Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Preview: Kaiju City

This past weekend I was at G-Fest XIX in Rosemont, IL.  It was a fantastic con and I got the opportunity to break out some wonderful kaiju (giant monster) themed games including King of Tokyo by IELLO, Monsterpocalypse by Privateer Press and a new game currently funding on Kickstarter called Kaiju City by Bonsai Entertainment. I had backed Kaiju City a few weeks before G-Fest and was excited to learn that I would have to opportunity to not only play the game, but meet it's artist, Frank Parr.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the preview copy they had available.

A mock-up of the proposed box art and some of the components

Components:  Since this was only a prototype, I can't go into great detail about the components, but the artwork they have planned for the game is phenomenally good.  The monsters are all unique and suitably fearsome-looking while the city tiles are varied and the military tiles pay fitting tribute to the armed forces that consistently get crushed in damn near every kaiju film ever made.

Gameplay: Kaiju City has players choose whether to play as the monsters or the city itself.  I know what you're thinking - who would ever want to play as the city and why can't the monsters fight each other?  Well, simmer down because even though I had the same thought going in, I was pleasantly surprised with the stalwart human defenders.  The city player will draw tiles, build up resources and bring military might to bear in a desperate effort to kill 4 of the rampaging monsters.  However, the monsters only need to carve a path of destruction through the city in such a way that no new tiles can be placed in order to achieve victory.  There ends up being a solid amount of depth in placing city tiles as the defender and moving your monsters around to destroy them as the attacker.

Rules: The rules for Kaiju City are nice and simple.  The city player draws tiles each turn to add to the city which starts as a 4x4 grid of unique tiles.  Resources generated by these tiles are used to build new areas of the city each turn.  Meanwhile the monster player will have control of 4 monsters, each with unique abilities that they must leverage in order to destroy the city and prevent the defenders from building new areas.  The iconography on both the tiles and monster record sheets conveniently displays all the necessary information without cluttering up the amazing artwork, so players will always know at a glance what their options are and which monsters are the most threatening or which city tiles look tastiest.

I couldn't resist including the art for Lukar - my favorite monster!

Overall: Unfortunately, I didn't get nearly enough opportunities to play the demo of Kaiju City while I was at G-Fest, but based on watching a handful of games in addition to my own I have to say that this is a refreshing, beautiful and just plain fun game.  The human player will have some tense moments where they'll have to decide which city tiles will be most advantageous to play that turn and the monster player will have to carefully coordinate where they move their kaiju in order to inflict the most mayhem.  Hopefully Bonsai Entertainment will be able to deliver on some amazing components if and when they get funded because everything else in this game is as solid as Gamera's shell.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Small World

Whenever the opportunity has come up lately, I've been playing Small World by Days of Wonder.  Small World takes roughly 40-80 minutes to play depending on how many players you have.  The game supports 2-5 players and is a wonderful blend of simple rules and strategic depth.

Components:  Small World starts off with incredible artwork from Miguel Coimbra and soars from there.  The game doesn't have any plastic figures, but the plethora of thick card stock tokens is both functional and pleasing on a tactile level.  The game comes with 2 double sided boards that are used for different numbers of players.  Each of these boards is colorful and easy to read with a layout that divides the world into various regions - forests, mines, plains, etc.

Gameplay:  In Small World, you'll be competing for victory points over a set number of turns.  Players take control of a variety of fantasy races that are combined with a random special power.  Often hilarious and sometimes scary, much of the strategy and replay value of the game is nested under the different race and power combinations that come up. These races conquer regions by either claiming empty lands or giving a swift boot to whoever happens to be there at the time.  As play progresses, players will reach a point where their current race can't spread much farther and they must go into decline.  From there, the player will choose a new race and power combo and start all over again!  Deciding when to go into decline is a very compelling aspect of the game.  Generally, you'll get less points on a turn when you put a race into decline, but it's worth it for the opportunity to start fresh conquests!

Rules: Small World is sheer elegance in its simplicity.  The basic rule for conquest is to place 2 of your tokens on the territory of your choosing plus 1 additional token for each piece that is already there.  For example, if you're conquering an empty territory, you'd just place 2 of your race's tokens down.  However, if an opponent has 2 of their race tokens in said territory it will cost you 4 of yours to take it (2 as the base + 2 for the two enemy tokens present).  This rule is further modified by the a player's race ability and their special power.

Overall:  Simply put, Small World is a masterpiece.  The game is gorgeous to look at and fun to play on a tactile and strategic level.  It works as a gateway game, plays casually and yet has enough meat on its bones to keep even the most curmudgeonly gamer satisfied.  The only downsides (if they can even be called that) are that there are a vast amount of cardboard pieces to keep track of (which can make cleaning up after a game a lengthy process) and the random distribution of race/power combinations (which can lead to some very opportune turns for someone lucky enough to get the right combo) - but those are nitpicky negatives at best.  Small World should be in your collection, hands down.