Friday, May 27, 2011


Unlike the kitchen boy I love playing new games. Even just the once ;-)
One of the new Hotness games is Alien Frontiers. I have managed 2 plays of dice based game and I can see why its gathering pace as a great game.

The game is a usual chase for victory points, but to get them you have to colonise the planet and have the majority in its areas. To do this you have to gather resources, build ships, crab cards and build colonies. All of this is performed with dice.

Dice are usually the bane of my life. They hate me, but they feel so good. The clinking sound of dice being shaken always draws a look from other tables and in Alien Frontiers its all about the dice.
Once you have rolled you dice you place them on the board into the different placement areas. Certain dice combinations can only be placed in specific areas. For example to build a ship you have to put a "double" in the ship building area. To use the resource stealing space raiders you need a "run". Add to this the fact that there are limited spaces and the players dice are only removed from the board when its there go can make some resources harder to use.

There is a deck of cards in the game. These represent alien artifacts and technology that can affect the dice and the game. For example there is a card that will allow you to flip a dice. Or reuse one. Or even take a pip off of one dice and add it to another. These can sometimes be invaluable when you are desperate to roll a double to build your last ship.

Both times we have played Alien Frontiers its been a very close game. With the winner winning by 1-2 points. My only issue with the game is the last rounds can take a while. When you are down to your last colony and getting it into play can win you the game you mind has to go through a number of choices. Trying to optimise your dice and card powers can sometimes take a while. However this isn't enough to put me off the game.

Finding a copy is a little tricky, Clever Mojo games have pretty much sold out of there second print run. I belive that Ystari have picked it up for the Euro market. But not sure if they are doing an English language version. But until then if you are intersted in the game and can find a copy, grab it now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Its a Ripper

This week I managed to play Letters from Whitechapel. It's a very strongly themed Jack the ripper game where one player is Jack while the rest are the policemen trying to apprehend Jack before he can make it home.

If you have played Scotland Yard then you will have a very good grounding on how the game plays. I like Scotland Yard but think that Letters is a much better game. The components are better, the theme works really well and the mechanics of the game make for a tense experience, especially if you are playing Jack.

Game setup is very simple, the board is placed on the table. There is an explosion of numbered circles and black boxes on the board. Jack uses the circles to move while the police use the squares. Jack picks a location for his home from one of the circles. This is hidden from the rest of the players. To win the police have to apprehend Jack and knowing where he is moving to each night is a great help.

The game now plays over 4 night, each night Jack will determine which of the 7 locations he commits the murders. He must then make his way back home while the police are trying to close in on him.
All of Jacks movement is hidden and recorded on a separate sheet. He has a couple of special moves to play. These allow double movement with a carriage or sneaking through alleyways. These are limited per night and the number available decreases through the game.

The police move 2 squares and can then ask Jack if he has moved through a neighbouring numbered circle. If he has a clue marker is placed. This helps the police try to determine where Jack is going and ideally the location of his house.
If the police are certain that they know where he is, instead of asking for a clue they can arrest the location. If jack is there the police have won.

On my first play I was Jack and made it to the end of the third night. I was one step away from my house when I was caught. The last few rounds of trying to out maneuver the police was incredibly tense.
We played it again straight after, this time I was part of the police team. We managed to block Jack from getting home on the first night. Partly from a lucky break with the placing of the police but after you gt a few clues you can try and figure out where Jack has been.

Letters from Whitechapel
has successfully built on the Scotland Yard game and delivered a strong game with lovely pieces and a solid theme that ties everything together. I would definitely recommend trying it out.