Royal gaming -or- why Queendomino (@BlueOrangeGames, 2017) still reigns

I WASN”T FEELING THE GREATEST so instead of a “heavier” boardgame or wargame for the Family Game Night we chose some lighter fare. At the suggestion of RockyMountainNavy Jr., we played Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). Queendomino is an abstract, tile-placement puzzle game where one tries to build their kingdom using domino-style territory tiles. Unlike its predecessor Kingdomino, which exclusively uses the territory tiles, Queendomino introduces Knights for Taxing your territories and Towers to attract the Queen (and pay less for buildings). Oh yeah, don’t forget about a Dragon to burn down buildings you don’t like!

It was not until later that I realized we had not played Queendomino since December 2018. It really felt like it because we all played with much more hesitancy than I remember. I mean, we agonized over our moves. Whether it was deciding where to place the territory tile, or if it was the right time to Tax, which building to build, or which tile to chose next, each decision was sloooow.

Once the game ended and the points were counted, it was RockyMountainNavy Jr. with the win. By one point. He set the new Top Score for the game (after 11 recorded plays). RockyMountainNavy T now holds the Top Losing Score. On any other day his score would have won by some distance but today it was not enough. Oh yeah, how about RockyMountainNavyDad? My score was just above the Average Score for our recorded plays but today it was a distant third place. (Hat tip to the Board Game Stats app for helping track this).

Most importantly, we all thoroughly enjoyed the game. For a game that is so simple in concept it was mentally grueling in play. Not in a bad way, mind you. The decision space in Queendomino is near-perfect for a lighter family game playable is less than an hour. It was heartening to play a family boardgame that we all enjoy after my less-than-stellar recent luck with games like Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (Jasco Games, 2019) or Star Wars: Outer Rim (Fantasy Flight Games, 2019).

In this age of FOMO or CotN* it’s great to rediscover great games. On BoardGameGeek, Queendomino is ranked #400 Overall and #71 in the Family Games category. That’s very respectable! This play of Queendomino reminds me that I already have some great games in my collection; buying one more is not what I need – I just need to play the great ones I have.


Feature image Blue Orange Games

*FOMO – Fear of Missing Out; CotN – Cult of the New

#Boardgame beboping along with Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (Jasco Games, 2019)

SPACE WESTERNS REALLY CATCH MY ATTENTION. I think my love for the genre comes from my early watching the original Star Wars Trilogy and playing Classic Traveller RPG (GDW, 1977). Firefly is one of my favorite TV series (along with the movie Serenity). The RockyMountainNavy Boys even prefer the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG (Fantasy Flight Games, 2012) over others in the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars line. So when I saw Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (Jasco Games, 2019) I was intrigued. I am not an anime fan but it was one series I had watched (subtitled, not dubbed). On a recommendation from another gamer I picked it up. Although I am happy to own the game, it also serves as another reminder that strategy boardgames and I are not a great mix.

Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (CBBB) is a cooperative game based on the Cowboy Bebop anime series. As the publishers blurb puts it:

3…  2…  1…  Let’s Game!  Choose your favorite member of the Bebop crew and take on their role and carry their weight as their space adventure unfolds!

Travel the Solar System!  Fly between the Astral Gates, visiting contacts, bars, shops, and spaceports to gather leads and resources!

Face your Demons!  Complete your personal Session with a little help from your friends.  Everyone wins when the past is put to rest!

Get Paid, Keep Flying!  Combine your leads to locate iconic Bounty Heads and chase them down!  Earn enough woolongs to pay for fuel and delicious bell peppers and beef to keep your adventures going!

Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie

In CBBB, one to four players take the roles of the crew of the Bebop and try to survive. If you run out of food then you Starve and lose the game. To keep from starving players need manage three resources; food, fuel, and money. You earn money to buy food and fuel by being bounty hunters and collecting bounties. Of course, even those big bounties don’t pay much “after expenses” so survival is always on a razor’s edge. At the same time, each player has a personal story (in two parts) that they are trying to wrap up. All players need to complete Part I then Part II of their story to win…before starving.

The cooperative element of CBBB comes from the fact that players need to uncover leads to find bounties, and then to Chase the bounties they will need skills – skills they may not have enough of by themselves. So the Bebop crew will have to work as a team, helping each other to find Leads and Chase bounties. Oh yeah, to complete a Part of one’s story you will probably also need assistance too.

Theme

Theme in Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie comes in two flavors. The art & presentation of the game is highly thematic with all the imagery taken directly from the anime series. Although the game board is highly abstracted, the game takes advantage of the series to use some really helpful iconography. Gameplay is also thematic, if one understands that the anime series was about bounty hunters who were always trying to make ends meet, always needed help from their friends, and had a backstory that needed resolution.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Cowboy Bebop : Boardgame Boogie is rather straightforward. Each turn, a player will Draw an Event and resolve the card. Then they can Perform 3 Actions. There is an element of losing time in the game as bounties move down the track and can get away if not caught soon enough. Spatially, players need to move about to reveal Leads but they also need to carefully keep or discard Leads because to Chase bounties players also need to have the right Leads showing as well as be in the right place. The players also need to manage their hand of Skill Cards, playing then to their tableau but also recovering them at the right time. Not very complicated by the rules, but challenging to execute.

Bebop’ng About

This year, I have been less-than-successful with new thematic strategy games. The year started off with Villainous: Wicked to the Core which I found to be less-than-inspiring. We then tried Star Wars: Outer Rim which should be right in my wheelhouse (smugglers and mercenaries and bounty hunters, oh my!) but ultimately fell flat. Now I have Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie which once again is in my wheelhouse for theme but gameplay is…a bit dull. I mean, the game looks like Cowboy Bebop, the goals of the game scream Cowboy Bebop, but the gameplay is just kinda boring. Players quickly learn they need to help each other out. They need to work together to get the right Leads out. They need to get together at the right places to Chase bounties. They need the right Skill Cards in their hand to catch the bounty, even when a complicating Jam comes out. The game works but just without that extra spark that makes me really want to get the game back out on the table. Thankfully, one can play in less than 90 minutes. Oh yeah, it supports solo play by having a player play with two characters. (Really? Why not just play with all four?).

In the end, Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie is another game I bought with high expectations. The game drips with theme and plays well. It’s a good game, just not as good as I hoped.


Feature image Jasco Games