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FTW Staff Picks - Splendor September 20 2016

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.

 

Splendor

Genre: Resource Management

Designer: Marc André

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 30 minutes

For fans of: Jaipur, Ticket to Ride

If you've ever dropped by the cafe and asked for a game recommendation for anywhere between 2 to 4 players, you've probably had us direct you straight to Splendor. It's definitely a big favourite of ours, and has the highest success rate when it comes to recommendations. There's good reason behind that, because Splendor is easy to learn, and yet you always feel compelled to play again, knowing you can improve your performance. Few games are as competent with 2 players, as they are with more. Splendor manages to accomplish that effect much like Carcassonne.

Fundamentally, Splendor is a numbers game. There's very little theme. But you will quickly forget about that when you're on turn three, mulling already impactful and important decisions. The chips are fun to handle, and you'll often find yourself playing around with them like you were on the World Series of Poker. It's a very small thing, but its actually a big reason why the game feels enjoyable. 

The poker analogies don't just end with the chips. Playing the game often draws out the personalities of the players at the table. The most common Splendor player is the quiet one, constantly analyzing the board and the gems of others. Then you have the "expert" who points out all the "obvious" moves and dominates the table talk - sometimes to distract the other players from seeing their next move. The "timekeeper" is always trying to rush people along, so that their opponents move too quickly to see their optimal play.

In today's market, every light-strategy, resource management game has attempted to market itself as "the new Splendor". Perhaps a few years from now we'll look back at Splendor and think about how it spawned a new style of games, and how dated its become compared to its offspring. Or perhaps a few years from now we'll still be playing Splendor. My money's on the latter. 

 

Earl

 


September Spotlight - Quadropolis September 15 2016

Every month at For The Win Board Game Cafe we'll be spotlighting a game of our choice. We'll give an in-depth look at either a new release or a game we feel very passionate about. 

This month, we're looking at one of our favourite new releases this year - Quadropolis. City-builders are commonplace in the board game world, so here we'll take a look at what separates it from the pack. 

Gameplay

Quadropolis is a tile-placement game. The various tiles in the game represent different types of buildings: Parks, Residence, Factories, Harbours, Shops, Public Service, Monuments and Offices. Each tile has its own method of scoring. The synergies between tiles are all logical - such as placing parks adjacent to residences. Also, some tiles provide Inhabitants and Energy. These resources are used to either power buildings or provide workers to activate tiles. There are plenty of things to manage, but it never feels like an overwhelming task. 

The process of selecting tiles is where the interactivity comes in. Each round, players have 4 different Architects to acquire tiles, numbered 1 through 4. The available pool of tiles are placed in a 5x5 grid called the Construction Site. Players take turns placing their Architect either vertically or horizontally outside the Site, and the tile they collect corresponds to the number on the Architect they used. Then, to place it in their city, they may only construct the tile in a zone also matching the number of the Architect used. 

For a relatively light fare, the tile selection process can be rigorous and mind-busting. It's not quite Five Tribes-level of analysis paralysis, but it sometimes comes close. Planning your moves out in advance, while keeping track of what the other players are plotting is the most important strategic aspect of the game. 

And once you get comfortable with the standard game, you can kick it up to Expert level unlocking some new building types, a different city arrangement and a new method of selecting Architects. It adds a legitimate new dimension to the gameplay, by tweaking just a few things. After having played Expert, I haven't looked back. The Classic mode mainly serves to teach the game to newcomers, or for a shorter experience. 

 

Design

Everything about Quadropolis has a very modern, mobile-phone-app aesthetic. It looks and even feels like SimCity in a board game. It's very clean and family-friendly. When you compare it to the more sophisticated Suburbia, it is far more pleasant to look at. It may not be the most unique looking game, but it has charm. 

The game comes with the perfect insert. It divides all the tiles into each round, and even separates the Expert level tiles from the Classic ones. It not only serves to hold the components of the game, but also makes the round-to-round setup a hassle-free process. My only complaint is that because it fits everything so snug, it means the inevitable expansions will not fit into the box with the core components. And if you're like me, you prefer having everything in one box. Hopefully the Broken Token guys will hook us up with a solution. 

The player mat quality is reminiscent of the mats in Dead of Winter, meaning they will eventually show some wear & tear. Cardboard mats (similar to the Construction Site) would have been a nice upgrade. 

Each tile is clearly labelled with its appropriate Round number and tile ID on the back. The tile ID is used for easily swapping tiles in & out with the included mini-expansion for Playgrounds. There is also currently a few promos replacing Monuments and a Factory tile. All the necessary information is there for you to make these changes a breeze.

 

Verdict

The most immediate comparison to Quadropolis would be to Suburbia. Both not only fall under the same theme, but also feature similar tile-based gameplay. Suburbia is a meatier game, with much more things to manage. But at times that's what I dislike about it. In Quadropolis, the experience is lighter, but still requires careful planning. And the Expert mode gives you just enough to think about. The experience feels fulfilling as a medium-level, strategy game. Both games can certainly co-exist on the market, because they're still different experiences.  Suburbia is far more economy-based, whereas Quadropolis is more dependant on tile-selection and placement. Suburbia can often feel like a solitaire game. Quadropolis keeps you constantly aware of the fact you're competing with others.

Another recent city-building, tile game that hit the market is New York 1901. Its target audience matches Quadropolis'. But at the end of the day, I found New York 1901 to be a little too dry, with everyone making similar choices. The level of cutthroat is pretty similar, with New York 1901 being a little more unforgiving. In terms of general enjoyment, I felt that Quadropolis just offered a fuller experience from start to finish. There are parts in New York 1901 where some players feel out of it, and then it drags on. 

I love how the depth of the game creeps up on you as you get deeper and deeper into your first game. At first you think you're just going to be building your metropolis, and suddenly you get invested in finding ways to screw over your opposition. It gave me the same feeling I had when I first played Ticket to Ride. And given the engine they've built, I can see a lot of room for potential expansions in the near future - especially given that this is a Days of Wonder product. 

I'm a very careful consumer of board games. I like to purchase games that have the highest perceived value for me. For as many games as I've played, my collection is quite small. I always look to get the best bang for my buck. So when I buy a game, I know it's something I'll be playing for years. Quadropolis is the latest addition to my collection, and it has certainly earned its place on my shelf and will likely to continue to do so for years to come.

 

If you managed to get through our Spotlight this month, be sure to mention it in-store and we'll give you 10% off your purchase of Quadropolis this month!

 

Earl


Most Anticipated - September Edition September 01 2016

Each month at For The Win Board Game Cafe, we're going to be taking a look at a few future releases that we're really excited about. From new games, to expansions, to Kickstarters we'll be covering it all monthly.

Potion Explosion

Few games come looking as sophisticated and polished as Potion Explosion. But looks aren't everything. The general premise of the game is to take one Ingredient (marble) from the trays and the rest of the marbles will slide down to fill the gaps. If two marbles of the same colour touch as a result, they explode! This allows the player to collect both marbles along with the one they picked up. The Ingredients combined to build different potions that grant players the ability to cast Spells. Collecting different or the same sets of Spells reward players with Victory Points. Once all Victory Point tokens are depleted, the player with the most tokens is the winner of the game.

Potion Explosion will be on store shelves within the few weeks.

 

Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Eons 

We gave Cosmic Encounter the spotlight last week, and for fans new and old there's new content on the horizon! It's been two years since the last Cosmic Encounter expansion, and it almost seemed like that would be our last. But Fantasy Flight Games has decided to bless us with another set of 30 new Aliens.

Like all other expansions, Eons introduces a new optional gameplay variant.  During the Alliance phase, players will be able to secretly choose how many ships and to which side they are aligning, using a dial. This new Hidden Alliances variant allows players to cut deals, make alliances and break promises in all new ways. 

Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Eons is promised to be available before the end of 2016.

 

Oceanos

The card-drafting market is a very crowded place to be for a board game. Each one tries to separate itself form the pack using unique themes or small gameplay adjustments. Oceanos is the latest in card-drafting offerings that hopes to woo fans of 7 Wonders and Sushi Go! 

 

Oceanos takes players under the sea to collect coral, fish and treasures. Each player has their own upgradeable Submarine that will enhance their ability to score points for different types of cards. During the drafting phase of the game, the Starting player distributes cards to the other players and the unselected cards return to the Start player as their hand to draft from. It's somewhat reminiscent to the Master Builder role in Castles of Mad King Ludwig. The drafted cards form a linear tableau for each player, that impact scoring based off of the position of the cards. 

Oceanos will be available by the end of September 2016.

 

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Co-Op Deckbuilding Game

Harry Potter is one of the largest, best-selling franchises in the world. Few things have dominated the market like this juggernaut. So far all their efforts in the tabletop world have fallen short, but their latest project certainly looks to erase the memories of the past.

Many IPs have found success in using a Deck Builder (specifically of the co-operative type) to package their fantastical worlds. Just within the past few years we've seen it in Marvel's LegendaryDC Deck-Building Game, Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck-Building Game and Shadowrun: Crossfire, just to name a few. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle hopes to add to that list of success. 

It's a no-brainer for Harry Potter fans. We constantly get requests for Harry Potter-themed board games, and this looks to be the game to fill that void. Expect to see it on shelves by October 2016. 

Mint Works

Mint Works is our Kickstarter selection of the month. It's an interesting experiment that attempts to condense a Euro, worker placement experience into the size of a small tin of mints. Micro-games are high in demand, as gamers are always looking for something they can easily carry from place to place.

Worker placement games are not always used as an entry-level to the world of tabletop gaming, but Mint Works hopes to change that. It's described as a lighter, refreshing take on the genre that can provide a gateway into meatier Euro experiences. Their attempt at condensing a typically longer and more difficult experience into something shorter and more concise, feels reminiscent to what Ryan Laukat's Eight Minute Empire has done for area-control games. 

Click here to reach their Kickstarter page. The project closes on September 13, and the estimated delivery for backers is October 2016. 

 

Earl