Hameln Cave, designed by Akiyama Koryo and Korzu Yusei, made something of a splash in the wide waters of the Japanese trick-taking market a couple years back. Enough so that it’s getting a remake courtesy of Allplay. Sail this one is called — just try to say it without periodically yelping it aloud, Awolnation style — case in point: (SAIL!) — and like its forebear it’s a two-player cooperative trick-taking game. It’s also quickly become one of my favorite trick-takers. Ever.
I like it when a publisher has an ethos. I’ve never really thought of BoardGameTables — which I can’t quite bring myself to write under its full name BoardGameTables.com, because blech — as anything other than a table company that happens to publish a few games on the side. Not unlike Ultra PRO and card sleeves, come to think of it.
Peculiar branding aside, writing about a portion of their catalog this past week has given me a more concrete sense for their internal logic. The defining trait is focus. Whether it’s Bites, On Tour, Q.E., Kabuto Sumo — yes, even Loot of Lima — these games pick one thing and try to stick the landing. More often than not, that one thing is offbeat. Outside the norm. Neither a mishmash nor a retread. They hone a single concept to a cutting edge. Even when the result is mixed, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a carefully curated selection.
And then there’s Bear Raid. Bear Raid may be offbeat, but it lacks the tidiness of those other titles. It even lacks the tidiness of designer Ryan Courtney’s upcoming game Trailblazers, which I wrote about last week. In that respect, it’s closer to Pipeline or Curious Cargo. This here is a big old mess. And I think that’s why I have so much affection for what it’s trying to do.
During yesterday’s entry in our splurge of titles from BoardGameTables, the simplicity and repetition of On Tour caused me to call it “a kid game masquerading as a game for grown-ups.” Today, we’re looking at a game that goes out of its way to look like a kid game, from its cutesy subject matter to some adorable double-layered cardboard tokens that look like food items with nibbles taken out of them. I’m pretty sure I even released an “Aww!” when we punched them out.
Never mind that. The title in question is Bites by Brigitte and Wolfgang Ditt. Childish exclamations of delight aside, it is decidedly a game for grown-ups.
After yesterday’s alleyway mugging by Loot of Lima, almost anything would be an improvement. Good news! Our next BoardGameTables entry, On Tour by Chad DeShon, is exactly the broad-appeal title I was looking for. It’s both a roll-and-write and a flip-and-write. That’s a twofer.
I’ve been on a BoardGameTables kick. Not because I need a board game table. I’ve got one of those. It’s two card tables with a slab of felted plywood laid over the top. Upscale, I know. Instead of a table, BoardGameTables sent over four games in one big package. The current plan is to write about them in ascending order of quality.
Which probably clues you into what I think about Loot of Lima.
Ask my seven-year-old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she’ll say “an entomologist.” Also a robot artist. Still. An entomologist. That probably has something to do with why she shrieked in delight when I showed her the bug cards in Kabuto Sumo. And why she kept insisting we play again and again. Or maybe it’s that she loved shoving things around.
Tony Miller and Kwanchai Moriya, you made my daughter very happy tonight.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the best auction games are about managing bid inflation. What’s bid inflation, you might ask? Good question. It’s how the value of a good increases over the course of the game. Think of a popular artist’s work in Modern Art. Early on, that artist was unknown and their paintings weren’t worth much. But as they become more and more popular, the value of their work skyrockets. By the last round, everybody is breaking the bank to nab a single painting.
Here’s the proviso: I didn’t say auction games were about bid inflation. I said they were about managing it. After all, if you’re spending all your money on the most popular artist, your profit margins are probably slim. Everybody has their eye on so-and-so’s latest painting. The cheques practically write themselves. It therefore behooves you to dole out your resources more cleverly. Sometimes it’s the bet on second place that both plays it safe and pays big.
Now imagine a game where your pool of money has no ceiling. You can bid anything. Five dollars, yes. Half a million pounds, why not. Sixty trillion yuan, now you’re talking. Welcome to Q.E.