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Underwater Cities gives players the opportunity to terraform the last ‘habitable’ spaces on Earth by building cities and their supportin...

Underwater Cities Underwater Cities

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

August 2019

Underwater Cities


Underwater Cities gives players the opportunity to terraform the last ‘habitable’ spaces on Earth by building cities and their supporting infrastructure under the waves.  That’s the premise at least of Underwater Cities which is a hybrid tableau builder and worker placement game.  In the game, 1-4 players build tunnels, cities and other building on their own player boards by taking one of the available action slots on the main game board.  That sounds like a dozen other tableau builders out there but there are enough wrinkles and differences here, aside from the theme, which will keep this hitting the table for some time to come.

Gameplay

Each round of the game, every player will take three turns.  A turn starts off being a simple affair in which you choose a card to play from your hand of three cards and an action slot on the mainboard.  If the chosen card and action slot colours match, you can do the actions on both, if they don’t you’ll be limited to just performing the board space action.  This provides a significant amount of difficult decisions (this is a big plus), right from the beginning of the game.
The mainboard
However, the best part about choosing your turn actions is that at the beginning of your turn you must discard down to the hand size limit of three cards.  This doesn’t seem like it would have much of an impact of the game, but it allows for tactical thinking on other players turns, choosing which cards to discard and keep, and it means there is little-to-no downtime in between your turns.  This is no mean feat for a multi-player medium weight board game.

Like most worker placement games when a board action slot has been taken no other player can take that action.  The main game board is double-sided to accommodate 1-2 players and 3-4 on the other side.  When playing with 3 or 4 players, there are 15 actions slots on the board, 5 each in yellow, red and green which correspond to the card colours.  This means that a 3 player game will feel less congested than a 4-player game and your options to meddle, intentionally or not are limited.  In a 4-player game, however, you’re constantly re-evaluating your decision as invariably the action slot you want to take has been, probably 3 times, before it’s your turn again…thankfully this will often happen sooner than you’re ready.
2-player end game - player board
From the middle game onwards, because of the action cards that have been claimed into your tableau, there are often action combos that can be pulled off.  This is facilitated by the rule that you can resolve either the action card or board space action in the order you choose.  Where there are multiple actions within those areas, you can choose the order in which they’re resolved as well.  This means that you can often be a little a clever on your turn to maximise your benefits and doing something like this gives me at least, a great deal of satisfaction.

Finding these synergistic combos isn’t that easy though.  During your ‘downtime’ you’ll be scrambling to choose which cards to keep and which to get rid of at the beginning of your turn, choosing a card to play for your action – assuming the action slot is still available and trying to find the most optimum combo.  I never had the chance to play with anyone that I hadn’t taught the game to, but I assume that experienced players will be able to do all this as well as minimise the remaining options to their opponents.  That was not me though, I found the size of the iconography too small to see clearly in your opponents’ area.
3-player middle game - mainboard
Underwater Cities also features a variable turn order track, although it is simple, this must be one of my favourite mechanisms because nearly all of my favourite board games feature them, e.g. Brass, Dominant Species, Age of Empires etc.  However, one of the underlying rules in this game is that whenever you cover an icon up you get that immediate bonus.  In this game, if you get into the 3rd space or higher of the turn order track you will also get a bonus, which on many occasions permitted additional actions to be taken.

There are a plethora of icons on your own player board to cover up as well, giving a specific bonus, which can – and often do permit additional actions to be taken.  Which brings me onto another aspect of ‘tight’ worker placements that I enjoy.  The Euro-gamers perennial struggle to ‘feed your people’.  Not so much an issue in this game but overall resources are very tight.  There are three production rounds separating the three eras of the game, after which you’ll feel like Croesus; this will be short-lived.  However, I’ve nearly always found a way to do something worthwhile for my progress on my turn.  I never felt like I was treading water (ba-dum tish), or as last player or out of the game.
Inside the rule book

Components

There is a traditional bewilderment of icons in this game however after the first round or two of my first I found them all to be intuitive and easy to follow without referring to the rulebook.  There is also a fantastic Player Info card which details the cost of each build and what they produce and how to conduct Production rounds.  However, as mentioned earlier when those icons are in your opponents' area across the table, their size makes it difficult to see what they are, but this can be levied against most tableau builders.
Good looking cards
Most of the other components: the cards, mainboard, metropolis tiles, player markers, city domes etc. are completely unremarkable considering modern game publishing i.e. they’re of excellent quality and just what I would expect.  However, there are a few component issues that are worth mentioning.  The player boards and player info cards are really thin card stock, almost a heavy bond paper.  The resource and money tokens seem a little odd in their design choices.  The money comes in 1s (small size), 5s and 10s which share the same size…I don’t understand why they’re not consistent and make the 10s bigger or keep them all the same size.
A random assortment of bits
However, probably the biggest issue with the components is with the 3 resource markers.  They look just like a pile of singles with a 3 in the middle.  This is better than earlier printings of the game, which didn’t have a 3 on these tokens, but it’s still not great.  Unless you keep the stacks of singles and 3s separate you can’t really tell how many you’ve got.

Criticisms

Aside from my component criticisms, my quibbles with this game are all fairly minor and I can easily overlook them.  The first is one of scalability.  I have not tried this solo, but the 2 and 3 player game feel quite different from a 4 player game.  I prefer the 4 player game, as long as you’re not teaching the rules, otherwise, it can drag on.  This goes against the bgg consensus that suggests 2 players is the sweet spot.
After my initial sorting
I would normally comment on the box insert in Components, but here they haven’t bothered with anything.  No cardboard trench, no ill-fitted plastic tray.  You just get all the bits thrown into a few bags and card decks and a box.  Unless that box is jammed with counter sheets and rules, like many wargames are, then this is poor practice.  Especially considering that this version comes from Rio Grande Games, one of the bigger players in the board game world.  I think my 3d-printed insert will work out just fine.
Much better, - still don't like those 3s
The vast majority of the scoring will be done in the end game, there is no way to see who is ahead or behind up until you start counting up your final scores.  This, alongside the difficulty in seeing your opponents' tableau to allow you to choose the action slots your opponents want, turn this into not much more than multi-player solitaire - not necessarily a bad thing.

Conclusion

With all that said, I do enjoy Underwater cities a lot.  It gives players an array of decisions to be made and there are some really smart design choices that make this gameplay quick and it is definitely on the crunchier end of the spectrum.  Discarding card(s) at the beginning of your turn makes so much sense.
3 player end game - player board
Many people have compared this to Terraforming Mars, and the main differences between the two, for me, are the board of Mars, in which players are able to have direct conflict with one another, which is a plus Terraforming Mars.  Underwater cities, pros compared to Mars, are the way in which you play and resolve cards and those synergistic combos, which I didn’t really find in Terraforming Mars.

If you like thinking games and finding optimisation strategies with a minimal amount of player interaction then I can easily recommend this game. 

I’d like to thank Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Many local game stores will still have this in stock and you can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to support your FLGS or use their online shopping web store.

Publisher: Rio Grande Games
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/247763/underwater-cities
Players: 1-4
Designer: VladimĂ­r SuchĂ˝

Playing time: 2 hours +

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                                               Rifles in the Pacific                                                            by ...

Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

August 2019

Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing








                                               Rifles in the Pacific

                                                           by


                                            Tiny Battle Publishing











 Tiny Battle is an apt name for the company that released this game. The game defies my attempts to pigeonhole it. It is a tactical game, but it is unlike any other tactical game I have played. It is a solitaire game of tactical warfare in the (surprise) Pacific. Let us first list what comes with the game:

Rule Booklet
Mission Briefing Booklet
Four Army Sheets (on two sides of 8 1/2" x 11" cards)
One Master Copy Unit Roster (on the back of the game's cover)
Three 8 1/2" x 11" Maps representing the varying terrain in the Pacific Theater
One Squad Examples Card (on the back of the Map Card)
39 1" Unit Counters
46 Administrative Counters
You will need to provide five six-sided die, and a container for random drawing counters






 The one inch counters are a godsend for these old eyes. The 'Map Cards' do not resemble any I have seen. They look much more like 'Battle Boards' I have seen in other games. So, you really cannot say if the 'Map' is an eyesore or a work of beauty. They are utilitarian looking, and do the job. The counters, on the other hand, are very well done, and did I mention that they are one inch. 






 The game sequence is pretty simple. This is what it looks like:
Mission Setup
Squad Selection
Mission Execution
End-Mission Briefing

 The Armies available are:
Japan - Both the Special Navy Landing Force, and Imperial Japanese Army
United States Marines
Commonwealth



Maps



 The missions you can play are:
Jungle Patrol
Defend A River Bank
Capture A Bridge
'Wave Zero' - Amphibious Invasion
Demolition Squad
Destroy A Radio Station
Casualty Evacuation
'Line Of Fire' - Attack A Strong Position







 Other than the slightly weird (at least for me) setup of the game, in most ways it is a normal tactical game. Tanks, mines, close combat etc. are all here among all of the other usual rules. The tanks you get to use include Shermans, Cromwells, Stuarts, Type 96 (Ha-Go), and the Type 97 Medium Tank. The rule book is well set out, and is easy to read and understand. This is the second game in the 'Rifles' games from Tiny Battle. The first game is 'Rifles in the Ardennes'. 






 I have to be truthful and say it took a few games for me to get used to the game. It did begin to grow on me. If you are in the mood for a quick, easy playing game about tactical warfare in the Pacific then I can recommend 'Rifles' with no caveats. Thank you Tiny Battle Publishing for letting me review this interesting game.

Robert

Tiny Battle Publishing:
https://tinybattlepublishing.com/

Rifles in the Pacific:

They are also publishing 'The Devil's To Pay' Hermann Luttmann's game on the first day of Gettysburg. I really like his games and especially the map look and style of his Gettyburg games. He designed 'Longstreet Attacks' about the second day.


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                                       Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing   Tiny Battle...

Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

August 2019

Rifles in the Pacific by Tiny Battle Publishing






                                       Rifles in the Pacific



by


Tiny Battle Publishing










 Tiny Battle is an apt name for the company that released this game. The game defies my attempts to pigeonhole it. It is a tactical game, but it is unlike any other tactical game I have played. It is a solitaire game of tactical warfare in the (surprise) Pacific. Let us first list what comes with the game:

Rule Booklet
Mission Briefing Booklet
Four Army Sheets (on two sides of 8 1/2" x 11" cards)
One Master Copy Unit Roster (on the back of the game's cover)
Three 8 1/2" x 11" Maps representing the varying terrain in the Pacific Theater
One Squad Examples Card (on the back of the Map Card)
39 1" Unit Counters
46 Administrative Counters

 You will need to provide five six-sided die, and a container for random drawing counters



Maps


 The one inch counters are a godsend for these old eyes. The 'Map Cards' do not resemble any I have seen. They look much more like 'Battle Boards' I have seen in other games. So, you really cannot say if the 'Map' is an eyesore or a work of beauty. They are utilitarian looking, and do the job. The counters, on the other hand, are very well done, and did I mention that they are one inch. 





 The game sequence is pretty simple. This is what it looks like:

Mission Setup
Squad Selection
Mission Execution
End-Mission Briefing

 The Armies available are:

Japan - Both the Special Navy Landing Force, and Imperial Japanese Army
United States - Marines
Commonwealth






 The missions you can play are:

Jungle Patrol
Defend A River Bank
Capture A Bridge
'Wave Zero' - Amphibious Invasion
Demolition Squad
Destroy A Radio Station
Casualty Evacuation
'Line Of Fire' - Attack A Strong Position




 Other than the slightly weird (at least for me) setup of the game, in most ways it is a normal tactical game. Tanks, mines, close combat etc. are all here among all of the other usual rules. The tanks you get to use include Shermans, Cromwells, Stuarts, Type 96 (Ha-Go), and the Type 97 Medium Tank. The rule book is well set out, and is easy to read and understand. This is the second game in the 'Rifles' games from Tiny Battle. The first game is 'Rifles in the Ardennes'. 








 I have to be truthful and say it took a few games for me to get used to the game. It did begin to grow on me. If you are in the mood for a quick, easy playing game about tactical warfare in the Pacific then I can recommend 'Rifles' with no caveats. Thank you Tiny Battle Publishing for letting me review this interesting game.

Robert

Tiny Battle Publishing:

Rifles in the Pacific:

They are also publishing 'The Devil's To Pay' Hermann Luttmann's game on the first day of Gettysburg. I really like his games and especially the map look and style of his Gettyburg games. He designed 'Longstreet Attacks' about the second day.

1 comments :

Order of Battle: World War II grows ever larger with the release of yet another DLC campaign for the Panzer General-esque strategy game ...

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

August 2019

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star



Order of Battle: World War II grows ever larger with the release of yet another DLC campaign for the Panzer General-esque strategy game that I have really enjoyed since its initial release over four years ago. While Red Star doesn't change up the formula in any significant way, it does give you another 13 mission long campaign covering plenty of famous, and less well known, battles. 

Red Star is the first of a trilogy of linked campaigns covering, you guessed it, the actions of the Red Army across the full spectrum of WW2. Now, you're probably immediately picturing the Eastern Front, Barbarossa and Stalingrad and so on. Hold on though, this is Order of Battle, a game which was created by developers who seem keenly interested in showcasing some of the less well known and less gamed theaters of the war. Red Star covers actions of the Red Army from 1938 to 1941, which means you'll be rather deep into the campaign before you see a single German panzer. 


The DLC starts off with a trio of missions against Imperial Japan, at the battles of Lake Khasan and Khalkin Gol. These are battles which I've read snippets about here and there, but never studied in detail. Seeing very early war tanks and even bi-planes roaming the battlefield made for a fresh experience. The Japanese are tough early game opponents, as you must make due with poor equipment and inexperienced troops.

Next you go for a quick trip to Poland for a single mission. Although the historical outcome here was 100% inevitable, it was actually one of the more memorable missions of the game. To give you a challenge, the scenario casts your forces as the very tip of the invading spear, racing ahead of supply lines. You have only a very limited number of points available for deploying units, and every turn your total available supply is shrinking. The only way to get more supply is to capture Polish cities and towns. This means you must charge forward and overwhelm the defenders as quickly as possible, in order to keep your units in supply. 


After conquering Poland it's time for the Winter War against Finland. Some of this conflict has actually been covered from the point of view of the Finns in the Winter War DLC, but now it's time to play it from the Soviet perspective. As you may know, despite massively outnumbering the Finns, especially in terms of tanks and aircraft, the Soviets got a very bloody nose in this conflict. Here a major feature of many of the scenarios are the Finnish ski troops who constantly pop out of nowhere on your flanks and attempt to cut off your lead units from their supply sources. The terrain itself is against you, as the heavily forested maps slow down your mechanized forces, and conceal ambushes at every turn. I enjoyed these scenarios, as I was forced to patrol the edges of my advance instead of blindly pushing all of my units forward to the objectives. 

After the conclusion of the Winter War, we finally reach the main event, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. These missions make up the final third of the campaign culminating with the defense  of, and Soviet counter-attack outside Moscow. The battles here scale up in size as you are now facing a more than equal foe, coming at you with all the tanks and aircraft you can handle. To counter that, you finally get to upgrade your own tanks and aircraft and leave those inter-war units behind. The battles here will be more familiar to most than the earlier ones, but the scenario design continues to be well done. As in all the OoB campaigns, every mission gives you primary objectives which you must accomplish to win the scenario, but there are also optional objectives which give you some kind of bonus if you can complete them. 


My one major critique of the campaign is that the specialization tree (permanent perks which you can spend points to unlock between missions) does not offer many interesting choices, or many choices at all.  I would have thought that for a DLC on the Red Army, we would see a big tree with lots of interesting and flavorful choices, but really there were only a couple which did something unique. The rest were all either generic options from other campaigns, or very minor benefits with some Soviet flavor text tacked on.

Overall, Red Star does not bring any big changes to the tried and true formula of Order of Battle, but if you like what you've played before, you will have a good time with this one as well. I do love a grand campaign of this sort, so I'm looking forward to carrying my experienced core units further into the war in the next two installments.

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star is available directly from Slitherine as well as on Steam and GoG. As always with Order of Battle, you can play the training campaign as well as the first scenario of each campaign (including Red Star) for free if you want to try before you buy.


- Joe Beard
















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Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was fir...

Tigris & Euphrates Tigris & Euphrates

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

August 2019

Tigris & Euphrates


Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was first released in 1997.  One to 4 players will take turns to take up to two actions in developing their Kingdoms.  However whereas many more-modern Euros struggle or eschew player interaction, T&E provides it in bucketfuls.  Not only will you decimate your opponent's Kingdoms but they will yours as well.  If you don’t like seeing your brilliancy ruined then this is not the game for you.  If your group thrives on aggressiveness (over the board) then you’ve got to give try this.


Gameplay

Despite the seemingly lightweight rules it took me a good while to wrap my head around these 20-year-old, but still brilliant, mechanics.  The biggest thing I struggled to grok was the different coloured player pieces.  Maybe I’m a dullard but none of the rules would sink in until I had this concept down.  Instead of receiving all the red tokens for your pieces, you receive all tokens i.e. 'leaders' of the same shape. The leaders you receive are black - that's a king, green - a merchant, red - a priest and blue - a farmer.  The shape is what denotes ownership, not the colours.
The dawn of civilization...
The most common action players take are to either place civilisation tiles or one of your leaders.  Both these actions may wreak glorious destruction on your opponent's kingdoms, but may also damage your own.  There are two different types of combat in this game, if a leader has been placed into a kingdom and there is already a leader of that colour then a revolt will be resolved.  Each kingdom can only have one leader of one colour but there may be leaders from multiple players in each kingdom.  

If a civilization tile has joined two kingdoms together then a war between those two Kingdoms occurs, in which each leader of the same colour will battle each other regardless of which players own it.  The winner will effectively resolve multiple conflicts until there are no longer two same-coloured leaders in the joined kingdom.


A revolt between the Pot King and the Bull King.  Adjacent red temples and red tiles played from the hand count
Each combat follows similar principles and once you’ve seen two or three they are easy to conduct. Revolts will be augmented by red tiles (temples) that are adjacent to the two leaders and any supporting tiles red tiles played from each players hand.  The defender wins ties and the winner destroys (out of the game) the loser's supporters and returns the losers leader.

Full-scale wars take the shape of multiple revolts but in a battle the individual strength of the leaders (calculated by totalling how many tiles of their colour they can connect to) plus additional supporting tiles from their hand (of the same colour).  The defender wins ties again and the winner not only destroys their opponent's supporters but also destroys the tiles their leader was using to calculate strength.  This can have huge consequences on the board.
Lion has placed a tile connecting two Kingdoms.  War will break out between the Lion and Bull King, and between the Lion and Pot trader.  All connected tiles of the same colour and played tiles from the hand will count.
These fighting concepts sound simple when written down, but I felt like a true dullard trying to learn this.  However, there is a beauty in their simplicity (once understood) and the limited actions each player has, occupies a rare space in board game design in which the board and pieces appear to take on a life of their own.  As your kingdom's power ebbs and flows it really does invoke the ‘cradle of civilization’ theme slapped onto this abstract game; it is. despite the simplicity brutal and very engaging to play.

As you place tiles that are connected to your similar coloured leaders you will gain victory points of that colour.  Your final score will be the lowest of those four victory point totals.  This design creates a constant tension between what you want to do on the board (i.e. an opponent’s leader is vulnerable and you have lots of red tiles to support a conflict) vs what you should do to collect more victory points of your lowest colour.
Endgame, Lion wins with 19 victory points.

The essence of this game is simple but it does create a lot of options and planning for each player.  However, before it’s your turn again, the board may be completely different, but it’s far from chaotic; an experienced player will win this every time.


Components



Beautiful board bits
I rarely have anything negative to say about Z-Man-published games, Z-Man have taken Dr Knizia’s masterpiece and just updated it with chunky plastic monuments and leader tokens.  The rest of the components are either tiles (in one of four colours) or victory points.  These plastic components are particularly nice looking on the board and are functional, in that it is very easy to determine what is a leader versus a tile.


Advanced variations included in the box

Criticisms

I can’t criticise this. I acknowledge it is absolutely genius design and I just might not be clever enough to play it (well).  It’s not a hard game to play but the number of options and forward planning possible does remind me of chess to a large extent.  I am also, in general, not a fan of abstract games, however, I would readily recommend this abstract.  My only criticisms are for my own brain and pre-conceived ideas of how board-games work.


My puny brain struggled with these rules. despite being well written

Conclusion

I can understand why this is widely considered to by Knizia’s masterpiece.  It has simple actions that create complex kingdoms that appear to take on a life of their own.  It is the epitome of a wargame or at least a competitive game if we don’t want to start that argument again…  Taking part in an experienced (i.e. 10 + plays) four-player game of Tigris is a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes.  However, being the learning player where two or three others already know the game is no fun at all.  However, the rewards of that act of self-flagellation i.e. playing amongst experienced equals make it absolutely worth it.

Massive thanks to Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Most game stores I've visited have had this in stock and quite often at a discount. You can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Z-Man
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42/tigris-euphrates
Players: 2-4
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Playing time: 90 minutes


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