Games We Like

Well, or at least games we still own…

Since I’ve only reviewed games we’ve decided to ditch thus far, I thought I’d give some indication as to games we’ve had better luck with. I don’t really review these, or at least I haven’t yet, because I often feel I don’t understand the gameplay well enough, even after a lot of plays.

This is almost entirely my partner Katy’s collection, by the by. She has both the dosh and the willingness to spend in this family.

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TOP SHELF/TRADITIONAL:

Clue(do)
Twister
Draughts/Checkers
Scrabble
Jenga
Monopoly
hard chess board

SECOND SHELF:

Rokoko
Discworld
Diplomacy
Dixit
Through the Ages
Trivial Pursuit

THIRD SHELF:

Alhambra (with expansion)
Puerto Rico
Castles of Burgundy
Power Grid
How to Host a Mystery: Star Trek, TNG

FOURTH SHELF:

Star Trek, Five Year Mission
Shadows over Camelot
Carcassonne
Virgin Queen: Wars of Religion
Race for the Galaxy (with 2 expansions)
London
Twilight Struggle

FIFTH SHELF:

SMALL GAMES:

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Eight-Minute Empire
Battle Line*
The Grizzled*
Star Realms
Kodama
Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game* (we’d need another deck to play, this was just a good shout at £2)
Game of Blame
Jane Austen’s Matchmaker
The Ravens of Thri Sahashri
Hanabi
Sushi Go
Coloretto
Set*
Jaipur
Magic the Gathering (bag)

GAMES WE’RE THINKING OF GETTING RID OF:

(the previous * titles fall into this category too)

Name Chase
Literati
Trivial Pursuit 20

CHESS SHELF:

tournament board and set, books (also playing cards and Tarot)

BOTTOM SHELF:

Settlers of Catan
Catan Traders and Barbarians
Catan Seafarers
Catan Cities and Knights
Ticket to Ride Europe
Thurn und Taxis

ARRIVING THIS WEEK: T.I.M.E. Stories (& Asylum Expansion)

Happy to answer questions about any of these!

The Victorian Gamer (Game Review)

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

The Victorian Gamer is exactly the sort of game someone gets you for Chanukahmas when you are known to like:

1. board games, and

2. Victorians.

It’s a fair cop, guv’nor, and if this game didn’t suck I’m sure that it and I could have been very happy together (in an embarrassing ‘shit I’m easy for’ sort of way). Alas, it sucks more royally than Edward II.

Your first clue is in the sense in which the company means ‘Victorian Gamer’. Check this flavour text:

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I guess they mean that some sports were developed and professionalised during this period, but the implication that Victorian English people invented sports is pretty funny.

TVG features rowing, horse racing and relay races: three things that can be entertaining enough to take part in yourself, but which are boring to watch others take part in. Perhaps they’re less so if you’re a person who likes sports (which I’m not), but even so, watching basketball is more of a recognised activity than watching rowing. (You can shove whatever you’re thinking of saying about the Oxbridge boat race, Wimsey.)

The other element this game revolves around is gambling. I know some people actually want to go to Las Vegas et al, but for me the whole thing is a combination of risky and dull, like taking a high-stakes standardised test.

The game is cheaply made. In fact it’s as bad as anything I’ve seen in that regard. The little slivers of paper money make Monopoly look posh. The graphics are clip-art as hell and the cardboard thin as a tissue box. You have to put the stickers on the 6-sided dice yourself. It’d take a Pantone colour expert to differentiate between the plastic ‘gold’ and ‘bronze’ tokens.

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Why must you make this call? Because you’re given two relay-race runners, a rower and a jockey, and you must assign one of your runners (the other’s neutral-black) and your other two kept sportsmen skill-levels. These hold throughout the game. You then challenge or are challenged by someone else in a particular event. You meet their stake, or don’t, and you bet, or don’t. The amount of the bet is up to you, and a little table determines odds and payoffs. (The rules are simple, yet somehow also not very clearly explained in the instructions.) A ‘round’ consists of however many people are playing’s one on one battles, and then an all-in event. There are three rounds to a game.

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The person with the most money at the end’s won. I like a neat, singular scoring mechanism, but Victorian Gamer’s about as bare-bones as it gets. I do appreciate that the three forms of racing have slightly different rules, but it really is simply a question of rolling your die again and again, and the better-ranked player winning the mathematically likely percent of the time. It is not a game for people who like board games, and it’s not really going to do much for people who like this period in history, either.

We honestly only played one of the three rounds through, because we’d tried all the events and could see the whole mechanism, and that it wasn’t going to get any more interesting. The game’s at once substantially themed (it’s like stepping into a naff Victorian Ladbrokes) and insufficiently built up. There’s nothing to do but endure the tedium (and my god this game would be awful with a the 6 players it can accommodate: there’s the potential for a lot of downtime, and rounds would take ages). And yet this is still more of a game than the ignoble Wonderword.

VERDICT: We could see immediately we were going to have to rid ourselves of TVG, but we’re still working out how. Shockingly, no one wants to buy it. Need to find someone else desperate for a Victorian-themed present. Possibly steampunks…

Village (game review)

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

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Village is the best game we’re getting rid of in this great clearing-out effort. In some ways it’s reminiscent of several games I really like: you have a lot of in-play move options and there are several ways to score. The theme is strong and organic, affecting all the choices you can make (Though I’m not entirely sure why we’re scoring our family of villagers—perhaps it’s about the family’s prosperity over time? Ah well.). You’re never unclear on the connections between the mechanical operations and the gestalt game concept. It’s not narrative, precisely, but it’s cogent and satisfying. (The only time this strong theming is a little silly is when someone dies shortly after completing their apparent life’s work: making a single wagon. Geez, that took a lot out of you. Wheelwrights have it hard.) There are a lot of bits and bobs to keep track of, but the play experience is well-designed, and I don’t find Village clumsy to interact with. This detailed review will give you information on the actual rule system, if you want that.

So why are we getting rid of what is in many ways an appealing game? Well, for a start I dislike that we’re not building anything substantive as we play. I suppose theoretically you’re building the prosperity of the Redmeeple clan or what have you over the generations, but mostly you’re scattering meeples, collecting resources, killing off meeples like this is Small World on a micro scale, etc. etc. I don’t really know terms, but my partner says this is a worker placement game, and that she’s not sure that we like that type as much as some others.

I do know that I prefer London or Rokoko, where I feel I’m building a city/suite of dresses and deck. Village also feels slightly like Castles of Burgundy to me. I think this sense of similarity derives from the shared ‘range of actions/build a thing within a board environment’ aspect of these games, but again, all of those do have some ‘grow your x’ element that doesn’t slip away from you. I suppose your placed meeples in Village are a little like that, seeing as they retain their capabilities and/or position from round to round as long as they live, but then they keep bloody dying on you. I know it’s silly, but I’d rather not kill off my meeples: I’m instinctively a creature-coddling rather than raw tactics sort of Magic the Gathering player (though oddly in Magic I’m decent at killing my darlings). I do think I’d like this game better if it didn’t mechanically demand meepledeath, both for resource accumulation and for dumb, subterranean sentimental reasons.

I don’t ONLY like games that let you build a tableaux or whatnot, but my mind codes Village as a somewhat broken example of the breed rather than, for example, a resources-and-goals game like Takenoko.

In terms of mechanics, I do think Village has a couple of weak points that aren’t wholly located it its not being what I want it to be. I don’t think the market works all that well. Everyone should be trying to keep a green cube in readiness against the coming of a market, and some of the goods that are due to come up in trade deals (you can see these deals approaching down the pipeline) on hand (though we never get through all that many deals). However given the rather tight resources of this game, this chafes a bit. You need everything: you can’t just have green cubes and wagons lying around in case. And if someone nabs the thing you’ve also been working towards, for you’re pretty SOL. (We’ve tended to neglect the market in previous games.)

I also find traveling too much of a resource-burden. It’s important to do because it gets you resources and a significant amount of points, but you need two or three cubes (so that’s two or three goes speny in acquiring them), another to make the necessary wagon (or two turns to acquire wagon components and another to play them), and then to take a turn to travel—and none of this is factoring in the DEATH CLOCK and meeple-degradation these steps entail. Everything is a damn ordeal in this game, and it makes Village feel a little chorish rather than gamiesh at points for me.

Village can be played with two, but it flows much better with more players. It’s a fairly pleasant game for three, but we’re largely looking for games that scale more elegantly between two to more. Since our household has only two to three people at a given time (barring guests), we really only want to give space to three player games we love rather than ones we ‘oh.’ It sounds dumb, but cheap and cheerful, tiny two-player card-games get more leeway from me than this great, bulky, travel-unfriendly space-hog of a box (on par with Diplomacy, Discworld and Rokoko) that comes at a fairly substantial price-point. If Through the Ages can be confined to a respectably shelf-deep box without overhang, why not this?

I find the art annoying. Why is the score track so much sharper than the images, which seem out of focus? Why do these villagers all look misshapen? Is that dude in front of the town hall sitting on a step or standing? Why is that even a judgment call? Why do my eyes hurt a little looking at this board, like its resolution is poor? Is this a printing thing?

Lastly, and wow this is petty, I weirdly suck at Village. My partner wins every time we play scherzo, and it’s not that fun for either of us. I did much better in tonight’s three-way game. My typical move is to work the town hall and to play significantly into the church, neglecting travel and marketing to do so. This time I reversed that and did better. I was also way more kill-happy.

I feel I could get better at Village if I varied my choices a little, which is to its credit: I like games where you can experiment with play styles, learn and grow. My favourite games I still don’t feel I play perfectly: there are more facets I’ve yet to really exploit, and I can sense that there are strategies I’ve yet to develop.

Ultimately Village suffers a little due to things outside its control. It it has a high trading value on BGG, making it prime swapping material, and it’s kind of reminiscent of many other games we have (but is somewhat less pleasing than these).

VERDICT: out the door in favour of Thurn und Taxis

‘Le Havre: The Inland Port’ Review

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

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I have’t played Le Havre proper, but Le Havre: The Inland Port is, as I understand it, a short-form spin-off thereof. You’re collecting four resources on a funky little chart (which I actually kind of like—it adds a spatial thinking dimension to play) to get buildings that count as money, and that can also make you more resources and money. Once again we have a double-barrelled, awkward-exhcange-at-the-end-of-the-game resources and money system wherein ultimately only money counts (capital is truly inescapable, etc).

The course of the game is marked and controlled by a slightly confusing little sundial thing that goes around twice (sunrise, sunset!). The way this movement and the passage of time alters and controls how powerful various buildings are is fairly elegant, and I like that you get more moves as you yourself grow more powerful (as you attain more resources and buildings to make use of).

However the number of turns you play, the transitions between rounds and the number of rounds all feel somewhat arbitrary and confusing. I have to rely on my partner to tell me when to move the dial. It’s not that it’s hard to figure out where we are once I’ve counted up the number of turns we’ve had this round: it’s more that my attention wanders here. I have to make an effort to remember where we are.

This may be because the theme is *real* minimal. Some people think theme is decoration, but it’s an integral part of the game-mechanic and play experience. If the theme here was more interesting and integrated into the overall game, the narrative would make it obvious where we were at a given moment due to causal structures, or the game would keep me sufficiently interested and hooked in that I’d be calculating my next moves and hyper-aware of the limitations thereupon. Theme is not window-dressing, it is narrative and highly determinative of whether a game works/is enjoyable. Apparently I’m building some shit out of corn, fish, wood or clay. Maybe, nominally, I’m paying workers with this smoked fish or whatever, but how they they erect a building on the strength of that alone, sans wood, is a mystery to me. And why does this inland port have largely Srs Business structures and then shit like a zoo? Why this super-expensive consulate??

Along these lines, the art is bare-bones. The yellow square is bread or grain, I think? But it might as well be cured pork (The Inland Pork). People on Board Game Geek are EASY for game art, I’ll tell you that. I think they’d describe a kid’s finger painting like a William Morris print. ‘Intricate! I wept tears at its sublime beauty!’ No offence mate but some Eurogames are a step or two up from clip art? Few are Truly Fugly, but aesthetics are not that well-represented in this genre for. no. reason. Again, artists are CHEAP. Why I don’t have a full-on Pre-Raphaelite lookin’ Arthuriana game on my shelves I cannot say.

The sun dials are nice, but can get fiddly when you have too many buildings in one slot (and you will). If you stack or overlap these your partner can’t see them to use them, and that would interfere with a significant part of the game (late game especially is all about the building-renting). Always craning over to see your partner across the table’s wee businesses is a bit of a drag as-is—I often forget to do it, and thus don’t fully utilise all my opportunities.

Despite this ‘pay the other person one coin to use their building’ mechanism and some competition for buildings, it feels like there’s not much interaction between players. With a two-player you want a little more, unless you’re essentially playing a long, involving game like Through the Ages in which you’re alone with your civilisation except for how there happen to be other people there who sometimes take shit from the card row. (I know there’s a war mechanic in Ages, but it has always seemed a vast waste of time. ‘The only way to win is not to play!!’)

Strategy is a bit unclear in LH:IP. I think by playing it a few more times I could try a few ‘focuses’ /goals and see what happened, but then my partner and I already ended up with more coins than the game provided as-was. I won with 234 to her 233, and at one point a 20p piece had to come into circulation. If we did much better we’d have to raid the piggy bank. I’d be a little interested in optimising my play, but it’d be a numbers game in a sense, rather than a more meaningful strategic choice.

I *quite like* that spatial thinking element of the funky board though. I’d play something else with a similar mechanic for sure.

There are less clunky designed, more engaging quick and medium length two-player Eurogames out there (and on our own shelves), and Le Havre isn’t a port we travel to often. We’ve decided to swap it for Eight Minute Empire, which I’m looking forward to trying.

…also ‘Inland Port’ sounds silly do they mean river connected like London or…

Strozzi Review

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

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What an okay game. It’s—fine. We’ve owned it perhaps four years and played it maybe as many times? I’d almost always rather play something else. I’m not even particularly bad at it, nor annoyingly overpowered so it’s not fun anymore. I’m average at Strozzi, just like Strozzi is average at being a game.

The theme (you’re a trader in the Italian renaissance!) is slightly pasted on, yey, but not egregiously so. I can feel the mechanics right clunkingly there, but I’m not sure that’s the theme’s fault. I like that because you’re a trader points and money are for once synonymous. This eliminates the dual accumulation systems that attend on so many games, whereby you spend the duration of play garnering coins that are, at the very end, either forgotten or clumsily transmuted into the real material that can enable you to win (here’s a thought—what, if any, Eurogames aren’t screamingly capitalist in their competition systems?).

I almost want to say Strozzi is both too simple and too fiddly. You’re competing to have the fastest ship and the most goods in three areas, and just the most goods in one (scrolls), but this last is a a bonus modifier: you can’t place goods-modifying ships there, and developments here are just a side effect of other ships you play. You can also acquire square tokens with big end-game bonuses (and thus there are almost penalties for not acquiring them, given that your competition will trounce you if they paid attention to having the most of x type of square and you didn’t). It behooves you to watch that ‘scroll’ modifier and your squares, and to pay more attention to goods than to ship speed, both because high levels of goods have a modifier at the end (+5 for making it this far up the ladder, etc.) and because goods levels are cumulative rather than fresh each round. You have three ship options: plus one good, plus one speed, and piracy, which allows you to steal someone else’s chosen ship right before they put it down (or claim your own ship in such a way that no one else can do that to you).

I’m not good enough at thinking about game design to quite figure out why this feels like too much and not enough at once. I’ve definitely read books that give me the same BEHOLD THE ARC OF THE PLOT! A TRY-FAIL CYCLE IS NIGH!! feeling, and not known how to respond to them or even to approach them in an editorial capacity.

If you play with three people you often find that everyone’s scored the same in a given area for a round (fastest ship, least goods; middle ship, middle goods; etc.). Strozzi cannot be played with two, and is probably best with four (someone else said five to six, which would make it better for game club play than for our three person household plus occasional guest). People do praise that it plays through in under an hour, neatly, and I agree that that’s very handy (though in practice I think with a casual group I’d probably play two half-hour card based games rather than cracking this out, or maybe Discworld Ankh Morpork, which strangely even fairly casual groups seem to love the theme and mechanic of).

There’s plenty going on in Strozzi, but it feels fairly single-layer and mechanical: just the ship push-pull, with a ‘gotcha’ modifier layer over it. There’s some competition over ships based on turn order, ship choice and piracy, and a little strategy in your choice to focus on goods over speed, and maybe to concentrate your efforts on specific goods, but you couldn’t imagine much in the way of ‘play styles’ or game-type preferences for Strozzi: this is no Castles of Burgundy, Rokoko or Race for the Galaxy. It might be more like Tokaido (a few acquisition mechanisms, some competition over place, a bonus modifier layer), but it’s less smooth, organically-themed and beautiful that Tokaido. (Strozzi is decently attractive and sturdy but not incredibly so.) I could see myself regularly wanting to play Tokaido, but not Strozzi?

This is such a cool period of history, and you could do a great trading game based around the Strozzis. It’s a little sad they have the name here and not much else.

Here’s a good comment from another review:

On the downside the theme is really dry if that sort of thing matters to you. It matters to me and thematic games and thematically interesting Euro designs are what I go for, but I really didn’t mind this at all and was able to enjoy the mental battle with my opponents.

For others it may be an issue.

Whilst the game plays with 3-6, I suspect the sweet spot is 4-5 players and that is backed up by the recommendation on the BGG game page I see now too. We played with 3 and removing 17 cards from a 29 card deck just seemed ridiculous and I felt the ‘Push Your Luck’ element was a little too chaotic with that number of cards out of play. With 6 players you are looking at some serious competition and a whopping 50% of the players won’t score anything in each of the criterion. Some groups may love that but it feels a little too harsh for my liking.

In the end this is what I would call a ‘classic Knizia’. It’s fairly dry, the math is visible for all to see but I think it is a step above other games of his that I have mixed feelings about such as Palazzo.”

I think this was another £10 offering from The Works, and that feels fair really. We sold it on for that much to the friend who played it with us, breaking even (we threw Wonderword into the bargain, so she could give it to someone she disliked/her mum for mother’s day).

Wonderword Review

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

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(Photos from vendor site, linked below)

Wonderword is a really nicely designed game. I was wondering just the other day why more games aren’t gorgeous. After all, you’ve got to make something out of durable cardboard and some wood, and unfortunately great artists come cheap, by ‘midsize company’ standards. (Dixit isn’t good enough for me on this front, sorry. It’s fine? But I’m looking for something that rolls harder, art-wise.) Just look at Tumblr artists’ commission rates. While Wonderword isn’t the lush art object I’d personally have wanted to bring into the world, it’s conceptual, slick and hipster. The design doesn’t really have much to do with the game, but eh. It looks like the sort of thing one yuppie couple could give another as a dinner party host gift.

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In fact this is what happened to us, the other couple apparently being under the impression that we were fellow Cool Millennials rather than just garden nerds. As a game, for people who like good games and play them regularly, Wonderword absolutely sucks. It sucks as a two-player game. It sucks as a larger multi-player game. In playing Wonderword, you quickly come to understand that not only could no circumstance make Wonderword fun, it’s also actively tedious and irritating.

When I was younger and didn’t really play games, I would have picked up something like Wonderword because I’m bookish, wordy, blah blah. HOWEVER: that liking does not necessarily translate into my enjoying games with word-based mechanics. While there are probably word-games I’d really like, I’ve yet to find one. What I, in my admittedly limited knowledge of this subfield, think of as the big players therein are largely not Euro games, but stocking stuffers with sloppy/basic mechanics like this one’s or tried and trad snoozers like Scrabble. I also don’t really like the story-telling games I’ve run into. They often seem like training-wheels D&D with a framework I’m insufficiently inspired by, or like awkward prompts to nervously tell each other half-formed stories. I’m a writer, though? When I want to tell a story I’ll just–go do that. If I want the excitement of a friend’s reactions I’ll tell them what I’m going to do or give them what I’ve done. I’m not trying to be like, mean here, I just don’t know quite what niche the things I’ve seen them play on Wil Wheaton’s Table Top when my partner’s watched it (bargain Lovecraft, Edward Gorey the game, badly-plotted movie) are supposed to fill? THEORETICALLY I should love storytelling games and word games, and I am willing to fall in love! But as of yet, I’ve discovered few suitable outlets for my affections.

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I find it fairly easy (with some interference from the ‘luck of the draw’ factor, admittedly) to coax decently plump words out of my random starting hand of eight letters. My partner, who is a fabulous writer and who used to work in publishing, does not. She believes Wonderword requires of her a very different type of thinking than most of our other games. I don’t feel this myself, but it says something when two equally wordy people are this divided as to their skill/comfort level playing this game. I also couldn’t have predicted she’d have that reaction, so it’s possible that neither can you re: your own playing group. It’s also worth pointing out that my sister and one of my bffs, who’re both verbally adroit but dyslexic, want nothing to do with Wonderword. The audience for a spelling-based game is circumscribed in ways that can affect its utility in your social circle.

So there you are, flipping cards over one at a time so the other person can try and guess your word. But even if you know your partner’s idiolect well, if they have a decent vocabulary you’re paralyzed by indecision for a dumb amount of time, because there are tons and tons of five letter words that end in ‘es’. Look at this shit. Say only half that’s probable: you the guesser still aren’t getting more than 1, 2 points (i.e. letters left over when you guess correctly) out of this exchange. There’s an element of psychology if you happen to have a hand you can get three words out of and you’re trying to figure out which your partner would guess last, but it’s a “Psychology Today” level thereof, not a “Civilization and its Discontents” level.

So here you are, boringly guessing words, almost always giving a hefty chunk of points to the word-layer for what, the four, five rounds it takes this thing to finish? and for you to get to the requisite 24 points. My partner and I thought, as we grimly completed a two-person game out of a sense of obligation, that it might be better as a party sort of game. Finding my sister unwilling, we looked outside our household and drew in someone without spelling-related trauma. However as it turned out, this just meant sitting through another word, another tedious iteration of ‘is it bones?’ ‘no.’ ‘cones?’ ‘no, it was hones.’ ‘oh.’ ‘yeah.’ Feel the *energy* in that room.

You have to guard your more easily diminished guesses a bit more strategically with multiple players, but no tiny degree of added frisson there is gonna fix the fact that this game, though comprehensible in a moment, just isn’t offering you much more than a game of I Spy. It’s reliant on the mechanical exercise of a couple of skills you either have or you don’t, plus some luck. Might was well play pick-up sticks.

Why were they this lazy? They paid the artist I expect, and for materials, but when it came to the concept, bupkis. Maybe this would sell more widely than a more complicated game, or maybe they didn’t have good enough designers? It sure doesn’t have nerd-word-of-mouth spreading power, or ‘buy it for your friends/replay/get a new edition or expansion’ appeal. I don’t know how to design and market a game, but I can’t imagine there’s ultimately much point to its being this bad.

Verdict: Selling on, to some other poor schmuck/someone who can love it.

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Havana

There’s a stack of games in our house we’ve said at some point or another that we’re probably going to sell. But before we do, I force us to play one or two more times to be sure we’re not making a terrible mistake and to try to think through why we didn’t enjoy the experience (if that’s still the case). THESE… are our stories.

288898.jpgHavana is a spin-off of Cuba, which I’ve never played. It’s fairly well-regarded: we sought this out rather than stumbling across it. It’s well-made (Though not beautiful—why are relatively few games GORGEOUS art objects? That wouldn’t be hard for companies to do, actually?) and quite easy to learn, but I don’t necessarily enjoy playing it.

Havana’s a short game, but not as fast-moving and engaging as something like Jaipur. In a resource-collection and building game like this I enjoy longer play: the ability to gather more resources and do more. I also feel very cramped in Havana, because there aren’t many resources, your hand is tightly controlled and you get no refreshing resource base (i.e. ‘5 monies to start the round’ a la Rokoko). It’s a poverty-based game rather than an abundance-based, choice-heavy game. This suits the theme well (theoretically, you’re engaged in some scrappy, post-revolution property development), but isn’t my preferred play style. I also don’t like how careful I have to be with my deck, knowing that unless I really play the Refreshment card for all it’s worth I’ll never have access to some of my best or must fundamentally necessary cards again (and thus I’ll have no way to obtain resources, or build some buildings). (Side-note here, I think we all know ‘Mama’ is the best damn card in this game.) It’s a personal peccadillo, but I also dislike thieving/resource destruction mechanisms in general, and tend to underplay them. Havana’s having several ‘steal the following player’s X’ just feels mean in an already resource-poor game, and gives the person employing them only a measly payoff.

As a two-player game, Havana can get weird and unbalanced—i.e. ‘one player’s hitting the win condition while the other only has five points’. Things are closer with three players, but perhaps too close: everyone’s one building away from victory, it’s just whose turn it is next that determines who wins. That feels too random for me. I know it might not be, given that players’ positions reflect a confluence of luck and strategy, but game-feel is more important than sheer mechanics. There’s not necessarily a firm, satisfying sense of pulling ahead and building to a win in Havana.

This game isn’t bad, but we’re ultimately letting it go because if we want to build stuff with resources, we have lots of games we like better for that. If we want a quick game, same. If we want a tense, competitive game, same. If we want something for two players, or three—you get the idea. We never end up using this one, and it’s time to let it go, perhaps allowing our copy to find its way to a new owner more drawn to it.