first impressions

17.11.14 In Versailles, we are architects and interior designers with the ambitious task to design and construct a palace for King Louis XIV. In the middle of the game board the construction yard is depicted, surrounded by various locations that aid us in the building process. The palace is constructed from palace tiles, to be obtained at the Architects’ Guild. The tiles depict how many resources are required to build this particular part of the palace, how many workers it takes, and whether any special ornaments need to be included. The resources wood, marble and gold can be obtained at the lumber mill, the marble quarry and the gold mine, respectively. If necessary, the resources can be further processed to ornaments at the workshop. Only when a player has collected all the resources and ornaments needed he may proceed to the construction yard to place the tile. The key element in this ‘worker movement game’ is the mechanism used to move the workers. The locations are connected by roads with arrows; on his turn, a player may move one of his workers one step in the direction of the arrow. He subsequently activates the location where he ends his movement, and thus carries out the accompanying action. The power of the action depends on the number of his own workers: if the newly arrived worker was the only one, he may take for example one marble cube. But if there was already a worker present from a previous turn, he may take two cubes, and in the case of three or more workers even three cubes. The players also possess two double movement tokens, which allows them to move either one worker two spaces, or two workers one space. The tokens are turned face-down after use, but can be reactivated after a visit to the King. Important to realise is that an action can only be carried out when a new worker arrives at the location. If a player already has three workers at a specific location, he is still not allowed to carry out the action until a fourth worker arrives. And that is the biggest downside of the game mechanism. At all stages of the game, some locations are simply not interesting or relevant, but the options to bypass these locations are simply too limited. In practice, the workers keep accumulating at interesting locations until a player has literally nowhere to go, and then he chases his workers around the board again until they arrive at the location where they originally started. Especially near the end of the game it happens frequently that a player has to move his workers to a location where he has no desire or possibility to perform the action. A useless turn. Another disadvantage of the game is the lay-out of the palace tiles. They are divided into quarters that represent either inside- or outside areas. When placing tiles, inside has to match inside and vice versa. At a certain moment the construction yard is so full, that the only possible lay-out of the remaining empty spots is already fixed. If none of the tiles in the display of the architects’ guild matches these conditions, these tiles are useless. Refreshing the display is one of the possible actions, but the players need to chase their workers around the board to activate the architects’ guild. And the active player can only purchase one of the newly displayed tiles if he has the resources and workers to do so. If not, the next player will undoubtedly become the new proud owner of the only useful tile in the display… Who would want to run a risk like that?! The general impression of Versailles is one of fruitlessly chasing workers around the board, only to conclude that they are still always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Barbara van Vugt
Versailles, Andrei Novac, Heidelberger Spieleverlag/NSKN Games, 2014 - 2 to 5 players, 12 years and up, 45-75 minutes
We Will Wok You

09.11.12 In this game, two to four players collect ingredients that they allocate to mission i.e. wok cards at the end of the game; these wok cards must be claimed first from a display of twelve to eighteen cards in order to be able to score them with these ingredients. The ingredients are on display per two or three; initially four or six coin cards are next to these – this is the price that must be payed for one complete set of ingredients. Players each start with three coin cards, they can buy a set of two ingredient cards with it but it is not sufficient for a set of three. So: how does a player gets to more money?
One of the three possible actions - and only one may be taken - in a turn is taking a coin card from one of the two rows. Through this the cost for the concerned two sets of ingredients is reduced by one. Players could keep taking coin cards to fill their cash until one could think: ‘Hmm, this is getting cheap enough, I’ll buy a set of ingredients!’ When he does so, he adds his coin cards to the coin cards of the concerning row and takes one of the sets. Any next player will think twice to buy a set now, as it has become quite expensive for him. So, better take a coin card first, one by one... When a set of ingredients has been taken, it gets refilled from the blind stack.
A third possible action is taking a mission/wok card. For this, a player must play ingredient cards that have four matching symbols, with a star being a wild card. These cards remain in front of the player, as at the end of the game together with the cards still in his hand they are used to score them with the wok cards. One wok could require two different ingredients in three or four quant, other woks are somewhat more tolerant in that they allow all sorts of variations, but at a lesser score. When a wok card has been taken, the display is not refilled, so it is first come, first served (pun unintended).
When at either one of the two coin rows both sets of ingredients are taken and can not be refilled, the game ends after each player has taken a final turn. After this the players decide which ingredients they will place at which wok card; more combinations could be possible but a player obviously will search for the highest scoring combination.
It must have been irresistable for the inventor of the game theme ‘wokking’ to not instantly and continuously wanting to sing ‘We Will Wok You’ through the offices or in the bathroom, subsequently bursting out in an uncontrollable laughing and coughing fit. Ingenious! You don’t think of that that easy, do you? And you know what? For the ingredients, and I have a first name already, we take pop stars! Not that it relates to wokking in any sense whatsoever, but: funny, eh? So, watch it, here comes the first: Freddy Broccoli! Nice pun, eh? I came to that through the title. Now let’s continue: Tina Tuna, subtle, or not? And now I have an encompassing theme too: it is a Wok Festival! And the subtitle will be: ‘Not for WOKaholics! Doesn’t have to do anything at all with it, but anyways. And now no further tough questions please! There’s another one: Mariah Carrot!
Well, it is and remains a little card game, how well there has been tried to put some atmosphere in it. The theme is completely silly, but this can be quickly forgotten when playing the game, as most themes can. But after the faint little smiles for the equivokes what remains is a rather empty and average card game.
I already have thought of a title for a sequel though, as if being silly is difficult - so editor, please contact me for the rights - and I would suggest ‘Wok Around the Clock’ or Rock around the Wok’, I am not quite sure about this one, or just ‘Who the Wok Cares’, with special new ingredients such as Bill Whaley, and master chief cards like Jean la Fér, Cordon Moutondire and Jamais Oliviér...
We Will Wok You, Sebastien Bleasdale, Pegasus Spiele, 2012 - 2 to 4 players, 8 years and up, 30-40 minutes


Vintage is a game about making port wine in the Douro Valley. The board shows several estates on a map of the Douro Valley, and at the bottom the action fields are depicted where players can place their action disks. The first player places one action disk, the second player two, et cetera. Since players begin with only four disks, a round can be over pretty quickly! The most important actions are buying an estate, planting vines, harvesting grapes, shipping barrels and selling port. The problem with most games that have been developed around a theme instead of vice versa, is that the theme is followed extremely conscientiously, resulting in an impossible game with a huge rule book with many tiny illogical little rules. Vintage is no different. When harvesting, a player can choose to produce either port or brandy. Port is what you want, brandy is worthless. Except that you need brandy to be able to produce port. For each estate a player can choose between brandy or port. If he chooses port, he has to pay brandy. If brandy is produced, the brandy-disks are placed on the player board. Port barrels remain on the estate, supplemented with a quality-marker. The quality is derived from a number indicated on the estate, plus the variable season bonus. The number of port barrels produced is determined by the region where the estate is situated. Subsequently, the barrels have to be shipped to the player's wine cellars in the city. There is a little boat that sails around on the board, and also an area on the player board that represents the boat. The port barrels go into the boat, together with the quality marker. Therefore the different batches have to be kept strictly separated: otherwise you can't tell which barrel belongs to which quality marker! In the city, the barrels are placed in the player's cellar, together with their quality marker. The player immediately decides for destination 'Ruby port' or 'Tawny port'. When selling the barrels, a die is thrown, and the outcome is added to the batch quality. This total determines in which row the barrels are going to be placed, and how many points they score. When a row is completely filled, the points are scored and the barrels are removed. The tawny port-rows are longer, so more difficult to fill, but the quality demands are lower. Even after a good number of games, the whole flow from harvesting to selling doesn't really stick. It also doesn't help that the iconography is horrible: of virtually no icon, and no single card, it is possible to understand what it means without prior explanation. One little example? Above the action 'harvesting' the following equation is depicted: 'orange is not yellow is not white is not grey'. Scientifically completely sound, but what does it mean?? It means that this action cannot be performed twice by the same player. Ahh... And then some comments on the gameplay. Because of the limited number of action discs it is very hard to start producing and selling port from the fist round. But without points -money- players can not buy new estates to improve their chances for subsequent rounds. In short, the game progresses too slowly, and as a result the game has hardly taken off by the time it's over after round seven. And because it gets a bit repetitive even after seven rounds, it is not advisable to simply keep on playing for some more rounds... Vintage is very dry and technical, and the intended romantic atmosphere of port making is therefore lacking. Barbara van Vugt
Vintage, Gil d'Orey, Mesa Board Games, 2011 - 2 to 4 players, 10 years and up, 60-120 minutes.xxtop

Zooloretto - Würfelspiel
11.03.12 Things have come full circle: first there was the card game, after that the board game, and now the dice game that originally started as Coloretto. Refreshingly enough the game feeling of the dice game is close to the original card game; the choices that are to be made are difficult again and despite the lighter tone there are still subtle considerations to be made. Two dice are thrown; on it are five different animal symbols, plus a coin symbol. After throwing the two dice must be put on one or two of the three or four transport trucks. Next player! he decides: also throw the dice, or take all dice on one of the trucks and score the points for it; he is out of the game for this round, though.
On the score pad the various animals can be checked off; when a player is the first to complete one species, he may check off the bonus box as well. But when he has to check an animal for which all boxes already are checked, he gets a -2 penalty, all to be marked on the score pad. This penalty is a one-off, so additional animals of this species do not score an additional penalty this round. This can lead to pawky distribution of the dice on the trucks: a player puts two apes on one truck; he already has taken the penalty for them, but other players only need one to complete their collection so any player that would take the dice on this truck would also receive the -2 penalty, resulting in a -1 balance. These two apes for instance can be placed on a truck that has other valuable animals for that player, perhaps even scoring the bonus for any of them.
The coin symbols can be collected for points, but they also may serve to cross off penalties.
How to make things as unattractive for others as possible, while trying to keep things as attractive for themselves, in fact is the message of this game, as in the original card game. And because the game is so delightfully short, there is always room for a return match! A compliment goes to the technically perfect produced dice with their nice clear symbols.

Zooloretto - Würfelspiel, Michael Schacht, AbacusSpiele, 2012, 2 to 4 players, 7 years and up, 15 minutes
Welt der guten Küche
08.09.08 We removed our television so we cannot check it, but Johann Lafer is an Austrian cook performing on German television. One who shows us how to make a lovely meal but because of the elapsed time watching television - what? is it that late already? - you seek refuge in the delivery service of the cardboard taste pizzeria just down the block. That is a pity, because cooking is an enjoyable pursuit that costs relatively little time to make something delicious that looks nice on top. But a quiz game about cooking, can it be fun?
Out of the box with a soft grey felt inlay comes a round card board disc, and a real porcelain plate from the world famous Villeroy & Boch with the same dimensions as the card board disc. Any one of these can be used as game board. Around the plate six ingredients are placed, serving to hold the cooking stars of the players. The two to six players each take a wooden chef's cap in their colour and place it all on one but the same of the symbols on the plate, for instance the kiwi; this is their starting position. Beforehand players agree on how many questions will be answered in the game, fifteen providing for a game with a nice length. A starting player takes the first card, on which two questions are printed, both with up to six answers. The starting player chooses one, and reads the question together with all answers. Well, should be not too difficult, or is it? The trick is that there are right and wrong answers, and the players choose with each answer if they want to place their wooden star on one of the corresponding numbers/ingredients when they think the answer is right. For example: What consists Caprese of? 1. Mozzarella 2. White wine vinegar 3. Basil 4. Tomatoes 5. Olive oil.
Players may, one by one, place a star for answer 1; then for answer 2, and so on. If they think an answer is wrong, they don't place a star. The starting player also participates, and always places last. When all answers have been worked, the card is turned over; on this back it states which answers are right. Sometimes only one answer is right, but most of the time more than one answer covers the question. In the above example everything except 2. is right. Players advance the amount of their right answers, only: if they had an answer wrong, they do not advance at all, despite the right answers on other numbers!
This mechanism is what outshines the game from other quiz games. Players can weigh their chances: will they place a star with the answer they are not entirely sure of, possibly gamble away their whole profit, or will they stay with that one sure answer that will advance them, but will not give them the lead? The starting player, after each question moving to the next player, also has a little advantage: he may choose from the two questions which to read to the group, and obviously will choose for a question he thinks he knows more of than the other players. When making a negative decision, he will deny a question to the group he thinks another player has more knowledge of.
'Welt der guten Küche' (world of the good kitchen) is a successful and social game for each one who likes cooking, even if this merely means the consumption of a meal prepared by others! Because of the luxurious execution the game is very well suited to give away as a present, although the recipient must be able to understand German because of the texts on the cards.
We use the card board disc as a game board; on the porcelain plate the snacks are served!
Welt der guten Küche, Johann Lafer, Huch & Friends, 2008, 2 to 6 players, 16 years and up, 60 minutesxxtop
30.05.08 A wadi is a desert river, the rules teach us. Such a river for a limited time supplies water that has to be pumped onto and over the fields in order to receive points for it. Each player tries to place his pumps in such a fashion that he is able to irrigate the most  profitable fields. The playing area is formed in a random way from the river and field tiles. On the field tiles one to three water reservoirs are depicted, that earn equal points at game end. At the source of each river a stack of water discs is placed; those discs can be pumped one by one onto the adjacent fields. Each player has the option to either place a new pump and pump one water disc, or pump twice. New pumps are only allowed on empty fields that may not join orthogonally. Apart from the pumping water from the river a pump action also can be used to pump a water disc from one field onto another. When all players have made their move, the stacks of water disc move one river tile and a new starting player begins a new round. The game lasts until all water discs from the river have been pumped onto the fields, after which all tiles are scored and the player with the most points wins.
Well, it all sounds dry taste, and it is. ‘Wadi’ is one of those games one wonders what moved the author to publish his creation. It is one of the very many mediocre games; it does not add anything new, and it plays without any sparkle. The back of the tiles show a pattern of the author’s name. Mmh: ‘A white wall is a fool’s paper’ immediately comes to mind. Did the author not look at comparable games to see what is possible and more gamelike? And who the * is Martyn F, that he wants to hide his full name for us? Well, the only positive thing of the game is its length: after 30 minutes it's all done.
Wadi, Martijn F, private label, 2007 - 2 to 4 players, 10 years and up, 30 to 40 minutes
05.04.08 A single god already can have a whimsical mood, but when they come in numbers their sympathy with our world does not get any better. Anew a deluge makes for us that will hit eight of the nine quarters of the city of Vineta, and why this has to be this way, well, these are gods mysterious ways, so don't ask any further but take preliminary actions from this tsunami warning. These gods don't take their own laws very seriously though, as they might have agreed to flood the city, but sneakily they all have drawn their secret agenda and decided that they want to save one quarter. They want to save a particular colour of houses too because it earns them points; yes, money, the filthy lucre, is not respected in the clouds; it is points they go for here! The two to six players try to assemble as much of these in their temporary role of wrathful gods.
The city of Vineta consists of nine different shaped quarters of card board that are laid on the map and on which at game start the houses are put. One by one players place a house; not too much red in that quarter on the outside because it might be conspicious, and green perhaps more in the middle as for now it is safe, might be some of the godly thoughts a player might have then.
The starting player plays a card, usually one with a number on it, and puts a chit in a quarter he would like to see flooded. A next player may add his card to this row, or start his own row by playing a card in front of him and as a proposal putting a chit in an other quarter. All players get three turns, after which is determined which quarter has the highest score of cards and thus is flooded. The houses are divided between the players who contributed to the proposal by having cards in the card row of that quarter; these houses (of any colour) are worth one point at game end.
Apart from the normal number cards a players deck also has special cards that enable a player to take a card from another row and place it onto another, take away a card from a row, a card that lengthens or shortens the round by one turn, and various cards that move houses from one quarter to another.
When only one quarter is left, the game ends and the points are awarded: each player who has houses of 'his' colour in the remaining quarter gets two points per house for it, and the remaining quarter itself scores a bonus to the player who had this as his 'target', more points for the outer quarters, less points for the inner quarters.
The similarity with 'Clans' is obvious, but 'Vineta' lacks its subtlety. It is less important to save a players 'own' houses; it is far more rewarding to collect houses from the various flooded quarters during the game; this way the most points are collected and not from the end score. There is an end bonus of seven points for the outer quarters of the city, and this sounds nice, but no other player can take the risk that any player could have such a quarter as his secret quarter, so all other players will surely flood it. Only if there are too many houses of one's own colour in a threathed quarter things might get tight because action has to be taken, but not in a way that it shows too much.
And then the game has ended, and each player looks at the other. 'Well', someone tries to start the conversation. Hope lights up in the eyes of the other players. But then silence takes over again. Well. Sometimes one does not know how to put it. Ehrm: next game?
Vineta, Fabiano Onça, Maricio Gibrin & Mauricio Miyaji, Winning Moves, 2008 - 2 to 6 players, 10 years and up, 45 minutesxxtop
Wie Verhext!

09.03.08 In 'Wie Verhext' we take on the mantles of all kinds of witches and wizards in order to brew as many magic potions as possible, which give us victory points. All players have the same set of twelve characters to choose from. The three characters on the green cards allow you to obtain the ingredients for the potions. With the three blue characters these ingredients can be turned into potions. There are always three potions available in three different kettles (these are in stacks which progress in value), each corresponding to a blue character. Three yellow characters allow you to trade: money for ingredients, ingredients for money, or money for ‘mini-potions’; these are worth one victory point each. There are also two red characters to annoy your opponents with, by forcing them to pay a part of their ingredients or their money, for you to use the proceeds to purchase a magic potion from a separate stack. Finally there is a character that allows you to cast a magic spell: this is a rotating stack of cards where the top card is active, and gives some advantage to the caster.
At the start of a round each player chooses five of his twelve character cards that he intends to use that turn. But whether he will be able to, remains to be seen! Then the first player puts one of his characters onto the table, and states which character it is: “I am …” (There are all kinds of German puns in de character names: Heduda, Schlemil and, reminding us of ancient Gaul, Krautvornix). Then we go round the table: if a player is holding the same character card, they must play it. This player can choose: either take over the character (“No, I am …”), forcing the current owner to discard his card, or philosophically say “So sei es” (“So be it”), and take the second (minor) advantage of the character card, allowing the current owner to keep it. Why would anybody do that? Simple, because the next player can take over the character from the new owner, leaving him with nothing! Only the last player in the row can take over a character without the risk of losing it again. When the eventual owner has performed the action of the character, he is the first to play the next card. This goes on until everyone runs out of cards, and then a new round begins. The game ends at the end of the round in which the fourth potion card containing a crow (these are scattered through all the stacks) has been taken. Then the points are counted to determine the winner.
Even though ‘Wie Verhext!’ is lighter fare than your average Alea, like for example its predecessor ‘Im Jahr des Drachen’, I certainly enjoyed my first game of it. There is always the decision if you want to take the chance of taking over a character to get the maximum advantage, with the risk of getting nothing at all. But there will also be times that you will be kicking yourself for being too careful, as the players after you didn’t turn out to be holding that card at all! For the experienced gamer there is also the strategy of deciding not to take over a certain character, in order to be the last in line with the next character that would give you a bigger benefit. Fun while playing, suitable for both family and experienced gamers, so why not a positive rating? Because already there are doubts if it will remain fun. If after four or five games the novelty of the character selection has worn off, will the shine have worn off this game as well? Until it is proved otherwise, that question mark will stay with ‘Wie Verhext?!’ Ugur Donmez
Wie Verhext!, Andreas Pelikan, Alea / Ravensburger, 2008 - 3 to 5 players, 9 years and up, 45 minutesxxtop


20.08.07 We start a new career as zoo director! Let’s see, what do we need: 6 miles of barred fences, several nameplates, model ‘From Ape to Zebra’, three or four dayroom grass-lands, a barn, and some candy stands. Oh, and animals! In ‘Zooloretto’ the two to five players will take care of this supply. On the two to five vans that more look like jungle boats the supply is increased one by one. Each van only can take up to three items that may consist of one of eight animal species, money, or a stand. In a turn a player either chooses any of the vans with its load, places it in his zoo and passes for the current round, or he adds an item from a blind stack onto any of the vans. With a third (money) action the zoo can be expanded by one dayroom grass-land, or an animal can be traded with another player. With so many species a player inevitably gets stuck with animals he can’t place in any of the grass-lands. He may put these in the barn, but at the end of the game these count as minus points.
Two of the dayroom grass-lands earn money when all spaces are occupied with a species, and this increases the possibilities to trade, open a fourth dayroom, or get rid of an animal in the barn. So we prefer animals of just one to four species. Not quite coincidentally this also is the way the other players see it! An van that has an animal on it that is attractive to a player because he already has one or more in his zoo, can be made less attractive by putting an animal on it that he has to put in his barn. Take that! Or maybe: no thanks!
When the last pile of 15 tiles comes into play, the round ends after that, after which scoring takes place. Fully occupied grass-lands score the highest, almost full score less, and the rest only scores if there is a stand next to it. Each kind of stand also scores, and each species in the barn costs a player a penalty of two minus points.
A player will never put a second tile of the same animal on a van if there is a player who collects these. This results in a general play of not benefitting any player, the decision making generally supported by remarks of all the other players. In the long run this affects the joy of playing, because it is the tile that dictates where it will be put, and not the player himself who more or less is out of control.
‘Zooloretto’ is the boardgame sequel of the card game ‘Coloretto’, where players have to collect colours, with minus points for the fourth and following colour. This swift card game with the feel of  ‘Geschenkt’/’No Thanks’ and ’King Lui’ is very hilarious, and a nice ‘in between’ game. ‘Zooloretto’ has lost this swiftness because there are some more decisions to make (which action to take), and yet: it does not really add anything. Where ‘Coloretto’ stays upright by its non pretentious character, ‘Zooloretto’ fails to keep attraction. It is not a bad game, but it does fail to have the charming effect of ‘yet one more game?’. Some games give a feeling of exploring something new, every game over - ‘Let me try it this way now’ - but in this game the repetition and the coincidence prevail.
Zooloretto, Michael Schacht, Abacussspiele, 2007 -2 to 5 players, 8 years and up, 45 minutesxxtop

Vor dem Wind

15.07.07 It seems as if Phalanx has proclaimed 2007 as Nautical Year! Anyway, in ‘Vor dem Wind’ we stand out to sea again, well, the ships in the harbour as we ourselves are mainly busy acquiring goods and shipping them. Players start with an empty warehouse and some money. The starting player turns as many cards as there are players from two to three decks: goods, store, and shipping. From these, he chooses a card; after him all players choose one. This looks like a starting player advantage, but the bidding mechanism, which has a slight resemblance of the one used in ‘Edel, Stein & Reich’ allows a player to bid for a card that a player before him has chosen instead of taking one of the other cards. This is a one time bid, and the owner of the card decides if he accepts it, handing over the card for the money, or pays the bidding player the amount and keeping the card. This way nasty and hostile take-overs can take place! So, when deciding which card to take a player not only has to consider what card to choose, but also if there is a chance that another player also wants it and will make a bid for it. And if there is a bid, does he want to keep the card - and does he have sufficient money to pay for the bid? On the other hand, a player could choose a card he knows another player will certainly bid on if his only purpose is to make money! After each player has chosen a card, or has received money for it, the action on the cards are executed: take good (cards) in your hand, store goods in your warehouse, or ship. The goods in a players hand move to the warehouse in a later round if a store card is acquired. The warehouse has a storage capacity for up to eight goods. With a shipping card goods can be shipped from the warehouse to one of the ships that wait in the harbour; each ship takes from one to four goods that have to be shipped in order to acquire the ship card - and the points depicted on it.
In the beginning of a game, the goods cards are more attractive than the store cards. The shipping cards have a double function; with these a player either can deliver goods from his warehouse to a ship, or he can take the amount of money depicted on the card. This makes it even more awkward to choose between the cards: a player may want to take the shipping card and use it for shipping, but the same card will be attractive to any player in need for money, so if there is a bidding, however small the bid will be, the money must be at hand. As a tactic, a starting player in such a situation will turn two shipping cards open and take the one with the lesser amount of money on it, leaving the higher amount for the player short of cash. When there are only two ship cards left, these last two also ‘sail away’, and are removed from play, after which a new set of ships is laid out. Bad luck for the players with goods cards in their hands, as all of these have to be discarded. From the warehouse half of a players spice and cheese may be kept, but all fruit rots away; silk however is unharmed. When a player has collected the necessary amount of points (ship cards), the game ends after which the player with the highest score has won.
‘Vor dem Wind’ ofcourse just is an auction and collecting card game, but the little changes in the bidding mechanism, and other small things such as the double function of the shipping cards make it a vicious and exciting little game, and a nice and justified addition to the game menu!
Vor dem Wind, Torsten Landsvogt, Phalanx Games, 2007 - 2 to 4 players, 10 years and up, 75 minutesxxtop

11.04.07 Under the slogan: 'Tough men land at foreign shores, and assemble points like children assemble shells', we are going to try to place the most awarding combination which consists of an islandtile (begin, middle or end) and a Vikingman which comes in various colours, indicating its profession; apparently the local clothing conventions are very conservative! The twelve combinations lie around a central disc, on which the price for thecombination can be read from. In a turn, a player chooses one of the available combinations of Viking and island part, and pays the accompanying price for it. The tiles are placed next to a card board hook depicting the shore of the homeland with the characteristics of the Vikings, once placed. Usually the Vikings are placed on the island tile that they came with, but sometimes they have to wait ashore until the grey boatsmen bring them to one of the islands at the eve of a large scoring. At the end of every of the six rounds of the game, there is a scoring, alternating a small and a large one. At a small scoring players only can earn money with their yellow men, the goldsmiths. At a large scoring the whole lot joins: green and red take care of the points, yellow again earns money, and black wards off the hostile ships that threaten the shores.
Because of the limited availability of the island tiles, or the various colours Vikingmen, sometimes a higher price has to be paid than intended. Sometimes a combination can be taken for free, but only if on the '0' spot of the price disc there is a single Viking of one colour left. Thereafter the disc clockwise rotates with its '0' to the next occupied position, decreasing the prices for all remaining tiles and accompanying Vikings.
The Viking ships must be warded off and in doing so they bring points or gold; if there is no black warrior to do this then the colour of the Viking ship's sail shows how far inland its attack goes and neutralize possible points. No player will want these ships along his shores, but in a turn taking a combination is mandatory, and the round only ends when all spaces around the disc are empty.
At the end of the game all the Vikings have to be supported by a quantaty of blue fishermen, otherwise there is a point deduction. Finally bonuses are given for the largest completed island, the most completed islands, and most boatsmen. Money can be traded in for points against a 5:1 ratio.
What makes the game so much fun, is the rotating price disc, and the tactical possibilities in choosing a certain combination. There is an advanced game, where more special tiles are introduced. These may be taken each time whenever a player has pais for the most expensive combination; this could be 11 gold, but 1 gold as well, if there are no higher combinations anymore around the disc! This makes the game even better, and it is advised to play the game with this advanced rule. What stays is the frustration when a specific island tile or colour of Viking is not drawn from the bag at the start of a new round, when the disc is resupplied with tiles and Vikings.
Because of its bright colours and its harmless look 'Wikinger' seems a simple game. Sure, it is simple to play, as the rules are easy to learn, but the game is a wolf in sheep's clothes, as there is defintely more tactical play possible than one would assume at first sight. Due to this all as well as the nice atmosphere Wikinger is a pleasant surprise!
Wikinger, Michael Kiesling, Hans im Glück, 2007 - 2 to 4 players, 10 years and up, 60 minutes
17.11.06 Take this in mind: we are merchants! Merchants! Is that perfectly clear? Right, then let's take the dice, and subsequently place our cubes on the board!
In a small village in the desert, somewhere in the vicinity of Yspahan, the merchants are in commotion: the representative of the Sjah is nearby! From his presence surely something profitable can be made, and so they ready their caravans to sell their goods. But first these will have to be produced with the aide of dice; the starting player throws the whole lot on the table and arranges them on a card; the ones with the ones, the twos with the twos, and so on. From this card the actions can be chosen, when choosing production as many cubes can be placed in a quarter of the village as dice are on the specific chosen row. When the inspector has been chosen, he moves that many spaces. Producing also means: placing cubes in one of the chosen quarters of the village, in any one of the bazaars, one cube per bazaar. When at the end of a week a bazaar is fully occupied with cubes, that player gets the points for it. In the meantime the inspector walks through the dusty streets of the village, and commands some of the goods to be taken to the caravan, that at the end of each week brings a small bonus. If a player does not like this, he hands in a camel. Camels can be collected as an action on the dice card; another action is taking gold. For gold and camels various improvements can be built that for instance offer additional camels, or allow an additional cube to be placed in a quarter. An action card can be taken as an action instead of using the dice; these cards offer all kinds of goodies. The game lasts three weeks of the usual seven days; after the last scoring of the caravan it is known who has scored best.
'Yspahan' has a nice atmosphere: 'Come on! Throw them dice!' 'Oh my, five ones!' It is less important that the minimal tactics involved play a minor role. The game is explained in a few minutes, and finished in some fifty more. Despite the distances to be travelled by camel, 'Yspahan' is completed in no time!
Yspahan, Sébastien Pauchon, Huch & Friends, 2006 - 3 or 4 players, 8 years and up, 45 to 60 minutes
20.10.06 In the omnicultural society we live in nowadays we must not forget the Vikings! Fortuneseekers avant l'asile as they were, they wandered along the coasts, forced their way in and took whatever they could get. A reconstruction of their adventures is made in this majority game for three or four players, who only will collect harmless points. Three tongues are laid out; the Viking ships will disembark alongside one by one. In a turn, a player draws one ship from the stack, puts one or more of his Viking men onto it from his personal mortal supply and decides where he wants to put his ship, neatly queuing with already present ships, or somewhere where no Viking has gone before (eh? that sounds familiar!). Many ships also host a Viking from a foreign tribe; the owning player decides if he wants to board, but has no say in where the ship will disembark. If the space is empty it is occupied by the disembarking Viking. If there is resistance, another mechanism is triggered: conflict! Oddly enough though, the defender may announce if he wants to win or loose the fight! Well, win, one would say, but this is only possible if that player has pieces in the Walhalla, the heaven for Vikings, in this game somewhat curiously represented by an illustrated aprés-ski hut on a windy mountain. One of these goes to Asgard, the heaven of gods but in this game the general supply. If a player has no Viking in the Walhalla, he cannot send the obligatory one to Asgard and thus is not able to win the conflict. The Viking on the tongue now goes to Walhalla instead, a possible future candidate for Asgard - and winning a conflict.
Claiming of territory is important in obtaining points; sometimes immediate rewards can be taken, sometimes an investment is done on a position of which a player hopes that the small rune print will earn him revenues in a later stage of the game, assumed he still occupies the position at that time. On some locations, the player takes a card that could be worth points, or aides in a future conflict.
Scoring of each of the tongues is done after the last ship has disembarked its Vikings; the various majorities are checked and scored. Additional points can be earned on the wheat fields, that increase in points every next round. The Walhalla is checked and scored also, and a new round starts with removing the ships and the Vikings (except those on wheat fields), supplying every player with two Vikings from Asgard. After the third round the player with the most points has won.
'Walhalla' has an average kind of complexity. It is playing well, with even the occasional tactical decision to make. Not a real outstanding game, but still very pleasant to play for a broad group of players.
Walhalla, Alessandro Zucchini, Amigo, 2006 - 3 or 4 players, 12 years and up, 60 minutes
xxxxx xxxxx