Tag Archives: 2011

The View From The Afternoon – 7 Wonders review

I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of gamers out there are at least aware of 7 Wonders even if they haven’t played it (which, of course, a lot of people have). Antoine Bauza’s super-condensed game of city building has gained the respect of many players for several reasons, the main one probably being that it’s able to handle up to seven players at a time yet plays in around thirty to forty minutes. There’s very few games on the market that provide such a range but scale so well, so that’s invariably the reason that it’s scooped so many awards over the past couple of years – including the 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres.

Each player begins with a play board depicting an ancient wonder of the world, a small amount of money and… well, that’s it. The objective is to build up your own civilisation over the space of three ages, each one represented by a deck of cards. These are shuffled and dealt out, giving each player seven to choose from. This is sorted out before play begins with a little bit of card removal – all cards are marked at the bottom denoting whether they should be included or not. Once you’ve chosen a card you lay it down, pass your deck to the next player, grab the one being handed to you then do it all over again until you’re down to two. With those, you choose one to play and one is discarded.

Brown cards are natural resources, Greys are manufactured. Meanwhile, Yellows allow you to skew the rules in your favour.

These cards can’t be just chosen willy nilly, however. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the resources available to put them down in front of you. Everyone begins with a single resource, but as the game progresses you can grab cards to add to your stack. Some cards require one or more resources before you can play them – if they have an image in the top left corner, you’re going to need to either make sure you’ve got that at your disposal. If you don’t, you can check if the player to your left or right has it, then pay them for the privilege. Sure, it may be a pain having to hand over some of your very limited funds, but if it helps you along it’s money well spent.

As you progress through the three Ages, you’ll notice that the cards get more and more powerful – and expensive. There’s one way around this; keep an eye out for stuff that you’ve already built. Some cards give you a free pass to build others, even if you can’t get the necessary bits you would ordinarily need. It’s a great way to build up your points or give you bonuses to use throughout the game, but you still have to make sure you’ve got enough resources to cover yourself for other purchases.

Blues give out plenty of points, Greens are for stacking Science. The Guilds are represented by Purples and could really swing the game your way.

Another element occurs when you end an age; WAR. When the cards run out, it’s time to take on the players to your left and right. Throughout each age you have the potential to pick up red cards that give you shields – if you have more at the end of an age, you’ll get points (one, three or five). If you have less, you’ll grab a minus one token. It’s a good way to pick up some easy points – after all, you only need to stay slightly ahead of those people next to you.

If you’re looking for yet another way of scoring, you can always go down the Sciences route. Green cards have three icons – cogs, tablets and compasses – that could potentially net you some huge points. Collecting a set of all three is good… but getting a bunch of the same is even better as the points scale, squaring as you go; one, four, nine, sixteen… it gets very valuable very quickly. Purple cards represent Guilds and are only available for drafting in Age III and can really give you some huge points too – they’re pretty expensive but could turn the tide your way. Get a couple down in front of you and the game could easily be yours… maybe.

A couple of Wonders - bonuses aplenty are available if you get to build those stages...

Of course, there’s also the Wonders from the game’s title. Depending on which one you draw, there’ll be between one and four levels that will give you a hefty bonus. Instead of putting your chosen card face up before you, as long as you have the resources you can put it underneath your playing board. Some may grant you victory points, others bestow money upon you, while a few give you extra shields or resources. It’s not entirely necessary for you to build your Wonder, but if you choose to leave it behind you’d best make sure you’re working on a few other plans.

Initial games may actually prove a bit confusing. Though the gameplay is incredibly simple – draw a card, play a card, pass the rest around and repeat – there’s such a wealth of options available to you the whole game can feel pretty daunting. Do you grab as many blue cards as possible and boost your points or focus on a military strategy to beat up on your neighbours? Should you go for Science or just concentrate on your Wonder?

Not available in the box! This one's a promo with only one Wonder level... but WHAT a level. The winner of the game has to buy you a beer!

To be honest, every time you play your strategy will be different. There’s so many different possibilities in a game of 7 Wonders that your best bet is really to try and keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, then go down a different path. Obviously this is trickier when you’ve got more players, but that’s what adds to the enjoyment of the game. While your main focus will be on your neighbouring players thanks to the whole war and resources thing, being able to have an eye on the whole playfield will certainly help.

Personally, I’m completely head over heels with this game. I love the fact that it works with such a wide range of players (though I must admit, I haven’t attempted the two player version yet) and is still finished in such a short time; it’s the very definition of a One More Go game. The artwork is solid throughout, as is the graphic design – everything is incredibly clear and simple to follow with splendid iconography.

Being a card game, it’s pretty hard to mess up the production, but thankfully the folks at Repos Productions have made sure that the stock used is nice and thick, the player boards are of good quality and the box insert is actually pretty useful. This review is based on the newer edition of the game, meaning that the wooden coins of the original have been replaced by cardboard bits. Again, these are nicely done, but I’m a sucker for wood – however, I can see why the switch has been made; not only does it save money on production, it also ensures compatibility with expansions that also come with cardboard cash.

Having played it a fair few times, I can see why 7 Wonders has won so many awards since its release. It treads that line between accessibility and slightly more complex games beautifully, open enough for even novice players to pick up quickly but still giving those who seek a challenge plenty to think about. Antoine Bauza has done something that is quite hard to do in the world of game design; he’s managed to create a relatively level playing field. No wonder the plaudits keep coming in… and you can definitely add me to the ever growing list of fans.

7 Wonders was designed by Antoine Bauza with art by Miguel Coimbra. Released in 2010 through Repos Production, between two and seven players can attempt to build their own civilisation in around half an hour. The game can be expanded through the Leaders set which is out now as well as the forthcoming Cities pack; now go and get it, for it is awesome. Oh, and if you’ve got an iPhone, I heartily recommend getting the free 7 Wonders Scorer App which makes life a lot easier at the end of a game!

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Episode 34 – Essen 2011: Day Four

The final episode of The Little Metal Dog Show’s coverage of the 2011 Spiel event brings you another selection of interviews straight from the show floor with designers old and new, all talking about the games that have brought them to Essen. From first time visitors to experienced industry veterans, everything you need to know about some of the most exciting games of the year is here. Grab it from iTunes or download it from here!

The fine people involved in this show are:

Jiří Mikoláš from Jira’s Games, talking about Space Bastards

Anne Cecile from Ludonaute, makers of Shitenno

Bezier Games‘ founder Ted Alspach (and here’s the Kickstarter link for his latest game, Mutant Meeples!)

The legendary Friedemann Friese from 2F Spiele

Kathrin Nos from German boardgame magazine Fairplay

Swan Panasia‘s very own Johannes aka: Joyo!

Konstantinos Kokkinis of Artipia Games (makers of Drum Roll!)

The mighty Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games

Though he’s not on this episode (as he ran away halfway through the day!), don’t forget to check out Paco’s excellent podcast and site: G*M*S Magazine – you won’t regret it!

Thanks as always to our podcast sponsors for this episode too: Eagle Games, makers of Pizza Theory (here’s the Kickstarter page) and Plaid Hat GamesDungeon Run.

Next episode will see The Little Metal Dog Show returning to a vague approximation of normality… see you then!

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Episode 32 – Essen 2011: Day Two

The second of four Little Metal Dog Shows live from the show floor at Essen! From award winners like Qwirkle and 7 Wonders to brand new releases, this one’s an epic. With twelve interviews with game designers old and new, this latest episode should give you a good flavour of what goes on at the world’s biggest board games fair… Download it here!

This episode has interviews with the following splendid people…

Christine Goutaland from Days of Wonder – http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/

Jeroen from Splotter Spellen  – http://www.splotter.nl/english/index.html

Repos Production’s Thomas Provoost – http://www.rprod.com/en/index.html

Kris Gould from Wattsalpoag – http://www.wattsalpoaggames.com/default.aspx

Flatlined Games Eric Hanuise – http://www.flatlinedgames.com/

Colby Dauch from Plaid Hat Games (who was really there representing Playdek) – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/ / http://www.incineratorstudios.com

Bart from White Goblin Games (and Mark Chaplin, designer of Revolver) – http://www.whitegoblingames.com/

Michele Quondam from Giochix.it – http://www.giochix.it/edizhome1e.htm

Susan McKinley Ross, designer of 2011 Spiel des Jahres winner Qwirkle – http://www.ideaduck.com/

Radoslaw Szeja from Kuznia Gier – http://kuzniagier.pl/english.html

Nobuaki “Tak” Takerube from Japon Brand – http://japonbrand.gamers-jp.com/

Anna Genovese from Ghenos Games – http://www.ghenosgames.com

I’m joined – as I was for Day One – by Paco Jaen from GMS Magazine, a fantastic site and podcast that you really should check out over at http://www.gmsmagazine.com/

Episode 33: Day Three should be available soon…!

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Essen 2011: Home Again

So the desire to post nightly updates from Essen kind of fell by the wayside thanks to a combination of a lack of stable wifi and sheer, total exhaustion. Next year I’ll do better, promise!

So here’s the rundown on my first experience of Spiel. I can safely say that if you’ve never been to the fair and you’ve got even a passing interest in games, Essen is an event that you need to get to at least once. Even if you’re only able to head over for a day Spiel is an incredible experience; from seeing the packed out halls to checking out the hundreds of new games that are available, it’s a place you must visit.

One of the halls on the Saturday. They're all like this ALL DAY. And that's brilliant.

For me, the main focus of the show was to speak to as many people face-to-face as possible. Not only was I trying to get as many interviews as possible (I actually ended up with over forty, meaning that there’ll be at least three special Little Metal Dog Shows going up over the next couple of weeks) but I also wanted to put faces to the voices that I’ve been lucky to speak to since the podcast first started. I also managed to catch up with loads of new people over the space of the four days, many of whom you’ll hear from on the show.

Of course, Essen is all about games and I got to play plenty while I was over there. There’s this amazing atmosphere where everyone is so approachable; if you spot an empty seat while people are setting up a game, you can just wander up and join in. People are incredibly friendly and even if they might not have the greatest grasp on whatever language you may speak, you’ll be able to muddle by – you’re all learning new games together, after all.

Two handsome devils. Colby Dauch (less his Plaid Hat) and a certain Michael Fox.

There didn’t seem to be a single Big Game that truly defined the show. Where in previous years titles like Dominion dominated and 7 Wonders was wondrous, Spiel ’11 felt like there were many games that were drawing the attention of attendees. Panic Station seemed to be the first game to board the hype train, selling out completely within an hour of the doors opening on the first day. As the show went on, the BGG hot list continued to update with games like Stalag 17 and Air Show from Gen-X and NSKN’s Warriors and Traders proving solid sellers. The German magazine Fair Play were also compiling a hotlist of their own, the honours going to Tournay from Pearl Games, designed by the same team behind Troyes.

Game highlights for me included the really quite fantastic Space Maze from Wacky Works, a puzzle game with the cutest wooden alien pieces you have ever seen. By manipulating the board, you manoeuvre around a spaceship trying to claim a relic. Get it back to your home base and you’ll win but it’s far from a simple task. The game mechanics mean that you may only move once per turn but can scupper your opponents by shifting the tiles that make up the board. Not a game to be underestimated – yes, it’s very sweet looking, but there’s a lot to consider while playing it.

FFG's X-Wing in action. Just about different enough to Wings of Glory. Just about.

Nefarious from Ascora Games was another excellent game newly released at Spiel ’11. Designed by Dominion creator Donald X. Vaccarino, it’s a quick playing game of world domination with a comedy twist. It’s very straightforward with players selecting one of four actions per round; putting a minion in one of four areas of your lair (which could potentially earn you cash), inventing terrifying devices, developing new gear or gaining money. It’s a race to twenty points with each invention worth a certain amount as well as potentially having effects on both yourself and your fellow mad scientists. A relatively light game but lots of fun – and who wouldn’t like to own a Buttered Cat Array?

All aboard! Next stop Catan!

I was lucky enough to pick up an advance copy of Alf Seegert’s The Road to Canterbury from the folks at Eagle Games – one of the perks of voicing the Kickstarter and tutorial videos! Despite it only being a two or three player game, it’s very good indeed and is beautifully produced. The artwork is excellent, sure, but it’s the components that blew me away. They are incredible – it even comes in the most solid box in the history of gaming. You could throw this off a house and it’d not even be dented. If you backed it on Kickstarter recently you will not be disappointed.

Ted Alspach from Bezier Games showing off Mutant Meeples. A top game from a top man!

The best thing about the whole Essen experience for me wasn’t the games though – it was the people I got to meet and hang out with. Rory O’Connor and Anita Murphy, the driving forces behind Rory’s Story Cubes, are both lovely people who are working bloody hard to live out their dreams of producing a fantastic game (and I’m not saying that because Rory forced a full set of Cubes on me at Dusseldorf Airport!). Colby Dauch from Plaid Hat Games is one of the nicest blokes in the industry who should be very pleased with what Playdek (also splendid chaps!) are doing with Summoner Wars on iOS. Richard Bliss and Laurence O’Brien are inspiring fellows who seem to know everyone in the business and make for excellent lunch companions. Finally, you couldn’t ask for a better games mule or room-mate than Paco from GMS Magazine, though he may hit me for that.

Who doesn't? They're the best of all the animals.

So that’s about it. There’s a lot of writing and editing to do from here on in. I picked up a LOT of games during the four days in Germany so there’s plenty of new stuff to play and review. Lessons learnt include make sure you eat properly and regularly, wear supportive shoes, bring a comfortable backpack and book a room in the Atlantic Congress Hotel. I’m utterly exhausted, my feet and back are killing me, I want to learn a bit more German and I feel invigorated about starting to design new games. Same time next year, then?

By Day Four you really start hallucinating. I swear I saw a huge Munchkin.

Definitely. See you there.

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Little Metal Dog Goes International: Essen 2011

It’s Essen Spiel week! The most wonderful time of the year! If you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what I’m on about, Essen is the annual event that board gamers dream of. It’s our equivalent of the San Diego Comic Con, the cardboard version of E3; over 100,000 people flocking to a town in Germany to see what the games industry is going to delight us with over the next few months.

This will be my first Essen – actually, it’ll be my first visit to Germany – and I’m feeling a curious combination of excitement and nerves. I’m sure that once I arrive at the halls that’ll all bleed away as I scramble about looking at incredible games by publishers and indies from all around the world. I know that come Sunday I’ll have that feeling of it all being over too soon, that I should have grabbed more interviews… It’s going to be An Experience.

I’ve been looking through all the lists of new releases for Essen 2011 and – as is apparently customary – I’ve thrown together a few games that I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on. Whether I’ll be able to try them all out, who knows? It’s a big old place and there’s a lot of people to see. Here’s hoping though…

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Alcatraz: The Scapegoat published by Kuznia Gier

Let’s kick off with a co-op, albeit one with a difference. In Alcatraz: The Scapegoat you’re working together to spring yourself from the legendary American jail but someone’s got to be left behind. The aim seems to be to make yourself as indispensable as possible. You’re the guy who HAS to be taken along because you sure don’t want to be stuck on the rock. Part pick up and deliver, part backstabbing exercise in diplomacy, Alcatraz: The Scapegoat looks wonderfully cruel.

Bios Megafauna published by Sierra Madre Games

The mighty Dominant Species holds the crown when it comes to games involving evolution (for me, anyway) but Sierra Madre Games’ Bios Megafauna looks like it could well make a challenge for the throne. Your beasties are graded on a wide range of categories and must deal with competition from other animals as well as changes in their environment. How do you deal with such things? Why, through mutation or starting brand new species, of course. Apparently you can end up with vegetarian velociraptors and flying dolphins… who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Core Worlds published by Stronghold Games

Science fiction, barbarians, the invasion of worlds and deck-building. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from Core Worlds, a new release from Stronghold Games. They’re a company who have developed quite a name in producing beautiful new versions of some classic titles but are now spreading out into new IPs. In around an hour players will take their fledgling civilisation, develop new technologies, build up energy resources, launch fleets and destroy their enemies before them – hopefully. Core Worlds promises an awful lot but if it pulls it off, this could be one of the games of the year for me.

Dragon Rampage published by Eagle Games

Richard Launis’ strategic dice game has been on my radar a while and after talking with him for The Little Metal Dog Show I am now fully hyped for it. Playing as adventurers trying to blag as much treasure while screwing over your opponents and making sure to react correctly to what the dragon’s doing..? It looks like while there’s plenty of opportunity to take down your opposition, you’ve got to be careful to not dig yourself into a hole and throw away a potential victory. Also, the games available at Essen will come with a “special” board. No more information on that, but I’m a sucker for limited editions.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue published by Indie Boards and Cards

Yes, yes, I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign. I am an idiot. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be excited about this one. Another one scratching that itch for co-operative play, you work together to save victims trapped inside a burning building before it’s too late. Different roles have different special abilities but the thing that really appeals is the power to smash through walls in times of desperation. After raising a ridiculous amount on money, the Essen release comes with a promo role card, a double sided game board and a scenarios book. So much potential playtime! Here’s hoping I can grab a copy.

Last Will by Czech Games Edition

I had a chance to look at Last Will at the UK Games Expo and was immediately taken with it. Think Brewster’s Millions: The Board Game or Go For Broke for grown ups; Players are given a large amount of money which must be frittered away on luxuries like theatre visits and extravagant meals or investing in property that will be left to go to rack and ruin. I love humour in games and Last Will seems to have it in spades. Designer Vladimir Suchy seems like he’s on to a winner with this one, combining a bloody funny idea with some solid gameplay.

Power Grid: The Robots published by 2-F Spiele

I love me some Power Grid and there’s nothing better than having a full requisite of players sitting around the board, filling out and fighting for every space in every town as the game goes on. So what happens if you’ve only got four players? Or even less? Friedemann Friese has thought about that and has introduced Power Grid: The Robots. Acting as AI players, each robot will be given a randomised set of rules for them to follow in the game. The rules come on tiles that will be mixed up meaning that there’s a huge range of potential robot opponents. I’m really interested in seeing how it works. Oh, and there’s the usual extra card for this year too, Der Liefervertrag (The Supply Contract) that lets you permanently move one step back in player order. Could prove very useful.

Rumble in the House by Flatlined Games

Flatlined Games present a mad looking little game where players are encouraged to (virtually) beat the crap out of their fellow housemates. Everyone controls two characters and, in a last man standing kind of affair, must force the opposition out of the house. The earlier you’re evicted, the less points that character scores and after three rounds the player with the highest total is victorious. A very quick little party game (apparently it can be done in twenty minutes, even with six players) I hope this lives up to my expectations.

Schnappt Hubi! published by Ravensburger

I honestly have no idea if I’ll even understand this one but Ravensburger stuff is generally pretty easy to get your head around. Players are either mice or rabbits who need to chase down Hubi the ghost and get him out of the house. Sounds very weird but looks amazing. Schnappt Hubi! has two stages, the first where players build the walls of the house making a maze that – thanks to the electronic gizmo that comes bundled – will be different every time the game is played. The walls come in different types including some with holes that only mice can get through or cracks that can only be reached by the rabbits that jump. Yes, it’s very much a kids game but it really looks brilliant – definitely one to pick up.

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With over seven hundred brand new games launching at Essen along with all the stuff that’s been released through the year, Aladdin’s cave has nothing on Essen 2011. I haven’t even started on the mini expansions that will be there; Small World Tunnels, Airlines Europe: Flight Ban, Carcassonne: Die Schule, Mr Jack Pocket: Goodies, Alhambra: Magical Buildings, 7 Wonders: Catan Island… How the hell am I going to get all this stuff home?!

If you’re there and you see me, do stop and say hello. Look for the bald guy with the wild look in his eyes wearing a shirt with – what else – a Little Metal Dog. This one, in fact!

See you in Germany!

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