Fairy Tale: I had been somewhat intrigued by this game since I heard about its “booster draft” format. Basically, the idea is you play cards in different suits with different icons. Cards can provide straight points, or points if you get other suits/icons/cards in various combinations. Some cards also allow or force you to “close” (deactivate) cards belonging to you or other players bearing certain icons, or “open” (reactivate) previously closed cards. You are dealt a hand of 5 cards, then pick one to keep and pass the rest around, until everyone has selected 5, then you play three. You play 3 or 4 hands (I forget exactly).
I thought Fairy Tale was pretty clever and I enjoyed it. The cards are nicely illustrated, and there is a bit of strategy, even though it’s still fairly light. It’s a little pricey at over $20, but not too bad. I don’t think that there is really enough control or depth to keep me interested long-term, but it is short, and I’m always looking for good short games. I’ll probably pick up a copy.
Himalaya: This is I gather a professional publishing of a DIY game, Merchants of Empire (which I had never played), done this time by Tilsit, a company known primarily around here for its appalling train wrecks like Vox Populi. Himalaya is basically a pick-up-and-deliver style game, but with the twist that you have to pre-program things well in advance. Goods and contracts appear randomly, and you have to decide where to go and when to try to sell, bearing in mind your opponents may beat you there. You can get temples, advisors, or money for delivering goods. The victory conditions are then vaguely Knizia-esque, with three layers: if you’re last in temples or advisors, you can’t win. Of the players still left, most money wins.
Again, I rather liked Himalaya. It’s somewhat random and a bit control-light, but the decisions are interesting and there is very little down-time due to the simultaneous planning. Deciding whether to cash out for influence or money is always tough. It’s a simple game, not terribly deep – usually what you want to do is pretty obvious, you just need to worry about other players – but it works out OK because it’s short and the process is interesting. It’s also got significant randomness, but again, this seemed to be well-balanced against the game’s modest length.
It’s another in the “disposable” category of games, unlikely to ever make it to 10 plays for me anyway, but clever and rather good for that class. Not quite a buy I don’t think (maybe if I could get it for $20-ish), but one I’d be happy to play again.
Mall World: This game is still holding up quite well for me, and is still tough on first-time players. There is always one rule you’re going to miss, forget, or otherwise screw up, and it’ll hose you. But I still quite like it. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s best not to get hugely wound up about this one because there is a fair amount of chaos. But there is a lot of skill too, and for me it still sucks me in despite the head-banging use of colors. It’s up to about 5 plays now, and definitely a keeper.
Keythedral: This is about my 3rd or 4th play on Keythedral, and it’s still doing pretty well. It strikes me as significantly the best of the “Key” games, the least convoluted and most interesting, and of the most appropriate length. But … I found we had been playing it wrong. I had played before that the Laws on offer were face up, when they should be face down. I think I might like my way better. There is major variance in the strengths of the laws, from stuff that hugely helps you (Work Order) to ones that minorly inconvenience one other player (Price Increase). This would be a bit frustrating in a game that really makes you think in the worker allocation phase, but when the laws were face up, there was some time pressure to get the really good ones, as players would be willing to end their turns much earlier than they would otherwise to get them. On the other hand, if they’re face-up, everyone knows what’s out there all the time, which might bog the game down. For me, though, the hefty chunk of randomness added by giving the laws out randomly seemed a bit out of line with the depth of the rest of the game. But overall, still a solid game.