GenCon has come and gone and the Moose spent a lot of their time at the Writer’s Symposium. But! I did get to wander the Floor and try out a few games. I give you a few impressions on games chosen by caprice and the flow of people around the Dealer’s Floor:
Jarl is an abstract game — chess-like in a few ways. Players move tiles according to rules on the tiles themselves or draw and place new tiles. The game ends when one of the two Jarl pieces is captured. The tiles themselves feature clean symbol design, a decent amount of weight and each one has slightly different ‘flaws’ rather than being perfect squares. Minor drawbacks include: one of the symbols (the “Command” one) is a bit hard to see and the ordinary cardboard board doesn’t really live up to the quality of bags and tiles.
The moves on the tiles are a bit quirkier than Jarl’s predecessor (The Duke) and the twist (haha…) to both games is that every time you move a piece it flips over, revealing a slightly (or significantly) different set of abilities for the piece.
I’m glad I got a chance to sit down with this game and the short version is that I had a lot of fun playing with it. The puzzle is simple enough to be easily understood and will scale as players get better. I took a lot of delight in pulling new tiles and placing them.
This one’s a little tricky to get across without sitting down with the cards, so I’m going to talk about it in a theme heavy way. In J’Accuse!, a man has been murdered and all of the players did it. All that remains to be seen is who gets blamed and the game is about pinning evidence on your fellow players.
The first person to be pinned with a Motive, Opportunity and Weapon OR to have five total pieces of evidence confirmed against them loses. It’s a bit like inverse Clue — the best (or loudest) story wins, rather than the deduced evidence. Which brings me to one of my favorite bits about the game: the theme is really well executed. I was playing as “The Spouse” and the motives pinned to me where Infidelity and Resentment — which went together nicely. Each character is immune to certain Motives, Opportunities and Weapons — and that gives it just a bit more flavor. I like murder mysteries and this felt a bit like a send up of Gosford Park.
What sold me on this — and I would have bought the game, except they’d sold out — is that even though the game ends with one loser and a handful of winners it’s very difficult to gang up on someone. There’s a random element to how the evidence is passed around the table and I spent more time trying not to get stuck with evidence rather than artfully targeting one person to take the fall. That may change, as a group gets better at the game, but it was a delightful first play.
You also get to shout “J’Accuse!”, which is a remarkably entertaining word to yell on a busy Dealer Floor.
Okay, the title is a lie. At least for my first few games. Maybe you could play this in 8 minutes, but I would recommend chess timers to encourage rapidity. Players put together a board of four island tiles and then select cards (which each have an action and passive effect) until both have had a certain number of turns (11 in a two player game). Then you count up victory points based on how many regions, islands, elixirs and bonuses you’ve accumulated and that’s it.
For a short (around 20 minutes in my brief and entirely unscientific experience) game of area control, I’m in. The art is lovely (as always from Ryan Laukat games) and the mechanics encourage strategic army placement rather than combat as a strategy for winning. It’s short enough that trying an off the wall strategy doesn’t risk leaving you with an evening of watching your armies crushed and dreams ruined. There are Noble Hills. Which is ridiculous. But makes me laugh every time they pop up.
Other Things I Saw and Am Excited For
I’ve been enjoying Rebels! And one of the releases for Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing is apparently going to be the commandeered TIE fighter that Sabine turns into a canvas. It makes me sad that I play Scum and Villainy in X-Wing.
Friend of mine found this one. It’s got little metal dragons as the pieces. And metal treasure. I’m really excited to get this game to the table and see how it plays.
Didn’t get a chance to playtest this, but am excited nonetheless. We love Above and Below around here, so I’d be surprised it Near and Far doesn’t work out for the Killer Moose.
I have more feels on this than I’m going to get into here. But! The expansion/new base game/ton of cardboard/joy and horror that is Dead of Winter: The Long Night deserves your attention.
That’s all for now. Happy gaming!