We’ve got the whole spectrum of games on the menu today. From massive, sprawling space epics to tiny, cute, 10-minute fillers. Let’s see how they’ve fared at the table…
Sidereal Confluence (Remastered Edition)
Holy space cubes, what a barnburner of a negotiation game!
Trust me when I say that I am the first person who runs and hides from a bland cube pusher. Century Spice Road? I’m out. Terraforming Mars? Wake me up when it’s over. Through the Ages? No thanks!
Sidereal Confluence is one cube-swamped game that you have to play to believe. I am blown away by the thought and care that went into the creation of this game. And I am SHOOK by how much fun I had trading cubes, spending cubes, and earning cubes like some kind of unrestrained cube addict. This master-class design takes the addictive simultaneous trading loop of Chinatown to the next level for people willing to sit through a longer rules explanation. Fortunately, this version provides an invaluable 1-sheet teaching guide that makes the teach much easier for both instructor and listener.
The plentiful converters and fascinating asymmetry of Sidereal Confluence combine into a perfect blend of negotiation stew. I’m tickled by the ability to trade or loan cards to other players, as this feels like a bottomless well of strategery that we merely dipped our toes in on our first play. On top of that, these alien races all seem wildly unique and lovingly crafted for engaging replayability and dynamic interactions.
This remastered production is a knock-out from head to toe. The cubes are satisfyingly heavy, the rules are blessedly clear, and the graphic design is thoroughly thoughtful. The insert is great, yet I’m eager to seek out a custom insert that hopefully separates the cubes and factions for even faster setup and teardown. This is one design that I’m dying to play over and over and over again.
Current Rating: 10/10
Sequoia uses dice allocation and area majority to good effect in this quick, simple, pretty game. This is a decent way to kill 10 minutes of time. The game is played simultaneously as players roll 5 of their own dice and secretly form two pairs. The revealed pairs determine where your two tree tokens go for area majority as players compete for first and second place points after 10 rounds.
The tiebreaker phase is perhaps my favorite part. Any ties are resolved by playing extra rounds with the first person to place another tree token on the card claiming it. While that is in some ways just a roll-off to see who gets the right number first, I found myself having to decide between one tie and another. Which tied card do I put off for another round and hope that nobody else swoops in and claims?
Sequoia is an all-around solid filler that should amuse anyone, but we don’t play fillers nearly enough to justify owning and playing this one over other more interesting options.
Current Rating: 6.5/10
GPS provides a nifty concept for a filler with the main attraction being the spinner. Wherever the spinner lands, players will select one of their satellites (numbered 1-12) to place or move there (or in the next open space in either direction if they already have a satellite there). This is all in an effort to be the first to line up your satellites in numerical order in a clockwise direction around the board.
It’s definitely more fiddly than we’d like, as the satellites don’t quite fit around the board. Because the satellites are a bit wider than the spaces they are supposed to line up with, things get crowded and messy when multiple spaces in a row are filled. This issue is compounded with the slight movements of the board that frequently occur while spinning the rocket. There were times where it was hard to tell which space a satellite was supposed to be in. While it’s not a huge effect on the game outcome, it does dampen and distract from the fun a bit.
As far as strategy and meaningful decisions go, they are pretty few and far between. The best move is almost always obvious.
For a 10-minute filler, it’s hard to give weight to any of these complaints, and you can certainly do a whole lot worse. This one seems best with a loud, light-hearted group who cheers the eye-catching spinner onward. Although I can see things getting even messier with more players.
Current Rating: 5.5/10
Mountain Goats is a game of king of the hill with multiple hills being contested. Dice allocation is used to get a player’s goats to the top of the hills where they can start raking in points until another player knocks them off those hills.
There’s certainly some fun to be had here, but decisions are fairly predictable as there is only so much you can do with your dice rolls. It also seems like adding more players to the game will simply increase the playtime by another 5 minutes per player, as goats are more frequently knocked back down and have to spend multiple rounds climbing back up.
I just don’t see myself opting for this filler for 2-4 players when for an extra 10 or 20 minutes we can get so much more bang for our buck with the likes of an Oink Game, For Sale, High Society, Love Letter, a solid roll & write, a whole slew of killer 2-player games, and more.
Current Rating: 6/10
Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy
1/2 of a Play
When I first looked into Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy, I saw the BGG weight (3.5) and expected a reasonably straightforward game. Yet I wasn’t prepared for the sheer scope of Eclipse and the way it boldly spans across both time and space. This is an epic war game and a rare design that made me lust for a larger table and longer chunks of free time to satisfy its demands and bask in its payoffs. Likewise, we don’t have the playmat, and it certainly isn’t required to play and enjoy Eclipse, but it’s definitely something I intend to pick up eventually because of game of this ambition is worthy of such vanity.
The game required two entire tables of space just to keep everything within reach. And even then, I don’t see this game ever getting played at our home again until we upgrade to a much larger table. The biggest issue was that the expanding map of tiles quickly encroaches on player areas if players explore outward.
Despite me being the space banker who had to constantly retrieve components from our second nearby table, the gameplay justified its sprawling size and extra effort. Players can claim any research tiles they want, provided they can meet the required cost. Ship upgrades are even more sandboxy, as you can customize and specialize your fleet however you please. Every aspect of the experience has been carefully thought out and ironed down to make the play as smooth as possible, courtesy of Game Trayz. Passing the research and upgrade trays around like they are appetizer platters is a constant and luxurious affair.
The lure to explore and expand outward is ever present, with more discovery bonuses and population squares always within reach. The catch is that spreading yourself too thin in a quest for dangling carrots will simply make you look more appetizing to the predatorial foes of the galaxy. This is a war game, after all, and goodies are generously awarded to those who seek destruction and domination.
With the streamlined experience and (relatively) condensed playtime, I don’t see any other epic war game dethroning Eclipse from my collection. Unfortunately, our first play of it was stopped short when one player was called into work mid-game, but we were all fully invested and enjoying ourselves up until then.
Current Rating: 9/10
If you’re a glutton for Knizia tile layers, like me, then you really should be getting yourself a copy of Babylonia. This one feels like a hybrid between Samurai’s tense tile majorities and Through the Desert’s dangling carrots and snaking connections. The big differences here are that points are constantly/instantly awarded, unique abilities/bonuses are up for grabs, and decisions have a much wider ripple effect.
While the game provides a constant flow of juicy decisions, it lacks the dramatic moments of Tigris & Euphrates and Ra, so I’m not about to put it above those. Nevertheless, there are several interesting strategies here that one can lean into for lucrative points. The relative values of these strategies all hinge upon your opponents, making this a highly dynamic game. So while Samurai feels more cutthroat and opportunistic, and Through the Desert keeps a clean state and smooth tempo, Babylonia forges its own path by providing subtly critical choices that ripple throughout the arc of the game. Therefore, none of these games cannibalize each other within my collection.
While the game board suffers a bit from a lack of clarity, the wooden tokens and racks (at least of the latest printing) are a nice touch, so I guess the production is a wash? It doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, we’ve been favored with another killer Knizia. That’s why this game was categorized as a Lover in my recent revisit of the best board games of 2019. Now, who wants to play?!
Current Rating: 9/10
This concludes another episode of Candid Cardboard: my first impressions of new releases! Have you tried any of these games yet? What are your thoughts on them?
Article written by Nick Murray. To learn more about his tabletop gaming tastes and preferences, check out his blog series: Tabletop Tastes: My Favorite Flavors in Board Games. To follow his designs as they come to fruition, subscribe to our newsletter and follow Bitewing Games on social media!