Bézier Games, 2016

A nanopocalypse has happened. Humans have been driven underground and now that the nanobots have left, the survivors must use the resources available to them to rebuild society. This 1-4 player card game has elements of dice drafting and dice pool building, Dominion style card purchasing, Machi-Koro style tableau building.

Each player starts with a warehouse, in which to store resources, a supply exchange to change resources, a construction action card and an upgrade action card. Every card in the game has two sides, a base side, and an upgraded 2.0 side which does basically the same action, only slightly better. For example, the warehouse will hold six resources on it’s 1.0 side, and holds nine on it’s 2.0 side. Each of the cards also has a resource cost, it’s power, and small orange half circles on the bottom which are their victory point total. (Usually between 1-2 on their 1.o side, 2-4 points on their 2.0 side). The object of the game is to acquire a number of victory points in front of you based on the number of players. 15 points for four players, 16 points for three players, and 20 points for two players.

Each game will have piles of resources and actions which the players may purchase during the game. The game comes with 34 different sets of cards. Five basic resources, one basic victory point card and 28  variable cards, of which only seven will be used in each game. This gives the game tons of re-playability and variety. You can choose the way you want to play the game. If you like a more aggressive game, you can add more aggressive cards, if you don’t, choose more non-confrontational cards. In this way, the setup is very like Dominion.

During your turn, you will take three stable resource dice (white), and will roll them, choosing one, and drafting the rest to the other players at the table. You will also gain dice, both stable, and unstable (grey dice, unable to be stored between turns). Their die face indicates which type of resource they are. Scrap Metal (1), Genetically Modified Organism (2), Protein (3), Polymer Fabric (4), Fiber (5) or Uranium (6) will be used to purchase the available cards, gaining you resources, actions or victory points. Sometimes you don’t get the right combinations of resources to allow you to purchase a card. In that case, you pick up a CHIPI (Cybernetic Holder of Instant Production Improvement)… yeah, CHIPI. You may turn in up to three CHIPIS during future turns in return for an equal amount of unstable resources to use on that turn.

Basically that is the entire game. It is easy to learn, yet has a lot of strategy. I have found that there are many ways to success, and not being able to purchase the cards you are looking for for your initial strategy does not put you out of the game. And should you find yourself falling behind, there is a nice catch up mechanic built in to get you more dice during a turn, allowing you to build more, giving you more victory points.

I had the great fortune of being able to work with Bezier at Gen Con this year demo-ing this game. I was concerned at first, since it was new and unknown, but I loved it right away, and have felt the same enthusiasm from almost everyone to whom I have shown it. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, and am so thrilled with the game even though I have only played the suggested starter cards. Can’t wait to build up a group that wants to play different variations! Highly recomended.

CastlesMadKingLudwigCastles of Mad King Ludwig
Bezier Games, 2014

Once upon a time, there lived a prince in a fairytale castle. He loved fairytale castles so he built several of them, but the prince became obsessed with his castles, bankrupted himself, was declared insane and was most likely killed. True story. Moral of the story, don’t build crazy cool castles.

Unless, of course you are playing the new game “Castles of Mad King Ludwig” from bezier games. In this case, build the craziest, coolest, wildest castle you can build, attempting to please Mad King Ludwig in his quest for the “fairest castle of them all”.

In “Castles of Mad King Ludwig”, players take turns being the Master Builder. The Master Builder draws a series of rooms that will be avaialable to purchase from them during the round. They price the rooms strategically in order to make sure that players are paying them premium prices for the rooms they would like to add to their castle. Each player has goals publicly set by the king as well as private goals. The goals may consist of types or sizes of rooms, as well as amount of cash.

Players score their rooms as they go, and rooms can get synergy bonuses or negatives from other rooms placed near them, and by having all their exits matched up with other rooms/hallways/staircases. Strategically purchasing staircases or hallways can give you room to expand as well as buy you time to wait for a room that better matches your goals. Everyone can see what you are building, so watch out for telegraphing your bonus moves, because other players might try to buy the piece you want to stall you.

This is a very fun game with lots of ways to strategize in order to gain victory. Note though that the room pricing phase can be tricky and for people with analysis paralysis issues, this could be a sticking point for you. I very much enjoy this game with it’s historical connections and wildly creative castle building. Although the game has a single player option, I don’t recommend it, as it is essentially a beat-your-best-score deal, and I would think it would become boring very quickly.

If you like history and creative castle building, and aren’t given to analysis paralysis, give “Castles of Mad King Ludwig” a try.

GnomesOfZavandorThe Gnomes of Zavandor
Z-Man Games, 2011

First of all, you should know that I’m partial to gnomes. Love the little guys. I like playing them in RPGs. I like them in my flowerbed. So any game about gnomes is likely to grab my attention. I got this one on sale at my FLGS. It’s got gnomes, it’s on sale. Where is the bad? Happily we didn’t find it. I don’t have a great track record with this. My hubby can pick up a game because he liked the art on the front cover, and we’ll love it. Not so much with me.

The Gnomes of Zavandor is a market game about gnomes and gems and wondrous machines. In the game you mine for gems, and buy and sell them, claim mining rights, artifacts, jewelry and machines. The market for gems bounces around like a crazed super ball, invariably ending up at sky high prices, and money is scarce, so there is quite a bit of strategy to manipulate the market and get the best deal.

The game is played in a series of rounds. Each round consists of an action round and a mining round. In the action round, each player in turn does one action, until each player has had three actions. Then play moves to the mining round where players use their mining rights to obtain gemstones. After the mining round, the start player moves clockwise and another round begins. The game ends when one player reaches a number of victory points (determined by the number of players, example, 16 victory points for 4 players). Gems are used to purchase more mining rights and cards.

The board consists of the town of Diamantia (center) and 5 mining districts around the sides. Each district and the town have 4 mining rights tiles (face down). The cost of the tiles are located on the board. A small gnome figurine which moves clockwise each round shows which district is active that round. Players may only purchase mining right tiles from the active district. Players may spend 1 gold piece (start with 23) to peek at a tile. A purchased tile will be set in front of you to give you victory points, and will supply you with the gem types on the tile during your mining round.

There are a lot of different actions available, so you must choose your 3 actions carefully. You may: Buy gems, Sell gems, Draw 2 cards from face down jewelry or artifact piles (keeping one), Buy mining rights, Buy a face up jewelry or artifact, or one from your hand, Take or exchange a trader gnome card (which allows you to trade one type of gem for another), or Take 4 gold.

Buying and selling gems, buying a mining rights tile, and buying items all cause the target price of gemstones in the market to change either up or down. At the end of the mining phase, the price of the gem will move to the new target price, setting the prices for the next round. The market prices fluctuate between 1-15 gold.

We really enjoyed this game. There is a lot going on, and you really have to pay attention to which actions cause the market to fluctuate. Getting the right mining rights, manipulating the market and being able to convert them to what you need gives this game a lot of strategic play. There are many ways to win, and we found the game well balanced and fun. The quality of the game pieces and the nice artwork are good. Recommended.