First Take Friday – Ahoy, No Mercy, Paint the Roses, The Border, and Bonfire: Trees & Creatures

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have Ahoy, No Mercy, Paint the Roses, The Border, and Bonfire: Trees & Creatures.

Ahoy – Justin Bell

Ahoy and the Leder Games hype train arrived at a friend’s house recently; given that this is the same studio that gave us Root, Vast, and Oath, I had to give Ahoy a spin. Ahoy is a pirate game, with two games built into its mechanics: an area control game which is always present no matter the player count, and a pick-up-and-deliver game, if there are 3-4 players.

I had the chance to play the pick-up-and-deliver variant as a smuggler tasked with going to islands, picking up cargo (cards), and taking those cards to different islands. It wasn’t very interesting, and I was surprised at how much luck played into the card draw as Ahoy’s multi-use cards appeared in its three-card market from turn to turn. Like every other Leder production, the artwork, player boards, iconography, and “feel” were all fantastic.

But a bit like Fort, the gameplay fell a little flat for me. That said, the area control version of the game looked interesting, although I’m not sure it looked interesting enough for me to play the game again. Playtime was relatively quick and the game is light for an experienced gamer, so it has quite a bit going for it. I’m just not sure where I land on it yet.

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 Justin Bell.

No Mercy – Tom Franklin

A push-your-luck card game where you’re turning over the top card from the deck. You keep all the cards you turn over with different numbers (1-10) and you can steal cards of the same number from another player. You end your turn by drawing a repeated number (at which time you go bust and discard all the cards in front of you) or hold, leaving your cards vulnerable to being stolen by another player. Any cards left in front of you at the start of your next turn get scored at face value at the end of the game.

A short, simple Knizia card game that was more fun than I thought it would be.

Ease of entry?
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?
★★★☆☆ – Wouldn’t suggest it, but would happily play

Read more articles by Tom Franklin.

Paint the Roses – Andrew Lynch

I won’t say much about this cooperative deduction game, since Tom Franklin has an upcoming review of it in the works already, but I’ll tell you this much: I sat down to play it for the first time and ended up playing three games in a row. I thought about it the next two days until I got to play again. I love it. Absolutely love it. The only reason I gave onboarding a 4 is because it is surprisingly difficult at first to fully wrap your mind around how clues work.

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

Read more articles from Andrew Lynch.

The Border – Andy Matthews

The Border is a simple roll and write in which players try to surround 9 different areas on their board with contiguous lines of colored hexes. Some groups have only 2 of the same color, while other areas have up to 5. The active player rolls the dice and keeps any dice they can use to fill in a complete group of the same color, anywhere on their board. Any leftover dice can be used by all the other players to fill in a single block of a color that is next to a previously marked off space. The first person to surround each space gets the “high” point value, while all other players who surround that space later in the game get the “lower” value. The Border is easy to learn and breezy to play, and of course depends a lot on luck. This would be a great way to open or close a game night.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles from Andy Matthews.

Bonfire: Trees & Creatures – David McMillan

After a long wait, I finally got the Bonfire expansion to the table. This expansion adds three modules to the game as well as components to add a fifth player.

The first module, Trees, adds the ability to place trees alongside your path tiles as you’re moving your Guardians along the paths. The trees offer a variety of benefits—some immediate, some long-lasting, and some provide end-of-game scoring opportunities. The second module, Creatures, gives each player a unique Creature tile at the start of the game that provides a permanent benefit for that player (like being able to score Elder cards at the end of the game as opposed to immediately). The third module, Events, adds an Event card to the game that will be changed out each time the first player places a new Fate tile into their display. This card will provide some positive benefit for all of the players for as long as it’s active.

Let me tell you, I really dig this expansion. It is to Bonfire as The Norwegians is to A Feast For Odin: an expansion so easy to incorporate, and so enjoyable, that I can’t see any reason to ever NOT play with it.

Watch for my upcoming review.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
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

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

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

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, 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

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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