New Games: Gear & Piston, Byzantio/Nekken

Yesterday morning I received a parcel. it turned out that parcel was the delivery of pair of kick-starter projects I backed earlier this year, both by LudiCreations. I was expecting them soon, but so earlier was absolutely brilliant service, and it’s awesome to know they were sent from Essen!

Gear & Piston

So far I’ve had the opportunity to play this one twice. In it, you are an engineer in the late 1800’s trying to design a prototype automobile to compete with the forthcoming motoring giants. You do this by developing new parts, scrounging for junk and ultimately in order to meet deadlines, using any old scrap that’ll get the thing working!

In the game you place tokens (workers) in a few places to try and gather the parts you need (or prevent others from doing so!) to build your wonder machine. These are:

  • The Black Market. Here you can do dodgy things at the cost of losing one of your actions next turn. These include looking through the next few new parts to take one, stealing a part from another players hand, and shifting your position on a location to get what you want first (or even go last to get the first player token next turn!)
  • The Patent Office. I find it a strange idea for the new parts to be here, but it does the job. Here you can take a single new part from a wide selection (6) or a random one from the stack. At the end of each round all the available parts are discarded and a new 6 are placed out. Also, when a part is taken it is immediately refreshed, so it can pay to take a piece later if nothing really appeals for your car that’s already out!
  • The Junk Yard. Here you can scrounge parts that have been dumped by the motoring giants or other people trying to develop their own automobiles. These aren’t quite so lovely and sometimes have volatility that represents how likely your car would be to just collapse during use. The advantage is that you can take 2 from here, although the selections a little smaller than the patent office too (3).
  • The Workshop. This location is where everyone heads back to their workshop and tinkers with their machine. You can build, upgrade and remove parts from your prototype and work it to perfection here. Going early in the order lets you get more done, but the last player gets the 1st player token next round.

Each game you have a few investors to compete over who provide some extra points based on what you’ve built. One investor for example likes a car with a long range and another just wants it to be comfy, other still might want a really long automobile to roll around in. These are what provide a bit of spice and variety to each game.

I really enjoy seeing what everyone comes up with as the games goes on, whether it’s a dirty petrol vehicle with dodgy components or a luxury hybrid. I’ve lost both the games I’ve played, although the 2nd I at least drew for 2nd place (4 of us). It may or may not help that the first game we just did a few things wrong, and the second we extended the game longer than I think we were supposed to because we just didn’t want to stop with half-vehicles that would be more scrap than not, i.e. not much fun ^^.

The game does up to 6 and is pretty easy to teach, so I can’t wait to get some more plays in and I just hope it doesn’t get stale as one of the players felt it might. I will not rest till I make a petroleum gas electric hybrid!

Byzantio

This is a very interesting game in that I backed it more because I was interested in the company, LudiCreations than because I wanted the game. I wasn’t sure at all if I’d like the game as there’s things involving writing and hidden data which aren’t really something I’m accustomed to and don’t like people doing in games where it’s not a deliberate mechanic ^^

In it, you are competing to control a variety of cities across various regions of the Byzantio world. At the start of the game you write down the cities that you are aiming to have control of and will get points based on whether you get those or not. The reason it’s hidden is that at the end of the game you get points if you can guess your opponents primary high scoring city correctly.

To achieve your goals, you have 30 available actions of a few different types – Campaign, Muster, Advance, Negotiate, Bribe and Expel. There are 30 rounds and a set number of each of these, so you must plan wisely to not limit yourself in later rounds and lose your empire. Advance is an interesting one as it’s the only way for big movements across the map, and you only have 4 of them. Use your last one before having half your cities taken from you and you’ll be in serious trouble.

As it turns out, I found our solitary game really fun to play, with my chosen cities happening to be not too overly competitive with my foes, who really seemed to bicker a lot over their disturbing similar set of places!

In the end I won by having control of 4/6 cities, with a 5th as a draw (Half points). One of the other players guessed my home city, which I had placed as an island which as it turns out, for at least the first game is a really obvious idea to go for (Everyone’s was an island!). I guessed one other persons. Of the other 2 players, one guessed both and the other guessed neither, but they had control of or drew on enough of their cities they couldn’t match my sprawling and beautiful empire!

Very interesting game, and I look forward to my future plays to see how our strategy develops over time. I can see the misdirection elements of the game coming heavier and heavier into play as the players go through it, with next game for example everyone’s main cities being likely to be a nonchalent town in the middle of the map to try and obscure it in among fights over the islands to try and draw people’s gaze away.

I’d like to finish with a massive thanks to LudiCreations, for delivering their projects not just on time, but one a month earlier than the estimate and 1 2 months earlier (If only by a day into those brackets). Very great service and I look forward to backing future board games from them.

Hope everyone’s had a great Halloween and continuing to have amazing parties to do with it!

Bye! =)

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