Quick Hits >> Masons, Blue Moon City, Desert Bazaar, Mykerinos
Desert Bazaar (Brian Yu/Mattel) Bottom Line 6.5/10: Fun game with a slight Attika feel of visualizing "efficiency patterns" to get reduced build rates for your tents. Since the complexion of the gameboard changes dramatically from turn to turn, it is very difficult to plan ahead or even start considering your options until it is actually your turn, whcih can slow the game down. Solid mechanics and nice components but poor graphic design decisions. The high contrast on the gameboard make seeing space outlines difficult, and the card colors do not match up well with the corresponding costs colors on the tiles -- a tent may cost 2 "red" resources, which are actually the brown camel cards, or 2 "purple" resources, which are actually the bolts of pink silk. That oversight knocks the game down from a 7.0...
Blue Moon City (Reiner Knizia/FFG) – Bottom Line 8.5/10: Great components, great strategy, nice use of the Blue Moon setting and established art/motif. I liked the number and type of decisions, and the fact that coming in second could be almost as beneficial as coming in first -- the rewards for participating in the scoring was tempting enough to warrant a lot of careful decision making, especially at the risk of letting someone resolve a region by himself and take all the credit solo. In that regard, it reminded me a bit of Marracash, where if it's gotta' score anyway, you at least want a piece of the action. Pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Went up .5 in rating after the second play.
Masons (Leo Colovini/Rio Grande) - Bottom Line 7.5/10: A very nice light game with excellent components. Creates the illusion of needing to plan in advance to take advantage of scoring cards, but with so much changing from turn to turn it's hard to do anything other than optimize your current turn while making adaptable plans for the next. I like the ability for the trailing player to cycle scoring cards, as some cards are far, far less valuable than others and the values change frequently during the game. Should "feel" lighter, but does cause some Analysis Paralysis.
Mykerinos (Ystari/Rio Grande) - Bottom Line 4.5/10: What a horribly unintuitive and brutally unforgiving game. With 75-80% of your total game score being determined by your end game bonuses, there is no margin for error any step along the way. So if you invest 3-4 cubes that earn you nothing the first round, while the other players are earning supporters, there's simply no way to catch up to the rest of the power curve. Even if you horde pieces for the next round, you can't get them out fast enough to compensate for the powerful abilities of the advisors, and can find yourself forced into a losing proposition very early on, making the second half of the game meaningless. Would be simply average, but gets knocked down a full point for the horrible game design and graphic design decisions -- namely the back-loaded scoring focus, the atrocious high contrast rule booklet with 7 point type (virtually impossible to read), scoring markers larger than the scoring spaces, poorly developed icons to represent the supporter powers, and overall very disappointing component design.