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Micro Reviews of Board Games From a Non-Competetive Perspective

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Spot It looks fun. Thanks!

My next review is for a game called Merchants & Marauders, which we played for the first time last night:

This is a big beautiful expensive game where players pilot ships in the Caribbean Islands, earning money as a trader or robbing ships as a pirate.

I was attracted to the game based on a few reviews that described it as similar to Tales of the Arabian Nights, one of my favorite board games.  I like games that involve a narrative story and are filled with surprise and adventure and exploration.

Merchants & Marauders succeeds quite well in creating a very visceral experience of being on the high seas dealing with other ships and ports -- and is one of those rare board games that really makes you feel like you are in a living world.  It's not just that it succeeds in presenting an immersive theme, but that it succeeds in making you feel like the world is actually dynamically evolving as you play.

It's a long game (I think we played for over 5 hours), and it's also extremely successful in creating a wide variety and diversity of things to do and adventures to go on, and ways to win.  We barely scratched the surface of the different events and adventures and missions to go on.. And player interaction is as hands off or brutal as the players want -- which is a nice feature.

It's the area of rules where the game doesn't quite work for me.  Now to be honest this is where most games fail for me.  I really dislike overly involved rulesets which are difficult to keep track of.  Much of the reason for this is that I don't play too many games with the same crowd repeatedly, so if a game required 2 or 3 sessions before everyone gets up to speed and can play, it's hard to have fun with new people.  In board game discussions you will hear the term "fiddly", which refers to games where there are lots of little tokens and chits and counters to keep track of and do bookeeping on.

Merchants & Marauders isn't terrible in this department -- but it is on the borderline.  There are a lot of little rules and tokens and bookeeping.  NPC interactions and Combat in particular is overly complicated and convoluted and involves many steps which seem overkill to me.  I prefer theme and flavor for combat, not all of these involved steps.

The game comes as close as any board game I have ever seen in creating something that feels like a world simulation.. but it does it at the cost of a bit to much bookeeping and upkeep work.

In the end, that's what makes the game something that just didn't quite work for me -- just too much focus on going through the motions and doing bookeeping, and too little novel surprise narrative adventure/exploration.

So I continue my quest to find the perfect fun exciting adventure board game that is super easy to learn and play and run.


* Me: 7 of 10
* Gothic: 7.5 of 10
* Traci: 7.5 of 10
Interesting elements for game designers:

* Feels like a simulation in a board game
* Nice choice of how much interaction between users
* Nice options for players to customize their way to play

Good review :up:

Q: There are 4 player seats in the photo, but only 3 players are mentioned. Where you playing for 2 seats? (and still scored only 7 out of 10 :P) or was that Cody's spot?

My review today is for King of Tokyo:

I learned about King of Tokyo from the Cracked LCD Review of it by Michael Barnes and the review on Drake's Flame, which I recommend you go check out.

When Michael said it was a simple game with lots of theme, that was one of the best board games of 2011 -- I just had to try it. And I'm glad I did -- It's exactly what I'm looking for in a game -- a fast fun experience that is easy to learn and a pure pleasure to play.  It's a great game.

It was designed by the same guy who created Magic the Gathering (Richard Garfield).  The artwork is out of this world, cartoon monster styled -- and the components are really fun to look at and read and use.  It's got a big stack of cards that are phenomenal.

I won't go into the rules, you can read them on the Board Game Geek site or the Cracked LCD review I linked to above.  Basically each player controls a monster and they fight to stay alive and gain victory points. Gameplay is fast and furious and there is a lot of luck involved.  But always tricky choices to make and tension and surprise around every corner.  We had a huge amount of fun talking during the game and enjoying watching the process unfold.

This game really worked for me in an area where games often fail for me -- and that is with the rule-changing cards.  King of Tokyo comes with a large deck of (beautifully illustrated) cards that give players special powers and change the (simple) base ruleset.  In many games that use this idea of rule-changing cards, the rules on the cards are long and complicated and are hard to absorb and incorporate.  But King of Tokyo does it so well -- with just minor changes, and perfect themeing -- it just works.

Final rating: 10 out of 10 if you are interested in a quick fun game with people who are learning for the first time.

My next mini-boardgame-review is of "Survive: Escape from Atlantis"

Once a year I've been getting together with my family for a week, and it's my job to bring board games for the family to play.  This means bringing games that will, first and foremost, appeal to my beyond-cute 8yr old niece, but also my 70+ yr old parents.

This year the biggest hit was Survive: Escape from Atlantis, which was purchased based on the numerous recommendations on Board Game Geek saying that it was a fun family game.

To be honest, after reading the rules I had my doubts about how well the game would go over, because it's pretty cut-throat.  But the theme goes a long way towards keeping everything lighthearted and amusing.  The younger kids loved it, and the older people enjoyed it as well.  A great mix of luck and strategy and surprise, and quite easy to learn.

Very highly recommended for family gatherings: 9 of 10.


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