The last few days we've been playing our remaining new Spiel 2019 games. Just as last time, I'm gonna give our first impressions about the games. All games played with my girlfriend at two-players. These games are listed in no particular order.
For 10 other first impressions of Spiel 2019 games, checkout part 1:
Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
Being a huge fan of 51st State: Master Set I really wanted to try Empires of the North. I liked the original Imperial Settlers but I wasn't blown away by it. Empires of the North introduces some new mechanics and mixes some mechanics from both 51st State (game is a race to 25 VP) and Imperial Settlers. Instead of playing with a shared deck of cards you play with a pre-built deck (the game comes with 6 of those pre-built decks). Each deck has a particular focus (exploring, conquering, farming etc.) and you need to try to utilise that the best of all players. I do wonder how this will impact replay-ability since it seems like that every deck has only one strategy that works. I enjoyed my plays off it so far and I like it more than the original Imperial Settlers. Future plays will have to determine if it will trump 51st State.
Paris: New Eden
Paris: New Eden caught my eye at Essen Spiel because of its vibrant art. After looking at the core mechanics, dice drafting and tableau building, I was sure I wanted to check this out. In Paris: New Eden you're trying to rebuild Paris after it has been destroyed and overgrown by an apocalypse. Our first play went smoothly and the game is a bit lighter than I expected. Luckily this not really a problem since the game plays really fast and doesn't overstay it's welcome. Overall it's a solid game but nothing to special or new.
After watching the Heavy Cardboard teach and play-through of Cooper Island I knew this game would be my cup of tea. And I can say, it really is! Lot's to think about, to discover, a fair bit off (positive) player interaction and really satisfying engine building. In Cooper Island you arrive at an unknown Island with only two ships and you need to cultivate your part of the island (peninsula) the best of all players. During gameplay you try to create satisfying combo-breakers of actions and bonuses. You'll score helm points (VPs) to sail your ship along the coast to pickup even more rewards. I really like how the VP track is incorporated into the gameplay (some tough decisions which ship you should move). Cooper Island is a heavy game with lots to think about, but in my opinion it all pays off in the end. It's really cool to see your developed community at the end of the game with all the buildings and cultivated terrain stacking at different heights.
Ecos: First Continent (1x play)
Ecos: First Continent is a bingo type game, a tile is drawn from a bag with a number of different icons on them. All players in turn mark that icon on one of their cards using a power cube. If a player has marked all icons on one of their cards they call out: Bing.. I mean Ecos!. After that they can use their cards to change the landscape, spawn animals, score VPs or gain even more icons to fill other cards. Ecos is a fun experience, however there wasn't much player interaction. We we were both kind of focusing on our own cards and goals and that resulted in one of us winning but neither of us felt like we accomplished anything or really deserved the win. Will have to play this more (and at different player counts) to see how it scales and to see if the gameplay and feeling improves over multiple plays.
Cities: Skylines – The Board Game (1x play)
The only co-op game we picked up at Essen Spiel 2019 is Cities: Skylines - The Board Game. I've played the computer game a few years ago and this game is the board game adaption of that game. I must say it does a pretty good job at that, I like how they decided to go for a co-op experience instead of a competitive one since that fits better with the theme in my opinion. We've only played the introductory scenario and we enjoyed our play. We did feel that there was something missing but that might be because of the introductory scenario (without special buildings, special player roles and events). It felt like we were building a real city but it only resulted in us adjusting a bunch of sliders with every tile we put down. Overall the game is a good experience and I hope the new elements (introduced across 5 scenarios) will lift the game to an excellent experience.
In The Magnificent you're a travelling band of magicians organising shows to sell the most tickets (VPs). While playing you'll train trainers, build your camp using tiles, collect posters and move your cart along the three different tracks. The Magnificent is the surprise of the show for me, I picked it up without knowing much about it and it did not disappoint. I like the tight gameplay and decision space. It's pretty meaty and we can play a full two-player game in 1 hour. The art and components are beautiful and I'm already looking forward to my next play. Apparently this is from the same designers as Santa Maria so if that's your kind of game, you should really check this one out. Having never played Santa Maria I can't say how it compares unfortunately.
In Crystal Palace, players take on the role of a nation at the time of the first World Fair in London (1851), trying to create a buzz with spectacular inventions and the support of famous and powerful people. Dice are your workers in Crystal Palace, however you don't roll them to determine their value, you choose the value yourself. The higher the value how more powerful a worker is, however the catch is you have to pay the pip-value as a cost and money is really tight in this game. Crystal Palace was a bit overwhelming at the start because of the 10 different boards you use to construct the main play area. There are a lot of dice placements spots but the actions associated with them are all really straightforward. Crystal Palace felt a bit lighter then I initially thought but nonetheless I loved our first play-through. I really like how each invention and character has a bit of historic text at the back of the card to make the theme really work. Crystal Palace is a great design and I can't believe that it's a first time design by Carsten Lauber. You should really check this out.
Wow, I must say I had my doubts about this game because of the theme (fashion doesn't really interest me that much) but this game is such a good economic game. It's really cool to see your company grow and starts making loads of money. The theme is really involved in this game, the game plays over a number of round. A round can either be a working round or an exhibition round. In the working rounds you prepare your fashion line by creating designs, collecting materials, hiring employees and building buildings. During an exhibition round each player presents one of his fashion lines and rewards are handed out to the players for different aspects (quality, PR, size of collection and trendiness). We've had a really good experience so far with Prêt-à-Porter, we do wonder if some cards are a bit stronger than others but more plays will have to determine if those combinations can be countered.
Welcome To...: Halloween & Christmas Lights Thematic Neighborhoods
We love Welcome To... it's one of our favourite roll & writes. Since the holiday season is almost upon us we decided to pickup an expansion that included two different thematic neighborhoods for the game. We've played the Halloween expansion first and that is a really cool variations for the base game. Can't wait to try the Christmas Lights neighborhood during Christmas!