First Take Friday – Wayfarers of the South Tigris, Moesteiro, Hoplomachus: Remastered, Isle of Cats, Frosthaven

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have Wayfarers of the South Tigris, Moesteiro, Hoplomachus: Remastered, Isle of Cats, and Frosthaven.

Wayfarers of the South Tigris – David McMillan

I always get excited when I see a new Shem Phillips game appear. And I especially get excited when that game is one of his <name> of the <compass direction><modifier> series. So, I was ultra-excited to finally get to sit down and play Wayfarers of the South Tigris this past weekend. And, let me tell you, it’s everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

Wayfarers is a tableau builder featuring a smattering of worker placement, a pinch of set collection, and a whole heap of card comboing. With artwork by The Mico, Wayfarers wasn’t just a feast for this gamer’s soul, but a feast for the eyes as well. I can’t wait to get it to the table again… and again… and again…

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from David McMillan.

Moesteiro – Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

In Moesteiro, players take up the task of building a Renaissance-era monastery in Portugal. The primary mechanism is a dice queue of sorts. Players draft from their own pool of dice to place them as workers for each of the game’s five actions, but the order of workers changes with each additional die. I’ve never seen this mechanism before, but it creates a unique decision-making process when I really want a particular spot but I see that other dice could move me out of range before the queue is set. I also love that after I’ve spent my pips, leftovers translate to the ability to adjust a die later.

Every time I finish a title from Pythagoras Games, I walk away saying, “I’ve never played anything like it.” Moesteiro is no different. There are a few ways to score points on the board—the Village, tile sets, the Labor track, Project construction—but you have to balance the first three without ever missing the fourth, which equals pressure. I misplayed one of the five rounds and I think it was enough to fall behind, but it seems the turn order selection mechanisms are designed to keep things competitive by teeing up juicy choices. We tried it with four players and it was a reasonable length. The rulebook was supremely helpful in answering questions and getting us in line with the finer details. At this point, I am still quite curious.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Hoplomachus: Remastered – Justin Bell

Let’s give Chip Theory Games this much: they love poker chips even more than I do, and that’s really saying something.

A friend backed the massive crowdfunding campaign for Hoplomachus: Remastered, an updated version of Hoplomachus: Rise of Rome co-designed by Meeple Mountain contributor Logan Giannini. I’ll summarize the rules like so: this is “Gladiator: The Dice Chucker.” While I have a feeling that the two-player Skirmish mode is the most ideal version, we had three players, so we went with the Pandemonium mode instead. In this format, it’s a free-for-all; chuck a lot of dice as your unit fights in the arena, and the last player standing wins.

I think a 45-minute version of this would have worked well. Unfortunately, two hours and 15 minutes later (a mix of comically poor dice rolls and the rigors of a first play with lots of new-to-us keywords), I raised the white flag. One player had a large lead, and I offered to concede so that we could move to the next game of the day. However, I can see many tactical layers with this one, so for the right audience, I could see this one really shining. I wish there was a second player aid, but otherwise, the production was bonkers. CTG leans hard into first-class bits and chits!

Ease of entry?:
★★★☆☆ – There were a few questions
Would I play it again?:
★★☆☆☆ – Would play again but would rather play something else

Read more articles from Justin Bell.

Isle of Cats – Tom Franklin

A game of puzzling together polyomino-shaped tiles (with cats stretched out to fill in all the spaces) onto a ship’s deck to carry them off to safety—and, of course, to score points.

Isle of Cats comes with three playing styles: a solo mode; a family-friendly simpler mode; and a more complex gamer’s mode. For my introduction to the game, we played the family mode which consisted of simply claiming a cat tile on your turn and placing it on the boat. This was a great introduction to the game, providing more than enough of a challenge to start with. (Points are deducted for each section of the ship not completely covered; points are awarded for connecting cats of the same color)

I enjoy the digital version of Uwe Rosenberg’s Patchwork, but have held back from playing other polyominos-in-a-restricted-space games. Isle of Cats has shown that I need to keep a more open mind about this gaming mechanic.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Tom Franklin.

Frosthaven – Jesse Fletcher

What can be said about the highly ambitious follow-up to an already ambitious Euro-puzzly, dungeon-crawl-esque, “more content than you can shake a lifetime of sticks at,” Gloomhaven? Believe it or not, Frosthaven is even bigger. Between the base game, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, and the incredibly well-done digital implementation of Gloomhaven, I’ve sunken more than 250 hours into this universe. Frosthaven gives me even more. While it has some cool new elements–building up your outpost, crafting resources, and a deeper, more engaging storyline–after having only played the tutorial and 1st scenario, I haven’t seen much of the new stuff. At this point, it just feels like more Gloomhaven, although the starting classes are more complex than the original ones. It has some added and tweaked mechanics, but the gameplay is pretty much the same.

Lucky for me, more Gloomhaven is exactly what I was craving. I dived headfirst into it and had an absolute blast. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this campaign game. If you know and love Gloomhaven, it’s an easy recommendation. If you’re brand new to the universe, maybe start with Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, as there’s a pretty steep learning curve for new mercenaries.

Ease of entry?:
★★☆☆☆ – Not an easy onboard
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Jesse Fletcher.

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About the author

David McMillan

IT support specialist by day, Minecrafter by night; I always find time for board gaming. When it comes to games, I prefer the heavier euro-game fare. Uwe Rosenberg is my personal hero with Stefan Feld coming in as a close second.

About the author

Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

On any given day, I am a husband and father of five. I read obsessively and, occasionally, I write stories of varying length, quality, and metrical structure. As often as possible, I enjoy sitting down to the table for a game with friends and family. I'm happy to trumpet Everdell, in all its charm and glory, as the insurmountable favorite of my collection.

About the author

Justin Bell

Love my family, love games, love food, love naps. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice!

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

About the author

Jesse Fletcher

I have loved board games since childhood. Re-discovered modern gaming in 2013 and never looked back. I enjoy stupid, silly fun as much as I do strategy, and aspire to never lose the childlike joy that board gaming provides.

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