Match Report - 28th January 2013

From Norse gods to bikers! Two mini reviews - Voluspa plus Skull and Roses

We only had a small turn out but pleasingly there was a willingness to have a go at two of my favorite games from last years Essen.
The Monday night gamers playing Voluspa

2-5 players, 45 min playing time, age 10+
Voluspa - The artwork on the reverse of the score board
Voluspa was the only game I had pre-ordered at Essen this year and a game I have been very pleased with but this was its first outing with the Monday night group.
Voluspa - The tiles early in our game
Voluspa is a tile-laying game with a theme of Norse Gods. According to the rules – “The oldest poem of Norse Mythology, the Völuspá, tells the story of the endless struggle of powerful gods, dangerous creatures, and forgotten races. Which beings will dominate each other? Will the Valkyries overtake Thor? Will Odin survive the challenge of the trickster, Loki? Every time the story unfolds differently, a new force rises in dominance”. For those interested in such things Voluspa is a reworking of an earlier game Kachina and an excellent article about the games evolution can be read here. The essentials of the game are:

· Each player has a hand of 5 tiles and each tile has a numerical value (bottom right hand side of the tile) and in all bar two cases a special power.
Voluspa - The 8 characters from the basic game
· The game comes with 8 characters as part of the base game and an optional expansion with an additional 4 more complex characters.
Voluspa - The 4 characters from the expansion
· Each player lays one tile seeking to dominate, by placing the highest value tile, a  row or column of tiles if lucky both.

· The highest value tile (character) is frequently due its special powers rather than simply its numeric value e.g. the Valkyrie have a numeric value of only 2 but if there is a Valkyrie at either end of a row or column then they gain dominance of that line irrespective of what numbered tiles are already present.

· Assuming they gain dominance then the player scores a point for each tile in the row or column or both that they have dominance over.

· Having played a tile they then then replace their tile.

· The maximum length (most of the time) is 7 tiles.

Sounds simple! However it is not as simple as it at first appears as the trick is understanding all the tiles (characters) special powers and being able to calculate how many points they would gain you if used and thereby make the optimal decision when it comes to tile placement. Voluspa is a game that is probably best played with 3 or 4 players (rather than the maximum of 5) as the more players there are leads to a greater degree of down time between goes and this is not a game that offers any interaction / activity between goes other than hopefully players working out what their next move will be!

What I personally like about this game is the artwork (always an important element for me and in my view this iteration of the game is much nicer than Kachina), the theme appeals although is very pasted on, the speed with which a game can start (good for lunch time games), its relative simplicity whilst having a depth to reward repeated plays / mastery.
Voluspa - The game board late in the game
When teaching new players we have tended to exclude the 25 expansion tiles (4 Norse characters) for the first couple of rounds whilst players get their heads around the 60 basic tiles (8 Norse characters) .

The only negatives for us on the game were:
1. The Scoreboard, which lacked the artistic approach of the tiles and we found to be unhelpful rather than adding clarity (we now use pen and paper to record scores) and;
2 That it would have been good if the game had come with 5 quick play sheets (we have created our own) as it is important that players get their heads around the characters special abilities.  

Pleasingly the game went down well with the Monday night team with all of them giving it a thumbs up.

If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here with more photos of this game here.
With coffee and the obligatory munchies consumed onto the second game of the evening.

Skull and Roses
3-6 players, 45 min playing time, age 8+
Skull & Roses - The box artwork
This was another new game, Skull and Roses, to the group and one received as a Christmas present (bought on the High Street at Waterstones). A game that for followers of the blog will be recognised as the game that the team have played two years running in the Channel Tunnel across the top of the cars on our trip Essen
Skull and Roses - A game being played across the top of the cars on the way back from Essen Spiel 2012
Skull and Roses is essentially a bluffing game where players lay cards (each player has a hand of 4 cards 3 roses and 1 skull although they look more like beer mats) face down in front of them and then have to bid to name how many roses they can turn up without revealing a skull, starting with their own top card. 
Skull & Roses - A set of 4 cards
Starting with the start player players place a card face down in front of themselves. When each player has laid a card then the start player can either lay another card or start the bidding, if they lay a card then the next player has the choice to lay another card or start the bidding. Once the bidding has started then each player either increases the bid or passes. The highest bid then chooses which players cards they wish to turn over. If the player succeeds in turning over the number of cards they bid then they win that round the winner of the game is the first player to win two rounds. If you fail to reveal the number of roses you bid without revealing a skull then you loose one of your cards chosen at random 
Skull & Roses - The artwork for the 6 different sets of player cards
It’s fun its simple, the components are of a high quality and if there is a weak spot in this game it is that it is expensive for what you get (or at least need to play the game) and that the theme of motorbike gangs doesn’t do anything for me and I suspect may put many non-gamers / social gamers off what is an all other respects a good addition to the collection. Skull and Roses again received a positive response from the team on Monday night.
Skull & Roses - The player mat (both sides)
If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here with more photos of this game here.

More photo's of the evening can be seen here.

Our next event at the Crow and Gate (please note note NOT the Blue Anchor), Crowborough is in two weeks time on Sunday 17th February starting at 7.00pm - £1 per head. More details can be seen on our Facebook Page Social Gamers - Crowborough

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