The Game Crafter Special #2: Sweet Apples, Space Pioneers, And Capturing The King

The Game Crafter Special #2: Sweet Apples, Space Pioneers, And Capturing The King

March 17, 2019 0 By Ryan Sanders

Three new meeple-sized reviews, we are looking at two games currently on The Game Crafter in En Passant and Mission Control. We will also look at a game that was recently was taken off The Game Crafter, due to being signed by a publisher that will be bringing it Kickstarter later this year, in Orchard


Orchard

Designer: Mark Tuck

Player Count: Solo

Mechanics/Genre: Tile Laying

Note: A copy of this game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple from The Game Crafter for an honest review.

BGG Description: Orchard is a quick solitaire ’tile laying’ game that plays in under 10 minutes. The aim of the game is to harvest fruit (score points) by playing cards so that their fruit trees overlap other trees already in the orchard that bear the same fruit. The more trees you can overlap, the more fruit you’ll pick.

As well as the 9 double-sided cards, you’ll need 15 dice (of 3 colors) to keep track of your increasing harvest, and 2 cubes to represent ‘rotten’ fruit. These allow you to lay a card that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to – but come with a points forfeit. So you must decide if and when to play them.”

Orchard is the winner of the 2018 9-Card Nanogame Print and Play Design Contest in the solitaire portion of the contest. That version features nine double-sided cards, however, this one at The Game Crafter is 18 cards, making each card single sided. However, all that said, the gameplay stays the same and once you play the one game, you have another deck set up to play!  

Recently, I did an interview with the designer Mark Tuck on Orchard, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about when it came to this game, so when I had a chance to review it, I jumped on it. I haven’t played many solo games, some but not a lot, I would rather play a video game if I am going to play solo. That said, Orchard is a great solo analog game, being such a simple idea it has a lot going for it. You can make it light, playing with your gut reaction or put some thought into it. How can I best combo the two cards in my hand? What should I cover, should I use a rotten fruit? and so on. Since resources are limited in Orchard, for example,  you can only score five apple trees, even if you match more, because you only have 5 apple markers (red dice). This means, of course, you want to try to upgrade the points on the dice already on the board, by overlapping more cards on to that space. The key that makes the game work, makes it a good game, is that you have to overlap the cards you lay down, every single time you play. The designer, Mark Tuck, even runs puzzles using the cards over at Board Game Geek.

Since receiving this review copy of The Game Crafter, the game has been signed by Side Room Games, and they are looking for a Kickstarter later this year. Due to this though, the game has been taken off The Game Crafter, but is still on Board Game Geek as a free print-and-play, for those that want to check it out. You need 15 dice (five in three colors) and two cubes/coins and print out the two pages on BGG (they have a low ink version available). This really is a great puzzle game, plays fast and doesn’t take a lot of room up. Orchard really is one of those games where you want to play “just one more time.” Tonight, I went to play just one game, and ended up playing six! Despite my apathy for most solo games, this one is a real peach – wait there are no peaches in this game – a real plum? It’s tasty and worth checking out if you like solo games or puzzle games.

Even thought Orchard is not being sold at this time on The Game Crafter, you can see about the game on its page there, by clicking here


En Passant

Designer: Aaron Frias

Player Count: 4 (Rules for 2 & 3 players can be found online)

Mechanics/Genre: Hand Management

Note: A copy of this game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple from The Game Crafter for an honest review.

En Passant, is a game in a similar vein to Love Letter, but plays faster and is simplified. Each player is given four cards, one of which is a King card, the rest are named after Chess pieces as well (with exception of the Princess). The object of the game is to hold the King card at the end of the round (when one player has just one card left). The first one to do this three times wins. On a turn a player plays a card to the table, and completes the indicated action – every action will mess with at least one person’s hand – it could be taking a card from another player, trading a card, or everyone trading hands. See, I told you it’s simple.

That said, what do I think of the game? What are the positives and negatives?

Let’s start with the negatives. The rules the game come with via The Game Crafter are not the correct rules. You see there are two sets of rules – one that comes with THe Game Crafter and one on BGG. I contacted the publisher Bowtie Games and was told TGC rules are incorrect. So this is currently a big negative. Second, the rules are not only wrong but incomplete. There is a way to play with 2-players and 3-players, but are not included, nor are the facts. It wasn’t like they ran out of room – they DO NOT use the inside of the hook-box at all, and the card they use to put the rules are is the same on BOTH sides. Players, won’t know that when you are to take a card from an opponent (and they you )- you must make sure you don’t take the same card (it cannot be taken) they may have taken from you – this is only found in the FAQs.

Positives – En Passant has nice cartoony art, easy to learn – you can teach it to just about anyone, is fast and fun. Even our preschooler got the concept of the game and understood that you are trying to get and keep the King. She may not have known the text on the cards that help you manipulate into getting the King, but she put down a card, we tell her what it says and she was able to then follow those instructions.

Overall, despite the rules that came with the actual game are wrong, we ended up enjoying the game. However, the game was made for 4-players, and that is probably the count that is always best for the game. If you are playing to a full game (someone needs to win three times) it can take about 10-20 minutes and you most likely won’t want to play a second game immediately after.  It is one we will most likely continue to pull off the shelf and play. Of course, players can always just play a single round if they are pressed for time. It is hilarious to play with a 5-year-old with no poker face, we have a lot of fun and laughter playing the game. We even made a house rule that in one of our games, if the 5-year-old ever won a round, she won the game outright – and it actually happened!   En Passant is perhaps one of the most simplistic card games I own, you really don’t have much control as you are constantly getting cards taken from you or are swapping hands, some may even say it “isn’t a real game,”  that it plays itself or whatever, but we find it a good opener to family game night. It also would be perfect to play in a restaurant with your family while waiting for food. Just make sure you get the correct rules off of Board Game Geek, while it really isn’t going to be a game for everybody, I think that it is worth the $4.99 (plus shipping, etc) it goes for on TGC and is one that we will be keeping on the family games shelf, so we don’t forget to bring it out at family game night, over say the little box we have that holds small games.

Oh, for those that do want to try En Passant with 2 or 3-players, since the rules don’t tell you how, this is how:

3-players: Remove a Pawn, Knight, Rook, and Bishop from the game. Deal each player four cards.

2-players: Remove 2 Pawns, 2 Knights, 2 Rooks, Bishop, and the Princess from the game. Deal each player four cards.

En Passant can be found here: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/en-passant


Mission: Control

Designer: Jackson Lin

Player Count: 2

Mechanics/Genre: Hand Management

Note: A copy of this game was given to The Inquisitive Meeple from The Game Crafter for an honest review.

While above reviewed En Passant was reminiscent Love Letter, Mission: Control is similar to games like Battle Line, Balloon Cup, and Voltage, but in just 18 cards. Players are vying to capture four different sectors in the game that are worth VP points.  The player with the most VP at the end of the game wins. To set up you shuffle the six sectors, A-E (there are 2 sectors B) and place four of them out. Each sector has its own end game VP and text (except the two sector Bs they are the same text). Each player takes a six card deck and shuffles it, taking one random card out and placing it out of the game (you are not to know which one you took out). Then draw a hand of two cards. Player A will places a card face down in one of the sectors on his side of the row. Player B now does the same, both cards are flipped. If there is any deployment action text on the card a player just placed, they do their action in turn order. And now players draw back up to two cards, and Player B is now the first player. You go until all five cards are played. You then follow the text on cards and on Sector cards to determine who wins that section (also adding up any control points found on the card) – winner gets the section card and the number of Victory Points on the card. Do this for all sectors and the winner is the one with most VP.

First off, Mission: Control graphics are quite striking, the designer ended up using some free art from NASA and it really gives the game a cool vibe. As for the gameplay, this is a pretty solid 2-player game that literally can fit in your back pocket. While I am not at this level of familiarity with the game, it does give off the feeling that it gets better the more you play it, as you know most likely what is coming up (there is always one card taken out and you don’t know which one) and how you can best use it to your advantage. Part of the issue I am facing with this one is my main opponent is 10 years old. Though he can handle most games we played very well, this one isn’t clicking as well, even the one game he won it was more of a “yeah?” reaction from him because he didn’t understand fully why he won. This is because every card is different and some of the cards interact differently depending what else is in the column with them (yours or your opponent) and then the sectors also have some different things that can affect the game going on. It’s just a little too much for him to wrap his head around. I do look forward to busting it out as he gets older though to see our thoughts then. It does almost feel like it wants to be a bigger game with some more cards, but I am not sure how that would go unless they didn’t have something special going for them, just plain numbers, I think more special interaction cards just deepen the “huh?” factor of players. However, that would be okay to have some plain numbers, since some of the other cards allow you to redeploy, etc. The reason I think it feels like it needs to be a slightly bigger game is due to the four sectors not really being full. In fact, you can have some games where a sector either has no cards or only 0 control point cards, which are like having nothing in that case. Also, the rules can be a little clearer – Do I have to do the deployment actions on the card, or can I choose not to? 

All that said, Mission: Control is worth trying out to see if you like it – and you can do just that at The Game Crafter, where they have a free print-and-play version. It’s two pages of rules and two pages of art, and really worth the ink. I will say you can a good feel for the game just be reading the rules and the text on the cards in the print-and-play. It pretty much played how I expected it to. Of course, then if you like it, it’s only $5.99 plus shipping, etc – not bad for a pretty solid 2-player game that fits in your pocket and can be played on most small tables (maybe not an airline tray) meaning you can pull it out and play it just about anywhere.

Mission: Control can be found here: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/mission:-control