Inside My New Games
All my new games are unwrapped, opened, punched, counted, shuffled, and packed away properly. Here's a rundown of my initial reactions to the components, the boxes, and overall quality.
Alexandros: Smaller box than I had expected, but the 6-paned board is actually a nice size. The cards are good quality (same as Cartagena), and everything else is wood. Good box insert. Quality: A
Byzantium: Standard Warfrog box. Lots of lots of wooden bits. Thick player boards. Nice main board. Crappy "Caylus" coins. No box insert. A bunch of extra game bags (nice touch). Quality: B
Elasund: My initial reaction was that the box insert was over-designed, but after setting up and putting away the game twice now, I think it's actually pretty handy. The board is nice. All the cardboard tiles are very nice. Nice cards, again like Cartagena. Quality: A
Fury Of Dracula: The board was smaller than I expected from the images online, but still beautiful. Decent cardboard bits. I was missing some in my box. FFG has already replied that they are on the way. The plastic figures are just ok. The cards and small Dracula map are very nice. However, there's a huge flaw. Everything is upside-down from Dracula's point of view. The location cards and the small map should be upside-down. One round of playtesting should have flushed this out. Also, the backs of the cards have no obvious orientation (without looking really closely at the center icon), so it's more difficult to keep them all the same direction. The box insert is not designed for the components. Quality: A-/B-
Keythedral Expansion: Same quality as the base game. I just wish the backs of the tiles were the same as the original 12's so you can mix them in randomly and not know which are the new ones. [Correction: The 12 side of tiles are the same. It's the requirements side that's different. I misread the card that comes with the tiles. So you can mix them in randomly. Woo!] Quality: A-
Lord Of The Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe): I've already slapped FFG for their box insert. The cards are very nice but too big. The stands are just ok. Since the punchout character tiles are punched one way and you can see them in the stands, it's not too difficult to see which side a given card is set to (although you don't know which character it is). If you like the game then fine, but do not be fooled into thinking this is some deluxe version for quality reasons. It is not even a normal quality version as far as other game companies go. FFG just seems happy to be the bottom of the barrel forever. Quality: C
Meridian: Nice board, very nice cards, nice pieces. All very plain, but functional. Quality: A-
Mexica: Unlike Magna Grecia, the box insert was designed to accommodate the unpunched sheets AND store everything away snugly after punching. Very nice thinking. The cardboard bits could be a little thicker. The board is very nice. Quality: A-
No Thanks!: Very nice cards. Adequate chips. Quality: B
Roma: Nice cards, cardboard bits, dice, and box insert. Dice discs could have been a little bigger. Quality: A-
Shadows Over Camelot: Days of Wonders tries too hard. The entire game is physically over-designed. Playability takes a back seat to eye candy. There's really no reason to have the 3 side boards; everything could have been incorporated onto the single main board. The plastic figures are just ok; the stand paint job is terrible (Chinese sweat shop laborers get 1 second to paint each one?). The card backs, like Fury of Dracula, do not show which way is up. The character boards are too thin. The box insert is not designed for the components. Quality: B- (DoW is on a dangerous path which is more evident with Cleopatra. Mediocre games with mediocre quality purely designed to grab your attention when on display. Good games sell themselves. Lighten up and focus on the right stuff.)
Struggle Of Empires: Beautiful board. Box insert this time. Nice cardboard bits. I haven't punched them yet, but I suspect they may not all fit into the box insert. Crappy "Caylus" coins and bad dice. Quality: B-
Tikal : Perfectly designed box insert. Nice board. Nice wooden and cardboard bits. I was missing a leader piece (already on its way). Quality: A
Nods to AbacusSpiel (RGG), Ravensberger (RGG), Venice Connection (RGG), Queen, and Mayfair for attention to quality. Nods to FFG and RGG for quick replies for missing parts.