Minecraft: Builders & Biomes – Board Game Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 29.

Minecraft: Builders & Biomes by Ravensburger is a game loosely based on the hit computer game Minecraft. It is a 2-4 payer game that take about 20-30 minutes to play.

The game itself is comprised of 64 tiles, 64 wooden blocks in 4 colours and 16 white weapon tokens. Each player gets 5 weapon tiles a score counter a player board and a Minecraft character and standee. There is also a cardboard structure that is used to quickly assemble the 64 wooden cubes into one big cube.
The 64 tiles are shuffled and laid out in a 4×4 grid with each space containing 4 tiles. Space is left between the piles of cards with the corner spaces acting as the spaces where the players characters can stand. Around the outside of this 4×4 grid are the white weapon tokens (not including the corners).

Each turn, a player may perform two actions:
Move 0-2 spaces and reveal the four tiles surrounding that space,
Take a weapon
Fight a Mob
Take 2 blocks from the cube
Build a building

Each tile may reveal a Mob or building. Mobs can be fought using three random weapons pulled from a player’s weapon pile. If enough damage is pulled from the pile, the Mob is destroyed and VPs are gained. The Mob tile is then claimed and may add extra points or abilities later. Taking extra weapons from the perimeter will increase the chances of success. There is no negative result if the combat is unsuccessful apart from a failed use of an action.

Buildings require the expenditure of particular cubes and are then placed on the player’s board. Each board has 9 pre-printed Biomes in a 3×3 grid and each building must cover either one of these Biomes or a previously placed building. Each building has a Biome type, building material and building type. More expensive buildings will generate points when built.

There are three scoring events during the game, each one activated by the removal of the final block from each of the top three layers of the cube. The first round of scoring scores for a contiguous single Biome on the board. The scoreing tiles provided give further detail as to how much each Biome type is worth. Round two ignores the Biomes and focusses entirely on the building material. The final round of scoring focuses on the building type. Final points from any defeated Mobs are scored and the game ends.

Those familiar with the computer game, may find this board game not very much like Minecraft on the table. The wonderful wooden building blocks (which were much bigger than I expected) are used purely as currency, with the resultant buildings being cardboard tiles. The Mobs are printed on cardboard but are instantly recognisable and most of the traditional Mobs are featured. Forgetting for a second that this is a Minecraft game, this was actually a lot of fun. The turns were easy to execute with plenty of options each turn but I was never overburdened by too much choice. Fighting Mobs had a good level of excitement, particularly as a player’s starting weapon stash is mainly comprised of useless poisoned potatoes. The extra weapons not only added extra damage but also other abilities as well such as the pickaxe providing a free block.

I can’t not address the theme of this game, however. There is no crafting, though one could argue the nature of mining the big cube. I played this with my kids and their exclamation of “an Enderman!” near the end of the game when one popped up was certainly good, but if you have no knowledge of Minecraft, this game could be given a generic fantasy, space, robot or dinosaur, etc. face-lift and be exactly the same game.

I must stress though, that this is indeed a fun and entertaining game and not some generic trash hiding behind a popular franchise mask. The blocks have a good solid feel to them and the player boards do look nice. I think a separate board for the score trackers would have been better than having individual trackers around each player’s board. The markers feel very much like an afterthought and are too big to fit on any single space on the tracker and, due to the nature of adding stuff to the board, easy to get knocked.

Final score: Worth playing or for fans of Minecraft Buy it (but knowing it’s not Minecraft on the table).

Everdell: Spirecrest- Board Game Review

This is for #Blogmas 2020 day 28.

For this review, I’m going to assume you already know about how the main game works.

Spirecrest from Starling Games is the second main expansion to Everdell. This one adds yet another extension to the main game board, this time at the bottom, a bunch of new cards to go on this board (none for the main deck), five of large animal creatures, saddles, journey tokens, fox workers as another option to play as and a bunch of walking rabbits, one for every worker animal type there has ever been including all the expansions and extras.
The cards are small and normal sized and split into the four seasons. The small cards are weather cards and each game, one weather card will define what the weather is doing for that season. These cards generally limit what can be done during that season such as much certain actions cost more or even banned outright so new strategies need to be employed. There are only three weather cards per season, but this does give a fair amount of variation. The normal-sized cards are discovery cards, three of which are made available to each player when they end each season, but only one can be claimed each time. These can give certain benefits or rewards and may include one of the new large wooden animals that replaces a player’s worker (who can ride it with the help of the saddle). At the end of each season players also claim one of the journey tokens to keep until the end of the game. Once a player has completed their game, they then send their rabbit along their constructed journey, paying the required costs to score some extra points if they can.

I liked this expansion a lot. The look really compliments an already gorgeous game, the large animals, even if they never get used, look amazing standing on the board. I love how the introduction of the weather can make for a much more varied gaming experience and am looking forward to experiencing there different weather combinations. The discovery cards added a nice little incentive or benefit to the game play and I also appreciated that there were no more cards to add to the main deck, which I feel has enough in it as it is. I did find it a little tough to get the saddles on the big animals and get the worker animals in, but they looked great once done. This game with this expansion takes up quite a bit of table space now, leaving not all that much room left for the players’s cities. This is an even bigger problem if coupled with the other expansion(s). We played on a big table with just this expansion, and space was tight.

This didn’t make the game any more complicated, nor did it add much extra time to the game play. It simply slots in an extra thing each time a player changes season and gives a few extra abilities and scoring opportunities. I can see this being a standard inclusion in all my future Everdell plays.

Final score: Gametastic!