Game Night – Dominant Species

Dominant species review
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So last night was my first game of Dominant Species. I’ve heard a lot about this game, it being one of the top 100 games on BoardGameGeek, but never thought to seek it out. It seems a little heavy for my group, although my group is progressing quite a bit these days. I finally got to try it at a game night hosted by Aaron, and this is what went down…

Learning the game

Aaron’s got a limited number of games that plays 6 players which are not party games, and Dominant Species was chosen based on overwhelming accolades. Gabe, whose collection of board game is massive, taught the game to 3 of us new players. He patiently went through each of the actions possible, and demonstrated how to calculate dominance and scoring. I find the game to be a fairly straightforward to learn, but the strategies and direction can be confusing at first for a new player. The player aid and rules book are thankfully incredibly well written, and we found ourselves referring back to it quite a few times for special cases and clarifications.

I found that the hardest part to learn was the abundance and depletion section. This has to do with the fact that abundance and depletion is discussed early in the game, but extinction and domination is not talked about until the final step. If it was me I’d give quick overview of the process before going through the possible actions.

Gameplay

The game then begins with us rolling dice to choose the species we want to be. I chose the birds for their mobility. This choice saved me from total annihilation a few times, as you shall find out. For my first action I picked glaciation, because that was heavily recommended as an important action. This was also my worst mistake of the game. For my glaciation action, I targeted Aaron’s wetland amphibians to eliminate the points from that tile. He was apparently not so happy about that action. For the rest of the game he decided to stop playing Dominant Species, and start playing Carcassonne. He decided to take revenge on my damn birds and took glaciation and Wunderlust for the rest of the game to chase me down and score points purely by tile placement.

I knew amphibians were cold blooded, but not like this…

So the game went on, with the rest of the group playing a fairly normal game. I managed to score a few points from domination thanks to my birds’ migration ability. I was also fortunate in the draws to only have the seeds show up in abundance a couple of times throughout the game, thus it was not depleted. Out of the corner of my eyes however is the ever inching Tundra of Aaron that is slowly but surely depleting my home and food supplies. There were a few times where Aaron had a choice to score 10 points to place a tundra, but instead he chose to kill a whole flock of my birds instead.

On the other side of the tundra was a relatively calm jungle of Jay’s spiders. They got plenty of grubs to eat, with no fear of the neighboring tundra going in that direction. The spiders soon expanded to an ocean with even more grubs that allowed them to multiply further. They started taking over the neighboring tundra for the survivor bonus, and was steadily climbing up the ladder through points from domination.

Don’t birds eats spiders? but I guess mine are vegetarian

While all this is happening, the reptiles, mammals, and insects are waging a fierce war for food . Their food tokens are often drawn into the abundance tray, forcing the players to take action so it won’t go into the depletion bin. They are also compelled to adapt to the ever changing food supply, evolving into much more versatile animals. Despite all this, the mammals still went extinct at one point during the game, and speciated again to join my bird army down south.

End game

Glaciers only flow one way  –  Aaron

The game ended in the 7th round, with the fertile card appearing on the board. Aaron now has a choice. He can eliminate the 25 possible points from Jay’s spider by glaciating the other direction, and let the reptiles take victory, or continue his onslaught of birds. At this point we all know what he’s going to do. The spiders were victorious over the reptiles by a mere 3 points, thanks to some freezing tundra spiders and the huge spider family in the jungle. The reptiles dominated a lot of land at the end thanks to their adaptability. They were as good at eating seeds as my birds, plus using other nutrients as well.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed the game. I always like games where the rules are intuitive, but the strategy is deep. I find this game to be even more cutthroat than Food chain magnate, the last game I wrote about. As you can see from this playthrough, the potential for kingmaking is great. Despite that, I find the interactions to be enjoyable for the most part. This freedom of movement and interaction adds another level of diplomacy and intrigue into an already strategic worker placement/area control game. I’d totally play the game again, once Aaron forgets about the first turn tundra.

 

 

Food Chain Magnate

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. Buy now at Check on Amazon

Introduction

Food Chain Magnate is a resource management and area control game where players act as CEO’s of fast food companies. Throughout the game you will build new franchises, hire and train staff, and market fast food items. This is all happening on a randomly generated map where the location of your franchises and marketing campaigns are important. The player with the most money wins the game.

Set Up

Board set up

  • Lay out the milestone cards
  • Lay out the employee cards
  • Create map randomly according to player number

Player set up

  • Each player will choose a restaurant chain
  • Randomly choose the starting position on turn order track using corresponding turn order markers
  • Starting with the last player, place one restaurant on board
  • Choose a bank reserve card. Collect all reserve cards face down next to bank

Restaurant placement

The location of your first restaurant is one of the key to winning the game. Here are the rules for placing your first restaurant

  • Restaurants must be fully on empty squares
  • The entrance must contact a road
  • The entrance must not be in the same tile as another restaurant

The following are things to consider when you place your first restaurant

  • Your distance to homes relative to other restaurants
  • Location of drinks
  • Location of Marketing
  • Gardens
  • Potential drive ins

Gameplay

The game is played over 7 phases each round. The phases are

Keep in mind of the Milestones throughout the game, which will determine a large part of the strategy

Restructuring

Players simultaneously choose which employee to send to work, and which to send to the beach, creating 2 facedown piles. After all players have chosen, flip over the cards.

Employees at work

Employees sent to work must be placed under a manager with open slots. There can be at most 3 levels of management. The CEO is played every round. Employees at work cannot be trained.

Employees on the beach

Employees on the beach do not perform their actions this turn. They however still need to be paid. They can still be trained by trainers at work. Employees and managers acquired on the current turn will be sent to the beach, and thus can be trained on the same turn.

Order of Business

Players take turns choosing the turn order for this round. The order of choosing is determined by

  • Most Open slots
  • Ties broken by turn order of previous round

Working

Perform the available actions for your employees at work in this order. Each player plays all their action before moving to the next player in the turn order. Some actions are mandatory, others optional.

Dinnertime

For each house with a demand token and starting with the lowest numbered house, determine which chain to sell to in the following order

  1. Players connected by roads that can meet the full demand of the house
  2. The player with the lower total of Unit Price + Distance
  3. Number of waitresses active
  4. Earlier in turn order

When a chain is chosen by a home, discard the food and drink tokens from the chain’s supply and receive unit price plus bonuses for each item sold. Double the unit price when the house has a garden. Continue with the next numbered house on the board.

Players with waitress receive $3 dollar per waitress, $5 if they have the “first waitress played” milestone

Players with CFO will collect 50% of all income earned this round.

Breaking the bank

When the bank does not have enough funds to pay all income, the bank is “broken”. If this is the first time, reveal the reserve cards. Add the total amountto the bank and change CEO structure if necessary. Finish paying income with the reserve.

When the bank is broken the second time, finish paying income and end the game.

Payday

Fire any employees active or on the beach, and place those cards back in the supply. For every employee with the cash symbol left, pay 5 dollars per employee to the bank. Player may be forced to fire employees if there is no money

Recruiting managers and HR director with actions left over can now be used to offset salaries.

Marketing Campaigns

Resolve marketing campaign starting from the lowest number according to the method described in Working > Initiate marketing campaign. Each house with no garden can have at most 3 demand, house with garden with 5. If a marketing campaign reaches a house already at capacity, it will have no effect.

With the exception of eternal campaigns, remove one token from the campaign when it is resolved. When it runs out of token, move it back to the supply, and place the marketeer back into your hand.

Clean up

Discard any left over food and drink tokens except with the “First to throw away drink/food” milestone, in which case discard down to 10. Turn over all “Coming Soon” restaurants.

Remove/turn upside down any milestone that were awarded this turn. Start the next turn.

Milestones

Any player that achieved a milestone during the turn will receive the milestone card and gain its benefits. The effects of the milestone cards are not optional.

  • First billboard placed
  • First to train someone
  • First to hire 3 people in one turn
  • First burger/pizza/drink marketed
  • First errand boy played
  • First to have $20
  • First burger/pizza produced
  • First waitress played
  • First to throw away drink/food
  • First to lower prices
  • First cart operator played
  • First airplane campaign
  • First radio campaign
  • First to have $100
  • First to pay $20 or more in salaries

End Game

The game ends when the bank is broken twice. Salaries are not payed in the last round. Any unpaid income is still added to the final total. Player with the most money wins.

Game Night – Food Chain Magnate

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Alright, I’ve finally got a chance to play Food Chain Magnate. Let me just say this to start, it is every bit as good as it is hyped up to be. Game Night is a segment where I’ll be writing about my experience during that game night, and not meant to be a full comprehensive review of the game.

Set up

I got my wife to come with me to this game night, and when we arrived the game has already been set up for 4.  We spent about 45 minutes learning the game from Aaron. I have to say, the amount of information to take in even for an experienced gamer is overwhelming. My wife, who doesn’t play nearly as many games as I do, was totally lost by the end. There are just so many things going on. What each of the characters do, all the milestones, the tile placement, marketing, getting drinks, and calculating who gets to sell. The first two rounds where pretty much played for us by Aaron, who suggested we go with a trainer to Guru start. Which is exactly what we did.

Gameplay

Once we got a few employees under our management and started marketing to our neighbourhood, everything just clicked. Aaron and Chad had a great little corner where they got permanent marketing of burgers to many homes, but were competing with each other every round. I had my own little dead end area supplying my burgers to a couple homes. Annie also had a little corner of the map where she was relatively undisturbed. Each of us went with a slightly different strategy as well. Aaron and Chad went with a slower start, selling a few burgers and pizzas each turn with their permanent billboards while making barely enough to cover their management salaries. They plan to build up their management quickly and sweep in in the end. With her location, Annie specialized in drinks, and quickly became the go to place for beer. I had a fast expansion strategy and was making a decent amount of money each round with my exclusive access to my upgraded homes with gardens. All was going well until Aaron executed his master plan…

No one had acquired lemonade for the game, as no one bothered with the marketing for a brand new product whose sources are in this cut off road that none of the original shops could get to. At the same time, no one paid attention to the amount of beefed up errand boys that Aaron has slowly acquired. Each of his errand boy can obtain 2 drinks due to a milestone achieved early on in the game. In the second to last turn, Aaron quickly constructed a Radio tower and suddenly almost all homes started wanting lemonade. As Annie and I quickly scramble to get lemonade with our blimps, Aaron began the second portion of his plan, the “Price Cut”. He undercut all our prices with his discount manager and waitress, and during the last round, was able to nag every sale except a couple of Annie’s in the corner.

We broke the bank for the second time, and its finally time for final scoring. Aaron started from less than 20 dollars to 300 in one turn. I only made about 50 dollars the last round thanks to my quick expansion strategy into that dead end road with the lemonade. Chad was less fortunate. He had a similar strategy as Aaron, but never got to execute his plan. He ended the game robbed of all profits and 35 dollars in his pocket. The surprising winner is Annie, who despite claiming she is terrible at games, made about 450 dollars at the end. I guess slow and steady wins the race?

Final thoughts

I had a great time playing Food Chain Magnate for the first time. It is a little tricky to learn mainly because of the huge amount of choices and strategies available. Once you get it though, the game has a nearly perfect mix of strategy, sabotage, and diplomacy. Combine it with a great theme that everyone can relate to, you’ve got a winner of a game.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

castles of mad king ludwig
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Set Up
  3. Gameplay
  4. End Game
  5. Appendix

Introduction

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a tile laying game where players build crazy castles by laying out a floor plan to please the crazy king’s wishes. Players score points by buying and placing rooms, placing certain rooms next to each other, and fulfilling the public and personal bonuses. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Set Up

Board set up

  • Place board on table using the side corresponding your player count
  • *Number of room cards, place on board
  • Place bonus card deck
  • *Place stairs/hallway, room tiles
  • Place one favor tile per player
  • Turn over top 7 room cards and flip over corresponding room size tiles
  • Choose a player for master builder token
  • Place player with master builder on 0 of score track, going clockwise place on 1-3

Player set up

Each player receives

  • One foyer
  • 3 Bonus card, discard 1 to bottom of deck
  • 15000 Marks (money)

Gameplay

Gameplay consists of 3 phases

  1. Market
  2. Building
  3. Scoring

Market

The master builder decides the price for each of the rooms on the board and arrange accordingly, one room per price. Draw room cards and tile to fill empty spots. Starting from left of the master builder going clockwise, player can do one of the following

  • Buy room at set price and pay master builder
  • Buy stairs/hallway for 3000 an pay master builder
  • Take 5000 from bank
  • Master builder pays bank to buy room

Building

Players place the newly bought room in their castle, expanding from the foyer. Follow these rules to place room

  • At least one entrance must connect to another entrance
  • Cannot overlap
  • Entrances may be blocked by walls
  • Downstairs rooms may only be connected with other downstairs rooms or stairs from upstairs
  • Rooms cannot be adjacent to fence on outdoor rooms
  • Cannot purchase room that cannot be placed
  • Must have atleast one doorway out of castle

If a room has all its entrances connected, it is complete. Get the completion bonus at the back of player’s guide card.

Scoring

After the room is placed, update score track according to the following guidelines

  • Score point indicated on the room
  • Score/deduct points for connections/adjacencies according to room icons
  • Score/deduct points for connections/adjacencies of previously placed rooms
  • Score for downstair room icons if any

End Game

The game ends after the round where the room card deck is depleted. If there is not enough cards to fill the market, shuffle the discard pile and draw until market is filled.

End game scoring

  • 2 points for each room player has from depleted stacks
  • Points on bonus cards
  • 1 point per 10000 Mark
  • Rank players for King’s favors and score according to guide on board

Player with the most points wins. Ties broken by total square footage of castle