Tag Archives: 3 players

Gambler x Gamble!

Good bluffing games provide suspense, surprise, buckets of table talk and a little problem solving – pretty much everything great about tabletop games. And bad bluffing games? An impenetrable mystery none of the players can possibly solve.

That gets boring quick.

The secret is providing just enough information and mixed incentives to get the players talking… and no more.

Gambler x Gamble! by Cosaic does just that. It’s also one of those rare titles that stretch from family night to a table of hardcore gamers.

So grab a chair – we’ll deal you in.

Theme

Players must bankrupt a particular casino by winning all 1.5 billion(!) dollars from the bank. To do so, they’ll hire different gamblers to form rival teams, with the player whose team holds the most chips ultimately winning.

By the way, this is where the strange wording of Gambler x Gamble! comes from. As the rulebook puts it:

Gambling with gamblers – the start of a curious bet.

Just don’t look too closely at that premise, or it begins to fall apart. All you really need to know is a bunch of gambling archetypes are descending on Vegas to break the bank (and maybe each other).

The illustrations also have a strong anime flavor, so naturally each character can be flipped to engage ‘Super Mode’ for extra winnings.

Gambler x Gamble! packs a lot of quirk into a small box, and I found myself playing with characters just to see their alter-egos. Who could resist the charm of (a character I’ve taken to calling) Mild-Mannered-Dad-Holding-a-Burger?

Mechanics

Characters in Gambler x Gamble! have three features: the cost a player must pay to hire then; the winning number required for that character to pay off; and how much that pay off earns.

For example: Mild-Mannered-Dad-Holding-a-Burger costs 1 to add to your team, and wins 3 chips when the round’s result is 1. Super Mode simply increases the winnings to 5.

But how do we know which characters pay off?

Every round, each player places a single Luck Card (numbered 0-3) on the table – the first player face up, the rest face down. The first player then gets one last chance to alter the round by paying to skew the final result up or down.

These Luck Cards are added together, determining which characters pay off in the round. It’s a simple system with the added benefit of sharing the focus point – as the start player changes, everyone takes a turn being center of negotiations.

Players use winnings to add more gamblers to their teams, eventually breaking the casino by winning all the chips.

There are a few extra wrinkles – one particularly expensive gambler with a payoff that instantly wins the game, and a catch up mechanism that penalizes the lead player if no characters pay off in a round – but that’s pretty much it.

Gambler x Gamble! is a solid design that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

I can’t guarantee it isn’t ‘solvable’ in some mathematical sense, but really you’re playing with the wrong attitude if you reach for a calculator…

Components

Gambler x Gamble! is a modest game – a deck of cards, a bag of plastic chips, a well-translated rules sheet.

The character cards are undeniably cool. The stock is fine, and the graphic design spacious enough to allow English and Japanese characters without too much crowding.

Unfortunately, all the other cards (First Player, Luck, the ‘Fumble Stock’) are generic, while the chips… I’m sad just thinking about the chips.

They should be poker chips. Maybe miniature poker chips for the sake of size – but definitely poker chips!

Instead they’re thin, generic plastic counters from any number of children’s toy boxes. Obviously there are cost implications, but it’s hard to feel like a big-shot casino shark without real poker chips on the table.

But I have a solution. For an instant upgrade, just crack open the dusty poker set you haven’t used for 18 months, and put those components to use! Now you’ve got a game worthy of 1.5 billion dollars…

What do others think?

Gambler x Gamble! hasn’t gotten a lot of traction internationally, and there are only a handful of  comments (not full reviews) on BoardGameGeek. However, the feedback is generally positive:

Very unique bluffing game.

miriku

Surprisingly good bluffing game for 3-4 players.

Cartmenkid23

This is a marvelous little gem and I’m glad I imported it… If possible, use real, chunky poker chips – for me, they make a big difference in the game experience.

matthulgan

Conclusion

The best games are those that actually get played.

In my house, I know Gambler x Gamble! will be played. In different contexts, with different people, accompanied by different beverages, I can see this coming out for a long time to come.

Take a look if you’re in the market for something social that won’t put your brain to sleep.

4.5 lucky dice out of 5.

Number of Players: 3-4

Playing time: 15-30 min.

Age: 10+

Country: Japan

By: Cosaic

Price: 19.99€ at NiceGameShop

King’s Pouch

I was a little hesitant to pick up Korea Boardgames’ King’s Pouch after last week’s review of Burano.

They’re both fairly weighty worker placement games, and I was worried about covering similar terrain. Do we really need more talk about pushing cubes?

However, King’s Pouch really is quite a different machine – and not just the bag building.

Wait, what’s bag building?

To answer that, we need to travel back to 2014. Dominion was a smashing success, deck building was beginning to show its age, and publishers were looking for the next big variation.

This is the best way to understand King’s Pouch, and why it became so overlooked.

Theme

After the king’s death, our realm has fractured into competing fiefdoms, each ruled by a would-be successor. Like you!

From the rulebook:

You will use your citizens to develop your lands, muster armies and amass wealth. You may even try to secure the goodwill of influential public figures, like the remainders of the royal family.

But never forget to keep the dishonest parts of your society in check: Excessive corruption may lead to your downfall sooner than you think.

It’s stock-standard medieval material: knights, taverns, lots of concern for wheat crops.

However, there’s also an emphasis on corruption, represented by good-for-nothing, layabout officials who stink up your kingdom with their greed. Corrupt officials are lazy so can’t be placed anywhere useful – a big problem in a worker placement game.

I love ordering the city watch (manned by my finest red soldier cubes) to throw them out!

City construction is also satisfying, with a little tableau reflecting each player’s strive for commercial, religious, or military might.

There’s a real sense of accomplishment in placing the Festival Plaza or sending your armies to (extremely abstract) victory. Unfortunately, almost all of this theme is conveyed mechanically.

You’re hiring workers, training them, setting them to work in various businesses – everything makes sense. But the artwork places that action in a generic medieval Europa.

With a little more effort, King’s Pouch could have been its own place in the world.

Mechanics

 So, what’s a bag builder? It’s deck building with a bag.

At the beginning of their turn, players draws five colored workers from their own pouch. These could be generic common citizens, soldiers, merchants or clerics – or despised corrupt officials.

Workers are placed on constructed buildings to generate resources (such as money or military strength), alter workers (such as upgrading common citizens to merchants) and trigger various unique abilities.

For example, the School building requires a cleric to activate, at which point it generates 5 victory points and converts a common citizen into a specialist. Makes sense, right?

Players generally construct a building each turn, and can also use military strength to conquer and re-conquer land representing the wider kingdom.

All drawn workers are set aside and replaced with new workers at the end of the turn. If there aren’t enough in the bag, old workers are returned and randomly re-drawn.

Like I said, deck building with a bag!

For newer players, there can be a strong ‘multiplayer solitaire’ vibe, but over time the strategies and interactions become clearer. The military struggle is particularly tense with two players, and adds some nice take-that to the mix.

Components

King’s Pouch runs with the noble Euro tradition of wooden blocks.

Interestingly, specialist workers are cubes, while common citizens and corrupt officials are hexagonal prisms. This means they can be identified (with a little work) when players are pulling from the bag – allowing for some control and strategy in the draw.

This isn’t something I grok as a design choice, but many players enjoy the mini game, and it certainly leverages the bag building mechanic.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot to say about the components. The graphic design is functional but a little generic, and small cards reduce the overall visual impact on the table.

So King’s Pouch is all about the gameplay. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity.

What do others think?

King’s Pouch  had a fair-to-positive response, and is rated 6.8 on BoardGameGeek.

However, the game was unlucky enough to be released at the same time as the more thematic Hyperborea and Orléans, which dimmed its appeal.

Three completely different games all meshed together to create one experience that just flows really smoothly, really quickly – very quickly.

Rahdo Runs Through

 

There’s a lot of interesting things. It just doesn’t gel together as well as I’d like it to.

Tom Vasel

 

King’s Pouch has some clever ideas and everything just feels well thought out. Well, nearly everything…

Alex Singh

Conclusion

King’s Pouch draws a lot of different elements into a cohesive whole, while building on the (then) novel mechanic of bag building.

Everything flows incredibly smoothly – the listed play time really is much quicker for experienced players – and even when you’re being completely thumped you can see how to do better next time.

If you can look past the vanilla theme, King’s Pouch is definitely a game that deserves more attention.

4 grand banquets out of 5.

Number of Players: 2-4

Playing time: 60 mins

Age: 10+

Country: Korea

By: Korea Boardgames

Price: 24.99€ at NiceGameShop

Burano

After reviewing a few lighter games, I thought it was time for something weightier.

Designed by Yu Chen Tseng and Eros Lin, and released by Taiwan’s EmperorS4 Technology, Burano is that weighty game in every sense.

At 2.3 kilograms, the box includes:

  • 1 rules book
  • 1 action board
  • 48 roof tiles
  • 1 main island board
  • 18 dock houses
  • 4 season markers
  • 120 cube houses
  • 12 lace workshops
  • 6 action color markers
  • 1 round marker
  • 4 merchant ships
  • 33 coins
  • 48 fish cards
  • 16 building cards
  • 4 player boards
  • 16 schedule ring pieces
  • 52 worker tokens
  • 1 starting player marker
  • 4 time wheels
  • 4 fishing boat tokens

So heat up that pizza and pour yourself a tiny cup of strong coffee. We’re going to Italy!

Theme

Burano is a ‘colored island of lace‘ in the Venetian Lagoon.

During the Middle Ages, the city’s men spent long seasons fishing on the outer islands while their wives skillfully repaired nets at home. Those expert fingers turned to making lace, which became famous across Europe.

From the rules:

Making a good living and making Burano become world famous, you have to figure out how to organize family members to their suitable work. It depends on you to earn the glory for your family and lead them to be outstanding from other families.

So the menfolk head to the fish traders and outer islands, while the womenfolk work at the lace factory (with pleasingly higher incomes if they form a union).

In carrying out these actions, the players collectively construct a multicolored and multilevel display of wealth – the city of Burano.

Mechanics

As the above suggests, Burano is a Euro-style worker placement game.

Actions are somewhat-programmed at the beginning of each round using an innovative if slightly baffling ‘cube pyramid’ system. Every turn, only exterior blocks from each player’s pyramid of colored cubes can be added to the city board and thereby trigger events.

This is a difficult moment for those prone to analysis paralysis, so the rules suggest a 60-second timer.

Surrounding this central mechanic is a series of interlocking subsystems, each presenting its own problems and rewards without overshadowing the other parts. The puzzle is constantly in flux: sometimes you’ll need resources, other times area control or even set collection.

Workers are sent from and return to each player’s schedule ring, which rotate throughout the game, constantly shifting the tactical equations being made – sometimes significantly.

Despite a few random elements that could upset the best-laid plans, my hunch is the better player usually wins.

Burano is a hearty meal for serious gamers.

Components

Pictures on a screen don’t reveal just how vibrant Burano looks on the table. With bright colors and acres of cardboard, this is a beautifully welcoming game.

Part of that appeal stems from the 3D elements.

Each player’s cube pyramid is a small monument to their tidiness (or lack thereof, in my case) while the city of Burano rises into the sprawling chaos you’d expect from city planning during the Middle Ages.

Be warned: all that chrome adds to Burano’s set-up and pack time, particularly during the first play. But if popping cardboard is your thing –  which it probably is – opening that box is a joy.

And if the gender stuff seems weird, there’s no mechanical reason you can’t send the women fishing, while the man make lace. They’re literally two sides of the same token.

Same-same!

What do others think?

Burano is rated 6.9 on BoardGameGeek, with positive reviews highlighting the depth behind that colorful facade.

Just a lot of neat things here, and it just feels so meaty and enjoyable. And it’s not meaty for the sake of being meaty – it actually seems to all fit together in a very cohesive whole.

Tom Vasel

 

Burano is a deceptive game; it looks like a happy, colorful, family-friendly romp through a Venetian vacation. It is not. It is a heavy game of clever planning and tactical maneuvering.

Milena Guberinic

 

I loved this game. It was stylish, compelling and engaging in turns.

Angelus Morningstar

Conclusion

Burano is that strange beast – the beautiful Euro.

Don’t be fooled by the bright facade. This is a deep game and it can take a few plays to really understand the strategies.

The raw mechanics, however, are relatively easy to understand, and new players will be up and fishing with a minimum of head-scratching and confusion. For this reason alone I can definitely recommend a ticket to Burano.

4.5 yards of lace out of 5.

Number of players: 2-4

Playing time: 90-120 mins

Age: 12+

Country: Taiwan

By: EmperorS4 Technology

Price: 59.99€ at NiceGameShop

Birdie Fight

A lot of games make their way through the Sweet Lemon office; unfortunately, we can’t try them all.

However, the moment I saw Birdie Fight’s exquisite box art, I knew it had to be one of those lucky games we cracked open.

While the mechanics spring from designer ゆお (Yuo), the immediate star is illustrator ことり寧子 (Kotori Neiko). The pair have worked together on other projects and I’m a big fan of the results.

But is it more than just a charming theme?

That may depend on your tendency to analysis paralysis…

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Theme

Strap yourself in because this gets (moderately) quirky.

There is a place called “mysterious forest” in the depths of the mountain. This is a paradise for small birds. But these small birds don’t get along well!

The players are forest spirits secretly guiding their favored species to victory in the battle of the birds. Also: there’s an owl.

Okay, so there’s not much of a backstory, and this is essentially an abstract game – but the illustrations do carry a charming sense of place.

Because favored species are secret, motivations can seem mysterious and indirect as players delicately nudge the forest in different directions.

If this seems superficial or light… don’t be fooled.

Mechanics

Birds of the mysterious forest come in four species: blue, white, red and green. They’re also ranked in strength from 1-7, making a total of 28 cards.

Ten scoring chips of various values are randomly distributed to form the top and side of an invisible 5X5 grid. These chips represent spoils of war for the bird species that control those columns and rows at the end of the game.

Each turn, players select a card from their hand and play it to the grid. The only exception is the vicious owl, which attacks and replaces a previous card, permanently altering the grid.

The overall visual effect is something like Sudoku, only far prettier.

Play continues until the hands have dwindled to a single card. This final bird determines which species each player scores, revealing and crystallizing motivations for the first time.

Points are carried into the second round, when a final winner is declared.

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Components

28 dainty little birds, each unique and each awash with loving detail, plus the coolest looking owl this side of Twin Peaks?

Yes sir, Birdie Fight sure is beautiful, but there’s a caveat.

Those point chips are horrible: faded colors, bubbled plastic wrap, and random industrial markings stretched across the flip sides.

Okay, they’re literally home made, and such quirks are common for indie games in Japan, but it’s such a shame when everything else is so polished. I mean, the strength values even subtly illustrate life cycles from youth to adulthood and nesting!

It doesn’t ruin the game by any means, but if you have anything else around the house to replace those chips, you’ll want to do it.

What do others think?

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothin’.

I haven’t found a single English-language review.

Leave a comment below if you’ve tracked down something elsewhere, otherwise I’ll check periodically to add to this section.

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Conclusion

Let’s be clear: this is a very well designed game.

Birdie Fight takes about a minute to explain and 20 minutes to play. However, a lot of intricacy emerges from these simple rules.

Competitive players will quickly find their brains burning up, while for more casual players it’s a… more casual experience.

This makes Bird Fight a classic couple’s game. The cooperative mode in particular begs for repeated play over the coffee table, rules long-since internalized to the point you barely mention the game itself.

But – every now and then – that high score increases a little.

If only those chips were better!

3.5 red breasted robins out of 5.

Number of players: 1-4

Playing time: 20 mins

Age: 8+

Country: Japan

By: Kocchiya

Price: 24.99€ at NiceGameShop