Broken Meeple Videos - Architects of the West Kingdom Review

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Architects of the West Kingdom is set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD. As royal architects, players compete to impress their King and maintain their noble status by constructing various landmarks throughout his newly appointed domain. Players need to collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and keep a watchful eye on their workforce. These are treacherous times, and rival architects will stop at nothing to slow your progress. Will you remain virtuous, or be found in the company of thieves and black marketeers?
The aim of Architects of the West Kingdom is to be the player with the most victory points (VP) at game's end. Points are gained by constructing various buildings and advancing work on the Archbishop's cathedral. Throughout the game, players need to make a lot of moral decisions. However, only at game's end will their virtue be judged. A few underhanded deals here and there might not seem like much, but fall too far and you will be punished. The game ends once a set number of constructions have been completed.
I liked Raiders of the North Sea, which was in this style, but the other helpings in that series didn't wow me. Now we have a new series with that same look so can this one do better? Hold on, when do I get my workers back?


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Broken Meeple Videos - Keyforge Review

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KeyForge: Call of the Archons is the world’s first Unique Deck Game. Every single Archon Deck that you'll use to play is truly unique and one-of-a kind, with its own Archon and its own mixture of cards in the deck. If you pick up an Archon Deck, you know that you're the only person in existence with access to this exact deck and its distinct combination of cards. In fact, in just the first set of KeyForge, Call of the Archons, there are more than 104 quadrillion possible decks!
Will this revolutionary new concept be the next best thing in card games?


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Broken Meeple Top Ten - Games With 5 Players

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Awww man, I hate it when I get 5 players available for games - most games fail miserably at catering for 5 players unless they are big party games or fillers. There has to be some mainstream games that work with 5 without overstaying their welcome, becoming too chaotic or just breaking apart?

Well there are and here are my 10 favourites balancing between how much I enjoy them and how well they work with 5 players!


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Broken Meeple Videos - Heaven & Ale Review

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You have been assigned to lead an ancient monastery and its brewery. Now it's your time to brew the best beer under God's blue sky!
The fine art of brewing beer demands your best timing. In order to get the best results of your production, you have to provide your cloister's garden with fertile resources and the right number of monks helping with the harvest — but keep your brewmaster in mind as he is ready and eager to refine each and every one of your barrels!
In Heaven & Ale, you have to overcome the harsh competition of your fellow players. There is a fine balance between upgrading your cloister's garden and harvesting the resources you need to fill your barrels. Only those who manage to keep a cool head are able to win the race for the best beer!
Theme is cast aside so easily, which is a shame, but can the mechanics behind this Kennerspiel nominee make up for that?


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Broken Meeple Videos - Essen Spiel 2018 Review

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After a great 4 days in Essen for Spiel 2018, it's a tough period to recover and catch up! But finally I got another video ready - my overview of Essen 2018!





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Dodging A Bullet From My Pistol - Time Stories: Brotherhood of the Coast Spoiler Free Review

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TIME STORIES has a lot of cause for concern right now. What originally started as this mind blowing revelation in board games, has certainly died down a lot and reached the point where many are growing weary of it. How times change in the board game industry eh? But why so? Well, when you release expansion modules for a "one play and that's it" product 1-2 times a year max you are running the risk of players getting bored and moving on. Not to mention if a particular module isn't received well, that's like a whole year nearly of wasted time.

For me, I still enjoy the game, regularly engaging in playthroughs with the lovely ladies from The Game Shelf, my go-to group for dealing with Time Stories. But the infrequent nature of the expansions coupled with other issues that have not been resolved is starting to grate. Firstly the overall plot arc took a back seat for a while and we just want it over! Secondly the game seems obsessed with ridiculously hard combat scenarios of which most are unavoidable forcing you to take "tank" characters or else you will lose. Thirdly the game still doesn't have reset points for a long campaign. You could get punished severely on time units from a bad die roll or decision and suddenly you have to reset EVERYTHING. These problems could easily be resolved I feel, but we've seen no progression. Can Brotherhood of the Coast fix these issues or is it time to say goodbye to Time Stories?


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A 2-Dimensional Rubix Cube - Founders of Gloomhaven

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How to print money in the easiest way? Put the word Gloomhaven in the title. That's the way it's gone down with Founders since its entrance. The hype was already started from the fact it was being released from the same designer/publisher as the #1 game on BoardGameGeek - not that I pay any attention to BGG rankings as Gloomhaven does not feature in my personal collection. But I can't argue with the business using a tried and true marketing tactic to good effect.

I definitely had to sink my teeth into this one, a big meaty Euro game that really doesn't sell itself from the box cover or the aesthetics or even the theme to be honest unless you're a die hard Gloomhaven addict. But reports were coming in of mixed reviews highlighting the issue of fiddly and confusing rules, never a good sign, but as such it took me a while before I could get this to the table and even then I needed friends of mine and the odd YouTube video to help me with that. Was it worth the effort?



Designer: Isaac Childres
Publisher: Cephalofair Games
Players: 1-4
Age: 12+
Length: 90-180 minutes


From the rulebook:

“In the age after the Demon War, the continent enjoys a period of prosperity. Humans have made peace with the Valrath and Inox. Quatryls and Orchids arrive from across the Misty Sea looking to trade. It is decided that a new city will be built on the eastern shores—a hub of trade and a symbol of many races working in harmony. Each race brings their own speciality to the city, and each race holds a desire for influence over the city by contributing the most to its construction.”


FOUNDERS OF THE HYPE TRAIN


The opening paragraph of Founders of Gloomhaven’s scarily dense rulebook as above. Did you understand the first thing about it? Recognise any of the races mentioned? If you did, then you've obviously played the much loved (but in my opinion overrated) Gloomhaven that Founders borrows from. However if you didn't you're going to be confused as all-get-out and get used to that, because there's plenty more where that came from.

Many will be drawn to Founders of Gloomhaven because of the tie-in, but I warn you now, do not let that be your purchasing decision. It is clear from the mechanics within that the theme is tacked on at best, mainly there to facilitate initial hype. All these weird races and locations will be lost on anyone who knows nothing of Gloomhaven and when you delve into it, there's very little differentiation between them all anyway. Each race has a unique minor power that can be used maybe 4-5 times max in the whole game and a different starting resource, all of which are 100% generic and identical in nature and function. And all the prestige buildings, though named after actual Gloomhaven locations, are essentially dumping grounds for cubes with a minor ability for your worker that doesn't even have any correlation with the building itself.

I actually cared so little about the theme, that I didn't even notice the back of the player boards had flavour text on them. That's how irrelevant it is. And even if you read it, again you're not going to understand it without having played the other game. You could replace this theme with architects building Rome and nothing mechanically would change whatsoever.

Though I wouldn't say no to the art palette being replaced. Much like its older brother, the colours on the board and everything else are muted, dull and full of really bland reds, browns and greys. Even the coastal terrain which is meant to look like sand seems like it's situated in Hull - not a beach I want to take my bucket and spade to. All the buildings look generic and are basically Tetris pieces, the artwork on the cards fares a little better, but overall, it really doesn't pop on the table at all, but then again, nor did the other one.

And some of the graphic design choices are baffling. Why is every road tile an 8-lane crossroad? Because everything connects on every corner, the map once built up looks like a really bad toy set from a small child. I've heard of "All Roads Lead To Rome", but this is ridiculous. Some resources look like what they are, for example an anvil represents metal. But some of the other resources I swear are so abstract that you'll forget what they are instantly. The last game I played we constantly got Books mixed up because it doesn't look like it! The whole feel is that you're just pushing around icons to make better icons and the whole theme of the game is detracted from how it appears.


WE NEED MORE CUBES!


The mechanics in Founders of Gloomhaven have clearly being influenced by other games. Turns are based on playing action cards, which can be supplemented with other character cards that have slightly beefier abilities. You don't get them back until you play a "vote" card. It reminds me of Concordia, which if you know me is not a good start, but unlike Concordia, the cards here actually have unique and abilities among the characters for hire, though they are only simply upgraded versions of the previous actions so nothing to get excited about. Each other player gets to follow the action being played, which is directly lifted from Peurto Rico and San Juan, this I've always been a fan of.

The goals of the game can be summed up as a smorgasbord of supply chain logistics (great, something to remind me of Food Chain Magnate. . . .) You start with some basic commodities but can gain access to other players and combine these resources to build buildings that have more advanced resources. Suffice to say other than "X resource leads to Y building", there is absolutely no distinction between any of the resources whatsoever. Later in the game, prestige buildings appear which require a collection of resources which can be supplied by multiple players. You score based on what you supply, but if you acquired a resource from another player, they get some points as well. It's based on a "trickle-down" system, which I swear to god is one of the most fiddly and confusing methods of scoring ever put to print. You can just about understand it from a rules video, god help you if you're using the book.

Despite the card abilities being fairly unimpressive, the card play itself is definitely the best thing in the game. Managing your hand and trying not to call votes too often is an interesting balancing act. There's also a surprising amount of forward planning required for the board itself that encourages you to pay attention to what the other players are doing and seize opportunities to grab another resource or build that structure before they do. It's very thinky and engaging, but it's difficult to tell what ramifications your actions will have in the long run making Founders of Gloomhaven very un-friendly to new players.


EURO BLOAT - MY NEW TERM


So far, some hits and misses, but here's a big kick in the teeth. The real puzzle in Founders of Gloomhaven has nothing to do with the logistics or card play. It's figuring out whether or not you're playing the game correctly in the first place. This is one of the most unintuitive games I've ever partaken in. Tile placement (has to be by a road, but not other buildings), diagonal connections, two different types of voting influence (one of which is worth two and "permanent" except it's consumed when used), confusing resource icons, roads belong to everyone but bridges/gates don't, advisers needing resources to acquire (no sense from a thematic perspective and easily forgotten) ugh, it creates a whole new level of stress and not of the fun kind.

Founders is not a bad game overall despite the issues, but it suffers considerably from Euro Bloat (a phrase I've now devised that was previously known as the Alexander Pfister effect). So many mechanics and restrictions are stuffed into this game that it becomes fiddly as all-get-out and they seem to be in there purely for the sake of saying "look at my complex Euro game". I mean why is there a worker placement aspect here? It's a pointless addition and isn't even that advantageous! Your racial ability will vary on usefulness for a worker to go and the prestige building spots lack any thematic connection or flavour and aren't even that useful in themselves. If it was cut from the game, you wouldn't even notice.

Other examples include restrictions that really aren't required. Advisers for example require you to have access to a specific resource before you can buy them. Ok, first of all, why? What thematic requirement is there for that? Secondly all that does is introduces a heavy dose of luck of the draw on which advisers come out as you only see 4 at a time. Frequently I'll see a player get lucky in that all his resource advisers come out early, yet another will be unable to acquire any other cards without spending a ton of money on expensive Trade actions, which is a massive tempo hit.

It is evident that Founders of Gloomhaven badly requires an editor for the rulebook and could use a healthy dose of streamlining. 



WHY SO MEAN?


You can play Founders of Gloomhaven solo or with 2 - 4 players. The solo mode is a fairly interesting puzzle, but I can think of better solo games I'd rather play rather than deal with the fiddliness again. With 2 - 3 players you suffer from a board that doesn't scale in terms of space and having neutral resources, to which the rules for their use are just as confusing as the rest of them.

So when all said and done, the best way to play Gloomhaven is with the full complement of 4 players. However this brings in its own list of potential issues. Firstly you are going to stuck at the table for a good 3 hours plus and I've seen games surpass even 4 hours with new players on observation. It’s designed to take two hours or less (only slightly longer than it takes to set up and tear down the first game), but in 4 players that is never achieved. You're engaged however for a reasonable chunk of that time given the level of forward planning and hand management required, but really a game of supply chain logistics like this shouldn't be more than a 90 minute game. Sadly because the game grinds to a halt every time a player paralyses on prestige building placement and that "trickle-down" scoring takes forever to follow down the chain, it drags and drags. 

On top of that the cutthroat nature of Founders of Gloomhaven is turned up to 12. Yeah forget 11, we're going past that. Space on the board quickly becomes sparse with all the fiddly restrictions on placement and it is really easy for a player to completely screw over another player to the point of potential pseudo-knockout. Block a player with a building tile, nick their adviser they badly need or grab ownership of an upgraded resource first, this game is just downright mean. I can take a bit of confrontation in games, but not for 3 hours! And if a blockade literally ruins your chance to utilise your resources effectively, you're likely to be out of the running early in the game.




VERDICT ON FOUNDERS OF GLOOMHAVEN


My first impressions were a 6/10, good, but not great. Subsequent plays have been less forgiving as the niggling issues become a source of constant frustration. There's some cool aspects to Founders of Gloomhaven, don't get me wrong, but they are spoiled by an array of grinding gears and fiddliness. The package is stuffed with too many nit picky rulings and lacking any thematic flavour even for those who can understand the first thing about it. As fun as the card play, hand management and voting aspects are, they can only carry it so far when you're basically putting cubes on icons.

The rules are practically begging for an editor to come along and rip them apart, with a book that is a nightmare to get through, requiring the use of online video overviews as a mandatory obligation. Teaching Founders becomes a chore and constantly getting rules wrong with regards to building placement and connections is rage inducing.

Founders of Gloomhaven is a decent supply chain logistics Euro game that is sadly buried under a pile of little problems. A 2nd Edition treatment could work wonders here - heavily streamline the rules, shorten the length, improve the player scaling and improve the aesthetics and this could be a great game. As it stands, I'll play it in a pinch, but there are plenty of lengthy, meaty Euro games that are more thematic, more enjoyable and silky chocolate smooth in comparison for gameplay flow.




PERSONAL RATING - 5




YOU WILL LIKE FOUNDERS OF GLOOMHAVEN IF:


You are a fan of supply chain logistic Euro's - think Food Chain Magnate or similar.


You are heavily immersed in the Gloomhaven lore and aren't fussed that the theme is pasted here.


You enjoy unique card abilities with clever hand management.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE FOUNDERS OF GLOOMHAVEN IF:


You hate direct screwing of players and confrontation in long games.


You're likely to get frustrated with the fiddly rules and difficulty in teaching the game.


You aren't keen on the bland aesthetics.

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Season 2 Episode 32 - Essen Preview

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Essen is literally around the corner! What will I be doing, when will I be on the Dice Tower booth and what games and expansions am I looking forward to?



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Broken Meeple Videos - Reef Review

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In the game Reef, players take on the role of the reef itself, alternating turns in which they carefully select the colors and patterns in which to grow and expand — the more beautiful the reef, the more points they score!
Reef is suited for players aged 8 and up. While it could take thousands of years for a coral reef to grow, a game of Reef should take only 30 minutes.
Reef has the potential to be the best gateway game of 2018..............did it succeed?


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Broken Meeple Videos - Coimbra Review

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Coimbra introduces an innovative new dice mechanism in which the dice players draft each round are used in multiple different ways and have an impact on many aspects of their decision making. While there are many paths to victory, players should always seek to optimize their opportunities with every roll of the dice. Combined with ever-changing synergies of the citizens, expeditions, and monasteries, no two games of Coimbra will ever be the same!

Will the dice and card mechanics be enough to get over the fact that the theme is classic "lazy Euro style"?



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