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When Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game was nominated for the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres in May, Portal’s Ignacy Trzewiczek celebrated by releasing “Suburbia,” a free stand-alone Detective case that could be played using simplified rules and a few print-and-play components, for a limited time. The publisher calls this case “a perfect scenario for a one-off game session,” as it is “a bit shorter and simpler than the other missions.” So it seemed like the perfect place to jump in -- and for free, the perfect price as well.
Okay, I’m going to ruin the suspense right here and say that I enjoyed the Suburbia case so much, I bought Detective after playing it. So I am able to give an overview of the game’s components, and not just the print-and-play bits I used for the stand-alone case.
First, a note on the Suburbia stand-alone case. While it is no longer available as a free download, it is available as a $10 purchase from the Portal website. I highly recommend it as an entry point for two reasons. First, its stand-alone nature makes it easily playable in one session of around two hours. Second, that session will act as a tutorial, teaching you the game before you get into the five-case campaign found in the base game box. This will prevent any potential learning game issues when you start the actual campaign game.
The components of the Suburbia case include a printable board, an introduction to the case that begins the story -- involving the murder of a young woman -- and a pdf file with a number of cards that are read when you visit different locations throughout the game. It streamlines the game by eliminating the investigator’s special abilities, which makes sense as an intro/demo scenario. I played the scenario referencing the cards directly from the pdf and managed fine, but I admit it would have been smoother if I printed, cut and sleeved them all. But I didn’t feel I could manage that without accidentally gleaning any spoilers.
As for what is included in the full game, there is a game board, wooden markers and cardboard tokens, 36 card decks for each of the five cases, five character tiles, plastic evidence bags, a casebook, and a rule book. They all fit nicely in a custom plastic insert in the box.
Both the standalone case and the full game use the Antares Database, a website with collected witness reports, interrogation transcripts, suspect files, and evidence -- including fingerprints, blood, hair, and more. Important: This means the game requires a digital device that is connected to the Internet to play. However, one neat aspect of the game is that at certain points when it mentions certain real-world landmarks -- such as the Quicken Loans Arena in the Suburbia case -- it encourages you to Google them for background information, grounding the fictional mystery in very real-world trappings.
The game concept itself is fairly simple. Figure out “whodunit” in an allotted amount of time. Time -- your most limited resource -- is spent going to different locations, questioning witnesses, and interrogating suspects. Get as much detail and background as you can without getting tripped up by extraneous information and red herrings. Use deductive reasoning, and some educated guesswork, to answer a set of questions when your time is up and your final report is due. You are then graded based on your answers, as well as the amount of evidence you were able to collect to prove your theory.
You won’t have time to follow every lead, and you’ll only have enough special tokens to call in so many special favors, so there is plenty of tension in deciding which leads will be the best use of your time. The game says it can take three to four hours to play, but I suspect this is contingent on both your playgroup and the amount of deliberating they want to do at each decision point, as well as the playgroup size -- since I played solo, I didn’t have to convince anyone of my reasoning, and just followed my instincts, playing quicker than I would have if I had to confer with teammates.
This game feels inspired by -- and a hyper-modern take on -- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. However, even some people that didn’t like SH:CD may still enjoy this experience. Anyone that was tripped up by the Victorian setting will not have that issue here. Also, judging by Detective’s reception, there is less of an issue with typos and general errata. With some of the game going digital, some of this can be mitigated by updates to the Antares website, if necessary. However, anyone that didn’t like SH:CD because it was a cooperative deduction game is not going to find anything different at the core of the experience here, regardless of the modern theming or digital integration it employs.
The digital integration has pros and cons, of course -- many of which have been discussed with every game that mixes technology into tabletop gaming. The obvious pros include removing some game maintenance overhead from the players by storing it on the website, by using less physical components, and by very effectively helping to sell the theme of the game. The cons are that the game requires an Internet connection, and can be interrupted by a power outage or drained battery. A longer term concern is that it potentially gives the game a finite lifespan, as it will no longer work if and when Portal decides to stop paying the hosting fees for the website.
One minor gripe I had was that at a few points, I was pulled out of the story by slight linguistic/translation errors, like one character being referred to as the assistant coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers “junior team." The dissonance I had is because in the NBA, the “junior” league is called the G League, thanks to its sponsor, Gatorade. In the Cavaliers’ case, their G League affiliate, the Canton Charge, plays in Canton, Ohio, and not in Cleveland, where the story was set and the character lived and worked. So it read as a non-native translation, which was mildly off-putting, but not critical in any way to gameplay.
From my play of the Suburbia case, Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game seesm like a great addition to the hobby for anyone looking for a substantial, stimulating deduction game that makes its players feel like real detectives. I can’t wait to jump into the full game campaign after enjoying my initial taste of the game.
Gather round the table for some delicious treats. Check out my review of Point Salad from AEG! Please tap the like button and subscribe to the channel—plus hit the bell be notified when a new goes live!
BJ reviews his recent plays of Curios from AEG on a recent Gumbo Live! with his special guests, Jeremy "Game Geek Ninja" (designer of Bag of Spiders) and Phillip "Baseball Highlights: 2045 Champion!" Millman.
Gumbo Live! Tuesdays at 8:30 PM CST / 9:30 PM EST hosted by Board Game Gumbo www.facebook.com/boardgamegumbo @boardgamegumbo on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook
This week Chris and Dan are joined by not one, not 2, but THREE guests!
They couldn’t decide who should be on, so we had all of them! Join Ann, Matt, and Josh from Twist Gaming as we talk all about the inception of Twist.tv and the advent of board game streaming on Twitch.
Come along on this fun trip!
S2E15 - Twist Gaming - with Matt, Ann, & Josh - YouTube
Seasons of Rice is the latest game in Button Shy’s line of wallet games. It is a two-player card drafting and tableau building game, designed by Corry Damey, with artwork by the designer and his brother Jerome Damey. The eighteen-card microgame is set in Cambodia, themed around expanding rice paddies to produce the most bountiful crop. Seasons of Rice was one of the two winners of the #GenCant2018 Design Challenge, with the other being Elizabeth Hargrave's Tussie Mussie, which was also published by Button Shy.
Players each take an Ancestor card, which gives them a bonus scoring opportunity, and a starting landscape card. The game is then played over two seasons -- the wet season and the dry season. This, thematically, represents the players having an abundance of resources in the wet season which rapidly dwindle into the dry season.
At the beginning of the wet season, fourteen cards are dealt out equally between the two players. Each player plays one to their landscape, plays one to a central row, and then passes their hand to their opponent. This repeats three times, with players then finally passing one card to their opponent, which gets played to their landscape.
Scoring is done throughout the game, as paddies are closed in players’ landscapes. Players score points for the size of the closed paddy, as well as for any farmers and buffalo in it. The scoring increases in a near triangular fashion for both the paddy size and the number of farmers, incentivizing players to make larger paddies and fill them with multiple farmers.
At the end of the wet season, whoever has less points is the starting player for the dry season. In the dry season draft, players will alternate taking cards from the central row until no cards remain. At that point, there is a final scoring phase, which rewards players with a point per closed paddy, and any final scoring bonuses from that player’s ancestor card. The player with the most points wins, and “may proudly boast of having the most fertile rice paddies in the region!”
Seasons of Rice has an interesting and offbeat theme, made more meaningful by the fact the designer and artist are using it to pay homage to their Cambodian heritage. It features two different kinds of drafts -- a pick-and-pass draft and an open Rochester-style draft -- which is a feat considering the entire game is eighteen cards. Combining the draft with the card placement and various ancestor bonuses means the best card is not always an obvious choice, or the same for each player. Forming squares on diagonal rectangular cards can also be tricky, giving the game a neat spatial aspect that is a bit trickier to master than some similar titles.
The most obvious comparison to Seasons of Rice is fellow Button Shy title Circle the Wagons (my review). As I’ve now reviewed both, let me give a quick run down on the similarities and differences. Seasons of Rice and Circle the Wagons are both two-player only games that feature a card draft, playing cards to a personal tableau, and double-sided cards with landscape features on one side and bonuses on the other. However, inspecting each aspect closer, there are significant differences. For one, Circle the Wagons has a singular rondel-style open draft, which is different than either of Seasons of Rice’s drafts. Additionally, CtW has three scoring cards shared by both players, as opposed to each player getting one private bonus card in SoR. Another difference is that CtW has a simpler rectangular card layout compared to the diagonal squares setup of SoR, and in CtW you can overlap cards, whereas you cannot in SoR.. Finally, tableaus in CtW score without any additional requirements, unlike in SoR, where the paddies in the tableau must be closed to score.
The focus on drafting in Seasons of Rice is much stronger, the spatial puzzle very different, and the acquisition of points feels very different, with players incentivized in different directions, as opposed to fighting over shared point-scoring goals.
In short, if you are a fan of Circle the Wagons, you will almost certainly enjoy Seasons of Rice -- and considering their differences, as well as their small price point and smaller sizes, there is definitely room in a collection for both of them.
Pros: It’s basically dark wizardry that Button Shy consistently produces interesting, strategic games that only contain eighteen cards and can easily fit in a pants pocket. This game is no exception, and furthermore, builds on some of their best designs with its take on drafting and tableau building. Seasons of Rice -- in Button Shy tradition -- is easy to learn, plays quickly, and doesn’t take up a lot of table space. It could be played while waiting for food at a restaurant, or using two adjacent tray tables on an airplane. Finally, I love the unique theme and artwork, and that the game’s setting is one that pays homage to the heritage of the game’s designer and artist.
Cons: The game only playing with exactly two players is a limiting factor. The diagonal lines that make squares on the rectangular cards can be a bit unintuitive at first, and gives the game a bit more of a learning curve than other tableau builders, especially for those that are spatially challenged. The game needs to be scored as it is played, and doesn’t come with a score pad. However, the ancestor cards do have a score tracker on their edges, but I found this only works well with paper clips, which are also not included.
My solution to tracking scores during the game.
In conclusion, I find myself consistently impressed with Button Shy’s wallet line, and enjoyed this latest entry -- which is no surprise considering my enjoyment of microgames, two-player games, drafting, and tableau building.
Full disclosure: I received a preview copy of Seasons of Rice from the publisher.
Hey board gamers, Gen Con 2019 is just two short weeks away!! What are you excited to see at the US’s largest gaming convention? We here at the Gumbo are making our lists and checking them twice, just to be sure that we don’t miss a thing.
Here’s a list of games, and companies, that we’re interested in at this year’s convention. This list isn’t ordered by interest, just alphabetical.
Also, a hearty thank you to the hard working gamers at Board Game Geek who cultivate the Gen Con 2019 Preview list. Without your hard work, people like us probably wouldn’t have the time to put together a list like this.
Bradly - Tales of Glory looks to play a bit like Call to Adventure, just without the casting of runes. I really liked the storytelling aspect of Call to Adventure, so I’m excited to see what ToG can do with a similar theme, but without the randomness of ‘rolls.’
Bradly - Richard Launius has made a ton of games that I love; Arkham Horror 3rd Ed, Defenders of the Realm, and Fate of the Elder Gods just to name a few. So Dragonscales is something I’m definitely interested in checking out. It also has an interesting theme; players are evil villains trying to steal from a Dragon’s hoard. Will it be that much different than the numerous games about heroes trying to defeat/steal from a dragon’s hoard? Maybe not, but it looks great and the slight twist on the theme, along with the Launius name, has me interested.
BJ - I think Jonny Pac is one of the most up and coming designers out there. Coloma had a unique twist on the worker placement / cooperative until it is not, genre. Sierra West is getting some play time on the ‘net, and good reviews. I can’t wait to try this one at the show. I’ve bought games just on the cover alone with mixed results, but this is an amazingly cool cover, especially for anyone that has hiked Philmont.
BJ - Combine Helaina Cappel from Burnt Island’s obsession with quality productions (see Endeavour for a great example), art from Josh Cappel and Kwanchai Moriya, and game play from one half of the Bamboozled Brothers’ Jay Cormier -- and everyone should be checking this combination of tile laying, pick up and delivery and fantasy. For more in depth looks, check out our interviews with Jay and Helaina here.
BJ - I have only have one play of Twilight Struggle, but really enjoyed getting thrashed by Bradly, even with Carlos’ help. But, Watergate is my time, my kind of game. I grew up wanting to be in journalism, so this theme REALLY appeals to me. I’m going to have to preorder this one as I expect an early sell out.
Bradly - I’ll be honest, I was pretty disappointed with the Bloodborne card game that CMON put out in 2016. And the God of War game, from what little I’ve seen, looks fairly similar in design. Still, it’s God of War and CMON!! I at least have to get a demo in!
Bradly - My interest in certain mechanics tends to wax and wane, but one that I never seem to get bored of are escape room style games. Mystery House takes that idea and turns the knob up to 11, then breaks it off, with this crazy looking game. The box is the house, and you can look through the doorways to find clues?!?! It may say Demo only, but I wonder how much cash I’d have to throw at them to take it home.
Bradly - The DC deckbuilding game is a game that I’ve played a lot of, and then set aside. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just a fairly straightforward deckbuilder. Rebirth seems to shake that up a bit by bringing in mechanics from some of the other Cryptozoic dekbuilders, like the movement aspect of Attack on Titan deckbuilding game. It’s definitely worth a look for me.
Bradly - I expect this to be one of the Hotness games this year, so getting a copy may be a bit of a challenge. A civ-building game with 3D pieces (think Legos) is really all you have to say to get me excited for this game.
BJ - I never had time to get a demo at Dice Tower Con, but got a high level overview from Mike Yong at Plan B Games. Just seeing it on the demo table and hearing about the game play is enough to put this on my want list.
Bradly - Survival games are nothing new in board gaming, but Until Daylight looks to have trimmed away all the extraneous mechanics and streamlined the experience. It looks a bit pricey for what you get, but it’s one I want to try out.
Bradly - Dragonrealm seems to combine the area control/denial mechanic of Imhotep with card play, in what I would best describe as a slightly more complicated version of The Grimm Forest. This one I’m mostly interested in for nieces and nephews, as it looks too simple for my normal board gaming group. But rest assured, I am heavily encouraging the next generation of board gamers, whether they like it or not!!
BJ - cheating a bit here. I demoed for Grey Fox Games at Dice Tower Con 2019, and probably demoed this game for folks at least 10-15 times. So, I know the game pretty well already, and have a copy coming to my house through the Kickstarter. And I’ll be demoing this for Grey Fox on Thursday. This is just a blanket shill to come visit me on Thursday to try the game - it’s that good if you like thematic euros. And if you need more information, I Heart Board Games hosted Alex and me for a full game play here.
And if you take me on in Bushido, and can best me, I might even have a surprise for you….see you at the con.
Bradly - Despite the fact that its’ box will give me fits sitting on my shelf, Dawnshade looks like a very intriguing cooperative RPG-style game. Any game that references Final Fantasy in their description definitely gets a look from me!
BJ - I honestly do not know a lot about this game, except that a lot of people were playing it and talking about it at Dice Tower Con. One hour wonder? Cool art? Interesting theme? Programming? It checks off a lot of boxes for me, so it is worth a look see.
Bradly - Horrible Games seems to do a mix of games, some with mass appeal (Potion Explosion and Railroad Ink) and then they’ll do something really ambitious and odd, like Alone. The King’s Dilemma falls into the latter category, and there’s scant information available on their BGG page. From the description this is either going to be a game I absolutely love or loathe. Either way, I am checking it out at Gencon!
Bradly - This is another game that I expect is on a lot of peoples’ lists. Western Legends was one of my favorite games of last year, and Mezo is looking to one up its’ big brother. There’s not much else to say about this one, other than the booth may be too busy for me to get a demo in.
BJ - John Clowdus has a lot of cred even though he does not have a lot of designs that get much publicity on Twitter or Facebook. People that play his games really talk about the elegance and sharpness of his designs. This is the one game he has that is top of my list to try.
Bradly - I put together little notes on games when I first look at them, that way when I finally get around to putting together a list like this I can have a reminder about why I was interested in the first place. For Obscurio I simply wrote ‘Mysterium with a traitor mechanic.’ Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? Cause it makes me really excited!
BJ - Okay, I’m cheating a bit here, too. I already backed this as part of the most recent Kickstarter. But, i’ve met the gang from Nauvoo, they seem like cool people, and I would love a quick demo on the new rules, and thank Brett in person for coming on Gumbo Live! back during The Reckoners’ Kickstarter. Oh yeah, it would be fun to try that one , too.
BJ - This one is just based on the designer’s game history, plus the fact that I so enjoyed Quacks when I finally got to try it last month. I’ll be looking for a demo, but this is one I probably will wait on purchasing.
BJ - Big fan of the Oink Games model, and Nine Tiles Panic is their newest game. I love the artwork, just need to see a little game play at Gen Con to tip me over the eddge.
Bradly - I have no specific game to look at when I stop by the Oink Games booth. I will be looking at all of them, that’s just how reliable Oink has been with their games. Insider, Deep Sea Adventures, and A Fake Artist Goes to New York are all the reason I need to stop at their booth.
Bradly - I don’t know a ton about Planet Apocalypse, but it looks very good in pictures. The minis are absolutely disgusting (in a good way) and I love the box art. It’s a cooperative game in the same vein as Dead of Winter or Zombicide, so I don’t know if it’ll do enough new to warrant a purchase. It’s one I absolutely plan to demo, though.
BJ - I am a huge fan of Imperial Settlers, and have all of the faction expansions. So, I was not too sure (or “not sure sure” as we say in Acadiana) about this new stand alone game. I’ve done some research, and listened to some podcasts, and failed (again) to demo it at Dice Tower Con. So, I’m a little blind on this one but I love the theme and the world so I am trusting Ignacy. I’m enticed enough to at least pass by the booth, but odds are, this one is coming home with me. The art alone is worth the admission! (Not quite sure what “freezing playable” means, but let’s find out together, shall we?)
Bradly - A member of the Gumbo Krewe backed Court of the Dead on Kickstarter, and if he hadn’t I would have, so I’m very interested in this game. Usually I won’t spend time looking at games I already know are on their way; I’ll just wait until they arrive and check them out then. But Court of the Dead looks really good to me, so I want a little taste before the full game gets delivered. The last shots I saw of the miniatures was a little disappointing to me, but these things are hard to tell without the piece in your hand.
BJ - I am a sucker for almost everything Clank!, and unlike Jamie of The Secret Cabal, have no problems with Apes Holding Weapons. The mummy version of Clank! Is my favorite expansion so far, so they seem to keep getting better. Looking forward to picking this one up.
BJ - I traded away all other racing games as soon as Restoration Games published Downforce. (Well, except Camel Up, but...camels.) The first expansion has better tracks than the original, and these new tracks look even better. Kudos to Restoration for top quality production and must have expansions.
Bradly - Yet another game I expect to be on a lot of lists. Childress and Dark Tower; there’s really not a lot more to be said.
BJ - I tried this out at Dice Tower Con, along with my son Jack, Alex Goldsmith of the Dukes of Dice, and Corey from Dice Tower News. We ran through some new quests designed by Isaac Childress (with him sitting next to us randomizing the monsters!) and with our steady GM, Justin from Restoration. We’re not allowed to talk much -- we still have not hired Sean Ramirez to break the NDA -- but what I can tell you is that the writing is top notch, there’s tons of tension, and it’s not your father’s Dark Tower. Geaux check it out if they have anything for demo at Gen Con.
Bradly - Square Enix has two games they’ll have for sale in their booth that are based off of Final Fantasy. As a certified Final Fantasy nut, I just have to check them out. They probably won’t be amazing; the Cactpot one in particular looks pretty terrible, but I have to see them.
BJ - My eye always rests on a game that can play in under an hour and promises an interesting card drafting mechanism. I do not know a lot about Amul, other than the publisher and the art we've seen on BGG, but any game that hints at engaging card drafting play is worthy of a stop at the booth.
Bradly - Thanos Rising was one of the surprise hits for me in 2018. I honesty did not expect to like it as much as I did. Obviously I wasn’t the only one, because now USAOpoly (or The OP, as they now call themselves) is making a Harry Potter and a Star Wars themed version of the game. I believe the Star Wars themed version will not be available in the US (some type of licensing thing) but the Harry Potter one will be available for demo at Gencon. My brother-in-law is a huge Harry Potter fan, so I’ll eventually be getting a copy for his family.
Bradly - I grew up on Romance of the Three Kingdoms RTS games and Dynasty Warriors. The War of the Three Kingdoms is a setting I’m very familiar with and any game with that setting at least gets a look from me. YOKA actually has two War of the Three Kingdoms games available for sale at Gencon; one may be an expansion, I’m honestly not sure. Either way, I’ll be stopping by to take a look.
And that’s our list for games to check out at Gen Con 2019. What have we missed? What games do you think are going to be the Hotness this year? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and let us know!
Great news starts of the banter portion of the show. In recently played games, Jeff got crabs, Adrian caught a killer, and Zach drank some tea. In News Z-Man posts their Gen Con Preview and the Dots RPG Project goes Non-profit. In Kickstarter, Copenhagen joins the Roll’n’Write community and Dice Hospital and Dinogenics get expansions. Some listener feedback closes out the show.
00:00:32 - Intro Banter! Featuring: Netflix, A new job part 3, Stuber, 36 South, Japan
00:20:45 - What have we been playing?: You've Got Crabs, Feast for Odin The Norwegians exp, Harry Potter HB: Monster exp, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, Dr. Eureka, Dokmus, Dinosaur Tea Party