I’ve started contributing to Cardboard Conjecture’s ‘Whatcha Been Playing Wednesdays’! If you want to hear my voice talk about the games I played this week, check out the podcast Cardboard Conjecture!
Umbra Via is an auction and area majority game by Connor Wake and published by Pandasarus games in 2021. Umbra Via gives players the opportunity to bluff by having two rounds of bidding; in the first round players secretly draw 3 tokens from their bag (each token is worth either 1 or 2 points towards winning tiles) and places them on a small track, hidden behind their player screen, indicating which of the four tiles they’re commiting their tokens to. Everyone reveals their bids, then a second bidding round commences with everyone drawing 3 more tokens from their bag.
After the second bidding round, all the tokens are put onto the tile they were committed to. The order the tiles will be put onto the board is determined by which tile has the least number of tokens on it, then whoever had the most points on the tile is the player who gets to place the tile on the board.
I forgot to take pictures during the game! 🤦
All the 2 point flowers are removed from the tile (the 2 point tokens are only useful for winning the right to place the tile), then the tile is placed on the board. Each tile forms a path and should a path ever be completed, it scores. Players evaluate who has the most flowers on the entire path. The winner gets 1 token (from the 11 that were set aside at the beginning of the game) per tile in the path. Runner ups get half the amount of tokens as the winner. The first person to claim all their tokens is the winner!
Umbra Via is one of the rare area majority games in my collection. I kind of like the two bidding rounds, giving players the opportunity to bluff and pivot towards uncontested tiles, although in this week’s game I was out maneuvered at every turn.
Another aspect of Umbra Via that I like is the fact that I can ‘lose’ every auction for tile placement, by my tokens are still going out onto the board. I’m often rewarded with consolation prizes simply for having any presences in a path. It helps ease the sting of losing all the tile placement bids!
We played games 21 and 22 of My City by Reiner Knizia. We’re into the end-game chapters now, our village is prospering and suddenly we’ve pivoted from the industrial age of wanton resource gathering to prioritizing the beautification of our spaces.
I won’t say too much more for fear of spoiling the campaign, but I will say the whole group has enjoyed playing through My City. It’s light and easy to play, making it the perfect cap to our game nights. The ever changing rules and mechanics coming in and our of the system satisfies my need for discovery. Luckily none of us have “dialed in” how best to approach each game; the breakaway winner from a previous game is just as likely to lose the next one.
My City has been a great experience for my gaming group, so much so that I bought an extra copy during black Friday to play with my family. Imagine my surprise when they bounced off the ever changing rules. They preferred for the game to stay the same!
Oh well. I suppose legacy isn’t for everyone!
Bärenpark by Phil Walker-Harding is a polyomino tile laying game where players are tasked with building the best bear park. In Bärenpark players place tiles onto their park tiles and gain more tiles based on the icons they cover. The game ends when one player has filled every possible spot in their bear park!
Bärenpark is a bit of a race, nearly everything is sorted so the first person to do something will get the most points. This makes players choose between getting the most points for their action now, or possibly passing on points to get a specific shape that may help them achieve other goals. It’s the perfect push and pull for a light game.
I introduced Bärenpark to a couple of friends this weekend after realizing my other two default go-to games wouldn’t work due to one of the players being colourblind (10 Days in Europe and Sagrada for those wondering). I got lucky as there were two specific shapes that I needed to complete 2 of the public goals and I was able to get them both, cementing my victory.
I am endlessly intrigued by the expansion, Bad News Bears which include monorails that sit above your park. Unfortunately Bärenpark doesn’t see enough play to really warrant me buying the expansion. I’ll leave it on my wishlist and perhaps one day I’ll be compelled to pick it up!