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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Friday, 27 March 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Albedo: Yggdrasil

Game: Albedo: Yggdrasil

Publisher: Herbertz Entertainment UG

Designer: Kai Herbertz

Year: 2019

Albedo is the hidden gem of our board game collection. Of over 500 games we only have a very small number of games from indie publishers and Albedo is one of the only ones that I wish I could tell everyone to go out and buy!

We've met the designer at the UK Games Expo and Essen and he often has a small booth, as well as running Kickstarters for the base game and expansions. They only have small print runs and they're not the most polished games in the world, but more people should give this deckbuilder a chance. Albedo: Yggdrasil is the second expansion that has successfully funded on Kickstarter, following the previous expansion, Space Pirates. It brings on board a whole new faction - with a new way to play, as well as a new catch-up mechanism, and we've added it straight to our growing collection for this game.

Gameplay

The objective of Albedo is to capture planets for victory points, or capture their manufacturing plants to enhance your deck. Each round 2-3 planets will be revealed and players will arrange their hand of cards behind three numbered cards. All the forces behind card one will go to planet one and so on. Many cards can be used in multiple ways by flipping the card upside-down, allowing tweaking of your hand to get your forces just right. Ultimately, each planet is assessed on 2 statistics: The air forces that you sent determine the player order, while the ground forces determine what you can activate on the planet. Most planets typically have 1 locations where you score points, one location where you build new cards and a final location which any number of players can use which lets you trash cards from your deck.


Yggdrasil adds two copies of the third faction to the game. These take the form of parasitical plant-like creatures which function rather different from the other races. At the start of the game your entire hand will be in your deck, giving you a huge amount of free choice into what to play, however to counter this you can only play five cards a turn rather than the standard six. Not to fear as many of your cards are incredibly powerful. You have access to vehicles that boost each other, like the spore bomber which causes each spore pod you play with it to gain an extra ground combat point. You also start the game with the titular 'world tree' which is rather intimidating for a turn one play!

So you might be expecting the Yggdrasil faction to be very good early on, however they have their limitations. Firstly they can only recruit one of each type of upgrade, though admittedly the infested versions that they create are more powerful than the standard human counterparts. They also only start to function as a normal deck starting turn 4, before which they won't see any new cards they do recruit. Finally Yggdrasil introduces a catch up mechanic, at the end of each round the player in last place gets to draw one bonus card, which can either be used to its instant effect to surprise foes, or saved for a bonus victory point at the end of the game.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Albedo has long been a favourite for me. Sure, the rulebook isn't the easiest to follow and the iconography could be clearer, but ignoring those, the game is great. One of the things I really admired about the base game was the potential for a unit that you recruit in the first round to be in your hand on round two. While the rulebook and iconography are everything I was expecting the new faction included was not. With a absolutely humongous deck, rather than the normal nine cards and the entire thing starting in your hand. It's clear that I was looking at a new beast. But surely that's only fitting for a alien faction?

My immediate concern was that the new force would be overwhelmingly powerful. But Albedo doesn't work like that - every planet you invade, you have to choose between taking points, deckbuilding, or trimming your deck. Sure if you don't send the most air force you don't get to pick first, but you always get to do something useful! Even if the Yggdrasil faction does tend to win a lot in the early rounds, their opponents are using that time to refine their decks. Then the starting hand runs out and the Yggdrasil player starts having to play fair like everyone else, suddenly the spore torpedoes don't come at the same time as the spore launcher, the combos are broken and they can't even deckbuild to the same extent as the other factions. This drags them down to a much more level pegging.

Then there are the bonus cards. Even if the Ygdrassil player uses those early rounds to get ahead, all they have achieve is ensure a steady supply of nasty surprises in their future. Unfortunately these cards are not quite as refined as the faction with may being more situational than you might hope, being able to win ties for example is often simply worse than the +2 air combat card and almost all I ever want to draw is the +2 victory point cards. They do the job as a catch up mechanic, but I generally don't feel Albedo needed a catch up mechanic.

Yggdrasil certainly does the job of expanding the Albedo universe. With two copies of the expansion race included you do everything from adding 2 more players to the game, to having alien vs alien duels to see who gets to corrupt humanity the best! I wouldn't say that Yggdrasil is a compulsory expansion to buy, but if you enjoyed the original it adds some variety in a way that Space Pirates didn't quite manage. If you've not tried the original then be sure to give it a try some time, it's a fantastic deckbuilder that packs a lot of punch into a small box!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Yggdrasil is an expansion in three parts. Whether or not it's intended to be played in a modular way, I can see lots of was to enjoy it. The Yggdrasil faction itself can be played by one or two players, and since we play 2-player most of the time (especially right now!) we have a choice of a 100% Yggdrasil game, or mixing it in with the original faction or Space Pirates. It's been interesting to see how differently a game plays with one player playing Yggdrasil because of how it really changes the arc of the game - Yggdrasil typically has a strong start but limited room to grow.


The other two parts of the expansion are interlinked. The new set of planet cards has some variety compared to the base game, but also links mechanically with the new catch-up cards. Buying these cards is a new reward that can be taken from the planet cards, but its a risky one. There's some very good cards in the deck, but others that don't feel so powerful. At the end of any round where you're behind on points you'll also get one of these cards. In one of our games the +2 air combat and ground combat cards were a key to me winning the game, but in another game they were the source of much frustration, since it was always +3 that I needed to really make a difference. Whilst I've never really noticed a rich get richer problem in Albedo that needed combating, I can see that having more ground combat could help you thin your deck early, which might mean you start to run away with the game. This particular catch-up mechanism felt pretty swingy though.

The Yggdrasil faction itself is interesting enough to make the whole expansion worthwhile. Each time I play Albedo, I love how it does something unique i the deck-building space and Yggdrasil just adds another new component. Starting the game with a wealth of possibility, playing more of a hand management game, and then being more limited in your deck-building later in the game, probably wouldn't interest me in a brand new game. But, as an expansion it feels like a creative twist that adds to the combinations that I can find to enjoy in the game.


You Might Like...
  • The Yggdrasil faction plays totally differently to the previous factions and puts a whole new spin on the game.
  • The catch-up mechanism adds some exciting moments to the game
  • With a single new faction there's a whole bunch of new ways to pay the game that can be introduced - especially when playing 2-player.
You Might Not Like...
  • The catch-up cards can cause some swings in luck, that means that they're sometimes not so effective for the person trailing behind.
  • While some of the artwork is good, the catch-up cards are very, very basic.

The Verdict
8/10 Yggdrasil is a great expansion to a great deck-building game. It has a lot more going on than the previous expansion, Space Pirates, and we enjoy it quite a bit more. It's great to see something new in terms of how the faction starts its deck-building journey and Yggdrasil feels fresh and interesting to play. The catch-up cards are the less strong element of the expansion, but they're still an interesting addition and it's good that they're woven into the rewards from planet cards too, to make the expansion feel really cohesive. If you haven't checked out Albedo before, then picking up the base game and Yggdrasil feels like a must if you ever see Kai at a convention!

Albedo:Yggdrasil was a review copy kindly provided to us by Kai Herbertz.

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