Published on May 1st, 2013 | by Greg0
New Board Games: Keyflower And Gemblo
Today, we have four different board games to discuss, all from publisher Game Salute. In this part, we’ll be looking at two of them- one which brings a Korean abstract strategy title to the shores of the United States, and another that brings the shores of a sort of alternate colonization to a game challenging your settlers. Both offer compelling hexagonal designs, but they’re as different as two games can be. Let’s look at each in turn.
Gemblo is fairly simple to explain- it’s sort of like a hexagonal version of Cathedral or Blokus, both games we like. A successful Kickstarter project, the American version got funded last year and has now made it’s way to our shelves. The rules are pretty simple: each player is given a set of varying pieces, and starts by playing a piece in a corner. Each turn, they must play additional pieces one ridge or “line” away from their own. Things get tricky when you block or cut off other players, and try to prevent them from being able to place their remaining shapes. Best with four or six players, it also works with for two or three, and scoring is simple- the game ends when no one can play, and the player with the fewest “units” left wins.
The game looks great- different translucent colors cascading around the board, gem-like and immediately appealing. We liked the tiles and the board, which were fairly high quality. And, as with most strategy games of this ilk, there’s no real luck involved. Unfortunately, there is a clear first player advantage we found, and things are much harder for the sixth player if skill levels are even. It plays quickly, and there are multiple strategies that we’ve seen work out well. Fans of geometric, spatial games will like this. The clear and yellow pieces can be a bit tough to see though. Available now, online and in stores, for $40.
Our next look focuses on the seventh game in a loose series: Keyflower. We haven’t played the previous titles, like Key Harvest, but if they are anything like this game we will definitely be checking them out. The mechanics will be familiar to anyone who has played modern board games like Agricola or Le Havre- worker placement games, with players competing for various spots on the board. The twist here is an auction that sets the available spots, meaning each game will play fairly different, thanks to the dynamic board that is rarely the same. There is also an additional complication: the four seasons. The result is a delicious game, full of complexities, that is structured quite well- it starts off with a wide open set of too many choices, which become constrained over time, building to a faster game. Built for two to six, it plays great with two or four, as tested. And it takes about 90 minutes to play the first time, a bit less once you’ve become accustomed to the rules. Setup isn’t too bad either, though the rulebook could be a bit better.
The artwork is lovely, and adds a lot to the game. Whereas some other worker placement games- even the excellent Lords of Waterdeep that we reviewed- can feel a bit heavy or drag on at times, this one feels light and moves pretty fast. Players are always engaged, and the game is rarely over early- there is always an alternate path, we found, and you’ll need to stay on your toes and analyze the best moves constantly. Things stay tense until the end, and it’s never boring, thanks to the four round limit. Also, thanks to the variable setup, it is quite replayable. If you like Carcassonne or Puerto Rico, you’ll love this! A satisfying title, if a bit intimidating for new gamers- Keyflower is available now for $50.