New game round up: Flaming pyramids, island adventure and gerrymandering

Board Game Arena continues to put a wide variety of games up on it’s, one for every day and I have been trying to keep up with learning a new game every day. I have played the most recent releases and wanted to recap the latest editions.

Trick taking card game Ninety-Nine

The first is a very simple trick taking game called 99. This is a game similar to Hearts or Spades where players attempt to take sets of card by playing the highest card of whatever suit was lead. This game can be played with a traditional deck of cards so once you learn the rules its easy to teach other players in person. The unique part of this game is that players can bid for how many hands or tricks they think they are going to win and get more points by accomplishing this goal. They can double down on this further by showing their bid to other players, which gives them the opportunity to mess with their success. They can double down further by revealing both their bid and their hand of cards. It’s kind of like a game of chicken. The more players reveal, the more points they can win, but the more information they share with their opponents, the more difficult it is to accomplish their stated bid. This is a more advanced game than hearts, and it really encourages two key trick-taking skills, card counting and knowing how many tricks your can take given your starting hand. I must admit that after two major published games for the first two days, 99 felt like a step down. But all in all this is a nice trick taking game and I wouldn’t turn it down if someone asked.


Flaming Pyramids. Uno with math and physics!

The Second release is a game called Flaming Pyramids. This game places a bit like a spatial version of Uno… with fire. The goal is to get rid of all of your tiles. Players are working on a shared pyramid that they build up with tiles each turn. To place a tile it must match the color or the number of at least one of the tiles below it. There’s also the matter of weight. The two tiles below must have numbers that add up to more than the tile being placed on top, or else there is a collapse. Collapses can trigger more collapses as a sort of chain reaction occurs when tiles that previously supported others are removed. All collapsed tiles go into the active players stack, so this kind of chaos can mean you have a lot more tiles than opponents to get rid of. And then there’s fire. There are three type of building materials: straw, wood, and stone. Coal tiles only burn straw materials and blowtorches(!!) burn both wood or straw. The secret is to nest these in among some rocks and then watch chaos ensure in a later round when the collapse of other tiles cause them to hit paydirt. This seems like a fun family game and I would play it over Uno any day!

Small Islands

The Third game is  a tile laying game called Small Islands.  The tiles depict part of an island landscape with The only rule for tile placement is that each side must match the landscape in all four directions around it. Water must match water and land match land. Each round players draft a goal card which explains what is required in order to place a house on an island, and also how you will score for each house. In this way the actual game of the tile laying has different goals for the different players, unlike say a game like Carcassonne where all players are trying to score in the same ways. The players are still working on the game board however, so it is possible for other players to mess with your plans, perhaps unintentionally. There is also a timing element for when to end a round, which is triggered by a player placing out their ship tile. This is definitely a tactical name but was pleasant enough and I wouldn’t mind playing it again. The tropical nature of the art is certainly a nice diversion from the current winter weather.

Mapmaking: The Gerrymandering Game

The final game added in recent days is called Mapmaking: The Gerrymandering GameThis is a simple abstract game with a light political theme. At the start of the game each players tokens numbered 1 through 10 are spread throughout of a hexagon alongside other players. This is the political landscape  that players that carve up into districts throughout the game. Each turn players place 4 borders trying to group together lower numbered opponent tokens with higher tokens of their own. However all the other players are trying to do the same thing, so the key is to place borders in such a way that the other players can’t undo your plans before your next turn. You can learn the game in five minutes so it is a great introductory game for folks who haven’t played many board games. However, fair warning it is a rather mean game as every good move for you is inherently bad for another player. As long as you are ok with this confrontation I recommend checking it out.

That’s it for today. I will be checking in with more impressions later this week as new games are added to the service. If any of the above sparked your interest head on over to Board Game Arena and check them out!

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