7 Wonders Duel: WONDERing whether to play?

Pairs well with: Coffee and aspirin.

Brutus scale: 8/10. This is because it’s a two player game that pitches you against an opponent. As with 7 Wonders, someone may be more placid or war-y than the average.

Sunday morning has been a rather slow start for Briony. She and her punk boyfriend Pat were screamingly hungover after celebrating Gord’s (from team Misery during Essen) birthday the night before. Logically they decided that now was probably the most opportune moment to re-play through the games Briony had bought at Essen*. It had to be done. Enough time had elapsed since returning to forget what board gaming was like at a convention**, and be able to put the new purchases into a living room setting. A living room now filled with blankets, coffee, painkillers, cheese toasties, and the occasional ‘Oh god my head, why is it so fucking bright?’ became the domain of Call of Chthulu’s lesser known Ancient one: The seething mass of fleece blankets whose singular goal was to play some games.

The seething fleece mass: Evade roll (-1). If approached without coffee loose 2 sanity.
The seething fleece mass: Evade roll (-1). If approached without coffee loose 2 sanity.

The first game of the morning was 7 Wonders: Duel***. This was the first game that Briony bought during Essen. In fact she bought it probably about 23 minutes after the gates first opened. In hindsight she was utterly right, and around 66% of team Misery also ended up buying the game before the end of the convention. Bob, it should be said, is not included in this number. Bob thought it was a bit unnecessary and not particularly rewarding. She’s generally considered to be wrong, though. Shush Bob!

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7 Wonders: Duel is simply a two player version of 7 Wonders. It does what it says on the tin. The game is so good is because it actually looked at some feedback from 7 Wonders, such as ‘how the fuck does one score science without an app’, and actually addressed the problems. Consequently there is now a ‘research system’ in place for science, which means that if a player builds two science cards with the same symbol at the top they unlock a piece of research, i.e. picking a token. Tokens have a whole range of perks that span from straight up victory points, to making your wonders significantly cheaper to construct. Obtaining all 6 different symbols of the science cards straight up wins the game there and then, meaning that no other points are counted at the end. This gives science an edge that it previously didn’t have in 7 Wonders, even though it was a useful mechanic for generating a tonne of points at the end of the game.

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‘This is the third research token you’ve got… are you researching how to be an asshole opponent?’

‘My major is how to be a dick, minoring in winning this game. You should turn up to class more often. Burrrrrrn.’

DSC_0496Moreover on the topic of addressing the weaknesses of 7 Wonders there is now no longer a war at the end of each era. Instead, there is a war meter which rises or falls when a player plays a military card. The meter is split into several stages which rack up victory points for the player pushing it up and negative consequences for the opponent. In a similar way to science, military domination now has the ability to straight up win the game if the marker is pushed to the end of your opponent’s side of the meter.

DSC_0493The special Essen edition of this game came with a pewter war meter marker which Briony lost while wandering around the convention centre in a haze of excitement. Fortunately the lovely people at Repos Games gave her another free of charge without even correcting her terrible broken German.

As the game is now two player the trading mechanic has had to change a little bit. Instead of being able to pay adjacent players for their resources, you instead pay the bank (which stocks everything apparently). If your opponent already has the resource you need you must pay the bank even more to be able to use that resource. It’s sort of reminiscent of the current European banking crisis. It turns out that the banker’s ridiculous money bonuses may have roots in hoarding all of the brown resource cards…

The final big change that Duel has compared to vanilla 7 Wonders is that each player has the ability to build up to four wonders each. Four whole wonders! That’s a lot of wonders. In reality most civilisations thought ‘eh, that’s probably enough wonder’ after one or two, but in this game you don’t have to let reality hold back your dreams.

The answer is always 'more wonders'.
The answer is always ‘more wonders’.

The great thing about this is you get to choose which wonders you’d like the opportunity to build at the very beginning of the game. Obviously you select in turn order so that one player doesn’t get all of the wonders they really want, but does offer a lot more flexibility from the original selection of races/civilisations in 7 Wonders. In addition to the pewter war marker, the special edition version of Duel from Essen also came with an extra playable card: the Messe****. The modern building has been painted as if it were 100BC making it a lovely addition to the selection.

As ever all of the artwork is stunning – this is one of the best things about 7 Wonders, and we’re all exceptionally happy that they decided to continue with it. Team Misery played a couple of drawing games while in Essen*****, and it’s safe to say that we absolutely could not be trusted to design anything as lovely as the 7 Wonders and Duel artwork.

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Finally, there are three eras to the game, as in 7 Wonders. Each era has a different card layout where each player takes turns in selecting unlocked (face up) cards. Once a card is taken it may unlock a card underneath it and it is turned face up. This brings some new Brutus mechanics to the game where you could discard something in your turn that you know your opponent wants or needs. Pat inflicted this on Briony several times during their Sunday morning play-through as she came close to winning with science twice. Briony preferred to imagine this as a disappointing part of history where the feared and trade-incompetent Pat the Lesser was forced to burn all of the books in the empire.

DSC_0498If you liked 7 Wonders then give this game a go. It’s extremely close to the original game, sticking to all of the bits that you know and love, while being much faster to play. It irons out the (admittedly minor) kinks from the original game, and brings some subtle but novel expansion to the theme and mechanics. Even Briony and Pat, hungover and annoyed at being dicked over by one another, still really enjoyed the second play-through.

*And sneakily on Amazon while in Essen. Always compare prices.

**Hot, sweaty, and always in a rush to find the next game.

*** Yes, we know Shut Up and Sit Down JUST reviewed this. They’re always one step ahead of us, the sneaky bastards. What can we say, they have a much higher budget. http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/blog/post/review-7-wonders-duel/

****This is the name of the convention centre that Essen Spiel is held in.

*****We highly recommend ‘A Fake Artist Goes to New York’, winner of the Misery Farm’s distinguished ‘Why the hell did anyone pay £20 for what is essentially a pad of paper and some tiny pens…. Oh wait that’s why, this is hilarious’ award 2015. Play it in the pub.

Misery Farm on the Road: Essen Spiel 2015 Day 2 First Reports

Essen Spiel still pairs well with German beer. Who knew. We’ll keep you updated tomorrow.

A summary of Briony's first day.
A summary of Briony’s first day.

Following on from yesterday’s report this post will bring you some coverage of the games played on day two. Each of the Misery Farmer’s have been frankly all over the place today, and a wide range of games have been played, enjoyed and pondered. Briony however has had an excellent day full of fried potato spiral’s and mega-complex games that she is just itching to talk about.

The first game Briony played was actually Liguria on recommendation from Lizzy and others the day before. It turns out painstakingly painting your home city’s Cathedral by travelling from port to port, although seems boring, is actually great. She promptly bought the game and would like to assure all readers that it definitely more fun than it sounds.

Stay off my island, guy.
Stay off my island, guy.

Day 2, Game 1: Sheriff of Nottingham

In traditional Essen fashioned they played this game because.. well because it was the only table available in the nearby vicinity. Fortunately for the team the game turned out to be a rather fun game about deception and calling your fellow players out.

This is definitely what a medieval crack den would look like.
This is definitely what a medieval crack den would look like.

Each person plays a character based in medieval England, overseen by the gruesome Sheriff of Nottingham. A player is dealt a hand of cards which may be green legal goods (apples, chicken, bread, boring things), or red illegal cards (which are not as illegal as they seem. Apparently medieval England really disliked pepper and silk). Each turn a player will select a number of good to put in their ‘swag bag’ which they intend to travel with. The player must declare what is in the bag to the Sheriff, with the intent of getting as many cards through his checks as possible.

The sheriff decides based on your declaration whether he believes you or not, and may challenge to look in your bag. If you lied you can bribe him, but he may decide to take or ignore it. The aim of the game is to lie. Lie all the time, and then tell the truth to backfire on the Sheriff. If the sheriff is wrong about your lie, he must pay you in compensation, if you get away with it you rack up the monies.

The moral of the story is that Sina is terrible at identifying lies, and lost on the most spectacular hands (5 whole apples!).

Worst. Sheriff. Ever.
Worst. Sheriff. Ever.

Day 2, game 2: Andromeda

‘It’s sci-fi themed and it has a free table. We are going here.’

DSC_0358Andromeda, predictably, was strongly generically alien themed. This much was obvious from 50 meters away due to the life-sized plastic alien model, but fortunately for the game it played better than the stall get-up indicated. Each player owns a race of aliens and must explore an ancient abandoned spaceship found floating in the galaxy. The ship has several compartments which must be explored.

Who knew massive dice dependency could be a good thing.
Who knew massive dice dependency could be a good thing.

The main mechanic is rolling a handful of dice with different tasks represented. Interestingly, re-rolls weren’t allowed, and the first player ‘made up’ selections of dice to offer the other players in turn. They could choose to accept them, or to pass them on. If the hand of dice was significantly bad and every player passed, the first player who made it automatically has to accept it. This made making particular hands an intriguing mechanic.

Day 2, game 3: Potion Explosion

So far, this game has been the busiest to approach. All of Essen want’s to play this, and their stock has more or less run out at the end of day two. Luckily two members of the Misery Farm cohort and partners have already bought this, and as Briony is currently writing this a game is being played in the background.

DSC_0419Potion explosion is basically a physical version of bejewelled, played with marbles. Each player has a potion with multiple colour requirements, and they have to select marbles of those colours from the centre magical trough. Once you fill the potion with the correct marbles you can use it’s effects i.e. take two specific marbles, steal another players stock etc. If, when you pull a colour out it causes two colours of the same colour to roll together (know as the ‘explosion’ part), you get to take those marbles too. The idea is to select a marble that gets you the most in your hand to create more potions.

Its fun, fast paced, and colour based. A perfect game to play between epic saga games or simply if you like marbles. Either or, really. The person with the most completed potion’s worth the most points wins.

If only all magic was this easy.
If only all magic was this easy.

Day 2, game 4: Burano

So many things.
So many things.

This is single handedly one of the most complex board games ever conceived. Team Briony and co. only played 1/4 of the game due to the waiting list being fully booked, and it still partly made their brains melt. The combination of mechanics and strategies are extensive, and are coupled with new mechanics that they had not encountered before such as the resource pyramid (where only certain resources are available at certain times).

The game is based on the island of Burano, in Venice. There is a city in the centre island that has coloured houses (in reality these are the most satisfying coloured cubes ever seen). You each play a family who must fish, make lace (as was the tradition at the time.. mainly for the ladies.. stupid history..), and build more houses on the island. Once enough houses are built players may build roofs to connect houses, making spaces above them to become available.

That’s right kids, it’s a 3D build em up worker placement game. It’s as rare and magical as unicorn to find a fully functioning, beautifully designed one of these, which most importantly actually works.

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Despite the complexity the game is awesome. It’s definitely for the experienced gamer, and there is more or less no way to have a good first season due to the how much the player needs to know to kick things off. In fact it’s complex enough not to go into much detail about it, but fear not, Briony is probably going to sell all of her worldly goods to acquire this game and then write about it in the future.

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Jaipur: One of the best camel trading games you’ll play this week!

Brutus Rating: 7/10 knives in back
Pairs well with: Fine wines sipped from golden chalices that you don’t quite have enough of to trade yet.

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(Poorly lit photos can be blamed on the photographer friend not being around this week. Or maybe on Bob for moving house. Basically, anyone other than Lizzy, who is coincidentally in charge of posting this week.)

11720023_10155865987270085_260705191_n2014 was quite the year for camel games, so it also proved to be an excellent time for Lizzy to receive Jaipur as a Christmas gift. It most certainly ranks in the top three for camel-based-games that she acquired that year, and Briony is inclined to agree that is sure is fun. This review marks the beginning of a new, and duly called for, list created by ‘The Misery Farm’ – Two Player Games Ranked In Order Of How Likely They Might Make You To Split Up With Your Other Half While Spending Time Together.

Huzzah! Never has a more practical and important list been created! We constantly see threads on various sites and blogs that call for good two player games with a lot of specific categories: these range from ‘must be easy to learn because my wife has a short attention span’, to ‘has to be small and portable enough for me to carry this to another country to see my long-distance bae’.

"Show me the goods!" "Here they are!" "Good."
“Show me the goods!”
“Here they are!”
“Good.”

Jaipur is a pretty good two-player card game to kick the list off with. You buy goods, trade goods, trade goods for camels, trade camels for goods, trade goods for other goods, sell goods. Good? Good!

The game is fairly fast-paced and over two or three rounds: best of three is the winner. To win the round – that is, being the best at trading and most impressive to the Maharajah – you get a little token with the Maharajah’s face on, and the first person to please the Maharajah twice is crowned the victor and will forever be employed as his best personal trader. Conveniently, the Maharajah tends to be most impressed by whoever has the most points at the end of the round, so determining who wins is pretty simple.

His Grace's faces
His Grace’s faces

Your goods come in the form of captivating colour-coordinated cards, and you and your other half (and/or nemesis) have a hand of your own and a communal pile of five to compete over.

11715998_10155865989180085_1975058349_nThe best bit about this game (other than the inclusion of camels) is its excellent ratio of rules to strategy complexity, and the fact that it might occasionally remind you of playing card games with your Gran in your earlier years. The rules are fairly quick and easy to learn, just like the game is to play, but the more you play it the more you start developing a complex strategy for how to trade. There are several things that the game gives you to look out for, and winning means balancing strategies and trying to open up as few opportunities as possible for your opponent.

11739755_10155865988975085_779132515_nMost goods depreciate in value pretty darn quickly. You can sell some of that brown leathery stuff, the most common good, but only the first few bits that get sold will be worth a decent amount of points, so if you’re going to sell it then you want to be the first person to do so. But wait! The more you sell at one time, the more bonus points you’ll get, so you want to save up as much as you can before you sell it. This shit gets competitive, yo. You don’t want to be saving up a bunch of that lowish-value [green resource] for ages and then have some arsehole your loving partner sell a single [green resource] first just to take the best price. Knob.

The game gets a fairly high ‘brutus rating’ because most things you’ll do will tend to affect the other player. And if you’re anything like us (or anyone we know. We need some new friends) then you’ll be purposely trying to knobble them over instead of just getting ahead yourself. But that’s ok, because it’s a two-player game! That’s how two-player games should work, and the dicking-up goes both ways and isn’t too extreme.

11741830_10155865987485085_1100015158_nThere are also various other factors which turn the game into more of a rampant strategy-fest. The hand limit is devilishly small, which will leave you regularly cursing. And there are special rules for trading different numbers of goods, and special rules for trading camels. Some goods – the most valuable – can only be traded when you have at least two of them to hand. All of this is pretty simple to learn but, again, makes the game surprisingly tactical.

Another great thing about this game is that despite all of the above it’s really fun to play, and the resentment and hatred for your partner doesn’t build up so much that it’s not manageable. Sure, they’ve traded away the last goddamn silver but at least they haven’t ruined your entire bloody life. This time. The fast-paced nature of the game and the fact that you need to win 2/3 rounds for victory really helps with this. Before long the round will be over, and one of you will be taking your victory-Maharajah token, holding it up to your ear and saying,

“What’s that, Maharajah? You were really impressed with my trading prowess today? Oh, thank you, that’s very kind. No, it really is my pleasure. What’s that? You regret choosing Martin last round? Yes, well, we all make mistakes. Not to worry.”

"Oh Maharajah! You flatter me."
“Oh Maharajah! You flatter me.”

So yeah, you’ll give them a smack on the face once or twice, but there’ll be no permanent damage by either hands or words.

Definitely not missing a token. Don't know what you're on about. Your face is missing a token!
Definitely not missing a token. Don’t know what you’re on about. Your face is missing a token!

Lizzy took this on holiday with her boyfriend and they both came back in one piece. Which is an impressive thing to say any time Lizzy plays board games with anyone, to be honest. Briony has also had a good time playing it with a whole range of people, boyfriend included. So Jaipur gets a good rating not just as a good card game, but as a particularly good game to take away on holiday with you if you don’t want to have any more arguments or breakups than necessary. Good work, Jaipur.

The real winner is the camels.

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(and Lizzy)