Welcome back to Best in Show. In this series, I look at the games I played over the past week and which experience I enjoyed most.
This episode we will be covering the final week of March.
It was just my wife and I as we hunkered down for YET ANOTHER weekend of Covid-19 style social distancing. Here is what we played:
Players: 2-5 Time: 10-30 Minutes Designer: Romain Caterdjian, Hsu Wun Hao, Eros Lin Publisher: EmperorS4
Geometric Art can be played cooperatively or... competitively (pfft). Full disclosure, I can't knock the competitive mode because I have never actually tried it, but I am pretty sure I never will because the cooperative mode is far too delightful.
In Geometric Art, a deck of cards is used to pick a category, then each player will draw a masterpiece in that category, title it, and attempt to guess the titles of other player's work. It simple, isn't it?
Well, the catch is that you have this set of custom dice that are rolled at the beginning of each round. These dice are used to determine which geometric shapes can be included in your masterpiece. You can only use each die once and you may lose dice over the course of the game resulting in some deliciously abstracted drawings. How can I get someone to guess Spongebob Squarepants with only a semi-circle and a wavy line?
I have had some good experiences with Geometric Art and this week's play was no exception. My wife had to take a long call during the middle of our playthrough so that did hinder this particular experience just a bit, although it was easy enough to jump right back in.
My Enjoyment Rating: 7.5/10
Players: 2-5 Time: 90-120 Minutes Designer: Mario Papini Artist: Lamberto Azzariti, Guido Favaro, Eva Villa Publisher: Giochix.it
I technically own two copies of De Vulgari Eloquentia, the 1st edition which I left back in the US, and now the Deluxe 2nd edition which I Kickstarted late last year. Despite this, I never actually played the game. Shame is something I feel plenty of when it comes to my board game collection and owning both editions, unplayed, was definitely contributing to that. So, this week, I finally pulled the trigger on playing it.
The game puts you in position of merchants who are trying to gain and spread the knowledge of Volgare as the dominant language throughout Italy, which until that point was Latin. This is an action allocation game in which each round you get 5 discs to spend. You can spend these in many different ways, moving around the board, visiting libraries, doing small business, etc.
There are a few things I really loved about this game.
The economy is extremely tight.
"If I just had a few more Ducati..." will become your mantra for the duration of this game.
The turns are surprisingly quick.
Similar to the economy, the action point allowance is tight as well. You will need to spend a lot of action points to do some of the more powerful actions and this means that player's burn through their action points quickly.
This is not to say that analysis paralysis couldn't be a problem with all the possible choices, but once a decision is made, the turn is over in the blink of an eye.
There are many paths to victory.
Do you want to become the Pope? Maybe you'd like to just be a really wealthy merchant? Or maybe you'd rather focus on collecting a wealth of knowledge. This game does not have much variability in setup (disregarding the expansion content), but it makes up for that with a lot of different paths and choices.
The variable ending is clever.
In the beginning of the game you shuffled and placed 5 facedown tiles as markers for rounds 12-16. 2 of these signify that the pope is dying, and when they are both revealed the pope is dead, everyone goes to Rome to pay their respects, and at the end of that round, the game ends. This creates a tense set of choices because you don't know exactly how many turns are left and how much you can accomplish.
There really wasn't anything that I disliked about this game and I had a really wonderful time with it and I can't wait to play it again.
My Enjoyment Rating: 9/10
Players: 2-4 Time: 30-60 Minutes Designer: Yuichi Ebina Artist: kanapey Publisher: Rikusa Games
Philadelhia is from a Japanese indie game designer and it was released at the Fall 2019 Tokyo Game Market. There was little doubt that I was going to buy this one. I lived in Philadelphia my whole life and to have a game published in Japan about my hometown halfway across the globe? That is just too good to be true.
Unfortunately, it was sold out by the time I reached his booth, but I did have the privilege of speaking directly with the designer about Philadelphia and his history with the city. He was very friendly and kind which made me even more willing to support his game. Lucky for me, it got a small reprint and arrived in the post a few weeks ago.
Philadelphia is a TCG-style game in which you are competing advertising agents in the same advertising company. It uses a couple of fairly simple mechanics, action selection and set collection. However, it feels a lot like a TCG version of Machi Koro. Now, I am not a huge fan of either of those things, but somehow the combination works surprisingly well.
You pay coins to post jobs and play them on your advertising board and each round you roll a die to see if employees are found for your posted positions, if so, you are rewarded handsomely. If not, you place a month marker on the card and once a post goes a certain number of months without being filled, it will expire and the card will be discarded. All the while you are collecting sets of poker-style sets of jobs and submitting them to your superiors for points.
Where the game gets interesting is that some of the cards are super over-powered and in a very good way. In fact, there is a card that basically ends the game immediately if you manage to meet the criteria on it. My wife was having a blast trying to win that way and I literally had no idea what she was doing until after the game. I took a more traditional route, but was still impressed by some combinations of cards I was able to get posted and working in synchronicity.
I definitely enjoyed my experience with this one, and the only real complaint I had was that it lasted a bit longer than I expected. I assume this is because I played at 2 players and the ONLY other player was trying a bold and difficult strategy. Anyways, I really want to give this one another go soon, especially at 3 or 4 players.
My Enjoyment Rating: 7/10
Players: 1-5 Time: 45-120 Minutes Designer: Cole Wehrle Artist: Cole Wehrle Publisher: Wehrlegig Games
I had a relatively mediocre first experience with Pax Pamir because of the steep learning curve this game has and yet, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I have been itching to play the game ever since and I finally managed to get it to the table after months of failing to scratch my itch with other games.
If you are unfamiliar with the game, Pax Pamir puts you into the heart of "The Great Game" and the political unrest following the collapse of the Durani Empire. It is a highly tactile and political game of influence, shifting allegiance, and general backstabbery.
Sadly, this, my second experience with the game, was once again mediocre and I think it was because I wasn't a huge fan of the 2 player experience. Despite that, after finishing it, I immediately started itching to play it again.
I really want to love this game and there are some things that I do love about it. The thing I love most about Pax Pamir (the theme and the production aside) is that the game is relatively simple at it's mechanical core, to the point where I could probably teach it comprehensively in 10 minutes or less.
It is so much more than a relatively simple set of mechanics with a complex thematic coating placed lavishly on top of it. It is nuanced. Like a single malt whisky from the hills of Scotland, it needs time in the barrel to balance the flavors out and smooth itself over. I'm not implying that you let your copy of Pax Pamir sit in it's shrink for 25 years while you contemplate what's inside, quite the contrary.
This game is NOT for everyone (heck, I still haven't figured out if the game is for me) but I think this is a must-play for any avid board gamer. This sentiment is more true with Pax Pamir than with any other game I have ever played. The 2nd edition of this game is nothing short of a masterpiece, from a production standpoint all the way to the finely tuned gameplay.
I have a feeling that my next play is when it will all come together to equal the great experience I know exists within this beautiful box.
My Enjoyment Rating: 6.5/10
Best in Show:
This week was filled with a couple of lighter indie games, Geometric Art and Philadelphia both of which I enjoyed quite a bit. I also finally got another shot at the heady Pax Pamir 2nd Edition, but there is no question that De Vulgari Eloquentia wins best in show this week!
Tune in next week for another Best in Show!