Bitewing Games Blog

Join us as we discuss and share our thoughts, opinions, and updates on board games from our blended perspective as designers, gamers, and dentists! Our source blog can be found and followed at https://bitewinggames.com/blog/

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New Release First Impressions: Pendulum, Calico, Fort, Spicy, Ride the Rails

Nick Murray
United States
Ohio
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I’ve had the chance to play each of these new releases twice so far. Here are my current thoughts on them:

Pendulum
Pendulum’s novel idea of using sand timers as a resource/obstacle make for an interesting and exciting puzzle. The crux of the game is using your workers and cards to their fullest potential within the boundaries of constantly flipping timers with varying times and actions.

The theme and artwork of Pendulum are tragically and swiftly gagged, tied up, and thrown in the back room by the attention-seeking mechanisms of the game. Fortunately, the mechanisms can perform a heck of a solo.

The smooth and engaging pace of the game are an impressive feat accomplished by the designer, Travis Jones, and publisher, Stonemaier Games. There is something truly special about being able to blaze a path through an engine-building Euro completely uninterrupted by other player’s turns.

Despite the rulebook’s constant insistence of the contrary, this is a game where quick and efficient thinkers will absolutely thrive. While the sand timers do raise the stress level of play, I find this type of stress to be more interesting than obnoxious.

The game provides plenty of variable, asymmetric setups for each player, but I’m still most concerned about the longevity of Pendulum. In order to achieve a turnless worker placement time management game, it dangles by a thread above the chasm of multiplayer solitaire. The only challenge within Pendulum is in finding the most efficient route through the unchanging game board. While unique player mats may start at different strategic locations, it seems that their optimal paths will always merge very early in the game to make for a samey experience. It remains to be seen whether the opposite, advanced sides of the player mats help to stave off any repetitive blandness.

But until that bland sameyness starts to set in, if at all, we’ll certainly enjoy our TIME with Pendulum....

Current Rating: 7/10, but trending downward


Calico
Calico is not quite the next Azul, but it competes in the same arena and certainly holds its own. This one feels most similar to Sagrada where players are hoping to get lucky with their drafting options, adapting their tactics accordingly, and seeking to fulfill multiple different scoring objectives with minimal player interaction.

I suspect I’ll end up preferring Calico over Sagrada. Although the drafting options feel more luck dependent, the placement flexibility and thinkiness are even higher. There are so many point carrots dangling across your board that if you aren’t focused and careful you can end up tangling yourself up in all of your pursuits.

Current Rating: 7.5/10

Fort
Fort is a home run of a small box project from the ever peculiar Leder Games. This deck builder feels as fresh as an armful of warm, laundered bed sheets. I love how each new hand of cards is a juicy opportunity for combos, a crafty shot at bumming off of other player's public actions, and a painful decision of which friends to neglect and possibly lose forever.

It's a marvel that the development team took an existing game (SPQF) and concocted a completely different theme that somehow fits the game like a glove. Where the heaping of symbology and sprinkling of unique mechanisms would normally give most people whiplash, it instead smooths itself over into a cohesive experience based on something we are all familiar with: childhood.

The theme is charming, the artwork is gorgeous, the gameplay is unique, the experience is compact, and the conclusion leaves you hungry for another go. Well done, Grant Rodiek and Leder Games!

Current Rating: 9/10


Spicy
The art and presentation of Spicy are phenomenal. Truly a barn burner of a production, and this is exactly what made it catch my attention enough to buy it.

The gameplay so far is fun, funny, but a little too loose for my tastes. It is extremely difficult to try to call someone’s bluff based on any amount of logic. The pacing of the game is so fast that you’ll neither feel too annoyed by it’s shortcomings nor clever enough by what little strategic space it gives you.

But that big cat art.... it’s just too good to dislike this game. At the end of the day, Spicy is just light, simple fun.

Current Rating: 6.5/10


Ride the Rails
I dig Ride the Rails. The game is all about leeching off of other people’s plans; this happens best as they transport passengers along essential colors that you own stock in. The most interesting aspect might be the turn order mechanism, where the player in last place gets to go last in phase 1 (taking a share) and first in phases 2 & 3 (building track & riding the rails), giving them a bigger advantage in each of the phases. I’m certainly looking forward to the next play.

Compared to Irish Gauge, Ride the Rails keeps the same basic framework (gaining stocks, placing railroads on hexes, earning the most money to win) and gives it an entirely different feel by throwing out auctions, mixing up the limits of placing out railroads, and changing how rails pay out (by transporting passengers instead of triggering specific cities). Due to these significant differences, I think both Iron Rail games are worthy additions to my collection.

That said, I’m not optimistic that I’ll end up liking Ride the Rails more than Irish Gauge. I love the auction mechanism of Irish Gauge; it also feels more dynamic and interactive as you are always free to choose from 4 different actions on your turn. Meanwhile, RtR has more on-the-rails gameplay (ha ha) as its 3 actions must be performed by everyone each round; it also has significantly more math and bookkeeping to it, which is not terrible but not as smooth as Irish Gauge.
Sidenote: Check out the Heavy Cardboard scoring method (posted to BGG files of RtR) for what looks like a faster/easier way to do scoring each round (we haven’t tried this yet, but I think it will drastically improve the pacing).

Another aspect I’ve been less fond of is that the game seems to bottleneck players into specific strategies if they want to win. It’s too hard to venture off into new colors and stocks if other players are still going hard on 1 color. It feels like you either have to follow suit or fall behind.

Finally, our 4-player game was significantly less fun and competitive compared to our 3-player game. It remains to be seen whether that is a consistent & correlative issue or not.

Current Rating: 7/10


That wraps up my first impressions of recent releases! I write similar structured thoughts about every game I play on my BGG account. Feel free to add me as a Geekbuddy if you find my comments helpful.

Have you tried any of the above games? What are your thoughts on them?
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Fri Sep 4, 2020 2:22 pm
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Double Review- Tournament at Avalon & The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

Nick Murray
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Ohio
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In this double feature review, we take a look at two new trick-taking games: Tournament at Avalon and The Crew. How do they compare? Who are they for? Are they worth the plunge?

If I slapped down a 20-page rulebook in front of you and told you that these were the rules to a trick-taking game, would you be alarmed? How about TWO 20-page rulebooks to two different trick-taking games?!? Now your fight-or-flight instincts must be screaming. Perhaps they should be…

After all, trick-taking games are meant to be quick, simple fillers, right? Several months ago, I believed this to be true. But after plunging into two such 20-page rulebook trick-taking games, one of which (The Crew) just won the Kennerspiel des Jahres Award, and determining that these are unquestionably the best trick-taking games I have ever played, I am now a believer.

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/double-review-tournament-at-avalon...
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Mon Aug 10, 2020 1:25 pm
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How to Win Backers and Crowdfund Projects - A Case Study

Nick Murray
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A Case Study of my Journey down the Rabbit Hole of backing Board Game Projects on Kickstarter

“This your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Morpheus – The Matrix

Wavelength – My entrance into the Rabbit Hole
It all started when I stumbled across Wavelength on social media. Talk of the game lead me to its active project on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that I had heard much about but never actually delved into. Wavelength’s colorful, psychedelic art design drew me in like an unsuspecting Alice. I clicked play on the campaign video, and down the rabbit hole I fell.

Mad props to whoever made that video, by the way. If anyone needs a case study in how to hook potential backers and reel them in like a fish, just check out that whole page. After combing through the entire pitch, I wasn’t just excited about the concept, I was compelled to help bring about its existence.

This is the crux of Kickstarter… when a person or group dream up an incredible idea, pitch it to a crowd, and they collectively pledge their resources and efforts to make it a reality. This is old news to many backers and creators who have been using crowdfunding for years. We’ve even reached a point where many desensitized backers call Kickstarter a pre-order system, especially in the tabletop games category.

While that’s not entirely false, there is still something magical about joining a community of passionate dreamers and embarking on a journey of creation. When you support an exciting project and it fully delivers on its lofty promises, there is no better feeling. Fortunately for Kickstarter, Wavelength hit a homerun (just read my review of the game), and I’ve kept more projects on my radar ever since.

PROJECTS THAT EARNED MY PLEDGE AND HOW THEY DID IT

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/how-to-win-backers-and-crowdfund-p...
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Mon Aug 3, 2020 3:05 pm
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Wavelength Review

Nick Murray
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Ohio
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This review was originally published on the Wavelength page of BGG

THE PARTY GAME SPECTRUM

On a spectrum of all the party games I have ever played, Wavelength firmly plants itself at the top.

Wavelength is a game that minimizes the exceptions to its party-style fun and maximizes the engagement of its players. I can think of very few types of group gatherings where Wavelength wouldn’t be a great fit. Furthermore, every single person in our play groups have been fully invested and having a great time, despite our individual differences.

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/wavelength-review/
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Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:03 pm
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10 Best Board Games for Beginners - by Kyle

Nick Murray
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Ohio
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New to the hobby of board games? Welcome! A seasoned vet looking for ways to get your friends and family into the hobby? You’re in the right place.

The worst thing you could do is introduce your friends/family to the wrong game, making them erroneously decide that board games aren’t for them. So what makes a good board game for beginners?

It needs to be fun!

Obvious right?!?! But seriously, what ingredients are guaranteed to provide an experience that will make the players hungry for more? The best board games for beginners need:

Accessibility – short, easy to learn rules. No one entering the world of games wants to sit through 20 minutes of instructions before actually starting a game.
Meaningful Decisions – how fun is it to have the person next to you tell you the best thing to do every turn of a game? I’ll answer for you – not fun at all! A game should allow players to make decisions on their own, where there isn’t necessarily a right or best choice.
Memorable Moments – this can come from those decisions we just mentioned. Or they can come from unique mechanics of the game or intriguing player interaction.
Enough theoretical chit chat – lets get to the list!

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/10-best-board-games-for-beginners/
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Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:36 pm
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Which Azul Is Best?

Nick Murray
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Ohio
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Azul is one of the hottest board games of the past decade for hobby gamers and casuals alike. The only problem is, there are now THREE versions to choose from. So which Azul is best?!? Let’s find out…


Cats or Dogs? Hot dogs or Marshmallows? Snowmen or sandcastles? Eating or sleeping? Which is best?!? These are the eternal dilemmas that mankind must struggle over. For surely all things must be ranked and compared until a universal tier list has been established spanning all thoughts and things between existence, imagination, and beyond.

No single man or woman has the capacity to complete this daunting task alone. Indeed, we must each do our own part in contrasting the few things within our grasp and hope that one day our posterity will place the final piece into the tier list puzzle and our collective efforts will bring humankind to knowledge perfected.

Today, I do my small part… Which Azul is best, you ask? Let us begin.

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/which-azul-is-best
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Mon May 25, 2020 3:05 pm
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10 Best Board Games for 2 Players - by Kyle

Nick Murray
United States
Ohio
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“What are the best board games for 2 players?”

My father-in-law just texted me that very question last week. Why I didn’t already have this blog post written – who knows? My immediate response was “for who?” Is the game for your parents who have only ever played Uno? Is it for your friend who loves 3-hour long strategy board games? Let’s way oversimplify this and categorize the games into two groups.

1 – Light Games. These games are typically shorter, easier to learn, with simpler decision making. These games are really for anyone.

2 – Medium Games. These games are typically for your friend who is a bit more into board games and won’t mind having to read through a rulebook, and who wants “meatier” decision making.

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/10-best-board-games-for-2-players
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Mon May 11, 2020 3:05 pm
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The Metagame: Railroad Ink Review Roundup

Nick Murray
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Ohio
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What do critics think of the roll & write game, Railroad Ink? Dive into The Metagame: Railroad Ink Review Roundup for a one-stop summary!

The Metagame: Review Roundup is a new series where we collect critic opinions on specific games. Each roundup will be a one-stop page to help you decide whether that game would fit in your collection.

Check out our first Review Roundup here:
https://bitewinggames.com/the-metagame-railroad-ink-review-r...
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Mon May 4, 2020 3:05 pm
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Top Board Games of 2019

Nick Murray
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Now that last year's offerings have had time to settle in our stomachs, we take a look back and declare our top board games of 2019!

In this post, we dive into our top 10 games of 2019, honorable mentions, best art, best production, best expansion, and remaining contenders...

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/top-board-games-of-2019/
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Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:05 pm
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Tabletop Tastes #7: Sweet Evocative Art

Nick Murray
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Have you ever seen Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated masterpiece, Fantastic Mr. Fox? What senses come to mind as you remember it? I’m betting that your brain is painting a scene of rich oranges, intricate landscapes, and detailed animals. Perhaps your ears are gliding along to the tune of Alexandre Desplat’s stylized soundtrack. This is a movie that is not only enjoyable to watch, but it’s also a delight to see and hear. Whenever I reencounter these unique sensations, they never fail to evoke the emotions and memories that the story provides. Furthermore, these sensations always create a sense of longing within me… Longing to be there, to be a part of that whimsical world of mischievous wildlife.

I get the same feelings in the world of Cuphead. This lovingly crafted video game packs so much personality and character into its art direction and soundtrack that I’m naturally drawn to it… despite its relentless efforts to break my will and destroy my soul with its mercilessly punishing challenges. Only the creative genius within Cuphead can cause me to adore someone like Grim Matchstick the Dragon with all my heart and despise him with my whole soul at the same time.

I seriously doubt that Fantastic Mr. Fox would be one of my all time favorite movies and Cuphead would be one of my all time favorite video games if they didn’t have such evocative art. Perhaps the same could be said of some of my favorite board games…

Continue reading here:
https://bitewinggames.com/tabletop-tastes-7-sweet-evocative-...
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Mon Apr 20, 2020 3:05 pm
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