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First Take Friday - Welcome to Reefer Madness in the Minty Space Pyramid header

On First Take Fridays a number of authors around Meeple Mountain give short first takes on games that are new to us.

This week we cover some of the hottest games – Welcome to…, Reef, and Space Base,and small box games – Mint Works and The Pyramid’s Deadline.

Welcome to… – Kurt Refling

Like a lot of us, my gaming group has been caught up in the excitement of the new roll & write craze. Welcome to… is a game where players act as real estate developers in the 1950s of America, and it absolutely nails the aesthetic. From the player aids to the rulebook, Welcome to… is filled with the kind of illustrations that echo the era. But this is not the 1950s, and we aren’t playing Yahtzee here. Welcome to… has whipped up a cool cocktail of pushing your luck and hedging your bets, setting players up for a host of tricky decisions.

Every turn follows the same structure: three options are revealed, each with a number and a special action. Players choose the combo they like best, resolve the effects, and a new set of options are flipped. I liked a few things about this: the card system means that nobody really gets screwed on an unlikely dice roll. The previews on the cards give you an idea of what actions are coming up next. The varied actions mean that you can specialize in a given category, or get a nice even spread of points. It felt like there were different paths to victory.

I think it’s a testament to Welcome to…’s streamlined iconography that our first game was played at one in the morning and everyone still had a solid grasp of the rules. In a full weekend of games, this was my partner’s favourite. I’m hoping our next session — maybe before the witching hour — is as good as our first one.

★★★★★☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★☆ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Kurt Refling.

Reef – Andy Matthews

Next Move games is a publisher to pay attention to now. Their title Azul took the gaming world by storm this year, going on to win the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. When Next Move announced Reef, from designer Emerson Matsuuchi, people took note.

So it was with excitement and a little bit of nervousness that I started my first game of Reef with David and Phil. I was excited because the game had such hype, and so much momentum that I just knew it was going to be great. Nervousness because what if it wasn’t?

Thankfully Reef did not disappoint! It’s a very simple game of “draw or play”. You’re either taking a card into your hand from the face up pool, or you’re playing a card from your hand in order to place reef pieces onto your personal board. Then if you’re lucky you might score some points based on the scoring condition at the bottom of the card you just played.

You see, the clever thing about Reef is that in order to get points you have to think at least one turn ahead. The card you played very rarely relates to the scoring condition. So it’s a constant struggle to draw cards whose conditions overlap, while at the same time picking up cards which provide the pieces you need to make that scoring happen. It’s a brilliant game that pits you against your own desire to score. Like a point junkie you’re constantly looking at the cards in the pool, telling yourself “if I had that one then I could score even more points”!

Reef is beautiful, the components aren’t pieces, they’re basically toys; and the game is clever, tactical, and just fun to play. Try it out soon!

★★★★★☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★★ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Andy Matthews

Mint Works – Ashley Gariepy

Mint Works is a Kickstarter worker placement game that comes in a small tin with tiny mint-like pieces. I was intrigued by its attractive design, components, and gameplay length (a full worker placement game played in 10-20 minutes!), but I did wonder whether it was all simply a gimmick. How wrong I was.

Upon opening the tin, I was immediately struck by the incredible card and component quality. Then I learned, set up, taught, and played an entire game in 20 minutes. Everything was done rather quickly, but the gameplay still felt satisfying. There was a good amount of strategy involved in my decisions with a huge part of that being mint management. You will use the mints (your workers) to earn more mints, get plans for buildings, and later use them to build those buildings to earn stars (victory points).

Unlike many worker placement games where you retrieve your workers at the end of a round, in Mint Works, your used worker mints go back to the general supply. Each player is only given a single mint for the next round (unless they construct buildings to increase their mint influx).

This game feels like the perfect introduction to worker placement because it is easy to learn, teach, and play, and it doesn’t get bogged down with other mechanisms. If you are familiar with worker placement, the game includes Advanced Locations which significantly change the pace and strategy of the game. There is also a solo variant where players can select the difficulty and play against an AI. This game is perfect for any type of gamer.

I can always gauge just how much I enjoy a game by my desire to want to play it again right after finishing. Mint Works, you have certainly passed this test with flying colours.

★★★★★★ Ease of Entry
★★★★☆☆ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★★ Excitement for Rematch

Read more from Ashley Gariepy.

Space Base – Leslie Ewing

I had never played Machi Koro before, but saw a playthrough of it online. It looked okay, but I didn’t like the fact that you had to purchase cards in order to roll more than one die, so when I heard about Space Base and how you were able to roll two dice and could chose to either take the sum of the two dice or use each dice individually, I was much more intrigued.

We played a game with 4 people and it went pretty well. The aspect of getting resources, points, etc, during other players’ turns was easy to grab onto for our group, but I will admit that the initiation cubes (I think that is the name – the clear cubes) and how those worked was a bit confusing at first. Also, some of the iconography was not completely clear on the cards and the rule book did not give good explanations either. I had to do some research while we were playing to find out what some of the icons meant.

Once we understood how different things worked it went much smoother. The turns were fast and you were engaged on each person’s turn which I thoroughly enjoy. Overall, it was a fun game and one I look forward to playing again. I am curious how it will work with 2 players. I tend to play a lot of 2-player games and the pull of this game for me was being able to get more resources on other players’ turns and with just one other player I don’t know how well that will work, but I’m willing to try!

★★★★☆☆ Ease of Entry
★★★★★★ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

The Pyramid’s Deadline – Kathleen Hartin

The Pyramid’s Deadline is a less forgiving game than I thought it would be; the first time we played, everyone lost. This shouldn’t have been a surprise since the game comes from the same publisher as Deep Sea Adventure, but it was. The rules are so simple, it should be easy!

In this game, architects are racing against the clock to build the most spectacular pyramid for the Pharaoh before he dies. That first time around not only were our pyramids unimpressive, they were unfinished. Instead of being immortalized by our work, we were locked in our unfinished tombs with only our shame to sustain us. Since The Pyramid’s Deadline is quite quick, we got in a few rounds and I turned out to be the Pharaoh’s favourite architect. As I write this, I am undefeated.

The Pyramid’s Deadline is a quick little puzzle game where you want to build the biggest pyramid, while still meeting the Pharaoh’s very particular specifications. Each turn, a set of dice are rolled that show players what pieces they can use in their pyramid. Players take turns selecting dice/pieces until all but one remains. Then the next player rolls the dice and play continues. When you’re done building your pyramid, you announce this to the other players and you stop adding to it. If your ego takes over, you won’t finish your pyramid in time. If you’re too careful, your pyramid will be too small and you’re sure to lose. This game mixes luck, foresight and balance. It was a fun challenge and I can imagine people who enjoy puzzles having a good time with it.

★★★★★☆ Ease of Entry
★★★☆☆☆ Excitement Pre-Game
★★★★★☆ Excitement for Rematch

 

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Andrew Plassard

Andrew Plassard

I like big games and I cannot lie, you other gamers can’t deny. That when a euro walks in with a shiny new case and a rule book in my face, I get pumped. Hi I’m Andrew and I like heavy euro games with a side of player interaction when necessary. I think board games are the best way to force me to think in different ways while having fun and hanging out with my friends.

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