The end of the year is upon us and we have been tasked to choose a few of our favorites for the year. Unfortunately, I personally haven’t had much time to play all the latest new games. However of the few I was able to experience these three have made an impression on me.
King of New York
From Iello we have a new imagining of King of Tokyo, named… well King of New York (I suppose this leaves room for further editions such as King of Toronto etc.). Upon a brief glance in the game shop you might think that King of New York is just another skin on an old game, but it is far more than that.
There has been a tune up of the overall gameplay that appeals to the more advanced gamer in me. Thankfully, the essential feeling of the original game is still present, you are smashing up other monsters and trying to be the most awesome one! (or at least the one still standing). The first thing you notice is that the board has changed. There are now more areas on the board and your monster can position themselves and gain extra points by smashing up buildings and the military responses found in the boroughs. This new smashing power is reflected on the dice by a new symbol each of which gives you one point of smashing power. Another new symbol you’ll find on the dice is the skull. The skulls cause the military found in all the boroughs of new york to attack, with a different response based on how many skulls end up in your final throw. They also took the liberty to rebalance and reimagine the power cards that can be purchased with energy. You will find that there are far fewer annoying star cards that are only really worth the purchase in the off chance they will win you the game.
One of the biggest changes is the elimination of the numbers which made room for the skull, the building, and finally the star. You now get a point if you roll 3 of these, and then you gain a star based power card that grants you a point for every star you roll (ultimatly until the other players get wise and take it from you). There is also an increasing of reward for staying in Manhattan (the new Tokyo) for longer rounds.
This is a great gamers edition of the King of series. It has the same Yahtzee style luck and probability rolling with more actual player strategy thrown in to appease the more advanced players. Of course if you have a group of young kids you can simplify it down essentially back to its original roots.
Probably topping my favorite acquisition for 2014 is The Cure, published by Zman Games, a new rendition of Pandemic. I had the good fortune to play this about 2 years ago as a prototype when the designer Matt Leacock brought it into Snakes & Lattes for a playtest. I thought it was phenomenal then, but somehow in the last couple years he made it even better. I may be biased due to my love of rolling dice and pushing my luck, but this version of Pandemic is my new favorite.
For starters, The Cure, is fast. You can play through a full round of this game with the initial teach in just under an hour. The game is essentially the same in theme, each player gets a roll card with special abilities and takes a number of actions each turn, which may involve flying around the world to treat and cure the four diseases threatening to destroy mankind. The expansive map of cities has now been replaced with six tiles (one for each of the inhabited continents). The diseases have been replaced with very deliciously coloured dice and are rolled to determine what continent they end up on (each disease has a different set of numbers on its sides changing probability of distribution).
One of the more dramatic changes is how your actions are resolved. Each role gets five dice specific to their character (unless you are the generalist) which are rolled in order to determine your available actions. You are allowed to make as many rolls as you want to on your turn, however, one of the six sides is the biohazard. The biohazard not only locks that die, but it also advances the epidemic track pushing your game towards a grisly failure.
The Cure is a wonderful example of an express version of a game done right. You still keep the feel of the original, including the difficulty, but make it a much lighter faster experience. The teach is about as hard as the original Pandemic, as you have to explain all the symbols and the different roles as well as all the lose conditions. All in all though it is a fantastic addition to any boardgamers collection regardless of their stance on Dice.
This fast paced camel racing game quickly found a place scratching that gambling itch of mine Camel up, or camel cup (easily mistaken from the ambiguous title art), covers a one lap race of multicoloured camels as they speed around a pyramid in a nondescript desert location as some wealthy ladies and gents bet on them.
Each camel corresponds to a similarly coloured die. The dice are rolled out of a very cleverly designed “pyramidal release system” or PRS for short and are moved forward the corresponding amount, jumping on and carrying camels as they go. Players can add traps and oasis’s to the spaces each round to help or hinder camels while earning a little extra money on the side. The game ends as soon as a camel crosses the finish line, then the person with the most money after the final bets have been paid out wins the game.
Camel up fills a niche that was previously held only by “Manilla” for me. The game is fast, light, and an easy teach to players of all ages. And if you ever find yourself with downtime, you can always to the maze found on the bottom of the PRS.
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