Getting your own game to the table can be tricky sometimes. Players at my game group are so generous that they often bring a wealth of games to choose from and your own can pushed to the back unless you are really vocal in getting it played. Somehow I managed to get two of my games out on Monday which was a nice little compensation for seeing my alien colonies outpaced and monsters outscored.
Players: 5 (Plays 3-5)
Duration: 45 minutes
I have always told myself that I don’t like auction games but having recently enjoyed Medici, Palazzo and now Ra I am going to have to change my point of view. I am still not attracted to games with longer drawn-out auctions but the short, punchy titles are tense and force you to take tough, critical decisions that won’t have you futilely playing catch-up for 2 hours. Ra is definitely that game.
Players are trying to bid for different types of tiles that score in a unique manner at the end of each of the games three phases (or epochs). On their turn players can either put a random tile onto the board or invoke Ra and start an auction for all the tiles on the board. Bidding only goes round the table once and players bid using one of three uniquely numbered sun tokens. The winning bidder claims all the tiles in the centre (some of which can be harmful) and swaps his sun token with one on the centre of the board (which always starts with a 1 value) placing it face down and unusable for the remainder of that epoch. In this way players change the values of their bids and can only bid three times per phase. Some tiles are Ra tiles which don’t go into the centre but trigger an auction instead. Once 10 Ra tiles have been drawn (in a 5 player game) the epoch automatically finishes. After the third epoch, final scoring occurs and the game ends.
Ra is a very devious game. It’s so tempting to draw a tile and add it to the auction pile but if it’s part of a tile set that an opponent wants and they have a better set of sun tokens they will be able to steal it from under you. The way the tiles score is cunning too. Some are straightforward set collection but others require you to get just one or lose points instead of gaining them and others wipe out other tiles if you win them. Like a lot of auction games it seems that knowing when not to bid is as important as winning and a cool head is required to avoid disaster. Ra is definitely a smooth little game and one I will be keen to play again in the future.
Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)
Duration: 2 hours
In Alien Frontiers players are colonists who are competing to get their colonies on an alien planet before their opponents. Players are given dice that represent their fleet and they roll them at the beginning of their turn and, depending on the result, use them in various orbital facilities around the planet. Some facilities give you resources (including extra dice or alien technology cards that give you extra powers), some let you build colonies and one lets you steal resources from other players.
When players build colonies they place them on the planet in one of 8 regions, each of which is related to an orbital facility. If they have the majority of colonies in a region then they get an additional point plus a bonus which corresponds to that regions corresponding facility. In this way players can try and use this light area control mechanic to try and claim regions that will help their own individual strategy.
I like this game a lot. Not only does it have the simple pleasure of rolling dice but it lets each player attempt their own path to victory by matching the regions they want with the facilities they want to use the most and the alien tech cards they have bought. Of course the dice can always scupper your turn if they don’t go your way but there is always something useful that you can do even if it’s to collect basic resources. The only criticism I would have is that the Raiders Outpost that lets players steal from each other can spoil another players plan (it happened to me) but there are ways to protect yourself. Overall a very fun game and one that plays nice and swiftly once players find their feet.
King of Tokyo
Players: 6 (Plays 2-6)
Duration: 30 minutes
More dice fun! King of Tokyo is a simple game where players play giant monsters fighting in and around Tokyo. On their turn they roll 6 dice (which they can reroll twice if they wish) to try and get victory points, attack other monsters, heal their own monsters or gain energy to buy special powers. The first player to 20 victory points or the last monster standing is the winner. The twist is that one monster (or two when there are 5 or 6 players) is the King of Tokyo and will slowly accumulate points on their go. Also, when they attack they hit all other monsters outside of Tokyo at the same time. The downside is that they can’t heal and monsters outside of Tokyo only attack them. When hit, a monster can leave Tokyo and the monster that hit him has to go into Tokyo and become the new King whether they want to or not.
King of Tokyo is a lot of fun and is all about praying those dice give you what you want and then crying when they don’t … which is all the time! The one issue I have with King of Tokyo (and it is a big one) is that it rewards cowards! For a game about giant monsters fighting across a city it’s a shame that a player that plays conservatively is usually the winner and for most of the time players will be re-rolling attack dice in favour of energy to buy boosts for their monster, only attacking by accident. I don’t play like this. For me it’s more fun to get into Tokyo as soon as possible, start throwing punches and hold on for as long as I can before bailing out to heal up and start attacking again. Of course I never win but I have a lot more fun losing in this way.