Granite Games, a local gaming convention in New Hampshire, is a young semi-annual affair attempting to expand to three days. I went on Friday and Sunday, which with a plethora of empty space were definitely the slower days to be there, but still a solid selection of available games I wanted to try. There were various activities for play-testers or people who wanted to win games, but mostly I just played games with people I knew. With Unity Games seemingly defunct, it’s nice to see a new entity possibly take its place.
On to the games:
Baseball Highlights 2045:
I’d wanted to try this game for awhile, and though we played with 3 players, which isn’t an ideal player count, for baseball or this game, it served its purpose of teaching me the basic rules and mechanics. It had a rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock feel to it, where every card was counteracted by another card. It had some cute aspects like using first/last names of different famous baseball players, but ultimately, I wasn’t overly enamored with it. We only played some practice games, so I could see a full tournament with a proper player count being more fulfilling. Ultimately though, I think though I’m too big a baseball fan to fully enjoy a baseball game built for non-fans.
Spector OPS is a hidden movement game where one player is trying to complete objectives, and the other players are trying to locate and stop him. I’m usually not a big fan of these type of games as I find them to be fiddly and stressful. Spector OPS wasn’t bad though as it had simple rules and a nice pace. It wasn’t perfect, the steampunk art left the board difficult to interpret, and there were a few too many turns were the optimal play was to do nothing, but I’d play it again given the chance.
A gorgeous game with a sparkling box and boards along with shimmering dice. The game itself is simple but elegant, players draft dice from a common pool in order create a stained glass masterpiece. There are various placement restrictions and rewards, but it was all pretty straightforward. An excellent filler that may very well end up in my collection.
I didn’t want to play High Frontier, despite an admittedly beautiful enormous board, so I wandered around to see what other people were playing. Which, as it turned out, was not much of interest, so I picked up Luna. Luna was a holy grail game for me, the last classic Feld game I hadn’t played. I attempted to learn the rules from reading the rulebook for solo play, then taught a 2nd player when they game along and two more after that who sat down right before we were about to begin. As it turns out, going through the rules thrice was a great way to understand them.
The game definitely felt Feldian with hallmarks like lots of actions featured, a smaller subset of actions useable at any specific time, oodles of ways to score, a player order wall, and a way to lose points. Unsurprisingly, I liked it a lot. There were lots of things to do, but not many novices (this game’s name for workers) or much time to do it. So, you had fascinating decisions every turn. Do you go for points now, or move your guys in better position for future turns? Do you expand your populations or focus on going up the turn order track? Do you rush the turn end or hope to you have time for an elaborate plan? There is no hidden information or randomness, so you can plan ahead, but other players’ actions can be disruptive. Not everything worked, the area control thing was weird and out of place, but mostly it was another fun intricate design that I look forward playing more.
Defender of the Realm
I was excited to play Defenders, up until we passed out the role cards which featured clever character names like "paladin" and "wizard." The location names were equally generic, featuring two word mad-libs of fantasy-esque terms like Monarch City and Orc Valley. Throw in awful graphic design choices like blowup circles everywhere, and the liberal use of the Comic Sans font, and we were frustrated all game finding locations. Still it is a Pandemic spin-off, so the gameplay had to be good right? Alas no, it replaced a tightly designed puzzle with a random dice-fest. Want to kill some enemies? Better roll well. Confronting a big bad? Got to hope the enemy doesn't randomly move before everyone can get these. By the end I was actively taking strategies to ensure we won or lost quickly. It was a terrible game and an even worse depiction of fantasy.
I think I really should accept that I’m just not going to like any Carl Chudyk game. I find them fiddly, unbalanced, and unintuitive. This game was no exception. Even when we played the game correctly, it felt like we were understanding the rules wrong. There were concepts that just didn’t seem to work and cards that broke the game. I won the game and haven’t a clue as to how, other than drawing a lot of cards on the last turn. I like clean logical designs and nothing about Mottainai fits that description.
A spinoff of Star Realms, it is basically the same game with a fantasy theme and a few more complex complements. With unique decks and more complex cards, Hero Realms definitely had tougher decisions than its predecessor. This was mostly good, particularly in the later game, but did cause the game to slow down, whereas Star Realms usually can be played on autopilot. Thus my only concern is if the lack of simplicity will eliminate some of the charm from Star Realms, but will have to play it more to see. We did play with a 3 player variant, which worked surprisingly well given the general 1 on 1 nature of the game.
Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game
A campaign game with a similar feel to other Fantasy Flight LCGs like LOTR. Each player only has four action choice, but there were plenty of tough decisions of when to help teammates, when to heal, when to attack, and when to explore. The game was also well balanced, as we beat the mission, but it was extremely dicey and not all of us survived. I feel like if it had a theme that I was more interested in than Warhammer, I could get really into it.
My 2nd play of the game, and I enjoyed it again despite not playing as Thor this time. The game is highly thematic as you work to make Mars habitable. The happy and mostly silly rendition of an environmental theme is a nice change of pace. The gameplay features a fun collection of Euro Mechanics as you build up a nice personal economy. Your strategy is built around what cards you draw, but there was almost always fun stuff to do. Mars isn’t perfect with a dull main board and some definite balance issues. The biggest problem though is the presence of take that attack cards. There aren’t many of them, but a well timed one can swing the balance of power in the game and be totally frustrating to the victim whose plans can be crushed. Still, there easy enough to ignore, so I’d happily play without them. I also would be curious to try the drafting variant at some point.
We needed a filler to end the convention with and this seemed to fit. The game was fine, if unspectacular, a game worthy of playing, but probably not needing further exploration. You play colored tiles in a line scrabble style, and then draw 5 minus the titles played. Most decisions were pretty basic, with the only real questions of whether you want to play the moderately scoring tiles or save them and draw more.