Monthly High Five - June 2019
WHAT IS CARDBOARD REALITY’S HIGH FIVE?
The High Five is a monthly piece where we talk about five of our board gaming highlights from the past month. Then one member of Cardboard Reality will deliver the “down low” at the end of this piece, covering a poor board gaming experience from the past month. Enjoy!
The High Five
Endeavor: Age of Sail
B.L. - I fully expected to not enjoy Endeavor: Age of Sail as much as I did. It was kind of a non-entity in my mind, a game that I knew existed but felt no particular compulsion to play. That said, I’ll play (almost) any new game put in front of me, so I went along for the ride when it came out at a recent game day.
Endeavor (or Endeavour, for our Canadian and British friends) is yet another exploration game set in the time of colonization, where you play anonymous European civilizations out to exploit and trade with new regions. It’s broader in scope than many games in the same genre, spanning from India and Africa to North and South America as the game progresses, and that scope is part of what makes it fun.
The board features dozens of locations covered with little wooden disks, each representing a good, action, or other means of advancing your nation’s interests. Gameplay-wise, it’s mostly straightforward worker placement made more interesting by the advancement of your empire as the game progresses, allowing you to take new and different actions.
Also distinguishing it from other games in its genre is that it doesn’t abstract away the evils of colonialism. Slavery is called slavery in this game, and it benefits you until it’s abolished, at which point it costs you dearly. The exploitation isn’t hidden, and you feel a bit of a regretful pang when you establish yourself as governor of a newly opened region.
I’m not going to rush out and buy Endeavor, even though I played while the expansion was live on Kickstarter. But I certainly wouldn’t say no to playing it again, and always enjoy being surprised by a game, even if it only took me from “indifferent” to “interested.”
Pax Pamir 2nd Edition
Nick - Pax Renaissance floored the podcast when we reviewed it in 2017. Three of the four hosts sung its praise by awarding perfect scores, and two of us consistently hail it as one of our all-time favorite titles due to its perfect blend of deep and satisfying decisions mixed with quick setup and playtime. Last Friday, our dear friend Cameron invited us to play Cole Wehrle’s latest revisioning of his singular entry into the Pax Series, Pax Pamir 2nd Edition. I would be lying if I didn’t say this game has me nearly as excited as the first time I discovered Ren. Immediately after finishing our first four player session, we all agreed to resetting the board and playing a second match. We never do this with non-filler games.
It’s that good.
Thankfully, my copy is on it’s way and I could not be more excited. Pamir 2e softens some of the rough edges found in its 1st edition iteration, which helps make this new edition the best entry-point into this notoriously opaque and challenging series of games. After my first introduction with this game last night, I’m confident in saying that it has rightfully earned it’s spot next to Pax Ren on my shelf.
Kingdom Death: Monster
James - In May I attended Geekway to the West, and saw somebody selling a new in shrink copy of Kingdom Death Monster at a discounted price. My buddy and I briefly considered it, but ultimate scoffed at the idea of such a huge impulse purchase and didn’t know that we’d be very in to the mini construction aspect of the game. Fast forward a few weeks and we found a used copy with some assembled monsters and minis and managed to talk ourselves into it. And this giant black box has owned my table for all of June.
We’re about 7 play sessions in at this point, and absolutely no signs of slowing down or letting up. In fact, it’s all anyone in my group wants to play right now, myself included. Kingdom Death Monster lives up to its billing - it’s mean, ruthless, both mature and immature at the same time, but also amazingly thematic, fun, hilarious, and incredibly entertaining. In Kingdom Death Monster you represent survivors in a newly founded settlement, beginning with nothing but the loin cloth around your waist, and a chunk of stone dug out of the concrete earth made of faces that you call the ground. Through your gameplay you’ll make decisions on important principles such as raising children, how to deal with your dead, and what kind of society you’ll partake in. You’ll have to create innovations to continue to develop as a society. But you’ll also need to craft weapons, armor, and gear in order to stand a chance against the demons that lurk in the darkness.
KDM provides you with a dark, demented, blank canvas with which to craft your adventures, create your backstories, and grow your settlement and family. Amongst many other things, after just a month of play we’ve got a woman in our settlement who is good for nothing but cranking out children - she rarely goes into battle. We’ve got our fearless leader Motwo, with stat buffs, secret fighting arts, and improvements galore - we protect him at all costs, but need him in our battles. There’s Gara, warrior woman with a condition that precludes her from ever wearing body armor - she wanders around the settlement and battles shirtless, and takes no prisoners. And then there’s Jona - now deceased father of 1 who fell during a “Settlement Event” when the previous year’s hunt was recreated. Jona played the Lion...and the overenthusiastic storyteller accidentally killed him during the reenactment.
Yes, it is crazy expensive. Yes, it is reliant upon dice for the majority of its results (although the mitigation is much more present than I was ever led to believe as I researched the game.) Yes, it is a huge box that comes with a space and time commitment that is bigger than any game I’ve personally had come through my collection. But the stories, tales, experiences, and time spent at the table is invaluable. Kingdom Death Monster is absolutely delivering for my group.
Dylan - Ah, the medium-weight euro. The family of games I was once known to represent, my favor with them has fallen aside to the exploration of games involving economics, war, history, and even games drenched in theme, particularly in 2019 for that last grouping. But in June, I had the chance to play Keyflower three separate times, varying in player-count and content.
What sets Keyflower apart from the sea of medium-weight euros that drown the board game market is the meld of mechanics that feel distinct at the same time. Take the auctions, as the first example. Nowhere in Keyflower are there coins, paper dollars, or Iron Clays. Instead, you have meeples, which are the same wooden component you’ll be using for worker placement. Each player uses those meeples of the various colors and place them at the side of the hex that they want to bid for, but on the side that faces themselves. And that holds true for all the tiles the players are bidding on, remaining consistent with the directional face they bid.
And for a unique blend of mechanisms, the game is quite simple. A 10 minute teach with much variety and tension primarily through those mechanisms is rare for the medium-weight euro. But this one. This one deserves its spot among the euros that receive high praise across the board.
Joel - Origins Game Fair Day 4, Sunday. I had not purchased any games during the entire convention because I was so busy demoing for Capstone Games and was not really looking to spend much anyway. I had only bought the Meeple Realty insert for Pipeline. However, I was talking to one of my friends, Andrew Smith from Board Game Quest, about the convention and games he had picked up and he mentioned this game, Tuki. Now, he only had to say that it was a spatial puzzle race for me to be interested. I stopped by the Plan B Games booth to check it out and just pulled the trigger. I had not bought a game and figured I could at least play it with my parents and/or family.
Fast forward to the next weekend and I am at Keep Gaming Indy, a local gaming meetup. Andrew was there, pulled out Tuki, asked if I was in, and I said absolutely (even though I had brought my own copy). I had not gotten the chance to play it yet, so I was excited. It took less than a minute to teach and we were off. For the fast pace it is, it fits in perfectly where I hoped it would. It works so well as a spatial puzzle, and there is a bit of dexterity too. You roll a die and the face of the die tells you the orientation of the card that has 3 colored blocks on it in a certain position relative to each other (or 4 blocks if playing the advanced variant), but you also have some white pieces. Each of the colored blocks are 5 long, and the white pieces are in different configurations. You use the white blocks to build the colored blocks into the proper orientation (but the white blocks are not pictured on the card so they do not matter). Last person to finish, or first person to say finished but have it incorrect, gets the card. First to so many cards loses and it is a race to the finish in the final round to determine the winner.
I could not be happier with my purchase. It plays very quickly and works so well as a spatial puzzle, which is fun for my engineering brain. I think it could also work very well with kids as they get to learn spatial reasoning and balance. Some of the orientations may require you to stack pieces in such a way that you have to balance the long, colored blocks on multiple white blocks. When we were playing at KGI, a younger girl was playing with us and she was quite good at it. It really shows you that everyone has a shot to be the first done and we were laughing every time someone was scrambling and knocking over his/her pieces. It was a great experience and I cannot wait to bring it to family gatherings.
The Down Low
Nick - Surprisingly, this is my first ever down low piece. And more surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy this silly betting game that seems to be a community-favorite family game. In its premise, Camel Up seems like a perfect crowd pleasing, hilarious, riot of a good time, but our group did not laugh and shout like I had expected—even if Dylan tried his best to commentate the race to keep us engaged.
I haven’t played a game that fell this flat for me in awhile. I found the camels’ movement to be fairly predictable. There was a lead change here or there, but we almost always bet on the right camel. And the poor yellow camel never made it out of last place. I expected there to be more on the line in terms of betting, and I expected more chaos to drive up the unpredictability. Instead, I was left with an underwhelming experience from a game I could take or leave—but probably leave.