Pyramix Review


Gamewright isn't exactly known for strategy games. They make wonderful, family friendly games with fun themes and simple but entertaining gameplay. Pyramix keeps with the Gamewright tradition of beautiful components with simple, family friendly gameplay.

Pyramix is an abstract strategy game with a light Egyptian theme. Gameplay starts with the cubes being randomly set up on the board in the shape of a pyramid. A player's turn consists only of selecting a cube from the pyramid and adding it to her collection. Cubes can only be taken from the pyramid if they have at least two sides showing, are not touching a serpent cube, and taking the cube will not result in the board being exposed.

The game ends when there are not legal moves left - usually when there is a single layer of cubes laying on top of the board. Players score 1 point for each ankh, 2 points for each crane, 3 points for each Eye of Horus, and 0 points for each serpent. Additionally, if a player has the most ankhs in a color, they will receive all of the remaining cubes that math their color and score those as well.

In this situation, if any player takes the teal crane of ankh,
the next player will be able to take the orange Eye.
The one thing that I don't love about the game is the "dots" feeling that can develop. There will be many times, especially in a two player game, where there is a cube that is two moves away from being able to get taken, so it is in no player's interest to make that first move. The interesting thing about this is because the game happens in 3 dimensions, players will have to keep all of these moves in mind as they spin the board and look for moves that won't set up the next player.

As I said in my introduction, Pyramix is a very simple game. But subtle and interesting strategies present themselves as you play the game. As the game progresses it may become clear to you which color you will have the most ankhs in. This could mean that you might want to take cubes so that other cubes of that color do reach the bottom of the board. If this happens, you'll receive the cube anyhow, so you might as well get a different cube and secure the first cube as well!

Pyramix is a great abstract game. Gamewright has put out another quality product that is attractive, fun, and quite thinky! And with a $20 price point, I think picking up a copy of Pyramix is a no brainer. There is randomness, and this isn't the next chess, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth I found in Pyramix. I'd rate it a solid 7.5/10.


New Bedford Kickstarter Preview

NewBedfordBoxFirstLook
This post is not a review, but a preview for a game that is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. Final art, components, and rules are subject to change.

Dice Hate Me Games was one of the first board game publishers to get their start on Kickstarter. They have done quite well for themselves and have a very strong reputation as a great company that puts out consistently great games.

Five of the Town action spaces
Next up from Chris and company is New Bedford. Designed by Nathaniel Levan at Oakleaf Games, New Bedford is a worker placement game set in the titular Massachusetts city during the time of whaling. Players will use their workers to collect resources, build buildings, and go on whaling expeditions.

Play takes place in phases. The first is the Action Phase, where players will take turns placing workers onto the seven starting action spaces, as well as any built buildings, and resolving their effects immediately. Town spaces are not blocked once workers are placed on them, but the player who places on each space first will get a bonus.

Light colored buildings can be used for actions,
while dark colored buildings are worth points at the end of the game.

Players will also be able to build their own buildings. Unlike Town spaces, buildings can only be used once per round. Additionally, the player who builds a building owns it, and can use it on future turns for free, while other players who use the building will have to pay the owner $1. There are also buildings which cannot be used as action spaces, but rather score the owning player points at the end of the game

After all players have place their workers, the Movement Phase will begin. All ships at sea will move 1 space up the whaling track towards the Return space. Then, the Whaling phase begins. Whaling tokens are drawn from the bag equal to the number of ships on the board. These tokens are then drafted by the players, with players who have ship farther out to sea choosing first. Whale tokens chosen this way are placed on the player's board, next to the corresponding ship. Any whale or open sea tokens that are leftover will be returned to the bag at the start of next round's whaling phase.

When a player's ship returns to port during the Movement phase, players will have to pay a "lay." Each whale token paid for, will earn the player points indicated on the token. Players can also choose to (or they may have to if they can't afford lays for all their whales) sell any whales tokens that return to port. When a player sells a whale token, she receives half of the cost of each sold token from the bank. Then, moving in clockwise order from the seller, each player will have the opportunity to purchase the sold tokens for the full cost. Any amount paid goes to the bank, and if a player cannot or chooses not to purchase whale tokens, the next player clockwise will have the opportunity, and so on.


The game continues in this way for 12 rounds. At the end of the game, players receive points for any whale tokens in their possession, any buildings which score points, and for leftover money ($5=1 point).

That's New Bedford! It is a very enjoyable game, with a refreshing mix of familiar mechanisms. The worker placement aspect is fun, since it both removes the tension of being locked out of spots, but retains the tension of having to prioritize placement because the bonuses for being first at a Town space are pretty good. The whaling mechanism is always very exciting, especially as the game goes on and the bag really only has a few whales mingling with a mess of worthless open sea tiles. I especially like the choice of having to either pay for your whales or sell a few for some much needed money. Should I sell for some quick cash, but then risk giving my opponent's the opportunity to score points? And once you've gone through that decision, the next time you're at sea you'll think twice before automatically taking the big 4 point whale (which costs $8 to bring back)! Or maybe you'll spend most of your time in Town, building up a bustling economy, and then waiting at the docks to buy the leftover whales from your overeager opponents with too many whales!

New Bedford does a lot of things right - but the best thing about the game is that it is one of those games that is easy to both learn and teach, but will surprise you with its depth after you dive in for subsequent plays.

If you think New Bedford sounds great, go pledge your support for the game on Kickstarter today!

Argent: The Consortium Review


Argent: The Consortium is the newest game from Level 99 Games. It was wildly successful on Kickstarter back in January, funding over 450%. In Argent, players use their wizards to earn enough votes from the consortium of a university in order to become the new chancellor.


Argent is primarily a worker placement game, but there are elements of card drafting, set collection, and special player powers also integrated as well. 


One of the best things about Argent is that there are 5 different kinds or workers (wizards) that each have a different ability either before or after they are placed. The red wizards, for instance, have the ability to knock other wizards off of placement spots, take the spot for themselves, and send the injured wizard to the infirmary.

Players' turns consist of taking a single action, which can consist of placing a wizard, playing a card, casting a spell, or passing. Worker spaces don't trigger until the end of the round. Once the round ends, the tiles that comprise the board trigger one after the other. All tiles have several spaces for wizards, and while the best ones are at the top of the tile and trigger first at the end of each round, these spots also require a badge - of which players only start with one.

There are three types of cards in the game. Spell cards, which players will acquire and then be able to activate once per round for a special ability, supporter cards, which will sometimes grant a special ability, and vault cards, which are a mix - treasures stay in play and can be activated once per round and consumables are played and discarded.

As I mentioned above, the goal of the game is to attract the most votes from the members of the consortium. The trick here is that the members of the consortium all start the game face down and secret. Players have to use their wizards to earn marks in order to gain information about what each voter is looking for - some will vote for the player with the most supporters from a certain school of magic or the player with the most money at the end of the game, etc.

The game ends after 5 rounds. End the end of the fifth round, the consortium cards are revealed, and rewarded to whoever meets the voters criteria. 

Argent: The Consortium does a lot of things differently from many worker placement games. First is the fact that players' turns do not always involve placing a worker. Adding card play into the mix changes the normal prioritization of worker placement games - not only do players need to decide which spots they need to take first, they also need to time snatching up those spots with resources or abilities they might need by taking an entire turn to play a card.


One thing that fell a little short for me is the hidden scoring conditions. Before my first couple plays, I was really excited about this concept. I really liked acquired marks so that I could get information about final scoring that my opponents didn't have and give me a direction to go in. The problem I have with this part of the game is two fold. First, there are 12 consortium votes available each round - but it was very rare in any of my playthroughs to see any players who had not placed out all or nearly all of their marks. The problem is that there are so many voters available that the variation of which voters are available each game is not very big. For the most part, players will want to try to get the most of everything, and need to find the consortium voters who are looking for specific color spells and supporters. I guess since my expectations for this mechanism were so high, I got to be a little let down after the fifth time I marked the "most gold" voter - not super exciting.

Another thing that I didn't love about Argent is the feeling that, even though the game adds a lot of really interesting twists to the worker placement genre, at its core, Argent's basic gameplay of "place a wizard, get resources," is still pretty stock worker placement. The different wizard's special powers didn't come into play nearly as often as I would have liked, and their abilities are not super exciting anyway.

Although those two factors didn't hit for me, I did have a great time playing Argent. The theme is great, and the twists the gameplay does offer are fun to play around with.


In addition, one of my favorite mechanical twists Argent throws in is the end of round trigger. In each game, there are a number of Bell Tower cards which grant a one-time bonus. Players can take one of these as their entire turn, but once the last card is taken, the round ends immediately. So players also share control over how long each round will last. Do you take the Bell Tower card with the resource you really need before the resolution phase? It's the second-to-last one there...will you have enough turns before the last one is taken to get everything done you need to get done?

Argent: The Consortium isn't going to set the worker placement genre on fire, but it is a very solid game, and one that I would recommend checking out! 7.5/10.

Jim would like to thank Level 99 Games for providing him with a review copy of Argent: The Consortium.

Thunder Alley Review

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I am not a stock car racing fan. I know almost nothing about stock car racing, and have never really given an effort to learning about it. This is what I brought with me before sitting down to play Thunder Alley - my expectations were not super high.


In Thunder Alley, players are put in command of a team of stock cars, and will score points according to the place each of their team's cars are in when the race ends (the round after at least 1 car crosses the finish line). Basically, players want as many of their team's cars as close to the front of the pack as possible by the end of the race.




The biggest thing I kept hearing about Thunder Alley is that it is a racing game without dice. Indeed, Thunder Alley's action is "driven" (hehe) entirely by cards. Each round, players will be given a hand of cards, and a player's turn consists simply of choosing one of her hand cards, choosing which of their still unactivated cars to use it on, and executing the actions indicated by the numbers and the text.

There are 4 basic types of movement in Thunder Alley:

  1. Solo movement - a single activated car moves by itself
  2. Draft movement - an activated car and all linked cars in front of and behind it move together
  3. Lead movement - an activated car and all linked cars behind it move together
  4. Pursuit movement - an activated car and all linked cars in front of it move together

Links between cars are created when cars are in the same lane, and are immediately adjacent to each other. A link could theoretically exist among all of the cars in a race, if they were all lined up in the same lane and there were no empty spaces separating any of them.
The movement cards in Thunder Alley are sometimes simply one of the four movement types listed above with a numerical value, and sometimes they involve a slight twist - like only being able to move towards the outside/inside wall this turn. Most of the cards with higher movement values will also include a damage icon.

There are two main types of damage in the game - temporary and permanent. As the names' suggest, temporary wear can be repaired, while permanent wear cannot. After receiving 3 wear tokens of any type, a car will suffer a penalty to its movement. And after taking 6 wear tokens a car will be removed from the race altogether. So managing wear tokens gets more and more important as the race goes on.

Players take turns playing cards and executing movement until everyone has activated each of their team's cars. Once all cars have been activated an event card is revealed, which could result in some of the cars receiving extra wear tokens, or a yellow caution flag, or even a premature end of the race due to rain. 

In between rounds players will have the option of pitting their cars. Doing so will allow the player to remove all temporary wear tokens from the pitting car, but will require the car to not only move back 5 spaces, but will also cause the car to suffer a movement penalty on their next turn.

The race will end once at least one car finishes the required number of laps. Any cars that cross the finish line are awarded the highest value trophy token available. After all the cars have been activated, for the round the game will end, and any cars that haven't crossed the finish line will be awarded trophy tokens according to their current place.

Thunder Alley has a theme I don't care about, more randomness than I usually care for, and fairly boring (though very nice looking) components. All that being said - I have had a great time playing this game. 

The strategy of the game is fairly clear - keep your cars on the inside lane and grouped with other cars as much as possible - but playing the game is a lot of fun. The chaos of not knowing what the other players are going to do, coupled with the excitement of the temporary alliances and rivalries that are formed as players move other teams' cars either purposely or inadvertently make for a really great experience.

As I mentioned, there is a good amount of randomness in the game - I had at least one round a game where I had drawn a full hand of cards that I simply did not want. This, while frustrating, is mitigated by the fact that since multiple cars are usually moved each turn, player's cars may actually be moved more on other players' turns than on their own. 

Thunder Alley is a great racing game, and the team aspect of the whole thing really sets it apart from any other racing game I've played. It is by far my favorite of the genre. I give it an 8.0/10.

Jim would like to thank GMT Games for providing him with a copy of Thunder Alley for review.