Sunday, 26 July 2015

010. The Cardboard Cartographer issue 10.

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Welcome to issue 10 of The Cardboard Cartographer.

Editorial.

In this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer we'll be reviewing 'Colt Express'.
But first I'd like to thank you for visiting our new website!

Each issue we hope to post some news, a game review and talk about topics relevant to table top games, such as mechanics, conventions, Kickstarter and so on.

I'd also like to mention that all opinions in this issue, and all subsequent issues, are those of their respective authors.
Please don't feel like they are a personal attack or an attempt to undermine or void the opinions of others.
Feel free to agree, disagree, debate and discuss, or simply ignore any or all that is written here.
Whatever you do, be civil. Thank you.

If you have any suggestions feel free to comment, email us, or hit us up @TCBCartographer on twitter.

News.

Fury of Dracula reprint.

Yet another reprint of a 'classic' game coming to you from, Fantasy Flight Games.


001 - Fury of Dracula

Taken form the FFG website;

'In Fury of Dracula, one player assumes the role of Count Dracula as he stealthily spreads his evil influence throughout Europe.
Up to four other players govern the iconic characters of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Dr. John Seward, Lord Arthur Godalming, and Mina Harker.
By day the hunters travel through Europe, searching for any possible clues about Dracula’s whereabouts.
By night, they investigate their present locale and prepare for the upcoming day.
And by night, Dracula creates new vampires, lays traps for the hunters, and stealthily moves to a new location.
Should any hunters find Dracula, or should the Count find them, they will engage in a brutal fight for their lives.'


The reprint features new art and design, as well as some tweaked mechanics.


002 - Fury Layout

If you're fan of the game or have always wanted to try it, then waiting for the reprint might be worth your time.

Gen Con.
003 - GenCon

This year Gen Con runs from July 30th - August 2nd.

Taken from the Gen Con website;

'Gen Con is the original, longest-running, best-attended, gaming convention in the world!
Featuring hundreds of game companies, award-winning authors and artists, costumed attendees, more than 14,000 events, a Family Fun Pavilion, and the debut of exciting new games, Gen Con truly is 'The Best Four Days in Gaming™!''


Gen Con's is a hugely significant event in the board game calendar.
Publishers announce new projects and/or launch their games at this event.
While some of the smaller conventions have greater focus on playing games, Gen Con has a much larger focus on showcasing their games.
That being said the open gaming hall can hold around 10,000 people.


004 - GenCon Hall

Here are some of our top picks for games and expansions that are rumoured to be launched or demoed at this years Gen Con.
*All links lead to Board Game Geek webpages.

AEG.
Smash up: Munchkin.

APE Games.
Spirits of the Rice Paddy.

Crash Games.
Council of Verona Collector's Edition.

Fantasy Flight Games.
Fury of Dracula.

Mayday Games.
Viceroy.

Mighty Box.
Posthuman.

Portal Games.
Imperial Settlers: Atlanteans.
Rattle, Battle, Grab the loot.
Tides of Time.

Red Raven.
Above and Below.

Repos Production.
Cash 'n Guns: More Cash 'n More Guns.

Gen Can't.
005 - Gen Can't

Taken from the Gen Can't website;

'#GenCant started in 2014 on Twitter as Jason Paterson (@nakedmeeple), Suzanne Sheldon (@425suzanne) and others were chatting enviously about all the Gen Con news in the social media sphere. One fateful Twitter exchange created the hashtag – and GenCant was born. Twitter gamers jumped in head first with enthusiasm by participating in the conversation, tweeting #GenCantContest photos, and donating prizes of all sorts. Soon the event had enough buzz that publishers and designers were asking how to get involved too.
• GenCant is a community created and fueled event.
• Call it an UnConvention, a Virtual Con, or Digital Gathering – just call it fun!
• GenCant is intended to be something a bit fun for everyone who can’t attend the world’s biggest board gaming event, Gen Con.
• GenCant is not intended as criticism or insult to Gen Con.
And yes – the hashtag is optional.'


The quote pretty much sums up the entire event.

If you are a fan board games and can't make it to Gen Con, then check out the Gen Can't website and join their guild on Board Game Geek.

Kickstarter.

Another issue, another slightly different approach to Kickstarter.
This time we're taking a look at the sudden surge in UK based Board Game Cafes on Kickstarter.


Dice & Donuts.

006 - Dice and Donuts

'Dice & Donuts is opening in Preston, Lancashire this year and we're asking if you'd like to help give our board game cafe a Kickstart!
We've already got our wheels in motion to bring you a venue that offers great food, drink and craft beers, friendly staff and LOTS OF BOARD GAMES, at a great location in Preston city centre. '


Ending on August 23rd 2015, 'Dice & Donuts' has over 1/5th of its £5,000 funding goal in its first 3 days.

This project ticks all of the boxes I want from a Kickstarter;
It is informative, the back tiers are scaled well and the rewards are diverse and interesting.

In addition to this, the project is very open and honest when it comes to how this project will be funded;

'We've already received funding, from our local Chamber of Commerce and Preston Council, so we're set to open Dice & Donuts.
This Kickstarter campaign is to help us hit the ground running, get better equipment and do some cool things for our backers and the board game community in Lancashire.'

These additions include more games, a greater variety of refreshments and other interesting additions.
My personal favourite being their collaboration with 64oz Games; a company that specialises in making games accessible to visually impaired individuals.

Having their funding guaranteed means that this Cafe will come into existence, and with the rate their backer are growing funding shouldn't be an issue.

Reward fulfillment is a somewhat different beast.

Tabletop Kickstarters usually focus on getting the game to their backers.
A board game Cafe is different.

I feel the issue here is longevity: will this Cafe stay open?

With Dice & Donuts I'm sure it will.
Millie Lavelle; The voice of Geek on Radio, is a passionate boardgame enthusiast, so certainly has the drive to push the business forward, and has experience in the retail space.

Needless to say we think this project will be a hit, and is our pick of the issue.

Board - A board game cafe in Exeter.
007 - Board - Exeter

'Do you think there could be more activities and things to do in Devon? We're a brother & sister duo who love food, drinks, and games, and we want to bring a Board Game Café to the South West!
We ran a trial of Board in Exeter between February to June of this year as a popup shop, and people loved the concept of a food & drink venue with board games. Now we need your help to relaunch Board as a permanent attraction, right here in the heart of the South West of England, and to do that, we're offering some exciting rewards.'


Ending on August 9th 2015, 'Board: Board Game Cafe' is just under 1/3rd funded, sitting at just over £2,600 of its £8,000 goal.

Board has similar funding tiers and rewards to dice & Donuts, albeit with less visual imagery to 'sell it' to backers.

Board is not as open and honest about where it's money will be going, but this is by and large due to it not having the same level of outside funding as Dice & Donuts.

What Board does have it experience under its belt;

' We ran a trial of Board in Exeter between February to June of this year as a popup shop, and people loved the concept of a food & drink venue with board games. Now we need your help to relaunch Board as a permanent attraction, right here in the heart of the South West of England'

This experience may prove vital in the actual running of the cafe and certainly goes some way to elevating concerns over fulfillment.

Wile it doesn't captivate us in the same way Dice & Donuts does, it is still a well put together project and something worth while throwing some money behind, even if you don't intend to visit.

Dice - Portsmouth's first board game cafe.
008 - Dice - Portsmouth

'Board game cafés are opening all around the world - yet there is still nothing similar on the South Coast of England. We want to bring this fantastic concept to Portsmouth and provide people with an exciting and new environment to socialise!
We want to create an experience that caters for everyone - whether you are completely new to board gaming or have been playing for years. You will be able to enjoy great food and drink whilst playing games from our vast in-store library.'


Ending on August 19th 201 'Dice: Portsmouth' is sitting at just over £2,300 out of its £11,000 funding goal.

Dice is certainly a worthwhile project, like all of these board game cafes.
Unlike Dice & Donuts and Board, Dice: Portsmouth's project is fairly lackluster.

The tiers are fine, but the corresponding backer rewards are quite unimaginative.
They are functional for sure, but they lack any character.
there are no chips, dice, glasses, t-shirts or any other 'fun' rewards that backers seem to plump for.

Admittedly, this isn't a big deal, but I do feel they would attract more backers with more enticing rewards.

Another issue with this Kickstarter is that it is nowhere near the same level of completion.
Dice & Donuts is funded, and Board has a significant amount ready.
They both have locations ready to be renovated, and are just awaiting the additional funds to complete such endeavours.

Dice Portsmouth does not.
Without a venue a great deal of the administrative work behind such a project cannot be done.
In addition, while they have put private capital into the project, they are asking for a good deal more cash to support the project.
unlike the other two projects, Dice is dependent on this capital to move this project along.

There is a substantial amount of time left on this project, but as board game cafe Kickstarter projects are a relatively new concept, it is impossible to tell how well this will do.

This uncertainty, coupled with the extra workload means that this project is our biggest doubt out of the three.
That isn't to say it isn't worth backing,; if the project funds I'm sure that the endeavour will work out.
It does seem like a big 'if; though.

With all this said, I'd certainly back the project if I lived in Portsmouth, and I think you should too.

'Colt Express' Review by 'DarkHaZZl3.'
009

Google - Fu.

Colt Express is a card driven game with programmable movement, based on a steam train in the Wild West.

Designed by Christophe Raimbault and with art by Jordi Valbuena, Colt Express was published by Ludonatue and Asmodee in 2014.
Colt express won the 2013 Spiel des Jahres ahead of the other nominations; 'Machi Koro' and 'The Game.'

For more information head over to the Colt Express page on the Asmodee website.

Alternatively you can check out the game's page on Board Game Geek.

Contents and Impressions.
010

• 6 cardboard Train Carriages,
• 1 cardboard Locomotive,
• 7 wooden pawns (6 Bandits, 1Marshall),
• 6 Character cards,
• 60 Action cards (6 x 10),
• 36 Bullet cards (6 x 6),
• 32 loot tokens,
• 17 Round Cards,
• 13 Neutral Bullet cards.

Immediately, the most captivating component is the 3D cardboard composite train.


011

The train has some rich detail adorning the locomotive and carriages which make the game visually pleasing to look at, as well as providing an interesting dynamic during gameplay.

The vast majority of the components of this game are cards.
These come in various forms, all with simple, clear artwork that evokes what the cards purpose is.


012

These are broken down into the journey and station cards, the neutral bullet cards and then each of the plays action and bullet cards.


013

As the main component behind the gameplay you spend a good deal of time using these cards.
It does make sense to keep them clean and simple, but I feel that they could use a little more ostentation to keep it visual interesting.


014

The Meeples used to represent the Bandits and Marshall are a little more interesting than your average Meeple, which is a nice touch.

The loot tokens are simple and visually distinct which helps when telling them apart during gameplay.


015

Overall, the components are generally of good quality and work well together.
The game makes a big statement with the train locomotive and carriages.
With such a bold statement you would expect the game to carry over this level of detail and quality into the rest of the components, in the way Terror in Meeple City does.
This is not the case with Colt Express, and I feel it is a little bit underwhelming because of this.
It is like they used all of the innovative energy on the train, and nothing was left for everything else.

Game Play.


The objective of Colt Express is to steal the most amount of loot being held on the train.
To do this players take it in turns to play actions cards to navigate the train, steal loot, attack other players and move the Marshall in order to gain the upper hand.

Their are 2 variants of the game; normal and expert.
In our 3 player example we will use the moral variant.

To set up the train, first place the Locomotive at the front, and the connect as many carriages as there are players.
Each carriage will hold loot; the loot contained will be indicated on the carriage.
In addition to this, the Marshal is place in the locomotive with one of the $1,000 Strongboxes.

Once this is done draw 4 round cards from the stack which corresponds with the number of player in the game (either the 2-4 player pile, or the 5 - 6 player pile).
Place these on top of one of the station cards to form a face down deck of 5 cards.

To set the rest of the game, players pick one of the 6 available characters and take their respective action and bullet cards, as well as their matching bandit Meeple.
In addition to this, each player takes a loot bag worth $250.

The 6 different characters all have different abilities.


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While these abilities make more sense once the game is explained, it is important to know their abilities while selecting your character.

Black - Django; This character has the ability to move a bandit one space when shooting them.

White - Ghost; During the first turn of each round, this character has the ability to play their action card face down.

Green - Cheyenne; If a bandit drops a purse when you punch them, this character may take that purse instead of letting it fall to the floor. If it is a Jewel or a Strongbox, it falls to the floor as normal.

Red - Tuco; When shooting, this character may target a character that is directly above/ below them.

Purple - Belle; If the character shares a space with another bandit, other bandits must choose to target the other bandit instead.

Blue - Doc. When drawing cards at the beginning of each round this character draws up to 7 cards instead of the usual 6.

To decide first player, blindly draw one of the bandit Meeples.
Turns happen in a clockwise fashion.

Placement of the Bandits depends on what number they are in turn order.
If a player is an odd number; 1, 3 or 5, then they place their Bandit Meeples in the rear compartment (the Caboose).
If a player is an even number; 2,4 or 6 then they place their Bandit Meeples in the carriage next to the Caboose.


016

As there are 3 players there are also three carriages.
In addition to this the 4 round cards are taken from the 2-4 stack.
Green player is player 1, Red is player 2 and Purple is player 3.
Green and Purple are placed in the Caboose, while Red is placed in the adjacent carriage.


Once all of this is done the game is ready to play.

At the beginning of each round each player shuffles their action cards and draws 6 to form their hand.


018

The first player then flips over the round card for that turn.


019

Each round card has different features.

A single blank space require a single action card to be played.

Speeding-Up: Two joined blank spaces require to action cards to be played in the order the player wishes them to be player.

Switching: The Circular arrow requires that turn to be played counter clockwise, starting with the first player.

Tunnel: The grey space with the arch requires players to play their action face down.

Starting with the current first player, each player take turns playing action card in a clockwise fashion in a manner determined by the round card.

This is known as 'Schemin!'

There are 7 possible actions for a player to take.


020

Move (Horizontally) - When in a carriage a player moves their bandit Meeple to the next adjacent carriage in either direction.
Alternatively if the player is on the roof of the carriage a player moves their Meeple a distance of one to three carriages.

Floor Charge (Move Vertically) - A player moves their Meeple to the roof above the Carriage/ Locomotive they are in, or to the Carriage Locomotive they are above.


021

Fire - Choose an opponent within range and give them one of your bullet cards; you cannot target a bandit on the same spot as you.
If your player is inside a carriage/ locomotive then they can only target a player who is in an immediately adjacent carriage.
If a player is on the roof they may target any player in their line of sight, regardless of distance; other bandits do not block line of sight.


022

Marshal - Move the Marshal to an immediately adjacent carriage; the Marshall can never go on the roof.

If a player is ever in the same room as the Marshal, for any reason the immediately receive a neutral bullet card and their Meeple escapes to the roof the carriage.


023

Punch - Chose a target amongst the bandits whom occupy the same carriage and the same floor as your Meeple.
This bandit drops one of their loot token; active players choose, and then is moved to an adjacent carriage of the active players choosing.

Robbery - Take a loot token of your choice from the carriage/ floor you currently occupy.
If there is no loot this action has no effect.


024

Draw - Instead of taking an action this turn, you instead draw three cards from your deck.

*It is important to note that bandits and the Marshal can never leave the train.


025

In this example the round card requires each player to play 5 actions cards.
The first action card must be played face up, starting with Green, then Red and finally Purple.

The next turn requires the same sequence to be done, and so on until all the turns described on the round card are completed.


026

Once all turns have been taken, it is time for 'Stealin!'

Each action card is activated in the order they were originally placed.


028

In the our example the first action is punch action by the green player.


029

Green therefore punches the purple player, knocking them into the adjacent carriage.
Purple drops their $250 purse, which using Cheyenne's ability, the green player takes for them self.


030

The next players action would then activate.

Actions activate in this way until the 'Stealin!' phase is complete.

It is at this point the 'Event,' if any is activated.

Each event is usual different in effect, and as such it is useful to have the rule book handy.

In the example we have just use the event is called 'Passengers' Rebellion.'


019

This means that any bandits who finish their turn inside take a neutral bullet card.

Once this is resolve the round is over.
The role of first player moves clockwise and the next round beings in the same way; shuffle the deck; including any bullet cards received during the previous round, and draw a hand of 6 cards.

*If you draw a bullet card it does nothing other than take up space in your hand, meaning you may be required to draw cards in order to take all of the action in the next round.

This process continues until all 5 rounds have been played, at which point it is time to determine the winner.

To calculate the winner each player adds up their loot tokens.
In addition to this the player who handed out the most bullet cards gains an addition $1,000 'Gunslinger' bonus; if there is a draw for gunslinger then all players who qualify receive the bonus.

The player who is the richest in total is declared the winner.
In the case of a draw, the tied player who received the fewest bullet cards wins.


031

In our example the Red player gained the addition $1,00, for a total of $1,750.
Despite this bonus the Green player won, with a total of $2,500.

Expert variant.

The Expert Variant allows players to have more control on the cards that they draw each round with only a minor tweak to the rules;

At the beginning of the 'Schemin'!' phase, discard any bullet cards you draw.

At the end of the 'Schemin'!' phase you are allowed to keep any of your remaining cards, discarding all the others.

During the 'Stealin'!' phase, the activated actions are placed in the discard pile.
Any bullet cards you receive in this phase are placed on top of your draw deck.

At the beginning of each round, draw cards from your draw deck to fill your hand.
If this deck is depleted, shuffle the discard pile; this becomes your new draw deck.


032

This allows players the ability to cycle through their cards to find actions they think suit their needs in their current situation.
In addition, it also makes receiving bullet cards even more devastating, as you are guaranteed to draw them at the start of the next round.

Colt Express can also be played as a two player game.

The objective of the two player variant is to have the richest team.

In the two player variant the Expert rules are used.
In addition the Gunslinger bonus no longer applies.

Each player chooses two characters, and places them as if one character was 'odd' and one character was 'even' in terms of turn order.

Each players action card deck is made up of 1 of each action from both characters; 1 punch, 1 fire and so on.
However, only 1 Marshall card may be taken.
This will form an action card deck of 11 action cards.

The game is played as normal, using this mixed deck of cards; draw 6, 'Schemin'!', 'Stealin'!' and so on.

*It is important to note that it is possible to inadvertently attack your own team.

Personal Opinion.

Colt Express is clean and functional, and with a little bit of rules checking in regard to events and such the game runes fairly smoothly.
In addition I do feel that the theme is delivered fairly well through the components and artwork.
You just have to love the train, even if it is really bulky.

Colt Express is a light, simple game which, despite its family friendly demeanour, has a bit of a mean streak.

Granting a $1,000 bonus to the players which shoot the most does add some weight to that action, although solely relying on it probably won't win you the game.
While having balanced actions is a good thing, it can sometimes feel like you are being specifically targeted, and some players may not enjoy that.


Before I continue, there are a few points that I must bring attention to.

One is that Colt Express is clearly aimed at a family friendly audience.
It's nomination, and eventual recipient of the Spiel des Jahres exemplifies this quite clearly.

The second is that you should only ever player the Expert Variant.


We'll start with the second point.

Without the Expert variant, the card drafting is far too random.

Each turn feels like making the best of a bad situation, and that isn't meant as a positive.
For a game that centers around programmable movement; a mechanic that is all about planning, it is almost self defeating.

The problem with adding the Expert variant is that it makes the bullet cards even move devastating, as you can easily fill up a lot of your hand with them after one round.
This is down to the way the programmable movement mechanic is employed.
By taking it in turns to play cards face up, it is quite simple to figure out what moves players are likely to take.
This is almost the point of the game, but when you add the gunslinger bonus, it can lead to some severe shootouts, which some players may not enjoy.

Another problem is that, other than adding the Expert Variant and possibly changing the number of players, each game almost blurs into one.
The mix of characters, round cards and different carriages do very little to change this.
As a result the game has very little replay value.

This brings us to point one; Winning the Spiel des Jahres.

I do not feel that it should have won this year.

Other than the train, the graphic design isn't anything special.
While the artwork does help to evoke the wild west theme, there is a little bit too much cleavage for a family friendly game.

In terms of gameplay it is very easy to follow and it pays to be engaged.
The problem being that with the simple mechanics and little replay ability it does not lend itself to prolonged engagement.
That mean streak might also be problematic for a family friendly game.

These are minor problems, and out of context would not be such a detracting factor.
However, Colt Express was up against Machi Koro.

Machi Koro was already a reasonable success prior to this nomination.

The mechanics are a little more cerebral; there is a much larger amount of player choice when it comes to purchasing different elements, but it still remains very accessible due to its dice rolling mechanic, and lack of direct player interaction.
These mechanics mean that each game can be a little different, which increases the replay value of the game.

Personally I was not a huge fan of any of the nominations, but out of the two, I feel that Machi Koro was the better game.

I assume that the judges felt Machi Koro was too buys graphically, and possibly a little too involved for a family friendly game, which I can totally understand.
While Colt Express does those things better, I can't see it doing them for long before being relegated to the back of the cupboard.

Overall I think Colt Express is a decent game, but currently it lacks the diversity and depth of gameplay needed to be something I would want in my personal collection.

Expansions, Reprints and Different Versions.

As Colt Express is fairly new it has yet to have nay expansions released.
However, during Luonaute's Publisher Diary piece on Board Game Geek they mentioned the possibility of Hostage, Weapons and Horses modules that were developed alongside the game but never made it into production.

Some time ago Luonaute posted some images on their Twitter account which indicated they were play testing new mechanics for the game;


033

This picture appears to show action cards for the Marshal, as well as new carriage types.


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This picture clearly shows the bandits riding horses.

A lot of this seems to be of final product quality, so an expansion may well be on the way soon, but so far has not been announced.

I think this game is crying out for an expansion to give it the diversity it needs to be an engaging experience.

Digital Spotlight.

With the exception of Tabletop Simulator, there are no digital version of Colt Express currently on the market.

The TableTop Simulator version was created by Zero3ffect and can be found on the Steam community website..

As with a lot of these mods for Tabletop Simulator, the quality of the 3D models is fantastic.


035

Assuming you're okay with the obvious downsides to the game; both Tabeltop Simulator and Colt Express, then this is definitely something worth checking out if the comments are to be believed.

Outro.

What did you think of this issue? Pro's, Con's?

Do you like the idea of a Board Game cafe?

Have you played Colt Express?
What do you think?
Did you think it deserved to win the Spiel des Jahres?

Feel free to comment on this post, or alternatively hit us up on twitter @TCBCartographer.

Thank you for reading this issue of The Cardboard Cartographer, until next time!