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FIRST IMPRESIONS WITH PEVANS: A LOOK AT 4 NEW GAMES

[Pevans is the pen name of Paul Evans (well, a Paul Evans – hence the pseudonym). This Paul Evans is a British gamer who has been writing about games for well over 20 years. He was founding editor of Games Games Games magazine and edited it for 12 years. He has contributed to Games & Puzzles, Games International and Counter and is a regular board games reviewer and columnist in Flagship magazine. Paul has his own games/PBM ’zine, To Win Just Once, publishes the En Garde! RPG and runs UK distributor, JKLMnP Distribution. You can find out more about Pevans at www.pevans.co.uk.]

John Silver is a new card game from Eggertspiele and they’ve taken the step of producing it with English rulesjohnsilveras well as German – there’s no text on the cards to worry monoglots. Designed by Martin Schlegel, this is a neat tactical game. Players take it in turns to play a card from their hand into a grid on the table. Each player has a column and each type of card has a row. When a row is complete, the player whose column has the highest value card in it gets that card and the second highest card. The player whose column has the lowest value card gets that and the second lowest card. So far, so tactical.

There are three types of card. Treasure cards are good: you get points for them. Black spots are bad: the players with the most of these get minus points at the end of the hand. Apple cards (spot the Treasure Island theme) are good for the player on your left – they get the points for them! So the trick is to pick up lots of treasure and few black spots and give apples to the player on your right. It’s clever and quick – it actually plays faster than the 30 minutes on the box – and not too demanding. 8/10 on my highly subjective scale. (Suggested retail price: about $10)

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Published by Asmodée, Mission: Red Planet was designed by the two Brunos – Messrs Cathala and Faidutti. MissionRedPlanetThis is an attractive game with the race to Mars illustrated in a steampunk style. The central board shows the red planet, divided into regions. There is also a little board on which the rocketship pieces are laid. Players bid
for turn order using one of their set of characters. Each character provides a special ability and allows the player to add pieces to one of the rocketships available – the earlier they take their turn, the fewer pieces they can place. When everybody’s done that any full ships launch and land on the designated section of Mars, delivering the players’ pieces.

Every 3-4 turns players score for control (most pieces) of each area of Mars. This is when you realize just how useful some of those characters’ abilities can be. For example, moving a few pieces around Mars can make a huge difference. Similarly, swapping someone else’s piece for one of yours can shift the balance of power. So the heart of the game is making the best tactical use of those special abilities – one of which is picking up the cards you’ve used so that you can use them again! This is a typically clever, medium-weight game from the Brunos. It’s been nicely produced by Asmodée and gets 8/10 on my highly subjective scale. (Suggested retail price: $44.95)

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Thurn & Taxis (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande) was designed by Andreas and Karen Seyfarth and is about the thruntaxisbeginnings of the German postal service. The board shows a map of Germany divided into regions and showing the major cities and the roads between
them. Each turn players get a couple of actions, the most common of which are picking up and playing a card. Cards refer to a specific city. They are drafted from those displayed or unseen off the top of the deck. Cards are played to start or add to a route, following the roads on the board.

There are all sorts of ways to score points – and the most points wins the game, of course. First off, players score for the size of their wagon! These are gained by completing a route of the minimum length for the wagon – and one way the game ends is when someone gets a ‘7’ wagon. There are points for achieving specific lengths of route – the first gets more points. There are bonuses for having an office in every city in a region, or a group of regions, or the set of non-central regions and so on. The game can also end if someone places all their office pieces – and there’s a penalty for unplayed offices, which encourages expansive play.

Thurn & Taxis plays rather faster than you expect. In this way it reminds me of Web of Power (Summer 2000 GA REPORT). The different ways of scoring points mean that players always have tactical options. But the heart of the game is building routes, which means collecting the right cards. Some of the bonuses are harder to get than others, so don’t repeat my mistake of leaving the hardest until last and ending up stuck! This is an excellent game that I expect to play quite a bit this year: 9/10 on my highly subjective scale. (Suggested retail price: $32.95)

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Alea’s game for 2006 is Um Ru(h)m und Ehre (called Rum and Pirates in the Rio Grande edition). Designedrumpiratesby Stefan Feld, this game has lots of fiddly cardboard bits. There are plastic pirate playing pieces for the players, too. Plus a board of course. The board shows a piratetown with streets between significant buildings, each of which does something different. In a standard turn, a player adds some of their pirates to the board, filling up a street, and gets the action of the building at the end of this chain. Generally, these either give them a way of earning some victory points or improving their position on the board.

Players can also place their remaining pirates against the mast piece (representing the ship) that’s set to one side. This ends their actions for the time being. Once everyone’s done that, there’s a brawl (lots of dice rolling) between the pirates on the mast, with the last three earning the victory points available (for the ‘sleeping places’). Everybody gets their pieces back and it’s time for another round. After several rounds,
game’s over and the player with the most points wins.

Putting it like this misses the fact that the game is actually quite fun. Yes, each turn is pretty much the same and there’s a lot of dice rolling, but it’s a decent tactical game. There are always options and almost everything you can do will score you some points. And there are some neat touches – like being able to pay a coin to miss a turn. My biggest issue is that you have to know what all the symbols on the board mean and how they are resolved in order to know what you’re doing. There’s a definite learning curve for this one. Once I’d got through that, I enjoyed the game. 7/10 on my highly subjective scale. (Suggested retail price: $39.95)


 

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Summer 2006  GA Report Articles

 

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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Days of Wonder, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, about 60 minutes; $50) Although the title may win a prize for the longest game name in recent memory, the premise of Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is simple. In this design by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, Cleopatra yearns for a new palace. The players, assuming the persona of architects, ...
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Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Hidden City Games, 2 to 4 players or more, ages 8 to adult, 10 to 30+ minutes; 30 chip starter sets $14.95; 2 chip booster pack $2.50) Occasionally as a gamer one finds games a little off the beaten path. This is one of those games. Clout Fantasy, designed by Jesper Myfors and Paul Peterson, is sort of a cross between ...
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Strong & Stronger If you're reading this, you probably know game designer Sid Sackson and I were good friends for a number of years. We would meet with our wives on a regular basis to talk about and play games. And, from time to time, the subject of what was going to happen to Sid's unbelievable collection of games and related items in the (distant) ...
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[Pevans is the pen name of Paul Evans (well, a Paul Evans – hence the pseudonym). This Paul Evans is a British gamer who has been writing about games for well over 20 years. He was founding editor of Games Games Games magazine and edited it for 12 years. He has contributed to Games & Puzzles, Games International and Counter and is a regular ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy [So many games, so little time. It's no wonder so many great games have vanished from the market. Once again, it's time to resurrect one of these lost gems. In past issues, our Game Classics series has showcased some remarkable games including Astron, Bantu, Broker, Can't Stop, Daytona 500, Focus (aka Domination), The Game of Politics, The Godfather Game, Holiday, Kimbo, ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Abacus Spiele, 3-5 players, ages 8 and up; 15 minutes +; about $8) Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. From that biblical event springs the new and aptly named card game from Abacus, designed by Tom Lehmann: Jericho. The game consists of a deck of 110 cards divided into 75 wall cards (in denominations of ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Hans im Gluck/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 45 minutes; $39.95) Medieval times has served as a background for many games and cities have often played a part in them, whether in grasping for power or scoring prestige. In Masons, the latest design from Leo Colovini, a new perspective on cities is presented as players become "master masons" ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Ystari Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $29.95) Ystari Games has been making a name for itself with its maiden and subsequent releases. Ys (featured in the Winter 2005 GA REPORT and one of my favorite releases of that year) followed by Caylus (Winter 2006 GA REPORT) already established Ystari as a company to be reckoned with. With ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Front Porch Classics, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, about 60 minutes; $50) The thrill of auto racing has been the subject of many tabletop simulations. One of the best looking of the bunch comes roaring down the pike from Front Porch Classics in their new release Raceway 57. Handling up to five players, this edition of the game comes in ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Avalon Hill, 3-5 players, ages 10 to adult, 45 minutes; $35) The time is the future and the place is Rocketville where a mayoralty race is heating up. Players are candidates vying for that office by campaigning throughout the different areas of the city in this newest Avalon Hill release, designed by Richard Garfield. Rocketville comes with a mounted board divided ...
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