This was a game that I was originally introduced to at GenCon, I got to play a quick little bit of a self led two player demo. A few months later it showed up at a local game shop and I was looking at it…
Tag: table top
We’re almost to the holidays, and if you are looking for a light little game that you can play with most people, Point Salad might be the game for you. It’s a little game and easy to take with you for the holidays, but let’s see how it plays and if it might be good for you.
In Point Salad you are going to take turns either drafting vegetables to make your salad or taking cards that are going to tell you how to score. The trick is that you need to take the best scoring cards for you, but when you take a card for scoring, you only take a single card, but if you take vegetables, you take two on the turn. So can you figure what is the best scoring option for you and draft cards so that you can out score your opponents. The game is really that simple, once all the cards have been drafted, then each person scores their salad based off of the scoring cards that they have. The person with the most points wins.
There are a few things that I really enjoy about this game. The first being that the play is really simple. You’re either taking two vegetables or you’re taking a card that is going to allow you to score. People who have played games like Ticket to Ride will have some idea as to how this works because you can either take two normal train cars or a wild train car. So it’s a common concept which is good, because how the scoring works is a bit more unique.
The thing about scoring cards is that it’s the base side of the vegetable cards. So if you don’t take a scoring card from the top of the stack, there’s a chance that it’ll flip down and become a vegetable before you can take it on your next turn. It’s a really nice way to give interesting decisions. In fact, sometimes you have to make the tough decision to take a vegetable instead of a scoring card causing that scoring card to turn into a vegetable. But, even with that decision point, it’s not that hard to make it and turns still move by pretty quickly. For me, this is a really clever way to do the scoring, because everyone is going to have different scoring so you might not overlap on what vegetables that you want, but everyone might want different vegetables.
Another thing is that when you are drafting cards, you put them on the table in front of you creating a tableau. That means that I can see what the person to my left is wanting, and the person to my right can see what I want. Maybe on a turn there’s only one vegetable that I want and no scoring that I want. I can then draft that one vegetable and possibly draft something that the person to my left might want. Now, that’s not always the best strategy, but you can get an idea of what people might want. In fact, the better reason to draft a card might be that taking a certain vegetable will cause a scoring card the person to your left might want to turn into a vegetable, and once it’s a vegetable, it can’t be used for scoring again. So if there are three tomatoes and I want to take two of them, I might take the ones that will get rid of scoring that the person to the left of me wants. So it’s a simple, subtle little thing that can add more into the game. But it’s not a massive part of the game being mean to people, because if you do that, you won’t score as well.
I do have one negative about the game. The cards a little bit flimsy, thankfully the game is cheap so you can play it a couple dozen times and replace it if you want. The other solution would be to get card sleeves, which I might, but because you need to see both sides of the cards, that means that the sleeves have to be clear, which you can find, but those sleeves are often a bit flimsier as well. The box is also about twice as big as it needs to be, but I don’t mind that, because I have space for it. But if space is at a premium for your gaming collection, I could see it being annoying.
Finally, let’s talk about the name. Probably something that I could have lead off with, I’ve been talking about how you are drafting vegetables, and it’s all vegetables that you’d live in a salad, so you get points for your vegetables and they are a salad vegetables, hence point salad. While that is true, point salad is something that is used in board gaming. In board gaming it describes a game that you can get points in a ton of different ways. So point, and how does salad fit in, think about a buffet. At a buffet, you can make a salad and you have 20 different toppings, 8 different dressings, and a few different types of lettuce. So like you can get points in a ton of ways, you can make your salad at a buffet in a ton of different ways. So the name, Point Salad, plays off of this idea of basically everything you do gives you points. And while it doesn’t score you as many points as some point salad games do, if you draft well, basically every card should give you some points.
So, is this a good game? I definitely have more positive things about it then negative. For me, Point Salad is a great filler game, even with a higher player count, the game plays quite fast, and you can play a two player game in 15 minutes. I like the tongue in cheek nature of the game as well with the naming and the vegetables. I also like this game for newer gamers because it’s introduces tableau building and drafting, two things that show up in a lot of games. I think for a gaming group of very seasoned gamers who like heavy games, this won’t be a hit, but for most groups it’ll be good fun.
Overall Score: B+
Gamer Grade: C
Casual Grade: A
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Too often one of the biggest blockers of getting a board game to the table is the ability or inability to teach the rules of the game. Or, probably more fairly put, one of the biggest blockers of getting a game back to the table is the inability to teach the rules well.
Most people who are interested in board games are going to be up for learning a new game from time to time. Though, there will be some people who aren’t interested as well, but that was a different article. So, you get the game to the table, now how do you teach people the game? I might have actually written about this before, but I think it’s worth going back over and giving some more suggestions, because this is one of the bigger barriers to entry for a lot of board games.
The rules to games are often challenging, and unless everyone loves board games, reading from the rule book won’t likely teach people. Even if the people do love board games, and someone starts to read from the rule book, I’m going to zone out, because I can just read the rule book myself if that’s how we’re going to learn. There needs to be a more engaging way to keep people involved in the rules.
Teaching Rules Steps:
- Start out by knowing the rules yourself. That doesn’t mean that you’ve had to have played the game before, though playing a sample hand wouldn’t be bad or sample turn, just to make sure that you get it. Or you can watch videos from places like Watch It Played that go over the rules to certain games. What you’re looking to come out of is the win or loss conditions, end of game, and what people can do on their turn. You are going to want to know those things well.
- Start with the theme of the game (if there is one). By starting with the theme, you can get people’s interest since you aren’t starting off with something dry. This is actually a time where you can read from the rule book, because some games, like T.I.M.E. Stories actually have a bit of a story at the start of the rule book. You can use whatever the game gives you to tell the story. Now, for some games there won’t be a theme you can do this with, I’m looking at abstract games or Dominion as examples, so you can skip that step.
- Then talk about how you win or lose the game. This is going to be the most important information for people in the game. Generally it’s going to be about how you win the game, especially in a competitive game. You want to have the most victory points, you want to control so many territories, you want to empty your hand of cards first, whatever that might be. But if there’s a condition, say, if you run out of cards, that can eliminate someone from the game, tell them that too. Or for something like Pandemic, there are a lot of ways to lose the game, so talk about those while you talk about how you win. Pandemic is also a good example as to how you can combine this with step two, because you can talk in the theme about how you’re all members of the CDC who are trying to cure four diseases. In that case, you can get the information out in one fell swoop, though I would be tempted to repeat it again, just to make sure everyone knows.
- Spend some time go over turn/round structure. This isn’t what people can do on their turn. But if you start by drawing cards, then playing two cards, then moving the villain ahead two spaces, then optionally getting an event card, explain that. This is meant to teach people who this works at a high level and what the structure is going to be through most of the game. It is also going to give you a chance to show off random decks of cards or things that the players might not immediately interact with in the game.
- Go over what people can do on their turns. Now, this doesn’t have to be everything. Especially if there is a player aid that is good and clear. But talk about the important things that people can do on their turns. In Pandemic, explain how the moving works and how to treat diseases and how to cure diseases. Then, most of the characters have a special action that they can take. You don’t need to teach something like this which is specific to a single player, but have the players read, at this time, their special powers, if they exist, and in fact hand them out at this time, and then you can answer questions.
- Show people the important parts of the game. But more than just showing off the important decks, let your players be involved in it. In Pandemic, as an example again, you can talk about the player deck and have someone shuffle it and hand out people’s hands of cards while you continue to teach more. It seems like it might distract from your teaching by having someone do something like that. I personally don’t think it will, in fact it might keep people more engaged. Because people are going to be paying attention so that if you ask them to help with something it won’t be obvious that they weren’t paying attention.
- Finally, teach in the game as need be. This can be a few different things. Sometimes there are several things that only happen once or twice in the game, you can teach them in the moment when they happen. However, this only works if it isn’t something that is extremely important to the game or to the scoring. If there’s something that can give you an automatic win, teach that earlier even if it’s really rare. Or if it’s something that helps you as the person who is teaching the game and hurts someone else, teach it earlier or refrain from doing it, and give it as an example as something that you could do. Another thing that teaching in the game can be is letting players roll back a turn if need be. If someone has an extremely good move and makes a very bad move, point out the option to them, they might have forgotten or just missed it. But don’t do this all the time, because you’ll basically be taking that person’s turn and make this about teaching the game, so once you’ve taught something once during the game, you don’t teach the same thing again.
Now, there are probably more things that you can do. But being patient and teaching a game from theme first, and from a position where you know the rules is going to make it more likely that people will enjoy the game. And when people don’t enjoy the game, don’t assume that it was how you taught it, if you were trying to be considerate and engaging about it, not every game is for everyone.
Have you found any ways that make teaching a game easier? Or are there things that you’ve found help keep people engaged in learning the rules?
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Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness
We have a triple threat match this time as we have three heavyweights from Fantasy Flight facing off. The reason that they get to face off is because all of them have app integration.
What this means for all these games is that you don’t need to have someone playing the bad guys. Too often in a pseudo dungeon crawl you can have a situation where it feels like the one person running the monsters is up against everyone else and more facilitating their fun than having as much fun themselves. There are then games like Gloomhaven where no one has to run the monsters, but everyone still has to do stuff on the monsters turn. In these games, you get an app that does that, it tells you the rules for moving the monsters and what you have to deal with them. Or where to place tiles and what the puzzles are.
Let’s meet the contenders.
Imperial Assault is a Star Wars game where you are playing adjacent to the main characters, since you wouldn’t want to play as Luke and have him die before he can blow up the first Death Star. You, instead, play around the edges of the Star Wars world and the big stories that are happening in the original trilogy. It uses it’s app to help you know when to activate storm troopers and other troops out there, but you still have to go through, when someone activates and see which of the moves that they need to do.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
JiME, as I’ll shorten it to, takes place between the movies, I believe, and it gives you an interesting combination of characters to play with. You can play as Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, or Aragorn from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but they also have created two separate characters for the story as well whom you can play as. In my opinion, I get why they picked some main characters, but I’d have preferred if all the characters were side characters who no one has heard of because they aren’t in the books, and you run across characters like Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, and Aragorn. The app, in this case, runs a ton for you. You build your board, you put down markers, and you have you cards and character information in front of you, but when you’re interacting with a marker or fighting a bad guy, the app helps walk you through what you need to know. With the map, it also will be unique each time.
Mansions of Madness
Welcome to the world of HP Lovecraft. It’s almost impossible to a Fantasy Flight Board Game battle without mentioning something to do with Lovecraft. In this one, you take on a role of an investigator and you try and find your way through a mystery as you’ve been called to a mansion or somewhere else where something mysterious to do with the elder gods is happening. The app helps create a unique setting every time you play through the game or at least a few different ones, for each scenario. It also gives you those tokens to interact with that you place on your unique board and as you delve into the story being told. It also controls the monsters, letting you know what they can do or whom they will go after. It also keeps track of when the end game is coming up for you.
I should point out that all of these borrow from each other, though, Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, borrows a lot from both of them. You can kind of tell the order that Fantasy Flight put them out because of that. JiME works well, and I like the campaign aspect to it, which you get in Imperial Assault, but you don’t get in Mansions of Madness. I also like the combat in JiME, it works well, and comes directly from Mansions of Madness. It’s simple and clean and lets you know what to do, whereas with Imperial Assault there’s more that you have to dig through to make the combat work.
I do think what separates them the most is the story. Now, I like all the worlds that they are set in. Lord of the Rings is a great fantasy setting. Star Wars is an iconic Sci-Fi . Lovecraft is synonymous with horror. So Fantasy Flight has basically everything covered that I like. I would say that JiME, thus far, seems to have the weakest story. Now, I don’t think it’s all that week, I guess I should say, JiME feels like you should be playing something more epic than you are because you have Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn, and to a lesser Bilbo, you want to play through the trilogy or The Hobbit, but instead you’re off dealing with bandits. Imperial Assault would have had that feel, but you get to see moments with Vader, you are playing through parts of the movies, but because you’re the E-Team (not even good enough to be the B-Team), it doesn’t matter if you die, and it doesn’t matter if you orbit out from the main Star Wars story for a while. And with Mansions of Madness, you’re playing a single story at a time, and there isn’t a particular story that people really expect when they are getting something from Lovecraft, they just know Cthulhu.
JiME gets the early advantage because it takes mechanics from both and it’s able to counter the moves. However, it ends up throwing some predictable moves when it comes with the characters that it has. It gets bounced, but puts up a good showing. We get down to Imperial Assault which throws some strong nostalgia haymakers but eventually tries a complicated move with it’s bad guys and gets caught.
1…. 2…. 3….
Mansions of Madness
The champion of the app companion Fantasy Flight games is Mansions of Madness which has done so much creative with it’s game and it isn’t just in Mansions.
Now, I will say, I’d always be glad to sit down and play any of these games. These are three of the top contenders out there to take down Gloomhaven, Gloomhaven is just too good, but I’m going to be getting these to the table coming up here on Malts and Meeples.
Have you played these games? Which one is your favorite?
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