This is our fourth review.
This time, I will talk about a game from the designer that I consider the best Japanese designer – Kuro, of Manifest Destiny. Just to have an idea, he often creates about 20 games a year (but he decreased the volume a bit recently – see in http://ash.jp/~md/game.htm), launching and selling the games at TGM (and also in Essen). Each of his games has themes that may be considered very strange (examples – a game where each player controls a housemaids team cleaning the house room by room earning points, a game where you are a band and try to “warm up” the fans in a gig, and a game where players form pairs of dancers who participate in a dance contest and each player has to try to synchronize the cards played with their peers) and commercially unviable, but he creates and launches the games anyway.
One of his fairly well known games is The Ravens of Thri Sahashri ( https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/150293/ravens -thri-sahashri ), which, like most Kuro games, is a card game with a bunch of rules, and you have to play a 3 or 4 times until you begin to understand the game: -P
But back to the review in question, Scratch House! Based on Winchester Mystery House , a bizarre American house that did not stop to be increased, in Scratch House our mansion was destroyed and we have to rebuild it. Luckily, some fairies who were passing by and appeared to help us, and, more than that, they also want to live with us in the mansion!
Name: Scratch House
Publisher: Manifest Destiny
Publication date: 2015
Number of players: 1/3-4
Playing time: 50-70 minutes
Where to buy: You can not find it anywhere – well, almost anywhere 😛 – I’ve seen it once being sold used in auction and there’s a BGG member that has it for trade (the Yellow Submarine of Akihabara, where I bought my copy, had some copies, but they sold out long ago).
Like other recent “big” games from Manifest Destiny, Scratch House comes in a small box (he uses the same box size for his “big”games, which I find great). As there are many tiles in the game, you must fit them in the right way for them to fit in the box.
My copy purchased in Yellow Submarine Akihabara did not come with a manual in English, so I just print the manual in English that I downloaded from BGG (there are manuals in English for several games in the MD site as well, but not for every game).
The game comes with 4 player pawns, 4 victory markers (the first player is the one who picks up the blue marker that has a star – hard to see), and 4 start tiles, which are bedrooms.
Building and step markers (to mark the strolling of the fairies).
71 house tiles, each with a different name and color (there are several that are repeated), as well as arrows and symbols.
Event cards (in 3-4 player game we only use the symbol of Feng Shui to the right. The text is only used in solo games).
The set-up is simple. We separate the spell cards in 4 decks and place each in the spaces of each season on the board, revealing the top card. Each player receives a start tile, the other tiles are shuffled and we draw enough to fill the spaces for each season. Event cards are shuffled and placed in the specified location, and each player takes 5 step markers.
The game is pretty simple when it comes to game mechanics (but, as usually happens with Kuro games, rather complex in implementation and strategy), each round consists of 5 steps.
1 – Building
The card of the top of the event deck goes to the left (or right in my case, because I always put in the wrong place) and is the card of the round. It’s Feng Shui indicates the side to which the fairies will start strolling (they are superstitious).
Each player selects a season, takes the spell card and the tiles of the season (each player can have up to 3 spell cards and 3 tiles in their storage).
After that, the players start to build their homes. Rooms can be under construction (with building markers) or finished. There are some construction rules that must be followed.
2 – Time passes
Each player lowers the building time of each tile based on the season. The player who chose the Spring lowers by 3, Summer and Autumn, 2, and Winter, 1.
3 – Strolling
The fairies stroll through the house, starting at the start tile (and should follow the Feng Shui the first time they leave the start tile). In each room through which they pass (including the start tile), we put up a step marker. The effects of the rooms (symbols) happen when the fairy passes through them.
4 – Calculation of points
Each player earns 1 VP where the fairies walked (each step marker). 3 additional VP are received if the rooms in question are the colors of the chosen station (white is a wildcard color).
5 – End of round
If the game is not over (a player reached 60 points or event deck over), we prepare for the next round.
Let’s see a bit of the game in detail to give a feeling of how the game works. In the example, I’m playing solo. In solo play, you use the round counter (at the end of some rounds you must have a minimum score or you lose the game) and we also use the text of event cards (giving special powers).
I choose a season. In the case I chose Autumn, I took the spell card (spell cards can be used at any time in your turn, the only rule is that the two equal cards can not be played on the same turn) and the two tiles.
To build, some rules have to be followed.
You can build only from finished tiles. There must be an exit arrow pointing to the tile to be built. You can turn the tile to be built in any orientation. The arrows are one-way doors. If there are two arrows together (one on each tile), it become a two-way door (important in strolling step).
The rooms under construction have a “build time”, which is based on the number that is written on the tile, plus the distance from the nearest bedroom and also in the number of tiles built in the turn.
First, we count the fastest route to the nearest bedroom (not counting the bedroom), adding to this the number on the tile. Moreover, if it’s the second tile being built in the round, we add an additional 1 to the time (2 if the third tile, etc.).
In the example below, I built the basement, the building time is 3 (time in the card) + 0 (distance to the nearest bedroom) + 0 (first tile built in round) = 3.
Then I built another bedroom, the building time is 3 + 1 + 1 = 5.
After construction, the passage of time occurs. As I chose the Autumn season, I decrease by 2 the cost of construction of all tiles.
In the strolling phase, there is not much to do at the moment. Fairies only stroll through finalized tiles, and in this case only the start tile is finished. I put 1 step marker and stop there. This gives me 1 victory point.
I now prepare for the next round.
I choose again the Autumn season (sorry for the blurred image).
I build a room (time -3 + 1 + 0 = 0)
After that I build one dance hall (time 0 + 0 + 1 = 1)
Time passes and I decrease in 2 the building time in each tile not finalized.
In the strolling phase, I check the Feng Shui – the fairies come out the first time from the start bedroom from the east or the south. As I have the option to begin on east, I follow this option.
I leave the bedroom and go to the basement. Upon entering the basement, I can use the tile powers. The first allows me to reduce by 1 construction time of a tile (I use it to finish building the other bedroom).
The second allows me to draw a tile and add to my storage.
The round strolling can be seen by the arrows below. I left the bedroom, I went to the basement (using the powers), I went to the room, and then to the dance hall (where I won a victory point – the other power was not helpful in this round). Taking advantage of the two-way doors, I returned to the basement and went to the new bedroom (when you enter a new bedroom, you get two step markers, so you can walk more, so the bedrooms are important. However, this round I had already gone through all the tiles, so Idid not use the additional markers (and they are returned at the end of round)).
In the end, I won 6 victory points (5 step markers + 1 from the dance hall ).
And that’s it, I hope it was possible to give a taste of how the game works.
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
I enjoyed the Scratch House a lot. I played one time with 3 players, one time with to 4 and some solo matches. The game does not look like any game I can remember, and it has many good ideas.
As I said above, the game rules are very simple, but due to the number of tiles and interactions, the game itself is complex. The game is very fun but very tense because you are burning your brain to assemble the best possible engine. Because of the complexity, AP can happen the players. ON the other hand, it flows very well. If everyone knows how to play, all players can play in parallel after choosing the season.
Aside from the initial choice of seasons, there is no interaction between players. The cards can give some good advantages to the players, so it is important to analyze well before choosing seasons.
I do not think there is a single strategy of the game because of the way it works (but obviously everyone will want to take any additional bedrooms that appear, for the bonus step markers).
The replay value of the game is very high due to the number of tiles and the set-up throughout the game.
Art, like most of Manifest Destiny games, is wonderful, and evokes very well the environment.
Another very good (and different) game from Kuro and Manifest Destiny. I will review more of his games in the near future.