Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Impressions of New Games

I just acquired some new games this summer and here are my impressions after a couple of plays of each.

Conquest of Nerath: This is the new wargame based on D&D universe. It reminds me of Axis and Allies, Nexus Ops, and Risk.

Production Quality is great on this game. The components are superb. Some models are the same for each nation (there are 4) but they also have many unique figures also. The characteristics of the units are the same for each nation though. The map is easy to see with good names and even icons for setting up the board to start the game. The only weakness in the design is the layout of the reference sheets but that is minor as after two games I have most of the pieces and base treasuries memorized.

Initial Setup is well thought out as the game commences with combat starting on the 1st turn. You must attack to get victory points (no turtling in this one!) and you do not get victory points for liberating your starting regions. This last point really changes the way you play the game and makes things very interesting tactically. Also, since your reinforcements MOVE when they come into play you can defend a forward position or threaten an active assault more easily. This all really keeps the game moving forward. Add in the other victory point mechanism (treasures and dungeons) and the game goes to another level.

The overall movement and combat mechanics are simple with some special unit abilities (Dragons fly and take 2 hits, Fighters and Wizards can conquer dungeons, Siege Engines are better attacking, etc). The event cards are different for each nation and the better cards are with the nations going later in turn order (at least player 2 and 4 have good event cards -- I'm still not sure on player 3 but player 1 certainly has the weakest cards). I haven't seen all the cards as I've only played 2 games but these differences help to balance out the starting positions and provide lots of flavor/strategy to each game. This is also true of Treasures which can really add a twist to your strategy.

The game doesn't overstay its welcome as the game can complete in a few hours and there is constant action. I'm really pleased with the game so far and would definitely play this over most Axis and Allies and Risk variants. Tentative rating: 8

Airlines Europe: This is the Alan Moon game that is a re-themed Union Pacific (which is a re-themed Airlines).

I wanted to have a game with "stocks" and the airlines theme was new to the family (I don't have Acquire). So far I have only played it with 3 players which is okay but I think that the game will be better with 4 and 5 players.

Production quality is also excellent in this game. The map is nice and the references and cards are of high quality. The airplane tokens are also well done and it has an insert for everything in the box.

The game is all about getting majority in the stocks of the Airlines that are the most successful. Turns are fast as you have 4 choices but once you learn the game these choices are very straightforward. The game is not a lot of tension except when two players are fighting for majority and both are looking for a key stock to show up. There are some interesting decisions that players have to make about when to invest in Air Abacus stock and how to manage cash flow.

I think the game is okay with 3 players but I really expect it to be much better with more as the fights for majorities will be more interesting and blocking will be more intense.
Tentative Rating: 7

7 Wonders - Leaders: This is the first expansion for 7 Wonders.

We have already played 15 games of 7 Wonders this year and I expect it to break the 20 game barrier easily before the year is out. This game and Dominion have really been our family game of choice for a 30-60 minute game.

The Leaders expansion adds more options and opens up some new strategies in the game so I think that is a good thing. Also, there are enough leaders that many games can be played without seeing the same ones (at least 4 player games). The game also adds "6" value coins and lets players start with more money. The new Wonder (Rome) provides a Wonder that is all about utilizing Leaders.

With adding new cards there are more "combos" where players can exploit leaders and Wonders more and I think this is a good thing. This adds more strategy to the drafting mechanics as players start "counter drafting" cards to minimize their neighbors (at least when the opportunity presents itself). This was already there to a lesser extent (limit a science player from getting too many science cards or stopping key Guilds from reaching your neighbors). Now there are more things to watch.

Tentative Rating: 8