The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Takenoko

Mr Sime has a game with a panda in, here are his words about said panda.

Would you like to play a board game about Japanese-Chinese political relationships? Well Takenoko is a game which story starts that way but is more about gardening, bamboo and a hungry panda so I hope that is ok.

Takenoko is a game for 2-4 players which in the genre most people would call a “gateway” game, one which even the board gaming virgin should be able to pick up fairly quickly and also keeps away from the traditionally deemed “nerdy” themes of dragons and goblins and is not even remotely about fighting for the pacifists amongst us.

With Takenoko each player gets a couple of actions a turn where, they might place a very pretty hexagonal bamboo garden tile,  maybe do the quite monotonous sounding task of irrigating said bamboo gardens, move a cheeky little gardener figure who to an irrigated tile to grow bamboo with little wooden pieces or even move the cute little hungry panda miniature to eat some of the bamboo that gardener grew.

Lastly, the player can also opt to just take more of objective cards which I will get back to a little later.

I will get back to it after I describe one of Takenoko’s biggest strength as a board game, something which makes it feel worth the monetary investment and makes it attractive to almost anyone.

This feeling comes from it’s pieces.

A beautifully put together box, from the colourful cover art and instruction manual, the pretty and bright bamboo garden tiles with their equally pretty bamboo counters (which clip in to make taller pieces), all the way to quality pair of plastic miniatures and if you want anything else of a tactile nature, wooden counters for almost everything in the game.

As a box when you open it, you can see where the money has gone as the quality is high all around.

takenokocontents

Personally I’m not a fan of the wooden weather die which comes in it as it isn’t the clearest thing to read icons from and I also feel that maybe they could’ve not bothered with such large scoring boards and even the action chips but all in all it’s very nice.

Winning a game of Takenoko is where it becomes a little strange, much like the fantastic Ticket to Ride (the perfect gateway game?) each player has little cards which tell them their objectives.

Unlike Ticket to Ride though,  everyone has three different types of objectives they are trying to score and/or trying to screw their opponents over getting rather than just one (and some bonuses).

First off is making certain plots, getting the garden tiles down, irrigated  and in a specific pattern, the second is growing bamboo in certain amounts and heights and the last is getting that Panda to eat a set amount of coloured bamboo pieces.

These objectives are simple, but really, unfortunately, is where the game falls down.

First off is simply the fact that amongst the objective cards there are not only repeats but also cards which are very similar. You for example may be aiming to grow some very tall pink bamboo, well guess what, so is an opponent and you’re doing all the work for them.

Now secret objectives are not a problem when a game allows you to attempt at reading your opponents to figure out what they are doing, maybe one opponent keeps placing green tiles, this must be for a certain plot. Or is it?

You don’t know that even if your read is right, will it stop all your opponents messing with what you assume is their plan, maybe you need it yourself or maybe they are going for bamboo to grow or eat and actually it’s quite possible, in fact most likely, that really you need those things for yourself.

Your head exploded yet?

Getting past the fact the Emperor has given multiple different people differing plans to what he wants in his garden or that the Panda has 2-4 stomachs, sharing pieces is an interesting concept but it just doesn’t work.

When there are so many pieces being shared with so many different choices as to how to use them it becomes messy.

This all might make Takenoko actually sound complicated and it really isn’t, but if for a second you start wanting to “game”, actually think rather than just “do stuff” it all just falls apart and will make many people not want to play a second time, frustrate any regular to semi-regular board game enthusiasts and probably be shelved forever.

A game of Takenoko closes out when someone scores 8 of their objective cards which the players reveal as and when then can score them.

This does a great job of speeding up the game but awkwardly makes Takenoko actually become a race, frustrating for the player trying to go for a certain angle of say scoring big plots while another just flips over the easy objectives they kept scoring off of other players work.

It might sound all devious playing the mellow one and sneaking out the points, but with all the randomness and the hidden natures of the game it happens a lot and is rarely ever planned.

I found in my experience Takenoko was won by a player who just keeps drawing objectives and not aiming to do the work, usually revealing their winnings the fastest and ending the game.

Extra points are also awarded to the player finishing first, and this becomes very “win more” as usually that player has 2-3 more objectives done than the others anyway and they simply cannot catch in the single turn they have to do so.

Takenoko at the end of the day is a very pretty and simple game, but like an easy pick up at a bar, good that one time but not the sort of thing you really want to show to your family or spend your life with.

Sure there are ways to house rule this game and if you are playing a nice session of say 3+ games with newer board gamers and want variation than maybe it is fine, but that’s as good a thing as I can say, it’s fine at best if you need more.

Just play Ticket to Ride.

Ben

 

The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Cosmic Encounter

3

Ever want to be an all knowing oracle? How about a bomb that could wipe out the universe? Or even latch onto your neighbour who seems to be doing well at the whole “taking over the galaxy” thing. If your answer is yes to all three then maybe Cosmic Encounters is the game for you! By the way if you said no to all three then screw you, you boring fool!

Cosmic Encounters is a game for 3 to 5 players (even more with expansions). It really took me by surprise, I was not expecting to have as much fun as I did, and still do!

To get straight to the point. You are all different alien races that are try to get 5 foreign colonies on other players planets, while defending your own. You do this by having “encounters” with one another. It’s a random decision so there’s no ganging up on one person. You then decide how many of your spaceships, which look suspiciously like nipples, you want to send to the fight. Then you and the defender asks/begs for allies. Then both players choose an “encounter” card and the higher number wins! There are a few other processes/results but I won’t go into them here.

image[1] image

The while process is very simple and after a couple of “encounters” you’ll know how the process goes. The thing that changes the game are the alien race cards. Everyone gets a couple of random ones to choose from and these are game breakers! In a great way.

For example, the parasite doesn’t need to be invite into encounters. They can just come along and gain a colony! This might not seem like much, but considering you only need 5 to win it soon adds up. Tick-tock just needs 8 people to successfully defend their planets and he blows up, destroying the universe…oh, and he wins. Then there’s the leviathan who can use their own planets as living war ships! These are but 3 of the many races found in the game.

This game is a must for me. I haven’t found a person who hasn’t found it fun yet!

 

Gary

The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Quantum

Power up the engines, hail the captain and set phasers to stunned! This game is brilliant!

Let me start by saying I am a massive fan of day long 4x games. Just incase you don’t know meaning of 4x, it stands for “eXpand, eXplore, eXploit and eXterminate”.

Quantum (by Eric Zimmerman) takes all the those things and distils them into a beautiful 45(ish) minute game for 2-4 players.

In the years since I’ve got into board gaming, I have not found a game that has packed more “game” into itself than this one.

You start by picking one of four races. It’s just for looks as in-game they are identical. You have the Kepler which have a S.H.I.E.L.D vibe going on. The Vulpes look a bit like slightly nicer reavers. The Orion have a classic Forbidden Planet coolness and the Andromeda Confederacy look a mix of brainiac and the aliens from Mars Attack!!

image[3]

Next, you set up the map which consists of tiles of different planets with numbers and spaces on. Then you all roll dice to see what class of ships you get, then…these dice are your ships! I genuinely love this idea. It’s so perfect as the number of pips not only determines the class, but also the number of spaces that ship can move. For example, a 6 is a scout ship. Very fast but very fragile. On the other end of the spectrum you have a 1, which is a battle station. Very slow but very difficult to beat in combat.

You then place your ships and start the game. I won’t go through all the actions as you might as well just read the rule book. The most important action is construct. This lets you place a Quantum cube onto a planet with a space. But you have to meet the right criteria. Your ships have to add up to the EXACT number of that tile. If you manage to plop all you Quantum cubes out before anyone else, you win. Congratulations.

Now combat is fantastic. There is no disadvantage of being the attacker except you might waste an action. It’s so simple! If you want to attack, you move your dice/ship into another player’s. Then you both role a D6 and add the number of pips on your ship to your score and the LOWEST score wins! Nice and simple.

image[1]  image[2]

That’s pretty much the game. I might not of made it sound exciting but it really is! Me and Adam played the other day and I loved it. We used the beginner map and it was quite quick. I’m sure that will change with different tile set ups etc. I also played a couple of 4-player games and it can be quite intense as in both the games it was down to the last cube!

I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s simple without being dumb, it’s brilliant without being cocky and it’s strategic without being confusing. If you can find it in stock then grab it while you can!

I bought mine from Monkeys With Fire. They have great customer service and really know their stuff. Give them a go if you haven’t already.

 

Gary

MERCS: Welcome To The Cause

So we return to posts about the different wargames we enjoy. In this post I’m going to talk about MERCS. Me and a few friends discovered MERCS at Salute. Well it all started by me seeing a battle foam bag I really liked and that tuned out to be a bag designed for MERCS.

After taking a look at the minis and the rulebook we decided to take the plunge and buy a faction each. The background story behind MERCS, in a nut shell, is that countries and their borders have dissolved and now massive corporations dictate the borders and their territory. The full history can be found on their website. One friend bought the CCC, the American based faction. They’re an all rounder of a unit. They have nano armour that repairs itself and some great weaponry! A solid first choice. Another chose the Sefadu. An African unit that relies on speed and maneuverability. I choose the FCC which are a freedom fighter movement. They rely on quick moves from cover to cover and automatic fire weapons. The also have a grenade launcher that is a nightmare, which often keeps the enemy in check.

I think the first thing that grabs me is the artwork. Just look at it! Simply amazing. I love the comic book feel to it all.

sefadu_vs_waza

MERCS is a tabletop 32mm skirmish game. The main difference between MERCS and other skirmish games is that there is no tape measure needed. Each character has a card detailing their equipment, armour, stats and special abilities. The card also has grooves that fit the models base in it and the character moves the distance of the card or several depending on the models stats etc. It’s a hard thing to explain in a short space but it’s really unique.

ErK0GXnGYv816EJH3fWORZlVs3KNOmEwJuHDRTbbCw=w326-h217-p-noThe game itself has a strong following in America and Australia but not so much in the UK. If you get a chance for an intro game I’d give it a go. I really enjoy the game, though I would say looks a little rules heavy to begin with but they are quite intuitive. It does have a clever system where you introduce certain rules after a couple of games so you get the basics secure.

I’m not going to give it a score or a rating but I’ll simple say I enjoy the game and will definitely keep playing it.

As an added extra the company that makes this game is also raising funds for MERCS:Recon. A MERCS based board game which can be found here.

Byyee
Gary

The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Eldritch Horror

Name: Eldritch Horror
Players: 1-8
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Tagline: “A Board Game Of Global Mystery”

So, this was probably one of the most anticipated board games of the year. It’s pretty much a squeal to one of FFGs most successful titles, Arkham Horror. A quick run down of Arkham Horror: you and a team of investigators solve “mysteries” around the fictional town of Arkham, trying to slay monsters and close gates. All in a desperate bid to prevent an eldritch god from consuming our world.

Where Arkham Horror was set in one place, Eldritch Horror is a global affair. The first thing you can tell when opening the box is that, once again, FFG is giving you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s bursting with great components and the card style is simply superb. The board itself is presented very nicely and it even includes a useful legend for travel routes. You also get a quick reference guide for anything you might get stuck on mid-game. This is a great idea! Through play testing they have clearly found points in the game where you might get a tad confused and supplied this to help keep the game going at a fast pace.

Eldritch HorrorThe game itself seems to me like Arkham Horror with slimmed lined rules and a slightly faster pace. You are against the clock to save the world, in this case the clock is the well named “doom track”. You also have a cool “omen track” which dictates exactly how f**ked you are! The main aim is to solve 3 “mystery” cards, I like these a lot. They really add to the narrative. The game play is spilt into 3 phases: the action phase, the encounter phase and the mythos phase.

In phase one you perform actions like travel, buying items, resting etc. In phase two you have an “encounter”. This is my favourite phase, FFG have done amazingly here. Depending on where you are on the map you have a specific encounter for that location, and there are a lot! Very cool. Phase 3 is the mythos phase. This is where the bad stuff happens! This can be anything from gates spawning, monsters appearing, the omen chart changing and the doom track counting down!

Now, did I enjoy it? I hate to use a cliche but it’s not you, it’s me. I think I want more out of this game. At some points I had lots of fun but during most of it I found I was just going through the motions: move here, pick up a card, roll some dice, move here, pick up a card, roll some dice. Maybe I was just having a off day. There are two mechanics I hate in this game, and I really mean HATE! The first of which is the “delayed” mechanic. If you get “delayed” you basically miss you next turn, all games can be improved by losing the “miss a go mechanic”. The worst thing though is that, at points, this game encourages you to become delayed by giving you reward if you do so! The second thing I hate is very occasionally, depending on cards you draw, if you fail a test you may have to shuffle a solved mystery back in the deck! Bear in mind these mysteries can take around an hour to solve if you’re not doing well.

I feel I’m putting too much of a negative vibe into this review. I do enjoy this game. The problem is it’s a very narrative game, why is this a problem? If your players really dig the Lovecraftian mythos etched into this game then it’s not, what so ever. In fact it’s a good thing. But if you are playing with people who don’t know their Yog-Sothoth from their Dunwich horror then the narrative won’t impact on them nearly as much. Also I would not want to play with more then 4 players, maybe 5-6 if they are experienced with the game. On the plus side you can go globe trotting with a bull whip and a bottle of whiskey! Who doesn’t want that?!

Overall I would recommend this game if you enjoy anything Lovecraft. If you don’t then maybe try something else.

Gary

Gary’s Top Three 2-Player Games

8

The dreaded top 3 list! They are difficult for anyone to write, particularly when the subject is something they are passionate about. I was toying for ages with this one. 2-player games are something of a precise art form. It needs to be engaging enough to keep both players hooked. With more than 2 players you tend to get the banter between the other participants while one person decides what they are going to do. With 2-player games you don’t get that grace. So with a lot of thought, here are my top 3 in reverse order:

3. Cube Quest

This is a perfect little game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In a nutshell, two waring armies made up of cubes are secretly set up on opposite sides of these nifty mouse mat battlefields. Then the generals – you and a friend – take it in turns to flick the warriors (cubes) at each other to try and knock the other player’s king off the table. How are the glorious kings represented you ask? Well…they are just other cubes…with a crown sticker on.

2. X-Wing

Is it a board game or a miniatures game? Well it says miniatures game in the title but it’s made by one of the biggest board game publishers around, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). Ether way I don’t care, it’s awesome! Do you want to be looking up one of a hundred possible manoeuvres then cross referencing it with your opponent’s? No, of course not. You want be snapping necks and cashing cheques! X-Wing uses an innovative manoeuvre dial system so your opponent’s move is a secret to you and your’s are to him. They’re then revealed in order of who has the best piloting skill. I highly recommend picking up the core set. It is futile to resist.

1. Netrunner

Yes yes I know it’s a card game but I still think it counts. Netrunner has exceeded all expectations I had. Also published by FFG, it will have you pulling your best poker face all game. It’s an LCG (living card game) not a CCG (collectible card game) like Magic: The Gathering. Which means you won’t be spending lots of money trying to find that illusive rare. You can just find the card you want from the expansion it’s in.

I very much consider this game a combo of risk management and high-powered bluffing. If you read easier than a Beatrix Potter book then it’s time to get practicing, as you’ll have nowhere to hide. One player represents the “runner”, a cyberpunk hacker who wants to show the corporation as the dirty, lying, stealing thugs they are, while taking a few credits for themselves along the way. The other player represents the aforementioned dirty, lying, stealing “corporation”, trying to secretly score “agenda” points.

This, to me, is the best card game on the market and I can’t get enough of it. You can pick up the core set for around £30. Well worth it in my opinion. I have two! I wanted three of each card – I know, I know, WHAT A NERD!

Well that’s my top three 2-player board games, though none of them really uses a board. Oh well they are all awesome anyhow. X-Wing and the Netrunner core game can both be picked up from Element Games.

See ya soon, cockers!

Gary

What are your top three 2-player games?

Review: Rampage

Channel your inner Kaiju

Now, I enjoy a good Euro game, say, about the intricate sewer system of foggy old London town. Who wouldn’t? But sometimes it’s nice to be able to kick your shoes off, sink a beer and play a boardgame about trying to destroy a little city and eat as many helpless people as monsterly possible.

In Rampage you and up to 3 others (7 others if you have two copies), control a single King Lizard-style character and try to destroy buildings and eat meeples.

So how do you move about this city? You flick a little wooden disk that represents your monster’s feet. To destroy a building you simply pick up your monster and drop him on a building. Other things you can do include: throwing trucks at each other’s monsters and, my favourite, using your monster breath, which consist of you placing YOUR chin on your monster and using your own breath to blow down buildings. After you’ve taken two of these actions you then eat people who have landed in your “neighbourhood”. Each person also has their own special power and a super secret power they can only use once a game.

The game ends once all the buildings have been destroyed or if a certain amount of meeple have landed off the table – which they will, I assure you they will.

If you only like “serious” games then is one probably isn’t for you but I love it. Rampage averages around half an hour and has me laughing through it all. Watching your significant other get angry because they didn’t manage to blow down a building will bring a smile to your face for sure. If you want a light-hearted monster romp then I wholeheartedly suggest this game and I haven’t even mentioned the great cartoony art. If you want to restart the apocalypse then give it a go.

Gary

A Golden Age For Boardgames

So, board gaming, what’s it all about? Isn’t that just Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders or Clue?  Not at all. If you are just getting into the hobby then you are extremely lucky. We are currently amidst a golden age for board gaming. There’s so much on offer. Whether you are an RPG nut or fog of war fanatic there’s lots to sink your teeth into and in upcoming articles we are going to be showing you some of our favourites.

I know what you’re thinking: why do I want to pick up a board game, which average around £40, when I can buy a video game for the same price? Well put down your ergonomic controller and let me explain my top 5 reasons why I prefer board games.

  • Social gaming. While it’s fun to shout loudly down your headset at someone 2000 miles away calling him a d@@k, I find board games a lot more social. I have several groups of friends that enjoy kicking back with a board game and a few beers – ok more than a few. You can still call your best friend a d@@k when he takes the game piece you so desperately need!
  • Replay-ability. I would say I’ve replayed my board games ten times over then any of my video games. Most board games play differently depending on the players. New strategies are found which are pure game-changers.
  • Versatility. I honestly believe there is a board game out there for everyone. I’m not sure the same can be said for video games. Bear in mind, as you furiously type in the comment section after that last statement, I love video games. I really do. But if I had to choose between the two it would be board games every time. There’s a board game for the grandparents, parents, friends and children.
  • Themes. There are thousands of games on the market that could cover pretty much anyone’s favourite themes: zombies, railway building, spy hunting and even electoral campaign races! Not all in one game admittedly. Want a fantasy game in which your characters “level up” as you play? Easy! Descent’s your game. How about building an empire in space with cruiser battles? You’ve got two great choices: Eclipse or Twilight Imperium. Zombies? Well there are lots of choices there! My favourite being Zombicide.
  • Cost effective. Sure, ignore this point if you are buying them all by yourself but have you considered starting a games group? You and 3 other friends could spread the cost out. A large amount of games are up to 4-players so why not give it a bash? If you only play it once and decide board gaming’s not your thing then you’ve only wasted a tenner. But please try it more than once and ease yourself into the vibe.

So there you have it. The reasons I prefer board gaming. There’s so much on offer and it’s a great time to get into the hobby. The ones I’d try out first are Ticket to Ride, Forbidden Island and Small World. All easy enough to learn after a few turns and, even if the themes aren’t up your street, they have great core mechanics that keep you coming back for more.

Board gamers, what games do you suggest to get people into the hobby?

See you soon cockers.