Panda-emic 2!

Panda Tales Part 2

This week’s comic is part two of the adventures of our friend Panda. Part one can be found here.

The winner of the 2017 Spiel Des Jahres is Kingdomino, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice. I love Kingdomino. It’s so perfectly simple I can’t believe no-one thought it up decades ago. Of course, it’s exactly that kind of simplicity that masks brilliant design. In the same way that a short story can be harder to write than a novel, I would guess designing a game with so few mechanics and rules can be much harder than a 4X space opera. With so few moving parts, every single one has to be in perfect harmony. Chris from Tabletop Cork introduced me to Kingdomino a couple of weeks back, and now I refuse to even meet him for coffee unless he brings it along.

My personal feeling aside, it is the perfect candidate for a Spiel Des Jahres winner. It’s simple tile-laying game in which players draft tiles to build a 5×5 grid in front of themselves. The aim is to build sections of similar type in your grid – forests, seas, plains, etc. The larger the section, the more it will potentially score at the end of the game (which takes maybe 15-20 minutes).

But there is one more factor in end-game scoring. Certain tiles have crowns printed on them, and the scoring for each section in your grid is multiplied by the number of crowns on it. So 4 forest tiles with a total of 2 crowns on them will score you 8 points. The more crowns the better, and in fact, if you fail to acquire any crowns, the section is worth nothing.

The tiles you draft each round will determine the order in which you get to draft next round. But a clever wrinkle in the mechanics means that generally it’s a choice between getting more crowns or going first.

It’s a wonderful small box game, and probably the closest I have ever seen to matching Star Realms regards value for money. If you can find a copy before the Spiel Des Jahres stampede sweeps them up and out of print, I highly recommend it.

3 Comments on Panda-emic 2!

Sad Panda

Sad Panda (and the Goonies)

Takenoko is, of course, a fantastic game. But the harsh reality is that pandas are basically the Darth Vaders of the animal kingdom.

 

I hadn’t heard any hype at all about publisher Albino Dragon’s ‘Goonies adventure Card Game’. A recent Kickstarter release, the game had managed to escape my attention completely until the most recent Dice Tower episode. Guest contributor Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham gushed about the game, and in doing so used Pandemic as a comparative.

Good enough for me.

By happy coincidence, Tabletop had just added it, and I’ve just recently come upon an unexpected glut of free time. While I’m sure ‘The Goonies’ holds up as a fun film (probably), I have no great nostalgia for the title, so approached the table without prejudice.

What I discovered was a very straightforward co-op, but one with enough challenge and crunch to make me want to play again after our first defeat. The core mechanic is very simple, but it did take me a while to get my head around.

There are five locations, and the players need to discover the treasure in each location. The treasure must be stored along a path, which first needs to be opened. Obstacles will mount on the locations, and booby traps can be sprung. Meanwhile, an encounter deck will throw up random hindrances, including some ‘Fratelli’ cards – familiar faces to fans of the film. Players will play item cards from their hand, assisted by their characters special abilities, to take actions each round.

Here’s the thing: The players’ item cards and the obstacles that mount on each location are drawn from the same deck. These same cards also correspond to a location, and discarding a card allows movement to that location. Discarding matching symbols (different to locations) allow for obstacles to be removed), and discarding three of a kind allow for a path to be cleared for treasure. You can search a location by discarding any card.

Basically, the game’s engine is a single deck, and the puzzle is in figuring out the optimal use for every card you will draw from that deck. In each round, players can collectively take up to four actions between them – another simple but effective way of ensuring cooperation at all times. There is nothing more frustrating for me than a co-op that doesn’t require the players to actually cooperate in order to win. I see little point or fun in a game like that.

Going back to ‘The Goonies’, the usual Pandemic-a-like rules apply. The game end can trigger for the players in a number of ways: a location having five obstacles on it, a deck running out, etc. The single deck system makes for streamlined play and a really interesting puzzle. I’m only one game in, so replayability is still up in the air for me, but I’ll definitely be giving it a bash again next week, so that’s a good sign.

 

In the meantime, we are finally moving onto the third and final scenario in the Arkham Horror LCG core box, so expect a return to Arkham in next week’s comic. And yes, we did an Arkham comic just a couple of weeks ago, but right now it’s fair to say we’re both a little obsessed with the game, so you will have to bear with us. Or suggest some other games we should be playing in the comments?

10 Comments on Sad Panda