We’re getting down to it, getting close to the Top 10 games, only a few more of these lists. It’s been a blast as always putting these out and I’m glad that people are enjoying them. I’d be very curious to know what your top …
Tag: Engine Building
Continuing on my series of board game mechanics, we’re going to be looking at Engine Building games. This has nothing to do with motor vehicles but it is building together pieces to make it work. Engine building games can be fun because they are games …
A long time ago, I wrote an article about beer and homebrewing. And if you’ve watched the Malts and Meeples videos, you’ll see me enjoying a good beer, though, none that I’ve homebrewed recently. Homebrewing is one of those hobbies that got set to the side for a little while, but that I’ve always loved and want to get back into, and then at GenCon I demoed a game called Homebrewers. I thought that the game was fun, but decided not to pick it up right away, and then later it was sold out. Fast forward a few months and I picked it up and just a few days ago, I got it to the table again.
In Homebrewers, you play one of several unique homebrewers who are trying to brew their best beers for Summerfest and Oktoberfest. You’re brewing beers in four different categories; ales, porters, stouts, and IPA. To do this, you are rolling dice on your turn which will give you actions that can be sanitizing the brew system, adding grain, adding ingredients, and brewing beer. Every time you brew a type of beer it goes up on a track which will determine if you come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in Summerfest or Oktoberfest. The ingredients are one area, besides each homebrewer has a unique power, where you add ingredients to your beer and it can make your beer worth more, or teach you something to improve another beer, or give you extra quality on the beer that you brewed so you advance you further on that beers track. At the end of the game, the person with the most points from the beer that they’ve brewed and prizes they’ve gotten, and goals they’ve completed wins the game.
The dice adds in a random nature to the game as you can roll them once. But to help counteract that, if you roll all of the same symbol you can reroll. Plus, you can always pay a dollar to tip the side a die is on to another side. So you have some control over the dice, it just costs you something. But if you’re out of money, which can happen, it isn’t the end of the world because after the dice are rolled players can trade a die for a die to get something what they might want. So if I have two dice that will allow me to either get or play a card, and I only want one of them, I could trade that other one to another player for something that I might need, such as sanitizing that I didn’t roll. That way you never feel completely stuck with what you’ve rolled and the dice don’t feel too random.
Homebrewers, at it’s core, is an engine building game. When you brew a beer, the ingredients on that beer can do several things for you. It can improve the quality of the beer, it can improve the quality of an adjacent beer, it can give you money, or copy one of those previous ones. These ingredients are the cards that you can get and put into play. I like that you can use the cards for building your brewing engine, but what the cards don’t give you, when you brew, is any extra grain, or sanitizing or anything like that, it’s just the things I mentioned above, like money. But all the cards are multipurpose. If you use them as an ingredient in brewing, they stick around on that type of beer for the rest of the game. But, you can also use the play card action to play the card for another effect. This could be sanitizing and getting a grain, getting two grain, or sanitizing twice. It might be a lot of money one time or it might be a bunch of points. So for every ingredient card you have to consider how you’re going to use it, do you want to play it for brewing a beer, or do you want the other things on it as a one time use. This also helps balance out the die rolls. Because if I have the ability to play a card and get two grain for brewing and I have two other dice that let me brew, I got a combo that I can work with.
In terms of engine builders, this is a pretty fast game, I think that some engine builders can overstay their welcome, for some, late game, because turns might take a long time because one thing triggers another thing which triggers another thing, and the turn cascades. In Homebrewers, the game lasts 8 months, so 8 rounds, at the start you’re not doing much, at the end, you’re doing a little bit more. You have some engine in play, but it isn’t a massive one, and it’s not going to cause itself to trigger multiple times or anything like that. Last time I played, and I needed to refresh myself on rules and teaching it, the game maybe took an hour and that was with teaching and looking up a symbol or two. If I were to play it again with the same person, I think we’d get through a game of it in half an hour. The game is pretty light for an engine builder as well, which keeps the game time down and the combo building simpler.
I do want to touch on the components a little bit. normally I don’t that much because game components are game components. But this one has nice custom dice, good card quality, and a nice board. The part that really stands out, though is the custom beer glass wooden pieces. There are five colors, and each of them has their own, unique, set of wood beer glasses. It’s just really cute and well done. And Tom Vasel in the Dice Tower review, because he doesn’t drink beer, that that they were odd bottles not glasses. Overall, this has really nice pieces and they are vibrant and look good on the table. The only odd thing about it, and I think that this is probably for a future expansion, all of the ingredient cards say if they are organic or not. All the cards, say that they are organic. So I’m guessing at some point in time there will be an expansion with other ingredients that aren’t raised organically and that they might behave slightly differently.
Overall, I like this game a lot. It’s a very fast engine building game with a theme that I really enjoy. If you don’t homebrew, will you enjoy this game? Yes, if you like beer. Because it is tied to the theme fairly well, I think that if you enjoy beer you’ll enjoy this game more. Not to say that if you don’t drink you won’t like this game, it’ll just lose some of it’s charm. Because one of the parts I like is when you add in ingredients, you can end up asking yourself stuff like, would I really want to drink a nutmeg and bacon ale? Probably not, but that blackberry stout, that sounds amazing. And, let’s be honest, I’d try any beer once with the ingredients in the game.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B+
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We’ve made it to the half way point and things will be looking up from there. Now we get to the actually good games. See, that’s a call back to a joke I made previously. I’ll have my disclaimer soon, but let me just say first, this really makes me want to play all of these games again. Some of them it’s been too long and some of them it hasn’t been long at all, but I still want to play all of them.
These rankings are the opinion of yours truly, and if you don’t like them, that’s okay. We all have different tastes in games and that is great. There are some games that I’ve only played as a demo, and I felt like I got enough of a feel to put them on the list, thanks GenCon for all the demos. These are living rankings so next year I’m sure that things will change, so I’ll probably be doing another one next year. Thanks to Board Game Geek for letting me enter/rate my collection and games I’ve played. Thanks to Pub Meeple for creating a tool that pulls in those games that I’ve rated and creating a ranking tool. Again, the numbers and names will be linked to Cool Stuff Inc and Amazon if you’re interested in the games.
50 – Pandemic
This game is just a good game, and one that’s been around for a little while, but still is a lot of fun. The cooperative nature of the game and the unique roles for each player in what they can do best works really well. In this game you are trying to cure four diseases from the board before you run out of cards, have too many outbreaks, or run out of one of the four diseases cubes. You do this by curing the diseases and trying to collect sets of cards of various colors that match up with the diseases. All the while the diseases are spreading and if you aren’t on top of it, they can get out of control in one part of the world. There’s just something nice about the standard version of Pandemic that makes it easy to get out to the table with people. Really enjoyable game, and you can play on hard mode where you try and eradicate all the diseases, which is what several people I’ve met thing the actual rules are.
49 – Cosmic Encounter
This game is a weird one on the list. You are one of various alien races, but what race you are can change, you are trying to get onto enough different planets before other people do, but you can share a victory. I think the best way to put it is that Cosmic Encounter is a silly negotiating game where you are vying to spread across planets, with the weirdest aliens out there. What is cool about this game is that everyone can be engaged in what is going on every turn. When someone else is going for a planet, they can ask for help, and you can piggy back along with them, and the same for defense. So it’s easily possible to be involved in every turn. In the end, the strongest force wins, but you can play cards to modify that, and some of those cards allow you to negotiate. But if both sides don’t negotiate, the one side will lose, but they get something from the other person. There’s give and take as you try and guess what the other person is going to play and talk through what sort of deals you can work out. Cosmic Encounter is a space game that doesn’t feel huge and doesn’t take itself seriously, but is a lot of fun. I can see this as a game that would fall flat for some groups, though, if they aren’t into the negotiating.
48 – Titan Race
In a land where there are fantastical monsters, known as titans, what do you do, you race them. Each player is a team of a lava and a rider who are trying to race across the same board three times faster than everyone else, dropping traps, pushing the other titans into lava, going over jumps, sliding on ice or whatever else the board might have on it. Last game was silly, this one is silly and light and just fun to play. You can get special powers that you can use, in fact your titan and rider will have their own special power to start the game, and you are drafting dice to determine how far and in what direction you go. This is meant as a light game, this is actually a pretty little game, I wish it was larger, because it would make a good kids game if it weren’t for all the small pieces. The fun thing is that while you can just do laps on the one board, you can also do the “grand prix” where you put three of the boards together and race through all of them. That makes the game even a bit more variable. Simple game but a ton of fun.
47 – Five Tribes
This game is a point salad game where everyone gets a point for everything that they do. But with that, there is some strategy as well. You can’t just take any move, because while it might give you points, which are coins in the game, there might be better scoring options out there. In Five Tribes, you bid for turn order, and then, using a mancala like mechanism of moving pieces around the board, you pick up meeples off of a square, and placing one at a time, drop them off on other squares and whatever one you are left with, you take it and all matching, which there have to be, meeples from the square and do that action. But then, each square has other actions you can take as well on it, and are they worth it to get more points, maybe shopping in the market, or will that cost be higher than the return. And then there are Djinn which can change up how you score and give you more points, if you buy them. Plus, there are other meeples that just give you points at the end of the game, some give you money during the game, and some can be used to kill other meeples. So picking the right move becomes important, and if there is one great move out there, do you bid higher when picking your potential starting spot, or do you hope other players haven’t seen the move. For a bunch of randomness in the set-up, once you get into the game, there is a ton of strategy as you try and find those best scoring moves.
46 – Ascension: Deckbuilding Game
Ascension is my generic deck builder on the list. A lot of people would pick Dominion, but I like Ascension a ton better. In this game, you are still just building your deck, but the mechanics of how many cards you can buy and how many cards you can play are much simpler, because you can spend all your money to buy as much as you want and you can play all of your cards if you want. Plus, there are monsters to attack as this is a fantasy theme, versus a “trading in the Mediterranean” theme. But the theme doesn’t really matter. There are four factions in the game that you can buy from, plus generic other cards like a mystic that gives you more buying power, or heavy infantry that gives you more attack power. You also have cards that you can get which are constructs that stay in play and give you a bonus each turn, but a monster might destroy them. Overall, this feels like it plays as fast as Dominion, there isn’t just a single puzzle to solve, because you don’t know how cards will come up, Ascension is just more enjoyable for me, and the expansions seem to add more interesting things into the game. Some people will like the static market of Dominion, but Ascension, I think, offers more interesting choices than Dominion.
45 – Homebrewers
This is one of the games that I demoed at GenCon, but don’t worry, I own it as well. Homebrewers is a game about a homebrewing club and brewing beer. In the game, you are working on brewing the best beer possible in four different styles of beer. You can get ingredients to improve your beer, but you can’t just brew all the time, like in real homebrewing, you have to clean stuff up, you have to get the grains before you can add in the weird stuff. The big reason you’re doing this is to have the best beers in the different types to win the summer beer dabbler and Oktoberfest. At it’s heart, Homebrewers is an engine building game where you are trying to get beers to brew that will help you be able to brew more beer, get more money, and get more points throughout the game. Each character is quite hipster, but they also have their hipster powers which give them something unique that they can do on their turn. I played a character that could get an extra die, which meant an extra thing I could do, each turn if I paid in $1. This is a fun game, and it’s a very fast engine building game. And you can make some extremely weird beers.
44 – Hanabi
I feel like Hanabi is a polarizing game, because it’s not an easy game to master, in my opinion. In Hanabi, you are making fireworks, but there is a twist, you have a hand of cards, or tiles in the deluxe version of the game, but they are facing away from you. You, and your fellow players are trying to create stacks from 1 to 5 of each color of firework before a fuse runs low because of mistakes that you’ve made. But how do you know what to play if you can’t see your cards, just guess? Nope, there are tokens that people can use on their turn to give clues about what you have in your hand. The trick is, they can only point at the cards, not tell you what they are completely. So you can give a clue like, these two cards are red, because one of them is a red 1 and you need to play that, but you can’t just point to that red card, you need to point to both. The same with numbers, something might be the 4 that you need to play, but if there are two 4’s in the person’s hand, you have to point at both of them. So giving good clues can be tricky, but you also don’t want to guess at what card to play. The game has a good puzzle feel to it, and there are some clues that are better than others that you can give. A really fun game and very challenging, but not for people who want to know completely what they need to do.
43 – Say Bye to the Villains
This is the hardest game to win on the list. By that, I mean I’ve never won this game. It’s a cooperative game, so that’s fine, because that means that everyone who has played with me has never won as well (at least in games I’ve played with them). In this game you are Samurai who are going to defeat villains, and you have 10 days to prepare, which means 10 points that you can spend. Each character needs to prepare in a different way, but the villains are also prepared with things that can hurt you and henchmen that can beef them up, but you don’t know what those cards are. So, do you spend time making yourself stronger, do you spend time looking to see how strong the villains are? There are more things to do in this game than you’ll ever be able to do. And that’s fine, that’s the fun of the challenge, hoping that you’ve looked at all the right things in order to defeat the villains as each Samurai matches up against one villain. As I said, I have yet to win this game. But that’s cool because I love the challenge and getting close and falling just short pushes me to want to try again and do better. One of these days I’ll beat the game.
42 – Stipulations
This is the party game for this section of the list. Stipulations for me kills off games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity where you are matching up something to what the person who is it picked. This time you are writing it yourself. The advantage of that is it can be as clean or as dirty as you want, and you can tailor it to your group. The person who is it picks from one of four categories on the card, super power, lifetime supply, dream job, and a fourth category that I’m completely blanking on right now, but 50% of the time it’ll be super power anyways. Then everyone else writes a stipulation for it. Maybe you have the super power of flying, but…
You can only fly two feet off the ground.
You can only fly when farting.
You can only fly up, when you want to come down you just free fall.
You can only fly when naked.
This game is just goofy fun and while there is a weird scoring set-up for the game, we generally play with Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity rules where the person who wrote the best answer gets it and then at the end of two or maybe three times around the table, the person with the most wins. This game is more creative and just works so much better than those other two.
41 – Not Alone
Not Alone is an interesting big group game of one versus all. The all are the crew of a spaceship that has crashed onto an alien planet and are now exploring and trying to find their way off of the planet. There is one problem, the player who is by themselves, they are a monster on the planet who doesn’t like the fact that there are people around. And they are trying to track down and eat the crew members or have the planet do that for them. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the crew tries to go to places where the monster won’t go and to do this they play cards. They can even discuss strategy, but they have to do it so that the monster can here them, because, just maybe, the monster is part of the planet itself. This game, the monster races to take out the crew enough times to eat them all and stop them from being able to escape before the rescue ship gets there. There’s a real puzzle to playing the crew, and the monster has some interesting choices to make guessing where the crew will go next and hoping to get as many of them as possible as they split up. It’s a challenging game, but a lot of fun to play both sides of it.
That’s the next ten done. I think this is the longest and most detailed post I’ve done on my top 100 games thus far. I expect that trend to continue as I get into games that I really know and love and I want to play all the time.
Is there a game on the list that stands out to you as one that you really want to play? Or is there a game on the list that you really love, or really hate?
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