Fleet is a game about Fleets of fishing boats catching fish. In order to catch fish you have to hold a commercial license for that particular type of fish. Each turn of the game begins with an auction to obtain licenses. The licenses provide special powers and create the engine building aspect of the game. You have cards in your hand that act as the ships you will add to your fleet, the people you will use to captain those ships, and the money you will use in the game to pay your expenses. Hand management is key and drawing more cards is vital. Deep blue colored cubes act as crates of fish that you add to your cards to sell later for cash to win the game.
Hanamikoji is a two-player only game where players are trying to win favor (score points) by collecting sets of cards. Players have cards in their hands, but the sets are determined by the playing of action tokens. There are 4 action tokens for each player. Each is used once in the order of the players choice to complete a round. The actions on the tokens are all different variations on: “I split, you choose.” Every round you have to offer cards from your hand to your opponent and hope (or ideally maneuver) that the outcome works in your favor. Hanamikoji is a tense tug of war as you agonize to give something to your opponent that they need enough to leave you the cards that you need.
Lanterns is a tile laying / pattern matching game where you place tiles showing differently colored paper lanterns into the water (on the table) to collect cards. Each square tile has a variety of colored lanterns on it. If the colors of lanterns match on any adjacent side as you place your tile, then you earn a card (or cards) of that color. You also gain one card of the color of the lanterns on the side of the tile that is facing you. This is the tricky part: your opponents also gain a card from the tile that you just placed of the color of the lanterns on the side of the tile that is facing them. You must choose carefully to place tiles that give you what you want without giving your opponents what they want.
In Dice Forge players roll dice to gain resources to purchase tiles that are used to improve their dice. This is a variation on deck building, but it’s dice building. The dice in Dice Forge actually come apart. The faces of the dice “pop” off so that new dice faces can be applied. The strategy is to build your dice in such a way that the things that you want will have the highest probability of occurring. This makes for an interesting puzzle, and works surprisingly better than it should. The dice components themselves are of exceptional quality. The die faces stay in place when you roll them, and the dice look beautiful. The actual process of building the dice, pulling one face off to put another on, is a little bit cumbersome, but that’s a minor quibble. Dice Forge is great dice-rolling, dice-building, dice-rolling again fun.
In Grimm Forest you take the role of one of the three (or four) little pigs and you gather resources of straw, or wood, or brick to build houses. The first player to build three houses wins the game. Grimm Forest is a light resource management game with some card play and a little bit of take-that. On your turn you play cards face down to draft a resource: straw, brick, or wood. Then the cards are flipped over and resources are divided based on the result. If you were lucky enough (or clever enough) to pick a resource that no one else did, then you get the booty all to yourself. Use the resources to build your houses. Each house has a little plastic molded foundation, four walls, and a roof. The pieces fit together nicely and the brick, straw, and wood house designs are unique. Grimm Forest is greatly over produced which plays in this case to its benefit. The little houses are adorable, the player pawns aren’t pawns at all, but are cute miniature figures. Cards that you can play from your hand can cause one-time effects to vex a specific location. Many of these effects have giant fairy tale creature figures that are placed at the location to represent them. These figures do nothing but stand-in for a token. They might be used during a game – often, they are not. It’s actually a little silly, but these figures are beautiful. And it is this beauty that pushes Grimm Forest up the ranking ladder and makes an otherwise good game into a great game. Grimm Forest is just that gorgeous!