Paris Eiffel Expansion review

Paris: La Cité de la Lumière is a gorgeous two-player-only tile-laying game, released in 2019 (and reviewed by me in 2022 – linked above), that plays in 20-30 minutes.

It’s a game of two distinct halves, with the players essentially building the board with tiles in the first half – while also taking polyominoes they will try to use in the second half of the game. In part two, you try to place them while also claiming special actions that can enhance your position, or mess with your opponent’s plans.

I’m a big fan of the original, as it packs a lot of meaningful decisions into a short play time and a small box, while also looking great on the table. It’s simple to teach, but the fact you build the board – and use just eight of the twelve special actions each game, keeps each play feeling different. And while the rules are simple, playing well is anything but.

What does the Paris Eiffel Expansion bring to the party?

While the expansion comes in a box that’s the same size as the original, it contains very much less. It comes with eight new special action postcards, five cardboard pieces and two wooden ones to go with them, plus a nicely illustrated scorepad (something lacking in the original).

In terms of gameplay, things remain exactly the same. All you do is mix in – in any way you choose – the eight new special actions. So you can choose to use just the new set, choose the exact ones you want for each game, or randomise by shuffling the postcards and randomly picking eight. And that’s all she wrote.

How much does it change the game?

There are no new systems or changes to the rules with the introduction of Paris: Eiffel. Seven of the new action postcards have a piece you place onto the board, while one (Quartiers Pauvres) is purely a scoring card giving bonus points (1,2,4,8) for each edge of the board your buildings are touching.

The two wooden pieces (Notre Dame and The Catacombs) let you score off one of the other player’s buildings, while the Louxor, Louvre, Hotel des Invalides score points in various ways for the person who played them. Tour Eiffel scores (by colour) for the four spaces below, which can’t have buildings on them – while streetlights below it count double. Finally, the Arc de Triomphe acts as a bridge between your buildings, increasing the size of your largest area accordingly.

Essentially though, nothing changes. None of the new cards change any fundamentals, or make you play differently. As before, each action postcard either messes with your opponent or mitigates when they mess with you – or when you just plain mess up. However, you do suddenly have a genuinely different setup each time you play. And who doesn’t want more options? All of the new actions play well. Although the size of the Eiffel and Triomphe pieces will annoy some, as it can be hard to see the rest of the board once they’re in play.

Is the Paris Eiffel Expansion value for money?

According to Board Game Prices (at time of writing), you can get the Paris Eiffel expansion for around £15 including delivery. Purely on what you get in the box, this doesn’t feel good value at all. In terms of cardboard, perhaps it is. The pieces are lovely and chunky and fit perfectly with the original game. So physically, perhaps it is enough to justify the price tag. But mechanically? I don’t think so.

Is the Paris Eiffel Expansion essential?

Certainly not. If you’re an occasional player of Paris: La Cité de la Lumière and haven’t felt the need to add anything, there’s no reason to seek this one out. However, regular players who love the original will certainly find plenty to make them smile here. As mentioned, it doesn’t really feel value for money. But it’s so lovely to look at, if you can justify it, then it’s a great addition to the base game. If something isn’t going to be value for money, having it at such a low price point certainly helps! I’ll certainly be keeping it and am happy to have it. It makes a really good game better.

… and does it fit in the original Paris: La Cité de la Lumière box?

Just! Kind of. I think that if you methodically manoeuvred (I so wanted to make a ‘Louvre’d pun there…) every piece with surgical precision, the box lid might lay flat. But instead you’ll probably end up with a lid that won’t quite close. C’est la vie.

* Thank you to Kosmos UK for providing a copy for review.

Origins First Builders: A four-sided review

The Origins First Builders board game is a worker placement tableau building euro game for one-to-four players. It is a complex game with lots of moving parts, but the 14+ age limit suggested is a bit steep. I’d say 12+ is fine, as there is no hidden information so you can walk players through issues as you play. It takes 2-3 hours with more than two.

The theme is a slightly odd Stargate-ish sci-fi idea, with each player building their own city via tile buying and placement. The artwork is nice without ever getting in the way, but the size of font used for the text on the tiles is laughable. You don’t use the abilities often but still, it’s barely legible.

In the box you’ll find the main game board, four small player boards, 83 building tiles, 49 dice, 61 small cards, 33 plastic pieces, 80 wooden discs, and more than 100 cardboard chits. The component quality is about average and (for me) the game looks great on the table. The resource tokens are awful, but more on that later. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around £40, which is great value for a big box euro that’s crammed full of stuff.

Teaching Origins First Builders

This is an action selection game that uses dice as workers. There are five (non-contested) worker spaces, each matching the colour of a worker dice. Each space has two basic actions to choose from, plus a colour-matched one. Send a non-matching dice and you choose one of the basic actions; send one of the correct colour and you additionally get to do the colour-matched action. At the end of each round, when you take your worker dice back, they go up one number. When they reach six, they get a super turn where you do both actions – plus the coloured action, if you colour match the dice.

At the end of a round when dice were used as a six, they’re retired. They go to a special area of your board and enhance your one non-dice worker. This chap can go anywhere, anytime, and counts as every colour you’ve retired. So he starts colourless, but through the game can become very powerful – especially as he has no number restriction. You see, each of the five worker spaces has a dial numbered 1-6. Each time a worker goes there, it goes up one (or back to one, if on six). If you place a dice there with a number lower than the dial, you need to pay resources to make up the difference.

so what do these workers do?

Origins First Builders has three basic resources, plus a wild one. Every action space has an option that gives resources, and another that lets you spend them (the coloured bonus actions do all sorts). The colour positions are set at the start of each game, adding a nice level of variety. Some of them synergise nicely in certain spots, which will point more experienced players in a particular direction. But there is plenty else to consider.

Other actions allow you to open up new worker bases (that you put your dice in), take new dice, move on military/god tracks (for various bonuses and points), and buy building tiles. Building tiles (which are also in the dice colours) give you a one-off bonus when you take them. Your main aim with them is to match the patterns on (randomly selected pre-game) bonus cards. Once you have a square of four buildings, you can choose to place one of your dice into the middle to ‘close a district’. This gives you those bonus points, while also re-triggering any buildings in the district that match the dice colour.

As is the way in this post-Feld euro world, almost everything everywhere scores points. When one of several game end triggers occurs, the person who has done a bunch of stuff the most efficiently wins.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I do love a good worker placement game, and Origins First Builders is most certainly one of those. There’s just the right amount of random in the setup to make each game feel like a different puzzle, while every action selection feels both tricky and meaningful. And it feels very competitive, despite being largely passive.
  • The thinker: While I enjoy the game, it feels a little as if it is decided in setup. The way things come out will favour a particular strategy, and if one person spots that early and the rest don’t – forget about it. Also, two players trying to do the same thing can be particularly painful. Going for the same tile colours means they’ll likely be more expensive. While the amount of tower discs in each colour (they multiply the score of your district dice) can do for you if you compete for them. But this is a common euro issue and didn’t stop my enjoyment.
  • The trasher: When I saw the military track, I had hope! But no – it’s just another euro game, with the track being a way to score points and grab resources – but not from your opponents. The one bright spot was the multiple ways a game can end, which keeps you on your toes. Things can end really fast, so you need to be on the ball. But generally, meh. It’s OK.
  • The dabbler: I thought Origins First Builders looked pretty and colourful during setup, but more and more components kept appearing from the box! It looks overwhelming at first, but it actually plays smoothly. However, a good and/or experienced player is absolutely going to rip the rest apart. This is very much a game of skill, where the players picking and sticking to the ‘right’ paths are going to wipe the floor with us dabblers!

Key observations

Looking through naysayer comments, the same theme keeps coming up: balance. This seems to be from players who think playing a complex game once, and losing, is enough to call it unbalanced and give it a one or two out of 10. The funny thing is, read enough of the comments, and you’ll find that every single part of the game us unfairly broken and using it is an unbeatable strategy. As mentioned above, every game plays differently and you have to look for what synergises best once the game is set up. This is not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but it isn’t ‘broken’ – it’s a feature, not a bug.

The flipside to this is that if two players see that killer strategy, and compete over it, someone else can benefit greatly and trump them both. Stubbornness isn’t going to help, and while it’s relatively easy to pivot – you’re of course leaving the other person with the golden ticket.

The theme is pretty stupid and barely implemented – but I didn’t care at all. And while the text on the buildings is unreadable without picking one up and staring at it, it isn’t actually a big deal. These bonuses are small and you’re unlikely to be taking tiles for them – you’ll be taking them for the colour. As there is only one tile of each colour in the market at any time, you’ll be taking it when you can afford to. I feel players who complain about this are rather missing the point of the tiles.

Generally I liked the components, which made the terrible resource tokens even harder to fathom. There are two few, they’re small, but worse they look pretty similar. Each fiddly token has a small whitey/yellowy symbol on a grey background, making them incredibly easy to muddle up. And in a game where resource management tends to be a big part of winning, this is an issue. It sounds small, but is incredibly frustrating. If I find myself playing a lot, I expect I’ll upgrade them – but I hate that it feels I need to, rather than want to.

Conclusion: Origins First Builders

Origins First Builders is a good euro game. There will be too much going on for some, while the random setup – that can create some killer combos while leaving other strategies pretty useless – is certainly not going to be for everyone. But personally, it won me over. There’s enough passive interaction to keep you looking around the table, lots of snappy actions making short meaningful turns, while both strategy and tactics are important as the board situation is constantly subtly changing. A keeper for me.

It’s all gone quiet over there…

This is the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog umptimillion years ago, so I thought I’d better pop in, say hello, say sorry, and explain my tardiness.

Basically, life.

Since being made redundant in February I’ve managed to fins some freelance writing work. The pay is awful, and made worse my the weakness of the pound (I’m being paid in USD), but I’m really enjoying it. The writing is a lot of fun, but is taking up a massive amount of my time – and unsurprisingly, when not writing, I don’t want to be writing. A stark contrast to when I was editing, and missed writing.

I’m writing guides for computer games – and if it paid a living wage I’d be all over it. But for now its at least helping eek out my redundancy money. If you have any interest in MMO Lost Ark or mobile game Dislyte you should go check the site out.

Gaming drought

On the flip side, my chances to play board games have been seriously limited. My last local group largely imploded, as these things do sometimes, and ‘Sarah weekends’ have tended to be busy with other things. My plays count is way down and I can’t see it improving much in the short term.

That said, there are reviews on the way for Origins: First Builders (a euro I’ve enjoyed my first few plays of), the recent Paris: La Cité de la Lumière expansion (again, enjoyed my first play), and Iki (a great rondel-based euro). I’m hoping to review at least two of them, but hopefully all three, during July.

Many of the plays I have had were at UK Games Expo. I worked a couple of shifts on the Surprised Stare stand, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I didn’t have much time to anything other than demo games for them, but on my one free afternoon I did manage to put names to faces in this post-COVID world at Hachette, Kosmos and Coiledspring Games – three supporters of the blog I very much appreciate.

And finally, you may also see my name attached to the occasional article in Tabletop Gaming Magazine. Again, if I could do that full time I’d love to. But this time it is a lack of opportunities, rather than poor pay. If only there was more of a market for paid board game journos!

So again, sorry for the lack of posts – but I’m not going anywhere. Stay tuned!

UK Games Expo 2022 – June 3-5

Struggling to find time for a post this week, as a nice weekend away in Stamford is being quickly followed by pre UK Games Expo 2022 panic. I’d forgotten it was next weekend, so am now desperately trying to do enough freelance writing to buy food while doing everything else on my to-do list. Oops…

So yeah, I’ve got some work. I’m not sure if it’s going to end up paying enough to pay the bills. But I’m giving it a go for a few months to see how it pans out. I’m writing computer game guides for The Gamer. There’s a commission-style payment system (based on visits) on top of a low per-article payment. So it’s going to take a few months to see if it’ll pay he bills. But fingers crossed, because I’m really enjoying writing again.

I’m also writing a bit for Tabletop Magazine. Only an article here and there, but again it’s lovely getting paid to write again. Hopefully I’ll be along to Tabletop Gaming Live in September. It has sensibly moved to Manchester after a rather lukewarm start in London before covid. Bringing us neatly back to cons.

Working at UK Games Expo 2022

I’ll be demoing for Surprised Stare at UK Games Expo at the weekend. I’m on the stand Friday and Saturday mornings, so why not drop by, say ‘hi’, and play one of their excellent small box mini war games (including March of Progress and Ming Voyages)? Or, if you like solo stuff, the excellent sci-fi card game Lux Aeterna? They’ll also have the evergreen Snowdonia, alongside a sneak peak of the upcoming remake of Kingmaker. I’m only there until Saturday lunchtime though.

If I didn’t have all that going on, I’d be working on my next few reviews: Origins (dice-for-workers euro game), Pacific Rails Inc (trains!) and 303 Squadron (WWII air skirmish). They’re are the only games left on my review shelf now – and I’m determined not to add any more until they’re done. But, Expo…

Hopefully see some of you there!

Get on Board board game: A Four-sided review

The Get on Board board game (or Get on Board: New York & London, to give its full title) is a flip-and-write route-building family game. It’s for 2-5 players aged 10+ and will take you about 30 minutes to play.

Get on Board is a reprint of ‘Let’s Make a Bus Route’, originally released in 2018. Some may prefer the aesthetic of the original in terms of artwork, but both are nicely done. While this updated version adds some tweaks to the rules that address a few issues with the original.

Firstly, it has a two-sided board. One for 2-3, the other for 4-5 players. This has allowed them to tighten things up considerable when you have less players. Secondly, rather than a pen-and-wipe board in the original you now place wooden sticks on the board to mark your routes. Finally, the player sheets have a couple of additional ways to score points by visiting particular places on the maps. But beyond this, the original game is largely intact.

In the box you’ll find the board, 50 double-sided player sheets, 166 wooden pieces and 28 small cards. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around £20-25 delivered – about standard for a game of this size (think Kosmos 2-player box).

Teaching the Get on Board board game

The basics of Get on Board are just that. On each of the 12 rounds one of 12 cards will be flipped over, which are simply marked 1-12. Each player then looks at their sheet to see how the number corresponds to it. Most sheets are different, but it will always mean you’re initially adding 1-3 pieces to your route – either in a straight line, at a right angle, or your choice. If you finish placing at a traffic light space, you get to place one extra piece.

You decide your start point before turn one and must keep adding to it as a single route throughout the game. You can’t revisit an intersection – and if you put yourself in a situation where you’d have to, you’re eliminated from the game. Every time you lay a piece, you reach an intersection – and at every intersection there’s either a traffic light (extra route piece), passenger or building – both of which you’ll be marking off on your sheet as you pass/land on them. These will score you points in various combinations.

Penalty points

But of course, it isn’t as simple as it seems. Sometimes you don’t want to do the movement you’re meant to – or flat out can’t because of where you start your turn. You can break the rules five times each game, but each time will cost you some points. And if you use all those chances up, then need to break the rules again, you only get to place a single piece. Traffic jams are your enemy too. If you travel along a road others have already used, you mark off a negative space on your sheet for each other player who already used it. While on the 2-3 player map, some roads have jams from the start.

If you make it to the end (I’ve not had anyone fail to yet), you do a variety of maths to find your score. Workers and tourists score during the game, as you drop them at tourist sites and office buildings. You multiply the number of students collected by the number of colleges visited, and get various other points for randomised personal and public bonus cards, plus some old folk (who are probably just staying on the bus to keep warm!).

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I was completely charmed by the original Let’s Make a Bus Route. And once I’d got my head around the small changes in the Get on Board board game, my rating of the game actually went up a notch. I like the component and rules upgrades, but preferred the original Japanese art. And the 2-3 player map makes for a really tight game at those player counts. Where it was a little too open in the original. So with a few caveats (see ‘key observations’ below), this new edition has definitely won me over.
  • The thinker: At the length that it is I can appreciate the game. You can set yourself goals at the start based on the personal and shared objectives. But the way cards come out, and how other players move, can really scupper those plans. So, you often have to think on your feet. However, as the game goes on the options left available to you narrow, which can help in your planning. Not a game I’d choose, but I’ve certainly had a nice time playing it.
  • The trasher: While I didn’t hate the Get on Board board game, there wasn’t much for me here. Sure, you’re getting in each other’s way and there’s a fair amount of cursing your neighbours. And it’s pretty fun – in a cutesy way – for 30 minutes. But it isn’t really something you can plan. The only real direct interaction is getting to the shared objectives first, but this only swings things by a few points.
  • The dabbler: Love it and it looks super cute. It took most of the first game for us to really get it though. Especially some of the extra objectives, where buildings score at different times if they have a star. But once we understood them, they added an extra layer of decision making. I think we’ll appreciate that more as we continue to play. And we will, because it’s ace!

Key observations

I’ve been complimentary about the looks and components in the Get on Board board game. But there are a few niggles. First, you get 32 wooden markers each. If you play a full game, you’ll definitely use 26. But it is very possible, with the traffic light bonuses, to add more than your additional six extras. The rulebook even acknowledges this, suggesting you ‘use a suitable substitute’. Really? Would it have broken the bank to put in a few extra pieces?

Some say the personal objective you start with forces you into a particular strategy. I couldn’t disagree more. It might be worth trying to complete, especially on your first play as you wrestle with the concepts. But it only gives 10 points. And you can pick up way more than that elsewhere with clever route building.

The lack of interaction is fine with me. But it’s not going to be for everyone. Especially as the tight board makes it look like it might be a key factor. Also, especially with three players, you can end up with one player avoiding the other two more by luck than judgement – and so getting less penalties. But it’s a light quick game, so I don’t think that’s much of an issue.

The scoring is convoluted. Especially in your initial plays. And the extra things added in this version make that even worse. But I think they do add a little replayability, which may otherwise have been lacking. So on balance, again for me it’s a positive.

It’s also worth noting this is a tighter, tougher game with three or five players than it is with two or four. Much as with Ticket to Ride (with its extra routes between locations for more players), each side of the board here accommodates two player counts. With an odd number you’ll almost inevitably end up with more congestion. So, if you have players that don’t like games with negatives, bear that in mind.

Conclusion: The Get on Board board game

The Get on Board board game is a definite keeper for me. It has some similarities to the other Saashi-designed flip-and-write in my collection, Remember Our Trip. But is definitely different enough to stand up on its own merits. If I was forced to keep just one? I’d probably stick with Remember Our Trip, because the clever interaction in the scoring works so well. But thankfully I don’t have to choose – so they’ll be happy together on my shelves for the foreseeable future.

  • Thanks to Iello (via Coiledspring Games) for providing a copy for review.
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