Atlanta Game Fest Wrap-Up Part 2
Welcome to the second installment of mini-reviews for new games I tried out at Atlanta Game Fest 16. Note that I only managed to get in one play for most of these, so it's quite possible that my early impressions were wildly off.
The Golden City - A very elegant worker-placement game with a light bidding element. Each turn players bid on sets of two cards. These cards are then used to claim villages and city sections, which can both score points and give some other boon (extra money to bid with, extra cards, or most importantly, a golden key). The city itself consists of an outer ring that anyone can enter (scoring points for being the first or second player to place in a given section), and the inner Golden City. The latter requires one of a very limited number of available keys, but scores many more points for placement. I'd never heard of this game before it was pulled off the shelf to play, so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover such a excellent game. If I have one major complaint, it's that the rules are possibly a bit too simple, and I feel like there's plenty of room for another play mechanic. Still, there's enough depth of strategy to keep coming back, and the game runs quickly enough that it should never feel drawn-out or tedious. Rating: 8/10
Cyclades - My most-anticipated game of the weekend, and I was not disappointed. Cyclades is part area control game and part auction game, with just a dash of wargame thrown in for good measure. Claim the favor of a specific god, then use its powers to amass power, gain wisdom, or simply smite your enemies. When we first set up the game, I was concerned that the combat and territory capture element would ruin what otherwise looked like an intriguing and well-themed eurogame. However, this didn't happen, at least in our playthrough. There was very little actual combat, and while several players built up militaries, this acted more as a deterrent than as an invading force. There seems to be plenty of room for disparate strategies, too: a couple of players build up their armies and navies, one went for stable income and buildings, while I slowly collected a small fortune with which I performed a coup de grace to plunk down two metropolises in one turn and win the game. I absolutely can't wait to try this game again (and to be fair, I was having a great time even when I thought I was in dead last place). Rating: 9/10
Samarkand: Routes to Riches - I'd read a little about this on BoardGameGeek and wanted to give it a shot, despite hearing less-than-favorable reviews from other folks at the Game Fest. We finally got a session together, and it turns out that the negative buzz was correct. Samarkand is an odd mash-up of route building, tile collection, and politics. Think Through the Desert, only up to two people are controlling one caravan (by investing in the family that owns it), and you have to visit specific tiles -- which happen to be useless to the other player invested in your caravan. You can also score bonus points "marrying" two families by making two caravans run into each other for the first time. Samarkand is not a bad game by any means, but while the concept is sound, I feel like the different mechanics don't mesh together as well as they should. Rating: 6/10
Medici - This is actually a fairly old game, one that I'd been generally avoiding because I don't tend to enjoy most games with a heavy auction component. Since bidding is 99% of Medici, my opinion is fairly predictable: I didn't care for it at all. It didn't help that I was with a group of players who had played Medici dozens of times previously, some of whom were actually counting tiles. I did alright for myself, not knowing exactly how the scoring worked or what the distribution of tiles was, but I don't think I'll be wanting to play Medici again anytime soon. Rating: 4/10
Summoner Wars - Wow, I hate to post three negative (or at least lukewarm) reviews in a row. However, my wife and I tried out Summoner Wars for the first time, and I really didn't like much of anything about it. I'd heard that the game appeals to Magic: The Gathering fans who want more of a tactical/spacial element, but most of the mechanics fell flat for me. Movement is oversimplified (move two spaces), units tend to be too same-y, and the balance of the set we played (Elves versus Orcs) felt off-kilter, with wild swings in either direction that seemed almost random. It wasn't exciting, and we were both wanting the game to end well before it did; I actually sent my leader in a suicide charge, figuring it would be over one way or the other. Rating: 2/10
That's it for now! I have one more Atlanta Game Fest wrap-up entry to come, in which I'll give give my initial impressions of Hansa Teutonica, Macao, and Forbidden Island. I'll also give my final thoughts on the overall event (and probably take the opportunity to shamelessly boast about the awesome purchase I made at the AGF flea market). Stay tuned!