Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 22 March 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Noria

Game: Noria

Publisher: Edition Spielwiese

Designer: Sophia Wagner

Year: 2017

Noria is the debut title from Sophia Wagner, winner of the Spiel des Jahres fellowship in 2015. It's an ambitious first published game, but the fact that the designer caught the attention of the Spiel des Jahres certainly appears to have given Noria a great start with plenty of Essen hype in 2017. It's also (somewhat regrettably) still notable when you see a big game coming from a female designer. 

Noria is an engine building euro-game set in a steampunk universe, created specifically for this game. The floating islands, quirky flying machines and of course your spinning wheel of cogs that is central to the mechanics of the game, create a great look for the game. The blend of mechanics, beautiful art and intrigue about a new designer coming out with new mechanisms got me really excited to try Noria, so let's see how it stands up to my own anticipation.

In Noria you'll get points by investing in the four projects - the lower value projects require you to invest resources to increase your contribution to the projects, whilst the higher value projects require you to contribute simple and complex goods which you have produced in your factories. You are in control of how heavily you invest but both you and your opponents can exert political influence to alter the multiplier effect of each project.

Each turn you'll perform up to four actions from your wheel - activating up to one token in each level of the wheel. On each turn, each layer of the wheel will rotate one space meaning you'll have a different selection of actions available. Some action tokens give you goods, others allow you to move up in projects or travel around the sky islands to obtain factories or goods ships. Other tokens allow you to improve your action wheel either by purchasing new tokens or upgrading tokens so that they can be used twice on a turn. Overall you are trying to build an engine that gives you a good balance of actions for the strategy you want to achieve and also works spatially so that you get these actions a useful sequence over the course of your turns.

The game takes a fixed number of rounds and then you do a final scoring. It looks like there are a lot of rounds when you first set up the board, but the game actually proceeds really quickly since most turns can be performed simultaneously by all players. I found that in the first couple of games, the game was almost running away too quickly and we took a step back and decided to explain our actions out loud, just so that the game felt a bit less frantic. I really like a game to have a fixed number of rounds as it allows me to plan so that the end doesn't catch me by surprise.

Although some are saying that Noria has a new game mechanism called 'wheel-building', I probably wouldn't go that far in my description of the game. To me it is engine building and beyond that it's a clever spatial puzzle where different elements of your engine come back around at a differing pace. I love thinking about how often I might want to sue a particular action and balancing if I want it as an upgraded action to take twice in one turn or if I just want it to be something I can do frequently.

I really like how Noria encourages you to pick a strategy and work towards it from the start by customising your wheel. Sometimes I write this, but when we actually play we find that we play wit a very similar strategy, but with Noria we have had some really close games by following extremely different path. In our last game I was trying to a bit of everything whilst Amy just produced the black Obsidian in vast quantities and won by a small margin.

Overall Noria looks great, has high component quality and offers something unique with its moving parts that are key to the mechanisms of the game. It's definitely a heavier game than it looks, but the choices aren't overwhelming and it plays at a good pace, at least with two experienced players. I really enjoy the spatial puzzle mixed with the engine building and have been enjoying Noria more with every play. Given enough opportunity to hit the table I think it could be a top ten or twenty game for me in the future.

For the Yellow Meeple, Noria is an 8.5/10.
Noria was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £50.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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