convert an egg, a food token, or a card to a different resource indicated on the space to the right of your bird.

It is also interesting that each round of the game is shorter than the last, because it puts more pressure on the players to take the most efficient actions.

Design (9.9 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art in Wingspan is phenomenal. The bird images remind me of the watercolor paintings by John James Audubon, though the lines are bit crisper in Wingspan.

The components are beautiful as well. I especially appreciate the colorful eggs, the custom wooden dice, and the dice tower bird house.

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My only complaint is that on the end-of-round bonuses are labeled by round from right to left instead of left to right. Since English is read from left to right, I have accidentally prepared for the wrong bonus and failed to gain points as a result.

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The player boards are also designed to look like worn journals on the outside.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

This is a game where you can take on a variety of strategies based on your preferences. For example, you can try to broaden the species of birds on your reserve, accumulate eggs on your cards, or try to achieve your secret goals. Of course, it is best to do all of these things, but often one of these becomes the focus of your game.

Originality/Creativity (8 out of 10 stars)

The concept of a game where you are building a wildlife reserve for birds is unique. Except for Wingspan, I have not come across a game with a theme like that. The closest are maybe a few zoo-building games like Zooloretto.

The mechanisms of the game are not unique, but the combination of them was creative and provides for a unique experience overall.

Replayability (7 out of 10 stars)

Replayability is decent because of the number of cards in the deck. You get a different experience every time. Because there are a bunch of strategies, playing repeatedly can be enjoyable, allowing you to change your strategy each time.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/266192/wingspan

To learn how to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgDgcLI2B0U&vl=en-US

Card Games

Card Game Review: Coup

Coup Cover Artwork

Rank: 6.2 out of 10

Intro

The card game Coup was first introduced to me by my cousin Elyse while my family and I were on vacation in New Hampshire. I thought I would not like it because I am not skilled at bluffing. However, since first playing it, Coup has been one of my favorite card games.

Coup is #5 on my list of top five favorite card games.

This is my first full card game review. What I hope to accomplish with these reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you to determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Coup is a bluffing and risk-taking game. Your objective is to manipulate others and take control of the court.

There are 5 different types of cards, each of which have a different ability. These cards include an Assassin, a Captain, a Contessa, an Ambassador, and a Duke. Each player has two cards at the start of the game. These cards represent influence you have over the court.

You can use the abilities on the cards in your hand, or pretend to have a card with a different ability. Other players may challenge you if you are bluffing. If they are right and you are bluffing, you lose influence (in other words, lose a card.) If the other player is wrong, however, he or she is the one who will lose influence.

When you use a card to complete an action or block an action, you should not reveal it. No one should ever know what cards you have.

Once you gain 7 coins, you can launch an unblockable coup, forcing another player to lose influence.

Once you lose two cards (influence), you are eliminated.

Gameplay (7 out of 10 stars)

Gameplay is prettystraightforward. The first player takes an action, everyone has an opportunity to challenge them, and then the next person takes their turn.

There are three actions you can take without using cards – as a result, they are actions that cannot be challenged. (Although they can be blocked by some abilities.)

The first option is taking income, which allows you to take one coin. This cannot be blocked, but it’s such a conservative move that using it repeatedly won’t get you anywhere fast.

Foreign aid lets you take two coins, but it can be blocked if one of your opponents has a certain card (or claims to).

Coup lets you pay seven coins to assassinate another player’s character, causing them to lose influence. It is unblockable.

The available cards to use are the Assassin, Captain, Contessa, Ambassador, and Duke. Remember, you don’t have to have these cards to use these abilities if you pretend to, but you run the risk of getting challenged and losing influence.

With the Assassin, you can pay three coins to attempt to assassinate another player’s character, causing them to lose influence. Unlike a Coup, an Assassin is blockable.

With the Captain, you can steal two coins from another player. You can also block people who are trying to steal from you.

The Contessa blocks another player from assassinating one of your cards.

The Ambassador allows you to exchange the cards in your hands with the Court Deck. The Court Deck is a deck of the remaining cards not in the player’s hands. This is useful if someone is beginning to suspect you are bluffing, but hasn’t dared to challenge you yet. He also blocks stealing.

The Duke allows you to take three coins from the supply, and to block Foreign Aid.

Design (Rank: 7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The artwork is creative and futuristic, an almost sci-fi rendition of court life.

The components are sparse but adequate. 15 influence cards, 6 summary cards, 50 coins, and a rulebook.

Strategy (6 out of 10 stars)

This game is less about strategy than about how good you are at lying and detecting the lies of others.

There is strategy involved in how much risk you are willing to take, and whether or not to play it safe.

Originality/Creativity (6 out of 10 stars)

The artwork is pretty original.

As bluffing games go, it is pretty creative. It’s court life theme and game based on influence allows you to feel like you are really an ambitious courtier seeking dominance of courtly life.

Replayability (5 out of 10 stars)

This game is fun to play multiple times, don’t get me wrong.

But because there is not much variety, it does get old eventually. That’s why it’s good to play once or twice every couple of weeks or so. Any more than that and it will start being boring.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/131357/coup

How to play: https://boardgamegeek.com/video/78506/coup/coup-quick-rules-explanation-350

Board Games

Board Game Review: The Quacks of Quedlinburg

The Quacks of Quedlinburg Cover Artwork

Rank: 8.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is my first board game review. What I hope to accomplish with these reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a board game that I have played many times with my family. This game made my top ten favorite board games for a reason! I will explain why it deserves such a ranking below. But first, a quick description of the game and its features.

Description

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a Push-Your-Luck game where you play as a quack doctor brewing potions for the market.

You start the game with a pouch of tokens. After the first player draws a card that determines the special scenario for the round, each player simultaneously places tokens in their pot. The tokens have a value on them that determines the number of spaces they progress in the pot.

Most kinds of tokens are helpful, but there is one type of token that is harmful. This token is called a cherrybomb. Each cherrybomb brings the pot closer to exploding.

If the pot explodes, the player has to choose between gaining points for the round or being able to buy new tokens.

The goal is to fill your pot as much as possible without your pot exploding. The player who accumulates the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Gameplay (10 out of 10 stars)

The gameplay is smooth and does not bring up problems. I have tried many combinations of ingredients that had variations in their abilities. Each time, none of the combinations clashed with each other, and each allowed for different strategies.

The game took about 45 minutes each time I played. It does not seem to drag on longer than necessary or end too soon.

The end of each round triggers a series of events whose order is indicated on the main board. If any question of whether it is time to do something arises, the board can be used as a reference rather than flipping through the rulebook.

Scoring is simple. Each round you get the number of points indicated on your pot at the spot directly after where you stop adding ingredients (tokens). At the end of the game, you divide the amount of money you would have received by 5 to buy new tokens and count these as bonus points. Every two rubies you have at the end is worth another two points.

Design (7 out of 10 stars)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art of the game is attractive and fits the theme well. While it is not especially remarkable, it does a good job setting the scene. The bright colors add to the sense that what the quack doctors and fortune tellers do is all show.

The components are decently made and consist of cards, boards, tokens, and gems. Most of the components are made of paper or cardboard with the exception of a couple of wooden pieces and the plastic gems.

Strategy (9 out of 10 stars)

Because this is a Push-Your-Luck game, I do not believe it would be fair to give it a lower ranking on strategy just because it involves a lot of chance.

For one thing, you can still have a strategy based on the probability of picking out certain tokens.

For another, the books of each ingredient that explain its ability dictate your strategy, but allow a lot of freedom. Which tokens you buy makes a huge difference.

For example, you may choose to buy more red tokens if the ability of the red tokens that round is to put them aside and then decide whether to use them at the end of this round or next round. If stopping at certain spaces on the pot is part of your strategy, buying more red tokens is an excellent choice.

You might likewise choose to purchase tokens that go more spaces forward, such as a 4-chip, or ones that have more desired abilities.

Furthermore, you may use a riskier strategy or play it safe. Should you place one more tile even though your pot is on the verge of exploding? It’s your call.

If you blow up, do you go for the points or buy more tokens? In this game, it seems like players are always in favor of buying more tokens because that improves your next turn. Part of the reason is that if you fall behind in points, the game gives you an advantage to make it more competitive in the form of rat tails, which allow you to start with your pot partially full. I think making buying the better choice almost all of the time takes away from the strategy, but just slightly.

Originality/Creativity (9 out of 10 stars)

This game has a creative theme. Although potion-making as a theme is not entirely original, making the potion brewers all quack doctors added to the uniqueness.

Using tokens pulled randomly to fill up the track in the pot, and then using the spot directly after for scoring was a great idea for a Push-Your-Luck game. The fact that you could explode if you pushed it too far was also a wise choice.

Also, the rat tails that give losing players an advantage prevent the game from ever feeling like they are too far behind to catch up. I haven’t played any other game that used a system like the rat tails.

Replayability (9 out of 10 stars)

There are so many combinations of ingredient books to use that gameplay can be different every time.

Additionally, the pot can be flipped over for a variation of the game. In the variant, you can trade in your rubies for prizes that give you even more options. I found myself not interested in using the prize track after trying it because it seemed much better to use the rubies to move the starting point where the pot begins to fill up instead.

Overall, its replayability is high.

Links

To learn more: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/244521/quacks-quedlinburg

How to play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcvK6ExuISM