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 13 September 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Orleans: Invasion

Game: Orleans: Invasion

Publisher: dlp Games

Designer: Inka Brand, Markus Brand, Reiner Stockhausen

Year: 2015

Before receiving the Invasion expansion, we haven’t played a whole lot of Orleans, but the games we did play were really enjoyable two player experiences. Orleans: Invasion is a big box expansion for Orleans which contains lots of scenarios designed by both the original designer and by Inka and Markus Brand who are really well renowned designers.

The expansion includes a new scenario for 2-5 players, a cooperative scenario, a two player only duel scenario and a number of solo scenarios. We never play any solo games, so the focus of this expansion for us was the duel scenario and the cooperative scenario. We didn’t really feel like Orleans needed any expansion content, given that it plays extremely well with two players and is the style of competitive game that doesn’t get very in-your-face. So let’s see if Orleans: Invasion is a must have for us.

In the cooperative, Invasion, scenario, you are working together to complete 6 common objectives, as well as each needing to complete your own personal objective by the end of the game, which is a fixed number of events, much like in the base game. Your personal board has new actions which allow you to complete these objectives, as well as allowing you come actions that have interaction with other players. You can assign workers to donate money, send knights to fortify the walls, or donate goods tokens. You can also allow use another player's action (ideally with their permission, although Amy chose to ignore this!) and to give a worker token to another player permanently. There are also end game objectives that introduce more purposes for travelling around the board and building guildhalls - a strategy that I like to follow in the base game, but often doesn't seem to be powerful enough for me to win the game. Because of the need to donate, money and goods tokens become really tight, but this makes a really challenging and thinky cooperative experience.

The duel is the two-player only scenario, which is a race to complete four objectives. Every round, a predetermined bad thing will happen and if you can't do it, you automatically lose the game. Typically these will be things like paying taxes, so you need enough money, or paying your dues with a certain value of goods. It can really rock your strategy if you're collecting goods towards and end game objective, so good planning is key. The best thing about this scenario for me was that it introduced pick up and deliver. Two objectives were about collecting resources and delivering them to a specific board location. The duel was definitely the most mentally taxing game of Orleans I've played!

The extended player board for the cooperative, Invasion scenario.
As a cooperative game, the Invasion scenario was really interesting. Even in our first game we decided our roles early - I was the person who travelled round the board, Amy was going to collect knights and donate them to fortify the walls and Nick was the money guy. This gave us all drive for our own objectives, but also independence with no chance of an alpha gamer taking over. There are only a few opportunities for true cooperation, but it was really cool to see their influence. At one point I gave my money donation action to someone else because I had the workers, but no spare money, and this probably allowed us to win the game. Another player gave away a farmer to someone else because it was mutually beneficial. I don't think there are many cooperative euro games out there where you're assigning workers, managing resources and fulfilling objectives. Orleans Invasion fills this spot perfectly and in some ways I want more cooperative euros, but on the other hand - i'm not sure anyone could do it much better!

The map in a cooperative game, where one of the objectives requires you to build fortified towers on the perimeter of the map.
I love the complexity of the puzzle provided by both the cooperative game and the duel scenario. Both give you a reason to decide to go about an action in a certain way. You might travel round a board in a slightly circuitous route to collect more resources to pay your dues in the duel scenario. Or in the Invasion scenario you might travel to the next location for a fortified town, via a spot you need to go to for your personal objective. The puzzle is all about efficiency (and I love efficiency!). Both the scenarios have resulted in really tight games for us and it really gives us an appetite to play more.

For me, the cooperative Invasion scenario is the stand-out in the expansion box. The duel was also great, but I did win it on the first playthrough, which gives us less motivation to play it again. It seemed like we were both going to lose it, and if you did, I think you'd be desperate to play again to try and win. We also need to try the additional 1-5 player competitive scenario. 

Orleans Invasion is an expansion box crammed full of really high quality content. We don't expand many games, but we are so glad we did with Orleans. For me, Orleans Invasion is my favourite expansion ever and it gets a 9/10 from the Yellow Meeple.

Orleans:Invasion was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £43.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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