A creativity blog - including reviews, photographs and discussion on a variety of things; such as dragons and other things almost but not quite completely entirely unlike tea.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Boardless games - a packomaniacal breeze

I just recently bought a new boardgame to add to my collection and while it is completely different, it reminds me a little of two other games I have previously acquired, so I decided to write something about them.

First of all, the new game, which is called Lanterns: the Harvest Festival.

The point of the game is to play lake tiles on which different colour of lanterns are depicted - the orientation of the tile in relation to the players positions around the table as well as to the tiles previously played on the lake affect the colour and amount of lantern cards each player receives. Collecting sets of these cards and then using them, one purchases points from the point stacks - one gets little less points from four same coloured cards, some points for three pairs of cards and the most points for seven different coloured cards, but the amount of points in each stack decreases when a player buys the points with the cards. Some of the lake tiles also have platforms on them in addition to the lantern pictures, and to play a platform gives you coinage to switch cards on your tableau to ones in the storage, which allows you to a little extent manipulate the kinds of cards you have. Each player gets cards each time a tile is placed, so you might even end up with suitable cards during other players' turns - or they might be sneaky and set you up to get cards which have run out, which means no cards for you.

While really simple, fast and easy to pick up, it is evident as well that some scheming can take you a long way, too.

Secondly, Hanabi, a fireworks festival.

Similar in its oriental theme, Hanabi is a co-operation game where you attempt to put down cards in sequence from one to five in five different colours (or six, if you step up the difficulty). The problem is that no one is allowed to see their own cards, only those of the other players. So, you need to use tokens to give hints, according to which people will hopefully play. There are also three lightning tokens, which get turned every time a misplay occurs - with all three gone, the game is over. A player can either play a card, discard a card or give a hint on their turn - discarding a card turns over one of the tokens used to give hints. You can only tell one player at a time either the colour or the number on their cards; but, if there are multiples, you have to reveal all of them at the same time. (For instance, two yellow cards or three number fours, etc..) Also, reaching five in any piles turns one of the hint tokens back into use. The score is the sum of the values of the cards that are one top of the decks at the end of the game, which comes when the deck of cards runs out.

Another really simple game, which is more fun the more players you have - four being max amount - but gets a little repetitious the more you play it; especially if you play with the same people, because you'll learn to read the other's hints more and more effectively the more familiar you are with them and the game.

And lastly, Machi Koro, the town building game.

In the beginning you have a field and a bakery, which give you coins with rolls 1-3 from the die. Then you start using the coins to buy more things, maybe more fields and bakeries, but cafés, orchads, stadiums and mines work well, too. Some cards give you money whenever someone rolls their number; with others, it has to be either you, or the others to roll it, or else it doesn't work. The goal is to amass enough money to build four unique buildings, which all give you some gameplay benefits. The first one to finish all four wins the game. You roll the die (or dice) once each turn and you may buy one building each turn. 

The only problem with this game is that you at some point need to start thinking about winning it and not just about maximizing your cash flow.

I also have nowadays got the Harbour expansion for Machi Koro, which adds another player, bringing it up to five players tops and some new buildings, both normal and special ones. Haven't tried it in an actual game yet, but sounds interesting.*

One thing all of these games have in common is that none of them have an actual game board - it's either cards or tiles to be played and or money to be invested, with a different sort of scoring than the numeric train that goes around the side of the board. As such it makes each new game different from the previous one in a way that most boardgames fail to achieve. And also, it makes them a real breeze to pack, since you only need to stack the cards and bag the coins and you're all set to go.

(*) Since editing the photos for the post I have tried the expansion, which adds a City Hall -card to your beginning table and introduces many new cards that in my opinion balance the game rather nicely, especially in the two player game. It probably takes the estimated duration of the game over the 30 minutes advertised on the package, though.

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