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I haven't done a designer series in a while.  Vlaada Chvátil and Martin Wallace have had theirs, so let's look at another designer who has made quite an impact on the market: Michael Schacht.

(BGG image by user EYE of NiGHT)

Michael Schacht is a German designer who has made a career of designing very streamlined, family-friendly games that offer lots of strategic choices that engage gamers.  His first game, Taxi, was published in 1992 by the German magazine Spielerei.  It wasn't terribly complex - roll your dice, move your taxi, collect money.  His first big hit, Web of Power, came out in 2000.  (Usually, I would cover this here, but I have plans for the system in a later series, so I won't this time.)  Over the next few years, he gained more and more credibility as a designer, and in 2003, he came out with Coloretto, the basis for the 2007 Spiel des Jahres winning Zooloretto.  2003 also saw the release of the game I'll be talking about here, Richelieu.

(BGG image by user spellen)

Richelieu was designed by Reiner Knizia (been a while since I pulled that joke out), and was published by Ravensburger.  Art was done by Oliver Freudenreich.  The game is for 2 players, though you can play it on with up to 4.  The game is set in 17th century France, and revolves around the struggle between Queen Maria and Cardinal Richelieu for influence in the country.  The theme is absolutely paper-thin as this is a simple card game about trying to earn the most points.

(BGG image by user Silke_und_Andre)

The game comes with 48 cards, each marked in one of 9 different colors.  Each card is marked with a shield that represents its region, as well as a number that tells how many shields there are total for the region.  There also may be a symbol that can get you extra points.  There are also 6 square property markers and 14 discs.  And that's it.

At the start of the game, you'll deal all 48 cards face up into 4 rows.  You'll mix the 14 discs and take 8 of them, placing them on certain cards (the second card from either end on the top tow; the third card from either end on the second row; the fourth card from either end on the third row; and the fourth card from either end on the bottom row).  One player assumes the role of Richelieu, while the other is Maria.  You each get three square markers, and are ready to play.

(BGG image by user -mIDE-)

The younger player goes first.  On your turn, you take a card.  The card you take must be from either end of any row.  You must take at least one card, but you can take up to two cards.  If you take two, they must be the same color and each one can only have one shield.  After taking cards, you may place one of your property markers on any of the cards.  This marker gives some measure of protection to the card.  If an opponent takes a card with your marker on it, they must return the marker to you and discard one of their own markers from the game.  When placing a marker, you can move it off of one card and onto another.

If you take a card with a disc, you may look at the disc.  Keep it secret, however - it's worth points at the end of the game.

(BGG image by BGG user PhotonStorm)

Once all cards have been taken, the game is over and you add up your points.  First, you'll count your shields.  Each card is marked with a different region, and you'll score each in this order: Bourgogne, Bretagne, Champagne, Normandie, Languedoc, Provence, Anjou, Bourbon, and Auvergne.  Count the number of shields you have for each and compare with your opponent.  The player with the most shields scores that many points while the other gets nothing.  If there's a tie, neither player gets points.  Discs that show shields count as an extra shield for that region when counting.  For each region where you have no cards, you must deduct five points.

After counting shields, count symbols.  These are the sword, the cross, and the tower.  These are scored the same way - you must have more of the symbol than your opponent to score.  Discs with the symbol again count as an extra symbol.  Whoever has the most points wins.  If there's a tie, the player with the lower number of cards wins.

And that is it.  Read more at BGG.  The game is out of print, though there's one in the BGG marketplace for $27.  You could also go give the game a try at  More Michael Schacht coming soon...can't promise win, but I will get there.  Happy gaming!

177. Economic Series - Imperial

 World finances are a big deal these days, so let's close out the economic series with a game about that very subject - Imperial.

(BGG image by BGG user Sinister Dexter)

Imperial came out in 2006, designed by Mac Gerdts with art by Matthias Catrein.  It's a game for 2-6 players that is published in the US by Rio Grande.  The setting is Europe in the age of imperialism.  You are an investor that is trying to gain the highest amount of political influence on the continent through the control of European Empires - Great Britain, the German Reich, the Russian Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Italy, or the Republic of France.  One of the hallmarks of games designed by Gerdts is the use of a rondel for action selection.  The mechanic eliminates luck from the game while still providing a variation in possible plays.  Imperial was his second game, following Antike (one of the first games I covered on this blog).

(BGG image by user Zopper-Alf)

in the game, you get a board that shows Europe, a tax chart, a counting chart to track national power, treasury spaces, and the rondel.  There are 48 army pieces in the shape of cannons, and 48 ship pieces.  These are in the six colors - green, yellow, red, blue, black, and purple.  There's not an even number in all of the colors - red has 6 armies and 10 ships, while yellow has 10 armies and 6 ships.  All other colors are split 8/8.  Other colored pieces include 60 tax chips; 18 cylinders to mark rondel, tax chart, and counting chart; 48 bond cards; and 6 flags.  There are 15 brown factories (armaments) and 15 light blue factories (shipyards).  There's also a turn marker, an investor card, and paper money (sigh) in denominations of 1 million, 2 million, 5 million, and 10 million (to be referred to with dollar signs and without the million from here on).

(BGG image by user newrev)

The cylinders for each nation get placed on the board - one in the center of the rondel (upper left corner), one on the tax chart (upper right side), and one on the counting chart (bottom of the board).  Each nation starts with two factories on cities marked with a square.  The type of factory is indicated by the color of the square.  The bonds are organized by nation, sorted in ascending order (with the lowest valued bond on top), and placed in a pile next to the corresponding treasury spaces.

Each player now gets money, flag(s), and bonds.  This distribution will depend on the number of players:

  • With 4-6 players, each player starts with $13.  The flags are shuffled, and one is dealt to each player.  With 4-5 players, this means that not every flag will initially be distributed.  In those cases, the flags will be kept in the bank until someone acquires the $4 bond for that nation.
  • With 3 players, each player starts with $26.  Austria-Hungary, Italy, and France are distributed randomly to each player, with Great Britain also going to the Austria-Hungary player, Russia to Italy, and Germany to France (which seems backwards...but never mind).
  • With 2 players, each player starts with $39.  Austria-Hungary and Italy are randomly distributed to each player, with Great Britain and Russia going to Italy, and Germany and France to Austria-Hungary.

It is important to note that each player has a personal supply of cash, but that each nation will have its own treasury.  National treasuries are public information, white private cash supplies can be kept secret.  National treasuries can be beefed up at any time by any player paying out of their own pocket.

The investor card goes to the player seated to the left of Austria-Hungary (or Italy if there's no Austria-Hungary).

(BGG image by user olaha)

Play works like this: beginning with Austria-Hungary and working clockwise around the treasury spaces (Austria-Hungary, then Italy, then France, then Great Britain, then the German Empire, then the Russian Empire), each nation will choose an action on the rondel.  The player who has the highest credit for the nation (the sum of all held bonds, or, at the start of the game, the player who controls the flag for that country) chooses the action.  There are six available actions, and you can initially place a piece on any space of the rondel.  In subsequent turns, a piece may move up to three spaces clockwise for free.  You can also pay an additional $2 per space to move up to three more spaces.  So, if you're on Import, you could move up to taxation for free.  If you want to move to factory, you'd need to pay $2.  Let's look at what each action means:

(BGG image by user jack208)

FACTORY: With this, you can build one new factory.  By paying $5 to the bank (from the national treasury), you can build a factory in the appropriate nation's city.  Armament factories can only be built in cities marked with brown, while shipyard factories can only be built in cities marked with light blue.  Only one factory can go in a city, and you can't build a factory in a city that contains a foreign army.

PRODUCTION: The nation produces armies at armaments factories and fleets from their shipyards.  Only one unit can be produced at a factory.  The factory must be in a home city of the nation, and no hostile armies can be present for production to occur.  Foreign armies cannot use factories in other national areas to produce units.  When ships are produced, they remain in the harbor - they have to be moved into the sea spaces.

IMPORT: The nation can buy up to three units at $1 apiece.  Armies may be placed in any home province that contains no hostile armies.  Ships can only be placed in provinces that contain light blue seaports.

(BGG image by user Legomancer)

MANEUVER: There are three steps to this phase - move fleets, move armies, place tax chips.  These steps are done in order.  First, you move fleets.  Each ship may move one adjacent space, and spaces are separated by blue lines on the board.  Ships in the harbor after production move into the sea space adjacent to the harbor.  If a fleet moves into a sea region where foreign ships are present, a battle occurs if at least one side wants it.  Battles are resolved 1:1 - one ship from each side gets removed from the board.  The invading player can decide which units are matched.

After moving ships, you can move land units.  Each army may move to an adjacent land region (except Switzerland, which is completely neutral).  You can also move armies by sea, moving them across ships to a land region.  You can actually jump from ship to ship in sea spaces and cross several spaces at once, as long as you end on a land space.  The big restriction is that each ship can only be used once during a turn for this move.  Armies can also move via rail.  What this means is that you can move freely within your nation before or after taking your maneuver action.  However, if there is a hostile army within your borders, you can't use the rail.  Battles are resolved just like with fleets.  Armies and fleets can only battle each other if the ships are in their harbor.  Factories can be destroyed by 3 hostile armies if no defending armies are in the province (factories and armies get removed from the board).  You can't destroy a factory if it's the only factory they have left that has not been occupied by hostile armies.

I mentioned this concept of a hostile army.  When you enter someone else's nation, you have to decide whether you're hostile or friendly.  If you're hostile, you will block production, imports, building factories, and taxation for that region.  If you're friendly, there's no constraints.  Friendly armies are laid on their sides; hostile armies remain standing.

The last step is to place a tax chip in newly occupied land or sea regions that don't contain foreign units.  Home provinces don't get tax chips.  This chip remains until the region is occupied exclusively by another nation, at which point it is replaced.  If you're out of tax chips, you can't get any more tax regions; you still remove other tax chips.

INVESTOR: The investor phase happens every single time the investor space is PASSED on the rondel.  So, if you move from Maneuver to Import, you'll still perform this phase.  However, of the three steps involved, only the second and third steps will be performed in that instance.  The first step is only for people who land directly on the space.

So, that first step is paying out interest.  Each player get interest based on their bonds, paid out from the nation's treasury.  If the treasury does not have enough money, you have to forfeit some or all of your share and pay other players out of your personal cash.

Step two is activating the investor.  The player who holds the investor card receives $2 and may invest in any nation.  They do this by paying to the nation's treasury and taking a bond.  You can either buy a new bond, or increase a current bond by paying the difference, returning your old bond, and taking a new one.

Step three is investing without a flag.  If a player finds themselves not in control of a government, they may invest in one nation.  The only difference between this and step two is that you don't get $2.  You also can't do a double investment if you hold the investor card and control no governments.

After these three steps, check to see if any governments have changed hands.  If you now have the highest sum of bonds in a nation, you may take the nation's flag.  This means that it is possible that you will find yourself controlling no nations and just watching for a while, waiting to swoop in and steal someone else's country.  At the end of the phase, the investor card passes to the left.

TAXATION: Three steps in this phase.  First, tax revenue and success bonus.  Unoccupied factories are worth $2, each tax chip is worth $1.  Add them up for your nation, and adjust the tax chart.  If the total increases, you get $1 per space.  If it stays constant or decreases, you get no money, but also don't have to pay.

Next, collect money.  Subtract one million from the tax revenue for each army or fleet the nation has.  The bank then pays the remainder to the national treasury.  Finally, gain power points according to the taxation chart.

(BGG image by user Gonzaga)

The game continues until one nation has reached 25 power points.  These points are scored when a nation builds a factory, places a tax chip, or ends a turn with taxation.  You'll calculate your final score by multiplying the interest on each bond by the number based on the final position of that nation on the the counting bar.  You'll then add your cash on hand, getting one point per dollar.  The player with the most points wins the game.

And that's Imperial.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $60 in an FLGS.  This ends our economic series, and I'll be starting the next one soon.  Happy gaming!

176. Economic Series - Vegas Showdown

So you've got all this money lying around.  What are you going to do with it?  Why, go to Vegas of course!  That's not exactly the theme of today's game, but it's a good tie-in with the economic series as we talk about Vegas Showdown.

(BGG image by user David Greene)

Vegas Showdown was first published in 2005, and was designed by Henry Stern.  Art was done by David Hudnut, Scott Okumura, and Peter Whitley.  The game was published by Avalon Hill, and is for 3-5 players.  Your goal in the game: build the most famous hotel/casino in all of Vegas.  Throughout the game, you'll be bidding on various rooms and gambling equipment to try and increase your income, population, and fame.

(BGG image by user laiernie)

The game comes with a board that will serve as a base for auctions and keeping score.  There are 5 Hotel/Casino sheets, one for each player to track what they have.  Improvements are represented by 17 large tiles, 20 medium tiles, and 26 small tiles.  Other bits include 33 event cards, 5 population markers, 5 revenue markers, 5 fame markers, 5 bid markers, 4 minimum bid markers, 6 no bid markers, one turn order button, and 80 money chips.  There are also two building requisite charts (cheat sheets).

(BGG image by user kingofthegrill)

Each player begins with a color, taking the corresponding hotel/casino sheet, population marker, revenue marker, fame marker, and bid marker.  Your population marker begins on 8 on the corresponding track of your HC sheet.  Revenue begins at 5.  Fame begins at zero on the track around the board.  You also begin with $20 in chips.

Separate the restaurant, slots, and lounge tiles and place them in their corresponding spaces on the board (remove three of each type if you only have three players).  The remaining tiles are known as premier tiles, and are further marked with A or B.  You'll shuffle the A and B stacks separately for each size, then put the As on top of the Bs, and put these stacks facedown next to the board.  The top tile of each stack should be flipped and placed on the empty spaces of the board not marked "4-5 players only".  Put a minimum bid marker on the track, covering the number indicated by each tile.  Choose a start player and give them the Turn Order Button.

(BGG images by users David Greene and DancerInDC)

Each turn has six phases: drop prices, flip new tiles, collect income, choose actions, adjust fame-revenue-population, pass the turn order button.  All players will be participating in each turn.

DROP PRICES: This phase is skipped during the first turn of the game.  Move the minimum bid marker for each premier tile still on the board down one space.  Note that this is not necessarily the next lower number.  The bottom row for each space is outlined by circles - this is the track you'll be moving the marker down.

(BGG image by user ronster0)

FLIP NEW TILES: The space marked "4-5 players only" will be left empty for the entire game if you are playing with 3.  Otherwise, you'll fill each empty premier space.  To do this, draw an event card.  Follow the instructions on this card, placing a no bid marker on any items that cannot be bid on (if that instruction is present).  Look at the symbol in the center of the card to determine which tile should be placed in the premier space.  A small square means a small tile; a rectangle means a medium tile; a large square means a large tile.  In the example above, you need a small tile.  Flip the top tile from the stack and place it on the board.  You'll repeat this process for every empty space.  If you don't have enough tiles to refill a space, the game is over.

COLLECT INCOME: Each player gets money chips based on the lesser of your revenue and population numbers ($5 to start).  Green chips are worth $25, red chips are $5, and white chips are $1.  Money is public knowledge.

(BGG image by user dan4th)

CHOOSE ACTIONS: Each player will now, in player order, choose one action.  You have three choices:

  1. Bid on tiles - To bid, simply place your bid marker on the space that shows the amount you want to pay for that tile.  Your bid must be equal to or higher than the minimum bid if there are no other bids on the space.  If there are other bids, you must bid higher than them.  You can't bid more than the cash you have on hand.  If you are outbid, you wait until your turn comes up again in turn order, then you remove your bid marker and choose an action.  You can rebid, or you can choose one of the other actions.  There are two bid tracks for slots, meaning that two bids can be happening concurrently.
    • Once bidding ends, you pay for the tile you won and place it on your HC sheet.  You can also set it to the side for later placement if you wish.  You may not place a premier tile if the prerequisites (from the building prerequisite chart) are not already on your sheet.  Also, you must be able to trace an uninterrupted path from your entrance through all tiles without passing through walls.  Yellow tiles are casino tiles and must be connected to your casino entrance; blue tiles are hotel tiles and must be connected to your hotel entrance.  Green tiles can connect to either entrance.
  2. Renovate - To take this action, place your bid marker on the renovate space of the game board.  You can then remove 0-2 tiles from your HC sheet, and then can place 0-2 tiles from off of your sheet.  These don't have to be the same number.  Any number of players can take this action in a given turn.
  3. Publicity - Put your bid marker on the publicity space of the game board.  Immediately gain one fame point and place one tile from off your HC sheet.  Remember that you must have prerequisite tiles before placing.

Actions cannot be changed once chosen (unless you were outbid).

ADJUST FAME, REVENUE, AND POPULATION: When taking the renovate action or otherwise placing a tile, you'll have to adjust your markers.  Each tile provides bonuses to fame, revenue, and/or population.  So, when you place or remove a tile, adjust the appropriate markers accordingly.  After all adjustments have been made, players take their bid markers back.

PASS THE TURN ORDER BUTTON: To the left.  Any no-bid markers for the turn are removed.

(BGG image by BGG user txgameshowfan - chips shown are not included with the game)

The game ends immediately when a player fills their sheet completely, or when no tiles can be drawn to fill a premier space.  You then do a final scoring - 5 fame for filling the yellow section of your HC sheet with yellow and/or green tiles; 5 fame for filling your blue section with blue and/or green tiles; 3 fame for being able to trace an uninterrupted path from your casino entrance to your hotel entrance.  You also receive 5 fame for having the highest population and another 5 for having the highest revenue (3 for second place, 1 for third).  You get 1 fame for each full $10 in cash at the end of the game.  Also, some of the tiles have red triangles on them.  You get three points for each full diamond you make with these on your board, and one point for each 3/4 diamond.

The player with the most points wins.  If there's a tie, the player with the most cash left (after turning in what they used to make points) wins.  If it's still a tie, it ends in a tie.  And there's the game.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay around $45 if you can find it in an FLGS.  One more economic game to go...happy gaming!

175. Economic Series - Tulipmania 1637

 It's tax weekend, and that means it's time for an economic series.  A lot of games deal with money issues since it's one of those parts of the human experience that concerns us all.  We may not like dealing with it (I know I don't), but it's there.  The games I'm going to cover in this series are all about some form of economics, and we'll start with Tulipmania 1637.

(BGG image by user DavidNorman99)

Tulipmania 1637 is a game from 2009 for 3-5 players that was designed by Scott Nicholson, game reviewer and academic extraordinaire.  It was published by JKLM.  The theme is pretty unique - it's all about the Dutch tulip market of the 17th century.  More specifically, it's about the first bubble market, where you buy items at high prices based on their projected resale value.  The whole game is about economics, and about knowing when to buy and when to jack up the prices for everyone else.

(BGG image by user mimi2)

This game comes with a board that shows the market track. There are 55 wooden tulips included in the game, 11 each in 5 different colors.  There are 40 action and 25 buyer cards.  There's paper money (sigh) which are valued at 25, 100, 500, and 1000 Florins (abbreviated as ƒ).  In addition, there's a current player card and a priority action card.

(BGG image by users mimi2 and thepackrat)

The game is for 3-5 players, with modifications made for 3 and 4 players.  With 4 players, you'll take out all the red buyer cards, tulips, and one tulip of each of the other colors.  These will not be used.  With 3 players, you'll also remove the blue buyer cards, tulips, and one more tulip from each of the remaining three colors.  For all players, each person will begin with one tulip of each color.  Another tulip of each color is placed on the ƒ50 space of the board (the second space on the bottom row).  Each player begins with ƒ700 - 8 ƒ25 notes and 5 ƒ100 notes.  They also get a set of action cards.  This includes one speculate card (labeled with a 4), one speculate by proxy (3), one purchase (2), and purchase by proxy (1), and one pass.  Three buyer cards are dealt to each player.  With the remaining cards, you'll form a buyer deck and a reserve deck: with three players, there will be 11 cards in the buyer deck and 4 in the reserve; with four players, there will be 14 in the buyer deck and 6 in the reserve; with five players, there will be 18 in the buyer deck and 7 in the reserve.  In all cases, the top two cards of the buyer deck are flipped face up.

The player who last planted a tulip gets the current player card.  The priority action card is given to the player on his right.  You're ready to go.

(BGG images by user thepackrat)

When you have the current player card, it is your turn.  You have four things to do: sell a tulip, draw a new buyer card, purchase a tulip, pass the current player card.

Sell a tulip - You have to do this is you have more than one tulip.  If you only have one, you can choose to skip this step.  To sell, you simply choose one of your tulips and offer it to the other players.  They then choose one of their action cards and reveal simultaneously.  If all players choose to pass, the current player also plays an action card (not speculate or purchase).  The player who has played the highest numbered card wins.  Ties are broken by the player with the priority action card.  If that player is not involved, the winner is the first player counter-clockwise from the priority action card.

If you win, you have a specific action to take (it's easier if I talk about them out of order):

  • 2 - Purchase: For this action, you are buying the tulip for yourself.  You pay the active player the current price of the tulip, indicated by the white space where that color tulip currently sits.  You get the tulip from the seller, and then you advance that color tulip to the next space, following the green arrows on the board.  If a tulip is at the end of a row, you simply move it to the first space of the next row.
  • 1 - Purchase by proxy: For this action, you are recommending the product to one of your buyers.  Discard one buyer card that is the same color as the tulip up for bid.  The tulip is then placed back in the stockpile, and the current player receives money from the bank equal to the current price.  The tulip is advanced as before.
  • 4 - Speculate: For this action, you are buying a tulip based on its future price.  Before you pay, you push the tulip up to the gray space immediately above its current position.  This is called the transition space.  You pay this price to the current player, then push the tulip up to the next white space.  This is a good way to make the price go up really quickly.
  • 3 - Speculate by proxy: Here, you are recommending speculation to a buyer, making the price go up without paying for it yourself.  Discard two buyer cards of the appropriate color and discard the tulip for sale.  The current player receives the transition price from the bank, and the tulip is advanced as before.
  • Pass: If all players pass, the price of the tulip will fall.  The tulip for sale is discarded, and the corresponding tulip is pushed down to the gray space below it.  The bank pays this transition price to the current player, and the tulip is pushed down to the next white space.

If the winner of the sale held the priority action card, it is passed to the right.  The action card you played is returned to your hand.

If the price of the tulip has reached ƒ3000 or above (the top row), the bubble for that color bursts.  If this happens due to a Speculate or Speculate by Proxy play, all players (except the one who played the card) discard one buyer card of that color if they have one (this represents one buyer bowing out).  You now have to sell off your tulips as quickly as possible.  This process happens as follows:

  • If you have a tulip and a buyer of the burst color, discard them and receive the current price of the tulip.  This is not limited to one player - everyone who can do this will get the full price.
  • Push the burst tulip down to the next space (grey or white).
  • Repeat until no one has a matching buyer card and tulip.
  • Once all matching buyer cards are gone, each player may sell one remaining tulip for the current price.
  • After each sale, push the burst tulip price down.
  • Continue until all tulips have been sold.

Once all sales have been completed, discard the burst tulip from the game.  You won't need it anymore.  If any players still have buyer cards of that color, they are discarded as well.  Face-up buyer cards that match the color are replaced with cards from the reserve deck.

DRAW A NEW BUYER CARD: After selling a tulip, draw a new card.  Take one of the face up cards (replacing it with the top card from the buyer deck), or the top card from the buyer deck.  If there are no more cards in the buyer deck, it is considered to be exhausted, and this phase will be skipped for the rest of the game.  This will always happen after every player has had three turns.
PURCHASE A TULIP: Pick a tulip in the stockpile that is a different color from the one you just sold, and buy it, paying the current price and advancing the marker on the track along the green arrows.  You don't have to do this, and it may be that you can't do it legally.  You can cause the bubble to burst here as well.

PASS THE CURRENT PLAYER CARD: The current player card is passed to the left.  If the priority action card and current player card are now held by the same player, pass the priority action card to the right.

(BGG image by user snicholson)

The game is over when there is only one tulip left on the board.  The final tulip color bursts, and payouts occur as described above.  The winner is the player who ends with the most money.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $25 if you can find the game anywhere.  JKLM's own bubble market has burst since the game's publication, so the future of the game is kind of up in the air.  At any rate, there's another economic game coming soon from this blog!  Happy gaming!
 ***I've just about had it.  If LiveJournal loses ONE MORE DRAFT, I'm switching over to WordPress.  I might go ahead and do it anyway if I can figure out how.  Now, on with take two of this post.***

Reiner Knizia has been the single most prolific game designer in the hobby market.  While a lot of his games are accused of being very mechanical with only the barest semblance of theme, many have risen to the top of the rankings.  At the time of this writing, he has eight games in the BGG Top 100 (with a ninth, Ingenious, sitting at #101).  The highest ranked of those, commonly referred to as Dr. Knizia's masterpiece, is Tigris & Euphrates.

(BGG image by user McHaka)

Tigris & Euphrates was first published in 1997, designed by Reiner Knizia.  The English edition is published by Mayfair Games.  The game, for 2-4 players, is all about raising up dynasties in what is known as the cradle of civilization.  However, as with most Knizia games, the theme is immaterial.  It's really more of an abstract tile-laying game with names for the pieces you're moving around.

(BGG image by user haver)

The game comes with a double sided game board, a bag, and 153 civilization tiles, including 30 black settlements, 30 green markets, 57 red temples, and 36 blue farms.  In addition, there are 8 catastrophe tiles, 4 unification tiles, and 4 dynasty tiles.  There are six monuments, which are two-color wooden structures, as well as 16 leader discs - 4 black kings, 4 green traders, 4 red priests, and 4 blue farmers.  Each color is further divided into the four symbols representing the dynasties - the archer, the bull, the potter, and the lion.  There are 140 victory point cubes in four different colors and two different sizes (the smaller ones are worth one point, while the larger cubes are worth five).  There are also 10 unpainted cubes that will represent treasures on the board.  There are four screens to help you keep your progress secret.

I'm not going into the advanced game here, but one side of the board will be used for that.  The game also comes with some extra bits for use in that game - 5 ziggarut tiles, a tower, and 4 civilization buildings.

(BGG images by users EndersGame and matthew.marquand)

At the start of the game, you'll place one temple tile on each of the ten spaces marked with a winged beast, with one treasure cube on top of each.  The remaining civilization tiles go in the bag.  Each player chooses one of the four dynasties (archer, bull, potter, lion), and takes the four discs of that type, as well as one unification tile, two catastrophe tiles, a screen, and a dynasty tile that shows your dynasty.  You will then draw six tiles from the bag, placing them behind your screen.  VP cubes are placed near the board, and all unused components are returned to the box.  Choose a start player by mixing the dynasty tiles and choosing one at random.

(BGG images by users Verbalcody and r3gamer)

On your turn, you may take two actions.  Your choices are:

  • Position a leader.
  • Place a tile and distribute a VP.
  • Play a catastrophe tile.
  • Swap up to 6 tiles.
You may take any two of these actions, or you may take the same action twice.

POSITION A LEADER: Take one of your four leaders and place it face up in an empty space that is orthogonally adjacent to a temple tile.  It can't be placed on a river space, nor can it be placed on a space that would unite two separate groupings of tiles on the board (kingdoms).  Leaders can come from off the board, or they can be moved from another space.  You can also use this action to remove a leader from the board completely.  If you place a trader in a kingdom that contains a treasure cube, you get that treasure cube at the end of your turn as long as your trader is still in control in the kingdom.

If two leaders of the same color are placed in a kingdom, an internal conflict occurs since there can be only one.  The player who just placed is the attacker, while the existing leader is the defender.  Count the number of temples adjacent to each leader (they can count for both leaders), then choose a number of temple tiles from behind your screen.  The attackers reveals first, then the defender.  The highest number wins a red VP cube, while the loser must remove their leader from the board (ties go to the defender).  Temples used to resolve the conflict are removed from the game.

PLACE A TILE AND DISTRIBUTE VP: Take one of the tiles from behind your screen and place it in an empty space on the board.  Only blue farm tiles can go on river spaces.  Tiles can be placed adjacent to other pieces on the board, or can be placed off by itself.  Once a tile has been placed, it cannot be moved.  A tile cannot be placed in a space that would unite more than two kingdoms.  However, you could unite two kingdoms, a move I'll talk about in a minute.

When you place the tile, a player who has a leader of the same color receives a VP of that color.  If there is no leader of the same color, but there is a king (black), the player who has the king gets a VP that is the color of the placed tile.  If there are no leaders, or if a tile unites two kingdoms, or if a tile is not placed in a kingdom, no one gets a point.  VPs are awarded immediately.

(BGG image by user johncarlton)

If your tile placement unifies two kingdoms, place a unification tile on top of the tile you placed.  Kingdoms are groupings of tiles that have one or more leaders, while regions are tiles that have no leaders.  You do not do the unification if linking two regions or if linking a kingdom to a region.  This unification could cause leaders of the same color to be in the same kingdom, causing what is known as an external conflict.  There may be multiple conflicts, and the attacking player can decide which ones are resolved first.

External conflicts are resolved a little differently than internal conflicts.  The attacker is considered to be the active player, or the next player in clockwise order.  Count up the tiles in each leader's original kingdom (on either side of the unification tile) that match the leader's color.  The attacker then commits tiles of the color from behind his screen, then the defender commits tiles.  The winner is the one with the highest value, and ties go to the defender.  The loser withdraws their leader and ALL supporting tiles of that color from their side of the kingdom.  The exception comes when there is a conflict between priests: temples that hold treasure cubes and temples that are adjacent to another leader are not removed.  The winner gets one point for the leader, and one point per tile that was removed from the board (extra supporters from behind the screen are not counted).  These points are all of the color that was involved in the conflict.  All tiles removed from the board and played from behind the screen are discarded from the game.

It is entirely possible that the resolution of an external conflict will split the newly formed kingdom, negating the need for further conflicts.  If this happens, you take back your unification tile and move on.

(BGG image by user Nodens77)

One last thing about tile placement.  If you place a tile that creates a square of four like-colored tiles, you flip all four tiles over and place a monument.  One color of the monument must match the color of the tiles.  These tiles are no longer used as supporters in conflicts.  If a monument is not available, you don't flip the tiles.

Monuments are nice because they generate points.  At the end of your turn, if you have a leader in the same kingdom that matches one color of the monument, you get a point of that color.  Since monuments have two colors, you have the possibility of generating two points if you have the right leaders.

(BGG image by user EndersGame)

PLACE A CATASTROPHE TILE: A third option for an action is to play a catastrophe tile.  Thess are played on top of other tiles, creating a blight that cannot be removed for the rest of the game.  They block connections and separate kingdoms.  They cannot be placed on a monument or a leader, though it can destroy temples that are adjacent to leaders.  Each player only gets two catastrophe tiles for use in the game.

SWAP UP TO SIX TILES: The final option is to take any number of tiles from behind your screen, discard them from the game, and drawn that many new ones.

(BGG image by user cosmoostorm)

Your turn ends after you take your two actions.  Check for monuments, then refresh your tiles behind the screen back to six.  Any other players with fewer than six tiles also refresh their tiles.  Play passes to the left.

The game ends when there are only one or two treasures left on the board, or if there aren't enough tiles left in the bag to refresh your total back to six.  Players reveal their VPs from behind their screens and compare their weakest colors.  Whoever has the most in their weakest color wins the game.  If there's a tie, go to your second weakest, and so on.

The end!  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $55 in an FLGS.  We've reached the end of the 20th century, for this series anyway.  Next time - the seventeenth century!  Happy gaming!

174. Twentieth Century Series - LCR

 Our final game in the twentieth century series is an absolute classic.  Some might even say it's a masterpiece of simplicity - LCR.

(BGG image by user William Hunt)

LCR was originally published in 1983, designed by a mysterious genius who declined to be mentioned by name.  It is published by George & Company, and can be found in a tin (as seen above), or in little plastic tubes.  The game supports 3-12 players, though you could probably play with more.

(BGG image by user FlavioRJ)

The game comes with three dice and a set of poker chips.  It's simple to play - you begin with three chips.  On your turn, you roll as many dice as you have chips.  For every L you roll, you give a chip to the player on your left.  For every R, you give a chip to the player on your right.  For every C, you put a chip in the center of the table.  For every dot, nothing happens.  Then you pass.  The winner is the final player to have chips.

(BGG image by user TScott)

And that's it.  You can find this game in any store where REAL games are sold for $7 in a tube, $10 in a tin, or $17 for the special 25th anniversary edition.  I'll be back next time with the actual third game in this series.  Until then, happy gaming (and happy April Fool's Day)!

173. Twentieth Century Series - Die Macher

 The next game is commonly referred to as the father of modern Eurogames.  It was first published 25 years, and deals with a theme that not too many people would consider to be that engaging.  However, it has endured as a classic.  So, let's talk about Die Macher.

(BGG images by users Werbaer and Purple)

Die Macher was first published in 1986, designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel.  The game was originally published in German, but even though there have been English editions (the most recent published by Valley Games in 2006), you'll only ever hear it referred to as "Die Macher."  I think it translates to "The Makers", but the German name IS the standard.  The game is for 3-5 players, and can take around four hours to play.  It's a game all about the German political system, featuring seven races in different regions.

(BGG image by user minordemon)

Usually, I get specific about the components in the game, but I'm having a hard time finding a breakdown online.  I'm using a rules summary to explain the game, so I'll just point you to this picture to see what you get.  As I explain the rules, you'll see where the components come into play, and you can refer back to this picture to see if you can find it.  Think of it like Where's Waldo.

(BGG image by user abadiadelcrimen)

At the start of the game, each player gets four coalition tiles, a score sheet, €25000, 18 meeting markers (small cubes), 5 media markers (large cubes), 9 party markers (flat wooden pieces), 7 shadow cabinet cards, 5 contribution cards, 5 party policy cards (kept face up), and three party policy cards for your hand (kept hidden).  The party policy cards may contradict each other (a yes and a no of the same subject).  If so, redeal the contradicting card.  The four state boards are arranged to make a circular chamber, as shown above.  For each state, each player will put one party marker on 0 of their popularity scale (the colored columns within the ring), another on zero of the vote track (outside the circle), and a meething marker on a meeting space (the outermost ring).  You'll then choose a starting state and deal four face up Public Opinion cards onto the provided spaces, replacing any identical or contradictory cards.  Moving clockwise from there, you'll give the second state board three face up cards and one face down; the third state board gets two up, two down; the fourth state board gets one up, three down.  One public opinion poll card will be dealt face down to each state.  Shuffle the 16 state cards and place one on each state board, along with its matching tile.  The tile goes in the center of the board.  Finally, put the party membership payout tiles on the 1st and 3rd boards, ready for the first and third rounds.

A national board is also included.  On this, place one party marker on space 5.  This is also where national media markers and national opinion cards will be stored.  An organization board will be used to hold the other miscellaneous components: state tiles, key issue tiles, no-coalition tiles, the round 5 party membership tile, party policy cards, public opinion cards, opinion poll cards, and state cards.  There's also an area where you will deal six public opinion cards - duplicate and identical cards are allowed, but are stacked on top of each other.

(BGG image by user marioaguila)

At the start of the game, each player will look at their score sheet (the second one shown above).  They will choose one box from column one and one box from column two, then indicate the states where you want to take the shown benefit.  In column one, you have the option of increasing your party's popularity, gaining party meeting markers, and gaining votes.  In column two, you have the option of gaining media markers and increasing party membership.  Once you've chosen, you'll reveal and take your benefits.

(BGG image by user marioaguila)

The game is played over seven rounds.  Each round follows the same sequence: starting party bid, party platform conference, shadow cabinet actions, form coalitions, buy media markers, organize party meetings, opinion poll auctions, convert party meeting markers to votes, score current state, collect money, and end of round.

First up is the starting party bid.  Everyone writes down a secret bid on their score sheet.  The highest bid pays the money to the bank and determines who is the starting party for the round.  If all parties bid zero, roll for it with the high roll determining the starting party.  Ties are broken by bid again, at least as high as your first bid.  If there's still a tie, roll with the winner paying and determining the starting party.

(BGG image by user nerotora - sorry about the German text)

Time for a party platform conference.  Your platform is the five cards you have in front of you, and with these, you will be attempting to match the opinions of both the state currently being disputed and future states.  You also have three cards in your hand.  In this phase, you will start by drawing up to three cards in hand if you're not already there.  Then, you may discard any number of cards from your hand and draw back up to three.  Then you may discard one of the face up cards and replace it with one card from your hand.  This phase is carried out in player order.

(BGG image by user iam_emperor)

In the shadow cabinet phase, you may play one shadow cabinet card face down next to each of the states.  You don't have to play any.  After all players have placed cards, you reveal and players pay the cost shown on the card.  These cards can only be played once per game, so use them wisely.  Each card has a set of options, and the more expensive cards have more possibilities.  You could be able to move your party marker up the vote track by an indicated amount.  You could be able to replace a party media marker with one of your own (though this costs a further €8000 - €4000 to the displaced party and €4000 to the bank.  You could move your party up the popularity scale by an indicated amount (you can never go higher on the track than +3).  You could move another party's marker down the popularity scale by an indicated amount (never lower than -3).  You could also designate one issue as a key issue OR remove a key issue tile to demote an issue back to normal status.  Key issues double the importance of an issue when converting meeting markers to votes later in the round.

Also, some of the shadow cabinet cards show telephone icons.  Playing these allow you to form a coalition with another party, though you both must have played a card with the telephone icon.  Coalition partners will add their votes together for the election in the state where their coalition markers exist.  A voluntary coalition can exist if at least two platform cards match.  If at least three match, one party can force a coalition.  You can't be in more than one coalition at a time.

Now it's time to buy media markers.  In order, each player may spend €4000 to place a media marker on any state board.  You may pass if you wish, and passing does not prevent you from buying a media cube later.  If the five available spaces are full, you can't buy another one from this state.  The process of buying media markers goes on until a full round has gone by with everyone passing.  Whoever has the most media cubes in each state (beginning with the last state in line for an election) may exchange one face up issue card with a non-identical non-contradictory card from the exchange pool on the organization board.  You can't exchange any key issue cards.

When organizing party meetings, you can buy up to four meeting markers per state at €1000 per marker.  You have ten spaces per state - once they're full, you can't put any more there.  Meeting markers can be converted to votes a little later.

(BGG image by user iam_emperor)

Opinion poll auctions happen next, with players bidding in player order on the face down public opinion poll cards in each state.  In this auction, each player will bid more than the previous player or pass.  Once you pass, you're out.  Once there's one person left, they win the card.  If all pass, the card is discarded sight unseen.  If a card is one, the winning player can choose to either publish the results or not.  If they decide to publish, they may carry out up to two of the poll results.  These will move a party's popularity markers up or down on the track, never exceeding +3 or -3.  Looking at the card above on the left: if you were the red party, you'd probably want to publish, moving your popularity marker up three spaces.  If yellow was also in the game, you could push them down two spaces.  It should be noted that a party with a majority of media markers in a state is immune to negative effects here.
You could also decide to not publish, and could roll two dice.  You then move your party marker up the party membership track the total shown.  If you're the red party and get the card on the right, you might not want to push your popularity down two, so you might decide to not publish.

Once a card has been resolved, it is discarded face down next to the state board, and you move on to the next state.  This phase ends when all four states have been resolved.

At this point, you can start converting meeting markers to votes.  You need at least five meeting markers in a state to convert.  You begin with the last state in line, and move around back to the second (the current state will be scored later, so don't convert votes yet).  You can convert some, all, or none of your markers.  The way it works is this: you look at your popularity (+3 to -3) and add it to the number of policy cards you match.  You also subtract any policy cards you contradict.  This is called the coincidence.  Multiply popularity+coincidence by the number of meeting markers you have to get votes.  Move the voting marker and take back your meeting markers from that state.  It's possible that this number will be negative - if so, you can get one vote per two meeting marker.  You also can't go above 50 votes.

After scoring a state, a party with more votes than all other players combined can exchange a face up policy card with one from the exchange pool.

(BGG image by user iam_emperor)

It's election time, which means that it's time to score the current state.  The first thing you'll do is convert the current meeting markers to votes.  You do this in the same manner as described above, and you do this even if you have less than five meeting markers.  You'll then convert the votes to seats using the card that matches the current state.  You'll note these seats on the back of your score sheet as it will be important in the next phase.

(BGG image by user TMJJS)

So, who won the election?  The party with the most votes.  If multiple parties tie for the win, the last player to achieve that number of votes wins by a nose.  If you won by votes (not by a nose), you can place one a media marker on the national board, as long as you have one on the state board (take one from the state board for the national board).  You can also move 1-2 public opinion cards from a state to the national opinion row.  You can either place it in the first available space, or you can use it on an occupied space.  Placing it in an occupied space replaces the current card.  If it's identical to one that's already there, you've just secured the opinion by making it tougher to remove.  It can only be replaced by a contradictory card.  Winning by a nose allows you to move one media marker and one public opinion card to the national board as above.  LOSING by a nose allows you to move a media marker, but not a card.

If two parties formed a coalition, their votes are added together, and they can get more than 50.  Each partner may move a media marker and a public opinion card to the national board, beginning with the party that had more votes.  A coalition or party that loses by a nose to a coalition does nothing.

After the results, you check to see if any of your party policy cards match the cards on the national board.  If so, you move your party membership marker up a number of spaces as indicated on the board above the card.

Money!!!  For each seat you gained in the election, collect €1000.  At the end of rounds 1, 3, and 5, you receive an additional €1000 per party member.

It's the end of the round.  Discard all cards from the current state board, and reset all markers to their starting position.  Draw the top state card and place it on the now cleared state, as well as the matching tile.  Draw 4 new public opinion cards, placing one face up and three face down (after round three, place two face up and two face down).  Flip up one card from the other three boards.  Note that these steps don't happen at the end of the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds.  Instead, the just cleared state board is removed from the game.

(BGG image by user iam_emperor)

At the end of rounds 1-5, place one of your contribution cards in front of you.  If you place it face up, collect the indicated money immediately and roll the amount of dice shown, decreasing your party membership by the largest single number shown.  If you place it face down, you are indicating that you don't want to accept the contribution.  Roll the amount of dice shown and increase your party membership by the total.  The decliner of the largest total may roll three more dice and increase again.  Used party contribution cards are discarded from the game.

(BGG image by user marioaguila)

After round six, you move directly into the scoring phase for the seventh election as soon as you're finished setting up. Since most of the phases are building up to future elections, it doesn't make sense to keep going. This means that you'll have to be ready for that final election before the sixth one ends.

Scoring works like this: you'll enter the total number of seats you won on the score sheet.  You'll add the sum of points for media markers on the national board and your total party membership.  The player with the highest party membership gets 10 bonus points; second gets 6.  If there's a tie for first, all tied parties split 16 points evenly.  If there's a tie for second, none of them gets points.  If you have party policy cards that match national opinion cards, take the points shown, and five bonus points if you match a secured opinion.  The party with the highest point total wins!

(BGG image by user Legomancer)

There it is...Die Macher.  That was a tough one to tackle, but there it is.  Read more at BGG.  It's currently out of print, so you might have trouble finding it.  However, you can find it (I saw one on Amazon for $85).  I'm sure there will be another print run some day - this game isn't going anywhere.  One more classic 20th century game to go, and hopefully that one won't take me so long.  Happy gaming!

172. Twentieth Century Series - Acquire

 In Expansion #16, I talked a little bit about the cult of the new.  I'm always interested to see where my interests lie, and one of the best ways to track that is the cloud of tags on the side.  So far, I've covered 28 games from 2008, 24 from 2009, 17 from 2006, 15 from 2007, 15 from 2005, 9 from 2003, 8 from 2004, 7 from 2010, 7 from 2002, and 4 from 2001.  By way of comparison, I've covered a total of 41 games from the 20th century (1901-2000), with 2 from before 1900.  Am I a card carrying member of the cult of the new?  Yes I am.

So this series is intended to make me take a better look at some older classic games.  We're going to start with quite possibly the grandfather of modern gaming, Acquire.

(BGG images by users Angus Bull and sbilbey)

Acquire was first published in 1962, designed by the venerable Sid Sackson.  Over the years, it has been published several times - originally published by 3M, the most recent iteration was published by Avalon Hill.  The game is for 3-6 players and deals with the high stakes world of investing.  Throughout the game, you'll be putting your money into different businesses, merging these companies into corporations, and buying stocks at just the right time.

(BGG image by user karp)

When games get printed and reprinted, you'll often see changes in components.  Above, you see the most recent components for the game - a gameboard, 108 corporate tiles, 7 sets of stock certificates, paper money, racks for your tiles.  The previous Avalon Hill edition included a more 3D board, with plastic buildings, a plastic board, and a plastic tray for the stocks.  The current edition has much less chrome, but it's also cheaper.  Compare:

(BGG image by user Frog)

At the start of the game, each player gets $6000 - four $1000 bills, three $500 bills, and five $100 bills.  The tiles are shuffled face down and each player draws one.  The one closest to 1A (alphabetically, then numerically) will go first.  The drawn tiles are placed on their corresponding spaces of the board.  Each player then draws six tiles for their rack.  As a group, decide whether to openly display money and stocks that each player has.  Open displays make the game a little easier.

(BGG image by user dsmeyer)

On your turn, you can do three things: place a tile, buy stocks, and draw a new tile.  To place a tile, simply take one of your tiles and place it on the board on its matching space.  Single tiles (not touching any other tile) are considered to be unincoporated (if tiles drawn when determining turn order are adjacent, they are also considered to be unincorporated).  If a tile you play is adjacent to an unincorporated tile, you form a corporation.  Take one of the remaining buildings and place it on any of the newly incorporated tiles.  The buildings match the stocks, and the player who formed the corporation receives a founder's bonus of one free stock (as long as one is available).  There are only seven corporations in the game.  Any tile that would form an eighth corporation may not be played.

If a tile connects two or more corporations, you have a merger.  The larger corporation absorbs the smaller one(s).  If it's a tie, the mergemaker decides which one gets swallowed.  Corporations of at least 11 tiles are safe and cannot be absorbed.  This means that tiles that would connect two safe corporations are permanently unplayable.

The defunct corporation's building is removed from the board and placed back in the tray.  All players who own stock in that corporation reveal, and a majority and minority stockholder is determined.  The majority stockholder is the one with the most stock; minority is second place.  Money is distributed accordingly.  Ties for the majority means that the majority reward is split between the tied players, with no one collecting minority.  Ties for the minority means that the minority reward is split between the tied players.

Any player with defunct stock cards can now decide to hold them in expectation of starting a new corporation of that type later; to sell them at a price determined by the number of tiles in the defunct corporation; or to trade them for stock in the now much larger corporation at a rate of 2:1 (two defunct stocks for one surviving corporation stock).

After tile placement and resolution of any mergers, the player may buy stocks.  You can buy stock in any active corporation.  You can buy up to three stocks divided among as many corporations as you want.  You can also buy none.  Price is determined by the number of tiles in the corporation, and there is a limited amount of stock.  If you run out of money, you're out of luck until one of your corporations goes defunct (and as long as you have a majority or minority share).

The last thing you do on a turn is draw a new tile.  At this point, you may discard any unplayable tiles and draw new ones to replace them.  Any unplayable tiles drawn here must be kept until your next turn.

(BGG image by user Ipecac)

The game ends when one player (on their turn) announces that all corporations are safe, or when one corporation is at least 41 tiles large.  You don't have to announce this if you think it is to your advantage to keep playing.  Once the announcement has been made, the current turn is finished, then majority and minority bonuses are awarded to all currently active corporations.  If you have stocks belonging to a corporation not on the board at the end, you are the proud owner of some worthless stock.  The player who ends the game with the most money wins.

That's Acquire.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $30 in an FLGS.  Acquire is turning 50 next year, but our next game is turning 25 this year.  See you for that one.  Happy gaming!

171. Evolutionary Series - Dominant Species

One final evolutionary battle, and this one is the big 'un...the battle to see who is the Dominant Species.

(BGG image by user Rodger MacGowan)

Dominant Species is a game first published in 2010 by GMT.  It was designed by Chad Jensen, with art by Rodger MacGowan, Eric Williams, and Jensen himself.  The game is playable by 2-6 players.  Dominant Species is a big, meaty worker placement game where you are trying to become the top of the food chain on prehistoric earth.  You'll be leading one of six different groups - mammals, lizards, birds, amphibians, arachnids, or insects - in this quest for dominance.  GMT is primarily known for wargames, but this game is being hailed as an excellent hybrid of European mechanics with a more American style of theming.

(BGG image by user Chad Jensen)

With the game, you get a mounted board that shows a score track, a play area, an action track, and some other reference places.  There are six animal displays, each describing the attributes of a different species.  There are 27 domination cards that act as a timer for the game.  There are 31 large terrain tiles and 12 smaller tundra tiles that will be used to create the earth.  330 cubes will be used to represent your species, with 60 wooden cylinders used to track actions and 60 wooden cones used to mark domination.  120 round markers will be used to represent resources (called "elements").  Six square markers will be used to mark turn order.  There's also a cloth bag for randomizing the elements.

(BGG image by user Chad Jensen)

At the start of the game, each player chooses an animal they would like to play (or you can choose randomly).  You'll take the corresponding animal sheet, as well as a color to represent the animal.  It doesn't matter which color you take, but you'll get a different number of cylinders and cubes depending on the number of players - 3 cylinders/35 cubes for 6 players, 4 cylinders/40 cubes for 5, 5 cylinders/45 cubes for 4, 6 cylinders/50 cubes for 3, and 7 cylinders/55 cubes for 2.  The cubes will be referred to as your species.  The cylinders are used for action selection, and will be referred to as APs (Action Pawns).

Each animal sheet has six circle spaces at the top.  These will eventually contain elements that need to be present for you to survive in a particular terrain.  Some elements will be pre-printed on your sheet (such as three water for the amphibian).  The others will be filled as the game progresses.  Also included on the player aid is a layout of the different actions you have available, which I'll get into shortly.  It also will detail any special powers they may have.  Each animal has a place on the food chain - mammals are at the top, followed by reptiles, birds, amphibians, arachnids, and insects.  Higher animals on the food chain win ties, but at the start of the game, lower animals on the food chain will go earlier in a turn.  Initiative markers are placed on the initiative track in reverse food chain order to indicate who will go first.

(BGG images by users Chad Jensen and leroy43)

Hexagonal tiles are laid out on the board as printed.  A tundra tile is placed on top of the sea tile in the center.  The remaining tundra tiles are stacked and placed on the space on the top right of the map.  The 24 remaining large tiles should be shuffled and divided into eight equal face down stacks.  These stacks go on the three hexagons at the bottom of the board, with the top tile flipped up for all to see.  You'll take species from your gene pool and place them on the board depending on your animal type.  Insects place two on the savannah, with one on the desert and wetland; arachnids place two on the jungle, with one on the forest and wetland; amphibians place two on the wetland, with one on the jungle and savannah; birds place two on the forest, with one on the mountain and jungle; reptiles place two on the desert, with two on the savannah and mountain; and mammals place two on the mountain, with one on the desert and forest.  Animals that are not in the game do not get placed.

Remove the Ice Age and Survival cards from the card deck, shuffle the remaining, then stack them on top of the Ice Age card.  The top five cards will be drawn and placed in the spaces on the right side of the board.

Now you'll take two of each type of element and distribute them as printed on the board.  Each element will go at the corner of a tile that borders at least one other tile.  The remaining elements get placed in the bag, with 12 drawn out and placed on certain spaces of the action track: 4 next to Adaptation, 4 next to Abundance, and 4 next to Wanderlust.

(BGG image by user leroy43)

A game of Dominant Species takes place over a number of rounds, with each following the same sequence of events: planning, execution, and reset.  In planning, you will choose your actions.  Each player, in initiative order, may place one AP on an available space on the track (marked with an eyeball).  Once all APs have been placed, you will execute the actions in order, from top to bottom and left to right on the action track.  Every time you execute an action, remove the AP.  It's important to note that actions are not mandatory.  You can choose to simply skip the action and remove your AP.  If an action contains no APs, it gets skipped unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Initiative - There's only one available space here, and the player who claims it may move up one space in the initiative order.  In addition, that AP may then get moved to any other available space on the action track.  This basically means that you get a free action.
  2. Adaptation - Three available spaces here, and they are executed in left to right order.  A player who has an AP here may take one of the elements from the spaces on this line and place it in one of their circles on their animal sheet.  You can't have more than six on your sheet, including the preprinted elements, so if this would be your seventh, you forfeit the action.  I don't care if you really didn't need that sun element on your sheet and you want to swap it for grass.  No trades.  You may have multiples of the same type.
  3. Regression - This phase is never skipped, unless there are no element discs here.  In this phase, you lose one element disc from your animal sheet for each element in the Regression box that matches.   So if you have two grass discs, and there's a grass disc in the Regression box, lose one of the grass discs.  You never lose the preprinted elements.  There are two available spaces here, plus one with a preprinted reptile symbol.  Each AP placed here prevents the owner from losing one disc.  The reptile symbol means that the reptile player has a free action here, and therefore can pass on losing one disc without placing a AP.  The reptile can still place APs here if he wants to.
  4. Abundance - There are two spaces for abundance, and any APs placed there are removed from left to right.  Placing here allows you to take one of the elements shown and place it at any corner on earth.  This includes corners that border either one or zero tiles.
  5. Wasteland - This phase is never skipped unless no element discs are here.  All elements shown in the Wasteland box are removed from every tundra tile on the board.  Placing your AP in the space for Wasteland allows you to remove one of the elements from the Wasteland box before the tundra element removal takes place.
  6. Depletion - There is one space available for Depletion.  The player who chooses this action may choose one disc from the board that matches an element in the Depletion box, and may remove it from the board, placing it in the draw bag.
  7. Glaciation - There are four spaces for Glaciation, but this action is unique in that only the player in the leftmost space takes the action during a turn.  If you are that lucky leftmost player, you may place a tundra tile on top of an earth tile currently adjacent to at least one other tundra tile.  If a tile is surrounded by exactly three tundra tiles, remove all elements from that tile.  You also get one VP per tundra tile that is adjacent to the new tundra.  All but one species of each animal present on the tile is removed and returned to their respective player pools.  They are not eliminated from the game.  You can only use this action as long as there are tundra tiles available.  Remember that only one player will be able to use the action in a given turn, but other APs placed here will move up in the order during reset, meaning this can be a long term strategy.
  8. Speciation - There are six empty spaces here, as well as one marked with an Insect.  Each of the empty spaces is also marked with one of the six elements.  In left to right order, players will place new species on the board.  To do this, choose an element on the board that matches your space.  Place species on the tiles surrounding that element as follows: up to 4 on seas or wetland; up to three on savannah, jungle, or forest; up to 2 on desert or mountain; and no more than 1 on tundra.  You can place species on all three tiles around the element, but you don't have to place the maximum.  Once all of the six empty spaces have been resolved, the Insect player may place one species on any tile on earth.
  9. Wanderlust - There are three spaces available here, though you are limited by the number of stacks of unplaced earth tiles.  A player who places an AP here may draw one of the face up earth tiles and place it on the board in a space adjacent to an already placed tile.  You can then take on of the available element discs in the Wanderlust box and place it onto any vacant corner of the tile.  You also get bonus points based on how many tiles are adjacent to the one you just placed.  Finally, all players (in food chain order) can move all, some, or none of their species from an adjacent tile to the new one.  If a pile is gone, there will be less available actions.  If all tiles are gone, this action has no effect.
  10. Migration - There are six empty spaces here (with descending numbers from 7 to 2).  In this phase, players who have placed APs can move up to the indicated number of species (2-7) to an adjacent tile.  As always, this is resolved left to right.  The bird player may move two tiles instead of one, but may not cross blank spaces where nothing has been placed. 
  11. Competition - There is one space for the Arachnids here, and seven other spaces that each straddle three terrain types.  From left to right, players may eliminate one species (remember, that's just a cube) from each of the terrain tiles indicated.  The selected tile must contain one species of the active player and one of the opposing species.  The Arachnid player always has a free AP here, and may remove one species from any tile where he has a cube before anyone else moves.
  12. Domination - There are five spaces available here, and this is your primary way to earn points during the game.  You select one tile that has not been selected for Domination this turn.  The animal with the most species on the tile receives points based on the terrain type: 9 for sea, 8 for wetland, 7 for savannah, 6 for jungle, 5 for forest, 4 for desert, 3 for mountain, 1 for tundra.  Then, second place receives points: 5 for sea, 4 for wetland and savannah, 3 for jungle and forest, and 2 for desert and mountain (no further points for tundra).  Third place gets points: 3 for sea, and 2 for wetland, savannah, jungle, and forest (no further points for desert or mountain).  Fourth place gets 2 for sea and 1 for wetland; no further points are scored.  Ties are broken in food chain order.  No animals may claim more than one place score.

(BGG image by user Chad Jensen)

The last thing that happens in Domination is the dominant species for that tile takes a dominance card.  To have dominance, you must have at least one species on the tile, and must match more element discs surrounding the tile with their animal sheet than any other player.  If there's a tie, no animal is dominant.  If you match zero elements, you are said to be endangered and cannot claim dominance, even if you are the only species there.  Dominance is marked by your cones.  Anyway, you take any of the face up domination cards and resolve it.  As you can see, these can be pretty devastating.

(BGG image by user TGov)

After all actions have been taken, it's time for the reset phase.  Reset is divided into three steps:

  • Extinction - All endangered species (those on tiles where they match zero elements) are eliminated.  Mammals can save one species from extinction.
  • Survival - The player with the most species on tundra tiles takes the Survival card.  If there's a tie, no one gets it.  The person in possession of the Survival card receives VPs at this time based on the number of tundra tiles occupied.
  • Reseed - Now you reset the board.  Draw enough domination cards to bring the total face up back to five.  Slide any APs left in Glaciation one space to the left.  Remove all elements from the Regression, Depletion, and Wanderlust boxes and put them back in the bag.  Slide elements left in the Wasteland down to Depletion.  Slide elements left in Abundance down to Wasteland.  Slide elements left in Adaptation down to Regression.  Draw 4 new elements each for the Adaptation, Abundance, and Wanderlust boxes.  Flip any face down top tiles on the tile piles so they are face up.  Empty piles remain empty.  Now you're ready for the Planning Phase of the next turn.

(BGG image by user braino)

When the Ice Age card is selected during Domination, the game will end after the reset phase (you'll skip reseed because hey, what would be the point?).  Remove all domination markers and score all earth tiles one last time.  No dominance cards will be taken.  The player with the highest score becomes the dominant species, and ties are broken by food chain order.

So that's it.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay around $80 for the game in an FLGS.  And thus our evolutionary series has concluded.  I seem to have covered a couple of older games in this series (not counting this one), and I think I'll be doing some more of that next time.  Happy gaming!

170. Evolutionary Series - Evo

Let's take a look at some dinosaurs this time, specifically at Evo.

(BGG image by user Werbaer)

Evo first came out in 2001 from designer Philippe Keyaerts (with art by Cyril Saint Blancat).  The English edition was produced by Eurogames, a French company that was later swallowed by Asmodée Editions.  It's a game for 3-5 players where you will be controlling the evolution of a species of dinosaurs.  The object is Darwinian - evolve the best genes and push out the inferior dinos.

(BGG image by user Kiko_Senda)

The game comes with a board made of reversible halves, giving you flexibility with different numbers of players.  There's an information board where you track the climate (with a climate marker), turn order (with initiative markers), and how many turns have been played (using the meteor marker).  There's a bidding board that is meant for holding bids for new mutations (using the initiative markers) and to track your score (with mutation markers).  There are 50 wooden dino tokens with stickers that must be applied.  You get five dino portraits where you can track your mutations, and 62 gene counters that will mark you abilities.  There are 26 event cards that can alter play, as well as 2 player aid cards, a cloth bag, and a die.

(BGG image by user eranel)

When setting up, you will put the board together based on the number of players.  With three, you'll use the sides that show a snaller half of the island.  With four, you'll use one small side and one large side.  With five, you'll use the two large sides.  The climate and meteor markers are placed on their tracks, and the 62 gene tokens are placed in the bag.  Each player receives three event cards, a dino portrait card, and the pieces associated with a color (10 dino tokens, an initiative marker, and a mutation marker).  The mutation marker goes on space 10 of the points track, while the other pieces form your supply.  Choose a starting space at random (marked with a star on the board), and place a dino marker on it. 

(BGG image by user Tycho)

There are six phases in a turn: Initiative, Climate, Movement, Births, Survival/Mutation, and Meteor/Evolution.

INITIATIVE: Whoever has the longest tail goes first in a turn.  Ties are won by the player with the most dinos on the board.  If there's still a tie, roll a die with the low roll going first.  On the first turn, you'll have to roll a die.

CLIMATE: The starting player rolls a die to determine if the climate will change for this turn.  A 3, 4, 5, or 6 causes the marker to move one space clockwise.  A 1 causes it to move one space counterclockwise.  A 2 has no effect.  Each space has a color associated with it, representing the four types of spaces on the board.  The marker sits on the moderate climate space, while the space to the left is the hot zone, and the space to the right is the cold zone.  Any other space is considered to be deadly.  All dinos survive in the moderate zone, while survival is tougher in hot and cold zones.  Deadly zones are, of course, deadly, and will kill any dinos there in the survival phase.

MOVEMENT: You can move up to as many spaces as you have feet on your dino portrait.  All dinos start with one foot, so you can only move one dino one space.  With more feet, you can either move one dino that many spaces, or you can move several dinos a smaller number of spaces that add up to your movement points.  Spaces are adjacent.  If you want to move into a space that contains another dino, you must attack them by rolling the die.  Combat is resolved based on the number of horns you have.  A tie in horns means that the attacker wins on a roll of 1 or 2.  If the attacker has one more horn, he wins on a roll of 1-4.  If the attacker has a lead of two or more horns, he wins on 1-5.  If the attacker has one less horn, he only wins with a roll of 1.  If the attacker has two horns fewer (or more), he can't attack.  The losing dino in a combat is removed from the board, with the successful dino taking over the space.

BIRTH: Each player now places as many dinos on the board as their species has eggs.  It must be placed adjacent to a currently placed dino.  You must have births unless there are no spaces left, or unless all ten of your dinos are on the board.

SURVIVAL/MOTIVATION: Now we see who survives.  All dinos in moderate zones may stay on the board.  In cold zones, a player may leave as many dinos on the board as it has fur genes.  In hot zones, a player may leave as many dinos on the board as it has parasol genes.  All dinos in deadly zones die.  For hot and cold zones, you can decide which dinos survive.  Once dinos have been removed, each player receives one mutation point for each dino that remains on the board.

(BGG images by users Creech and Tycho)

METEOR/EVOLUTION: The meteor marker now advances.  If it hasn't reached the last space, you can now bid on genes.  The starting player draws as many gene tiles as there are players in the game, and place them on the rows of the bidding tracks.  He then takes his initiative marker and places it on the number of mutation points he wants to pay for a particular gene.  Then, all subsequent players place their bids.  If a player gets outbid (such as pink above), he must immediately place a new bid.  You can bid as much as you want, even beyond six if you REALLY want a particular gene.  Once all players have claimed a different gene, they get placed on the dinos.  You can get some pretty strange looking dinos in this manner:

(BGG image by users gixmo, GenX, Fawkes, and FlavioRJ)

(BGG image by user Tycho)

A quick word about the event cards.  You get three at the beginning of the game and can play them as indicated.  You never get more, however, unless you purchase the card gene.  Then you can draw a new event card.

The game goes until the meteor strikes planet earth, killing all your carefully created dinos.  At this point, whoever has the most mutation points wins the game.

That's Evo.  Read more at BGG.  Evo is out of print, but Asmodée has said they'll be reprinting it sometime in the future.  Keep your eyes open if you're interested.  One more evolutionary game to go.  Happy gaming!

Welcome to the Great Game Gate!

This blog is all about board and card games. Look around and find out about some games you may not have heard of. For a complete table of contents, click on the supplements tag and look for Supplement #4.

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