Sale! Sale! Sale! – it’s our 1 year anniversary

Yup, as you can guess we have a sale on. We incorporated a year ago in April 2007 and since we had to do taxes (and accounts!), we figured this would be a good time as well to do a big sale. So all our games that we either overstocked on or just never sold that well are going on sale at some serious discounts. Games we have on sale include:

Kingsburg board game review

KingsburgKingsburg is a medieval fantasy development and resource management game where players compete to develop their provinces to battle-off the invading hordes. Kingsburg uses a dice-rolling system to initiate order in the phases and then proceeds to use those rolls to allow bids on advisors for their favour. A fun development game with long-term strategy planning and short-term tactical decisions, it’s a perfect advanced development game that won’t hurt your brain too much.

Appearance: Kingsburg comes in a well packaged box with some great, comic medieval fantasy artwork. While there is nothing that truly astounds (like Blue Moon), the artwork is fun and quirky while being well suited to the theme. One minor complaints about the board is how ‘busy’ it is – at first glance, it was quite intimidating with some difficulty picking out what was where. It took only a few minutes though before everyone was comfortable with it.

All the dice, tokens and game board are made of high quality material with no real flaws to be found. About the only major complaint is the generic use of coloured wooden cubes for the 3 resources (gold, stone and wood). A huge bonus in my view – the box comes pre-packaged with ziplock bags!

Rules / Ease of Learning: The rulebook is adequate, though at fist reading it seemed more complicated than the game actually was. Kingsburg is actually very easy to learn, though there is quite some depth of strategy.

The game plays over a period of 5 years, with each year broken into 8 phases. Three of the phases are ‘productive seasons’ (spring, summer and autumn) while winter is the last phase and when war occurs. Phases 1, 3, 5 and 7 are special phases, providing additional aid from the king to the losing player (phases 1 and 5), victory points for the current leader (phase 3) and preparation for battle (phase 7) in winter.

The goal of the game is to be player the most victory points at the end of the fifth year. Victory points are garnered in a variety of ways – through advisors, having the most buildings, developing certain buildings and through victory in battles.

As governors of a province, players will need to decide on which of 5 development tracks their province will concentrate on. Each building in a development track provides bonuses – either during the game or as victory points at the end. Track 1 focuses on providing a high level of building victory points (Cathredal), the second resources during the game (Merchant’s Guild), the third (Wizard’s Guild) and fourth (Fottress) military build-up and the last (Embassy) on-going victory points.

The productive seasons in Kingsburg is where the meat of the game lies. At the beginning of the season, players roll their dice (normally 3) and work out turn order. The dice are then used to allocate influence to each advisor, with players needing to meet the number on the advisor (ranging from 1-18) exactly. So a dice roll of 3, 4 and 5 would allow the player to affect advisors 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 12. Advisor no.6 (the Alchemist) could not be affected because the player could not make 6 with his dice roll. Players take turns influencing advisors starting with a player with the lowest roll and advisors can only normally be influenced by one player.

Once the dice allocation is complete, players will receive the benefits of each advisor and build one building (normally) per turn.

At the end of each year during winter (phase 8), the monsters arrive and players will need to tot up their total military strength along with the reinforcements from the king (based on a 1d6 die roll) and compare it to the monster’s forces. Winners lose resources, victory points or even buildings and winners gain generally small victory bonuses. The overall victor gains an additional victory point as well.

Actual Gameplay: Kingsburg’s actual gameplay can be considered quite fun. A number of aspects make it stand out as a great gateway or medium weight board game including:

catch up mechanisms

As mentioned, phases 1 and 5 are dedicated to acknowledging the weakest player and then providing them a benefit. In phase 1, they receive an additional white die for influencing advisors while phase 5 provides the King’s Envoy that allows a player to influence an already influenced advisor or to ‘double-build’ during a turn.

Also, the game is well balanced to allow even players with bad rolls to do well e.g. the turn order is based on lowest to highest, allowing players who rolled badly first pick.

Interaction

Since an advisor can only be influenced once, it behooves players to watch what other players have rolled to ‘counter’ the initiatives of other players. However, because this interaction is not a direct confrontation (as per wargames), it seems to certainly generate less antagonism.

Strategic decision making

Players are faced with two major strategic decisions during the game : which development path to continue down and how strong an army should they build. Both decisions will affect their long-term use of resources, with short-term tactical decisions during the influence phase.

One aspect of the actual gameplay that cropped up pretty fast was that there did not seem to be a huge number of choices in terms of optimal builds. While there are 5 tracks to choose from, only a couple of tracks seem to work out well in the long-term – which in a larger game will have 3 players using the same strategy at the same time.

Luck is an obvious factor in the game – it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, bad rolls can still sink you. Certain strategies (e.g. the Merchant Guild development route) are more susceptible to bad rolls than others, but it is interesting to note that even the worst rolling player in our game ended up only 10 points back.

Lastly, downtime can be a major problem with the game – because players have to consider the dice rolled by others as well as their own options, analysis paralysis is a definite danger.

Conclusion: Kingsburg in my view is a game that has a lot of potential and is certain to hit the table often with my group. It feels in some parts like a ‘lighter’ version of Louis the XIV – no one walks out of our gaming sessions complaining of a fried brain after Kingsburg! The added need to balance development of soldiers against the invading hordes gives it a nice fantasy feel to it as well and I certainly do like the ‘catch-up’ mechanisms added to the game. In my view, it’s a great mid-level strategy game for players who want more choices in their board games.

Spam, spam, spam

Seriously, I’m almost hoping that the blog doesn’t ever get too high on the search engines. As it is, I have to deal with Spam on a regular basis.  A few hints for spammers:

  • a list of links is never going to be approved
  • generic comments that seem vaguely plausible might make me stop to review, but  you still aren’t going to get approved;
  • if your website URL makes me NOT want to click on it

If not for the fact that some people might get offended, I might even post (with nofollow’s of course) some of that spam for pointing and laughing at.

Please go away – if you don’t have anything sensible to say, just don’t.

And Google – can you please put together something so we can report evil URLs that hire link spammers?

Shipping Policy, FAQ and newsletters update

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you know that we updated the site with a few things:

– we have amended the FAQ slightly (purely clarifying language and typos)

– the Shipping Policy now states implicitly as well our policy on out-of-stock items on an order (we don’t ship the order till all games are in-stock. If you need a game earlier, contact us and we can work out the cost of shipping the orders separately and/or canceling the pre-order). This was stated in a variety of places (on the game itself, the FAQ and in the check-out) but we wanted to add it to this page too just-in-case.

– at the request of a customer, we will be adding a new page that will list all new games and games coming back into-stock. This will happen after our next inventory run (done) and count (probably this weekend).

– expect slight delays in shipping as we are getting out pre-orders from our last run.  Most pre-orders with games that came into stock will be going out in the next few days and other orders made this week by next week.

– newsletters are not going out this month either. Frankly, I hate spam mail and unless we have something truly interesting to say (like contests, sales, etc.) I am going to keep the newsletter ad-hoc. Hopefully, this works for everyone.

Tah!

Carcassonne: Traders & Builders board game review

Carcassonne : Traders & Builders Carcassonne : Traders and Builders is the second large expansion to the Carcassonne Series of games and probably my favourite expansion to the game. It adds two new scoring options that adds a slight shift in strategy, new ways to speed up the game and my favourite, a cloth bag to keep all the tiles in. What the expansion does miss is the lack of direct player confrontation that is hallmark of Carcassonne.

Appearance: Carcassonne : Traders and Builders comes in a small rectangular box. As with Carcassonne, there is very little to comment on in terms of artwork – it is terrain features after all. The pig is somewhat confused, looking very little like a pig but then again, meeples don’t look much like humans.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Rules for Carcassonne : Traders and Builders are easy to learn, and because they come in three component parts, can be selectively added to the base game.

Goods are represented on both city tiles and as punched-out markers. Players who complete a city with a good marker on it win the specific good marked (wine, cloth or grain). Players with the most goods of a specific type at the end of the game get 10 points.

The Pig is a small addition to the game which can be placed on an existing controlled farm. That means you’ll need to have your farmer placed already. A pig adds 1 point to each city scored for the farm.

The Builder must be placed after a meeple is placed like the Pig, but is dedicated to a city or road. The builder allows players to play another tile immediately after adding to the city or road that the builder is on. That is, when a road which a Builder is on is extended, the player may automatically draw a second tile and play it anywhere on the board as per normal rules. And no, you do not get a third turn.

Actual Gameplay: Traders and Builders adds a slew of expansions, some with varying success. The Pig is the least game-altering addition, adding only a single point. Farm centric players will love it, others will find it mostly a miss. In our games, we found it to be generally a non-feature – it was useful, but nothing special.

The Builder was the most disappointing in actual game-play. While the concept of having multiple turns to ‘build’ on a feature, in a 5 player game at least, by the time a Builder was in play, the actual benefit was minimal. After taking 1 turn to place a meeple, a second to place the Builder, you then had to be lucky enough to draw a road or city (whichever it is on). Quite often, you would only get to use it once or twice before another player shut the feature down, forcing you to start the process again. Of course, our experience might be due to the number of players involved (5) and how aggressive we were at shutting down each other.

The Goods feature was probably the most popular addition to the game. While adding only 30 points, it provided a twist to gameplay as players would compete to get the goods as much as points. Quite amusingly, in at least one city, players were purposely increasing the size of the city as 4 goods were available and no-one wanted the city to be scored.

Possibly the best addition was the bag – instead of having tiles spread all across a table, you now had a simple and efficient way of keeping all your tiles together. Probably my favourite addition and for anyone who has a small table or who wants to make the game easily portable.

Conclusion: My favourite expansion of Carcasonne thus far, a more comprehensive expansion that both changes the game and adds to it. Well worth the cost for nothing more than the Goods and Cloth Bag in my opinion.