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First Take Friday – San Francisco, Wu Wei: Journey of the Changing Path, Flamecraft, Top Ten Quiz, and SPECTRE: The Board Game

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have San Francisco, Wu Wei: Journey of the Changing Path, Flamecraft, Top Ten Quiz, and SPECTRE: The Board Game

San Francisco – Andrew Lynch

San Francisco is a sort of combination tile layer and auction game. The tension in the design lies mostly in the interactions in the market. When you take a selection of project cards, you also take a contract. The more contracts you have, the more projects have to be in any one column before you’re allowed to take them. If you have two contracts, for example, you can’t take the cards from a column with two or fewer projects. If this description sounds a little dry, that’s because the game is a little dry too. So far, I wouldn’t consider this one of designer Reiner Knizia’s better titles, but I will say that in three plays so far, I’ve enjoyed it more each time.

Ease of Entry?
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles from Andrew Lynch.

Wu Wei: Journey of the Changing Path – Justin Bell

I knew even while reading the most overproduced rulebook in our nation’s great history that Wu Wei was not going to be a winner. Unfortunately, I was right.

Playing as apprentices tasked with training at various sites (tiles) around a large map before becoming an apprentice-master and racing back to the center tile, Wu Wei first appears that it will be an interesting challenge to race from point to point to “train” with each master, a die placed in a random tile intersection during setup. But the game features almost no drama, plus powers that make it even easier to visit other points as you collect cards from each master.

The production is completely over the top and the gameplay rang hollow with our group. Despite only lasting 35 minutes (on the basic level; the game features three levels of difficulty), the game began to drag after just 15 minutes as our four-player group went through the motions of moving around the map. The path doesn’t seem to change much at all in Wu Wei.

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
☆☆☆☆☆ – No chance

Read more articles by Justin Bell.

Flamecraft – Andy Matthews

In August of 2021 the campaign for Flamecraft launched, and for a glorious month it was the darling—going on to raise over $2 million USD from nearly 30,000 backers. I just got my copy and I’m thrilled to say that my deluxe version was worth the wait. Gorgeous, charming and whimsical artwork, wonderful components, and solid family-weight gameplay with combo chains galore. I played my first game with my two youngest sons (aged 9 and 11) and they loved it (and so did I). If you’re on the fence about Flamecraft, I’m here to tell you that you should hop down and go find yourself a copy.

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

Read more articles from Andy Matthews.

Top Ten Quiz – Tom Franklin

A party game in the same vein as Family Feud. Teams each select a captain who then takes a look at the Top Ten card for that round. Captains then bid on how many items they think their team will guess correctly, with the highest bid playing first. That team has two minutes to give their captain suggestions for correct answers, with the captain choosing the ones they think are on the list. The other captain counts out the correct answers. If the first team guesses incorrectly, the other team has 10 seconds to come up with any missing answer from the list to steal the points.

I’m not a big fan of party games, so this one was just OK for me. I would probably like to just read out the questions to a group of people and have them guess, much like playing Trivial Pursuit without the scoring.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★☆☆☆ – Would play again but would rather play something else

Read more articles by Tom Franklin.

Spectre: The Board Game – Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

There’s no feeling quite like sitting down to a game—having read through the entire rulebook—only to realize that you still have no idea what’s going on. Unfortunately, such is the inevitable starting point for anyone who opens Spectre: The Board Game without doing a fair amount of research first. It’s not that the information isn’t in there. Ok, maybe it’s true for some features, but organization is the bigger problem. The book just isn’t all that helpful until after you’ve played the game, which makes even less sense now that I’ve said it.

In Spectre, players take the role of Bond villains aiming to become No. 1 in the evil organization. By placing agents around the world to gather resources, players unlock their schemes and chase semi-cooperative mission objectives, all the while hoping against hope that 007 won’t show up to ruin their plan to climb the Spectre ladder. This reversal that makes Bond the antagonist is a brilliant turn, and the villainous pursuit is quite enjoyable at many points. But the character choices are questionable, the game length miscalculated, and the mechanics so convoluted they feel like, well, a Bond villain’s overwrought plan. Wait, maybe this game is more fitting than I thought. In the end, my own stubborn insistence on understanding will bring me back more than the game itself.

Ease of entry?:
★☆☆☆☆ – Rough
Would I play it again?:
★★☆☆☆ – Would play again but would rather play something else

Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

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About the author

Andrew Lynch

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

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

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

Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

On any given day, I am a husband and father of five. I read obsessively and, occasionally, I write stories of varying length, quality, and metrical structure. As often as possible, I enjoy sitting down to the table for a game with friends and family. I'm happy to trumpet Everdell, in all its charm and glory, as the insurmountable favorite of my collection.

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