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 15 March 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Paper Tales

Game: Paper Tales

Publisher: Catch Up Games

Designer: Masato Uesugi

Year: 2017

Paper Tales was an Essen 2017 release that could probably have flown under the radar as another drafting game from a small publisher. Fortunately it was noticed by The Dice Tower, who featured the game in a Miami Dice segment, certainly bringing the game to my attention. A really cool box cover, featuring the interesting artwork from the cards with characters depicted in a layered paper cut-out style, also helps to draw attention to the game.

We enjoy drafting games, but it is typical for games, such as 7 Wonders, to only play correctly with 3 players or more. Paper Tales is a game for 2-5 players and we’ve only played it with two, so let’s take a look at how it plays and share some thoughts.

In Paper Tales each player is building a Kingdom with units and buildings over the course of 4 rounds. As time passes, your kingdom will change and you will collect Legend Points through waging wars and structuring your kingdom well. Each round of the game begins with a draft where you select a number of units into your hand. After drafting, everyone simultaneously selects which units they will pay for and puts them into their tableau. The tableau only has four spaces and some units are free to play whilst others have a high cost. Their will then be an income phase, a war phase and a construction phase before each unit will age. Typically your units will die at the end of their second round in play.

A players Kingdom after round one of four.
There are some really interesting elements to the game that give you some tough decisions to make. Initially you start the game with only four spaces in your tableau. In addition, only the two characters at the front of your tableau are counted in war, so you need to arrange your Kingdom carefully. Once you've built an advanced building your front line expands to three, giving you a lot more flexibility. The economy is also really tight - you have a very limited supply of money and you need more of it to play all of the units you want to and to pay for the land for additional buildings.

The game is always moving. You can try to focus on a strategy, but when your units age and die, you might have to evolve that strategy if you are not getting the right cards in future drafts. Alternatively, you can hunt for cards that might allow you to manipulate the aging of your units, so that some cards last a little longer. On the other hand, some cards give bonuses based on aging quickly.

The building cards on their basic and upgraded side. Each game is played with the same 5 cards available for each player.
For two players there are two main alterations to the rules. Having read the designer diary on BoardGameGeek - it seems like this was a big element of the reprint and I really appreciate the effort. The draft reminds me of the draft in Bunny Kingdom, where you have a larger hand of cards, but each round you take one and discard one, so that there is a bigger element of denial in the drafting phase. In the war phase, you obviously have fewer opponents, so there are fewer opportunities to score points. This is compensated by an additional three point bonus if you at least double your opponnent's combat strength. Although this works, I'm not sure that war is a strong strategy in a two-player game compared to how it might be with three or four players where a smaller combat majority could score you 9 or 12 points in this phase. Finally, a few cards in the deck reward you for the number of wars you win, so these cards have diminished power with 2 players.

I really enjoyed our first few games of Paper Tales. It definitely puts a new spin on drafting with the spatial elements in your tableau and the engine building that comes from selecting and upgrading your buildings. However, I kind of feel like I've explored everything the game has to offer. We've found that you either build three or four of the buildings in each game, so only the order you build them will affect your engine. There are also a few cards that appear to be key to a winning strategy in the two-player game, where war is a weaker strategy. I'd like to add variety to the game by playing it with more players, and it also seems that an expansion is on the horizon in 2018.

I'd definitely recommend that people try Paper Tales, as a drafting game with a similar weight to 7 Wonders. However, for me, it perhaps lacks enough replayability to become a staple on our shelves. For the Yellow Meeple, Paper Tales is a 6.5/10.

Paper Tales was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £29.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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