Quick Peaks – The Fox Experiment, Forest Shuffle, Kartel, Ancient Realm, Age of Comics: The Golden Years

In Quick Peaks we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have The Fox Experiment, Forest Shuffle, Kartel, Ancient Realm, and Age of Comics: The Golden Years.

The Fox Experiment – David McMillan

Have you ever backed a game on Kickstarter without knowing anything about it solely based on the game’s designer pedigree? This was the mistake I made with The Fox Experiment. I’d meant to read the rulebook. I had every intention of watching some videos. I swear that at least going to the game’s entry on BGG was on my to-do list. Before I knew it, the campaign was over and my pledge had been collected.

Fortunately, some accidents are happy ones.

This past weekend, I finally had a chance to get my copy of The Fox Experiment to the table and it was delightful. That first game was…rough. I quickly learned that there was a vast difference between reading the rules and applying them. After a few rounds, though, things began to fall into place and I was gleefully rolling dice, breeding pups, and fulfilling research projects without a care in the world.

I quite like this game and I look forward to the opportunity to explore its inner workings even further in the future. 

Ease of entry?:
★★☆☆☆ – Not an easy onboard
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again 

Read more articles from David McMillan.

Forest Shuffle – Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Lay a tree card down, then surround that tree card with critters on some or all of the four sides: a butterfly atop, a common toad below, a bat to the left, and maybe a few woodland hares to the right. Of course, it’s entirely possible a player might just collect a wide spread of trees themselves in lucrative combinations with only a smattering of living things attached. By the game’s end, dozens of thusly arranged cards await the work of an advanced accounting degree on the way to triple-digit glory.

Forest Shuffle is simple and relatively quick—play a card or draw two until the third winter card shows itself. The critter cards are essentially two cards, split either top-to-bottom or left-to-right so they can be tucked. They have text and iconography all around each nature photograph indicating name, type, scoring, cost, and special abilities. In other words, they are busy. Every card is helpful and scores something somewhere, so there is a sense that you can play them carelessly and still feel like you played. But caring enough to really want bats to rear their little bat faces so you can finish the set and score the points is where a touch of excitement is born.

I enjoyed Forest Shuffle well enough. It reminds me of Sushi Go in that you’ll know after the first play what’s possible inside. Then in future plays you’ll decide what to chase when you see your starting hand, and then adapt when you don’t get it. If you find yourself wanting that set collection feel to linger 30-45 minutes rather than as a buckshot of smaller, faster hands, then perhaps this forest is worth a visit.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★☆☆ – Wouldn’t suggest it, but would happily play it

Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Kartel – Andy Matthews

In Kartel, players are detectives alternating between taking bribes from crime bosses and doing their best to put those bosses, and all their henchmen, in prison. A Reiner Knizia game, Kartel gets loads of style points for the artwork and components, and also points for the ease of play, and the simple ruleset.

Roll a die to determine how many spaces your detective is able to move, then decide whether you want to arrest henchmen, take a bribe, or send a crime boss to jail. While your choices appear simple on the surface, deciding which one to pick from your available choices can occasionally be tough. Do you choose to earn your own points, or take an action that might cause your opponent to lose points? It’s all typical Dr. Knizia fare, but since the game plays in just 10-15 minutes, it feels a bit more breezy.

Check out Kartel if you get the chance.

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

Read more articles from Andy Matthews.

Ancient Realm – Tom Franklin

Ancient Realm is another 18-card game by Button Shy game. Using 14 of the cards, you’ll try to get your best score given the scoring conditions. (The other four cards are used to track your four resources)

There are two types of cards: Districts and Wonders. The two mini-decks will be shuffled separately and two cards from each deck are turned face-up. The remaining cards are placed  face down, where the back of the cards display a temporary rule that exists for as long as that card remains face down.

Cards are laid out in a single row, either next to or overlapping other cards. The resources required to play Wonders are acquired by playing cards atop the sections of the District cards associated with that resource.

Button Shy is known for their 18-card games. With Sprawlopolis and Naturopolis the 18 card limit felt right. I find both games to be not only challenging and enjoyable, but just long enough. With Ancient Realm, the game feels too short, lacking that sense of satisfaction I get from the -opolis games.

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 from Tom Franklin.

Age of Comics: The Golden Years – Justin Bell

The idea that I could run a comic book publisher in the 1930s and 1940s, with titles like “It Lives”, “Heartbreakers” and “Hey Rangers” and art styles to match? That was too good of a chance to pass up, so when my friend Kev invited me over to try this game out, I couldn’t say no.

Worker placement, a tight in-game economy, scoring milestones and tracks meant that all of the Euro fixins were in place, and Age of Comics mostly held up across its five-round structure. I like the idea that if I run out of “ideas” (actual idea tokens), I can “ripoff” a comic and produce “It Walks” instead of “It Lives” as long as I have the cash to put a new comic into the world.

Our first play ran about 90 minutes with a reasonable teach, and I thought the level of interactions and meaningful choices was strong. I’m looking forward to trying this again soon; in the months ahead, we’ll be getting a crowdfunding campaign for Bagged & Boarded, another comic book game from the publisher behind Brick & Mortar. Suddenly, comic book board games are HOT!!

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

Read more articles from Justin Bell.

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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.

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.

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

Justin Bell

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

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