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, 25 July 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Blackout: Hong Kong

Game: Blackout: Hong Kong

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Alexander Pfister

Year: 2018

Blackout: Hong Kong is a prime example of why we need to go to Essen. The game released at Essen 2018 and it didn't get a UK release until July 2019! That's 9 months that Blackout: Hong Kong could have been sitting on my shelf of shame waiting to be played. Thankfully committing to review a game gets it to the table far faster and I'm very excited to share my review today.

The positive aspect of waiting for a UK release is that this release upgrades the graphic design that really tarnished the first impressions I heard of the game after its initial release. A lot of the views I heard were that the game was long and that it was really difficult to keep going when the board was so dark and incomprehensible. Whilst I haven't seen the original, I have zero problems with the graphic design now and found it really slick and intuitive. Perhaps an added bonus would be a little bit more distinction of the symbols on the custom dice. So with that reservation truly blown out of the water, it's a lot easier to get to the meat of the game itself.

Blackout: Hong Kong is powered by deck-building and a resource rondel. Each turn is split into phases which are very handily laid out on your player board. The first player rolls three dice and places them into the rondel based on the face rolled. For this round, blue cards will generate whatever you rolled on the blue face, red with red and yellow with yellow. You'll then select cards from your hand to add to your tableau. Your tableau is laid out in columns and each column can be activated in any order. Red, yellow and blue cards generate resources on the rondel, whilst purple cards typical convert resources to money, or special abilities. Once you have resources you can fulfil the tasks on active cards on your player board - mostly to be able to claim cities of different colours on the board. Once all cities have been placed it's time to buy more cards, then to check if any regions are surrounded by a full set of cities and then you refresh and start a new round, either working with the cards you have in hand or recalling and triggering some abilities.

Believe it or not, that's a very brief overview of a game that is somewhat complex, with many phases and layers to the strategy, but that also feels very streamlined to play. Having the turn order laid out on your board is a god-send, since it's easy to lose track of the exact times in the game when you might need resources or money. However, it's not un-intuitive and after a number of round you do get into a flow. Not only that, but we've started to figure out which phases can be done simultaneously compared to those requiring a set turn order. This is certainly a habit of our fast style of play and means that we complete 2-player games in around an hour - quite a bit less than advertised on the box.

There's no one game that I could compare Blackout: Hong Kong to. It has deck-building, but it's not a huge element. I'm pretty likely to pick to buy new cards that suit my immediate needs, like build red cities or wanting a way to get more money, than I am to select a card that will fill a gap in my deck. As a resource management game there's a great puzzle in figuring out the things you need to keep completing objectives, spending your trucks wisely to combat luck in the dice rolls that may not favour those resources you need. I'm always looking to complete objectives as fast as I can, but storing up resources from turn-to-turn can also be effective. Building out your tableau is like a little engine where you can activate one column at a time, perhaps to  generate the resources that you need to trigger some purple cards in another column. Plus the recall mechanism is everything as you choose whether to push it for one more round to get a resource windfall or to try and trigger all of the abilities you've gained on completed clipboard tasks.

I guess the game also has area control as you try and surround districts, and it's one of my least favourite mechanisms in gaming. But, in Blackout:Hong Kong it doesn't really feel like bad area control because it's not all or nothing. You can make a few points from jumping into a region someone is completing and maybe get access to some new tokens by doing so or start to connect the two locations on your emergency plan.

There's so much for me in this game. It seems to scratch every euro-gamer itch I have in a package that has all sorts of little hidden gems and efficiencies that I love to string together. I'm not worried about the absent player interaction, or the theme that completely passed me by, I'm just here to be tickled pink by a meaty puzzle that I want to solve again and again.

Blackout: Hong Kong is simply fantastic! It's full of depth but for us it isn't depth that slows down the game. It's a really interesting combination of deck building with all of the efficiency of resource management can some of the chain reactions of engine building. It's also fantastic value for a game of this weight and makes me want to give more love to some of the unplayed or once played Alexander Pfister games in our collection. I couldn't be much happier to have discovered Blackout: Hong Kong and for the Yellow Meeple its a 9/10.

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

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