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First Take Friday – Ready Set Bet, Splendor Duel, Brian Boru, Tidal Blades: Banner Festival, Woodcraft

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have Ready Set Bet, Splendor Duel, Brian Boru, Tidal Blades: Banner Festival, and Woodcraft

Ready Set Bet – Justin Bell

I recently had the chance to play as the House in AEG and John D. Clair’s dice-rolling gambling game, this is my first take as the House. Yes, in this game, one player can—and should—take on the role of the House everyone uses to place their bets as they determine where to lay their betting tokens as horses run down the track. I was surprised to find that playing the guy who mostly rolls dice and moves horses towards the finish line was a surprisingly fun experience, especially when you get to use your best racetrack announcer voice as you try to pretend seven people standing around a roulette-style board is just like standing at Churchill Downs yelling at the #17 horse to “show”, which will complete a parlay that will pay out hundreds of dollars.

Did I yell out “DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME!!!” at least once during this game? I’ll let you use your imagination.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Justin Bell.

Splendor Duel – Andrew Lynch

Ever since Space Cowboys announced Splendor Duel, I’ve been curious if perplexed. On the one hand, Bruno Cathala was the secret sauce that turned 7 Wonders into 7 Wonders Duel, one of my favorite games. On the other hand, Splendor already plays great at 2. I wasn’t sure this was necessary.

Having now played twice, I’m still not sure. Splendor Duel adds a board for chip collection, which is a neat idea in theory, but the execution feels off. In two games, nary a move involving the board has felt clever, inspired, or particularly interactive. The rush to get the pearls–the new resource alongside the other gems–when they’re out aside, this doesn’t feel any more interactive than the original. Just more complicated. The game has added a number of small things, each neat in its own right, but the net effect is a space that’s too crowded to make larger meaningful decisions. In Splendor, I can see where my opponent is headed and where I’m headed and part of the fun is weighing what to prioritize. Duel has so many moving pieces that I can barely keep track of what I’m doing, let alone my opponent.

I could go on, but Tom Franklin will be covering Splendor Duel in the near future, so I’ll stop myself here.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★☆☆☆ – Would play again but would rather play something else

Read more articles by Andrew Lynch.

Brian Boru – Andy Matthews

I’ve been playing a good amount of Inis lately and so the dive into Irish politics and intrigue in Brian Boru came almost like second nature. In Brian Boru players attempt to win the game by controlling regions of the country through town construction, marriage, battle, and the church. The primary mechanism is trick-taking: the active player selects a town on the board to contest, plays a card from their hand matching that town’s color, then all other players follow (or not). Cards have primary and secondary actions, with the winner of the trick taking the primary (placing a town marker on that spot), and the other players choosing one of the secondary actions. Myself and the 3 other players all thoroughly enjoyed the game, with some lively discussions about rules clarifications and strategies. While there are similarities to Inis, Brian Boru has enough differences to stand on its own. Definitely worth playing again…hopefully soon!

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Andy Matthews.

Tidal Blades: Banner Festival – Tom Franklin

Players jet ski around an eight-track board that combines a racing element with the trumps suit for the round in this game of… well, I’m honestly at a loss to tell you what the theme of this game is. Part variable card actions, part card suit bidding, part area control, part lapping a circular track, Tidal Blades: Banner Festival is a game I never fully connected with. There seemed to be a lot going on in this game without a lot of payoff for me. (My Meeple Mountain colleague, Justin Bell, will have a full review of this game in the coming weeks, along with his far more positive take on this game, so stay tuned!)

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
★★☆☆☆ – Would play again but would rather play something else

Read more articles by Tom Franklin.

Woodcraft – David McMillan

After playing and thoroughly enjoying Pulsar 2849, Underwater Cities, and Praga Kaput Regni, I’ve come to the realization that I am apparently a fan of Vladimír Suchý. And so it was that I was eager to get my hands on a copy of Woodcraft. This past weekend, I finally got a chance to play it.

Woodcraft is a game about, you guessed it, building things out of wood. The game is governed by a rondel-style action selection mechanism. Each turn, the player chooses one of the available action tiles, takes the associated action, and then moves that tile along the rondel. Actions include things such as gaining new contracts, gaining wood (i.e. the differently colored dice) from the supply, fulfilling contracts using your collected wood, upgrading your workshop to become more efficient, hiring helpers that will provide useful abilities and bonuses, and others. The end goal, to nobody’s surprise, is to earn the most points. Wow. What a brain burner. I played abysmally, but I sure had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to play this game again. Hopefully I’ll do much better next time around. I certainly couldn’t do much worse!

Keep an eye open for my upcoming review.

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from David McMillan.

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About the author

Justin Bell

Gamer / husband / dad / DEI champion / foodie / hoop head / cinephile / travel enthusiast. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice! @justinbellsays

About the author

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch was a very poor loser as a child. He’s working on it.

About the author

Andy Matthews

Founder of Meeple Mountain, editor in chief of MeepleMountain.com, and software engineer. Father of 4, husband to 1, lover of games, books, and movies, and all around nice guy. I run Nashville Game Night, and Nashville Tabletop Day.

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

About the author

David McMillan

IT support specialist by day, Minecrafter by night; I always find time for board gaming. When it comes to games, I prefer the heavier euro-game fare. Uwe Rosenberg is my personal hero with Stefan Feld coming in as a close second.

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